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FAQs on Freshwater Livestocking 12

Related Articles: Stocking 5, 10 & 20 Gallon Freshwater Aquariums by Neale Monks, Freshwater Livestock by Neale Monks, Freshwater Livestock Selection by Bob Fenner, The Ethical Aquarist; Freshwater Fishes to Avoid by Judy Helfrich Acclimation of New Freshwater Livestock by Bob Fenner, Fishes, Amphibians, Turtles

Related FAQs: Mis-stocking issues (incompatibility behaviorally and/or environmentally), FW Livestock 1, FW Livestock 2, FW Livestock 3, FW Stocking 4, FW Livestocking 5, FW Livestocking 6, FW Livestocking 7, FW Livestocking 8, FW Livestocking 9, FW Livestocking 10, FW Livestocking 11, FW Livestocking 13, FW Livestocking 14, FW Livestocking 15, & Stocking Small Systems, & Freshwater Livestock SelectionCommunity Tank Livestocking,


All's well! Stkg. FW sys.; and plt.s....         9/17/16
Neale, I hope you are doing well and that your fish aren't giving you cramps! Our aquaria are doing well, amazingly enough.
<Time, the great healer!>
We set up the pump filters with as much of that store bought bacteria (not that there were likely any in there), and waited, while doing water changes as radically as necessary to keep the ammonia down. The small tank has between 0.25 - 0.5, but not rising and we're thinking it will come down as the tank cycles. The 38 gallon tank, with 2 lonely fish, is doing well. The ammonia is around 0.1 and going down. We're going to put some extra filter media into the tank to populate with bacteria in case we need it for some reason.
It's time to add some company to the tank. We're thinking of getting over time a couple of female yellow swords and a Betta,
<I would not keep Bettas, even female Bettas, in mixed species set-ups; there are many, better suited, Betta-like labyrinth fish out there...
Banded Gouramis for example. But do understand that the flowing-water conditions Swordtails need is the opposite of the still-water situations labyrinth fish have evolved to exploit. Perhaps consider one of the smaller, but hardy, cichlid species; Rainbow Cichlids for example are from Central America (like the Swordtails) and enjoy similar environmental
conditions. Very peaceful too.>
and maybe some other fish way down the road. But over the next two months, just those three. I know Bettas don't do well with other Bettas, nor with other large finned fish, but we won't be getting any of those. Nor will we over populate the tank - this is going to be the quiet tank. One tank with crazy Danios, etc, is plenty. Whatever we get first will sit in the 10 gal quarantine tank for a couple of weeks to give us a chance to observe and watch for illness before it (they) will go into the big tank. The 10 gal tank is set up with water from a water change from the big tank and one of the two filter sponges from the big tank.
So the questions are (and you KNEW there were going to be questions, right?
:) ): is the Betta a good idea?
Would it be OK with the swords and a platy and a Pleco?
<Platies are pond rather than stream fish, so like the Betta, appreciate sluggish currents. If you look at Swordtails compared with Platies, the streamlined Swords versus the dumpy Platies pretty much gives the game away in terms of speed and swimming ability. Plecs, at least the farmed ones, adapt to pretty much anything, and in theory at least could be kept with Bettas, assuming adequate tank size and filtration.>
Would it be better to put the Betta in first and give it a month to claim its territory or doesn't it matter which order the Betta and swords go in?
<Bettas actually ignore dissimilar fish. So yes, they sometimes chase gouramis, and will certainly be hostile towards other Betta species, let alone their own species. But no, they aren't a thread to Danios, dwarf cichlids, catfish, etc. Indeed, the threat is usually the other way around. Bettas find it hard to compete for food when kept with non-mutated species
(bear in mind their ridiculous fins slow them down, and humans have bred them that way, assuming the Betta would be kept on its own, usually in a jar in Thailand. Once you stick the Betta in with other fish, things get difficult for the poor Betta. Much better to keep them on their own, or else alongside very gentle species that won't compete for food at all; the smaller Corydoras for example work well, as will Kuhli Loaches, and perhaps things like Ricefish.>
Got any other advice for us? We wanted to ask ahead of time, rather than playing catch up, after a mistake was made.
<Hope that this helps! As you're learning, pre-empting problems is the name of the game here. The right fish in the right tank with the right water chemistry will pose few, if any problems even across many years. I've got one tank that's pretty much zero maintenance beyond occasional water changes! Has been like that for a good 10-11 years now.>
Thanks again for everything you've done to help. I think we have our feet under us now.
<Most welcome. Neale.>

re: All's well!       9/18/16
Well, things change, don't they? #eye roll
So, we thought about it and came to the same conclusion as you did regarding Bettas, so we passed on them.
<Wise. Much written in books and online about Bettas; it's not just me being difficult! They're a species-only set-up fish, like puffers. On their own, easy enough to keep; alongside other species, both Bettas and puffers cause problems.>
We were going to get the yellow swords, but didn't like the look of them.
They had reddish gills, which might be a natural thing, but might not. They had some white under their chins, but that might also be natural coloration - most of them had it, but not all. There was one that had EITHER air bubbles on his tail, OR ich and given the whole picture, we decided to pass on them and all the other fish that shared their water stream (six tanks in all).
<I'd have passed on these, too.>
We came home with one 2" female silver molly and two small gold dust mollies. When we checked the quarantine tank, the pH had risen to 8, from 7.6 in the large tank where we got the water. There was nothing in it but a couple of plastic plants and a white composite "stone". Nothing on the bottom. So we decided to go ahead and put them in the big tank. There's so much room, there shouldn't be much stress. We'll watch them to see if everyone is getting along.
<Let me have you do some reading...
Although easy enough to keep in the right conditions, Mollies aren't general purpose community tank fish, despite their widespread sale.>
While there's a pretty good current in the left end of the tank, the right end is pretty quiet, though honestly, our platy spends at least half (or more!) of his time in the end with the current. We also have a bubble wand, against the back wall in the center. He occasionally plays in that, riding the bubbles to the surface, then swimming back down to do it again. The Pleco occasionally hides on the back wall behind the bubbles.
<While "play" behaviour is not unknown among fishes, scientists believe it to be rather rare. So when ordinary fish seem to play, it's wise to think if there's another explanation. Air bubble streams provide water movement and extra oxygen, two things that some fish might not find elsewhere in the tank, especially if temperature is higher than the fish like (more heat = less oxygen in the water, which can stress those species adapted to cooler conditions, such as Platies). Review, and act accordingly.>
We'll take a look at the rainbow cichlids, as well as the other fish you mentioned. But we won't consider another fish for at least a month. Let everyone get used to each other and let the bacteria catch up to the new bio-load.
<Quite right!>
All of this sound ok?
<See above.>
<Cheers, Neale.>
re: All's well!       9/18/16

Our tank is at 77 degrees, ammonia this morning is damn near zero.
The Platy, who had spent the last month almost by himself, has been harassing the little gold dust Mollies.
<Pretty common behaviour. All the "big four" livebearer males will try to mate with females of other livebearer species; i.e., Mollies, Guppies, Platies and Swordtails. Equally, males of all four species behave aggressively towards each other, size allowing (a male Guppy isn't going to get far harassing an adult male Giant Sailfin!).>
We have plants, but just added a couple of fake plants that we had left over from the beginning of all this. They filled in the open spaces on one end of the tank. Maria said that when she put those in, ALL the fish immediately gravitated to the plants and she could see the stress level drop.
So we have one end of the tank heavily planted and the other end kind of bare. Maria said to tell you that she will be watching the ammonia and nitrites like a hawk.
I'll quite possibly attach a picture... could go either way.
<Right... well, I'd get the lucky bamboo out for a start. It isn't an aquarium plant, and can introduce toxins (i.e., the pesticides or herbicides used to grow it) and will eventually die and rot when kept underwater. The live Amazon Swords at right aren't going to do well above the gravel. What I'd do is get pots like those wit the bamboo, fill with fine gravel, and plant the Amazons into them. Keep any green parts above the gravel, taking care to not get gravel between the leaves (this ends up snapping them). All you want to do is anchor the roots in the gravel. Stuff a fertiliser pellet into the gravel and let the Amazons do their thing. All else being equal they'll be fine. That stripy green plant on the left is a Dracaena. Again, a land plant. VERY commonly sold to inexperienced aquarists who don't know any better, unfortunately. Do you know the "Ti Plant", Cordyline fruticosa? It's very similar, and cared for the same way.
The actual species is Dracaena braunii (used to be Dracaena sanderiana) and it's the same species as your lucky bamboo, just smaller. In any case, both the Dracaena and the lucky bamboo can be plonked into houseplant soil and
grown somewhere sunny. Ironically, they actually prefer soil that drains freely rather than waterlogged soil! Let me have you do some reading on these non-aquatic plants mis-sold to beginners...
It's a crying shame that aquarium stores still sell these plants to beginners. So far as general advice goes -- don't put any plant in your tank you haven't positively identified as a true aquatic, and since some of the true aquatics are quite demanding, make an effort to check your water chemistry and lighting level are appropriate too.>
Thanks again, Neale!
<Cheers, Neale.>

re: All's well!       9/19/16
Rats. Ok, plants, then. We'll take out the bamboo and, eventually, the stripey plant (when I can find a good replacement).
When you say "fertilizer pellet", do you mean something that is specifically designed for aquaria? (I like that word, "aquaria"...) We don't want to put the wrong things in there.
<Understood. Yes, you can buy little pellets (about the size of a small bean) designed for fish tanks. You pop them into the gravel and the plant roots absorb the nutrients slowly.>
I read the link about what NOT to put in the tank, thanks. Do you have a link about what DOES go in? Can you recommend any books?
<Many. But one I often recommend is called "A Practical Guide to Setting Up Your Tropical Freshwater Aquarium". Out of print, but available on Amazon for one whole cent, it's attractively put together and strikes a nice balance between covering the basics while offering a bit of extra depth for those who want it. It's a good first book for the fishkeeper's library. For your second book... oh my, where to begin! Everyone has opinions, and to be honest, I haven't bought a general aquarium book for many years, mostly sticking with the specialist stuff from the likes of Aqualog. But a few
thoughts here...
Often these older books sell online for pennies, so it's hard to go wrong.
That said, the Baensch aquarium atlases, especially volume 1, really are classic and almost perfect books that remain my bibles for the subject.>
Looking online simply tells me that if you have 5 fish people, you'll get 9 opinions about everything.
<Sort of. I think the fundamentals are pretty well understood, but some folks "get lucky" with unreliable (or just plain dumb) combinations of fish or plants, post their successes online, and that's the way it's easy to mislead people. There are some GREAT websites though. Not just us (!!!) but I think SeriouslyFish.com totally rocks, and PlanetCatfish and Loaches.com are two examples of outstanding websites focused on specific fish.>
Hard to know who to listen to. You have our ear, certainly, but I'm pretty sure you don't want to be our sole source of information!
As usual, thanks again!
<Most welcome. Neale.>

South American lime green Endler's- Oto?     7/25/16
Hi Neale,
I have a planted tank- see my large photo- of lime green Endler's. I have had it for a while and the population is now waning, down to 9 small fish.
I am debating whether to wait out till this population passes naturally, or add more fish since they could reproduce some more still.
<Understood, and been in this situation any number of times.
It seems like safest type to add would be more lime Endler's, but I was feeling like it might be nice to add a 2nd species for interest.
<A good plan. I gradually switched from Cherry Barbs to Limia in my big tank over the last couple years. The Cherry Barbs were "life expired" and now I'm down to a singleton living in the group of Limia. That Cherry Barb seems happy enough, with friendly company to help him feel secure, even in the absence of his own species. My point is that if you choose the second species carefully, there's no reason you can't phase in a new schooling species even as an existing schooling species dies off naturally.>
I read Otos or Cory's are ok with them, but Cory's are ruled out due to I have gravel and supposedly sand is best for their barbels.
<Correct. There are some midwater Corydoras though, like Corydoras habrosus, for which this is far less of an issue than it is with, say, Corydoras aeneus.>
They also suggested small tetras or Rasboras but seems like it could be a competition thing if adding a very similar type/style and its not as interesting if all the fish are little minnows, all looking the same other than their color.
<A question of taste really. Endler's Guppies will cohabit well with most "nano" tetras and cyprinids, assuming their water chemistry and temperature requirements overlap.>
I like this cute catfish "Otocinclus macrospilus" but they do get to 1 1/4", definitely larger than the little Endler's.
<But very peaceful. One of the standard Otos of the hobby. Don't like very hard water or high temperatures though, so while perfectly compatible with Endler's in terms of behaviour, and both species are primarily algae-eaters, they're not easily combined. I'd be aiming for around 10 degrees dH, neutral pH, and around 24 degrees C/75 F. Water current needn't be too strong given Enders are relatively weak swimmers, but Otos do need lots of oxygen, so air-powered filtration would be my recommendation. Failing that, just avoid overstocking, and perhaps add an airstone in summer.>
It's attractive and a different species so adds more interest, and larger looks nice. However, would the Otos be likely to compete with or be outcompeted for food from the Otos?
<Nope. Add Hikari Algae Wafers or similar, and they'll both nibble away happily. Otos really appreciate some fresh green algae, too.>
Would Otos trouble my longtime resident fish?
<Otos are good community fish, though as noted, they are quite picky about living conditions, and in busy, overstocked community tanks tend to die after a few weeks or months. In the right tank they're not hard to keep.>
Would the Otos eat the fry?
<Unlikely. Like most Loricariids, Otos will have minimal impact on livebearer populations.>
I think you said most would eat fry, just wondering how aggressively they would, since they are supposedly mostly vegetarian.
And should I feed cats algae tabs or will the algae on plants and rocks be sufficient nutritionally?
<Definitely add extra algae-based foods. Otos frequently starve if left to fend for themselves. They consume green algae and aufwuchs in the wild, but are not scavengers and they do not take hair algae, blue-green algae and so
on. Starved Otos will sometimes nibble on the mucous of large, slow-moving fish, but they're completely safe with fish their own size.>
I do want them to police algae aggressively, but I don't want them to starve to death if they are picky on the type of algae. I also have some crypts that I could transplant in there if this tank is not planted heavily enough for Otos.
<Otos actually like bright, open conditions best. Tall plants, flat stones, and plenty of places for them to graze, ideally with a decent current but at the least good quality, oxygen-rich water.>
<Welcome, Neale.>

Re: South American lime green Endler's- Oto?        7/26/16
Thanks Neale.
I will consider my options some more. I will test my water again. I can't. recall from last time what hardness is, but our water here is naturally very alkaline and hard.
<Endler's are good; do also look up Micropoecilia (some of which are extremely colourful) that are similar in size and behaviour. Phalloceros
caudimaculatus is another colourful little fish.>
I do have a log in there too that has an Anubias or something like that attached to it, and it could have affected the hardness.
<Unlikely. As I often point out, if softening water was as easy as dumping a log in it, we'd all be doing that! But unfortunately softening water requires either RO or the collection of rainwater. One is expensive, the other impractical in many places.>
If it's less hard or alkaline, I could always move the little Endler's to the 10 gallon which doesn't have the log since they're such a small number and prefer harder water, and try another fish for the 29 gallon.
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: South American lime green Endler's- Oto?       7/26/16

Thanks Neale.
I will check those fish.
<Good luck! Livebearer associations can be a good way to find these fish, and they're often sold very cheaply at fishkeeping club auctions if someone is keeping them locally and has fry to spare. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: South American lime green Endler's- Oto?

Tips on stocking, tank size and feeding; FW        7/18/16
Hello there crew, just tough I could get some nice tips regarding, as said in the email subject, stocking, tank size and feeding.
I got kind of a tad bit overexcited with bichirs and oddballs and ended up overstocking,
<Ah, very common>
I'm working to correct it though, I currently have a 250 liters, 100x50x50cm tank (in imperial units, 66 gallons, 40x20x20in), at 27ºC(80ºF), a 70 liters (20g) sump, and have the following fish:
1 x Xenomystus nigri 15cm(6")
3 x Erpetoichthys calabaricus (Will still get them at the LFS so no accurate size, around 20cm(8") I believe)
2 x Polypterus delhezi 17cm(7") and 15cm(6")
1 x Polypterus palmas palmas 20cm(8") (With a friend, still not home)
2 x Polypterus senegalus 18cm(+7") and 13cm(5")
1 x Polypterus senegalus var. Albino 9cm(+3")
1 x Parrot x Texas sb hybrid 15cm(6")
1 x Heros Severum var. Gold 9cm(+3")
1 x Ctenolucius hujeta 13cm(+4")
<Eeyikes! Need to thin the herd here; will become much more evident w/ time, growth... and TROUBLE should there be filter gear or electrical failure>

Yeah, I kind of screwed up in a mindless stocking... I am trading the Hybrid for the Palmas, and will relocate the Hujeta (will talk about him later on). So, as one might think, I will need a bigger tank as I am most definitely not willing to get rid of either the Polypterids or the Xenomystus, as for the Severum, I am thinking of keeping him in till he creates trouble with the other fish. So I'd like suggestions on a new tank size for my little oddballs. That was the tank size part of it.
<The usual here: The bigger the better. At least a volume of what you currently have>
Now, onto feeding, it is only related for the ropes, I'll have them properly quarantined in a 120 liters (30g) tank with filter sponge, heater and the tank will be a bare bottom (of course, with tight fitting lids), initially I plan on trying to get them eat thawed shrimp, if they do not have interest, I can get mealworms and peanut beetle larvae, and will try those, if not them, shrimps, then guppy/convict fry... wanted some hints on what to feed them and how to try at least to wean them to eat pellets or flakes, maybe gel kind of food,
<Not likely dried food will be taken. DO READ here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/RopefishFdgF.htm
I can make some with high-ish protein contents with fish, shrimp, Spirulina and soy protein(in less than 20% of its composition) with a garlic for immunological system, peas for digestive system and spinach for vitamins, also currently I feed everyone of the tank with thawed shrimp and Cobalt Discus Hans flake food (as I have at least a pound leftover from the time I had discus). That settle feeding tips.
Now, remember the Hujeta ? I plan to relocate him to a 120 liters tank (30g), thought of getting some denisoni barbs or glass catfish with him, and some Corys, would appreciate some thoughts unto this.
<?! Needs MUCH more room. READ here: http://animal-world.com/encyclo/fresh/characins/FreshwaterBarracuda.php
Also, when the bigger tank comes in, they might very likely go for the 250 liters (66g) tank, whilst the 120 liters (30g) might become a planted tank with some ember tetras, neon, tetra Serpae and maybe rummy nose tetra, also Corys I guess.
<More room than this...>
Also, as the Hujeta, Hybrid and in the future, the Severum all go away, I plan to make the principal tank (when the principal is the new, bigger tank) a all African tank, getting some African plants and maybe some more African fish, very possibly, Congo tetras or African butterfly fish, I'd like some thoughts into that. And that settle stocking.
<See WWM re African biotopes>

Also, no needs to worry for the fish in the principal tank, so far there have been no noticeable fights (with the exception of some chasing around by the hybrid to the knife) and I handle its maintenance quite well with a tad bit over 50% water changes weekly.
You all should have seen that I kind of dislike imperial units, so some number are rounded up, and when talking about fish size, some had a + before the imperial size, like the bigger common senegalus, 18cm(+7"), that would mean he is bigger than 7" whilst smaller than 8", also my keyboard has been quite buggy, I will proofread, but I apologise any typo, be it a grammatical error of mine or a faulty keyboard.
<I appreciate this consideration; thank you>
Also don't really know why, but I kind of feel I should tell you all that the small albino senegalus is in a floating fish hatchery thing, but bigger than most industrial ones, I damn will not trust him with the bigger delhezi, bugger ate a 10cm(4") senegalus and a 9cm(+3") Pictus catfish, I don't even know how the hell he ate the Pictus without puncturing his stomach.....
Well that's all, I hope I may receive polite answers and will likely keep you all updated.
<Cheers, Bob Fenner>
Tips on stocking, tank size and feeding       Neale's input       7/19/16

Hello there crew, just thought I could get some nice tips regarding, as said in the email subject, stocking, tank size and feeding.
I got kind of a tad bit overexcited with bichirs and oddballs and ended up overstocking, I'm working to correct it though, I currently have a 250 liters, 100x50x50cm tank (in imperial units, 66 gallons, 40x20x20in), at 27ºC(80ºF), a 70 liters (20g) sump, and have the following fish:
1 x Xenomystus nigri 15cm(6")
3 x Erpetoichthys calabaricus (Will still get them at the LFS so no accurate size, around 20cm(8") I believe)
2 x Polypterus delhezi 17cm(7") and 15cm(6")
1 x Polypterus palmas palmas 20cm(8") (With a friend, still not home)
2 x Polypterus senegalus 18cm(+7") and 13cm(5")
1 x Polypterus senegalus var. Albino 9cm(+3")
1 x Parrot x Texas sb hybrid 15cm(6")
1 x Heros Severum var. Gold 9cm(+3")
1 x Ctenolucius hujeta 13cm(+4")
Yeah, I kind of screwed up in a mindless stocking...
<Well, if not mindless then certainly ambitious!
There's a lot of livestock here. I wouldn't have problems keeping 4-5 smaller Bichirs in a tank this size (things like P. palmas and P. senegalus that get to about 30-35 cm). But Polypterus delhezi gets a fair bit bigger and stockier, and on top of that you have a whole bunch of cichlids which will produce a lot of mess and become very prone to high nitrate levels as they age. Severums for example get massive, easily 20 cm/8 inches, and hybrid cichlids could get any size between the two parents. Finally, while Ctenolucius hujeta is a lovely fish, and perfectly suitable for a tank this size, it's a gregarious species and easily spooked by boisterous fish. When alarmed it's prone to damaging itself on the hood or against the glass.>
I am trading the Hybrid for the Palmas, and will relocate the Hujeta (will talk about him later on). So, as one might think, I will need a bigger tank as I am most definitely not willing to get rid of either the Polypterids or the Xenomystus, as for the Severum, I am thinking of keeping him in till he creates trouble with the other fish. So I'd like suggestions on a new tank size for my little oddballs. That was the tank size part of it.
<Understood. In all honest you're going to want something upwards of 400 litres, and the more the better. You could moderate that demand by using, say, a 350 litre tank and adding a 50 litre sump to increase water volume. This would provide good water quality, but the territorial aspect is hard to predict. The smaller Bichirs are usually very well behaved given space, ditto the Xenomystus and the Ctenolucius hujeta. The cichlids are the jokers in this particular pack though...>
Now, onto feeding, it is only related for the ropes, I'll have them properly quarantined in a 120 liters (30g) tank with filter sponge, heater and the tank will be a bare bottom (of course, with tight fitting lids), initially I plan on trying to get them eat thawed shrimp, if they do not have interest, I can get mealworms and peanut beetle larvae, and will try those, if not them, shrimps, then guppy/convict fry... wanted some hints on what to feed them and how to try at least to wean them to eat pellets or flakes, maybe gel kind of food, I can make some with high-ish protein contents with fish, shrimp, Spirulina and soy protein(in less than 20% of its composition) with a garlic for immunological system, peas for digestive system and spinach for vitamins, also currently I feed everyone of the tank with thawed shrimp and Cobalt Discus Hans flake food (as I have at least a pound leftover from the time I had discus). That settle feeding tips.
<Erpetoichthys are difficult to keep adequately fed in mixed species set-ups alongside other bottom feeders. They're shy, nocturnal, and in the wild forage in waterlogged grass and other habitats where they can slither about hunting insect larvae and worms. This is very difficult to mimic! Frozen foods are pretty much the only staples on the cards, bloodworms and krill to start with, as well as tiny bits of white fish fillet and cockles. Prawns and mussels are good treats but poor staples because of their thiaminase content. The other Bichirs eat similar foods, but are more pushy and able to take bigger pieces, so combining them can be a challenge.>
Now, remember the Hujeta ? I plan to relocate him to a 120 liters tank (30g), thought of getting some denisoni barbs or glass catfish with him, and some Corys, would appreciate some thoughts unto this. Also, when the bigger tank comes in, they might very likely go for the 250 liters (66g) tank, whilst the 120 liters (30g) might become a planted tank with some ember tetras, neon, tetra Serpae and maybe rummy nose tetra, also Corys I guess.
<I've kept Ctenolucius hujeta in 180 litres successfully, but I'd recommend more. Do not combine with Serpae Tetras or other fin nippers! Ctenolucius hujeta are much too easily nipped and stressed. But they're excellent alongside non-aggressive schooling fish that are too big to be seen as prey, Giant Danios for example.>
Also, as the Hujeta, Hybrid and in the future, the Severum all go away, I plan to make the principal tank (when the principal is the new, bigger tank) a all African tank, getting some African plants and maybe some more African fish, very possibly, Congo tetras or African butterfly fish, I'd like some thoughts into that. And that settle stocking.
<Do think some reading required here...
Much written about this on WWM.>
Also, no needs to worry for the fish in the principal tank, so far there have been no noticeable fights (with the exception of some chasing around by the hybrid to the knife) and I handle its maintenance quite well with a tad bit over 50% water changes weekly.
<Understood. Xenomystus becomes grumpier (more territorial) with age and yours is still a tiddler. Personally, I don't think many/any oddballs mix well with cichlids generally. Cichlids are too disruptive and territorial to bring the best out of Bichirs, Knifefish, etc.>
You all should have seen that I kind of dislike imperial units, so some number are rounded up, and when talking about fish size, some had a + before the imperial size, like the bigger common senegalus, 18cm(+7"), that would mean he is bigger than 7" whilst smaller than 8", also my keyboard has been quite buggy, I will proofread, but I apologise any typo, be it a grammatical error of mine or a faulty keyboard. Also don't really know why, but I kind of feel I should tell you all that the small albino senegalus is in a floating fish hatchery thing, but bigger than most industrial ones, I damn will not trust him with the bigger delhezi, bugger ate a 10cm(4") senegalus and a 9cm(+3") Pictus catfish, I don't even know how the hell he ate the Pictus without puncturing his stomach...
<I wonder if you actually have a P. senegalus and not something else, mis-sold? Does its lower jaw protrude beyond the upper jaw? Good sign it's a fish-eating Bichir. Of course all Bichirs can, do consume any prey they can swallow. So while P. senegalus is peaceful, it's still a predator, just not a very territorial one.>
Well that's all, I hope I may receive polite answers and will likely keep you all updated.
<Hope this will do! Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Tips on stocking, tank size and feeding       7/19/16

Thanks for the answers Bob and Neale, they were just about what I needed;
First and foremost I am getting rid of the cichlids, a friend will come to get the hybrid either Wednesday or Thursday, the Severum will wait a bit though, but so far he has been a role model denizen so I am fine with him for a bit longer, I have been thinking of something along the lines of a 160x60x40cm(64x24x16in) being a 385 litres tank (roughly 100g), with a
100x35x35(40x14x14) 120 litres (30g) sump, also I tend to make DIY fluidized sand bend filters and reactors, along with a nice amount of common ceramic media, so they will be fine there, as far as water chemistry is to be considered, and as so far I have been getting no fights they should settle well in the new tank, when I get it.
<Let's hope!>
As for the ropes, I'll just try between thawed shrimp pieces,
<Keep these a minority part of the diet, less than 25%; shrimp and mussel are really bad foods if fed too frequently, unless of course you combine them with a (marine) aquarium vitamin supplement.>
homemade gel food, mealworms and frozen brine shrimp, I might end up hand feeding him, but as the hybrid has been a real arse, I already have to hand feed the bichirs when I get them shrimp (or else the fat bastard will eat it nearly all himself...) so I should be fine with keeping them well fed, my concern with the ropes is mostly to have them eating something I can provide as staple.
For the Hujeta housing, I believe there was a misunderstanding, I am thinking of moving him to the 120 litres (30g) tank I own, temporarily, when I get the new tank for the bichirs, he and his company (very likely a school of slender Hemiodus (Hemiodus gracilis) and some Corys) will be in the 250 litres,
<Hemiodus can be good companions for Ctenolucius, assuming they're big enough not to be eaten. Would always recommend deep-bodied characins as "safer" companions.>
whilst the tetras I talked about (ember, Serpae, neon and rummy nose) would be in the 30g all by themselves, I just need to take out one or two species from the mix to make nice schools in the tank, I am thinking of keeping the ember with either the Serpae or rummy nose, very likely some of both species...
And finally for the African fish I think of getting for the future new tank (as in, I'll get them ONLY when I get the new tank) I am thinking of:
1 x Pantodon buchholzi, African butterfly fish
1 or 2 x Ctenopoma acutirostre, Leopard Gourami
3-4 pairs x Phenacogrammus interruptus, Congo tetra
<These three should work well, but do review the care and feeding of Pantodon, especially. It easily starves to death and it doesn't like strong currents.>
That's all for my plans, when something happens (very likely when I get the ropes) I'll contact you all again;
With the best regards, and a proofread email, Gustavo.
<Most welcome, Neale.>
Re: Tips on stocking, tank size and feeding       7/19/16

Hi there, again, I kind of forgot talking about two subjects;
I was also thinking about getting myself some sort of Synodontis, but as much as I'd like to, I think I won't be able to, due to the fact that locally I find only two species, S. lucipinnis (far too small, as proven by the old Pictus) and S. eupterus, which has a good enough size, but I believe might be too much or that he would end up stealing hiding spots from the Bichirs...
<Synodontis work well with Bichirs; Synodontis nigriventris works fine with Polypterus palmas and other species in that size bracket. The bigger Bichirs, sure, go with slightly bigger Synodontis. S. eupterus is a "gentle giant", and good with most non-aggressive fish.>
Also, Neale asked if I my Senegal wasn't misidentified, I am pretty sure he isn't, mostly because the bugger that ate a Pictus was the delhezi, and yes, all my bichirs are upper jaw species, though I am very curious as to which lower jaw Polypterid might look just like a Senegal...
<Usually the bigger, broader head and protruding lower jaw make these more piscivorous Bichirs obvious. Hybrids are common nowadays, sadly, and such fish may be unpredictable. Don't discount scavenging, either. Bichirs can take an ailing catfish that might otherwise be safe. They can also be motivated by hunger -- reflect on the range and quality of food being offered, and make changes as necessary.>
With all the best regards, again, Gustavo.
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Tips on stocking, tank size and feeding        7/24/16

Hey there Crew! I'm back very early, much earlier than I thought I'd be... with good news!
I just got the new tank... 165x40x65cm, 430 litres (66x16x26" 110g), this weekend I'll plan the stand, buy some wood and pipes at Monday, and make it (stand and plumbing) with a friend Tuesday, and at Wednesday I should have the new tank running and the fish in their new house... I know the thin and tall isn't really the best for them, but for the price I got it, I won't regret it... If anything I'll just need to get creative with driftwood so they'll use the vertical space well.
<Quite so. We often ignore the "up" aspect of the aquarium, and instead focus on the "along" when it comes to decorating, distributing rocks and plants along the bottom. But yes, building upwards is important, whether it's tall plants, or flat stones laid end upwards, or even little "tables" made from stable rocks so there are extra flat surfaces halfway up the water column. Take your Bichirs for example. Get a slate or three, plus a variety of flat stones, and you can build "shelves" and "tables" at different levels. Not only will these create caves for hiding, the flat surfaces will be used and explored, and Bichirs especially welcome resting stops closer to the surface than the rest of the tank. They'll use these for lurking and when they're too lazy to swim all the way up for air.>
So now I am looking onto a stocking a lot more... the ropes didn't come now... maybe they'll be available next week, maybe next month or next year.. they're hard to come by here...
<In all honesty, if you don't have the Ropefish yet, I'd skip them. They're A LOT harder to keep than Bichirs. Less easy to feed, more prone to escaping.>
Wanted to hear some ideas for this list:
3-4x E. calabaricus (whenever they might come..)
2x P. delhezi (have them)
2x P. senegalus (have them)
1x P. senegalus var. Albino (have him)
1x P. palmas palmas (getting him soon)
2x Xenomystus nigri (might be a real bad idea... what do you think about it ? I'm really hesitant about doing this... quoting animal world:"Get along when young, and adults can co-habitat if that are given about 55 Gallons per knife.")
<Broadly yes, do agree with this. By Knifefish standards they are extremely peaceful. But they're still territorial. Nice fish though.>
5-6 pairs of Phenacogrammus interruptus (don't really know how many)
<Lovely fish. One of the most underrated in the hobby. Adults are stunning, both sexes, though the males of course do have the longer fins.>
1-3x Ctenopoma acutirostre (don't really know how many)
1x Synodontis eupterus (as I was convinced by Neale they should be fine in my setup)
<Should be. Gentle giant. I've seen more than one adult in aquarium shops that needed to be rehomed because they were being bullied by the jumbo fish they were kept with, the owner assuming they're as bullish as other large
Synodontis. Of course they'll eat bite-size prey, and they are mildly territorial (like your Bichirs, so make sure everyone has a cave they can call home).>
And here comes trouble... I am thinking of trading the Hujeta Gar into a Spiny eel, thing is, I don't really know which it is it is around 15cm(6") as of now, the Tiretrack or the Half-banded Spiny eel... I quite believe a Half banded would be fine, whilst a Tiretrack might get tight...
<I would not keep a Spiny Eel in this set-up. Spiny Eels are very difficult to keep, long-term. They're difficult to feed, and unlike Bichirs, are pretty much live or frozen food only. So getting enough calories into them as well as a good balance of vitamins is hard. For sure they'll eat prawns and mussels, but those are thiaminase-rich, so you need to be getting other foods into them like lancefish and earthworms, and that's where things get difficult. Bichirs are likely to take any of these foods before the Spiny Eels. Much better to keep Spiny Eels with non-competitors. Large characins,
L-numbers, etc. I kept my Tyre-Track Eel with Rainbowfish and various brackish water mid water fish.>
I saw the fish a few weeks ago and the owner doesn't really know what it is... I am thinking of getting it and if it turns out to be a Tiretrack, sell it to someone when it get big enough for me... Would appreciate hints with identification.
<Almost all Tyre-Tracks in the US trade are actually Mastacembelus favus rather than Mastacembelus armatus, but in reality we're probably dealing with a species complex. They're all big fish (expect well over 60 cm/2 ft) and opportunistically predatory, differing merely in the arrangement of the brown bands on their flanks.>
Also, please do convince me that getting a P. ornatipinnis IS a real bad idea.... there are a few people around where I live which have them, in tanks around the size of mine and they have been tempting me a real lot with the Ornate bichir (as in, talking me to having one, not selling) I used to convince myself to not try by thinking my tank would not support it, but with the new tank my resolve is slowly crumbling eh...
<Ornates are lovely fish. Hardy and attractive. But they are grumpy and quite big (60 cm/2ft), so I wouldn't recommend combining with smaller Bichir species. They do okay with L-numbers of the same size though, and I've seen them in numerous tank buster communities with large Pimelodids, Clown Loaches, etc.>
Also, I'll be building the tank Fluidized sand bed reactor soon, how much sand and which flow rate would you recommend? I am thinking of 1kg(2.2lbs) with 2.000lph (530gph) with a T and a valve in the pump if it might be too
much flow... So far I have yet to make one that big...
<Not an expert on these, so will direct to some reading, here:
Somewhat overkill for freshwater systems. If going the sump route, I'd simply stick with plenty of wet-dry biological media that can be easily removed and cleaned. None of the fish you're keeping is especially nitrate-sensitive, so standard fishkeeping protocols should be adequate.>
With the best regards, Gustavo.
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Tips on stocking, tank size and feeding        7/24/16

Hey there Neale!
Firstly I have to say, you understood perfectly what I meant with getting creative to use the vertical space, I'll look into lots of flat stones, some Vallisneria and some tall driftwood, I hope to do something nice with "shelves" and some big plants...
Then about the Ropefish... I too am starting to think they might not be worth the trouble... I do quite believe I'll end up forgetting of them to put something entirely else...
The African Knives... I feel it might be worth the try, in any case I'll have the 30g tank running, the sump will have a grow out space and I'll also put up a quarantine tank in the stand of the tank, so, if it shit hits the fan I'll be able to at least put a stop to the fight.
Yeah, I feel like that about the Congo tetras too.. had some in a previous setup with only an albino Senegal bichir, they're real beauties... what do you think about getting 12 of them, 6 pairs, I feel like it would work up nicely in this tall and long tank maybe more, who knows...
<Sounds like a good plan.>
I've seen that (Eupterus stressed with other big fish) once myself... felt real weird to see such a big fish so stressed in a nearly thousand litres tank with some other big fish... I hadn't really read much about them but I sure guess I'll end up with a Eupterus in here...
<Hemisynodontis membranaceus is another gentle giant worth looking out for.>
Yeah, had some trouble with Spiny eels myself, though I feel like this one might be worth a try, as apparently it is eating pellets, I have also read up in MFK that most of the commonly found ones may tolerate some salt but
were FW fish... going to read up again on both, WWM and MFK to check it...
<Never seen a Spiny Eel take pellets. First time for everything, and definitely the Hikari brand pellets such as Cichlid Gold and Massivore are well worth a shot... at different times I've fed Lepisosteus gar and my trio of Hujeta Cichlid Gold and they seemed to take them with considerable enthusiasm. But I'd never assume a carnivore will take such foods, even though they're ideal staples if your fish will eat them. Do plan around fresh and frozen foods, and figure out how you'll make sure the predators will all get enough of whatever foods on offer.>
As much as I might like them, it is starting to seem troublesome to keep spiny eels.. If the owner accept to trade the Hujeta in the Eel I'll get it, if it end up not eating or getting too big, I'll just sell to a friend with a bigger tank...
And about the Ornates, that's really just what I needed to hear to fortify my resolve against getting one... they really like a sweet fish but not enough to risk my other bichirs when he grow...
<Sweet fish for sure, but the larger Bichirs are best kept alone or with dissimilar tankmates. L-numbers are ideal.>
Didn't knew WWM has an FAQ even o Fluidized sand filters... going to read it up thanks, I might also end up just not doing it, might be a lot more reliable to just go along with ceramic media and a big sump..
<Agreed! High-grade Siporax and similar media is ideal, but in big tanks you might find pond filter media more economical.>
I should be here again up to next Sunday, with the new tank running up (no need for cycle really, as I'll use my old media plus some more I'll get).
Also I have been looking up on true parrot cichlids (Hoplarchus psittacus), really fancy them, though I might rather keep myself away from cichlids...
<Nice fish. I kept the very similar Hypselecara temporalis at university.
Big, somewhat herbivorous fish. Not really suitable for life with Bichirs, though I suspect the very peaceful Polypterus palmas would work nicely.
Otherwise L-numbers are the best companions.>
What would you think about having one of them in the old 250 litres tank?
<A bit of a squeeze to be honest. These cichlids do get to more than 25 cm/10 inches in length, so I'd have thought 350 litres would be closer to what they'd demand. Even in a tank that size you'd want to have a good plan for managing nitrate otherwise Hole-in-the-head can be a real problem with all these South American cichlids because nitrate levels above 20 mg/l do seem to stress them. I'd probably go for minimal substrate (so removing organic muck is easy) while installing floating plants for shade and to remove nitrate (plus offering some fresh greens the cichlids can nibble on). A few largish tetras, such as Bleeding Hearts, as dither fish, and maybe some Brochis catfish at the bottom. Lovely!>
I am thinking about them, Uarus or just a lotta of tetras with a pair or trio of Laetacara curviceps... there really are so much cool fish, sometimes its real hard to choose...
<Oh, I do think Hypselecara are much nicer than Uaru. Much less shy, and more intense colours. Also considerably easier to keep.>
With the best regards, Gustavo.
<In 250 litres I think I'd be looking at cichlids in the 15-20 cm/6-8 inches size bracket. Rotkeil Severums, for example. Or got totally left field and keep a large group of dwarf cichlids, so you could have several territories. Apistogramma for example are harem fish, and in a tank this size you could easily keep 3-4 males alongside twice that number of
females. Lots of caves at the bottom, then some dither fish at the surface, like Hatchetfish, and watch what happens! Could be really fun. Low maintenance "pretty" talk to contrast with your jumbo predator tank.
Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Tips on stocking, tank size and feeding       7/26/16

Hi there!
You really had me at the dwarf cichlid harem stuff Neale, made me forget the bigger cichlids in a second...
<Yay! While dwarf cichlids can be more sensitive than the average cichlid, their smaller size should make management more straightforward.>
I have found at a good price some A. borellii,
<A relatively cool climate species this, 22-25 C being recommended, so do choose companion species carefully.>
L. dorsigera and L. curviceps, besides them it's the occasional A. cacatuoides,
<Odd this should be a rarity -- Apistogramma cacatuoides is widely farmed and available (in the UK at least) in numerous colour forms such as "orange flash", "double red", "triple red" and so on. Assuming you get healthy
specimens, this species is otherwise very hardy and adaptable.>
I am thinking of getting either 1M 3-4F or 2M 4-6F, initially for the 120 litres tank,
<I'd go either one male or three, to be honest. Two males might end up with a fixed bully/victim dynamic. In a tank 120 litres in size with plenty of caves and coconut shells, 3 males and 5-7 females should be a problem.
These are, after all, dwarf cichlids!>
as I do hope to keep the 250 litres, but do not know if I'll be able to... might need to sell the tank to get more stuff to the new 400 litres African tank... Will look around to chose one species and see which of the ratios above I'll get... If I keep the big tank I'll just keep their future fry to properly stock the community... or buy some more if they'll still be
available when the time comes...
Hopefully I'll have some good news regarding the new tank by Sunday...
With the best regards, Gustavo.
<Good luck! Neale.>

FW livestock sel., newly cycled tank, C. sterbai and T. leeri     6/11/16
Dear crew,
I'm almost finished cycling my first tank, a 20 gallon, using a mix of prawns, crab meat, Betta pellets, and knowledge from WWM. Thank you, once again, from the unwashed masses of the wet-pet set!
<That's the kind of talk that could go to my head!>
There are some lovely Corydoras sterbai and pearl gouramis (Trichogaster leeri) at the fish store. My ultimate stocking plan is one pearl gourami, six or seven sterbai, and perhaps a common Bristlenose (Ancistrus spp.).
<A nice combo. Eminently compatible.>

Water is moderately soft, pH about 7.0. Tank will be kept at 77 F. Sand substrate, basic starter kit lighting, Anubias and java ferns tied to bogwood, and one Cryptocoryne wendtii. Filtration is via a 240 gph Eheim 2071, although I may need to turn down the flow a bit for the gourami.
<Agreed, but they adapt reasonably well to average flow conditions. They're much stronger swimmers than, say, Bettas.>
I wanted to ask: would I be OK starting with the sterbai in a newly cycled tank? If not, what about the pearl gourami? Neale doesn't mention these specific species as beginner fish in his article on freshwater livestock, although he mentions some of their relatives.
<Either is viable. I'd personally have gone with the Ancistrus first simply because they'll be good at keeping algae down while the tank is finishing off the cycling process, and algae's a lot easier to control before it's a problem. The plants you mention are, in my experience, algae-traps because they don't seem to grow fast enough to suppress algae. If you can, add a fast-growing floating plant like Ceratopteris thalictroides or even better Amazon Frogbit. Something to filter out light, so algae doesn't take over your plants (Anubis, in particular, seems to get really pestered by the stuff). But yes, either Corydoras or Gouramis would work, neither of the species you mention is especially delicate, and provided the aquarium is mature, should settle right in.>
Again, I appreciate all your help, as do my future fish!
<Most welcome. Neale.>

Yet another stocking question       2/14/16
Hi guys, I found you very helpful a few years ago, and am hoping you are still answering questions.
<Yes indeed.>
I have a small aquarium 60cm X 30cm X 38cm. It holds about 68 litres.
<Which isn't a huge amount of space. Do read my article on stocking small tanks... basically, go with the 10 gallon stuff, but with the ability to increase groups of each species from, say, 6 specimens to 8 or 10, which is a plus.
These 70-litre/15-gallon tanks are very popular at the moment, and a heck of a lot better than starting out with a 10 gallon tank, they're still relatively small.>
I am currently fishless cycling with ammonium chloride. It's a medium density planted tank with a Fluval 205 canister filter. I would like to stock it with a small Pleco (either L377 or L080).
<These are both Peckoltia species. Doable, but bear in mind these are NOT algae eaters and must be provided with a varied diet based around meaty, rather than plant-based foods. Bloodworms, krill, that sort of thing, alongside algae wafers.>
3 Otocinclus,
<Bit of a waste of time in my opinion because they are quite specific in their needs... coolish water, lots of green algae. If they don't get this, they tend to die off, one by one.>
6 harlequin Rasboras
<Fine, but maybe get a few more.>
and a Bolivian ram. It this too much?
<Nope, but I think the Bolivian Ram is a bit out of place. It's quite a big fish. Have you thought about a pair of Apistogramma cacatuoides? Smaller, just as adaptable. Provided a few caves and a pair or trio will work nicely in a tank this size.>
If so will they do ok for a couple months while I sort out a bigger tank? I was thinking of getting a custom sized tank 3 foot X 45cm X 40cm. If I go this route can I add another small Pleco or some Kuhli loaches?
<Peckoltia are extremely territorial. They need a territory about 30 x 30 cm in size. While they'll ignore Kuhli Loaches, they won't tolerate other similar-looking Plecs, and fighting can break out. If the tank has enough "square footage" at the bottom for caves and territories, you can indeed keep more than one. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Yet another stocking question       2/14/16

Thank you for replying to me. I've decided to skip the small tank and just get a bigger tank. I am hoping this will help avoid the temperature fluctuations I've noticed with my little tank also.
<Quite possibly, but moderate temperature changes (a couple degrees or so) by day and night are not a big deal for most species.>
So the big tank will now measure 120cm X 45cm X 45. So probably about 230 litres taking into account gravel etc. it will be fairly heavily planted with low and medium light plants.
<Sounds nice.>
Can you look at my stocking again please?
Stocking I'm thinking of
1 L066 Pleco
<One of the Hypancistrus... do review their needs of warm (as well as soft) water... not really compatible with the Sturisoma.>
1 Royal Farlowella (instead of the Otos)
<These Sturisoma catfish are lovely, if that's what you mean here. However, some do need cool water to do well, just like Farlowella. Let me direct you to an article I wrote for TFH a while back concerning Whiptails generally, which includes Sturisoma and Farlowella spp.
Sturisoma festivum actually will do well between 25-28 C, but the more commonly traded Sturisoma aureum should definitely be kept cooler, 22-24 C.
So it all depends really on which Sturisoma is being sold at your pet store. If they're simply Farlowella species, then most need to be kept around 22-24 C, because they're very sensitive to low oxygen levels. Plus, I wouldn't bother with Farlowella! Outside of biotope tanks they don't last long. On the other hand, if your retailer can get Loricaria and Rineloricaria species, these are extremely easy to keep, and groups are highly entertaining. The standard issue Rineloricaria sp. L010A can be
stocked at one per 15-20 litres, and they'll spawn readily, even rearing fry successfully in tanks without too many predatory fish. All the Rineloricaria species are totally undemanding fish, adaptable with regard to water chemistry and temperature. They're basically rock-solid alternatives to Corydoras or Kuhli Loaches in terms of behaviour and diet.
Finally, if your retailer is really good, Planiloricaria cryptodon might be an option. Famous for changing its colour, this fish. Once settled this is an easy fish to keep, though it must have a open tank with a sandy substrate. Keep the plants around the edges.>
10 Kuhli loaches
<Good companions for Hypancistrus in terms of care, but do bear in mind they'll be competing for food as well as hiding holes.>
1 Bolivian Ram
20 harlequin Rasboras
Anything else you would recommend with this mix? I wouldn't mind something for the upper level of the tank.
<I'd suggest six or more Silver Hatchets as a good default, but if you keep your eyes peeled there are some other species out there, including the impressive species Thoracocharax stellatus, which gets to over 6 cm in length! If the water chemistry isn't too hard or too soft, then Celebes Halfbeaks might be an option, though even in your tank be careful about the ratio of males to females because the males are feisty. There are various tetras that stay at the top of the tank, Splashing Tetras for example. Most of the minnows do the same thing, so any of the smaller Danios would be an option. There are also some Danio-relatives worth thinking about, such as Laubuka laubuca.>
Also, I am considering a bigger filter. Can I just move my filter media from my current filter to a new canister filter?
<Yes. It's called "cloning" a filter and a very good idea. You can remove 50% of the biological media to a new filter without dangerously compromising the old filter, making it perfectly possible to set up the second tank before you break down the first. Cheers, Neale.>
Yet another stocking question       2/13/16

Hi guys, I found you very helpful a few years ago, and am hoping you are still answering questions.
I have a small aquarium 60cm X 30cm X 38cm. It holds about 68 litres. I am currently fishless cycling with ammonium chloride. It's a medium density planted tank with a Fluval 205 canister filter.
I would like to stock it with a small Pleco (either L377 or L080) 3 Otocinclus, 6 harlequin Rasboras and a Bolivian ram. Is this too much?
<Mmm; not too much. These Peckoltias don't grow too large>
 If so will they do ok for a couple months while I sort out a bigger tank?
<I'd place the Rasboras first, and wait on the Ram unless it was captive produced, all the catfish for another month... to "season" the tank>

I was thinking of getting a custom sized tank 3 foot X 45cm X 40cm. If I go this route can I add another small Pleco or some Kuhli loaches?
<Yes; as long as the other Pleco sp. is compatible! Bob Fenner>
Re: Yet another stocking question       2/15/16

Thank you for a wonderful reply Neil. I'll look into the whiptails a bit more. It was actually your article which originally interested me in them.
<Probably my favourite oddball, and Whiptails are definitely worth investigating.>
Hopefully I can find one more suitable.
The fish store I was considering buying from has these listed as S Panamense.
<Will direct you to the Planet Catfish page, here:
And also...
While it's preferred temperature range is listed as quite warm, 26-29 C, the same page also reports it inhabits cooler water, 25 C, and oddly enough the Fishbase entry goes even colder than that, 20-22 C. My general approach with Sturisoma is to keep them at low to middling temperatures where possible, but with water current and oxygen level being the critical issues
rather than the temperature as such. Warmer water holds less oxygen, hence cooler conditions suiting oxygen-sensitive species better.>
I'll keep an eye out for something different but interesting catfish are hard to come by around here (Australia)
<Except of course your rivers are teeming with excellent catfish, including Cobblers and Tandans! Of course it's weird how for most folks it's easier to obtain a fish from halfway around the world than a native species found 50 miles inland.>
Thanks again for all your help!
<Most welcome. Neale.>
Re: Yet another stocking question       3/9/16

Ok, my tank will run at 25 degrees Celsius, and have harlequin Rasboras, a pearl gourami, a Bolivian ram, a Sturisoma Panamense, and Kuhli loaches.
I've been looking for a L number Pleco who will tolerate the cooler water,
<Almost all of them will, excluding Rio Xingu catfish such as Hypancistrus species. Your plain vanilla Ancistrus will do well, as will things like Panaque, Hypostomus, etc.>
and came up with L007 vampire Pleco. I'm considering it, but I'm worried it will eat the smaller fish, as these are carnivorous.
<Correct; but in the sense they eat worms and insect larvae out of the mud, rather than the algae and plant material favoured by herbivores like Panaque spp. They pose no threat at all to fish, except fish eggs and perhaps wriggling fry.>
Any experience with these, or better ideas?
<A good choice! Cheers, Neale.>

Freshwater stocking-20gal       9/25/15
3 am and time to throw some more questions at the WWM crew! ^_^
<I should have gotten up earlier>
This time I'm writing with freshwater questions. My kids have caught the aquarium bug and want their own tank. I told them that if they showed the willingness to research the needs of the animals they wanted, I would get them an aquarium and help them care for their fish. My three rules were that they had to choose fish that would do well in a 20 gallon aquarium,
they had to be species that would survive in hard water like we have, and they were not allowed to "impulse buy" (no seeing a fish in the store and asking for it without knowing about it's care requirements).
Well they surprised me. I ended up having to limit the time they could look up fish facts so they'd do their school work! I helped them finalize their list and would like to run by y'all and make sure it checks out before we dive in, as well as ask a few general questions as I haven't done a freshwater tank in years.
They want a planted tank and I recommended easy, low/medium light plants for us to start with. Java moss, Hornwort, and possibly Java ferns.
<Mmm; the two "Javas" like tropical, soft/er, acidic water than the Ceratophyllum... I'd sub summat for the Hornwort; or ditch the two lower plants for cooler, harder, more alkaline water loving species>
The tank will have black sand, a couple pieces of driftwood, and one or two rocks (likely local granite).
For fish we picked bottom, middle, and top swimmers.
6-10 male Endler's Livebearers (several breeders indicated that an all male group would be fine, we don't want breeding) Research says 1in/ea, 75F-86F, PH 7-8.5)
3-5 Dwarf Mosquitofish .8in-1.5in/ea, 68F-78F, PH 7-8 (also all one sex to prevent breeding)
The bottom dwellers is where we hit a snag. They wanted either 5+ Horseman's Corys (Corydoras Eques), or Corydoras habrosus,
<Mmm; either can go. DO make sure they are tank bred/reared; or sub other Corydoras>
but with the former's 2in size and the latter's preference for groups of 8+, either option seems to put us at risk for over-crowding. Would a single Clown Panaque (Panaque maccus) work in our tank? It would have the requisite wood to eat.
<A cultured Ancistrus would be hardier>
Also, most sources recommend adding fish only 1-3 at a time, while at the same time advising that schooling fish be kept in groups of 5+ and adding them all together. Once cycling is complete, is it safe to go ahead and add each species as a group after quarantine?
For instance adding the 3-5 Mosquitofish, then waiting a few weeks and adding all 6-10 Endler's together?
My only other question is regarding PH. Our tap water has a PH of 8.8 (formerly a shallow sea, volcanic region). I dislike the idea of using chemicals to lower it. I was considering using part dechlorinated tap and partly bottled distilled. Would that work?
<Yes; this or storage-treatment w/ a commercial "pH lowering" product>
Or will the driftwood and plants bring it down to a goal of about 7.5 on their own?
<They will in time... weeks>
I've also seen recommendations of using peat or almond leaves. In your experience what would be best?
<Depending on "what" the alkalinity is due to ("caused by"); boiling the  water, a phosphate product... I'd skip the leaves... too messy and discolors the water>
Thanks again for all the help!
<Thank you for sharing. Bob Fenner>
Re: Freshwater stocking-20gal       9/27/15

Thank you for the advice! After some more research and posting on several forums we have decided to go with a group of Corydoras sterbai. They are another South American fish like the Endler's and from what I have found tolerate the higher temperatures and PH, planting density, and lower flow that the Endler's like. They also seem to be readily available captive bred. From what I've found the Heterandria formosa, Poecilia wingei, and Corydoras sterbai are all fairly low bioload fish that should occupy their own niche in the aquarium and get along well. Please let me know if I'm way off-base with any of the above, and thanks again for the great site!
<Corydoras sterbai will not do well at pH 8.8. But assuming you soften the water as well as lower the pH this species will do fine (please don't focus on pH, it's largely irrelevant within the pH 6-8 range most community species tolerate). Anything up to 20 degrees dH, pH 8 will be tolerated by farmed Corydoras catfish of all the common species. The common beginners
mistake though is to add a "pH down" product to force a lower pH than they have, but without address the hardness, and what's produced is non-stable, unhealthy conditions. Livebearers of all types will be happy in "liquid rock" and there's always the option of choosing catfish from the Rift Valley lakes such as Synodontis multipunctatus (widely farmed, and consequently cheap) which are pre-adapted to liquid rock conditions.
Corydoras sterbai come very warm, very soft and acidic blackwater habitats (classic Discus habitat) rather than the coastal streams inhabited by the various South American Poeciliids like Endler's. Finally, I would not mix Heterandria formosa with anything other than, perhaps, shrimps and pygmy catfish (Corydoras habrosus for example). These fish are tiny and aren't
tropical at all. I breed mine in an unheated 8 gallon tank in the kitchen, where they crank out babies regularly with zero effort on my part. In community tanks though they usually vanish sooner or later, and anything above, say, 22 C/72 F is outside their preferred temperature range. Bear in mind they come from the Carolinas, so room temperature is just about perfect in most homes. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Freshwater stocking-20gal      9/28/15

Hi Neale! Thanks for the information! We'll definitely pass on the Mosquitofish then. I actually found out that our city gives them out for free during mosquito season to keep in outdoor birdbaths, ponds, etc to help with the mosquito problem, definitely not heated environments!
<Are they giving away Mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis) or Dwarf Mosquitofish (Heterandria formosa)? I've never heard of anyone use Heterandria formosa for mosquito control. But Gambusia species are widely used this way, with mixed results. Usually catastrophic, to be honest, because they're aggressive, breed very quickly, and tend to eliminate any local fish
occupying the same niche. Fine in garden ponds with zero risk of flooding into natural watercourses, but otherwise these aren't fish you want to have much to do with. They're definitely NOT community fish. Much too aggressive (for their size) and nippy.>
I had eliminated Synodontis multipunctatus because they grow so large, over 8 inches.
<Understood. There are a couple of relatively small Tanganyikan species though, Synodontis lucipinnis (10 cm/4 inches) and Synodontis petricola (12 cm/5 inches). Both are peaceful though potentially predatory towards bite-sized fish, so Guppies wouldn't be suitable companions, even though bigger fish, Platy-sized upwards, should be fine. It's a shame few if any
Central American catfish are routinely traded as these should be good in hard water.>
However, the Cory cats available locally are raised in the same water I have, using the same method I will be using to lower the hardness and PH (mixing distilled or RO/DI water with the treated tap water) so they should be okay right?
<Yes. My caution was about prioritising pH over hardness; you're doing the correct thing (as is the breeder) in lowering hardness AND pH. I don't even both lowering the pH and just mix rainwater with hard tap water 50/50, and most fish thrive. So long as the hardness is lowered, the precise pH doesn't matter for most farmed fish so long as its somewhere between 6 and 8. Some exceptions of course, but for the most part that'll do.>
The PH will definitely be lower than 8.8, though I won't use chemicals to do it. The water they're kept in at the LDS is PH 7.8 and I was planning to match that by mixing in a ratio of neutral water. With a 20 gallon tank it won't cost much at all to buy water for the initial fill and weekly water changes :)
<Sounds ideal.>
I read your article on surface swimmers, but all the ones I can find require lower temperatures, soft acidic water, or grow too big. Do you know of any that like hard, warm (78F+) water and stay small?
<Wrestling Halfbeaks if you can get them, though they are somewhat harder to keep than, say, Guppies. Easily spooked and don't tolerate sudden changes well. Sometimes adding a little salt to the water helps them. What else... numerous oddball livebearers out there to consider... Micropoecilia species would definitely be up your street, numerous naturally occurring
colour forms such as Micropoecilia parae "melanzona red" are traded regularly as well as the more pick-and-mix Micropoecilia picta you sometimes see in fish club auctions. Limia is another genus worth exploring. Limia nigrofasciata is my go-to species for community tanks and widely sold in the UK now, thank heavens. It combines the size of a Guppy
with the sailfin of a Molly, while having shimmering green-gold colours that look superb when the fish is happy. Limia melanogaster is also seen in colour forms including a naturally occurring blue form. Also look at Girardinus and especially Phalloceros caudimaculatus, this latter thriving especially well in hard or brackish water.>
Or should we just forget about trying to stick with the top/middle/bottom plan? I've been searching for days and I'm about ready to give up and just stick with Endler's and Cory cats lol.
<In hard water set-ups, one approach is to tailor the tank to the needs of shallow water algae-eating fish such as livebearers. These fish alternate between swimming at the surface (for hunting mosquito larvae or flake) and grazing at the bottom (on rocks). So a tank with gentle water movement, bright overhead light, and lots of flat rocks is just right for them.
Arrange some Vallisneria around the sides and back to provide greenery, while some floating plants are useful, especially initially, to encourage the right kinds of algae. You don't want inedible kids (hair algae for example, or blue-green) so you do want fast-growing plants keeping water quality good. But on the other hand you do want a low algal turf of green algae and diatoms growing on the rocks, which will slowly happen if conditions are right. You can add some Nerite snails for keeping the glass clear of algae, but otherwise there's no need to add a Plec or something along those lines because if you don't overfeed the Poeciliidae, they'll take care of the algae! I saw a wonderful tank designed this way for Liberty Mollies, which are a bit nippy to keep with anything else, but in groups are simply gorgeous fish. Hope this helps, Neale.>
Re: Freshwater stocking-20gal       9/29/15

It does help, thank you :)
Lot's of great ideas to look into. You were right, the city gives out regular Mosquitofish, Gambusia affinis. They do specify that the fish are only to be used in contained ponds, fountains, bird baths, etc, though no way of knowing how closely that warning is heeded by those who obtain the fish unfortunately.
<Quite so. An interesting fish for sure, and fun to watch, but a menace in places where it doesn't belong.>
I'll look into the plants and fish you've mentioned, I appreciate all the advice!
<Good luck, Neale.>

The (Pen)Ultimate Thread---Stocking 105 Gallon Semi-Aggressive Community      7/5/15
Dear Wet Web Media Crew,
This will probably be the last question email thread I will send you for a while. I am still monitoring the silver dollar in my quarantine tank...but nothing much has happened. I might send you still more emails in that thread but there is one more thing I'd like to ask you about.
So...by now you've heard quite a bit about the tank I have. Currently there are 5 giant Danios, 5 silver dollars (6 if you count the one who is in quarantine, but I don't know if he will ever recover...), two weather loaches (I know in hindsight should not be in here, but are big and healthy and I don't particularly want to get rid of them), one clown loach, and one Geophagus surinamensis. The geo is healing up his lateral line, about 1/3 of the injury is gone now. I probably will give him away once he has fully recovered, but I don't know for sure, or when this will be.
I am trying to figure out what the ultimate set up of the tank will be.
Right now, the clown loach, while physically healthy, is clearly lonely.
<Can happen. Best kept alongside other Clowns of similar size (bullying much smaller specimens can be a problem if you add one or two juveniles alongside a full-grown adult).>
While he is active and not always hiding, he is constantly trying to school with the silver dollars and spends a lot of time looking at his reflection.
I previously said he was chasing the silver dollars, but after Neale Monks mentioned clown loaches trying to school with other species I observed him some more and noticed he wasn't actually acting aggressively. He was just trying to swim alongside the silver dollars, and they didn't like it.
<Sounds about right.>
I am not sure what to do here. I could get some more clown loaches for him, but I don't know how many I could fit in my tank.
<Tricky. A typical adult specimen is around 8 inches/20 cm long. They do get bigger, though rarely much over 10 inches/25 cm in home aquaria, and the "foot long" specimens are pretty unusual, though that's probably more about inadequate care than anything else. Really, it's almost impossible to house this species properly in anything other than public aquaria. So
you're always faced with a compromise between the needs of the Clown Loach on the one hand and the limits on your available space and money. That said, a trio of adults in 125 US gallons would be doing a lot better than 95% of the Clown Loaches sold in aquarium shops, and I'd sleep at night keeping three specimens that way. Is it perfect? No. By all means visit Loaches.com for serious discussions on what Clown Loaches need. But since you've got a healthy specimens, having it rehomed is a seriously risky gamble, since you're looking for someone with a 200+ gallon tank and the desire to keep a school of six or more Clown Loaches!>
There is also the issue that so far all the clown loaches I've see in shops lately are either tiny babies that the silver dollars could eat, or larger but obviously parasite infested.
My clown loach (who my little sister calls Vladiloach...hee hee), is special because he was a trade-in. He got too large for someone's tank and they gave him to the pet shop. He has already been in captivity for a few years so moving him to my tank was easy, and he tolerated low doses of copper-based Ich treatments well. I'm not sure about any others, and I'm
not sure when my quarantine tank will be free again.
<Understood. I'd be holding out for a couple specimens at least half the size of your existing adult. Quarantining a sickly Clown shouldn't be a major problem, and I'd consider a plump adult worth the gamble even if it had Whitespot or even worms, though I probably wouldn't spring for a skinny adult.>
My LFS (the one with the monthly service I use) suggested I replace Vladiloach with a school of tiger barbs. Would these get along with the fish I have? I am worried maybe they will nip the Geo's trailing fin edges, but then the giant Danios are also fin-nippers and they haven't bothered him.
<I'm leery of this idea too. Worth a shot, but only if you could return the Tiger Barbs.>
They also suggested a blue Acara instead of the Geophagus. Is it possible I could introduce him while the Geo is still in the tank, or is it too risky that they will fight each other?
<They should get along.>
I know Acara are not as hardy as say, the silver dollars, but from what I have read they still are easier to keep than Geos, and they don't get quite as big. I could possibly try red Severums, or Kribensis. Any thoughts?
<Acaras are pretty hardy actually, some of them (e.g., Port Acaras) legendarily so. But none of the larger South American cichlids are bulletproof, and all are more or less sensitive to nitrate. Acaras less so than Geophagus, but not immune.>
I found a really adorable, well-formed parrot cichlid but he was infected with Ich so I had to pass him on. There is also the ethical question of whether it is okay to support the breeding of deformed "balloon" shaped fish...apparently there are "balloon" varieties of green terrors, convicts, and even African cichlids now *sigh*
<Personally, I don't like these fancy forms of cichlids, but I don't see an ethical issue as such provided the fish is healthy and fully mobile.
Breeding wild animals into domesticated varieties is what humans have always done. Taken to an extreme, where the animal has congenital defects or diseases is bad. But if the artificial form can swim about and feed normally, and doesn't suffer health problems, then there's no ethical issue to argue over (provided such hybrids aren't crossed back with wild-type fish in captivity messing up their gene pool or worse, released into the wild).>
I previously had my hearts set on larger Rainbowfish but now I'm not so sure given that they aren't particularly suited for "rough-and-tumble" communities.
<Does vary. The larger species are okay given space, and they can work nicely with non-aggressive cichlids, for example.>
I guess if all else fails I could just get more giant Danios...
<Or some other large characin: Distichodus say, or Anostomus (a personal fave).>
Thank you,
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: The (Pen)Ultimate Thread---Stocking 105 Gallon Semi-Aggressive Community      7/5/15

Well I only have a 105 gallon so I don't know about three clown loaches.
It's quite a dilemma really. Not sure what to do here.
<Nor I. I'd perhaps suggesting signing up to the Loaches.com forum and asking for some help there.>
I could return the tiger barbs if I try them and it doesn't work out, but I won't get a refund on them so...maybe not worth it.
Anostomus look adorable! I've even read some people saying they act like cleaner fish???
<Mine certainly does. Can irritate other fish though, so you choose tankmates for Anostomus carefully. Mine lives with Cherry Barbs, Limia, and a variety of catfish.>
I am wondering whether they will eat dry food though.
<They don't really eat anything you put in the tank with much enthusiasm.
They are grazers more than anything else and nibble algae and tiny animals ("aufwuchs") from flat rocks in the wild. Mine for sure eats frozen brine shrimps and the odd bit of flake, but seems content nibbling on algae and the roots of floating Indian Fern. Had him some years and appears to be happy. They're an old-timey species not much seen now because they can be nippy (perhaps when hungry and/or in cleaning mode).>
I assume it would be easy to get them to since they look omnivorous, but some sites say to feed them frozen food and vegetables. I could do that, but not as their main staple food.
<Quite so. Try a bit of everything, but don't expect them to wolf big portions down. They nibble.>
The issue I have with parrot cichlids is even if they are healthy, they are slow and can get swim bladder issues easily. I am worried one will get outclassed by the silver dollars when trying to eat, and get buoyancy problems if say he gets rammed. They have special needs less deformed fish don't have.
It's the same with my Chihuahua. She is healthy but only because I accommodate her specific needs due to her tiny frame.
<Precisely so. You wouldn't keep such a dog alongside, say, a couple of robust mutts, and expect her to muddle along with them as best she can. But in the right home such dogs can be perfectly happy pets. Likewise Parrot Cichlids aren't community tank fish or species for life alongside wild-type cichlids. But on their own their arguably better choices than Goldfish (not so big) but have Goldfish like qualities in terms of shape and colour. Not my idea of a pet fish, but perhaps the right choices for many other
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: The (Pen)Ultimate Thread---Stocking 105 Gallon Semi-Aggressive Community        7/6/15

Dear Wet Web Media
I found three large, healthy clown loaches at the LFS today. They were trade-ins the way Vladiloach was.
Is it worth the gamble of getting perhaps one of them, even if I have no quarantine available currently?
<Only you can decide this>
Or should I just wait? I guess I am worried they will be taken.
<Perhaps put a deposit down, ask the store to hold them for you? Bob Fenner>
I am not making progress with the silver dollar in the quarantine tank. He literally spits out food I put in his mouth with forceps. I will get back to you on that...
Thank you,

Re: Unexpected Demise of a Silver Dollar         8/3/15
Dear Wet Web Media Crew,
I am happy to report that the silver dollar has fully recovered. I put him back in the main tank and he is schooling with his friends again.
<Excellent news!>
I was wondering what I should do with the now unoccupied quarantine tank. I was thinking of using it to quarantine some new fish I was hoping to get. How should I prepare the tank? Do I need to empty it and clean it out thoroughly, or could I just change out the water and filter media?
<If it's going to have a biological filter, then you need to leave in running, occasionally adding a source of ammonia (bottled is fine, but you'll need a test kit to work out a sensible dosing among to get between 1-5 mg/l after dosing every couple/few days). But if you can remove the biological filter and leave in running in the main tank, or alternatively plan to use Zeolite (ammonia remover) instead, then yes, you can strip down the tank and store it dry. Simply set up when needed, and move the mature biological filter in (or install the Zeolite filter) as needed.>
Whatever that silver dollar had I don't think it was infectious. (Also the giant Danio who disappeared jumped out of the tank. I found him like a dried anchovy. I'm not entirely sure when or how he did it, but I suspect it was when I was changing the water.)
<Or being frisky towards a female. But yes, they're jumpers.>
<Most welcome. Neale.>
Re: Unexpected Demise of a Silver Dollar         8/3/15

I am actually planning on using the quarantine tank tonight or tomorrow. I plan to still use Zeolite (I found an amount to put the filter every few days + change-out frequency that works reasonably well), Could I just change out the filter media/Zeolite and some of the water so the ammonia is zero, and add the new fish to it,
or do I need to strip it down and clean it out?
<No. The job go a quarantine tank is to be easy to clean when it has to be, but doesn't need to be sterile. Typically a filter, heater, flower pot for shelter, and no substrate. Such a tank can be 'vacuumed' during water changes and any dead/decaying material removed more easily than in a regular tank. Make sense? Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Unexpected Demise of a Silver Dollar         8/3/15

I purchased one of those trade-in loaches and placed him in the quarantine tank. He is healthy apart from a split in his tail fin, but I know from my past experience even healthy clown loaches can develop ich when you first get them. How long do you recommend I quarantine him for?
<A week should be enough for Whitespot to reveal itself, but a couple of weeks is better.>
(I will confess I didn't get a chance to change out the Zeolite yet, but I will do it tomorrow morning. I tested the ammonia levels and it is the same "mostly 0 but maybe not quite" it always is, including in tap water...should that be okay?)
<Yes. Assuming no change in ammonia when tap water and aquarium water are compared, you can assume that this reading is the neutralised ammonia or chloramine in the tap water and not a problem.>
In any case, thank you guys at Wet Web Media for everything! You've helped me save so many of my fish now.
P.S. Shortgill says hi:
<Nice looking collection of the fish; is that an Acarichthys at the bottom there? Neale.>

Re: The (Pen)Ultimate Thread---Stocking 105 Gallon Semi-Aggressive Community        8/4/15
Dear Wet Web Media Crew,
I found some healthy blue Acara fish, but they were being kept with some skinny looking clown loaches. Would it be possible to place one in the quarantine tank with the clown loach I already have in there and feed medicated deworming food to them both? Or will the Acara attack the loach?
<Blue Acara are relatively mild fish and should cohabit well with Clown Loaches, assuming all fish of similar size. Feeding medicated food to each equally effectively might be a challenge though. I'd be tempted to risk the Acara in the main tank, feed them medicated food there, and quarantine the Clowns and feed them in that tank.>
He is small right now but he might strike the loach anyway. (I can monitor water quality and change out Zeolite/water to keep ammonia zero. Together they actually are about the same size as Shortgill the silver dollar, so I think they should be manageable.) I also found healthy Boesemanni rainbow fish, but they were quite small. Will they do okay in the main tank or is
it too risky? They're too large for the silver dollars to swallow, but they aren't adult size either, and I know you said only large rainbow fish could do well.
<Subadults above 8 cm/3 inches should be fine, but introduce with the lights out, after giving all the established fish a good big meal. You don't want the young fish to look like live food and be treated as such!>
Thank you,

<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: The (Pen)Ultimate Thread---Stocking 105 Gallon Semi-Aggressive Community        8/4/15

I'm not sure it will be easier to feed a blue Acara medicated food in the main tank. It would probably be harder due to the larger number of fish.
To be honest, I actually feel the medicated food might be more important for the blue Acara. They are being kept with possibly worm-infected newly caught clown loaches at the fish shop. The clown loach I have in quarantine now (named by my younger sister Tesla, btw) wasn't, and has been in captivity of another owner for a long time now (similarly to the other
clown loach Vladiloach I have had for a while).
<Ah, right, I misunderstood. I thought you wanted to buy both the Clowns and the Acara. Yes, absolutely, QT the Acara with the sickly Loach if that's the only option, but provide two shelters so they don't have the share a single hiding place.>
In any case right now Tesla isn't willing to eat the algae wafer I gave him, and has his spines erected, so he clearly isn't happy. If I get something to use as a cave will he be calmer?
<Flower pot is the 'standard operating procedure' option for this. Subdued lighting and floating plants also a plus.>
Right now I just have a big draping plastic plant.
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: The (Pen)Ultimate Thread---Stocking 105 Gallon Semi-Aggressive Community        8/4/15

Um...still misunderstanding. I'm not making it clear, am I?...sorry.
The clown loach in quarantine isn't sickly, he's just new. There is another in the main tank that has been there for a while. The new one in quarantine is of similar size and age as I am trying to give the clown loach in the main tank a companion.
<So: you have two loaches, same size, but one is new, and he's in the QT tank. Gotcha.>
I don't actually have the blue Acara yet. I just saw them at the LFS, and plan to get one.
<Yes. Nice fish.>
It is there that they are being kept with different clown loaches that look sickly.
<Cross-infection would probably have happened by now if a risk, and the usual advice is don't buy fish from tanks with sick/dead specimens. But if the price on the Blue Acara is good, and you have a QT tank, then might be worth a flutter.>
Right now in the quarantine tank the lighting is subdued and the tank is shaded by a dark background. It just is pretty bare right now save for the single plant, which provides some cover, but not really a hide.
<So you want to quarantine both the new Clown Loach and this potentially new Blue Acara in the same tank? Yes, doable, but will need hiding places each. Flower pots, ceramic or PVC drain pipes, that sort of thing all good. Better yet if the new Clown is ready to move into the main tank or will be soon... is there a possibility to ask retailer to hold a Blue Acara
aside for a couple weeks? Cheers, Neale.>
Re: The (Pen)Ultimate Thread---Stocking 105 Gallon Semi-Aggressive Community        8/4/15

Well, in that case maybe I will spring for the rainbow fish instead for now, as they are kept in a tank at the store w/o sick fish. It will be a pain to have to deal with a sick Acara even in the QT.
I know I have asked this before, but I still am getting conflicting answers from the store and online reading. The LFS and some websites claim rainbow fish are sensitive to water quality and prone to "threading up" with Columnaris if nitrates get high.
<Nitrate toxicity is difficult to pin down. It's not as simple as ammonia and nitrite. I've got a catfish tank with nitrate that must be well over 50 mg/l because of the types of fish kept and the minimal effort I put into maintaining it. Yet the fish inside that tank are thriving. The tank isn't heavily stocked, probably a bit understocked if anything, heavily filtered in terms of water turnover, and thick with floating plants. The fish don't get a lot of food, once a day, often skipped a day, and this week not getting anything at all (I'm on my holidays). So the fish feed extensively on the algae, floating Indian Fern, and to some extent snails. I'm not saying this tank is a model ecosystem: it's badly maintained in terms of nitrate because water changes are few, 4-5 a year in all honesty. But the fish do well. There's a complex interaction between biological filtration, plant growth, and nitrate level that I can't explain but offer as an example of why you can't simply put a number of nitrate and say that's a toxic level. I will observe than the one or two times I've kept cichlids in this tank they've done badly, whereas characins and catfish seem to be fine. I'd never keep cichlids in a tank as neglected as this one. They just seem acutely sensitive to nitrate. But Panaque and Synodontis aren't so fussed, at least in this tank. The Panaque is around 20 years old, the Synodontis nigriventris over 10. I would never recommend people keep fish this way, but at the same time there are many aquaria (and ponds) around the world with high nitrate levels but good fish health because other factors affect the toxicity of nitrate. Water chemistry perhaps, the species being kept, denitrification in the substrate, fast-growing plants,
oxygen concentration, salinity... many things like that. Are Rainbowfish classic nitrate-sensitive species like cichlids. Not normally, but there is some variation and for sure some sensitive species (Threadfin Rainbows for
example) as opposed to others that are clearly very hardy (Melanotaenia fluviatilis and Melanotaenia splendida spring to mind, two old school species that established themselves in the hobby very early on).>
On the other hand, Bob Fenner claims they are very hardy, and there isn't anything written on Wet Web Media to indicate otherwise.
In my personal experience, back when the sole maintenance of the tank was done by the monthly service, at the end of the month a lot of my rainbow fish would get sick with gross bacterial infections and die.
<This is rare but does seem to be an issue with batches/fish farms rather than anything else. Rainbowfish are, if given good water quality and reasonably hard water, quite reliable. They do need a decent oxygen level, and rather than nitrate per se, I'd wonder if sluggish, low circulation water in overstocked tanks with a lot of decaying organic matter was the key.>
Other fish (like the silver dollars) were resistant to it.
<Yes, these old timey species famed for living a long time in "old water" are usually nitrate tolerant. Anostomus is my favourite of these durable characins, and a lovely fish if you have the right tank and tankmates.>
So this seems to validate those claims that rainbows are actually more delicate than cyprinids or characins.
<As a rule of thumb, yes, "primitive" taxonomic groups tend to be hardier in many ways than "advanced" groups. Characins, catfish and cyprinids are at the primitive end, with cichlids and puffers being at the advanced end of the fish hierarchy. Rainbows and livebearers are about halfway between.
Of course there are numerous exceptions, so I wouldn't push this rule too far.>
Who is right? Or does it depend on the species?
<And the batch, and whether wild caught vs. tank bred, and how the retailer handled/quarantined them. Complex stuff. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: The (Pen)Ultimate Thread---Stocking 105 Gallon Semi-Aggressive Community      8/6/15
The rainbow fish species I (attempted to) keep in the past were Millennium, Salmon-Red, and Dwarf Neon rainbow fish. I have heard the latter are somewhat more fragile than other rainbows, so maybe these species are not the hardier kinds?
<These are all pretty reliable species if acclimated properly and settled in nicely.>
On the other hand, the Millennium and Salmon Reds probably were a bad batch, because I later found upon returning to the LFS that all the ones they had left over got very sick. The illness they had with me at least was very strange---bloody, bubbly, slimy feces (some of it was even partly liquid, like fish diarrhea???),
<Hexamita or similar?>
and mucus threads coming out of their gills and mouth. The dwarf neons got more "classic" bacterial infections, like ulcers and such. The scary thing was how rapidly they got them...though again I have heard rainbows are prone to Columnaris, and I have read it can infect the gills and skin in addition to the mouth...though I have no clue about the feces.
Any thoughts on this?
<Yes; don't buy them from this retailer! If you live in/near a city with a tropical fish club, get in touch, and these folks may well know the better retailers (or even local breeders!) in your region. There's no reason to dismiss Rainbows as delicate. They're not, with only a very few (obvious) exceptions like the tiny Threadfin Rainbowfish.>
I don't think the water flow in the tank is an issue. I know the silver dollars and clown loach are doing well, and they require high oxygen.
<Indeed, especially the loach.>
Water flow at the surface is high (I have two giant airstones that make it bounce almost). To be honest I think it was a combination of poor stock choices and not maintaining the tank often enough.
<Do review websites like Rainbowfish.info for detailed information on each species, and do also consider joining their forums. Might be useful to ask your questions to some true Rainbow experts! Cheers, Neale.>

Re: The (Pen)Ultimate Thread---Stocking 105 Gallon Semi-Aggressive Community        8/7/15
Could have been Hexamita. There was a German ram fish that died of it in the same tank. I had no idea it could spread to Rainbowfish though.
<While Hexamita is a classic cichlid disease, it apparently occurs in all sorts of things, even Goldfish. So I wouldn't rule it out of any situation where a sick fish produces white, mucous-y faeces.>
However the feces wasn't whitish, as is typical of Hexamita. It was more bloody, with some bubbles and mucus.
<The thing with Hexamita is that the parasites involved irritate the gut wall, causing excess mucous to be produced. I'm sure other types of protozoan gut parasites could do the same thing, with out without the blood and bubbles!>
The disease also bent the spines of the Rainbowfish, and I just went today to the LFS and saw more bent spines on their rainbows. Sadness...any clue?
<Not really, and while fin deformities can develop when fish are confined in small spaces or when suffering from malnutrition, the usual reason is genetics; in short, inbreeding.>
I'll have to look elsewhere for the rainbows. I have always seen healthy ones at a PetSmart nearby...even though they aren't a fish specialty store, this one in particular has good fish. I need to quarantine anything I get from them though...they don't filter their tanks separately like my LFS does.
I think I will wait until the clown loach is out of the quarantine tank before I put any other fish in it...I don't want to infect him with something he doesn't already have!
<Good luck, Neale.>

Re: The (Pen)Ultimate Thread---Stocking 105 Gallon Semi-Aggressive Community         8/11/15
The new clown loach's split tail healed, and he didn't develop anything, so I placed him in the main tank. It was a protracted fight to catch him however, I hope he turns out okay.
<Me too. He'll be happier in a bigger tank (with other Clowns?).>
I brought two blue Acara fish home and placed them in quarantine. The PetSmart didn't have any rainbows...
<Shame. But I think you'll enjoy the Blue Acaras. Do look at photos of Green Terrors though -- they look very similar, but are completely different in personality. In the 80s they were frequently confused, and from this came reports that Blue Acaras were aggressive. They're not.>
The LFS still had the healthy looking Boesemanni rainbows, but I have been burned by their apparently healthy Rainbowfish before, so I decided against it.
<Understood. But a lovely species.>
The two blue Acara are somewhat skinny, however. All the Acara in their tank were, and the tank was really crowded, so I suspect they were not getting enough food. I kind of am reluctant to give them medicine if there is nothing else wrong, however. Should I try feeding them good food and see if they gain weight?
<I'd also consider deworming and/or treating as per Hexamita; both these problems are common with cichlids from fish farms. Deworming would be worth doing regardless, but Hexamita might be held off unless they fail to thrive.>
P.S. Their temperament is amazing. I literally have never seen such a mild cichlid before. They don't even bother chasing each other.
<Indeed, they're nice fish. Overlooked in the hobby because they aren't "showy" like, say, Pseudotropheus zebra cichlids or Jewel cichlids. But as you're seeing, they're a lot easier to house with other fish. The Flag Acara is even more peaceful (and a dwarf as well) and one of my favourite fish. Do bear in mind that, like your Clowns, all the Acaras are omnivores, not carnivores, so some fresh greens are essential to long-term success.
Cheers, Neale.>
Re: The (Pen)Ultimate Thread---Stocking 105 Gallon Semi-Aggressive Community         8/11/15

Whoops! Forgot they can be aggressive when spawning. What is the likelihood they will breed?
<The Blue Acaras? Yes, territorial, but not psychotically aggressive.
Chances of breeding almost 100% assuming you get a compatible pair. They normally make excellent parents.
Cheers, Neale.>
Re: The (Pen)Ultimate Thread---Stocking 105 Gallon Semi-Aggressive Community         8/11/15

They are a variety called "electric blue Acara", so I doubt they're green terrors.
<Good. Do check these aren't Electric Blue Jack Dempseys, a very un-good community species!>
They're so mild-mannered anyway. Also how do you sex them? I heard males have a pointed, threadlike end to their pelvic fins, and both have that.
<Very difficult. Most male cichlids have longer/pointy dorsal and anal fin ends. So that's a good start. But in monomorphic species like Blue Acara your best bet is the shape of the genital papillae. Long and point on males; short, thicker and rounded on females. Males' may be visible at various times; females' only visible within 24 hours of spawning.>
From reading forums on Acara breeding, almost all the "electric blue" Acara are male. So hopefully I got a same sex pair...I have heard some people say they make life intolerable for other fish when breeding, while others say it isn't that bad.
<Indeed, two males is risky. Often squabble. Would keep just one or three. But see how it goes.>
In any case they like each other and always stick together. I fed them New Life Spectrum cichlid pellets yesterday, and they ate it right up. Hopefully they will gain weight if I give them a proper diet. I will go look for deworming food. My LFS has some with the ingredients recommended by Loaches Online. Speaking of loaches, the new clown loach is enjoying my
old loach's company. They stick together, but they're not aggressive. To be honest 2 loaches is all the room I have for, but they seem to be doing well.
<Understood. Do you know Loaches.com? A very good website with an excellent forum. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: The (Pen)Ultimate Thread---Stocking 105 Gallon Semi-Aggressive Community         8/11/15

They definitely aren't JDs. The store also had "electric blue" versions of those, and these guys look completely different.
(I heard some people claim the electric blue Acara is a cross between a regular blue Acara and a blue ram. How likely does this seem to you).
<Unlikely. They're distantly related. Rams are more closely related to Eartheaters than any other cichlid group, forming the subfamily Geophaginae. The Acaras are cichlasomines, a separate subfamily. While this doesn't rule out hybridisation, it makes it a lot less likely. Looking at Electric Blue Acaras, it simply looks as if they've selected for extra blue colouration in Blue Acaras. You see similar breeding in Electric Blue JDs, Powder Blue Dwarf Gouramis, and so on.>
It seems it is not the pelvic fins, but the anal and dorsal fins that become threadlike in males.
Neither of my Acara have that. Then again they are young. Is this something that develops with age?
<Absolutely. Sexing young cichlids is usually difficult except in those species with very obvious colour differences.
Cheers, Neale.>

Done being salty. Use of well-water, lvstk sel.           5/27/15
Hi crew! I've written to you all before about my 60 gallon reef tank, after 5 years I'm ready to convert to freshwater. I've had too many expensive losses in the salt world.
My question, we built a house 6 months ago and have a well. Can I use this water for a freshwater tank?
<Likely so... that is; by finding out "what sort" of water you have, you will be able to pick out organisms that favor that make up>
We do have a softener and an iron removal system.
<Likely you'll want to bypass the softener (and perhaps the Fe remover; again, depending... on how much, what types of iron are present...); the former to avoid excess sodium from the exchanger (if this is a salt regeneration resin system)>
I have one faucet that is not softened if that would be better I can use that.
<Ah yes>
We have an r/o system but it only makes a few gallons at a time.
<Am familiar. In S. Cal. our tap is very hard, alkaline and has too much (800 or so ppm) TDS... we make/drink RO>
Is there a species that is easy to keep in well water?
<Do have it tested... and write us back w/ the scanned results please...
Likely a quality assurance lab, or a local service can/will provide such analysis>
Thank you for your help; as always.
<Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Larger Aquarium Fish; stkg. FW...        4/27/15
Hello Crew, hope all is going well. I have a question, please. I have a 30 gallon long aquarium which I have not stocked yet. I wanted to know if you might recommend a larger fish that I could keep 3 or 4 of instead of more smaller ones.
<Well, 30 US gallons isn't a huge volume of space. So "larger" means specimens around the 3-4 inch/8-10 cm mark at best, surely, if you want several of them. It could alternatively house a single specimen of something tolerant, a Senegal Bichir perhaps, alongside suitable catfish perhaps. But if you wanted something more sophisticated than that, I'd perhaps be looking at Ctenopoma or Microctenopoma species... a group of Microctenopoma fasciolatum for example in a planted tank with some Synodontis nigriventris and perhaps a group of some suitable African characin species... Nannaethiops unitaeniatus springs to mind.>
I have black sand substrate and the back and sides of my tank are black so I thought maybe silver dollars would make a good color contrast. If you have any suggestions of any others please let me know. The color of the fish doesn't necessarily have to contrast with black. I have always had smaller fish in the past and thought less but larger fish might be a good change would be a good way to go. Thank you for your help. James
<Really depends on what's for sale in your area, but African oddballs such as those mentioned above are frequently good value for this sort of set-up.
Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Larger Aquarium Fish... again     4/28/15

Thank you Neale, what about 2 angel fish with several other smaller fish?
<What specifically, James? All this has been gone through many, many times on WWM:
Compatible with a wide range of smallish tetras, nothing bite-size but nothing nippy either. Angels themselves best kept singly, mated pairs, or schools of 6+ specimens; other duos/groups don't always work in small tanks. Cheers, Neale.>
Thanks again. James

Water Movement and temperature; FW stkg.        3/14/15
Hello Crew, hope all of your are doing well. I have a question that I asked last year but have forgotten since I never got to stock my tank since it cracked. Please tell me which fish can handle higher temps (my tank gets between 80-81 during summer months. I know that sterbai are more adaptable than other cories, or so I have heard.
<Corydoras sterbai is the "catfish of choice" for Discus tanks, yes. But pretty much anything from Rio Xingu will do well between 28-30 C, provided your water is well oxygenated and (crucially) not too hard. Scobinancistrus and Baryancistrus for example among the L-numbers, as well as various characins and cichlids... go online, read books and research Rio Xingu
biotope. The hardier, tougher Callichthyidae are well suited to swamp conditions, so things like Callichthys, Megalechis, Hoplosternum can all be considered. Megalechis thoracata is an especially nice catfish.>
I had thought of keeping some type of livebearers.
<More problematic. Many prefer cooler conditions (Swords, Platies, pretty much all the Goodeidae). But some do indeed thrive in warmer than average conditions. Mollies and Guppies for sure, including things like Liberty Mollies that are a little bit special. Limia also do well in warm water.>
Please let me know what you suggest please. Also, please tell me which types of these high temp fish like water currents within the tank or just having the water come straight across the top of the water column.
<A bit open ended this! Use Planet Catfish, Loaches.com, Seriously Fish and other reputable sources of species information at your leisure. But broadly, Rio Xingu fish will expect brisk currents, while swamp dwellers and livebearers typically coming from more still water bodies such as ponds and ditches.>
Thank you very much. James
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Water Movement and temperature      3/15/15

Thank you so much Neale. Please do me a favor. I have a 30 gallon innovative marine tank that is 36 inches long. Right now I am just cycling it since my last tank cracked. I have a piece of driftwood, some lava rock and several artificial plants. If you would be so kind as to recommend types (and amounts of each) of fish that are easy to keep, attractive against a black background and black sand substrate that would look good together.
<Really difficult to do without knowing what's for sale local to you and what your water chemistry is. Assuming not especially hard or not especially soft, say, 5-15 degrees dH, then for a peaceful warm water aquarium I'd be looking at Rummynose Tetras, Silver Hatchets, Penguin Tetras, Black Neons, Diamond Tetras, Head-and-tail-light Tetras... X-Rays
Tetras of course... maybe some of the Gouramis, possibly Apistogramma, especially the easier species like A. cacatuoides... Glass Catfish can work, Dianema spp. if you have the water quality... oh, really, easiest to look at what's for sale locally, cross-reference with a reliable resource (Baensch for example is a very good "bible" for intermediate-level aquarists; Seriously Fish probably the single best equivalent website).>
The only thing I know for sure that I am getting is the sterbai cories, and I assume I have to get at least six?
<Five or six, yes; perhaps alongside a Brochis species... Brochis splendens is a good Discus companion that doesn't get all that big, more chunky when compared to Corydoras but otherwise similar...>
Any input you would give would be greatly appreciated. Thanks for your help and advice in advance. James
<Most welcome. N.>
Re: Water Movement and temperature      3/15/15

Thank you Neale. I forgot to mention that my PH is about 8.1. I do not know my hardness.
<I would measure this... while most Amazonian fish will do well between pH 6-8, most will not thrive in very hard water; keep the hardness below, say, 15 degrees dH. X-Rays, Penguins, Emperor tetras are among the few characins that do well in hard water; most farmed Corydoras will do well too, but otherwise better to select species from naturally hard water environments if you have "liquid rock" water... Poeciliidae, Goodeidae, Melanotaeniidae, Oryzias spp, Dermogenys spp., various cichlids, etc., >
And the Brochis splendens (emerald Cory?) that you mentioned. How many of those along with the sterbai?
<They're still social, but less nervous than Corydoras; at least 3 kept alongside at least 5 Corydoras works well, but as always -- the more the merrier.>
Thanks James
<Most welcome.>
Re: Water Movement and temperature      3/17/15

Hello Neale, I have been doing a lot of thinking since I last e-mailed you, and since my wife and I both like slower swimming fish (which seem more calming and relaxing) I have thought of a gourami species tank.
<Cool. Many excellent species. The hardy species combine particularly well with Rainbowfish, by the way, making nice colourful communities that do well across broad water chemistry ranges.>
I know they can withstand a pretty wide range of conditions.
I would like to ask that if I do that which types are compatible first of all, and then should I go with a male or female of each type or one male and female of the same type?
<Male Three-spot Gouramis (which include Blues, Golds, and various others) are frequently aggressive if kept in 2s or 3s, but in large numbers are pretty mellow. Moonlights and Pearls are much less given to aggression, and a pair of each species can work nicely in a Rainbowfish community. If you have the space, the Snakeskin Gourami is larger but even more placid. It isn't brightly coloured, but it's a likeable fish. Alongside these are Thick Lipped and Banded Gouramis; they're smallish fish (8-10 cm at most) and generally tolerant if pushier than true Dwarf Gouramis (which I'd avoid like the plague, literally as well as figuratively).>
My PH is about 8.1. I do not know my hardness.
<Likely "liquid rock" given the pH! Hardy Corydoras and farmed Gouramis should be fine though.>
And the Brochis splendens (emerald Cory?) that you mentioned. How many of those along with the sterbai?
<5-6 of each.>
Thanks James
<Most welcome.>
Re: Water Movement and temperature      3/17/15

Thanks for the advice Neale. But since my tank is only 30 gallons I probably can't keep the rainbows due to space restrictions (unless I leave out the cories).
<Look up Melanotaenia praecox, a "dwarf" species. Celebes Rainbow is another smallish species.>
Shouldn't rainbows be kept in groups of at least 6?
And when you mentioned a "pair" of both moonlights and pearls are you referring to a pair of males or a male and a female?
<Yep. Those two species are normally (not always) easy going.>
Thanks again for your patience. James
<Most welcome.>

Possible over-crowding, do I need to upgrade?   FW stkg. adventura!       2/17/15
Hi there,
<Hello Ingrid!>
just wondering if you could offer some advice; I’ve got a 200L tropical tank that I bought second-hand, I’ve kept a 45L for years and had recently moved so I wanted something a bit bigger.
<That's a nice sized tank for fish up to around 15 cm/6 inches in length.>
It’s been set up for about 5 months and although I've added to it gradually and tried to keep things peaceful I’m starting to worry that it’s over-stocked.
My Pleco is now nearly a foot long (probably the main reason for buying a bigger tank in the first place) and I realised within a few months of owning him that despite the markings he’s not a leopard-sailfin (as the pet-shop wrongly told me) and more likely a rhino, does this mean he’ll grow even bigger?
<Yes, assuming he's one of the Pterygoplichthys species, such as Pterygoplichthys multiradiatus or Pterygoplichthys pardalis, he will get to about 45 cm/18 inches within a couple years. I would not keep one in a 200 litre tank. While he'd fit, he'd not have much space in there, and maintaining good water quality will be an uphill battle. I'd instead swap him out for one or more Bristlenose Plec, ideally suited to tanks this size.>
Aside from the Plec I have a young reedfish and tire-track eel (which I know will get quite big when mature) along with three gourami’s of varying sizes.
<Again, the Tyre-Track Eel can get massive, easily 60 cm/2 ft, and potentially quite a lot more.>
Everyone seemed to be getting on fine until my friend who was moving to Canada gave me a young Firemouth cichlid which in my naivety I accepted. My biggest fear was that the Firemouth would bully its tankmates but in fact the opposite has been true; my pearl gourami has been chasing the Firemouth all over the tank since we put him in.
<Quite so. Firemouths are bluffers rather than fighters, hence their fancy gill covers and fake eye spots, which they sue for threat displays. They're actually easily damaged by real fights, because their mouths are delicately built for sifting sand (which is how they feed).>
Is this a sign of an over-stocked aquarium?
<Not in itself, no. But sometimes Gouramis and Cichlids don't get along, having similar body shapes and the same sort of territorial instincts. It's usually best not to mix them. Your might settle down in time, so I wouldn't make any rash decisions here if the Firemouth is still small and isn't actually damaged. As it grows it will eventually get much bigger than the Gourami, and shouldn't be too badly harassed. Adding plenty of rocks, roots and plants at the bottom of the tank will help a lot, since Firemouths are actually quite retiring giving the chance.>
I am much too fond of any of my fish to give them away so it’s really a worst-case scenario but should I upgrade to a larger tank asap?
<Indeed. Do read above re: Plec and Spiny Eel, as those are the two I'd be worried about, the Plec probably needs a new home already.>
sorry if this message is a bit long but I’m not really an expert when it comes to cichlids and I was quite concerned for the little guy’s safety.
<Most welcome, Neale.> 
Re: Possible over-crowding, do I need to upgrade?        2/18/15

Thanks for the help, I’m looking into a larger tank at the moment. You’re right; it has been a bit of an uphill struggle keeping the tank clean with such a large Pleco but I keep plants and decorations minimal so he has space to move around.
<Indeed, but my thinking is more about the sheer volume of solid waste (faeces, uneaten plant material, etc.) as well as the ammonia given out. Adult Plecs are just about doable in 250 litres, and sensible in tanks from 350 litres upwards. In smaller tanks there are many smaller choices that work better: Ancistrus are the obvious ones, but also the Rusty Plec (L077) which gets to about 20 cm/8 inches, various Baryancistrus species (though these are a bit fussy in terms of environment) and several others.>
My gourami seems to have settled down a little; she only appears to be nipping the Firemouth in his side rather than on his fins and tail - is this normal gourami behaviour?
<It's not normal but neither is it uncommon. Male gouramis can be aggressive, but invariably lose out to cichlids of similar size. If not real harm is done, I'd be tempted to leave things be, and see what happens. Swapping a male gourami for a female can fix things, but it's also worth trying the old "remove the aggressive fish, rearrange the rocks, return the aggressor" trick to see if that helps.>
<Cheers, Neale.>

Thinning the crowd; FW de-stocking       2/16/15
<Hello George,>
Great resource you maintain here. I apologize for the book that you are about to read. I just inherited an established planted/community tank from a friend who is no longer able to keep the tank. I’ve kept a couple of tanks before, but nothing of this scale. Not to mention this number of individuals. I only got the tank a couple days ago, but I know I need to get rid of some of the fish in this tank.
The current fish count is at: 5 “harlequins”, 7 “Kribs” (pretty sure it’s Pelvicachromis pulcher, seems to be mostly gravid females at this point),
<Gravid or overfed? Female Kribs (easily sexed by their purple bellies) do look a little rounded prior to spawning, but not dramatically so.>
3 flying foxes (not SAE’s), 1 Chinese algae eater, and 1 “Pleco” (Pterygoplichthys sp.? definitely large and definitely way too messy).
<Quite so. Won't be doing any good in this aquarium.>
This tank is not large (~ 80 cm long, ~40 cm tall, and ~30 cm wide; around 25-30 gallons?), and has one “aqua clear 50” filter (up to 200 gph at the max setting) with ceramic noodles and a sponge for bio/mechanical filtration, and one heater. Plenty of hiding places ( e.g., rocks, short vegetation, coconut shells). 1/4 of the tank seems to be planted with some sort of grass, and some Anubias (I’m not very good at plant ID). On a sunny day the tank’s location gets around 1.5 hours of direct sunlight, and the rest of the day it’s illuminated by a couple of fluorescent bulbs.
<All sounds lovely.>
~ 80 % of water was changed during transportation process (2 days ago). Yesterday (1 day after transfer) I did a ~ 15% water change, mostly to remove the large amount of Pleco poo and collected waste on the bottom (there was a lot). Today (24 hrs after vacuuming) I did a water test. Water is currently clear; temp = 23.6 C; pH: 7.6 (possibly over, but unfortunately I only have a test kit that goes up to 7.6 until stores open Monday), NH3: 0 mg/L, NO2: <= .1 mg/L, NO3: ~5 mg/L, GH: 460 mg/L, KH: 40 mg/L. After I send this email I’ll be doing another partial water change to try to eliminate some of the NO2 and NO3, but I’m going to take a wild guess and say that the tank is overstocked. During daylight hours everyone seems to get along, and the flying foxes and Kribs often shoal together on the bottom (everyone seems to like to rest a lot). Everyone is also very nervous, though, and a lot of panic happens whenever a human moves past the tank.
<Indeed. The overstocking of this tank will be stressing at least some of the fish, and the Chinese Algae Eater is likely to be rather more aggressive than would be ideal.>
I’m not a very experienced aquarist, so I’d like to keep the population small. Ideally I’d like to keep the harlequins, and a pair or two of the Kribs (I’m not interested in breeding, but fish "love" gives me a warm feeling).
<Kribs and Harlequins work fine. Female Kribs are mildly territorial, holding very small patches, with males tending to hold large territories that encompass many females' territories. They're harem fish rather than pair-formers. So while you could keep a pair, one male and multiple females works just as well, if not better. If you somehow ended up with a big group of Kribs, it's not beyond the realms of possibility these are all siblings, in which case swapping out the male for another one from the pet store would be a sensible move. While Kribs remain quite hardy fish, inbreeding hasn't done much to enhance their colouration, and some are really rather plain compared to wild-caught fish. Careful choosing of males and females can offset that a bit.>
This means that I’ll be taking the flying foxes, most of the Kribs, the Chinese algae eater, and the “Pleco” to the LFS on Monday if the current blizzard has dissipated by then and if the LFS has room for them. Does this sound like an OK plan of action?
<Sounds excellent. Beefing up the Harlequins to 6-8 specimens would be worthwhile and would have little impact on water quality. Maybe choose a second schooling species that contrasts with Harlequins (my top picks for easy-to-keep species with adaptable water chemistry requirements are X-Ray Tetras, Penguin Tetras, Cherry Barbs and Emperor Tetras, in no particular order.>
Would keeping the Chinese algae eater be OK?
<Wouldn't touch it with a barge-pole. As the joke among fishkeepers goes, the name's accurate except it doesn't come from China and doesn't eat algae (at least, not when mature). Get a Bristlenose Plec as a far more reliable algae eater that is the right size for your aquarium. True Siamese Algae Eaters are even better, but schooling fish, so getting the required 5-6 specimens will eat into your stocking allowance.>
Thank you
<Most welcome. Neale.>
Re: Thinning the crowd       2/17/15

Thank you so much for the advice, Neale.
It’s nice to know that I can make a few good decisions.
<Quite so.>
You asked if the females were overfed. That’s definitely possible (the tank was pretty filthy, and it seemed as though the roommates of the friend that gave me the tank didn’t understand feeding schedules and amounts, and everyone in the house appeared to be feeding the fish whenever the mood struck), however the females are definitely rounded (so maybe a combo of overfeeding and egg mass?), with bright bellies, while the bigger males don’t seem to be bloated. There’s one small individual with a light-rosy belly and a concave abdomen. To me it doesn’t look healthy at all.
<Sounds like a definite possibility. Intestinal parasites (such as Hexamita) are pretty common in cichlids, but whether they cause problems or not depends on external factors such as water quality. If the cichlids are all siblings, it's not impossible that one or two are 'runts' and have some other problem to deal with. You often see this among batches of juvenile fish, a sort of "failure to thrive" with no obvious explanation (to us aquarists, anyway). Metronidazole alongside an antibiotic often works well with these mystery illnesses though, turning around cichlids with Hexamita infections. Whether it's worth doing in this situation is up to you. If the fish is otherwise unstressed and feeds well, you may simply let things take their natural course. If environmental conditions improve, and diet is sufficiently varied and generous, even a runt can improve and develop into a decent-looking (though usually stunted) specimen.>
I’ll be following your advice and keeping one of the males (or exchanging for a new male if the LFS can provide one) and two females, and maybe looking into a Bristlenose Pleco later on.
But I wanted clarification on one point that you made. You recommended adding another small schooling species such as cherry barbs or x-ray tetras, and beefing up the harlequin ranks. So bring the harlequin population up to 6 or 8, as well as adding another 6-8 specimens of another schooling fish?
Or did you mean either beef up the harlequins, or add another species to make a mixed-species school of 6-8 in total?
<Some folks enjoy having two schooling species in a tank, and in an aquarium 20-30 gallons in size, then two schools of this sort of sub-2 inch fish is perfectly possible. Just avoid the problematic species, like Guppies, Neons, etc. with their health problems, or species that need specific water chemistry, diet, or some other factor that makes them high maintenance.>
Sorry if it’s a stupid question, but I’m leery of taking one stressor away only to add another, and I don’t know if these species readily form mixed-species schools.
<The species I suggested will hardly interact. That's why I recommend them so frequently. Contrast this with things like Danios (prone to becoming bullies) or Tiger Barbs (nippy). X-Rays keep themselves to themselves, Cherry Barbs to too busy chasing each other about, Emperors pretty similar to Cherries, and Penguins are just nice, unusually coloured open water schooling fish.>
Thank you, again
<Glad to help. Cheers, Neale.>

Loaches; sel., using WWM       2/1/15
Hello Crew, hope all is going well. I would like your advice on a type of loach that will stir up sand substrate but not uproot artificial plants too much. Ones that will fit in a community aquarium and that I do not have to have 4 or 5 of, but maybe 2 or 3. Thank you for your time and help. James Hall
<Have you read on WWM re? Bob Fenner>

Something for WWM. Neale's pc. on sm. FW sys. stkg.       2/1/15
Hello Bob,
An unsolicited submission on my part… perhaps of use…? A freebie though!
Including an HTML version that might be easier to drop into your web page editor?
Cheers, Neale
<Timely... as the trend continues to too-small systems... Thank you! BobF>

Re: Automatic Feeder        1/8/15
Thanks again Neale. One more question, please. Are there any species of cichlids that are suitable for beginners? And if so, what type of tank setup would I need?
<Angels are good of course, and in appropriate sized tanks, Festivums and Severums are good too. From Central America, Firemouths and especially Rainbow Cichlids are worth considering. Among dwarfs, any of the West African Pelvicachromis species is good, and Bolivian Rams from South America too. Malawian cichlids tend to be a handful, though Yellow Labs and Iodotropheus sprengerae are both reliable, less-aggressive Mbuna worth considering. From Tanganyika, you'd be unlikely to go wrong with Julidochromis and some of the smaller Lamprologus, though water quality is crucial with these, and both Tangs and Malawians need specific environments to do well (water chemistry, rocks, etc.). Hmm... what else to say? Most of the tilapia species are inappropriate for aquarists, that's for sure, but beyond these, virtually all can be kept by beginners provided some appreciation exists of their specific requirements. If you're asking for species suitable for communities though, and which don't get especially big, then I'd look at Pelvicachromis first and foremost, and perhaps Rainbows if your water isn't soft. Too much variety here to describe the needs of each cichlid species, but if any interest you, write back and we
can discuss. Cheers, Neale.> 
Re: Automatic Feeder
Ongoing, repeat fw stkg.       1/8/15

Thanks Neale, and one angel would be fine with the aforementioned livebearers and gouramis?
<Usually works well. Individual Angels, Swordtails and Gouramis can be troublesome. But on the whole, yes, these are considered compatible.>
And since the sweet potato seems that it would be less messy than the lettuce, will all of those type of fish eat that?
<Angels won't, but the others may peck at it as it softens. Suggestion:
before you go on holiday, test run different vegetables, fruits and salads.
See what works.>
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Automatic Feeder
More stkg chatting      1/10/15

Thank you Neale, If I chose a Severum I would probably just have them and no other (no community tank).
<A singleton Severum can make a good pet. Most US stores seem to have the standard Severum, including the yellowy "Golden Severum", but do search (hard) for the amazing Rotkeil variety, which (on good adult specimens) has colours more like those of marine fish. They're a natural variety, not an artificial form, and combine well with L-number catfish and medium sized Pimelodid catfish, making them really nice fish for moderately advanced aquarists.>
My current tank is 29 gallon 36 inches long with a black background, a piece of driftwood and a pile of lava rocks. PH is around 8.2.
<Probably a bit small for even one Severum to be honest.>
What would go well with this setup?
<Can you get hold of Pelvicachromis taeniatus in your neighbourhood? Or Pelvicachromis subocellatus? Both cracking fish.>
I can make some changes if need be. I would like different colors of the same species if possible, but that is not a requirement. I wouldn't mind having all the same color. I know the yellow Severums are pretty, but don't know if Severums come in different colors or not. If you have any recommendations for hardy and colorful ones for beginners that will be OK
in my setup please let me know.
<See above. Rotkeil FTW! Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Automatic Feeder

Neale, if I can find the Rotkeil variety how many could I keep in this sized tank? And how would I mix males with females? Thank you again
<A 55 gallon tank will be adequate for a singleton Rotkeil Severum; no smaller, ideally bigger. As with all cichlid, sickness is common when nitrate levels are high, let alone non-zero nitrite and ammonia. Pairs of Severums are "severe" in their defence of their territories, hence the name, though groups have been kept in very large aquaria (100s of gallons)
successfully. But for most aquarists, Severums are best kept on their own, regardless of tank size, where they can make excellent specimen fish. May I direct you to Bob's excellent summary, here:
As Bob states, "old-timey favorite for good reasons", usually well behaved when kept with other big, peaceful companions (L-numbers, medium to large characins and barbs, etc.). Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Automatic Feeder

Thank you so much Neale. I guess because of my tank size I am out of luck with cichlids unless I keep a pair with no other fish in the tank. I assume that since angels are cichlids that I should keep no more than one in my 30 gallon tank?
<One or a mated pair. But groups don't usually work indefinitely. A pair forms, and then they bully the others.>
I guess I may have to go to the old standbys such as livebearers and gouramis. I wanted to stock my tank with about 5 or 6 fish that were attractive and compatible and easy to keep in hard water.
<Do look at Rainbow Cichlids, from Central America. Relatively small, surprisingly peaceful, and compatible with fast-moving surface dwellers such as Swordtails. Males tend to have longer fins than the females, so you can buy two specimens and hope they pair off. Often you'll spot pairs in dealer's tanks defending corners.>
I would even keep a species tank. Please tell me if you were in my position what you might consider please. You have been so nice and patient with me I appreciate it more than you know. James
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Automatic Feeder

Neale, I know I have bugged you more than enough, but I have one last question for now. (promise). If I were to keep all male platies and swords will there be a lot of fighting among them?
<Swords will push Platies around, being bigger and faster, and to be clear, whereas Platies are pond fish, Swordtails come from streams, so prefer faster-flowing water. Their body shape is much more streamlined than Platies, a good clue to this. So I prefer to keep each in a tank suited to their specific needs.>
I am considering this to avoid babies. I have heard that if there are no females the males will be aggressive towards one another and I have also read that if there are females the males will fight anyway. Thank you.
<Usually, just females works best. Large groups of males can work as well, but 2, 3, 4 males is often risky. Cheers, Neale.>

Stocking new 20 gal aquarium     12/4/14
Hi Bob,
Thanks so much for the advice on the goldfish. Sadly, he was too sick to recover and passed away a day later.
I am considering starting a new aquarium, and I'd love a peaceful community tank. I'd appreciate advice on the stocking plan, in terms of:
- stocking level
- compatibility
- temperament
- disease susceptibility
- environment preferences (e.g., real plants vs. fake, sand vs. gravel)
- water preferences (e.g., pH, temperature)
- food preferences (e.g., flakes, pellets, dry freeze).
<This about covers elements of consideration>

It's a 20 gal aquarium, dimensions are L 24 x D 12x H 16 (inches). I would make sure the tank has the adequate level of filtration, cycle the tank properly before putting any fish in etc.
I still need to decide on which substrate to use (sand or gravel) and whether it's ok to have fake plants versus real plants.
<Okay; at least some live is beneficial, suggested>

Here is my current plan:
6 Neon Tetras
6 Zebra Danios
6 Lemon tetras
6 Pygmy Corys
6 Red Cherry shrimp.
Thank you!
<These will be fine together... Start the Danios small. Put the bottom life in last. Bob Fenner>

Tank Stocking and Baby Platy Feeding    12/1/14
I have a tank rated for 29 gallons by the manufacturer. The tank is 36" L x 12" W x 18" H. The ph is 8 and nitrates and ammonia at 0. My filter is a sponge filter rated for 40 gallons. This tank contains 2 guppy females, 5 neon tetras, 10 platy fish, and numerous bladder snails. According to internet aquarium stocking sources I should have 36 inches worth of space for fish stocking. Is my tank overstocked?
<Nope. You are wise to ignore the aquarium filter rating, as these are often "best case scenario" values, and choose a filter "the next size up" for your tank (so 40 gallon filter for a 30 gallon tank, or 90 gallon filter for a 75 gallon tank, and so on. Your aquarium should still have space for a few bottom feeders, 5-6 Corydoras for example.>
I also have a 10 gallon tank with a sponge filter rated for 15 gallons. The ph is 8 and ammonia and nitrites at 0. This tank contains 1 Betta fish, 4 very large ghost shrimp, and numerous bladder snails. Is this tank overstocked?
<Not at all. But since Bettas mix with hardly anything, you're a bit limited here in what else you could add. Shrimps and snails are good
choices. Some of the larger snails (e.g., Tylomelania) might be fun.>
Also, one of my 10 platy fish is a 3 day old fry not much larger than 1/8 of an inch. I have been feeding it 3 times a day with ground up fish flakes, micro pellets, ground up Spirulina flakes, and ground up bloodworms. The fish flakes, worms, and pellets it gets once a day. The Spirulina it gets 3 times. The older fish get what tiny leftovers their are, which is not a whole lot. The older fish get fed 1 regular meal a day, when I feed the baby for the first time in the morning. The baby seems to be eating when fed, looking and darting suddenly at the food to take tiny bites as the older adults do. The baby seems healthy enough. Should I be feeding the baby more than 3 times a day?
<Yes, 4-6 feeds are recommended because (like human babies) fish babies have tiny stomachs and aren't able to process much food at once. Liquid fry foods and even hard boiled egg yolk are useful in situations where you find too few of your fry grow at the rate expected. While livebearers can eat finely powered flake, I'd still recommend the likes of Liquifry or super-fine flake food Hikari First Bites. Access to algae is always a plus, and sponge filters provide excellent feeding spots for young fish, so are always worth installing.>
Thank you.
<Most welcome, Neale.>
re: Tank Stocking and Baby Platy Feeding      12/2/14

Thank you Neal! :)
<Most welcome.>
Sorry. Must have sent it again by mistake. Thank you again though! :)
<Not a problem. Cheers, Neale.>

Too many fish too soon?     11/21/14
I have a 28 gallon tank. The ph is 8 and nitrates and ammonia at 0. The filter is a sponge filter rated for 40 gallons. This tank contains 2 guppy females, 5 neon tetras, 2 ghost shrimp, and numerous bladder snails. I have obtained 3-4 platy fish. I plan to add 3 platy fish today. I plan to add a 4th around the 28th of November. I just got the guppies about 2 weeks ago.
Am I adding too many fish too soon?
<Nope you should be fine. Don't feed the fish on the day of introduction though, and the next day, be conservative with the food. You don't want to overwhelm the filter. But assuming the tank has been running for at least a couple of months, you will find the filter is very quick at adjusting to heavier "loads" of fish. A conservative rule of thumb with small fish is to add them in batches at least 2 weeks apart, and not adding any fish if ammonia or nitrite aren't zero. Stocking levels of "an inch per gallon" work well, with Neons being about an inch or so each, Guppies about 1.5 inches a pieces, and Platies a couple of inches. So 5 Neons is maybe 6 inches of fish, 5 Platies about 10 inches, and 2 Guppies about 3 inches. So total, 6 + 10 + 3 = 18 inches of fish. You've still got space for a few more Neons if you wanted a better group of them, or alternatively, 3-4 Corydoras catfish would work nicely too.>
Thank you.
<Most welcome. Neale.>
Re: Too many fish too soon?     11/21/14

Thank you very much Neale! :)
<Most welcome!>

Sponge Filter and adding Fish Questions     11/17/14
I have a 28 gallon tank. The tank holds around 27 gallons. The filter is a sponge filter rated for 40 gallons. The ph is 8 and nitrates and ammonia at 0. This tank contains 2 guppy females, 5 neon tetras, 3 ghost shrimp, and
numerous bladder snails. Is the filter too strong?
<Nope. Manufacturers overstate the aquarium size rating for their filters.
They base them on optimal conditions such as clean filter media and understocking with small fish species. You can realistically cut the suggested aquarium size in half to get a real-world situation.>
Should I add anymore small fish?
<The old "inch per gallon" rule works pretty well for small fish such as Neons and Guppies.>
I was considering getting 3 platy fish,1 male and 2 females. Should I get them?
<Your tank should hold something like 20 fish in the 1.5 to 2 inch size bracket, so upping the number of Neons and getting a 2-4 female Platies shouldn't be a problem. I wouldn't add male Platies unless you absolutely
wanted to breed them. Otherwise, female Platies are just as colourful but don't pester other fish in the way male livebearers often do.>
Thank you.
<Most welcome. Neale.>
Re: Sponge Filter and adding Fish Questions      11/18/14

Thank you Neale!:)
<Always welcome.>

Your advice please on suitable fish. :)     11/6/14
Dear Crew,
My tank is now around 5 months old with the following stock / chemistry. What would you consider a suitable, colourful fish that could be built up to a reasonably good sized shoal? I've thought about platies or guppies, but unless I am mistake, they would need a higher GH, where might not suit my Corys or Plecs as much?
<Most livebearers do need moderately hard water. Mollies are the most demanding in this regard. Guppies less so, and Platies and Swordtails can do perfectly well in medium hardness water so long as the water is not acidic. So 10 degrees dH, pH 7.5-8.2 will suit them just fine. So yes, Platies should be a good choice. I'd avoid Guppies unless you can get some really healthy stock (perhaps locally bred) because farmed Guppies can be hit-and-miss these days. Platies are better, and Swordtails generally very reliable, in both cases especially if you avoid the inbred varieties and choose healthy specimens to begin with (none that are rocking side to side, exhibiting fin damage, not active, etc.).>
I've looked on a wide number of sites for info, but there seems to be such a wide difference of statistics that I'd much rather go by what you say over anyone else. Months ago, Neale suggested my Bristlenose Plecs / bronze Corys to get me started, and I haven't been disappointed at all (spawning has occurred). Great fish. :)
<Glad these worked out. Generally two excellent "first fish" for pretty much any community tank.>
tank = (US 55 gallons)ammonia = 0nitrite = 0nitrate = 10GH = 5KH = 10pH = approximately around 8. Vague I know, but it seems to fluctuate quite a lot according to the time of day (something I learned recently).
<Better even than livebearers would be the hardier tetras: X-Ray Tetras, "false" Penguin Tetras (actually more common than the "true" Penguin), and surprisingly enough for such a colourful fish, Emperor Tetras. Another excellent choice that rarely disappoints is the Cherry Barb, an unusual species where both males and females are brightly coloured, but differently, red for the males, peach with black stripes for the females.
Any of these fish would provide some nice colour to your aquarium. Danios are usually good choices as well. Pearl and Zebra Danios are ubiquitous and inexpensive, but there are some oddball species out there like the Hikari 'Danio' and the Leopard Danio that are not appreciably any more difficult to keep.>
I took a water sample to the store a few weeks ago, and after checking it for a second time the guy said (test strip only) that it was between 7 - 7.5, where as my readings, which were done at a different time of day, suggested it was nearer 8.stock = 2 x Bristlenose Plecs and 7 x bronze Cory.
<Off all the fish I've mentioned, X-Ray Tetras are probably the most bullet-proof and indifferent to water chemistry variation, within reason of course! But with a modicum of care, any/all should work nicely.>
Donation made, and thank you.
Kind Regards, Stephen.
<Hope this helps, and thanks for helping us pay the bills! Cheers, Neale.>

Re:      9/28/14
What an altogether funny looking fellow this Chlamydogobius eremius!
<Quite so. Also suicidal. Keep the tank covered; they jump! Otherwise bullet-proof and very breedable. Czech (?) breeders have a golden morph that appeals to some; worth looking out for.>
I missed the Desert Aquarist Society meeting on the 14th (drat) due to a family issue. However, I have found 'The Guy' at our *Arizona Nature Aquatics* shoppe. He is very knowledgeable also and runs a beautiful, beautiful place. Indeed, as promised on his website, he has, in fact, raised fishkeeping to an art form. Just wait until I win the lottery!!
All's well in the tank. Unexpectedly, two of the babies that I thought were too large to eat, were not. I later surmised this was because Terme was about to birth, *again. *( 'ovarian pockets', indeed). There now seems to be at least one new baby. I will not name this one...I suppose it's goofy to name one's platys and ghost shrimp but I grew up with Walt Disney... The previous, remaining baby, Wozzle, is fending well, appears to be female.
Clear water, no issues, a new plant and a great new source of fishkeeping info. I did upgrade to a new heater that can be *set* to a temperature.
Winter will come on and I don't run the house heater at night or in the day when I'm not here. We can drop to 50's or high 40's in the house at night, ratcheting back up to the high 80's during the day!
<Would suit Variatus Platies particularly well. Also Ameca splendens, Xenotoca eiseni and many/most of the Goodeidae, probably better than standard tropical conditions.>
Neale, I hope that you and all of yours are very well and content. You remain a solid source of info for me as I continue to upgrade my knowledge in this hobby.
<Thanks for these kind words.>
Thank you!
<Most welcome. Neale.>

Strange interspecies fish behavior       9/14/14
I know you are very busy but I can't seem to find anything close to what is happening in my tank. I have a fifteen gallon well established tank nitrites and ammonia are zero. The nitrates could be lower but currently about 20ppm. My concern is behavior though. There is a thick lipped honey Gourami and he is awesome. He is full of confidence and vigor. He loves to eat and gets a variety of frozen and freeze dried food. He has always been full of attitude and with me he still is, nipping , my hand when I do water changes. So the problem started when I brought home a mystery baby fish he seems to have grown into a weird high fin Dalmatian molly but he is still only a quarter of the gouramis size. And at first the Gourami dominated him but they had an understanding and there was no excessive abuse until that little fish grew a little. Now the problem is the little fish spends a lot of time nipping at and attempting to herd the Gourami. However the Gourami seems unphased. He still has a great appetite he doesn't hide or  seem scared. Occasionally he will scare off the little fish for awhile.
But the Gourami has no physical indication of abuse, his fins are full he eats like a pig. Is he unaffected by this little fish behavior. Is this little fish so insignificant that he doesn't even register as a potential threat. Or is the Gourami trying to put on a good front so he doesn't
appear weak. I have never seen this before any ideas.
<Just the give/take of territorial fishes being crowded... as you state; as long as there is no evidence of physical damage, there's not much chance of trouble. Bob Fenner>

Fish questions/ compatibility. FW      8/23/14
I currently have an established 55 gallon aquarium. It has a school of south American red eye tetras, 2 keyhole cichlids, a Bolivian ram a pair of bushy nose Plecos and a pair of south American bumblebee cats. I was thinking of removing the red eye tetras and ram, giving them away for store credit and replacing them with a more colorful less nippy schooling fish and an angelfish singleton.. Would it get along with the keyholes?- which are still less then a year or so old. What tetra would do well with angels but look more colorful then red eyes?
<Many species of tetra would be suitable. Water chemistry will be a factor.
In soft water, look at Lemon Tetras and Rummynose Tetras as two standout species that work reliably with Angels. Bleeding Heart Tetras and Diamond Tetras are two other species to consider. If your water isn't soft, then Penguins, Emperors and X-Ray Tetras are three to consider. They do well in hard water, are not shy, are generally disease-resistant and tolerant of occasional lapses in water quality management, and are more peaceful/less nippy than some of the other hardy tetras.>
The tank has lots of action but I want something more colorful- would a small Rainbowfish be good?
<Can do, but a limited range of "small" Rainbows. Pick of the bunch is Melanotaenia praecox; very variable, from red to violet tones on fins, blue body. Fairly hardy, but does need medium hard water and won't do well in heavily stocked tanks with indifferent filtration/infrequent water changes.>
Also my last angel died from swim bladder issues,
<Swim Bladder issues is a made-up disease. Usually when aquarists say this, they mean their fish became sick, couldn't swim properly, and perhaps showed signs of bloating (dropsy). Almost always this is a bacterial infection, often opportunistic (i.e., was triggered by social stress, poor diet, poor water quality, etc.) though if the fish was ailing soon after purchase, the possibility it was sick at the time of purchase cannot be ruled out (Angels are largely farmed to a price rather than a quality).>
I was told many things from water quality- which has been fixed to eating too fast flakes which swell up inside causing issues. none of my fish have died in awhile and all
is going good.
<Indeed. Get the water quality good, and the rest of the hobby should fall into place. Cheers, Neale.>

Planning Southeast Asian Backwater Tank      8/13/14
I'm currently in the "planning stage" for a 29 gallon tank I'm going to use for a Southeast Asian backwater biotope. It will, naturally, have plenty of driftwood and live plants, though I may not adhere to strict biotope with the plant species. I'll probably put a few Indian almond leaves in there as well.
The substrate is going to be a reddish-colored freshwater aquarium sand, though considering the bag I have is rated for twenty gallon tanks I may have to mix it with something else. I need to check what the filter is rated for, but would you recommend for a tank that size?
<Likely one or two hang on power filters of (over) size... setting up a current, gyre perhaps with an added small submersible pump or powerhead>
Also, I do know the filter I have for it from previous uses is waterfall-style, and I'm somewhat worried that it might cause to much water current.
<Not a worry>
If that is the case, what style of filter would be better?
<I'd stick with this, or a canister>
There's a long bubble stone that spans pretty much the length of the tank that I intend to use for oxygenation, placed at the rear wall.
On to what I plan to stock it with. In an ideal world, I'd love a tank with a school of five glass catfish, a group of three or four Kuhli loaches and either a single male Betta or one or two of some sort of gourami (likely golden or pearl, as those are some of my favorite types of gourami). However, I'm worried such a setup would be overcrowded.
<Mmm; what you list would be fine>
The Kuhli loaches are going to be part of it no matter what, but should I remove the glass catfish from the
equation? If so, do you think there would be room for some sort of Danio in their place?
<Could; easily have all if the Danio species were not the largest. Bob Fenner>

New fish! New reading!      8/11/14
So, I just bought 3 fish yesterday. A black tipped shark, and iridescent shark,
<Heeeee! One gets huge and the other is actually marine>
and a Betta.
<Food for the other two>

I obviously don't know what I am doing. They gave me no information on how big my fish were going to get. I have the 2 sharks in a 10 gal tank (I know it's not big enough) and the Betta in a Betta bubble
which is not even a 1gal tank. I really want to keep my fish alive and to have them for a while. HELP!
<Ummm; help yourself... the indices, search tool on every page. Just look up by the common names of your fishes.
Bob Fenner>

Suggestions for first fish.  FW     7/30/14
Hi Crew,
<Hello Stephen,>
My tank (UK 46 gallon) has been in operation for over a month now (fishless cycle),
<With some source of ammonia, presumably?>
and the parameters currently read :
ammonia 0 (API testing kit for ammonia / nitrite / nitrate / pH) nitrite 0
nitrate 40 - 80 ppm (I haven't yet performed a major water change but will before my first fish is added)
pH 7.4 - 7.5 (was originally 7.6 - 7.8)
<Given how soft your water is, I would definitely use a pH buffer for pH 7.5 or pH 7.0.>
GH (Colombo test) = 1 (very low, I know, though perhaps this is due to my tank being immature?)
KH (as above) = 4 (as above)
<All sounds good. Obviously yes, pretty soft water, but that's good for many types of fish... pretty much all the common stuff from Southeast Asia, West Africa, South America.>
I was wondering what fish would you recommend (thinking of 'perhaps' only 1 to start with) when referring to the above water chemistry? I have a particular like and wish to add something that's a bottom feeder / catfish or loach, which will help with 'cleaning'. I do especially like Kuhli loaches, though don't they require a more mature tank / lower pH?
<They'd be good choice once the tank was settled and you were sure it was running properly. But Corydoras would be ideal as starter fish, 4-5 specimens of a single species you happen like. Corydoras paleatus and Corydoras aeneus are the two easiest species, but most of the commoner species are pretty easy to keep in cycled tanks. Corydoras panda for example, or Corydoras julii. If you plan on keeping "hothouse flowers" like Angels or Gouramis that prefer temperatures above 25 C/77 F, then Corydoras
sterbai is the species to get, the others mostly preferring 22-25 C/72-77 F. When it comes to midwater fish, if we stick with a South American theme, then X-Ray Tetras, "False" Penguin Tetras and Emperor Tetras are all good, reliable first species that tolerate occasional problems without complaint.
They also tend to be reasonably disease-free, more than can be said for Neons!>
With regard to shelter / vegetation for a first inhabitant, I currently have two Amazon sword plants, a coconut shell cave with java moss covering / attached to it, and several clumps of java moss 'worked in' amongst the Colombo flora base substrate. I also have some Manzanita wood, which is gradually being saturated, and once ready, will have some java moss secured to it, too.
<All sounds great. Anubias would work well attached to the wood (I find it easier than Java fern) and potted Cryptocoryne species are usually reliable, particularly the extremely forgiving Corydoras wendtii
I should also add that I'm currently using tap water (softened with a filter), and have been adding water treatment conditioner by Aqua Care.
Kind Regards,
<Good luck, Neale.>
Re: Suggestions for first fish.    7/30/14

Hello Neale,
Thanks for a very informative email. :)
The reason I'm replying to your email is because you wrote : 'With some source of ammonia, presumably?'
Well, no, I didn't use any ammonia. I used fish food to start things off.
Have I done something seriously wrong?
<Nope. Decaying fish food is fine. Just takes a bit longer than plain ammonia from a bottle. Provided, of course, the amount added was roughly equivalent to the amount you'd give if the tank had fish -- an approximate way to provide enough nitrogen-rich material to prompt the growth of sufficient bacteria for the fish you want to keep.>
Kind Regards,
<Most welcome, Neale.>

Ram system stocking, and FW stkg f'      7/17/14
Dear WWM Crew,
Hope you are all doing well. You are simply the best in business. My tank inhabitants owe their health to all of you largely.
I have a 30X12X15H (23ish US Gallons) lying around and I wish to turn it into a tank around German Blue Ram. I have studied the listed FAQ on GBR on your site over the last few days. I would still like to run my plans past you for your valuable inputs.
I understand that they are best avoided as Asian farm bred ones are genetically in ruins and souped up with antibiotics. In India I have not yet come across their Bolivian cousins so I guess I will have to take a
<Yes; not many near to real wild-type specimens about... almost all captive produced>
My environs are pretty warm, with temperatures hovering around 28-30 degrees C for the good part of the year. I already have a chiller in my other system and I cannot afford another. So I was planning to build a
system with inhabitants comfortable in that warmth (and the oxygen demand and possible faster metabolism)
<Will work here; at this temp. range and size/volume system>
The tap water is KH 5 and pH 7.2 so I shall mix with RO to bring the KH down to around 2-3. With the leaves and wood mentioned below and my plan to use peat, I expect the pH to drift lower and I hope to hold it around 6.3 - 6.5 after careful monitoring.
<A good plan>
I will have play sand based substrate (with some areas having potting soil and laterite under it) decorated assorted driftwood/branches, coconut shells, some pebbles and flat rocks making caves. I will use Indian Almond leaves, floating plants like water lettuce, duckweed and maybe Frogbit. I might have some Hornwort, Anubias and Crypts somewhere done the line.
<Excellent; though the Ceratophyllum may not thrive under these water conditions... is a cooler, harder, more alkaline water loving genus>
Now the stocking plan:
1 Pair of the best quality GBR I can find
5 Sterbai Corys. I know GBRs do not like nosy neighbours esp. during spawning so are these very poor choices in this sized tank?
<Will be fine>
If the above is negative what about a Gold nugget Pleco? I am not very keen on breeding so bottom dwellers threatening eggs is not an issue.
<Could have... both/all>
10 Cardinal Tetras
5 Threadfin Rainbowfishes
Do I have room for a single Pearl Gourami OR an Angel?
<I'd leave out these last... at least for several months>
Is this workable with 3-4X turnover with 2 large HOB filters?
<More turnovers (twice plus) would be better>

I will use Zeolite in one to counter the sub-optimal acidic conditions for the beneficial bacteria.
Thank you for your time.
<Cheers, Bob Fenner>
Re: Ram system stocking      7/18/14

Dear Bob,
Thank you so much for your response.
<Welcome Dev>
I shall crank up the turnover. I was thinking that most of the fishes in my wish list were from sluggish and relatively stagnant water conditions, so a 7 to 8 times turnover will be somewhat unnatural to them.
<Mmm; no; this is really not much water movement at all... as you will see>
Are the HOBs with smaller media volume necessitating the higher turnover to compensate and have adequate bio filtration?
<To some extent; yes... but the increased water movement does much more... improving gas distribution, outgassing of CO2... preventing thermal stratification and its ills; moving particulates...>
Thanks again.
<Welcome in turn. BobF>
Re: Ram system stocking      7/19/14

Dear Bob,
<Hey Dev>
Thank you again for a very informative reply. I am always trying to understand the underlying workings
of stable aquaria and WetWebMedia is my most regularly visited source of such information.
<And you, B>

Temperature; more stkg., child     6/14/14
Hello, Hope all is going well there. I have an innovative marine 38 gallon tank. I am planning on putting 10 Sterba cories in as well as 5 each of the golden white cloud mountain minnow and the long fin white cloud. (will
these 2 types school together)? I have read that the max temp for them should be 72F.
<Corydoras sterbai are, exceptionally for commonly traded Corydoras species, a "warm water" species that thrives best between 24-28 C. That's why Corydoras sterbai are the Corydoras of choice for use with Discus. Most other commonly traded Corydoras prefer 22-25 C, including Bronze, Peppered, Skunk and Panda Corydoras. So any of those would be ideal at 22 C/72 F alongside your White Cloud Mountain Minnows. You could keep the tank at 24 C/75 F, which would be okay for both Corydoras sterbai and White Clouds, but take exceptional care to make sure the water is well oxygenated, partly
by using brisk filtration and partly by avoiding overstocking.>
During the summer months with my heater off, how can I keep the water temp from getting to the danger point for these fish?
<Practically, you can't. Avoid direct sunlight of course, but unless you add a chiller or put a fan over an open-topped tank to increase evaporation (not recommended) the water will (to some degree) warm up and cool down with the room. But guess what? It doesn't matter. Summertime highs for these species aren't a problem so long as it doesn't get crazy-hot (above
28 C/82 F). Just make sure there's plenty of water turnover and possibly aeration, and all should be fine. Some folks add blocks of ice in summer, and these cooler climate fish do in fact seem to enjoy swimming in and out of the cool streams of water such blocks create. Try it, with a small block first, and see what happens!>
Thank you for your help.
<Welcome, Neale.>
Re: Temperature      6/15/14

Hello Neale, do you feel that the amount of each fish I mentioned was appropriate or would you put less of any or all. Thank you again.
<38 gallons will be ample space for a 10-20 White Clouds and a school of 5-6 Corydoras species of your choice. Indeed, there's probably space left over for something else, too! Neale>
Re: Temperature

Thanks Neale, I am sorry, I know we discussed this before, but didn't you tell me the red cherry shrimp were hardy and would co-exist with cories?
If so, how many should I start out with and what do I feed them? Thanks again.
<Coexist with "dwarf" Corydoras just fine, e.g., Corydoras habrosus; not particularly suitable for use with the standard, larger species. Feeding is easy; they eat anything, with algae wafers being a particularly good starting point. Since Cherry Shrimps are social, keep at least six. Should breed readily kept thusly, assuming a mix of males/females. Cheers, NM>
Re: Temperature
Good day Neil, Hope all is well. Please tell me if the golden and long fin mountain minnows school together.
<Should school together, but long-finned versions of any regular fish sometimes have problems "keeping up" because they're encumbered and can't swim as well. Any behaviour that depends upon, for example, getting away from another fish really quickly might not work so well. So while it should work, you can't be 100% sure, and you'd want to keep a close eye on them. Since White Cloud Mountain Minnows are basically peaceful, this is a small risk compared with keeping the more mutually feisty species such as Swordtails or Danios.>
I am asking because if they do I will not have to buy as many total. What is a good number to buy for them to be active and happy and school? Thanks and Happy Father's Day! (if you have children)
<Not yet, but one on the way.>
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Temperature
Please tell me how many of each type (long fin and not) would be sufficient for them to school in a group that looked good. If 10 was the magic number and they both schooled together I could buy just ten, but if they won't always school together then I will have to buy 10 of each, thus 20, twice as many.
<In a 38 gallon, it's a no-brainer; keep 20 or so, however many of each variety you wanted.>
This will be in a 38 gallon with cories and maybe some shrimp. Haven't made my mind up about them yet. Do you personally feel red shrimp are a good addition to a tank?
<Very much so. I love Cherry Shrimps.
Once you get them breeding they're terrific. Add a "reef tank" quality to any tank, especially with non/slow breeding snails such as Nerites and Tylomelania. The fish/invertebrate combo is one we overlook on the freshwater side of the hobby.>
Thanks Neil, and may God bless you and your wife and new baby!!
<I hope that He will.>

Have a great day.
<You too, Neale.>

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