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FAQs on Freshwater Livestocking 13

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

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LFS is doing a huge import... opinions? Hard/soft water on wild collected fishes      11/4/17
Hello crew, I hope you are doing well.
<Thank you Roberto; yes>
As the title implies, a lfs is doing a huge import of south American fish. The list consists of more than 40 species of fish.
I, as the enthusiast that I am, want to get my hands on some fish, but, judging by past experiences with soft water fish kept in hard water (my water is normally 10 GH, 9 KH, ph anything from 7.5 to 7.9). Decided to ask you first on input on whether the species I plan to get can adapt in this kind of water. After all, some soft water fish do adapt to moderately hard water, but a lot don't.
<Yes; agreed. Tienes razon>
There is not much information online on these fish. I do not know if these fish are wild specimens or captive bred, and the lfs is not to trust with this information (they claim their altums were bred and raised in alkaline water...., even simple concepts like ph get tangled in their lies).
The list of fish I am interested in are:
1- Biotodoma Cupido
2-Geophagus pellegrini
3-a few, rare Corydoras species like concolor (well, those are a first here!)
4- Panda Uarus (I find this hard to believe)
5-Pterophyllum leopoldi
6-dicrossus filamentosus
7-axelrodia riesei
8-Moenkhausia copei
9-heterocharax virgulatus
10-Bunocephalus verrocosus
11-Hoplarchus psittacus
<The cichlids of #s 4,5,6 coming from soft/native waters concern me... The others I have seen/occasioned in harder waters. ALL I'd leave at the dealers for a few weeks to assure they're going to live>
I am sorry to put you through this, but you are probably the only safe source of information. I obviously wouldn't get all these fish even if I could, and I run several tanks for each of them (planted tanks for the tetras and cories... cichlid tanks for the cichlids... and so). I'm mostly concerned about the whole hard water adaptability.
Thanks again, crew.
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

classroom aquarium; stkg     8/25/17
I bought a 40 gallon aquarium set up on Kijiji. Previous owner had goldfish. Came with everything, plus cabinet.
I replaced the filter with same type (Aquaflow 50), and bought a new heater. I let the tank cycle for 2 weeks in the classroom. I’m a beginner and need hardy fish.

I really wanted an aquarium with community fish. The original plan was to put in Harlequins, and a bit later 3 Cory's, and a bristle nose Pleco.
<All good choices, but I would start with the Corydoras. Get six of one species. Ideally, Bronze or Peppered Corydoras as they're the two hardiest species.>
I did not realize that the Harlequins are hard to come by here and according to one knowledgeable person, not a fish for a brand new tank.
<Not for brand new tanks, no; but after a couple months, they'd be excellent.>
Poor on the spot research on my part resulted in the purchase of 11 silver tip tetras yesterday. I say poor research, because I did not realize how aggressive they can be...
<Tetras and Barbs are a mixed bag. In large groups most are fine, especially if you keep them with other active fish. But many are unpredictable in small groups, and some will nip at slow-moving or long-finned fish (such as Angels, Gouramis, Guppies and Bettas).>
I had not considered that species and did a quick search and the sites I checked quickly, yup peaceful community fish.
After seeing the activity level in the tank, and realizing these are not like the neon tetras in our tank when I was young,
<I would avoid Neons.>
I did more research and now know that they can be very nippy and be aggressive, especially regarding food.
<Kind of, sort of. No threat at all to your catfish, which eat entirely different things (algae wafers and sinking catfish pellets). Also fine with other active tetras, barbs, Rasboras, Danios and minnows. But they will snatch food from slow-moving things, like the Angels, Bettas, etc. mentioned earlier.>
Today, they were very active and wow, wow, they really liked feeding time. It was amazing to watch the action. They continually explore their environment and are very active. I know they will be both interesting and calming. I will do my best to make sure they do well.
<Cool. Take care not to overfeed. It's tempting to do so when fish are active and fun. But if the tank is new, and after two weeks almost certainly not "cycled" yet, feed very small amounts, and only if ammonia is zero. How did you cycle the tank? Just sitting the tank for two weeks does nothing! It does need a source of ammonia to 'feed' the bacteria and coax them into multiplying. Let's assume this is a non-cycled tank, and feed the fish accordingly. I would feed no more than one pinch every other day, and if ammonia was above 0.5 mg/l, I would not feed at all that day AND do a 50% water change. If you can, seed the tank with gravel from a mature aquarium, or better yet, get some live media from an established aquarium. Floating aquarium plants are a another useful tool, seeding the tank with filter bacteria AND using up ammonia as they find it.>
However, I’m not sure what to do in the future. I did rinse all the gravel that had been previously used, but had to really scrub one rock coral decoration free of algae. I read that you would recommend 5 or 6 Cory catfish together and that, with cover, and their “school”, they will do Ok with silver tips.
<Absolutely. But DO NOT add any more fish for at least 3-4 weeks. It'll take that long for the tank to cycle, assuming these tetras are doing the cycling for you.>
There are rock formations, two live plants* and 3 artificial cloth plants. The tank is taller than it is wide. I say that there are 2 live plants because they are experiments. I didn’t put a substrate in....
<Floating plants don't need one, and neither do epiphytes (such as Java fern, Java moss, and Anubias).>
So, question one- should I put the plants in pots, or leave in gravel?
<A personal choice. I currently keep plants in terracotta pots filled with aquarium soil, sand, and some gravel on top. This tank has a big catfish that otherwise uproots plants. You can also fill the pots with aquarium gravel instead of sand and soil, but use plant fertiliser pellets pushed into the gravel every month to ensure the plants get all the minerals they need. In short, plants in pots work as well in fish tanks as they do on windowsills. But most aquarists prefer to put plants in a gravel bed at least 8 cm/3 inches deep because it looks more realistic. Again, fertiliser pellets can be used to feed the plants, though advanced aquarists often use special aquarium soils and substrates instead, topping it off with gravel just for looks and tidiness. Some plants come in plastic pots with rockwool inside them. These can be buried in the gravel, and some plants do okay in them, spreading out of the pots by themselves. Vallisneria and Cryptocoryne are two groups that seem to do perfectly well like this. Other plants are fussier, like Anubias and Java Fern, which will both rot eventually if trapped in pots under the gravel, and should be immediately removed from their pots and attached to rock or wood above the gravel. Aponogeton species generally don't like their 'corm' in the gravel, but their roots should be, so some tweaking may be necessary if you try these hardy, but basically annual, plants. So basically, each plant is different, and some will be fine in pots, others will not... read up on what's for sale locally, and act accordingly.>
Question 2, and on. I know if I were to even try Cory fish, more cover is needed.
<Not really. Corydoras are fish from shallow streams. They root about on sand, in leaf litter, and so on. They don't need thick vegetation as such, but some hiding places, such as tangles of bogwood roots, are a plus. I'd avoid (narrow) hollow ornaments though as they sometimes get stuck in them and drown (they breathe air, as you probably know). Vallisneria is a good default plant for most tanks, quickly spreading if conditions are even halfway decent, and the thickets formed will be used by Corydoras for hiding places. That said, if kept in big groups, these catfish aren't shy at all.>
The tank is taller than it is wide. The tetras are mid to top tank almost always, never massing at the bottom. I can go with more artificial or live plants (we’ll see how the 1st 2 do), or provide hiding materials, hollowed out areas. I have the same concern as a person already posted. I don’t think the Cory's can stand their ground and take food from these tetras.
<Feed the Corydoras at night, using sinking foods. One algae wafer about the size of your thumbnail will feed a small group of 5-6 catfish perfectly well, and such a wafer could be used no more than 3 times a week.>
Suggestions on providing cover, in this tall tank or feeding tricks, or are Cory’s not a good idea, in which case another bottom cleaner will be needed.
<There is no such thing as a "bottom cleaner". It's a marketing myth, really. Any fish you add to the tank increases the waste. Furthermore, if there's enough leftover food for some catfish, you're overfeeding your tetras, and most of that uneaten food will actually end up in the filter, becoming ammonia. By all means keep catfish or loaches, but on their own terms, not as cleaners. Likewise "algae eaters", which may eat some algae, but by adding to the nitrate and phosphate in the aquarium, they actually speed up the growth of algae too. Nerite snails are probably the best algae eaters, not catfish.>
There was feeding frenzy today; the tetras are eager for their food flakes, but still messy eaters. The submissive would dart in underneath or between, but still...some flakes fell to the bottom, and the tetras dropped down the tank to follow the food. Is a bristle nose Pleco a good choice?
<An outstanding choice. By far the best of the algae-eating catfish traded. Others are either too big (Common Plecs), too delicate (Otocinclus), or have specialist requirements (Panaque for example, which are more herbivores than algae-eaters).>
Other Plecos I have seen have outgrown tanks, so I’m wary....Suggestions?
<Bristlenose Plecs, and other Ancistrus species, only get to about 12 cm/5 inches, often less. Excellent additions to community tanks, and if you get a pair, they'll likely breed, the fathers looking after the fry extremely well, so much so that some fry will survive even in busy community tanks.>
I’m pretty sure I know the answer, but looking long term, I’m thinking Harlequins are not a good choice for this tank?
<They are a good choice, but only when the tank is mature. Give it a couple months. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: classroom aquarium     8/27/17

Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge.
<Most welcome.>
I wish I had consulted you first.
I was told to wait on the Cory's by a few people; I wish I had done this differently, but now I think have good advice and know how to go forward.
Thank you for the feeding suggestion (I did wonder).
<No problem.>
I will look for floating plants and monitor ammonia more carefully. I will also investigate plants available, because the ones I put in probably need much more than I am giving them.
<It is a fact that aquarium shops often sell plants that are NOT aquatic and will inevitably die, such as 'wheat plant' and 'dragon bamboo'. Do see here for the full list...
Often cheap and attractive, these plants have no chance at all of living, and eventually die, polluting the tank. They're usually houseplants, and do fine in pots! Some aquarium plants are simply demanding, needing strong
light, CO2 fertilisation, and/or a special substrate to do well. Hygrophila for example is a smashing plant, but needs strong light. Pretty much anything pale green or pink will be a high light intensity plant. Your best bets for casual fishkeeping are two floating plants (Indian fern and Amazon frogbit), the epiphytes you grown on rock or wood (Anubias, Java fern, or Java moss), and a few adaptable rooted plants (the hardy Amazon swords, in particular Echinodorus osiris and Echinodorus Ozelot, most Vallisneria, a few Cryptocoryne species including C. wendtii and C. beckettii, and Aponogeton spp. if you treat them as disposable -- their corms needing to be 'overwintered' which isn't hard but most folks don't bother).>
I will add java moss, we had them in with our 2 Bettas at home (Bettas not together) and they are easy, easy care plants. Thanks again.
<Java moss are good plants, but hopeless for controlling algae in larger, brighter tanks. They can sometimes become messy and rot in tanks with catfish that stir up silt, so position them somewhere away from where the catfish mostly forage for best results. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: classroom aquarium     8/27/17

Thanks for the info. I am going to definitely pull out one of the plants tomorrow; it was obviously a poor choice and is losing its green-ness.
<Feel free to send a photo if you need to know what the plant is/was.>
The other I will leave for now; although it is on your OK list, it will likely go too. I now have suggestions on what will actually work best. For us, simple is most definitely best, so thank you again for sharing knowledge and more importantly, practical advice.
<Most welcome.>
I am very annoyed with myself because I did want swords, but there were none available within 40 minutes. I let myself be convinced that these plants would be OK....lesson learned.
<Not all Amazon Swords are equal! Some are more finicky than others. Do check the variety on sale. The one sold loose is usually Echinodorus bleheri, and it's a fairly easy species to keep with at least moderate light. Other varieties are distinctly more demanding, particularly the dwarf varieties and those with red, rather than green, leaves. All Amazon Swords are heavy "feeders" in terms of their roots, so in plain gravel or pots, they will need fertiliser pellets now and again. Also remember only the roots go in the gravel, never anything green. The best approach is to
partially bury the roots, and err on the side of having the tops of the roots exposed. The plant can then sort itself out. If you bury the green parts, the leaves tend to get damaged. Vallisneria is the same.>
Will the tetras be OK with artificial silk plants for now?
<Yes. Unless you're keeping a herbivorous fish that needs to eat greenery, fish couldn't care less about the type of plants used -- real, silk or plastic is all good to them.>
Now it is crunch time for us and to adequately research/find the best plants suggested is going to be tricky.
<Plenty of websites, plus several good books. I happen to like "Aquarium Plants (Mini Encyclopedia Series for Aquarium Hobbyists)" by Peter Hiscock, which is easy to read and aimed at casual aquarists, full of pictures and
ideas, and available cheaply from all the usual online bookshops (under $4 on Amazon.com, for example). Cheers, Neale.>

Fish suggestions     8/18/17
Hello crew,
I would like to ask few questions about my fish and the aquarium.
<Fire away!>
I want to buy an aquarium about 30 gallons
<A superb size for a starter tank. Big enough for large schools of social fish, plus a couple of specimen fish such as Angels or Gouramis, without worrying about overstocking. But not so large it'll be expensive and challenging to maintain.>
and will put peppered Cory fish in it to help clean the aquarium and its substrate.
<Peppered Corydoras are excellent catfish, but do prefer slightly cooler water than most tropicals; indeed, they can do fine in unheated tanks if the room is warm enough! Aim for fish happy at 22-25 C/72-77 F, and the Peppered Catfish will be happy.>
Also I want to keep a hardy small schooling fish with the Cory.
<Plenty of options. At the low-end tropical temperatures, things like Neons, White Cloud Mountain Minnows, Danios (don't mix with the Minnows though, as they bully them), Red Phantom Tetras, Black Phantom Tetras,
Harlequin Rasboras, and Golden Barbs will all be at their optimal living conditions. Swordtails and Platies also prefer cooler water, though they don't really school as such, the males being a bit feisty, so best kept in groups where female outnumber males, ideally by 2 to 1. Most Loricariid catfish like slightly cool water too, including Otocinclus and Ancistrus.
Really, what you're doing is avoiding those "hothouse flowers" such as Angels, most Gouramis, Cardinals and a few other species that do need plenty of heat to be happy.>

Can you give me a list of fish types that can live with peppered catfish and be able to support the Corys requirements such as (the pH level, temperature, and so on.) I've read that peppered catfish lives in a pH of
<Farmed Peppered Catfish are not at all fussy about water chemistry.
Provided the water isn't too soft or too hard, they'll be fine; 2-20 degrees dH, pH 6-8 is fine. Corydoras generally are adaptable, but what they don't like are high temperatures, bullying tankmates, and very deep water (don't make them swim more than 30 cm/12 inches to gulp air or they'll be stressed, even drown). A soft, sandy substrate (smooth silica sand, also called pool filter sand, is the ideal; avoid sharp sands often sold for planted aquaria).>
I haven't kept a fish before, but I know a lot about fish and their requirements. Also I did a huge research about many kinds of fish and I will keep doing that.
<You're making lots of good decisions already, so well done! Peppered Corydoras are tough enough for ideal first fish, Pearl or Zebra Danios being equally hardy and good first fish. I'd also avoid the "serial offenders" when it comes to healthcare and/or social problems like fin-nipping -- Dwarf Gouramis, Ram Cichlids, Neon Tetras, Serpae Tetras, Petticoat/Black Widow Tetras, Tiger Barbs.>
Any suggestions please.
<Let me direct you to some reading, here...
But if you want to discuss further, feel free to email us with some options of stuff you've seen on sale!>
Looking forward to hear from you.
Thank you.
P.s. I really like to know about all types of animals and nature. That's my hobby ( to do research about all animals).
<Fish tanks are what got me into studying zoology at university
. They're a great tool for understanding many aspects of biology, from how filters work (nutrient cycling) through algae control (eutrophication and primary productivity), not to mention how different fishes are related (systematics) and how they interact (ethology). Have fun! Neale.>

Fish Tank Stocking    8/10/17
Hi Team,
<Howdy...Earl here this morning.>
I have a 20 Gallon tank which I think I have been having for almost a year now. I have lost many fish and (touch wood) the ones that are now kind of happy in the tank are
<Job One is determining the hows and whys of what killed the other fish...otherwise you're just rolling the dice, as it were.>
1. 1 ID shark( 6 - 12 inches)
2. 2 Blood Parrot (One Medium sized and one a little smaller)
3. 2 Kirin Parrot (albino) I think..
4. 2 Tin foil barbs (1 big and 1 small)

I would just like to know your advise on whether the tank is rightly stocked or any changes are required..
<In my opinion, a 12" fish in a tank that size is a no-go in any event. The barbs will be ok but that's probably too many parrots as they also get pretty large and due to the way they have been bred, their mouths are not
well equipped for competing with faster, more assertive fish when competing for food. More detail on your previous inhabitants, your water conditions such as temperature, lighting, test kit readings, are necessary to make any statements other than that it seems overstocked size-wise and I expect that you may have lost parrots before, yes? Hope this helps but more info is needed. -Earl>
Thanks and regards,
Shriram Natarajan
Re: Fish Tank Stocking    8/10/17

Hey Earl,
Thanks for getting back.
These were the only 4 parrots that I have had.
I had added other fish..I had bought a pair of small powder blue cichlids recently and lost both of them..no signs of disease was found. Just found them dead one fine morning..
<Aggressive fish, possibly stress out or harmed each other or other fish in the system perhaps?>
Same was the case with a pair of Blue Dolphin fish. They were perfectly fine for a couple of weeks and then died due to a power outage that lasted for half a day.
<Why did the power outage kill them? Temperature drop from the heater shutting off? Very unfortunate but sadly many of us have been in the same boat.>
I had 4 ID sharks earlier and lost three of them to a power outage.
Thanks and regards,
Shriram Natarajan

Community Tank Stocking Question. Cichlids... Rams, some Africans        4/1/17
This is my first time writing as I have always been able to find answers to my questions after doing a bit of digging through your site, you guys have great info and have been incredibly helpful. OK so, I recently got back into the hobby and almost immediately fell in love with the Electric Blue Ram. I had a rather large one that was killed by an Electric Blue Jack Dempsey when I first started my 30 gal tank.
<Oh yes; incompatible>
I have since learned my lesson on adding fish to my tanks without doing my research, RIP Ray, you were a
good fish :'( I have had 4 juvenile EBR, 1 Gold Ram, 1 Bolivian Ram, an assortment of Rasboras, 5 Threadfin Rainbow's, and 2 Bristlenose Plecos (1M 1 F) in my 30 gal tank for sometime now and everything had been going
great. I knew however I would need to upgrade or trade in a few rams in  the future once the juvenile EBR's got a little bigger, then I saw and fell in love with the Black Ghost Knife. Through reading your site I know my newest tank (55 gal, established 2-3 months ago) will only be a temporary housing for my BGK when I get him/her (planned for the very near future) and with the proper set up it can live peacefully with at least a few of the EBR and some of my other community fish.
<Yes; likely for a few to several years>
I of course do not intend on keep the Rasboras in with the BGK, (unless I want them to become tasty snacks, haha) and was planning on keeping 2 EBR (recently lost 2 due to a heater malfunction, sad), 3 Threadfin Rainbow (lost 2 to the heater), 5 Neon Dwarf Rainbow, 3 Black Neon, 1 Orange Van Rio (lost the others to the same heater malfunction), and 1 Bristlenose Pleco in the 55 gal tank with the BGK. Everyone has been added to the tank and are currently cohabiting happily (Rasboras are in 55 for now but will be moved back to the 30gal when the BGK arrives) and I have very few worries about the mix until Mr./MRS BGK outgrows everyone in which case I'll have a much larger tank ready for the big weirdo (and/or move everyone else to a different tank for their safety).
So my question/s are/is I found 2 new (to me) species during my weekly rounds to the LFS and am struggling finding info on their compatibility with my current set ups. (BTW: 30 gal currently holds 1 Gold Ram, 1 Bolivian Ram, and 1 juvenile Longfin Bristlenose Pleco - but I am not partial to the gold or Bolivian ram and can easily re-home them. They're cool dudes, just not my favorites). Could you tell me anything about the likely hood or possibility of a single Leleupi, and/or a (pair?) of kribensis working out in either tank with my current crew?
<Mmm; yes; though these are easier-going African Cichlids, I would not mix them w/ the Rams... Get too much larger, and too likely to harass the S. Americans>
I've gotten mixed reviews from several sources and after losing Ray to the Jack Dempsey I'd like something a little more definitive before pulling the trigger. If neither are something that would work with what I have going on currently so be it, the BGK will be moved to a larger tank before I know it and I'll need something to do with the 55gal... also, whats one more tank, right?
I really appreciate the time you're taking to answer my questions, I've been searching for HOURS and cannot find it on my own.
You guys rock!
P.S. Both the 30 gal and the 55 gal are planted with driftwood, rocks, fine gravel, over the tank filters (I forget the brand but can find it if important), and heaters of course (properly functioning heaters!). I plan to include hideouts/tubes to the 55 gal soon but am holding off until the BGK arrives, I want to add them right when I add him/her to throw the EBRs off their game a bit ;) the 30gal has a bunch of hideouts already but I can easily add, remove, or completely revamp if needed. Also both tanks are set up on a LED Zet light, LOVE my Zetlight system :) 30 gal has some plants that demand a little more light but 55 is set up with all low light plants (ik the BGK prefers low light, I want to provide natural hiding places within the plants while making it a comfortable environment. The
plants are just about tall enough now they're starting to shade out the bottom of the tank in the section I plan for the BGK. It's almost ready, finally!) and my handy dandy controller makes it easy to adjust light on each tank individually. Thanks again for your help and please let me know if you need any additional information,
<The Africans could be housed with each other, but even then... they'd make better displays as "species only" set ups.
Bob Fenner>

Threadfin Acara Kept Alone? FW stkg.     2/6/17
Hi guys and gals! You've been so helpful in the past that I would like to ask for your advice. Last year I was running 15 tanks of various sizes and species in my very small home. This was completely overwhelming once the thrill of setting up and stocking the tanks was over. After a lot of stress and time, I currently have 3 tanks left. And I will hopefully be down to 2 permanently within the next 6 weeks. The day after tomorrow I will be rehoming all of my African cichlids, my 2 full-grown S. eupterus (which I am very upset about), and a turquoise Hemichromis from my 75 gallon. I will be planning on keeping this 75 gallon tank as well as my 40 breeder tank (housing my very spoiled B. splendens and 5 Amano shrimp which are amazingly fascinating to watch). Although everything that I have read says
that my Eupterus are more than fine in my 75 gallon, I feel that they are cramped and also feel that they produce a lot of waste in the tank, so I believe I have no choice but to give them up if I want to stock much else in with them, unfortunately.
<How big are these... Synodontis?>
I had wanted to get a veil tailed A. ocellatus, because I find them to be the perfect combination of beauty and
personality. But, regardless of filtration, I think a 75 gallon, with no plans to upgrade, would not be ideal.
<One should be fine here>
I have learned my lesson in buying fish with the "I'll get a bigger tank for them later" (best intentioned) justification, only to have to rehome them later.
<You are correct here; very common. Or worse, not upgrading-sizing>
So I had been contemplating what to keep in my 75 gallon that would be fair to the fish at adult size, and create a very minimal stocking list for me, when I came across a gorgeous albino A. haeckeli for sale.
<Is a fab species>
While I am confident that the tank size is good, I have found very little information on them (after much research), and most of it conflicting. I have read that they don't do well when kept as singletons in a tank but they are aggressive towards conspecifics.
<Not so bad if, where crowded; more females than males>
I would only want one, but would not want him/her to be skittish, even though I realize that I'm not going to get a wet pet personality from this type of fish. I also don't want a group of dithers, as I would like to keep stocking minimal. I would like to keep my Hemichromis, if at all possible, because she has always been miserable with my Africans, currently she would be rehomed with them, which makes me nervous.
<These cichlids should get along together here.... AND the Synodontis in a 75>
I have also always wanted a S. casuarius. I know that these are all very different and don't make much sense together (except maybe the Hemichromis and casuarius), but how incompatible do you think they are?
<Likely to get along if started large enough, relative to the other Cichlids>
A single Threadfin Acara, a single Buffalohead Cichlid, and a single Jewel Cichlid, with 4x canister filtration and 10× once my 55 gallon rainbowfish tank gets rehomed in a 75 gallon, could it work?
<I give you good odds here>
If not, could the Jewel and the Acara live together? If not, could the Acara live alone in the tank?
<Yes and yes>
My main concern is water temperature. My pH and hardness are almost neutral with slight acidity adding with water aging, but I do frequent PWC and clean filters once every 6 weeks.
<I'd change 10-20% of the water out here every two weeks; perhaps every week. Bob Fenner>

Re: Threadfin Acara Kept Alone?      2/7/17
Hi Bob, thank you for the very quick reply, it helps me greatly, as my rehoming decisions need to be made by tomorrow. The female Synodontis is about 8" and the male is about 7" although much skinnier than the female.
<Wow! Nice>

It may be possible that they look crowded because of the amount of rockwork I keep in the tank for the Africans or because a 75 gallon just doesn't seem like a large tank to me? Although, they definitely have their own territories, so very minimal squabbling. I'm so glad to hear about the Hemi, because she absolutely hates the Mbuna and I have felt bad about that for quite some time.
<Mmm; well; not to be (too) political; but most Mbuna are like Trump>
The Oscar idea, although I think would be okay as well, I feel would be much better in a 125 gal and I have no plans to go bigger than a 75 gal unfortunately. I definitely don't want multiple Haeckeli because I don't want to worry about breeding. But I would like it to display somewhat of a natural behavior. Do you think this will be achievable when kept singly?
<Some (behavior) yes>
Also from what I have read, these guys like a temp on the high end of the tropical values, between 80-82, whereas the
Hemichromis and Synodontis prefer the lower end 74-77. Is this correct?
If I were to keep the Synos instead of getting the Casuarius, how much rockwork should I remove in order to let them keep their territories but let the Haeckeli have enough swimming space?
<Just some... maybe a bommie or two>
I've attached a photo of my tank to give you an idea of the current setup. I'd prefer not to go with driftwood in this tank and I'm absolutely finished with live plant upkeep.
I am not exactly sure why, but I see the 75 gal as looking like a very small tank and I'd like the inhabitants in it to feel as though they have the same amount of room as an Oscar would in a 125 gal, if I'm explaining that correctly?
<I think I understand>
In my tank photo there is about 9"-10" of open water between the rocks and front of the glass and a similar space above as well. How much rockwork do you think I should remove for the Threadfin?
<Most all>
Half or more?
Will it need a large open piece of floor to sift through?
<Not really; no. Have seen this species kept in small volumes, with little to no substrate>
If I were to keep the Synos do you think that would be a better choice than the Casuarius?
<If these were my catfish, I wouldn't part w/ them>
This last question is a bit of a strange one because I'm not sure if this would look ridiculous in the tank I've been describing or would create the overcrowding I'm trying to avoid, but I have 11 Marcii rainbowfish in a 55 gal that I have been trying to rehome without much success. They aren't the prettiest fish but the orange doesn't make them completely bland I guess. If I moved them into the 75 gal (mostly just out of the convenience of not having to rehome them) I could move the 280gph canisters onto the 75 gal, which the addition of would put me at 10x canister filtration. It would also mean that I would only need to rehome the 4 emerald Corys and 5 Glowlights in that 55 gal. Would this stress the Haeckeli, the Hemi, the Marcii, or the Synos in terms of stocking?
<I'd not mix the Corydoras and Tetras... with the others Or would
it look terrible as a stocking group (in your opinion) as a stocking list?
Thank you.
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Re: Threadfin Acara Kept Alone?      2/7/17
Great! We are almost at the end of my questions, but I am a Trump supporter so I hope they still get answered hehe.
<Ah yes; certainly>
Because of the temp difference do you think the Synos, Hemi, or Haeckeli would suffer at a tank temperature of around 79 degrees or do you think I may be cutting it to too close to keep the tank temperature consistent and everyone happy?
<I have high confidence that this temperature will be fine for all>
The Marcii are currently in with the tetras and Corys I would only be moving the Marcii over to save me the trouble of rehoming (which also seem to enjoy a lower temp) although I'm not sure if I consider them pretty enough to be with the
Threadfin. So my options for the 75 gal would be: 1x Haeckeli, 1x Hemichromis, 2x Synodontis Eupterus OR the same + 11x Marcii rainbows. Or the Haeckeli, the Synos, the Jewel, and the Marcii (no Haeckeli), in which case I wouldn't need to buy or rehome any fish. Even though I dislike the upkeep of live plants, I believe that the Marcii like them so if I moved them over do you believe there is any way to make a combination of the large rocks and driftwood/plants all look nice together in a display tank or stick with one or the other?
<The latter would be my choice. The live plants won't work with the larger fishes you list. They will/would be uprooted in short order>
Thanks again for all of the great advice and the amazing resources on your website!
<Thank you for your participation. Bob Fenner>

Stocking question??       12/21/16
I have a regular size angelfish in a 29 gallon as a single and six lemon tetras. I was wondering if a Bristlenose is taking it too far when it comes to stocking? The filter is for a 50 gallon and I am thinking the Bristlenose would put it on the edge bioload wise. Thank you.
<You should be fine! Just don't overfeed or skip on the water changes.
Ammonia and nitrite aren't going to be problems, but accumulating nitrate can be a real problem for cichlids including Angels. Anything above 40 mg/l is bad for them, and you want to try and stay below 20 mg/l if at all
possible. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Blackwater for Featherfin catfish?      11/28/16
Hi, Neale. I've got myself in quite a pickle. I went ahead and got 7 Glowlight tetras for my Betta tank because that is all my LFS had in stock.
They are absolutely stunning, especially in the dimly lit aquarium they are the most fluorescent shade of orange and just spectacular looking in that tank.
<Sounds good.>
At first my Betta chased them around and then eventually gave up. He is still interactive with me yet he is finding more hidden spots and out of the way areas to rest than he had previously. These Glowlights also don't seem timid at all. They will swim right up next to him as if taunting him, especially 2 from the shoal.
<DO keep a close eye on them. They might be merely curious, in which case, no problems. But if the Betta shows signs of fin-nipping, I'd remove them.>
I also bought 6 Amano shrimp. My Betta looked at one and now ignores them (the shrimp). He seems to be mostly ignoring the Glowlights, yet they don't really shoal well and are all over the tank.
<Perhaps add a couple more.>
So is he leaving them alone because they really don't bother him or is he stressed and understands, given his space restrictions he has no choice but to tolerate them?
<Pretty much.>
I know that if I get a larger group they will shoal more but also take up a lot more space.
<Marginally more! Two or three won't make a big difference unless this tank is tiny, smaller than 10 gallons. If above that, adding a couple more shouldn't be a problem.>
I know I wanted activity, and they are beautiful, but my Betta's territory has become extremely small.
<He'll likely get over it, and do understand that their normal territory is the top couple inches of water. So long as there's space at the surface plus some floating leaves, he's happy.>
Also, he is still easy to feed but I haven't seen the Glowlights eat yet.
<Give them time; offer choices, such as live daphnia.>
Because the current is so still the fine flake sits at the top and don't drop down much and they don't seem to see it at the top.
<Try a micro pellet food, such as Hikari Tropical Micro Pellets.>
On to the next problem, I moved the sword plant from my overgrown planted tank to the back as it was positioned more to the front somehow. The rainbows and Corys seem to love it and I can actually see them now! But I wanted some extra driftwood for the Betta tank and while tanking it out I was easily able to grab the Panaque, which I was surprised by. I put him in the Betta tank, as you said they might be good tankmates and of course he swam right under the piece of driftwood on the farthest side away from the intake *sigh*. I can't even imagine the bioload he is going to add.
<Depends on his size. If he's a couple of inches, no more than a Corydoras.
But Panaque grow bigger than that, and some species grow a lot bigger. The small species like Panaque maccus are fine in tanks 20-30 gallons in size; but the bigger species, your standard issue Royal Plec for example, needs 55+ gallons and a LOT of filtration to handle their solid waste output.>
My original idea was just to do a beta tank with slow current, over filtered, still water and barely any maintenance. Now I feel like I will be doing excessive water changes, as effectively I am only working with 33 gallons of water here with the reduced height to the water column.
<Understood, and to a degree I think you're right. The more fish you add, the more frequent maintenance needs to be. A few Glowlights and a single Betta won't be placing much bio-load on a 20-30 gallon tank, and water changes could be quite infrequent, even every couple months if you're not feeding them heavily.>
I am mainly concerned about my Betta. If this bioload or even these flitting little Glowlights are going to cause him stress instead of indifference, I will remove everything else from the tank (except maybe get some glass cats to cower in the back). How bad is my Panaque going to add to the bioload of this tank?
<See above; depends on the species.>
I'm thinking fairly significantly. I think maybe I was being greedy by wanting to fill a 40 breeder with activity, when in reality I was just upgrading my Betta tank from a 20gal. I know people often use the terms happy and unhappy for fish, when it seems the better term is stressed or thriving.
<I doubt the Betta is stressed, to be honest. But if his life situation has changed, he may need to adapt. The main thing is if he's active and feeding. If he is, he's probably fine. If he's hiding away all the time and/or not eating readily, you have a problem.>
In your honest opinion do you think my Betta would be more likely to thrive on his own in that 40 breeder without the Glowlights or would it not matter too much? And should I take that Panaque out so I don't have to do major frequent water changes on this tank that was supposed to be my easiest?
<See above.>
Do you think a shoal of 20 glass catfish with the Betta and nothing else would not be bad because they are so timid and shoal so tightly?
<Hard to say. Glass Cats get pretty big, 10-15 cm/4-6 inches even. So their very size might alarm your Betta, even if they're not actually a threat.>
I really thought I was being patient and planning this tank out well but I think it let it get the best of my control. By they way I have attached a new photo of the tank in progress, I removed the fake Cabomba (I hate fake plants) and tucked the sponge filter into a wooden crevice. I'm also growing some duckweed and have Anubias and crypts settling in.
<All looks good to me.>
I have also increased the 240gph to full outflow but the water in the tank still barely moves because it is pouring straight down behind a stump. I also unknotted my sponge filter a bit. I'm really concerned about this take. Any and all answers and advice are truly appreciated!
<Welcome. Neale.>

Re: Blackwater for Featherfin catfish?      11/24/16
Here are the reduced pictures.
<Thank you.>
The one of the new tank is with and without the lighting effect on which it clearly looks much better with the effect on.
The other pictures are my 55gal no maintenance low tech planted (heavily?) tank, which I have grown the plants since about 1".
<Looks very nice.>
The other tank is my mixed rift tank, which I forgot to mention, I'm going to have to replace the stand soon because it is not safe. So since I will be breakdown anyway, the question is should I just scrap it and restock and/or just keep it?
<Not sure I can answer that. It's up to you. Depends a lot on how much time you have to spend on maintaining tanks, what your financial priorities are at the moment, and how easy it is to rehome the existing fish. But whatever
you plan to do, it should be a pleasure, not a chore: a fish tank that you find irritating or laborious quickly becomes neglected, which isn't good for the fish.>
Another thing that I forgot to mention is I have a pseudo bumblebee in there who's eyes were eaten when he was very young. I considered euthanizing him,. But eventually he stopped being black and can tell when it's feeding time by the commotion from the other fish.
<Quite so. Most catfish are not reliant on their eyes, and there are numerous "legally blind" species that use their taste receptors and touch receptors far more significantly for finding food. Catfish also have excellent hearing and lateral line systems that they use for avoiding
predators and navigating in the dark.>
I feed him sinking pellets. But no one wants him and if I change his environment I'm not sure how easily he would be able to get food or adapt.
<Probably without much bother provided competition isn't too strong. He'd be okay with a Synodontis eupterus if you provided enough for both to eat.
Algae wafers at different ends of the tank would be one solution.>
I'm looking for straight honest opinions if you think that all the tanks suck, great, and if you don't think any suck, then fine. I don't know if I mentioned earlier but I would like to be at 2 tanks soon. So its keep all 3, get rid of one add the extra filtration to the other 2 tanks or get rid of 2 and replace them with a peaceful community of large numbers of
schooling fish, or replace all 3 and get a large tank and start over.
Hopefully this isn't difficult to add to my last email and hopefully these pictures work for you... Thanks!
<Most welcome. Neale.>

Re: Blackwater for Featherfin catfish?      11/25/16
I knew I would run into trouble after adding info to the message I sent you attached to the photos after you had asked for reduced file size...This is the actual topic I wanted to discuss... First, let me say I enjoy your website immensely, so I made a small donation to your site through PayPal today, sorry its not more but hopefully it helps.
<I'm sure it will; thank you.>
My reason for emailing this time actually changed twice since I wanted to contact you. Originally my question was going to be to send you photos of the two tams I have left a 75gal Mbuna/Malawi setup and a 55gal planted with marcii rainbows, a royal Pleco (I think, haven't seem him in a while) and ask your honest opinion if either looks good enough to keep running or replace them both with a 120gal tiger barb species tank?
<Both the tanks looked nice. If they're working and you find them interesting, I'd see no reason to change them. "Multiple Tank Syndrome" is a common enough problem for people who get into fishkeeping though! I'm not sure if 120 gallons for Tiger Barbs is crazy or brilliant. Maybe a bit of both! Certainly a giant school of them would look amazing, and they do mix well with certain fish. Just take care with anything they might nip at.>
The thing is in the planted tank I absolutely hate the trimming and pruning so I just don't and that is the result in the photo I'm attaching.
<Here's one way to look at regular pruning of plants -- if you didn't remove nitrate and phosphate by physically removing plant leaves, that nitrate and phosphate would be in the water, causing algae to grow. You generally get tanks with EITHER fast growing plants OR bad algae problems.
Rarely do you get both. So if your plants are growing quickly, that's actually a good sign your tank is balanced and working nicely.>
Also in order to take that stock out I would have to tear down the whole tank.
<This is the very "green" tank with the Rainbowfish? I think that looks lovely. Possibly time to remove the biggest plants, like that giant Amazon Sword, and allow their smaller, daughter plants to take over. The tank would look a bit more balanced. Don't remove too many plants at once though because you might spur algae into action, which you don't want!>
The African cichlid tank has settled down since my Moorii killed everything he thought was a threat but the tank is just very chaotic, hard to clean, and not all that relaxing.
<Understood. If the tank isn't pleasurable, and if you can rehome the fish amicably, then sure, time to move them on.>
But then I had one more tank, a 20 long with a single beta, which is a fish I'm keeping no matter what. My issue is that I wanted to at least get to 3 tanks (down from 15 last year) which is what I have. But instead of moving the 20 long I had a 40 breeder empty keeping some bb alive and I figured its a 3rd tank why not move the beta in there?
<Bettas do poorly in mixed species set-ups. Oddly enough might be fine with giant catfish like your Panaque and the large Synodontis (though some smaller Synodontis are fin-nibblers). What they do poorly with is small schooling species like Danios and Tetras that nip at them or steal food.>
I wanted to go for a blackwater pool theme and as such have leaf litter and very still water. I have a 240gph canister reduced to about 1/3 outflow and aimed behind that stump that sticks out of the water (actually 7 pieces of driftwood to look like a stump). I also have a sponge filter with knotted tubing tucked into that fake Cabomba. I have the water reduced about 5 inches from the top and plan on getting some root bearing floating plants.
I would like to filter with peat but haven't yet, the effect in the photo is just creative lighting with my Fluval LED.
<Looks nice.>
I painted the back black and carefully planned it and it is my favorite looking tank by far. The whole time I kept thinking, this wont be too big for a beta. Boy was I wrong. I made the transition and he swam around the whole tank, ate right away, found a sleeping spot.
<Ah, you understand now the myth of Bettas only "needing" a jar of water to be happy. Of course they don't! They enjoy swimming as much as any fish, and the more space, the happier. What they don't like are strong water currents and more active tankmates.>
Seems to enjoy the gentle current.
But I cant even see him.
<Which suits him down to the ground!>
Even if he is an inch back from the front glass. It looks like an empty tank. I guess I underestimated the size. Now my question is, what do I do? I've read that either ember tetras or glass catfish or Corys MIGHT work with him. I've also thought of Glowlights.
<Glowlights aren't a bad choice at all. They're very passive, and aren't nippy. They're rather shy though, especially in small groups. So a decent school will probably be necessary. Another option might be something like Norman's Lampeye or some other smallish killifish, such as Epiplatys annulatus (a gorgeous species, increasingly widely traded). Less demanding would be one of the Ricefish species, like Oryzias dancena or Oryzias woworae. Since killifish and Ricefish stay close to the surface they'd add colour and movement to the tank, and their small size should work well with a Betta.>
If I go with the Glowlights or embers I would put a school of about 15 and if I go with the glass cats (k. minor) about 12 or some combo of both.
<All these should be fine. The Glass Cats are lovely fish, but I think "more of the same" in terms of behaviour. They're shy and don't move about much. A true dwarf or even a simply small Corydoras species such as Corydoras hastatus (a true dwarf) or Corydoras panda (simply a small species) might be nice, too. Active and in the case of Corydoras panda,
quite colourful.>
If I went with the Glowlights I would want the orange ones and with Corys, the orange laserline Corys, maybe 9 of them.
<Ah, I see we're thinking along the same lines.>
Because my beta is dark purple with orange fins do you think the orange from the Glowlights and Corys would be too much stress for him, or even/also the color of the embers?
<Nope. Bettas react to Bettas, to labyrinth fish, and occasionally other similar shape/size species like dwarf cichlids. Completely different fish, catfish and tetras for example, are almost always ignored.>
Also, I have Caribsea Rio Grande gravel in there, which says soft belly safe right on the bag, but would Corys really be happy if it wasn't sand?
<Not as happy as in sand, but happy enough to thrive.>
And since the beta will be in there already has he claimed the whole 40B as his territory?
<The surface of the tank, anyway. But below the top three inches, nope, that's fair game. Take him out, jumble the decorations, add the new fish, put him back half an hour later, and he should be fine.>
I really don't want a 4th tank which is what I would need to do if I take him out of this new setup. So back to my original question (sort of) based on the photos attached of my rift lake and planted tank, do you think, just as a personal opinion, either one is worth keeping?
<See above.>
And should my beta be removed from the new setup or given some of the mentioned tankmates, unless you have better suggestions? Thanks again! Sorry for the confusion of the multiple emails and photo size changes. I will attach the photos again for the sake of continuity... And thank you for answering the other questions as well! (and I meant a bumble cichlid from your previous response about my blind guy)
<Did assume you meant Bumblebee Catfish! Cheers, Neale.>

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