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FAQs on Freshwater Livestocking 10

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 11, & Stocking Small Systems, & Freshwater Livestock Selection Community Tank Livestocking,

Compatible... temperament-wise
Water Quality wise
Foods/Feeding wise?

Corys... and angels, a shark and a single clown loach... in a 29 - 11/05/2012
In my 29 gallon tank (water quality is good: 0 ammonia; 0 nitrites, ph neutral) I have 6 small angels,
<These will need more room than the 29; particularly when two or more pair up>
1 red-tail shark,
<Will become quite mean in time>
and 1 clown loach.
<Not happy singly>
I want to add some Albino Corys. I know they are schooling fish and need to be in a group. Given my set-up, how many Corys can I have and not overcrowd the tank.
<Already overcrowded... but are happier in groups of 3-4 or more>
Joe Messina
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>
Re Overcrowding, 29 gal., six angels...     11/7/12

Attn: Bob Fenner
<Hey Joe>
Thanks so much for quick reply. I forgot to mention that 3 of the 6 angels will be going to my brother as soon as he sets up his tank. That may be a while so that is why I was asking about overcrowding. My goal for my 29 gallon tank is 3 angels, 1 red tail shark ( he/she has plenty of little caves and tunnels) 2 clown loaches, and some Corys. Still overcrowded?
<May be in time; particularly if, more likely when two of the angels pair up... they'll likely beat up the third... but they'll all likely leave the loaches, shark and Corydoras be>
Thanks, Joe Messina P.S. Your site is fabulous. So helpful.
<Thank you Joe. BobF>

Article suggestion: How to stock a freshwater tank for water that's "in the middle"     10/18/12
I greatly enjoy your site and have been reading the articles on it for over a year now.
I especially like the article "In Praise of Hard Water".
<I thank you!>
So anyway, my water is 9 degrees GH, 6 degrees KH, 7.5 pH out of the tap.
<Almost perfect water for many sorts of tropical fish.>
I have a tank right now full of livebearers to which I have added limestone to raise the hardness.
<Okay. Nonetheless, while most livebearers should be okay with your tap water, Mollies in particular may struggle. Adding limestone may help with the Mollies, but isn't necessary for Guppies, Platies or Swordtails, which should be okay with your tap water.>
I got this idea after reading articles on your site. I also add CO2, bringing the pH down to 6.8 or so.
<Ah now, this is something you don't want to do with livebearers. Most do poorly in acidic conditions. There are some exceptions, but they tend to be the specialist livebearers, such as Halfbeaks.>
I do worry, after reading a lot on your site, if this is too acidic for my livebearers.
<May well be. Why lower the pH so far down? No real advantage that I can see, either for plants or tropical fish. Your water isn't excessively hard, a pH of 7.5 is easily tolerated by all but the most sensitive tetras and barbs, and messing about with water chemistry can be tricky.>
I'm thinking of selling them off and starting over with fish better adapted to softer water and lower pH. I was hoping your site would have an article for ppl like me who don't have "extreme" water who are looking for new suggestions for tank stocking. Just a thought.
<And it's a good thought. But the reality is that if you have water around 10 degrees dH (i.e., general hardness) and a pH around 7-7.5, you have water that's "in the middle" and a comfortable middle ground for most of the popular community fish. Angels, Neons, Tiger Barbs and Danios would do just as well as Guppies and Platies. Catfish and Rainbowfish, enjoying water that isn't extreme either way, should thrive too. Basically, avoid stuff that must have very soft water (Ram Cichlids for example) and avoid the stuff that needs rock hard water (such as Mollies). Make sense? Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Article suggestion: How to stock a freshwater tank for water that's "in the middle"     10/19/12

Thanks for the response!
<Most welcome.>
My livebearers now are platies and wild-type guppies ("Japanese blues")
hybridized with Endler's. I have some panda cories in the too, and many snails, a few shrimp. Water temp is 76 degrees F/24.4 degrees C. I love the fish, but the main focus of my tank and my interest with the tank is really the plants/aquascape.
<I see.>
Note that I'm *not* deliberately trying to get pH low; the acidic pH has been a side effect of me bubbling in CO2 from a yeast-based system into my tank (about 25 gallons). The CO2 I had going in there creates so much carbonic (I think?) acid the pH just drops.
<By definition, any CO2 dissolved water forms carbonic acid.>
I hate the idea of giving up on the added CO2, though, because the plants just adore it! I had been using a fine mist airstone diffuser to diffuse the CO2 that was being supplied by two separate 2-L
yeast-and-sugar-solution bottles. I was getting so much wonderful plant growth, the fish were doing fine, so I didn't bother with testing my water for a very long time. Then one day I did decide to test, and was shocked at what I found -- pH of 6!
<But if the fish you have are fine, then don't worry. I wouldn't go out of my way to buy more livebearers, but if the ones you have are okay, why not just leave them be for now?>
Now I have cut back to half of the amount of yeast & sugar solution I use (still have two bottles), and I use a bubble ladder rather than airstone to dissolve the CO2. At night I also run an air pump bubble off some of the excess CO2 while the plants can't use it. I'm getting a pH steadily around 7 now, which I think everyone likes. But I am going to switch to a larger tank soon and remove my hunk of limestone, so the pH may drop again when the buffering capacity provided by the rock decoration is removed. Not sure what will happen.  I may then have to reconsider cutting back once more to try to keep a steady pH of 7. I will miss my dynamic plant growth, though!
<I like the idea of scaling back slowly. Maybe try half the dosage, and see what happens?>
About acidic water hurting livebearers: well, I can tell you that for over a year, I only had Endler's in my planted tank with lots of CO2 going into it (DIY from yeast and sugar; same setup I described in first paragraph).
Tested for pH one day after it had been running for about a year or so with these conditions. To my surprise, the pH was around 6! But the Endler's, despite being in very acidic water, had been thriving, having babies, doing well.
<All sounds good. Do see above. It's not textbook, and I don't recommend keeping livebearers at pH 6, but if yours are happy, stick with it.>
No diseases, ever. No Ich, nothing. I'm thinking the tougher, closer-to-wild-type guppies can tolerate an acidic pH pretty well. Also, I never had platies, mollies or fancy guppies in my tank during this period.
Just the Endler's. That being said, I don't want the pH to drop so low again, though, just because I know the filter bacteria do better at pH >
6.6. That's why I cut back on the amount of CO2 going into the tank and bought a nice limestone "holey rock" centerpiece to replace the driftwood that had been the previous tank centerpiece.
I will take your advice and continue to avoid mollies. I had a few, but recently gave them away, because I found out through your site that mollies can hybridize with guppies/Endler's, which I was not aware of.
<It isn't common, to be fair.>
I'm pretty certain I will give away or sell off the trio of platies. They are cute and doing well, but are poop factories. Seeing their large strings of poop everywhere isn't aesthetically pleasing to me. I'm thinking of getting more cories and a few Daisy's rice fish (Oryzias woworae).
<Lovely fish. I keep Oryzias melastigma, and they're charming animals, easy to breed and very peaceful. Ricefish are ideal for use in planted tanks.
Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Article suggestion: How to stock a freshwater tank for water that's "in the middle"     10/19/12

Thank you for everything. I do have a tank more around neutral now -- 6.8 to 7.0 pH due to the addition of CO2. As long as I continue to have Endler's/wild guppies, I won't let the pH drop below 6.8 again.
Oh, and some more info I learned from your site: that platies and Corydoras need cooler water.
<For optimal health and maximum lifespan, yes. But they're adaptable species, and provided oxygen levels are high they can do well in averagely warm water up to 26 C/79 F or so. But they're not good choices for tanks maintained at super-warm temperatures for things like Discus, Ram Cichlids, Cardinals or some of the Gouramis.>
The local fish store (not a chain store, btw) told me they'd be fine at 78 deg F (25.5 deg C).
<Indeed. Not ideal, but acceptable for the farmed varieties anyway. I'd be more cautious with wild-caught Platies and Corydoras, especially the less bullet-proof (and more expensive) rare Corydoras species. Corydoras sterbai is the notable exception, doing well up to around 28 C/82 F.>
I'm so glad I found out the truth by reading your site! Take care, and I will definitely keep reading, thank you.
<Glad to help and thanks for the kind words. Cheers, Neale.
Re: Article suggestion: How to stock a freshwater tank for water that's "in the middle"    10/31/12

Hi Neale and WWW Crew,
You've been so kind in answering my questions thus far. Now I have a new one. I hope you don't mind me consulting you again, please!
<Go ahead.>
I'm setting up a new planted tank -- 20" x 20" by 20", 34 US gallons. Yes, I know the footprint isn't optimal as far as fish are concerned-- it's more for human aesthetics. But I'm planning to only keep small fish in it and watch my stocking levels.
<Then it'll be fine.>
So, my current plans to stock it in my middle-of-the-road hard water: 12 Daisy's rice fish/Oryzias woworae,
<An excellent choice.>
5-6 peacock gudgeons (Tateurndina ocellicauda; planning on the same number
of or more females than males),
<Should work well.>
and about 12 Corydoras pygmaeus.
<Again, should work, but do watch for aggression between the gobies and the catfish.>
Will keep at 77 degrees F/25 degrees C with minimal current, 25% per week water changes, lots of plants. I plan to feed mostly with frozen foods, but I am also going to try culturing Daphnia moina to occasionally supplement them with live food.
<All good.>
So, I read everything on your site that you had about the Peacock Gudgeon, which I have never kept before. I realize they like softer water, so I plan to do regularly do 25% RO for their water. I also read that they might be stressed by other bottom dwellers that are larger and active, so Neale (I think) recommended only keeping them with dwarf cories.
<Yes. Peacock Gudgeons are shy but not especially delicate. I've kept them with Corydoras without problems, but the males are territorial, so you will need space for the gobies as well as space for the catfish. In a 30-odd gallon tank this shouldn't be a problem, and in any case, the "pygmy" Corydoras species tend to be more midwater fish than anything else, especially if kept in a good-sized group.>
So I currently have 6 Corydoras panda. I was planning on selling my C. pandas and getting C. pygmaeus in keeping with that advice. I realize C. pygmaeus are as much midwater dwellers as bottom dwellers. The Corydoras panda are basically bottom dwellers, from what I've seen. BUT, the C. pandas just spawned in my tank! So they like the conditions I'm keeping them in, obviously.
<Quite so.>
So are the C. pandas small enough that they would be OK with the Peacock Gudgeons?
<Yes, in a tank this size.>
Or would their high activity level confined mostly to the bottom stress the Gudgeons out too much?
<Should be fine. Certainly worth trying. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Article suggestion: How to stock a freshwater tank for water that's "in the middle"    10/31/12

Thanks again. Actually, after reading a lot online about gudgeons and possible aggressions, I am going to only plan to keep 3-4 peacock gudgeons at most, with at most two males. They will have plenty of plants and caves to hide in, though.
<Real good. I kept mine in a "freshwater reef tank" with various shrimps and snails, and they worked out great. Have fun! Neale.>

more questions on Suitable fish for my 55 to 75 gallon to be.    10/7/12
I was at my local fish shop- world of fish. and saw a bunch of Corydoras catfish species I wanted info about. Plus a Rasbora species that I think would look great with the angelfish. here are the Corys
<Was something attached…? Nothing came through.>
Cory neon orange stripe- do not know the scientific name, but it had a reddish orange stripe going down its flank, looked natural but wanted your input. not dyed or anything. Probably a new import of Cory catfish. I really like this one.
<Corydoras sp. "Neon Orange Laser" is fairly widely traded. It appears to be similar to the Bronze Corydoras (Corydoras aeneus) and can be kept in the same way.>
The Cory you suggested- Corydoras sterbai although the specimens didn't look the best.
<Corydoras sterbai is the "Corydoras of choice" for any aquarium where the water temperature is between 24-28 C/75-82 F. If your water is cooler, 22-25 C/72-77 F, then choose any other species that appeals.>
Cory loxozonus
Corydoras melini
Cory gossei
Cory duplicareus
and finely pork chop Rasbora hergeli, they looked too small to put in with the manacapuru angels though.
Please give me detailed information about theses Cory species including which ones you'd recommend for my tank/how many/etc.
<Hmm… do visit PlanetCatfish.com for specific details on each Corydoras. For the most part though, they're all very similar, and happy in water that isn't too hard and where the temperature is between 22-25 C. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: more questions on Suitable fish for my 55 to 75 gallon to be.     10/9/12

I saw an interesting catfish, Dianema urostridtum Flagtail. do they need to be kept in groups
<Absolutely. Dianema species are nervous and easily bullied. Keep in groups of 6+ specimens, away from aggressive or nippy fish, and ensure the water isn't hard (aim for 2-12 degrees dH, pH 6-7.5). Water quality must be excellent. On the plus side, they're schooling, day-active, midwater catfish, so really good fun to keep.>
and can they outgrow my tank?
<Dianema are mostly smallish fish. Dianema urostriatum gets to about 12 cm at most, though around 10 cm is more typical.>
I also saw an elephant nose fish at world of fish that I really liked. Not sure on its needs/compatibility with angelfish/catfish.
<Do read on WWM re: Gnathonemus. These fish are "difficult" to keep by the standards of community fish, but once settled can be long-lived, hearty fish with plenty of personality. They are compatible with Angels, but keeping with catfish isn't a good idea because they are difficult to feed.
At the very least, get Gnathonemus feeding first, and if you add catfish, choose smallish species that won't compete for food too strongly, e.g., Corydoras or Dianema.>
Would either of these do well in place/instead of Corys in my 55 to 75 gallon tank with the Angels.
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: more questions on Suitable fish for my 55 to 75 gallon to be.   10/14/12

I went to Aqualand ( pet store) and saw a species of Synodontis catfish, ( any good species for a 75 or 55 gallon that wont outgrow it, can they handle the water manacapuru angels like) and sliver dollars and red hooks ( again are these good tank mates for manacapuru angels?)
<Synodontis generally can be aggressive and some have a reputation for being "fin nippers" (including the otherwise excellent Synodontis nigriventris) so approach with caution. Off the top of my head, I'd be looking at something like Synodontis decorus or S. euptera would be good choices.>
I was told by the fish store employees the slivers and red hooks might nip the angels fins. How many of the Synodontis do you recommend i get/ same with sliver dollars/or red hooks?
<Well, Synodontis are "one to a tank" except for the gregarious species like Synodontis nigriventris. The website Planet Catfish is excellent for establishing the social requirements of these catfish. As for Silver Dollars, given space, you'd want at least 6 specimens. But even your 75-gallon tank would be a bit crowded for that many fish plus the catfish plus a group of Angels. Why not go with something a bit smaller? Silver Hatchetfish for example, or Bleeding Heart Tetras. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: more questions on Suitable fish for my 55 to 75 gallon to be. 10/16/12
here's what I was thinking/decided for the 75 if I can get a tank this big.
2 Manacapuru Angels from angels plus.
a school of Rummynose tetras , perhaps 15 or so.
A single Synodontis feather fin catfish, Synodontis euptera, or if too large a school of about 8 to 9 Corys, warm water ones.
<Corydoras sterbai; an excellent species for use alongside Angels. A group of Dianema can work great, too. If all else fails, Brochis splendens is widely available and inexpensive. It looks like a common Bronze Corydoras, but is bigger, chunkier, and has a longer snout.>
I have some questions How big does Synodontis euptera get?
<Around 20 cm.>
and would it be to much bio load with the angels and tetras full size?
<Assuming robust filtration, no, you should be fine.>
I'm thinking of buying some clay at an art shop and creating some caves after firing/ to put in my tank. will/could it cause issues with the pH or water?
<Plain terracotta ornaments and pots are fine, so provided the clay is the same sort of thing, this should be fine. But I've not tried this out and not heard of anyone else doing it either.>
What kind of filtration should I buy for this tank?
<A big external filter would be the most adaptable option, providing good water current and a range of possible filter media. I happen to like external canisters, but a hang-on-the-back could work too.>
what kind of substrate should i get?, i know Corys like sand but what about Synodontis?
<Corydoras and Brochis really do need sand to look their best, but Synodontis are less fussy. Gravel would work for them.>
keep in mind I'd like to be able to vac the substrate.
<Sand doesn't allow dirt to sink in, so is actually a cleaner substrate, even if it looks messier.>
Should I get an ammonia detector you stick on the glass
<Fun, but not very accurate, and only last a few months.>
or should i just test for ammonia, nitrate/etc.  with test kits?
<The latter, but a properly maintained tank shouldn't need testing more than once a month (if that) once it's matured and settled.>
how often should i test when cycling and after cycling?
<During cycling, test every day or two for the first 2-3 weeks, and then a couple of times per week for the next few weeks. After 6 weeks, you should be fine testing once or twice a month.>
what brand of test kit do you recommend?
<Doesn't matter much. They're all the same chemicals.>
I saw almond leaves at the local beta
shop do you think they would help the mixed tank of angels tetras and catfish or do you think it could be harmful.
<They're fine. But they don't do a whole bunch of anything much in big tanks with big fish. They're really for tweaking water chemistry in small, soft water aquaria.>
what sort/groups of fish should i add first after cycling the Rummynose tetras, the catfish or the angels.
<I'd cycle the tank "fishless" first, then add the catfish after 6 weeks, then the tetras (which are at least relatively cheap, if something goes amiss), and last of all the expensive Angels. Cheers, Neale.>Re: more questions on Suitable fish for my 55 to 75 gallon to be.     10/17/12
Thanks Neal for the help and suggestions. I was wondering instead of a Synodontis or Corydoras, would a royal Pleco as the bottom dweller work out in a 75 with the fish I have listed or would it grow too large?
<Could work. Royal Plecs are nice fish, and while some may get very big in the wild, under aquarium conditions 20-30 cm seems typical.>
I've always wanted one but steered clear because of the price.
<Worth the investment. I have one, bought some 16 years ago, and she's still the star of the aquarium.>
My parents have a 125 gallon tank in their basement,, 6 foot, 18 inch wide and 14 inches high. back from when I used to keep Oscar's. so I guess they wiling it could go live with them when it gets too large. If that doesn't work (assuming it will outgrow the 75 and my parents wont want the fish). I may go with the Synodontis, as then i can just vac the substrate more like I used to.
<Maybe. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: more questions on Suitable fish     10/19/12

Thanks for all your help Neal. I think I'll go for either the Corydoras or the Synodontis. Royal Plecos seem too "poopy"
<They are outstanding fish, but messy, yes. Effectively plant-eaters like cows and horses, and like them, they produce a lot of solid waste (even if they aren't especially demanding in terms of ammonia). Eventually I settled for crushed slate chippings, big slabs of granite, and heavy filtration.>
Assuming I can only set up the 20 gallon I already have/ have to ask permission to get a tank that large/a 75.. Would Rams do okay, not blue rams the other kind that can take harder water,
<Bolivian Rams? Great fish. Also look at Apistogramma cacatuoides, a nice fish available now in some farmed bright colour forms like "Double Red".>
I was thinking of keeping dwarf cichlids in the 20. What dwarf cichlids other than these rams/Kribensis can live in a 20 gallon tank that has a ph of 7.0
<See above. Also look at the Rainbow Cichlid (Herotilapia multispinosa) if you have a bit more space. Looks a bit plain when young, but mated pairs colour up nicely, and they're very adaptable and easy-going.>
What about pearl gouramis
<Pearl Gouramis are nice fish. Usually peaceful, but very occasionally you come across a mean male. Get quite big, 12 cm or so. Cheers, Neale.>

I need something new. Stocking an empty tank 10/3/12
Hi there!
<Hi Jacquie>
 I have been a long time fish keeper and I have had everything from goldfish to piranha to brackish mollies and their numerous babies. 
Unfortunately a wasp got into my tank unnoticed and killed all my fish.  At least that's what I figure did it, they where fine when I fed them earlier that day and the water was perfect. 

Anyhow I have taken the tank down and put it away but I don't feel that I'm done with it.  I would like something weird and interesting.  I have a 30 tall gallon tank and it is beautiful.  I have the heater and all the gear obviously.  Can you suggest a fish/creature (I would be happy with only one in the tank as long as it was really cool) that a not so novice fish keeper like me could enjoy.  I wish there where fresh water octopus cause that would be awesome!
<Well, the problem with that is you will end up with somebody else's idea of what you want.  I'd do two things. First, get your hands on a freshwater fish book with as many species listed as possible, accompanied by photos.
Page through that for a few days with a  pen and pad and write down anything that tickles your fancy. Filter out fish that require conditions a lot different from your tap water and narrow the list down to a handful of candidate fishes, then see if you can find any of them. Secondly, I'd get to know people in the local fish club(s) and see what is being bred locally.  There are bound to be a lot of interesting species that you won't otherwise be able to find easily.>
Thanks, Jacquie
<Hope that helps. - Rick>

Stocking a 50 gallon freshwater tank   9/27/12
I am currently in the process of doing a fishless cycle on my "new to me" 50 gallon tank. I haven't had fish since I was a kid so I consider myself a beginner. I've spent dozens of hours researching what to stock my tank with when it finishes its cycle but I'm still at a loss. Every website suggests different fish for beginners and sometimes the information is conflicting.
I remain confused as to how similar in size fish need to be to live peacefully together. I'm also confused about how many fish my tank should have (and I know this depends on the size of the fish). Lastly, I'm confused about how rapidly some species breed and multiply as I'm ok if the adult fish eat the fry but I don't want my tank to be over crowded with in-bred fish and if I only get males so they don't breed, will they become aggressive?
<Good questions, points... the field of pet-fish keeping is huge...>
I'm hoping you can suggest an ideal way to stock my aquarium.
<... yes: Take your time; rely on no one source, but read a good tome (not the Net) or two... Make up prospective lists and "show them about"... consider a biotopic assortment>
My plan is to make it a planted community tank (but I haven't bought the plants yet).
The tank is 36" wide x 18 " deep x 19" tall (I've been told it is a breeder's tank). I have a Fluval 305 and a Fluval 304 running on it. Two air pumps.
A decent heater. A 36" 78W T5 HO Light Fixture and a glass top. The pH is 7.6 but it's my understanding that it can change after the cycle. I haven't tested the hardness of the water but I do have hard water in my area. My substrate is about 2/3's black fluorite and 1/3 gravel (white and brown).
Looking at your list of "Hardy community fish suitable for beginners" I really liked Platies, Swordtails, Blue Gouramis, and Glassfish. I've also heard that Harlequin Rasbora are active community fish that are fun to watch.
I'd also like a bottom feeder/algae eater to help keep the tank clean <Look into the genus Ancistrus... maybe some Corydoras>
and I've heard that pest snails are common when getting plants so I was thinking of getting an assassin snail.  I'm open to all suggestions but I'd really like at least one colourful species of fish and one active schooling species of fish.
<The small Rasboras, Danios are faves... but/and there are MANY other possibilities. Again, patience; a systematic approach is best here>
Thank you so much!
Jessica L
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Re: Stocking question for tank with Mycobacteria 9/20/12
Hi Rick,
Thanks so much for your help. Yikes. I am in for a long haul, eh? Okay, I don't think it's feasible to move the inhabitants of the big tank and break it all down, so I am going to do the best I can. I have a couple of questions about the treatment protocol you suggest:
<It depends. Are any animals sick right now?>
Preliminarily, is it worth trying just a UV sterilizer first to avoid the more drastic measures of medicating and replacing all media? If the answer is "no," then my other questions are:
<Depends again. Are any animals currently sick? When was the last death?
the UV sterilizer is kind of a finishing touch, not a first line of defense. Shouldn't really need it at all, I just like the additional step.
They are not cheap pieces of equipment.>
1) What antibiotic would you recommend I use? (keeping in mind the Kuhli loach)
<I'd start with erythromycin or tetracycline, whichever you can find for cheaper. I urge you to temporarily relocating the loach during treatment, even if you have to get a Goodwill tank or borrow a tank.>
2) What would the order of treatment be (in other words, which comes first -- UV Sterilizer, filter media change, antibiotics)?
<All at once. I'd change the filter media after a major water change, add the antibiotics per directions and run. You're going to need a large quantity of antibiotic, that's the real disadvantage of treating in your display tank. Don't forget to remove any activated carbon in the filter path. Then, once everything else is running, add the optional UV sterilizer.>
3) Do you recommend a particular UV sterilizer?
<I don't have a preference. Get something on clearance if you can find one at Petco or PetSmart.>
4) Obviously, I am going to destroy my biological filter with all of this.
How should I deal with that during treatment?
<Not necessarily, or not completely. If you have ornaments and gravel there will be some bacteria there to seed a new cycle. To prevent ammonia spikes, you might get some empty filter bags at PetSmart (like 99c each) and a box of ammo chips. Put a scoop of ammo chips into the filter bag and put that into the filter path. Most filters have space for it. Ammo chips are useful for this sort of temporary situation where water changes mid-treatment aren't necessarily the best idea. It's one of the few legitimate uses for ammo chips in my opinion. Test for ammonia daily.>
Thanks again. I know I made a huge mistake not quarantining.
<The most common mistake, even amongst experienced aquarists. My quarantine tanks somehow keep ending up with permanent residents.>
My experience should serve as a cautionary tale. I would have avoided a lot of heartache if I had simply followed best practices.
<Prevention is far easier and a lot cheaper than cure.>
Re: Stocking question for tank with Mycobacteria 9/20/12
I know I am probably testing your patience,
<Back and forth is fully expected for a problem like this.>
 but if I could get one last clarification it would make me feel much better. I get so nervous before doing major stuff to the tank, I always fear I will make a huge mistake and kill everyone.
<Understandable. Sometimes it happens despite doing everything right. If that happens, use it as an opportunity and a learning experience.>
The last death was yesterday.  No one is sick right now. Does you still recommend the antibiotics, new media, uv sterilizer trio?
<At this time, I would just change the filter media, do a major water change, and monitor the tank. At the very first indication of illness, start the antibiotic treatment.  If you do have a UV sterilizer, you can put it in now and leave it in for several weeks, even if there are no obvious illnesses.. I don't know if the cost justifies buying a UV sterilizer just for this, but they are nice to have available as an option.
I store mine in the cabinet 99% of the time, but I did defeat a lingering  string of mysterious illnesses in my 46 gallon tank simply by changing filter media and running UV for 3 or 4 weeks.>
Also, I have a 10-gallon QT set up for future new arrivals that I could put the loach in, however, I cycled it using filter media from the big tank.
Should I treat the QT first, change the filter media in it and then put the loach there while I treat the big tank, or is the risk not so great that it makes a difference?
<If you do the above suggestions, then you may not need to move anyone. If you do have another illness in the big tank, then I would move the loach out and just monitor that tank also.  Just be ready to act quickly if you see signs of illness on any of the fish.>
Again, thank you so much.  I will be making another donation to your wonderful site.
Have a great weekend.
<Good luck>
Re: Stocking question for tank with Mycobacteria 9/20/12
Thank you again. I will update you in a few weeks.
<Good luck - Rick>
Stocking question for tank with Mycobacteria 9/20/12

Happy autumn my wet web friends!
<Still have another day of summer.>
Thank you as always for the wealth of information on your site. It is the only Internet resource I consult.
<Lots of good stuff here, for sure.>
My 72 gallon bowfront has been up and running for 7 months. I was a complete novice and utter fool when I got this tank, and did not quarantine new livestock. I also purchased 9 platies from a big box store soon after setting up the tank. Five died within a few weeks from what I believe was/is Mycobacteria. The ones that survived were doing okay, and had a number of fry that also survived, but a pattern soon developed where one of the males would start harassing one of the females, and a few days later, she would develop Mycobacteria symptoms and die.
<What symptoms? Mycobacteria (aka fish tuberculosis) gets blamed for a lot of things that are actually caused by something else. It's fortunately somewhat rare. Please describe the symptoms and why you believe it's Mycobacteria.>
My belief is that when the fish was healthy, she could fend off the Mycobacteria, but as soon as she got stressed, it "got" her.
<Not uncommon. There's definitely a lingering problem of some kind in your tank.
At this point, only 1 of the original 9 is still alive, and 7 fry have reached maturity. I have 2 males and 6 females.
<This already is a good M/F ratio for livebearers, but regardless, I would not add any fish until you understand what's going on and correct it.>
I would like to get a few more females to spread the love, so to speak, and have found a LFS with good husbandry practices, but is doing so merely a death sentence for the new additions?
<Possibly, unless you correct the problem first.>
I have read on your site that Mycobacteria is present in most all aquariums, but also read that a tank with a Mycobacteria outbreak should be broken down and bleached in order to avoid a recurrence.
<Probably a little of everything is in every tank. Again, why do you think this is Mycobacteria?>
So, can I in good conscience add platies?
<Fix the problem first.>
Would Endler's be a better choice (and would the platy males be interested in them)?
<Anything you add will be at risk. Platy males might be interested in Endler's females if they can't find a female platy.>
Or should I avoid livebearers all together?
<Livebearers are great fishes, so I would never tell anyone to give up on them. That said, tell me about your water parameters, especially temperature, hardness and pH. Livebearers are hard and alkaline water fishes. If you have soft water, there are other steps you should take for the health of your fish.>
Thank you for sharing your expertise.
<Welcome. - Rick>
Re: Stocking question for tank with Mycobacteria 9/20/12

Good morning,
I am sorry that I didn't give you the necessary information in my first email. I have read so many FAQs I should have known better! The first few weeks I had the tank there were some water quality issues, including an ammonia and nitrite spike, because I didn't know about cycling. Since then (the last 6 months), ammonia=0, nitrite=0, nitrate= between 10 and 20.
Also, it was at 77 degrees, 7.4 ph, KH=3, GH=6. When I began researching on WetWeb, I realized the platies need harder, alkaline water, so I began adding Neale's Rift Valley Cichlid mix (Epsom salt, marine salt, and baking soda) until now the KH=5, GH=between 200 and 220 ppm or between 11 and 12 gH degrees, Ph=7.6. The temp is set at 76.5, but during the summer months I couldn't keep it below 78 or 79. I do a 25% water change every week to 10 days.
<All good. After the crisis is resolved, you might experiment with using crushed coral in the filter path to see if you can get a more passive way of increasing the hardness and pH. Not your priority right now.>
In addition to the platies, the tank has zebra Danios, neon tetras, a harlequin Rasbora, a Kuhli loach, and a big Pleco. It is for them that I don't go harder on the water. They seem largely unaffected by the problem, with the exception of two Rasboras, which I will explain. The "post-mortem" on the platies is as follows:
<I see.>
Platy #1 -- died within three days of entering the tank. Crashed on bottom for one night, localized swelling on one side with small amount of "white fuzz" on scales.
<By crashed on bottom, I assume you mean sleeping? White fuzz sounds like a fungus. Given the month between this and the next fish, it might be unrelated.>
Platy #2 -- A month after tank setup, crashed on bottom of tank, fins clamped, flashing. A few days later, internal red "blotch" visible. The next day, localized swelling at site of red "blotch," swimming erratically, laying on side, heavy breathing. Euthanized (using clove oil).
<Possibly an infection of some kind.>
Platy #3 -- One day after platy #2 died, crashed on bottom, flashing, fin clamping. Died days later.
Platy #4 -- One month later, hiding, crashed on bottom, "sickly" color, day later dropsical. Died two days later.
Platy #5 -- Two months after platy #4, platy harassed by male for several days. Started hiding, hanging at top for a few weeks. Stopped eating for four days, became dropsical and died the next day.
Platy #6 -- Around same time, started hanging by filter for a few weeks.
Developed dropsy. Euthanized the next day (a week after #5).
Platy #7 -- Traditional "wasting away" became very skinny over the course of a month. Eyes became "sunken." Turned up dead in tank one morning, two weeks after #6.
Platy #8 -- A month later, harassed by male for few weeks. Started hiding more. Developed slight localized swelling on one side and eyes appeared slightly "sunken." Began swimming erratically, crashed on bottom, laying on side, heavy breathing. Euthanized. As I said, the only other fatalities were two Rasboras. One had a large lesion develop on his side and he got quite skinny before he died. The other had a large white lump appear under the skin near his tail. He developed fin rot and died despite antibiotic treatment in a hospital tank.
<Despite the failed antibiotic treatment, it still sounds like a bacterial infection to me.>
I have concluded that this is some sort of Mycobacteria because it appears to affect only the platies, and, honestly, after hours of research I don't know what else it could possibly be.
<Would eventually impact all residents. Likely a gram-negative infection.>
I am completely open to suggestions as I very much want to correct the problem. All of these platies came from a store where, in my visits since, I have seen many fish with clamped fins, dead fish left in tanks, and other indicia of poor fishkeeping. Also, I am quite sure they were farmed platies, so they may be genetically weak as well.
<Well, almost certainly they were farmed. But chances are it's some kind of gram negative bacteria. Mycobacterial infections are somewhat rare See this article. Discussion of Mycobacteria can be found but searching the document for "tuber" as in tuberculosis. The entire article is worth reading.
I very much appreciate any and all thoughts you might have. I am still trying to make up for initial mistakes, and want to make a healthy tank for all inhabitants. Thank you again. Enjoy the last day of summer!
<First mistake you made as a newbie was not quarantining your animals before putting them into the main tank. Too late for that now. Ideally you would get a culture of the bacteria to get a positive identification whether it's Mycobacteria or something else. Failing that, the odds still are on a gram negative, not a gram positive like Mycobacteria. So, if you can't do a culture, then at this stage, I think you need to do a thorough antibiotic treatment for gram-negative bacteria in the tank (or better yet, in a smaller volume quarantine tank and thoroughly clean the large tank.)
With a lingering problem like this, you want to treat the fishes, you want to get any lingering bacteria out of the water with major water changes (preferably before you add the meds) and completely replace the filter media, since the nasty bacteria can hide in there just as easily as the beneficial bacteria. I bought myself a modest UV sterilizer that I use in this sort of situation. I install it in the tank and leave it running for several weeks. When I'm confident the situation is corrected, I remove the UV sterilizer from the tank and store it. That kills free bacteria in the water. You also want to use medicated food if possible.
I would assume this is not Mycobacteria unless treatment for gram-negative has no effect. In that case, fall back to the Mycobacteria theory, but recognize that it's very difficult to treat. (See the article I linked.)
One other thing: Make sure you are protecting yourself. Always wash your hand with soap and water after working with your tank, and be especially mindful about it in a situation like yours, where the tank is sick. If there is indeed Mycobacteria in the tank, it can be transmitted to you.>

Setting up a tank (stkg.) and fighting chemistry    8/22/12
Hey, thanks very much for providing this site and service. I wouldn't be attempting this hobby otherwise, that's how valuable it is. It's a wonderful gift.
I am setting up my first tank, and am trying to do it correctly. It's a 15 gal "column" (13"x13"x19" tall) with 18 watts of 5500K compact fluorescent light, no fish and no plants yet. I have just started the fishless-cycling process, making my first ammonia addition yesterday to 4ppm. Some Java Moss, Anubias, and Bacopa are due this Friday.
<You don't have much light... the first two species may do okay... if not set too far down/deep in the system. Don't think the Bacopa will live though>
 My trouble, and the reason for this email, is working out the chemistry.
My goal is to have a planted tank with Neons or Cardinals (temp is at fixed 77, non-adjustable heater, so it's right between optimum for the two fish, so I'm not sure what to do), a Ram or two,
<One... not enough surface area for two behaviorally>
some marble Hatchets,
<Mmm, really need more room>
 and a couple of Otos.
<And these... too hard to keep in such a size, shaped system. Look instead to the three or so "dwarf" Corydoras species...>
 My source water is 2dKH, 5dGH, pH 7.2.
<I'd leave this as is>

 I bumped up the KH with baking soda to 5dKH, the GH remained at 5d but the pH jumped to the top of my test kit's range of 7.6. Herein lies the problem; the pH is now way too high for my goal community, but without the baking soda, it's way too soft. I don't want to fight the chemistry, but it seems to be a weird mix of soft and alkaline. I've not read of anyone having quite this issue
<Actually; quite a common situation>
and I'm stumped. I was hoping to get moderately soft and just slightly acidic.
<Will become more acidic w/ time... Again, I'd not modify this water quality directly... the species of Characins you list, the Callichthyids I do, are cultured, more resilient, flexible to a wider-range of water quality>
Peat isn't an option as crystal clear water is mandated by the better half.
What would you recommend here?
Thanks much,
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>
Re: Setting up a tank and fighting chemistry     8/22/12

Thank you very much for your advise.
I can fit higher wattage bulbs in my hood without a problem if needed.
<Mmm, yes... three times the stated wattage is about right>
 I was thinking that the Java fern and Anubias placed toward the bottom would give them lower light, and the Bacopa, which is supposed to get 14" tall, would get more being closer to the light source. Should I try that, or immediately go to 26 watts total?
<Even more if you can>
 I don't plan on CO2 addition, so I'm
concerned about over-illumination. Okay, I'll go with the untreated water.
You don't think the low KH will
cause problems though with pH stability or for the plants?
<The values stated will not. W/ regular partial water changes (weekly) all will be fine>
Only one Ram, got it. I was hoping that the smaller marble hatchets would find enough room, but you think it too small even for these guys?
<Yes.... Gastropelecines are very skittish... need surface area to "get away", feel comfortable>
That's disappointing as I really find not only their looks intriguing, but the evolutionary adaptation they represent fascinating, but I do want to act responsibly.
The Otos would be for algae control, so Corys, though cute, wouldn't really be a replacement. Should I go for Nerite snails and red cherry shrimp instead?
<Good choices>
Sorry about not finding related info. I'm terrible as coming up with searches, though I did find faq's with similar water parameters after reading your reply, by changing my wording. Thanks too, for your patience.
Is it possible that I'm seeing a bump up in pH due to my addition of ammonia to initiate the cycle, rather than actually having alkaline water?
<Mmm, no>
Should I finish that process first before I focus too keenly on the rest of the chemistry?
<I do encourage this, yes... you may well observe a "nicking down" of alkalinity and pH w/ the establishment of nitrification>
Much appreciated,
<Welcome. BobF>

Stocking 70 liter aquarium      8/6/12
Good afternoon WWM crew! I really love your site and have found it very useful so far. I am currently fishless cycling a 2 foot long, 70 liter aquarium. The ph is 8 and i would rather leave it as it is.
I would really like some help with my stocking plan.
The fish I am considering for my tank are 3 electric yellow cichlids,
<Mmm, no... Labidochromis caeruleus need more room>
 3 yoyo loaches and 1 Bristlenose catfish.
<These can go>
 My local fish store tells me this will work fine with my tank size and ph, but I would like a second opinion from someone not trying to make a sale.
If this stocking will not work could you please give me some alternatives?
<Keep reading... maybe including here:
Thank you for all your help
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>
Re: Stocking 70 liter aquarium, FW      8/6/12

Hello again crew, and thanks for the quick reply Bob
Sorry to ask more questions but...
Just to double check, I can have the 3 yoyo loaches and the Bristlenose catfish in the 70 litre tank?
If so can I also have some Kribensis cichlids? Maybe 3 or 4?
<One or two>
Is the stocking level ok? I don't want to overstock... And would these fish all be ok with the ph 8
Once again thanks for all the help
<Keep reading. BobF>
Re: Stocking 70 liter aquarium, FW       8/8/12

Hi again Bob! By the way since I know your name and keep emailing, I should introduce myself. My name is Dom, pleased to meet you (shakes hand)
<Cheers Dom>
Ok, Honestly, I have been driving myself insane waiting for my tank to cycle, and have been researching fish for almost a month to fill the time, but the more I research, the more confused I become.
<Take your time... Oh if we could only "bottle" patience. We'd be zillionaires!>
I know I should be fine with the Bristlenose catfish, because everyone seems to agree that a 60 liter, 2 foot tank is the minimum size for them, and as I said, mine is 70 liters
I know on this website you usually say to measure your nitrates before your weekly water change and anything over 20ppm means you are overstocked,
<And/or under-filtered, over-fed....>
 but I just want a rough idea of whether my tank plan will work I decided to keep about 5 Kuhli loaches instead of the 3 yoyos, as they seem to be better for smaller tanks.
Can I get away with 6 zebra Danios, instead of the Kribensis cichlids.
<Yes and yes>
I think with this stocking I should be fine. At least I hope so! Last email, I promise!
Thanks for your help, yet again...
<Welcome. BobF>

Stocking a 90 gallon, FW w/ Blk. Ghost      7/29/12
Howdy all! Thank you so much for all the hard work you do by keeping us informed. I am currently fishless cycling a 90 gallon tank and am trying to make final decisions about who gets to go on in. The fish that all others revolve around, the centerpiece if you will, is a black ghost knife.
<I see. Now, remember this species comes from fast-flowing, well-oxygenated, not-too-warm waters around waterfalls and riffles. So you want species that enjoy current and don't mind turbulence. BGKs are easy to keep when small, but become steadily more difficult to maintain as they age, so what you don't want are fish that will respond badly to extra powerheads or other sources of water current. Equally important is the large size of adult BGKs; even if they aren't especially predatory, they could scare small, nervous fish. Conversely, BGKs are very sensitive to nippy and aggressive fish, so tankmates should be robust but placid.>
The others I'm thinking about going with it are 5 Denisoni Barb (Puntius denisonii),
<An excellent choice. While Puntius denisonii do prefer cool water, 15-25 C, at 24-25 C they'd be good companions for BGKs.>
1 African Butterfly Fish (Pantodon buchholzi),
<A bad choice; comes from still water and dislikes current.>
5 glass catfish (Kryptopterus minor),
<Doesn't like very strong water currents either, but if there's a gentle area in the tank, it might do okay.>
and here's where the list gets more in the air 5 silver hatchets (Gasteropelecus sternicla),
1 female golden gourami (Trichogaster trichopterus), 1 female blue gourami (Trichogaster trichopterus), (Not sure if 1 would be better or 3)
<Gouramis prefer still water, so not a good choice.>
and finally I also really enjoy the Leopard Bushfish (Ctenopoma acutirostre).
I wasn't really considering the gouramis until recently because my husband and I went to the fish store together and he said he liked the fish but the tank seemed to be lacking in color.  Anyway can you advise me as to which mix works well? The two I like best are the ghost knife and the Denisoni.
The water perimeters seem fairly close in range, but I'm worried about those gouramis and if the butterfly fish will bother the hatchets. Not to mention I'd rather not overstock the tank in general.  If the gourami isn't a good match what other colorful fish might you recommend? Thanks so much!
<Do look at fish from the same "flowing stream" environment as Apteronotus albifrons; for example Corydoras catfish, certain dwarf cichlids (Nanochromis, Steatocranus), most Barbs and Danios (look at the bigger species, which can be gorgeous), or Barilius spp "Hillstream Trout" if you don't keep the tank too warm, even Swordtails though these do prefer hard water so may not be ideal. If you're up for a challenge, Geophagine cichlids could work really well, many are quite colourful (e.g., Satanoperca leucosticta or the excellent Geophagus altifrons) though they are sensitive to water quality, especially nitrate levels above 20 mg/l, but then so are BGKs. Cheers, Neale.>

Rising ph with black gravel    7/15/12
I have recently setup my new 55G tank and I am using black gravel - I have done the tests on it with vinegar and nitrate bottle #1 and it does bubble on both tests - my query is I know it is causing my ph to rise but by how much I don't know - in the last 5 days it has gone up from 7.4 - 7.65 - will the rising stop or is it going to be a continual rise
<Can't tell on the basis of the information presented... but not likely much more>
 - other tests show
GH 7
KH 6
Nitrate - 0
Nitrite -0
Ammonia - 0 - .25
Phosphate - well over 10

caused by Seachem neutral regulator - I tried this on recommendation from LFS to no avail - I am going to run Phos guard to get it back down - how can I maintain a steady ph without it fluctuating up and down -
<Mmm, not hard to do... likely the gravel will dissolve at some rate to maintain pH in the sevens...>
if I have water treated down to ph 6.5
<How and why?>
 and add it with the gravel will it rise by a certain amount (.75 ph) or will it raise to a certain ph (7.7)?? I hope all this make sense :) - I have 2 large pieces of driftwood in the tank and may run Eheim peat in a filter to see what effect it has - fish are 8 Serpae tetras 8 head and tail light tetras 10 cardinals 2 clown loaches 2 bristle nose cats 4 Sterba Corys 1 Redtail black shark 2 Bolivian butterflies 3 Kribensis 4 silver sharks 6 rummy nose tetras - all very small fish at the moment - am I correct in saying I need to lower the KH to be able to make any change in the ph?
<Mmm, well; this is quite an eclectic mix... the loaches and minnow sharks like harder, more alkaline water... the small characins softer and acidic... In a perfect world I'd suggest you set up another tank and separate the two groups (there's going to be trouble compatibility wise in time anyway), and seek out other black gravel (there are some that are chemically inert...) and keep the two groups separately>
Thanks in advance
<Welcome. Have you read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwph,alk.htm
and the linked files above?
Bob Fenner>
Re: Rising ph with black gravel    7/16/12

> Hi Bob - thanks for the quick reply -
> I have recently setup my new 55G tank and I am using black gravel - I
> have done the tests on it with vinegar and nitrate bottle #1 and it
> does bubble on both tests - my query is I know it is causing my ph to
> rise but by how much I don't know - in the last 5 days it has gone up
> from 7.4 - 7.65 - will the rising stop or is it going to be a continual rise
> <Can't tell on the basis of the information presented... but not likely
> much more> << *Will monitor for the next few days and see - I have been
> told by one place it will keep rising and then another said it will rise by .5 ph??>>*
<<Can't tell... but doubtful... was/is this a marine-system-intended substrate?>>
>  - other tests show
> GH 7
> KH 6
> Nitrate - 0
> Nitrite -0
> Ammonia - 0 - .25
> Phosphate - well over 10
> <!?> << *I was told that Seachem neutral regulator has caused the phosphate to rise??>>*
<<Ahh, yes; this will do it... many are phosphoric acid-based>>
> caused by Seachem neutral regulator - I tried
> this on recommendation from LFS to no avail - I am going to run Phos
> guard to get it back down - how can I maintain a steady ph without it fluctuating up and down -
> <Mmm, not hard to do... likely the gravel will dissolve at some rate to maintain pH in the sevens...>
> if I have water treated down to ph 6.5
> <How and why?> -* <<for testing purposes only using ph down>>*
<<I see>>
>  and add it with the gravel will it rise by a certain amount (.75 ph) or
> will it raise to a certain ph (7.7)?? I hope all this make sense :) - I
> have 2 large pieces of driftwood in the tank and may run Eheim peat in
> a filter to see what effect it has - fish are 8 Serpae tetras 8 head
> and tail light tetras 10 cardinals 2 clown loaches 2 bristle nose cats
> 4 Sterba Corys 1 Redtail black shark 2 Bolivian butterflies 3
> Kribensis 4 silver sharks 6 rummy nose tetras - all very small fish at
> the moment - am I correct in saying I need to lower the KH to be able
> to make any change in the ph? <<*Is this correct about lowering the KH??>>
<<Likely so... put another way, lowering pH (in a few ways) will lower kH>>
> <Mmm, well; this is quite an eclectic mix... the loaches and minnow sharks
> like harder, more alkaline water... the small characins softer and
> acidic... In a perfect world I'd suggest you set up another tank and
> separate the two groups (there's going to be trouble compatibility wise in
> time anyway), and seek out other black gravel (there are some that are
> chemically inert...) and keep the two groups separately> *<<I am working
> on a second tank setup at the moment to split the groups - the LFS here in
> Melbourne Australia said all these species would be fine in my current
> setup - I showed them the full list before purchasing and two reputable
> shops gave the ok - I am not sure if the locally captive bred fish here are
> more tolerant of water conditions but there have been no issues in my tank
> thus far and all appear to be healthy and happy??>>*
<<They may be more tolerant given captive production, but will not prove compatible w/ growth. BobF>>

Another check in     7/5/12
Hello crew,
I'm in the process of consolidating my stock and trying to improve their habitat.
Apologies in advance for so many questions! I currently have whittled down to a 75 gallon tank with an Aquaclear 110 and TopFin 60 filter. I have a Jack Dempsey ( 9" ~ 6yrs), ‪Pterygoplichthys pardalis‬ (14", 8yrs), Albino Longfin Ancistrus (5", 3yrs), Leporacanthicus cf. galaxias ( 5", 3yrs), and a Panaque nigrolineatus (4", 3yrs). I think that I'm bordering on overstocking and will definitely need a bigger tank as the Plecs grow.
<Yes. The Pterygoplichthys, Panaque and Leporacanthicus are big fish and messy with it too, and by itself any one of them would make a 55-gallon tank very messy (and I speak from experience here!). Furthermore, these can be quite territorial fish (sometimes fatally so).>
For now everyone gets along just fine, there's plenty of hiding spaces. My water levels are all adequate, 0 Ammonia, 0 Nitrites, about 7.0 pH, and 5 ppm for Nitrates. I have several questions. First, I'd like to start dabbling in planted aquaria. From researching it seems that just about everything would be gobbled up except for floating plants.
<Correct. Panaque view all plants as food or at least a grazing surface, and they can damage even things like Java Fern and Anubias. Pterygoplichthys are not strongly herbivorous, and uproot rather than eat plants, but that doesn't stop them being very damaging. Leporacanthicus are more carnivorous, but again, in their nightly perambulations they quite happily uproot any plant not very securely rooted into place.>
Will floating plants be ok and what is a good starter?
<Yes; floating plants are ideal with all three species.>
I'd like to use natural light, my aquarium is in an area that receives a decent amount of daytime light. Is it possible to do this without adding more lights?
<Yes, but it will depend on how much light. Tropical plants are "hard wired" for a certain amount of light, 10-12 hours, and a fair intensity too.>
It seems a lot of "old school" aquarists used natural light to grow their plants.
<Yes, as have I. It works great if you have enough light.>
I just have the standard fluorescent.
<Do try Indian Fern ("Water Sprite") and Amazon Frogbit; they're both tolerant of middling lighting and, crucially, don't grow far above the waterline, so they're happy under standard aquarium hoods -- something not true about things like Salvinia.>
Next, I got a powerhead (Aqueon 950) to try and provide more water movement. I've tried placing it on the top and bottom of the tank, but they seem to enjoy the bottom better, especially the Royal.
<This is what they do, the nature of virtually all Loricariidae.>
Is this a good add for the tank and will one placement benefit filtration more than another? Lastly, once these guys are full grown, will a 135 gallon suffice provided there is a serious gallon per hour turnover?
<Should do, though the poor JD will be near the bottom of the heap, with only the Ancistrus below it. I've kept Ancistrus with Panaque, and while they shouldn't get along, they did. But keep a close eye on them both.>
Thanks so much for your time and dedication to our wet friends!! - Craig
<Cheers, Neale.>

Starter Fish    6/16/12
Dear Wet Web Media Crew,
It's been a long time since I owned a fish and I'm looking for a good starter fish that can live alone and still be healthy and happy. I would like something that is relatively low maintenance and I was wondering if you guys could help me out. I've been reading around on the internet, but who knows what to believe? I trust you guys to know what you're talking
about. So, if you could email me back with some ideas, that would be great!
<Uhh, what type of system (fresh, marine...), size system? BobF>

90 gallon freshwater aquarium stocking   3/30/12
Hi crew,
I just received new 90 gallon aquarium (48*18*24). Before starting buying fish, I have few questions to you about stocking. I like fish from Congo river. At the same time I want to have planted and lightly stocked tank. So my plan is:
1)      Congo tetra of course (about 8-10)
<Nice fish.>
2)      Ctenopoma acutirostre (2)
<Also lovely.>
3)      Synodontis flavitaeniata  (about 6)
<Can be territorial, but in a tank this big, and this many of them, they should get along fine.>
4)      Xenomystus nigri (1)
<Another excellent choice, and by far the best Knife in the trade.>
What do you think about this stocking?
<Sounds very worthwhile. Colourful tetras, characterful perch, and some oddball cats and knives.>
Is it to many or to little?
<Oh, you could probably keep 50-100% more fish in this tank if you really pushed things, but the flip side is under stocking results in a more naturalistic appearance, and some of these fish can get big.>
I have 2 Eheim 2117 Classic filters (about 530gph for both). Is it enough for this size of the tank and this kind of fish?
Is it possible to replace Xenomystus nigri with some kind of cichlids?
<For sure. Any of the Pelvivachromis species would work, for a start.
Hemichromis would be a risk though, so I'd skip those. A single harem of the Pseudocrenilabrus species could work too, such as the very colourful Pseudocrenilabrus nicholsi, but these are feisty and they're also quite small fish, so be careful to buy them at sizes too large for the predators.
Chromidotilapia guentheri is bigger and a fascinating fish.>
Any suggestions? I also prefer not to use cover for this tank. Are any of these fishes jumpers?
<Well, virtually all cichlids are jumpers, and Climbing Perch by their very nature tend to leave open tanks given the chance. I'd not trust Knifefish either, because they throw themselves at the water's surface when quickly breathing in a gulp of air. I'd be very, very wary about going "topless" when keeping this sort of community.>
Thank you for your help,
<Cheers, Neale.>

Aquarium planning, please help... FW stkg.      3/13/12
Hello, I am not entirely sure if I am sending this message to the right place... but here goes,
<Fire away.>
My boyfriend is planning on setting up a 45 gal/ 171 L aquarium.
<A nice size.>
I myself had no idea what I was doing at first (5 years ago when my parents bought me my 170 L tank), now however my fish tank is going fine and I am trying to help him chose the right products and fish for his own aquarium, so that he will avoid disasters such as what happened with my aquarium and his mothers aquarium.
<Real good.>
With my help he has chosen fish that he thinks he would like and have the best chance of being OKAY in his aquarium, these are; 8 neon tetras,
<Soft, cool water required here.>
1 red tailed black shark,
<Aggressive; would avoid to be honest, given the other fish are all small and sensitive (in terms of personality).>
10 crystal red shrimp (S+ V-Band),
<Goby food.>
3 Bumblebee Goby (fresh water species).
<Can do well in freshwater, but not all species do, and telling different BBG species apart is hard (and your retailer hasn't a clue -- trust me on this). The bigger problem though is feeding. These fish are EXTREMELY difficult to feed in anything other than a small, single-species (or at least slow feeder) aquarium. In a tank this size, small Gobies aren't really a sensible choice. They're too difficult to see, and that means feeding them is difficult, and they'll basically starve if they can't find their own food.>

Is this a good number of fish? or too many?
<I wouldn't expect this to work for long.>
I have done some research surrounding all the species, which enabled me to create a table in excel (which is attached to this email message). I found the dH (hardness) to be a issue, as the tetras (1-2 dH) and gobies (12-18 dH) seem to have requirements that outlie the rest.
<Correct. The BBGs aren't too fussy, but hard, alkaline water is probably best. But the Neons really don't live long in hard water, and the quality of Neons in the trade is dismally low anyway.>
I ultimately decided that a dH of 6.5 would be the best... If and only if:
it wont cause the tetras to die, or the gobies to die.
<Quite so. Would think again.>
Will it cause death or stress, not sure what to do here?
I have also made a list of 'things needed' as well as products and a 'check list'
45 gal Tank: N/A
45 gal Stand: N/A
Filter: Marineland Emperor 400 Filter System 400gph (80 gall) Is this good?
Filter media: Fluval BioMax filter+media (ceramic cylinders), Seachem
matrix, aqua one carbo pad, aqua one zeo pad, AquaOne Phos pad
Light: Need Help, so hard to chose
UV Sterilizer: Is it good to have?
Heater: N/A
Plants: Not researched or picked yet...
Substrate: Eco complete x4 (more or less)
Fertiliser: wonder shells, need help choosing more fertilizers
Fish: 8 tetras, 1 black shark, <<Will get VERY large. RMF>> 10 crystal red shrimp (S+ V-Band) , 3
Bumblebee Goby.
Fish food: Live Blackworms, Live Fly larvae, Poached Cucumber, Frozen Bloodworms, Frozen Brine shrimp, Bottom Feeder Pellets, Spirulina.
Co2: DIY, Diffuser
Test kit (pH, Nitrite No2, Nitrate No3, Ammonia NH3/4, )
Extra tests (Phosphate P04, Calcium, Magnesium Mg, Hardness gH, Carbonate Hardness KH, Potassium, dH)
RedOx test: Methylene blue or RedOx meter
Hardener: How do I adjust the hardness?
Prime: N/A
Thermometer: N/A
Cycle product: What cycle product can I use? Or could I use dead bait?
(don't want to use fish food because I have heard it has a lot of mercury?)
<Flake food works fine. If you have another aquarium, why not clone the filter? Remove 50% of the media from the mature filter, and add to the new filter. Add a few fish straight away, and you should be okay, assuming both aquaria have the same water chemistry, temperature.>
trimming scissors: N/A
Scrubber: N/A
Bucket: N/A
water sucker: N/A
Drop checker (for Co2): How could I get one of these?
<CO2 test kits will be available wherever high-end planted aquarium gear is sold. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Aquarium planning, please help... stkg. FW ...    3/14/12
Thank you!
<Most welcome.>
I knew there were some issues, wasn't sure if they were that detrimental...
My boyfriend originally wanted a shark like mine, because he/she is very fun to watch chase my cat fish and my angel fish,
playfully of course, and in general the fish has wonderful charisma. I have 10ish Bristlenose catfish; which seem to be cross something? because of the white tail tips, 1 angel fish and 1 albino shark, which I recently discovered is a albino rainbow shark.
<Indeed. Not to my taste, but each to their own!>
Too many uncertainties with the shark though unfortunately... just the possible aggression, and may eat other fish. I did at one time have over 100 baby catfish in the aquarium and a few tiny ones were picked off by the angel fish, I never actually saw the shark eat any.
Anyway, I have rechosen the fish because there were just too many issues:
10 cherry shrimp
<Are very small, may well be harassed by any fish substantially larger… But good with very small fish (Neon-sized and smaller) or exceedingly non-aggressive types such as Whiptail cats, Otocinclus, Kuhli Loaches, Dwarf Corydoras...>
1 Siamese algae eater
<Are gregarious… better in groups of 5+, if you have the space.>
4 zebra Oto
1 dwarf Gourami
<Junk species.>
6 harlequin Rasbora
<Nice; do need softish water to do well.>
Is this selection much better than the other one?
will the Siamese algae eater and Gourami be lonely?
<Yes to the first; no the second.>
temp at 24 C be good?
<Bit cool for most Gouramis, but better/hardy species, like Banded Gouramis, will be fine.>
7 pH good?
and hardness in-between 5-15? what number should I aim for?
<All good for fish that don't need either hard water or very soft water. Around pH 7, 10 degrees dH, is great for most Southeast Asian and South American community species. Would be a bit soft for Central American livebearers. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Aquarium planning, please help...   3/14/12

Thanks again,
<Most welcome.>
Oh I forgot, I also have 2 Kuhli loaches, I originally thought they would be good for my boyfriend's tank but changed my mind, because
1. they are nocturnal
2. need more than 5 (or 5)
3. they are scaleless and hard to treat with medications.
<Yes, yes, and sort-of. Nonetheless, excellent community fish, and probably the best loaches for community tanks, provided you understand their limits.>
Is a UV steriliser a good idea for my boyfriend's tank?
<Not really, no.>
and what do you mean by junk species? are the dwarf Gourami and Oto bad in some way?
<Farmed Dwarf Gouramis are plagued with diseases; Otocinclus need somewhat cool, well-oxygenated water and an aquarium with lots of green algae -- most Otocinclus end up starved or suffocated within a year. Do review these
species here on WWM and elsewhere. With Colisa lalia especially, you'll find a lot of messages about sick, dying specimens:
Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Aquarium planning, please help... stkg., FW     3/16/12
Ok thanks, I read both the links and due to some enlightenment, decided that Gouramis aren't the best...
Such a shame though because they are quite beautiful fish.
<Gouramis generally are fine; it's the Dwarf Gourami that's the worthless fish unless you can get locally bred specimens, or at least specimens that aren't from Southeast Asian fish farms. The Banded Gourami and the Thick-lipped Gourami are extremely similar and much, much hardier fish.
They're slightly bigger and not quite so pretty, but still attractive fish that work well in community tanks.>
How about Kribensis instead of the Gourami?
It is a cichlid, but I have heard it is peaceful to most fish, however slightly territorial towards other bottom species, which might be dangerous, since the Cherry shrimp, Siamese algae eater and Otto would be down there.
What do you think?
<Kribs will eat the shrimps. They are peaceful except when breeding; pairs breed almost constantly. A singleton would be fine in a community.>
Mmmm damn about the Oto, although would the problem be overcome if:
1. Either 2 of the marine land 400 filters were used, or 1 faster filter that's recommended for a larger gal. threshold (hang over filters is a must, as I have struggled a lot personally with the canister filters)
<Strong water current is antithetical to gouramis and some cichlids, tetras and barbs, so stock accordingly. And what's the problem with canister filters? Hang-on-the-back filters are okay, but they do have some severe shortcomings. The inlet pipe is close to the outflow, and the inlet doesn't usually go right down to the bottom of the tank. Some designs lock you into use proprietary filter "modules" that include worthless media like carbon and don't let you add different types of media from other manufacturers.>
2. Good healthy specimens are chosen and quarantined (not sure how to quarantine, wouldn't it require a whole extra set up basically?) and wormed.
<It's not the quality of the livestock, assuming the Otocinclus aren't starved at the pet shop (often the case). It's feeding them in the aquarium.>
3. Drift wood in the tank, as well as being fed poached zucchini, cucumber and squash 2 times a day, and removing debris of left overs before it decays. (only issue with this is how to keep the veggies from floating up, without using veggie clips: because they are large and bulky, do you know another way of keeping the poached food stable at the bottom?)
<Sinking algae wafers are a good food. Use 1 per 3-4 Otocinclus every other day. This should keep them well fed. Healthy specimens are lively and have convex, slightly rounded bellies. Starving specimens have "hollow" bellies that are rounded inwards, i.e., concave. They often look skinny too, but because of their armour plating, even experts can find it difficult to judge this.>
How would I know if there is enough oxygenation in the tank?
Is there some kind of test that can be conducted to water parameters to check if the oxygen is sufficient?
<Yes, oxygen test kits exist. But freshwater aquarists don't normally need them. Just keep the aquarium modestly stocked and ensure a good water turnover rate, around 8 times the volume of the tank per hour. Internal or external canister filters are generally better than hang-on-the-back filters because you have more flexibility about where the water current will be. But whatever filter you use, make sure there's lots of water movement at the bottom of the tank. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Aquarium planning, please help...    3/16/12

Oh I see,
In that case a normal banded Gourami would be good?
<So long as the Banded Gourami is Colisa fasciata, then yes, that's an excellent, if a trifle boisterous, species well suited to medium to large community tanks. But plain vanilla Dwarf Gouramis, i.e., standard Colisa lalia, have the same blue-red bands, so not every banded Gourami is a Banded Gourami, if you see what I mean.>
or would u recommend another fish?
<Most of the other Gouramis are excellent fish. Lace Gouramis and Moonlight Gouramis are two favorites. Honey Gouramis are excellent provided you have soft/acid water conditions (they don't do well in hard water). Three-spot Gouramis are hardy and available in many colour forms -- blue and yellow being the two most popular -- but the males are aggressive. It's really the Dwarf Gourami you need to avoid, including all its varieties -- Neon, Cobalt Blue, Powder Blue, Sunset, Robin, etc. The stock on fish farms in Southeast Asia are plagued with a nasty viral infection, and even those that aren't infected are very prone to Mycobacteria infections. Locally bred ones though can be worthwhile, especially if you have warm, soft, slightly acidic water.>
I don't mind if its not as pretty because if they stand out too much it would detract from the beauty of the environment I guess.
<Quite so. There's a balance to be struck. Something very vivid like a bright red "coral" Platy is nice in a formal aquarium arranged with plain rocks or ceramic ornaments, but in a planted tank it looks unnatural, and it makes regular-looking fish seem bland. On the other hand, Cherry Barbs have gentle shades of peach (females) and ruby-red (males) that look superb against the greenery of a planted aquarium.>
Would a single Gourami be okay alone and would all the fish tolerate the current from say another MarineLand emperor 400?
<Single Gouramis are fine. Most community fish do well with turnover rates between 4-6 times the volume of the tank per hour. So review the turnover rate (i.e., gallons/hour or litres/hour) for your filter, and if it's 4-6 times the volume of your aquarium, you're fine.>
the fish are:
1 Banded Gourami
10 Cherry Shrimp
6 Harlequin Rasboras'
4 zebra Oto
4 Siamese algae eaters
(45 gall aquarium)
Well I research the filters that interest me and make sure they have enough space and allow for filter media to be placed inside I don't like external ones because they are hard to clean, the pipes get dirty, they are annoying to place and to move and are heavy.
<Can be true for some of the older styles. But the flip side is the clean a LOT of water, and the modern filters from the likes of Fluval and especially Eheim are very much easier to use. I clean mine 2-3 times a year, which is much less often than many would recommend, but really, these filters are largely trouble-free. But it's horses for courses, to be
also hang on ones can be up to $100 cheaper or more.
<Perhaps. But again, do bear in mind a good Eheim filter will last 10, 15, 20 years.>
They are easy to access and change the filter media as well as clean and the inlet and outlet areas are easy to adjust, compared to the canister filters.
<Real good.>
Ok thanks again, I will look at more fish types and see if there's cat fish that are easier than the Oto, and aren't destructive or produce a lot of waste, like my catfish. I just don't want a complete disaster to happen and believe that as much research should be conducted before actually purchasing fish and products or they might all die. which would be horrible and unfair to the fish.
Some sites I have looked at say that the Siamese algae eaters, gouramis, and even Rasbora will munch on baby shrimp and even adults is this true?
<Most any fish will try and eat shrimps given the chance. My shrimps breed like crazy with fish of similar size, such as Ricefish, and those that can't eat big prey, like Whiptails. On the other hand, if your tank has lots of plants and much shelter, the shrimps may survive.>
Should I change fish selection again?
<In all honesty, unless you really want shrimps, forget about them. Shrimps work in tanks with tiny tankmates: Ricefish, Dwarf Corydoras, Neons, Dwarf Rasbora, Endler's Guppies. Anything bigger than these isn't going to be sensible.>
Not sure what could be chosen instead of them since they are probably the most non aggressive species and such.
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Aquarium planning, please help... FW stkg.     7/14/12
Hi! Thanks for helping me before. Im not sure if you still answer these but incase, My boyfriend ended up deciding to not get the large aquarium partly because someone else got it first and because he would not have enough room. So he bought me a 60L aquarium but turns out Im not allowed to have it. So he is going to have it. I was wondering if this would be ok. Its 60L.
<15 US gallons; not a huge amount of space, so be careful.>
It will be fully cycled by the way. It will also have drift wood and medium planting. (mini Anubias, certain ferns, moss)
DYI Co2 and fertilisers.
<You won't need CO2 for these slow growing plants, and go easy with the fertilisers or you'll have a lot of algae to deal with.>
1 Female Gold Mickey Mouse Platy
1 Female Red Wag Platy
1 Male Fancy Guppy
1 Red Honey Gourami
4 Kuhli Loaches.
<Doable in 60 litres/15 US gallons but tight. Keep up with water changes.
Provide good biological filtration. Temperature will be an issue because Platies don't like warm water above 25 C/77 F, whereas Gouramis do, so you'll either be a bit warm for one species or a bit cool for the other. 25 C should work okay for both though, but do ensure plenty of oxygen for the Platies, especially if they look like they're breathing heavily or otherwise looking stressed. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Aquarium planning, please help...    7/15/12

Thanks Neale :D
Yeaah I know it is pushing it, I was trying to have as many Kuhlis as possible, because I know they like groups.
<For sure.>
I decided not to have the Kuhlis, because really the tank is too small, and ideally Kuhlis should be with 6+ in a 30 gal tank,
and since there was only going to be 4, there was a risk of them not really being seen.
<This really is one species you can pretty much guarantee you won't see much either way! If you want a small, oddball bottom-dweller, then why not try a Whiptail? They're hardy, funky-looking, do well in small tanks, and don't hide much.>
I also found out that platys are messy and should be in 15+ gal tank - is what people said anyway.
Plus since you also said their temperature isn't compatible.
So the new selection is,
1 Red Honey Gourami
2 Male Fancy Guppies (probably of different colors)
2 Crystal Red Shrimp V type with S band
2 Crystal Yellow Shrimp V type with S band
<All sounds good.>
I would also like to have maybe 2 more fish, like celestial pearl Danios?
<These do need bright, clear, oxygenated water -- not really what Gouramis want.>
Would that be over stocking? Im not sure if each shrimp counts as 1 fish in bioload or what…
<Not quite, but so long as you understock with fish, you can pretty much have as many as you want. Get six, and they'll breed anyway, and reach a sort of "carry capacity" in terms of food and space.>
If its not over stocking, would the celestial pearl Danios be good? Should I have more than just 4 shrimp?
Any ideas on other fish I could add, that would be ok with only 2?
<Let me tell you what I have in my two small tanks. In one 60-litre tank there's a male Dwarf Gourami, a school of 10 Threadfin Rainbowfish, a Whiptail, and countless Red Cherry Shrimps. In the other there's a school of 6 adult Ricefish (Oryzias dancena or Oryzias melastigma) and even more Cherry Shrimps, plus any number of Ricefish juveniles. Do look, for example, for Oryzias woworae, one of the new mini fish in the hobby, a lovely Ricefish species, easy to keep and undemanding. Would get along great with, for example, a school of Pygmy Corydoras. Ricefish come from pools and ponds, so they aren't fussy about water current, making them great companions for Gouramis. They're also very unfussy about water chemistry, which makes them even better value. >
Thank you again :)
<Cheers, Neale.>

question... FW stkg.    3/5/12
Hi ,I have a 30 gallon with no salt ,bamboo, sand, a Madagascar rainbow fish,
<Get more of these first -- they are schooling fish, keep 5+ specimens.>

an albino bristle nose Pleco, banjo cat, and African butterfly fish
<This will eat most small shrimps and suchlike.>
I would like to get something other than a fish (invertebrate or amphibian)
what would you recommend
<I would not.
Amphibians shouldn't be kept with fish at all, with possible exception of Dwarf Aquatic Frogs that can, with very great care, be kept with tiny community species like Neons. Among invertebrates, shrimps will be eaten by the Butterflyfish, unless the shrimps are rather big, but then your problem becomes keeping the shrimp from eating the fish! Fan Shrimps are big, but a real pain to feed, so would not recommend them. Crayfish are far too predatory, though a Dwarf Crayfish (Cambarellus patzcuarensis) might just avoid being eaten by the Butterflyfish (I wouldn't chance it though!). Snails are the obvious option, with the bigger species such as Tylomelania being fun to watch and rather exciting animals in their own way. Apple Snails aren't easy to keep, so avoid them. Clams die, so avoid them too. Crabs are much too destructive and the ones traded are amphibious and often brackish water anyway, so don't belong in fish tanks. When all is said and done, I'd recommend choosing one more fish species to get along with the ones you have, perhaps a personality species such as a Gourami or a Dwarf Cichlid.>
Sincerely Aaron
<Hope this helps, Neale.> 
Re: question     3/6/12
About the rainbow he kind of likes to be solitary
. When I first got him I had another rainbow with him (I inherited him when my uncles tank sprung a leak) he always nipped and bothered the other, 4 days later I found the smaller one's corpse in a corner with the other still rainbow nipping at it.
<This is what happens when you keep fewer than six. The dominant male becomes a bully. Whether or not he killed the other is hard to say, as most fish will peck at corpses if they're hungry.>
I have put him with Opaline gouramis (one of which died in an earthquake) and a dwarf Gourami. he didn't seem to like them and often chased them to the bottom. However, he and the butterfly fish seem to get along and swim together. What fish would you recommend (I like oddball fish or invertebrates that standout).
<Do read my last message. Invertebrates aren't really an option, and suggesting fish species is hard without knowing your water chemistry, water temperature, water quality, and personal experience level. Something like a Spiny Eel might work, but they're difficult fish to maintain, and many (most?) die within a year through improper care. Do read:
Pay particular attention to diet and substrate. Slightly brackish water seems to make many Spiny Eels easier to keep.>
Thanks, Aaron
<Cheers, Neale.>

Quick question!  FW stkg.      2/11/12
Hi Neale,
quick refresh on my case,
I had 5 Angelfish
2 striped Raphael Catfish
1 algae eater
I got rid of the algae eater, and one Angelfish since he was very aggressive, gave them back to the aquarist, so I kept my 2 Catfish and 4 Angelfish but he decided to bring 11 Zebra Danio red, without asking, they looked so beautiful so we kept them without doing research (our bad) now, I see my Angels a bit shy and more at the sides of the tank rather than in the middle since the Danios are all over the place, they are making even me nervous!
<How big is the tank? Danios are hyperactive fish. In very small tanks they can bomb around so much they disturb the other fish.>
please advise, my idea is to give back the Danios and keep my 4 Angels and 2 Catfish, and that's it.
<Okay. But Danios will settle down in time, if the tank's big enough, and they can, do coexist with Angels once the Angels have got used to them, though Angels do prefer slightly warmer water than Danios.>
My husband wants to introduce a colorful species though that's the issue, what do you suggest? we've read some Bettas adapt to Angelfish, some say not,
<Not a good combo. Has worked, but not reliably so. Angels sometimes nip the long fins of the Bettas. I wouldn't risk it.>
Oh, my tank is 24 gallon, we are thinking to grow it in 6 months when the Angels grow,
<Good Angel companions are species too large to swallow yet peaceful enough not to harass the Angels. Suggested species include X-Ray Tetras, Glowlight Tetras, Lemon Tetras, Diamond Tetras, Bleeding Heart Tetras, Five-Banded Barbs, Cherry Barbs, Harlequin Rasboras, False Penguin Tetras and Dwarf Rainbowfish. Of these, Cherry Barbs are perhaps the easiest "colour bombs" and the way the males scoot about while the females school together makes them very endearing. Platies can work, but they do of course need relatively hard water.>
thanks a lot,
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Quick question! FW, stkg...   2/14/12

Hi Neale,
thanks for your quick and great help!
we might go for the Cherry Barbs one more question, Neon Tetras? too small for the Angels right?
<Depends what you mean by "too small". Neons are the perfect size for a hungry adult Angelfish! In any case, Neons prefer cooler water to Angels, so they're not ideal companions. Cardinals, on the other hand, are that bit bigger and also like warm water (26-28 C) just like the Angels. Cheers, Neale.>

New Tank Suggestions, FW stkg.    1/12/12
Hello All!
I've been out of the fish hobby for a couple of years, but I am going to setup a new tank soon. I had a few questions before I start setting up my tank.
The fish that I would like to keep are as follows:
6 Blue Rams (2 Males, 4 Females ... or 3 of ea. Sex)
<Mmm, how large a system?>
2 pairs of Angelfish
4 dz. Cardinal Tetras
1 or 2 Vampire Shrimp
A dozen or so of ghost shrimp or other small shrimp
Other misc. Clean up crews (fish and inverts)
Would these fish all be compatible?
<Mmm, yes... given room>
I am debating on setting up either a

55gal That I already own, Or purchasing a 120gal instead, but I have not decided yet.
<The 55 would be fine w/ fewer Cardinals... the 120 much better for all>
If they are compatible, what numbers of the listed fish would work in each size tank? (More is ok)
<I'd likely add a few more Angels for the 120... but pairs, reproducing might have to be removed in time>
Also, I am wanting a cleanup crew for obvious reasons; what would you suggest?
<Please read here re: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/scavengers.htm
the linked files at top for review>
Thirdly, I have seen Long Armed freshwater shrimp (?)  on websites. What do you know about them, and would they work in this setup?
<Mmm, am wondering if you're referring to Macrobrachium... if so, no... too predaceous and destructive>
I was planning on having some live plants, wood, and black gravel.
<This "blue lobster" would destroy your plants, eat the fish it could catch>
Do you have any other suggestions/advice outside of the livestock in regards to setting up my tank? (I.e., lighting, filtration, water parameters ... etc)
<All posted, reviewed on WWM. Please learn to/use the search tool on every page... the indices>
I will be setting this up with my income tax money and I want to do it right the first time instead of piece by piece like I did with my first tank, fixing/adding things as I went.
Until then I am reading up on info just to refresh my memory as I have not had to use this info in quite sometime therefore I have not retained as much as I would've liked.
<Re memory: Wait till you're older!>
Thx for all your help and for taking time out of your busy schedules to help all of us out in the fish keeping world. You guys are great. Keep up the good work!
- Nick -
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>
Re: New Tank Suggestions, plus now sourcing Symphysodon     1/12/12

Hello Bob.
Thank you for your response, as I always appreciate your help.
<Welcome Nick>
After more reading, I know the cardinals may become fish food for the angels,
<Can, unless the former are relatively large, and there's space to get away>
 therefore I am considering discus instead. I am aware of their heightened care level and know that if I decide to have them instead of the angels that I will definitely need the 120gal.
Would you be able to recommend somewhere I can purchase them for a reasonable price?
<I am a huge fan of trying to work w/ local breeders, or if there's none reasonably about, local fish stores... Having them special order via contract. Third down the line is ordering them yourself... There are reputable outfits about. A fave is Jack Wattley's (see his site): http://www.wattleydiscus.com/>
Also, I plan on introducing the fish in this order: Cardinals/Inverts, Blue Rams, then the angels/discus. Would this be the right way to introduce them?
Thanks for everything.
<Welcome. BobF>

Please help.... stkg... FW...    1/8/12
I have a 30 gallon tank right now, I am getting ready to upgrade to a 55 gallon tank in a few months. right now I have only 4 zebra Danios and 5 Glofish. I would like to stock more of the same in the big tank with a couple algae eaters, but I do not know how many fish is actually to many.
<In the 30 gallon tank, you could easily have 10 regular Danios and 10 glow fish Danios (they're the same species, by the way, and will school together) together with half a dozen Corydoras plus a couple of Bristlenose Catfish, which would be ideal algae-eating fish for this system. All of these are fish for low-end tropical systems around 22-25 C/72-77 F. In the 55 gallon tank, you could easily double all these numbers across the board.
Indeed, if nitrite and ammonia stayed at zero, you could probably up these numbers in either tank by about 50% of what I've suggested, or else use that extra space for another midwater fish, such as an Acara, low-end tropical cichlids that tend to be rather peaceful, such as the Sheepshead Acara, Keyhole Acara or (in the 55 gallon tank) Blue Acara.>
I do know the rule of thumb an inch of fish per gallon of water, but I also read in this site that that may not be accurate.
<Indeed. The rule makes sense for small fish, but becomes less and less workable the bigger the fish becomes. Think about it this way. An Oscar gets to about 15 inches in length, whereas Neons get to about 1.5 inches in length. By the "inch per gallon" rule, 10 Neons would need a 15 gallon tank, but then so would a single Oscar, and that's obviously rubbish! A better rule, I think, is the 10 square inches per inch of fish length, but even that rule applies to small and medium sized fish up to about the size of Angels.>
I do have anther question, all my fish (zebra Danios and Glofish) they are all said to be top swimmers, but none of mine really are. They all seem to hang around the bottom. They all seem to be in good health as far as I can tell. Is this normal?
<Yes. If you look at Danios, they have short whiskers. Those are for feeding on the substrate, where they snuffle about a bit like catfish. In the wild they do indeed stay mostly at the top except in very shallow streams. But in aquaria without midwater or bottom dwelling fish, it's easy for Danios to "take over" the whole tank. They've been bred in captivity for decades now, so they are more confident than wild Danios, and less easily scared by shady corners that would, in the wild, be places predators might be.>
Thank you in advance for your help
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Please help   1/8/12

Thank you so much for the advice.
<Glad to help.>
I have found it difficult to get good answers from pet stores. So if I am reading this correctly, in the 30 gal. tank I am able to put 20 Danios (Glofish included) and 6 Corydoras plus a couple of Bristlenose
Catfish, then double that in the 55 if I'd like. Is this correct?
<Yes. Obviously don't add all at once, but across a few weeks so the tank (especially filtration) can adapt. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Please help   1/8/12

I am unable to find places that sell the species of fish that you recommended.
<Really? Find that difficult to believe. Not rare fish!>
Any suggestions? Also are all Corydoras the same I have found just a few of these and would want great tank mates for my Danios.
<Apart from the warm water Corydoras sterbai and the very subtropical "Corydoras" barbatus, any of the traded species should do well at 22-25 C/72-77 F.>
I have not been able to find the Bristlenose catfish, are there any other just like it that I could use?
<For some reason pet shops in the US do not seem to recognise this fish and instead sell one or two junk species as "Common Plecos" and the like.
Common Plecos get to 18 inches/45 cm in two years, so even in a 55 gallon tank they're impractical, messy, and vastly destructive. Here in the UK, the Bristlenose is very widely sold, sometimes by its Latin name, Ancistrus, and sometimes as "Bushynose" catfish. They're hardy, easy to keep fish that get to about 12 cm/5 inches in length. They are much, MUCH hardier than the "Dwarf Suckermouth" Otocinclus spp. sold in some pet stores; Otocinclus are delicate, difficult fish, but a group could work in your tank provided you research their needs carefully, specifically their needs for algae, a school of their own kind, and high levels of oxygenation. You could also try Panaque maccus, a species sold as the Clown Pleco in the US. It's a useless algae-eater (it eats bloodworms, vegetables, and delicate aquarium plants but not much algae) but at least its small and cute. Cheers, Neale.>

violet goby and flounder   1/8/12
Dear WWM
<Hello Aaron,>
I would like to get a Dragon goby and a flounder .
<Sounds fun. Just not in the same aquarium.>
I have a 30 gallon aquarium with a Madagascar Rainbowfish and an albino bristle nose Pleco (2"). I previously had 2 flounder and an dragon goby they are now both deceased.
<Oh dear.>
I found out the problem A no salt B I  had large gravel. Now I have sand instead and I will add salt but I would like to know how much is necessary and will it harm my current fish?
<Not compatible with your Pleco, that's for sure. The Rainbowfish may tolerate a very low salinity, but honestly, I'd rehome them as well. Now, let's be clear that Flounders aren't easy to keep. Where are you in the world? In the US, the standard species is the Hogchoker Sole, a subtropical (not tropical) species from the Gulf of Mexico area. It's a nice enough fish, gets to about 15 cm/6 inches in length, but like almost all soles/flounders, it's a nocturnal predator and very difficult to keep in anything other than an aquarium designed specifically for its needs. It'll eat wet-frozen bloodworms and the like readily, but not with any competition, so you shouldn't keep with the Violet/Dragon Goby or really anything else likely to feed from the substrate or at night. At a pinch, Mollies or Wrestling Halfbeaks would work, but that's about it in terms of the commonly traded stuff. The Violet/Dragon Goby has its own, very definite needs as well, and while it can work alongside other fish, such tankmates need to be chosen with extreme care. In any event, it needs 55+ gallons.>
Also will I have to relocate my old fish first?
<I expect so, yes. Do read:
Cheers, Neale.>
Re: violet goby and flounder  1/9/12
Dear Neale
I now realize that neither of the fish were suitable for my aquarium
<Quite possibly.>
so I might set up a brackish tank but anyway I would like to know what "oddball" fish would suit my aquarium ( preferably no guppies, mollies, tetras etc ).
<Okay, when it comes to flake-eating, community-safe oddballs, options include Whiptails (weird alternatives to Corydoras); Halfbeaks (funky livebearers); Headstanders (characins); Hatchetfish (also characins, and a bit delicate); and Kuhli Loaches. If you can provide live, fresh or wet-frozen foods, then you can add to your list Glassfish (don't need brackish water, despite reputation); Gobies (Peacock Gudgeon for example) and Spiny Eels (specifically Macrognathus spp; need soft substrate). South American Puffers can work within very specific limitations, i.e., when kept in groups, properly fed, and only with fast-moving, robust tankmates. But otherwise Puffers aren't on the list, and I'd tend to leave off Knifefish and Elephantnoses too, though both of these can be kept in mixed species set-ups if their specific environmental, social, dietary and water quality issues are understood.>
I also found an invention called the "underwater oasis " at crabhomes.com ,which is basically a cave with a pump that stays at the bottom of your tank which allows you to keep semi-aquatic animals with your fish,
<Looks like rubbish to me. In any event, crabs crawl out of tanks regardless of "diving bells" at the bottom. They have an instinct to explore land, so why would this contraption help?>
what semi-aquatic animals might be ideal for my tank
<None; keep amphibious animals in a vivarium. Crabs, Mudskippers, Salamanders, Turtles, Hermit crabs all have their own specific needs.>
.P.S I live in the U.S MD and found the flounder, Brachirus pan, at a small exotic fish store called Ricks.
<Interesting. Brachirus pan is traded, but in my experience, is often confused with other species in the genus, including Brachirus panoides (a freshwater and brackish water fish) and Brachirus orientalis (a brackish to marine fish). Do have a look at my Brackish FAQ and follow the links there to the relevant Fishbase pages:
Cheers, Neale.>

Temporary housing for two incompatible fish   11/6/11
<Hey there Judy>
I was wondering if I could temporarily house a juvenile angelfish in a divided 20 gallon with a Betta on the other side. The divider is clear, but this would only be for about four or five days?? Thank you
<This should be fine. Cheers, Bob Fenner>

fish selection 10/6/11
I am working towards a more neutral pH and water hardness. so lets say it is 7-7.5 pH, 8-10dH, and 77 degrees F. I have a well planted 20 gallon high tank of artificial plants and 2 live plants. and 3 small caves.
<Do you have the 20 gallon "high" already? Or want to buy one? A "long" 20 gallon tank is better and better value.>
If I have 2 female platy, 5 lemon tetra, and 7 harlequin Rasboras, what would be the best compatible fish to go with them in this community tank.
<Platies need hard water, and Lemon Tetras frankly don't tend to look all that good in anything other than soft, acidic water. Harlequins prefer soft water but in moderately hard, neutral-ish water shouldn't look too
A single female Krib?
<Should be okay.>
a single male or female Bolivian ram?
<Possible, but the small footprint of the "tall" aquarium means that these fish could harass your other fish once they start breeding.>
a single male or female cockatoo dwarf cichlid?
<Yes, but with same proviso re: paired cichlids.>
or a male honey Gourami?
<Yes, but doesn't always do well in hard water.>
I am considering some false Julii Cory also, I know the Kribs can pick at them, but I'm not sure if that is just for a breaded pair, or if a single female would do fine with them.
<Is usually paired cichlids that cause problems, to be sure.>
or if incompatible, is it ok to have only 1 Krib as the bottom dweller? do the others listed do ok with Cory cats? I know the honey would.
<Corydoras do prefer cool conditions, 22-25 C/72-77 F, and that's the main thing to think about when choosing midwater tankmates. Mixing Corydoras with dwarf cichlids is always a risk.>
Would any of these 4 fish listed above be happy by itself with out a mate?
<Yes, they'd be fine.>
would they still be colorful?
<No, the brightest colours on cichlids are reserved for mating time. But a healthy female Krib won't be shabby. Cheers, Neale.>

re: fish selection     10/6/11
Would 2 female Kribs do good together in this community tank or would they be territorial?
<Female Pelvivachromis can be surprisingly territorial; would not do this.>
Or what about a female Krib for the bottom of the tank and a male honey for the top of the tank. Would they cross paths much?
<Yes; Honey Gouramis swim at all levels, and do hide at the bottom when stressed.>
Lastly, do you have any suggestions for a different small school of tetras rather than the lemons that would do good in neutral to moderately hard water.
<X-Ray Tetras by far the best choice. Do also read:
Cheers, Neale.>
Re: fish selection   10/6.5/11

great! so I think I am set on a female crib, now I just need to find another schooling fish. so just to be clear you think a single female crib might do ok with 4 false Julii Corys?
<No; there's always a risk with Kribs and other small cichlids that they might harass Corydoras. If you have a big aquarium, 40+ gallons, then they'll keep out of each other's way. But in a small tank, 20 gallons or less, it's risky.>
or is it also just as good not to get any Cory and let the Krib take over the bottom? my 2 platies like to explore the bottom also, so maybe the Corys would crowd the bottom.
<You don't "need" a bottom feeder. But if you want one for interest's sake, then a Bristlenose Plec would do double duty as both a robust scavenger and a fairly effective algae-eater. Nerite Snails are even better algae-eaters, and basically ignored by other fish. Keep 2-3 per 5 gallons.>
On a complete side note, I have a Betta by itself, the ammonia is way high, and there is also .25ppm nitrites
<Slightly risky.>
and 5.0ppm nitrates.
I am looking to temporarily move this guy into my 20 gallon until I can get him a cycled tank. so my question is, even though this water has ammonia and nitrites in it, can I add some of his water into my 20 gallon to help get it cycled since his water it does have the nitrates in it?
my 20 gallon tank has been cycling for 2 weeks with the 2 platies and still not nitrite reading.
<If the Platies are happy and healthy, chances are the aquarium has cycled or is so close you aren't detecting nitrite or ammonia. So for now, leave it alone, and don't add water from another aquarium. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: fish selection    10/18/11
alright, so for my 20 gallon I am leaning towards 2 platy, 1 Krib, 5 or 6 x-ray tetra, 5 cherry barb (2 male, 3 female), and a honey Gourami. Or I can get a thick lipped Gourami, but I think that may get to big for this tank set up. my pH is at a consistent 8.0. the weird thing is that my water isn't that hard. right now it has KH 6 and GH 9. about a week ago it was KH3 GH5 pH 8. this was because before I got a hardness test kit I was trying to lower the pH by adding R.O. water. once I got the test kit and realized the water was so soft, I have started adding tap water at my water changes and got the KH up to 6 and GH up to 9. all the while the pH doesn't budge from 8. my tap is KH-6 GH-13 and pH-7.6(8.2 after I let it sit for a day and a half). is it strange that my pH is so high and the water isn't that hard? the RO water is KH-2 GH-1 pH- 6.8. I think my current tank levels are good for the fish I want to add. staying at GH 9 is on the lowest end for platy and highest end for honey Gourami. is there a way to increase the KH without increasing the GH. and is there any way to lower my pH or is it fine at a constant 8. I find it interesting that at a low KH the pH is so consistent. since the water isn't that hard is it ok for the pH to be at 8 for the honey?
<Should be fine.>
On a side note, during water changes is it a necessity to aerate the new water I'm adding from the tap? what if it is tap mixed with RO water? if so, how, and how long?
<It's a good idea to let water sit overnight before usage, or to aerate for an hour. But if you do smallish water changes, 20-25% a week, you can skip this. Even if the water isn't 100% stabilised, such a water change will be too small to dramatically alter water chemistry in the aquarium.>
Lastly, I read in one of the articles about conditioning the tap water during water changes and how you have to be careful that some claim to take care of Chloramine but actually doesn't.
<Hmm'¦ not sure that's the case. If it says it removes Chloramine, it should do so, otherwise it'd be being sold using misleading claims. But yes, it's possible for certain water conditions to give a false positive reading for ammonia. The best thing is to buy a water conditioner that treats ammonia and Chloramine as well as the usual chlorine, and ideally treats copper too. Used as instructed, you shouldn't need to test for ammonia or chlorine afterwards. I recommend against using ammonia test kits except when starting a new tank. If you want to make sure the tank is working correctly, use a nitrite test kit as this won't be affected by Chloramine.>
I use API tap water conditioner and it says it removes chlorine and breaks the Chloramine bond. 3 drops per 2 gals to remove chlorine. and 6 drops per gal to detoxify Chloramine. does that mean I have to do both of those or will the 6 drops per gallon take care of the chlorine and the Chloramine.
<Yes, if you suspect you have Chloramine in your water, use the second of the two doses, i.e., 6 drops/gallon. That will automatically do chlorine and Chloramine. You don't need to double dose. But don't worry, slight overdoses won't do any harm. Mind you, I just looked online -- I though this dosage sounded complicated -- and their web site states 1 drop/gallon. Do be sure you're reading the bottle right.>
I know this is a naive question, forgive me!
<Cheers, Neale.>

20 gallon tank...what to do with it? FW stkg.    10/19/11

Hey there again everyone! Just a quick couple of words for Neale. I cant thank you enough for the help and information you supplied me regarding the archer fish tank I will soon have up and going!
<Glad to help.>
Anyways, back on tack. I still have this 20 gallon tall sitting in my room and not sure what to do with it. Recently found out I have a fixation on the really neat types of fancy gold fish primarily the Black moor goldfish.
Will my tank (20 gallons) be sufficient space?
<Not for Goldfish, no. I mean, you could keep one in there, I'm sure. But the tank would be grubby, the fish would look bored, and adding another would make the tank twice as dirty and half as much fun.>
Filtration is not a problem as if this plan is ok I'd go for a nice canister filter, but just wondering if the tank is just too small period for a single black moor goldfish...? Obviously I still have more research to do, but I do know they can get to a decent size and produce copious amounts of waste. However vie read from numerous websites that the black moor can be kept singly in a 20 gallon for life with no hazards or endangering the animal itself.
<Singleton Goldfish may survive, but they don't do much. So why bother?>
<If this is an unheated tank, you have quite a few options. The two obvious ones are Florida Flagfish and Paradisefish, both of which are very colourful in summer, but in winter, slow down and recharge their batteries somewhat. So long as the tank doesn't get much colder than 18 C/59 F, you shouldn't have any problems with either. Florida Flags are especially fun, being sociable, easy to breed, and compatible with all sorts of other things like, for example, Variatus Platies or Medica. Even Cherry Shrimps will work! Cheers, Neale.>

Selection Advice   9/15/11
I am looking on advice for the compatibility and preferred aquarium environment for group of the freshwater species I'd like to get. I've got a 75 gallon tank with a Magnum 350 filter, a ViaAqua 1300 pump and the usual gravel, plants. decor, etc.
<Sounds nice.>
The species I'm looking at are: Silver Hatchetfish,
<Quite a nice species, but nervous, jumpy, and slightly more delicate than the average characin or barb.>
Three-spot Gourami,
<Females are usually faultless, but males can be troublesome.>
Pearl Gourami,
<Similar to the Three-Spot Gourami, but generally less aggressive. Would choose this species over the Three-Spot, and wouldn't mix them.>
Scissortail Rasbora,
<Good species.>
Cardinal Tetras,
<Another good species, but does need unusually warm, soft, acidic water to do well.>
Upside-down Catfish,
<Excellent species, but keep in groups of 3+.>
Kuhli Loaches,
<Unlikely to see these in this tank; wouldn't bother!>
Siamese Algae Eaters,
<Nice fish.>
and a Giant African Fan Shrimp or Wood Shrimp.
<May not enjoy the same soft, acidic water as the Cardinals, so combine with care.>
I've searched your website and on others already, but I wanted to double-check the compatibility as well as to see if you had any suggestions for other fish or better ones.
For the environment, I was looking at a temperature of 76 degrees F (24.4 C) and a pH of 7. The water hardness however, I wasn't sure about.
<Should be okay with all of these in here, save the Cardinals, which really do need warmer water. Cheers, Neale.>

newbie questions for clarification; stkg., more    9/13/2011
Hi guys!
I just wanted to preface this email by saying that this is an amazing resource you have here. I relatively recently made the move to convert my neglected, decrepit cold water tank to tropical (it was formerly a tropical tank many years ago until my mum accidentally electrocuted all our fish), and in those months I have run back and forwards to WWM every time I hit a crisis (believe me, they were many and varied). It's answered many many questions. In what reading I have managed to do in my virtually non-existent free time, it has raised countless trivial (i.e. non-life threatening) questions, so I'm here to bother you with a few of those today.
<Thanks for the kind words.>
For starters, I have a 150L tank: all my water parameters are okay: my pH is about 6.9, ammonia is (finally!) zero, nitrite is 0. Water temp is around 25C. I have a mixture of plastic and (2) live plants, slowly moving towards all live as the budget allows. I have an internal power filter (which now has ammonia-absorbing rocks in them) with a spray bar, two air stones (one a bar and the other from the old corner filter) and a treasure chest ornament that also delivers oxygen. My tank houses 5 goldfish of varying types and sizes (that are soon to be evicted into a smaller cold water tank),
<Good; Goldfish don't like soft, acidic water which is what you seem to have here.>
3 Danios,
<Needs to be in a school of 6+. In smaller numbers is either nervous or aggressive, especially sexually mature males.>
3 male guppies,
<Guppies won't live long in acidic water.>
3 angel fish (1 zebra, 1 marbled, 1 gold Pearlscale, largest is about 6cm, other two slightly smaller),
<May fight once mature.>
2 clown loaches (unsure of size as I rarely see them, but I bought them a few months back as 7cm),
<Will need 250+ litres once even half grown -- these are big fish!>
1 Opaline Gourami (9cm), 1 dwarf Gourami (5cm),
<These two will not cohabit if males.>
two phantom glass catfish (5cm) and one black widow tetra (5cm).
<A schooling species; often nippy.>
I feed them a varying combination of goldfish flakes, tropical "granules", dried black worms and bottom feeder sinking shrimp pellets for the loaches.
My first question is about the Opaline Gourami: is it normal for it to be taxonomic-family-specific in it's aggression? It constantly intimidates the dwarf Gourami.
<Absolutely typical.>
I have noticed one or two nips at the tail, but it otherwise seems unharmed. It's appetite is okay. It's somewhat shy (not so much so that it won't make a fuss with the other fish every time it sees me near the tank, wanting food). The Opaline Gourami leaves every one else alone. I was told at the store they weren't aggressive but understand from reading WWM that they very much are (I was actually expecting the angels to be the cause for concern, but aside from the starting competition the marbled has with the aluminium plant,
<Aluminium plant (Pilea cadierei) is non-aquatic and will die. Remove, and treat like a pot plant. Be sure to read about all livestock, including plants, before purchase.>
and the first week of aggression by the zebra, they've all mellowed). I doubt partitioning is an option, and I can't afford another tropical setup.
Is there anything I can do save for watching to make sure the dwarf Gourami doesn't become too injured/stressed?
<Need their own homes.>
Secondly, regarding the Opaline Gourami, at night it becomes very dark until I switch the light on. I presume this is normal and reflects the mood/etc, and my zebra angel too changes colour (it loses it's stripes) at night when it's sleeping. But the more I read, the more confused I become.
Is this normal, or is there something happening at night time stressing it and making it turn darker?
<Is normal at night; if goes dark during the day, may be stress.>
Third: Do clown loaches exhibit sexual dimorphism in growth rates? My two live very happily in a big tunneled rock I have, which freaks me out as they will sleep sideways in there and I will think they are dead! So I only see them briefly when they come out to feed (though they are steadily getting more bold), but one appears to be growing much faster than the other. The more active of the two remains the smallest. What is the best explanation for this?
<These loaches are difficult to keep, and in smaller groups than 5 the dominant one will bully the weaker ones, so you end up with a range of sizes. Worms and other intestinal parasites are common in Clown Loaches, so deworming is recommended.>
Lastly, I read on the site in an BGK-related answer about beginners adding stress treatments to their tanks being a bad thing, but had trouble locating any proper info about this. I have been treating my tank with a product called "stress Zyme+" which says it is a biological filtration booster.
<Unnecessary once the aquarium is stable and mature.>
I have been using this once a week for a few months - ever since I realised I had a serious ammonia problem, and have continued using that since that cleared. I was using "ammo lock" to treat the ammonia spike, until I got presumably a whole bunch of false positives so used "Am Guard" (the latter destroys the ammonia, the former claims only to convert it to a non-toxic form)
<Is for tap water only; has no purpose at all in the aquarium.>
and I have also been using "Leaf Zone" to feed the plants -- should I stop using the stress Zyme? I'm now concerned this is what killed my black ghost knife tail (I got him a month ago when I thought my ammonia issues had cleared, which they may have, because I suspect the subsequent readings were false positives, but I am unsure.
<Yes, BGKs quickly die in less than perfect conditions. They need spotlessly clean, extremely well oxygenated tanks with low stocking levels and lots of water current. Soft, acidic water is helpful. Feeding can be tricky, as they need a variety of wet-frozen and live foods.>
I think this combination of treatments may have weakened him (though I was also unsure if he was eating, and I don't know if his half-chewed tail was a contributor) - He did appear relatively healthy just last night (no obvious signs of stress) but I found him this morning dead, caught in the filter.
<They do indeed react badly to medications. Quarantine the BGK, and don't add ANY non-quarantined livestock to the aquarium once it has the BGK installed.>
He actually looked like he'd struggled a bit, his mouth was also gaping wide open in this terrified looking scream - I must say I've never been so traumatized by a fish dying! He was my favourite, too - but I don't think I'll revisit the BGK until I become more experienced at this and perhaps get a bigger tank).
That's more than enough for one email!
Thanks in advance for any advice you can give,
<Hope this helps, Neale.>
Re: A couple of newbie questions for clarification     9/14/11

Hi Neale,
That did help heaps, thank you. One thing is that is clear is that I need to stop listening to my local aquarium's advice! I have had a tendency to just go visit, ask them for advice and act accordingly. Sounds like I'm doing a lot wrong!
Just a couple of questions for following up best course of action:
I'm surprised I haven't had any issues with the Danios as I presume they are mature (I've had them probably 6 years or more - I'd had a 4th but also found it in the filter when the BGK got stuck, not sure how or why that Danio died, but I had enough issues with the water to point to any number of them) . I can definitely get a few more of those.
<Cool. Female Danios are generally fine, but it's the males that can be belligerent. Plus, there's variation between them, and some are much more boisterous than others.>
But regarding the guppies, how long is "won't live long"?
<Varies wildly, but problems like Finrot are persistent and reoccurring when Guppies (and most other livebearers) are kept in soft water. There's an ample literature on this issue.>
I've had these a few months now and they seem quite happy and healthy (I'd had one of the initial 4 guppies die at the beginning along with a tetra and a goldfish which is what alerted me to the water quality issue and I got to learn all about ammonia spikes and how I'd done almost everything wrong you can do to cause one -- otherwise no issues), is there some sign I am missing? Should I gradually increase pH and if so to what? When I first set up my tank I had a high pH, but gradually lowered that to approx 7, and that's where it has about where it has stayed in spite of weekly or bi-weekly water changes (about 40%). I just tested my tap water for pH and it comes out fairly alkaline (test is a deep blue which is beyond my test kit's colour scale which ends at 7.4). Also, I just went and read the WWM articles or hard/soft water - would you recommend aiming for hard water with these fish?
<If your tank "works", then I wouldn't go out of my way to change anything.
It isn't recommended you change pH directly -- the better approach is to soften water by diluting hard tap water with mineral-free rainwater or RO water, and then use a pH buffer (if necessary) to "fix" the pH at a certain value. I don't personally bother with the buffer, and simply keep some of my tanks at a 50/50 mix of hard tap water and rainwater. Certainly, a hardness of 10 degrees dH, pH 7-7.5 suits a very wide variety of species.>
With the black widow tetra (I'm undecided whether or not to also move this to the cold water tank -- my housemate is buying this for herself and has opted for cold water, and this basically exhausts my capacity for tanks in the house, so I will have to have a careful think about my options with the gouramis) - I was told they can be aggressive in schools, but alone in a community thank they're okay. So far I haven't had any nipping issues with it. Is this more bad advice - does it need to be in a school?
<If yours is happy, then don't worry; some specimens are! They are tropical fish though, and won't live long below 22 C/72 F.>
For the loaches, thanks for confirming - since reading WWM I'd become concerned that they will get too big for my 3ft tank (the fish store was like "nah, nah, they'll be fine in that size tank" - they also said it would be fine to have the BGK in there, too, but after buying it I figure it would have overcrowded soon enough). I figure I will have to upgrade once they get bigger, but to solve the different-size issue is the only solution to get more? I had been considering buying a 3rd (I read on one of your FAQs that they need to be in groups of at least 3) -- should I get more or is this too much for my tank?
<Clown Loaches do grow slowly, and it takes 3-4 years for them to reach a mere 5-6 inches. If yours are happy as a duo, then leave things alone. If you want to add a companion, then again, you can do so, with the understanding that they can get big, and at some point they may need a bigger aquarium. Average lengths when mature vary, but 6-8 inches is typical, and over 10 inches not uncommon.>
Thanks for the advice regarding the BGK. Perhaps once I upgrade tanks in the distant future I will attempt that species again. They are so beautiful.
<Indeed, but not easy to keep unless you think about creating their habitat. They come from rapids and riffles around waterfalls and in deep rivers, so they like strong water current, depth, rocks and boulders to hide among, and some overhead shade like tall plants.>
Once again, thanks for taking the time to answer what I'm sure are annoyingly common/obvious questions. Your time and effort is very appreciated!
<You are most welcome, Neale.>
Re: A couple of newbie questions for clarification
I'm losing more and more faith in my aquarium with each email!
<Oh dear!>
They have the black window tetras there as cold water fish - I originally had two of them in my cold water tank for about a month before I made the move to tropical.
<I see. Well, good move on your part.>
Thanks for clearing that up.
<Always glad to help. These are DEFINITELY tropical fish. Perhaps they're mistaking them for something else? Like the charming Banded Sunfish (Enneacanthus obesus), a beautiful little North American native fish that's traded from time to time. Cheers, Neale.>Re:: compatibility of fish   9/11/11
Hello again Bob, Chris here. So overall tank is going excellent. but I need more fish I think. I have in my 40 gallon tank now,
1 clown loach,
<A social species... that gets large... see WWM re>
2 Cory cats,
<Also a shoaler>
1 Dalmatian molly ( very nice fish),
1 zebra Danio,
1 orange platy,
1 dwarf Gourami,
and 1 black molly.
All these guys get along just fine and are doing well. I have done a bit of research on some new guys I could add which may be compatible, what do you think of these other fish?
Maybe 2 Dwarf Puffers,
<No... see WWM re... nippers>
2 Zebra Angelfish ( I love the look of these),
<... again... see WWM... like different water quality than your mollies... Enough for now. get reading Chris. B>
and maybe a Kuhli Loach or 2.
They all seem like very interesting fish and I was wondering if you think they would be ok in my tank. It is moderately planted ( silk plants though), other objects such as driftwood and tree roots. Thanks again, Chris. Fish Compatibility  8/27/11
Greetings from Denver! I would first like to applaud your wonderful site.
It is a great resource for me. I have found some conflicting information on fish compatibility, and was wondering if you could set the record straight for me?
<Sure. What are the fish? Cheers, Neale.> Re: My fish  8/27/11
Can you tell me more about my fish
<Sure. But which fish? Cheers, Neale.>
Re: My fish  8/27/11

Red tailed shark, Bala shark, dinosaur bichir, brown African knife fish, Gourami.
<What do you want to know about them? Much already here at WWM:
Cheers, Neale.>

My fish, FW (over) stocking    8/23/11
I have 2 dinosaur bichirs, 2 gourami's,
2 Bala sharks,
<These need a tank twice this size, or more.>
a red tailed shark,
a Pleco,
<Barely adequately maintained in 55 gallons.>
and a African brown knife fish. I have a 55 gallon tank. Will a black ghost knife be compatible.
<No. This tank is FAR overstocked already. Black Ghost Knifefish need exquisitely good water quality, including lots of water current and crystal clear water clarity. There's no way you have the right conditions in this tank. If you had a 200 gallon tank, and you told me you had water turnover rates 8-10 times the volume of the tank per hour, and did 20-25% water changes every week, then maybe this mix of fish could work. Ask yourself this: How many adult Black Ghost Knifefish have you ever seen? By far the majority are killed by their keepers within a year or purchase.>
My tank also has plenty of hiding holes. Also how can I introduce hand feeding to my bichirs and knife fish.
<Bichirs hunt by smell, so placing one or two small pieces of tilapia fillet or an earthworm in the aquarium when the lights are out should work fine. Knifefish can be a hassle to feed, but again, they're nocturnal feeders, and to some degree hunt by smell too, so bloodworms and other meaty prey should be consumed readily enough at night. Neither of these species is likely to become tame enough to hand-feed, but you can try, using long forceps. Hands tend to scare away fish, but they ignore long forceps.>
Also what other fish may be compatible.
<Nothing, your tank is overstocked and needs upgrading and/or removal of fish. I don't know who told you they're work in 55 gallons but they were insanely optimistic!>
Please reply to my email and you alls website
Thank you
<Cheers, Neale.>

Restocking tank confusion   8/2/11
Hi, alright so I recently set up a new aquarium for my pair of convict cichlids, which left my 25 gallon tank pretty bare. Right now I have two Pictus catfish (5 inches and 4 inches) and one upside down cat (2 inches).
I love these fish dearly, but I've been looking for some more fish to add to this tank.
<Not a problem with these fish. They're good community fish, though I will observe two things. Firstly, 25 gallons is far too small for them. And secondly, both are gregarious fish, and should be in groups of at least 3 specimens. With Dwarf Upside Down Catfish in particular, singletons are extremely shy. Keep a group, and they become day-active. Other Synodontis species are different, and many are territorial, so check your species first.>
The thing is, between my dislike for characins (I find them boring) and my pictus's big mouths, I can't seem to find anything to put in with them.
<Sure you can. Any medium-sized Rainbowfish, Swordtail, Barb or Characin should work.>
I was thinking of getting more catfish as I enjoy them but I'm not sure if my tank is big enough for the cats I have now territory wise.
<See above.>
I was also thinking about rams or Apistos but my only hesitation is that getting them as juveniles would mean their being small enough for my Pictus to eat.
<Common Rams, Mikrogeophagus ramirezi, are extremely difficult to maintain, though Mikrogeophagus altispinosus is quite a good fish and much easier to keep than its common relative. Apistogramma are too small and shy for this sort of rough-and-tumble community. In any case, your tank is too small.>
So basically I'm stuck.
<Tell me more about your water chemistry, water temperature, and the size of the aquarium these fish are all going to go into and I'll be able to help.>
Also, I am attaching a picture of my tank. Any redecorating advice to make this work better would be greatly appreciated.
<More space!>
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Restocking tank confusion   8/2/11
Thank you for your advice.
<You are welcome!>
I know the tank is really small for them. The Pictus were supposed to be temporary until my cousin got his tank ready.
But then he decided he wanted an Arowana (Gah). So now I'm stuck with these guys and as much as I'd like to get a bigger tank space limitations will not permit it.
My water parameters are pretty standard. Ph 7.2, ammonia 0, hardness is about 10, I keep the temperature at 77 degrees. Also, my mother lovely woman that she is, bought a pair of Kribs for the tank. I do t think that these guys are a good idea. Thoughts?
<Among my favourite cichlids, but not without problems. Do read here:
Can cause problems in small tanks, especially once they start breeding, which they will. Cheers, Neale.>
Tank Shifting and feature fish!   7/4.5/11
Hello Crew,
I've e-mailed before with questions, but I'm off again! I'm about to acquire a 240l tank to replace my little 100l, so quite excited. I'm going to be running the new 240 l and my existing 120l and the 100l may become a back-up or quarantine tank. Now, I just want some advice as I'd like to have a new move around.
I currently keep 3 c. irrubesco, 2 c. asellus, 7 x-rays, a blue ram, a Bolivian ram and an l204 in the 120;
<That's a busy tank!>
In my 100l I have 10 pearl Danios, 5 Kuhlis, 3 panda garra, 4 Corys and 3 royal whiptails - I like all things bottom dwelling and got a little carried away.
<I agree, this is a WELL STOCKED aquarium; I wouldn't add more. The Whiptails have the potential to get quite big, and they will, of course, get nipped to pieces if combined with Puffers.>
However, I was thinking of keeping the puffers in the 120 l with the x-rays and garra,
<Garra certainly can work, provided there are lots of rocks; the Garra will hide among/underneath these if harassed.>
and putting everything in the following list into the 240l (nothing finite yet I'm still thinking - part of me wants to put the puffers in the 240 but I'm not sure what other intriguing fish I could add...)
Blue ram
Bolivian ram
10x celestial pearls/galaxy Rasbora
4x Corys
5x Kuhlis
3x royal whiptails
<I would not put puffers with this mix of fish. If you wanted to add something, I'd be looking at non-aggressive labyrinth fish or cichlids.>
What could I add to this as a 'safe' feature fish?
<Lace Gouramis, Moonlight Gouramis, Sheepshead Acara, Kribensis would all be possibilities, though the very small Rasboras would always be at risk of predation. Midwater/surface water oddballs like Celebes Halfbeaks could work, too.>
Naturally I wanted discus, but am concerned not only about temperature (celestial pearls are my worry and I think the puffers would consider them lunch!) but about water volume as I don't think 240l is enough. Or have I lost out on a larger fish with the celestial pearls being so small?
<Yes, plus the Celestial Pearls really do best at the cooler end of the temperature range, in which case subtropical fish like Variatus Platies and Florida Flagfish would be good companions.>
Alternatively I could do as I said above; put the puffers in the 240l tank along with their existing tank mates in which case what characins/cyprinids would compliment them and the x-rays?
<Actually, any characin will look better with twice as many of them, rather than another species.>
I want something a bit more colourful, and would like just a big group - and I think Neons will be out! I like harlequins, but think they may be a little slow - or Pencilfish (and yes, I know I've just said I wanted colour'¦)?
<Harlequins and Pencilfish would be nipped by puffers. Colomesus asellus is really only compatible with very fast moving fish -- Glassfish, some of the Loaches, some of the Danios and Barbs, and I've had rather good success with the boisterous Goodeids like Ameca splendens and Xenotoca eiseni.>
And if I upgrade the existing 100l dwellers to 120l, is there something I could add to the mid-water levels? A riverine fish? or could I add a shoal of Glowlight Danios or something?
<Do understand puffers aren't community fish. Once you buy Puffers, you're stuck with a puffer aquarium. It so happens your two species get along with each other and with SOME fast-moving fish. But that doesn't mean you can randomly add them to communities!>
Please help, I'm feeling indecisive!
Thanks for all the help!
<Cheers, Neale.> stocking question   7/3/11
Hello crew and thank you so much for all you do. I have been doing as much research as I can before stocking my 55gallon aquarium, including asking you wonderful people for advice :).
<Glad to help.>
I want silver dollars, but realize they are a bit of a squeeze in a 55gallon,
<Can be; there are numerous small, silver fish that would work as an alternative, e.g., the occasionally nippy Red-Eye Tetra (Moenkhausia sanctaefilomenae), the peaceful and slightly delicate Ulrey's Tetra (Hemigrammus ulreyi), and the spectacular Congo Tetra.>
and I also really like neon/cardinal tetras, and read that silver dollars can eat them (yikes).
<Most fish will eat fish small enough to swallow, so this is a risk. Silver Dollars are primarily plant-eaters though.>
So I was wondering if replacing the silver dollars with another good sized silver fish would work better, and in my search I came up with scissortail Rasboras.
<A very good species, provided the water isn't too warm and that there's a good water current.>
Would schools of scissortails Rasboras, hatchets (Gasteropelecus sternicla), and then either cardinal or neon tetras work well together and all be happy in a 55gallon tank?
<Potentially yes, but you'd have to be careful with temperature. I'd keep the tank at 24 C/77 F and opt for the Neons, Scissortail Rasboras and, once the tank has been running a few months, the Hatchetfish. Cardinals need warmer water than many other community fish.>
If yes, how many do you recommend of each?
<At least six of each, and for Neons, a dozen or more is infinitely better.>
I have heard that Neons/cardinals can be very delicate, can you recommend one over the other as far as hardiness goes?
<Cardinals are generally more reliable if you have soft, acidic, warm water conditions. Farmed Neons (which are the ones sold) tend to vary wildly in quality, some batches seem to include fish that die one after another.>
I like the look of the cardinals better but their happiness is my first priority. My water is on the soft side.
<Soft, slightly acidic water is ideal for South American, Central African and Southeast Asian fish.>
I was hoping for a school of Corydoras (emerald green are my favorite) and a Pleco as well, although if that is asking too much for one tank I can skip something.
<Most Corydoras species are best maintained at 22-25 C, so again, they'd fit into the mix nicely. Corydoras sterbai is the most common species that actually does well in warmer water and works well with Cardinals.>
Any species of Pleco that would be happy in my tank would be great, I like them all.
<I'd actually get a small group (one male, two females) of an Ancistrus species of some sort; these would be small enough not to bother your fish or mess up the plants, while hardy and potentially breedable. If you want, add some Whiptail catfish for variety. These don't eat algae but they are small and fun. Again, Ancistrus and Whiptails do well in coolish water.>
Thank you for any and all advice, I want to avoid as many mistakes as I can. This isn't my first tank but there is always so much to learn.-Amanda <Cheers, Neale.>
Re: stocking question    7/9/11
Hello Crew,
Thank you so much for your reply and your advice.
<You're welcome.>
I had a couple more stocking questions. As far as Plecos, what about the Thomasi Pleco (L-187b)?
<Also known as the Bulldog Plec, one of several different Chaetostoma species offered for trade. These are basically easy to keep, provided you have a coolish, fast-water aquarium of the sort used for things like Hillstream loaches, Danios, minnows, etc.>
Here is a link to them on the Liveaquaria site:
http://www.liveaquaria.com/product/prod_display.cfm?c=830+837+1037&pcatid=1037  I searched on your website, but could not find one mentioned (it very well could be my lack of searching skills so I apologize if I missed it).
Would one of those do well in my tank?
<Depends. Needs cool water, 20-22 C/68-72 F, and a fast current, i.e., a turnover rate of at least 8 times the volume of the tank. Water chemistry is not critical, but dirty or oxygen-poor water will quickly stress the fish.>
Can I keep only one Pleco and have it be happy?
<Sure. They're territorial fish to some degree, and don't seem to miss having company of their own kind.>
I have heard they are messy fish and would love to have a large school of neon tetras in my tank.
<Neons WOULD NOT be good tankmates here! White Cloud Mountain Minnows would
be a much more obvious choice, or else one of the more brightly coloured Danios, such as Danio kyathit.>
If I have to have several Plecos in my 55gallon I imagine that will significantly cut down on the number of other fish. The whiptail catfish you mentioned look really neat. How many of those need to be kept together?
<Allow each its own cave and they get along great in groups. I'd say 5 gallons per specimen would be about right, though naturally males tolerate females rather better than other males.>
I would love to have them too, what is the fewest number you can keep?
<Singletons do fine.>
Should I add the whiptail or the Pleco, or both?
<Given adequate food they'll cohabit. At least some Rineloricaria species do well in coolish water, such as Rineloricaria parva.>
Also, would a small school (5-6) of black neon tetras do well for variety as well?
<Water is a bit cool for these, something like Red Phantom Tetras would be rather better, though tetras generally aren't wild about very fast flowing water.>
That would make the 55g tank (kept at 77degrees in my soft water) have: neon tetras, black neon tetras,
Pleco (just one ok? really any species you recommend that isn't too expensive and would be happy would be great)
<Any Ancistrus species is an excellent choice for general usage, getting along with everything, eating algae, and happy between 22-28 C.>
hatchets (Gasteropelecus sternicla)
scissortail Rasboras
<These can do well down to about 22 C/72 F and certainly enjoy a brisk current.>
and then... whiptail catfish? (I am thinking that they will tip the tank over to too many fish if they need to school together, but I would love to have them if not).
<In 55 gallons you should be thinking about big schools of schooling fish, realistically at least a dozen each, otherwise you won't get much pleasure from them. In big tanks the beauty comes from the big swarm of school fish swimming as a group, and for that you need at least a dozen.>
if not whiptails then Corydoras? Do Corydoras and whiptails get along?
<Yes, and most Corydoras will thrive at 22 C/72 F.>
Any recommendations on numbers of each would be greatly appreciated. Again, thank you SO much for all your help to me, and all the many fish that are now happier thanks to you guys :)
Sincerely, Amanda
<Cheers, Neale.>

Black fin sharks and Pictus cat fish    5/21/11
Hi my name is Jennifer and I have a few quick questions that I'm sure you have answered but I can't seem to find it. I have a 50 gal fresh water tank with 4 black fin sharks
<Are these Sciades seemanni, the Colombian Shark Catfish? This is a brackish to marine species with no long term future in this aquarium. If we're talking about Balantiocheilos melanopterus, the Bala Shark, then that's a very large freshwater species that needs an aquarium at least twice, and realistically 3-4 times, the size of the one you have. Do read up on the needs of these fish:
and 2 Pictus cat fish a Pleco a few gold fish (they were our starter fish) and some Rosie barbs oh and 2 blue Gourami.
<This is an extremely heavily stocked aquarium. You will need to thin out your fish collection soon.>
The sharks and catfish are fine until its feeding. time the swim in circles n act like they can't see the food. Now I heard the sharks have poor eye sight.
<Balantiocheilos melanopterus, the Bala Shark, has excellent eyesight and hunts by sight. So there's no reason for this species to behave in this way unless it's stressed or sick. Sciades seemanni, the Colombian Shark Catfish, by contrast, are nocturnal fish that hunt primarily by "smell" sing their whiskers, much like any other predatory catfish.>
And one if the catfish hides in the cave we have. Is that normal ? We also have put aquarium salt in the water as requested by our salesmen.
<"Aquarium salt" is not what you need here. You need a minimum of SG 1.005 at 25 C for Sciades seemanni. That's about 9 grammes of marine aquarium salt mix per litre of water. This salinity will kill all your other livestock. Obviously Sciades seemanni is not compatible with your other fish and needs its own tank. Unfortunately a lot of people buy fish without reading up on their needs first, and they wind up in precisely this sort of pickle. That's why we tell people AGAIN and AGAIN to read up on a fish first, and ideally, buy their own aquarium fish book to take shopping with them. Retailers will sometimes say any old thing to make a sale -- but then, that shouldn't surprise you.>
And if the sharks need to be in a marine environment then why do they tell you they are fresh water?
<Yes, the sharks need brackish to marine. There's an old adage that says that a fool and his money are quickly parted. It's one of the most accurate summations of retail on the planet. What I mean is that "they" tell people this because they know most shoppers are ignorant, i.e., don't bother researching about their potential pets before buying them. So "they" get away with it. Most of this sold this way wind up dead through poor care.
Yes, this drives me absolutely nuts, but here I am, trying my best to undo the damage. In any case, Sciades seemanni is a superb species and not difficult to maintain in a proper brackish to marine aquarium.>
Thanks again
<Happy to help. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Black fin sharks and Pictus cat fish   5/22/11
Neale thanks for the quick response
<No problems.>
yes they are the cat fish sharks and I do agree that we should have done our research it just boggles me that they sell them in in fresh
<Caveat emptor is, in the UK and I guess the US too, the golden rule of capitalism -- "buyer beware".>
it sounds like we are going to convert we have a 20 gal tank as well so would the fresh water fish be fine in that one?
<Do read the articles mention re: the adult sizes of the Bala Sharks and Colombian Shark Catfish. Both need tanks 100+ gallons in all seriousness.
Rosy Barbs are fairly big, and they're subtropical fish as well, so you need a coolish sort of aquarium big enough for a fish that'll easily reach 10 cm/4 inches, and potentially a bit bigger, so I'd say 200 litres/55 gallons for them.>
And what's a easy way to convert the sharks n catfish?. Or do the catfish stay fresh water.
<Not sure what you mean here. Colombian Shark Catfish can be adapted to brackish or saltwater conditions easily using some version of the "drip method" -- put them into a large bucket with water at the original salinity, and across an hour, change the water in the bucket a pint at a time every 5-10 minutes until the salinity in the bucket matches the new aquarium's salinity. No point adapting them to freshwater because they won't stay healthy in that for long. As for the Bala Sharks, they're freshwater fish pure and simple.>
Thanks again
<Cheers, Neale.>

Gold Fish and Silver Dollars and Tetras, mis-mixed tog.   5/13/11
Hi I have a 30 gallon tank. I recently acquired 2 goldfish and I already own 1 silver dollar and 3 tetras.
<Mmm, these are incompatible...>
Would these fish do okay together. I had heard you can't put goldfish together with other types of fish, is this correct
<See WWM re the species you have here. The goldfish needs to be elsewhere (needs very different water conditions), and the "tetras" may be too small to house w/ the dollar. Bob Fenner>

Stocking check for a 55 gallon aquarium, FW    4/28/11
Hello crew, Thank you again for helping so much and being so informative, as well as giving your time.
<Thanks for the kind words.>
Would this do well for stocking a 55 gallon aquarium?
7 albino Corydoras (or 7 Emerald Green)
11 cardinal tetras
<Cardinals need warmer water (26-28 C) than most Corydoras (22-25 C); if
you keep Corydoras sterbai though, you should be okay, as that species does
well up to 28 C.>
7 silver Hatchetfish (Gasteropelecus sternicla)
<Does well with Cardinals.>
10 Endler's
<Not an option here -- water soft enough for Cardinals will be stressful, if not lethal, to Guppies. Conversely, in hard water Cardinals rarely live for long, 6-12 months seems typical, rather than 4+ years.>
12 Tiger Barbs (I know they can be nippy, I am concerned about their compatibility with Endler's, but read on your site that they are not as nippy or aggressive if they are happy in large schools)
<Large schools may help reduce casual aggression, but they can/will still be nippy to slow-moving, long-finned tankmates such as Guppies.>
If a group doesn't work well, I was wondering about substituting it for 11 black neon tetras.
<An excellent species.>
This isn't my first aquarium, but I want to be cautious and not make any mistakes so I can end up with the happiest fish possible.
Thank you for any and all advice,-Amanda
<Cheers, Neale.>Stocking queries relating to <minnow> sharks (RMF, do read!)   4/25/11
Dear WetWebMedia,
<Hello Roger,>
I have recently stocked a tropical aquarium of 75 gallons in size. It is heated and has a large external filter from the aquarium (upon advice from the store.) All the water I used was dechlorinated and tested with test strips. All information here is from notes taken, information remembered from the store assistants and receipts.
<I see.>
A few months back I was inquiring at a local aquatic store about what I should stock it with. I said I was looking for some aggressive fish which would provide an interesting display.
<A contradiction in terms! Aggression is the ONE thing you want to avoid. Hassle is not the same thing as interest. It's like that Chinese proverb about living in interesting times, the meaning being that interesting times are generally not something you'll enjoy!>
While they briefed me, I took a couple of notes down so I could remember the names. They recommended several different fishes - I believe they were 'sicklids',
<Cichlids; not good fish for beginners for a variety of reasons.>
'red belly piranha',
<Indeed; a bad fish for beginners, and really rather dull.>
<Covers a LOT of ground here! Hundreds if not a thousand-plus species.>
<A mixed bag of unrelated fish; nothing to do with the sharks of the sea.>
and 'buck-tooth tetra'.
<A fascinating fish, and actually quite a good choice for a 75 gallon tank, if you like predators.>
I had a look through and I didn't like the look of most of them, but the sharks really caught my eye.
<Most of the sharks make poor aquarium fish for a variety of reasons. Some are insanely large, others need brackish or salt water when mature. Most of the rest are either too nervous or too aggressive to do well without very careful planning.>
I was under the impression that sharks were only marine fish, and it was a surprise to me that there were some types that could be kept in a freshwater aquarium.
<Uh, no. The "shark" part of the name is misleading. Apart from a couple of catfish, most of the "sharks" in the freshwater trade are cyprinids, relatives of the minnows and carps.>
They were selling a number of different sharks (I got these names from the labels on the front of the tanks, the assistant told me that a couple were rare species
so they capitalized codes - the species I noted were 'paroon' shark, 'ID' shark,
<These are Pangasius sanitwongsei and Pangasius hypophthalmus; use Google to look up these catfish -- they come under the "insanely large" heading. Got a few thousand gallons in your aquarium? Then sure, try one out. Otherwise, skip 'em.>
'RTBS' shark,
<Red-tailed Black Shark, Epalzeorhynchos bicolor. Very aggressive. One of these will OWN your 75-gallon tank.>
'albino' shark,
<Epalzeorhynchos frenatus; marginally less aggressive than Epalzeorhynchos bicolor. An okay choice for a tank your size, if you choose tankmates with care and add this species LAST.>
'Bala' shark
<Balantiocheilos melanopterus, not only large but also extremely nervous unless kept in [a] a big group and [b] a huge aquarium; a fine fish, but not suitable for beginners or tanks below a couple hundred gallons.>
and 'redfin' shark.
<Epalzeorhynchos frenatus.>
They told me they were all very easy to look after and were best fed on live food, so I would be required to set up a live food aquarium as well. So, upon their advice I bought a second heated aquarium this time of 20 gallons and stocked it with feeder platies, their recommended feeder fish (I was told goldfish and rosy reds had some form of chemical that kills other fish so should not be used as feeders.)
<Hmm'¦ actually, no feeders should be used, ever. But I guess your retailer has some extremely vague understanding of the fat and thiaminase in Goldfish and Minnows. But even store-bred Platies will be parasite bombs, so shouldn't be used to feed fish you want to live any length of time.>
So, I went home, set up the feeder tank (which has an internal filter I believe), cycled with the liquid bacteria and stocked it with 9 adult feeder platies. Upon recommendation I added a couple of plants - a type called java moss. They fed well and I was informed by the store they would breed by themselves.
And indeed, 1 month later I started noticing young platies within the tank. Soon the group started to grow and I ended up with 13. They were quite happy and I fed them on standard Hikari tropical flake.
I returned to the shop and they told me that it would be enough and for the initial months the sharks would be okay on standard carnivore food but not as good as they would be on live fish.
<Idiots. The two Epalzeorhynchos species, the Red-tailed Black Shark and the Red-fin/Albino Shark, are both largely herbivorous. They feed on something called Aufwuchs that contains algae and a mix of microscopic animals. Under aquarium conditions they do well on a variety of prepared foods. Balantiocheilos melanopterus is omnivorous and easily fed on a mix of green foods and prepared foods, plus treats such as bloodworms and perhaps even the odd earthworm. Pangasius spp. have no place in the average aquarium so comments on their diet is irrelevant.>
They recommended I feed frequent frozen bloodworm to the sharks until then.
<Not frequent, but once a week, sure, these are fine treats.>
They also told me that the platies would not be as nutritious if they were not 'gut loaded'. 'Gut loaded' was said to mean fed on a good diet with lots of live food.
<Broadly, yes, but pointless here, not to mention dangerous given you didn't breed the Platies yourself.>
They told me that I had to set up a third tank for rearing daphnia and Cyclops and holding live food until they are fed. They also informed me it was time to stock the main tank.
<Oh boy, they sure saw you coming'¦ so how much stuff have they sold you so far'¦?>
They said that before the sharks could be introduced, the tank must be shark friendly. They told me this meant added 'freshwater live sand' which appeared to be some sort of pale yellow sand with small pieces of rock/gravel mixed in with which was said to be teeming with life in the form of aquarium bacteria, algae, daphnia, some long twisted white coned snails, long pink worms, underwater wood lice and also a few unusual round shaped shrimp-like creatures that were curled and would dart around and were about 1/2 an inch long.
<What'¦? Never heard of freshwater live sand. Sounds very dubious, and honestly, I think they're selling you shares in the Suez Canal.>
I was informed that this sand was full of creatures that helped maintain the balance of the ecosystem in the tank. I was told to buy 30 lbs of this wet sand in bags to form the 'substrate' of my tank when mixed with regular aquarium sand. Secondly, I was told that 'freshwater live rock' was also required.
<It gets better!>
This was a type of funny holy rock which had plants clinging to it and algae coating it. It also had the same shrimp-like creatures and daphnia and Cyclops hanging around it, as well as two types of shrimp one proper long 1.5" transparent shrimp and another type of small 1" brown shrimp (this one was far more common than the other) and three types of brown snails attached to it which either had vertical disc-shaped twirl shells, were small, semi-transparent and had black dots on them or were large and had conical shells, though not as long as the ones living in the sand. It was also said to have important bacteria. I was told that this rock was designed as an optional thing for the tropical community tanks but was almost essential if you wanted to keep sharks. They said that all these critters would help filter the tank and eat the fish poop and also help keep the balance and would even serve as temporary fish food should I go on holiday. I was told that more than just a few plants were bad in a shark tank as sharks needed 'cruising space' and the small aquatic ferns attached to my live rock were enough. I was also told that the live rock and live sand creatures required feeding until the fish were added, and that my existing tropical flakes or my new carnivore pellets and bloodworm would do.
So, on that visit I purchased some frozen bloodworm, Hikari Sinking Carnivore Pellets (which mentions sharks on the box of the food as doing well on this diet), Hikari Mini Algae Wafers (which were supposed to be suitable for feeding to the platies along with the standard flake and also for feeding to the daphnia), 10 bags of live daphnia, 3 bags of live Cyclops, 2 packs of daphnia eggs, 1 one gallon tank for keeping live food, a huge bag of aquarium sand, 30 lbs of live sand, 10 lbs of live rock and a ton of weird critters and plants attached to the rock. If you could identify a couple if not all of this critters it would be very helpful.
<Robert, I hate being the one to tell you this, but there's a whole bunch of stuff they're selling you here you don't need. Cycling a tank is easy. Although not the ideal way to do things, your Platies have surely cycled the tank by now. Nothing you're adding, beyond perhaps a few more live plants, will make a blind bit of difference. Yes, there's plenty of live sand and live rock *sold to marine aquarists* but this will ALL DIE in freshwater. In short, if they've been selling you this stuff, you've been had.>
So, I set up the tank, putting the live rock at the back and mixing the aquarium sand and the live sand to put on the bottom of the tank. A day later I returned from work pretty late, and open turning on the light, the tank appeared to be a haven of life. There were several snails visible on the glass of all 3 brown types and the white type was moving around on the sand. The shrimp-like curled critters were hopping up and down amid large groups of daphnia and Cyclops. A couple of brown shrimps and transparent shrimp were also swimming around, looking for meals. Although the live seemed to slow down a lot after turning on the light. A lot of the creatures retreated into the rock and substrate in the next few hours of light in the room. It was an unusual sight.
<I bet!>
I also set up live food tank 2 which had no substrate or rock, and didn't even have a filter. Nevertheless, the daphnia and Cyclops inside seemed fairly healthy. I would feed them with crushed up algae wafers and occasionally would introduce some of the population of this tank to the other one as they were breeding fast.
So, 2 weeks later I returned to the shop, and bought my first fish. Upon recommendation by them, I bought an albino shark, said to be the most hardy shark for an early tank.
<Not really. Albino anything tends to be weaker than the standard form.>
I floated the bag in the tank for 10 minutes before letting the shark in. In the next few days, I am sure the microbial life was disappearing. The brown shrimps and curled shrimp-like creatures as well as the daphnia and Cyclops seemed slightly more scarce, and the transparent shrimp were quickly disappearing - I decided to fish out some of the brown and all the transparent shrimps and add them to the platy tank where they thrived.
<I see. Well, plain vanilla Amano Shrimps and Grass Shrimps should do well in your aquarium.>
The week after, I purchased two more sharks, an RTBS and my personal fave, the paroon.
<Oh boy. Well, the Paroon Shark has no place here at all. Take it back. It's a monster. Plus, the Red-tail Shark and the Albino Shark will not coexist once sexually mature, and will likely fight long before then. All this is well known. If you'd bought a book before buying "stuff", you'd have saved a WHOLE bunch of money.>
Soon after they were introduced, all the true shrimp in the main tank had been eaten or had died out. The numbers of the curled shrimp-like things were low but they could be seen from time to time at night when the other fish were less active. Surprisingly, there were more of the smaller creatures like Cyclops than normal. I was feeding the fish frequently and well, so maybe they had less of a desire to predate the smaller things. In the weeks to come I bought 2 more paroon sharks and 2 Bala sharks.
<Seriously, things are getting out of hand now. Did you research even the Bala Sharks? It's well known these get to about 30 cm/12 inches, so three of them WILL NOT live in 75 gallons! Throw in the Paroon Sharks that should get to about 90 cm/3 feet under good conditions, and you'll have fish literally wedged into a glass sardine can!>
The fish feed well on the carnivore pellets and frozen bloodworm, but I tried adding a bit of the algae wafers and the tropical flake and they didn't mind that either, so that was quite cool. But of course the carnivore pellets are the best diet for the sharks so I do not intend to feed them too much of it. I also fed the first few platies recently. The platy population as of now is 20 or so. I added 3 smaller platies to the tank and the paroons swooped them up in seconds. The RTBS gave chase but did not kill them fast enough. The Balas showed no interest. Is this a problem?
<Depends on what you mean. The problems will likely come from the fish eating the parasite-bomb Platies. Please, please read before you act. Feeder fish usage isn't just inhumane, it's also unwise. It introduces parasites, it spreads diseases, and it increases the risks of aggression. You will notice that NO expert fishkeeper -- i.e., one who gets published -- recommends the use of feeders.>
How do I make it so the other fish have a chance to eat the platies before they are snapped up by the paroons?
<Why would you want to? Sounds as if the Bala Sharks have better idea of a healthy diet than either you or the retailer.>
I should start blogging.
<Agreed; though I perhaps would read your blog for different reasons than you're writing it.>
I wish I could write more in detail about my tank.
<Oh, you've written plenty, let me assure you.>
My problems started a week ago. My RTBS shark viciously attacked my albino shark, tearing fins off.
<Absolutely no surprise at all. In fact I predicted as much a few paragraphs above.>
I phoned the store, and they said it was common for sharks to fight and this would not be much of a problem long term.
But it was, and the morning after, I found my albino shark lying in the tank with all it's fins torn off, being chewed on by both the RTBS and a paroon (which do not seem to be very aggressive so I assume it was just scavenging - unsure though).
The other fish get on very well and display no aggressive behavior. I phoned the store once more and they said it was a territorial conflict and they blamed my tank size. They also said that the albino might have been too dark for the RTBS shark which is black in color which could have led to conflict.
<Uh, no. All the Epalzeorhynchos species are territorial under normal aquarium conditions. Only keep one specimen per aquarium.>
So, this time, I got a redfin shark.
<Ah, another lamb to the slaughter.>
The RTBS has been acting very aggressively towards it's new companion. Why is this?
<Territorial aggression. Do not keep more than one Epalzeorhynchos per aquarium. It's really VERY SIMPLE. All decent aquarium books will state this. Have you read any of them?>
Can I have help with my tank?
<Yes. But it largely involves you taking everything back, buying a book, reading it, and just enjoying the Platies for a few weeks until you can be trusted to go shopping again.>
<You are most welcome, Neale.>
> Do read my reply to "Stocking queries relating to sharks". It's a keeper!
> Cheers, Neale
Oh man! I almost thought this "fish keeper" was pulling our fins, but as I read it dawned on me that he's just being sold bills of goods...
Perhaps he'd like to buy a walkway to Knightsbridge? B
Re: Stocking queries relating to sharks (RMF, do read!)    4/26/11

Hi Neale
I read your response extensively and it appears I've got very wrong here, and my store is giving incorrect advice.
Just to clear things up, I have 3 aquariums. One is the main tank, 75 gallons. That's where the sharks are. The other tank is the 20 gallon with the feeder platies. There are and never were any live platies used to cycle the 75 gallon - they told me the live rock and live sand as well as a bottle of bacteria would do the trick. I didn't even know you could use fish to cycle!
<Fair enough.>
The third tank is the gut-loader tank, 1 gallon. I had another look at the buck tooth tetras and I believe I may have overlooked them.
<Yes, Exodon paradoxus, a fine fish. Genuine feeding frenzy, but readily takes flake, so more fun and easier to keep than piranhas.>
They seem like a much better choice for my aquarium that what I have currently.
<A good choice, but you do need at least 12; in smaller groups you'll end up with just the one! Because their diet includes scales and fins of larger fish, DO NOT keep with anything else, even catfish. But they do look stunning in a shady, well-planted aquarium. They get to about 10 cm long in captivity and have lovely colours.>
I was attracted to 'aggressive' fish as I saw videos of Oscar fish on YouTube and they looked much more exciting than schools of neon tetras and guppies like everyone else has.
<You do need to definite "aggressive" in this context. Oscars aren't aggressive at all except insofar as they're territorial. They are predatory of course, but that's a whole different thing. Most predators are non-aggressive because they need to be ignored and keep a low profile. Most truly aggressive fish are herbivores or omnivores. Mbuna and Damselfish for example include some of the most aggressive fish in the world, yet both feed primarily on algae.>
However, I find Oscar fish ugly - I wanted a balance between beauty and character, and thought I could find that in sharks.
<I see. Do look at the brackish to marine Colombian Shark Catfish, a stunning species with lots of predatory power but the disposition of a pussy cat.  http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_7/volume_7_1/ariidae.html
It's a joy to keep, and probably the most shark-like fish in the hobby.>
However, instead of thinking of more fish I need to focus on clearing up the current problem. It appears I have a mix of monsters in size and monsters in aggression. I am intending to return all the sharks as soon as possible. I saw a couple of pictures on Google of the adults of some of the scientific names you gave me, and I certainly don't have the room for a tank that could accommodate something like that.
<Indeed not.>
I feel incredibly foolish now for not reading up on the topic prior to purchase, but at the time, I was sure that the people in the store (who claim to have had 40 years experience) would be more than helpful. It turned out they were not.
<So it seems.>
The platies and the shrimp living in the 20 gallon are happy right now. The platies and the brown shrimp are both breeding.
The red finned shark is still alive, but badly beaten up and hiding in a crevice in the live rock at the back of the tank. I intend to return him, along with the others, when I visit the store tomorrow, if he lasts until then. I did call the store and complain, but they gave me a generic response that it was my fault that this happened for not feeding the sharks enough, so I gave up.
<They sound hopeless.>
They said they would accept the fish, but they did tell me it was store policy not to accept any money for standard quality fish, even if they were their own, so it appears I have lost quite a lot of money from this on fish and on creating the shark tank in the way they proposed. I also emailed the store manager inquiring about the scientific names and more information on the 'Live Rock' and 'Live Sand' products and they responded. They say it is very different from marine live rock/live sand but uses the same sort of idea.
I'll quote the relevant sections of their email at the end of this one. If you can recognize any scientific names from the list, that would be great, because they could easily have sold me super predator fish eating shrimp, the way things are going now.
<Quite so!>
I will definitely purchase a book on the topic of tropical fish in general and it would be very useful if you could give any suggestions as to which books contain accurate, correct and useful information, unlike that I have received from the aquatic store.
<A few favourites here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/bksfwbrneale.htm
As I've said I'm going to return my sharks and I'm considering either bucktooth tetras or a tank with barbs - did some research by myself and I found that barbs are both interesting and attractive, and easier to keep than the bucktooths.
<Very definitely. Tiger Barbs are basically hardy fish so long as you don't keep them too warm and you take care to keep them in a large group, at least 6, and ideally 10 or more if you don't want nippiness to become a problem. Also, the bigger the group, the better the colours on the males as they each try to impress the females (and yes, you want/need at least as many females as males, though sexing juveniles is nigh-on impossible). They basically mix well with anything that keeps out of their way or can swim nice and fast. I'd recommend some loaches for the bottom (Zebra or Yoyo Loaches would be ideal) and some Giant Danios for the top. Once the tank is settled down, add an interesting Suckermouth Catfish if you want, one of the L-number Plecs, your choice determined by your budget. I happen to like Panaque nigrolineatus as a good all-rounder, but things like Green Phantom Plecs, Snowball Plec and Gold Nugget Plec would all be appropriate choices.>
Here is the email, if you can recognize and provide info on the species it would be appreciated:
<Lots of fun things here: shrimps, flatworms, water fleas, etc.>
Asellus aquaticus
Cyclops sp. 'Unknown'
Daphnia magna
Daphnia pulex
Dugesia sp. 'Unknown'
Eiseniella tetraedra
Gammarus pulex
Hyalella azteca
Lymnaea sp. 'Melantho'
Lymnaea stagnalis
Melanoides tuberculata
<These are Malayan Livebearing/Turret Snails.>
Neocaridina heteropoda
Palaemonetes paludosus
<Both these are shrimps.>
Physa acuta
<Pond snails.>
Planaria sp. 'Unknown'
Planorbarius corneus
Note that Hydra vulgaris sometimes occurs on Freshwater Live Rock but is unintentional and can be removed at your request.
<Hydra is a neat creature and not a problem unless you intend to breed egg-laying fish in this tank.>
Ceratophyllum demersum
Elodea canadensis
Microsorum pteropus
Vesicularia dubyana
Vesicularia montagnei
<All fairly standard plants.>
Freshwater Live Rock and Freshwater Live Sand consist of tufa rock
<Tufa rock can, will raise pH and water hardness, depending on the quantity. Do check the pH periodically, perhaps monthly once the tank is set-up and stable, weekly for the first month or so. If the pH stays at or below 7.5, there's nothing to worry about.>
and silica play sand cultured in two twin 20,000 gallon aquariums which are home to millions of beneficial microscopic algae and bacteria along with a selection of small sub-tropical invertebrates that are considered useful to the maintenance of the aquarium. The species included are specifically selected for their ability to control certain species of invasive algae and general tank detritus, as well as serve as a food source for multiple species of small tropical fish popular in the aquarium, such as guppies and tetras. The rock is wild caught and is absolutely not from wild reefs in the same manner as the marine live rock. However, the concept remains very similar. They are new, innovative products from our standard supplier for freshwater fish and invertebrates and we are glad to be among the first to adopt them.
<Is indeed innovative and fascinating. Basically pond life, but it's neat to see them being sold this way. Do read here:
If you have any questions, feel free to reply and if I am unable to answer anything, I will gladly contact the supplier as well."
Thanks, Roger
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Stocking queries relating to sharks (RMF, do read!)    4/26/11
Hi Neale
I returned all the sharks today.
Today, the manager (the man who I contacted via email - the people on the phone were assistants) was in the store instead of the regular assistants who come on weekends and sometimes in afternoons. He was very surprised that I had been sold this unusual mix of fish from the assistant, who was a teenager or college kid who worked their part time and had never kept fish himself before.
He still used the 'store policy' excuse, but offered me store credit for my troubles so far. I had another look at the Exodon/bucktooth tetras. They seem interesting but I'd rather have a mix of fish. On YouTube I saw a lot of videos of Oscar fish 'mouth-fighting' other fishes which went under the names 'jack Dempsey', 'wolf', 'jaguar' and 'devil', that is why I assumed they were aggressive.
<Yes, these can be aggressive, but do understand aggression is better read about than actually experienced at home! Fighting leads to injuries, and injuries lead to stress and infection, and these lead to dead fish. By all means keep a single territorial cichlid, and try putting a mirror by the tank if you want a bit of fun for a few minutes. But deliberately contriving situations where fish behave aggressively usually ends badly for all concerned. Now, some fish will scrap amongst themselves without doing serious harm; Celebes halfbeaks for example. But these are small fish able to spread out in aquaria, so the males don't usually cause serious harm to one another.>
I read through the article on the Colombian catfish. They certainly seem like interesting fish for a future venture into fishkeeping. However, I am currently quite new to fish keeping and I don't think I'm experienced enough to run a marine or 'brackish' tank - as I would need to purchase new equipment to do so and it isn't really viable in the short term.
<Agreed. But they are fantastic fish!>
As per books, I ordered off Amazon 'A Practical Guide to Setting up Your First Tropical Freshwater Aquarium' by Gina Sandford, 'Complete Aquarium' by Peter Scott and 'Brackish Water Fishes' by yourself, just in case I pursue Colombian Sharks and brackish water fish once I get more experience with aquatic creatures.
<All good book choices. The Peter Scott one is especially inspiring, even if it isn't quite the best book for details on the fish species mentioned.>
They should arrive within 1-3 weeks or so. I Googled giant Danio, tiger barb, yoyo loach, zebra loach and the list of Plecs you recommended. They all seem like great fish, and my aquatic store had all but the Plecs, but said they could order any of them from the supplier if I requested.
<Very good. Not all are suitable for planted tanks necessarily, so do review their particular needs, e.g., on the excellent Planet Catfish site.>
Out of the loaches, I would say I prefer the look of the zebra loach. Does this fish require to be kept in a group in the same way as the tiger barb or is it a solitary fish?
<Definitely yes; all these Botiine loaches should be kept in groups of 5+ specimens or you're unlikely to have much luck with them. Botiine loaches are an odd mix of feisty towards one another on the one hand, but also rather shy if kept singly or in pairs. You need a biggish group of five or more specimens for their natural aggression to balance out, so no one fish bullies all the others. Kept in a group they'll be bold enough to swim about during the day, which is another good reason to keep a group.>
I found conflicting sources - one saying it was territorial, another saying it liked being in groups. Out of the Plecs, I like the nigrolineatus too.
Are they easy to keep?
<Yes, they can be; my specimen is 16-17 years old! They do need lots of green foods and they do destroy most plants. But in tanks with rock and bogwood, they're very easy to keep once settled in and fattened up. Do read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/panaqueart.htm
Also, I did some research and some sites are saying that Plecs grow huge - 20"+, is this true?
<Can do, but seems very uncommon in aquaria. Mine is about 17 cm/7 inches long, 20 cm/8 inches is common, and I've seen a few nearer the 30 cm/12 inch mark, but outside of public aquaria, none that were any bigger than that. There are numerous subspecies and related species, and some do seem to be smaller than others.>
If it grows that big, it would be a bit crowded in my tank. Do barb, loach, Danio and Plec like plant filled garden tanks or rocky styled tanks, or don't they mind?
<Loaches, Danios and Plecs are happy with either, though Royal Plecs will eat most plants anyway, while the other, non-wood-eating Plecs generally ignore plants provided those plants aren't easily uprooted (so nothing too delicate!). Barbs like planted tanks best.>
On the topic of the 'live rock', thank you for identifying some of these creatures. I can see I have some of them. However, when I Googled the 'Neocaridina' shrimp just now, I got hundreds of pictures of various different shrimp. Some red species, some yellow species and some blue species. My shrimp (with the exception of the 'Palaemon' shrimps which I can identify as the clear shrimp I have) are brown. I do not think they are 'Neocaridina', as the pictures don't match.
<Indeed. There are many species in this genus.>
I Googled pond snail and it said they are voracious eaters of plants but also eat algae and it is a hard decision whether I should keep them or try to remove them. Do the pros outweigh the cons here, or the other way round?
I looked up Hydra and I don't think I have any of those in my aquarium. I may be wrong however, I just haven't seen any. When I looked at the images of pond snail however, I found three main types - the small golden dotted one, a curled up brown disc like one and a large brownish conical one, all of which seem to be present in my aquarium. Which 'pond snail' goes with which scientific name?
<Physa and Melanoides don't harm healthy plants. Neither do small Planorbis. Lymnaea may do so, and Pomacea certainly will.>
I Googled 'tufa' and the rock I saw pictures off is very different from the rock I have. The rock I have is a mix of brown and white rocks with big holes in them, not tiny bubbles like the true tufa. I don't think they are using real tufa.
<I see.>
My pH is 8 according to the test strips. My tap water is 7.5 normally. Will the high pH wear off over time or is this a long term problem?
<Could be a problem. Tufa rock is calcium carbonate, and this will, by definition, raise carbonate hardness, and in turn that will raise pH to 8 or even slightly higher. Whether the rock is genuine tufa or some other type of calcium carbonate doesn't much matter. Acid, even vinegar, will fizz if dribbled onto calcium carbonate, so it's easy to test.>
I read through the 'deep sand bed' article. It seems to be remarkably similar to the live sand. I guess 'live sand' is just a brand name to make it sell better. Although the sand bed seems to very deep, hence the name.
This live sand is reasonably shallow. I noticed the article also mentioned the same ideas of 'ecosystem' and also mentioned the Malayan snail as well as flat worms and I even recognised the 'Dugesia' name from the article from the list I got sent by the store manager. The article said that flatworms were harmless, which was helpful, as upon Googling 'flatworm' earlier, I was shocked by an article on water borne parasites instead of aquarium cleaners.
<Indeed, but the free-living flatworms are harmless, except perhaps if they eat fish eggs.>
Also, I am pretty sure I have Malayan snails. They are yellow and live in the sand. I sometimes see them move around at night. But, most of the time I see the vast variety of different 'pond snails' moving about. The live rock and live sand are very interesting things. I had a quick look in the filter today, and it appears more of the critters are living in the filter than in the tank. There are a lot of daphnia and Cyclops and some of the smaller curly shrimp-like things inside. I guess they got sucked in through the filter.
<Sounds jolly.>
For the 20 gallon platy tank, the store manager recommended Otocinclus cat-fish as the best way to control algae. However, Google says that the best way to control algae is to plant a tank well. Is this a good recommendation or just as bad as that of his co-workers?
<Bit of both really. Otocinclus, kept in groups, are viable if delicate catfish that will consume green algae (but not hair algae or diatoms).
Nerite snails are better for green algae and diatoms, and hair algae is something you try to prevent problems with altogether, though a few fish, notably Siamese Algae Eaters and Florida Flagfish, will eat it. In any case, yes, if you have lots of fast-growing plants you're unlikely to have serious algae problems. That's the approach I take in all my tanks, even if, in the case of tanks with plant-eating fish, I'm limited to using floating Indian Fern.>
<Cheers, Neale.>

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