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FAQs on Freshwater Livestocking 11

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

Related FAQs: Mis-stocking issues (incompatibility behaviorally and/or environmentally), FW Livestock 1, FW Livestock 2, FW Livestock 3, FW Stocking 4, FW Livestocking 5, FW Livestocking 6, FW Livestocking 7, FW Livestocking 8, FW Livestocking 9, FW Livestocking 10, FW Livestocking 11, FW Livestocking 12, FW Livestocking 13, FW Livestocking 14, FW Livestocking 15, & Stocking Small Systems, & Freshwater Livestock SelectionCommunity Tank Livestocking,

Is there room for more in my tank?    6/1/14
Hi. I just set up a new 15 gallon tank. It has been cycling for a few days with an added bacterial additive.
<Wouldn't get your hopes up on this/these products. Don't work reliably.>
It already contains 6 neon tetras and 1 mystery snail. Just added them today. My filter is a 15 gallon sponge filter. According to the requirements for my current animals I have 6.5 gallons of useable aquarium water left in my tank. Should I add anymore small fish?
<For sure. Six more Neons would be extremely sensible. Indeed, stocking the tank with as many Neons as is reasonable would make for a lovely aquarium. This species gets prettier the more you keep.>
Say for example 5 green neon tetras,
<Green Neons, Paracheirodon simulans, is quite difficult to keep. To recap, it needs the warm water conditions that Cardinals need (25-28 C, unlike the cooler conditions Neons want, 22-25 C). It's much smaller than the Cardinal and even a bit smaller than the Neon, and seems to be shyer than both species, so needs to be kept in fair numbers to do well. Finally, it seems to be even fussier about water chemistry. It's moderately popular in the UK among aquarists keeping well-planted "nano" tanks where it works great
alongside shrimps, often in tanks with subdued lighting and masses of Java Moss, but it's hard to recommend as a community fish.>
or some other very small compatible fish in the numbers of 4-5.
<Perhaps look at the dwarf Corydoras species, such as Corydoras habrosus, a swarm of which could easily fit into your tank. Say, a dozen Neons and dozen Corydoras habrosus. Assuming reasonably good filtration, both species share the same water chemistry and temperature requirements, and they're
both very mild mannered. Alternatively, a school of Otocinclus or a few Whiptail catfish if you can find them.>
Thank you.
<Most welcome, Neale.>
Re: Is there room for more in my tank?    6/1/14

Thank you Neale! Someone told me on the Internet guppies might work.
<Don't really work with Neons. Somewhat different requirements, and Neons won't tolerate much salt, which can be really important when livebearer fail to thrive.>
I have decided on 2 male sunrise tequila guppies. On the Internet it says they are compatible with my neon tetras.
<In the old days, yes. But nowadays, both Neons and Guppies are so finicky and disease-prone, I wouldn't risk it. For sure the chances are you'll end up with a few of each surviving, but that may be unsatisfying. Honestly best to optimise in one direction, soft water for the tetras, hard (with the option of salty) water for the livebearers.>
The two species seem to tolerate each other's water requirements, though they may not be ideal.
Is the guppy neon tetra combination ok?
<See above; in the past was a widely kept combo, when both species were basically hardy.>
The tetras are juveniles, about 1/2 an inch long each. The guppies will be 1-1.2 inches. Will the guppies eat the tetras?
<Any risk will likely be the other way around, Neons possibly nipping the fins of the Guppies.>
Would they eat my purple mystery snail?
<Mystery/Apple snail tentacles are sometimes molested by other fish, more out of curiosity than anything else, maybe seeing the tentacles as tasty worms or something. So keep an eye on them.>
Thank you.
<Most welcome, Neale.>
re: Is there room for more in my tank?

Thank you so much for all your help Neale.
<Happy to help.>
Did I Stock My Tank Right?     6/3/14

Hi. I have a 15 gallon tank. It contains 6 neon tetras, 1 mystery snail, and three fancy guppies. Not the best combination, I know. But I am quite stuck with the combination. My tetras have been acclimated by the one I
bought them from to hard water. And I have a deionizing water filter on the way. I plan to use the deionizing filter on half my aquarium water. Then mix this with the remaining hard water in the aquarium. It will leave the water at a softer level for the tetras, but still leave the water hard enough for the guppies. Or so I hope. Not the most ideal conditions for either, I know. But it is the best I could do.
<And more than adequate, don't worry. 50/50 DI water and hard tap water should give you around 10-12 degrees dH, pH 7.5. That will fine for both species. A happy medium. What Cardinals don't do well in is liquid rock, but medium hard water is okay, especially if water quality is excellent.
Likewise Guppies don't need water that's too hard, what they don't like is soft, acidic water.>
Now to my question:
I have a sponge filter rated for 15 gallons. I did what research I could on stocking levels and how many gallons the fish and snail need. According to my research and calculations the tetras need 6 gallons, the guppies need 6
gallons, and the snail needs 2.5 gallons. So that would mean I have used 14.5 gallons. This would leave .5 gallons left. Did I do my research and calculations correctly? Will all my fish and the snail be ok in 15 gallons of water?
<Yes; all sounds good. After a few months you could safely add another 6 Neons and as the Guppies multiply, leave a few of them to keep the population going while you rehome the remainder.>
Thank you.
<Welcome, Neale.>
re: Did I Stock My Tank Right?     6/3/14

Thank you so much Neale! All the guppies are male though, as I do not want them breeding.
<Fair enough.>
And the neons, well, they are juveniles right now. Thank you for your suggestion to add more neons later. But I really do not want to add anymore than what I have in the tank already. I like a tank that is not too
difficult to maintain, so I am keeping the levels where it is recommended I keep them. Just to be safe.
<Once the filter is some months old, it will easily handle the Neons you have now, plus some more. Mature biological filters process waste for these small fishes very easily.>
Thank you so much for your awesome help!
<Most welcome.>

My new fish     6/4/14
Just sharing this with you. Here are some pictures of my fish, in my new 15 gallon aquarium.
The guppies.
The neon tetras.
You email has been deleted due to too-large file size
Pictures of new fish 2
Ok here are some photos of my new fish in a smaller size. All the fish in the tank. 3 guppies and 6 neon tetras. 2 tequila male guppies and red tuxedo guppy. Best photo I took of all the fish. Enjoy!
<I did; thanks. Do consider joining an aquarium fish forum. They're good places to post photos and get feedback. Do remember "Ask the Crew" at WWM is primarily for help/advice, while forums are good places for discussion, opinions, and other conversations that will help you develop your skills and share your experiences. I happen to like aquaticquotient.com, but there are lots of others. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Pictures of new fish 2
Thank you Neal.
<Welcome, Neale.>


Large enough tank. FW stkg.     6/1/14
Hello all, hope things are going well for you. I have several questions, please. First of all I have an innovative marine Nuvo 38 gallon tank that is right at 24 inches long.
<Cool. A useful size for small community fish up to the 5 cm/2 inch mark. Neons, Platies, that sort of thing.>

I had thought about putting 6 or 7 cardinal tetras in the tank.
<If you have soft (or at least not hard) water, a good choice. Would get more than 6 six though; they look best schooling, and for that you really do want a dozen or more.>
I know they are schooling fish so I would like to know if the tank I have would be large enough.
<Easily. Your tank could hold 12-15 Cardinals and still have room left over.>
I also plan on having 6 cories for the bottom.
<Doable. A dozen Cardinals and six of the smaller Corydoras species, such as Corydoras panda, would be great. Actually, if Corydoras sterbai is an option, that's the ideal because it likes warm water (25-28 C) which is the same range as Cardinals. Most other Corydoras prefer cooler water (22-25 C) making them better companions for standard community fish rather than "hothouse flowers" such as Cardinals.>
If the tetras do have enough room could you please name another fish the is not schooling that would be good matches as well as appealing to the eye with the tetras?
<Are you going for a South American theme? A singleton or paired dwarf cichlid species of some sort, perhaps the reliable Apistogramma cacatuoides would be worthwhile. Avoid the common Ram, Mikrogeophagus ramirezi, that's my main advice. It's useless for community tanks. Far too specialised and
(sadly) far too prone to disease. If geography wasn't an issue, then any of the smaller Gouramis could work; you could take a flutter on the risky Dwarf Gourami if you can find some healthy ones, but otherwise a singleton Banded or Thick-Lipped Gourami would be reliable and hardy.>
I have thought of maybe 2 or 3 pearl gouramis.
<Honestly a bit big. A singleton might work, but given they get to at least 12 cm/5 inches, and males can be territorial, squeezing three into a two-foot tank would be pushing your luck.>
Also, could you please recommend an algae eater that will not grow very large?
<A no-brainer. Bristlenose Plec. End of. A few Nerite snails could be used too. They don't breed in freshwater, and provided they get through the first week or two, seem very hardy and can live for years. Superb glass cleaners.>
Thank all of your for your service!
<Most welcome, Neale.>
Re: Large enough tank    6/1/14

Thank you so much for the recommendations and advice. If I decided not to go with the cardinals and wanted several larger, slower swimming fish do you have any suggestions about any that would all get along in the small tank?
<All sorts. Does depend on what's available in your area though. Limia and Phalloceros species for example make great additions to small hard water tanks, but they aren't universally available. Likewise the somewhat delicate Blue-eyes (Pseudomugil spp.) and basically easy to keep Ricefish (Oryzias spp.). In soft water conditions any number of small tetras and barbs are possible; Cherry Barbs, Pentazona Barbs, Checker Barbs, Ember Tetras, X-Ray Tetras, Lemon Tetras and more are worth considering. Feel free to write back with a list of ones your retailer has and I'll offer any tips if you want.>
And lastly, do they have test kits for hard water?
<Yes; ideally, get one that measures "General Hardness" or GH.>
Thank you so much again.
<Most welcome, Neale.>
Re: Large enough tank

Neale, thanks again, and please be patient with me for asking so much. In addition to the cardinals, how many platys or Serpae tetras would be feasible for that size tank?
<Platies, start with a trio (one male, two females) because they'll breed in no time. Serpaes, don't touch. Nasty fin-biters. Pretty and hardy, yes, but really to be kept on their own.>
And lastly, I want your opinion on adding aquarium salt to the tank.
<Is not a cure all; does have specific uses. See here:
If you're keeping Neons and the like, no need for salt unless medicating for Whitespot.>
It seemed that years and years went by and it was highly recommended. Now I read a lot about it serving no purpose, or if I use it to use only half the recommended dosage. Also, when I had aquariums in the past I have used salt with cories and never had any problems to my knowledge and now I hear never to add salt to cories. Several LFS around here highly recommended it and many do not. Sorry for all the questions. Again, thank you.
<Most welcome, Neale.>
Re: Large enough tank (Bob, have I got your quote right?)     6/2/14

<<Ah yes; if we're fortunate to live long and well-enough. Cheers, B>>
Hello again Neale, In your opinion if I wanted a species tank what are some of the prettiest and hardiest species that would look good?
<A shorter list would be the ones to avoid. Neons, fancy Guppies ("feeders" are much better), Dwarf Gouramis and Mollies are probably the fish that should be easy but in reality aren't. Or at least, haven't been for some years now. The more bullet-proof species among the standard fare sold in most pet shops are probably Danios (Zebra, Pearl and Leopard), X-Ray Tetras, Cherry Barbs, Ricefish, Bronze and Peppered Corydoras (though most Corys are good) and Bristlenose Plecs. Platies are reasonably good too, especially in hard water, but the quality is not as good as it once was. If you can get some locally bred ones, they'd be best. Black Widow (Petticoat) Tetras are very hardy but occasionally nippy, so fine with Danios but not  so good with Angels. Tiger Barbs are another safe bet, but they're even more prone to being nippy, especially when kept in small groups. On the topic of Angelfish though, they're great choices too, and a singleton or mated pair can work in a 20 gallon tank, but don't add them for a couple
months. Angels are much more sensitive to problems that the other fish mentioned. Once settled into a mature aquarium though they are generally very easy to keep. I'd avoid the more inbred forms (Koi, Albino, etc.) and go with something old-school and reliable, either the plain Silver wild-type or else the usually excellent Marbled Angel.>
Also, could I keep all angels in this tank or is it too small?
<See above, and with the proviso they're not keep with anything nippy. Good with Danios, Corydoras, etc.>
I am starting to get discouraged now because i wish I hadn't bought such a small tank.
<Ah, a common issue, Almost never worth getting tanks smaller than 10 gallons, and even in the 10-20 gallon range you have to choose wisely. I have a 15 or so US gallon aquarium that's a lot of fun. One of my favourite tanks in fact. Contains some a trio of Limia nigrofasciata, a trio of Phalloceros caudimaculatus, some Cherry Barbs, a couple of Ricefish (Oryzias melastigma), a Whiptail catfish, four Otocinclus, a few Cherry Shrimps, a Nerite snail, some Assassin Snails, and a lone Peppered Corydoras remaining from a school I kept and bred some years back. Water chemistry is middling hard: 10-12 degrees dH, pH 7.5. Spent a small fortune redoing the substrate with plant-friendly sands and additives, but the plants are happier now and algae problems pretty much gone away. An easy tank, and the livebearers are breeding away merrily. Does that give you some ideas?>
I have done both salt and fresh water tanks in the past but have been all 75 gallon. I guess as I have gotten older I have gotten lazier and didn't want to do as much maintenance.
<I do think Bob F. has opined something similar to this: we start with goldfish, go to tropical communities, then cichlids, then marine communities, then reef tanks, then back to goldfish again!>
But now after I realize now limited I am in this small tank for fish I used to love to keep I feel like just trying to sell the tank.
<Small tanks can be wonderful. I have an 8-gallon tank in the kitchen with just a bunch of plants (Java Moss and Anubias cuttings mostly), lots of Cherry Shrimps, and a small group of Heterandria formosa, a tiny livebearer from Florida and the Carolinas. It's an easy fish to keep, and in a small tank on its own breeds away happily. Because the females drop one (comparatively big) fry every day or two, there's fun to be had spotting any newcomers, and over the weeks you can see the fry growing. While I'm
waiting for the kettle to boil or whatever, it's a really fun diversion trying to see what's happening in this tiny "slice of the Everglades".
Maintenance is nearly nil, basically a bucket of water every couple weeks and a quick wipe of the front glass to remove some algae. That's it. Fishkeeping at its simplest, but because the plants, shrimps and fish are all multiplying and creating a sort of ecosystem in there, it has a reef tank feel, if you know what I mean.>
Thank you again for your patience and sorry for my complaining.
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Large enough tank (Bob, have I got your quote right?)     6/3/14

Neale, you had mentioned before that cardinal tetras need softer water. My water here is hard. If I use a product to keep ph at 7 (neutral) will that be OK, or can you recommend something else. Thank you again. James
<Ah, have gone through this quite recently... do read this page, scroll down about 3/4ths to the bit entitled "Hard Water to Soft Water.... Input on changing water chem. 5/28/14". Quite the thread! The short
answer is that changing the pH directly does little good. Those pH products are meant to be used as buffers, to keep the pH of soft water at 6.5 or 7 or whatever. They aren't alternatives to using RO or rainwater as a source
of soft water. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Large enough tank (Bob, have I got your quote right?)     6/3/14

Where is the link at please?
<Oops! It's here:
Cheers, Neale.>
Change of plan (possibly); fw stkg.      6/6/14

Hello Neale, I am the one who wrote to you about my Nuvo 38 gallon tank and asked you for fish suggestions. I had considered cardinal tetras but now when I read about their need for soft water I am changing my mind. Mine here is very hard. I wanted to get your opinion on keeping zebra, golden
white cloud and celestial pearl danios.
<All three of which can work fine in hard water, though I would not mix Zebra Danios (which are bullies) with the other two species. Danios are notorious for bullying White Clouds in particular.>
I have read that each should be in small schools.
<Yes. At least 6 of each, and realistically, a minimum of 8-10 for the two smaller species.>
Would I have enough room in that size thank for all three, or just go with two types?
<Theoretically you could fit a school of each in your tank, but as stated, I wouldn't. In any event, schooling fish ALWAYS look best with a large group of one species compared to two or three smaller groups. So maybe choose one species and keep a large number. For example, 20 White Clouds would be inexpensive and school together nicely, in a way that 6 or 8 probably wouldn't.>
Also how many should I put in each school? And lastly, after the aquarium ages and settles in could I still add a pair of angels?
<Danios mix with Angels; the other two species are Angelfish food. They also require cooler water than the Angels.>
Thanks again for all your help.
<Most welcome. Neale.>
Re: Change of plan (possibly)     6/7/14

Neale, thank you for your patience with me. I read the link about cardinal tetras and if I read it correctly, (which I may not have) they can be kept in hard water but just will not be able to breed. Is that correct or
should I just stay away from them since I cannot afford equipment to soften water?
<They can survive in hard water, and do seem less disease prone than farmed Neons. But they're not at their best, and some aquarists (including me) have had trouble keeping them alive for their full lifespan of 4-5 years in hard water. Quite likely water quality, peaceful tankmates and proper diet become even more important. Subdued lighting and the use of peat or blackwater extract to "tint" the water will also be worthwhile.>
Also, on the above mentioned fish, since they are not all compatible, which of the 3 I mentioned in your opinion would look best in a large school?
<Good quality White Clouds are lovely fish, and well worth keeping in large groups. The males do a lovely fluttering thing with their fins.>
If you feel it is the zebras that would be fine because then I could still put in a pair of angels later, but if you feel one of the other 2 would look better I will go with that.
<Depends on what you want. A school of White Clouds in an open rocky aquarium with some Vallisneria or whatever around the edges is hard to beat. Add a few Rhinogobius gobies and you have a really nice subtropical set-up. But Zebra Danios are hard to beat in terms of ease, and many people find Angels lovely pets thanks to the willingness to become tame, even hand-feedable.>
And if it is one of the others do you know of a pair of compatible larger fish I could put in with them to compliment the school?
<White Clouds don't do well with bigger fish, but Danios are larger-than-life characters compatible with all sorts of things including Gouramis and even fairly pushy fish like the smaller South American
I thank you again for your patience and your knowledge. God bless!!
<Thank you, Neale.>
Re: Change of plan (possibly)     6/9/14

Neale, hello again. If I went with a school of white clouds are they hardy and easy to keep?
And since the angels would not be good mates for them is there a fish I could add to the white clouds in a group of two or three that are hardy and would look good together?
<Any subtropical Hillstream fish of similar size. Rhinogobius gobies are worthwhile, Cherry Shrimps bring colour, and some of the so-called Hong Kong Plecos (e.g. Beaufortia spp.) are quirky.>
Thank you again.
<Most welcome, Neale.>
Re: Change of plan (possibly)      6/10/14
Hello Neale,
I have a couple more questions, please and hopefully I will be done. I am sorry about asking so much. I know it is no excuse, but I have OCD and it seems like at times I have to get everything perfect in my mind.
<I see.>
If I decided to go with the zebra danios, are they hardy and would you suggest still getting 20?
<In a big enough tank, a great idea. I wouldn't keep this number in anything smaller than, say, 40 gallons. In other words, they're a couple inches long, and allowing an "inch per gallon" to be conservative to start
with, that adds up to about 40 gallons.>
Also will the danios pick on cories or fool with any shrimp?
<They work well with the standard Corydoras species, though probably not the "pygmy" species like Corydoras habrosus.>
(I have never had any shrimp and you recommended the red shrimp? Are they easy to keep and how many are best to keep together)?
<In the right tanks shrimps are easy and breed like rabbits. In the wrong tank they simply disappear. The best approach is to experiment. Buy half a dozen, see what happens. Danios are micro predators so mixing them with the smaller shrimps isn't a good idea. Red Cherry Shrimps for example are probably a bit too small, and Bumblebee Shrimps for sure. But the larger Amano Shrimps might be okay (though these won't breed in aquaria).>
Lastly on my 38 gallon Nuvo the output nozzles from the filter chamber are adjustable. Is there any advantage to pointing them in any certain direction, i.e. facing in towards each other, facing straight ahead or pointing away from each other each facing the sides of the tank?
<Yes; having the filter ruffle the surface of the water is generally the best default. Maximises surface area, which increases the rate at which oxygen is absorbed.>
Thank you so much again.
<Welcome. Neale>

Heating tank on unheated porch and fish stocking questions      5/10/14
I was wondering is it okay/safe to keep a second larger tropical fish tank then the 55 I have now on an unheated porch in MN year round with the right heater? We don't have room in the house for a second tank ( Any heater brands/ types you recommend), its maybe 10 degrees warmer then outside/protected from the rain/etc. but that's it. Keep in mind winters here can be 30- below at times. I was wondering if its possible. Are there any risks with heating a tank/keeping it in such a cold environment in winter.
<This will be virtually impossible to do in the Minnesota climate. Aquarium heaters simply don't have the power to maintain the temperature of a tropical aquarium in ice-cold surroundings. In fact aquarium heaters aree
generally designed to do no more than heat the water above ambient room temperature, which isn't going to be less than, say, 18 degrees C/64 F in most cases. You could of course add enough heaters to overcome such limits, like using ten 150-watt heaters in a 55-gallon tank or whatever, but the electricity bill would be insane, even if you worked really hard to insulate the aquarium to minimise heat loss. I have seen people keep
tropical fish outdoors in summertime in the American Midwest, often with excellent results. But invariably such aquarists bring their livestock indoors.>
I was drawn to Jaguar catfish on planet catfish and would like to set up a tank for a group of them plus another fish type i would see more of during the day, possibly sliver dollars/ red hooks the like.,
<A good combination.>
what size tank do you recommend for a group of jaguar catfish. I saw a 150 gallon, do not know the dimensions but it was taller so shorter than then my 6 foot tank 125,
<For the size, number of fish you are talking about, yes, 150 US gallons sounds an excellent starting point.>
Thanks, Alex
<Do get in touch with your local aquarium club; Minnesota has an excellent club based in the Minneapolis-St Paul area (http://aquarium.mn) with really friendly members. It may well be that you'd find it easier to experience all the fish you want if you can share with others. So even if you can only own 1 tank, you can visit other peoples' aquaria, house your fish in their tanks, participate in group projects, and carry out all sorts of other things to develop your hobby without needing any extra tanks yourself.
Cheers, Neale.>

Suggestions for New aquarium... FW stkg... just learning to search/read       5/1/14
Hello Crew,
I certainly hope all is going well for you. I have several questions, please. First, I wanted to know if the American Flagfish is a good companion for a community tank.
<Jordanella... no; a bit too rowdy; nippy for all but mid-temperament... like mid-sized gouramis>
Second, I am in the process of setting up an Innovative Marine Nuvo 38 gallon tank, and I would like to know if 6 Cory cats would be too many for a tank this size.
<Not too many>
I want them to school so that is why I picked 6. And as far as cories go, is it OK to keep aquarium salt in the tank with them?
<No... only a few Callichthyid species tolerate salts>
I have read both pros and cons on this. The last question is what is the largest number of fish (2-3") you think I could stock in addition to the cories?
<... see WWM re Corydoras Compatibility>
Thank you very much for your time and expertise.
James Hall
<Cheers, Bob Fenner>
Re: Suggestions for New aquarium       5/1/14
Thank you Mr. Fenner, I appreciate it. I am not familiar with the Callichthyid species.
<... ? It's a family... simply look it up>
You said only a few of these could tolerate salt. Are any of the ones that can Cory cats?
<Look this up as well... even on WWM>
Also, in the Nuvo 38 gallon what do you feel to be a comfortable number of fish to stock without overcrowding that are 2"-3" in length and compatible with cories. Thank you again for your time and have a good day Sir.
<Depends on species and more but likely 5-10. B>
James Hall
Re: Suggestions for New aquarium    5/2/14

Thank you,
James Hall
<Welcome James. B>Re: Suggestions for New aquarium    5/4/14
Thank you very much.
<Welcome. BobF>
James Hall

Update on fish tank/ stocking questions... FW, bb stuff       4/20/14
Well I finely convinced the powers that be that I can do water changes biweekly. Next water change is on the 26th. The red eyes/ 2 rams and 2 south American bumblebee catfish are doing well. I'm wondering what wattage of light/type of light I will need if i am to grow lots of aquatic plants.
<Generally speaking, aim for 2-3 tubes the full length of the hood. That's usually practical and affordable. Choose tubes designed for plants. In the Hagen range for example, the Flora-Glo tube is the one you want, rather than the pinkish colour-enhancing Aqua-Glo or bluish-white daylight Sun-Glo tubes.>
I figure the plants would look good and keep the algae in check.
<If the plants are thriving, yes.>
The tank is 36 inches long by 20 high by 18 inches wide. What are some good plants to start with I do like tiger lotus but heard they get big.
<Start with a selection of hardy species, get them established quickly to combat algae. Over time you can prune these back and install more sensitive species that mightn't grow as easily. Good beginner species include Anubias, Cryptocoryne wendtii, Vallisneria spiralis, Echinodorus bleheri and Aponogeton hybrids (these latter are basically annuals under aquarium
conditions). Under good light Hygrophila polysperma is an excellent bushy plant, but needs pruning and tends to become leggy (long stems, short leaves) if the lighting is poor.>
I also had my eye on some young Keyhole cichlids do you think i could get a pair or is my tank stocked enough already.
<Generally safest to go one pair of cichlids per aquarium, but Keyholes and Bolivian Rams should be compatible (Common Rams have somewhat different requirements and don't really mix well with community fish in the long-term). Cheers, Neale.>

compatibility ?      4/8/14
Hello wet web media crew,
<Hello Gary,>
My question today is fairly straight forward. I have a 125 gallon tank planted with Anubias barteri, jungle Val, java fern, and java moss. (also a small growth of green hair algae i cultivate for a separate Tropheus tank via Extra light time). The tank has lots of lava rock with pvc tubes hidden beneath and driftwood pieces for decor. the tank is kept at 79 degrees F and a sand substrate
It is currently stocked with.
1 male jack Dempsey 9-10 inches
1 female albino Senegal bichir (recently dewormed and almost doubled in size! Thanks Neal!!!) 8-9 inches
<Glad this worked out so well!>
1 male Senegal bichir 6-7 inches
1 male albino Bristlenose Pleco 4-5 inches (currently guarding a clutch of hatchlings, will be moving soon)
1 female Bristlenose Pleco 6-7 inches
<All good.>
I did have a dozen giant danios in the tank but the constant movement was kind of freaking out my Dempsey and making him stay in his cave (he is timid for a Dempsey). Which I did not like it is primarily his tank so I sold of the giant danios. There will be one more senegalus in the tank once it grows out a bit is only around 2 inches now.( hoping for female).
<I see.>
I would like to add 1-2 more fish to the tank to complete its stocking. I was considering either a female Dempsey if I can find one (which is becoming incredibly difficult may hafto buy a baby and guess...).
<I would not do this. Paired JDs are substantially more aggressive than singletons. Minimal demand for their offspring too, so there's no really upside to keeping a pair in a community tank.>
Or a pair of Salvini.
<Similar to the JDs, and indeed, might even squabble if kept as singletons since the two species occupy similar sorts of niches.>
I am concerned as to if the Salvini will do well with the bichirs as my Dempsey does.
<Could do, but this species is a confirmed fish-eater and can be very aggressive, so approach with caution despite its beautiful colours (which really only come through when breeding, at other times can be pretty ordinary looking).>
Any of your thoughts on this would be appreciated. I have also considered some smaller schooling fish but figure with my bichirs that option is right out the window...
<What about something like Dwarf Upside Down Catfish or even Swordtails that occupy the upper level of the tank? These wouldn't compete with the bichirs for food. Congo Tetras would be a good choice, too.>
<Welcome, Neale.>
Re: compatibility ?      4/8/14

I have actually been considering both Congos and sword tails just thought they may not be viable with the bichirs.
<Both should work with Polypterus senegalus if sufficiently grown. Bear in mind adult Swordtails (if from a decent strain) should get to over 10 cm/4 inches in length. They are also extremely fast fish (adapted to streams) which is why they often seem hyperactive, even a little bored when kept in small tanks. Congo Tetras also get quite big, and have that deep body shape too. What you need to avoid are Neon, Zebra Danio and Guppy sized fish as those are the ones likely to go missing at night. There's a huge variety of newish barbs and characins in the ideal size bracket, but a lot will depend on your local retailer and what he can get hold of. The Filament barb (Dawkinsia filamentosa) is one example, available in lots of regional colour varieties and related species such as the Mascara Barb (Dawkinsia assimilis). If you work around their somewhat specialised needs, Pike Characins would be another good choice for like alongside small bichirs; Ctenolucius hujeta for example being a sociable (keep 2+ specimens) and relatively easy to feed example that doesn't get especially large, around 20 cm/8 inches or so. My specimens were hand-feedable on shrimp and fish fillet, but also took Hikari Cichlid Gold without complaint as well as whole cubes of frozen bloodworms!>
My prior male (tank jumped on me :(... new lid will be here by Friday) did a number on the danios till they were 3 inches or so. If you think either would work I would gladly attempt both. I had an upside down cat in a prior tank he just stayed glued to one piece of decor at all times eventually sold him at a fish auction.
<Keep a group! I have three, have had them for 12 years or so (long-lived for such small fish, I guess). They hover upside down below the floating plants a lot of the time, but I can easily see them there. Put food in and they usually spring into life, especially over bloodworms. Basically, don't keep just one -- they are schooling fish and will be super-shy if kept as a singleton. In a big tank, a half dozen would make sense. It's really fun to watch my two males follow the female about -- she's much bigger and rounder than they are. Tell you another fish in my tank you might try out, Mogurnda mogurnda. Big, peaceful predator with lots of colours. A trifle fussy about water quality and chemistry, but for a goby, easy to feed (mine takes Hikari Cichlid Gold).>
Thanks again Neale as always you have been most helpful
<One tries...! Cheers, Neale.>
Re: compatibility ?       4/9/12

was not aware upside downs were schooling fish when I owned mine
<Oh, very much so.>
I was fairly new to the hobby still and in a smaller tank at that point as well. That is no longer an issue :D . I will look into the goby as I tend to love the body shapes on most gobys that I have seen.
<Quite so; these medium-sized Mogurnda species make personable pets, becoming quite tame.>
for now I figure I will grab a school of swords and grow them out in a 40g breeder Im setting up to be my holding tank for now.
<Sounds a good plan. Once above, say, 8 cm/3 inches, they should be immune to casual predation on the part of all but the biggest/hungriest Senegal Bichirs. The bichirs will of course eat any fry!>
I will have to look around online for the Congo tetras my local stores tend to carry neons and cardinals only except for one that is considered a "high" end store and their pricing typically leans towards ridiculous. ($16 mollies)
<Ah, if they're decent Mollies, like true Giant Sailfins, or something a
bit unusual, not actually a bad price. Quite a lot of fish these days seem
cheap (Neons are the classic example) but the quality is exceedingly poor,
and such fish have minimal life expectancy once you bring them home. This
said, both Mollies and Swordtails are the kinds of fish you can expect to
pick up at any fish auction, so if your city/state has a fish club, ask
around! Hobbyists often rear the more desirable and oddball livebearers,
and literally sell bags of fry for a dollar or two!>
some of the cichlids they are worth it and if I ever jump into larger
bichirs they have some beautiful Ornates other than that however....
<Ornate Bichirs are definitely among the best looking predatory fish in the
hobby. Not especially commonly traded though. Polypterus endlicherii is a
stunning species that seems to be bred in bulk nowadays, and if you have
the space, it's worth considering.>
Thank you again Neal always a pleasure to get thought out and informational
responses over the typical streams of forum banter knowledge flexing you
tend to get in those formats.
<Often a case of "pick your forum". Monster Fish for example is pretty darn good for things like bichirs. But not the first place I'd go for 20 gallon community tank stocking ideas! Cheers, Neale.>

Stocking       2/12/14
Good morning gang!
I've spent awhile sorting through your forums and can't quite find the answer I'm looking for.
I have a 29G, freshwater tank, 78F, colored pebble/gravel bottom. 
Currently:  5 julie Cory s and one Betta.  Everyone gets along and I'm looking to stock some more fish.
 My girls would like guppies, but it seems as though the males have the fancier tales?  Correct?
<Ah yes>
 Would/should two males be fine in this much water?
 Or, with a fancier tail is it likely my Betta would turn aggressive?
<Is a possibility; the fact they're "growing up together", the size of this system, grant you good odds that they'll be fine>
 I recognize the need to keep one male to every 3+ females, but I don't want a tank full of guppies.  Am I better to go with 2 males? 
<... already stated>
or perhaps 3 or 4 females?  I also wish to introduce 2 African dwarf frogs in about a month.
Am I correct in saying:
5 Corys = 7.5" of fish
1 Betta = 3" fish
2 or 3 guppies = 6" fish
2 dwarf frogs = 4" fish
** Thus, in a 29gallon tank, I still have room for about 8" of fish?? 
Maybe some tetras?
<Easygoing ones would go... beware of "too nippy" species>
 Anything else you might recommend as being a great fit?
<All sorts. Bob Fenner>

Over Stock Question; two large, FW     1/12/14
I haven't had to ask your web site a question in a long time. My tanks have been doing good for a couple years. But, now I have a problem. I have (2) 125 gallon long aquariums (1) tank has (2) 6" Bala sharks, (1) 5" silver dollar, (1) 8" blood parrot (1) 6" Clown loach (2) 10" Gold Severums (1) 10" green Severum (1) 5" angel (1) 14" Iridescent shark (2) 8" Plecos .
<That's quite the collection!>
( I don't think my Severum, blood parrot and Irid, shark have a lot of time left with me because I have had them for over 10 years the rest in this tank are about 7 or 8 years old.
<Okay. For sure the cichlids are probably more or less at the end of their lives now, 10-12 years being good ages for medium-large cichlids like these. The Iridescent Shark Catfish is a tricky one though. Catfish tend to live a long time for their size, a common Plec comfortably getting to 20 years given the right conditions, and even something like a little Corydoras can easily live for 10 years! So I think you're probably being a bit "grave" when it comes to your Iridescent Shark; it could well live for many more years. You can certainly see giant specimens in zoos that are more than 20 years old.>
The other tank has African cichlids, (5) 9", 6", 6",5" 4" Frontosa (4) 5"4" 3"3" red fin (1) 6" sulphur head (4) 5" 4"4"4"sunshine peacocks, (3) 5"4"4"Blue dolphins (5) 4"3"3"3"3"calvus (1) 5" cat fish..Each of these tanks have 7 ph..for the past few years No ammonia, No Nitrites and 20 nitrates. I do water changes 50% a month, I clean one filter a month and vacuum one side of the tank each month. Unfortunately, my African cichlid tank broke a couple weeks ago. I safely moved all of those fish into my other tank. So now all of the fish above are in the same tank.
I know its extremely over crowded and not a good idea to mix some of those fish.
<For sure.>
There has been no problem with aggression nor or before I had to move them.
I do have a couple 20 gallon tanks I can put a couple fish in if aggression starts. For now I have to keep them in that tank, in about 6 months I will be able to pick up my 300 gallon tank for the African cichlid.
<Also good.>
In the mean time, I have 6 filters on the tank, (2) Marineland bio-wheels 350 (2) AquaTech 350 (I think that's the name) (1) whisper 20-40 and (1) Canister Filter with 9W sterilizer 525 (don't know the name it is a 4 stage and I have it full with different media) And now I am doing water changes bi-weekly. 50%. Do you think this is enough filtration and water changes to keep them healthy until I get my 300 gal in 6 months?
<In the short term, across weeks rather than months, the size of the tank actually doesn't matter much provided water quality is good. There's good evidence from fish farms that this is the case. But you will need to be doing very frequent water changes (I'd have thought daily, to be honest) and minimising the amount of food put in. Ammonia and nitrite need to be zero, of course, but you also will need to keep nitrate as low as possible, hence the water changes. Cichlids are infinitely less tolerant of nitrate than most catfish. Supplemental oxygenation would also be helpful, especially with those species like Clown Loaches that expect clean, oxygen-rich water conditions.>
I am closely monitoring for aggression and stress and will move some out if I have to. I would appreciate any help I get, I am worried about losing my fish. Thank you for your time, Tina
<Sounds like you have a decent plan, though I do think 6 months will be a challenge. Understand what the risks are, and act accordingly. Rehoming fish might be an option; some tropical fish shops will do this, and a few will even "baby sit" fish for a while. Your city or state fish club might be able to offer some practical help too, and in a crisis situation, they're be really good people to talk to. Good luck, Neale.>

Plecos/ and new tank.    11/9/13
I just sent James Lawrence an email asking to see if I can write a query for Amazonas,  my article will be called "A novices experience keeping South American fishes". and get the email address of a guy that spawned royal Plecos and got his writing published.  Hopefully I hear back from him soon.
<Let's hope! It's a great magazine, and hope you enjoy reading it.>
One of the favorite running jokes between me and my roommate- is that he should become a giant Panaque, live in the river Amazon,  and eat rotting wood.  lets just say he doesn't think too highly of the idea.
<I bet. There's actually some discussion among scientists whether Panaque truly eat wood, with different experiments supporting different conclusions. They are great fish though -- I've had my Royal Plec, "Claire", for almost 20 years now, and she's a real character, appreciated even by visitors who don't otherwise care much for tropical fish.>
The angel is doing well.    My  Bolivian rams are doing well to.  Should I try keeping Diamond tetras with the Corys or should I chose Rummynose.
<Either/both are good. Diamonds are a notch hardier, and very showy (when mature, their subtle but lovely colours really work well in planted tanks).
On the other hand, Rummynose Tetras are very vividly coloured, and in the right conditions (water that isn't too hard) are not especially difficult to keep, and they work very well with Angels.>
What types of Pencilfishes school nice look good and work with full size angels.
<Well, big Angels will view small Pencilfish as food, so it's not a match made in heaven! About the only one I'd even experiment with would be Nannostomus beckfordi, the Golden Pencilfish, which is a reasonably sturdy species and widely sold. Virtually all the other species are much more delicate fish best kept on their own (or at least, in very specific
soft-water communities of small fish). There are better oddball characins for life with Angels, such as Emperor Tetras, that you might want to consider instead. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Plecos/ and new tank.

my PH is 7.2, or 7 is this to hard for Rummy nose?
<pH is not hardness; please read:
pH is not particularly important provided it is stable and within a reasonable range for the species in question, which in this case would be between 6.0 and 7.5.>
Otherwise if all goes well I may get fish this weekend. I'm just going to do a water change after breakfast and then call my LFS to see if they got my order of Sterbai Corys in yet.
<Real good, Neale.>
Re: Plecos/ and new tank.    11/10/13

I have got the Cory cats they seem really active and are cursing the sides of the tank, like a frenzy.  I got 8 for $77,  my question is what and how often to fed them I have brine shrimp and flakes plus Blackworms but the worms  I brought don't look the best- Triaqutics has better worms IMO but they were sold out.
<Small frozen invertebrates should not really be used as a staple because they might not provide 100% of the nutrients (especially vitamins) needed, but in the short term, alternating the brine shrimp and blackworms will be okay. One cube should feed your group adequately well, offered nightly.
Longer term try to get hold of sinking wafers or pellets. This is also a much more economical way to feed catfish because frozen foods are mostly water and often end up sucked into the filter (and it's not a good idea to turn filters off for more than 10 minutes). For eight Corydoras, 1-2 Hikari sinking algae wafers would be adequate, and could be offered every other
night. During the day your Corydoras will consume whatever leftover flake they find. If you see your catfish eating substantial quantities of flake, scale back the food offered at night. As a ball park estimate, small fish should consume quantities of food about the size of their eye per meal, 1-2 times per day. More than this tends to be wasted, and can/will affect water quality.>
I haven't the cash needed to get pellets until next pay period which is every other Friday, Will they be fine on flakes and brine shrimp.
<Used together, yes. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Plecos/ and new tank.     More chatting 11/10/13

They were live black worms, I drained most of their container water before feeding.  The fish went nuts and all was eaten in about 10 min.  I will get the pellets the Friday night or Saturday night after next. In my tank 36, by 18 by 20 i have a pair of rams a singleton angel and 8 warm water Corys do you think its overstocked?
<36 x 18 x 20 = 12960 cubic inches, about 55 US gallons. No, your tank isn't overstocked. Assuming my interpretation of your aquarium measurements is correct, you could add a school of something like Bleeding Heart Tetras and then the tank would be finished.>
It looks like Nas car race tracks gone wild in the tank as the Corys like to cruse around on the sides of the glass all the time. I wanted to get 10 X ray tetras or maybe 10 emperor tetras.
<Either could work at 28 C/32 F.>
I have white sand, not black i was reading on wet web media that black sand helps emperor tetras color up better.
<Correct. White sand causes fish to fade their colours. Neutral, sand-coloured sand is a happy medium if you can't find black sand. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Plecos/ and new tank.

My ph is 7.5 or so would bleeding hearts do okay in that range,
<For sure.>
Whats 32F converts to degrees wise.
<Google is your friend. Enter this: 32 F in C ... and you'll get your
But I can tell you 32 F is 0 C, i.e., freezing. Do you mean 32 C?
That's almost 90 F. Way too warm for most fish.>
My tank is 81 degrees or so.
<27 degrees C; slightly cool for regular (non-Bolivian) Ram Cichlids.
Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Plecos/ and new tank.

I have Bolivian rams- the other type, blue rams,  are way too difficult.
<Quite so.>
I will look into bleeding hearts next pay period should my water test right. How many should I get?
Also If I get a 90 gallon in the future I was wondering which would be better to keep in my water  Discus- captive bred strains-
<These are certainly viable, but not with Angels; personalities are too different (Angels become bullies towards Discus) and the risk of
transferring diseases between them is very high.>
Or chocolate cichlids?
<Lovely fish. But which one? There's Hypselecara coryphaenoides and Hypselecara temporalis both sold under this name. They're quite different in appearance, behaviour and care. I've kept Hypselecara temporalis and it's a gentle giant with unique colours (green and purple!) that can change at a moment's notice. Would not mix with Angels or Discus though... best kept as a mated pair alongside peaceful catfish and medium-sized, non-nippy characins.>
I skipped Eartheaters as theses seem difficult to keep.
I may do a Royal Pleco- on gravel as sand is harder to vac up if I do go with chocolate cichlids. How many discus could I keep in a 90 and still have them grow to full size.
<A school of 6 is doable. With Discus, the aim is to keep either a singleton, a mated pair, or a group of 6+ specimens. Groups of 3, 4 or 5 are rarely stable in the long term.>
If not a problem I may try Striped Raphaels with the discus. If I decided to get a feather fin Synodontis catfish instead what goes well in a 90 gallon with them?
<Pretty much anything too big to be eaten while not aggressive or nippy enough to harm them. They're peaceful loners, one of my favourite catfish, but sadly a sitting duck for nippy barbs and the like. Like all Synos they expect a cave of their own, and probably won't share, so house with other catfish and loaches with care. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Plecos/ and new tank.     11/10/13

I've noticed one of my Corydoras sterbai is isolating itself from the group, he/she doesn't pace as frantically with and as the others, spends most of its time hiding and resting on the bottom.  Do you think a water change/test is in order?
<Certainly a water test is worth doing. And there is rarely a time that a water change is a bad idea!>
I just did a water change on Sat, the day I brought the Corys. I tested the water the day I brought the Corys to all seemed well.
<Will likely settle down soon enough.>
Other then that the fish look great.
BTW I'm selling/giving the old 20 gallon away to a friend named Joey.  He might set it up. What fishes could I subject he get for that tank, its 25 inches long, by 12 inches wide and high. I will tell him about the cycling process.
<My thoughts on stocking community tanks have been amply explained elsewhere...
Hope this helps, Neale.>
Re: Plecos/ and new tank.    11/12/13

<Yeah, Hi Alex, thanks for writing back, great to talk again... (a hint about manners there, if my irony there was too subtle...)>
I wanted to keep Black and white pictus in a 90 gallon tank,
<A good size tank for Pimelodus pictus; could easily house three alongside a moderate number of tankmates.>
how many could i keep and still leave room for max growth/happiness.
<Depends on how many and what sized tankmates, doesn't it?>
what ph water temp should i keep the tank at.
<P. pictus has similar requirements to Angelfish and most other robust South American fish. Provided you avoid very hard water, they're tolerant of most conditions.>
should sand or gravel be used  also what tank mates combine well with black and white pictus cats, cichlids, charens ,ect.
<No idea what "charens" are, and I'm fairly sure where you wrote "ect" you meant "thank you". Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Plecos/ and new tank.      11/13/13

Sorry If I seemed rude to you manners/social editacat are difficult for me because of my disability. I will work on it better
I am having problems with my Corydoras sterbai. I've noticed the one which isolated itself has died, I took action and removed the dead fish plus changed water.  i added a replacement for the dead Cory at Tropiaquatic/ they gave it to me for free , that was yesterday. when i changed the water the tank was around 80, this morning when I got up the temp was 74 75, and another Cory was on its side breathing heavily, ect. I turned up the heat to 79, both the Angel and rams seem fine, although this second sick Cory has sense died,  Wisely I did not feed the fish this morning.
Well I got home and found not only the dead Cory but now another Cory isolating itself. Rams and Angel are fine.   Are sterbais canaries in the coal mine so to speak?
<Not especially.>
Maybe I should take the Corys back to Tropiaquatics and get my money back if possible and research my catfishes/ wait for the tank to further mature, When I tested it at the lfs pier to perch ice  the water was fine.   If I do take them back I will have the staff at Tropaquatics test the water again to see if its a temp/shock issue or a water issue. When my tank is
ready for more fish again what types of Pleco's/ schooling, or singleton catfishes other then Corys  do well with rams, large tetras and angels in my 36L, 18W 20H tank?
<It's rare for Corydoras to die for no obvious reason. They are generally hardy, and if you buy healthy specimens, they normally adapt to an aquarium very well. So, assuming ammonia and nitrite are zero, and that water chemistry is stable, and water temperature is where it should be -- I'd be worried you had a batch that was sick already. Certainly don't add any more fish. Let things settle down. If you can return the Corydoras, that may be sensible. Don't add any new fish until AT LEAST 4 weeks after the last fish death. In due course you may want to try again with Corydoras. The hardiest species are probably Bronze and Peppered Corydoras, but they're all pretty good fish, if you get good specimens to begin with.>
PS I  will try to email you once a week on Tuesdays instead of multiple
times a day/, Alex
<Real good. Cheers, Neale.>
Stocking Questions   11/17/13

Hello Crew,
Since the last time I talked to you I have upgraded from a 29 gal. tank to a 45 gal. planted tank. The new tank is 13”w x 36”l x 24”h. PH is approx. 7.8 . Ammonia and nitrite 0ppm. Nitrate >5mg/l. With your help I have added 8 X-Ray tetra, 6 Sterba Corys in with the original inhabitants of the 29 gal. 1 Angelfish, 2 Ancistrus and 9 assassin snails. Do I have room for a school of Penguin Tetra(6-8?) and perhaps some cherry shrimp?
<Well, the Cherry Shrimp probably won't last long with the Angel and possibly not the Assassin Snails, so not worth the risk. To be honest I think your tank is "full". That's a fair amount of livestock, some of which (the Angel and the Ancistrus) get moderately large. Since you have fish at all levels of the tank now, I'd recommend leaving things be and just enjoying it as it is. Doubtless your fish are still youngsters, so there will be some growing to do, so even if the tank looks a bit empty now, it won't be six or twelve months from now.>
Thanks for all your very helpful knowledge.
<Most welcome, Neale.>
Re: Plecos/ and new tank. More blather re FW stkg.      11/20/13

Hi Neal Hope your having a good day.
<Yes, a good day, but blinding headache at the moment!>
Out of 9 Corydoras sterbai I have 4 left.  but no more have died over the weekend I think the mystery was cracked, either the ph of the store was different or i got a bad batch.
<Quite possibly. Corydoras are generally tough little catfish, so to lose a bunch at once is rare if the environment is otherwise sound.>
I talked with staff at my house they want me to do water changes once a month because of the ph. Do you think this is okay?
<Water changes can be done monthly, and in the past, often were. Just take care not to overstock or overfeed your fish, and choose hardy species that tolerate "old" water. Corydoras are good in this regard, as are most of the good beginner's species seen in books about community tanks. Avoid cichlids though (these are very sensitive to old water).>
I explained to them that I think once every two weeks would be a fair compromise. I gave Gabe the program director WetWebMedia's email to see for herself why water changes are important.
<Makes sense.>
Also assuming I can get fish after the new year, I plan on taking the surviving Corys back and getting a hopefully hardier Synodontis catfish- i know it would throw off my south American theme but i like them and i have a feeling James  editor of Amazonas wont contact me.  My favorite of the Synos is the clown, i also like the feather fin.
<Both fine catfish; but do look at Synodontis nigriventris. It's a sociable species and you should keep at least three specimens. But they get a good size (around 8 cm/3 inches) and are very lively once settled. Also extremely hardy, and generally good community fish. They're a great choice for small to medium sized tank.>
Would a singleton clown or Featherfin outgrow my 36 l 18w and 20 h tank?
<Synodontis decora and Synodontis euptera both get to 8 to 12 inches in length, and while one or other might fit in your 50 gallon tank, that wouldn't leave a huge amount of space for anything else. I'd suggest keeping it in something upwards of 75 gallons so that you could comfortably house a school of suitable sized characins, barbs or rainbowfish alongside them, though S. euptera in particular needs tankmates chosen with great care because it's an easy target for fin-nippers.>
If it did how long would I have before it would need a bigger tank and what size tank would it ultimately need.
<See above; these catfish do grow quickly, reaching full size in 2-3 years.>
Thank you for your help Neal have a great day.
<And likewise to you. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Plecos/ and new tank.     11/21/13

Thanks Neal, I'm so thrilled I think found a catfish I want that won't kill my South America theme. ( I tried the upside down catfish appearance wise and I don't really like it that much, oh well). So if James writes back I can still say i keep only south American fishes.
Is the Jaguar catfish a good choice if kept as a singleton
<May be kept thus, but will be very shy. Basically you won't see it unless you life up its cave. It's happier in groups and is very nocturnal. They like shady tanks with plenty of driftwood. In a tank with almost total overhead shade (e.g., thick with floating plants) it might swim about at feeding time. But most aquarists consider this fish "near invisible" compared to bold day-feeding catfish such as Corydoras.>
with the 1 angel and rams? Could it eat Bolivian rams?
<Unlikely, but depends on the size difference. Jaguar Cats mostly feed on plant material (such as fruits) plus small invertebrates, and so far as fish go, they're a threat primarily to tetra-sized mouthfuls.>
I would take back the Corys and just get the catfish and thus call it stocked.
<I would instead consider things like Megalechis and Hoplosternum; similar size, but day-active and not even remotely shy (indeed, Hoplos can cause problems by hogging all the food).>
Would it outgrow my tank?
<Jaguar Cats get to around 20 cm/8 inches or so. So an aquarium upwards of 55 gallons is in order.>
I do plan on getting a larger tank possibly but don't know yet if Gabe will let me.  Is the Jaguar  catfish tolerant of monthly water changes assuming I cant get Gabe to let me do it twice a month.
<Again, Hoplosternum and Megalechis have a better reputation for being tough animals. Jaguar Cats aren't delicate, but they aren't bullet-proof either. Cheers, Neale.>

Hi, I have a 110 litre tank with 1betta and 2 sail fin mollies and was wondering what other fish and how many I would b able to put in?       11/3/13
Thanks Paul
<Hello Paul. Have a read here first of all:
Once you recognise the specific needs of Mollies, you'll be in a better position to choose tankmates. Possible options might be suggested here:
Mollies do particularly well in slightly brackish water, where they tend to live longer and suffer far fewer diseases. It's not essential, but it does make keeping them easier. 110 litres/30 US gallons is a fair size tank, so provided you don't go bananas with overstocking, and consider the aggressive tendencies of male Mollies, you can keep quite a nice range of fish in this aquarium. Where small fish are concerned (those under, say, 3 inches in length) the old "inch per gallon" rule usually works quite well.
Hope this helps, Neale.>
re:      11/3/13

Hi, thanks for the reply that's a great helpThanksPaul
<Welcome. And do also review the notes/FAQs on Betta compatibility. In general they make poor community fish, being easy targets for nippy fish and poor competitors at feeding time. But they can get along well with very peaceful species that stay on the bottom, such as Corydoras, Whiptails and the like.
Cheers, Neale.>
... more poor Eng., FW stkg.      11/3/13

Hi, I have read the sites and they were a great help, but was wondering. If u could give me any suggestions. On what ones and how many? Thanks Paul
<Putting aside the Betta (which really doesn't belong in a mixed species community set-up) the best companions for Mollies are probably Rainbowfish.
These come in lots of colours, which is nice, but the key things are that they do well in hard water and tolerate therapeutic amounts of salt extremely well. This means you can keep in them in either hard water or slightly brackish water with your Mollies, as circumstances dictate. Given the size of your tank, a smaller Rainbowfish species makes sense, perhaps
Dwarf Neon Rainbowfish or Celebes Rainbowfish are obvious choices. In hard water, the hardier Corydoras can work well, such as Corydoras paleatus and Corydoras aeneus, but I wouldn't add salt to the aquarium if you try these catfish. Assuming you move the Betta, then you could easily keep in 110 litres/30 US gallons something like a 3-4 Mollies (one male, 2-3 females), a school of 6-8 small Rainbowfish, and 4-5 suitable Corydoras catfish. That sounds about right to me! Cheers, Neale.>

New fish tank stocking     9/25/13
Hello there I'm new to the fish community and your site has been more then helpful in getting me started.
<Ah good>
My question is I have a new 60 gallon tank that I'm currently cycling but I haven't decided on its inhabitants yet.
<An adventure!>

 In my head I would like to have 2 Raphael Cat's, (unsure if 2 will be enough for them to be happy) 
<Yes; is>

6 Kuhli Loaches, and 6 tiger barbs (girlfriend has to have these). I tried to research water specs for those fish and I think
the requirements are close enough that they could be together (I hope).
Now my real dilemma is the other fish I would like to have such as Rope fish, Rams, Pictus Cat, and a Farlowella Cat. I don't necessarily expect all of those species in the tank but I'm considering them with more info.
<Umm... all these may "fit" into a size/volume of sixty gallons; but the Rope may prove hard to feed amongst more eager tankmates; and the Rams could prove difficult to suit for their preferred warmer, softer water>
Now on to the tank, it's a 60 gallon with filtration that is 400gph , 180+ GH, 240+ KH, 8.2 PH (all high intend on dropping specs to more neutral before adding fish), Ammonia .25ppm,
<This needs to be 0.0>
Nitrites 1ppm, Nitrates 5ppm (still
cycling), and temperature I was thinking 79-80. I'm using black Fluorite as a substrate and it's planted with plenty of hiding spots of various size.
If I were to add 2 Rope fish with the Raphaels, Kuhlis, and Tiger barbs would that be a suitable combination?
<With the former admonition re feeding the Ropes (and making sure any escape holes through the top are covered>
 I'm unsure if my tank has the space/biocapacity for that combination and that the rope fish might eat the Kuhlis.
<They might if very hungry... plus the Kuhlis, other similar fishes are going to be very hard to find in this setting>
I'm also worried that many of the fish I'm interested in are nocturnal bottom feeders and competition for food would become a factor.
The Pictus Cat is a good looking fish but I'm worried it might get big enough to eat the Barb's or Kuhlis which wouldn't go over well. Originally I wanted large Cichlids but I don't have the setup for them yet so I was thinking Rams would capture the appeal but without the space and aggression. The Farlowella would help with algae and be a great fish to display. Another option I had in mind was the 2 Raphaels, 1 Farlowella, 6 Tiger Barbs, 1 German Gold Ram, 1 German Blue Ram, 1 Bolivian Ram, and 1 Electric Blue Ram ($$$). If I went this route would I be overstocking or would I have room for more?
<Yes you would; and there are other "mid size" cichlids and many other fishes to consider...>
 I'm curious on what your opinion/suggestions on my ideas are so that I don't overstock or put incompatible fish together.
<Really; to take your time for now... It's not necessary to place all at once, or settle for what's available just right now. My advice: Take your time>
Again thanks for all the help and the informative website,
<Thank you for sharing. Bob Fenner>

Book confusion; mixing hard/er, softer water fishes, FW       9/24/13
Dear friends,
 Thank you for  your  service!. I have been  reading and  reading  as  you have  suggested. I also purchased  the  book  b David Boruchowitz, The Simple Guide to Freshwater Aquariums, one  of  the  ones  WWM recommends.
Now in this  book,   a beginner doesn't  need  to  check the hardness  of the water. "providing a steady water chemistry is in most cases preferable to providing a  particular chemistry" He  stresses most  failures are  because  of  stocking issues and  not  water chemistry.  There  are  then   quite a  few  stocking  suggestions  for a  29 gallon  tank  and a  50 gallon  tank. Here  is  the  confusion.. The  first  suggestion  is  for  platies, danios,  tetras and   Cory cats. (numbers  for  the  amounts of  fish   are  given). Now  from  reading  WWM , tetras  and platies  have  opposite  hardness  requirements. Another  suggestion  is  for  swordtails,  Cory cats and angelfish. Same  issue  with  the  angelfish  and  swordtails.  What do you  think? (My tap water  and  aquarium  water  consistently tests at 80ppm for  KH.)
Thank you so much!
<David is right in some ways, but I'd argue wrong in others. He is quite right that beginners more often kill new fish by exposing them to non-zero ammonia and nitrite levels than anything else. But he is wrong that water chemistry can be ignored. Rather, it is better to say that unless water chemistry is very hard or very soft, you can probably keep most community fish species. A beginner should find out what their water chemistry is, and use that as a guide for choosing appropriate species. If you have middling water chemistry, say, 5-15 degrees dH and pH 6.5-7.5, then you can keep most community fish without problems (note: I doubt David is saying you can ignore water chemistry when it comes to Rift Valley cichlids, blackwater fish, and other specialist species). The main exceptions among community fish will be livebearers, including Swordtails, which will NOT do well in soft water, so do need at least 10 degrees dH general hardness, pH 7. At 80 mg/l carbonate hardness, your water seems to be relatively soft (a general hardness measurement would be more useful, to be honest) so you would be unwise to keep livebearers. But most other community fish, including most tetras, barbs, catfish and loaches, should do fine in your aquarium.
Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Book confusion    9/24/13

Thank you so much.
He  does  say  that mollies  and  cichlids and  a  number  of  other  fish  are  not for  beginners.
<Quite so. Mollies are demanding unless kept in brackish water, while many/most cichlids are challenging in various ways, from behavioural problems through to damaging plants or needing specific water chemistry.
That said, Angels are cichlids in good standing, and can be easily kept by ambitious beginners.>
Please help  convert  the  KH to a  dH. The  tetra  strips  I  bought  have only the  ppm KH.
<Do read here:
There are some useful tables that should/will help.>
When you say  general hardness measure  what do you mean  and  what  should  I purchase to test for that?
<Carbonate hardness is useful, and if you have the pH as well, you can get a good idea of your water chemistry without testing for general hardness.
In short, if you have low carbonate hardness and a pH between 6 and 7.5, then you probably have "soft" water suitable for most community fish except livebearers and many of the rainbowfish. If, on the other hand, you have high carbonate hardness and a pH of 7-8.5, then you probably have "hard" water and would do well with livebearers, many rainbowfish, and some of the ostensibly soft water species that tolerate hard water (such as Corydoras, Ancistrus, X-Ray Tetras and Cherry Barbs).>
Thanks  again for  the  invaluable info.
<Most welcome. Neale.>

fish suggestions; UK folks, 15 gal., BR?    9/8/13
hi everyone
<Hello Denise,>
Looking for a bit of advice really. My husband and I were in one of the Maidenhead branches earlier and they've started to get in fish that are around 3cm or under.
<Ah yes, several MA branches seem to be doing this. The branch at Morden in South London was one of the first, but it's a good development to see more and more branches doing the same thing.>
This has given me an idea to possibly have a few shoals of small fish in a tank around 60L although just ideas at the moment.
<Many options. 60 litres (15 US gal.) is a good size to start planning communities.>
They had bumble gobies, Brachygobius doriae which from initial reading I've done seem to require brackish conditions so would only be suitable with other brackish fish.
<Yes and no. They are possibly easier to keep in brackish water, albeit only the merest "taste" of salt is necessary, 2-3 gram/litre. As such, you could easily keep with, say, Endler's Guppies, Micropoecilia species (like Micropoecilia picta and Micropoecilia parae, both utterly gorgeous fish), Ricefish, even Wrestling Halfbeaks. They could also work with Figure-8 Puffers, one of which could work in your 60-litre tank if maintained scrupulously well. Few other fish work with puffers, but BBGs are among them.>
They also had chili Rasboras, Boraras brigittae and pygmy Corys, Corydoras pygmaeus. they also had various small killifish and said they'd be getting other small fish in soon including galaxy Rasboras.
<These don't want salty water of any kind, even very low salinities, but oddly enough, BBGs can thrive in plain freshwater. The biggest reason for failure with BBGs is starvation rather than salinity. Still, for the casual aquarist, the addition of salt does make BBGs that big easier to keep, so it's widely recommended.>
I've done a small amount of reading and will carry on before making any definite fish choices but was wondering if anyone could give me any suggestions of possible fish to look at.
<Dwarf Rasboras (Boraras spp.) and Dwarf Danios (Danio nigrofasciatus) would definitely be worth considering, as well as Ember Tetras (Hyphessobrycon amandae). Celestial Pearl Danio (Danio margaritatus) is another option but it does like somewhat cool water, around 22-24 C being ideal, so that may affect your choice of tankmates. It also prefers sort of neutral water that isn't too soft or hard, nor too acidic or alkaline, whereas most of the Dwarf Rasboras are blackwater fish that do best in soft, acidic water -- though to be fair, the commonest species in the UK trade, Boraras brigittae, often called the Chili Dwarf Rasbora, is pretty tolerant and will thrive in all but the hardest water, providing water quality is good and tankmates are appropriate. You could also look at Threadfin Rainbowfish, a personal favourite of mine, and if you want something that's cheap as chips yet easy to keep and colourful, look at the Cherry Barb. These are probably my favourite barbs because of their lovely colours (males are various shades of red, while females are equally attractive peachy colours with longitudinal bands). The females hang about in gangs while males claim small patches of territory, often around a leaf, and so you have this interesting social behaviour that rarely gets out of hand provided you keep a fair number, say 3 males and 4-5 females. Don't forget about shrimps as some species, especially the Cherry Shrimp, are easy to keep and colourful. Ricefish of all kinds are excellent and generally adaptable, with Oryzias woworae, the Daisy Ricefish, perhaps the (expensive) pick of the bunch, while the inexpensive Ricefish species Oryzias dancena is less colourful but has bright blue eyes and amazing raggedy fins (on the males). One cool thing about Ricefish is their breeding behaviour: females carry around bunches of big eggs they deposit one at a time on floating plants and Java moss, and when these hatch surprisingly big fry emerge that can be corralled into a breeding trap and easily reared on powdered flake food. I mix Ricefish with Cherry Shrimps and pretty much have self-sustaining populations of both in a 50-60 litre tank jam-packed with Java Moss. It's a really fun tank to keep and watch, and since neither species is delicate or messy, maintenance is minimal.>
We've got a lot of tanks with "normal" sized fish in and I'm getting excited about the prospect of a tank filled with far smaller lives, think with a bit of reading and thought I could have a tank with a lot of interest and activity.
<Hope this gives some ideas. Cheers, Neale.>

Stocking for 63-gallon tank; FW; mixing/matching organisms by water quality and temperament      9/4/13
I have just been able to jump back into fishkeeping after moving to Mexico and being fishless for two years. The tank I'm going to get is 63 gallons and already cycled, and I'm going to fill it up with Cryptocorynes and sword plants, both of which I have previously had success with.
I was thinking of getting a couple of discus and angels
<Mmm, better one or the other. These two have issues; don't really go together>

 and pairing them up with a few livebearers, a male Betta, maybe a Hatchetfish and other characin or two (or six), and a bunch of micro Corydoras. Is that a suitable stocking idea?
<The Angels would be better w/ what you list otherwise... Can reach hard/er, more alkaline and cooler (temp.) water quality better than Symphysodon>
I was also planning to put in some cherry or ghost shrimp, a few ADF's and some mystery (aka Briggs) snails. Is that OK?
<Might be hard to feed the frogs in this setting, size system, but should mix>
 I know discus require higher temperatures, so I would like to know if that is OK for the other fish?
<Not the livebearers especially; no>
 Or, if not, then what sort of fish would go well with them?
<See WWM re Compatibility (FAQs) for input here; for whatever species, group you're principally interested in>
Thank you so much in advance!
<Ah, welcome. So send along your revised list; further sharings. Bob Fenner>
Re: Stocking for 63-gallon tank; guppy hlth. as well now    9/5/13

Thanks a bunch, Mr. Fenner!
I guess I'll go with the angels, then. My mom is mad for them​ and they do seem to be hardier than discus, from your description.
<Yes they are>
Anyway, today I bought 2 pairs of guppies (one pair's for my friends and one's to put in my quarantine tank to await the arrival of the big one), and one of them just decided it was an excellent time to give birth on the way home. She had 11 fry total, which I was thankfully able to save, but I have nowhere better to put them than a tiny glass jar that used to contain cherry/plum jam.
<No larger container? Ask the neighbours what they have>
They seem healthy and OK. I put my *Elodea* strands in with them to help them feel more at home.
Three of the four adults seem healthy and very active; however, I haven't seen any of them eat (I may just not have been paying enough attention), and one of them has some white stuff on her mouth and isn't moving around too much. If it's fungus, what can I do?
<See WWM re Guppy Disease... do you know how to work the search tools?>
Since all the fish were bought together, should I medicate them all?
<Depends on what the cause is; the perceived need>
Would Methylene blue kill the *Elodea*or the babies?
<It will not>
 I don't want to lose these guppies, I am already attached to them and they are the most beautiful ones I've ever seen. The males are a deep sapphire blue and one has a bright red/orange tail, and both females have orange tails.
Back to the stocking for the tank. Fish-wise, I was thinking guppies, swordtails, Neon or Cardinal tetras, marble Hatchetfish, clown killifish, angelfish, zebra danios, a male Betta and a couple of micro Corys, maybe a pair of *Heterandria formosa* (I think they're called Mosquitofish?).
As far as plants go, I wanted to use the *Elodea* I already have, as well as some crypts, hornwort, Java fern and Amazon swords (I've had those before and love them).
And as for other animals, I wanted to put in the aforementioned snails, frogs and shrimp; but I found out something unusual today at my LFS--tiny turtles
<Not a good choice... too messy, and eventually predaceous
>  being kept in an aquarium with some guppies, snails and platies; all they had to rest on was a platform attached to the tank with suction cups so they could climb out of the water. I don't know what species they were, but I thought they were adorable. They couldn't have been over three and a half inches long. Is it truly possible to keep these tiny buggers in a fully aquatic tank, if they can climb onto their platform at the surface?
Or is this a bad idea for some reason?
<A poor choice. See/search this on WWM as well>
I also love reptiles but have never been allowed to have a terrestrial one, like a lizard; but I know if it were in the tank my mom would love to watch some turtles and would let me get one (or two, LOL).
Thanks again, and sorry for the long e-mail :$
Have an awesome day!
<Cheers, BobF>

Tank mates, 30 gal. FW      8/29/13
Hello again WWM! Am writing today to ask for some suggestions on possible tank mates. Stock is low so now may be a good time for any changes!
Parameters of the tank: 12 inch wide x 36 inches long x 17 inches tall.
<So about 30 US gallons. A good size and length for community species.>
pH 7.6 - ammonia 0 - nitrite 0 - nitrate less than 5 mgL - kH 5 deg - gH 12 deg - temp 80 degrees.
<A trifle warm for many species; would aim for 25 C/77 F if you can. But nice middling water chemistry that's good for a range of community fish.>
Currently it is stocked with 2 Bristlenose Plecos and 1 adult angel.
<A good start.>
Tank also has several live plants and a small gravel substrate. We would definitely like to keep the current stock but with the multitude of choices we are very interested to hear any suggestions you may have for stocking this tank.
<Depends how much effort and risk you're prepared to make. But one or two schools (of 6-8 specimens) of species such as X-Ray Tetras, Cherry Barbs, Zebra Danios, Emperor Tetras and Penguin Tetras would all be adaptable and easy to keep. Of these, Cherry Barbs and Emperor Tetras have the most interesting behaviour, while Danios are hyperactive and keep the very top of the tank interesting. X-Rays are all-around hardy and perhaps the least difficult tetra species to keep. Penguins are almost as hardy and very striking. You might also want to add some Corydoras of some sort, with Bronze Corydoras, Panda Corydoras and Corydoras sterbai being three adaptable, easy species worth considering. Since these catfish are social, keep at least 4 specimens per species, and the more the merrier (less shy, more outgoing).>
The ideal final result will be a tank requiring little more than regular maintenance and providing a lot of entertainment!
Thank you all again for your expert insight!
<Most welcome. Cheers, Neale.>

Catfish/ happy fourth and new tank possibly.   7/4/13
First off have a happy fourth of July- I'm going to spend it eating giant brats and burgers and watching fireworks. Hope you do the same.
<Unlikely; I'm British.>
I found out the dimensions of my tank to be if I can convince my mom to let me take it. Its 36 inches long by 15 inches wide and 20 inches tall. - dad says its a 55 gallon.
<Uh, no… 10800 cubic inches, so 39 Imperial gallons or 46 US gallons.>
Would spotted Pictus cats work okay for tank mates with an angel?
<Pimelodus pictus, the Pictus catfish, can work with Angelfish given space, but it's not recommended in small tanks because the Pictus are very active and restless, especially at night when you aren't watching, and as a result annoy the Angelfish if it doesn't have space away from them. Do also bear in mind Pictus are quite big (around 10 cm/4 inches or so when adult) and need to be kept in groups of 3 or more.>
How many could I keep without overstocking the tank? I find the black and white colors to go nicely with the marble angel. Or would I be better off sticking to warm water Corys, a school of tetras and some keyhole cichlids.
<Yes, given the size of your tank. Have a look at Corydoras sterbai; it's a pretty catfish that looks very nice with Angels. Corydoras panda is another good choice, but keep water temperature at or slightly below 25 C/77 F.>
Would the Pictus, keyhole cichlids and the angel get along or would it be a bad idea. I know tetras are out if I get Pictus.
<Only bite-sized tetras; medium-sized species like Congo Tetras are fine.>
Also suppose I don't get the tank will one juvenile angel outgrow a standard 20 gallon system.
<No, you can keep a singleton adult Angel with great success in 20 gallons, or for that matter a mated pair could work too. Cheers, Neale.>
Sorry about the holiday mishap/will stick to Corys   7/4/13

I didn't know you were British- sorry if I offended you.
<The American Rebellion was over 200 years ago… so nope, I'm not bothered. Besides, we managed to keep Canada!>
Yeah after researching pictus I think I'll stick to warm water Corys at around 80 degrees or so. Right now tank is about 82. Tell me is a 46 gallon overstocked with 1 singleton angel, about 8 warm water corys,15 or so tetras
<Fine so far.>
and 2 keyhole cichlids.
<Too much for this tank. Quite likely to want the same real estate as the Angels, which could cause problems.>
As for tetras I was thinking either black neon or rummy nose, my ph is 7.
<Both good choices, though Rummynose Tetras are delicate and only do well in a mature, well-maintained tank. Black Neons are reasonably accommodating. You might also look at Penguin Tetras or Emperor Tetras (both surprisingly hardy). Cheers, Neale.>
Rams and things.    7/5/13

Sense Keyholes would be to much for the tank I plan on getting. How about 2 Bolivian rams instead.
<Could work, but be careful with water quality.>
I would do the single angel, 15 tetras, 8 warm water Corys and 2 rams.
<Fine on paper.>
I like keyholes but I want them to get along so to speak.
<Ah now, you could try it, especially with a singleton Angel; just be sensitive to possible territorial problems, and have a Plan B if they start squabbling.>
If I were to get a 55 or larger tank instead of the 46 do you think I could get 2 keyholes instead of 2 rams- just weighing all my options.
<55 gallons would offer a lot more space, so would be safer.>
I think the penguin tetras are kinda dull but I like the emperors. I like fishes with color and exotic looks, like the rams and keyholes and rummy nose.
<Don't discard the Penguins till you see 'em. They swim at an odd angle that's fun to see. Emperors are very cool fish though. Like Cherry Barbs, they don't "behave" as you expect schooling fish to behave.>
Thanks for helping me out.
<Welcome, Neale.>
things. FW angel sys.? Ongoing stkg...     7/6/13

Well talked with my parents. They are selling the 46 gallon ( 36 inched long, by 15 inches wide by 20 inches high). to me for $200- is this a fair deal?. Its acrylic . Complete with lids and possibly a filter. I'm picking it up next weekend on the 13th. I do have to clean up the bottoms of both tanks. I also have a 18 inch wide, 6 foot, 20 inch high 125 gallon tank my parents are selling for $400 but Gabe said too big for the house. Got any MN friends that might be interested .
<Do contact the Minneapolis Aquarium Society (http://aquarium.mn ). They're great people, and I'm sure will be able to give you all kinds of help so far as local pricing, trades and so on go.>
I'll do the switch of the filter and gravel on September . and Marbelloh ( Angel) will have his new digs. I'll add fishes a few weeks after I test the water regularly and gets settled in. gradually of course. I might get the catfish first then the dwarf cichlids and then tetras.
<Real good. Cheers, Neale.>
Pencils okay in 46 gallon to be.    7/6/13

I was thinking either Nannostomus beckfordi or nannomus trifasciatus, a school of about 10 or so of these. the single angel, 8 warm water Corys and 2 keyhole cichlids. In the 36 Long by 15 inches wide by 20 inches high. my ph is 7. and temp is 80 or so.
<Nannostomus beckfordi is an exceptionably good species; highly recommended for quiet communities. But a large Angelfish could view them as food. Most farmed Angels don't seem to get much bigger than 10 cm/4 inches, but if yours is bigger, I wouldn't risk it.>
i heard emperor tetras can be nippy and marbellohs fins are getting long..
<Emperor Tetras are highly social, like most tetras, and may get bored if you don't keep enough of them. But a decent-sized group should be fine.
I've not seen/heard of them being nippy, but erring on the side of caution has its merits! Cheers, Neale.>

Re Head and tail light tetras okay in 46 gallon to be.   7/7/13
I just saw a fish I really like, head and tail light tetras would a school of 10 or so of these work with the Corys and angel in the 46 gallon..
<These are lovely fish. Do well with Angels. Look washed out in alkaline water and bright light, so ensure you have water that is not too hard (2-12 degrees dH, pH 6-7) and plenty of overhead shade. Cheers, Neale.>
Re Head and tail light tetras okay in 46 gallon to be.   7/7/13

Would do great for me then as Jason ( housemate I live with) likes the room dark. I don't have a overhead light for growing live plants and I have dark substrate. I think I found my tetra.
<Hemigrammus ocellifer was one of my first ever tropical fish. Not widely kept these days because it lacks vivid colours, but in a tea-coloured blackwater biotope you'll get a lot out of these fish. As it happens, most Corydoras enjoy such conditions too -- and those with yellow colouration on their fins or golden bands on their heads look especially nice -- e.g., Corydoras sterbai and Corydoras adolfoi. Angels, needless to say, positively relish shady aquaria even though they aren't really blackwater fish so much as inhabitants of the flooded forest.>
Only one thing I need a new thermometer- mine isn't giving accurate reading, its a stick on one. When I had Oscars before at my parents they smashed a glass one and I haven't gone back sense. Not doing that again- sticking to fish that don't grow into tank busters.
<The sticky LCD ones are fine for most purposes. Not especially accurate, but good enough.>
Wish I could have their giant tank though- Only 400 for a 6 foot tank complete with gravel stand, and filter. oh well 46 is plenty for this house.
<46 gallons is a lovely size for tetras, Corydoras and Angels. Silica sand at the bottom, lots of bogwood to mimic tree trunks, and a good handful of floating plants (Amazon Frogbit would be ideal!) for the top. Perfection!
You might even get some Whiptails to burrow into the sand and provide an easy to keep oddball to your community. Cheers, Neale.>

Why are warm water Corys so dang expensive/ cheaper places to buy.     7/8/13
I was at a world of fish picking up some new things for my new tank I'm getting next weekend. My parents will have me pay half now and half later. I got some sand, 30lbs of it, some ocean nutrition cichlid flakes, and a inside stick on temermomater. I looked at a tank of Corydoras sterbai, and they were $20 a peace!
<Slightly more expensive than I'd pay; here in England, I'd budget around £7-8 or so per Corydoras sterbai, which works out at about $15 a piece. But they are what they are, and kept properly, should live a very long time.>
Before I spend almost $200 on fish- (I plan on getting 8). I was wondering is this over priced?
<Only marginally compared to a big aquarium shop in London where there's a huge market for them. In smaller or more remote cities, you may well expect to pay more. Do, of course, ask for a discount on a group (many places here offer 6 for the price of 5, which would be ideal for you).>
and are there cheaper places to get the same Cory?. Maybe online or maybe another dealer you know of. I was thinking of calling Aqualand. To see if they offer the same Cory for cheaper.
BTW Marbelloh ( angel) really likes his new flake.
<Real good. Cheers, Neale.>

Should I get Marbelloh a buddy or go with keyholes when I get my new tank,..     7/8/13
Besides tetras (would glow lights or cardinals be safe just checking)
<Both can work with Angels; Cardinals are the bigger of the two, work very well with Angels, but are sensitive fish, so review their needs.>
a whiptail (how do you care for these, and how big do they get)
<The standard common Whip is Rineloricaria parva. It gets to about 10 cm/4 inches in length but a lot of that is tail. Care is much the same as Corydoras; they like algae wafers, sinking foods, plus small meaty foods like frozen bloodworms and brine shrimp.>
Would it make sense to get a buddy for Marbelloh or would I be better off getting the Keyholes and just having the 1 angel.
<Angels don't need buddies, and if you get two males, they may well fight.
Sexing Angels is impossible outside of spawning. One Angel plus a mated pair of Keyholes could well work, but have Plan B just in case.>
I like the Koi , marble and wild cross angels. Would it be safe to have a wild cross angel with a domestic.
<I would not keep a wild-caught Angel with a farmed one -- the risk of farmed fish parasites infecting the wild fish will be too great. But all the farmed varieties get along okay, including the wild-type Angels with the silver bodies and vertical black bands.>
But I do like keyholes. Do keyholes do better in pairs small groups.
<Singletons are just fine in shady tanks, but mated pairs work well. If keeping groups, get a fair number otherwise bullying is a possibility.>
Your insight is greatly appreciated .
<Cheers, Neale.>

HELP! Angel bothering  Bolivans rams temporary or should I return the fish/ get them into a bigger tank.    7/15/13
I got some Bolivans rams 2 of them ( a male and a female I believe as I'm told they do better in pairs. ) Males have longer fin extensions and are bigger.
<Of unpaired fins; yes>
I put them into my 20 gallon tank. And my Angel started chasing them, ramming them and pecking at them/there fins. I switched around the driftwood/plants, and added a new hiding place. I also fed the angel before hand hoping to distract him. The aggression has died down somewhat but it seems whenever the rams get comfortable he does it again. The rams also seem to go after the angel at times but not nearly as much. Should I return the rams?
<I would at least use a separator (divider) to keep them apart for several days>
 I still have the reseat. or put them into my bigger setup.
How long should I wait to do something?
<... no time; I'd separate now; ASAP. Bob Fenner>

hi (Koi and Iridescent Sharks in 55 gallons… can I add an Oscar?)   Wacky FW mixes  6/16/13
hi, First of all let me tell you that you are running a great site. Lots of useful information. Thanks a lot .
<And thank you for the kind words.>
Now about my issue. I already have a 55 gallon tank.
<A great size for an aquarium!>
I have a 5 inch & 2.5 inch Koi,
<Whoa! Not in this tank for long
… Do bear in mind that a healthy Koi will get to around 2 ft/60 cm, and they're sociable animals too, so keeping in an aquarium isn't really viable.>
two 3.5 iridescent sharks
<Same again! These get massive,
potentially over 2 ft/60 cm even under aquarium conditions, and something like twice that size in the wild. Most aquarium specimens die long, LONG before that because they can't be kept properly in home aquaria.>
& one 5 inch Pleco.
<Do-able, but will make the tank filthy; would always favour a smaller Loricariid catfish in 55 gallon and smaller tanks, e.g., an Ancistrus or for the more ambitious, something like the Green Phantom (Baryancistrus demantoides) which gets to around 15-20 cm/6-8 inches.>
Is my tank already overcrowded???
<Oh yes.>
I want to add two 2 inch albino red Oscar. Is it a wrong move?      6/16/13

Oscar will be too aggressive to other tank mates???
<Not as such, no. Oscars are not aggressive fish outside of spawning, and actually work well with large barbs (e.g., Tinfoils and Spanners) and L-number catfish. But a single Oscar will fully occupy a 55-gallon system in terms of filtration, water quality and water changes -- even adding a catfish will make it VERY HARD for you to keep the water quality right, especially in terms of nitrate.>
If Oscar is not a good choice then can you give me few good choices???
<I would start over with this aquarium entirely. Have a look at a peaceful, medium-sized cichlid like the Blue Acara or Firemouth if you want a mixed species set up, then choose companion species of appropriate size to go along with it. Firemouths for example work well with Swordtails, while Blue Acara could be kept with medium-sized tetras such as Bleeding Hearts or even Rainbowfish if you don't mind a "non South American" mixture. Both would get along well with L-number catfishes in the 10-20 cm size range. If you just want cichlids, then Tanganyikans are especially nice cichlids to keep, with numerous Lamprologus and Julidochromis species being just the right size to fit into a tank like this.>
My Other issue: I'm planning to buy a 22-24 gallon tank. This one will be a planted aquarium. I'm planning to add neon tetras. How many tetras will be enough in this tank???
<Neons do best in large groups, and this tank is easily big enough for 12-14, and that would still leave space for one or two other small species, perhaps 3-4 Corydoras and a single specimen fish like a Dwarf Gourami.>
I'm thinking about adding full red guppies & full black guppies. Is it a good move?
<With Neons? It's doable, but Neons do need fairly cool (22-24 C/72-75 F is ideal) water that's soft and acidic (certainly no harder than 15 degrees dH). Kept otherwise they are alarmingly difficult to keep alive for more than a few months, especially the cheap, disease-prone farmed ones sold in most pet stores. Guppies are equally disease-prone and farming has done them no favours at all, so again, you're fighting with one hand behind your back if you try to keep them in less than perfect conditions. If this was me, and I wanted to keep Neons, I'd tailor the tank around their needs as described above, and if Guppies, I'd want a hard, alkaline system with the definite option of adding a little salt, which rules Neons right out. Thirty years ago both Neons and Guppies were quite hardy fish, but that isn't true any more, so I'd treat both species as "demanding" fish that need a little molly-coddling.>
What's your suggestions for a 24 gallon tank???. Please suggest fishes which don't try to uproot my plants.
<Assuming your water is neither too hard nor too soft, so around 5-15 degrees dH, pH 6.5-7.5, then my favourite hardy and commonly sold fish for planted communities include Cherry Barbs, Dwarf Rainbowfish, X-Ray Tetras, "False" Penguin Tetras, Emperor Tetras, Bronze and Peppered Corydoras, Bristlenose Plecs and Whiptail Catfish. None of these will be hard to keep and all thrive across a broad range of water chemistry and temperature values. Danios can also be excellent, but in small groups (6 or fewer) they sometimes become aggressive, so approach with caution. Of the commonly sold livebearers, Platies are about the least troublesome, but remember they must have hard water to do well and will be sickly if the pH is below 7. Swordtails and Mollies need more space than you can provide, and are demanding in other ways too. If this was my tank, I'd probably go with Cherry Barbs for midwater colour and activity, a school of Corydoras for the bottom of the tank, and maybe Leopard Danios for the top of the tank.>
Thanks a lot for reading my mail. Please reply. bye
<Most welcome, Neale.>

Stocking question - 55 gal, FW, and fluctuating pH concern      6/7/13
Hello!  My dad turned me on to WWM and now we are both avid browsers and have found a lot of fantastic information on this site; thank you very much!
<Welcome Erin>
I am setting up a new tank: 55gal (48-1/4"L x 12-3/4"W x 20-13/16"H); HOB filter; consistent 76 degrees; ammonia 0; nitrite 0; nitrate >5.0ppm; pH is either 7.4 (high pH test) or 7.6 (low pH test).  I was having problems with the pH dropping to 6.0 suddenly but a small bag of crushed coral in the HOB filter is keeping the pH level steady.  I have two small airstones, several live plants, a couple plastic plants, some cholla branches, and there is also a large black decorative rock and several smaller matching rocks from our local plant nursery.
<Am concerned (enough to mention) re the Cholla (jumping cactus skeletons?)
and rocks... that these may be the root cause of your pH drops... I'd take out, boil them or place them separately in some boiled/hot freshwater...
let soak for a few hours and test the pH of the soak water>
 The substrate is a medium size pea gravel across approx. 2/3 of the tank and white sand in the other 1/3 of the tank. The tank has been set up and running for about 5.5 months.
<With you so far>
Both my dad and I have read many articles on stocking but thought maybe you could assist with some personal advice. I started the tank with 22 white cloud tetras and they made it through the entire cycle process however I lost all but 5 of them with the pH crashes.  The tank currently is home to: 2 pearl gourami's, 1 bristle nose Pleco, 5 speckled Cory cats, the 5 remaining white cloud tetras, 2 glow lite tetras and one neon tetra (foster fish from another tank). My LFS will take on the 8 tetras but the other fish are staying in the tank.  I would like to add at least 2 more pearl gourami's and 1-2 more bristle nose Plecos.  I am wondering how many Plecos are ideal
<Depending on the species, Ancistrus and related "Plecos"/Loricariids can be friendly to testy with each other... I use just one in this size tank (for function, not looks only), but likely two or even three will co-exist.
Just keep your eyes on for early evening, coming out tussling.>
 and if I have enough room for the 2 additional gourami's.
<These should fit here nicely>
 Is there a small size, mellow schooling fish that could be added to the tank that will not be too active for the gourami's?
<Ah yes... I really like the genus Hyphessobrycon... see the Net, WWM re...  and there are many others>
 And of course, is there room?!?
<Ah yes>
Thank you again all for all your expertise and advice; this site is one of the few available for us to find reliable information!
<Glad to share with you, your father, all. Bob Fenner>

Lighting in Aquarium stores      4/20/13
I was wondering if aquarium businesses use different lighting than people do with their home aquarium?
<Mmm, well; could well be. There is no, or not much standardization here... The mass merchandisers (e.g. Petco, PetSmart) use pretty much the same brand/types of lamps in their holding/retail display systems, but the independents/mom and pops utilize whatever they deem fit. Often the better (full spectrum) fluorescents for most freshwater, planted systems... Metal halides, LEDs for marine... but, again, each store does their own thing here>
I bought a freshwater angel fish the other day and when I got him home he/she had yellow spots on him/her. I never see the yellow in the store. Could it be the lighting in the store in general or the lighting in the tanks above? The light on our tank is a 50% 10,000K/50% Actinic blue. Maybe they use something only available to stores. Thank you
<The store lighting is likely very different than yours stated here...
Stores rarely use actinic (of no real function) other than on some "corals"... to make them "pop"/fluoresce... and most have about 5,600K lamps overall in freshwater use... as the useful spectra for what we most have in mind fall best around this temp. Bob Fenner>

Stocking a 36 gallon freshwater aquarium 4/5/13
Hello WWM Crew,
<Hi Becky, Rick here.>
I am looking for some advice on selecting fish for a 36 gallon freshwater aquarium.  I am upgrading from a smaller tank and will be including a standard goldfish that is approximately 4 inches and over 5 years old, and a common plecostomus that is about 3 inches and over 2 years old. 
<Sounds like you've already selected the fish.>
I have spent a lot of time reading articles and FAQs (which were extremely helpful) but would appreciate a little more direction so I don't end up overstocking or making mistakes.
<You pretty much already have.>
 We are very fond of our goldfish and Pleco, and after reading some information here I understand they are not ideal tankmates (unfortunately I was told it was a good match at the store),
<Not uncommon.>
but I hope to keep them both as they seem to do just fine together.
<Behaviorally, perhaps, but ideal water conditions for each fish are at very different temperatures.>
 I have some ideas of what I would like, but could use your opinion regarding what the best fit would be for my larger aquarium.  I should include that I have hard, alkaline water and will have plenty of filtration, and perform weekly water changes.  Here's what I am considering - I would like to get 1-2 standard goldfish to keep mine company.
<No more. These fish get very large when kept under ideal conditions. Also note that both goldfish and Plecos are extremely messy eaters and produce a lot of waste.>
 Then possibly 6 zebra danios, 1-2 weather loaches, white cloud minnows, or 6 tiger barbs. 
<Wow. This "additional" stocking level would be fine in their own 36 or even a 29 gallon tank, but throw in the two bigger fishes and two more goldfish and it's like having 25 adults humans living full time in a school bus.  Additionally, the minnows are cold water fish and the others are warm water fishes.>
I would like to keep them in their appropriate group size and would ideally have a goldfish group
<Need a much bigger tank or ideally a pond.>
, a new group (danios, white clouds, or the barbs), a loach or two, and the Pleco, but am unsure of what is actually possible for my 36 gallons.
<Danios need a lot of swimming room, so they need a fairly long tank. 
Weather loaches get to 8-10 inches long, so you are looking at a 55-gallon tank minimum. White clouds are cold water fishes and are incompatible with all but the goldfish. Barbs can be kept in a much smaller tank but are warm water fish.  The Pleco needs to be in a much bigger tank.  You should probably rehome the Pleco and try to find Bristlenose Plecos, which only get to about 4-6 inches depending on species.>
 After some research, I think this may be one group too many. 
<It's a lot of groups too many.>
I will of course monitor the water quality as I add more fish, but I like to plan ahead and thought a little foresight might help.  What combination will work best for the fish?  Also, if loaches are included, I see that sand would be needed.  My goldfish likes to mouth and "play" with the gravel.  Is any kind of mixture possible to make them both happy, or what is recommended?  Your thoughts and suggestions are greatly appreciated!
<Separate and appropriate-sized tanks if you want all of this.>
<Welcome, Rick>
Re: Stocking a 36 gallon freshwater aquarium 4/5/13

Hi again,
Thank you very much for your prompt response and for your time helping me with my question.  So I will look forward to getting some weather loaches someday in the future when I have a bigger setup.  <Wise decision>Now I am hoping you can clarify a few things for me.  I tried to make the possible selections for additional fish based on reading the WWM articles and FAQs.  In the Goldfish 101 article it states that the temperature for goldfish should be about 59-64 F, and also that the problem of being increasing sensitive to low oxygen availability at warmer temperatures can be "mitigated by ensuring the water is clean and well aerated, in which case goldfish can be kept in a subtropical or tropical tank alongside such things as rosy barbs or bearded Corydoras catfish, but the water temperature should certainly not be allowed to exceed 25žC ((77žF)".  I am certain that my aquarium water is clean and well aerated and I keep the temperature between 66-68 F (and would continue at 68 F if I'm able to add fish).  My thoughts were that by following those guidelines and the following information below for barbs and danios, which I read in the article Hard Water Community Tank Options, that these fish could be with a goldfish.
"Tiger Barb Puntius tetrazona  Temperature: 20-25 C/68-77 F.
Zebra Danio Danio rerio  Must have plenty of swimming space, i.e., a tank at least 60 cm/24 inches in length. Water chemistry: 2-20 degrees dH, pH 6.0-8.0. Temperature: 20-25 C/68-77 F"
<Okay, you are on the overlapping very edge of the temperature ranges (and pushing the goldfish). Not ideal, but could be made to work.  The thing to keep in mind is that keeping a fish at the edge or outside the ideal temperature range can weaken the immune system, so you might have to fight off some outbreaks that you might not otherwise have to deal with. Then again, you might not. Well maintained and clean and aerated  is key.>
My 36 gallon tank is 30 inches in length, so I think that should provide adequate swimming room for danios. So my question is - Is there any fish I can add to the 36 gallon aquarium with my goldfish and (for now) Pleco? (I will be trying to find a new home/tank for him)  I feel like my goldfish would be too lonely with no other fish around. Can I add one goldfish, or one group of smaller fish?  Or is there another fish that would be a better fit?
<Actually, if you can keep your tank at or below 68 degrees through the summer, I like the white cloud minnow option you mentioned last time a little better than the danios and barbs.  Their temperature needs are a better match to those of the goldfish, but do quarantine for several weeks because these are usually sold as feeders and aren't kept in the best conditions. The Pleco definitely needs a different home.>
 I am open to any suggestions, but at this time am limited as far as larger tanks go.  I only keep one additional 10 gallon tank for quarantine.  <Ah, good!> Again, I appreciate your thoughts, and thanks again for your time!  I am just trying to sift through the wealth of information that is out there and do what will be best for the fish. <It takes time. The important thing is you are educating yourself before acting. Keep reading and keep doing frequent water changes, especially with the Pleco in the mix.>

Somewhat Of A Tank Restart; Restocking Suggestions     4/3/13
Hello WWM Crew,
First off, I'd just like to thank you for such an incredible website; the wealth of helpful information I've found here is unparalleled! I've read countless pages of articles and FAQs which have helped me considerably, but as to the following questions I have not yet found any answers, so I'm hoping you'll be able to steer me in the right direction. I should warn you, this will be quite lengthy, so please bear with me!
<Will do, and thanks for the kind words.>
My questions pertain to my 20 gallon freshwater system, which has been set up and running well for a little over three years now, that is, until very recently. After the purchase of a Rubber Lip Pleco (whom I foolishly failed to QT) My fish began to show symptoms of Ich, which I had never yet dealt with.
<I see. Will remind you at this point that the Chaetostoma species sold as "Rubber-nose" or "Bulldog" Plecs are fast, cool water fish, and should not be kept in water above 24 C/75 F. That will limit your choice of tankmates somewhat, to low-end tropicals from similar environments, such as Corydoras, Barbs and Danios. You wouldn't keep Chaetostoma is an aquarium with low to medium levels of water movement and temperatures above 24 C/75 F. On the other hand, Chaetostoma are thoroughly indifferent to water chemistry, and given lots of oxygen and good water movement, they aren't in the least delicate. Of course they're pretty hopeless algae-eaters since they're more adapted to eating "aufwuchs" and insect larvae, but as amusing bottom-dwelling fish, they're very interesting and attractive.>
As soon as I was certain of the cause I raised the temperature of the tank to 82 F, added aquarium salt at the rate of 1/2 tsp. per gallon, and purchased API's 'Super Ich Cure', containing Malachite Green.
<Use medicines or salt; no need to use both. Each is a source of stress, a poison if you will, and using two doubles the stress. That's why your doctor chooses ONE medicine when ill, rather than prescribes ALL the medicines in his cabinet!>
The following three days of treatment saw every last one of my fish die. Needless to say, I was frustrated and heartbroken over the loss.
<Likely you either overdosed the salt and/or medicine, though Malachite Green is pretty nasty, old school stuff and not much recommended. Used correctly, at about 1-2 gram/litre, alongside increased aeration to offset the higher temperature, the salt/heat method is extremely safe.>
My other two tanks are well though - I prevented cross-contamination and also sterilized the faux decor (no longer in use), and cleaning equipment in bleach solution from the sick tank.
<Very good.>
After finishing treating the then-empty tank, I drained all of the water, added a new filter cartridge, vacuumed the gravel well (although I didn't bleach it, as I was worried about killing the good bacteria and thus having to recycle the tank completely - was this a good call?)
<Six of one, half a dozen of the other. Sterilising and cycling a tank obviously "resets" the game so far as diseases are concerned, which is helpful, but yes, a cycling aquarium is a stressful one for any aquarium fish added, and ammonia and nitrite are problems in their own right.>
refilled the tank, and kept the temperature up. I waited five days before adding three Zebra Danios as tester fish. (Was this long enough? I figured since the life span of Ich is about 5 days without a host at 78 F that this would have been…)
<Sounds about right. Of course, without fish, the bacterial filter will have died back somewhat.>
I should also add that the tank is moderately planted, and that the water parameters are: ammonia 0.0, nitrite 0.0, nitrate 5-10ppm, pH 7.2. The Danios were doing well for a few days, but I did notice the smallest was being bullied, eventually stopped eating, then shortly thereafter died.
<Predictable I'm afraid; Danios really are bullies, so keep in groups of six or more.>
No physical damage, so I'm inclined to chalk it up to too small of a school (bullying). What do you think?
I realize larger shoals are best, but because these fish were only intended to be "testers" I only purchased three.
<With attendant risks if all three are males, or at least the smallest one and the biggest one were males and not ready to coexist. You could cycle with less offensive animals such as Peppered Corydoras or Cherry Shrimps, with the understanding that daily water changes will be part of the process.>
The remaining two are nearly identical in size, but still I think it would be best to trade them in once I'm ready for the intended inhabitants to prevent any more bullying. Which now brings me to my last questions regarding stocking. I intend to keep Colisa lalia. (would a single male and female be sufficient?)
<Can work, given space and assuming you get good quality specimens.>
I have kept this species before and have fallen in love with them, despite their fragile nature. Thankfully I have access to a reputable LFS that practices rigorous QT measures - their new arrivals are not even kept on the premises, and in their main building each tank is kept entirely separate from the next. (No shared water.) I'm hoping I'll have luck with their stock.
<Indeed. You *can* get lucky, but I think the odds of you having both specimens 12 months from now is no better than 50/50.>
The other tankmates I am considering are: Danio margaritatus, (Does seven sound about right? I love these little guys, but my wallet - not so much. ;))
<Yes, a good species in many ways, but do be aware of its slightly fussy water chemistry requirements (not too soft, around neutral pH) and need for water that is not too warm (around 22 C/72 F, certainly not more than a degree or two warmer).>
anyway, these two species I am positive I would like to keep, but I'm unsure about the following candidates: Iriatherina werneri (trio?),
<Would keep more; lovely species, keep them myself in a 12 US gallon tank, something like 8 or 10 specimens, half females, half males. Well worth getting a fair number because they are slightly delicate immediately after purchase so losing one or two is not uncommon. 22 C/72 F is the bottom end of their preferred range, which limits their use in low-end tropical tanks.>
Aphyosemion bivittatum (pair?),
<Potentially, yes, a trio (one male, two females). Again, Aphyosemion will be at the bottom end of their preferred range, though keeping them slightly cool has benefits in terms of lifespan, aggression. But do be aware that few Aphyosemion do really well in communities, and they're a lot more rewarding (breedable, less predatory and territorial) in tanks set up for them.>
and/or Puntius titteya (school of 10 or so).
<An outstanding, overlooked species. I keep mine in the tank with my Threadfin Rainbowfish. Does well at 22 C/72 F up to around 28 C/82 F.>
I love all of these guys, but am unsure about comparability/care required, mostly concerning the Killies. Do you have any suggestions or ideas? I'd also like some sort of a bottom-dweller, but am a bit paranoid knowing most are more susceptible to Ich. (Is this information accurate?)
<No, not accurate. A good, reliable Corydoras species happy at low-end tropical conditions would be fine, e.g., Corydoras panda. Alternatively, Whiptail Catfish are reliable and fun.>
Of course, going with the (somewhat) Asian theme, I love Chromobotia macracantha, but knowing that they need a MUCH larger tank and need to be kept in a school, I can only dream. Do you have any bottom-dweller suggestions?
<See above, and yes, Clown Loaches, indeed, any Botiine loaches, would be inappropriate, with the possible exception of Dwarf Chain Loaches, currently called Ambastaia sidthimunki, though these are sensitive and should be added to mature, stable tanks only. They do seem to need moderately warm to warm water, 25-28 C/77-82 F, and as such, would be wrong for your Celestial Danios.>
Well, I think that's about it for now. Thank you for taking the time to read this! It is greatly appreciated. :)
<Hope this helps, Neale.>
Re: Somewhat Of A Tank Restart; Restocking Suggestions     4/4/13

Dr. Monks,
Thank you for the speedy response!
Admittedly, I knew little about the Pleco prior to purchase aside from a general species overview, so I really appreciate this information. I normally research quite a bit into a species prior to purchase, but my poor fish seem to have paid the price of my ignorance!
<Possibly, but Chaetostoma don't die in a few days or weeks if kept too warm… it's more a long term effect that makes them less likely to live their normal lifespan. As I say, they're basically hardy animals.>
As to the medication/salt, that makes sense. I guess I panicked a little and tried to throw everything possible at the problem at once. Hopefully I will never have to deal with this nasty parasite again, but if I do, I'll be sure to follow your advice. Since Malachite Green isn't the best, for future reference, what would you recommend for U.S. aquarists? Just the salt/heat/aeration method?
<If in doubt, and the infestation is slight, then the heat/salt method is by the best. It's safe with pretty much anything, even delicate species like Clown Loaches that throw hissy-fits if exposed to some chemicals used to treat Whitespot. That said, I've had success using products like eSHa EXIT, a Dutch product (I believe) that hasn't harmed freshwater puffers or catfish. Regardless, yes, I'd go with salt/heat first, as these should nip early infections in the bud.>
Or is there a more effective/safe medication? Before I forget, I do have a question regarding heat, the tank is still set at 80 F...when should I bring it back down to 76-78? Should I be concerned about too drastic of a temperature drop for the remaining Danios? I realize the current temperature is less than ideal for them long-term, but was still concerned about dropping the temps too quickly after the outbreak.
<Quite so. Dropping the tank temperature a degree or two a day will make no difference at all; such variation would happen in the wild. I'd set the heater down a notch, and let the tank cool down itself.>
And while still on this note, you mentioned Barbs preferring low-end tropical temperatures. Would the Puntius titteya enjoy a temperature cooler than 78 F? These little guys are really growing on me!
<They're very easy-going, which is one reason they're perennial favourites, and anything from 22-28 C/72-82 F suits them fine. Do bump up the oxygen a bit (and don't overstock) at the high-end of that range, but basically yes, these Cherry Barbs (better still, Cheery Barbs!) are excellent value. Both the males and females are nice, despite the different colours, and if the males weren't showy, we'd still buy them for the females' golden-peach colours! They're an all0-around winning fish, and watching males holding territories while flirting at passing schools of the females is a real treat. I thought they might be nippy, but seemingly not, and they get along great with my Threadfin Rainbows and Dwarf African Frogs.>
Yes, I am a little concerned about the quality of the Dwarf Gouramis around here...most I've only had around seven months before succumbing to what is most likely DGIV. I would really like to try at least once more. Any suggestions/precautions when settling them in?
<Basically don't stress them. Recall that they like high temperatures, minimal water currents, floating plants, and soft, slightly acidic water (2-12 degrees dH, pH 6-7.5).>
About the Celestial Pearl Danios - our dH is around 80 here I think, is that adequate?
<Fine, so long as the pH is stable. These fish seem adaptable, but they don't like change.>
I'm still a little on the fence about the Rainbows; I guess it partially depends on how their stock looks health-wise.
<For sure. Also, there's great variation among them, and some strains (regional variants?) show brighter colours than others. Still, watching the males displaying to the females is quite something. I'd budget in a group of 6; in a 20-gallon tank, you have lots of room.>
Interesting about the Killies, for some reason they are only priced per pair.
<Likely bred/exported that way. No big deal in a large tank like yours, but in smaller tanks females can get harassed. Just make sure there's hiding places for the females, especially floating plants or leaves.>
Good to know a trio is best. I'm thinking I'll hold off on these guys until some time in the future, as I'd prefer a peaceful, (somewhat) biotope aquarium.
Ha, I just saw your note on Cherry Barb temperatures - never mind about that question then! :)
Okay, last one - I am possibly interested in a Corydoras species. I see you've recommended Pandas, which I do like. Would Dwarf or Pygmy Corys be suitable?
<Yes, but they do tend to be overwhelmed in tanks with bigger fish… you may not see much of them. That said, a "swarm" of 10-12 should hold its own nicely.>
Or do they prefer lower temps?
<Virtually all Corydoras are best kept between 22-25 C/72-77 F. The exceptions among the commonly traded species are just two sorts: "Corydoras barbatus" (the Bearded Cory, Scleromystax barbatus) that should be kept at room temperature, around 18 C/64 F, and Corydoras sterbai, which does well around 24-28 C/75-82 F, and is consequently known as the "Corydoras for Discus tanks" because it is about the only species widely sold that does well in such warm conditions. Hardy species like Corydoras aeneus will adapt to warm water, but they're never happy, and you'll get longer lives from all the other traded Corydoras if kept towards the cooler end of the range. Of course you could always try the very similar Brochis species like Brochis splendens as these are happy at middling to high temperatures in many cases, but they're not so widely sold as Corydoras.>
Sorry about the overload of questions!
<No probs.>
Again, thank you for taking the time to help me!
<Passes the time. Killing half an hour by sitting under a mango tree in a hotel by Chichen Itza waiting for my wife to finish her spa treatment! Neale.>
Re: Somewhat Of A Tank Restart; Restocking Suggestions     4/5/13

Hello Again,
Thank you for the Ich treatment insight. Will definitely keep that in mind.
<Glad to help.>
I have done as you recommended and turned the heat down a notch, so it should be around 78 F later tonight or early tomorrow. I have decided to go with a school of nine Cherry (or Cheery, I like that!) Barbs, a pair of Dwarf Gourami, and a school of seven Celestial Pearl Danios. Perhaps I'll go with some Corydoras sp. too eventually, but for right now I'll have to wait...it seems they've sold out completely of the Pygmies, which are my favourites.
<Fair enough.>
Regarding the pH, it seems to be quite stable around here, but I'll be sure to monitor it just in case. Before I go, just one more question...I know it's generally dependent on species/behavior/degree of waste production, but would you happen to have an idea of how well stocked the tank would be with the three above species (Barbs/Danios/Gouramis) and whether or not I'd have room to expand later on?
<20 gallon tank wasn't it? Six Cheery Barbs, six Celestial Danios, 8-10 Pygmy Corydoras, 1-2 Dwarf Gouramis -- job done. No problems with overstocking. Maybe even space enough for some algae control… a Bristlenose Plec perhaps, or 4-5 Nerite snails, and of course a few Cherry Shrimps.>
Thank you for all of your help!
Wishing you and your wife a lovely rest of your day! :)
<And thanks for the kind words. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Somewhat Of A Tank Restart; Restocking Suggestions     4/6/13

Dr. Monks,
Sounds good about the stocking (and yes, it's a 20G) I'm still a bit on the fence about the Corys, but if I have the ability I might pick up a fairly sizable school in a few weeks. I did, however, purchase some *Cheery* Barbs! I am shocked they aren't more widely kept!
<Is a classic species. Bizarrely, there's an Albino form, though why we need one, I'm not sure! Also a "Super red" form. They all mix with each other, so by all means keep your eyes peeled for these, if they appeal.>
The have quickly become one of my favorite fish.
<Among mine, too.>
Their sweet dispositions coupled with their lovely colors make for an outstanding animal.
The females are especially friendly, swimming right up to the front glass just inches from my face!
<Indeed. One of those times that both the males and the females are worthwhile, just in different ways.>
Thank you for encouraging me to get such wonderful fish, and for providing me with such great information!
<Ah, kind words indeed.>
Kind Regards,
<Likewise, Neale.>
Should I Reintroduce?    4/24/13

Hello Again Dr. Monks,
<Hello Dawn,>
I'm not sure if you'll recall, but I wrote in a few weeks ago concerning the restocking of my 20 gallon freshwater system. All is well regarding that tank - the *Cheery* Barbs (as you call them) are quite at home and lovely as ever (and growing!), the Celestial Pearl Danios have put on size and color nicely, and my pair of Dwarf Gouramis are doing very well - the female gets along well with everyone, and the male has taken to building bubble nests and (gasp) uprooting some of my Dwarf Hairgrass to complete them! It is so fascinating to see him at work, and to interact with both of them. I've never had a Dwarf Gourami build a bubble nest before - only my Bettas have - but it is mesmerizing to see his dazzling breeding colors.
The female is still pretty young, but he seems to be pretty gentle with her anyway - only chasing if she gets too close to his nest.
<All sounds lovely.>
Anyway, on to my question. In my Guppy tank I currently have nine 7-week-old fry, who have been growing well, but the problem is that I foolishly thought they were old/big/strong/smart enough to stay away from the (very weak) pull of the intake of the tiny internal filter, therefore, I didn't have it covered. Well, yesterday I noticed two fry had gone missing, so I grabbed the flashlight and found them swimming inside the filter. The female was fine, albeit a little pale, but after release and getting a nice feeding, she was good as new. The other, however, seemed to be spiraling out of control, so I put him in a small observation glass. His caudal fin looks eroded, most of the top half missing, and the lower is ragged. He is also quite thin, but that's to be expected after not eating for a day or two, I think. At first I didn't expect him to make it, but I dosed with a little Melafix, (I know it isn't the most powerful stuff out there, but it was the best I could think to do for him at the time.) and kept him in the specimen container near the tank.
<I'm not hostile to Melafix, just reticent about its uses. As a preventative following some sort of physical damage like fighting or scratches after handling, it's probably pretty good. But I wouldn't use it on fish that have obvious symptoms of Fungus or Finrot.>
Today I have the containing floating in the aquarium (no shared water, however), and he looks much better; able to swim horizontally, interest in tankmates/food, but in such a small container, I'm worried he won't heal or grow properly. I guess my question is, can or should I reintroduce him?
Should I be concerned for the health of my other fish were I to do so? I have a net breeder where he can recover more fully, in case the others might go too rough with him.
<Assuming your breeding trap allows circulation of clean water in and out, you can leave the baby Guppy in there for some weeks, which is what I'd do, waiting at least until he was big enough to avoid trouble. So remove from the container and pop him into that. In and of itself, being caught in a filter for a while seems to do most fish little harm, assuming of course the fish wasn't minced in the filter impeller! Indeed, Cherry Shrimps and snails seem to thrive inside filters!>
Oh, I should also note that I removed the filter for the time being, and have an airstone running instead.
<With very small fish, including Guppy fry, a good option is a low pressure filter system, i.e., something powered by air, like a corner/box filter, or even better, a sponge filter, which traps food and algae that baby fish love to eat.>
I have a few live plants in the tank, and with more frequent water changes,
I think it should be alright until they're too big to fit in the intake.
So, what are your thoughts?
Thank you for taking the time to read this!
<Glad to help. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Should I Reintroduce?     5/3/13

Hello once again,
<Hello Dawn,>
Thank you for the valuable information. I'll wait until his caudal has grown in mostly before reintroducing him.
I've been trying not to bug you, but I have just one more question, (ha, as if that will end all curiosity!) this time regarding my main aquarium.
Would it be possible for me to keep a pair of Papiliochromis ramirezi in the 20 gallon along with my pair of Trichogaster lalius (formerly Colisa lalia), school of 5 Danio margaritatus, school of 9 Puntius titteya, and 2 remaining Danio rerio?
<I would not recommend them. Ram Cichlids (currently Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) need soft, acidic and very warm water to do well; we're talking 1-5 degrees dH, pH 5.5-6.5, 28-30C/82-86F. That's too warm for most tropical fish, and if you keep them cooler, they quickly become sickly.
Often they seem "juiced" with hormones and/or antibiotics, so they look really nice in the shop, and to be fair, look really nice in your tank for a few weeks, even months. But few specimens seem to last beyond 6 months in captivity, unless the aquarist is really clued up on their needs and plans the tank accordingly. The Bolivian Ram is infinitely more robust, but a little big for a 20-gallon tank that's already quite well-stocked, so instead have a peek at Apistogramma cacatuoides, one of the hardiest and most adaptable Apistogramma. Lots of colour forms sold.>
I've read up on their basic care requirements and have admired them at a distance for several years. Of course, they would be kept in QT for at least 2 weeks. Looking forward to hearing from you!
Regards, Dawn
<Welcome, Neale.>
Re: Should I Reintroduce?  Stkg. f'  5/5/13

Dr. Monks,
Thank you again and again for the insight. :) I don't have access to a lot of knowledgeable aquarists around here, so I really appreciate your help with all of my little miscellaneous questions. I caught the young male in an observation cup the day you sent your reply and to my surprise, his caudal was almost completely regrown already! I introduced him at lights out that night and so far, so good. :)
<Good news.>
Thanks for the info on the Rams. I have heard they can be quite delicate in comparison to some other dwarf cichlids. I think I'm going to set up a dedicated tank for them, as I'd really like to try my hand at keeping these lovely creatures.
<For sure worth keeping. Farmed stock is pretty poor on the whole, but there are exceptions, and home-bred stuff can be excellent. Do contact your local or national forum (many have online forums) if you have trouble
getting stuff other than the mostly rubbish Southeast Asian stuff.>
I do really like some Apistogramma species too, so maybe I'll take a trip into the next state sometime - they sadly don't carry them at any of the local places.
<Again, contact local/national cichlid association for tips.>
Well, I think I'll stop saying "just one last question" because they seem to keep popping up! I hope it's alright! It's a quick one though: I have a faux aquarium ornament that strikingly resembles bogwood that I'd like to add to my Guppy aquarium, but am unsure if it's wise to do, since this particular ornament was in my 20 gallon during the Ich outbreak two months ago. I have since sanitized it, of course, and ever since I removed it it's just been sitting out of water unused. What do you think? Any precautions I should take?
<Sit the think in a dilute (just smellable) bleach solution, then rinse many times, and leave to air dry. Should be good to go.>
Given that the life cycle of Ich is only a few days without a host, it *seems* as though it would be alright,
<For sure. That's why leaving a tank fallow (fish-less) for a month should kill off all Whitespot parasites.>
but I'd like an expert's opinion before I plop it in with my healthy fish.
Thank you for donating your time to this great site, and those of us who value your input. :)
<Most welcome, Neale.>
Re: Should I Reintroduce?  5/16/13

Dr. Monks,
I don't expect you to reply to this email, as it's only sent to let you all know that I appreciate the wonderful insight and advice that I have received. Thank you, and have a lovely day!
Kind Regards,
<Glad to be of help, and thanks for the kind words. Sincerely, Neale.>

Questions on stocking     3/24/13
Hullo again to all of you beautiful people! Happy Sunday and all of that! I'm back to pick those wise brains of yours once more, if you would be so kind to allow me the favor. . .
I am officially the proud owner of a 125 gallon tank! Very excited, as you can imagine, and happily ogling all of the beautiful creatures that could potentially live inside of it. You've met my 55 gallon tank before. . .this is somewhat of an older picture, the floaters have taken over, and there is more foliage now :)
It is stocked with 20 Jelly Bean Tetra (Ladigesia roloffi), 5 Bolivian Rams, 5 Kuhli loaches (likely Pangio semicincta), 9 dwarf loaches (Pangio cuneovirgata) and a little African Dwarf frog. The idea is to move these creatures into the 125g, and slowly add stock.
<I do hope/trust you have a plan to get food to your Frog>
I would like to increase the shoal size of the Kuhli to at least 9, and since I have a breeding pair of Bolivans, I've been considering upping their number to 9 and keeping a few of the 'home grown' fry. Also thinking that I will up the number of the Jelly Beans, and I'm not sure if the frog will do well in a tank that size, so that will be wait and see, though he is very happy in the 55. This community has been together for quite some time, and is doing wonderfully together, so no worries there.
For future stocking in the 125, I am really wanting to put a group of Pearl Gourami, I'm thinking 4 females and 1 *maybe* 2 males (if I can get away with that in a tank that size)
<Should be>
 I have a couple of concerns with this that I'd like your opinion on, if possible. First and foremost - Will my Jelly Beans be considered a snack by the Pearls?
<They should be fast, smart enough to evade them>
I intend to add them last, and as juvies - but I'm really finding mixed opinions on whether this will be okay, or holds the potential for disaster. The next concern is if the Tetra will have problems with the larger Pearls above them. That will likely be wait and see, and if there is trouble there, I will set up a pretty African Biotope for them and the frogs :) Any input here will be very much appreciated, as always.
<Many choices... Alestes, Phenacogrammus, and much more>
I am also considering adding a group of 9 Corydoras sp. Neon Orange Laser. I've found nothing to indicate that there will be a problem between the Corys and the loaches, and the Rams have always been pretty easy going about things (even while brooding), but is this too many bottom dwellers?
<There's room for all these here>
My attention has also been caught by  Red Lizard Whiptail Plecos (L-10A) (Rineloricaria sp.) Do you think one (or a group?)
<A group>
of these would be possible in this setup?
 My water flow is slow, and the water tends to sit at about 79f. I have read that the whip-tails need a higher flow rate, but also have seen them be kept in tanks very similar to mine without issues (that I can see) Also a bit concerned about my plants, though they don't seem to be huge plant eaters in other people's tanks.
No rush! I won't be doing anything for quite some time yet, but I would really appreciate your opinion on these stocking ideas. This tank has been so wonderful, and I don't want to do anything to destroy the serenity after the move :) Additional suggestions are also appreciated, I'd love to try to keep as many different families of fish as I am able to in peace and harmony in a true soft-water community tank - but I'm still new at this, and the options are boggling!
Thank you most sincerely -
as always,
<Cheers, Bob Fenner>


Lake Tahoe Article, calling oneself scientific, and releasing nothing to the wild  2/23/13
<Hey Matt>
In case you hadn't seen... More bad press
<Mmm, yes... from Faux news no less... See this bit for an example:
"The goldfish are just one of several species of invasive warm-water fishes in Lake Tahoe. "
<Uhh... not warm-water... and yes, an excerpt lifted from: ""Globally, the aquarium trade has contributed a third of the world's worst aquatic and invasive species," Williams, who was lead author of the report, told OurAmazingPlanet, a sister site of LiveScience, in January."
<I don't dispute that folks/aquarists are capable and "guilty" of such mis-introductions; but a third of all species, no. There are actually hundreds of plant species out the back here (we live on a suburban canyon of size; Penasquitos) that are human mistakes>
Hope all is good for you,
Matt Bowers
<Yes; for the most part. Thank you, and thank you for sharing. Bob Fenner>

Stocking sm. FW     2/16/13
Dear Wise Ones,
I have this 10 gallon tank, and I want to know who i can put in here to be COMFORTABLE. The whole hobby is based on that, so now I find that I am quite limited. I'll have one single goldfish...seems two is too much. The whole thing about internal organs growing while the exterior doesn't sounds horrible...
but what about having other types of fish?
white minnows?
<Read here re stocking small vol.s:
i will buy a 55, 75, maybe 90 gallon and then i guess use the 10 as a sick tank...any advice on the above?
<Welcome. Bob Fenner> 

What species can I add to my tank now? Not cycled, nada     12/28/12
My son wanted a "shark" for Christmas so using the information I found on WWM we now have a 55 gallon freshwater aquarium up and running in the living room (Basic starter kit from Marineland with a dual BioWheel filter).  The kids and I gathered gravel from the stream near our house, bleached it, flushed it multiple times and then used it for the aquarium (ignoring concerns of PH issues and concerns that it is too rough).  My parents gave us some large pieces of dead coral
<Mmm, may be too sharp for freshwater use... won't likely mal-affect water quality much here though>
 that we also bleached and rinsed multiple times in the dishwasher (NEVER do that by the way).  We are currently using plastic plants.  We are happy with the look we have created, the gravel looks awesome with lots of pieces of Mica in it.
I have lost 3 fish over this month, 1 Bleeding Heart and 2 Swordtails.  No idea what happen to the Bleeding Heart but 1 swordtail blew up like a pinecone, and the second had a bad eye and the beginnings of fin rot on it's tail.  The Pinecone thing happened within 24 hours of introduction to our tank.
<Mmm, something going on here... water quality wise... or some very virulent issue inherited/brought in w/ the fish>
 The other fish lived for days before dying.  Ammonia was undetectable when these deaths occurred and PH was under 8.0
<Mmm, nitrite? See the Net, books re Hyphessobrycons and water quality...  your pH and hardness are likely unsuitable>
I have spotted ICK on some of the fish and have treated for it.
<?... most med.s for FW Ich are quite toxic... absorbed readily by natural gravel, CaCO3 skeletons...>
  First with the store bought treatments for a couple of doses, and then by introducing salt up to 2 tsp per gallon and raising tank temp to 84F.  The ICK appears gone from the fish but I'm continuing for 2 weeks with the higher temp and salt level.
We have :
6 Yoyo Loaches
3 Bleeding Heart
3 Colombian Tetra's (I think this is what they are)
1 Female Swordtail
1 Red Tail Shark
These fish have been added over the past month, a few at a time.  The Yoyo's are awesome fish, they are clicking etc.  The Heart's and other 3 tetras are schooling or hanging out under our floating plants and floating piece of coral.
<? Floating?>
 The Red Tail shark is trying to establish dominance and is in and out of his cave all day.  The remaining Swordtail mingles about with everyone.  All of the fish have become very active, especially during feedings, the Hearts and Tetras are amazingly fast zipping here and there and the Loaches are just plain crazy.
Water Quality
The tank is still cycling.
<... a bad idea to add livestock till this is done>
Our water PH out of the tap is around 8.0, i have started using a PH down product and current conditions are
Last night's testing
Temp 85F
PH 7.6-7.8
Salt ~1.5 tsp per gallon
Ammonia  ~.5 PPM
Nitrite ~second color

Nitrate 0
I performed a 15 gallon water change last night but did not replenish the salt.
My Question?
I would like some "pretty" fish.  I have read a lot here on WWM but would like some suggestions of what I could add to the tank, and to know that my current selection is okay together.  From my research and fish store advice
it appears so, but I want a definitive non-biased answer/suggestion.
<... don't add anything, and be very conservative re feeding till this tank is cycled. No NH3, NO3, and detectable NO3 present>
Basically the 6 tetras looked prettier in the Fish store (smaller tanks, brighter lighting), in my tank they look okay if you are close to the tank, but they are kind of washed out.  I'm told their colors will develop over time with good food.  They do have color don't get me wrong but from 10 feet away you can't tell it.
Do i need to add more Bleeding Hearts or Colombian Tetras for their well being?
<Not for a few weeks to months>
Can you recommend any species that I can add that are pretty, would guppies work?
Could I still do a "centerpiece" fish at some point in the future given current stocking?
<The Shark is likely it; though there are some gouramis, Rainbowfishes and others that could be considered>
Thanks for any suggestions you can offer,
<Do NOTHING stocking wise for now. Bob Fenner>
Re: What species can I add to my tank now?    12/28/12

Hi Bob,
Thank you for your responses.
I had been testing the water daily with an API master freshwater kit. 
When the fish died there was no detectable Ammonia, Nitrite or Nitrate.  So i need to test GH&KH and then go from there?
<Mmm, maybe. Do see Neale's pieces on WWM re>
I believe the Heart died from stress, as i originally set the tank up to hide it for Xmas, but the kids found it, and then i relocated it then the next day the fish died.  I believe the two swordtails were sick prior to purchase and possibly couldn't handle the relocation from the LFS.  I noticed that male who was the only orange one in the LFS tank, was hanging off by himself when i bought him, he is the one that had liver failure/pinecone issue.
<You are likely correct re all here>
Regarding the ICK treatment and gravel, would the remaining toxins be removed over time with water changes?
 Or are you suggesting replacing the gravel?
<I am not>
 Some of the gravel is indeed rough, but I've seen no sores on the YoYo's, is that the main concern with the gravel?
<No; the coral/s>
I did remove all of the coral for the ICK treatments, not because I new it could absorb it, but because the package said the treatments could stain things.
<Ah yes>
I' will do nothing stocking wise until tank is cycled and fish remain alive, I'm probably overfeeding now as well but they are eating all the food i put in.
Yes indeed i have a piece of coral that floats about 3"x4".  My dad said it would, i keep it held down under water for days, but alas it still floats!
It's really cool I'll take some pictures of it and the gravel for your review.
<Bizarre... there are no floating corals in the wild...>
Thanks you so much for you time and advice.
<Ah, welcome. BobF>

Tank Upgrade - Stocking, Water Chemistry, Compatibility, and More; low pH FW, 20 to 55 gal.  - 12/25/2012
Hi guys,
<Hi Jo, Sabrina with you today.>
I have many questions to ask that are all related to my current "upgrade the overstocked tank to a bigger one" project. I have searched online and on your site but since what I want to ask is quite specific and not general so I haven't found any answers to my myriad of questions - I would be very much obliged if one of you lovely people could answer them for me? :)
<Let's take a look!>
First some background information: I currently have an 80 litre (20 US gallons) planted freshwater tropical tank with a 3 year old 3.5 inch female Opaline gourami (Trichogaster trichopterus), a 3.5 inch false flying fox (Garra cambodgiensis), a 3 year old 6.5 inch iridescent shark (Pangasius hypophthalamus),
<.... much to say on this one, all of it's been said before....>
a 1.5 inch bronze Cory (Corydoras aeneus), and a single 1 inch harlequin Rasbora (Trigonostigma heteromorpha).
<Both of these are schooling fish....  And holy carp, you were not kidding when you said overstocked, were you??>
The shark was bought by my then-boyfriend (now ex) and was definitely NOT my idea.
<A surprise Pangasiid was very good reason to break up with him; I'd have done the same!  *grin*>
The Cory, Rasbora and garra were given to me by my cousin when her tank cracked - she said she would just flush them otherwise! (Needless to say I was  horrified by the idea so I took them).
<I am glad you did.>
The gourami was actually picked by me and she and the shark are the oldest fish in the tank.
Ph is around 5.5 - 6.0 (it fluctuates with water changes)
<Though that low pH might raise the hackles of most folks, if it's stable (I assume it goes up a tad when you add new water, and stabilizes again very shortly, yes?) then quite frankly, this isn't exactly "bad".  Many of the fish that interest me are only found wild-caught and come from water with very low pH - 4.5-ish even.  Keeping a tank at a relatively stable 5.0 - 5.5 was how I got Betta macrostoma and Sphaerichthys osphromenoides to spawn.  You won't find me frowning at your low pH, AS LONG as you have animals suited to it and can keep it stable.>
Ammonia is always at 0, nitrite always at 0 and nitrate fluctuates but is at 25ppm at the moment.
<High, but not horrific.>
The tank is obviously near impossible to keep pristine due to the overstocking,
<I'm sure.>
hence I've decided to upgrade them to a 210 litre (55 US gallon) aquarium.
I know that even the 210 litre will not be sufficient for the shark in the long run
<It will not.  No tank that fits in an average room in an average home will suffice, in the long run, when this fish grows to be the size of a person.>
(the shop he was bought at wouldn't take him back)
<Ugh.  Any chance you can boycott this shop, and explain to them why you're doing so?  No shop should EVER sell and animal that they won't be willing to take back.  If they have an animal they would not accept being returned to them, then they should NOT sell it in the first place.  Pangasiid catfishes should NOT be in this trade, and clearly the shop knows the growth potential of the animal or they'd take it back.  If you can vote with your dollars on this, and explain to the shop owner why you are unwilling to shop there and where you will shop instead, and what would bring your business back to them, then do so.>
but it is the best I can do short of building an outdoor heated pond (my flat is 2nd floor and I don't think it would take the weight of a tank larger than 210 litres).
<Understandable.  I'll fault that ex of yours, and not you!>
I had a local glass shop that also makes aquariums build the 210 litre for me to custom measurements (43cm tall, 40cm wide, 122cm long) and it is frame-less and unbraced. The shop assured me that due to the thickness of the glass it doesn't require bracing of any kind (glass is 10mm thick on all panels including the bottom) - are they correct?
<I think they are.  I hope that BobF will correct me if I'm wrong on that, but I do think you'll be okay.  Watch the dailies after you receive this reply; hopefully Bob will notice this and include any comments he has when he posts it to the website.>
Or will it pop the long panels due to bowing?
<With glass 1cm thick, I really think this is okay.  I do hope so, for the sake of your downstairs neighbor....>
I haven't tested it yet as I still have a little work to do to ensure the DIY stand I made for it is level - it seems the middle section of the stand's top is about 1-2mm higher than the front and back i.e. slightly curved upwards in the middle  - will this potentially break the tank if filled?
<Could, yes.  Glass tanks - more appropriately, their silicone seams - don't like torsion.  Can you sand this to become more level, and then place a Styrofoam or other sheet between the tank and stand to compensate some?>
I will have the tank (still currently unfilled) on a 1.5cm thick foam pad (the kind of stuff used for yoga mats)
<Ah!  Good.  If that's a neoprene pad, I think it should do well.>
to even out irregularities but should I use something more rigid to level the stand top? If so what should I use?
<Many folks use Styrofoam, but I think what you have will do.>
When I eventually get the stand ready I am planning to "jump-start" the cycle process with filter media from my mature tank. I have an extra sponge filter in there that has been running for a week and I'm planning to take one of the canisters off the main filter (it has 2) in the mature tank and put it in the new tank (connected to the new tank's pump) along with the seeded sponge filter. The purpose of this exercise is so that I can move the 3 largest fish (gourami, shark and garra) over to the new tank instantly (with a proper acclimation of course) without doing a fishless cycle.
<I think you'd be safe to move all at once, honestly, along with all water, substrate, filter media....  You might not even see an ammonia spike at all.>
I will be using a fair amount of plants in the tank, including fast growers like water sprite, Egeria and duckweed to eat up excess ammonia and hopefully reduce the possibility of ammonia/nitrite spikes. Would this work with these fish or will it cause them too much stress from the mini cycle that I assume would then take place?
<All of the fish you have are very sturdy "bulletproof" fish.  All should be fine with this plan.>
Would it be better to go one fish at a time with a week or so in between?
<No, I would do all at once and observe water quality, do water changes if/as necessary.>
If so should I leave the shark until last or move him first?
<As above, all at once will do fine.>
I have successfully upgraded a goldfish from a tiny tank to a much larger one in this way, without noticing any stress on the fish at all, but I understand that most tropical fish are more sensitive than goldfish to ammonia / nitrite.
<Your Rasbora is your most "delicate" fish, and actually, R. heteromorpha are pretty sturdy.>
Another consideration is the extremely low ph I have - this is probably partially due to fish waste and partially due to the large arch of bogwood in the aquarium combined with the fairly soft water we have here (our tapwater is a mixture of reverse osmosis water sourced from the sea and well water) usually between 0-3 degrees KH, 7 - 14 GH and ph around 7.0 - 7.5 when aged / degassed for a few days (the tapwater actually comes out of the tap at around 8.0, I really don't understand how this works as I had always thought degassing raised ph but that's what the test says).
<Sounds much like my situation and tapwater....  Our water comes out of the tap over 9.0 in the summer, artificially high due to the large amount of chloramine.  Once chloramine is neutralized, after aerating, it drops quickly to 6-ish overnight.  I suspect you have something similar going on.>
If I fill up the new aquarium with dechlorinated, aged tap water there will probably be a significant difference in pH between the two tanks - if I want to move a fish I will either have to do an extremely slow acclimation process or I will have to use tank water from the mature tank to at least partially fill up the new one.
<If all the fish are moving, you could use much of the entire 20 gallons and then add new water somewhat slowly over the next few days to fill the new tank.>
Bearing in mind my current tank's nitrates are still quite high which is the better option out of these two? I have been doing 25% water changes twice weekly to try to raise pH to a more neutral level but it doesn't seem to go above 6.0 (that or my test kit is inaccurate);
<I doubt that the kit is inaccurate.  Decaying organic matter - both the waste products built up in the substrate from fish, plants, and bacteria and also the bogwood - will keep your pH down.  You might never raise it without the aid of something that would provide significant buffering (aragonite sand, for example).>
I'd rather not take the bogwood out as I have 2 java ferns growing quite happily on it and I have nowhere else to put them!
<Were it me/my tank, I'd keep the bogwood, and I'd keep the low pH.>
I intend to keep the Rasbora in the 80 litre (keep it as a blackwater habitat) and get a few more to keep it company and hopefully form an attractive school.
<Ah, I see.>
I thought the Cory could stay too as the tank's bottom is sandy and the Cory loves rooting through it, and possibly I may get him/her a friend or two
<Two more at an absolute minimum.  The larger the school, the happier the Corydoras.>
(will Corydoras aeneus school with peppered or panda Corys?
<Will, but conspecifics are preferred.>
They have no aeneus in stock in my lfs and said they usually only get the albino ones which I dislike the colouring of).
<Man.  Some shop.  You sure there's nowhere else in town?>
I also wanted to keep cherry shrimp in the tank (if they can take the pH)
<They can>
but I'm not sure if they'll be ok with the Rasboras and the Cory;
<They will>
I've heard that harlequin Rasboras are small enough not to hurt cherry shrimp but I'm worried the Cory might eat them -
<Corydoras cats may eat baby shrimps, but I think the adults would fare okay.  Start with just a few and see.>
will some shrimp be able to hide in the large clump of moss (about 6 inches in diameter and 3 inches high) and the roots of the java ferns to survive to adulthood?
<I would think so.>
Or is it unrealistic to keep fish and shrimp together?
<Not unrealistic.>
If I can't have shrimp is there a small algae eater I could put in instead?
an Otocinclus perhaps?
<This would also do well, and would really appreciate that low pH.>
Will the pH be too low for them?
<They should approve of the low pH, as long as it's stable.  What they will not tolerate is the high Nitrate.  Get that down first.>
Also how quickly can I add new fish to the tank after moving the large fish out? Could I add the Rasbora school all at once for example or would it have to be one by one?
<Likely you can add several at a time after the other fish are removed. 
Let me also remind you to always quarantine new fish....  Or maybe you can move all the 20g's inhabitants and then use the 20g for quarantine, adding in all the new fish, and then after a reasonable quarantine (two to four weeks), move the Rasbora and Corydoras back.>
With the 210 litre aquarium I want to make a clear stream type tank with fairly high circulation, rounded river rocks and smooth small grained gravel. I'd like to keep the pH about neutral or just above so can I use some limestone rocks to this purpose?
<I wouldn't; instead, use something that you can control (read: remove) more easily.  A filter bag with some crushed coral in one of your canisters might be a good option; that way, you can use only as much as necessary and add more or remove some to achieve your desired results.  Frankly, you could do that in the 20g right now, if you really feel you "must" raise the pH before moving the fish (instead of keeping the pH of the new tank similarly low).>
Otherwise I can imagine that with the soft water I have, the tank will be below neutral with fish and plants living in it.
Will limestone be enough
<Would be "too much", actually.>
or should I use crushed coral too?
<Ah, as above.  I'd use this, or Aragonite sand, in a filter bag and adjust as needed.>
Is there a way to calculate the amounts needed or is it more of a trial and error thing?
<This latter.  But start cautiously; a little bit goes a long, long way.>
Are there any small schooling species that would like this type of habitat?
<Not with a Pangasiid present.  I'm surprised the Rasbora is still around, actually.>
Halfbeaks perhaps?
<A very touchy fish....  and bite-sized to the catfish.  I don't think I'd try these, or any small schooler, to be honest.>
Also I know that gouramis normally prefer a slightly acidic pH with soft water but I have also heard they can tolerate a wide range of conditions so is it okay to move the gourami to the larger tank or should I keep her in the "blackwater" tank?
<She'll be happy either place.>
Will she be very disturbed by the faster current I intend to have in the large tank?
<If it's way too fast, she might have trouble, but I would try it; she'd appreciate the larger space.>
Finally, sorry for asking so many questions and writing such a lengthy email - if you have read this far without falling asleep you are truly an angel!
<I'm still awake, I swear!>
Thank you so very much for taking the time to read and reply and keep up the good work!
<And thank you for writing in.>
Kindest regards and a merry Christmas and happy new year to you all!
<And to you, Jo.  Best wishes to you and your fish,  -Sabrina>

Questions setting up a Neon Tetra tank    11/7/12
Hello. My name is Niki. I stumbled across your site and am very impressed; also very grateful as it appears to answer most of my questions, even more so that you're there for me to ask more.
<Welcome aboard!>
I love Neon Tetras (yes, I know how you feel about them),
<Don't dislike them… but do recognise that they're less easy to keep than many suppose, and farmed ones are a bit plagued by disease.>
but as with many others I'm reading, have had difficulty keeping them.
<As have I…>
I've gotten enormous amounts of really good information from reading here, and want to use it to make a Neon Tetra tank, with your help. It would appear that the problems with Neons are most often temperature, water hardness and Neon Tetra Disease.
<Yes, yes and yes.>
I want to do this right, so I've researched a bunch and this is what I've come up with. I'd most appreciate your advice. As to the tank, I did a lot of reading and got this from you guys. For Neons:
STABLE pH between 6 and 7.5;
<Somewhere in there, but obviously the stability is the key bit.>
72-75 F temperature;
<Yes, but be sure to adjust the newly bought specimens to cooler conditions carefully. I'd set the tank up to the temperature of the water in the retailer's tank, then set the heater down a degree, so the water cools down slowly across a day. Repeat every day as required until the water is at the right temperature.>
Consistently zero levels of ammonia and nitrite; 5, 10, 15 ppm nitrate at least. I have good (liquid--not test strip) test kits for all of that.
"For dealing with hard water, you advised 1 part tap water to 9 parts distilled, RO or rainwater. Yes, our water is somewhat hard, but we live in Marin County, California, so unless Climate Change affects us really quickly, we usually get up to 22 in. a year in rainfall--I'll start collecting! My friend at the fish store swore they've never had any problems with our water and Neons. She's not bullshitting me, she takes good care of me; I had tank problems one time and lost almost EVERYTHING; she had me keep bringing my water in before she'd let me buy any more fish, and even then maintain it for two weeks to be sure! So they're not just in it for the money. I'm not sure how much our water has to do with my inability to keep Neons, but I'm taking no chances. Is there a way to test water softness...I'm not crazy about the idea of buying water to change my fish tank frequently!
<To begin with, set the tank up with your local water, just like your retailer. What I'd suggest you do is let them settle in like that. But each weekend, as you do the water change, simply do water changes 50/50 tap water and RO water (or rainwater). For Neons, it's actually not crucial for the water to be super-soft; the aim is to avoid liquid rock. 10, 12 degrees dH, with a pH around 7.5, is absolutely fine.>
As to gathering rainwater, we have a friend who's lived with my husband and I for several years after moving here from Michigan area. She has a 50-gallon tank down in her room downstairs, has always had fish, and she's to blame for getting me into them. Big dog person (Huskies rule!); I've had cats, dwarf rabbits, many reptiles when younger, and others, but I just got a tank and got started with her advice when it came to fish. Learned MUCH since then, but this is the first time I'm deliberately setting up a tank rather than "Ooooh, that's pretty, I'll take two of those, and..." (don't say it; I know). She's leery of me collecting rainwater, and I'm not sure if it's just 'cuz she's a neat freak, so I'll ask you. I planned on putting clear plastic sheeting over a couple of coolers and a big metal bucket we have out back to catch the water; she says plastic would affect the water. What is your opinion?
<I'd be more worried about the metal bucket, to be honest. Rainwater is acidic and tends to react with metal. Stainless steel should be okay, but food-grade plastic containers are the ideal. With all this said, if rainwater is collected quickly then stored indoors, the sheeting and the bucket may not matter much. In any case, rainwater is variably safe; I collect and use rainwater, but many aquarists think the risk isn't worth it. If you're keeping Neons, you don't need a huge tank, 10, 15 gallons is fine, and if you lightly stock the tank and don't overfeed, water changes would be modest. Buying the 3, 4 gallons of RO water every weekend or two might be worthwhile.>
As to the filtration: "Air-powered filters are ideal, and sponge, box, and undergravel " is what you suggest--Currently I have what you call "electric canister filter", but picked up an "Air-driven, Inside-the-tank Cartridge Filter" which my current air pump will drive. My "advisor" at the fish store set me up with cut-to-fit ammonia-remover filter pads for it. I'm putting it in today, she said let it be there for two weeks to soak up the bacterial stuff before changing the tank. Also, I read somewhere on your site (but can't find it again) about leaving the top of the tank open for aeration since bubbles aren't really that helpful; would you recommend that?
<Not necessary. So long as the tank isn't hermetically sealed, air will get through narrow gaps and holes just fine.>
Substrate and "furnishings":
"Smooth sand and Indian almond leaves to recreate leaf litter." I've had problems with live plants in the past (dying, and snails) so I'd prefer to stay with artificial, if possible. From what I see on the internet, Indian almond leaves shouldn't be a problem just littered along the bottom of the tank. Not wanting live plants would leave out the Java moss, Java fern and Anubias spp which are suggested, along with bogwood roots.
<Shame, because they're really bullet-proof, especially the Anubias.>
I'm debating whether to go natural or artificial bogwood roots, given they're already dead (positive) but can acidify over time (your opinion?); what other artificial "furniture" would you suggest? From what I'm reading, they like lots of foliage to hide behind, which I could provide with fake plants from bottom to top for them.
<Neons do like, need shade.>
Could I keep my shells and rocks, or do Neons need other types of things to hide under/around?
<Not shells (they harden the water) and the rocks need to be lime-free as well. So granite good, limestone bad.>
You say Neons like "low light levels (i.e., no lights, lots of shade); little to no water movement--4 times the volume per hour". NO artificial light would leave the aquarium pretty dark where it sits, and there's no other place in the room I can put it. I checked about low-level aquarium lights and she said they don't have any, but remembered that they used to have these light "covers" for fluorescents to bring down the brightness...I'll look around for those, unless you know of specific low-light aquarium lights.
<Without plants, then use one or two fluorescent tubes. Gro-Lux tubes (which are a bit purplish) flatter Neons especially.>
You mention "Smooth silica sand, also known as silver sand and pool filter sand" as a good substrate; the light color I saw on the internet wouldn't have enhanced low light levels for the Neons, but bang-on!, she had it in BLACK--which you guys also mentioned being a good color decoratively. And yes, she said it IS "smooth silica"--the bags are unmarked but I trust her.
Then we get to the fish. I have a number of fish that are currently in the 20-gallon tank which will become the Neon tank. There is a lovely woman at our best fish store in town who's taken care of me for a long time. She will take any of the fish I want to give up. Of those I have, I only want to retain the African Frog, Kuhli Loach and Chinese Algae Eater. Will the Kuhli do the job of keeping the bottom clean, or should I keep one of the Corys I have to clean the substrate?
<Corydoras are ideal, because they like the same coolish conditions.>
Can I keep my Kuhli Loach, who has a temperature range of 79-84?
<Not ideal.>
I need to decide how many Neons and what I'll put with them. Checking the tankmates you suggest, I'd like to go with Diamond Neons, Black Neons, Red Phantoms and/or Golden Pencilfish.
<All good, provided the water temperature is okay.>
Neons are of course the priority. I see them referred to as "pelagic", and "mid to bottom-dwellers .85 in.
Stable pH between 6 and 7.5;
72-77 F temperature;
2-10 dH; potentially to a max of 15
"5, 10, 15 ppm nitrate at least"
The "Diamond" or "Diamond Head", is a mid-level swimmer who gets to a maximum size of 2-1/2 inches.
<Do you mean Diamond Tetras?>
pH range 5-7
Temperature range is 72-80 F
5-12 dH
Red Phantoms are mid-level swimmers of 1.6 inches
pH range 5.5-7.0
They have a temperature range of 72-82 F,
4-20 dH
Black Neons are mid- to top-dwellers that get 1.5 inches.
pH range 5.5-7.5
Temperature of 71-78
2-15 dH
Golden Pencilfish, surface/close-to-surface dwellers 2 inches.
pH range 6-7
Temperature 75-79
5-19 dH
(Caveat: I reeeely like the Diamonds) ;o)
I can't find "nitrate" levels for any of those but the Neons. The problem is, I get slightly different figures from virtually every website I research, so it's tough! That's why I'm asking for your help. How often would I have to check pH and are there any tests for dH??
<I'd check weekly for the first couple months, but thereafter, once all fish installed and they're all happy, once a month, if that.>
I'm listing the above because I've gone through all your suggested tankmates and my own "wish list", and these are the closest I find that are among those I'd like to have. Obviously I don't want to overcrowd, so depending on what you advise, I'll have to choose. If I can keep the frog, Kuhli and Algae Eater, what would you recommend...I assume it would be a minimum of six to a school of any of them, so I'm not sure how to calculate size/number of species/number per species to go with the Neons in a 20-gallon tank. Given Neons are mid- to bottom-dwellers, how would that mix with Diamonds/Reds as mid-levels and/or Black Neons as mid- to top-dwellers and/or Pencilfish as top-dwellers?
<In 20 gallons, you could keep 6-8 Neons, 5-6 Corydoras, and one other school of 6-8 tetras of some sort without problems.>
Bear in mind with all of this that, although I've learned some by now and have done a lot of research THIS time, this is the first time since I lost almost all the fish in one tank that I've gone beyond asking "will they be okay with _____?" to the guy in the fish shop! Does the word "neophyte" come to mind?
<In a good way.>
Also, nobody around here carries Diamonds or Reds, so I would have to either order them through the store or get them on line...the latter of which I've never done before. I've not inquired about ordering, just been told it can be done. Input?
<If you're after Diamond Tetras, Moenkhausia pittieri, they're widely traded. No need to buy all your fish at once. Indeed, getting the Neons settled first is a very good idea.>
Okay, that about covers everything (I can think of); your advice and any further information would be most appreciated. I'm getting excited thinking about this! I have to wait two weeks for the filter to pick up bacteria before changing the substrate and preparing for the new guys, and would be grateful for any advice on changing the tank over and introducing the new "tenants" which you might be willing to give as well.
Much thanks, Niki
<Most welcome, Neale.>
Re: Questions setting up a Neon Tetra tank 11/10/12

Hi again Neale:
Thank you for all your wonderful advice. Hopefully I'll be successful following all your suggestions. And yes, it was Diamond Tetras I was mentioning. I forgot to mention that I feed one tank flakes and brine shrimp, and the other flakes and bloodworms (for the frog). Over-feeding has always been a problem for me, my friend keep slapping my hand away to help me "wean off" over-feeding. I'm learning!
You weren't in favor of me keeping the Kuhli Loach. After reading around, it appears they can take 75°F - 85°F--given the other options and the Neons, if I kept the temp stable somewhere between 75 and 77, they should be okay...and they like "medium to medium soft" water, so that fits (as well as their pH). The sand would be perfect for them. It say they like to be kept in schools of 3 or more--I only have one--I'd rather not get any more if I can keep him? I don't want to give him away, and my other tank has a full-grown Rafael, a Krib and three full-grown Barbs...obviously he can't go in there! He would probably love the soft, black sand to root around in.
<For sure.>
You didn't address the African Frog--from what I read, it looks like he might work out okay; temp matches and it says they do well with "other like-minded and docile fish, like the loaches and community tetras", which pretty much exactly describes my tank!
Again, I can't put him in the other tank, for obvious reasons! The other numbers work well, except it says a pH of 7 to 7.2. If that's really necessary, it might be a bit tough to keep it at say a stable 7-7.2 (which would be okay for the other fish), but if it means I can keep him, I'd be willing to try.
<You'll likely be fine, so long as they get food and aren't nippy by anything aggressive.>
The Algae Eater's numbers match, too, and I'd like to keep him (again, he's pretty small so can't go to the other tank) 'cuz he keeps the algae down. Can I keep those three guys, and maybe get two (rather than just one) other small "school" of a different tetra, instead of getting more Cories, or should I stick with these three guys and just the Neons and one other small school of some kind of Tetra? You suggested more Cories; I have two now and don't really want anymore, in fact I'd like to get rid of one of them. I'm not a big fan of Cories, but they keep the bottom "vacuumed" a bit, so that's why I got them. If I could replace your suggestion of more Cories with one of the Cories I've got, I don't THINK that would overstock a 20-gallon, with the Neons and one (or two?) other "mini-school" of another Tetra. If you really think the Loach is a bad idea, I'll give him away with the others I'm removing, but I really love the little guy (seldom as I see him!).
<Well, see what happens. At 24-25 C they should all do okay.>
After what you said, I think I'll go mostly with RO water and maybe some rainwater too. By "food-grade plastic containers are the ideal", I'm guessing you mean plastic containers sold to store food.
<Yes. Also stuff sold for agriculture, like storage of animal feed and whatnot.>
I have a "plastic food container addiction" (they don't seem to have a twelve-step program for that)...so anything I've had to work not to buy too MANY! You're right that buying a few gallons of RO every weekend is no biggie and worth it; we used to buy it for ourselves and gave up as it was too much trouble, so I still have the bigger 5-gallon plastic containers laying around somewhere.
<So there you go. An easy option.>
After reading what you said, I've made a decision. My other tank (mentioned above) is darker, has fake logs in it, one big fake log where the Rafael "lives".
<Ah now, this might eat the Neons. Not sure I thought about this first time around! While they prefer shelled invertebrates, especially snails in the wild, they're not about eating small fish given the chance.>
I think I'm going to switch that to the "seashore tank", 'cuz I've got some really lovely shells and the stones are light w/gold, some kind of decorative rock (it's not limestone). With the existing white sand from the existing "seaside" tank (which I was going to replace with the black sand), it'll be light, so the Neon tank can be dark with the logs, etc. I'm also thinking, given what you said, that if I make the Neon tank the darker one, I might try live plants again.
<Sure. Just remember seashells raise pH and hardness, so they're options for hard water systems and brackish water systems, or obviously marine systems.>
You wrote that Java moss, Java fern, Anubias and bogwood roots in some combination or other would work...as long as they don't bring along snails (been there/done that/no thank you!).
<Easy to prevent. Dip/immerse in snail removing potions as sold in aquarium shops.>
I'll look around for them; that way it will give the Neons (and whatever tetras) lots of things to hide around, and be darker. Does that sound good to you?
Going with live plants, you wrote "Gro-Lux tubes (which are a bit purplish) flatter Neons especially"--I'm guessing Gro-Lux would be good for the live plants?
<Oddly enough, outstanding for land plants, which is what they were invented for. But they're not that good for aquarium (underwater) plants. Anubias will certainly do fine, and Java fern and Java moss should do okay.>
In which case, I'll go with them; want those little guys to show off to their best advantage, after going to all this trouble! You mentioned not getting all the fish at once; trust me, I won't make that mistake (again)! I'm not going to add any new fish until I'm sure everything (especially the Neons( is happily established, just keep the ones you think I can keep and only add the Neons once the tank has been set up. Thanks for all your advice about how to introduce them, I'll follow it to the letter! Cooling the water slowly is going to be a real chore, as the heater in there doesn't "read" what my thermometer does,
<Hmm… not trouble really, surely? Turn the heater-stat down a degree or two, and let the tank cool down itself.>
so I have to go by the latter and check and check to be sure it's okay until I get it stabilized. Worth it, though'.
<Could well be.>
Swapping the two tanks: Until now, they've both been pretty much the same, water, temp, pH, etc. I'm guessing I shouldn't change too much to start with,
so if I just swap the fish I have now and give away the ones I'm not going to keep, then change all the numbers (slowly!) in the one tank to be good for the Neons, wait a while to be sure everyone's stable, then introduce them, let them settle before I introduce any others. I WILL have to completely empty and clean the tank I'm going to use for the Neons, as the Algae Eater I had in there I think got eaten, so there's quite a bit of algae on the "furniture" (fake logs, etc.). Also, the substrate in there is dark pebbles, so I'll have to clean the whole tank and replace it with the black sand. I'm guessing I should change it over to live plants and let them settle in as well before I add the Neons. Get it all set up, wait (how long?)
<Week or two.>
and check levels of everything, and once it's stable, look for some Neons--introduce them, wait again (how long?)
<A few days, a week.>
before introducing anything else. Does that sound about right?
This is quite an undertaking; I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have been successful without you looking "over my shoulder" as it were, but it'll be more than worth it for me if I can get and keep some of those lovely Neons. Thanks once more for all your help! Niki
<Most welcome, Neale.> 
Re: Questions setting up a Neon Tetra tank, stkg.     11/11/12

Okay Neale, one more time, then I promise to stop bugging you!
Couple of things:  By "You'll likely be fine, so long as they get food and aren't nippy by anything aggressive" I'm guessing you were referring to the African Frog (dwarf, if I didn't mention)?
He's never had any problems with the other fish, shown no sign of damage, etc., and as I said, those were Corys, the Loach and various Tetras, so I'm not sure what would get nippy...?
<Quite so. But giving you a general approach to take when choosing subsequent tankmates and/or deciding which tank to keep these frogs in.>
Also, you expressed concern about the Rafael...I think you misunderstood. 
He lives with the Barbs and the male Kribensis (he lost his mate a while back). I wouldn't dream of putting ANY of those in the same tank with Neons, or the Frog.  My idea was to swap both tanks...I wasn't thinking of dumping a near-adult Rafael in with the poor Neons, etc.  He'd have a field day!
<Or field night, at least.>
I kinda rambled (a problem of mine!), so let's see if I can be clear:
Right now:
--Dark tank (small pebble substrate, fake logs, plastic plants): Krib, Rafael, 3 Barbs
<All good.>
--Light tank (white sand, rocks, seashells): Frog, Loach, 2 Corys, 2 small Algae Eaters 1 Glo-Lite Tetra and 3 Harlequin Rasboras (I'm not keeping the Rasboras, Tetra, and 1 of the Corys). My reason for giving away those is that I like Neons, you suggested several I like, and I want to keep little "schools" of Tetras, rather than single individuals of other things.
<Would not use natural seashells in a freshwater tank like this. The shells will dissolve, making your purchase, use of softened water pointless.
Artificial (plastic, ceramic) shells are fine though.>
--Dark tank (w/black sand, assorted plants and fake logs): Whatever Neons I get, Loach, Frog one Corey and Algae Eaters.
--Light Tank (w/light sand, rocks and seashells): Krib, Barbs and Rafael.
So you see, I THINK I'd have it where nobody would hurt anyone else--at least, the Barbs and their buddies have gotten along this far.  I hadn't forgotten about the seashells; I'll keep an eye on the pH; will research to see how Barbs, Kribs and Raphaels feel about water hardness...especially the Krib, he's my baby and it about killed me when his lady of long standing died (sniff!).
<None of these are overly fussy about hardness or pH, except to say none like rock-hard water, and if you want to Kribs to breed, you do need a pH of exactly 6.5-7.0 otherwise you end up with all one sex.>
Tried to get him another; she died quickly; I think that was the fault of the store, as I got one for Choey, our downstairs friend/roommate, and it died almost immediately too.  Haven't tried again since.  Anyway, the shells would be in THAT tank, not with the Neons, etc.  I'm paying close attention to what you're telling me, and taking notes, believe me!
Oh, hey, I didn't know there WAS a snail-removing potion!  Choey told me snails often come with plants, and I had a SLEW of the tiny, tan-colored bastards I couldn't seem to get rid of (even removing EVERYTHING, boiling everything and going to plastic plants, believe it or not!).  I wish I'd known, would have saved a lot of time and effort.  Many thanks, I'll look for it right away!
<Potassium permanganate was the old method, but this chemical is fairly toxic and not recommended; snail-killing products are available in pet stores. Typically, dip plants for 20 minutes or so.>
That's really wild about Gro-Lux not being good for aquarium plants! I used it extensively for my regular plants, but I'm reeeely grateful you told me that. I'll go with the Anubias, Java fern and Java, and avoid anything else.
<The Gro-Lux tubes are really good, as you say, but their wavelength (colour) gets cut out by the water really quickly, so with anything more than, say, 20 cm/8 inches of water isn't worth using Gro-Lux tubes alone.
When I started keeping fish, mixing one Gro-Lux with one bright blue-white tube (most of the popular ones used today) was recommended. But really, the bright blue-white tubes are better for fish tanks.>
You are an absolute guardian angel, Neale...there are so many things I now know I'd have done wrong, I'd have ended up terribly disappointed if I didn't have all the advice you've give me.  I've made note of everything and will now start down the long road to setting up my two tanks EXACTLY the way that is best for them and that I want them.  Exciting!
<Indeed it is.>
Completely separate from my work to create a Neon tank, one last question. 
I had a "selection" of Barbs in the tank with the Krib and Rafael; over time several of them died.  Now I'm told I can't get anything else to fill the gap, as my Barbs are all full grown and would eat anything smaller.
<Not really sure this is true. While barbs are opportunists, they have small mouths, and like all Cyprinidae, lack teeth, so their predatory abilities are minimal. Ad adult Tiger Barb for example doesn't pose much of a threat to anything other than teeny-tiny fish (newborn Guppies for example).>
So how does one go about replacing something in a tank with other "aggressives"?  I've asked two shop owners (one the woman I mentioned that I trust a lot), and they both said "can't be done".
<Provided you choose compatible species that are too deep-bodied to be swallowed whole, there's no real risk I can think of; at worst, barbs are nippy, so adding things like male Guppies, juvenile Angels or fancy Bettas would be daft. But Danios would be fine, being too fast to catch, while the deeper bodied tetras like X-Ray Tetras would be safe as well. Bleeding Heart Tetras are particularly useful fish, offering nice colours (in the right tank, they fade a bit in bright tanks) while having quite a pushy, robust personality themselves. I've kept them with South American Puffers and they did very well. Another stalwart species that'd thrive would be the Black Widow Tetra, but you might also consider the South American Red-Eye Tetra (Moenkhausia sanctaefilomenae). It's a pretty species, extremely hardy, but overlooked by some because it can be nippy at times towards slow-moving fish. Since you're keeping it with barbs, that won't be an issue.>
Looks awful empty in there--once I swap it over, will look even MORE empty without the logs and stuff.  All I have now, in a 20-gallon tank, are four Barbs (two Tiger--a regular and an Albino--and a Cherry) the Krib and the Rafael.  I reeeely miss my two Green Tigers, as they were the reason I set the entire tank up with "aggressives".
<Barbs aren't really aggressive, so I'm not sure you view them this way.
Many barbs, like the Five-Banded Barb and the African Dwarf Golden Barb, are in fact rather shy.>
Should I just leave it at that (since I hope someday to get the Krib another mate), or is there some other option?
<Many; see above.>
Okay, I quit, hopefully you're rid of me now. Thanks again for all your wonderful advice. Now I get to go to work...wish me luck! ;o)
<Real good. Cheers, Neale.>

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