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FAQs on Freshwater Livestocking 9

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 10, FW Livestocking 11, & Stocking Small Systems, & Freshwater Livestock SelectionCommunity Tank Livestocking,

Stocking a 55 gallon tank, FW mix   4/25/11
Thank you for all the wonderful things you do, I love your website.
I just acquired a 55 gallon tank and would like advice on how to stock it, so I don't make the wrong choice and end up with unhappy fish. I have heard that silver dollars are a stretch in a 55 gallon, but I would love to have them.
<The problems with Silver Dollars are two-fold. Firstly, they do get rather big, typically 12 cm/5 inches, and secondly, you do need to keep a group of six or more because they're social fish with the potential to become aggressive or nervous when kept in insufficient numbers. On top of these issues, they're both predatory and pronounced plant-eaters, so they're a threat to any small fish in the tank as well as almost all aquarium plants.
So while they're widely sold, they do need to be kept in a very large tank, realistically 180 cm/6 feet from the left to right. In anything smaller they're not going to do well and will likely cause problems. At the very least, they'll simply look stupid wedged into a tank where they can't actively swim about freely.>
What other fish would do best with them?
<In the right aquarium, Silver Dollars mix well with bigger but peaceful companions, typically things like large South American catfish and large barbs. While they may be viable alongside cichlids, this does depend on the cichlid species in question, and some Silver Dollar species can be nippy, so can cause problems with long-finned cichlids if you don't select your Silver Dollar species carefully.>
I tried to find a list of compatible fish with silver dollars but I don't trust what I find on Google (as advice from random people so often conflicts with what you guys say) and I didn't find it on your site (I apologize if it is up there and I overlooked it). Would Tiger barbs work? How many?
<If you have 150 gallons to spare, then sure, half a dozen Silver Dollars alongside 12-20 Tiger Barbs could work. Tiger Barbs can be pronounced fin-nippers, but in large schools this doesn't usually cause serious problems -- it's when people keep fewer than a dozen specimens they find Tiger Barbs trouble.>
I stumbled upon the website aqadvisor.com, do you think I can go by what their recommendations say?
<I have no idea. Don't have the sort of time required to test out this website properly. Looks clever though!>
I basically want a large schooling fish (not Angelfish) that will do well in a community tank. Am I correct in thinking that mollies and silver dollars don't do well together?
<You are indeed correct. Mollies need hard, alkaline water, and ideally slightly brackish water at that. Silver Dollars need soft to moderately hard, slightly acidic to neutral water. There's no real overlap between the requirements of the two species, and a tank that was healthy for one would be stressful for the other.>
I really like mollies too.
<Mollies are best kept in an aquarium that caters to their needs. In a 55 gallon tank that's easy enough to do, and you can then select fish that will tolerate the slightly brackish conditions they appreciate: Brown Hoplo catfish, Blue Acara, Horseface Loaches, Australian Rainbowfish, Glassfish, Spiny Eels, etc.>
I do have experience with freshwater fish tanks but I am by no means an expert. Any and all advice is greatly appreciated. Thank you again,-Amanda
<Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>

new tank filter advice, FW, and stkg. notes   4/19/11
Greetings crew!
I'm planning on building a new FW tank this summer. I currently have a 29 gallon and will be upgrading to a 55 gallon. The new tank will be a (hopefully) peaceful soft water set-up with a ph 6.8-7.2. I plan on housing mostly neon tetra,
<Which need cool water, 22-25 C.>
chocolate or samurai Gourami,
<Which need warmer water, 28-30 C; and not suitable for community settings anyway.>
a pair of pearl Gourami,
<Cannot coexist with Chocolate Gouramis.>
pygmaeus and adolfoi Corydoras,
<Need coolish water, like the Neons.>
gardneri killifish,
<Middling temperature; potentially viable with Pearl Gouramis in a big tank.>
and either Apistogramma borelli
<Like Neons and most Corydoras, needs coolish water.>
or cacatuoides (or both if you feel they can coexist together).
<Fairly adaptable, and the better choice for use with the Pearl Gouramis given both Pearls and A. cacatuoides do well between 24-28 C.>
The question I have is about filtration.
<Suspect I've prompted a few *other* questions here!>
Currently I have a penguin 200 with BioWheel in my 29 gallon. I've read that 5x the gallons in GPH is a good ratio to go by.
<Depends on the fish. Yes, ideal for Corydoras, the larger Gouramis and the Killifish. But too much for Chocolate Gouramis that really don't do well with anything other than air-powered sponge filters. Apistogramma can do well with either sort of filter, but air-powered has advantages if you intend on breeding them.>
My penguin is well over this but I notice that there is still quite a bit of debris and detritus during my weekly vacuums. I find it odd since its over the recommended GPH for a tank my size and the tank has good circulation. I can see the fish swim against the current and the current flows over there fins. While it's not extremely strong I feel it's good for the fish I keep, anything more would probably toss my gentile chocolate around too much.
Now I plan on using the same penguin filter for my 55 gallon. It is just slightly under the recommended GPH by itself, which will give my 55 a good start on it's beneficial bacteria. Now here's what I would really like advice on. I'm planning on adding a UGF as well. OK wait! before you cringe and head slap let me go into more detail.
<Nothing wrong with undergravel filtration. But do understand their limitations, especially in terms of plants. If you're keeping Chocolate Gouramis, you will want plants -- these fish are incredibly shy. So by all means use an undergravel filter with them, but choose floating and epiphytic plants instead of rooted ones.>
I've read numerous threads and pages on there drawbacks and how everyone swears by them or favors power filters. One things I've noticed is it's always pretty one sided. But I can't seem to find hardly any feedback on using both, as is my goal.
<You can mix both types of filter with success.>
The only things I've found is that a UGF will rob power and compete with the power filter and will actually be less effective.
<Rubbish. If you think about it logically, the ammonia will be portioned out depending on which filter has the more volume of water flowing through it. If the undergravel filter has a throughput four times that of the external canister filter, then it'll get four times the ammonia. But none of this has any practical significance. So long as there's *enough* filtration, you can divide it up between 2, 3 or a dozen filters if you want.>
I can understand this as it makes sense, but it will not apply in my situation. I plan on using the UGF reverse flow to work with the power filter and I can't find ANY information on such a set-up. I'm sure im not the only one to think of this.
<Reverse-flow undergravel filters using external canister filters were very common in the 80s and you can still find the gear required to build them from the better filter manufacturers, e.g., Eheim.>
I think this will help keep the crude from settling on the bottom as the reverse flow UGF will push it up and allow the power filter to fully do it's job, or will it not work this way?!
<Yes, the output from the external canister pushes clean water through the filter, propelling any dirt on the top of the gravel into the water column.
From there, it's sucked into the external canister filter. So long as you keep the mechanical media (what some people call the "pre-filter") on the external canister clean, the water that gets pushed into the undergravel filter should be clean too.>
I'm not even really concerned with actually using it as a biological filter just to help keep the bottom clean. The set-up im planning on using will be overkill for housing beneficial bacteria anyway.
<Will become colonised with bacteria anyway.>
My tank will be built with a 3D background Siliconed securely in place.
The UGF will be sealed off underneath the foam background and the 3-4" behind the background to create a tank like divider. This will only allow UGF reverse flow to the visible area of the tank. The power filter inlet will be in front of the background which will filter out the debris brought up from the bottom by the reverse flow UGF. The power filter will then dump filtered water behind the background into a cavity with an overflow that has a sponge divider from top to bottom about 1-2" in width. There will be another such sponge divider right before the actual UGF reverse flow power head. The Area between these sponge dividers, which will be most the length of the tank, will be filled with cut up sponge strung on fishing line to act as tons of bioballs. This is why I stated earlier I will have beneficial bacteria housing overkill. Hopefully you can get a mental picture of what I'm trying to achieve. When I last did a tear down and ran the filter with no gravel and stirred up the water until completely cloudy I noticed my power filter does an excellent job filtering the water, it was clear in about 20 minutes.
<Yes, but as ever, once the mechanical media gets clogged, your filter turnover rate will drop dramatically. Standard practise is to use the external canister as mechanical media entirely, i.e., you can aggressively clean the sponges and ceramic noodles every few weeks. Then you leave the undergravel filter as the main biological filter, which it does very well.
Obviously this assumes the gravel bed is deep (8-10 cm) and uniformly flat.
Rocks and slops will diminish performance because water will tend to flow along the line of least resistance.>
But once stuff started settling on the bottom it failed to lift it off and filter it out. What I'm hoping for is that the reverse UGF will keep crude from settling on the bottom and keep it suspended until the power filter can trap it into its filter cartridge, which I can easily rinse off daily to keep my water super clean. Do you think such a filtration system will work the way I anticipate? If so, how effective do you think it will be biologically and mechanically?
<Can work extremely well.>
Lastly the reverse flow power head I plan on using is a Penguin 660R. It's listed as 175 GPH. Now would you consider this on top of the GPH of my Penguin 200 for a total of 375 GPH? Or would it be figured differently since it's kind of a double filtration? Is this too much filtration for a 55 gallon, just right, or not enough?
<Depends on the fish being kept. Chocolate Gouramis expect/need turnover rates that are very low, maybe 2x per hour. Corydoras enjoy brisk currents, so anything around 6-8x is fine for them. Neons maybe 4x, Pearl Gouramis and Apistogramma about the same. The Killifish would be more comparable to the Chocolate Gouramis, but do note that the two species would not be compatible.>
I will await your response to start buying everything in case it's incompatible. Sorry for the long E-mail.
<Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>

Re... Fish Tank Mate Questions, gen. FW    4/6/11
Hello Neale,
Your statement; 'I do note you haven't said anything about fixing the social problems in your tank.' is noted. I'm still searching for homes for my Odessa Barbs and wasn't aware that my Opaline Gourami's may attack each other -I've only ever seen the Barbs doing the attacking'¦
<Interesting. Two females of course won't fight; it's the males. Sexing isn't hard: males have much longer dorsal fins than females.>
So I suppose I must also try to find a home for one of the Opalines as I do plan to keep one for myself. Assuming my Barbs and one Opaline Gourami are given new homes soon, I will have 3 Dwarf Gourami's, one Opaline Gourami and an algae eater (who unfortunately is indeed a Gyrinocheilus aymonieri.)
I choose that fellow because he didn't get as big as my other choice; a Pleco Algae eater.
<Actually, they both get to about 30 cm/12 inches within a couple of years. The best algae eater, insofar as an "algae eater" means anything at all (no fish keeps your tank free of algae) would be the Bristlenose Plec, Ancistrus sp., widely sold in virtually all decent aquarium shops. Maximum length 15 cm/6 inches, often less.>
You say I should prepare for trouble for this species as well, so my other question is; I'm going out of town next week and will have the chance to possibly get a different type of Algae eater. Which species would be a good match for docile Gourami's?
<See above. Nerite Snails and Cherry Shrimps actually make a far better combo, but both can be killed by careless use of medications, since copper will poison them quickly. The Siamese Algae Eater, Crossocheilus siamensis, is another good fish, but it's best kept in groups of 6+, and in smaller groups may be either shy or aggressive.>
Also, while I'm out of town, the LFS there will more than likely have some Pearl Gourami's. Would those Gourami's go well with an Opaline and some Dwarf Gourami's?
<They are usually quite peaceful, especially the females; again, males have longer dorsal fins. Males also have orange on the "throat" and feelers than the females normally lack.>
If not, what species of commonly available fish do you recommend to try to get? I'm asking you because each time I ask LFS employees, I'm basically being told what I want to hear so they can make a sale.
<Do read:
We do have some favourite books:
I think you'd find Complete Aquarium by Peter Scott and A Practical Guide to Setting Up Your Tropical Freshwater Aquarium by Gina Sandford particularly helpful. The first goes through lots of themed communities and suggests rocks, plants and fish that work together; the second is an "ABC" book that goes through each step of the process, and has some good ideas on community fish.>
I have checked online for tank mates more than once for my Gourami's, but as you can see by my choices, I've been mislead and have made mistakes.
<Really, avoid anything nippy or aggressive. Corydoras catfish, Kuhli Loaches, Cherry Barbs, Congo Tetras, X-ray Tetras, Five-Banded Barbs, and Rainbowfish of all types would all be on my list of possibilities, and all of these are basically durable fish that do well across a broad range of water chemistry values.>
I'm sorry to bother you guys with all my questions, but I really do want to do what's best for my fish. I know and understand that I've made mistakes in the past; I'm still learning the ropes. Thank you very much for all your advice and help!
<Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Stocking question: small tank (RMF, do we have an acrylic vs. glass page?)<<Not per se, but comparisons, pros/cons are made for both in a few areas>>  3/31/11
Neale, thanks for the quick and thoughtful response.
So, no more creatures in this tank. Very good.
I completely buy that these fish need more space. I used to watch the swordtail swim up the filter downdraft like a hamster on a treadmill. I do regret relying on the advice of the LFS and not doing more independent research first. By the way, though, did you know there is an inconsistency on the site ... The article on Almost Perfect Fish says of the black molly: it holds its own, and makes a superb companion for things like fancy Platies and swordtails
<Yes, but I do then go on to mention its very specific water chemistry requirements. It's wise, if not 100% essential, to choose tankmates that will tolerate a little salt. This does indeed include other livebearers, as well as certain loaches (e.g., Horseface loaches), certain catfish (e.g., brown Hoplos), certain barbs (e.g., Ticto barbs) and certain cichlids (e.g., Kribs).>
The good news ... I didn't mean to make it sound like we lost very many with our mistakes. Fewer than the number of adults now in the tank. And everyone now seems healthy, including seven platy fry and one black molly fry, now all in the main tank. Of the adults there, only one is full size yet, so except for the babies maybe they are not too cramped... Yet'¦
To your points about the mix of fish and size of tank. I don't want to cause any creature suffering, but it's also difficult to go back to the store with a fish that's been given the name Pumpkin. So I am trying to find a good balance between ideal and practical. I gather you are not so much a fan of the balloon molly, but I think she is going to have to stay with us.
<It's not really about being a "fan" so much as preferring animal breeders not to deform animals simply for their aesthetic tastes. I'm not wild about the more extreme breeds of cat or dog either, for precisely the same reason. I do understand that newcomers to the hobby might assume Balloon Mollies are meant to be that way, and I don't hold a grudge against such fishkeepers. But if you do mix Balloon and regular Mollies together, just like mixing a fairly deformed dog (like a Pug) with a normal-looking one (like a standard pooch) you're likely to end up with a situation where the weaker animal can't keep pace with any aggression, play, or feeding behaviour. Male Mollies are very aggressive, chasing both other males and females who don't want to mate with them, and if that target Molly is a Balloon, and the aggressor male is a regular Molly, you can see how things might not be fair on the Balloon.>
We wouldn't get another balloon. From your comments, and what I've read so far, it sounds like a workable solution might be to plan on upgrading to a 20 gal tank, keeping the two mollies (and baby) and finding a reason to give back the Platies in exchange for another molly or two (four adults total, and a molly-only community).
<If you do keep multiple Mollies, try to stick with females. They're far less aggressive. While they do chase one another, they're rarely as psychotic as some male Mollies. And for the record, Mollies and Platies can cohabit, but Platies won't be happy above 25 C/77 F, whereas Mollies may not be happy at the cooler 22-24 C/72-75 F Platies prefer. Platies will tolerate small amounts of salt though, and adding 2-3 grammes of marine aquarium salt mix per litre of water can be extremely helpful if you find your Mollies pestered by Finrot and Fungus.>
Oh - when I do change tanks, is there a general opinion on glass vs. acrylic? Certainly there is a price difference. It also looks like there is a wide variety in how 20+ gallons is configured. I get the impression that it is better to maximize width and/or depth rather than height.
<There's not much to choose between them. Acrylic scratches more easily than glass (e.g., with a razor or the wrong sort of algae scraper), but glass certainly scratches if you use sand (which I prefer to use, for a variety of reasons). Older acrylic tanks tended to yellow with age (esp. if exposed to direct sunlight), but that's less of an issue today. Acrylic tanks are less likely to leak because they're a one-piece tank rather than five panes of glass siliconed together. Good quality acrylic is also extremely strong and impact-resistant: virtually all public aquaria use acrylic these days, not glass, and universally so when it comes to giant tanks with sharks, dolphins and whatnot. On the other hand, glass is reliable, durable, and if looked after carefully, there's no reason a glass tank shouldn't last 20+ years. Most leaks with glass tanks come from improper handling, in particular, trying to move a glass tank that hasn't been completely emptied first. Silicone resists outward forces, i.e., pressure, extremely well, but handles torsion, i.e., twisting, very badly, and carrying a half-empty aquarium is bound to twist it. In short, both acrylic and glass are good, and if your budget means one or other will provide a larger aquarium, and therefore better conditions for your fish, then that's the one I'd recommend.>
<Cheers, Neale.>

Fish Logic Puzzle, FW stkg.   3/21/11
Hello WWM Crew, and Happy Spring!
<Hello Jen,>
Seems I can't resist filling things up with water around the house, then adding fish... of course after cycling things properly :) Which brings me to a fish logic puzzle. I realize my stocking in certain tanks is, um, kinda unorthodox. Some kinks in working out a clear forward plan come from fish I chose when I was first getting into things 3 years ago; in hindsight, I might not have made those choices now... but some of those fish have become quite pet-like at this point. A couple oddly-stocked tanks resulted from combining fish during unplanned but necessary tank moves/teardowns. Perhaps you guys could help me figure out a better way to distribute my fish amongst my current tanks?
<Hmm'¦ Rather than distributing fish, think about optimising tanks for particular temperature, chemistry, and water current parameters. Group fish accordingly, assuming aquarium size and social behaviour allow. Any fish that don't fit in one or other tank may need rehoming.>
Fortunately, everyone appears healthy at the moment and I don't have any aggression issues, but I'd like to make things more ideal if possible. The largest tanks probably have the worst stocking assortment. I'm not sure what to do with the Pangios because I'd like to get them to breed (go ahead and laugh) but I'm hesitant about mixing all the species in a larger tank without a collection location. I'm guessing the Botias might eventually want a bit more swimming length, too? If there's room for something complementary and unusual in any of the tanks, feel free to mention it so I can start researching. Thanks a bunch for any insight!
- Jen
My tap water runs on the harder, alkaline side thanks to city wells in limestone bluffs; the chlorine is really the only thing that needs treating. Some R/O kept on hand. My current tanks, large to small, then available unused tanks, are as follows:
* Clawfoot bathtub, maybe 75-95G depending on fill level, with pond liner and pond pump. Soon enough, the 5 little Koi will get to go back outside! Must add "make room for a stock tank in the basement" to my project wish list.
<I see.>
* 125G: temp slowly fluctuates with separately-heated kitchen annex, so perhaps ranges from 69-76°F over the course of the year, generally about 72-3. Need to get a more loach-friendly substrate, though, poor Dojos! 6 Fantail goldfish (3 yrs ago, 3-5" range? Plant-munchers. Hornwort and potted Nymphaea still seem to be safe for now. Java ferns are toast.) 3 Misgurnus anguillicaudatus (3 yrs ago, 1 wild-type color, 2 gold variety, 5.5-6.5" range) 1 Synodontis (decorus x multipunctatus)? (2 yrs ago, clearly a hybrid that was originally mislabeled, but he's cute and friendly, all 6-7" of him, and loves to hang out upside-down under floating driftwood) 1 Hypostomus sp. (3 yrs ago, your common brown Pleco w/ 8 dorsal rays, doesn't belong anywhere'¦)
<Surprised the Syno is happy when the weather is cool, but I can see the others should do okay together. Your "Hypostomus" (dollars to donuts it's Pterygoplichthys) will indeed rasp the rhizomes of Java ferns from solid objects, but I'm surprised the Lilies haven't had their corms eaten yet.>
* 45G: 76°F, heavily planted, sand/smooth mini gravel substrate, lots of driftwood. 1 Panaque albomaculatus LDA-31 (6 mo.s ago) -- probably wants it quite a bit warmer?
<Not really.>
1 Ancistrus sp. (3 yrs ago, Female) 1 Hemigrammus erythrozonus (3 yrs ago, Male, one left from small school) -- what to do with him?
<Add some pals.>
7 Paracheirodon innesi (3 yrs ago, one left from small school, plus 6 added 6 mo.s ago) -- still have excellent color and complete finnage, to boot. 5 Botia striata (Likely 2M/3F) 6 Botia kubotai/histrionica (2 sources, possibly mislabeled, potentially 3 of each species. A couple are definitely female) ? Xiphophorus maculatus (a few adults and juveniles from lines started 3 yrs ago, plus 2 unrelated females) -- The Botias are now big enough to eat all new fry, and I need to separate out the spot and non-spot lines again.
<Though Neons tend not to do well in hard water, if all else works here, would leave as is.>
* 20G long: 70-1°F, high current (415GPH), shallow sand bottom, lots of smooth river stones, algae, a little Java moss, and a valiant potted crypt. 4 Sewellia lineolata (2M/2F)
<These do need very specific conditions; coolish, fast water current. Choose tankmates accordingly.>
* 20G long: 74-5°F, moderately planted (mostly in pots or on driftwood), shallow sand bottom 4 Corydoras aeneus 'Gold Shoulder' (2M/2F), plus 3-4 of their 6-wk old fry 6+ Xiphophorus maculatus (a couple small fry, plus 3M/1F adults -- 2M/ 1F are going to be traded, 1M kept) -- they love Cory eggs, of course 1 or 2 Palaemonetes sp.
<Again, sounds fine.>
* 10G: 76°F, heavily planted, tannin-stained, shallow sand/smooth gravel substrate, hardness lowered quite a bit w/ RO water. -- Fish seem more content than at 78°F. 3 Pangio oblonga (3 yrs ago, likely slightly different from ones in tank below. All female?) -- P. anguillaris/doriae was a contaminant w/ shipment, but that one didn't pass QT way back. 10 Pangio sp. (1-2 mo.s ago, undescribed irregularly-banded species similar to pictures of fish collected in S/SE Borneo, still fairly small juveniles)
<This tank is too small for anything else except perhaps Neons, Endler's, Celestial Danios, that sort of thing. So for now, leave as is. Perhaps add some Cherry Shrimps for colour?>
* 10G: 77-8°F, heavily planted, tannin-stained, deep soil/sand substrate, hardness lowered quite a bit w/ RO water. -- Pre-set heater. 1 Betta splendens (2+ yrs ago, short-tail "King" variety. Not shrimp/ snail safe!) 3 Pangio oblonga (6 mo.s ago, likely slightly different from ones in above tank) 5 Pangio semicincta (6 mo.s ago, at least 3 are female w/ visible eggs)
<As above.>
* 10G: 73-4°F, heavily planted, deep soil/sand/small round gravel substrate 12 Danio margaritatus (4M/8F) 1 Palaemonetes sp. (female) ~12 Neocaridina heteropoda
<Also as above.>
* 2.5G: 73-4°F -- The surprise tank. I put in broken plant bits sucked up from water changes, wait a few weeks, and see what I have. Sometimes it's not even plants! ~ 8 Neocaridina heteropoda (apparent hitchhikers on some Java moss I tossed in) 1 Scud (zip zip zip)
<Sounds fun, but wouldn't add any fish to a tank this small. Enjoy it for what it is, a small slice of an fish-free ecosystem.>
* 29G: completely empty, new tank. Will need to cycle, age a bit before I can move any fish in. Likely will move in excess plants first. Then maybe some of the platies? Just have to move the 10G with the Celestial Pearl Danios somewhere first. Oof.
<Platies are low to middling temperature, sluggish water fish: good companions share similar demands -- Neons can work if the water isn't too hard; otherwise Corydoras, some of the barbs such as Cherry Barbs, Bristlenose catfish, Flag Acara, etc.>
* 10G: torn down for complete cleaning out and undergravel filter removal. No real plans for it.
<Do read: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_5/volume_5_3/stocking.htm
* 5G: former quarantine tank, currently has water but no fish. No real plans for it, either.
<A good size for singleton Bettas.>
------------- All done. My head feels like spaghetti. Have a most excellent day, folks!
<Not really sure what you were looking for here. It sounds like you have a fair idea of how to keep fish already, and most of your tanks are quite small, so the scope for moving fish about is limited. Perhaps think about themes or biotopes, and work from there? Else concentrate on keeping single species with a view to breeding? Cheers, Neale.>


Re: Fish Logic Puzzle  3/22/11
Howdy again.
I guess that's kinda what I was aiming for. Hoping that if you saw anyone that stood out as odd in one of the tanks, you could call me out on it: rehome, move to different existing tank, or change water parameters. I knew the Syno was an odd one out from the beginning, but only fits size-wise in the big tank, and being a hybrid, who knows exactly what to expect? Of course, my non-fish roommate is most attached to 'Catatafish'!
<I see!>
The Syno is a mystery. Temperament wise, seems quite compatible with everyone, and waits at the corner nearest the fridge with everyone else for frozen treats. He's slightly more active when the water's a little warmer, but never seems to take a hit to his health in the few weeks of cooler water temps.
<They are indeed resilient fish, and maybe experience these sorts of variations in the wild, too.>
The lilies have plastic tops with small slits over the tops of the 1-gallons planters, with only a small hole in the center for growth.
They've survived Koi in the past this way, so I hope they're still good to put back outside in a month or two! Oh, and do I get dollars or donuts if my Pleco is really a Hypostomus? Doesn't Pterygoplichthys have 9-10 dorsal rays?
<If not more.>
I attached a (quite old) photo of my Pleco for reference. This is as 'spotted' as he gets; sometimes he's quite stripy and there really aren't visible spots. I haven't yet tried to have him ID'd on PlanetCatfish yet, but then again, I don't have collection location information for this guy.
<Yes, I agree, he's an Hypostomus species! H. punctatus I think, rather than H. plecostomus. Boy, these guys are rare nowadays. The farms all crank out the Pterygoplichthys catfish instead, so it's really nice to see this "old timer" species.>
Will do [adding more specimens to each tetra species in the tank].
Yep, the oldest one has a small school now, so I will enjoy them where they currently are.
Anything less common than white clouds [to go with Sewellia]? I do have access to some interesting species once and a while.
<Oh my, yes! Good choices include Barilius species, though these are rather big. In very small tanks, the smaller Devario might work, as well as Rhinogobius gobies, such as the widely sold Rhinogobius duospilus. Though fiddly to keep, the Freshwater Neon Gobies, Stiphodon spp., are an option too. The tiny stream catfish of the genus Akysis such as Akysis vespa are sometimes sold here in England, and they can do well in Hillstream tanks.
If you can get them, some of the less nippy fast-water Goodeids might be an option, like Ilyodon whitei. Goodeids are a bunch of fun to keep, and very feisty and active; it's a shame they're not as widely traded as the Poeciliid livebearers. They like cool water, even unheated tanks in summer.>
[Reply to comments of various small tanks.] Wasn't planning to add anyone to this tank at all. If anything, it's borderline overstocked for my preferences! Also maxed out for my liking, and I'm not letting any shrimp near Mr. Betta. It's silly. Just a slightly prettier way of being resourceful with plant propagation. No fish will be entering intentionally!
Mr. Betta used to live in there. He's even happier in the 10G now. I've had a couple other Bettas as well, but would like to try something else at this point. I don't _need_ to set those small tanks up... really, don't I have enough running already?!
I'm doing OK I think. Helps to have good online resources like WWM, books, local fish clubs. But I'm still only a couple years in, so like to check in with the more experienced folks who might catch me going down the wrong path before I'd notice. I'm quite enamored with loaches, and would prefer to attempt breeding fish rather than have a colorful mixed community tank.
Of course, I still have a bunch of common/beginner/community fish that survived my learning curve and are now doing quite well, so I feel I owe it to them to continue to maintain stable conditions. Perhaps I should mention that my area is flooded with Cichlids, so while they're interesting enough, there's no shortage of fry around here, so I'm not sure of the value of breeding more of them. I guess having a computer programmer brain makes me want to optimize everything, including fish tanks!
Thanks again for patiently responding to my long email :)
~ Jen
<My pleasure to respond; enjoy your fishkeeping! Cheers, Neale.> 

what to get for new aquarium, FW... stkg.    3/13/11
<Hello Andrea,>
I'm a beginner and I'm setting up a new aquarium, but I got conflicting advice as to which fish best to get first.
<I see.>
It's a 60-litre aquarium with a filter, heater, and light.
<60 litres/15 gallons is a little small for beginners. But it is certainly a viable aquarium! Choose livestock carefully. Choose species that are happy in 10 gallons.>
To keep it short, we like male guppies especially, plus platies, and shrimp.
<I would not keep Common Guppies (Poecilia reticulata) in 60 litres. The males are quite aggressive towards each other. So in small tanks you often end up with just one bully, and all the other male Guppies are hiding away, damaged, or dead. Also, if you keep females, the males will pester the females. The Common Guppies widely sold today are quite delicate, and maintaining a 60-litre aquarium can be difficult.>
Would it be safe to get a platy and shrimp first,
<Cherry Shrimps are an excellent choice. Platies would are not perfect choices for this tank, but a single male and two females could do okay.>
then maybe some more later, and then guppies in 6 months time?
<I would not keep Common Guppies in this tank at all. Platies and Cherry Shrimps need quite cool water, 22-24 C, whereas Guppies need to be kept around 25-28 C. If you keep fish at the wrong temperature they are either sickly or short-lived.>
I tried Googling this a lot but have found conflicting advice, plus I've asked our local fish shop but they suggested zebra Danios first, which I thought needed a bigger tank, so I would be very grateful for any advice since I don't want to make a mistake.
<Start by establishing your water chemistry: is it hard or soft? Remember, DO NOT use water from a domestic water softener!>
My sons would also really like a Siamese fighter and a catfish but I don't think they would be suitable, would you agree please?
<Betta splendens would be an option, but it mixes poorly with other fish.
Keep on its own, perhaps with some shrimps.>
Many thanks for listening,
<Do read here:
Choose species suited to 10 gallons.>
PS: English is not my first language so please excuse any errors I might have made.
<All seemed fine to me! Cheers, Neale.>
Re: what to get for new aquarium   3/13/11

Hi Neale,
Thanks very much for your reply, that's much appreciated!
<Happy to help.>
I inherited the tank from a friend by the way, I measured the 60 litres by how much water it can realistically be filled with, I don't know if that's how the size would usually be calculated. If filled to the brim it would probably hold just short of 70 litres, in case that makes any difference.
<It does make a difference, and doing what you did is a good way to determine how big an aquarium is.>
It sounds like Guppies are not a good choice after all, shame really, they look so nice and colourful.
<Most folks learn this the hard way.>
I also didn't realise that Guppies and Platies need different temperatures, I can see why they wouldn't go together.
You mentioned that Cherry Shrimps would be fine, do you think Japonica Shrimps would be fine as well please?
<Yes, but Cherry Shrimps are [a] prettier and [b] breed, so you keep a nice population going over the years. Well worth hunting down.>
It seems that our local fish shop only has those, and my son really likes them. And if yes, would they need to be kept in pairs or so or don't they mind please?
<Both Cherry and Japonica shrimps are social -- keep in groups of 6 or more, or you'll never see them!>
Our local water is quite hard by the way. In our house we also have the option of softened water
<Don't use this in a fish tank!>
and of filtered water (reverse osmosis)
<If it's genuine RO water, as opposed to simply filtered through carbon (like a Brita water filter) then RO water is good, mixed 50/50 with hard tap water, to create middling hardness conditions. Most of my aquaria run this way, with 50% tap water and 50% rainwater.>
but I've read already that dechlorinated tap water is best.
<For beginners, yes. If you choose fish suited to your water chemistry, then keeping fish will be much easier. You can do water changes regularly without EVER having to worry about water chemistry.>
I read through the articles you recommended, thanks. There didn't seem to be any fish listed as both suitable for beginners and suitable for small tanks though, are there any at all please?
<Many. In 60-70 litre tanks, choices that enjoy very hard water include Limia nigrofasciata, Heterandria formosa, Poecilia wingei, Neolamprologus multifasciata and Pseudomugil signifer'¦ among others. If the water is only medium hard, i.e., around 10-15 degrees dH, then White Cloud Mountain Minnows and Celestial Danios would be alternative choices. Most of the Corydoras will tolerate moderately hard water too, so you could keep Corydoras panda, Corydoras hastatus, or any of the other smaller Corydoras species in this tank. The thing to remember is that hard water won't suit any of the tetras or barbs, so those would be bad choices. Avoid them, with the exception of the X-ray Tetra (Pristella maxillaris) that does consistently well in hard water. Another exception is the Red-Eye Tetra (Moenkhausia sanctaefilomenae) that does very well in hard water but is a bit nippy, so shouldn't be kept with anything gentle or slow-moving, e.g., Guppies.>
We liked the Neon Tetras as well, but it sounds like they wouldn't like our hard water anyway.
You seemed to think that Platies were not the best idea either, maybe they're a bit too big for the tank size?
<Yes, but two or three female Platies might be okay, because it's the males that tend to misbehave.>
Are there maybe others you would recommend please? Especially anything small and colourful or maybe shoaling fish which would be nice to watch (I have two small children to please as well)? We were also thinking of getting only males since we don't really want to breed them, but maybe that wouldn't be so nice for the fish?
<Female Platies are just as colourful as the males, so there's no sense buying males.>
Sorry for asking so many questions, it is much more difficult to decide what to get than I had thought'¦
<Often seems that way, but long term, sensible choices pay off. Think about a colony of Shell-Dwellers (Neolamprologus multifasciata) with a school of Poecilia wingei as dither fish. These will get along well in 70 litres, and both provide interest but in very different ways. Decorate with a pile of snail shells partially buried in some sand, and the cichlids will do the rest. Alternatively, plant the tank with undemanding species such as Java fern, Anubias, and, if you have a substrate deep enough, potted Cryptocoryne wendtii. Add a school of 6-8 X-ray Tetras and 5-6 Corydoras panda for a nice South American-style rainforest tank without the need for soft water.>
Many thanks!
<Cheers, Neale.
Re: what to get for new aquarium   3/14/11

Thanks again Neale, for your quick reply!
<My pleasure.>
And thanks for the long list of suitable fish, I didn't even know these existed, I'll check if we can get any of them locally as they sound like good choices.
<And there are many, many more. See if you can get hold of books on either livebearers or Tanganyikan cichlids. There is a much wider variety of both these available if you know where to look. At least one tropical fish shop here in London seems to get regular stocks of "rare" livebearers, many of which make better aquarium fish than the common Guppies and Mollies!>
I'll see what the fish shops in the next town have as well.
The filtered water is genuine RO water, we have a proper plumbed-in RO unit. I guess I'll use 50/50 RO and tap water in that case. I'm also planning to get a proper testing kit, then I can check that the water matches the fish before buying any. So far I only have test strips but I've meanwhile read that these are not very reliable.
<They're okay. I use them. Perhaps not perfectly accurate, but good enough for getting a general idea.>
By the way, I had only thought of buying males rather than females because I thought they were smaller and therefore might be better for a small tanks. If the females fight less then I guess I should get females instead'¦
<Very definitely yes, when it comes to Platies. You'll find (virgin) females much easier to keep. Obviously females that have been kept with males won't be virgins, and they'll soon drop fry, and before long, you end up with a whole bunch of Platies...>
Thanks again for taking the time to respond with so much information!
<Glad to help. Cheers, Neale.>

Co Family Tanks, FW stkg.    2/21/11
Good Evening:
<Morrow here now Kath>
I have enjoyed searching your website and found a lot of useful information. I still have a question for you though. My two oldest children have left their fish and aquariums with me and I need to rearrange all of the fish to make happy campers. This is what I have inherited:
1. 55 Gal Tank (48 in long) with 2 7-8 in Red Tail Barbs, 1 4 in Bala Shark, 3 very large Silver Dollars (he did have 6 but three died recently in a winter storm power outage)
2. 20 Gal High with lots of plants, guppies, Molly and Platy Fry, 2 ghost shrimp, 5 neon tetras and an algae eater (also has snails that came with some of
the plants). there appear to be 18 small/young fish in this tank and one adult male guppy. The algae eater appears to be an adult as well.
<Do look into, have someone take a look or send along a pic so we can determine what this "algae eater" species is>
3. 60 Gal acrylic tank (like a bowfront) with lots of plants, Mollies, Platies, Serpae Tetra (7), Neon Tetra (12), Red eye Tetra (7), Swordfish (1 male, 4 females) not sure of the name but a black and white tall thin hi skirt Tetra (5), 1 gold barb, 5 Cory catfish, l loach, snails. There are probably 45 fish in this tank and I may have missed some breeds.
4. My tank - 29 gal long acrylic tank with 15 cherry red shrimp, 10 Endler's and plants.
<All sound very nice>
How do I make all of these fish into compatible groups?
<Mmm, I'd leave all as they are>
The 55 gal doesn't have any plants and I really prefer smaller fish. I might have a possible home for the two large Red Tail Barbs. Who do I need to rehome? Who needs to be together?
<The stocking is ideal as it is... you could sell or give away some of the livestock, but I would not move it to other tanks here>
What can I reasonably add?
<Nothing really>
I like small colorful fish that are relatively hardy.
All of the tanks are currently sitting in my kitchen so I will have to relocate some of them so it seems like a good time to rearrange the groupings. I am willing to get another tank if necessary in the range of 30 -40 gal to put a group of compatible fish together. I am not in the position to get any larger tanks. I would like to keep at least one of the fish species from the 55 gal tank to keep that child happy but everything I read looks like they don't go with anything else I have. Should I rehome the big barbs, the Bala shark and get more silver dollars?
<I wouldn't... I think the mix you have now is "prettier">
What size tank would they need? I would be happy to get rid of the 55 gal tank and replace it with a 30 or 40 gal tank space wise in the house or possibly with a tall hex tank.
<The fish species there now would not be happier, and definitely less healthy in a shorter, taller setting>
I don't want to cause total family disruption, but I want to make the fish happy now that they reside with me. Any help or advice you could provide would be greatly appreciated. Said children will come back periodically to visit but there is very little chance that they will ever collect these fish and tanks again.
Thank you.
PS They each left two cats also but the cats seem to enjoy the fish so I guess having four cats and 50 odd new fish will be an interesting new phase of life.
<I do agree... and would enjoy all as they are placed in space and time now. Cheers, Bob Fenner>
Re: Co Family Tanks with filtration information
Sorry - my son said I should mention filtration in each tank as an aid in helping the decision making process.
55 Gal - has two Top Fin 60 Hang on the Back Filters, Temp is around 75 degrees.
This will be replaced by two Eheim 2213 canister filters because the HOBs are very noisy if we keep this tank.
<Okay... do place both discharges of the Eheims at one end, near the top of the tank (one under the other that is near the surface, both discharging across the top)>
20 Gal - has one Penguin Bio Wheel 360 HOB filter, Temp is around 75 degrees.
60 Gal - has two Eheim Canister Filters, a 2213 and a 2236, there is also a small Hydor Koralia power head for water circulation, the temp is around 78 -80 degrees.
29 Gal - has a power head with sponge filter to help circulate the water, a small corner filter that works with the air pump (don't remember the brand name) and a sponge filter with air stone. The temp is around 72 degrees.
<All good filters, moda. BobF>

Adding fish to my aquarium   1/19/11
your site has helped me before, it is very informative. I have a couple questions about adding new fish to my current set up.
<Go ahead>
I have a 125 gallon 6 foot long aquarium. I have 4/ 300 watt heaters.
<Mmm, I'd remove two of these>
3/ Marineland 350 penguin BioWheel filters and 1/ 350 Odyssea canister filter. 2/ air pumps...I do weekly water changes of 20%..Once a month I do a 50% water change. I alternate cleaning the filters one per month.
The temp is on 82F all levels of ammonia/nitrates/Nitrites are 0. I have had this aquarium for 6 years I bought all my fish when they where very small. For the first 4 years the PH was 7.0, but since I lived in this house the past two years the PH has been 8,0.
<I wonder what happened to elevate the pH a full point (ten times)>
All my fish have adjusted to the change and are doing very well. I don't fight with the PH level because it is consistent and the fish are doing fine.
I know my fish are larger now, but by the end of this year I am getting a 300 gallon. ( I am waiting on my husband to install plumbing so it would be easier for water changes) The fish I have are...2/ 8" gold Severums, 1/ 8" green Severum, 1/12" iridescent shark,
<Will get much, make that MUCH larger>
2/ 5" blood parrot fish, 2/ 4" Bala sharks,
<Unusual that these have not grown more>
1/ 9" common Pleco, 1/ 4" silver dollar, 1/ 4" angel fish, 1/ 4" clown loach,
<Social animals... perhaps you can grow up a few others in your older tank...>
3/ 3" fire-mouths, 5/ 2" jelly bean parrot/convict mix, All my fish get along great and have for the last 6 tears. They have plenty of hide outs to claim for them selves.
My questions are..Is there a better filter system I could use?
<Mmm, yes... for the 300, I'd switch to something in the way of a sump...
See WWM re... for the present tank, the 125, there are better canister filter brands... My fave is Eheim>
Are the silver dollar and clown loach fine by them selves of should I get a couple more of each?
<Better with more... though the "dollars" might bicker quite a bit at first>
With this set up, the fish and the fact I am going to a 300 gallon by the end of the year, could I add a baby frontosa to this mix?
<Perhaps one of a few inches (3-4) length>
I understand they need a high PH, but I am not sure if my PH 8.0 would be ok for them and my other concern is the compatibility of my existing fish.
They are very calm and get along very well.
<I do think you'd be fine with this/these additions>
Thank you
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Fish Combination   1/10/11
<Hello Rebecca,>
I looked around the site and didn't find this question so here goes. I would like some advice on mixing fish. I have a friend who is going to move this spring and is trying to rehome some of his larger fish. He would like me to take his three 9-inch Tinfoil Barbs.
<Nice fish, but big.>
The only tank I have available is a 4-foot 120 gallon tank holding five 4-inch Aulonocara females and one 7-inch fossorochromis female. The fish are all very peaceful.
<Indeed they are.>
The water quality is currently neutral in ph and hardness (all fish from captive bred stock),
<What's the hardness? You really need at least moderately hard, slightly basic water for these two Malawian cichlids -- 10+ degrees dH, pH 7.5. As it happens, that's well within the comfort zone for Tinfoil Barbs.>
0 ammonia, 0 nitrites, and between 5 and 10ppm nitrates. Filtration is a 225 gph pump running through a planted filter/watercress aquaponics setup.
<You may need more turnover with the addition of the barbs given their messiness and greediness.>
The barbs are currently kept in a much more crowded (1 Koi, 3 convicts, 1 clown knifefish, some sort of yellow Mbuna, etc), harder city water 220-gallon setup and have not shown any aggression, but rather seemed a little skittish and actually been the ones picked on by the knifefish.
<Yes: Clown Knifefish are very aggressive, especially the males. They guard their nests, and have been reported attacking people wading through swamps and lakes!>
While I would like to help my friend out, my own fish are my foremost concern. I know that origins and water needs are different, but it seems like all parties involved could acclimate to neutral water.
<Possibly, but in the long term moderately hard water will suit Fossochromis and Aulonocara better.>
(1) Do you think the barbs will become too aggressive for my current setup?
<Shouldn't do, no.>
Will this combination work out?
<Should work.>
(2) Lastly, is my tank even big enough for them?
<Borderline -- these barbs will get to eight inches at least, and potentially 12 inches. I'd recommend 180 gallons, really, but a lot depends on the size of these barbs and how old they are. If they're already 2-3 years old they're unlikely to grow very much more, so might work just fine in your tank.>
Thank you,
<Glad to help. Cheers, Neale.>

Freshwater Crab... some reading now!   1/5/11
I have a freshwater male crab in a ten gallon tank.
<Almost certainly neither a freshwater crab nor an aquatic crab.
Is this Perisesarma bidens by any chance?>
Along with the crab I have a sucker fish,
<Needs 55 gallons, assuming this is Pterygoplichthys pardalis.>
dragon fish
<Gobioides spp.? This is a big, brackish water fish that will die if you keep it in freshwater; read here:
and a black fin shark.
<Is this Sciades seemanni? A schooling brackish to marine catfish; read here:
This evening I noticed that the large claw and one leg was missing, they look like they were ripped out. I was wondering if the crab is suppose to remove its limb when molting? Or is there anything else that could have happened that I am unaware of. The fish have lived in the tank for a while now and been very harmonious, or so I thought.
Thanks Melissa B
<Melissa, if these animals are what I think they are, you have a crazy collection of livestock in a tank far too small for them and filled with the wrong water for most of them. Sooner of later they're all going to die.
Read about the animals you've bought -- seemingly at random! -- and rehome them. That they've lived together for a short while doesn't mean much of anything, so you need to get real about these poor animals and provide them with the conditions they need. They're all fun animals in the right tanks, and I'm happy to provide further information should you need it. Cheers, Neale.>

Black Molly, and possible related tank issues...   12/13/10
Hi - I have read a number of articles on your website, and others. I was trying not to email, but I'm very quickly getting overwhelmed at the amount of information, and I'm not sure what to do.
<Ask us! We're happy to help.>
We inherited this 40 gallon tank from my cousin, with a Clown Loach and a Pleco.
<Wrong fish for a tank this size.>
We researched tank mates for the clown, which had lived alone for a number of years to my understanding, and added those recommended as suitable - some of them didn't work out and were taken back to the pet store (very aggressive tiger barbs).
<Tiger Barbs are nippy when not kept in sufficient numbers; realistically, 10+ specimens is needed for them to behave well.>
We're not sure, but I think the stress of the move and new additions proved too much for him, and we lost him a while ago.
<Very likely. Clown Loaches are not easy fish for a variety of reasons, including the ease with which copper and formalin-based medications can kill them.>
(I practically lived on your website during the last couple weeks of that.
My uncle said he was an old fish, so it could have been a number of things.) Our tank was left with 4 neon tetras, 3 Bala sharks, and the Pleco.
<Bala Sharks need far more space than 40 gallons; do read:
While a trio might be kept in 55 gallons for a few years, realistically best results come from tanks much larger, 100+ gallons. Adults can top 30 cm/12 inches, with specimens around the 20 cm/8 inch mark not at all unusual.>
Over a month later, we decided to add some fish to our tank. We got 2 red wagtails, 2 black mollies, 2 Dalmatian mollies,
<Again, Mollies require very specific conditions. Among other things, they need hard, basic water chemistry, which Neons and Bala Sharks do not.
Furthermore, they need very warm water, much warmer than Neons can tolerate, 28C/82 F versus 22C/72 F. Thirdly, when kept in freshwater tanks Mollies are very sensitive to nitrate, and an overstocked tank with Bala Sharks and Plecs will be a nitrate factory! Finally, Mollies are always easier to keep in slightly brackish water, and by the time you've added enough marine salt mix -- not aquarium or tonic salt -- to create brackish water, say, 5 grammes/litre of water, you'll have stressed or killed your freshwater fish. Do read here:
Let me make the point quickly that both Mollies and Bala Sharks have been kept for decades, and every decent aquarium book will mention these issues.
Don't rely on retailers stopping you from making bad choices! Do your research, and buy a book before you buy a fish. Here in England at least, we have free public libraries in every town, and I'm guessing they exist in your country too. Visit one, and take out a stack of aquarium books! Won't cost you a penny, and you'll be forewarned in lots of different ways.>
and 2 comet goldfish. I have since found out that the comet goldfish are "feeder fish," riddled with disease, and never should have been sold to us as fish for an aquarium, or with our mix of fish (too dirty).
<Not quite the way I'd put this. Yes, in some countries, like the US, goldfish are still sold as live food for other animals. That's not the case in England, and frankly, that's a good thing, because even as live food these poor goldfish are very risky and completely worthless. But with that said, cheap goldfish such as comets can make good pets, and once de-wormed are at least as hardy, and perhaps hardier, than the inbred fancy goldfish more usually sold at premium prices.>
Anyway, within the first day or two we lost one of the Dalmatian mollies, which was acting funny and not unexpected.
<Almost certainly environmental conditions were to blame.>
About a week later, one of our Neons came up missing entirely. A web search found that it was possible the Pleco ate it.
<Again, you're relying on the Internet, where any bozo can write whatever he or she wants. No, a Plec cannot catch and eat a healthy Neon. What a Plec will certainly do is eat a dead Neon.>
Within the second week of adding the new fish, one Bala shark was fine that night and dead the next morning, same with one of the goldfish the next day (and had a weird blood spot above it's eye), and the second Dalmatian molly died. We replaced the two Dalmatian mollies. In the last week, another tetra is dead, and one of the black mollies has a white, cottony growth on the side of it's body.
<Fungus, almost certainly down to poor environmental conditions. Mollies need zero ammonia, zero nitrite, less than 20 mg/l nitrate, general hardness above 15 degrees dH, and a pH between 7.5 and 8.5. The addition of marine salt mix at around 5 grammes/litre is hugely helpful.>
My first thought was Ick, but this morning I was looking closely and it looks more fungus-y than crystal-y (excuse the terminology). One of the new Dalmatian mollies has been "bullying" the black mollies...chasing them around the tank. The black mollies have taken to staying out of its way or hiding when under attack.
<Males will fight, and you need two or more females per male.>
I've kept a constant watch on our ph levels, and the ammonia/nitrate/nitrites (using a combo test kit) since adding the new fish, and daily checks when the fish started dying. The ammonia stays at 0, and the ph stays around 7.2, which is what we were told to keep it at.
<Who told you this? Surely not a book. For Neons and Bala Sharks, yes, soft water and a neutral pH is fine; 5-10 degrees dH, 6.5-7.5 should be fine.
But for Mollies the water must be much harder, and frankly, for Goldfish too, 15+ degrees dH, pH 7.5-8.5. But let's be clear, pH is largely irrelevant unless you manage hardness too. Beginners focus on pH because it's easy to understand. The problem is that it's a massive oversimplification, rather like trying to define a good diet purely on calories, or the quality of a car purely by its acceleration. Hardness is absolutely central to success with fish, but because it uses a more complicated system, beginners shy away from it -- and as you're finding out, they do so at their peril.>
We did a significant water change a day or so before we added the new fish, so I thought maybe the stress of the water change, followed by new tank mates may have caused the Bala shark to die - but I'm questioning that theory with all of the recent events added up together. I read a website that explained how to "heat treat" for Ich by raising the water temperature, and using salt (detailed instructions). We raised the temp 2F last night to start that process, until this morning when I decided I wasn't sure it was Ich. We use filters with charcoal in them, I'm not sure what they are called without looking at the packaging.
<Activated carbon will remove some medications, but not salt.>
Some sites suggested removing them until the disease is cleared out, I'm not sure what to do. We've considered changing the filtration system, but don't want to make any changes until whatever ISN'T stable in our tank, is fixed.
<Provided you have adequate filtration, let's say a filter rated to around 6 times the volume of the tank, i.e., 6 x 40 = 240 gallons/hour, and that filter is mostly filled with biological media like sponges or ceramic noodles, you should be fine. It'll take at least 6 weeks to mature a filter, after which point rinsing the filter media in a bucket of aquarium water every 2-3 months is really all you need to do.>
Admittedly, I'm a new tank owner and have been doing my best to follow all the recommended instructions (this site has been very helpful, and intimidating at the same time...in a good way).
<We're sometimes cranky, I guess, because every time we help one person someone else turns up with more sick fish! So it's never-ending, and much as we like helping, it'd be nice if one day we could sit back and think everyone is keeping their fish well! We're all volunteers though, and wouldn't be here if we didn't enjoy it.>
We don't have a quarantine tank, and I don't think we could afford to get one right now...besides I'm not sure we really even have the time to cycle it before something needs to be done. I'm really just at a loss on what to do. Any help is very much appreciated.
<Do read. Below are some prime articles for your stage in the hobby. If I could suggest you do one thing above all others, it's that you determine whether your water chemistry is hard or soft, and then choose fish accordingly, obviously picking species that share the same water temperature preferences too. Platies, Neons, Danios and Corydoras for example all enjoy quite cool water, 22-24C/72-75F, whereas Mollies, Cardinals, Angels and Gouramis will need to be kept warmer, 26-28C/79-82F.
I'd strongly suggest returning the Plec because it's pointless and damaging in your aquarium, and from then on choosing species suited to a 20 gallon tank. These will be much easier for you to be successful with. A properly stocked aquarium is very, very easy to maintain. Almost no maintenance, costs very little to run, and can be left alone for a couple of weeks when you're on holiday, even without feeding! Try that with a dog. The problems come when folks just dump any old fish into their tank and hope for the best. Don't work that way, no more than cooking involves dumping a bunch of random ingredients into a bowl!
Thanks so much for all of your hard work,
<Glad to help. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Black Molly, and possible related tank issues...   12/14/10
Thank you so much for your response.
<You're welcome.>
I think we'll start by taking the mollies back to the pet store tonight, and lowering the temperature back down to about 74F.
I'll have to find a test kit that will test the hardness of our water, because I actually have no idea; didn't even realize it was something to monitor.
<Very much so. Together with temperature, hardness is one of the two make-or-break factors when it comes to choosing fish.>
I guess I assumed the conditioner took care of that.
We were given a book when we got the tank, but it seems to focus a lot on breeding and origin, and hasn't been helpful much beyond size and temperature - and we couldn't find the Bala sharks anywhere in the book.
<Latin names are often more useful; if you read Bob's piece, you'll see several "common" names. Here in England, they're usually called Silver Sharks; in the US, Bala Sharks seems more common.>
I hadn't investigated any other books on the pretense they would be about the same - obviously a rookie (and lazy) assumption.
Ample reason for you guys to be cranky sometimes!
We'll also start looking for someone with a larger tank that could take the 2 remaining Bala sharks (disappointing, they sure are beautiful...and some of our favorites).
<Oh yes, indeed, but then, tigers are pretty too, they just make poor housecats! The thing with the aquarium hobby is you have this amazing variety of fish species available, from species barely an inch in length when full grown to species that routinely exceed three feet in length! Pet store owners are sometimes a bit slow, let's say, at warning shoppers. Perhaps they assume that if you're shopping, you know what you're shopping for. Good aquarium shops will have little labels on the tanks with sizes and social behaviours listed.>
I'll also do some research on new filters and see what's best for our tank and how to cycle it in. I'm not sure how much water our current ones process per hour. As I said, we inherited an established tank, and I don't have the info on the filtration, just packaging to know what kind of cartridges to buy next time.
<I see.>
You mentioned that goldfish are okay to keep once they've been dewormed. What in particular should we do to make sure he is healthy and safe for the tank? (That one is my son's favorite...he begged for goldfish.)
<Look for products such as Prazi Pro at your aquarium shop. Or your vet will be able to give you Praziquantel or some other dewormer.>
Once we get the hardness of our water and the mollies out, we'll do some more research on fish.
We've already considered Danios and some more tetras, so that's encouraging.
My husband told me he thought the people at the pet store were idiots about fish, I guess I should learn to listen more!
<Perhaps. It's really like shopping for a car or a new suit. The guy there is trying to sell you something, and there's great variation between those store clerks who're in the trade because it's their hobby, and those who're working there to get through college. Take store advice for what it's worth.>
Thanks so much for your patience.
<No problem.>
One more question (sorry): The pet store said we could drop frozen bloodworms into the tank and the fish would eat them when they defrosted, but I read that frozen is not good for the fish and we should let them thaw first. Any opinion on which is correct? Thawing it out seemed like common sense to me, so that's what we've always done...I wouldn't want to eat frozen food, why would they?
<It's best to defrost separately, and then use forceps or a plastic fork to decant the worms into the tank. Frozen food in itself shouldn't cause undue harm, but the sludge in the frozen block adds to the pollution in the tank.>
PS: And yes, there is a library less than a mile from our house, so we'll definitely go visit before we buy more fish.
<Cool. Have fun, Neale.>

Stocking questions   12/7/10
In a compromise with my wonderful wife, I have just got a new 125 gallon aquarium with two emperor 400 filters and an undergravel filter.
As part of the deal I needed to downsize the number of aquariums to the 125 and an established 65 gallon aquarium.
<Fair enough.>
I am seeking advice on stocking these tanks with fish I currently have and/or any new additions that would be compatible.
My 65 gallon currently has 6 Electric Blue Jack Dempseys all about 3 to 3.5 inches.
<While the "Electric Blue" morph (or hybrid?) variety of Rocio octofasciata is somewhat less aggressive than the standard sort, they're still very aggressive fish. A mated pair could easily cause problems in this aquarium.
Do read my piece on these fish over at Tropical Fish Finder, here:
As you presumably realise, breeding in captivity is very uncommon, which is why some suspect they're a hybrid rather than a true variety.>
Two Pictus Catfish about 5 inches each and 2 Royal Plecos about 4.5 inches each.
<Pimelodus pictus is a schooling species, and should really be kept in groups of 5+ for consistently good results. By contrast, Panaque nigrolineatus is highly territorial, and there are reliable stories of males killing one another as well as females. While these are by far my favourite of the Loricariidae -- my own specimen is about 16 years old now -- they are normally kept one to a tank, and not alongside any other Loricariid of similar size or shape (they ignore very different Loricariids such as whiptails and Otocinclus).>
I was planning on slowing moving these fish to the new 125 gallon.
<Okay, but I still wouldn't expect two P. nigrolineatus to coexist in this tank. Be aware of the risk of problems, and look out for signs of fin damage as an early warning that your specimens are fighting. Serious fighting involves the stronger fish literally flaying alive the weaker one using its very powerful teeth.>
Understanding that these guys are still growing will this be an suitable set up?
<See above.>
If more fish could be added, would Tiger Barbs be a suitable addition or what would you suggest?
<Tiger Barbs wouldn't be my first choice for use alongside any cichlids, given their nippiness. Giant Danios, Spanner Barbs, Clown Barbs, Nurse Tetras, or Mexican Tetras would all strike me as better companions for medium-sized cichlids.>
In the 65 gallon I would like to keep a Black Ghost Knife Fish. I have read that they can get big and if it got to say 12 inches would the 65 gallon be a suitable home for it?
<Barely do-able. Apteronotus albifrons is a sensitive species, and the vast majority die prematurely. Ask yourself how many adults you've ever seen at their full 50 cm/20 inch length? Or living for 10+ years, as should be the case. Outside of public aquaria, it's rare to see them so large or so old.
Why? Because they need quite specific living conditions that mimic the cool to middling temperature, oxygen-rich, brisk water currents found around riffles and rapids in rainforest streams. So while it's true that A. albifrons tends to stay fairly small in home aquaria, that's perhaps more a reflection on the fact they die within a couple of years rather than any sort of "growing to the size of the tank" malarkey. Take some time to think about their needs, establish how you're going to provide the right level of water turnover -- 8-10 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour -- and also check to make sure you can provide the soft to moderately hard, slightly acidic to neutral, nitrate-free water chemistry essential for long-term success. There are other species of Knifefish with easier requirements, perhaps most notably Xenomystus nigri, a non-electric species from a completely different family of fish able to breathe air and naturally found in sluggish rivers. It's smaller too, 30 cm/12 inches being the absolute tops in terms of size, and most getting to rather less. By the standards of its family, the Notopteridae, it's fairly peaceful and can be combined with a variety of robust tankmates.>
What are good tankmates for a Black Ghost Knife?
<Essentially species that come from similar habitats, with the provisos that very small fish (such as Mountain Minnows) may be eaten while competitive bottom feeders (such as loaches and catfish) will make it difficult for you to keep your Apteronotus properly fed. All things considered, they are best kept alone, or with a largely herbivorous catfish species such as Ancistrus dolichopterus. Open water schooling fish might be chosen, for example Bleeding Heart Tetras, Silver Hatchetfish, Demasoni Barbs, Swordtails or Australian Rainbowfish, depending on your water chemistry.>
Thank you for sharing your knowledge and time.
<Glad to help. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Stocking questions  12/10/10

Thank you for the great information. I will separate the two Royal Plecos as soon as my 125 gallon has safely cycled. They are both incredible fish and do not want them to hurt each other. I will also add some additional Pictus Catfish. If I may ask a few more questions about the Electric Blue Jack Dempseys? Will a 6 foot 125 gallon tank be enough aquarium for Royal Pleco and Pictus to thrive and also allow the Jack Dempseys to set up their territories. These fish are all young and will grow older together, will this lessen aggression from the Jack Dempseys? So far there have been no aggression issues but the Jack Dempseys are all of equal size or smaller then the other fish. Once again thank you for your help and merry Christmas to you and yours.
<Jack Dempseys aren't really community fish, and while they could coexist with a larger Panaque nigriventris, given sufficient hiding places, I would not mix them Pimelodus pictus. As I hope you realise, Pimelodus pictus are quite peaceful schooling fish and they're easily harassed by aggressive cichlids as well as nippy tankmates. Good companions are things like Silver Dollars, Australian Rainbowfish, Severums, and so on. They also prefer soft water, whereas JDs need hard, alkaline water. Now, Electric Blue Jack
Dempseys add a further level of complexity to the situation. While they do seem to be marginally less aggressive than regular JDs, this may be because they're rather inbred animals with poor quality genes. One of the things that people have observed with EBJDs is their delicacy. They just aren't hardy fish and whatever inbreeding was required to create them, thanks to their popularity, they're getting worse as people breed them to a price rather than a quality. Personally, I wouldn't touch them with a bargepole,
but if you do want to keep them, at least make an effort to get good quality stock, rear them in their own environment away from other fish, and ensure water chemistry, water temperature and water quality (including nitrate) are ideal for the species. There are much better blue cichlids you might keep, for example Blue Acara, these latter getting along perfectly well with Pimelodus and Panaque species. Perhaps not so garish in their shade of blue, but far more elegant and natural. Cheers, Neale.>

How small can I go? 12/3/10
Hey gang, looking for help picking a freshwater fish. I would like to set up a tank of schooling predators, active, swarming, shiny, greedy little fish. The challenge that I'm setting for myself is a using a very small
tank. Probably a salt water style Nano tank, (primarily for aesthetic reasons), I'm thinking 14-20 gallons. Can you recommend such a fish? I have already ruled out Exodon paradoxus as probably to big (am I wrong?).
Thanks for being awesome
<Your best bet would be Serpae Tetras. These have a true "feeding frenzy" behaviour which is why they can create such mayhem in community tanks. Keep at least eight specimens, and preferably one per gallon of water, with 15 gallons being the minimum tank size. These fish are insanely nippy sometimes, and will bit chunks out of each other at feeding time. They were the first fish I ever kept, and in part the subject of my first ever TFH Magazine article on ten fish aquarists shouldn't keep. But I suspect you'll find them just the thing. They're hardy, nicely coloured, and look amazing in tanks with lots of Java moss and Java ferns, which shouldn't be hard to do in a small tank. Exodon paradoxus is a great fish, but you do need much
more than 20 gallons for them, realistically, 55 gallons would be about right for a school of ten, which is the smallest number at which they won't eat each other. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: How small can I go? 12/9/10

Thanks man, very helpful. My LFS guy, offered Aphyocharax paraguayensis as a solution as well. Do you know anything about them? Seems to be little info.
As always thanks very much.
Warm regards,
<Hello Rob. Aphyocharax paraguayensis isn't much traded, particularly when compared to the very popular (and hardy) Bloodfin Tetra, Aphyocharax anisitsi. Compared to the common Bloodfin, Aphyocharax paraguayensis is a little over half the size (3-4 cm) but otherwise pretty similar in terms of care and personality. It's a peaceful schooling fish, but nippy, so best kept with species able to avoid fin-nippers (i.e., not angels, fancy guppies, Bettas, Corydoras, etc.). Water chemistry should be soft to
moderately hard, acidic to neutral, and the water turnover rate should be fairly brisk as these are active swimmers, so aim for turnover rates from 4-6 times the volume of the tank per hour. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: rainbow /red finned / ruby shark + Featherfin squeaker. 12/2/10
Hi Neale
Sorry I have not got that photo yet. Aside from not being able to make the catfish keep still, I am wary of sending you a huge, poor quality picture (I am unsure how to shrink it). OK, so now I have acquired a new home for the goldfishes, and the other fishes are now in my bigger tank. One Ruby shark, 3 upside down catfish, one Tatia perugiae (still only the one, but in time I hope to add a couple more), and one other catfish, probably a Featherfin Squeaker, Synodontis euptera as mentioned in my previous e mail.
In your earlier e mail with advice on what I could keep with the Ruby shark, you mentioned tiger barbs and Danios. I wonder if these would be a better alternative than the glass catfishes I was thinking of having. The fish I have mostly stay to the bottom of the tank, apart from the ruby shark, so I would like to add a little interest higher up, but without overcrowding my tank. I have a nice piece of bogwood which the catfishes seem to spend most of their time hiding under. The big one, squeaker (??) likes to have this space to himself though, and continually chases the upside-down catfish away. He has continued growing, far outgrowing the upside down catfish, and is without a doubt not an upside down catfish. ( Nothing has changed my mind about his likely identification as S. euptera, so I will stick with that until educated otherwise.) I wonder if you would mind recommending a few different species that would live happily with my current group of fishes.
Many thanks for your advice and help.
Ruby and the catfish.
<Hello Ruby. Are we still taking about a Ruby Shark, three Synodontis nigriventris, Tatia perugiae, and a likely Synodontis euptera in 29 US gallons of water? You're heavily stocked, likely overstocked already. I
wouldn't be adding any more fish into this collection. In a larger tank, say 55 gallons, you might look at a school of medium-sized barbs, tetras or Rainbowfish. Easily obtained species include things like Congo Tetras and Melanotaenia boesemani, but with a bit more effort you could track down Giant Danios, Arnoldichthys spilopterus, Bleeding Heart Tetras and Puntius everetti. I'm a big fan of Apollo Sharks, but these need even more space, around 100 gallons, to really look their best. But they're real beauties!
Glass Catfish would not be on my list of recommendations. They're too easily stressed by boisterous tankmates. Glassfish, on the other hand, are fairly phlegmatic animals, and there are some quite big species like Parambassis pulcinella that can work in 55+ gallon aquaria. Provided the tank wasn't warmer than 25C/77F, then Swordtails should work well too, but the males are fairly aggressive, and it's usually best to keep just one male and two or more females. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: rainbow /red finned / ruby shark + Featherfin squeaker. 12/2/2010

Hi Neale, and what a speedy reply!
<You're welcome.>
Yes yes and yes to the fish I have. No the US gallons. UK gallons, I am in Cornwall UK. I don't know the equivalent of US gallons.
<There's about 10 US gallons to 8 Imperial gallons.>
Thanks for your help and suggestions as to other possible fish, but I will heed your warning about overstocking and leave things as they are at the moment, at least until I can get a larger tank. I am sure I said before, I am a bit of a novice, and have only kept goldfish indoors in the past. All the fish I have are young ones, and not very big, but I do appreciate they will grow, especially the S. euptera, if this is what he is. Time will tell.
<And soon. Expect this chap to reach adult size within a year or so.
There's no point buying fish to add to a tank that will be overstocked within a few months. Human nature being what it is, we tend to delay remedial action so long as everything "looks fine" and before you know it, you're dealing with a pH crash or an outbreak of Dropsy.>
I will leave you alone for now.... you have been a great help.
Ruby & the catfishes
<Cheers, Neale.>

Ph 10.5 ~11 what fish can survive?  11/30/10
My wife and I are looking at a new home and the Ph levels of the water are 10.5 ~ 11. VERY hard water. The home is piped into a natural hot spring.
I was wondering if there were any fish that could tolerate this, or would we have to have our water purchased?
<There are some fishes that live in very alkaline water... one Tilapia species is highlighted in a recent TFH magazine article, but as far as I'm aware, none of these organisms is offered in the trade. You'd do well to
investigate appropriate technology (likely RO, and maybe other moda) for your potable (drinking, cooking, maybe even bathing and house plant uses!) and pet-fish. Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/h2opurifiers.htm
the linked files above>
Thanks in advance,
<Welcome. B F>

Fish Compatibility   11/24/10
Hello! I have a 6" Pleco and a new 3" Nigerian Rope Fish. Are they compatible tank mates?
<Not really, to be honest. Ropefish are schooling fish and their best companions are one another. Keep at least three, or your chances of success are minimal. They are very slow feeders, and Catfish and Loaches generally cause problems when kept with Ropefish. Plecs are territorial and tend to attack slow-moving companions they view as threats. I find it hard to believe your Ropefish is three inches long. That's tiny, and specimens that young are very delicate and difficult to feed.>
I also have a Beta fish that is hanging with the Nigerian and they seem to get along great.
<For now. Bettas are small enough to be eaten by large Ropefish, at least in theory. Ropefish feed primarily on worms and insect larvae, so either live versions of these or wet-frozen substitutes will be required -- they don't eat freeze-dried, pellet or flake foods, as I hope you know. No feeder fish!>
ALSO, do Oscars get along with any of these guys?
<Nope. Oscars will eat Bettas without a second though, though the best diet for Oscars is good quality pellet together with crayfish and other crunchy invertebrates -- not feeder fish!>
I have a 30 gal tank and realize that my tank size limits my options but for now these are my constraints.
<Oscars need 55 gallons for one specimen, and at least 75 gallons if kept with anything else. Ropefish get to about 40 cm/16 inches in length, so you need at least 55 gallons for a trio, though that would allow plenty of space for a school of Rainbowfish or Congo tetras. A common Plec needs 55 gallons; will grow to 45 cm/18 inches within about two years. The only catfish I'd keep with a group of Ropefish is something like a Bristlenose Plec -- they're the right size and not strongly competitive at feeding
Thank you!
<Happy to help. Do think carefully about what you're doing here. Randomly adding oddball fish to community tanks rarely works, and I can see all sorts of problems with what you have now. Most Ropefish die from stress, fin-nipping, escaping the tank, or starvation. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Fish Compatibility   11/24/10
My Nigerian (looks like a dragon with a wide flat mouth - came from Wal-Mart tank with Oscars in it).
<Are you sure this is a Ropefish? Doesn't sound like one at all. A Ropefish is Erpetoichthys calabaricus; look online for photos.>
He is only 4 inches or so. I feed him n betta fish frozen bloodworms.
<He will need more than just bloodworms. Bloodworms are mostly water and contain little nutrition. By all means use them once a week, but the bulk of the diet should be wet-frozen krill and slivers of lancefish, live earthworms, and strips of seafood, particularly tilapia fillet and cockles which are both thiaminase-free (unlike mussels, shrimp and prawns).>
Pleco is in with a black n silver tetra. For 6 years now.
<If the Plec is six years old and only six inches long, he's either not a Common Plec or severely stunted. The growth rate of the Common Plec, Pterygoplichthys pardalis, is very well known.>
Sigh. Big tank it is . . . LOVE Oscars.
<Mixing Oscars with Ropefish is incredibly unwise.>
Thank you for help.
<More than welcome.>
I love my fish n want to do the best for them.
<Then please read the needs of these fish. Ropefish have a notoriously short lifespan in most aquaria. Cheers, Neale.><<RMF thinks this is a new SKU for WM... Another poor choice... Gobioides broussonetti
Re: Fish Compatibility 12/3/10

Hi again! I went back to the local aquarium store and the very helpful guy there told me that he was sure that my mystery fish from Wal-Mart is a Dragon Goby. A check of the pix online show that my mystery fish is indeed a Dragon Goby.
<Ah yes, Gobioides broussonetti. A popular species for brackish water aquaria. Cannot be kept in freshwater tanks, and cannot be kept with freshwater fish. Specimens kept in freshwater aquaria inevitably die prematurely. Basic care is extremely clear and you need not experiment.
Read here:
I have been feeding him bloodworms and the occasional (daily) treat of dried brine shrimp. A commentator online suggests that I should also put some marine salt in the tank. ???
<"Some" marine salt? You need a brackish water aquarium, at least 9 grammes marine aquarium salt mix per litre of water; that's about 1.2 ounces per US gallon, for a specific gravity of 1.005 at 25C/77F.>
He seems to get along great with my Beta fish.
<Not for long. Bettas cannot be kept in brackish water.>
I still wonder about putting him in with a Pleco. . . Oh, the fish guy at the store tells me that my 6" Pleco might be some sort of dwarf variety since he has not grown any bigger in several years.
<Plecs cannot be kept in brackish water either. If your Common Plec is stunted at 6 inches, that's because you exposed him to severely poor living conditions. Think of malnutrition in humans, and you'll have the right basic idea. There are NO DWARF VARIETIES of the Common Plec, Pterygoplichthys pardalis. Properly kept, these get to 18 inches within two years. End of story. Of course, there are smaller species of Suckermouth, like the Bristlenose Plec, Ancistrus sp., easily distinguished by the rubbery "antlers" around the head.>
My baby Oscars are skittish and have not settled in yet.
<And they won't, if conditions aren't right. Needless to say, Oscars can't be kept in brackish water either.>
Questions . . .
Are the Oscars, the Pleco and the Goby compatible tankmates?
I know that Mr. Beta is a no . . but . . what about these other guys?
<No. Do your reading. Gobioides broussonetti comes from tidal mudflats.
It'd be happier in a marine aquarium than a freshwater one.>
And, if these guys are compatible, should I put that aquarium salt in there for all of them?
The package suggests that it is proper for all types of freshwater fish.
<Aquarium or tonic salt is used medicinally and yes, at the tiny amounts needed -- typically 2 grammes/litre -- it's fine for freshwater fish within the 2-3 week periods needed to kill off Whitespot infections. It IS NOT used for making brackish water and IS NOT what you want for Violet/Dragon
I have large gravel (1/2" stone) in the bottom and have several large rocks and fake cave-rocks. Anything that you might suggest for comfort and health?
<Gobioides broussonetti needs a SAND substrate, e.g., smooth silica sand or coral sand. NOT GRAVEL. It also needs suitable tubes for hiding in, PVC pipes being ideal. Finally, IT MUST have a brackish water aquarium and IS NOT compatible with your other fish. If I'm not crystal clear about this,
IT MUST have its own aquarium alongside brackish water fish -- Mollies, Scats, Monos, Knight Gobies, Orange Chromides, etc.>
<Start reading here:
And follow the links. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Fish Compatibility
Thank you again for the info!
<You're welcome.>
I will start rearranging these guys to get them where they should be. . . !!!
Hm. The Pleco is broad across . . he has sort of faded white stripes.
<Unfortunately for you, there are over 1,200 species in the Suckermouth catfish family. Without a photo, can't really offer you much help identifying your chap. Suffice it to say that the "Common Plec" of the US and UK trade is normally either Pterygoplichthys pardalis or Pterygoplichthys multiradiatus, and these are the two you'd pick up cheap.
There are hundreds of other species traded, but invariably at premium prices, so you're unlikely to buy one without being told it's something special. Peckoltia pulcher, Peckoltia vittata and Panaque maccus are three relatively small species with stripes, and outstanding aquarium fish in many ways. But they're obviously different to the Common Plec is size and shape, and the Panaque also has very distinctive spoon-shaped teeth.>
I have always fed him daily with the Pleco algae food that they told me to feed him at the fish store. I will read the info and get to work! Thanks!
<Cheers, Neale.>

Barbs, Black skirts, Angels and Red Parrot, comp.  7/28/10
Hi Crew, I have been reading your site ever since I found it last year, when I became an aquarium fanatic. I know own a 30 gallon with Black Skirts and Barbs.
<Black Skirt Tetras and Rosy Barbs are both "fin nippers" so be careful what you keep with them.>
They have been living together for 11 months and everything is good.
<Indeed. They should get along quite well.>
My sister just gave me a 25 (or 29) gallon (24Lx21Hx12W), plus two small Angels (1 1/2 inches), two Red Parrots (3 inches) and six Rosy Barbs (2 inches). I already had 6 Rosies so I put the other six with them.
<Rosy Barbs do prefer cooler water to these other fish.>
They are in the 30 gallon, with five Black Skirt Tetras, three Cory cat Catfish and a Pleco.
<I see.>
I know the Pleco and the Red Parrots will get big but for now, the Pleco is keeping my tank free of algae and I know where to take them when they get too big- my sister's place.
<The Plec is likely having very little positive impact on the algae situation, and as it grows it will make water quality worse and that will cause algae to grow faster. Swap this fish for Nerite snails or a small catfish like a Bristlenose Plec.>
She has 21 tanks of different sizes and she has a 90 gallon for them.
I also know that the Red Parrot need a bigger tank but my sister had them in a 30 gallon with 4 Rainbowfish and they were doing well.
<For now. This combination can work, but it will require a much bigger aquarium eventually.>
Anyway, my problem is that with the fish I already had in the 30 gallon, the nitrates stayed a 0 and everything was good but now that I added these 6 Barbs, the nitrates keep going up so I have to take out some fish. I read on this site that the Barbs would do good with the Angels.
<Rosy Barbs and Angelfish are a BAD combination. Rosy Barbs *are* nippy and *they do* require cooler water.>
If so, could I put the two Angels in the 30 gallon with the 12 Barbs, the Pleco and the 3 Cory cats.
<I wouldn't.>
I would put my five Black Skirts with the 2 Red Parrots in the 25 gallon. Will the Red Parrots attack my Tetras?
<The reverse is more likely.>
Will my Barbs nip the fins of the Angels?
<Probably yes.>
Please answer politely as the last time I wrote, Neale was a bit mean with his words and tone.
<I've been polite. I admit I'm often blunt, but I'm not deliberately mean. The problem is often that when I tell people what they don't want to hear, they think I'm insulting them. Actually, I'm being honest. Lots of people say nice things they don't mean -- most politicians for example. I may be blunt, I may even be a little unforgiving at times, but I am honest and I am genuinely trying to help you.>
It discourages me from writing anymore.
<You pays your money, you takes your choice'¦>
But I really need your advice on this one. Thanks, Nicole
<Done my best. Cheers, Neale.>

Advice, FW stkg.   6/1/10
Hi there, I have an empty 75 gallon freshwater aquarium that has been filtering
<With a source of ammonia, I hope, otherwise it's just a wet glass box!>
for a good while now and was wondering about what types of fish you would recommend for a tank of that size. I really like the look of have only one or two large fish in a tank, so what larger fish species would you recommend for my tank?
<Oh, many options. Among the showpiece species you might want to look at 'Rotkeil' Severum cichlids, a singleton or mated pair would look very nice. You might also consider one of the large bichirs, such as Polypterus ornatipinnis; these usually get along well with non-aggressive cichlids too large to eat. Another good choice for a big aquarium is a school of Anostomus Anostomus; these are beautiful fish, but difficult for less advanced aquarists because they need a rocky, fast-water environment that mimics their habitat in the wild. Among carnivorous fish, I have a great fondness for the Pike Characins, among which Ctenolucius hujeta is the pick of the bunch, and a great companion for large suckermouth catfish. When it comes to suckermouth cats, you might consider such striking species as the Scarlet Plec (Pseudacanthicus sp. L025), the Royal Plec (Panaque nigrolineatus) or the Green Plec (Hemiancistrus subviridis).>
I really like Bala sharks, but I know that they jump, a lot.
<Yes, and they're schooling fish, and in my opinion, a school of 6 specimens would overload a 75 gal. tank.>
With Balas, is there anything that you can do to prevent them from jumping out of the tank and injuring themselves against the lid?
<They jump when alarmed, so the things to avoid are keeping them in insufficient numbers, keeping them with aggressive tankmates, and not filtering bright light with overhead vegetation.>
Thanks a ton, Lena
<Cheers, Neale.>

Empty tank, blank canvas... 90 gal., FW, livestock sel.    5/26/10
I have looked through a ton of your articles, and have emailed you in the past. This is a great resource. Because you are so kind as to help people out, and like to see that people create happy environments for their fish, I thought I would confirm that I am making good choices.
<Fire away.>
I have a 90 gallon tank which is currently empty but I have 2 heaters, 2 overhanging 110 filters. I have water test kits for nitrites and ammonium levels. We have pretty hard water where I live in Paris, Ontario Canada.
I have a bunch of plastic plants, rocks, and a shipwreck for hiding in. I used to have one fantastic Oscar whom I loved very much for all the entertainment it provided, but 5 months ago it died after a progressively worsening case of hole-in-the-head.
<I see.>
Well, his face started falling off and when his activity level changed for the worse I put him out of his misery. Rest assured his diet was varied and quite good for him, and I cleaned the tank every week. So now I have a blank canvas and have spent a lot of time thinking about what kind of fish to get after I move next week and get the tank set up again.
<Indeed. Well, given you have hard water, you might want to concentrate on hard water fish, or at least species that don't mind hard water. Optimal choices would include livebearers, some Australian Rainbowfish, Central American cichlids, and Rift Valley cichlids.>
I love Oscars, but I'm not sure I want another because my tank isn't exactly huge, and I can't decide on good tank mates for an Oscar.
<On the whole, Oscars are best kept alone or with a suitable catfish. In a relatively small aquarium your problems are magnified because high nitrate levels are created more quickly, so you're more likely to face nitrate-induced health problems such as Hexamita and Hole-in-the-Head.>
I'm open to suggestions though! I like large fish rather than getting a bunch of small fish.
<I see. Do think about the less aggressive, medium-sized hard water cichlids, such as the Central American Archocentrus multispinosus or the Malawians Labidochromis caeruleus and Aulonocara baenschi. These are sufficiently peaceful that they mix well with fast-moving midwater fish such as Melanotaenia boesemani and Swordtails. So you can use these midwater fish as "dither fish", encouraging the cichlids to swim about, whilst also having the benefit of bright colours and movement in the aquarium. Most Loricariidae will tolerate hard water conditions well, so you could add a Plec of some sort, whether an Ancistrus species or something more exotic.>
I want fish that are eye-catching or interesting and different, of course. I loved the personality the Oscar had.
<Do look at "Rotkeil" Severum cichlids, or perhaps one of the Geophagines, though these will need soft to moderately hard, acidic to slightly basic water to do well, i.e., 5-15 degrees dH, pH 6.5-7.5.>
I have had a few ideas, but right now I am thinking : 5 clown loach,
<Will get much too large for 90 gallons.>
5 or so Australian rainbow,
<Groups of 6 or more for rainbows, please.>
2 Gourami (whatever kind of Gourami and rainbow only grow to around 5 or 6 inches). I think the clown loaches are neat looking and I like how they pile on top of one another, and some Gourami are colourful. How does this sound?
<If you have hard water, it's do-able, but hardly ideal.>
I know the loach will get large over time, but I hear they are slow growing
<To a degree, but there's a fine line between a fish being naturally slow growing and conditions in the aquarium actually slowing down growth. Under optimal conditions, they will get to about half full size within two years, and over the next few years they grow rather more slowly.>
and I would be purchasing them when they are quite small (that's what the LFS has these days, about 2 inches in size). The LFS dude suggested that if I thought I was overcrowding I could sell the loaches when they are large, as people would likely be interested in them.
<Is often the case.>
However, the LFS dude often gives bad advice (he told me I could get 30 to 40 fish in my tank if they were around 5 inches, and doesn't think twice about selling a schooling fish by itself)
Actually I hope to purchase all of these fish as young ones. I think this tank set up is a good plan. Do you agree?
<Not 100%.>
Will I eventually be overstocked?
<A school of Clown Loaches takes up a lot of space, and some would argue, convincingly I think, that you need more than 5 specimens to get the best from the species. In small groups they're often nervous, so you don't see them much of the time, which rather defeats the object of the exercise.>
I would like to decide on the fish now and not really change the fish community over time, unless I have to get rid of the loaches in time. I will not be upgrading the size of my tank, and don't plan on purchasing fish that are super expensive. Is there anything I should watch out for, or do for these fish (recall that LFS dude is not helpful)?
<I think you need to look at water chemistry before anything else, and choose fish around that.>
Should I have a lot of plants and hiding places?
<For Clown Loaches, certainly.>
Is gravel okay or would sand be better?
<Sand is better, as the Clowns grow it becomes increasingly difficult to stop them making sand storms while foraging, and loose sand can get into filters. So most Clown keepers opt for fine gravel.>
Do you have any better ideas for my tank? I'm open to suggestion! Can I get all the fish at once or should I stagger their introduction to the tank?
<Does depend on how the tank is cycled, but broadly, yes, add some fish, wait a few weeks to see how they settle, and then add more. It's a good idea to add the dither fish species first.>
I will be sure to cycle the tank and have it up and running for a while before getting fish. Also, I will try to clean everything to be sure the hole-in-the-head virus isn't hanging around.
<Isn't a virus. Hole-in-the-head may or may not be related to the Hexamita protozoan, and in many cases Hole-in-the-head was probably triggered by poor diet and/or high nitrate levels.>
Does hole-in-the-head only affect cichlids?
<In freshwater aquaria, mostly, yes, cichlids are particularly prone, but it has been observed on a few other marine groups including gouramis.>
Thank you so much for your time! You guys are great. Your creative input on potential fish is appreciated.
<Glad to help. Cheers, Neale.>
empty tank, blank canvas (email 2)   5/26/10
I believe the 'Australian rainbow' I am referring to, that they have at my LFS, is Melanotaenia splendida australis (based only on the pictures on your webpage compared to what I saw at the LFS, and the typical size they
grow to as stated by LFS dude).
<Melanotaenia splendida is a nice, hardy Australian Rainbowfish that occurs in a variety of subspecies and regional variants. It gets to about 10 cm or so in length under aquarium conditions. It isn't especially colourful, but
in groups of 6+ specimens it's a nice fish. Males and females have slightly different colours, but you need equal numbers of both for the males to behave nicely and show their best colours.>
Also, what does cloze mean??? There is often a section titled 'Cloze' at the bottom of each livestock article. Thanks!
<"Cloze" is Bob's way of saying "close". It's usually just a final thought on the topic discussed. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: empty tank, blank canvas (attn Neale) 5/26/2010
Very cool, Neale. Thanks for the tips. I am most interested in having happy fish, and want a bit of colour but do not want to keep a ton of smaller fish. I think some of your suggestions were perfect for me. So, in my 90 gallon tank I think I may keep the following fish.
6 Melanotaenia boesemanni or Melanotaenia splendida (equal number males and females)
<Either is a good choice. Do also look for the Blue Rainbowfish, Melanotaenia lacustris, a species that might make a nice contrast to the reds, oranges and yellows you already have.>
1 Severum
<The Rotkeil version is very definitely worth hunting for; at their best, these are like marine Angelfish in their colouration. Stunning!>
2 Malawians Labidochromis caeruleus (yellow)
<Might nudge this up to three, ideally one boy and two girls.>
1 male and 3 female swordtail
<Should work fine.>
There is only one fish store within convenient driving distance from my house. I don't think I've seen the Aulonocara baenschi there before, but haven't exactly looked for them.
<Is quite easy to buy online; widely traded, often bred, though hybrids may well lack the best colours.>
Could I include the Aulonocara baenschi with the Malawians, or should I choose one or the other?
<Aulonocara and Labidochromis mix very well, given space and rocky caves.>
What would be the ideal number of Malawians or Aulonocara baenschi, and in what sexes?
<In a relatively small tank, one male, two females is the way to go.>
How do these two fish get along with Severums?
<I wouldn't mix Aulonocara with Severums, since they are both midwater fish, but very different in temperament. Do note Severums prefer softer water than Rift Valley cichlids. Labidochromis is mostly a benthic fish, so Severums and Labidochromis should largely ignore each other, so assuming you had water that was around 15 degrees dH, pH 7.5, they should coexist nicely.>
Would it matter what type of Severum, do they vary greatly in temperament?
<There is the odd psycho Severum, but outside of breeding they are much like Angelfish, or maybe a little more pushy, so perhaps like Oscars. But nothing like as aggressive as Central American cichlids.>
The LFS dude usually carries a few Severum; I have only ever seen what he called a green Severum.
<That's the standard kind, a nice enough fish in its way. But compared to the Rotkeil, it's a so-so looking fish.>
I am assuming the swordtails will be okay with this crowd, even though they are smaller.
<Yes, they'll be fine. Adults mix well with Aulonocara and Labidochromis. Fry may well be dinner!>
So what do you think? I think I like this mix, thank you for your help. Will I be overstocked?
<Should be fine, assuming robust filtration.>
IS gravel okay or should I use sand?
<Fine gravel should be fine.>
Are there any other special considerations for these fish? I have read your articles and Bob's articles on these fish and will re-read again before purchasing livestock. I haven't read anything that indicates things will go terribly wrong.
I truly appreciate your time.
<Happy to help. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: empty tank, blank canvas (attn Neale)
You can buy fish online??!!!
In Ontario, Canada???
<Here in England you can, anyway.>
Crazy. No need to reply, I can try and look into this. It just never occurred to me to buy live things online.....
<Real good. Cheers, Neale.>

Angelfish or Substitute Centerpiece Fish, FW sel.   4/29/10
First, I want to thank you for your advice about Platies I had for my first aquarium. It's been up and running nearly a year now and all seems well; no deaths, no diseases, more births, etc, in part thanks to you.
Well, I promised myself that if I was still enjoying keeping an aquarium that I would expand into a second, larger tank. So here I am, about 4 weeks into a new 55 gal that has finally started to cycle. Since it's getting close to being able to finally house some pets, I'm upping my research to further minimize any possible problems.
<Good plan>
I had spent perhaps the past 2 months or more studying fish species, compatibilities, schooling sizes, etc and visiting local stores to see what's available. I've decided on a few fish that, from all I found, should be fine together; Harlequin Rasboras (8-10), Cherry Barbs (6), and Cory Catfish (5-6).
<Good choices, numbers, mix>
I would also love to add 1-2 centerpiece fish. I've been looking at angelfish, but I'm getting conflicting information about them and compatibility and aggression. Some said one or a mated pair would or might work, some said only a large school of angelfish (don't have the room nor do I want that many), and some have said to steer clear completely unless a full cichlid tank. So I'm wondering what you would advise here...
<Pterophyllum are highly variable... some individuals being absolute terrors, others getting along with most everything. I would not risk their addition here>
1: Angelfish, maybe ok? 1 or mated pair possibly work? I don't mind loss of any new fry from any of the fish if that's the only issue. If no, or strongly recommend against...
2: Is there anything else you can recommend in place of angelfish? Only 1-2 of something, not overly shy, and possibly a little larger than the sizes of the fish I listed above. All I can think of is to actually add some Platies or swordtails and get at least 1 male swordtail, though that's not quite what I'm aiming for.
<Mmm, yes... I'd be looking into the Rainbowfishes... for larger species, that are easygoing... Read here:
the last tray at the bottom. Bob Fenner>
Brian Murawski  

15 gallon FW; non-zero ammonia; death, destruction; the need for reading...  - 4/19/10
I have a 15 gallon aquarium that has a problem with its ammonia!
<This tank is far too small for Mollies and Black-Skirt Tetras; and marginal for Platies.>
Ever since it cycled it has been at 1.
<Then it isn't cycled.>
Now the past couple of days it has been getting in the 3-5 range! I don't know what happened. I feed them once a day(I have 7 small fish) (2 black skirted tetra,
<These are schooling fish and kept badly, as you're doing here, they get frustrated and commonly becoming nippy. Furthermore, their water chemistry requirements are completely different to those of Mollies. Like most tetras, Black Skirt Tetras prefer soft, slightly acidic to neutral water chemistry. Mollies generally do best in hard, basic water with at least a little marine salt mix added, and if kept in unsalted, freshwater conditions are very sensitive to low temperature and non-zero levels of ammonia, nitrite and nitrate.>
2 Sunburst platy in which one looks kind of pregnant, 2 Dalmatian Lyretail Molly and 1 black molly)
<Mollies and Platies need hard, basic water. Mollies need quite warm water though, around 28-30 C, whereas Platies need cool water, 22-25 C. They aren't compatible. Long term this won't work.>
and I don't know what to do about the ammonia.
<Sure you do. You just haven't done it yet. Ammonia is essentially controlled in three ways: reducing the number of fish, reducing the amount of unnecessary feeding, and increasing the quality/size of the biological filter. Your tank is overstocked for what it is, and I'll bet the filter is badly maintained and you overfeed the fish. There may even be ammonia in your tap water you don't remove before using it in your aquarium. So there are four things to review. I can't offer any better advice without more detail on your system, e.g., filter size, how you clean the filter media each month, how much food you add, etc.>
I do regular 1/4 water changes once a week and 5 gallon water change once a month. 1 of my Dalmatian Lyretail Molly died yesterday...but only one died and the rest of my fish have lived longer than 2 weeks.
<Two weeks isn't much of an achievement to be honest. How did you cycle this aquarium? Cycling is the 4-6 week period BEFORE you add any fish. Did you do this cycling by adding household ammonia or by adding fish flakes
every day or two. I'm guessing you did neither, and just let the tank run maybe overnight. A lot of folks think an empty tank can cycle. It cannot. There needs to be an ammonia source. If you didn't cycle the tank properly,
then it's cycling now, and that's why you're killing these fish.>
I got a new one today and she is eating just fine.
<Stop. Do not buy any more fish until you have read about the needs of each species. Clearly you haven't or you wouldn't be adding these fish together in one too-small aquarium. Read:
I also have one more question. Can my Dalmatian Lyretail Molly mate with my Black Molly if one is male and one is female?
<In theory, yes. Whether they live that long in this tank is a whole other question.>
Thanks, Ally
<Glad to help. Good luck, Neale.>

Re: 15 gallon FW; non-zero ammonia; death, destruction; the need for reading... 4/20/10
I cycled my tank for a week, not overnight and added food in it twice a day for a week before getting any fish. I dont know what to do about the molly's and platy's but they seem fine together. Thank you for your help!
<It takes more than a week to mature a tank, so while a step in the right direction, you're very likely still going through the cycling process. As for the Mollies and Platies, for the time being they're happy, but that may not last. We get a gazillion messages about sick Mollies, precisely because they're difficult to keep in community tanks. Maintained together at 25 C in slightly brackish conditions, 2-3 grammes marine mix/litre, you might be okay. But I wouldn't bank on it, and you obviously can't keep tetras and other salt-intolerant fish in such a system.
Cheers, Neale.> 

Stocking question   4/17/2010
Well, about the "Resistant Ich" email a week ago, thank you so much Neale but unfortunately even after trying my best and your advice, the little Guppies unfortunately died. I was also out of internet for a few days, not exactly the best time for that to happen. Poor little guys. :(
Anyway . . . I was thinking of getting a planted 30 gallon Juwel tank with 6 Rainbowfish (Melanotaenia Boesemani),
<A good choice, and does well in both hard and soft water provided extremes are avoided.>
10 Cherry Barbs,
<Also good, but mildly territorial, so keep at least as many females [the yellowy-pink ones] as the males [the red ones] and ensure there's plenty of plants or other hiding places.>
8 Lemon Tetras
<A superb choice, though water will need to be soft to moderately hard, slightly acidic to neutral, if you want them to colour up; in hard, basic water this species tends to be lacklustre. Appreciates -- needs -- a dark substrate and perhaps slightly tinted water. If these things can't be given, would tend to skip in favour of a less fussy species, like the X-ray Tetra.>
and 8 Glowlight Tetras.
<Much the same as the Lemon Tetra; also only looks good in a big group, I think. Consider skipping one tetra species in favour of twice as many of the others.>
Also 5 Red Cherry Shrimp.
<Would get a few more than that.>
Would this work out nicely? Or would the Rainbow fish (or any other of the fish for that matter) eat the Cherry Shrimp or Glowlight Tetras?
<The rainbows might eat the Cherry shrimps given the chance, but assuming some plant cover and a large enough "founder" population, I'd expect the Cherry shrimps to hold their own over time. Cheers, Neale.>
re: Stocking question
6 Rainbow Fish, 14 X-Ray Tetras, 10 Cherry Red Shrimps . . . and something else?
<Catfish perhaps? Like a Bristlenose Plec, Ancistrus spp.? Or maybe half a dozen Kuhli loaches?>
I heard X-Ray Tetras would eat some plants, which and how much?
<They don't eat plants.>
I was thinking of setting the tank up with Fluorite on the right and left portions, as well as a small bit at the back section of the tank. All this would be for plants. Sand (haven't really decided which to use yet) would be in the middle of the tank. Sort of like how it's set up in the freshwater aquarium aquascaping article on WWM. Kind of hard to explain in
text. . .
<Kind of pointless too, since it'll all get mixed up eventually. Fluorite sand is essentially incompatible with catfish and really any fish that sits on the bottom or likes to dig/burrow. If you want to use this for the benefit of the plants, for which it provides minimal benefits at that, it's best to bed down a layer at the bottom and then a gravel tidy on top, and
then maybe an inch of whatever substrate you want. Plain gravel tends to be dark enough to get the best colours from most fish; plain smooth silica/silver sand is the best for burrowing fish. Fluorite sand, Tahitian Moon Sand, and all these fancy sands tend to have various shortcomings, so do review their limitations on the relevant manufacturer's web sites. FWIW, you tend to get the best plant growth by either adding something nutrient rich, like pond soil, to the bottom, or else using a chemically inert sand or gravel and instead keep up with dosing fertilisers monthly, e.g., with root pellets. Either approach works well. Cheers, Neale.>
re: Stocking question
Aren't too interested with the loaches. . . I was thinking along the lines of Tiger Barbs, but they're fin nippers so . . . Would a big school of them keep this down to a minimum?
<Define "a big school". Twelve or more, in a 55 gallon tank, sure, they should be fine. Half a dozen in 30 gallons. Nope. Anyway, when planning a community tank, there's a difference between a plan and a mixture. A planned tank has fish for each layer of the aquarium: one species for the top, one species for the middle, and one species for the bottom. You might get Danios for the top, some X-ray Tetras for the middle, and some Corydoras for the bottom. Assuming fish of about the same size, say 5 cm/2 inches, you'd divide them out along the lines of 6 at the top, 12 in the
middle, and 6 at the bottom. You have twice as many for the middle layer because that's a bigger part of the tank. The Danios will swim around the top 3-4 inches, the X-ray Tetras around the middle 8 inches, and the Corydoras will barely leave the bottom inch or two. If you want something else, choose something completely different, like a pair of Lace Gouramis or Angelfish, which don't behave in the same way as the other three species. They swim at all levels, but being bigger, they don't "clash" in terms of shape, colour or behaviour. This way the fish school on their own, they aren't all jumbled together, and there's enough of everyone that they form happy schools that swim together rather than all spread out looking scared. A jumble of fish is grabbing five or six species of whatever catches your eye, throwing them into the tank, and hoping for the best.
What you'll end up with the difference between a planned arrangement of flowers in a garden on the one hand, and a random assortment of weeds on the other. So slow down, think about what you're trying to achieve, and choose some three, maybe four species, all of which spread themselves out.
Less is more; balance is everything! Cheers, Neale.>
re: Stocking question
Yeah, that's how I was thinking . . . Thanks so much! I will have to send a picture when I get around to buying the tank. I intend to get 8 Tiger Barbs. Thanks!
<You're welcome. Cheers, Neale.>

Suggestions... FW stkg.     4/9/10
Hello Crew, hope all is going well for you. I need some suggestions please. I currently have a 75 gallon fw tank with 6 angels, 12 cories and 3 gold gouramis. All these fish have been in the tank for over 6 months.
<Very good.>
I am considering 3 or more of another type of fish that would look appealing with these current fish as well as get along. Do you have any suggestions?
<Some sort of surface-swimming or midwater schooling fish would work best.
That way your choice of fish would complement the ones you already have, which are either independent midwater things (angels and gouramis) or bottom feeders (Corydoras).>
I am strongly considering the boesemanni rainbow, but wanted to get your input on that as well.
<A superb choice; Melanotaenia spp. are generally adaptable, hardy, and long-lived, so while expensive they're good value in the long run. Other good choices would include Glassfish, Bleeding Heart Tetras, Diamond Tetras
and Congo Tetras. If the water was hard and not too warm, Swordtails would be a fun choice, and I have a great fondness for Limia nigrofasciata, a woefully underrated but extremely interesting Cuban livebearer.
If you decided to go with surface-swimmers, possible choices would include Silver Hatchetfish (a bit delicate though and notorious "jumpers") or Celebes Halfbeaks. Halfbeaks are particular favourites of mine because they
can be bred in community tanks, though fry would need to be corralled in a breeding trap once born, and the differences between the sexes in terms of personality, size and colour are interesting.>
<Good luck, Neale.>
Re: Suggestions, FW stkg.    4/9/2010

Thanks Neale, I appreciate it. You mentioned that swordtails would be a good choice if the water was not too warm.
<Correct. Xiphophorus spp. prefer relatively cool conditions, and are sensitive to low oxygen levels in overly warm aquaria.>
Right now I am keeping my tank between 78-80f because I read that that is what angels prefer.
<Certainly true for wild specimens; with farmed Angels you have a little more flexibility, though I wouldn't keep them below 25 C/77 F.>
Is this correct or could I bring the temp down some?
<At 25 C/77 F you could, just about, get the best from both Angels and Swordtails. In summertime, if the water gets warmer than this, you might find the Swords looking a bit off-colour, in which case increasing evaporation or adding some extra airstones would help. To be fair, farmed Swords are pretty adaptable fish; it's just that by preference Swords to best kept a little on the cool side.>
And what is the common name for the Limia nigrofasciata that you mentioned?
<It's sometimes called the Humpbacked Limia or the Black-barred Limia.
Google both names for best results. The males have humped-backs and pretty sail-like dorsal fins. There's a couple of great pictures of old, fully-developed males here:
In most ways they're like Platies, but they're happier in warm water than Platies, and does well in moderately hard freshwater. I've bred several generations of them thus. Unlike some of the other livebearers, males aren't especially aggressive, and the species actually does form schools of a sort. It's a very, very pretty fish. Angels are amazingly good at eating baby livebearers though. Cheers, Neale.>

Question About Transporting New Fish  3/11/10
Thanks for all of the hard work that you guys put into WWM, it is a wonderful resource and I have learned a lot from it.
<Thanks for the kind words.>
I am currently cycling a 55 gallon fresh water aquarium. I live in a fairly rural area and unfortunately there are not a lot of options for buying fish around here.
<Don't ignore the option of collecting your own! Many native fishes make outstanding pets, and in fact some have become firmly established as hobby staples; among North American species, Mollies and Florida Flagfish are classic examples of native fish that aquarists the world over will recognise. A little less well known are things like Pumpkinseeds and Red Shiners, both of which are superb aquarium fish, and then there's the poor old Rosy-red Minnow, as good an aquarium fish as you could ever want, yet considered by too many people as nothing more than live bait. For aquarists in the US and Canada, there's an excellent book called "North American Native Fishes for the Home Aquarium" by David M. Schleser that includes information on how to collect and maintain lots colourful, pretty fish you might be able to find not far from your own home!>
I refuse to buy fish at Wal-Mart and my only other option is a local pet store that has about six tanks of random, mediocre looking fish. I am looking at getting some fish from a bigger city, the problem is this would mean transporting the fish for about four hours.
<Provided the bags are filled with oxygen, this isn't at all problematic.
Indeed, if the fish are placed in ones or twos on large bags mostly filled with air, they should do fine.>
So my question is if I make sure that the fish are double bagged, oxygenated, wrapped, and transport them in a cooler, will they be alright for several hours?
<Yes. Modern bagging methods mean fish are fine for 24 hours, at least, if kept in warm, oxygenated bags. How do you think they get from the Amazon river to your local pet store? All along the way they're bagged in just this way, and mortality rates are generally very low.>
I could also look at ordering from the internet, but worry that the fish would just be left on my porch (in totally unpredictable weather) while I am at work all day.
<Yes, this would be more problematic. Fish delivered in a polystyrene foam box should be fairly safe during the milder seasons, but extremes of cold and heat can cause severe problems. Is there an option of having your neighbour take them in for you while you're away? Alternatively, could you have them delivered to your workplace through office hours?>
There used to be a pretty decent LFS in town, but it apparently shut down in the two years that I was living overseas.
<A not uncommon situation once a "big box" retailer moves in.>
I know that it is best to slowly introduce fish to my tank once it is ready. So would it be best to get all of my Corys at once, then wait a couple of weeks before buying and quarantining the next type of fish?
<Provided you cycle the tank before hand using a fish-less method, yes, you could add 5-6 small Corydoras in one fell swoop. The "art" here would be to cycle using an appropriate amount of ammonia or fish food. Let's say you cycled using fish food, my favourite method. All you'd do is add as much as you'd add if there were six Corydoras in there, so a small pinch of fish food every day. The bacteria couldn't care less whether the ammonia comes through a fish or through the microbes in the substrate, so either way, the fish food decays and releases ammonia. Using your nitrite test kit (ammonia test kits are ambiguous, so I recommend you use a nitrite test kit instead), you'd see after about a week the nitrite level rises and then by the second week it should be well on its way to dropping down to zero. Once it hits zero, despite you adding those daily pinches of fish food, you're good to go! Now add your catfish, and the bacteria will be on hand to keep conditions in the aquarium nice and balanced.>
I still have more research to do on exactly what types of fish I am going to get (I know I want Corys),
<Corydoras do prefer relatively cool conditions, so do check this when choosing tankmates. Almost all Corydoras are happiest between 22-24 C (about 72-75 F) and while that suits Neons, Danios and many Barbs, it's cooler than things like Gouramis and Angelfish enjoy. The only "warm water" Corydoras routinely traded is Corydoras sterbai, often called the Discus Corydoras because it's the only one happy at the 28 C/82 F you need for Discus. On the other hand, you also have things like Scleromystax barbatus, the so-called Bearded Corydoras, and one of the most beautiful and fascinating catfish traded, that prefer unheated tanks at room temperature, around 15 C/59 F being ideal. Keeping any fish too warm or too cold reduces its chances of doing well in the long term.>
but my tank has a few more weeks to cycle and I have not even set up my quarantine tank yet.
<Sounds like you're doing this step by step, which I applaud.>
Again, thanks so much for all of the great information you guys have put together.
<Happy to help. Good luck, Neale.>

Good Job!!! FW stkg.    2/28/10
Hello team.
I would just like to take this opportunity, to thank every body that's involved in the running of www.wetwebmedia.com
<Why thank you>
It has helped me out on countless occasions. I'm sure that it has helped many others as well.
<Ah yes>
I've been using the site for about six months, its never let me down. I just love it and recommend it to all aquarium keepers.
I have a 65liter tank. That's about 16gallons for all-yoll in the USA.
Its heavily planted.
The fish I have are:-
Six Pearl Danios
Two Cichlid Kribensis
Four Dwarf Gourami
Three Clown Loaches
<Whoa! These are going to need much MUCH more room!>
And a bamboo shrimp
The fish, plants and shrimp are doing fine. That's all thanks to you. I just can't thank you enough. I'm so pleased that there are people out there, providing such a wealth of knowledge. This is the best web site for information about looking after fish, that I've come across. If theirs' a question that you need answering, I guarantee that it is on the site. It's just so vast.
Keep up the excellent work!!!
An avid fan
Andy Howson, England, Derby.
<Thank you again Andy. Bob Fenner>

Is this stream crowded? FW stkg. mostly   2/24/10
Hi Crew,
I have question, lots and lots of questions! Here are the specifications of my tank and my fish: Tank - 20 Gal long-style, Lighting: 2 * 39 watt T5 florescent lighting fixture with 1 plant bulb and 1 daylight bulb.
Substrate: rounded shale cobbles.
<Mmm, look good, but don't support much in the way of biological filtration...>
Plants: hair algae and Java ferns and java moss, Filtration: Aquaclear power filter 20, Aquaclear power filter 30, Aquaclear powerhead 30 with sponge filter attachment. Fish: 20 Pearl Danios,
6 White Cloud Mountain Minnows, 2 reticulated Hillstream Loaches. Heater:
none, temperature is usually about 20 degrees Celsius. If I have enough flow for the loaches will the white clouds and pearls be subjected to too much current/flow?
<Mmm, no... should be fine. All are fishes that can handle a good deal of current>
Also, when the loaches appear to eat the algae in the tank are they actually eating the algae, or some kind of microscopic life in the algae, or both?
<Mostly algae, but both>
Would the same type of organisms be found living in algae in a home aquarium as in a stream in nature?
<Great question... I suspect that the Aufwuchs/interstitial fauna found around the world is quite diverse>
Should I add a canister filter?
<Mmm, if you have/had one maybe; but the two outside hang ons should be sufficient here>
Could I add a metal halide pendant lighting system to replace the florescent lamp ( I HATE the look of florescent light anywhere -especially in my aquarium). Is this tank overstocked?
<I would not... too much waste heat. Better to investigate other moda of fluorescents>
I am thinking maybe Giant Danios would be a better choice of tankmates for the loaches in a longer bigger tank, but really love my White Clouds and Pearls, especially the White Clouds. All the fish seem/look healthy and eat well (bloodworms, wet frozen foods, flakes, algae) but I am unsure if this is a sensible mix of fish, Thanks!
<Sounds, reads like a very nice system indeed. Thank you for sharing. Bob Fenner>

Follow up on Is this stream crowded? FW stkg. mostly, test kits, maint.  -- 02/25/10
I'm not questioning this because I think it's wrong, I'm asking because I want to understand.
<Perfectly reasonable!>
I think I've become pretty smart since learning of WWM but unfortunately that was after I stocked my tank. I relied on an ammonium detector that hung inside the tank that seems to be extremely under estimating.
<Yes, these things are fairly hopeless. They also only work for a certain period of time, and do need replacing.>
I relied on this and huge pet retailer that told me my water was "fine" for more fish.
<Unfortunately, many of these shops employ fairly generic staff, who may be fine retailers but are poor aquarists. So it's wise to take any advice offered with a pinch of salt.>
Later, I moved to strips that told a different story but I didn't know who to trust so I moved to vial testing which verified the strip tests were accurate. What I'm getting at is that I don't have a cycled tank and to make it worse I switched to an Aquaclear head after thinking my other filter was infused properly when it wasn't.
<To some extent, the best approach with test kits is to not rely on them.
Instead, go cautiously, doing things by the numbers, adding a low number of fish to an aquarium, and feeding as little as possible, filtering generously, and performing regular water changes. Most expert fishkeepers work that way, so if you ask people like me to honestly tell you how often they test the water, they'll reply "never"! They know how good the water is because they've insured it up front, and they also know what fish behaviour signs reveal the beginnings of problems.>
I'll go ahead and confess to the specs and make amends by making a video series on YouTube to show how to do a fishless cycle even though there are some good ones already that you may wish to check out and perhaps link to.
<Sounds good.>
The tank is a 36 gallon bowfront with sand substrate, 150 watt heater, standard kit lighting on timer and supplemented with a couple of Stunners to enhance and move the day/night cycle along with three timers.
<What's a "stunner"? In English idiom, it's normally a word reserved for uncommonly attractive women!>
The filter is a AquaClear 50 Power Filter (200gph). I liked the idea that you could pull out the carbon when needed and I also tried their ammonia resin catcher insert though that didn't help in my situation.
<Yes, ammonia removers are fairly useless in busy community tanks. It's important to recall what they're for, maintaining lightly stocked tanks where biological filtration isn't viable, e.g., hospital tanks where strong antibiotics are being used.>
The residents include:
6 peppered Cory cats
4 Red Platy
6 harlequin Rasbora
1 pearl Gourami
<All good fish, though you will need to be careful with temperature, since the Rasbora and Gourami prefer slightly warmer conditions than Platies and Corydoras; I'd aim for 25 C/77 F.>
The logic that this wasn't overstocking was because of the layers that the fish tend to stay at and the size of the filter.
<In a 36 gallon tank, this stocking should be fine.>
The water stats are:
Ammonia > .5ppm and < 1 (API water/vial)
<Here's one of the problems.>
Jungle Labs Strips:
Nitrite: 0
Nitrate: 0
GH: 25
<Is this mg/l? That is extremely low, far too low for Platies to do well.>
Chlorine: 0
KH: 100
<This surely is mg/l, and is again, somewhat low.>
pH: 7.0
<Do read here:
Make sure you avoid using water from a domestic water softener, and always choose fish that match your tap water conditions. That's the easiest way forward, since you won't need to adjust water chemistry at all; the 25% weekly water changes should take care of water chemistry automatically.>
I have kept ammonia lower than 1ppm by doing daily water changes of about 9 gallons. I read in an article here that to help cycling avoid water changes if ammonia is under 1ppm.
<Personally, I think that's false. The ammonia you detect is, by definition, unused by the filter bacteria, so isn't doing much of anything.
The growth of the bacteria population will be just fine even at less than 0.25 mg/l.>
It's held there at two days but I expect I'll need to bring it down with a change tomorrow.
Why wasn't the 20 gallon tank in the question I'm following up to not overstocked? Is it because of the second filter?
<Can't speak for the other tank, but this one is only overstocked now because the filter is immature and "not up to the job" yet. But after a month, when the filter has settled in, it should be fine.>
What percentage water should I remove when I do a water change on my tank since it isn't cycled but is loaded with life? I do test twice a day right now because I realize the mistakes.
<25% once a week is normally fine, but if the ammonia level gets above 0.5 mg/l, I'd change some water, perhaps 50% of it, if you can.>
The Aquaclear seems good at removing debris from this tank. I don't see anything hanging around on the bed very long. Are there any tricks besides raking for cleaning sand?
<Minimise raking the sand; it's actually better to leave the sand to mature nicely. There's going to be an excellent article on freshwater deep sand beds in the upcoming (next couple of weeks) 'Conscientious Aquarist' elsewhere on this site. Mature freshwater deep sand beds actually break down the detritus and stay remarkably clean. That's certainly my experience. It's much better to pipette away any unsightly detritus using a turkey baster rather than messing around with the sand too much.>
Not as easy as gravel but in my case it seems to stay cleaner because it isn't getting embedded. The catfish do a good job of stirring things up.
Should I consider a second filter of the same power?
<For the fish you have, a turnover rate of 4 times the volume of the tank should be adequate. So for a 36 gallon tank, if the existing filter is rated at 4 x 36 = 144 gallons/hour, you're fine.>
One thing I like about the Aquaclear is that it has a variable setting that for instance can be used to calm the water during feeding. I run mine on high because I want the catfish to have a chance.
<Would actually recommend giving the cats their own food at nighttime. Look at their bellies: it's very easy for half-starved Corydoras to have concave bellies. So, once or twice a week leave out a single Hikari Algae Wafer for your six Corydoras. They will wax fat on these!>
The Harleys are amazing even at their current tiny size as they can catch granules and chew them without spitting out. They do seem mad that they can't chew and put more food in their mouth at the same time.
<They're nice fish.>
So I could put a second power head with the same specs on the other side of the tank and operate it at low power. I'm afraid that putting anything stronger in would mess up the Harleys who struggle a tad when they hit the water column where the filter is now.
<More water current will be enjoyed by the Rasboras and Corydoras, but Gouramis and Platies are not so keen, so strike a balance. By all means experiment, but do watch to see how the fish react.>
If it would be good I could add a second filter and run it at a lower turnover.
Thank you.
Greg in Charlotte
<My pleasure.>
PS: Neale, I was born in Chicago.
<My mom got a letter published in the London 'Times' once defending Dan Rostenkowski, arguing that he may have been a crook, but at least he was a competent crook, and that's what matters in Chicago. I fear she'd be a little underwhelmed by President Obama and C-o-S Emanuel, dyed in the wool Democrat that she was. In any case, had a great trip to Chicago last year visiting family, though I was disappointed by the couple of aquarium shops I went to.>
And my Pearl doesn't seem to be building anything anymore but he's definitely king of the tank.
<These are very nice, weirdly underrated fish. Once mature, the males have just the most amazing fins, though both sexes are very pretty.>
I assume this is normal.
<Pretty much, especially when not kept with anything nippy or aggressive.>
He doesn't seem to be nipping anyone, just pushing them out of the way. I added plants to the front and rear of the tank so the Corys could get their favorite spot back. But where there is a will there is a way. I've got to get video of Pearl coming out of the cave almost completely horizontally.
<Cool! Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Follow up on Is this stream crowded? FW stkg. mostly, now lambda
OK it sounds like things will be fine. The major LFS helped with the last round and they even do very good replies in e-mail so of course that is where I will get my in person advise.
I do not use a softener but like you said it's hard to trust these kits. I will be getting the API master kit tomorrow and will compare. Both GH and KH on this bottle are measured in PPM.
On their wellness chart for my numbers they translate as:
GH: 25 (Very soft)
<25 mg/l is indeed very, very soft water.>
KH: 100 being high moderate but under ideal.
<It's more middling than ideal. So a bit low for hard water fish (like livebearers) but acceptable rather than ideal for soft water fish (like tetras).>
Should I be looking at changing this and if so when/how?
<Depends on what fish you want to keep. If you're after a mix of soft and hard water fish, then aiming for moderately hard, very slightly basic water is the ideal (~10 degrees dH, pH 7.5) is the ideal.>
I'll test the tap water too when the API kit gets here.
The Stunner is a fabulous new light strip that comes in four colors and is LED. Each are 6 watts and one transformer can power up to six of them. They are cost effective since you only need one transformer. But I went with 10K for morning and day support on the stock tube and it mixes with a blue to translate to dawn and dusk. Blue is on by itself for the beginning and end hours of the day.
<Sounds nice.>
You can't really tell but I am going to make more videos with different lighting. The video here http://www.youtube.com/simplefishtank Only 1/4 the tank because I was trying to show off the Pearl. For some reason all the cats decided to jump into the shot at the same time too making it look like a 10 gallon tank! The Stunners are made by Ecoxotic and are just now starting to show up in LFS and some websites. It has the potential to be the "it" thing but even what the LFS guy says you have to be careful. He said they are fully submersible and they aren't even seeled (sealed?)
http://www.youtube.com/user/ecoxotic1 is their YouTube page.
<Looks nice.>
This appears to be a hobby with lots of snake oil salesmen, and trusted manufactures making bad products like 5 gallon tanks with a photo of 12 pics on it, poor Bettas, bad instructions as far as cycling and strange potions.
<Oh, the advertising of fish tanks with Photoshopped fish in them has been an ongoing argument in the magazine trade. The editors are stuck with whatever sells advertising space, but many hobbyists cry foul, saying all it's doing is setting people up for disappointment.>
I'm really concerned about the harm most people are inadvertently doing to their new pets.
At least I haven't lost anyone except 7 evil Tetras but that's another story.
Everyone seems well fed. Right now they get what they can eat in less than a minute except for the catfish who seem to have to "find" their food even if it landed on a plate in front of them.
<Remember, most catfish have poor eyesight. They find food by smell, and that means they swim upstream towards wherever the smell is coming from. if you add too much, they actually can have problems finding any of it because the smell comes from all around.>
I alternate these variety foods every other day. Basically it means every two days they get shrimp pellet or algae disc. And every other day whatever scraps but I try to get a bit of fast sinking granules to them when the other fish are eating flakes. ANYTHING that gets to the bottom the Pearl and Platies will go for. It's cute to watch the Platies and catfish "share" but not so much the Pearl. Like I said, he's getting to be a bully so I have to drop stuff for him in one section away from the catfish. Maybe I'm using the wrong size and this stuff is too big. They have to nibble quite a bit on it.
<Softens in time, so wouldn't worry.>
Please do look at the video and if you see anyone too thin let me know.
<They look fine.>
They look huge to me presently. I would like to know how much bigger you think the Harleys will get.
<Harlequin Rasboras are fairly small fish. They get to about 5 cm/2 inches long, but they're quite deep. Adults are nice looking fish.>
I didn't expect them to be so small compared to the other fish.
But the Pearl does leave them completely alone.
<Very non-predatory.>
Besides, the schooling fish are most interested in what is happening on the other side of the tank from them and are constantly checking it out. And when you mention the turkey baster, do you mean to suck out or push into the water column?
<Suck it out, and dump the waste and the water into a pot plant or something.>
Thanks again.
<Cheers, Neale.>

Can I keep a 7-8 inch wolffish with my festae and jack Dempsey   2/16/10
which are both 8-10 inches? Thanks.
<How big is the aquarium? The short answer is probably not. But if you had a couple hundred gallons, I dare say they'd keep out of each other's way until they became sexually immature. Obviously a sexually mature Cichlasoma
festae will kill anything it can should it become territorial. Your specimen is not even half grown, adult males getting to 40 cm/16 inches. The species is notorious for killing even other aggressive cichlids. It's normally kept alone. Your Wolf Fish, by which I assume you mean Hoplias malabaricus, gets to 50 cm/20 inches, and is extremely aggressive, predatory, territorial, and (surprisingly perhaps) delicate. They are also dangerous to their keepers, being known "biters". They can't be kept with anything, and need extremely large, very well filtered aquarium with heavy hoods they can't force open. I hope you're a rich man with deep pockets, because housing the Festae and the Wolf Fish is going to be VERY expensive!
Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Cichlids  2/16/10

Thanks a ton Neale. You really saved me on this one because being 12 years old money isn't at my disposal. Also, could I keep a pair of clown knives with my Polypterus ornatipinnis?
<Do you have any idea how big Clown Knives get to? Chitala chitala for example reaches some 120 cm, about 4 feet, in the wild, and aquarium specimens routinely reach 90 cm/3 feet in length. Males are also extremely
territorial and aggressive, being know to attack people wading through swamps where the Knifefish was protecting its eggs. Given Polypterus ornatipinnis gets to a good 60 cm/2 feet in length itself, I'd concentrate on keeping this fish properly, perhaps alongside some type of catfish, in an aquarium of adequate size. Cheers, Neale.>

Hard plumbed canister filter (RMF, any alternative ideas here?)<I'd use Eheim's flexible tubing and valves>  2/11/10
Hi guys,
I have been asked to set up an tropical fresh water system for a friend in a wall between 2 rooms.
<Do bear in mind not all fish, indeed most fish, do not like light shining through their aquarium from both sides. You need to choose species very carefully, and avoid species that prefer shade. If you ignore this, you'll end up with a great tank filled with fish that hide all the time or show "stress" colouration. Livebearers, Rainbowfish, Trichogaster spp. gouramis tend to be among the best choices; catfish, loaches and cichlids would be bad choices.>
The tanks dimensions will be 100cm Height by 92.5cm Width by 62cm depth with a capacity of approximately 573.50 liters not taking in to account decor and substrate.
<This is a very deep tank. Small, benthic obligate air breathers -- such as Corydoras catfish -- cannot be kept in here. It's simply too deep for them, and they'll drown. Again, choose species carefully.>
The tank will be fitted in place of an existing window which is now redundant due to an extension that has been built. I have limited access to the left hand side of the tank for pipe work and filtration. The system must be kept simple and quiet with easy maintenance as his understanding of aquaria is fairly limited at this stage. I also only have space under the aquarium for a canister filter and basic equipment, not a sump. I am looking to use the Eheim Professional 2 Thermo 2128 Filter due to its built in heater and simplicity.
<A very good filter.>
The tank will be stocked at a low level with Angel fish and suitable tank mates.
<Angels would not be my first choice here, but depending on the quality of the shade above them, they might do okay. Certainly, avoid wild Angels, and buy small specimens rather than adults, since adults used to shady conditions could freak out in such an "exposed" location.>
I am hoping to use bulkhead fittings on the left hand side as visible pipe work is sure to look unsightly in a straight through tank.
<Yes, but you do have the problem that the inlet and outlet will both be at the same end of the tank, and this is the least efficient way to arrange filtration. The ideal scenario would have the outlet feeding into an undergravel filter, so that the outgoing water would be distributed all across the aquarium via the gravel bed. Of course the down side is that plants with roots won't like this, which limits you to [a] floating plants and [b] epiphytes (plants attached to bogwood, like Anubias, Java moss and Java fern). Not the end of the world by any means, but limiting nonetheless.>
All the outlets are planned to have high quality shut off valves as an extra precaution with a strainer fitted on the inlet. My concern is where to fit the inlet as regards to the water level. Initially I was planning to fit it just above the level of the substrate as I figured since a canister filter is a closed loop system increased pressure should not
really be an issue.
<Actually, pressure is a factor, and the more pressure on the canister, the harder the impeller has to work. Ideally, a canister filter is at the same level as the aquarium, as if sitting on the same tabletop as the aquarium. Most folks put canisters underneath their aquarium because it's easier to fit them into a cabinet that way, but it isn't the best way at all. Indeed, putting the canister underneath the aquarium reduces the flow rate because it has to work against gravity. Anyway, the inlet opening should be a fair distance above the substrate, perhaps 5 cm/2 inches above, so that it doesn't immediately become clogged with plants and such.>
My only real concern with this set up is that if anything before the return pipe were to fail the tank would drain to the substrate level leaving the fish marooned on a pile of sand.
<Yes, can happen. The old school solution is actually very simple. You know the hockey stick shaped inlet pipe that goes up and over the side of the aquarium? This is the bit connected to a grill of some sort at the inlet,
to stop fish swimming in, and the hose at the other end that goes to the canister. On this hockey stick pipe, a small hole is drilled on the part INSIDE the aquarium, and inch or so below the waterline. Now, when the canister is working normally, this little hole doesn't really do anything.
Some water gets sucked in, but it's so small it doesn't dramatically alter the sucking going on at the main inlet. But should the canister leak, water level drops, and eventually this hole rises above the waterline. When that happens, air is sucked in, the siphon breaks, and water stops flowing into the canister. Of course this doesn't stop the canister from running dry, and likely burning out a fuse, at best. But it does mean only an inch or so of water is lost, so the fish remain happy.>
Looking at conventional canister arrangements where the inlet is at low level (I use 3 in series on my 500 liter coldwater marine system) I'm thinking the siphon action during a similar failure would have the same effect?!
<Yes; if the inlet is drilled directly into the base of the aquarium, then you can't drill a fail-safe hole like the one just mentioned. The aquarium would drain like a bath with the plug pulled out.>
My second thoughts were to fit the inlet at the half way point meaning in the worst case scenario only half the water would drain, hopefully at least keeping the fish wet.
<Yes, this would indeed work.>
The problem is I currently only have access to the left hand side of the tank so I'm wondering if placing the inlet and outlet so close together would cause inefficient filtration?
<In theory, yes, since the best filtration is the filtration that sucks water at one end and blows out the water at the other end. Having said that, a big canister filter may have enough "push" to keep the water circulating reasonably well at the far end of the tank from the inlet and outlets. Plus, Angelfish are slow water fish, and don't have any real need for strong currents.>
Also I'm sure having the inlet at a lower level would be better for the removal of detritus?
<Yes and no. Yes, an inlet closer to the substrate sucks up more gunk more quickly, but if that means it becomes clogged too quickly, and water quality suffers because of the reduced water flow, that's not a benefit.
The main job of the filter is to remove ammonia and nitrite, for which brisk flow of water is required. In fact mechanical and biological filtration are mutually exclusive: the more the filter traps solid waste (mechanical filtration) the worse it gets at biological filtration (less surface area for bacteria). So there's a balance to be struck, and it's
better to avoid having the filter do massive amounts of mechanical filtration where possible. If nothing else, regularly net out solid waste, and avoid stocking the tank with stuff that dies quickly (like plants that can't possibly do well under whatever light conditions you have).>
If absolutely necessary it may be possible to have the inlet and outlet fitted at opposite ends at the higher level since we are still in the planning stage. This would however mean a costly modification to the wall.
I would be very grateful for your thoughts on this and many thanks for the gold mine of information you guys make available on this site.
Kind Regards
<Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.> 
Re: Hard plumbed canister filter, and FW lvstk. sel.    2/11/10

Hi Neale,
Thanks for your advice it's really appreciated, just a few more questions if I may. From your suggestions I assume the Angels are not really suitable for this tank and the following would be a better selection?
<Angels might work, might not. Difficult to say. Like most cichlids, they prefer shady conditions.>
4 Blue, 4 Pearl and 4 Gold Gourami.
<These do work quite well in "divider" tanks with light on both side.>
A good selection of small to tall large leafed plastic plants on a dark colored 1/4" fine gravel substrate and ample hiding places. I can really see the merit of the reverse gravel set up and will do my best to implement it. If the reverse gravel filter is deemed to difficult we have decided to make the effort for opposing outlet and inlet.
<I suspect a reverse-flow will actually be quite simple. You essentially buy an undergravel filter plate, and then attach the outlet from the canister to the uplift. You can buy adapters ready made; Eheim for example have what they call "Reverse flow principle" adapters. Ask your retailer.>
The tank is well away from windows and we were originally looking to fit 2 full spectrum TMC AquaRay LED modules along with a reef blue. The blue would be set at a very low intensity for day to night transition and evening viewing. I know the light will diminish drastically at such a depth and live plants were never planned for this system. After reading about Gourami's I get the impression they would spend a lot of time at the surface of the tank, would this make the bottom half of the tank seem bare or will they happily use the full depth?
<Gouramis will explore all levels, but they will stay mostly at the top.
Ideally, you'd have some floating plants like Indian Fern and Amazon Frogbit for algae control (a really issue in tanks viewed from both sides, otherwise they get pretty mucky looking). If you want a catfish for the bottom, your best bets would be things like Synodontis nigriventris and Whiptails. Cherry-fin Loaches would be another great choice.>
Once again thanks Neil for your sterling advice.
Best regards
<Glad to help. Cheers, Neale.>

Recommended tankmates? African, FW... ? 1/25/2009
Hello, and let me just say thank you for all of the great information you've given me in the past. I have a 125 US Gallon tank stocked with 6 silver dollars, a Black ghost knife, two Botia Kubotai, and a Leopard Ctenopoma. Most of the fish tend to keep to the middle and bottom of the tank, with the silver dollars swimming around the bottom 1/4th of the tank. What I was wondering is if you had any recommendations for fish that would get along (and not get eaten when the Ctenopoma/BGK get bigger) and would inhabit the upper area of the tank. Thanks!
<Do you want a schooling fish or a centerpiece fish? For example, among African fish, schooling fish of the right size to mix with your tankmates include Congo Tetras, Yellow Congo Tetras, African Red-eye Tetras, and Nurse Tetras. On the other hand if you wanted a solitary showpiece fish, then the African genus Distichodus yields some superb herbivorous species.
Distichodus sexfasciatus is the most frequently traded, and has similar orange and black markings to a clown loach. Distichodus lusosso and Distichodus affinis are also traded. They're roughly equivalent to the South American genera Anostomus and Leporinus, from which you might also choose a suitable tankmate. But I will mention that Anostomus are territorial and tend to be aggressive unless kept in a big enough group that they stop being bullies (5 or more), while Leporinus is a noted fin-biter and shouldn't be kept with anything slow or stupid. By contrast Distichodus are essentially placid towards dissimilar fish, their only drawbacks being their size (in some cases well above 30 cm) and their need to eat fresh greens daily (including aquarium plants). Hope this helps.
Cheers, Neale.>

Compatibility and general questions. Rams and Barbs   12/27/09
Hello all WWM crew,
<Hi Andy>
It has been a while since I've last contacted for your support, which I guess is a good thing. Thanks to all your efforts, and a special thanks to Neale, my Arowana and L-25 Scarlet Pleco tank have been very successful approximately three years now and hopefully many more to come. But I do come here with a few questions in mind and hope that you guys could clear things up for me.
<Mmm, Neale's "marked out" presently. I think he's visiting in the States... Omaha, NE...>
Aside from my love for monster oddball fish, I am starting to find a great interest in community tanks and aquaria. I currently have a 55 gallon tank that houses 8 Roseline sharks (Puntius denisonii).
The other day, a friend of mine gave me four German Blue Rams (Papiliochromis ramirezi).
Now I know that they require totally different water parameters, but didn't want to see them flushed down the toilet. Anyhow, was wondering if you have any ideas how these two will coexist.
<Mmm, can... with something middling twixt their "likes" water quality-wise...>
I set my tank's temp. at 75 degrees F. to find a median point.
<Mmm, I'd raise this closer to 80>
Correct me if I am wrong, but the denisonii requires cooler temps, where as the rams require a warmer temp?
My waters Ph is around 7.4 and hopefully that will be tolerable.
<I'd shoot for something more neutral... closer to 7.0>
Secondly, is it normal for both species to school together?
<No, but these two are both products of successive captive breeding... so, can tolerate a wider range of circumstances, likely show more "community" type behavior>
It is an amazing sight, as the rams have settled in and now are schooling with the roselines. Is this normal behavior and is there any chance of aggression against each other?
<Not much chance here>
The rams are rather small and young in age, but maybe once they realize they are cichlids, they will start to attack the sharks? Or am I just worrying too much?
<Barbs, not "minnow" sharks, and no sense worrying>
I would also like to ask if fish stress out if they don't receive enough sleep?
<I do think so>
Reason I ask is because my Arowana tank is in my room and I usually tend to stay up really late, sometimes to the early morning hours. Even with my lights off, if my television is on, they will stay awake. Reason I know they do sleep is when/if I leave for a couple hours, in which the room is completely dark, upon my return they are usually shocked/stunned/light-colored/unresponsive for a couple of minutes until they pull through. Any harm done if I've deprived them of their sleep?
<Might be, as mentioned. I would leave some small light on in the room at all times to prevent the "spooking">
One last question. I'm sure my question varies greatly depending on the species of fish, but does fish have a good memory?
<Some species do, others don't appear to>
I've always been curious of this. For example, my Pleco has a cave he calls home right now. If I move him to another tank, for say a couple months and he finds a new home, upon his return, will he likely find he previous home right away?
Reason I ask is because I might be taking a vacation for a few months, all the while having another family member taking care of the tanks with strict directions and instructions. Was wondering upon my return, if they will remember me, especially my Arowana. As of right now, I'm the only one that he/she responds to when I approach the tank.
I've blabbered excessively with my ridiculous questions. Once again, thanks greatly for all your efforts and responses. It means a lot to me, as well as many others out there. Have a great day, and happy holidays to all the WWM crew.
<And to you and yours Andy. Bob Fenner>

My first aquarium   12/19/09
Hey guys,
Great site, I wish I had found it two days ago.
I have a cycled 90 gallon tank that tests out very well (according to a friend and the LFS). Its a sand substrate with lots of plants, rocks and a great filter good for 150 gallon tank (I cant recall the name but its top of the line, recommend by a long time aquarium enthusiast).
<OK, but do take the recommended tank size for filters with a spoonful of salt. They're based on the best case scenario, i.e., small, guppy-sized fish, not big predators. In the case of a 60 cm fish like an Ornate Bichir, you'd be looking -- at minimum -- for a filter rated at 8 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour, i.e., 8 x 90 = 720 gallons per hour.
Anything less will eventually mean cloudy water and high ammonia/nitrite levels. You may be fine now while the Bichir is a pup, but Ornate Bichirs grow extremely fast, so plan on making an upgrade soon, should that be warranted (and it almost certainly will be).>
In it I have: two 5" Ornate Bichirs, two 7" Rope Fish and plan on two African Leaf Fish. There is a hockey sock of Guppies, Tetras and Cory's as well (tank cycling crew).
<Well, the Bichirs and the Leaffish will eventually view the Guppies as food, and unless you bred them at home, that isn't something desirable. The problem with farmed fish -- especially anything sold as "feeders" -- is their health tends to be variable. Just looking at farmed livebearers, the prevalence of Camallanus digestive tract worms seems to be very common, especially in the US. Allowing such fish to be eaten by a prized predator is likely to infect it with parasites. So while there's a tradition among the less experienced hobbyists to allow or even encourage their predatory fish to consume small fish, it's something experienced hobbyists strongly recommend against. There are things like Silver Dollars, Congo Tetras and some of the larger barbs such as Spanner Barbs and Clown Barbs that would make superb companions for Bichirs, so if you have the option, replacing the smaller fish with these would be very wise indeed.>
I want a single elephant nose (but am intimidated by their difficult reputation) or a Ghost Knife Fish as well.
<You are wise to be prudent. Neither of these species makes an obviously good companion of Bichirs of the type you're keeping. Polypterus ornatipinnis is a big, aggressive species usually kept only with robust tankmates. Elephantnoses are extremely fussy feeders that need to be kept in a tank with soft sand (never gravel) and they should never be forced to compete for food, even with Corydoras. That path leads to starvation.
Apteronotus albifrons is marginally easier to keep, but it's size and sensitivity to poor water conditions, as well as its need for strong water current and lots of oxygen, means it needs a different habitat to Bichirs or Ctenopoma. In short, neither species is a good choice for beginners, and indeed most moderately experienced aquarists fail to keep them alive for long.>
Is this feasible?
<No. The Ropefish are going to have a hard life in here, and the two Bichirs will eventually fight.>
Will the Bichirs fight? I just found out that they can get territorial.
<Yes. All Polypterus are more or less territorial, with only the smallest species, like Polypterus senegalus and P. palmas, being manageable in groups. The medium sized and large species tend to be far too intolerant.>
Any and all advice is more that welcome.
Warm Regards,
<Would sit back, review what you want in the long term, and then rehouse those fish that break the plan. The Bichir community is a classic, and a single medium sized species alongside things like Synodontis, Hemisynodontis, Anaspidoglanis macrostoma, Ctenopoma, Congo Tetras, and various West African cichlids can work extremely well. Robust South American cats like Panaque, Hypostomus, Callichthys callichthys and Hoplosternum littorale are also good choices. The African Knifefish (Xenomystus) is a good companion for the smaller Bichirs, but should be okay with an Ornate Bichir; that said, if you could get an Asian Knife (Notopterus) -- but not a Clown Knife (Chitala) -- these would be a better size for life with an Ornate Bichir. That said, your tank isn't huge, so choice of tankmates will be limited. Cheers, Neale.>

? Summat about adding a new fish w/ olde...    12/2/09
Is it advisable to put a new fish in with a fish I have had for five years ! The one I originally bought with it died recently ?
Sent using Blackberry® from Orange
<Hello. Without knowing what kind of fish, what size system, and why the other one died, it's really very hard to be sure. I would first determine what caused the recently deceased fish to die before adding another. There could be something going on which needs to be remedied before it begins affecting the fish you already have or any new additions. If you can rule this out, and if the system is large enough, the fish are compatible, and you have checked to make sure water quality is good (0 Ammonia, 0 Nitrite, Nitrate less than 20), then there should be no problem with adding another fish. If you'd like to offer more detail so that a more educated decision can be made, feel free to write back. --Melinda>

Fish compatibility and Lighting for a 3ft aquarium, plants, two dissimilar water qualities 11/25/09
Dear WWM Crew,
I have been browsing your site since I bought my first aquarium in January this year. Needless to say I am now hooked on the hobby and have bought a new, larger aquarium to accommodate my interests.
I would like to stock fauna from the South American biotope, but I already have some from the South East Asian region. Will the following be compatible in a 44 gallon/164 litre tank (36"x14"x20")?
6x Corydoras julii (which I suspect isn't, but rather C. trilineatus)
6x Schwartz's cories
6x Dwarf loaches
1x Bristlenose
1x Siamese Flying Fox
10x Rummy nose tetras
2-4x Bolivian rams
8x Guppies
...Some cherry shrimp??
<Very likely so... the biggest concern I have is that the Corydoras spp. & Rams may bother the shrimps... but if there's a good deal of habitat (rock, plants) this will likely not be a problem>
I am worried about the SFF as he is a bit of a bully around feeding time already. He is currently 6cm long, but I know in the larger tank he will grow to maximum size. I was wondering if he can be replaced with some of the Otocinclus species?
<I would make this trade out>
I originally bought the SFF to clean the brush algae in my tank,
<Mmm, are quite lazy re such duties, particularly when large/r>
and read that Otocinclus are one of the other species that can also control this algae, but I would like to confirm that.
I am planning on a moderately planted tank and if set up correctly I know algae shouldn't be too much of a bother, but I like 'just-in-case' scenarios.
With respect to lighting for the tank, I am not sure how much wattage I will need?
<Mmm, quite a bit, depending on the species of plants chosen, whether there is any supplemental sunlight, what you want to do with them, whether you're potting them or the light will have to penetrate 20" of water depth>
I thought of purchasing an Aqua-Glo bulb and wanted either a Power-Glo or Life-Glo to complement it.
<The Power... and more than one lamp... three or even four would be ideal>
I have Anubias, Java moss, Wisteria and some Dwarf blyxa at the moment, but I like some of the swords and the Nymphaea species. I am not sure that these will all be happy together!
<They can be if your water is "moderate" in hardness et al.>
Thank you in advance for your help,
<Thank you for sharing. Bob Fenner>
Re: Fish compatibility and Lighting for a 3ft aquarium  11/26/09

Dear Bob,
<Marianne... am thinking of the chorus of your name song by the Hollies>
Thank you so much for the quick reply. Yourself and the rest of the WWM Crew are much appreciated by many of us for the time and expertise that you so freely give.
I am heading to the LFS tonight and will look for a larger lighting fixture based on your recommendations.
Thank you! =)
<Welcome my friend. BobF>

Gouramis in community tank... Mmm, FW lvstk. sel., Trichogaster comp.  11/25/09
Dear Crew Members,
This is a great site with wonderful people, and very helpful material to read.. A JOB VERY WELL DONE
<Thank you>
The Aquarium
I have got a 135 gallon aquarium may be a bit more. I have 4 plastic plants in it one big wood piece in the middle and some rocks at one corner. I have a good power full filter installed and a heater maintaining the temperature about 28-30 C. I change quarter of water after a week or two and try to siphon out all the wastes lying at the bottom.
We don't have the testing kits easily available in Pakistan and haven't tested the water parameters ever.
<I rarely test mine... w/ a good working maintenance routine, it is unlikely you will have problems>
The Fish
I have 2 mono angels (about 5 inches high),
<Monodactylus species? These are really brackish to marine animals, particularly with age, size>
5 Angels (medium sized), 3 color tetras, 2 balloon mollies (1 male, 1 Female), 6 mollies (1 male 5 females), 1 Mickey mouse platy female, 1 grey platy female, 2 red platies male, 2 blue gouramies (about 5 inches each), 1 dwarf Gourami, and 10 balloon molly babies in a breeder net.
The Questions
1. Is this a good community tank as in terms of compatibility of the fish?
<Mmm, somewhat... the mollies really "like" more hard, alkaline water conditions than the S. American Angels and Gouramis>
2. If I don't put a livebearer in the breeding net just in time all the babies get eaten, and I don't want that so how many days you can keep a fish in the net before breeding or should not do it ?
<Till the young are large enough to not be eaten...>
3. The real problem is this. before introducing the mollies into my tank I had 3 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shubunkin> Shubunkins, and everything was smooth. But then I brought in mollies and after few days had to exchange my goldfish with angels (mollies were hitting them). Since then my 2 blue gouramies were also doing very well and growing in size. but now they are mostly sitting at the bottom of the tank and only come up at the feeding time, and otherwise if they do come up they stay there for very lesser period of time. Two of my female mollies are always hitting on their body as if they are licking something from their skin and my Gouramis (who used to be very aggressive before the arrival of mollies and were territorial as well) now seem helpless before the hitting mollies. I read at your website that the blue gouramies should be dominating the crowd not the mollies dominating the gouramies? Are my gouramies sick?
<Mmm, no, not likely. More just being bullied by the Mollies as you state>
They have no apparent problem and take feed as they used to..but now sit at the bottom most of time. if they are sick what should I do?
<The best would be to put them in another aquarium>
4. How to sex the blue gouramies if you say I can send you pics of both. and what age they start breeding. they are in my tank for more than 6 months now? Should I partition my tank thru a net wall and put the gouramies
in portioned part of it to give them some privacy?
<A bit more involved here. Trichogaster gouramis spawn a lot like Betta splendens (the popular Betta species)... need very calm water, a cover to prevent cold air/drafts... and some preparation on your part to culture foods ahead of time for the young. Please read here:
5. Should I add some table salt after water change with the above mentioned fish in aquarium? And if yes how much?
<Mmm, I wouldn't... unless you can/do separate the real Angels and Gouramis to another non-salted system... But otherwise I would... Read here:
http://wetwebmedia.com/BrackishSubWebIndex/brh20h2o.htm >
I know this is a very long message but your help will be highly appreciated.
<A bit of reading... and separating this assemblage of fishes into two systems is what I'd do. Bob Fenner>

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