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FAQs on Freshwater Livestocking 6

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 5FW Livestocking 7, FW Livestocking 8, FW Livestocking 9, FW Livestocking 10, FW Livestocking 11, & Stocking Small Systems, & Freshwater Livestock SelectionCommunity Tank Livestocking,

Tank Volume  1/4/09 Hello, hope all of you had a great New Years!! I have a question, please.. I have just finished putting my substrate , my rocks and driftwood in my 75 gallon aquarium and will be putting in the water soon. Is there a formula that will roughly give the amount of water in the tank minus the decorations; or do I need to actually measure all the water I put in the tank but using a 5 gallon bucket or something comparable? I wanted to use a water hose hooked up to my kitchen sink, but could not measure the amount of water I put in by doing that. Thank you for your help. James <James, most folks factor 10-15% for the gravel and rocks in their tanks. You can of course measure the height of the substrate: if the substrate is basically level and has a depth of, say, 3 inches in a 30 inch deep tank, then the substrate is taking up 10% of the volume. It's difficult to be precise without measuring the number of buckets of water you add to the tank, so that's really the only 100% reliable way to do things. Otherwise, don't worry about it too much. Things like medications are produced to allow for some degree of error, and unless the instructions on the medication specifically say to take 10% of the volume of the tank to allow for the substrate, it's something you can safely ignore. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Tank Volume, stkg.  1/4/08
Thank you Neale, I guess my main concern was determining how many fish I could safely allow in my tank. James <I'm not a fan of "inch per gallon" rules because they're so misleading. Twelve neon tetras and one Oscar have the same length in inches, but obviously require completely different minimum amounts of space. So there's obviously a sliding scale between the extremes. A tall tank will also hold fewer fish than a shallow tank with the same volume, because one limiting factor is the surface area exposed to the atmosphere, because that's how oxygen gets into the water. A 20-gallon "tall" tank therefore holds fewer fish than a 20-gallon "long" tank, which is why all fishkeeping writers repeatedly state that long tanks are better than tall ones, if you have to choose between two tanks of equal volume. Broadly, I prefer the one inch of small (guppy-sized) fish per 10 square inches of surface area rule because at least it accounts for this constraint. This is an underestimate, and the reality is that observing the fish and performing water quality tests is the only way to tell when your tank is overloaded. Social behaviour is another factor, with riverine species invariably looking best in spacious tanks. Silver Dollars for example are much happier (and more attractive) fish in big groups where they have plenty of space to race about. It's best to err on the side of caution, or at least retain the option of rehoming fish once they become too big. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Tank Volume, stkg.  1/4/08 Thanks again Neale, If you don't mind giving me an estimate I would really appreciate it. I have a 75 gallon (measurements 48" long x 18" wide x 18 high. I planned on Corys, angels and Rainbowfish. I know their exact size cannot be determined right now, but if you could please let me know about how many of each would be OK I would appreciate it. I know (at least have heard) that I will be better off with at least 6 angels to all be put in at the same time. Thank you again for your help and advice. James <Hello James. 48 x 18 inches is 864 square inches, so that's your surface area. Divide by ten for each inch of fish, and you have about 86 inches of small fish. Each angelfish is about 4 inches long, and each rainbow 3-6 inches in length depending on the species. Most Corydoras are a couple of inches in length. So let's say six angels (= 24 inches of fish), six Corydoras (= 12 inches of fish), and six Melanotaenia boesemanni at about 4 inches each (= 24 inches of fish). Add all that up, 24 + 12 + 24 and you get 60 inches of fish. That's well under the stocking estimate of 86 inches, but given that these fish are bigger than Neons or guppies, allowing some extra space is now bad thing. Realistically, in a tank with good water current and generous filtration, you can usually keep 50-100% more fish than this estimate suggests, but to start with, this is an excellent way to move forward. Once the fish are settled in you can use your nitrite test kit to check the filter is coping, and your pH test kit to check water chemistry is staying stable. If the fish are breathing normally and have all the right colours and behaviours, you can then add additional fish as you see fit. But as things stand now, with the Corydoras, angels and rainbows, plus perhaps a small algae eater like a Bristlenose Plec, and you're good to go! Cheers, Neale.> 

Tank Community Questions. stkg. 10 gal.   1/3/09 Hello, <Hi there> My name is Mark. I have a 10 gallon freshwater tank. I have 1-Powder Blue Gourami (male), 1-Dwarf Gourami (male), 5 different breeds of guppies - 6 guppies in total (3 male/3 female), 2 - Red Eyed Tetra (both female), 2 - Long Finned Zebra Danios (Both males), 2 - Balloon Belly Mollies (1 male/1 female), 2 - Sunburst Platys (1 male/1 female), and a Pleco. <Mmm... the tetras and Danios are schooling fishes... and the Pleco may become too large (starve) here... many (Sucker-mouth South American catfish) species offered in the hobby get too large for a ten gallon volume. Can you find out what species this is?> Now I have had aquariums in the past, but have never had such a variety in the same tank. The only concern I have is my Powder Blue. He just sits in the upper back left corner, near the filter, all day, but will swim around once the light has gone off at night. He is eating, I know that. Any Ideas? <This species, Colisa lalia, does have health and behavioral problems in excess nowadays... but yours may be acting "normally" here> Also I would like to know if the numbers of each species are sufficient. <Actually... no... For what you list, you really need at least twice the volume, and better, two separate systems of larger size...> I was reading other FAQ's on your site, and read that I should prolly have more Tetras and Danios. <Ahh! Yes> I will soon be upgrading to a 45 gallon tank. Any suggestions as far as different fish that would go along well with what I already have, and would bring some more color to the tank. <I would add to your schooling fish species... when you upgrade... and likely add a group of Corydoras species catfishes for excitement and to keep the bottom stirred a bit> I have no idea how many I can put in a 45G. Also What do you think about live plants, versus artificial? <Some live plant material should be part of all captive freshwater systems... Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/PlantedTksSubWebIndex/plttksovrview.htm and the linked FAQs file above> Any input that you could possibly give me would be greatly appreciated. Thank you. <Glad to share with you Mark. Bob Fenner>

20 Gal Set-up 12/28/08 I think this is way over the limit but I thought I would try anyways. 1 Gold Gourami <Mmm, do keep an eye on this Trichogaster... might become a bully here> 1 Dwarf Gouramis 1 Bristlenose Pleco 2 Upside-down Catfish <Mmm, are social animals...> 3-4 Cherry Barb 4-5 Neons I have two filters and plenty of plants and caves for hiding and such. Think I could pull it off? The tank does not have the fish in it yet. If this set-up is not good, do you have any suggestions. Thanks. <Mmm, I'd likely leave out the Gold Gourami... but otherwise, this mix should work here. Bob Fenner>

Second tank- cycle and stocking questions, 10 gal. FW   12/26/08 Hi, crew! Happy Holidays! <And a festive hello to you, too.> I'm working on plans to set my 10 gallon freshwater aquarium back up and I'm looking for a few quick answers or thoughts. First, my other tank is slightly brackish (for livebearers). What is the best way to acclimate used filter media from that tank for the new tank? <Invariably, the best approach is to "clone" the filter. All filters can lose up to 50% of their biological media without water quality drops. Indeed, many filter manufacturers suggest you replace this much biological filter media every few months to compensate for the fact biological media becomes clogged with silt over time, and however well you rinse it, it never really gets clean, and so doesn't work as well as it did when fresh. So, if you transplant 50% of the biological media from a mature filter to a new filter, you can instantly mature the new filter, assuming the water chemistry and temperature differences are minimal.> Also, I'm struggling to actually choose what I want for livestock. So many choices! <Actually, not that many choices for a 10 gallon system. Things like male Guppies for example shouldn't be kept in tanks this small because of their tendency to be bullying towards one another and aggressive towards the females (being a female Guppy in a 10 gallon tank alongside some male Guppies has got to be a form of torture!). Platies and Swordtails, medium to large Corydoras, most Barbs, most tetras and virtually all cichlids and gouramis would be far too large for a 10 gallon tank. Danios are far too hyperactive for a 10 gallon system. Yes, you could "fit" them in, but no, they wouldn't be happy, and sometimes frustrated Danios become nippy and bullying. When it comes to stocking 10 gallon tanks, the key things are that the fish are small (ideally sub-5 cm in length) and relatively inactive. Good choices including Kuhli loaches, Neons, Cardinals, small gobies such as Peacock Gudgeon, and the "dwarf" Corydoras such as Corydoras hastatus. Do see here for some thoughts: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_5/volume_5_3/stocking.htm I also have a "freshwater reef tank" in a 30 litre system that might be interesting to you: http://homepage.mac.com/nmonks/Projects/freshwaterreef.html The idea is that invertebrates, rather than fish, become the focus.> The only solid plans are low tech, pretty heavily planted with some slate caves. I think I'd like cherry shrimp but only if I can have a few fish too. <Choose the fish carefully; things like Neons, Whiptail cats, Aspidoras catfish, and small gobies and halfbeaks appear to be fine with my Cherry Shrimps.> I'm okay with fish eating the baby shrimp as the local stores don't like to take extras of stock they don't normally carry. I'll have to order the shrimp via internet if I want them. I just want the adults to be safe. Could I have cherry or gold barbs with the shrimp? <Cherry barbs would be fine in a 10 gallon system and shouldn't do any harm to Cherry Shrimps. "Gold Barb" seems to be a name used for at least three different species. Puntius sachsii and Puntius semifasciolatus would be too large, though Puntius gelius would be okay, with the proviso it (like the Cherry Shrimps) actually prefers subtropical not tropical conditions. Puntius gelius is highly attractive though, and works great in quiet tanks, even though it is a bit delicate.> Or what about a honey Gourami, Betta, or flag fish? <Bettas mix fine with Cherry shrimps, but shouldn't be mixed with anything else except perhaps dwarf Corydoras species and Kuhli loaches. Certainly not with anything barb- or tetra-like for fear of nipping or bullying. Likewise, mixing with other labyrinth fish or dwarf cichlids is usually a disaster. Colisa chuna is a difficult species in some ways, but if you can get quality stock and are able to provide excellent water quality, it is viable in 10 gallons. Florida Flagfish would also be good in a 10 gallon tank, but they're subtropical fish, and need lots and lots of algae to colour up properly. They're often kept poorly, hence few people have seen their naturally stunning colours. In a coolish system with Cherry Shrimps and perhaps White Cloud Mountain minnows, they'd be great.> If these aren't good choices, could you give me some ideas? I have to drive an hour to get to a store with decent plants anyway, I can check what that better store has available and do research before a return trip for the fish. My tap water is pH 7.5 and somewhat hard. No livebearers please, I have plenty. :) <Most tropical fish will be fine in moderately hard, basic water. Do always remember: in freshwater fishkeeping, the precise pH doesn't matter, pH stability does; so focus on understanding your local water hardness.> Also, what should I add first, shrimp or fish? Should I get the shrimp first so they can find all the hiding places? <Makes no odds really, but I prefer to add the shrimps and let them settle in for a few weeks. They keep the filter healthy without disturbing the plants, and also help to control initial algae blooms. Once I'm comfortable the filter is working 100% and the shrimps have adjusted to the tank, then I'd start adding any new fish.> Thanks for any advice! Angela <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Second tank- cycle and stocking questions 12/27/08 Thanks very much, Neale! <Most welcome.> I'm thinking I'll get the shrimp first and then hash out which fish I really want afterwards. See, there's still lots of tiny options for me to choose from. Your freshwater reef tank is really fascinating although I've never seen snails for sale other than apples around here. <Apple snails make pretty poor aquarium residents; best avoided. Some retailers sell aquarium snails online; do research and consider this option. Snails ship well.> I'll see what I can find on my trip to get the plants. There's something inherently awesome about a snail-eating snail! <Clea helena is a wonderful little creature!> Angela <Cheers, Neale.>

Need Help - FW stocking-- need to read/research 11/21/08
Dear Sir,
<Miss here... Sara M.>
I have a fish tank of size : 30 x 15 x 15 inches <so, roughly 30g> and the same are having the below mentioned fish :
2 red cap Oranda gold fish
2 silver Oranda gold fish
2 rainbow shark <Adults need a tank of at least 55g and are best to kept solitary-- they tend not to like the company of their own kind.>
2 black gold fish
2 black Ghost knife fish <Absolutely not...these fish need to be in a tank of at least 75g.>
1 shubhamkin <Do you mean Shubunkin?>
2 paradise
2 surphy tetra
2 small gold fish
1 sucker fish and 2 snails
<::sigh:: Please, please, just stop and start reading. Get a book on freshwater community fish... or start reading more on WWM. A simple Google search of any one of these fish could tell you all you need to know. You can't keep 9 goldfish (plus all these other fish) in a 30g tank.>
is this tank ok for all these fish or do I need to go for a bigger one. If yes then what size?
<Maybe you could keep all these fish in a 100g tank. Please shorten your list of fish, or, better yet.... pick different fish.>
I have made this tank as per the space convenience in my room.
<Ok, but now you need to pick fish that will survive in this size tank.>
<Please start reading/researching,
Sara M.>

Corydoras, Blackskirts, no problem yet.... FW stkg.  11/15/08
Good evening,
I have kept Albino Corydoras and Black Skirt tetras for more than half a year in a twelve gallon Eclipse tank with BioWheel filtration. In addition there are two extra old school in the corner box filters (I had them so I guess I thought the bubblier the better, and the occupants do seem to love it).
<Good idea to have/use this not-so-redundant back up/extra filtration/aeration/circulation with Eclipse units>
I used filter media and some water from a tank that has been running for about eight years to get the tank going.
No live plants, just fakes. Everything still seems to be great. Using five-in-one test strips, the water often has no detectable nitrite when I test before doing a weekly water change (I do detect nitrites in other critter tanks before water change, so I don't think they are bad strips as far as strips go anyway.
<Mmm, am not a fan of strip tests... neither precise nor accurate too often. You want/need there to be zero nitrite at all times>
Since being informed on your site I think I will spring for a real test kit after I have used these strips up). I usually remove at least two gallons when I vacuum. The pH is about 6.6 I believe. Heater prevents water from cooling less than
73 F. .I feed them once a day sparingly.
<I'd increase this to twice... the fishes mentioned pretty much search for food all daylight>
I try to be responsible about any creature I care for and do some research beforehand, but I guess I didn't do enough research this time. Apparently the initial information I found placed both of these fishes on the smaller side of their actual growth potential. This was before I discovered and adopted your site and Fishbase.org as my prime references for all aquarium information.
<Is mine for ichthyological>
Fishbase doesn't always say what size aquarium to use for every fish listed. My fish have grown noticeably since I've had them and I have since found lots of contradictory information.
For Black Skirt Tetras I have read:
Peaceful, very peaceful, notorious nippers.
Will grow to 5 cm / 2 inches, 6cm, 3 cm, 1 ½ inches, 6.4 cm
They should never be kept in schools of less then 10 fishes, best kept in groups of three or more, seven is a school, school of five, at least five, six or more
Minimum Tank Size: 10 gallons, 20 gallons, 24 inches, 20 inches
For Albino Corydoras I have read:
Will grow to: 7cm, 8 cm, 5 cm, 7.5 cm, two inches, 5 cm
Should be kept in groups of at least half a dozen, three males to three females, a pair, one male to two females
Minimum tank size: 10 gallons, 30 gallons, 20 gallons, 15 gallons, 24 inches
<I concur... yes, even with the conflicting info.>
My largest Cory is maybe 4 ½ cm at the most and the largest Black Skirt is a little less (includes their tails). Most of the fish are much smaller than these largest ones. In total I have three Corydoras and seven Black Skirts (I added part of these later after quarantining them). They all look very good and I do spend a lot of time watching them. If I have to, now or eventually, put them in a larger aquarium I have thought of two options. I could just get a larger aquarium or I could move the Corydoras into a ten gallon that is currently not set up. I know smaller aquariums are more challenging to maintain, but if they are large enough to meet the demands of the fish I am used to them since I haven't had one larger than twenty gallons in the short nine years I have been in the freshwater hobby. Please guide me in the right direction through the varied information I have encountered so far.
<Mmm, I'd be looking for a larger system to move all to. At least a twenty gallon...>
Also, I am interested in Paradise fish and Dojos but have found extremely contradictory information about minimum tank size and temperature ranges. Are they compatible?
<Yes... both like cooler, slightly hard, alkaline water...>
I am interested in having a fish tank in a part of the house that is NOT kept toasty during winter and gets down into the 50s if no tank heater is used (this area of the house could allow me more flexibility in tank size as well). In the summer it would be in the 70s. I know I could use a heater in the tank, but when our electricity is interrupted I don't want such a big change in temperature to cause a tragedy. Are there ANY inhabitants for the home aquarium that appreciate those kinds of conditions, perhaps crayfish?
<Many natives, other temperament organisms, yes...>
Thank you for the time all of you put into the site. Great information and also entertaining. I find it a joy [well, usually ;-) ] to read about other people's tanks even if I have no intention of ever owning a similar type.
Thank you,
Perplexed Fish Keeper
<Not so PFK in my opinion/experience... Keep learning, sharing. Bob Fenner>

Beginning Aquarist stocking new Freshwater 10 Gallon 11-13-08
<Hello! Hope you are having a great weekend!>
First of all thanks so much for this great online resource! This site trumps pretty much everything I have found online.
<That's great to hear! We appreciate that.>
My roommates and I bought a goldfish a while back to keep in a vase as a centerpiece for our kitchen table. We watched him swim around for a few days, then bought him a plant. Then another goldfish. A few days later, two male Betta fish (which we kept separated from each other), and then a few days later a 10 gallon aquarium. In short we became completely obsessed in about two weeks. The aquarium we bought is the deluxe Aqueon 10 gallon, which comes with a fluorescent light and a filter.
<I hope you put those two goldfish in the 10 gallon, a vase is not a suitable home.>
We added a Fluorite substrate and 5-6 good-sized live plants, let the filter run for a few days, then added a goldfish, again let the filter run for a few days, then added a Betta, then removed the goldfish (lol). Yesterday added a very good quality heater (more wattage than necessary for 10 gallons of water) and since then have maintained the temperature at about 79-80 degrees. The tank looks absolutely incredible, and the Betta is happy as can be, especially since we added the heater. Now I'll get to my question:
<That sounds great! Smart job in adding the Fluorite, your plants are going to take off.>
I've been researching aquariums and fish online pretty much constantly the past couple days, and I have come up with what I think my ideal set-up would be: 4-5 smaller Corys, and 6-8 smaller tetras (neon or cardinal or both, undecided), and the Betta currently in it. Is this too much for a 10 gallon? We've heard it both ways from every site on the web and the guys at the LFS. Also plan on adding a few more small plants as the ones we have are mostly in the back. Does the amount of plant life have a real impact on the amount of ammonia, nitrate, nitrite? I've also heard mixed things about whether or not the fluorite base scratches Cory's stomachs/injures Cory's barbells. Any input at all on this set-up? Should we add tetras or Corys first (after the tank finishes cycling)?
<You might have too many fish in your ideal setup. You could try the 4 Corys and then 6 smaller tetras and that would be it. It is always great to have life plants, they increase water oxygen, help decrease ammonia, nitrates and nitrites but, they won't control it for you. You would have to keep up with water changes and changing the filter. Also, I have heard the same about Corys and hard substrates. But, I have kept Corys with gravel substrate and did not see any hurt tummy's or barbells. Adding the Corys first would be best due to tetras stressing easy. Your setup sounds great; I think you will be happy with it. You are welcome! Merritt A.>
Thanks a lot,

Freshwater stocking advice 11/12/08 Hello again crew, I just wanted to chime in and ask for an opinion on my current livestock. I have a 46 gallon bowfront with an AquaClear 110 utilizing a sponge, EHFI SubstratPro bio media, and a PolyFilter (for a recent phosphate issue I was battling). I hope to eventually replace this with an Eheim Classic 2217 (or maybe just add the Eheim and leave the AC on as well?).  The tank is semi-aggressive and consists of the following: 3 pictus catfish, 1 red-tailed black shark, 15 tiger barbs, 1 albino paradise fish, 1 cichlid (I was given the Latin name for this fish but can never seem to remember it. It resembles, but is not, a ram).  For the most part, the livestock was planned, except for the paradise fish and cichlid which I saw when I walked into a new shop last weekend and "just had to have" (rookie mistake I know). Decor consists of several plastic plants and resin rock. The tank is very active, though everyone seems to be getting along well; the barbs stick together, the shark only gets mean when someone gets too close to "his" rock, the cats mind their own business, the paradise fish hangs out by the surface, and the cichlid roams around most of the tank.  Would you say this is a proper stocking level? Could I safely add a few more fish? Ammonia and nitrite are 0, nitrate hovers around 5ppm. I do 20% water changes at least weekly, typically 2x per week. Thanks again, your site is an invaluable resource. <Hello. I wonder if your new cichlid is Mikrogeophagus altispinosus? Looks a lot like a Ram cichlid (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi) but is a bit bigger, has different colours, and is about a billion times hardier and better suited to community tanks. Anyway, no, your tank isn't overstocked. Provided water quality stays this good, in particular the nitrate staying low, you can perhaps add a few more fish. Do moderate this comment by figuring out what your mystery cichlid is: obviously if it's something huge, like a Severum or Oscar, your tank will get overstocked pretty darn quickly! I'm not a huge fan of hang-on-the-back filters in tanks with medium to large fish or heavily stocked tanks, and you might decide to add a proper (i.e., an external canister) filter to your system in due course. The problem is hang-on-the-back filters suck in water close to where they push it out, so you don't get all that much circulation. Many models tend to be cramped and use specific modules, though the AquaClear ones at least seem to be quite spacious. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: HELP! Numerous sudden fish deaths (stocking Qs) 10/21/08 Hello All! Just writing this to give an update and then a question on moving... <Hello again,> I have recently gotten rid of the 2 angelfish as you suggested and I purchased 3 more dwarf puffers and some live brine shrimp and blackworms ... At that point my original puffer hadn't eaten in 7-8 days. So, To make a long story short immediately after I added the 3 new puffers my original puffer went nuts when I added in the live food and since adding the new puffers he seems a lot more happier and has been eating since then! I've also had 0 deaths which leads me to believe that you were correct when you said that the fish died back so the tank could handle the PH & bio load again. <Cool.> Now on to my next question ... I will be moving in a few months (mid December/January) ... Like stated before I have a 60 gallon long tank ... My fish list is as follows: 3 Bamboo Shrimp 4 Black Neon Tetras 2 Cardinal Tetras 4 Dwarf Golden Puffer 8 Emperor Tetras 2 German Blue Rams 1 Molly fish 10 Neon Tetras <Prefer slightly cooler water than most "tropicals", 22-25 C, and in part this explains why a lot of people fail to keep them alive for long.> 2 Swordtails <Males highly aggressive, so be careful here...> 2 Sunburst Platys <Platies and Swordtails best kept in trios: one male, two females, and multiples thereof.> 2 Tuxedo Platys <I'm not wild about Mollies in mixed tanks because of their need for slightly brackish water to do well. So I'd veto that idea. I'd also be extremely dubious about German Blue Rams: these need very warm, soft, acidic water to do well and mix poorly with standard community fish because of it. Most specimens die within months. I suspect a lot of them are "juiced" with antibiotics and colour enhancers prior to sale, and once they leave the fish farm, they steadily lose health. If you want a sturdy, low-maintenance dwarf cichlid for the community tank, the standout species is Mikrogeophagus altispinosus, the Bolivian Ram. It's easy to keep and very reliable. All this said, do remember Dwarf Puffers don't mix well with other fish for the most part.> My plan was to put all the fish in a Styrofoam "cooler", put my filter media in a plastic bag with water, and leave the gravel in the tank with enough water to barely cover the gravel so the bacteria doesn't die off. <Should work.> I am moving about 5 min from my current residence. And then immediately setting up my tank as soon as it arrives to my new home. Would this be a feasible plan bc I would like keep everything as easy and uncomplicated as possible w/o killing off the bacteria so I wouldn't have to cycle my tank again considering the amount of livestock I have in my tank. <Sounds a good plan. Provided filter media doesn't get dry, and so long as the water is open to the air, the bacteria should be fine for quite length periods, a good couple of hours, at least. Try to avoid dramatic changes in temperature though, so if it's real cold outside, bundle the bucket up during transit to keep the water warm.> Thanks again for all your help! -Nick- <Cheers, Neale.>

Aquarium... FW, set up... stkg.   9/26/08
I realize that I haven't done my homework before putting my aquarium together. Sad.
<Oh dear.>
I did read an aquarium book, but most books don't provide enough information on freshwater fish and tanks.
<Don't agree with this at all; any half-way decent aquarium book will cover the essentials on water quality, water chemistry, and stock selection.>
Anyway, glad I came across your website.
I already have a 60 gallon tank with a Rena Filstar xP2 external canister filter with 300 GPH flow rate. I cycled the water with the filter on and no bacteria x 1-2 weeks. Bad.
<You can't cycle a tank without a source of ammonia. An empty tank with a filter is just water sloshing about. Nothing much happens. Might look pretty, but that's about it. The tank won't begin to cycle until there's some ammonia for the bacteria to "eat", and that means either adding livestock (a few, carefully chosen fish for example) or more humanely by adding an inorganic (or at least non-living) source of ammonia.>
Natural color gravel substrate. Added aquarium salt which I have read on your FAQs that it's not needed at all -- will not make that mistake again.
<Salt only helps in specific situations, and shouldn't be added for no reason.>
I've had fish in the tank 4 Neons, 2 cardinals, 3 guppies, and 2 Mickey mouse platy x 2 weeks.
<These fish have much different requirements, not to mention the fact you're overlooking social behaviour. Neons and Cardinals are both schooling fish: keeping less than six of either is cruel. Simple as that. You might not care, but the fish certainly do! Next up, Neons need relatively cool water, around 22-25 C, whereas Cardinals need warmer water, 26-28 C. So any conditions acceptable for the one will stress the other, the result being illness and premature death. Finally, whereas Platies and Guppies need hard, basic water, Neons and Cardinals want soft and acidic water. The latter species especially rarely does well for long in hard water. So again, anything that suits some of these fish will be stressing the others. You absolutely cannot randomly add fish to a system and hope they'll get along. Imagine a zoo that randomly placed polar bears, lions, frogs and peacocks all in the same enclosure. Obviously wouldn't work -- so why expect it to work with fish? Aquarium shops exist to sell fish, and assume the purchaser knows precisely what they're buying. Unfortunately, many shops don't provide "gentle reminders" at time of purchase so that newbie hobbyists can be dissuaded from bad choices. A cynic would make the point that a lot of purchasers don't care, and are happy to replace "cheap" fish every few months, and that approach is profitable for the retailer. Over here at WWM we take the other view, that pet fish should be given a fair chance of survival in captivity. And that means telling people (again and again) to research the needs of their fish PRIOR to purchase.>
Recently, the red MM platy died.
<Will be the first of many...>
Found a bunch of bubbles on the surface a couple days before it died. What do you think happened?
<Uncycled tank, too many fish, no information here about either water quality or chemistry, so could be a variety of entirely avoidable blunders on your part.>
I got another MM platy, 2 dwarf gouramis -- which I am reading will eventually end up dying from disease, and a black Molly.
<You're not supposed to add new fish until you've established why the last ones died.>
Not a good combination -- I found out. So my question is, what should I do with the set up I already have?
<Read, learn, make decisions.>
I will continue to just add freshwater with the water changes to get rid of the salt. But then what of molly? Which way do I need to go? Return the molly and get rid of the salt?
<What's your water chemistry? If it's hard and basic, the Molly may be fine, and adding a small amount of marine salt mix (say, 3-6 grammes per litre) will not harm the Platies or Guppies. It will stress the Neons, Cardinals and Gouramis though. As I say, you need to determine water chemistry, and then choose your fish. There's no "happy medium" any more than there's a happy medium for both penguins and ostriches. Different needs entirely.>
Will my dwarf gouramis get sick faster with the salt?
<Certainly won't help.>
Right now, all the fish are thriving well together, but I don't want a ticking bomb.
<Too late... the selection of fish you have is, let us say, unwise. You haven't cycled the tank, so the next few weeks will be very dicey unless you're regularly doing water changes (by which I mean something like 25% every couple of days) until the ammonia/nitrite levels stay at zero. Cycling with fish takes 4-6 weeks, and things can get worse before they get better. So do your water tests, do water changes, and observe.>
Also, do I have enough circulation and water movement with the filter system that I don't need an air bubbler?
<You're fine as you are.>
What's a good cooling system to purchase? I live in Southern California, and the house can get pretty warm when we are gone for the weekend.
<Neons and Platies do not like temperatures above 25 C, and ideally around 23-24 C. Cardinals, Guppies, Gouramis and Mollies thrive at up to 30 C, so they're less fussed.>
How much fish can I add?
<Don't even think about asking this question until the tank is cycled. Concentrate on removing inappropriate stock, and concentrating on fish that match the water chemistry you have. Then review social behaviour. Livebearers need to be in groups where the females outnumber the males, or you get bullying problems, so that's one factor. Tetras need to be in large groups to thrive. And so on. With very small fish (such as Neons) the "inch per gallon" rule isn't a bad guideline, but whatever you do, go slowly, adding a few fish each month, using your Nitrite test kit to check the filter has adapted to the higher workload.>
I want to add 4 more Neons to have a total of 10 neon/cardinal tetras. I read that they are happiest with 10. Is that true?
<They're happiest in groups of 100+, but 12 will do nicely, though 20 is better in terms of visual impact. These small tetras look prettiest in big groups because they "swarm" nicely, moving in sync around the tank. In smaller groups they just hang about at random, and are rather boring.>
If my dwarf gouramis die, are there any pretty/fancy fish similar to the gouramis that will live peacefully with the fish I already have?
<Depends on what your water chemistry is. If you have hard, basic water, then your choices will be different to soft, acid water. If your water isn't too hard, then Colisa fasciatus and Colisa labiosa are both hardy, peaceful gouramis that are easy to keep. There are other gouramis in the trade, such as gold or blue three-spot Gouramis, Trichogaster trichopterus, but these have distinct drawbacks in one way or another. Three-spots tend to be aggressive, and can make very poor community fish, despite being widely sold as stuff. Anyway, what you're asking about has been covered many times here at WWM; please do review these articles and the FAQs linked from them:
Can I add 2-3 other colorful fish to my aquarium since the filter system is pretty good? Is the water change recommendation still weekly?
<Cheers, Neale.>
Question about nasty Chinese Algae Eaters!   8/11/08 Hi there, <Megan,> I recently bought a 28 gallon tank from my neighbour. Excited to get started, I went and bought myself six guppies (who now have babies! Woohoo!), six neon tetras, two small gouramis, <Colisa lalia by any chance? Do read my writings on this species elsewhere on WWM -- extremely poor quality stock in the trade, and serious problems with viral diseases mean that you must choose your specimens with the utmost care.> and four barbs. <And what, pray tell, are these Barbs? Do be aware that many barbs (e.g., Tiger Barbs) are notorious fin nippers when kept in too small a group (realistically less than a dozen) and your Fancy Guppies will be mincemeat once they get started.> I have live plants in my tank and I bought one algae eater to begin with. <If this is Gyrinocheilus aymonieri, this is too large for your tank (up to 35 cm/14") and extremely aggressive.> After a couple days I thought my algae eater was looking a little lonely. <They don't get lonely. They are territorial. Please be extremely careful about transposing human feelings onto animals. This path leads to all kinds of problems! Instead, research the animal and then act accordingly. Trying to cater to an animals social needs is absolutely the right thing to do. But those needs are not necessarily the same as ours. In fact they very rarely are.> I don't know much about algae eaters but I thought, what the heck? I went to the pet store and got three more of what I thought were the same type. A couple days later, my neighbour came over to visit and made a terrible discovery - I'd purchased three Chinese algae eaters. <Oh dear, yes, this is Gyrinocheilus aymonieri, possibly the single worst commonly traded fish in the hobby.> Now, one of them is growing rapidly and becoming very aggressive. The other two are growing, but not as fast. My neighbour seems to think the fourth algae eater (my original one) is of the same family, but we can't find it in books anywhere. It's almost albino looking - pale in colour and other than that, very similar looking to a Chinese algae eater. <Likely the "Golden" morph. If it has the same shape and look, but is just sort of yellowy-pink, that's the beast. Gyrinocheilus aymonieri also have very distinctive gill covers, with small holes at the top that allow the fish to breath in and out through the gills. As you probably know, most other fish breath in through the mouth, and out through the gills.> The pale algae eater isn't growing nearly as fast, however. I don't know what to do with them, so I want to know if you have any suggestions. I've tried just giving them to people, but no one seems to want them, and I can understand why! <Yep.> I can't bring myself to kill them unless it's completely pain free, and I've noticed on your website there are a couple different ways of doing so. <If in doubt, consult a vet. With large fish, the simple methods recommended for use with Neons and the like may be inappropriate. Large fish will need to be sedated first, then destroyed.> But before I take that route, I want to know if there is anything else I can do, and if you can give me any more information on them. <These are actually acceptable fish in certain situations, e.g., big cichlid tanks. They really need systems 750 litres/200 gallons upwards, where they are dynamic and attractive fish. So if you've called the local tropical fish shops and they won't take them, try joining some tropical fish forums and bulletin boards, and advertising on their "trade/swap/freebie" sections.> I really don't want them hurting my fish, especially my beautiful little gouramis who are peaceful. <Indeed.> Any help would be appreciated! Thanks Megan <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Question about nasty Chinese Algae Eaters!   8/11/08 Hello again! <Hail and well met.> Okay, so instead of trying to explain visually what everything looked like for proper identification, I decided to send pictures... probably would have been a smart move in the first place eh? <Right, the golden barb is Puntius sachsii, a species that gets to about 8 cm/3" in length. Like all barbs its sociable, so the more you have, the less likely it is to cause problems. But this isn't a particularly nippy species and with luck you should be okay. The algae eater and the golden algae eater are both Gyrinocheilus aymonieri, the big, nasty bruiser I was talking about last time around. The gouramis are Colisa lalia, in my opinion and utter waste of money. You appear to have two males, one of the "Red" variety and one of "Powder Blue" variety. Same species, same problems. I'm not saying they're bound to die after a short miserable life, but a lot of the do. Do a Google search for 'Dwarf Gourami Iridovirus' to learn more.> Thanks for the information on my algae eaters. I hate it that pet stores employ people with little or no knowledge about the species they're giving you. I asked specifically for two small, calm algae eaters. I assumed even though I didn't know much about them, the people they had working there probably would. I recall the girl giving me a confused face and then saying "Oh, yeah, these are what you want then!" <Agreed. Problem is that people often buy fish without researching them, going by price/colour first, and provided there's a market, retailers will stock them.> Note to self: Just because the fish is small at the time it's bought, doesn't mean it can't grow to over a foot long. And, also, those Chinese algae eaters don't look any different then an ugly old trout when they grow up. <They're not ugly fish when they're grown up. They're rather handsomely marked. But they certainly aren't community tank fish.> I forgot to mention that I only asked for two and received a little freebie in my bag - bringing me to three plus one mystery fish. <The photo labeled "Mystery Guy" is a golden morph of Gyrinocheilus aymonieri. The same species as the fish labeled "Evil". Notice how I use Latin names? Avoids all complications because this way everyone knows precisely what fish is being discussed. While you might think using Latin names is awkward, it actually dramatically simplifies fish shop shopping.> Argh. <Quite.> Anyways, I am going to call the pet store today and see if they will take them off my hands. And your idea about the forums was a great one! So I guess my next question would be what can I get to replace them that's going to be calm and friendly and preferably not cost me my next month's rent? <If you want small algae eaters, then the safest bets are Nerite snails (harmless, don't breed, don't damage plants); Cherry Shrimps (colourful, small, but will be killed by fish medications, as will snails by the way); and Bristlenose Cats (Ancistrus spp.).> I have attached a couple pictures. One of my gouramis, my barbs and my mystery algae eater. Thanks for your advice, it's all really useful! <Cool.> (PS - I am a sucker for placing human attributes on animals - I'm constantly thinking "oh, he looks so lonely!", when in fact the fish would rather be alone and I just assume it needs "friends".) <Note I'm not saying animals don't have feelings or don't like people. Animals surely do have feelings, just not the same ones as ours. Likewise many animals enjoy human company. Goldfish for example positively thrive when looked after well and attentively, as do most cichlids and pufferfish. Cheers, Neale.>

Fish Compatibility... FW   8/5/08 Hello! Love the site, tons of information! After reading over everything, I still have a couple of questions if you'd be so kind as to give me some advice. I have a 55-gallon, medium-planted with live plants, lots of caves and dark spots. I have one Whisper Powerfilter60 and an air stone, the temperature stays around 78-80 at all times, and it's been up and running for about a month. I currently have only a 6" Senegal Bichir, a 4" Raphael Striped Catfish, a 4" Blue Crayfish, and several mystery snails of varying sizes. Questions: 1. Should I leave the aquarium light on all day for the plants, or can they get by on filtered window sunlight? <Can work with sunlight, but don't bank on it. To get enough sunlight the tank needs to be right by the glass, and that means water temperature will go up dramatically. Fine in some instances, but not others. Moreover, the plants will tend to grow out of the tank, and the leaves underwater will basically die off. This is what most aquarium plants would do in the wild for at least part of the year. Again, fine if that's the sort of tank you're after (I have one just like this on an east-facing windowsill) but not at all viable for the average community tank.> I don't want to promote algae growth but I want healthy plants. <Sunlight = lots of algae. Again, great if you're after that... the livebearers in my windowsill love it. But not to everyone's taste.> I have a bottle of Flourish that I put a capful of into the tank a couple of times a month...but I recently added more plants (replaced all plastic with live) and I don't want them to die on me so I'd like to make sure everything is set up right for them. I only have about 1" of gravel on the bottom, and they are all weighted down well. <Need more substrate than this. If you're even half interested in growing aquarium plants you have to accept their needs. Would garden plants grow in an inch of plain driveway gravel? Of course not. Nor do aquarium plants. They need at least 5 cm of substrate, and that should be a mix of something nutritious (I use aquatic soil, but there are lots of options) with maybe sand topped off with fine gravel for looks.> Does the Flourish add the nutrients the plants need, or will they also need supplements of iron or potassium? <No idea about this brand; not one I use or see here in England. Read the label/instructions; consult manufacturers web site.> 2. I want to get more fish for the mid-top level of my tank, some active and interesting critters. The bichir I have leaves everyone alone and the crayfish has bursts of busy scavenging followed by long periods in his cave that he defends readily against the curious bichir. <Don't bank on this peace holding forever. Crayfish are no more friendly towards fish than wolves are to buffalo. Sooner or later...> The catfish I've had for years and it doesn't grow and doesn't appear to eat, but it's still alive. <The fate of most catfish unfortunately. What he wants is essentially a mixed diet containing catfish pellets, algae wafers, frozen bloodworms, chopped seafood, and maybe even a few small snails.> I saw on your site that they are social and are unhappy alone, but I cannot for the life of me find another in my area or online so it's doomed to solitude at this point (sadly). It stays in it's chosen cave all the time as far as I can tell, but somehow it's still alive! What would be compatible with these guys? <I'd honestly wait until another Platydoras costatus comes along. They are very commonly traded, but as with most South American wild-caught fish they're seasonal, and appear round about September. Any half decent aquarium shop can place an order for you.> I would like a Black Ghostfish, some Gouramis (how many, sizes, colors, etc?), and maybe something else but I'd like your advice on that. <Your tank is too small for Apteronotus albifrons, and that's also a difficult fish to maintain and feed -- the vast majority die swiftly in captivity. As for Gouramis, I'm fond of Trichogaster leeri, Trichogaster microlepis, Colisa labiosus, and Colisa fasciata as all be hardy, non-aggressive and easy to keep, which is more than can be said for most of the other species offered.> 3. Do I need more or better filtration for my tank? The Whisper60 seems to work fine, but I haven't had the tank long enough to know for sure and I'd like to avoid fish loss or excessive algae growth or murky water (obviously). <My recommendation for a standard community tank is at least 4 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour, and ideally 6 times. So check the "gallons per hour" rating on your filter and compare with your tank.> 4. Any other suggestions about any aspect of my tank would be greatly appreciated!!! Thank you!!!! <Suspect you will need to re-jig the substrate and almost certain double the lighting to get decent plant growth (you need at least 2 watts per gallon lighting).> Lyssa <Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>

A fish no one knows about  7/18/08 Hello. I'm Samie. I'm 16. I can take care a lot of different fish, but I seem to have an eye for trouble makers. <Oh?> I have a 10 gallon tank. It has been set up since January. My pH is 7. Ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate are all at 0. I have drift wood and 1 small plant. <All sounds fine, but do bear in mind that 10 gallons is really too small for the fish you have chosen, and long term are likely to have problems. Because 10 and 20 gallon tanks have almost the same footprint and cost almost the same amount of money, I always recommend people go with 20 gallons when starting out.> The fish I have are tetras (2 white skirts, 1 rosy, and 3 x-rays) Ghost Shrimp, and Balloon Body Gold Ram. <Ah, now these fish aren't compatible. White Skirt tetras are albino Gymnocorymbus ternetzi, a notorious fin-nipper and going to get quite large, about 5 cm long. Rosy Barbs (what I assume the "rosy" is) are Puntius conchonius, a subtropical species able to get to 14 cm and so obviously way too big for your tank. The long-fin version will also be vulnerable to fin nippers. X-Ray Tetras are Pristella maxillaris, a superb species, but in my opinion slightly too big for a 10 gallon tank. All these fish are schooling species, and MUST be kept in groups of 6 or more if they are to be happy. Keeping them in the numbers you have may be convenient to you, but it is intensely stressful for the fish, and long term they may exhibit aberrant social behaviours, such as shyness, fin-nipping, or chasing.> My problem is, no matter how many people I ask, no one seems to know how to help me. <We'll do our best...> My Balloon Body Gold Ram is not eating. <Likely too cold, wrong water chemistry. Mikrogeophagus ramirezi can ONLY be maintained in very warm (28-30 degrees C), very soft (less than 10 degrees dH), very acidic (pH 5-6) water conditions. None of your other fish will tolerate this, and some, like the Rosy Barb and the Shrimp will be quickly killed by such conditions. Mikrogeophagus ramirezi is simply NOT a community fish, and the majority of specimens die within months when put into community systems. Specifically, when kept too cold and too hard water their immune system is suppressed, and they become prone to diseases such as Hexamita and Hole-in-the-Head.> ?? I have tries frozen foods. Micro Pellets. Betta pellets, Betta flakes, tropical flakes, and he/she won't eat. <Likely sick, dying.> He/she has a red spot on he back. So I started treating him with MelaFix. Since it's been only 1 day. <Could be Finrot, another opportunistic infection that affects fish when they are stressed by a poor environment. So this is consistent with my analysis.> There is no change yet. <There won't be. Firstly Melafix may be cheap but it isn't effective so serves no useful purpose except perhaps as a preventative. Once fish get sick, you need more useful medications like eSHa 2000 (in Europe) or Maracyn (in the US).> If know anything about this fish. <Much information in cichlid books; look up Mikrogeophagus ramirezi. Widely kept, bred and so the basics for its care are very well known. It's a shame retailers don't tell people what they need PRIOR to purchase. Underlines our mantra here that you should always RESEARCH a species BEFORE buying it.> Why he/she won't eat. <Wrong environment. Doomed.> or even if it guy or a girl. <Difficult to sex, but males tend to have longer dorsal fin rays.> Please help me out. <Have certainly tried.> <Cheers, Neale.>

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