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FAQs on Freshwater Livestocking 4

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 Livestocking 5, FW Livestocking 6, FW Livestocking 7, FW Livestocking 8, FW Livestocking 9, FW Livestocking 10, FW Livestocking 11, & Stocking Small Systems, & FAQs on: Freshwater Livestock SelectionCommunity Tank Livestocking,

Know what you're buying, its habits, temperament... before purchasing. Butis butis here... a Sleeper... till it's hungry!

New Tank Problems Debating the Next Step... FW... mis-mix, new tank, ammonia...    9/9/07 Hello. I've done quite a bit of research in these last two weeks and have found your site to be the most informative and hopefully helpful. Our situation is probably not an uncommon one, but knowing that doesn't make it any less stressful. Two weeks ago my husband decided to invest major money in a 20 gallon aquarium. Of course since he had kept a few goldfish alive in a small tank years ago, he thought he knew what he was doing. I tried to research, but he didn't give me any time. He bought the tank and set it up on a Saturday night. He wanted to get fish 24 hours later and I tried to convince him to wait but the most he would wait was 48 hours. <Mmmm, hmm> During that time I researched the fish he wanted to get and found out that they were cichlids who would need a larger tank or to be an only child virtually. This did not jive with his idea of a tank full of pretty fish so without consulting me he decided to change to buying what he thought would be smaller more peaceful fish, and he bought 9! Mistake number one over stocked tank. Mistake number two, too many fish introduced at once. Mistake number 3 fish that didn't necessarily go together, <Yikes!> 2 Kissing Gouramis, 2 Tiger Barbs (which I discovered need to be in a larger group to get along well and not stress out each other or others) 2 Silver Dollars, 1 Bala Shark, 1 Albino Rainbow Shark and 1 Silver Tip catfish. <Some mix now! The last fish isn't even freshwater...> We then proceeded to Mistake number 4 overfeeding, he fed them everyday and probably more than he should have. Mistake number 5 was probably the wrong testing kit. Although he wouldn't listen to me and anything I found out on the web, he completely believed the LFS people. They sold him a little testing strip kit, <Notoriously inaccurate, imprecise> and although we read about the nitrogen cycle in the tank info, and knew we had to test for ammonia, since ammonia wasn't listed on the test strip we assumed that the PH and ammonia must be the same thing. Not once did the LFS people mention ammonia or testing for it. <Dismal> For several days the fish seemed okay, and according to the little strip nitrate and nitrite were okay and PH was 6.5. We did do a small water change and added the conditioner again on day 4 and all was fine. Then we began to notice the one Tiger Barb constantly bullying the other to the point of him hiding and shaking. The gouramis also seemed occasionally stressed by this fast aggressive little guy. Finally we started seeing little white spots on the gouramis and dollars and the more aggressive barb started floating funny so we removed him for a day or so and treated him with Melafix, <...> which perked him right up. I researched the spots and discovered it was ICH so we bought copper safe <!> and dosed the tank once but had to remove the filter so that the medication would absorb. During the removal of filter for the first time it ripped. Have you noticed I've stopped counting mistakes at this point. <Yes... and I must commend you... for being so level-headed and such a good recounting> The white spots did seem to fall off the fish but in my reading I knew that we needed to continue to treat the new water we added for up to a month and to raise the temp to 82 to shorten the cycle of the ICH and catch it at it's most vulnerable. Since we were treating the ICH and Mr. Barb seemed better we added him back to tank. The next day though (this is by now day 8) we noticed the water started getting murky. <Cycling...> We weren't sure if it was the treatment we added or no filter to keep things moving or the natural cycling process. We then noticed the fish sitting on the bottom from time to time not moving much. However the apparently ineffectual little strips we had from the pet store kept telling us that the nitrate and nitrite were zero and the PH was in normal 6.5 range. We did a small water change and decided to not add any more CopperSafe just in case that was the problem. <Has to be tested for (copper) to prevent poisoning from overexposure> We also added the filter back but had to replace the pad that had ripped (Mistake Number ???) because there went any good ammonia eating bacteria we might have accumulated. At this point my husband actually started asking me to see if I could find out what was wrong. <Yay!> Apparently research could have a use after all. The fish were starting to gasp, alternating between laying on the bottom and hovering under the surface. With some more research I found from some helpful people that the ammonia was probably our biggest problem. ICH could be worried about later but the ammonia would kill our fish quick. This person finally informed us that the PH and ammonia are NOT the same thing and we needed a separate kit, all of $5.00. We bought this kit the evening of day 11 and found our ammonia was halfway up the chart on 1 By this time our fish were really gasping, even our catfish and Bala were swimming funny when they had seemed the least affected. On this site I found a recommendation to do a huge water change so my husband did that and also siphoned some of the gravel as he had just bought a siphon for the first time as well. That's when he could really see the amount of waste and food that was contributing to our ammonia. He also added AmmoLock to the water as well as the conditioner this time. The fish perked up a little, but within a few hours were listless again. However it was late at night and I was gone out of the house, so he didn't do another check like I would have suggested. When I got home at midnight I thought I would ask him about it in the morning and he would tell me he had done another check, and then I would have him do another water change. However, when I woke up he had gone to play golf. I also discovered one of the fish was missing, which, when he returned from golf he told me was due to a power outage we had in the middle of the night. He things the albino made his way near the filter when it was turned off and somehow got out of the top because he was on the floor this morning. With him gone and no information I did a test myself and found ammonia still at .50, and the fish were gasping, so I did a 30 percent change adding the conditioner and AmmoLock. Two hours later they weren't looking any better. Ammonia still said .50 so I attempted a 50 percent change. Then he came home. I told him that I had done a 50 percent change but he thought I meant that morning, so about 2 hours later, while I was gone, he did a 50 percent change. I think all of this change and the ammonia finally drove the fish over the edge, because within 2 hours of this last change, the 2 dollars, the Bala, the catfish, and one Barb all lost the fight. The 2 gouramis and remaining barb didn't look so well either so he removed them for awhile and decided to do another big water r change, still with the AmmoLock and conditioner, and clean the gravel really well. He then waited and checked the ammonia and it was down to .25. I did finally buy a separate nitrite kit so will test that too instead of believing the zero the little strip test tells me. So now for the questions............. Do we put the 2 gouramis and one barb back (even though they are iffy)? <Mmm, can... I would... along with a fresh pack of a product called BioSpira...> Do we try to continue to cycle with this tank as is if even one fish makes it and then let it go for a good solid 6 weeks before we even think about adding another fish as we should have done originally? <Likely a good routine> If all fish die do we put a new fish in immediately to keep the tank cycling or do we not subject any fish to this crazy toxic tank and clean it our and start fresh? <Perhaps the latter would/will be best for peace of mind> Thank you for reading this novel. This aquarium was not my choice, and if it had been or if I had been able to have any input, I would have thoroughly prepared ahead of time and hopefully sidestepped most of these mistakes. But either way, I can't stand to see a living creature suffering and I really don't want to waste such a huge investment financially and emotionally. Any help is greatly appreciated. Rea <Your husband... and the aquatic livestock in both your care is indeed fortunate to have someone as yourself... Intelligent, curious and caring... to look out for their welfare. Unfortunately by the time you discovered the ammonia issue (to be expected) in this small, crowded, ich-infested, mis-stocked mess... doing water changes to dilute the metabolite also forestalled/forestalls the establishment of cycling... Do please keep reading, culturing that husband... and put together a more sustainable mix going forward. Bob Fenner>

New 38 gallon freshwater setup  8/3/07 Hi! <Ave,> I am a new reader on your site, and so far it has been invaluable! I am so glad that I have found help. I had a 16 gallon (high) aquarium with a Penguin 150, 75 watt heater. I since moved up to a 38 gallon (was told it was 30 but I did the math, and it's a 38 gallon) setup with a 200 watt heater. I got antsy and transferred my fish over in about 48 hours. Before I found your site, I had decided to use the Penguin 150, so that I would get the benefits of the bio wheel that had been used in the other tank. Now, I realize that it's too weak for this tank and am going to need to move up to the next size! Is there a best way of going about this? <Not really. Just buy another filter and add it to the tank. Two filters are better than one. Most people don't have enough filtration. You want turnover equivalent to around 4x to 6x the volume of the aquarium per hour. So a 38 gallon tank needs turnover ~160 to ~240 gallons per hour. The Penguin filter has a nominal turnover of 150 g/h, with real world turnover going to be a bit less than that because the filter media itself impedes water flow. So adding another filter of similar size to the system will work nicely, giving you good water quality and lots of water current. With rainbows and barbs, this water current is important, because it allows these fish to exercise themselves.> My old fish (4 black neon tetras, 2 neon tetras, 1 Australian Rainbowfish, 2 other tetras which I cannot remember the type and one that I believe to be some type of barb, but I cannot figure it out (about 1 inch in length!) seem very happy in the new setup and are doing well. I wanted to add some fish to the tank, but just realized through research that the Rainbowfish should be in a larger tank!! <What matters with rainbows is [a] water current and [b] swimming space. I wouldn't keep the standard species in anything less than 1 metre long aquarium, and ideally something even longer. They're active fish, and like room to play.> He's about two inches in length now and have had him for over a year. I did have two, but lost one to a suicide (wedged behind the heater a few months back). <Fish don't commit suicide. Fishkeepers do dumb things, and the fish dies as a result. So let's rewind a little. If a fish gets stuck behind the heater, then either place the heater inside the filter (not possible in your case, I don't think) or fit a heater guard to the heater to keep fish away. Heater guards are cheap plastic cages that go around the heater. Some heaters come with them anyway.> I wanted to add some Boesemanni Rainbows, but now I am questioning it. If I add a few, am I going to overload the tank? <I don't think your tank is overloaded in terms of water quality, but the volume of the tank isn't the critical factor here, tank length is. If your tank is less than 1 metre long, then no, Rainbowfish probably aren't a very good choice. Adult Boesemanni get to around 10 cm long, so you're talking about a fish with the bulk of an angelfish but the high speed of a Danio.> I really love the rainbows. <Look at Melanotaenia praecox, the "dwarf" neon rainbow; this is a beautiful fish, but at half the size of the standard species it's easy to accommodate in relatively small tanks. It's a beautiful fish and quite widely traded.> The other fish that I have (other than the rainbow) have been with me for about 4 years now! What can you suggest as an addition to the tank that would suit? <There's so many fish that could work well. Puntius pentazona (5-banded barbs), bleeding heart tetras, glassfish, platies, Danios, and Corydoras are all examples of fishes the right size for your aquarium.> I don't have it planted, but I am considering doing so. Right now I just have some rocks, small gravel on the bottom and a few fake plants. <Research plants carefully; while they can look amazing and do a good job of killing off algae, they require an investment in lights and substrate that not everyone is prepared to make. Inadequate lighting especially is the deal-breaker. Under poor conditions, plants are a waste of money.> Also, I do not have an air stone in there (from lack of knowing how to use it) so I am wondering if I should add it. <Air stones aren't magical and aren't vital. All they do is improve water circulation. Despite the bubbles, they don't "pump in" oxygen any better than a strong filter splashing the surface of the water does.> I started the larger tank for my two year old daughter to enjoy. she has a brain tumor and her speech is delayed and it has really helped her open up since I got this new tank started. It really gets her talking, so I want to keep it as colorful as possible! <Ah yes, fish tank therapy. I'd perhaps buy or borrow an aquarium book, and maybe flip through the pages with her, talking through the options. Let her get involved with the choosing of the fish. Relate to her the factors involved so she can empathise with the fish and make judgment calls accordingly. So discuss water chemistry, size, social behaviour, need for friends of the same species, and so on. One thing all children like is to see baby fish, so perhaps choosing a livebearing species, I'd recommend platies, and then use your old tank to rear the babies safely away from predators. Over the weeks and months, it's rewarding for children to see the baby fish grow.> Thanks for any help you can give! <I hope this helps!> Christen in PA <Neale in Berkhamsted, UK>

Kissing Gourami and Mono Sebae problem... Oh yes   7/27/07 Hello, I have a 75 gallon tank with two neon tetras a Serpae tetra a scissor tail two Monodactylus Sebaes and a kissing Gourami. they all get along fine but the two mono Sebaes and the kissing Gourami. the mono Sebaes don't seem to attack him because they don't chase him or bother him when he feeds but every so often if there real close to each other the Monos Sebaes like pick at him once or twice on the body then leave him alone. But sometimes they don't pick at him when there next to each other. there is no damage being done. Is this something to be concerned about because its not like they chase him around the tank or continuously pick at him, or bite his fins its only maybe a pick or two the he swims away or they leave him be. Thank you Jason <Jason, you have one of the oddest collections of fish I've come across. Traditionally (i.e., when kept properly) tetras are kept in groups, not singletons. Neons are very nervous when kept singly or in very small groups. Really, for the Neons, Serpae tetras, and Scissortail Rasboras these should all be kept in groups of 6 or more. Ideally more. Serpae tetras as I'm sure you know are only marginally suitable for community tanks because they are inveterate fin-nippers, and generally don't work well with slow moving things like gouramis. Now, your BIG problem here is that Monodactylus sebae isn't a freshwater fish. It wants a TOTALLY different environment to your tetras. As with all members of the genus Monodactylus, these fish are migratory and swim between freshwater and the sea their entire lives. In the aquarium, they are kept either in a medium-salinity brackish water tank (around SG 1.010) or else in a fully marine environment with marine fishes. In a freshwater tank they are apt to be disease prone and generally do not do well. It's a shame you didn't research this fish before buying it, otherwise you wouldn't have added it to this aquarium. Anyway, in terms of behaviour Monodactylus are semi-aggressive when kept in small numbers, and what they're doing is entirely normal. Ideally, transfer to a brackish or marine aquarium and add at least 4 more specimens. Alternatively, mix them with robust brackish water fishes like scats, Monos, and Colombian shark catfish. Hope this helps, Neale.>
Re: Kissing Gourami and Mono Sebae problem  7/27/07
Yes, well I tested my salinity and it shows to be 1.006 and I have researched and learned there are a few river opening to the ocean where brackish fish live that are about 1.005-1.008 but I am just wondering if I should remove my kissing Gourami or are they fine together none of the other fish tend to mind the salinity increase at all they tend to look healthier and eat more. thank you, Jason <Hello Jason. For real, you have neon tetras at SG 1.006? I'd never have believed that possible or even worth trying. While there are some tetras that occur in slightly brackish water (Pristella maxillaris for example) neon tetras aren't among them. Neons normally live in water with a very acidic pH (around 6.0 and almost no hardness. I'm actually surprised the serpae tetras and the Scissortails are alive, too. This is so far from the environment they prefer that I really can't recommend you continue keeping them under such conditions. Long term its unlikely to work out. It's placing an stress on the osmoregulation systems of these fish that you could do without. Now, as for your research: almost by definition brackish water occurs where rivers meet the ocean. (There are some exceptions where brackish waters occur far from the ocean, like the Caspian Sea for example, but we'll let that pass for now.) The only honest recommendation I can make is that the Monodactylus be given a brackish water aquarium and the freshwater fishes (everything else) be moved to their own freshwater aquarium. Your tetras, Scissortails, and Gourami want something like pH 7.0, low to medium hardness; the Monodactylus want pH 8.0, high hardness, and SG 1.010. There's really no "happy medium" they both will do well at, not in the long term. Bear in mind Neons live something like 4 years, and gouramis anything up to 10 years, so you need to plan ahead. Please have a read through the brackish water articles here at WWM, or better yet, go buy my book! There are so man y really cool brackish water fishes that it's a waste to keep Monodactylus in a 75 gallon tank with some deeply unhappy tetras and gouramis when you could be keeping some real gems like Butis butis, Selenotoca multifasciata or Mystus gulio. Look these up on Google and see what I mean! Cheers, Neale>

Opportunistic Omnivores, FW who dun it, or might ...  7/6/07 Hello to this evening's Crew Member! <Greetings. It's Neale, and it's mid afternoon British (allegedly) summer time!> My questions usually involve my reef tanks but this evening I want to address something even harder....my freshwater planted tank. As for total expended effort, it makes my reef tanks look like fish bowls! <Hah! Ain't that the truth!> This morning I removed two Buenos Aires Tetras (Hyphessobrycon anisitsi) from my 55 gal. tank planted with Anubias nana, Echinodorus spp., and Hygrophila spp. A LFS gladly accepted the donation. I had forgotten what notorious plant munchers these guys are from keeping them years ago. <Yes indeedy. Most omnivorous fishes will eat soft plants. It's a part of their diet we often forget, to the detriment of the fishes' health and colours.> But after introducing these plants last night, I could clearly see where they had chomped on the Hygro overnight, and I caught them in the act today. Removal involved taking out all of the extensively branched driftwood (anathema to nets) and the plants and then culling out the Tetras during a 45 minute chase. (This actually gave me the opportunity to re-aquascape the aquarium in a more artistic fashion.....so, I was able to kill 2 stoned birds.) I want to get this straightened out before continuing to add more plants in my revitalization effort. <I know the feeling. Whatever I do to my tanks, I always feel there's something more I could do to make them look nicer!> My question is, are there other species that I now maintain in this system which you recognize as potential plant "pests?" I do recognize that some of the others are omnivorous, but perhaps not as aggressively prone to eating the plants, especially if fed greens appropriately. <Whilst feeding green foods like Sushi Nori can help to a degree, it's an unreliable approach.> I have never noticed any of these showing any interest in eating plants. The other inhabitants include: 1 Stripped Raphael Catfish (Agamyxis pectinifrons) <This should be fine. Mostly eats benthic invertebrates - snails, worms, etc.> 1 Spotted Pictus Catfish (Pimelodus pictus) <A *schooling* predator. Harmless to plants.> Chocolate Plecostomus (Glyptoperichthys scrophus) <Personally I have found large Plecs of all kinds to be more or less disruptive. They either uproot plants by swimming through them, or damage them while grazing on algae. This latter is especially noticeable on "stiff" plants the catfish like to sit on and graze, e.g. Nomaphila, Anubias.> 1 Red-tailed Botia, (Yasuhikotakia modesta) <Harmless to plants.> 1 Rainbow Shark (Epalzeorhynchos frenatum) <Harmless to plants (if not to other fish!).> 2 Congo Tetras (Phenacogrammus interruptus) <Harmless to plants.> 16 Brilliant Rasboras (Rasbora borapetensis) <Harmless to plants.> 2 Dwarf Rainbows (Melanotaenia sp.) <Harmless to plants.> 2 Turquoise Severums (Heros severus) <Suspect. These fish are confirmed omnivores and even in fish-only systems need vegetables in their diet. While probably safe with robust plants, do keep an eye on them.> 2 Kribensis (Pelvicachromis pulcher) <Harmless to plants though wild fish do eat decaying plant material and algae rather more than aquarists believe.> All of these have lived together for quite some time and although it is an unusual mix, there are absolutely no aggression problems....at least, not yet. <Certainly a quirky mix. But if it works, then cool. Some very nice beasts there, and I'm sure they give you much pleasure.> Thank you for any insight you might be able to give. David <Hope this helps, Neale.>

A Herp writing wish-list...  5/15/07 thank you so much. I've logged in & bookmarked already and will do so periodically. As far as writing articles, once again it's my pleasure -- give me a topic and a timeline and they shall be yours. D <When you have time is fine... Survey pieces on the general care of the more commonly kept/available species (Red Ear, Musk, Yellow-Ear, Painted, Softshells...) are likely the most pressing/desirable... Then "sub" pieces on their Identification, Compatibility, Selection, Systems, Feeding, Disease (yes, if/when you're comfortable), and Reproduction. BobF>

Re: Fish Ideas for New Tank  5/12/07 Thanks ever so much for your quick response. <Sure!> I will definitely go for the freshwater set up, your suggestions were great and have put my mind at ease.   <Good, glad we could help.> I find myself very fond of the cichlid species, especially the Oscars, gouramis and the parrot fish.    <Gouramis are not cichlids.  Be aware that Oscars will require at least a 55 gallon for a singleton--70g preferred.  They are huge garbage can-type fish, eating & pooping a lot.  Large weekly water changes are necessary to keep them healthy.> They I know, are quite expensive.   <Not when purchased as juveniles.> Any suggestions as to what species I could use to begin with while the tank is cycling.   <None--please do not cycle your tank with fish.  Look into fishless cycling or purchase Bio-Spira, for an instant cycle (not available overseas, I'm sorry to say).  Do not let the shop sell you ANY OTHER PRODUCT, claiming it will instant cycle a tank.  There are no others & can actually be detrimental to the cycle.> I like the idea of having the larger species in the aquarium, rather than the livebearers I have been so used to. <Much more personable fish, IMO, especially cichlids.> Thanks again <You're welcome & remember to read, read, read!  ~Jeni/Pufferpunk> Lesley Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland

Molly... System mis-mix   5/11/07 We recently started a 25 gallon tank with 1 albino catfish, 1 sucker fish, 1 rainbow shark, 1 brown crab, and 6 mollies (2 silver, 2 black, and 2 marble). <This is rather a random selection of animals. By albino catfish I assume you mean Corydoras paleatus, a small *schooling* catfish that should not be kept singly. Suckerfish may be one of two things (I'm guessing). Either Gyrinocheilus aymonieri, a NASTY, AGGRESSIVE cyprinid that reaches around 25 cm and is totally unsuitable for your aquarium. Or else it's some type of Loricariid catfish such as Pterygoplichthys pardalis, likeable enough animals that get to between 30-50 cm in length depending on the species and again totally unsuitable to your aquarium. Even in tanks twice the size of yours, either of these fishes would feel cramped, and both together in a mere 25 gallons is really pushing your luck. Rainbow sharks become aggressive with age, and all the crabs in the trade appear to be amphibious rather than aquatic and will spend all their time trying to escape. Keeping them permanently submerged is, needless to say, cruel. Most crabs will catch and eat small fish given the chance, so be careful. Finally, mollies do best in brackish water, something that will be fine for the crabs but not the other fish. When kept in freshwater mollies are very prone to diseases of various kinds. Sorry to say, but this aquarium is a disaster waiting to happen.> There are approximately 12 fry in the tank (less than a week later).  Should we separate the fry from the adults, and how often should we expect to see new fry in the tank? <Ideally remove the fry to another tank. Failing that, confine the fry to a breeding trap for 2-3 weeks. None of your fish are especially predatory, but at least some of them (including the mollies) are liable to eat tiny fish given the chance. And yes, mollies will produce fry more or less their entire adult lives every 6-8 weeks usually. Depends somewhat on temperature, diet, etc.> Thanks, Liz <Cheers, Neale>

Firemouths in Peaceful, Community Tank/Overstocking  5/8/07 Hi there, <Hello Anna, Pufferpunk/Jeni here.> First of all, congrats on the brilliant advice you guys give. Keep up the good work! <We'll try.  Thanks for the great compliment!> Now then, I have a 120L Juwel Rekord aquarium <For USA folks, that's around 30 gallons.> Here's some info on filter type and a pic; http://badmanstropicalfish.com/products/product_Juwel_Rekord%20_120.html It is 3 months old and fully cycled, nitrates at 18ppm, pH 7.5 and temp 78 degrees. The current residents are; 2 platy (F) 3 Glowlight tetra (2M 1F) 5 WC Mountain Minnow (1F 4M) 2 Honey Gourami (M&F) 4 Neon Tetra (not sure) 2 Wild Green Neon Tetra (not sure!) ps - these guys are only around 2cm fully grown) 3 phantom Tetra (2M 1F) - was mistakenly given 2 males when asked for 2 females 2 Peppered Cory (not sure) 1 Betta (M) I Know this totally breaks the into to gallon rule but they all seem happy enough and have their own territories. <That "rule" is only for small-massed 1-2" fish (mostly tetras).  Anything larger, like gouramis, aren't included.  That rule isn't necessary just so fish can have their own territories but mostly for controlling bioload (nitrates).  Large weekly water changes will be necessary to keep this tank healthy.> The tetras and minnows all get along great and the gouramis, platys and Corys keep to themselves.  The Betta is extremely placid and a friendly-natured little fish. <Bettas generally do not get along with other Gourami species.> My tank is planted with assorted freshwater plants, around 10 of varying sizes, a very fine Dorset pebble substrate, 2 pieces of driftwood that form cave-like structures, a rock cave ornament and an ornamental rock. <Sounds like a nice tank.> Anyway... Here's the big problem. I arrived home from work a few days ago to find my idiotic boyfriend had added 2 fish to the tank as a surprise for me. <I hope you gave him a piece of your mind!  That tank is overstocked as it is.  Never mind, he didn't quarantine the new fish & they could have wiped out the entire population.> And WHAT a surprise it was! He's only gone and bought 2 Firemouth cichlids! <Oh no!> After preventing myself from strangling him, I observed the cichlids and they seem pretty content. Up till now, there has been no aggression. <For now...  Just wait till they get comfortable with their surroundings.  They are quite aggressive & will eat any fish they can fit in their mouths.> They are juveniles now but I know that they can grow to 15cm. <6"> Obviously it's out of the question for me to keep them. <Correct> I've read some reports that they can be good community fish and temperaments vary between each individual fish.  Could this be true? <Cichlids are cichlids.  All aggressive in some way & Firemouths especially.> I have grown quite fond of them, as they are beautiful and interesting. <Agreed, I have 2 stunning adults myself, in a 125g tank, along with several other large, aggressive fish.> I'm guessing I should get rid and pronto. <Absolutely!> What can I do with them? In your knowledge, do you know if pet stores will accept fish from a stranger? <What about the shop he got them from?  I'd go in there & throw a stink about how they can sell these kind of fish to someone, not asking about the tank they're going into.  He should have been told about their temperament & appetite for smaller fish.  On the other hand, he should have asked!> Also, do you think my tank is over stocked? <By a few fish but if you do large weekly water changes, they may be OK.  The live plants will help.  No more fish though!> Any advice will be much appreciated. Sorry about the length of this essay (lol) and thanks in advance. <I'd give that boyfriend a good talking to about giving ANY pets as a surprise gift.  ~PP> Anna

Choosing Stock, Compatibility  -- 5/5/07 Hi!   <<Hello, Yue. Tom with you this time around.>> I find your website to be a very useful source of information, as it seems to be one of the most accurate ones on the internet.   <<Thanks, Yue. We try hard to provide the most accurate information we possibly can.>> I am planning to set up a 55 gallon planted tank, and have a couple of questions regarding fish compatibility and choosing stock.  I asked a question previously regarding the compatibility of angelfish and Bettas. The response was that the two would probably be ok together, but after getting so many mixed responses from other sources, I thought I would check again.   <<I understand. I also ask that you bear in mind that fish have a special talent for making our best information/recommendations look less-than-accurate at times. Let's continue'¦>> Are there any ways to help the two get along (i.e. planting cover plants in certain areas, giving places to hide)?   <<Angelfish will appreciate this, Yue. Because of their 'flat' body design, they'll move easily among tall plants and set up a territory, of sorts, among these. Bettas will also appreciate plants but don't seem, in my experience, to be as dependent upon them for the purposes of hiding.>> Will the gender of the Betta(s) affect the compatibility (one male, or multiple females, or one female)?   <<One-on-one with the Angelfish, I don't see gender as a deciding issue where compatibility is concerned. Male Bettas are intolerant of other Bettas, male and female alike. That's pretty much it with them. Females develop a hierarchy among themselves with one establishing herself as the dominant female in the group. Since I see it as being possible, even probable, that she might try to enforce her dominance across the line even where non-specifics are concerned, I would discount an assortment of females as a good bet for your tank.>> And finally, if Bettas are not compatible with angelfish, would one or more gouramis be compatible?   (I have read that gouramis and Bettas are quite similar, and am wondering if the same problems would arise). <<I don't see Gouramis and Bettas as a good fit in a community tank. Strictly my opinion/experience but I feel there's as much of a misconception about Gouramis being 'good' community fish as there is about Bettas not being acceptable in a community setting. Gouramis tend to be a bit more aggressive than they're given credit for and tank mates need to be selected with this in mind. I believe a Betta would come out on the short end of this mix.>> Next, I seem to be having trouble finding a good source of fish in the area I live.  Even though my town has several LFS's, none of them seem to be in great shape.  In addition to chain pet shops such as Petco and PetSmart, there are 3 others that specialize only in fish.  However, all of them have angelfish with very badly nipped fins, many being chewed almost completely off.  How can you tell if this is a bad store, or the angelfish just happen to be stressed? <<What do you want from a town that specializes in Wolverines? :) Anyway, rather than run off a lengthy list of things I'd look for in a store, I'd suggest, first, looking at how the Angelfish are being housed/presented. Is the tank a 'bare bones' setup that would do little to help alleviate stress in the fish or has some, even modest, effort been made on the part of the store to provide some cover for them? Frankly, I'd be even more impressed if the staff recommended that you wait a bit before making a purchase in order to get the fish back on the road to good health and condition. Also, are all of the fins of these fish damaged or is it limited, pretty much, to the ventral fins (the lower, 'string-like' fins)? Provided the ventral fins aren't 'chopped off' too close to the body of the fish, they can/will grow back quite normally so I'd place less emphasis on these being nipped at and/or partially missing. (All of the fins can regenerate themselves but I'd be more concerned about a potential bacterial infection in the case of significant damage to the pectoral, anal or caudal (tail) fins.)>> Thanks for your help, Yue <<You're welcome, Yue, and I do see your Betta/Angelfish combination as a workable scheme for your tank. None of us, of course, can guarantee the personality of any given fish so I'd offer that we're giving you a general 'okay' on this. Best of luck in finding a source of fish for your tank, by the way. (A little bit of a drive, I know, but you might try looking into shops in western Metro Detroit. I'm an 'east-sider' myself so it's pretty rare for me to get over that far but you might find more of a selection in the Detroit area.) Tom>>

New Tank, FW stkg.  -- 04/22/07 Hi, I've kept a 10 gallon and a 20 gallon tank for a couple years now, and just picked up a 55 gallon and would like to start a new planted tank. <Very good. A 55 gallon tank is a superb "palette" for any hobbyist, and gives you lots of space to work with.> I was wondering if the following fish would be compatible: Angelfish (just one, to avoid breeding and aggression) Shark (again just one, whatever species is least aggressive) Betta(s) (female) Siamese Algae Eater(s) Swordtails Larger Tetras (Bloodfin, Black Neon, Emperor, etc) <I'd skip the shark because they're so difficult to predict regardless of the species. Yes, red-tailed black sharks and rainbow sharks look lovely, but they can become rather waspish. Definitely not wise mixed with anything as slow moving as angelfish or Bettas. I prefer to mix sharks with barbs of similar size and sturdy catfish, such as Brochis spp or Plecs. Bettas, even female ones, are somewhat demanding in the sense that they need plenty of plants *at the top* of the tank so that they can stay close to the surface without feeling exposed. Remember, they are air breathers. If you had lots of Indian fern or hornwort at the top of the tank, you'd probably be fine in this regard. SAEs are basically good in any community tank, either singly or in a fair sized group (6 or more). When kept in twos and threes they tend to bicker. On the other hand, SAEs are also vulnerable to harassment from more aggressive sharks (like the red-tail black shark mentioned earlier). Swordtails are an excellent choice, assuming your water chemistry is appropriate (they don't like soft/acid). Any of the characins you mentioned should be fine. You might also consider silver Hatchetfish, diamond tetras, and one of my particular favourites, the bleeding heart tetra. You also have the space for Congo tetras -- probably the best-looking characins commonly available. Rainbowfish, such as Melanotaenia boesemanni, can make exceptionally colourful (and very long-lived) alternatives. The problem with rainbows is they are often dowdy when small, and only get full colouration as they mature. Maintenance is identical to tetras, and they make a good alternative if you have hard/alkaline water.> I am also thinking about adding some ghost shrimp.  Since they are cheap, I am not too worried about them becoming food. <Okey Dokey. Look out for fan shrimps as well: although big, hulking brutes they are utterly peaceful towards fish (though territorial amongst themselves).> Thanks for the help! -Yue <No problems, Neale>

Mixing fish, FW    4/21/07 Hi there, <Hello.> Excellent job. <Eh?> I have a 120 litre aquarium and aim to buy some inhabitants in the near future. <A nice size tank (around 30 gallons for those still using olde world measurements!).> The problem is Am not sure if the species I like are compatible. <Glad you're thinking about this *before* buying them, not afterwards.> I would like to have a few platies, maybe 5 of them, 5 swords as well, a few male guppies 5 most probably... <Swordtails (males at least) are somewhat aggressive, and don't mix so well with smaller livebearers. I'd personally stick with platies and guppies. Don't understand why you want just males guppies though. The females have much more character, are easier to tame, live longer, and of course present you with baby guppies if you're lucky. If you don't want the babies, leave 'em in the tank and most will get eaten.> a school of 15 Neons and 5 dwarf gouramis all males. <Wouldn't be my recommendation here. Neons need soft/acid water, whereas livebearers need hard/basic. So either the livebearers or the Neons will end up kept in suboptimal conditions. I'm not impressed with the current quality of the cheap, farmed Neons and fancy guppies on the market, and keeping either in suboptimal conditions increases your risk of problems. As for dwarf gouramis, my personal belief is you should avoid these like the plague. Cheap, farmed dwarf gouramis are horribly plagued with one or more bacterial and/or viral diseases that cause many of them to die within months of purchase. In short: a waste of money. Far better to go with the other Colisa species, specifically Colisa labiosus (thick-lipped Gourami) and Colisa fasciata (banded Gourami). Both are similar in colour to the dwarf Gourami though a trifle larger and quite a bit more robust and outgoing. At a pinch, you could also go with the somewhat larger Trichogaster leeri (lace Gourami), a beautiful species that is generally robust and long-lived (up to 8 years). It's a little large for a 30 gallon tank (around 10 cm) but not criminally so. Avoid three-spot gouramis (Trichogaster trichopterus) as these tend to be aggressive (males anyway) and as they mature become rather uninteresting fish that don't move about much. Tough as old boots, yes, but hardly the most entertaining gouramis on the market!> Then I would also like to have a pair of female Bettas and maybe a male one. <Mixing species of anabantid (i.e., different gouramis and Bettas) is rarely a good idea, because many seem to be mutually aggressive. Furthermore, fancy male Bettas have very long fins and cannot swim, making them easy targets for fin-nipping (e.g., by the Neons). They usually find it difficult o get at the food, too. By all means try a few female Bettas for fun, but male Bettas are best kept in special aquaria with minimal water movement and no competition.> Some Corys and a Pleco as well. 40 fish - tank too small? Are they all compatible? <Corydoras would be an excellent addition here, a group of 4-6 depending on the size of the species. Choose a species suited to your water chemistry though; some of the more exotic species prefer soft/acid and don't really do so well in hard/basic. Also, some are subtropical, and don't really like tropical conditions (e.g., Scleromystax barbatus, the bearded Cory). Bronze and peppered Corys are usually the most adaptable. As for Plecs, definitely not. The name "Plec" (or "Pleco") is casually applied to any of a variety of species of Pterygoplichthys, Liposarcus, and Glyptoperichthys none of which grow to less than 30 cm and many of which can easily top 45 cm. As such, they are fish for the biggest freshwater aquaria only. Personally, I'd recommend either an Ancistrus sp "Bristlenose catfish" or a dwarf Panaque sp. "clown Plec" catfish. But don't for a moment think these catfish help stop algae; no catfish (or any other animal) really does this, and you don't *need* to add an "algae eater" whatever the guy in the aquarium shop might suggest. Certainly add one if you want, but choose something small and interesting you want to keep in its own right. Whiptail cats (Rineloricaria spp.) are a lot of fun and generally easy to keep in mature aquaria. They eat minimal algae, and much prefer bloodworms and the like.> Thank you so very much, <No problems!> Demetris <Cheers, Neale>

Stocking questions, FW  4/19/07 Hi there, <<Hello, Demetris. Tom here.>> Wonderful tips, keep it up. <<Thanks from all of us.>> I recently bought a 120 litre aquarium and have cycled it quite well as the tests show. <<I'll have to trust you on this one, Demetris. We like to know what the specific readings are. Sometimes there are 'telltale' signs in those that help us help you.>> I would like some advice on whether the fish I want to include are compatible with each other or if they are a lot for the tank. <<Let's see what you're looking at'¦>> I would want to have 6 platies and 6 or 7 guppies (the latter all males), 4-5 dwarf gouramis, 5 swordtails, 2 female Bettas, 3-4 Corys, a Pleco, and a small school of neon tetras maybe 15 or less according to you. Could a pair of snails be ok with some plants? How about overcrowding? <<The Platys should be fine as numbered. I think you'll find yourself in trouble with six or seven male Guppies. Too much potential with 'dominance' going on. (I know. They're the good looking ones but I think it would lead to problems. In fact, I'll just about guarantee it.) Four to five Gouramis will be too many. Cut this down to three. Swordtails should be fine. The female Bettas? One will exert her dominance over the other. They might fight or, they might find a compatible understanding and get along fine after that. (Kind of a tough call on that one, Demetris. Gouramis can be fin-nippers, by the way. Might not make the Bettas very happy.) Absolutely on the Corys! You could even go with five, if you like. (Great little fish!) As for the Pleco, you'd really have to be more specific as to the variety. Some range from about 4-6 inches in adult length like the Bristlenose Pleco or Angelicus Pleco (mine). Some -- even the Common Plecos -- can become enormous. (You'll have to investigate this.) I don't see where there will be a problem with a school of Neon Tetras in your scheme at all.>> Thanks a lot Demetris <<Okay, all that said, let's talk 'quarantine'. If you're not 100% sure of the source of these fish -- and even if you are -- you'll want to look into a small quarantine tank. Let's not invite problems into the main tank. Best of luck in your venture. Tom>>

Unsure of fish choices   - 4/7/07 Hey everyone! <Hello!> I love the website and it has been very beneficial in helping me set up my 45 gallon tank... thanks for all the info! I have a few questions I was hoping you could answer for me. <Okay...> First off, I understand the importance of a quarantine tank but does it have to be a tank or can it just be a bowl? <No; really. A quarantine tank has to be a reasonably healthy environment. If it makes the fish more stressed and more sickly, it isn't really doing its job.> See, I'm back to college and inherited the tank after my grandparents moved (it's a fairly new tank) and can't really afford to go out and purchase a large tank. Would a quarantine bowl be sufficient or no? <Fair enough. Lots of people are stuck with using just one tank. It's not optimal, but its workable. Just choose stock carefully, don't take risks, look out for the first signs of sickness or aggression, and be prepared to implement a "Plan B" if things go wrong, i.e., have some anti-Whitespot remedy to hand, and check with your retailer if you can return aggressive fish.> Secondly... <Yes...?> My tank has been running for a few weeks now and I have slowly been adding fish. <Define "few weeks" and define "slowly".> Currently, I have 5 zebra Danios and 4 sunburst Mickey mouse platys. <A pretty safe combo.> I would like to add more but am unsure about what fish to add. <I tend to go with one inch (or centimetre, if you're metric) of fishes that live at the top to every two inches of midwater swimmers to every one inch of bottom dwellers. This gets a nice balance of activity at all levels of the tank without making things to crowded. In this case, I'd recommend Corydoras catfish as being about the right size to fit in nicely with your fish as well as being easy to obtain and coming in a variety of colours. Peppered and bronze Corydoras are "old reliables", but you might go with something a little more elite like Panda Corydoras or Leopard Corydoras if funds allow. There's a nice intro here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/callichthyids.htm and you will find any number of books and web sites about "Corys" if you look for them. Corydoras vary in ease of maintenance, but most are pretty robust and all are peaceful and happy to eat dried foods. Some species will spawn in aquaria, and if you remove the eggs and place in another tank (or even a breeding net) rearing the fry isn't all that hard but extremely rewarding. Baby catfish -- "kittens" -- are truly adorable. Keep in groups, ideally at least 3, but preferably six or more. They don't like deep tanks: no more than 30 cm/12", because they are air-breathers and cannot swim up too high. Keep the sand/gravel clean because dirty conditions at the bottom of the tank can cause problems such as eroding whiskers. One last thing: contrary to popular belief, these fish won't live on leftovers, they need their own food. Ask your retailer for catfish food, and use according to the label.> It seems like every fish comes with a problem... either too aggressive or too high reproductive rates. I don't want to end up with a tank full of 60+ guppies! What fish should I purchase from here? <Corydoras are about as problem-free as any aquarium fish can be. Small (most are around 4-6 cm in length), utterly benign towards other fishes, and generally resistant to disease, they even wink at you! Personally, I'd recommend peppered Corydoras if you've never kept catfish before. Peppers are usually cheap and easy to find, and probably the most forgiving of all Corydoras in terms of water quality and other problems.> -Victoria <Cheers, Neale>

Mixing fish suggestion in 32 gallon tank, FW    3/20/07 Hi there, First of all this is a really great effort you make, really helpful information you share. Secondly I am from Cyprus, so please excuse any spelling or grammatical errors. <Ahh! I have been to your island... for a HHH do in 96... in Limasol> I have a 32 gallon tank and after I allowed and boosted up (using products) cycling for several days, I added two male dwarf gouramis (extremely beautiful), two white skirt tetras and a golden tiger barb. <Mmm, do keep your eye on this last... can become "nippy", especially when not kept in a small school> The latter three the pet shop owner insisted on buying to "test if the water was good and to get the bacteria going". I do not think he is a specialist in any case, but he does have good specimens. Any way I brought them home and introduced them to the tank. Luckily, the barb is just swimming up and down (quite enjoying himself I would say) but not bothering the gouramis (as i have heard these fish do), <Yes, can> it will any way have its own tank in a while and be with his own kind (I liked it a lot after purchasing it :) ). Even more luckily, the gouramis did not attack each other not a single time, though they like circling at different places and at different hours of the day, usually flaring up when coming face to face but passing past each other before calming down again. Sometimes one follows the other, to slowly to be chasing though and they keep changing this role in any case. I think this is because I introduced at the same time but I am a bit worried that they will become aggressive as time goes by. <Mmm, not this species (Colisa lalia), in this size setting, not likely> I read that having two males is a problem, one is better or even more than two because the aggressiveness is shared or even vanishes. What would you suggest? <Either mixed sexes or the same should be fine here> I also want to have a group of maybe 7 - 10 Neons, 5 - 6 guppies, and a pair of pearl gouramis with these two dwarves (the barb and the two big white skirt tetras will move elsewhere, they are doing just fine so I have noticed). Will such a combination work? <Mmm, yes... though, I'm sure you're aware, the guppies will likely reproduce...> That is 7 to 10 Neons, 5 - 6 guppies, and a pair of pearl gouramis with the two dwarves (or one or more according to what you suggest), along with some curies, a small Pleco (any suggestions?) <A smaller species... Perhaps an Ancistrus species, if available> and lots of plants - (32 gallon tank, too small?). <Not too small, no> I would appreciate any suggestion. Lots of thanks, Demetris <I think your plan should work out fine here... Do place some of the plants next... Will help cycle the system, provide food, habitat... reduce aggression. Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Too many males? FW livestocking  -- 03/09/07 Hello! I am planning for my 50-gallon tropical community tank and have a few questions I can't find on the site. I would love a dwarf Gourami. Is it ok to house a lone male? <Generally yes> I know these fish will pair bond, but will it fare well on it's own? I would also like a school of hatchets. These and the Gourami are top strata fish. is this ok, or will they fight? <Should be fine here... plenty of room in a fifty> I love the look of German blue rams, but do not want to deal with spawning/territoriality. Is it advisable to get a lone male? <Mmm, no, not really... As the behavior, color won't be nearly as interesting, spectacular as with more than one, mixed sexes...> Do you think a single male swordtail will be happy without other swordtails? <Mmm... again...> I am also planning on a school (10) of both Neon and rummy-nosed tetras. I would like to have around 7 fancy guppies, but I do not want to deal with fry.  Will a group of all males work? <Yes> What about 5 or so male platy's? <Yes... though you should be watchful for "rogue" activity> Sorry so many questions, I just don't want to keep 1 of a species that is best in a group, or too many males.  I like the thought of all males, as they tend to stay smaller and are brighter. Thank you so much for your help! Christine. <Don't stay nearly as "bright" as when in settings with females. I would mix them... Bob Fenner>

Space woes, FW mis-mix getting sorted   2/14/07 Greetings WWM crew! I have sent a couple really long messages so I'll try  to keep this one short. I have a 20 gallon tank with an aqua-clear <Company and product names are proper nouns; capitalized> 200 filter, a Penn Plax Therma flow pc plus and too many fish. I change 6 gallons every week, and I'm not sure about the nitrogen compounds because my test kit registers a muddy greenish brown color when the range is in pinks. I have 5 1/2-inch long guppy fry in a baby saver, 2 platies, 3 cherry barbs, 3 curies, 1 Betta, 1 rainbow shark, 1 skunk loach, 1 s. American bumblebee catfish, 1yo yo loach, 1 zebra Danio, and I think I have 2 kuhlii loaches. They usually pop up every time food hits the water but I haven't seen them for about a week and I'm looking at the bumblebee cat. <Not compatible here...> I know a lot of these fish don't belong together and I am working on setting up another 10 gallon for the bumblebee, shark and skunk loach? <Good sorting> the skunk is in a guppy breeder because whenever he gets loose all the other fish, especially the slow ones, suddenly get a severe case of fin rot. <Telling> Some coincidence, huh? Will he be too aggressive or not aggressive enough for the 10 gallon? <The former> I know loaches are happier in groups but does this apply to yoyos? <Yes> And will he be okay with just one friend? <Two would be better by far> Also, I want to be able to breed snails so I can give the loaches a treat. any ideas about that? --John O. <Most any other container of size, some loose/floating plants... time... BobF>

"New" 10 gallon tank - 02/11/2007 Hello and thanks in advance for your advice:) <Welcome> My son and I have had a ten gallon tank set up for a few months... we only have two small Amazon Sword plants in there now... we had a Betta in there, but removed it when it became sick and died.  I have been adding a few pellets of Betta food each week (which I believe would cycle the tank?), and doing a 30% monthly water change. <Good> Our question is about stocking for this smallish tank. We were choosing amongst: Neon Tetras Axelrod Rasboras Glowlight Danios Zebra Danios Platys and Glass shrimp <All good general community fish choices... and should all get along> I believe all of these fish are compatible in terms of desirable conditions (pH of 7.0, temp of 73 degrees ok?) and lack of aggression. <Yes> I think we have settled on getting in this order this group of livestock: week 1: 3 Zebra Danios and 2 Glass Shrimp week 3: 5 Neon Tetras week 5: 3 Platys Are we missing anything? Are we too ambitious in speed of stocking?  Are we too ambitious in the quantity of fish? <Mmm, no, no, no...> Would another type of fish be more suitable? <Not really... this should make a very nice mix... If you want to leave out the shrimp, perhaps a couple of Corydoras catfish would be nice to add> Thanks for all the future help and advice:)! <Welcome. Bob Fenner>
Re: "new" 10 gallon tank, FW stkg.   2/14/07
Thanks for your initial reply, and for all future advice:)! <Welcome!> An update: My son and I went to the local fish store... and changed our stocking plan/order of addition slightly (based on what looked to be in the best condition at the store, and on the attractiveness of the fish live - sometimes, pictures of fish don't do the fish justice... said somewhat tongue in cheek). <Ah, yes> Thus far, we have added 5 neon tetras and 2 Amano shrimp to the 2 small Amazon Swords that were in the tank.  I've done a 20% water change one day after putting this livestock into the tank and will do another tomorrow (addition day + 3).  I plan on doing 20% water changes twice per week the first week after adding livestock and 30% water changes every other week. <Mmm, I'd hold off on the next water change... your system being very new... these can suspend nitrification/biological filtration... and Neons don't "like" new water...> I've noticed that the Amano shrimp have cleaned all algae from the Amazon swords (there were small amounts of a brownish algae on the leaves) and are now eating from the substrate.  One has already molted. <Perhaps a good sign> I've noticed what look to be spider webs in the tank running from some of the decorations and the leaves of the plants.  I've also noticed some white cottony growths on the side of one of the decorations. <You are observant... not likely anything to worry re... natural growth... will go on its own> Our questions: 1) Fish Stocking plan: Assuming all is going well, in two weeks, we would like to add 5 Harlequin Rasboras.  In four weeks, we'd like to add 3 Zebra Danios.  I think that would be the last of the fish and shrimp in the tank.   Does this sound reasonable? Would this tank be overstocked?  Understocked?   Just right? <The last IMO> 2) Plants: The Amazon Swords have done well for the four months we have had them.  We are using a simple house lamp, with a 15W spiral fluorescent bulb.   We have left this light on from morning till evening.  In addition, there is a significant amount of afternoon sunlight that comes into the room with the tank.  Will we need to change this lighting in the future for the plants to continue to do well?   <Should be fine... do plan on switching out the lamps as they "get old"... see packaging, the Net re age of such... May still "light up" but such lighting undergoes "Lumen depreciation" and "spectral drift" with time/use... One of the things/factors that will affect your plant growth/health> We like the look of a planted tank, and are looking for suggestions of other plants to add... both planted in the substrate and floating.  Are there any that would be easy to care for that we could maintain in our current system? <Mmm, yes... Posted on WWM> I've done some research and wanted a back check on my info... I like the look of the Phyllanthus fluitans as an option for the floating plant, but it looks as if this needs strong lighting? <Mmm, not an easy/good choice... see here: http://www.google.com/search?q=Phyllanthus+fluitans&rls=com.microsoft:en-us:IE-Address&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&sourceid=ie7&rlz=1I7PCTA the first two citations> Would a banana plant be OK as a foreground plant?  Would Anubias barteri nana be OK as a foreground plant? <Both are excellent choices> 3) Do you have any idea what the web-like strands are?  The white cottony growths? <Mmm, yes... likely a mix of algae and fungal organisms...> Should we be worried? <No> Do we need to remove the discarded shrimp shell? <I would leave this for a week or so... Shrimp and other crustaceans often "re-incorporate" such... may ingest it> 4) We have been feeding flake food - TetraMin Tropical Crisps - a few flakes that we crush in our hands per day.  Will the shrimp have enough to eat/will they eat any remnants of food that fall to the bottom? <Mmm, yes, likely so> Do we need to change to a different food for the shrimp/fish that we have/plan on adding? Thanks again! <A bit of reading... and perhaps some additional item/s to the foods occasionally. Bob Fenner>

Enough already? Adding Melanotaeniids to a largely FW Amazon mix   1/31/07 Hi, <Hello> Thanks for running such a fantastic site.  It has been a real help with a whole bunch of questions that I have had.  However, I now have one that I am not sure how to work out the answer to. <We're in the same boat...> I'd really like to add a few Dwarf Neon Rainbows to my tank (Juwel Rekord 96l / 25g US).  Ideally 2 males and 4 females as I read that you need a 1:2 male female ratio. <Better than "even pairs" yes> The staff at more than one LFS have said that it would be fine, but I suspect that I am pretty much up against the carrying capacity of my set up. As it has been healthy (more or less) for the year or so since it was set up, I don't want to risk messing things up.  The current inhabitants are: 9 x Neon Tetra 5 X Oto 6 x Amano Shrimp 3 x Corydoras What do you think? <Mmm, there's room enough, but the Rainbows do "like" different water quality than the fishes you presently have... likely some "middling ground" could/can be found to suit all here though> Enough already, or should I go for the Rainbows?  I guess the alternative would be to wait until some of my fish die off through (hopefully) old age. Thanks in advance. Phil <Do take a read on... WWM, Fishbase.org re the water conditions of all these fish species. Bob Fenner>
Re: Enough already? FW chem.  2/1/07
Thanks Bob.  It is good to know that I have room for a few more fish. I have taken your advice on checking the water requirements.  The pH of my tap water is between 8 and 9 (taken form a water company test done a few years ago), so pretty alkaline. <Yikes, yes... but I would get/use your own simple test kit... the pH scale is base 10 logarithmic... a whole point represents an order of magnitude difference... and pH at this level is dangerous with nitrogenous waste presence...>   As far as hardness is concerned, I really don't know.  The readings I found on the web for the nearest city is Calcium carbonate: 11 mg/l, Hardness: 0.61 °GH, GH: 3.5 °GH - sorry, I guess I need to have these tested for my own water, <Mmm, no... test for yourself... see WWM re> but I never was good at chemistry and really don't know what any of these figures mean!. <Easy... and important enough to learn... for your own benefit, health>   I am going to have to invest in a water test kit and learn how to use it, aren't I? <Ah, yes!> I have had a look around at various places and got the following on the requirements of the various species in question (of course, I really don't know whether this info is accurate!): Dwarf Neon Rainbow: pH 6.5-7.5, soft water Neon Tetra: pH 5.0­7.0, soft to medium water Three-lined Cory: pH 6.5-7.2, soft to medium soft water Otocinclus affinis: pH 5.2-7.5, soft to medium soft water Caridina japonica: pH 7.0-8.0. moderate to hard water <Well done, yes> So it looks to me as though none of my fish should be enjoying the pH, and that the rainbows might actually be more at home than the Corys and Otos (although they seem to be doing fine). <Good> Actually, I had been thinking of adding a CO2 system for my plants (either a fermentation system or the Tetra OPTIMAT). <Oh!?> Might that be a good idea in this respect, too? I understand that CO2 would bring the pH down and that might make everyone feel more at home.  Would that give me the 'middling ground' you recommend? <Yes... but I would first, or more likely just try mixing in some "cleaner" water here... for both you and your pet-fish interests... Do look into a Reverse Osmosis device... not hard to install... Many benefits... blend this water in for your fishes> Thanks again. Phil <Welcome. BobF>

Just Starting Out 1/17/07 Hello, <Hi> Your website is amazing, and very helpful. I think (I'm sure you've heard this a lot) that almost everything the pet store told me has been wrong. <Sadly experienced this myself.> My kids wanted to get tropical fish, so they each have a ten gallon aquarium set up in their rooms now. <Nice, great learning experience for them.> We set up the aquariums, (tap water that was conditioned with the stuff that's supposed to neutralize chemicals and aquarium salt in the water) and then waited 24 hours at the advice of the pet store, and then got starter fish for the aquariums. <Better than same day purchases I see so often.> My son's aquarium: My son wanted Molly fish, and the pet store said they were hardy enough so we got a male and a female molly. Also we got a Chinese algae eater, <May be problematic, several fish fall under this name, some being quite problematic.> also at the advice of the pet store. I am now reading that we probably should have gotten two female mollies, the male is already bugging the female a lot. She is starting to hold her fins tightly to her body, I'm guessing this is stress? <Most likely.> So what is better; getting a couple more females for an un-cycled tank? Or letting her stress for a few weeks? The fish seem to be doing really well other than that, and we are keeping a close eye on the water. <Good, I would not add more fish until the cycle is complete.  Make sure there are lots of hiding spots and plants/decorations to break up sight lines, may help her situation.> Also, the next day the pet store advised us to put algae wafers in one at a time for the Chinese algae eater. They told me originally that the fish would eat the flakes until the algae grew in the tank, but then they said he wouldn't. So we are now putting a wafer in, one at a time, so the little guy has some food. <Probably not needed if he is eating other foods.  If not maybe every 2-3 days add one, but watch the water quality as this large amount of food can cause fouling quickly.>  Unfortunately, the male Molly (his name is Bob) <Appropriate name> keeps eating the algae wafers and chasing the other fish away. Is there any alternative to make sure he gets his food? Or should I not worry? He (Chinese algae eater) seems to have a ton of energy. <Would not worry yet.> My son eventually wants to get some Mickey Mouse platies too, and I am now thinking, with a recommended 4 to 1 female to male ratio of Mollies, will there be any more room in a ten gallon tank? Is the same ratio advised for Platies? <If you did a 3 to 1 ratio for each may work, but reading about Bob's behavior makes me think he may not accept any other male live bearers in the tank.  Some male livebearers can be real little @#$$%s.  Maybe just female platies.> My daughter's aquarium: She wanted Platies, and again we were advised by the pet store that a male and a female would be a good idea. We brought home a Chinese algae eater, same as my sons tank, and a male and female platy. They all seemed to be doing really well all day. Then in the morning, the male platy was "not right." He was swimming weird, drifting with currents, and laying about. He was dead by lunch time. Poor thing! <Unfortunate.> But the other fish in the aquarium were doing just fine. I took him to the pet store, and they gave me a new male. I had my daughter pick one out of a different tank, because the fish in the tank that the first one had come from had fuzzy white spots on them. <Good though, although in reality both tanks probably infected due to shared filtration system.> Could that be ick? <Maybe, check out the pics and descriptions on WetWeb to diagnose.> Did I just bring that home to my aquarium? I hope the female doesn't start showing this. So now I am back to two platies and one Chinese algae eater. The platies seem to eat the algae wafers, the Chinese algae eater doesn't seem interested in it. Again, should I be worried? Is there an alternative food for the algae eater? This one also has tons of energy. <Best to leave for now, observe and act if a problem arises.> The platies ate their food well in the morning, and really went after the very few bloodworms we gave them in the afternoon, but hardly touched their dinner. <Probably just not hungry, would feed once a day for the first few weeks.> The water now seems a bit cloudy on the white side, and so I did a 20% water change this evening. <When in doubt do a water change.> Is that a sign of bacteria from the food being left untouched? <Most likely.> Or is that just the food? The fish are very quiet this evening, and they seem to be hanging out by the heater. Is that stress or just normal? <May be due to the water quality. Test for ammonia and nitrite and do a water change.  Fish shop should be able to do these for you, but can be done easily yourself and a good chance to teach the kids a bit.> My daughter would like to add neon and cardinal tetras to her tank after it cycles, will they get along OK with the platies? <Not really, Neons are quite difficult and both require very different water parameters than the platies.>  Also, do you recommend more females to males as you do with mollies? Same thing, minimum 4 to 1 females to males? <4 to 1 would be great, but 3 to 1 fine too.> And how long do you recommend that a tank cycles before adding more fish? <Takes a couple of weeks normally, best to learn how to use the test kits and do it yourself.  Don't rush and all will work out.> The pet store said a couple of days, I'm sure that's not right. <Unfortunately you are correct.> Thank you so much! Mary <Not sure if you have seen this yet   http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm but give it a read.  Don't let the charts and graphs scare you, its pretty straight forward once you get the concepts.  Good luck with the new tanks and welcome to a wonderful hobby.> <Chris>

Just Starting Out Part II 1/17/07 One more thing to ask. <Sure>  Is it possible to have tetras and platies in the same tank? What type of tetras would you recommend adding to the platies? <Can't think of any that share similar water requirement.  Generally the species come from fairly opposite types of water.> And is there anything else that would be advisable to keep everyone calm and happy?  <Good water quality, good food, and everything should be ok, just be ready to deal with livebearer fry, they can and do put rabbits to shame.> And thank you for the link to the "cycling" area of your site. I will go and buy some real plants for the aquarium as well as some algae starting products. I'll write it all down before I go as to avoid more bad advice! <Good plan.> Thanks so much! Best, Mary <Chris>

At long last, tank #2, FW stkg.  FW Mis mix planned  1/11/07 Hello WWM Crew, <Katie> Let me first compliment you on a fabulous site, and also thank you for enriching my days; I look forward to reading your FAQs every morning and   night--it's just amazing how much one can learn (and how addicted one can  become).   <Ah, yes> Well, I have been thinking about tank #2 for two years now (the  only reason I have not acted on it is that I knew we'd be moving, and I did not  want to have to move what will be a larger tank!)  But good  thing, because at any point over those two years, I could've had an Oscar tank,  a Lake Malawi tank, a FOWLR, a reef tank, and now I'm back to freshwater  again.  Good thing we finally moved, so I can stop changing my mind. <Heeeee!>   (Although I must say, the amount of knowledge I've gathered researching and  planning all these tanks isn't something I'd trade.)  So here goes, this is  what I'd like to have, and following my stocking scheme are a few questions I  hope you can answer:  8 serpae tetra, 8 lemon tetra, 3 Corys, 2 kuhlii  loaches, 3 silver dollars, <Mmm... most species will get too large... to be "presentable" with the other fishes listed here... may eat the smaller characins> 1 Oto cat, <Are social animals... keep in a group> 1 black ghost knife fish.   Questions:  1) What size tank should I get?  Could I go smaller  than a 55?   <Mmm, not suggested with the Dollars, Knife... w/o them... a 29 would do> 2) How much smaller could I go if I ditch the knife   fish?  3)  Would a Betta work in this scheme?   <Not with the Metynnis/Myleus/Mylossoma...> 4)  If I do  have the knife fish, should that be the first in the tank or the last to join  the community?   <... An Apteronotid will consume the smaller tetras...> (or does it matter).  I am aware of the  care required of all these fish, in particular the Oto cat and black ghost  knife fish.  Thank you for all you do, sorry if I jabbered on, I'm just so  excited to put the pedal to the metal. Katie <Stock selection, like revenge... should be "served up cold"... after silent contemplation... I'd reconsider the mix you present here. Not compatible. Bob Fenner>
Re: At long last, tank #2, FW stkg.   1/12/06
Thanks, Bob.  I took a circuitous route to this, and I guess it showed. If I take the silver dollars out of this community, would these medium-sized tetras be ok with the knife?  In a 55?   <The Knife may consume the tetras in time> It's actually the knife that I want, but I was looking for a colorful schooling fish to provide daytime enjoyment.  Any other suggestions would be welcome, but I just want something colorful (I have kids.....).  Thanks again, Katie     <Bleeding hearts get larger than Serpae complex characins... the Black Skirts are nice... there are many other Characoid choices... only a few as yet depicted on WWM. Bob Fenner>

Tank questions, mostly stocking    1/11/07 Hello, We recently have gotten ourselves involved in the aquarium hobby, and it certainly is a fun one!  Expensive, but fun.  I'm afraid we've already become quite the addicts, and we've only been involved for three months.   <Is a blast> We started off with a 10 gallon tank with gravel, fake plants, and a fake castle.  We hadn't read enough at that point and cycled with a fish.  We slowly added more fish over time.  We started a 37 gallon soon after that with eco-complete, fluorite, live plants and a bio-wheel filtration system (plus heater and lights and everything).  We added over a few days 4-5 gallons of water from our 10 gallon tank and half a cube of frozen blood worms to cycle it fishlessly. <Better> We tested it a week later and were surprised to learn that ammonia was 0, nitrites were 0, and nitrates were 5.  Was it the cycled water, or was it a combination of everything that this cycled so quickly? <The combo.> Anyway, we slowly added fish over a period of time, monitored the water (ammonia was always 0, nitrites always 0, nitrates between 5 and 10), and this is what we have in there now: 13 female guppies 4 male guppies 10 Neons 2 African dwarf frogs 3 angelicus Botia loaches (about 2 inches now, but I know they'll get bigger) This is actually with the fish from our ten gallon.  We're took all the gravel and fake decorations out of that and replaced it with eco-complete last night.  We're going to be getting some plants to go in there, too.  We returned about 80-90% of the water and kept the same filter.  Will this tank still be cycled, or will it take some time? <May undergo a "mini-cycle" but likely not even this... best to monitor, measure...> We're planning on putting the African dwarf frogs and some of the guppies back in that tank, but the 37 gallon looks very nice with what we have now.  The African dwarf frogs actually 'snuggle' during the day with the loaches in their hiding place.  But we do need to get algae eaters, <Watch these about the ADF's... some will eat them> and we were planning on getting 3 Oto cats, and I believe that would be too much. <Mmm, no, not too many> Would even adding 3 Oto cats (removing the ADFs, 2 male guppies, and 6 female guppies) make this tank overstocked? <No, not IMO> Is there a smaller, peaceful algae eater that we could add? <None smaller or more peaceful> And will the loaches be good fry control in the 37 gallon? <Mmm, snail fry only> We want our kids to see the baby guppies, but I KNOW we will be overrun if we don't have some sort of control.  We do have a neighbor (he's the one that got us into the hobby) that volunteered to take some of the fry off our hands for his live eating fish, but I'm not sure I'm too excited about that prospect.   <A useful lesson...> Thanks for your time, and for your website.  I read it a lot and it certainly has taught us much about our new hobby.  We appreciate all that you put into it! Celeste <Thank you for sharing. Bob Fenner>

Simple solution - if fish purchased from specific store always die, don't buy from this store again!   12/3/06 Hi, <Hello> Can you tell me why all fish that I buy from the Wal-Mart stores die? <Likely because they are generally kept in horrendous, improper conditions and are likely infested will all sorts of diseases. Their resistance is probably compromised when kept in this fashion, making them less healthy and more susceptible to disease.> I have a 20. gal. FW tank. I don't have this trouble with fish that I buy from other stores. <Probably better to stick with purchasing fish from these other stores, then.> In the past month I have bought at least 10 fish from Wal-Mart and they all die within a few days. <Are you testing your own water's parameters? Measuring for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate and pH? Gradually acclimatizing? And, hopefully, you are using a quarantine tank...otherwise you are likely introducing all sorts of nasties into your main aquarium.  What type of fish are we talking about here?> They  look healthy but they refuse to eat and last from a week to 10 days with no  signs of sickness except their getting weaker each day. Can you advise  on this? <Well, I'd stop purchasing fish from this Wal-Mart with all these problems! Stick to the other stores you mention you don't have problems with.  To be sure it isn't anything in your own setup causing/contributing to the problem, do test your water parameters and make sure the tank isn't overcrowded.  Without knowing specifically what type and number of fish you are housing, I can't say for sure it isn't intra-species aggression, etc., but based upon the general info. you've given me, it sounds as though the fish from Wal-Mart simply aren't healthy to begin with.  Stop beating your head against a brick wall and don't buy any more fish from this problem Wal-Mart! Best of luck, Jorie> thanks.

Fish Selection 11/28/06 I'm getting an aquarium for my little brother for Christmas (he loves fish), but neither my parents or I have much experience in fish (all we have had is goldfish, plus a Betta).  <Normally I don't recommend fish as pets, but as long as you and your parents are willing to take on the responsibility I say good luck and welcome to the hobby.>  I have basically everything I need (20 gal. tank, filter, heater...) but the fish, and the tank has been cycling for a couple of days.  I've been searching the internet and your sight (which is the best one I have found on the web)<thanks> but have found a lot of contradictory information, so I have a few questions. 1) How long should I cycle the tank for; can I get away with two or three weeks if I put some of the rocks from the goldfish tank in the new tank? <Would help, hard to say for sure.>  2)  I think I have a good idea of fish for the tank but was wondering if it would be too full.  I was thinking about 2 to 4 ghost shrimp, 4 neon tetra, 4 white clouds, 1 kuhlii loach and 1 weather loach, and 1 mystery snail. <Check out WetWeb and http://www.loaches.com  for more on the loaches.> I want to get him a tank that has reasonably easy to care for fish, but I don't want it to be bland so if you have any better suggestions that would be great. <The Neons might be a problem, have a reputation for being sensitive, but can be kept with a little research.>  I know the 1in for 1 gal. rule can't apply to all fish, is there any other way to tell how much you can stock a tank or is it just from experience? <Not really, when in doubt go lighter on the stocking.> 3)Can an African Dwarf Frog go in with ghost shrimp?  <Can be problematic with anything that it can fit in its mouth, fish included.  I would not recommend keeping this with the current stocking list.>  I've read both that the frog will eat the shrimp and the shrimp will attack and kill the frog and that they can go in together, is it just the luck of the draw.  4) How far in advance should I get the fish to insure that they aren't going to die right away? <Best if you could QT them for a couple/few weeks, otherwise add slowing after the cycle is complete.> Thank you for all your help, I can't imagine how much letters you have to answer. Megan <Good luck with your new tank.> <Chris>

Cichlid Confusion and Questions... Too many species crammed in too small a volume     11/26/07 Hey guys! I hope that you can help me out here! I have a 55 gallon setup with the following: (2) Green Terrors (2) Jack Dempsey's (2) Black Convicts (1) Blue Kenyi (1) Yellow Kenyi <---I think they are Kenyis, they are blue and yellow with black stripes. I also Have a Dragon Goby that doesn't look like its doing to well....why is that? <In with the wrong crowd, big time here> My second question is if I am going to have problems with these guys as they get older (right now they are all roughly about 1 1/2 - 2 inches)? <Yes... now and worse then> Also, my convicts laid eggs a few days ago and now they are gone.....what gives? <Eaten by any individual here, including the parents> Im confused Also, my Green Terrors have laid eggs, should I be worried about them eating those ones too? <Yes> And one last thing I promise lol......my blue guy (the one I think is a Kenyi) is making a hole the size of a crater beneath one of the big rocks in the tank.....what's that all about? <Behavior> Thanks a lot for your time guys! If you could email me back that would fantastic!!!! Thanks again Jodi <You have too much, too incompatible a mix here... a 55 can hold maybe two of the species of Neotropical cichlids... not an African, not the Goby... Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/cichlidcompfaqs.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Large Freshwater Tank... Livestock sel.  - 11/11/06 Hello, <Hi there> I have an 8ftx30"x30" glass tank that is reef ready.  I plan on using this tank for a large freshwater tank.  I also have a decent-sized wet-dry filter that I plan on using as the sump. <Okay> I have been back and forth between what types of fish/biotopes I want to create and am looking for some advice.  I currently have 7 clown loaches in a smaller tank and was thinking of just making this tank a large community tank.  This way I can put my clowns in there. <Sounds good... they'll appreciate the space... and grow much more quickly> I am looking for some suitable tankmates, preferably not little bitty guys, to make this tank come together.  I was thinking of using a few pieces of driftwood, some rock work and using a 175w metal halide on one side of the tank for some plants and just NO fluorescents for the other side to be a bit dimmer.   <A good idea to have lighter/brighter areas for contrast, providing different/variable habitat> In short, I am looking for suggestions for larger, community fish that would do well with my loaches and plants. Thanks! Dave <Mmm, a few ways you could go... biotopically/geographically sorting by animals, plants found in a/the similar area... can use Fishbase.org for this, starting with the Botia macracantha you'd like... and search by country, surrounding countries. You might instead focus on organisms that prefer similar water conditions... WWM, Fishbase and other resources would help here... Lastly you could go the hodge-podge route and mainly select by size, color and apparent temperament by species... Which do you prefer or have you no preference? Bob Fenner>
Re: Large Freshwater Tank   11/14/06
Hi Bob, <Dave> Thanks for your help!  You are truly one of the "greats" in aquaria. I am leaning towards a hodge-podge setup I think :)  I would like to keep a school of clown loaches, a school of Corydoras, a decent-sized school of Rummy Nose Tetras, a couple Bristlenose Plecos (I already have these), perhaps a small school of Rainbowfish, some long-finned rosy barbs and some assorted oddball fish like killifish and a pair of pearl gouramis.  That is a basic list and is subject to change. <Can be...> I have a 175 watt dual metal halide ballast that I was thinking of putting a couple over the one four foot side and plant it with some large swords, crypts and Anubias.  I guess I would try to use a fluorite substrate for that side of the tank? <A good choice> I really like the way the black sand highlights the colors of the fish, but not sure if it could be placed over the fluorite or not. <Can, but will mix in time>   On the other side of the tank, I was thinking a couple pieces of driftwood and a small structure of rocks to give the fish some cover and darker areas...this side might be lit with just NO fluorescents. <Okay> Not sure how this tank would work, but I think a tank with two types of areas might be pretty cool if I can pull it off.  Any thoughts on this type of setup? Thanks, Dave <Sounds very nice. Bob Fenner>

Large Freshwater Tank   11/15/06 If we can erase all the prior emails....what would you think would be a cool setup for an 8'x30x30 tank....I do have a large wet-dry sump and 30g of bioballs.  The tank is also reef ready....do any cool ideas spring up in your mind? Thanks. <Mmm, an intense biotope of a few possibilities... A bunch of New Guinea or Austral Melanotaeniids (Rainbowfishes)... A Discus habitat with Gastropelecids, assortments of Callichthyids and mid-sized Loricariids, drift wood... plants galore from the general Amazon... Perhaps an Mbuna set up... with Mochokids from Malawi... Crinums, Anubias... I'd choose a part of the world... use the Net... and go from there. Bob Fenner>

FW Stocking questions   5/8/06 Hi Guys & Gals, <Troy> Thanks in advance for any help you can provide, you provide a wealth of information to people like myself! <Welcome> I have a 55 gallon freshwater with the following inhabitants: 7 gold tetra's, 8 diamond neon tetra's, 3 zebra loaches and 1 clown Pleco and a number of plants (7 to be exact).  I am looking for some idea's on some tank mates.  I have had Apistos and rams in the past but unfortunately without success.  I was thinking of adding some small Kribs but have read conflicting opinions on them and I don't want to endanger my current inhabitants which have been around for a year or so. <Pelvivachromis are too likely to eat your Tetras...>   Can you offer some advice on the Kribs as well as any other fish you think would make good additions. Thanks again, Troy <I would look to some of the more peaceful Gouramis, easier going Danios, small barbs... Bob Fenner>

Stocking A Small FW Tank   10/29/06 Hello, I am nearly finished cycling my 14g Nanocube, which is probably actually less than 10g with all the substrate, rocks, wood, and plants. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and the tap water has a pH of about 6.4, near zero hardness, and near zero alkalinity. My tank has been cycling since Oct. 8th (20 days) and the pH, hardness, and alkalinity are still the same as the tap water. I've done 50% water changes twice a week. I have Aquasoil substrate (which keeps the pH and alkalinity low) and my tank is heavily planted with tall leafy plants in the back and Hairgrass in the front. I'd like your opinion on which fish will thrive and possibly even breed in this kind of environment. I'd also prefer it if they are not aggressive and if they leave plants and gravel alone. I've read that most Apistogramma like acidic water and some are relatively peaceful, but will they be happy in such a small tank (and if so, which species would you point me towards)? < The cacatuoides and steindachneri species are a couple of the larger ones that might be a little crowded. All the others will do fine in your set up. It is just a matter of personal taste.> What other stocking schemes might you recommend? < If you get a pair then the female will chase away all the other fish when she spawns. You might want to look at a small school of smaller Rasboras or tetras. Almost all will thrive in your water conditions.-Chuck> I think it's a better idea to stock my tank to best fit the tap water conditions and tank size rather than vice versa; that will make it much easier to do frequent water changes and keep the tank in top condition. Thanks for any input! Eryn

New fish tank <<Hello. Tom with you.>> What a wonderful resource this forum is!   <<Thank you. We're glad you think so. Very kind of you to say so.>> I am getting back into the tropical freshwater fish hobby after 50+ years, and would like to know if you can advise me on a tank setup of approximately 72 gallons.  I would like to know, with your expertise and experience, what variety of fish and quantity would be ideal. <<First, good for you! As I've often suggested to others who've asked this, it depends on what pleases your eye. For my money, and given the size of your tank, I think you could do worse than looking into the great variety of Cichlids that are available. Many colorful and interesting fish in this group and quite easy to keep when you have the appropriate information about them. Truthfully, I don't have the hard, alkaline water available to me to keep these fish easily or I certainly would.>>   I am planning, as I said a 72-gallon tank and I have had some experience in fish keeping, albeit 50-60 years ago.   <<Drat! We're going to start 'dating' ourselves here. :) >> At that time there was no such thing as recycling <<cycling>>, conditioning, etc. fish tanks.  From my memory, which obviously is not too good, I don't remember that we lost many fish.  We had angels, black mollies, zebras and neon tetras,, maybe others, in an approximately 10-gallon glass tank, which I assembled from ¼' plate glass--never had a problem.  Now with all the new fangled pumps, filters, etc., it seems I must obtain a PhD in fish management. <<Not quite the case though it might seem like it. What has really evolved is the idea of recreating, as it were, a miniaturized version of the fishes' natural habitats. Certainly, there have been improvements, technologically, in filtration and so forth. From my perspective, it's like the difference between going to the zoo and seeing the animals in iron cages as opposed to seeing them in environments that more resemble their natural surroundings. No comparison'¦>> I wonder if you could a) guide me according to the number of fish I should acquire and b) the species of fish.  I would like to keep this tank as low maintenance as possible..   <<Well, the lower the number of fish, the easier it will be to maintain. (Please, take anything that you run across that suggests 'one inch of fish per gallon of water' and toss it in the trash. There are simply too many exceptions to this to keep proffering it at the 'Golden Rule.') Another consideration, in your case, might be Goldfish. (Oh, stop!) These beautiful fish aren't nearly as 'boring' as you might remember. I'd start to drool over the possibilities here if it weren't so undignified.>> Would you also recommend an under gravel filter, which I seem to remember I had many years ago.   <<Consider the undergravel filters 'out'. There have been too many problems related to these particularly in terms of maintenance. Might have served well in a 10-gallon tank but not in the 72-gallon tank you have in mind.>> If not, what do you recommend for pumps, filters, etc.? <<Regardless of the type of fish you decide on, for filtration I would opt for one of the Hang-On-Back (HOB) type power filters. Specifically, I would look into the Emperor Bio-Wheel filters from Marineland. A personal choice, certainly, but easily maintained, allows flexibility regarding filter media and does the job. Whatever your choice may be, look to a filter, or filters, that will ultimately provide no less than five-seven complete changes of water per hour, preferably more. (Total gph (gallons per hour) should be no less than 350 in your case.) While air pumps/stones, for aesthetic purposes, are largely a matter of personal preference, the air does agitate the surface of the tank and creates the benefit of offering good oxygen exchange. (The vast majority of oxygen that fish breathe comes through the surface of the water.) Maintaining the temperature of the aquarium is accomplished, obviously, through heaters. It's important that temperatures remain stable. Where you live will largely impact this and, once again, this will depend on what type of fish you decide to keep.>> We have available raw lake water, 5-micron filtered lake water, and RO water.  Which would recommend that we use to fill the tank? <<Without question, the RO water. Too many potential pathogens in the lake water.>>   Thank you for your help. <<Happy to assist and the best of luck to you in your 'not-so-new' venture. Tom>>

Balas and pictus and sun cats in a 29 10/17/2006 Please I don't know what to do with this shark! I purchased 2 Balas today and added them to my existing 29 gallon tank. <<Without quarantine to a 29 gallon tank? These fish get to 14 inches in length and school.  10x your tank size or return to the LFS.>> When I went to watch them this evening I noticed one of the Balas has completely lost an eye and don't know to move him/her, leave him, or god forbid put him out of his misery. <<This fish is doomed in your tank either way.>> He seems to be twitching a little and staying relatively in one spot the other fish are so far leaving him alone however I don't know how long that will last as he is in with some African cichlids and 2 pictus cats/1 sun cat. <<Your tank is unbelievably improperly stocked.  Your pictus' get to 4 inches plus each, and the Sun catfish to 18 inches.  Add that to the 2 Balas, and I'm sure you understand how utterly ridiculous this is.  I'm sure your fish store told you they were fine, but they're not. Please research before you buy animals.>> Should I move him or leave him, and will this cause infection with other fish?? <<Either return the catfish (all of them) and the Balas, or acquire a tank of hundreds of gallons.>> Thanks for your help  - -TJ <<Glad to help. Lisa.>>

Steadily stocking my new 210 litre tank.   10/2/06 Hallo Crew, Would this (allowing for growth) be a sensible number of fish for my new 210 litre (English measurements) ? : 10 zebra Danios; 8 cardinals; 4 Synos - 2 are nigriventris and 2 are eupterus; 1 clown Pleco; 1 Oto; 2 black ghost knives; <Best by far to house only one in such a volume> 5 clown loaches...31 fish. I have been building it up slowly and steadily though a few of the above are still in my smaller approx 20 gallon (the clowns and BGK, Pleco and Oto). Both tanks appear very happy and harmonious, growth of my eupterus is surprising. <Yes> I know the BGK can grow very large but atm they are very young. Water : 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite and 5 - 15 nitrates, phosphates are barely more than 0 as well. It doesn't look crowded but I thought I'd better check. Many thanks for your help :D <Not too many fishes... but the one Synodontis species may prove problematical with growth/size, and the knives will fight. Bob Fenner>

FW stocking levels  9/28/06 Hello, I was wondering if i could add 12 Boehlkea fredcochui <Cochu's Blue Tetra, formerly Microbrycon fredcochui> and 6 Corydoras pygmaeus to a year old 55 gallon planted aquarium with 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, 10 nitrate. It also houses 7 green flame tetra (Aphyocharax rathbuni), 5 gold tetra ( Hemigrammus rodwayi), 8 Amano shrimp, 2 Corydoras aeneus, and 1 Panaque maccus. I can remove the shrimp if need be, I also plan to remove the aeneus. CJ P.S. sorry if you have received multiple instances of this email <No worries, and I do think all these should mix together well... in terms of density, temperament/behavior and water quality/physiology. BobF>

New filter-will tank cycle again? Hello, <<Hi, Tamera. Tom here.>> Six weeks ago I set up a 20 gallon freshwater aquarium. I had a Whisper Filter and added Bio-Spira to the aquarium. <<Excellent.>> I did what the employees at the pet shop told me to do-including adding 7 fish after the 3rd day of setup. <<This, I'm not so crazy about even with the addition of the Bio-Spira.>> I added 4 more 2 weeks later. I had: 2 Serpae Tetras 2 Rosy Barbs 1 Clown Loach 1 Pictus Catfish 1 Betta and finally 4 Neon Tetras. <<For future reference, Tamera, don't include a Betta in this particular scheme. Not only do these fish require very different conditions, particularly as regards temperature, but the Tetras and Barbs will have a "field day" with the Bettas fins. In my opinion, I would also eliminate the Clown Loach. These tend to grow too large for a 20-gallon tank and are not the cute, little darlings in adulthood that they seem to be as juveniles, behaviorally speaking.>> Unfortunately, due to my ignorance I overfed and my Whisper Filter was only turned up at 50% capacity. <<I'm going to give the folks at the fish shop some of the "credit" here, too, Tamera. The stocking issues I just referred to should have sent up a flag to someone there.>> So, at 4 weeks all my fish died except 1 Rosy Barb. I had my water tested and my Nitrites were 10 ppm and Nitrates were 40 ppm. This is all the Pet Shop employee told me. <<Yep, that would have done it, though I'm sorry nevertheless about your fish.>> I was told to do 20% water changes and add Prime. I bought a kit and started testing the water myself. (An employee told me previously I didn't need to do this.) <<It occurs to me that there's something of an unfortunate pattern developing with the kind of advice, and lack thereof, that you seem to be getting from these folks. I hope, for your sake and for the sakes of your future pets, that this shop isn't the "only game in town.">> Of course, none of this was effective. Finally, in desperation I typed in (How many water changes must I do to get Nitrites down?) on the Google site. Thank God your site came up. After following all the advise on FAQ on Marine/Freshwater Quality involving Nitrites something happened. Today after H20 changes of 25%, 50%, and 75%-10 days in a row, a new Penguin BioWheel 150, Bio-Spira, Prime and aquarium salt my readings are: Nitrate: 0 ppm Nitrite: .5 ppm Total Hardness: 150 Alkalinity: 120-180 P.H. 7.8 Things are much better (many, many thanks to you), but I didn't have room to keep my Whisper Filter. I am afraid that with it gone my tank will cycle again in 4 weeks. Should I add more Bio-Spira to my BioWheel just in case? <<Your tank is already "cycling", Tamera, as evidenced by the detection of the nitrites. How far along it is would be easier to tell if you had included ammonia readings. If these are zero, you're in pretty decent shape, though the nitrites need to come down to zero, as well, as you now understand. As for the BIO-Spira, absolutely add it. Not only is it an excellent product but, frankly, it's too expensive not to utilize it.>> I'll still keep doing water changes until I can get readings to appropriate levels and won't add fish until I am sure it's ok. <<At this point, I would recommend holding off on more water changes, Tamera. Let the BIO-Spira do its work. Continue testing your water regularly. You're in a good position to witness, first-hand, how the cycling process progresses. There's nothing wrong with getting some good, sound advice but it's not a substitute for personal knowledge when dealing with unknowledgeable people.>> I am afraid to trust the employee's at the pet stores- I went to two. <<At this stage, I'd be more than a little reluctant to "trust" what I was being told by these folks, too. Make sure that you research any fish you have your eye on before making a purchase. Behavioral compatibility is, obviously, important but environmental compatibility is just as important. Do yourself another favor, if you haven't already done so, and test your water straight out of the tap. This can give you a big advantage when choosing new fish particularly where pH levels are concerned. Until you've got some experience under your belt, you don't want to play around with altering your pH levels in the aquarium. For instance, Neon Tetras thrive in soft, acidic water. Yours is fairly hard and definitely alkaline (basic). They just won't do well in this. It'll pay, in more ways than one, to keep fish that prefer conditions as close as possible to what you have available at the tap.>> Any help would be appreciated. <<Hopefully, that's what we've done for you, Tamera.>> This web site is so helpful. It's a great source of knowledge-thank you so much! <<And, thank you for being so kind. Best regards and good luck as you continue in the hobby! Tom>>

General Tank Set Up  9/18/06 <<Hello, Anne. Tom with you this afternoon.>> First, I have a 29 gal tank with one Red Fin Tin-foil in it. Is that what it is really called, because I can't seem to find any information on him.  He is very large, silver with red fins.   <<It's a Tinfoil Barb, Barbus schwanenfeldi, though there are other synonymous names for these, Anne.>> He has managed to kill whatever else (Angels, Catfish) that is put in there so we've just let him have the tank to himself because he is cranky.   <<He's not cranky, Anne. He's a rogue. Tinfoil Barbs are, generally, peaceful fish, though they grow far, far too large to be kept in a 29-gallon aquarium. This may be a contributing factor but I wouldn't consider this to be normal behavior in the least, even for a "cranky" fish. Assertive or territorial, perhaps, but murderous? Nope.>> Just curious if you can tell me what I might have.  (Lovely husband brought it home so I have no idea). <<I sense some sarcasm there, Anne, but now you know what you've got. :)>> Second, I am looking at a 55 gal tank and want large fish.  Not wanting to upgrade later, I know that Oscar's are out.  What type of large fish do you recommend, how many in that tank etc.? <<An American couple vacationing in Ireland happened along an old man seated on the side of a country road. The American fellow asked the old man where they might find some places where they could take some picturesque photos, whereupon, the old man looked up and said, "Well, now, it's hard to know what's in another man's eye." What suits your "eye", Anne? What are the parameters of your tap water? (Easiest to keep your fish in parameters as close to what you have available, out of the tap, as possible.) What do you think is "large"? (A 55-gallon tank doesn't go as far as you might think, depending on what size fish you have in mind.) What type of "decor" do you envision? (African Cichlids generally rearrange their entire tank making live plants not only unsuitable but out of keeping with their natural environment.) Are Goldfish "interesting" to you? (Several "fancies" would do well and prosper but, that's only an opinion.) Lots of things to consider here, Anne.>> I've always turned to you for advice and you give the best out there! Thanks for your help! Anne <<Don't know that I did in the way you hoped, Anne, but I'll be happy to "bash around" some ideas with you when you like. Tom>>
Re: General Tank Set Up
 9-19-06 Thanks for the info.   <<Happy to help, Anne.>> So the tinfoil in and of itself (by itself) will outgrow the 29 gal?   <<In its natural environment, about 15-16 inches! In an aquarium, you're more likely to see an 11- to 13-inch fish, everything going well. You can see the handwriting, I'm sure.>> If so, maybe he should be moved to the 55 gal, and leave the 29 to smaller species? <<These Barbs enjoy the company of their own kind, actually. Unfortunately, I would be reluctant to add even other Tinfoils with the one you have, which is kind of a shame. Additionally, I think you'd have to acquire a tank double the size if what you plan on to keep several of these at adult size. My thought is that, once he's in the 55, he'll be the only fish that can live there. Your thinking is sound but I believe you'll be "cramping" yourself, if that makes sense.>> I LOVE goldfish, but my issue with them is algae.  How is it controlled when they are coldwater fish?   <<The irony here is that, in their natural environment, Goldfish feed primarily on algae. They're just not good at it, or inclined toward doing it, in aquariums. (Why bother when there are other "nummies" being fed to them?) As with other types of fish, lighting and feeding are critical in controlling algae growth. Nitrates also have to be kept at the bare minimum, if not zero. Worst case? Dig in and clean. :)>> You can't have a Pleco because they are of the more tropical variety.   <<Exactly.>> Suggestions on algae control would be helpful for keeping goldfish in the 55 gal. as our local pet stores are clueless to this fact and suggest that goldfish be kept at warmer temps to accommodate the Pleco.  YIKES!   <<In reality, Goldfish can do quite well into the mid-70's range of temperature (F.) but, now, you're doing a "balancing act". Not what I would recommend or promote.>> My likes are simple actually.  I love large colorful fish, I just don't want to overcrowd my tank, have water quality issues, etc. As far as the tap water I am not sure what you are looking for.   <<Sorry. I should have made myself more clear here, Anne. Experience has shown that keeping fish that are accustomed to parameters that are close to what you have readily available at the tap is best for all concerned, you and your pets, included. For instance, if you have well water that's particularly "hard", it becomes extremely problematic to maintain an aquarium with fish that thrive in "soft" water. The converse is true, as well. My tap water, for example, tests at a pH level of 7.0-7.2. Much as I might like, I'm not inclined to keep Cichlids that do well at a pH level of 8.4. There are just too many choices abounding that do well at a neutral pH level for me to start "toying". I won't put the lives of the animals at risk and, frankly, I want to enjoy my aquariums, not be a "slave" to them. (My fish, not to mention my wife, already think I give them too much "quality time". Well, my wife does, anyway. The fish can't get enough, it seems.) :)>> I currently test my water for ammonia, nitrates, nitrites and PH.  All levels in my 29-gal are good. I water change once per week, 20-40% based on the water test. <<40% is a little high but I trust your good judgment on this. Otherwise, I'd like to see everyone doing the same.>> Anne <<Good "chatting" with you again, Anne. Please, get back if you have more questions. Tom>>

Rainbow-Killie-Planted Tank set Up  9/12/06 Hi, I'm in the process of planning a FW planted 54g corner tank (38"x27"x22") and was wondering if I could get a second opinion on a stocking list. Equipment will be an Eheim 2028 can. filter (275gph output), 300w in line heater, 55w pc light w/6700k bulb, 15g QT tank and a separate 15g hospital tank. I'm planning on weekly water changes of approx. 10 gallons, (more if nitrates rise beyond 20ppm.) Also, the water from my tap tests: 7.2 pH, 3 degrees KH and 6 degrees GH. My current stocking plan is: 1m & 3f threadfin rainbows, I. werneri 1m & 3f Pacific blue-eyes, P. signifier 1m & 3f forktail blue-eyes, P. furcatus 1m & 1f red-lined killifish, A. striatum 1m & 1f rainbow notho, n.rachovi 1m & 3f spotted blue-eyes, p.gertrudae 1m & 1f clown killifish, a.annulatus 1m & 1f blue notho, n.patrizi My main questions would be... Too many fish? < Between the filter and the plants you should be able to handle the nitrate load.> Any obvious aggression/territoriality problems sure to surface over the weeks?? < Many of the rainbows are in the same genus. I would expect males not to get along. The rainbows may be too active for the Killies and out compete them for food.> I'd rather have less fish than more problems. Also, should all of these guys be okay with my tap water? < Most of your fish would prefer a pH to be lower than 7, but you are very close already.> And any suggestion on a temperature that everyone would be happy with? Thanks in advance for your input and dedication to helping the hobby, (and hobbyist.) < Go with 77 F and thanks for your kind words.-Chuck>

Measuring Bio-Load   8/19/06 Hello wise fish folks! I am back again looking for some expert help.  You guys (gals) have been a great resource. I have 2 questions today...do you think my bio-load is too much in my 35g...and what do you think of my possible fish move?  See notes below: My 35g is 36" long and 12" wide.  I have a BioWheel 300 and several live plants.  Fish load is 1 white tetra, 1 Pristella tetra, 3 black mollies, 2 platies, 8 harlequin Rasboras, 9 neon tetras, 1 Pleco (large), 2 panda Cory's, 2 clown loaches (small), and 4 Otos.  My tank used to be crystal clear, but since I changed my substrate to 1/2 fluorite & 1/2 gravel, added 2 pieces of driftwood and the live plants, I cannot seem to stop the green algae or have crystal clear water.  I have tried less light, less feeding, more frequent smaller water changes, nothing seems to help. If my bio-load seems too high, I was thinking of getting rid of the large Pleco...would this make much of a difference? < The bio-load you are so concerned about can be measured in the nitrate concentration. Measure the nitrates. They should be under 20 ppm. The higher the reading the more nitrates that are available for algae to feed on. If the nitrates are higher, then you need to do more frequent water changes, or change more water when you do them. The other alternative is to reduce the bio-load by reducing the number of fish. I would vacuum the gravel to help get rid of spume of the Fluorite "dust" that may he clouding your water.> Also, I have a 10g tank set up as a holding tank for fry.  In here, I currently have 40 fry, 2 Otos and 1 panda Cory (1 died shortly after purchase).  Once the fry are 3/4" or so, I sell them to the local fish store.   To help further reduce the bio load in my 35g and to keep the single panda company, I was thinking of moving the 2 panda Cory's from my 35g to the 10g fry tank.    Would 3 panda Corys be too much for this tank? < Fry generate lots of waste as they grow. High waste levels are usually not tolerated well by Cory cats. Livebearer fry usually like hard alkaline  water with a little salt. Cory's don't like these kind of waters at all.-Chuck> Any other suggestions are greatly appreciated! Thanks. Donna

Stocking... FW fishes and plants   8/14/06 I have just recently got a 70g tank with plenty of caves and hiding places in it. It hasn't yet got any fish in it but I will be adding them slowly in the next couple of months. I was just wondering if the following fish would go together without fighting: Red tailed shark <May well become nippy... feisty with time/growth> An angelfish Red line torpedo <Mmm, is this a barb? http://www.aquahobby.com/gallery/e_Puntius_denisonii.php> A type of catfish A gold nugget Pleco Clown loaches Kuhlii loaches And maybe a blue crayfish, <Yikes... not this... too opportunistic a feeder> some crabs <Neither these> and some snails (so the clown loaches can eat them) Will the crabs try and get some of the fish like the loaches? <Oh yes> Also could I have a black ghost knife fish? <Perhaps... see WWM re> What types of plants would these type of fish like? <Ditto> I have researched on the fish and I know how big they will get and how many I need of each one. Many thanks. <Take a read on WWM re the plants that "like" similar water quality to the fishes listed. Bob Fenner>

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