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FAQs on Systems for Loricariids, South and Central American Suckermouth Cats

Related Articles: Loricariids, OtocinclusFrom Pan-ack-ay to Pan-ack-zee, A Detailed Look at the Bizarre But Beautiful Panaque Catfishes by Neale Monks

Related Catfish FAQs: Loricariids 1, Loricariids 2, Otocinclus
Other Loricariid Genera: FAQs on: Ancistrus, Baryancistrus, Genera Farlowella, Loricaria, Sturisoma, Rhineloricaria: Twig Plecostomus, Genera Glyptoperichthys, Liposarcus, Pterygoplichthys, Sailfin Giants among the Loricariids, The Zebra Pleco, Hypancistrus zebra, Hypostomus, Peckoltia: Clown Plecostomus, Lasiancistrus, Panaque, Pseudacanthicus, Scobanancistrus, L-number catfish,
Loricariid Identification, Loricariid Behavior, Loricariid Compatibility, Loricariid Selection, Loricariid Feeding, Loricariid Reproduction, Loricariid Disease, Catfish: Identification, Behavior, Compatibility, Selection, Systems, Feeding, Disease, Reproduction Algae Eaters


High oxygen rates in a tank  1/10/17
I have a 70 Aquaclear on the back of a 38 gallon. The filter has a turnover of 300 gph. Is this something that is producing a high oxygen environment?
<Likely so>
or does current help even more as in from a powerhead?
<I do encourage redundancy in aeration... and filtration>
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Common Bushynose Plecos and water current   12/30/17
I am wondering if the common Bushynose found in all the LFS need stronger current and the higher O2.
<As far as I'm aware, yes. In fact, good, aerated water quality is a common and overlooked requirement for all Loricariids>
I have noticed that every other Pleco out there has this requirement, so if this is the case keeping even the common Bushynose with angelfish is probably not the best idea?? If this is true I have been doing it wrong for quite sometime. Thank you
<Mmm; as long as the system is not overcrowded, well-filtered, circulated... Ancistrus should do fine here.
Bob Fenner>

A male and female Medusa Pleco tank size     11/30/17
Just wondering if a 38 gallon tank is big enough for one male and one female Medusa Pecos along with a singleton angelfish?
<Ancistrus species, including Ancistrus ranunculus, should be allowed about a square foot/30x30 cm per specimen. That should include at least one decent hiding place each. Your tank should be ample for both the catfish,
particularly if there's a decent heap of bogwood roots in there for the catfish to utilise. The Angelfish is an odd choice for a companion though, given Ancistrus ranunculus requires a strong water current that replicates its fast water habitat in the wild -- conditions Angelfish dislike. I'd perhaps be going with a tougher Ancistrus species, or even something like Panaque maccus or Peckoltia pulcher if you wanted the Angel; or if the catfish is what you want, a more riverine species such as the quirky and colourful characin Anostomus would be better. In all fairness its
oxygenation that matters, and if you manage that without a strong current, your combo could work, but that won't be easy.>
Thank you
<Most welcome. Neale.>
Re: A male and female Medusa Pleco tank size    12/1/17

Just wondering what I would have to do with the fish tank to keep a Medusa, L-034. I do have one male of this species now with an angelfish and a long bubble wand in the 38 gallon. Would I need something to make a current
along the bottom?
<Yes; the species is sensitive to low oxygenation, and its lifespan notably shortened under such stress. Won't die at once, but will be stressed; do read PlanetCatfish entry on this species, and other reliable L-number websites for more. Since it's a benthic species, it's not so much bubbles as water movement that matters. A bubble wand will pull water up to the surface, helping with air/water mixing, and hence absorption of oxygen. But that said, your standard issue Hillstream biotope system is closer to the mark. Water turnover rates upwards of 8 times per hour surely necessary, and 10-12 probably ideal. Annoyingly, this species also appreciates high temperatures and soft water, just like other Rio Xingu species, so you have this awkward trio of requirements including two, high oxygen and high temperature, that are actually antagonistic to each other -- warm water holding less oxygen than cool water. Hence Rio Xingu species have a well-earned reputation for being difficult to keep. Low stocking and high
levels of water movement are important.>
But I know that would be bad for the angel that feeds from the bottom. I am thinking of rehoming the Medusa and just getting the Butterfly Pleco, L-168 instead.
<Actually needs much the same as the Medusa Plec, so six of one, half a dozen of the other...>
I never see the Medusa as he doesn't rasp on the wood, just lives in a decoration in the day.
<Not sure either Ancistrus nor Dekeyseria spp are much given to eating wood. Both are mostly aufwuchs feeders, consuming green algae and tiny invertebrates they rasp away from rocks and rotting wood. Neither difficult to feed, e.g., with Hikari Algae Wafers or similar.>
<Welcome. Neale.>

Clown Pleco substrate safety question       8/28/16
Good evening,
I've found myself in a dilemma after following the advice of a local fish supply store (with a good reputation) and purchasing a Clown Pleco for my ex-Betta tank.
<Do double check what species you actually got. The "true" Clown Plec is a Panaque species called Panaque maccus (sometimes called Panaqolus maccus).
It's a herbivore more than anything else. It isn't fussy about the substrate because it prefers to spend time on rocks and especially bogwood.
However, a lot of aquarists (and some older books) use this Clown Plec name for a Peckoltia species, Peckoltia vittata. Like all Peckoltia, this species is a micro carnivore that roots about for worms and such. This species will be more upset by the substrate if it can't dig easily.
PlanetCatfish.com has nice photos of the two species if you need help telling them apart.>
My Betta had passed away after 4 years and I hated to get rid of the mature 5 gal tank, but wasn't ready for another Betta so soon. The store convinced me Clown Plecos stayed small and would do fine in a small tank. Ha! I now
know this size tank is inadequate for him for many reasons, so I want to move him out of there before it stunts his growth.
<Understood. Both the catfish mentioned are relatively small, around 8 cm/3 inches or so in length. The Panaque species is marginally bigger perhaps, but there's not a lot in it. Anything upwards of 20 gallons is fine, and you could probably get away with a 15-gallon tank at a pinch.>
The problem is I only have one other tank option and I'm not sure the substrate will be ok for him. I've read some conflicting information online. The current 5 gal tank has a nice sandy bottom (smooth sand, not the sharp kind I've read about) with driftwood and he really seems to like it.
<Panaque species are wood-eaters, and will spend all their time, if they can, on bogwood, rasping away. They also consume vegetables like courgette/zucchini, as well as algae wafers and the odd bit of something meaty.>
My other tank is a 75 gal planted tank with large pieces of driftwood with lots of places to hide from the 2 goldfish occupants. But the substrate is Seachem's Fluorite gravel.
<Not a major problem for Panaque maccus. As noted, this catfish prefers to stay on solid surfaces, especially bogwood, and rarely comes down onto the substrate except to eat things like algae wafers put out for it.>
It doesn't seem sharp to the touch, but it's not really as smooth as other traditional gravels, so I'm worried it isn't a safe fit for the Pleco. I hope I'm wrong because otherwise I think he'd really love the tank. I'd appreciate any advice you can offer. Thank you in advance for your time!
<Hope this helps, Neale.>
Re: Clown Pleco substrate safety question       9/5/16

Good evening, Neale.
Thank you very much for the reply. It has helped ease my worries! After researching the two species you mentioned on PlanetCatfish.com, I found I do indeed have the true Panaque maccus Clown Pleco. Although I don't see my
little guy much during the day, when I do glimpse him, he's always rasping on the driftwood. And he leaves numerous piles of "wood dust" all over the sandy bottom. It still amazes me how much debris such a tiny thing can create so quickly!
<For the last 20 years I've looked after one of his bigger relatives, Panaque nigrolineatus, a truly wonderful fish. But this thing poops like it's an Olympic Sport! Absolutely standard for the genus, as you've seen, but since it's mostly wood chippings, the effect on water quality is nil.
Probably a useful soil improver too, but can be unsightly, and easily siphoned out, or "spot cleaned" with a turkey baster. Do have a read here:
Plenty of info on this really interesting group of catfishes.>
We are undergoing a renovation project (hence the reason for my delayed reply), but as soon as that is over, I will be moving him to the 75 gal tank where he will hopefully enjoy many happy years.
<Should do. Panaque are notoriously sensitive the first few weeks, and getting them feeding well is crucial. But once settled they are VERY hardy and long-lived.>
Thank you, again!
Sincerely, Jennifer
<Most welcome! Neale.>

Filtration and Plecos     11/10/13
I have a 75 gallon tank with 6 quite small angelfish and one Bristle Nose Pleco. I noticed that since getting the pleco, I am gravel vacuuming twice as much. I heard these Plecos were messy, but they are extremely messy. I have a Aquaclear 70, which has always been a bit small for the tank and I am thinking of upgrading to an Aquaclear 110. Would that make much of a difference? Thank you
<Yes; I'd run both of these small hang ons... and/or add a much larger capacity canister filter. Bob Fenner>

Bristlenose Plecos - Are silk plants bad for them?  10/10/11
Hi guys. I have a question about Bristlenose Plecos (genus Ancistrus).
<Outstanding fish.>
I was reading recently that it can be a bad idea to put royal Plecos in with silk or plastic plants, as they will rasp pieces off of these artificial decorations which could give them intestinal blockages.
<Panaque will certainly destroy anything they can, including the acrylic walls of an aquarium!>
Obviously the small Ancistrus catfish are not royal Plecos, but I was wondering if that still held true for them? I have a mixture of plastic plants, silk plants, artificial wood, small river gravel, heaters and plastic filter fixtures, and was wondering if any of those substances might be harmful for these fish?
<Unlikely. Whereas Panaque have special spoon-shaped teeth that gouge away at solid surfaces, Ancistrus are much more delicate feeders. They're not going to damage silk or plastic plants significantly.>
My other question is this: do Bristlenose Plecos absolutely require real driftwood for long term success, or can they get enough nutrients and roughage from algae tablets and zucchini (courgette)?
<Good question. While I can't see why you wouldn't want to use driftwood, it isn't 100% certain they need wood to do well. Panaque may well digest wood, but Ancistrus consume wood primarily as a source of fibre, and in doing so avoid digestive tract problems such as bloating. So even a small bit of wood in the aquarium is helpful. Some algae wafers are enriched with wood, and these might be used as an alternative, but why bother? Driftwood is cheap, and decorative, and the Ancistrus clearly enjoy it.>
Are there any other vegetables I should consider feeding them? And if driftwood is absolutely required, do you have any tips about reducing tannin levels in driftwood?
<Just use a small bit relative to the size of your tank, and do regular water changes to remove the tannins. Carbon removes some, but carbon needs replacing every week to work, and most people don't understand that, so their carbon is basically "dead".>
I really don't like the blackwater look at all,
<Shame, because your fish do! The darker the water, the better their colours.>
and I tried soaking Mopani would for over a month in a bucket (changing the water daily) to try to stop the tannin leaching, but it still overran my tank and carbon filter. I even boiled the wood a little bit, and still couldn't get the tannins to stop coloring my tank.
<One of those things to accept in life, like not everyone is as smart as you are!>
You guys do a great job on your site! Thanks in advance for your help!
<I would provide the wood. Just a small bit, but some nonetheless. Cheers, Neale.>

Baryancistrus sp.  9/13/10
Hello Crew,
<Hello Paul,>
I recently purchased a Golden Nugget Pleco (Baryancistrus sp.) and I have a couple of questions about care. I did some research online regarding care
and the trouble I keep running into is feeding and water conditions.
<Oh? Should do well in most community tank conditions.>
The ph of my water is around 7.8 for the cichlids I keep in the tank. Is the water going to be to hard for it?
<Let's start with the basics. pH isn't hardness. You can have soft water with a high pH. You can have hard water with a low pH. While the two things are usually related, they don't have to be. Fish actually don't care about the pH. Anything between 6 and 8 will suit this species fine. However, hardness is important. Let's assume your cichlids are Rift Valley cichlids such as Malawian cichlids or Tanganyikan cichlids. These need hard water as you know, at least 15 degrees dH general hardness, and 5 or more degrees KH carbonate hardness. Such an aquarium would, it is true, have a pH between about 7.5 and 8.5. But the reason your Baryancistrus couldn't be kept in that tank is the hardness, not the pH. As I hope you realise, Baryancistrus is a South American Loricariid and not compatible with Rift Valley cichlids or Central American cichlids. On the other hand, West African cichlids (such as Kribs) and South American cichlids (such as Acara) would make fine tankmates. West African and South American cichlids prefer soft water, something around 5-10 degrees dH, and a pH between 6.5-7.5. That would be just fine and dandy for Baryancistrus. One slight complication is that some Gold Nugget Plecs are Baryancistrus L18, a variety from the Rio Xingu, and these need much warmer water than most South American fish, a trait shared with other Rio Xingu fish. You're aiming for around 27-28 C/79-82 F.
Obviously that's far too warm for most cichlids, rather few of which do well above 25 C/77 F. You'd need to choose tankmates for Baryancistrus L18 very carefully.>
My other question is feeding, what in your experience works best with try to get food past a bunch of hungry cichlids?
<Depends on the cichlids. I'm trying to think which South American and West African cichlids eat vegetables. Hardly any, except perhaps Severums and Uaru. I'm worried you're talking about Mbuna, and you absolutely CANNOT keep Baryancistrus with Mbuna, so the question is a non-starter.>
What would be the best food to give it? Other sites suggested blood worms, algae tabs and blanched zucchini. Any suggestions or ideas would be helpful.
<Baryancistrus are omnivorous, like most Loricariidae, so a mix of zucchini, cooked peas, mussels, fish fillet, bloodworms, algae wafers and catfish pellets would all be accepted. Feed some of these at night, and provided there aren't too many other catfish or loaches in there, the fish should feed itself just fine. South American and West African cichlids are mainly predatory and/or substrate-sifters, so there may be some competition for bloodworms and meaty foods, but only during the daytime. At night the catfish will be on his own.>
<Hope this helps. Nice catfish by the way, but don't expect it to last long in Rift Valley aquarium!
Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Baryancistrus sp.  9/13/10
I should of mentioned what its take mate would be. I have 6 Labidochromis caeruleus, 3 Haplochromis sp. 44 and 2 female Protomelas taeniolatus (which are getting moved to a different tank when they get a little bigger).
<Labidochromis and Protomelas are Malawian cichlids, while Haplochromis sp. 44 comes from Lake Victoria; mixing Victorian and Malawian cichlids isn't recommended for a variety of reasons, not least of which is their different water chemistry requirements. Contrary to popular misconception, Lake Victoria isn't especially hard and alkaline, at least not as much as Lake Malawi. This is where this nonsensical "African Cichlid" idea gets the unwary into deep trouble. If you haven't already invested in books by the
likes of Paul Loiselle or Ad Konings, can I strongly encourage you to do so? There's a lot of balderdash provided online in terms of what cichlids need, and retailers often seem to have only the vaguest ideas about the different needs of Malawian, Tanganyikan, and Victorian cichlids.>
My tank set up includes heavy rock work with a few dense fake plants and fine white sand for a substrate.
<Well, I hope the rockwork has been secured. I'd strongly recommend a layer of gravel at the bottom of the tank about a half-inch deep, and then a gravel tidy, and then the rocks on top of that. I have seen first hand what happens when rocks slip down because the gravel is moved, hit the glass, and then crack the bottom of the tank. You don't want a piece of that, trust me!>
I will be adding a couple pieces of driftwood after they are done soaking for a couple of days.
<Driftwood will of course lower the pH if your carbonate hardness isn't sufficiently high. That will stress Malawian cichlids in particular. A small bit of wood shouldn't make much difference, but it's still not
generally recommended to do this with Malawian aquaria. It's not as if these cichlids use wood as habitat. Protomelas is an open-water Haplochromine that darts into the rocks only when alarmed, while Labidochromis is a typical Mbuna that spends its time around the rocks.
These two genera should get along quite well; though Mbuna generally terrify if not kill Haplochromines, Labidochromis is one of the few exceptions, Iodotropheus being the other.>
There are a bunch of hiding places around the tank so I didn't think that territory would be a issue.
<Labidochromis doesn't form breeding territories, so in that regard no, it shouldn't cause problems with any catfish.>
How concerned should I be with the other fish harassing and trying to kill it?
<Least of your problems. Baryancistrus doesn't belong in this aquarium because of the radially different requirements in terms of water chemistry and potentially temperature. Let me be as clear as crystal here: this fish needs its own soft or at least not-too-hard water aquarium. A regular community tank with tetras, barbs, etc. would be fine. Malawian cichlids?
Nope. Who told you this would be a good idea? There are some Synodontis that would work, for example S. nyassae, but Baryancistrus? No, no, no. To be fair, there are some hardy Loricariidae that do okay in Malawian tanks; I have a Royal Panaque that spent many years in just such a system, and I dare say something like Hypostomus punctatus or Pterygoplichthys gibbiceps would do just fine as well. But Baryancistrus spp. are much less adaptable, and really do need something more like you'd provide for Corydoras and South American fish generally, though as noted in my previous e-mail possibly with higher temperatures if you have a Rio Xingu specimen.>
So far the other fish were content to just swim up to it and see what the new fish was all about, after a few minutes they left it alone to do its own thing.
<Indeed. Your cichlids aren't a bad mix in terms of temperament assuming the tank is adequately large, though Haplochromis sp. 44 doesn't want quite the same conditions as the two Malawians. Neither should they cause undue harm to Malawian species of Synodontis. But I fear that your Baryancistrus will not have a particularly long and happy life in this aquarium. Hope this clarifies things. Cheers, Neale.>

DIY backgd.s, Loricariids  5/15/10
I have been doing plenty of research on DIY aquarium backgrounds. Looks like a large Pleco is out of the picture if I do one.
<In some cases, yes. Panaque especially will strip the coating from 3D backgrounds.>
I have also been extensively researching water chemistry and PH. I will probably buy an RO unit and test getting a stable ph with premixed water.
<RO water by definition doesn't have a stable pH, and the more RO water you mix with tap water, the more carefully you will need to monitor and likely "fix" the pH with buffers.>
I wish to house primarily blackwater fish and would like to provide the most natural yet stable environment possible.
I have read that mixing tap water with RO water will add some alkalinity to the water to prevent acid crashes and ph fluctuations.
<It isn't the tap water as such, but the carbonate hardness in hard tap water that helps. Do read:
However, even with a de-chlorinator that "makes tap water safe" wont I be simply putting back other harmful chemicals into my water that I took out with the RO unit?
<Tap water is, by definition, safe for fish. The hardness may not be ideal, but provided you dechlorinate the water and remove any copper and ammonia present in your tap water, what you're making is completely safe. The idea tap water is dangerous to fish is erroneous.>
I could also use RO reclaim treatments, but this may get pricey for a 500 gallon tank.
Will mixing RO water with tap water do the trick or is the reclaim treatment the better option?
<For soft water fish, a simple mix of RO and hard tap water usually works fine. If you're after blackwater conditions, then RO water is typically buffered with "Discus aquarium salts" which stabilise the pH and provide the minerals essential to making usable water. You have to remember, pure water, i.e., RO water, isn't healthy for fish.>
In the emails below you mentioned that below a PH of 6, bio-filtering bacteria are non-existent.
<Correct. Nitrifying bacteria prefer pH 7.5 to 8.>
If I go about trying to recreate blackwater how do I manage nitrites and nitrates?
<Well, nitrate is easy, since that's handled via water changes. In low pH systems, true blackwater systems, the usual protocol is to stock the tank
very lightly, to incorporate floating plants that use up the ammonia, and most importantly, to use Zeolite to remove ammonia directly.>
Do I do water changes every day?
<In blackwater tanks this is often the case.>
I am having a hard time finding information on this as it seems few people get this involved in aquaria. And finally, for Arowanas, Oscars, shovelnose cats and possibly some freshwater rays, am I better off just keeping a low ph but not so low as to recreate true blackwater conditions?
<None of these fish needs blackwater conditions. Indeed, they'll all be perfectly happy at around 10 degrees dH, pH 7.5. When keeping stingrays,
yes, low nitrate is crucial, but the pH isn't, and moderate hardness is perfectly acceptable. Before you do anything else, do purchase Richard Ross' excellent stingray book published by Barron's. Costs a few dollars on Amazon.>
Thanks for the help! Your site is amazing!
<Glad to help. Cheers, Neale.> 

Pleco belly turning white?   2/8/10
<... 16 Megs in pix?>
I am concerned about my Pleco , who I have had for 10 years.
Recently his belly has turned a grayish white color.
<I see this>
It doesn't seem to bother" Mr. Bigfish" ,as he is still eating , sucking, swimming, and pooping away....
Always swims to the top of the tank on the side to say hello when I talk to him...He has always been a happy healthy fish.
The only thing I have read as this is normal with older age but I really want to make sure as we love our Mr. Bigfish.
He is very well fed, clean home, vacuumed regularly and great temp and PH...all checked daily , as he is a big pooper...
His belly used to have a very black and white contrast of a maze like the color on his sides...I started using Melafix today just in case...
<I would not use this product period. See WWM re>
I have included some pictures..Please tell me if this is normal or of there is something I must do for him.
*Pictures can be enlarged for you.....Thank-you very much for any help!
<This fish is likely fine. Some such changes in colour are due to variable water quality... in turn accounted for in being in too-small volumes, inadequate filtration, maintenance. Please read here:
and the linked files above. Bob Fenner>

Re: Pleco belly turning white? -- 02/08/10
Hello Bob,
<Hello again>
Thank-you for answering so fast.
First, I must say I am very sorry for the size of my pictures I thought I had made them smaller and included a link for the larger size....
<Ahh! I understand>
I fear with what you have told me that Mr. Bigfish needs a larger home.
<Some Loricariid species get REALLY big indeed... I got to be in a "mud wrangling contest" at a Tampa fish farm once with Pterygoplichthys that were well over two foot in length!>
He lives in a 30 gallon tank all to himself as he doesn't play well with others...He is 17".
How big of an aquarium should he have to be happy?
<Really? About six plus foot in length>
I change 50% water weekly and vacuum , I use a AquaClear powerhead undergravel filter that pumps 175 gph, I keep his PH 7.0 and temp 75.
I also add PH up to keep up with the PH between water changes, as well as using a net to scoop the poop daily.
I read the link you sent...Thank-you. I couldn't find anything regarding not using Melafix on WWM...
<Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/phonyfwmeds.htm
or just use the search tool... on every page>
Although I did stop using and did a 50% water change this morning ...could you please send me a link?
Love this site as your articles have helped me in the past to establish this clean home.
<Am very glad that we have aided your efforts>
I never expected to have such a big fish but he is my beloved pet and I want to spoil him as best I can.
Thank-you again for your time in helping me...
<Certainly welcome. BobF>

Pleco in a bottle  2/1/2010
I was wondering if I could put a small Plecostomus (spelled right?) or Bristlenose Pleco ( I've heard they stay small) could live peacefully with a male Betta in a 1.5 gallon tank.
<No. I wouldn't even put a Betta in this tank, to be honest. After decor and substrate, a tank this small holds about a gallon of water in actual volume -- not viable for anything that's alive, really. The waste buildup would lead to extremely frequent water changes or, in their absence, a sick fish. Please read the following pages on Betta care, and take the information found there to heart, prior to purchasing one of these tiny tanks. They really never lead to anything good, and end up to be disappointing attempts at fishkeeping. Do your research, start with a realistically-sized tank (five gallons for a Betta, at minimum), and you'll be successful here. If you are currently keeping a Betta in a tank this small, please do ensure that you're testing often for Nitrate, and doing water changes to keep that level below 20. For most Betta systems, this is incredibly easy. My Betta's tank, a five-gallon with a large Anubias Nana
on driftwood, routinely tests at 0 to 5 Nitrate with minimal maintenance.
In tanks as small as the one you mention, it's a different story, which is why they so often lead to discouraging results.
Plecos need much more than what you'd be offering here, and I wouldn't place on in any tank under thirty gallons, even the Ancistrus species you mention above. These can grow to six inches, and would quickly outgrow the aquarium you're mentioning. Along the way, it would produce copious amounts of waste, if kept properly, and foul water quality. You need volume to dilute waste. Swimming space is nice, but when we recommend a certain size aquarium for any fish, we are often keeping their waste production in mind. Plecos eat a lot; therefore, they poop a lot, and need a much larger volume than what you're offering. When water quality begins to decline, fish begin to get sick. Remember, in the end, this is supposed to be a fun hobby, and if you take risk after risk, you're only going to end up causing more trouble for yourself, and your fish. It's SO much easier to take care the first time to do things right.
Please write back if you have further questions after reading.

Pleco question, sys., growth/beh.     8/5/09
My Plecos (standard black BIG ones--LFS) only seem to live about 3-5 years.
<Should live much, much longer.>
I've read their life expectancy is over 10 years, and I don't want to do the wrong things.
<Ten years is barely middle aged for these catfish! Under good conditions they routinely live for more than 20 years, and exceptional specimens have been reported as living for around 30 years.>
Does something happen to them that they need something different at that age...
<As they grow, they demand more in terms of filtration, swimming space and oxygen availability, and all those factors can come together to cause problems for the less accommodating aquarist.>
I seem to remember reading that there are fish that develop the need for brackish water at maturity but can't seem to find anything to prove or disprove this theory...
<No, they don't need brackish water. While it is true that some Hypostomus species live in slightly brackish water in the wild, and feral Pterygoplichthys in Florida have colonised slightly brackish water canals and ponds successfully, none of the Loricariidae actually needs brackish water. Your "big black Plec" is presumably Pterygoplichthys pardalis or something similar; these fish naturally inhabits freshwater habitats in South America and do not need salty water.>
Currently I have one Pleco, small/young/6 months, in a 55 gallon with 4 Balas (I purchased a 100 gallon tank currently being cycled etc for when they out grown the 55 gallon....) 1 convict, 5 blackstriped minnows, and 4 rainbow darters. The Pleco lives in the castle during the daytime. I took a piece of pvc pipe and rock covered it for my last Pleco--he was about 12", and I want this guy to inherit it and live in it a long time....hence why I am asking you for help.
<One problem is the 55 gallon tank. It's simply too small for adult Pterygoplichthys. (Oh, by the way, this is pronounced "Terry Gopp Lick This".) Your 100 gallon system is much closer to the mark. Water turnover will have to be substantial, and I'd be aiming for something like 8 to 10 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour. So, for a 100 gallon system, you'd need filters (likely plural) that together offer a turnover off 8 x 100 = 800 gallons per hour, minimum. That's about equivalent to four Eheim 2017 canister filters (each rated at about 260 gallons per hour). Sounds a lot I know, but these catfish produce huge amounts of waste, and without massive filtration, water quality and oxygen availability will drop. Don't clutter the tank up too much since that will cause debris to accumulate in corners and under rocks, but instead use a few large rocks and flower pots that can be easily cleaned around, or removed for cleaning, if need be. Do also review things like diet and water temperature. For these catfish, the diet should contain both plant and animal foods. Zucchini, melon rinds, spinach, cooked peas, Sushi Nori and cucumber all fit the bill on the greens front; for meaty foods look at frozen lancefish and mussels as good sources of protein. Wood seems to consumed, perhaps as a source of fibre, so there should be at least a small piece of bogwood available for these fish to chew on. Keep the temperature at a low to middling level, around 22-25 C/72-77 F. When the water gets too hot, metabolism speeds up while oxygen concentration in the water drops.>
What am I doing wrong? Thank you.
<Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Pleco question   8/5/09

Ok then! That should solve the mystery/problem.
<Glad to hear it!>
I now know who will be migrating to the BIG tank!
<Very good.>
Thanks! As you say our critters are dependant on us. 5 big fish in a 100 gallon tank. Could I add some colorful tropicals with that mix (4 Balas and one Pleco).
<With big Plecs, good choices including Rainbowfish (lots of bright colours), Swordtails, Xenotoca eiseni, Congo Tetras and Bleeding Heart Tetras. Kept in groups, these fish would provide colour and activity.
Indeed, a school of 20 Rainbowfish, for example Melanotaenia boesemanni or Glossolepis incisus, would be hard to beat. If you opt for Rainbows, remember to get *equal* numbers of males and females, or you'll not get the full colours. Lots of people think just getting males is best; they're wrong!>
All I seem to acquire are grey fish, and it would be nice to have some color... I was thinking some swords or something that size etc
<Swords are good, and enjoy the fast-flowing, somewhat cool conditions Plecs enjoy.>
PS thanks for the very quick response!
<Happy to help. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Pleco question   8/5/09

Thanks Neale!!! You have been a huge help. Suggestions I wouldn't have thought of!
<Glad to have given you some ideas. Enjoy your Plec! Cheers, Neale.>

Several Questions (Water chemistry; Ancistrus)   6/7/09
Hello Crew, hope all is going well there. Kind of gloomy here; been raining for about a week straight now.
<Too bad!>
I have a couple of questions, please. First, I use Pura pad sometimes and Purigen sometimes in my fresh water aquarium filter. I know they can decrease trace elements and I would like to know if you think it necessary to buy trace elements in a bottle to add each week or if enough are found in tap water.
<Generally, no, you'll be fine. There's little evidence fish extract minerals from the water, and if they're given a good diet, they should do well. The exceptions are [a] if you have crustaceans such as shrimps and
crayfish, which do need iodine supplements, about 50% the dose given on marine iodine supplements; and [b] plants, which need fertiliser added to the water (or the substrate, in the case of pellets, which I prefer) on a regular basis as described by the manufacturer.>
My second question is about Bristlenose Plecos. I know that having 2 males (if that is what I wind up with) should be able to get along in a 75 gallon tank, but does it matter if one is added first and then another later or should they both be added at the same time so as to not take any chances with aggression later?
<I'd put their "caves" on either end of the tank, or at least a good distance apart, since Ancistrus really only defend an area around 30 cm in diameter with their cave in the middle. In a tank your size, you should be
fine. Do add some females too, as these fish breed quite readily, and the fry are great fun to rear. Selling baby Ancistrus is very easy, since they're such popular fish.>
Thank you for all you do.
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Several Questions (Water chemistry; Ancistrus)
Thank you.
<Thou art most welcome. Cheers, Neale.>

Bristlenose Pleco... sys.   4-16-09
Hello Crew, Hope things are going well for you. I would like some advice, please. I have a 75 gallon fw tank which will be housing Corys and angels. I am considering putting a bristle nose Pleco in the tank. I wanted to know if the Pleco should be added before or after algae starts forming as well as how many would be appropriate for this size tank. Thank you for your help.
<It couldn't matter less when you add the Ancistrus, since algae will be only a small part of its diet. You will still need to be adding algae wafers (one coin-sized wafer per night per catfish, 5 nights per week).
They also need to eat vegetables, bloodworms, etc. I'd allow about 15-20 gallons per Ancistrus, though the key thing is hiding places rather than swimming space. Males hold territories about 15 cm around their cave.
Cheers, Neale.>

Is Driftwood Necessary? 4/14/2009
Hello, WWM crew,
I have a 55 gallon tank with 4 ID sharks, 2 parrot cichlids, 1 Danio, 3 black skirt tetras and 1 kissing Gourami. In 3yrs, I plan to upgrade them to a 110 gallon tank. The fish have thrived in this tank for a long time and are doing well. In the meantime, I'd like to add a Pleco. The ones I have been researching are the Bristlenoses, clowns and Columbian zebras. Since these are smaller species, I may get two for this tank.
The PH is steady at 7.2 with help from the crushed coral in my Penguin 350 filter. The temp. is 80 degrees and other water parameters are normal. I have read a lot about driftwood and I am not comfortable with the idea of placing it in my tank. I like the look of my fish floating on air in my tank, I use Poly pads in my filter. The color change does not appeal to me at all.
Is driftwood a major necessity? Are there any alternatives to using driftwood that will not stain the water and still provide the dietary needs it provides to the Pleco(s)? I'd like your opinion on this driftwood issue.
<In general, no, driftwood isn't necessary. But there's good evidence that Plec-type catfish are exceptional in this regard, with at least some specimens benefiting from the presence of wood. Panaque spp. digest the wood, while others, notably Pterygoplichthys and Hypostomus, use wood as a source of dietary fibre. Do some people keep Ancistrus and Hypancistrus without wood? Sure. But without doing a major study, we can't be sure whether they live longer (or are at least less constipated!) when offered some wood to gnaw on. As for Panaque spp., including (one of the several) Clown Plec species Panaque maccus, wood is mandatory. Water changes and carbon will both minimise water staining if that bothers you, but I will make the point fish are happier in stained water and certainly develop brighter colours. Cheers, Neale.>

Goldfish - Puffer Compatibility  4/12/09
I currently have a 55gal tank, with 2 fish - a rather large and well-fed goldfish, as well as one medium sized Pleco.
<Sounds nice, assuming the tank is warm enough for the Plec (you can't keep a Plec in an unheated aquarium).>
Yesterday, my teenage daughter, on a lark, bought a puffer fish from Wal-Mart. The puffer is maybe an inch and a half long.
<Take it back. For a start, most of the Puffers sold are brackish water species, most commonly the Figure 8 puffer (Tetraodon biocellatus) and the two Green Spotted Puffers (Tetraodon fluviatilis and Tetraodon
nigroviridis). So these simply cannot be kept for more than a few months in freshwater tanks. There are true freshwater puffers in the trade, but these are either nippy, aggressive, or both.>
I really don't want to get a new aquarium for the puffer, but I also can't let her keep it in the small bowl she's currently using.
<Take it back.>
Can the goldfish and puffer coexist peacefully??
Or do I need to find another option?
Thanks for your help.
<Your daughter has to take back the fish. She needs to learn to research the needs of the fish before spending money. In other words, a lesson in responsibility! Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Goldfish - Puffer Compatibility - 4/13/09

First off, thanks for the quick response!
<Happy to help.>
You pretty much confirmed what I told her - but she's a teenager, and the last person on earth she'd listen to, is her dad!
We'll find a new, appropriate, home for the poor puffer today.
As for my goldfish and Pleco - the tank is plenty warm.
<Hmm... by which, you mean the tank is consistently at 22C/70F or more? I only mention this because a lot of people buy these Plecs assuming they'll be fine in a coldwater tank, and they won't be.>
They've both lived together for a little over 4 years now, and are thriving.
<No, doesn't sound like its thriving at all. At 4 years old it should be full size, which means 45 cm/18 inches. You mentioned yours was "medium sized" which simply shouldn't be the case after four years. So something is amiss. Lifespan when properly kept is something over 20 years, and these animals are legendarily tough, so signs of "sub optimal" maintenance won't always be obvious. If your fish is still happy sixteen years from now, please let me know, eh? But honestly, if your house is centrally heated to the minimum temperature mentioned above, you'll earn all kinds of good karma by adding a heater. Goldfish, by the way, don't mind warm water at all, and Fancy Goldfish will actually do much better than otherwise.>
Thanks again, and have a great day!
<You're most welcome. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Goldfish - Puffer Compatibility - 4/13/09

Wow... and I thought he was so happy!? I do have a heater, but I don't keep it very warm - usually around 68. The aquarium is in a cooler part of our basement.? I'll turn the heater up and see how he likes it.
Thanks again.
<Very good. But don't go bananas! Stick the heater in at its lowest setting to begin with, and each day thereafter turn it up a notch. Goldfish aren't happy above 24 degrees C (75 degrees F) so don't turn the heater up too high. Cheers, Neale.>

pH acclimatization while moving Plecos 4/6/2009
Hi WWM crew!
I have a question regarding moving two L134 Plecos from a 10G holding tank with a pH around 6.5 to a 40G breeder with pH of 8.1.
<Mmm, well... first off... I wouldn't do this... this pH is too high for this species. Please read here:
and the linked breeding article embedded>
They've been in the 10G for a few weeks as it was the only tank I had that had the same pH as their source water. I am looking for some advice on what would be a safe period of time to bring the pH up to 8.1 while moving these guys. I've heard a lot of differing advice on other forums where people suggest shifting pH over weeks.
<I agree with this>
I find that sort of suggestion somewhat unpractical as the tank they're in settles at pH 6.5 even though my tapwater is around 8.0 (not sure why as it's the only tank that does this)
<Some thing/s in the tank are bolstering... rock, gravel, ornaments...>
so adding water to change the pH probably won't work or the volume of water required will shock the fish.
How much time should I take to acclimate these guys?
<Weeks... if you're intent here... but I would not do this. Instead, read Neale's excellent articles on hardness et al... and mine on pH, Alk.:
and the linked files above... And seek the source of your high pH, fix it, and keep this species in a lower range. Bob Fenner>

Pleco... damaged?   2/5/09 Hi I couldn't find an answer to my question on your website or through Google. If I missed it I apologise. I have a 15" Pleco that seems to be in good health except that it appears to have one scale missing from it's side, showing what looks like the bone (white skin ?) underneath. There are no marks, sores, scrapes, red or cloudy areas, it just looks like one small scale has been removed. I have put a fin-rot medication in the tank as about 8 months ago it lost about 1 inch of one fin spike to what I presumed was fin rot - this never grew back but it stopped rotting and has been good since, but the medication seems to have had no reaction either way, good or bad. Could this just be where the Pleco has rubbed against something in the tank or should I be more suspicious ? Thank you for being there and apologies for the long winded question Regards Chris <Hello Chris. Catfish don't have scales, and what look like armoured plates on Plecs are in fact thick pieces of skin. They do get damaged sometimes, most commonly either through heater burns or through Plec-to-Plec violence. Heaters can be very dangerous with catfish generally, because if a catfish nestles under a heater that is cool at the time, and the heater switches on, the catfish might not realise until it's been burned. (Presumably, their plates of skin aren't sensitive to heat, so they can't tell they're being burned until the heat has travelled deeper into the body.) Aggression between Plecs is common and yet often ignored by retailers and hobbyists. If adult Plecs are kept in the same tank, e.g., at a pet store, it is not uncommon for the dominant Plec to scrape the skin away from the weaker ones. Some Plec species are worse than others, with Acanthicus, Panaque, and Pterygoplichthys spp. particularly nasty towards rivals. In extreme cases, deaths can result. Now, Finrot or some similar bacterial infection is a possibility, so treating against them is wise. Do also check water quality: Plecs are big, messy fish that put a lot of stress on their environment. It's hard to keep an adult the size of yours in a tank less than 250 litres (55 Imperial gallons), even allowing for a robust filtration system and copious water changes. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Pleco, injury, heater? 2/5/09
Thank you so much for the comprehensive answer. I am going to keep an eye on the Pleco for any repeat sores. There is only one Pleco in the tank, (tank is 48" x 24" x 18") so it may be water (which is changed (20%-25% weekly) and well filtered, or the heater. Thank you again for your excellent help. Regards Chris <Happy to help. Do look for a heater guard (a simple plastic mesh that encases the heater) or else use an external heater like the Hydro ETH units or the Eheim Thermo--filters. Tank is a bit small, so be aggressive water changes, and check the nitrite level periodically. Cheers, Neale.>

Violet Gobies, and Loricariid sys.   -08/27/08 Hi my name is Shawna and I have 2 violet gobies and 1 leopard Pleco that is roughly 4 to 5 inches long. I have the gobies in a 10 gallon brackish water tank. <Too small... the Violet Gobies (Gobioides spp.) are territorial and very large. You can expect them to reach 30-50 cm/12-20 inches under aquarium conditions and depending on the species involved. They will fight over hiding places. The Leopard Plec (Glyptoperichthys gibbiceps) gets to about 30-45 cm/12-18 inches. It is a freshwater fish and cannot be kept in brackish water. The Violet Gobies will need SG 1.005-1.010, and that is far too saline for these catfish.> Will my Pleco do good in the tank with them? <None of these fish will do well in a 10 gallon tank, and you need something 5 times the size just for the two Gobies, let alone the catfish. They can't be combined either. Do see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_3/cav3i3/Dragon_Gobies/Dragon%20Gobies.htm > Thanks. <Cheers, Neale>

Tank size recommended for a Bristlenose Pleco   7/25/08 Hi: I have a male Bristlenose Pleco about 5 1/2 inches. <Nice fish! Time to get some females so you can breed them. The males make excellent parents.> I have had him in a 40 gallon community tank for about 2 years. He is starting to uproot my plants on a daily basis. <Pretty common with all Loricariidae once they reach a certain size. Not much you can do about it, short of using robust plants that he can't harm (Crypts, Anubias, Java fern, Vallisneria, etc.). You could also try giving him hollow ornaments, since he is likely broody and trying to make some sort of nest in case a female comes by. Ceramic flowerpots or PVC pipes work great, but any hollow fish tank ornament will do. If he has a place to turn into his private nest, he'll probably do less damage in the aquarium. Worth a shot, anyway.> I'm considering moving him to another tank. What size tank should I put him in? Is 5 gallons too small? <Yes, far too small. He needs upwards of 20 gallons at least, and I'd argue not less than 30 gallons if you intend to keep him with other fish.> Will he be o.k. in a tank by himself? <Define "OK". He'll be bored out of his mind and sexually frustrated, but will he die, no.> Thanks for your help. <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Tank size recommended for a Bristlenose Pleco   7/26/08 Thank you for the quick response. I will leave my Pleco where he is and try the hollow ornament. I had two Pleco's but they both turned out to be male and this one bullied the other one so bad I had to get rid of him. How do I make sure I get a female? Marilyn <Sexing juvenile Bristlenose Plecs is difficult, but adults are very obviously sexually dimorphic. Males have far longer "tentacles" on the front of their heads; females can have them, but they are never as well developed. Males are also broader at the shoulder, and tend to be longer and stockier too. Do try and track down a copy of Kathy Jinking's excellent book 'Bristlenoses - catfish with character'; you'll find it very useful if you intend to breed these interesting fish. Cheers, Neale.>

Royal Panaque temperature  6/9/08 Hello Crew (and Neale, I bet this one gets handed to you <g>). <Not so much handed as hand-picked. It's always good to hear from you Mitzi.> I just read on PlanetCatfish that Panaque nigrolineatus preferred temperature is 22.0-30.0°C (71.6-86°F), I never realized they could live in cooler water, I can't believe I didn't know that. <Most tropical fish will do fine at 22C, and for many sorts, including Corydoras, Neons, Danios and many barbs and loaches, temperatures at the cool end of things are preferred.> I've got two 4"-5" L191's (the Dull Eyed Royal Plecs) that get along wonderfully but I know to keep my eye on them as they mature. <Good!> They're in a 6' tank right now (with 11 Cory Cats, 2 Angelfish, 13 female Bettas, 2 Raphael Catfish & 6 Glass Catfish) but I would like to know if you think it would be acceptable to put them in my 100 gal tank with only 3 Fantail Goldfish (4"-6" long). <Provided the water temperature was adequate, yes, this should work fine. A Goldfish is simply a kind of schooling cyprinid, and can be treated thus. Panaque won't nibble their fins.> It's got driftwood and good current with a strong powerhead and the Royals would get a lot more peace and quiet with no nocturnal competition in that tank. <Panaque are pretty phlegmatic animals, and can cope with a variety of tankmates, even things as boisterous as Mbuna. My specimen lived for many years in a Mbuna aquarium. As noted cichlid biologist Paul Loiselle noted, Panaque are so heavily armoured as to be "proof against everything short of depth charges"! While Panaque aren't aggressive as such, they can and will throw their not inconsiderable weight about if they feel annoyed. Scooting away other herbivores from the algae pellets or whatever should be no problem!> That tank temperature is around 75-78 degrees. <More than adequate for Panaque.> Is PlanetCatfish accurate in stating the Royals would do well in temps as low as 71 degrees? Neale, what temperature do you keep your Royal at? <Mine is at 23C/74F. In summer I turn the heaters in my tanks down to the minimum setting and let the tanks warm up and cool down naturally. Goldfish are perfectly happy at up to 24C/75F: in terms of natural history, they're subtropical fish that happen to be tolerant of cold water. I have a trio of Crucian Carp (Carassius carassius) juveniles living in a thickly planted windowsill tank where the daytime temperature rises above 30C/86F. Crucian Carp are very close to the ancestors of the Goldfish, though the precise relationship is contentious, but the main thing is to prove the point that these fish are extremely adaptable. So in other words, raise the temperature in your Goldfish system slightly, and then add the Panaque.> Thanks to your entire group. When it comes right down to it and I need a specific answer I honestly don't trust anyone else. <I'm glad we've been able to help.> That goes double for Neale because he's at the very top of my "Respect List" :-) <Aw, shucks...> Mitzi <Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Royal Panaque temperature - 06/09/2008
That's the best news I've had since you told me Clown Loaches would do good in my hard water-ha! And they certainly have, thriving healthy little buggers. <Great!> The Goldfish tank doesn't have a heater in it & I've kept the window air conditioner on in that room to keep the temp lower for them, but I can just run the window AC at a higher temp (been in the 90's here lately) and it sounds like that'll be just fine for the Goldfish and the Royals either way. <Indeed; fish don't care where the warmth comes from, what matters is that it doesn't get too cold or too hot for them.> I've thought so many times how much the Royals would like that tank with the wood and all the peacefulness, I'm so glad they can live in there now. They're actually my 11 yr old son's Goldfish and he thinks the Royals are 'way cool fish' so he'll be glad, too. I'll just split the zucchini and mango up and put it at *both* ends, sounds like a plan. <I dare say the Goldfish will be nibbling on those veggies too. Since Panaque shouldn't eat too much meaty food, and Goldfish do better the more plant-based their diet, this should all work out quite well. I wrote an article for TFH a while back on the Subtropical aquarium, one that Bob has reprinted here at WWM: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/subtroptks.htm Anyway, the more I've since researched this topic, the more species I discover that prefer cooler water. Corydoras and Neons are perhaps the classic example: both are routinely kept much warmer in captivity than they'd experience in the wild. Given the abysmal survival rate of Neons in captivity, I'd wager overheating is one like stress factor aquarists would do well to consider. My Corydoras paleatus spend summers in an outdoor pond -- in a British summer at that! They positively thrived, and started breeding as soon as autumn came and I put them back in a tropical tank. In other words, it's wise not to get into this "tropical fish = hot water" mentality. It's a lot more complex than that, but once you've done some research, you'll find many species like cooler water than you'd thought. This makes some "tropical" fish ideal tankmates for Goldfish in a subtropical or not-too-warm tropical aquarium.> Thank you, Neale! Once again you come through for me with flying colors :-)) Mitzi <Well, we do try. Good luck, Neale.>

Re: Royal Panaque temperature 6/10/08
I certainly had read your article a very long time ago. You under-estimate my respect for you-I go out of my way to research articles you've written. And I'm not shy in telling others about your knowledge and the stock I put into what you say. We all have our heroes, your cross to bear is being mine <g>. <Very sweet!> Part of the reason I always thought the Royals would like the Goldfish tank is the endless supply of veggies. The Goldfish only get protein as treats once or twice a week. I'm surprised at the number of people who automatically feed Goldfish flakes or pellets to Goldfish and then wonder why they have swim bladder problems. So to all the Goldfish owners-75% veggies and only 25% protein, (yet another thing I learned from you). I'll save you the trouble of typing it, Neale-ha! <Indeed so! Yes, there are lots of fish that do best on a plant- rather than animal-based diet.> Mitzi PS Sounds like I'll be turning down my 80 degree tanks to 78 degrees and saving on electricity <An important point. Those folks keeping Neons, Danios and Corydoras for example can easily turn the heat down and enjoy healthier fish as well as lower fuel bills. With everyone talking about high energy prices and global warming, surely that's a sensible thing to do? Cheers, Neale.>

Can you help please ????? Backgrounds in tank and FW algae eaters   4/19/08 Hello crew, I recently bought a Jewel 300 litre tank to replace a 100 litre tank which cracked . I also bought a Jewel 3d background of some rocks, which was very nice. However over a period of a couple months the design on the 3d background started coming off !! So I called the petshop I bought the tank from and they said they would replace it , the owner off the shop said it happened because I have a small algae eater (approx.10cm.). I have never seen the algae eater on the background and thought that the reason for the design came off was because of a faulty pair of background tiles . I would appreciate your opinion on this matter , have you heard of this before ? Could it be my flow off the pump is flowing wrong direction (water getting pushed to back off tank)? Hope you can help as I'm waiting to find out if I should put in the new tiles or take out my algae eater first . Happy Xmas. <Hello Andre. Some algae-eating fish can, will destroy textured backgrounds. The Juwel ones are made from expanded polystyrene or epoxy foams. The basic material is one colour, but there is paint applied to the outside to make it look more attractive. In any case, Panaque spp. catfish for example simply shred them. So what you report is not at all surprising. They cannot be used with Panaque spp., and probably not other medium to large Loricariidae. Cheers, Neale.>

Pleco in small tank or aggressive tank? -04/11/08 I recently bought a 20 gallon high tank that included 3 fish; an 8 inch Pleco, a 3 inch Pink Gourami, and a Guppy. They all get along fairly well but I'm afraid the tank is just too small for the Pleco, especially if he continues to grow. <I'm assuming we're talking about a Hypostomus plecostomus, those "classic" Plecos it seems like everybody has? If so, yes, he'll get huge (like, possibly almost 2ft).> I was considering moving him to my 130 gallon tank but I am unsure how he would do with, not only the different water conditions, but the Cichlids as well. Currently in the big tank are two 6 inch Jaguars, two 2 inch Jaguars, a 9 inch Flowerhorn, a 4 inch Convict, a 2 inch Convict, a 3 inch Jack Dempsey and a 4 inch Tiger Shovelnose Cat. All are at least somewhat aggressive and the Flowerhorn is just downright mean. I would hate to leave the Pleco in a tiny tank but I would also hate to see him beaten and nipped to death by territorial Cichlids. From what I've read, the chances of a Pleco thriving in a Cichlid tank are very circumstantial <I think an 8in Pleco stands a decent chance in this tank. Btw, have you ever touched this fish? ...not exactly an appetizing texture (even for a Cichlid). ;-)> and I'm just too scared to risk it without some professional advice. Any information you could give me would be very helpful. <If you have enough rockwork in the Cichlid tank for the Pleco to hide around, I'd go ahead and give it a try. You can always remove the Pleco if the other fish are too aggressive towards it. But it definitely shouldn't stay in a 20gH!> Thanks. <De nada, Sara M.>

Pleco... sys., moving  03/16/08 Greetings to the Crew, <And you Tom> I have a 180 gal FW tank. (72x24x24) I have mostly smaller fish, including a nice school (20) of Boesemanni rainbow fish. <Gorgeous here I'd bet> Here's my difficulty. I have two Plecos, which in the last 12 or so years have grown rather large. In fact, the largest of these is over 12 inches and beefy. How long could/should I leave this fish in my tank? <Mmm... kind of a hard question (which is good)... on the one hand... the tank is large enough to accommodate this animal... OTOH, it might be more "beautiful" and functional to have some smaller species, individuals...> I'd like to donate him to my LFS, which has an indoor "pond" where I think he'd be happy. <Oh, a good choice> My wife would like to keep him because we raised him from very small. He mostly doesn't mess with the other fish, although he does have an occasional "tantrum" where he chases all the other fish out of a small area. Then, he goes off under a rock to sulk. For my part, though I'd like to donate him, I dread the catching part. <Best to do with your gloved hand... pinning down while in the tank, maybe doing a good-sized water change... I move mine "back and forth" every few weeks twixt systems this way> Your thoughts would be appreciated. Tom <Mmm, perhaps explaining to your wife that the Pleco might be far happier in larger circumstances... Bob Fenner>

Re: Picky eater... Loricariid sys.,  2/13/08 Hello Bob, Thank you very much. So the 6 gallon tank is too small for my Betta or my plecostomus or both? What is the ideal size tank for my 2 fish? <Please read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/loricsysfaqs.htm You have read on WWM re Betta systems?> Seems I better cut down on the wormage, I was overfeeding! <Happens> I am much relieved that she'll be ok on the current pea and worm diet. I'll cut back on her pea and worm intake. She was, of course, not leaving any uneaten pea but I'll make it a weekend treat from now on. You're a wonderful guy, Bob. <Mmmm> Thank you, Elizabeth <Welcome my friend. BobF>

Re: Picky eater 2/13/08 Hi Bob, My Plecostomus is only 2.5 inches long at the moment. <Won't be for long. But even at that size, it's too big for a 6 gallon tank. You could *live* living inside one room of your house, but would you want to? A Plec lives in big rivers and likes to scoot about exploring. Minimum, this species needs a 55 gallon tank as an adult, but even a juvenile the size of yours isn't really suitable for anything less than 20 gallons.> The shop where I bought him/her will exchange when it gets too big. Is that a good idea? <Essential.> Right now the little sucker face hides in his dark castle and I find him frequently in and among the living plants. How big is too big for that species in a 6 gallon tank? <He's there now. There really aren't many fish suitable for a 6 gallon tank; if you want "critters" for such a system, I'd be looking at Nerite snails, Cherry Shrimp, etc.> Thank you again, Elizabeth <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Picky eater 2/13/08 Hi Neale, <Hello Elizabeth,> Thank you for the excellent advice. I'll be buying a 20 gallon tank ASAP! Yes, the critters are a lot of fun and now I know who to get. <Cool. Honestly, small tanks are more fun with "critters"; Cherry Shrimps will breed quite happily, and the baby shrimps are utterly adorable.> Whoa, now I'm all excited about a bigger home for my fish. Your analogy of the living situation made it very clear. <Good-oh.> I just did some more research on plecostomus and hey, they are HUGE. <Indeed they are. 30-45 cm is typical for most species. That's about the size of a Trout... and obviously you wouldn't put a trout in a Betta Bowl! They do grow quickly, often getting to about 15-20 cm within the first year, and full size after 3-4 years.> Thank you again, you guys are such a wonderful help, Elizabeth <We're happy to help. Cheers, Neale.>

Background Tiles, FW... Loricariid sys.    1/5/08 Hello crew, <Hello,> I recently bought a Jewel 300 litre tank to replace a 100 litre tank which cracked . I also bought a Jewel 3d background of some rocks, which was very nice. However over a period of a couple months the design on the 3d background started coming off !! So called the pet shop I bought the tank from and they said they would replace it , the owner off the shop said it happened because I have a small algae eater (approx.10cm.). I have never seen the algae eater on the background and thought that the reason for the design came off was because of a faulty pair of background tiles . I would appreciate your opinion on this matter , have you heard of this before ? Could it be my flow off the pump is flowing wrong direction (water getting pushed to back off tank)? Hope you can help as I'm waiting to find out if I should put in the new tiles or take out my algae eater first . Happy new year <Yes, algae eaters of all types can be hard on 3-D backgrounds. The problem is the scraping teeth these fish have. My Panaque nigrolineatus has literally covered every piece of plastic in my Juwel 180 with scratch marks. She'd shred any 3-D background in no time. The result is any paint or dye applied to a 3-D background quickly gets worn off. If you want to use a 3-D background, your best bet is to use plants for algae control rather than fish. Plants do a better job anyway. If you want fish to spot clean the odd tuft of algae, switch instead to nibblers rather than scrapers: Florida Flagfish, Platies, Cherry Shrimp, Amano Shrimp, and so on. In any case, once your Gyrinocheilus aymonieri gets even a little bigger, it will start hammering any fish kept with it. They are seriously unpleasant fish that should only be mixed with heavy duty cichlids and Loricariids able to fight back. Adult Gyrinocheilus aymonieri don't clean the algae from the tank anyway, and prefer meaty/wormy foods along with soft vegetables, algae pellets, etc. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: L-25 Scarlet Pleco feeding, now sys. 12/9/07 Neale, Sorry for the multiple replies, but I forgot one quick question. My tank dimension is approximately 60"L x 24.5"D x 27"H, give and take a few. <Around 168 US gallons. Anyhoo, I have three Fluval 405 canisters evenly spread out along the back side (Length) of the tank. Do you think this is enough circulation for this type of Pseudacanthicus sp. (Scarlet Pleco) coming from the Rio Xingú? <Should be fine. Fluval 405 filters have a turnover of 340 gallons per hour (when empty of media and place at the same level as the aquarium, not under it, anyway). So 4 filters gives you a turnover of 1,360 GPH. That's about 8 times the volume of the tank. Comfortably in the "safe zone".> I was thinking about adding the Vortech MP40W powerhead to one end of the tank to create a river condition. <Not a bad idea at all. Loricariids appreciate extra water flow, especially those from major river systems. In addition, you do have the extra problem of Xingu fish needing slightly warmer water than other fish, while being less tolerant of poor oxygen concentration. While no filter or pump can compensate for overstocking, the more circulation, the better.> Or is it even necessary in my case? <Depends on the size of the fish and the stocking level of the tank. You should be fine with just the canister filters, but adding a powerhead or two is a cheap and effective way to improve conditions if you find water quality is good but the fish is still lethargic or otherwise unhappy. This said, Pseudacanthicus have proven to be adaptable, and provided your retailer has acclimated the fish to local conditions and "taken the hit" in terms of fish that didn't tolerate shipping, a well-fed, lively specimen is a sound investment and should do very well.> Thanks a lot once again. Sorry to be such a bother. Andy <Happy to help, Neale.>

Need help with filtration system, FW... Loricariid sys.    12/5/07 Hello, I am having problems keeping my tank "crystal clear" so to speak. I have a 55 gallon tank with a 13 inch common Pleco. I have had him for 4 1/2 years and moved him from a 10 to 20 to the 55 gallon tank.? I have the tank minimally decorated - giving him plenty of room to move around but allowing him hiding areas.? His current tank mates are only a pair of zebra Danios. I have two 60 gallon top fin filters on the tank and a bubble curtain on each end of the tank.? I have to wash the filters about every 4 days and put new filters on about every 2 weeks (maybe sooner).? I try to clean the excess Pleco waste from the tank daily but sometimes it is every other day (it isn't a pretty job). My Pleco seems happy - the tank is algae free - he swims around a lot - I feed him algae and veggie tabs. He loves cucumbers. My problem - immediately after doing a water change, his tank looks great, crystal clear water, no problems. I am not having problems keeping the water properties at the correct levels.? After 2 days or so, the water starts to get cloudy - no matter what I do, wash filters, new filters - it won't go back to the crystal clear clean look. The tap water where I live isn't of the best quality. The local pet store suggested bottled water. I have done that. That was fine in the smaller tank but it has become very expensive in the 55 gallon tank. Can you recommend a different filtration system that would help remove the small precipitants, more waste, etc that my current filtration system is able to handle? Thanks, Julie <Hello Julie. Your problem is a very common one when anyone keeps large Loricariid catfish -- they are gross polluters that produce large amounts of solid waste, mostly faeces, wood chippings, and fragments of the plants and vegetables they eat. While the mess they make is low in protein and causes no immediate problems in terms of nitrite or ammonia, it is unsightly, and when the filter becomes clogged, water flow is reduced and water quality problems can occur. The only real solutions are [a] aggressively performing water changes, perhaps on a daily basis, to siphon out solid waste; and [b] dramatically increasing mechanical filtration. Big Loricariid catfish like Plecs need something like 10 times the volume of the tank in terms of filter turnover. So if you have a 55 gallon tank, you want to install filters with 550 gallons per hour turnover. That's going to be something like two medium to large canister filters. The problem with "hang on the back" filters is they are designed for clean fish like guppies and tetras. They contain very little mechanical filter media (e.g., filter wool) and produce very little water current. Canister filters, ideally couple with a reverse flow undergravel filter, do a much, MUCH better job of keeping water moving across the tank and then passing that water through a thick wad of mechanical filter medium that will extract the solid waste. Once you have these canister filters installed, you can do weekly maintenance on the filters to rinse out the solid waste from the filter wool or sponges. Trust me: as someone who keeps a Panaque nigrolineatus in a planted tank with lots of bogwood, keeping the tank "clean" is an ongoing struggle. You may decide to forget about it all together, and simply return the Plec to the pet store and keep a smaller, less messy catfish such as one of the smaller Ancistrus. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Need help with filtration system   12/5/07
Hello, Thank you for your quick response. I did not realize the difference between the hanging and canister filter system. <It's something you learn the hard way! But if you visit people keeping big, messy fish they almost always use canister filters rather than anything else.> I enjoy my Pleco and do not want to get rid of him.? He has a unique personality. I had a couple of black mollies with him but the waste produced between the Pleco and mollies was excessive so I found a new home for the mollies. I had hoped that was going to help clear up the tank. This is the reason his only tankmates are the 2 zebra Danios. I am trying to get a handle on the water issue. <Good.> Can you recommend a couple of different canister filters for me to research and see which one might suit my situation best? I realize, this would only be your opinion and in the end, my choice to determine if it will work for me or not - I am not familiar with canister filters and do not have a clue as to where to start or what is a decent brand. <I'm hesitant to pick out any particular model, but I will say that I've used the Fluval, Eheim, and Sera brands with success. A lot of aquarists consider Eheim filters the best of them in terms of reliability, but they are more expensive. What you're after is something to complement the biological filtration provided by your hand-on-the-back filters. So let's say you should aim for something at 4-5 times the turnover of the tank. Something like the Eheim 2026 or Fluval 304 would be just the ticket. If you add the canister filter to an undergravel filter, to create something called a reverse-flow undergravel filter, you'll get even more bang for your buck. What happens here is the filter pushes water into the gravel via the uplift, and the water rises through the gravel, pushing the dirt into the water, where it can get quickly sucked up by the filter (even your hang-on-the-back filters). The downside is this will require taking the tank apart, and then installing a filter under the gravel, but it is at least a cheap and easy solution. If you need more details on this, let me know. But most books should have pictures of a reverse flow system.> I like my Pleco, JAWS, and want to give him a happy, healthy and clean home. If I get a canister filter and it cleans up the tank, do you think I can add a few more small fish, like the Danios?? <Absolutely! The issue with the solid waste isn't really water quality as such. Do a nitrite test and you'll see. The water is probably very good. The dirt is more a visual problem rather than anything else. A school of Danios would look fabulous in this tank, and Danios really come alive when they have extra-strong water currents to swim into. Add the bubbles from your air pumps, and then a few big rocks and bogwood stumps, and you'll have a nice little slice of a mountain stream!> Your website has great information. Thanks for the help. Julie <Hope this helps, Neale.>

Pleco with weird spots -- 10/30/2007 Hello, <Hello.> I have, what I assume, is a common Pleco (Pterygoplichthys multiradiatus). He looks like the picture that appears with this name. <Also check Pterygoplichthys pardalis; the two species are sold interchangeably as "Common Pleco" and are easily confused. There are other Pterygoplichthys that might be traded too. All very similar.> He is approximately 4 years old and 13 inches long. <Ah, still a young 'un! Maximum size of Pterygoplichthys multiradiatus is 50 cm. These are BIG fish.> I got him when he was less than 2 inches long and started in a 10 gallon tank to a 20 gallon tank and now in a 55 gallon tank. <Yes, they grow fast!> The tank has good filtration, 2 bubble curtains for aeration and is sparsely decorated so he has room to move around with ease but he can hide. Although, he likes to be out in the open and comes up to the front of the tank to see me. His only tank mates are a pair of zebra Danios. <Sounds fine. But you might want to add some more Danios.> I feed him: algae tabs, veggie tabs, cucumbers, occasionally water melon, he cleans up any left over fish flakes and he keeps the tank algae free.? <All good. But do also try carrot, sweet potato, Sushi Nori and courgette. Cucumber is 99% water, so not really good for anything much, though I agree that all Plecs seem to love it. Do also add some bogwood, which Plecs seem to use as a source of fibre. The odd prawn or mussel will also be welcomed, maybe once a week. Pterygoplichthys is an omnivore rather than a strict herbivore.> I was having a hard time keeping the tank water clean and water conditions stable. <No surprise. Welcome to the Big Catfish = Dirty Tank club. I was thinking of having some jackets made up.> He was producing a lot of waste. <You're effectively keeping a cow in an aquarium. So expect masses of faeces. On the plus side, there's hardly any ammonia in them, so the ammonia and nitrite will stay low. It's more a cosmetic problem, though obviously a clogged-up filter is a Bad Thing.> My filters were constantly dirty regardless of how often I rinsed them out or put a clean one in. <Normal. That's why you need something around 6 times the volume of the tank in turnover, and ideally 10 times. In other words, in a 55 gallon tank, you need filters with ~ 300 to 500 gallons per hour turnover.> It was suggested to me, to add "Waste Control Organic Waste Eliminator" by Nutrafin and "Nutrafin Cycle Biological Filter Supplement" to help break down my Plecos waste and any left over food. This has solved my water condition problems. <Can't think why. Neither product sounds magical, especially the latter, which is basically unnecessary in a healthy aquarium. The solid waste produced by your catfish is mostly cellulose. It will break down over time, but it is messy. Because it contains minimal nitrogen, its effect on water quality is virtually zero. Here's my strategy: arrange your gravel so one of the corners is shallower than in the rest of the tank. The filter current should push the faeces into this "crater" over time. Each day, you can siphon out the unsightly waste.> I noticed he had a round brownish looking spot on the side of his head towards the top. I actually thought he had gotten a burn from the heater. He likes to get close and suck on the heater at times. Today, I noticed he has several spots that are roundish in shape, brownish in color and have a light white fuzz like coating on top of the spots. I had to use a magnifying glass to see the white fuzz. I do not recall these spots before I added the "Waste Control Organic Waste Eliminator" by Nutrafin and "Nutrafin Cycle Biological Filter Supplement". <Hmm... the fuzz is fungus and needs to be treated immediately. The heater MUST have a "heater guard" around it. These are plastic tube-shaped grills. Some heaters come with them anyway. If yours doesn't, go buy a heater guard. Put it over the heater. That will prevent heater burns. What you are describing is quite common, and easily prevented.> His overall color is good, he is eating and moving around the tank as normal. Do you have a suggestion of what these spots are and what I should do? <The fungus is eating up dead skin caused by heater burns.> Thanks, Julie <Good luck, Neale>

Pregnant Zebra Danio 10/2/07 Hello, <Hi there> I have a 55 gallon tank with a 13 inch Plecostomus, <Yikes! Needs more room... or to be traded in for a smaller individual> 3 zebra Danios(2 females, 1 male). My problem is with one of the female Danios.? She appears to be very very pregnant.? She is huge.? Her skin appears to have cracks? running down the side and underneath her belly. She is eating and swimming.? She will not release any eggs. I am assuming that is what she should be doing. Do you have any advice on what I could do to help her out? It looks like she is going to explode. Thanks, Julie <Likely some sort of gut blockage... what do you feed and how? Please read here re possible Epsom Salt treatment: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/saltusefaqs.htm Bob Fenner>
Re: Pregnant Zebra Danio... Lg. Pleco in small world  10/3/07
Hello, <Hi there> Thank you for your reply about my problem with my pregnant Danio. <Welcome> However, I was taken back by your response to me having a 13 inch Plecostomus in a 55 gallon tank. <Yes... the fish is as long as the width of this tank...> I don't have the tank over loaded with plants or decorations so he moves around easily. <Mmm... do you know which species of Loricariid this actually is? There are some that would/might be stunted here...> I see him swimming on his side, upside down, enjoying the bubble curtains - eating the algae all over the tank. He "appears" happy and able to move around freely. I have moved him from a 10 to 20 to 55 gallon tank as he has grown from 2 inches to 13 inches in the last 4 years. I am a novice at the Plecos and didn't have any idea of what I was getting into. Could you explain this to me in a little for detail please - this fish has become a part of my family - my husband thinks I love the fish more than him (haha)- as I sit and talk to the fish and just watch the fish's personality unfold daily. Thanks, Julie <Do take a look on fishbase.org re the family... some of the species listed... This fish really does need more room still. BobF>

Guppy fry and Sailfin catfish (L83)  6/12/07 Hi, <Ave!> I have several aquariums with fancy guppies fry. I keep 1 Sailfin catfish (L83) in every tank and they do a great work. <Very good.> However - I have 2 questions: 1. How much salt can be added to the aquarium while the Sailfin is there? what about Epsom salt? (due to guppies with constipation). <I'd personally not use Epsom salts here but instead simply feed the right diet. Guppies shouldn't get constipated because they are so easy to feed on the right foods. Stop using generic fish flake if that's what you're using. Instead, use livebearer flake, Sushi Nori, thin slices of cucumber, tinned peas, etc. The good thing is any leftovers will be scarfed up by the catfish. Only add small amounts of animal protein, ideally "high fibre" things like brine shrimp and daphnia. The problem with Epsom salts is used routinely they can interfere with the normal digestive processes of the fish. Think of Epsom salts as the equivalent of laxatives in humans. Used to treat an acute case of constipation makes sense, but if the person is regularly constipated, then laxatives aren't the solution, a change of diet is.> 2. Can it be that the Sailfin will eat live guppy fry? I'm also certain that I've seen one do it yesterday, while it was looking for the algae wafer. It was moved to another tank. <Potentially I suppose it's possible but hardly likely. Under normal circumstances the guppy fry should be at the top of the tank and swimming too quickly to be eaten by this catfish. Possibly your catfish will eat a sick (or stupid) guppy, but hey, that's Nature taking care of culling the poor quality stock!> Thanks, Shay. <Cheers, Neale
Re: Guppy fry and Sailfin catfish (L83)  6/12/07
Thanks for the answer. <No problems.> About the feeding: I mainly feed the fry with live or frozen baby brine shrimp, Kenfish.com kens premium growth meal (size 00 and later 01), Hikari Tropical Fancy guppy and Hikari Tropical first bites. <All fine foods, but the accent with these foods is on protein rather than vegetables. There's no escaping the fact guppies are partly herbivorous, and they need some algae in their diet. Just the same as with humans: give us a high-protein diet and we may put on weight quickly, but our health isn't otherwise very good.> I use automatic feeders to feed all of the above 5 times a day, and give the baby brine shrimp twice a day after the dry food. <OK, but do try and focus on the veggies.> It might be that the constipation isn't really constipation. Occasionally a fish will have a swollen up belly, becomes grey, doesn't eat (even live brine shrimp), stays at the bottom and dies after several days. Growth rate is good, and water is kept at 25-28c, changed every 2-3 days 50%. What could be the cause to that? <There's always a certain number of baby fish that don't survive. The reasons are various. Diet is one factor. Genes are another. Water chemistry/quality a third and fourth. At the end of the day you can't really expect every single baby fish to make it. You seem to be doing all the right things, so I wouldn't worry too much. Optimise water chemistry and quality. For guppies, a fairly high pH and hardness level is needed.> Thanks again, Shay. <Cheers, Neale>

Plecos, hold the salt please -- 5/30/07 Hello, <<Hello, Julie. Tom with you.>> I have a question about adding salt to my freshwater tank. I have a 55 gallon tank. Currently, it contains black mollies, gold balloon belly mollies, zebra Danios and one 12 inch Pleco. <<Hmmm'¦okay. Mollies are typically categorized as 'brackish' water fish, Julie. Your Pleco has little, if any, tolerance for salt. Not ideal but let's see what we can do.>> My problem - the black mollies have Ich and I am having trouble getting rid of it. I read that my tank needs salt and this will aid in getting rid of and keeping the Ich out of my tank. <<Salt is one of the 'safest' ways to go, Julie, but not the only one. In this case, a 'treatment' level of salt for Ick will do your Pleco no good whatsoever. We need to look for an alternate course of action.>> I also read that my Pleco will not do well with too much salt in the water. <<True.>> Is there a certain amount of salt that I could add to my tank that might help my mollies but not hurt my Pleco? <<In this case, Julie, there isn't. Plecos can 'tolerate' no more than a dosage of one tablespoon of salt per five gallons of water and even that is 'iffy'. You'd likely need to up this to around two-three tablespoons per five gallons to effectively do battle with this parasite. Not an option, I'm afraid. You should consider Maracide here. Not quite as effective as other forms of treatment but 'scaleless' fish seem to do quite well with this treatment. 'Quick Cure' is a formulation of formalin and malachite green which is very effective, particularly when combined like this but, it does have 'safety' drawbacks as it's toxic to fish and plants if dosing isn't done properly or, if treated for a prolonged period. Treatments with this product can be very successful when half-dosed in 12-hour intervals, however. I'd go with the Maracide here, though. If this were a more serious outbreak, I'd direct you to go with the Quick Cure but I'd rather that you feel comfortable with this rather than put you on the spot. Also, remember to increase the temperature of the tank to 82-86 degrees F. over a period of several hours to speed up the life cycle of the Ick.>> Thanks, Julie <<You're welcome, Julie. Best of luck. Tom>>

ACF, Pleco and small goldfish (feeders)   5/22/07 I have had 3 small goldfish in a nice 10 gallon tank for 2 years. I have a top fin 10 filter. <To start with, a 10 gallon tank is too small for adult goldfish, and at some point the pollution they produce will start degrading their health.> Algae started to grow in the tank, so we were told to buy a Pleco. <Algae is not eliminated by adding any animals. The reverse in fact: more fish = more nitrate in the water = faster rate of algae growth. The "add a catfish" idea is a myth and cannot scientifically work unless the catfish ate the algae in the aquarium and then went out the tank and into the outhouse to excrete all the ammonia there instead.> We went to Pet Land discounts, got the Pleco (about 1 ½') and next to that tank were the cutest frogs. I never realized there were under water frogs, or knew anything about them, but my daughter wanted one, so we bought one. <No offense, but buying animals you know nothing about is hardly sensible and sets a poor example to children, i.e., that animals are toys not responsibilities.> Now we realize it is an African Clawed Frog. We bought these 5 days ago. We feed the fish blood worms, so we figured the frog would eat this too. Anyway, we woke up today, and all 3 of our fish are dead. <Oh dear. Dare one ask if you'd done any water tests recently? Usually when fish die "all of a sudden" the issue is water quality, not disease. Besides, your 10 gallon tank is WAAAYYYYY overstocked and the little filter overwhelmed. A Plec can reach 30-45 cm depending on the species, and needs a tank at least 30 gallons and preferably 55 gallons in size. Your goldfish potentially reach 30 cm and the record is 60 cm, so again, BIG fish.> The frog and the Pleco seem to be doing fine. <Probably because the loading in the tank has "crashed" down to a safe level where the aquarium and filter can cope.> Do you think by introducing the frog and the Pleco to the tank this killed our fish? <Most likely, yes.> I feel so bad. <Don't feel bad, but do try and learn. Fish and frogs are animals, just like cats and dogs, and you wouldn't impulse purchase a dog, would you? So, look over the site and read the articles on goldfish and Plecs: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/gldfshsystems.htm and http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/loricariids.htm .> I am going to go out and buy 2 more frogs, and just keep the frogs and Pleco in the tank, and not add fish. Is this what I should do? <Sounds about right. There are two kinds of aquatic frog in the hobby, a dwarf species that gets around 5 cm long and the regular species that gets to around 15 cm long. Both are interesting, hardy animals, but do research their needs.> Thank you, Laura <No problems. Good luck! Neale>
Re: ACF, Pleco and small goldfish (feeders)
  5/22/07 Thank you for your quick response. This morning when I  woke up, the Pleco was also dead! <Oh dear. I'm afraid to say that this isn't uncommon. It sounds as if your aquarium was simply overloaded with livestock, and adding the catfish and frog crashed the system, rendering it inhospitable to life. Please stop are read some basic fishkeeping stuff on this web site or in a book. The importance of maintaining a healthy filter cannot be overstated. Many newcomers to the hobby do things like clean the filter media under the tap/faucet, wiping out the "good" bacteria that clean the water. Also, there are things like dechlorinating the water before using it that matter a great deal. So before you buy anything else, read a little more so you feel comfortable. The basics of fishkeeping are extremely easy to master, but if you ignore them... disaster!> So now I only have the little frog :(. I am  afraid the frog is going to die too. <I hope note. Please do a big water change now (50%) and another tomorrow (also 50%) to flush out all the "bad" water. Make sure you use dechlorinator. Add tiny amounts of food (don't feed at all for the next 48 hours). Leave things to stabilise after this, for a week or two, checking the water quality with your handy new nitrIte (not nitrAte) test kit. Better yet, buy some of those little dip-sticks that have pH, hardness, ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate measurements built into them. Once you're happy the tank is stable, then you can start adding more critters.> I am so upset that we introduced these to  the tank. Should I still get a few more frogs, because I read that they are  social and like to be in groups. <Indeed so, but hold off buying more frogs until you are safe the tank is stable. You want perfect water quality for at least 2 weeks.> I will also buy a water test kit. <Very good! Frogs are fun in themselves, and mix well with "oddball" critters like apple snails and shrimps. You don't even need fish, and in a tank of 10 gallons, dwarf frogs, snails, and shrimps would be practical and easy to maintain.> Thanks again for your response. <No problems, and good luck. Neale>

Releasing Tropical Fish Into The Wild; question on royal sucker fish   -- 04/29/07 Hi there, I have a royal sucker fish in my fish tank for over the 2 years. I've had loads of my gold fish die due to the sucker. I think I'm going to get rid of my tank and the pet shop doesn't take fish back. Would it be ok to put the fish in a canal or a stream? Would it be OK  or would it die straight away? Thanks Sharon < Never release any tropical fish into the wild! First, the water is probably too cold. It may last during the summer, but when it gets cold in the Fall it will die outright. Second, if you live in an area where it is warm enough to survive, it may harm or compete with a native species. Third, you may be introducing a disease that may kill off all the other fish in the area that you released the fish. Forth, it is probably illegal. There are many instances of people releasing tropical fish into the wild. Pacus are reported as piranhas and always make the news. While you are getting out of the hobby, the rest of us that are going to be around for a long time really don't need the bad press and problems with the public. A royal Pleco is a very desirable fish. I don't think you will have any problem getting a tropical fish store to take it in. Thanks for checking in before making any moves.-Chuck>
Sucker Fish ID -- 04/30/07
I made a mistake, It is a Pleco, a fresh water fish. < Sucker fish are often referred to as Plecos in the aquarium trade.-Chuck>

Question Re: Oto placement   12/10/06 Hi Tom, <<Hey, Sean.>> I have another question for you already. <<Let's hear it...>> I was at a major chain pet store today, and much to my surprise, they were selling Otos (Otocinclus) for $1.99. Since this is the first time I've seen them in my area, and that price is too good to pass up, I bought 3 (I read on WWM that they do well in groups). I have 2 tanks, and I can't decide which one they would do best in. <<The quarantine tank, Sean. (Being a little silly but I'll explain.) The store I buy my fish from, my Otos included, is, literally, a 'Mom and Pop' operation and won't sell their freshwater animals for the first two weeks after they take delivery, i.e. they quarantine them all. Saltwater fish are held for four weeks with cards posted on the tanks showing the dates that the fish arrived at the store. That said, I can guarantee that this isn't the case with your Otos. Point number one. Next, Otos are notorious for being difficult to acclimate. Wonderful little guys that they are, they're easily lost early on no doubt due to the stress of transporting, handling, lack of sufficient food and -- the big one -- means of capture. Because of their tiny size and naturally tangled environment, many (most?) of the Otos that reach the store have been taken in the wild using cyanide, or other chemicals, to disable them for collection. (I would be skeptical that 'tank-raised' Otos would be going for $1.99 each. Mine were $3.99 each which I thought was a bargain.) The upshot here is that these chemicals can remain in the internal organs of the fish either shortening their natural lifespans of about five years or leading to a much, much earlier demise. Darned hard on the Oto, to be sure, but if one is lost and picked at by another fish, it, too, may end up with contamination from the chemicals I referred to. Now, let's move on to your options.>> Tank one is a 24g tall/show tank, moderately planted, with a cheap "fizz tab" CO2 system. Its inhabitants are 4 Opaline gouramis, Trichogaster trichopterus (2 are the gold variety), 2 paradise fish, Macropodus opercularis, 2 Ramshorn snails, and one common Pleco, who will be re-homed soon as this tank will be way too small for him (he's only about 4" right now). <<Sounds like a good choice, Sean. And, I appreciate your thinking regarding the upgrade for the Pleco.>> Tank 2 is a 5g, moderately planted, with no CO2. Its inhabitants are 1 Betta and 3 cherry shrimp. <<Could be a good option as well but, personally, I like to add some aquarium salt in with my Betta. Your Otos would 'tolerate' the amount of salt I use but I don't think they'd appreciate it very much.>> Both tanks have Laterite and gravel substrate, a good amount of driftwood, and a pH just above 7. Neither tank has much of an algae problem, although both tanks have small amounts of green "spot" algae. Now, here's my question: which of these tanks would be a better fit for my Otos? <<As you may have gathered, Sean, I like the larger tank for your new pets. The smaller tank would likely work just fine but I'm not a huge fan of keeping Bettas with other fish. Just me, perhaps. Also, if you do decide to add salt to your Betta's tank down the road, and I do recommend this, it probably wouldn't sit well with the Otos if they were in the tank.>> Sean <<Enjoy your new fish, Sean. Tom>>  

Pleco River Habitat... A Possibility? - Bob, if available.   12/8/06 Hi,     I have 3 common Plecos (4-6") and 8 juvenile Koi  (1.5- 2") and a tadpole in a 20 L tank (I know this is way too many fish, but they do have a HUGE bio-filter and w/c's are done frequently.) <Mmm... but... you know that the Koi/Cyprinus carpio can/do grow much more than the length of this tank... You're walking a thin line...> The Koi are being wintered in there, and the Plecos were permanent residents. I have acquired a "new" 55 gallon tank (my aunt tried fish "her way" <Shades of Frank Sinatra!> (i.e. no w/c's, all stock at once, and way over stocked)  instead of the right way, and gave up, saying she has no time for "stupid" fish.) <Mmm... not much comment...> So, I have the 55 gallon tank, and it will function as a room divider. Thus, I wanted to setup a tank that would look interesting from both sides, yet still be functional- something new for me (all my tanks are against walls). I imagined perhaps 1/4 cordoned off at an angle with a piece of plexi-glass (Siliconed in to make 3/4 of the tank water-proof) then a cap piece to provide a ramp out of the water, and to keep dirt out of the water. (See Pic below!!!) <Neat!> There will be algae covered rocks, a piece of driftwood, large-ish gravel, and some tropical moss/ plants on land, as well as some hardy plants in the water. (All seen above in my 2 min. drawing) For filtration I will use the 40 gallon sized Fluval internal filter (far-left). The Koi will leave in the spring (to a 4,000 gallon pond). <Good> I hope to add maybe 4-6 dwarf clawed frogs, a salamander or newt, and whatever else is compatible. <Mmm, the Xenopus will likely consume all else in time> (What are your stocking suggestions?) I will do research on these animals, but some I have/ have had. The concept behind it is a "slice of an Amazonian river". What temperature should this be kept at? (76-80?) <For the amphibians... likely not so warm depending on the urodelan species you end up with> Will my grand scheme work??? Do you see any problems/ have any suggestions? Thanks, <Does look workable... I would investigate the possibility AND availability of other (amphibian and not) Amazonian species, micro-habitats there. Bob Fenner>
Re: Pleco River Habitat... A Possibility? - Bob, if available.    12/9/06 Hi,     Yes, she did it "her way",  lol. Luckily I  have an excellent LFS within 30 minutes of me that carries a variety of  amphibians and is willing to order anything I want. Thanks, <Ahhh! "I'll go it alone, that's how it must be... I can't be right for somebody else unless their pet fishy!". Bob Fenner>

Salinity Woes 11/27/06 I recently bought 1 Pleco (3 inch), 3 Cory Cats (1inch), an Iridescent Shark (2 inch), and a Colombian Shark (2 inch) for my 55 gal. aquarium.  I know that the sharks will outgrow this tank.  <Yep>  My question deals with the salinity of the water, as I found out (after the fact) that the Colombian Shark will prefer a brackish/marine environment as it matures.  How much salinity will my other fish tolerate?  Thanks! Kevin R. <Not much/any for the Corys and Pleco.  This mix is not viable for the long term.> <Chris>

Clown Loach and Bristlenose Troubles... Actually iatrogenic problems, ignorance, lack of self-reliance... in killing freshwater fishes  9/25/06 Hello WWM helping elves, <Where's Santa?> I am having some troubles with my fish.  I seem to have a slow but steady mortality rate.  I have a 28L tank (sorry, not sure what that is in gallons). <... dismal. Look it up...> It has been up an running with fish for 5 months now, <... in six-seven or so gallons...> but there seems to be a consistent pattern that has evolved in regards to my fish and their lifespans.    We started with 2 goldfish, to get the tank cycled and happy. <A poor idea>   When our LFS man gave us the all clear (he is strict with us) he allowed us to get some tropical fish.   <With pathogens already installed by way of your goldfish adventure...> We have been gradually adding to the tank till now to get a nice community tank.  The 2 goldfish have been given away as there was not so much room as before.  We have 1blue and 1 golden Gourami, a smallish angel fish, a bristle nose catfish and 2 clown loaches. <These are too much, way too much for this small volume>    The trouble with the fish is that we are now onto our 3rd catfish, and as of this morning I only have 1 clown loach.  For all 3 fish that have died, there has been a similar pattern.  All have stopped eating, then after 3 days of their hunger strike their tummies bloat, then this goes away the next day, then they die the day after.  Both the catfish only lived for 3 weeks, and the clown loach died 3 weeks after my last catfish. <Ultra dismal... I'm changing my mind, opinion> For the catfish, they just stopped licking the glass, and the clown loach took to swimming upside down near the spray bar pipe - constantly. <Environmental...> I have had my LFS man check my water for everything (I think he dreads every time I walk through the door), <I would as well...> and he says that my water is perfect for the fish that I have and commented that if my latest catfish died it was a factor he cannot test for.  To make me feel better, he has given me a slightly bigger catfish this time in the hopes that it is more hardy. <... the opposite here...> I feed them a combination of dried food, blood worms (once a week), algae wafers and a little piece of zucchini every now and then.  I do monthly water changes of 10% with good water, and keep check on the basic water condition weekly.    I am aware that a 28L tank is not very big, <Bingo> and am wondering if clown loaches are the best choice with the other fish. <Nope... poor choices...> I purchased 2 as they are social fish, but have read that odd numbers are better.  At this time the remaining one I have is small. Should I get 2 friends for it, or should I change the type of fish, or will one more be enough.  I will eventually get a bigger tank, so the fact that they grow has been accounted for, however I would like to know what is best for now and would first very much like them to stop dying. I don't know where I am going wrong, and would like some help before I replace my little one. Ta, from Cian <... Let's see... your real problem is rooted in the too-small world for the species you list. It cannot support this type of life, density... The Bristlenose Loricariids need volumes of three, four plus size to survive... Tiny volumes of water are too inherently unstable to provide proper environments... You might look into much smaller (ultimately) species... Next, your system is very likely infested with some sort/s of disease organisms from the goldfish period... Next, your reliance on others for the care you can only provide is short-sighted to use a kind term... Lastly, the answers to the "present situation" you find yourself the maker/keeper of are of your own ignorance and lack of research... Consider what you want to do, educate yourself, then act... BobF>

Plecos Poor Survival in Tank  9/16/-6 Hi there, <Hi Cali, Pufferpunk here> I have a 20 gallon hexagon freshwater aquarium.  I've had it for about a year and a half now.  I have 2 red rainbow fish, 2 strawberry tetras, 2 silver/white mollies, 1 black molly, a frog, <Dwarf frog, I hope!> 1 powder blue dwarf Gourami and an upside down catfish.   <The Synodontis (upside down cat) can grow quite large & so do the rainbows--way too large for your tank, especially with the lesser swimming room in a hex.  The rainbows need a very long tank to swim across.> I have fake silk plants and some tank decorations.  I have tried several species of Pleco fish over the last year and none of them survive.  I have algae and when there is no algae I supplement with algae tablets.  The longest surviving Pleco was a butterfly variety and that lasted about 2 weeks.  Considering they are supposed to be hearty fish, I'm not sure why they keep dying.  Any suggestions? <You want to start by testing your water parameters for ammonia, nitrites (should be 0 at all times), nitrates (should be under 20) & pH (most Plecos prefer low pH but can handle neutral, 7.2).  If all that is good, then the next Pleco you buy (must be a dwarf species for such a small tank), be sure it has a nice convex tummy--not caved in.  Most Plecos are wild-caught & need to be treated for internal parasites after purchase or they will quickly waste away.  You might have better luck with the dwarf Bristlenose Pleco, as many are tank-raised.  ~PP> <<Likely the species involved need much more room as well. RMF>> Thanks, Cali Day

Setting Up a Pleco Only Tank   8/19/06 Hello, Bet you've never heard this one before...Well, I'm looking to getting my first aquarium.  Aiming for a 10 or 20 gallon. What I want to do it have primarily suckerfish!  I think they're very cute and would like to have as many as appropriate-for-tank-size possible. Is there a problem with what I want to do?  Can I keep them satisfied with algae tablets? Thanks!~ Adam < Go to planetcatfish.com. They have many species profiles listed and you can check on most of the Plecos available in the hobby. Then match them up with your water conditions and space.-Chuck>

Big Plecos In A Community Tank   5/26/06 Hi, Great Site! I have a bit of a problem, and figure you guys can  help me out. I have a 55 gallon aquarium with a cascade filter  (Rated at 75 gallons) heater, plants, eco complete, light, etc. Would it be ok to keep 3 common Plecos (8", 6", and  4"), 6 cardinal tetras, 4 lemon tetras, several Cory cats, 4: 4" Killie fish,  and 2 smaller tiger clown Plecos, and 6 Rams in this 55 gallon tank? < Go with everything except the two larger Plecos. They will dominate the bottom of the tank and make life very tough on the other fish.> PLEASE NOTE: These are fish I have already (in separate tanks) I know this sounds like an odd assortment, but I am trying to, umm... what's the right word here... condense my collection. If this is not ok, please tell me the minimum tank  size in which I can keep these three Plecos. <There are hundreds of  different species of Plecos. Go to planetcatfish.com and search for your Pleco to determine the total size. They will also have tank recommendations too. Some of the more common Plecos can get very big.> Also, at what temperature should this assortment be  kept? < Somewhere between 76 to 82 f would be fine. The rams prefer it on the high end.> BASICALLY, I am asking if 3 large Plecos will be ok  to keep with smaller tetras/cichlids!? < Too much disruption from the larger fish.-Chuck> Thanks in advance!!! Anthony

Adding Salt To a FW Tank  12/24/05 Hi, I would like to add some salt to my tank water to help my gravid female guppy, but I don't know if my other fish can tolerate the salt.  I have 4 zebra Danios and 1 mini Pleco (about 2 inches long) besides 3 guppies.  Will the Danios and Pleco be harmed by the salt? Thank you, and great site! < The Pleco will not like the salt but it can probably tolerate a little. The others should be fine.-Chuck>

Plecos not surviving... in a ten gallon tank 10/7/05 Hello, <Howdy> We have a 10G freshwater tank with an AquaClear filter and two aerators. It contains five Giant Danios ranging in size from 2" to 3.5". <This is too much for this ten> The pH is ~7, nitrates 10 or below and temp is ~78. We do a partial water change every week/ten days and clean the filter at the same time. The environmental conditions described above are quite consistent. We had a Pleco, two Sailfin Mollies and two Angelfish when we first set-up the tank about a year ago. The Angel fish died within weeks. <Ten gallons is too small to keep angels, or most "Plecos"... most species get too large, starve...> They seemed to be too slow for the Mollies who hogged the food. We eventually replaced the Angel fish with two Giant Danios. The Mollies lasted for about six months but the Danios have flourished. We added three more Danios to the tank to form a community and they have done really well. The initial Pleco kept growing and got to be about five inches before it abruptly passed away a couple of months ago. <Sigh> The algae had started to show a fair bit (compared to before) in the tank so we figured the water quality had eventually declined. We did a full tank clean-up, scrubbed excess algae off the decorative rocks, walls and synthetic plants. Again the Danios are doing great and the water stats are stable. However we have had three baby Plecos since then and they don't last beyond three days with the last one departing today. I noticed today the under belly of this Pleco was green. We feed the fish flake food three times daily and blood worms every two-three. There are always flakes that sink to the bottom and there is mild visible algae. The clerk who sold the latest Pleco suggested they might not be getting enough food but the previous Pleco survived and grew for months on the same amount of subsistence. Please advise as we fell quite badly about the Plecos not surviving and our clueless about the cause of their demise. My understanding is that Both Giant Danios and Plecos alike are very hardy fish which is certainly true for our Danios! <Fishes have differing requirements, tolerances... If you're happy with the ten gallon tank, I'd try a Chinese Algae Eater... Bob Fenner> Thanks, AJ

Fish Mates for a 12Gallon Tank  07/02/05 Fish-A-Roonies, <Yes> I have had plenty of time to think, almost two weeks now, while my new Eclipse System 12 has been cycling.  I really only have one question and I have researched this to the hilt, but unfortunately I can not come up with my own conclusion of what fish to stock in my tank.  My tank currently boards two Common Pleco's. <These get too large for your twelve gallon system> I would really like to have a violet goby, but I know this is probably not a good idea seeing how the violet goby are brackish water fish, and I would never want to hurt them.  Is there any type of fish that is fresh water that I can put something similar to the violet goby in my tank and/or what else should I stock. <...? Something similar?>   I know the common rule of thumb: 1 inch for every gallon. <Actually, better to think of cubic inches...> If you could please list several types that would live with my Pleco's that would be great.  They are my favorite and I want to make sure their mates will make them happy and vise versa. Thank you, Chris <Time to send you back to WWM to study... the goby is not freshwater as you state... your catfish are misplaced. Bob Fenner>

Sailfin Pleco Hi WWM, I found the link that you sent very useful, thanks. I have found that I had a Sailfin Plec. Is this species able to tolerate a cooler environment with coldwater fish as mine seemed happy for the few weeks we had him but we lost him quite suddenly. He had been feeding well on algae in the tank & we were also feeding Hikari algae wafers. I am in the process of trying to assess the water quality & wonder if there are pointers I should be aware of, & if they are more susceptible to any particular disease. Many thanks again >>Hello Lisa, That is a very strong fish, I would not worry about it getting sick. I would keep the temperature above 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Good Luck, Oliver.

Tank size, salty Plecos, FW book recommendation Wow, that was really fast! Thank you so much for the reply, I will get the kit tomorrow hopefully from PetSmart, I live in Texarkana, Texas which is a small town in east Texas, you may have seen the movie the Town that Dreaded Sundown which was a true story that happened here in the sixties, it was a low budget movie about a serial killer, that movie pretty much shows how small this town is but it's getting much bigger. PetSmart just opened in January and there are only two other pet stores that carry fish supplies here that are pretty small and do not carry hardly any fish supplies so thank god we got the PetSmart! Thank you for the info on the Plecos and the violet goby. What size tank should I purchase to house them in? <At least a thirty gallon> Can the Plecos be housed with the goby and can the Plecos handle brackish water? <Can tolerate some salt, but most species are best kept in salt-free circumstances (most tap/source waters do have some salt content... combinations of metals and non-metals...> Sorry for more questions! Also, could you recommend a good book for me that would contain like all the information like meds and maintenance on these fish? <I wish... maybe see Amazon.com, read their reviews re what others consider most complete and up-to-date... In the meanwhile I and Sabrina here are cranking out such a title> Thank you so much, I know your time and info are very valuable to me and many others! <Glad to share. Bob Fenner> 

A Pair of Plecos Hi, I have a pair of Plecostomus which are both now between 7 - 8 inches long. They are in a 4ft (48in) by 1.5ft (18?in) tank. I think they are of the common variety, though I'm by no means sure. Is this tank big enough for them do you think? I am a little concerned as they make so much mess that even my 2 filters (Fluval 4 Plus, Fluval 3 Plus) struggle to keep up with it. They share the tank with 11 smaller fish (5 neon tetras, 4 Danio, 2 clown loaches). I am doing 20 - 25%water changes every 1 -2 weeks. Thanks! Rachael <Hi Rachael, Don here. I think that's a 75 gallon tank you have there. A nice size for this pair of plecs. But they can grow to over a foot, sometimes to 18 inches! At that point the 75 would be very cramped. But they grow slower as they mature, so you are fine for now. And they are big waste producers! I would do water changes more often. If you test your water adjust your schedule to keep nitrates under 20ppm. Always use a gravel vac to remove the poop that settles. No amount of filtration will get it all. Another good reason for more water changes>     Big Pleco in a New Tank Hello there. My name is Dayna and I have recently found your very helpful website. <Thank you> I was wondering if you could answer a few questions that I have? <Fire away> My husband and I recently (3 weeks ago to be exact) set up a 55 gallon freshwater aquarium. We only have a large 11" Pleco and no other fish. <That's a big Pleco to add to an uncycled tank> We are having a little problem with the ph. We bought Sodium Biphosphate recommended by our local fish store. It seems to work that day, but then the next couple of days the ph goes back to 7.6. <7.6 is not out of line unless you plan on keeping fish that require a more acidic level> Do you have to add this stuff daily? Is it toxic to the fish? Or could the ph problem be because the tank hasn't completely gone through it's "cycle"? <I would not add it at all unless the plan is for Discus or Rams. It is far, far better to get fish whose needs match, or can adapt to, your local water conditions. Once you change your pH you are committed to matching it with every water change. Should the need to do a very large water change arise, being off just a few tenths could cause pH shock. It's the swing in pH that kills, not an "incorrect", but steady, level> Also, the Pleco seems to defecate quite a lot. <Welcome to my world, normal for these large waste producers> I know that's what we all got to do, but could we be feeding him too much? We feed him one disc of the algae food. <No, that's not a lot at all for an 11" Pleco. Too little, if anything. Try giving him some fresh vegetables. A piece of zucchini, squash, carrot etc.. Also offer a small raw shrimp a few times a month. Attach to a rock and add at night. Remove leftovers in the AM. But wait until the tank is cycled to start target feeding him> The bottom of the tank and the plants have quite a bit of feces (looks very unattractive) even though we vacuum. But, when we vacuum it also takes a lot of the water out and I was wondering if it's okay to be taking out that much water that frequently? <Yes, in fact great! Small frequent water changes have many advantages in the long run. However it will slow down the establishment of your cycle. Keep them up so your Pleco does not have to go through a major ammonia or nitrite spike. Having the ability to easily do these frequent water changes is another reason not to mess with pH.> One more question. Do you recommend air stones and how many? The local fish store says that since we have the bio-wheel filtration <What size filter?> and under gravel filtration, with power heads, that we don't need any. <I would remove the UGF. They can have vast amounts of waste build up under them. If this decays in a "dead" spot (no O2) a deadly gas can be released into the water. They are also very hard to clean without tearing everything up and releasing the junk into the water. Your bio wheel, if it is the correct size, will provide far superior bio filtration than the UGF. The gravel vac will remove, not hide the waste. As to adding airstones, no problem either way. If you have the proper size filter they are not really needed, but can not hurt. I use two Emperor 400 filters on my 55 gallon Pleco tank and no airstones. My six Plecos do fine> Yet I have read that it's recommended to have 5 air stones for a 55 gallon. <That seems a bit excessive, but wouldn't cause a problem> Please help! We really want to get some pretty fish soon but are too scared to add any. <Good, do not add anything else yet. Check for ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. Do not add any more fish until ammonia and nitrite spike and crash to zero, and nitrates are rising. Until then daily partial water changes are called for. After your cycle is established you can adjust your water changes to keep nitrates below 20ppm. Keep your stocking level light. As you are seeing, that Pleco alone adds a lot of waste to the water. Heavy filtration is called for, but NOT undergravel filtration. Don>   Thanks! Dayna

Zebra Pleco  Hello  I found a page you did on the internet about Plecos and was wondering if you had the time to answer a quick question. I am interested in getting a zebra Pleco or two. I've been doing a lot of research on the fish and have read a lot of contradictory info. on the pH range that is acceptable for them. My question is this, what pH range can they tolerate?  <Let's see, how to put this... The wild-collected ones display a smaller tolerance and prefer lower pHs... like 6.5-6.8... Captive bred and reared ones have wider tolerance and a bit higher pH is okay with them... up to the low 7.'s...> I live in upstate NY and the water is relatively hard and alkaline (I have a few gold nuggets in a large tank where the pH is 7.6 and they are thriving and was wondering if they zebras could live in this or if I would have to take special care to lower the pH for them).  Thank-you  Jerry <I would lower the pH for the new specimens initially... with organic acids preferably... and a keen understanding and steady eye on an acidity/alkalinity test kit as well as pH... Zebra's are generally much less "touchy" than Gold Nuggets... so, if you're doing well with them... For all, if I were interested in breeding these small Loricariid species, I would pre-prepare water (likely reverse osmosis, then peat moss in a stocking/filter bag...)to use for make up, changes... Be chatting. Bob Fenner>

Tank construction Hey Bob, <Hello there> I just discovered your website today and I found it very informative. I wish I would have found it sooner, it answered a lot of questions that I had yet to answer.  <Ah, good> One thing that really was a surprise was the driftwood for the "Plecos".  <Yes, amazing how much, what "we" know collectively...> I have two common's, a miniature (still 8"), and a Trinidad. I feed them vegetables and sinking disks, but I have never heard of giving them wood. Is there a certain kind that they need, and where would I get this (I live in Dallas, TX, not much of an Oceanfront).  <Yes to these species definitely doing better with freshwater "driftwood" of types sold in the trade (most hail from Africa or Southeast Asia, but this is not important)... for food/digestion, decor/habitat, and water chemistry modification... Look to your LFS or e-mail-order "fish shops" for this material> Also, I am looking at purchasing a freshwater dolphin. Can you tell me anything about them. I can't seem to find any information on them. The one I saw at my local fish store was about 10" long. How big do they get?  <A few Mormyrids (Elephantfishes, family Mormyridae) are called by this common name. Check www.FishBase.org under the family name, and get ready to do a bit of reading (201 species)... some of the species you'll peruse have images associated with them... this is probably a Marcusenius or Mormyrus species... likely to more than two feet long in the wild.> You also had great information on the Arowanas. I recently purchased one for my wife, and your section on them really answered all of our questions. <Wow, surprising to me...> I just got some information on a local group called "fish rescue". I was wondering if you had heard about these groups and if you recommended joining one. <What is the gist of their purpose for being? Is this one of the Cichlid family associations that hopes to save wild stocks genome from disappearing?> On to the main reason for this email........... I am interested in building several large tanks for myself, and then maybe growing that into a business. There seems to be little information available on this subject. Are there any books/websites available on this? I saw that this was slightly covered in your Aquatics Business section, but I had a few more questions. Some questions I have are: <Yes... about the best DIY website compilation in our interest is "Oz's Reef"... you can find their URL on the Links pages of the www.WetWebMedia.com site> 1. What is the best material to use? Plexi-glass? <Hmm, actually marine plywood and glass for the viewing panels IMO for function... looks, no-costs considerations thrown in: sure on the plexi> 2. Where can you get or order the wood to go around the glass? <Most any large "hardware" store... if not in stock, they can order easily> 3. The best adhesive? <For the wood? Pre-made strips of fiberglass cloth, laminating resin... Along with good size, type wood screws... and silicone rubber (just 100% of any designated-use product) for the viewing panels for the wood/glass types... Weld-0n solvents for the acrylic...> 4. How to calculate needed thickness? <On the Oz'Reef site> 5. Any other concerns, comments? <How much time do you/we have? Overbuild... make sure the stands for such are level, planar AND strong... Give consideration to how you're going to maintain these... perhaps build in overflows, definitely drains....> I appreciate the help Bob and I can't wait to get your book, I just ordered it. Keep up the amazing work. <Thank you, with your help, I shall> Thank you, Neal Weinstein <Bob Fenner, who used to have a roommate with your last name...>

I need info on a fish Hello Bob I have a problem,  <WWM crew member, Anthony Calfo in your service> my son just came home with 2 gold fish and a fish he calls (I don't know how to spell it, so I hope you know what I am talking about) PLATASCUOMUS).  <yes, a tropical Plecostomus catfish...AKA algae eater> I hope you know what I'm talking about. If you do then my question is does this fish need a filter and air?  <yes, as all really do (without you having to do daily water changes) but more so than the gold fish in this case> I would be grateful if you can answer me as soon as possible. I don't want to kill my sons pets. he doesn't have much luck with his pets, they usually die on him or run away.) Thank you so much. Have a great day. Mikey <talk that little fella into bringing home books before livestock <wink>. Conduct partial water changes (say 25-40%) daily with dechlorinated like temperature water until you secure a proper aquarium and filtration or trade the fish in, my friend. Anthony>

Newly Set Up Tropical Tank Hi Guys! <Well helloooooow, Lesley!> You've kindly advised me before regarding our marine tank, however, this time my query relates to my new freshwater/tropical tank (obviously, I am working backwards - will be buying goldfish next!) <I have an ant farm and some silly putty back-ordered for you instead> Two weeks ago I set up a 15 (UK) gallon tank (Mirabella 70). The tank has built in filters.  <novel idea...at least on paper> It has live plants and last week I added 6 assorted platies (as advised by my LFS). (As a matter of interest, the fish store I bought the tank from is using their display model - of the same tank - as a micro reef set up with two clowns and a few corals). <which might indicate that they aren't the sharpest tools in the shed...OR... that they are really talented aquarists> Anyway, a few days before I got the fish, I noticed the beginnings of a brown algal bloom on the plant leaves, decor and glass. I am assuming this is part of the natural "cycling" process (as with the marine tank). Is this correct? <usually, yes> As I have seen them eat algae from the leaves and as I have been advised to do so by my LFS,  <they advised you to eat algae from the leaves too?!?> I am under feeding the platies to encourage this "browsing" on algae. No food reaches the bottom - it's eaten in seconds!  <sounds like normal feeding...food should never hit the bottom before active community fish consume it... otherwise it is considered overfeeding... but I do agree with your premise altogether> However, although they have eaten quite a lot of algae from the leaves, the plants still seem to be covered in it. I am worried that the algae will prevent the plants from photosynthesizing (hope I've spelt that correctly!) <do look into buying a small Otocinclus "catfish". Wonderful and peaceful and HARDY scavenger that will correct this problem right quick> Am I correct in assuming that the algae will start to recede once the "cycling" process is over or do I have a real problem?  <correct...but necessarily before harm is done to the plants> Is there anything else I can do meantime? (I have reserved two Suckermouth fish at the LFS for when my tank is more "mature" - a zebra Plec and a "spotty" one - sorry, I was so taken by it's beauty I didn't catch what it was called! It is black with small gold spots). <hehe... I'm starting to have serious doubts about the advice you are being given by your LFS...neither of the two Plecos that you have mentioned above eat algae!!! Incredibly, you have picked two of the few exceptions in this family of catfish. If you weren't informed that they are not obligate grazers...then you were going to watch two expensive fish slowly starve to death from a nutritive deficiency (it would take months...perhaps more than a year). The Peckoltia type "Zebra" and the Panaque type "gold spot/nugget" eat an extraordinary amount of meaty foods (bloodworms top the list) and are miserable algae grazers. Do keep these two beauties... but still consider some real algae grazers, the tiny Otocinclus, as well and promptly> I would also confess that I am adding plant fertilizer (containing iron) as advised by my LFS which I appreciate will be feeding the algae too! <indeed> I have read over your freshwater algae articles and FAQs but they don't seem to relate to a newly set up tank like mine. The only other fish I want to add are a shoal of neon tetras and a few guppies. <really an awkward mix...they like two very different water qualities. Best to stick with the slightly hardened, slightly salted water for the livebearers if the platies will stay (with the guppies)...or, run a more neutral to soft/acidic water south American display for the tetras/catfish> The platies are doing well and are swimming happily with all their fins extended. <excellent> Any advice you could give would be much appreciated. <OK... don't count on votes from the Russian or French judges> Many thanks. Lesley <with kind regards, Anthony>

Re: Pleco and driftwood Can I use ocean driftwood in my freshwater tank if I've soaked it for a few days, or do I need to purchase special driftwood from a store? <It will need to be soaked a lot longer than a couple of days and it's recommended that you don't use it at all. If it's not fully cured (soaked long enough) then it can leach into your water and affect several of your readings, especially the pH. And you always run the risk of introducing unwanted things into your tank when you use items that were wild collected.> I am very new and inexperienced in the fish world....I've had this Pleco (a small spotted common variety, cheap from a pet store) for a couple of weeks, and so far it hasn't seemed to bother my 2 little goldfish. (My mom got them for my daughter's birthday about a month ago, and I'm trying to keep them happy.) A friend told me to get a Pleco to keep the tank clean, not knowing they have a reputation for eating the slime coat off of goldfish. But so far, I haven't given it anything besides a romaine lettuce leaf and peas. Is this enough? <Only occasionally will a Pleco bother other fish. Just keep an eye on him. As for feeding him, he will do much better if he gets algae to eat. If there is none growing in your tank you can buy algae wafers that are inexpensive and easy to feed. Lettuce doesn't have a good nutritive value and the peas should only be given occasionally. You can also feed him green beans (canned or thawed frozen) once in a while.> I have a 10 gallon tank with a filter and light, and am hoping not to have to expand my set up. <You will eventually need to and it may be sooner than you want. Goldfish can get quite large and so can Plecos. And Goldfish can grow very fast.> I don't have a local fish store, and the pet store guy wasn't too helpful. Any advice is welcome. <Hope this helps!> Thanks. Erica <You're welcome! Ronni>

Large Pleco and Plastic Liner Hi, My LFS has a orphan Pleco that is just huge, probably 18".  I don't have room for him at home but I work at the University of Washington, and in the greenhouse they have a tank that I think might fit him.  It is a round pond about 7' in diameter and 30" high, holding about 700 gallons.  It contains a giant Brazilian lily and about 5 large Koi.  The temp is kept between 21 and 24C, pH about 6.8.  Water from the pond is pushed through a bead filter, then to a container full of water hyacinth that do a great job of removing nutrients-- but there is still a thick layer of algae all the way around the pound, hence the need for a big hungry Pleco.  The greenhouse manager likes the idea but he is worried that the Pleco might gnaw through the liner, which I think is probably 15 or 20 mil plastic.    I know Pleco like to rasp on driftwood but I think the teeth are well inside the mouth... do you think this would be a problem? <Not a problem. I would however provide a piece of sunken wood for this catfish to gnaw on, hide under. Bob Fenner> Thanks, Brett

BIG Pleco! 10/28/03 Hi all, <Hi, Pufferpunk here> Thanks for your help in the past, I had an ordeal with a little puffer a while back. <I missed that post.  Do you still have the puffer?> I have a 10 gallon tank that I'm having difficulty keeping clean.  The water is always cloudy an often a bit smelly.   <Usually caused by high ammonia & not cycling properly.> I am using both a Penguin Mini BioWheel filter and an undergravel unit.  The stupid BioWheel always gets stuck and won't spin, perhaps due to accumulation of gunk, cleaning doesn't seem to help it spin though.   <I never liked those filters.  Love my AquaClears!> I have those shiny stones in there instead of gravel.   <Gravel has more surface area for good bacteria to grow on.> I have three fish in there.  One 7" chocolate Albino Pleco (I think he is full grown), and two little catfish.   <Whoa!  You're Pleco is way too big for that tank!  He belongs in at least a 55gal+.> I just can't keep this tank clean.  I do methodical water changes.  My temp is 78 degrees, and pH is around 7.0.  Usually the Ammonia level is zero but at the moment it is above 0, maybe .5 ppm or so.  Nitrite is around .25.  I can't keep the waste from the Pleco from accumulating, I guess there is not adequate filtration or something.  Am I fighting a losing battle??   <I definitely think so!  Plecos are giant poop machines.> If the Pleco is too big for the tank I will give it away to a good foster parent with a larger tank. <Good idea, find it a good, big home & I think your problems will be solved.  Most folks have no idea how large some Plecos can get.  I have a couple that are almost 12".  Do an 80% water change & add gravel substrate to the tank.  You can always put the larger stones on top or in one corner if you wish, but that may make it difficult to clean the gravel.>    In the meantime, any suggestions??  I'm getting nervous about my readings because I have used Amquel Plus and Ammo lock. <Save your money & get rid of the Pleco.  That is definitely not an inch/gallon kind of fish!>   Thanks in advance, Frank. <You're Welcome--Pufferpunk>  
Re: Tank Water
Thank You for taking the time to answer. What is the proper cleaning methods for a 10 gallon aquarium, <When you do a water change, put the end of the siphon into the gravel and siphon the gunk out of the bottom of the tank. Do only part of the tank each time, because there are beneficial bacteria living in the substrate.> and as I understand now that even though other fish may not have been affected by dropsy that it is still in the tank, how do I ensure that the others do not come down with this? I completed the antibiotic treatment even after the prior fish died, is this enough or should I treat the water a second time? <Hopefully the first treatment will be enough. Keep the tank clean and the water quality high, feed the fish a variety of good-quality foods, and they're less likely to get sick.> How much gravel should be in a 10 gallon tank, we currently have 1 bag from where we bought the aquarium but it doesn't appear to be quite enough because we cannot get decorations to stay down. <Ah..."one bag" doesn't really tell me how much gravel you have, as gravel is sold in several different sizes of bags. More gravel might help, or you might put plant weights on the artificial plants.> Our sucker fish has tripled in size, and is appearing to be way to big for the tank at this time, how do we resolve that?   <Find someone with a larger tank, or return/exchange him at your local fish store.> Is there any suckers that stay smaller? <For a 10 gallon tank, the only fish that will stay sufficiently small is an Otocinclus species, which are commonly called "Otos". An alternative is algae-eating shrimp, aka Amano shrimp (after the guy who pioneered their use in aquaria), with the scientific name of Caridina japonica. Best of luck with the tank! --Ananda>

Back To The Future...(Starting Over Again!> Hi, I'm just getting back into keeping fish after a 30 year layoff! A lot has changed, for sure. <It sure has! And the Chicago Cubs made it to the World Series, er...Oh- I guess they didn't...Some things still have not changed...But hey, the Undergravel filter is no longer the state of the art, anyways! And I miss those metal-framed tanks, as I'm sure you do! Scott F. sharing useless commentary with you tonight...> Not only in the actual hobby, but in the amount of available knowledge. I've spent the last month or so getting myself up to speed while starting a new fresh water tank. Your site has been very helpful. <Glad to hear that! We sure have a lot of fun learning and sharing experiences together!> Here's the set up. A 55 gallon tank filtered with an Emperor 400 with duel bio wheels. I installed a small pump at the rear of the tank and at the opposite end from the filter. It jets the water along the rear glass towards the filter inlet. I put a small bubble wand along the side wall, on the pump side. Substrate is about 1/2" of natural, dark pebbles, small "half pea" size. No UGF, I use a vacuum to do my water changes. Landscaping consists of 2 pieces of driftwood and about 10 slate caves. No live plants, but 3 plastic to hide the hardware. I added 13 Zebra Danios to start the cycling. 3 died during the process, but the other 10 are very active. <Glad to hear that. I love Zebras- just great all around fish, and fun to watch!> I do 10 gallon water changes twice a week. This keeps the nitrates well below 20 with the small bioload now in the tank. <Love you...> I added one small algae eater, an Otocinclus species. Ammonia and nitrites have stayed at zero since the cycle completed. I'll increase the water changes if needed as I slowly add QT'ed fish. (See, even old dogs can learn!) Water tests at 120 ppm for hardness and a ph of 6.8.   <Sounds good!> Plan is to house a breeding colony of one of the small Plecos on the market today. Nothing over 5" or so. The Queen Arabesque (L260) for example. 3 to 5 adults. I'm not looking to go commercial, but I feel strongly that it is better to breed than capture when dealing with any wild animal. <Whenever possible! I agree> So I want to give them everything they need to breed and hopefully pass the genes along. <Excellent> Of course this is going to be one boring daytime tank if that's all I put in it, so my question (finally) is about tank mates. I would like a group of colorful, active fish to liven up the tank. I was thinking livebearers, but a thought occurred to me. Would the Plecos benefit from an egg scattering species that would supply them with a protein rich "live" food? If so, can you recommend a common species? (Remember the "pass the gene thing"?) It would have to be a type that would be unlikely to turn the (dinner) tables on the Plecos should they breed. Just seems to me that if I'm going to be feeding them, they might as well help feed and condition the Plecos. Just like keeping guppies or swords with small cichlids. Of course I would not count on it as a steady food supply, just a supplement to the meaty diet I would supply.  Don C. <Well, Don- I'm not overly confident in them supplying a food source to the Plecos, which are essentially herbivorous, but there certainly is no reason not to have some small, colorful fishes to bring some life to your tank. Sure, livebearers will fit the bill, but I am a big fan of tetras and Rasboras. If you can get some nice Cardinal Tetras and/or Harlequin Rasboras, you'll get some great small fishes that will add color and interest, and-who knows- maybe a spawn or two! Yep- these little guys rock, IMO! Good luck in your venture...Welcome back! Regards, Scott F.>

Moor Root?! Do you know what moor root is?   <Well, I could be wrong, but I think this is just a European way of saying bogwood.   A moor is a vast boggy heath, basically, and I imagine "moor root" refers to sunken, waterlogged wood/roots.  Bogwood.  Driftwood.> I read about it in the Aqualog catalogs.  I have a 75g Pleco tank and I would like to have some in my tank.   <Indeed, bogwood is of great importance to the diets and overall well-being of many plecs.> I've asked people in my area no one knows.  PLEASE HELP!  Also where do you think I can get some living in Tampa? <Any local fish store, most likely.  Ask about bogwood/driftwood instead of moor root, though, unless you're visiting London for your wood!  ;)  Or, if you're feeling adventurous, you can collect/clean/prepare your own.  Have fun!  -Sabrina>

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