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FAQs on Asian Freshwater Biotopes

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Asian river and Amazon     6/11/14
Hi guys,
Just wanted to share with you my final setups for my 40 gallon Amazon and my son's 20 gallon Asian river. Some of the plants still need some growing and are recent adds but you get the general idea. Thank you to Neale
<Sent to him>
especially for making this a very enjoyable hobby for my son and I!! I tried to make the tanks as pure as possible but some of the plants were admittedly disputed as to area of origin but hey....can't take all the fun out of it can I :)
Asian river

Cryptocoryne Wendtii
Blyxa japonica
Heteranthera Zosterofolia
Nymphaea Zenkeri
Betta splendens (Betta)
Kryptopterus minor (Ghost Catfish)
Trigonostigma heteromorpha (Harlequin Rasbora)
Stiphodon semoni (Cobalt Blue Goby)
Pangio semicintus (Black Kuhli Loach)

Vallisneria Americana Gigantea
Sagittaria Subulata
Echinodorus 'ozelot'
Cleithracara maronii (Keyhole Cichlid)
Pterophyllum scalare (Angelfish)
Hyphessobrycon columbianus (Blue/red Columbian Tetra)
Gasteropelecus sternicla (Common Hatchetfish)
Mikrogeophagus altispinosus (Bolivian Ram)
Ancistrus cirrhosus (Bristlenose Pleco)
<Ah, very nice. Bob Fenner>
Re: Asian river and Amazon     6/11/14
I'm not sure how I forgot but thank you as well Bob! I've definitely gotten your help more than a couple times.
Phill Shubert
<Ah, cheers. BobF>

Asian river and Amazon      6/11.5/14
Hi guys,
Just wanted to share with you my final setups for my 40 gallon Amazon and my son's 20 gallon Asian river.
<Looks good! A wipe of the front glass might be a plus before taking photos, though! Squirt the window cleaner onto a paper towel (not at the tank!) then wipe.>
Some of the plants still need some growing and are recent adds but you get the general idea.
<Indeed. Abacus aquatics in Sidcup recently got some Vallisneria nana. Like all Vallisneria it's relatively easy to grow, and spreads well once settled. It's an easier alternative to Hairgrass type things, having the
usual Vallisneria tolerance providing you DO NOT bury the white crown under the substrate.>
Thank you to Neale especially for making this a very enjoyable hobby for my son and I!! I tried to make the tanks as pure as possible but some of the plants were admittedly disputed as to area of origin but hey....can't take all the fun out of it can I :)
<Pretty much the idea.>
***Asian river***
Cryptocoryne Wendtii
Blyxa japonica
Heteranthera Zosterofolia
Nymphaea Zenkeri
Betta splendens (Betta)
Kryptopterus minor (Ghost Catfish)
Trigonostigma heteromorpha (Harlequin Rasbora)
Stiphodon semoni (Cobalt Blue Goby)
Pangio semicintus (Black Kuhli Loach)
Vallisneria Americana Gigantea
Sagittaria Subulata
Echinodorus 'ozelot'
Cleithracara maronii (Keyhole Cichlid)
Pterophyllum scalare (Angelfish)
Hyphessobrycon columbianus (Blue/red Columbian Tetra)
Gasteropelecus sternicla (Common Hatchetfish)
Mikrogeophagus altispinosus (Bolivian Ram)
Ancistrus cirrhosus (Bristlenose Pleco)
<Well done. Neale.>

Re: Asian river and Amazon     6/13/14
Lol good call. I was excited after adding my driftwood and didn't notice the spots. I'll get you a better one. I feel after all your input you're essentially part creator of these anyway.
<Kind of you to say so! Neale.>
Re: Asian river and Amazon

Hi Neale,
As promised...sans water marks.
<Ah yes, "clearly" superior! Cheers, Neale.>

Carinotetraodon irrubesco      5/28/13
Hi crew,
Wanted to make a quick enquiry. I've kept three red eye puffers for a few years in a mixed community with success.
<Is indeed a nice, relatively tolerant species of puffer.>
I would now like to move them into a 40gal biotope based on Borneo/Sumatra.
What would be your recommended fish for this setup?

<Ah now, Fishbase says this: "Specimens typically caught along bank vegetation in large rivers. The specimen from Sambas were obtained amongst submerged bank vegetation. The water was murky brown, with pH about 6.0.
Syntopic species include Rasbora tornieri, R. bankanensis, Doryichthys deokhatoides, Brachygobius doriae and Dermogenys sp." So there you go: schooling cyprinids, pipefish, bumblebee gobies (!!!) and wrestling halfbeaks. I'd certainly go along the lines of a school of midwater cyprinids such as Harlequins being about right in terms of size and personality. Some small barb species like Cherry Barbs could work too. I have kept C. irrubesco with Celebes Halfbeaks which are a bit bigger than Wrestling Halfbeaks but, in the UK at least, much more widely sold. I'd be leery of mixing Gobies given the problems getting Gobies to feed in community tanks, but I suppose if you were desperate to try then something like the Black Toraja Goby might work.>
My puffers have never bothered the Kuhli loaches or garra in with them. I'd like bottom dwellers and fast shoalers. Also how might you decorate the tank? I've been looking at ideas but am keen to hear your expertise.
<Again, see the comment from Fishbase, above. Carinotetraodon irrubesco inhabits dark, acidic streams that lack aquatic plants but have lots of vegetation growing from the riverbank into the water, which could be mimicked using a mix of bogwood roots, a few rocks, and perhaps floating plants that grow downwards, like Indian Fern.>
Thanks in advance.
<Welcome, Neale.>

Biotope build outs, ex.s      1/16/13
Hi guys,
I wanted to thank you for your input and send you some updates as to how the Asian and South American biotopes are coming. I have attached pictures of both.
<Phill... hundreds of Kbytes, not Megs of pix/files please>
The Asian tank is a 20 long with the following:
Harlequin Rasbora
Celestial Pearl Danio
Red Cherry Shrimp
Christmas Moss
Cryptocoryne Wendtii
Hygrophila Sunset
I have 1 T5HO 24W bulb about 10" above tank and dose with Seachem comprehensive, Excel, and Nitrogen. Very pleased with this tank so far.
<Looks nice>
The South American tank will be going into the attached build which I thank you for all your input. The doors are going on tonight. The T5HO dual 48W will hang in that open space above tank 10" above. There will be a door hiding the light and filter. I will send an updated picture when it is done. It will contain:
Blue Acara
Bolivian Rams
Emperor Tetras
Bristlenose Pleco
Ozelot swords
Dwarf swords (parviflorus)
Dwarf Hairgrass
I just really wanted to thank Bob, Neale, and the rest of the crew who helped me with this. My family and I are truly enjoying this experience and it would not have happened without your aid. Truly appreciate your site and what you guys do for us hobbyists.
<Thank you for sharing. Bob Fenner>

Biotope build outs   1/17/13
Hi guys,
I wanted to thank you for your input and send you some updates as to how the Asian and South American biotopes are coming. I have attached pictures of both.
The Asian tank is a 20 long with the following:
Harlequin Rasbora
Celestial Pearl Danio
Red Cherry Shrimp
Christmas Moss
Cryptocoryne wendtii
Hygrophila Sunset
I have 1 T5HO 24W bulb about 10" above tank and dose with Seachem comprehensive, Excel, and Nitrogen. Very pleased with this tank so far.
<Indeed, looking good. Do wonder about the Hygrophila though; looks a bit leggy and while it's nice to see the red colour on the leaves, pale green to red plants are often very light-hungry. Would expect them to look bigger and bushier if they've been there a couple months or more.>
The South American tank will be going into the attached build which I thank you for all your input. The doors are going on tonight. The T5HO dual 48W will hang in that open space above tank 10" above. There will be a door hiding the light and filter. I will send an updated picture when it is done. It will contain:
Blue Acara
Bolivian Rams
Emperor Tetras
Bristlenose Pleco
Ozelot swords
<A nice plant.>
Dwarf swords (parviflorus)
<Never had much luck with this…>
Dwarf Hairgrass
<…or this! Both need more light than I've ever provided, I think.>
I just really wanted to thank Bob, Neale, and the rest of the crew who helped me with this. My family and I are truly enjoying this experience and it would not have happened without your aid. Truly appreciate your site and what you guys do for us hobbyists.
<Sounds like you're having fun; we're glad to help. Cheers, Neale.>

Archers with Asian community tank  3/4/12
Hey everyone! Well my 65 gallon tank with my 5 Toxotes microlepis are dong great however i was wanting to change around the stocking a bit and was wondering if some of these ideas might work with the archers,,,
1. Was really hoping for possibly a school of full grown tiger barbs, as the archers are still young lings (not for long) but it gives the tigers a bit of time to grow as large as they can. Since i know the archers will attempt to eat most anything in their mouth i thought the tigers would be all right since their body shape isn't as narrow and are a bit chunky..
<And fast and quite smart. Should get along>
2. Possibly along with the tiger barbs, a singe rainbow shark (actually not a shark I'm aware) or a red tailed black shark (more aggressive I've read)
<And this>
Let me know what you think! thanks!
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>
Re: archers with Asian community tank     4/4/12

Thank you very much Mr. Fenner! Would you recommend one over the other in regards to the rainbow shark and or red tailed black shark?
<Both/either can be territorially aggressive, but I like the Red Tail better for looks. BobF>
Re: archers with Asian community tank      4/4/12

Sounds like a plan! Im sure the tiger barbs could hold their own, and I definitely know the archers are more than tough enough to bite back if threatened. Thanks again Mr. Fenner!
oh ok one last question, would you say that's about it in terms of keeping in a tank of this size? Being the 5 archers a school of tiger barbs and a red tailed black shark? If there's still a bit more room I guess ill u the tiger barb count... how many might you recommend? Somewhere around 15?
Possibly 20?
<Mmm, I'd stick w/ seven or nine... the Archers really need/appreciate more free room... much better for your enjoyment of their behavior. BobF>

new fish tank, stkg., FW, Asian...     1/5/12
Hi, I am going to set up a new 20 gallon long tank. I have everything planned out down to the substrate except for the stocking. I am wondering if my planned stocking will be to much for a 20 gallon long tank.
<Let's see!>
The problem is I have searched far and wide for the answer to my stocking problem but just couldn't find the answer. So I knew I could count on the experts to help me.  The stocking I currently plan on getting is 6 tiger barbs,
<A bit boisterous, so might be trouble in 20 gallons. There are more peaceful, smaller barbs that would be safer. For example, Puntius rhomboocellatus and Puntius pentazona. Or, if you can keep the temperature down to around 18-20 C/64-68 F, Puntius gelius is a beautiful, if shy, little fish.>
4 Kuhli loaches,
<Good for tanks this size.>
a shoal of white cloud mountain minnows ( I don't know what the ideal number would be. I was thinking 11),
<A good number. But they are subtropical fish, so would be better with subtropical or low-end tropical species. On the other hand, they're easily bullied, most notoriously by Danios, so choose midwater and surface water tankmates carefully. Puntius gelius would be an excellent choice; Puntius tetrazona not so much.>
1 SAE,
<Potentially, but does get quite large, and in a tank this size, a bunch of Nerite Snails and Cherry Shrimps would make infinitely better algae eaters.>
and 2 pearl Gourami.
<Too big.>
I would easily only get one but I thought it would be good if he had a buddy. This tank is going to be an Asian biotope tank (hence the Asian species of fish).
<If you have soft water, yes, an Asian biotope is a great way to go.>
I think I am going to do a river bottom theme. If you have any other fish that would be more suitable for this tank than the ones I have listed I would appreciate any suggestions. Thanks
<The White Cloud Mountain Minnows won't do well about 22 C/72 F, so do think carefully about whether you want a tank for them or a tank for tropical fish. You can't really have both. White Cloud Mountain Minnows are great fish, and in a 20 gallon tank they'd be wonderful, mixing great with Cherry Shrimps and small, subtropical fish that stick to the bottom of the tank. If you want barbs and gouramis, then you will need to skip the Minnows. Hope this helps, Neale.>
Re: new fish tank, stkg.... "Asian"   1/5/12

Thank you so much for the speedy response. But now I am wondering if I can have 11 white clouds, 6  Puntius gelius, and 4 Kuhli loaches.
<Possibly, but you'd have to keep the tank at 22 C for the WCMM and the Puntius gelius, which would be a bit cool for the Kuhli loaches. There are some small, subtropical loaches and catfish from Asia (e.g., Hara hara and Akysis vespa) but they aren't widely traded so you may have trouble locating them outside a big city or without the use of mail order.
Hillstream Loaches could work, but they need cool, fast-flowing water, which would be great for the Minnows but wouldn't be appreciated by the Puntius gelius which prefer (need!) shady, well-planted tanks or they don't colour up properly. Minnows, Shrimps and Hillstream Loaches (e.g., Pseudogastromyzon myersi and Sewellia lineolata) would look great together in a pebbly, rocky mountain stream-type aquarium with some sand or gravel and a few plants attached to driftwood (e.g., Java ferns). Beef up the water turnover rate to at least 6 and ideally 8 times the volume of the tank per hour, and ensure there's lots of oxygen because Hillstream Loaches don't like stuffy, overcrowded tanks. There are some oddball Danio species such as Danio kyathit that could work, but these bully Minnows so choose one or the other. On the other hand, the Celestial Pearl, Danio margaritatus, can work well with White Cloud Mountain Minnows. Do also look out for the gorgeous Vietnamese Mountain Minnow, Tanichthys micagemmae.>
Sorry about all the questions I just want to get everything right for this tank.
<Sounds like a good way to approach this aquarium. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: new fish tank   1/5/12
You said it would be a little cold for the Kuhli loaches but would they not come out and not be as active as they usually be?
<They are extremely shy (read: almost never seen) in regular aquaria. But if kept too cold, they're also be more prone to disease.>
And how common are Celestial Pearl in the aquarium trade?
<Quite common. They're not farmed and here in England at least, easily purchased.>
If I do need to use mail to order fish what is a good source that you like personally?
<Where are you? I'm in England and trust a couple of retailers to handle mail order well. Elsewhere in the world you'll have to do your own research. But generally, mail ordering is safe. Be sure to choose a company with a promise to replace livestock that's dead on arrival (rarely happens, to be honest, if shipped properly). If all else fails, ask your local aquarium shop. Any retailer worth their salt should be able to specially order a given species. They shouldn't be much more expensive per fish than a mail order vendor, plus you won't have to pay for shipping, and you can choose precisely the specimens you want! Cheers, Neale.>
Re: new fish tank   1/5/12

Well I only have a few questions left. My current planned tank stocking is 11 WCMM, 6 Puntius gelius, and whatever number of celestial pearl Danio would be best.
<These fish need to be kept in schools, and they're so small, you really want ten or more. In a 20-gallon tank you could easily keep 10-12 of each of these species. With a tank like this, it makes more sense to keep a few species really well, rather than try to cram in 6 or 7 species that would just look like a jumble of fish anyway.>
Also I live in NC,USA so I guess I will have to do my research.
<Pretty much! The WWM forum might be a place to start, but there are lots of places you can canvas opinions.>
But anyway is the Celestial Pearl Danio a schooling fish or like the WCMM which should be in a shoal?
<Yes, it's a peaceful schooling fish.>
And can you think of any fish that is an oddball like the Kuhli loaches to replace them?
<I mentioned a couple of catfish in my last e-mail; they'd be good. Most Corydoras species also prefer coolish water, so they're be good choices if you can't find small Asian species. On the loach front there are Hillstream loaches, but they're very demanding. Gobies might be an option, specifically Stiphodon species, and they'd do well at 22 C/72 F, but they're somewhat fussy about their diet and like Hillstream loaches need clean, clear, oxygen-rich water to do well. Shrimps are a no-brainer here -- Cherry Shrimps would thrive in this tank, eat algae, and multiply fairly quickly, giving your tank a "reef tank" feel. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: new fish tank   1/5/12
Thank you for all the advice I found a loach that is Asian. The dwarf chain loach. I read a little on it but any information would help I think I might get 6 or 7.
<Yes, I was aware of this species, but it needs warmer water (25-28 C) that the White Cloud Mountain Minnows or the Gelius Barbs. It is indeed a schooling species that needs to be kept in a group. Somewhat delicate, but a nice fish otherwise. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: new fish tank   1/5/12

Wow I just looked up the goby species you recommended I found the blue neon goby and it looks beautiful and now I can't decide between the dwarf chain loach and the neon blue goby.
<Do read up in Stiphodon carefully. They are demanding fish in some ways, and their success record in aquaria is mixed. They do need cool, fast-flowing water with lots of oxygen, and eat mostly green algae and very small meaty foods like bloodworms and chopped shrimp. Don't tend to eat flake, freeze-dried foods, etc. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: new fish tank    1/6/12

What type of loach would you recommend that is coldwater and active like the dwarf chain loach?
<There really aren't any Botiine loaches that will work this way. That's why I've been mentioning Hillstream Loaches. Some of the Nemacheiline loaches may also be relevant, e.g., Schistura balteata and Nemacheilus fasciatus, but they're quite delicate and sometimes aggressive, so read up on their needs; they may well need more than 20 gallons, in all honesty.
Cheers, Neale.>
Re: new fish tank

I just saw that the golden dojo loach is a coldwater loach.
<More subtropical, but yes.>
And the site says they reach 6" max and I was planning on having a group of four so I don't know if this is to much for my 20 gallon
<Yes; they are quite large and rather messy in terms of uprooting stuff, so a 30, 40 gallon tank is better for them.>
because of my planned stocking which is 6 dwarf golden barbs, 12 white clouds,( I couldn't find any celestial pearl Danios but I will go to my LFS and see if they can special order for me)12 celestial pearl Danios, and 4 golden dojo loaches. Do you think that is to much for a 20 gallon long tank?
<Yes. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: new fish tank

What if I didn't get the celestial pearl Danios? Then do you think I would have enough room?
<Dojo/Weather Loaches need an aquarium at least 90 cm/3 ft long, and your 20 gallon tank won't be big enough. Don't underestimate how big these loaches get. They can reach well over 15 cm/6 inches, and are chunky, messy fish with it too. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: new fish tank    1/6/12

That is if I only get 3 golden dojo loaches. I read golden dojo loaches are like goldfish and they need 10 gallons per fish.
<Rubbish. Goldfish need at least 30 gallons for the first two, and another 10-15 gallons per additional Goldfish.>
And since the 20 gallon long tank has the same dimensions for everything except the height of a 30 gallon it is basically 30 gallons.
<What? If the tank is 20 gallons, it's basically a 20 gallon tank. What on Earth makes you think it's more like a 30 gallon tank than another 20
gallon tank?>
So I think there will be enough room for 3 golden dojo loaches.
<You think wrong.>
I will only have big plants like the java fern which I here they don't uproot. There will be a lot of hiding spots so they will feel comfortable.
<That's not the problem. Water quality and the sheer mess these big fish make will be the problems.>
Thanks for all the help with the tank questions I really appreciate it. And now I know what my stocking will be 6 dwarf golden barbs, 3 golden dojo loaches, and 12 white cloud mountain minnows. Thanks again.
<Dwarf Golden Barbs are small, nervous fish. They'll be terrorised by the Dojo/Weather Loaches. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: new fish tank   1/8/12

Then I'll get Odessa barbs and only 2 golden dojo loaches.
<In the 20 gallon tank? Wrong/bad choices. In a 30-40 gallon tank at least 90 cm/3ft long, sure, could work, provided water temperature wasn't higher than 25 C/77 F. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: new fish tank

What is another fish to replace the dwarf golden barbs because I really want the golden dojo loaches. I would only get two.
<Look Bradley, I thought this was about a 20 gallon tank? Dojo Loaches are far too big for 20 gallons. End of. I don't really think you're grasping how big and messy these fish become. The Dwarf Golden Barbs are neither here nor there. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: new fish tank
And in one of my previous emails when I said that the 20 gallon long tank is basically a 30 gallon.
<No, this doesn't make sense. Does the tank contain 20 gallons or 30 gallons? If 20 gallons, then stock as for a 20 gallon tank.>
By that I meant for a bottom dweller. Because the dimensions are the same for the length and the width. The only difference from the 30 gallon is 13cm on the height.
<The measurements may well work this way. But the volume of water is what matters. You see, a 30 gallon tank has 50% more water volume than a 20 gallon tank. Waste products are diluted 50% more effectively, and there's 50% more oxygen in the water.>
So if you are a bottom dweller fish it would hardly be any different from a 30 gallon.
<Uh, no. If you're a territorial dwarf cichlid, the footprint of the tank, i.e., the width x length, is important, yes. That's because such a fish claims areas on the bottom and largely ignores what goes on more than a few inches above its head. But even for a dwarf cichlid, if it needs 10 gallons, a 5 gallon tank won't work, even if the two tanks had the same width and length but different heights. For a Dojo Loach, this is even less relevant because they swim at all levels of the tank, albeit clumsily in midwater, and resting on the bottom much of the time. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: new fish tank   1/8/12

The bottom dweller is bugging me I just can think of one that is a beginners fish and doesn't need to have tons of filtration. If there isn't one I might just make a tropical Asian tank.
Could a panda Cory work?
<Corydoras, plural, can work extremely well with low-end tropical and subtropical species. You need 5-6 of each Corydoras species, and in a 20 gallon tank, a swarm of "dwarf" Corydoras such as Corydoras habrosus is a real possibility. Bronze and Peppered Corydoras do well from 18-25 C/64-77 F, while most of the others including the dwarf species are best around 22-25 C/72-77 F. The main exception here is Corydoras sterbai, a species that prefers warmer water. But most of the others, including Pandas, are
happiest in slightly cool conditions. Planet Catfish is a great website for researching *accurate* needs for each Corydoras species. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: new fish tank

Thank you
<Most welcome. Cheers, Neale.>

Planned SE Asian biotope re-scape, and tank stocking   9/15/11
Hello to the crew, greetings from Australia, and can I first say how valuable it's been to be able to read your website and feedback? Been a great help in planning/setting up my tank.
<Thanks for the kind words.>
Okay, now on to my tank. This is the first time I'm doing a heated "tropical" tank (we had a 3ft community tank when I was in primary school, but seeing as I grew up in Malaysia, there wasn't much heating requirements! It wasn't planted either, nor were we too informed on proper stocking, so it was overflowing with guppies, mollies, Platies, swordtails, a handful of Plecs... you name it! Eventually it got turned into a paludarium with terrapins, and they had much fun chasing the guppies around for food, actually balanced out nicely with the guppies breeding... but I digress.)
Anyway, my tank. It's a 130L "Tall" - approx 60(W) x 33(D) x 70(T) cm - unit I purchased it off a friend, who was running it as a community tank.
It ORIGINALLY was an all-in-one unit (AquaOne 620T) but all the hood internals have since failed (including a mildly spectacular blow of a brand new compact fluorescent (*not happy*) I suspect the ballast was faulty/shorted - friend had never run it with both lights going so she couldn't confirm if it was!)
The filter I inherited is an internal filter rated at 1200L/hr (AquaOne 103F) - any thoughts on this? Good (almost too turbulent, but can be cranked down) water flow, but I'm guessing it doesn't aerate?
<It's a perfectly adequate unit for a medium-sized tank, up to around 100 litres. For your tank, I'd use it alongside something else, perhaps a small external canister filter that provides more mechanical filtration.>
Initial stock from friend, came with tank 3 goldfish (1 common/comet, 1 fantail, and 1 smaller one with telescoping eyes - the first 2 were about 3" and the small one's about 1.5" length), 1 male Betta, 2 blue three-spot Gourami (I think, pretty sure it looks like T. trichopterus) about 5-6cm, 2 rosy barbs, about 2-3cm 1 'albino' tiger barb (orange with gold/cream tiger markings, she sold it to me as a rosy, but noticed it was definitely different when I got it home!) same size as above barbs 2 dwarf (I hope) Ancistrus spp, about 2" each
<Goldfish don't really belong here, and do bear in mind both Rosy Barbs (a subtropical species, by the way) and Tiger Barbs are schooling and sometimes nippy species. Keeping them with Goldfish and Gouramis and Bettas doesn't make much sense.>
The fish lived happily in a 40L foam box with the heater and filter for a few weeks while the tank cycled, with frequent water changes, and then had to quickly bring the tank water up to heat by floating hot water bottles for an hour or two (another long story, I only had only one heater, and that was in the foam box with the fish for the three weeks), then added the fish and part of the water they were living in to the bigger tank to top it up.
Heater is going at 25-26C.
<Bit warm for Rosy Barbs and Goldfish.>
Prior to cycling and adding fish, I half planted the tank using a substrate of approx 40% Fluorite Red with the remainder being standard aquarium gravel, a chunk of Malaysian driftwood, with a bit of wisteria and some dwarf hairgrass, and am waiting on some Rotala, crypts and java fern, and some more driftwood to finish the planting. The hood has been ditched completely since it no longer serves a purpose - I'll probably get an aftermarket lighting system to provide higher WPG for plants anyway.
<Fair enough.>
The two larger goldfish have been relegated to an outside trough approx 70L, as they're coldwater and there was no way I would be able to keep the tank planted with them chomping away!
So, the plan is now (since I don't have a hood anymore) to lower the water to approx ~50cm (essentially turning it into a highish 2ft standard), and leaving it uncovered with suspended/clamp on lighting, allowing some plants to break the surface. And the lower water level in relation to the tank walls will hopefully stop any fish thinking of carpet surfing.
I was originally thinking of going with: 6+ glass catfish (Kryptopterus minor) 5-6 Kuhli (Pangio kuhlii) or dwarf loaches (y. sidthimunki) and keep the 2 dwarf Ancistrus/Plecs and the Betta (and maybe the fancy goldfish, though it could get relocated too - just might be a bit cold outdoors for him) ---- is this overstocked?
<It's a lot for 130 litres. Overstocked? Nope, probably not, but you do want to keep filtration robust and do regular water changes.>
Other option is instead just keeping the barbs, and increasing their numbers to about 10-12 Rosies (will they grow too big? Some people say they cap at 3-5cm, others say they get up to 10-12... ?).
<It's true they don't get the full 15 cm in captivity, or even in the wild, but they are bigger than 3 or 5 cm. Expect them to get to about half their maximum size, maybe 8 cm.>
I have to say I'm not a fan of Rosies myself though, so either way this would be a second (though cheaper and easier) option.
Thoughts on the Gourami? Would it suit either stocking option above?
<Is vulnerable to nipping by some barbs. Good with the catfish, loaches, etc.>
And if I did go with my original plan, would it be better for me to ditch the three barbs, or would they happily coexist with the cats and loaches?
<Would be more worried about the Glass Cats; do look at peaceful barbs like Pentazona, Cherry, and Snakeskin Barbs.>
Thanks in advance for reading this, and apologies for the long post!
PS. Don't have water chemistry handy atm, I can bring some water to my LFS for a test, but don't have a kit handy at home right this minute.
<Will make a difference, so the values are important. Hope this helps, Neale.>

S.E.A. biotope, stkg.   4/18/11
Hello WWM,
I have found WWM extremely useful in helping me plan for a new aquarium. So I have bought one and l set it up. However, I still have some queries.
I have a 39x28x43cm (more or less 10 US gal) tank that is almost done cycling. There is no heater as I live in Singapore. The water stays at a constant 28 degrees Celsius.
My 'MASTER PLAN' is to make it a South East Asian biotope. The lighting is two 8 watt fluorescent lamps. The plants in there are:
3 clumps Java ferns
2 clumps of java moss
The proposed inhabitants are:
20-24 Harlequin Rasboras.
<Wouldn't be my first choice for a tank this small. There are numerous "micro" Rasbora species out there, Boraras spp, such as Boraras brigittae, that would be MUCH better. These are widely traded now. Possible alternatives could include Celestial Danios and Glowlight Danios, though neither would be perfectly happy in such warm water. The same holds for the Vietnamese Cardinal Minnow, another stunning little species.>
My questions are:
1. Is the lighting too much for the Java Ferns? I heard they die if the lighting is too strong.
<No, they can do well in bright light, but filtering the light through floating plants does help. Strong lighting can encourage algae to grow on Java fern leaves, and they look pretty tatty once that happens. Riccia or Ceratopteris would be nice options.>
2. Are there too many fish in the tank, given that the Harlequin Rasboras are the only fish in the tank?
<Not so much the stocking density, though that's an issue to be sure. I'd be more worried about swimming space. To look good you want your fish schooling together and moving about. Adult Harlequins would look cramped in a tank this small.>
3. if the above answer is 'no', can I, as long as the nitrates stay low, put in a Betta?
<Sure. But given your locality, I'd be looking for something more fun, like Betta imbellis or Betta rubra (we have an article on these going into the next WWM Digital magazine which should be up later today). Another option would be Trichopsis pumila, a group of which would be very entertaining. They make noises!>
I appreciate any advice.
<Cheers, Neale.>

Southeast Asian Blackwater - 10/09/10
I was wondering if you could help me? I have a Southeast Asian blackwater tank with 2 Gourami.
For the plants I have chosen, Blyx japonica, Nomphilia stricta and some Cryptocoryne wendtii (although the latter is not from blackwater which I found out after planting!) What I can't seem to find out is a floating plant that would come from this same area? I have done a lot of research but not sure if there is even such a thing? What about Indian fern? Anyway I really don't know but I would like some floating cover for the fish.
Thanks in advance.
<Hello Gemma. Blackwater habitats tend to lack plants of almost any kind because the low pH is created by organic decay. So while the plants you mention thus far certainly occur in soft water habitats, they aren't going to be common in peat bogs and the like. Among other issues, the darkness of the water cuts out light, making it hard for plants to grow. Do bear in mind that most gouramis don't occur in blackwater habitats. Colisa and Trichogaster species, for example Dwarf Gouramis (Colisa lalia) and Opaline Gouramis (Trichogaster trichopterus) come from soft water streams, ponds and lakes. These often are thickly vegetated, and gouramis are adapted to precisely those conditions, using their flat body shape to slip between plants. In Asia, the floating plants in such habitats would include Indian Fern, Pistia, Salvinia, Azolla and Lemna, among others. Of these, Indian Fern is probably the easiest to grow and the one that provides the best amount of cover, colour and nitrate removal. The others are problematic for one reason or another, so research their needs carefully. All should do well in moderately soft water, around pH 6.5, 5-10 degrees dH. Unless you have a darn good reason, don't make the water any softer or more acidic
than that: very low pH and hardness levels are unstable and provide poor conditions for filter bacteria, most fish, and many plants. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Southeast Asian Blackwater - 10/09/10
Thank you so much for such a fast reply!
<No problem.>
I wondered then If I could ask what would be the correct setting for my Gourami?
<These little fish come from ponds, rice paddies, ditches along the sides of roads, that sort of thing. Shallow water, lots of aquatic plants. Water chemistry middling, a bit on the soft side, but not super-soft. Colisa lalia is intensively farmed, and unfortunately hasn't done well over the generations and tends to be prone to viral and bacterial problems. But good specimens are adaptable, and provided they're kept fairly warm, 26-28 C is about right, they shouldn't pose too many problems. The difficulty is getting healthy specimens!>
They are Colisa lalia. I was originally creating the blackwater setting for my female Betta, who sadly died. After many hours and days or research, I concluded that this would suit the Colisa lalia.
<Soft water and blackwater aren't the same thing at all. Blackwater is what you get when rainwater flows onto a peat bog. Because the rainwater has no carbonate hardness, there's nothing to buffer against pH changes. So the water absorbs the tannins and other acids from the bog, becomes extremely acidic, in some cases below pH 5. Relatively few fish tolerate these conditions. Among the Gouramis, it's things like Chocolate Gouramis and Liquorice Gouramis that come from blackwater habitats. Colisa lalia, by contrast, comes from ordinary ponds and ditches where the water will have absorbed at least some carbonate hardness. Perfect conditions would be 5-10 degrees dH. Here in Southern England for example the tap water is about 20 degrees dH, so mixing it 50/50 with rainwater produces moderately soft
water ideally suited to Colisa lalia and indeed a wide variety of tropical fish. You don't need to worry about pH too much, provided it's stable; pH 7-7.5 is ideal for Southeast Asian fish as well as filter bacteria (which don't like pH levels below 7 and essentially stop working below 6).>
Now after your kind info, I am slightly confused. If I am going to create a natural environment for these fish, I want to get it right.
<If all else fails, try Fishbase. In this case, read here:
Are the plants I have still correct for the soft water streams, lakes and ponds you mention? Were they even correct for the Betta?
<Oh, yes. Blyxa is a notoriously difficult plant to grow so unless you had a burning desire to grow it, I'd skip it. And "Nomaphila" species grow much too fast for large tanks. I kept some in a windowsill tank and they grew at least a meter ABOVE the waterline within a few months. These are huge plants. Good choices for a Southeast Asian tank include Hygrophila polysperma, Cryptocoryne wendtii, Cryptocoryne beckettii and Vallisneria spiralis, as well as Java Fern and Java Moss. All these are fairly adaptable, though Hygrophila does need a lot of light to do well, otherwise it becomes gangly, more stem than leaf.>
I am doubting everything now, lol. Would there be leaf litter?
<I'm sure there would in the wild, but I wouldn't worry in the aquarium.
Gouramis live at the top, so floating Indian Fern produces precisely the kind of canopy they enjoy. Smooth silica sand (sometimes called smooth silver sand) from a garden centre makes a great substrate, though you can use plain gravel too.>
Thanks so much for your more than helpful advice.
<Always glad to help, especially when it's something a bit different to sick goldfish! Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Southeast Asian Blackwater - 10/09/10
Thanks, so helpful.
I am really sorry to bother you again, but when I went upstairs just now I have noticed that 1 of the Dwarf Gourami has built a huge bubble nest!
There are just 2 males in the tank, shall I do anything? Is this normal even though there are not any females present?
<Yes, quite normal. Do watch that the males don't become aggressive towards each other, as is very likely.>
Sorry to ask a 3rd question today!
<You're welcome. Cheers, Neale.>

Thailand Biotope/Fish Compatibility Questions   7/27/10
Hi there,
<Hello Jason,>
I've been thinking about setting up a new tank in the vein of a Thailand biotope as I like a lot of the fish from the country and thought it would be fun to have a theme.
<Certainly Southeast Asian tanks are eminently doable; look for example in Peter Scott's excellent 'The Complete Aquarium' for some biotope ideas and what you need in terms of rocks, plants and fish to create something authentic.>
Said tank would be a 55 gallon with a Marineland Penguin 350 for filtration. My main question is if you think some of the fish I've been considering would be compatible.
I know that mixing Anabantoids can be tricky,
<Yes. Best avoided.>
but I also know from browsing your FAQs that in some instances/with some species it can work.
<Within limits.>
With that in mind, would it be ok to have a group of Betta Imbellis and a Moonlight Gourami together?
<Ah, these should be fine. Moonlight Gouramis are very peaceful, and their sheer size should dissuade the Betta imbellis from anything silly.>
I love the colorful look of the Betta Imbellis but would also like a large centerpiece fish like a Moonlight Gourami and they are both found in Thailand. My initial thought is it might be possible considering the relatively peaceful nature of both.
Other fish I'd like to potentially include are a school of Dwarf Chain Loaches and maybe a couple of Siamese Algae Eaters for some algae control.
<Yes, should also work nicely, but I will make the observation that Loaches especially like more water current than Betta imbellis, and creating the floating plant canopy you need for Betta imbellis won't be easy with a strong water current. You might eschew the Loaches and SAE in favour of species more adapted to a still or slow water environments, like Kuhli Loaches or the Glass Catfish Kryptopterus minor.>
I was thinking maybe a school of some form of Danio as well as some are found in Thailand and they're also a good fish to initially cycle the tank.
What do you think of this stocking?
<Danios need cooler water than Betta imbellis, so I'd suggest looking at something like Harlequin Rasboras or perhaps Puntius pentazona or Puntius titteya.>
Also any recommendations on plants for a Thailand biotope? I know some Crypts are common there.
<Indeed. Also Crinum thaianum, as its name suggests! Blyxa japonica is a classic pond plant from Southeast Asia, as are many of the dwarf lilies sold as aquarium plants, such as Nymphaea stellata and Nymphaea caerulea,
though these latter absolutely must be kept away from strong currents.
Hygrophila species would be good too. Be sure to include some floating Indian Fern for the sake of the Betta imbellis.>
Thanks for your help.
<Hope this helps, Neale.>

OK - Neale - here it is 05/24/09
Hi Neale,
Here is what I meant to write:
I am, by profession, a grant writer/fundraiser for nonprofit organizations.  I write for my kids' school as a volunteer. We have been looking for a few grants for the science classes. Grades 4 and 5 are taught together as Cluster II and 6,7 & 8 are taught together as Cluster III. When doing research for possible funding, I will send available RFP's to the teachers or they will come to me with project ideas and I will try to find funding to match. The school is very involved in the science community and participation in science fair is mandatory for the students from grade 4 forward.
Anyway, we are interested in planning a classroom/school aquarium and I wanted to get an expert's opinion and advice about a few things. This will more than likely be a project for which we will seek funding over the next few months and will not be actually set up for the next school year as we are in the last year of our lease and will be in a new facility in the fall of 2010 for the 2010-2011 school year. I know that is a year away, but it's really not that much time, as you may already know. If we set up for the classroom, it will likely be set up in the grade 4/5 room. If it is set up in a public area to benefit the whole school, we will post changeable info posters for the different age groups to do "hallway" learning. Some for younger grades, some for older grades relating to chemistry, biology, etc....
Weekly activities could include water testing and graphing results and figuring out what's going on in the system if there is anything out of the norm on a given day? Perhaps if we get enough grant funding, we could set up a webcam and broadcast on the web - the kids could write the weekly updates, etc....
Our local area is made up of many small lakes and water conservation and water quality is a big deal here - as it may be elsewhere, but it's a big deal for our school. The school has adopted a nearby lake and the kids do regular clean ups and monitoring, and study the ecosystem there. This would be a nice element to add to that curriculum.
We also want the kids to understand why we didn't just put a bunch of different fish and purple or blue gravel to match the fish, etc....More background on the school's commitment to science education in the attachment (offline, please) which I have included.
<Didn't work/open; would suggest/ask you send plain vanilla RTF files rather than proprietary file formats.>
You will note a quote attributed to you there.
Questions:  As far as an Asian biotope goes, what other fish and fauna would you suggest to go along with Celebes Rainbowfish?
<Celebes Rainbowfish, and indeed Rainbowfish generally, mix well with each other as well as other stream-dwelling species: Horseface loaches, Cherry-fin loaches, Glassfish, freshwater Archerfish (Toxotes microlepis) would all work well. For whatever reason, relatively few small, Asian catfish are traded. >
Another thought was to introduce the kids to the Galaxy Rasboras, so they could discuss live-caught endangered species vs. farm-raising and they could also try to breed them and return them back to a LFS. What other fish or livestock would you suggest including with these fish?
<Wouldn't; best kept alone if for breeding purposes, or with Cherry Shrimps and snails if you want a multi-species set up. They're just too small to work well with other fish; Danios for example would likely bully them. They're also quite specific in terms of water chemistry and temperature.
With Galaxy Rasboras and Cherry Shrimps you can create very fun, very busy aquaria by providing a thin sandy substrate below, clumps of Java moss and Java fern for vegetation in midwater, and floating plants above. Both species will breed freely in such an aquarium, and the Cherry Shrimp "babies" at least are easy to rear with minimal intervention on your part, so you can quickly have a tank filled with shrimps of different sexes and ages.>
I am not at all opposed to a single species tank, but would like to include a clean up crew - Otos, snails, shrimp, etc.
<You don't need a "clean up crew" in ANYTHING other than a reef tank with corals. It is ALWAYS better to manually clean a tank/remove algae than to add another animal to the system in the (false) belief that will fix the problem.>
I will be pushing for a larger tank in order to better ensure success and will do everything possible to acquire high quality parts - filter, lights, etc...
Big question - Would you, or perhaps one of the other WWM Crew Members, consider being the classroom advisor for the kids regarding their aquarium throughout the school year? It would be so wonderful to expose them to someone at your level - perhaps 10 minutes a week? It would be so great for them if they could Skype with their expert. The teacher could have them submit questions to her and she could pick 1-3 questions to discuss each week in their 10 minutes.....not carved in stone, but something like that.
<Well, I'm in a whole other hemisphere, so anything "live" isn't an option, and I already spend about an hour a day volunteering here at WWM. I also have my own teaching commitments to deal with. So while I'd welcome any questions for students -- within reason -- I can't volunteer for anything more, or for that matter volunteer anyone else. Do review fish magazines for the addresses of local clubs, and you may well find someone from those prepared to visit your school. That's perhaps the ideal.>
When these kids think fish tank in the future, they won't be thinking of a Betta or a Goldfish in a bowl!
<Quite so.>
Any other suggestions you can offer would be most welcome.
<Do look for "The Compete Aquarium" by Peter W Scott as one of the best books on biotope aquaria out there. It's filled with 6-page spreads on lots of different habitats, each one describing the rocks, plants, fish and substrate you need to pull the thing off. It's a very good book.>
Thanks again,
<Cheers, Neale.>

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