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FAQs on Freshwater Livestocking 7

Related Articles: Stocking 5, 10 & 20 Gallon Freshwater Aquariums by Neale Monks, Freshwater Livestock by Neale Monks, Freshwater Livestock Selection by Bob Fenner, The Ethical Aquarist; Freshwater Fishes to Avoid by Judy Helfrich Acclimation of New Freshwater Livestock by Bob Fenner, Fishes, Amphibians, Turtles,

Related FAQs: Mis-stocking issues (incompatibility behaviorally and/or environmentally),  FW Livestock 1, FW Livestock 2, FW Livestock 3, FW Stocking 4, FW Livestocking 5, FW Livestocking 6, FW Livestocking 8, FW Livestocking 9, FW Livestocking 10, FW Livestocking 11, & Stocking Small Systems, & Freshwater Livestock Selection, Community Tank Livestocking,

Freshwater fish selection and compatibility
Dither Fish for Firemouth Cichlids 3/18/09

Dear crew, I am selecting fish for a 55 gallon (48" x 13" x 20") aquarium.
I am considering either the Firemouth Cichlid Thorichthys meeki or the Bolivian Ram Mikrogeophagus altispinosus as the center piece of the tank.
My main question is, if I choose Firemouth could I also keep a school Dwarf Rainbowfish Melanotaenia praecox or is this fish too small to be compatible?
<The rainbows would make an excellent dither fish for your Firemouths.>
If I were to have a pair of Firemouth Cichlids and a school of Boesemanni Rainbowfish Melanotaenia boesemanni, how many could I safely keep using a Fluval 304 (rated 260 GPH) and an air-driven sponge filter for filtration?
< Filtration and water turnover is fine. The limiting factor is the nitrate levels. Those are reduced by water changes. When the nitrate levels go over 20 ppm then a water change is needed. If the nitrate levels go much over 20 ppm then you need to do more water changes or have less fish in the tank.
The rainbows love to be in schools so start with at least 6.>
I'm afraid that a minimal school of 7 M. boesemanni might be too crowded in my tank, especially if the cichlids are mating/rearing fry.
< The fry will always be at risk when you have a group of dither fish. Fry than wander away from the protection of the parents will be quickly eaten.>
If I choose the Bolivian Rams instead, would it be feasible to keep perhaps 2 mated pair in this tank? Thank you for your expertise, Evan
< Two pair of Bolivian Rams can easily live in a 55 gallon tank.-Chuck>

FW community stocking, space 2/25/09 I have a 75 gallons planted aquarium(picture), with 8 discus the larger is 5 in, 30 rummy nose, 30 cardinal tetra, 9 clown loaches and 20 Otocinclus. I make a 30% water change every week. Do you think that my tank is overcrowded? Do you think that i can get more fishes in? What kind? Tank you for your advice. <Your tank is fully stocked with the Discus, the tetras and perhaps the Otocinclus. But the Clown loaches are not going to work here. Each gets to at least 20 cm (8 inches) in length, potentially 30 cm (12 inches) and even by themselves would overcrowd this tank. So no, you can't add any more fish, and your main problem is finding space (new homes) for the fish you already have. Cheers, Neale.>

Tank Size and Cory/Betta Questions, stkg. 2/25/09 Hi!! Long story short. I received as a Christmas present, a 20 gallon tank and a Betta fish. Now I have a 20 gallon planted tank with 2 Mickey Mouse Platies (1 male, 1 female) and 1 gold Platy (who gave birth recently, one survived that I deduced, I killed four but that's another story), 3 Albino Corys, 3 Peppered Corys. I realize this is overstocked presently although the Corys are all still relatively small, but should reach 3 inches. I also have a planted 10 gallon tank with Floyd, the Betta and a cycled 5 gallon tank that I was going to transfer Floyd to. I would like to upgrade the 20 gallon to a bigger tank as soon as possible. Do you have any suggestions regarding how many gallons for a home for the Corys and livebearers? <Well, I'd be looking at 125 litres (30 gallons) for the Platies and Corydoras, maintained at a modest 24 C (75 F) given the cooler water preferences of both these species.> I would also like to add another type of fish in and possibly Floyd (I tried one of the catfish and snail in his tank but that didn't work out well, I'm thinking he might be okay in the bigger tank, I don't want him to be lonely, he seems to enjoy company). <He really doesn't enjoy company. He's a fish. Don't project human feelings onto an animal! That's the path to disaster, just as failing to accommodate an animal's natural behaviours is.> Suggestions on a type of fish that would go well with what I have would be appreciated as well. <Since Corydoras and Platies prefer relatively cool conditions, I'd look at other species that enjoy slightly cool conditions as well: Danios, Neons, Florida Flagfish, Whiptail catfish.> I was thinking around 55 gallons. Would this be enough? Are you able to give out suggestions for specific Manufacturers (US) for aquariums/kits, filtration systems? <Not personally, I'm in the UK! But in terms of filtration, anything from Eheim is "gold standard" and worth investing in.> If so that would be fantastic, I've been looking for a tank around the size mentioned with a longer width than normal and I'm having a hard time finding something that I like. <Try asking around on the bulletin boards, or clicking on some of the links on the WWM homepage.> Also I read on here that the Albino and Peppered Corys will school together. <Assuming the Albinos are Corydoras paleatus, yes, they should school with your Peppered Corys (also Corydoras paleatus). But less often Albinos are Corydoras aeneus, and these are their own thing and want to school with their own kind, or normal Corydoras aeneus (Bronze Corydoras).> Currently that is not happening, they stick to their groups when they play for the most part although they are social with each other. Is this because of the close quarters? Or might they not school together? <Corydoras have a loose schooling behaviour, though adding more specimens will encourage them to group.> Thank you so much for your website. I surely would have killed everyone and given up long ago had I not stumbled across it! Instead I really enjoy all of this and find it fascinating. Floyd thanks you too!! His fins continue to grow out (bad shape when I got him) and he looks stronger and more beautiful every day! Gina <Glad to help. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Tank Size and Cory/Betta Questions 2/25/09 Thanks for the quick response Neale. <Happy to help Gina,> This is the most expensive and time consuming "present" I've ever been given (insert smile, angry face, smile and a sigh here). <Heh!> I'm going to reduce the size of tank I was thinking of purchasing based on your suggestion and look into the Eheim product lines. I also lowered the temp on the 20 gallon from 77 to 75 degrees. I checked with the LFS where I purchased the Albino Corydoras and was told they are most likely paleatus, but they order them just by the name Albino Cory so he couldn't be sure. Assuming they never group up, should I eventually buy more Corydoras so each type has at least six? <By all means. The more the merrier, and even if different species don't school together, they don't annoy each other either, so you can mix and batch groups of species.> Can you help me with Floyd (the Betta)? After bragging about how wonderful he has been doing, I came home last night and he has PopEye in one eye. Ammonia .0 Nitrites .0 Nitrates (I've misplaced this color card, I think is around 20-40) Ph 6 (should I remove the driftwood?, this used to be much more neutral, on the higher side even) <Would remove the driftwood. Almost all fish are "by default" kept best in neutral conditions. Certainly, fish farms operate that way. No real advantage to very acidic water, and the lower the pH, the worse the biological filter will perform. At pH 6, it's hardly working at all.> Temp 80 degrees Sponge filter <OK.> From what I understand, PopEye is either a sign of infection or due to damage. I had moved him to a bucket while I cleaned out some dead plant material in his 10 gallon tank a couple of days ago and I'm wondering if I might have injured him in the process. He is active, eating and seems to see fine. I added 2 tsp of Epsom salt to his change water and did a 30% change last night. Should I add medicated flakes and/or other medicine in case it's not injury related or just continue with water changes and Epsom salt? <Is it one eye or two? If one eye, often physical damage, and will generally heal without too many problems if treated. If two eyes, then the issue is more likely environmental or following on from some serious bacterial/protozoan infection. Personally, I would treat with Maracyn or equivalent alongside the Epsom. Do see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/PopeyeCause.htm Follow the links to discussion on treatments.> Regarding the projecting human feelings onto animals - I understand what you are saying but I'm a bit confused. Can you answer these questions and/or refer me to a good article/book on fish behavior. Would you describe fish as social? <Some are. Some less so. Goldfish for example not only enjoy schooling with each other, but thanks to 100s of years of domestication, actually enjoy human company. Kept well, they become very tame. Some cichlids exhibit similar behaviours; Oscars for example often become tame enough to pet!> Does it depend on the species? <Yes; with the few exceptions just mentioned, such social behaviours as exist are almost always within the one species. Only rarely do two or more species naturally interact, though these can be fascinating.> Like the Corydoras who are happier in groups of 6 or more, would they be considered 'social' fish? <Yes. They don't form coordinated shoals like herring, but instead hang about in groups, cleaving off into smaller groups to feed or breed. Some of the articles on Bettas suggest suitable tank mates. If they don't "enjoy" the company, is it more from an mental/entertainment value that it's suggested to try them with a snail or Cory? <With Bettas the risks tend to outweigh the benefits, though snails and shrimps, and I dare say small Corydoras, are completely harmless and may well stimulate the Betta. At the very least, movement in the tank keeps the Betta from sitting in one corner. But with other fish tankmates serve specific purposes. Dither fish for example (e.g., Danios) dart about at the top. In doing so, this "tells" bottom-dwellers it's safe to come out, so your catfish and cichlids are more settled. In the wild, such fish hide from predators in caves or under plants, but by observing the small open water fish, they can tell whether it's safe to come out or not.> I've spent so much time trying to keep everyone alive that I haven't really focused on learning about how fish behave and why. <An absolutely fascinating subject, of which rather little is written. Would recommend 'Fish Behavior' by Stephan Reebs as a nicely written paperback. Most academic fish books, like the superb 'The Diversity of Fishes' have much written on the subject. Because fish are easy to watch in tanks, they're actually well studied, surprisingly so perhaps. Once you get into the subject, you'll understand why cichlid keepers are such fanatics: they do everything!> Thanks again, Gina <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Tank Size and Cory/Betta Questions 2/25/09 Thank you for the excellent information Neale. I'm ordering those books today. I'm a dog trainer and find animal behavior fascinating. I think I'm on solid ground now. I ordered a 40 gallon tank, top and lighting with the dimensions/wattage I was looking for from a LFS and all should be in, in a day or two. Yay! They carry the Rena brand, but can order Eheim filtration. <Unless the price difference was enormous, I'd order in the Eheim filters. They are by far the most reliable, and last for 10+ years without complaint. It's also much easier to get spares for things like rubber seals.> I think until I understand more I'll stick with the Platies and Corydoras and the small 40 gallon set up. The male Mickey Mouse Platy is such a %&!$ to the female Mickey Mouse. Hopefully with more room and possible Platy additions, he will chill out on her. <Indeed. Floating plants, more space, and more females will all help.> I started Floyd on the Maracyn and removed the driftwood. I tried an Apple Snail with him and he bugged it to the point I removed it. <Quite normal. Contrary to popular belief, Apple snails don't last long in fish tanks, and are best kept in their own quarters.> I put a Peppered Cory in with him and he followed it around the tank and it was so freaked out, I removed it to. I've read the articles that a 10 gallon is like a dream condo for Bettas and not necessary for their happiness. Floyd is active but hasn't blown bubbles since I initially removed the hang on filter and replaced with the sponge filter. <He'll get over it.> My sister said the LFS in London she went to had a couple of different large tanks in which a single male Betta was in with other fish. I'm tired of making fish decisions - could you make this one for me Neale? <Possibly.> Floyd in A) 40 gallon with Corydoras and Platies <Wouldn't be my first choice. Corydoras should be fine, but Platies are unpredictable and can annoy Bettas. I'd perhaps try it, but if there were signs of trouble, I'd move the Betta out. It's best to keep Bettas with no other surface swimming fish, or at most, really inoffensive types like Hatchetfish or possibly small Halfbeaks. On the other hand, if you have a big tank, why not have some decent water current (which the Betta would hate) and add some active fish to dart about, like a school of Danios or Diamond Tetras. These fish would be too nippy to keep with Bettas, but with Platies and Catfish, they'd be great.> B)Floyd in 10 gallon <By all means. In this case, I'd be adding Nerite snails, Cherry Shrimps, Kuhli loaches, Corydoras pygmaeus and/or Corydoras hastatus. A nice busy tank with nothing to nip or harass the Betta.> C) Floyd in 5.5 gallon and use 10 gallon as QT <Sure.> D) Chuck it all and go on vacation. <Depends where!> :) Gina <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Tank Size and Cory/Betta Questions 2/25/09 Oh and it is just his right eye that is affected. <Then likely physical damage. Treat as described/linked earlier, but pay particular attention to the cause of injury: jumping, sharp decorations, aggressive fish, rough netting, etc.>

Re: Tank Size and Cory/Betta Questions 2/25/09 Geez, I hope you are all sleeping across the pond and see these all at once. I guess the question is whether Floyd would be happier in the 10 gallon or 5.5 gallon as the temperature in the 40 gallon will be much cooler than he prefers. <Bettas absolutely must be kept at 25 C/77 F or higher. They're not an options for unheated, subtropical, or low-end tropical tanks. Cheers, Neale.> http://wetwebmedia.com/marine/fishes/FishInd2.htmhttp://wetwebmedia.com/marine/fishes/FishInd2.htm

Re: Tank Size and Cory/Betta Questions... re H2O qual. 2/26/2009 Floyd's eye looks better (not as cloudy this morning). I believe it was the rough netting that hurt him, possible a point on the driftwood or the arm of a Booda piece. Driftwood is removed already and I guess I'll remove the Booda just in case. <OK. But what's a Booda? Some sort of plastic ornament?> I've decided to keep him in the 10 gallon and try the tank mates you listed (the loaches are kind of freaky looking though). <Perhaps, but they're cute. They lounge about in groups under stones and in caves, with just their heads peaking out. They're pretty nice animals once you get past the fact they're orange/brown snake-like fish.> I meant he originally blew bubbles when I removed the hang on filter (he hated it) but that was only for a day or two. Should I add the new additions at about the same time, would this help Floyd to not be so fixated on any one? I really like both of those dwarf Corydoras you suggested. I'm assuming since you suggested it, although schooling fish, are okay in a situation like this with fewer of their kind? <So long as you have six specimens of a schooling fish, you're fine. Six Corydoras pygmaeus or Corydoras hastatus would be perfectly suited to a 10 gallon tank. Indeed, if water quality stayed good, there's nothing to stop you adding a few more. Corydoras hastatus is neat because it swims about in midwater a lot, so it's a combination of fun bottom feeder and cool midwater fish! In busy community tanks it often loses out at feeding time, but in this sort of aquarium it's surprisingly easy to keep.> After the new tank is cycled and the Platies and Catfish are transferred, will add a darty fish species you mentioned. I'm off to read up on PH, as the levels in both tanks are at 6. The PH in the tap water I condition is at 8, surely driftwood can't cause it to become so acidic? <pH can indeed be lowered dramatically by bogwood if the water has a low level of carbonate hardness to start with, as would be the case if [a] you're in a soft water area; or [b] you draw the water from a domestic water softener, to which I say: don't! pH will also drop between water changes in any tank, but particularly if you're lax about water changes. Nitrate turns into nitric acid, and that lowers the pH. Do see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/fwh2oquality.htm> Along with the driftwood, live plants and river rock were added along with some aquatic sand and better gravel. Prior to all that my PH was consistently around 7.4 although my tanks weren't completely cycled yet. <Does sound like the bogwood may be to blame. In small tanks, there's probably a good argument to using it sparingly, or even avoiding altogether. On the other hand, if you do 25-50% water changes weekly, you can probably avoid serious pH problems. Certainly double check you aren't using water from a domestic water softener.> Thanks again Neale, Gina <Glad to help. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Tank Size and Cory/Betta Questions 2/26/2009 Heh. Sorry, I meant Buddha (I take care of a dog named Booda). <Ah!> He's a small plastic doll and has an outstretched arm with a rounded tip (not sharp). I'm sad to take him out as Floyd spends quite a bit of time circling and hanging out with him but I don't want Floyd to get hurt again if that was the cause. <I see.> I called the water department and a LFS here and they hadn't heard anything about our water being soft, he thought it was neither hard nor soft. <Well, it's usually one or the other. Kind of a binary thing. But I suppose it could be in the middle, i.e., neutral, moderately hard water.> The gentlemen at the LFS didn't know, he said they have a lot of complaints about my area's water especially for salt water tanks (LFS pulls their water from a different suburb). I'll keep checking around and researching. <It's pretty easy to tell if you're in a hard water area: look in your kettle, or at a dripping tap, or really anywhere water evaporates. If you're in a hard water area, you'll find lime.> I don't use a softener and do frequent water changes based on the ammonia and nitrite levels which have been spiking since I added the driftwood (I thought it was bioload from the 3 Peppered Corydoras I added at the same time along with me overfeeding the tank). I've pulled a piece of driftwood from the 20 gallon and will pull the last one as soon as I can figure out how to extract the baby Platy (the lone survivor) who has made its home there. <OK.> I completely misunderstood about the Corydoras in with a Betta. Will add at least 6 and try the Loaches. How many can I add with this setup? <Ten gallons? With a Betta? Assuming a reasonably good filter, easily 6-8 Corydoras hastatus plus 3-4 Kuhli loaches. If all goes well, possibly a few more in due course.> I was put off at first by the catfish as well but they have been delightful additions to my tank. <Heh!> Once again thank you Neale. <Happy to help.> Gina <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Fish Compatibility for London Freshwater 240 L tank 2/26/2009 Neale, I'm laughing so much right now!!! You're FAQ page has questions from Gina, the girl who got an aquarium for Christmas and has Floyd, the Betta fish. She's my sister, and I bought her that aquarium, and she's the one who sent me to WWM. Excellent job supporting two Texans, one on each side of the pond! We have a common interest now and a common source of help through you. <Gosh, a small world story! My mom maintained there were only 250 people in the world for precisely this reason. How odd you're in London shopping for fish while she's back home doing likewise. Maybe I need to open up a fish-shopping service here in London for visiting aquarists! Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Fish Compatibility for London Freshwater 240 L tank 2/26/2009 To top off my amusement, I just found out a lot about what's going on with Gina's fish through your responses to her questions on WWM because I haven't been able to speak to her in a couple of days! Not only do I appreciate your advice, but also you're keeping me up to date on my sister's fish progress. Poor Floyd with PopEye! <Who needs Facebook or Twitter, eh? Neale.>

Re: Fish Compatibility for London Freshwater 240 L tank-- 02/28/09
So true - I haven't looked at Facebook in days, but I've been on WWM several times a day! If you open up that fish store, give me a shout and I'll consider giving up my City job hoping to become a Fish Yoda myself one day.
It appears London could use a very good LFS or a few! I shouldn't have to go online to get such good advice.
<I'm not sure London fish shops are any better or worse than comparable ones in any other major city. One problem though is that the best ones are some distance outside Central London, for example Wildwoods is in Enfield (for freshwater fish in particular), or Heritage Aquatics in Croydon (for marines especially). Probably the best fish shop in Central London is Wholesale Tropicals, a store with an excellent variety of fish, particularly killifish, which tend to be difficult to buy from other shops.
But across to board, my advice for anyone shopping is to do their own research first, and not to rely upon what the retailer will tell them. There are some retailers who give reliable advice, and others who are less trustworthy in this regard. A lot of retailers are simply behind the curve, giving advice that was acceptable years ago, or is based on their
experience of a limited range of fish species. Anyway, enjoy your fish!
Neale.>

Fish Compatibility for London Freshwater 240 L tank 2/23/09 Hi again, Summer here from London - 10 days into my new Juwel Rio 240 tank. I previously got advice from Neale, and instead of fishless cycling, I added 6 zebra Danios (aka "The Rat Pack") to my tank after 4 days of the filter running. I have seven live plants, two bogwood, 7 fake plants, pea gravel, a rock with holes in it, 2D background for now, a tiny snail (what a surprise, from one of the plants I imagine), and the Juwel standard filter and lights that come with the tank. My water readings are: Ammonia 0.1 Nitrite 0.1 Nitrate 0 Ph 8.5 <pH is likely a bit high because of the ammonia; even by London standards this shouldn't be much above 8.0.> Temp averaging 80.4 (is this too high? I have turned off the heater, and it still stays pretty much the same, maybe falling to 79.8 with the lights off) <Yes, this is a bit too warm. Do check your thermometer is working right (or you're reading it right!). Some of those sticky LCD ones are a bit dodgy. The water shouldn't actually feel hot; at the ideal 25 C (77 F) it should be, at best, mild.> On day 6 the Nitrite was up slightly at 0.25 and on day 8 the Nitrate was between 10 - 25. I am sure the tank is slowly cycling, but now back to original readings. Any advice of the water levels is more than welcome. <It's doing its thing. Just wait.> I am an idiot and didn't add dechlorinator to tap water when I did partial water changes, luckily I only did 5 - 10% each day and added Nutrafin Cycle, Ammo-Lock a couple of times, and Sera Morena peat extract a little each day. <The lack of dechlorinator won't bother the bacteria all that much. Not sure why you're using Peat extract.> Today I realized, as Neale clearly told me in his email, that I must use tap water conditioner when changing the water. So I did a 50% water change using Nutrafin Aqua-Plus. <Cool> The Rat Pack are doing very good, and especially perked up when I added the background print and the holey rock to the tank. One of them is very fat, and I'm hoping she's full of eggs that she'll drop soon. All have healthy fins, scales, and eat and swim happily although they don't always swim in groups. I feed them TetraMin flakes and today added Tetra Fresh Delica, whole bloodworms, to their diet. I read Neale's article http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwhardness.htm and after the tank cycles, want to add fish to my tank who are happy with high pH levels.<OK.> I'm wondering if the below fish will be ok to add together and with The Rat Pack: Bumblebee Goby Orange Chromide Pelvicachromis pulcher/Kribensis Melanotaenia praecox/Neon Rainbowfish Jordanella floridae Parambassis Ranga/Indian glassfish Glossolepis incisus/Red Rainbowfish Melanotaenia boesemanni/Boesemanni Rainbow <All the above should be fine.> Figure 8 Puffer <Nope; it's a brackish water fish, and unless you're up for adding marine salt mix, it isn't going to do well in the long term. With this mix, there are two puffers that would work in my opinion and experience: South American puffers (Colomesus asellus) and Red-tail Puffers (Carinotetraodon irrubesco). South Americans are definitely seasonal fish, and you won't see them in the shops until August at the earliest. That's no big deal, as it'll give you a few months to run the aquarium in.> I got all of those names from Neale's article, and they all look like fish I would like, but am not sure if they will all get along. Any suggestions? <Other than the Puffs, yep, they're all fine. The only fish I'm leery of are Kribs; not because they're bad fish, but because they constantly spawn and unless your pH is exactly 7.0, you get all of one sex in each brood. At pH 8, they'll all be males. Aquarium shops won't accept them. By all means by _one_ Krib though; the females are particularly pretty fish.> What about guppies in my tank too? <Sure. Quality is variable, so take care when shopping. Wholesale Tropicals in Bethnal Green for example gets wild-caught Guppies from time to time, and these are hardy and, I think, more attractive by being less garish. Twice as many females as males, please! Otherwise you'll have some bullying problems to deal with (and some seriously pestered females).> Many thanks! Summer <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Fish Compatibility for London Freshwater 240 L tank 2/23/09 Oh and I just tested the tap water pH and it's at 8.5 as far as my test says. It's a tablet test so maybe I should get something more accurate. Any recommendations? <Not really. It is what it is. If the fish seem happy, don't lose any sleep over it. Messing about with pH likely to cause more problems unless you understand the ins and outs of water chemistry. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Fish Compatibility for London Freshwater 240 L tank 2/23/09 I have a Marina Aqua Minder digital thermometer and it does read the air outside the tank and the temperature in the buckets before I change the water quickly and I hope accurately, I have no idea how to test that. <Maybe use another thermometer from around the house somewhere to double check?> The tank water doesn't feel hot to me. It feels like room temperature water or maybe even a bit cooler. I've tried turning off the heater and turning it down to low, and it doesn't seem to make much difference. My flat is about 73 F. Maybe that thermometer isn't accurate Hmmmm. The lights do make the temperature go up by 0.6 usually. <If the fish aren't gasping and the water doesn't feel hot, it's fine.> I added the peat extract at the advice of my LFS. I think to help a little with the pH. Do you think this is unnecessary? <Doubt it'll make any difference at all. Peat is a very unpredictable water softener. I recommend against using it *in tanks* because you can't tell how much peat will change how much water by how many points on the pH scale. By all means use it to treat water being held in buckets prior to use, but don't stick the stuff in the filter. To be fair, London water is so rock hard that it'll likely have zero effect. The way it makes the water yellow is pretty though. But honestly, if peat "worked" to soften water, we'd all be using. It doesn't work, and that's why people spend 100s of pounds on reverse-osmosis filters as oppose to a couple of quid on a box of peat.> I was worried about the lack of dechlorinator more for the health of the fish not the growth of bacteria! <Ah, I see. But either way, an accident like that shouldn't cause long term harm.> Happy to hear I can eventually add the other fish except that puffer, and I'll look into the seasonal puffer in August, and one nice female Krib. I will definitely visit the Bethnal Green shop as it's not too far from me. <Cool.> Thanks again Neale - you are an angel! <Many would argue that point. Cheers, Neale.> Cool, won't mess. Thanks <Good. Neale.>

Re: Fish Compatibility for London Freshwater 240 L tank... FW lvstkg. 3/1/09 Thanks for the suggestions Neale. I'll try to make it to Wildwoods on a weekend when I'm ready to add stock, and can get to Wholesale Tropicals easily any day. So is a London local fish shop an LLFS? Ok, maybe that's not a gut buster, but gave me a giggle! <Heh! Actually, getting to Wildwoods for me is a bit of an expedition since I go by train, and that entails one route into London and then another route out again. But it's one of those places that may not look like much from the outside, but once you're there, you see fish species you'd only ever seen in books. The fish room manager, Keith, is one of those retailers who's also a fanatical hobbyist, and quite a few fish come in because he wants them. Wildwoods is very strong on things like catfish, African cichlids and oddball fish, but they usually have quite a good stock of community tropicals, including less widely traded things like the rarer Corydoras and wild-caught barbs of various types.> I'm sending another email shortly, but want to change the subject first to help you categorize. <Very good. Be seeing you on the flip side then! Cheers, Neale.>

Stocking a planted tank? With fishes -- 02/19/09 Everyone's least favourite question: How many fish can I cram into my tiny glass box? <About "this" many> I've got a spare 29 gallon tank that I am planning to use as a planted community tank once I get a few kinks worked out. I'm just wondering how many fish I can stock it with. The only real "experience" I have is with my 20 gallon tall(divided!) with some live plants and 2 male Bettas. About all I knew going into my plan is that I'd really like a school of small fish and a single, slightly larger centerpiece one. <Good to know what one wants> My current thought(I'd really like an opinion OTHER than the LFS on this!) is to get a small school(would 12-14 be appropriate?) of Pristella tetras( Pristella maxillaris ) and after they are adjusted to the tank to get a single domestic angelfish as a centerpiece (there is a local store that breeds their own). Including the plants, would that be an appropriate bio-load for a tank that size? <I do think this would work... the Pristellas are fast and smart enough to avoid the Angel in this shape, volume system... and yet not "too nippy" as some other small shoaling species can be> I keep finding mixed opinions that range between a domestic angel needing 20 gallons per pair and growing to around 4" long to needing a 48" tank minimum per pair and growing to 6" long. <Mmm, Pterophyllums are commercially produced in pairs in twenty highs all the time... get quite a bit taller in time... maybe 5-6 inches or so...> And I haven't been able to find much about the Pristellas. <Really?> The "range" I've found for them is between 1.5-2" long and needing between 10 gallons for 6 to a tank that is at least 24" long for a minimum of 8(though my tank would accommodate both of those ranges easily). Would my tank's current size be a good choice for the fish I have listed, or should I go back and research a few more species to put in there instead? Thank you for your time, Pip. <I think you'll be fine with this mix... I might try a few less Tetras and add a handful of small Callichthyid catfishes (likely Corydoras) for bottom fun... Cheers, Bob Fenner>

Re: stocking a planted tank? Corydoras subst., other fishes 2/20/09 I was planning to use a smaller grained plant soil for the bottom of the tank. Most of those seem a bit rocky, and everything I've read indicates that Corydoras need a sandier substrate to avoid damaging their barbels. Would that be too much of a risk for them? <Yes. Note that some substrate producers actually tell you their substrates (e.g., Tahitian Moon Sand) are incompatible with burrowing fish. The easy solution is use your plant-friendly substrate for the bottom few inches, then put a gravel tidy (a plastic mesh) on top, and then cover with an inch of silica sand or whatever on top. Best of both worlds, minimal cost, and completely safe. I do this all the time.> IF it would not be too risky, could I have a school of 8-10 Pristellas and 6 cories? <Pristella tetras are superb fish, and would work great with Corydoras.> Seems that the only warmer water ones usually available at the local stores get around 3" long (Brochis splendens and Corydoras aeneus). <Farmed Corydoras never seem to get as big as wild fish. It's uncommon to see many above 5 cm/2 inches. Brochis splendens is a lovely fish though, and a much bigger, chunkier thing than the average Corydoras. Well worth keeping, if your tank is deep enough for them (unlike Corydoras, which don't like deep water, Brochis don't like shallow tanks).> If not, is there anything else I could look into for the bottom dwellers? <Do look at Whiptail cats (Rineloricaria spp.) as fun bottom feeders. They walk rather than swim, and in tanks with sandy substrates will sometimes hide under the sand. I adore these fish! Very active if they feel settled. Also look at Dianema spp. as interesting (and pretty) bottom feeder/midwater swimming combo fish. Finally, some of the loaches are useful, in particular Kuhli loaches (Pangio spp.). Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Requesting small freshwater aquarium stocking advice 2/11/09 Hi Ladies and Gentlemen, specifically, my kind and thoughtful advisor Sir Neale. I wanted to touch base with Neale again (if possible, but any kind and thoughtful advisor, which would be any crewmember, would be great and much appreciated) in regards to the tank we've corresponded about in the past, listed below. <It's me, Neale.> I first wanted to send an update to say that the fish have been doing great since early September. The only reason I use the quantifier of September rather than saying they have all done well from the start is because very early on, I lost the Pygmy Corys. They all unfortunately got caught in the intake of the power filter and didn't make it (surprisingly enough, all on the same day...must have been playing a terrible game of follow the leader). I have learned my lesson though and I fashioned a very rudimentary prefilter sponge to put over the intake to avoid anything like that happening again. <Sounds wise.> We now have the school of Cardinalfish and Pencilfish, along with a few Nerita snails, 3 very small Japonica Amano Shrimp (Caridina japonica) and another shrimp that looks just like the Japonica's but is a very pretty orange color. <Neocaridina "orange", an unnamed and possibly artificial species.> All of these creatures seem to be doing wonderfully and have been since my previous query. That being said, your prediction about the plants absolutely came true. We seem to be losing both the Wisteria (Hygrophila difformis) as well as the Corkscrew Vallisneria (Vallisneria americana), although the Wisteria definitely looks much worse off, but are still slightly clinging to life. The Vallisneria is not looking great either after doing very well at first and sending off runners and propagating, but are also still alive. So, my question now lies in whether or not you think it is worth it to try a weekly iron supplement. <Iron is necessary if the problem with your plants is obviously chlorosis, i.e., yellow rather than green leaves, in particularly with the yellowing being patchy, the veins being greener than the bits in between. If this isn't the problem, and the issue is the plants grow slowly, with small leaves/long stems, or give the appearance of etiolation, then iron will not make any difference either way.> I also think that my GH and KH are very low at 2 (I apologize, but the unit of measurement eludes me at the moment) and maybe I should be using a buffer as well. <Very soft water. Most plants HATE this, and actually prefer moderately hard water. You also tend to get loopy pH changes in tanks with low hardness levels once plants start photosynthesising strongly (to do with acid/base reactions as dissolved CO2/carbonic acid is subject to a net lowering during the day, and a net increase by night). That said, I don't imagine your plants are photosynthesising that quickly. Regardless, Vallisneria especially is a hard water plant by preference and seems, to me, subject to "melting" in soft water. Aim for around 10 degrees dH, and you can't really go wrong.> Please excuse my freshwater ignorance, like I mentioned before I am more versed on the saltwater/reef side of things, but am greatly enjoying freshwater/planted and am considering doing a 30 gallon planted tank at home as well, but questions on that one are for another day. Please let me know if you believe it is worth using these additives, or if I should just let those plants go and replace them with some lower light plants. <Low-light plants are invariably the easy option, particularly Anubias, Java fern, Java moss, and Cryptocoryne wendtii. But the flip side is these have no positive impact on algae, so you need to adopt other strategies for algae control, i.e., elbow grease! On the other hand, increasing light always improved plant growth.> One last option is adding higher wattage power compact fluorescent lights to the hood. It is a very simplistic hood that came with the tank as a starter kit and originally held 2 incandescent bulbs, but I found these: http://www.premiumaquatics.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Product_Co de=ESU-54100&Category_Code=coralife-closeout and used them in place of the incandescents. I could replace those with these: http://www.premiumaquatics.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Product_Co de=ESU-54200&Category_Code=coralife-closeout <Worth a shot.> that would add an additional 20 watts to the tank (same bulbs, higher wattage), but am unsure whether the hood can handle those bulbs even though they are supposedly self ballasted. <May not fit, but if they do, should work fine.> I also worry a bit about the heat added to the tank. <Cooler than incandescent bulbs.> This is the hood (the one for the 10 gallon kit) if that makes any difference in your decision: http://www.aqueonproducts.com/products/aquarium-kits.htm <Hmm... wouldn't recommend anyone buy an aquarium hood with incandescent bulbs. As you're observing, any money saved up front ends up being compensated by upgrades later. Essentially obsolete.> Thanks so much for both the help and the patience in helping a dedicated saltwater/reef aquarist dabble in the wonderful world of freshwater with limited knowledge, but still doing lots of reading. You are a gentlemen and a scholar as are the rest of the crew (of course the ladies are just that and as knowledgeable and helpful as the gents). Thank you all regardless of who responds and as always, LONG LIVE SIR BOB!!! <<Wowzah! RMF>> <Hope this helps, Neale.>

Re: Requesting small freshwater aquarium stocking advice 2/11/09 Thanks so much Neale, this certainly helps immensely. Just a side note about the tank and incandescent hood, this was actually the first tank I ever owned. It was given as a gift from my family on my 22nd birthday (I am now 29). They took an absolute shot in the dark that a pretty wild kid who never showed any interest in nature at all might get excited about something new. <A very nice gift!> 7-8 years later, aquatics is as much a part of my life as anything, I am as environmentally conscious and active as a layperson can be (of course, focused mainly on aquatic and oceanic issues), it's given me new perspective on the world at whole and my life specifically and I've met lots of great, like-minded, kind people like you guys. <Well, it's heartening to hear all of this.> Funny how something so simple could be so life changing. Needless to say, I definitely agree with your statement about the incandescents, but that tank and hood (it was All-Glass when they got it), certainly holds a special place in my life...that being said, I'm not too sentimental to put better light bulbs in it . <Wise.> Thanks so much as always for your great advice and I'm sure I'll be contacting you again in the future about the 30 gallon freshwater that I'm planning (I'm thinking Dwarf Shell Cichlids... <Ah, these are fabulous fish. Very rewarding, not difficult to keep, providing you maintain high carbonate hardness levels and low nitrate levels.> I've got a LOT of reading and research in front of me). Take care and the best to you and all the fine people at the great WetWebMedia!-Nick S. <Happy to help. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Requesting small freshwater aquarium stocking advice 2/11/09 I'm so sorry Neale-one last very quick follow up question, and please forgive my ignorance on GH and KH, but raising to 10 degrees dH won't negatively affect the Cardinalfish, will it? Thanks again and have a great day!-Nick S. <Cardinalfish, by which I assume we mean the tetra Paracheirodon axelrodi, aren't in the least bothered by moderately hard water. They need soft water to breed, but for basic maintenance, I find 10 degrees dH, pH 7-7.5 suits them just fine. You could aim for a slightly lower hardness if you wanted, but once the hardness reaches 5 degree dH, pH instability starts to become a real headache, and hardwater plants like Vallisneria express their unhappiness. Cheers, Neale.>

Bottom feeder suggestions for tanks (Oh no, Pangasianodon; run, run!) 2/11/09 Hello WWM crew, <Hi,> In my 30 gallon hexagon, I have 2 kribensis cichlids. I'd like to add maybe 2-3 fish that are middle to top level dwellers. <With Kribs? Most anything that stays at the top should work. Danios are the obvious option, but lack of swimming space may limit things. The problem here is that hexagon tanks are notoriously poor in terms of fish stocking capacity. They have a terrible surface area to volume ratio, meaning little oxygen diffuses in compared to the standard broad but shallow rectangle. You've also got less swimming space, so while Danios would be great in a 30 gal. rectangle, they're less happy in a deep but narrow hexagon. All things considered, I'd consider the smaller Danios like Zebras and Pearls, or alternatively White Cloud Mountain Minnows, in both cases assuming the temperature is no higher than 25 C (77 F), since neither likes super-hot water. (Nor do the Kribs, by the way.) Alternatively, you could go for surface swimmers that don't move about much, for example Silver Hatchets or even a single African Butterflyfish.> Can you recommend a bottom dweller that's tough enough to handle the cichlids but efficient in eating uneaten food? No matter how careful I am with trying not to overfeed, my cichlids are not interested in eating much. <Then feed less! Even if you add fish, that uneaten food gets turned into ammonia, and then into nitrite, and ultimately nitrate. Ammonia and nitrite are immediate killers, but your filter should remove them just fine. Nitrate is an insidious killer, and if you skip water changes for a couple of weeks, nitrate levels can easily get high enough to kill cichlids. Seriously, cichlids (including "hardy" Kribs) are sensitive to levels above 20 mg/l, so handling uneaten food isn't the goal, keeping excess food out is. Personally, I'd avoid catfish with Kribs: Kribs are pretty vicious when defending their territories, and can damage things like Corydoras (biting out there eyes!). Again, you have the problem of a poor surface to volume ratio, meaning that there's less "bottom" in this tank than would be the case with a 30 gal. rectangular tank. As should be apparent, while hexagonal tanks might look nifty, they're actually pretty seriously compromised in terms of keeping fish. My best suggestion would be to go with some of the snails, like Nerites or Tylomelania, that don't breed much/at all in aquaria, or even shrimps like Cherry Shrimps. These will all be ignored by the Kribs, and will help eat algae, uneaten food, etc., up to a point at least.> My 30 long tank has 20 assorted platys, swordtails and mollies. I'd like to add a few Corydoras in this tank but I'm already overcrowded. I use a Penguin 350 filter and no salt in this tank so would this be okay? <I'd not add Corydoras to this system. I like the fact you've given these fish space, and by choosing livebearers, you reserve the option to add marine salt mix at, say, 3 grammes per litre, if the Mollies start getting sick (as they often do in busy freshwater tanks). If you really must add something, consider making the water slightly brackish and getting something like Knight Gobies. Not only are these attractive fish, they're very efficient predators that will keep the numbers of livebearer fry down!> I have 4 iridescent sharks, 2 parrot cichlids, 3 black skirt tetras, 1 kisser and 1 Danio in my 55 gallon tank. Can I add a small Pleco, which one? <You are MASSIVELY overstocked already. Do you have any idea how big those Iridescent Shark Catfish will get? Do take a look at the Fishbase page for Pangasianodon hypophthalmus, here: http://www.fishbase.org/Summary/SpeciesSummary.php?id=14154 http://www.fishbase.org/Photos/ThumbnailsSummary.php?ID=14154 See the fishes these chaps are holding in the photos? That's your catfish. While 130 cm (4 foot) specimens are not common in aquaria (!) they can and will reach about half that size, and astonishingly quickly. I simply cannot stress this strongly enough: these aren't fish for the home aquarium, and the majority of specimens end up having to be killed or given away to zoos (who don't really want them). For what it's worth, most any common Plec species, e.g., Pterygoplichthys multiradiatus, would be fine in a 55 gallon tank, assuming strong filtration and regular water changes. Do understand that the common Plecs of the hobby, Pterygoplichthys spp., get to at least 45 cm (18 inches) within 3-4 years, and are incredibly messy vegetarians. They need filters rated at not less than 6 times the volume of the tank per hour (i.e., at least 330 gallons per hour in your case) and big (50%) water changes every week or so. Otherwise your aquarium will end up looking extremely murky.> Thank in advance for your help. Audra <Happy to help. Neale.>

Re: Bottom feeder suggestions for tanks (Oh no, Pangasianodon; run, run!) 2/11/09 Hi Neale, <Audra,> I agree with you about the 30 hexagon, I only bought it because it looked good. It took me a long time to decide what to put in it and my Kribs are already spawning after being in the tank for a week. I'll consider the Zebra Danios. <Cool.> In the 30 long, my mollies have done well without salt, so I won't be venturing into brackish water for them at this time. <Fine. But I'd still recommend keeping them with tankmates that at least allow you the option of using a therapeutic dose of marine salt mix, even if you don't actually go fully brackish. Hence, salt-tolerant livebearers and killifish good, soft water catfish and tetras bad.> Thanks for the pictures on the sharks. I nearly had a coronary (kidding). But I've known about their size for a while now. Two of my iridescent sharks are about 10 yrs old now and 7 in. long, the other two about 5 yrs old and 4 in. long. <Hmm... still quite small. May well be one of the other Pangasiid species. None make great aquarium fish, though, even "tiddlers" like yours. Nervous, skittish animals prone to damaging their eyes, in my experience.> If I had done my research years ago, I would never have bought them, but they are my favorites. <They are certainly nice fish. Just difficult to house. Yours have done extremely well to have lived such a long time. By NO means the usual thing.> I plan to move the tetras, kisser and Danio out once the cichlids get bigger, so my sharks will have more room. My dream tank is a 110 gallon for them but this will have to wait. <Indeed.> I do 3-20% water changes a week on each tank so this helps keep things in order. I love cories but I don't have an existing set-up where they could fit in. <Tell me about. My poor Peppered Catfish get attacked or nipped or chased wherever I seem to put them.> Thanks for all the suggestions Neale. Audra <Cheers, Neale.>

Various Questions (FW Community; stocking), Rainbows, -- 02/01/09 Hello Crew, <Hello James,> Hope things are going well for all of you. I have several questions please. As of yet I have not fully decided what type of fish I am going to keep but have narrowed it down some. I have considered a school of rainbowfish as the "focal point" of the aquarium and have read that male rainbowfish show their colors better in the presence of females. What ratio of male/female would you recommend to bring out the male's color? If I keep all males will they get along and will there be that much color difference without females? <With Rainbowfish there are two things to remember. The first is they only show their full colours when mature. In the shops they are young and usually very "blah" in terms of prettiness. Secondly, you need about equal numbers of males and females. Partly this is to stop bullying problems, but also its because the males develop their full colours to flirt with the females. When kept on their own, their colours are never as good.> Also, I have considered angels as the "focal point". I know it is recommended to get at least 6 small ones so they can grow up together and avoid aggression towards each other and other fish as well,. I would rather start out with larger ones, but I guess I can't. Do angels grow fairly fast? <Angels grow very fast, and should be more or less full size within a year. You don't need to start with tiny specimens, but anything up to around 5 cm/2 inches standard length (i.e., nose to caudal peduncle) will be immature and consequently safe to keep in a school. You can also buy matched pairs of Angels from breeders -- but these are often very expensive!> I have considered several thick-lipped gouramis to add in case I go with the mostly rainbow tank to add some slow swimmers for balance. Can a small number of all males be kept together without aggression or do females need to be with them? I thank you so much for helping me with these questions and hope you have a wonderful day. <Colisa labiosa is an excellent fish. To be honest, the males and females are pretty similar in colouration (unlike, say, Colisa lalia) so I'd always recommend equal numbers of both. Males are waspish, and often a bit sedentary, staying close to their favoured nesting site. Females may lack a little colour, but they're more active because they aren't territorial, so they'll be moving about and easier to tame. (I like fish I can teach to be hand fed!).> James <Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Various Questions (FW Community; stocking) 2/1/09 Thank you Neale, As far as the angels needing to be smaller and introduced at the same time in to stop aggression, is that aggression towards each other or other fish in the tank? <Mostly towards each other, though adult Angels can be bullies and are predatory.> Also with the rainbows you mentioned equal numbers to stop bullying. Again, is this bullying each other or other types of fish? <Within the group.> Also Neale, I have read that many species of fish other than angels in a community can look and act fairly health but carry diseases easy for angels to catch. <Indeed a risk with any fish, hence the value of quarantining. In practise, the risk of anything other than Whitespot tends to be low, except with regard to "epidemic" diseases such as Neon Tetra Disease and Dwarf Gourami Iridovirus. Angelfish themselves are more likely to host diseases than catch them; farmed specimens at least are reputed to carry diseases that affect wild caught cichlids, particularly Discus and Angelfish.> Should this be a large concern? <It should be borne in mind, yes, but don't lie awake at night worrying about it!> And lastly (God bless you for your patience with me!) if I decide to go with 6 or 8 rainbows as my main focal point could you recommend a slower swimming fish that could compliment the faster rainbows? <Hmm... I tend to stock this way: for every two fast schooling fish in the middle, choose one surface dweller and one bottom dweller. I find this gives you a balanced tank. Angels and Rainbows work exceedingly well together, but you might add Silver Hatchets or Celebes Halfbeaks to the top, and at the bottom any Corydoras, Ancistrus or perhaps something like Cherry-Fin Loaches would be fun. If the tank is big enough Red-Tail Sharks work well with these fish as well.> Also the same question in opposite for the angels being the main focal point. Any fast movers that would compliment them nicely? <The Rainbows are what you want here. The more specimens, the better. Here in England, mixing Melanotaenia boesemanni and Glossolepis incisus is very popular, and the results in big, deep tanks is stunning. While they don't school together, their colours are complementary.> Thank you again for all you advice to an ignorant prospective fish keeper like me. James <Happy to help, Neale.>

Re: Various Questions (FW Community; stocking) 2/1/09 Thank you again Neale, if I used both Melanotaenia boesemanni and Glossolepis incisus would I have to buy 6 of each type since they do not school together? Thanks again. <They are as different as humans and chimps, so no, they don't school together. Six of each, please. And equal numbers of males and females! Trust me on this! Cheers, Neale.> Thank you again for all your help. James <You're welcome. Neale.>

Re: two tank livestock choices. 1/31/09 For the future when I can set up fish tank/fish tanks ( have 2 empty ones in our basement now) What livestock/community setups would be good for tank 1 and tank 2, I may take one or both with if possible Our ph here is 6.8 out of the tap, I'm sure it may be different depending upon where I move to. tank 1 is the biggest 58 inches long, 18 inches wide, 20 inches high-125 gallon - would a school of clown loaches outgrow this setup? tank 2 is 36 inches long, 15 inches wide and 20 inches high- 52 gallon Right now we have enough on our hands without fish but in awhile when I move I may hopefully go back to keeping fish. Thanks <Alex, you could keep a school of Clown Loaches in a 125-gallon tank. Would look rather good. Big rocks, sturdy plants, and a few schooling midwater fish (Congo tetras or Rainbowfish, for example) would fit the bill. Have seen Clowns kept in groups of 30+, and they're amazing! Possibly the funkiest fish in the hobby, and incredibly active and noisy. As for the 52-gallon system, need more data to make a recommendation. What fish do you like? Big swarms of small fish, or a few big fish? Oddballs or pretty things? Do catfish or cichlids appeal? A single character fish like a puffer perhaps? Something specialist, like Tanganyikan or brackish? Do feisty predators appeal, or perhaps you'd like to do some breeding? Freshwater fishkeeping is the most varied branch of the hobby, so it pays to sit down with a fish encyclopaedia (e.g., Baensch) and have a browse to see what appeals. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: two tank livestock choices. 1/31/09 thanks I'll give you more "fish details" later on.. right now with 4 cats and a dog, we're maxed out on pets $ wise.. Two of the cats are mine, the rest are my parents pets. <Ah, I see. Throw out the parents and the cats, flood the basement, and get some giant catfish. Charge people an entry fee to come in and feed them. Problem solved. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: two tank livestock choices. 1/31/09 No I'm probably either going to take (my two) cats with, or leave them at parents with their cats and dog- depending on the rules of the place and the nature of the roommates I move in with, I'm handicapped, have mild Autism and vision/ hearing loss. ( I'll probably be moving into a group home in 5 years or more) <Ah, was only joking about kicking out the parents.> As far as giant catfish go I like Amazon Redtails best - wouldn't dream of keeping one with cats though (they would get eaten), and man you need BIG tanks for those, I see videos of them cramped in 200 gallon or less systems all the time on YouTube -sad. Personally I think that fish is better off left in the wild then kept in Aquariums. besides those I like Tiger shovel noses and pictus <Agreed about Red-tails. But it has a little cousin, Sorubim lima, that gets to about 12 inches/30 cm and is very easy to keep. It's sociable, and actually does better kept in twos or threes than singly. It's also very pretty, non-aggressive, and easy to feed. Gets along fine with Silver Dollars and the like. Do look it up.> the bulk of the expense is the tanks/filters, lights and I already have all that, live near a river too (the Mississippi) for sandy substrate/rocks. <Sounds good.> Will clowns outgrow a 125 in time? I hear they get pretty big, 12 to 14 inches. <Can get that size, but rarely do in home aquaria, and takes many years anyway. Bank on a size of 20 cm/8 inches for most specimens.> The friend I have, has a warmer basement then my house so her Betta is doing better, despite the bowl, it did get ick and then fought it off, I got some meds and now fish is doing great, I'm happy at least the area is warmer. Hopefully she can upgrade. <Sounds like you're able to offer some good advice to your friends. Enjoy your pets! Neale.> Re: two tank livestock choices. I hope the group home doesn't mind a big tank, lol. <Indeed so. Have fun sharing the wonderful world of fishkeeping, Neale.>

FW question about tankmates 1/29/09 I have a 250 gallon tank (use to be saltwater) with a 90 sump (total 340). I just want to know your opinion on the tank mates I have and what you think the future holds for them; compatibility wise. Like I sad its a 250, two overflows and 1 Fluval- I personally think it has great filtration. The PH is 6.3, tank temp is 82/83, nitrate and nitrite are 0. These are the fish- ornate bichir, 3 5 inch discus, 3 Bala sharks, 2 big Pearlscale angels, 2 blue crayfish (pincher's removed), 4 Bolivian rams, 3 black ghost knife, 5 gold nugget Plecos, 2 butterfly fish, 1 cleaner looking craw fish (don't know exact name- looks like a crawfish with brooms in place of pinchers(any idea??)), leaf fish and 2 big snails. Looking into getting about 4 more discus, 3 electric blue jack Dempsey's, 3 roseline sharks and a few yellow king tiger Plecos. They all get a variety of food 3 times a day- live black worms, live brine, frozen brine, frozen blood worms, krill, granules, flakes, pellets, freeze dried shrimp, algae disks and even crickets for the butterfly fish. Your opinion would greatly appreciated on anything I should caution for or things I should be aware of or even something I'm not doing right...anything would be helpful. I just want my fish to be happy; seem to be so far. I emailed you a month or so back when I was debating on the type of fish I wanted- was really looking into a freshwater ray back then but changed my mind... even though every now and then the thought of having one sounds nice. :) Thanks for your opinion and have a wonderful day Christina <Hello Christina. First things first: I'm not wild about the idea of removing the pincers from crayfish. I can't think of any way to do it without stressing the animal, and the idea of breaking them off just to make the crayfish less dangerous is inhumane. It's like removing the claws from house cats, just wrong. So while I admit crayfish are interesting animals, I'd encourage you to allow the poor animal to grow its claws back, which it should do with each moult. That leads to the question of whether crayfish have a place in the community aquarium, and the answer to that is broadly "no". Next up, the "crayfish" with the brooms instead of pincers is likely a Fan Shrimp such as Atyopsis moluccensis. These are nice animals, but surely at risk of damage from crayfish, so not a sensible combination. They are filter feeders, so please don't think it will survive indefinitely merely by scavenging; it won't. It needs at least occasional squirts of liquid fry food into its "fans". Use a pipette to squirt a drop or two of liquid fry food every few days. As for tankmates. Well, Electric Blue Jack Dempseys are a definite "no". They're far too aggressive to be kept with Discus or most community fish. They also have different requirements in terms of water, being classic Central American fish in needing hard, alkaline water (around pH 7.5, 10+ degrees dH). I'm not 100% sure what "Roseline Sharks" are, but if you mean Puntius denisonii, the Red-line Barb, then that's a fish from much cooler water than Discus, and so not really compatible. Puntius denisonii comes from what are essentially cool, fast-flowing streams and the ideal temperature is around 20 degrees C (about 68 F). If you keep them too warm they will not do well, and if you keep the Discus too cold they will get sick very quickly, so either way, there's no overlap in what these two species require. Indeed, because Discus need very warm water, the list of compatible fish is rather short and many, MANY aquarists make the mistake of adding fish that need cooler conditions to the Discus aquarium, and then wonder why their fish die prematurely. I'd actually be surprised if the Fan Shrimp lasts very long in here, because they tend to prefer quite cool, fast-flowing conditions. Long term, I suspect you'll find the Bala Sharks impossible to keep with the Discus; these big (35 cm!) minnows are hyperactive and nervous, and that's precisely what you don't want with Discus. The Butterflyfish should be fine, and the Bolivian Rams should be okay too. You will eventually be down to a single Black Ghost Knifefish -- these are not sociable fish, and the dominant one will kill the others. This is pretty standard for electric fish because each fish will be "jamming" the electric field of the other, so eventually the biggest one will bully the others. Plecs generally do not coexist with one another, and while your tank might be big enough for the ones you already have to tolerate one another, adding more would be foolish. Plecs are NOT "gentle giants" and the more aggressive species can and will attack one another. There are plenty of stories of things like big Acanthicus and Pterygoplichthys ripping the skin off weaker specimens, killing them. So keep a very sharp eye out for any signs of fighting. Mixing Angels with Discus is generally considered a very bad idea, partly because Angels carry diseases that seem relatively harmless to them but deadly to Discus, but also because of their completely different levels of aggression. Mature Angels can and will terrorise Discus, particularly while spawning or during feeding time. So I suspect the Angels will soon need a new home. The Bichir will likely need a new home; when mature this species is a powerful and aggressive predator, and totally incompatible with shrimps, crayfish, snails or small fish like barbs or butterflyfish. Mixing Bichirs with Discus is sometimes done, but it does depend on the temperament of the individual Bichir. Some Bichirs are more territorial and snappy than others, so watch your specimen carefully. Anyway, I think that covers everything. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: question about tankmates 1/30/09 Thank you so much for your advice. I agree with it being inhumane to cut the arms off the electric blue crayfish but when i found one trying to eat one of my angels someone told me it was ok to remove their arms- supposedly they drop them as a defense mechanism anyway. What I do is cut their 'thumb' more or less- not the whole claw/arm. But I do understand what your saying either way. <Hmm... they shed their claws only when they're terrified, just as puffers puff when they're scared, or cats hiss when they're frightened. So please don't do this. At the least, it's incredibly bad karma.> The knife fish are kind of big already which kind of scares me. I will keep a close eye on them and if i notice anything i will get rid of them. In my old aquarium (55 gallons) i had two that got along fine but they were younger. I will not get the electric blue jack Dempseys... i just heard they were a lot more docile than regular cichlids so I thought maybe they'd be ok. <JDs don't even come close to being "docile". The name Jack Dempsey comes from an old boxer, notorious for his aggressive fighting style. There's a reason these fish are named after Jack Dempsey rather than, say, Rudolf Valentino or Vaslav Nijinsky. I'm not aware of the Electric Blue strain being any different to the standard form, though the jury is out regarding their genetic identity (they may well be hybrids). It isn't that JDs can't be kept in communities, they can, but they need to be carefully crafted communities. JDs tend to ignore midwater schooling species like Silver Dollars or Mexican Tetras, so if they're the sole bottom dwellers they're reasonably peaceful. Discus and Angelfish wouldn't work though, as then JDs won't see them as "dither fish" but as potential rivals for nesting sites.> The Bala sharks seem ok with the discus so far. These discus seem use to them already. And with the angels giving the discus a disease- I've gotten mixed reviews with that. Supposedly many people keep discus and angels together fine and others say they will transfer disease. So far my discus and angels hang out and seem to really like each other and even eat together. They are all around the same size- 5inches (the angels being a bit bigger because of their long top/bottom/back fins). <The thing with Angels is that they're not 100% safe with Discus. Even assuming you're lucky in terms of disease, their behaviour can cause problems. Yours might not yet be mature, and you do have a reasonably large tank, but do watch out for aggression should any Angels start pairing off. I certainly agree the two fish look good together, though in the wild they occupy somewhat different habitats so probably don't coexist much naturally. And I've certainly seen people keep them together. But it isn't something I recommend.> Either way I will keep a good eye on everything as I love to sit in front tank and just watch them for an hour-plus at a time. <Good oh.> Thank you so very much and all the advice you have given me I will take into consideration. <Happy to help.> Christina <Cheers, Neale.>

Thank you, Neale, for the excellent advice! 1/15/09 Hi WWM Crew, I wrote to WWM some weeks ago regarding my large mixed/oddball community (555gallons) from South Africa: Big fish community (selection), FW. If I was a fan before the advice, I am even more so now! Thank you, specifically to Neale ! I have decided to move some of the smaller chaps to another tank in accordance to your recommendation. Please will you glance over the way I have split them: 2500 liter / 555 gallon tank: The dimensions: 3200cm x 100cm x 70cm. It holds 2500 liters (555 gallons) of water. The sump is 180 (22 gallon) liters with 5 compartments with a 2400 liter (533 gallon) per hour pump. The water is pumped from the sump into lots of tiny pipes siliconed onto the base of the tank. These little pipes have hundreds of tiny holes to allow the return water to filter through the sand. I inserted a tiny air pipe into the pump in the filter. This has the effects of many tiny bubbles filtering through the pipes under the sand for aeration. Water changes are effortless via one-way valves and taps in20mm PVC pipes. The lights are UV, broad spectrum and LED for moonlight. Ammonia = 0, Nitrite =0, Nitrate = 15 -40ppm. Temp = 26C (78F) and Ph = constant at 7.4, Medium to soft water and kH is = 50-70, but the pH is stable and I would rather not add anything. Weekly 20% water change by vacuuming. Feeding: Every second day: chopped fresh hake slivers, peeled shrimp, frozen Tubifex, bloodworms, algae pellets, cichlid pellets, veg flakes and occasional ox heart. Takes them 3-4 min to swallow everything. Decor: I 'made' rocks with plastic mesh and cement, stuck artificial coral onto the arches, painted them to look like they have grown onto the rock, added 6 coats of pond waterproofing and then 2 coats of marine silicone. No live plant, only synthetic. I realize this is not an authentic recreation of a freshwater scene and may be offensive to the a purist view. Still it's as close to marine as my finance will allow. 1 large Bala sharks (18cm) - he is growing fast 2 royal knife fish (18cm) - flatly refuse to eat anything but live food (I need to breed something) 1 Black Ghost Knife fish (21cm) -eating with the intention of growing 2 Albino fire eel (30cm) - these are actually peacocks, I think 2 upside down catfish (17cm) 1 albino tinfoil barb (18cm)- voracious 1 Ropefish (21cm) - not a shy guy 1 bichir (14cm) - just lurks 2 Giant gouramis (15cm) 4 Blood parrots (10cm)- not aggressive , but I am watching them... 2 Jewel parrots (12cm) - not aggressive, but I am watching them... 4 Eartheaters (10cm)- not aggressive, but I am watching them... 1 butterfly (10cm) - eats a cricket & a moth every second day 2 High fin Leopard Plecos (18cm) 4 silver dollars (9cm) The following chaps will gradually move out to their own tank (180cmx45cmx45cm) 360 liter / 80 gallons: Same water parameters, decor and feeding as above, but no live feeders . 4 giant danios (10cm) 2 rainbow sharks (10cm) 4 tiger barbs (7cm) 1 Spotted Pimelodus cat (12cm) 3 golden gouramis (10cm) 4 blue Botias (13cm) 2 Pakistani loaches (10cm) 1 Red Arrow barb (10cm) - I believe India is restricting harvesting 2 paradise fish (10cm) 5 Albino suckers (10cm) Please will you assist me with some additional input? 1. Should the Rope fish move too? I have read that he may get to 100cm. I will take your advice and look for another to cater to his gregarious nature. 2. Can the 4 blue Botias with orange fins stay in the big tank? I have read that they will get to 30cm and they are pretty boisterous. 3. Are plants necessary? Even just for food, e.g. for the Silver dollars? I worry about CO2 at night, but the water is highly aerated. 4. I am struggling to get some algae to grow. Any suggestions? Metal halide with addition of a little phosphate? Nitrates is apparently relatively low. I'm loath to add anything to the water. 5. The debate about the appropriateness of adding some marine salt (not household salt) to improve hardness and provide minerals, electrolytes & ions? E.g. 1 teaspoon per gallon? Or less? I've read that catfish and some loaches, knife fish& Plecos don't like salt. On the other hand, salt assists in slime generation and has some preventative benefits. 6. Archers, Scats, Mono Angels, morays and puffers (and any others who do/will require brackish conditions) will remain out of the question. Does this apply to 'freshwater' sole too? 'Freshwater' stingrays? 7. Frogs and shrimp are also ruled out, as I understand they will become food. Will this apply to terrapins, red crabs and blue crayfish? 8. I have read up some more on the Tiger Shovelnose and taken him to a friend with a really large aquarium. I will also avoid red tail catfish. Any other no-no's? 9. The 2 Royal Knife fish (18cm) refuse everything but live food. I lost the battle of wills after 1 day short of 5 weeks (34days) of trying everything including live crickets, shrimp dangled on some cotton, slivers of hake. Ever since they feast weekly on Neons, danios, etc, but I find it stressful and it is expensive. Any idea on how to convert them? Alternately, do I need to breed feeders which are fast enough to escape the eels.(they are both piggies if they get the chance). 10. According to my calculations, there are under 197inches of fish in the 555gallon tank, and 116 inches in 80 gallons. This is ok ? 11. General Hardness (GH) measures Magnesium and Calcium. My tanks are around 6 - 7 ( soft to medium) with 120 - 150 ppm. Carbonate Hardness (Buffering)measures Carbonates and Bicarbonates for resistance to Ph changes. I've read that 50 - 70 ppm is ideal. Mine is around 150 Parts per million or mg per liter. Is this ok? Older tanks have higher nitrate (acidic) so the Ph tends to drop, but my tap water is soft with low buffering at Ph of 8. Will I need to add Sodium Bicarbonate to counteract this over time? Apologies for the length of this mail and thank you in advance for your assistance. I also apologies if I have missed answers already given elsewhere on WWM. Kind regards and thank you again. Gail <Hello Gail, Thanks for the kind words. (1) Ropefish can get to 90 cm in the wild, but rarely get so big in captivity. 60 cm seems to be typical. If he's happy where he is, I'd leave him. This is a sociable species, but the main problem is usually that they escape! Supposedly they slither across the land from pond to pond in the wild! In any case, they're notorious escape artists. (2) The Blue Botia (Yasuhikotakia modesta) is fairly aggressive but your tank is so big I'd expect these loaches to cause little trouble. Maximum size in aquaria is around 15 cm or so. (3) Plants are NOT necessary. For the herbivorous fish, things like cooked peas, spinach and blanched curly lettuce will do just fine. Otherwise add some cheap aquarium plants that float (e.g., Elodea) and let them feed at their leisure. (4) The algae will come. It may even be there: if you have lots of algae-eaters, they will keep the algae virtually invisible by constantly crazing. My tanks can go months before I actually need to wipe the glass down, and even then, it's only a little green fuzz. In any case, if you need algae for feeding fish, then Sushi Nori or algae wafers will do fine. (5) Salt doesn't do ANYTHING useful in a freshwater tank. "Extra slime" is rather like saying humans are healthier when our noses are filled with mucous! Fish produce more slime when they're irritated. It's a bad thing! Moreover, in some cases adding salt can cause problems, the classic example being Malawi Bloat. Provided water quality is good, you don't need to add salt. (6) There are some true Freshwater Sole species that live in rivers all their lives, but they are VERY rarely traded. Most of the ones you see are estuarine species, e.g., Trinectes maculatus and Brachirus pan. My problem with Soles is that they need soft sand to burrow into, and being slow, nocturnal feeders are difficult to maintain in community settings. Would recommend against them. Freshwater Stingrays are truly freshwater in the case of the South American species, but the African and Asian species are typically estuarine Dasyatis species that are too big for aquaria anyway. In any case, Stingrays are very difficult to keep and should be maintained in a tank of their own. (7) Would not mix terrapins (turtles) with fish, and red crabs (Perisesarma spp.) need land and only bathe in brackish water anyway. In fish tanks they spend all their time trying to escape, a sure sign they aren't happy. Crayfish can work, but more often than not either get eaten when moulting, or else eat small fish. Best left in their own tanks. (8) Any catfish above 45 cm (18 inches) is likely to be trouble and best avoided. For big tanks, a good, sociable species is Sorubim lima. It's pretty, not too big (about 30 cm), gets along with its own kind, and best of all is funny: it rests at odd angles, even head downwards, leaning against solid objects. (9) Chitala can be trained to take dead foods. If it takes 6 weeks to starve it, so be it! Big specimens can go a long time without food, and when he's hungry, he'll eat bloodworms, mussels, squid, etc. I find messy (oily) fish such as mackerel quite good for tempting tricky feeders. No mileage to carrying on with live fish, and certainly low-cost ornamental fish like Neons and Danios are potential routes for parasites such as Whitespot. So why bother? (10) For big fish, allowing 5 gallons per inch of fish sounds about right. But you have a lot of stock, some of which gets pretty darn big, so I'd be watching nitrite and pH level changes to make sure the tank works in the long term. (11) Water sounds fine as it is. Nothing on your list (except the Blood Parrots) that needs particularly hard water. Cheers, Neale.>

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