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FAQs on Livestocking Small Freshwater Systems (@ 10 gal.s or less) 3

FAQs on: Stocking Small Systems 1, Stocking Sm. Sys. 2, Stocking Sm. Sys. 4,

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

Related FAQs:  FW Livestock 1, FW Livestock 2, FW Livestock 3, FW Stocking 4, FW Livestocking 5, FW Livestocking 6, FW Livestocking 7, & Freshwater Livestock Selection Community Tank Livestocking,


fresh water question; stkg. (albeit large) bowls 12/29/19
Hello, crew of WetWebMedia, hope you and your family and friends had a wonderful XMAS and wish you all have a great year in 2020.
<Thank you for these kind words.>
Bob told me to email the crew with my concerns. Here goes....
I am currently visiting my family...my dad told me to go get some fish with some color ....so he can place them in the big ceramic fish bowls in the garden....I want to say those fish bowls will holds about 10-15 gal ish water....just my best guess without using a known size container to dumping water into the fishbowl to get exact amount of water it will hold.
<Right, now, in themselves such bowls aren't really suitable for keeping outdoor fish species in temperate zone parts of the world. With appropriate plants and/or filtration, they could work for small livebearer species in the subtropics (for example Mosquitofish) or in cooler, but not frosty, places, perhaps Heterandria formosa. In subtropical to tropical places, there are various very small minnows that could work, such as White Cloud Mountain Minnows, or else Ricefish. But bowls are rather compromised in various ways, not least of all the absence of water current and the poor surface area to volume ratio that means oxygen absorption isn't very good.>
But due to the season of the year and the temperature starting to drop....Right now ...it has been around low to mid 60s.....So instead outside....I decide to move the fish bowl indoor instead.

I believe I asked you guys this question before in the past....I do not know if I remember correctly, but I believe last time you guys suggested platy.....not sure...
<Platies are fine fish, and can live in aquaria upwards of 15 gallons given sufficient filtration, but without filters they'd be a poor choice, and for a 10 gallon bowl, I can't see them working well in the long term.>
I think at the time...I was looking for small fish with color to put in the fish tank outside on the patio....we end up just use the regular guppy that does not have those bright colors....but at least they do keep the mosquito from growing in that fish tank.....we do have a small water pump to keep water circulate in that tank on the patio and water plant for the nutrient in the water....which guppy seems to survive....but not reproducing....maybe the ones we put in happen to be same sex? or they aren't happy....since there really only 2-3 I believe....I will try to catch few more from koi pond and place them in the tank on the patio and see what happen.
<Guppies will struggle to reproduce successfully in small tanks or bowls.
Assuming water quality is adequate (use a nitrite or ammonia test kit to check) the big challenge will be in making sure fry survive. Without enough cover, the fry are simply food for the adults. In the wild, newborn Guppies head straight for thick plants in very shallow water where the adults can't go. This gives them enough safety to survive the critical first couple of weeks needed to get big enough to avoid predation. In big tanks, a few fry will survive even without adequate cover, but in a small tank or bowl, the odds are much lower.>
ANYWAY.....my question for this fish bowl we are placing inside...currently no water/air pump inside....just few pieces of water plants..... with half aged tap water and half koi pond water.
The fish I end up picked out from the location was peacock guppy fish
.....I figure better of get smaller fish, instead of bigger ones.
<Do bear in mind that Guppies need consistent warmth to do well, and the farmed pedigree breeds are much more sensitive than the wild fish. So whole wild Guppies can handle temperatures down to 22 C/72 F, your farmed Peacocks, Cobras, and all the other famous varieties need 25-28 C/77-82 F to stay healthy. It's like comparing a Labradoodle with a Timber Wolf -- the genes required to handle harsh conditions of the wild have been lost in the process of breeding something humans want in the home.>
Oh...also....there is a piece of glass on top of the fish bow and there is a gap of ....maybe about 3mm or so in between the ceramic bowl's rim and the bottom of the glass top acting as table's surface....
There are about 12 guppies inside. Been away from fresh water fish keeping so long....is that too many for current condition?
<It's a lot for 10 gallons, certainly, especially if filtration is lacking (water movement by itself doesn't count).>
Is there any dangerous of CO2 build up to dangerous level due to no air/water pump for circulation of water/air?
<CO2 build up is less of an issue than oxygen depletion. Nature will take its course here quite quickly -- if there's a lack of oxygen, some fish will die, and what remains will be the carrying capacity tolerated by the rate of oxygen absorption.>
I know I will need to go search for a light source to provide strong enough light for the plant....any suggestions?
<If the plants are above the waterline, emergent species, then a sunny windowsill or conservatory would be fine for a few months. Otherwise, yes, some sort of plant-suitable LED lamp is probably the most cost effective and convenient approach.>
I assume most are LED now ...since when I left saltwater fish/reef keeping was when LED just starting to taking over fish tank lighting...
<Indeed; while more expensive up front, LEDs are much cheaper now than they were even 10 years ago, are much more efficient in terms of running costs and maintenance.>
Will oxygen provide by the plants enough for the 12 little fishies?
<Generally, without strong lighting, the amount of oxygen from aquatic plants is minimal. So no, don't bank on it. Much the same as reef tanks -- sure, algae are releasing some oxygen and absorbing some nitrate, but you wouldn't rely on either in lieu of filtration and aeration. Large ponds are different because the ratio of plants to fish is very much more favourable.>
probably best to have at least one small water pump...smallest I can find...probably should work, yes?
<A filter, anyway.>
would greatly appreciated if you guys can give me any suggestions/advice ....so we can do this right ....so fishes can have a good place to live...
Thank you all once again...and Happy New Year
<Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>

Choosing a S. American Exotic     11/30/17
Hello Bob, Happy Holidays.
<And you Ritesh>
I have this eight and half gallon aquarium.
I would like to put a rare and exotic s. American species in it. Any suggestions
. Been on eBay. Seen some cichlid pairs. But I want to know if maybe you have seen something more.
Best, Ritesh Varma
<Mmm... Maybe a pair of Apistogrammas...
And/or a small grouping of Characins, perhaps two, three Hatchetfish.
And some dwarf Corydoras!
Bob Fenner>

Note: CO2 tank on left, piezoelectric chiller on right

Re: Choosing a S. American Exotic; Dwarf Cichlid sel.      12/7/17
I found Apistogramma Nijjseni to be an attractive fish. But everyone recommends 15g and up. I have a planted aquarium. 9g. There is nothing in there except Amanos and small horned cleaning snails. Would a pair survive?
<Probably. Your two main challenges are these:
Firstly, males can be hard on the females. Apistogramma are not really pair-forming. Most have what's called a harem, with the male guarding a territory that can include several females. So sometimes they are hostile
towards young females or females who don't want to breed. After mating the male continues to guard his patch, but the females often look after the fry alone. Indeed, females can become so protective they attack the males! It's therefore really important to have LOTS of caves (half coconut shells with a couple of holes are ideal).
Secondly, Apistogramma are sensitive to nitrate. In a small tank this will build up quickly between water changes. Regular water changes are very important to keep living conditions good.
Hope this helps! Neale.>

Small tank; stocking, FW      11/18/17
<Hello Sandy,>
Are there any fish that are suitable for a 2 gallon tank?
<Not really.
Bettas can be kept in tanks this size of course, though I'd prefer more space simply because it makes steady water conditions easier to maintain. Most people with these 'nano' tanks go with various plants and
some of the smaller freshwater shrimps.>
I currently have a red wag platy male all by himself.
<Hopefully not in the 2 gallon tank!? Much too small for that species. Even 10 gallons is a bit tight for Platies.>
<Most welcome.>
Sent from my iPad
<Sent from my computer. Cheers, Neale.>

What fish can I add.?    Nonsense mixes in too small world      9/3/17
Hey Team,
I have a 10-15 gallon tank
. I had to give away:
1 ID Shark
2 Blood Parrot
1 Tinfoil Barb
as they were growing large.
<Indeed they would.>
I currently have
1 Tinfoil barb
<A social species; looks and behaves better in groups. But in a 10-15 gallon tank? That makes no sense at all. Tinfoil Barbs can get to 30 cm/12 inches, and even under aquarium conditions you can easily expect them to reach over 20 cm/8 inches within a couple of years.>
2 Firemouth
<A much better aquarium fish, but again, needs a bigger tank. Adults should get to at least 12 cm/5 inches in length, and potentially a little more. A singleton on its own might just be viable in a 130 litre/30 gallon tank, but realistically two specimens plus companion fish will need at least twice that.>
1 small white aquarium catfish.
<Covers a lot of possibilities here! The commonest catfish are Corydoras species, with adult sizes around the 5-8 cm/2-3 inch mark, hence groups of 5-6 specimens may be kept in tanks from 70 litres/15 gallons upwards. But
the other common catfish are Pterygoplichthys species, which get to 45 cm/18 inches, hence require tanks upwards of 350 litres/75 gallons.>
2 Silver\Bala Shark small
<Again, much the same as Tinfoil Barbs, and in no ways suitable for a tank this size.>
I would like you suggestion on what else can be a good add-on to the existing set.
<Nothing! This collection of fish makes no sense at all. I've written extensively on the sorts of fish you might keep in small tanks; here for example:
The fish you currently have will surely need a tank 10 times the size of the one you have. I would either get a bigger tank, or more sensibly perhaps, return them as start over.>
My plan was to add either 1 Tinfoil or another pair of Bala shark
Please suggest.
Thanks and regards,
<Hope this helps, Neale.>

Wavemaker for a 10 gallon freshwater, and stkg sm. sys.    9/13/17
Hi Team,
I have a 10 gallon freshwater tank with the following stocking:
1 Tinfoil Barb
2 Firemouth
2 Bala Sharks (small)
1 white catfish
1 Blue rainbow cichlid

Would it be a good idea to use a wavemaker taking into consideration my tank size and stocking. I am currently using an air motor for aeration which makes kind of a grrrrrr..... sound.
I am looking for an alternate...Please suggest.
<Hi Shriram, I would just use a hang-on-back bio-wheel filter of whatever brand. You mainly just need water movement and to keep the water surface turbulent. You could use a small powerhead (a Maxi-Jet or whatever in a small size) but I don't know that this would even be necessary.>
The Firemouth since this morning seem to sitting behind an artificial plant and chase the rainbow when he tries to come near them. I haven't seen this behavior in so many days. I am going to observe them for a couple of more
Any idea on why they must be getting territorial all of a sudden.

<Depends on how long they have been in this tank together. The cichlid is a territorial fish to begin with and might just be interested in taking over that spot, as you say, just observe them closely for any signs of fighting.>
Thanks and regards,
Shriram Natarajan
Blue Rainbow cichlid stays near the filter    9/15/17

HI Team,
I have observed that my Blue Rainbow cichlid has been staying near the filter since yesterday. I have seen him swimming around with the other fish (Tin Foil, Firemouth, Bala Sharks). Yesterday he even didn't seem to come out for food when we fed them live worms.
He seems to looking normal and don't find any symptoms of disease.
<Mmm; well; this IS an untenable (unsustainable) mix of fishes... need MUCH more room, now, and will not do well into the future in a ten gallon. I fully suspect the one fish is "hiding" out from the others, rather than
anything else>
What could probably be going wrong.
<Territoriality most likely. Really: take some time, look up (books, the Net) re each of the species requirements here: Water quality, feeding, space... Either trade them (all) back in, or save as quickly as practical
for a tank of several times the present volume. Bob Fenner>
Thanks and regards,
Shriram Natarajan
Re: Blue Rainbow cichlid stays near the filter... ask the same questions...      9/16/17

Hey Bob,
<Hey Shriram>
Thanks for getting back to me on my last query.
Here's another one.....
Can I leave my tank with just my current stocking..
<No mate. As previously stated... >
1 Tin Foil
2 Firemouth
2 Bala sharks
1 white catfish.
<Don't know what this cat is>
what are your recommendations.
<As I mentioned. Reading, study... trading all in and starting again, or getting a MUCH larger system.
Thanks and regards,
Shriram Natarajan
Re: Blue Rainbow cichlid stays near the filter; not listening to advice. Again   9/18/17

Hi ,
<Hello Shriram! Gabe here>
Got a chance to get some snaps of my 10 gallon last evening...Just thought of sharing with you.
<Thanks for sharing :)>
Can you look at the images and help if I can add any fish to it.
<As we have stated before, the fish you have in your system are much too large to be in a 10 gallon system. They will need to be put in a much larger tank. If you want to add any more fish, you will need to upgrade
your tank size.>
A little scared to add smaller fishes.
<Smaller fish will most likely be eaten by the cichlids, and as I said, they will not fit in the tank.>
Thanks and regards,
Shriram Natarajan
<Shriram, PLEASE upgrade your tank size before even considering new additions to your system. The fish you have will quickly outgrow their tank and will need to be put somewhere else before they stress and die. Thanks
for writing, Gabe>

Re: New Fishes keep dying.; still not reading or listening.... Again?        9/29/17
Dear Team,
<Hi Shriram, Gabe here again>
I currently hold a ten gallon tank with the following stocking:
2 Firemouth
2 Bala Shark
1 White catfish
1 Tin Foil Barb
<As we have said before, this is way too much for a ten gallon tank. All of
these grow quite large and need tons more space to grow and thrive>

They all are healthy.
<They may look healthy, but they are likely extremely stressed due to the overstocking in the tank. Territory battles can break out at any moment and they could end up killing each other over the little space they have.>
The issue is whenever I try to add a new fish. The new fish survives for a couple of days and then one-by-one they begin to die.
<You should not be adding new fish to this tank. If you continue on this path, more and more fish will die.>
I am unable to conclude on what could I be missing on, and why are my new fishes dying when my other fishes are perfectly fine.
Can you please help.
<Shriram, you need to upgrade your tank size. Do not add any more fish to this tank, as they will surely die. I'm not sure how else to get our point through. You have sent many messages and we always respond the same thing.
Do NOT add fish until you get a bigger tank. Cheers, Gabe>
Re: New Fishes keep dying.; still not reading or listening       9/30/17

Hi Gabe,
I have clearly understood your point.
<Glad you understand>
The only reason my mind deceives me in adding new fish is because at times the tank kind of looks empty.
<Even if the tank looks empty, it is not. You have 6 fish that all grow large. In time it will look too full>

I will make sure that I do not have any new additions in the existing tank and also look into options for upgrading the tank.
<Thank you. I would suggest a large tank if you look to keep aggressive fish like cichlids>
Thanks as always.
<Have you ever heard of the idea of having one inch of fish per gallon of water? You should try to follow this when you upgrade. For example, if you have a fish with a maximum size of 5 inches, it should be in no less than 5 gallons of water. While this rule has a few exceptions, it is normally a good rule to follow. For freshwater fish, use one inch per gallon. Saltwater is recommended one inch per two gallons. Thank you for using WetWeb, Shriram. Feel free to write us any time. Cheers, Gabe>

Adding new Fish - Complete makeover... same mis-stocked 10 gal....       11/22/17
Hi Team,
<Hello Shriram!>
I have had many interactions with you earlier with regards to the stocking of my 10 gallon. Last (As of yesterday) I had the following stocking:
2 - Firemouth Cichlid
1 - Walking catfish (Who grew to half the size of my tank)
2 - Silver shark(Bala Shark)
1-TinFoil Barb.
<As you know now, none of these are suitable for 10 gallon tanks except perhaps as tiny juveniles.>

I have returned all the fishes to the LFS and got a few pairs of small yellow morph.
<Is this Labidochromis caeruleus, the Yellow Lab? While a relative dwarf among Mbuna, I can't really see a group of these being kept in anything smaller than, say, 30 gallons. They are quite aggressive towards one another, in a pecking order sort of way, and like all Mbuna very sensitive to poor water quality.>
The Old Fishes were removed yesterday and the new ones were added. Today morning I found all the yellow morphs dead.
<Oh dear.>
Not sure what I did wrong.
<Well, to start with, you need to assess the environment. Labidochromis caeruleus will not live long in soft and/or acidic water; they're classic Mbuna in requiring hard, alkaline water (15-25˚dH, pH 7.5-8.5 would be about right). On top of that, again, like all Mbuna, they have almost no tolerance for poor water quality, so zero ammonia and zero nitrite are important. Finally, just like all other Mbuna, oxygen is crucial, and they won't live long in tanks that are overstocked or under-filtered.>
I am very upset because of the incident and am planning to do a full cleaning of my tank this weekend and then look for other options, like turning my 10 gallon to a planted aquarium or adding other smaller fish varieties, etc. I am still confused as what could have gone wrong with the morphs.
<Do see above, but obviously without knowing what fish you were keeping, or what the conditions of the tank were, it's hard to say.>
I need your advise in what I should be doing next with regards to my tank.
Thanks and regards,
<Some general thoughts on stocking small tanks is here:
While that article is a few years old now, the underlying point, that small tanks need small fish, remains true. Perhaps better to tell me what small fish you have access to locally, and we can offer some advice about keeping them! Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Adding new Fish - Complete makeover      11/22/17

HI Neale,
<Hello again Shriram,>
Do you Tearing down the tank (Removing the gravel and cleaning and 100% water change) would be a good idea to start with, in that will I need to wait till my tanks cycles again or should I do only a vacuuming of the gravel and replace the water alone, before adding new fish.
<Giving a tank a good clean is often worthwhile, e.g., rinsing the gravel and wiping the glass. But leave the live (mature) filter media alone. At most, rinse it in buckets of aquarium water, squeezing out the dirt.>
My LFS has guppies, zebra Danios, dwarf gouramis, etc.
<So all the old favourites!>
Please note that my tank has a Heater and would prefer tropical fish.
<Understood. Do look at some of the 'newer' small fish in the trade -- Ember Tetras, Dwarf Rasboras, Endler's Guppies, Daisy Ricefish, etc. -- as well as the usual small fish like Golden Pencilfish, Neons, Whiptail cats, the smaller Corydoras, and so on.>
Please provide some suggestions on the fish that I can add and also what I need to do next with my tank.
<See above, and the article linked to earlier.>
Thanks and regards,
<Most welcome. Neale.>

Re: Adding new Fish - Complete makeover   11/28/17
Hi Team,
<Hello again, Shriram!>
I have cleaned my tank and have got a couple of small Angel fish. They are looking fine as of now. They have been here only for the past couple of days.
<Nice fish. If this is the 10 gallon tank of blessed memory, they'll be fine in here for a while, up to about 8 cm/3 inches in length, but ultimately you will need at least 20 gallons for a pair of Angels -- assuming they're a pair! Two males will fight.>
When I switch on the light on the tank, they kind of hide under the rock or get behind the heater. They again start coming out when the light is switched off.
<Angels dislike bright overhead light. In the wild they live in deep, dark water with plenty of overhead cover. They like to hide among the tree trunks and other sunken vegetation. Floating plants are a quick fix, for example the Floating Indian Fern (Ceratopteris thalictroides) is a great way to add some cover.>
How do I get them accustomed to the tank light. Or should I wait for a week before I start switching on the tank light.
<They will settle down in time, yes.>
Please suggest.
Thanks and regards,
<Welcome, Neale.>

5.5 gallon tank that houses a Betta, three zebra danios and three neon tetras. Sm. sys. stkg.        7/16/16
I've e-mail before and have gotten amazing advice so I thought I'd ask my questions here this time as well.
<Fire away!>
I have a 5.5 gallon tank that houses a Betta, three zebra danios and three neon tetras.
<Hmm... overstocked... and not wisely stocked I fear. The Zebra Danios can get to the best part of two inches in length, and in small groups (fewer than six) tend to become nippy; the males are especially aggressive at times, and can be nippy towards Bettas.>
The Betta is only about an inch and a half including fins. The zebras are about an inch and a quarter and the neons are all less than an inch. I was told that you could keep two or three of the zebras and danios to the one inch per gallon rule since they are small and have less bio load.
<Understood, and broadly yes, the "inch per gallon" rule does work for small fish like Neons and Danios without too much trouble. But even if it were: adult Neons are, say, 1.5 inches; adult Zebra Danios almost 2 inches.
So three of each would be 3 x 1.5 = 4.5 for the Neons, and 3 x 2 = 6 for the Danios, which makes a total of 10.5 inches. We're over the stocking limit of your tank. Your Betta is going to be about 2.5 inches when fully grown, so now we're looking at 13 inches. Now, Neons and Danios should be kept in groups of six each, at minimum, so 6 x 1.5 for the Neons, for 9 inches total, and 6 x 2 inches for the Danios, for 12 inches total; add the Betta, and we're closer to 23.5 inches. So something like a 20 gallon tank is much closer to what you'd want here. For sure it's a conservative rule for small fish, which is why 20 gallons is fine, and frankly your Danios are unlikely to get to their maximum size (for some reason they rarely do in captivity) so even 15 gallons would be acceptable at a pinch. But 10 gallons would be too small for them given their size and their activity level, and 5.5 gallons really is unsuitable, even cruel.>
But my concern is that the tank actually only holds 4 gallons of water. I'm guessing that the gravel and plants take up some of the room replacing the other gallon.
It took forever for the tank to cycle and I finally got Seachem Stability which did indeed cycle the tank but I still get ammonia readings.
<Over-loaded tank.>
So I think the bio load is way too much.

I can get a used ten gallon tank and was wondering if that would be big enough?
<For Bettas and Neons, yes. I would not keep Danios in a tank this small though for the reasons outlined above.>
It comes with a 15 gallon filter. On my 5 gallon I have a 10 gallon filter.
Is the 15 gallon filter enough to help with the bio load?
<In part, yes, extra filtration is always a plus. But not a complete solution. Do look at 20 and 10 gallon tanks next to each other: the size difference in terms of "shelf space" is trivial. Cheers, Neale.>

Stocking a tank      5/21/16
I am starting a new tank 10 gal L 22,w12,h14. I plan to stock it with one Betta , three African dwarf frog, a dozen or so Rasbora and some plant life. This being my first tank I would like to know if this is a suitable population for this tank size. I would appreciate any suggestions stocking this tank. Thank you
<Does sound like a very nice arrangement. I take it the Rasboras are a small/er species. Bob Fenner>

Help with fish selection please!  10/22/09
I have a redundant, small (6.6g) tank which I am considering setting up as a tropical aquarium.
<Too small for almost any fish.>
I know this is very small, and so I can only keep a very limited type/number of fish in it.
I found out about Bettas through your site, and the pygmy Corydoras which I would love to be able to keep.
<Betta, yes; Corydoras, no.>
My problem is that the tap water here is fairly hard (GH between the >10 °d and >16 °d markers on the dip stick, KH at 10 °d) and alkali (pH about 7.6) and I understand both the above like 'soft', 'acidic' conditions.
<Actually this water is just fine for both species.>
Would this rule Bettas and Corys out? I have also seen Endler's livebearers in the local store, which I gather would be fine in my water and tank size.
<Male Endler's Guppies tend to be aggressive towards each other, so I wouldn't keep them in a tank this small. I cannot stress this too strongly: your tank is basically useless for fish. A 10-gallon tank could hold a male and two female Endler's just fine, along with half a dozen Corydoras habrosus or Corydoras hastatus. But a 6-gallon tank is just too small.>
Wanting healthy, happy fish, please could you advise which selection (if either) would be best? If the water is not an issue, would Endler's and Corys get on together?
<Would actually recommend this: either get a Betta, or get a Betta and also some Cherry Shrimps. The Cherry Shrimps are colourful, breed happily, and are fascinating to watch. You could easily keep ten or more in a tank this size. Feel free to substitute for any other small algae-eating shrimp, like Bumblebee Shrimps or Crystal Red Shrimps, though Bettas may eat the smaller shrimp varieties. Add some Nerite snails too, if you want. These don't breed, and come in lots of nice colour patterns. Check out Neritina natalensis for example. Decorate the tank with Java ferns, Anubias, and clumps of Java moss, and you'll have a little "freshwater reef tank" with a pretty fish and lots of sweet little invertebrates!>
Thank you so much,
<Cheers, Neale.>

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