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FAQs on Brackish System Set-Up

Related Articles: Brackish Water System Set-up, Brackish System Components, Brackish Substrates, FAQs on Brackish Salty Water,

Related FAQs: Brackish Water Systems in General, Brackish Aquarium Components,

An "all-together" Mangrove brackish tank by Rolf Bandsma. Photo by him. 

Big brackish tank - livestock selection & build     4/14/17
I've written to you several times and have always gotten great advice!
Thank you!
<Hey Meghan, Earl here today.>
I have a violet dragon goby that I want to build a big tank for, but I also want to create something really special and have some ideas I want to run past you.
<The size of these guys is such that they would really appreciate the long, low tank you mention below.>
I'm going to build a huge plywood & glass aquarium - 8 ft long, 4 ft wide, and 4 ft deep. I only want to fill it to a depth of about 30 inches so I can make it into a paludarium style tank with above water plants along the back & sides. If my calculations are right, it will hold about 350 gallons of water.
<Very ambitious but excellent! This is a great example of the kind of unusual tank that also represents a biotype. There is a reason you see them in public aquariums these days...a habitat to hopefully inspire and educate
more than being a garden or zoo, if that makes sense. I am definitely inspired by these and a paludarium has been on my to-do list for a long long time! Would love to hear updates as you go, pics, etc. for "prosperity" on WWM. There is a dearth of info online about this and your experiences executing it would be valuable.>
My dream is to use it to house some unusual brackish aquatic critters. SG 1.010 to 1.012. Temp in the mid to high 70's. Use a protein skimmer and sump for filtration.
<I cannot speak as to the functionality of a skimmer in a brackish tank like this but I can say that mechanical filtration, probably carbon as well, would be vital, especially with the debris that plants and their accompanying silt/soil would create. What I would do is definitely to visit public aquaria, maybe zoos or arboretums, park nature centers as well, and try to get hold of the people in charge of their setups. Many of them will be more than willing to chat about this and would be absolutely invaluable resources you will have a very hard time finding elsewhere. Not sure about your location but the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago has a large amount of these setups. Also ask people who keep Amazonian frogs (so-called poison dart frogs and similar). You will be creating something that is also akin to a pond in some ways so people who deal with those (vs. people who are strictly aquarists) may be of use.>
My ideal stock list is as follows:
6+ Indian mudskippers (P. novemradiatus)
3+ fiddler crabs (whichever I can get)
6 banded archer fish (T. jaculatrix)
1 violet dragon goby (G. broussonnetii)
8+ four eye fish (whichever I can get my hands on)
12+ blue leg hermit crabs (C. tricolor)
I have been researching this combo and have run into stern advice against putting many of these together, including on wet web media. But it seemed to me many of the issues revolved around too little space or the large fish making the mud skippers reticent to enter the water. If I can solve these problems they all seem to need the same kind of temperatures, do well in similar salinities, etc. If I can pull it off, it would be one heck of a tank!
<It'd be hard to overstate the number or severity of problems that are primarily tied to crowding issues. The setup you propose could indeed help with this but have a plan B. Having animals from a similar region is the way to go IMHO. Offhand, paludarium can/should be segmented via a series of walls or weirs and that could be used to mitigate the issue of the skippers avoiding deeper water with large fish. Possibly helping them ease into deeper water as they desire over time? Just spitballin', there is a near limitless number of ways to set this up especially if you build from scratch. Very exciting.>
I've been thinking about how to build an environment where they will all feel comfortable, and my idea is as follows:
On one side of the tank build a shallow area where the water is only a few inches deep (against the front of the tank), that then slopes up to a sandy land area (against the back) for the mudskippers & fiddler crabs. Put some
plants & rocks/caves along the back of this beach. On the side of the shallow water & beach have a steep slope into deeper water.
<Sounds good. Again, check out other displays for inspiration.>
I'm debating how to build this slope & shallows/beach.
I'm thinking a "false bottom" like you see in dart frog vivariums.
Basically a hallow, permeable support structure for drainage with a circulation pump underneath. Wrap it with fiberglass screen and put the sand/gravel substrate on top.
<Beware of fiberglass screens. I myself had a sad "adventure" with them several years back which you can read about on WWM that involved a tank wipe due to the fact that some fiberglass is impregnated with a fireproofing substance that is toxic. Be on the lookout. On another note, the plan you describe seems very high maintenance, perhaps even overly complex. I find the low-tech, low-maintenance route the way to go whenever possible. Especially if it's more failsafe. Ask yourself, "if this needs taken apart, how possible will that be and will I be willing to do it?"
Again, hard to nail this down without going so far as to draw out some blueprints.>
I could completely enclose the underwater area beneath (and hide the heater, pumps, etc here).
<Easily hidden behind plants, rocks, but must be easily accessible for maintenance.>
Or I could make it open, like an underwater ledge or overhang. Use disguised pillars to support it. I bet the violet goby would appreciate the shadowy, protected area. Then maybe add a sculpted ramp against the rear wall of the tank - all the way up to the beach, so if the crabs or mudskippers end up in deeper water they can more easily climb back to the surface.
<Now you're talking! Another idea is to let the return flow from a pump let out water over the ramp as a spillway. Several advantages: natural-looking, grows some useful algae, diffuses laminar flow, adds interesting movement
for the animals, will cause some evaporation which is probably desirable in this case...humidity.>
I could even sculpt a permeable underwater lip at the edge of the shallows to discourage them from getting in trouble. Add emergent plant stalks, root-like structures and floating plants along the edge to keep the larger fish at a distance to make the mudskippers more comfortable.
<As is the case in nature...animals who can simply avoid others when they desire are calmer, healthier.>
Then for the four eye fish, build a second ledge all the way across the back wall of the tank with a narrow land area that slopes into the water and then flattens out. Put plants on the land, and add some roots and floating plants at the edge of the underwater ledge to create a secure feeling area where the four eye fish can beach themselves and rest. Would this work? I read somewhere that the resting area should be in the middle of the tank, but no explanation was given for why.
<Watch out for too many species-specific modifications that may not be desirable down the road and may be a bit of a Rube Goldberg device. Do you really need separate ledges and so on for two amphibious species? I can
tell you that in the wild, mud skippers are perfectly fine hanging out on large roots, plants hanging into the water, shells, broken wooden palettes, iron barrels.....you get the idea. As long as they have a way to get out of the water plus some sand to beach on, they are golden. Point being simply that you don't need several separate habitats in one tank. Try to boil it down to be as simple yet effective as possible. What is actually *strictly* needed? Then go from there.>
The fringe of plants along the back and edge can be where I release insects for the archers to shoot at.
On the bottom create some caves & whatnot for the violet goby to dig & hang out in.
Let the blue leg crabs be the clean up crew on the bottom.
<Likely will need tens of these but they will be very interesting to watch and add a lot visually.>
I figure I'll use fake plants because of the high salinity and I don't want to constantly have to trim them in such a
deep tank.
<Ah well that changes a lot but at least consider mosses and at least a few contained/potted live plants. Artificial vines hung about would add a lot.
Also java ferns are easy. I will direct this also to the pond crew here at WWM who are past masters on that subject. See also http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_4/v4i2/brackish%20systems/brackish.htm 
and one of my favorites http://www.wetwebmedia.com/mangrovetrees.htm.
My main concerns are preventing anyone from getting munched or drowning and providing a healthy and appropriate environment for all of the critters.
<Those are the main things to keep in mind, or course. I'd add "maintenance that's easy to keep up" and "everybody gets good nutrition" and all bases are covered, I'd say.>
I'd appreciate any advice.
Thank you!
<NP and keep us posted!>
Big brackish tank - livestock selection & build     /Neale        4/17/17

I've written to you several times and have always gotten great advice!
Thank you!
<Most welcome.>
I have a violet dragon goby that I want to build a big tank for, but I also want to create something really special and have some ideas I want to run past you.
I'm going to build a huge plywood & glass aquarium - 8 ft long, 4 ft wide, and 4 ft deep. I only want to fill it to a depth of about 30 inches so I can make it into a palladarium style tank with above water plants along the back & sides. If my calculations are right, it will hold about 350 gallons of water.
<The mind boggles!>
My dream is to use it to house some unusual brackish aquatic critters. SG 1.010 to 1.012. Temp in the mid to high 70's. Use a protein skimmer and sump for filtration.
My ideal stock list is as follows:
6+ Indian mudskippers (P. novemradiatus)
3+ fiddler crabs (whichever I can get)
6 banded archer fish (T. jaculatrix)
1 violet dragon goby (G. broussonnetii)
8+ four eye fish (whichever I can get my hands on)
12+ blue leg hermit crabs (C. tricolor)
<Some interesting ideas there. But...>
I have been researching this combo and have run into stern advice against putting many of these together, including on wet web media. But it seemed to me many of the issues revolved around too little space or the large fish
making the mudskippers reticent to enter the water.
<Correct. It may be possible in giant tanks -- I've seen large Mudskippers, probably West African Mudskippers, combined with Scats and Monos at the London Aquarium, for example -- but those Mudskippers are the length of
your forearm, and much bolder than most other species.>
If I can solve these problems they all seem to need the same kind of temperatures, do well in similar salinities, etc. If I can pull it off, it would be one heck of a tank!
<I'd say!>
I've been thinking about how to build an environment where they will all feel comfortable, and my idea is as follows:
On one side of the tank build a shallow area where the water is only a few inches deep (against the front of the tank), that then slopes up to a sandy land area (against the back) for the mudskippers & fiddler crabs. Put some plants & rocks/caves along the back of this beach. On the side of the shallow water & beach have a steep slope into deeper water. I'm debating how to build this slope & shallows/beach. I'm thinking a "false bottom" like you see in dart frog vivariums. Basically a hallow, permeable support structure for drainage with a circulation pump underneath. Wrap it with fiberglass screen and put the sand/gravel substrate on top.
<Makes sense, and the Mudskippers would be happy using a pool of water to bathe in, while avoiding another part of the set-up with bigger fish in it.>
I could completely enclose the underwater area beneath (and hide the heater, pumps, etc here).
Or I could make it open, like an underwater ledge or overhang. Use disguised pillars to support it. I bet the violet goby would appreciate the shadowy, protected area. Then maybe add a sculpted ramp against the rear wall of the tank - all the way up to the beach, so if the crabs or mudskippers end up in deeper water they can more easily climb back to the surface.
I could even sculpt a permeable underwater lip at the edge of the shallows to discourage them from getting in trouble. Add emergent plant stalks, root-like structures and floating plants along the edge to keep the larger fish at a distance to make the mudskippers more comfortable.
<All sounds very imaginative.>
Then for the four eye fish, build a second ledge all the way across the back wall of the tank with a narrow land area that slopes into the water and then flattens out. Put plants on the land, and add some roots and floating plants at the edge of the underwater ledge to create a secure feeling area where the four eye fish can beach themselves and rest. Would this work? I read somewhere that the resting area should be in the middle of the tank, but no explanation was given for why.
<It's simply easier in "box" tanks. Anableps will rest on anything flat, and in the wild, that'd be the "beach" part of the river or mangrove.>
The fringe of plants along the back and edge can be where I release insects for the archers to shoot at.
On the bottom create some caves & whatnot for the violet goby to dig & hang out in.
Let the blue leg crabs be the clean up crew on the bottom.
I figure I'll use fake plants because of the high salinity and I don't want to constantly have to trim them in such a deep tank.
<Agreed, unless you use true saltwater plants, such as mangroves or even seagrasses, both of which *can* be grown in tanks, though they are demanding.>
My main concerns are preventing anyone from getting munched or drowning and providing a healthy and appropriate environment for all of the critters.
I'd appreciate any advice.
<Archers are carnivores that will take anything they can swallow. Toxotes microlepis is the smallest brackish water one, and ideal for this set-up because you can keep several (they can be bullies) without needing a huge volume of water or worrying about carnivory too much. Mudskippers will eat bite-sized crabs, so be careful combining them. I'd probably add some Mollies simply for algae control, but there are some brackish water Nerites out there that'd do an even better job. I don't personally recommend mixing Anableps with anything bigger or more aggressive than they are because they're super-nervous animals prone to miscarriages when stressed. I think Violet Gobies, Mudskippers, crabs, and perhaps Mollies would be fine, but the Archers might be a bit much for them unless the Anableps were a good size. Do also look at true Green Chromides (Etroplus suratensis) when you get a chance. Gorgeous schooling fish, and quite peaceful. They get along well with Archers, Monos, etc.>
Thank you!
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Big brackish tank - livestock selection & build      4/19/17

Hi Neal,
Thank you for your reply!
I realized I got the gallons wrong for the tank. Filled to 30 inches it will hold almost 600 gallons, not 350 like I stated before. So I have more water to work with!
It sounds like the Anableps are much more nervous than I thought. I don't want them to be miserable.
<I doubt they will be miserable, but they are nervous. In the wild they occupy a habitat where fish are extremely vulnerable to predators. Little depth of water to hide from birds, but at the same time escaping from predatory fish is difficult because if they go the wrong way they can end up on dry land. So Anableps have those marvelous eyes that allow them to see predators above AND below the waterline, and alongside that, behaviours
that mean they react very quickly to anything unusual or risky. They work best on their own, or possibly alongside other shallow water specialists, such as Mollies.>
I really want the archers, I've dreamed about them since I first saw a nature special as a little girl. So I will scratch the four eye fish off of the list.
<Understood. Or alternatively, if the tank is huge, divided it into two halves, with a rocky barrier in the middle for the Mudskippers. If the Archers and Anableps are in separate halves, while the dry land bit is decorated to look like a seashore or mangrove, the tank would work nicely AND look pretty cool!>
Can the Toxotes microlepis (hope I spelled that right) handle water with an SG of 1.010 - 1.012? I think I read somewhere they are best at very low salinity.
<Correct; I'd be going for SG 1.005, which is fine for almost all the common brackish species; Anableps, Mollies, Mudskippers, Chromides; etc.>
If they can, I'd love to use the smaller species of archer fish - I could use more of them and I think a school of 12+ would be stunning!
<Quite so. In groups they're a lot more docile and well behaved. Singletons are safe but nervous, while twos and threes tend to be bullies towards each other.>
Those green Chromides are gorgeous! I'd love to include them but have one concern: my violet goby is a slow eater and often backs off of food if there are very boisterous, persistent fish at the food. I had him in a tank
with 8 Sailfin Molly adults and they drove him away from the food so much that I moved them because the goby was getting thin.
<Understood. Chromides and Archers mix very well, eating different foods; the Chromides being more omnivores with a taste for plant foods, while the Archers are strict carnivores that feed from the surface. I'd expect the
Archers and Violet Goby to work well too, since the Archers won't feed much from the bottom, and aren't well adapted to feeding on tiny plankton like brine shrimp that Violet Gobies love.>
Do you think the green Chromides would present the same problem?
<Possibly, since the Green Chromides will happily consume foods from the bottom as well as brine shrimp.>
I really would like to have some kind of mid water fish, but haven't found any I'm sure about.
<If this tank was divided into two, as suggested above, the Violet Goby could be kept with small things like Guppies, and probably Orange Chromides, a dwarf species that shouldn't pose much threat to an adult Violet Goby. On the other half could be the Archers, Green Chromides and Mollies, plus anything like a Silver Scat that took your fancy.>
Thank you!
- Meghan
<Cheers, Neale.>

Brackish water setup.  And stkg. f'     9/11/16
Greetings, people at WetWebMedia. I hope you are doing alright!
I want to set up a brackish aquarium, and I was considering some stocking ideas, so far the most appealing setup to me is the next one:
125 gallon aquarium, Sg 1.005, mildly planted with Java fern, Crinum spp and maybe Lilaeopsis brasiliensis if I can manage to pull it off in brackish aquaria, a few big driftwood pieces and tree stumps at the corners, kind of giving that submerged river feel.
<Understood. Unless you're widely tied to SG 1.005, I'd honestly lower that to 1.003 for the sake of the plants. That's still 10% seawater salinity, so ample for the species you describe below. On the other hand, if you make sure the water is nice and hard, that'll offset the slightly reduced salinity a bit. So 15-20 degrees dH for example, and at least 5 degrees KH, for a pH around 7.5 to 8.0.>
Fish stocking: 2 Violet gobies, 5 Etroplus Maculatus, 3 Toxotes jaculatrix, 5 Sailfin mollies, 2 local flounders: I don't know the species of the flounders, but there are wild specimens that can be caught in a mangrove system locally, I live in El Salvador, central American, by the way. A few people have successfully kept these flounders for a few years in brackish water.

<Agreed; most problems with flounders aren't salinity but feeding. They're not easy to feed, especially when very small.>
How does this sound?
As always, thanks, for your time!
<Most welcome. Neale.>
Re: Brackish water setup.      9/11/16

Tap water comes out at 10 GH and 10 KH (I don't measure DH? how does it correlate to GH and KH? I use GH and KH because that's what's used for high tech planted tanks)
<GH is simply the acronym for "general hardness" and is measured in degrees dH. So they're the same thing.>
PH anything between 7.9 and 8.1. So very hard already, I have to mix some RO water for my Apistos and even some plants. So I guess Sg 1.003 is viable, then.
I would be using salt mix, do I need to use RO water like one would for a marine tank? or can I just mix it with the tap?
<Tap water is fine. Brackish water fish are generally much more adaptable than marines, and the key thing is that nitrate isn't the nuisance in a brackish tank that it is in a marine tank. At a low salinity, some fast-growing plants will help you control algae.>
About the flounders: fellow aquarists report they take freeze dried Tubifex and Ramshorn snails (shell removed) very easily. I actually have a tank for breeding Ramshorns to live feed my Apistos to get them into spawning. I guess this is enough? however, I don't know the species... how much can I expect these to grow? they are generally caught at 2 cm diameter, the biggest I've seen is a 6 cm diameter.
<Most of the species kept successfully can get to about 15 cm in length, so pretty big. A variety of foods is important, and some species are nocturnal. They're not difficult to keep as such, but if they don't get food, they'll starve.>
Thanks for your time!
<Most welcome. Neale.>
Re: Brackish water setup.      9/11/16

Sorry about the double response...
<No problem.>
But I need to know, how stocked would this tank be when the fish are adults? am I nearing total capacity or would it be moderately/lightly stocked? I would prefer a lightly stocked tank, I intend to do 40% water changes every two weeks due to the time it takes preparing the water and haul the water containers/pump plus my high tech planted tanks and catfish tank. I would prefer something with less maintenance.
<Understood. Your 125 gallon tank has plenty of space for a couple Violet Gobies, and archer (I'd keep these singly or in largish groups; pairs and trios can be snappy) and a few other fish of that size. Cheers, Neale.>

Brackish tank upgrade   1/22/14
Hello everyone,
First of all, you guys/gals provide an awesome resource - I love your site and have learned so much from it over the years.
<Thanks for the kind words.>
I am in the process of upgrading my brackish tank (I hope that this counts as "saltwater" - if not, I can send it to the freshwater email address).  I have an overstocked 55 gallon and am moving everyone up into a newly acquired 150 gallon.
<Sounds a great aquarium.>
I have cycled the 150 gallon with 10 assorted mollies and by seeding with gravel from the mature tank.  Ammonia and nitrite have been reading 0 ppm for several days.
To transfer the fish from the mature tank to the new tank, is it better to:
  - Move a few fish at a time to allow the beneficial bacteria (BB) population to grow with the bioload
  - Move all of the fish at once AND their canister filter, which is fully  stocked with the BB?
<This latter will probably be easier to do in one fell swoop, assuming you can move the canister filter without losing any of its filtration bacteria.
Provided the new aquarium has near-identical water to the old aquarium, the filter bacteria won't be stressed by being moved across. So keep salinity and temperature about the same between the two.>
I know that pretty much all of my fish except the mollies (see stocking list below) are especially intolerant of "mini-cycles", so I would like to avoid that for them, as much as possible.  I also know that temperature, SG, pH, hardness, etc... all need to match right-on for either method to work.
<Indeed. Assuming you're using marine aquarium mix, the salt mix will keep pH and hardness very stable.>
Here is the relevant info on the two tanks:
Mature tank (~4 years old):
55 US gallon w/ Eheim 2215 canister filter ("certified" 164 gph with media)
SG 1.013, pH and hardness high (*very* hard tap water here)
1 adult Archerfish (T. Jaculatrix)
3 juvenile Archerfish (also T. Jaculatrix)
3 Mono Argenteus
3 Mono Sebae
2 Silver Scats (Scatophagus Argus?)
<Selenotoca multifasciata, a gem of a species. Indeed, one of the prettiest fish in the entire hobby.>
Except for the young archers, all of the fish are 2+ years old, but none are close to reaching their full adult size (hence the bigger tank). Still, they represent a very significant bioload, and I think that even small groups of them would match or exceed the bioload of the mollies currently in the new tank.
<Should be fine in the 150.>
New tank (~3 weeks old):
150 US gallon w/ Aquatop CF500 (I measured it at 295 gph with brand new media)
3x powerheads (total flow 565 gph) driving undergravel filters and agitating surface
15 gallon wet/dry filter w/ 500 gph pump
SG also 1.013, all other parameters (pH, GH, KH) same as mature tank I plan to add a protein skimmer soon, as well
<Sounds great.>
10 assorted mollies
Once all is said and done, I intend to use the Eheim filter from the mature tank on the new tank either way.  The way I see it, both moving methods involve some risk.  I know that not all of the BB in the mature tank live in the filter,
<Not all, but 99% of them! Very, very few are floating in the water. They adhere to solid surfaces with good water currents, which is why sponges and ceramic noodles are used.>
so moving them all at once would probably induce a small mini-cycle, even with the addition of the fully-loaded Eheim filter, which would then be stressing *all* of the fish at once.  I do think that this plan would reduce territorial-ism/possible aggression, as none of the fish would be "established" before the others.
<Quite so. Leave lights off for a few hours too, ideally covering the tank with a towel to make it nice and dark. This calms the fish down a bit.>
On the other hand, moving them over a few at a time would probably cause a smaller mini-cycle with the addition of each new set of fish, as the BB would have to grow up to the entire new load.  The fish that move over first would go through multiple successive mini-cycles, which is not appealing.  Additionally, the BB in the mature tank's filter would gradually die down as I removed the bioload from that tank, meaning I wouldn't be taking full advantage of the lovely existing large population of BB in that filter.
<Do agree with your analysis here.>
So, which would you recommend?  If you think that I should pace myself and spread the moves out, what order would you recommend?  The Archers are my favorite, so I would prefer to move them last for their sake.  The Mono Sebaes (one in particular) are kind of surly, though, so I may want to add *them* last in order to prevent them from feeling established enough to pick on the others.
<Monos become oddly territorial in aquaria, but I do think Scats push past that, blundering through their squabbles, forcing Monos to relax a bit and school together, perhaps for defence.>
If you can recommend the all-in-one approach (which I am leaning toward more and more),
<Yes, I would do this too.>
should I try to move all of the tank water from the mature tank, as well?
<No real need; just keep salinity and temperature the same, or at least close.>
I will be bringing over all of the decorations, but none of the gravel, so it would be fairly easy to coincide a 50 gallon water change in the new tank with the draining of the old tank and the addition of the fish and water (just out of curiosity - what would be the principal benefit of moving the water?
<None, and some negatives, like introducing nitrate.>
I know that very few BB are actually found in the water column, but the same is not true of lots of other micro-organisms, etc...).
<True, but all the microbes you need, the ones that break down solid waste for example, are in the filter, because that's where the food, oxygen, and solid surfaces are.>
Still, it would barely be 30% of the new tank volume, so maybe it's not enough to make much of a difference?
<The number of bacteria depends on the availability of "food", i.e., bioload, not the size of the tank. So whether the canister is on a 50 gallon tank or a 500 gallon tank, it'll have the right number of bacteria for your bunch of fish. Yes, water turnover matters too, but in practice, upgrading the aquarium while using the original filter works very well.>
Well, I'm sorry I went so overboard on the background info - this email has become much longer than I had planned.  I look forward to any insight you can offer.
Thank you very much for your time,
<Most welcome, Neale.>

Brackish Ideas   2/25/11
Hey Crew,
I currently live in a small apartment and have a 10 gallon tank with three guppies in it which I want to turn it to brackish tank.
<Certainly doable.>
I used to have a 30 gallon brackish tank before I moved and had tried keeping fiddler and red claw crabs to no avail, probably owing to a less than ideal land set-up.
<Indeed, plus the fact Fiddlers will likely be harassed by the Red-Claws.>
This time I wanted to try out some hermit crabs, I've read that blue-legged hermit crabs do well in brackish set-ups, and was wondering if you could suggest some other companions for my tank and what an ideal SG would be?
<The common Blue-Leg Hermit, Clibanarius tricolor, will indeed tolerate brackish water. In the wild it inhabits estuaries as much as shallow seas, and that's why it's so cheap -- it's easy to collect! The same holds true for the Thin-Stripe Hermit, Clibanarius vittatus. So long as you can be sure these are the ones on sale, they should do well down to about half-strength seawater, i.e., about SG 1.012-1.013 at 25C/77F. If you can find them, Clibanarius africanus comes from low-end brackish water streams and rivers, so should thrive at SG 1.003-1.005 at 25C/77F. Unlike the standard "freshwater" crabs of the trade, or the pet hermit crabs sold in shopping malls and elsewhere, these are fully aquatic hermits that don't need any sort of land to climb about on. Adapting them to a particular salinity should be done carefully though, and while things like Clibanarius tricolor surely experience dramatic salinity changes in the wild, the stresses placed upon them by being kept in captivity make things much more difficult for them. I'd slowly adapt them, across at least 6-8 hours, and ideally across several days. The ideal approach would be to set up the tank as a marine one, introduce your hermit crabs, and then slowly reduce the salinity across a few weeks through water changes. That would not only allow your hermits more time to adjust, but would also ensure you had a healthy and happy biological filter. By the way, wild-type Guppies should adapt to fully marine conditions, and all should adapt to half-strength seawater, so there's no reason not to keep them with your hermits.>
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Brackish Ideas
Thanks Neale for the prompt response!
<Most welcome.>
I didn't actually have my red claws and fiddlers at the same time, I did my research prior to purchase!
<Real good.>
Would Clibanarius africanus terrorize my plants if I went with low end, planted?
<Possibly, though like crayfish I'd expect them to eat either dying plants or very soft ones. So Vallisneria, Java ferns, Anubias, Amazon swords and so on should be fine.>
Or if I went with any of the other hermits you mentioned and went with high end w/ live rock, what's the lowest SG LR can handle?
<The bacteria may well do fine in brackish water, and some algae should adapt as well. But much of the other critters won't be happy below SG 1.024, especially those like cnidarians and echinoderms that generally don't tolerate lower than normal marine salinities. There *are* in fact lots of brackish water invertebrates, but they're rarely traded, or at least, not explicitly. For example, thing like the Mangrove Horseshoe Crab get sold as freshwater animals (they're not), or else you have situations with certain Clibanarius spp and the Virginia Nerite Neritina virginea that are sold as marine animals though in the wild they're as much estuarine ones as marine ones. In any case, you could certainly try out some live rock and see what survives. There may well be hardy animals and algae aboard that'll do just fine down to half-strength seawater. But expect a lot of deaths.>
And would full strength marine be harmful to guppies in the long run?
<Not wild Guppies nor "feeder" type cross-breed Guppies. They can be adapted to marine conditions if adjusted over a few weeks, and will even breed in salt water. But the fancy ones sold in pet stores seem not to be so adaptable. There's some scientific research into this, which you should be able to find by searching with Poecilia, reticulata, and salinity in your search engine of choice. It may well be that Guppies won't live as long in marine conditions as they will in brackish or fresh, but they can certainly live for many months. Mollies, on the other hand, thrive in seawater, and I've adapted Mollies between salt and freshwater conditions within an hour. They can be kept in marine tanks indefinitely, and back in the day it wasn't uncommon to cycle marine aquarium using Black Mollies.>
Is there a rule of thumb for the amount of hermits to a tank?
<Depends on how much food you're giving them! For a small hermit, I'd guess you'd want to allow 5 gallons a piece, perhaps less if they're well fed.>
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Brackish Ideas   2/25/11
Okay, well I haven't seen a huge selection of hermits in my area, though I've seen a couple of the little blue-legged guys, so I'll probably bring my tank to full salinity and then add some live rock and a couple hermits, and see what happens to the critters as I bring the SG down.
<Sounds good.>
I've had such an increased inkling to try a set-up in high end brackish for a while'¦
<Welcome to the club!>
I'm actually keeping feeders, by the way. I like them for their... Diversity.. Haha! I also prefer guppies that look a bit more natural.
<As do I.>
Well thanks for all the helpful tidbits!
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Brackish Ideas 2/28/2011

Hey Neale/crew,
So I bought Brackish-Water Fishes while purchasing salt at my LFS, and I realized that the look I really hope to achieve for my 10g tank would be a tidal pool of sorts.
<A nice idea.>
Probably sticking with a SG of 1.020. I was going to pick up some sand to add for substrate, and continue slowly raising the salinity to acclimatize my guppies.
<Okay. Do be careful and see how they go. Not all adapt. Mollies are generally a safer bet. Alternatively, try a lower specific gravity, and use holey rock, barnacle clusters, and oyster shells siliconed together to create a reef.>
My question though is when I add live rock (I would bring the SG to whatever the LFS has their live rock at, and bring it slowly back down, so as to avoid any deaths from SG change till AFTER the initial die-off) will all this die-off be harmful to my guppies?
<Certainly dying live rock produces much ammonia, and decay will also affect nitrate levels, oxygen levels, and potentially acidity.>
Should I add the hermits before or after the live rock, and if so, how long should the whole process take?
<My honest feeling here is that if you want a Nano reef, then build a Nano reef. Set the thing up at SG 1.024, then try and acclimate the guppies as best you can, perhaps in a quarantine tank across 4-8 weeks. If you want a genuine brackish water habitat, you might be better off concentrating on what sort of habitats those are, for example oyster clusters around mangrove roots, and choosing livestock accordingly. In a 10 gallon system, Rhinohorn Gobies and some Wrestling Halfbeaks would be a possibility, or else something like Micropoecilia picta or Limia caymanensis if you wanted livebearers. Mangrove roots are easy to get, barnacle clusters and oyster shells can be procured and cemented into place, and a mix of coral sand with a few empty shells would make a nice substrate. Depending on the SG, you could add invertebrates as/when you come across them, perhaps some Nerites or shrimps.>
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Brackish Ideas (Bob, another reason to have a good reef invert. ID book!) 2/28/2011
Well I honestly just wanted to add hermit crabs to my tank with the feeder guppies, so I wanted to create an environment that they would both be comfortable and happy in.
<I see.>
I'm living in small quarters, so I really only have the one tank/buckets to work with. I guess to create that whole tide pool scenario better I should just use "base" rock to make it look reef-ish. I'll get my hands wet with a Nano reef when I have more space, and I'll definitely try mollies!
<Cool. Black Mollies look especially striking, and in a low-maintenance FOWLR system, they're a good way to crop algae without worrying about aggression or predation.>
Assuming my guppies are comfortable at a higher SG for a while, should I bring the whole tank to marine,
add the hermits,
and bring it back down,
<Yes, across several weeks, so the filter bacteria can adjust, and you can see what effect there is on the hermits and any living organisms on the live rock. If the hermits look stressed, you can revert to full marine conditions. Not all hermits in the trade are Clibanarius tricolor or C. vittatus, so there's no guarantee all the hermits in the trade will be euryhaline species.>
or should I put the hermits in buckets and bring their SG down then introduce them to the tank?
I had intended to keep my eye out for a Nerite I could add, are there any clams or mussels, or something else that might be able to tolerate the same conditions?
<I'm sure many of the clean-up crew gastropods are euryhaline species tolerant of medium to high end brackish conditions, but the tricky part is identifying them! Much to be said for either your own collecting trip or else procuring brackish species via biological supply houses.>
Thanks again,
<Cheers, Neale.>

Brackish Setup 2/11/11
Neale, hopefully that is who gets this email, as your knowledge I trust deeply.
<Kind words, indeed!>
I have some questions about a brackish setup after reading the site. Also, I had spoken to you way back about the fact that I had purchased one clown loach for my 54 gallon tank, knowing later I would need a bigger tank as she grows.
<Certainly within a year or two.>
We spoke about the fact that I should have more then one, so I got another, and hoped for the best, as I watched for months hoping they would eventually become comfortable with each other, this never happened, not from lack of trying on the newest loaches part. Sadly the second loach died, possibly from the stress of not getting along with my first loach, which is doing very well, and growing quite fast.
<Does sometimes happy, and I have met a few happy singleton Clowns in my time. They're often very shy, but not obviously stressed or sickly, and seem to be just as healthy as any other fish.>
In any case, my questions pertaining to my clown loach is, should I try again and get two more, making it three, and upgrade them to a new 120 gallon tank (after cycled, of course)?
<Would be the ideal solution, so even if the singleton took a while to learn to like them, the other two would be best buds. Alternatively, you might trade in your singleton for a troop of 3-4 specimens that were much smaller, and let them grow up together.>
I hope this is at least the minimum size to house three clown loaches, as I am pushing my luck with my other half, on getting a second tank. Should I just keep the one, as she was not very personable to the second clown?
<Really up to you. At some point time and money have to come into the equation, and a fish is just a fish. While I'd never, EVER advocate cruelty to animals, if your Clown seems perfectly happy on its own, isn't shy, and is happily eating its dinner and swimming about its tank, then you may decide to leave things be.>
I was wanting to get a Violet Goby, and read that this is a brackish water fish.
<Very definitely, yes; their lifespan in freshwater is not great.>
So I am thinking of changing my 54 gallon heavily planted tank into a brackish, minimum SG of 1.003, so my plants (which happen to be ok in brackish water) and my freshwater bacteria stay alive.
<Possibly, but do understand Violet Gobies will dig up all your plants.
They come from mudflats and love to dig.>
Would this be an acceptable level of SG for a Violet Goby?
<Not ideal, but viable, and shouldn't cause health problems.>
I read to make this salt transition slowly, can the Goby go along for the ride, or should I get to my SG of 1.003 and then get the brackish fish?
<Violet Gobies can tolerate freshwater for extended periods of weeks, even months. So if you elect to keep it in a freshwater aquarium, and then do water changes every 1-2 weeks to slightly up the salinity, then that should be fine. But as I say, you won't have much success with plants. Violet Gobies really want a tank with a soft sand substrate (smooth silica sand or pool filter sand work great) and then a few rocks dotted about for decor.
By all means grow plants you can attach to rock -- Java fern and Anubias are great for this -- as well as floating plants like Indian Fern. At a pinch, robust Amazon Swords and Vallisneria in plant pots might be okay, but forget about anything more "Amano" than that!>
I would want a Violet goby, mollies, guppies, and swordtails.
<These will all thrive at 1.003 at 25 C/77 F.>
I look forward to using the SG Calculator from WETWEB to help me, if I indeed plan on making the brackish tank, after getting my new 120 gallon for the freshwater fish.
<Sounds great.>
Thanks so much for your valuable input and precious time. Have a pleasant day. Lu
<Always glad to help when I can. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Brackish Setup   2/17/11

Hi Neale,
Thanks so much.
<No problem.>
Well, the thing is my Clown Loach is very shy, she was never as active as the newer loach, that sucker was always on the move. I watched every day how the new loach would go to her and try to make friends, but she would always chase it away. The only time she would let the younger one near her was when I was doing maintenance and it would get in her hide hole with her. I have spoiled her, lol, and hand feed her with a garden tool during the day, while she sits in her hide hole. She eats good. I do see her come out when I am away from the tank, but only for a minute, then she goes back into her hide hole and sometimes comes out at night, but I can't tell how often she comes out at night. Please don't laugh, I could never send her back now, too attached to her. I would feel like a mother abandoning her kids. Oh goodness, only a fish! LOL.
<Indeed. As I say, if she's essentially happy and healthy, I wouldn't fuss too much over adding more Clowns.>
Yes, I read the goby needs minimum 1.006 SG,
<Would argue that this is the case.>
so I was hoping the 1.003 SG would be close enough,
<Not really, but might work. You could see what happens.>
cause I am not sure the Java,
<Java ferns happy up to SG 1.005.>
guppies, mollies
<Both these will thrive up to SG 1.010, at least, and Mollies do amazingly well in full seawater.>
and swordtails would do ok at the 1.006 SG. I want to keep Goby in ideal conditions, not less then, just to have the other fish with it. A few more questions, please. I read that the Goby sifts the substrate, and looks for small organisms to feed on, do you suggest anything special for feeding?
<Provided there isn't much competition, they're actually very easy to feed.
Mollies and Guppies are great companions in this regard because they don't compete for food. Anyway, a mix of wet-frozen "worms" like bloodworms and black mosquito larvae, finely chopped seafood, algae wafers, and live brine shrimp is just about perfect. They feed in three different ways: they scrape at algae from rocks, they sift sand for insect larvae and worms, and they gulp-feed plankton from the water (feed them live brine shrimp and enjoy the view!).>
When it comes to dKH, PH, and temperature, as we need try to keep those in appropriate range for the fish, once you pick a number in that range, is there an acceptable fluctuation, or do these readings have to stay exactly the same every day, every week?
<They tolerate variation extremely well. Provided the water is basically brackish, and that the pH doesn't drop below 7, you should be fine.>
Mine are the same, but I was just wondering, as I know temperature fluctuates in the wild, and now have learned salinity fluctuates in some areas.
<Indeed. These fish have a very wide geographical range and they also happen to live in extremely harsh environments. They live in mudflats and that can actually breathe air, and that allows them to stay in burrows even when the tide goes out, sort of like Lungfish, allowing them to quickly exploit the food when the tide starts coming in before any predators or competitors are able to get there. They're truly amazing, highly specialised fish evolved to a very specific niche.>
As always, Neale, thank you so much for your brain cells! Have a lovely day. Lu
<Thanks for the kind words. Cheers, Neale.>

new 55 gal brackish, set-up, stkg.   12/17/10
Hi Neale,
I have my new 55gal brackish aquarium set up.
<Kept at a real low salinity, I take it? 5 grammes/litre, for a specific gravity about 1.002-1.003 at 25 C/77 F.>
I've been adding the pinches of flake food ever couple of days as you suggested (for nearly a week now) and so, minus the heaters (which I'll have in the next day or so) and the plants which are on their way, the tank is set up.
I'm wondering though if I should add a platy or two? I know they are tolerable to lower temperatures and I'm wondering if this might help the cycling process along?
<May well do, but don't you already have some mollies? Mollies are good fish for new brackish and marine aquaria. Much hardier in such conditions than they are in freshwater. Platies will do okay in slightly brackish water too, at the salinity listed above. Limia nigrofasciata are among my favourite livebearers for slightly brackish tanks, but you could also use Wrestling Halfbeaks or even Endler's Guppies in the same way.>
Like I said I'll have the heaters in a few days and I could wait until then or should I wait even longer to add any fish?
<Don't add any fish until you have the right temperature in the tank, but as you've noted Platies, especially Variatus Platies, can tolerate cool water remarkably well. Xiphophorus variatus can tolerate water down to about 15 C, and here in England they're sometimes sold as coldwater fish and make a great alternative to Goldfish.>
I had a friend of mine suggest using Zeolite. Are you familiar with it?
Do you think it's a good product?
<In certain situations, like hospital tanks where a biological filter can't be used.>
I've heard/read that it traps ammonia and eventually becomes part of your biofiltration. Should I use it during cycling?
Should I use it at all?
Another thing I was wondering about is if I do a complete fishless cycle in my tank will I still have ammonia spikes whilst adding the fish?
<Shouldn't do. Ammonia is ammonia, and provided you've added enough pinches of flake to match the amount you'd give the first batch of fish, it makes no difference whether the flake went through the gut of a fish or simply decayed through bacterial action on the gravel.>
Could the Zeolite be beneficial then?
Also I've been adding small amounts of marine salt each week to my freshwater aquarium during water changes for the fish but also for the filter since I am planning on switching over that filter and using it in my
55gal as well rather then keeping the 10gal up and running. If I add all the salt at once I've read that you say it wouldn't harm the fish since brackish water fish are accustomed to sudden changes in salinity but could it kill all the beneficial bacteria in my established filter?
<Changing from 1.000, i.e., freshwater, up to 1.002, i.e., slightly brackish water, will not stress filter bacteria.>
And if that's the case at what point would it be safe for me to switch the filter to the 55gal(which has about 1 1/2 tbls of salt per gallon)?
<Please don't use teaspoons or tablespoons for measuring out salinity. Far too risky! Salt absorbs water from the air over time, so spoonfuls steadily become less and less salty and more and more watery, even though they all look the same. The easy approach is to use a hydrometer, a floating glass one will cost about $5. At 25 C/77 F, the right specific gravity for this set up will be 1.002. Alternatively, weigh out the salt. You're aiming for 5 grammes per litre, or 0.65 oz per US gallon. You can download a Windows
and Mac application on my website that shows you how salinity, temperature and specific gravity are related, and the program works in both metric and US units.
Compared to spoonfuls, weights are much more reliable, and a hydrometer gives you a pretty good indication of specific gravity provided the water temperature in each bucket is close to 25 C. Do read here, on my Brackish FAQ:
Should I raise my fresh water tank to that level of salt and then switch the filter or could I do that sooner?
<Shouldn't make a huge difference either way, given the very low salinity we're dealing with here.>
Also a question about tankmates for my mollies platies and blue Acara (when I get it). Could I add a Betta?
<No, none of the traded Betta species comes from brackish water. There is a brackish water Betta known as the Mahachai Betta that comes from slightly brackish swamps. However, it isn't much traded, and you're only likely to see it if you're a member of a Betta club.>
How about a rainbow or fiddler crab?
<Neither of these are aquarium residents, both need a vivarium with mostly land. On top of that, Rainbow crabs will catch, eat small fish.>
How about some sort of shrimp maybe or Algae Eater?
<Cherry Shrimps and Amano Shrimps thrive in slightly brackish water, and in fact I keep some of my Cherry Shrimps in a slightly brackish system with Limia nigrofasciata and they breed constantly! Shrimps are good for algae control, but supplement them with Nerite snails for a good all-around algae-control combination, around one Nerite per 4-5 gallons, possibly slightly more depending on how quickly algae grows in this system.
Algae-eating catfish do not belong in a brackish water system, but you might try Florida Flagfish, wonderful little fish rather like territorial dwarf cichlids in personality. They feast on algae, and get along fine with Acara and Livebearers.>
I don't mean to add all of these but if I were to add one or two which would be compatible and how many would you recommend?
Thanks a ton!
<Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: new 55 gal brackish  12/17/10
That does help! Thanks!
I'll be buying a hydrometer asap. Online if I can't find one around.
<Indeed. Weighing salt will do. Measuring teaspoons almost never works reliably.>
I do have mollies so I suppose I should switch them over first.
So once I get the heaters and raise the temp I should add the mollies? Say 3 of them?
I'm loving the cherry shrimp idea. How many of these should I get.
<A big swarm, at least six, preferably 10 or more to start with.>
You were saying they breed well so would 2 females and 2 males suffice?
<Doesn't seem to work that way. While you might be okay, chances are in a 55 gallon tank they'd simply lose one another. Get sufficient that they can form a school, and that behaviour will keep them together. Certainly no fewer than six. They're cheap as chips, so get as many as your budget can stand, that'd be my advice. They look really good in big swarms.>
Also I have a few plants ordered like I said (java moss, java fern, Anubias) will the shrimp eat or harm any of these plants?
<Neither Nerite snails nor Cherry shrimps should harm healthy plants.>
I really like the shrimp because I wanted something different for the tank.
Any other tank mate suggestions? Gobies maybe?
<Bumblebees could be an option, though they might eat baby shrimps. Knight Gobies certainly will eat shrimps as well as small fish, up to about the size of a male guppy.>
Or perhaps clown loaches?
<Not a brackish water fish. Horseface Loaches, on the other hand, can be kept in slightly brackish water.>
I would like one more kind of fish. I know you mentioned glassfish in an earlier email but I'm not so fond of those.
<Glassfish are fun in gangs because they tend to lunge at each other, I guess figuring out who's top dog. They do lack colour, and some folks prefer brightly coloured fish. In that case, look at any hard water Rainbowfish you like, as all should thrive at SG 1.002. Melanotaenia boesemanni is particularly popular and does well in slightly brackish water.
Madagascar Rainbowfish and Celebes Rainbowfish will also do well. I mentioned Florida Flagfish as something else you might consider, and another killifish that could work would be the Asian Killifish, often traded in its Golden Wonder form. Although predatory and territorial, it handles itself alongside Mollies rather well. Does need floating plant cover and a corner with a gentle current to be happy. Do read some more on brackish fish options here at WWM and on my Brackish FAQ, and you may well find my book useful too.
The list of brackish water fish in the trade is extremely long, and far more impressive than many assume.>
Any suggestions would be great. Thanks again! You've been lots of help!
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: new 55 gal brackish, stkg.  -- 12/19/10

Ok, I'm warming up to the glassfish idea. Especially in a gang of 6 or so.
That could be neat.
<Can indeed. They are very effective predators though, and small fish, such as Molly fry, will be eaten.>
What about a rainbow shark?
<Cannot be kept in brackish conditions.>
Would he eat the shrimp?
<No, but not really an option here.>
So far I'm looking at :
1 Blue Acara
6 glassfish
8-10 cherry shrimp
And I have:
3 mollies
2 platies
As well as:
10 Molly fry
4 platy fry
(The fry range from 4-12 weeks)
<These should all work well, with the proviso that adult Glassfish can, will eat any juveniles they can fit in their mouths; realistically, up to about an inch or so in length.>
What do you think? It's not over populated is it? I don't want to have too many fish either cause I'd like to continue raising Molly and Platy fry.
<Ah, in that case skip the Glassfish. Wrestling Halfbeaks and Limia nigrofasciata would make good companions. Cichlids are generally inept predators, so while the Acara will eat some fry, its impact should be minimal.>
Eventually I'm pretty sure I'll have to give some away but for now I'd like to raise a few more.
<A worthy goal, and rearing fry to maturity is harder than many assume, even in the case of "easy" fish like Mollies.>
Alrighty, thanks AGAIN! :)
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: stocking and scaping new 55 gal brackish   12/22/10

lol. So I'll skip the glass fish then. So many ideas! Hard to decide!
<That's the fun!>
I like the halfbeaks idea and seeing they're livebearers that would be a really neat addition! Another challenge to see if I could raise some of their fry!
<Much written about them here at WWM; halfbeaks are my favourite fish, and I routinely keep, breed them at home.
So I picked up some driftwood yesterday. (from the beach, I live very near the ocean... I can see it :) so I boiled it now I'm soaking it. One piece I picked up is too large to boil and I'm a little afraid of the bleach and soak method. For now I have it soaking in my tub. I've been filling the tub with really hot water when it cools I drain it and fill it up again. Could I just do this a few times and it be safe for the tank?
<Should be. Provided the wood smells clean and not oily or organic, it should be fine.>
It's really smooth, sun bleached stuff. No bark, no splinters etc.
I can also get black sand from a beach nearby. Very cool stuff. It's slate sand. All the cliffs and beach are slate. Could I boil this and use it?
<Yes, but I'd use a thin layer initially, to see how things go. It might be too sharp for burrowing fish such as gobies and eels, so choose fish accordingly.>
I'm also wondering if epoxy is a safe adhesive to use?
<Can be, but the safest is aquarium-grade silicone sealant.>
Umm so many questions!
Thanks for the answers!
<Glad to help. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: stocking and scaping new 55 gal brackish   12/22/10
Hello Neale!
I agree! It is fun picking out fish!
<Indeed it is, Jessica. With brackish water livestock there's a bit more effort involved, but also some unusual species you couldn't keep otherwise, so the trade-off is worthwhile, if you're an advanced aquarist at least.>
Actually I bought some Guppies. I know they're the most common fish almost ever but they're neat and I'm kind of addicted to raising fry which I hear guppies are the millions fish so I wanted to try my hand at them. I got just 4. 1male:3females.
<Should be fine.>
My LFS agreed to take any raised fry for me if my tank gets overstocked, so I'm covered there.
Eventually if the livebearers get out of hand I may then go with the glassfish idea. At least I know what kind of fish to get to keep them under control when need be!
In the mean time I'm going to keep looking for the halfbeaks. (There's none available close by. And when I say close by I mean 5 hours or more, I doubt if they'd make that sort of commute)
<Halfbeaks aren't widely traded, but they are traded, and Wrestling Halfbeaks are on all the Southeast Asian exporters' lists. So asking your local retailer should turn up some specimens if they get stuff from Singapore, etc.>
I may try the sand eventually. For now I'm going to leave the tank alone as it cycles. The black sand is quite smooth ( to my touch anyways) I could walk barefoot on it, as long as it wasn't a hot day! lol
But umm, eels you say? There's an eel I could get? Compatible with my fish?
Livebearers, Acara etc.? That would be neat if you have any suggestions there!
<Peacock Spiny Eels (Macrognathus siamensis, often erroneously Macrognathus aculeatus) should work well. Another option is the Horseface Loach. Both thrive in slightly brackish water. In either case, these are shy, burrowing fish and the Spiny Eel won't eat dry foods, so review their needs carefully before purchase. Notorious jumpers, so keep the tank securely covered.>
Alrighty thanks again Neale!
<Glad to help. Merry Christmas, Neale.>
Re: stocking and scaping new 55 gal brackish   12/25/10

The Horseface loach sounds really neat. Hopefully I'll be able to find one when I want to get one. Selection around here is not the greatest.
<Ah, but there's no need to buy all your fish on Day 1! Let the retailer in your area know what you're after, and see if he/she can bring some specimens in some time.>
In the meantime my male guppy died. His mouth was stuck open yesterday. I searched the net a bit for what it might be but I couldn't see anything stuck in his mouth. When I woke up this morning and found him dead his mouth was still open. Should I be worried for my other fish?
<Well, I tend to be a bit "ho-hum" about dead Guppies and Neons because they're such poor quality generally. If water quality seems good, water chemistry seems right, and everything else in the tank seems happy, I'd simply remove the dead fish and keep a close eye on the tank over the next few days.>
They all seem fine. The ammonia levels in the tank are still very low. So I don't think it has anything to do with the water quality. Maybe stress from transport? New environment, etc.?
<Perhaps, or something else. Difficult to say with fancy Guppies.>
Also should I go out and buy another male or just see if the females are already pregnant? Chances are one of them will birth a male'¦
<Either, but I wouldn't add any new fish for at least 2 weeks, preferably 4. Treat the collection of fish you have know as a "quarantine" of sorts, and wait to make sure everything is hunky-dory. If, by the end of 4 weeks, they're all happy, then yes, feel free to add another male.>
Ok, well... Thanks
<Cheers, Neale.>

Brackish tank and GSPs  03/15/2008 Hi all, I've been reading your site for a long time now for help with setting up a proper home for the green spotted puffers that my wife had to have. I recently set up a new 29 gallon tank for the little fish, one is less than 2 inches and the other is about one inch, juveniles I think. <These are indeed juveniles. Adults get much larger, a chunky 12-15 cm/5-6" depending on the species.> When I set up the tank I cycled it with freshwater BioSpira because I already had the GSPs in a freshwater 15 gallon tank awaiting their new home, so waiting for it to cycle naturally wasn't going to work. The tank cycled fine and I added the GSPs with the intention of raising the SG slowly, the recommended .002 amount. <Very good.> I wasn't sure on the math so I thought I had guessed low at a half a cup of marine salt mixed into five gallons of R/O with an old Seio powerhead and a heater during a ten gallon water change. <Guessing isn't really viable here. I have a little freeware Mac/Windows application called Brack Calc that will help. It converts specific gravity into salinity and weight of salt per unit volume of water, factoring in temperature as well. http://homepage.mac.com/nmonks/aquaria/brackcalc.html For an aquarium at SG 1.005 for example, you need about 9 grammes of salt per litre (about 1.2 oz per US gal). That's a fine salinity for the first year. After this year is up, you'll likely want to raise the salinity to about SG 1.010, and that translates as 15.5 g/l (about 2 oz per US gal). Weighing the salt will give you a much more accurate salinity than eyeballing, but you'll still need to use a hydrometer to measure the specific gravity. Even a basic $5 glass hydrometer is adequate, though more expensive plastic swing-arm ones are easier to use, and even more expensive refractometers are arguably more accurate (and definitely more fun!).> When I checked the SG it didn't even register, so the next week I added a cup of marine salt the same way during another ten gallon water change. I didn't check the SG until a few days later thinking I should let it cycle through the filter a few times, and I found out that the SG had jumped up to something like 1.008. <Well within the tolerances of the fish, but likely stressing the filter bacteria and certainly killing the plants.> Now I have an insane algae bloom that is taking over the whole tank and is covering the plants and rocks and even the Fluorite substrate. I am thinking that I crashed the tank possibly by killing a lot of the freshwater bacteria in the tank and the BioWheel of the Emperor 280 filter that I am using. Would this jump in SG be enough to crash the tank in this way? <Yes; I'd quickly go down to SG 1.003-1.005 and hope for the best!> I only have two test kits currently, for phosphate and nitrate, and both tests showed fine results, phosphate at .25 and nitrate at 20 ppm. <Neither of these test kits is critical, so they're odd choices. The two ESSENTIAL test kits are nitrite and pH. Nitrite tells you if the filter is working (if there's nitrite present, it's not); and pH tells you if the water chemistry is stable (if it is rapidly dropping, then it's not). Both are early warning indicators of bigger problems.> I changed out five gallons of the tank water and replaced it with five gallons of freshwater, but of course the damage has been done, and the SG is close to 1.004. Originally I thought I could do this tank as a planted mid range brackish with plants that can survive in brackish water, so I have Java Fern, Java Moss, Babies Breath, and two other types of plants that I am spacing on the name of. <Okay, the Gypsophila should be taken out STAT! It's not an aquatic plant, and its death and decay will promote algae and kill water quality. Both the fern and the moss can tolerate significant salinity, Java fern in particular occurring naturally in brackish water. Still, I'd tend to keep plants only while the SG was below 1.005; above that, you're better off with rocks and plastic plants. Trust me on this.> I used Fluorite substrate and I have some bowl rock for caves and a few pieces of driftwood. Now that I have been reading more and more on brackish tanks and GSPs in general I am thinking that this tank is in no way going to work for the fish in the long term. The driftwood I know is a problem now, and eventually I will have to scrap the plants anyway to get the SG up enough. <Indeed. Bogwood lowers pH as it decays, so should be used carefully. If you have a high carbonate hardness (that's the "KH" scale test kit) the effect will be trivial. But many aquarists simply don't use bogwood, and instead opt for ceramic/plastic wood instead.> I am thinking about abandoning it and starting over with crushed coral as a substrate (which I was talked out of doing in the first place by my LFS, which is why I went to Fluorite and plants...) and a lot of rocks and fake mangrove root decorations. <In a brackish water aquarium, there's simply no point spending money on plants or plant-friendly substrates UNLESS you intend to keep the specific gravity very low, SG 1.003-1.005. This is a fine salinity for many brackish water species including gobies, glassfish, figure-8 puffers, livebearers and more. But if you're keeping mid- to high-end brackish water fish, you need to think more along MARINE lines than freshwater. Use granite, slate and other rocks to create a nice complex "reef". Decorate with shells and barnacle clumps. I like using silicone and oyster shells to create oyster reefs just like the ones you see in harbours. Ceramic/plastic tree roots can be used to create mangrove forests, and plastic plants (especially the big 3' long ones) are really good for this too. But skip the live plants.> I know eventually I will need to upgrade to at least a 55 gallon tank to keep both fish in, so I wonder if I could wait awhile, raising the SG in the tank to low end brackish (1.004 - 1.008) so I can keep the planted tank the way it is for awhile? <This is fine.> At what point (size, age) do GSPs need to be in high end brackish/marine? <Tetraodon fluviatilis and Tetraodon nigroviridis NEVER "need" marine conditions. They certainly do well in marine conditions, but don't imagine it is essential. Provided you keep the carbonate hardness high (using crushed coral, oyster sand, etc.) and the nitrates low (lots of water changes, and perhaps a protein skimmer once SG reaches 1.010) you can maintain them indefinitely at mid brackish conditions.> I am wondering how long I can keep the planted tank until I by the new tank to switch to something that can go to full marine eventually. <I'd recommend moving the GSPs to mid- to high-salinity conditions once they get about 8-10 cm in length.> I am also worried about the GSPs being bored in the tank, even with all the plants and rocks and driftwood they seem to be a bit bored already. <Puffers do benefit from interaction. Try feeding them with "difficult" foods like unshelled prawns, so they have to work for their dinner. Train them to become hand tame; use forceps (they bite!) to feed them. Offer small amounts through the day, so they get to interact with you regularly. Add lots of plastic plants and rocks that go up the tank, not just along the bottom. If you watch puffers in the wild, they swim up and down objects very systematically, looking for prey. They don't need much open swimming space, but they do need lots of "stuff" to swim around, so really fill the tank with all kinds of stuff!> I originally thought that there was no way I would want to have my GSPs in full marine, but I am starting to think that it would be so much easier to maintain, as I already have a large reef tank and the know how to take care of a marine system. A skimmer and live rock eventually would be much easier for me to take care of, and the plants I have will eventually die if I do raise the SG to something that the GSPs will appreciate. <Skimmers work from SG 1.010, but as you say, live rock needs marine. And this is indeed the big advantage to keeping this species in marine conditions. On the other hand, balance the costs, particularly all the extra salt, carefully: brackish water fish are much more fussed about water quality than water chemistry.> What would you suggest as far as scrapping the planted tank, and what suggestions do you have for a new tank as far as decorations and things so my fish don't get bored? Thanks a lot, the site is great. <Do read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/BrackishSubWebIndex/gspsart.htm That's about as good a summary on these fish as you'll find anywhere on the Web! Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Brackish tank and GSPs Thanks for the quick response, all the info you gave me was very helpful in making my decision as to what to do with my puffers. I changed five more gallons of water today (I only had 5 gallons of R/O at the house) and tomorrow I will do a massive water change, 50-80% possibly. <Why do you need to use RO water? Plain vanilla tap water with a decent dechlorinator should be fine.> I was hoping to get the water close to fresh again and use freshwater BioSpira again to jump start the bacteria, would you advise this? <Depends what you want to do. If you want plants, then yes, lower the SG to around 1.002 or 1.003. The BioSpira will work fine.> Also, I wanted to mention that the common name I used before, 'Baby's Breath', was completely wrong, I must have been thinking of something else. What I was referring to was actually Moneywort (Bacopa monnieri), so no need to worry. <Ah yes, this plant is brackish tolerant. But it isn't easy to grow: needs huge amounts of light otherwise it looks really unhappy (long stems, small leaves) and then dies. Nothing less than 3 watts of light per gallon.> I researched brackish adaptable plants for a month before I purchased anything. The test kits I used were the only ones I had at the time, and they were purchased for my reef tank originally, I know they didn't really have anything to do with my question but I thought I'd throw out all the info I had. I will buy some more test kits tomorrow. Another quick question on this topic, I noticed that the smaller puffer has become quite aggressive to the other bigger puffer ever since I crashed the tank, chasing the nipping at his fins. <Unfortunately quite common with this species.> I was reading another question here that was being handled by Pufferpunk that was in the same vein as mine. Someone had an uncycled tank with two GSPs in it and the smaller one was being aggressive to the bigger one, and she mentioned that nitrite stress from having no bacteria might be contributing to the fishes sudden aggressiveness, would you agree with this as the case? <I would humbly disagree with PP on this. Aggressiveness in fish isn't likely to be caused by physiological stress. I suspect that there's a little anthropomorphisation going on here!> I have had both fish for at least four or five months together and they have always gotten along fine, almost always glue to the gill exploring everywhere together. <This simply isn't a social species. Males likely guard nests, so as the fish mature, they become more intolerant of other members of the species. This contrasts with sociable puffers such as South American Puffers that don't guard their eggs and consequently don't mind (actually, want) tankmates of their own species.> Tomorrow I was planning on moving the filters and the water into a 15 gallon tank, and add the fish for holding. Then I was going to remove all the Fluorite substrate, and all the plants and bog wood. Then I was going to add crushed coral for a substrate, add more bowl rock in an upward direction, find new plastic decorations, and add the puffers and BioSpira again to cycle the tank. Is there anything I am missing in my plan? <Wouldn't bother. At a low salinity, if you want plants, you need a standard substrate. Plants won't grow in coral sand or river sand; they need nutrient rich substrates of some type. Rely on the marine salt mix to maintain the pH and KH where you want it, plus possibly the addition of calcareous media to the filter. Once you decide to "upgrade" to a medium salinity system a year down the line, then you may as well move the puffers to a bigger aquarium, and use this (by now full of happy plants!) aquarium for guppies or whatever.> Thanks again for the quick and great advice. <Cheers, Neale.>

Fishless Cycling 02/29/2008 Greetings - <<Hello, Andrew this evening>> I've been doing a ton of researching regarding "fishless" cycling. I wish to set-up a brackish tank for a Green Spotted Puffer (I've done my fair share of research for these guys, too!). <<Sounds great>> I've just a few questions to clear up my understanding of doing this right: 1 - In my readings, I understand what "cycling a tank" means (establishing bacterial colonies that converts Ammonia to Nitrites to Nitrates). I do understand at the very start of new tank Ammonia levels will skyrocket, then suddenly plummet as the Nitrites take hold. Does that mean once the Ammonia and Nitrite levels are at 0, and Nitrates are up, the cycle is complete? <<Near enough yes. Once the ammonia and nitrite have gone back to zero, the nitrates will drop to around about 10ppm. When it stays at this level, with constant readings, then your cycle is complete>> 2 - I don't like the idea of using pure Ammonia, since I've read many things going wrong with others' tanks due to overdoing the Ammonia, resulting in a delay of the cycling process even further. However, I've read quite a few articles regarding the "shrimp" method. Taking a piece of shrimp and tying it in a pantyhose stocking, dropping it in the tank and letting it rot (as the source of Ammonia). Does it seem valid to you? Or dropping a few flakes a day seem more reasonable? <<Yes, i always recommend this route to cycle an aquarium. Remove the carcass when the ammonia reaches 4 - 5ppm >> 3 - Also, in terms of cycling a "brackish" tank - should I be adding the marine salt at the very start, or when the cycle has completed? What are the pros and cons of doing so? <<Yes, you need to set the specific gravity right from the start>> 4 - Last, but not least. In regards to a cycle WITH fish, I understand the importance of doing water changes to keep the Ammonia / Nitrite levels down as to not harm the fish. However, in a cycle WITHOUT fish, should one just let the bacteria colonize and NOT do water changes? Or should water changes be a routine in cycling the tank? <<When running a fishless cycle, there is no need to carry out a water change until the cycle has completed. As i mentioned in point 1, above, when you reading are at Ammonia, nitrate zero and nitrate about 10ppm and like this for a week, cycle id complete, and now its time to carry out a good 50% water change to replenish the tank. Then your all set to "slowly" start to stock the tank>> I appreciate your time in reading / responding to my questions. Happy fish keeping, Emily <<Hope the above helps Emily, any more questions, just ask away. Thanks for the questions. A Nixon>> Freshwater to Brackish Water 11/11/07 <Hi, Pufferpunk here> I'm thinking about converting one of my freshwater tanks to brackish water to house a green spotted puffer or two. What would be the best way to add the salt to my tank with out having to shut it down and cycle it again. <You should add enough pre-mixed marine salt to raise the specific gravity no more than .002/weekly water change. A little math is involved though.> The tank has been established for at least six months. Also, How would the green spotted puffer do in standard freshwater with no salt? <Forcing a brackish fish into freshwater for it's lifetime will compromise it's immune system, causing stunted growth, poor color, ill-health & shortened lifespan.> What kind of livestock can you put in with them? <Here is all you need to know: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/BrackishSubWebIndex/gspsart.htm Also check www.thepufferforum.com ~PP> Thank you for your help.

Re: Water problem is overwhelming...(converting to brackish)    7/15/07 Hi Tom - <<Hi, Kim.>> One more question. Now that Betta is gone and so is one of the molly's I'm going to turn that ten gallon into the brackish system you were talking about before. It will hold 2 marble mollies and 1 of the regular black mollies. <<I like the move, Kim. The Mollies will, too.>> This should be about 9 inches of fish - what should I put in there to eat the debris on the bottom? Are shrimps, crabs, something else better than some kind of Cory like fish that likes salt? <<Think in 'adult' sizes, Kim. The Black Molly will stay put at about 3 inches but the Marble (Sailfin) Mollies will grow to between 5-6 inches depending on gender. Overcrowded? Yes, but this is somewhat subjective, frankly. (I'm admittedly 'hedging' because I think this is a smart move!) I believe that converting even a small system to brackish conditions for the Mollies outweighs, in this case, the 'benefits' of leaving them in a larger, pure FW environment. Besides, you might see your way clear to upgrade down the line to a larger tank that will afford the addition of other brackish species. An interesting prospect in my view. As to potential new additions for clean-up purposes, there are none that I would advise based on your stocking levels, if nothing else. Everyone loves the look of a 'pristine' tank but, all too often, we overlook the quality of the water in favor of the 'appearance' of the aquarium. Every 'critter' you add will also add to the bio-load on the tank and filter. Don't want to push our luck too far here.>> OK - I lied - 2 questions... When the tank is ready for mollies, do I just stick them in there? Will going from FW to brackish be too much of a shock all at one time? <<Slowly acclimating the Mollies to brackish conditions is the way you want to approach this, Kim. You're quite right that going from FW straight to brackish will, indeed, shock your fish. As I, hopefully, suggested previously, you'll need a hydrometer and marine salt -- same as for SW tanks -- to accomplish the transition. Better to undershoot the specific gravity levels in the beginning than to overshoot. Once the Mollies have been transferred over to the 10-gallon tank, condition a couple of gallons of water (~20% of the tank capacity) and add 1-1.5 tablespoons of marine salt. Let it stand overnight and test the SG (specific gravity). This should read about 1.005-1.008 but this will depend on the manufacturer of the salt. (Remember that there are 'buffers' in marine salt that need to go 'into solution' along with the salt itself.) You can add some warm tap water to adjust for temperature before actually making the water change. Once you've changed your water, test the tank for its new SG. It will, of course, test lower for SG in the beginning than the new, conditioned water did. (Make some notes to yourself here. Might seem unnecessary but, on the other hand'¦) Now you have a baseline, of sorts, to work from. Obviously, in order to continue to increase the SG in the tank, your newly prepared water must be higher in SG than it currently is in the tank. I would aim at trying to increase the SG by no more than .002-.003 with each successive (weekly?) change. No need to rush this. Once the tank has reached an SG of about 1.011-1.015 (not quite as critical as it would be in a SW tank), simply prepare all new water to the same levels and you're 'golden'. The fortunate thing here is that your Mollies can be acclimated to full marine conditions -- with care -- so going a little high, should it happen, won't be a big problem. The main thing is to take your time with the process. Probably could be done in as little as two-three weeks but figure on a month or so.>> Thanks Tom! Kim <<You're welcome, Kim. Best of luck with your venture. I know your Mollies will appreciate your efforts! Tom>>

It's Alright To Tell Me I'm Nuts! Brackish set-up - 04/02/06 Hi guys and/or gals. <<Hello Eric>> All right, first I must say that this site has almost overloaded to my senses.  It is a great resource indeed. <<Agreed and thank you.>> I have been reading and reading but I guess that I have not found the exact answers so..........pretty  please...with sugar on top...could I ask a few???????? <<Ask away>> I started a 55-gallon saltwater FO tank a little over year ago. It has standard florescent hoods, 6" air strip and a 200W heater. <<Mmm, don't you find the air strip to cause a lot of salt creep?>>   It has ~2-2.5" of aragonite sand, not the fine sugar grain but the next larger grain size (maybe 1.5-2 mm) on the bottom. <<Ok>> I have two pieces of base rock(~20 lbs) that have been in from day one. <<Could likely benefit from a few more pounds of live rock.>> Filtration is a simple dual panel Wal-Mart back-filter and a Fluval 204 canister filter (w/ carbon, bio ring, and a Algone pillow) that gets changed out about once a week). <<Kudos on the weekly maintenance.>> Water conditions stay pretty stable at: ammonia=0ppm; nitrite=0ppm; nitrate=40ppm, PH=8.0, SG~1.021. <<Need to get those nitrates below 20pmm, and the specific gravity is lower than I care for...even for a FO/FOWLR tank.>> I do a 30% water change and sand vacuum every 2-3 weeks.  I know the nitrates are a little high, however I just can't seem to get them to fall. <<More live rock.>> A little too much food or either too much or too little a sand bed is my guess. <<Since you bring it up, your sand bed is in that "zone" where it's not quite deep enough to function efficiently as a DSB, yet a bit too deep for easy care/cleaning.  Two inches either way (add or remove) would be about right, in my opinion.>> The current residents: 4) Monodactylus argenteus (~3.5"), one green spotted puffer (~2.5"), one figure-8 puffer (~2"), and our pride and joy we added two weeks ago, a Naso (lipstick) tang (~5"). <<Couple things to bring up here...I believe the puffers you have are more brackish water animals than saltwater...and I feel your tank is too small for the Naso for the long term.>> The Monos have been in there pretty much from day one.  We did have a yellow tang to get the Monos to school a little, however they didn't and he did not make it. <<Mmm, wonder why...?>> The puffers were added for the same reason no schooling and they may be on their way back to the store soon as they are just not my "cup-o-tea".  I love Monos, however I think I have given up on the idea to keep them in a tight school. <<Indeed my friend.  Many folks discover that fish behavior in the wild does not always transfer to the unnatural confines of an aquarium.  Another consideration...if you were to observe the Monos as the are now, but in a natural environment consisting of millions of gallons of water as opposed to the 55 gallons they are in now, would they not appear to be schooling?>> They get fed a light breakfast of simple flakes in the morning.  At night I will usually feed a 2"-3" strip of Nori followed by 2 or 3 cubes of frozen food (Mysis shrimp, brine shrimp, or blood worms).  All the food gets eaten but it seems like a lot of food now that I say (..eee..aaa..type!) it out loud. <<Maybe so, but I'm a strong advocate for feeding fish well.  I started out in this hobby more than 30 years ago when it was common to feed fish as little as once or twice a week as a means for reducing "pollution".  I can tell you, the difference between those fish/systems and the fish I keep today which are WELL fed, is the difference between night and day.  And for those of us with reef systems...one of the best foods for your corals is what is "processed" by your fish.  I'm sure this is in part due to the advances in fish foods/husbandry practices since then, but the most nutritious food in the world does no good if you aren't presenting it to the fish.  But enough of my diatribe...>> The Monos really are glutens.  They just steal the show in the eating department.  If it is not nailed down then they are all over it.  Our Naso is a great eater and will eat all the above sans the blood worms and flakes. <<Give some frozen glass worms (mosquito larvae) a try.  And do try giving the flake foods a soak in Selcon just before feeding.  You can continue with the brine shrimp if you wish (little nutritional value), just be care not to feed exclusively/in the majority.>> Now that I have read so much on this website I now see a few things that I could have done differently (either more or less sand, more rock, and maybe a little more filtration????) <<Yes>> My wife and I have purchased a used 135 gallon (72"L x 24"H x 18"D) glass tank with a beautiful slide around cabinet system for $250 (yes it holds water) and want to start out right. <<Wow!  A bargain indeed!>> So here are some of my ideas and questions.   <<Okey Dokey>> We want to use a DSB. <<Yea!  I am a big fan/user of this methodology.>> I figure about 5" bed. <<Ok>> I won't lie....I am  a "cheap skate" (I know...I know...I found the wrong hobby <<hee!>>) and look to keep cost down wherever possible.  I was going to use the Southdown playground sand (or equivalent aragonite sand if I can find it) that has been discussed several times on this site.  I am figuring about 300lbs. should do it. <<Is what I used/have...about 950 pounds of it in a 500 gallon system (375g display).>> Should I use the existing sand from my 55 gallon tank with the  playground sand? <<You can>> Maybe use a little as a seed since it will take several weeks for the new tank to cycle? <<Yes>> What are your thoughts on using the uncooked shrimp method of starting the cycle? <<Much, MUCH!, more preferable to using live fish...and I find just a few "shrimp pellets" tossed in every couple days does a fine job on its own.>> The 55 will not be used after the fish are transplanted into the larger tank so I will not need the sand or rock for it. <<A sump/refugium for the 135 perhaps?>> How about live rock? <<What about it?>> I know it will speed up the process, but is it necessary? <<Quite beneficial/recommended.>> I will be adding pieces of base rock as decor, so should I break down and buy some live rock as well? <<I would>> We will have plenty of time to prep and cycle the new tank before the fish are placed in it. <<Good to hear.>> Should I start from scratch with all virgin materials? <<Not necessary>>   Will I need some type of sifting creatures to help "turn" the sand once it is all started? <<Be careful of these...You'll find differing opinions even among us at WWM, but is my opinion that many of the "sand-sifting" critters can/will quickly decimate the biota in a sand bed.  A healthy/robust population of worms and micro crustaceans will help to keep the sand bed "disturbed".  But if you want a "sifter", one of the better choices I feel is the brown-barred or convict goby Amblygobius phalaena (is what I have).  This sand-sifter doesn't seem to dig as "deeply" as the other sifting gobies, and is definitely less destructive to the biota than a sand-sifting starfish...again, my opinion.  A. phalaena also includes algae as a large part of its diet...always a plus.>> Let's talk heaters.  I have the 200W unit from the 55 and a brand new 250W unit that was given with the new tank.  Both are submersible.  It seems that these two used together is just on the edge of enough wattage. <<Some environmental factors to consider I reckon.  I have two 300 watt heaters that have proven to be more than enough for my 500 gallon system...but my system includes multiple submersed pumps, and is built in to a wall...and I live in SC so my winter temps are not extreme.>> We are in the San Jose, California area and the temperature inside the house rarely gets too cold (60deg F).  Should I just keep and eye on it and see if the temp in the tank stays stable?   <<Sounds like a good plan.>> Filters.  I do not want to use the back filter (clearance issues and the "cheesiness" factor).  I will keep it for a quarantine tank or hospital tank. <<Do have a look through our FAQs re.>> I was hoping to use the existing Fluval 204 with another  unit.....maybe a 404 or 405.  That would seem to be the limit of this combination.  The new FX5 unit would seem to be able to do the job on its own.  Any thoughts on this? <<Indeed...  For this system I would like to recommend a fluidized-bed filter.  This combined with the sand bed/live rock will be sufficient bio-filtration.  Relegate the existing canister filter to chemical filtration duty (carbon/Poly-Filter).>> I also have a few power heads that came with the new tank.  Should I use them for current flow? <<Vigorous random turbulent flow benefits most all marine systems...yes.>> Also, I have not used any protein skimmer to this point. <<Could help with the nitrates/overall system health.>>   I would guess that now, if  needed, is the time to factor one. <<Yes>> Do I need one in a FO tank? <<My opinion...absolutely.>> Lighting.  The lights that came with the new tank are a common housing with two 20w florescent bulbs.  Seems a little small to me...maybe  not. <<Mmm...me too.>> I was thinking of building my own housings and using two 36w  fixtures. <<Ok>> I was going to use the Coralife 50/50 bulb or similar. <<A matter of personal taste/sense of aesthetics, but you may find the daylight (6500K) bulbs will show off your fish better.  Or maybe 10,000K bulbs as a compromise?>> Will a single bulb unit (for a total of two bulbs) be adequate or should I get the dual bulb fixtures (for a total of 4 bulbs)? <<The single bulb units would "suffice" though they may appear a bit dim for this tank...I would get the dual units for more punch/flexibility.>> It there a better suggestion on bulbs? <<See my previous comments re.>> We are getting rid of our large entertainment center for this 135 gallon entertainment center so we would like to "set off" the fishes colors without breaking the bank too bad. <<Experiment with bulb choices.>> As far as new inhabitants to the tank I was definitely going to add some more Monos.  Maybe 1 or 2 more argenteus and 2 to 3 Sebaes for a total of 8 Monos. <<Have you read here?   http://www.wetwebmedia.com/monos.htm >> Now I did read that Monos need to be schooled in odd numbers.  Is this "bunk" or is there a method to the madness? <<Hmm...has been my experience that if a particular fish is going to "school", the exact number of individuals play little if any part.>> My wife would like to add another tang or two.  I have read that tangs sometimes do not play well together. <<Much in agreement.>> Any suggestions? <<Perhaps a (as in ONE!) Zebrasoma (Yellow/Purple) 'OR' Ctenochaetus (Tomini/Kole/Convict) specie.>> Our goal is to have the Monos and the Naso tang but start to add a bit of color other than silver and yellow.   <<Understood>> So....am I way off base here? <<I don't think so.>> I am I even close? <<yup>> Like is said,  I have read a great deal of information before writing....however with all the information to digest....it gets a little overwhelming. <<Indeed>> I thank you in advance with any suggestions or recommendations you may offer.  Even if it is to say....DUDE.......YOUR NUTS!!!!!!! <<Hah!  No worries mate.>> Eric <<Regards, EricR>>

Eyes Bigger than Tank?  2/14/06 <Hi, Pufferpunk here> Hey there, me again. Thank you for all your previous advice. VERY bad news, though. My tank is now broken (All fish are A-OK)! So that new tank might be coming sooner than I thought... Anyways, my point is, next year I was considering getting a ~100 gallon tank, and making it an archer fish tank. I was thinking six common archers (not seven-spot) in the bottom 75 gallons, and a cricket part on top. <As archers grow to a foot, I would say you could maybe keep 2 in a 100g tank.  That's it.> Would I be able to get ~4 scats that my LFS says will stay around 4 inches as well? <Scats grow as large as a dinner plate, not 4".  Again, you could keep 2 in there, that's it & no archers then.> Or maybe some gobies too... do you have any compatible suggestions of interesting fish for a brackish tank? It will be very well planted with tons of driftwood to simulate mangrove roots and have lots of java fern. <If you are using real wood, then it is not recommended in a BW tank.  It will release tannins & lower the pH.  You want to keep the pH around a steady 8.  Best done by using crushed coral or aragonite substrate & no driftwood.  PetSmart makes really nice fake mangrove roots for a tank like that.> Any fish/plant/decoration suggestions would be appreciated. Also, I cannot find any suggestions on how much salt to use! What salinity level should the water be at and how many tablespoons of Kent sea salt will I have to use per gallon? <We are not talking teaspoons but more like cups.  It takes "roughly" a cup of salt/5g to raise your SG .005.  Depending on what kind of fish you get, some (like scats) need to have the SG raised over time, to eventual marine conditions, as these fish mature.  Always premix overnight & test with a hydrometer.> I was also looking at freshwater lionfish for the tank (toadfish). Good choice, or not? <If you're considering any gobies, the toadfish will eat them.  BIG mouth! I would suggest either 2 archers or 2 scats, or 1 of each.  Then if you want, you could keep a few knight gobies in with them.  There are lots of smaller BW fish, like figure 8 puffers, green or red Chromides, etc.  Just remember, some prefer high-end BW/SW as adults, others don't.>    If you have any suggestions, please tell me. Also, I was wondering if you could recommend  any filters for this tank. Remember, I am pretty much limited to canisters as other filters would not reach the low water level. <I am only familiar with Eheim filters.  Have been using them for >20 years & still use the originals.> Thank you, and take your time with this, as I am in no rush to begin this future project. Thanks again. -Eddy <Yes, take your time to research different species--water requirements, adult sizes, etc.  Sounds like a fun project!  ~PP>  

Brackish Means Using Marine Salt  1/12/06 Pufferpunk, Thanks for the response. I am constantly learning in this hobby. I am not sure about the specific gravity. I added 15 teaspoons of aquarium (not marine) salt to the system before adding any fish. <It takes roughly a cup of MARINE salt/5g to make a brackish specific gravity of around 1.005 (suitable for F8 puffers & bumblebee gobies).  Aquarium salt in no way, may your water brackish.  Read: http://www.thepufferforum.com/articles/water/salt.html> My goal was to create a salt content between fresh and brackish. I planned on adding a tablespoon of aquarium salt every third (25%) water change to maintain current conditions. <That's not enough  salt & the totally wrong salt.> I also realize that Siamese Algae Eaters are not made for brackish water. However, I was told by the manager of Aquarium Adventures, Columbus Ohio, that if I wanted an algae eater that would do an awesome job with algae and was from the river systems I was attempting to reproduce that the SAE was my fish. <There are no algae eaters that are comfortable in BW.  Rivers are not BW.  The estuaries between FW rivers & the ocean are BW.  The ocean is made from marine salt, not just plain NaCl.> He explained that the SAE would not do well in brackish conditions but would be fine in a slightly saltier than normal fresh water. <But that's not salty enough for the fish you have.> I also understand that BBG and F8 puffers will be fine in slightly saltier than normal freshwater. <By slightly saltier, yes they are kept in low-end BW (1.005-1.008), as compared to mid range (1.009-1.014) or high-end BW (1.015-1.019).> Therefore, I assumed I could create a SG that would work decently for both. <Can't be done.  You can't mix BW & FW fish in the same tank.> Doesn't the aquarium salt help prevent diseases anyway? <That's bunk--read the article I linked you to above, on salt.> As far as the overstocking, I am guilty as charged. I will be sure not to add anything else to the tank.  Why do people suggest BBG's as tankmates for F8 puffers if they will get eaten? I have never understood why people say (in the same articles) that BBG are great tankmates but also warn they could get eaten by puffers. <Sometimes they do & sometimes they don't get eaten.  Depends on the puffer & good hiding places for all the gobies.> I had quite a hard time finding my BBGs (contacted 30+ pet stores). Only one place had them and out of sure excitement I headed there right away (over an hour drive) and bought all they had. The gobies were pretty small and I feared that the F8 puffer would eat many of them and so though I planned to buy 6 or 7 I bought them all. So far they have gotten bigger (about 1 inch) and seem to be doing fine. I usually count like 14 or 15 and assume 2 could be hiding. They move so fast anyway. I attached a picture of my tank that is supposed to represent where Southeast Asian rivers meet a mangrove habitat. The roots, rocks and live java fern seem to give the gobies hiding places. The puffer has his own huge cave and seems to enjoy it. There are also little cracks and crevices around the cave where the gobies hide. The SAEs seem content to swim around and eat algae and leftovers. <I would suggest a thicket of plants for more hiding.  ~PP> Thanks again. Matt Pace        

Set Up and Stocking in One Day - 12/07/2005 I set up a brackish water tank and all day the tank was clear the fish were active and eating, nothing unusual. I had 2 Green Scats and a Green Puffer. When I went to feed them this morning the water was extremely cloudy and the fish were dead. <Surprise, surprise.> Could this have been a filter problem. <Well yes in a manner of speaking. Not physical however, but biological. This is what happens when fish are thrown into an uncycled tank.> I had them on a Whisper filter overnight and was going to get a BioWheel but I didn't get a chance to. Any ideas? <Study. - Josh> 

Brackish Aquarium Desired 10/13/05 <Hi, Pufferpunk here> I would very much appreciate some advice on how to make the transition from freshwater aquarium to a brackish aquarium. I currently have a six gallon freshwater tank with two mollies and one puffer; I believe a spotted puffer, originally sold from a freshwater tank. Eventually I do intend to get a larger tank to accommodate the puffer. <I suggest sooner than later. I feel even a juvenile GSP shouldn't be kept in a tank smaller than 10g. As an adult they need a 30g minimum.>  A couple of days ago I changed my gravel to coral sand which so far has raised my PH from 7.3 to approximately 7.6+.  <That's a good start.> In the near future I would like to acclimate this freshwater setup to a brackish environment. I've read an article that recommended adding marine salt and increasing the salinity by .002 per week. I'm somewhat confused with this statement. If you start of with a freshwater tank than you're starting off at a 0 salinity level. If the desired level for brackish water is 1.005 and you divide this number by .002 and get 502.5 weeks to make the total transition! Obviously something is being overlooked.  <If you start with 1.000 (FW) & raise the SG by .002, then you have a SG of 1.002. For a juvie GSP, your desired SG should be around 1.008-1.010. Since you should be doing weekly 50% water changes for your puffer, it should not be too difficult to figure out.  Remove 5 gal from a 10g tank. In the meantime you have premixed 5 gal of water to a SG of 1.004. When added to your FW tank, you will then have a SG of 1.002.   Keep doing that weekly (you'll have to do the math to figure out for the salt you have removed) raising the SG.  .002/weekly water change. In a month, you will have a SG of 1.008. A little hint: It roughly takes around a cup of marine salt to raise the SG by .005.>  If you could, please provide me the information necessary to make this transition.  Thank you, Mike <Here's an article on your puffer: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/BrackishSubWebIndex/gspsart.htm ~PP< 

Green Spotted Puffers from Wal-Mart  8/8/05 (and brackish set-up f') Hello, <Hi, Pufferpunk here to answer all your puffer questions.> I've looked over you website, and will have to admit that I'm completely illiterate to most of the terminology used here.  I am a total novice fish owner. Here is my story, and my problem. About 2 weeks ago I purchased (from Wal-Mart) two yellowish green, black polka dotted, white bellied fish about 1 inch in length that the department store had labeled puffer fish.   <That is the green spotted puffer (Tetraodon nigroviridis).> I also purchased a brand new 5 gallon tank, with filter and blood worms.   <As juvenile fish, a 10g tank may suffice for a short while, but after they have reached over 2", they will quickly grow to their adult 6" size & require 30g each.> I followed all directions given me by the tank, de-chlorinating the water, allowing it to filter over night, before adding the fish.  At this point there was no decorations in the tank.   <This is a very common newbie move.  You must cycle a tank before purchasing fish, especially puffers.  They are very sensitive to the toxins they produce.   In short: 1) Fish produce waste products.   2) Waste forms toxic ammonia. 3) Toxic ammonia burns fish's gills, eyes, fins, skin, etc. 4) Ammonia devouring bacteria that occur naturally all around us colonize in the tank and begin feeding on the ammonia, and multiplying. 5) Ammonia eating bacteria also has to relieve themselves, and its waste is what we call nitrItes.  Nitrites are toxic to fish as well (it decreases oxygen levels in the fish's blood, causing the fish to suffocate). 6) Other naturally occurring bacteria arrive and devour the nitrItes and multiply. 7) NitrIte eating bacteria also has to relieve themselves, and its waste is what we call nitrAtes. 8) Sometimes, live plants can be used remove parts of this final product of the nitrogen cycle. Not enough to keep nitrAte levels at an acceptable level, so we perform weekly water changes to get rid of the rest of the nitrAtes. This entire process can take up to 8 weeks. In the meantime, get a 20g tank & cycle it with Bio-Spira for an instant cycle.> I let the fish swim around for about 2 days before purchasing some aquarium gravel (light tannish in color) and a spongy looking rock (also light tan) with a hole through it that  local aquarium store had recommended.  I removed my fish, vacuumed out the tank, completely replenished it with fresh water (de-chlorinated), added the gravel and rock, allowed it to filter for about 12 hours, then added the fish.  I've been feeding my fish blood worms as was recommended by the aquarium store as well. Since then, one of my little buddies has gotten ill.  He has a dark grey discoloration that looks like a bread mold growing from his flanks down over his little belly, and now over his back.  His tank mate is starting to show some of the same symptoms now.  They both have a loss of appetite now, and are very lethargic.  I'm a complete beginner in this so I beg for patience if this is a subject already covered on your site.  To be honest with you, now that I've browsed your site and seen many of the pictures of the puffers there, I'm not even entirely sure that is what I have.  Please help though, I can't stand for the little guy to suffer. <Here is a good article on your puffers: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/BrackishSubWebIndex/gspsart.htm & a great forum about puffers: www.thepufferforum.net> Thank you very much for your time and patience, Morgan Kelsey <Puffers are not for the novice aquarium keeper.  Read all you can.  ~PP>

Set Up and Stocking in One Day - 12/07/2005 I set up a brackish water tank and all day the tank was clear the fish were active and eating, nothing unusual. I had 2 Green Scats and a Green Puffer. When I went to feed them this morning the water was extremely cloudy and the fish were dead. <Surprise, surprise.> Could this have been a filter problem. <Well yes in a manner of speaking. Not physical however, but biological. This is what happens when fish are thrown into an uncycled tank.> I had them on a Whisper filter overnight and was going to get a BioWheel but I didn't get a chance to. Any ideas? <Study. - Josh> 

Keeping BW & FW fish together  4/27/05 Hello: <Hi, Pufferpunk again> Thank you for all your help. My LFS has steered me VERY wrong, leading me to believe my cichlids (electric yellow, jewel, blue Johanna <I think>) are brackish water fish...... <As I mentioned before, cichlid salt is not the same as the marine salt, used to make BW.> OPPS, I also have 2 GSPs. My question is, although I know GSP's Like full SW as adults will they survive in a light brackish tank i.e. 1.004-1.008?   <As juvies yes, but your other fish won't appreciate those conditions.  Also, as they get older, they will get meaner & bother your other fish (fin-nipping, possibly killing).  For GSPs to thrive (not just survive), they will need a much higher SG.  Not necessarily SW, but high-end BW.  One of the he reasons for getting it up to SW is, that a protein skimmer can then be utilized, which is a great filter to use for fish.> I would love to keep them and the cichlids together, I now have a 30G hex BUT looking for a 55-75 G Tank. <You'll need at least a 55, just for the puffers as 6" adults.> MAN, I started out with guppies. LOL! The money adds up.  VERY addictive. <Boy, are you ever right!  I now have 9 tanks & 15 puffers!.  Please don't keep FW & BW fish together.  ~PP> Thanks again for the help I am slowly learning and appreciate the advice. Mike

Brackish Aquarium Setup Hello, <Hi again> I am setting up a 20 G. brackish aquarium for 2 figure 8 puffers. The question I have is about cycling the tank. To do so should I buy mollies or use (from what I read) "bacteria in a bottle." ? I also read that F8 puffers don't require as much salt as the GSP so would 2tbs salt/ 5 gallon be fine? Also would that salt ratio be fine for Bumblebee gobies? I look forward to your response!!!! THANKS! Ashley <Remember that WWM link? Be reading there. Bob Fenner>
Re: Brackish Aquarium Setup - Follow-up
Here's the thing. I wouldn't of email any of you guys if I haven't been to your site. I tried to read as much info as possible from top to bottom on brackish aquarium/setup/ and species. Plus masc. searches on Google. All the links are purple from me already being there - not blue. And here is the problem, I do not understand half of what I am reading on your site. Everyone needs to get all technical and not get right down to the facts. I know it my problem but I just thought maybe I could get some straight answers. <Ah, please do ask away then... in a straight-forward (limited) manner, and we will try to supply useful information for you. There are unfortunately (as far as I'm aware) no simple books on brackish water aquarium keeping... nor websites... Cycling itself is identical to freshwater or marine... and if you keep spg near 1.005 or so, the same microbes as freshwater will suffice if you want to use a bacteria prep. (like BioSpira). Bob Fenner>

"Brackish" Tank?  11/25/04 Hello there.   <Hi, Pufferpunk here> I have a brackish, cycled 10 gallon tank, temp 76F, with 4 female and 2 male balloon mollies, and a Pleco.  I recently added 2 new females (still have total of 7).   <Hmmmm, none of those fish are brackish water fish.  Especially the Pleco--they don't appreciate salt at all.  The livebearers like a little aquarium salt (1 tbsp/5-10 gal).  BW is made by adding marine salt.  Also, common Plecos grow to 18+", way to large for a 10g tank!> Within a day, one of the new females started shimmying and rubbing up against rocks.  Then, BAM! as Emeril would say - I had about 19 fry that I removed to another tank (not sure if the newbies had them or not).   <Yup, that's what livebearers do--have lots of babies!> Two days later the 2nd new female started the same activity.  I'm not sure if the new ones are used to a higher saline level or what. <How much salt is in there?  What kind?> I've raised the temp to 78F, <That's better, tropical fish should be kept at 78-82 degrees.  Any lower than that will compromise their immune systems & cause diseases.> did a 25% water change, added about 3 teaspoons of salt, and treated with CopperSafe for suspected ich.   <You should never treat a tank for a disease you aren't sure your fish have.> I'm worried what to do if this shimmy/rubbing problem spreads to the original 4, who have never had the problem before.  Is there anything else I should/should not be doing?  Thanks in advance for your time and help. <The salt is good at the dose of 1 tbsp/5gal.  It wouldn't hurt to raise the temp to 84 for right now.  If you don't want to keep having lots & lots of babies, you're going to have to separate the males from the females.  Test the tank for ammonia, nitrItes, nitrAtes & pH.  Ammonia & nitrItes should be 0 at all times.  NitrAtes should be <20 & pH should be close to neutral.  ~PP> ~Eva Brackish Cycling Woes... 3/10/04 <Hi, Pufferpunk here> I set up a 55g freshwater tank with the intentions of making it brackish a couple weeks ago and seeded the filters with some bio-media from an existing tank. I put three BB gobies in it and it was fine for a week with no signs of ammonia or nitrite spikes so I got a small 1-1/2" GSP. As soon as I put in the GSP I started to raise the salinity and got to about 1.002/1.003. I left it here for a couple days and then noticed that the nitrites were reading at about .50. I've been doing 50% water changes everyday now for a almost a week and the nitrite levels go from .25 after the water change back to .50 overnight. I added more media from my freshwater tank along with some Cycle. Is this minor nitrite spike due to die off and regeneration of bacteria with this small of a change in salinity? Can I expect the same type of spike when raising the sg again from say 1.003 to 1.006? <SW nitrifying bacteria is a different animal than FW bacteria. No one knows for sure at what that SG the changeover occurs.  This is why you must raise the SG very slowly, so as the FW bacteria dies of, there is time for the SW bacteria to develop.  .002/week should be ok.  Cycle is a waste of $$$ & could add to your problems.  I'm actually almost sure it is a large cause of your problems, since you don't have much of a bioload from your small amount of fish in that size tank.  Although Cycle claims to: "Contains beneficial bacteria, Nitrosomonas & Nitrobacter, which work together to eliminate harmful toxins, rapidly matures new aquarium water, accelerates biological waste breakdown and purifies water".  The only product that contains LIVE nitrifying bacteria is Bio-Spira.  I have seen many problems with nitrites in folks tanks after adding Cycle.  I would add some FW Bio-Spira to straighten things out.  Add it directly to you filter.  Seeding your filter w/fish poop, does not cycle a tank.  Adding Cycle is just more waste.  Adding fish waste was a source for the ammonia to grow, the first step in the nitrogen cycle, then the nitrites grow from the ammonia (you must have been at this point when you added the GSP) and interrupted the cycle of the tank.  Adding the "cycle" made things worse and Bio-Spira will instant cycle the tank putting all water param.s back on track.  ~PP>

Brackish Cycling Woes...  3/15/04 <Pufferpunk here again> Thanks for the advice PP and I did purchase Bio-Spira but my LFS said I should go with the SW version due to their reasoning that the FW bacteria will have a larger die-off due to the salinity levels than the SW version will with a low salinity level. I think is was just because the SW was $25.00 for a 55gal packet. <I think they were wrong.  Your SG is closer to FW than SW & I have has success w/Bio-Spira at a SG of 1.012.> So I did a 50% water change and slowly raised the salinity from 1.002 to 1.008 over about a 24 hour period and added the bio-Spira. <I think raising the SG .002/week & the FW B-S would have been better.> After 3 days my nitrite levels are still lingering between .25 and .50 and ammonia remains at 0, and I'm not getting any readable nitrates.   <I think your tank is still cycling then.  Sorry you wasted your $$$ on the SW version B-S.  Keep a close eye for a nitrite spike & then a nitrate spike.> I added another small GSP at the same time I added the Bio-Spira. <As tempting as that is, it probably not a good idea.> I have been feeding sparingly and they eat with much enthusiasm and the poop looks normal from what I can tell. It's brown and solid, not stringy. <That's good> One of the puffers has developed a couple fuzzy fungus looking spots on him and the other has always had a large belly but I noticed three small light blue oval shaped rings on it. They are not perfectly symmetrical. Their color is always bright green on top with nice white bellies. I don't know if they are getting sick from the small amount of nitrite lingering in the tank or they have some fungus infection. <I don't think that much nitrite will be extremely harmful, but keep on with the water changes, until you get it to 0.  I would add Melafix and/or Pimafix for the fungus.  Again, good luck ~PP>>

Protect our Fish? Hi, November 15 we set up a 55 gallon tank with 12 feeder fish and added Hagen's "Cycle" to help cycle, 2 weeks later we removed the feeder fish (told to do this by our Local pet store) and made it brackish (salinity is 1.008), and introduced the following fish 4 Mono sebae's (2 inches), 3 knight gobies (1-2 inches), 1 Dragon fish (6 inches), 2 green spotted puffers (1.5 inches).  Now 2 weeks later (Dec. 17) we are experiencing readings of: ammonia: 4.0; nitrate: 5.0; ph: 7.2; temp: 78°F.<wow...you have quite a bit of ammonia in your aquarium...you may loose some of your fish...I would do water changes ASAP>  We have been using aquarium pharmaceuticals test kits.  We have the Emperor filter system with the double bio-wheels, it has slots for filter cartridges plus slots (w/plastic holders) for additional carbon (we have been using "ammo carb" in these sections).  We haven't changed our filter since set up (only the "ammo carb" in the plastic holders) Are we experiencing these bad water levels because the tank hasn't cycled properly or due to changing the fish? <probably because the aquarium hasn't cycled yet and you have too many fish> We lost one little puffer a week ago.<as expected> Can you advise us on how to stabilize the water without losing any more fish.<get rid of all your fish...cycle your aquarium and then get fish once your aquarium is cycled> We have been doing water changes (RO) in order to save our fish, first a 25% change (Dec. 12), and then a 4 gal.<you need to do like 25 gallon water changes to dilute the ammonia> change on Dec. 14.  Ammonia has not budged, nitrates have just risen to 5.0. Ph still 7.2 Our question is: How do we cycle our tank without affecting the fish? Will our tank take longer to cycle, since we are trying to save the fish? <save the fish by doing this...find them a good home...cycle your aquarium...then purchase new fish, Good luck, IanB> We have the following chemicals: "Prime" "Cycle" "Ammo Carb" <I don't use any of those chemicals> Will you post my answers on the site or email them directly to me?<both> Thank you so much, you guys are MOST appreciated!! <Good luck and happy holidays, IanB> Glynis Protect our Fish? - I forgot to mention Hi, I forgot to mention with the email I sent earlier (below): We have an air bubble curtain underneath the gravel: the bubbles are along the length of the backside of the tank, will this affect the bacteria from forming? <I would get rid of the air bubbles...stir the gravel up a little bit> Also I am feeding twice, morning and evening, is this okay? <Ya, that is ok> Thank You for your time, I look forward to your response. Glynis <good luck, IanB>

A new brackish aquarium (10/19/03) Hello there... <Hi! Ananda here tonight...> my name is Robert Baxter and I've got a few questions about the proper maintenance of a brackish aquarium I just set up. I have two aquariums, one 55 gallon and a 10 gallon. Just recently a plague of Ich wiped out half the fish in my 55 while all the fish of the 10 gallon survived. In the large one I originally had two Oscars, two angels (very veteran angles, have lived with two 12" Oscars before, two 8" Pacus at a later time, and now with the two baby 2.5" Oscars), a two Raphael catfishes, a fat fin catfish, three zebra Danios (originally cycled the aquarium, Oscar chow), a large plecostomus, and two convicts. Both Raphael's, the convicts, all the zebras, and the fat fin catfish died before the Ich was suppressed with advice from a real expert. <Let me see...leaving the 55 with the Pleco, angels, and small Oscars?> Having taken her advice as the resident brackish nerd in the city and probably the entire area, I decided to move all my little fish from my 10 gallon aquarium (two tiny Plecos, an albino Cory and 11 neon tetras to re-cycle the aquarium after a total cleaning) into my 55 gallon and start up a brackish aquarium. <Uh, neon tetras are definitely *not* what I'd use to cycle a tank... and those neons may be destined to be Oscar lunch.> Now my large aquarium is good with my Oscars happily fed many neons and a new catfish to clean the floor (the two extra Plecos will be adopted by a store where I'm good with), and I just got the 10 gallon set up. With black volcanic sand and a few plants to help stabilize the water, I put in two bumblebee gobies and a pufferfish of equal size. Now at the pet store I was told that the gobies eat shrimp food pellets (or at least that's what they feed them at the store), but after having read articles about gobies here on these Q&A pages, I am worried that I don't have the right food. <If you've got the gobies eating dry food, you're in luck. Most bumblebee gobies will not eat dry food. You can add some fishy vitamin drops to them to make them more nutritious.> The pufferfish has delightfully been eating all my remaining frozen blood worms from a deceased eel, but I don't know if he will continue to like that or not. <Puffers can get bored of some foods. And they *need* hard-shelled foods, including seafoods, snails, and the like. Check out the assorted "Puffer Feeding FAQs" on the WetWebMedia site.> Ok, here's enough beating around the bush. What is the optimal hardness, temperature, and food for this tank to be set up for breeding? <For breeding the bumblebee gobies?? It probably depends on the specific species of bumblebee gobies -- there are several similar species. Your first step would be to identify the exact species, and then check http://www.fishbase.org for more info about that species.> There are only about 4 pet stores in this city where I could look for frozen or live foods, but I wouldn't expect to find anything exotic here. Professional suggestions? <The frozen seafood section at the grocery store is going to be a primary source of foods for your gobies & puffer. For example, one of my puffers' favorite foods is shrimp tails. I buy tail-on shrimp, chop off the end of the shrimp for the big gobies, and the puffers get the tail sections, with the shell still on. Just take care to freeze any fresh seafood for about a week to kill off any nasties it might be carrying. --Ananda> Robert Baxter

How do you set up a brackish water tank for my puffer? (06/25/03) <Hi. Ananda here again...> Ok   I love little puffers,  I just bought a green spot he is very little right now, he is in his own ten gallon tank, <Did you cycle the tank first? If not, please return the puffer to the fish store -- as a scaleless fish, he is not at all likely to survive the cycle!> he was in a brackish water tank at the pet store they told me there to gut 1 cup of salt for every 5 gallons , and I was like wow that is a lot of salt... <If that's how much salt they were using at the fish store where you got the puffer, that's how much salt you should be using. Using more or less right now will add more stress to what your puff is already going through.> and I got on line and couldn't really find anything but the specific gravity, <Double-check your spelling: it's "specific gravity", not "specific gravity". There should be quite a bit about it on the WetWebMedia site.> and since I don't have a hydrometer that does me no good... <You should have purchased a hydrometer before you purchased your puffer.> so I decided about a tablespoon per gallon... and my little puffer doesn't look very happy... <Not nearly enough salt when he's used to more.> I called the pet store where I got him and they said to take a nylon footie thing and scoop up some gravel from my 55 that has been set up for a long time to jump start the nitrates or something like that related to bacteria. <Please read up on the nitrogen cycle!! Start here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/setup/filtration/biological/biofiltr.htm ... this is for saltwater aquariums, but almost all of the material is applicable to brackish tanks. The two differences are specific gravity and pH, and those should be covered in the puffer pages.> then I was reading on the puffer and some sites said he was freshwater others brackish, and some said he was fresh when young moving as far as marine when adult    <"The" puffer? There are many types of puffers... and further, there are a couple of different species that have been called green-spotted puffers.> so how do I set up his tank? <In my honest opinion... First, return him to the fish store for at least a temporary basis. Second, read more about these fish (and tank-keeping in general, since you are unfamiliar with the nitrogen cycle). Third, get the equipment you need. A hydrometer is mandatory. Fourth, read some more while your tank cycles. When your tank is done cycling, *then* get the puffer.  ...Please, do slow down in this endeavor. I see far too many letters from people with sick puffers where the puffer's illness could have been prevented if the fishkeeper had a bit more knowledge about puffers and their requirements *before* the person bought the puffer. Please read up on the green-spotted puffers and other puffs, on the WetWebMedia site and elsewhere. Your puffer has the potential to live for almost fifteen years -- IF you know how to take care of him. --Ananda>

How do you set up a brackish water tank? (06/23/03) Hello, <Hi! Ananda here tonight....> I'm Leslie. I only have one main question. HOW DO YOU SET UP A BRACKISH WATER AQUARIA? <The short answer: pretty much the same way as you set up a freshwater aquarium, but with a bit of salt.> How much salt do you put in it? <That depends on what kind of fish you want to keep.> What kind of salt? <Ordinary marine salt -- I use Instant Ocean for my brackish tank because it's readily available and not that expensive.> How long does it take to get everything balanced? <It takes about a month to cycle a brackish tank.> Is it very high maintenance? <Nope. Only slightly higher than freshwater, and nowhere near what a saltwater tank requires.> Is there a fairly large variety of brackish fish? <[grin] That depends on what you mean by "fairly large". Only a small subset of the brackish fish that exist are suitable for keeping in aquariums, but there are still a lot of fish that you can keep in a brackish tank. When I started keeping fish, I picked a brackish tank because I was overwhelmed by the sheer variety of freshwater fish. I've since learned that there are a lot of fish typically sold as freshwater fish that will do fine in brackish water.> Are most of the fish friendly? <If you mean non-aggressive, yes, generally.> And what about puffers in brackish water? <Yup! Some of the most commonly-available puffers are brackish fish. They need their own tank, though -- they like to munch on other fishes' fins.> How do you check salinity? with a hydrometer or something like that? <Bingo. I use the SeaTest aquarium hydrometer, since it's an inexpensive full-range hydrometer.> OK that was more than one question, but there are so many sites for beginners that are step by step to set up freshwater tanks, but the closest I've come for brackish is the correct salinity.     Thanks a Lot, ~Leslie <We've got a lot of brackish info on the WetWebMedia site. And the WetWebMedia chat forums include an active brackish forum. I also suggest you do a web search for the "Brackish FAQ" by Neale Monks. That's how I got started, before I found this site. Have fun! --Ananda>

Re: specifically regarding sand for figure-8 puffer brackish tank Specifically, I was wondering if silica sand from the aquarium store was appropriate since it is supposed to be ph neutral? (or is it dangerous?) Otherwise, would crushed coral or aragonite not raise the ph above 7.5 which I understand is the required ph (N.B. I have a large piece of driftwood and I'm only planning to put sand down on half of the bottom)? <Silica sand should be ok.  Aragonite and crushed coral will raise the PH, it is hard to say how much. Check out the link below http://www.wetwebmedia.com/livesand.htm> Also, any suggestion for getting hornwort to stay on the surface? <I have never tried myself, check out http://aquabotanic.com They have all sorts of information on planted tanks.  Best Regards, Gage> Thanks

Brackish Aquarium Substrates The ph in my brackish tank is currently around 7.8.  The fish store is telling me that I should use silica sand so the ph doesn't go up.  What are my alternatives?  For example, can I use aragonite plus driftwood to bring ph back down? <Interesting thoughts. I have always used aragonite in my brackish water systems without trouble. Sure, driftwood may affect pH over time, but it's far to difficult to use as a specific pH control mechanism (I mean- what size driftwood piece do you use to drop the pH by .2, for example...Impossible to judge. Frankly, I would not be overly concerned about lowering your pH in this brackish tank. There seems to be a gradual downward pH drift in many systems over time, anyways. I'd just go with the substrate that you like best, monitor water parameters, and employ sensible husbandry practices (water changes, good feeding habits, etc), and you'll be fine. Good luck! Scott F.>

Brackish Aquarium Substrates (Part II) I have one more question regarding ph.  My figure-8 is currently in another tank where the ph is 7.8.  If the addition of aragonite to the  new tank brings the ph to somewhere above that, should I be concerned about moving the figure-8, i.e. should I do something to make the switch more gradual?  For example, should I attempt to raise the ph gradually in the old tank or lower it temporarily in the new tank?  If so, how would I do this?  Thanks. <An excellent observation and an excellent question! Yes, any change in water parameters can be stressful to a fish if it is sudden. You can either raise the pH in the current aquarium, or (and this would be my choice) acclimate the fish slowly to your new tank, just like you'd do if you just purchased the fish from the store. Finally, I wouldn't get overly concerned about the potentially higher pH that aragonite may yield in the new tank. I'm no expert on the dissolution rates or interactions of substrates with water, but I have kept a number of brackish systems with aragonite, and never had a problem. In fact, your letter piqued my interest in one of my old tanks, so I pulled the log book for this system (yep- I'm a FULL-ON "fish nerd!". Fish nerds keep log books!), and noted that the pH was always around 8.2. I had a lot of success in this tank, including a spawning of Orange Chromide cichlids, so I don't think that you should be overly concerned about the pH. I'm not saying that you're guaranteed to be successful because my tank worked, but if you do things slowly (just like you're planning to do), you'll be okay, IMO. The most important thing is to maintain stability of water parameters. Good luck! Scott F.>

Re: setting up brackish tank In setting up a brackish tank, I was using goldfish to circulate the water.  One died yesterday and now I am concerned about the further preparation of my tank.  Should I remove all of these goldfish and do something to make sure there is no disease in the water before added my prized brackish water fish? Paul <If tank is set up brackish and you added a goldfish, that is why he died.  There are other ways of getting your tank cycled without goldfish, please check out the following link.  Best Regards, Gage http://wetwebmedia.com/BrackishSubWebIndex/bracsetup.htm>

Brackish and plants Hi Bob, I just finished reading the CMA, I lost some sleep by not being able to put it down, but what an enjoyable read. Thanks for that!. <Anthony Calfo here... and in agreement!> I wrote to you awhile back about acclimatizing our brackish setup to full marine, and changing our cramped 36 gallon to a more roomy 72 gallon. We have done both of the fore mentioned with much success. <excellent my friend> We currently have 2 silver scats, 2 monos, 2 orange Chromides, 4 green spotted puffers and 1 figure 8 puffer. Everyone looks much brighter and more active than they did with the brackish setup. They were acclimatized from 1.015 to 1.023 over the period of 7 weeks, we are gradually making our way up. I have searched your FAQ's and once again I have to ask. Our Figure 8 looks great, he's about 2.5 inches in length, when I wrote you before you mentioned that the Figure 8 could be brought to full marine if monitored closely,  <agreed> you'd also mentioned to monitor the Chromides.  <indeed.... the least tolerant of the group here to full seawater> So here is my question, Recently I was told by our LFS "experts" that figure 8's should always be kept in full marine setups,  <I disagree... as many or more are simply brackish... some rather freshwater... most all are very hardy :)> I've read everything from the fish being freshwater only (in some of the WWM faq's) to the fish being brackish (also in some of the WWM faq's).. I'm confused. Any additional info would be great. <it simply depends on the species my friend> I hope you don't mind a second question... <a pleasure> We're having some challenges with Algae in the tank, our inhabitants don't seem interested in helping to clean up, and we did have ghost shrimp helping out for some time, however as you can imagine.. one day someone figured out that they were delicious and they quickly became lunch. What types of cleaners would you recommend for a tank with so many puffers?  <any/all fish will be a problem with nipping/nibbling puffers. Nut... perhaps some large mollies (decorative if you like) would be a fine and inexpensive solution. They are great algae eaters so to speak> Would something with shells be best or just an invitation for puffers to gnaw on? <puffer food> would hermit crabs or turbo snails be a good bet?  <above> Or should we look at some sea stars or gobies?  <starfish are weak grazers, gobies not at all really. Urchins would actually be a great choice (anything but slate pencil- meaty tastes)> Any suggestions would be great, I know we run the risk of losing some cleaners due to the stomachs with eyes called puffers and scats. <urchins get my vote> Thanks again for all of your help, we still attribute the life of our littlest green spotted puffer to you, Amy & Jason <best regards, Anthony>

Fresh to brackish/salt changeover Hello Bob - 4+ yrs ago we started a 125 Discus tank, tank ran non-stop for 4 yrs, about 8 months ago we switched the tank over to brackish, we did not remove water or any filters etc... we just slowly added salt and African cichlids bringing the salinity to 1.006, about 6 weeks ago we slowly began raising the salinity level and the Africans began to die off, our level is now at 1.016 with very healthy and happy: 2 red scats, 2 green scats, 2 silver scats, 3 monos, 3 spotted puffers, 1 lion (Pterois volitans), 1 bat (Platax orbicularis), 1 algae blenny (Blenniidae), and 1 Heniochus acuminatus, 1 Niger trigger, 3 three stripe damsels, 1 blue devil damsel, 1 yellow damsel, 1 blue spotted damsel, 1 stonefish (he acclimated very well) and believe it or not 1 African. <Wow, quite an assemblage> We have a crushed coral bed (marine mix) and lace rock, no liverock and no coral. At present we are running 1 Fluval, 1 Eheim, 1 Emperor dual bio wheel, 1 U.V light w/a 301 power head and 1 802 power head. We do not plan on increasing the salinity above 1.018 as our pet shop raises his salt water fish in 1.014 water, my question is should we swap the Fluval for a wet dry (keeping the Eheim and Emperor going) and should we add a protein skimmer (if so which one would you recommend?) <Mmm, you might try the wet-dry and the skimmer... I doubt if the latter will produce a skimmate in such a low density medium (the low specific gravity system water), but it and the sump type filter will do much to improve water quality otherwise... increasing dissolved oxygen, making the pH, RedOx... higher, more stable... Have you glanced over the brackish section (index) on WWM: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/brackish.htm? Please take a look... I am looking for input on prioritizing the next "wave" of articles here. Bob Fenner> ann.

BRACKISH START UP/SALINITY levels Hello Mr. Fenner; <Hi there> After 6yrs of keeping a 125gal discus tank I decided to switch over to brackish water after much experience with various local pet shops I learned not to take any one persons word on anything, <This is wise> so here is my new dilemma; after completing my change a dark green slimy algae began to grow it began creeping through the entire tank, so I added a UV light, I restocked the tank including two figure 8 puffers both of which had a feast on my spotted puffers - so the figure 8's are back at the pet shop, I now have 2 green scats, 2silver scats, 2red scats, and 4spotted puffers, 4 monos, two eels, and some other fish my supplier said would be okay. <Okay> My spotted puffers will not come out of hiding, two of them sit on the bottom of the tank very dark, and looking pretty bad,  <Not good signs> I am wondering if my salinity levels are not high enough (my local pet shop said I do not have to worry about it) after reading your website I realized that this may be my problem, I have a small 10gal salt water so I used the hydrometer (plastic box type) to measure, I am reading at -1.000 should I be at 1.005-1.012,  <1.005 is ideal for what you list altogether> now my tap water is off the charts at 1.030+ so I am really confused as I have not had this problem with my small salt water tank, and I am not sure if I should add salt, how much salt will be too much for the brackish fish? <Mmm, best to keep the density constant, about where stated: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/brackish.htm Please do join our Chatforum re brackish systems as well: http://talk.wetwebfotos.com/ Ann 

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