FAQs on Livestocking
Small Freshwater Systems
(@ 10 gal.s or
Stocking Small Systems 1,
Stocking Sm. Sys. 2,
Stocking Sm. Sys. 4,
Stocking 5, 10 & 20
Gallon Freshwater Aquariums by Neale Monks,
Freshwater Livestock by Neale Monks,
Freshwater Livestock Selection by Bob
Fenner, The Ethical Aquarist;
Freshwater Fishes to Avoid by Judy Helfrich
Acclimation of New Freshwater Livestock by Bob
FW Livestock 1,
FW Livestock 2,
FW Livestock 3,
FW Stocking 4,
Livestocking 5, FW Livestocking
6, FW Livestocking 7, &
Community Tank Livestocking,
fresh water question; stkg. (albeit large) bowls 12/29/19
Hello, crew of WetWebMedia, hope you and your family and friends had
a wonderful XMAS and wish you all have a great year in 2020.
<Thank you for these kind words.>
Bob told me to email the crew with my concerns. Here goes....
I am currently visiting my family...my dad told me to go get some
fish with some color ....so he can place them in the big ceramic
fish bowls in the garden....I want to say those fish bowls
will holds about 10-15 gal ish water....just my best guess
without using a known size container to dumping water into the
fishbowl to get exact amount of water it will hold.
<Right, now, in themselves such bowls aren't really suitable for
keeping outdoor fish species in temperate zone parts of the world.
With appropriate plants and/or filtration, they could work for small
livebearer species in the subtropics (for example Mosquitofish) or
in cooler, but not frosty, places, perhaps Heterandria formosa. In
subtropical to tropical places, there are various very small minnows
that could work, such as White Cloud Mountain Minnows, or else
Ricefish. But bowls are rather compromised in various ways, not
least of all the absence of water current and the poor surface area
to volume ratio that means oxygen absorption isn't very good.>
But due to the season of the year and the temperature
starting to drop....Right now ...it has been around low to mid
60s.....So instead outside....I decide to move the fish bowl indoor
I believe I asked you guys this question before in the past....I do
not know if I remember correctly, but I believe last time you guys
suggested platy.....not sure...
<Platies are fine fish, and can live in aquaria upwards of 15
gallons given sufficient filtration, but without filters they'd be a
poor choice, and for a 10 gallon bowl, I can't see them working well
in the long term.>
I think at the time...I was looking for small fish with color to put
in the fish tank outside on the patio....we end up just use the
regular guppy that does not have those bright colors....but at least
they do keep the mosquito from growing in that fish tank.....we do
have a small water pump to keep water circulate in that tank on the
patio and water plant for the nutrient in the water....which guppy
seems to survive....but not reproducing....maybe the ones we put in
happen to be same sex? or they aren't happy....since there really
only 2-3 I believe....I will try to catch few more from koi pond and
place them in the tank on the patio and see what happen.
<Guppies will struggle to reproduce successfully in small tanks or
Assuming water quality is adequate (use a nitrite or ammonia test
kit to check) the big challenge will be in making sure fry survive.
Without enough cover, the fry are simply food for the adults. In the
wild, newborn Guppies head straight for thick plants in very shallow
water where the adults can't go. This gives them enough safety to
survive the critical first couple of weeks needed to get big enough
to avoid predation. In big tanks, a few fry will survive even
without adequate cover, but in a small tank or bowl, the odds are
ANYWAY.....my question for this fish bowl we are placing inside...currently
no water/air pump inside....just few pieces of water plants.....
with half aged tap water and half koi pond water.
The fish I end up picked out from the location was peacock guppy
fish.....I figure better of get smaller fish, instead of
<Do bear in mind that Guppies need consistent warmth to do
well, and the farmed pedigree breeds are much more
sensitive than the wild fish. So whole wild Guppies can handle
temperatures down to 22 C/72 F, your farmed Peacocks, Cobras, and
all the other famous varieties need 25-28 C/77-82 F to stay healthy.
It's like comparing a Labradoodle with a Timber Wolf -- the genes
required to handle harsh conditions of the wild have been lost in
the process of breeding something humans want in the home.>
Oh...also....there is a piece of glass on top of the fish bow and
there is a gap of ....maybe about 3mm or so in between the ceramic
bowl's rim and the bottom of the glass top acting as table's
There are about 12 guppies inside. Been away from fresh water fish
keeping so long....is that too many for current condition?
<It's a lot for 10 gallons, certainly, especially if filtration is
lacking (water movement by itself doesn't count).>
Is there any dangerous of CO2 build up to dangerous level due to no
air/water pump for circulation of water/air?
<CO2 build up is less of an issue than oxygen depletion. Nature will
take its course here quite quickly -- if there's a lack of oxygen,
some fish will die, and what remains will be the carrying capacity
tolerated by the rate of oxygen absorption.>
I know I will need to go search for a light source to provide strong
enough light for the plant....any suggestions?
<If the plants are above the waterline, emergent species, then a
sunny windowsill or conservatory would be fine for a few months.
Otherwise, yes, some sort of plant-suitable LED lamp is probably the
most cost effective and convenient approach.>
I assume most are LED now ...since when I left saltwater fish/reef
keeping was when LED just starting to taking over fish tank
<Indeed; while more expensive up front, LEDs are much cheaper now
than they were even 10 years ago, are much more efficient in terms
of running costs and maintenance.>
Will oxygen provide by the plants enough for the 12 little fishies?
<Generally, without strong lighting, the amount of oxygen from
aquatic plants is minimal. So no, don't bank on it. Much the same as
reef tanks -- sure, algae are releasing some oxygen and absorbing
some nitrate, but you wouldn't rely on either in lieu of filtration
and aeration. Large ponds are different because the ratio of plants
to fish is very much more favourable.>
probably best to have at least one small water pump...smallest I can
find...probably should work, yes?
<A filter, anyway.>
would greatly appreciated if you guys can give me any
suggestions/advice ....so we can do this right ....so fishes can
have a good place to live...
Thank you all once again...and Happy New Year
<Hope this helps. Cheers, Neale.>
Choosing a S. American Exotic 11/30/17
Hello Bob, Happy Holidays.
<And you Ritesh>
I have this eight and half gallon aquarium.
I would like to put a rare and exotic s. American species in it. Any suggestions.
Been on eBay. Seen some cichlid pairs. But I want to know if maybe you have seen
Best, Ritesh Varma
<Mmm... Maybe a pair of Apistogrammas...
And/or a small grouping of Characins, perhaps two, three Hatchetfish.
And some dwarf Corydoras!
Note: CO2 tank on left, piezoelectric chiller on right
Re: Choosing a S. American Exotic; Dwarf Cichlid
I found Apistogramma Nijjseni to be an attractive fish. But everyone
recommends 15g and up. I have a planted aquarium. 9g. There is nothing in
there except Amanos and small horned cleaning snails. Would a pair survive?
<Probably. Your two main challenges are these:
Firstly, males can be hard on the females. Apistogramma are not really
pair-forming. Most have what's called a harem, with the male guarding a
territory that can include several females. So sometimes they are hostile
towards young females or females who don't want to breed. After mating the
male continues to guard his patch, but the females often look after the fry
alone. Indeed, females can become so protective they attack the males! It's
therefore really important to have LOTS of caves (half coconut shells with a
couple of holes are ideal).
Secondly, Apistogramma are sensitive to nitrate. In a small tank this will
build up quickly between water changes. Regular water changes are very
important to keep living conditions good.
Hope this helps! Neale.>
Small tank; stocking, FW
Are there any fish that are suitable for a 2 gallon tank?
<Not really. Bettas can be kept in tanks this size of course,
though I'd prefer more space simply because it makes steady water
conditions easier to maintain. Most people with these 'nano' tanks go
with various plants and
some of the smaller freshwater shrimps.>
I currently have a red wag platy male all by himself.
<Hopefully not in the 2 gallon tank!? Much too small for that species.
Even 10 gallons is a bit tight for Platies.>
Sent from my iPad
<Sent from my computer. Cheers, Neale.>
What fish can I add.? Nonsense mixes in too small
I have a 10-15 gallon tank. I had to give away:
1 ID Shark
2 Blood Parrot
1 Tinfoil Barb
as they were growing large.
<Indeed they would.>
I currently have
1 Tinfoil barb
<A social species; looks and behaves better in groups. But in a 10-15 gallon
tank? That makes no sense at all. Tinfoil Barbs can get to 30 cm/12 inches, and
even under aquarium conditions you can easily expect them to reach over 20 cm/8
inches within a couple of years.>
<A much better aquarium fish, but again, needs a bigger tank. Adults should get
to at least 12 cm/5 inches in length, and potentially a little more. A singleton
on its own might just be viable in a 130 litre/30 gallon tank, but realistically
two specimens plus companion fish will need at least twice that.>
1 small white aquarium catfish.
<Covers a lot of possibilities here! The commonest catfish are Corydoras
species, with adult sizes around the 5-8 cm/2-3 inch mark, hence groups of 5-6
specimens may be kept in tanks from 70 litres/15 gallons upwards. But
the other common catfish are Pterygoplichthys species, which get to 45 cm/18
inches, hence require tanks upwards of 350 litres/75 gallons.>
2 Silver\Bala Shark small
<Again, much the same as Tinfoil Barbs, and in no ways suitable for a tank this
I would like you suggestion on what else can be a good add-on to the existing
<Nothing! This collection of fish makes no sense at all. I've written
extensively on the sorts of fish you might keep in small tanks; here for
The fish you currently have will surely need a tank 10 times the size of the one
you have. I would either get a bigger tank, or more sensibly perhaps, return
them as start over.>
My plan was to add either 1 Tinfoil or another pair of Bala shark
Thanks and regards,
<Hope this helps, Neale.>
Wavemaker for a 10 gallon freshwater, and stkg sm. sys.
I have a 10 gallon freshwater tank with the following stocking:
1 Tinfoil Barb
2 Bala Sharks (small)
1 white catfish
1 Blue rainbow cichlid
Would it be a good idea to use a wavemaker taking into consideration my
tank size and stocking. I am currently using an air motor for aeration
which makes kind of a grrrrrr..... sound.
I am looking for an alternate...Please suggest.
<Hi Shriram, I would just use a hang-on-back bio-wheel filter of
whatever brand. You mainly just need water movement and to keep the
water surface turbulent. You could use a small powerhead (a Maxi-Jet or
whatever in a small size) but I don't know that this would even be
The Firemouth since this morning seem to sitting behind an artificial
plant and chase the rainbow when he tries to come near them. I haven't
seen this behavior in so many days. I am going to observe them for a
couple of more
Any idea on why they must be getting territorial all of a sudden.
<Depends on how long they have been in this tank together. The cichlid
is a territorial fish to begin with and might just be interested in
taking over that spot, as you say, just observe them closely for any
signs of fighting.>
Thanks and regards,
Blue Rainbow cichlid stays near the filter 9/15/17
I have observed that my Blue Rainbow cichlid has been staying near the
filter since yesterday. I have seen him swimming around with the
other fish (Tin Foil, Firemouth, Bala Sharks). Yesterday he
even didn't seem to come out for food when we fed them live worms.
He seems to looking normal and don't find any symptoms of disease.
<Mmm; well; this IS an untenable (unsustainable) mix of
fishes... need MUCH more room, now, and will not do well into
the future in a ten gallon. I fully suspect the one fish is "hiding" out
from the others, rather than
What could probably be going wrong.
<Territoriality most likely. Really: take some time,
look up (books, the Net) re each of the species requirements here: Water
quality, feeding, space... Either trade them (all) back in, or save as
quickly as practical
for a tank of several times the present volume. Bob Fenner>
Thanks and regards,
Re: Blue Rainbow cichlid stays near the filter... ask the same
Thanks for getting back to me on my last query.
Here's another one.....
Can I leave my tank with just my current stocking..
<No mate. As previously stated... >
1 Tin Foil
2 Bala sharks
1 white catfish.
<Don't know what this cat is>
what are your recommendations.
<As I mentioned. Reading, study... trading all in and starting again, or
getting a MUCH larger system. B>
Thanks and regards,
Re: Blue Rainbow cichlid stays near the filter; not listening to advice.
<Hello Shriram! Gabe here>
Got a chance to get some snaps of my 10 gallon last
evening...Just thought of sharing with you.
<Thanks for sharing :)>
Can you look at the images and help if I can add any fish to it.
<As we have stated before, the fish you have in your system are much too
large to be in a 10 gallon system. They will need to be put in a much
larger tank. If you want to add any more fish, you will need to upgrade
your tank size.>
A little scared to add smaller fishes.
<Smaller fish will most likely be eaten by the cichlids, and as I said,
they will not fit in the tank.>
Thanks and regards,
<Shriram, PLEASE upgrade your tank size before even considering new
additions to your system. The fish you have will quickly outgrow their
tank and will need to be put somewhere else before they stress and die.
for writing, Gabe>
Re: New Fishes keep dying.; still not reading or
listening.... Again? 9/29/17
<Hi Shriram, Gabe here again>
I currently hold a ten gallon tank with the following stocking:
2 Bala Shark
1 White catfish
1 Tin Foil Barb
<As we have said before, this is way too much for a ten gallon tank. All
these grow quite large and need tons more space to grow and thrive>
They all are healthy.
<They may look healthy, but they are likely extremely stressed due to
the overstocking in the tank. Territory battles can break out at any
moment and they could end up killing each other over the little space
The issue is whenever I try to add a new fish. The new fish survives for
a couple of days and then one-by-one they begin to die.
<You should not be adding new fish to this tank. If you continue on this
path, more and more fish will die.>
I am unable to conclude on what could I be missing on, and why are my
new fishes dying when my other fishes are perfectly fine.
Can you please help.
<Shriram, you need to upgrade your tank size. Do not add any more fish
to this tank, as they will surely die. I'm not sure how else to get our
point through. You have sent many messages and we always respond the
Do NOT add fish until you get a bigger tank. Cheers, Gabe>
Re: New Fishes keep dying.; still not reading or listening
I have clearly understood your point.
<Glad you understand>
The only reason my mind deceives me in adding new fish is
because at times the tank kind of looks empty.
<Even if the tank looks empty, it is not. You have 6 fish that all grow
large. In time it will look too full>
I will make sure that I do not have any new additions in the existing
tank and also look into options for upgrading the tank.
<Thank you. I would suggest a large tank if you look to keep aggressive
fish like cichlids>
Thanks as always.
<Have you ever heard of the idea of having one inch of fish per
gallon of water? You should try to follow this when you
upgrade. For example, if you have a fish with a maximum size of 5
inches, it should be in no less than 5 gallons of water. While this rule
has a few exceptions, it is normally a good rule to follow. For
freshwater fish, use one inch per gallon. Saltwater is recommended one
inch per two gallons. Thank you for using WetWeb, Shriram. Feel free to
write us any time. Cheers, Gabe>
Adding new Fish - Complete makeover... same mis-stocked 10
I have had many interactions with you earlier with regards to the
stocking of my 10 gallon. Last (As of yesterday) I had the
2 - Firemouth Cichlid
1 - Walking catfish (Who grew to half the size of my tank)
2 - Silver shark(Bala Shark)
<As you know now, none of these are suitable for 10 gallon tanks except
perhaps as tiny juveniles.>
I have returned all the fishes to the LFS and got a few pairs of small
<Is this Labidochromis caeruleus, the Yellow Lab? While a relative dwarf
among Mbuna, I can't really see a group of these being kept in anything
smaller than, say, 30 gallons. They are quite aggressive towards one
another, in a pecking order sort of way, and like all Mbuna very
sensitive to poor water quality.>
The Old Fishes were removed yesterday and the new ones were added. Today
morning I found all the yellow morphs dead.
Not sure what I did wrong.
<Well, to start with, you need to assess the environment. Labidochromis
caeruleus will not live long in soft and/or acidic water; they're
classic Mbuna in requiring hard, alkaline water (15-25˚dH, pH 7.5-8.5
would be about right). On top of that, again, like all Mbuna, they have
almost no tolerance for poor water quality, so zero ammonia and zero
nitrite are important. Finally, just like all other Mbuna, oxygen is
crucial, and they won't live long in tanks that are overstocked or
I am very upset because of the incident and am planning to do a full
cleaning of my tank this weekend and then look for other options, like
turning my 10 gallon to a planted aquarium or adding other smaller fish
varieties, etc. I am still confused as what could have gone wrong with
<Do see above, but obviously without knowing what fish you were keeping,
or what the conditions of the tank were, it's hard to say.>
I need your advise in what I should be doing next with regards to my
Thanks and regards,
<Some general thoughts on stocking small tanks is here:
While that article is a few years old now, the underlying point, that
small tanks need small fish, remains true. Perhaps better to tell me
what small fish you have access to locally, and we can offer some advice
about keeping them! Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Adding new Fish - Complete makeover
<Hello again Shriram,>
Do you Tearing down the tank (Removing the gravel and cleaning and 100%
water change) would be a good idea to start with, in that will I need to
wait till my tanks cycles again or should I do only a vacuuming of the
gravel and replace the water alone, before adding new fish.
<Giving a tank a good clean is often worthwhile, e.g., rinsing the
gravel and wiping the glass. But leave the live (mature) filter media
alone. At most, rinse it in buckets of aquarium water, squeezing out the
My LFS has guppies, zebra Danios, dwarf gouramis, etc.
<So all the old favourites!>
Please note that my tank has a Heater and would prefer tropical fish.
<Understood. Do look at some of the 'newer' small fish in the trade --
Ember Tetras, Dwarf Rasboras, Endler's Guppies, Daisy Ricefish, etc. --
as well as the usual small fish like Golden Pencilfish, Neons, Whiptail
cats, the smaller Corydoras, and so on.>
Please provide some suggestions on the fish that I can add and also what
I need to do next with my tank.
<See above, and the article linked to earlier.>
Thanks and regards,
<Most welcome. Neale.>
Re: Adding new Fish - Complete makeover 11/28/17
<Hello again, Shriram!>
I have cleaned my tank and have got a couple of small Angel fish.
They are looking fine as of now. They have been here only for the past couple of
<Nice fish. If this is the 10 gallon tank of blessed memory,
they'll be fine in here for a while, up to about 8 cm/3 inches in length, but
ultimately you will need at least 20 gallons for a pair of Angels -- assuming
they're a pair! Two males will fight.>
When I switch on the light on the tank, they kind of hide under the rock or get
behind the heater. They again start coming out when the light is switched off.
<Angels dislike bright overhead light. In the wild they live in deep, dark water
with plenty of overhead cover. They like to hide among the tree trunks and other
sunken vegetation. Floating plants are a quick fix, for example the Floating
Indian Fern (Ceratopteris thalictroides) is a great way to add some cover.>
How do I get them accustomed to the tank light. Or should I wait for a week
before I start switching on the tank light.
<They will settle down in time, yes.>
Thanks and regards,
5.5 gallon tank that houses a Betta, three zebra danios and
three neon tetras. Sm. sys. stkg.
I've e-mail before and have gotten amazing advice so I thought I'd ask
my questions here this time as well.
I have a 5.5 gallon tank that houses a Betta, three zebra danios and
three neon tetras.
<Hmm... overstocked... and not wisely stocked I fear. The Zebra Danios
can get to the best part of two inches in length, and in small groups
(fewer than six) tend to become nippy; the males are especially
aggressive at times, and can be nippy towards Bettas.>
The Betta is only about an inch and a half including fins. The zebras
are about an inch and a quarter and the neons are all less than an inch.
I was told that you could keep two or three of the zebras and danios to
the one inch per gallon rule since they are small and have less bio
<Understood, and broadly yes, the "inch per gallon" rule does work for
small fish like Neons and Danios without too much trouble. But even if
it were: adult Neons are, say, 1.5 inches; adult Zebra Danios almost 2
So three of each would be 3 x 1.5 = 4.5 for the Neons, and 3 x 2 = 6 for
the Danios, which makes a total of 10.5 inches. We're over the stocking
limit of your tank. Your Betta is going to be about 2.5 inches when
fully grown, so now we're looking at 13 inches. Now, Neons and Danios
should be kept in groups of six each, at minimum, so 6 x 1.5 for the
Neons, for 9 inches total, and 6 x 2 inches for the Danios, for 12
inches total; add the Betta, and we're closer to 23.5 inches. So
something like a 20 gallon tank is much closer to what you'd want here.
For sure it's a conservative rule for small fish, which is why 20
gallons is fine, and frankly your Danios are unlikely to get to their
maximum size (for some reason they rarely do in captivity) so even 15
gallons would be acceptable at a pinch. But 10 gallons would be too
small for them given their size and their activity level, and 5.5
gallons really is unsuitable, even cruel.>
But my concern is that the tank actually only holds 4 gallons of water.
I'm guessing that the gravel and plants take up some of the room
replacing the other gallon.
It took forever for the tank to cycle and I finally got Seachem
Stability which did indeed cycle the tank but I still get
So I think the bio load is way too much.
I can get a used ten gallon tank and was wondering if that would be big
<For Bettas and Neons, yes. I would not keep Danios in a tank this small
though for the reasons outlined above.>
It comes with a 15 gallon filter. On my 5 gallon I have a 10 gallon
Is the 15 gallon filter enough to help with the bio load?
<In part, yes, extra filtration is always a plus. But not a complete
solution. Do look at 20 and 10 gallon tanks next to each other: the size
difference in terms of "shelf space" is trivial. Cheers, Neale.>
Stocking a tank 5/21/16
I am starting a new tank 10 gal L 22,w12,h14. I plan to stock it with one Betta
, three African dwarf frog, a dozen or so Rasbora and some plant life. This
being my first tank I would like to know if this is a suitable population for
this tank size. I would appreciate any suggestions stocking this tank. Thank you
<Does sound like a very nice arrangement. I take it the Rasboras are a small/er
species. Bob Fenner>
Help with fish selection please! 10/22/09
I have a redundant, small (6.6g) tank which I am considering setting up
as a tropical aquarium.
<Too small for almost any fish.>
I know this is very small, and so I can only keep a very limited
type/number of fish in it.
I found out about Bettas through your site, and the pygmy Corydoras
which I would love to be able to keep.
<Betta, yes; Corydoras, no.>
My problem is that the tap water here is fairly hard (GH between the
>10 Â°d and >16 Â°d markers on the dip stick,
KH at 10 Â°d) and alkali (pH about 7.6) and I understand both
the above like 'soft', 'acidic' conditions.
<Actually this water is just fine for both species.>
Would this rule Bettas and Corys out? I have also seen Endler's
livebearers in the local store, which I gather would be fine in my
water and tank size.
<Male Endler's Guppies tend to be aggressive towards each other, so I
wouldn't keep them in a tank this small. I cannot stress this too
strongly: your tank is basically useless for fish. A 10-gallon tank
could hold a male and two female Endler's just fine, along with
half a dozen Corydoras habrosus or Corydoras hastatus. But a 6-gallon
tank is just too small.>
Wanting healthy, happy fish, please could you advise which selection
(if either) would be best? If the water is not an issue, would
Endler's and Corys get on together?
<Would actually recommend this: either get a Betta, or get a Betta
and also some Cherry Shrimps. The Cherry Shrimps are colourful, breed
happily, and are fascinating to watch. You could easily keep ten or
more in a tank this size. Feel free to substitute for any other small
algae-eating shrimp, like Bumblebee Shrimps or Crystal Red Shrimps,
though Bettas may eat the smaller shrimp varieties. Add some Nerite
snails too, if you want. These don't breed, and come in lots of
nice colour patterns. Check out Neritina natalensis for example.
Decorate the tank with Java ferns, Anubias, and clumps of Java moss,
and you'll have a little "freshwater reef tank" with a
pretty fish and lots of sweet little invertebrates!>
Thank you so much,