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Cardisoma sp. (likely C. armatum). Southeast Asia, Indonesia Land Crabs. Soap-Box Crabs for how they're individually shipped (in plastic soap-dishes closed with rubber bands) to prevent cannibalism. To eight inches across... Not a community tank item... Actually not totally aquatic... if you're lucky, yours will crawl out of the tank and leave.  Full Size Link

Updated 5/15/1
Brackish INDEX;
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pecialized Daily FAQs Blogs: General,
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Daily Q&A replies/input from the WWM crew: 
Neale Monks, Marco Lichtenberger, Eric Russell, Chuck Rambo, Bob Fenner, are posted here. Moved about, re-organized into individual FAQs files!

Violet goby ideas     5/14/17
<Hello Meghan,>
I'm still playing around with different ideas of how to eventually house my violet dragon goby. Currently it is alone in a 55 gallon brackish tank, SG 1.005 (varies a little with water changes).
<All sounds fine. Precise specific gravity doesn't matter at all. The main thing is that there's "some" salinity, and it's not kept in plain freshwater indefinitely.>
I was thinking about an enormous tank, but I'm concerned with the ongoing cost of marine salt - especially considering 10-20% weekly water changes.
<Weekly water changes won't be necessary if you lightly stock the tank. 2-3 week gaps between water changes will be fine. Monitor nitrate (make sure it doesn't go too high) and pH (make sure it doesn't drop too much) and use these as a guide as to when to do water changes. Fundamentally, water changes are about keeping nitrate low and preventing acidification. We don't do massive weekly water changes to outdoor ponds precisely because
they're modestly stocked and have "natural" ways of avoiding high nitrate levels and fluctuating pH levels. Oh, and one tip -- if you can get old water from a reef tank, that's usually easily good enough to use in a brackish system! Mix with tap water, of course, to get the right salinity, maybe one part reef tank water with three parts tank -- and you'll get something around SG 1.005 that'll be fairly low in nitrate without needing any expense on salt!>
So now I'm thinking about a much smaller tank. 55 gallons - 48" long is the minimum size for the goby.
<Correct, though it's lookalike species, Gobioides peruanus, is considerably smaller.>
I read that dwarf fuzzy lionfish can handle an SG of 1.015 and up. My goby should be fine with that, too. I can even add a protein skimmer.
<While these lionfish (and other, Pterois spp.) do occur in below normal marine salinities, I'm not convinced they inhabit such waters indefinitely.
SG 1.018 would be fine, and standard procedure for many (robust) marines in the 60s and 70s, but SG 1.015? Seems a bit low to me, especially when there *are* true brackish water fish of similar type out there, such as Notesthes robusta and Neovespicula depressifrons, this latter being very similar in size and appearance to Dendrochirus spp. That said, the Dwarf Fuzzy is certainly easier to get, so I will let BobF chime in here before I get too adamant about its suitability or otherwise!>
So I'm thinking about a 55 gallon tank with the goby and some dwarf fuzzy lionfish. I'd love some little blue leg hermit crabs, too, but I'm betting the lions would eat them, right?
<It isn't common, but it does happen, yes. A lot depends on the relative sizes of the lionfish and the hermit crabs' shells.>
Would a 55 gallon be sufficient space for my goby plus 3 or more of the little lions?
<I would think not; when keeping marines, more space is better, especially if you're trying to reduce workload/expense.>
And would live rock work at that low SG? And would the rough surface of the rocks be a danger to the goby?
<Live rock will in theory work, in the sense that once the bacteria colonise the anaerobic crevices, you'll get denitrification alongside nitrification on the aerobic parts of the rock. But the marine invertebrates and algae? Nope, they'll die at reduced salinities, except in a few cases which often end up as little more than green-brown algal slimes. Might as well just get Tufa rock, lava rock or "dead" live rock. Bacteria will colonise these just as well. Will they scratch the gobies?
Well, it's a risk, yes; given these gobies come from muddy rivers and estuaries, abrasive rocks and reefs aren't something they're programmed to deal with. So I'd be looking at bogwood, water worn cobbles, that sort of thing.>
Maybe I should go full strength sea water so I can try corals or something, too. Would the goby be happy & healthy long term at the higher salinity?
<Gobioides broussonnetii can/does live in fully marine habitats. Not coral reefs though, and it might well be stung/irritated by polyps and the like.>
My goby isn't an aggressive feeder - it let Sailfin mollies & guppies munch the food intended for it. That's why it is alone now. Would the lions cause the same problem?
<Keeping them with livebearers is ideal, given that Gobioides are primarily herbivores and detritus feeders in the wild, so they all eat the same stuff. Algae flake, Plec wafers, and a few offerings of small invertebrates such as brine shrimps ticks all the right boxes. Easy peasey. Adding a nocturnal predator complicates things, and obviously would view small livebearers as prey. But shouldn't be a threat to the Gobioides, assuming the latter was much too big to be viewed as food. But predators need meaty food, which means nitrate because a problem more quickly, which would in turn mean more frequent water changes. So do-able, yes, but optimal, probably not.>
Thank you for all the help with my questions!
- Meghan
<Most welcome. Neale.>
re: Violet goby ideas (Bob, Dwarf Lionfish at SG 1.015?)     5/14/17

"Dwarf Fuzzy is certainly easier to get, so I will let BobF chime in here before I get too adamant about its suitability or otherwise!"
<As Neale hints; the genus Dendrochirus Lions can be kept at reduced spg, but not this low permanently. Too damaging to their kidneys, other internal organs. Bob Fenner>
Re: Violet goby ideas (Bob, Dwarf Lionfish at SG 1.015?)     5/15/17

Oh, and let me add Meghan, that you have another crepuscular predator option in the US trade; namely Butis butis, and beautiful species despite its “Crazyfish” moniker. Eminently suitable for life alongside Gobioides and *adult* Sailfin Mollies; will view bite-sized companions as prey. Please see attached for a photo of this underrated gem, a true brackish water specialist adaptable to anything from hard freshwater to full marine, but probably best in middling salinities. Adult length to 15 cm/6 inches; hardy, territorial but otherwise peaceful.
Bottom line, unnecessary to maintain (and possibly stress) a marine predator at suboptimal salinities when there’s a good range of brackish water predators out there to choose from!
Cheers, Neale

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.>

Gold dust eel... Non-FW moray        4/11/17
Hi there,
I am very lost. My first time to have a gold dust eel. Im not sure whats happening to it. Pls help me.. what should i do..
<? Need data... is this fish being kept in brackish conditions? Water quality test results? READ here:
and the linked files above (FAQs); re systems, feeding... Disease. Bob Fenner>

Gold dust eel /Neale        4/12/17
Hi there,
I am very lost. My first time to have a gold dust eel. Im not sure whats happening to it. Pls help me.. what should i do..
<Hello Winnie. Judging by the Stingray, your Gold Dust Eel is in a freshwater aquarium. He WILL NOT LIVE in a freshwater aquarium. These are brackish to marine species. Given your obvious expertise if you're keeping
Stingrays, let me immediately direct you to some reading:
I'd also be dosing with an antibiotic, but once in brackish or marine conditions, your Moray has a good chance of recovery. Unfortunately, in freshwater tanks they INVARIABLY stop feeding eventually, and over time, lose their vitality and energy, eventually dying from a bacterial infection, osmotic stress, starvation, or some combination of these. The precise salinity doesn't matter too much, but 25-50% normal marine is about right, i.e., about SG 1.005 to 1.010. Cheers, Neale.>

Brackish frogfish? 4/10/1
I have an aquarium (30" x 25" x 18" -- footprint size 30 x 18) that holds about 58 gallons.
I'm starting to research possible inhabitants. Is there a brackish frogfish that would be appropriate for it? All I'm finding are in the realm
of 12" except a few around 9" that appear to be fully marine??
<As far as I'm aware, all Antennariids are marine, none brackish long term.
Am asking Neale Monks here for his more informed input. Bob Fenner>
Brackish frogfish? /Neale
I have an aquarium (30" x 25" x 18" -- footprint size 30 x 18) that holds about 58 gallons.
I'm starting to research possible inhabitants. Is there a brackish frogfish that would be appropriate for it? All I'm finding are in the realm of 12" except a few around 9" that appear to be fully marine??
<<Hello Meghan. There *is* a brackish water Antennariidae, specifically Antennarius biocellatus, though it isn't widely traded. Fishbase describes an adult length of 14 cm, or about 6 inches in old money.
On the other hand, there are several brackish water Waspfish, Toadfish and other stealth predators that are traded and might fit the bill nicely.
These include:
Neovespicula depressifrons, a very active grouper-like Waspfish;
Notesthes robusta, a relatively inactive stonefish-like predator;
Batrachomoeus trispinosus, one of several brackish water frogfish imported periodically.
There's also a sleeper goby, Butis butis, that occupies a similar niche and has been very widely traded at times under the 'Crazy Fish' name, which relates to its tendency to lurk at odd angles, even upside down, almost
anywhere in the tank.
If any of these are of interest, write back for more. Cheers, Neale.>>

Columbian catfish with stomach bulge      4/7/17
Hello, I have a 120 gallon tank with 2 Columbian catfish about 8 inches long.
<Nice size tank for these brackish/marine catfish!>
I also have 2 rainbow fish, an albino rainbow shark, 3 baby Bala sharks and a gourami.
<Bit confused why you're keeping your Colombian Shark with freshwater fish.
You do realise that Colombian Sharks will not be healthy (or happy) in freshwater? Adding enough salt to keep the catfish happy will kill the freshwater species. Furthermore, anything bite-sized is potential food.

While not aggressive or nippy, these catfish *are* carnivores.>
1 of the catfish has developed a lump in its stomach overnight. He is eating and swimming alright. I feed him algae pellets, flakes, bloodworms, and shrimp pellets. Everyone else in the tank looks fine. I'll attach a picture. Please let me know if there is any way to help him.
<Time. Predatory catfish are prone to overeating if you let them. Best kept with fast-moving brackish or marine fish that eat different things. Monos or Damselfish, for example. These catfish don't need feeding every day, or at least, not heavy feeding every day. They will regurgitate excess food if overfed, polluting the water.>
Thank you for your help,
<Will direct you to some urgent reading...
Easy catfish for communities of medium sized brackish and marine species, but frequently stressed (and ultimately killed) by poor care. Cheers, Neale.>

Dragon goby companions        3/12/17
Hello all!
I'm going to be purchasing a 125+ gallon aquarium to house my violet dragon goby. He is currently in a brackish 55 gallon (SG about 1.003) with a few Dalmatian molly juveniles. He (she?) is around 14" at this point and still
growing. I will not be moving the mollies to the larger tank.
<Understood. Mollies are good companions, FWIW, and healthy, happy Dragon/Violet Gobies won't even eat their fry. At least, not quickly enough to cause problems.>
I'm researching possible companions for the VDG once the larger tank is all set up and cycled.
<Good. As gentle giants, they're often mis-combined. Better with small, peaceful fish than big, pushy species.>
I really want at least one tight-schooling fish and possibly some smaller, colorful shoaling fish, and some shrimp (perhaps ghost shrimp). I'm very fond of oddballs, intelligent fish, and those with interesting behaviors.
<I think shrimp are probably risky given they're the sort of food these gobies eat, though in a fully marine system, large shrimps such as Cleaner Shrimps should be fine.>
Ideally, I'd like all of the species to come from the same continent.
<Ah, now that's a bit more tricky. To start with, you need to ID the Dragon Goby you have. There are two common species. Gobioides broussonnetii from the Atlantic coastline between Florida and Brazil, and Gobioides peruanus, which comes from the Pacific coast from Mexico down to Peru. This second species has fainter purple bands on its flanks, so telling the two apart isn't too difficult if you go online and study a few photos of each species
before you look at yours.>
Are there any schooling fish that would move in a fairly organized fashion AND be appropriate? I'd prefer a peaceful species that won't compete with the VDG for food on the bottom.
<At low-end brackish, one of the livebearer species would be the obvious, authentic choice for Gobioides broussonnetii. A wild-type species might be more authentic, whether true Sailfin Mollies, or something less familiar
like a Limia or Micropoecilia species. Killifish are the other obvious choices for Atlantic set-ups, for example Florida Flagfish or, if you can get hold of them, something like Cyprinodon variegatus. Killifish do tend to form schools outside of spawning time, becoming more territorial when/if the males defend the eggs/fry. There are some catfish species that would be appropriate too, notably the brackish water banjo cats like Platystacus cotylephorus that eat similar foods but aren't likely to compete aggressively at feeding time, being more nocturnal than the goby. Finally, while Wrestling Halfbeaks aren't native to the Americas, numerous small halfbeaks and needlefish inhabit the estuaries along the Atlantic coastline, so as substitutions go, they're be perfectly reasonable. When it comes to the Pacific coastline of the Americas, the range of available species is a lot smaller. Apart from Colombian Shark Catfish, I can't think of any widely traded species that ticks the right boxes. It's not that there aren't any suitably small and attractive fish from the Pacific coast of, say, Mexico or Colombia; there are. It's just they're not often seen.
If you want things like Poecilia butleri or Brachyrhaphis rhabdophora, you're going to have to really search for them.>
If I decide on livebearers I'm leaning toward Micropoecilia picta and Limia nigrofasciata but am wondering if they would interbreed.
<On paper they should be at risk of doing so, but I've had a large tank of Limia nigrofasciata alongside farmed Guppies in my classroom, and no sign at all of any hybrids, even after 2-3 years.>
Also, are these really vigorous feeders? I had sailfin mollies with the VDG but they gobbled up the food so quickly he was getting skinny and I don't want to repeat that.
<Mollies are pushy fish. I think you'd find smaller livebearers wouldn't be so bad. But in any event, provided your Goby continues to grow, I doubt the competition with the Mollies is genuinely a problem.>
Any advice on other places to search for more information would also be appreciated.
<And thanks for being among the few to keep these lovely fish properly!
Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Dragon goby companions       3/14/17

Hi Neale,
Thank you for your reply! It is great to get such friendly expert advice.
<Glad to help.>
After some more research and thought, I've decided to scrap my original idea of only using fish from North America. I watched a bunch of videos of brackish tanks, and the fish I liked best weren't from NA.
Archerfish totally wow me, but I bought one a few months back and it was dead within minutes of being released into my aquarium.
<Unusual. These fish are generally quite tough once settled in. Skittish, but not delicate. Bad luck, I fear. Very beautiful fish, and they keep those vivid colours into maturity, which isn't true for all fish.>
I couldn't figure out what was wrong. 0 nitrites & ammonia, nitrate under 20. SG at 1.003. I suspect stress, but am scared I totally screwed up.
<Is indeed odd.>
He was going nuts in the bag - jumping and bashing himself so much.
I made sure the water in the bag & tank were the same temp and then transferred him to the tank after a few minutes of mixing a few tablespoons of tank water into the bag at a time. I thought he was going to injure himself and hoped that a rushed transfer to the tank would be safer than a slower transition. There was so little pet store water in the bag that I didn't think my usual bucket acclimation method would work. Because I'm not sure what killed the little guy, I'm very nervous about trying again.
<Sounds like he was bagged too tightly. Have them bag your fish in as big a bag as possible, topped off with oxygen. Brackish water fish (like marines) aren't (usually) well suited to low oxygen conditions.>
He was about 2.5" from nose to tail and the store put him in a small bag about 1/4 full of water. He'd been at the store for around a month and was active, alert, and I didn't see any sign of injury before I brought him home. I'd been to the store several times and watched him closely before buying. The clerk said he was eating well - floating pellets. He was the largest and healthiest looking of the 3 they had. I feel terrible that I took an apparently okay fish and killed him.
<Oh dear.>
Archerfish are one of my dream fish, so if I can do it right I'd jump at the chance! Any ideas of what I did wrong and how I might do better if I try again?
<See above.>
In case I decide to go for archers I have some questions.
<Fire away.>
Are Toxotes microlepis the only archers that do well in brackish water? If I choose archers is SG 1.003 the saltiest I can go?
<All will tolerate low brackish, SG 1.003. Toxotes microlepis (a fresh and brackish water species) will be fine up to SG 1.005, perhaps even a little higher. But two entirely brackish water species, Toxotes jaculatrix and Toxotes chatareus, will go half-strength seawater easily, and rumour has it they spawn in fully marine habitats. The remaining four or so species are true freshwater species, and will tolerate slightly brackish water but don't need (or want) it. The freshwater species are not common and usually very expensive -- check out Toxotes blythii to see why! It's a stunning fish from one tiny part of the world. Distinguishing between the three truly brackish water species is difficult. I've got some sketches on my Brackish FAQ that might help, here:
Basically, it doesn't matter if you stick at SG 1.005, which is what most aquarists do. Toxotes microlepis stays small, and it's my favourite species if you can find it.>
How many T. microlepis would be appropriate in a 125 gallon? What about T. jaculatrix (provided they tolerate brackish water)?
<None of the Archerfish work well in twos or threes, being apt to be bullies. So I'd tend to go with either a singleton or a decent group, perhaps four or more. They are schooling fish though, so singletons are more easily spooked than groups. A group of 4-6 Toxotes microlepis would be fine in 125 gallons, all else being equal, given their adult size is around 12 cm/5 inches.>
If I have a choice of sizes when I order should I go for the smallest? I know many fish seem to travel better when they're small.
<Yes, but whatever happens, choose equal sized specimens to minimise bullying.>
Would a 55 gallon quarantine tank be large enough for one of these groups?
If not, what size should I have ready? I'd prefer to have the quarantine tank filled and ready when they arrive, but if they are shipped to me in fresh water will it be okay to have brackish water in there to start with?
<Yes. Acclimating to brackish conditions across a few hours will not trouble Archers.>
Is 4 weeks of quarantine long enough and should I proactively treat for any kind of parasites or bacteria, etc?
<Four weeks should be fine, especially in brackish water (which tends to eliminate external parasites quickly).>
Now, on to stocking choices for the bottom level of the tank. This is all assuming I go for only archers for stocking the top and mid water levels.
<Very much "top" fish.>
I have the one violet dragon goby. He's pretty active and spends a lot of time digging and swimming in place (not sure what this is about, but it's fun to watch) in his current set up. I've seen VDGs kept together get pretty rough with each other over burrows and during feeding time, but they never seemed to cause any damage to each other. I found the posturing interactions interesting to watch. Do you think 2 VDGs in a 125 would be appropriate as long as I provided multiple burrow locations per goby? If so, would I need to grow the second goby before putting them together?
Generally they're pretty small when sold locally. And is 4 weeks sufficient quarantine time? Is it a bad idea to add a second goby if the first has had the whole tank to himself?
<They are territorial, so squeezing multiple specimens into a single tank is risky. If done, I would keep three or more rather than two; and would also ensure multiple hiding places (tubes, burrows) so that competition was minimised. It's probably the males that squabble, but how to sex these fish I do not know...>
I love my goby and want him to have a pleasant a life that is as close to "wild" as I can provide. Do you think he'd be happier alone or would the territorial interactions be a valuable mimicry of nature? I'm not sure how close dragon gobies live to each other in the wild.
<Not. As I understand it, males maintain burrows into which females are enticed for spawning, then driven out, the males looking after the eggs.
Both sexes maintain burrows to use when the tide is out, these fish inhabiting tidal flats as often as permanent bodies of water.>
I worry that the floor space of a 125 is too small and the nearness would be unduly stressful. I also don't want to set up a situation where he won't feel comfortable coming out to forage and explore.
<They aren't wildly active, and there are ways to "entertain" them. Rocks with algae on will be scraped, and tiny plankton in the form of Daphnia or brine shrimp will be gulp-fed.>
What other bottom dwellers should I consider? I like oddballs, eel-like fish, funky catfish, etc. I'd love something similar to the saltwater toad fish but I haven't run into any brackish types in my research.
<Oh, many, MANY brackish water toadfish and similar; Neovespicula depressifrons is the obvious one, an adorable and very active fish, about 10 cm/4 inches long, sometimes known as the Butterfly Goby Waspfish.
Another obvious pick is a sleeper goby, Butis butis, widely sold as the Crazyfish. Adults are around 15 cm/6 inches long, very impressive. Both these species are highly predatory. No risk to your Violet Goby or adult Archers, but will view livebearers and snacks. Let me also direct you to the true Toadfishes, of which several species are traded very
Good aquarium fish, if a bit inactive.>
Thank you!

New Figure 8 Puffer - vomit?       2/8/17
Hi all,
After much research I brought home my first puffer - a figure 8 that's a little larger than a golf ball.
It's tank is a 56 gallon "cube" with water SG 1.003, pH 8.0. The puffer is the only inhabitant - aside from some crunchy menu options.
The first thing the puffer did when I got it into its new tank was to vomit a bunch of blood worms it had eaten at the fish store. It hasn't vomited since.
<Puffers commonly regurgitate, for all sorts of reasons.
Overfeeding for example, or stress. If you feed frequent small meals, rather than letting them gorge themselves, this is much less of a problem.>
I'm wondering if it was "de-puffing" as it seemed significant less rotund afterward. The fish seems fine now - exploring the new environment and hunting & eating the snails and home-grown ghost shrimp I stocked the tank with. Should I be worried by the vomiting?
<Nope; at least, not if it's a one-off. Cheers, Neale.>

F8 brackish water questions. Fig 8 sys; salinity... Artemia cult.        9/22/16
Hello guys!
I know there's a lot of info already about this subject on wet web media and I have studied a lot of it. Thanks so much for all you do. I'm emailing you because I feel that I have a specific problem that I would like help with. About a day and a half ago, we bought a Figure-Eight Puffer. He's a little over an inch long, so what do you think...maybe about a year old or a little less?
<Sounds about right.>
He's in a 40- (US) gallon aquarium. All basic water parameters (nitrites and ammonia) = 0 except pH=7.6 and nitrates are <20. The aquarium is well-established. It was a freshwater setup for Gouramis and Tetras, but they have been moved to a different tank.
Anyway, I was unaware (until reading your website last night) that you can't just use API Aquarium Salt to create brackish water.
<It's okay short term. Better than no salt! But longer term, actually not economical or as good. Better to use marine aquarium salt.>

I added a teaspoon per gallon of that yesterday. Then I went out today and got some Instant Ocean after discovering on your website that this is what I need for making proper brackish water.
<Ah, good!>
One question I have is: Will it be necessary to do a large water change, say 75%, to remove as much of the API Aquarium Salt as is possible before adding the Instant Ocean?
<Nope. Your little Puffer will be absolutely fine as he is now. Just add your marine aquarium salt to each bucket of new water added to the tank.
I'd suggest adding 5-6 gram salt mix per litre of water. That should produce about SG 1.003 at 25 C/77 F.>
Also, how much Instant Ocean should I add to make brackish water with an sg = 1.002? (I read on your site that you should gradually introduce him to brackish water if the pet store had him in freshwater, increasing it to 1.005 over 3 days.)
<Correct; and see above.>
My hydrometer is reading just barely above 1.000 right now.
<That is because 1 teaspoon of salt per US gallon is a trivial amount of salt. Not brackish at all! Full strength seawater contains 35 gram salt per litre. That's about 6 teaspoons of salt! Most people have no idea how salty the sea is. You only want a fraction of that amount of salt. One teaspoon is about 6 gram salt, so a bit less should be 5 grams, and that's the
amount to add per 1 litre of water to get SG 1.002-1.003, which is ample for a planted low-end brackish system.>
He's a really cute little guy, very inquisitive, very active and we have a good supply of pond snails for him. I plan to vary his diet with frozen Tubifex and freeze-dried Krill. As for our snail supply, they live in my male Betta's tank where the pond snails run amok and he never bothers them!
My female Betta eats all the snails in her aquarium!!!
I also was wondering if it would be possible to breed brine shrimp in the puffer's aquarium since it will be brackish?
<In theory, yes; in practise, the filter will suck up the brine shrimp eggs before they hatch, so nothing will happen.>
Or am I remembering correctly that you said that they have very little nutritious value for a puffer?
<Adult brine shrimp are a poor food. Baby brine shrimp are much better though, and you can hatch these in an empty plastic Coke bottle (or similar!) filled with seawater (35 gram/litre) and bubbled a bit with an airstone. Even easier, buy some "enriched" frozen brine shrimp; these are a good food for puffers.>
If so, maybe it wouldn't even be worth it. And, is a 40-gallon aquarium large enough for two F8 Puffers to coexist without fighting?
<Actually, I'd keep three specimens rather than two. Pairs can squabble much worse than larger groups.>
I have heard yes and no from so many different people on that question.
<Indeed; all puffers are unpredictable, at best. But generally bigger groups are less troublesome, but of course need you to be extra careful about water quality.>
Thank you again for all your help in the past and in advance for your answer to all this. Sorry to have written a novel here, but I felt I needed to explain the situation in detail.
<Hope this helps, Neale.>
Re: F8 brackish water questions       9/23/16

Thank for the info. This helps me a lot. One more question if you please.
Do you use a testing kit for salt or for fresh water in the case of a brackish water setup? Thanks!
<Yes, you can use your freshwater test kits in a low-end brackish kit. The only problem might be pH or hardness kits "going off the scale" because the pH and hardness might be above the range of colours on the card you compare your test result to. But the nitrite, ammonia and nitrate kits are fine,
and chances are the pH and hardness will be fine too. 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 whats 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.>

Volcano shrimp and brine shrimp, compatible?       8/6/16
Hi Crew,
<Hey Lou>
I have a 10L volcano shrimp tank. S.G. is 1.018. However, the shrimp mostly either hide in the rocks or sit on top of the rocks and barely ever move.
This makes it a pretty boring tank.
I know there are biotope specific tank mates you can get like alpha opae ula, pipipi Nerites and Hawaiian dwarf hermit crabs, but as they are wild caught and I live in Europe these are very expensive to import.
I was thinking a good, cheap tank mate that would fill the midwater column would be brine shrimp. I have read they can live in water from S.G. 1.011 upwards.
<Mmm; worth trying... hard to keep alive in captivity for any real length of time though>
Would it be possible to attempt this? I guess the main issue would be feeding, since brine shrimp need to be fed regularly while it is recommended that volcano shrimp be fed only infrequently and small amounts because they need clean water. However I do have a sponge filter and I can increase the regularity of water changes if necessary.
So do you guys think it might be possible to add a brine shrimp colony to my volcano shrimp colony?
<I'd try other species myself... but see if you can keep Artemia alive here
Thanks, Louis
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

1) Combining shrimps; 2) proper rainbows school in 29 gallon; 3) and plants in brackish       8/2/16
Hi Neale or Bob, whomever knows best on these shrimp, fish, and plants, or you can both answer. [��]
<Well, here's my go!>
According to this article below:
http://www.planetinverts.com/Will%20These%20Shrimp%20Interbreed.html, it appears that I can keep these 2 types of shrimp Neocaridina Heteropoda var. Red & Caridina cf. spongicola together and there's no risk of interbreeding?
<"No chance" seems a bit over-certain. But different genera, i.e., Neocaridina and Caridina, shouldn't interbreed, no.>
And they both tolerate my hard water.
<Correct. Water chemistry seems unimportant for most shrimps, whereas water quality is critical, not to mention avoidance of toxins such as copper.>
Other alternative: is it ok to keep ONLY female shrimp if you do not want them to reproduce, such as in a 5 gallon nano planted aquarium, maybe 10 female of each of those two species, or would the shrimp be crabby and fight with each other all the time with no male shrimp around?
<The females are fine on their own.>
Also: I read Both of your articles on the plants that tolerate brackish! I am again "considering" a low level brackish when I redo my 29 gallon with new fish. I have 2 types of Anubias, one with the typical roundish leaves that look like the terrestrial ivy, and another where the leaves are elongated. So these should tolerate a slow transition to brackish?
<If you're talking SG 1.002, 1.003 for the needs of fish that want a taste of salt (Bumblebees, Mollies, Knight Gobies, Chromides, Figure-8s, etc.) then yes, Anubias will usually do very well.>
And most swords? I saw this sword below, Echinodorus 'Ozelot', that someone is claiming tolerates lower light. I have a strip of supposedly plant supporting led's (all our LFS are selling anymore) that claim they're as good as 2 fluorescent lights, and Anubias are thriving and growing larger in size.
<The hardy hybrid Echinodorus will generally tolerate SG 1.002-1.003 without problems, assuming all else (substrate and especially lighting) are good.>
I am not sure I'll go brackish, but if I do, would a large school of black mollies be ok to house with a white goby-- I think he's called the Knight goby? Or would he be likely to attack them, or be attacked?
<Knight gobies, sometimes called "Fan-Dancer Gobies" in the US, are extremely beautiful fish. Easy to keep, too. HOWEVER, they are extremely good predators, and will consume any/all tiny fish (such as Molly fry, or even adult male Guppies) kept with them.>
It seems like it would be a cool setup and I might even add some Val.s or Sagittarius.
<Again, both these tend to tolerate low-end brackish water.>
Once I purchase the fish I think I will add a lot of Watersprite too, and some java moss. Is it ok to add the Knight last rather than all the fish at once?
<Knights are a little finicky so far as feeding goes, and territorial amongst themselves, but otherwise unproblematic, so add them whenever you want.>
The Mollies and plants will need to be transitioned to Brackish gradually,
<The Mollies can be dumped in seawater, so I'd not worry about transitioning them! Really, if you set the tank up at SG 1.001 at 25 C/77 F, you can add all the plants and livestock in one fell swoop. Over the next few months raise the salinity to SG 1.002, and see how things go. Only if you have problems with fish health, e.g., fungus, would I worry about going any higher than that with this collection of species. None of them needs a lot of salt. Literally just a taste, and your Rainbows really don't want anything more saline than this anyway. They aren't really brackish water fish.>
but i think knights are already sold in brackish environment so i think I'd need to do it in that order.
<They're very hardy, so a few weeks in hard freshwater won't do any harm. I'd get them while they're healthy rather than wait too long and see them starve, a real risk if they're for sale someplace that only offers flake food (which they won't eat, usually).>
And with the plants i have and mentioned i may add, how many hours should I leave the lights on?
<12 hours is a good starting point.>
It is programmed to only be on for 8 hours daily. I can reprogram it however I wish. I tended to get algae before growing on the plant leaves leaving it on 12 hours, and there's not excessive algae now. IF I add Mollies they'll nibble it I'm sure.
<Indeed. I do the 6 hours on, 2 hours off, 6 hours on thing and find it works well. Pretty much no algae (I think I clean the glass once a year!).>
My other choice if I don't go brackish (and I would definitely do Val.s or Sagittarius in this case) would be Melanotaenia boesemanni. In a 29 gallon, would they be comfortable with heavy plant growth (I'll grow the grassy plants up before adding them)-- Melanotaenia boesemanni, if I stock 2 males and 4 females?
<Sounds good. Nice fish, even better if you can get wild-caught or F1 specimens, which are even more brilliant than the farmed ones.>
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: 1) Combining shrimps; 2) proper rainbows school in 29 gallon; 3) and plants in brackish       8/2/16

Thanks Neale.
Re: 1) Combining shrimps; 2) proper rainbows school in 29 gallon; 3) and plants in brackish What about Mollies, if I keep all females or all males in a largish group?
Would they be ok like that, or fight?
<People do keep single sex groups of Mollies, yes; and I agree, a largish group, at least three, would be the way forward with the males especially which tend to squabble. Females are fine as singletons, pairs, whatever...
though odd females become feisty, they're usually pretty mellow.>
There would be no babies to breed, and if I notice one is pregnant later I could remove her... that's my only hesitation against the Mollie/Knight set up.
<The Knights will eat any/all Molly fry, believe me! They're very predatory. You could also get a Crazyfish, Butis butis, to eat the fry as well. A classic brackish water sleeper, very attractive, especially when mature.>
I'm not sure I want to see the knight eating molly babies.
<You won't see it! It's over very quickly. Butis butis hunts at night, if that helps.>
Rainbows (non-brackish) are more peaceful, I could go that way instead... no worries that way. If I can find the fish to buy.
<Rainbows will probably eat some of the fry, too.>
Thank you.
<Welcome. Neale.>
Re: 1) Combining shrimps; 2) proper rainbows school in 29 gallon; 3) and plants in brackish       8/2/16

Thanks. That helps.
<Welcome. Neale.> 

Intertwined violet goby aquarium & guppy utility questions       7/26/16
Hello all,
I thoroughly enjoy your site and the friendly, expert advice of your staff.
<Thanks for the kind words.>
I have yet again spent days searching the Internet and this site in particular and not found the information I'm seeking, so I come for a little knowledgeable advice. I have a young, small violet goby who has been waiting for an appropriate tank while I save the necessary money for such a set up. Also, after buying a few random "pretty guppies" for fun and ending up with bucketsful of fry, I am in the process of switching gears to selectivity breed them for fun (and perhaps profit) and have many healthy but "ugly" fish to deal with.
Also, in the next month (barring the unforeseen) I'll finally have the necessary money saved to get a large used aquarium. My multiple 10 gallon breeding set up will also finish cycling -- which will free up the 55 gallon that currently houses most of my guppies.
<As you're seeing, Violet Gobies don't eat livebearer fry! It's very surprising to some when fish as big as Violet Gobies end up being so harmless.>
So I'll have two potential tanks to fill.
Part of my problem is although I have almost all the cash I need, the 55 gallon I already own is large enough to house the goby - the minimum.
However, it would need to be modified from its present set up. I'm also not sure how I feel about only providing this fascinating fish with only the minimum.
<Can you sell the surplus Guppies?>
Another issue is that in the quest for beautiful, possibly sellable guppies, there are many casualties. First go any with obvious deformities or illnesses. I can handle that. But then there are the healthy "ugly" ones. That is a problem for me.
<Shouldn't be. My classroom has a 4-ft long aquarium filled with "moggie" Guppies that sport a total mishmash of colours - reds, blues, and so on. Their jumbled up colours look surprisingly nice, and much closer to what wild-type Guppies look like. They're also very hardy and easy to keep thanks to their healthier combinations of genes, ideal as classroom pets.
Non-pedigree Guppies might have no great value compared to the pedigree strains sold in pet shops, but they're better fish for community tanks and far more reliable. The better aquarium stores in the UK, such as Maidenhead
Aquatics, regularly take in unwanted fish including Guppies, and sell them on as inexpensive pets. Your local aquarium shops may offer a similar service, though I note than in the US a "feeder guppy" mentality persists where non-pedigree Guppies are sold as live food, something that is both expensive and unhealthy. Finally, local tropical fish clubs are a good way to rehome surplus fish among like-minded hobbyists.>
I am opposed to wasting life - specifically - killing without express, worthwhile purpose. Although I find "get rid of the ugly ones" a logically sound standpoint when breeding for beauty, I find it stomach turning in practice.
<One way to avoid this is to keep just one strain of a pure-breeding Guppy.
All offspring should match this type and be easy to sell as Red Cobra Guppies or whatever. Unfortunately, a lot of retailers sell pedigree males alongside non-pedigree females, I think because the Guppy breeders want to monopolise production of pedigree Guppies. So you can buy Red Cobra males but not females. Tropical fish clubs are often a better source of pure-bred females as well as males.>
I just can't kill based on ugly alone. However, I'm an omnivore and not opposed to culling as long as the healthy culls are utilized as food for other animals.
Is this a flawed idea? These aren't parasite and disease ridden pet store feeder guppies, but healthy fish I've raised with the same care and on the same varied diet of flake food (multiple types and brands), frozen blood worms, live black worms, steamed veggies, frozen brine and Mysis shrimp, etc.
<And should, theoretically, be perfectly safe food for predatory fish. My only issue here is that the predator be one that kills instantly rather than by chasing the Guppies and harassing them opportunistically. In reality, Guppy fry will be eaten by almost anything predatory, even Angelfish!>
And these culls would be only part of a varied diet for whatever omnivorous or carnivorous fish I choose. And even though adult guppies often eat the odd guppy fry, I wouldn't feed culled guppy flesh back to guppies.
How to go about the actual killing and feeding is a question if this seems logical, moral, and otherwise acceptable.
<Euthanising fish using Clove Oil is easy. 30 drops in 1 litre of aquarium water will put them to sleep very quickly. Vets treat fish death as 10 minutes after the last gill movements; in practise I find leaving the fish in the water for 30 minutes does the trick. Fish killed this way ARE NOT safe to be used as food. Instead bury the bodies in the garden or dispose of alongside the appropriate household waste (I'd put the bodies in the composter).>
Personally I insist on either direct "natural" predation - as in putting live culls in with predatory fish - or as humane a method as possible and then using the dead fish as fish food of some sort.
<See above re: euthanasia. So far as predation goes, a large predator able to swallow the Guppies whole will work. In a brackish system, something like a Butterfly Goby Waspfish (for fry and smaller adults) or an Archerfish (anything they can swallow whole with their huge mouths) would be on my consideration list. Also, I'll mention that Monos will happily consume Guppy fry, and very effectively at that!>
But at the same time I'm pretty grossed out by the thought of killing and then chopping or grinding up little fish I raised. Not sure how I'll get past that!
If using culled healthy guppies as fish food (in some way) is acceptable, I have four choices to make, each of which informs the others:1. What piscivorous fish will eat the guppies? (Target fish)
<See above for my picks. Targetfish are a bit boisterous, sometimes nippy, and need to be kept in big groups, so aren't an easy option.>
2. Will the guppies be live or pre-killed?
<If you're going to euthanise Guppies, I don't see the point of buying a predator. Just dispose of the bodies.>
3. If pre-killed, how - exactly? And will I have to make some kind of fish food mixture or just feed whole or chopped guppy bits?
<See above.>
4. What aquarium size and set up will the piscivorous target fish need to thrive?
<Butterfly Goby Waspfish (Neovespicula depressifrons) is fairly small, up to about 10 cm, so will be fine in a 55 gallon tank. It has similar requirements to the Violet Goby and the two should get on.>
- I could put the violet goby into the 55 gallon and use the saved money to buy the set up for the target, piscivorous fish. --OR--
- I could buy the violet goby a new set up and stick to (a) target fish that will thrive in the 55 gallon tank I already have.
- I could set up the new goby habitat, then set up the 55 for juvenile piscivorous fish and start saving again for the larger sized aquarium they will need.
- I could find a target fish that can live with my goby. If I can learn to be comfortable with grinding up guppies in a food processor, I could mix the meat with veggies and see if the goby will eat some of it, I guess.
<Sounds like a hassle.>
I'm not asking you to give me all the answers, but enough insight and some suggestions to get me started would be greatly appreciated.
I'm not very familiar with predatory fish - especially those suited to my local high pH, very hard water. The pH varies with the seasons from about 7.8 to 8.4. Other than driftwood, dirt, or peat in the tank, I don't like to try to modify these (using chemicals) My house has a bunch of stairs, too, so hauling RO water from another location is out of the question.
Currently, I'm researching leopard Ctenopoma and Bircher. Then I'll move on to Pacu and Pictus catfish.
<There's nothing to stop you feeding Guppy fry to either Ctenopoma or Bichirs, but there's some evidence live food increases aggression. So personally, I'd only use live feeders in situations where the predatory fish simply won't eat any other sort of food. Butterfly Goby Waspfish for example, or South American Leaffish if freshwater. Otherwise, you'll do better offering adaptable predators the usual dried and frozen foods.
Safer, cheaper, easier, less likely to cause behavioural changes.>
I really prefer oddball fish with lots of personality.
Thank you! I look forward to your reply :)
- Meghan
<Welcome, Neale.>
re: Intertwined violet goby aquarium & guppy utility questions   7/31/16

For my violet goby, I've decided to go ahead and buy a larger tank - at least 75 gallons, but larger if I find a decent used one at a good price.
Ideally I'd like 100 gallons or more.
<Bigger is always better, but 75 gallons is ample.>
Assuming I'm only able to get a 75 gallon, how does this stocking, equipment, and planting plan sound?
SG 1.003 - 1.005
<Should be fine, especially if pH and hardness are high.>

EQUIPMENT: sand substrate - tan "silver sand" (is tan okay? I've heard that many fish are more comfortable over a dark substrate and will be more active and outgoing. If this is true I'll spend the extra $$ for dark sand)
<A mix of silver sand, a bit of coral sand for buffering, and some very fine dark gravel can work nicely, providing something "diggable" while not too bright. I get my silver sand from garden centres rather than aquarium shops, which tend to sell it at much higher prices. The garden centre stuff needs a bit of cleaning though. I'm told pool filter sand is the same thing, but don't know for sure.>
3" thick Hamburg matten filter - powered by either pond pumps or powerheads - I'll shoot for at least 8 x per hour water turnover.
If you think extra aeration is needed I'll go for at least one powerhead with a venturi.
<I think circulation is the key, so any of these, or a decent airstone, will be fine. Something that gets the bottom level of water dragged up to the top.>
I'll build a "dam" of gravel against the bottom edge of the foam to keep the goby from digging under it.
<Good luck on that! Violet Gobies tend to level the sand after a while, mostly while foraging at night. So I wouldn't plan on sand holding anything in place. Some smooth rocks would be better, IMO.>
heater - sized for larger than needed for the tank (or two smaller heaters)
Florescent or LED lights sized for tank Tight - fitting lid with all openings taped
<Sounds good.>
LIVESTOCK: Bottom strata - 1 violet goby All strata - 6 adult giant Sailfin mollies (Poecilia velifera) - (I'll try to get 1 or 2 males with 4 or 5 females) plus their young over 3 inches. I'll remove the pregnant females prior to dropping fry and raise the fry separately.
<Good plan.>
After a while I'll sell or trade their young so the tank doesn't get too crowded. How many do you think will be "too many?"
<Hard to say. In a tank this size, I'd have thought ten adult Sailfins would be about right, plus a bunch of juveniles. My perception of livebearer tanks is that the numbers level off after a while, and the filter gradually accommodates much higher numbers than you think would work. Still, keep tabs on ammonia and nitrite, and if they creep up above zero, "thin the herd" a little.>
All strata - 6 adult Montezuma swordtails (Xiphophorus montezumae) plus fry 3 inches and over ( as above). Will they get along with the mollies?
<Should do, though males of both species can be feisty.>
Bottom strata - Hogchoker sole (trinectes maculatus) - not sure if this is a good match or how many to stock. Will it eat all the swordtails?
<Soles are indeed nocturnal predators, though primarily on worms and things like that. So hard to say if they'll take the fry of either species. No risk at all to adult fish above, say, half an inch in length.>
They have long tails but smaller bodies than the Sailfin mollies. I've heard soles can be hard to feed - but the same is also said of violet gobies - but I find mine simple - just target feed by partially burying food in the substrate near the goby.) Should I fed the sole in a similar way?
<Yes; they will consume frozen bloodworms and krill at night, but tend to be hidden away by day. I think in a tank with livebearers alone they'd be fine, because they'll be the only fish eating the bloodworms at night. But with the Violet Goby, I suspect there'll be a lot of competition, so I'd want to get the Sole settled in and feeding in another tank first, and only when I'm sure it's putting on weight transfer to the Goby tank.>
Or perhaps provide sinking wafers or bottom-dwelling live food?
<I have seen Soles and Flounders consume catfish pellets, but not regularly enough to recommend it. They're hard fish to keep in community settings.>
Would the swordtails or mollies be too quick - and eat all the food I put out for the sole before it gets a chance?
<See above; they're nocturnal mostly.>
All strata - Butterfly gobies/Waspfish - not sure about these or how many to stock. I love the look of them!
<They are adorably cute too. Have a look at videos online. They're active little things that flap about in midwater like marine aquarium groupers.>
They're small but sounds like they can be fierce little predators.
<Up to a point. They'll eat stuff up to about one-third their body size. So juvenile Mollies definitely on the menu. But adult Sailfin Mollies at no risk.>
Seems like they need lots of live prey.
<They will take frozen bloodworms, krill, etc.>
If I decide on them I plan on feeding live earthworms, blackworms, meal worms, small guppies and fry, perhaps crickets (I already have those), occasional ghost shrimp, brine shrimp (although I've never had much luck getting them to adulthood), occasional daphnia, maybe Tubifex, and frozen blood worms, Mysis, etc. - if they'll eat frozen. Top strata - wrestling halfbeaks. Not sure if these guys will get eaten - they're pretty slender, small fish.
<I don't think they're ideal for this tank. Very small, very nervous. Best kept on their own. Halfbeaks are hands-down my favourite aquarium fish; they're wonderfully interesting animals with lots of neat features. But they're better kept in small tanks with only peaceful bottom dwellers.
Wrestling Halfbeaks and Bumblebee Gobies would be fine, for example, in a 10-15 gallon tank.>
PLANTING & DECOR: floating java moss - lots! Java fern anchored to driftwood jungle Vallisneria - not sure about this one - it is less salt tolerant and not sure if it can be anchored.
<Up to SG 1.003 the Vallisneria will be fine, and you could do what I do, and "plant" it in a decorative terracotta urn that keeps it from being uprooted. But above that salinity it's less reliable. For sure try it out (some Vallisneria species certainly do inhabit low-end brackish environments) but don't be surprised if it fails for one reason or another.
Since brackish tanks can be prone to algae, there's something to be said to just using rocks, wood and plastic plants/ornaments that can be easily cleaned every few weeks. A few Nerite snails would provide excellent algae-removal services in this sort of tank too.>
The violet goby is a strong digger and pretty much anything not weighed down will get dug up on a repeated basis. Lots of rounded rocks - many with little "legs" siliconed on to prevent them from crushing the goby, others siliconed together in interesting piles and shapes. Driftwood with plants attached I'm getting excited! Thank you for taking time to help me plan this tank!- Meghan
<Welcome. Neale.>
re: Intertwined violet goby aquarium & guppy utility questions       8/2/16

Hi Neal, I'm so excited! Thank you for your expert advice.
BTW my local water pH is 7.8 to 8.5 and always "very hard." So this is what I'm thinking in terms of stocking:
1 violet goby
6 giant Sailfin mollies at first (plus 3 inch and larger young)
6 Montezuma swordtails at first (plus 3 inch and larger juveniles)
1 to ? butterfly gobies/Waspfish - not sure how many to stock. One article I found online said they are social among themselves and should be stocked in trios at least. But not sure how reliable this information is. Do you have any insight on keeping multiple Waspfish together?
<They do seem reasonably easy going as juveniles, but the species hasn't been widely kept, so any recommendations are, at best, provisional.
Waspfish generally are territorial rather than aggressive, and in a big tank I'd expect a trio to be fine. On the other hand, if your plan is to use Waspfish to control Molly population, I'd have thought a singleton would be adequate, and any additional specimens would end up requiring extra food, and by then they'd be so used to live food (Molly fry) that
weaning them onto alternatives might be a hassle. So personally, I'd keep one.>
If multiple Waspfish are happier, how many would be appropriate?
<Singletons or odd numbered groups are generally safest with non-schooling, non-pair-forming fish.>
And do you have any tips for avoiding stings?
<Keep your hands away. Seriously, not something I'd be overly concerned about. Colombian Sharks, Scats, even some of the popular freshwater catfish are equipped with stings, but they're entirely defensive and the fish in question doesn't go out of its way to waste venom for no reason. The only thing I'd do is make sure your friends/family know what type of fish you're keeping. Maybe stick an "in case of emergency" label on the tank somewhere.
Something stating the species (Neovespicula depressifrons) and the type of fish (Waspfish, a.k.a family Tetrarogidae). This way, if you or someone else did turn out to be allergic to the sting (unlikely) and went into shock (the venom itself is no worse than a bee sting for most people) then any medics would know precisely what to do. Make sense? This is a good approach when keeping any venomous animal, whether fish, snake, spider or whatever. Realistically though, see how many people keep pet Lionfish in marine tanks without worrying. If in doubt, trap the Waspfish with a big
net, place at one end of the tank, perhaps with the handle weighed down with a stone, and work away with your aquarium maintenance in complete safety. When done, release the Waspfish. First couple times, you might want
to have a friend or family member stay in the room with you, while you get used to things. So basically not a big deal, and many aquarists have kept Waspfish (and Lionfish) in aquaria without the least trouble.>
I have my hands in my aquariums all the time for maintenance, feeding, etc.
This is especially true for my violet goby tank - I feed it by partially burying food in the substrate - generally 2 to 3 times a day. I don't want to be terrified of getting stung. I'm not allergic to bees or wasps. Is it really awful?
<See above. Painful, yes; dangerous, not to most people.>
12+ Nerite snails to keep things clean between manual cleanings Malaysian trumpet snails - I read they can handle salinity up to 1.010 if properly acclimated.
They reproduce quickly - in line with the amount of leftover food and I like to use them as an indicator to let me know if I'm overfeeding. ?
<I would not bother with them. I don't think you need "clean-up crew" in a tank like this. The Goby will consume any food in the sand, and any surplus beyond that should be siphoned out (or use a turkey baster to spot-clean).>
Hogchoker soles. These fish fascinate me. But I'm not sure if I can balance the competing feeding needs of both the violet goby and sole, as my violet goby tends to scavenge after the lights go out as well as during the day. I could try stocking a large "clean up crew" of beautiful Nerite snails and just over feed via food hidden in the sand.
<Nerites are not really clean-up crew. In fact they aren't, full stop. All they eat is diatoms. End of story. They graze the glass and rocks. But they don't eat uneaten food. There are some brackish water invertebrates out there, but hardly worth it in this system. Will create more problems than they solve.>
If I go this route I might skip the Malaysian trumpets - as they can ruin the look of a tank when chronically overfeeding.
<Quite so.>
But I'm not sure Nerite snails clean under the sand.
<They don't.>
Do you think I'd get toxic gasses building up in the sand this way - even with my Diggy violet goby?
<Zero chance of toxic gases. You need a fair depth of sand, maybe 8 cm/3 inches, for anoxic conditions to form. On top of that, with a plain sand substrate, a simple stir-and-siphon approach to cleaning will remove any buried waste.>
If there are too many issues with keeping this fish I'll skip it.
<Talking about the Hogchoker sole? Agreed, they're difficult. As I say, I'd have one settled, feeding and putting on weight before adding anything competitive. If that isn't an option, I'd skip for now unless you happened to see a really big, fat specimen on sale (the ones sold in the UK are tiny; thumbnail sized).>
Zero wresting halfbeaks. Is there another robust top-dwelling fish that might be appropriate?
I looked at the hatchet fish, but they wouldn't do well in my alkaline, hard water and seem pretty small.
<Correct. Not an option here.>
Thanks again! - Meghan
<Welcome, Neale.>
re: Intertwined violet goby aquarium & guppy utility questions       8/2/16

Hello again, Neale,
Realized I was misspelling your name -- I'm sorry!
<No problem.>
One quick question: if I want to do a small Waspfish (butterfly goby) tank for just one - is 20 gallons sufficient? Some sources online say 30 gallons minimum while others say 20, so not sure.
<They get to about 10 cm/4 inches in length, so I'd say 20 gallons is a bit small. A youngster would be fine in there for year or two, though. They don't grow particularly fast.>
I'm asking because I have an Eclipse brand aquarium top (integrated filter, hood, and light) that is sitting unused that can fit either a 20 gallon tall (currently $20 at Petco) or a 30 gallon tall (over $100 and rare as hens teeth).
<Understood. You might look to see if you can make or commission a "glass box" that fits your existing hood. It has the built-in lighter and filter, right? Usually these hoods are loosely siliconed in place, and can be worked free from the original glass tank. Have done this with at least two tanks in recent years. So long as you make a tank with the same length and width as the existing tank, the hood should clip straight on.>
- Meghan
<Cheers, Neale.>

<FW to BR>; cycling       7/22/16
Hello all!
I wrote a few months back re: switching my freshwater tank to brackish due to an unexpected arrival, a green spotted puffer.
<Nice fish. Very intelligent.>
I intend to make the tank full saltwater, I even have a few Mollies in with him (4 or so in a 30 gallon).
<Mollies are hit-and-miss with GSPs; do keep the Puffer well fed with a good variety crunchy, filling foods (such as unshelled shrimp, used sparingly because of their thiaminase content, and more frequently things like snails and whole lancefish). Hungry GSPs are more "bitey" than well-fed ones.>
Intend to move them to a 56 gallon.
<Good size.>
My question is this: at what point can I stop worrying about ruining my cycle.
<Good question!>
I did crash it the first time I added salt, then decided to go more slowly.
At what point (I'm at 1.008 sg) are the saltwater bacteria the dominant (or only) beneficial bacteria vs freshwater bacteria?
<It's very difficult to pin down, but around 1.005 at 25 C I'd leave the tank to settle for a few months. Absolutely no reason to move GSPs above that salinity unless you want/need to. Once at SG 1.005, there'll be a balance of salt-adapted and freshwater-adapted bacteria, and you can make gradual changes upwards from that without major issues. Alternatively, as/when the GSPs are ready for full marine conditions, empty and break-down the tank, refill with full seawater, and rebuild using ample live rock, and live rock should "instantly" cycle a full marine aquarium without problems.
Make sense? Cheers, Neale.>

live blackworm colony in brackish water?     6/11/16
Hello WWM,
<Hello Meghan,>
I am in the process of setting up a brackish tank for a violet goby I purchased before doing adequate research. So now I'm trying to make sure I get it right so I won't have to move "her" once in brackish water.
Currently she is housed (I know inadequately) in fresh water in a 55 gallon with several dozen guppies.
<A surprisingly good combo! Violet Gobies seem to ignore the adults, and any impact on the baby Guppies seems to be trivial and accidental.>
Her current water parameters are pH 8.2, very hard water.
When I test the ammonia is always 0, nitrite 0, and nitrate never over 20.
I use a thick (3 - 5") layer of organic dirt and sand that releases a lot of tannins into the water. She loves to dig, dig, dig!
<Oh yes. They also enjoy gulping plankton (such as live brine shrimp) as well as scraping at algae-covered rocks. They're very interesting animals.>
I love the look and behavior of this beautiful little goby. She seems to be doing well, despite being housed in fresh water, and has grown 3/4" in the last 3 weeks. I enjoy watching her dig and sift for food, so want to make sure her permanent home encourages this natural behavior.
To this end I'm wondering if I could culture a self-sustaining colony of blackworms in her eventual home.
<Almost certainly not. Lumbriculus don't have a very high tolerance for salt; if you use Google Scholar and search for "Lumbriculus" and "salinity" you'll find a fair amount of experimental data. While they would probably do okay in low-end conditions, around SG 1.002-1.003 say, they're unlikely to prosper at higher salinities. Bear in mind Blackworms are freshwater Oligochaetes, and specialise in freshwater habitats. Once the environment becomes brackish or marine, Oligochaetes become much less significant players in aquatic ecosystems, being replaced by the Polychaetes instead,
many of which are euryhaline and able to adapt to changing salinity environments.>
If I introduce them into the substrate and feed them in fresh water, then slowly make the transition to brackish water do you think they might adapt and survive?
<I would not put money on it, and a bunch of dead worms in the sand isn't going to be much use to your water quality! In any event, even if they did survive, I doubt they'd maintain sufficient populations to feed your Goby.
You'd need many square metres of mud for that.>
Ideally I'd like to get the specific gravity as close to 1.010 as possible for the health of the goby, but I might be willing to stop at a lower salinity if acceptable to both worms and goby.
<Violet Gobies are euryhaline, and as happy at SG 1.003 as they are at SG 1.010. As you have seen, they're quite hearty animals! They come from mudflats and actually have the ability to survive in mud when the tide goes out. What kills them is the total absence of salt over long periods. Once you get into the brackish range, they're pretty much happy with anything!>
Any info or advice will be much appreciated!
<Most welcome. Neale.>
re: live Blackworm colony in brackish water?     6/12/16
Neal, Thank you for your prompt, good natured, and incredibly informative reply. :)
<Most welcome.>
You mentioned that the blackworms might survive at SG 1.003 and that SG 1.003 would also be an acceptable salinity level for the goby, with the caution that dead worms would be bad for water quality if they can't take the salt.
Rather than throw in the towel over water quality fears, I propose a little experiment. I'll set up a small spare aquarium I have with a layer of dirt and sand, a filter, etc, as I would for the larger goby tank - but all in miniature.
<An excellent idea.>
Then add a Blackworms culture and fresh water. Every 5 - 7 days add a small amount of water with marine salt dissolved in it. I'll do some calculations and decide how much water to change each day and what SG to add. I think two weeks to target SG seems okay. If the worms survive use them as the seed population when I set up the permanent goby tank.
<Indeed. Or else simply culture the worms in ideal conditions indoors or even outdoors in a "water feature" of some sort, and then add the worms to the tank as a periodic treat.>
As to your statement that I'd need several square metres of mud filled with blackworms to adequately feed my goby, I figured with her potential size and huge current appetite I'll have to continue my routine of 2 - 3 times a day feedings.
<Oh, certainly yes; at best, any "in aquarium" colonies of food will be a mere snack, not a staple. Have you come across the book "Dynamic Aquaria"?
Not an easy read, being aimed at academics setting up ecologically balanced food webs in aquaria, but full of useful information. One of the major themes is the HUGE amount of space required to produce sufficient quantities of prey for even relatively small fish such as freshwater Angels. Off the top of my head, it's something like 100 gallons for a
single Angel, that sort of ratio. Of course you're not proposing that, I know, but I'd be surprised if the blackworms were able to maintain much of a population in even a 55 gallon tank alongside an adult Violet Goby. So even if they survive, topping up the supply with ones from another tank or pond will surely be essential.>
I don't want her to mow through the entire Blackworms population at any point, I just want them there for her to nibble to discourage boredom. I know most fish are opportunistic feeders, so all my trouble might be eaten in one glorious afternoon, but if the worms survive the salt I'll keep some of the test pop population aside in brackish water to culture and feed as treats. Let me know what you think :)
<See above. Definitely worthwhile, and a fun experiment, but skeptical of long-term success. Cheers, Neale.>
re: live blackworm colony in brackish water?       7/26/16

Hello Neal,
Thought I'd update you with the final outcome of my salty blackworm experiment.
<Sure thing!>
I set up a 20 gallon long tank with a decent colony of blackworms in fresh water. Organic soil and sand substrate, seeded (cycled) mini corner matten filter, and some rocks and fake plants. Then for two weeks I raised the specific gravity by .001. At two weeks all was going well and the SG was 1.002. The worms were really taking over - looked like a little forest sticking out of the dirt.
My violet goby, in the mean time, was wreaking havoc on my 55 gallon.
While all had seemed fine for a while, silt from all of its digging had built up in the filter and began repeatedly clogged my matten filter to the point of zero water flow.
<Ah, yes, I can understand this. With big/jumbo fish, it's often easiest to
stick with relatively coarse media. Physically remove silt during water changes rather than relying on the filter. Turkey basters are a good tool for "spot cleaning" piles of uneaten food or faeces without having to waste more than a few minutes.>
I was doing daily 25% water changes and using a wet/dry shop vacuum to remove as much of the silt from the filter foam as I could. With such restricted water flow the ammonia and nitrite began building up, too. The guppies seemed oblivious of the poor water quality, but Kappa (my goby) was looking sluggish and red about the gills.
<Yikes! Do bear in mind these fish are facultative air-breathers. They're actually pretty tough, able to survive in burrows in the wild. Of course one adaptation to this might easily be becoming sluggish to conserve oxygen.>
So I transferred my goby to the 20 gallon (which had better water quality - 0 ppm ammonia, 0 ppm nitrite, and (if I'm remembering correctly) 60 ppm nitrate.)
Kappa promptly swam several circles around the tank, then dug under a rock.
Over the next week the 20 gallon long's water quality declined. I suspect this was due to an insufficient population of beneficial bacteria to deal with my Goby's size and messy eating habits. Kappa also did its best to clog up the filter by digging through nearly every inch of substrate. Luckily I'd used a thinner piece of filter foam for the corner matten
filter and it was easier to keep clean.
So just a caution to anyone considering violet gobies in a planted tank - skip the dirt! Your water will be forever cloudy and your filters forever clogged with silt. Instead do washed sand. It seems to work fine.
<Correct. Clean substrate and coarse filter media. Heavyweight filtration as well, but you know that by now!>
Kappa seemed to really enjoy snacking on the blackworms at first, but once the water quality stated to decline, its appetite did too.
So I was back to a sluggish, red-gilled goby in a muddy looking tank. I was doing tons of water changes - sometimes twice in a day to lower the ammonia and nitrite.
With all the back and forth water buckets, eventually the inevitable happened - I miscalculated the amount of marine salt to add to get to my target SG (by now I was up to 1.003) and got it too salty.
I knew pretty quickly - the worms shot up out of the sand and flopped over.
Some crawled around like they were looking for a way out...
<Correct analysis.>
As quick as I could I got the salinity down with another water change - this time with no salt. The worms settled down. Kappa looked positivity ill. I stayed and watched for a couple of hours, hoping all would be okay.
Then finally went to bed about 3 in the morning. I didn't record the SG that night - but replaced about 10 gallons - so about 1.002 I'm guessing.
In the morning I went in to find the aquarium lid in the tank and my cat looking very pleased with herself. Panicked, I took out all the rocks and fake plants, even the filter looking for my goby, but couldn't find it.
Cautiously I felt through the substrate (I'd heard violet gobies can give quite a bite) but found no Kappa. I sat down and cried.
A few hours later I went back in and there was Kappa swimming around! I'm guessing it was buried in the dirt and I missed it somehow.
<See above. When stressed, they dig burrows. Like lungfish.>
Now the goby is in yet another tank at around SG 1.005 - there are no worms or live plants to worry about, so I'm sometimes imprecise with my salt measurement.
<Which is fine. You can transfer Violet Gobies from fresh to marine and back again and they'll be fine. They inhabit mudflats where the tide comes and goes, and sometimes they might be under a river, sometimes under the sea, depending on the time of day. As you can tell, selling them as freshwater fish is extremely misleading!>
However the water quality is great and its gills are no longer red and its eating and growing very well. The substrate is washed black sand - with a "dam" of aquarium gravel up against the bottom edge of the matten filter foam to keep Kappa from digging under and getting stuck halfway (which it did before I added the gravel).
However, I consider the salty blackworm tank a partial success. The worms were at SG 1.003 for nearly a week and thriving.
Kappa didn't manage to eat them all, but might have if it had felt better.
However, I learned just how easy it is to get the salinity level incorrect and for that reason I don't think I'll try to establish an in-tank blackworm colony in brackish water in the future.
Overall an informative and exciting experiment!
<Agreed; armchair speculation on my part is all very well, but an experiment will usually provide the facts! Within reason of course -- senseless stressing or killing animals for the sake of curiosity isn't something I condone. What you were doing here wasn't that, and I'm pleased you were able to maintain worms and goby with success.>
Thank you for your guidance!
- Meghan
<Welcome! Neale.>

Green spotted puffer, comp. stkg. f's     5/25/16
I bought two from a local pet store when u hold it up to light it has a pink circle towards the back on one side in the dark or up to light u can't see it...what is and does it need to be fixed and how?
<A photo would help. But almost certainly a bite mark, or at least the remains of one. If it's the size of their jaws, then that's a good clue!
GSPs (and puffers generally) don't coexist well in small tanks, so at the retailer they often bite one another. Their skins are leathery and tough, so these scars usually heal up just fine. Provided the water is brackish -- not freshwater -- your GSP should heal up quite quickly. No real need to add medication beyond the marine aquarium salt (SG 1.003 or 5-6 gram/litre at minimum). Do bear in mind that two adult specimens might work in a tank from 55 gallons upwards, but these fish aren't "social" in any meaningful sense, and once they become sexually mature males (presumably) can be very
territorial, if not downright hostile towards one another, so do keep an eye on them.>
Thank you
New puffer owner
<Welcome. Neale.>

Brackish Tank Questions; stkg., substrate, fdg.      4/15/16
Hi, I haven't had an aquarium in a while and I'm thinking about getting back into the hobby. In particular, I'd like to start a low-end (SG 1.002-1.003) brackish community tank in the 29 gallon aquarium sitting empty in my basement. I have some questions relating to stocking, substrate, and feeding.
<Fire away!>
First off, my tentative stocking plan is:
(1) Peacock spiny eel (Macrognathus siamensis) OR (1) Barred spiny eel (M. panacalus)
<Either should work here, though Macrognathus pancalus is arguably the more truly brackish of these species. Neither will want much salt though; 1.002 should be ample. Lower salinity will also ensure plants can grow well, especially Indian Fern, a definite plus here for stopping Spiny Eels from being jumpy.>
(1) Male and (2-3) female short-finned mollies
(2) Orange Chromides
<Generally fine, though as territorial as any other cichlid of this size.>
(1-3) Knight gobies
<Nice fish, and will ensure no baby mollies survive!>
Would this be overstocked?
<Nope. Busy, yes; overstocked, no. Just keep on top of filtration and water changes.>
I'm also concerned that in a 29, a pair of Chromides might become tyrants if they decided to breed.
<Always a risk.>
If you think that would be the case, I'll either reduce the Chromides to a singleton or remove them from the plan completely. (If you think this setup would be overstocked, they're also my first choice on what to eliminate.) I'm also wondering if even provided enough hiding spaces, the 29 might be too small for multiple knight gobies. How many do you think would be ideal for this setup?
<Two females and a male should be okay.>
On to substrate, I have a bag of CaribSea Sunset Gold sand laying around my house. Would that be soft enough for the spiny eel, or should I stick to buying some silica sand?
<I've not handled this brand of sand personally, but if it feels smooth rather than sharp, it's probably fine. That said, pool filter sand/smooth silica sand is so cheap, you might want to play it safe and go straight for that.>
Additionally, what depth of sand would be best to allow the spiny eel room to burrow but not to risk anaerobic decay? Does 2" sound about right?
<Sounds fine.>
As for feeding concerns, I want to make sure that the plant-based foods for the mollies and the meat-based foods for the other species wouldn't cause any health problems if the other party ate some of it. I also would like
some advice for feeding a balanced diet to the spiny eel and knight goby.
I know that spiny eels go crazy for earthworms, and I suspect that the knight goby would enjoy them, too.
<Yes! Very much so. Knight Gobies are very much predators.>
However, I'm a bit confused as to which of the big three in aquatic feeder worms (bloodworms, blackworms, and Tubifex worms) is most nutritious and least likely to carry diseases.
<Not much in it, to be honest. Tubifex have a very bad reputation, probably justified. But bloodworms and blackworms aren't exactly cultured in crystal clear pools of French mineral water! On the other hand, if gamma
irradiated, they shouldn't carry any pathogens, and if used sparingly, the risk from introducing heavy metals, for example, shouldn't be too serious.
That said, marine aquarium foods like krill and fortified brine shrimp are certainly safer and usually accepted readily.>
I've seen claims in favor of or against all three of them, even here on Wet Web Media. I'd sort of like to start a culture of one of these in one of the smaller empty tanks as an easy source of live food, but I don't know which would be best for the fish.
<If you're growing them yourself, they're probably all reasonably safe.>
I intend to buy wet-frozen krill as another food for the goby.
Do you think that the eel would also eat those?
<Yes; spiny eels are hesitant feeders, and nocturnal to boot, but they aren't over-fussy. My specimens have happily taken chunks of prawn, for
I also know that any and all molly fry will probably end up knight goby
<Oh yes!>
What other foods would be good for one or both of them?
<See above.>
Some of the things I commonly see suggested, such as lobster eggs, aren't available in my area as far as I know,
<Do try stores aimed at marine aquarists.>
and others, like tilapia, I don't think my parents would approve of buying seafood sold for human use to feed to pets.
<So far as seafood goes, one approach is to buy white fish or squid for yourself, and wrap the scraps in some aluminium foil and place it in the freezer. Your fish aren't fussy, and for a few weeks at least such scraps will contain sufficient useful nutrition.>
If I do get the Chromides, I plan on using one or two brands of cichlid pellet or flake food for a staple, in addition to the smaller varieties of worms.
Finally, for the mollies I'll provide some sort of spirula-based flake food, and maybe algae tablets, but I'd also like to give them fresh veggies. When I see stuff like this mentioned, I always hear that you should blanch the vegetables and put them in the tank when they've cooled off, but I never see any recommendation for how long to cook the veggies.
Is there some sort of good rule of thumb for that?
<None. The blanching thing is about softening, not cooking. Zapping lettuce in the microwave for a few seconds usually does the trick. But lettuce is nutrient poor and shouldn't be anything more than a "salad bar" that goes
along with the main course, i.e., the good quality flake. Some foods, like cucumber, can be left in the tank to soften naturally, and the fish will peck away at over time. Since these foods contain near-zero protein, their impact on water quality is minimal, even if they end up as horrible mush.>
Thanks for the help.
<Welcome. Sounds a nice tank and well planned! Cheers, Neale.>

Brackish Puffer Woes     3/5/16
Hello Crew -
<Hello Rebecca,>
Thank you for the resources your website provides - and for manning this question/answer line.
<Thanks for the kind words.>
I’m emailing because I cannot seem to be able to keep a puffer fish alive and it is making me beyond upset/sad/without understanding. I apologize in advance for the length of this email, but I’m hoping you’ll be able to tell me what I am doing wrong or what other best practices I am missing regarding brackish puffer-fish keeping. I think the easiest way to tell my story is via timeline:
- I talked my BF into going to the local aquatic expo with me; we purchased a bunch of the raffle tickets and I won a 40 gallon breeder tank with stand! Yay! A bit of research online and countless visits to local LFS stores later I decided figure eight puffers were the fish for me.
<This is a BIG tank for Figure-8s! Very generous.>
So I purchased the largest api canister filter, black sand/fluorite substrate, and a disgusting amount of trinket type fish safe decorations (I had read puffers get bored easily so I planned from the getco to swap decor every once in a while to spice things up for the little guys). Set the tank up as fresh because the local LFS I decided to go with always keeps their puffs in fresh water; I figured easier to acclimate the fish slowly to brackish with the tank via salty water changes (moving up slowly) rather than doing the drip method to acclimate them to brackish immediately upon purchase…
<Thing to remember is fish that live in tidal habitats are designed (for want of a better word) for sudden changes in salinity. They often perk up when you do water changes that change the salinity. So provided you change the salinity across half an hour, there's no harm taking a puffer from freshwater into brackish conditions. That said, so long as the water is hard and alkaline, Figure-8s won't be stressed by a few weeks or even months in freshwater. So for sure, match the aquarium shop conditions, then change the salinity over subsequent water changes.>
- Purchased an API master test kit and some of those dip-type testing strips. Set the tank to cycling with a few defrosted blood worms and biospira (i think that was the name of the starter culture…). 45 days later: cycled! ammonia - 0/nitrites - 0/ nitrates - 0/ph 7.7/79 F (I haven’t tested the tap water for hardness as the local LFS indicated it won’t be a problem - they use tap water when doing maintenance on people’s home tanks etc).
<Well, if you're adding marine aquarium salt you shouldn't find hardness a worry. Marine aquarium salt contains minerals that raise hardness and steady pH, as well as taking care of the salinity. That's why marine aquarium salt is what you want, not "tonic salt" or "table salt" or even edible "sea salt" from the grocery store.>
Purchased a malaysian driftwood log; boiled it for approximately 15 hours (over a couple of days, a couple hours at a time) until the tannins were no longer leaching into the water. Also stocked up on API tap water conditioner, API ich-cure, prazi pro and assorted frozen foods (clams/bloodworms/brine shrimp/big shrimp with legs). Set up an air stone bubble wall along the back of the tank, an air stone under a pile of glass rocks (fish safe) at the front of the tank and a bubbling dragon in the center of the tank. Also tossed in around 10 marimo balls (ranging in size from 1” to 5”).
<Don't always do well in brackish, so keep an eye on them.>
- Trip to the LFS 1 (Major Tom, Freckles aka Dick and Harry/Harriet & Dottie): So little bit about me, I just graduated from law school and my BF bought me my first fishes as a grad gift the day before I got to walk at the graduation ceremony. Any who, I got talked into purchasing a juvenile green spotted puffer (less than an inch in size) along with the originally planned 3 juvenile figure eight puffers (each was about 2 inches in length). The color was off on the green spotted puffer (Dottie-Spot aka Spottie-Dot according to my BF) and I knew it wasn’t going to make it, but nonetheless I hoped getting the little guy/gal into salty water (1.001 raises at a time…) would perk him/her up. I performed a 20% water change and raised the salinity to 1.001 the first night; I continued to up the salinity with each water change until the tank reached around 1.005-1.006.
<Ideal for this species is anywhere between 1.003 and 1.005. No real need to go higher. The fish won't mind, but filter bacteria might take a while to adapt, and certainly plants are going to start dying above 1.005. Note, these specific gravities work at 25 C/77 F. Warmer or cooler water is different. Specifically, in warmer water SG 1.005 is actually MORE salt than at 25 C, and in cooler water, SG 1.005 would be LESS salt than at 25 C. First thing I'd do is make sure the water is at 25 C/77 F; no advantage (and some risks) to higher temperatures.>
After feeding about a cube worth of defrosted bloodworms on the first night Water parameters were at nitrite - 0/ammonia - 0/nitrates - ~10). Unfortunately the green spotted puffer died the next day while I was gone at the grad ceremony. Talk about a bummer. The water spiked at this point with about 5 ammonia and 20 nitrates/ nitrites 0. I performed another water change ( I think it was around 50% or so) and everything leveled back out.
<Here's your problem: Biospira doesn't work very well. Often not at all. Your tank is cycling, and it'll take some 6 weeks to settle down, perhaps a bit less now you're already started.>
- All 3 figure eight puffers began flashing against the aquarium decor on day 2. No white spots appeared on any of the fish (tails or otherwise) but this may have been because of the raised salinity.
<Correct. Whitespot does not live in brackish water.>
I began to raise the temperature of the tank by one to two degrees Fahrenheit every other day. The tank was 83 F on day 8 when the last fish died. I fed them every other day and never more than they would eat in about 3-5 minutes (full bellies but not over fed was what I went for).
<I would not use high temperatures here. SG 1.002-1.003 will kill Whitespot dead virtually overnight, certainly before fish start dying. Raising temperature is another approach for sure, but it reduces the amount of oxygen in the water, and also speeds up metabolic processes that means the fish produce more waste more quickly. Not worth it. Keep it cool, 25 C/77 F, because puffers are oxygen-sensitive and stressed by low oxygen levels.>
- One of the three remaining figure eight puffers came with (what I thought was) a very very stuffed belly (Harry aka Harriet). However, Harry never ate in front of me either at the store or at home. On about day 2 Harry started to poop white stringy goop piles and I figured it was an internal parasite.
<Can be. De-worming puffers is well worth doing, but wait until the tank is cycled.>
I had read that this is common with Figure eights because they are wild caught. So I began a routine: Harry got a 3 - 4 hour bath in a bucket of tank water dosed with Prazipro (half dose as puffer’s are scaleless) for the next 4 days.
<I'm not a fan of this "scale-less fish" nonsense...>
The other two figure eights (Major Tom and Freckles aka Dick) ate blood worms soaked in prazipro over the next few days and refused all other foods attempted (defrosted brine shrimp/freeze dried brine shrimp/clams/shrimp). It seemed to be working as after day 2 Harry’s belly had gone down to a normal size and I’d vacuumed some rather large and disgusting piles of dead white worm goo out of the tank during water changes.
- Freckles aka Dick died next on day 4. The water spiked again, I changed it again. Major Tom died the next morning. Again a large water change because of a spike in ammonia to about 20 and a spike in nitrates to about 20.
<Nitrate going up to 20 mg/l is fine. When nitrate goes up it means your filter is working. It's ammonia and nitrite (with an "i") that are bad. Ammonia above 0.5 mg/l and nitrite above 1.0 mg/l will kill your fish very quickly, within days, even overnight. While either is above zero, don't feed. Even if that means not feeding for a week or two.>
I changed out the carbon and the filter floss in my canister filter on day 5 (just rinsed the bio balls and foam pads in a bucket of tank water). Harry seemed to be doing great (except for not eating) until day 8 when I came home from work to him floating around the tank, out of control, bashing into everything like a little grey torpedo on the current. Harry died on day eight.
Fast forward to the present day. I just finished a 2 month period where I let my tank rest empty except for the marimo balls to make sure any parasites were dead. I cleaned all ornaments in a water/vinegar mix and rinsed well before putting back into the tank. I’ve done enough water changes in that 2 month period that it has been over 100% new water in it and took the tank back to fresh. Parameters were nitrates 0/nitrates 10/ammonia 0/ ph 7.5. I am dealing with a small explosion of brown algae (diatoms?) on a few of my decorations. It seems like weekly removal of algae is necessary for this type of tank. I am my own clean up crew as the puffs would eat any other :-)
<Pretty much. So avoid direct sunlight and over-lighting the tank. Some of the newer fluorescent tubes are designed to minimise algae. Worth checking out.>
- LFS Trip 2 (Gillie- Suit, Hawkeye and Radar): Last Friday (6 days ago) I purchased 3 new figure eight puffer fish. Each is about an inch and a half in size. The LFS had them in a freshwater 30 gallon tank with several scats, 4 spotted green puffers and a 4th figure eight puffer that was entirely white on its back half (not good! the LFS took that fish to the hospital tank when I pointed it out). Gillie-suit had her right fin nipped in half and dangling. Hawkeye and Radar both have nipped tails but otherwise are good color-wise and appetite wise.
- The day before purchase I removed the carbon from my canister filter and replaced it with extra filter floss. On day one with the puffs I dosed the tank with prazipro (half dose) as a preventative measure as the other puffers at the LFS did not have good color/were in rough shape. I also raised the salinity of the tank by changing 10% of the water out for salty water (end salinity was 1.001). The tank started at 79 F on day one and is currently at 82 F (day 6).
<See above re: temperature.>
- After 48 hours I did a 50% water change as all three puffers were flashing against the decorations. The salinity went up to 1.003 as an end result of this water change. Gillie-suit earned the name by being the best puffer fish at hiding I’ve ever come across. I attributed this to the ripped up fin. However, her color was fading at this point. All three were still eating anything I feed them (once a day feedings). From day one I have soaked all food in tank water with prazipro to unthaw before feeding them once a day.
<See above re: food.>
- Last night Gillie-suit refused to eat and her color began to fade; also, her gills looked more open than they should be and a small white thing poked out of her bum (looked almost like the tip of a worm). I performed a 50% water change resulting in parameters of ammonia - 0 / nitrite - 0 / nitrate - ~ 10). I have kept the tank dosed at a half dose of prazipro since day one of bringing the puffs home. Gillie-Suit died around 2am; I’d stayed up worrying and watching her to the end almost ripping out my hair and at a loss on how to save her. I wound up putting her in a bucket with an air stone and fake plant around midnight because she was torpedo’ing around the tank like I’d seen the last three puffers I owned do right before they died. Before the bucket she also got stuck to the filter intake (despite the block of blue foam I’ve got it wrapped in). I had hoped being in a bucket without any current would let Gillie rest up and heal.
<Doesn't really work if the bucket contains worse water than the tank. Those floating breeding traps are a better way to isolate injured fish, or failing that, a decent sized net or even a plastic ice cream tub with a few holes drilled in it.>
- The other two have now divided up in the tank: Hawkeye is trying to swim out the intake and Radar is hiding perched on top of the heater next to the intake. Hawkeyes has a white belly but Radar’s is a nasty grey. Correction: Radar just left his perch and is currently spazzing around the tank (Not sure how else to describe it other than zoom in one direction, zoom in another, zoom up zoom down zoom all around)
<Sounds like normal puffer behaviour.>
Now I am worried about my remaining two puffs. The tank is currently at 1.005 salinity/ph- 7.8/ammonia - 0 /nitrites - 0/nitrates - ~10; temperature is 83 F. Please tell me what I’m doing wrong is a simple fix?
<You're actually well on your way. Conditions sound good, if a bit warm.>
My dream of a brackish tank with figure eights feels like it is slipping through my fingers. Could I have too much current?
Too many air stones?
<Unless bubbles are sticking to their fins, probably fine.>
Not enough filtration?
<If you're reliably 0 ammonia and 0 nitrite day-in, day-out, filtration is probably fine.>
Should I add a hang-on back filter? Thank you for any advice you may have on getting new puffs settled in and keeping them happily that way. I am currently planning on a big water change/vacuum gravel tomorrow.
Kindest of regards,
<Hope this helps, Neale.>

Vallisneria and figure 8 puffers      3/1/16
I've read as much as I can and it's unclear, is sg 1.005 not low enough for Vallisneria species that are sometimes kept in brackish water?
<Maintain the tank at SG 1.002 to 1.003, and keep the pH and hardness in the alkaline range; say, pH 7.5-8, 10-20 degrees dH. This will suit both species. Higher salinities will probably stress the Vallisneria and won't
confer any great benefit to your puffers. They're happy enough in 10% seawater, i.e., around SG 1.003. Both prefer hard, alkaline water chemistry. So far as I know, there are no exclusively brackish Vallisneria,
though you're quite right, several species do occur in slightly brackish habitats. Cheers, Neale.>

Figure 8 puffer and sole; incomp.       2/23/16
Is a sole safe to keep with figure 8 puffers (ignoring the problem of food competition)?
<Not ideal, no. Figure-8s will nibble at anything. A flounder hiding under the sand with its eyes poking out might be an easy target for a pufferfish... with the result that the flounder could lose its eyes. I would be very wary about combining them. As a reminder, Puffers are best kept alone. They barely tolerate one another, and tend to view other fish as either a threat or potential prey. If you accept that, your pufferfish experience will be much better.>
I used to have a tank with dwarf puffers that ignored a pair of some fish sold as flounders. I don't know if figure 8 puffers are much more dangerous or if it's common for them to bite soles.
<Hard to say. Soles and flounders are mostly nocturnal, so feeding them is tricky, but since puffers are diurnal, you can work around the needs of both in the one tank. On the other hand, because the soles and flounders are inactive fish that rely on camouflage, they're easy targets for aggressive tankmates within the confines of the aquarium.>
Which common soles are best for 1.005 sg brackish, and is there any sole from Cynoglossidae that is best for this sg, or they're all unidentifiable and treated the same?
<It's incredibly hard to identify "freshwater" flounders and soles, with the exception, perhaps, of Brachirus harmandi. Let me direct you to some notes I wrote a few years ago that may be helpful.
To be clear, some of the names offered by wholesalers and retailers, such as Brachirus pan, are used so loosely as to be worthless. There are some very nice photos in the Aqualog brackish water fishes book, but even with these you'd be hard pressed to positively identify any "freshwater" sole or flounder. Much better to treat them all as low-end brackish, as they'll all thrive at, say, SG 1.005, even if that species should be marine or even freshwater. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Figure 8 puffer and sole; now stkg.      2/24/16
How many figure 8 puffers should be kept in a 36 x 18 x 24 65 gallon with heavy planting and strong flow?
<Oh, a fair few! Allow 15 gallons for the first one, then 5-10 gallons for each additional one. So at least six, perhaps a couple more. For some weird reason, this species cohabits well with Bumblebee Gobies, so if you must have a tankmate species, that might be worth thinking about. Tricky to feed though. Cheers, Neale.>

Figure Eights & Spotted Green Puffer       1/17/16
Hello -
<Hi Rebecca!>
First, I absolutely love your site and appreciate all the help available! I guess I am emailing because I have a bit of anxiety about my tank as I am new to being a ‘fish mommy,’ as my sister puts it.
I recently was gifted a 40 gallon breeder tank which I promptly cycled for a month. (Current Parameters: Freshwater/77-78 degrees Fahrenheit/Ammonia 0/Nitrite 0/Nitrate 0/PH 7.4/two bubblers to keep up oxygen/black sand substrate/fake plants except for a few Marimo balls/the biggest API canister filter)
At my local LFS today I made the plunge and purchased my new puffers. I originally intended to purchase 3 Colomesus asellus but the LFS had already sold out, and I fell in LOVE with a green spotted puffer kept with her trio of figure eight puffers. The LFS said he’d had the three figure eights together for a really long time (to the point he was going to take them home himself bc he was getting attached), while the green spotted was added to the tank about 6 months ago. All four puffers are the friendliest things and were in a community tank at the LFS labeled ‘brackish’ (not a single nipped fin in sight!). The LFS was keeping them in freshwater but warned that now the puffers are headed to their new forever home, I should slowly acclimate them up to 1.0012 salinity brackish water using marine salt during water changes.
<Mmm; well; this is not "very" brackish.... A good spg for both species would be about 1.005... Do please read Neale's piece here
: http://wetwebmedia.com/BrackishSubWebIndex/bracsaltyh2o.htm
Will the spotted puffer and the figure eight puffers be alright together at that salinity (between the two ideal parameters)?
<Very likely so; especially if they are "good sized" (adult tending)...>
The more research I do, the more conflicting information I seem to find. Also, what is the best food for them?
<Please read here re: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/brackishsubwebindex/gspfdgfaqs.htm,  and
I’ve currently been feeding them thawed blood worms and cockles from the LFS. Do they like snails as much as the Colomesus asellus do?
Will the Marimo balls survive in the brackish tank?
<Aegagropila linnaeii; at moderate salinity, yes>
Thank you for your help and any peace of mind you may be able to provide.
Kindest regards,
<And you, Bob Fenner>
Re: Figure Eights & Spotted Green Puffer
My apologies - salinity up to 1.012 (sorry about the extra zero)
<Ahh; I would actually lower this to the prev. stated 1.005
. BobF>

Figure Eights & Spotted Green Puffer /Neale's better go       1/19/16
Hello -
First, I absolutely love your site and appreciate all the help available! I guess I am emailing because I have a bit of anxiety about my tank as I am new to being a ‘fish mommy,’ as my sister puts it.
I recently was gifted a 40 gallon breeder tank which I promptly cycled for a month. (Current Parameters: Freshwater/77-78 degrees Fahrenheit/Ammonia 0/Nitrite 0/Nitrate 0/PH 7.4/two bubblers to keep up oxygen/black sand substrate/fake plants except for a few Marimo balls/the biggest API canister filter)
At my local LFS today I made the plunge and purchased my new puffers. I originally intended to purchase 3 Colomesus asellus but the LFS had already sold out, and I fell in LOVE with a green spotted puffer kept with her trio of figure eight puffers. The LFS said he’d had the three figure eights together for a really long time (to the point he was going to take them home himself bc he was getting attached), while the green spotted was added to the tank about 6 months ago. All four puffers are the friendliest things and were in a community tank at the LFS labeled ‘brackish’ (not a single nipped fin in sight!). The LFS was keeping them in freshwater but warned that now the puffers are headed to their new forever home, I should slowly acclimate them up to 1.012 salinity brackish water using marine salt during water changes.
<Well, 1.003 to 1.005 for the Figure-8, and from 1.005 to 1.025 for the GSPs. They have somewhat different requirements, and the GSP will get A LOT bigger and sometimes quite a bit more aggressive.>
Will the spotted puffer and the figure eight puffers be alright together at that salinity (between the two ideal parameters)?
<1.005 or slightly higher can work, but see above.>
The more research I do, the more conflicting information I seem to find. Also, what is the best food for them?
<No one item! Like all predators, your big problem is lack of variety, because that leads to vitamin deficiency. So a mix of white fish fillet, bloodworms, cockles, krill, squid, and occasional offerings of mussels and prawns (these last two contain thiaminase, which you want to minimise).>
I’ve currently been feeding them thawed blood worms and cockles from the LFS. Do they like snails as much as the Colomesus asellus do?
Will the Marimo balls survive in the brackish tank?
<Not particularly well above, say, 1.003.>
Thank you for your help and any peace of mind you may be able to provide.
Kindest regards,
<Most welcome, Neale.>
Re: Figure Eight Puffs      1/19/16

Hi Neal and everyone -
Thank you again for all the excellent advice and help.
<Most welcome.>
I hope the best kind of karma heads your way. I returned the GSP today and decided to keep the three figure eight puffs. But I have a follow up
regarding one of the figure eight puffs. When purchased on Saturday one of them had a very very bloated belly. I chalked it up to being over fed but her belly has not gone down a bit (today is Monday), she hasn't eaten (that I've seen but some bloodworms tend to stay after feeding so maybe she grabbed a snack when alone?), it seems like she's rubbing her belly on the tank heater sometimes and this morning she had white lumpy stringy poop (first time I saw her poop). Her belly is still white and she swims about just fine exploring (except when she gets in the mood to just pace the glass for hours)
Is this constipation? Parasites? My friend seems to think she's ready to lay eggs and I should add more smooth stones to entice her to spawn...
<Deworming is not a bad idea at all. Various fish-friendly medications exist for this, such as PraziPro. The use of Epsom salt in the aquarium can also be a useful laxative; do read here:
Egg-binding in fish is rare. Sexually mature Figure-8s will be fairly big, upwards of 5 cm/2 inches.>
These three lived together at the LFS the last year or so in fresh water.
I've started to gradually adjust their tank to a brackish set up. Tank parameters: 40 gallons/1.002 salinity/77.5 F temp/nitrates 0/nitrites 0/ph 7.4. I've grown surprisingly attached to these helicopter river puppies and want to do my best for them. Thank you again for the time and help.
<They are nice fish, and entertaining too. SG 1.002-1.003 is ample, and provides scope for planting the tank and, with care, choosing certain tankmates like Bumblebee Gobies known to do well with Figure-8s.>
Kindest regards,
<Cheers, Neale.>

GSPs For My Nano (11/14/2015)
Hi, <Afternoon!>
I've got a six gallon tank with an AquaClear 20 loaded with three layers of Poly Filter and a little power head (73 gpm). <Ok. What kind of lighting?>
Both of these are turned up all the way providing the tank with good filtration, turnover and gas exchange. Now I'd like to add some green star polyps but don't know if I should stick with a specific species. I would normally just go ahead and get the type that looks the best but I'm being a little cautious because I've got a small colony of Xenia elongata in this tank and I don't want to lose it.
<Just provide decent water quality and maintenance (like keeping those filter pads clean; but don't replace all 3 at once when you do decide to swap them out for new). It is hard to go wrong with xenia as a rule and they all have basically the same requirements. They are more likely to spread out of control than they are to do poorly.>
No other corals in the tank though and the Xenia is up high and I plan to put the green star polyps towards the bottom or directly on the sand.
<Should be no problemo and is about an easy a setup as a reef could be.>
My questions: Is there a significant difference between Pachyclavularia and Briareum? These are two distinct and separate genera, correct?
<Not for any practical purpose.>
I'm not worried about the Xenia or GSPs physically crowding each other but am trying to avoid chemical incompatibility.
<Both are relatively harmless in this regard, will grow quite close to each other until they physically touch. Simply leave a little space and prune as needed.>
Could you please recommend a specific species of GSP that would most likely not cause harm to the Xenia in my tank and vice versa?
<I'd be more worried about the inverse, honestly, although again, I would not sweat this at all. This is one of the very few times I'd be inclined to say what every aquarist wants to hear: just get what looks cool, provide reef-standard conditions, and enjoy. I'd personally put some mushrooms or Zoas in there as well if you like, these are all basic "softies" that are about as simple as growing a houseplant, cheap, beautiful, plentiful and easy to care for. I also think they are interesting, and they are
aquacultured extremely extensively (even to some people's dismay when they decide to go crazy with growth!). Nothing is more common or as easily propagated/fragged as Xenia, mushrooms, and star polyps. In fact I'd check around with local aquarium clubs, most likely you can snag some gratis.
Hope this helps- Earl>
Re: GSPs For My Nano (11/14/2015)        11/17/15

Thanks Earl! I feel a lot better now about adding the ''better looking''
bright green GSPs to my tank and am excited to hear that you think it would be safe to even add some mushrooms and Zoas. I forgot to mention but there's also three masked gobies (personatus) and one hermit crab (digueti) in there as well.
<Could stand to have some more "cleanup crew". They are interesting in their own right imo, avoid sea stars.>
You asked about the light: it's a TMC Mini 500 Tile connected to an AquaRay controller turned up to only 25% of it's full output. This reminds me of another question I have: I'd like to get a light meter and was wondering if there's any brands or models that I should stay away from? Who makes the better quality meters?
Thanks again for the peace of mind,
<These species are photosynthetic and having programmable lights should be very useful for hitting the sweet spot. I would stay where you are with them and increase them until you are getting acceptable growth. There is a definite too much/too little light here of course and getting there will be trial and error. To my shame I do not own a par meter and cannot advise you here :) I would simply ask around, reliable people you can talk to in person, or read reviews on different ones inside your budget. Discount extremely low or high review ratings unless there is a "preponderance of evidence" as they say. A 4 star reviewed item with 300 reviewer is more reliable than a 5 star item with 10 reviews generally. Pretty generic advice but a great default.>

Green Spotted Puffer... comp.        11/11/15
Good morning everyone! Thanks for all the help you've contributed (to me especially) over the years. I have a quick GSP question. I got this little guy after my best friend impulse purchased him/her. (I will refer to it as he) He promptly got banished to the equivalent of standing in a corner...of course he was sold as a freshwater fish ��. His crime was promptly killing several or her other fish (surprise, I told her, that's what Google is for). He was labeled a murderer and I took him.
<Actually, most GSPs aren't psychopathic. It's just that pufferfish bite things that might be edible. In the wild that could be snails, plants, corals... whatever. Normally fishes would swim away before they were in range. But in an aquarium that can't happen, and puffers can/do bite other fish. Usually just a nibble of the fins out of curiosity, but a bite's a bite, and can easily be fatal for small or delicate fish. So while GSPs aren't community tank safe, it'd be incorrect to label them as murderers as such. They can and do work quite well with fish able to handle themselves and more to the point, cognizant of what pufferfish are. So Damselfish for example work quite well with GSPs in marine aquaria. They know what puffers are like, they make it very clear to the puffer that they aren't edible (they're pretty feisty animals themselves) and the puffer takes the hint (they're quite smart fish).>
Right now he is currently housed in a 30 gallon brackish system. There are approximately 4-5 Molly's with him. He is still small and I KNOW he must have the 30 all to himself, but I am doing the best I can at the moment.
I set the brackish up just for him, and the Mollie's have never looked better. Anyway, my question or comment was this: my puffer has never, in my presence, attacked, maimed, chased, or killed any of my other fish/mollies. No aggression at all.
<It may well be that he's settled, well fed, and learned (again, stressing they're smart) that you offer plenty of yummy food that doesn't swim away or fight back. Like lions at the zoo, he's become lazy. I wouldn't stake the house on it, but if your Mollies don't show any signs of being upset, I'd not go out of my way to move them just yet. In groups adult Mollies can actually be quite pushy, even aggressive in the case of the males, so things might work out. But do PLEASE keep a close eye on things. Give the GSP plenty of high-fibre foods like krill and brine shrimp so he feels full, rather than pure protein (chunks of shrimp meat for example) that are kind of like "empty calories" to humans. You know how you can eat a giant bag of nacho chips and still feel hungry, but a few cooked vegetables make you feel much fuller -- it's that kind of thing. Krill, lancefish, and really anything with the shells and bones still in the food are ideal.>
In fact, he tends to shy away from them, but they don't cause him any distress. They don't chase him or pick at him. However, I have noticed that the Mollie population is at a slow roll, no longer the explosion that it once was. I don't know if the brackish system has anything to do with it or if puffer only snacks when I'm not in the room.
Why would a notoriously aggressive fish like the puffer suddenly become a docile cute little helicopter?
<They're not intrinsically aggressive. They're territorial (so males probably are feisty towards one another) and they're opportunistic (if it looks edible, have a bite and see if it). With few natural predators (inflatable and toxic) puffers can "chance their arm" as we say in England, having a nibble at anything just in the off chance it's worth eating. But few are, as such, territorial psychos in the same way as Mbuna cichlids or solitary piranhas. For sure not community fish, but can and do work in mixed species tanks on occasions.>
I thought that perhaps when she purchased him, his environment was not very good, and they probably fed him just flakes and he could have possibly been starving, thereby killing several of her fish. But everything I've read so far hints to that they ARE aggressive. Any thoughts?
<Yours match mine. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Green Spotted Puffer...       11/11/15

As always, thank you Neale.
Now...what about this "trimming of the beak/teeth" on GSP? I would have asked earlier but totally forgot. I'm unsure as to when (age) it should be done, how...and who (me??).
<No age as such... necessary if the beak is overgrown, causing problems at feeding time.>
Ugh, I don't know if I can handle that. I hate causing any and all sentient beings distress!
<A healthy instinct. Hmm... do read Jeni's take here:
My approach is more or less the same:
Cheers, Neale.>

Figure 8 puffer; trauma        10/28/15
Hello there. I have a figure 8 puffer that's been in a well cycled 15 gallon tank now for about two weeks. He is in a diet of frozen brine shrimp, blood worms, live snails and live ghost shrimp. The last time I was arranging one of the Decor items in his tank, he jumped out of the top and landed on the desk surface where the tank is sitting.
I immediately returned him the water, but since then I've noticed that he is bloated on one side only. He is the only one in the tank, and parameters are nitrites equal 20, nitrates equals zero,
<The other way 'round>
and I am careful to keep a brackish water condition for him.
<Mmm; how brackish? Have you read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/brackishsubwebindex/fig8pufsys.htm >
He is the only one in the tank and I do 50% water changes every other week.
I also have lots of live plants. When I looked online about the bloating, I saw things about burping the puffer fish when they gulp in air accidentally.
<I would NOT do this. Too easy to internally damage the fish>
I tried these techniques and some bubbles did come out and it appears that one side deflated but the other did not. He is still very active and swimming quite a bit and eating regularly. But the other side still has yet to deflate. Should I wait it out or continue trying to burp him?
<I encourage waiting>
Or is there other things I should consider?
<Mmm; do see/read on WWM re a modicum of Epsom Salt use.... I would try this
Thank you for any help you can give me!
Worried puffer mom's
<Welcome! Bob Fenner>

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