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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 2/8/1
Other S
pecialized Daily FAQs Blogs: General,
Freshwater, Planted Tanks, Ponds,   
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!
 ________________________________________________________________________

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.
<Cute.>
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!
<Hello!>
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.
<Understood.>
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!!!
<Cool!>
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.
Riobbcah
<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!
<Likewise.>
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?
<Fun!>
As always, thanks, for your time!
<Most welcome. Neale.>
Re: Brackish water setup.      9/11/16

Thanks!
<Welcome.>
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.
<Yes.>
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!
Roberto.
<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.
<Yes>
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.
<Good>
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.>
Thanks,
Jill
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: 1) Combining shrimps; 2) proper rainbows school in 29 gallon; 3) and plants in brackish       8/2/16

Thanks Neale.
:-)
<Welcome.>
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.
<Understood.>
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.
<Understood.>
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.
<Understood.>
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!
Anyway...
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.
--OR--
- 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.
--OR--
- 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.
<Ideal.>
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.
<Welcome.>
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.
<Correct.>
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?
<Archerfish?>
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.>
Thanks!
- 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.
<Wise.>
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.
<Excellent.>
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.
<Yes.>
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.
<Correct.>
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.
<Neat.>
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.
<Cool.>
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.
<Yes.>
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.
<Oh?>
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.
<Cool.>
Kappa didn't manage to eat them all, but might have if it had felt better.
<Possibly.>
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
<Yep.>
(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.
<Wise.>
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
example.>
I also know that any and all molly fry will probably end up knight goby
food.
<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.
<Yes.>
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:
<Understood.>
- 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.
<Good.>
- 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.
<Yikes.>
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.
<Good.>
- 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?
<Unlikely.>
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,
Becca
<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.
http://brackishfaq.webspace.virginmedia.com/Projects/FAQ/4h.html
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.
<Ok>
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
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/brackishsubwebindex/fig8puffdg.htm
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?
<Yes>
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,
Rebecca
<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?
<Yes.>
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,
Rebecca
<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:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/SaltUseFWArtNeale.htm
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,
Rebecca
<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?
Thanks,
Greg
<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,
Greg
<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.
<Cool.>
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.
<Yes.>
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.
<Welcome.>
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:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/fwsubwebindex/smpufferdentistry.htm
My approach is more or less the same:
http://brackishfaq.webspace.virginmedia.com/Projects/pufferdentistry.html
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.
<Yikes!>
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!
Sincerely,
Worried puffer mom's
<Welcome! Bob Fenner>

Green spotted puffer eye       10/16/15
Hello, we have had a Green spotted puffer fish for about 4 years now in a saltwater tank. Today I noticed his right eye is cloudy, with a little bump on it, and possibly a little swollen. He's acting normal and has been eating normal<ly>. We have not introduced any new fish to the tank, and all water tests come out perfect. We do weekly water changes, and feed the tank a variety of foods. Is this something we should treat or could he have damaged his eye on a rock?
<As it is only the one eye, I agree with your guess as to a physical trauma here. I would do nothing outside of usual good care and nutrition; though I do know folks who might suggest applying a solution to the damaged eye. Bob Fenner>
Tammi'
Re: Green spotted puffer eye       10/16/15

Thank you for the fast response. What would you suggest we apply to the eye if it gets worse?
<Send along a pic and I'll ask Neale Monks here. BobF>
Green spotted puffer eye       10/16/15

This is the best photo we could get. The cloudiness looks worse in person, but you can see the little bump on the eye.
<I wouldn't treat. What say you Neale? BobF>

Green spotted puffer eye     Neale's input        10/16/15
<<I agree with Bob. A single cloudy eye usually means physical damage, and the best treatment for this is good water quality. I'd review salinity, and if possible, raise it; certainly ensure it's above SG 1.005. Seawater dips for 10-20 minutes can be very therapeutic for brackish water fish as well (35 gram marine salt per litre of aquarium water, in a bucket or ice cream carton). Repeat such dips daily. They usually remove external infections, and the raised salinity in the main aquarium should prevent further infection. Do check the tank for the reasons the eye got damaged: sharp coral skeletons or rocks, other aggressive fish, and so on. Pop-eye is fairly common in puffers, but normally because of an environmental shortcoming rather than parasitic infection. You can safely use Epsom salt in brackish tanks as well, alongside marine salt, and it'll help reduce swelling. Do read about this on WWM, alongside further details on this species of pufferfish. Cheers, Neale.>>

My Tank; stkg. sm. FW        9/22/15
I have a 10 gallon tank with an African bumblebee catfish
<Which one? Microsynodontis batesii? A small, somewhat sensitive riverine fish.>
and a Pleco ( I know the Pleco gets too big, I'm putting it in a bigger tank when it grows).
<I'll say! 75 gallons if you want clear water; 55 gallons absolute minimum but that'll be a tank with fish faeces all over the place.>
Could I put two Figure 8 puffers
<Brackish water fish; will not live long in freshwater.
By the way, I don't care what the guy in pet store says about them being freshwater fish. They're not. Sadly, decades ago this species got mixed up with another species (that looks nothing like it, called Tetraodon palembangensis).
Since that time a few books said the Figure 8 was a freshwater fish, but everybody now knows it isn't, except people trying to sell this fish.
Shame, but that's business I guess.>
in there with 2 Corys as well?
<Not in 10 gallons, no. The fish you have don't belong in 10 gallons; or rather, while Microsynodontis batesii might work in a biotope tank this size, that's only alongside other "nano" species such as, for example, Ember Tetras or Endler's Guppies.>
Sent from my iPad
<Sent from my computer. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: My Tank     9/23/15
It's actually a South American bumblebee catfish
and it just stays in a cave...
<Makes sense. More common in the trade. Various species sold under this name though. Microglanis iheringi is the commonest. Quite small (5 cm) and very shy. Tends to starve unless you provide suitable food at night. I wouldn't force it to compete with substantially larger nighttime catfish such as Plecs.>
Also if I put the figure 8 in freshwater until December would that be okay.
<Possibly, but why bother? You could keep Polar Bears in the desert for a while, but why not keep them somewhere icy instead? Same issue here. Figure-8s are always kept on their own. They're nippy and territorial. So set up a 15+ gallon tank for a singleton, or a 20+ tank for three or more, and keep them properly from the start. You're going to have to eventually
or they'll sicken and die. Brackish water isn't expensive; buy a box of marine aquarium salt and use at 10-20% the amount stated on the package for a specific gravity around 1.001 to 1.003 (3.5-6 gram/litre).>
And yeah my cousin has a 100 gallon tank so I'm giving him the Pleco when it gets bigger, and I'll buy another small one and continue that process.
<Why not just get a Bristlenose Plec that stays small, 12 cm/4 inches, it's entire life? Your approach doesn't make a lot of sense.>
I don't have cories yet just the Pleco and bumblebee. Thank you
<Welcome. Neale.>
Re: My Tank    9/24/15

My Pleco died sadly.
<Indeed, sad.>
Now i could probably just make it brackish if all u need is salt.
<Marine aquarium salt mix. Not cooking salt or "aquarium" salt sold for freshwater fish. I have written much on this here, elsewhere; but could start here...
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_4/v4i2/brackish%20systems/brackish.htm
Maybe pivot over to the Figure 8 Puffer articles elsewhere on WWM, such as here...
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/BrackishSubWebIndex/fig8pufsys.htm
Follow the links; maybe join up with the (serious) pufferfish folks over on ThePufferForum.com for example.>
Thanks for all the help.
<Welcome. Neale.>
Re: My Tank      9/26/15

I ended up with a 6 gallon brackish tank with a figure 8 puffer. I love it. Thanks for all the help.
<Sounds good. Do bear in mind you'll need a bigger tank in time... 15 gallons maybe? Cheers, Neale.>

Two GSPs; no rdg.       9/3/15
I have 2 green spotted puffer fish, one is find but the other is sick I think. It has a grey belly, almost black even, they are in freshwater but I need to make their tank a salt water tank but I don't know how exactly.
What can I do for both issues I'm having?
<.... by reading here:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/brackishsubwebindex/gspsart.htm
and the linked files above. Bob Fenner who urges you to learn how to/use WWM>

Some help... FW/BR Eel/s bet      8/26/15
Hello,hi my name is Terry and I have a friend whom works at petco,and first let me say I really don't like petco nor how they don't teach there people right...I am a animal lover and I know alil about a lot and animals are my thing and I know there isn't a true 100% freshwater Eel and that petco sells a Eel (snowflake Eel) itz a snowflake 100% Eel not that all white one,with black flakes and yellow tint but tha other somw white with like black spots and they are sellin these animals a frehwater Eels...well I tryed 2 educate my friend whom says he has been doin this for 12years that there is no true 100% Eel that is freshwater and that snowflake Eel isn't either 1 freshwater...well u said that I am wrong and that he don't know where I get my info but I am wrong,I said with a lol that he is wrong and I said I woulda bet him 100.00s with a slight pause he lol and said no but he said if I showed him a book backed with science pro that ima right and he's wrong (book) that he'll pay me back and buy my snowflake Eel I said oka ur on...
<Indeed.>
Now I do all my readin and kept readin and stay readin and know my stuff...what I need from u guys even tho it states right here that he is wrong on ur page can u give me a name of a book or somethin else so he can c it and read it 100% and that I am right,
<Well, you could start with the book I (Neale Monks) edited, 'Brackish Water Fishes' published by TFH. Or you can try the Aqualog book 'Brackish Water Fishes' by Frank Schaefer. Both discuss the several "freshwater"
morays in depth. You can also visit the relevant page on my Brackish FAQ to find links to the Fishbase pages for each of the three traded species, here:
http://brackishfaq.webspace.virginmedia.com/Projects/FAQ/4f.html
While all three species occur in freshwater at certain times in their life, none spend their entire life in freshwater, and all become sickly if kept in freshwater tanks indefinitely. Indeed, it's probable that the three of them migrate into and breed in the sea only (that's what all other eels do).>
not just 4 my benifit but tha well bein of those animals and that he can listen and learn somethin 2 pass it on...plus I've been wantin a snowflake Eel and set up a 65gallon tank,with live rock,dryed live rock,coralife super skimmer 65g,I plan on up gradin my skimmer and at somme point make,build a 40g wide tank I want 2 start coral and frags...
I want 2 get deeper in2 tha saltwater trade just 2 have a small piece of heaven sea world right here at home and give them a beautiful home.
Thank u sincerly Terry...
<Hope that this helps. Cheers, Neale>
re: Some help... BR eels not FW        8/29/15

Thank u for all...
It don't matter to my friend I guess, he keeps telling me he'll take me to our public library and show me that ima wrong...lol
<Indeed, LOL.>
I told him about u Neale monks and ur back ground I looked u up and wrote everything down 4 him, and gave him his scientific evidence that he was wrong and u held all tha truth...it did no good he still say I am wrong that u are wrong..lol that's funny, I don't believe he even read anything...
<A common problem.>
I told him ill even show him are emails, hard headed I guess...I don't understand why he believes in a library book that some other dude wrote but willnt believe urs...
<Some folks don't want to have their minds changed. Even when deep down they know something is wrong. They still hold onto what they think and feel because it's easier than to change their mind and admit they were wrong.
Sometimes people just have to learn things the hard way, in this case, with sick/dead fish. Shame on them, but at the end of the day, "you can take a mule to a well but you can't make it drink".>
I don't know what 2 do he with my friend...
<Have your friend email us if wants, and I'd be happy to chat. Meantime, encourage him to strive to become a Master Fishkeeper, someone who reads up on the science and visits the library alongside wanting to develop the practical skills. We can all be better fishkeepers! Cheers, Neale.>
re: Some help... (Bob, Snowflake Eel???)        9/2/15

Mr. neale,I am stoked, I got my baby snowflake Eel today, she I call her is about 7inch beautiful color and I also found out how to tell what type of snowflake Eel one has by color ...but at any rate, I have a issue my Eel was shipped over night to me from thatpetplace.com and when I opened it up and seen her I loved her from that moment, I have a issue though she seems to be twitching a little bit head shakes and I wanted to know is that normal and is there a issue I need to worry about???
<Not normal, no, so would investigate. Check water quality, chemistry and salinity. Morays are quite hardy but they do get stressed by handling. Would have you read here:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/snowflakemoray.htm
Do follow the links at top... especially the ones on disease, behaviour and systems. Unhappy Morays will try to jump out, and they're also among the first fish to suffer from external parasites, so there are some immediate risks/considerations. Good luck with this lovely fish. Cheers, Neale.>

Columbian Shark Catfish; gen. and fdg.      7/31/15
First, I want to say thank you for all you have written on your website regarding these majestic creatures. With that, I'm having a ton of issues and could really benefit from your expertise....
<Let's see>
First, I purchased this catfish Shark from Wal-Mart. How awful,
<How I wish that non-specialized mass merchandisers would either get out of the livestock trade/s period, OR at least get someone who knows to pick species that are suitable for use.... this fish, Green Spotted Puffers.....
Blah!>

I knew nothing and was ill equipped to handle this. So to make a very long story short with the specific issues at hand ... I have 2 left. I will upgrade the size of the tank when I know I can keep them alive.
<Oh! Neale and I and others have most all the pertinent husbandry  facts/FAQs archived (READ) here:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_7/volume_7_1/ariidae.html
and
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ariidcats.htm
Brackish animals when small; full saltwater and large later>
I purchased a sub pump for my bow front 30 gal along with a bio filter and I aerate the water 1/day now. I have increased the salinity to 1.0005-6 in the last month but I can't get the water clear again.
<Be patient here>
I called instant ocean customer service and did what they said, but maybe I need to use more purified water, not just dechlorinated?
<The dechloraminated water should be fine>
I learned that they prefer sand, so, unfortunately I mixed some sand in the water And created a huge mess. Can I, while the tank is still going, scoop out the gravel and sand and add the aragonite for brackish water ranks?
<Yes; though perhaps better to siphon out over a few maintenance cycles and  replace>
Or should I start with a whole new set up?
<I would not>
My biggest issue is getting them to eat....they wouldn't take any of the pellet/flake/commercial food. I've bought scallops, whitefish and tilapia.
They finally ate a little of the latter provided a microwaved it for 13 seconds...they wouldn't eat it raw, and they wouldn't eat it cooked.
<No to cooking foods for fishes>
I tried canned Salmon, sustainable tuna,
<Don't use these... too messy; polluting>

and baby shrimp. They ate a few baby shrimp a little the first day, but none following. I bought red minnows (6), thinking live food might help, but, alas, I now have 6 very fat feeder fish. I bought 15 ghost shrimp, because, I thought, they ate the first 3 I purchased, but its like they just don't see them. They do smell them, but don't catch them. Then I bought black worms (which she told me to rinse out and keep in the fridge, and I think are dead now), and, they ate them, IF that skinny little worm hit them on the head...otherwise they are oblivious. And now, 2.5 days later, they are not eating them at all and I
have a blanket of worms on the floor of the tank, which, I don't know if are alive or dead. They stay in one spot waiting to be fed...I've tried chicken, seasoned and raw, and roast beef organic cold cuts (without success).
What do I do?
<Siphon out the mess; test for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate....>

I have to go away for a couple of days and I don't even know how to get someone to feed them if they won't eat.
<Don't worry re... unless very small, thin they won't starve in your days absence>
It makes me neurotic.
Please help. thanks
Kris
<The reading when you have time, can make yourself calm. All will be revealed. Bob Fenner>
Re: Columbian Shark Catfish     7/31/15

And I also wanted to add...
What about Cichlid lake salt instead of instant ocean?
<Synthetic sea salt is better... the IO or another brand>
It would seem that better for brackish conditions....since these are brackish fish like cichlids....
<They are not.... salts are combinations of metals and non-metals chemically/physically. There ARE many types/kinds of salts. The ones that make up the mix of the Great Lakes of Africa that some manufacturers offer are NOT the same blend as seawater... which IS where Sciades hail from. BobF>

Filter for brackish aquarium    /RMF   5/19/15
Hello WWM crew. I have a 125 gallon brackish aquarium 1.012 sg and am using a couple of canister filters and just purchased a protein skimmer.
My question is, are canister filter nitrate factories?
<They can be; if not packed properly w/ filter media, cleaned regularly>
I see they are not preferred for salt water but are they ok for brackish water?
<Yes>
If so, I may choose to raise the salinity in the future, at what point would a canister not be a good choice?
<Changing spg slowly (a thousandths or so maximum per day) can be done w/ most all types of filtration. The issue is not changing it too much, too fast that it impugns biological filtration.>
Thanks for the help.
-Mark
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>
Filter for brackish aquarium   /Neale        5/20/15

Hello WWM crew. I have a 125 gallon brackish aquarium 1.012 sg and am using a couple of canister filters and just purchased a protein skimmer.
My question is, are canister filter nitrate factories?
<It's complicated. Regularly cleaned (every 4-6 weeks, say) there's no particular reason a canister should produce nitrate. All it will support is filter bacteria and any insoluble organic matter trapped in the filter media. But beyond that the insoluble organic matter can start to decay, and that can eventually release soluble nitrogenous compounds. If regularly cleaned, you'd wash away this insoluble material (dead plant matter for example) before it released any nitrogenous material. Ultimately, any/all nitrate in the tank comes from the nitrogen that goes into the aquarium via
fish food. Normally, some percentage of that nitrogen would be in insoluble material and it wouldn't have any impact on dissolved nitrate in the water. But in a canister filter that hasn't been cleaned for a while, some of that insoluble matter is now entering the nitrogen cycle in your aquarium, ending up as nitrate. This is where the "nitrate factory" idea comes from.
It isn't magically synthesising nitrate from the water; that makes no scientific sense at all. Make sense? Contrast with live rock. Like a canister, the bacteria on the surface turn ammonia into nitrite and then nitrate. But unlike a canister, live rock contains bacteria in the tiny anaerobic spaces inside it that turn nitrate into nitrogen gas. So whereas an unmaintained canister can cause nitrate level in the tank to creep up higher than a similar tank with a well maintained canister, putting lots of live rock in a tank will normally pull the nitrate level down lower than a
similar tank with a well maintained canister filter. In short: a well maintained canister doesn't make extra nitrate from nothing, but neither does it lower nitrate as you'd expect from a big pile of live rock (or for that matter, deep sand bed or plenty of fast-growing floating plants)>
I see they are not preferred for salt water but are they ok for brackish water?
<Since live rock is a common option for marine tanks, yes, canister have fallen out of favour. But this isn't because they don't work. Clean a canister once every month or so and it'll not produce more nitrate than any other biological filter. But most people leave their canisters running for many months at a time (mine often run six months before cleaning!) and that can, in situations like that described above, lead to further decay of insoluble organic matter that releases soluble nitrogenous compounds into the water. They may even start supporting their own biota of invertebrates that consume food and excrete nitrogenous wastes; tubeworms, cnidarians and the like.>
If so, I may choose to raise the salinity in the future, at what point would a canister not be a good choice?
<Less a salinity, more a question of frequency of maintenance. Properly maintained, a canister remains a viable choice, particularly in fish-only systems where reverse-flow undergravels can provide exceptionally clean and
clear water as well as excellent oxygenation along the bottom for those fishes that prefer to stay down there.>
Thanks for the help.
-Mark
<Most welcome. Neale.>

Sick Pufferfish /RMF        5/9/15
Hello,
<Greetings>
i have a 2 green spotted pufferfish (Pacman and Milo) and i believe Milo is sick. i have had him for about 2 weeks now. He is in a 30 gallon tank. The water parameters are Ph: 4
<... no>

Nitrites: 0 Nitrates: 0 Salinity: .016
<1.016... quite salty. Have you read on WWM re GSP care?>

and the water is hard. I just did a 50% water change yesterday. The first 2 days i got him he was eating bloodworms
<A poor choice...>
and thawed shrimp
<... and this. See WWM re Thiaminase>
but now he has not really eaten since then
( i have offered him a live crab, frozen mysis shrimp, thawed shrimp, live shrimp, thawed clams, and brine shrimp and snails). He was already skinny when i got him but very white on his belly. Now he is still super skinny, not eating and has a gray stress line between his spots and his white belly. he still greets me when
i come see him and he swims around pretty good but for the most part sleeps alot
<No such word>
on the ground or in the plants i have in my tank. I don't know what to do.
he is so cute and i just adore him and want to make sure he is healthy. is there anyway he could possibly have parasites or something? i have noticed that Pacmans poops are like little pieces of gravel strung together but Milo's poops are stingy. please help.!
Christiana
<Am sending this over to Neale for his much more experienced input. In the meanwhile DO read where I've referred you. The indices, search tool.... Bob Fenner>
Sick Pufferfish /Neale

Hello,
i have a 2 green spotted pufferfish (Pacman and Milo) and i believe Milo is sick. i have had him for about 2 weeks now. He is in a 30 gallon tank. The water parameters are Ph: 4 Nitrites: 0 Nitrates: 0 Salinity: .016 and the water is hard. I just did a 50% water change yesterday. The first 2 days i got him he was eating bloodworms and thawed shrimp but now he has not
really eaten since then ( i have offered him a live crab, frozen mysis shrimp, thawed shrimp, live shrimp, thawed clams, and brine shrimp and snails). He was already skinny when i got him but very white on his belly.
Now he is still super skinny, not eating and has a gray stress line between his spots and his white belly. he still greets me when i come see him and he swims around pretty good but for the most part sleeps alot on the ground or in the plants i have in my tank. I don't know what to do. he is so cute and i just adore him and want to make sure he is healthy. is there anyway
he could possibly have parasites or something? i have noticed that Pacmans poops are like little pieces of gravel strung together but Milo's poops are stingy. please help.!
Christiana
<Start off by deworming (quite common problem with puffers) and then review diet thoroughly. Crustaceans (shrimps, prawns, mysis, etc.) should be a minority part of their diet because of high Thiaminase levels. Mussels should also be a small part of their diet. The bulk should be Thiaminase-free foods, cockles and white fish fillet (cod, coley and tilapia are all good) plus gut-loaded live invertebrates (earthworms, pond snails, etc.). Try to get some greens into their diet, whether as gut
contents in prey or else directly (Spirulina-enriched frozen brine shrimps for example). My guess here is that he was purchased with worms, hence skinniness, and things haven't improved since then. An optimal diet plus PraziPro or similar should do the trick. Cheers, Neale.>

Brackish water for Black Mollies      5/4/15
Hi. I'm keeping black mollies in a 20 gallon (76 litres) tank. After reading various articles on your site re: mollies, brackish water, salinity, I was very impressed & began to add marine salt to my tank. I like the fact that the brackish water helps ward off parasites & fungi & is inherent to good molly health. I am seeing the benefit to them with my own eyes.
<Cool. While brackish conditions aren't essential, it does make keeping this species easier.>
I've read your recommendation of an SG=1.004-1.006 being fine for black mollies but was wondering if I could go as high as 1/2 seawater = 1.012 without adversely affecting the biological filter/balance?
<No, this isn't a good idea. The Mollies will be fine. But the filter bacteria in tanks maintained around SG 1.003-1.004 aren't the ones at SG 1.010-1.012, which I believe are the marine, not freshwater, species of bacteria.
Whatever the science, the practical facts are that as you raise salinity, filtration suffers, and you get a "mini cycle" that lasts a couple of weeks, sometimes longer, as a new, higher salinity biological filter develops. While nothing the Mollies won't handle (they used to be used to mature marine aquaria, and are much hardier in saline than freshwater conditions) there's no real advantage to you. Indeed, SG 1.003 would be optimal for Mollies. Cheap, easy to produce (1 level teaspoon of salt per 2 litres of water) and every bit as effective in terms of preventative healthcare.>
Also is it ok for molly fry to be born in brackish water or is it better they be born in freshwater & gradually acclimated to brackish water?
<Any and all of these options are fine.
Mollies are euryhaline, even as fry. You can move them from freshwater to saltwater and back again, as required. As/when you visit the Caribbean coastline and islands, you'll be amazed how common Mollies are in lagoons, estuaries, and shallow creeks just a few meters inland from the sea. They're also found dozens of miles inland as well, in plain freshwater.>
Thank you for your help.
Richard V.
<Most welcome. Neale.>

Question for Neale Monk' BR stkg., Arothron env.       4/5/15
Neale, my name is Mark and I am converting a 125 gallon aquarium from freshwater to brackish and would like to use the following parameters:
1.010 sg, crushed coral, rocks and boxwood, stocked with Sailfin mollies, Orange Chromides, and a small Dogface puffer.
<Cool. Do bear in mind adult Dogface Puffers are more marine than anything else, though they are very tolerant animals
.>
The tank has a few mollies in it now for the conversion. Now my questions are; 1) I have read the Orange Chromides can have a sg of up to 1.012. Can I keep the puffer and Chromides happy at 1.010?
<Yes and yes. Orange Chromides don't enjoy higher specific gravities than that though. It's debatable whether they're truly brackish water fish in the wild; some recent work suggests they're more freshwater with brackish water tolerance.>
I know any fish could be at risk with the puffer especially the mollies but that aside, is it possible?
<Dogface Puffers aren't particularly "bitey" and much less nippy than, say, Green Spotted Puffers. Indeed, Arothron generally are considered fairly good additions to community (marine) aquaria.>
2) I also read to raise the salinity at a rate of .002 sg per week until I hit the desired amount. Do you agree?
<In so far as this won't upset the filter bacteria, yes, sounds about right. But the fish won't care, and Sailfin Mollies for example can switch between marine and freshwater using nothing more clever than slow acclimation in a bucket across half an hour.>
3) is crushed coral okay to use as a substrate?
<Yes. Buffers the pH nicely while it's clean. Doesn't look especially authentic though, and for a more mangrove appearance, you might want to mix it with plain silver sand and even a bit of gravel. A few smashed up mussel and oyster shells will look good in there, too. Experiment a bit in the kitchen, and when you find a mixture that works for you, go for it.>
I have read as much of your work as I could find on the web but I guess I want some confirmation on my plan and if it is okay. I really want to keep the Orange Chromides and DF puffer together if possible.
<While the Dogface is young, yes, this should be fine. Longer term you would probably want more robust, larger-sized tankmates, whether high-end brackish (Selenotoca for example) or hardy marines (Damsels, Snappers,
etc.).>
Thank you very much for your time!
-Mark
<Most welcome. Neale.>
Re: Question for Neale Monk (RMF, thoughts re: Arothron)       4/6/15

<<Don't think that Arothron can live permanently in too-dilute seawater. RMF>>
Neale,
<Mark,>
Thank you for your response! Just for clarification, can the dogface puffer live in these conditions for life?
<Probably, but I've not done that. To be clear: these puffers are adaptable and probably euryhaline to some degree. In the wild they certainly move about between reefs, seagrass meadows and estuaries. But can they live indefinitely in brackish? I simply don't know. I'd guess middling brackish conditions 1.010 upwards would be okay, provided hardness and pH were
appropriate. Do recall that in the past it was absolutely standard to keep fish-only marine systems at SG 1.018, which is about 75% normal marine salinity. This was for damsels, lionfish, etc., so I'm sure Arothron hispidus would be absolutely fine in such conditions for life. But below that... a mystery.>
If not, then What is the lowest salinity for life that the puffer could thrive in if not full marine? I also have read the Volitans Lionfish can tolerate low salinity but I can't find any info as to how whether or not they can thrive in low salinity.
<See above.>
What is your feeling on this fish as it pertains to living in perminate lower salinities and how low that salinity might be? Thanks again.
<When I bought my juvenile specimens back in 1990 they were being sold as freshwater fish, and I've no doubt at all these fish are incredibly tough.
I'd experiment with them at SG 1.010 with a clean conscience, knowing full well that they'd show gradual symptoms of stress if they weren't happy -- they wouldn't suddenly die. I'd be looking out for subdued (dark) colours and lack of appetite. If neither was apparent, I'd be happy that my pufferfish were thriving.>
-Mark
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Question for Neale Monk (RMF, thoughts re: Arothron)       4/6/15

Well yes, Bob, agreed; but what would be “too dilute” in this instance, for a demonstrably euryhaline, lagoon and estuary dwelling coastal marine species???
Cheers, Neale
<I had tried to find a simple/r one or two ref. to add... Even "true salty" (euryhaline) vs. steno- organisms that make their adult lives in full-strength seawater suffer in less dense water. I have never encountered the genus Arothron as adult, full-time residents in brackish settings. Am not (of course) stating that they don't, but only that this has not been my first or second hand (reading) experience. Too dilute would be anything below 1.022 or so. BobF>
Re: Question for Neale Monk (RMF, thoughts re: Arothron)       4/6/15

Yet how to explain the “standard operating procedure” of yesteryear when species such as this were kept at SG 1.018? Was often stated to be less stressful, kidneys having to work less hard… that sort of thing.
<Ah yes; I sense our thoughts are confluent>
So far as reading goes: do review Klaus Ebert, Aqualog pufferfish book… Arothron hispidus said to be healthy “a long time” in brackish (by which the author seems to mean half-strength seawater) though not permanently.
As stated in previous comments: I would not have a problem keeping a youngster thusly (quite possibly more natural than fully marine conditions for such) but once half-grown, say, would acclimate to near-marine… SG 1.015 upwards… and be prepared to either trade in (for another youngster) or move to fully marine.
Cheers, Neale
<And you. Bob>
Re: Question for Neale Monk (RMF, thoughts re: Arothron)       4/6/15

Gentlemen,
Thank you both for your insight. I agree that it is more natural to migrate this puffer to full salt over time, but also believe that there is nothing natural about keeping fish in a small glass box. That said, I do try my best to ensure the fish I keep are healthy and hopefully happy. If I am understanding you correctly, the safe answer to my question about keeping a dogface puffer healthy in 1.010 SG for long term or maybe for life is that it should gradually be migrated to marine over time. However, I guess the real answer is, who knows since no research has been done. I will take your advice Neale and start a youngster in 1.010 and keep a lookout for stress and he grows. Worse case for me is I get another saltier tank for him. What a great excuse for a new aquarium! I think this will be a unique and fun setup (for a while at least). Thank you again for the help and I sincerely appreciate the dialog.
-Mark
<Most welcome. Good luck with your project; maybe let us know how things turnout a year or two from now?
Cheers, Neale.>

Fishkeeping podcast + Neale!   3/29/15
> Hi Bob,
> I’m on an aquarium fish podcast. Talking about brackish fish and oddballs (apparently).
> http://www.blogtalkradio.com/euphoricnetwork/2015/03/28/neale-monks-known-world-over-to-speak-on-brackish-water-aquarium-scenarios 
> If you’re about, you might want to tune in or call up!
> Cheers, Neale
<Ah; very nice. Am hoping the talk and call-in questions will be archived. BobF>
Neale... speaks!        3/31/15

Want to hear me gabble on about tropical fish for the best part of an hour? You do? Gosh, you're in luck! Courtesy of Hannapro Discus and BlogTalk Radio. Player seems a bit flaky on my Mac though... easiest is click the download button (the "cloud and arrow" icon just below the orange Sign Up button at top right).
http://www.blogtalkradio.com/…/neale-monks-known-world-over
Re Neale Speaking        4/1/15

Hello Bob,
Thanks for adding the link to the podcast… but it’s broken!
Copying from Facebook is flaky.
Should be:
http://www.blogtalkradio.com/euphoricnetwork/2015/03/29/neale-monks-known-world-over-will-speak-on-brackish-and-oddball-fish-scenarios
Cheers, Neale
<Yikes; will amend. B>

Fresh/brackish/saltwater snail  (parse to all)    3/26/15
I just thought I would share this because this snail is extremely hardy.
I've had it for about 4 years. It was in my freshwater tank that eventually became brackish for about 3 years and is now in a saltwater reef tank. It was acclimated slowly and has out lived all my other snails. I did not see it on the brackish list of inverts so figured I would share. It was purchased in fresh water section of lfs. I'm not sure the name of it but it is brown/black cone shaped about 2.5" long. Here a pic.
<This is extremely cool! A better picture of the shell would be helpful. At first glance it looks like one of the Tylomelania but I had/have no idea if these are brackish or salt tolerant... they are normally endemic to just one island (Sulawesi) and one system of lakes at that! There are various Pachymelania species, including Pachymelania byronensis, that have been
traded, and these are true mangrove snails. But they tend to have distinctive knobbly shells. Most mysterious! Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Fresh/brackish/saltwater snail      3/27/15
Thanks Neil, here are some better pictures. His body is black if that helps. Thanks again.
<Looks like some sort of Faunus species such as Faunus ater which are indeed brackish, mangrove dwelling snails. Cheers, Neale.>

 

F8 puffer; beh.       3/26/15
Hi, my figure 8 puffer just had gotten his water change done today, done every couple of weeks. We had him for 6 yrs now, never a problem until today. He keeps staying on top of the tank, his SG is at 1.005, 0 nitrate and ammonia. What do u think?
<He may have swallowed some air. If he is floating, with skin above the waterline, you could try holding him tail down, head up, to see if the air comes out. He may puff up again though, but hopefully with water this time.
If he isn't floating and is wet all over, then you can pretty much let nature take its course. Alternatively, if you don't think air is the problem, review water chemistry and quality, as usual, check the heater is working, and make sure he's socially settled (nothing else attacking him, for example). High-fibre foods such as unshelled shrimps, live brine shrimp, or tiny snails can help relieve constipation, which is a real problem with puffers (in the wild puffers eat substantial amounts of plant material, something we rarely provide them in captivity). Cheers, Neale.>

Brackish... odd assortment, def. BF        3/8/15
Hello
<Hello Ashley.>
I have had my 20 gallon tank for about 9 months. It has brackish water in it. It includes 5 tetra,
<Can't imagine these are happy in brackish water! How much salt are you using? The variety of livestock you have doesn't need salt, let alone brackish conditions.>
5 guppies, 3 small algae eaters,
<Likewise, these certainly won't want brackish water.>
and 1 zebra snail. About two months ago I noticed a baby zebra snail in the tank. I have watched it grow and it does a great job helping to clean the tank. Then today I noticed another baby zebra Nerite.
<Really?>
It is much smaller than the first baby snail, so I am assuming it is from a different birthing.
<Are you sure it isn't something else? Physa and Physella look a lot like tiny Nerites thanks to their rounded shells. Both genera are very common on aquarium plants. They're harmless but occasionally nibble on very tender leaves.>
I have seen no evidence of the little white eggs anywhere.
<Curious.>
I am not sure if the fish are eating them or what. How can the single zebra Nerite be reproducing on its own?
<It can't.>
I thought it needed a male counterpart.
<Indeed, I believe Nerites are dioecious but don't know for sure.>
Ashley
<While anything's possible, unless you can see a small snail with zebra stripes on its shell, I'd be skeptical about this being a baby Nerite. A photo would help! Cheers, Neale.>
Brackish...odd assortment        3/8/15

Hello Neale,
<Ashley,>
I am concerned about the brackish water as well. I have done some research, but there are many opinions when it comes to aquarium upkeep.
<Really?>
I have been talking to my local pet store employees. They are the ones that suggested the fish that I have now. I use one tablespoon of aquarium salt for every five gallons of water.
<Which isn't brackish water. It's freshwater. You could drink that. Probably more sodium chloride in canned beverages. How to explain? Bear in mind marine conditions, true seawater, is 35 grams of salt per litre (it's easier to use Metric system for this). Brackish water is, let's say, 20% of that. So 5-6 grams per litre. That'd get you a specific gravity of 1.005 or thereabouts. Now, 5-6 grams is about 1 level teaspoon of salt. Bear in mind there are about 4 litres in 1 US gallon, so that's about 4 level teaspoons (or 1.33 tablespoons) of salt per US gallon. Scale that up for 5 gallons, and we're talking 4 x 5 = 20 teaspoons (or about 6.67 tablespoons) salt per 5 US gallons. In short, you're adding the equivalent of one-twentieth the amount of salt needed for even only moderately brackish conditions. What you're adding isn't even enough to treat Whitespot, which is about 2 gram/litre, approximately 1 teaspoon per 3 litres. See the situation here?
You're not adding enough salt to do anything useful. So why bother?>
I do a 20% water change every other week. I have a thermometer and heater that keep the water between 74 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Is adding aquarium salt the same thing as making brackish water?
<Not really. In the short term yes, it will do some good and no harm.
Aquarium salt is plain sodium chloride and meant to be used for treating Whitespot. It works great in that context. Has some other uses too, one of which is perking up Guppies and other fish that don't do well in soft water. For brackish fish, it's surely better than nothing, especially if you have naturally hard water anyway, and the aquarium salt simply adds to what's there.>
That sound like a stupid question, but I am not sure the parts per million of sodium chloride required to make my tank brackish.
<That's the nub of the problem. Brackish water is made with marine aquarium salt, which is only partially sodium chloride -- it's lots of other chemicals too, such as calcium carbonate, that raise and buffer the pH.
Using up a box of aquarium (or tonic) salt because you have it is fine. But if you want a brackish system for true brackish fish -- gobies, Mollies, Wrestling halfbeaks, etc. -- then you'll sooner or later want to spring for some proper marine aquarium salt.>
As for the snails, I will photograph the smallest one when I see it again.
It is the same color as the gravel (light brown/tan), so it is very hard to see. The older baby snail was the same color, but its shell is turning black and it hangs out on the glass all the time now. It looks identical on the underside as the adult zebra snail.
<As do many other snails, unfortunately, including Physa and Physella spp.>
I have bought no new plants, so I cannot solve the mystery of the new snails. Thank you for your help.
Ashley
<Most welcome. Neale.>

Red Claw Crab and salt      2/23/15
I tried to find a similar post on your site sorry if this has already been addressed.
<Oh?>
My dad put together an aquarium for my kid and i wanted a crab, well i wanted a blue crayfish but those were $25 and the crabs were $3 and they were equally as cool if not more so.
<Quite so. Land crabs are nifty animals in lots of ways.>
ANYWAY i did do research beforehand and i DID know brackish is preferential if not essential.
<Something like that. Since these crabs are essentially amphibious, assuming the "land" is somewhere humid and warm they only spend part of the time underwater. Brackish water probably helps them, in the long term, but yes, they do seem to live many months with just access to freshwater. That said, their distribution in the wild is apparently coastal rather than inland. Their full common name, "Red Claw Mangrove Crab", is probably accurate, and being cynical for a moment, the missing word "mangrove" surely wasn't dropped accidentally by the exporters!>
Depending on who you ask.
<Indeed, the scientists who collect them versus the people selling them in pet stores!>
Well i got her anyway, as the petstore carrying them was keeping her in a cramped freshwater tank. So i justified putting her in my tank and opposed to the petstore or some more ignorant owner.
<Understood.>
Now, more to the point, i was sitting on the floor staring at her for a while and i noticed a bag of rock salt next to me. Being the weirdo i am i shoved some in my mouth and then thought maybe i can give the crab some.
<Sure! Provided that salt is not iodised, it should be fine. Not as good as marine aquarium mix, but better than no salt at all.>
So the question is, can i give some to the crab?
<Yes.>
Can i safely put a chunk on her rock and have her not die?
<No, you can't stick a chunk in the tank!
Grab a cheese grater or a chisel, grind off or chip away some bits, allowing 6 grams per litre/3-4 teaspoons per US gallon. So if you have a 3 gallon bucket, then 9-12 teaspoons of salt is about right. That will create slightly brackish conditions (for reference: full seawater is 35 gram salt per litre, so what you're making is about one-sixth normal seawater salinity). Dissolve salty chunks in water completely before adding to the aquarium! Now, each time you do a water change, you can replace plain freshwater with a bucket of this slightly brackish water.>
It seems relatively safe and possibly beneficial to give her some to satisfy her dietary needs.
<Dietary needs are primarily protein and calcium! Bits of white fish fillet, unshelled shrimps, and even things like cooked peas and soft fruit. Iodine is the missing thing here, and a prime cause of deaths with crabs. You can buy "crab food" that contains iodine, but it's cheaper and easier to grab some iodine vitamin supplement as used in marine tanks, and dose at one-half the amount recommended on the bottle. Some "sea vegetables" are iodine rich including Sushi Nori and other seaweeds you can pick up in Asian food markets.>
But im no expert on crustaceans (though i do have a 17 year old hermit crab) Would this be a terrible idea?
<Dumping a sodium chloride lump in the aquarium would be catastrophically bad.>
Do you think she would know to "lick" it? Could she "lick" too much and die? I figure she'd be fine since she's in the water most of the time. Are they're any other options to satisfy her salt needs? Maybe a small dish with saltwater in it on her platform?
<Now you're thinking right!>
Thanks for any input.
<Most welcome, Neale.>

Green Spotted Puffer- Gill Problem        1/21/15
I have had my GSP for about 9 months now. He is about 2" in length and lives in a 36 gal tank with no tank mates. His salt is at 1.08 and temp. at 78 F.
<I assume you mean 1.008, which is fine; 1.08 would be lethal!>
I have never had any problems with him or the water. I do regular water changes once a week, changing about 25% each time. His diet consists of shrimp, bloodworms, and snails and i feed him one of those foods once a day.
<All good so far.>
But about a 2 weeks ago i noticed him not acting like his energetic self following a water change I did the previous evening. He was rubbing on his decor. and as the days went on he started laying at the bottom of his tank, breathing heavily, and he started to clamp his fins and curl up at the bottom of his tank; also turning very dark in color.
<Often, though not always, a sign of stress.>
I took his water to be tested at the privately own fish store i had purchased him from and they said his water was perfect for him (as i try to keep it) and they couldn't suggest what it could be that is making him sick. He has no white spots, fins are not frayed or damaged, and there is no sign of any parasites or fungus. I have been currently doing regular water changes every 2 days or so just to keep it fresh for breathing and hoping it would help him which it has in some way. Over the past week he
has been swimming more and hasn't scratched on anything at all but he tires very, very easily. He has had no problems eating since this all started and is still eating well. My BIG concern is that his right gill has become very swollen and he does not use his left one at all anymore!
<Curious. Might be some sort of gill parasite, though it's hard to imagine what. There really aren't many parasites that can live in brackish water we commonly see in the aquarium trade. Assuming this fish came from a freshwater tropical fish tank, then one solution is to "go nuclear" and expose the fish to full marine conditions. This is what salmon farmers do, for example, moving their cages between the sea and freshwater lochs, and in doing so, kill off freshwater parasites in seawater or marine parasites in freshwater. Make sense? Do check your salinity is what you think it is.
Hydrometers are notoriously unreliable. I remember seeing one (extremely competent) marine aquarists strap no fewer than four "swing arm" hydrometers together, dipped them all into the marine aquarium, and then essentially took an average of what they showed, because they were never consistent with each other! For brackish fish, such errors don't really matter, but it's worth checking your hydrometer. At 25 C/77 F, fully marine conditions -- SG 1.025 -- should be 35 grams marine salt in one litre of water. Make some up thusly, that concentration (salinity) and temperature, then check what your hydrometer shows (which isn't salinity but specific gravity). If it's only off by a tiny bit, say SG 1.023 or 1.026, then don't worry too much. That'll be fine for brackish fish. By the way, if changing the salinity of the tank isn't practical, dipping the puffer in a large
bucket of full seawater for half an hour each day might work too. Certainly worth a shot today to see if there's any improvement. Indeed, changing the salinity of an aquarium up or down a few points on the SG scale can be very therapeutic for brackish water fish. Unlike marine and freshwater fish that need stability, brackish fish are adapted to change and to often seem to appreciate it. In the case of GSPs, keeping the water too saline when they're young can be as off-putting as keeping then in freshwater conditions when they're adults. Since yours seems to have some damage to his gills, I don't think that's the issue, but it's worth thinking about in the long term.>
His left gill looks like it is completely closed or clamped shut to his body and just looks like part of his normal skin, it would be hard to locate if a person didn't know where gills were located on a fish. The skin under his left eye leading to the gill area has become wrinkled looking and today i had noticed it looked a bit sunken in! His color is mostly very dull but his belly is still white and over the past few days has been sleeping more than swimming. I have searched all over the internet hoping
to find a cause and solution to help him and have come out empty handed.
After reading posts on your site you seemed to be very educated and extremely helpful to others problems. I would be more than appreciative of any advice you could give me in regards to my Lil Puffer!! He is my best friend and seeing him like this breaks my heart.
<Do also visit ThePufferForum.com. They have a good forum there, and while sometimes a little protective of our inflatable friends (woe betide anyone who says they're keeping GSPs in freshwater!) they surely mean well, and you'll often get some very expert assistance.>
Regards, Samantha
<Hope this helps! Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Green Spotted Puffer- Gill Problem (Bob, any other ideas?)       1/29/15
<<A mix of Metronidazole and Praziquantel added to accepted foods... blitzkrieg, blind approach. RMF>>
Thank you so much for your response!!!
<Welcome.>
I have been doing the suggested full marine baths (did the first as soon as i got your e-mail) once a day at SG 1.025, 77 degrees F, for 30 min.s and then placing back into his hospital 10 gal tank SG 1.008, 78 F (everything like his normal tank) and have been doing a 40% water change to his hospital tank every evening. I have not seen any improvements in his
behavior, gill function, or color and he has lost his appetite over the last 2 days and will not eat a thing.
<Hmm... not good.>
There are still no signs of any parasites on his body (white spots, bumps, wounds) and his fins are still not frayed or anything. I have attached some photos of my poor Mr. Puft (idk if this helps). His color is more brownish now than in the photos i took 2 days ago (attached). I was wondering you have any other suggestions i could try to help him?
<A good move could be Metronidazole alongside an antibiotic. Together these give a good broad action against internal protozoan parasites (such as Hexamita) as well as systemic bacterial infections.>
Samantha
<Hope this helps, Neale.>

SW stocking & filtration      1/21/15
Hello there. I have a 125 brackish set up that I plan on converting over to saltwater in the next few months. The tank currently has the following:
1 green spotted pufferfish
1 ruby scat
8 mono Sebaes
2 Columbian catfish
1 white crayfish
<These aren't brackish.>
3 black mollies

As The salinity of the water gets closer to seawater (around 1.015) I plan on returning everything back to my LFS except the scat, both catfishes, and three of the monos.
<Cool. Though the Puffer and Mollies would be fine in seawater (though how long either would survive alongside a Volitans Lionfish is debatable! So your choice here is a wise one.>
Once I finally get the salinity to 1.022 I plan on introducing the following:
1 black volitans lionfish
1 red cigar wrasse
1 orange shoulder tang
1 black edged moray eel
1 African starfish
3 squirrelfish

<An interesting mix of fish. Do think about the Squirrelfish carefully though; many species are happier at slightly lower temperatures than some other tropical marine fishes.>
I was wondering if this would be too overstocked because if so, I can easily get rid of the monos and the catfish but the mono is special to me.
<That's a lot of fish for a 125 gallon tank! The Cigar Wrasse alone gets to some 50 cm/20 inches in the wild, so even a 200 gallon tank would be somewhat cramped. If this was me, I'd stock somewhat slowly. I'd skip echinoderms and other invertebrates, at least initially, because they're much more delicate (with a few exceptions) than marine fish. A Scat; a pair
or trio of Monos (they often form pairs that work rather well); the Shark Cats would make good "carry overs"; add to these the Lionfish (an excellent companion for robust brackish water species); a peaceful and easy Moray like Echidna catenata would be my next choice; then if you want something active and midwater-y, then perhaps a snapper, tang or even a robust
Angelfish. One of the smaller groupers can work too, but not many are scaled for life in 125 gallons.>
Also, I am currently running two MarineLand penguin 350 filters that have a combined flow rate of 700 gph so I was wondering if this would be sufficient in keeping up with the bio-load in the aquarium or would I have to upgrade to something bigger.
<Do let me direct you to Bob's article on stocking marines.
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/stocking.htm
Various links from there. Much fun to be had with fish-only systems, but would recommend aiming for the FOWLR avenue at some point, canisters alone being okay but not great for marines. In such systems brackish species can make interesting additions; Monos as dither fish for shyer species, Shark Cats as centrepiece predators. Cheers, Neale.>

Sick Green Spotted Puffer        1/12/15
I've had this puffer for about three months now. Was in freshwater at LFS. Maybe 2" at the time. About six weeks ago I noticed a white speck on her tail so I thought probably ick. I had just started raising salinity at that time. I don't think it even measured above sg 1.000.
<... this is just pure freshwater>
using instant ocean and refractometer. Few days later noticed scratching herself on overflow box and a greyish spot on her back where scratching.
<... am stopping here: FIX your English and re-send>
sick puffer        1/12/15

I've had this puffer for about three months now. It was kept in freshwater at the store. About six weeks ago I noticed a white speck on her tail. I added half of a cup of instant ocean sea salt. The tank is 20 gallons. I continued to add salt at a rate that would raise the SG .002 per week.
<Good>
A few days later I noticed the fish scratching itself on the overflow box.
<Mmm; not necessarily indicative of anything>
I also noticed and a greyish spot on its back. I started treating with Seachem Paraguard.
<I would not have>
Water tests: 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite, 0 nitrate,
<How is NO3 rendered zip?>

ph 7.8 and kH 8. Now the SG is 1.010. My heater has been broken for maybe a week. I am not sure how long it has been broken. The night time temperature has been dropping down to 75F.
<This is fine>
I noticed the black lines on the fish that you can see in the pictures.
Every day there is more of them. Can you tell if this is stress related from the cold temperature or a disease symptom?
<I do think you are right; that these are stress marks. I would do nothing to change your routine till you have an accurate thermometer. Bob Fenner>

Re: sick puffer        1/12/15
I use API saltwater test kit. Should I be using a more accurate test for nitrate?
<Yes; I would have/use a better kit brand for all>
Since this morning the lines under the eyes have gone away. The ones on the head and back are still there. Are they also stress?
<Ah yes; highly likely. This fish looks fine otherwise. BobF>
sick puffer       /Neale's further input        1/12/15

<<Broadly agree with Bob. Would suggest lowering the salinity a bit, to maybe 1.003-1.005, because high salinities are not necessarily welcomed by very young GSPs and Ceylon Puffers. Otherwise your specimen appears fine.
Changes in colouration are not unusual with this/these species, and over time they tend to become darker anyway. Keep a close eye on appetite, and provided the puffer is otherwise healthy, I would not worry overly much.
Cheers, Neale.>>

Brackish tank stocking        12/20/14
I have a 125 gallon brackish set up with a salinity of about 1.007. I plan on converting it to full marine in the next 5-7 months. The tank is empty, aside from three black mollies that I'm using for cycling purposes. I plan on stocking my tank with the following:
- five Mono Sebae
- one Ruby Scat
-three Target fish
-two Colombian Sharks
-one freshwater moray

With that being said, would I have enough room for a Black Volitans lion fish when the tank is full saltwater (assuming that i still have all of the previous fish in there already) In addition to the lion fish, i intend on getting some saltwater plants such as sea lettuce and other types of macro algae. The tank is 72x18x22 and I run two MarineLand 350 power filters that are rated for up to 320 gallons per hour. If i can't get a lionfish, could you recommend another saltwater fish that could possibly coexist with the other inhabitants in the tank?
<The jokers in this pack are the Moray and the Targetfish. The Scat, Monos, and Shark Catfish can all make excellent community fish, the catfish in particular being extremely mellow and more likely to be bullied than to cause problems. Scats are normally easy going but are pushy, while Monos sometimes throw their weight around a bit, but are normally pretty good.
The Targetfish are (in the wild) reported to be fin-and-scale eaters. In aquaria -- if well fed on an omnivorous diet -- they are usually okay with active tankmates, but a Volitans Lionfish might be too good a target to miss. This is especially true of the adults, which tend to be much more easy-going than the youngsters. So if yours have matured to the schooling phase, you might find them fine. The Moray is another one to watch. Echidna species are typically less likely to snap at tankmates than Gymnothorax, but there's not a lot in it, and even within species there's a lot of variation. So it's usually recommended Freshwater Morays are kept in their own system, either singly or in groups. Beyond the Moray and the Targetfish, the others should mix with pretty much anything, though Sergeant Majors, Snappers, Wrasse, Goatfish and so on would be obvious suggestions in terms of needs and temperament. Shark Cats can look amazing in reef systems, though bite-size fish and crustaceans will of course be viewed as food. Monos and Scats are more or less reef safe, and neither are accomplished piscivores. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Don't know if you'd have...     12/13/14
Indeed… can we ask the recipient to resend her message, my reply?
<Aye>
Am enjoying playing “spot the difference” in your/my replies to today’s FAQs… are you trying to breed Misgurnus? Would be very cool. Like you, I suspect “chilling” part of the process. One Russian paper mentioned collecting them from icy water, keeping them cold in labs, then warming up/using hormones.
Cheers, Neale
<And I do concur re your stmt.s re Cobitid repro. in captivity... Perhaps we can switch off being superhero/street guy ongoing. B>
Suzanne,
Do you happen to have the emails I sent earlier this week? Specifically, the first reply about Mudskippers?
We've lost our copy, but want to add it to the website. Ideally, the reply with your original question would be used.
Regards and thanks,
Neale
FW: Mudskipper Question    12/13/14

Hi Neale,
Let me know if you received this and if this is what you were looking for.
By the way, I appreciate your information and help. I got the little guy in some low end brackish to get him started and he seems happy enough.
Cheers,
Suzanne
<This is very helpful Suzanne, thank you! Neale.>
Hello Bob,
I see you moved it into my mailbox. I paste the cleaned version of the text below.
Cheers, Neale

Mudskipper Question    12/14/14
Hello, I used to chat to Neale years ago and as far as I know, he's got more information on mudskippers than anyone else, or so it seems.
<By no means true. Richard Mleczko is the person I defer to on these, as well as Gianluca Polgar.>
I have his book on Brackish fishes and find it very useful. However, I have what may be a simple question. I recently got a mudskipper (I have kept many in the past) that was kept in freshwater and I'd like to get it into brackish water, which I believe is optimum for them.
<Definitely.> 6
I have him in freshwater now with a mature filter running and appropriate land for him to rest on (part land, part water set up). I have just got some marine salt and I'm not sure where to start. All the other mudskippers I've gotten were already in a brackish tank, so I didn't have to worry about acclimation, or do I even with this one?
<Mudskippers aren't fussy. They can jump into seawater from the land, and back out again, without any ill effect. But filter bacteria can be sensitive to salinity changes. So gradual changes would be sensible. Make up some SG 1.005 water, and do a 20-25% water change, replacing your freshwater with this. Repeat a day or two later, and so on, until you'd replaced all the water with this slightly brackish water. That shouldn't be too big a change for the filter bacteria.>
I know they are pretty hardy fish, but I don't want to lose this little guy. He's one of the smallest P. barbarus' that I've had, the others I had were much bigger. This little guy is maybe 3-inches at most.
<But do recall the very young (larval) Mudskippers will be marine (planktonic) animals.>
So I suppose my question is, how much salt should I start with to get the mudskipper back to brackish and not to lose all the bacteria in my filter?
<Above SG 1.005, you can get nitrite and ammonia spikes as the filter adjusts to saline conditions. Mudskippers have a high tolerance for these, so I wouldn't worry overmuch. After all, they don't go in the water much given the option.>
What amount of salinity am I to be aiming for in your opinion? I have always kept them in low end brackish, not very salty at all.
<The ideal is half-strength seawater, SG 1.008-1.012. But as you correctly observe, Mudskippers are very tolerant. They just don't like freshwater conditions indefinitely. SG 1.005 is probably viable.>
Thank you for any and all help you can provide. Also, are there any new sites I can go to for good information on mudskippers.
<Not that I'm aware of. There's some stuff here of course, at: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_7/volume_7_1/mudskippers.html And my own Brackish FAQ has some stuff Richard helped me with: http://brackishfaq.webspace.virginmedia.com/Projects/FAQ/5c.html Both he and Gianluca used to have websites, but they seem to have vanished.>
It is so hard to find quality information on them, though I do know a fair bit about them myself, been keeping them easily about 2008. Kind Regards, Suzanne
<You're probably an expert by now, better than most of the folks throwing together tropical fish encyclopaedias based on their experiences of Guppies and Angelfish! Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Mudskipper Question   <Neale; I've lost the prev. corr. somehow here>   12/12/14

Thanks Neale and sorry for the original mis-spelling of your name, shame on me, especially as I have your Brackish Fishes book.
<Not a problem.><<He IS a man of Tao>>
Thank you very much for all of your help. I am going to change the water starting tomorrow. I was hoping to hear from you before I did anything.
I've only had him 2 days, so I figured he wouldn't be suffering too badly from being in freshwater, but my experience in the past has shown that they do better in brackish conditions and I would like to keep this one around for as long as possible, as they are one of my all-time favourite fishes.
<Indeed, quite exceptional pets.>
Thank you so much again. I shall be looking at your site, and actually I did remember Richard Mleczko being mentioned in your book, but couldn't remember his name when I wrote the email to you. Shame that Richard and Gianluca Polgar no longer have websites, we could use some decent genuine information on these little fish.
<Gianluca has his academic website up, here: http://www.mudskipper.it
There's a tonne of great stuff there. Maintenance of Mudskippers isn't actually all that nuanced. Most genera are easy to keep (Boleophthalmus excepted because of its herbivorous diet) and adaptable with regard to salinity (see Richard's chapter in the Brackish book). Most mortalities come from lack of salt, dry air, escape, and insufficient quantity of food.
Aggression can be severe (especially with big species like P. barbarus) but the smaller species thrive when "crowded" in much the same way as Mbuna.
Beyond that, these fish aren't that difficult.>
Kind Regards,
Suzanne
<And to you, Neale.>
FW: Mudskipper Question     12/15/14

Hi Neale,
Let me know if you received this and if this is what you were looking for.
By the way, I appreciate your information and help. I got the little guy in some low end brackish to get him started and he seems happy enough.
Cheers,
Suzanne
<Sounds good. Yes, thank you, the message came through, and I think is pasted in today's FAQs. Cheers, Neale.>
<<Thanks to you both. RMF>>

Puffer Fish Identification Help! 22 megs in pix... Why?      12/11/14
Hi again everybody! I seriously don't know what I would do without you, haha. So, today I was at Wal-Mart and had to break my personal rule of "Don't encourage Wal-Mart to sell fish by buying fish" because I noticed that for some reason they have Leopard puffers in stock (sigh).
<Is one of their unfortunately stock SKUs... an exceedingly poor choice... too mean/incompatible, not freshwater...>
So, I immediately decided to give at least one of them a better shot at life and got him- but then I noticed another puffer in the tank with the rest of the Leopards- a strange one that I've never seen before, even having worked at a LFS. So, I had to get that one, too, and now I'm trying to figure out what he/she is before putting the poor thing in a brackish tank or a fresh tank. I took some photos of the two of them so that you can see the Mystery Puffer's pattern and color compared to the Leopard puffer's patterns and color. At first I thought MAYBE it's a Fahaka, but it lacks the right color and stripe pattern that they have. The only similarity is that it has that
strange angular shape that I noticed in juvenile Fahakas, but other than that, I'm stumped. What could it be? Thanks in advance,
Tori
<Am sending this to Neale... Is this a Tetraodon duboisi? Very strange. Bob Fenner>

Re: Puffer Fish Identification Help!     12/11/14
My next suspicion is a Milk-Spotted Puffer. It's the closest possible match I've found visually, anyway.
<Ah yes! Chelonodon patoca... much more likely to be found/collected along with the Green-spotted than an African species.
Cheers, BobF>
Puffer Fish Identification Help!
     /Neale to the rescue      12/12/14
Hi again everybody! I seriously don't know what I would do without you, haha. So, today I was at Wal-Mart and had to break my personal rule of "Don't encourage Wal-Mart to sell fish by buying fish" because I noticed that for some reason they have Leopard puffers in stock (sigh). So, I immediately decided to give at least one of them a better shot at life and got him- but then I noticed another puffer in the tank with the rest of the Leopards- a strange one that I've never seen before, even having worked at
a LFS. So, I had to get that one, too, and now I'm trying to figure out what he/she is before putting the poor thing in a brackish tank or a fresh tank. I took some photos of the two of them so that you can see the Mystery Puffer's pattern and color compared to the Leopard puffer's patterns and color. At first I thought MAYBE it's a Fahaka, but it lacks the right color and stripe pattern that they have. The only similarity is that it has that strange angular shape that I noticed in juvenile Fahakas, but other than that, I'm stumped. What could it be? Thanks in advance,
Tori
<What you have there I think, Tori, is a juvenile Chelonodon patoca, a brackish/marine species that occasionally makes its way into the aquarium trade. Only very occasionally though! I've seen them maybe three times in 30 years. Basic care is similar to that of other large brackish/marine puffers. It gets big (30 cm) but seems to be generally quite peaceful towards its own kind and other fishes, but there are reports of them being "fin biters" (e.g., in Aqualog) though other authors (e.g., Baensch) describe them as peaceful. Problem is the species is so rarely kept, and when it has been kept, often incorrectly (small tank, in freshwater, with long-finned tankmates) we really don't know how it normally behaves. The ones I've seen were largish subadults (around 10-12 cm long) peacefully coexisting as a large group but weren't being kept with other fish. They're probably a lot like GSPs in this regard, and long-term, they'd probably be fine with, say, Damselfish but you wouldn't keep them with Guppies. I imagine they'd be okay with GSPs but a lot would depend on the size of the tank. ThePufferForum.com is one of the better sites to canvas opinions on keeping puffers, though even there, experience with this species is limited. Good luck, Neale.>

GSP feeding question    11/28/14
I have a young GSP that my husband bought in a moment of guilt from Wal-Mart. We put him in his own 15 gallon cycled brackish hospital tank (1.004 sg). He's doing awesome. I feel he'll do well and make a full recovery, when I'll transfer him to his own cycled 30g. My question is, through reading questions and answers on your page, what vitamins should i soak his food in to help with healing and infections? I know vitamin c and garlic are good; what dosage do i give? How about vitamins for my very healthy, very happy 2" GSP? Probably the same, but thought I'd ask.
Thanks,
Elizabeth
<You don't really need to soak food in vitamins if you offer a big variety.
Just as with humans who eat at least a half-decent variety of meals, 90% of the time vitamins just produce expensive urine because our bodies are good at extracting vitamins. However, with predatory fish such as Puffers which only eat meaty foods (cockles, squid, tilapia fillet for example) rather than flake or pellets (which are vitamin enriched anyways) there is an argument to be made in favour of vitamin supplements. You can go to an aquarium shop and buy vitamin supplements for use in marine aquaria.
Seachem Garlic Guard is one such, but there are many out there. Usually you dip the food in the stuff, then use it. Most dissolves in the aquarium water, but some may stay in the food. Pufferfish often get deficient in vitamin B1 (thiamine) because certain meaty foods, especially mussels and shrimps/prawns, contain something called Thiaminase that destroys vitamin B1. So looking for a product with vitamin B1 in it would be a plus if you use mussels and prawns a lot. All this said, if you can get your Puffer eating a varied diet, ideally including food with some plant content (e.g., Spirulina-enriched frozen Brine Shrimp) and minimise the use of Thiaminase-rich foods, you should be fine without vitamin supplements.
Using vitamin supplements is not without expense or risk either. Let me direct you to some reading:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/vitaminmarfaqs.htm
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_6/volume_6_1/thiaminase.htm
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/brackishsubwebindex/gspsart.htm
Cheers, Neale.>

Been awhile (not Fiddler Crab Related per se)    11/28/14
Neale,
Saw you and your wife just had a baby girl - Congrats :)
<Thank you!>
I know you live "overseas" ~ just curious if you were close to Southampton at all....my brother took a job as a percussionist on Cunard's Queen Mary 2 and their major ports are New York and Southampton, so he is there quite often. He has also been to Oslo, Hamburg, Le Havre, Bruges, and a bunch of other places all over Europe.
<Where I live is nowhere near Southampton! But sounds like your brother has a cool job.>
Regarding my Fiddler experiences, well, I've gone through ups and downs.
I've lost a few over time. I have come to realize it isn't anything I am doing incorrectly. Some it seems it was most likely their time as they were over a year old. One seemed to pass away because she couldn't molt, just as one boy passed right after he molted. Some seemed fine and then passed away seemingly out of nowhere. Some of them passed in pairs (a male would pass and then the next day a female passed in the exact same spot as he had - and they had been a "pair").
<Indeed. Fiddlers probably aren't all that long lived to begin with, a couple years probably, and the ones seen in pet stores are presumably around a year old when they get them, since the larvae take the best part of a year to complete their maturation process into actual crabs. So yes, once you buy them, you're probably going to keep them for 1-2 years, tops.
A few months is not right, so you'd review maintenance if that was the case, but above a year, you're probably doing the right things, though as always, reading about the animals and tweaking their habitat is always worthwhile.>
Right now I have six, two boys and four girls. One of my girls I got from Petco, not realizing she only had two legs on one side and one leg on the other.....I was VERY worried about her when I got her home but decided I would keep her because she would die if I took her back. In the tank one of my more shy females took a liking to her and allowed her to hide in her special spot. I must say she was a feisty little thing, even with her three legs she was not going to take anything from anyone!!!! Within two days of me getting her - she molted and got all of her legs back, except for one!!! She has kept up her feisty spirit though!
<Good.>
I also have one female which is very unique. She is the more shy female who had taken the one under her wing. This particular female is VERY human friendly. She loves to sit up on the ledge and wait for me to get her. I will pick her up and she loves to crawl all over me...especially under my sweatshirt arm, where she will sit and hide. She also loves to have free time where I put her in the bathroom and close off all "dangers" and let her run around - sometimes I will put a towel down in the bathtub so she is safe and let her crawl around in there for awhile. When it is time for her to go back in the tank, she is not too happy and will try to crawl up my arm to avoid going back in. I feel bad for her. Overall she gets along with the other crabs but she just enjoys coming out of the tank....
<Maybe.>
I have another cute female who will sit by the glass close to me and if I put my finger close to her, she will put her little claws up in "fighting mode". It is too cute.
I've had a few pregnant females but for the most part, not too many. I had one male who was relatively aggressive but he passed away (the one who tried to molt or was ready to and didn't....). Since then I have one larger male and one smaller male and they are not too aggressive overall.
The tank is still a pain to clean since they love their sand. But with the Plexi-glass thing I devised, it is much easier to clean.
<Good.>
Well, it is Thanksgiving here....not sure about there......lol.....
<Not so much, no. But retailers are trying to invent Black Friday here.>
Either way, happy holidays!!
Jennifer
<And you, Neale.>

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