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Blackwater for Featherfin catfish?    & circ., Af. biotope...     10/17/16
Hi WWM experts! I'd like to thank you in advance for any information you may be able to provide.
<Most welcome.>
Quickly I will state that about 18 months ago I started my first tank.
Unfortunately, I was stricken very quickly with MTS (I guess Multiple Tank Syndrome and Malaysian Trumpet Snails would both be relevant in the context of that statement).
<Heh!>
Anyhow, at one point I had 15 medium to large tanks operating all with different water chemistry/biotopes/species etc. in my (very small) home.
Needless to say, it was like a full time job.
<Understood. Some folks have "fish rooms" and I'm totally blown away by their dedication and hard work. But for me, two tanks is about right. One for a general community, and one for something special. After that, extra tanks always seem to be a chore!>
I have made many mistakes and more recently enjoyed some great successes.
<Cool.>
Through careful and conscientious rehoming, I have since reduced my tank collection from 15 to 5 tanks but will soon be aiming for only 1.
<Understood.>
My question is this... I would like to take my 2 Featherfin catfish out of the 75 gallon rift lake tank that they are in and place them in a 125 gallon tank with a juvenile Oscar. These will be the only tank inhabitants and it will be filtered using 4 x canisters which are rated at 280 gph.
<Slightly confused here. The Featherfin Catfish, Synodontis eupterus, is a soft water fish. While it certainly will live in hard water, it doesn't need it. On the other hand, there are Rift Valley Synodontis species, such as Synodontis multipunctatus, that need hard water conditions. If this catfish is Synodontis eupterus, then yes, it'll be absolutely fine in
whatever conditions your Oscar is kept in. They have very similar requirements, and Synodontis eupterus is peaceful enough but big enough to cohabit with Oscars. They get along very well, both being (comparatively speaking) gentle giants. Just ensure they have enough space and in particular caves they can call home without squabbling.>
I would very much like to set this up as a very dark blackwater tank.
<Nice. Just not *too* soft. I'd not go below, say, 2-3 degrees dH because the pH often becomes unstable in very soft water.>
I have well water with moderate hardness and pH (I'm sorry I don't have the exact numbers currently, but it is not extremely hard and the pH out of the tap is about 7.4). I have consistently used a small amount of salts and ph
buffers in the rift tank, bit nothing dramatic.
<More than likely mixing your tap water 50/50 with RO or rainwater will produce something that'd be perfect for these two fish, around 10 degrees dH, pH 7.>
Other than poor stocking mistakes (Mbuna with peacocks and haps mostly), the tank seems to run well (minus my evil blue dolphin moorii), I even had 3 successful zebra fry make it to juvenile stage and are free swimming now!
Anyway, I would like to keep my two Featherfins (they are my favorite fish) and I am rehoming the rest of the inhabitants. I would very slowly and carefully acclimate them into the 125 which would be a new (fully cycled) setup. I want to recreate a very dark blackwater look without causing pH fluctuations.
<Do read up on this. I'd have you start off here...
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebindex/fwsoftness.htm
But much else on the topic on WWM and the Internet/books. While soft water is often seen as the ideal, it actually isn't necessarily the optimum for easy fishkeeping, and few fish need genuinely very soft water. Often slightly soft to medium hard, around neutral water works perfectly well, and the dark colour can be added to the tank using blackwater extract
without dramatically affecting pH.>
I know that because my water is not soft, that there are products (blackwater extract) and/or methods (peat or Indian almond leaves) than can get me the look and have the natural carbonates in the water cancel out the acidifying and softening effect.
<In very hard water, none of these (blackwater, peat, or leaves) will have much impact on hardness without using them in MASSIVE quantities.>
But which method(s) is the best to keep the water stable but give me the darkest look?
<See above. Use blackwater extract for cosmetic colouring of the water, but mix the well water with RO or rainwater to lower the hardness as necessary.>
There will be plenty of driftwood in the tank as well, but it is all pretty much cured at this point so won't be adding many tannins. Also, I know that this is not the "natural" environment for my Featherfins but I feel like they would enjoy the darkness and from what I have read, they come from somewhat dirty and muddy environments in relatively varied areas of the same region. Would leaf litter on top of soil help in this tank (or disrupt the pH or be too messy?) or would just a sand substrate and a tannin mixture be better?
<Oscars are shovellers, and will make a complete mess of any soil in the tank. Better to go with gravel or slate chippings that they can't move about too easily. Decorate with your bogwood and rocks, and a few plastic plants if you want. Floating plants are a plus, and the Oscar will even eat some of them if it gets hungry (they're a bit more omnivorous than often supposed).>
Lastly, and most importantly, do you think that this would be a comfortable and enjoyable environment for them?
<Yes; Oscars and large, docile Synodontis work very well.>
I apologize if any or all of this seems scattered or unfocused. Since this will be my only tank, I want to take all that I have learned and make it the best environment I can for these 3 fish (unless I decide to get a couple more Featherfins to add). Thanks again, I look forward to your response!
<Good luck, Neale.>
Re: Blackwater for Featherfin catfish?       10/17/16

Thank you Neale for the quick and informative reply.
<Welcome.>
The reason I have the Featherfins in harder water is only because they are currently in a rift lake setup. I'm glad to know that they will thrive in softer water.
<Good.>
You brought up a great point that I overlooked regarding the Oscar, because this will be my last remaining tank, I really would like to have a beautiful display without the constant destruction which would be caused by the Oscar.
<Not destructive if kept with things they cannot move. Big rocks for example. Can look very attractive in such settings.>
So as most of us do on a regular basis, I hit the web trying to glean the absolute best and most interesting stocking list for this setup. Many many hours later I think I have settled on a large shoal of Exodon.
<Yikes!>
I find that their presence in the tank as well as the spectacle they create at feeding time will definitely not keep me bored and allow for an impressive shoal in a 125 gal. I know that they are nearly as vicious as it gets, so I wouldn't want to subject my Featherfins to torture or stress.
<Indeed. A non-starter combining them. Exodon paradoxus will strip the fins away in no time.>
I have read many accounts of people saying that they absolutely cannot have any tank mates and have read a lot of testimonials saying that since they are scale eaters, any fish in the tank that aren't shiny and have no scales they will ignore.
<Possibly... but not worth risking. Since these fish are aggressive towards each other, you want to keep as many as practical, at least 12, and the more you keep, the better the chances they'll live together happily. If by some chance your aquarium has space for a tankmate, then you are MUCH wiser using that extra space for MORE of the Exodon paradoxus.>
Obviously the Featherfins fit the latter description perfectly.
<Still live food for these characins.>
I do however don't want them to stay in hiding either, as in the rift tank they are out of their caves a good percentage of the day. I would also be keeping the Exodon extremely well fed with market shrimp, fish flesh, earthworms, possibly gut loaded guppies, etc.
<Not Guppies. That'll only train them to see "fish as food", which 99% of the time will be other Exodon. Shrimp and mussel used sparingly (rich in thiaminase). Good staples include quality flake food, carnivore pellets as they grow bigger, and insects of various kinds, such as bloodworms.>
So what are your thoughts about these potential tank mates?
<Nope.>
Also, since I will have the 4 canisters with approx. 1100gph on the tank, do you think a shoal of 60 would be too much (or too little) in the 125 gal?
<I'd allow at least six gallons per Exodon, given their adult size (15 cm/6 inches potentially, though usually around half that under aquarium conditions). So something around 20-25 specimens in 125 gallons is nearer the mark.>
Thanks again in advance!
<Most welcome. Neale.>

Re: Blackwater for Featherfin catfish? System water circ. mainly        11/5/16
Hi Bob, thanks for the advice and encouragement. Yes I was referring to the eupterus.
<Beautiful, intelligent animals>
Of the large variety of fish I have kept, these guys are my favorite, I absolutely love their personalities and I see them out of their caves almost all day, unlike many of the experiences I have read from others who keep them. Thank you so much for the gyre suggestion! I did read the Jake Adams' essay that you linked to as well as at least a dozen
others and plenty of discussion about a gyre setup here on WWM.
Unfortunately, using "gyre flow tank" or any similar phrasing in a search engine results in endless pages of discussion about the Maxspect Gyro product. Once I manually omitted the company's name from the search results I was able to find more, although not as much as I expected, and all of it being discussed in marine tank usage. There was plenty of great information though, although there are so many conflicting ideas and vague descriptions of setups that it has me confused. Much talk in freshwater discussion is resolute and unwavering in the importance of surface agitation for gas exchange, almost zealously. But in a gyre system, set correctly, wouldn't the massive water volume movement be enough to aerate the water sufficiently without having to specifically be pointing ph's up towards the surface or spray bars across the surface?
<Yes it does help with oxygenation, release of CO2... And I WOULD set the pump/powerhead discharges therefore near the surface....>
I have attached a photo of a gyre setup that I have found that looks the simplest for me to understand. In the photo, I can easily see how the water travels lengthwise down the back and front, but is the water movement losing
efficiency when it hits the short sides (in my tank 24") and becoming somewhat chaotic but then somehow picking back up as it hits the next long side?
<Yes>
It looks mostly like two currents in opposite directions, although I understand the placement of the "divider in the middle is what helps curate the circular pattern.
<Actually, the density of the water (some 784 or so times more than air) and the sp3 hybridization of H20 (its "stickiness") greatly discount the need/function of a divider here>
But, should 2 more (one on each end) additional ph's be placed at the bottom of the short sides angling up to push the water more efficiently across back to the lengthwise ph's, thereby creating a more continuous circuit instead of relying on the water to behave appropriately when hitting a short side?
<Will/would help, but not necessary. I encourage you to do some simple experiments... perhaps with food coloring, a pipette to place... with the tank just filled with water...>
Or should I somehow create a curve on the two corners that the ph's are pointed to, to make the water sweep
through the turn instead of hitting a 90 degree angle and losing momentum by attrition?
<Just straight in will work... but try/see for yourself>
I'm considering changing the initial design of an alcove theme to compensate for the gyre setup, if my thinking is correct, breaking up the water flow like that would pause it's momentum in the circuit and thus losing the circular flow around the tank?.
<? Mmm; I'd place the pumping mechanisms in two opposite corners, near the surface.... >

So I will be thinking about a centered large piece of driftwood to help create the vortex current around it, sort of a freshwater version of the centered live rock setups I saw in marine gyre tanks. I've attached a few photos of the piece I am set on buying, if you think it would work, otherwise I can keep looking.
<Tis a beauty>
It's measurements are 30"H x 18"L x 15" W as seen from the photo standing straight up. I'm not sure if it is too big or has enough natural caves or hideouts for the eupterus and the Steatocranus at the bottom? Although there is a spot in the middle I could see the bichir claiming. I have attached a few photos of different angles of the piece, and although it is quite impressive, it is expensive and I will have to have it shipped from Texas to New York which will be even more expensive. I would like your advice on if this is the centerpiece of all centerpieces, in the context of the specific tank I've been describing of course, or if you think that it would be better to create a sort of stockpile of stones in the center
instead?
<Mmm; I prefer (this piece of) wood>
If I do go for that piece of wood, do you think a tall setup reaching to the very top of the tank sticking out 6" above the water's surface with Anubias attached in clumps over the whole thing (better aesthetic) or lengthwise (possibly more function for the fish or the gyre flow continuity?) would work best?
<I'd do the set up w/ the wood, the powerheads, pumps (look at EcoTech's line here)>
My last bit of discussion will be about filtration. I have 4 x Hydor 350 canisters, they are rated at 280 gph. I plan on using all 4 but having the water fall straight down from the return hose, which won't create the surface break of a spray bar or a lily pipe fitting, but since the water will be 6" below the surface of the tank I don't know if I could deal with the additional noise that an adapted return fitting would cause when hitting the water surface. My idea was to place the intakes grouped side by side in the middle of the back pane. What, if any, effect does this have on the gyre rotation?
<Mmm; would have to try/experiment to see. Right off, my feeling is "not much"... if using the spray bars discharging in the flow of the gyre, perhaps a bit; maybe not discernible at all>
Will it break it halfway along the back length, therefore not allowing enough momentum to reach the
opposing corner and "turn" before catching the next long pane propulsion?
<Again, I'd either elbow the flow to join w/ the powerhead induced gyre, or use the spray bar discharges placed vertically to do the same>
Also, Instead of filling each canister with a tray of foam, a tray of floss, and, 2 trays of ceramic rings, could I just fill one canister full of foam, two canisters full of biomedia, and one canister full of floss, effectively making my filter maintenance infinitely easier, or is that just wishful thinking?
<Not just wishful. DO look into Siporax, Ehfi-Mech and such as a permanent biomedia>
If you would also look again at my stocking and see if this driftwood centerpiece gyro flow tank would be problematic for the amount or variety of fish that I listed?
<Unless you get/use HUGE flow powerheads, submersible pumps, there will not be "that much" "grand" gyre effect. If anything, the Pantodon might "hide out" near the submersible wood>
I am perfectly fine with understocking the tank if it is the best interest of the inhabitants.
Especially since there will be far less hiding spots, or more contested ones, in this setup. Although there will be a dense planting of water lettuce on the surface. Now that I mention that, will the gyre flow be turning at the top and causing the lettuce to all clump in the middle?
<Likely so>
Is this much movement bad for them and thus the Pantodon and Ctenopoma who will need the roots fairly full and stationary or am I confusing circulation pattern with flow rate?
<Don't think either will be problematical here>
I am very interested in your thoughts because I tend to over think, and I trust the value of your opinion and experience
over my own when it comes to something as serious as creating the perfect environment for the health and well-being of the fish in my care.
Thanks!!
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Re: Blackwater for Featherfin catfish?   Back to Neale      11/6/16
Hi Bob, thanks for the advice and encouragement. Yes I was referring to the eupterus. Of the large variety of fish I have kept, these guys are my favorite, I absolutely love their personalities and I see them out of their caves almost all day, unlike many of the experiences I have read from others who keep them. Thank you so much for the gyre suggestion! I did read the Jake Adams' essay that you linked to as well as at least a dozen others and plenty of discussion about a gyre setup here on WWM.
Unfortunately, using "gyre flow tank" or any similar phrasing in a search engine results in endless pages of discussion about the Maxspect Gyro product. Once I manually omitted the company's name from the search results I was able to find more, although not as much as I expected, and all of it being discussed in marine tank usage. There was plenty of great information though, although there are so many conflicting ideas and vague descriptions of setups that it has me confused. Much talk in freshwater discussion is resolute and unwavering in the importance of surface agitation for gas exchange, almost zealously. But in a gyre system, set correctly, wouldn't the massive water volume movement be enough to aerate the water sufficiently without having to specifically be pointing ph's up towards the surface or spray bars across the surface? I have attached a photo of a gyre setup that I have found that looks the simplest for me to
understand. In the photo, I can easily see how the water travels lengthwise down the back and front, but is the water movement losing efficiency when it hits the short sides (in my tank 24") and becoming somewhat chaotic but then somehow picking back up as it hits the next long side? It looks mostly like two currents in opposite directions, although I
understand the placement of the "divider in the middle is what helps curate the circular pattern. But, should 2 more (one on each end) additional ph's be placed at the bottom of the short sides angling up to push the water more efficiently across back to the lengthwise ph's, thereby creating a more continuous circuit instead of relying on the water to behave
appropriately when hitting a short side? Or should I somehow create a curve on the two corners that the ph's are pointed to, to make the water sweep through the turn instead of hitting a 90 degree angle and losing momentum by attrition? I'm considering changing the initial design of an alcove theme to compensate for the gyre setup, if my thinking is correct, breaking up the water flow like that would pause it's momentum in the circuit and thus losing the circular flow around the tank?. So I will be thinking about a centered large piece of driftwood to help create the vortex current
around it, sort of a freshwater version of the centered live rock setups I saw in marine gyre tanks. I've attached a few photos of the piece I am set on buying, if you think it would work, otherwise I can keep looking. It's measurements are 30"H x 18"L x 15" W as seen from the photo standing straight up. I'm not sure if it is too big or has enough natural caves or hideouts for the eupterus and the Steatocranus at the bottom? Although there is a spot in the middle I could see the bichir claiming. I have attached a few photos of different angles of the piece, and although it is quite impressive, it is expensive and I will have to have it shipped from Texas to New York which will be even more expensive. I would like your advice on if this is the centerpiece of all centerpieces, in the context of the specific tank I've been describing of course, or if you think that it would be better to create a sort of stockpile of stones in the center instead? If I do go for that piece of wood, do you think a tall setup reaching to the very top of the tank sticking out 6" above the water's
surface with Anubias attached in clumps over the whole thing (better aesthetic) or lengthwise (possibly more function for the fish or the gyre flow continuity?) would work best? My last bit of discussion will be about filtration. I have 4 x Hydor 350 canisters, they are rated at 280 gph. I plan on using all 4 but having the water fall straight down from the return
hose, which won't create the surface break of a spray bar or a lily pipe fitting, but since the water will be 6" below the surface of the tank I don't know if I could deal with the additional noise that an adapted return fitting would cause when hitting the water surface. My idea was to place the intakes grouped side by side in the middle of the back pane. What, if
any, effect does this have on the gyre rotation? Will it break it halfway along the back length, therefore not allowing enough momentum to reach the opposing corner and "turn" before catching the next long pane propulsion?
Also, Instead of filling each canister with a tray of foam, a tray of floss, and, 2 trays of ceramic rings, could I just fill one canister full of foam, two canisters full of biomedia, and one canister full of floss, effectively making my filter maintenance infinitely easier, or is that just wishful thinking? If you would also look again at my stocking and see if
this driftwood centerpiece gyro flow tank would be problematic for the amount or variety of fish that I listed? I am perfectly fine with understocking the tank if it is the best interest of the inhabitants.
Especially since there will be far less hiding spots, or more contested ones, in this setup. Although there will be a dense planting of water lettuce on the surface. Now that I mention that, will the gyre flow be turning at the top and causing the lettuce to all clump in the middle? Is this much movement bad for them and thus the Pantodon and Ctenopoma who will
need the roots fairly full and stationary or am I confusing circulation pattern with flow rate? I am very interested in your thoughts because I tend to over think, and I trust the value of your opinion and experience over my own when it comes to something as serious as creating the perfect environment for the health and well-being of the fish in my care.
Thanks!!
<<I'm a bit confused why you want turbulent flow here. The Ctenopoma and Pantodon will object to this, strongly! Ctenopoma are pool, swamp and sluggish river fish. Pretty much anything that gulps air can be assumed to prefer slow-moving bodies of water, else that adaptation would be redundant. Air-breathing fish that become adapted to fast water
(mouthbrooding Bettas, Candela spp.) tend to gulp air less frequently when compared to the standard-issue obligate air-breathers. As for Pantodon, they aren't strong swimmers. Most Synodontis are riverine fish, but may be more or less adapted to strong water currents. Broadly, those species with "long and low" bodies like Synodontis angelicus and Synodontis brichardi) are the ones that want/need strong water currents and plenty of oxygen.
Those Synodontis with rounder bodies (like Synodontis nigriventris and Synodontis eupterus) are more suited to deep, sluggish water lakes and river pools away from the rapids the preceding species favour. I'd be focusing on turnover, rather than turbulence, and going for a large volume of turnover but at relative low pressure. A big canister with a spray bar, for example, or multiple air-powered sponge filters, or whatever suits. In a tank with epiphytic and floating plants, even a classic undergravel filter can also work well, providing large amounts of filtration without requiring using several smaller powerheads, so evening up the water current around the tank. Cheers, Neale.>>
Re: Blackwater for Featherfin catfish?      11/6/16

Hi Neal, thanks for the info. Yes I would be happy to change my stocking list. I got a lot of the info from
http://fish.mongabay.com/biotope_african_rivers.htm
<A great, if old, website; not sure how regularly it's updated these days.
But in any event, do bear in mind the concept of an "African river" is about as vague as talking about an "American accent". There are all sorts of rivers in Africa, and some of them are literally thousands of miles in length. In some parts they'll be fast, in others slow; sometimes deep, sometimes shallow; sometimes running through rainforests, sometimes cutting across grasslands... there really isn't one African river biotope, but many, and the fish adapted to one part of the river won't be found in another.>
My stock list actually came from the idea of a side stream, but once I started reading about gyre circulation I am 100% positive this is the system I want to setup. I did mention at the end that I may be confusing circulation pattern with flow rate.
<Possibly, but at the same time, in a tank below 100 gallons in size, there may be little practical difference between having gyre-like circular water movement versus turbulent flow from one or two powerheads/canisters. Bear in mind that a marine aquarium "gyre" pump is basically designed to provide a wide "slice" of water rather than a narrow "spurt" like you get from a traditional pump. On top of that, gyre pumps can pulse this slice, replicating, in a limited sort of way, the movement of waves or currents.
In theory, there's nothing wrong with applying this to a freshwater system, particularly something like a Great Lake biotope. But in reality, freshwater streams and rivers tend to be comprised of fast moving water areas with slower areas nestled in between, and freshwater fish will exploit one or both of these depending on their ecological niche. Loaches,
for example, commonly rest in the slow-moving areas under rocks and wood, but dart out into the open, faster water areas to graze on algae and invertebrates. Relatively few aquarium fish are adapted to living their entire lives in strong water currents -- such fish would actually find the contained aquarium lifestyle rather difficult to adapt to.>
I was just concerned with getting the water around the corners to continue the gyre unimpeded but don't necessarily desire a forceful rapid rotation, just a continuous controlled one.
<See above; some relatively slow moving pockets of water are actually realistic, even necessary. For sure you don't want dead areas, but any decent filtration system should prevent this.>
As I mentioned I am willing to change the stocking. I had thought if I did the gyre toward the middle to bottom of the tank the surface vegetation wouldn't really be interrupted as much, especially with the water circulation hugging the wood and keeping its circular motion.
<Few plants will tolerate really strong water movements; Vallisneria are obvious choices, perhaps Anubias. Some careful selection will be necessary.>
Would you be willing to make some stocking suggestions for me? I am assuming the Debauwi and Congo tetras would be fine as well as the Steatocranus?
<Steatocranus is an interesting genus. While usually okay, some male specimens of Steatocranus casuarius can be extremely aggressive. Approach with care. Nanochromis is an option, but these are soft water cichlids and quite delicate. Riverine (as opposed to lacustrine) Lamprologus might be a better bet, but alas, are not too widely traded. Lamprologus congoensis is about the only one you see fairly regularly. Unless the water current was very high, some of the Tilapiines might actually work nicely, though their behaviour varies a bit. In big tanks I've never had trouble with
singletons, Tilapia rendalli in particular being especially attractive.
Tilapia joka (or Coelotilapia joka) is generally considered among the more reliable Tilapiines for home aquaria. It's quite small (under 15 cm/6 inches) and nicely marked. It's a riverine herbivore, and should handle fairly strong currents without problems, but do ensure some suitable resting spaces, such as caves.>
How about the bichir?
<The really big species are riverine, though favouring sluggish rather than turbulent water flow, and tend to be found in the large pools and lakes rather than, say, riffles and rapids. The smaller species are basically swamp-dwellers, and should be housed accordingly.>
That driftwood has a perfect home for him. And what about the kribs?
<River-dwellers for sure, but shallow, slow-moving rivers in rainforests rather than open areas with fast water flow (where Nanochromis, in particular, replace them).>
if the Ctenopoma and Pantodon would be miserable I won't include them.
But I really just want the precise flow pattern, not necessarily the speed....
<Don't over-complicate! Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Blackwater for Featherfin catfish?      11/6/16

Hi Neale, thanks again for the great advice.
<Welcome.>
It's important to mention that the photos that I sent Bob of the centerpiece of wood will fill up the whole middle of the tank being it is 18"L x 15"W x 30"H with a lot of natural caves holes and pass-through's and the tank is a 150gal tall so 48"L x 24"W x 30"H. The idea was to place this large driftwood vertically in the center with some smooth stones
gathered around the base for a few additional cave areas. Clusters of Anubias would be attached creeping up the entire height.
<Sounds nice.>
The water level was going to stay 6" low for the Pantodon with a full covering of dwarf water lettuce and 6" of the wood above the waterline to a nice effect. My idea is to set it up how a marine reef tank might create a gyre with a center grouping of live rock, but instead, a large driftwood structure. Wouldn't this, combined with the pumps being angled along the glass create an open swimming area out of the flow through the middle of the tank?
<Should do. But much the same affect, and more controllable, might be using plain vanilla powerheads dotted about the tank. The Hydor Koralia magnetic powerheads spring to mind for big tanks; for smaller tanks, anything should work, though the Eheim Aquaball powerheads are probably the best in terms of value and reliability.>
I somewhat understand the theory of water pulsing and wave creation and directional changing flows for corals and reef inhabitants in a marine tank. But I'm not trying to create that effect. I want a truly laminar flow, just circular and unidirectional.
<Ah, then powerheads would be much simpler.>
One of the things I dislike about my previous and current setups has been water flow accuracy or circulation pattern consistency. I mostly would set the spray bars at the top against the back and flowing towards the front, rotating sections at slightly different angles to get some movement towards the bottom and making sure to spray some along the surface. What I don't enjoy about this is that the water current becomes randomized once it hits the front glass or a structure in the tank and just goes about in whichever way it pleases.
<Yes, though this depends on the intensity of the water current. Strong the outflow current, the longer it'll take before it becomes turbulent. But do understand that randomised, turbulent flow distributes oxygen evenly. A fixed current will take oxygen where it goes, but the static pockets of water will receive less oxygen (and potentially heat, for that matter).>
This idea of the laminar gyre would be opposed to other riverine setups I have seen as closed systems with pumps at one end and intakes at the other to create a lengthwise laminar flow. But anything that it hits structure-wise on its way from one end to the other, to me seems like it would again cause a random or chaotic circulation pattern.
<Do read up on these; have been used successfully for loaches and hillstream biotope tanks; see here:
http://www.loaches.com/articles/river-tank-manifold-design
Requires some careful plumbing, but very effective.>
It seems as if you and Bob are in some disagreement about this setup, which is awesome to me because, that is what I love about this hobby, the discussion and knowledge seeking and sharing of thoughts and ideas to create new and interesting experiences. I have thought of a stagnant very slow moving blackwater setup with leaf litter and such, but am very confused as to how to aerate the water and get CO2 exchange to be enough with such minimal vegetation.
<You don't need to. Bichirs and Ctenopomas are air-breathers. Pantodon stay close to the surface, were oxygen level is best. Bottom dwelling characins and barbs from sluggish streams are slow-moving, have low metabolic rates and limited oxygen demands, so don't need very high oxygen levels compared with danios or cichlids from clearwater streams. See, evolution has taken care of this for you!>
In some strange way I am trying to make things less complicated by creating, from the start, a consistent and easy to maintain system, lessening some of the variables that occur in a "normal" setup. But I know nearly nothing compared to you guys, so if this is a dumb idea then it's a dumb idea. If I were to create something like this, what could live in it
and be relatively happy living in and around this large driftwood structure as well as the root system of the surface vegetation, besides the Lamprologus or Nanochromis, which I'm just not interested in keeping?
<Classic Synodontis companions including Xenopterus, Polypterus, Distichodus, most of the larger Mormyridae, schools of medium-sized characins like Alestes and Phenacogrammus... all sorts, really. All these appreciate steady, but not turbulent, water flow.>
Keeping in mind that this is a 150 tall with the width being half that of the length and a large center structure. The whole reason that this search path started for me is that my 2 eupterus coexist beautifully on separate sides of my 75gal and only fight when trying to swim in the current created by the spray bar. They will swim in it facing away from me all day until one wants to kick the other out. The female always wins. I don't mind being told I'm an idiot so if my thoughts on this are skewing idiotic, please feel free to tell me haha. I've reattached the photos of the wood centerpiece that the gyre would circle around. I'm looking very forward to reading your reply. Thanks so much again for taking the time to discuss this with me!
<Most welcome. Neale.>

African tank (not Rift Lake)       7/26/`14
Dear Crew,
Hello, first off, I would like to commend you on such a wonderful job that you all do!
I have a 30 gallon (ish) freshwater tank. The tank is 30" x 12.5" x 19", and has an eggcrate cover. I would like to make it into an African oddball tank. The fish I plan on using would be an African Butterflyfish, a leopard Bushfish, a Senegal bichir, and a pair of Kribs.
<Nice fishes, collection; but need more room than a thirty. Perhaps twice this with/when the bichir is of size>

Aquascaping: I would like to grow Dracaena sanderiana
<Mmm; not an aquatic plant... won't live well or long underwater>
out of the eggcrate,
<Oh!>

with maybe the roots immersed in the water. If I only use fresh-cut shoots, would they eventually begin to have the bamboo cane look?
<Possibly; though can be toxic>
Or would the shoots remain like shoots? How far into the water could I immerse the plants before they started not thriving?
Just the white/roots; or planter base if it's already growing in this>
I think it would look really cool
if I could see the bichir weaving between bamboo canes,
<Look to some of the members of the genera Vallisneria and Sagittaria>

but I don't want to sacrifice a few plants for my whims. I also plan on using both free floating and planted water sprite to provide cover for the African butterfly fish and the Bushfish.
<A good choice>
Would it be better to grow some Anubias nana var dwarf on Mopani wood immersed then put it underwater to prevent algae growth while attaching?
<"Six of one...">
I would like to take some of the Mopani wood and make half the tank look like a tangle for the Kribs to breed and the bichir to weave, and the other half with the D. sanderiana/water sprite for the Bushfish/bichir if the Kribs breed.
Fish: I know that the African Butterflyfish might require live food at first, so have started a hydei fruit fly culture for it. Are the fruit flies too small for the fish?
<Should be fine if the fish recognizes them. May have to use aquatic insect larvae or crustaceans for a while>
How many would you recommend per feeding and how often?
<Five twice a day>
I also plan on weaning it onto freeze-dried bloodworms and cichlid pellets as a staple. I know that most people like to use crickets, but I don't think I could handle the crickets.
The Bushfish (for clarification: Ctenopoma acutirostre) I understand will also require live food at first. I have some white cloud mountain minnow fry from this summer's breeding project, but am wondering: do the wcmm fry have Thiaminase?
<Not much; no>
I know that feeder goldfish do, as do fathead minnows, but what about the wcmm? I plan on weaning the Bushfish to frozen bloodworms/Mysis/brine shrimp as soon as possible. How do you suggest weaning?
<Just starting... very likely to accept w/o much time going by>
I'm thinking of giving it live fry, followed by frozen fry, then frozen foods via turkey baster. If this will work, how do you suggest painlessly killing the fry?
<Better to add live>
The Kribs (P. pulcher) seem big enough to withstand the bichir and the Bushfish. I also think they might provide a tad of color in a predominantly brown tank. I have had experience with convict cichlid breeding in the past, but are Kribs as prolife rant?
<Not as; no>
I'm hoping that the bichir and the Bushfish will take care of large amounts of fry, leaving the parents and
me with fewer fry. Would this work since the Bushfish and bichir are nocturnal?
<Only time can tell; but in a thirty gallon, likely all fry will be consumed>
They would get Spirulina pellets and plankton/krill sticks.
The bichir (Polypterus senegalus)I know gets to 12" in size...which might be a tad small maybe?
<Not small; but won't get this big in a thirty>
I saw one at PetSmart, and had to resist the impulse buy! Again, live foods might have to be used, so more wcmm fry?
<Insect larvae, earthworms, frozen/defrosted meaty foods.... See WWM re>
Hopefully, it would take the plankton/krill sticks and frozen bloodworms and maybe frozen daphnia?
Miscellanea: Before when I had the tank stocked with fish, I would add water conditioner, and use a garden hose to fill it up. Something tells me that these fish would either jump, or not appreciate it. I have a RO/DI unit for my saltwater and shrimp tanks, so would you recommend that instead?
<Depends on your tapwater quality. I would NOT use just RO, RO/DI>
If so, what pH should I buffer to? 6.0? 7.0?
<... see WWM re all these species. Likely somewhere near neutral; but with some alkalinity>
The filter I have so far is rated for the 30 gallon, but with the large predators, should I increase water changes/ get a bigger filter?
<Assuredly yes>
At the rate that the filter runs at the moment, the Butterflyfish shouldn't be bothered by excess flow.
Would 33% weekly/bimonthly changes manage the bioload?
<I'd do up to 25% weekly; per the SOP on WWM>
I understand that all of these fish have been captive bred, so where would I find captive bred fish?
<Stores, fish clubs, the Net>
There is a big event coming up soon, so my family wants me to have it finished by November. Could I get this done in that time?
<Sure>
Thank you so much!
a person under 18
<Welcome; someone much older. Bob Fenner>
Re: African tank (not Rift Lake)... Stkg., bichirs        8/1/14

Dear Mr. Fenner,
Just to clarify, are you saying that the bichir will not be comfortable in the 30 gallon tank long term?
<Correct... might be fine for a year or two as the only fish here. There are larger (and a few smaller) Bichir species>
What about the other fish?
<What about them? Other than what is posted on WWM?>
The bichir is the main focal fish that I chose, so if the bichir won't fit, then I feel that the tank idea would not work. I have a few more ideas in my head of what to stock, but I'd like to know if the bichir would work first.
Thanks!
the same person under 18
<Am even older now! BobF>

African Biotope help   4/13/14
I am trying to put together a stocking for an African Biotope tank (termed that for now but am not stuck on "only" African fish...) and keep getting conflicting information regarding stocking.
<Oh dear.>
It is a 72 Gallon Bowfront, sand substrate, moderately low tech planted (mostly various swords, lilies, ferns) with driftwood and rocks. Two Fluval 405 canister filters.
<Sounds nice.>
It has been a freshwater setup with angels for a few years now but I am rehoming those and moving towards a different, less "common" set up. I want to include the Senegal Bichir and African bush fish....but as far as other stocking I am fairly stumped. Any suggestions for suitable tankmates?
(Including more than one of the Senegals and Bushfish together)
<Oh, lots of options here. But classic companions would be a group of Dwarf Upside Down Catfish and a school of Congo Tetras. Less often kept but perfectly viable companions would include a second Climbing Perch species (Ctenopoma weeksii would be ideal) and one of the smaller knifefish, such as Xenomystus nigri. Ropefish can also work, but they're more prone to escaping from aquaria, so may be more hassle than they're worth in an aquarium not set up specifically for them. Pantodon buchholzi is another option, though tricky to feed, so review carefully before purchase. There are some other African tetras and barbs in the trade, any peaceful species in the 8-12 cm size bracket would work nicely. The smaller Distichodus would be possibilities from the characin front, but they're plant-eaters; Distichodus affinis is probably the one best suited to your tank, though it's probably a bit too nippy to keep with Pantodon, especially if it got hungry. The one type of fish I'd be leery of would be the Mormyrids; while these can work in rough-and-tumble communities like yours, you'd need to get your specimen(s) feeding quickly, because if they don't eat well, they won't live for long. That said, healthy Gnathonemus petersii are very bold and active fish, and can work well alongside Congo Tetras, smaller bichirs, etc.>
Thank you so much for your time and opinions!
<Most welcome, Neale.>

Stocking a mature tank    11/12/13
Hello again team! It has been a while since I have reached out to you guys and gals. As always, thank you for the time and effort of your endeavors!
I have a vision of turning my 55g long into a West African stream. I already have the aquarium mildly planted with a few Amazon swords, tons of java fern, and an assortment of Anubias sp. The decorations are several medium cobble stones smaller river pebbles and sand for the top layer of substrate over a mix of fine grade gravel and laterite, with two pieces of driftwood.
pH is 6.6,  mildly soft hardness, temp fluctuates depending on the room temp between 79.8 & 82.1 F. The filter is a Filstar xp3 rated for 175g.
Now, on to the stocking vision... Two or three pairs of P. pulcher, one C. acutirostre, one Synodontis sp. that I have identified as S. valentius, a new Syno hybrid, by scouring planetcatfish.com  for hours, and preferably 8-10 Congo tetras, and one P. maccus. So what do you guys think?
<Sounds very nice indeed>
 Is this a winning combination or, am I headed for trouble?
<Mmm; no; all these fishes, plants should get along here; in this size system, water quality>
Please make any
suggestions or point out any error. Thanks again. Hank
<I might add some sort of floating plant/s... but this is about it. Bob Fenner>

Ctenopoma, Anomalochromis Compatibility - 10/15/2012
Hi Crew,
<Hi Phill!  Sabrina here.>
Just a very quick question regarding an African River setup. Would Ctenopoma acutirostre be an okay addition to a tank with the following:
Anomalochromis thomasi
Synodontis nigriventris
Phenacogrammus interruptus
My concern here is that there are 4 Thomasi's (2 breeding pair). I don't want to encourage the Leaf fish to start hunting the fry <He will, whether you encourage him or not.  This fish is a sort of an ambush predator, and will happily eat anything that will fit in its mouth. 
The fry would be snacks.  In fact, the Congo tetras will probably pick them off, too, once they're big enough.  With luck, your parent cichlids will protect a few fry long enough to give them a fighting chance, but if your "real" goal is to breed the thomasi, it'd be best done in a breeding tank dedicated to a single breeding pair.>
and then when he gets older have him picking off adult Thomasi's.
<I would also be concerned that the cichlids might possibly kill a young Ctenopoma that keeps nosing his way into their breeding territory.  They're small, but they're still defensive when they breed.>
I only ask this because I have owned this leaf fish before <Great fish, aren't they?  All of the Ctenopoma are neat.>
but was not able to keep him until adulthood due to a relocation when the tank was sold. The tank is a 40 breeder that is moderate to heavily planted with:
Tiger Lotus
<You'll ultimately have trouble keeping this confined in the 40g tank, as it will insist upon having its leaves at the surface and shadowing out everything else.  While it's small, though, it will certainly be beautiful.>
Onion plant
Aponogeton ulvaceus
<Aponogeton ulvaceus is my all-time favorite plant, incidentally.  It'll work fine in a 40g, but for best effect, looks gorgeous in taller tanks. 
Beautiful plant.>
Eleocharis Parvula
Various Anubias
Thanks guys!
<Sounds like an attractive tank, Phill.>
Phill
<Best wishes,  -Sabrina>
Re African Riverine Biotope
Ctenopoma, Anomalochromis Compatibility - II - 10/18/2012

Thanks Sabrina!
<You're welcome, Phill!>
Your points are well made and will be heeded. I'm not totally bent on having every fry make it and figured on some fry predation. My goal was to cut a little slice of the biotope out in my home and have a small Cichlid that could live in multi-unit family. I have seen this setup before and it is quite stunning. This is actually the tank that's going into my self made
entertainment system when it's done.
<Just make sure it's not affected by speakers, etc.  As I'm sure you're aware, sound carries through solids and water far better than through air. 
Don't give your pets headaches *grin*>
I'll send pics when complete.
<I'm excited to see.>
I don't want the leaf fish nor the Thomasi to get hurt so I will forego that.
<Sounds like a plan.  Also sounds like you need another tank, dedicated to Ctenopoma....>
I also know that lotus will get big. I'm praying that I can "tame" it.
<Good luck.  You'll have some success for a while, I'm sure....  and then you can dig a pond, and have even more fun!>
It's so beautiful.
<It is, indeed.>
Phill
<Have fun in the building, planning....  and enjoy!  -Sabrina>

Filtration Question, All-In-One Aquarium Systems, Stocking West African Biotope - IV - 10/29/2012
Hi Sabrina
<Hi again, Gord!>
Sorry for the late reply. I really just wanted to say thank you for your help on the livestock and thank you for all the help you have given me with this "tank-to-be". I do also have one quick question - would a 250 litre be big enough for 2 Ctenopoma, assuming I'm not lucky enough to get a pairing?
<I think so.  Good luck on sexing them....  It's tough at best.>
Just so you know the provisional plan will be an external running in conjunction with the wet/dry and with the following aim for livestock:
1(2) x Ctenopoma acutirostre
1 x Gnathonemus petersii
<To be honest, I've never kept Mormyrids, never been fond of them.  I think you won't have trouble with this fish in the 250L tank though.>
10 x Phenacogrammus interruptus
1 x Pantodon buchholzi (I might cut back on the Congo Tetras and go for two, though)
<You won't regret having a male/female pair, I can almost promise.>
4 x Synodontis nigriventris
<A silly and adorable little cat....  These will possibly compete with the Mormyrid for territory, as both will want some nook or cranny or cave.... 
Be certain to provide several ideal locations so they won't have to fight over the same one or two.>
Thanks again for all your help.
<You bet.  I think your stocking plan looks good, and I think you will probably enjoy this tank and these fish a great deal.>
Cheers,
Gord
<Best wishes,  -Sabrina>
Considering new tank, filter system unfamiliar    12/17/12

Hi folks
<Gordon>
No rush and no emergency. I don't want to appear demanding, I just wanted to check this was received. I noticed that you got some rather large video files from someone the same day so I wondered if the email had maybe bounced.
If it is just that Sabrina is not around then I'm happy to wait. Hope she is well, not having seen her post in a while.
Cheers
Gordon
<The email was received. I don't know Sabrina's situation, but your mail is in her folder. - Rick>
Hi Rick
<Gord>
Thanks for confirming that for me.
<No problem. - Rick>
Cheers
Gord
Filtration Question, All-In-One Aquarium Systems, Stocking West African Biotope - V - 12/18/2012

Hi Sabrina
<Hi, Gord!>
It is me again, come to pick your brains regarding the Congo biotope tank some more.
<Neat....>
We're almost all set up now, cabinet built and painted, nice sand substrate in place, etc. Just need to collect some rocks and wood, buy some plants and we're sorted. 
<How exciting!>
The tank cycled super fast, producing 20ppm NO3 in just 3 days, using NH4 solution to feed it, but I suppose that's what happens when you wash the filters of your other 8 tanks in the water.
<Haha!  Yes, that will do it.>
I have two (hopefully final) questions.
<Hopefully never final.  I hope you (and I, and everyone) will always find more questions to consider, share, learn from....>
The first is on stocking order. I've reproduced and updated the stocking list below for your ease of reading:
2 x Ctenopoma acutirostre
1 x Gnathonemus petersii
10 x Phenacogrammus interruptus
2 x Pantodon buchholzi
<I'm glad you've decided to try for the pair of Pantodon.  Do be sure to research a bit to learn how to sex them.  It's really quite easy.  Try to get a male and a female.  Although you probably wouldn't get too much trouble from two males, the courtship behaviours are just so much fun to observe.  Also be aware, some few individuals will never wean onto prepared foods.  The female I had years ago would only take live insects, which was fine by me.  If that's important to you, then ask to see them eat prior to purchase.>
4 x Synodontis nigriventris
Since the Ctenopoma and, from what I've heard, the Mormyrid can be difficult to get feeding at first I was planning to add these first and wait until I've established a few "dinner triggers" e.g. recognising the tank lid getting lifted, spotting the food container etc.
<The Ctenopoma are probably not going to give you too much trouble, here. 
Many/most of those C. acutirostre now available (at least in the U.S.) are captive produced.  They should be easy to feed, at least on frozen foods, probably within hours or a day of introduction to the tank.>
After this I plan to start adding the Tetras at 5 per week for a bit of colour, then the Pantodon and finally the Synodontis.
Does all this sound OK to you? Would you do anything different?
<I would probably do the Pantodon before the tetras, and make sure there is a lot of stuff at the surface for them to hide behind or in.  The more areas they have to hide, the less they will actually hide, and the more you will see this utterly gorgeous, amazing fish.>
My second question is on the Congo Tetras. With Ctenopoma being such a slow feeder
<Not "slow" so much as "deliberate"....  they're an ambush predator (like almost all the fish I enjoy), but can/will learn to be strong feeders. 
Especially the captive produced C. acutirostre.  Even wild M. fasciolatum became great feeders in not too much time for me.>
and knowing certainly how voracious other Tetras can be at feeding time, am I making a rod for my own back with the Congo Tetras?
<Certainly worth thinking about.  You might try saving the tetras for last, just to get a "feel" for how the others are going to fare.  But I think you'll be okay, frankly.  Congos aren't "as" quick to feed as many other tetras, and probably aren't going to give you any real trouble.>
Will feeding time turn into a challenge of distracting the Tetras long enough for the Ctenopoma to get a decent meal?
<I kind of doubt it.  And if it does, consider feeding the Ctenopoma with frozen foods with the aid of a turkey baster - sort of target-feeding them in their favorite hangouts while the tetras are buzzing around whatever other foods you use.>
Thanks, and hopefully the next email I send you on this is a thank-you, some pictures and no more questions.
<I do look forward to the pictures!  But please, never say no more questions!  Even if you're asking someone else (like your obviously well-informed self), don't ever stop looking for answers.>
Cheers
Gord
<Best wishes to you always,  -Sabrina>
Filtration Question, All-In-One Aquarium Systems, Stocking West African Biotope - VI - 12/19/2012

Hi Sabrina
<Hi!>
Thanks for that.
<My pleasure, as always.>
I'll definitely leave the Tetras until last, then, and see how it goes. Now all I need is patience until after the festive period. I don't suppose you've got any going spare have you?
<Oh my, do I wish.  I've no patience to spare, but hopefully some wishes of peace and prosperity for the season will suffice!>
Cheers
Gord
<Do please have a good time with this tank....  And do send along some photos when you can!  Fondly,  -Sabrina> 
Hi Sabrina
Re Filtration Question, All-In-One Aquarium Systems, Stocking West African Biotope - VII - 01/04/2013    1/11/13
(Just thought I'd save you some keying, you're doing me the favour, after all)
<Hee!  Thanks!  Though I'm embarrassed to admit it's now the 11th.  That'll teach me for going on vacation and not putting a note on my folder....>
Happy New Year!
<And to you!>
I have another quick question on this, if you don't mind?
<Sure!>
I just got an API hardness liquid test kit and have measured a KH of 3 and a GH of 4 on a jar of week-old tap water. Most of the sites I've looked at suggest I need a minimum of 5 dH for this setup, which, if I'm correct, is the same as 5 GH. I'm not scared to muck with water chemistry since I've got enough practical chemistry under my belt to be confident, if cautious. The question is: do I need to? Will a GH of 4 suffice or am I pushing it?
<I would leave this be and see how things go.>
My tap water pH is 7.4 on average, according to last year’s water company data. The water is stable in the soft-water aquariums at pH 7.0-7.2, so I'm not going to add any buffers, maybe just magnesium sulphate (Epsom salt) for an extra degree of GH, if necessary. I don't think I'll need to do this but I don't want to kick myself down the line for not asking. 
<Right, so you can kick me instead.  I get it.  Really, though, I would keep it as is and see how things go, and consider augmenting it if you encounter trouble, and not before.>
Actually, I have some others (eased you into a false sense of security there!).
<D'oh!>
Planting is going to be Anubias, or Anubias and Val, maybe, and a hardy floating plant like Water Sprite.
<A great choice; I would include it.  If you have a lowered water level for the Pantodon, and have a piece of bogwood sticking up above the water surface, you can even get it to anchor into growing as a sort of a mat/bush around the wood.  I've done this; it looks great and creates a great refuge for the butterflies.>
The lighting rig I got with the tank had packed up on the previous owner. It was previously a 2x54W fluorescent T5 system. He bunged a T8 tube system into the fitting. You know the ones with the in-line ballast, little screw caps for each end of the tube, begging you to over-tighten and snap it?
<Heh.>
Interpet does a version. Horrible things.
<No argument here.>
He wrecked a T5 socket jamming it in and chopped off the old plug cable!
<No!  Sigh....>
I contacted him and he said the T5 system just stopped working.  Now, I reckon I can restore the system to its former glory of total 108W, but I'm wondering if the single 36W will suffice for Anubias?
<Eh, possibly.  Probably.>
Also will the Pantodon buchholzi take the brightness if I up it to 108W?
<If they have some cover from floating plants, yes.  You can also consider just adding a bit of shade to one or two places for them.>
To save you hunting back I'm at 0.43 watts per US gallon in the "no change" scenario.
<Terribly low, but Anubias and Val.s are not demanding.  They will do better with a bit more, though.>
It can grow brown algae anyway!
<Hee!  Turning that brown thumb green, one diatom at a time!>
Just curious as to what you'd do here, me, I'm leaning towards repairing the lights and floating plants aplenty for the Pantodon buchholzi.
<Ha, yes, exactly what I'd do.>
This time, I'm not going to say there will be no more questions because I'm repeatedly proven wrong!
<Now, this is where I get to say, "Told you so!">
I will say, though, thank you for helping us through this setup and letting us learn from your experience.
<Glad to help, seriously.  Especially since your interests are so similar to my own, and since I've had tremendous fun with very similar systems in the past.>
Photos-wise, we've got a few. My better half insisted that every stage be photographed. The rocks are in and we're now waiting for the wood to sink so we can plant it and finally get our Ctenopoma, the stars of the show.
<So exciting!  I do honestly look forward to seeing.>
The temporary decorations were...um..."interesting", it is amazing what truly horrific decorations you pick up with second-hand tanks. 
<Oh yes.  Real treasure troves of sometimes disturbing treasure!>
All I can say is the Danios didn't seem to mind the fluorescent plants too much, but they might be glad to move to the minnow tank and finally take off their sunglasses!
<Hee!>
(Just in case it was lost in discussion, the Danios are placeholders; the tank's cycle was fishless.)
<How did you know I was going to say....?>
I'll stick the whole lot up on Flickr and send in the link when we've finally got something that looks nice, it will hopefully give you some DIY eye-candy and might help someone else who has a bay window going wasted!
<I really do look forward to this, Gord.  I have enjoyed these exchanges a great deal.>
Cheers, and wishing you and yours the all the best for the year to come,
<And you and yours as well from us!>
Gord
<Best wishes always,  -Sabrina>
West African River Tank Setup Questions     12/22/12

Hi,
<Salve,>
I recently acquired a 72-gal tank after years of keeping smaller community tanks and decided I wanted to do something different and set up a West African River-themed tank. I have a couple of questions as I get started.
1) My proposed stocking plan is as follows:
Pair of Kribensis (Already own one)
School of Congo Tetra (6-8?)
<Gorgeous fish when mature.>
School of Upside-Down Catfish (6-8?)
<Look great in groups, and will be active during the day; at least, a few months after they're settled in!>
Decorations will be wood and rocks with plenty of Anubias, Val.s and other simple care plants.
<Wise.>
I would like to have something else in this tank. Looking on you site and elsewhere on the internet, it appears as though the standard stocking plan includes a ABF or knifefish. Neither of those appeals to me because my job requires me to travel and the specialty needs of those fish are not really something I want to leave to my wife. Do you have any recommendations for other regionally appropriate fish that would go with this setup? I have read a little bit about Microctenopoma congicum and M. fasciolatum but there isn't much specific information on these fish on the internet or my LFS. Are they compatible with a breeding pair of kribs and the normal aggressiveness that accompanies that? What grouping needs do they have (school, only 1 male, etc)?
<These two Microctenopoma are very easy going and should work with the chosen fish. Kribs aren't especially aggressive, and in a big aquarium like this, shouldn't cause any bother. Have combined both species in smaller tanks with ease.>
2) While I am familiar with cycling and getting smaller tanks going, I am kind of intimidated by the larger tank, although I have read that the ammonia shocks are more diffused with larger tanks.
<Correct; if you have a big tank and slowly stock with small fish, the whole process is much less risky.>
Is there a particular order and amount that you would recommend adding the fish to the tank?
<Good question. I'd go with the Climbing Perch first, then the Synodontis.
Both are hardy, potentially air-breathing fish able to survive less than perfect conditions. I'd add the Kribs a good few weeks later (all cichlids are sensitive to "New Tank Syndrome") and then the Congo Tetras last because they're so expensive and a bit sensitive.>
Are the Congos too sensitive to cycle with them and some SafeStart?
<I would not rely on any "instant bacteria" products.>
My current plan is to add my Krib and the Congos, wait for the cycle, then add the cats and other new Krib, wait for the cycle, then add whatever I am going to use to finish off the tank with. Does that plan sound safe for the fish?
<See above.>
Thank you very much for your help!
<Welcome.>
Jon Mathews
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: West African River Tank Setup Questions     12/22/12

Neale,
<Jon,>
Thank you very much for your help. I have two follow-up questions. First, how many of the Climbing Perch should I look to have in my tank given the other planned stock?
<In a 70-odd gallon aquarium with, say, 8 Congo Tetras, 5 Synodontis nigriventris, and a pair of Kribs, you've still got plenty of space and could easily home 6 Microctenopoma.>
Is there anything that I need to be aware of as far as territoriality, male/female ratio, etc are concerned?
<Not really. Both Microctenopoma congicum and Microctenopoma fasciolatum are pretty tolerant animals and while males spar, no real harm is done.
Sexing isn't easy with young fish, though males typically have longer tips to their fins.>
I haven't found much on these species on the internet.
<Here's a piece I penned about this genus for Tropical Fish Finder:
http://www.tropicalfishfinder.co.uk/article_detail.asp?id=146
Microctenopoma are much undervalued, I think because they (mostly) lack bright colours. Microctenopoma ansorgii has lovely colours but is, unfortunately, a bit shy, so best kept in its own aquarium rather than communities.>
Second, my filtration plan involves two Bio-Wheel Emperor 280 HOBs. With Congo Tetras planned, should I add a powerhead to have a stronger current in the tank and add to the circulation?
<So long as you have at least 6, and ideally 8 times the volume of the tank in turnover, you should be fine. Adding another powerhead might be helpful, but bear in mind your other fish don't like strong currents, so you're aiming for a happy medium.>
Thanks again, Jon
<Most welcome, Neale.>
Hi Sabrina
Re Filtration Question, All-In-One Aquarium Systems, Stocking West African Biotope - VII - 01/04/2013    1/11/13
(Just thought I'd save you some keying, you're doing me the favour, after all)
<Hee!  Thanks!  Though I'm embarrassed to admit it's now the 11th.  That'll teach me for going on vacation and not putting a note on my folder....>
Happy New Year!
<And to you!>
I have another quick question on this, if you don't mind?
<Sure!>
I just got an API hardness liquid test kit and have measured a KH of 3 and a GH of 4 on a jar of week-old tap water. Most of the sites I've looked at suggest I need a minimum of 5 dH for this setup, which, if I'm correct, is the same as 5 GH. I'm not scared to muck with water chemistry since I've got enough practical chemistry under my belt to be confident, if cautious. The question is: do I need to? Will a GH of 4 suffice or am I pushing it?
<I would leave this be and see how things go.>
My tap water pH is 7.4 on average, according to last year’s water company data. The water is stable in the soft-water aquariums at pH 7.0-7.2, so I'm not going to add any buffers, maybe just magnesium sulphate (Epsom salt) for an extra degree of GH, if necessary. I don't think I'll need to do this but I don't want to kick myself down the line for not asking. 
<Right, so you can kick me instead.  I get it.  Really, though, I would keep it as is and see how things go, and consider augmenting it if you encounter trouble, and not before.>
Actually, I have some others (eased you into a false sense of security there!).
<D'oh!>
Planting is going to be Anubias, or Anubias and Val, maybe, and a hardy floating plant like Water Sprite.
<A great choice; I would include it.  If you have a lowered water level for the Pantodon, and have a piece of bogwood sticking up above the water surface, you can even get it to anchor into growing as a sort of a mat/bush around the wood.  I've done this; it looks great and creates a great refuge for the butterflies.>
The lighting rig I got with the tank had packed up on the previous owner. It was previously a 2x54W fluorescent T5 system. He bunged a T8 tube system into the fitting. You know the ones with the in-line ballast, little screw caps for each end of the tube, begging you to over-tighten and snap it?
<Heh.>
Interpet does a version. Horrible things.
<No argument here.>
He wrecked a T5 socket jamming it in and chopped off the old plug cable!
<No!  Sigh....>
I contacted him and he said the T5 system just stopped working.  Now, I reckon I can restore the system to its former glory of total 108W, but I'm wondering if the single 36W will suffice for Anubias?
<Eh, possibly.  Probably.>
Also will the Pantodon buchholzi take the brightness if I up it to 108W?
<If they have some cover from floating plants, yes.  You can also consider just adding a bit of shade to one or two places for them.>
To save you hunting back I'm at 0.43 watts per US gallon in the "no change" scenario.
<Terribly low, but Anubias and Val.s are not demanding.  They will do better with a bit more, though.>
It can grow brown algae anyway!
<Hee!  Turning that brown thumb green, one diatom at a time!>
Just curious as to what you'd do here, me, I'm leaning towards repairing the lights and floating plants aplenty for the Pantodon buchholzi.
<Ha, yes, exactly what I'd do.>
This time, I'm not going to say there will be no more questions because I'm repeatedly proven wrong!
<Now, this is where I get to say, "Told you so!">
I will say, though, thank you for helping us through this setup and letting us learn from your experience.
<Glad to help, seriously.  Especially since your interests are so similar to my own, and since I've had tremendous fun with very similar systems in the past.>
Photos-wise, we've got a few. My better half insisted that every stage be photographed. The rocks are in and we're now waiting for the wood to sink so we can plant it and finally get our Ctenopoma, the stars of the show.
<So exciting!  I do honestly look forward to seeing.>
The temporary decorations were...um..."interesting", it is amazing what truly horrific decorations you pick up with second-hand tanks. 
<Oh yes.  Real treasure troves of sometimes disturbing treasure!>
All I can say is the Danios didn't seem to mind the fluorescent plants too much, but they might be glad to move to the minnow tank and finally take off their sunglasses!
<Hee!>
(Just in case it was lost in discussion, the Danios are placeholders; the tank's cycle was fishless.)
<How did you know I was going to say....?>
I'll stick the whole lot up on Flickr and send in the link when we've finally got something that looks nice, it will hopefully give you some DIY eye-candy and might help someone else who has a bay window going wasted!
<I really do look forward to this, Gord.  I have enjoyed these exchanges a great deal.>
Cheers, and wishing you and yours the all the best for the year to come,
<And you and yours as well from us!>
Gord
<Best wishes always,  -Sabrina>

Tank Start-up Questions - 1/25/13
Hi,
<Salve,>
Thank you again for your help in planning my 72-gal West African tank. I am moving forward with a stocking plan of 8 Congo Tetra, 6 USD Cats, 2 Kribensis, and 4-6 M. fasciolatum. The tank has had water in it and been running since 1/13. Currently in the tank I have 12 Anubias of 4 different varieties, 1 Crinum natans, and around 15-20 separate bits of Frogbit floating at the top. As far as fish go, I currently have 1 Betta (re-homed when the M. fasciolatum I found on a business trip beat him up) and 6 danios (starter fish because I was told not to do fishless cycling on a planted tank).
<Fair enough.>
Before adding the fish, I threw some used filter media from another tank in the filter, set up with used gravel from a LFS, and used one of the BioSpira products (I know, not loved around these parts, but I had it on hand). I added the danios about a week ago, and the plants a couple days before that, and since then the water has tested a steady .25/0/0 (the .25 ammonia is a tap water artifact, I believe, based on my testing)
<Seems likely.>
My first question is that I have never had a planted tank or used filter media to jump start the cycle. So I am familiar with the normal 6-8 wk wait for things to cycle but I am wondering how quickly to expect this to cycle. I would have expected to see ammonia rise by now and I am not seeing it. What should I look for to see if things are ok to start adding fish again? Are there too few fish to see the nitrates rise due to the plants and tank size?
<Yes. Generally, tanks with lots of plants become safe very quickly because the plants use up ammonia as fast as the fish produce it. So while the filter may still take 6 or 8 weeks to mature, it doesn't matter much because your fish will be fine. In any case, the plants carry LOTS of filter bacteria on them, so they do a great job of jump starting the cycle process.>
My second question is that I purchased my Anubias online and I put them in the tank the day they came. Now, I have a few of them with yellowing leaves,
<Remove.>
some with all their leaves yellow or translucent and only the rhizome green.
<Fine. Remove any unsightly leaves (they won't get "better") and put the rhizome where you want it. Anubias is very reliable, and assuming the plant hasn't been horribly mistreated, it'll regrown some new leaves within a month.>
I have been removing the dead leaves as they have died. But I am wondering if this is a byproduct of the transit these plants just went through or the cycling the tank is going through?
<Yellowing tends to reflect a lack of some nutrient, though Anubias leaves do yellow when they get old before they start decaying. Individual leaves last around a year.>
Should I be removing these leaves as they start to get brown, or wait until they have died?
<I'm pretty ruthless with my Anubias and remove dodgy leaves!>
Or is this indicative of something else, like lighting, etc?
Thanks again!
Jon
<Cheers, Neale.> 
Re: Tank Start-up Questions - 1/25/13

Neale,
<Jon,>
Thank you for answering my questions. I have attached a picture of all the leaves that I culled tonight. Does that match what you said about missing nutrients?
<Can do, but Anubias grow so slowly, I find they usually manage to get all the minerals they need from regular water changes. But adding extra minerals to the water won't do any harm; try using drops at 50% the quoted dose on the bottle and see what happens. I rarely use the full dose (maybe I'm a cynic, but this stuff is pricey and I prefer to use the bare minimum, and figure I can also go the full dose if the plants *still* look off-colour).>
Or does it look like something else? The odd thing is that the worst of the plants are at the front of the tank, also the lowest plants in the tank and the last ones we planted. I don't know if any of that is causal or just noise.
<Hard to say. Anubias prefer shade rather than direct light, and if there's nothing between them and the light, hair algae and other problems like that become obvious. Anubias also hate being buried in the ground, so check how yours are planted. Finally, some catfish (scraping Plec-type things) will damage their leaves, making decay more likely.>
Thanks again for your help.
Jon
<Welcome, Neale.>

 

SA or W African River tank   10/19/11
Hi Crew,
I hope you are all well! This is more of a compatibility/best experience question. I have tried to research this to the best of my ability before coming to you.
I want to put together a 20-30 gallon aquarium. My water has pH of 6.8 and 100 ppm straight out of the faucet. I would like to do some combination of the following:
Either 1 keyhole Cichlid with 1 cockatoo Cichlid or 1 African butterfly Cichlid with 1 Kribensis
With either 6-8 flame tetras or 6-8 black phantom tetras Later: 1 Bristlenose Pleco and a couple Otocinclus.
Maybe 1 bamboo shrimp depending on stocking and bio-load.
In your experience do you see any negatives here? Any cool ideas you have are also greatly appreciated. Thanks guys for all your help. Your experience and guidance are amazing.
Phill
<These combinations sound workable. The cichlids are the jokers in the pack; while singletons shouldn't cause problems alongside catfish and tetras, two cichlids of different species might have problems cohabiting in a relatively small tank. Of the two options, the South American one seems the most likely to work, neither of those species being particularly aggressive. The West African options are more interesting in some ways, with some nice colours and more outgoing personalities. Anomalochromis thomasi is very peaceful, but Kribs can sometimes throw their weight around, so do watch them. I think worth a gamble, but keep an eye on them.
Small, schooling fish for African communities can be difficult to find.
Nannaethiops unitaeniatus is a lovely fish, but not often sold, and tends to hide away a lot. African Glass Cats might be a good alternative. There are some lovely African barbs, notably Barbus fasciolatus as perhaps the most widely traded and a lovely little fish. Do also look for Ladigesia roloffi, the "Jellybean Tetra", and the superb Butterfly Barb, Barbus hulstaerti. Cheers, Neale.>

African river system biotope? Stkg... Bichirs... more    9/11/11
Hello I have a 55g tank that is fully cycled, running two HOB style filters and I get about 8x filtration. The only fish in the tank is a Polypterus senegalus.
<A superb species, probably the best Bichir for the home aquarium.>
I plan on getting a Polypterus delhezi with him.
<This species is grumpy and territorial, and could very easily bully, damage the P. senegalus. I would not mix them in a small aquarium like this one (and for Bichirs, 55 gallons is small).>
I want to make the tank into a African biotope loaded with Anubis and bogwood. I was wondering, would an African brown knife and a Synodontis cat be pushing the limits, even if I make tons of nooks and crannies for the fish?
<One Knifefish, three or four Synodontis nigriventris, and a school of African Red-eye Tetras (Arnoldichthys spilopterus) would be excellent additions to this aquarium.>
I also want a midlevel to upper level fish in the tank, any suggestions?
<See above; Arnoldichthys spilopterus is the right size, active, not nippy, and basically hardy. 55 gallons would be a bit too small for a school of 6 Congo Tetras, though these are obvious choices for larger tanks. If you don't mind your plants being destroyed, you could keep a Distichodus of suitable size instead: I'd recommend Distichodus affinis as a good choice for an aquarium your size. Cheers, Neale.>
Thanks, Jesse

African biotope tank set-up - to Mr. Monks if it's possible   9/26/10
Hello,
<Hello,>
I'm going to set-up new African biotope tank (but not in Malawi and Tanganyika style). Please read my plan and evaluate (correct) my ideas. I appreciate all your suggestions and comments.
<Okay!>
1. Cycling period (4-6 weeks). No fish. It will be 160 l tank (100x40x40).
I would like to reach following parameters (using mix of tap and RO water):
pH - 6,5-7,2; GH - 7-10; KH - 5-7; NH4 and NO2 - 0; NO3 - no more than 20; temp - 24-26C. In this tank I will use canister filter (900 litres per hour). Lighting: 90W (about 0,7W/litre). Aquarium will be semi-planted.
Main plants; Anubias sp., Microsorum, Vallisneria Spiralis, Vesicularia ( I know that not all of them are from Africa). I plan to put some bogwood and create some caves (from lava rocks - I like this material).
<Very good. Do watch the lava rocks. Some aquarists have reported that they lower the pH. They're supposed to be inert, but it is possible that some types are not "pure" lava, and the other chemicals in them are slightly acidic. Your plant mix is good, but your lighting is rather low, and I'd be surprised if the Vallisneria do particularly well.>
2. First fish introduction - the group (10) of Congo Tetras (Phenacogrammus interruptus).
<An excellent species.>
3. After 2-3 weeks main resident introduction - 4 Striped Kribensis (Pelvicachromis taeniatus). They are my favourites :) I will observe them and I will leave only one pair of Kribs if it's no peace between all of
them. Do you think one can keep more than one pair in 160 litres tank? Do you think that together with 2 Pelvicachromis may I keep pair of the other African cichlids (Pseudocrenilabrus sp. or ***Nanochromis
transvestitus***)?
<Nanochromis are somewhat specialised in their requirements because they come from fast-flowing, high-oxygen habitats. They can get along well with Pelvicachromis spp but there will be competition between them for space, and my guess is that 160 litres will be sufficient only for one cichlid species. I'd recommend a male and 2-4 females of one particular species. As for Pseudocrenilabrus sp, such as the beautiful Pseudocrenilabrus nicholsi, the males of these cichlids are extremely aggressive given their size. I wouldn't keep them with Nanochromis. They might be okay with Pelvicachromis, provided the Pelvicachromis were introduced first and allowed to establish their territory, e.g., some sort of cave or burrow. If this was me, I'd perhaps go with a male and three female Pseudocrenilabrus nicholsi or Pseudocrenilabrus multicolor, and no other cichlids.>
4. After next 2-3 weeks last residents, fish from the top water level:
First option: 4-6 Killifish. I have in mind: Aphyosemion gardneri or Aphyosemion australe or Epiplatys annulatus or Pachypanchax playfairi. Is this a good idea to introduce Killifish to Tetras and Kribs? Which
Killifish are most peaceful and you could recommend to my tank.
<Of the Killifish you mention, Pachypanchax playfairi is an excellent species that does well in community tanks. In fact I have them in a community tank with Bleeding Heart Tetras and Celebes Halfbeaks! So no
problems there. They do get quite large, and they are predatory, but apart from that they're very easy to keep. Aphyosemion and Epiplatys might work as dither fish with Pelvicachromis since the Aphyosemion and Epiplatys stay at the top of the tank and the Pelvicachromis at the bottom. But Nanochromis prefer fast-flowing water than these small Killifish dislike, and the Pseudocrenilabrus might prove a bit too aggressive to make good companions.>
Second option: Instead of Killifish I can buy 4 African Butterfly Fish (Pantodon buchholzi). They are very beautiful but many aquarists consider them as a difficult to keep in community tank. What is your opinion?
<Pantodon will of course view Aphyosemion and Epiplatys as food, but adult Pachypanchax should be fine. As far as being "difficult" to keep, Pantodon are excellent community fish provided they can feed properly. Cichlids and catfish are good companions because they stay at the bottom, but anything that feeds from the time, like the larger Killifish, will be competition.
Pantodon will eat flake, but it helps if your specimens are already eating flake at the pet shop. One pet shop I visited recently had specimens very happily eating something called "New Era Tropical Flake" so that's a food you might try.>
I also think about Ctenopoma acutirostre but finally I changed my mind.
Pelvicachromis and Ctenopoma live in the same tank areas and they can fight too strong.
<Actually, they get along very well. I have kept these two species together without problems. Ctenopoma prefer to live near the top of the tank where there are floating plants. Pelvicachromis tend to stay among plants, roots and caves. >
That's my plan. Looking forward to hearing (reading) from you. Thanks for your time.
<Glad to help. Good luck, Neale.>

African community questions 5/14/10
Hello,
<Hello,>
I am in the process of setting up a community tank. I would like to put an African Brown Knife, rainbow fish, and Congo tetras together. I know these fish all have similar requirements as far as water conditions.
<More or less.>
I would like to know if these fish could coexist and in what numbers. I know the knife is a solo fish but I was thinking 3-5 ea. of the other fish.
<Nope. You'll need at least six Rainbows and at least six Congo Tetras. In smaller groups they won't settle down, and fighting between males can be a real problem. If space is limited, get six of just one or the other.>
What species of rainbow fish would go well with the Congos and knife?
<Most any of the larger 12-15 cm Melanotaenia species. Among my favourites are Melanotaenia herbertaxelrodi, Melanotaenia parkinsoni and Melanotaenia
boesemani. Glossolepis incisus is another good species. Note a common mistake beginners make with Rainbowfish is to keep just males, or just a few females. You must have at least as many females as males if you [a] want them to colour up nicely and [b] not to bicker all the time. Rainbows need to be about a year old before they have their full colours, and so be aware that in pet shops the young Rainbows typically have very insipid colouration.>
Also, would the Congos or rainbow fish breed in a community setting like this?
<Not a chance. I mean, they might spawn if you were incredibly lucky, the tank was densely planted, and the aquarium was very large. But even then the eggs would be eaten quickly.>
Or would they feel imposed on by the presence of others?
<Yep.>
I would also like to try keeping live plants in this aquarium. What kind would work best in this system? I will be using an under gravel filter, can you plant vegetation with an undergravel filter?
<Most plants with roots dislike undergravel filters. The exceptions are floating plants, such as Indian Fern and Amazon Frogbit, and epiphytes, such as Java Fern, Java Moss, and Anubias species. Since these plants don't use the gravel, they don't care about the water flow.>
Thank you for your input.
-Joshua
<Cheers, Neale.>

Your opinion? African comm. sys.   -- 1/21/10
Set up a predator tank over the last few months and looking for constructive criticism and hints if you see any potential problems (of which I imagine there will be a few).
<Let's see!>
A second tank will follow in due course to separate problem children.
<?>
Its a 90 gallon tank with two filters both Eheim's the primary is a Canister filter good for 140 gal and the secondary an Aquabal good for about 40 gallon. The second filter was a bit of redundancy at first but it really seems to help a lot.
<Yes; one of the biggest surprises for many aquarists is how "over" filtering an aquarium results in happier fish and much less maintenance work. Altogether, one of the best investments anyone can make is to buy a generous filter for the aquarium being kept, especially where medium to large fish are being kept.>
The filter setup makes for a steady current on one side of the tank.
<OK.>
Sand bottom with a fair amount of gravel to help hold down plants.
<Vallisneria is great in this regard. It seems to put up with modest amounts of gravel just fine.>
The combined substrate is one inch to 3, it sort of moves around a bit. A number of rocks and two pieces of driftwood interrupts up line of sight on the bottom (to help with aggression).
<Indeed.>
Lots of plants, various species chosen for resilience and ease of maintenance. Val and Watersprite features heavily.
<A good combination, both growing quickly, and the floating fern playing a very useful role in algae control and nitrate removal.>
The seem to be doing well and are putting down healthy looking roots.
<Yes, highly reliable plants.>
3" armored bichir
2" Synodontis
<Generally good, but some species are very territorial and can be aggressive. The best all around species is the Dwarf Syno, but do also consider Synodontis eurypterus, Synodontis decora, Synodontis flavitaeniata, Synodontis schoutedeni and of course Synodontis angelica.>
2" Leaffish, Ctenopoma sp (adding soon)
<Various species, but Ctenopoma acutirostre, Ct. ocellatum, Microctenopoma fasciolatum, and M. congicum would all be suitable for a peaceful community like this. Some of the others, like Ctenopoma pellegrini, are a bit rough, while Microctenopoma nanum and Microctenopoma ansorgei are small enough they could be bullied, perhaps eaten. So shop carefully.>
4" Baby whale aka Mormyridae, Petrocephalus bovei bovei (doing very well contrary to reputation, rest of the tank is terrified of him)
<An interesting addition. Much more challenging than your other fish, and less tolerant of copper/formalin, so the "weak link" in the system.>
4" African butterfly fish (adding soon)
<Be very careful here. While basically hardy, they're a sitting target for those Synodontis and others prone to nippiness. Synodontis nigriventris in particular is a generally good catfish that sometimes becomes nippy. If
your Fancy Guppies are nipped, then the Pantodon probably will be, too.
They're also tricky to feed, and while none of your fish feed from the surface too rapidly, do be careful. Try and learn how to hand feed these fish, using forceps or similar, so you can precisely control how much they're getting.>
8" Ropefish, dumb and half blind, but finds his food and seems to enjoy life.
2" Leopard frog Pleco L-134 (not part of the plan but hey its pretty and wont get huge.
4 X 1" Kuhli loaches (never ever seen, they dug into the sand and that was that)
<Indeed!>
8 X 1-2" Congo tetras.
Try to keep about 4-10 ghost shrimp, and random bunch of guppies, extras from the wife's breeding program.
<At least some of these will be eaten, but in and of itself, that's not a huge issue if home-bred.>
Its been an adventure, did a lot of the classic beginners mistakes. But it seems to be coming together.
<Sounds a fun tank. For whatever reason, these African community tanks usually work exceedingly well.>
Thanks in advance.
PS: any way to make the Congo Tetras grow big fast? I feed them as much as they will take varying frozen live food and flake.
<Nope; they're a slow-growing species. It takes about 3 years for them to reach full size. Anyway, enjoy your fish collection. Sounds a fab tank!
Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Your opinion? FW "African" set-up, stkg.    1/22/10

Good to hear that I'm on the right track.
<Cool.>
The Syno is a hybrid so who knows how he will act.
<Indeed. Some are very aggressive. Do try and establish which hybrid you have. I'm against hybridisation generally for this reason, among others.
Instead of having species with predictable needs, size, and social behaviour, you end up with a mish-mash of who-knows-what.>
The Leaffish is *Ctenopoma acutirostre*.
<A lovely species. Basically an African angelfish, and should be kept the same way.>
Will the butterfly take guppies eating flake at the surface?
<Small ones, certainly.>
That's part of my feeding plan.
<Don't rely on this, unless you have a major scale production line of guppies. We're talking a couple guppies per day, given the size of adult Pantodon. That'll become a chore really quickly.>
I was hoping to toss crickets on the surface of the water as well. What type of food, feeding method would you suggest?
<This is already on WWM; see here, and linked articles:
http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWsubwebindex/afbflyfshfaqs.htm
>
The Mormyrid is by far the coolest dude in the tank, he's a super genius compared to the other fish.
<Indeed recognised by science also; brain to body weight ratio comparable to our own, though likely more reflective of processing electric fields that creative intelligence. Still, these are "brainy" fish, and the only group of fish known to exhibit play behaviour. If I recall correctly, a ball of aluminium foil can amuse them for long periods.>
He seems to deliberately keep the sand under the driftwood where he, the Syno and Pleco live clean. Fanning dirt out and digging new entrances to his lair in the sand.
<Well, yes, they are burrowers. But intolerant of dirty water, so don't rely on his cleaning abilities too much!>
He only eats frozen live food, I would prefer that he went for shrimp more often,
<Shrimp is a poor staple, because it contains thiaminase; should be 20-25% of the total diet, at most.>
I buy quality bloodworms but still think that they are not a good staple.
<A mix of frozen foods is best. Read WWM re: thiaminase before selecting. Variety is key. Some use of a vitamin supplement (as used in marine tanks) is a cheap, effective adjunct.>
I'm already thinking of my next project and knocking about the idea of a large Mormyrid community tank. Something like a 75-90 gallon with 4-6 elephant nose or baby whale and/or a larger single type.
<Nope, they won't cohabit. You need either 1 or 6+ because they're highly hierarchical, and use their electric fields to "jam" one another. This is in the scientific literature, and some is available in semi-popular and intro to ichthyology text books.>
Is there a midsized 6-12" middle of the tank living Mormyrid?
<Yes, there are some nice, big Mormyrids, e.g., Mormyrids kannume, a species that gets to 100 cm total length! Not many are widely traded, and most are best kept singly, alongside suitable dither fish. Gnathonemus petersii is a good species, to 35 cm, and widely traded. Also look for the slightly bigger Campylomormyrus tamandua. All these species occur in the UK trade; in your part of the world the selection may be different. Ask your retailer.>
Is this plan totally out to lunch? I'm rather obsessive when I start researching something so a hint at this early stage would be greatly appreciated!
<Certainly a group
I have read Dr Fenner's paper on Mormyrid and refer to it frequently. My main issue is difficulty determining a midsized Mormyrid which a highly focused beginner could keep.
<None are "beginner's fish", since all are sensitive, and easily killed. Pollimyrus spp. are probably the easiest to keep in groups, being somewhat gregarious and small enough to keep as a group without massive expense.>
I have a extremely well connected acquaintance who can get some amazing fish, I would enjoy challenging his skill by ordering a rare Mormyrid (yes I am easily amused).
<!>
As always warmest regards.
<Happy to help.>
PS: If I had 8-12 Exodon paradoxus with a single red Wolf fish would they coexist?
<As in Hoplias malabaricus? No way. Hoplias are aggressive and surprisingly enough rather delicate in captivity. I say surprisingly because they're hardy air-breathers in the wild. Anyway, best kept alone. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Your opinion?
The Syno seems pretty shy right now, nervous even, still its the scared dog that bites right? He will go to his own tank if it comes to it. One last question (for today!) The whole "Kuhli loaches are good in a sandy bottomed
tank thing". Do they really help with turning the sand over?
<Down to about 5 mm, yes.>
It makes sense to me in the same way that "good earth has worms" but I'm wondering about the science.
<All loaches sift the surface layer of sand. Some are better than others.
Horseface Loaches are extremely good at it.>
I know you think the whole anaerobic sand = pockets of death is bubkes.
<Indeed. All my tanks have sand, and I never worry. If you're paranoid, add some Melanoides snails and some Clea helena if you feel the need to control the snail population. Otherwise, grab a bamboo cane and stir.>
Curious if more would be helpful or if a few is fine (or unimportant).
<Unimportant. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Your opinion?   1/22/10
I lie, one more, aluminum foil ball? I thought all metal had to be out of the tank for Mormyrid's?
<Actually, it's copper that's normally acutely toxic. Other metals may or may not be, depending on the metal. Aluminium is chemically inert (unlike copper) and essentially doesn't react with water. Yes, yes, I know the outer layer of atoms becomes oxidised to aluminium oxide, and it's that that inhibits further reaction. But my point is that aluminium is inert for all practical purposes. Like the stainless steel aquaria frames used to made from, and pump impeller axles still are, and the titanium used for things that go in marine aquaria. I'm not recommending you go out and try this, but if memory serves me well, the aluminium ball and Mormyrid thing has been done under lab conditions. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: My first aquarium, African biotope stkg.    12/22/09
Roger that,
So I returned (after some heated discussion with the LFS) the lions share of the tank. Now have a featherfin Synodontis 5" and a single ornate 5".
<A good combination. Synodontis eupterus is a wonderful catfish, by the way.>
Being new to the trade I want more fish but am holding back.
<Wise. Better to slowly build up the community over the course of a year, picking out "perfect" fish you come across, rather than trying to add everything at once and then regretting some of your choices.>
Could you recommend an active mid tank predator?
<If you want an African theme, then any of the larger Ctenopoma would work well. These are omnivorous fish, varying in aggression. Ctenopoma kingsleyae is a nice velvety green fish but tends to be a bit on the aggressive side, so doesn't work in ordinary community tanks. Should be fine in yours though. Ctenopoma acutirostre is a lovely African version of the Angelfish, and very peaceful if predatory towards small fish. West African cichlids would be possibilities too. Though aggressive, in a 90 gallon tank single (i.e., non-breeding) specimens of things like Tilapia
mariae or Hemichromis bimaculatus could be tried. If you weren't bothered about specimens being African, then a South American Pike Characin like Boulengerella maculatus might be an option.>
Or possibly a clean up crew type fish?
<There's no such thing as "clean-up crew" in a freshwater tank. It's very important to understand this, because retailers will sell you all kinds of fish you don't need. In reef tanks, clean-up crew exist because moving
corals and live rock to remove dead fish or uneaten food isn't an option. So the lesser of two evils is to add extra livestock (which raises load on the filter) to remove algae and to avoid having clumps of foul organic matter (which would harbour bacteria and potentially spread disease-causing organisms). In a freshwater aquarium, it is ALWAYS better to manually remove organic matter via water changes and gravel raking, and algae is
easily prevented using fast-growing live plants. So, by all means add a catfish if you want, but don't for a second imagine you have to, or that adding a catfish makes your tank cleaner (it doesn't) or removes algae (it won't). You already have one Synodontis and one large, snappy Bichir; I'd be tempted to avoid adding any more benthic fish to avoid territorial disputes. Concentrate on, for example, dither fish. These will encourage the benthic fish to swim in the open. A common beginner's mistake is to buy a bunch of bottom dwellers and then wonder why they hide all the time. You need dither fish to encourage them to swim in the open. Half a dozen (or more) large barbs or characins will do the trick. Dither fish need to be mindless and hyperactive, or they won't work.>
Then no more I swear.
Many thanks for your council. If your ever up in Toronto I'll get a yah a few beer.
Rob
<Cheers, Neale.>  

African tank setup  5/14/06 WWM Crew, First off, thanks for all the help you've been in the past.  This site and all the books are amazing sources of info! Here's the setup for my question.  I'm going to be getting a 29 gallon tank soon, coming with PC lighting (tank, stand, and light for about $30, it was too good to pass up!).  This is the plan I'm thinking of for the tank at the moment: Substrate of Eco-Complete mixed or unmixed with fluorite as the substrate Water Sprite Possibly some Cryptocoryne Wendtii Some type of Val, maybe Corkscrew Various slate/plant pot "caves" Pair of Pelvicachromis Pulcher Pantodon Buchholzi butterflyfish Maybe a small group of about 3-5 Congo Tetras Aquaclear HOB filter, using sponge, bio-media, and peat inside the basket (maybe moving gradually to just sponge and peat) Depending on the number of plants I end up with, some sort of CO2 system Does this sound like a good amount of stock, in terms of plants and fish? <The CO2 is probably not needed with the plants you have selected but will do better with the CO2. The Congo tetras get big and the butterfly fish will not feel comfortable with all the activity. The kribs will probably not breed because the will be hiding from the active Congos. Smaller ones will help but they will grow quickly.> I'm thinking about any other types of floating plants I can add as cover for the butterfly, as well as adding some root cover for the tetras.  What would be some other good types of floaters I could add, or even substitute completely for the water sprite? <Hornwort, Naja grass, Hygrophila or even plastic plants will all work well.> I don't want the overhead lighting to overpower the kribs at all.  For the butterfly, I'm planning on a staple of live crickets about every other day, and attempting to get it to eat some frozen or flake food on the other days.  I will feed the crickets some type of flake prior to feeding them to the butterfly. < They will eat mealworms too.> Would it work to add some driftwood and let that lower the pH gradually, instead of/in addition to the peat? < It will take a long time for the driftwood to lower the pH. Any lowering of the pH would be offset by a water change.> With the above list, I'm thinking I shouldn't add any more fish. Losing the tetras, would some species of Synodontis work with the butterfly and kribs, and if so, which species would be best? < Synodontis are actually very aggressive catfish. Only the smallest species of upside down cats would be considered.> My hope is that with a good amount of plants and the Aquaclear, I won't need any more filtration.  From the other ones I've used they don't disturb the surface a whole lot except directly below the output, so I'm thinking that these would be good with the butterfly.  I guess my overall question is, does this sound like a workable setup, something which will keep everything alive for quite a while?  Thanks for the help, with the website and the books! Alex < You still need circulation to provide nutrients for the plants and to prevent hotspots next to the heater. Congo are much too active to go without aeration.-Chuck.>

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