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We ask that, before submitting a query, you refer to Neale Monk's: Before You Write; A Checklist of Common Problems with Freshwater Aquaria, Bettas, Goldfish, and Freshwater Turtles (Terrapins), Tips on Asking Questions, Ask the WWM Crew a Question, FAQs on FAQs. EDFP, TBPFWFAQs, Last Few Days Accrued FAQs, Subscribe to the Daily Pics

Astronotus ocellatus (Agassiz 1831), the Oscar. To seventeen inches (45.7 cm). South America: Rio Amazonas basin in Peru, Colombia, Brazil, Northern Paraguay and French Guiana. Freshwater: pH range: 6.0 - 8.0; dH range: 5.0 - 19.0, temp. 22 - 25°C. Wild type at  the Shedd Aq. 2015 
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Freshwater FAQs

Updated 1/19/2017
Other Specialized Daily FAQs Blogs: General, Planted Tanks, Ponds, Brackish, Last Few Days Accrued FAQs,
Daily Q&A replies/input from the WWM crew: Ian Jablonka, Al Evans, Darrel Barton,
Neale Monks, Marco Lichtenberger, Bob Fenner, are posted here. Moved about, re-organized daily Current Crew Bios., Not so current Crew Bios

New Print and eBook on Amazon

Betta Success
Doing what it takes to keep Bettas healthy long-term

by Robert (Bob) Fenner

Note: BobF is off diving in Fiji till 1/27; hence the dailies may be sporadic in posting.

How to follow up? Re FW Dis; spec.       1/19/17
Hi guys,
<Hey J>
I was reading an article and exchange between Bob and somebody named Cindy for a fish health issue on an Oscar in 2014. I would *so* love to find out what the deal was because my fish seems to have the same parasite, and nobody knows what it really is. It was just my Blue Rams, but now it's my Angels and Boesemanni Rainbows> I have some rare fish in this tank and I'm deathly afraid they'll get this. One Pleco looks like it has Ich, but I think that's the beginning look of this thing. Bob suggested this issue was possible HITH, but it looks like white protuberances from the fish's head.
The other fish look like they have Ich.
<Mmm; near impossible to tell much re such issues w/o sampling and simple examination under a microscope. More often than not (ninety some percent of the time) the real issue here is environmental, NOT pathogenic. The protuberances, perhaps the spots may just be consolidation of (body) mucus... from something/s amiss water quality wise... And the "cure",
redress of the cause of the poor environment>
When my blue rams had it, they would get these raised white things (bigger than Ich). Those would seem to pop, and then the fish would get Popeye and die. :( It was *awful*. I'm sick about my angels now. Evidently this is in my tank and when there is stress, it hits some fish and not others.
<Again... rather than assuming this may be Protozoan, perhaps a "worm" parasite... need to study a bit, learn the aforementioned sampling and 'scope use>
Is there any way to find the person who posted the issues?
<Ahh, no. We don't retain peoples' email addresses>
It was under the
page called FAQs on Freshwater Angelfish Disease/Health 9, at the end. Re: Angelfish with white spots that don't appear to be Ick 2/6/14
<If you can furnish cropped, small size image files, this may be of use. Bob Fenner>

How many T. ocellicauda can live happily in a 41 L tank?    1/18/17
Hello WWM people. I know Dr. Monks in your group keeps peacock gudgeons/gobies (T. ocellicauda), so if he's around, maybe he could help?
<Fire away!>
I have a new nano tank, 10.7 US gallons/41 litres, 45 cm x 30 cm x 30 cm.
I used to have a larger tank (30 us gallons) that I had to break down and sell because I moved. Now I'm setting up this new smaller tank in my smaller living space. Peacock gudgeons are my favorite fish of all of the ones I've kept thus far, so I'd like to have just those in my new nano tank. How many can I reasonably keep in this tank, assuming it's moderately
planted and there are no other inhabitants? Filter is going to be a power filter rated for 10 gallons.
<Well, a single male and 2-4 females would probably be fine. Since they're not sexually dimorphic, it's not like you'd be stuck with there dowdy-looking females. But if you wanted pairs, I think you might be able to keep two pairs, but you'd need to be extremely careful about having hollow ornaments of some sort where the males could 'stake their claims'
without being in plain sight of each other. In 10 gallons, if the two males decide not to tolerate one another, there's not a lot of hiding space. So you want to pre-empt that as far as practical.>
I'd love to be able to keep a quartet of gudgeons if possible -- two males, two females, if at all possible. But is that overstocking it?
<Not as such; these gobies aren't particularly active or heavy feeders, so water quality should be fine.>
Please note there will be driftwood and plants to help break up sight lines.
<Good move. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: How many T. ocellicauda can live happily in a 41 L tank?      1/19/17

Thanks so much!
Yes, I am purchasing two 2.5 cm-in-diameter caves to use for each male to have his own space.
<Good luck; sounds a very attractive aquarium you're going to have there!
Cheers, Neale.>

Help with Goldfish medication (Neale; your input please)     1/14/17
A week ago one of my beloved Oranda Goldfishes suddenly ballooned up like a pinecone and passed away a few days later. The day before the "ballooning" I saw a small amount of swelling directly under her chin, between her front
fins. Then the next day she was really swollen. I treated her with Waterlife Myxazin (the only medication I had on hand at the time) + API Melafix, + API salt 0.3% in a hospital tank, but it was too late to save her.
<I see>
She had been having trouble on and off over the last 7 months with floaty issues and constipation, so she was on a special soft foods diet.
<I take it you've seen/read Sabrina's piece, the many "Related FAQs" on WWM re>
For the last 3 months she was slightly weaker in her swimming actions, and sometimes her top fin was droopy. Her appetite was always good though, and she happily interacted and foraged with the other fishes regularly.
I have a 255L main aquarium with 3 remaining 9cm Oranda Goldfish. The Aquarium is cycled and has a big external canister filter with both biological and mechanical media. I do weekly 35% water changes, and their parameters are:
PH 7.4, GH 180, Nitrite 0, Nitrate 20, Ammonia 0.
<All good thus far>
The Oranda that died had been in the tank for 1 year, and the other fishes 6 months, 5 months and 2 months.
Since the sudden case of dropsy, I did a 35% water change that afternoon, a 25% the next day, then 25% again the day after, and now 30% changes every second day to reduce the risk of a bacterial spike.
<Good move>
Plus I checked and cleaned the filter. (Usually do the filter every 2-3 weeks).
I use a vacuum siphon to do the water changes to clean the gravel substrate. I also regularly use Dr Tim's biological products (First Defense during water changes, and Waste Away once a fortnight). I treat any new water with Seachem Prime, and also add 2 teaspoons of API Aquarium salt per 9 Litre bucket, and adjust the PH in the bucket, and add Seachem Replenish to correct the water GH. I live in Adelaide (in South Australia) and Adelaide water is highly chlorinated and is quite soft with a low GH and has a low PH of 6.8.
<All reads as good practices>
Because I live in South Australia the temperature over summer is quite hot.
My Aquarium is in my dining room, in the part of the house where the temperature is the most stable. However, the water slowly heated up during the recent heat wave to 29 degrees Celsius, which may be the stress trigger
for the fish I lost to Dropsy.
<Might well be a factor... I'd leave the lights off, the top raised on especially warm days... should reduce the temp. a degree or two C.>

The aquarium temperature has now lowered back to 26.5 degrees Celsius (which is still quite warm). I have tilted
the spray bar slightly higher to increase surface agitation and added another bubbler to try and increase oxygen levels whilst the water is so warm.
<Ahh; very good>
I am worried that a hidden internal parasite may be present, or possibly some sort of bacteria. It makes sense if it is a parasite, which could have been lurking waiting for the weather to warm up.
The 3 surviving fishes are all looking reasonably healthy, no raised
and have plump bodies with no injury or sores, and their fins are not clamped. No visible lice or external worms or spots either.
<Then... I would NOT treat the water, fish>

One fish has a small split at the end of his tail fin, and it has been there for the last 5 days.
<Not likely pathogenic per se>
2 days ago I saw one of the other fish have a brief involuntary twitch in his front fin, but this only happened once.
The third fish in the last 5 days has changed his sleeping routine. He now hangs at the top of the tank in the back corner at night. In the warmer water, the oxygen levels are lower, so if he is weakened by something, it may be why he is now sleeping at easiest place to sleep. I have also noticed he is chomping at the surface eating bubbles quite often now too.
When he knows I am watching, he swims to halfway down the height of the aquarium, then presses his face up against the glass and chomps at me pretending he is hungry. But, when he can't see me, and he is not at the surface, he forages in the gravel and does something that might be of importance. After he finishes a particular section of gravel "mouthing" he rotates to his side, swims along the bottom on his side then turns back upright. I don't know if this is "scratching", because I don't think that he actually touches the gravel surface. It could be because he is extremely top heavy with his large Oranda wen and chubby cheeks, and the water current could just be moving him sideways. I don't know for certain though.
As soon as I get close enough to check, he sees me, and swims to me.
<All normal behavior>
He is a black Oranda and I also noticed that some days he looks more matt black with a slight frosted white appearance, and some days he is more shiny. There is no visible shedding of slime coat, he just sometimes looks matt black, and sometimes more shiny.
<Again; normal>
The other 2 fishes are still sleeping normally, halfway down tank height, occasionally paddling.
During the day all 3 swim normally though.
However, worryingly they have all been producing strange faeces. Sometimes it is long white faecal casts, and sometimes it is pale crumbly disintegrating bits. And sometimes it is just crumbly in the colour of the food. Quite thick and not firm or well formed. Definitely still not normal, almost like their food hasn't been processed at all. In the mornings I often notice clear long thin strands draping off of an ornament. I trust this is some sort of faeces too.
<I would not panic; but would add more greenery to their diet... Pellets, Anacharis/Egeria/Elodea... blanched zucchini, peas>
They have had occasional white casts for months now, and I didn't think too much of it, and just added more greens to their diet.
They have a quality varied diet of Hikari mini sinking pellets (pre-soaked to soften), blood worms,
<I'd delete these>
spinach, Spirulina, softened de-shelled peas, occasional fruit, and Vitalis sinking pellet. I give them 2 small meals a day.
<Very good>
But, now I have lost a fish to dropsy, their faeces is constantly irregular, either trailing long and loose, small and crumbly, or in long white or clear casts. I am worried something is not right internally - possibly parasite or bacteria.
<I discount this, and caution that treatments themselves are stressful; toxic>

It has been 8 days since I lost my fish to dropsy, and I have been closely monitoring all 3 remaining fishes. Frequent water changes, smaller amount of foods (some pellets soaked in freshly crushed garlic) and mostly greens, and a slightly higher salt level was my first plan, rather than throwing meds in straight away.
But, the black Oranda with sleeping issues might possibly be getting slightly distended in the chest, directly below his head, almost like his chest is getting bigger. He doesn't look swollen outwards, just slightly downwards, and it could just be his body shape changing, but it seems an unusual place to be growing a hump. Because it is a gradual change, it is hard to tell, but it could be the presence of an internal parasite growing inside him causing this, or maybe a fluid build-up from something bacterial.
I don't have good access to aquarium meds due to my location in Australia, so all that I had readily available in terms of parasite options was Waterlife Sterazin. I had to order it online, and it only arrived yesterday. I started the course of Sterazin yesterday and have added this to the aquarium as a precaution to try and eliminate the possibility of external parasites.
<You would see these>
But I am concerned they may have ingested some bacteria contained within the faeces from the Dropsy effected fish before I had a chance to isolate her (they seem to like eating each other's poop!), or they may have been exposed to bacteria in the water.
<All are continuously. Again; I would not panic>
I have now managed to buy API General Cure from eBay, which will hopefully arrive in the post in 2 or 3 days time. If the General Cure arrives quickly, can I continue to treat the water with Sterazin, and at the same time add the General Cure to the water too?
<I would not... I would NOT use any of this, but continue with efforts to keep water temperature low, constant, address water quality and nutrition as you've been doing>
From internet research, I believe the ingredients of both meds are:
Waterlife Sterazin: malachite green 0.08%w/w, formaldehyde 0.2%w/w, Piperazine citrate 0.34%w/w and Acriflavine hydrochloride 0.055%w/w. API general cure: >80 Sodium Chloride, 1-10 Metronidazole, 1-5 Praziquantel, 1-5 Silica Amorphous, fumed crystalline free Are these chemicals safe to use together?
<They are... but formaldehyde is a biocide (kills all life) and there's really no need to use two Anthelminthics. Last time, I would NOT use these here. Without sampling (slime, feces) examination under a microscope...
You're simply poisoning your fish, the system>
Or, should I just complete the course of Sterazin, wait 48 hours, do a large water change and use carbon to remove any remaining meds for a couple hours, then begin the course of General Cure. Or should I switch to General Cure as soon as possible?
<None of the above>
I want to eliminate both bacteria and parasite possibilities.
<... You're "shooting in the dark".... A poor idea, practice>
But, adding so many things to the water can affect the biological filter and stress the fishes, and I won't add anything that isn't necessary.
I appreciate your time and would love some assistance,
<Glad to render my long-experience with goldfishes>
Thank you,
Kindest regards,
<Welcome. DO write back if something isn't clear, you'd like clarification.
Bob Fenner>
Help with Goldfish medication /Neale      1/15/17

<<I would support Bob's comments that "mixing and matching" medications isn't the solution here. We just can't predict how they'll interact with each other. I'd be looking at optimising environmental conditions, for example ensuring the water is clean, hard, alkaline, and not too warm (22-25 C is about the uppermost that Goldfish enjoy). Using salt can work well against Whitespot and Velvet, and can be useful when fish are stressed, but shouldn't be used indefinitely. That said, Goldfish are tolerant of brackish conditions, so even fairly saline conditions -- say, 3 gram/litre -- will do them no harm. Such saline conditions will eliminate most types of external parasite, and tend to be much safer than copper and formalin. Plus, salt can be used alongside antibiotics without risk of negative interactions. Even by itself salt can help reduce the risk of wounds becoming infected, though this assumes the fish's own immune system is basically sound; salt isn't really an antibacterial at these sorts of concentrations. The use of Epsom salt is another completely safe technique, up to a tablespoon per 20 litres being suitable for raising general hardness (which Goldfish love) while also having a mild laxative effect that helps against constipation. When herbivorous fish are off-colour, a good approach is to eliminate all meat-based foods, and focus entirely on algae, pondweed, canned peas, etc. Often fish won't show much interest at first, but don't worry -- they'll eat it when they're hungry! The more fibre, the better. It'll clear out their guts, and it's often constipation that causes Goldfish to swim oddly. In any case, with a healthier diet herbivorous fish will get the vitamins and minerals they need, and issues like bloating and even Dropsy can be reduced/cured. Hope this helps, Neale>>
Re: Help with Goldfish medication     1/15/17

Hi Bob and Neale,
Thank you both for taking the time to read and respond to everything in my email.
I did not know that canned Blood worms are bad. I had frozen them and cut it into small portions and was giving them a small portion every second day, but will throw them away now.
<Yes; I would>

Yesterday afternoon I noticed that the black Oranda with sleeping problems was looking quite shiny, even more then before, except for his top fin.
There were 2 small cloudy patches on his top fin. This morning he has a 3mm hole in the middle of the top fin, where one of the cloudy patches was.
I will do another 35% water change. I trust the Sterazin I put in 48 hours ago has either stressed him, or disrupted the water equilibrium and caused a bacteria spike.
He also looks slightly more rounded today. No scales sticking out, just bigger around the rib cage just behind his head, but not at the back end.
I will not add any more Sterazin. I will swap to a completely greens based diet for the next 7 days, up the salt, and add Dr Tim's first defence, and continue with the water changes.
Should I also try Epsom salts which you mentioned to relieve bloating? It is a 255Litre aquarium, currently with 3 teaspoons of salt per 9 litres.
How much Epsom would be a good safe amount considering the current salt level?
<I would discontinue the aquarium salt use... You can search, see Neale and I's takes on its regular use. Not warranted. And yes to the possibility of using Epsom period>
Do you think the top fin hole is bacteria based from stress and will clear up on its own?
<Can't tell re origin, but yes to the latter>

Thank you again for your time,
Kindest regards
<And you, Bob Fenner>
Re: Help with Goldfish medication; hypo.      1/15/17

Hi Bob and Neale,
I did the 70 Litre water change this morning as planned. I will ease off the salt level gradually. I will try feeding just greens for a week and see if the black Oranda's sleeping position changes and if this reduces his/her slightly enlarged chest.
Tomorrow I will add a low dose of Epsom salts to the aquarium. (it will be interesting to see if it makes them do any super-pooping!)
I am writing back to you again because I just noticed the blue Oranda (the largest of the 3) has one small white lump at the tip of his anal fin, and one small lump in the centre of the same fin. I have gone through pages and pages of info from your amazing website and have concluded that the small white lumps are bacterial.
<Not necessarily; no. "Just" bumps at times... similar to humans>
I think that my initial panic of parasites may be a bit silly. Surely if they had parasites I would have known it months ago, and they would be lethargic, lacking in appetite, clamping their fins, have some sort of ulcers or specs, and not be active and social.
<The parasites would have had to come from somewhere... biological>
The only parasite that I could find that might stay hidden could be internal worms or external Costia. But everything I read says Costia causes clamped fins and a slimy coating, and that intestinal worms causes wasting. My fishes are not slimy
and they are quite fat!
I have always had a concern about bacteria though. Goldfish are water piggies and even with strict cleaning regimes, sometimes things can go astray, especially in warmer water, and when they are feeling stressed.
I apologise for all my crazy panicking, I don't have too much experience with sick fishes, prevention is better than cure.
But, I lost a fish to Dropsy,
<Or rather, a "dropsical condition"; numerous etiologies possible>

so I am definitely doing something wrong. If the Dropsy was caused by a bacterial infection (rather than parasites)
from either impacted eggs, or an impacted intestine from constipation,
would this bacteria multiply in the water and cause the fin issues that I am seeing now on my remaining fishes?
<Sometimes simply "weak genes". More common as time goes by with these mass-produced, too-inbred strains>
Now I think about it more, when I removed the Dropsy fish and put her into a quarantine tank, within hours her fins looked like they had been shredded. I just assumed her fins went like this because her immune system had given up because of the intense infection. I know that low levels of bacteria are always present in the water, and the fishes immune system usually keeps them at bay. This fin shredding bacteria would have been present on her in the main tank before I had a chance to isolate her. I hadn't thought about the bacteria that was on her fins until now, I was only thinking about the fishes eating her bacteria ridden faeces.
Do you think that any (or all) of the following is enough bacterial evidence for me to worry or warrant any form of treatments for my remaining fishes?

i.e.. (1) the sudden case of dropsy (+ her shredded fins) and consequent loss of this one fish 9 days ago
(2) all fishes displaying the stringy faeces, and crumbly not formed faeces
(3) the smallest Oranda with one small split in his tail (that has not healed at all in 6 days - strange because any splits caused by damage from netting etc seem to have healed rapidly in past experiences)
(4) the black Oranda with night time surface sleeping, and some surface chomping. (and possibly slightly weaker swimming action - tipping sideways in the water current when mouthing gravel, and getting knocked out of the way by the other fishes when they are "schooling" or in a foraging frenzy)
(5) the black Oranda with a slightly enlarged chest, best described as a slight "hump" under his/her chin, where the front fins join the body.
(6) the black Oranda with slightly dull/greyish patches on his top fin which turned into a 3mm hole overnight
(7) the blue Oranda with a new small white lump on the tip of his anal fin, and a lump on the centre of the same fin
I do have Myxazin, Pimafix and Melafix in my cupboard if any of these are needed, as well as (and I hope I never need to use these antibiotics: Octozin/dimetridazole, Tetracycline Hydrochloride, and Triple Sulfa). I will also soon have the API General Cure (Metronidazole/Praziquantel combo). Plus the Sterazin mentioned earlier.
<Am done responding to this. NONE. B>

The loss of a fish made be go a bit crazy buying a whole lot of "just in case" medicines.
Please let me know your thoughts, and thank you for all your time,
Kindest regards,

Re: Sick 9 year old Oscar     1/13/17
Soooo, the miracle Oscar lives into 2017. He's all cleared up, but still seems to be having swim bladder issues.
<Likely damaged permanently>

He spends most of his time vertical in the corner. I don't know what his vent is supposed to look like, but he definitely seems bloated between his pelvic fin and vent. Poor buddy. He eats about every other day. A local fish keeper recommended we feed him Koi food, as it is higher in fiber.
<A good choice>
We have continued weekly 25-30% water changes and biweekly filter replacements.
<Good routine>

Temp's remained steady at about 77F. Anything we can do to help reset his swim bladder or relieve his apparent constipation? Amy
<There is a safe, and often effective "lavage" sort of Epsom Salt treatment that I'd consider. Read here re:
<Bob Fenner>

"Medusa" Bristlenose Plecos      1/12/17
Just wondering if the "Medusa" Pleco is one that will eat algae and will "clean glass" like the regular Bristlenose Pleco? The person at the LFS said this Pleco will, but that can be just selling. Thank you
<Yes, Ancistrus ranunculus, the Medusa Plec, is indeed as good an algae eater as any other Ancistrus. Nice fish, but a bit fussier than standard farmed Bristlenose. In other words, brisk current, plenty of oxygen, and good water quality. Nothing difficult; it's just not quite as bombproof as the farmed Ancistrus. Cheers, Neale.>

What's wrong with my Bettas (RMF, feel free to chip in)      1/12/17
I have two Betta fish I got from Wal-Mart 4 days ago and I think they are really sick I believe both are males they are in different tanks.
<Just as well.>
The first two pictures attached are of the Betta i have the highest concern about he doesn't eat well and just sits at bottom of tank no changed his water and one of his fins broke off
<Is this the blue fish?>
he's gasping for air and has a copper velvet look to his face and the other Betta seems ok but has discolor around his face and beard i have NutraFin Betta plus should I add to their tanks?
<A good rule is not to add medication unless you've diagnosed the problem.
Imagine if your doctor just picked out some random medications and gave them to you without asking what the problem was! Obviously not a good idea.
So, first things first, need to review the tank. Almost always, sick Bettas are sick because of their environment. I'm sure there are exceptions but I've never seen one. So, in other words, let's review the tank. At minimum, check the biological filter is working, and check the heater is working.
Let me be clear here: lack of filter and lack of heat are excellent ways to kill Bettas. Grab an ammonia or nitrite test kit, and test the water. Of the two kits, I prefer nitrite (with an "i", not nitrate with an "a").
Anyway, anything that is not zero is why your fish might be sick. Non-zero ammonia and nitrite kill fish, quickly or slowly depending on how much over zero they are. Secondly, look at the thermometer. Your tank should be about 25 C/77 F. Some unscrupulous fish shops will tell you a Betta can be kept in an unheated tank. Maybe spouting some baloney about central heating or placing a lamp over the tank. This is rubbish. Unless you keep the heater in your house set at 25 C/77 F (which is insanely hot!) your room is too cold, and Bettas are very sensitive to both cold water and, crucially, cold air (because they breathe air). So check the thermostat, and if necessary, turn the heater up. Cold Bettas become lethargic, their fins become clamped, they stop eating, and before long infections get hold of them, including Finrot.>
I also have Marcel CopperSafe medication should i treat both tanks?
<See above. Neither fish seems to have any obvious disease beyond stress, so my diagnosis would be environmental. Review; correct; wait for nature to take its course. Adding medications for Finrot or Fungus without fixing the environmental cause is pointless.>
Can i use these two treatments together? If so how much of each? I have attached photos of my Bettas and the treatments i have I'm urgently seeking a response in fear my fish will die soon thank u so much for reading this.
<Let me direct you to some reading:
Aside from that summary, Bob's electronic book is probably the best $6 you'll spend if you're serious about keeping Bettas long term. Hope this helps, Neale.>

Substrate for my fresh Water refugium    1/10/17
<The? Is there previous correspondence?>
substrate is made of organic potting mix (no fertilizers, at least as written on a bag)
<I'd be testing... by soaking, perhaps boiling a teaspoon or two in some water... testing the liquid>
- about 2 inch thick,
<?! This is a BUNCH of material; too likely to "float out"... a mess. I'd be mixing the soil with fine gravel...>

.5 inch of fine gravel op top of soil and 1-1.5 inch of smooth white sand (not aragonite) Do you have a tip,
<A tip? I'd be doing more searching here... on WWM, the Krib... Diana Walstad's works; maybe Takashi Amano. What you have done here so far?... Not viable>

I set up a fresh water refugium for plants and fry. I bought a bag of organic potting mix from Menards and put it in the middle chamber and it just floats.
<Oh yes; assuredly>
Above is from a blog I got from your site and read the same from others.
<Can't tell what is lifted without quotation marks, notes... Maybe have someone else read what you send out ahead of time to assure it makes sense.
Bob Fenner> 

Assisted Living Community Tank     1/9/17
Hope this e-mail finds y'all well. I am setting up a 220g (72"x24"x30") tank at a senior assisted living community that I work at in one of our memory care/activity centers as studies have shown the benefits of aquarium stimulation in seniors with dementia.
<Sure helps me>
The aquarium will house African Cichlids. Equipment on the aquarium will be: two 36" LED lights, two Fluval FX6 canister filters, two 500w titanium heaters with thermostats. First question with equipment, would a Hydor or
two be beneficial or not?
<Hydor is a manufacturer... they make quite a few products. I'll guess you're referring to their in-tank pumps... The answer here is yes; I'd use these>

Second the Lifegard external heater chambers, would they work, any experience with them and are they worth it?
<Mmm; can work... Am not a fan of most Lifegard products... not well engineered or manufactured (my opinion, history); IF you don't need to use external heater holders, I wouldn't. Instead, I'd place two two hundred plus wattage submersibles down near the bottom in the back corners. Folks won't see the cords, and the likelihood of air exposure (w/o turning off) and breaking is minimal>
Moving on. The aquarium will have approximately 200lbs of cichlid sand (white), 100-150lbs of lace rock, stacked in two separate piles one larger than the other (in theory anyways, we all know how much rock work gets moved) set on egg crate and possibly glued, and Black painted background.
The goal is to have as much color and movement as the aquarium would allow with all stated above equipment. Number of fish and direction is where I tap out.
Thank you guys and girls in advance for your response. I am really striving to get this aquarium as right as I can for the benefit of our residents and their families.
<Please send along pix when you're about done Jacob. Bob Fenner>
Re: Assisted Living Community Tank     1/9/17

Wow that was a quick response. Yes the Hydor I am referring to would be the in tank Koralia.
<Oh. Yes>
I will most definitely send pictures upon completion.
Tank was just ordered so another 2-4 weeks for glass and stand/canopy to come in. I've looked at some of the cookie cutter guides and well they just don't go to 220, unless I'm not looking right.
And I don't want to start just doubling, tripling, etc. because I know it doesn't always work that way.
So I guess that's where I'm needing a little more assistance/guidance.
<With what? B>
Re: Assisted Living Community Tank(RMF, you're the Goldfish expert here!)
<<Two caputs are better than solo! B>>    1/10/17

Well yeah the cookie cutter thing was a different site. Sorry I get quite in depth in research sometimes and get completely lost on where it came from occasionally. Stocking. What African cichlid fish to put in this massive piece of glass to get the most bang for the buck...most color and most movement.
<<Hello Jacob. I will throw some general advice out here. When it comes to situations like retirement homes, hospitals and community centres, some thought has to be given with regard to maintenance. Some weeks the fish "carer" will be away for vacations, or move to another job, or be too busy to check the tank. It's a good idea to plan around the "worst case scenario" so that the fish don't suffer and the tank doesn't look unsightly. So while fish tanks can/do work great in this situation, I'd tend to recommend the tougher species that will tolerate things like high nitrate levels (inevitable in water changes are missed). I'd also choose adaptable species that don't require any particular water chemistry to do well (another thing difficult to manage, especially for beginners). Why mention all of this? Because Mbuna are quite demanding fish, and if the tank is somewhat less than perfectly monitored, what you tend to end up with is the hardier species, often hybridising, and resulting in a rather dull tank of indifferent looking fish. Mbuna need low nitrate and high hardness, so one question is how often will water changes be done? Another is what's your water chemistry, and do you need to add buffering salts to raise hardness? Not saying Mbuna aren't an option, but will stress they're not anything like a zero-maintenance option. So, with all this in mind, what might work nicely? A couple of definite options are cyprinids and characins, both of which tend to be more tolerant of nitrate (and "old" water generally) than Mbuna and other cichlids. On the cyprinid front, don't neglect Goldfish! Big, hardy, colourful, and out-of-the-box interested in human beings, these are true pet fish that provide countless hours of engagement to those sitting in front of the tank. A 200-gallon tank is an amazing volume of water, and would allow, say, 6-8 specimens of top-quality Goldfish to reach a very healthy adult size. The varieties on offer are amazing, personal favourites of mine including the Yellow Goldfish (which looks more like a giant golden barb than anything else) and the classic Black Moor (probably the toughest fancy variety in the trade, easily able to coexist with indoor strains). With 200 gallons Shubunkins really come into their own, their mishmash of colours working really well if kept as a big school on their own. Turning to characins, quite a few of the old favourites are tough as nails. A school of Anostomus anostomus for example is unlike anything else in the hobby, and with 200 gallons you could keep a big group without squabbling, and get to enjoy them differently to those of us who have to keep just one (which is what I have to do!). They get along great with robust catfish as well as active schooling fish like Columbian Tetras or Buenos Aires Tetra that have plenty of colour and movement. Again, a big tank provides space enough for big groups. Both Goldfish and the hardy tetras are adaptable with regard to water chemistry, making them especially easy fish to keep. Just some thoughts, anyway! Cheers, Neale.>>
Re: Assisted Living Community Tank       1/12/17

When it comes to maintenance it pretty much falls on me.
I have kept haps and peacocks before and ha e done fairly well.
<Cool. While Haplochromines are much less aggressive than Mbuna, they're socially a bit more tricky. Females a bit plain, so while a harem would appeal to an expert fishkeeper intent on breeding, casual hobbyists either get just males (which speaking as a male myself sounds rather frustrating!)
or else pairs, and the females have such a hard time they often die prematurely. Tanganyikans are less sexually dimorphic; Tropheus for example would be an outstanding choice in a really big tank because they're extremely beautiful but also less prone to aggression in large groups. One thing about Tropheus is you basically can't mix them with anything. Partly it's because of the need for large groups. If there's space for another fish... add another Tropheus! But partly it's their diet. They must have virtually only algae-based foods. Easy enough with the right flake food.
But if you add anything else for other types of fish, such as bloodworms or standard pellets, they're prone to bloating. Anyway, Google "Tropheus" to get some idea of the range of colours. Some, like Tropheus Moorii 'Ilangi' are as colourful as any marine fish.>
Have been out of the cichlids since 2005 when hurricane Katrina whipped out my tanks. Water changes will be 35-50% every two weeks. Myself and another employee will be responsible for day to day maintenance of the tank and we
will have a company come in once a month for major maintenance. Two filters will be cleaned alternately with water changes. All the buffering chemicals will be on hand. Everything has built in double redundancy in the tank. Two
filters, two heaters on separate thermostats, two battery backups and the circuit the tank is on is also on a 500kw generator that will run for 5 day as I have kept fish for 15 years and I know about water chemistry and all that fun stuff. I tend to plan for worse case situations and also discuss all the options. I've discussed South Americans and goldfish and Africans is the way the company is wanting to go. I appreciate the very detailed response and I will surely try again.
<Welcome. Neale.>

Betta PopEye question     1/8/17
I have a juvenile Crowntail Betta in a 10 gallon aquarium, whom I "rescued" about a month ago from Wal-Mart where he sat in very dirty water for who knows how long. He's about 1.5 inches long and lives on his own. The aquarium has a heater, a filter stacked with a foam sponge and ceramic media, an air stone, and some silk plants. I change some of
the water once a week. The water temperature is 80 F, the pH is 7, and the nitrite level is 0. I feed him small pellets and occasionally a shrimp log. (He was not interested in live ghost shrimp, which I tried to give him for a protein boost.)
<Mmm; Ghost Shrimp? Likely much too large...>
He already had bilateral PopEye when I rescued him, though one side was (and still is) noticeably more swollen than the other, and for the past month I've tried various treatments to fix it.
<Just good conditions and nutrition... Your good care, will likely solve these issues in time>
At first I was hopeful clean water would suffice and that he would heal on his own, but after his first two weeks and there was no change, I then tried aquarium salt (following the advice of Dr Martin Brammah, author of The Betta Bible), which seemed to soften the edges of his swollen eyes a little but didn't do much else, and then put him in QT with a full course of tetracycline.
Nothing has solved his problem yet, and now his worse eye appears cloudy, so the condition seems to be worsening instead of improving.
<Mmm; I might try Epsom...>
After searching through your site's articles and FAQs, I am prepared to try a double-strength dose of Jungle's "Fungus Clear" and 2 TBSP Epsom salt three times in 5 days with small daily water changes. My questions are: (1) Do I need to replace the aquarium salt water with plain water before starting Epsom salts or can they be combined?
<I'd dilute the present salt content by half or so first... Through a water change or two>
(2) Should I do the double-strength dose of Fungus Clear three times in 5 days as well, or does the "three times in 5 days" only apply to the Epsom salts?
<IF you use the Fungus Clear, only dose three times, do NOT triple dose. If it were me/mine, I'd just the Epsom>
(3) Do I need to QT him for this combined treatment or can I keep him in his display tank?
<Best to leave, treat in the display tank>
and (4) When should I expect to see improvement, to know
if I then need to move on to something like Chloramphenicol or Oxytetracycline?
<I'd shy away from using these antibiotics. They rarely do much/any good in these circumstances, and can do real harm. >
Thank you so much!
-Elle J.
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Injured/damaged Ghost Glass Cats     1/8/17
To whom this may concern
We have a 55g tank. In this tank we have 2 bigger Angel fish, with one smaller/ younger one. Including 3 ghost glass catfish. One of the catfish appears to be missing the lower lip now. With a cotton white puffy area in place. We think the bigger Angel fish might have attacked him.
<It's possible... or the fish may have "bumped" into something hard>
Not sure what we can do. Any suggestions would help. Don't want to loose the fish.
<Ghost Glass Catfish are generally very tough, capable of recovery on their own given time, good circumstances (propitious water quality and nutrition). Unless you see the Angels harassing them, I'd leave all as is in this setting. Bob Fenner>
re: To whom this may concern     1/8/17

We lost the fish shortly after sending the email. Thank you for your time
<Thank you for this update. This IS Kryptopterus correct? There are other species of Siluriform fishes with this common name. Again; I've handled thousands of these over the years, had friends who used the species for
research (they can detect the planet's dipole moment)... Best to keep in a small school; if few specimens, an odd number... 3, 5, 7.
I would not be discouraged by the anomalous loss of one specimen. Bob Fenner>

Re Identifying Knifefish    1/7/17
Hi guys, so awhile back I had sent you guys some pics of my knife fish but unfortunately they were too blurry but finally I got some good shots and uploaded them to Imgur. I'm really hoping you can tell me what he(she) is since I have spent countless hours on the internet and talking to others in the hobby. Hope to hear from you soon.
<Not 100% sure, but think that this is Apteronotus leptorhynchus, also known as the Brown Ghost Knifefish. Basic care identical to the Black Ghost Knifefish, but looks a bit different and only gets to about 30 cm in length. But does have a similar beaky-sort of face to the Black Ghost. Does the fish have a pale band running along its back? If so, definitely
Apteronotus leptorhynchus. Has the 'flag like' tail fin of Apteronotus species though, and looks to be a fairly big fish, which again accords with Apteronotus. By contrast Gymnotus species have tails that taper to an almost needle-like point. Let me direct you again to Fishbase, the Apteronotidae species list, which has photos at top and also a list of
species with standard lengths at the bottom. Should help you.
Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Identifying Knifefish     1/8/17
Thanks for getting back to me Neal,
I really appreciate it! I looked at the brown ghost knife and he does look similar however the stripe that runs down the body starting at the mouth is not the same on him. He has a very light line but it doesn't start until the back of his head and it doesn't run down his entire body to the tail.
<So I think we can agree he's related to Apteronotus leptorhynchus, if not quite that species.>
Also his coloring is definitely different than the brown ghost knife. He is black/grey with white splotches down the bottom half of his body. As you said he is pretty large and his width is 4 inches and he's about 11 inches.
I have him in a community tank right now because I started a new tank for him but I'm in the middle of cycling it right now and I don't want to put them in it until it's done cycling so he's in with smaller fish and he's very peaceful with them except sometimes they won't leave him alone going in his cave so sometimes he uses his head to ram them out.
<Standard operating procedure for most electric fish, to be honest!>
I also saw him open his mouth once and it's huge!
<Do please check Gymnotus as well as Apteronotus; the two are fairly similar in body shape, though their tails are different. Gymnotus has a big, big mouth -- as befits a confirmed fish-eater. Gymnotus also tend to be territorial and aggressive, which doesn't sound much like your chap, but on the other hand, a variety of Gymnotus species are commonly traded, most of which lack common names.>
I was wondering if it's at all possible that he's a hybrid?
Would different species of knife fish spawn in the wild?
<Yes, but it's uncommon for all sorts of reasons. Still, it does happen.
What is more likely is a related but different species of Apteronotus, or a subspecies of Apteronotus leptorhynchus even.>
I know most don't care for the company of each other but he looks so different than any I've seen. His head kind of looks like a dinosaur.
Thanks again for helping me out with this!
<Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Identifying Knifefish; now fdg.      1/8/17

Neal, thanks for such a quick reply. So I have one more question. I feed him live black worms which he happily slurps up. Is there any other foods I can give him?
<Definitely needs more variety than this! I'd be looking at earthworms and gut-loaded river shrimp as staples, and if he takes frozen foods as well, such as krill or Spirulina-enriched brine shrimp, that'd be great.>
Sometimes I have given him blood worms but I know they shouldn't be a everyday food. I won't do feeder fish as they carry parasites but what if I breed guppy's or something similar for him to eat or is this unnecessary?
<In theory home-bred Guppies are safe, but in fact not necessary, if for no other reason they're more likely to encourage him to view fish as food, which could cause problems for tankmates. In the wild Apteronotus are more
micro-predators than anything else, and benthic invertebrates such as insect larvae are probably their main food. They do have substantial appetites though, so do keep an eye on how rounded his belly looks.
Slightly convex is what you're after, rather than bloated, but shouldn't be concave either.>
I just want to give him what he needs and deserves.
<Understood and he looks a great fish! Big adult Apteronotus are impressive, and intelligent, animals that make rewarding pets. They can become quite tame, and electric fish often become rather quirky as they settle in, with distinct personalities. At least some species have brain to body weight ratios similar to mammals, suggesting a high level of intelligence, by fish standards, anyway. Cheers, Neale.>

Re: Have treated for Camallanus but still have signs    1/7/17
Hello again, So I finished my last treatment of Levamisole on about the 19th, I had treated my fry tank at the same time I have 7 that are 4 months old and 1 that is 5 months. The adults are doing well, but I am concerned about the fry. They were fine before the treatment, no symptoms, happy, swimming, eating etc. they were born in the infected tank so I wanted to be safe. Now they have clear poop, they are still eating normally and not all of them have it. What happened, did I upset their intestines or are they actually infested?
<I'd guess more likely the former. I would cease treatments with Anthelminthics>
P.S. My platy that had the ich passed away Christmas morning. Luckily none of my other fish ever got sick.
<Bob Fenner>

Potamotrygon, bacterial involvement?     1/6/17
I am trying to find out if Potamotrygon species of stingrays can be infected by Columnaris.
<Mmm; yes... I think so. Try the string, "Potamotrygon and Flavobacterium columnare" and you'll find a few "scholarly articles" linking the two>
A friend recently had new pups appx 7 days ago and now these white spots/patches have randomly started to appear on them. I have treated Columnaris on Scats and cichlids for other bacterial and fungal issues topically with Methylene Blue with great success, but not sure if this would be OK with Stingrays.
<Methylene Blue should be safe; though I don't know how effective>
I also breed them but have never had this issue. Any help would be appreciated, I do have a couple pics he sent.
<I'd do your best to produce and maintain "high quality" water; of low total bacteria count... I.e., massive water changes with soft, acidic new water frequently; over-filtered, uber-aerated... And optimized nutrition.
Bob Fenner>


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