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FAQs on Brackish Aquarium Keeping

Related Articles: Brackish Aquarium Keeping in General Brackish Water Aquaria: 20 Questions; Yours Questions Answered by Neale Monks

Related FAQs: FAQs on Brackish Salty Water,

Rolf Bandsma's brackish tank. Pic by him.

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

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

Hello Bob,
Thanks for adding the link to the podcast… but it’s broken!
Copying from Facebook is flaky.
Should be:
Cheers, Neale
<Yikes; will amend. B>

Planning a 55gallon/ BR    7/30/14
Hello, my name is Sarah.
<I'm Bob; and will leave your query here (in the Brackish folder) for the more able Neale Monks to respond>
I've recently acquired a new-used 55 gallon aquarium, and now that the dust, mineral buildup, dead spiders, and cobwebs have been cleaned from the tank and stand, I've been doing as much research as I possibly can to learn how to best set up a properly functioning ecosystem in it.
The tank was custom-built for a hide-beneath saltwater skimmer filtration system, made in 2006 @ Aqua Clear Aquatics in Jacksonville, Fl. Its dimensions are 4' across by 12.5" back by 1'7" deep. Must have previously had gravel substrate as it has its age-worth of scratches on the inside-front panel;
before I put anything in, is there a good/safe way to buff those out?
<Mmm, yes; do you know how to use the search tool on WWM? Sigh...
Since I plan on running a brackish tank and there won't be high salinity to make enough bubble froth for the filter to work well, we removed the skimmer system and its rounded corner panel then patched its two plumbing holes in the tank bottom with a square of plexi-glass and aquarium sealant.
<Worth using the skimmer as an aerator just the same>
After reading numerous pages from wetwebmedia.com in all my searches, seeing a greater concern for the health of the fish in the aquariums than for their owners made me smile. I trust that here is the best site to ask for aquarium advice. I just hope there isn't a limit.
<Mmm; nope. Or at least no one's gone over a/the limit the last twenty years>
Even after days of researching, I still have lots of questions and things I would like to double-check.
I currently have two operating aquariums; a 10gallon with my adult Sailfin mollies (also a handful of young Platies, mollies and a swordtail that I raised from birth) and 3 golden dojo loaches (sadly, I am aware that the temperature I'm keeping them in shortens their maximum life span.); and a gallon where I keep the younger female mollies (to keep them from getting impregnated while they're still too small and "prego-sploding" I don't know the real term for the ailment) and the plentiful 2 separate broods of Molly fry.
Luckily, before I could begin to wonder what I would do with these hundred fish when they're grown, (as if by destiny or the hand of god) a friend of a coworker @ my boyfriend's workplace decided that the new house in Indiana is too small for the 55gallon tank. The previously mentioned coworker, Angie, delivered it here for free. Everyone at my boyfriend's workplace knows I've got this tank and that I'm refurbishing it. And I'll be damned if I don't set it up properly. (especially if it was god-sent. LoL!)
I plan to buy two 70+ gallon approved hang-on-back filters (is that too much or better for maintenance?),
<Is right about the right number, capacity. Not too much>
two large temperature adjustable heaters, air pumps (already have lots of tubing and bubble stones), enough pond soil and silica sand for a few cm of each for substrate (I read the entire page entitled "Nice Bottoms"), and lots of live plants. I'll be keeping the water at, or slightly above 20% salinity and 80degrees F. ( just a warning: here come the questions)
<I'd keep the temp. a bit lower. We'll see what Neale states>
-What kind of aquatic plants grow best in these conditions?
<Posted: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/brackishsubwebindex/bracplants.htm
(Any pics of these would be greatly appreciated as I can recognise leaf pattern/structure better than most petshop employees can tell one Latin name from another.)
<These are also posted on WWM... see/use the search tool at the top of  every page>
-anything that I could trim and grow free-floating starts? (for a possible.. future guppy population maybe)
-if I purchased the mossy algae-rocks from the petshop aquariums, would they survive?
<Cladophora? Might at lower salinity>
could that algae spread onto other things?
<Not likely, no>
can these petshop plants be carriers of unwanted Ich parasites/fungi/bacterium?
and if so, should they get the same quarantine treatments as new fish?
<Yes; best to isolate/quarantine (in a separate system) for a few weeks>
-How can I promote the growth of a "carpet" or "mat" of green algae while preventing diatom blooms?
<More light, nutrients mostly>
-Is there enough active carbon in the blue filter cartridge replacements  to affect the pH? If so, should I remove it from them?
<Not a worry; very little GAC activity in a matter of hours from these>
-I want to be sure when I go buy a big bag of salt; What is the difference between marine salt and aquarium "tonic "salt?
<Marine/synthetic sea salt is a mix of predominant salts found in real ocean water; aquarium salt is almost always just sodium chloride (see Wiki re salts....)>
The small carton I have now says it is for freshwater aquariums, but also says that it is made from
evaporated seawater. This has me confused.
<It can, will do; but I'd invest in synthetic seawater mix>
-Having lots of trouble finding pond soil and silica sand. What brand names
or specifics should I look for (the do's and don'ts in their ingredients) to know they're safe for aquarium use and chemically inert? ....Would the decorative colored silica sand from Home Depot be acceptable?
-Is there a sure way to keep plants from being uprooted?
<A few ways; best to plant carefully in deeper gravel or pots>
If not, I plan to place smallish smooth river rocks around root systems in the substrate to keep any diggers from harming the plant life and hopefully won't hurt the fish if they happen to run into the rocks.
-I won't be moving any fish into the 55gallon until after it is set up, planted, cycled, and pH tested; about how long should I let the tank cycle?
a few days to a week maybe?
<Depends on technique/s used to start cycling; but can be this time frame>
-When I do move the adults to the 55gallon, my 10gallon will become my fry tank, and the 5gallon will be the temporary quarantine tank for any new-bought fish. What species of non-violent fishes could co-exist with my mollies in their environment?
<Best for you to do the long search through the Brackish livestock sections... sigh number two:
scroll down....>
(bright colors, pretty patterns, and fancy fins really catch my eye, but crazy prices are a major deterrent) I know that Platies, swordtails, and mollies could try to crossbreed and I don't want to end up with broods of stillborn/sterile fry. I'm not sure if guppies would try to, but they're very expensive for their size and I have
little experience with them.
-I want to be sure to have lots of green algae growth in this tank, as the community fish I'm considering are mostly vegan. Are there any pretty plecostamus species that thrive in the tropical brackish environment who won't eat away at or damage the plant life?
<Some; yes>
-I really like how the dojo loaches resemble eels; are there other loaches with the elongated body shape that would actually prefer this temperature and salinity? a group of kuhli loaches would be easily attainable for me (petshop preorder required), but I want to know everything about any new fish before buying anymore.(no more risk & regret)
<I applaud your thoroughness>
-When the 55gallon is fully established, before it overpopulates, I want to get 1 (or a small group, if its better for them) slow/semi blind predatory fish. I've considered possibly getting a few dragon gobies or Ropefish to play the part of natural selection in my ecosystem,
<Mmm; these will eat your adults as well>
but if there is a type of pretty/colorful brackish eel that prefers singularity (or a group that won't grow big enough to eat All the other fishes) and isn't too violent; that would be worth the special order.
Thank you all so, so much for taking the time to read all of my concerns.
I will be excitedly awaiting your response. The sealant finished its 48hour cure time last night and I can't wait to get this started!
Multitudes of thanks to you from;
- Sarah, Robert, & our little fishy fan, Blaise
<Thank you for sharing! Bob Fenner>
Planning a 55gallon    7/30/14
<<Just to add to Bob's comments above. Skimmers work in brackish from just under half-strength seawater upwards, ~16 parts per thousand, or around SG 1.010 at 25 C. The taller the column and the finer the mist of bubbles, the better. So far as plants go, for the most part, don't bother. Few brackish water specialists are traded (about the only ones that spring to mind are Cryptocoryne ciliata and Samolus valerandi). The only exception here is if you're going for the "taste of salt" end of the brackish range, 3-5 parts per thousand, or SG 1.003 at 25 C. At these low-end salinities, pretty much any hard water plant will thrive: hardy Crypts and Swords, most/all Vallisneria species, Anubias, Egeria, Indian fern, etc. In other words, if you're doing a planted brackish tank for gobies, livebearers and other species that need some but not much salt to thrive, then choose whatever hard water plants you want, but keep a close eye on the salinity. If, on the other hand, you want a mesohaline system upwards, so SG 1.005-1.015 in aquarium terms, for Monos, Scats, etc, then plants aren't likely to work.
Exceptions can be made for some seagrass and mangrove species, but they're a challenge. As Bob said, salt sold for freshwater tanks, even if "dehydrated seawater", isn't the best/most economical way to keep brackish fish. Doable, yes, but tubs of generic marine aquarium salt will be much better value. But short term, by all means use up that salt if you want/need to. So far choosing fish goes, you mention eels. Almost none are community species. One Echidna species, Echidna rhodochilus, is occasionally traded and being a invertebrate "cruncher" tends to be safer with fish, whereas the Gymnothorax species, such as the widely sold "freshwater" Moray Gymnothorax tile, are more or less piscivorous and can be risky. On the other hand, Macrognathus pancalus and Macrognathus aral are small, brackish-tolerant spiny eels that could be kept in low-end systems (SG 1.003 or less) alongside all sorts of small but not too small fish. They are social (keep a small group) and shy, but once feeding, not hard to keep. Mastacembelus armatus is a hefty step up in size, but will also thrive in low end brackish. It's territorial and predatory, but otherwise tolerant of dissimilar fish too large to eat. Cheers, Neale.>>

brackish questions (Bob, you may wish to review/comment)<<>>  stkg.  2/14/14
Hi, thanks for your time.  I have a brackish set up for about three years now.  Its 60 gallon, all my fish were small when I got them but now three years later I realize my tank is becoming overstocked and getting crowded. 
 I have 3 Mono argenteus (4 inches in length), a green scat and silver scat (3-4 inches long)  and a freshwater moray eel (1ft long).  I also have about 6 Nerite snails and a very large black cone shaped snail and two common? hermit crabs.
<Sounds like a nice collection of oddball fish and inverts. Surely fun to watch?>
My tank is at 1.011sg currently and I have been raising salinity slowly since I first set it up as fresh.  Water quality seems fine at time of water changes (I have 2 penguin 350 filters, kind with the bio wheel) it just seems like the fish could use more swimming room.
<Always true!>
I plan on getting a protein skimmer when salinity is raised a little more.
<<May not work much in this system w/ such low spg>>
My plan was to raise it till full salt as fish mature (I have never done marine tank yet) but at this point I'm thinking of thinning out population of fish and reassessing my options. So my questions are:
Am I right to assume that if its not already overcrowded it will be when fish grow more?
<Likely so. Scats and Monos tend to be better suited to tanks from 100 gallons upwards.>
Would it be easier to keep and maintain a very high end brackish system or would it be easier to just go full marine?
<Six of one, half dozen of the other. Benefits of full marine are primarily the use of live rock, which makes nitrate levels in particular easier to keep low; and secondly, the use of a protein skimmer. Some would also add the option of keeping marine species to the mix, which can add some colour and variety. Damsels for example, or Snappers, or really any other suitably
robust species that'll coexist with Scats and Monos and Eels. Benefits of staying brackish are primarily to do with cost, since you're halving (at least) the amount of salt used. If you stick with middling salinity brackish species you have a selection of very hardy fish that generally don't get bothered by either marine or freshwater parasites, and if you skip the odd water change, you're unlikely to have any problems.>
Can I still use penguin filters (BioWheel type with activated carbon) in marine system?
<For sure, but may be redundant alongside live rock.>
How salty must water be to make it worth while to add live rock?
<SG 1.018 if all you care about are the algae and bacteria; if you want the fun critters to survive, the shrimps and starfish and whatnot, then more like SG 1.022-1.025, depending on the source of the live rock and the aquarium temperature. But basically full-on reef tank salinity.>
I currently have fake plants and ornaments. Is the freshwater moray (G. tile) better off in brackish or marine? It will survive in full marine?
<High-end brackish to marine work equally well.>
Stocking options:
Rehome all fish but the moray eel and keep him in very high end brackish with fuzzy dwarf lionfish and perhaps a sergeant major or humbug damsel (or one of my scats)?
<At SG 1.018 you would probably have no trouble at all with hardy Lionfish, Damsels, etc., which were traditionally kept at this reduced salinity in the past. Do review social compatibility though. Some Damsels can be a bit pushy, especially the Dascyllus-type things. Sergeant Majors are actually pretty authentic additions to aquaria designed around a harbour or littoral
zone theme, and would fit spot-on with Scats and Monos that favour the same environment in the wild.>
Or do same or similar but full marine?
<See above.>
Maybe a dogface puffer living alone in 60g or with eel?
<Arothron hispidus can do well in high-end brackish systems for a long time, but is probably best kept at least SG 1.015, if not 1.018 upwards on a permanent basis. In the wild they surely do swim into brackish water lagoons and suchlike habitats for periods of time, but I'm not sure they're permanent residents, so keep a "weather eye" out on its health. In any
case, whilst a superb fish in many ways, and extremely tough, it gets too big for 60 gallons.>
Or is 60g just too small for and eel and much else?
<Quite possibly. I wouldn't expend much (any) amount of time/money on a tank this size. In the long term your fish (and I suspect your tastes in fish) will demand more space than this.>
I know it is many questions, I wish I could keep them all and get a big aquarium but realistically the 60g fits nicely and is a good size for me to maintain.
<Sure is, it's a nice aquarium size, but I think best suited to either inactive fish in the 6-8 inch bracket, like a medium-sized cichlid or L-number catfish, or more active fish in the 4-5 inch bracket, like Mollies or Rainbowfish. Monos tend to top out around the 5-6 inch mark under aquarium conditions but they are hyperactive, so you should plan accordingly. Scats comfortably get to 8 inches or more in aquaria, and really do need 3-figure aquarium sizes to look their best. Superb fish,
rivaling Koi in terms of tame-ability, but not small fish!>
Hopefully my fish don't grow much more and I should be OK but I would rather look into options if rehoming the fish is inevitable. Thank you so much for your input,
<Hope this helps.>
If you have any other suggestions or stocking recommendations feel free to add them.
<Have you considered Colombian Shark Catfish?>
<Cheers, Neale.><<RMF>>
Re: Brackish tank upgrade Update and Archer/Puffer Compatibility, stkg.       2/16/14

Good morning Crew, A big thanks to Neale for the previous reply - it was very helpful (and quick)!
<Most welcome.>
Sorry for my delayed reply and long-winded-ness, but I wanted to follow-up with results.  Everyone has been moved over to the new tank and, with the exception of one Silver Scat who mysteriously swelled up and died a few days after the move, they are all greatly enjoying the move to a much bigger tank.  I have scheduled a necropsy at the local veterinary school to
make sure I'll know what the issue was and how to treat it if it arises in any of the other fish. My question now has to do with additional livestock.
 I would like to get into the "Puffer business".
<Best/most easily done separately from other fish... for many reasons, as I'm sure your research has revealed.>

I have previously tried Figure 8's (when my SG was lower) and GSP's, but was not able keep any of them alive for more than a month or two.
<Odd. Neither are particularly sensitive species.>
I blame this on water quality/crowding in the below-described overstocked 55 US gallon tank, despite my best efforts at hefty weekly water changes. 
Per Neale's Brackish Fishes book (which is absolutely awesome), I understand that the Dog-Faced Puffer, Arothron nigropunctatus, can live well in a high-end brackish system.
<Well, my experience is with Arothron hispidus, sold as a freshwater (!)
fish and maintained for a while in brackish water. But appears to be a brackish water species as a juvenile, and more in-and-out of estuaries once it's an adult. Klaus Ebert's Aqualog book on Pufferfish doesn't list Arothron nigropunctatus as a brackish water species (it does list A. hispidus, A. immaculatus and one or two others) so I'd caution you to review use of Arothron spp. in brackish water conditions very carefully.>
I have high hopes that this Arothron will be more docile than a GSP and will fit my system parameters better than a F8.
<Yes, generally Arothron hispidus is a "good" species, but some of the other species are more prone to biting; review, and act accordingly.>
Current tankmates include: 1x 4" Toxotes jaculatrix 3x 2.5" Toxotes chatareus (was able to count the fins during the netting/moving process - I had incorrectly labeled these as T. jaculatrix in my previous email) 1x 3" Selenotoca Multifasciata 3x each of 3-4" Monodactylus Argenteus and M. Sebae 6x assorted Mollies (had used 10 to cycle 150 gallon, am now using 4 to re-cycle the 55 gallon for use as a quarantine tank - none of these will be permanent residents)
<I see.>
Water parameters (tank setup/equipment further described in below email): 0ppm ammonia, 0ppm nitrite, 5ppm nitrate, SG 1.013 (see below regarding higher SG), 76 deg F, pH 8.5, GH 180 and KH 240
<Sounds good.>
I will be re-homing the mollies, as they are getting picked on by the more rambunctious Monos and Scat.  I also know that this number of Monos and Scats will outgrow this tank if they reach their full size, and will be open to re-homing them, also, as the time comes (I believe they have been "stunted" by their prolonged stint in the 55 gallon, as they are 2+ years old and have not grown significantly in the past year or so - is this likely to be permanent, or do you think that they will start growing again now that they have more space?
<Hard to say, but it is true Monos and Scats seem to get much bigger in public aquaria than home aquaria, suggesting stunting happens to some degree. Although fish grow throughout their lives, fish grow fastest when young, and so even if moved to a bigger aquarium, mature specimens may never reach maximum size if stunted for the first year or so.>
Ditto for the "adult" Archer, who is approaching 4 years of age without having passed the 5" mark).
<This is pretty typical, to be honest. Difficulties identifying Toxotes species may mean the oft-quoted maximum size for Toxotes jaculatrix aren't applicable if you don't have that species.>
We are very attached to the archers, however, and would choose the archers over any puffer if it came to that, bioload-wise or behaviorally. So my big questions are: I have seen conflicting information regarding recommended tank sizes for this species, but I understand that my 150 gallon will be at the small end of the "suitable" range for this puffer - is this for a puffer alone, or with tankmates?
<Arothron hispidus can be kept with Archers, Monos and Scats, in my experience of keeping it in 200 gallons. But I didn't keep this species its entire life (I left the university it was at after a couple years) so can't comment on its long-term viability under such conditions. So while generally regarded as a peaceful Puffer, I would caveat what I've said with the observation it gets pretty big and probably needs near-marine conditions in the very long term, even though it can survive many months in
low-end brackish and probably a good couple years in middling to high brackish. Provided a specimen was healthy and feeding normally, I wouldn't worry about precise salinity too much, but if my specimen started looking off-colour or stopped eating, upping the salinity would be one thing to try.>
Do you think that I am otherwise too densely stocked already to consider adding one?
<Short to medium term should be fine, assuming you start with a youngster (which I think would be absolutely essential anyway, if you wanted to take advantage of the high tolerance for brackish water known to characterize young specimens of A. hispidus). But Arothron hispidus gets to some 50 cm/20 inches in length, and realistically, you're not going to want to keep
a specimen that size in 150 gallons. That said, captive specimens seem to stay smaller.>
Please keep in mind that I would choose the puffer over the monos/scats as their growth dictates. Would a long-term SG of 1.016 be suitable for everyone involved?
I don't want to push the Arothron too low, but I have seen some posts that T. chatareus are not recommended above 1.010-1.012.
<Does very much depend on which Archerfish species you have, and yes, on the whole Archers prefer middling brackish or even freshwater conditions depending on the species.>
Do you think that 1.016 is an appropriate "middle ground"?
<I'd actually aim for 1.012 initially, and only up the salinity if the Arothron reacted badly. A young specimen certainly shouldn't; they're estuarine fish with a very high tolerance for freshwater. An older specimen may be less adaptable, but 1.012 is still half-strength seawater and should be within its tolerances. Of course, I'd also ensure high pH and hardness,
especially carbonate hardness, levels. Experience with Monos and Scats seems to suggest that these as much as salinity are important.>
I also want to keep the skimmer operating efficiently,
<Anything above 1.010 should work, depending on the design. Lower salinities can be offset to a degree by stronger bubbles and a taller column. There are freshwater skimmers out there, but they're BIG!>
so would prefer to slowly move the SG as high as the archers are comfortable and hope that this is high enough for the puffer to thrive, as well. If it's a go, I plan to QT a juvenile Dog-Faced Puffer in my now bare bottom 55 gallon, with a Penguin 350 bio-wheel and a Marineland 660R powerhead with sponge filter.  My LFS says that they rarely get DFP's in
that are smaller than 5-6" - do you think this QT setup will be adequate for such a big fish for 6 weeks? I have basically exhausted the WWM resources regarding puffer feeding and care, so I have a good grasp on the required foods and water maintenance schedule and am more than willing to commit to 50% weekly changes, shell-on shrimp, cockles, etc...  I think
that I have enough space, so my main concern is whether my bio-load will be too large (please check out my filtration, described in below email) and what the experts predict for compatibility with my other species (don't want the puffer to be going after the archers/monos/scats).  Any input you can provide will be greatly appreciated.  Lastly, I can't thank you enough for all of your wonderful work on the WWM site.
<Thanks for the kind words.>
Best regards, -Orion
<Cheers, Neale.>
Brackish tank upgrade Update and Archer/Puffer Compatibility (BobF, any comments on Arothron compatibility, maintenance) <<None>>      2/16/14

Hello again,
Thanks for another quick response!
It looks like I've been mixing up my common/scientific names (how embarrassing).
I believe that A. hispidus is usually labeled as the Stars-and-Stripes Puffer when I've seen it offered locally.
<Indeed; it's a distinctive species, easily recognised and very widely traded. Arothron nigropunctatus looks much different. Also widely traded, but clearly a different fish.>
From your response, A. nigropunctatus, which I've always seen under the Dog-Faced Puffer common name (in my area, at least), would not be recommended for less-than-marine SG's.
<Not so far as I'm aware, no; SG 1.018 upwards for this species, I'd suggest.>
I am assuming Mr. Ebert would have at least tried them, as he seems to have covered the genus quite well, and therefore would only have left them out if they were found to be incompatible with the brackish environment.
<Quite possibly.>
Additionally, FishBase does not list them as being commonly found in estuaries, as opposed to A. hispidus/manilensis/reticularis, all mentioned in your (Neale's) book as possibilities.
As I've just completed a major upgrade, I would prefer not to count on another in the next few years, and would be reluctant to try A. hispidus for the "short-to-medium term" and risk stunting its growth/health with an undersized tank in the meanwhile.
<A consideration to be sure. Alternatively, you could buy, keep A. hispidus for a year or two, and then sell it on once it's reached, say, 8 inches/20 cm. It's a popular species so rehoming a sub-adult shouldn't be difficult.>
That being said, A. manilensis looks like an attractive option - similar environment/care to A. hispidus, but a maximum size of 31 cm/12 in (according to FishBase). Your (Neale's) book states that they can be generally more aggressive than A. hispidus - how do you think they would compare to a GSP behaviorally? Compatible with archers/monos/scats?
<Arothron vary widely in temperament, with Arothron hispidus a known quantity in terms of being tolerant, peaceful (by pufferfish standards). Some other species are less good in this regard.>
Regarding salinity, I will take your advice and plan to use a 1.012 SG as a starting point.  I am reasonably confident that my Archers are mature T. jaculatrix and juvenile T. chatareus (my previous email said that I counted "fins" when I meant "dorsal spines" - do you count the first hard spine in the soft portion of the fin, or only the standalone spines in front of it?),
<The standalone spines in front of, merging with, the dorsal fin. Put another way, marine (and marine-origin) fish like Archers, Cichlids, Gobies etc have two dorsal fins, the front (first) one with spines and the back (second) one with rays. Often the two fins are merged, as on Archers and Cichlids, while on other fish, such as Gobies and Glassfish they are
clearly separate. When ichthyologists count fin spines on the dorsal, they're looking at that first dorsal fin.>
and I referred to a Toxotes identification flowchart from one of your (Neale's) responses on Tropical Fish Forum from a few years back - quite helpful.
<Would direct you to the primary literature, here:
Allen reviews the known species and provides a key, the one I try to use.>
I am at least reasonably certain that I don't have any T. microlepis, as they've all been quite a while at an SG much higher than 1.005 and are all doing very well.  As a side note, I have been very lucky that my archer size disparity has not manifested as conspecific aggression - they school together very well and the large one doesn't pick on the others even when
they steal the crickets that he so painstakingly spat down!
<Sounds good.>
In terms of acclimation, should I plan to raise my QT tank's SG to 1.015/1.016, drip-acclimate the fish, and then lower the SG to 1.012 over several weekly water changes?
<Scats, Archers and Monos will adapt to salinity changes quickly, within half an hour (the Aqualog brackish book suggests they don't even need this, but I feel that's a little harsh on fish already stressed by the "living in a glass box" life). I'd be a bit more carful with the Arothron, acclimating it over an hour or so to the SG 1.016 QT tank, and then lowering that salinity just as you suggest, over a few days, giving you time to observe its feeding habits and behaviour.>
I seem to recall that these estuarine-type fishes can handle quite a jump in salinity, so would drip-acclimating over a few hours directly to the QT (currently at 1.014 or so) be possible/advisable?
Bottom line: can you recommend any Tetraodonts compatible with Archers/Monos/Scats that will not outgrow a 150 gallon tank, or would I be flat-out better off keeping a GSP alone in the 55 gallon?  I am reluctant to go back to maintaining 2 tanks over the long term, and I'd really like to have a successful run at some kind of puffer, but only if it can be done in a healthy way for my other fish, as well.
<It's really really tough. One option was always supposed to be Chelonodon patoca, an Indo-Pacific species from freshwater, brackish and marine habitats that Baensch reported as being peaceful. Unfortunately the species was rarely imported until the last few years, so first-hand reports were limited; now more people have kept it, and it seems to be a bit of a fin-biter. On the other hand, while GSPs are usually described as aggressive, odd specimens are very peaceful and coexist with other fish,
but how can you predict before you buy your GSP as a youngster? Really, there aren't any 100% peaceful puffers, except perhaps the one or two Arothron species we've mentioned, and even those are big enough to be opportunistic predators if they get hungry.>
Once again, thank you very much for your time, -Orion
<Always welcome.>
PS It's a real honor to be corresponding directly with the author of my favorite fish book.  Thanks, Neale!
<Blush! Cheers, Neale.> 
Re: Brackish tank upgrade Update and Archer/Puffer Compatibility      5/5/14

Hello again,
I've got a question regarding make-up water. The past two weeks, I have tested 0.5 ppm ammonia in my make-up water. Last week, I added Prime to the water immediately before adding it to the tank (in addition to when mixing the water the week prior). I hadn't tested the make-up water before, so the problem may have been happening for some time with no apparent ill effects, other than higher nitrates than I would like in the display tank (generally 30 ppm at weekly tank change time). I tested water straight from the tap (which I use for make-up water) and found no ammonia, but I have not tried setting some out for a few days and testing later, other than the make-up water. Is it safe to use make-up water with so much ammonia, as long as I "detoxify" it with Prime?
<Yes; that's the whole point of products that neutralise tap water ammonia.
Follow the packaging instructions carefully in terms of amount used and how long before you add treated tap water to the aquarium. I don't use Prime and am not familiar with its specifics. You might also consider doing smaller water changes, so that the filter can process any tap water ammonia before you add yet more tap water.>
I generally do a 30-35% water change, so it is diluted some, and I haven't seen ill effects so far, but seeing that ammonia test so green really got me spooked. I emptied the make-up water and scrubbed the container, and rinsed with hot water before refilling for this week, but that doesn't seem to have solved it.
<Do be aware you can/will get false positives if your tap water contains chloramine, even if that chloramine has been neutralised. That's why I prefer to use a nitrite test kit to monitor aquarium filtration; if the fish were healthy and nitrite was zero, I wouldn't worry too much about tap water ammonia.>
Ammonia and nitrite are at 0 in the display tank, although I haven't tested AFTER a water change to see the effect of adding the "contaminated" make-up water. The SG has been at 1.012-1.014, and pretty heavily stocked and heavily filtered. I have added a protein skimmer, which seems to be working well, but I haven't seen the nitrates go down as a result. The long-winded description of this 150 US gallon brackish tank can be found in the below email chain. I have added a Narrow-lined Puffer (Arothron manilensis) about a month and a half ago and had been blaming the nitrates on him.
<A fair idea... these big puffers eat a lot and pollute a lot.>
I have heard that our area has a big decline in tap water quality every spring with the snow melt, and even stories of tanks crashing as a result, but so far mine is doing quite well. I'm loathe to start hauling 40-50 gallons of R/O water a week home from the LFS, can you suggest any other solutions or possible causes?
<See above; if there is a period of a few weeks when things are more risky, you could minimise water changes by minimising the amount of food added to the tank, and ideally, by doing physical cleaning (e.g., removal of uneaten food, emptying skimmer more often) so that the gap between water changes could be lengthened. On the whole though brackish water fish are robust. If they're active and eating, and nitrite is zero, I'd not fret.>
Thanks for your time and any advice you can offer,
PS - Neale, the puffer you helped me out with has been working out very well so far, eats very well and doesn't bother the other fish. He actually gets picked on/nipped by the Scat and some of the Monos instead of the other way around, but nothing serious that I have seen.
<Cool. Probably best he's at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Cheers, Neale.>

Brackish tank, sys.   12/29/12
Hi. I have an old 20 to 30 gallon octagonal tank (I've checked it holds water). I would like to make this a brackish tank. What levels of salinity, ph, calcium, temperature, etc is used in the average brackish tank. Also what fish/plants/invertebrates would be good for a tank this size.
Thanks, Aaron
<Hello Aaron. There's really no such thing as the "average" brackish tank because brackish water environments include a *range* of salinities from near-freshwater conditions at one end to near-marine conditions at the other. But broadly, hobbyists keep two sorts of brackish systems. The first is a low-end system around SG 1.002-1.003 (at 25 C/77 F) that allows a wide variety of plants to be grown as well as those species of fish that require on a little salt to do well -- typically livebearers, gobies, Figure-8 Puffers, halfbeaks, and certain killifish, spiny eels and cichlids. Such tanks are often rather small because these fish are mostly small, and the combination of unusual fish with bright healthy greenery can be very attractive if done well. The second sort of system is one that is closer to a marine aquarium in appearance. Sand, rocks, perhaps a few seashells will be used to create an environment more like a harbour or estuary, and the salinity will be around the SG 1.010 mark, i.e., about half-strength seawater. Plants aren't an option. The fish species chosen will be those that move between freshwater and the sea -- Scats, Monos, Archerfish, Violet Gobies, Green Spotted Puffers and Colombian Shark Catfish being among the most popular, but there also occasionally seen "oddball" species such as Paradise Threadfins, Moray Eels, Waspfish and Toadfish that fit into this bracket as well. One definite advantage to this type of set-up is that it's easily migrated to a fully marine fish-only system if needs be, allowing the addition of robust damselfish, surgeonfish, lionfish and angelfish to your collection. But obviously all these fish are large, so you'd be looking at 55 gallons, minimum, for a high-end brackish system and realistically 100+ gallons (plus a sump and skimmer) for a really worthwhile and attractive aquarium. That said, you can create a neat brackish system that looks like a saltwater tide pool using rocks, oyster shells, barnacle clusters and perhaps even a few fake anemones and corals.
Salinity need only be SG 1.005, and you can stock with things like Zebra Blennies and various sleeper Gobies such as Dusky Sleepers and Crazyfish.
This sort of tank would be very unusual, like a reef tank, but with a fraction of the maintenance requirements. Kind of sitting by itself as "sui generis" is the Mudskipper vivarium, suitable for Mudskippers and, if smaller Mudskippers are kept, Fiddler Crabs of similar size. Obviously these are amphibious so the accent here is on above-the-waterline decoration. Basically, it's a turtle-like habitat using brackish water (around SG 1.005-1.010) instead of plain freshwater. Have a read through my Brackish FAQ, here:
This'll give you some better ideas. When you've ruminated a bit, write back and we can discuss some more. Cheers, Neale.>
Re: Brackish tank   12/30/12

I've decided on setting it at 1.002-1.003 due to the fact that the tank is 30 gallons and can't hold huge fish. What fish/plants/invertabrea
would you personally recommend.
<What sort of aquarium shops do you have in your area? The Figure-8 Pufferfish and Bumblebee Goby combination is popular. But if you have more enterprising retailers, you could look at wild-type livebearers like Micropoecilia species (such as Micropoecilia parae "melanzona red") and Limia species (Limia nigrofasciata is particularly pleasant and entertaining). Wrestling Halfbeaks are good too. All these would be good at the top of the tank. In the middle, you might go for Marosatherina ladigesi (doesn't need brackish, but does well in low-end systems, perhaps a little better than in "average" freshwater communities). The Pacific Blue-Eye (Pseudomugil signifer) is another cracking species that does especially well in slightly brackish systems. At the bottom you might go with a small Spiny Eel species, one or two goby species (Bumblebees are widely sold, but there are numerous others, such as Rhinohorns that turn up occasionally). Spaghetti Eels are lovely if you can get them. Pretty much any hardy shrimp will thrive in low-end brackish, with the Cherry Shrimp being the pick of the bunch. Besides the red form, there are blue, orange and green forms of the same species sold periodically. Most of the Nerite snails will tolerate slightly brackish water as well. Being cheap, both snails and shrimps are worth taking a chance on; if they don't do well, try a different species!>
Also in my freshwater 30 gallon I have had 3 bottom dwelling fish that died in similar ways. I have black PetCo brand sand (all info it provides).
<I would tend to avoid black sands unless you know what they are. Some are a glass production by-product. While chemically inert they can be abrasive, and shouldn't be used in tanks with fish that sit on the bottom or like to dig. Keep them for planted tanks with midwater tetras, barbs, etc. If you have burrowing fish, best go for a smooth silica sand, in the US often sold as "pool filter sand". While bright in colour, it ages well, becoming darker with time, and looks very natural after a few months.>
My first bottom dweller was a banjo cat died at 2 inches (not full grown) he was bent at an awkward position and struggled to stay at the bottom as he kept floating.
<I see. Banjo Cats are hardy but they are burrowers and easily starved.>
Next and more recently was my spiny peacock eel (not full grown). I suspected he died from scrape and infection as he had red scares on belly.
<Sounds like you're right here. Definitely a fish for a tank with smooth silica sand. Incidentally, Macrognathus siamensis (if that's the species you have, the commonest Peacock Spiny Eel) does especially well in slightly brackish water around SG 1.002-1.003.>
He was bent as if he was turning left and was floating right side up (as in right turn) except his head and tail weighed him down so he was at the bottom. Finally my glass Headstander who is floating and is bent at an angle (still alive) I have isolated him in a compartment.
<Charax gibbosus? Not especially known for burrowing. Like a lot of oddballs, might be sensitive to copper and formalin though, both used in some fish medications. If you have to deal with Whitespot, use the salt/heat method instead.>
During this long period time I have had a Madagascar rainbow fish and an albino bristle nose Pleco (both alive) and I have had 2 bamboo pieces own still alive the other is dead (I removed it even though it was a small piece and the Pleco gnawed it )
<Be careful sticking houseplants in aquaria, unless you know they haven't been sprayed with bug-killer.>
can you find any link between the surroundings and similar deaths.
<Without facts on the water chemistry, water quality, feeding, and use of medications, hard to be sure. But see above.>
It is possible that the Headstander is dying of old age but not the older 2.
<Charax gibbosus should live a good 4-5 years in captivity, if not longer.>
Anything that can help. Any treatments?
<If all else fails, water changes are good, provided water chemistry and temperature changes are minimised.>
Thanks, Aaron
<Welcome. Cheers, Neale.>

starting a brackish tank    9/25/12
Hi Crew,
Is anyone familiar with CaribSea Instant Aquarium Substrate?
 It is suppose to keep freshwater tanks neutral.
<Or at least, doesn't contain lime, so doesn't raise carbonate hardness and therefore pH.>
I purchased it because it claims to be safe for both fresh and saltwater.
And, at the time, I wasn't sure if I wanted to have a brackish or freshwater tank. The write up on the package says that, for saltwater, all I have to add is a marine buffer.
<Correct. See above. Without lime, such inert substrates won't provide buffering, which is crucial to marine aquarium fishkeeping.>
What I'm concerned about is if the buffer will be enough to keep the water alkaline enough to support brackish fish or will it be a constant battle?
<No, the inert freshwater aquarium substrate won't buffer the pH and won't raise the carbonate hardness. So, grab a bag of coral sand, and mix with the freshwater aquarium. Around 10% coral sand is fine for a low-end brackish tank with Gobies and Livebearers, but if you're doing a high-end system for Monos, Scats and whatnot, then around 50% coral sand is what you're after. Or else, forget about the substrate buffering the water -- and instead focus on providing buffering via marine aquarium salt mix and perhaps some sodium bicarbonate as well. This will be quite effective if you do regular water changes.>
Thanks in advance for your assistance,
<Hope this helps, Neale.>
Re: starting a brackish tank    9/25/12

One more thing:
So the aquarium salt and bicarbonate will be enough of a buffer if I don't add coral sand?

<Yes, provided you do sufficient water changes. If you rely 100% on the buffering minerals in the marine aquarium salt and any added bicarbonate, then there's a limited supply. Wait too long for the water change and the acidity that builds up "uses up" the buffering. But if you have coral sand AS WELL in the aquarium, alongside the marine aquarium salt, then there's a sort of back-up supply of carbonate to buffer against water changes. Think of it as a kind of insurance, something to help out if you skip a week's water change. So, ideally, do both: use marine aquarium salt (which has bicarbonate already added, so you usually don't need to add extra) plus a bit of coral sand or crushed coral in the gravel or sand. Make sense?
Cheers, Neale.>
Re: starting a brackish tank   9/30/12

I purchased 70 pounds of live sand. Will that be enough to buffer my tank against 160 pounds of freshwater substrate? My tank is 120 gallons.
<Plenty. But why live sand? What salinity are you aiming for? Assuming this is marine-grade live sand, most of the bacteria won't survive salinity reductions much below normal marine (SG 1.018-1.025 at 25 degrees C). In any event, you only need around 10-15% calcareous substrate alongside the silica sand or gravel if you're keeping low-end species (Bumblebee gobies, Mollies, Figure-8 puffers, etc.) but for those species that live in seawater as well as brackish (Monos, Scats, GSP, Freshwater Morays, etc.) then any amount of coral sand up to 100% coral sand will be acceptable, even advantageous. Hmm… do read Bob's piece on marine substrates, here:
What he says about maintenance and long-term loss of buffering capability are very relevant in mid-to-high-end brackish systems. If you are setting up such a system, building to marine aquarium specification has some advantages, not least of which the potential to switch to a marine aquarium eventually, should you want to add some colourful Damselfish or Wrasse. But if you're keeping a low-end system, especially one with plants, raising the pH and hardness isn't critical, and if the pH and hardness go too high (above pH 8, 20 degrees dH) then plants may not do well. Cheers, Neale.>

freshwater to brackish  8/27/11
Hi there!
<Hello Kaytee,>
A couple days ago, my boyfriend came home with a 10g aquarium starter kit, 2 Fiddler Crabs and a Mickey Mouse Platy. We assumed (since the petstore had told us) that the crabs were fully aquatic and freshwater.
<Uh, not so much, no'¦>
We set up the tank with gravel, the filter that came with the kit (AQUA-Tech 5-15 Power Filter), used the sample water conditioner, and put our new pets in their new home. After doing some research, I read that the crabs need to be able to get out of the water and need to be in a brackish tank.
<Yes and yes. Fiddler Crabs come from beaches, often around mangroves. So you're aiming for something that has brackish or marine water, some sand and rocks, and ideally some bogwood and plastic plants too. Seashells, coconut shells, and other beachy bits and bobs can be added to.>
I built up some rocks and took some of the water out so the crabs can climb into the air (which they did almost immediately and especially my male seems to love). I also went out today and bought Oceanic Natural Sea Salt Mix but now I'm at a loss. How to do I go about changing the water to brackish without sending my Platy into shock?
<Ah, now, this may be tricky. Platies aren't normally from brackish water; their natural habitat is inland ponds and streams. The key is to go slowly. They can adapt to slightly saline water, but they're less tolerant than, say, Guppies or Mollies, which can live in strongly brackish, even fully marine, conditions.>
I read somewhere that Platys can live in brackish water so I am hoping to leave her in the same tank. I don't have a hydrometer but I understand it is necessary in maintaining the salinity level and plan to get one in the upcoming week. Can I start adding the salt now or should I wait?
<Here's what I'd do. Do your usual water changes, one this weekend, another the next weekend, and so on. Each time, replace 20% of the water with water at SG 1.003 in specific gravity terms, or about 6 grammes of marine aquarium salt mix per litre of water (that's about 0.8 oz per US gallon). Such water is about 18% the salinity of seawater, and should be tolerable for both crab and Platy. In any event, by doing small, weekly water changes, you'll give the Platy and the crab time to adjust. There's no rush: go slow! Afterwards, you can do your usual 20% water changes every week or two, each time replacing the aquarium water just the same way, with 6 grammes of salt per litre.>
I also read that a brackish tank needs to have sand at the bottom. Do I need to replace my gravel? Can I just put a layer of sand over the gravel?
<Either will work. Coral sand or silica sand (= pool filter sand) will work nicely in this situation. If you replace all the gravel, you'll have something that looks like a beach, and you can add some seashells or plastic anemones or plastic seaweeds to create one sort of look. Alternatively, a mix of silica sand and gravel looks more a riverbed, and with some fake mangrove roots you can create something more like a coastal marsh. Your move!>
How long should I wait before adding more fish and do you have any suggestions on good tankmates or plants? I'm sending along a picture of my tank. Please feel free to include any other tips, tricks, or ideas in your response. Thank you so much!
<Do read here:
This is my favourite sort of fishkeeping, and in due course can be a great way to either specialise in brackish water oddballs (like Figure-8 Puffers and Violet Gobies) or else graduate to marine fish. Enjoy, Neale.>

Brackish system Molly tankmate question    4/17/11
Hi Crew,
I always had aquariums growing up, but am now getting more seriously into the hobby and discovering there's a lot more to it that dumping some water and fish into a glass box (your site has been enormously helpful with this). Around a month and a half ago I set up a landscape style (it's significantly longer than it is high or deep, not sure how else to say it)
thirty gallon brackish tank for the purpose of breeding Sailfin Mollies.
In terms of water parameters, I use those 6-in-one test strips, so I can't be super specific, but I can say the water is kept at 80 degrees, the nitrites are 0ppm, the nitrates are around 10ppm at their highest, the hardness is approximately 150 gH? ppm, the alkalinity is approx. 120 kH?
ppm and the pH is around 7.8.
<Sounds fine for Mollies.>
I maintain a specific gravity of 1.002 using Instant Ocean marine salt mix, and I perform 25% water changes every three or four days.
<Also very good.>
I ordered 4 wild caught Sailfins online: 2 pairs, absolutely gorgeous.
<Yes they really are gorgeous, aren't they! Much different to the farmed stuff.>
The non-dominant male has since been moved to another tank, both for his own sake as well as that of the females; they were getting some unwanted attention from the dominant male.
<Indeed, male Poecilia generally exhibit considerable aggression.>
He may be moved back once some female fry mature to provide the proper ratio of at least two to one. Additionally, the tank contains 2 dozen ghost shrimp, and (I don't want to say this part) two common goldfish as well as an Oto (I know, I know, the heat! the salt!).
<Indeed! Whilst Goldfish are actually pretty tolerant of brackish water -- the idea there are special "salty" Goldfish is just plain wrong -- but the Otocinclus isn't going to last in brackish water all that long. SG 1.002 at 80 F won't kill him anytime soon, but that's still about 15% the salinity of normal seawater, so not going him any good either.>
I'm working on finding new homes for those last three; they were added before I had any idea what I was doing. The tank is also well planted, floating Water Sprite, a Java Fern (both doing well) and some Hornwort (thriving). The was a cover of Amazon Frogbit, but the goldfish quickly demolished it,
<Yes, Amazon Frogbit is extremely edible; my Ameca splendens eat almost nothing else.>
and I don't think it liked the salt, so I haven't restocked.
<Floating Indian Fern should do well, but alas, it's edible too.>
Three weeks ago, in preparation for the coming fry, I started cycling a ten gallon using red cherry shrimp. They came. Boy, did they come. I was expecting under 40 total, but both females outpaced that on their own. The eventual plan is to sell them to my LFS, hopefully for cash, if not, credit. So, the other day I picked up a new tank, about 30-35 gallons, and cycled it using some filter media from the mature brackish tank. This is where the non-dominate male is now. Additionally, some green shrimp are swimming their way though the US postal service as we speak. Shrimp are the best, well, really the only brackish tolerant bottom feeders I've yet come across.
<Do also look at Nerite snails for algae control, as these thrive in brackish water. Among catfish, the pick of the bunch is the good old Brown Hoplo, Hoplosternum littorale, a species that is common in brackish water in the wild and a natural companion for Mollies.>
Ideally speaking, I plan on getting another tank, so I can separate the males and females in order to control the breeding stock, but I'm not sure if it's in the cards. So after all that, the question: If I end up having to rear the males and females in the same tank, I'm concerned about a population explosion. Supposedly, live breeders will eat their fry, but I have not seen any evidence of this.
<Does vary dramatically. Sometimes they do eat their fry, sometimes they don't. My Ameca splendens for example ignore their fry completely, which is why I keep them with a couple of Ctenolucius hujeta "freshwater barracuda"!>
As a matter of fact, I found four more fry in the tank today after moving the others close to a week ago. I've heard Knight and Bumblebee Gobies make good tankmates for mollies, and have been recommended to help keep the fry population in check, but I'm worried these bottom dwellers might be more interested in my shrimp than the fry swarming on the top of the water.
<Knight Gobies in particular are extremely carnivorous. You might also want to look out for Toxotes microlepis, a small Archerfish (max length about 12 cm/5 inches) that eats anything at the surface that it can find.
Neovespicula depressifrons and any of the Nandus species are options, and Neovespicula depressifrons is reasonably widely traded and doesn't get too big. Yes, anything predatory on fry is liable to eat small shrimps as well. The Archer might be the better bet because it hunts at the surface, but even then, these fish are smart enough to look for food at the bottom.>
So hopefully you can tell me a fish that will eat fry, but leave the green guys alone as I've become rather fond of shrimp, they're pretty funny.
Alternatively, If you could advise me about other brackish tolerant bottom feeders, I could move the shrimp to another tank.
<There are some brackish-tolerant Plecs in the wild, but alas, they're not traded. On the other hand, Hoplosternum does well, and it's cheap and very hardy. There are a few Banjo Catfish that prefer brackish water, e.g., Aspredo aspredo, but they are traded extremely rarely -- funky fish though! In any case, Nerites will take care of the algae and are essentially predator-proof.>
<Hope this helps, Neale.>
Re: Brackish system Molly tankmate question    4/20/11

Hello again Neale, thanks for the reply.
<Most welcome.>
Just to let you know, the Otos have been moved to a fresh water tank with plenty of algae. Also, I've gotten a hold of another large tank. Now that I'll be able to separate the males and females, it doesn't look like fry control will be a problem. I am considering adding a small school of rainbows. I went with black moon sand as a substrate for the new aquarium, and I think they'd look extra nice against it.
<Indeed, this sand (actually a byproduct of glass production) can look very attractive. Do remember though that it shouldn't be used with fish that sit on the bottom or like to dig; it's too abrasive.>
So, the new question regards sexing the fry. Everything I've read comes down to the anal fin, but that apparently requires waiting until they're three to four months old.
<Well, shouldn't take that long -- males should be obviously males between 2-3 months.>
I'm concerned the nursery tank is going to get a little crowded. All the articles seem to refer to Dalmatian or black mollies, these are Sailfins from wild stock. The males and females differ greatly in terms of fin coloration, and extremely in terms dorsal fin size.
<The dorsal fin is actually one of the last features to become obvious when young males are growing up.>
Given these characteristics, will the sexes present themselves sooner, or should I consider finding a larger nursery to avoid stunting their growth?
<Oh, there's certainly mileage to keeping juvenile Mollies in the biggest tank possible. Yes, they're a species that does seem to stunt readily if exposed to cramped conditions, which is likely why farmed Mollies rarely develop anything like the size or dorsal fin development seen on wild Sailfin Mollies. Cheers, Neale.>

How do I start a low brackish fish tank
Hi, my names Jordan and I have a few questions.
I am wondering how to start a law salt tank with a puffer? How long do I have to keep the tank running before I get it? What kind of salt? Kitchen salt? puffers are great fish ,I'm planning to get figure eight puffer in my 20g tank.. Oh and I was thinking about getting crushed coral, snail shells, and maybe a natural small substrate for a bottom, will it work? Thank you so much I don't want to kill anything ! This site is great by the way !
Hi! I'm Jordan
how do I start a mild brackish tank for a figure eight puffer and maybe goby's. How long do I keep the tank running without anything in it. What type of decor should I put in it, and u was thinking for substrate, small natural light brown with snail shells and crushed coral, will that work?
Thank you a lot! -Jordan
<In short, a low-end brackish water aquarium is essentially the same as a freshwater aquarium. The only difference is that each bucket of water added to the aquarium has some marine salt mix added, around 6 grammes per litre (about 0.8 oz per US gallon). You have to use marine salt mix, not kitchen salt or tonic salt. This should produce a salinity of about 6 ppt, or a specific gravity of 1.003 at 25 degrees C (77 F). That's fine for Figure-8 puffers and Bumblebee gobies. If you already have a mature freshwater aquarium, take some biological media (sponges, ceramic noodles) from there and stick into the filter in the new brackish water aquarium. A mature filter can donate 50% of its biological media safely. If you don't have an aquarium yet, then cycle the tank using a fishless method (e.g., by adding a pinch of flake every day, or else a small amount of ammonia). Do read here:
Pufferfish are sensitive to ammonia and nitrite, so I wouldn't add them until they aquarium was running for at least six weeks. Actually, I'd suggest adding some hardly livebearers first, such as Black Mollies or "feeder" Guppies, as these will adjust to brackish water well, and will also help eat some of the algae. Then add the gobies a couple of weeks later. If there's still zero ammonia and zero nitrite, you're ready to add your pufferfish. You don't need to use coral sand in the aquarium unless you have soft water. Plain silver sand (smooth silica sand) is fine. Gravel is fine too. You'll find plenty more information here:
Cheers, Neale.>

Brackish tank inquiry... set up, stkg... mistakes... leaping before looking...    7/11/09
Dear WWM,
I have a ten gallon freshwater tank, in which I have kept a Java loach, and two firebellied toads for almost two years. Recently I transferred them all to a friends house while I was on vacation so that she could watch them for me, and the toads managed to squeeze through the gaps in the tank and, essentially, "run away".
<Ah, in other words, ended up dried out on the carpet. Scientist that I am, I tend to avoid euphemisms where possible, because they often allow us to dodge reality and avoid responsibility. Yes, amphibians should always be kept in tanks with tight-fitting hoods.>
After this, I decided to make the tank a full tank, and add some new fish. My choices were a snail, some ghost shrimp (the loach got used to eating the crickets that were meant for the toads, and has refused to eat pellets and flakes since they disappeared, so they're for him,) a Pleco, and of course, a 3" Silver-tipped Shark.
<Shrimps and snails make great choices for 10-gallon tanks. But a Plec? Or Sciades seemanni? Insane choices! Plecs get to a good 45 cm in length within two years, and the Sciades only a bit less. In any event, Sciades seemanni is a migratory, schooling fish that needs a lot of space as well as tankmates of its own kind; kept singly, they invariably become neurotic, pacing water in one corner of the tank, and clearly unhappy. Within the group they make all kinds of audible clicks and other sounds, so it's obvious they're constantly "talking" to one another; without the comfort of other members of their own species, singletons must have a pretty miserable life.>
Upon getting home, I decided to do some research beyond what the pet store told me, and stumbled across the knowledge that my shark is doomed to a slow death if I don't transfer him to brackish water, and eventually a larger tank.
<The old mistake of doing research after buying the fish. Yes, Sciades seemanni is a big fish that needs brackish water. Of course, I'm assuming your Silver-tip shark is Sciades seemanni, as opposed to the non-brackish, but equally big and gregarious Silver Shark Balantiocheilus melanopterus.>
Now, the larger tank I can scrounge up fairly easily in time, but I was wondering if the other fish would be alright in brackish water.
<What other fish? The shrimps and the snails are Shark Catfish food; as for the Plec, no, it can't be kept in brackish water, and no, loaches can't either. So, all pretty simply. If you add enough marine salt mix (not tonic salt, cooking salt or aquarium salt) for the Sciades seemanni to be healthy, you'll kill the other fish. Juvenile Sciades seemanni are happy around SG 1.005 at 25 C, which is about 9 grammes of marine salt mix per litre; adults will need around half-strength seawater up to fully marine conditions; aim for SG 1.010 at 25 C, or about 15.5 grammes of marine salt mix per litre.>
I looked around to see what I could find, and most of the sites I found only seem to list things like how to breed them, how big they get, what they eat, etc. I know that I'll have to move at least the shark soon (this is day one of him being in my tank, and he seems lethargic already,) unless the others can handle the brackish water he needs.
<The eat primarily molluscs and crustaceans in the wild, so squid, cockles, mussels and prawns all work well, as will small portions of white fish (frozen lancefish are ideal). Keep the diet varied to avoid problems with Thiaminase (mussels and prawns contain a lot of this dangerous enzyme).
They generally take good quality catfish pellets readily. Aquarium specimens generally get to about 20 cm or so in length, but they can get bigger. Breeding doesn't occur in captivity.>
Also, if I do end up needing another tank to move him into immediately, I want to know which of the other fish, if any, I could move into it with him.
<Sciades seemanni get along extremely well with other brackish water fish of similar size: Monos, Scats, Archerfish, Green Chromides, etc. They also work well in marine aquaria with non-aggressive Damsels, Tangs, Angelfish, Lionfish, etc.>
I don't want to buy more Silver-tips,
<Not an option really; these are very sociable fish that need to be kept in groups of at least three specimens.>
since they do grow so large, but I can't stand the thought of returning him to the store that sold him to me, and abandoning him to his fate. Thanks in advance for whatever help you can give me. :)
Oh, in retrospect (seem to be doing that a lot today) is the fact that he's venomous actually a danger to my other fish?
<No danger at all; only a danger to you, if you net the thing clumsily and jab yourself on his pectoral and dorsal fin spines. These fish, though predators, are extremely gentle towards anything they cannot swallow whole.>
The loach has been known to pester his tankmates.
<Well, he won't be in the brackish water aquarium, so shouldn't be an issue.>
Thanks so much for reading this,
<Do please read around the subject of brackish water fishkeeping, either here in WWM, or in my book, Brackish-Water Fishes, which your library might be able to get, even if you don't want to buy a copy. Cheers, Neale.>

Possible transition to BW tank 01/09/09 Hi - I've really enjoyed the valuable info found on your site. There is nothing else like it - THANKS!!! <Glad you're enjoying!> I have a 20 tall FW tank that is well established (we've had it for 18 mos.) - ph at 7.8 (stuck w/ this due to municipal water), 78 degrees Fahrenheit, 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites, consistently 15 - 20 nitrates. I do 50% water changes w/ gravel vacuum even two weeks. The tank is moderately planted w/ fake plants and one cave exclusively belonging to our Pleco. I've consistently used aquarium salt as a tonic (about 1 rounded tablespoon per 5 gallons of water - replaced only when doing water changes), but now have read that long-term use of that isn't a good idea. <The value of "tonic salt" is indeed misunderstood. In the past, aquarists avoiding changing water. The idea was that "old water" was better for the fish, so people did 10% water changes per month. High levels of nitrate were the inevitable result, and nitrate is particularly toxic to some fish, such as cichlids. Sodium chloride reduces the toxicity of nitrite and nitrate, so adding small amounts would make the old water safer. It's not obvious to me aquarists understood this, but through a process of trial and error they learned that adding a teaspoon of salt per gallon improved their success with many fish. Sodium chloride has the potential to stress freshwater fish since they're not adapted to it, but in this case, this problem was the lesser of two evils. However, as the hobby has become more sophisticated, and the range of species kept much larger, encompassing many more delicate species, aquarists have switched to doing bigger water changes more frequently. This keeps the nitrate levels low and also prevents a variety of other problems such as acidification. The addition of salt (and I'd argue carbon to the filter) became redundant in terms of preventing nitrite or nitrate poisoning, but salt remains a potential stress on those fish not adapted to saline conditions. It is fairly clear for example than Malawi and Tanganyikan cichlids become more prone to Dropsy when exposed to the use of sodium chloride outside of the full mix of carbonate and calcium salts they need. Or put another way, if you're keeping your (freshwater) fish in the modern way, adding salt gives no benefits and may bring increased risk of problems, so why bother?> I recently had a lot of livestock losses (first the ADF, then our dwarf Gourami, our Molly and two glass fish - all within three weeks of one another). The losses weren't sudden - each became very sluggish a while before their demise. The inhabitants left over are two glass fish and 1 bristle nose Pleco. I've worked on stabilizing water quality for the past month and the remaining three continue to act hearty and healthy. I think that whatever happened to the tank to kill off so many has run its course. Hence, I'm planning on the next livestock add. <Hmm, would tend to review the tank before doing anything else. Sudden die-offs of multiple species -- assuming not old age -- usually come down to sudden changes in pH or problems with water quality. Giving the tank a good clean, servicing the filter, and reviewing water chemistry (in particular, buffering) is the way forward.> I've done a lot of reading about setting up a BW tank (thanks Neale for the good articles). While I know the glass fish would do well, the BN Pleco would not. So I'm now more focused on finding livestock that can go either fresh water or BW w/ the hopes of going BW once the Pleco has lived his life. The one's I've narrowed my search on are: getting 4 more glass fish (to get a school), a small school (6) of dwarf rainbows (Melanotaenia mccullochi) OR neon rainbows (a bigger school). <Rainbows don't need salt, and indeed generally don't want salt either, and if kept in brackish conditions the salinity must be low, no more than SG 1.003 except in the case of the few species that tolerate brackish water in the wild. Glassfish couldn't care less, and generally do fine in freshwater. My specimens inhabit moderately hard, slightly basic water without complaint.> I'm also interested in a pair of Pelvicachromis pulchers, but wonder about territory fights w/ Pleco over the caves (of course I would add a couple more) and the ph 7.8 and 78 degrees being outside their ideal conditions. <Plecs and Dwarf Cichlids generally come to an accommodation, providing everyone has a cave to call home. My one issue with Pelvicachromis spp. is that they aren't so much brackish water fish as brackish-tolerant. Yes, they're fine up to SG 1.003-1.005 depending on the species, but pH is a big factor when breeding. To get equal numbers of boy and girl fry, you need pH 7.0. That's not going to happen in a brackish tank where the pH is likely 7.5-8.0, in which case you'll get almost entirely male fry.> I also plan on changing the aquascape to river rock (granite) and more natural materials (java fern, java moss, etc.), taking the Pleco into consideration w/ the selection. I also plan on changing the substrate (possibly the dark, fine quality if add the pelv. Pulchers). I also know now to add bog wood for the Pleco. Generally, I want a more natural look. <Sounds nice. I use granite a lot. It's a good rock for tanks, though heavy.> I plan on keeping the filtration the same - dual hang-on-back filters (one penguin 100 BioWheel and the other a TopFin 20). Any wisdom you can share on my plans? <No obvious reason to go brackish here at all!> Thoughts on my livestock selection? <Have kept all these species together at some time or another, and can see no problems.> Any other livestock and/or aquascape recommendations? Thanks tons! Kristi <Hope this helps! If you specifically want a brackish tank, get back in touch, and we'll talk some more. Cheers, Neale.>

Starting a new brackish tank   6/22/08 Hello! First off, I love your site, so much information on brackish tanks, looking forward to more! <Glad you're enjoying yourself!> I am returning to fish keeping after a ten year break due to other activities taking priority (marriage, children, etc.). Doing some research before I jump back into the hobby. I feel so over whelmed by the changes in the available information (some good, some not so good) via the internet, as well as all the new strides in aquarium set ups. Wow. <Would have to agree with you on both counts. Yes, the hobby has changed a lot, particularly in regard to the diversity of species kept. And yes, the Internet is both great for getting information and bad because it helps perpetuate myths. That's why most of us here at WWM would recommend getting at least one book germane to your specific interests; that way, you know you have at least one edited, fact-checked source of information.> Before I got married, I kept several tanks; my pride and joy being a 65 gallon mirror backed show tank with Central American cichlids convicts, Jack Dempseys, etc). I had a natural gravel substrate, lots of large scoria pieces, about a dozen plastic red Ludwigia, and some driftwood. I used a magnum canister and a power head. I had a four bulb hood with a timing system to allow the lighting to change throughout the day. <Sounds lovely! I kept Central Americans for a long time as a student, and really enjoyed their feisty personalities and lovely colours. Because the tank was in a lobby area, the fish would interact with people who stopped by. It was fun to see the fish acting as part of the community of people in the building. Central Americans strike me as being the most intelligent of all the cichlids.> I know many people call Convicts beginner cichlids, but I fell in love with their little personalities. I had my ornamental goldfish tanks and my planted tanks too, but the cichlids were my clowns, fun to come home from work and watch. <Absolutely! A much underrated group of fish these days, perhaps because so many species are big and often very aggressive.> The materials used for decorating the tank, along with my choice of fish, was based on where I live. The water in my area is just unbelievably hard and alkaline along with having a high particulate count. We live just a couple of miles from a scoria gravel pit, so the decorations were free other than the cleaning and boiling. <Useful.> I only tested nitrates and Ph regularly, keeping it on the basic side of neutral. As my fish bred frequently, I had a slightly overpopulated tank at any given time, however, it ran for 8 years with no major issues. <Sounds good.> When I got married and moved into my husband's house, I had to make choices about what would and would not come with. No room for most of my tanks, and the brackish tank was given to my sister and her husband where it continued to flourish. <Ah, converts to the hobby!> Now my children want fish, and I inherited a 45g corner tank with all the trimmings from a moving neighbour. Despite the votes for "Nemo" and "Dory" fish, I would like another brackish tank (cheaper fish and I have more experience, besides 45g is rather small I believe for a beginner SW setup). So I have a few questions. <There are swings and roundabouts (as we say in England) but broadly yes, brackish water tanks are much cheaper to set-up and run, and tend to be relatively problem-free. On the other hand, it is perfectly possible to set up a basic marine aquarium in a 45 gallon tank, and keep a surprising variety of fish alongside living rock. Provided you avoid light-hungry invertebrates such as corals, such a system can be *relatively* easily built and maintained.> First, I was intrigued by the idea of a planted brackish tank. I have done planted and brackish, but never the same tank (first off I didn't know I could, second, convicts dig, a lot.) So who can I have live in my tank that will not dig up my plants and rip them to pieces? <Many, many options. There are various brackish water killifish for example such as Florida Flagfish and Asian Panchax. The Flagfish would actually do double duty as algae eaters. Most livebearers would fit the bill, and Guppies, Endler's, Mollies and Wrestling Halfbeaks would all work great in a planted tank. Gobies are another key group, and while some (e.g., Bumblebees) are a pain to feed, others, such as Rhinogobius and Chlamydogobius are very easily satisfied. Sleeper Gobies such as Butis butis and Dormitator lebretonis are predatory but easily satiated with frozen bloodworms and other such foods. Dwarf Cichlids such as Pelvicachromis are sometimes kept in brackish tanks, though I'd personally recommend the Orange Chromide (Etroplus maculatus) as a much better choice. Glassfish would be great, as would the brackish water blenny Omobranchus zebra. Do take a peek at my Brackish Water Aquarium FAQ at the link below, particularly the section on small fish: http://homepage.mac.com/nmonks/Projects/brackishfaq.html > I am not opposed to the denizens nibbling the plants. I also worry that a 45g corner tank is not roomy enough for any kind of cichlid. I was thinking gobies and eels may be nice, along with some fun invertebrates and possibly some smaller mollies schooling. <Mollies don't school; they fight! Every male Molly wants to monopolise his coterie of females, so unless you have just one male, you tend to get squabbling.> Second, I am unsure how to balance the filtration needs of my stock with the comfort of the plants. In my planted tanks of the past, I only kept some cleaners in the tank, and therefore only had a sand filter for some movement. Your site says a canister filter will work, but I am worried about the water movement upsetting the plants. The inherited tank came with a nice emperor filter, however, this type of filter isn't good for planted tanks, right? <Contrary to belief, plants don't object to fast-flowing water. What they don't like water flowing through the substrate, which is why undergravel filters aren't recommended. If you're using CO2 fertilisation, then vigourous circulation can drive off that CO2, reducing the rate of photosynthesis, slowing down plant growth. But if you're merely stocking plants "to look pretty", then the CO2 in the water already will be ample. Besides, the plants that do best in brackish get their carbon at least in part from carbonate and bicarbonate salts in the water, so CO2 is less important.> Third, this tank has a fitted cover with a light, a single light. My gut reaction is this is not enough for a tank period, let alone a planted tank. But I am not sure. <Depends on the plants. But Anubias, Java fern, Java moss, and hardy Cryptocoryne species like C. wendtii could do well in as little as 1 watt per gallon.> So currently this tank is totally empty, save I filled it with water to check water tightness and then cleaned it well (lime scale, yuk!) so it ready to start. My kids are getting impatient, though I have explained that it is highly unlikely we will have any fish in the tank for a couple months at the least, no matter what type of tank we (I) pick. <Indeed, though Mollies actually do quite well for maturing filters in fairly salty water. Alternatively, grab some media from another aquarium and put in the new filter. You can remove up to 50% the media in a mature filter without doing any harm to water quality. Freshwater bacteria will adapt to SG 1.003 right away, and that will be ample for low-end species.> I am planning a coarse sand substrate with a planting additive, along with peat pellets mixed in to deal with the hardness and alkaline of our water. I believe I will use scoria again for rock decoration and some driftwood (we live near a huge reservoir as well). <The peat won't have much (any) affect on the water chemistry if buried in the substrate. So I'd skip that, and go with a nutrient-rich alternative (peat contains nothing of any use to plants, contrary to myth). I get good results from mixing fine gravel with pond soil, and then topping off with gravel or silica sand as required. Cheap and effective.> The tank came with some hideous pastel epoxy coated gravel, a sunken ship and several, not found in nature, hues of plastic plant. All of this is going on a garage sale as I can never see myself using any of it. <Quite.> I am planning to do a rotting fish cycle then salt my water to a low salinity, perhaps sp 1.006, then start planting with java ferns, pygmy chain sword, and Sagittaria as these guys are pretty bullet proof in my experience and are recommended by your site for brackish systems. <I'd start at a lower salinity. Plants can sometimes adapt to high salinities once established, but few react well immediately. I'd aim for SG 1.003 for now, and then see how you go. Echinodorus and Sagittaria spp. tend to be "light hungry" and won't really thrive, if they take at all, in low light tanks.> I would appreciate any comments or suggestions you may have. The closest LFS is over an hour drive away, and I am unimpressed with their advice (The owner actually told me I was being too cautious, I can easily cycle a tank with fish in it, and then my children will not have to wait so long. I was also told SW was easier then brackish) I hope I wasn't too long winded. <Hope this helps! You might also track down a copy of my 'Brackish-Water Fishes' book published by TFH. Your library may have a copy, even if you don't feel the need to buy it. Lots of information there on this niche of fishkeeping.> Thank you so much for your time, Sarah <Good luck, Neale.>

Australian natives - Attention Neale, and his BW book 5/1/08 Hi Neale, Not a question, more of a conversation. You can tell me to stop bothering you if you want. I don't often get the chance to talk Australian freshwater natives (I use the term freshwater loosely), which are a bit of a favourite of mine. I have read some of Bruce's work, although I can't say I've read any of his stuff on Pseudomugil. Will have to try to get hold of a copy of your book. Just to make sure, its title is "Brackish-Water Fishes: An Aquarist's Guide to Identification, Care & Husbandry" right? <Indeed so; should be available at all good bookstores, or else via your library system. I have to admit to enjoying Bruce's chapter enormously, as well as Richard Mleczko's chapter on Mudskippers, another group of fish Aussies may well be able to enjoy better than anyone else.> I've done a fair bit of research on many Australian natives. Both personal and professional. I did my masters thesis on Melanotaenia splendida splendida. An often overlooked yet stunning rainbowfish if I do say so myself. Some of the regional colour morphs I've collected far outshine many of the more common rainbowfish sold in the trade. My personal favourite has to be the ones from a little stream on the way to Greenvale. Absolutely stunning. I still have some of those from my research (they'd be pushing 8 years now). <I would tend to agree with you on this species. It used to be quite commonly traded here in the UK (along with M. mccullochi) as the "Australian rainbow" but you hardly ever see these fish now. They always seemed incredibly variable, and also very hardy and reliable. Seemed to put with anything, even quite salty brackish water.> I do agree that the P. signifer colour up fantastically in brackish water, they also tend to live longer and grow bigger as well, but I've personally found they breed much better in fresh (more eggs, with a significantly increased fertilisation, hatching and survival rate). For several years I changed their water type seasonally. Three months full brackish, three months changing from brackish to fresh, three months full fresh, and three months changing from fresh to brackish. I do have to admit I've gotten rather lazy with that one of late and have had them in full fresh for at least a year now. I do tend to try to breed any that I wild collect so in some ways it's probably more practical to keep them in freshwater from the breeding point of view. I've had quite good luck breeding all the different specie of blue eye and found that even most of the euryhaline specie breed best in freshwater. That's one of the reasons I want to speak to more people about the P. cyanodorsalis. My prior experience tells me they should do well in fresh, but my gut tells me they may be more brackish then any of the others I've kept. <Bruce says P. cyanodorsalis is "more consistently found in brackish water".> I've had a few of the gudgeons as well and have had limited success with them. The Empire Gudgeon (Hypseleotris compressa) and Northern Purple Spotted Gudgeon (Mogurnda mogurnda) are my newest projects. I've had luck with the empire from the Rolling Stone area, and am working on my success with the purple spotted. I am hoping to go out west and get some from the interior in a year or so when I have their reproduction a bit more stable. I've heard the ones from some of the inland areas are beauties. <Oddly enough, Mogurnda spp. and also Peacock Gobies are quite common here, and some stores have Chlamydogobius eremius as well, another superb little goby. Gudgeons (or Sleeper Gobies as we call them) are fairly popular, thanks to their good colours and generally hardy nature. Regular gobies always seem that bit more fussy about their food.> Unfortunately a lot of the regional colour morphs are being threatened. One of the reasons why I collect and breed according to location. Up here the Gambusia is doing a real number on the blue eyes and tilapia are threatening just about everything else. It's always disappointing to me when I go to an area to collect fish and discover an introduced species when I am there. I always try to remove any introduced that I can catch, some are harder then others. Unfortunately it seems every time I go out there are more introduced fish and more different types then the year before. The number of Oscar I've been finding of late has me a bit concerned. I also caught a disturbing amount of other cichlid species which I hadn't encountered before. I always take a deep breath and enjoy any place I go that I don't encounter any introduced fish although those seem to be getting fewer and farther between. The flooding we get during the wet season is the real problem. It allows the introduced fish to get to new water that they wouldn't be able to access otherwise. <This is a problem everywhere. The UK govt. has recently gotten serious about limiting the trade in species that could become established in UK waters. Aquarists do have to deal with the fact that they, or at least their trade, has been responsible for some terrible exotic species introductions. So while I'm not wild about the idea of "white lists" of species my government says we can keep, there's an argument for making the hobby a lot more aware of their potential to do harm. I can't think of any other hobby where for small amounts of cash a person can buy wild fish from location X and feel free to release them at location Y.> Anyway, I'll stop before this turns into a novel. Cheers! Amanda <Cheers, Neale.>

My new tank and me, BW set-up    7/16/07 Thank you for taking the time to read my letter. <No problems, and thanks for writing.> I'm a new again enthusiast who has started up my first tank since I was 9 (I've done three outdoor ponds in the meantime, though). The tank is an old (thoroughly cleaned) 20 gallon tank with a new Top fin power filter 30 and an air pump (rated for a 30 gallon tank) hooked up to a bubble stone and a crushed coral substrate to maintain the PH. <OK.> Its been cycling for 4 days now (ammonia, nitrates and nitrites all look fine), while I've been studying and I'm very sad to find that my LFS lied to me, claiming that the fish I had fallen in love with and started this tank over would live peaceably in a 20 gallon tank with a few smaller top feeding residents, content to live on the bottom. <Takes more than 4 days to cycle a tank. Try 40 days. Unless you're using something like Bio Spira or Tetra SafeStart to "jump start" the process, or better yet, you've added filter medium from a mature aquarium. Bad advice for retailers is very common, sadly.> The fish I'm referring to is the Violet Goby (or Dragon Goby) which according to my research on your site and others, needs at least a 30 gallon tank and brackish water. <Yes, it's brackish water. A lovely fish. 30 gallons is a bit small though, and crushed coral wouldn't be my choice as a substrate. It lives in mud, and fine sand, or perhaps coral sand, would be the ideal substrate so it can dig and feed normally. As for size, it's a fish that routinely tops 40 cm in aquaria, and gets even bigger in the wild.> So really, the question is If I were to get some marine salt and upgrade my filter to a heavier duty model like say, a Skilter 250/400, would I be able to take care of a Violet Goby for a year until I move out to college and have room to set up a larger tank. <Possibly. Depends how big the goby in the store is. They don't grow quickly, but they do grow, so you need Plan B to be a viable option and not a pipe-dream. A sub-10 cm specimen would probably be fine in a 30 gallon tank for 12 months.> Or if not, any opinions on who should I get to live in this tank? Other types of gobies or similarly shaped fish? I'm also very fond of cichlids, koi and loaches. <My approach is always to establish the water chemistry in my location first, and then choose fish that like it. Makes life a hundred times easier when it comes to care because you can freely use big water changes to manage water quality and chemistry issues. So if your local water is hard and alkaline, think about gobies and livebearers, as these thrive in such conditions. If soft and acid, then dwarf cichlids and barbs are a better bet. Koi don't really do well in indoor aquaria, though goldfish do, and a 30 gallon tank is fine for goldfish. Goldfish enjoy hard, alkaline water conditions. One oft-overlooked option is to "collect your own" fish. Juvenile cyprinids (minnows for example) and Centrarchids (such as sunfish) can make excellent pets and the fun aspect of keeping native fish is considerable. If you live by the sea, collecting rock pool organisms is another option. Of course, when collecting your own you need to respect local fish & wildlife laws but these aren't normally a problem. If you have some ideas of behaviours you'd like to observe, that's another approach to take. Dwarf cichlids are the way to go if you fancy breeding cichlids. The shell-dwelling Tanganyikans are especially nice for this. On the other hand, if you want a funky "pet fish", then a puffer can be fun. One of the medium sized freshwater or brackish species would work well in a 30 gallon tank. Lots of options really. Nothing beats sitting down with a book like Baensch's Aquarium Atlas and just flipping through the pages and seeing what grabs you.> Thanks again in advance and I'm sorry if my question was just plain dumb. <The only dumb questions are the ones that aren't asked. Cheers, Neale>

Re: Water problem is overwhelming...(converting to brackish)    7/15/07 Hi Tom - <<Hi, Kim.>> One more question. Now that Betta is gone and so is one of the molly's I'm going to turn that ten gallon into the brackish system you were talking about before. It will hold 2 marble mollies and 1 of the regular black mollies. <<I like the move, Kim. The Mollies will, too.>> This should be about 9 inches of fish - what should I put in there to eat the debris on the bottom? Are shrimps, crabs, something else better than some kind of Cory like fish that likes salt? <<Think in 'adult' sizes, Kim. The Black Molly will stay put at about 3 inches but the Marble (Sailfin) Mollies will grow to between 5-6 inches depending on gender. Overcrowded? Yes, but this is somewhat subjective, frankly. (I'm admittedly 'hedging' because I think this is a smart move!) I believe that converting even a small system to brackish conditions for the Mollies outweighs, in this case, the 'benefits' of leaving them in a larger, pure FW environment. Besides, you might see your way clear to upgrade down the line to a larger tank that will afford the addition of other brackish species. An interesting prospect in my view. As to potential new additions for clean-up purposes, there are none that I would advise based on your stocking levels, if nothing else. Everyone loves the look of a 'pristine' tank but, all too often, we overlook the quality of the water in favor of the 'appearance' of the aquarium. Every 'critter' you add will also add to the bio-load on the tank and filter. Don't want to push our luck too far here.>> OK - I lied - 2 questions... When the tank is ready for mollies, do I just stick them in there? Will going from FW to brackish be too much of a shock all at one time? <<Slowly acclimating the Mollies to brackish conditions is the way you want to approach this, Kim. You're quite right that going from FW straight to brackish will, indeed, shock your fish. As I, hopefully, suggested previously, you'll need a hydrometer and marine salt -- same as for SW tanks -- to accomplish the transition. Better to undershoot the specific gravity levels in the beginning than to overshoot. Once the Mollies have been transferred over to the 10-gallon tank, condition a couple of gallons of water (~20% of the tank capacity) and add 1-1.5 tablespoons of marine salt. Let it stand overnight and test the SG (specific gravity). This should read about 1.005-1.008 but this will depend on the manufacturer of the salt. (Remember that there are 'buffers' in marine salt that need to go 'into solution' along with the salt itself.) You can add some warm tap water to adjust for temperature before actually making the water change. Once you've changed your water, test the tank for its new SG. It will, of course, test lower for SG in the beginning than the new, conditioned water did. (Make some notes to yourself here. Might seem unnecessary but, on the other hand'¦) Now you have a baseline, of sorts, to work from. Obviously, in order to continue to increase the SG in the tank, your newly prepared water must be higher in SG than it currently is in the tank. I would aim at trying to increase the SG by no more than .002-.003 with each successive (weekly?) change. No need to rush this. Once the tank has reached an SG of about 1.011-1.015 (not quite as critical as it would be in a SW tank), simply prepare all new water to the same levels and you're 'golden'. The fortunate thing here is that your Mollies can be acclimated to full marine conditions -- with care -- so going a little high, should it happen, won't be a big problem. The main thing is to take your time with the process. Probably could be done in as little as two-three weeks but figure on a month or so.>> Thanks Tom! Kim <<You're welcome, Kim. Best of luck with your venture. I know your Mollies will appreciate your efforts! Tom>>

Brackish Articles, Neale Monk   12/26/06 Hello Robert, Good, good. Please do run up a list and I'll see what I can do. I'm  kind of a brackish and oddballs person generally, with a side-order  of livebearers from time to time. Brackish is an odd field in some ways. It's one of the easiest  specialties to get into. Practically every store sells a few  brackish species. Soles, violet gobies, puffers. And yet it doesn't  have the profile that things like cichlids and catfish have. I'm also  surprised the marine fishkeepers don't take advantage of some of the  oddball brackish species for fish-only or reef tanks. Brackish water  halfbeaks (Zenarchopterus spp.) and soles (Brachirus spp.) would make  great additions to marine aquaria. Imagine a reef tank with a school  of halfbeaks... very cool! Also totally safe and very prototypical. Anyway, take care, Neale <We do indeed need many articles... of your caliber, scope... There  are huge... multiple-lifetime gaps... Would you like a list of  topics/subjects? I do appreciate this input, opportunity... A great  potential for making the brackish field more "real". BobF>

Bracsystems.htm  art.  1/14/07 Robert, Please find attached something that I think would fit in nicely as  the "top level" brackish page, here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/BrackishSubWebIndex/bracsystems.htm It's in RTF format, which I hope is easy enough to open and export  into whatever web design package you use. If not, let me know.  Anyway, I think this covers all of the basic issues. Cheers, Neale <Outstanding Neale... Will place and send you a check for... And am asking Scott and Adam if they'd like to place in CA as well. Do you have any pix to accompany? Cheers, BobF>

Brackish beginner - 12/11/05 Hi, I'm an slightly experienced freshwater owner. <Hello... John here this evening> After quitting the hobby for four and a half years, I'm ready for more! I was planning on making a freshwater aquarium with tetras, platies, and all the skittish fish. But I read a really neat article about Archer Fish. It appealed to me, and now I am seriously considering turning a 36x12x21" (40 gal) tank into a brackish aquarium. Is keeping a brackish fish difficult for a person like me? <I don't know you ;)... but, no, it shouldn't be.> Some other fish I'd like are monos, bumblebees, scats, and puffers. <These can't go in together... a 40g is too small for monos or scats. Most puffers are best kept alone.> If they grow too large, then I won't get them, but I'd really like Archer fish. <I would recommend a larger system for archers... 55 gallons minimum... even larger is better, due to their size and need to be kept in groups..> And one thing: I'm an 8th grader with a $10 allowance weekly, so tell me if I could afford it, too. <I suggest you look into smaller fish - a couple of figure-eight puffers or a few bumblebee gobies for this system.> Thanks ahead of time for your valuable response! <You're welcome! Best regards, John.>

Re: Dalmatian Molly - Dorsal Fin is green along the top? Brackish systems  08/08/2005 I meant Archer Fish, not Arrow fish, <I took this as such... Toxotes> I had just been reading about target fish and archer fish, subconsciously I must have picked an associated middle ground, lol. Anyway, thanks for your help. <Welcome> My ultimate goal is to grow each of these species large enough to start a species tank for each and then build the tank around each fish/species. <Have seen such systems... mainly in Public Aquariums... spectacular> I want to simulate each species natural habitat as closely as possible with native plants, other animals, etc... Do expect to hear from me again soon! Erik <I look forward to the interaction, further news of your success. Bob Fenner>

Going From Brackish To Freshwater  12/10/05 WWM crew, I have a brackish tank which my fish recently died and I want to turn it into a freshwater tank. I was just wondering if I could skip recycling the tank by simply emptying the brackish water and replacing it with freshwater. Hope this question isn't too stupid... thanks. < Brackish is a very loose term that means it is between pure freshwater and pure saltwater. Depending on the exact salinity you were keeping your fish at, after replacing the water, I would still add Bio-Spira from Marineland to cover all the bases.-Chuck>

Going from Fresh to Brackish? 4/22/05 Hi there, <Hi, Pufferpunk here> Within a few months I have a 30 gallon hex tank I wish to switch over to brackish. I have a lot of experience with SW tanks and a little with FW (just doesn't have that same kick that SW has). I live in GA on an estuary so all of the water here is pretty brackish except in extreme tides and was thinking of doing pretty much a local tank. <Does this mean you will be capturing your own stock?> Right now the tank containing a few angels and Bettas just has a power filter. Being used to SW, what would I need to get for it to turn it brackish? Are undergravels worth using in BW, since they are about pointless in SW I was wondering? What about reverse flowing UGFs? My LFS says not to bother with one but does it need a skimmer or does a skimmer even work in that low of salinity? Trying to do this pretty low cost so any help would be nice. <Although I really don't like UGFs, a friend of mine really has a lot of luck with RFUGFs.  Personally, on a tank that size, I just go with an AquaClear 300 (or whatever they're calling them now) or something comparable. A skimmer isn't necessary, especially in low SG. I use crushed coral or aragonite for substrate, to keep the pH around a steady 8.>  As for livestock the plan is a couple small Burrfish, an interesting Waspfish thing I saw at my LFS with no name, maybe some smaller scats or Monos. <Sorry, but none of those fish will be proper inhabitants for a 30g hex, except for maybe the "Waspfish", but you'd need to find out more about that fish before purchasing it. Generally, they will eat any fish they can fit into their very large mouths. Burrfish may be found occasionally "visiting" BW, but certainly should not live there long term.  Scats grow as large as your outstretched hand & Monos are schooling fish that grow to 1' & require a huge, long tank. Please don't be fooled by the size of juvenile fish! Even the Burrfish will grow to 1'. Many BW fish (including the scat & mono) prefer marine conditions as adults. I think your tank would make a nice home for a few (no more than 3) figure 8 puffers (Article from Aqua source), bumblebee gobies & a couple of knight gobies. I suggest checking with the shop you will be purchasing these fish from, to see what SG they keep them at. Most keep BW fish in FW, so your tank will be fine. Then you can raise the SG .002/weekly water change, until you have reached your desired SG. If they are kept in BW, they you will have to re-cycle your tank as that SG.> Thanks, Mike <Good luck with your new tank! ~PP>

Brackish To Marine.. The Switch Is On! Hi, <Hey there! Scott F. with you today!> I have been searching for this info and cannot find answers. Brackish tank 16 months old, all stock are fat and sassy! <Cool! Brackish tanks are neat!> Tank ½ round cylinder, 70 gallon Eheim, power head, need skimmer.. and better lights Stock, 3 Monos, 3 Scats, 2 Mollies, 1 Puffer (Figure 8), 3 Rams, 1 Krib, 2 Knight Gobies and 5 Weather Loaches. <Nice.> I have been moving the salinity up gradually, the fish such as the Rams, Weather Loaches and Krib will not go full marine so I will trade them. <Sounds logical!> Here is the question. As I move this to a full marine system I would like to have a reef/marine setup.. At what salinity will live rock grow? <Well, the rock will not "grow", but the fauna on the rock will. You'd need to get the specific gravity in the range of 1.019-1.026> Can these fish share space within a reef? <The Scats and Monos do get pretty large; you may have to trim down the population as they grow.> If so what do I need to watch out for/ avoid? <In a tank of this size, you need to monitor water chemistry parameters carefully, especially with messy, aggressive feeders like Scats and Monos. Also, do observe the behaviors of the fish carefully to make sure that everyone gets along okay.> I would like to add, inverts, corals and a few more marine fish later and really can not find much written on this subject. <Well, I have not seen all that much written about converting brackish systems to marine/reef tanks. However, once your tank is "marine", all of the standard husbandry and stocking rules apply...nothing new there. The WWM site is, of course, chock full of information on maintaining a marine system.> Can you folks help or direct me to a reference? Thank you in advance. Ellen O'Meara <You'd do well to start right here, Ellen! Also, refer to good basic primers on the marine hobby, like Mike Paletta's "The New Marine Aquarium", and Bob's "Conscientious Marine Aquarist". These texts will serve as a basic introduction to the marine aquarium. Enjoy the journey! Regards, Scott F.> 

Starting a Brackish Aquarium 2/18/04 Dear Bob, <Hi, Pufferpunk here> I have recently been interested in getting a brackish water aquarium. I have been searching Google for any websites that could help me in deciding whether this would be a feasible task for me. I am 18 and a freshman in college (I still live at home) and have wanted to be a marine biologist since at least the second grade. I have never had a salt water or brackish aquarium. Saltwater, I feel would be too expensive since I am in college (hopefully on my way to getting a bachelor's and higher for marine biology, but I live in Wisconsin so it may be a difficult task, haha) The point of all this rambling, I have just read your articles on brackish aquarium maintenance, set-up, and components of brackish aquariums and found all three articles VERY helpful in helping me learn more about the increasingly attractive seeming hobby. Thanks for all of the useful information you have provided! I hope to go price out some stuff at a somewhat local fish store! <Here is another good article on starting a BW aquarium: http://badmanstropicalfish.com/brackish/brackish.html  The expense of a BW aquarium may turn out to be more than you are prepared for.  Although you don't need a protein skimmer, the cost of salt for weekly water changes, can get expensive.  Many BW fish grow quite large.  You didn't mention how large a tank you have to work with, or what species of fish you are interested in.  There is also the problem that most BW fish are sold in FW at aquarium stores, so you have to acclimate them with a drip system to your BW tank, when purchased.  If your LFS does keep their  BW fish in FW, you could cycle a FW tank (or buy Bio-Spira) & fully stock the tank & then slowly turn the FW tank BW (by raising the SG .002/weekly water change).  You also need to consider the fact that you probably will not be going to graduate school in WI.  Who will be taking care of your fish while you're gone (water changes, testing SG, feeding, etc)?  It is your responsibility, when you take on any pet, to care for it (or make sure it is well cared for) it's entire life.   Thankfully yours, Mandy <Good luck.  ~PP>

Brackish Questions 1/22/04 Bob: <Hi, Pufferpunk here> I recently got a 36 gallon brackish bow tank. I started with 4 puffers, and 4 silver tipped Catsharks and a flounder. <I hope you cycled that tank 1st! That sounds like a lot of fish to start out a tank with. Those catfish will grow to 18" & need a huge tank & prefer marine conditions as adults. > The Catsharks have flourished but the puffers went down one by one over the course of like four weeks. Terrible. <Get your water tested for ammonia, nitrItes, nitrAtes & pH. I'll bet anything they are at toxic levels.> I was wondering if you had any say on puffer care cause they were probably my favorite, especially one guy named Bilbo, he just had one of those "Something about Bilbo" personalities. I think it was his smile. <Puffers are definitely endearing fish with very cut expressive faces! You didn't mention what kind of puffers you had. It would help me to know that. There is as lot of great info here in the BW section of this forum.> Anyways, I am going to put off on puffers for a while but did get an African cichlid, one of those nice blue/purple with the long bottom fins and sharp dorsal. Gorgeous, I think there the kind that get fairly large and grow bumps on there heads? <Sounds like a frontosa cichlid. Is not a BW fish.> As for the flounder he's grown very dark, as he was initially the same color as the crushed coral on the bottom, and he spends a lot of time floating on the top before darting down again seemingly happy. ?? <Sounds perfectly normal. Watch out for the flounder, they are aggressive nippers!> Finally can you recommend how often and HOW to change the brackish water? I've had the tank five weeks and have changed the water once, almost completely drained it with a siphon and several buckets. I mixed 1/4 a cup of sea salt for every two gallons. <I do 50% weekly water changes on all my tanks. You need marine salt & a hydrometer. Look in this forum for ideas on mixing salt & doing water changes: www.thepufferforum.com >  The fish seem ecstatic, and all look healthy. I got a few more little typical yellow African cichlids. <Again, not BW fish.> I'd appreciate any help or advise.  Best, Ralph Merletto <Stick with only BW species for your tank or better yet, keep the cichlids & return the catfish, unless you are planning on upgrading to a huge SW tank for them, purchasing many buckets of salt & premixing them in another container, for weekly water changes. ~PP.> 

Companions for a Brackish Tank. 1/22/05 <Hi, Pufferpunk again> There is marine salt in my tank. He is eating ok. I think I may have found the problem. I took out a fake plant in my tank. It appeared that it had algae on it and I wanted to clean it off. Come to find out it had metal to keep the plant stiff. The metal was rusting and may have been contaminating the water. I read in a book I have that it is not good to have any metal in a tank. So I removed it and did a water change.  <I kinda doubt that a plant made for use in aquariums is your problem. copper is the metal that is bad for your tank.> It seems as if they are all acting and interacting a lot better.  <Good to hear.> As far as the round black spot, I think you were right because the spot is disappearing. <Yup> I am not sure on how to use a hydrometer. The LFS said it wasn't that important, but apparently it is.  <I can't imagine you could measure salt content in your tank without a hydrometer. I'd stop listening to that shop or any other, for that matter. www.thepufferforum.com is very good for info on puffers, salt & BW fish. There is a good BW section at WWM also.> I will be getting one. Any tips on using one or what type?  <The fill-up type is best. Instant Ocean makes a good one. SeaTest is another. Make sure it starts at 1.000. That is the one to use for BW.> Also, what is a good bottom feeder that could clean up any leftover food? Catfish, Pleco?  <Neither of those fish will live in BW. Sorry, but there are no BW scavengers--you'll have to do your own maid service. Buy a Python, it will make your water changes & gravel cleaning a lot easier.> And are Scat's a suitable companion for my tank?  <In a tank the size of yours, there are a lot of BW fish you could keep. Look over the BW species list at WWM. Archerfish, scats, Targetfish, stonefish, Datnoides, etc, would fit in your tank (maybe not all at once). Was your tank cycled before adding the puffers? If not, I'd wait a month or so, before adding any more fish. Most larger BW fish are high waste producers & prefer marine conditions as adults. To keep your puffers happy, lots of decor to investigate is necessary.>  Thank you for all the help!!! <Good luck with your tank. It should be a great enjoyment to you, if done right! ~PP>

Switching marines in brackish Glad it was interesting. Yes, some of this stuff is in the book, not to mention already being in the FAQ. There are yet other fish I didn't include because I don't know enough about them, but there are stories in older marine fishkeeping books that are very surprising. <Yes> One that stands out is a report about a school of Sweetlips living in an outdoor (artificial) pool at some marine lab, where the water was sufficiently fresh that freshwater plants were growing there! <Interesting> Again, have a look at this: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/BrackishSubWebIndex/bracsetupfaqs.htm Towards the end there an entry entitled "fresh to brackish/salt changeover" where someone reports having an aquarium including bunch of brackish stuff in an aquarium SG 1.016, alongside some marines (e.g. a blue trigger) and even one African cichlid (presumably meaning a Rift Lake species but it isn't stated). I wouldn't recommend keeping the set-up this person has, I just don't know enough about the species she names to know if they will do well over the long term. Cheers, Neale <Thank you for your input. Bob Fenner>

Converting a FW tank to BW 4/26/04  <Hi, Pufferpunk here>  I have a planted freshwater setup in what I think is a 75g long. I recently researched and then bought 2 GSP's.  <Planted FW huh? Not the right kind of research I'm guessing? Did you read my article on GSPs? http://www.wetwebmedia.com/BrackishSubWebIndex/gspsart.htm  Everything you'll ever need to know about them is in there!>  I love them already (after only 2 weeks).  <How could you help but to love them?!>  The puffies are doing great and eating anything that will fit in there mouth now. They stopped eating my other fishes fins (poor Betta) and now look fat after they eat.  <No surprise to me that they would chomp on a poor Betta's fins.>  I would like to convert the tank to brackish water like ya'll suggest to so many others.  <Good!>  I just have a few things questions. How long should it take to convert from .002 to 1.009?  <Your answer is in that article.>  From what I understand, my fish should convert well, but will they survive just as long in brackish? I have a red and 2 white mollies, 2 red flame honey gouramis, a Plecostomus, 2 red velvet sword tails and the 2 puffies.  <The only fish in that group that will appreciate the salt are the mollies. (The other livebearers won't mind a little salt, but not the amount the GSPs are going to need). The rest of your fish will not appreciate any salt at all.>  From the info I've been reading, I figure at least 3 of my 5 plants will survive. There are 2 I am skeptical about, Ludwigia repens and Dracaena sanderiana.  <Sorry, but there are no FW plants that will survive BW. They will melt, rot & foul your water. You need to decide if you want a FW planted tank w/FW fish, or a BW tank. There is no way to combine the 2. Eventually your puffers will need high-end BW-SW.>  Any info on these topics will be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much for this site I have learned so much. My puffies thank you for giving me the info to give them the best home possible.  Sabrina  <Just read the article & make a decision. I'd choose the puffers (of course)! ~PP>

Brackish to saltwater? (03/08/04) Thanks for the fast reply, I did have one more question I meant to ask, I find with the planning of a marine setup I am always having more questions with every answer I get. <Me, too. Ananda here to help out with the brackish questions...> I presently have a 20 gallon Brackish tank with some Mono's and 1 Scat, I have read these fish prefer Marine over Brackish, <As adults, yes.> if this is true then I have a mix of 1 Tbls per salt Per Gallon, how can I convert this tank to marine and the fish with it. <Depending on the size/age of the fish, probably fairly slowly. When you do water changes, add water with a higher specific gravity to the tank.> Will the 20 Gallon work well for a refugium which I can drain Back to my sump. <Possibly. Do read up on refugiums here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/refugium.htm > Thanks Again Drew Forbister <You're quite welcome. --Ananda>

What temperature do Brackish water fish have to be in? <it totally depends on the type of fish and the area which they are collected from.  Brackish environments are found all around the world.  Brackish environments happen, where ever saltwater mixes with freshwater. It can be a brackish environment in the tropics, or way up in the coldwater areas. Do a search online of the fish you have in mind and see what it's requirements are, then adjust your tank accordingly. -Magnus>

Batfishes, more importantly, Brackish organisms and their husbandry Ananda Stevens told me about you and Wet Web Media; it's quite a project -- I'm very impressed. I'm guessing she told you about the book we're working on. <Not specifically, though Amanda has hinted, and I have encouraged her to work on such a title> That's kind of a mission for me, to get a decent brackish book out there. It's going pretty well but obviously writing styles vary a lot, not to mention expertise. It'll be like herding cats. <Perhaps... but do agree on the timeliness of the title. Make it known if I or WWM can be of assistance. Perhaps image work, editing/looking over, maybe even help in publishing, sales, distribution> The marine fish that can be kept in brackish are a secret in this hobby, but they do take a bit more care than the average brackish fish. <Actually... IMO/E most brackish systems are more difficult (or at least historically fraught with danger/failure) than marine. Bob Fenner> Cheers, Neale

Brackish books, matters, continued > <Actually... IMO/E most brackish systems are more difficult (or at > least historically fraught with danger/failure) than marine. Bob > Fenner> Yes, as systems perhaps, but I think that's more because people come to brackish water aquaria without the understanding that they are much more sensitive to low O2 concentrations and elevated nitrogenous waste concentrations that generic freshwater fish tend to be. <Agreed> Marine people expect lower stocking levels. Most brackish water fish can't breathe air like many freshwater fish, or aren't tolerant of low O2 concentrations as the rest are. That's where the failures come from, I think (assuming they get the salt / pH / hardness right). Cheers, NM <Very useful insights. Bob Fenner>

New Brackish water tank I will be setting up a new tank up in about 2 weeks. <Are you fishless cycling your tank?  Here's some great info on setting up a new tank: http://www.tomgriffin.com/aquasource/newtanksyndrome.shtml  Please read all the recommended links in there too.  (I apologize if you are already experienced in this matter.)> My plan was to set up a freshwater tank (not brackish). I wanted to get figure eight puffers, spotted puffers, and Bala sharks. I have been on my computer for hours every night doing all my research to make sure I know all I need to know about my puffers but I am going in circles. Every site tells me the opposite of the other. <It is a great thing to do research, but info on the net can be very confusing & misleading & just plain wrong> I want my tank to be freshwater but can they be without the salt??? and can the sharks handle salt if I need to have it in there?? <Bala sharks are freshwater fish.  They also are schooling fish that grow quite large.> I just don't want to get the puffers and then them die on me....I would feel horrible....The pet store in my home town said to put them in freshwater and not brackish. <Figure 8 puffers (Tetraodon biocellatus) & Green Spotted Puffers (t. nigroviridis) are both brackish water fish.  F8s prefer light BW (a specific gravity of 1.005-10) & GSPs prefer high-end BW-SW (1.015-22).  All the difference between FW & BW is some marine salt & a hydrometer.  As your LFS is obviously keeping them in FW, you can add the salt slowly, raising the SG .002/weekly water change, until the desired SG is reached.> (I am oh so confused.........I will take any suggestions I can get. <Here's a whole lot of info to keep you busy for a while: http://www.aaquaria.com/aquasource/intropuffer.shtml http://www.aaquaria.com/aquasource/8puffer.shtml http://www.geocities.com/CapeCanaveral/4742/puffer.html F8 puffers grow to 2 1/2-3" & will need at least 10g/puffer as an adult.  They are best kept singly, or 3 or more.  GSPs grow to 6" & need at least 20g/puffer as an adult.  Because puffers are aggressive fish, I do not recommend putting these 2 species together.>   Thanks a bunch......Angela <You're very welcome.  I'm happy to answer all your puffer questions!  Pufferpunk>     

High dKH & dKH: effectively brackish? Hello there from Chicagoland, <And hello back from Chicagoland! Ananda here tonight, out in the burbs...> I have a 30l freshwater tank containing a knight goby, an emerald Cory, and a Kuhli loach. My water is as follows. Ammonia: 0 Nitrite: 0 Nitrate: very near 0 pH: 8.2 dGH: 26 deg. dKH: 12 deg. <Just for comparison, in the western burbs, I'm at pH 7.8, dGH 8, dKH 12. You're going to want to check your phosphates, too. Mine are 0.8 out of the tap according to the SeaTest kit.> I know it depends on what kind of fish you keep, but isn't this pH level generally a bit high? <Your goby will be fine in that. I have two knight gobies right now, both female, and I've had a pair that bred in these conditions. If you got the other fish locally, they should be fine, too.> What about the hardness, it seems like I'm keeping a  brackish tank. <Close to it! That's why your knight goby is doing well. In acidic, soft water, these fish die. In hard, alkaline water, they do okay, even without salt.> My fish seem healthy, but I'm looking to get the tank as comfy as possible for them. Also, is it possible to keep figure 8, or spotted puffers in freshwater? My LFS who sells them says it's fine, but they are a brackish fish.. right? <Yup. Figure 8 puffers prefer lowish brackish levels, while spotted puffs prefer somewhat higher brackish levels. I'm concerned that Kuhli loach would look too much like lunch to a worm-loving puffer!> I really don't want to go brackish because of the limited selection of fish compatible. <That's actually the main reason I went brackish... I was so totally confused by the selection of fish! The "limited palette" of brackish fish isn't as small as you might think. It includes most rainbowfish and livebearers, for example.> I really love puffers, and I know they wouldn't get along with my current community, but I'm looking down the road a bit. Any help would be excellent. <Check out the WetWebMedia chat forums: http://wetwebfotos.com/talk. We've got more Chicago-area fish keepers and a thread or two about local fish stores on the boards.> Thanks for a great site. You make no money from us, yet you give us the absolute best advice. Our LFS makes tons of cash from its' customers, but will tell you anything to make the sale... Thank God for you guys.  Dave A. <Thanks so much for the kind words! They are very much appreciated. --Ananda>

A Brackish Book? Bob, <Ana> The information on brackish systems I browsed is great and more complete than I could find in many other places.  I am interested in setting up a system and wonder if all of the different pages and articles in the site are somehow connected into a readable "book".  That would save me from printing each section and piecing it together. <Mmm, no, as in not yet. A few of us have "chatted over" the possibility of such a "title" on brackish systems, husbandry, and I'm bcc'ing our Ananda (similar spelling!) who I think is involved quite deeply in such a work. In any case she is our designated expert in the field here... and she'll likely encourage you to join in with our BB (WetWebForum) for more as well> I have both freshwater and marine systems now.  The freshwater is fish only system and the marine is a full reef system.  The brackish type I would pursue is something that looks more swampy.  Suggestions? <Perhaps to accumulate materials (text, graphics)... and "write a book"! Bob Fenner> Thanks, Ana

Pictures/Brackish Hi, I've got some pictures of my two (ex) tanks one is a mangrove aquarium and the other one is a freshwater system with a Suvatii. Maybe you can use them, <Thank you for sharing Rolf. May we have your last name to post with your images for credit? And do you know the scientific name of the smaller puffer? Thank you again, will be posting on our Brackish Water subweb. Bob Fenner> Bye, Rolf Amsterdam, Holland

Re: Pictures Hi, My name is Rolf Bandsma. The smaller puffer (green with orange) is the Takifugu ocellatus, it was 16 cm long. I had two of them. <Ahh, thank you> The tank was 180x60x60 cm. I started it with brackish water (the puffers were then 4 cm). When the fishes grew larger I slowly added more saltwater until it was seawater. This took about two years. The tankmates were 4 Scatophagus argus and 2 Monodactylus Sebae. The Tetraodon suvatii lived alone in a small freshwater tank, 80x35x35 cm. Well in the beginning he had some company but he ate them all.... <Ha! I understand> I'm now starting a new aquarium 200x80x70 cm to keep a porcupine puffer (my favourite!) I will send you a picture of the tank, it's still empty, the "reef ceramic" (from Germany) is now in place. And I've got a reef tank 100x60x60, see picture. Rolf Bandsma <Very nice. Bob Fenner>

Question on setup of Brackish tank (04/30/03) <Hi! Ananda the brackish nut here tonight...> I am in the process of setup a 38 gal brackish tank and was wondering what is the right amount of sea salt to add to the tank. <That depends on the type of fish you want to keep. Do check out the various brackish articles and FAQs, starting here: http://wetwebmedia.com/BrackishSubWebIndex/BrackishSubWebIndex.htm ...Once you get a better idea of which species you want, email or post on the WetWebMedia chat forums at http://wetwebfotos.com/talk -- we have an active brackish board! --Ananda>

Brackish water system You guys have been such great help in the past i figured i would take advantage and grab a little more much needed info if you don't mind. <Only if you promise that you have already read the following article. http://wetwebmedia.com/BrackishSubWebIndex/bracsyscomps.htm > My roommate and I are both Marine Biology majors at a college in Boston and are now starting a new venture in our aquarium history. My roommate and I recently had a 3 day power failure in our 10 year old reef tank, bringing temperatures below 40 degrees for almost 24 hours, which resulted in the death of all corals/fish. <Youch, sorry to hear that.> (except for our cucumber haha who knows how he survived it). We are now in the process of resetting up the tank into a brackish water system of mangroves and the works. We have the tank set up currently with about 40 gallons of water and used our 100 pounds of now "Dead" rock to make a shore-line appearance in the tank, using our cleaned "dead" sand plus a combined aragonite/silica mix as substrate. Is this appropriate to root mangrove plants or do adjustments need to be made? <Silica sand is not usually recommended, crushed coral, aragonite materials, natural gravels, would be better for their alkalinity.  As for the mangroves, you will want a minimum of a 6in sand bed.> We are using the same lighting from our reef, two suspended 175 metal halides and fixtures. The tank top remains open. Specific gravity is at 1.010. Believe it or not we are using our Berlin turbo hang-on skimmer pumping water almost 10 inches from the waterline of the tank and to our surprise is functioning perfectly. A few questions we had: Are there any species of macro-algae that can be suitable for the salinity we  will be keeping the tank at? <I am not aware of any macros, plenty of micros though.> Do any soft corals put up with the low salinity? <nope> More often than not pet stores place fish from the Scatophagus, Toxotes, and Monodactylus genus in freshwater, over how long of a time period and how gradually should we convert them back to the conditions of a brackish system? <slow and steady, see here http://www.wetwebmedia.com/BrackishSubWebIndex/bracsysmaint.htm > As i said before we are new to brackish and i am sure we are not entirely doing everything correctly, any help would be greatly appreciated, Matt <Best of luck, lets hope for no more power failures. -Gage>

Brackish Tank I have recently started a brackish tank (I had one a few years ago).  At present, I have one archer, two small green puffers, one scat, one knight goby...in a 29 gallon tank.  I would like more info. on feeding preferences, correct amount of salt for a tank this size, which fish are more comfortable in pairs, and how many more can I add. <Well, the answers to these and almost every other question on brackish water systems that you can imagine can be found right on the wetwebmedia.com site! Start with this link: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/BrackishSubWebIndex/bracsystems.htm   > I also plan to add water sprite when available.  I keep hearing about other types of puffers other than the usual ( green, figure 8, ) available in local pet stores...Where could I find others who might be compatible with what I have? <There are a lot of sites on the internet which specialize in brackish fish and aquariums. Do a search on one of the larger search engines for sites. Enjoy! Regards, Scott F>

Brackish Stocking Dear Bob, Thank you for such a quick response. We would like happy, healthy fish (just like our freshwater tank) so we appreciate the general guidelines you gave us. Irene <You're welcome... have you looked through the "Brackish Subweb" of our site: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/BrackishSubWebIndex/BrackishSubWebIndex.htm We have a few pertinent articles, FAQs that you might read through. Bob Fenner>

Very curious about gaining truthful knowledge on brackish water tanks Dear Bob: <Hi there> I am only about two and a half months into the 20 gallon aquarium I have sitting on my dresser. It is my first and I have become very enthusiastic about learning more information about aquariums themselves. <Good, a useful approach> In my current situation I have 1 green spotted puffer, 1 blue ram, 1 yellow cichlid, and 1 archer fish. Their all comparable in size, the cichlid and ram are about 1 inch and the puffer and archer about 2. I know that is kind of a funky mix but I added them in a weird order without knowing what I was doing. The current conditions are as follows, temp 78, pH 7.5, the specific gravity is 1.006 and there is low ammonia and nitrate to my knowledge. From what I can tell, everyone seems to be getting along, but my puffer has slightly faded on the black spots on his back. His white belly has some gray stuff and same thing on the sides of his mouth. What's up with that? <"Stress" coloring. Do take a search, read-through "gray/grey puffer" coloration discussions posted on our Chatforum: http://wetwebfotos.com/talk/> I imagine he's not real happy about something? <I believe you are correct> There are plenty of caves and hiding places too. I have been feeding it frozen bloodworms and have only had it for a couple of weeks or so. What is the deal?  <May be the solitary diet is not to its liking. Perhaps just having been there for only two weeks... Do read through our website: www.WetWebMedia.com re "freshwater to brackish puffers", particularly the archived FAQs files... there is a search tool on the homepage and indices...> This is my roommates internet account so I would really appreciate it if you could respond to me at . Anything you could tell me would be greatly appreciated, I could definitely use it. Thanks for your time. <Be chatting, Bob Fenner>

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