Beto EE

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Overstocked Aquarium

There are websites with calculations about how many fish you can host in an aquarium, how much water changes you should make, etc. I have a 60 gallon tank with 15 African cichlids(few haps, most peacocks). They are some full adults, and other big juveniles. This tank gets 50% water changes every week. But I feel at this point it should get two water changes during the week instead of one. The water quality looks not as pristine or sparkle clean(but it’s not too bad neither) as another tank where I keep south american cichlids, cyprinids and tetras all together.

Haps need more space now. So a 150 gallon tank is what I aim at by the end of the year

I know people who keep fish extremely overstocked in a fish tank and never do water changes in weeks. I don’t know how the fish are able to survive, but I’m sure if those fish would talk for sure will say “I hate you.”

When I started with fish tanks almost two years ago I had lots of questions about how many fish was going to be enough in an aquarium? (a general rule of thumb is an inch of fish per one gallon of water). What filters to use? Are those filters able to sustain enough bacteria to keep the fish alive?, etc.

Overtime a lot of myths were that “myths”. But overstocking common tropical fish(tetras, barbs, etc) is not the same as overstocking cichlids. You have to real life live it to make your own opinion. That comes after you experience a lot of fish in your mileage.

Mollies and Cichlids

Mollies are strong little creatures. Once I read that mollies had been found several miles offshore. At the time of writing this I have a female dalmatian molly who was born here a little more than a year ago. She is now an adult. Some months ago I had here in a 36 gallon bow front aquarium with keyhole cichlids. And belive it or not she bullied one keyhole. I couldn’t belive it. Then I moved her with four gold barbs, one Odessa barb and a red tail shark to a 40 gallon breeder tank. The Odessa barb chased her all the time.

Now she is in an overstock 55 gallon tank with an almost two year gold severum, two grown-ups silver dollars, two electric blue acaras, a red tail shark, a small geophagus surinamensis, one siamese algae eater, four gold barbs, and one Odessa barb, and they are doing great.

Ph, plants and fish

What’s the right ph for your fish tank should be? is a question many people ask. Today almost all fish you buy in an fish store is farm raised, and they grew up in common tap water(chlorine, chloramine, and toxic metals removed of course). I once bought kuhli loaches and they died fast. I don’t know if it was because of the rock substrate instead of sand, or the water hardness. I spoke with a woman who sells kuhli loaches and said they die too in their store. So maybe they are used to more acidic water.

South American cichlids had not encountered any incident in my fish tanks, and they live in tap water with ph 7.4, 7kh carbonated hardness, and 11gh general hardness. Those fish tanks have lots of driftwood.

The only valid reasons I find to lower the ph in a tank is because you want to have extremely sensitive fish who only survive with lower ph in water, or because you want to breed fish who only does it when water is more acidic(like tetras, rasboras, barbs, South American cichlids, etc). And third, because you want live plants to behave superb. 

The only problem I find in maintaining a fish tank under these conditions is if the tank is too big. Because higher water volumes with lower acidity means more reverse osmosis gallons. If you have a high production RO filter installed in your house will be wonderful, but you’ll have to pay for that installation and modifications in your pipe system . This way you can exponentially filter RO water in higher numbers per day,  and fast(and still you’ll pay for minerals like seachem equilibrium  to increase water hardness every time you do water changes which will cost money every time). But for most of us, that is not an ideal solution. So we simple use a common reverse osmosis filter. 

In my case a 30, or 40 gallon tank will be enough. Then I use equilibrium from seachem to balance minerals to the new water added. That way I only change 10 gallons of water at most every 10 days. 

The advantage of having lower general hardness and carbonated hardness in an aquarium with plants is that plants absorb some nutrients in softer water that is imposible to absorb in harder water , there are some minerals and trace elements that cannot be absorbed in harder water, and any fertilizer you add to the aquarium will be not absorbed in totality  giving plants a hard time in certain conditions. Especially picky aquarium plants will not behave well, and even die. 

I just did a reading of my planted 30 gallon tank, and it gave me a ph of 7.4, carbonated hardness of 7 Kh, and general hardness of 11 Gh. It’s in a middle ground right now , but I have room to make the water softer, and I will. I’ll be adding reverse osmosis water to lower both water hardness, and decrease ph.

Harder water may lower ph if you add driftwood, liquid carbon, and moss(and only by a minimal fraction of a point in my experience) . But won’t decrease hardness in water, so any buffer will rebound. The only way to keep lower ph without buffering is to decrease carbonated hardness. 

Algae and plecostomus  in the aquaria

Algae is something you will find in any aquaria at some point. It can even be healthy after a tank is fully cycled. It start to be a nuisance when it appears constantly and often for two reasons. The first because of higher phosphate concentration in the water. And the second because of too much light. 

The problem I encounter the most is because of some phosphate and maybe a little extra light. But is manageable with water changes and glass cleaning in the aquaria(every four days in heavy stocked fish tanks, and every ten days in fully stocked aquaria.)

But one thing that takes a lot of time in cleaning the aquarium (primary if you have several fish tanks) is algae in rocks, decorations, and driftwood.

I have seven aquaria, and cleaning them top to bottom all take up to an hour and a half(using a hose siphon and an internal water pump). If I had to clean algae in rocks  decorations, and driftwood, it will increase the time thirty minutes up or more. So obviously I opt for no plastic decorations, white or clear color rocks, or driftwood in the fish tanks.

All of this is truth in all but one exception. And that is unless a have a PLECOSTOMUS fish. I have one in a tank, but is not the common plecostomus, but a bristle nose.

Everywhere there is a pleco, no white honeycomb rock get slime algae around it. And driftwood does not develop hair algae neither. You may find some algae in the glass still.

There is a downside tough. That is plecostomus poop a lot, and you can see all the detritus in the substrate surface (usually if you have light sand color. Gravel is not a problem)

I have otocinclus cat fish in thirty gallon planted aquarium, but they are good at cleaning algae from plants surface, and not for decorations, rocks, etc

The planted aquarium

Over six months ago I decided to try live plants in the fish tanks. Initially I had no idea there was special substrate for a planted aquarium, and my first choice was to try small size gravel.

In the beginning when you explore information thru the internet, there are many websites explaining about easy plants for novice planted aquarium keepers. In my case and initially with a gravel substrate, the amazon sword plant did always good especially when fertilizer tablets were used, but never to the point of exploiting in growth. Staurogyne Repens is a carpet plant that did ok, it never colonized a big area and few of them died, obviously because gravel was not the best substrate for it.(still I got some little plants that did not die). I tried hairgrass and for a while it managed to survive, but didn’t do it. Glossostigma Elatinoides was more delicate and it died fast.

Liquid carbon, substrate tablets, and liquid fertilizer was used as well as T5 lights, and the plants were just dying or barely surviving. I increased the light time to the point where the 29 gallon aquarium had a critic algae bloom(some fish even died) and at that point it was clear something was wrong. The conclusion in my mind was to try a good, and rich nutrient soil

First I placed the three planted aquariums inside a room where they can get natural light from the windows.(not direct sunlight tough, but at least the light spectrum gets in) Secondly I run with a timer T-8 aquarium lights for 7 hours. You can increase or decrease the time if you want to, or use more powerful lights like LED or T-5 , but always watch for algae, because that is a sign of too much light. Depending on your natural light conditions you can go from 0.5 watts per gallon of water to 1 watt per gallon in your lighting system.

“Most important thing is the soil”. That is the phrase I heard in many youtube videos referring to a planted tank. My choice was to get flourite from seachem. So to use the less amount I planted some plants in glass containers, adding a fertilizer tablet in the substrate with each of them. I use liquid carbon every day too, and weekly doses of liquid fertilizers when a water change is done.

Well patience is a virtue says the adage. Now I’m waiting, but everything seems to be doing just fine.

On a final note. If you spend money taking care and time in a planted aquarium is because you worry about your plants, so don’t add just any type of fish(especially barbs, big tetras, and most cichlids). If you like those fish you can have them in tanks with no plants. Some fish are soil diggers, and the substrate for plants is clay base in many cases, so any big violent disturbance will make your water cloudy and messy for up to 2 or 3 days. Some other plant soils like eco complete from caribsea are made of volcanic rock, but that soil is very light in weight, and any soil digger fish like many cichlids will unroot easily your plants, at worst make of your plants a delicious salad.

Some websites tell you barbs are ok, they are not, they eat your plants, I’ve seen it.(ask my gold barbs)

My personal choices for a planted aquarium are espei rasboras, ember tetra, cardinal tetra, rummy nose tetra, black neon tetra, glowlight tetra, pristella tetra, and black phantom tetra and white cloud minows. Seems like the tetra family shines in this spot.

You can even try a planted nano tank as I’m doing too. In a 5 gallon I got six dwarf strawberry rasboras(they look like chili rasboras tough), and when the cherry and black carbon shrimps multiply I will add some of them there too.


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