mono aggression help!
I've bought 2 argenteus monos about 3 weeks ago. They're about 1.5 inches in length (~3cm) and 2.5 in height (~6cm). They're a dazzling silver with bright orange and yellow fins (as any owner could attest to).
For the past 3 weeks they have been great buddies; swimming together here and there and in perfect harmony with the rest of my tank (and each other, obviously). One wouldn't eat the food I was feeding until yesterday - it actually likes the algae wafers and now, finally, blood worms. The other one has been eating like a hog since day 1 (and now relatively larger than the other).
Tonight, the aggression began. The smaller of the two is now a dull, matted gray and whose fins are close to the body (not proudly exserted like normally) and looks like they're beginning to shred a little. He cowers in the corners behind the filter on one side and then the heater on the other. Any time he comes out, the other is right there to start picking on him and chasing him back to his corner.
What happened and what can I do? Why the sudden change in relationship? My fish store that I purchased them at says I have to buy another one because they are more peaceful in larger schools. I think they're just trying to sell another fish (at $15 too!). Moreover, I've read all up and down these forums and it doesn't appear to suggest that increasing the shoal decreases the aggression, mostly the consensus is it just divides the groups into aggressive "bullies" and then the weak crowd. Mostly people are saying that they increase the structures in the tank and allow more places to hide.
Is it okay to let this continue? Do I ride it out and let them "work out their differences"? Do I separate them? Will one end up killing the other? Would adding some stress coat help ease the tension/nervousness in the smaller fish?
Help to any of the above questions is GREATLY appreciated. I'm a new tank owner (about 5 months).
Re: mono aggression help!
How big is the tank?
What other fish are in it? How many of each?
What is the spg/salinity of the water?
Can you post a picture so we can see how it is decorated?
What are your water params for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and pH?
Monos by nature are aggressive fish, and they get quite large, and they are also territorial. Being crowded, not enough territory/decorations, 2 mature males together (not likely in this case to be mature), and many other things can cause the problems you are describing. The more information you can give us the faster and better we are able to help. Hang in there and lets see if we can get this sorted out for you. In the mean time, rearrange all of the decorations in the tank, this will keep them both busy in finding new territory and no time to pick on each other.
Quick Reply! Great!
Ok, here's more information:
Tank size: 29 gal
Other fish: 6 Zebra Danios, 4 GlowLight Tetras, 3 Gold Barbs, 3 Clown Loaches, 1 Pleco
(it sounds like a lot but all fish, sans the monos and pleco, are only an inch or so in size)
Salinity value, well, as far as a ppm measurement, I don't know.
I know that I add a teaspoon per 5 gal every time I do a water change (which is 5 gal, every 2 weeks) -- I'm scheduled to do one this weekend.
Temp is kept approx. 78
The fish store tells me that my nitrates and nitrites are "perfect". I do not have a kit for testing these. They tell me that the ammonia is slightly above where it should be but still within appropriate levels. I test the pH regularly and it doesn't fluctuate and maintains a steady 7.4-7.5.
Attached is the tank prior to when I stocked it with fish. Not much is different other than the rocks are slightly moved around (I've built a tiny hut with some of them that the loaches and pleco like to hide out in). Other than that, the plants, the actual number of rocks, nothing's new.
I thank you for your help; and I'll have a little laugh to myself befuddling the fish with a new arrangement.
Monos are a very large fish that grow quite rapidly, and are also quite aggressive. Go into your kitchen and get a dinner plate.... thats about how big those 2 fish will each get. As they grow they need more and more salt added to their water until it has reached full saltwater conditions. If they stay in freshwater for too long, they will die. For this reason they are usually started out as brackish water fish when they are small, and that salinity should gradually increase over time as they grow.
Now, the rest of your fish can't handle the salt. 1 tsp per 5 gallons won't even show a reading... which means you're basically wasting salt. Not enough for the monos, and any more will harm the other fish. Clown loaches are very sensitive to any salt content in the water, so I would suggest stopping all salt for those unless there is an illness issue being dealt with in the loaches, and even then, only for medicinal purposes and in medication doses.
Clown loaches are known to be very peaceful, they are also very sensitive to stress and water quality. The aggression level of the monos as they grow will cause severe stress in the loaches, not to mention the crowding. Clown loaches get large also... expect 10 - 12 inches full grown. And a standard pleco... about 18 inches. These fish grow fast when healthy, so to see them at 4 - 5 inches within a year's time is to be expected. The tank they are in now won't allow for that, so you'll face the aggression you are now seeing in the dominant mono, which will increase... and you will see changes in water quality until there is no way to keep up with it anymore. By the time either of those 2 things hits critical, it's safe to bet that at least some of your fish would die if this isn't dealt with asap.
As for test results... I hate lfs's who don't give exact numbers!! That tells you and us absolutely nothing. Anyone keeping a fish tank should have the appropriate test kits, and this should be part of the initial purchase of any tank set up. In your case, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and pH are mandatory. Without all of them, there is no way to know what is happening in the water quality, and with a stressed and injured fish, it would be hard to try to prepare for any infections that may likely set in, hard to see when waste loads have overcome the tank, and hard to know when the shifts happen and how much is needed to be done to fix it. Please get yourself these test kits asap. You'll want liquid test kits, strip tests are inaccurate and useless.
If you're intending to keep the monos, you will need a much larger tank (75 gallons would get them started for the first yr or so...), marine salt, and a hyrdometer... along with filtration, heater, lights, decorations, etc. just for the monos.
Water changes of 5 gallons every 2 wks, especially with that many fish in that size of a tank, isn't going to do much. 30% water change once/wk is minimum, and temporary... again because of growth rates.
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