Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

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Tyyrlym 06-14-2008 04:17 PM

New 55 Gallon Freshwater Tank / First Timer
For father's day my wife has let me buy an aquarium and I was lucky enough to get my hands on a 55 gallon set up off of craigslist with all the trimmings, everything but plants and fish. I've done quite a bit of research over the last month, reading up on the nitrogen cycle, equipment, fish, etc. Along with visiting several LFS and talking to anyone who will listen about it. I'm just going to toss out my plans, a few questions and any advice/suggestions are more than welcome.

Freshwater tank. Easier, cheaper, more goober proof.

Neon Tetra (~12)
Rummy-nose Tetras (~8)
Serpea Tetras (~8)
Panda Cory Catfish (~4)
Red Tailed Black Shark (1)

Fake plants. I want to plant my tank eventually but I figure I'll save myself the added complication to begin with. Just how much cover do the tetras need to relax? One thing I've found is that decorating a 55 gallon tank is far more expensive than I'd have guessed.

Substrate. I was initially planning on using small red/brown river pebbles from Lowes, I was thinking it would set off the colors of the tetras nicely and it looks more natural to me. However I was reading that the corys would do better with a sand substrate. So now I'm considering either splitting the tank with half sand and half pebbles or even mixing the two, mostly sand but with some pebbles mixed in. Is there anything special I would need to know about using sand as a substrate? I was planning on using play sand from Lowes if I went with it. Also, will the corys really benefit from the sand or will they do just fine with the pebbles?

The shark. The advice I have received in regards to the RTBS is that it can be just fine in this tank if I introduce it properly. If the shark is the last fish added to the tank, and it is still young it will do just fine with the other fish, ignoring them as it grows up.

The number of fish. I think I'm fine with the number of fish I'm planning on, would I still have enough space for a small school of harlequin rasboras or maybe some more corys?

My filter is an Emperor 400.

This tank also comes with an undergravel filter but I have no intention of using it. Since it's coming with an air pump and I like bubble stones I was planning on putting one or two in the corners of the tank, just for visual appeal and maybe a bit of added aeration.

That's everything I can think of at the moment.

okiemavis 06-14-2008 04:30 PM

Cories definitely benefit from sand, when I switched mine over they were *thrilled* and are now very chubby. Sand's no different from any other substrate except that you have to make sure to vacuum it so no air bubbles form. If anyone tells you sand and plants don't work, have a look at my aquarium log :) If you decide not to go with sand, those pebbles sound ok. Just make sure they aren't sharp, as that's the major concern.

Mixing the sand and pebbles won't work because the sand will all sift to the bottom, and the rocks will end up on top. I believe it's called the "Brazil nut effect".

Sounds like everything else is under control stocking wise. The only thing I would suggest is to add more cories. Cories are shy in small groups and need at least 6 to be active and happy. 8 would be better (and cute!). Just so you know, Pandas ship notoriously badly. Make sure you're going to a reputable fish dealer and that they have been at the store for at least a few days, preferably a week. Otherwise they probably won't all survive in your tank, and you run a serious risk of getting any other fish sick. You may want to add the pandas first and make sure they are all healthy before you add any other fish. That way the main tank will act as a QT.

It sounds like you're doing your research, but I wanted to make sure, you're cycling this tank, right? Also, make sure you don't add all the fish at the same time or you'll have an unfortunate ammonia spike.

iamntbatman 06-14-2008 04:44 PM

First off, the sand will absolutely benefit the cories. Play sand works great; I have it in my 29g. When you get it, put it in a big bucket in the yard and rinse it over...and over...and over. It took me forever until the water was clear, but from what I've heard it's worth it, as it will likely cloud your water pretty bad if you don't do this. With sand, you absolutely cannot use that undergravel filter. You also need to keep the sand stirred in order to prevent anaerobic pockets from forming. You can do this yourself with a plastic fork during water changes, but it helps to have some of your critters do the work for you. Your cories will certainly help keep it sifted, but I would also look into getting Malaysian Trumpet Snails. They'll burrow through the sand to keep it sifted. You can buy the snails, but also just about every Petsmart I've been to has had an MTS infestation and they'll be more than happy to give you some for free.

Your stocking list looks good, but I would get at least 6 cories for the best results. The serpae tetras are also known to be one of the nippier tetras, so you might have to watch out for that. The RTBS should be ok. They can be aggressive towards others of their own species and some loaches, but I think it will leave your other fish alone or at the worst, chase some of them off from time to time. You might also want to consider something for your top levels, such as danios or hatchets or even guppies. All of your fish are mid to bottom level swimmers.

Sounds like you're off to a great start. Keep us updated on the tank!

Tyyrlym 06-14-2008 04:55 PM

Yes, the neons were going to be my cycling fish.

I wasn't going to mix the sand and stones so much as have small patches of stones in the substrate. Is there any difference in vacuuming sand as opposed to pebbles, can I still use a python?

Adding more corys isn't a problem. Every time I see the little guys I like them more.

Would the Rasboras be a problem in the tank?

Tyyrlym 06-14-2008 05:06 PM


Originally Posted by iamntbatman
Malaysian Trumpet Snails.

Will these snails stay in the sand? I know some people like snails but I'm not wild about them.


You might also want to consider something for your top levels, such as danios or hatchets or even guppies. All of your fish are mid to bottom level swimmers.
Will guppies work with the serpaes? I like guppies but held off because of the nippiness of the serpaes and was worried they'd go right for the guppy's tails.

One thing I forgot to mention, I'd like to have some shrimp in my tank. Will they work with what I'm planning to stock it with? And what's a colorful variety, I can get ghost shrimp very easily but... well you can't see the dang things.

okiemavis 06-14-2008 05:35 PM

Your RTBS will probably eat the shrimp. Red cherry shrimp are great looking, but at $5 a pop, I'm not sure they're worth the risk.

Sand vacuuming is the same, I use a python in mine.

Malaysian trumpet snails are great for sand. I don't see much of mine, as they borrow in the sand. You'll definitely see some from time to time, but they are rather inconspicuous and quite pretty actually.

What sort of Rasboras were you thinking?

I'd worry about fancy guppies with the serpae, it's probably best to stay away from them. Plus, livebearers are a pain in the butt! Too many fry :(

Gourami would make a great addition to the tank. Pearl and honey gourami are both very peaceful and pretty.

Tyyrlym 06-14-2008 06:20 PM

Pity, would have been nice to have some shrimp. Well ghosts are cheap, maybe I'll give my RTBS a treat once in a while.

If the snails will help keep the sand clean and stay out of sight most of the time then they'd make a good addition.

I was thinking harlequin rasboras.

The dwarf and honey gourami's both look quite lovely.

okiemavis 06-14-2008 06:51 PM

Harlequin's should work quite well in that tank- they tend to use more of the water column than tetras so they will be a nice addition.

Dwarfs gourami will probably be too territorial to have more than one. They are also very heavily bred with hormones, so it's not a fish I would advise. The fish are pumped up with hormones so they all come out male, and as colorful as possible. Unfortunately, it has made them much less hardy and it's also become almost impossible to find a female.

Both pearl and honey gourami should be hardier and are much more docile. However, it's probably a good idea to watch out for them with the serpaes again :(

iamntbatman 06-14-2008 06:58 PM

Oops, I forgot to mention that mixing the serpaes and guppies is a bad idea. The serpaes and gouramis might also be a tough mix, since the gouramis won't really appreciate nippy fish, either. If you get dwarf gouramis, I wouldn't get more than 2 even in a 55g tank. They can get pretty aggressive towards one another and need to be able to get away from each other. Honey and sparkling gouramis are less aggressive so you should be able to have a few of those. The bigger gouramis, such as golds, blues, etc can get fairly large and are very aggressive towards their own kind.

I don't think the RTBS will eat shrimp unless the shrimp are young, at least until the RTBS has some size on him. Until he's pretty big, I think your ghost shrimp would probably be fairly safe. I still wouldn't risk the more expensive cherry shrimp, though.

Personally, I would ditch the serpaes in favor of the harlequin rasboras. They'll go well with the rest of your stocking list and will allow you greater options in other fish to add. Not to mention they spend more time in the middle/top levels of the aquarium. Switching the serpaes out for rasboras will allow you to more safely keep something like guppies or gouramis for the top levels of the aquarium. If you decide to get any kind of livebearer (like the guppies) they will have tons of fry unless you get all of one sex. For guppies, a group of males will get along and be good-looking fish.

okiemavis 06-14-2008 07:01 PM

+1 on ditching the serpaes, that would open up so many possibilities.

Personally, I love Threadfin Rainbowfish and would recommend them if you didn't have the serpaes.

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