What are some hardy fish for a 15 gallon tank besides livebearers?
I prefer "laurel" fish, myself. Get it, "laurel and hardy" fish?
Many, tetras, danios and barbs are very hardy. Not very laurel though.
what sort of cat fish or bottom type fish would be good then
Most common bottom fish get big so your going to be limited. Cories would be ok depending on what else is going in there. 6-8 Dwarf cories would be even better. Whatever you do, don't get a common pleco that's in every pet store. They get too big and produce a lot of waste.
You may wish to consider striped raphael catfish although they are peaceful and don't get very large, Don't get one expecting to see a lot of him. They like a place to hide during the day and are more active at night. Ditto for some of the smaller plecos such as clown pleco(my favourite) rubber lipped pleco, or bristlenose pleco. Maybe even upsidedown catfish? :)
I have a 15 with 6 Threadfin Rainbows, 10 Corydoras pygmaeus, 3 ottos, and some unknown number (>10) of cherry shrimp.
Good hardy bottom feeders: Black Kuhli Loaches - 6 if you have the space and a good lid. Regular sized Cories - 3 to 5 (C. anaeus, metae, trilineatus, and paleatus are all good, hardy, and inexpensive. Avoid Bronchis sp.; you won't be able to tell for sure if you got B. splendens which gets to 3" or B. britskii, which gets to 7 or 8".) Smaller Cories - 6 to 10 (C. pymaeus, habrosus, hastatus, guapore, and Apisdoras species.) Ghost Shrimp (not necessarily bullet proof, but dirt cheap.)
What might be less hardy, but certainly more interesting and unusual - Peacock Gudgeons.
I'd say the Raphael cat would get too large for a 15 gallon tank.
A pair of small tanganyikan shell dwellers would work.
You could also do a bunch of dwarf puffers (Carinotetraodon travancoricus) or perhaps a few larger ones such as c. irrubesco or c. salivator (I wouldn't try lorteti unless you only want one). If you wanted to go brackish that would open up even more possibilities...
Actually, you could probably get a good breeding colony of the 3 smallest shellies in there, or six of the larger ones. Research carefully, though - Neolamprologus ocellatus (I think) you might be able to get two pairs if you put a tall rockpile in the middle of the tank, but probably not. They are the one that sticks out as being particularly aggressive when breeding.
Based on the article in TFH last year, you could probably get a half dozen dwarf puffers in there if you planted it well.
Thinking back, If you were only going to put in one species, you could get 6 of any but the largest cories in there with a fair chance of fry if you treat them well. (Scleromystax barbatus, Bronchis britskii, and Corydoras negro would be too big, the rest would not.)
Raphaels are too big - they get up to 7".
A clown pleco would work, but 1) you'd rarely see him unless you used very dim lighting and a ton of driftwood as cover and 2) driftwood becomes obligatory. Rubbernose/Bulldog plecos would also probably work, but 1) they like a good current and 2) some of the species prefer cooler water.
Upside down catfish (Synodontis nigroventis) should work. They really should be in a larger tank and in a shoal at that, but 5 in a 15 with nothing else might do it.
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