Tropical Fish Keeping - Aquarium fish care and resources

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MOA 08-16-2009 03:03 PM

Stocking Freshwater Aquariums

Many of us probably remember that one question that was on the tip of our tongues when we first started keeping fish: "How many fish can I keep?" Many of us never got much of answer or got an answer that didn't really work. For example, one rule that beginners are often told is that you can "keep one inch of fish per gallon of water." This rule sounds pretty good until you apply it; a ten-ich fish simply does not fit into a ten-gallon tank very well.

Most of wind up either learning by experience (failed attempt after failed attempt), or by relying on our fish-keeping friends. These methods work, but are time-consumptive and can lead to many dead fish. To remedy this situation, a new stocking guide has been developed that accounts for many of the things that most of the common stocking rules do not. Of course this new guide can't replace common sense or responsible research, yet it can give a much more complete picture of freshwater stocking dynamics out there. This new guide is a spreadsheet called FishsheetA6 and can be found as an attachment located on the following website:

HMF Home (MOA's: How Many Fish)

This spreadsheet incorporates the following:
  1. About 240 types of fish.
  2. Allows the user to select tank dimensions and can compute capacities and surface area per gallon for a half-dozen different tank types (to include rectangular, hexagonal, bowls, elliptical, frustums, bowfronts (both corner and rectangular), and pentagonal).
  3. Minimum dimension suggestions for each fish.
  4. Temperature needs of its listed fish.
  5. Compatibility lists for the fish it has statistics for (they are not perfect, but they do help).
  6. Size comparison. As fish are selected, the spreadsheet checks their adult sizes against a user-defined ratio.
  7. Filtration. The spreadsheet allows the user to select from a half-dozen different filter types and the GPH of each one. It also adjust for feeding frequency and the use of live plants.
  8. Biomass. The spreadsheet uses a biomass index instead of using length (opposed to the inch per gallon rule).

Mikaila31 08-16-2009 07:44 PM


Told me I was overstocked. LOL 55gal with 215 gals overused for fish space.

Though a few things I didn't like. Why so few plant options? argh I can't remember the correct term, plants that sprout from a central base...... crypts, swords, anubis, ect..... I had to look for plants similar to what I have, since they were not listed. Which may be more difficult for a novice.

Also why is the smallest number of rummy nosed tetras I can have is 10?

MOA 08-16-2009 08:45 PM

Hello Again,

The spreadsheets are designed as a "safety first" kind of scenario. Rummies are tightly shoaling species and thus appreciate more members. Granted, rummies can survive if kept in smaller quantities, but it isn't ideal. If you want to enter a different number of fish, you can use the manual input field towards the bottom of the spreadsheet. If you are unsure of the proportional dimensions of your rummies (or whatever fish you want to enter), you can just select "yes" use average. The spreadsheet will assume the fish is close to average and recalculate.

As to the plants, if you cannot find the type you have in the specified plant fields, there are other fields a little beneath them (Additional Live Plant Statistics) that can be used. They do not use the species type but instead rely on the growth rate of the selected plants. Perhaps I did not make it obvious enough (I'm bad with directions lol), but the plant fields operate independently of one another. This means that you don't have to re-enterany plants if you already put them in one of the plant blocks. (Confused yet? Believe me, I confused myself adapting them.)

Finally, the space guideline can be adjusted by altering the buffer zone. If you select a negative buffer zone, then it will "free" more space. Of course, this field is based on averages, specifically the averages that most experts believe to be "safe" for beginners. You don't have to agree with them, but they are there as a sort of signpost. If all your other results are within specs (particularly the filter and remaining wastes fields), then it isn't too big of a deal. FishsheetA6 is designed for "ideal" care. Unfortunately, ideal is not always possible in the real world.


P.S., Thanks for taking a look at it. Some other aquarists are not so open to new ideas ;)

Mikaila31 08-16-2009 09:55 PM

-25 buffer zone and I'm still overstock it says:lol:. I'm OK with that though, I would happily say that it is a helpful tool for newbies. Though I would do a little more explaining on each section, with examples and such. It seems a bit complicated for newbies. That said stocking is a very complicated thing with lots of factors and lots of different theories on what is overstock and what isn't.

MoneyMitch 08-16-2009 11:27 PM

im pretty sure stocking limits are by a tank by tank basis some have crazy filtration some dont. it mainly goes on bio load cap. just IMO

MOA 08-17-2009 05:41 PM

Hi Again,

Actually, the spreadsheet does address stocking limits on a tank-by-tank basis. Also, it does account for filter strength. The sticky point that most people get hung up on is that the spreadsheet accounts for both overstocking and overcrowding (they sound similar but are two completely different considerations):
  • Overstocking: Overstocking occurs when an aquarist keeps too many fish for the aquarium filter to handle.An easy way to tell in a tank is overstocked is to check the nitrogen compounds. If the ammonia or nitrite is above zero (0) or if the nitrates are above eighty (80, though many sources feel that 40 is the true safe limit), then the tank is overstocked and either needs a more powerful filter or needs to be cleaned more often.
  • Overcrowding: Overcrowding is when the fish stress each other out via their presence. This sounds a little weird but it is the same principle as living in an apartment with a roomamte. If you get along with your roommate, then life will be relatively stress-free. However, if you add more roomamates to an apartment, then (eventually) peoples' nerves are going to fry. There will not be enough room to sleep, cook, or just live. Everyone needs some personal space and the same principle applies to fish. Having a huge filter does not help out the aquarist much if the fish are stressing each other out. (even nice people become grumpy if forced into crowded conditions). Additionally, overcrowding is not just big fish picking on little fish--it includes the stress a species can place on itself. For example, 10 Neon Tetras can live a long time in a 10-gallon tank, but they almost always live longer if they are given more space per fish (regardless of filtration).
FishsheetA6 accounts for both situations. Overstocking is taken care of with the filtration fields while overcrowding is taken care of with the "space" (gallons unused/overused) fields. Of course not everyone is going to agree with the limits imposed by FishsheetA6, but I would rather be safe than sorry. I have been keeping fish over a decade and also used to sell fish and have never seen fish live up to their full potential in a tank that ignores overcrowding. Lots of fish, even common little ones, can usually five years if just given a bit more space.

Okay, I'll get off my soap box now. Sorry to add so much filler, guys. Anyhow, besides altering the buffer zone, FishsheetA6 allows users to change how space requirements are calculated. You can swith the formula by selecting "moderated to reduce impact of large fish." As the phrase suggests, this field most changes how fish over three inches are accounted for. Smaller fish will still require roughly the same amount of space. Also, remember that the idea behind FishsheetA6 is getting fish to thrive, not just survive.


P.S. Again, sorry for rambling so much.

MOA 08-18-2009 09:56 PM

Hi Again,

Anyone have suggestions for the concept. Also, the website was updated to account for some questions other people have had.


MOA 08-19-2009 06:41 PM

Hello Everyone,

A new version of FishsheetA6 is now available via the website. It is the file with the extension "Updat3prototype." It has been adjusted to allow for a greater range of stocking possibilities (more negative buffer zone possibilities), to take care of some wording issues, and be a tad more precise about the species-specific data.


nomel 08-19-2009 07:31 PM

Ugh...why is it docx? Can you have a .doc version so the most of us with pre office 2007 can use it. There should be no functional difference...except it working on 90% of the office installs out there.

On another less grumpy note...beautiful!!!

MOA 08-19-2009 10:27 PM

Hi nomel,

There is a .xls version on the list of spreadsheets as well. The .docx is just a document that describes how the formulas were constructed and is on the wrong page to download the spreadsheet. However, I would love to add a .doc version of that document. I actually forgot to check the file type as I do most docs as RTF files. Sorry about that. :-D

I will change it immediately.


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