I recently got a 20 gallon high aquarium and plan on making it an amazon biotope. Here are a few questions:
1) Would an AquaClear 20 work for a filter or do I need a 30?
2) What should the substrate be?
3) What would you do for stocking? (water is approx. 8-9dH and 7.8pH)
I can't tell you much about the substrate or filter w/o knowing what you do want to stock. The only thing I can say about your 7.8ph is it's a bit high, like mine which is 8.2 ideally most fish the closer to 7 the better, excluding at least cichlids. If you're buying fish from a store chances are they're tank raised and have been all their life, as your store for a test of their water and compare it to yours. I run Gourami, Danio, Barbs, and a Rainbow Shark out of those fish none of them are ideal for the high ph, but my stores all run the same water and these fish aren't wild, so their natural habitat is literally 4 walls and they'll probably be fine.
Metalikatt is correct, filtration should depend upon the type of fish intended for the aquarium. As you intend plants, filtration is only there to move the water through media to keep it clear (the plants do the "clean" part) and water movement depends upon fish's requirements.
As you mention glowlight, silvertip, lemon tetra and corys in your last post--these are all forest fish from slow-moving streams and flooded forest--the water flow should be minimal, so forget the Aquaclear (overkill) and go with a simple sponge filter.
Substrate can be fine gravel, or sand it you want the additional issues. Fine gravel in a dark but neutral colour works very well for plant roots, bacteria colonization in the substrate (essential) and the fish mentioned.
Would black eco complete be good a substrate?
Also, as for stocking, how does this sound?
9 glowlight tetra
6 silvertip or lemon tetra
7 julii cory
Marbled hatchetfish don't do good in 7.8pH right?
Yes, Eco-complete is good on all counts. If the extra cost (compared to basic aquarium gravel) isn't an issue, it will do nicely.
On the stocking; we have fish profiles (click on the second tab from the left in the blue bar at the top, or on shaded names in posts) that include information on water, tank size, compatibility, special needs, etc. The profile of the Silvertip Tetra mentions it is a lively, active swimmer needing room to swim. A 20g high will not suit this fish as well as it will the Glowlight Tetra and Lemon Tetra which are not quite as active. Nine glowlight and 6 lemon are fine.
If you really like otos as a fish, fine; 4 will be OK, but wait until the tank is well established and there needs to be algae or they may well starve. If you are only thinking of them for algae, I would wait until that becomes an issue before deciding to get them. My point here is not to buy any fish to do a task, unless you really like the fish on its own merits.
Juli corys are quite rare; the corys often seen in stores as Corydoras julii are usually not, but another similar-patterned fish (our profile explains this). Not that that matters, if you like the fish whatever it's name, a group of 7 corys will be fine. You might want to limit them to five though.
Hatchets that are commercially raised should be OK, same as glowlights and lemon tetra; wild fish of any of these will have problems in basic water.
On the water, do you know the hardness? Your water company can tell you this, and it helps to know, since the hardness will be an indicator of how acidic the water may become over time in the aquarium. I can explain more when I know the hardness number.
all the info posted so far is spot on. the only thing i would like to add and correct me if im wrong... for an amazon biotope the ph seems a little high. generally amazon fish like in the lower ph range 6-6.8 or so. adding some drift wood to the aquarium and even some peat moss to your filter will help lower your ph and add tannins to the water. :) have fun!
I believe the hardness is 150 (GH) ppm.
As fish1983 mentioned, the pH is a bit high. However, two things. First, commercially raised fish are usually adapted somewhat to higher pH which is reflected in the range for pH in the profiles. Sometimes the fish may not be as colourful even though it will basically manage at the higher end of the range, and that is noted in both Glowlight and Lemon Tetra profiles. But here we come to the hardness; it is not high so all else being equal, the pH in the aquarium will tend to lower a bit over time. This is due to the natural biological processes that acidify the water. The degree of KH (carbonate hardness) "buffers" this somewhat, but with a low GH I would expect (though this can vary) the KH to be comparable. So. as long as there are no calcareous substances (limestone, dolomite, marble, lavarock, coral) in the tank, this should occur.
Adding real wood also assists this process, and the more wood the better with Amazonian fish. Sunken wood is abundant in many of the streams, and certainly in the flooded forest ponds and pools. This will aid in lowering the pH by natural means, which is the only way this should ever be done.
The degree to which the pH will lower depends upon the KH of the water and the amount of wood. If you wanted to, you could use prepared water instead of tap water for water changes. With a 20g tank this would not be as cumbersome as it would for larger tanks. By prepared I mean using rainwater, distilled water, RO (reverse osmosis) water. I don't consider this necessary in your case, but it is another method. Keeping the water changes small, say 30% of the tank weekly, will also help to maintain a lower pH over time. And with plenty of plants and not overstocked with fish, water changes can be minimal. Some planted tank authorities recommend no water changes for months, and this can work if well planted and with a moderate fish load.
Hope this helps to explain things. As other questions arise, ask away.
Thanks for the explanation, it helped a lot:-D. I'll put as much wood as I can in there. I just have three quick questions:
1) How much gravel or sand or whatever should I need?
2) As for stocking, can I switch the ottos with hatchetfish?
3) Can I put some sort of carpet plant along the bottom or do the cories need to be able to reach the substrate?
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