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mellowvision 05-17-2007 10:25 PM

Brackish or not? South East Asian Shallows in 20 gal tank
about 2 weeks ago, I bought 3 Red Claw Crabs on a whim and without a tank. The guy at the store said they'd be fine in a bowl.. Petco... wrong

I decided to build a proper crabitat for them, and really went to town over the last week,,, and now have a really nice, small, biotope that consists of:

20 gallon, half full tank
Eheim 2213 canister filter with wood as water fall
about 2 gallons worth of large rocks forming a multitied cave structure
mixed planting gravel and medium stoney gravel
fully submerged titaniam heater
“home brew CO2” system to feed the plants
several types of plants native to South East Asia (most that crabs don't like)

everything is going smoothly. the crabs really seem to love the environment, spending hours sitting in the water fall showering… tons of great hiding spots to tuck into. they haven’t really bothered the plants, as hoped, and even seem to go after a few dead spots on the plants, helping me garden. I like em.

here’s the catch: because I only have about 10 gallons of water, I am limited to my fish choices. on top of this, the crabs were sold as fresh water, and seem fine in it, but are actually brackish crabs. I’ve read varying opinions, but most seem to think that the crabs will live in fresh water, but may not live out their full life expectancies, and I read in one blurb (and only one of hundreds) that they might have issues during molting.

So, I had set out to build a mildly brackish SE Asian estuary, on a mini scale.

From the plant guy: nothing likes brackish. (contradicted online by a few people who have done what I want to do on a larger scale)

Then I start thinking about the rest of the tank mates… for 10 gallons, there are few options. For fresh/brackish fish that can do either,, even fewer. Algae eaters that fit the tank and category even fewer. The best candidates being Loaches, most of whom like crustaceans as well…
After all the research, I had decided to try and set up somethingg with a small school of Rasbora, Danio, Glass Fish or Minnows, with maybe 2 larger, but dwarfed fish like Pygmy Gouramies (which croak when they mate!) This didn’t really solve the algae problem. I thought maybe I’d get a few small barbs instead, since they eat algae a bit… and all the choices fit the South East Asian environment, and all can be transitioned to brackish, so I had read.

Today I called the fish store I like to deal with to aask about some eggs I found on a leaf from one of their plants (took them out) and I asked about the algae eaters etc… and he reccomeneded Ottos, Otocinclus, in a small school. They are algae eaters, but mini sized at about 1 inch or so. from BRAZIL… and I didn’t see anyone mention their tolerance to brackishness… They look perfect in terms of size and function, but they defeat the two original goals. And, the guy said they are small enough that the crabs might tryy to eat them. (which I’d risk)

question 1:
Should I bother with a brackish tank with plants?

question 2:
Am I foolish to center the tank around the crabs when they make everything else more difficult?

question 3:
Am I asking too much to try and make it so authentic to the region?

mellowvision 05-17-2007 10:30 PM

just to be clear, the water is currently fresh water, if I go brackish I will transition over the course of a few weeks or months...

Lupin 05-18-2007 01:55 AM

Definitely, a brackish water environment should be set in store for you. Generally, crabs dwell in estuarines therefore brackish water conditions will be the best for them. There aren't many fish that can be safely placed together with the crabs. Why not try the mangrove swamp environment? Mudskippers will look perfect in that setup. You need large rocks for the mudskippers to rest on. Mangrove shoots will also add to the beauty of the mangrove swamp setup but a large tank will be more preferable as the mangrove shoots will grow taller. You need to cover the tank or else the mudskippers will jump. Mangrove shoots can be planted in pots and hide the pots with large rocks.

The substrate can be sloped until there will be land in which the crabs and mudskippers(not just rocks!) can rest. Use large rocks to terrace the substrate and prevent it from eroding.

Sand would actually be a better choice for a mangrove setup. Mollies are one of the few fish that can survive in brackish water and even complete saltwater conditions but I doubt their chances of living long-term when you keep crabs with them.

mellowvision 05-18-2007 04:32 AM

I love mudskippers, but have read they need a lot more room than I have. also love the 4 eyes... but it doesn't make for a well rounded tank, mudskippers and crabs? seems like they'd compete for the land.

I've been doing a lot of reading tonight and think maybe the crabs might have to go in favor of shrimp or something less volitile.

I am also considering a chinese hill stream loach and a small school of rasbora. or pygmy gouramis and otttos...

the other thing is I'd like to keep the tank fairly low maintenance, and the brackish water is starting to seem less and less appealing. it is my first tank... and I live in a crowded apartment, for brackish to be fun, I should really get a 50 gallon tank.

the crabs are the major pain factor. they're dirty, they might eat the other fish I can fit in the tank... and they hide a lot. on the other hand, they are pretty funny, especially when eating pieces of fruit or vegetables. the personality factor is a plus.

sigh. I'm on the fence.

Firebelly girrl 05-18-2007 02:13 PM

You dont seem eager to set it up for the crabs, I say take the crabs back and get the mud skippers that you may like more than the crabs =)

mellowvision 05-18-2007 08:54 PM

today I added 7 (asked for 4, got 2 free, 1 hitched a ride) Cherry Barbs to the 2 crabs. The crabs tried for about 10 minutes to catch the barbs, but the barbs seemed to be taunting the crabs and weren't afraid at all, even invaded the crab's cave a bit and seemed relaxed at close proximity. The crabs seemed to give up and lost interest, this might work out after all.

The barbs are really great.

mellowvision 05-19-2007 02:19 AM

here's a few pics with the Cherry Barbs, they are really lively fish.

(edit:) Not sure where the pic went, I attached it but it didn't show up.

Lupin 05-23-2007 03:28 AM


Originally Posted by mellowvision
I am also considering a chinese hill stream loach and a small school of rasbora. or pygmy gouramis and otttos...

None of these will do well in brackish water conditions especially when the mangrove setup does not require fast flowing waters the hillies needed.

mellowvision 05-23-2007 02:31 PM

yeah, I've decided to keep this tank fresh water, I dont think the tank is big enough to have a successful brackish set up, and I don't want to kill the plants.

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