"Planted"tank. What does it really mean...
...when a website says a fish should live in a planted tank? Do they mean literally planted with live plants or with hiding spots? For example, a fish requiring a "densely planted" tank, would that fish be happy in a tank with no plants but lots of hiding spaces that would often be provided by live plants. I really want to make an empty tank of mine into a hardscape(it means no plants, live or not, But has driftwood and rocks for decor)and stock it with dwarf gouramis, but they need "densely planted" according to various fish care websites. Can they thrive in a hardscape?:-?
Warning: this may sound a little pompous initially, but read on, it gets better :-).
Some folks are more naturalistic than others in their interpretation of what fish "need". From a strictly scientific standpoint, we don't actually "know" what a fish likes, we anthropomorphize (assign human values) . However, based on repeated observations of fish behaviors in the wild and in captivity, a general opinion of what's required for fish to be least stressed has developed.
That's usually what's meant by fish "habitat" recommendations. The, somewhat valid, belief is that the closer we can mimic a fish's natural habitat, the less stress it will show. Having said that, fish may be perfectly content in a very artificial habitat. Most wild fish don't have plastic plants, bubbling scuba-dogs, and resin castles in their native habitats!
A planted tank is just that, a tank containing live plants. You can achieve the same overall effect with plastic plants (I find live plants actually end up costing less!). The primary purpose is to provide cover and a sense of security to the fish. Hardscape structures will provide hiding places and visual barriers, and will provide a sense of security. Purists may argue, but if the water quality is good, the fish seem to be behaving normally, overall stress in the tank is low, then set up and decorate your tank the way you want it! It's your tank.
Realistically, some fish won't really utilize caves and other structures in a pure hardscape as they would live or plastic plants they could weave through. You'll need to observe and tweak the tank scape as you increase the stocking level.
Okay. Now that I think about it, at the store, the fish have tanks with few hiding spots, and don't look or act stressed. Thanks for the help!
DG are territorial especially amongst males. Plants provide a natural security and break up line of sight. I think you will find aggression problems if you stock non-planted tank the same way you stock a planted tank.
Yeah DG are surface dwelling fish and will generally stay in the upper half of the tank. They are labyrinth fish so are adapted to actually gulp air from the surface along with using gills to breath.
This is a topic on which I have carried out considerable research so I'd just like to offer some comments. None of this will disagree with what has already been said, but may expand upon some of it.
First, on the store tank and fish stress. I can assure you that most fish in store tanks are under significant stress. How fish "look or act stressed" varies with the species, and sometimes it is necessary to know how the species "should" behave in order to recognize that it's behaviour is actually indicative of stress. The fact that many fish look "washed out" or lack good colour is a response to stress. I'll return to stress momentarily.
Fish evolve along with, and in relation to, their environment. They are programmed by nature using evolution to suit their respective niche in the habitat. They "expect" specific environmental factors and respond accordingly. You specifically asked about "planted tank" so the answer to this is that it depends upon the fish's intended use of the plants. As was mentioned, often this is for security. Some fish must live among tangles of plants, branches, roots, etc. Floating plants provide the "cover" that almost all forest fish require, though in their individual habitat it may occur as floating aquatic plants, overhanging marginal vegetation, forest canopy, floating leaves and vines...whatever. It may be for spawning. It may be as a source of food, thinking not so much of the plants themselves as the microscopic zooplankton and aufwuchs that many species use as their prime food source. Live plants or artificial plants seem to make no difference; the important point is that the reason the fish needs the plants must be satisfied. Fish will spawn over spawning mops as well as over a clump of Java Moss, as one simple example.
I remember reading an article not long ago written by a South American underwater photographer who has spent hundreds of hours filming fish in their habitats. He observed that cardinal tetra only occur in two habitats: those thick with aquatic vegetation, and those devoid of aquatic vegetation but heavily overshadowed with marginal vegetation that extends into the water. In the latter case, the fish remain in groups of hundreds; but in the former, they are most often in groups of five. One can learn a lot about fish behaviour and requirements through a close and careful study of their habitat and how they interact with it.
But the lack of some form of all this is the cause of stress, and all stress always weakens the immune system. This makes the fish more prone to various health issues and parasitic infestations that otherwise might not occur. And it usually leads to a premature demise.
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