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South American fish choice

Paul Kettless

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17 Aug 2015
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317
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Lowestoft
Hi All,

I have been doing some homework and plenty of reading based around the hardscape and Mopani wood that I already have for my As900. I will be going for a triangular composition, heavily planted in one section Im hoping to have areas at the front that will allow me to have a couple of small soiled areas to carpet with a corner sand section. The scape will give me plenty of open swimming space for tetras This will all be easy plants of south american origion (seperate post for peoples thoughts on types, with maybe a couple of medium just to see how well they do) as I am starting fairly low tech, so no injected C02. However I have every intention of doing so as and when knowledge and funds allow it. Filtration will be quite high as I will be running to external canister filters, as I love my fish.

It seems that the wood, despite being from Africa would lend itself to a South American biotope. I wont stick religiously to this, but its the type of tank that I really enjoy, and love the lush greens.

With the fish, I have been reading an article by Filipe Olivera and to keep a balance of a scape, and not making it look too hectic, I should aim to stick with no more than 2 different species of shoaling fish for the mid section, 1 species for the top and the same for bottom dwellers. With maybe a showpiece pair.

Therefore, I would very much appreciate your opinions, and experiences of certain species, its worth mentioning that I live in the east with very hard water. I have been considering an HMA filter, but need to research that more. RO is def out of the questions, as we are on a water meter and for financial and ecological reasons, I just cannot justify one. I appreciate one persons fish preference is not the others, but I value your input all the same. So at the moment this is my wishlist.......

Upper Section
Nannostomus Beckfordi (Pencil fish) 4-6

Mid section
Hyphessobrycon Flammeus (Red Flame Tetra) 13-15
Paracheirodon Axelrodi (Cardinal Tetra) 13-15

Lower Section
Corydoras Sterbai 6-8

Showcase pair
Microgeophagus Altispinosa (Neon Dwarf Ram)

Additional

Otocinclus
Amano Shrimp
Nerite Snails
Red Cherry Shrimp

Im not sure on the showcase pair, I appreciate that being a Cichlid, all shrimp are just a snack. However an expensive one if they are going to deplete the tank. My readings suggest that if the colour of shrimp blends in with the colour of the substrate the fish are less likely to predate. Therefore it seems that Amano may be the best way to go as bigger in size and a clear colour on my sand substrate.

Many thanks for reading, and I look forward to reading your thoughts and comments.

Kind regards
Paul
 
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Joined
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46
Location
Gloucestershire
Very similar to my planned 80l South American bio.
Nannostomus marginatus (dwarf pencilfish) 4
Hyphessobrycon amandae (Ember tetra) 10
Paracheirodon simulans (Green neon tetra) 10
Corydoras hastatus (Dwarf corydoras) 4
Otocinclus Affinis (Dwarf Sucker Otocinclus) 4
Note: all around 2 - 3.5cm adult size (except Oto) because of size of tank.
Have not decided on showcase or if to get some shrimp.
So your selection sounds good as far as research goes
 

John q

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6 Jan 2021
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Lancashire
Hi Paul, for your centre piece selection I'm not sure if your referring to Bolivian rams or Electric blue rams, either way I can comment on both.

EBR's are probably my fav but can be difficult to keep especially in new set up's. Also I've never done well with these or German rams at temps bellow 25.5 c.
Bolivian rams I feel are much more tolerant to water parameters and seem to do well in slightly lower temps, size wise they're a tad bigger than ebr's and once coloured up can be just as striking in the tank. I also think you'll have a better chance of getting decent stock of these as opposed to ebr's, which seem to be having the life bred out of them of late.

Just my thoughts.
 

Sammy Islam

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12 Mar 2019
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Hertfordshire
I'm no expert but i have a pair of microgeophagus ramirezi, my male is a beast and i still have over 150+ Red cherry shrimp. They do hunt them but 9/10 times they fail as the shrimp are too quick. In the year my tanks been running, i've only seen them eating shrimp like 15 times and i spend a lot of time around my tank.
 

Paul Kettless

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Thread starter
Joined
17 Aug 2015
Messages
317
Location
Lowestoft
Very similar to my planned 80l South American bio.
Nannostomus marginatus (dwarf pencilfish) 4
Hyphessobrycon amandae (Ember tetra) 10
Paracheirodon simulans (Green neon tetra) 10
Corydoras hastatus (Dwarf corydoras) 4
Otocinclus Affinis (Dwarf Sucker Otocinclus) 4
Note: all around 2 - 3.5cm adult size (except Oto) because of size of tank.
Have not decided on showcase or if to get some shrimp.
So your selection sounds good as far as research goes
Thanks for that, I did look at the Nannostomus Marginatus, but the care guide suggested moderately soft - Slightly hard water. Where the Beckfordi showed higher PH and KH
 

Paul Kettless

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Thread starter
Joined
17 Aug 2015
Messages
317
Location
Lowestoft
Hi Paul, for your centre piece selection I'm not sure if your referring to Bolivian rams or Electric blue rams, either way I can comment on both.

EBR's are probably my fav but can be difficult to keep especially in new set up's. Also I've never done well with these or German rams at temps bellow 25.5 c.
Bolivian rams I feel are much more tolerant to water parameters and seem to do well in slightly lower temps, size wise they're a tad bigger than ebr's and once coloured up can be just as striking in the tank. I also think you'll have a better chance of getting decent stock of these as opposed to ebr's, which seem to be having the life bred out of them of late.

Just my thoughts.
They are a bolivian ram, but I am more than open to suggestions, thats the point of this post. Thanks very much for sharing your experiences of keeping them. Invaluable advice there. Re temp I was hoping to keep the temp of the tank at 22, as this ties in well with our house temp. Therefore it seems that German Rams are not ideal.
 

Paul Kettless

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I'm no expert but i have a pair of microgeophagus ramirezi, my male is a beast and i still have over 150+ Red cherry shrimp. They do hunt them but 9/10 times they fail as the shrimp are too quick. In the year my tanks been running, i've only seen them eating shrimp like 15 times and i spend a lot of time around my tank.
Well thats really good to hear, I would love to have some RCS in the tank, thanks for sharing. I guess with all fish they see shrimp at the bottom of the food chain, and that some loses are inevitable.
 

castle

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19 Dec 2015
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norfolk
With super hard water, I think you'll struggle to get the best out of those fish, except from the rams which are bred this way now, almost all the others are imported. Microgeophagus Altispinosa are sand sifters, so in a tank that size I don't think you should be going mad on anything but sand and sticks as plants will be in the way of their natural behaviour.

Additionally, I would ignore what you read about where fish spend their time in the water, in an aquarium they'll be everywhere with few exceptions.


Now, I should note, im in the camp of less is more. I would at a push for for a shoal of Nannostomus Beckfordi and then the Microgeophagus in maybe a 3-1 F-M?
 
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castle

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Definetly make it a mission to buy 25L of RO a week to be part of your WC maintenance strategy.
 

mort

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Going with what you like is the best approach so I won't suggest alternatives for the tetras as you have a nice mix already. The one thing I would say is up the pencilfish if possible. 6 is about the minimum you'd want as they form a hierarchy based on dominance and you will get the males sparring, if the ratio or males/females is low or you don't have enough space for them to avoid each other you won't get harmony. You can use lots of breaks in lines of sight, easy with your triangular scape plan, or simply up the numbers a bit more to divert any aggression towards a particular fish.
They aren't a massively aggressive species and won't cause any issues for your other fish, they just have an interesting social structure. I've had my group for about 8 years now.

Nannacara anomala are quite a nice, small, peaceful species.
Laetacara dorsigera are another nice alternative to the rams if you want to consider other species.
The one consideration when thinking of cichlids with cories is that they can be very aggressive towards them if they breed. The two species mentioned are pretty well behaved ime as are some of the more timid apistogramma but there are many apisto's and other cichlids that would not be a great mix.
 

mort

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If you are keeping the water at 22c then the two cichlids I mentioned above are happy at that temp as are the pencilfish. It is slightly cooler than the cardinals will thrive in (consider a cooler period in winter and slightly warmer in summer if possible) and sterbai are a warmer water loving catfish which makes them so good for 28c discus tanks. Corydoras elegans is similar to the sterbai and it will thrive at the lower temp, as will panda cories, paleatus or pygmaeus and hastatus.
 

Paul Kettless

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With super hard water, I think you'll struggle to get the best out of those fish, except from the rams which are bread this way now, almost all the others are imported. Microgeophagus Altispinosa are sand sifters, so in a tank that size I don't think you should be going mad on anything but sand and sticks as plants will be in the way of their natural behaviour.

Additionally, I would ignore what you read about where fish spend their time in the water, in an aquarium they'll be everywhere with few exceptions.


Now, I should note,im in the camp of less is more. I would at a push for for a shoal of Nannostomus Beckfordi and then the Microgeophagus in maybe a 3-1 F-M?
Points taken with the altispinosa and seems like they may not be the fish for me then. The plants obviously are just as important to me in the scape as the fish. Im not that worried about the tetras I will be buying them from an experienced local breeder who advises me that they are generally happy in our water. I take on board your point about buying some ro I hadnt really thought about that.

I appreciate that fish dont keep within a certain area of the tank all the time having kept fish for many decades, but Im surprised you said this. surely the planning stages we can only look at fish species for general areas.
 
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Paul Kettless

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Going with what you like is the best approach so I won't suggest alternatives for the tetras as you have a nice mix already. The one thing I would say is up the pencilfish if possible. 6 is about the minimum you'd want as they form a hierarchy based on dominance and you will get the males sparring, if the ratio or males/females is low or you don't have enough space for them to avoid each other you won't get harmony. You can use lots of breaks in lines of sight, easy with your triangular scape plan, or simply up the numbers a bit more to divert any aggression towards a particular fish.
They aren't a massively aggressive species and won't cause any issues for your other fish, they just have an interesting social structure. I've had my group for about 8 years now.

Nannacara anomala are quite a nice, small, peaceful species.
Laetacara dorsigera are another nice alternative to the rams if you want to consider other species.
The one consideration when thinking of cichlids with cories is that they can be very aggressive towards them if they breed. The two species mentioned are pretty well behaved ime as are some of the more timid apistogramma but there are many apisto's and other cichlids that would not be a great mix.
Thanks for your input and suggestions much appreciated, I will be sure to research your recommendations.

If you are keeping the water at 22c then the two cichlids I mentioned above are happy at that temp as are the pencilfish. It is slightly cooler than the cardinals will thrive in (consider a cooler period in winter and slightly warmer in summer if possible) and sterbai are a warmer water loving catfish which makes them so good for 28c discus tanks. Corydoras elegans is similar to the sterbai and it will thrive at the lower temp, as will panda cories, paleatus or pygmaeus and hastatus
I didnt realise that Cardinals needed that high a temperature, the temp of 22 was something that I have been reading on here regularly as being the optimum range for a planted tank. On that basis I maybe well look at an alternative species. Real shame as I adore the colours, as does swmbo. Will also look at the other Corys you have suggested. Would raising the temp by a degree so help at all I wonder?
 
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castle

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Someone is breeding Hyphessobrycon amandae or Paracheirodon simulans? Hmm, I wouldn't mind tracking them down - got a number or email?
I appreciate that fish dont keep within a certain area of the tank all the time having kept fish for many decades, but Im surprised you said this. surely the planning stages we can only look at fish species for general areas.

Sure, I wans't intentionally being patronsing and apologise if it came across that way, I just think your tank will be rather busy and wanted to make the point that they will be all over the place.
 

Paul Kettless

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Sure, I wans't intentionally being patronsing and apologise if it came across that way, I just think your tank will be rather busy and wanted to make the point that they will be all over the place.
Not taken that way at all, and no offence was taken, dont worry I am no snowflake, I actually prefer people to be blunt and honest, thats the whole point of these forums to discus, learn from one an ther and sometimes diss-agree. I appreciate your points and your comments. All input is very valuable.
 
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shangman

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Is there any option for you to use some rainwater in your tank? That would really help bring the hardness down, I think p much all the SA species love soft water more than anything! It doesn't have to be a lot, any % would help.

A suggestion I have for your show pair (or trio) would be Apistogramma Borellii. They like the lower temp and I think are more tolerant of harder water, and they're lovely shades of blue and yellow. Apistos do sift sand, but they also will eat from the water and whenever it falls, so if here's just a bit of sand I think it'd be ok. They're also one of the most chill Apistos. I also love Bolivian Rams, totally get why you'd go for them! SA cichlids don't breed that much in harder water (or the eggs don't survive), so if your water is harder you might not have to worry about them breeding and being aggressive with other bottomdwellers.

If you could get a bit of rainwater you go for Corydoras Habrosus which are smaller (but wild caught so need to add some softness), then you could have a few more of them. And then you could add some more pencilfish, I think 8 - 10 would make for a more interesting show for you. All the fish you want all do better in bigger groups (unlike most of the SA cichlids bolivian rams also often live in groups), you'll get more exciting behaviour from having a good amount of a few species, over a few of a lot of species.
 

mort

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It's a tricky one with temperatures really, there is what is ideal for fish and what is ideal for plants and a lot of aquascapers are more plant orientated, so the fish are the ones that occasionally have less than an optimum habitat (iwagumi for instance are the opposite of what the average schooling fish would like to live in, ie no cover).
If you look at seriously fish then they tend to show natural conditions the fish are found in with a temperature range. It's good for guidence but not to be taken as gospel. For cardinals they state the minimum temp as 23c https://www.seriouslyfish.com/species/paracheirodon-axelrodi/?sfw=pass1610993586 so 22c isn't far off a good min and would probably be ok if you get a higher temp on average over the summer. Neons can take it slightly cooler, down to about 21c https://www.seriouslyfish.com/species/paracheirodon-innesi/ but everything is a balancing act and you need to consider what they will thrive in rather than survive.

So temp is just something to consider, upping it a degree probably won't make too much difference. I keep my pencilfish tank at 22c (heater set as 22c minimum) and they do ok when the tank sits at this temperature but when the days grow longer and the temp rises, so does their energy levels and libido. The room gets direct sunlight so the temp can go up to 28-29c in the summer but they have lived long lives because they have a cooler winter break. So don't think of temperature as a linear year line thing.
 

Paul Kettless

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Is there any option for you to use some rainwater in your tank? That would really help bring the hardness down, I think p much all the SA species love soft water more than anything! It doesn't have to be a lot, any % would help.

A suggestion I have for your show pair (or trio) would be Apistogramma Borellii. They like the lower temp and I think are more tolerant of harder water, and they're lovely shades of blue and yellow. Apistos do sift sand, but they also will eat from the water and whenever it falls, so if here's just a bit of sand I think it'd be ok. They're also one of the most chill Apistos. I also love Bolivian Rams, totally get why you'd go for them! SA cichlids don't breed that much in harder water (or the eggs don't survive), so if your water is harder you might not have to worry about them breeding and being aggressive with other bottomdwellers.

If you could get a bit of rainwater you go for Corydoras Habrosus which are smaller (but wild caught so need to add some softness), then you could have a few more of them. And then you could add some more pencilfish, I think 8 - 10 would make for a more interesting show for you. All the fish you want all do better in bigger groups (unlike most of the SA cichlids bolivian rams also often live in groups), you'll get more exciting behaviour from having a good amount of a few species, over a few of a lot of species.
Rain water isnt really an option as it would be difficult for me to collect and store do to limited outside space. However, and RO unit could easily be installed. I contacted my local fish supplier and he would charge £5.00 for 25ltrs, and it would then have to be mineralised. With a weekly water change of 50% of approx 80litres that would be an expensive way of getting it, even if it is cut with tap water. Im going to look much further into this, am I right in saying that I would not need an ro/di unit, just ro, and can this be switched off when not in use or does it have to run 24/7.

Thanks for the recommendation on the fish I will def have a look at all that is being suggested from people. Nothing is set in stone, and I love Apistogramma's so no real compromise needed if thats what it takes for the benefit of my fish.
 

Paul Kettless

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It's a tricky one with temperatures really, there is what is ideal for fish and what is ideal for plants and a lot of aquascapers are more plant orientated, so the fish are the ones that occasionally have less than an optimum habitat (iwagumi for instance are the opposite of what the average schooling fish would like to live in, ie no cover).
If you look at seriously fish then they tend to show natural conditions the fish are found in with a temperature range. It's good for guidence but not to be taken as gospel. For cardinals they state the minimum temp as 23c https://www.seriouslyfish.com/species/paracheirodon-axelrodi/?sfw=pass1610993586 so 22c isn't far off a good min and would probably be ok if you get a higher temp on average over the summer. Neons can take it slightly cooler, down to about 21c https://www.seriouslyfish.com/species/paracheirodon-innesi/ but everything is a balancing act and you need to consider what they will thrive in rather than survive.

So temp is just something to consider, upping it a degree probably won't make too much difference. I keep my pencilfish tank at 22c (heater set as 22c minimum) and they do ok when the tank sits at this temperature but when the days grow longer and the temp rises, so does their energy levels and libido. The room gets direct sunlight so the temp can go up to 28-29c in the summer but they have lived long lives because they have a cooler winter break. So don't think of temperature as a linear year line thing.
Your right it is a tricky one, and I want to have some lovely plants. However, I come from a background of fish keeping, In my mind fish are living, and plants well if they die I can just buy more. My livestocks welfare will always be the priority in my tank. I understand what you are saying about the temp, its there to set the minimum level and not the highest. This tank is in an alcove and nowhere near direct sunlight, but as you said gets warmer in the summer months. It plays havoc with my pizza dough lol.
 

jaypeecee

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...its worth mentioning that I live in the east with very hard water.
Hi @Paul Kettless

Could you let us have your water KH and GH, please? If you haven't measured these, please get hold of a full water report from your water company. On the face of it, your tap water may be too hard for South American species of fish, as others have pointed out. I have kept and bred Mikrogeophagus ramirezi (German Blue Rams). I would suggest avoiding any of these Rams that have been genetically modified, e.g. Balloon Rams.

JPC
 
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