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June 19, 2015

Happy Friday, folks! 

This week in Aquarium Month, we’re going to talk about the most common and basic aquarium sizes in the hobby – from about 20 gallons to 75 gallons.  These are what I would consider standard sizes as well as beginner sizes.

While the fish listed last week can do well in a well-planned and well-maintained nano aquarium, in fishkeeping, bigger is always better for the fish.  Keep in mind that the fish listed last week can be kept in larger aquariums and the fish will be perfectly happy doing so, but the fish listed this week should not be kept in smaller aquaria.  Using a larger aquarium means that you can have more fish safely and more freedom in decoration, or keep larger or messier fish.  Remember as well, nano aquaria are by no means a beginner’s venture and care should always be taken in researching your fish before starting a nano tank.  It’s much easier to maintain a larger tank, even if that maintenance takes longer. 

There are several general schemes for the standard aquarium sizes – one can keep communities with several species, semi-aggressive or aggressive groups, biotopes or single specimen tanks.  Aquariums can be planted or simply hardscaped and larger plants such as swords and onion plants can be maintained.  I’ll be listing a few ideas for aquarium set-ups in these size ranges, but rest assured, there are so many more options available that I couldn’t even begin to list them all.

Let’s start with a community aquarium – possibly the most common aquarium style in the hobby.  These are generally larger tanks with a centerpiece fish and various schooling fish to complement them, as well as a “clean-up crew”, such as a single or group of algae cleaners and bottom feeders.  Please note that we here at the Wet Spot don’t agree with “clean-up crews” as fish to be relied upon to solely clean up – even the most algae-ridden tank should still have supplemental food such as wafers or Repashy gel provided to its algae eaters, while bottom feeders often will not get enough food if left to only clean up after what the fish in the water column above them leave behind.  Always feed your fish, no matter what the common role they are assigned may be, invest in an algae scrubber, and remember to vacuum your substrate regularly.  This will not only keep your tank looking nice, but help keep your water in top condition.

For our community setup, I’ve chosen Discus as the centerpiece – they’re popular for their gorgeous looks and color, as well as peaceful personality.  The discus, Symphysodon aequifasciatus and S. discus or S. heckeli, was introduced into the hobby in the 1930s. Since then it has remained a favorite with hobbyists everywhere. These fish grow to 6 inches in length and height and the round appearance of their profile not only makes them fascinating in appearance but gives rise to their common name. While four distinct natural colorations – brown, blue, green and Heckel – exist, it wasn’t until the 1970s that ornamental color strains such as the Turquoise, Cobalt and Red Turquoise discus appeared in the hobby. Further colors became available in the late 1980s and on.  Most keepers like to have a group of different colors, though some are interested in wild forms – rarely seen, but incredibly beautiful fish.

Tank Parameters

Size

55 gallons minimum, preferably 75 gallons or larger

pH

6.5-7.5, stability is more important than value

Temperature

82-86°F

Hardness

0-10 dGH

Decorations

Driftwood, plants, dark sand and background

Potential Tankmates

Cardinal Tetra

Paracheirodon axelrodi

Mid-level schooling

Rummynose Tetra

Hemigrammus bleheri

Mid-level schooling

Red Line Tetra

Hyphessobrycon amapaensis

Mid-level schooling

Brown Tailed Pencilfish

Nannostomus eques

Top-level schooling

Silver Hatchet Fish

Gasteropelecus sternicla

Top-level schooling

Reticulated Julii Cory

Corydoras trilineatus

Bottom shoaling

Sterbai Cory

Corydoras sterbai

Bottom shoaling

Blue Seam Ancistrus

Ancistrus dolichopterus L183

Algae grazing pleco

Galaxy Pleco

Panaqolus albomaculatus LDA31

Carnivorous pleco

 

RedScribbleDiscus

 

PigeonBloodDiscus

 

FlachenDiscus

 

SnakeskinDiscus

I’m going to forego the semi-aggressive or aggressive tank and speak on another style of aquarium that takes the same level of research and dedication before choosing tankmates – the Fancy Goldfish (Casuarius auratus) aquarium.  Goldfish are large fish. The fancy varieties – any with long fins, round bodies, bubble eyes or other body shape differences from the common Comet or Shubunkin goldfish – grow to eight inches in length, depending on the variety. Straighter-bodied fish will grow larger than the rounder varieties. Common Comet and Shubunkin goldfish (Shubunkins are long-finned Comets) typically reach around a foot in length, however, the largest recorded specimens include a fish in the Netherlands at 19 inches, a British fish named Goldie at 15 inches, and an unknown specimen caught in a pond at 16 inches – likely abandoned there after outgrowing a home aquarium.

Fancy goldfish require three feet of aquarium width and 20 gallons for one fish, with an additional ten gallons of water for each additional fish. Common goldfish require four feet of length for comfort and thirty or more gallons, with ten to twelve gallons per additional fish. As such large fish, Comet and Shubunkin goldfish are better suited to large outdoor ponds than they are to home aquaria. 

Weekly 50% water changes will help keep your goldfish happy and healthy and will be aided by a sink-to-tank siphon system. An adjustable heater is a good idea to keep on hand – this should be rated strong enough for your full aquarium and be adjustable down to 68 or 70° Fahrenheit,– while goldfish enjoy cooler temperatures from 66-74° Fahrenheit, in the case of cold winter temperatures or power outages, a rapid temperature swing can stress your goldfish and promote illness. Likewise, it is best not to let your goldfish’s home become warmer than 76° Fahrenheit, as this once again will stress the fish and encourage illnesses. Chillers are available in the hobby for the summer months if you don’t keep your house so cool.

Tank Parameters

 

Size

30 gallons for first fish, 10 gallons per additional fish

pH

7-8, stability is more important than value

Temperature

66-74°F

Hardness

2-12 dGH

Decorations

Sand, Rock, fake plants, bubble bars/walls/shells/stones

Potential Tankmates

Sailfin Pleco

Pterygoplichthys spp.

Grows very large.  Eats algae but requires large portion of bioload.

 

BlackRanchu

 

GolfBallPearlscaleGoldfish

 

PandaOranda

Next up is the biotope tank.  These are a favorite of keepers trying to breed “difficult” fish or keep wild caught fish such as West African Cichlid, wild Betta species, other anabantoides and South American Dwarf Cichlids.  Those keeping fish that thrive in clear water tend away from biotopes that come from blackwater habitats – those stained orange or brown by wood and leaf tannins.  They definitely create a lovely, natural feel and can bring out the best in the fish.  They are also a way to challenge one’s aquascaping and waterkeeping talents – to keep a low pH blackwater tank decorated with twigs, roots and leaf litter lookinggood and staying stable is definitely a challenge.  The rewards, however, are beyond measure.

My favorite resource for Biotope information is Mongabay – they list 26 unique biotope types across five continents with appropriate plant, fish, and decorations for each, as well as basic parameter levels and locations these biotopes are found in nature.  In fact, their West or Central African River Biotope is nearly perfect for our new Microctenopoma ansorgii “Red” or “Red Form Ornate Ctenopoma”.  There’s not a lot of information on this color form, so we’ve decided to treat it as the normal Ornate Ctenopoma – a shore-area dweller of Stanley Pool/Pool Malebo in Zaire.  I’ve chosen the West or Central African River biotope as the closest on Mongabay.  Be sure that of the fish listed, none are chosen that could eat your little Red Form Ornate Ctenopoma – it would likely be best to keep them with a small, sedate school of tetras such as the Jelly Bean Tetra or Green Fire Tetra, if any dither fish are provided at all.  A small biotope could be set up in a 30 gallon aquarium – I would choose a 33 gallon Long or a 40 breeder to allow plenty of horizontal swimming space for these 3” fish.

Tank Parameters

Size

30 gallons or more

pH

6.5-7.5, stability is more important than value

Temperature

77-82°F

Hardness

3-18 dGH

Decorations

Sand or mud, root wood, leaf litter, Anubias, Bolbitis fern, Vallisneria

Potential Tankmates

Jellybean Tetra

Ladigesia roloffi

Dither/Schooling fish

Green Fire Tetra

Aphyocharax rathbuni

Dither/Schooling fish

 

Finally, we reach the last type of aquarium I’d like to focus on – the specimen aquarium.  This is a home for a single fish, either because of its size, personality, diet, or care requirements.  Many people keep a single Oscar in a 55 gallon as a specimen.  They are personable enough to learn their owners and beg for food, while also being aggressive enough to take out any tankmates you may consider.  Rest assured, these fish are perfectly happy being alone and would rather have the company of their owner than of other fish.

Specifically, I wanted to mention our Mastacembelus shiranus “Malawi Yellow Eel”, a beautiful species reaching about ten to twelve inches in length. Some specimens can be shy, especially in aquariums with other fish, so keeping a single fish in its own home will help it be more personable and learn to trust you.  Well cared for eels are known to take food from their owners’ hands and enjoy the occasional pets.  They are meat eaters by nature and a varied diet of worms, prawns, and other wholesome foods is advised.  Feed your eel well but keep an eye on its weight – eels are prone to being underweight and malnourished (they can eat more than they look as though they can and compete very poorly for food) as well as being obese (typically due to not enough activity – provide enrichment with areas to explore and varied feeding locations).  This particular eel is from Lake Malawi and is one of either one or two species, depending on if you consider Mastacembelus sp. “Rosette” to be a unique species or the same species with varied coloration.  Because of this, the parameters for its home should be akin to any Lake Malawi tank.

Tank Parameters

Size

30 gallons or more

pH

6.5-7.5, stability is more important than value

Temperature

77-82°F

Hardness

3-18 dGH

Decorations

Sand or mud, root wood, hardy plants on wood (Anubias, Java fern), hides and secure rocks

 

There are plenty of other fish suitable as single specimens – In fact, any fish that is not by nature schooling or shoaling can be kept as a single specimen.  I’ve listed some below, though this is by no means an exhaustive list.  Be sure, however, to research their care before bringing them home!

Other Specimen Fish

Common Name

Scientific Name

Minimum Tank Size

Oscar Fish

Astronotus ocellatus

55 gallons

Hairy Puffer

Tetraodon baileyi

20 gallons

Dolphin Mormyrid

Mormyrus longirostris

55 gallons

African Arowana

Heterotis niloticus

90 gallons

Nile/Fahaka Puffer

Tetraodon lineatus

90 gallons

Wolf Cichlid

Parachromis dovii

55 gallons

 

Now, as it’s also National Rivers Month, time to talk about some of our local waterways!  For those that aren’t aware, Portland is bordered on the North by the Columbia River (as is most of the state), the east by the Sandy River, and in the South by the Tualatin River on the West side and the Clackamas River on the East.  What divides our lovely waterlogged city into East and West is the Willamette River (Will-AM-et), the second largest of the five.  This is also one of the largest tributaries of the Columbia River, accounting for up to 15% of its total flow and ranking nineteenth in the nation’s top rivers by volume. 

Willametterivermap

The Willamette and its tributaries (including the Tualatin and Clackamas rivers) have carved and defined the Willamette valley, some of the best growing land in the United States and the end target of the Oregon Trail.  We can grow just about anything here.  Most of the soil is significantly silty and quite rich, carried down from Canada and Montana by the Missoula Floods.  As such, this region has been populated for at least 10,000 years by a variety of indigenous peoples.

BlueberryField1

The river boasts over 20 hydroelectric dams and approximately fifty crossings, eleven of the latter are in Portland proper.  One of the oldest and most remarkable is our Steel Bridge, holding two levels and lines of rail. 

WillametteRvr

Thirty-one native species of fish call the Willamette Basin home, as well as eighteen species of amphibian, our state critter the Beaver, and the absolutely adorable river otter.  Over one hundred and fifty birds frequent the waterway, including the Bald Eagle.  I had the pleasure of seeing one nesting in the wetlands near my childhood home about a year ago.

Eagle

Thank you for reading once more; we’ll see you back here next week with an article on tankbuster fish and a little information about one or more of the Sandy, Clackamas or Tualatin rivers.

Jessica Supalla