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Crash Course In Tropical Fish Keeping

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Hi all,

I have a 60 litre tank (15 gallon) which is too small for keeping goldies long term, usually has been my quarantine tank. I have been keeping goldies for 6 years now, know the basics about water quality, but have never used the aquarium heater much.

I would like to set this tank up with tropical freshwater fish. For a start, I know that I want kuhli loaches (at least 4), as they sound lovely, but will not be good for my goldie tank which goes as low as 10-15C in winter.

I would like your advise on what I should do differently to what I know now when starting my first small tropical fish tank. I am just guessing most of the concepts are the same. I know I should especially read up about all fish types I'm planning to get and get the water parameters accurate, as goldies are hardy tolerant things.

1. Should I try fishless cycling? Or is it not necessarily as small tropicals produce too little waste, and I can just add a few fish at a time?)

2. Heater matters. My tap water is really cold in winter. Do I put a bit of boiled water in the new water to raise the temperature during water changes? What else should I be aware of?

3. What goes well with Kuhli loaches? I've been reading the following http://www.auspet.com/fish08.html and thinking of:

* Kuhli loaches (my must have!)

* Upside Down Catfish? They look cool to me.

* gourami - is this a good idea, and which breed is smaller and less aggressive?

* tetras of somesort, but which one should I attempt?


What do you think? Can you give me some ideas on other breeds I should check out, perhaps ones common in shops here. I would like some colour in my tank, as it's a small one I have to choose wisely.

4. Can someone explain salting requirements for tropicals? I use sea salt as a preventative measure for my goldie tank, but I hear tropicals need a certain amount of salt, but is it for the same reasons as goldfish?

5. I have never worried about gH before, can someone explain if it's a serious thing for me to monitor with Australian tap water?

6. How do I quarantine tropical fishes differently? For my goldies, I always treat for flukes (Para-ex from Wardleys - a no-no for kuhlis I know), and ~0.3% salt. But what do you usually do for tropicals? I'm very paranoid about parasites, especially flukes. How about compulsory praziquantel for all new fish?

I also want to put a few plants in there. I've only ever had Elodea, but will read up about tropical plants as a separate project.

Appreciate any advice :)

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1. You can seed your tank from your goldfish tank this well cut you cycle in half or more.

2. No do not use boiling water. But at least try to match the tanks temp when you do water changes as close as your can.

3. Your tank is not big enough for the fish you want to keep much less more. I would go with something small like a few tetra's with a gourami. The loaches get to big for the tank you have. I would not try those in anything less then 30 gallons. Do your research and you should find that info correct. Also careful with the upside downs some of them get really huge and well outgrow that tank quickly.

4. None of my fresh water tanks have salt in them.

5. Not sure about Australian water but I never worry about it.

6. I do not treat fish that do not appear to be sick. I just QT for 30 days then add to tank.

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1. As mentioned, you can probably 'kick start' your cycle. But tropicals can be susceptible to crashes, spikes, etc. so just be aware that it's very possible to lose some while cycling. If you're up for fishless, I'd give that a go :)

2. The good thing about tropical tanks is you don't need to do nearly as frequent/large of water changes as you do with goldies, so the temperature isn't going to have as big of an impact. All I do is keep a thermometer in my tank, read it before my water change, then I put it in the bucket of new water to check the temp before adding it. As long as it's in a few degrees it's usually fine.

3. I've never kept loaches, so no advice from me on that one :P

As for tetras, I've had great luck keeping black skirts. But there are tons of varieties out there, that one is really up to you :)

4. The main tropicals that really need or benifit from salt are livebearers (guppies, platies, mollies), puffers and archerfish. Other than that I'd stay away from it, I know that many species of tetras for example can be very sensitive to salinity changes.

5. I don't worry about it either. I just do the same tests I do with goldfish. Just be weary of pH and kH. Some species of tropicals have very specific needs with these parameters, so do your research.

6. I don't put meds in with tropicals unless they show signs of illness either. To be honest, I've found that with tropicals (most of my experience is with tetras), if they're going to die they will within a week or so, and after that they're typically good to go. So QT for a few weeks and keep a close eye.

I hope this helps. For the most part I find my tropical tank MUCH easier to keep than my goldie tank. This says it all.....I have a 30 gallon goldie tank with 3 fish and 2 massive filters and I do a 20% water change every 5 days. I have a 20 gallon tropical tank with about 16 small fish and one biowheel filter. I do a 15% water change about once a week, but it could go longer.

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Kuhli loaches are one of the smaller varieties avaliable in most places. However, since you need to get a group of 4-6 together, your tank is probably too small for them. Is your tank taller or longer shaped? I definitely would not put a shoal of them into any tank with the footprint of a 10 gallon. They stick almost exclusively to the botom of the tank, will eat a good flake or sinking tropical pellet, but love frozen or live foods. They need sand or gravel to burrow in along with a few ornaments to hide under. As for tankmates, pretty much any non-agressive tropical community fish that does not inhabit the very bottom of the tank should be fine with them.

In your tank you may be able to get 2 different shoals of tetras or another similar sized fish.

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I have a betta in with platies. Neon tetras are also very pretty trops and do well in small tanks. You can put several of them in so they will school together and they never get much larger than they are when you get them.

I have a tropical tank and a goldfish tank. With the goldies, its constant monitoring the water, at least a 50% wc weekly, no gravel, and cleaning the tank weekly. With the trops, I usually do a 10% wc weekly, only because I'm already doing it with the goldie tank. I syphon the gravel well every 2 weeks, and as long as the heater keeps the water at 78 degrees, they're good to go. They never worry me as much as Moby and Florence do. They are much easier to care for, but not as much fun or as much personality as the goldfish.

I have never added salt to any of my tropical fish tanks.

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UDC with cory


UDC hiding

I love my upside down cats!! And they get along great with cories--something else you may want to consider. I have 3 UDC's and 3 cory cats in a 20 gal with large plants and ornaments they can hide in or under. I also have 2 platies, a guppy and a betta female in there. I don't have a heater since we keep the house around 75 degrees average. I vacuum the gravel and change about 30% or more of the water every week since catfishes seem to be a bit more messy than some other trops.

Be careful with tetras, though. I think neons are ok but some of the larger tetras are nippy and I had problems with them biting fins on my other fish.

I don't use salt either as salt is not good for the cats.

As for cycling the tank with trops, well I cycled my 16 gal with hatchet fish before I knew better. I thought all I needed was some water from an established tank so I added that with fresh water and new plants, gravel and the fish. Took me awhile to figure out why the hatchets were dying--oh, it must be that cycle thing!--finally they stopped and the 6 I have now have been thriving for the better part of a year. :)

Edited by Kristi

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Thanks for the tips everyone :):) I didn't realised some of you think that goldie keeping is harder than tropicals. I think I've been lucky with the lot I have so far, and don't plan to change anything to the goldie tanks a while as I'm not ready for it (changes == potential disasters!!!).

I know the tank is a bit small, but i am willing to look around for smaller docile fish who can get along. I think kuhli's are small, it's the dojo's (weather loach) that grow very large. Time to start looking around in the fish stores ;)

Hidr, I haven't thought of seeding from my cycled nasty tank. Sounds like a good idea! What if the goldie tank has got some nasties in it that is no good for tropicals?

I asked someone who had no difficulty with getting tropical fish from a popular lfs here. But if you ask me, i've never seen any lfs with 100% healthy goldies for sale. They are always diseased or fluke infested. So IMO it's a matter of time that they will die in a new home, except for hardy comets. I always treat for flukes for any new goldies after noticing this.

So it was interesting to me to know that tropicals from the same lfs appear to be able to last for a long time without issues.

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