- Jessica's Comments:
Fish keeping is a joy and a responsibility. Tossing some fish in a
tank and seeing what you end up with is certainly one method, but
not what I would think is the most responsible. I'm sure many
of you here will agree with me.
Important Factors to look at when Stocking a tank:
. Tank Size
. Tank Decoration
. Tank Mates
. Biotope and continents
. Water Maintenance
is what most people look at when they stock. It is quite important,
as it will dictate what the largest fish is you can have, thus,
putting an initial limit on your fish. As I go on, you will find
there are many other limits, just as important. If you were to visit
your fishes' homewaters, you would discover a wide variety of
homes that support a unique collection of fish best suited for their
environments. You also will notice that many places consist of deep
water, and lots of it.
A great number of fish available are actually wild-caught. Most
of the 'staples' are bred in ponds, but if you pay attention
to the 'rarer' fishes, that come through once or twice a
year, you will find that many fish are coming from areas of massive
water to your small tank. Thus, there are some fish that get pretty
I like to have a general rule of not keeping a fish in the tank
that the ADULT fish will not exceed 1/6 of the length of the tank,
and 3/4 to 1/2 the depth of the tank. This means, that in a tank
with a footprint of 36x12, you want to keep the largest fish being
6" or less. Rules are made to be broken and there may be exceptions,
but for anything less than a 55 Gallon, I'd keep this very closely.
Please note, what I said, the ADULT size. While it is incredibly
hard, even for me, to keep things in mind of the full-grown fish,
you must consider that. The fish will grow, and if you cannot continually
purchase more and larger tanks, you will find yourself being irresponsible.
Some fish grow slowly, others don't. The slower ones, like clown
loaches, you can afford to upgrade tanks as you go, provided that
you don't wait too long. Some of the faster ones, like common
plecos, will rapidly need a new tank, and you will find yourself
spending alot of money to keep up with the upgrade demands. In those
instances, it is better to not purchase those fish until you have
an appropriate tank waiting for the fish.
These actually should be planned around the chosen fish. This is
actually important to stocking because a properly decorated tank
will increase your fish's comfort and lower stress. While stress
is inevitable, there is no reason to cause undo stress because you
felt like having only those bubble-making skeleton in your tank.
Research your fish. Don't keep fish that need sand in a tank
with gravel. (Once you set those things up, their a pain to
If the fish need rocky caves to feel comfortable, a fully planted
tank isn't going to cut it. They WILL need their rocks and caves.
For some fish, you won't find the information just looking around.
Sully offered an idea awhile back: offer the fish multiple options
and see what they choose. You will find that cories are generally
not cave-dwellers, but prefer a well planted tank to meander through.
Botia species need tight-fitting caves and holes, and they don't
mind if its wood or rock, just its gotta feel like they've been
stuffed in a sardine can. Schisturas need rocky caves, these can
be a little more spacious, but still nothing outrageously large.
Tetras and pencilfish like plants to be able to lurk in the foliage
when their comfort level drops. Plus, its a safety net, they will
be more secure swimming around the tank, if they know there's
somewhere safe to dart to. Shell-dwellers demand shells. And the
list goes on.
If your fish likes/needs caves, find out what kind. Chances are,
they will not want anything where the hole is too much larger than
their body height. Bumblebee gobies, for example will not use anything
where more than 2 bumblebee heads will fit in the opening. If you
think about it, it would be easier to defend a smaller opening than
a large one. I'm sure there are exceptions, but every cave-dwelling
fish that I've offered a choice, rejected the 'ideal'
man-made roomy cave for something they barely fit in.
So if you want a well-planted tank, or don't want to mess with
plants, or don't want sand, this will/should affect what fish
you choose to place in your tank. Also, don't forget to offer
enough caves to suit ALL your different fish who need them, in fact,
have a couple extra.
Territories and Aggression amongst tank-mates.
These are not synonymous terms. Fish can need a certain amount of
territory, but not be aggressive, but all aggressive fish need their
territories. You can get around this, by keeping a solitary fish
in your tank... or can you?
Like people, fish have their bubbles. Each fish is different, but
most follow the generalities of their species. Knowing these fish's
bubbles or having a general idea of them will help you out. Many
times, places like badman's forums can help you out with this
(at least with the basic of fish and a few not so basic).
They can tell you that a gourami's bubble is larger than a 10gallon
tank. Thus, placing 2 gouramis, dwarf or otherwise, will result
in a dead fish.
It is better to find this out ahead of time if you can. And pay
attention to what you read. I didn't pay attention to the numerous
comments on the aggression level of botia robusta. I lost several
fish to them before I discovered who was the culprit was. Other
fish, when not given their territories will stress and likely harm
themselves, and can even die. Bala sharks will be my example here.
These fish have HUGE bubbles. If you do not offer the fish at least
part of their bubble, they will spend too much time hitting the
glass walls of the aquarium, or soaring for clearer waters over
the tank's edge.
Some fish will have territories that overlap. An example would be
an angelfish, school of tetras, school of cories, and a pleco. All
these fish have requirements, but they are willing to share with
a different kind of fish. The angel (provided the tetras and
cories are large enough to not be considered food) will disregard
them as a threat, and perhaps gain comfort from the smaller "stupid"
fish moseying around the tank. The pleco could care less about the
cories, after all, his thing is the driftwood, and chances are,
he's nocturnal, or will at least wait until you disappear. ;-)
And some fish do care about the overlap, or rather, they need a
large enough home to tolerate an overlap of territories. These guys
are the aggressive ones, and sometimes they are best kept singly.
If they are to be kept with others, make sure you do your homework,
as mistakes here will cost fish lives.
Schooling and shoaling fish
Sometimes, one fish truly is not enough. These are my favorite fish,
and my down-falling.
I will loosely define schooling as fish who stick pretty closely
together most of the time. Schoaling is the fish who need some friends,
but its more a social thing. Its a little easier to define by sorting
fish into the groups. (You will also find that everyone has
their own definitions of schooling and schoaling)
I would consider tetras, cories, and barbs, rainbows as schooling,
and many loaches, cories, and some cichlids are schoalers. Schooling
fish MUST be kept in large groups. Minimum is 6, better is 10+,
best is 24+.
Schoalers need at least one or 2 friends of the same kind.
I'm going to use my good friends, the clown loaches and cardinal
tetras for examples. By my definition, Clown Loaches are schoalers.
I have 9, which makes for a decent school of anything. However,
these guys will split apart into groups. The only time I see them
all in the same place is at dinner time. Cardinal tetras are schoolers.
When relaxed, they will spread out throughout the tank, but every
now and then, they have to do a head count, and they all amass and
circle the tank, leaving out no one. They will lurk in the plants
together, rarely splitting up. I only noticed splits when I had
a group of 23 green neons and 11 cardinals in a 125 gallon tank.
Even then, a group of merely 3 was unthinkable. When one fish split
off from the pack and started exploring, the entire group started
streaming after them.
This will also bring us to another issue within this area. With
shoalers, it is easier to get a larger variety of similar species.
But when it comes down to schooling fish, I highly recommend minimizing
the different kinds, unless you can find out if those tetras are
accustomed to seeing each other in the wild.. a true biotope.
While its desirable to have 2 each of tetras A through Z, it really
isn't fair to them. And it isn't fair to you either. Some
will school together, (more so those with similar body structures),
but you will never see anything so impressive as a true school.
There also is increased stress with the numerous kinds. You will
find that keeping a single kind will allow for more fish than keeping
mixed. For this reason, I do not advise more than one type of tetra
in a tank less than 4 feet. Perhaps in a 3ft, you might get away
with 2 kinds (smaller species).
Shoalers... Don't plan on being able to place as many in a tank
as the schoolers. While you could have 24 small tetras in a 20L,
you don't want to stuff a ton of botias or schisturas, they
might get a spine in their eye and decide to take out their tankmates.
Not usually the case, but shoaling fish can be slightly territorial
as well as requiring friends to spend the night with. I placed cories
in both sections, because I'm still at a bit of a loss with
these guys. I've only kept pigmy cories. Those guys are definitely
schoolers, and anything less than 10 isn't proper. The regular
cories, I have not kept, but everyone seems to find a group of 3
enough, which means they don't fit in my schooling definition.
Personally, I'd want to keep them all in groups of 6.. but that's
It mostly was covered in the Territories Segment. But it wasn't
addressed as this. Some fish prefer rocks, others open water, some
cling to the ground. Considering all these can allow you to stock
a tank to its fullest.
Continents and biotopes
I'm still not sold on continents as being the second most important
thing to consider when planning your tank, however, they are something
which are worth considering. In my mind, if you are going continental,
you might as well go biotope. However, I've found the best argument
for this coming from Russ. So I shall quote:
Lets put this scenario into another perspective. A zoo. There
are lions, tigers, buffalo, gorillas, deer, sheep, etc.,and could
be hundreds of other animals from all over the world, housed in
relatively close proximity.
Would they all survive and thrive together in the same cage? Probably
not. A zebra, lion, gorilla, antelope, and giraffe all come from
the same continent. Will they thrive together in the same cage?
Each of those animals has it's own 'nitch' and conditions
that are most favorable to them. Some have larger nitches while
others have very small ones. Just because a lion can survive at
Brookfield Zoo, just outside the Chicago city limits in winter,
doesn't necessarily mean it's thriving there. (Although
the zoo folks do do a very good job of caring for the animals
there). Would the lion be a little better off in a zoo with
warmer climates all year round? Probably. But, the are exceptions
to this also. Mountain lions here in the US live and thrive through
winters. However, would a mountain lion and an African lion do
well together in the same cage? They are both lions.
I like considering the temperaments. Perhaps a deer and an antelope
wouldn't be a bad combo together. Obviously, when you mix continents,
it is best do do so with docile fish that are of compatible temperaments.
Yet, even going back to my thoughts of a deer and antelope.. For some
reason that does not sound quite right, why is mixing fish different?
Its a question I haven't gotten an answer to.
Yet, I've seen no undue stress on my bristlenose plecos when they
share their home with African cichlids or Asian loaches. Heck they
are breeding, and the female right now looks like she could hire on
for Blimpies mascot. Most definitely consider this aspect. When you
mix ANY fish, make sure to watch them carefully. Even from same continents,
they may decided they don't like each other much. Learn what 'happy'
is. Learn what stressed is.
pose many considerations. In short and sweet, they take away swimming
room. Reduce space for the fish to swim in, but also give comfort.
They can break up territories. Plants remove harmful nitrogen wastes
and in general, are the best thing you can do. Some fish, plants
reduce the number you can have, other, they will increase them.
A heavily planted, well filtered tank negates most bioload issues.
Some fish will not allow plants to remain planted. Others need a
mainly rocky build, which removes the ability to use most root-bound
plants. However, there are many alternatives. Floating plants and
mosses do not need gravel or to be anywhere in the tank. You can
spend as much time researching plants as well as fish. If you are
planning on going planted, do yourself a little favor and find out
what you want to do, and what you need to before you end up with
your tank filled and with fish and deciding you need a new substrate.
Water Maintenance. This is vital. Freshwater fish love
freshwater. Bioload issues can be reduced by more frequent large
water changes. However, keep in mind that this takes time and effort.
I believe it is Russ who says to Don't buy the largest tank
you can afford, buy the largest tank you can afford to maintain.
I think it can also be extended to, do not stock your tank beyond
the maintenance levels you can keep.
There are many cool fish out there, and believe it or not, there
are ones which will fit your tank that you will find to be very
desirable as well. Some may require, effort, planning and hunting,
but even those small tanks can be stocked with fish that will continue
to delight you.
- Russ's Further Comments:
Meeting a fish's primary requisites may enable some mixing. It
may be 50/50 or less over the very long-term, but for many of the
bread & butter-type fish, it can be done. A primary requisite
for a certain fish may be temperature and diet, and some degree of
territory. It may also include, but not limited too, being in groups.
And of coarse, the biggie....water conditions. If you have fish that
have the same primary requisites, then there will be less of a problem
keeping them together.
There are certain 'comfort' or temp requisite zones that fish
have. Some are tighter than others. There are certain 'comfort'
or temp requisite zones that fish have. Some are tighter than others.
Outside of those temp zones, a fish may be able to survive with no
great difficulty, but combine that with other stress factors and that
can spell a slow demise for the poor critter.
Guppies do much better in water with a slightly higher alkalinity
and temps of approx. max of 76F. Can you think of another fish that
has those same requisites, but do not encounter guppies in the wild?
Perhaps platys? These are critters that do well in shoals, schools,
and in tiny groupings, and feed all over the tank
Aggressive fish do not necessarily mean that it is a fish that will
eat any other in sight. Aggressiveness does not necessarily apply
to carnivores. Although predation may be seen as the highest form
of aggressiveness, a four inch African Mbuna defending it's algae
turf can be 10 times more aggressive than, lets say, a Piranha
Q: Many times we say your fish can adapt.. If you are keeping
fish in higher alkalinity, would that change things? or would you
suggest to only buy fish that meet your water type?
Russ' Answer fish can eventually adapt, but not as quickly
as a lot of folks think they can. It takes a fish an average of 10
days to adapt to pH changes in one's tank. For example, a new
purchase being brought home. For expensive fish and 'lovable'
fishes (which really all are), its best to have a quarantine
tank for them to adapt. I know its not practical for many folks, but
after all, this is a hobby:-)
One must still keep in mind that 99% of environmental requisites for
your fish are controlled by you. Kind of like the thing from The Outer
Limits. You control the water. You control the diet. You control the
OK, I've been thinking for awhile, and it would be nice to compile
a stocking thread. This would be how to stock for new fishkeepers.
I would appreciate it if, when you get the time, folks post good tanks.
Debates can ensue, corrections, anything horribly out of whack will
be edited. In essence, this is a chance to offer a learning resource
for those who would rather research than post, and even for those
who post. When offering tank stocking ideas, make sure the tank
size and dimensions (not listed in the table) are
New Fishkeepers' Resources
Please read this link if you are planning a new tank set-up:
A Table of Basic Aquarium Sizes. If stocking a tank other
than one of these, please post a list of dimensions.
||16 x 8 x 10
||41 x 20¼ x 25½
||20 x 10 x 12
||51 x 25 x 30
||24 x 12 x 16
||61 x 30½ x 40½
||30 x 12 x 12
||76 x 30 x 30
||30 x 12 x 18
||76 x 30 x 46
||36 x 18 x 16
||92½ x 46 x 41
||48 x 13 x 20
||122 x 33 x 51
||48 x 18 x 20
||122 x 46 x 51
||48 x 18 x 24
||122 x 46 x 61
||72 x 18 x 20
||182 x 46 x 51
- Jessicas' thoughts
5.5 Gallon Tank
2 African dwarf frogs (unclawed)
5.5 Gallon Tank
3 male guppies
2 small shrimp (Amano, ghost, cherry, or related)
29 Gallon Tank - Planted
1 pair small/dwarf/docile cichlids - I'm thinking South American
(SA) (max 3-4")
1 school of one kind of small tetra (10-12, max size 2")
1 bristlenose pleco or small pleco OR 1 small school cories (6,
1 pair rams
1 albino bristlenose pleco
- Cindys' thoughts
I'll add some of my favorite smaller tanks, since these are the
ones people seem to need the most help with:
10 gallon tank - a half dozen male and a half dozen female
Endler's livebearers and up to two dozen fry. Fry/juvies should
be moved to a grow out tank as numbers or sizes increase.
20 gallon long tank - one pair of kribs or jewel cichlids
and their fry.
55 gallon tank - 1 male and 4-5 female yellow labs or red
125 gallon tank - both groups mentioned in the 55 plus
one 1:4 group of powder blue (P. socolofi) cichlids
- Debbs's thoughts
10 gallon planted tank
3 female bettas
2 apple snails
55 or 75 gallon planted tank
4 Microgeophagus Ramirezi (German Ram; Blue Ram; Butterfly Cichlid;
3 Angel Fish or 3 Discus
10-15 Cardinal Tetra's
School of cory catfish (6)
- Kims' thoughts
37 gallon (same footprint as a 29 but taller.)
I like my choices here because the whole tank is used and the species
are peaceful together.
3-Botia Striata on the bottom
3-Gold Barbs, use the middle of the tank mainly, with trips up and
6-Blue danios, mainly hang out in the upper section but do venture
down when they feel like it.