Help with new fish tank
February 19, 2005 1:09 AM   Subscribe

I have recently purchased a 75 gallon fish tank. I would appreciate any help on what makes for a good tropical community of fish in a tank this size.

Ultimately i would like to start a mini reef tank, however at the moment i am new to this and think that a tropica freshwater tank is much safer. I would like to have perhaps one or two schools of fish and the more bright colors the better. The tank its self is themed after atlantis or any other sunk grecian ruin.

I am particularly attached to angelfish and dragon fish, however the more i read about dragon fish the more i seem to hear about them being bad for other fish in the tank. I have all of the apropriate equipment and am letting my tank cycle for a week before introducing the fish into their new homes. Any information or anacdotes would be greatly apreciated.
posted by sourbrew to Pets & Animals (11 answers total)
..... there is something buggy with spell check, i ran it again after adding more text to the "more inside" field and it passed all kinds of garbage through... this was after previewing it once... at any rate please ignore my errors and again thanks in advance for any possible assistance.
posted by sourbrew at 1:16 AM on February 19, 2005

This is a pretty good primer site. I really enjoyed a collection of African Chiclids (indigenous to Lake Tanganyika in Africa). They are very colorful and active. Good luck, it is a wonderful hobby/pet experience. Just gets a little tough if you move a lot or are away from home for extended periods.
posted by HyperBlue at 1:36 AM on February 19, 2005

Whoops didn't realize that was an advert..HERE is a much better link.
posted by HyperBlue at 1:39 AM on February 19, 2005

"Community" has a fairly specific meaning in the aquarium world, referring to the personalities of fish. Angelfish are classified as "aggressive". We tried one in our community tank; it didn't work out. Same for a betta.

If you want colorful schools without much conflict, go with neon tetras. The more you have, the more they school, and the more visual impact they have.

We also have a school of seven clown loaches. They are a great fish; very playful and entertaining. They are called "semi-aggressive," but in our experience, that just means they don't take any crap from other fish; they don't bite anyone who doesn't bite them. They can get pretty big, but your tank is more than large enough for a school of them.

Live plants can be more trouble than you expect. If you carefully monitor your water chemistry, use a good filter, and don't overfeed, a fake-plant tank can be low maintenance.

One of the aquarium hobbyist magazines is worth the subscription price, at least for a year or two.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:05 AM on February 19, 2005

When selecting fish, check the optimum ph and temperature levels per fish. Ideally the fish will share those levels for comfort and aim for those levels when setting up your aquarium.

It may take awhile (not sure exactly how long with 75 gallons) for the aquarium water to become established before you can introduce fish.

If you are interested in plants, many plants are sensitive to certain ph levels. So, your options may be limited.
posted by quam at 7:00 AM on February 19, 2005

We have two angels in our 55 gallon community tank, and they're not aggressive at all. They'll nip at each other once in a while but nothing destructive really. Also, know that if you get a pleco to combat tank algae that he needs somewhere dark to hide when the lights are on because they are nocturnal.
posted by chiababe at 8:43 AM on February 19, 2005

This was a good previous AskMe thread for beginners.
posted by obloquy at 9:48 AM on February 19, 2005

If you're interested in a saltwater aquarium, you might be better off with starting with a saltwater aquarium. In order to convert it from one to the other, you'd have to wait until all your freshwater fish died off (which can take years).

I haven't had a saltwater aquarium yet, but I've read this book, and it seemed very useful. There's also one for Freshwater.

As for my personal favorite community freshwater fish, get some corydoras. They're cute, and they really can't attack any of the other fish (plus they're pretty tough if other fish try to attack them).

You may also have to let your tank cycle for up to a month.
posted by drezdn at 10:06 AM on February 19, 2005

Aquaria Central is an excellent resource for all sorts of aquarium related questions- it's a giant AskMe devoted to aquaria, with participants who truly want to help.

If you've never had an aquarium before, do start with freshwater. The water chemistry for saltwater is much trickier to master.

You'll definitely have room for a few schools of colorful fish in a 75 gallon, but the temptation to overstock is huge. Angelfish can work great in a community setting, or they might gobble up every other fish it can fit into its mouth, and harrass the rest endlessly. You just won't know until you try it.

Before you stock your tank, get some test kits from your local fish store and test your tap water. (Let it sit overnight before testing.) Once you know where your tap water is in terms of pH and hardness, this will clarify what kind of fish will do best. Yes, you can alter pH and hardness through chemical treatments, but these often aren't very stable- it's much better to stick to fish that are happy in your water as it is. Some fish need a very specific pH, others are flexible. You'll also want to choose fish that can all thrive in the same water chemistry parameters. Also, find out whether your local water supply uses chlorine or chloramine- chloramine doesn't break down over time the way chlorine does.

Neon tetras are colorful but can be tough to keep alive- unethical breeding has apparently weakened it, depending on the source of your fish (Florida breeders are okay, Southeast Asia breeders can be more problematic.) Neon tetras are also prone to Neon Tetra Disease.

Clown loaches are a wonderful community fish- they are very active and indeed "clownish" in the tank, fun to watch. They are a schooling fish, so are happiest in groups of at least 5 which will take up a lot of space in your tank. (Fewer loaches will still do okay, but all schoolers are better off in a group.) Clown loaches will get very big, and you may need to upgrade to a larger tank to accomodate them, or they will get stunted.

Rainbowfish are hardy community fish, good schoolers, and come in a variety of colors and sizes.

Be wary of letting your fish store sell you an "algae eater"- the Chinese Algae Eaters will get very large and agressive as they mature. Another fish to watch out for (often sold for algae control) is the common plecostomus. There are endless varieties of plecos out there, and if you don't know which one you are getting, you could wind up with a tankbuster. For algae control, I highly recommend the otocinclus catfish- they are small, so get a group of them (five or seven) and watch them go to work on the sides of the tank. They don't get bigger than 2 inches, and they won't bother other fish, but an angelfish might want to snack on them.

Regarding cycling your tank- how are you doing it? I would encourage you to explore fishless cycling using pure ammonia to start the ammonia-nitrite-nitrate cycle. An alternative would be to use a product like Bio-Spira, which instantly cycles the tank. Either method is much better to cycling the tank with fish.

Feel free to email me (in profile) if you have any more questions. Good luck!
posted by ambrosia at 11:05 AM on February 19, 2005

One more piece of advice: for a 75 gallon tank, you will definitely want to get a Python. It makes water changes ridiculously easy, and for a 75 gallon tank, you're looking at a lot of bucket-schlepping without it.
posted by ambrosia at 11:16 AM on February 19, 2005

In my experience saltwater fish, despite what everybody will tell you, seem to be hardier than freshwater fish. Maybe it's just because after spending many more $100's on setup, equipment, and stock, you tend to be a bit more observant and careful ;-)

Best advice I can give? I found that every fish shop (specialist fish shop, that is - forget your average pet shop) each had their own "you must do it this way!" attitude. One would insist the only way to start / cycle the tank was using hardy disposable fish; another would insist that bottled enzymes / bacteria was the only way; etc. Usenet groups / webboards were the same ("trickle filter! No, live rock! No, sand filter!"). I listened to them all, then did what made sense to me using a combination of all of them.

Oh, and mini-reefs are not easy for beginners - you need very stable tank chemistry, which means a loooong (many months) setup and run-in for beginners. They also need *lots* of light (which is a whole 'nother set of arguments ;-). And you'll find that most of your invertebrates don't last more than 12 months anyway...

(Which is why I got out of it - summers here were the killer; water temp is critical. I found even local specimens of coral, anemones, etc would be perfectly OK @ 29 degrees C, but drop dead at 30C. Not to mention spawning corals poisoning the whole tank. I felt bad about hurting my poor defenceless beautiful fish.)

You can do a nice saltwater tank with just fish, live rock (ocean collected rock, with all sorts of microscopic life living in it), and the hardier inverts (e.g. corallimorphs), by using a good external biological filter (e.g. trickle, fluidised bed, etc).

Above all, run it in properly (it takes 5 weeks or more before you can add fish - understand and watch your nitrogen cycle), and enjoy!

(Oh, and ambrosia, I second the otos as algae eaters. Lovely little freshwater fish, not as voracious as plecs, but will happily strip a tank of algae in a couple of days whilst leaving plants intact. And despite conventional wisdom, mine have always switched easily to alternative foods when the algae runs out.)
posted by Pinback at 8:03 PM on February 19, 2005 [1 favorite]

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