finding nemo
January 10, 2007 5:14 PM   Subscribe

I need a recommendation for a freshwater aquarium fish that meets certain criteria.

- freshwater
- not prone to jumping out
- not prone to startling and wrecking the stuff in the tank (i.e. I want a lazy, laid-back fish)
- does not grow to be any larger than 4" (10 cm) long or so, even in a big tank
- if it's an easy breeder, the gender must be clear to me so I can prevent that
- does not require live or frozen foods
- not a voracious vegetarian that will destroy the live plants
- does not require a whole schools' worth of companions to be healthy

would be nice if:
- it came in solid black, solid silver, red tones, or rainbowy
- it tolerates being with 2 others of its own kind

does not matter:
- what temperature it needs -- I can customize the tank for whatever species I choose.
- whether it gets along with other fish; there will be only one species in the tank.
posted by xo to Pets & Animals (22 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I worked in a pet store for 3 years and the majority of fish that the big box retailers sell fit this bill. Go to a reputable pet store with this list and you should be able to find quite a few options.

Stay away from Goldfish and Cichlids (sp?).
posted by Octoparrot at 5:20 PM on January 10, 2007

You could get a tank that is partitioned into three sections to hold individual betas.
posted by quadog at 5:39 PM on January 10, 2007

There are various kinds of Gourami's or Rainbowfish that are perfect.

Have a bit of a google, because both kinds have species of varying size.

I used to have Dwarf Gourami's and loved them :)
posted by chrispy108 at 5:43 PM on January 10, 2007

Your criteria aren't difficult to satisfy. You want to narrow it down a little bit? Do they have to be big fish? If not, guppies are pretty, come in all colors, are easy to sex, and they are almost impossible to kill.
posted by ikkyu2 at 6:59 PM on January 10, 2007

Best answer: I was about to recommend Dwarf Gouramis, but it seems chrispy108 beat me to it. They're pretty, and come in powder blue and "flame" red varieties. Lots of personality for a fish, and are happy with freeze-dried bloodworms.

Some of the males can get a little aggressive, so you do have to watch out for that, but just getting one male and two females, or even three females (and they are usually sold by gender) would easily prevent that. They are also fine singly.
posted by internet!Hannah at 7:03 PM on January 10, 2007

Almost every freshwater aquarium fish fits your criteria (except for the gender issue, but most fish don't breed well in home aquariums anyway)...

Normally I would recommend goldfish, but since you have color specifications, I would go with a Tetra... They live very harmoniously with other fish, and they exhibit very cool schooling behavior.
posted by amyms at 7:13 PM on January 10, 2007

Response by poster: ikkyu2, if I was to narrow it down more strictly, I'd emphasize solid-color black above all colors, ideal size as around 2", best if active during the day, creepy/weird-looking is okay, and I really, really do not want them breeding, so same-gender tolerance is ideal.
posted by xo at 7:15 PM on January 10, 2007

amyms--Goldfish? Really? He wants something that stays under 4" and goldfish hardly fit that bill.
posted by internet!Hannah at 7:27 PM on January 10, 2007

internet!Hannah: Thanks for pointing that out to me (I missed where the poster said "even in a big aquarium")...

Goldfish will stay under 4 inches if kept in a standard 20 gallon aquarium, but if you're going for a bigger tank they'll get much bigger than 4 inches...

I still stand by my recommendation of a Tetra, however.
posted by amyms at 8:33 PM on January 10, 2007

male guppies?
posted by twistofrhyme at 9:56 PM on January 10, 2007

Best answer: amyms--Well, I personally belong to the school of thought that says that you shouldn't keep goldfish in aquariums under 30 gallons, as all you do is essentially stunt their growth, but I know there's some discouse on that subject. I still don't know about the tetras, as just about every species of tetra requires a school.

xo- As far as all-black fish around 2" go, black mollies fit the bill. However, they require a school of 6 or more and are prolific livebreeders (females can even store sperm from one mating for months and give birth many times from the same stored sperm, meaning a one-gender tank won't necessarily solve the breeding). However, unless you were keeping the fish in a tank condusive to the baby fish hiding and still getting food, the mollies would eat most of them. Would that work out, possibly? Mollies are incredibly easy to keep alive.

Other black fish include the black ghost knife, but it gets big (i'm talking over a foot within three to four years) and prefers frozen and live foods, which would most likely rule it out. Oh yeah, and they're nocturnal, too. Not what you want.

You could also look into angel fish, which have an all-black variety. Very pretty fish. However, they can get very tall (though not all that long, so you might still find them within your requirements) and need a tall tank, and you either have to have one of them, or more than three, since if you have just two or three, one will pick on the other(s). As far as breeding goes, from the sound of people who actually try to breed them, they don't have babies too often or too easily (this is because they have to pair up and then lay eggs. Remove the eggs--bam, no babies).

There are also some very dark varieties of corydoras catfish (though probably none the jet-black I imagine you are looking for) that you might be interested in. They don't get too big, are easy to care for, and I don't think they breed much. They are bottom-level fish, though, and do best in schools of 6 or more. Once again, probably not what you want.

So, I'm afraid I can't think of any perfect fish for you, but hopefully this helps point you at some options.
posted by internet!Hannah at 10:17 PM on January 10, 2007

I echo the point of babies being not much of a problem, due to the adults eating the fry. Tetras are very very cool.
posted by Goofyy at 4:02 AM on January 11, 2007

Zebra Danios might work too. They are silver with black stripes, and I've never had them produce offspring in any tank I owned. They are a schooling fish though, so you'll want six minimum to keep them happy.
posted by COD at 4:40 AM on January 11, 2007

Best answer: Zebra Danios are not laid back fish, even if you have a school. They're often used as dither fish because they're so active.

I will also echo the gourami recommendation. They're lots of gorgeous varieties, and they're pretty relaxed as fish go.

Black mollies do not require a school by any stretch, but do get on well in numbers. I started with 1 who was quite content. I ended up intentionally breeding and had 4 mollies in together. If you're concerned about breeding, just get males. They gender is dimorphic enough that it's pretty easy to pick out a male. If you get mixed gender, mollies will breed like rabbits, but unlike rabbits, the eat their own young readily. The young will try to hide in vegetation, but I found I had to be proactive in isolating them to keep them from become snacks.

Mollies will also thrive in brackish water and are generally hardy fish. Biggest problem I had with them was ich and shimmy.

A semi-saltwater tank is nice because it can help keep diseases/parasites down, but it limits the choice of other fish you can put in the tank. It's not required, it just makes the mollies happier.
posted by plinth at 6:52 AM on January 11, 2007

Goldfish will stay under 4 inches if kept in a standard 20 gallon aquarium,

I'm laughing at this because I had a roommate in college who had three goldfish in a 8 gallon tank and they all got to be so big they couldn't move in it.
posted by agregoli at 7:42 AM on January 11, 2007

Best answer: Don't get regular or "three-spot" gourami. We got some of these & one harassed the other two to death (a female did the harassing). Go dwarf, if you go gourami! I hear they're not so uptight. Still have the three spot & have only been able to put a S.American bumblebee catfish in with it (it *prefers* to hide most of the time & they seem to get along just fine, unlike anything else I've put in the tank with it)...
posted by susanbeeswax at 7:58 AM on January 11, 2007

Oscars may fit the bill. They are a ciclid, but are generally tame compared to other ciclids. I've had two of them in a 55 gal tank for years. I fed them fish food in the shape of small sticks. They have personality, or as much as a fish can. They even ate out of my hand.
posted by kc0dxh at 9:29 AM on January 11, 2007

Best answer: Oscars will get enormous, especially in a larger tank. I'd second Mollies. Rainbowfish and Gouramis as meeting most of your requirements, and throw in a new one: black kuhlii loaches.
posted by ambrosia at 10:05 AM on January 11, 2007

Best answer: Good suggestion for Corydoras!

They're awesome little fish full of personality.

I wouldn't recommend Oscars, they get a foot long!
posted by chrispy108 at 10:05 AM on January 11, 2007

Best answer: Corydoras are awesome, but they stay on the bottom most of the time. I miss my cories.
posted by Area Control at 11:47 AM on January 11, 2007

Best answer: I got a 10 gallon tank and cycled through a few fish until I decided that I didn't want to buy fish just to have them die on me in six months. That was three years ago, and the 3 fish I had at the time are still alive: one kuhlii loach and 2 cories. They are practically unkillable (also super-cute).
posted by nev at 8:24 PM on January 11, 2007

Response by poster: Thank you for the recommendations, everyone. I researched all the suggestions and will mark 'best answers' according to the results:

- Dwarf Gouramis are easily startled, so they don't meet my criteria, except for the Honey Dwarf Gourami.
- Rainbowfish and Tetras need schools, so they don't meet my criteria.
- Oscars and goldfish get too big, per my criteria.
- Black mollies, Corydoras, Angelfish and Kuhlii loaches are all good possibilities, thank you!
posted by xo at 1:41 PM on January 13, 2007

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