Don't know what to with my setup from here...

Snagrio

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Hey there, I'm new here and have a predicament to discuss. I've had fish for a number of years now but it's come to my attention that things aren't as up to snuff as they should be and I'm unsure of the best course of action at this point.

Currently have a 55 gallon community, with issues of species that need far bigger space and others that aren't doing so well. The residents are 4 clown loaches, 2 Australian rainbowfish, an albino rainbow shark, 2 upside-down catfish, a giant danio and a pleco of indeterminate species. Nothing special about the setup, just two hang-on-back filters, dual heaters (water stays around 80F), gravel and plastic plants with a fake log hide and one piece of driftwood (gave up trying live plants since the clowns dig out everything before long). Try to water change every couple weeks but I've had a less than stellar track record of maintenance upkeep.

The community itself is over a decade old, and many have already come and gone (used to actually be a smaller species community until the loaches figured out that small fish make excellent snacks), and several that are less keep having issues like on and off fin rot, one of the rainbowfish seems to have swim bladder issues (constantly swimming at a diagonal angle) and the giant danio has some kind of tumor-like growth on its lip. But the biggest problem as you may have guessed is space. I know clown loaches need double the dimensions that they are currently in. In fact I never would've gotten any but when I started out with a 30 gallon off Craigslist it came with one and I've slowly introduced more so it wouldn't be lonely. And the pleco was a blunder as it was supposed to be a bristlenose but it's clearly a species that's going to get giant (it's relatively new so it's small for now).

However, I don't think it's possible to upgrade to the required 100+ gallon setup as within the next few years I'll be moving out on my own and I'm nervous about the prospect of having to fit a tank of that size in an apartment, let alone having to worry about floor structural integrity that one needs to be aware of with that kind of weight. Bottom line is, the setup is kind of a mess that needs serious rethinking. Should I just attempt to rehome the loaches and pleco? Sell the entire thing since I've done a rather mediocre job? Are the other fish savable at this point? Really unsure what I should do.
 

mrsjoannh13

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If it were me, I would maybe offload some of the fish - see if your LFS or another friend in the hobby can take them. Maybe stay with the same tank size or even downgrade to make the water changes an easier task? That way you wouldn't have as big a task when you move, also. I think others will probably request photos and/or videos of the fish in question in terms of them being savable.

It sounds as if you don't have the time or energy to put into maintenance so a downgrade (either less fish or maybe less tank to maintain) might be a consideration. I'm not saying go down to a 10 gallon tank or anything drastic. I'm assuming you don't have anything like a python water change system and you're relying on buckets and siphon / gravel vac hoses to do the water changes. Which makes large water changes more of a pain.
 
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Snagrio

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If it were me, I would maybe offload some of the fish - see if your LFS or another friend in the hobby can take them. Maybe stay with the same tank size or even downgrade to make the water changes an easier task? That way you wouldn't have as big a task when you move, also. I think others will probably request photos and/or videos of the fish in question in terms of them being savable.

It sounds as if you don't have the time or energy to put into maintenance so a downgrade (either less fish or maybe less tank to maintain) might be a consideration. I'm not saying go down to a 10 gallon tank or anything drastic. I'm assuming you don't have anything like a python water change system and you're relying on buckets and siphon / gravel vac hoses to do the water changes. Which makes large water changes more of a pain.
It's not so much that the upkeep is too much, it's moreso a past issue (had depressive episodes) that has led to the current degradation and has left me in a state of "What to do from here" kind of thing. Though I do have to water change by the bucket method as the closest faucet isn't compatible with any tubing system. It's tedious but doable.

Unfortunately don't know anyone personally to take in the big fish. I'll need to call around some local places to see if they'll take them. Also I'll get some photos later for sure.
 

NCaquatics

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Photo of the pleco? Can try to ID it or tag someone who may know more.

Clown loaches need a 5 foot tank minimum and group of 6, if thats not a feasible plan for you to accommodate, then it would be best to rehome them.

The shark, upside down cats, they'd be alright in a 55g provided its the 48" long 55g. Also, get 2 more upside down cats, they do best in groups 4+

Giant danio, get at least 5 more and rainbows need groups too, but check your GH because if you got too soft of water, this can be an issue with rainbows.

The pleco depends what kind.

Would also lower the temps a bit, 80 is a bit high for danios and some others, perhaps bring it down to 76-78F
 

mcordelia

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Hey! I want to commend you for being proactive and taking the next steps for your fish tank. It sounds like you want to stay in the hobby, but end up with a tank you are happier with, and I think that is completely achievable. It might be a bit of a process to get from here to there, but there are a lot of folks here who will be happy to help you on your journey :)

I am wondering whether are more lightly stocked walstad-style tank would be along what is doable and would help you achieve your goals. It may mean upgrading your lighting to go with more plants, but should improve the health of your fish long term, even if you are not always 100% able to stick with a regular water change schedule. In my experience, the past tends to predict the future, and fish are supposed to be a positive hobby, not something that gets you feeling even worse due to guilt if you are having a depressive episode, so I think being realistic and working within that framework is going to best set you up for success.

I'm working on a tank setup myself right now that somewhat follows the same ideology - due to a busy lifestyle, I'm not going to be in a position where weekly water changes are a reality, so I am already taking that into account at the level of setting up the tank. The goal is good filtration, understocking, and lots of plants (probably some pothos or similar also growing hydroponically for nitrate absorption).

In terms of "getting from here to there", If it were me, I would first look at the plant thing. Your fish have existed in the tank to date, so another couple of weeks / months of the same existence is likely neither here nor there, and will allow you to do some thinking about the fish aspect. Depending on how involved you want to get into plants, you can either start doing research, or you can just bite the bullet by getting some more plants, tossing them in, and seeing what sticks. Since your clowns are diggers, I would first focus on plants that don't need to be in the soil, such as floating plants, or anchored plants like java moss and java fern. I believe some anubias plants as well don't need to be in the soil to do well. You can even buy some of these already pre-attached to slate and driftwood from some retailers. If you get fast-growing floating plants like frogbit or hornwort, it may help your water quality within a short time frame, and there is a chance that the issues of fin rot, etc, that you have been seeing may be ameliorated (I'm not making that guarantee however).

As you work on the above, then it's probably a good time to start planning on what to do with the clown loaches if you no longer wish to keep them (facebook marketplace, r/AquaSwap, craigslis, etc are all avenues that you may be able to find a new suitable home for them). If you want to go the LFS route, searching google maps for "fish store" may give you pointers on LFS's that are not chains who may be able to take your fish for rehoming as well. It depends on your locale - where I used to live I would have had to have driven 2h to get to a "real" LFS, but where I currently live I have one 10min away :)

After that, you have the pleasant part of figuring out next steps in terms of fish and aquascaping, and at that point it probably is a good time to think about what amount of energy you want to be putting into your tank. I am not sure a high-tech planted tank is necessarily worth the effort in your case, especially if you will be moving down the road, but doing a low-tech planted community, with hardy fish that can tolerate a variety of water parameters (I'm not sure if your future involves you moving locally, or moving to a different state. In both cases, moving fish is possible, but always easier if you have smaller, peaceful, hardy fish).

This was just a lot of ideas put into one post, I'm interested in hearing your thoughts and how you'd like to plan on moving forward :)
 
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Snagrio

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Okay, here's a pic of the setup itself.

The best shot I could get of the pleco.


Photo of the pleco? Can try to ID it or tag someone who may know more.

Clown loaches need a 5 foot tank minimum and group of 6, if thats not a feasible plan for you to accommodate, then it would be best to rehome them.

The shark, upside down cats, they'd be alright in a 55g provided its the 48" long 55g. Also, get 2 more upside down cats, they do best in groups 4+

Giant danio, get at least 5 more and rainbows need groups too, but check your GH because if you got too soft of water, this can be an issue with rainbows.

The pleco depends what kind.

Would also lower the temps a bit, 80 is a bit high for danios and some others, perhaps bring it down to 76-78F
That would explain why I never see the cats actively swim even at night... As for shoal numbers for the danios and rainbowfish, they actually used to be higher but with more of the clown loaches moving in things were looking cramped and I didn't want to overcrowd. As a side note the water tends to be hard here so no worries there.
 
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Snagrio

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I'm having conflicting thoughts... A part of me wants to just rehome fish and "start over" but, the other part wants to try and make things better with what I already have and deal with the challenges as they come. When I was young I had a huge collection of animals (already had several and then others came from friends and then some reproduced and so on) and eventually I rehomed many of them, an act which still haunts me to this day.

I know it's strange to impart such emotional baggage to fish of all things but, considering how long some of them have been with me I don't know how to feel about giving them away after all this time. But the prospect of dealing with a setup over double the size I currently have that'd be required to give them their best life is equally daunting, not just in itself (space, cost, maintenance) but the extra dilemmas down the line with moving and such. I'm at a crossroads and I'm left wanting of an answer as to which path to take...
 

NCaquatics

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The pleco looks good for a bristlenose, likely female :)
 

mcordelia

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I think your points and concerns are completely valid. I think there's a lot to be said for the bond that people form with their pets, and at the same time I think there is also value in the altruistic act of finding a home that is "better" than what you are able to provide. It sounds like your pleco will be ok, so maybe you don't need to get rid of everything? I also think it depends on whether or not you are able to find good homes for the loaches. Certainly, living in a small tank will be better than being suscepted to disease in a chain pet store, but you may be able to find a loving home for them (maybe even with visitation rights :D)

Also, you don't need to make up your mind this second. You can think it over for a couple of weeks and then decide. I think either way you go, as long as you put the animals needs first, you will be justified. I also worry a little bit about you taking on more than might be reasonable for your life situation. But as I said, think about it :) you're asking the right questions!!
 

Naughts

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The clown loach just look too big already in your tank. They are chunky fish and are adding a lot to the bioload. If you traded them for live plants the bioload will improve.
I also recommend attaching a garden hose to the gravel syphon. Trail it out the door to remove water during water changes and the task will be more manageable.
Finally I think fish can help with mental wellbeing and encourage you to stay in the hobby :)
 

ITViking

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Love the Clown Loaches. Though those particular guys look like they need a bigger tank, I've heard they can also fetch a decent price on the market, as they do take a very long time to grow larger. I know some folks simply trade in their fish when they reach a size they can no longer sustain, in favor of smaller fish of the same species. You might consider re-homing them to an LFS in exchange for some smaller Clown Loaches.
 
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Snagrio

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Love the Clown Loaches. Though those particular guys look like they need a bigger tank, I've heard they can also fetch a decent price on the market, as they do take a very long time to grow larger. I know some folks simply trade in their fish when they reach a size they can no longer sustain, in favor of smaller fish of the same species. You might consider re-homing them to an LFS in exchange for some smaller Clown Loaches.
I've also heard of such things because they are hard to keep alive when young (which means I must be doing something right since all but one I got when they were baby pet store size), but what's a rough estimate for what they go for these days?

On a different note to go back to a previous post:
Also, get 2 more upside down cats, they do best in groups 4+

Giant danio, get at least 5 more and rainbows need groups too, but check your GH because if you got too soft of water, this can be an issue with rainbows.
Is there enough room in a 55 gal for that many fish even without the clown loaches? Seems like an awful lot for the space. I've specifically not added more for such a reason as things looked cramped as it was when the schools were at full numbers in the past (iirc there were at least 5 of both danios and rainbows).

And on ANOTHER another note, I just remembered another hiccup. You notice how there's only one hide in the tank? Well, there used to be two, a second, smaller fake log. For whatever reason all the clown loaches crammed themselves into the smaller one (despite not really fitting whatsoever), and that inadvertently left a power vacuum open for the rainbow shark, who proceeded to take over the entire right half of the tank and constantly chased away anything who tried to approach the bigger log. So if the loaches are rehomed, the shark will effectively go mad with power.
 

mcordelia

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I think the rainbow shark is another fish that will likely grow too big for the tank, so you might want to consider what the future holds for him too. I think your best move may be to focus on some peaceful community fish with maybe one "showcase" fish once the community is established.

I think your tank has a lot of potential and I think you will be back to enjoying the hobby once you have the right mix of fishes in there :)
 
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Snagrio

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Made up my mind, going to try and expand. By my estimations nearly everything already in the tank would benefit from larger quarters (be it sheer size or required numbers per species), and I can't in good conscience just rehome an entire community to replace it with something else when they've already been with me for a number of years.

My aim will be a 125 gallon or so, with proper aquascaping (I'll try "non-rooted" species like java ferns and java moss). I already tried to make the setup at least semi-naturalistic but I want to go further. It won't happen for a while until I can find what I'm looking for and there's still research to be done but hopefully I can navigate this and make the changes I want to see.
 

mcordelia

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YESSSS!!! another person doing a 125gal project!!! Mine is going very slowly, but will be interested in watching your progress!!

Where are you planning on setting up the tank? Another option, if you're still living at your parents' place, is to try and make it as low-effort for them as possible and they may be ok with you leaving this particular tank there, at least until you are done with the "apartment living" phase of your life (which I realize for some of us lasts longer than for others).
 
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