South American fish that school in upper third?

realgwyneth

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We're trying to keep this planted 65 gallon (36" x 18" x 24") to South Americans so everybody will have similar needs. But, everybody seems to swim in the lower half of the tank except for the ancient red-eye tetras that will not be replaced when they're gone. We have 7 Schwartzi corydoras, 8ish cherry barbs, one lemon tetra (all that's left of a school), and a kribensis and 3 zebra loaches (I realize the last four are not South American but we're fond of the individuals). Assuming we add 2 more Schwarztis and a couple more cherry barbs, what can we get to school in the upper reaches? What sort of single showy fish could we have that wouldn't be picked on by the cherry barbs? We tried to add more lemon tetras, but the quality available here has been terrible the last few years.

Oh, water parameters would help: pH: 7.5, KH: ~80, GH: ~160, temperature: 77 There's a huge piece of wood in the middle that seems to make our hard water soft enough for these fish.
 
Pencilfish are a good upper-level dither fish; similar shape to tetras but with some funky behavior. Hatchetfish are another one; they are fish that are adapted to stay right at the surface.
 
My Penguin Tetras I have spend 95% of their time near the top of the water column. They also spend most of their time schooling together. I have 10 of them.
 
Different species of pencil fish have different behavior just like tetras. However, having said that if you have a tight lid marble hatchet fishes are an excellent option. If you do not have a lid or have gaps in the lid they will jump; after all who really wants to be enclosed in a glass cage ;)
 
Different species of pencil fish have different behavior just like tetras. However, having said that if you have a tight lid marble hatchet fishes are an excellent option. If you do not have a lid or have gaps in the lid they will jump; after all who really wants to be enclosed in a glass cage ;)
I'm definitely going to have to pass on the hatchet fish as the lid has multiple gaps in it. I'd like to find a different lid but haven't found one that works for my configuration of filters (AQ 30 on the back, AQ 50 on the side). I'm researching pencil fish and emperor tetras now.
 
No real answer from me but an observation. You are really, REALLY, pushing the upper limit of the PH for your current fish. A PH of 7.5 is the absolute max. for just about every one of your fish. Sure, they can survive, but it isn't the best environment for the beasties.
 
No real answer from me but an observation. You are really, REALLY, pushing the upper limit of the PH for your current fish. A PH of 7.5 is the absolute max. for just about every one of your fish. Sure, they can survive, but it isn't the best environment for the beasties.
This is not the case; ph itself is meaning-less as long as it is fairly stable. What is more important is kh/gh parameters. While there is a relationship between kh and ph it isn't direct. Where ph gets interesting is when it changes frequently from base to acidic. The issue here has to do with collection of bacteria found in the water and the fishes immunity to them.

Furthermore tap water frequently has an artificially high ph to protect pipes. This additive will dissipate overnight lowering ph if you set the water out and is not due to a change in kh.

So there are two lessons here - first rather than presenting ph you should present kh/gh; and 2nd when measuring tap water ph you should let the water sit out overnight to get a better baseline reading.
 
Here, emperors stay low.

Surface dwellers are usually silver, because they use sunlight as their cover. They have to be able to hide in plain sight. As a result, they can be hard to find in stores. There are a few from stream bank overhanging plant habitats, and shallow year round creeks with colour. You really are limited to insect eating surface fish - hatchets and the like. My beckford's pencils like to be in the top third of a 23 inch deep tank, and they are nicely coloured fish with a nice way to them.

Most small surface fish seem skittish and jumpy to me. Attacks in nature often come from below, and they have the issue of birds as well. They jump to stay alive as a first reflex, and that gives us problems.

The pH issue? I also only look at GH and ppm. I rarely measure pH, even for breeding tetras and rainforest fish. It was a great measure until more informative measures came along, and it's the mineral content and hardness of the water that the fish care about. All of those pH down products are just acid we dump in the give ourselves the right test kit reading. I have a friend with strange well water that measures close to pH 8.0, but is not hard. I've watched wild caught Discus in the month after arrival guarding fry in his tanks.
 
I have found head and tail light tetras to be a good upper half type of shoaling dither fish. They'll hang out very much in the same zones as red eye tetras.

For a centrepiece fish, how about a blue acara or similar sized other SA cichlid. I almost suggested an Angel fish, but if your barbs are nippy then its probably best to avoid angels.
 
Surface dwellers are usually silver, because they use sunlight as their cover. They have to be able to hide in plain sight. As a result, they can be hard to find in stores. There are a few from stream bank overhanging plant habitats, and shallow year round creeks with colour. You really are limited to insect eating surface fish - hatchets and the like. My beckford's pencils like to be in the top third of a 23 inch deep tank, and they are nicely coloured fish with a nice way to them.

Most small surface fish seem skittish and jumpy to me. Attacks in nature often come from below, and they have the issue of birds as well. They jump to stay alive as a first reflex, and that gives us problems.
This is really interesting. Thanks for sharing that. It totally explains why our red-eye tetras are so spastic. I like the look of the Beckfords, so I'm going to see if anyone stocks them around here.

The pH issue? I also only look at GH and ppm. I rarely measure pH, even for breeding tetras and rainforest fish. It was a great measure until more informative measures came along, and it's the mineral content and hardness of the water that the fish care about. All of those pH down products are just acid we dump in the give ourselves the right test kit reading. I have a friend with strange well water that measures close to pH 8.0, but is not hard. I've watched wild caught Discus in the month after arrival guarding fry in his tanks.
Thank you. When we set this tank up years ago, we were always trying to fight our city's hard water with ph down and the like. You almost need a chemistry degree to figure it out. We stopped doing that when we moved the tank across town, and now just try to keep fish that match the water instead of the other way round. So much less stressful! A big log in the middle helps more than all the chemicals we tried.
 
I have found head and tail light tetras to be a good upper half type of shoaling dither fish. They'll hang out very much in the same zones as red eye tetras.

For a centrepiece fish, how about a blue acara or similar sized other SA cichlid. I almost suggested an Angel fish, but if your barbs are nippy then its probably best to avoid angels.
Wow, they are beautiful! Do you think the acara and the kribensis would bicker? She's already rather territorial about certain areas of the bottom of the tank. Do they dig up plants?
 
This is really interesting. Thanks for sharing that. It totally explains why our red-eye tetras are so spastic. I like the look of the Beckfords, so I'm going to see if anyone stocks them around here.


Thank you. When we set this tank up years ago, we were always trying to fight our city's hard water with ph down and the like. You almost need a chemistry degree to figure it out. We stopped doing that when we moved the tank across town, and now just try to keep fish that match the water instead of the other way round. So much less stressful! A big log in the middle helps more than all the chemicals we tried.
If you are willing to consider asian fishes there are several less silver options including kubotai rasbora and emerald eye rasbora. Both of these fishes will group up - the kubotai are constantly swimming near the top but not a tight school formation; the emerald eye i have have formed a tight school and kept it this past year but i'm not sure if it is their environment or just their nature - the emerald eye i have are in a blackwater aquarium with a lot of hatchet fishes.

It is always a mistake to use chemicals to modify water chemistry. Either stick with tap or use ro water. Since I keep mostly (all?) softwater fishes most of my tanks are pure ro though a few are mixed tap and ro. Of the 15 aquariums i have only 3 are pure tap water and my tap water is softish.

I find plants grow really well in ro water but the period of instability is longer and there is a tendency during the start up period (first year) of cyano forming.
 
Wow, they are beautiful! Do you think the acara and the kribensis would bicker? She's already rather territorial about certain areas of the bottom of the tank. Do they dig up plants?
I think if you bought an acara as big as, or bigger, than the krib it should able to establish itself in the tank. However if you have a really territorial krib and you and a smaller acara then it could possibly end badly. Adding American cichlids to other's territories is as much luck as good judgement. They are all individuals.
 
You should not mix sa cichild with asian or african cichild because they don't speak the same language. More precisely most fishes will signal territorial aggression before actual attacks. Unfortunately fishes from different regions are 'confused' by the signals they see and frequently result in attacks that could otherwise be avoided. Of course some domestic fishes with unnatural colours suffer the same issues since they cannot properly display colours of submission or aggression.
 
You should not mix sa cichild with asian or african cichild because they don't speak the same language. More precisely most fishes will signal territorial aggression before actual attacks. Unfortunately fishes from different regions are 'confused' by the signals they see and frequently result in attacks that could otherwise be avoided. Of course some domestic fishes with unnatural colours suffer the same issues since they cannot properly display colours of submission or aggression.
Thanks for the insight. I think that rules out the acara for now. When Lady B (the kids call her that because she's a bully) is gone, we might have to rethink kribs altogether.
 

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