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South American tank stocking suggestions?

Tool13x

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I have a 30 gallon (36"x12"x18") I want to set up with South American fish. The main fish I want to eventually have in there are Apistogramma. They are very hard to find here but they they do turn up every now and then. Ideally Id like to have a harem (1m,3f) of Cacatuoides or Macmasteri.
Im not interested in breeding them at the moment so Id like to rehome a shoal of Neon Tetras into this tank and add another species, can anyone suggest another shoaling species that would do well with Apistogramma spp. and Paracheirodon innesi? Maybe some Rummynose tetras?
I am also a sucker for Corydoras and Id like to add 5 to this tank if I have room, do you think id have any issues and any species suggestions?
Im looking forward to the suggestions, its always interesting to see what the forum comes up with.
 

Colin_T

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If Apistogrammas are hard to find where you live, why don't you breed them and supply the local market?

Corydoras might get chased by the Apistogrammas if they breed or just feel like the Cories are intruding on their territory.
 
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If Apistogrammas are hard to find where you live, why don't you breed them and supply the local market?
I have definitely given that some thought, Id like to have a community tank to keep them in and perhaps move them to a breeder tank to spawn when the time comes.
Corydoras might get chased by the Apistogrammas if they breed or just feel like the Cories are intruding on their territory.
Darn, I was hoping to hear they would be ok together. I was worried about the territorial issues but I really love having Corys in the tanks, maybe they arent the best fit. I hate to call Corys bottom feeders but they really do a great job of cleaning up any of the uneaten food. Is there another species of bottom feeder I can add that will help clean up without bothering the Apistos?
 

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It depends on the Apistogrammas. I had a pr of A. cacatuoides that were fine with other fish including bottom dwellers. The fish had a half flower pot and some rocks and plants in one corner and kept everyone away from the corner but left the rest of the tank alone. They also bred in the tank and I use to take the babies out when they were about 3 weeks old.

Not all Apistogrammas will get stroppy with Corydoras and if you have caves and rocks in one corner, the fish will hopefully hang out there and the Cories can live on the other side of the tank.
 

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I will assume from the dimensions with this being 30 and not 40 gallons that the width front to back is 12 inches and the height is 18 inches; one of my tanks is the same, and I also have the 40g which has the 18 inch width.

Plants have not been mentioned, but regardless of lower plants or not, floating plants are just about essential with SA fish. It dims the light and fish will always be less stressed and show brighter coluration.

The issue of cories and dwarf cichlids is primarily because both eat from the substrate so they are naturally always in one another's way. But if the female is caring for eggs or fry, she can be very belligerent to any cories, and cories will bumble everywhere and once they sense eggs or fry, nothing is going to stop them. The more robust cories tend to shake this off, but if you were thinking of the more delicate dwarf species, I wouldn't put these in with cichlids.

Keep temperature needs in mind when selecting fish here. Both cichlids mentioned havee "normal" ranges but you choice for these will impact other fish. Neons for example need cooler water than say cardinals, so if you decide to keep the tank around 77-78F then cardinals would be OK but neons not. Cories tend to like it cooler like neons, 75-76F being max, with a few exceptions.

Something else to keep in mind is the placement in the water column of species. So far, all those mentioned prefer the lower half of the tank. Pencilfish are often recommended for dither fish with dwarf cichlids because they share water parameters but also some species tend to remain in the upper half. Nannostomus eques swims at an oblique angle and remains almost permanently at or very near the surface. N. marginatus likes the mid to upper level. Neither of these will nip cichlids, but there are species that will. Hatchetfish are another upper-leveel option, those in the genus Carnegiella only due to size, but a shoal of say 8-9 marble hatchets (Carnegiella strigata) perhaps?
 
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Plants have not been mentioned, but regardless of lower plants or not, floating plants are just about essential with SA fish. It dims the light and fish will always be less stressed and show brighter coluration.
I have some floating water sprite I can use for now but I would like to get some Amazon Frogbit. I am considering amazon swords and jungle val for plants but Im sure I need to be careful where I plant them to make sure the light isnt blocked by the frogbit. Are there any low light South American plants you can suggest that will be ok under diffused light?

The more robust cories tend to shake this off, but if you were thinking of the more delicate dwarf species, I wouldn't put these in with cichlids
I was considering Corydoras Agassizii, I have a single Corydoras Ambiacus that is currently in a tank with a group of Corydoras Melini that he soesnt seem to have much interest in. I was hoping that he would hang with the Agassizii more readily since they are such a similar species

Something else to keep in mind is the placement in the water column of species. So far, all those mentioned prefer the lower half of the tank. Pencilfish are often recommended for dither fish with dwarf cichlids because they share water parameters but also some species tend to remain in the upper half. Nannostomus eques swims at an oblique angle and remains almost permanently at or very near the surface. N. marginatus likes the mid to upper level. Neither of these will nip cichlids, but there are species that will. Hatchetfish are another upper-leveel option, those in the genus Carnegiella only due to size, but a shoal of say 8-9 marble hatchets (Carnegiella strigata) perhaps?
I definitely would like a mid-level or surface species, I think I would prefer Nannostomus spp. over the hatchets, hatchetfish always looked strange to me although Carnegiella strigata has beautiful coloration.
 

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I have some floating water sprite I can use for now but I would like to get some Amazon Frogbit. I am considering amazon swords and jungle val for plants but Im sure I need to be careful where I plant them to make sure the light isnt blocked by the frogbit. Are there any low light South American plants you can suggest that will be ok under diffused light?
I have created some loops out of airline that I use to control where the surface plants are. In one tank with a spraybar and reasonable flow these just float and I rely on the flow to keep them at the opposite end to the spraybar. In another, with low flow, I have tide this to a suction cup on the glass so it stays in on place. In either case water changes are easy because as I drain the tank the whole thing drops, and then floats up again once I fill it back up.

I like amazon frogbit but be aware that it does not like wet leaves (including from humidity). I have this in one tank where I am able to keep the feeding cover open and I have raised the back of the lid by 2 inches to leave a gap for humidity to escape. I can't raise the lid on the other tank because the inhabitants would escape - and I can't keep frognit in there.
 

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I have some floating water sprite I can use for now but I would like to get some Amazon Frogbit. I am considering amazon swords and jungle val for plants but Im sure I need to be careful where I plant them to make sure the light isnt blocked by the frogbit. Are there any low light South American plants you can suggest that will be ok under diffused light?
I have Water Sprite (Ceratopteris cornuta) in my Amazon-theme tanks as it is such a lovely and useful floating plant. My Frogbit has reproduced rapidly over the 7-8 years but doesn't do as well; this may be partly the humidity issue, but also I acquired what was labelled as Amazon Frogbit but when it bloomed it was obvious that it was not but was one of the temperate species, so I am thinking the constant tropical temperatures year round may be why it is not in great shape. But it has lasted. I also have Water Lettuce in some tanks. But the C. cornuta is by far the best.

I have floating plants in all tanks, and they tend to be extensive, though I thin them out during water changes. I also have low/moderate lighting. The common Amazon Sword (Echinodorus grisebachii, v. bleherae) does well in my tanks. The chain swords (Helanthium tenellum and H. bolivianum) do extremely well and always have. E. major is thriving in the 70g, even flowering twice now, and more recently the Tropica hybrid "E. parviflorus" seems to be taking hold but light may be an issue for this one. I'll attach a photo of my 70g Amazon stream, and 40g Amazon blackwater flooded forest; not the best photos due to my very old and cheap camera, but you may get the idea on the plants.

I was considering Corydoras Agassizii, I have a single Corydoras Ambiacus that is currently in a tank with a group of Corydoras Melini that he soesnt seem to have much interest in. I was hoping that he would hang with the Agassizii more readily since they are such a similar species
My former Bolivian Ram male was in the 5-foot tank with cories, and at feeding time he would headbutt the cories when they got in his way after "his" pellet or tablet. Interestingly he only went after the spotted pattern cories; he never bothered with the pandas or duplicareus. But it didn't phase the cories, they moved off and would be back moments later.

I definitely would like a mid-level or surface species, I think I would prefer Nannostomus spp. over the hatchets, hatchetfish always looked strange to me although Carnegiella strigata has beautiful coloration.
Most characins tend to prefer mid to lower water levels, so it is not easy getting upper level species. The only one I can think of aside from the pencils and hatchets already mentioned is Hemigrammus pulcher. And maybe Moenkhausia pittieri, but this is a very rambunctious tetra, I had to move my group out of the 70g and into the 90g because they were charging around so much the other tetras were nervous.
 

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I have created some loops out of airline that I use to control where the surface plants are. In one tank with a spraybar and reasonable flow these just float and I rely on the flow to keep them at the opposite end to the spraybar. In another, with low flow, I have tide this to a suction cup on the glass so it stays in on place. In either case water changes are easy because as I drain the tank the whole thing drops, and then floats up again once I fill it back up.

I like amazon frogbit but be aware that it does not like wet leaves (including from humidity). I have this in one tank where I am able to keep the feeding cover open and I have raised the back of the lid by 2 inches to leave a gap for humidity to escape. I can't raise the lid on the other tank because the inhabitants would escape - and I can't keep frognit in there.
Thats a great tip, I was hoping to place the plants where the surface vegetation is naturally pushed away by the HOB discharge but that might not work out as planned forever. Ill keep that in mind.
As far as frogbit is concerned I have heard before that it is very particular about wet leaves and ive seen people struggle with it but I didnt know that just humidity can have the same effect. Ill keep it in mind and explore my options.
 
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I have Water Sprite (Ceratopteris cornuta) in my Amazon-theme tanks as it is such a lovely and useful floating plant.
Both those tanks look great! What do you use for leaf litter? I believe my water sprite is Ceratopteris thalictroides and I must say after seeing C. cornuta I prefer the latter. The thinner leaves of C. thalictroides seem to make it more of a floating jumble where the broader leaves of C. cornuta seem to help it float on the surface better. I also really like those chain swords. Thanks for the ideas.

Most characins tend to prefer mid to lower water levels, so it is not easy getting upper level species. The only one I can think of aside from the pencils and hatchets already mentioned is Hemigrammus pulcher. And maybe Moenkhausia pittieri, but this is a very rambunctious tetra
Thanks for the suggestions, if those are as rambunctious as you say then maybe I should just go for the pencilfish. I really enjoy the N. beckfordi in my 55gal so I wouldnt be opposed to having more, but it would be great to find a different species. N. eques sounds interesting and so do N. marginatus.
 
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Well I just happened to have finally found a few A. cacatuoides at a semi local shop. I am pretty pumped, Ive been calling around for about 2 months for any Apisto species and the pickings have been pretty slim. I was able to pick up this nice male and what I hope is a female, can anyone confirm this from these couple pics? I was pretty sure at the store but now that I got them home I started wondering if this was just a very young male. Then again I also have a bad habit of second guessing myself.


ApistoPr.jpg apisto1.jpg ApistoF.jpg 30gal.jpg
 
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Colin_T

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Looks like a boy and girl to me :)

I don't use leaf litter on the bottom of any tank because it's a pain in the blank to clean the tank. The dwarf cichlids don't need it and neither do tetras.

I have had Water Sprite plants that were apparently different species but they all ended up the same after 6 months in my tanks. The plant is sometimes sold under various scientific names but short of doing a dna test you would be hard pressed to say exactly what species it is. I generally call it Ceratopteris thalictroides because that is what we called it 30yrs ago. My plants had broad flat light green leaves but also produced thin darker fronds like a tree fern and a range of leaves in between. All these different leaf forms came off the same plant at the same time.
 

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I'm not 100% sure from the photos but it does look like you have a pair. Most shops are pretty good at sexing fish like this.

Here's a pair for reference.


As you seem to have a pair, they are likely to breed as Apistogramma's breed relatively easily. I've usually had Kribenis which are a slightly different dwarf Cichlid. They would always breed and take over a section of the bottom of my tank.

i'd be inclined to avoid anything else that would take up the bottom area of your tank because they get territorial and when the fry are born they protect them around the tank so you may find your corys get chased away and stressed.

Not sure i've added anything that hasn't already been said, only my opinions. :)
 

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Both those tanks look great! What do you use for leaf litter? I believe my water sprite is Ceratopteris thalictroides and I must say after seeing C. cornuta I prefer the latter. The thinner leaves of C. thalictroides seem to make it more of a floating jumble where the broader leaves of C. cornuta seem to help it float on the surface better. I also really like those chain swords. Thanks for the ideas.
As others have rightly mentioned, the shape of the fronds (= floating leaves, as being a true fern it technically has fronds not leaves) can depend upon conditions meaning light, nutrients and water parameters. This makes identification of this species difficult, and it is often encountered in the literature under the names Ceratopteris pteridioides and C. thalictroides, although both these are now accepted distinct species. C. pteridioides has blunt-lobed fronds (leaves), while C. thalictroides has fronds that are deeply pinate with tips more slender than the subject species. There is some uncertainty over the taxonomy and distribution of Ceratopteris thalictroides and C. cornuta with some botanists considering these as one single species. There are currently (2018) five recognized distinct species in the genus Ceratopteris. Whichever you might have, if it grows well floating, that is really all that matters. But so far as I know, you will not see the wider leaves of C. cornuta on any other species.

The leaf litter is oak leaves that I collect every autumn in my back garden. I use no chemicals, pesticides, fertilizers, etc, and I have no industry here, so they are safe with just a rinse and drying, then bagged. They slowly decompose, and you can leave them to do so or remove them and replace with whole dried leaves, doesn't matter. Many hardwood tree leaves are similarly safe, maple and beech comes to mind. Avoid any evergreen leaf, and thick leaves from bushes. Deciduous hardwood tree leaves are fine. Wait till they naturally die and fall off, so they are completely "dead" and dry. Lay out on paper towels or a clean cloth to dry before bagging.

Aside from natural habitat replication, dried leaves are useful food sources; when used in tanks with fry the fry always grow faster as they begin on the infusoria produced on dried leaves. The tannins help the water conditions too; if you have lots of leaves they can tint the water; I've only had this in the smaller 10 gallon which is loaded with leaves for the pygmy cory fry and Farlowella vitatta fry. I don't notice tinting in the larger tanks as there are not enough leaves.
 
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