Tolerate vs Thrive

wasmewasntit

Resident Plant Killer
Joined
Aug 21, 2021
Messages
2,330
Reaction score
2,837
Location
North Yorks
I'm sorry but I have a bit of a big old bee in the bonnet.

Tolerate vs thrive.

So often on this and other forums you read about soft water fish being kept in hard water and vice versa. People adding this and that to physically alter their water chemistry including their pH....and you read of the fish who suffer health issues and/or die prematurely as a result of being kept in the wrong water chemistry.

A big part of the problem lies with the sellers of fish suggesting a fish can "tolerate" a wide gulf of water chemistry. That is all well and good but they forget to mention the higher potential illness and disease percentages or the fact that the lifespan is likely to be shorter when fish "tolerate" the contents of their aquarium.

Just cos a fish is advertised as able to live in water with a pH 6 to 8 range does not mean it actually should be doing so. In reality very very few, if indeed any, fish will live in that wide a gulf of pH. In the same way a fish needs very specific water chemistry across the board, just cos the shop has hard water fish in their soft tap water doesn't mean they are actually thriving in it.

As fishkeepers we should have fish in aquariums that closely match their natural needs without putting the chemical cupboard into the water first.

This might mean that the fish you dream of owning is impossible but then there are hundreds of other fish out there that will thrive in your water that are just as vibrant and interesting as the dream fish that you wanted.

When your fish are thriving, they show much more colouration, they are more active and expressive, they live longer, they are more open to spawning and are nowhere near as prone to health issues and early death

When your fish are tolerating, they can show stress, become lethargic, they are far more prone to health issues and can die sooner than expected.

When fish are thriving they will tell you far earlier if they are ailing....take ICH as an example...a thriving fish will show symptoms long before the spots appear, they can be treated without quarantine and being physically stronger are less likely to die, whereas a tolerating fish might show early symptoms that are usually misinterpreted or missed and the owner will not realise what is wrong til the spots appear and the fish has to be quarantined, treated and potentially dies.

I don't know about anyone else, but I really feel that fishkeepers who are entering the pastime for the first time and even the old salts who have been at it for years should always match their fish to the natural water chemistry that you have......not force fish to tolerate their unsuitable water chemistry just cos the fish is what they want to own. Researching what specific fish species really need to thrive seems to be a dirty word and too often people take what the shopkeepers say as the truth...and that inevitably ends in disaster for the fish.

A thriving fish will always be healthier than one that is forced to tolerate their aquarium. Match a fish species needs to what your water chemistry is, please don't force fish to tolerate what they can't.
 

GaryE

Fish Herder
Joined
Oct 14, 2011
Messages
1,480
Reaction score
1,849
Location
Eastern Canada
This turns into a nerd discussion fast, and I'm always good for those!
There are generalist species that can take a lot of varied water. Environments change in some places. There are fish that move through salt to fresh and everything in between. There are fish that get caught in evaporating ponds in dry season, and deal with water that changes chemistry by the day as they wait for their ideal conditions to return with the rain.
Where things go wrong is with the specialists - the fish shaped by evolution to exploit a niche where competitors can't survive. Extreme environments, usually with no measurable hardness and high acidity tend to produce small fish, and tannin stained waters favour colours for signalling and communication. The specialist species are often exactly what we want to see in our tanks, only we don't give them the conditions that created all the things we like in them.
How do we know if we have a specialist species?
I think we have to start with "species". We have to stop thinking "fish" as a general category and look at each of these marvels on its own. A short dive into natural history and you'll know where every species you keep comes from, what the environment there is like, what it eats, what it does to reproduce, and what conditions its history has prepared it to thrive in.

I've kept and bred fish from sulphur springs, African puddles, raging rapids, desert oases... in each case, they had very different demands. I've seen well meaning aquarists buy them in auctions and put them with the fancy guppies, because they are 'just fish". There's a mindset worth changing. Find your inner nerd and it will nurture your hobby and the species of fish you like...
 

imw

Fish Crazy
Joined
Jul 17, 2021
Messages
320
Reaction score
157
Location
Harrogate
I always wondered what if any evidence supports the notion of tolerate v thrive, is it only subjective ?
I always thought and think it is always the best for the fish to be kept in the water which best suits them, but the "proof" part of my brain nags at me. Just to expand the thought, if we think about keeping fish in a glass box, would this not be more of a factor when we talk about thrive/tolerate.

I keep fish, so just put the thought out there. -

Thoughts >
 

BkkprGal

Fish Fanatic
Joined
Feb 12, 2022
Messages
74
Reaction score
19
Location
Blue Ridge, Georgia
I kept a 55gal for many years without knowing much about water chemistry and what my particular fish needed. Looking back, I realize that I wasn't intentional with any of it and I'm lucky to have had the success I did. Now that I'm trying to get back into fishkeeping and am currently obsessed (ADHD Shiny Object Syndrome lol) with researching every little thing, I'm a little overwhelmed.

I'm definitely seeing alot of websites giving a large range of parameters for species of both fish and plants. I think it's a marketing ploy - "Ah, just buy it. It'll be fine, trust me!" 🤦

That said - what resources do you trust and have found to be the most accurate? Websites specifically. I want to avoid e-commerce websites and find research based and historical websites.

And, as a fellow nerd, let me ask this - how much does captive bred adjust the needs of a species versus their historical, natural environment? Because I would assume that these fish are being bred to be kept in a more wide-ranging environment. Just like the many varied arguments about a proper dog's diet because wolves in the wild eat only raw meat, but domestic dogs don't do well on a that kind of diet.
 

Wills

Moderator
Staff member
Global Moderator
Joined
Jun 15, 2009
Messages
9,749
Reaction score
3,293
Location
East Yorks
I imagine this is inspired from my post last night ;) for the record I do agree with you.

But... sometimes we have to be realistic about the industry behind our hobby and recognise that if new members come to us with a tank full of soft water fish in a hard water area (or visa versa) if they simply return those fish to the same shop they will likely be sold to someone else in the same hard water area and that person may not put the same research in. So how do we care for those fish? Keep them with an owner who will keep them to otherwise high standards with the guidance of a forum like this or rehome them to be sold into the same water with a less educated fish keeper?

When people join or even read a forum and put the time in to learn about the fish they keep they will learn about compatibility, correct numbers, stocking levels, adult sizes, the nitrogen cycle, water changes, filter maintenance, plants, the right substrates and of course hardness but others who go by listening to people in the stores perhaps wont do any of that and end up with much bigger short term issues.

So for me if someone comes to the forum with a school of Rummy Nose Tetras in hard water, and they are on the right track to learn how to look after them, doing good maintenance etc I think it is fair to tolerate that rather than tell them to rehome those fish who would likely remain in a hard water area. Equally if someone new comes to the forum and asking about adding Rummy Nose Tetras in a hard water area we can give them the advice to actually go for Rummy Nose Rasboras from the caustic Lake Inle :) which would be perfect for them and visually, size wise and behaviour wise very similar.

Because of those two scenarios the fact is keeping fish in the right water is most of benefit to the fish keeper because for every fish kept in the right water (eg a Dwarf Neon Rainbow in hard water) there will be dozens kept in the wrong water (eg Neon Tetras in hard water) and there is very little we can do about that as individuals, all we can do is choose the fish from the store that are the best option for us, because the fish in the store not suitable for local water are going to get sold one way or another.

So by all means direct people pre purchase down the right route but lets not hound those that made uneducated decisions that are now trying to get on top of things.

Wills :)
 
OP
OP
wasmewasntit

wasmewasntit

Resident Plant Killer
Joined
Aug 21, 2021
Messages
2,330
Reaction score
2,837
Location
North Yorks
I imagine this is inspired from my post last night ;) for the record I do agree with you.
I have actually been thinking about this for several months but had held off posting incase the potential debate got out of hand.

It isn't just this forum that incidents of the wrong fish species in the wrong water chemistry happen...its far and wide across every forum and online media.

Granted there have been a few very recent threads where a person has received bad advice and been sold unsuited fish species that have got my back up....but I started the thread as a general debate/discussion rather than as a result of one post or thread onsite.
 

Naughts

Fish Gatherer
Joined
Jun 2, 2019
Messages
2,518
Reaction score
1,992
Location
UK
It isn't just this forum that incidents of the wrong fish species in the wrong water chemistry happen...its far and wide across every forum and online media.
Largely because of the conflicting information and generalisations meaning it is hard to know what the right species in the right water is. One example from thousands:
the right water (eg a Dwarf Neon Rainbow in hard water)

This somewhat differs from our favoured reputable sites parameters.
 

Naughts

Fish Gatherer
Joined
Jun 2, 2019
Messages
2,518
Reaction score
1,992
Location
UK
I look at GH more than pH.
Maidenhead Aquatics gives these hardness ranges but would we all agree?
"As a general rule, water hardness follows these criteria:
0-4 °dH (0-70 ppm) = very soft
4-8 °dH (70-140 ppm) = soft
8-12 °dH (140-210 ppm) = medium
12-18 °dH (210-320 ppm) = hard
18-30 °dH (320-530 ppm) = very hard"
Possibly not, it is subjective. Water companies and test kit producers have different ideas.
 

Wills

Moderator
Staff member
Global Moderator
Joined
Jun 15, 2009
Messages
9,749
Reaction score
3,293
Location
East Yorks

TwoTankAmin

Fish Aficionado
Joined
Dec 31, 2004
Messages
4,807
Reaction score
444
Location
USA- NY
This is a forum for we amateurs. By that I mean most members here (myself included) do not have any formal training and work experience in those areas which can provide the science related to this topic. For years I have relied primarily on Google Scholar for the sort of information being discussed in this thread. Let me offer a very good example of this for your consideration. I added the red below to point out what I felt are the most important points.

Craig, P.M., Wood, C.M. and McClelland, G.B., 2007. Gill membrane remodeling with soft-water acclimation in zebrafish (Danio rerio). Physiological Genomics, 30(1), pp.53-60.
https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/physiolgenomics.00195.200

Abstract

Little is known regarding the ionoregulatory abilities of zebrafish exposed to soft water despite the popularity of this model organism for physiology and aquatic toxicology. We examined genomic and nongenomic changes to gills of zebrafish as they were progressively acclimated from moderately hard freshwater to typical soft water over 7 days and held in soft water for another 7 days. Gills were sampled daily…………... Levels of mRNA for ECaC increased fourfold after day 6, with an associated increase in ECaC protein levels after 1 wk in soft water. CA-1 and CA-2 exhibited a 1.5- and 6-fold increase in gene expression on days 6 and 5, respectively. Likewise, there was a fivefold increase in NHE-2 expression after day 6. Surprisingly, CTR-1 mRNA showed a large transient increase (over threefold) on day 6, while H+-ATPase mRNA did not change. These data demonstrate a high degree of phenotypic plasticity in zebrafish gills exposed to an ion-poor environment. This not only enhances our understanding of ionoregulatory processes in fish but also highlights the need for proper experimental design for studies involving preacclimation to soft water (e.g., metal toxicity).

The zebrafish has a long history as a model organism in the study of developmental biology, but only recently has it gained acclaim for examining vertebrate physiology …….. Despite its many advantages as a model organism, little is known regarding the physiology or ability of zebrafish to tolerate environmental stress…………

Teleosts living in freshwater must constantly battle the loss of ions from the body to the surrounding environment. Many studies have examined changes in the mechanisms of gill transport that deal with salinity changes accompanying seawater to freshwater transfer,………. However, ion loss is further exacerbated in a soft-water situation where ion concentrations for Na+ and Ca2+ can be 10 times less than measured in typical freshwater (Na+ and Ca2+ ∼1 mM, Mg2+ 0.4 mM), necessitating alterations in osmoregulatory physiology to maintain ion homeostasis in tolerant species………….

Zebrafish in the wild are found throughout the Indian subcontinent where they face a wide variety of environmental water chemistries and are known to be a soft water-tolerant species. Their tolerance to ion-poor water, comprehensive genomic database, amenability to large-scale screening, and reverse genetics make the zebrafish an ideal model in which to investigate gill remodeling and ionregulatory physiology……………………... Zebrafish are able to maintain their plasma and whole body ion composition in the face of exposure to extremely low ambient ion concentrations in soft water. This seems to be accomplished partly through a rapid change in Na+ and Cl− transport affinity and the regulation of transport processes. …………

The main goals of this study were to determine during a progressive 7-day soft-water acclimation: 1) the temporal pattern of gene expression for key ion channels, transporters, and enzymes in zebrafish gills, 2) whole body changes of ion levels, and 3) the effect of acclimation on changes in protein expression and enzyme activities for selected membrane components. These data will help identify the molecular changes involved in gill remodeling and ion homeostasis in zebrafish.……….
 

Naughts

Fish Gatherer
Joined
Jun 2, 2019
Messages
2,518
Reaction score
1,992
Location
UK
5-15 covers pretty hard water IMO and given what we know about the family they come from, their distribution and the habitats I think saying they are a hard water fish is pretty fair.
I can only agree with one of these points - That if you looked at the "family", that they are rainbowfish, it would be reasonable to assume they are hard water fish.
Yet 5-15 covers soft, medium and hard so if we are looking to keep them mid range they should have medium water.
Looking at their distribution and habitat - acidic jungle streams in Indonesia - I could not conclude that they are hard water fish.

Sorry to pick on this example Wills, as I said it is one of many, but it is proving that this is an area of generalisations, conflicting information and subjectivity. So how can we be so sure of what is 100% right for our fish??
 

enricosonic

Fish Crazy
Joined
Jan 20, 2022
Messages
301
Reaction score
207
Location
Evergreen State
If we’re talking about “thriving”, I think that may extend beyond properly-suited water parameters, but also to having the right substrate, plants, hardscape etc. I have yoyo loaches and bronze cories, yet I started off with gravel as my substrate because I didn’t know any better. I don’t know if fish are more likely to thrive in what they’d see in their natural habitat while merely “tolerating” fluorescent gravel and princess castles, but that could factor in too.
 

enricosonic

Fish Crazy
Joined
Jan 20, 2022
Messages
301
Reaction score
207
Location
Evergreen State
Who could imagine that corys in the wild would be found on gravel and then gravel that wasn't small and rounded?
https://forum.aquariumcoop.com/topic/1011-corys-on-gravel/
Click on the vid in the second post, it is set to start at the point indicated.
Mine were seemingly fine with Seachem Flourite as a substrate. It's clay-based and possibly softer than traditional gravel but still "appears" a bit sharp-edged. I removed sections and added the Flourite sand version. The cories hang out in that sand area now.
 

StevenF

Fish Herder
Joined
Aug 8, 2015
Messages
1,767
Reaction score
561
Location
US
So often on this and other forums you read about soft water fish being kept in hard water and vice versa. People adding this and that to physically alter their water chemistry including their pH....and you read of the fish who suffer health issues and/or die prematurely as a result of being kept in the wrong water chemistry.
In my opinion it is really PH KH issue. In most natural water the KH or carbonate come from calcium and magnesium carbonate. So Ifpeople try to increase KH the either add a liquid KH or sodium bicarbonate or potassium bicarbonate. You won't find much potassium and sodium carbonate naturally in water. Natural water normally has low levels of sodium and potassium but mostly in the form of salts not carbonates.

If you fead any animal including humans too much sodium they will get sick and could die. If you use potassium instead you get the same thing. Unfortunately many KH products are only sodium or potassium. Many believe incorrectly that sodium is bad for plants. So many aquarium products are heavy on the potassium. And just increasing KH a couple of degrees will hadd a huge amount of Potassium. And these same products are also used to increase PH. And using a water softener typically adds a lot of sodium carbonate or potassium carbonate. and removes calcium and magnesium.

So overall we are trying to adjust PH and KH incorrectly. We should be using calcium and magnesium carbonate instead but unfortunately these don't dissolve easily in water and affect PH differently. So many PH and KH products only contain compounds that dissolve easily. The same problem also extends to fertilizers Alnnost all fertilizers on the market don't have calcium a very important plant nutrient. And most fertilizers are deficient in magnesium also an important plant nutrient.

So the easiest way to avoid messing with KH and PH is to simply use match your fish to your water. But unfortunately all the concern about lead in drinking water has resulted in water utilities increasing PH to prevent old lead pipes from corroding. Unfortunately utilities are sometimes using sodium or potassium to increase PH.
 
Last edited:

Most reactions

trending

Staff online

Top