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Help with my tank? (With a little "what do I have" thrown in...)

saturniidae

New Member
Messages
3
Hello folks!

I'm new to apistogramma, and I suppose I'm still new to fishkeeping in general. Last April I dove into keeping neocaridina shrimp, got a serious case of Multiple Tank Syndrome, and well... let's just say I work at my local fish store now haha (Seriously, props to my LFS owner & boss for putting up with me.)

When I set up my 20gal long, I made the same mistake a lot of new users here make: I conflated community tanks with breeding tanks. I saw apistogramma commonly listed as popular "centerpiece" fish for community tanks, and read that a 20gal was perfect for a pair. I stuck 8 rummynose tetras and 6 pygmy cories in my tank and set out to find my dream fish.

I found the pair I was looking for last week - A. agassizii, from a local hobbyist. (They were sold to me as "triple red" but... I think they're double red? Does triple even exist in agassizii? Whatever they are, I think they're both stunning!) I brought them home, drip-lined them for a nice long time, and added them to the tank.

Then I started reading apisto-specific advice instead of generalist advice, and realized I'd made some mistakes. I'd tried to get the best of both (breeding and community) worlds, and was likely stressing my fish out. I decided to focus on the pair as a breeding project, transferred the cories to a different tank, and traded in the rummynose tetras (already beyond frustrated by their seemingly random deaths). I removed the Penguin 200 in favor of a sponge filter, and added some floating watermoss. I added an apisto hut and a betta hide, on top of the cave rock I'd already provided. I also added a bunch more java fern and anubias, and more catappa leaves. I turned down the lights.

Pictures below. The java fern bits are just kinda thrown in there at the moment; I'll get them tied down to the wood properly later this week. I have a bunch of ramshorn snails in there right now, and am planning on moving them out soon, as I've read they can eat the eggs.

Thank you all for providing such helpful information to posters before me; it made correcting many of my mistakes much easier!

Any suggestions for other things I should add or change to make this a tank a better fit for these two? For example, I keep waffling on whether or not I want to use sand. I would rather use gravel than sand for cleaning reasons, but tried to go with the smallest grain I could find. They seem to be able to sift through it just fine. Would it be safer for them if I used sand instead? Is having areas of sand and areas of gravel as huge a pain in the butt as it sounds?

Finally, I'm thinking of adding a second sponge filter, same size as the first, to the other back corner. Any reason not to?

PH: 6.8 & stable
Temp: 80F
KH/GH: Pretty close to 0
TDS: 90-100

Thanks so much for all your help!
 

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MacZ

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,187
Location
Germany
I saw apistogramma commonly listed as popular "centerpiece" fish for community tanks, and read that a 20gal was perfect for a pair. I stuck 8 rummynose tetras and 6 pygmy cories in my tank and set out to find my dream fish.
80 liters, at least with the standard dimensions are ok as a breeding tank, if you want to have a peaceful community, keep a single male, not a "pair". Most Apistogramma don't form permanent pairs and there is an aggression dynamic shifting back and forth: As long as the female is not receptive to breeding she will be chased by the male, as soon as she is in spawning mood the tables turn until she loses interest in the fry, pushing all other fish including the male into one corner of the tank.

Petitella should be kept in bigger groups and bigger (i.e. longer) tanks. A group of 30-40 in a 150cm long tank would be appropriate. In smaller tanks the shoals dissolve and the fish adopt quite erratic and hectical swimming patterns.
C. pygmaeus can end up as food, a fully grown A. agassizi might try eating one. Usually doesn't end well for both fish.

found the pair I was looking for last week - A. agassizii, from a local hobbyist. (They were sold to me as "triple red" but... I think they're double red? Does triple even exist in agassizii? Whatever they are, I think they're both stunning!) I brought them home, drip-lined them for a nice long time, and added them to the tank.
Which means returning the female (which I agree is a different species) isn't possible... not good.
Also about naming of domestic strains: Double/triple/quadruple... there are no absolutely fixed naming conventions. Basically every self-proclaimed breeder is able to call "their strain" whatever they want. Thus you will find the exact same fish you have labeled several different names in the trade.

And about the tank itself:
- I'd remove the cave (and if not put it on the sand and push it in a bit. But it is not needed at all unless you want to breed.)
- I'd remove one of the rocks (which raises GH/KH and thus pH over time.) which is under that... slab of glass? (which I'd remove as well, it only takes up space).
- The substrate is unfortunate. Fine sand would have been optimal, the gravel is to coarse and big grained for the fish to chew. You could change that now still, question is whether you are willing to go through that fuzz.
- The structure is not really important. Rehome the female asap and just keep the male, then you don't have to do much.

PH: 6.8 & stable
Temp: 80F
KH/GH: Pretty close to 0
TDS: 90-100
Those are indeed not that bad.
Please be aware:
pH is never stable. It is connected to KH and CO2 as well as other acids/bases.
Close to 0 ofr GH/KH or 1°? Otherwise the TDS may be hard to explain. Or are you adding any kind of fertilizers?
 

Mike Wise

Moderator
Staff member
5 Year Member
Messages
11,304
Location
Denver, Colorado, U.S.A.
Frank is right. Your male is a domestic red strain of A. agassizii - very mature and rather obese. The female is A. cacatuoides, probably from the breeder's rather poor Triple-red strain. I think you need to discuss this with this so-called breeder.

Also the holes in these commercial caves are much larger than what breeding female apistos prefer. Holes only need to be large enough so that the female can slide in sideways - and it always helps if you half-fill these caves with sand so she can close off the opening to her liking.

With regard to the "sand" (actually fine-sized gravel), it is coarser than what I use and I get critiques that my coarse-grain sand-blasting sand is too coarse. I agree, It is, but I've been using it for 40 years (under-gravel filter plate era) and spend more time gravel cleaning than I would with finer grained subsrtate. I do recommend thinking about changing it. Below is a photo of sand that I use (top) and that found throughout the Amazon Basin (bottom) from the Rio Itaya in Peru. There's an obvious difference.
1708283773748.png
 

anewbie

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,477
80 seems on the warm side for these species; i'd go for 78 but others might correct me.
 

Apistoguy52

Active Member
Messages
314
… The female is A. cacatuoides, probably from the breeder's rather poor Triple-red strain. I think you need to discuss this with this so-called breeder.
Sorry to hijack…

Mike, could you explain what makes this female “rather poor”? Compared to many of the cacatuoides I see, I think she looks rather nice. Good fins, complete lateral band, good shape. I’d have a hard time calling this fish a cull…what am I missing?
 

saturniidae

New Member
Messages
3
You have two different species: your male is A. agassizii and the female is a cacatuoides-group species, probably A. cacatuoides.
Well, that bums me out a lot. I can't say that I'm too surprised; I had the thought that the female looked a bit "cacatuoidian" to me but assumed that as a beginner, I was wrong. Guess that's what I get for letting my excitement get the better of me and trusting the seller. No better teacher than experience, I suppose. I'm sending an email to the aquarium society that ran the swap meet, so that I can hopefully get into touch with the seller directly. I've no idea if this was an honest mistake, or if there's something more intentional going on here, but I'm trying not to jump to too many conclusions. If I can't get this fixed with the so-called breeder, then I'll have to rehome the female at work and hunt for another.
very mature and rather obese
Is there anything I can do about his obesity other than feed less often? The seller said the pair were about 2 years old, does that sound right to you?
And about the tank itself:
- I'd remove the cave (and if not put it on the sand and push it in a bit. But it is not needed at all unless you want to breed.)
- I'd remove one of the rocks (which raises GH/KH and thus pH over time.) which is under that... slab of glass? (which I'd remove as well, it only takes up space).
- The substrate is unfortunate. Fine sand would have been optimal, the gravel is to coarse and big grained for the fish to chew. You could change that now still, question is whether you are willing to go through that fuzz.
- The structure is not really important. Rehome the female asap and just keep the male, then you don't have to do much.
With regard to the "sand" (actually fine-sized gravel), it is coarser than what I use and I get critiques that my coarse-grain sand-blasting sand is too coarse. I agree, It is, but I've been using it for 40 years (under-gravel filter plate era) and spend more time gravel cleaning than I would with finer grained subsrtate. I do recommend thinking about changing it. Below is a photo of sand that I use (top) and that found throughout the Amazon Basin (bottom) from the Rio Itaya in Peru. There's an obvious difference.
I will likely replace the gravel with sand, and make some minor changes to the hardscape. Is there a certain brand or type of sand that you folks recommend? The "glass" is a piece of quartz that has some sentimental value, but I'll think about using it in a different tank.
Those are indeed not that bad.
Please be aware:
pH is never stable. It is connected to KH and CO2 as well as other acids/bases.
Close to 0 ofr GH/KH or 1°? Otherwise the TDS may be hard to explain. Or are you adding any kind of fertilizers?
Sorry, I mean stable as in, I test it daily (or more) and every test I've done says 6.8. I use test strips (most of the time) which show both KH and GH at very close to "undetectable" levels. I haven't done the API liquid test kit in a while, I'll do that tonight. I used a splash of tap water for the minerals and filled the rest up with plain RO, which I think should explain the TDS. All water changes since have been with RO. I do plan on fertilizing, but I haven't yet. I don't run CO2.
80 seems on the warm side for these species; i'd go for 78 but others might correct me.
I will do more research on this. then. I read that folks had success breeding apistos in the 78-82F range, so I went for 80, but if you're correct, this is an easy enough fix.
Sorry to hijack…

Mike, could you explain what makes this female “rather poor”? Compared to many of the cacatuoides I see, I think she looks rather nice. Good fins, complete lateral band, good shape. I’d have a hard time calling this fish a cull…what am I missing?
No worries re: hijacking, I'm curious about this too, but don't trust my own eyes yet at all.

Thanks again!
 

anewbie

Well-Known Member
Messages
1,477
The seller said the pair were about 2 years old, does that sound right to you?
I found domestic will live 2 to 4 years depending on how they were cared for et all. I.e, i would never knowing buy a 2 year old dwarf cichild. In addition i would not be shocked if the seller though they were a non-breeding 'pair' not knowing they were different species.
 

MacZ

Well-Known Member
Messages
3,187
Location
Germany
The seller said the pair were about 2 years old, does that sound right to you?
I've no idea if this was an honest mistake, or if there's something more intentional going on here, but I'm trying not to jump to too many conclusions. If I can't get this fixed with the so-called breeder, then I'll have to rehome the female at work and hunt for another.
2 years is quite an age nowerdays for domestic breeds. Most reach between 2 and 3 years of age. And considering the state the A. agassizii is in 2 years fits. I'd not trust the seller with anything. I'd rehome the female somewhere else and that's it.
Sure you want to breed? He might be too old before you find a fitting female. Also - as always - my warning: Intentional breeding is work and rehoming the fry can become frustrating.
I will likely replace the gravel with sand, and make some minor changes to the hardscape. Is there a certain brand or type of sand that you folks recommend?
I'm "brand blind" as long as it's not to my disadvantage. 0.2 - 0.5 mm sand would be optimal. But in the end any sand up to 1mm grain size will do.
Sorry, I mean stable as in, I test it daily (or more) and every test I've done says 6.8. I use test strips (most of the time) which show both KH and GH at very close to "undetectable" levels. I haven't done the API liquid test kit in a while, I'll do that tonight. I used a splash of tap water for the minerals and filled the rest up with plain RO, which I think should explain the TDS. All water changes since have been with RO. I do plan on fertilizing, but I haven't yet. I don't run CO2.
Test strips are only useful for two questions: If the substance I'm looking for present? and if yes, is it a lot or a little? That's all. Numbers on teststrips have barely any validity. As you are going with RO in the future, basically all you need is a EC/TDS-meter. In softwater many test kits (including JBL, Sera, API and Seachem) will give you erratic or baseline results and nothing really useful.
he "glass" is a piece of quartz that has some sentimental value, but I'll think about using it in a different tank.
Good decision, it simply takes away room.
I will do more research on this. then. I read that folks had success breeding apistos in the 78-82F range, so I went for 80, but if you're correct, this is an easy enough fix.
I find anything between 24 and 27°C acceptable. In the end they are domestic fish, while they profit from soft water as would any other, the temperature never has to be a tight fit to anything.
Mike, could you explain what makes this female “rather poor”? Compared to many of the cacatuoides I see, I think she looks rather nice. Good fins, complete lateral band, good shape. I’d have a hard time calling this fish a cull…what am I missing?
My guess is a breeder of such a strain will nowerdays also want the females to show male fin colours so the offspring shows consistent colours.
I found domestic will live 2 to 4 years depending on how they were cared for et all. I.e, i would never knowing buy a 2 year old dwarf cichild. In addition i would not be shocked if the seller though they were a non-breeding 'pair' not knowing they were different species.
I fully agree. Makes me underline the "so-called" ins "so-called breeder". I'd not even be surprised if they are a re-seller or just had them sold that way themselves and used the chance to get rid of them. So many red flags, I think it's useless to ask for correction or compensation.
 

Mike Wise

Moderator
Staff member
5 Year Member
Messages
11,304
Location
Denver, Colorado, U.S.A.
Sorry to hijack…

Mike, could you explain what makes this female “rather poor”? Compared to many of the cacatuoides I see, I think she looks rather nice. Good fins, complete lateral band, good shape. I’d have a hard time calling this fish a cull…what am I missing?
As Mac wrote earlier a good quality Triple-red female should show some red spots on the caudal. Otherwise the female look healthy. Males should develop long anterior dorsal spines, which poorer strains have lost. I personally have never bred domestic color stains, not my interest, but I haven't heard anyone who gets a consistent/set strain. There always seem to be some Double-red males that pop out of the mix.
 

saturniidae

New Member
Messages
3
Bit of an update...

I did keep the male, even though he's old and "obese" XD I found a suitable female agassizii. I swapped the gravel for sand, planted a bunch of plants, put Fluval peat in the HOB, and slowed the HOB current waaaay down. Added a bunch more botanicals & threw a dwarf lily bulb and some salvinia in. And let the tank grow out a bit.

In that time they've spawned a couple of times, with the new female displaying egg-guarding behavior at least twice. The third time seemed to be the charm because she brought out her new clutch of free-swimming fry yesterday! She claimed her half of the 20gal long, and the male typically stays on his side, leaving the family alone. Sometimes she darts across the tank and orders him back in line if she thinks he's strayed too close, but no real issues with aggression yet (though I do have space in another tank for the male if he ends up needing it).

Thanks for all your suggestions and expertise, everyone!
 

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