Some Q&A about Aquatics (Quora #4)

A couple of Saturdays ago I started a series which was intended to reproduce my inputs on Quora over here on this blog, as a repurposing and collating of them as well as a way of making sure I don’t lose my own content. Once again I recently had a warning from Quora just for letting another Englishman know thatt in saying no Englishman likes Donald Trump he took rather too much on himself as there are those of us who do. This was enough to have a second warning from Quora and so now I need to accelerate the copying over of my own work from that site in case I lose all those hours of work and creativity. Where there is moderation, there is limited trust.

At first I did one article per post, but there are quite a lot of briefer answers and it makes little sense to copy these over in that format, so now I have in mind to produce more answers in a single post, based around onne theme, and I have been preparing lists that analyse these articles into common themes. Last time in #3 we took a few articles I had written about Betta splendens, the Siamese fighting fish. These answers gave rise to more questions for me to answer (Quora has A2A, or Ask to Answer where people get invited to answer, either because the person asking knows them or they are suggested by the software. Alternatively you can jump in and give an answer on whatever appears on your screen. If you have opted to receive emails, you get a feed from Quora or items that may interest you) and these questions started to be about fishkeeping or aquatics in more general terms, and even (to be looked at later on) about ichthyology. Inevitably I also started to receive questions about sport fishing and I have zero time for that. I am ready to talk about fishery as part of the food industry, but not about angling, fly fishing or any of these sadistic pseudosports.

Please remember that my answers vary a lot from facetious to informative usually depending on my mood, the time available and what I think about the question. Be prepared for a rather broad range of approaches to questions. Quora goes from highly intellectual Q&A to the dumbest things a human being can write or read. I try to vary my own tone to match the quality of the question.

If you want to discuss or ask anything else around these themes, please get a discussion going in the comments. It’s what the comment facility is there for. I hope it is not onerous to log on and make some kind of utterance.

My own Heros severus.

As mentioned in the title, the theme for today is aquatics, and these answers were given by me all in 2015-2016.

1. Can you overfeed fish? How do you avoid doing so?

You can always add more food but it is harder to take it out. Give enough for everything to be eaten in a few minutes and feed morning and evening. You can leave raw carrot pieces or washed lettuce leaves – not much – or the skins of fresh cucumbers in there for them to eat more gradually.

Feeding too much will cause a nitrate hike, it has a demand on oxygen and will generally poison the fish as well as cause bacterial blooms and too much growth of algae.

About this question and answer: Views till now: 41 Upvotes till now: 0 There weren’t any comments on my answer, as is often the case with a lot of the earlier part of Quora. Quora’s fisshkeeping parts are brimming with people telling people to avoid overfeeding fish so it’s not that unexpected that this answer didn’t get much box-office.

2. How do I keep minnows alive in a metal tank?

Make sure the tank is shaded and if in semi shade paint the outside white. Then you can put a polythene liner on the inside of the tank, so that the metal doesn’t come in contact with the water. The only non-precious metal you could trust for this would be the kind of stainless steel you see in kitchens and bathrooms, and even that not for the long-run.

About this question and answer:  it has 276 views and 0 upvotes. There haven’t been any other answers. One wonders what kind of metal tank he is talking about, but in the main it’s not an ideal environment for fishes as they do react with water and so if someone really wants to use, for example, a rainwater barrel as a pond or something like that, you need to be aware of what the son or low temperatures outside mean for fishes inside and also a liner of some sort or preferably having the container from some inert substance is preferable.

3. Are fish tanks cruel?

It depends. If the fish tank is too small for the fish or the equipment in it and water changes all in combination aren’t giving the right quality of water, heat and light then that’s cruel for at least those species of fish that aren’t being catered for. Fish also have the right to hidey holes where they can enjoy their privacy for the species that need it, and some individuals within a species might need it more than others.

The mix of fish is what people tend to get wrong the most though. Putting together fish of different sizes so that the smaller ones end up getting eaten is not fair on them, and also putting fin-nippers or biters like barbs or puffer fish or overly playful fish like botias in with delicate fish which don’t like to be chased around, like discus or mormyrids.

Everyone should know not to mix two male Bettas, but you could have a similar result over a longer period with a lot of kinds of cichlids. When you breed fish not taking care to have males and females from separate bloodstock also can lead to unintentional cruelty because the number of young with genetic issues and deformities is likely to be higher.

If you avoid those problems, there is nothing intrinsically cruel about the aquarium hobby. Our well-maintained aquarium fishes have a quality of life much better than that in the wild and whole species have now been maintained in hobbyist collections which are extinct in the wild. The German hobby and Hans-Georg Evers in particular brought the Noah’s Ark capability of our hobby to peoples attention already in the 1980s. Many livebearers and even cherry barbs are maintained despite habitat destruction in captive collections.

I hope some aquarists reading this will aspire to be part of some cottage conservation project, and dedicate some nice tanks to this idea.
So, you see why it depends. Depending on what you do with your tank it can be heaven or hell for your piscine companions. In itself it is not cruel, it is a set of panes of glass.

About this question and answer: it has 5,900+ views and 17 upvotes, at the time of posting here.  There are 20 other answers and most of them were like mine in saying that they are not cruel if done properly, and calling people to keep fish in an ethical way. Some simply said they are not cruel as if it were impossible to have a cruel one and some people said no as if it were impossible to have a non-cruel one. Neither of these groups scintillated with intelligence.

The question is a bit like “is the internet a waste of time”? Just because some people waste their time online, it doesn’t mean that it is not possible to use online time to good effect, with thought provoking and enlightening information. This article being, of course, a good example… 😉

I haven’t seen Hans-Georg for a long time and hope he is doing well.

4. How many and which fish can be kept in a 63 liter (16.5 gallon) freshwater fish tank?

Obviously that’s a little tank and a little tank requires either a collection of really little fishes or just one or two more “medium sized” fish.
It’s difficult to get the water in a small tank like that the way that tetras really like it, but you might get away with some captive bred neons or cardinals. You would have less problem with some Danios, smaller ones like Leopard and Zebra danios, harlequin razboras, to which you could have maybe a male dwarf gourami as a focus fish and some corydoras to use the ground level as well as the ubiquitous algae eaters, but here I would recommend Ancistrus or Otcinclus, as Plecos get too big and they don’t seem to be stopped in doing so by small conditions in the way other fish do.

One intersting project, if you can get them would be pencil fish. They demonstrate very interesting “dancing” interactions.
You can have rish fice and white cloud mountain minnows for an interesting unheated small tank, and a Japanese weather loach would be an interesting focus fish in that set up.

Livebearers are a good staple for the small tank. You can do fancy guppies and platies easily in that tank, black mollies also if you like. If you want to branch into less well known livebearers you can do Limias, mosquito fish, and others. Swordtails are a bit too big for that set up, and also can be aggressive, which is the problem with barbs also, although cherry barbs and checker barbs are pretty harmless. You will have some young in the tank as long as you plant it thickly.

Or, you could go into Africa and have some small Tanganyikans – Lamprologus in their shells or the beautiful and socially sophisticated Princess of Burundi or Neolamprologus brichardi. This fish will breed several generations in the tank.

Alternative cichlids small enough for that set up are checkerboard cichlids, rams, maybe kribs. But cichlids tend to be better in a single species tank. The most you can add to them is a catfish of the algae eater type, but there you need to keep to Ancistrus in order not to end up with a massive pleco that uses all the space.

Labyrinth fishes are also a good option for the small tank given their ability to breath air. You need to have a couple of females and not not than one male, especially of bettas. Some smaller gourami species such as paradise fish (which are also temperaturę tolerant) and dwarf gouramis are a good option for the smaller tank.

Bumblebee gobies, kuhli loaches, these are also good tankmates in a small fish community. I have also seen people get away with mixing in tiny African frogs and freshwater shrimps in the mix if you want more than just fish.

About this question and answer: it has just 528 views and 2 upvotes, at the time of posting here. There is another answer which agrees in essence with mine. This is another of the many “how many fish in a certain size tank” question which get a bit boring in due course.

5. I recently put two moss balls in my 60 gallon fresh water tank. One of my fish picked at it so it split in half. Can it still live?

That’s a lot of balls (of Aegagropila linnaei)

Yes, but they grow very slowly. Most tanks do not tend to have them for ever. They tend to get eaten by fish quicker than they can grow, or suffer from the competition of plants more suited to tropical aquaria. They are a cold-water species from East Eurasia. They do not need to be in their original format to survive and you could in theory propagate them that way if all the other conditions were right.

About this question and answer: it has managed to get 324 views and one upvote,  at the time of posting here. There are several other answers with the opposite view, saying that they will live and nothing can kill them. Clearly these folk had more luck than the people I know, or me. You can make them propagate, but it needs the right conditions as with any other plant.  One other answerer noted that the questioner wrote “can I still live?” not “can it still live?” and told the questioner of their impending doom as the balls would now propagate like tribbles and take over the planet.

6. What home aquarium fish thrive in colder water?

Japanese rice fish, golden orfe, golden tench, Tandanus catfish, Japanese weather loach, sticklebacks, gudgeon, minnows, bitterlings. There are dozens of temperate species you can keep in cooler water.

About this question and answer: it has managed to get only 96K views, 7and no upvotes, which is a bit bad when you consider it was an A2A. 7 other answers talk about Paradise fish, white cloud mountain minnows and Buenos Aires tetras, which are also known for a preference for more temperate water tolerance but be sure they are not going to survive a European or Canadian winter in unheated premises.

Macropus opercularis male and female (left). Author unknown.

Paradise fishes are reckoned to be the species which Samuel Pepys is most likely to have seen and written about in his famous 17th Century London diary:

“Thence home and to see my Lady Pen, where my wife and I were shown a fine rarity: of fishes kept in a glass of water, that will live so for ever; and finely marked they are, being foreign.” (Entry for Sunday 28th May 1665 – one can only hope they survived the plague and fire of London to occur shortly thereafter). Some commentators have considered that these would have been goldfishes, however these were known in the United Kingdom some 40 years earlier and would have been no novelty whatsoever in the circles Pepys frequented.

OK, that’s probably enough for today.

Your thoughts welcome, by all mean reply also to other community members!