BA­SIC THINGS TO RE­MEM­BER RE­GARD­ING FISH COM­PAT­I­BIL­ITY

Animal Scene - - FUR THE WIN - Text by AN­GEL L. AMPIL

When buy­ing a new fish, it is al­ways a con­cern for fish­keep­ers if the fish they are buy­ing is com­pat­i­ble with the cur­rent fish they have. While they are ea­ger to pur­chase new fish, they have to make sure these new fish will co­ex­ist peace­fully with the oth­ers and not cre­ate trou­ble. This is one thing they should give con­sid­er­able thought be­fore ac­tu­ally pur­chas­ing the fish right in front of them. Of course the best thing is to first do re­search about the fish, or ask ex­pe­ri­enced fish­keep­ers for their opin­ion. How­ever, if you are al­ready in a fish store and at that mo­ment, this fish has you drool­ing with ex­cite­ment, then you have to do your own as­sess­ment and de­cide if this fish is ac­tu­ally com­pat­i­ble with your cur­rent col­lec­tions. Ex­pe­ri­ence and knowl­edge are valu­able as­sets to your de­ci­sion-mak­ing. But whether you are an ex­pe­ri­enced fish­keeper or a rel­a­tively new one, it is best to as­sess the com­pat­i­bil­ity of a fish on the fol­low­ing bases:

• Tem­per­a­ment

• Size

• Wa­ter pref­er­ences

• Com­pe­ti­tion for food THE GOOD GUYS AND THE BAD GUYS Tem­per­a­ment in­nate to a cer­tain fish is prob­a­bly the most im­por­tant con­cern in de­ter­min­ing the com­pat­i­bil­ity of a new fish with your cur­rent col­lec­tion. Some fish are as ami­able as church boys while oth­ers are as brash as street cor­ner thugs. Fish have varied de­grees of mild­ness or ag­gres­sive­ness in tem­per­a­ment. Thus, your knowl­edge of the tem­per­a­ment of the new fish will be very im­por­tant. If you have a chance to do re­search on this fish, then it should be a good thing. But if you can­not do re­search, ob­serve its be­hav­ior in its cur­rent tank. Check if it is the ag­gres­sor or if it is be­ing bul­lied. Let’s face it: some fish are peace­ful and will gen­er­ally not bother other tank in­hab­i­tants. Te­tras, gold­fish, Co­ry­do­ras cat­fishes, rain­bow fish, Ras­b­o­ras, Dan­ios, mol­lies, gup­pies, sword­tails, platies, Kuh­lii loaches, dwarf ci­ch­lids, and some ple­cos, among oth­ers, are ex­am­ples of com­mon fish that very well-man­nered. These are not ag­gres­sive at all with other tank­mates. These are the good guys and gen­er­ally will not even bother oth­ers. The next set of fish is still rel­a­tively peace­ful; they can be slightly ag­gres­sive but can co­ex­ist with oth­ers in a com­mu­nity tank. While you can’t say that these fish are well-man­nered, they do not make trou­ble, or at best, they avoid trou­ble. Ex­am­ples of these are some barbs, gouramis, an­gelfish, bala sharks, tin­foil barbs, sil­ver dol­lars, the hooks, flag­tails, clown loaches, fire eels, bichirs, stingrays, etc. These are like your av­er­age ci­ti­zens who live in the com­mu­nity peace­fully with oth­ers. The next group of fish are ag­gres­sive and have a tem­per: they are tough, ag­gres­sive, and ter­ri­to­rial. You must know the ex­tent of their ag­gres­sive­ness if you are to mix these fish with oth­ers. The big­ger they are, the more ag­gres­sive they are. Ci­ch­lids which are well known for their ag­gres­sive­ness be­long to this group. Other fish like arowanas, Indo tiger­fish, pea­cock basses, Pa­yaras, African tiger­fish, most cat­fish, Pa­cus, knife­fish, Golden Do­ra­dos, Wolf Fish, Gars, and their ilk are the tough boys and they can live with oth­ers so long as the com­mu­nity is a tough one. At the ex­treme end of these groups are the highly ag­gres­sive fish. These fishes sim­ply can­not be housed in a tank with other fish. These leg­endary mon­sters will kill tank­mates. The red snake­head, lung­fishes, Aba Aba knife­fish, wolf ci­ch­lid, and the mean­est of them all, the Ai­mara wolf fish, can­not be trusted with tank­mates. If you want to buy any of these and keep them with other fish,

save your­self the trou­ble by not even con­sid­er­ing them. If you should get these, bet­ter pro­vide them with a tank of their own; after all, in our so­ci­ety, max­i­mum se­cu­rity pris­on­ers are left in soli­tary con­fine­ment. To avoid trou­ble when buy­ing a new fish for an ex­ist­ing tank, keep fish with sim­i­lar tem­per­a­ments among them­selves and avoid mix­ing the gen­tle ones with the ag­gres­sive ones. If it is a peace­ful com­mu­nity you want, stick with the good guys. If it is a tough neigh­bor­hood, you have to keep the tough guys. But never mix both be­cause it will just be trou­ble. It is also im­por­tant to note that ag­gres­sion among young fish may not be ev­i­dent, but some meek baby fish grow into match­ing mon­ster de­meanors as they grow big­ger. Well-be­haved cuties like the ju­ve­nile Red Snake­head grow to be­come mon­sters when they bulk up. So it does not nec­es­sar­ily mean that if you are able to keep them to­gether while they are young, the tank will still be peace­ful when they grow up. At a cer­tain age, their nat­u­ral in­stincts to be ag­gres­sive will be ev­i­dent.

SIZE MATTERS

This is a ba­sic con­cept which is 95% cor­rect. Size matters when it comes to fish, with the ba­sic logic be­ing, big fish eat lit­tle fish. Ex­cept for the Gulper cat­fish, and maybe a few more species we are not aware of, the big fish will al­ways have the ten­dency to eat the lit­tle fish. As we all say, if it fits in the mouth, then it is food. This is es­pe­cially true with car­niv­o­rous fish; after all, they are made to eat meat, in­clud­ing fish meat. Thus, in­tro­duc­ing a fish small enough to be eaten is a risk; this fish will even­tu­ally be eaten. It doesn’t mat­ter which species this is; even a small pi­ranha, known for its ag­gres­sive­ness, will be eaten by a large preda­tory fish.

In fact this re­minds me of a fel­low who set up a huge tank. When find­ing out which mon­ster fish to keep, our rule was to omit any mon­ster fish ca­pa­ble of eat­ing a 12 to 15 inch fish. Thus, large and no­to­ri­ous fish eaters like the ara­paima, red-tailed cat­fish, tiger shovel nosed cat­fish, Pa­roon sharks, Nile perch, and Wal­lago cat­fish were not con­sid­ered. Un­for­tu­nately, in his ex­cite­ment, he bought some 15 to 16-inch pea­cock bass. On the day that his 7-inch Pa­yara and Go­liath African Tiger­fish were re­leased in the tank, the large pea­cock basses sim­ply gob­bled them up. It took less than a minute for the huge pea­cock basses to lo­cate the two no­to­ri­ously ag­gres­sive Te­tras and have them for din­ner. While adult Pa­yara and Go­liath African tiger­fish are more ag­gres­sive than adult pea­cock basses, as ju­ve­niles, they are not that yet ag­gres­sive com­pared to an adult pea­cock bass. Since they were the smaller fish, they were def­i­nitely at risk to of be­ing eaten by a car­ni­vore twice their size. If a fish is not eaten be­cause of its rel­a­tively smaller size, they are still in dan­ger of be­ing bul­lied. An ag­gres­sive fish that has taken ter­ri­tory in a tank will al­ways bully a new­comer. If the new­comer is big­ger, then the res­i­dent bully may think twice. But if the new­comer is smaller, it will most prob­a­bly be attacked by the res­i­dent bully. A bul­lied fish will al­ways be stressed out in the tank, to the point it can­not eat, will weaken, and even­tu­ally die. Yes, size does mat­ter in the fish world. There­fore, in pur­chas­ing new ad­di­tions to an ex­ist­ing tank, the size dif­fer­ences should not be great. Make sure your fish are of sim­i­lar sizes. Don’t even con­sider buy­ing a fish that is too small for your com­mu­nity, un­less of course you have another tank re­served for grow­ing out small fish.

SIM­I­LAR WA­TER RE­QUIRE­MENTS IS A MUST

This may not be too much of a con­cern with most fish. But if you are col­lect­ing the more chal­leng­ing fish which have spe­cific wa­ter pa­ram­e­ters like ph, hard­ness, and tem­per­a­ture, then your choice of new ad­di­tions should be gov­erned by the same wa­ter pa­ram­e­ters. Al­tum an­gelfish are one such ex­am­ple. For decades, they have been the dream of ad­vanced fish­keep­ers, but un­til to­day, they are still very chal­leng­ing to keep. Wild caught Al­tum an­gelfish from the jun­gles of the Ama­zon re­quire very acidic ph, very soft wa­ter, and warm tem­per­a­tures. If you are to keep them, these pa­ram­e­ters must be kept sta­ble. There­fore your choice of ad­di­tional fish should like­wise have these re­quire­ments. Luck­ily, there are many choices of te­tras and dwarf ci­ch­lids avail­able which share the same needs. For the sake of giv­ing an ex­am­ple, adding a wild caught ci­ch­lid from Lake Tan­ganyika—which has wa­ter pa­ram­e­ter needs that are the ex­act op­po­site to those of the Al­tum an­gelfish ex­cept for tem­per­a­ture—is a bad de­ci­sion. This of course will never hap­pen be­cause only ad­vanced fish­keep­ers would have a fas­ci­na­tion with the Al­tum an­gelfish, and they know it will be a mis­take to do so. In the coun­try, a cou­ple of sub­trop­i­cal aquar­ium fish are avail­able to fish­keep­ers. The Ster­let stur­geon, pad­dle­fish, Golden Co­bra snake­head, and rain­bow snake­head are just some of the coldwater fish avail­able to Filipino fish­keep­ers liv­ing in the trop­ics. If you are to add any of these to your col­lec­tion of trop­i­cal fish while keep­ing your tank at trop­i­cal tem­per­a­tures of 27 to 32 °C, don’t tell me I didn’t warn you. These fish will only have a dif­fi­cult time sur­viv­ing your tank con­di­tions. To keep these, your tank con­di­tions must be sim­i­lar to the wa­ter pa­ram­e­ters they re­quire; you can­not force them to adapt.

COM­PE­TI­TION FOR FOOD

Lastly, while this may not have an im­me­di­ate im­pact when you in­tro­duce a new fish, it will have some con­se­quences in the fu­ture. Food is a ba­sic re­quire­ment that all fish need to sur­vive. If you are to in­tro­duce a fish that will take a ma­jor­ity of the food, then your ex­ist­ing fish will even­tu­ally starve. This glut­ton will be a prob­lem. Say you have a com­mu­nity tank with gen­er­ally peace­ful fish like the Bala shark, medium sized barbs, fire eels, and clown loaches, then you in­tro­duce a glut­ton like the red Pacu. You will end up with a big and fat red Pacu—while your other fish are mal­nour­ished. For sure, picky eaters like the fire eel and clown loaches will suf­fer and may die. If you buy a fish that can­not com­pete with your cur­rent stocks, it too will not be able to com­pete for food. If you have a tank filled with dif­fer­ent species of pea­cock bass, adding a knife­fish may not be a good idea. Pea­cock bass are no­to­ri­ous glut­tons. If they have 5 fish in their mouths, they will still in­sist on catch­ing more. They are lightning quick when it comes to eat­ing. By the time the knife­fish re­al­izes that that live fish was of­fered, the pea­cock basses will have eaten them all. Choos­ing which new fish to add to a tank can be a tricky thing. The new fish should be com­pat­i­ble with the ex­ist­ing set-up. As­sess the new fish in terms of tem­per­a­ment, size, wa­ter pa­ram­e­ter needs, and abil­ity to com­pete for food against your ex­ist­ing col­lec­tion. You may do re­search; you may ask around; or you may even just ob­serve. But be­fore even pulling out your wal­let, be sure you have con­sid­ered the above. Oth­er­wise, you will just make fish­keep­ing dif­fi­cult and prob­lem­atic for you. Of course, if you do your re­search be­fore­hand, you will be suc­cess­ful and take a fur­ther step to­wards your aquar­ium utopia.

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