4 Month Old Freshwater Micro Community Tank

Discussion in 'Freshwater Aquarium Builds' started by Pynaple, Apr 22, 2018.


Is this tank overstocked to the point you think there will be issues?

  1. Yes

  2. No

    0 vote(s)
  1. PynapleNew MemberMember

    Hi Everyone!

    I'm a first time poster and aquarium owner. I'm sure you guys will have lots and lots of feedback for me, but I'd like to share the progress on my tank so far, which has been a huge learning process not without its mistakes, but my current inhabitants are healthy and happy!

    I started my tank with 3 Guppies, 2 Ghost shrimp, Hagen plant growing substrate, some Red Ludwigia , 1 Marimo moss ball, and some Mondo Grass, which I later found out isn't a true aquatic plant. It's in a Fluvial Chi 5 Gallon tank with only the provided filter and light at first. IMG_20180117_221426.jpg

    As you can see, it's not a very appealing tank. It's come a long way since then, so bear with me. The shrimp did very well! But I found out that the ones I got were not just feeder shrimp but very, very large. This big guy was almost two inches long on just his body, and he died of apparently natural causes after a few weeks. All my water tests after running a fishless nitrogen cycle with plants and root tabs and a bacterial culture came back 0 and 0 for ammonia and nitrite, and under 3ppm of Nitrogen. PH at this point unknown, although my tab water is supposed to be 7.4 and that is what I've been using after treatment with water conditioner at at least 24 hours of aging.

    Over the next month or two I replaced the red Ludwigia, which just rotted away at the base, the Mondo Grass (not aquatic), and rearranged the tank. The new plant I put in, which I can't remember the name of, also did the same this as the Ludwigia, and rotted off at the bottom. It also clogged up the filter and left little leaflettes everywhere. The Java Ferns I had bought earlier, and they had begun to root and grow new leaves, but not quickly.

    By this time I had already gone through two heaters, a generic PatSmart heater that didn't work, and a much better 60 watt auto-shut off heater that kept the tank at a consistent 77°F. My girlfriend insisted on an African Dwarf Frog as well, and unfortunately the little guy didn't do too well. I'm pretty sure he had a fungal infection when we got him, and while he did get better over his time with us, in his final two days the fungal infection returned aggressively and suffocated him. I also picked up a couple of apple snails, both of indeterminate distinct species, but a golden one and a striped or zebra patterned one.

    After the frog passed away, I also had an unfortunate incident where the other ghost shrimp was sucked up in a home made tank siphon accident. By the time the water had cleared and he was found missing it was already too late. One of the very small Guppies, a leopard, that my girlfriend fell in love with and insisted we get, also apparently flung himself out of the tank one night. We found his dried up body the next morning. I think he was much too small compared to our other 4 Guppies and was bullied out of the tank after I accidentally left the lid partially open.

    After this initial uproar of roughly six weeks, I didn't introduce any more animals until about 2 weeks ago, almost 4 months into this aquarium. I did add some new white substrate on top of the very muddy red plant food gravel, change out my nasty weedy plants for some more attractive grasses (which my large snail proceeded to eat in their entirety, but they're growing back wonderfully), and replaced the somewhat large center rock piece with a locally sourced and properly soaked/disinfected piece of driftwood.

    I had done about six months if research prior to setting up this tank. I've owned fish tanks before, but just kid friendly rocks-and-a-bowl type stuff. My curiosity was actually piqued by a YouTube blogger my significant other watches, and I began learning about the nitrogen cycles, the microbiome in a tank, live plants and the different animals you can keep. I had initially aimed for a 30 Gallon tank, what I thought to be a good balance between cost and difficultly, but I got a deal on my Fluval micro tank I couldn't pass up. I didn't run the recommended nitrogen cycle length of a month or more, but my water was testing neutral after only a week, I think in part because the bacterial culture I added was for up to 20 Gallons, not merely 5, although the only negative affect I noticed was a cloudiness to the water that went away almost immediately after introducing fish.

    That brings us to my current point. I've set up a second light sources from a hydroponics store and mounted in a standard fixture. I do a 20% water change weekly with topups 2-3 times a week with treated and aged water, a feeding of daily flakes for the fish, and 2 out of 3 days 1/3 of a gram of frozen brine shrimp. I'm hoping to expand the inhabitants diet very soon. The current stocking of the tank is as follows:

    3 Java Ferns, 1 full sized, 2 cuttings that are rooting and leading but still small

    8-10 clusters of an as yet to be indetified aquatic grass. It appears to be thriving well, and new shoots are growing quickly.

    1 Marimo moss ball about 2.25" in diameter.

    3 ghost shrimp of undetermined sex, about 3/4" each.

    4 male Guppies, two tequila and two fancy, all roughly 1" in size.

    2 Apple snails, a 3/4" golden snail of indeterminate sex, and a 1" zebra apple snail, probably female.

    2 African Dwarf Frogs, one male and one female, both about 1" in body length. They are a mating pair and have laid eggs at least once, but I have been unable to seclude the eggs before they are eaten by the other inhabitants.


    I know this tank seems overstocked, but my water tests all come back neutral and normal, and I think the balance is just right. The frogs are bottom and middle dwellers, the shrimp are bottoms dwellers, the snails don't bother anyone, and the Guppies keep to themselves. None of them show signs of stress, nipping, or disease. After the initial frogs death, I treated the tank for a week with a natural tree extract that has apparently done it's job. The only untoward this that happens is the more aggressive female frog will occasionally get excited at feeding time and bite off one of the larger snails antenna. He appears to be totally unphased by this and simply regrows it in a day or two.

    Anyway, I'd like everyone's feedback! I'm still very new, and though I've done lots of research I know I still have lots to learn! I hope you enjoy my journey through beginning a new aquarium.
  2. aussieJJDudeWell Known MemberMember

    It looks really good! I'd suggest tying the java fern to the decor and decking it out with more plants.
  3. penguin02Well Known MemberMember

    IMO guppies can't live in a 5 gallon tank. Mine use every inch of my 26g, and I couldn't imagine them being kept in anything less than a 10g. Good water levels are good and all, but there's more to fishkeeping than having no ammonia. You should also strive to provide the best possible environment for your fish, and a 5 gallon just doesn't cut it for fish that like to swim around and have space. A betta would thrive in a 5g, so why not rehome the guppies and go that route? The ADF's might nip a male's fins, so you could get a female and she would probably do fine.
  4. PynapleNew MemberMember

    I'm working on getting my plant stock up and I had hoped to have more by now, but they kept being unsuitable. I'm going to get some floating mosquito ferns for the frogs and a bunch of moss, but I have to order everything online as none of the local stores carry anything like that.

    I initially wanted a Beta but the powers that be said no, so we went with Guppies. Ideally I'd like to turn it into a frog only tank, keeping just the shrimp and snails. Thanks for the advice, I'm going to look more seriously into rehoming the Guppies.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 9, 2018
  5. jaymethyValued MemberMember

    You are massively overstocked!
    You need to cut it down to:

    Option 1:
    -3 guppies
    - one snail or some shrimp (not both)

    Option 2:
    -The 2 ADFs
    nothing else.
  6. PynapleNew MemberMember

    I'm aware that I'm overstocked, but I'd like to hear from you why it's bad. As far as I can tell, the two concerns are water quality and critter stress. I maintain the water quality by doing a full clean every week, including filters and glass, and a 20-25% water change. Everyone seems happy too, I've spent many many hours observing the critters and reading up as much as I can find on their bahviour and everyone seems to be getting along swimmingly! What might I be missing in terms of overstocking?
  7. jaymethyValued MemberMember

    You can keep ammonia and nitrates/nitrites to an acceptable level with significant maintenance, but those aren't the only qualities that matter. There are so many unmeasurable water parameter's in an aquarium ecosystem (pathogens, oxygen, carbon dioxide, etc.) that can be in play, that overstocking can cause issues in. The smaller the water change necessary to maintain water quality the better it is for our fish. Especially in small aquaria, where maintaining stability is difficult.
    I'm honestly surprised you haven't run into issues due to cleaning your filter weekly, as that is where the majority of the beneficial bacteria is. Do you clean it completely in aquarium water?

    In addition, the lack of sufficient space can play massive roles in behaviour, health and development. Your fish may be behaving "normally", but that doesn't mean that the overstocking hasn't introduced stress. I just worked on an undergraduate thesis on the impact of environmental stressors on brain morphology (size, shape, etc.) on a couple species of freshwater fish. And the results were quite astounding on how different the brain was in the stressed individuals. While I can't touch on how brain size and shape will impact the lives of aquaria fish, I think this is quite representative of the impact that stressors have on other organs as well, and there is significant research to support that (as my research was based off of indications provided by other organs). Ultimately this can lead to decreased immune ability, disease due to organ failure and premature death in your fish.
    Development is also impacted by overstocking and lack of space. All of the fish I have bought at my lfs were juveniles, and I assume it is the same for most people. A lack of space can stunt the fish's growth as a whole, but also individual components of it, further compromising their health.
    A lot of what goes on health-wise in our fish is invisible (a consequence of keeping pets that we are unable to take to a vet), so why introduce more chances of things going wrong?

    I hope that answered your question :)
  8. PynapleNew MemberMember

    Thank you! Yes, that goes a long way towards answering my question. I only rinse my filter in aquarium water, I was aware that most of the beneficial bacteria live there. I also have about 2 1/2 inches of substrate to help maintain the bacteria. I'm particularly grateful for your insight into stress and how it affects the inhabitants, whether or not it is visible. I will need to see about rehoming the Guppies, as I'd like to make this a ADF tank. One of the snails has mysteriously disappeared, so I don't have to worry about him any more, but currently my budget and a lack of adoption programs will keep me in this tank for a while. Hopefully, as everything still appears to be growing rapidly, they won't be too stressed for another month or two until I can sort this situation. If not, I will make sure to document anything untowards that happens. The last thing I want to do is provide my pets an inadequate home, but if I'm stuck where I'm at I might as well learn from it. Thanks again!

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