Heavily Stocked vs Over-Stocked

SpaghettiandLeaves

Hey there, FishLore pals! I am curious what sort of things you would look out for when considering a tank to be heavily stocked or over-stocked? Fish behavior, water parameters, plant growth, filtration maintenance, etc. This is a hypothetical, my tank is still new and far from either of these. I would slowly like it to become heavily planted and well-stocked eventually though.
 

pagoda

I guess the first things I would look for would be continual spikes, fogging and smell before the routine water changes and needing to double up on water changes.

Fish body language would be very telling too...lethargy, disinterest in food, the obvious physical changes such as reddening of gills, sudden sores....all things that have not been seen prior to adding the last batch of fish or if they have spawned without being noticed and thus incrasing bioloading

And also when servicing the filters...an increased amount of sludge/poo, the smell generally gets stronger/noticed a distance away from the aquarium...like walk into the room and you are hit by an unmistakeable pong that something is wrong on the filtering/water quality side

Fish body language is often the first sign of trouble, especially when you have highly active species that suddenly slow right down en-masse
 
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Zach72202

Couple things to note about it. There are several ways of going about it, but it is pretty important what type of tank you are trying to do. I am going to assume general community peaceful fish.

Fish tanks are a system, add plants and it becomes an ecosystem.

If you put fish into a system, they only make as much waste as you feed them, but of course you want to make sure everybody eats, therefore the food is what creates the waste.

Truely starting overstocked is a recipe for disaster. If you start low stocked, then slowly add fish to a tank that is stable and been running for months, the microlife/bacteria in the tank will grow to accommodate, as long as you give it time. Anytime a system is 'shocked' is when you get spikes or issues.

When it comes to things to look out for, you really shouldn't run into many issues if you ensure everybody works well together. Like you could have 50 guppies, but if you have 1 male to 49 females, you will have much more success than 40 males to 10 females because the males will constantly try to breed with the females. When you get new fish, ensure they work well with what you have and also make sure they are healthy and disease free. Introducing disease to a system is not a good time.

In terms of plant growth, under 'low tech' conditions, lets say a plant can only use 5ppm nitrates per day (just an example). If your amount of light already lets it use that much, increasing light will only cause algae. More light/fertz is not always more better. CO2, light, and nutrients are all used in direct proportions. Increase one, the others must increase too.

If you have fish that are happy together, no disease, and have a planted tank, everything is pretty much in your corner when it comes to overstocking a tank. At that point it really boils down to how much water do you want to change?

There is a limit to how much plants use, and do you want to change water once per month, one per week, or every day? Its better to pick what you can manage and keep up on easily rather than becoming a slave to the waterchange.

Don't rush into it. As plants grow in they will use more nitrates and time will only help with this idea :)

There is a lot more than this to touch on, but just a few things to think about.

Goodluck!
 
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Flyfisha

I am going to answer this in the way I see the question written. While I don’t disagree with anything written above I believe it’s completely possible to have an over stocked tank just by having multiple species. The bio load has nothing to do with my answer. Even if the nitrates are low with a basic weekly routine it’s easy enough to have a rubbish looking tank . It’s also possible to have a tank where the fish are unhappy because of the stocking.

We all want to look at something different in our tanks.

I don’t like Noah arc tanks of two fish from dozens of species and some fish don’t like it either.

My personally preference for our lounge tank is to have it lightly stocked . As I get to sit and watch this tank it is for me ( and wife) that I stock it low.

I have working tanks that are very heavily stocked. But stocked with one or two compatible species. I do not find these tanks ” nice “ to look at. Fry grow out tanks as an example.

All I can say SpaghettiandLeaves is think about your stocking before it’s to late . Add more fish from the same species first and always. IMO long before the bio load is full a tank can look “ to busy “ to be relaxing to the eyes.
 
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SpaghettiandLeaves

Thank you all for the detailed responses! The reason I asked this question is because I notice a lot of people will tell a person their tank is overstocked without asking any questions about the tank parameters or the fish behavior, so I was always curious what sort of things would cause other fish keepers to think a tank is over stocked. For me, I only have one tank up and running, another in the planning phase. Both tanks will have a similar setup in terms of occupants (1-2 centerpiece, 1 type of schooling fish, 1 type of bottom dweller). I like the simplistic setup as well.

This did also stem from a question I was asking myself about my plant growth and nitrate levels. My plants are growing fairly quick without any fertilizer, and I am assuming it is because of the fish waste turning into nitrates and then the plants are eating them up. So I figure increasing my schooling numbers would be helpful given I am only getting about 5ppm of nitrates a week, and I don't mind maintaining water changes at a more frequent rate. My aquarium details are fully updated on here with my stocking and plants. I want to keep adding more plants, so I figure I need to either begin to fertilize or increase the bioload to support more plant growth. Do any of you have any insight into the bioload instead of fertilizers scenario? I would like to continue with a natural approach if the seems feasible. Just to give further details about my specific setup: I allow my tank to also get natural sunlight a few hours a day because I like the natural look of algae growth, and the Otocinclus definitely appreciate it as well. So in terms of the big three Light, CO2, and Nutrients they're all pretty heavily supplied from what I am witnessing.
 
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Flyfisha

Many people click on a stocking site called Aqadvisor. com and believe it to be perfect in its attempt at stocking density.
It is not perfect at all. The water changes recommended should be a warning that the site is not perfect.
I think Aqadvisor is helpful for a beginner at times.
As I recall it said 8 adult shellies was the correct stocking in a 80 litre, or was it adult endlers. Regardless I had 80 shellies in a 80 litre and regularly still have more than 80 endlers in even smaller tanks. I double the water change recommended at the very least with the stocking they say and obviously with 80 fish it’s a water change every couple of days.
 
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SpaghettiandLeaves

Yes! As a beginner, I was utilizing that site for my general stocking idea, but then when I look at my tank space and the water parameters I can notice how flawed it is. I have instead been on here reading people's experiences and also speaking with the people at my LFS for my actual stocking plans. It's funny you say that about the shellies because it said my apistos were like 80% capacity just the two of them. It also warned me about the green neon tetras, but I just went with my gut and they cohabitate just fine, even now that the female is guarding her eggs. I know most of this hobby is a case by case thing, and I find that to be so intriguing.
 
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GlennO

Thank you all for the detailed responses! The reason I asked this question is because I notice a lot of people will tell a person their tank is overstocked without asking any questions about the tank parameters or the fish behavior, so I was always curious what sort of things would cause other fish keepers to think a tank is over stocked.

Sometimes I will suggest that a tank is overstocked even if it is currently understocked and I did this recently with a work colleague’s child who has recently become obsessed with fish keeping.

This happens often with a new tank. Nearly all fish are sold as very small juveniles so it’s normal for a new tank to look sparse and understocked. Newcomers may compensate by adding extra fish to make the tank look busier. Problems start months down the track when the fish have doubled or tripled in size. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine how the tank will look when all fish are mature.
 
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SpaghettiandLeaves

That's a really good point! I am new and I have never actually seen a full sized apisto before, so I only know what the internet suggests, but I technically have no idea how big these two will actually become. Therefore, I won't be able to visalize my tank with their eventual size the same way someone with more experience with this specific species could be able to. The Green Neons are likely full grown or close to it, as they stay pretty small, but even with Otos, since the different species look so similar when they're young, it's hard to predict how big they will become. For my specific tank I am predicting 2 Apistos, 6 Otocinclus and I have no idea how many Green Neons I will stop at, but 10 is my minimum. I won't be adding any fish for a while after that.
 
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Spudsssy

If someone asks 'is their tank is overstocked?', it's always best to respond with the most conservative stocking option, as they most likely don't have the experience to handle a heavily stocked tank.

Knowing fish behaviour and how to handle your mini ecosystem takes time and experience. I currently have 40 fish in my planted 25gal paludarium inhabiting all different area's, living in harmony. I don't even consider it 'overstocked' as I do a 30% water change weekly, I have '0' nitrates and I barely see most of the fish haha.

I find some people brag about having loads of fish in their tank but don't take into account fish behaviour at all and only focus on 'nitrates'.

Fishing keeping is about creating an environment that best mimic's the fishes natural environment and caters for their behaviour (Aggression, feeding, schooling, mating etc....). People also have to think long term.... fish grow, their behaviours can change, and they can live a very long time!
 
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MacZ

That's a really good point! I am new and I have never actually seen a full sized apisto before, so I only know what the internet suggests, but I technically have no idea how big these two will actually become. Therefore, I won't be able to visalize my tank with their eventual size the same way someone with more experience with this specific species could be able to. The Green Neons are likely full grown or close to it, as they stay pretty small, but even with Otos, since the different species look so similar when they're young, it's hard to predict how big they will become. For my specific tank I am predicting 2 Apistos, 6 Otocinclus and I have no idea how many Green Neons I will stop at, but 10 is my minimum. I won't be adding any fish for a while after that.

For reliable info always consult seriouslyfish.com.

I agree with flyfisha and GlennO very much, I also have several similar factors: Group sizes, feeding habits, social behaviour, territory sizes and especially that in relation to the footprint of a tank. Bioload is often automatically low due to these when I stock a tank. While stocking density viewed by the individual species might be high.

Apistos rarely grow past 7cm in males, 5 in females. Green neons grow to 5 cm aswell, Otos, too.

Your tank is a 20 high, right? Ok, here my thoughts:

Otos are usually fully grown when you buy them as most are wild caught and a bunch of species are simply so similar it takes a trained eye to distinguish them by the patterns on their caudal fin. As far as I can tell and estimate you might probably find only a dozen people on this planet that can distinguish Oto species just by looking at them. If you are going to put 6 of them in a new 20 gallon, this will be grossly overstocked in food availability. A new tank can't sustain them, and an established one in that size 1-3 at best.

Depending on the species of Apistogramma you might also find that a 20 high has a too small footprint for a pair. Be very careful to structure the decoration in a way the lines of sight are broken on their preferred swimming height (lower third) so they can evade each other when the female is not in brooding mood (then he will chase her) or with eggs/fry (Apisto females have a massive mama bear complex.). The average Apisto territory has a diameter of 60cm for a male and 30 for a female. I have a tank roughly the size of a 20 gallon,

For the neons about 10 is the maximum for the tanksize. They prefer to stay in the lower 2/3 of the water column, so here you may get into overcrowding of a level quickly. And while yes, they are a group fish, there are stocking densities when "more is better" turns into an achilles heel.

Edit:
Oh, and sites like AqAdviser are a bane to sensible and serious fishkeeping and in my opinion are not a tool for beginners. That site has killed a lot of fish.
 
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SpaghettiandLeaves

These are all good points as well! Also I love Kuhlis too! I have them planned for my Asian biotope (next project). Although I don't know if I think the aquarium necessarily needs to resemble the natural habitat, unless they're a wild caught species, but I still like the challenge and research that has to go into making that possible. Also, on your point of 'overstocked', the person at my LFS that I've connected with also said she has over 30 fish in her 20 gallon (about 78 liters). It was also heavily planted they seem to love being in there with all their friends. haha I am excited to see the natural behaviors begin to show as I slowly add more to the Green Neon Tetra school.

I'm not sure if we are thinking of the same tetra, the Green Neon should only get about an inch max or 2.5cm. Even the website you suggested for advisement depicts this same length as the other sources I have read. I guess I should know soon, how fast do they typically grow? My apistos are about the size that you stated now, and they are still getting along weirdly well (I know this is subject to change). The female is protecting eggs on one side of the tank and the male defends a cave on the opposite side (four caves total). He goes over to check on her frequently and she just flares for a sec and then they just swim next to each other like everything is fine until she goes back to check on the eggs and he swims off. I do have a spare 10 gallon just in case they do need to be separated at any point. I have also gotten the 3 Otos I already have to eat Repashy Soilent Green gel food, I tricked them by spreading it on the piece of wood they like to eat off, so feeding them shouldn't be an issue now that they're eating food that's provided. I know every tank is different and we will all have different experiences, but so far everything is moving along swimmingly with mine. I stare at it every day, as I work from home and it's next to my desk. I will also add, that against my better judgment, I did a fish-in cycle with the apistos and otos and they all survived that as well. I think I am being highly diligent on the upkeep with this tank and ensuring it's healthy and thriving. It has been two months now, I know that is still new, but from a majority of the beginners' stories I have read I think I am doing okay so far. I do agree that the 20 High wasn't the best tank, I originally planned to get a 20 Long or a 29, but that didn't end up happening. I spent four months planning, and most of the plan ended up changing once it was put into motion. I'm just continuing to research every little thing that pops into my head and make sure I am on top of anything that may arise (I've preemptively purchased medications, just in case anything happens after business hours I can act fast). I am a little obsessed with this hobby, but I am loving every minute of it.
 

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