New Rainbowfish Tank

Discussion in 'Rainbowfish' started by Adam Pacio, Jun 19, 2019.

  1. Adam Pacio

    Adam PacioNew MemberMember

    Hey everyone. I've driven family and friends to distraction with my fish nerdery chatter lately, so I figured I'd post here among fellow keepers and enthusiasts instead and give my social circle a break.

    I'm in that magical and exciting time for fish keepers - planning and planting a new tank. Recently moved and separated amicably from my ex, the aquarium was moved successfully from Pittsburgh to NYC with me at the start of May. 75 gallons, 2x Fluval 305 canisters, nutrient substrate (ADA Amazonia soil, Aquasolum, Fluorite sand mix, about 2 years old), CO2 injection finally working, medium-to-high LED lighting situation, happy to buy another light next month. Been running the tank since I got here, and the biofilter in the canisters is well matured from the 2 years prior housing angelfish for the ex. I have currently a lone Dwarf Flame Gourami in the tank and some legacy plants from the old setup, plus a nice hero bogwood piece. The Gourami kept reminding me to put food in the tank for the biofilter, if not necessarily her, but now she thinks she's the empress of her own personal 75g planted setup. (Sorry, sweetie, stocking is going to happen soon!)

    Anyway, I wanted to invite everyone to share in this magical time and watch the progress. I like to say that a good aquarium is grown, not 'set up'. It's a process of fine tuning things over time and adjusting to normal life events for your tank residents. But the planning time only happens the once, so come along for the journey, won't you? And please chime in with chatter. I'm experienced enough to understand there are things I don't know, and also experienced enough to tackle some slight challenges, though I'd prefer to minimize risk of course and maximize enjoyment.

    I'm going Rainbowfish this time around. Right now, this is my planned tank stock list:

    1 Dwarf Flame Gourami
    14 Albino Millenium Rainbowfish (5 males, 9 females, starting as 2" juveniles)
    1 Rainbow Shark
    2 Assassin Snails

    And that's enough. tells me that I'm at 40% of the stocking level for my tank, I've read folks on the forums who think even a 75g is too small for a school of that size of Millenium-sized Rainbows. I've also seen folks who think that 48" tank is fine for twice that number. I'm splitting the difference for now, with an eye for replacing the tank for a 120 gallon sometime in the next couple of years with a 60" footprint, or keeping the one I have and just adding another 75 gallon so I can split the school if crowding is an issue.

    The only main concern of mine at the moment is that, lo and behold for the first time ever in my entire life, my tap water is soft. Naturally. (I should have kept rainbows in Pittsburgh and done the Angels here, but nope.) NYC pulls from two main reservoirs for municipal water supply, one in the Catskills (Ashokan) and one from a tributary to the Hudson (Croton Harmon), and oddly enough neither source has much limestone or calcium carbonate bearing rock in them, so the water is naturally soft (I'm getting 8-9 deg GH and stable 3 deg KH readings off the tap).

    This means that the substrate I have and the bogwood are not appropriate for the tank any more, especially if I want to keep Rainbowfish happy. My tank regularly takes even the old alkaline Pittsburgh water and keeps it at a stable 6.4pH. I'm trying to get it back up to neutral in the 7.0 range. So I will be adding crushed coral to my filters and swapping out the bogwood piece (too similar to the old tank look and feel for me, need to refresh things after the separation for emotional health, too). In its place I'll put a couple of limestone or marble pieces to create the caves that the shark will claim.

    My biggest question is... should I swap out the substrate? I'd prefer not to, if only because it's stayed wet and aged for years. I suppose I'll find out when I see what the coral in the filter and the limestone hardscape does in terms of buffering the tank back toward 7.0 pH. But I'm down for advice in the meanwhile.

    This Friday's paycheck will be the first 'disposable' income in a while. Just trying to decide whether to do the substrate over the weekend. Fish will likely arrive Wednesday. Plants are being bought from my LFS, but this time I'm going for a specific look to the tank and so I'm using Imperial Tropicals as my source for the albino Millenium rainbows.

    Anyway, looking forward to chatting, sorry for rambling, but on the eve of making purchase decisions as it were, fish are on the mind!
  2. Wraithen

    WraithenFishlore VIPMember

    I wouldn't change the substrate. You can get something like Equilibrium to help buffer, but I'm kind of surprised your soil hasn't been exhausted from being in use for 2 years. It should have run out of its acidic properties by now.

    I think that many rainbows will look super busy in a 75 gallon. I've got 10 irian reds and 10 Australians with 7 denison barbs (roseline sharks) in a 180 gallon and feeding times look super busy. (Rainbows are almost always wanting to eat, so brace yourself for that.)

    What if you did 7 of the melliniums and 7 of something like blue eyes? You have access to crazy hard to find fish in that area, so you can be much more selective. Some of those dwarf rainbows can be insanely beautiful!

    I would also go check out a few shops and pick their brains about your soil and local water. It's likely they have played this same game themselves. While most lfs are there to sell you something, there is usually a lot of experience. My lfs will keep things that you "cant" keep together, as well as explain fish in cycling and encourage ot, but that's where they've found the most success. Dont be afraid to go against the internet a little. Just dont go too far against it and expect great results. Likewise, it may not be a good idea to post about going against the grain here. It's gotten a lot better and more accepting lately, but there are things I do that I dont mention because... internet forum laws about fishkeeping and such.
  3. OP
    Adam Pacio

    Adam PacioNew MemberMember

    Fair enough. I'm always willing to listen, and I've been watching videos all day, looking at adult Milleniums in 75 gallon tanks, and I can see for myself that they don't look like they can fully stretch their fins, so your advice is aligned with where I'm thinking.

    The practical side of me keeps pointing out that 'when in Rome, do as their municipal water would allow you to do'. Adding the CO2 like you helped me finally do figuring out there was a leak in my bubble counter has dropped the 6.4 to 6.2, so I'm seriously considering scrapping the Rainbowfish tank or going with a smaller school of Dwarf Praecox instead or going with a different community tank setup which will appreciate the softer water. Then later if I do add a 120g... ugh.

    Back to making decisions based on practical reality and the comfort of the fish I'll be keeping. Happy fish are healthier fish, so I'll figure something out. Nothing says I have to populate the tank next week. I'll shift my planning discussions to the more appropriate forum and consider a school of 6-8 dwarf rainbows as feature fish in a community tank.

    Thanks for the reality check and confirming where my head was telling my heart I should really go for the sake of the fish.
  4. Wraithen

    WraithenFishlore VIPMember

    If you want a when in Rome idea, discus keepers would kill for your water.
  5. OP
    Adam Pacio

    Adam PacioNew MemberMember

    Yeah, I know. I have flirted with the idea of discus keeping in the past, believe me, but for my budget I would need to buy juvenile and grow them, which generally speaking means bare bottom for best ease of keeping and prevailing 'net wisdom is that they would destroy the plants. And when it comes to "conflicting information" and "conflicts between net experts", Discus keeping is a minefield I'm not really sure I want to navigate.

    However, after some more exploration and research, it seems that Dwarf Neon Praecox Rainbows at half the size could do for say, 8 in my tank, and keep the aesthetic of the "Australian" Rainbow Fish I'd fallen in love with when I kept a few in my old 30 gallon back in the late 90s. They got very large and were quite happy, but I had to rehome them for a move and the new keeper didn't watch the water quality and they gave up on life shortly thereafter. But then, looking back, they didn't exactly have the room to swim that the species needs.

    But 8 juvenile Dwarf Praecox should have sufficient room to grow into, and they can tolerate far more acidic water. I'll add crushed coral to one of my filter chambers to buffer the KH which naturally pushes the pH up more. And I'll do a partial substrate replacement with Carib Sea's black Eco Complete, mixing it in with the existing substrate a bit with my little lady Gourami and the heater and an air stone (I know, she technically doesn't need it) in a 5 gallon bucket with a small HOB filter I save for just such contingencies so she doesn't stress during the substrate replacement operation and all the silt, legacy and new, which will kick up.

    Prices for the Dwarf Praecox are a fraction of the Albino Milleniums, too, and by buying smaller bottles of liquid nutrients for the time before next payday, I can replace the substrate, acquire my plants, and stock the tank with fish all for the original price of the fish alone. It's a more practical compromise all around. And the Carib Sea Eco Complete soil also has 'slight' pH raising qualities, too, so if I get that done first this weekend then delay the fish purchase by a week I have time to see where the water quality settles out.

    And I still get to enjoy the beauty of Rainbowfish, only much more responsibly.

    Thanks again for the advice. I appreciate the words of wisdom.
  6. LeahsTank

    LeahsTankValued MemberMember

    If you have access to a wider variety of fish, I would look into red laser rainbows. They are very similar to the praecox but may not be as overbred as the dwarf neons. I’ve not seen them in person, but I think they may be a little more colorful.

    And you can never go wrong with a group of threadfin rainbows.
  7. 86 ssinit

    86 ssinitWell Known MemberMember

    Welcome to fishlore and welcome to New York :). I’m on the island and using city water but mine is 7.0-7.2. May be something else going on with your water (pipes).There are a few city members here. @scarface being one.
    I have the dwarf neons. Had 10 in a 90 since a little over a year. Lost 8 of them. No signs of anything wrong just dead. Have bosmani rainbows in the same tank that are over 5 yrs doing fine. So I’m with the overbreeding of them.
    Bought forktail rainbows for a 45 and they are very nice. You could do a school of 20 fork tails and 20 threadfins in a planted 75. Think that would look great.
    Not a fan of eco. Bought it for my 90 seems like stuff is just starting to grow good a year and a half later.
    Lots of lfs around with some interesting fish. Good luck with your setup :).
  8. scarface

    scarfaceFishlore VIPMember

    Hi Adam, welcome to NYC.

    As you have seen, the City water is indeed very soft and a KH of 3 degrees sounds about right, but don't be alarmed if it goes down to 2-1 degree or even 0 at times. And as 86_ssnit has noted, neutral pH is what I normally get as well. I think your pH of 6.4 has more to do with ADA aquasoil than KH. I've used that soil as well, and it does buffer it to around 6.6 from my experience. Personally, I think it's better not to focus on KH too much. I think people sometimes focus on getting everything perfect, when many fishes in the hobby do perfectly fine in various types of tap water throughout the country and worldwide. I also highly recommend you check out Pacific Aquarium and Plants in Manhattan for fish and fishkeeping advice. I don't know much about rainbows, but they should. And enjoy NYC tap water. It's considered the Champagne of tap water, after all.
  9. OP
    Adam Pacio

    Adam PacioNew MemberMember

    Thanks for the welcome @scarface and @86_ssnit, and @LeahsTank for the recos. All very useful.

    Good to know on the Praecox, and especially thankful for the LFS reco. I'm still trying to find a good LFS, so I'll definitely give Pacific A&P a look.

    LeahsTank suggestions on the Red Lasers made me take another survey of the Rainbow species to look for ones that are smaller and do well in softer water. I've decided to delay the livestock purchase and focus on getting the plants in and thriving and the overall design of the tank to be "just so" before I go and add the fish into the mix. Ideally want to avoid major design changes with livestock in the tank. And instead of settling, make sure I'm going to be happy with the stock I add. I realized that I was getting excited and starting to move into impulse-buy areas, and that's not a good idea with pets of any kind.

    I'll post updates. This week's purchases will be about the plants. I'm still getting pretty phenomenal growth out of the aquasoil overall, so if it ain't broke, don't fix it, right? Focus on the plants, get the nutrient doses going, get the flow right, and finalize my fish research. I will definitely check out Pacific A&P this weekend.
  10. 86 ssinit

    86 ssinitWell Known MemberMember

    Havnt been to pacific but was at Manhattan aquariums. It’s just north of Hudson yards. Nice shop clean tanks just not a lot of inventory. Lots of lfs in the outer Boros and Jersey. Monster aqua. In queens also has some nice looking fish and a little further out in glen cove is pets warehouse. It’s a small chain that has about 5 stores on the island. But they are big stores with large selections of both fresh and salt and a big selection of plants. That said I’ve also done well with both tokyuaquatics and plantsfactory on eBay. Good luck enjoy checking out all the stores. Havnt been to but have heard there are some great stores in Jersey.
  11. OP
    Adam Pacio

    Adam PacioNew MemberMember

    I thought about this for a bit this weekend, looked at the tank I've got, and asked myself what it was about the Rainbowfish that I was looking to get out of them. @Wraithen was absolutely correct. The "When in Rome" for the setup I have indicates tank-raised discus would be the best way to go, even though it means having to re-plan all of the plants.

    I've held off before due to water quality concerns on top of the strict regimen of cleanliness. With a 75 gallon I'm limited to 5 comfortably, perhaps 6 adults. Since Rainbowfish aren't really a natural fit for the acidity and water softness my tank is stable at (with CO2 now it's hitting a solid 6.0 pH and staying there) It'll be a Discus tank with a handful of cardinal tetras as dither fish. I'll wrap up this thread here because of the topical shift.

    Thanks for the advice, everyone. I'll post photos when I can. (And yes, a while back I did significant research into discus, but held off because I didn't want to go the RO route. Here, that won't be necessary.)
  12. 86 ssinit

    86 ssinitWell Known MemberMember

    Well good luck and yes you are in the right place for discus. One thing is a lot of the breeders now breed their fish at a higher ph 7+. There are a few new builds on discus going on now. With members who have bought from both Dennis and Hans Discus. Nice looking fish. I have just bought from Hans and have bought 6 locally and have a 125 discus build going. Do you plan on juveniles or adults?
  13. GlennO

    GlennOValued MemberMember

    No need to give up on the larger Rainbows. Many of the Australian riverine varieties do fine in soft water and are extremely adaptable. I have Banded's (Goyder River) in 8dGH.
  14. OP
    Adam Pacio

    Adam PacioNew MemberMember

    I plan on not doing Discus. I know there are much hardier strains but I just really don't want the hassle of daily water changes needed to grow from juveniles properly, and I don't want the expense of investing in adults. I'm fine with accepting that my desire for the rainbow tank won't work out due to size limits, at the very least (don't want unhappy fish, no no no) for my 48" long tank, so really, weighing all the options, it's time to replace the substrate and adjust the filter materials to pull the hardness up slightly and the pH back up to neutral.

    I'm just really laughing at myself that I went through all the water treatment hassles to keep angelfish in the hard and alkaline municipal water of Pittsburgh, then moved to NY and will be treating to keep something yet to be determined that likes a neutral to alkaline water in the soft municipal waters of NYC. I seem to be making all the wrong choices for all the wrong places.

    I'm opening up a thread in Tank Builds forum to see what ideas get sparked through the crowd sourcing. I've got specific desires for the tank and will happily go with the fish that work for my overall wishlist.
  15. OP
    Adam Pacio

    Adam PacioNew MemberMember

    Just to follow up on this all one month later...

    Two weeks ago I finally decided that if I wanted to keep Rainbows, I needed to overhaul the tank. So I put the dwarf gourami in a bucket with a heater and air stone overnight, and in that duration pulled out the Amazonia substrate and replaced it with CaribSea's Eco-Complete. Added some crushed coral to one of the two Fluval canisters, and did a massive new plant order. The driftwood pictured on my profile I split into two pieces and the top bit now stands in the tank as the lone hardscape element. I'm growing in a sorta-Dutch style planting arrangement, and my water is now sitting comfortably between 6.8-7.2 pH -- far more hospitable to rainbowfish.

    I will be using this tank as a grow-out tank for the next year or so, and when the time comes I'll upgrade to a longer, lower tank. (I have a 21" tall 75 gallon which was excellent for angelfish who needed the vertical height but the Rainbows need more length than 48" when adults). I have one more wall in the apartment which could bear the weight and use the longer tank as decoration.

    So, yesterday I placed my order with Imperial Tropicals and will be getting 16 juvenile Boesmani rainbows, and using their eventual growth and comfort as the excuse to push for the larger tank. (What is more likely is that I will completely upgrade by that time and sell the existing 75g).

    The dwarf gourami made the transition during the substrate swap just fine, and he still thinks that he's the emperor of the 75 gallon because for over a month now, he's been the only fish living in it. ;) The plants are doing fine, and once the Boesmani settle in (8m/8f), I'll add a rainbow shark juvenile for assistance with bottom maintenance, and call it good.
    While it would have been nice to have fish sooner, this was really for the best. Taking the time to ensure that the parameters and setup were fully acclimated to the planned livestock's optimal living conditions as much as possible is actually best practice all around. Besides, this gave me a chance to have a good 3 weeks+ depending on when the fish arrive next week for the plants to take hold, and to get the nutrient dosing and CO2 levels dialed in.

    Note that the BBA is fading almost completely off of the legacy Anubias on the left... some dieback happened with the addition of the nutrient dosing, naturally, and the Monte Carlo didn't take hold as planned on the left meaning I need to add one more light for true 'high lighting' levels with the depth of the tank, but otherwise, the tank is ready. Besides, with the blank spot on the substrate it just means I can propagate the heck out of the Staurogyne repens and carpet that way, with something that will give green cover but preserve plenty of water column swimming space for the Boesmani. The brownish-looking leaf tufts on the right side of the tank between the S. repens and the dwarf sagittaria (which are taking off) is a Red Tiger Lotus bulb which as of today has 6-7 leaves unfurled, roots starting to drop, and is really thriving and getting more and more red from the iron dosing.

    It's time for full tank maintenance and pruning today in advance of the fish arriving, so the floaters will be re-rooted and the S. repens propagated to the left side gaps more. In the front left corner is a stowaway Hydrocotyle plant that latched on as a single hairgrass-like strand to the plant order received and is taking off, but far too tall from lack of true high lighting, though that will soon be fixed. I'll let that carpet out from where it is. Might as well.

    My only concern at this point is that although the tank was seeded with live and thriving bacteria culture, without significant fish presence for so long, I'm sure the biofilter has shrunk, despite the re-seeding that happened with the Eco-Complete. It took about a week for the cloud in the water to go away fully from putting that in. So adding a full fish bioload might be troublesome and I expect the tank to cycle again with the increase in livestock. I will be monitoring closely the next couple of weeks, which is easy enough because I work from home, meaning I can do an emergency water change as necessary to keep things habitable during the readjustment.

    At least, that's the plan. Fingers crossed, and here we go. Pics when the new fish are in and acclimated and the tank is fully set up.
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2019
  16. OP
    Adam Pacio

    Adam PacioNew MemberMember

    Shot of the Nymphaea rubra 'Red Tiger Lotus' today. Leaves are -really- coming in. IMG_5304.JPG