Stocking Tools

Discussion in 'Aquarium Stocking Questions' started by sirdarksol, Jan 3, 2010.

  1. sirdarksol

    sirdarksolFishlore LegendMember

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    There has been a recent surge of people using stocking tools like websites to determine stocking for their tanks, rather than researching each type of fish meant to go into the aquarium. The mods and some veteran members have noticed that this trend is negatively impacting the learning process for a number of people, and I wanted to say something in an attempt to change that.

    These types of things, particularly ones that are heavily customizable, are not as great as they seem. In the end, they're glorified calculators for variants of the 1" per gallon guideline. No one person or website can compile comprehensive information about all of the different fish in the aquarium trade.
    Look at PlanetCatfish, probably the most respected source of information on catfish in the aquarium trade: They specialize in one type of fish, have been at it for years and are still updating their information. There are still scores of catfish that have gaps in their info.

    Because of this, any sort of application or formula that means to create a template to stock a community aquarium is extremely limited in use. In fact, I would consider them to be no more useful than the 1" per gallon guideline.

    When you are considering stocking your tank, you have a limited number of options that you want to work with. This gives you the ability to heavily research these fish, making you more of an expert in each of them than these formulae likely are.
    You also know the specifics of your aquarium. Not just gallons, but type of substrate that you're going to use, amount of substrate (which impacts swimming space a bit), type and amount of decor, type and number of plants, filtration (not just gph and such, but filter media, too) and hundreds of other little variables that affect the stocking of your tank.

    If you want to stock an aquarium without having to go through all of this research, there is still some hope (though you'll still have to research care of the individual fish). There are so-called "cookie-cutter" templates that are tried-and-true combinations (I can guarantee that no programmer or formula creator has tried every possible stocking combination to verify that it will work) of fish. Many aquarium hobby books will have such combos, and I know that there is a site that has some well-used African cichlid setups.
    The most simple of the cookie cutter templates goes something like this: 1-10g tank, 1 small filter, a small amount of gravel, some cute decor, and one betta.

    I am not saying that these things don't have a use, just that I think they are being used wrong. Instead of turning to them and trying to stock the tank, do your research and find an acceptable stocking. Then, go to such a formula or website and fill in your stock list. If the formula/program says you've got a problem, then you can look into it, see if you missed something. They should never be used as an absolute, be-all and end-all of aquarium stocking, and I don't think they should ever be turned to before you've done your own research.
     
  2. Lucy

    LucyModeratorModerator Member

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    + 156!

    Thanks for a very informative and well written post.
     
  3. platy ben

    platy benWell Known MemberMember

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  4. Meenu

    MeenuFishlore VIPMember

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    very well-said, Sds.
     
  5. bolivianbaby

    bolivianbabyFishlore LegendMember

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    Excellent advise SDS.

    IME-the research that has helped me the most has been other fishkeepers here on the forum. Experience with specific species can really give ideas on potential problems that cannot always be found on the internet or at the LFS.
     
  6. OP
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    sirdarksol

    sirdarksolFishlore LegendMember

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    While there's some great info in that thread, that is precisely the kind of thing I'm talking about not using as a primary source of info. I would use Alex's thread, perhaps, as a beginning, a place to get ideas of particular types of fish. Let's say I wanted to do a heavily planted 30g with small, schooling fish in it. I could look at the list and see what kinds of fish catch my eye, make a short list of them, and then start researching each individual fish.

    There are points on that list that I would contend, some I would downright disagree with. This isn't really a failure on Alex's part, it's just that there's too much information in this hobby to put it all in one place, and there are a lot of people who disagree on a lot of things. As I said above, the experts at PlanetCatfish have been trying to compile information on catfish for years and still aren't done. No one of us could try to write a book or thread or essay or program that could comprehensively cover every single species of fish that is sold in the aquarium trade.
     
  7. Meenu

    MeenuFishlore VIPMember

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    In my opinion, there isn't really one primary source of information. I read care sheets on several websites, discuss options with fishlore members, and then check on a stocking website before I put any new fish in my tank. The best thing you can do is to be as informed as possible about any type of fish before you get it.
     
  8. bettafish2816

    bettafish2816Fishlore VIPMember

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    i completely agree with SDS, the list that i've put together is nowhere near comprehensive and is also merely an opinion that i recommend using as a jumping off point for ideas of the types of fish that could work in a particular sized tank, but i certainly don't have all of the answers! my lists are also (IMO) quite conservative as far as number of fish that could fit, and many are suggestions from others, that sort of thing. i always recommend my list as a source of ideas, not as an end all of completely compatible fish or information.
     
  9. Jaysee

    JayseeFishlore LegendMember

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    The stocking tools also push people towards maxing out their tanks, which is not good for newcomers to the hobby. Keeping a fully/overstocked tank requires work and experience.
     
  10. Aquarist

    AquaristFishlore LegendMember

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    Please keep in mind that your tank does not always need to be stocked to 100%. Fish need room to swim!
    Bump!
    Ken
     
  11. Hawkeye99

    Hawkeye99Valued MemberMember

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    Thanks for the info. I feel like people rely too heavily on guidelines. It makes sense to just try trial and error to see how well your fish can live with each other. Obviously research and common sense help this out big time. Maybe not so much trial and error with the $$$ fish but for the little $ fish you can afford to tweak some stuff. Great article!
     
  12. wisecrackerz

    wisecrackerzWell Known MemberMember

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    Thanks, SDS. When you said stocking tools like websites, I thought you meant websites like the stocking forum here on FL, and I was instantly awash with guilt. "This isn't a good way? Relying on the research and experiences of the members here to supplement my own research?! Oh no!" I had never seen a "tank calculator" before. Didn't know such a thing existed.
    But I think, maybe, we should put something together that's like that. Something that's more reliable, and more detailed. Because people are going to be using these things, maybe we can help out their fish a little bit by making one available that's more conservative and takes more into account, so maybe they'd use ours instead of the 1"/G ones. Not using the 1"/gallon rule (but using something like that, except different numbers for different fish, and requiring dimensional input from the user, rather than just a number of gallons), but also taking into account minimum territory space (feet rather than gallons) for different species, fish relations, different bio-loads of different fish, different parameter requirements, minimum schools, etc. And when somebody put in a fish we didn't feel confident about our info, it could just automatically return a "no info" message. Or we could even have the fish selection from a drop down menu, and when somebody selects "Red Tail" or "Channel Cat" or "Rope fish", or other fish that shouldn't be kept by somebody who needs a stocking calculator, it could just return a "Do Not Keep This Species In Home Aquarium" message. It could be a pretty cool programming experiment, if a few of us put it together, in kind of an open source code kind of method. I'm imagining a 20 page "If" statement...
     
  13. OP
    OP
    sirdarksol

    sirdarksolFishlore LegendMember

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    Wisecrackerz:
    The amount of code that would go into an accurate stocking tool would make it an incredibly unwieldy program. What you're talking about has been done/is being done, by someone who knows quite a bit, but there are a lot of aquarium fish, and a lot of variables in stocking an aquarium. Stocking is two parts science and one part art. Writing a program that can perform art is an incredibly difficult prospect.
    I'm not saying "don't do it." It's a great practice in coding, and it's a great way for you to learn about aquarium fish.
    However, I have to say that it is very unlikely that I'm going to ever see a free, unfunded stocking program that will come anywhere near accurate.
     
  14. Jaysee

    JayseeFishlore LegendMember

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    Tools are only as good as the person using them.
     
  15. wisecrackerz

    wisecrackerzWell Known MemberMember

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    I guess the massive size of the program didn't really occur to me I'm one of those people who'll write a 10 page macro for excel just to stop my boss from asking me questions, and then shave it down to a page of code, but there's not really a way to do that if you need separate parameters for ever fish known to the hobby (sometimes there's no easy way to do something)... it could take up most of my memory, as well as most of my sanity. Sad day.
     
  16. pirahnah3

    pirahnah3Fishlore VIPMember

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    theres always the attempted database version with a front page listing possibles and tank sugestions from proven tank stocks.
     
  17. wisecrackerz

    wisecrackerzWell Known MemberMember

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    That would be pretty cool; I wish I had one of those honestly just for random research I do. One with a search tool so you could search for tanks with a certain fish in them, or tanks of a certain size, or with a certain parameter (brackish, cold water, sand substrate, etc), and then also the database of fish profiles... We wouldn't even have to program our own database, really, we could just use a database program and then share it with each other so people could add stuff to it. We could even try to include notes about which fish are banned in which countries...

    Anybody know a good, cheap, common database program with a cross listing search tool?
     
  18. szette

    szetteNew MemberMember

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    Sun's free OpenOffice suite has "Base" ... compatible with Microsoft Office products and the different OSes.
    Haven't used Base myself, but the other components are quality.
     
  19. BettaChuck

    BettaChuckValued MemberMember

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    Yup, I realized I shouldn't be relying on a Stocking Calculator when it comes to stocking my tank when AqAdvisor told me it's okay to have 14 fish not so tiny fish in a 12 gallon tank and when it had no objection to me putting 3 female Bettas together in that same 12 gallon,along with other fish.
     
  20. Cyndi Warren

    Cyndi WarrenValued MemberMember

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    Agreed! When I used it, it was a starting point. I put in the fish I had already decided I wanted and done the research on in the calculator. It did give me some tips and warnings I didn't know. I used it as a starting point to determine numbers of fish and compatibility. Of course, not putting the tank at 99% of capacity - lol.

    To me it is like writing a book. A writer by trade, when I set out to write something that large, I create an outline. The outline is not the book. Can you imagine paying $24 for a new hardcover, opening it, and seeing nothing but a sketchy outline!! Well stocking a tank with a calculator *only* is like that but worse ... your cost is $300 & up! Wasted.

    Anyway, it saved me hours of work and calculations, which I am terrible at anyway, being a right-brainer.

    I don't know what I would have done without it and I would not have been as successful stocking my new tank as I was. But I would never have taken it as a bible or final authority, or my only source of information, or a shortcut because I was too lazy to explore and research.

    To me, that is common sense tho. I am surprised that the people on this forum -- who are so educated and smart would do that? Perhaps a beginner or something might do it in ignorance or in the excitement to get their tank going, so the warning is very good.

    But one thing that kind of troubles me is that some people seem to kind of flip out if a forum member uses the calculator *at all*? Do we have to be that legalistic about fishkeeping? Why "throw the fry out with the tank water."

    I found the tool to be invaluable, used in the right way.
     
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