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Planning my first native tank


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#1 minorhero

minorhero
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  • Maryland

Posted 03 March 2019 - 08:09 PM

Hello folks,

 

I stumbled upon the idea of a native aquarium quite recently and then stumbled upon this website even more recently. I would very much appreciate some thoughts on an aquarium I am planning.

 

Some background on myself, I have been keeping freshwater tropical fish off and on for the past couple of decades. Always in smaller tanks (28 gallons and smaller). Currently I have a little ol 5 gallon for a betta, some shrimp and a orange mexican dwarf crayfish. My wife and I are going to buy a new house in the next 6 or so months and after that I am going to get a bit of an upgrade in the aquarium department. The exact size of the tank is unknown right now. I plan to go used if possible. I would like to get a 120 gallon but I may accept something as small as 75 gallons if the right tank comes along. 

 

The only critter I know for certain will be in the tank will be an electric blue crayfish, cause I think those fellas are just so darn neat. I plan to make a pretty good sized cave for the fella so he can molt in safety. I would also like to have a small school of golden topminnows, a single sunfish, some shrimp, and some bluefin killifish.

 

My overall plan is that everything alive in the tank must be from somewhere in the United States. Beyond that I am not particular to its location so long as it can reasonably co-exist in a tank kept somewhere between the high 60 degrees to lower 70 degrees. 

 

I do plan to plant this tank with a fairly healthy amount of plants. My recent attraction to larger tanks comes from seeing a lot of aquascaping videos online, and I would like to put into practice some of the lessons I have learned from these videos.

 

Regarding the shrimp, I learned that ghost shrimp are native so I plan to put those in but depending on how they do may also introduce more expensive native species. I think chocolate shrimp are native as well?

 

For filtration I plan to do a sump connected via a siphon and also incorporate a moving bed. I would like to do inline co2 as well on the return. 

 

What I would very much like to know from the folks here is whether I can keep a longear sunfish with the stocking I outlined above? I know they can be aggressive which is why I was thinking I would only keep 1. I have lakes near me that contain the longears so I was thinking I could catch a wild juvenile. If not the longear would an orange spotted sunfish be a better fit? Or should I just accept that I need something smaller and go with something like a bluespotted sunfish? Apparently the latter do live sorta in my area but would almost certainly be harder to find in the wild so I would probably buy that one online. 

 

I know that pretty much any fish would like to eat my shrimp but I was thinking if I plant heavily enough I may give them enough cover so they can stay alive. Ideally the shrimp would become self sustaining with the ghost shrimp breeding to keep their numbers up.  

 

What I don't want is one of my inhabitants (probably the sunfish) immediately eating all of my other inhabitants within a couple of days or weeks. 

 

Any advice or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.



#2 Michael Wolfe

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Posted 04 March 2019 - 05:35 PM

So I am known here for my lack of love for crayfish and I will start by saying that there are only two type of fish; those that eat crayfish and those that get eaten by crayfish.

And shrimp are eaten by everyone. I have seen darters not much bigger than the shrimp, pin them in the corner of the tank and chow down.

Others will give you other opinions but my advice is crays and shrimps in their own tanks unless you are OK with the eventual losses.

But on the sunfish, you can definitely keep one in a 75 or larger and have some other topminnows and shiners or whatever you like. Helps if you start with a smaller sunny that learns that you are bringing the food.
Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. - Benjamin Franklin

#3 minorhero

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Posted 04 March 2019 - 06:17 PM

Thank you for the response Michael!

 

Would there be any appreciable difference between keeping a longear vs an orange spotted or other smaller sunfish? The longears are local to me and thus I can catch a small one in the wild. The others I would need to buy from online. So my preference is to use a longear but if folks that have actually kept these fish before think a longear would be much worse in a heavily planted tank with the stocking I described I will definitely act accordingly.



#4 Michael Wolfe

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Posted 04 March 2019 - 07:05 PM

Others have kept more sunfish than I, do maybe wait fir some other answers. But o-spots have a reputation for being very peaceful. So there would be a difference. But I say local is a huge benefit. So go with the longear and work with him.
Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. - Benjamin Franklin

#5 Matt DeLaVega

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  • Ohio

Posted 04 March 2019 - 07:09 PM

I would focus on the smaller fish. So many of us start with sunfish or other game fish only to find that our smaller non game fish become our primary interest. I would go with OSS over longear because it would keep my options open. I mostly agree with Michael about crayfish. They can be kept with fish as long as you know to expect losses. If that is acceptable to you, have at it. Crays can kill  "sleeping" fish, and a molting crayfish is a helpless mass of meat ripe for the picking. I have kept them together and probably will again.

 Try things. There really is no recipe. Use your local resources. That is what most here have done. If you couldn't purchase OSS, we wouldn't even be entertaining the thought. Michael just posted as I type and it seems that we were both on the same track.


The member formerly known as Skipjack


#6 Fleendar the Magnificent

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Posted 04 March 2019 - 07:21 PM

If you're planning on smaller fish like darters, the O-spot would probably be a better choice as they're a more peaceful fish VS longears, green sunfish and other sunfish. In my tank I have spotfins, bluntnose minnows, a western blacknose dace, 23 various darters, a stonecat madtom, a juvenile green sunfish and 4 rusty crayfish. So far I have had minimal losses to my darters(perhaps 3) from the catfish and no issues with the crays. However I feed them regularly, the crays eat blood worms like the darters do, I feed the crays pleco wafers and I keep typically 10-15 1" long minnow fry in the tank at all times to keep the sunnie and madtom sated. This seems to be working, however, my madtom has grown a LOT since I caught him in October. He was about 3.5" long when caught and now 7". He might have to go into another tank.

 

Anyhow, JMHO, plan the type of sunfish you want around the size of your other inhabitants. Smaller fish, a more peaceful specie of sunfish with a smaller mouth. If the fish can fit into the sunfishes' mouth, it will inevitably end up there.

 

Chris M.



#7 JasonL

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Posted 04 March 2019 - 07:42 PM

You could easily keep 6-10 orangespots in a tank that size with minimal losses to other fish species. In fact, I think orangespots do better in a group. Keep a couple females in the mix. I think the males color up better with a few females around.

A longear will eventually get big enough to target smaller minnows and darters as food fwiw. No question it would make short work of any crays or shrimp.

#8 TurbineBlade

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Posted 04 March 2019 - 07:46 PM

You've received some sage advice here.  My experience with crayfish is the same - I think the idea that they're either eating or eaten by fish is spot-on.  Keeping crayfish with native fish (or really any fish) peacefully is never a permanent state of affairs.  I was just going to add that if loss due to crayfish is unacceptable to you, and you still wish to keep a crayfish, consider a small invert-only tank.  My toddler is getting more interested in nature and I envision putting a crayfish in a 10 gallon by itself just for kicks.  So that's always something you could consider.  Invertebrates create far less waste than fish, so there's always that benefit as well.  

 

Ditto on the sunfish advice, though my experience is that some species are worse than others in terms of aggression, and your chance of success in keeping them with cyprinids, etc. in the same tank.  Green sunfish in particular are pretty nasty, and of course are more mechanically capable of eating small fish than some other sunfish species.  (I realize largemouth bass, etc. are technically "sunfish", but I'm just considering the what most people mean when they mention sunfish, and you referenced longears, which are quite attractive).  

 

I think I've reached a point where feeding flakes to a 75 gallon tank of minnows, killis, darters, etc. beats feeding pellets to 1 or 2 sunfish in the same tank.  That's just a personal preference - nothing wrong with whatever floats your boat!

 

TB


"Trying is the first step toward failure!" -- Homer Simpson


#9 Matt DeLaVega

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Posted 04 March 2019 - 07:49 PM

Nicely said TB.

 


The member formerly known as Skipjack


#10 Doug_Dame

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Posted 04 March 2019 - 08:45 PM

My $0.02 is that, given how you've described what interests you (at the moment), you should plan on at least 2 tanks.

 

Especially if the initial "centerpiece show critter(s)" is/are blue crawfish. I've never had one of those, but my experience with more run of the mill varieties mirrors the comments from others ... it's very hard to manage the eat-or-be-eaten balance with crawdads & fish co-existing in aquariums. In addition, crawfish are notorious for uprooting and disrupting plants. If you were thinking of having a nicely planted tank, the crawfish might disagree, and they'd be in there 24x7 to do whatever they want (subject to possible oversight by any large sunfish.) And, I don't know if this is hard and fast, but I saw one reference that the blue crawfish need temps from 70 UP. 

 

I don't think of golden topminnows as "schooling", I think of them more as "lurking in the deep vegetation." And not really a good community fish.

 

For a big tank, I'd be thinking about some Cyprinella minnows. (But I'm prejudiced.) However, most of them are active enough that if, for example, you wanted darters, you'd have to think about how you're going to get food past the minnow pack down to the smaller & slower guys. (And gals ... no offense intended.) 

 

Chances are, whatever you THINK will work will later be modified by experience to what actually DOES work, given your experimental combo of critters. 

 

Also, while buying is always an option, you should investigate what's available within your "weekend minimum combat radius," which is defined as how far a round-trip for collecting you can make, leaving directly from work on Friday and returning home ... tired, wet & happy ... at 10pm on Sunday. A 3-day weekend adds at least another 300 miles. The Jim Graham rule is that one primo target species per day is a good average. Three fun trips and you potentially have a good starter collection of at least 6 species you find to be especially interesting.

 

* Baltimore (aka a random city in MD) --> Blacksburg VA = 4:46 (*)

* Baltimore --> Greensboro NC = 5:16

* Baltimore --> Asheville NC = 7:57

 

Not to neglect MD and other close-by places, I just haven't been there and don't know the fauna well.

 

(* I've made a LOT of day trips that get me further afield than 4:46. What else are you going to do in the spring? Watch baseball on TV? Fertilize the lawn?) 


Doug Dame

Floridian now back in Florida
 


#11 Michael Wolfe

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Posted 05 March 2019 - 12:02 AM

I love you Doug Dame. When am I gonna be in your weekend radius again. Im going collecting on the 30th for OUR aquarium.
Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. - Benjamin Franklin

#12 Doug_Dame

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Posted 05 March 2019 - 01:37 AM

Really ???  I'll PM you. I'd like to help, and I might be ready for some GA fish by then too. I'm working on my "fishroom" in my new location, it's making slow progress. However, I am *MUCH* further south than I was before, so I need to think about whether such a trip would be workable. 


Doug Dame

Floridian now back in Florida
 


#13 Doug_Dame

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Posted 05 March 2019 - 01:55 AM

Really ???  I'll PM you. I'd like to help, and I might be ready for some GA fish by then too. I'm working on my "fishroom" in my new location, it's making slow progress. However, I am *MUCH* further south than I was before, so I need to think about whether such a trip would be workable. 

 

Not as bad as I thought ... 9:38. 

 

I'll check with "the boss." 


Doug Dame

Floridian now back in Florida
 


#14 minorhero

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  • Maryland

Posted 05 March 2019 - 02:32 PM

Thank you everyone that chimed in! 

 

I really appreciate all the advice. I wanted to go with a longear because it was local and probably a better choice then my other local sunfish (pumpkin seed). I also wanted to have one larger fish in the aquarium. That said, it seems pretty much unanimous that its better to go with a smaller species. This is definitely what I worried about. I feel comfortable with smaller fish but I have never kept anything as big as a longear before so I was unsure how aggressive it could really become. With enough dense planted cover (things like zosterella, ludwigia, hornwort) I feel reasonably comfortable with shrimp in a tank. I do expect shrimp losses of course, but my local fish store sells ghost shrimp at a rate of 1 dollar per 6 shrimp. So I can restock shrimp pretty easily. I don't want to do it if they get eaten within 5 minutes of being in the tank. But if I need to restock ghost shrimp every 6+ months that's not so bad. In an ideal world I will have the ghost shrimp breeding fast enough that they recoup their own losses. No idea if that will happen or not.

 

As far as the crayfish goes, I am hoping that with a really good hiding space, plus some secondary ones he will do ok in the tank. My little ol 5 gallon I have now has a betta with a dwarf crayfish (plus some shrimp) and they are doing great together. This has been one part my betta's temperament and one part plant/hardscape cover. My dwarf crafish has definitely upset some plants in my tank but others he leaves alone. Once I started feeding him more this behavior stopped all together. Online I have heard similar stories of other people's crayfish. Apparently they prefer some plants more then others so that will be a bit of an experiment on my part to figure out what my crayfish will allow to grow. I also don't plan to have any fish that spend a lot of time sitting still on the bottom of the tank. Faster fish tend to do much better with crayfish around.

 

At this point my possible sunfish include orangespotted, bluespotted, and banded sunfish. The latter two are easier to obtain with bluespotted being potentially possible to trap as they have been found in Maryland, though I honestly have no idea how common they are. I basically plan to buy a minnow trap and go see what ends up in it in various rivers/lakes come spring/summer. I at first thought that dip nets were illegal in Maryland but after a closer reading of the code I found that its legal to use a dip net in Maryland if you are also a Maryland resident so long as its not one of the few trout management areas that are around. Non-Maryland residents are not allowed to use a dip net at all. So that does open up my fish catching a bit and could make for some fun trips in the summer time. Due to family life its not really practical to travel further afield then about 1.5 hours and being centrally located in Maryland means that I can only reach Chesapeake Bay tributaries. 

 

Thank you for the advice Doug on the topminnows. I will definitely look into alternatives if they are not good at schooling. You are correct that I want active schooling community fish. I might go with another type of killifish, but if anyone has a suggestion on a peaceful schooling community fish smaller then 3.5" that I can get locally in Maryland or buy online, I would definitely appreciate it. 



#15 Michael Wolfe

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  • North Georgia, Oconee River Drainage

Posted 05 March 2019 - 03:41 PM

I love your attitude here... advice is good and your experience is good and you need to mix the two into what works for you.

 

Not to change the subject totally, but do you have Fritz's book "Freshwater Fishes of the Carolinas, Virginia, Maryland and Delaware"?  See it even says Maryland right there in the title.  Just thumbing it through it you ahve some good local options... rosyside dace, satinfin shiners,river chubs (I LOVE NOCOMIS), iron color shiners, and more... I also like silverjaw minnows rather a lot, but they are very benthic, so maybe not a good choice for you.  Anyway, the point is I was just looking at the maps of that book, and I think if you are going to try to do a mostly local tank (and I encourage that), you should have the book that covers you locally.


Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. - Benjamin Franklin

#16 MtFallsTodd

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Posted 06 March 2019 - 07:45 AM

I'm in Frederick county Virginia. Not too far from any place in MD. Once the weather warms up there are lots of nice collecting spots around here. Let me know if you are interested. I make at least one trip to the James river every year also.
Deep in the hills of Great North Mountain

#17 minorhero

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  • Maryland

Posted 06 March 2019 - 09:24 AM

Thank you Michael for the book suggestion! I went ahead and ordered a copy. Maps of Maryland with indications on where different species of fish are located will definitely be a big help! Rosyside Dace have some nice color which is definitely one thing I am trying to put into this tank. Chubs look to be a bit big. I actually think I have been eating a relative of the river chubs smoked on my bagel for years.

Thank you for the offer Todd, I might take you up on that if I get time for a longer trip over the summer.

#18 swampfish

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Posted 06 March 2019 - 11:44 AM

I have had excellent success with mixing blue-spotted and banded sunfish with minnows, even when the sunfish grew to several inches long. Larger crayfish such as the blue crayfish are much worse at moving gravel and plants than are the dwarf crayfish such as Cambarellus. 

 

In my opinion, a large crayfish and a landscaped tank are not compatible. I agree with others that two tanks is a much more sustainable option. Use driftwood, rocks, caves, and Anubias with the crayfish and use a different tank for your landscape. Most Amano Nature Aquariums are nearer to 75 and 30 gallon tank sizes rather than 120 gallon. 

 

The typical price for a used 55 gallon tank in our local auctions is $10-20, and $5-10 for a 29 gallon. That's much more reasonable than a 120 gallon tank, and you can move them yourself.

 

Phil Nixon



#19 Michael Wolfe

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  • North Georgia, Oconee River Drainage

Posted 06 March 2019 - 09:30 PM

Chubs look to be a bit big. 

 

 

I keep a bluehead chub (avatar) or three in my 75 and they do OK if you start with young individuals around 4 inches they will grow slowly into the tank.


Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. - Benjamin Franklin

#20 CaptScot

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  • Shoreline CT

Posted 08 March 2019 - 12:20 PM

So I am new to native aquaria and new to this board, but not new to the more general hobby. I used to keep a lot of native crayfish out of my backyard creek in the tanks that I did have even if the tanks weren't native tanks per se.

 

Yes, no matter what you will either lose a fish or crayfish from time to time as food. You can't absolutely prevent that from happening.

 

However, you CAN mitigate it somewhat by having a tank that is busy with lots of structure and plants. You want to give your crayfish LOTs of places to shoot to quickly if it gets in trouble, and you also want your fish to be able to find night time resting places that support them (i.e. plants and higher perches that make it harder for the crayfish to sneak up on them while the fish are semi-torpid. I have successfully maintained healthy breeding populations of both fish and crays in the same tank, and I have never lost a major portion of either (not counting fry), but you have to be ok with some losses from time to time.

 

They are great tanks to watch and observe.


Edited by CaptScot, 08 March 2019 - 12:21 PM.




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