Hi guys my names rw519, I'm new to the forum but an experienced fish keeper none the less. Before you continue reading YES the title is kinda misleading, sort of. It's not a new tank physically but a new idea or concept of fish keeping I'm embracing for this new tank and hopefully all my fish tanks going forward. In this particular tank I'll be talking about my favorite of them all..Tiger Barbs!
I know your prolly thinking hey rw519, that's not a new tank I've saw tons of those barbs they're everywhere! To that I say..yes, you are right, i'm sure you have..but, my choice of tank mates just might be.
What tank mates are those you might be asking? Well..are you ready for it, Bloody Mary shrimp, Zebra loaches, Malaysian trumpet snails, bladder snails, California blackworms, and a host of all the micro inverts like daphnia, scuds, seed shrimp, cyclops etc..and yes I'll be using common names here because well I'm lazy and like to keep things simple.
Anyway, I bet now your thinking haha what an idiot those barbs and loaches are gonna kill everything! To that my friend I say yes, again you are correct they most certainatly will.
With that being said I'd like to introduce this new concept I'll be tinkering with for the next little while. Too often we buy pretty fish taken from wild, throw them in a glass box and force them to survive off man made foods like flakes and pellets for as long as they possibly can. What if, instead of going against the grain, we chose to work with nature and the natural food chain to make that tiny glass box atleast not so foreign and a little more habitable?
That's the plan! A fully functional multi species ecosystem working together to sustain itself. Instead of being angry my 12 barbs ate my shrimp I say how large of a shrimp colony do i need to i actually sustain itself and my barbs. Instead of congratulating my loaches for eating all those pesky trumpet snails, I think, how many of those snails would my tank require to produce a stable population mature enough to feed my 6 zebra loaches. Instead of hating those little white insects crawling on my aquarium glass I wonder, how can I utilize this population to my benefit?
Truth is, this is no new concept my friends, this is the natural order of the aquatic food chain and I believe we should all be incorporating this concept into all of our fish tanks going forward. I would almost go as far as saying its abuse not to. Why should we force our pets to eat man made flakes and pellets when nature has already provided us with all the resources needed. After all, these animals do live and thrive in the wild and I dont see them getting fed flakes and pellets. Realistically, all we need to do is put our thinking caps on, gather those choice species and resources, put them together and if we do a good enough job at it nature should take over.
That's the plan for this build and hopefully all other tanks in the future. Being that I'm experimenting with tiger barbs who are small 3" fish who will essentially eat anything and everything this round should be fairly easy. Young barbs eat daphnia old barbs eat shrimp. Young loaches eat scuds and bladder snails, old loaches eat shrimp and trumpet snails. That's the idea behind my tanks going forward, looking at fish like what do these specimens really eat in wild, what predator/prey symbiotic relationships do they form, how can I mimic that relationship in my tank, and what tank size and species numbers do I need to balance this system out? Of coarse plants play a vital role in this ecosystem as well, which of those plants brings me the best bang for my buck, what purpose do they serve, how can I incorporate them in a way that benefits all.
To pull something like this off correctly those are the questions one needs to answer. Luckily it's really not that hard if done with patience and careful planning so let's get to it.
I'm gonna start with a 75 long. Plenty big enough for 12 barbs and 6 loaches with lots of room to grow. Yes, that is massively under stocked but because I want this tank to sustain itself bigger is better. I'll be using a matten filter and a sponge filter for this build.
So substrate, easy enough, black sand. Sure its not the most natural looking but I like it and I'm not trying to recreate nature here simply mimic it. Your substrate is more important than you think, fully functioning it breaks down detritus and excess nutrients, stagnant it creates toxins and pests. Before I lay down the sand I spread a thin layer of dried indian almond leaves and fresh local green leaf across the bottom of the tank. This will act as a food source for the bottom feeding micro inverts and snails. On top of that I spread a layer of crushed coral, gravel and rocks high in minerals. It's something for the plants roots to anchor on to. Sand works alone but not so much. The addition of your favorite beach stones and agates work great. Just be sure to avoid those with copper. I than added a couple scoops of pond muck I collected locally and spread that out on top of the gravel. Yes its wild, yes it contains planeria, yes it contains hydra, yes it contains all types of mold fungus and bacteria. Perfect. I dont need much here, all I'm doing is adding the life forms it harbours to my tank. Mold fungus bugs bacteria everything. I can culture them later. On top of this i add about 1.5" of sand. Great my substrate is good to go.
I than picture a rock pile spread across the back 3rd of my tank. It's important the gaps holes and hollows throughout the entire matrix are large enough that adult shrimp can climb in and down through to the center but not open enough for adult loaches to penetrate..haha he said penetrate 🙂 The rock piles gonna be my shrimps safety blanket, home, breeding ground, and feeding ground. Feed them at the pile, it reduces stress and predation and allows the colony to grow much quicker than with open ground or plants swaying to and fro. A reliable food source and secure space helps. Trust me on this one, it works! I'm aiming for a couple hundred here, just to get started. minimum.
After I got the rock pile built and secure I than added my hardscape. Spider wood, lava rock and dragon stone. Pretty simple stuff. From there I added a bubble wall on the left side tank wall. Kinda cheesy but oxygenation is essential and I'll take function over aesthetics on this one. I than placed the sponge filter.
After I was pleased with the layout visually I decided to add my root feeding plants. In this case crypts I spread throughout the tank.
I could tell the tank would still be far to open when mature so I decided to make a Christmas moss wall on the back wall of the aquarium. Perfect! Simple but elegant, pretty but functional.
From there I filled the tank got the system running and added the herpes of aquariums. Duck weed. It's going to get in my tank somehow eventually anyway so I might as well add now. Although it's annoying at times its benefits far outweigh the cons when compared to other floating plants imo. Faster growth, shorter root structure, and excellent nutrient uptake.
I let this bubble for a few days than I added my pickle jar infusoria culture. By now the wild caught lifeforms in the muck have begun to appear. Daphnia, scuds, seed shrimp and cyclops have begun to hatch, but so have back swimmers water boatmen water spiders and all types of lava. I did remove the dragon fly larva tho. Those things are ruthless and could decimate this young population in a short order of time. Adios! It's time to turn this tank into a 75 gallon green water tank. To do this I feed the inverts spirilina power and active yeast. Instead of sprinkling powder on the top water I take a tip of a teaspoon mix it in a bowl with water and drip this food in with an eye dropper. It spreads throughout the water column better this way. When the water cleares up I'd add a few more drops. This carried on for a week until the population was getting large enough and maturing but no where near culture numbers. I than added 10 adult Malaysian trumpet snails. Its important to get the microfauna built up before the snails simply due to the fact they eat microfauna eggs off the sand and glass and giving them a head start helps speed things along. About 7 days after adding the snails the surface is now covered in duck weed and I'm adding things like cucumber slices, apple cores, and baby spinach to the tank. Its mainly scud food but I'm sure everyone benefits. To prevent the water from fouling I only add small portions at a time every other day and remove uneaten food after an hour. It's easy to monitor the population this way.
It's been about 3 weeks now since the infusoria was added and the tanks beginning to look aged. Algae is forming in the tank, the moss wall is filling in, the inverts are booming, and the snails are many but still rather small. It's time to add the shrimp.
I purchased 15 medium grade bloody Mary's and drip acclimated them to my water. To do this I put them in a red plastic cup floating in the aquarium. Good idea right, temperature acclimate and drip acclimate at the same time. Pure genius! It took about an hour for the plastic cup to fill up and spill into the tank. Plenty time to acclimatize. I took my food of choice sprinkled it on their rock pile and it wasnt long before they took to their new home. In fact a few darted in there right away without the food. Perfect!
This is where things slowed down and kinda became a pain. The micro inverts were becoming overpopulated, the snails were many but still kinda small and my merger 15 shrimp were gonna take awhile to double in population. My patience got the best of me and I went out and bought 10 more from the original source provider.
A week or so later my 25 shrimp are closer to 40 now and it's time to add the loaches babies and watch the mayhem begin..And let me tell you the carnage was real. The loaches greatly reduced the scud and snail population over the coarse of a week but none the less the population was still thriving. I pretty much have the fattest brightest colored zebra loach babies I've ever saw.
Tiger barbs can get rather territorial and boisterous and stress out new fish if you add them first so its ideal to always add them last if possible. They are aggressive feeders and can out compete other species for food, especially in a live feeding ecosystem that's really tapping into their hunting instincts. They also like to nibble on the duck weed roots and moss. They got added a week after the loaches.
It's been about a month now the substate is littered with snail shells, the moss has covered the back wall and all my inverts are going great minus the daphnia. The young barbs love them. Ive had to go down to the local pond to restock on daphnia, they seem to be the preferred diet at this stage.
Hopefully by the time the barbs and loaches become adults the shrimp colony is booming but only time will tell. Even now, with the fish at such a young age the shrimp do appear to get picked off, mostly juveniles but they also appear to be adapting to their environment. They prefer coming out of hiding at dawn for an hr or 2, hide in the substrate for most hours of the day and reemerge at sunset throughout most of the night. This is when I gauge numbers and when to restock but so far so good everything is goin great.
Only time will tell how well this system balances itself out in the long haul. will my fish end up getting fed expensive food or will I have a balanced ecosystem, I dunno yet but I've added the major players and keys needed for success now I just sit back and watch and tinker with the populations as needed.
I'd be lieing if cichlids and live bearers wernt on my mind, perhaps this 2 I might try out 1 day or even better yet one of you reading this. I'm so tired of community tanks randomly thrown together with no real purpose. I prefer mine functional and beneficial. Perhaps a breath of fresh air, something new to the hobby is exactly what we need!
Thanks for taking the time to read my experiment and perhaps in a year or so I'll update on how things are going. Till than take care and fish on!