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North american 30 gal Ideas?

Eric Olsen

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I have a 30 gallon tank that I am hoping to stock with north american native species. The tank has not yet been set up so plants/substrate won't be an issue. I want to put pygmy sunfish as well as a darter species. I am looking for advice to see if this is possible and if so what should i do in terms of aquascape and if not what would pair well with darters/pygmy sunfish?

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I love me some NANF!

Let me share some personal experiences with both species, and make some personal suggestions.

(1) Pygmy Sunfish, on the internet, look amazing! But unless you get an amazing stock -- catch your own, or connect with a specific seller who has guaranteed stock -- they're a secretive, mostly lack-luster colored fish. I've kept and bred Okefenokee Pygmy Sunfish, Gulf Coast Pygmy Sunfish, and have spent time observing the endangered Spring Pygmy Sunfish breeding setups at Conservation Fisheries in Knoxville, TN. Gianne at Inglorious Bettas has bred some. Andrew at The Aquarium Library has some beautiful videos on wild-caught specimens. If you can source your through reliable connections, you might get some good ones. But even then, these fish are swamp dwellers. They like a messy, algae-infested space with low water disturbance. Here was a setup I did for mine...



Now, these were sold to me as Gulf Coast Pygmy Sunfish, but they were nearly as black as my Okefenokee. In another tank, my little boy and I did a breeding project with the Okefenokee Pygmys a couple of years ago. Here's two videos we made . . .

At the end of the day, these Pygmys may simply hide from view in a 30 gallon. Frankly, I don't know that they'd necessarily pair up neatly with Darters. It could be done . . . but might not work well. Pygmys like still, densely vegetative spaces. Darters like cool, flowing, rocky spaces.

(2) I've kept a few species of Darters for the last several years. They require a higher level of care than some other species. Mine only really eat frozen foods -- esp. frozen bloodworms. Different species have different sized mouths, and may require smaller servings. They tend to suffer when they are made to compete for food. My personal favorite species -- pretty easy to acquire -- is the Banded Darter (Etheostoma zonale). If you get them from Ohio, they'll look like this...


I've kept Rainbow Darters, Tessellated Darters, and a Swamp-Darter. Here's a 45 gallon tank with Rainbow Darters, Rainbow Shiners, Redbelly Dace, and Banded Sunfish. The sunfish hate the high flow, but the Darters love it...


So . . . you can always try anything! But my initial thought is that maybe you're interested in the beauty of the Pygmy sunfish and the personality of the Darters. But they are not typically in the exact same environments. One exception could be the Swamp Darter -- they could thrive in a low-flow environment.

I'll say that my best source for NANF is here. Antiquated website, but excellent fish and reliable shipping. It will cost you to ship, but that is true anywhere. Send an e-mail with all of your questions, and I believe you will be guided well.

Here are the NANF (North American Native Fish) I enjoy keeping right now...

(1) Rainbow Shiners


(2) Catawba Greenhead Shiners


(3) Southern Redbelly Dace


(4) Mountain Redbelly Dace


(5) Fireyblack Shiners


(6) Banded Darters


(7) Lowland Shiners










Edited by Fish Folk
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A fish that I haven't mentioned before that I like to keep, that is a NANF species, would be the Rosyside Dace. These guys are highly variable depending on their source, and they are beautiful fish! They are very hardy, somewhat aggressive (not very, and would fit in with other fish with a similar personality). These would go well with darters, so long as you make sure the darters get food. 




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