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20 Gallon High Pea Puffer Tank

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In my old house, the 75 gallon cichlid tank was in my office. In this new house, we decided to move it to the dining room, which meant that I have no fish to look at when I'm at work. Luckily, I have some space on a desk.

So, I purchased a 20g high aquarium, some black sand, black background, a rather nifty piece of decor, and (on order) a light and some live plants.

Eventually, I would like the tank to get an overgrown feel, with as many plants as I can grow filling up as much space as possible; and I would like to stock pea puffers.

For now, I am thinking up ways to get large numbers of snails breeding here and in my 75...


Edited by SeverumKeeper
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Slapped my 5.5 gallon's old light on the tank just so I could properly see what the inside looks like. I'm still waiting on a light actually sized for the 20, I have to find a way to properly mount my lid with the filter on the side, and I want to get it nice and planted. And add my rocks, of course.


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Posted (edited)

So, today I was at the fish store, looking at this and that, when I realized that they had pea puffers! And quite active looking ones, too.

Since I've had this tank's filter media sitting in the 75 gallon's filter for a few days now, I went ahead and got eight of them. That should give me enough for a colony, even if I need to remove some extra males eventually.


I still have some rocks which I plan to add to the tank, and some plants coming in a shipment from Aquarium Coop. But I did get some clumps of Java Moss to encourage microorganism growth and give the puffers something to investigate. This photo shows a curious puffer investigating some moss while his friends swim nearby.

Edited by SeverumKeeper
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Fed me puffers some frozen Baby Brine Shrimp today, first time trying that particular food. I wasn't quite expecting how tiny it would be! In hindsight, I should have predicted that babies would be incredibly small!

It was hard to tell if my puffers were eating or not because of how small the food was. But they did get super excited and zoomed back and forth through the clouds of white specks, so I assume they did get some. 

I'll feed some frozen mosquito larva tomorrow, maybe I'll actually be able to see them eat that way! 

A couple of puffer pics from today.  I still haven't scaped the tank fully - should hopefully have time tomorrow or the day after.





Oops, not sure why the final two photos are upside down. One contains an incredibly cute puffer looking right at the camera!

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Plants should be getting here tomorrow, I will hopefully have some time to scape on Wedensday. I'm excited for the tank to finally take form!

I have a lot of slate I plan to use. Does anyone know of any inspiration scapes I can borrow for? Going for a jungle and slate feel.

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Some sad news as well: I did lose one pea puffer the day before yesterday. Parameters all look good and the other puffers seem happy and are eating well, so I'm hoping it just has to do with the condition I got the fish in.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Quite a bit has happened with the tank; I'll try to update you guys on it all, with photos.


I'm embarrassed to admit that I still haven't gotten around to adding any rocks! The tank seems to have plenty of hiding spaces even without them, but I do like the look of slate, so I probably will add some eventually, but I am in no rush.




Here is my tank as it was the last time I posted photos.


Shortly afterwards I decided to rescue all remaining plants (other than some floating anacharis and some Java fern) from my 75 and move them to the 20, to save them from the severum.

You can see the damage he did to some Anubias here:





The tank with more plants (and the beginning of a hair algae issue, which will get worse before it gets better!)


More images coming soon.



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Further updates:


I did lose one more pea puffer, a couple days after the first one. Those two, I don't know that I've ever seen eating. I've seen all of the remaining 6 eat, although one of them is smaller than the rest and isn't feeding as aggressively. Still, it's been about 2 weeks with all 6 remaining puffers doing well, so I am pretty hopeful that we are through any issues with them.


After a lot of back and forth I decided to introduce some shrimp to the tank. I've definitely heard from some pea puffer keeprs who had the puffers eat their shrimp, but I also heard from many others whose puffers ignored the adult shrimp and only ate the babies. The LFS I was at last weekend had a "assorted shrimp" tank with $3 bright red cherry shrimps - not sure why they are "assorted" (the closer to home LFS charges 8.99 for cherry shrimp!) So I jumped at the opportunity and got 10.


So far it had worked out well - I've seen a couple of molts and the green hair algae I had been dealing with disappeared within a couple of days.


However, I did notice something very strange, that I had no explanation for until earlier today.


For the last few days, my pea puffers haven't been eating. When I put some worms or some daphnia in, they'll swim around, investigate, maybe even nibble - but no more slurping up blood worms like spaghetti. 

For a bit I was worried, but all of them have been more active than ever, and (aside from the one that was always a little smaller) are all very plump.

And yet, they weren't touching the frozen food, which ended up on the floor or in the moss for the shrimps to eat.

I couldn't explain it. Until finally, I noticed something strange in the water. What appeared to be a tiny bit of debris carried in the water column was actually spinning very quickly. Far more rapidly than the current should be carrying it.

I noticed a few of these spinning wonders, which prompted me to search the internet for an explanation.

NEMATODES! The tank (once I knew what to look for) is positively crawling with tiny little nematodes, and the pea puffers are happily devouring them.

Here is the hair algae I developed, and the shrimps I added eating it:


The hair algae is nearly gone now, but there's still a dusting of it on the wall. The green tubes here are more nematodes, they look green because of the algae but I've seen them move around occasionally, so it isn't just a strange algae growth pattern.


I think the brown squiggly lines on the Anubias leaves are also nematodes.

I've been seeing these little critters for a few days now, but until I saw some in the water column (and once I knew what to look for, on the substrate) I had no idea what they were, which is why I ignored them and kept doing what I was doing as far as feeding.

I think at this point, I'll deal with the nematodes by just not feeding more frozen food for a day or two, and then just dropping in a couple bits to see if the puffers are hungry or not. They shouldn't be harmful, and the puffers are clearly eating them, so I can just leave them be and their population should shrink to match the available food. (I definitely don't want them to fully die out, though, because they're free puffer food, and probably more enriching to hunt than frozen food!)

I am also starting to wonder if the nematodes actually helped with the hair algae. I don't have any good photos, but when I got the shrimp on Sunday, the hair algae had totally filled in the space between the decorative log and the glass with whispy strands, and the Java moss was completely surrounded by a brown halo of algae. I saw the shrimp munching away, and even saw their little tummies turn dark green as they filled with algae; but (aside from the dust algae) it's all gone now, less than a week later, and that seems incredibly fast for 9 little shrimp to work (1 died the first night, sadly). Can nematodes eat algae?

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I had a realization.


The algae DID disappear because of the nematodes.

The green nematodes on the grass aren't covered in algae; they are *full of it*.

Two pieces of evidence lead me to believe this.

First, some of the nematodes are on the glass that faces out, and I can see that they are green all over.

Second, "Life In Jars", a YouTube channel about small closed ecosystems, did an ecosystem with 24/7 lights, and eventually ended up with brown water (from algae, but because of the constant light it wasn't green), and a bunch of critters he couldn't identify on the glass that were the same color. They look identical to my little critters.

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Well, the nematodes and algae are both nearly gone. I fed my puffers frozen mosquito larvae yesterday and they gobbled them up, so there probably aren't enough nematodes left to keep them happy.


The hair algae is coming back as well. Maybe the nematodes will boom back up again to eat it?

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There is a new little critter in my puffer tank.


This morning, I noticed a bunch of small white critters on the glass. They look like little C's, or almost like a little anemone - from the ones I can see from the side, it almost seems like a little anemone on a stalk.

They are nearly impossible to get a good picture of.



Anyone know what they might be?

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