Im setting up a 125 g for my little clown loaches and probaly some other community fish. How should I set this up from the filter to substrate to light. I will have driftwood and as many plants as possible. All thoughts welcome. Thank you.
How deep is the tank? What plants are you interested in? Do you prefer gravel or sand? For lighting, do you prefer LEDs or fluorescent lights? How much time and work are you willing to put into this tank?
I have no preference over sand or gravel the tank is 23 inches deep. I have a freshwater current led light on my 55 but its more as classified as a low light as its par is only 28 at 18 inches, so really I dont mind led or flura ent whatever yall think is better. For plants I think ill transport some anacharis trimmings from my 55 but for ither plants im more looking towars a naturual river effect and look . Ill have malasian driftwood so it will provide a slight tea stain. I planned on spending alot of time on this as I like to build and do these kinds of things as im a contractor for work. The only thing is I dont wanna have to spendthe thousands of dollars on a sump or to drill a hole. Sorry for my noob questions I. New to these tanks bigger than 55.
Clowns need two things: numbers, and space. They swim like beasts for the first couple of years and require a decent amount of swimming space. They will be super active and happy in plentiful numbers, which could easily be a good sized school in your 125g. Filtration-wise I think a sump would probably be your best bet regarding the size of your tank. I have 2 hob filters on my 100g (emperor 400s or whatever they call them now), but am probably going to switch to a sump once I move (purely aesthetics here, not performance-based switch). The hobs are fantastic filters but not so much for 125+g tanks because of the size and how they fit on the tank. It all comes down to personal preference, though. If you can fit them, and like them, then just do hobs they break the surface of the water for you and provide a decent current for fish like clown loaches. Plus they are easy to clean, and you don't really have to worry about them back-flowing or anything nasty. But make sure you get a decent turnover rate, though, because your loaches are big waste producers once they get large. Don't just get a 125g rated filter and think it's going to work, because you will need more capacity than that to keep your ammonia and nit levels down. I have 160g worth of filtration on my 100g, but do 3-4 60% water changes a month just for my loaches all the same. I have two hand-sized loaches that I'm going to try and find friends for when I move. They drove out/killed a few smaller clowns I tried to add, which does sometimes happen.
They are fantastic and very curious fish, even once they sort of slow down. My main advice here is do your water changes. Clown loaches do not respond well to old tank syndrome and other bad water situations, but thrive with enough filtration and regular water changes. I do 60% every 7-10 days, and my test kit stay happy, lol. Sorry for the rant. Anyways, regarding layout of the tank...
Driftwood and plants are a must to create a naturally peaceful tank for clown loaches. Not necessary, but they go way far in kicking up the activity and security of your loaches. Plus the plants help the water quality I would also make plenty of caves. My two loaches alternate between 4-5 different sleeping spots each day, and use them as base camp for hunting snails at night. It also helps a TON with letting them feel safe. Lots of loaches get scared easily, because of their twitchy nature, so plenty of cover on the ground and mid levels of the tank go a long way.
Thank you alot for that post it helped me alot basicaly with everything, I was wanting two run 2 150 hobs or whatever size is around that or best as i do like the way they work and im very familiar with them i use aquaclear 70 hob on my 55 . For a extra quastion should I wait to get 3 more clowns till its set up or should I put them in the 55 as my clowns are only 2 inches max and I have 3 of them there very social with my tetras.
For substrate should I do a small gravel for the plants I sorta wanted to make a sand strip almost like a stream spot in the tank. Sorry for rambling.
IME clown loaches will eat or at least punch holes in many plants. Java ferns, anubias, bolbitis & rotala indica? worked well in low-med light although all were "tasted" at least once. It helped to feed romaine or zucchini a couple times/week. Crypts & swords were by far the favorite veggie snacks, lots of U-shaped holes if I didn't give them enough lettuce etc. Forget any small ground cover plants or delicate stems.
You could also look into canister filters, I had Rena XP-3 with the jet return & an AC 70 HOB...but my tank was smaller, only 4ft. Canisters are more of a PITA to clean but don't need it as often as HOBs. I've never done a sump & I hear your concerns. Shoot for ~ 8-10x tank volume turnover rate in whatever filtration you choose.
Plan on weekly 50% water changes & if you don't have many plants in the substrate, you should vacuum at least part of the tank each time. I love bottom feeders & hate to see them nose into "detritus" (bacteria laden poo & plant debris). Sand or small gravel is preferred, they like to dig a bit. Like rufio said, several hiding places are good. But they can be "high shade" areas so you can still see them. Although many say tight spots are preferred I didn't see that with mine. As long as their eyes were in shade they seemed quite happy. Mine were next to my computer & we often interacted, lol, they seemed to be drawn to blue color websites...or maybe they just wanted feeding.
If you go with lower light plants (& I think you should) you won't need too much in the way of lighting. Ferns & anubias can be tied to wood or rocks so they'll be closer to the lights. & clowns are more out & about in lower light. They often hide when it's too bright & you're not going to be able to have an Amano-style tank anyway. Clowns are really more crespucular (dawn & twilight active) so you want to see them when you're able to view them. I never tried moonlights or LEDs that can be dimmed but those might be good to look into.