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Tank overhaul?

Stormlantern

Registered Member
Hello everyone, hoping for some advice here
So I've got a 55 gal semi planted tank with some oddball fish. Current occupants are:
1 black ghost knifefish, 7 inches
2 clown loaches, 5 inches each
3 otocinclus fighting a losing battle against algae on my plants, 1 inch each
1 banded leporinus 5 inches
1 very active rope fish 11 inches
For plants I don't remember some names since I basically got what looked good here and there. I know I have a big Argentine sword, some rotala, some ludwigia and a few short bamboo.

So that's where I'm at currently, but I want to make a few changes and also didn't want to make major mistakes. I've only been keeping fish for about 6 months.
My substrate is just a very thin (3/4 in) layer of sand. I bought some fluval stratum and new sand hoping to make a layered substrate. I'm a little nervous about ripping up everything and replacing the whole tank layout though. Are there good ways to ensure fish survival and happiness?
I have a few large-ish chunks of driftwood in there but little real hard-scape or structure. Is there a good option for building up a tank on a budget? Some things seem so expensive..:)
I want to make life better for my rope fish. I've read they like company, so I was considering getting one or two more. I also wanted to create a "jungle" area with much more dense planting on one side of the tank if fish want to hide.
My leporinus has been biting plants and nipping fins for a while now. I'm waiting to here back from a friend if I could donate him to a more aggressive community, since he has a more bare Cichlid tank. With him out of the community, and counting the new rope fish, is there any room for a higher load? I've wanted a pair of pictus cats for a long time, but wouldn't want to stuff them in to a tank where they'd be miserable. I might also move the otocinclus to my 20 gal with zebra danios, neon tetras and shrimp.

With all that said, I'm still a total noob with regards to plants. I'm pretty sure I don't want to inject Co2 since I'm not sure I'm up to monitoring ph that closely. I have root tabs and flourish excel and iron supplement from seachem. My lighting is a optibright 48" led from petco I think, with red, blue, and white. My dream is to have a lush tank, with fish moving between lots of healthy looking plants. I'll try and include pics, and it's obvious I'm not there yet :)

Any comment is appreciated! I'd rather know about problems and fix them than assume everything's ok to nurse my self esteem haha

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FreshyFresh

Global Moderator
Staff member
Welcome!

You've got a lot going on there in terms of stocking, which IMO, I would sort out first.

Most of what you have in there needs a lot more tank than a 55g. Otos tend to do better in a mature tank (years old) given more algae and bio films will be present for them to much on. You still should feed them blanched veggies, etc.

Looks like you've done OK keeping your rooted plants in place. Not so easy in a thinner layer of sand!

That tank would be super easy to break down and re-do. Fish can be placed in a plastic tote, with the filter, heater, decor and plants while you re-do the tank as you like. Just keep the media in the filter intact and running so you have an instant nitrogen cycle in the "new" setup. I prefer a very fine gravel substrate as opposed to sand. I'm surprised your hang-on-back filter impeller is holding up with the sand.

I keep a few inches of water in the bottom of the tank and shop-vac out the substrate with the last bit of water. Just got to remember to empty the shop-vac often as it will get HEAVY fast. It only takes a few minutes.
 

Stormlantern

Registered Member
Ok, it makes sense to me to figure out the end goal before starting anything. As far as needing more tank space, what fish are you worried about? I'm planning to donate the leporinus to a friend, and the otos in my older 20 gal.
And with the substrate I thought ropefish might swallow/choke on gravel, so I thought sand was safer.
Thank you for your comment I'll keep checking back in
 

FreshyFresh

Global Moderator
Staff member
As far as I know, everything but your otos gets very large. The rope fish as is has to curl up a bit to turn around in a 48"x12" tank. It's not only about the space and footprint, it's about keeping healthy water parameters between your normal weekly water changes.
 

the loach

AC Members
There are issues with them all really. The tank is too small for a ropefish and/or black ghost knife, as well for the clown loaches which also grow to 1 feet, but need to be in schools and not a pair. The otos are just waiting to be eaten by the ropefish.
For a sustainable tank, get rid of all the fish except the otos, vacuum out the sand, get fine gravel in there (2 to 3mm) and pick fish that don't grow over 6"
Your decorations and plants are fine, the tank would benefit from a piece of black cardboard behind it.
Anything else is just waiting for problems later on.
 

Stormlantern

Registered Member
Thanks for your comment! I've gotten pretty attached to my rope fish, and I'd like to keep him if at all possible.. speaking hypothetically, what size tank would be good for a rope fish? Or for a small group of them?
 

FreshyFresh

Global Moderator
Staff member
Thanks for your comment! I've gotten pretty attached to my rope fish, and I'd like to keep him if at all possible.. speaking hypothetically, what size tank would be good for a rope fish? Or for a small group of them?
A 6ft tank with a 72" x 18" footprint would be my recommendation. That would be a standard sized 125g tank.
 

Stormlantern

Registered Member
Looking at time frame and current accommodations... so I think that a ropefish lives for a long time and grows relatively slowly. Here's my idea: I know that having multiple fully grown ropefish in a 55 gal would be pushing size limits. But I can't feasibly put in a 125 gal tank right now. If I plan to do an upgrade when ropefish are older (say in a few months/maybe years) and donate the leporinus and loaches, would that be at least short term sustainable if I stay on top of maintenance?
 

fishorama

AC Members
Getting fish that grow large in hopes of a bigger tank in the very near future is not a good way to stock. Life often gets in the way of our best plans. Stock the tank you have now, a 55g. When you actually have a tank large enough for you intended fish, then get them. As you said, some fish grow more slowly, some fast.

I've kept 6 clown loaches (1-2 inch) in a 55g for a while (a year or 3 at most). When we had to move (twice!), they were ~6 inches. They were the only fish & I was very good about very large weekly water changes...but that was not a long term plan! I know better now...we're trying to help you not to make our mistakes...

You need to decide on what fish you want to focus on in the "right now". There are many cool loaches that can be happy long term in a 55g, but clowns aren't it, pretty as they are. We're trying to help you, not just judge your fish choices. Please accept our advice of "been there, shouldn't have gone there" when stocking your 55g.

We have many years of experience between some of us. Yes, you can find web "info" that will "allow" you do whatever you might want, but take it with a huge grain of salt (skepticism).

We want you & your fish to succeed!
 
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