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Tropical Fish Compatibility - Tips You Need To Know

Tropical fish compatibility is often overlooked by the novice aquarist. By learning which tropical fish are compatible you'll be better equipped to have a successful aquarium!

You do not need to be an animal expert to know that putting a mouse in a cage with a python is a bad idea, unless the mouse is intended to be the python's next meal - and the same model applies to tropical fish! Some species of fish are more aggressive and predatory than others and some fish have a naturaly calm temperament which makes them ideal for a community tank. Before you select the fish for your aquarium, brush up on the basics of tropical fish compatibility so you can be sure that the fish you choose to stock your tank will be able to coexist peacefully.

Categories of Tropical Fish

tetras cardinal xs 19751135Species of freshwater tropical fish can be divided into three categories based on their ability to get along with other fish. Community fish is the largest of these. Many of the smaller species of tropical fish including Danios, Guppies, Swordtails, Platies, Tetras and Mollies belong to this category. These fish generally do not grow much larger than two to three inches and thrive best when kept with at least three to five of their own species. These fish tend to get along well with other community fish and, because of their diminutive size, can be kept in smaller tanks. If you're starting your first tank and want smaller community fish I would recommend going with at least a 20 gallon. Here's a good 20 gallon kit to start with.  

barbs tiger xs 13570511Semi-aggressive species like Gouramis, Barbs, Eels, Sharks and Loaches make up the second category of tropical fish. These species tend to grow larger than most community fish and, thus, should be kept in tanks no smaller than 29 gallons in capacity. The species belonging to this category, especially the males, may display aggression toward other fish in the tank and often become territorial. If you choose to keep semi-aggressive fish in your tank, it is wise to balance out the tank with a number of peaceful community fish. When mixing community fish with semi-aggressive species, try to avoid any major size differences or the larger semi-aggressive species may bully your smaller community fish.

cichlid xs 13569664The third category of tropical freshwater fish is made up of the large, very aggressive species. Cichlids and Oscars are the main species belonging to this category, though large Plecostomus and other Catfish can also be quite aggressive. Very aggressive fish cannot be mixed with community fish and may not even do well with semi-aggressive species if there is a major size difference between the two. Aggressive species of fish are not recommended for novice aquarists because they often have specific tank requirements that beginners in the hobby are not equipped to provide. Cichlids, for example, require very large tanks and some types of Cichlid cannot be kept in a tank with any other fish.

How to Mix Different Breeds Safely

When selecting the fish for your aquarium, it is always a good idea to avoid keeping more than one male of a species in the tank together. For small community fish like Guppies, Danios and Tetras this may not be much of an issue, but it will be for semi-aggressive and aggressive species like Gouramis and Cichlids. Even if these fish appear to be getting along at first, it may only be a matter of time until one male of the species establishes dominance over the other. Once this happens, the weaker male will become stressed and may stop eating or fall ill. If you do not remove one of the males from the tank, the weaker one could eventually die.

oscar xs 20727078To prevent situations like this from arising, you must make a choice between maintaining a community tank or limiting the number of fish you have in your tank to avoid problems. If you choose to keep a community tank you can still include a few semi-aggressive fish provided you do not keep more than one male of any species. Keep the adult size of the fish in mind as well because even semi-aggressive fish may eat small community fish.

Tips for Keeping Peace in Your Aquarium

aquarium plants xs 19751251Even if you only keep community fish in your tank you may occasionally find that one of your fish is causing trouble for the others. It is always a good idea to provide your fish with places to hide in the event that one of the species becomes aggressive or in case your fish simply need a place to rest. Live or plastic aquarium plants are a simple way to provide cover for fish that need to hide for a while. Rock caves, large shells and even overturned clay pots can also serve as hiding places for fish. If your fish have a place to go when they need a break they will be happier and healthier in the long run. A fish that becomes stressed as a result of an aggressive tank mate is likely to fall ill and may spread disease to the other tank inhabitants.

Another simple way to avoid problems with tropical fish compatibility is to be intentional about the order in which you introduce your fish into the tank. If you dump all of your fish into the tank at once it could become stressful and none of your fish will do well. Introduce all of one species to the tank at once and give each group time to adjust to the tank before you add more fish. While community fish are generally placid, some species like Danios and Tetras may become nippy toward long-finned species like Angelfish unless you introduce the long-finned species to the tank first. After adding fish to your tank, observe them for a few days to be sure none of them are showing signs of aggression or excessive stress. If one of your freshwater tropical fish is becoming particularly aggressive it may be wise to remove it from the tank before it causes problems.

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