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'Correct' stocking levels for community
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Type-R
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Joined: 31 Jul 2003
Location: East Yorkshire, UK

PostPosted: 2003.08.29(Fri)15:35    Post subject: 'Correct' stocking levels for community Reply with quote

Hey all,
Just to start off a general discussion among all you fanatics Wink
Who here has a tank which they think is overstocked compared to the 'normal' guidelines but has had no problems long-term?
Who thinks there is no 'general' stocking level and that testing/observation/experience are the deciding factors?

I have a 29 gallon community, planted tank which is home to:

6 neons (2 male, 4 female) about 1 1/2"
8 Harlequins (2 male, 6 female) about 1 1/2"
5 Black Phantoms (4 female, 1 male) about 1 1/2"
3 BloodFins about 2 1/4" (awaiting 3 more)
4 Oto's (sex unknown) about 1 3/4"
2 Blue Rams (pair) about 2 1/2"
2 Bolvian Rams (Pair) about 3 1/2"
4 Dwarf Corydoras (sex unknown) about 1"
4 Leopard Corydoras (sex unknown) about 1 3/4"

So in total I make that 65 1/4 inches of fish.
Which is 2 1/4 inches per gallon.

Now all these fish have been getting along fine for about 2 years though the blue rams have only been in about 6 months. Nobody picks on anyone else and I have no problem keeping nitrates in check. No death or disease so far at all.

Thoughts/comments people! Very Happy

p.s. I am in no way condoning overstocking of aquariums and especially not when talking about large fish, e.g. Oscars, Plecs etc.
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Cyradia
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Joined: 06 Feb 2003
Location: Winston-Salem, NC

PostPosted: 2003.08.29(Fri)15:53    Post subject: Reply with quote

I like this thread. I think what happens is a good percentage of our questions on this board are from new hobbyiest asking for advice or trying to get fish illnesses troubleshot (how's that for a fun use of that word?) Overstocking isn't for low-maintenance tanks or for newbies, imo. However, I know I feel pretty confident in breaking a lot of the "standard" stocking rules myself. Like you said in your P.S. though, this is never by putting oversized fish in small tanks, but only by putting "too many" small fish in a decent sized tank.

And as long as we're being totally honest...

In my 75 gallon show tank I have:
10 angelfish
8 cardinals
4 bristlenose catfish
1 rubbernose pleco (go go gadget green spot algae clean...thanks Steve!)
5 x-ray tetras


Which actually isn't too bad, except for that's a lot of angelfish in the tank. I won't hesitate to double those tetras schools, either, if I find healthy stock of those species. I think I'm also going to put the "leftover" apistos in the tank from the species tanks I have them in now where they're establishing mates.
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Type-R
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Joined: 31 Jul 2003
Location: East Yorkshire, UK

PostPosted: 2003.08.29(Fri)16:35    Post subject: Reply with quote

So,
Would you say that there is no such term as 'overstocking' in the real world? Would a term such as 'inappropriate stocking' or 'inexperienced stocking' be more descriptive of the problem many people come across?

IMO you can safely stock a tank over the 'general' limit but it takes a long time making sure everyone gets on and no drastic chemistry changes take place. I would certainly not say to someone you can collect up all the fish species I have and bung them in together and the tank won't be 'inappropriately stocked'. The Rams may fight or be scared or the bloodfins might nip fins etc etc.

What does everyone think?
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anonapersona
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Joined: 06 Feb 2003
Location: Houston, Texas

PostPosted: 2003.08.29(Fri)20:06    Post subject: overstocking is real and dangerous Reply with quote

Overstocking is quite real....the question is, how long can one tip-toe along the brink of disaster before SOMETHING sends you over the edge?

First of all, the "real world" would never see the density of fish that we keep in our tanks. The 'real world" experiences periodic increases which are followed by decreases in populations that we would consider a disaster when it occurs in our tank.

Secondly, I think that overstocking a tank can be handled, for a while, by excessive filtering and large, frequent water changes, and being very careful to not overfeed, as well as design that minimizes conflict between fish, which includes fish selection and tank layout.

However, the overstocked tank won't handle the "expected undexpected"... the power outage that stalls the filter for 4 hours when you are out, the spawning chases, the growth of the fish, the time a young visitor drops her sandwich in the tank, whatever... all the little disturbances that add the unexpected load on the filteration system.

I know that overstocking is dangerous. I have one of my 4 tanks overstocked right now, but these fish will go to the new 3x bigger tank in a few months. With dense planting, two oversized filters, large water changes and only 3 types of fish; 2 schools of tetras and some kuhlie loaches, the fish are not in conflict, but I worry about power outages or other disturbances. The other tanks will be fine (all correctly or understocked), but a day with no power will kill some of these fish in the 20 gallon. It was fine before I got the kuhlies, but they are not always available, so I jumped when I saw them. This is a temporary thing.

So, bottomline, I disagree.

There are indeed 'general" stocking levels and it is not testing/observation/experience that makes overstocking safe, but luck. If the luck turns, all the testing/observation/experience you have isn't going to save all the fish.
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Kunnagh
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Joined: 28 Jul 2003
Location: Bristol, UK

PostPosted: 2003.08.30(Sat)2:30    Post subject: Reply with quote

Does this also depend on what kind of 'overstocking' you mean?

My newbie brain can think of:

Too little swimming room (Danios in a fish bowl)
Too little territorial room (Several cichlid pairs in a 12")
Too large a fish for the tank (Tinfoils in a 24")
Too much bioload for the ecosystem if something tips the balance (1 livebearer in a 24" *lol* )

The first two seem 'crueller' in the short term to the fish, the third seems worse in the longer term, assuming you start with a young fish, and the fourth is the one that looks OK until something goes awry. Or am I oversimplifying?

I think that experience counts for a lot (speaking as someone with very little), but what you don't want is to only be able to tell that your tank was overstocked with hindsight...

BTW, this discussion is great for me, 'cos I'm building the stock up in my first tank - great timing!

Cheers!
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Type-R
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Joined: 31 Jul 2003
Location: East Yorkshire, UK

PostPosted: 2003.08.30(Sat)6:23    Post subject: Reply with quote

But could you not argue that it is testing/observation/experience that gave rise to the 'general' stocking levels in the first place? So is testing/observation/experience not a viable way of deciding the stocking for a particular tank?
And if we are talking about luck not science I don't really see the relevance. Surely you can be just as 'unlucky' with a sparsley stocked tank as a heavily stocked one? I think you make your own luck.

Quote:
the spawning chases, the growth of the fish, the time a young visitor drops her sandwich in the tank, whatever

Are all these not things which are preventable with testing/observation/experience?

Quote:
it is not testing/observation/experience that makes overstocking safe


But the question is, is it 'overstocking' in the first place if testing/observation/experience are the factors deciding the stocking level?
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Trill the man
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Joined: 06 Feb 2003
Location: Daventry, Northants, England

PostPosted: 2003.08.30(Sat)6:39    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is a tricky one. I prefer to see a more natural appearance, where fish would be more spread out instead of crammed into a small space, so prefer to go by the 1inch per 10sqinch of surface. If the tank is large, then 'over stocking' is not so much a problem, there is nore space and water, and a larger eco' system that isn't likely to crash.
In a smaller tank, say 29G and less, 'over stocking' isn't such a great idea in that the eco' system isn't as steady. I totally agree with anonaperson. the guidelines are there for fish safety, in that if something goes wrong, they won't instantly get sick and die. Remembering that most fish are designed for water systems that are forever having non stop water changes and having their waste instantly washed away.

Those are my thoughts.

Phil Wink

P.S. I will be stocking my current tank strictly to guidelines, so my small stream tributary doesn't look over crowded and unnatural. Isn't the goal of the true aquarist to create a NATURAL enviroment for our fish?
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Type-R
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Joined: 31 Jul 2003
Location: East Yorkshire, UK

PostPosted: 2003.08.30(Sat)6:58    Post subject: Reply with quote

Guidelines are just that, a guide nothing else.
Quote:
so prefer to go by the 1inch per 10sqinch of surface.

You see here is an example of a standard guideline, so given I am a complete beginner I now know that I can fit 3 12 inch Oscars in my 29 gallon and I am on the guideline limit.
Would this be OK?
Without experience I wouldn't know any different but I followed the guideline! Wink
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Cyradia
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Joined: 06 Feb 2003
Location: Winston-Salem, NC

PostPosted: 2003.08.30(Sat)7:12    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kunnagh wrote:

Too little swimming room (Danios in a fish bowl)
Too little territorial room (Several cichlid pairs in a 12")
Too large a fish for the tank (Tinfoils in a 24")
Too much bioload for the ecosystem if something tips the balance (1 livebearer in a 24" *lol* )


To borrow this quote, I think the only one where there's usually not a "right" answer is the last one. The first is sometimes hard to know, but if you've seen the species in a health set-up then you should be able to tell a different in their behavior. If you're a newbie, you may not have had this opportunity, so asking here should give you some general ideas. The second may vary on fish, but usually if you set this up you'll notice by all the beaten-to-death fish floating on the top of your tank. Again, asking here could help you avoid that if you're inexperienced. The third is usually judged by stunting and other problems. Additionally, I wouldn't think any expert aquarist would try to cheat on the first three "overstocking" types.

The last one, however, is tricky. I agree that there's usually not a black and white line where you can say, this tank is overstock and that one is not. So, we'll call it a fuzzy line. However, if you set up a situation where you can't keep up with water quality issues...then your fish will suffer. Also, I noticed that in both of our "overstocked" tanks, we have heavy plant loads. I wouldn't be nearly as cocky with my stocking levels if it wasn't a well maintained planted tank with co2 and decent lights to help me keep up the health of the tank through rapid plant growth. This is generally something a newbie can't tackle at the beginning, so his "fuzzy bar" slides down the scale quite a bit. Also, it has to do with the time you want to put into the tank. A lot of people maintain systems with once a month water changes....their correct stocking level is way down the scale.

As far as the term, I still think it's a valid one. What you're doing is overstocking the tank in terms of bioload in the water. There may not be a good, clear line of where overstocking is, but I think it's a useful tool when explaining aquarium keeping to new hobbyist.
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Type-R
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Joined: 31 Jul 2003
Location: East Yorkshire, UK

PostPosted: 2003.08.30(Sat)8:47    Post subject: Reply with quote

So,
We have established that the term 'overstocking' is valid and useful when describing an 'unsafe' bio-load.
Back to the orginal point, are the guidelines generally found on the web, in books etc a good indicator of how much to stock when there are so many variables to consider?

For example it has already been stated that the guidelines apply to a greater or lesser degree depending on:

a: Tank size (larger is more stable)
b: Fish size (2x20" fish is not the same as 20x2" fish)
c: Fish type (top, middle or bottom dwelling, territorial, shy etc)
c: Maintenance level (monthly large water changes as apposed to daily smaller ones)
d: Filtration capacity
e: Planted or non-planted

Thoughts peoples? Very Happy
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