October '01 - Joćo Branquinho's Planted Discus Aquarium.
As soon as this section started becoming popular, I grew aware of the influence it had on helping people make choices for their own tanks. This is quite a responsibility, and as a consequence I became much more critical when selecting the setups I would put up as "examples" to others. One very important factor I try to take into consideration is whether the tank size is compatible with the species that are being kept in it. For this month, I'm opening up a small exception for 2 reasons: first because the "incompatibility" isn't really that tragic, and second because it allows me to once again bring up the subject. October's tank is a beautiful Planted Discus Tank created by Portuguese hobbyist Joćo Branquinho. Anyone looking at the picture above will agree that the plant arrangement, background and decoration are very well done, and that the fish look very healthy and happy in the tank. However, these Discus are all young and small specimens. In a year or so, each one of them will be about twice as tall, and twice as long as they are right now. Looking at the photo again and imagining them at this adult size, you should realize that the tank will not be big enough for 5 of them, especially considering that Discus are Cichlids and, although much more mild-tempered than most of the family, they do display territorial behavior.
The most common objection posed by fishkeepers who are alerted to the fact that their tank isn't big enough for their fish is "But they're all still small!". This is indeed a valid argument in some cases, but it automatically implies a "temporary" nature to the setup which the owners seem to avoid addressing. Obviously, the fish are not going to stay small (although many bad shop owners will try to convince you of this myth, fish DO NOT grow to the size of the tank!), so if you truly care about your fish as pets you should be concerned about their well-being all the way into adulthood. As a fish grows and starts feeling too confined in its current tank, it inevitably displays all sorts of problems such as stress, panic, irritability, aggressiveness, discoloration, and general loss of health which results in greater susceptibility to diseases and shortening of their lifespan. Depending on the tank size, the species' adult size, growth rate, your feeding routine, and some other factors, you will be facing this problem in as little as a few weeks (ex: Oscars in a 50 liter tank) up to 1 or 2 years at the latest (which should be the case of this month's tank).
So, there comes a time when you will inevitably have to make a decision about the destiny of your growing fishes. The obvious, and most desired solution is to set up a new and larger tank, which will hopefully accomodate them for the rest of their lives. But not everyone has the physical space, time and resources to set up multiple tanks, despite the fact that they'd really like to. All other options will mean departing from a pet that you have raised and gotten attached to, and that is something that most people don't fully realize in the beginning. You can give/sell/trade them with a fellow fishkeeper - which is good because you might still be able to see them), or you can give/sell/trade them with your local Fish Shop - many (but not all) will accept some kind of deal. However, considering that most of the commonly sold fishes take about a year to grow mature, and will then easily live 3 to 10 years or more as adults, you can see that this initial growth/maturing phase is actually the smallest and least important part of fishkeeping, and if you're only keeping fish for a year or so, you're missing out on the most interesting part of their lives where they show their full colors, shapes and behaviors! Finally, there are two things you should absolutely NOT do when fish start outgrowing your tank: one of them is to leave things as they are, hoping things will accomodate and the problem will be solved by itself. It will not. Second, you should absolutely NOT release any aquarium fish into the wild! You could be jeopardizing the entire ecosystem of a river or lake by doing that, and there are already several known cases where this has actually happened.
Good! So now that I've expressed all my concerns about the size compatibility issue, let's sit back, relax and enjoy some more of the beautiful setup we have at hand. Here are the basic specs of the tank, further info and photos can be seen at the owners website - Aquariofilia em Portuguźs. If it were sufficiently larger (say 200 L, ideally 300 L) this setup would be perfect!
Setup Date: Jan 15, 2000
Volume: 120 liters
Dimensions: 100x30x40 cm
Lighting: 2x30 W (Aqua-Glo and Fluora), on during 12 hours (11 am - 11 pm).
Filtration: Eheim 2224 Canister Filter (750 L/h) with a Fluval pre-filter and volcanic rock, plus UGF with an AquaClear 301 powerhead (540 L/h).
Maintenance: 25% water change every 2 days, with removal of loose/decaying matter.
Fertilization: DIY CO2 injection, 4 small iron bars below 29 kg fine natural gravel, Iron-rich tablets for the roots every 2 months.
Population: 5 Discus, plus a few other compatible species such as Black Neons, Bronze Cories, Kuhli Loaches and a Zebra Pleco.
Plants: Java Moss, Valisnerias, Anubias barteri, Anubias barteri var. nana, Coffeeleaf Anubias, Amazon Swords, Aponogeton crispus, Duck Weed, Tiger Lotus, Red Tiger Lotus, Riccia, Marsilea crenata, Aponogeton madagascarensis, Salvinia natans, Cryptocoryne blassii, Cryptocoryne parva, Hygrophila 'Rosanervig'.
If you'd like to submit an aquarium for Tank of the Month, just contact me.
Photos taken by Joćo Branquinho, and displayed here with his permission.