Moving the display tank

I need to move the 490 litre display tank that is in my lounge so that we can have new flooring put in. I only have some limited tank space right now (6 tanks spare, two of which contain fry), so have decided to temporarily lend some of my Hemigrammus bleheri to the 60 litre project tank.

I moved 2 females and 4 males on the 4th of January and am planning to move another 6 fish on the 9th of January. So far, the seeded filter has coped with the additional stocking without any problems (ammonia and nitrite are at a clear 0 ppm).


The bulk of the maintenance that has been happening on this tank since October has involved topping up the evaporated water, filter cleaning, manually removing algae and water changes.


One of the issues that the family which has the tank had was that topping up the tank with a bucket disturbed the substrate. I generally avoid the problem by balancing the bucket of new water on top of the tank and syphoning it in. This helps avoid spilling water all over the place and the water from the water butts tends to be freezing this time of year so I’m sure the fish appreciate not having a shock of cold water. Their solution is to place a mug in the tank and pour the water over that (similar to the plate suggestion that seems to be popular in books).

In the mean time, the die back from the plants kept clogging the filter, which they started cleaning in old tank water, but then replaced the filter media altogether. Luckily this was before the fish were added, but I have reiterated the importance of not replacing the filter media in one go.

Fish - 3

The algae that was removed in the previous maintenance session has not come back after the lighting was reduced and the Spirodela spp. was introduced. They haven’t used the EasyCarbo, but I have now advised a dose of 0.25 ml per day to encourage plant growth as nitrates were high in the test results:

  • ammonia: 0 ppm
  • nitrite: 0 ppm
  • nitrate 50-80 ppm

The predominance of tap water top ups (we live in a hard water area) has caused the water in the tank to be quite hard, but this is likely to be beneficial to the plants in the long terms. At last water change yesterday, we removed 5 litres of water and added 20 litres.

I have trimmed the Limnophila sessiliflora a few times and removed over twice as much Spirodela spp. as I had originally added to the tank. The Cryptocoryne wendtii ‘Tropica’ has shown good growth as well, although Crypt. sp. ‘Green Crisped Leaf’ has remained the same size but now has submersed leaf growth. I added four sera Floronette A root tabs, one under each of the Crypt. spp. and two spaced equally under the other plants.

We also got a dark-blue on the bottom to blue on the top background for the tank and replaced the perspex lid with a glass one which is available for a shocking £20 from Arcadia. It works very well, but really should have come with the aquarium from the start. The glass lid is satisfyingly solid and easier to clean with vinegar than the perspex one.

Seeding the filter

Previously, I did a fishless cycle on this tank which took a grand total of one month. This time, I switched from the Powerbio 700 by Classica to a Elite Mini (a tiny internal filter which is quite efficient and was a favourite of mine for my fish room) which I “seeded” with cycled filter media from my display tank. I had also switched the heater from the 50 W heater that came with the tank to a Visitherm 50 W heater which was also salvaged from when I broke down by fish room five years ago. This puts the heater and the filter both at around 7-9 years old and still in perfect working order.

To seed a new filter, some of the new filter media needs to be replaced with old, cycled filter media which already has all the necessary bacteria living on it. It is possible for a filter to be partially seeded, to kick start the cycle with household ammonia or for low stocking, or to be fully seeding so that it will be able to take closer to full stock immediately. If you are seeing your filter and aiming for higher stocking, I recommend that the seeding is followed by a fishless cycle, which should take no more than a week or so.

I drip acclimatised the fish as normal and set up the filter at the same time on the 13th of December. Ammonia and nitrite have been at a constant 0 ppm since then, which means that seeding followed by immediate low stocking works well.

Apistogramma commbrae

Fish - 5Apistogramma commbrae are one of the rarer South American dwarf cichlids that are available in the hobby. You are unlikely to see these sold in a shop and only a handful of breeders keep these in UK.

So unsurprisingly, there’s very little information available about the species.

This beautiful cichlid comes from the Paraguay river system and it can also probably be found in southern Brazil and northern Argentina.

Fish - 7For the “species spec”, I have had the best of luck reading the original description from 1906[1] and the revision from 1982[2]. The types used for the species had a standard length of approximately 16-38 mm. Based on this and the size of the fish that I received, I would estimate standard adult sizes to be around 30 mm for a female and 40-45 mm for a male. The fish should be kept at 17-27°C (63-81°F), and ideally at 20-22°C[3].

As with most other Apistogramma, these are omnivores that benefit from small, live foods. My pair are currently on small bloodworm, daphnia, Aquadip cichlid flakes and Aquadip cichlid granules.

Both photos are of the same older juvenile/young adult female fish in stressed colours as they are not used to people yet.

[1] Regan, C.T. 1906, “Revision of the South-American cichlid genera Retroculus, Geophagus, Heterogramma, and Biotoecus.”. Annals and Magazine of Natural History (Series 7) v. 17 (no. 97)::49-66
[2] Kullander, S.O. 1982, “Cichlid fishes from the La Plata basin. Part II. Apistogramma commbrae (Regan 1906)”. Revue Suisse de Zoologie v. 89 (no. 1): 33-48
[3] based on collection data, what Robert Wiltshire[4] of says and my own experience

Picking the species

By December, our schedules coincided enough to get some fish for the tank. I had wanted to find some Micropoecilia branneri as we live in a hard water area, but my search failed again. Instead, I decided to try our a very popular group of fish that I had not kept before. Being a complete beginner with killifish, I did my research, double and triple checking all the facts, but I failed to find guides to stocking in a “community” tank as most of the resources are aimed at breeders. On advice from some veteran killi-keepers from Seriously Fish, I found our that a 60 litre tank takes 8-12 Fundulopanchax gardeni ‘Innidere’.

The interesting thing about Fundolopanchax gardeni is that it is a very diverse species with many, many natural and cultivated colour morphs. I picked ‘Innidere’ based on mikev’s recommendation and as I had never seen a F. gardeni in person, that was good enough for me.

‘Innidere’ is usually attributed as a color morph of Fundulopanchax nigerianus. In reality, Fundulopanchax nigerianus has never existed. It is true that gardeni and nigerianum used to be considered two species, but this was a long time ago, when they were both considered to be in a different genus altogether, and were merged into one species in 1992, finally being named F. gardeni and F. gardeni nigerianus in 1996.

Nowadays, the correct naming is Fundulopanchax gardeni gardeni for what is traditionally considered F. gardeni and Fundulopanchax gardeni nigerianus for what is usually called F. nigerianus.

When I first started looking for this species, the breeder had some juveniles available. Unfortunately, by the time that I came around to buying the fish, they only had eggs. Fortunately, I didn’t read the description properly and bought eggs thinking it was the last pair of juveniles. Hatching these fish has proven to be quite interesting and easy.

Killifish eggSo unfortunately, I did not have the promised fish for the family on the day, but (again) luckily, I had also bought a pair of Apistogramma commbrae at the same time, which I have now let them borrow.