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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello all thanks for looking and hopefully voicing ideas. Here is the scenario. I have a 125g sitting that I cant use at this time because I am living on the second floor of my apartment building while I renovate the first floor (weight issues). Having that tank sitting doing nothing is killing me. So I got to thinking I could could use the 125 as a riparium with both a land part and a water part that way I am only partially filling the 125 and with the right aquatic species may only use as little as 30 gallons of water. That would be doable.

My idea is a Cache River Swamp riparium. The Cache River Swamp is located in southern Illinois. It is quite a beautiful area that contains bald cypress trees, some of a very old age. My wife and I have been there a few times and love the area. If you can I would recommend the trip.

I have started my research. One of the fish I am looking at is a pygmy sunfish. The Cache River website lists it as threatened but I do not see it on the official list. I may be able to substitute it for another species of pygmy sunfish if it turns out it is threatened or I may apply for a permit and get a few for a breeding and return to the wild program. I enjoy fishing but I also believe in good stewardship and conservation (I never litter and have been known to give choice words to those who I see doing so). The opportunity to give back to nature would be quite pleasing and rewarding to me.

I am not sure yet about flora. Illinois has an extensive list of threatened/endangered plant species. Trying to research the plant list for this rig is proving to be a chore so if you are familiar with the plant life I might need for this setup please voice your input. I want this to be as close to 100% accurate as possible. Again I may see about a permit to allow me to keep some species with the idea of reproduction and returning to nature.

Maybe I am being silly and need to stick with something more common. The idea of reproducing a tiny piece of this area that is rich with life and history is exciting and intriguing. This is in the planning stages and I figure it will take more than a few months to get going. The biggest obstacle may well be convincing Mrs. TheDood that we need yet another tank and she may tell me ok but one or two need to go and that is a tough choice to make.

This will be the first time I have ever really carefully and thoughtfully planned a biotope with the idea of as accurately as possible reproducing a small slice of a natural geographical area. Either way I think the 125 is going to be a riparium regardless and I plan on reproducing an Illinois river bank of some kind. Thoughts on this and design and stocking suggestions are much appreciated.
 

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I think the easiest way to go about this would be to go out and explore the natural area, and bring home a few specimens at a time and see how they adapt. I'll be honest you might not have enough water for much in the way of native fish, 30 gallons seems like a lot, but in a 125 it'll only be a few inches deep and not necessarily the best for fish, though you could possibly get away with some of the smaller bait fish. Minnows, baby/small perch come to mind as possibilities that stay smaller (exact species would depend on your watershed which I'm not familiar with). The same goes for snails, at least in my region of NY there are some different trap door snails and freshwater mussels that you might be able to keep alive (I've had some success with mine for the past 6-8 months or so). As to plants, I would recommend you go and look around areas of the swamp that are on the drier side rather than in standing water. I find you're more likely to find a wider range of plants in this region, although downed trees and stumps are also good if you can get to them. Some of the ones that come to mind that might work are water hyacinth, some of the rushes and grasses, cattails, which may get to big, but would be authentic.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
@theatermusic87 Thanks for the reply, thats exactly what I am looking for so I can hash this idea out with those more experienced. 30 gallons wouldnt be much but I can add a partition so only one side gets filled using plexi-glass or something. 31.25 gallons would fill a quarter of it so I figure if I add a partition splitting the tank in half and I could then fill the other side of it up half way giving me 25% of total tank volume in water which I am hoping would be enough for some of the pygmy species. The other side I could then build up artificially with egg crate, maybe use spray foam and cap with soil. The end result would be an illusion of depth and I would retain a lot of surface area for growing plants with the benefit of keep the over all weight down.

I like your idea of going and looking, I am always looking for an excuse to make the trip but it is a 3 1/2 hour drive so I need as much knowledge as possible before I would go. I am trying to find a resource, Ive been perusing some of the documents from the SIU website for native species so I have an idea of some pics of what to look for and more importantly what to avoid so as not to raise the ire of dnr.
 

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This sounds like a fun idea!

I have already tried out cypress trees in ripariums. You should get some Montezuma cypress (Taxodium mucronatum). This tree grows in Southern Texas through Mexico and to Guatemala. While it is not native to your area, it looks just like the closely-related bald cypress (T. distichum) and it has the important characteristic of being evergreen, whereas bald cypress of course drops all of its foliage in the wintertime.

You can get Montezuma cypress pretty cheap right here....

Montezuma Cypress | Taxodium mucronatum

These seedlings are only about 8" tall, but if you give them light and ferts they will grow pretty fast. You can easily prune this plant to control size.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Cool looking tree. How long was you able to keep in an aquarium and how large was the aquarium?
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
For those who may be interested in this project I sent an email with a request for information to a biologist in southern Illinois. We will see if he responds and if so what he says.
 

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Sounds like a great and exciting project! Your Elassoma species is most likely going to be E. zonatum, the Banded Pygmy Sunfish. I don't know specifically about IL, but having the largest distribution of the genus, I imagine there likely may not be any regulation against owning wild specimens. However, for sustainability you may want to try reaching out to local/state NANFA(N. American Native Fishes Association) for captive bred specimens. As mentioned, they, as are all wild Elassoma IME, are picky eaters. Have plenty of live foods on hand to start, then switch to frozen worms, then introduce a processed staple. Other suggestions for fish, seems like you have a good selection to choose from: Cache Watershed Species , two Fundulus topminnows, several Etheostoma darters(possibly protected though), Gambusia(think MEAN, UGLY guppy), Mudminnows, several small shiner species... maybe you could increase the water volume to 40-45g???
 

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Was looking at okefenokee pygmy sunfish on pinterest this morning. Is it a type of killifish?
Nope, Elassoma and Killis are in completely separate orders. Elassoma belong to Perciformes(Cichlids, Bass, Sunfish, etc.), killis are Cyprinodontiiformes, the tooth carps(Livebearers, Killifish, Pupfish, Goodideae etc.).
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
@abaker1961 Thanks for the interest. I am going to be doing this build but I am going to wait until this fall when I get moved. In the interim I am doing a 20H all native based on Illinois creeks. This way I can learn about the native stuff a little, develop some water chemistry development skills, and really provide a natural biotope. I am going to the cache river in a few weeks to go hiking and exploring. What part of Central Illinois are you from? Taylorville area here, I actually live in Assumption.
 

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@thedood What will you put in the creeks tank? I grew up in Central Illinois and had lots of fun exploring the little creeks and looking for minnows, frogs, etc. Seems like there were lots of little bullhead catfish as well. I'm in Chatham/Springfield area.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Right now I am planning on getting 3 mud darters, 4 redfin shiners, and 4 black striped topminnows. Plants will be Potamogeton illinoensis (Illinois pond weed), Heteranthera dubia (water stargrass), and Elodea canadensis (Anacharis).
 

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@thedood, a little late - haven't been on much since March. A 20H isn't a lot of space for Fundulus notatus. These guys, and their cousins, (F. olivaceous - black spotted topminnows), get fairly large 4-5" and like a lot of elbow room. Either way, they do appreciate some decent flow as their habitats experience seasonal flooding. Hope, your project/research is going well!
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
@thedood, a little late - haven't been on much since March. A 20H isn't a lot of space for Fundulus notatus. These guys, and their cousins, (F. olivaceous - black spotted topminnows), get fairly large 4-5" and like a lot of elbow room. Either way, they do appreciate some decent flow as their habitats experience seasonal flooding. Hope, your project/research is going well!
Thanks for the reply. I havent added to this thread but my plan is changed. I have a 60g lined up I am going to use for this project. As soon as I get a few other things off of my plate I will be starting on it. I must say I am looking forward to getting some natives.
 

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I finally got around to looking at your NANFA thread - some good insight over there. Sounds like a good plan - a 60g will still be awesome (I have an old 4' 55g on standby for my native tank!!). I personally like Kitty Diggin's brand KL. Nice dark gray color with intermittent lighter pieces(.$98/7lbs at my local Wal-Mart). Very low nutrient content though, and will sap Gh without treating with a Gh booster before use. Holds up very well and holds plants well - once rooted (silt naturally sifts to the bottom). If you're biotope IS a swamp you'll likely find the sub about a foot deep in leaf litter and twigs/branches. Be careful of introducing snails from your tropical tanks to the native set-up as snails are notorious vectors for pathogens and parasites - your natives will likely have no resistance/immunities to tropical infections. Regarding ditch diving for plants - just give them a thorough rinsing and a KMnO4 dip and qt them for a few weeks prior to introducing livestock.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
@HDBenson Thanks for the reply. The natives are really some rocking fish. I am really surprised more hobbyists arent into them. Darters have some absolutely gorgeous coloring to them.
My plans have kind of changed from the nanfa post and I havent updated over there yet. I'm going with a 60G. Mud darters, Redfin Shiners and Black Spotted Top Minnows. I think these will give me a good start on natives and I can collect them all near my house. I'm needing to get the tank home so I can start the build. I will be building my own stand and canopy for it. Since darters need cool water I am testing a cooling system in a canopy using pc fans. I have one I have built, going to stain it today and get it assembled tomorrow. I made some mistakes on it, my first one, but if the concept works I will be doing similar on the 60 minux the mistakes I made on this one and I am sure new mistakes on the next.
 
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