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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi there!
I'm sure y'all might be getting tired of newbies asking stocking questions, and I'm sorry!
We recently got a 36 gallon bow-front tank of an indeterminate brand off of Craigslist. It's 30" long and 15" wide at the deepest part of the bow, and almost as tall as it is long.
I used to be an avid member of the fish keeping hobby, but I've been out of it for years after a college-related disaster (I'll tell my fishtale at the bottom of this post for those who are curious) led me to be disheartened with the whole thing. Apparently my older son has the bug, and wants to set up his first fish tank. He's obsessed with Kuhli Loaches and fancy guppies, so we want to get a small group of Kuhli and a nice sized school of fancy guppies (if they have similar needs, if not....I'm not sure.) We definately need a small group of the kuhli, that's the driving force behind this project. Other than the Kuhli, we want a school of small, colorful fish (preferable with long, pretty fins, like fancy guppies or longtail tetras) and a single (large-ish, like 4"+ if possible) centerpiece fish.
He was trying to convince me to let him have a veiltail goldfish as his centerpiece, but I know goldfish are wildly incompatible with Kuhli Loaches. So now we're looking at maybe a single male gourami, or a giant betta if we can find one, or maybe a single freshwater angelfish.

We have some of the set up stuff, a filter sized for a 45 gal (which I am going to modify so I can put some biomedia in there instead of the disposable cartridges they come with), some cleaning supplies, but haven't gotten substrate or plants or decor or a heater yet because I want to know what parameters we need to aim for before we start cycling. Any suggestions for fish that would fit our "plan" (loaches, small pretty schooling fish, single large-ish centerpiece), or if you think this plan is too high-reaching for the tank we have, or any suggestions about anything, we would really appreciate it!

That's the end of my question, here's my fish story for those who are interested
When I was in high school, I wanted to try out caring for fish, and I started the way most begginers do: stupidly. I got a betta, I got a tiny bowl with no lid, I got some dark substrate and some betta food and called it a day. Floated the betta for a few hours and then dumped him in, no cycling, no water testing, not even a heater.
He....did not do well. When I bought Duck (what I named my betta), he was a beautiful elephant ear super delta with the longest, shiniest fins I'd ever seen. He was a shimmery deep blue that flashed with purple and teal, and he had a black spot right in the middle of his head. He was the prettiest thing I'd ever seen. Within a few days he was dull and just kind of laid on the bottom of the bowl. Terrified, I started googling and learned how badly I'd messed up. I immediately went out and bought a 15 gallon tank, and a small heater for his bowl and a bigger one for the new tank. I did my best to keep him alive while the big tank cycled, I put in betta hammocks and plants and made it as perfect as I could. Once he was finally in the new tank, he THRIVED. He bounce back and became healthy, active, and fun to watch. He'd follow my finger on the glass, rest in his hammock, and he actually got a little bigger over time. I eventually decided to test him with some tank mates, got some bottom feeders (the cutest little cory cats) with the intention to put them in their own tank if he didn't like them. It went really well, so I decided to upsize the tank and try out some more tank mates. I got a much larger tank, and when it was ready I put in some fancy guppies, some little danios, and some mollies, and then moved Duck and the cory cats into the community tank and held my breath. I knew some bettas hated other fish with long colorful tails, but he was the perfect gentleman. He must have really liked having lots of buddies, because he even started building bubble nests for me!
He lived through two house moves, and the journey to college, and he was a very old man. I know bettas aren't supposed to live that long, but he had been with me for four years and was still as shiny and active and beautiful as when he was young. I decided to rent a house near my campus so I could keep my beautiful community tank (they only allowed up to 10 gallons in the dorms), and for a few months everything went great! My housemates loved Duck, and in his honor they rescued some fish from the science labs and soon all four of us had various tanks (my community tank, and each of my three house mates with their rescued guppies and minnows). I taught them everything I'd learned about fish care, and everything was going swimmingly. Until one night, I went out to a party for a friend's birthday. When I came home, the next morning, every single fish in the house was dead, except Duck. Duck looked awful, but he was holding on. Trying to figure out just what the hell had happened, I finally got one of my housemates to tell me; they'd had a party too, while I was gone, and one of the quests decided the fish needed to party too. Beer, vodka, and rum all found their way into every single one of the tanks. I tried to save my old man but it was way too late and he died a few hours later. I never kept fish again

After a couple hours of research, I'm leaning towards an electric/metallic blue acara as the single centerpiece, I've read that they are typically smaller and more peaceful than the regular blue acaras, since they're crossed with rams (I think?)
Would they be okay with a group of kuhlis if there were plenty of small schooling fish to break things up?
They don't get as big as regular blue acaras, but would this still be too much fish for a 36gal bow?
My current idea:
5x kuhli loaches
11-13x guppies or similar school of dither
1x electric/metallic blue acara
Thanks again for any help!
 

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you can use aqua advisor, it's a stocking calculator that you can use as a basic guideline, the next step would be to go on forums like this or on social media and see if this sort of thing is working out for others, but the kuhli loaches, and all those guppies, plus that acara, that seems pretty overstocked, you may want to find some cleaner dither, something that won't produce as much waste, but I do think that electric blue acara would be awesome.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Hi there!
Thanks for the response! I tested it out on aqadvisor, and I couldn't find an electric blue acara specifically so I put in a regular blue acara. It says with 5 khuli, 11 guppies, and 1 blue acara, I'd be at 99% capacity with the filter I have and 24% water changes weekly. I think you're right, that may be a touch overstocked. I know guppies like big groups so maybe I should just nix them, my son really likes them but his "thing" is the kuhli fish, so he'll be happy as long as we can keep those.
Boxing the guppies, what dither fish would you recommend that have a lighter bio load? I know mollies get really big and so kinda want to stay away from them, but I'm not a huge fan of danios or the like. They're kind of boring....but I guess if that is what I NEED to go with for the health of all fishies involved, then I will :) I hate big box stores, but what do you think about the long finned tetras that Petco(or PetSmart, don't remember which) have?
 

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All long fin tetras are relatively the same, fish such as Black Phantom Tetras, Black Skirt Tetras, and Serpae Tetras will work, just keep them in groups of 8-10, they are ravenous and will eat almost anything that falls in front of them, so food is rarely going to fall to the bottom, this is also why you need to feed your Kuhlis their own food and make sure that they're eating it.

To be frank, a %50 water change doesn't hurt, with a tank this small, it's a matter of 10 more minutes if you have a siphon,
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I wouldn't mind doing significant water changes! But I've heard big water changes can upset fish. Is there a way to do it so that a big water change isn't stressful? Like, dechlorinating the water and letting it sit in a bucket with a heater, would that work?
Or would it be less stressful for fishies to up the filter power? I worry that a too-powerful filter would also cause issue with the still water fish.
Again, I'm not opposed to either! I just want to make sure I do everything in a way that is minimally stressful to the finned friends
 

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This really matters more if you are doing water changes with buckets, and not a siphon connected to a sink faucet, if you have something like a python(https://www.amazon.com/25-Foot-Python-Aquarium-Maintenance/dp/B000255NXC), or something of that sort, just run it on suction and guestimate the water temp from your sink and your tank and try to match the best you can, and then right when the water hits your tank put your de-chlorinator, I've done this for my planted 40 gal, and it works just fine.

for the filtration, my tank is heavily stocked so I run a HOB rated for 70 gallons, and you can too if you want, it is going to give you a better turnover (how many times your filter can pass all the water from your tank in an hour), and it will allow more room for media,

your fish, will be fine, they will, of course, be a little freaked out due to the whole process of a water change, but the increase of water quality is well worth the hassle.
 

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Regular water changes are one of the best things you can do for your tank and fish. Of course, you have to make sure the water is dechlorinated and somewhat the same parameters as what is in your tank (It should be unless you're using a different source than what you filled the tank with). The usual advice for many aquarium issues is a large water change.

Aqua advisor seems to be pretty conservative on their fish stocking, and with a planted tank you can often do more. But with a first time hobbyist it's better to understock. Better to start a little slow and make sure you have things under control. Also, keep in mind that if you're anywhere close to max stocking rates you'll want to get male guppies only.
 

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For your center piece you might consider a pair of Laetacara araguaiae or nannacara anomala. These are a bit smaller in mass than the electric blue acara. The males will be 3 to 4 inches and the females about 1/2 that size. While having a single fish has some advantages having a pair will lead to both a more interesting display of colours and a certain 'excitement' watching the fishes activity. The araguaiae is the more colourful of the pair but the nannacara have a bit of a punch in personalities. Both fishes will tend to stay in the bottom third to middle of the tank so your top swimmers won't feel threatened.
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All the fishes I mentioned will appreciate a relatively fine substrate; drift wood and lots of plants. Also if you go with kuli i'd suggest upping the numbers to 10+ and go for pangio meyersi if you can find them.
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Another couple of fishes you might consider are 12 oto; these guys are great in a large group but should not be purchased until your tank has been setup for a couple of months and 8 to 12 kubotai rasbora - these are small green fishes about 1/2 the size of guppies. They will provide a ton of movement and keep things moving near the surface.
 
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