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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm thinking of getting 5 or 6 coral red pencils. Do you have any tips and experience with these you can share?

I keep reading they aren't beginner friendly. What makes them so? Are they delicate? They are pretty pricey so I don't want to be heartbroken. I'm not a total newbie.

Just some questions I have:

- Community friendly? They would be sharing a planted tank with dwarf cories and cherry shrimp!

- Are they super active like white clouds and zebra danios or more mellow?

- Bad idea to have more makes than females? Think I already know the answer.

- General tank size, parameters, lighting tips?


Cheers!
 

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I'm thinking of getting 5 or 6 coral red pencils. Do you have any tips and experience with these you can share?
I woudl get no less than 6, 8-10 if you can swing it. They are more fun in bigger groups and their colors will be better with a good mix of males and females.
I keep reading they aren't beginner friendly. What makes them so? Are they delicate? They are pretty pricey so I don't want to be heartbroken. I'm not a total newbie.
The price tag is what makes them not beginner friendly.
Just some questions I have:

- Community friendly? They would be sharing a planted tank with dwarf cories and cherry shrimp!
Absolutely community friendly.
- Are they super active like white clouds and zebra danios or more mellow?
More like tetras. Not "zippy" like white clouds or danios.
- Bad idea to have more makes than females? Think I already know the answer.
They will be more irritating to other tank mates, and teh females, with a poor ratio.
- General tank size, parameters, lighting tips?


Cheers!
They are not large fish, so a good community sized tank, maybe 20 Long. They like a planted tank, not too bright with tropical temps (high 70s low 80s). Hope that helps!
 

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Funny... I was thinking of trying them out too and putting them with dwarf corys and cherry shrimp. I think you can find some of the general tank size/parameter stuff by googling the species and as far as I know, they are pretty mellow and will be good in a community, but the other answers I can't help you with.
 

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I bought some from a breeder once. They're real nice and get a real deep red. He informed me that, if they are kept in a PH lower than 7 they will live for a long time. If the PH is greater than 7 they will only live for something between 6-9 months.
 

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Not sure about the age vs. life span.

Pretty neat fish in general. Have 5 in the 30c at the moment and they are very community friendly. From what I can tell shrimp friendly as well as fish friendly (Endler just delivered 8 babies today, totally left them alone). Shrimps include CRS and RCS in the tank with very small shrimps around.

Your stocking choices looks very familiar to mine.

5 N. mortenthaleri
5 C. habrosus (dwarf cories)
Otos (zebra and regular)
Shrimps (CRS and RCS)
Dwarf crays (CPO)
Endlers (breeding trio w/babies)
Horned nerites

Pics of some of them and their tankmates.




















3/4" long juvenile ranger pleco
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Hmm...I recall reading somewhere that they didn't live very long. I wonder if it has to do with them being mostly wild caught so they have a harder time adjusting? I'm pretty sure my PH is greater than 7. Hmm...

Someone at the LFS told me they can be real nippy. I guess that applies to most fish.

Mainly looking for a red fish that schools, but isn't too zippy so I thought I'd give these a chance.

Thanks everyone for the info. Beautiful photos, Ibn!
 

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Coral arks are very nice fish, in a thickly planted tank, they tend not to school much and often hide, they also jump out of the tank if it's an open top.

Otherwise, they are nice semi subtle fish. Nice colors and size.
 

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EDIT: I am by no means an expert with these fish. I do have a year (or two?) of experience in keeping coral reds, and will be attempting to breed them when I move to my new place.

They are Nannostomus Mortenthaleri. Sold as "Coral Red Pencilfish" or "Red Arc Pencilfish".

First off, these fish are very hard to photograph. Goes to show Ibn's amazing skills.

They also do not school tightly, unless they're new to the tank and/or scared. See below on how loosely they group up in my 120cm tank.



A couple of tips:

- THEY ARE JUMPERS!!!! Have a very good cover. I have lost more of these fish than I care to admit. Seeing a $15 fish dried up on the floor will ruin your day.

- They need space. The males always "spar" with each other. No damage will occur with these sparring and flaring, but in a small tank, this increases the chances of them jumping out of the tank.

- They're VERY shy. For the first month or that I've had these, they've all been just hiding in the plants. In time they'll slowly start trying the open space more and more.

- They LOVE floating plants. Every single time I do a major trim and let stems float around, they all will go under the "protection" of these floating stems and the males will start displaying to the females.

- If they're healthy and comfortable in your tank, they will eat anything. Crushed flakes, frozen daphnia, frozen BBS, frozen cyclopeeze, are sure fire food they'll love IME. Other foods I've tried and they've suprisingly also loved -- algae wafers, blanched spinach, and repashy soylent green.
 

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Considering the price of Coral Red pencils, I'll recommend something that might rub some folks the wrong way:

Try the cheaper dwarf pencilfish species first.


Nannostomus Beckfordi (Beckford Pencilfish) is normally a lot easier to find, and typically costs a fraction of the Coral Reds / Red Arcs. Beckford pencils practically behave the same as Coral Reds / Red Arcs. Beckford males do seem to "spar" more with each other, but as I said above, this will not do any damage on healthy fish. It however does increase the risk of jumping out of the tank if the tank is small.


Not my pic.
 

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I have a group of eight of the Beckfords Pencilfish and am looking for the Coral's but they are hard to locate.
Saw some on aquabid, but seller has not returned message.
The Beckfords I have in 80 gal don't seem to school much at all except at feeding time, and they frequent the surface where floating riccia is present.
Are excellent jumpers and I lost three this way until I replaced the glass tops.
I think both the coral's and the Beckfords are pretty little fish.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Thanks Zergling. That's great advice.

I'm worried they may end up being shy like CPDs. I hope not.

Do pencils like slow water or high flow?
 

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They're not at all shy IME, but rival males can be pretty darn aggressive to each other. Not sure I agree they won't cause any damage to each other, I've had broken fins and I suspect they could do much worse. Keep this in mind when stocking.
 

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They will be shy during the first month or so in the tank, especially if you have strong lighting and lots of open spaces. Given enough time, they will realize that there's no predation that's going to happen and then they'll happily swim all over.

I've found beckfords to also "adjust" to the tank quicker -- much less hiding in the plants compared to coral reds / red arcs. They also occassionally swim/school with oto's and glo-light tetras.

I'm honestly not sure if they have a preference on water current. I've seen them play around on the outflow of the lily pipes - that's 350gph(XP4) of water smacking them there LOL!

They do like to sleep near the water surface for some reason, in my tanks. If that is normal, then a mass of floating plants and/or having a section of not too much current would be good for them.

Unissuh - I've never seen broken fins with beckfords or coral reds, or even rubrocaudatus (Purple Pencilfish). However, as can be seen above, my tank is plenty big for a good sized crowd of pencils. Things could very well be different in a smaller tank.
I first started out with 6 coral reds/red arcs in a 20long - no problems there.
Ibn has 5 coral reds / red arcs in a 7gal. I'm sure he'll chime in later on if he sees problems with having that kind of population density.
 

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Haven't seen any issue with the population density yet. Group is a mix of 2 males and 3 females. I've seen some loss of finnage and scales on the smaller of the two males, but otherwise, they're still nice and healthy. The subdominant male will lose his coloration during recovery and then pick it right up again once he's back in sparring condition.

These guys will just about eat anything once they settle in. Been feeding mine crushed flakes, repashy community plus and shrimp souffle, and frozen bloodworms.
 

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Here's a pic I took a while back. I did a massive trim the night before, and left a LOT of stem plants to float. I came home to see almost all of my dwarf pencils congregating in that shaded area.

Non-stop displaying and sparring with all the male dwarf pencils that I had. Mortenthaleri, Beckfordi, and Rubrocaudatus.

Unfortunately, I don't have the equipment, skills, and experience of Eric.....so no pro-level shots from me :redface:

 

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This is making me start to think that these pencils really need more tank space than any other community fish, due to them needing to be in groups and yet having the males being nippy with each other.

Seriouslyfish.com says minimum tank size of 53 liters (14 gallons), which I'm guessing is due to the points I mentioned above.
Yep - guessing this is why I see more aggression than you, much smaller tank. I'm pretty much sitting on the minimum tank size recommended there & really wouldn't try it with anything smaller, at least with not more than 1 male (boring as breeding male coloration and behaviour is very attractive).
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I was hoping to setup a 10 gallon for these guys but it looks like I might have to go with ember tetras instead.

Are coral red pencil fish any nippier than white clouds? My males are always chasing each other but not real damage except for a few nipped fins once in a while. I wonder how these compare. What about ember tetras?

Thanks for the great advice and photos so far!
 

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When I kept 10 in a 45g tank they chased each other but not as much as white clouds( also In the same tank). They're more of the shoaling kind and if theyre not together theyre on their own exploring.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
When I kept 10 in a 45g tank they chased each other but not as much as white clouds( also In the same tank). They're more of the shoaling kind and if theyre not together theyre on their own exploring.
Sorry zainey, were you referring to embers or coral reds as being less nippy? I was referring to coral reds but wasn't very clear.
 
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