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In a newly set up 30 gallon aquascape (my first), after three weeks it's almost cycled, with ammonia at 0, nitrites at 0.1, and nitrates at 5 ppm. This tank has co2, and 96 watts light.

In my readings I see that it's suggested to add amano shrimp and oto cats first, before adding my cardinal tetras (they're about 2 years old, in another tank). I had this advice from two sources, an experienced member of this forum and also my other forum, Simply Discus, and also from Jason Baliban's website. But the local fish store guy says that's wrong, that I should add fist first, because any nitrates will kill shrimp. Is this true?

Also, as I've got a healthy crew of snails, would you recommend a clown loach? If yes, would the loach also eat the shrimp?

Any recommendations / suggestions about my setup would be VERY WELCOME. Thanks, all, and Happy New Year!

-Don in Virginia
 

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The amount of nitrates that you have would not kill shrimp. In fact you will soon have to dose nitrates in order to keep those plants growing. The only argument I see for adding either the shrimp or the tetras first is that the shrimp can find good hiding places if they are there first. Fish eat what fits in their mouth, and baby shrimp do just that. But, when I had cherry shrimp I added them to a tank full of fish, and I soon had 100 or so shrimpl
 

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I always do shrimp first, too, for exactly the reason Hoppy mentioned- to let them scope out hiding spots before adding fish. Also, I usually stock scavengers first, as I like having the cleanup crew already in place before adding the mid-water fish.

And a Clown loach would outgrow that tank very quickly. Dwaf chain loaches or Khuli loaches would be a much better choice for a 30gal tank.
 
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