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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a school of 11 green neon tetras in a 30 gallon heavily planted tank. When I first got them they were doing great and swimming out in the open, but, as my flora seemed to become more beautiful, my fauna seemed to become more and more reserved. What could have caused this?
 

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High lighting?

Just get 10-12 more. The tank can support that...
 

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Yeah, unfortunately I experienced this as well.

I used to only keep non-planted, just decorated tanks with fish and all the fish species were very active and happy (no they were not stressed, running from everything because of no plants to hide in/behind).

Once I got into planted tanks, I turned those non-planted tanks into moderately-heavy planted tanks and fish activity significantly slowed down. They became very reserved, not happily swimming about like they used to. Most would just end up hovering/staying place. I thought for sure the plants would make them even happier, seeing as how they have a new environment to explore, and with the plant cover, you would think the reduce lighting and sheer foliage would have them feel even safer to venture around even more and increase their playfulness throughout all the plants. Surprisingly to me, it was pretty much the opposite. I can't say they are stressed from the plants, but they definitely aren't acting very happy in comparison to how they were without plants. I thought maybe it was just the reduce flow/current from the plant obstructions and maybe they just needed time to settle into the new planted environment, but nope, still to this day they aren't nearly as active as they were in a non-planted tank. Even more evidence was when I did a massive trim, reducing plant load by 80-90% and fish activity spiked backed up, still not as much as before, but was a welcomed sight again. It's probably not the plants themselves, but just the space they would take up.

And just a FYI, I did have groups of 30 cardinals, 20 espei rasbora, 20 rummy nose tetra, and tons of Corydoras as far as schooling/shoaling fish, all of which were very active in non-planted tanks, but drastically became less active in a planted tank.

Just was a bummer to me. I really liked the beautiful scapes that I've always seen with planted tanks which is what drew me to it, but after experiencing the reduced fish activity with the plants, me being a fish guy over plants, it was a big turn off. I very much enjoyed the fish activity in a non-planted tank to a "less/inactive" planted tank (even with all the nice colors).

But since I paid hundreds for plants already, I decided to stick with the planted tanks for now.

Just my honest experience. It seems not everyone notices or experiences this same fish activity change, but there are some others who have also noticed this, so we aren't the only ones (so we aren't crazy) :)
 

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Um maybe the fish are swimming around in shoals mean they are shoaling for self-defense and not happiness? Also, plants are a natural feature of small south american characins. But i guess for some species, heavy planting is unrecommendable, like the larger corydoras species-they prefer driftwood 'arches' and leaf litter. Also, it is true that active fish like characins would appreciate open shoaling space.
but to my experience, pygmy cories, dwarf cories, neon tetras, clown killifish and other smaller fish prefers planted cover. But active shoalers like zebra danios and black skirt tetras, and lovers of wide substrates like panda cories need open place to forage/shoal.
So, my thought is to not plant to thickly and as WaterLife said provide enough schooling place. Preferably, leave the top bits empty mostly and plant scattered on the lower section, plus some corners of the tank. Green Neons/Neons arent the most active fishes, but do like to shoal in open spaces.
 

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I seem to be facing a similar situation to WaterLife. When my tank was sparsely planted fish were swimming around all over. The thicker the vegetation gets, the more they stick to the darker corners. Nothing else has changed, only bigger/lusher plants.

I don't want to chuck the plants but I really want to see my fish...

Sigh.
 

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Just adding more background/info to my experiences (with an "s" because I have tried different set up concluding with the same results).
I observe fish behavior a whole lot and can definitely tell signs of distress, which none of the fish had. I notice a lot more signs than most do and I can assure you they were not stressed. I can't speak for everyone else's set up/experience, but I know for me they were not at all stressed. I could even put my hands in the tank and the fish would happily swim right past and through my hands. Many fish species would even be spawning! No aggression or hiding. Fully colored up fish. Everybody schooling calmly. Other fish rummaging around. Even the cardinals were schooling with the rasboras and rummies. I know cardinals, neon and green neons usually hover when comfortable, but I assure you mine would school happily playing around (I do know schooling fish of different species will school together when scared, but this was not case).

But anyways, as mentioned, Neons do typically just hover around when comfortable and will school around when in fear/stressed, though stressed fish swimming behavior is pretty apparent to fish happily swimming around (whether calmly or fast and playful). Maybe my cardinals just played/schooled more because they had other active schooling fish that would entice them to play along/socialize with.

Yes I do know fish can sense vibrations in the water from stressed fish and could behave alarmed/panicky, but again this wasn't the case for my experience.
I really did try to rule every variable out because I really wanted the plants and fish activity to work out, but it just didn't. I even considered myself crazy or doing something wrong as before my experience I have never heard anyone mention such experiences, but shortly after I others have also stated the same experience when transitioning to/adding more plants. It was unforeseen by me to think that more plants would reduce fish activeness, as it made more sense that plants would make the fish feel safer, happier and the water healthier and so I thought the fish would be even more active, but it just didn't pan out that way. It became evident the plants occupying the space reduced activity since when I did a massive trim, fish activity spiked back up. It's not entirely the physical space the plants take up as I did even leave open areas of swimming space for bottom dwellers and low/mid/upper water column fish and still fish activity was reduced. I don't know what it is, maybe the plants trigger some sort of behavior/state of mind when near/in heavily planted areas (some of the fish I keep are from areas with no plant life, while some are from heavily vegetated areas so maybe it is just a natural reaction being near/within the plants). Me being a fish guy, it was just very disappointing to see the fish become inactive like that, while they don't look particularly stressed, they just don't look all too happily now.

Excellently worded Tessa, that's exactly what I mean! Don't know why I can't simplify my wording into just a few sentences rather than paragraphs all the time haha!

I guess for those of us that experience this, we gotta pick between one world or the other (bare-mildly planted tank with fish or heavily planted), or find a good balance of some plants while still retaining good levels of fish activity.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks! Maybe they hide just because the can....the more plants the more hidden yet comfortable areas.
 

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For a heavily planted tank, I try to at least leave one or two larger, open swimming areas. Do the fish have a place to swim and school, or is the entire tank full of plants?
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
The front of the tank is open for swimming getting more crowded with plants as it goes back. At the very back of the tank the plants reach the surface, but I will hopefully get around to trimming today. Also, the plant they are hiding in is Hygrophila Difformis, and it is in the back right corner of the tank.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
I know this is an older thread that I started, but I am "rejuvenating" it because I found a partial solution... I bought some Endlers live bearers and they acted as a dither fish making the neons much more bold. I only have 5 endlers, so the the neons are still kind of shy, but it has really helped!
 

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Ime, green neons are beatifull but very very shy. Probably the most shy of any neons I have ever kept.

I first had them in a 36g with rummy noses in a semi-dim tank 1/2 planted. Moved them to a 60P dark water over planted, tons of shade, most of the surface covered with floaters and surface trailing plants with some dwarf cories. In either case, they just all hang in the back corner above the substrate, presumably drinking beer,, with an occasional one poking out.

I did catch them swimming around in the evening when I walked into the empty room a number of times.
 

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I know this is an older thread that I started, but I am "rejuvenating" it because I found a partial solution... I bought some Endlers live bearers and they acted as a dither fish making the neons much more bold. I only have 5 endlers, so the the neons are still kind of shy, but it has really helped!
I'm so happy I happened upon this post. I have the same experience going on in a 20g long tank with green neons and dwarf pencilfish. It is heavily planted, although the left half is not as dense as the right half and there is plenty of swimming room up front. The neons and pencilfish used to shoal around together over much of the tank, but now if I am near they dart toward the back of the dense right half of the tank.

Yesterday I ordered 7 male endlers for just the reason you state. Hoping they will act as dithers for the others. I'm glad to see this is working at least a little for you and hoping for the same results.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I'm so happy I happened upon this post. I have the same experience going on in a 20g long tank with green neons and dwarf pencilfish. It is heavily planted, although the left half is not as dense as the right half and there is plenty of swimming room up front. The neons and pencilfish used to shoal around together over much of the tank, but now if I am near they dart toward the back of the dense right half of the tank.

Yesterday I ordered 7 male endlers for just the reason you state. Hoping they will act as dithers for the others. I'm glad to see this is working at least a little for you and hoping for the same results.
Awesome! Hope those endlers do there part for you.. Good luck!
 
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