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I have a 60 gallon planted freshwater tank. I really love the dragon-like fishes like bichirs and dragon gobies, but unfortunately they are not compatible with the kind of tank I have. The two criteria I have are:
  • Won't kill all my smaller fish (neon and rummy nose tetras). If they occasionally eat one or two that's ok as long as they don't kill them all in one day.
  • Won't constantly uproot all my plants. I have petco black sand. It is a pretty heavy sand, but a big fish can still dig stuff up.
The closest thing I can find is Rope Fish. They are supposedly peaceful and they don't look strong enough to dig up a lot of sand. Are there any other kinds of fish I should consider?
 

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Was going to say some ropefish, but I see you have bichirs in already.
I have seen one with guppies and stuff in a tank at the LFS. Was maybe 10 inches long.
 

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Ropefish are peaceful as in they don't fight, but they still are predatory and will still eat fish that will fit in their mouth. An adult one will eat -2" torpedo shaped fish such as neons and rummy nose tetras. Taller bodied fish like Black phantom tetras are safe though. They don't have the greatest eye sight although their sense of smell is pretty good, so they may not wipe out all the tetras that quickly.

Dragon gobies are nearly blind, even then their sense of smell isn't that great, so for these guys an owner would need to check that they are still managing to get enough food. Even though they look crazy, they are peaceful and your tetras should be safe. One big thing to know is that they get huge, up to 2 feet in length, and yes they really can get that long in aquariums. I think there is even a video of a lady that has two, 2 foot long dragon/violet gobies in a 55, definitely still not enough room. And I believe these guys do best in brackish tanks (slight salt/salinity). Not sure of your tank dimensions, but probably still too small for a full grown dragon goby.

Bichirs get big and even thicker bodied with a bigger mouth so those will definitely gobble up your fish.

Not really prehistoric-dragon looking fish, but still worm/eel body-like, are weather/dojo loaches, kuhli loaches, many other different loaches actually (with varying sizes and temperaments).
Kuhlis are extremely peaceful, but do stay small.
Dojo/weather loaches get up to 10 inches and pretty girthy. Still peaceful, but I have seen videos of them being pretty bulldozer-ish during feeding. Not aggressive, but it looks like they just plow into whatever is in their way, but I don't think they would really damage plants or uproot most.
Tons of other eel-like body loaches, but not really prehistoric dragon looking.
Gobies and darter fish look cool.

Other than those type of body, you could look into exotic plecostomus. Some very cool looking species. Varying size and diets so do your research. But all (even carnivores) would be compatible with your tetras. Not technically ancient, but they are very old. Some can look like dragons. You could even look at green dragon Bristlenoses (pretend they are horns haha). Even look at the long fin varieties to pretend they are dragon wings.

Other loaches like Homaloptera can look like mini dragons, but these hillstream loaches should be in cooler water with high flow and high levels of dissolved oxygen.

Some cool looking prehistoric creatures you can look into are Triops.

There are more prehistoric "dragon" looking fish, but they are all even bigger.

Maybe a elongated crowntail male betta or even a dragonscale betta?
Some wild betta species look cool.

Don't fit the criteria, but cool looking odd balls, there are smaller species of Knifefish and spiny eels, but that may be pushing it. Mormyrid are cool odd balls and some might work with tetras.

So nope, the aforementioned ropefish, bichirs, and dragon gobies wouldn't be good choices.
 

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My dad always comments on how my apistos look like a descendant of a prehistoric fish. I dont know if I'd say "dragon like though". From your description maybe you're looking for something more "serpent" or "snake" like? If so look at some loaches.
 

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I agree with with Waterlife -- ancistrus plecos come in so many cool variations now and look pretty darned ancient with their weird "bristles" and interesting fins. They're also disinterested in tank mates, as long as they're not being picked on.
 

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If you want to keep those types of fish I would suggest that you keep a dedicated oddball tank. I just don't think a planted community tank has anything to offer you with these criteria.
why? Most of the suggestions should do just fine in a planted tank and dont pose much of a threat to other species.
 

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An apisto isn't what he's looking for. There is no good subsistute for a bichir or dragon goby and they are not compatible with the current setup. I also believe a ropefish is a bad choice. Hence my advice for a dedicated tank.
 

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An apisto isn't what he's looking for. There is no good subsistute for a bichir or dragon goby and they are not compatible with the current setup. I also believe a ropefish is a bad choice. Hence my advice for a dedicated tank.
apparently a dedicated oddball tank is also something he is not looking for otherwise he wouldn't be on the internet asking for suggestions to stock this particular tank. So, we're offering suggestions on what could potentially work as a compromise.
 

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Bichers and other fish like that are predators. Do not keep them with any fish under 4" long.

With the small fish you have, I think something like Kuhlie Loaches are probably appropriate. Not exactly as primitive as the Bichers, but they are compatible. Zebra Loaches (Botia striata) are good. Confirm the temperature preferences, but there are several other Loaches that could work, but as noted above, species that come from cooler fast moving water will not get enough oxygen in a slower moving, warmer water tank.

Look into Planet Catfish, too. There are quite a few smaller cats that you might like. Perhaps a Wood Cat (Tatia species, there are several). Caution: many catfish can be predatory so do not get anything larger.

PlanetCatfish.com - Tatia galaxias ? Auchenipteridae ? Cat-eLog

Ditto the suggestion of a Bristlenose Pleco, but look into the different species of Ancistrus. Here is an odd one, really does look like something primitive.

PlanetCatfish.com - Ancistrus ranunculus ? Loricariidae ? Cat-eLog
 

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Give bristlenose some wood to chew on and they are happy campers. I love seeing them lurch out of the shadows. Don't know that my plain jane short finned brown ones look much like dragons though they do look prehistoric. Except for a malnourished swordplant way back when they have been fine in my planted tanks for a couple decades.

What about the twiggy sort of pleco? Very armoured and the snouts vary in length and twigginess. Some have whiskers too Sturisoma/Farowella to get you started.
 

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Yeah the Sturisoma and Farlowella are cool looking odd fish.

Take a peek at Loricaria. Pretty much whiptail plecos. Some even get elongated filaments on their fins (so do some plecos).
Red Lizard Catfish (Rineloricaria, L010A) are peaceful little guys that can turn a glowing red. Even safe with dwarf shrimp from what I hear.

Do research on these though as some get pretty big. I have heard some say they had their nibble on some plants, not too bad though.

In the past I have wanted to do a Asian "themed" (not biotope) community tank with a dragon-like fish being the "centerpiece" (small fish community tank). I was thinking of doing a male albino longfin bristlenose pleco (didn't decide on blue eyed or red), was going to consider it a golden dragon. But the green dragons are pretty cool. Some Calico BN look nice as well, especially when they have glowing orange markings. Starlight BN look nice too, definitely a eye catcher with it's contrasting white dots on it's dark black body. Ancistrus claro are great looking as well, but I never saw a batch in person when I wanted to hand pick, as their color and markings vary a lot among individuals. You can look at blue seam plecos and big spot ancistrus for more bristlenose options. Ancistrus stay smaller so they are more suitable for smaller tanks and their bristle look pretty cool for a prehistoric dragon appearance. Longfin is optional, sometimes they are too long that they look raggedy!
 
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