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West African Biotope - 8 Gallon Long

5941 Views 9 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  D.Farci
Welcome everyone, to my first Tank Journal. I've been meaning to type this up for several months, but figured I'd wait until it was more complete and this snow day has made me pretty lazy, so I've nothing better to do! Scroll down for a TL;DR, but please, read!

I got this tank from a friend back in June or July, and I'm guessing it's many years old. It measures 24" x 8" x 8" (61x20x20 cm). It's got very odd dimensions from the tanks I've seen, and it struck me as a great option for a combination of my favorite tanks - nano and long. (My dream tank might be a 33 Long, but whatever). I stripped the warped plastic trip and glued my own wood trim to the base. I had planned to add a matching trim on top, but the addition of rimless lid supports made my pre-made trim too skinny. The tank cost me $5(!) and the wood etc. cost about $5.

My old coworker moved to a new job at a Habitat for Humanity Restore Center, and I happened to find this little piece for $30. I moved to a new place in September and this happened to fit perfectly between my front and side doors against the wall.

I've always wanted to keep Jellybean Tetras (Ladigesia roloffi). They are a great color combination (plus I went to the University of Miami, so the orange and green works on a personal level), they are long and slender compared to most tetras, and they come from West Africa, which doesn't really get much of a reputation in the hobby's more common circles. I happen to have a great LFS in Portland and they had a group of larger Jellybeans that had been sitting there for a while, so I knew they were healthy enough to buy. I took ten home to a spare ten gallon while I worked on their future home.

I've also always wanted to do a "true" biotope, in that I want to create an aesthetically pleasing aquascape representing a certain part of the world. Certainly these fish and plants aren't all from the same area, and it may not look exactly like an African rainforest stream, but it's in my budget and it's my first try, so to hell with the specifics :) I found three pieces of "Congo" driftwood at the LFS as well, which is great because I was really struggling on deciding on a type of wood. What better to use than something from Africa?!

I took home three pieces and played with their orientations in the tank. One of the pieces fit almost perfectly, and the second I could cut in half to make a nice slope. I returned the third.

I went to the Columbia River Gorge for an afternoon hike one weekend and picked up some stones from the base of the waterfalls on my way out. I grabbed a $10 bag of Cannon Beach sand from a local shop, which I still have more than half of...well worth the money! Fast forward a few months and I have slowly moved into my new place and acquired the furniture. I had slowly picked up some Anubias sp. plants here and there (trading with local guys, buying a few from the store, etc.). I was ready to start aquascaping.

How it looked after my first sand-stone-wood insertion:

I super-glued the rhizomes of the Anubias sp. to the wood. I had two Anubias coffeefolia plants that I wanted to be the centerpieces of the tank, a bunch if Anubias barteri var. "Nana" and "Nana Petite" that I would add wherever I felt like, and some Anubias barteri var. "Golden" (I think) and regular that I added to fill some space in the middle of the tank (they have longer stems for me).

I drilled a hole in the back of the cabinet below the tank so I could hide my filter (ZooMed Nano Canister I got from a friend). I purchased a Current Satellite LED+ which has multiple preset colors and conditions. I have landed on "Cloudy Afternoon" as my permanent setup.

At this point, I was waiting for the tank to cycle and the plants to settle in before adding the fish. Plus, the wood leeched tannins like a sunofa--- even after I boiled it for many days, so I had to let it get that out of it's system. Basically daily water changes, removing the dark brown water. After a few more weeks, I was ready to add the fish. I had collected a few small rhizomes of Bolbitis heudelotii, the African fern. Most leaves melted (one rhizome had nothing left), but I glued them on in hopes that they'd come back. I also found some more Anubias spp. along with several species of fish from a guy in the local fish group. Thanks man! (More on the fish later). I added the largest to the back left to fill space, and sprinkled the rest in where I saw fit.

In these pictures, you can see the B. heudelotii in the upper right, and the larger Anubias sp. in the back left - two of the leaves are outside of the tank.

Before water change:

After water change:

I added my ten Jellybean Tetras very shortly thereafter:

They are very active and there are two or three that chase each other around constantly.

I had been flirting with a few other species to add. I love Nanochromis splendens, which are probably one of the prettiest dwarf cichlids I've seen. However, they are semi-spendy and like to dig, which I would prefer not to have to deal with. Also, they like to be in pairs, which I don't have room for. Most other species are either hard to find when healthy (Jae Barb, Enteromius jae), hard to keep alive (Adonis Tetra, Lepidarchus adonis), or hard to find and expensive as well (Butterfly Barb, Barbus hulstaerti). Neolebias ansorgii were thought about, but I decided that they were too shy and not worth the extra tank space.

However...remember the guy who gave me some Anubias sp. for free? Yea, turns out he had all of those species! I was so excited. I picked them up one night after work before he had to skip town, and most made it home safely (one Adonis Tetra died out of five, just because I moved it). My final count was 3 Jae Barbs, 4 Adonis Tetras, 4 Ansorg's Neolebias, and 3 Butterfly Barbs. What a find! I kept them in my spare ten gallon until I decided they would be okay to add to the tank.

The perks of living in a city with a great selection of fish is obvious. However, the negative side is that I'm always tempted to buy something new and rare. The store had some Amber Fin Lampeye Killifish (Foerschichthys flavipinnis) which were starting to color up, and I had done about as much research as I could find on them. They are small, 0.5" Killies from Africa that inhabit clear streams. They swim near the top of the water and their eyes glow when the light hits them (though Normani Killies have much more of a "Lampeye" look to them). One had a slight bend in his spine, so I convinced the store to let me take 5 for the price of 4. I added them to the tank with the Jellybeans and was amazed at how quickly they adapted.

You can see why they are called "Amber" Fin, though their color is very difficult to see in most light scenarios:

You can kind of see the "Lampeye" effect:

They most often like to hide near the back under a leaf, but they occasionally swim in the front, directly into the filter output. See him way in the back center?

All in all, I was happy with the purchase and believe that the tank won't be too overstocked.

Fast forward another month: Time to add some more fish! I brought over the Adonis Tetras (one of which died mid-transport, again), 3 Jae Barbs, and my three Nerite snails (Neritina sp.). I have one Zebra, one greenish thorned, and one reddish thorned snail. I added them in and watched them closely over the weekend. They adapted as I had hoped - the Adonis swim with the Jellybean (both are shy species, though Adonis especially like to be with friends and family), while the Jae Barbs swim among the shadows of the driftwood and pick up food from the substrate.

Two Jae Barbs hiding under the wood, with the third in the far right of the picture:

A Jae Barb and an Adonis Tetra. Adonis Tetra males are clear, aside from these deep purple spots that appear on their posterior end. You can see the two males I have left in this image:

An Adonis Tetra mingles with his friends:

My Zebra Nerite Snail...

...with a Killi swimming nearby:

At this point, the plants are sending out new leaves every few days (the fastest growing are the plants under the direct light, of course). The roots are growing wonderfully and finding their way along the wood:

The rhizome of Bolbitis has about 3 leaves between 1-2" long, so in a few more weeks, it should be sending longer leaves along the back of the tank. You can see the new growth in the back center of this image (along with a new leaf on the Anubias):

I will be waiting a few more weeks before adding the Butterfly Barbs and Neolebias, but I'll update the thread when I do. For now, I hope you like what I've done - I'm rather proud of it, to be honest. The fish are filling their niches, and I'm very happy that my design is working for them - shy fish have shy-fish areas, the Tetras are free to swim in the open half of the tank above the rocks, and the Killies have plenty of leaves and darkness to hide in at the surface. I'm hoping the rest of the fish adapt in the same way.

Thank you for taking the time to read through this. I'd love to hear any questions, comments, or ideas you have.

Things I wish I could do better:
Have the left side of the tank more lit. At times I like it, but at others, it looks odd. Maybe it's just how I have the plants arranged.
Find more Anubias coffeefolia to fill in the center.
Get rid of the largest leaf of A. coffeefolia that seems to distract your eye from the rest of the tank.
Probably a few other things, but I'm tired at this point.


TL;DR Version: I have the following fish in a West African biotope 8 gallon long tank:

All are wild-caught:
10 Jellybean Tetra, Ladigesia roloffi
3 Adonis Tetra, Lepidarchus adonis
3 Jae Barb, Enteromius jae
5 Amber Fin Lampeye Killifish, Foerschichthys flavipinnis
3 Nerite Snails of various color, Neritina sp.

Will add soon:
4 Ansorg's Neolebias, Neolebias ansorgii
3 Butterfly Barb, Barbus hulstaerti

Anubias species including A. coffeefolia, A. barteri regular, "Golden", "Nana", and "Nana Petite", along with one larger leafed variety and one longer leafed variety
Bolbitis heudelotii

Congo Driftwood

Updates will be provided when I feel like it :) I hope you enjoy it!
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