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Marine Fish Compatibility

Discussion in 'Fish, Anemone's and Critters' started by Realist, Jun 22, 2010.

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  1. Realist

    Realist Registered

    Jun 18, 2009
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    Marine Fish Compatibility

    I don’t know how many times I’ve seen those fish compatibility charts. I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of them, too. They consist of rows and columns illustrating what species of marine fish can be safely kept together. Some of them go a step further and rate the compatibility as “Safe”, “Generally Safe”, ”Some Caution”, and so on. In my opinion, these charts are practically worthless.

    Here’s why. You would never want to keep a Clown Trigger (Balistoides conspicillum) with a Pajama Cardinal (Sphaeramia nematoptera). But you could keep one or more Cardinals with a Niger Trigger (Odonus niger). Likewise, a Sailfin Tang (Zebrasoma veliferum) would get along with any Butterflyfish, but only if the tang is smaller in size. If you’re adding a fish to your tank that hasn’t had a new fish added in 8 months or more, I don’t care what kind of fish you have in there, the existing fish will be aggressive to the new addition- and some fish will remain that way, including the “peaceful” fish from the chart. For these reasons you cannot solely rely on fish compatibility charts in creating your community aquarium.

    So where can you go to get all this information? I would recommend that the Internet be your last resort. There is just too much mis-information there. Start with your LFS, who has to deal with separating incoming shipments every week

    and knows a lot about fish compatibility. Seek out veteran aquarists who have kept the species you’re interested in and can give you some first hand knowledge. Do invest in a few good books (such as Marine Fishes by Scott Michaels) to learn about compatibility issues and interaction.

    When you have gotten to the point where you have selected a list of fish and have researched compatibility to the point where you believe they should all get along, consider the following:

    ? On a new tank setup, add the most peaceful and/or the smallest fish first. Work your way up from there. The largest and most aggressive fish should be added last. Unless you have multiple quarantine tanks, you will be adding a new fish (or groups of the same fish) at one month intervals. This is a good schedule to be on. It give the fish time to settle in and allows the tank to stabilize and adjust to the new bioload. Any problems along the way (like algae blooms) can be dealt with quickly. While the fish is in quarantine, it will learn to eat the food that you plan on feeding the community tank.

    ? The method of adding a new fish to an established aquarium depends on the situation. If the new fish is larger than all the rest, you can usually get away with adding the new fish and have some short term aggression. If the fish is small or you have gone a long time without adding any fish to the community tank, place the fish in a plastic specimen box drilled with holes and secure it to the rim of the aquarium. This give the established residents time to recognize the fish and ease away from their strong territorial instincts. Keep the fish in the specimen box for at least 3 days. Some authors advocate an alternative of rearranging the décor and live rock and add the fish directly. This method has not worked for me. It seems that some fish know that they are in the same tank and quickly reestablish territories. Others get so stressed out that their health suffers.

    ? Some fish do best in groups. For example, Damselfishes and Chromis. You should always keep these fish together through quarantine and when adding them to the display tank. Doing so will not only minimize stress but reduce aggression of existing fish when added as a group.

    ? During the first 24 hours, the new addition may hide most of the time and skip the first feeding. If it skips the second feeding, it may never acclimate to your tank.

    ? If the new addition is always in hiding and you never see it, it may have perished from either stress or aggression or both. This may sound crazy, but if the established fishes “gang up” and kill the new addition, you will never be able to add another fish to the tank again.

    ? If the new fish is harassed to the point where it is cowering in a corner, remove the fish immediately (or its aggressor). I have seen this happen on several occasions and can say that this level of stress will kill the fish in 24-48 hours, even if there is no fin damage.

    ? “Chasing” for the first 24 hours is normal for a new addition, but fin nipping is not. If there is significant fin damage even though the fish is swimming around and not huddled in a corner, you need to remove the fish as soon as possible. Place it back into quarantine until its fins are healed, and use the specimen box method to re-introduce it.

    ? For larger tanks, you probably feed your fish in the same area every day, perhaps on the left, right, or middle of the tank. Don’t confuse your fish by adding a new addition in the same location where you feed.

    ? If you cycle your lights down at night (perhaps turning off daylight bulbs before actinics), add the new fish when the lights are at their lowest level. But don’t add a new fish in total darkness. Some people advocate adding the fish during feeding or immediately thereafter. Personally, I’ve tried this and it doesn’t seem to make any difference. After all, territorial aggression is based on establishing a breeding nest and has nothing to do with food.

    ? Don’t add a new fish and go off to work. You want to stick around and check on it from time to time to make sure the acclimation is going well. Watch from a distance. Rapid movement right in front of the tank just adds to every fishes stress level.

    ? Once the new fish is settled in you might see some occasional chasing, which is harmless. This will subside over time.

    this article is posted with the kind permission of Joe jaworski
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 16, 2014
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