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A blank slate

Subject: A blank slate
by this.foolish.heart on 4/5/2014 11:18:15

Hi everyone,

Due to a catastrophic heater malfunction at the start of the year, I now have an empty 6'x18"x20" (425L/93gal). Current plans are for a planted tank. I would ideally like to move my current trops (4x dwarf chain loaches (approx 5cm), 6x black widow tetras (approx 6cm) and steven the mystery loach (approx 10cm), whom I think is a Botia rostrata) to the 6 footer. Substrate will be silver sand mixed with laterite, a very large centrepiece of mangrove root, and some large cobbles. I intend on planting out with low-moderate intensity light plants. No intention of running CO2, but happy to use liquid dose ferts/carbon.

Tap water is 4dKH, 5dGH, pH7. In tank, this pH tends to drop to 6.8 due to blackwater additive. Currently, keeping at 25C, but I live in Queensland, Australia, so this goes up in the summer. FIlter is a Fluval FX5, which will have all the mature media transferred over from the trops' current tank, + 5L of marine pure spheres (http://www.aquariumproducts.com.au/ca ... s.php?prodID=6472&catID=9) which are basically a cross between ceramic noodles and bio balls.

All current fish have been with me for a while, dwarf chain loaches 5/6 years, tetras 3 years. Newest fish is Steven, who's been here about 9 months. At this stage, I'm assuming everyone is fully grown, though Steven may double, depending on what species he actually is. Currently, my fish length is 66cm, and even if steven doubles, that gives a max of 76 cm.

Immediate aims are to return dwarf chain loach school to a min of 6, adding another 10cm (86 cm of fish/34.4 inches of fish).

Obviously, I've got quite a lot of stocking room to play with. Another consideration is lifespan and rehoming capability. I'm planning on moving to the UK in 2017, and my fish will not be coming with me.

I'd quite like to have a large school of dither fish, rather than a pair of centrepiece fish. My current thoughts are perhaps increase black widows to 12, and then a large school of either Ember, Neon, or Cardinal tetras, or some form of rasbora. I'd rather one really big school than several smaller schools.

What would you do? Have you kept any of these before? how hardy are they? how easy to breed?

all advice welcome :)