I've bought from three or four different stores. There's a a shop up the road from me that has a small range of the "bread-and-butter" tropical and coldwater fish (including Blood Parrots- but I've not seen Balloon Mollys), but is probably most known for its reptiles. I've bought a few WCMM from them and not lost any so far.
There's Wildwoods, but that's a train ride away out in Enfield. (There's a Maidenhead Aquatics nearby too). They have a huge range of fish, and a are rated very highly. I've not had much luck keeping Bitterlings from them, but I suspect they're rather sensitive to disease, despite being easy to keep otherwise.
Finally there's the Aquatic Design Centre in Central London. Again a large range of fish, well known for Cichlids, Marines, etc. They were quite willing to take back a psychotic American-Flag Fish if moving him between tanks didn't work.
Re: Suggestions for fish to join Herman in his new tank....
You don't want shrimp? But they're adorable! Your water sounds almost ideal for the more delicate Crystals too. I haven't risked them in the liquid rock that is London Water, but I have a feeling they won't like it. However I'm going to be overrun with Cherrys before I know it...
"Wheat Plant" isn't an aquatic. Its related to the ubiquitous Spider Plant. A quick google indicates that Umbrella Fern is the "spike moss" Selaginella wildenowii, Borneo Fern is a relative (Lycopodium). Neither are aquatic, but they're interesting plants in their own right, 300 million years ago they formed some of the first forests. "Fountain Plant" is a terrestrial grass. Don't put any of them in your tank.
I don't know about half of those "Swords" (Amazon Swords are aquatic, but the others? I've no idea.) I'm told people will sell Syngonium sp. and Spathiphyllum sp. under various "sword" names. Neither are aquatic. Both are excellent house plants however.
Indian Fern/Water Sprite (Ceratopteris) grows very well, and you can either allow it to float or root it. It has nice feathery leaves so will help the fry to hide. Java Ferns have a reputation for being unkillable, and look very nice tied to driftwood.
ETA: I agree with Jaguar about checking how big, and how fast plants grow. From a small rosette 8" across I would have a tank full of Water Soldier (Stratiotes aloides) if I didn't pull them out nearly as fast as they grew. Similarly Hornwort will run rampant if you let it, and I've seen a good 1" thick carpet of floating Riccia cover a good 1/4 of my tank this summer grow from a cup in three months.
Re: Suggestions for fish to join Herman in his new tank....
I think you're spoilt for choice
Are there any fish you specifically don't like? It sounds like you're well stocked for bottom feeders. You could choose any non-nippy tetra you liked for instance.
I'm finding that Amazon Frogbit (Limnobium laevigatum) grows very rapidly and provides a nice shady environment, as does the ever faithful Hornwort. I'm rather a fan of Java Ferns, and mosses too. (I love bichirs as well, there's something about the non-flowering plants and "primitive" fishes that gets me).
Have you seen The Planted Tank's list of plants? Lots of those won't grow well unless you've got a substrate or CO2, etc, and plenty will get badly knocked about by the plec. But there's a good list. I'd stay clear of Water Violet though. Its a UK native, and I think even a coolwater tank is a little warm for it. I've found it regularly uprooted by my weather loaches too.
I suspect it is peat based. I wasn't intending to adjust the pH by using it, just have something better than pure sand or gravel. It seems quite a few of the various aquasoils seem to have similar effects.
Its almost certainly still too hard/alkaline for tetras- they'd probably look great, but if they're unhappy with the water chemistry that rules them out. They might tolerate it now, but as the buffering effect wears out I'm not sure they'll like it.
The killifish sound interesting. TropicalFishFinder lists hundreds, but doesn't give anything other than a species name for most of them. Any particular species I should look out for?
I'm right in believing that the heater I have isn't going to be powerful enough (25W in a 40cm square aquarium)?
Straight out of the tap my water is about 7.5, and then goes up to 7.8-8 as all the additives evaporate off. I've done a water change within the last 1/2 hour or so, and it hasn't changed from 7.5, so it seems to be stable, just a lower and softer than normal. Its been running with just the shrimp for about a month or so.
"It keeps the water pH slightly acidic and lowers the total hardness. It prepares slightly acidic soft water environment that many tropical fish prefer... Don't mix other products that will enhance pH or GH. The water quality effects of Controsoil will be descended gradually"
I've got a 40cm cube which did house two American-Flag Fish, for about a week until it became very obvious that they were far too active for it, and have been rehomed in the 240L. This is now fully stocked, so mistakes are only going to be rectified by buying another tank. I've thought about a few things, so I'll try and lay out what I've considered, and where I think problems might be.
However I'd still like something to swim about the upper levels of the smaller tank- I have a happily growing colony of juvenile cherry shrimp keeping active in the lower levels, so I'm after something for midwater to surface levels.
Think of it as a Biorb with decent filtration and surface area. ;) I'm well aware that I can't have anything much bigger than 1.5" if it shoals, nor more than 6-8 really. I already have White Clouds in another tank, so I'd like something different. Anything bigger is probably going to be the only occupant, and anything active isn't going to have enough space.
Anyway, the parameters are-
40x40x40 cube (64L), which is probably closer to 58ish given decorations.
I'm in London, but the Oliver Knott substrate has altered the chemistry slightly.
pH: 7.5 Hardness: 9 degrees GH. I'm afraid I still haven't bought a KH test (sorry).
I doubt this will remain the same over the potential life of the fishes, as the substrate stops taking up the dissolved ions. pH is usually 7.8, and hardness 15 degrees.
Filter is an Interpet PF2 internal, rated at 500litres/hour
Currently I have no heating, though I own a 25W which I expect will be underpowered (is the tank shape going to be an advantage here?)
Fairly well planted, and gradually becoming denser. I've got Hygrophila corymbosa "siamensis", Pogostemon helferi, Ceratopteris thalictroides, a couple of small Anubias, Riccia on some slate, a Java Fern, Hornwort and some Limnobium floating on the top, as well as a large piece of bogwood with Java moss spreading up it.
Any advice gratefully received. Even if it's "stick with the shrimp". (Which I have to admit is tempting).
More vegetation didn't really help. That much was obvious very quickly.
I moved the female into the community tank. And she's perfectly happy there, there's plants for her to hide in, and she's nibbling happily at the black beard algae, and not making a nuisance of herself in the least.
The male however seemed to be even more upset that she'd gone, and spent the best part of the week swimming back and forth and apparently picking fights with his reflection. I really don't think he was happy in the cube. I think it was just too small for him- the volume was theoretically fine, but there just wasn't space for him to swim about happily. That recommendation of 3ft+ definitely applies in his case.
So I tried him in the community tank too (there's a good amount of floating vegetation, and places for everyone to spread out if they want to.) Remarkably he seems very happy. He's paired up with the female, and follows her around a bit, but tends to keep near the top at one end of the tank, giving her space to get away if she wants.
Other than that he's been good as gold. No nipping, no chasing. Nothing. Peace and harmony has been restored. I honestly think he just didn't have the swimming space in the cube, and could probably see his reflection too often, and this made him too grumpy by half.
Colour me thoroughly confused. I won't be using the cube for anything that gets much bulkier than a minnow, nor anything that gets as active as a Danio. (I rather like the Least Killifish Heterandria formosus, but we'll see.) Cubes are it would seem, theoretically sensible volumewise, but don't work in practise.
They seem to like the plants- they're certainly happily nibbling at any leaves with algae on. They also like spending time near the surface with the Amazon Frogbit, which is already growing nicely after a fortnight. They'll happily pick at the algae and moss in amongst some Riccia I've tied to a rock at the bottom. Adding more plants is not going to be a problem- I've more hornwort than I quite know what to do with, and I've some Eleocharis I can move, and see if that tickles their fancy.
I looked at the caresheet before I bought them. I really should have paid more attention to that 3 feet+ thing, but I don't know if they're bored, or in too close confinement.
Looking around other websites, the general consensus on temperament seems to be "it varies". It doesn't seem to break down along gender lines.
I'll have a chat with the guys down at the Aquatic Design Centre and see if they have any suggestions, they'll have no problems in convincing me to buy more plants, but I'll hold off on any fish.