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Fish Husbandry in a New Aquarium – Common Aquarium Questions

The Marine Bio staff That Fish Place gets a lot of questions about husbandry of fish and inverts in aquariums. When adding any new inhabitant to an aquarium we recommend researching the conditions, max size, and temperament of the species you are interested in to ensure that it will be a good fit for your tank and the other creatures you may already be keeping. And, as always, quarantining new additions in a separate aquarium is highly recommended.  If in doubt, we’re always here to answer any questions you may have so you and your aquarium continue to stay happy!

 One question recently submitted was from Al in New York:

 I’m going to be starting up my 55 gallon set-up with blue rams. My questions are what will make good tank mates? What water conditioners might I need? Should I use live plants, and if so which do you recommend? How many rams should I add?

 Marine Bio Responded:

There are several fish you can keep with rams. Lemon tetras in a school of 6-10 would be nice. Serpae tetras in a large school of 8 to 10, or Brilliant rasboras in a similar school would also work well. These are fish (introduced gradually) that I would start with once the tank is established. Rams should not be added to the tank for at least 2 to 3 months after the introduction of your first fish. So you can maybe start with 6 Serpaes or Brilliant rasboras, and let the tank run for with nothing else added until the cycle is complete.

During this time, you can certainly add plants if you wish, but do not add more fish. I am a proponent of live plants in aquariums. They make for a beautiful and healthy environment, and many fish will do very well in a planted tank that is similar to their native waters. Plants that you can add may include Rotala, Ruffled swords, Ozelot swords, dwarf sagittaria, and Bacopa. These are all nice plants to start with, and there are others you may prefer, it is all according to taste and the lighting and conditions you present. Just make sure you add Flourish Iron or a similar product to your tank to help your plants to stay healthy.  

After you cycle your tank with the tetras or rasboras, you can add some Corydoras Catfish in school of 5 or 6 to help keep the bottom clean. Some smaller pleco species may also be considered.  Rubbernose plecos, for example, are great algae eaters in planted aquariums, as are Bristlnose and Medusa plecos. Gold nugget plecos and Queen Arabesque plecos would also work, and they are really attractive. When you are ready to add rams, I would think a small group of 5 or 6 would work out great for you, maybe 1-2 males and the rest females.

Water conditions? Well, rams prefer warm, soft water. So you want your temperature to be in the range of 80 to 82 degrees, and your pH should be around 6.5 to 6.8. You may need a buffer to maintain the keep the water at this pH and there are several available to choose from and keep on hand for water changes and maintenance including Seachem Discus Buffer.


  1. avatar

    i wish to build a busy freshwater tank with several types of fish. I am looking at a community with barbs,tetra, loachs, algea eaters, gourami, and if possible a red tail & albino rainbow shark. Could these fish be put together in one tank? How many of each should be put together? my tank is a 50 gallon max. Should I add any live plants? What decor should I include?

  2. avatar

    Most of those fish will be fine in a community setting, barbs and gouramis can get a bit aggressive as they get larger. The Barbs, Tetras, and Gouramis will do best if there are several of each in the tank. I would start with the smallest fish first, the tetras, and slowly stock the tank over a period many weeks. keep a close eye on your water quality, you probably dont want more than a dozen fish total in a 50 gallon tank if you stick to small fish, fewer if you want larger species. Live plants and decorations are up to you, all these fish will be fine in a planted aquarium. Proper lighting and supplements will be required for keeping live plants. There are many choices for decorations, your personal tastes can easily be satisfied.

  3. avatar

    How many small gold fish would survive in a fish tank that takes one gallon.

  4. avatar

    I would recommend a betta instead for a 1 gallon container. It will not be enough even of one small goldfish for an exteded period of time.

  5. avatar

    i need help my water plants keep dying. i don’t know what the problem is my set-up is a 55gal tank with 50/50 reef sun lighting and i even feed the plants maybe it’s my substrate it is to sizes of rocks mixed together.

  6. avatar

    Hi mark, we’ll need more info to rule out some other factors. What kinds of plants are you trying to grow, and what are your current water parameters? What kind of fish are in the tank and how many? How do the plants die, do they rot at the bottom, do they develop yellow leaves, ect? What kind of substrate are you using?

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