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Freshwater Styles

Updated during June, 2024.
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Warning! This article includes personal opinions and speculations!

Chapter shortcuts:

· Introduction to freshwater styles

· Great lake cichlids styles

· Tankbuster monster fishes styles

· Mini monster fishes & oddball fishes styles

· Killitank styles

· Livebearer styles

· Nano styles

· Freshwater invertebrates styles

· Resurrection jars & live food cultures styles

· Biotope styles

· Biotype, biotopy, or environment type styles

· Hardscape only aquascape styles

· Dutch planted aquarium aquascape style

· Nature aquarium, planted aquascape styles

· Paludarium styles

· Dirted aquarium styles

· Mud/clay/earthen pond style

· Modern pond styles

· Goldfishes styles

· Undergravel filter (UGF) styles

· Cave style

· DIY homemade elaborate backgrounds styles

· Factory produced 3D backgrounds & inserts styles

· Suspended styles

· Bare bottomed styles

· Plastic fintastic styles

· Dwarf cichlids styles

· "Average" sized cichlids styles

· Hybrid fishes styles

· Transparent fishes styles

· Corydoras & similar catfishes styles

· Plecos & similar catfishes styles

· Loaches & similar fishes styles

· Barbs & danionins styles

· Rainbowfishes & blue eyes styles

· Saving endangered fishes styles

· Outro comments




Introduction to freshwater styles:

There are different styles of keeping freshwater aquariums and ponds.

Several main styles are based on different ways of thinking, that follow different philosophies and aim towards different goals. The main styles may focus on different aspects, on how to run the aquarium, on what inhabits the aquarium, and/or how the habitats are set up.

The main styles can be further divided into several branch styles, that may be more, or less, extreme. Some of the branch styles share parallel commonality traits, with branch styles from other main styles, and/or may sometimes be identical, making those branch styles part of more than one main style, in a multidimensional web of styles.

Aquarists may also choose to make their own combination styles. Parts of the ideologies from more than one main style, and/or branch style, can sometimes be combined inside the same aquarium, and/or using several connected aquariums, sumps, refugiums, special filtration systems etc.

Most freshwater styles usually have substrate/sand/gravel on the bottom, but there are exceptions. There are some filterless freshwater styles, but most freshwater styles use one, or more, types of filters, for example:

· External canister filters.
· Filter socks, or roller filters.
· Fluidized bed/bead filters.
· Hang on back (HOB) filters.
· Internal cartridge filters.
· Internal matten filters.
· Air driven box filters.
· Normal air driven sponge filters.
· Powerhead driven sponge filters.
· Trickle filters.
· Undergravel filters (UGF).

Different types of filters have their uses, in the hobby and the industry. Streamers, wavemakers and airstones in addition to filters, or as an alternative to filters, may also be used if the inhabitants prefer more water circulation and highly oxygenated water. Unfiltered freshwater styles with stagnant water also have their places. Most freshwater styles, usually, do not use capped dirt, but dirted aquarium styles do.

If it works, it's not an issue about who's doing it right, or who's doing it wrong. It's about recognizing that there are lots of different ways to do something. In some situations it is possible to combine different freshwater styles. Aquarists and other aquarium keepers/observers have different personalites and experiences. There are lots of different combinations of freshwater styles, that have potential to work, that can provide a healthy environment to live in, for fishes (and/or other inhabitants) to thrive.

Some aquarists are set in their ways and go all in with one style, or a few similar/compatible styles. Other aquarists remain much more open and like to use different styles for different projects, but it is still common for most aquarists to have one, or a few, favorite styles.

Usually, something (either good, or bad) may happen, that from that point forward sets a psycological personal preference/obsession etc. This may last a lifetime in some people, or maybe only a short period of time, depending on the individual person's personality and what events may continue to develop. Interaction with other aquarists, visiting public aquariums, viewing impactful aquaristic videos, and/or reading aquarium books and so on, may either change, or confirm, your choice of favorite freshwater styles. You may also want to try experiments and tweaks to your own setups, to see what works best for you.

All freshwater styles don't work for everyone, on all occasions, in every circumstance. There are plenty of examples of people with bad experiences, from trying one, or several, freshwater styles. Such experiences, that unfortunately ended badly for them, often make those people afraid, and/or repulsed, by all similar freshwater styles, and/or the entire hobby and industry.

In redeemable cases, some people may try other freshwater styles, or get some good advice from someone. Perhaps, those people may do a lot better with those other freshwater styles, or the advice may help them to succeed in becoming happy aquarists. However, in less fortunate cases, the people may give up, become bitter and, perhaps, start spreading uncompromising anti petkeeping propaganda.

It is human nature to blame the freshwater styles when things go wrong, but sometimes its more of a compatibility issue, or an accident. Such issues and disasters may, or may not, have been preventable, and/or predictable, with common sense, and/or long time experience.

The various issues and disasters may be related to, for example:

  • Not understanding the basics of the nitrogen cycle.

  • Not understanding how gas exchange works in aquariums/ponds. (Especially oxygenation and aeration.)

  • The local tap water getting flushed with chemicals. (Chlorine/chloramines etc.)

  • Hurricanes/storms/flooding/snow that cause electricity black outs. (Power failure.)

  • Emersed grown plants that "melt" after a while, when planted under water, since they do this to change into submersed grown new leaves, to become better suited for the new conditions.

  • A neighbor that feeds the fishes way too much during a vacation.

  • A canister filter starts leaking, perhaps caused by a cat, or dog.

  • Accidentally buying sick/unhealthy fishes.

  • Predatory monster fishes eating their tankmates.

  • Tankbusters growing too big for their home.

Choosing one, or more, freshwater styles that are highly compatible with your local circumstances, your way of life and your personality, can help you succeed and feel more motivated as an aquarist and as a person.


I suggest to ask yourself:

  • What are your goals with the specific aquatic setup?

    Is it for the sake of your personal feelings, someone elses feelings, economical reasons, education, and/or fish breeding etc.

  • Which styles can help enhance feelings and emotions that you like?

    Happiness/joy, relaxation/tranquility, amazement/awe, satisfaction/contentment, and/or inspiration etc.

  • Which styles give you the best emotions when simply observing?

  • Which styles do you think fit your personality to maintain?

    Some people may enjoy pruning live plants and dosing plant nutrients meticulously. Other people may prefer tinkering with technical equipment. Breeders may enjoy purifying/creating color/fin varieties of fishes, and/or shrimps, by selecting/sorting the young as they grow and gradually develop, then spawning them as adults to continue with the next generation. You may be into doing something else, or perhaps prefer doing only a little maintenance, while letting nature take its course and do most of the job for you?

  • Which sudden "influences" can be expected during a few years?

    • Who takes care of your system if you get sick, or go on vacation?

    • Do you sometimes have weather disasters?

    • Do you sometimes have temporary tap/well water issues?

    • Are there any children, itchy fingered people, wild animals, and/or domestic animals, that may gain access to your system?

  • Which styles do you have a fair chance of succeding with?

    Take in consideration your budget, space available, prior experiences, electricity reliability, volume of water in the system, quality and quantity of water available for water changes, time constraints, surrounding temperature etc.

  • Do you enjoy difficult challenges, or do you prefer safer bets?

  • Which styles do you really want try, that you have not tried before?

  • Are there any styles you are currently using and want to continue using, or styles you used in the past that you want to try again?

Warning! Some species/genera are banned/restricted, in several countries in the world and several states in the USA. Before acquiring fishes, other animals, or plants, make sure they are legal to keep in the part of the world where you live.


Related external links and references to this chapter:



The chapters below describe examples of various freshwater styles.




Great lake cichlids styles:

Aquariums and ponds with great lake cichlids in the aquarium hobby/industry are often populated with cichlids, usually from Lake Malawi, and/or Lake Tanganyka, and/or Lake Victoria, and/or various lakes in the African Rift Valley.

Central American cichlids from Lake Nicaragua and its surroundings may also be kepts in similiar ways, as the African cichlids mentioned above. Lake Nicaragua in Central America, although on a different continent, share some similar traits with the African Rift Valley lakes.

Some cichlids, usually males, may sometimes digg, make breeding pits, or excavate caves under rocks, or move sand from shells etc.

In aquariums, the cichlids may either be separated, or grouped, by size and compatibility, and/or their behavior and their preferred natural environment type, or may be separated by lake, or even separated by each specific location in a specific lake, that they originate from.

Some other fishes, for example catfishes, and/or loaches, and/or labeos, and/or eels, and/or puffers, may optionally also get to be permanent guests. Some of these permanent guests may originate from the great lakes, while some of them don't. A few cichlids from other places may also become tankmates, if they can adapt to similar water and are otherwise compatible.


  • Community Central American & African great lake cichlids style.

  • Community Lake Nicaragua cichlids style.

  • Community Rift Valley & East African lake cichlids style.

  • Community Lake Edward cichlids style.

  • Community Lake Malawi cichlids style.

  • Community Lake Tanganyika cichlids style.

  • Community Lake Victoria cichlids style.

  • "Haps" cichlids style.

    Focusing on Haplochromis and similar cichlids from Africa.

  • Mbuna cichlids style.

    Focusing on mbunas from Lake Malawi.

  • Tropheus cichlids shoal/school style.

    Focusing on Tropheus from Lake Tanganyika.

  • Sardine cichlids shoal/school style.

    Focusing on Cyprichromis from Lake Tanganyika. This style is both a variant of dwarf cichlids style and also a variant of the great lake cichlids style.

  • "Shellies" style.

    Focusing on shell dwelling cichlids, and/or shell spawning cichlids. Most "shellies" originate from Lake Tanganyika and a few "shellies" originate from Lake Malawi. This style is both a variant of dwarf cichlids style and also a variant of the great lake cichlids style.

  • Peacock cichlid breeding group style.

    Focusing on keeping both males and females of a specific species/variant of peacock cichlid (Aulonocara), from Lake Malawi. Dominant adult males may sometimes become aggressive, both towards other males and females (if the females are not ready to spawn). It is, generally, better to keep the breeding group in a larger tank, with some hiding places and also be prepared to intervene. I suggest to be prepared to sometimes move fishes to an other tanks, if needed.

    It is your choice if you want to move the victim(s), or the aggressor. However, if you move a dominant male, if there is also one, or more, other adult males in the tank, one of those other males may take over as the new dominant male and color up in the tank. It may become problematic to reintroduce the old dominant male back into the tank again after that point. Apart from normal level of aggression, if a female is "holding" eggs or fry, since they are mouthbrooders, they may get bullied more than usual during that time of parental care, when they are more vulnerable because of lack of eating food during that time, which may make them weaker. Sometimes aquarists "strip" the females of their brood, other times they prefer to move the females with their brood to an other tank.


  • Peacock cichlids males style.

    Focusing on keeping only males of various colorful species/variants of peacock cichlids (Aulonocara) from Lake Malawi. When there are no females around, the behaviour of the males is, generally, less aggressive towards each other, making it easier to keep the males together without females. Adult male peacock cichlids are generally more colorful than female peacock cichlids. Dominant adult males are generally much more colorful than subdued/oppressed males. With only males in a tank, it is possible to keep different species of peacock cichlids together, without accidental hybridization.

  • "Frontosa" shoal, Lake Tanganyika tankbuster cichlids style.

    Focusing on Cyphotilapia sp. from Lake Tanganyika. This style is both a specialized tankbuster style and also a variant of the great lake cichlids style.

  • Tanganyika tilapia, Lake Tanganyika tankbuster cichlid style.

    Focusing on Tanganyika tilapia (Oreochromis tanganicae) from Lake Tanganyika. This style is both a specialized tankbuster style and also a variant of the great lake cichlids style.

  • Giant cichlid, Lake Tanganyika tankbuster cichlid style.

    Focusing on giant cichlid (Boulengerochromis microlepis) from Lake Tanganyika. This style is both a specialized tankbuster style and also a variant of the great lake cichlids style.

  • Wolf cichlid, Central American tankbuster cichlid style.

    Focusing on wolf cichlid (Parachromis dovii) from Lake Nicaragua and surrounding lakes. This style is both a specialized tankbuster style and also a variant of the great lake cichlids style.

  • Petrochromis cichlids shoal/school style.

    Focusing on Petrochromis from Lake Tanganyika. Usually, a single species of Petrochromis is kept per tank. This style is a specialized borderline tankbuster style, but also a variant of the great lake cichlids style.

  • Community with large Malawi cichlids style.

    Focusing on several different species of large cichlids from Lake Malawi. This style is a specialized borderline tankbuster style, but also a variant of the great lake cichlids style.

Related external links and references to this chapter:



Tankbuster monster fishes styles:

Tankbusters are monster fishes that have potential to grow big/huge, and/or may be very predatory/agressive. As adults they do not fit into most normal sized tanks. Depending on the context, a monster tank can refer to an aquarium with monster fish(es), but alternatively it may also refer to a very big aquarium (a monster sized tank), or both references may be implied at the same time, which would make it a monster sized tank with monster fishe(es). Monster fishes in a pond may be called pond monsters, if they are among the largest fishes/animals in that pond.

Some young tankbusters grow up, from small to big, very quickly, while other tankbusters grow slower, but eventuelly grow huge because of a long lifespan with steady growth over many years. Tankbusters normally grow big as long as no fatal accidents occur to them assuming they are provided enough appropriate food, care and good water quality etc.

A single big aquarium, and/or pond, is not always enough, when keeping tankbusters. Fishkeepers with several tankbusters often have an additional need for multiple grow out aquariums, quarantine tanks etc. There is sometimes "fish tetris" going on, which means moving fishes depending on their size, growth rate and temperament etc.

Fishes that get bullied, and/or become injured, may on occasion need to recover in a separate aquarium. The bullying can sometimes also be dealt with by putting the bully in a temporary "time out", by moving the bully into an emergency aquarium, or making a separated partition in the aquarium. Moving the bully to a bigger aquarium/pond may also eventually be needed, so plan ahead. If you don't have the space, try to seek help and advice from experienced monster fiskeepers, fish rescues, pet shops, and/or public aquariums.

Warning! Some species of monster fishes are banned/restricted, in several countries in the world and several states in the USA. Please do adequate research before you acquire any monster fishes.

Tankbusters in general are probably best kept by public aquariums, and/or extreme enthusiasts, with several large/huge aquariums, and/or big ponds, devoted to monster fishes. There are some exceptions, since some species can be kept temporarily, or for a long time, even by ordinary aquarists. However, there are also other species that are "very difficult/problematic" to take care of, and/or to transport.

In my opinion, even though it may be tempting to try, it may be "better" to avoid trying to keep "very difficult/problematic" tankbusters i captivity, for now, since the chances of success are low at the moment. Learn from other people's mistakes and maybe the situation changes after a few years, or decades, into the future. Progress from biological researchers, and/or wealthy fish enthusiasts, and/or technological progress, and/or shared knowledge from videos posted by fish rescues on YouTube, may perhaps find a way, eventually, though trial and error.


  • Community tankbuster style.

    Multiple different tankbusters can sometimes be kept together.

  • Freshwater stingrays, tankbuster style.

    Usually, focusing on species, color variants and hybrids of the genus Potamotrygon. Potamotrygon are originally native to South America, but, generally, the most desirable ones in the hobby/industry are spectacular color variants, that have been developed by selective breeding in captivity.

    There are some other "freshwater" stingrays native to Asia. The ones native to Asia are not nearly as popular in the hobby/industry. Some species are still kept by stingray enthusiasts, but most of the species native to Asia may prefer brackish water, and/or grow too big to manage, and/or have dull colors, and/or have long fragile tails, and/or may have other issues that make them less suitable, or generally less desirable, to keep in captivity as pets, compared to Potamotrygon.


  • Giant gouramis, tankbuster style.

  • Oscar cichlids, "puppydog" tankbuster cichlid style.

    Focusing on species/variants of the genus Astronotus, native to South America, as interactive wet pets. There are many different color variants of Astronotus ocellatus that have been developed by selective breeding in captivity.

  • "Frontosa" shoal, Lake Tanganyika tankbuster cichlids style.

    Focusing on one, or more, species/variants of the genus Cyphotilapia. There are currently two scientifically named species and they are both native/endemic to Lake Tanganyika.

    1. One of the species is Cyphotilapia frontosa, commonly called frontosa / frontosa cichlid / front cichlid / humphead cichlid. Cyphotilapia frontosa is native/endemic to the northern half of Lake Tanganyika.

    2. The other species is Cyphotilapia gibberosa, commonly called gibberosa / gibberosa cichlid. Cyphotilapia gibberosa is native/endemic to the southern half of Lake Tanganyika.

    However, in Lake Tanganyika there are several local populations of both species. These local populations are (more, or less) closely related. It can be difficult to exactly identify them, but general appearance, color and full grown size can be slightly different, when comparing separate populations with eachother. There are some aquarists who diligently keep the wild caught populations and breeding lines separated from each other, in the aquarium hobby/industry, while other people mix them. Keeping a record of the initial location of where your Cyphotilapia originate from is generally recommended. There are also Cyphotilapia of undocumented origin, and/or various hybrids and mixed population variants.


  • Tanganyika tilapia, Lake Tanganyika tankbuster cichlid style.

    Focusing on Tanganyika tilapia (Oreochromis tanganicae) native/endemic to Lake Tanganyika.

  • Giant cichlid, Lake Tanganyika tankbuster cichlid style.

    Focusing on giant cichlid (Boulengerochromis microlepis) native/endemic to Lake Tanganyika.

  • Wolf cichlid, Central American tankbuster cichlid style.

    Focusing on wolf cichlid (Parachromis dovii) native to Lake Nicaragua and surrounding lakes.

  • Turquoise cichlid, Central/South American tankbuster cichlid style.

    Focusing on turquoise cichlid / umbee cichlid (Kronoheros umbriferus) native to eastern Panama and central and western Colombia.

  • Red terror, South American tankbuster cichlid style.

    Focusing on red terror / guayas cichlid / festae cichid (Mesoheros festae) native to Pacific coastal rivers in Ecuador and northern Peru.

  • Basses, and/or peacock basses, tankbuster style.

  • Varius large eels, tankbuster style.

    Focusing on one, or more, big/long eel-shaped fishes, for example:

    · Anguilla anguilla   (European eel)
    · Gymnothorax polyuranodon   (Freshwater moray)
    · Mastacembelus armatus   (Zig-zag eel)
    · Mastacembelus erythrotaenia   (Fire eel)
    · Synbranchus marmoratus   (Marbled/marmorated swamp eel)


  • Electric eels, tankbuster style.

    There are currently three recognized species of electric eels:

    · Electrophorus electricus   (The most well known electric eel.)
    · Electrophorus varii   (Vari’s electric eel)
    · Electrophorus voltai   (Named in honor of Alessandro Volta.)


  • Large electric catfishes, tankbuster style.

  • Huge gluttonous monster catfishes, tankbuster style.

    Focusing on giant monster catfishes, for example:

    · Bagarius yarrelli   (Goonch / giant devil catfish)
    · Brachyplatystoma filamentosum   (Piraíba)
    · Brachyplatystoma rousseauxii   (Gilded catfish / dourada)
    · Pangasius sanitwongsei   (Giant pangasius / paroon shark)
    · Silurus glanis   (Wels catfish)
    · Wallagonia leerii   (Great Tapah / helicopter catfish)
    · Zungaro zungaro   (Gilded catfish / jau / manguruyu / black manguruyu)


  • Large gluttonous monster catfishes, tankbuster style.

  • Large plecos style.

    Focusing on big suckermouthed armored catfishes native to South America. Most species of the family Loricariidae stay small/medium sized, but some species are known to grow significantly larger, for example:

    · Acanthicus adonis   (Adonis pleco)
    · Acanthicus hystrix L155   (Lyre tail pleco)
    · Hypostomus luteus   (Golden sailfin pleco)
    · Hypostomus plecostomus   (Plecostomus)
    · Pseudacanthicus pirarara L025   (Scarlet cactus pleco)
    · Pseudacanthicus pitanga L024, LDA118   (Red fin cactus pleco)
    · Pseudacanthicus sp. L063   (Brown finned cactus pleco)
    · Pseudacanthicus sp. L185   (Evil cactus pleco)
    · Pseudorinelepis sp. L095   (Orange cheek pinecone pleco)
    · Pterygoplichthys gibbiceps L165   (Leopard sailfin pleco)
    · Pterygoplichthys joselimaianus L001   (Gold spot sailfin pleco)
    · Pterygoplichthys pardalis   (Amazon sailfin pleco)
    · Panaque armbrusteri L027, LDA077   (Tapajos royal pleco)
    · Panaque sp. L191   (Dull eyed royal pleco)
    · Panaque nigrolineatus L190   (Royal pleco)
    · Panaque nigrolineatus laurafabianae L330   (Watermelon pleco)
    · Panaque schaeferi LDA065, L203   (Titanic pleco)
    · Panaque titan L418   (Shampupa royal pleco)

  • Pacus, tankbuster style.

  • Piranhas school, tankbuster style.

  • Arrowanas, tankbuster style.

  • Datnoid (Datnioides), tankbuster style.

  • Wolf fishes (Hoplias), tankbuster style.

  • Arapaimas, tankbuster style.

  • Gars, tankbuster style.

  • Lungfishes, tankbuster style.

  • Large knife fishes, tankbuster style.

  • Large freshwater pufferfishes, tankbuster style.

    Focusing on big puffers, or a single puffer, for example:
    · Tetraodon lineatus   (Fahaka pufferfish)
    · Tetraodon mbu   (Mbu pufferfish)
    · Tetraodon pustulatus   (Redline pufferfish / Cross River pufferfish)

  • Large pike cichlids, tankbuster style.

  • Large bichirs, tankbuster style.

  • Large snakeheads, tankbuster style.

Related external links and references to this chapter



Mini monster fishes & oddball fishes styles:

Mini monster fishes don't grow extremely big, like tankbusters do, but some mini monster fishes may still act like bullies, and/or may be very gluttonous/predatory. As adults they may still fit into medium/large sized aquariums. However, they may perhaps not be considered good tankmates with small community fishes, since the mini monster fishes may view them as prey. Mini monster fishes may perhaps, or perhaps not, be good tankmates to other fishes. Often it may depend on if a mini monster fish can, or can't, fit a specific community fish into its mouth, or may, or may not, view that fish as prey, or competition for dominance.

"Strange" fishes out of the ordinary, that seem very odd, unusual, and/or mind-boggling to most people, can be called oddball fishes.

Oddball fishes do not have a size requirement, or size limit. However, this chapter (that you are reading now) will attempt to avoid focusing on huge tankbuster oddball fishes, very tiny nano oddball fishes, transparent oddball fishes and oddball loaches, since all those types of oddball fishes are instead included in other chapters, but some of the links and references will still include some of them.

There is a generous overlap between mini monster fishes and oddball fishes. Many, but not all, mini monster fishes can also be called oddball fishes, but there are also oddball fishes that are not mini monster fishes.

Some mini monster fishes, and/or oddball fishes, can be kept in community aquariums, while others are better kept alone, or only together with robust tankmates.

Mini monster fishes and oddball fishes may, or may not, have special needs regarding feeding, and/or other special needs.

Some mini monster fishes and oddball fishes may superficially resemble something else, such as the looks of larger well known tankbusters, or leaves, or various animals, or mythical creatures such as dragons, but they may not always behave in the way you might expect. If you love monster fishes, but don't have enough space to keep adult tankbusters, then mini monster fishes, and/or oddball fishes, may, perhaps, be the way to go as smaller alternatives.

Warning! Some species of mini monster fishes are banned/restricted, in several countries in the world and several states in the USA. Before acquiring mini monster fishes, make sure they are legal to keep in the part of the world where you live.


  • Various mini monster fishes, community style.

  • Various oddball fishes, community style.

  • Gulper catfish (Asterophysus batrachus) style.

  • Small/medium sized electric catfishes style.

  • Small/medium sized predatory/scavenging catfishes style.

    · Bloch's catfish   (Pimelodus blochii)
    · Pictus cat / pictus catfish   (Pimelodus pictus)
    · Smaller squeakers and upside-down catfishes.   (Mochokidae)

  • Bucktooth tetra (Exodon paradoxus) style.

  • African freshwater butterfly fish (Pantodon buchholzi) style.

  • Small/medium sized freshwater elephantfishes (Mormyridae) style.

    · Blunt-jawed elephantnose   (Campylomormyrus tamandua)
    · Peters' elephant nose   (Gnathonemus petersii)

  • Small/medium sized headstanders (Anostomidae) style.

    · Marbled headstander   (Abramites hypselonotus)
    · Spotted/pearl headstander   (Chilodus punctatus)
    · Striped headstander   (Anostomus anostomus)
    · Ternetzi headstander   (Anostomus ternetzi)

  • Hingemouth (Phractolaemus ansorgii) style.

  • Freshwater pipefishes style.

  • South American leaffishes (Polycentridae) style.

  • Climbing gouramies / climbing perches (Anabantidae) style.

    · Leopard bush fish   (Ctenopoma acutirostre)

  • Clouded archerfish (Toxotes blythii) style.

  • Small/medium sized freshwater puffer fishes style.

  • Small/medium sized knife fishes styles.

    · African brown knifefish   (Xenomystus nigri)

  • Small/medium sized pike cichlids (Crenicichla) style.

    · Regan's pike cichlid   (Crenicichla regani)

  • Small/medium sized polypterids (Polypteridae) style.

    · Some smaller species/subspecies of bichirs.   (Polypterus)
    · Ropefish / reedfish   (Erpetoichthys calabaricus)


  • Dwarf snakeheads style.

  • Gudgeon style.

Related external links and references to this chapter:



Killitank styles:

Some killies may be kept in community aquariums, but most species of killies are best kept one species to each tank. Most killifish enhusiasts develop multiple tank syndrome (MTS). Breeders can send eggs through the "snailmail" to each other. Spawning mops, made from acrylic yarn and a floating cork (or a piece of styrofoam), is commonly used for breeding killies in captivity. The killies may also choose to spawn among the plants, peat, leaves, or coconut husk fibers etc.

It is strongly recommended that the tanks should be covered somehow, to prevent the killies from jumping out.

A few of the commonly available killies in pet stores:

· Blue lyretail (Fundulopanchax gardneri)
· Clown killi / banded panchax (Epiplatys annulatus)
· Golden wonder killifish (Aplochelius lineatus "gold")
· The common lyretail (Aphyosemion australe)


Killitank branch styles:

  • Densely planted killitank style.

    Some aquariums with killies are set up with very dense plantation, usually with java moss, or similar plants. Usually, the plants fill/cover about 80 percent of the tank water volume.

  • Blackwater killitank style.

    Some aquariums with killies are set up with fallen leaves, peat and/or coconut husk fibers. This style usually has a strong yellow/brown hue to the water, due to the tannins.

  • Spawning mop killitank style.

    Some aquariums with killies are set up with mops of acrylic yarn. The mops may, optionally, be tied to something that floats, such as a wine cork, or a ping pong ball, or a suitable piece of styrofoam.

  • Tanganyika killitank style.

    Aquariums with Tanganyika killifish (Lamprichthys tanganicanus) are, usually, set up with plenty of flat stones, since the females prefer to scatter their eggs in stone crevices when they spawn, although java moss may suffice as a substitute. The water and environment share similarities with aquariums for cichlids from Lake Tanganyika.

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Livebearer styles:

Endler's, guppies, mollies, swordtails, platies, limias etc. Most livebearer enhusiasts develop multiple tank syndrome (MTS), keeping and breeding different color varieties, fin varieties, wild strains,or mutts, hybrids etc.


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Nano styles:

Small aquariums are usually called nano tanks, or nano aquariums, when the inhabitants in them also remain small. Nano fishes, also known as micro fishes, are small fishes, which do not grow as large, even at adult age, as most other common aquarium fishes. This general stereotype is not limited to specific species, but consist of any and all species that fit the size requirement of this stereotype. Nano fishes can be kept either in nano tanks, or in medium sized tanks, or in larger tanks, or in ponds etc.

It is generally not recommended to keep nano fishes together with large fishes, since it is a common occurence that large fishes may eat nano fishes, or bully the nano fishes. However, there are some exceptions, since some species of "nano friendly" large fishes don't seem to bother with most adult nano fishes.

If you want to breed and raise nano fishes, then their eggs, and/or fry, should be taken into account, when selecting tankmates. Otherwise, the eggs, and/or fry, may be seen as food by hungry/aggressive tankmates.

Various small invertebrates (such as for example small shrimps, and/or snails), can be kept by themselves, or together with nano fishes, in nano tanks, or in tanks of other sizes.

African dwarf clawed frogs can be kept by themselves, or together with most adult nano fishes, in nano tanks, or in tanks of other sizes. However, fry and very small nano fishes may get eaten by the African dwarf clawed frogs. Make sure that the lid on the tank is very secure, as African dwarf clawed frogs may try to escape.


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Freshwater invertebrates styles:

Invertebrates that are commonly kept in freshwater aquariums and sold as pets (and/or cleanup crew), in the aquarium trade are mainly crustaceans (shrimps, crabs etc.) and molluscs (snails, mussels etc.).

If you want to keep other types of invertebrates as pets, or cultivate them as live food, in freshwater aquariums, (such as for example worms, or insect nymphs/larvae), then you probably have to catch them yourself in nature, or buy species that may be sold as bait, and/or as live food. For info about such invertebrates, go to:
Resurrection jars & live food cultures styles


Warning! Some species/genera of invertebrates are banned/restricted, in several countries in the world and several states in the USA. Before acquiring any invertebrates, make sure they are legal to keep in the part of the world where you live.


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Resurrection jars & live food cultures styles:

A typical aquatic resurrection jar is a container with water, organic material and various organisms. After collecting some material in nature (or from another source), including a starting culture of organisms, the organisms can then be cultivated in the container. As time moves on it can be interesting to see what grows up and/or multiplies in the container, both short term and long term.

After a period of time, the organisms may be used as live food for fishes, and/or food for other aquatic pets. People may also like to study the whole process and the organisms for other reasons.

Some peple create closed sealed aquatic ecospheres, where the objective is to let a balanced ecosystem develop without any outside interference, other than light/darkness and heat/cold from the outside, unless there is some type of emergency etc. If you decide to not limit yourself in that way, you have freedom to do whatever types of adjustments you want at any time. Lessons in biology and ecology can be learned either way, from observing the development and theorizing about the processes involved.

A different type of developing live aquatic cultures is by tubbing. There are several ways of tubbing. One way of tubbing is to start with a tub/bucket/barrel of simply clean water, then watch the process go through several development stages, or you can choose to set up the tubs in other ways, according to your preferences and what organisms you hope/plan to cultivate. As an experiment, you may place one, or more, open tubs outside. Observe and study what naturally falls into the tubs and how aquatic life arrives and develops in the water. However, if you live in a place where this might pose a danger, such as if there are mosquitos carrying malaria, then it is probably better not do this.

Some of the organisms may perhaps grow large enough to be easily identified and studied without using any equipment. The smaller organisms may require tools such as (for example) a magnifying glass, or a microscope, or a camera with a macro lens, to study them in detail.

The cultures may also be further sorted and purified in several stages over time, if the goal is to to grow and multiply a special type of organism (a monoculture of one type of organism), while avoiding others. Sometimes, it is also a good idea to separate different types of cultures, if they represent organisms from different steps of the food chain. One type of organism may be needed to regulary feed to the other, to provide a steady live food supply.

If you intend to utilize aquatic resurrection jars (or other live aquatic cultures), to feed small fish fry with live food, then try to avoid species among the organisms that may become a danger to the fish fry. To do so, you can start by sieveing/sifting the organisms and water through sieves/nets/strainers. Use different sized holes/mesh sizes to searate the different sizes of organisms. Arrange the organisms by size and/or specifically collect congregations of specific organisms. A baited trap, or a small spot of light in darkess, or a turkey baster, or a small net, or a siphon using a narrow hose into a separate container, are some of the commonly used methods to collect such congregations.

Besides the ones you can easily find in nature and collect yourself, there are also several types of other tiny aquatic organims from various parts of the world, that can be bought and raised as pets, and/or as live food. Some common types are available as live cultures, and/or as dry eggs/cysts in pet shops, and/or toy stores. Less common types may still be available from other aquarists that culture them, or online retailers, if you search for them.

Brine shrimp (Artemia, including hybrid "Sea Monkeys") live in saltwater. BBS (baby brine shimp, the nauplii of Artemia) is hatched in saltwater, but can survive for several hours in freshwater. BBS is very commonly used as food for small fishes and fry. BBS and adult brine shrimp can be fed to freshwater fishes, brackish water fishes and marine saltwater fishes. Even though brine shrimp are not actually freshwater dwellers, there are some species of fairy shrimp that do live in freshwater, that share some similarities with brine shrimp.


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Biotope styles:

Please, notice the second "o" in the word biotope. All fishes and plants need to originate from the same very limited geographical region. (For example from the same location next to a specific part of the coast in a specific lake, or the same part of a river system etc.) They should all together, as closely as practially possible, mimic a natural wild population in a specific real biotope in nature. Some biotope enthusiasts go even further, by choosing only specific snails, shrimps, frogs, fallen terrestial plant leaves and submerged wood, stones, sand, clay and so on, that all originate from the same geographical place.

Some biotope enthusiasts and aquarists travel and go on collection/observation trips in the wild, to personally experience real underwater biotopes. If you prefer not do so yourself, there may be photos in books and magazines, documentary video footage in nature movies and clips on YouTube, from various real underwater biotopes, that you may want to study. However, these might be generally in favor of underwater biotopes with unusually good visibility, combined with (preferably) relatively easy access.

Natural biotopes in the wild usually change troughout the seasons, it may be a little, or it may be a lot. Some species migrate, or have a short life cycle, and/or have found various interesting ways to adapt, reproduce and evolve as species. Many places in the wild (and time periods of specific places) remain mostly undocumented, if they are not suited for photography/videography due to low visibility underwater, or various dangerous/troublesome/expensive circumstanses.

In a biotope aquarium, the water parameters, water flow, water tint (color hue) and perhaps suspended solids, should preferably somewhat mimic the original biotope in the wild. However, you don't always need to go all the way. For example, if the biotope in the wild has a strong tint in the water, then a moderate tint may be enough in the aquarium, so you can still see your aquatic inhabitants. The pH of the water in a blackwater biotope in the wild may periodically be very acidic, but a moderately acidic pH is usually safer in a blackwater biotope aquarium, when mimicking that same biotope.

Try to find out what important/interesting factors other people may have discovered, both from expeditions into the wild and from keeping specific fishes, amphibians, plants, algae, invertebrates (and so on) in captivity. Then, make up your own mind how to arrange your freshwater biotope set-up. Trial and error may sometimes still be a part of the experience.

If practically possible, it is an authentic advantage (but not a necessity), to use algae and other microorganisms collected from the same original biotope. Biotope aquascapes should mimic nature and look very realistic with a bit of randomness and, usually, some algae and decaying plant matter, if it also exists in the specific natural biotope being simulated.


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Biotype, biotopy, or environment type styles:

Please, notice the letter "y" in the words biotype and biotopy. There is confusion about exactly what to call this niche of naturalistic environment type concept. The words and terms to describe this concept in English are not fully mainstream popularized and fixed yet. Unfortunately, the words to call this concept in English and other languages can be very confusing. It is because of other biological meanings of the same words and also other words that sound almost the same. The concept of a biotype aquarium is similar in many ways to a biotope aquarium. Biotype aquariums are very often confused with a biotope aquariums. Probably, only a minority of aquarists are aware of the concept of biotype aquariums, and/or the geographical limitations of biotope aquariums. Many people confuse them, including many great aquarists and biologists.

A biotype aquarium may, perhaps, also be called:

· Biotopy aquarium.
· Ecological aquarium.
· Ecological niche aquarium.
· Environment type aquarium.
· Naturalistic ecology type aquarium.
· General ecological habitat type aquarium.

In a biotype aquarium, or whatever you prefer to call it, atleast the majority of the fishes and plants should preferably originate from a similar type of water habitat in the wild, with similar type of water parameters and a generally similar naturalistic ecological habitat niche environment type theme. If they do not originate from such an environment, it may still be allowed to include them as replacements, if they look, and/or behave, somewhat similar to other species that may live in the type of environment you want to simulate/emulate.

The idea is to stock and decorate a biotype aquarium in a way so that it shares some similarities with a biotope aquarium, even though it may not officially be eligible to be called a biotope aquarium, or does not stricty follow biotope aquascaping competition rules. A biotype aquarium may suffer severe point deduction, or disqualification, as penalty for geographically linked deviations, if submitted to a biotope aquascaping competition. If it would not suffer any such point deduction, or disqualification, then it would be qualified to be called a biotope aquarium and it is then recommended to call it that, instead of a biotype aquarium, since a biotype aquarium is less distinctly geographically defined, compared to a biotope aquarium.

There is no definite requirement for a biotype aquarium to look good (aesthetically pleasing to the eye), but there is also no rule against it, so each aquarist is free to choose either way. The purpose of a biotype aquarium may differ depending on your priorities.

If the goal happen to include having a beautifully planted layout, a biotype aquarium may share many commonalities with a nature aquarium, planted aquascape style. It is possible for a biotype aquarium to also be a nature aquarium. However, a biotype aquarium may not always use aquarium plants, especially if it is intended to mimick an environment type that may perhaps be without plants in the wild. If the main purpose of the biotype aquarium is to breed fishes, their natural spawning behaviour may get triggered, thanks to the similar conditions in the biotype aquarium compared to their natural environment in the wild.

In a biotype aquarium there is not much emphasis on whatever actual geographical position the inhabitants, or decoration (such as plants, wood, various botanicals, rocks, sand and gravel), originate from, unless you yourself choose to limit yourself to make it so. Fishes, plants, amphibians, invertebrates, botanicals (and so on) can be mixed, if they all originate from a general type of natural habitat environment, that somewhat resemble each other's natural environment, even if they originate from different rivers, lakes, or continents. Even if the organisms may be endemic to different locations in nature, if the natural habitats in the different locations have enough similarities, it is allowed to put the organisms together in a biotype aquarium in captivity, if they are otherwise compatible enough in general.

If you so choose, you can still optionally limit yourself to a specific continent, lake, river system, or other general broad geographical zone. However, such limitations are volontary, not mandatory, since the idea with a biotype aquarium, unlike a biotope aquarium, is that the inhabitants and decorations do not need to originate from the same location. It is your own choice, if you voluntarily want to limit yourself geographically (and if so, to what extent, or if you only allow a few exceptions), or if you prefer to remain free of such constraints, when setting up and stocking a biotype aquarium.

For example, in a very big lake there are probably many distinctly separated habitats, with populations av organisms isolated in specific parts of the lake. In a biotype aquarium, it is permissible to mix species, and/or local population variants, from different parts of the lake, that do not naturally live together in the same exact habitat location in the wild. It is ok to mix fishes from different biotopes in a biotype aquarium, as long as they originate from a generally similar type of environment. A few exceptions can also be allowed, to accomodate fishes that may not fit this profile, as long as they can still adapt to live and thrive in the conditions present in a specific biotype aquarium.

The environment in a biotype aquarium should, preferably, somewhat visually resemble that same mutual general type of natural environment. There is no geographical emphasis on the origin of the sand, gravel, wood, and/or other decorations. It is possible to keep fancy breeding strains and hybrids in a biotype aquarium, even though they may not exist in nature. It is ok, as long as their different ancestors originated from that similar type of environment, but a few exceptions may also be allowed. It may be generally preferable if most of the fishes and other inhabitants look somewhat natural, but it is not necessary, so exceptions are allowed.

Parameters such as the water temperature, water flow and general environment type can be important. It is possibe to mix tropical and subtropical species, but it is generally not recommended. Most subtropical species have adapted to a cool season during part of the year, as part of the cycle of the seasons, but subtropical species can usually coexist with tropical species, in warm conditions, during the warm season, if there is high enough oxygen gas O2 concentration in the water.

Without chilly water for part of the year, subtropical species may suffer various ailments and behavioral consequenses. It may depend on the exact species, gender and age, what they may become susceptible to, but it may eventually include reproduction related problems, higher risk of contracting diseases and shortened lifespan etc.

However, some species that were originally subtropical have been raised in tropical conditions on fishfarms, or may have lived as feral populations in tropical environments, for many generations. This may lead to them partially adapting/evolving to survive in tropical conditions. The same can be said for species with a broad natural distribution range, that may span both tropical and subtropical environments, since there may be local adaptations, within the species. Local adaptations may lead to individuals in those populations becoming better suited to living in the local conditions. Populations of migratory species may also be generally more accomodating to changing different conditions, than populations of isolated stationary species.

General environment types could be, for example:

· Fast flowing stream in tropical environment type.
· Fast flowing stream in chilly subtropical environment type.
· Slow flowing stream in tropical environment type.
· Slow flowing stream in chilly subtropical environment type.
· Stagnant blackwater with leaves in tropical environment type.
· Stagnant blackwater with leaves in chilly subtropical environment type.
· Reed swamp with twigs in tropical environment type.
· Reed swamp with twigs in chilly subtropical environment type.
· Clear spring with lilypads in tropical environment type.
· Clear spring with lilypads in chilly subtropical environment type.
· Creek flourishing with plants in tropical environment type.
· Creek flourishing with plants in chilly subtropical environment type.
· Flooded rainforest with tree trunks in tropical environment type.
· Slow flowing river with driftwood in tropical environment type.
· Slow flowing river with driftwood in chilly subtropical environment type.
· Highly aerated waterfall in tropical environment type.
· Highly aerated waterfall in chilly subtropical environment type.
· Sandy shallow beach in tropical lake environment type.
· Sandy shallow beach in chilly subtropical lake environment type.
· Deep water rocky boulders in tropical lake environment type.
· Deep water rocky boulders in chilly subtropical lake environment type.
· Hard alkaline water in warm/hot soda lake environment type.

Example of an environment type set up, with geographically mixed origin:

Loosely based on a generic slow flowing river with driftwood in tropical environment. Populated with various river dwelling fishes, originating from Central Asia, West Africa, Eastern Australia and South America. Planted with plants from Southern Europe and Cental America. The smooth gravel/sand on the bottom may come from the country where you live. Decorated with driftwood from North America and rocks from South East Asia. A few fallen leaves and other botanicals collected from your local forest may be added every few weeks.

Warning! Biotype aquariums are, unfortunately, almost always "inaccurately" labeled as biotope aquariums. This confusion is widespread, but especially common when a biotype aquarium is inspired by a specific biotope, lake, or river system. Most of the fishes may come from generally the same geographical area. However, unless ALL of the specific fishes in the aquarium can actually be found living naturally together in the wild, preferably before modern humans started moving fishes all around the world (leading to local changes and establishing invasive feral populations etc.), it is not really a biotope aquarium, from a strict point of view. Even if all fishes accurately originate from the same place, if ALL the species of plants used in the same aquarium can't also be naturally found in the same specific place, in nature, as those fishes, then the aquarium is still not really a biotope aquarium. If the hardscape materials used to scape the aquarium does not at all visually resemble what can be found, in the same natural biotope, that the fishes and plants originate from, it is also questionable if the aquarium is eligible to be called a biotope aquarium. A partially specialized biotype aquarium may, perhaps, be described as:

· Biotope inspired biotype aquarium.
· Biotype aquarium inspired by natural biotope(s).
· Environment type aquarium inspired by natural habitat(s).


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Hardscape only aquascape styles:

In my opinion, a hardscape only aquascape is an aquascape that is designed to look good, like a work of art, without showing living submersed grown plants. Usually, naural materials such as rocks, sand, gravel and driftwood can be used, but there is leeway for using artificial replacements. The materials are carefully chosen, to create a harmonious visual appearance combined together. It is highly preferable to choose only one general type of rock, where all rocks are matching in structure and color, but vary in size. Optionally, inanimate botanicals may be incorporated, such as leaf litter, alder cones, bamboo pipes etc.

Aquarium Design Group (ADG) is a company in Texas, USA. Aquascapers from ADG has taken their vision, of a hardscape only aquascape style, into the extreme in reality. ADG made a world wide impact and started influencing the aquascaping community, ever since the first photos from some of their work, using the concept of a hardscape only aquascape style, were published.

To plant enthusiasts, a hardscape only aquascape may at first glance seem like an unfinished aquascape. Many aquascapers may have their green thumb itching to put plants in such an aquascape. However, if a hardscape only aquascape is designed properly, that urge may subside, somewhat, after looking at the hardscape only aquascape for a while, although properly feeling and appreciating the basic raw hardscape only wibe depends on personal preferences. It probably helps if you have prior experience from enjoying unplanted biotope styles, and/or unplanted biotype styles.

Plastic plants, and/or other plastic decrations, are up for debate. Plastic decorations may, or may not, be considered to be hardscape, depending on your point of view. However, if plastic plants are used, it will no longer be a "pure" hardscape only aquascape style, but a mixed combination variant with the plastic fintastic styles. Sometimes, ADG may publish photos, and/or videos, of more than one version of almost the same aquarium aquacape. One version may show how it looks without the use of any plastic plants (hardscape only aquascape), but then an other version shows how it can look with plastic plants. Sometimes, ADG may show multiple versions, of how the general impression of the aquascape may change, using different colors of the plastic plants in different photos. In practicality, it also makes sense to be able to change the optional plastic plants whenever you want, but keep the hardscape intact, perhaps to change the aquascape in tune with seasonal changes throughout the year, or adapting the aquascape to a client's wish, and/or matching the colors of the surrounding room, at a specific location.

If you are ok with using a mix of artifical and natural hardscape materials, other than plants, it is also possible to combine hardscape only aquascapes with artificial backgrounds, and/or inserts, either factory made, or DIY homemade. However, it is also popular to use hardscape only aquascapes as see-through room dividers, without a "normal" traditional background. (However, one, or more, sides may be covered, and/or a big insert, and/or big logs, and/or stone boulders, may serve as visual blockage, to help the fishes feel safe.) It is also popular to use various diffused lights to light up a plain background, sometimes using a gradient color scheme, to simulate a sunrise, mid-day and sunset throughout the day.

Emersed living plants are also up for debate, since they may, perhaps, only have their roots somewhere in the system. (Making it an aquaponics system.) It may be "cheating" and not a "pure" hardscape only aquascape style, to use live plants with roots in the water, but it is a great way to remove nitrates and phosphates from the system. If you do not want the live plant roots visible in the aquarium, it is possible to hide and, optionally, keep them in a separate tank, for example in a sump. Theoretically, you could also keep submersed plants, or floating plants, in an other tank, but connected to the hardscape only aquascape, to help remove nitrates and phosphates. Algae scrubbers may also be an alternative means of extracting nutrients from the water, although algae scrubbers are more commonly used in marine saltwater setups, they can also be used in freshwater.

Hardscape only aquascapes often use various algae eaters to keep the algae growth in check, but may also have subdued light, compared to planted aquariums. More frequent water changes, and/or carefully chosen aquarium algaecides, may be used with caution (for spot treatment, and/or dilluted in the whole aquarium), if algae, and/or cyano bacteria, becomes a big problem. Using some type of UVC-sterilizer, ozone reactor, or copper electrolysis, that the aquarium water can pass through, may help to keep water cloudiness away and help deal with some types of algae, but they may also have side effects. There are also various types of specialized filter medias that may be of assistance, but it is often not very cost efficient and may sometimes have side effects, or the intended effects may perhaps not be scientifically confirmed by independent sources, so you may want to do some investigation before buying.

The bioload from the inhabitants, in a hardscape only aquascape aquarium, may increase the nitrates into dangerous levels faster, compared to the exact same bioload in a planted aquarium, where the plants consume nitrates. There is a risk involved, if you do not want to do frequent, and/or large, waterchanges, or use other means to regulary, or continiously, remove nitrates from the system in a hardscape only aquascape aquarium. It is recommended to keep the bioload down to a manageable level, for example, by generally keeping a lower number of individual fishes, or choosing smaller fishes, in the same volume of water, compared to a planted aquarium. Some people may instead choose to go with a bigger aquarium, to still be able to keep their desired number and sizes of fishes, since a large (or huge) aquarium also helps to keep the water quality from deteriorating too fast, compared to a smaller aquarium. If you connect a hardscape only aquascape aquarium to a modern pond and let the water flow through the system, it may help with keeping the water quality more steady.

Some positive aspects of a hardscape only aquascapes, without any type of live plants (not even their roots) inside the aquascaped aquarium:

  • You can put plant eating fishes in the aquarium, without having to worry about them eating your live plants.

  • You are not bound by the temperature range favored by plants, so you do not have to compromise if your favorite fish prefers a different temperature than the plants.

  • There are less hidden places for uneaten food and waste to accumulate, compare to an aquascaped planted aquarium, making it much easier to clean.

  • You do not have to prune, and/or replant, any plants.

  • You can get by with lights that use less electricity, compared to lights on high-tech planted aquariums with very fast growing plants.

  • You do not need to add fertilizers, or CO2 to the water. (However, very advanced aquarists may still choose to add small doses of specific minerals, and/or CO2 if they want to encourage the growth of specific types of algae in the aquarium, while also trying to inhibit the growth of other types of unwanted algae.)


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Dutch planted aquarium aquascape style:

The Dutch style of planted aquariums is also known as Holland aquarium, Dutch style aquascape, Dutch plant aquarium, Dutch style and Dutch aquarium etc. It was first popularized in the 1930's in the Netherlands.

Fast growing plants will require frequent trimming and sometimes also replanting. As time goes by, assuming the aquascaper/aquarist worked skillfully and diligently, the Dutch style aquascape may resemble a miniature version of a classic European royal garden, or a well kept public planted park.

Traditionally, there is usually no wood, no large stones and no other decorations used, although exceptions can be made. Plants with contrasting colors, different heights and different leaf textures, will together form a very striking, but still harmonious, living artwork.

Some fishes, usually shoaling/schooling fishes, may be added to add more life and movement in the water. A cleaning crew of snails, shrimps and algae eating fishes can help keep the aquarium looking good, especially between maintenance days.

The plants can traditionally be planted in small sized gravel, with clay, or laterite. However, in modern times many aquascapers use aquasoil (aquarium soil), and/or different aquarium substrate.

Plant fertilizers are regulary dosed, usually including nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, iron and minerals. The plants are frequently inspected, to see if they exhibit signs of lacking any specific nutrients, or exhibiting algae growth etc. In modern times, to increase plant growth and give the plants an advantage when competing against algae, extra CO2 is usually added/dosed/injected.


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Nature aquarium, planted aquascape styles:

Conceptualized and made popular by Takashi Amano, nature aquarium planted aquascapes often resemble miniature Asian gardens, and/or miniature terrestial landscapes (sometimes, but not always, in a diorama style). Nature aquarium planted aquascapes often, but not always, make use of both plants and hardscape (wood, special decorative stones, sand, steep slopes etc.), in visual harmony. Rocks in the aquarium may correspond to boulders and mountains in terrestial landscapes. Both the hardscape and plants are, usually, carefully chosen and arranged in the layout, aiming to enhance/exaggerate a sense of distance/depth (front to back) in the scape, when viewing/photographing the aquascape from a certain perspective.

Takashi Amano introduced and popularized several different types of hardscape materials, that he liked using for aquascaping, for example aquascaping soils and several types of rocks, that thanks to Takashi Amano became easily available, through the company ADA (Aqua Design Amano Co., Ltd.) that he started.

There is often use of layout framing concept rules in nature aquarium, planted aquascape styles. These rules are also directly related to landscape photography and art, such as, for example, the golden rule, or the rule of thirds. When making a "simple" nature aquarium planted aquascape, the three most commonly used visual shapes to choose from are the concave shape, the convex shape and the triangle shape.

Often (but not always) a path, or a few paths, may guide the viewer's sight and mind through the aquascape, into an imaginary horizon, around a bend, or over a mound, or through a tunnel. This helps the observer find meaning in the aquascape. It resonates with the East Asian philosophy about the Tao, also know as the Dao, or the Way.

Amano shrimp (popularized by Takashi Amano) and a few carefully selected species of algae-eating fishes are normally added as a cleaning crew. Several different species of snails and shrimps, may join the cleaning crew.

To increase plant growth and give the plants an advantage when competing against algae, CO2 injection is usually used. The use of regulated CO2 injection, into planted aquariums, was also invented (and made popular) by Takashi Amano.

Takashi Amano used Riccia and several other plants in various ways, that other aquarists had not imagined possible, until it was made practical thanks to CO2 injection, pruning, the use of threads, glue, foam, layers of substrate, and/or preparation in dampened emersed conditions etc.

Takashi Amano practiced and encouraged innovation and experimentation, with the process of creating aquatic and semi-aquatc plant layouts. Besides traditional ways to start an aquarium, several different startup methods, for example "dark start" and "dry start" (moist/damp start), can be used, depending on the situation. Planning ahead by creating/drawing plans on paper/digital media about the plants and hardscape, and/or testing hardscape materials in a prototype space/sandbox, are some ways to prepare and improve the chances of making successful aquascaping layouts.

The use of high quality specialized stainless steel aquascaping tools, such as various tweezers and scissors, was also popularized by Takashi Amano. Other aquascaping tools and equipment, such as various brushes, spray bottles, mist makers, strainers, trays, cups and so on, may also be used. Aquascaping tools and aquarium maintenance tools can make planting, pruning, algae removal and various scaping easier, more enjoyable and/or efficient. Aquascapers often develop personal preferences for some of the specific tools and generally use them more than others.

A few nature aquarium, planted aquascape branch styles has emerged from Takashi Amano, such as the iwagumi aquascape style, the ryoboku and the Wabi-Kusa. The nature aquarium jungle planted aquascape style is also a legacy from Takashi Amano. The jungle style was already in use much earlier, but Takashi Amano evolved the jungle style from its old form. Takashi Amano included the jungle style in some of his famous aquascapes, fusing it with the nature aquarium style, Takashi Amano took the jungle style to a higher level of estetically pleasing beauty, making it gain more popularity among aquarists, combined with his various ways of enabling faster plant growth and his ingenious methods of attaching, placing, pruning/trimming and choosing plants. Diorama is also a style that can be either incorporated into, or onto, a nature aquarium, but diorama has many branch styles and can also be merged with many other freshwater styles.

A few nature aquarium, planted aquascape branch styles from other aquascapers have also emerged. Usually, these other branch styles have been made known to the world from pitures of the aquascapes, created by high ranking participants, of the IAPLC (International Aquatic Plant Layout Contest), an aquascaping contest organized by ADA (Aqua Design Amano Co., Ltd.), with the intention of encouraging aquascaping innovation, originality and creativity with aquatic plant layouts. IAPLC is open to most aquatic plant layouts, including (but not limited to) various nature aquarium planted aquascape styles, the Dutch planted aquarium aquascape style, aquascaped planted biotope styles, aquascaped planted biotype styles etc.

An example of a branch style (of nature aquarium planted aquascape style), that has developed for the last few decades is the Brazilian style, practiced by the successful Brazilian aquascaper Luca Galarraga, who learned from Takashi Amano himself and from ADA staff. Luca Galarraga has developed the Brazilian style, together with a team of Brazilian aquascapers at Aquabase. Various aquascapers around the world also use the Brazilian style, or take inspiration from it, when they do their aquascpes.

A few other examples of branch styles (of nature aquarium planted aquascape style), are the vortex style, the island style, the forest style and the mountain style. There is also several branch styles that may, or may not, have "official" popularized style names, but mimic different specific landcapes/environments, so they may, perhaps, be described after what they mimic, such as for example stairs style, overhanging vine style, lonely tree style, hobbit mound style, bamboo/reed style, bridge style etc.

Optionally, various props can be used to enhance the planted layout, such as small mirrors mimicking the surface of puddles, ponds and lakes in the scape. Creative lighting and opaque plastic panels/sheets can be used to mimick a blurred sunset, or other stylized color themed backgrounds.

During aquarium photography for application to IAPLC, or other aquascaping contests, a fan (or a hairdryer on blow setting, without heat), is commonly used to create small ripples on the water surface, that may beautifully enhance the surface movement in a photo. Meanwhile, most of the normally used equipment such as drop checkers, CO2 diffuser, ozone reactors, visible water oulets/inlets/filters, heaters, feeding trays and so on, usually, gets temporarly moved out of the aquarium during the photoshoot, to showcase a less cluttered appearance, minimizing distractions.


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Paludarium styles:

A paludarium is also known as an aquaterrarium, it is a type of vivarium, that is a combination of an aquarium and a terrarium.

The plural form of paludarium (more than one paludarium), can be paludaria, or paludariums. Both options are valid, so you are free to choose which option you prefer to use.

There is also a type of paludarium that is called a riparium, that focus on the riparian zone (the riparian area).

A paludarium can be completely enclosed, or semi open. If it is made to be completely open above the aquatic section, some people call it an open paludarium, but some aquascapers may debate that and instead prefer to call it an "open scape", or a living wall aquarium, or an aquaponics setup, depending on the details of the situation.

Sometimes a paludarium may be called a waterfall aquarium, if it incorporates a waterfall, or mistfall, above the water level of the aquatic section. However, I suggest calling it a waterfall paludarium (or waterfall aquaterrarium, or weeping waterfall scape) in that case, since calling it a waterfall aquarium may lead to confusion, if you don't elaborate to explain further. This is because, there are also aquariums that may sometimes be called waterfall aquariums, without necessarily being paludariums. (For example, an aquarium that is divided into several sections and spills over from one section into another, may also be called a waterfall aquarium. An aquarium that incorporates an underwater sandfall (sand waterfall), may also be called a waterfall aquarium, since it visually resembles a waterfall. A leaking broken aquarium may also be called a waterfall aquarium, if it is refered to in a sarcastic way.)

Paludariums are often (but not always) used to provide a habitat for amhibians (frogs, newts etc.), or other semi-aquatic animals, such as crabs, or some types of reptiles.

There is an aquatic part (sometimes including fishes) and also a terrestial part with land, and/or a structured wall etc. Paludariums usually have high air humidity and often, more or less, mimic swamps. A paludarium may also act as a type of aquaponics setup, if the water from the aquatic part provides nutrients to emersed growing plants.

In modern times, automatic mist makers and sprinklers are often used to keep a paludarium wet, moist, and/or humid. In some types of modern paludariums, if kept without big animals in the terrestial part, but with lots of plants, CO2 injection may be used to increase plant growth.


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Dirted aquarium styles:

Waterlogged dirt (soil), that preferably (but not necessarily) has been mixed with a carefully selected "recipe", of various nutritious compounds, is placed and spread out on the bottom of the aquarium, then capped with a layer of sand, or similar material.

The layer above the waterlogged dirt/dirtmix, that is used for capping and planting rooted plants, is called the cap. As material for the cap, sand is recommended, but some aquarists use very fine gravel, or a mix of gravel and sand, instead of only sand. However, using only sand is generally the recommended way to do it.

Exactly the best grain size and the thickness of layer of the cap is up for debate, but normal coarse sand is generally recommended. Very fine sand, or fine sand, may cause smothering of plant roots, but the smaller grain size of very fine sand, or fine sand, also allows the cap to be thinner and still do its job, compared to a cap layer of coarse sand, or very coarse sand, or very fine gravel. The definition of sand varies depending on what definition system is used, so what I call very fine gravel may, perhaps, also be called extremely coarse sand, or granules, by someone else.

It is easier if the cap is made of sand, than of gravel, if you want/need to uproot plants every now and then, since you probably prefer to avoid making a dirty mess in the water. Uprooting the plants may be needed if you want to give them away, selling them, or simply moving/removing them, as they grow and multiply.

Only using coarse gravel pebbles, without mixing the pebbles with something else, is not recommended as a cap! Water and dirt/dirtmix may sift, percolate and permeate way too fast between the coarse gravel pebbles. (This makes dissolved nutrients and organic material move too quickly by trickling, or sifting, in the water space channels inside the cap.) If you still want some pebbles, it is recommended to fill in most of the water space channels, in between the pebbles, with additional sand, and/or with very fine gravel. This will help with preventing the dirt/dirtmix and dissolved nutrients from traveling upwards too fast, and also to hinder oxygen gas O2 and uneaten food scraps from traveling downwards too fast. The choice of specific grain size and specific type, of the material used as the cap, may also depend on the preferences of the species of rooted plants, and/or the chosen fishes and invertebrates in the aquarium.

Generally, the waterlogged dirt layer is normally suggested to be about one inch (about two to three cm) thick. You can get away with a thinner layer of waterlogged dirt, if you do not plan to keep the aquarium going for more than about a year. However, if you want most of the nutrients in the waterlogged dirt to last for several years, or maybe decades, it is recommended to use a waterlogged dirt layer of normal thickness.

You probably want to have a slightly thicker layer of waterlogged dirt in the back of the aquarium, compared to the front of the aquarium. This is because you are more likely to plant the largest rooted plants, that probably benefit the most from the nutrients, in the back of the dirted tank. It is also visually appealing to have the cap sloaping down towards the front of the dirted tank.

Some aquarists put the waterlogged dirt into fine mesh filter bags, or put a sheet of fine mesh (mosquito mesh made of plastic) between the waterlogged dirt and the cap. This may help keep the dirt separated if they expect to make significant changes in the future, such as maybe moving the aquarium, or exchanging the cap, or exchanging the dirt/dirtmix. Mesh may also help, somewhat, to keep most of the dirt/dirtmix in place, if some inhabitant suddenly diggs a hole in the cap.

Generally, the cap is suggested to be approximately:

  • One to three inches (about three to eight cm) deep/thick layer, if very fine sand (about 0,0625 to 0,125 mm grain size) is used. It is the grain size that is the smallest type of sand particle. Sand particles are larger than mud particles (silt/clay/colloid).

  • One to three inches (about three to eight cm) deep/thick layer, if fine sand (about 0,125 to 0,25 mm grain size) is used.

  • Two to three inches (about five to eight cm) deep/thick layer, if medium sand (about 0,25 to 0,5 mm grain size) is used.

  • Two to four inches (about five to ten cm) deep/thick layer, if coarse sand (about 0,5 to 1 mm grain size) is used.

  • Three to four inches (about eight to ten cm) deep/thick layer, if very coarse sand (about 1 to 2 mm grain size) is used.

  • Four to six inches (about ten to fifteen cm) deep/thick layer, if very fine gravel (about 2 to 4 mm grain size) is used. Very fine gravel is also known as granules, or extremely coarse sand, depending on what classification system is used. It is a grain size on the borderline between sand and gravel.

A rule of thumb is to make the cap that is atleast twice as deep/thick on the same spot in the tank, as the waterlogged dirt layer there. If you have chosen to make the waterlogged dirt layer deeper/thicker at the back inside of an aquarium, it is logical to also make the cap deeper/thicker there, while making the cap shallower/thinner in the front, creating a slope. It is common to avoid putting waterlogged dirt all the way to the front panel, to avoid needing to see a deep/thick cap layer visible in the front. A sloped surface of the cap also helps with alleviating the problem with the viewing angle parallax distorsion, when viewing the aquarium diagonally from above thru the front panel.

If the dirt under the cap is more nutrient rich than normal, you should make the cap generally deeper/thicker than normal. Alternatevely, if the dirt under the cap is relatively low in nutrients (lean soil), the cap can be made generally slightly shallower/thinner than previously suggested. However, you should also consider the length of the roots of the specific plants you intend to use, since the longer and more massive the roots of the plants may grow, the deeper/thicker the cap should be, to accomodate those roots. The more/faster water circulation you have in the tank, the deeper/thicker the cap should be. The more disturbance from fishes and other animals digging/burrowing in the cap, the deeper/thicker the cap should be. The more often you intend to uproot and move plants from the cap, the deeper/thicker the cap should be, to avoid disturbing the dirt layer underneath the cap.

If you are unsure if a shallow/thin cap, or a thick/deep cap is optimal for your system, for example if you use a mixture of different sized silt/sand/gravel as the cap, or have difficulty estimating the concentration of nutrients is in the dirt, it is (generally) better to add a bit more to the cap to be on the safe side, than accidentally making it too shallow/thin, to prevent dirt related problems from occuring.

Having the cap be deeper/thicker than necessary will, unfortunately, slightly decrease the water volume in the system, while also adding more weight to the system and may also look a bit unsightly. To compensate for the water volume that is lost from accomodating the dirt and the cap, you may want to use a slightly taller aquarium, compared to other freshwater styles, to end up with the same amount of swimming space and water volume left, for the inhabitants and decorations etc. The cost to buy bags of the material for the cap may also be an issue, if you don't have access to a free/cheap, source.

A deep/thick enough cap prevents excessive oxygen gas O2 (in the open water column), from reaching down into the dirt/dirtmix. This creates an anaerobic and anoxic environment in the dirt/dirtmix. Anoxic and anaerobic microbial life forms live in the dirt/dirtmix. Rooted plants can use their roots to extract dissolved nutrients, that slowly and continiously perculate into the cap from the dirt/dirtmix below the cap.

The cap prevents excessive nutrients from leaking directly up into the water column above the cap. This prevents algae and cyano bacteria, above the cap, from directly being able to take advantage of the nutrients from the dirt/dirtmix, creating a clear advantage to the rooted plants.

Normally, the rooted plants should initially be planted only in the cap, not in the layer of dirt/dirtmix. If a very nutrient rich dirtmix is used (that should be combined with a deep/thick cap), then any plants that have been planted with their roots directly into that very nutrient rich dirtmix, will most likely soon begin to rot and turn black from their roots and up.

Some people still choose to plant the roots of the plants directly in the dirt, but this usually only works if very lean soil/dirt and a very shallow/thin cap is used. This is not normally a recommended way of doing dirted tanks for a display tank, since with a very shallow cap and plants rooted in the very lean soil/dirt, it will create an unsightly dirty mess in the system when doing normal plant maintenance, whenever that requires uprooting some of the plants. However, if your main goal is not to create a beautiful display tank, but instead is only to raise plants and you do not care about how dirty the tank looks, or if you are willing to siphon, and/or use a net to scoop out the dislodged dirt, it may still be a valid option.

Dirted aquarium styles are also known as dirted tanks, Walstad tanks, Walstad style, or the Walstad Method, named after Diana Walstad who wrote the book Ecology of the Planted Aquarium. Dirted aquarium styles have evolved over the years. The set-ups and maintenance may not completely follow how Diana Walstad used to do things long ago before/when she wrote the 1st edition of her book. Diana Walstad herself has also made some modifications since then. She recently (2023) released a new 4th edition of Ecology of the Planted Aquarium.

Father Fish (Louis Foxwell) and other aquarists have made adjustments and continue to try to make improvements, while spreading their tips, personal conclusions, theories and opinions on the Internet about dirted tanks. Some people that have been greatly inspired by Father Fish and strictly follow his advice when setting up dirted tanks, may sometimes call it using the Father Fish style (FF style), or a Father Fish aquarium (FF aquarium), or a Father Fish tank (FF tank). However, it is important to note that it is not one single absolute way, but several different (but mostly similar) ways to set up and maintain dirted tanks. Various experiments and accumulated knowledge/theories are tested/tweaked by many people, then the percieved results and opinons may sometimes be shared online, in several dirted tank social media groups/communities on the Internet, for example on Discord and Facebook.

Often, part of the goal of this kind of setup is to let the aquarium develop a food web, then let it mostly take care of itself. It will become like a diverse miniature eco system, a slice of nature, with a diverse microfauna (many different tiny critters and microscopic animals), similar to a natural body of water outside in nature. Fallen leaves and pieces of wood may be added to the dirted aquarium, if you aim for a biotope, or biotype, that requires it. Usually, it doesn't need much maintenance and can go for long periods of time without feeding.

Fish fry and small fishes, usually, find lots of small living organisms to eat in dirted aquariums, making it easier to raise fish fry into juveniles, without having to very frequently feed the fish fry yourself, as long as you don't overpopulate the tank.

Aquarists with dirted aquariums, that have comparatively low fish bioload, usually only top up water, to replace the water that evaporates. They normally try to avoid doing actual water changes, or only do small partial water changes sparingly. Some dirted aquarium keepers may occasionally do a waterchange, usually with rainwater, or RO/DI water, to trigger some fishes to spawn.

Dirted aquarium keepers, usually, prioritize enjoyment and naturalistic stable aquariums, with less maintenance work, compared to aquarists who prefer most other styles. Some aquarists keep many dirted aquariums, since each aquarium doesn't require much time, or effort, to maintain. Dirted aquarium keepers may get more time to enjoy their aquariums, when they feel like it, but mostly sit back and relax, or periodically get busy with other time demanding things in their life, without having to feel guilty, compared to other aquarium keepers using other freswater styles that, usually, require a stricter maintenance schedule to work.

It is possible to add additional filtration, aeration and/or circulation of the water in a dirted aquarium. It is a personal choice how much technology each aquarist want to use, if any. Some dirted aquarists choose to try to avoid advanced technology and rely on nature as much as possible. This is especially the case in locations where the local electricity power grid is not always reliable, because of frequent power outages etc. However, adding artifical light on a timer and perhaps some minimal filtration, an airstone, a heater, and/or sometimes connecting several aquariums together, can be benificial depending on the situation. Connecting individual aquariums to each other into a system, if done in a good way, can lead to water quality stability benefits.

Warning! In dirted aquariums, I suggest to avoid keeping fishes that are extreme diggers, and/or often burrow themselves very deep into the substrate. Furthermore, if you happen to have circulating water and the cap is made from very fine sand, or fine sand, be careful how you direct the water flow in the tank. The water current may move the very fine sand, or fine sand. This may diminish the thickness of the cap (of very fine sand, or fine sand), above the dirt/dirtmix in certain spots, where the water current is strong. In a bad case, the water flow may excavate a deep crater in the cap. It may even expose and dislodge the dirt/dirtmix below the cap. This is not allowed/supposed to happen in a dirted aquarium with a cap. Breaching the cap in this way is unsightly, it may also potentially create a dangerous situation for the inhabitants in the aquarium. It may cause various problems, especially if dirtmix enriched with concentrated nutrients is used. However, the risks involved during a breach of the cap may be much lower if, instead of very nutrient enriched dirtmix, only very lean potting soil is used, without additional nutrient compounds in the dirt, or if such compounds have only moderately/sparingly been added to the dirtmix.


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Mud/clay/earthen pond style:

Various types of manmade mud ponds have historically been used for aquaculture, agriculture, and/or water reservoirs, for thousands of years. Mud ponds are also known as clay ponds, or earthen ponds. There are also naturally formed mud ponds, that may, or may not, have been significantly modified by humans.

Mud ponds may have low visibility, mainly because of algae and stirred up dirt, mulm and mud/clay particles suspended in the water column. If there is driftwood, and/or fallen leaves in the pond, the visibility may also be affected by tannins staining the water. Tiny animals and microbes in the water may also affect visibility to see the fishes.

Koi are often grown out in mud ponds, especially in Japan, by koi fish farmers. Mud ponds are also often used by other fish farmers, either for raising fishes such as carp, tilapia, snakeheads, clarias, panga and hybrid catfishes for eating, or for growing out various tropical and subtropical ornamental fishes (including, but not limited to, goldfishes), or for recreational fishing. In the state of Florida in the USA and many countries in Asia, Africa and South America, fish farmers often use mud ponds.

Sometimes the walls of a mud pond may be lined with sandbags, probably filled with excavated clay, sand, soil and rocks from the same location where the mud pond was constructed. This helps keeping the structure of the mud pond intact longer from erosion, so the mud pond can have a steep edge, beeing much deeper right at the edge of the mud pond, compared to a normal natural mud pond with a gradual slope. It takes up much less space of the land, for the same volume of water in the mud pond. It probably also helps making seining easiser when it is time to harvest. It probably also reduces waterloss from evaporation and ground seepage. Fishes may find it difficult to escape if the walls of the mud pond are steep, compared to naturally sloped ponds where snakeheads, and/or catfishes, may be able to crawl out. Herons and various other animals may also find it difficult to catch fishes, if they can not stand on the bottom of the mud pond.

Usually, fish farmers use various modern ponds (not mud ponds) to breed, select and observe the fishes, then after some time, as they run out of valuable space in the modern ponds, they eventually move the fishes to large inexpensive mud ponds, as the fishes grow bigger and bigger. However, fish farmers may also use modern ponds, usually in enclosures, green houses, or indoors, if it gets too cold to use the mud ponds outside during winter. (If a sheet of plastic covering over the mud pond is no longer enough, to preserve enough heat in the water, to support the fishes well being, and/or growth.)

Some people use mud ponds for their domesticated ducks, and/or other birds that enjoy water. Some people use mud ponds to store water, then use the water to water gardens, or agricultural fields.

Mud ponds can also be dedicated wildlife ponds, often without fishes. The purpose is, usually, mainly to attract and assist native amphibians, but also various other types of animals in the surroundings.

Before making a mud pond, inspect the earth soil/clay composition, the normal groundwater level fluctuations and water chemistry for the location. Make sure the location is suitable for a mud pond, before starting to build the mud pond. If it is not very suitable, it may be better to go with a modern pond style instead. If your water is good, but the earth is not, but you still want a mud pond, you may have to spend more money. Excavating a huge hole, then adding large amounts of clay from somewhere else, may get expensive.

You may prefer to "cheat" and simply add a little mud/clay into a modern pond, for the presumed benefits of mud/clay to the inhabitants. An other compromise between a mud pond and a modern pond, is to use a special type of pond liner, that is meant to work together with bentonite clay, instead of a normal pond liner.

Warning! Some species are banned/restricted, in several countries in the world and several states in the USA. Before acquiring fishes, other animals, or plants for a pond, make sure they are legal to keep in the part of the world where you live.


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Modern pond styles:

There are people who keep modern ponds and tubs with water outside their home in the garden, or on a patio/balcony, or inside their home, or in a separate room/garage/warehouse/greenhouse, or simply enjoy modern ponds in lobbies, waiting rooms and public parks etc.

Modern ponds and various similar contaptions may serve a recreational, ornamental, and/or economical purpose.

Aquaculture farms often use modern ponds, vats, water barrels, and/or repurposed cement vaults (originally for body caskets), and/or swimming pools, and/or bathtubs, and/or IBC tanks, and/or granary silo parts, and/or various other modern objects that can be used to hold water (with some modification), to efficiently raise, and/or breed animals, such as fishes, amphibians, fowl, and/or invertebrates etc.

Some aquaculture farms use aquaponics systems, which can both improve water quality for the fishes and increase production of weggies.

Among home owners who want an ornamental modern pond in their garden, it is popular to make a recreational aquascaped naturalistic looking water feature with a modern pond, bog and waterfall. Usually, an irregular shaped hole is dug, then some padding is added and a pond liner is put in. The pond liner prevents water in the modern pond from leaking out into the ground. The pond liner also prevents water and dirt in the ground from entering the modern pond. Water may circulated from the modern pond up to a bog with plants, then down a waterfall, back into the pond. Sometimes, a large modern pond with fishes may also serve as a recreational swimming pond, as a replacement instead of a chlorinated swimming pool, although some people may choose to keep both on their property.

It is also possible to build a modern pond above ground level. For example, to make a DIY boxpond, a rectangular shaped DIY frame made of wood and marine plywood can be constructed, to hold the pond liner in place and hold back the water pressure from inside. When selecting the wood for a DIY boxpond, make sure there is no infestation of wood eating bugs/larvae, that may bite holes in the pond liner.

Some people may use several coatings of fiberglass with varnish and paint, instead of (or in addition to) the pond liner. There are also other types of ponds, such as concrete ponds, or brick/cement ponds, or form pressed hard plastic irregularly shaped ponds, or various tubs, or IBC tanks, or repurposed swimming pools etc. Sometimes a transparent viewing panel may be installed. Pond shops, garden centers and koi dealers usually have various different pond products to choose from.

Summer tubbing (summer tubbin') is part of the aquatic lifestyle for some aquarists with a garden, and/or other suitable space outside. Small to medium sized ponds and various tubs and buckets may be used temporarily during the warm months of the year, in some parts of the world with subtropical climate. If it is a location with tropical climate it may be possible to do tubbing outside all year long.

It is, usually, possible to breed and grow out fishes, shrimps, snails and plants outside during the summer, even if they do not tolerate the winter season. Just remember to take them inside, and/or sell them, well before winter comes. Tropical species may not tolerate the cold during chilly autumn nights, unless you keep the tub in a greenhouse, and/or use some form of heating, and/or use isolation material, and/or coverage, to keep the temperature up in the water. Small to medium sized freshwater ponds and tubs may freeze completely to the bottom during a cold winter, which even hardy subtropical fishes do not tolerate.

If you are inexperienced with ponds, but want a large pond added to your property, it is preferable to contract a highly reputable and experienced pond company, to help you choose, plan, build and install the pond. This will increase your chances of success, both short term and long term, while helping you to avoid the most common beginner mistakes, in each step of the process. Some pond companies also have optional inspection, cleaning and maintenance services available.

If the pond is constructed by a large experienced pond company, with thorough planning and preparation before starting construction, they may use lots of manpower, excavators, delivery trucks and so on, to create a big normal standard pond in a few days. A similar project would probably take months to do, with only manual labour, during free time, for a small family. Handeling tons of big rocks, especially huge boulders, may also be dangerous. Leaving it to the professionals may be safer, if the installation requires the removal/installation of huge boulders.

If there is a lake nearby, some pond owners run water from the lake through the pond, then back into the lake, to help regulate the water temperature and increase water quality in the pond. However, fish eggs, fish fry and various small fishes from the pond may find their way into the lake, and vice versa. Diseases and pests may also spread into, or out of, the pond through the lake water.

Modern ponds can sometimes be designed specifically to let wildlife in and out of the pond. Such ponds can become dedicated wildlife ponds, often without fishes. The purpose is, usually, mainly to attract and assist native amphibians, but also various other types of animals in the surroundings.

Warning! Some species are banned/restricted, in several countries in the world and several states in the USA. Before acquiring fishes, other animals, or plants for a pond, make sure they are legal to keep in the part of the world where you live.


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Goldfishes styles:

Goldfishes (Carassius auratus) have a long history of being selectively bred and raised in captivity. Various fancy goldfishes with different combintions of colors, body shapes, fin variants, scale variants, eye sizes, wen sizes and nasal boquettes variants, have been developed.

Common goldfishes and comet goldfishes have appearances that, more or less, may still somewhat resemble the original natural wild form, while other variants have gone more extreme. Some fancy goldfishes have balloonish eyes, ball shaped compressed bodies and various fin variants, such as multiple caudal fins, missing dorsal fin, elongated veil fins, or stubby fins. These variations often lead them to appear "cute" and swim with waggly swimming motions. The many generations of domestication of goldfishes have probably also made goldfishes generally less skittish. This is similar to the change in behaviour that other domesticated animals may show, when comparing them to their natural wild ancestors.

There are several other species in the genus Carassius, that are often "mistaken" as goldfishes. Because of the very long period of time, being kept domesticated by humans and various experimental breeding projects, it is also not impossible that there are probably several other species and various hybrid mixes, shuffled in, within the various variants of "goldfishes". There is a high risk of hybridization between goldfishes and other species in the genus Carassius.

There are many examples of goldfishes and related species in the genus Carassius becoming feral and invasive, in many parts of the world.


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Undergravel filter (UGF) styles:

Undergravel filters can be spread out throughout the whole bottom of the aquarium/tub/pond, or only a part of the bottom, or in a container etc. Depending on your budget and aquarium inhabitant requirements, undergravel filters can be used with normal aquarium gravel, or coral pebbles, or other types of filtermedia/substrate such as burnt clay granules/pebbles, for example ECS (Easy Care Substrate).

Normal maintenance of an undergravel filter is, usually, done by using a gravel vacuum hose on a portion of the gravelbed during normal regular water changes.


  • Undergravel filter with very fast down flow.

    Water is sucked down through the gravel quickly.

  • Undergravel filter with regular down flow.

    Water is sucked down through the gravel at medium speed.

  • Non flowing, or very slow flowing, undergravel filter.

    Water is not continiously flowing much, if at all, through the gravel. Muck will still continiously, but very slowly, settle and collect loosely in the gravel bed. However, during regular water changes, the gravel may quickly and easily get flushed through with aquarium water, bringing much of the muck out with it, through an UGF upplift tube (where you can temporarily attach a water change siphon hose for discarded water), or through a separate bottom drain. It is a simple way to remove excessive loose muck, together with the discarded water. If you are worried about not enough oxygen gas dissolved in the water for your aquarium inhabitants, consider adding an extra/separate airstone (not connected to the under gravel filter), or a wave maker, or more plants etc.

  • Reverse flow undergravel filter.

    Pre-filtered water (from a canister filter etc.) is pushed upwards through the gravel bed, mimicking a natural spring. This helps to prevent fish food particles and fish excrements from getting sucked directly deep down into the gravel bed, which sometimes may be a cause of concern with down flowing undergravel filters.

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Cave style:

The scape is usually made to resemble an underground cave stereotype, often with imitations of stalactites and stalagmites, but other types of caves can also be simulated. There is usually dim/low light and typically a population of cave fish, such as blind Mexican tetras, which is the most common type of cave fish in the aquarium hobby/industry. Some fishes that in nature live in lakes at a relatively deep water depth, and/or in rocky habitats, may also enjoy the environment in a cave style aquarium with dim/low light.


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DIY homemade elaborate backgrounds styles:

If you create DIY backgrounds to put inside an aquarium, or a paludarium, make sure the products are safe for aquarium use. Varnish, silicone, styrofoam, polyurethane and so on, are not all the same, they are made for varius different applications. Make sure never to use producs that have antifungal additives etc.


  • DIY living moss background style.

    Mesh, and/or coarse mattenfilter, and/or WABI-KUSA mat is usually used as a base. Put java moss, and/or similar types of plants, to grow on the base.

  • DIY natural cork bark background style.

    Pieces, or sheets, of raw natural cork bark may be siliconed inside the display/vivarium. It is popular to use cork bark above water level inside paludariums. Cork bark is usually boyant (can float in water), so if it is used to make a background inside an aquarium, or underwater in a paludarium, make sure it is securely attached to hold it down. The cork bark may alternativel be mounted in a dry box behind the enclosure, to be seen through a transparent back wall.

  • DIY sculptured styrofoam, and/or polyurethane foam style.

    Usually, covered with varius types of cement, paint and varnish coating, then siliconed inside the display/vivarium. The styro-/polyurethane foam background may alternativel be mounted in a dry box behind the enclosure, to be seen through a transparent back wall.

  • DIY real rocks background style.

    Real stones, gravel, and/or sand, siliconed, and/or glued, and/or "pond foamed" inside the display/vivarium. The real stones, gravel, and/or sand may alternativel be mounted in a dry box behind the enclosure, to be seen through a transparent back wall. (Pond foam is dark polyurethane foam from a spray can, usually made to hold stones, wood and other hardscape materials in place, normally used in and around garden ponds. Pond foam can be very useful for aquascaping and making DIY backgrounds in aquariums.)


Related external links and references to this chapter:



Factory produced 3D backgrounds & inserts styles:

There are several brands, of nature inspired 3D backgrounds and inserts, that are commercially produced for aquariums. They can be made from polyurethane foam, or resin, or ceramics, or other materials.

Multiple copies of the backgrounds are, usually, created from a few master molds and multiple copies of the most popular molds. The 3D backgrounds and inserts are, usually, handpainted and sold through wholesalers to aquarium shops around the world. Some compaines also allow people to buy directly from them online, and/or order customized backgrounds. However, most are mass produced and a few different sizes are made, that fit most standard sized aquariums, or can be made to fit with a few modifications during installation by the customer.

Sometimes, the material the backgrounds are made of may be mixed with different color pigments, creating a few color variants from the same base model, that mimick different types of real stones, and/or wood.

Here is a short list, with a few examples of brands, and/or wholesalers of multiple brands, of mass produced 3D backgrounds and inserts:


Factory produced 3D backgrounds installation/reviews:



Suspended styles:

  • Overgrown planted planet/ball/rock style.

  • Pandora/Avatar suspended hills/rocks style.

  • Suspended trees style.

  • Washing machine algaeball/mossball/Marimo style.

    Mimicking a saltwater jellyfish tank, but using balls of algae in freshwater, instead of jellyfish in saltwater. I'm not sure, but there may, or may not, be more than one species of freshwater algae that can be used in this way? Aegagropila linnaei is the type species for the genus Aegagropila. Unfortunately, there have been problems with invasive zebra mussels hitchiking on shipments of Marimo, plus some other legal issues. I suggest consulting someone with better up to date knowledge than me. Please do thorough research beforehand, if you intend to acquire any algaeballs/mossballs/Marimos etc.

Related external links and references to this chapter:



Bare bottomed styles:

  • Bare bottomed laboratory and experimental aquariums.

  • Bare bottomed quarantine and treatment aquariums.

  • Bare bottomed wholesaler aquariums.

  • Bare bottomed fish breeding aquariums.

  • Bare bottomed multiple connected aquariums.

  • Bare bottomed aquariums with built in waterchange system.

  • Bare bottomed aquariums for holding/breeding invertebrates.

  • Bare bottomed discus aquariums.

  • Bare bottomed betta tanks.

    Fish farms and stores often (but not always) use bare bottomed holding tanks/jars/bottles for adult male bettas. These are controversial due to the often tiny tank size and sometimes prolonged stress due to seeing other males, for very long periods of time. Some stores use very tiny individual cups, or bottles, right next to each other. Other stores use tanks of relatively more generous size, sometimes connected to a central filtration system. They may also include ways to block the males from viewing each other, either permanently, or temporarily. Letting the male bettas sometimes view each other, for short periods of time, may give them some excitement and exercise, without prolonged stress. EU has special regulations about betta tanks.

  • Almost bare bottomed aquariums.

    Minimal amount of sand/gravel, sprinkled on the bottom.

  • Tiled bottomed aquariums.

Related external links and references to this chapter:



Plastic fintastic styles:

These are layouts that focus on plastic decorations. They may be especially popular among chidren, but some adults also enjoy them.



Additional related external links and references to this chapter:



Dwarf cichlids styles:

Dwarf cichlids stay small, compared to cichlids in general. Dwarf cichlids normally stop growing, or stay shorter, than approximately ten to twelve cm (about four to five inches) standard length. However, size may vary beween individuals of the same species and also between male and female. The body shape also plays a role in size, since slender species do have less body mass than stocky, and/or high bodied, species at the same body length.

Some individuals can grow slightly bigger than the species does in general, but I personally, normally, still count those individuals as dwarf cichlids, if most members of that species (and/or the genera) on average, usually, stay small enough to be counted as dwarf cichlids.

Where to draw the line, between what species are to be called dwarf cichlids, compared to calling them normal medium sized cichlids in general, is not an exact science, but subjected to personal opinions. Depending on who you ask, some borderline species may fall into either, or both, categories.

The most popular species of dwarf cichlids, in the aquarium hobby/industry, are originally native to Africa, or South America.

Shell dwelling cichlids from Lake Tanganyika and Lake Malawi are mostly dwarf cichlids, that in the wild inhabit empty snail shells. If they use the shells to spawn, they may also be called shell spawning cichlids. Shell dwelling cichlids, and/or shell spawning cichlids, are commonly called "shellies" in the aquarium hobby/industry.

Generally, in rivers and lakes, it is more common that dwarf cichlids use other types of substrates for spawning, such as leaves, leaf litter, rocks, driftwood, molted turtle shell pieces, or they spawn inside a small cave that they find, or create, after modifying it by digging.

Dwarf cichlids in general, usually, protect their eggs, larvae and free swimming fry, for some time (normally a few weeks), until the fry/juveniles have grown enough to take care of themselves, and/or until the parents have decided to spawn again.

Sardine cichlids (Cyprichromis) have adapted to open water in Lake Tanganyika. They do not use a substrate to spawn, instead, the mating process happens i mid water. A female will release an egg and a male will fertilize it. Then, the female catches the fertilized egg in her mouth. Then, the female and male continue to repeat the mating process. The female then mouthbroods her eggs for a few weeks, until the fry have hatched and also passed the larval stage, so they are developed enough to swim properly on their own. In the wild, the female sardine cichlid releases her brood of fully developed fry in a rocky area, where they get to fend for themselves. When sardine cichlids are kept in aquariums, aquarists often choose to "strip" the females of their broods, before the females relese fry into the aquarium.

Dwarf cichlids are sometimes kept in community aquariums, or sometimes in specialized breeding aquariums. Appropriately chosen dither fish may be added to a breeding aquarium, if needed, together with the dwarf cichlids. The dither fish may help to prevent incidents of aggression going too far, between dwarf cichlids, by being a distraction and an alterntive aim for attention and aggression.

Among the affordable, easily available, popular and easy to breed dwarf cichlids, in the aquarium hobby/trade, you will find: The krib (Pelvicachromis pulcher)


Related external links and references to this chapter:



"Average" sized cichlids styles:

In the aquarium hobby/industry, there are many popular genera and species of "average" sized cichlids, originally native to various streams, rivers, ponds and lakes in the wild.

"Average" sized cichlids get approximately normal (medium/large) sized as adults, compared to all adult cichlids of the world in general, their size stays somewhere in the middle as adults, approximtely somewhere from 10 cm and up to 30 cm SL. (SL is standard length, not counting any fins.) As adults, "average" sized cichlids (usually) do not stay small enough to be called dwarf cichlids, but (usually) do not become huge enough, or aggressive/boisterous enough, to definitely warrant being called tankbuster cichlids, although, some are borderline. (Either borderline dwarf cichlids, or borderline tankbuster cichlids.) However, there can be individual exceptions.

Cichlids become more aggressive when exhibiting mating behaviour, compared to how they act normally. Some species of cichlids, that are not tankbusters on normal occasions, may become tankbusters (or borderline tankusters), when males and females pair up to breed/spawn and then protect their offspring. This is in case they are kept in tanks that are not big enough, together with tankmates that are not tough enough, or evasive enough, to adequately accomodate the sudden change in behaviour and increased demand for highly protected territorial space.

Many "average" sized cichlids originate from great lakes, but if you only want to know more about those, go to the chapter:
Great lake cichlids styles.

Examples of a few other popular "average" sized cichlids styles:

  • Community tank including "average" sized cichlids styles.

  • Discus (Symphysodon) styles.

  • Uaru styles.

    Focusing on one, or more, species of Uaru:
    · Uaru amphiacanthoides   (Triangle cichlid / uaru)
    · Uaru fernandezyepezi   (Panda uaru)
    · Uaru sp. "orange"

    Uaru are often kept in hardscape only tanks.
    (They generally like to eat most aquarium plants.)
    The frycare of Uaru share similarities with discus.


  • "Severums" (Heros) styles.

    Heros are often kept in hardscape only tanks.
    (They generally like to eat most aquarium plants.)


  • Freshwater angelfishes (Pterophyllum) styles.

    Focusing on one, or more, species and variants of Pterophyllum:
    · Pterophyllum altum   (Altum angel / True altum)
    · Pterophyllum leopoldi   (Leopoldi angelfish / Long nose angelfish)
    · Pterophyllum scalare   (Scalare freshwater angelfish)

    The three currently scientifically valid species of Pterophyllum can sometimes be difficult to tell apart. Throughout history, the classification of different populations of Pterophyllum has changed after further scientiffic research, but not all people in the aquarium hobby/industry agree with, or fully trust, the current classifications. Perhaps there should be few subspecies added, or other changes made to the classification of Pterophyllum in the future.

    The most common species is Pterophyllum scalare, but there are many variants of this species. Some variants are natural populations in the wild from different local rivers, while many others are domesticated line-bred strains and "mutts". There are many base color morphs and also color pattern morphs, but also some fin morphs, scale morphs and body proportion morphs developed in captivity.

    There are a few natural population variants of Pterophyllum altum, but can be very expensive and require more specialized care, compared to Pterophyllum scalare.

    Pterophyllum leopoldi is not very popular in the aquarium hobby/industry, but is occasionally kept by enthusiasts that appreciate something unordinary.


  • Jewel cichlids (Rubricatochromis) styles.

  • Convicts, and/or similar cichlids (Amatitlania) styles.

  • "Eartheaters" styles.

    Focusing on "eartheaters" and similar cichlids:
    · Geophagus
    · Guianacara
    · Gymnogeophagus
    · Satanoperca


  • Firemouths and related cichlids (Thorichthys) styles:

    · Thorichthys aureus   (Blue flash)
    · Thorichthys meeki   (Firemouth cichlid)
    · Thorichthys pasionis   (Blackgullet cichlid)


Related external links and references to this chapter:



Hybrid fishes styles:

There are some cross species hybrids among fishes in the aquarium hobby and fish farming industry. Some are fertile, while others are not. Some are raised for ornamental/petkeeping purposes, while others are created for food consumption, or simply experimentation.

Some cross species hybrids have presumed "known" origin, that can be verified by repeating the hybridization. Other "hybrids" are well kept trade secrets, or unknow, with various rumors and theories spreading, although these rumors may sometimes be presented as if they are facts. Some people may claim that a specific fish they see, or sell, is only a color morph/mutation of a single species, while other people may claim that the exact same fish is a cross species hybrid, with, or without, sufficient reasonable scientiffic proof to back up their claims. This often makes it difficult to differentiate scientifficly derived information from opinions, lies, myths, rumors, feelings, theories and logical speculations.

There are plenty of people that market their fishes in hyped up ways. People often make up names for the fishes that can make the fishes easier to sell and notice/remember, by associating them with more expensive species, and/or exotic animals, and/or mythical creatures, and/or aliens, and/or popular fictional characters (from comic books, movies etc.), and/or valuable materials (precious metals, gemstones), and/or flowers etc. Often, such marketing is benign, but not always. Sometimes, it can be interpreted as a deception/fraud that may create various problems when people are fooled/scammed.

Some breeders and retailers do not want to share their money making secrets, but they may spread misinformation. Sometimes they themselves may not know the full truth, but mixing guesses, truth and lies can help them hold on to their "power", keep people guessing about the mystery and "up the hype". In various ancient folklore and fantasy stories, it is occasionally mentioned that knowing the true name of something gives you power over it. Similar to saying that knowledge is power and can lead to victory, lack of important knowledge can lead to lack of success, or defeat/disaster.

If you assume, it makes an ass of you and me. If you believe that everything on the Internet and everything you are being told is all true, you are a naive fool. I advice myself and all other fiskeepers to be very sceptical when hearing/reading unsubstantiated claims, about unnatural fishes being either hybrids, or not hybrids. Even if the information is from a person/source that would normally be trustworthy, there is a possibility that the author/source/AI may have been fooled by false information, then (without malice) continue spreading the unsubstantiated rumors with a domino effect.

DNA testing can be complicated and expensive, but is sometimes used to verify the genetic identity of a fish. However, DNA testing of fishes is, usually, only available/affordable to scientists and wealthy people. It is not (yet) easily available for normal/frugal hobbyist fishkeepers. Maybe DNA testing of fishes and DNA data banks of fishes will be more conviniently accessable in the future, but until then we may have to continue doing educated guesses, when trying to verify the ancestry of fishes with unknown/uncertain presumed/possible hybrid origin/pedigree/provenance. However, for various reasons, there will always be some level of uncertainty, even with DNA testing.

Different local populatons of a presumed single species can sometimes have various differences within the same species. Sometimes, the differences may be clear enough to divide the populations into two, or more, subspecies. Creating offspring from the combination of individuals originating from different populations, that have been separated geographically for a very long period of time (spanning countless generations), may sometimes be called hybridization, but is usually not called cross species hybridization, unless there are special circumstanses.

Sometimes it is difficult to draw a clear line between species and subspecies, compared to hybrids between closely related species/subspecies/ecotypes. This is especially difficult to determine if they have a large natural geographical range, in the wild, where they originate from. Sometimes populations have been isolated for long, or short, periods of time and gradually, natually, adapt to their environment through the generations and become ecotypes suited for their environment.

Sometimes cross species hybrids are unintentionally created, either in nature, or in captivity, but many hybrids in the aquarium hobby/industry are the result of deliberate work/experiments by humans.

Some cross species hybrids are the result from the crossing of only two species. Other cross species hybrids have more than two species mixed into their multiple species origin, going back several generations of selective breeding, and/or other manipulations. Sometimes, the hybrids may get crossed back with one of the original species, creating mixed hybrid offspring with different ratio of genetics, creating various results.

Some hybrids show traits that may seem desirable to some people, so they can be easily sold. Other hybrids that show other traits, that are not wanted, often end up as "culls".

Popular cross species hybrid fishes include, for example:

  • Cross species hybrid cichlids:

    · Blood parrots
    · Flowerhorns
    · Hybrid discus (Symphysodon sp. "Hybrid")

  • Cross species hybrid catfishes:

    · RTCxTSN (Red tail catfish x tiger shovel nose)
    · Channel catfish x blue catfish
    · Channel catfish x flathead catfish
    · Hybrid Synodontis catfishes

  • Cross species hybrid Betta. (Alien betta and other hybrids.)

  • Cross species hybrid Xiphophorus. (Hybrid platies and swordtails.)

  • Cross species hybrid Poecilia.

    Poecilia wingei (Endler's livebearer) can be crossed with Poecilia reticulata (guppy) and Poecilia obscura. A few other hybrid combinations within Poecilia also known. Some hybridization combinations are also possible with other closely related genre, with varying success rate and with risk of deformities and ailments. The offspring may either be infertile, or fertile, partially depending on the specific combination and how you count back crossing vs inbreeding etc.

Related external links and references to this chapter:



Transparent fishes styles:

Transparent, see-through fishes include, for example, pi tetra, glass bloodfin tetra, glass gobies, glass knifefish, Asiatic glassfishes and Asian glass catfishes.

There are several species of transparent fishes sharing the same, or similar, common names i the aquarium hobby/trade. It can be difficult to see the difference with an untrained eye.


Related external links and references to this chapter:



Corydoras & similar catfishes styles:

Many aquarist and average fishkeepers may have kept a few Corydoras (cory cats), and/or other armored catfishes of the family Callichthyidae, in a community aquarium. However, there are some enthusiasts with multi tank syndrome who collect and breed as many species as they can.

Some "very easy" species of Corydoras can be triggered to spawn on the tank walls, with the combination of conditioning with normal dry food and frozen food, aeration and water changes.

Some "moderately easy/difficult" species of Corydoras may require slightly more than the minimum basics. Perhaps they prefer to wait until they get live food, and/or for the barometric pressure to change during a rainstorm, and/or require large water changes with slightly cool rainwater (or a similiar substite, such as RO water, or destilled water), and/or want something more elaborate to lay the eggs on (such as some type of plant, or a spawning mop), before they are ready to start spawing in a tank.

Some "very difficult" species of Corydoras may require more details to be fulfilled, or have other different criteria as spawning triggers, perhaps related to, for example, water chemistry, water flow, water temperature, light, substrate, leaf litter, a special diet, changing seasons, and/or other requirements. It may help to look into how each species live and spawn in nature, to mimic similar conditions in captivity.

Corydoras enthusiasts, usually, find it very exhilirating and satisfying to suddenly/finally "crack the code", for how to successfully breed a species that they, and/or other aquarists have been unsuccessful with, or only had very limited success rate with, for a long time.

A male Megalechis usually appreciate some floating plants to incorporate into building a bubble nest for spawning. However, the male may settle for a floating plastic lid from a bucket, or other floating objects, or something structural at the water surface, to get in the mood to start building his bubble nest.


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Plecos & similar catfishes styles:

There are several hundreds of species suckermouth armoured catfishes in the family Loricariidae. They have varying levels of difficulty, regarding keeping and spawning them. The different species also have extremely varying prices in the aquarium trade, depending on rarity, appearance and size. Among the affordable, easily available, popular and easy to breed Loricariidae, in the aquarium hobby/trade, you will find: Bristlenose catfish (Ancistrus sp.)


Related external links and references to this chapter:



Loaches & similar fishes styles:

Loaches are from the superfamily Cobitoidea. However, some other fishes, especially the "algae eaters" in the genus Gyrinocheilus, may sometimes also commonly be called loaches, or get mistaken as loaches.


Related external links and references to this chapter:



Barbs & danionins styles:

Barbs and danionins are, generally, lively and easy to keep shoaling/schooling fishes. Some species stay small, while others grow big. The barbs and danionins that are popular in the aquarium hobby/industry are, usually, native to East Asia.

In East Asia, danionins and small/medium sized barbs, generally, use similar life strategies in the wild, as small to medium sized tetras, generally, do in South America and Africa.

Among the affordable, easily available, popular and easy to breed danionins, in the aquarium hobby/trade, you will find: Zebra danio (Danio rerio)


Related external links and references to this chapter:



Rainbowfishes & blue eyes styles:

Various scientists and fishkeepers are not all in agreement how to group, and/or separate, the family Melanotaeniidae and possibly closely related families, and/or subfamilies. There is a mix of new and old sources on the Internet and in books etc. It can be a bit complicated, but that may, perhaps, change in the future, as new scientific discoveries are made.

Unfortunately, many natural habitats in the wild are threatened in various ways. For example, sometimes the habitats are destroyed, sometimes it is deforestation, sometimes it is damming of rivers, sometimes it is invasive species, sometimes it is excessive collection for the aquarium industry, sometimes it is fishing with poison, sometimes it is pollution from agriculture/farmland. Some natural wild poulations of fishes are also threatened by hybridisation as humans move fishes about, or change the course of streams and rivers.

At the moment (November 1, 2023), according to Wikipedia EN, the family Melanotaeniidae is separated into four different subfamilies:


· Madagascar rainbowfishes (Bedotiinae)
· Rainbowfishes (Melanotaeniinae)
· Blue eyes (Pseudomugilinae)
· Sail-fin silversides (Telmatherininae)

Other sources may group and separate them in different ways, often with a family called Pseudomugilidae, instead of having the subfamily Pseudomugilinae under the family Melanotaeniidae.

When spawning in nature, most raibowfishes dart into soft vegetation.
In aquariums, darting into vegetation can sometimes lead to injuries, if you have robust plants with sharp/hard structure, or hardscape that they may accidentally rub against them, or poke them with splinters during spawning. It is usually not a big problem, but especially dominant males may occasionally get small wounds on their sides from this, sometimes with splinters stuck in the wounds. If the splinters do not fall out by themselves, you may have to catch the injured males and remove splinters with tweezers, or the wounds may get infected/unsightly and not heal properly. Soft acrylic yarn mops and soft flexible leafy plants are recommended for breeding to prevent injuries.


Related external links and references to this chapter:



Saving endangered fishes styles:

Breeding endangered species in captivity, with the intention to preserve them, for future generations of humans to see, and/or intending to save them from extinction and perhaps releasing them back into the wild at some point, or intending to lessen the impact on wild populations from collection of wild specimens, can usually be considered to be a moral choice, but may also be lucrative in a few cases.

Some rare wild strains, or selectively line-bred breeding strains, may also be in danger of disappearing from the hobby/industry. Some strains hold historical/sentimental value to many hobbyists, so some breeders also try to preserve those strains, especially if they have childhood memories of a perticular strain, or if it was a friend, and/or a highly regarded aquarist, who developed/discovered the strain.

Warning! There is a risk that various diseases, and/or pests, may spread into the wild, or other problems may happen, if captive bred/raised/kept specimens are released into the wild. Avoid releasing fishes, or other animals, or plants, from captivity without approval from the local authorities, even if they are native, or their ancestors were native.


Related external links and references to this chapter:



Outro comments:

This article is still under construction and iteration. I intend to slowly continue updating and adding more examples of freshwater styles to this article, while also iterating and adding more descriptive details, plus more related external links and references.

Do you have suggestions regarding freshwater styles, or related links, that you want me to know about, please send me an E-mail.


Are you a beginner regarding freshwater aquatics?

If so, before you decide on what style you want to try, I suggest reading my article about freshwater aquarium basics.


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