My Dream Tank: Cardinal Tetras, Rummynose, & Altum Angels

So I often dream of my ideal fish tank. I imagine a tank that attempts to forge a beautiful little window into the natural world. Cardinal tetras and rummynose tetras are spectacular tropical fish. The former for their electric red and blue and the latter for their tight schooling and fire engine red snouts.

Native to the black water tributaries of the Amazon, these fish are at home in low ph water tinted with the natural dark tannins of decaying leaves. I must state, however, that I don’t know how so many fish can safely live in this small of an aquarium, but I speculate that it must be through the daily or bi-daily changing of large amounts of water.

The large fish are Altum angelfish, the largest freshwater angelfish. As breeding occurs in the Amazon or Rio Negro the populations of tropical fish swell into the tens of millions during the wet-season, they are sustainably captured by native fishermen sold to aquarium hobbyists around the world. Since these fish experience incredibly high natural mortality rates in the wild, large quantities can be harvested without damaging the various species’ long term viability. (I must note, however, the fish in the video are a captive bred F1 generation).

Angelfish are hunters so I caution not to set up this aquarium at home unless you are prepared for the possibility of having your Angels pick off your cardinals and rummynose. I wouldn’t be comfortable with the possibility of my prized cardinals getting eaten, but perhaps there’s a trick to keep it from happening. If so, let me know, and I will keep dreaming of such a setup as this.

Radon Turned Me Back To Planted Tanks

So I’m consciously redirecting my current obsession from discus to planted tanks. A planted tank is a aquarium set up with all live plants and live fish. They’re amazing. Beautiful, peaceful, entertaining, and relaxing. And while I’d like to say I’m going back to planted tanks simply because my wife thinks they’re so pretty, the truth is, I found the prospect of not inhaling radioactive gas quite appealing.

Before I bought more discus, I agreed to test the basement for radon, since it’s known to be high in this part of the country and I’d be spending a considerable amount of time in the basement with my future discus fish. [My discus tank is in the basement because they need frequent water changes. For now, that can only happen there next to a drain and the stored clean water from the R.O. filter.] The results came back indicating we have we have 7.7 pCi/L in the basement, a level well above the recommended max. of 4 pCi/L. So, before more discus, I need to install a radon mitigation system.

Radon was the kicker. Discus are out and planted tanks are in. I drove out to Chicago a couple weekends back to look at some discus someone had for sale and also checked out a craigslist ad for a slightly used 14 gallon biocube. I bought the aquarium at a great price, brought it back, and cleaned it out.

The tank being in great shape, I started looking for plants. I had a hard time finding some nice plants, but between the Quad Cities and Madison, I found a few to get me started. I already had a glass CO2 diffuser to add carbon dioxide to the water to help the plants grow. I special ordered a dozen deep red Florida-raised cardinal tetras but only one survived. I was left to cobble together a small group of eight cardinals from local fish stores. Unfortunately, they are the more pale tank-raised cardinals. The good news is they made it a healthy ten days in quarantine. I don’t know whether they’ll get the deep red color this fish is known for. I imagine they will, but we shall see.

So we have a start. Eight cardinal tetras, four rummy nose tetras, two siamese algae eaters, and one otocinclus catfish. Plants include narrow leaf and lace java fern, corkscrew jungle vallisneria, green cryptocoryne wendtii, cryptocoryne balansae, and two somewhat unknown swords. The maroon one might be a rubin sword and the smaller one might be a rosette sword. We’re enjoying the tank. I can’t wait to see how my planted aquarium tinkering evolves.