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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Long story short, I'm looking into putting together a fish tank for my daughter. She's 2 1/2, so feeding fish (pretty much the only pet I'm not allergic to) is about the breadth and depth of what she's capable of taking on right now. Meanwhile, I like designing complex systems, and don't mind front loading a little work, but have very little spare time long term to be doing a lot of fish maintenance.

I'm hoping to be able to find a tank on the order of a literal cubic foot (6.5 gal, but obviously less of that will be water by volume), do a Walstad-style setup, and hopefully get it balanced out in short order to minimize water change frequency. There are a few things I'm unsure about:

I think fancy guppies would be a good choice for her; hearty, colorful, lively, interactive. Some colorful shrimp, and some snails (no clue on species of either yet) to round it out on the utility side. For population, I think 5-6 guppies, similar number of shrimp, and maybe... 2 snails? Does this sound adequate or too much? Not enough? I know plants dictate population, but I need an idea for a starting point. I want this as low tech as possible. Ideally, nothing more than a light. I live in the mountains, and room temperature over the course of a year can range from 65°F-80°F. Guppies seem to only really be happy at the top of that range according to a very cursory search. I don't know about shrimp or snails. Are there any species with the aforementioned characteristics/utility that are happy in that range I should consider?

There seems to be some combination or either mixed opinions or new information re: how immediately to introduce animal tank mates. I believe the book (at least early editions) says to introduce animals right away. Is that still the recommended approach, or is it in the middle somewhere? I.e. (my current thinking) introduce snails first, give it a week or so, then shrimp, then a month or so, then a few fish at a time. While doing so, keep an eye on chemistry, tank mate happiness, etc.

I'm sure there will be more questions, but that seems long enough to kick it off at least. TIA!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Good call. Slightly less flashy than some guppies, but lower temperature range. They're endangered in the wild though... That seems a little on the sketchy side. Also, seems like they're a fair bit less likely to be available locally (or maybe not, still haven't scouted the local talent). How many would make sense in a planted Walstad tank? Am I in the ballpark with my 5-6? I definitely don't want breeding in such a small tank without anywhere else to put excess fish, so I'd aim for all males.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Same question on the invertebrate side. Quantities seem like a good starting point?

Does my timing strategy make sense with the current worldview?
 

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From what I remember without the book on me to reference, I think it's recommended to only start with fish right away if you're comfortable with the process already. I think your plan of gentle introduction is best. Gives the plants time to establish, and the system time to respond to each new addition. I believe that adding a lot of livestock all at once would be much more likely to upset the balance of the tank than taking it steady.

Also, additions are less about the exact weeks and months and more about your water chemistry. Just make sure you're going off of that when making decisions to add rather than setting arbitrary times. It sounds like you're already planning on this, but I just wanted to make sure.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Yes. I work with automation and water chemistry professionally, and have various equipment and supplies to hand, but not aquarium specific stuff (likely purchasing that master test kit I keep seeing everywhere). I assume the water chemistry tells me it's ready when there are no anomalous values. Frequent water changes are expected for the first few weeks or so. Frequent visits to whatever supply shop are similarly assumed.

Planning on a big field trip tomorrow to all the aquarium supply places in the area. Hoping to learn more, as well as solidify my plans a bit.
 

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I would start out with shrimp. Easy, fun, not demanding.
Since we are dealing with a child, I would nix the guppy idea. I love guppies, but you have diseases, disposing of excess fry, etc. I found Endlers to be too skittish to be enjoyable. White Cloud minnows might be a better choice for a small tank.
Shrimp and snails and plants can be fascinating in their own right.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Perhaps I should clarify; 2yo daughter's responsibility to the fish will be to give them the food I give her to give them. I hope she will watch them swim around and be fascinated, and she'll likely name them the sorts of silly names two year olds name pets. Recently, she's been carrying around imaginary puppies (daddy is allergic to real puppies), and "guppies" sounds like "puppies", and that's exciting... and hopefully not the entirety of the excitement, because I didn't make that connection until after I had been talking about it for a day or two. So this definitely needs to keep my interest as well. I'll be the one actually taking care of things; monitoring chemistry, water changes, trimming plants, etc. As she grows into it, assuming her interest continues (and isn't just pseudo-homonym confusion), her responsibilities will expand. I'm also hoping to be able to use it as an educational tool, hopefully we get some micro-critters (I have a stereo microscope for unrelated things capable of up to 180x, and wouldn't mind buying a second to go deeper), biology, ecology, life cycles, etc.

That said, does the guppy (and maybe all vertebrate fish) idea nixing advice still stand? I intend to get all males to avoid fry complication, as well as maximize pretty colors. Admittedly though, as I get deeper into this, breeding guppies does sound awfully fun down the road! Is there a disease aspect to guppies I wasn't aware of? I read that they're not quite as hardy as they were once... at least reputed to be, but that was early in my reading, and I didn't dive too deep down that particular rabbit hole. I think I recall the minnows might be able to get by in cooler waters (I'll have to look into that), but I had about relegated myself to a heater if none of my local aquarium shops stock Endlers/Endlers-guppy hybrids.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Or, I might just suck it up and get a heater... Light and a heater is still reasonably low tech. Sometimes philosophy must give way to practicality. Thinking a little deeper on it, I can imagine a tank of water getting even cooler than the ~65° air temperature. Our gallery well gets brain freezingly cold, even when the air temperature is not nearly as cold.... A heater would help keep the environment stable, and that's undoubtedly better for any type of fish.
 

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A good heater would probably make your life easier in the long run. I think that's a good idea to help promote the stability of the environment, especially since you're shooting for hands-off.
 

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I'm late to this discussion, personal matters have kept me away from the forum. All the advice you gotten so far is good! I will make one suggestion: get a bigger tank. Larger tanks are inherently more stable, both in temperature and water quality. Also, finding a 6.5 gallon tank will be difficult. Some of the all-in-one kits (Fluval and others) are in that size range, but they are very expensive for their size and often don't work very well. With those, you are paying for style with a penalty for function.

I usually recommend a 20 g tank for beginners, either tall or long version. If that just seems too big, try a 15 or 10.

Good luck with the tank! Aquaria are great learning opportunities for children and adults alike.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 · (Edited)
OK. Adventure was successful! I toured all the freshwater aquarium shops in the Denver area, and found the best and the worst. I quizzed the staff at each one that seemed worth the time about what I want to do, and got a feel for who was knowledgable and wasn't. Some had good staff and stock and inventory, others made me wonder how they actually made money with rows and rows of empty tanks filled with dirty water. One had a lady watching TV and next to a very expensive looking and very dead looking fish (which she promptly removed once she had someone that might notice). All the shops had at least a few guppies. Only 3 of 8 had Endler's, and one of those were clearly at least part guppy (not a bad thing necessarily) and one I wouldn't actually want to buy fish from. I learned a bit as well, and my plan for this evening's chill time is to do my engineer thing and make a spreadsheet. Start ordering things and checking boxes.

Re: size. We've got space constraints at the moment, and expect to be moving in less than a year. I work with water chemistry professionally, and did aquariums as a kid. This is likely a famous last words moment, but I feel pretty confident I can make it work on the smaller scale.
 

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OK. Adventure was successful!
I feel pretty confident I can make it work on the smaller scale.
From reading your posts, I think you will--and have fun doing it. There's a learning curve to everything.
Guppies were shown to have a 2-5 year lifespan. That's for virgins kept by themselves. For reproducing guppies, about 50% should be able to make it to two years. [By selecting for longevity over last 5 years, I've got my guppy colonies, which were dying at 6 months, doing great at 18 months.]
My website's article on 'Guppy Longevity' has more details and scientific references.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
I just read all of your guppy breeding papers... I didn't realize how short lived they'd become. Definitely going to have to give that aspect a good think. That said, this is supposed to be a pet for my daughter, not a rabbit hole for me to disappear down! I don't have the space for a dozen aquariums... Maybe if I get that room in the basement cleared out... This is almost certainly going to snowball.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
I've fallen prey to the ___ acquisition syndrome a few times. My wife is an enabler. She wants a saltwater tank with starfish.

During my tour/crash course yesterday, I discovered that I've stumbled into a... Maybe looked down upon niche in terms of my tank size requirements/half baked ideas. Seems rimless cube shaped tanks are part of the "scaping" scene, and the non-scapist expert I learned the most from is like me in terms of lacking full control of facial reactions. A brief hint of a smile escapes before being contained behind a veil of professionalism, not a bad thing so much as humorous from my perspective. I got a similar specter of a fantom smile when I gestured toward the part of the store with all the driftwood and called them "sticks", at which point I laughed, having no remorse for my naiveté, called her out on the tick in a good natured way while requesting the more acceptable vernacular. Regardless, I've never been one to be swayed by fashion one way or the other (sometimes I'm accidentally painfully fashionable, other times just as painfully not), and I don't super car if my rimless low iron cube tank is all the rage in the aquascaping world or that world's perception in other parts of the aquarium hobby.

Here is the glassware I've picked out for the time being. May change as I get the rest of the setup figured out on paper. Fits my size requirements/limitations, looks nice, no built in filter stuff I have no use for, no logo, and as inexpensive as I've been able to find (especially once shipping is considered).

I'm currently planning out plant species. I have those divided into utility and aesthetics (mostly this means red color, and whatever texture/leaf shape isn't represented by the utility species in the same height category), and by height in three categories (the obvious tall/med/short), plus a trio of floater species. I think 12 different plant species (plus whatever algal species happen to get past the shrimp/snails) in a small tank like this should be sufficient diversity, and the utility/aesthetics will keep it pretty without sacrificing function. Aesthetic species will be limited to a single plant, while utility species will be double that or more to start. Spacial distribution will be roughly equal thirds front to rear. I'd like to try to differentiate as much as possible within the height categories by texture (for want of a better word).

For floaters, I'm thinking red root floaters for aesthetics, duckweed, and water spangles (I think that's what they're called... didn't make it to my notes... the leaves look like a cat's tongue).

I'm currently working on nailing down the taller species. I've seen/heard good things about hornwort and lemnophila sessiliflora, but they look very similar. I've heard more good things about the latter being especially easy to keep looking green and healthy, so I'm leaning in that direction. Persicaria Sao Paulo seems like it might be a good fit for the aesthetic role, as it's a different type of leaf than most of what I see, but seems to need frequent trimming, so double duty! Looking for a third.

That's as far as I've made it so far... I'm still building my vocabulary and learning what exists from a ground state of near zero, so suggestions are very welcome!
 
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