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Discussion Starter #1
I collected these branches from some streamside dogwood bushes today and put them in the 80 gal tank thinking I would do sort of a flooded marsh or savannah and maybe keep a colony of killies in there, just letting it get overgrown and let the fish have free reign throughout.

But, I've about to get a group of S. osphromenoides in before too long, and I started thinking of carrying the same idea over and setting it up for them, instead. My experience with them in the past has shown me that they are absolutely vicious toward each other, and I think this time around I'd like to give them as much room as possible. In many of the photos I've seen of S. osphro habitat, it's usually small swamps and ditches lined with reed and grass type plants. Later in the season I could probably experiment with some local grasses...but that may or may not work.



I was wondering if you guys might have some suggestions regarding plants I could try in here? I was thinking H. difformis (wisteria) might be a good one, just letting it run rampant and take over. Or possibly H. corymbosa might be even better, and its thicks stems and growth form might compliment the branches a bit better? Maybe a combo of both...the corymbosa amont the branches with the difformis more toward the right side. I'm thinking cryptocorne spp. and the usual java fern, etc. just wouldn't look right in here, and I'm not sure if it's the right habitat for them, as I usually see them in photos of streams and decent current.

Anyway, let me know what you think--any and all suggestions are appreciated. Thanks!
 

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The chocolate gouramis inhabit the same areas as many of the acidic-warer loving Cryptocorynes. I would try those Cryptocorynes coming from the same general area as the chocolate gourami (southeast Asia), including such plants as Cryptocoryne cordata var. blassii, Cryptocoryne pontederiifolia, Cryptocoryne albida, et al. I would pick one or two of the Cryptocorynes for the right side of the tank. As for the left, some plants that may work include Cryptocoryne ciliata, any marginal house plants (like those palm trees they keep seling at the fish store) that don't mind having their feet underwater could be used to good effect.

Carlos
 

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Your hardsacpe has a very 'natural' feel. If you plan to stick with the 2/3 full aspect, I suggest a selection of floating plants in addition to carlos' suggested malasian crypts. You could plant crypts where water circulation clears away the floaters and use hardscape under your floating plant area. You might find that floating plants hold very well around your emerging brushpile if your water circulation promotes it. If you get lucky, the floating plants may also support a sustainable springtail population and your fish will always have some treats to hunt for.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Not yet, Kevin--I just set it up yesterday!

Jeff, what sort of floating plants are you thinking?

Carlos, I'm thinking a huge stand of C. ciliata could look quite impressive, maybe something simulating this type of habitat:



 

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I'm not so sure, but I think C. keei and C. longicauda would look nice on the right side, and maybe you can plant Cyperus helferi along the back left.

IMHO, you should probably invest in a canister filter. Choco's need excellent water quality to keep them from wasting away.
 

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Yes. As always, I suggest to keep the Cryptocoryne species on the /simple/ side since you will need a lot of them.

Raul: you do know one measly little C. keei would cost about 40-50 dollars a plant in the US? Skylsdale would be broke! :D

Carlos
 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
As I've thought about this, I've worked on a little bit of a direction to go with this tank:

I'm thinking of going along with Diana Walstad's "natural" tank method, since all the plants will most likely be root feeders and probably end up growing emmersed with the lowered water level. This would consist of a lower substrate layer of plain potting soil, covered with an equal layer of gravel (although I REALLY prefer the look of sand, but supposedly it prevent oxygen from reaching the bacteria in the soil).

For water circulation, I'm thinking of an Aquaclear powerhead (126 gph) or two with the Quickfilter attachment to help with chemical filtration. I assume this will be small enough to keep water moving, but not too much for the chocolates? I haven't ever used one of these powerheads, so input is appreciated.

Plants will consist of a bunch of C. ciliata. They will be on the left side (which is slightly inclined, which you can't really tell in the pic) and taper off. In the very back left I might also put in some H. corymbosa. Both these plants should do very well and end up emmersed in no time. I'm not sure about the other species of plant...and maybe I'll just stick with these two. Either way, I want the space beneath the water to be an absolute jungle of stalks and leaves, and I'll probably add a decent amount of magnolia leaf litter to the tank as well. I want it as overgrown as possible to create a nice swampy and covered environment for the chocos, especially breaking up fields of view to curb aggression, etc.

Thoughts?
 

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How many plants are you looking to get, and more importantly how much are you willing to spend? cordata isn't like keei, but it sure isn't like wendtii either.

I'm thinking this tank needs a notion of a bank or something. In your smaller tank, there was a slope on one side. Perhaps this one could use one too.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Aaron, I do have a bit of a slope in this one...but I took the picture at a slight angle and a bit from above, so you can't quite see it. It's definitely not as dramatic as the smaller tank. I may move the tank this week, and when I do, I think I'm going to add more "drama" to the substrate.

I couldn't find C. cordata offered anywhere, so I wasn't sure of its price. I haven't found any information that specifically associates C. ciliata with chocolates, but I may have to make due.

Robert, I may go with C. ciliata (which I see you have available), instead. I'll definitely be getting ahold of you when I'm reading to stock the tank. I realize it gets pretty tall, and I actually hope that it does so I can get some really good emmersed growth in the tank (I believe the height of the tank is just shy of 24").

I dropped a line over in Diana Walstad's forum mat All Wet Thumb regarding my water parameters and the "natural" method. I would really like to go this direction, but my concern is that it may be difficult to maintain softwater conditions and still provide the plants what they need. However, being accustomed to those conditions anyway, they may be fine.
 

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Did you check one of my favorite stores?:

http://www.aquaticplantdepot.com/cryptocorynes.html

Aquatic Plant Depot offers both cordata var. blassii at 1.85$ each. They are decent sized plants (3-4" tall) and have always come in healthy for me. I think they would look good for the beech litter area.

Don't worry about the intraspecific aggression of the chocolate gouramis too much though. I kept four in my 20g long, and I did not have too many problems in a 'mound' layout shape. My losses at the beginning were more due to them being excellent jumpers...

Carlos
 

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You need to create hiding spaces to relieve aggression when you have a biotope full of Chocolates. Although they are timid and shy in a community tank, they show their darker side when they are in a species tank. That's why you should plant an area filled with C. helferi, Hygrophila, or fined-leaved plants to create seclusions for less dominant fish to hide away from the alpha male and female.
 

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My fish were not shy at all in the community aquarium and were very personable. They were always first in line for food (live and dry). They'd nip at each other on occassion and definitely enjoyed having their own space, but they weren't downright ferocious to each other in this relatively small tank nor were they afraid to actively compete with the various fish they lived with (pencilfish, rummynose tetras, cardinal tetras, otos).

Carlos
 

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Discussion Starter #16 (Edited)
Thanks for the link, tsunami--I've never checked that place out before.

I kept 10 chocos in a 20 long a few years ago, and lost 3-4 simply from aggression. From what I could tell, there was definitely a dominant male of the group, and he focused most of his aggression on what seemed to be the fish at the bottom of the ladder (as did the others). Once the "bottom rung" fish was taken out, then next in line took the brunt of the aggression and so on. It's difficult to sex from males and females, but from I saw, it seemed there was a seperate but similar heirarchy that occured among the females as well. It could have been that with the number of fish I had in that tank, it was just too much, and I'm wondering if they would have naturally winnowed down their numbers to something smaller and more tolerable, and then the group would have sustained itself from there.

They weren't shy at all in regards to feeding, and when I housed them with a few rasbora species, they completely ignored them. However, when I temporarily housed a betta with them, the entire group of chocos were constantly being attacked by the lone betta. It was after this that I housed them in a species tank and was actually surprised at how nasty they were toward each other.

In a larger tank, I'm hoping to curb some of this aggression as it will provide more space for individuals to escape. And as I said earlier, I'm not going to worry too much about aquascaping initially, but rather allow things to just become overgrown and dense with stalks and plants to form a dense jungle for them (i.e. blocking lines of site, territories, etc.).

***

Here are some shots where chocolate gouramies were actually collected:





As you can see, what looks like the bottom of the pool is actually a mass carpet of plants covered with mulm and algae. The chocolates were hanging out beneath that carpet.



As far as translating something like this over to an aquarium, I'm thinking of probably have a slope and the left half or 2/3 of the tank would basically consist of a monospecific stand of C. blassii, both submerged and emmersed to create variation...and then opening up toward the front a little bit. Then a branch or a few twigs on the bottom in this open area and use some moss to give things an overgrown and swampy feeling of algae and whatnot.

Thoughts?
 

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hmm, pictures look familiar :)

The first 2 pictures are actually taken by me off a road near Mersing, Malaysia. With Zhouhang, we were on our way to pahang looking for barbs and betta.

Quite a number of rasboras in there and the water are clear. Anyway, I netted 3 chocolate gourami under the logs and leaves by the bank. Nice but fragile fish. We didnt see much crypts at that location, the C. cordata var cordata was found in a nearby stream, probably 15min drive away.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Hey lorba! Are you a member at Petfrd.com as well? I thought that is where I first saw these field reports, but recently came across your website and have been studying it pretty thoroughly. The information and pictures are much appreciated!

Would you mind providing any more information as to the types of plants you've noticed in the areas where you've collected S. osphromenoides?
 
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