Should I just go with no substrate?

All posts regarding the care and breeding of these catfishes from South America.
Post Reply
Woodh
Posts: 40
Joined: Wed Apr 14, 2021 12:28 pm
My cats species list: 1 (i:0, k:1)
My aquaria list: 1 (i:1)
Spotted: 1
Location 1: Linkoping
Location 2: Sweden

Should I just go with no substrate?

Post by Woodh »

So I am back with another question, it's food related as usual haha, since I keep my plecos in my only aquarium and want it to look nice I try to remove as much poop as possible but I am just one man and can't possibly keep up :(( I consider to scale down the furnishing of the tank(honestly I don't even like the look of it as it is and it's simply impractical).

What would be your advice as experienced keepers? I realise I need to remove some rocks and random stuff on the ground, possibly a couple of plants so I can vacuum easier etc, just make it less cluttery but should I just go all in and remove the sand? I like plants so couldn't give them up entirely but would honestly be fine with just having stuff tied to wood.

The pic is what they achieved during the day! ~X(

Help please! Hope you have a nice start of summer(?)!
Attachments
l39720210513.JPG
Bas Pels
Posts: 2806
Joined: Thu Dec 21, 2006 8:35 pm
My images: 1
My cats species list: 27 (i:0, k:0)
Spotted: 5
Location 1: the Netherlands
Location 2: Nijmegen the Netherlands
Interests: Central American and Uruguayan fishes

Re: Should I just go with no substrate?

Post by Bas Pels »

I would suggest keeping other fishes

Plecos need hiding places, and yes, yhose that eat wood excrete a lot of woodpowder. But eityher you appreciate that, or you let the filter do the job.

If you cannot stand the look, clearly you should keep other fish
cats have whiskers
Woodh
Posts: 40
Joined: Wed Apr 14, 2021 12:28 pm
My cats species list: 1 (i:0, k:1)
My aquaria list: 1 (i:1)
Spotted: 1
Location 1: Linkoping
Location 2: Sweden

Re: Should I just go with no substrate?

Post by Woodh »

Obviously I wouldn't remove their hides? -_- I would just arrange it differently so that the bottom is more open but with vertical wood. My question was simply if barebottom is adviceable and I suspect it has it's merits since people do it?

I have quite much filtration for what's in the tank but it doesn't really seem to make much difference. Also to thread was written tongue in cheek(even if my question regarding bare bottom remains), I love my little saws.
User avatar
Jools
Expert
Posts: 15169
Joined: Mon Dec 30, 2002 3:25 pm
My articles: 193
My images: 914
My catfish: 239
My cats species list: 89 (i:0, k:6)
My aquaria list: 2 (i:2)
My BLogs: 7 (i:5, p:194)
My Wishlist: 20
Spotted: 985
Location 1: M8
Location 2: Scotland
Interests: All things aquatic, Sci-Fi, photography and travel. Oh, and beer.
Contact:

Re: Should I just go with no substrate?

Post by Jools »

I never really felt that no substrate tanks are a great idea. For me, their merits are cosmetic and owner-centric instead of my view of a decent aquarium that should be occupier-centric. That said, some folks want a perfectly clean tank rather than a natural one; in my experience, the merits are stacked for the owner not sure what they are for the fish. But would like to know what I've missed!

Jools
Woodh
Posts: 40
Joined: Wed Apr 14, 2021 12:28 pm
My cats species list: 1 (i:0, k:1)
My aquaria list: 1 (i:1)
Spotted: 1
Location 1: Linkoping
Location 2: Sweden

Re: Should I just go with no substrate?

Post by Woodh »

Jools wrote: Thu May 13, 2021 8:03 pm I never really felt that no substrate tanks are a great idea. For me, their merits are cosmetic and owner-centric instead of my view of a decent aquarium that should be occupier-centric. That said, some folks want a perfectly clean tank rather than a natural one; in my experience, the merits are stacked for the owner not sure what they are for the fish. But would like to know what I've missed!

Jools
Ok, personally I feel like it's ugly with no substrate so that's not what drawing me towards that(I am not even sure I wan't it), I much prefer a natural looking tank. The reason I would be inclinced to use it is simply because it's easier to see leftover food, for example two days ago I found out that my plecos don't enjoy a certain type of wafer by finding it half rotting stuck under some rock. Since I am new to this I have a hard time gauging exactly how much to feed so when I feed, say, green beans it would be nice to know how much is actually eaten, now it could be stuck under some decor and I would never find it.

Of course I don't mind some food going uneaten but I am simply vary of the water going bad and since, again, I am new to this it might be hard for me to tell and can't exactly test all the time. In that sense a bare bottom with just lose pieces of wood that I can move during cleaning would be easier to have. Again I think it looks ugly and I doubt the fish prefer it so that's a huge con for me.

Might be I just need to rethink my layout of the wood/hardscape and keep the substrate where it is. That said the reason for asking is also if there are other upsides or downsides besides the obvious.
User avatar
Jools
Expert
Posts: 15169
Joined: Mon Dec 30, 2002 3:25 pm
My articles: 193
My images: 914
My catfish: 239
My cats species list: 89 (i:0, k:6)
My aquaria list: 2 (i:2)
My BLogs: 7 (i:5, p:194)
My Wishlist: 20
Spotted: 985
Location 1: M8
Location 2: Scotland
Interests: All things aquatic, Sci-Fi, photography and travel. Oh, and beer.
Contact:

Re: Should I just go with no substrate?

Post by Jools »

I'm not sure moving wood around is the best idea if you wish your fishes to settle. If you're relatively new to this then trust in the fact you will instinctively overfeed and don't be worried about cutting down on what you offer. Other fishes (or snails) will tell you if there is an issue with the water but, honestly, if you have good filtration and are totally on top of water changes, what's actually in the tank is less of an issue.

A few Corydoras will root out uneaten food for example, I've even seen Pangio loaches used for this purpose. If it's helpful, I can post a video of a tank where I bred Panaqolus and it's not too dissimilar from yours. Also, consider attaching food to something that won't move if you can.

I get what you're saying about wanting to keep the tank clean, but the skill is in watching your fishes behave and then knowing if something is about to go wrong. That risk is, as I say, mostly offset by good filtration and water changes.

Hope that helps,

Jools
User avatar
Shane
Expert
Posts: 4378
Joined: Mon Dec 30, 2002 10:12 pm
My articles: 69
My images: 161
My catfish: 72
My cats species list: 4 (i:0, k:0)
My aquaria list: 4 (i:4)
Spotted: 89
Location 1: Tysons
Location 2: Virginia
Contact:

Re: Should I just go with no substrate?

Post by Shane »

I am a big fan of natural tanks, but a specific breeding set up may not always need to replicate the natural habitat. I have bred several loricariid species in "bare bottom" set ups. My own preference is to cut slate roofing tiles and line the bottom of the tank. This creates a more natural looking tank bottom that calms the fish and is easy to clean. As many species from rivers such as the Orinoco and Xingu live almost exclusively on and around large stones it is not that unnatural for them to live over a slate substrate.
-Shane
"My journey is at an end and the tale is told. The reader who has followed so faithfully and so far, they have the right to ask, what do I bring back? It can be summed up in three words. Concentrate upon Uganda."
Winston Churchill, My African Journey
dw1305
Posts: 1017
Joined: Thu Oct 22, 2009 11:57 am
Location 2: Bath, UK

Re: Should I just go with no substrate?

Post by dw1305 »

Hi all,
Woodh wrote: Thu May 13, 2021 8:14 pm The reason I would be inclinced to use it is simply because it's easier to see leftover food, for example two days ago I found out that my plecos don't enjoy a certain type of wafer by finding it half rotting stuck under some rock. Since I am new to this I have a hard time gauging exactly how much to feed so when I feed, say, green beans it would be nice to know how much is actually eaten, now it could be stuck under some decor and I would never find it.

Of course I don't mind some food going uneaten but I am simply vary of the water going bad and since, again, I am new to this it might be hard for me to tell and can't exactly test all the time. In that sense a bare bottom with just lose pieces of wood that I can move during cleaning would be easier to have. Again I think it looks ugly and I doubt the fish prefer it so that's a huge con for me.

Might be I just need to rethink my layout of the wood/hardscape and keep the substrate where it is. That said the reason for asking is also if there are other upsides or downsides besides the obvious.
I'm not a fan of bare bottom tanks either. I only keep planted tanks (even for Hypancistrus etc), because of the hugely beneficial effect plants have on water quality.

In terms of left over food etc. I strongly recommend one or more "tank janitors". Some people use Cherry Shrimps, I use Asellus, and Ramshorn and Malaysian Trumpet Snails.

You don't need a thick layer of sand, a thin layer is fine. When I kept higher flow tanks I mixed fine and fine gravel together and let the current sort them. Where the flow was highest I put a couple of rounded cobbles and where the flow was lowest (found by putting dead leaves into the tank and seeing where they ended up) I put a ceramic tile.

I have a large sponge on the filter intake (to stop food, sand etc getting into the canister) and don't vacuum the substrate. I just syphon the bits that end up on the tile.

cheers Darrel
Woodh
Posts: 40
Joined: Wed Apr 14, 2021 12:28 pm
My cats species list: 1 (i:0, k:1)
My aquaria list: 1 (i:1)
Spotted: 1
Location 1: Linkoping
Location 2: Sweden

Re: Should I just go with no substrate?

Post by Woodh »

Thanks for the input Jools, shane and dw!

Have decided ill just stick with what I have and try to work around it until I am forced to move the tank(will happen sooner or later due to living conditions), roofing tiles or the likes is a very interesting suggestion which I will look into further at that time.

My thought process regarding plants was that you could get enough of them to help the water simply by tying to wood/rocks and maybe some floaters, but suspect they might not enjoy the surface movement.

Ill also look into getting a cleaner patrol of sorts I suppose, my original thought was that it's easier to make sure the plecos get enough food without competition on the bottom but I guess corydoras are timid enough and they are also cool fish so that doesn't hurt either.

I don't really know what classifies as good filtration and what's not but I guess that's subjective? Got a Canister filter eheim 2073 and a small internal filter(fluval U3) which I mostly use for moving water on a 65 gallon tank with just the 6 plecos, a ancistrus(rescue) and 10 tetras- some snails also found their way into the tank and I don't mind them! Switch water once a week and a couple of times I remove leftovers/excessive waste. Also have an airstone that I consider making a sponge filter out of but then ill probably remove the internal filter and seed a smaller tank with it.

Hope you all have a nice weekend, really good weather here but still I think quite a bit about the plecos! ;)
User avatar
TwoTankAmin
Posts: 1353
Joined: Thu Apr 24, 2008 11:26 pm
I've donated: $3168.00!
My cats species list: 6 (i:0, k:0)
My BLogs: 2 (i:0, p:48)
Location 1: USA
Location 2: Mt. Kisco, NY
Interests: Fish and Poker

Re: Should I just go with no substrate?

Post by TwoTankAmin »

The first serious pleco spawning for me began in Apr. 2006 with H. zebra. I used a bare bottom tank. However, I had a tom of rock and wood as well as many caves. Because the fish were very kind to me and spawned a lot, I began to have an ever increasing number of offspring in the tank. I am a believer in leaving the kids to start life in the breeding tank, but there is a limit to this.

The result was at least twice a year i had to pull offspring. The only way to do this it to remove everything in the tank except substrate (if one has it). Small plecos are expert at finding any place they can to hide, even if this is behind a heater. These i often had to detach and move away from the glass. The point of this is that when I did the fry hunts, I also would scrub the bottom glass.

What I can tell you is poop and other wast accumulates in dead spots in BB as well as substrated tanks. My substrate had always been fine gravel, even in most of my planted tanks. I have kept some BB tanks with plants in pots and attached to wood and rocks. However, when I began keeping Altum angels I also began using a sand substrate. Today I have 13 pleco tanks and only that original zebra tank is BB. All the rest have sand.

Now for the kicker- I have gotten something in the range of 500 zebra offspring from that BB tank over the years. I am still getting fry in that tank. But my other species in sanded tanks have also been prolific.

While I would love to use slate bottom tanks, they are heavy and one needs to worry about how the slates is arranged/shaped as debris have a habit of finding any and every hiding place they can. One thing I still do in the BB zebra tank is to use my pumped return water (with a sprinkler type head) to flow water down the bottom edge of the back glass which then runs from the back towards the front of the tank and which works to push hidden debris out towards the front where I can vacuum it out.

I can also tell you that a number of the other 13 pleco tanks started out BB as well. I added sand at a later time. There was no difference I noticed in the behavior or breeding by the inhabitants.

In the wild plecos can live with a lot of current or minimal current. However, they are adapted to be able to suck onto a hard surface as their way not to be tosses about or washed miles down stream. I do not think a pleco can use sand as a surface to which it can adhere. this requires a hard surface. I am not so sure it matters to the fish if that surface is glass, slate, rock, tile etc.

All of the above is moot if one's goal is to create an attractive tank to view as opposed to one dedicated to spawning plecos.What I do believe is that the smaller sized plecos do best in tanks which offer them plenty of cover. The more likely a species is to be food for something else, the more important cover is to them. This is even more true when they live in the confined space of most aquariums.

One observation i can offer. I have kept about 20 tanks from some time. Several of these are planted communities. I have a 150 gal. with 11 assorted clown loaches (biggest 10+ inches) and a bunch of redline barbs. When I approach the tank with food almost all the clowns bunch at the surface near where I usually drop the food. On the other hand, my plecos only come out to eat after the food has hit the bottom and I am not to close to the tank. If I get too close they all bolt for cover. Only the smallest fry have not learned they are supposed to hide, but they stop being "stupid" fairly fast.

The last comment I can offer is that none of my pleco tanks are planted (Darrel is right about the value of a planted substrate). However, I also rely on large amounts of Poret foam for filtration and take steps to insure I have adequate DO in tanks. I have also had BB tanks with plants over years. The one thing I do know is that I have never sucked out sand or fine gravel when siphoning debris out of a BB tank :-p
No one has ever become poor by giving.” Anonymous
Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”" Daniel Patrick Moynihan
"The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it." Neil DeGrasse Tyson
aquaholic
Posts: 60
Joined: Tue Apr 08, 2003 8:27 am
Location 1: Australia
Interests: Catfish, tankbusters and cichlids

Re: Should I just go with no substrate?

Post by aquaholic »

I have a suggestion that may or may not appeal depending on your preferences.

I maintain quite a large number of tanks in several fish rooms. Most of my tanks are racked end side out to maximise space. Some species such as cave dwelling african cichlids do not like their shelters being disturbed or moved which used to be necessary when catching out fry. Also some fish would not leave shelters which made it very difficult to catch them out.

The solution I came up with was a raised bottom within the tank that slopes down towards the front of the tank (end in my case) with a vertical drop about 100mm at the end zone which is a fish catchment area containing no substrate. When I wish to catch fish, I gradually lower the water level which forces the fish down the slope so they end up in the front catchment area. No need to disturb the layout of the tank. Broodstock fish can return to their undisturbed sheters when the water level returns.

On this raised false bottom there is substrate, caves, shells, driftwood etc. Some plants in terracotta pots.
aquaholic
Posts: 60
Joined: Tue Apr 08, 2003 8:27 am
Location 1: Australia
Interests: Catfish, tankbusters and cichlids

Re: Should I just go with no substrate?

Post by aquaholic »

Once you have a certain number of tanks (anything over 150+), bare bottom without substrate is most definitely more efficient.

On my few tanks with sand, I find it more efficient not to avoid siphoning out sand as it is easy to capture the lost sand with an bucket that is allowed to overflow (sand trap) at the other end of hose. Just return it to the tank at the end.
Woodh
Posts: 40
Joined: Wed Apr 14, 2021 12:28 pm
My cats species list: 1 (i:0, k:1)
My aquaria list: 1 (i:1)
Spotted: 1
Location 1: Linkoping
Location 2: Sweden

Re: Should I just go with no substrate?

Post by Woodh »

Interesting long reply TwoTankAdmin! So much info I have a hard time knowing what to reply so might be it's best to just thank for all the feedback! I like plants and think they serve a purpose in tanks but I don't doubt there are ways to get healthy tanks without them, and you obviously have! The thing about sucking up sand is another issue for sure. Especially since I live currently live in a small rental apartment that already had a, not aquarium related, flood once I am kinda wary of getting it down the pipes.

My tank is so far made to look nice(if I achieved that? Not at all) but once the plecos grow I have realised I am interested in breeding them but I guess it's atleast a year or so in the future as they are still small. That said second tank is already on it's way so who knows where I stand a couple of years from now, already planning next pleco group and so on!

I can relate to the plecos being a bit skittish but I basically live at my computer(who doesn't these days in one form or another) and it's situated just a couple of meters from the tank which might not be ideal after all- but that's another issue, in a way I think that makes me see quite a lot of them as they tend to forget I exist at times but might also be I am stressing them? In any case they usually bolt if I approach the tank but if I sit there for a while they often come out.

As for aquaholics tips the thing you suggest sounds like a clever solution for a problem I don't have(yet atleast), but I will make sure to remember it for the future and I am sure it will come in handy at some point. 150 tanks? Won't ever happen here for several reasons but I wish it would!

Think I got a lot of condensed information in this thread and I am glad for every bit, even from the slightly rude dutchman. Then again I kinda expect dutch people to be rude based on empirical evidence so in a way I guess it's in your nature to be rude just like it's in the plecos nature to chew wood. Hence you are right that the mess they create is obviously something I will have to accept if I want to keep them as it's part of what they are, easily a sacrifice worth making in my opinion though.
User avatar
bekateen
Posts: 7073
Joined: Tue Sep 09, 2014 5:50 pm
I've donated: $40.00!
My articles: 4
My images: 67
My cats species list: 109 (i:37, k:44)
My aquaria list: 29 (i:13)
My BLogs: 35 (i:124, p:1821)
My Wishlist: 39
Spotted: 134
Location 1: USA, California, Stockton
Location 2: USA, California, Stockton
Contact:

Re: Should I just go with no substrate?

Post by bekateen »

Most of my tanks have a thin layer (1/2") of fine sand. It's not deep enough to trap much debris or gas, although it can be pushed around to make deeper areas that do. But I like the fact that even a thin layer provides a place for live blackworms to habitate. On a glass bottom, the worms can't anchor anywhere and are more prone to be sucked into the filtration without getting eaten. Even my plecos will dig a little bit in the sand to get the worms, and the presence of a small population of live worms in the tank means I don't have to worry if I miss a feeding now and again.

Cheers, Eric
Image
http://youtube.com/user/Bekateen1
Would you like to buy my fish? Click HERE for prices.
Buying caves from https://plecocaves.com? Plecocaves is now sponsoring Bekateen's Fishroom. Use coupon code "bekateen" (no quotes) for 15% off your order.
Post Reply