Our community tank

We have a 55-gallon aquarium in our living room. Currently, it’s a community tank containing an assortment of friendly fish and one very aggressive, and very funny, crayfish.


It has had several incarnations, but right now it consists of the following tankmates:

  • 2 flame gourami (Colisa lalia hybrids)
  • 3 gold gourami (Trichogaster trichopterus hybrids)
  • 1 blue gourami (Trichogaster trichopterus hybrid) – ? possibly opaline since he has no black spots. Oddly, his fins have a pinkish cast to them and he is a dull blue. I’ll have to upload a picture of him.
  • 6 tiger barbs (Puntius tetrazona)
  • 12-15 zebra danios (Brachydanio rerio)
  • 1 red claw crayfish (Cherax quadricarinatus)

Here are some of the tiger barbs. I believe this is spawning behavior, especially since their noses are bright red; that is an indication that they’re ready to breed. We have no other tank to put fry in, so if they do breed and the lobster doesn’t eat their eggs, I don’t think the fry will live. You can see one of the gold gourami in this clip, too.

The blue gourami is the fish we’ve had the longest. He was in our first community tank, then he was the lone non-cichlid when we were pretty much given five African cichlids and two huge, 13″ long plecostomus fish. Amazingly, the blue gourami survived being pestered and chased by those cichlids. No, I do not suggest putting gourami with cichlids…But we did, and this scrappy little guy survived. He has been known as Scrappy ever since.

The cichlids proved too aggressive, so we traded them in for some gentler tropical fish. Scrappy was, again, in with fish he could deal with, and his tattered fins grew back out and he assumed King’s domain of the tank. The two large pleco fish remained. We added a few other gourami and a few zebra danios. We had another die-off and all except Scrappy, one gold gourami, two zebra danios and the two plecos died. Water levels seemed okay, and our filtration is overkill for the size of our tank, so we’re not sure what happened.

Later, one pleco was injured somehow, and that injury turned into a fungal infection that did him in. We bought the blue “lobster” (it’s a crayfish, folks) after pleco #1 died. The crayfish was bright blue when I bought him, and about 3″ from claw tips to end of tail. He lost his blue coloring the larger he got, and he’s now a good 5″ long. His antennae have gone from 2″ long to a good 8-9″ long. This is a fortunate thing for the fish since his antennae alert them of his approach before his claws have a chance to pinch.

So far, we’ve not witnessed him moulting and I’m interested to see this occur. Of course, as voracious an appetite as he has, he might have moulted and eaten his discarded exoskeleton overnight. As I’ve learned from Crayfishmates.com, crayfish are hard to identify from photos without very specific information; I have not taken the time to count hepatic spines and tubercles! I just joined the forum at bluecrayfish.com and posted a thread there with links to photos.

This crayfish had VERY high hopes from the start. It tried repeatedly to catch and eat that remaining pleco! It would scrabble over to its dangling tale and grab a hold of one fin with its claws. When the big fish swam off, that tenacious crustacean held right on. It was like an underwater rodeo act.

We thought it funny at first, but then we realized it was stressing the pleco out a lot. He quit going after the algae wafers and stayed stuck to the side of the tank. The zealous and confident crayfish worried its tail to the point where a fungal infection set in.

I tried inserting a piece of Plexiglas into the tank as a means of separating the big fish from its pint-sized predator. Frustrating as that was to see how stressed the pleco was, I must admit it was funny watching the crayfish find ways over or around the Plexiglas; I changed it several times before I found a way to keep him on his own side. I took several videos of the crayfish as he figured out ways to circumvent the divider, just haven’t posted them yet. Crayfish may be as dumb as bugs, but they make up for it in persistence!

Unfortunately for the pleco, however, the damage had been done and it was beyond saving. So, for a while, we just had Scrappy, his gold gourami friend, two zebra danios and the crayfish. Talk about an empty tank!

For Christmas, Howie bought us more fish. The tank is now stocked up to the aforementioned list. The residents are all happy and healthy still, three weeks out. I am sure the huge plecos had added greatly to the ammonia load, but they’re gone and the tank’s mechanical and biological filtration seem to be doing great. We use a Whisper Power Filter rated for a 75-gallon tank, plus we have an under-gravel filter. The water’s crystal clear.

The only thing missing is cover in which the fish might hide. The lobster stripped the leaves off of our old plastic aquarium in his forages for algae; those old plants had to be at least ten years old, so it’s no surprise they finally got brittle. Now we are down to just two 12″ tall plastic plants.

All that will change as soon as my eBay order arrives, however! I bought a 12-plant lot of plastic plants on eBay tonight, and they’re shipping out from Australia. It looks like a nice assortment and I know the fish will be happy to have places to hide. Hopefully the new plants will hold up better to the lobster’s grazing!

I’ll post my video of the whole tank in a separate entry.

This entry was posted in Pets.

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