Gouramis and Kin
The family Anabantidae includes some prime candidates for the nano tank. The sparkling gourami Trichopsis pumila is readily available in the trade and makes a great addition to any nano setup. It is a different shape than most of the other species we’ve discussed so far and makes a good visual contrast.
A pair of these with a school of one of the cyprinids will make a beautiful display, and when combined with Asian plants can be part of a miniature biotope tank.
For experienced hobbyists, licorice gouramis are very good choices. The most frequently available species, Parosphromenus deissneri, P. sumatranus, P. anjungancnsis, P. nagyi, and the undescribed P. sp. “blue line” are all quite suitable. The other species that is occasionally found in the trade, R omaticauda, is less suitable because it requires extremely soft and acidic water to do well.
One advantage of choosing the licorice gouramis is their preference for water in the low 70s, meaning that room temperature water should suffice for them. This group is rather shy and retiring, and the addition of a small school of boraras or similar species will serve as dithers for them and greatly increase the amount of time they spend out in the open. Diet is very important with this genus, and the occasional addition of some small live food will be greatly appreciated.
They can be successfully maintained on a dry food diet, but be sure to get the highest quality food that you can find. They will take both small pellets and flakes. Frozen foods such as mosquito larvae, bloodworms, and brine shrimp should also be fed.
The licorice gouramis will do well as pairs or in small groups. In general, they can be sexed by looking at the unpaired fins. The males will typically have a pattern in these fins while the female’s fins are generally clear.
The Burmese mini chocolate gourami Parasphaerichthys ocellatus also works quite well in the nano tank. This species seldom exceeds 1 1/2 inches in length and will do well in any water conditions. It is more active and outgoing than the licorice gouramis and will fare better than they do on a diet consisting solely of prepared foods.
A single male Siamese fighting fish Betta splendens is always a good choice for a small tank. These are available in a variety of colors and finnage types, ranging from the veiltails commonly found in most shops through the half moons, crowntails, and double tails that are the show standards in the International Betta Congress (IBC).
Care should be taken when combining bettas with other species, particularly in smaller tanks. Many of the other fish we’ve discussed are small enough to be eaten by the betta and are not appropriate tankmates. Fish like dwarf pencils or glowlight tetras would be good choices. Fancy guppies, however, are particularly labor tankmates, as the males’ large caudal fins seem to trigger the same fighting response that the sight of another male betta would trigger, and some real aggression may follow.
Some of the smaller Betta species, particularly the members of the coccina species complex, are excellent choices. This diminutive group constitutes the so-called red fighters and includes species such as coccina, brownorum, rutilans, persephone, and several others. These four are the species most likely to be encountered in the trade, and B. coccina in particular is a species your local or regional shop should be able to obtain for you.
They can also be obtained through private breeders, especially those involved in the IBC Species Maintenance Program. In general, these species will not exceed 2 inches in length. They are somewhat shy and will spend some time hiding in the plants or under driftwood. In nature, many of them spend their time in leaf litter.
Unlike B. splendens, these species are peaceful, and the males and females can be kept together without any problems. Multiple males can also be kept together quite successfully. They make excellent tankmates for a school of small cyprinids or tetras. Their ability to jump is second only to the killifish, so their tank should be well covered.
The smaller members of the family Badidae are good choices for the experienced hobbyist but not really suitable for beginners. The genus Dario in particular is well suited for nano tanks, as its members are essentially ½-inch fish. Dario dario, the scarlet badis, is commonly available through specialty shops and is the most colorful member of this group.
As with other members of the genus, this species needs tiny live foods to thrive. That is the primary reason I only recommend them for experienced aquarists. They are active little guys and will be in and out of the plants and constantly on the lookout for a lasty morsel. If well cared for, they will breed in a nano setup.
If there is a sufficient population of infusorians in and among the plants, some of the fry will grow up in the tank. If you have been keeping tanks for a while and are willing to make the commitment to raising live food, this is definitely a species you should consider.
No discussion of aquarium fish is complete without mentioning the catfish. There are several cats that are appropriate for use in the nano tank. While many consider these to be their cleanup crew, it is important to remember that they have specific requirements that must be met.
The various Otocinclus species are effective algae eaters and can be added to any nano tank. While they will eat any green algae that grows in the tank, they should also be fed pellets or wafers intended for herbivorous catfish to supplement their diet and be sure that they are getting enough to eat.
Some of the smaller Aspidoras and Corydoras species will also do well in the nano tank. In particular, I recommend A. pauciradiatus and C. habrosus. These two species will spend most of their time on the bottom of the tank in the manner one would expect of the larger species of Corydoras. It is important to leave some open space on the bottom of the tank to give these species an area in which to hang out. If the substrate is completely planted, they will not be comfortable in the tank.
They will eat any food that hits the bottom of the tank, but again, the aquarist must be sure that they are getting enough to eat by feeding some food specifically designed for catfish rather than just expecting them to survive on any excess food that other fish in the tank don’t eat.
C, pygmaeus and C. hastatus are also very good choices for the nano tank. These species will spend most of their time schooling in midwater, and while they will search the bottom for food, they are not as efficient at keeping the bottom clean as the former species.
While this is not an exhaustive list of the possible inhabitants for your nano tank, it should aid you in selecting specimens for your nano aquarium and help you create a beautiful habitat with fish that will not just survive but thrive. To find out more, you can check out Types Of Gourami Fish.
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