How To Plan a Livestock List

melypr1985

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How To Plan a Livestock List

The very best way to select the fish you will keep in your tank is to start well before you even purchase a tank. Wait. What? I don’t even have a tank yet and you want me to start selecting fish?! Quite simply, yes I do.

In this hobby, a very good portion of the fish we keep require special needs for their care. The biggest of which is ROOM. Room to swim, to exercise, to call territory. Tangs are among the most popular fish to keep in the saltwater world and they need lots of room to swim. Schools of fish need plenty of room to swim as well especially since a good portion of them get quite large.

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(photo credit Watchguy123)

Everyone in this hobby saw something they just had to have. For some, that thing was a fish and for others it was a coral. Maybe it was the whole package, but after looking around at pictures and other people’s tanks they fell in love with something specific. To have the best chance at success I would suggest looking at that one thing. For this article we will look at that one fish you just have to have. The one that you decided to start a saltwater tank for. The fish that you will design your whole tank and it’s other occupants around. What are the care requirements for it? Does it need a six-foot tank or longer? Or maybe it needs to have strong currents to swim in? Is a very tall tank required for mating rituals? Or perhaps it needs to have a secure cover, deep sand bed, open spaces around the rocks? Does it need a small tank with peaceful tankmates? There are any number of things that this fish might need to live a long and happy life in your care.

So, have you picked it yet? Think real hard. Look around and make sure to check out the pricing. If your pick something you can never afford, then you may want to pick something else. Got it? OK! Let’s say that the fish you absolutely had to have is a sting ray. Whoa baby that’s quite a choice! So you do your research and discover that these guys need a large tank, with plenty of room to roam the sand. Too much rock will cause issues and may even injure the ray. Now you know how big of a tank you need. Now we look at what kind of fish and inverts (if any) can go with a ray. Now which of those can live in a tank with open spaces and minimal rock to hide in? When you look through that list, is that a list you like? Is it worth it to you to be limited in such a way? Did you really want a ray that badly? No? Let’s move on.

Now you’ve picked that Blue Hippo tang that your daughter just has to have. What wouldn’t we do for our kids right? We do a quick search and see that they get up to a foot in length, need lots of length to swim. That 75 gallon tank you were looking at on Craigslist isn’t quite going to cut it. Oh boy, this is pretty hard.




Let’s do one more. Let’s say you saw a Yasha Haze Goby and pistol shrimp pair and just had to have it. You’re buying a tank just so you can have that one fish and his little buddy. We do our research and find that this fish might get lost in that 180 gallon tank and never be seen. Those triggers you were eyeing as well might eat the pistol shrimp and maybe even make a snack out of your prized goby. He needs fine sand and peaceful tankmates. We start looking at the fish that would be able to thrive in a tank with the goby and we see things like firefish, other gobies, clownfish, some wrasses. All of these need a tight fitting lid to prevent jumping.
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(photo credit: BeakerBob)

Going this route to plan your fish list, you can come up with a solid plan for the tank you need to buy, the equipment you need for the tank and a solid list of fish that will not only live together, but thrive together. Getting on your favorite forum (ehem R2R) and asking about other people’s experiences mixing certain fish on your list will help you gain more insight into how your list will fit together. You won’t find yourself asking the local fish store employee “well what can I put in my tank?” or being disappointed when the fish you brought home suddenly killed several of your fish or got stressed and died. You’ll be prepared for each trip to the store, or each login to the online vendor, knowing exactly what you’re looking for and what will and won’t get along with your favorite fish and the tank you need to keep it.

Happy Reefing!
 
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melypr1985

melypr1985

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Thanks! I had a few customers at the store yesterday that got me thinking about it.
 
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Brew12

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Great article, Melypr! Now get back to that inwall! I want to see it done!:p:p
 

revhtree

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Awesome job and thank you for this!!
 
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melypr1985

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Thanks for the complements ya'll. I've found that the hardest part of working at an LFS is managing people's expectations when it comes to their livestock. Most of the people I see bought whatever tank they could get for the least amount of money and then are shocked when I tell them that the Orange Shoulder tang or Hippo Tang can't go in the 30 gallon they got. I always advise customers who come in asking about how to start up a saltwater tank to first start with what kind of fish they want to keep. Then I send them to R2R to read the "the supreme guide to starting up" article. I just hope this article helps a couple people with starting out right so they are happy with their tank for the long haul.
 
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melypr1985

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Great write up. Presonnaly I would say hippo tangs don't go in anything less then a 180 and yellows in nothing less then a 120. ;)

Cheers,
Alex
Exactly! It's very frustrating to somebody new to the hobby who went through considerable expense and effort to set up their tank thinking its pretty big, when in fact, it's pretty darn small. I can't tell you how many times somebody said "I have a huge tank. It's like a 55 gallon". Hopefully this helps somebody pick the right size tank for the fish they are wanting to keep along with the proper tank mates.
 

Ljaus

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Exactly! It's very frustrating to somebody new to the hobby who went through considerable expense and effort to set up their tank thinking its pretty big, when in fact, it's pretty darn small. I can't tell you how many times somebody said "I have a huge tank. It's like a 55 gallon". Hopefully this helps somebody pick the right size tank for the fish they are wanting to keep along with the proper tank mates.
And this is where the forum and people like you come in. A lot of the older books are way outdated when it comes on what size tank fish need and some people think a reef tank is like a tropical tank you can cram what you want into any size tank. The hobby has progressed so much in the 13 years I've being involved in it and it's all for the best. The biggest improvement by far is the way we select our livestock and help of forums like R2R and people like @melypr1985.
 
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And this is where the forum and people like you come in. A lot of the older books are way outdated when it comes on what size tank fish need and some people think a reef tank is like a tropical tank you can cram what you want into any size tank. The hobby has progressed so much in the 13 years I've being involved in it and it's all for the best. The biggest improvement by far is the way we select our livestock and help of forums like R2R and people like @melypr1985.
That's very sweet. Thank you :)
 

jgvergo

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Excellent article. I think very few people have the discipline to follow your suggestion, but I'm sure everyone would benefit in one way or another. I settled on an 85 gallon 48"x24"x17" tank and then, after the build, discovered that I can't have a Blue tang. I also just decided against an anemone for the same reason. Still, I'm happy as a clam (which I will have some day!)
 

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I usually try to get my customers to look for animals from similar biotops. I don´t care much of the origin of animals in what ocean they are coming from but more from where on a reef they originate.
If You mix from the reef flat or the wavezone with animals coming from 100 to 200 feet deep the deep zone animals will have problems with aggresivness and speed by eating.
When You by a few Dartfishes You want to see them.
By me it looks as the wavezone fishes are less aggressive in an high circulation tank. In such a tank the dartfishes only show when its time to eat or maybe not at all. And that even with no aggressive fishes in the tank. And if they see an innocent Anthias dart around they assume it is hunted because it moves so fast.
Anthias and Chromis tend to school much more in a higher circulation.
 

Geno

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Thanks for the complements ya'll. I've found that the hardest part of working at an LFS is managing people's expectations when it comes to their livestock. Most of the people I see bought whatever tank they could get for the least amount of money and then are shocked when I tell them that the Orange Shoulder tang or Hippo Tang can't go in the 30 gallon they got. I always advise customers who come in asking about how to start up a saltwater tank to first start with what kind of fish they want to keep. Then I send them to R2R to read the "the supreme guide to starting up" article. I just hope this article helps a couple people with starting out right so they are happy with their tank for the long haul.
You had me till right here. I applaud your post about being ready for the hobby. However; instead of advising people on how to plan around the fish they want. I think it's your obligation to advise them on planning around how much money they are looking to spend for start up. I saw where you said a 55 gallon is "pretty darn small". Maybe it is small for you. But I have kept a 60 gallon for over two years and you know what's not small. The bleeping price tag!! I've spent a lot of money! Most of it was me bargain shopping and I'm still in over my head financially! I can't imagine what you think is "big" ends up costing people. You must make like $100 dollars an hour at your job based on your perspective of "big and small" in the salt hobby.
 

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You had me till right here. I applaud your post about being ready for the hobby. However; instead of advising people on how to plan around the fish they want. I think it's your obligation to advise them on planning around how much money they are looking to spend for start up. I saw where you said a 55 gallon is "pretty darn small". Maybe it is small for you. But I have kept a 60 gallon for over two years and you know what's not small. The bleeping price tag!! I've spent a lot of money! Most of it was me bargain shopping and I'm still in over my head financially! I can't imagine what you think is "big" ends up costing people. You must make like $100 dollars an hour at your job based on your perspective of "big and small" in the salt hobby.
"Big" and "small" tanks in this hobby may seem relative to your bank account, but I think the OP was referring to size relative to the room needed to successfully keep most of the saltwater fish found in this hobby (which seems to make sense from the context of the post, and I think is far more pertinent to this discussion). Her point was that a 55g tank is small in that it seriously limits what fish you can keep (no "Dory" for a 55g). From that perspective, the label of "small" makes total sense.

I agree that a customer should count the cost before buying a tank and the equipment and supplies to run it (not to mention the livestock). But isn't that basic wisdom? Shouldn't the average customer be wise enough to count the costs on purchases (whether hobby-related or not) and to do their due diligence to know what is involved in a basic saltwater setup? It's not the OP's "obligation" to make sure someone makes the responsible decision to investigate the costs of a venture before launching into it. However, it seems she did caution the reader of the need to be budget savvy when she said:

Look around and make sure to check out the pricing. If your pick something you can never afford, then you may want to pick something else.
Btw, "large" aquariums in this hobby are generally rated at 180+ gallons. Call that an "opinion" if you want, but it's the general consensus and I assume the base that the OP was operating from.
 
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Brew12

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You had me till right here. I applaud your post about being ready for the hobby. However; instead of advising people on how to plan around the fish they want. I think it's your obligation to advise them on planning around how much money they are looking to spend for start up. I saw where you said a 55 gallon is "pretty darn small". Maybe it is small for you. But I have kept a 60 gallon for over two years and you know what's not small. The bleeping price tag!! I've spent a lot of money! Most of it was me bargain shopping and I'm still in over my head financially! I can't imagine what you think is "big" ends up costing people. You must make like $100 dollars an hour at your job based on your perspective of "big and small" in the salt hobby.
I feel the advice should be a combination of the two. If the only reason the person wants a salt water aquarium is because they fell in love with tangs or non-dwarf angels then getting a 55g setup doesn't make sense. As you said, even a 55g aquarium is expensive. Why encourage someone to make that investment if what they end up with isn't really what they want? If they don't have the budget to fit their end goals it is better to let them know that upfront instead of having them spend a large amount of money that only gets them part way there.
 

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