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55 gallon central American predator tank

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I thought I'd write a little story about my first adventures into exotic fish. After moving to Eugene, OR, we discovered the water here was nice and soft from the tap, and very low on chlorine and other chemicals. I'd always wanted to do a central American river system until I saw the CraigsList ad for belonesox belizanus. I fired up Google to see exactly what these fish were and the rest, as they say, is history
(and still in the making!).

An hour's drive got me to a young man that was breeding several kinds of fish, including the pike livebearer. Between the time we had texted back and forth a few times and my arrival, he had given up on CraigsList and placed the fry on AquaBid. He honored the CL ad and I got nine fry for 50 cents each. Meanwhile, he said his AquaBid ad had already netted him $50 per.


My girlfriend and I took the little guys home (less two that died enroute) and got them going into a nicely acclimated 10 gallon tank with some live plants. The next day I went to a local waterhole and harvested a ton of daphnia and other critters. The young fry did well, greedily eating the small stuff plus dried bloodworms I broke up in a mortar with a pestle... and each other.
The warnings of cannibalism proved accurate and after a couple months I had five left, a male and four females.

While I was learning just how much these dang things eat, I bought and set up a 55 gallon tank and got it going. I had layered up the substrate with peat moss, Flourite and cleaned play sand, chosen three nice, big lava rocks from back home in central Oregon and plopped a few common kribensis in there to cycle it. After awhile, they still weren't looking so good and through testing watched the water hardness climb through the roof! Frequent water changes were no good, so out came the rocks. This is when I learned that the red lava rocks from the Cascade range is no good for aquariums. I have had previous good luck with the gray lava rock, so I got some of that as replacement. Things have been good on the water quality front since then. I planted some medium swords and cryptocoryne. I'm running an AquaClear 30 power filter, two heaters (one 250 watt and one 200 watt), and my lights consist of two shop lights on timers suspended over the top with two each plant bulbs and normal daylight bulbs, for a total of 160 watts of light. A CO2 generator completes the setup.

The pike grew and grew, eating bigger and bigger things, including all of our white cloud mountain minnows, so it was time to place them into the 55. They were now eating small feeder fish and whole bloodworms.
I got them some company in the form of a school of five corydoras consisting of two false Julii, one green, and two paleated. Time progressed and I added more plants, medium swordgrass and ludwigia.

It was about this time the females had outgrown the male enough that he was consumed. The school of pike was now down to four.

I bought a mystery snail that was later identified as pomacea bridgesi. Who knew a snail could be so athletic? It was swinging off the crypts, base jumping off the rocks, and in general being a free running psychonaut. And it got huge, at least two inches in diameter with even longer antenna and a foot so large it no longer fit into the shell. Obviously it was eating well. Too well.

The algae bloom popped up a week ago. Despite frequent water changes, there was still too much leftover food, and that, combined with the low winter sun that was able to shine in through the back patio doors, led to the perfect storm of green water. I'm still fighting it. One suggestion was to cover the whole works in a blanket, which I did, and shut off the lights entirely. Today my girlfriend bought some feeders, dumped them in, then came to get me at work. When we got home the sun had gone down so she was taking the blanket off, spotted one of the pike in the blanket and shrieked. She also being an aquarist quickly grabbed it to put it back in the tank... and realized it was too late.

And then there were three.