Letters to the Editor
On page 18 of the July issue, you recommend loaches
for snail control. I think you inadvertently did your readers
and some loaches a disservice in that answer. Even though
you say they get large, mentioning clown loaches at all
here made me cringe. I know you qualified the statement,
but even well-meaning stores recommend these loaches for
snail control without qualification. The fact is that these fish
require good water quality and absolutely should be kept
in groups. Not many people have tanks to support clown
loaches in a suitable way, assuming six of them grow to 10
inches or more, and I don’t think anyone would look at such
a happy school of fish and say it’s a good idea to just take one
out and plunk it in a 20-gallon to eat snails.
Excepting size, all of the above is true of skunks and
yoyos. Additionally, skunk loaches, commonly available and
cheap, are inch-for-inch some of the feistiest fish out there,
nippy and aggressive. A group of these is necessary just
to spread out aggression, but even then they shouldn’t be
recommended for community tanks. I think your magazine
missed a chance to inform people about the proper care
of these awesome but often not properly researched fish.
I respectfully request you remedy this with some kind of
correction, as a subscriber and loach fan.
I am sorry we disappointed such a dedicated loach fan! We
certainly could have said more, so I am happy to expand on
this topic. While we qualified our recommendation of clown
loaches Chromobotia macracanthus for snail control with a
warning about size, we did not mention their schooling needs,
but very often we do remind our readers that they need a very
large tank because of both their adult size and their need to
be in a group. As always, we hope that readers will do their
homework, since we cannot provide complete information
every time a species is mentioned in these pages.
I respectfully disagree with your assertion that few people
can accommodate a school of clowns. A 100-gallon aquarium
can suffice, and many people have even larger tanks. You’re
right, however, that for a 20-gallon community a school
of loaches is not generally a good idea, except perhaps for
sidthimunkis. We also agree with you that loaches in general
need quality water and are best kept in groups, and that
skunks are very nippy. Incidentally, completely aside from the
animals’ needs, an aquarist who does not keep clown loaches
in a group is missing out on some of the most enjoyable tank
We have a 5-gallon that has been set up for a year now
with platies, cories, and ghost shrimp, and a 29 that was set
up in September with platies, cories, zebra and pearl danios,
and cardinal tetras.
A couple of months ago, the pH started to fall in the small
tank, and now the same is happening in the large tank. The
pH of the smaller tank is less than 6. 4, with no alkalinity/
buffering capacity. We were hesitant to add chemicals as a
quick fix for the problem, but we worry that the fish are going
to suffer. What can you recommend? We thoroughly enjoy
getting the magazine, thank you for a great publication!
Jennifer Vranicar and Mike Kutch
A zero alkalinity reading is a recipe for disaster in just
about any aquarium. In the absence of alkalinity, metabolic
processes that constantly produce acids will drive down the
pH—sometimes precipitously. Since your tanks were set up for a
while before the problem arose, your tap water must have some
alkalinity, but over time this buffering capacity was used up.
I applaud your desire to avoid chemical quick fixes! I
am a champion of chemical-free tanks in all but two cases:
water from a chlorinated supply must be treated to neutralize
chlorine and chloramine, and water with no alkalinity requires
buffering—sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and crushed coral
are commonly used, though there are many others.
I first recommend a massive water change. If your tap water
is considerably higher than your tank’s in pH and alkalinity,
then several small changes over the course of a day or two will
slowly acclimate your fish, after which you can safely make a
very large water change with full substrate vacuuming. If your
water supply does have alkalinity, regular large water changes
from now on will prevent a recurrence of the problem—the
buffering capacity will be renewed with each change. If your
water doesn’t have significant buffering, you still should perform
regular water changes, but you should either use a soluble
substrate or filter medium, or you should add a buffer with each
water change. In addition, good filtration, careful feeding, and
regular bottom vacuuming will go a long way in preventing the
buildup of acids in the water.
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