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South East Asian backwater

Java fern (Microsorium pteropus)Aquarium Setup: Slow or no current. Densely planted with some floating plants. Use peat filtration
Substrate: Silver sand, driftwood (planted with Java fern Microsorium pteropus or Java moss Vesicularia dubyana), old leaves and coconut shells
Water Conditions: Soft and slightly acidic to very soft and very acidic
Temperature: 24-28 C
Typical fish: Labyrinth fishes, Barbs, Rasboras, Loaches, Danios


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A good deal of South East Asia (Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia etc) consists of rainforest, criss-crossed by many small creeks and streams. These are usually slow moving backwaters, stained reddish brown with decaying vegetation, and densely planted with plants like Hygrophila, bamboo (Blyxa), and tiger lotus (Nymphaea). Naturally low light level plants like Java moss and Java fern do well in such set-ups.

Being such dark, oxygen-starved environments, the labyrinth fish that live there have developed 'feeler' ventral fins, and a special breathing apparatus (labyrinth organ) as an adaption to the environment.

Genuine blackwater tanks are not always easy to maintain, without huge quantities of peat; some of the darkness required is better replicated by the use of floating plants.

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Fishkeeping Facts and Tips

Cichlids? There are estimated to be over 2000 different Cichlid species in the wild, of all sizes, shapes and colours. Many require very specialist conditions such as those coming from the sandy/rocky waters of Lake Malawi and Lake Tanganyika. Others, such as the Apistogramma dwarf cichlids from the Amazon basin require softer water and a well-planted tank. In general cichlids do not make good community fish as they can get quite aggressive, especially when spawning - but a specialist cichlid tank is certainly a sight to behold, and can be very rewarding for the more experienced aquarist


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