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Fish Keeping Tip Sheets

Southeast Asia Backwater Stream Environment

About the Environment
The Southeast Asia Backwater Stream Environment includes the smaller streams which contribute to the larger rivers of mainland Asia, and those in the Malay Achipelago. These streams tend to be slow moving, low in oxygen, and grow lush vegetation due to a high level of iron in the water. Heavy bodies, and colorful fish are found in this niche. A nice deep reddish-brown to brown, small size gravel or sand is recommended to simulate the natural substrate. Accent with reddish-brown to brown colored rocks and pebbles.

Water Conditions
Indigenous Fish Species
Rare or Unusual Fish Species
Indigenous Plant Species

75-78° F

pH Levels

Water Hardness
Medium, 70-110 ppm

Blue Gourami
Opaline Gourami
Siamese Betta
Clown Loach
Iridescent Shark
Pearl Gourami
Dwarf Gourami
Tiger Barb
Red Tail Shark

HiFin Banded Loach Hygrophila Polysperma
Hygrophila Difformis
Hygrophilia Angustifolia
Blyxa Japonica (Bamboo Plant)
Hygrophila Salicifolia

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Recreating the Environment
A 30 gallon aquarium is recommended to recreate this particular niche. A smaller size could be used, but with fewer fish. Fill the tank with two (2) inches of water. If an under gravel filter is being used, put the filter plate in the bottom of the tank at this time. Rinse the substrate (gravel/sand) and add it to the aquarium. Note: If using an under gravel filter, add 1.5 to 2 pounds of gravel per gallon. If an under gravel filter is not being used, add 1 to 1.5 pounds of gravel per gallon.

Once the substrate has been added, fill the tank half full of water. Next, add plants and rocks to recreate your Southeast Asian backwater stream environment. Refer to our diagram, in this handout, on how to landscape this niche. Don’t forget to protect the roots of your plants as you anchor them into the substrate. A safe method is to gently ball the roots into your hand and make a loose fist. Using this fist, burrow a pit in the substrate and gently unfold your hand allowing the roots to spread out. Gently cover the roots with enough substrate to hold them down.

Finish filling the tank with water. Place the heater in the tank, but do not turn it on at this time. Allow the heater glass to acclimate to the water temperature in the aquarium for one (1) hour before plugging it in. You can camouflage the heater behind plants or rocks.

New Tank Water Conditions - Understanding the Nitrogen Cycle

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Filtration System
Equip the aquarium with a filter system. If you are using an under gravel filter, hook up the air pump or power head (water pump) to the uplift tubes. If you are using an internal filter, place it in the tank towards the back and hide the filter using plants or rocks. If an outside filter is being used, place it on the outside back of the tank, or under the aquarium. Hide the siphon tube, which draws water from the tank to the filter, with tall plants or rocks. Put the thermometer in place, add water conditioner to the aquarium, and turn on the filtration system. After testing the pH and water hardness, necessary adjustments can be made by using proper aquarium chemicals to recreate Southeast Asian backwater stream water conditions.

Now, place the aquarium top in position and make any adjustments (cut outs in the back) to accommodate the heater, filter and cords. Turn on the heater and the light. A 10-12 hour light cycle is recommended. Make any final adjustments to the heater in order to stabilize a temperature between 75-78 degrees.

All newly set-up aquariums must go through a filter conditioning process in order to sustain fish life. (Please refer to our “New Tank Water Conditions” tip sheet for additional information.) It will take the water approximately 4-6 weeks to condition. During this time, only a small number of fish can be added to the tank. Once the aquarium has been set up and running for a minimum of 24 hours, six (6) 1.5 inch fish per 10 gallons of water can be safely introduced. For this particular niche type Blue Gouramis, Tiger Barbs, and Red Tail Sharks would be good choices to start with. Over the next several weeks, when water quality tests of ammonia and nitrite reach zero, more fish species can be added.

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Feeding the Fish
Feeding the fish will vary depending upon the age of the aquarium. During the first 4-8 weeks, the fish should be fed a small dime sized pinch of food once every other day. As the aquarium ages and conditions, 2-4 months of age, fish can be fed once a day. When the tank is over four months old, the fish can be fed several times a day. Remember to use small quantities at each feeding.

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Water Changes
Partial water changes are the single most important procedure you perform on your aquarium. Remove 20% of the water every two (2) weeks and replace it with fresh water that has been treated with a water conditioning chemical.

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Clean unsightly algae using an algae pad or a magnetic algae remover when necessary. Keep in mind that some algae left in the tank can be beneficial. It provides a food source for certain fish, and also creates oxygen for the aquarium environment.

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