The livestock you add to your system will affect the water chemistry and frequency of maintenance required. Some livestock can multiply quickly in planted aquariums in the absence of predators.
Livestock populations will need to be managed by the hobbyist by reducing populations or introducing predators to control numbers.
The livestock in the aquarium will affect the biome cycle. The species introduced can have beneficial and adverse effects on the system.
Some fish in the hobby are notorious plant eaters. Some may leave most plants alone but will find a specific species tasty. Most livebearers, tetras, rasboras, barbs, rainbowfish, anabantoids, and corydoras catfish are good choices for planted aquariums.
Livebearers thrive in planted aquariums. The plants provide a hiding place for fry until they are big enough to join the adult population without fear of being eaten.
Ancistrus spp. (bushy or bristle-nose plecostomus) can also reproduce in planted aquariums.
Many cichlid species can be kept with aquatic plants. Some cichlids will reproduce quickly in planted aquariums without the hobbyist adding special food for the fry. Plants provide an ecosystem conducive to colonizing and growing macro and microorganisms that newly hatched fry can graze on.
Many fish are snail eaters. If a thriving planted aquarium with snails has a snail predator introduced to the system, undesirable algae growth can occur.
Sand-sifting fish can be kept in planted aquariums using epiphytes and emerged species.
Research all fish species before adding them to the planted aquarium. Resolve the following questions before you add them to the aquarium:
Sails can be an essential animal to have in a diverse biome cycle. Several common aquarium sails are detritivores and algae eaters. Snails will eat small particles of food the fish miss, which can lower how fast nitrate and phosphate accumulate in the system. When snails eat fish food, some energy is added as mass as they grow.
Snails process particulate organic carbon (POC) into dissolved organic carbon, where heterotrophic bacteria take over decomposition. The heterotrophic bacteria produce the organic nutrients plants can use. This natural process ensures continuous nutrient availability for aquatic plants.
Snails will also help process dead animals out of sight in heavily planted systems. Snails clean the surface of plant leaves, substrate, and decor. When snails clean the surface of plant leaves, they remove any accumulated biofilm, which helps increase the number of light photons they can receive.
There are three common snails in the hobby that are all beneficial to planted aquariums:
Physella acuta (acute bladder snail) is thin shelled, slightly elongated, and has five whorls. The shell is brown, with the body being gray and covered in spots on the top mantle under the shell. Spots on the mantle are often visible through the thin shell.
Acute bladder snails are native to North America and have been introduced to Europe. This species is native to the U.S.A. The original introduction of P. acuta outside of the U.S.A. is thought to be from the eastern U.S.A. (Anderson et al. 2018). Genetic evidence also supports native populations in the western U.S.A.
The bladder snails are small and soft-shelled, which makes them easy prey for fish. They tend to hide in densely planted areas and gaps between large rocks that are difficult for predators to access. Care must be taken when selecting fish for a system with these snails. Many cichlids, loaches, and pufferfish find them tasty.
Planorbella duryi (Seminole ramshorn snail) has a spiral shell which gives it its common namesake. The Seminole ramshorn snail varies in color, orange, brown, red, pink, green, and black. Their size can also vary depending on environmental conditions.
The Seminole ramshorn snail is endemic to the freshwaters of Florida. Seminole ramshorn snails are found in streams and ponds.
The Seminole ramshorn snail is often introduced into the aquarium by an egg mass attached to plants. The Seminole ramshorn is a hermaphrodite and can reduce quickly.
Seminole ramshorn snails are excellent detritivores and algae eaters. They graze on algae and biofilm on plants, decor, and aquarium sides. Seminole ramshorn snails will also eat fish food missed by other animals in the system. Seminole ramshorn snails will eat dead and decaying plant matter.
Melanoides tuberculata (Malaysian trumpet snail [MTS] or Malaysian livebearing snail) is elongated with a light brown shell with small red spots.
MTS is native to northern Africa and southern Asia. They are an invasive species in many parts of the world. Invasive populations of MTS have been discovered in Biscayne Bay, Florida, in salinity up to 33 ppt of marine salt. Experiments have shown they can survive in 45 ppt of salinity.
MTS burrow through the sand during the day, and at night, they will often leave the sand and climb the walls of the aquarium.
MTS are excellent detritivores and algae eaters. They burrow in sand and help slowly turn it over, which brings oxygen and nutrients to plant roots and provides a gas exchange for heterotrophic and autotrophic bacteria that colonize the substrate.
Once established in the aquarium, they can become numerous. Many traditional snail-eating fish often leave them alone because of their hard shell.
MTS will have difficulty surviving in low pH (6 and below) as the acidic water will dissolve the shell. The lack of carbonate in the solution will make it difficult to add a calcium carbonate shell.
The shrimp hobby has vastly expanded in the last two decades, with many species and color variations commonly available. Many species of shrimp are known for eating algae, biofilm, and small particles of fish food.
Select shrimp carefully, as the environmental and water chemistry requirements vary. Some species can be kept with many species of dwarf cichlids, while others are best kept in a species-only system.
Neocaridina davidi (cherry, rili shrimp) are very popular in the hobby. Neocaridina davidi is available in red, yellow, green, blue, brown, orange, and black. Most rili shrimp reach a maximum size of 1 inch (2.5 cm). These shrimp are often kept in small, species-only desktop displays or with very small fish species. Cherry shrimp are hardy and can adapt to various water chemistries and temperatures.
Neocaridina davidi is native to mainland China and Korea. It is an invasive species in Europe, Japan, and Hawaii.
Caridina cantonensis (Taiwan bee, crystal red) are common and come in many colors, the most common being red and white banded. They prefer soft acidic water pH below 7 and lots of leaf litter and tannins. Most Taiwan bee shrimp reach a maximum size of 1 inch (2.5 cm).
In nature, bee shrimp are widespread in southern China, including Hong Kong. Many scientific studies have been done on the C. cantonensis populations in the streams in the Hong Kong area.
Caridina serrata (tiger, tangerine tiger shrimp) are small with tiger stripe-looking bands. Tiger shrimp are available in many colors. Tiger shrimp prefer soft acidic water pH below 7 and lots of leaf litter and tannins. It has been reported that they will not reproduce in hard, alkaline water, and their lifespan will be shortened. Most tiger shrimp reach a maximum size of 1 inch (2.5 cm).
Tiger shrimp are native to Hong Kong, Dong'ao, Wailingding, Guishan, and Dawanshan Islands in China.
Caridina multidentata (Amano, algae-eating shrimp) were made popular by Takashi Amano with his Nature Aquarium World books published in the 1990s by Tropical Fish Hobbyist, where he used them in many of his showcased displays. Amano shrimp are known for their appetite for algae. Amano shrimp can reach 1.5 to 2 inches (3 to 5 cm), with females being the larger sex. Amano shrimp typically live for several years in aquariums.
Amano shrimp are native to southern Japanese islands. Newly hatched larvae are transported via the freshwater current to the sea. In the marine environment, the juvenile Amano shrimp will make their way into freshwater streams after a molt. Adult Amano shrimp live out their lives in freshwater, and it is reported that they will die if placed in marine systems.
Amano shrimp will benefit from a KH of 4 dKH or more and a GH of 6 to 10 dGH.
Atyopsis moluccensis (bamboo, Singapore shrimp) is another species of shrimp that needs seawater for its first life stage. Bamboo shrimp are typically brown but can also be reddish, orange, green, and yellow. Bamboo shrimp can reach 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.5 cm) in length. Bamboo shrimp are filter feeders. Bamboo shrimp are native to the peninsular of Malaysia and Singapore.
Systems with a lot of current are best for bamboo shrimp. Bamboo shrimp will often seek out a place in the system with a strong current and allow their specialized appendages to filter out particles in the water.
Newly hatched bamboo shrimp larvae are transported via the freshwater current to the sea. In the marine environment, the juvenile bamboo shrimp will make their way into freshwater streams after a molt. Adult bamboo shrimp live out their lives in freshwater, and it is reported that they will die if placed in marine systems.