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Old 05-28-2013, 10:13 PM   #1 
crowntaillove3's Avatar
Join Date: Dec 2012
Location: the U.S.
Question How to Overstock a Tank

Hi guys! I've had LOTS of questions on how to "overstock" a tank and get away with it. For example:
You have a 15 gallon tank with 25 square inches of fish. How can you make this work? Should you add an extra filter? Should you do more water changes?
I realize that this can vary based on how big the tank is and how much it is overstocked. And my 15 gallon only has 10 square inches of fish, but I want to get more. I'm also aware that many of the members overstock. Feel free to share success stories and things that you had to learn the hard way. Thanks for all of the advice! And I wouldn't "overstock" a tank if I didn't know what I was doing. Thanks again!
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Old 05-28-2013, 11:08 PM   #2 
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I'm about to delve into this too! In the process of a second 75g and finally putting my 2 current male African cichlids i there then many more to come. As far as filtration I've gone to a little more then double filtration to deal with the overstocking. I guess it depends on your fish ad reasons for overstocking. I'm doing it to cut the aggression and they will have to be very overstocked to achieve this.
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Old 05-28-2013, 11:48 PM   #3 
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I've noticed that with my more heavily planted tanks Ive had less issues with my over-stocking habits. This way everyone has a place to hide when they want to get away, and it helps a lot with water quality as well.
Keeping up with water quality is a big one too, if you don't then the growth rates of your fish will diminish and you'll have a higher death rate as well. I do atleast 2 w/c's a week with every tank I own.
Last is to have double the filtration. If your tank is 20 gallons, have atleast a 40 gallon filter to help with the BB colonies.
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Old 05-29-2013, 03:16 AM   #4 
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I overfilter and/or plant heavily. I think species selection is also very important. There are certain species where you can get away with it, but others where it would be silly.
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Old 05-29-2013, 06:44 AM   #5 
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I heavily plant with stem plants and have a bigger filter than I should Plus I made a filter with a power head and the sponge from a sponge filter to act as a "water polisher" with the extra mechanical filtration and of course the extra BB's housed in the sponge, plus it adds current to the tank be it most of my fish in my big tank are fish that inhabit rivers in the wilds. so its basically a wave maker that filters the tank and oxygenates the water.....
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Old 05-29-2013, 07:39 AM   #6 
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First off, fish would be measured in cubic inches because they are three dimensional

There are two kinds of overstocking - keeping a fish in too small of a tank, and "overcrowding". A 15 gallon tank will encompass both types, and is not a good candidate for overstocking. Just about any school of fish you might keep ought to be kept in a larger tank, and adding most other fish with the school will make things over crowded. You might be able to responsibly get away with the smallest of the small.

Here's what I mean - say you have a school of 10 neons in a 90 gallon tank. Those 10 fish will only occupy about 10 gallons of water. So you can have several larger schools of fish in the tank because they will all occupy a different portion of the tank at any one time. Selection of fish is very important as to not have too many fish at any one level in the tank - they should be layered. So you see the problem with a 10 or 15 gallon tank - there is not room for multiple groups of fish without them being on top of one another.

Now for stocking larger solo/pair type fish - again a small tank just doesn't have the space. If you are stocking with the smaller schooling fish, then you want something that won't eat them. Such a fish generally won't care about the schools entering their space - they are more concerned about the other solo fish. Rather than visualize the fish in the tank, visualize the fishs personal space bubble as well, and that will help you determine how many of those kinds of fish you can have. A smaller fish like a Bolivian ram will have a smaller bubble. A larger fish like a severum will have a larger bubble. The important thing here is that are territories for each fish. The problem with a small tank like a 15 is that those bubbles will be overlapped most of the time, which leads to stress and confrontation. Small overlaps aren't usually such a big deal.

My rule of thumb for overstocking small schooling fish is one fish per gallon. A 29 gallon would be the smallest I would overstock. An example of how I've overstocked a 29 - 3 schools of fish (top, middle, bottom), a pleco, and a centerpiece fish/pair, putting me at around 30 fish or so in the tank. I have always managed my overstocked tanks (some as high as 200% according to aqadvisor) with big filtration systems and smart stocking. I don't do live plants - in my experience they are not necessary for overstocking, and in my opinion the plants can take up room the fish would otherwise need if taken to an extreme.

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Old 05-29-2013, 08:11 AM   #7 
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*facepalm*. And to think I got an A in geometry! Thank you for all of the advice. My 15 is a column, so the very helpful petsmart associate told me to look at where the fish swam in the tank; all of my guppies almost always stay at the surface of the tank. The tetras just kind of wander. Squirt just kind of wanders too (my gourami) but he is VERY shy. I will be getting two or three more tall, leafy plants for the back of the aquarium.
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