Determining the Right Aquarium Bioload
Thousands of dollars every year are wasted when a new aquarist makes a mistake determining the right aquarium bioload for the new aquarium that is being planned. Too often way too many fish are added to the system. They simply kill themselves with the toxins they produce. I agree, it is very difficult to know just how many fish to add to any aquarium, new or established, and then complicating the process is trying to know if the fish being added are actually compatible. That little, cute Jack Dempsey should go with the tetras that were chosen, right? Especially since they both come from South America!
I have a few rules of thumb that I use when determining the right aquarium bioload, one inch of fish for every gallon (U.S.) of water in the tank when I am just starting out with a new system. I count the length of the tail just to be sure I don’t overcrowd them. Once I put them into the tank, I don’t add anything else until I am sure the biological filter has been well established. That takes a minimum of six weeks, so I want to make sure I like the fish I added at the start. If any die, remove them quickly so they don’t pollute the water. During the six week run-in, the levels of ammonia and nitrite are elevated, so if you add a new fish to replenish any that are lost, chances are they will be severely stressed by the water conditions, will often weaken and die as well.
Once the biological filter has become properly established, a few more fish can slowly be added. As time goes by, determining the right aquarium bioload is a matter of doubling the length of fish, and ignoring the tails. This gives a broad hint of the fish load you can have in the tank for the longterm.
Determining the Right Aquarium Bioload with a Database and Calculator
Another way for determining the right aquarium bioload is to use a good calculator. The one I have used in the past is found at Aqadvisor.com. This uses an extensive database of fish to help not only decide how many fish can be safely handled, but also which ones should be compatible with each other. Not only is determining the right aquarium bioload done for the fish, a lot of other parameters are factored in, including the capacity of the tank, and the generic filter type as well.
No database is perfect, though. I always compare the results of any bioload calculator with the real life experience of the trained staff at a reputable local pet store that sells live fish. But it makes it so much easier when determining the right aquarium bioload when both information streams agree.