Bob Mehen tells us about his Amazon aquarium, containing some fabulous catfish.
How long has this tank been set up?
Almost three years.
What made you go Amazon?
My previous tank was a reef, but I had to sell up when moving house. I also decided that I wasn’t ethically comfortable with some aspects of the marine hobby — although, thankfully, things have moved on since my decision.
I decided to go back to the Amazon, as it’s full of my favourite catfish and, as my local tapwater is soft and acidic, it’s ideal for many species that come from there.
Did you make the cabinet yourself?
I’ve always preferred to make my own rather than get an off the shelf set-up.
The style of many just wouldn’t fit with my house, so I built this one to blend in. It’s also considerably cheaper! The tank is 1.8m/6’ long, so a cabinet to take it would have been very expensive. However, with timber and all the necessary materials, this cost me less than £75.
We like your moody lighting. What is it?
There’s a mercury vapour pendant on the left side and a flexible LED strip on the right.
Those Amazon swords are looking like Lace plants! Who is the culprit?
It’s my Hypostomus soniae (pictured above). He’s fine if I give him a bit of cucumber every other day, but this is his way of telling me when I forget! Fortunately the Echinodorus x barthii are fast growing and they have already started to recover.
What fish do you have in the tank?
A total of 70 Neon tetra (Paracheirodon innesi), 25 Cardinal tetra (Paracheirodon axelrodi), five Diamond tetra (Moenkhausia pittieri), ten Marbled hatchet fish (Carnegiella strigata), five Flag-tailed catfish, (Dianema urostriatum), one Porthole catfish (Dianema longibarbis), nine Emerald catfish (Brochis splendens) and nine Leopard catfish (Corydoras trilineatus).
There’s also five Corydoras imitator, five Corydoras sp. C091 (pictured above) one False network cory (Corydoras sodalis), three Corydoras sp? (Elegans group?), five Clown plecs (Panaqolus maccus), one Blue-eyed red fin plec (Hypostomus soniae), one Twig cat (Farlowella vittata) and one Peckoltia sp. L147.
Did you have problems with any fish along the way?
Before the Neons I bought an equally large shoal of Cardinals, but lost almost all in quarantine so went for Neons instead. These have turned out more hardy.
My non-catfish stock has also changed twice. Originally I had a larger shoal of Diamond tetras, which has dropped in numbers due to old age, and a group of wild-caught ‘Peru altum’ angelfish. Unfortunately these struggled and I ended up with just three.
More recently I had a group of Festive cichlids (Mesonauta sp.) which did very well and bred regularly, but I decided to sell them all on as they were harder on the plants than the plec.
I went for pure colour with the Neons to offset the brown catfish!
If you could change anything about your set-up what would it be?
I would probably have got the tank drilled by the manufacturers so I could then have a sump to add more capacity and filtration
If size and money were no object, what would be your dream tank?
It would have to be a truly huge paludarium tank to keep some of the amazing Potamotrygon sp. stingrays as well as the obligatory catfish, with Poison arrow frogs living in the plants above.
What is the DIY pop bottle thingie in the top corner?
Well spotted! It’s an improvised surface skimmer to remove the oily scum that can build up on the water surface. Basically it’s just a small internal filter upside down with a pop bottle cut in half and stuffed with filter wool on top. It’s quite unobtrusive, hidden at the back, and does a great job.
Name: Bob Mehen
Occupation: Artist, cleaner, writer,father.
Location: Near Redruth, Cornwall.
Years of experience: Thirty in fishkeeping — and counting.
Tank size:1.8m/6 x 2 x 2’
Total volume: 600 l/132 gal
Livestock: A great many! See above.
Plants: Red melon swords (Echinodorus x barthii)
Lighting: Giesemann Wega Comfort 125/80w mecury vapour pendant and LED flexible strip.
Filtration: Fluval FX5 external and ancient Rainbow Lifeguard fluidised bed filter.
Heating: Two 300w heaters: a Rena Smart Heater and Fluval E-series.
Check out some of the other great planted tanks in the Your Tanks section:
Mark Evans, part one
If you enjoyed this article, why not take out a subscription to Practical Fishkeeping magazine? See our latest subscription offer.