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TOPIC: Need help with SAFE hiding spots for big fish

Need help with SAFE hiding spots for big fish 10 months 13 hours ago #71318

  • Jessie
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Hey all!

I've got two tanks I'm looking for some guidance upgrading hiding spots in. I've got a 125 with a breeding pair of oscars who are each about 10-12" and a large plecco, and my 55 (soon to be 75) that's low on fish now after the recent loss of our dempsey, but there's another large plecco in that one that's starting to get cramped in the pet store bought "caves" that are in there now.

My oscars used to have some plastic flower pots in their tank that they liked when they were little but I started to get paranoid, not finding much solid info one way or the other, about whether they might leech anything into the water (plus they got to the point where no amount of scrubbing kept them from looking gross). I can't seem to find anything made for aquariums that's of a size I feel would really be useful for the pleccos - the pleccos are my primary concern as I recently thought one had gotten stuck in a cave (though found she was just thrashing around to rearrange things and wasn't stuck).

I've seen suggestions for (and would get any of these new, not used to avoid possible contaminants):
-terracotta pots
-clay drainage pipes
-plastic pots
-PVC pipes
-non-painted glass pieces like vases
-anything dishwasher safe

Anyone have experience with any of those or have suggestions on how to make sure something's safe before putting it in the tank? I lost a beautiful cichlid we'd had for a long time a few years back after putting in what I thought was a safe piece of stone that I guess carried something in with it, so I'm a bit wary and want to see what other people have had success with before I try anything not specifically for aquariums.

Ideally I'd love to try using some of the clay pipes since they're open on both ends so my pleccos could get in and out of them more easily, or maybe PVC piping and that I could probably make look less "trash-like" with some aquarium safe silicone and gravel to cover the surface.

I appreciate anybody's thoughts!
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Need help with SAFE hiding spots for big fish 10 months 3 hours ago #71324

  • Northstar5
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You want to be careful not to over-deco. I find the natural look works best for an Oscar tank. A few rocks, a piece or two of driftwood. Your tank is heavily stocked, and swimspace is at a premium. Plecos also do well with a rocky cave, and the wood is very good for their digestion.
1600gals of South and Central American cichlids. Some with just a "wee" bit of attitude!
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Need help with SAFE hiding spots for big fish 9 months 4 weeks ago #71326

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Oscars are very active swimmers but that don't mean you can't decorate your tank propperly. They love to cruise around, above and under driftwood. Possibillitys are limitless.
For the Pleco it will be enough if you give him a space where he can get a rest of the cichlids, a crack or rigjtly placed piece of driftwood is enough.

Flower post and caves are more something for central american cichlids or crenicichla.
We need to stop talking about the people as if they were the crown of creation.
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Need help with SAFE hiding spots for big fish 9 months 4 weeks ago #71328

  • Jessie
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Northstar, What size tank would you recommend for two oscars and a plecco? Based on the research I'd done on here I thought a 125 was plenty for the three of them, but I can always upgrade that tank and move the 125 somewhere else if that's too small a space - I keep their water parameters pretty perfect though going overboard with filtration and biweekly sizeable water changes, so we haven't had any problems with the bio-load from that standpoint.

And yeah, I realize rereading that my post isn't super clear - I know the oscars don't NEED hiding places anymore though one of the pair does like retreating and hiding when he's made his lady mad at him but so really I'm only worried about the plecco in each of my larger tanks as they're both about 12" and getting tight in the spaces they have, but there's nothing that I've found commercially available (including driftwood) that comes in any kind of size that'd give them the amount of cover I'm looking for - everything I've found thus far at pet stores they'd be in danger of getting stuck in, but I may luck out if I keep looking...still seems like $70+ for a piece dubbed "large decor" at some stores is a bit much if it'd be safe for me to add something else like PVC or clay pots instead.

I know pleccos are shy and get stressed out if they don't have full cover available, so I don't want to go the route of just leaning driftwood or something so they can hang out underneath it - both actually already have basically that, one with a large piece of driftwood he could be using and the other with a fake big "coral" decor piece I've got at an angle to create a good cover spot, but in both tanks neither spot gets used as the pleccos still are preferring to wedge themselves into the small but full cover plastic caves they have.

Does anybody have experience with any of the materials I mentioned? Or have suggestions on good articles you've found or personal projects you've done for DIY caves - I've seen some here and there of people using like foam board they sculpt, covering that in instant concrete and then sealing it with something - maybe that'd be the best way to get the sizing I want and still have it look pretty?
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Need help with SAFE hiding spots for big fish 9 months 4 weeks ago #71330

  • Northstar5
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Hi Jessie.. I base my recommendations on many decades and many Oscars over that time. I currently have 6 Oscars. If your 125 is the 72x18 footprint, I call that bare minimum for 2 adult Oscars. So much better is a standard 180g with a 24in width. I also keep big plecos, and realize very well that bioload multiplies greatly with these beasts. I would wager that your foot long pleco matches or even exceeds the combined bioload of the two Oscars. Its a lot for 125g. You are keeping water clean with 2x weekly water changes, but I would also wager its not as clean as you might think. You have the possibility of a nitrate creep that may approach 10ppm per day. Its easily over 5. If you can offer a bigger tank, you want to keep Oscars and plecos together, I would look at 7-8ft tanks with volume in the 250-300gal range. That's not extreme for big cichlids and big plecos.
1600gals of South and Central American cichlids. Some with just a "wee" bit of attitude!
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Need help with SAFE hiding spots for big fish 9 months 4 weeks ago #71332

  • FreshyFesh
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All I keep in my oscar / sev tank is a few plastic plants. I prefer the type with ceramic type weighted bases. I just mail-order cheap ones. No matter how deeply I bury the bases, they still uproot and shove them around. I don't want to eat up space in this tank with large solid decor.
75g a tiger oscar and a green severum
55g community tank with plants
55g goldfish tank
29g community tank with plants
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Need help with SAFE hiding spots for big fish 9 months 3 weeks ago #71338

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I gave up on plants altogether fake or real.
My Oscars have simply trashed them.all.
I use large rocks and wood on a pool filter sand bottom.
:)
6 ft 220g - Tiger O, Rotkeil Severum 10 Silver Dollars
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Need help with SAFE hiding spots for big fish 9 months 2 weeks ago #71380

  • Jessie
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I'm curious - where have you had luck finding tanks that big? Do you just custom order them through a local pet store? I ask as I find that none of the ones within driving distance of me ever list anything over a 150 gallon. Based on recommendations from some other folks on here I usually do about a 40-50% water change (keeping filter water and with a good 2" deep gravel bed, where the oscars don't rearrange it that is, and my filters all have a good load of ceramics to keep the bacteria healthy) every other week and I test, especially the nitrate levels weekly. Sadly I just saw a 180 gallon on Craigslist, but didn't have the cash to grab it at the time and the condition was a bit questionable, but other than that one I haven't recently come across anything bigger than a 125. Any suggestions of where to look or resources if I need to build that kind of size myself would be awesome!

Thanks for pointing that out!
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Need help with SAFE hiding spots for big fish 9 months 2 weeks ago #71384

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I found mine on Craigslist.
Marineland makes large tanks that you can order from most pet stores.
:)
6 ft 220g - Tiger O, Rotkeil Severum 10 Silver Dollars
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Need help with SAFE hiding spots for big fish 2 months 2 weeks ago #72269

  • Fielder
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Hello, not sure I posted here before (never seen smilies like these here). :ohmy:

PVC: I use 6" PVC covered in gravel (for caves).
6" size is much bigger when you see it in person than you probably imagine it to be (such as at Lowes for sure and probably also at Home Depot or Orchard Supply (in America).
I bought two 45 degree elbows and one 24" pipe.
And cut the 24" pipe into 3 pieces 7-1/2" , 7-1/2" and 9".
Stuck each 7-1/2" piece into an elbow.
This gave two 'bent' pieces and one straight piece (9").

Cutting hints:
at Lowes there is a do it yourself cutting area set up (bring a pocket ruler tape to measure). Or if you ask at the 'Professional' desk inside Lowes they will tell you where in their store one of their guys will cut it to your order.

Or, believe it or don't, a strong narrow nylon string will cut through PVC better than a hacksaw, better but not as fast. To cut through the pipe it took about 8 minutes each cut and was tiring. Look on Youtube for cutting PVC with a string. Those videos show narrow pipe 2 or 4 inches. 6 inches thick pipe takes a workout because it takes a few minutes each cut. A hacksaw is easier but does not produce as smooth a cut as nylon string. Also the handle of the hacksaw may be to close to the blade for a thick pipe (say 6" pipe) to fit 'inside' the blade and handle. A simple string will cut any PVC really smooth!

nylon string: braided nylon mason line. Every hardware store in America sells mason line, even though you may not have heard of if. Costs maybe $2.

www.amazon.com/Lehigh-Group-NST1514HD-Ny...Seine/dp/B000QCORNI/

You should wear gloves while cutting: so the string does not jump and abrade your into your hand.
It is much easier to also have two dowel rods (or say two screwdrivers or any two rods or strong 'sticks' of some kind) to wrap the two ends of the string around to hold the string (your fingers are not strong as 'sticks' it takes quite a lots of force and effort to cut large pipe).

for instance:

==> You can forget all that if you have the friendly Lowes clerk cut it for you when you buy it !!!

A nose mask: silicone is strong acid smelling, use a common dust mask to cover your nose (not absolutely necessary I guess). These are great for mowing a lawn if you have allergy, or blowing yard leaves. $5
Hint: if you do this indoors, your bathroom or kitchen probably has an exhaust to carry away the acid smell.

www.amazon.com/3M-8661PC1-Home-Dust-5-Pack/dp/B000BQSXCU/



Gravel: Estes Spectrastone color: deep river, size pebble: one 25 pound bag.
==> It took about half the 25 pound bag to cover these 3 pieces (actually 5 pieces) of PVC!
The result is very heavy, oscars won't be moving these around. Use your favorite color. Remember, small size stones (such as what aquarium companies call pebble or pea size).

Silicone sealant to stick gravel to the PVC: GE #1 is recommended as safe in aquariums (no pesticides to kill bacteria which also kill fish). I used that.

Silicone sealant pressure gun to apply the sealant (about $5). You can't get the silicone sealant out the tube without this gun. this one costs $4 , Amazon, Dripless C100 Consumer Grade Smooth Round Rod Cradle Frame Caulking Gun,
www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000DZF2Q4/

Foam paint brush either 1" or 2" wide to spread the silicone out over the pipe: about $1 each at Lowes. You can use your fingers to do this almost as well and as easy as with the brush (you will be wearing latex gloves of course).

Six inch size pipe is great because you can stick your hole arm inside to hold it while you are working and turn the pipe as you proceed. For narrower pipe then you would need to I guess stick a rod of some kind thru the pipe instead of your arm. Lay a bead of silicone along the length of the pipe. Lay another bead parallel to the first about an inch away. Then keep doing other parallel beads an inch away until the whole pipe has parallel beads around it.
Smooth out the silicone so it no longer is in bead strips but is uniformly covering the PVC outside like a skin with a thin layer of silicone all over the outside.

Have your gravel in a large cardboard box , or aluminum tray, or on a sheet of aluminum foil that you have made a pan (tray) out of by bending the edges of the aluminum foil up, in other words make it like a pan. I made my aluminum tray with 4 layers of Renolds Wrap thick (four layers so it would not be torn by the gravel and thus get silicone onto the floor).

Have paper towels ready to wipe, have a waste basket nearby, and remember to be wearing latex gloves and probably a dust mask. Remember your kitchen and bathroom probably have exhaust fans and no carpets on the floor to ruin.

Put the bag of gravel in a waste basket or pot (to hold it so the bag of rocks doesn't fall over) and scoop out some gravel with a tin can or something and spread it out in the aluminum tray and roll your PVC tube along to apply the gravel to the PVC. It won't be even so brush off the high spots of gravel or the gravel pieces sticking out to much, and also pick more gravel with your gloved fingers and stick on the bare spots. Won't take long until you have it even around the outside of the pipe (probably took me 5 minutes to make it pretty even on huge and long 6" pipe).

Another great thing about 6" pipe, if you just stand it on end on a couple thicknesses of paper towels laid out on the kitchen/bathroom vinyl floor, it will stand up and not fall over as it dries. Good luck trying to do that with 2" thick pipe or long 3" thick pipes. You would need to figure out how to stand a narrow pipe up while it dries and not fall over.

Let stand to dry for about 3 days and it is ready.
I like to leave the entire inside of the pipe smooth and free of any pebbles (great to lay eggs on).

==> more hints: black PVC pipe hides it surface color in the tank better than white, so black caves will probably look better to you. You can see youtube videos of PVC caves on youtube, there are more white ones, but the black one seem to look more natural to me. You may like the white!

To cut my 6" pipe cuts I used a handsaw to make a very shallow groove, just six or seven strokes, and then used the string for 99% of the cut. With 6" pipe I just placed my foot inside the pipe to hold it steady while cutting. DON'T CUT YOUR SHOES OR FOOT, kept my foot well away from the cut.

It took almost two GE #1 silicone tubes full of silicone sealant to do the five pieces, one tube was not enough!

To keep it from drying out in the tube after using, I stuck a 5/16" machine screw inside the tube nozzle tightly, I also put a plastic baggie over the nozzle end and secured that with a rubber band. It still dried out, but lasted about a month before becoming too dry to use again.
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