West or Central African River Biotope
West and central Africa are full of rivers. There are many rivers that we have all heard of like the River Niger, River Gamba, and of course the River Congo (this was formerly known as the river Zaire.
The River Congo is the largest river in Western Central Africa reaching a length of 2,922 miles. There is only the Nile that is larger than this in Africa. It flows through the second largest area of rain forest in the world; the largest being the Amazonian rain forest. Its source is the highlands of the East African Rift and from the great lakes like Tanganyika.
As with most of the African rivers, the water current varies from region to region providing different habitats for various species of fish. The pH of the water ranges from 6.9 up to 7.2 so a biotope with a neutral pH (7.0) should be ideal. Water hardness should be soft to medium (3-8DH) and the temperature needs to be set between 24-27°C.
Setting up the tank
Tank sizes of 100 liters (22 gallons) are ideal; but always go for the largest you can afford. Fine gravel or sand should be used for the substrate and provide plenty of hiding places with wood. Strong lighting is not required for this tank, if possible add some floating plants to provide shady areas.
Water movement can be provided with the filtration but this needs to be a gentle flow.
Plants for the tank
African water fern should be used for the background, this needs to be attached to the wood, do not place the roots in the substrate. For the middle ground Anubias can be attached to the wood in the tank, as with the water fern do not place the roots in the substrate.
Dotted around the back ground add a few Vallisneria, I tend to prefer the Spiralis Vallisneria as it creates more of a feature but the species choice is yours. Eleocharis (hair grass) looks great at the front of the tank as long as it is not over planted; keep some open areas for the natural look.
There are quite large ranges of fish to choose from which will feel at home in this biotope quite easily. African tetras should be the first consideration. These include the red eye characins and the Congo tetras.
African glass catfish make for good middle swimmers and Mochocidae; these are known commonly as naked catfish. One example of these is the upside down catfish so named from its peculiar swimming habits. Butterfly cichlids and dwarf jewel cichlids make good specimen fish or if you want to add some cichlids that will stand out, try the Zebra Haplochromis.
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