Many of the World’s greatest freshwater fish come from the massive water system in South America known as the Amazon. This river system is known for its huge catfish, man eating piranhas, and even reptiles like caiman and anacondas. The Amazon River is the largest river drainage system in the world, covering over 2.7 million square miles. It also accounts for one fifth of the worlds entire freshwater river water.
So with all that in mind, it’s no wonder that many want to re-create this impressive river at home in their freshwater aquariums. A biotope, as we call it, is exactly that: a re-creation of a specific geographical area at home. But where do you begin?
It is preferable to start with a large tank of at least 75 gallons. 100 or more gallons is great, and the general rule of thumb is the bigger the better. The reason for this is not only because more water volume means a more stable eco-system, but also due to some of the more desirable species of fish being larger in size and thus requiring a larger aquarium.
The substrate (gravel) should be sandy, with some rounded river rocks mixed in. The Amazon is known for its dense vegetation and so many live plants are also recommended. There are many amazonian plants available at most local pet shops in North America. Driftwood is also common in the Amazon, with lots of thin roots where the fish can take shelter.
The water pH in the Amazon is generally slightly acidic, between 6.4 and 6.6, but you can have it up closer to neutral (7.0) if you prefer. A lot of fish bred in captivity are used to a more neutral pH rather than those collected from their native waters. The temperature should be kept between 75 and 80 degrees fahrenheit and the water dGH (degrees of general hardness) should be on the softer side. Lighting should be dim, perhaps through the use of floating plants.
So now comes the fun part, which is stocking the aquarium with fish. We won’t go into details about how to properly add fish to the aquarium, or feed or breed the different species. We will just say that you should add the fish slowly and be sure to research the “cycle” system which creates a proper biological ecosystem in your aquarium.
Some notable species for a small (25 or so gallon) Amazon biotope aquarium include:
- Neon Tetras and other small tetras
- Corydoras species of catfish
- Apistogramma species of dwarf cichlids
Some notable species for a medium sized (55 or so gallon) amazon biotope include:
- Silver Dollars
- Cichlids such as Jack Dempseys, Severums or Angelfish
- Pictus catfish
Some notable species for large sized (80+ gallon) amazon biotopes include:
- Oscars or large (12+ inch) south american cichlids
- Silver Arowanas
- Lima Shovelnose catfish
There are also huge amazonian fish such as Pacus, Tiger Shovelnose catfish, Redtailed Catfish and Peacock Bass (which are actually cichlids and not true bass). These fish require extremely large tanks and are best suited to public aquariums.
So there you have some starting ideas for your Amazon biotope aquarium. Good luck and remember, research is key!