Southern Thailand Forest Creek Biotope

BIOTOPE AQUARIA -- Southern Thailand Forest Creek Biotope

A biotope aquaria is an aquarium that is set-up to simulate a natural habitat. The fish, plants, water chemistry, and furnishings are similar to those that can be found in a specific natural setting.

Always check compatibility! Some species from a particular habitat are not suitable tankmates. For example, the Peacock Bass will eat small tetras since they are their natural food in the wild.

The biotope aquarium can be adapted by adding species from disparate areas that have similar water requirements.

Southern Thailand Forest Creek

In January 2003 I took a trip to Cambodia and Thailand. I spent time in Khao Sok National Park, a section of seasonal tropical forest in Southern Thailand. Small clearwater streams and creeks are abundant in this region. There are several options for a biotope tank modeled after the conditions in these stream habitats including

Sunny pool

Khao Sok Sunny Creek

Plants along creek

Freshwater puffer


Khao Sok Sunny Creek

Aquatic vegetation

Shaded pool/shallows

Shaded Creek

Shaded Creek

Khao Sok Sunny Creek





Khao Sok

Khao Sok

(1) sunny pools,
(2) shaded shallows and
(3) rocky rapids.

Before going into specific tank setups I will briefly review the habitat ecology. The primary fauna of the creek consists of tadpoles of various sizes [including immense], numerous cyprinds including barbs and danios, pufferfish, and loach-like suckerfish and bottom feeders. Countless frogs on can be found on river banks. Foods available to fish include fallen fruit, small crustaceans, frogs, and insects [aquatic and flying]. The waters are preyed upon by birds, forest cats, snakes, and civits. In some areas forest trees overhang the river creating shaded areas. There are scattered aquatic plants included Vallisneira-like reeds and Crypts. Floating plants are only found in around the edges of sunny pools. Along the banks of the creek are plants that appear tolerant of growing both emersed and submerged [I visited during the dry season].

This part of my trip was a bit of an adventure. One evening I awoke to find a giant scorpion perched on my bare chest, the same day that I also stepped on a coral snake [Calliophis sp.] while trekking through the forest. The presence of both aquatic and terrestrial leaches made taking these photos all the more interesting.

Given limited carrying capacity and having destroyed 3 electronic pH testers on Latin American adventures I did not test pH. A roughly neutral pH would be a good starting point for such a tank. The temperature should be 78-84 F.

There are a few tank arrangement options depending on the biotope the aquariast is attempting to recreate. The substrate varies from mud to sand to scattered pebbles and river rocks, so sand to coarse gravel is suitable for use in the aquarium. In all setups, use an effective filter that keeps the water clean and crystal clear.

(1) Sunny pool [pictures]
Use bright lighting and position filter outflows to keep water current to a minimum. Plant reedy vegetation (Vallisneria) in the corners of the tank and scattered bunches of light-loving Cryptocoryne. A few floating plants can be added if desired. A few river rocks can provide refuge for shy species.

(2) Shaded shallow [pictures]
Use subdued lighting and plants [Vallisneria and Cryptocoryne] tolerant of low light conditions. Place roots and/or driftwood around the edges of the tank. Low to moderate water current.

(3) Rocky rapids [pictures]
Use bright lighting and position filter outflows to create moderate to strong water current. Use a sand or fine gravel substrate and place several large river rocks around the tank. If plants are desired, use Vallisneria along edges of tank and bunches of smaller robust crypts in center. It is important that plants are tolerant of strong current or protected from the current by river rocks.

Cryptocoryne, Vallisneria

Loaches, freshwater puffers, barbs, danios, and other cyprinds.

Forest waters in Thailand


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