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I was reading through How to title recommending fish Q and I thought to myself, is this even the place for "Recommend me a fish" questions?

Now, as part of what makes a good question, specifically what qualifies as a bad question is any question in which every answer is equally valid.

When it comes to fish, there are so many possibilities for tankmates that are all equally appropriate. Usually it comes down to, what class of fish would go well. I could suggest diamond tetras whereas someone else might suggest serpae tetras and there's no correct answer.

At first I thought, what about creating maybe some FAQ/Standard Profiles that describe the different:

  • The classifications of fish (tetras, barbs, new world cichlids, old world cichlids, etc)
  • Amount of space they need (tetras - small, medium; barbs - medium, large, XL; Africans - footprint; catfish - volume)
  • Temperament
  • Acceptable tankmates (Cichlids & cichlids, large old world + XL barbs, dwarf cichlids & catfish)
  • habitats they do well in (hardscape, light plants, heavily planted)

and other useful classifications.

I love aquariums, I want to be involved in the tag, but I can't imagine other users want to see tons of "stock my tank" questions. Those could easily overrun the other categories and frustrate other users, forcing use of the ignore tag feature.

The more I think about it, the more I can relate to other aquarist forums that I participate in and how difficult it is to help someone pick tankmates without a back-and-forth conversation.

I am proposing that "Recommend Tank-mate" questions be considered off-topic.

I would love to hear other opinions on this. I couldn't find any previous discussions in meta on this, and admittedly I did not check Area51.

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There's nothing inherently wrong with problems that involve fish selection. You need to consider the scope of the question itself. If the author has an actual problem to solve, the question should be full of specificity and detail which narrows the possible solutions down to a few. But if the author is casting a broad net, then the solution isn't to start listing the endless possibilities for answers.

Closed as too broad
There are either too many possible answers, or good answers would be too long for this format. Please add details to narrow the answer set or to isolate an issue that can be answered in a few paragraphs.

If someone is searching for what fish will get along with their danios, I sure would like them to find this site. But if there are endless variations of what goes with what, why not write a definitive answer explaining exactly how folks searching for this information can figure that out. This is what we call a "canonical answer", and it's a great way to direct all those problematic questions without creating an all out moratorium on a perfectly valid issue. That way you help those with very specific, long-tailed questions without having to answer them over and over.

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At the current moment, I am not sure that it is all that large of a problem. One of the things we want to avoid, being a pretty new site, is to make blanket bans on questions and scope, unnecessarily narrowing it. At this point, we need good quality content and views on that content.

Most of the current "what can I add" sorts of questions are broad and applicable to a wide variety of situations - in fact, John Cavan's answer here goes into a wide variety of factors that should be considered for any fish set-up.

I think that the real issue here is not making a blanket ban on these questions, but perhaps revisiting what qualifies them as good or bad questions - if they are applicable to a wider audience, such as putting other fish in with betta fish, figuring out what non-fish aquatic animals are appropriate, and so on, I think they are acceptable.

As always, the community will make the ultimate decision on what they feel is appropriate, but my major worry here is not that we will be flooded with overly specific non-applicable to the wider internet sorts of questions, as I am not convinced that is currently happening based on questions I have viewed while doing my research for this answer. Instead, I am worried that we will narrow the scope of the site in such a way to discourage content.

I understand that not every question ever is going to be awesome, and I certainly don't want to see content for the sake of having new stuff on the page - we want good quality stuff that stands on its own and gets views. As it currently stands, I don't think these sorts of questions are a problem, and thus I don't think at the current moment that making a blanket ban will be useful for the site.

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I support "recommend tank-mate" questions being on-topic.

I've seen the comment "let's not worry about solving problems that don't exist yet" a couple of times, and I think it is good advice.

There is not currently a flood of fish recommendation questions, so it seems a bit premature to ban them in order to avoid frustrating users.

I would, however, suggest we offer guidelines for these types of questions.

We should clearly identify what our expectations are for the minimum information that should be provided for these types of questions.

I'm not expert, but I suspect, at a minimum, the experts would need:

  • Water type (Salt/Fresh)
  • Tank size
  • Other fish currently in the aquarium (including the number of each species)
  • Other creatures currently living in the aquarium (e.g. snails, crabs, anemones, etc.)
  • Planned future additions
  • The specific type of recommendation being sought (e.g. "I need to add some cleaners", "I'd like to add a small species that is colorful", or "I need a larger fish that my Oscar won't eat")

I'd welcome any feedback from people more familiar with the topic than I for required information (i.e. do we need to know the substrate? The filter setup? Etc.).

This information should be added to the appropriate tag wiki (perhaps we need ?).

  • I definitely like the idea of giving people guidelines on what sort of stuff we need to give them good answers to their fish questions like these. I suspect that would go a long way to ensuring they stay as a reputable and desired part of the site. – Ash Dec 30 '13 at 18:09
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I propose that we make recommend-a-fish questions off-topic as they're too discussion based, and don't have any real answers. On the other hand, fish-compatibility questions are on-topic

"What fish is compatible with X" is at the very least, a list question. There are hundreds of combinations of fish and invertebrates that could be a good answer. In the end, the accepted answer is going to be the fish/invertebrate the the asker decided to get. Not what solution worked best for them.

These questions also generate bad Q&As because the answers are completely dependent on the information given by the asker. Fish that are too big for the tank are going to be left out, and if there isn't enough information given, the question just sits there until someone puts it out of it's misery.

What I think we should require, is that people who ask for fish compatibility questions need to do their shopping before they ask the question. Really, they just need to have a fish in mind already. This turns the questions into "Is X compatible with Y" or "I have X, can I add Y" which is a yes or no question and generates better, more useful answers. Their tank size/parameters don't matter, it's entirely about the fish.

If people are looking for suggestions on fish, then they can ask in Meta or chat, where we can ask them questions in return (what size of tank do they have, what colors do they want in the tank, etc)


Here are some examples of what I think are good questions:

Adding Neon Tetras to an existing school

Combining two existing fish tanks into one

Choosing a second goldfish


Here are some examples of what I think are bad questions:

Neon Tetras what other species would work nicely with them?

What fish get along with non-fish?

What non-fish animals are safe for my tank?

What fish can live with Neons?

What small fish should I add to my aquarium?

Bonus: Best plant for an aquarium


An exception (though not really an exception in my opinion) to this would be Can I put any other fish with a betta?, because the question asks about the temperament of the fish being too aggressive to add any other fish in. It's not about suggesting fish, it's about if the existing fish is too aggressive and has to live alone.

  • 1
    As well as "is X compatible with Y" you could also have questions like, "I have X and am considering adding A or B". That's not as hopeless as "recommend me something to go with X" - they've done their research and would now like an expert to point out differences between the specific options they're considering. – starsplusplus Mar 25 '14 at 20:39
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    A lot of your bad questions read as, "Give me ideas!" which in my opinion is too broad for StackExchange. – starsplusplus Mar 25 '14 at 20:43
  • @starsplusplus Exactly, Y could be a list of fish they want to add. Then we could say yes they'll get along perfectly, or no those two don't get along. We need something to work with I think. – Spidercat Mar 25 '14 at 20:47
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For me those questions are something like shopping questions, which are banned on most network sites for good reasons. There are of course differences, eg fish normally don't change that much over time as software does (unfortunately some software doesn't change all that much as well, but that's a different story)

Anyway, one really bad aspect of these questions is that they are very unlikely to help future visitors. I suspect that some people look at our stats and are somewhat desperate to make some red numbers turn green, but we still should keep in mind that StackExchange isn't a forum and we should watch which questions really help the mission to make the internet a better place.

I am not sure if these questions really fulfill that requirement. They…

  • … only help one specific person in their specific case
  • … are very hard to answer (and probably often based on speculation and guesswork)
  • … are not really searchable
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    I don't agree these will not help future visitors. Search for "what goes well with <my fish>" and see how many hits you get asking the exact same thing. Any fish. I sure would like folks searching for this information to find this site at the top of those listings. So they're certainly searchable, they're answerable, and they help people looking for that information. But they're not always great questions; see my answer above. – Robert Cartaino Dec 30 '13 at 18:30
  • I should have expressed it differently, as soon as they fit my description I consider them to be bad and they should be closed. In any other case we definitely can wait and see how the situation develops. – Baarn Dec 30 '13 at 21:16

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