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Six Banded Distichodus (Distichodus sexfasciatus)

Six Banded Distichodus (Distichodus sexfasciatus)

The Six Banded Distichodus (Distichodus sexfasciatus) is found in Lake Tanganyika, Cameroon, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Six Banded Distichodus (Distichodus sexfasciatus) are a fast moving benthic species that inhabits the lakes and rivers of their range and are often confused as juveniles with the much less common and smaller Long Nosed Distichodus (Distichodus Lusosso).

Six Banded Distichodus are collected from lakes and larger rivers and in the wild can grow to a length of 30″ or more.   Juveniles specimens are often found in large shoals, however as the grow into adulthood, they become increasingly aggressive towards conspecifics.

Six Banded Distichodus (Distichodus sexfasciatus)

Six Banded Distichodus (Distichodus sexfasciatus)

Like its longer nosed relative (Distichodus Lusosso), juvenile Six Banded Distichodus (Distichodus sexfasciatus) have attractively colored vertical orange and black stripes over their body and bright red tinged fins, but as they grow into adulthood, they gradually lose their “perch” like colors.

Although the Six Banded Distichodus is generally a peaceful species, they are unpredictable in a community tank environment.   Some specimens can be housed with similarly sized fish and remain peaceful, while others become aggressive.

They should never be housed with shy or much smaller species.   Good tank mates include bichirs, large characins, cyprinids, catfish and Loricariids.

Juvenile Six Banded Distichodus are best housed in an aquarium of at least 100 gallon capacity with a sand or fine gravel substrate, some driftwood, smooth river rocks, and a few hardy plants like Bolbitis or Anubias spp.   They are omnivorous and will graze on any planted soft vegetation growing in the tank.

Six Banded Distichodus require good water quality and flow, therefore bi weekly 30 to 50% water changes and a good quality filtration system is necessary to keep them healthy.   They are also excellent jumpers and require a tightly fitting cover over their tank.

Although 5 or 6 juvenile specimens will shoal together peacefully in an aquarium environment, an enormous tank must be provided to keep them as a group of adults, as they will become increasingly aggressive and hostile towards one another.

The Six Banded Distichodus is not known to have been bred in captivity.

Six Banded Distichodus will accept most omnivore flake foods offered to them however, they also need vegetable matter to keep them in good condition.   In addition to a diet of live and frozen prawn, mussel, earthworms, etc., they need frequent offerings of blanched spinach, shelled frozen peas, cucumber, and Spirulina flakes in their diet to maintain their health.

The Six Banded Distichodus is the most common of the few Distichodus species acquired by tropical fish keeping enthusiasts.   They are almost always sold as juveniles but sadly, because of their temperament and large size they are not suitable for community tanks.

Distichodus sexfasciatus are occasionally available online from importers or from specialty tropical fish keeping shops when they are a couple of inches long, but this is one species you should not purchase unless you have the tank size and available space to house them for life.

Juveniles and adults are rarely seen for sale.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minimum Tank Size: 150 gallons
Care Level: Moderate
Temperament: Moderately aggressive
Aquarium Hardiness: Hardy
Water Conditions: 72-79° F, 10-20°H, pH 6.0-7.5
Max Size: 30″
Color Form: Yellow, Black
Diet: Omnivore
Compatibility: Very large community tanks
Origin: Cameroon, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo
Family: Citharinidae
Life Span: 9-12 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Advanced
150 gallon tank min

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Batik Loach (Mesonoemacheilus triangularis) Pair

Batik Loach (Mesonoemacheilus triangularis)

The Batik Loach (Mesonoemacheilus triangularis aka Nemacheilus triangularis) more commonly known to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts as the Zodiac Loach, is found in the Manimala river and the drainages of other river systems on both sides of the Western Ghats mountain range, in the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, India.   It is commonly found in almost all west flowing rivers and in some east flowing rivers in southern India.

Batik Loaches (Mesonoemacheilus triangularis) are found in clear, fast moving, highly oxygenated, heavily forested headwaters,  streams,  and smaller rivers of it’s range.  They prefer substrates of coarse sand, gravel, rocks, and large boulders that are layered with algae, diatoms, detritus, worms, small insects, and other microorganisms that they feed upon.

The flow rate of the streams that they live in can vary dramatically depending on the amount of rainfall the monsoon season generates.

Although Lagenandra and Blyxa spp. have been recorded in some of the lower altitude streams they have been collected in, aquatic plants are usually not present in their environment.

Batik Loach (Mesonoemacheilus triangularis) Pair

Batik Loach (Mesonoemacheilus triangularis) Pair

The Zodiac or Batik Loach has an elongated tan to light brown body covered with darker brown, oblong saddle or reticulated snake like markings edged in black on the dorsal areas, and a similar pattern above the plain ventral area, that extend the entire length of the fish.

Zodiac Loaches grow to a little over 3 inches in length, but are usually smaller in an aquarium environment.   Adult females grow slightly larger than males and have rounder bellies, especially when gravid.

When sexually mature, males develop thicker pectoral fins with rows of tubercles. They also possess a small sub-oribtal flap.

Mesonoemacheilus triangularis are best housed in a flowing stream or river biotope setup of at least 20 gallon capacity, with a substrate of sand, fine gravel, river rocks, some smooth boulders, and a few branches of driftwood arranged to form small crannies, caves, and shaded areas.    Plants are not necessary but Microsorum, Bolbitis, or Anubias spp. can be attached to the driftwood or rocks for aesthetic value.

Because they need highly oxygenated water to thrive, at least a couple of power heads with an air stone should be included with the filtration system to replicate the conditions they are found in.   A canister filtration system is highly recommended for this species.

Like all species that inhabit mountain streams, Batik Loaches are intolerant of accumulated wastes and require regular 30 to 50% water changes on a weekly basis to maintain the pristine water conditions they require.

Although a single species biotope system is recommended for Batik Loaches, they can be housed with other species found in the Panniyar river basin such as Hauludaria fasciata, Rasbora daniconius, Garra mcclellandi, Homaloptera santhamparaiensis, Tor khudree, Barilius bakeri, Devario aequipinnatus, etc.

When housed as a single species, they should be maintained in groups of at least 4 to 6 individuals to minimize potential aggressiveness.

To date, there has been only one instance of Mesonoemacheilus triangularis reproducing in an aquarium environment.

A pair that was removed from a community tank was moved into a 10 gallon aquarium with a hang on filter. The filter discharge was directed towards a plastic box filled with gravel, and spawning mops were placed into the tank.   The water temperature in the tank was recorded at 76°F .   The male developed reddish brown breeding colors on the lower body, but was found dead in the tank the following morning.

When another male was introduced into the tank the next day, mating occurred and hundreds of small clear, non-adhesive eggs were discovered in the spawning mop and on the base of the tank. When the parents were found eating the eggs, they were removed from the tank and the eggs hatched out approximately 24 hours later.   After hatching, the spawning mops, tub of gravel, and back filter were removed and replaced with a sponge filter.

After the yolk sacs were absorbed by the fry, they were fed a starter product until newly hatched baby brine shrimp could be consumed approximately 24 hours later.

The recorded breeding yielded approximately 500 saleable individuals.

In their natural habitat, Batik Loaches feed on small crustaceans, worms, small insects, zooplankton and small amounts of plant matter.   In an aquarium environment, they can be fed a quality flake food but they require regular feedings of live or frozen Daphnia, brine shrimp, bloodworms, etc. to keep them healthy and conditioned.

The Zodiac or Batik Loach (Mesonoemacheilus triangularis) is occasionally available to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts from specialty shops and online importers at quite reasonable prices.   Although on the IUCN Red list of threatened species as “least concern”, it’s habitat is threatened by widespread deterioration and transformation due to agricultural expansion.

Batik Loach (Mesonoemacheilus triangularis) Pair

Batik Loach (Mesonoemacheilus triangularis) Pair

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallons
Care Level: Difficult
Temperament: Peaceful
Aquarium Hardiness: Hardy
Water Conditions: 65-78° F, gH 36-215 ppm, pH 6.0-7.5
Max. Size: 3.25″
Color Form: Tan, Brown, Black
Diet: Omnivore
Compatibility: Good community tank fish
Origin: Southern India
Family: Nemacheilidae
life span of about 8 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Advanced

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Blue Phantom Pleco L128 (Hemiancistrus sp.)

Blue Phantom Pleco L128 (Hemiancistrus Specie)

The Blue Phantom Pleco (Hemiancistrus Specie) is a stunning riverine species found only in the northern Rio Orinoco drainage of Venezuela.

In their natural environment, Blue Phantom Plecos inhabit moderate to fast flowing rivers and streams with rocky substrates where they feed upon aufwuchs, algae, and small aquatic crustaceans.

Blue Phantom Pleco L128 (Hemiancistrus sp.)

Blue Phantom Pleco L128 (Hemiancistrus sp.)

The Blue Phantom Pleco has an almost inky black body color with variable blueish white spots.    The spots at the head are numerous and smaller than those scattered over the rest of the body. Mature males tend to have longer odontodes behind the gill covers.

The Blue Phantom Pleco (L128) may or may not be Hemiancistrus subviridis, the Green Phantom Pleco (L200) with which it resembles and is

Green Phantom Pleco L200 (Hemiancistrus subviridis)

Green Phantom Pleco L200 (Hemiancistrus subviridis)

often confused.   Both are found in different parts of the same river system and could well be the same species.

Several color forms of the Blue Phantom Pleco have been collected that vary in accordance to the locality where they were found.   These vary in base body color, the size and number of spots, and the positioning of the spots on the body.

The darker forms of L128 are found in the northern part of its range.   Specimens collected farther south become progressively lighter in body color.   Yet the darkest color form of L200 is found at the end of L128’s range and becomes lighter farther south.

This seems to indicate that both L128 and L200 are different color forms of the same species, however, until scientists make a final determination, for now, both are considered separate.

Regardless, both the Blue Phantom Pleco (L128) and the Green Phantom Pleco (L200) require the same water conditions and care.

Blue Phantom Plecos do best in at least a 30 gallon tank made into a stream type setting with a lot of caves and hiding places.   They should have a gravel or sandy substrate with plenty of rounded stones and a few larger river rocks formed into caves, some driftwood or bogwood, and some plants if needed for aesthetics.    They do require well oxygenated water and a moderate degree of current flowing in the tank.   A power head or two, a good filtration system, and regular water changes are necessary to keep these beautiful Plecos healthy.

Blue Phantom Plecos are peaceful and make a good choice for a community tank as long as their water requirements are met.   They can be housed with Hemiodus, Anostomus, Flagtail Characin, Silver Dollars, other Plecos, and some South American Retroculus.

Make sure that if you have more than one species of Pleco in the same tank, each one has an area to call home.   Provide plenty of caves, driftwood, and other hiding areas to prevent bickering over territories.

The Blue Phantom Pleco has reportedly been bred in an aquarium environment.   They are cave spawners and like most other Hypostominae, the male guards the eggs but other than that, none of the specifics have been made available to tropical fish keeping enthusiastics.

In their natural habitat, Blue Phantom Plecos are omnivorous but feed primarily on aufwuchs and small aquatic crustaceans clinging to the rocks. In an aquarium environment they should be fed a balanced diet of dried sinking pellets, spirulina wafers, shrimp pellets, and live or frozen Daphnia, brine shrimp, bloodworms, mysis shrimp, etc.   They should also be given blanched spinach or cucumber on occasion.

The Blue Phantom Pleco (L128) is rarely available in tropical fish keeping shops but can be purchased online from dealers or importers in various sizes and at moderate prices.

Blue Phantom Pleco L128 (Hemiancistrus sp.)
Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons
Care Level: Moderate
Temperament: Peaceful
Aquarium Hardiness: Relatively Hardy
Water Conditions: 72-77°F, GH 2-12 ° , pH 6.0 – 7.2
Max. Size: 7.3″
Color Form: Black, Blue, White
Diet: Omnivore
Compatibility: Good community tank
Origin: Venezuela
Family: Loricariidae
Life Span: 8-10 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate

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Forktail Rainbow (Pseudomugil furcatus)

Forktail Rainbowfish (Pseudomugil furcatus)

The Forktail Rainbowfish (Pseudomugil furcatus) also know to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts as the Yellow Rainbow, is a peaceful, shoaling species that is found in a relatively small area in eastern Paupua New Guinea.    Specimens were first collected from Peria Creek, Kwagira River and subsequently recorded in the Musa and Kwagila river basins, which both drain into Dyke Ackland and Collingwood Bay.

Forktail Rainbowfish are found in the clear, slow to moderately moving, heavily vegetated forest streams of their range where they opportunistically feed on zooplankton, phytoplankton, and invertebrates.

Forktail Rainbows are hardy, active, darting swimmers, with sleek oblong bodies that in an aquarium environment should be kept with at least 10 or more of their own kind.

Forktail Rainbow (Pseudomugil furcatus)

Forktail Rainbow (Pseudomugil furcatus)

Pseudomugil furcatus are a beautiful little species that max out at a little over 2 inches in length.   These little gems have blue eyes with bright, lemon yellow edged dorsal, pelvic, and caudal fins, and darker yellow edged anal fins.   They have two upturned, wing like pectoral fins that are also bright lemon yellow in color.

Their body color is predominantly silvery gray in color with an orange/yellow throat.    During breeding season, the males are more highly patterned and will develop vibrant yellow, orange, red, blue and green shades with stripes or bars.   The unpaired upturned fins in the males become noticeably extended as they mature.

Females and juveniles are identically colored, but are more drab in appearance.

Forktail Rainbowfish are best housed in a long, densely planted, biologically mature aquarium of at least 30 gallon capacity, with a dark, fine gravel or sandy substrate, some river rocks, driftwood roots, and floating plants to diffuse overhead lighting.   They require well oxygenated water with at least minimal water movement.   A good filtration system with a small power head is highly recommended to replicate these conditions.

Pseudomugil furcatus can be housed in a biotope environment however, they make a perfect addition to a peaceful community tank and can be housed with similar species such as tetras, danios, rasboras, other dwarf Rainbows, dwarf cichlids, or the Peacock Gudgeon (Tateurndina ocellicauda) which it occurs with in nature, etc.

Apparently all Pseudomugil furcatus bred on a commercial basis originated from a single collection obtained in 1981.    They are easy to breed in an aquarium environment but because of years of

Forktail Rainbow (Pseudomugil furcatus)

Forktail Rainbow (Pseudomugil furcatus)

inbreeding, have a low hatch out rate and a high rate of deformity in the fry.

Forktail Rainbowfish are most likely to spawn in temperatures around 83°F.   Spawning generally occurs during the daylight hours with the male mating with multiple females.   The females will deposit a few relatively large eggs on aquatic vegetation or any suitable substrate, daily for a period of several days.

The simplest way to breed Forktail Rainbowfish is to keep a school of adults in a mature, densely planted aquarium with long rooted floating plants like Water Hyacinth.   The fish will mate naturally and the fry will have a ready supply of food available when they hatch out.

An alternative method is to keep a group of 6 to 8 adults that are at least 8 months old in a breeding tank with an air powered sponge corner filter and some Java Moss, or a spawning mop.   Feed the adults live foods until mating occurs and check they moss or mop for eggs daily.   Separate the eggs from the adults as soon as they are detected into a mature brooding tank for incubation.

Depending on water temperature, the eggs generally hatch out in 21 days.  Unfortunately, because of years of inbreeding, expect that over half of the eggs will be under sized, fail to develop, or be infertile.

The fry are able to eat microworms, baby brine shrimp, or good quality finely ground flake or fry food immediately upon hatching.    Feed the fry small portions at least twice a day and remove any accumulated uneaten food from the tank as soon as possible.   Partial water changes with aged aquarium water are also recommended.

Apparently breeders are able to get eggs with developed embryos that have not hatched out to hatch, by placing them in a pill container with some aquarium water and occasionally shaking it until the embryos hatch out.    The pressure change caused by shaking the pill container causes the eggs to hatch out.   Neat trick.

In it’s natural environment, the Forktail Rainbowfish is an omnivore that feeds on phytoplankton, zooplankton, invertebrates, etc. on the surface or suspended in the water column.    In an aquarium environment, they will eagerly accept a good quality crushed flake food but they do best on a diet of live foods such as Moina, Daphnia, brine shrimp, microworms, etc.

Forktail Rainbowfish (Pseudomugil furcatus) are available online and from specialty tropical fish keeping shops at reasonable prices.   Because they are red listed as a threatened species, no wild specimens are available to the aquarium trade.    All specimens are commercially bred.

Forktail Rainbow (Pseudomugil furcatus)

Forktail Rainbow (Pseudomugil furcatus)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons
Care Level: Relatively easy
Temperament: Peaceful
Water Conditions: 75.2 – 83.3 °F, pH 7.0 – 8.0, H 268-536 ppm.
Max. Size: 2.4″
Color Form: Yellow, Grey
Diet: Omnivore
Compatibility: Excellent Community Tank
Origin: New Guinea
Family: Pseudomugilidae
Life Span: 3 years
Aquarist Level: Intermediate

Posted in Featured Articles, Freshwater Fish, Rainbowfish, Tropical Fish Keeping, Tropical Fish SpeciesComments (0)

New Guinea mudskipper (Periophthalmus cantonensis)

New Guinea Mudskipper (Periophthalmus cantonensis)

The New Guinea mudskipper (Periophthalmus cantonensis, aka Periophthalmus novaeguineaensis) also known to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts as the New Guinea dyndspringe, is found in northern Australia, the Fly river delta in Papua New Guinea, and Merauke, New Guinea.

The New Guinea Mudskipper is found in freshwater streams, the marginal areas of estuaries and tidal creeks, as well as the brackish water mangrove and nipa palm areas of it’s range.

New Guinea mudskipper (Periophthalmus cantonensis)

New Guinea mudskipper (Periophthalmus cantonensis)

Periophthalmus cantonensis, aka Periophthalmus novaeguineaensis has a light brown background body color that blends into gray around the head, dorsal area, and flanks.   The ventral area blends into a cream to whitish color, and there are 7 to 8 dark brown diagonal bars on the dorsal and flanks of the body that are saddle like in appearance.   The areas between the bars often have blotches present.

The head, flanks, and body is speckled with iridescent sky blue and small reddish brown dots, and very often short vertical stripes.   The fins are colored a translucent brown with darker reddish brown to black bands that are more evident on the dorsal and pelvic.   The anal, pectoral, and caudal fins usually have no markings except for small brown spots or dusky pigmentation along the length of the fins.

Male New Guinea Mudskippers are more colorful and darker than the females with more heavily pigmented anal and pelvic fins.

New Guinea Mudskippers live among the mud banks of tidal creeks, tide pools, and inlets of their range and because they need to keep their bodies moist, they never venture very far from the water.

Although they are sometimes found in pure fresh water, they are more often found along the steep mud banks of tidally influenced rivers.

Like all mudskippers, the New Guinea Mudskippers is able to breathe air through it’s skin, and the lining of it’s mouth and throat.   They are capable of “walking” on land using their modified pectoral and pelvic fins.   When they are on land, their pectoral fins can be rotated around their central axes, which allows them to “drag” themselves along through the mud.

When they bend their tail forwards and off to one side, forming a sort of springboard, and quickly flex and release their tails; they have the unique ability to “skip” or jump across the mud, hence their name.

The eyes of the New Guinea Mudskipper are set high on their head, which gives them a 360° view of their domain.   Their eyes give them a cute, inquisitive expression, and in aquarium environment they will often scoot close to the tank glass to see what is going on.   They quickly learn to recognize their keepers when they see them outside of their tank, and are easily trained and actually seem to enjoy climbing onto the hand of their keeper to accept bits of food .

The New Guinea Mudskipper is best housed in at least a 30 gallon aquarium (for a single fish) with an exposed mud, fine gravel, or sandy substrate “beach”, some partially submerged driftwood or bogwood, a few rocks, and a tightly closed cover to replicate the humid conditions needed and prevent them from leaving their tank.

Groups of 5 or more should be housed in a much larger tank that provides them with enough room to set up individual territories.   When crowded together, only one dominant individual will eventually remain.

New Guinea Mudskippers can be kept with small fiddler crabs, guppies, mollies, smaller killifish, flagfish, etc. of the same size, but smaller fish will be considered dinner.  Avoid placing larger crabs that could eat the mudskippers in with them.

New Guinea Mudskippers do best in a brackish water environment with a specific gravity of about 1.005.   Plants are not a necessity, but many tropical fish keeping enthusiasts like to use  Java Fern (Microsorum pteropus), Rhizophora (mangrove) sp., or even boiled plastic plants for esthetics.

New Guinea Mudskippers are greedy and messy and although they can tolerate a wide range of water quality conditions, they are not particularly sensitive to accumulated wastes in the water.

The tank mates that they are usually housed with must have good water quality, therefore a good quality filtration system with regular water changes to eliminate nitrates, ammonia, and maintain the parameters necessary for the other species is paramount.    Outside canister filters are highly recommended for these fish.

Because the natural environment of Periophthalmus cantonensis is almost impossible to replicate, they have never been successfully bred in an aquarium environment or even in public aquariums.

In their natural habitat, the males dig deep shafts into the mud where breeding and care of the young takes place.   The eggs are deposited in the deepest chamber of the pit and where the female guards the young after they hatch out.

In the wild, New Guinea Mudskippers are opportunistic carnivores that feed on crabs, insects, worms, and other invertebrates.   In an aquarium environment, they will eat live worms, crickets, flies, small pieces of seafood, meal worms, beetles, spiders, small fish, crustaceans, frozen bloodworms, mysis shrimp, brine shrimp, and even flake foods.

Because dried flake foods can swell up in the fish’s stomach and potentially cause bloating, they are not recommended. as a staple.

Although mudskippers are exported regularly from West Africa, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, India and Sri Lanka; Australian or New Guinean Mudskippers (Periophthalmus cantonensis, aka Periophthalmus novaeguineaensis) are almost impossible to ever find in tropical fish keeping shops or even on the Internet.   Whenever they are available, they always demand a premium.

New Guinea mudskipper (Periophthalmus cantonensis)

New Guinea mudskipper (Periophthalmus cantonensis)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons
Care Level: High
Temperament: Aggressive
Aquarium Hardiness: Hardy as adults
Water Conditions: 77.0 to 86.0° F, 10 – 25°H, pH 7.0-8.5
Salinity: 1.005 – 1.015
Max. Size: 3.15″
Color: Brown, Tan, Black, Blue
Tank Compatibility: single species
Diet: Omnivore (primarily Carnivore)
Origin: Australia, New Guinea
Family: Gobiidae
Lifespan: 6 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Advanced

Posted in Brackish Water Fish, Oddball Fish, Tropical Fish Keeping, Tropical Fish SpeciesComments (0)

West African Mudskipper (Periophthalmus barbarus)

The West African Mudskipper (Periophthalmus barbarus)

The West African Mudskipper (Periophthalmus barbarus) also known to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts as the Atlantic Mudskipper, is found throughout the west African coastline as far north as Mauritania, to as far south as Angola including most of the offshore islands in the Indian Ocean and into the western Pacific Ocean to Guam.

The West African Mudskipper is the largest of the common mudskippers that can grow up to 10 inches in length.  In their natural habitat, they are highly aggressive and intolerant of conspecifics and in an aquarium environment, unless they are housed in a very large tank, they usually do better in a single species biotope setting.

Although West African Mudskippers have been found in fresh water environments, they are predominantly found in estuarine mangrove swamps where they thrive on and around the mudflats close to the water. Some groups live in tidal areas where the flats are only exposed during low tides. These mudskippers disappear into their burrows when the tide begins to rise, and emerge to forage of the mud flats during periods of low tide.

Like all mudskippers, the West African Mudskipper is able to breathe air through it’s skin, and the lining of their mouth and throat.  They are also capable of “walking” on land using their modified pectoral and pelvic fins.  While on land, their pectoral fins can be rotated around their central axes, which allows them to “drag” themselves along through the mud.  When “skipping”, the tail is bent forwards and off to one side, forming a sort of springboard which allows them to suddenly skip or jump across the mud when they flex their tails.

Because West African Mudskippers can only breathe air through their skin when it is wet, their habitat is limited to extremely humid climates where they can easily keep themselves moistened when out of water.

They posses enlarged gill chambers that allow them to retain a bubble of air.   When on land, the gill chamber is tightly closed off by a valve in the gill slit which allows their stiff gills to remain moist.   Because their gill filaments are so stiff, and do not coalesce when out of water, the Mudskipper has the ability to remain on land for extended periods of time.   In fact, in terms of physiology, the gills of mudskippers are better suited to atmospheric than aquatic respiration.

This style of breathing, similar to that used by many amphibians, is known as cutaneous air breathing.

West African Mudskipper (Periophthalmus barbarus)

West African Mudskipper (Periophthalmus barbarus)

West African Mudskippers have attractively colored dorsal fins that they use to “flag” other individuals when they infringe on their territory or to attract a mate.   They will quickly raise and lower their dorsal and often will hold it in an upright position for a few seconds to warn rivals.

The Mudskipper’s eyes are set high on their heads giving them a 360° view of their domain.   Their eyes give them a cute, inquisitive expression and in aquarium environment, they will scoot close to the tank glass to see what is going on, and will quickly recognize their keepers when they are outside of the tank.   Mudskippers are easily trained and actually seem to enjoy climbing onto their keepers hand to accept food .

West African Mudskippers are best housed in at least a 30 gallon aquarium (for a single fish) with an exposed mud, fine gravel, or sandy substrate “beach”, some partially submerged driftwood or bogwood, a few rocks, and a tightly closed cover to maintain the humid conditions they require and prevent them from leaving the tank.

Groups of 5 can be housed in a much larger tank that gives them enough room to set up individual territories, however when crowded together, only one dominant individual will eventually remain.

They can be kept with small fiddler crabs and/or guppies, mollies, smaller killifish, flagfish, etc. of the same size but smaller fish will be considered dinner.   Larger crabs that could eat the mudskippers should obviously be avoided.

West African Mudskippers do best in brackish water with a specific gravity of about 1.005 and although plants are not a necessity, many tropical fish keeping enthusiasts use Java Fern (Microsorum pteropus), Rhizophora (mangrove) sp., or even boiled plastic plants for esthetics.

Like all mudskippers, West African Mudskippers are greedy and messy.   They can tolerate a wide range of water quality conditions and are not particularly sensitive to accumulated wastes in the water however, the tank mates they are housed with must have good water quality.   Provide your mudskippers with a good quality filtration system and regular water changes to eliminate nitrates and ammonia, and maintain the parameters needed for the other species that are being housed with them.   Outside canister filters are highly recommended for these fish.

Because the natural environment of Periophthalmus barbarus is so complex and almost impossible to replicate, they have never been successfully bred in an aquarium environment or even in public aquariums.   In their natural habitat, the males dig turreted shafts in the mud up to 9 feet deep where mating and care of the young takes place.   Eggs are deposited in the deepest chamber of the pit and once hatched out, the female guards the young.

In their natural habitat, West African Mudskippers primarily feed on crabs, insects, worms, and other invertebrates. In an aquarium environment, they will accept live worms, crickets, flies, small pieces of seafood, meal worms, beetles, small fish, crustaceans, frozen bloodworms, mysis shrimp or brine shrimp, and even flake foods. However, dried flake foods can swell up in the fish’s stomach and potentially cause bloating therefore, they are not recommended.

The West African Mudskipper (Periophthalmus barbarus) can be purchased from specialty tropical fish keeping shops and online from dealers and importers at reasonable prices, but before you buy one we urge you to do some research on the fish you intend to purchase, especially on the basics of caring for these adorable, very interesting animals.

West African Mudskipper (Periophthalmus barbarus)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons
Care Level: High
Temperament: Aggressive
Aquarium Hardiness: Hardy as adults
Water Conditions: 77.0 to 86.0° F, 10 – 25°H, pH 7.0-8.5
Salinity: 1.005 – 1.015
Max. Size: 10″
Color: Brown, Tan, Black, Blue
Tank Compatibility: single species
Diet: Omnivore
Origin: West Africa
Family: Gobiidae
Lifespan: 6 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Advanced

 

 

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Indian Mudskipper (Periophthalmus Septemradiatus)

Indian Mudskipper (Periophthalmus Septemradiatus)

The Indian Mudskipper (Periophthalmus Septemradiatus) is a brackish water member of the Gobiidae family that is found throughout northern India, Myanmar, Thailand, peninsular and insular Malaysia; and locally near the Ganges delta in India.

Not only are Indian Mudskippers able to breathe air through their skin, and the lining of their mouth and throat; they are also capable of “walking” on land using their modified pectoral and pelvic fins.

Because they can only breathe air through their skin when it is wet, their habitat is limited to very humid climates where they can easily keep themselves moistened when out of water. They posses enlarged gill chambers that allow them to retain a bubble of air.

When they are out of the water, the chamber is tightly closed off by a valve in the gill slit which allows their stiff gills to remain moist. Because their gill filaments are so stiff, and do not coalesce when out of water, the Mudskipper has the ability to function on land for extended periods of time.

This style of breathing, known as cutaneous air breathing, is similar to the mode used by amphibians.

The Indian Mudskipper‘s pectoral fins have two segments (the radials and the rays) and two movable hinge joints that act as a sort of movable shoulder joint. Their radial pectoral fins are elongated and protrude from their body which enables them to more easily walk on land.

The Indian Mudskipper (Periophthalmus Septemradiatus) along with several other species, will dig deep burrows in the soft sediment that they live among which allow the fish to regulate their body temperature, avoid marine predators during high tides when the fish and the burrow are submerged, and to lay their eggs.

Several species of mudskipper will maintain an air pocket during high tides when their burrow is submerged so they can breathe in periods of very low oxygen concentrations.

Indian Mudskipper (Periophthalmus Septemradiatus)

Indian Mudskipper (Periophthalmus Septemradiatus)

The Indian Mudskipper has a grey to brownish background color which is paler towards the dorsal, and white along the ventral and throat areas.

The margins of the opercles are dark, and a brown stripe runs dorsally and posteriorly up to the caudal peduncle until it turns into a row of irregular dark blotches.

The two series of dark blotches form a pattern of 8 to 10 saddle like bars, and numerous small dark brown, pale red, and pale blue speckles are scattered on the snout.

The scales on the opercles have darker margins, black to dark blue with a reddish margin in males, dusky with series of dark speckles on rays and a red margin.   The pectoral fins are greyish with red speckles on rays and the caudal fin is dusky with a series of dark speckles on rays.   The anal and pelvic fins are dusky to a dark grey distally that is more bluish in males.

Although there are around 41 known species of mudskippers dispersed throughout the world, there are only 5 species that tropical fish keeping enthusiasts are easily able to procure in the ornamental fish trade with any regularity.

  • The Indian Mudskipper (Periopthalmodon septemradiatus)
    The Indian Mudskipper (Periopthalmodon septemradiatus) is often confused with and sold as the West African Mudskipper. It is a moderately sized species that grows to about 4 inches in length and is easy to keep.
  • The Blue-Spotted Mudskipper (Boleophthalmus boddarti)
    The Blue-Spotted Mudskipper is one of the larger of the mudskipper species that maxes out at about 8 inches in length. It has peculiar feeding habits and normally does not adapt well to captivity.
  • The Silver-Barred Mudskipper (Periophthalmus argentilineatus)
    Although Silver Barred Mudskippers grow to about 8 inches in length, they are one of the least aggressive of the mudskipper species.
  • The West African Mudskipper (Periophthalmus barbarus)
    West African Mudskippers are the largest of the common mudskippers and grow up to 10 inches in length. They are intolerant of any kind of tankmate and must be housed in a single species biotope setting.
  • The Indian Dwarf Mudskipper (Periophthalmus novemradiatus)
    The Dwart Mudskipper is the smallest of the mudskippers and only grows to around 2 inches in length. It is highly territorial but because of their small size, are easiest to keep.

All Mudskippers are typically found in tropical, subtropical, and temperate intertidal habitats and are quite active during tidal recessions when they are out of the water.   They spend a lot of their time feeding, courting potential partners, and defending their territories against potential suitors.

Because Indian Mudskippers spend the majority of their time above the waterline when they feel safe in their surroundings, keeping them can be somewhat challenging.

Mudskippers are both skittish and predatory, which makes placing them with tankmates somewhat difficult.   If you house them with fish or inverts that are too small, their tankmates will likely end up on the menu.   If you house them with larger or fish that are too aggressive, the mudskippers could be intimidated enough to prevent them from entering the water as needed to keep their skin moist.

The best way to keep Indian Mudskippers is in a sufficiently large, specialized, single species brackish water biotope tank setting, with small fiddler crabs and/or guppies, mollies, smaller killifish, flagfish, etc. of the same size.   Larger crabs that could eat the mudskippers should obviously be avoided.

A 30 gallon aquarium is a good minimum tank size for housing Indian Mudskippers that only grow to a max length of 3 inches.   This will allow about 10 gallons of water space in the tank, which should be sufficient for keeping a few guppies or flagfish as tankmates.

Indian Mudskippers need high humidity in their tank to keep them from drying out, therefore a tightly fitting lid is a requirement.   In their natural environment they inhabit mud banks and muddy substrates which retain moisture, but in an aquarium environment, dealing with mud is a pain, to say the least.   Many tropical fish keeping enthusiasts substitute fine play sand as an alternate to a muddy substrate with good results.

At least half of the aquarium should be above the water level and furnished with rocks, driftwood, flowerpots, etc. for the mudskippers to climb upon.   Live mangroves roots are almost an impossibility in an aquarium environment, but artificial mangrove root ornaments make an excellent substitute. Advanced aquarists have used live plants like Samolus valerandi (Brookweed) and various species of seagrasses with good results, but seagrasses require several inches of substrate to flourish.

Although some mudskippers are found inhabiting freshwater or marine areas in the wild, in an aquarium environment it is best to keep them in brackish water with a specific gravity between 1.005 and 1.015 for most of the commonly sold species.   The pH, temperature, and water hardness does not need to be exact, but hard water between 15-30 dH, a pH of 7.5 to 8.5, and a temperature between 72 and 80 degrees F. is recommended for most of the tropical species.

Indian Mudskippers are not sensitive to accumulated wastes in the water and although they can tolerate a wide range of water quality conditions, their tankmates cannot.   Provide them with a good quality filtration system and regular water changes in their tank to eliminate nitrates and ammonia, and maintain the parameters needed for the other fish that are being housed with them.

Indian Mudskippers have not been successfully bred in an aquarium environment.

Except for the Blue Spotted Mudskipper that is primarily herbivorous, Periophthalmus Septemradiatus and most of the other commonly traded species of mudskippers are omnivores that will accept a wide variety of foods.   Small omnivore pellets, algae flakes, and live, frozen, or freeze dried foods like mysis shrimp, brine shrimp, small pieces of earthworms, bloodworms, small pieces of seafood, and even small fruit flies will be eagerly accepted.

When purchasing Mudskippers do your due dilligence and remember that they are all extremely territroial. Some species like the Silver Barred Mudskipper are tolerant of conspecifics, but others like the West African Mudskipper are violent towards their tankmates and when kept in large groups will attack each other until only one is left in the tank.

The Indian Mudskipper (Periophthalmus Septemradiatus) is somewhere in between, and although they are still aggressive towards conspecifics, given enough space for them to set up their own territories, their disputes are not usually damaging and they usually get along just fine with each other.

Indian Mudskippers can be purchased from specialty tropical fish keeping shops and online from dealers and importers at reasonable prices, but before you buy one we urge you to do some research on the fish you intend to purchase, especially on the basics of caring for these neat and very interesting animals.

 

Indian Mudskipper (Periophthalmus Septemradiatus)

Indian Mudskipper (Periophthalmus Septemradiatus)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons
Care Level: High
Temperament: Aggessive
Aquarium Hardiness: Hardy as adults
Water Conditions: 72.0 to 82.0° F, 15-30 dH, pH 7.5-8.5
Salinity: 1.005 – 1.015
Max. Size: 3″
Color: Brown, Tan, Blue
Tank Compatability: single species
Diet: Omnivore
Origin: India, Africa, Thailand, Malaysia
Family: Gobiidae
Lifespan: 6 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Advanced

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Centipede Knife Fish (Steatogenys duidae)

Centipede Knife Fish (Steatogenys duidae)

The Centipede Knife Fish (Steatogenys duidae) also known to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts as the Leaf Knifefish or Grass Knifefish, is a nocturnal South American species that is found primarily in the deep water forest pools and creeks of the Amazon River and it’s tributaries throughout Venezuela and Brazil.

During the rainy season, Centipede Knife Fish are often found lying on the bottom of deeper leaf littered pools in small schools where they have easy access to worms, insect larvae, and small crustaceans that they feed on.   They prefer leaf littered substrates and pools with stronger currents where they blend in to avoid predation from larger species.

Centipede Knife Fish (Steatogenys duidae)

Centipede Knife Fish (Steatogenys duidae)

Centipede Knife Fish have a round head and a long flat body that becomes more rounded as it tapers toward the tail into a fine point.   They have no apparent dorsal fin, and an anal fin that runs underneath the entire length of the fish.

They are colored a brown to light tan, in a zig zag banded pattern that blends into the leafy substrate that they are often found among.

Like many knife fish species, Centipede Knife Fish have poor eyesight but posses an electric organ that they use to generate a weak electrical field around them, which allows them to communicate with others of their own kind, find a mate, navigate their surroundings, and locate the crustaceans, worms, and larvae that they feed on.

Although Centipede Knife Fish are a shy, peaceful species that usually do not bother other fish; in an aquarium environment, they need to be kept with at least 6 or more of their own kind to minimize individual bullying.    Kept singly in a community aquarium, they tend to be shy and will hide during the daylight hours, and when kept in smaller groups, they tend to constantly pick on each other to establish a “pecking order” of sorts.

Steatogenys duidae are relatively easy to care for compared to other knife fish species.

They do best in a densely planted aquarium of at least 55 gallon capacity, with a sand or very fine gravel substrate, some driftwood and rocks formed into caves for them to hide among, and some floating plants to diffuse overhead lighting. They require good water quality, a moderate amount of water movement, and regular 30 – 50% weekly water changes to keep them healthy.   A high quality canister type filtration system is recommended for this species.

Many tropical fish keeping enthusiasts place a clear acrylic or plastic tube into their tank as a hiding place so they can be observed during daylight hours, while others install “moonlight” blue LED lights on their tank to view them at night.

When kept in a community tank setting, they have been known to eat smaller fish like guppies, neons, etc., however, they should not be housed with much larger, overly aggressive, or fast moving species.   Because of their shy demeanor, too much activity in the tank tends to make them hide during the day.

Keeping them in groups of 6 or more fish, or with other calm, non aggressive species will alleviate the problem.

Centipede Knife Fish have never been bred in an aquarium environment and little is known about their reproduction activities.

Feeding Centipede Knife Fish is often the biggest challenge encountered with this species, especially when they are housed in a community environment.

As they get used to their surroundings, feeding them becomes a bit easier but because of their timidness, they usually hide when their tank mates are in a frenzy as they are being fed.  This being said, in the wild Centipede Knifefish are carnivores that eat when the sun sets.

They will accept fresh or frozen bloodworms, black worms, chopped earthworms, brine shrimp, baby guppies, pond snails, and ghost shrimp.   Although they have been “trained” to eat freeze dried bloodworms, they will usually never accept commercial flake foods or pellets.   Feed them when the lights are turned off on the tank and the food is on the bottom.

Centipede Knife Fish (Steatogenys duidae) are not common in tropical fish keeping shops however, they have recently become more available online and from specialty fish shops at moderate prices.

Centipede Knife Fish (Steatogenys duidae)

Centipede Knife Fish (Steatogenys duidae)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minimum Tank Size: 55 gallons
Care Level: Moderate
Temperament: Peaceful
Aquarium Hardiness: Hardy as adults
Water Conditions: 74.0 to 82.0° F, 5 – 10 dGH, pH 6.0-6.5
Max. Size: 8.25″
Color: Brown, Tan
Tank Compatability: groups of  6 or more
Diet: Carnivore
Origin: Venezuela, Brazil
Family: Hypopomidae
Lifespan: 15 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Advanced

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Elephantnose Knifefish (Sternarchorhynchus oxyrhynchus)

Elephantnose Knifefish (Sternarchorhynchus oxyrhynchus)

The Elephantnose Knifefish (Sternarchorhynchus oxyrhynchus) is one of 32 known species of knife fishes in the Sternarchorhynchus genus that is found in the slow moving tropical South American rivers, streams, and tributaries of Venezuela, the Guaianes, and the Amazon River, in Brazil.

Elephantnose Knifefish have have poor vision and are a relatively peaceful, largely nocturnal species that inhabit the dark muddy riverbeds and heavily vegetated areas where they feed on worms, small crustaceans, and other foods found along the bottom as they root around the substrate.

Although they are not aggressive to other species, they are territorial with others of their own kind.

Elephantnose Knifefish (Sternarchorhynchus oxyrhynchus)

Elephantnose Knifefish (Sternarchorhynchus oxyrhynchus)

The body of the Elephantnose Knifefish is a light gray to an almost black color.

They have a long, thin, elongated body with an anal fin that runs the entire length of the fish, pelvic fins located just behind the gills, and an almost comical looking, long, downward pointing, fleshy “nose” or proboscis, that they use to burrow around in the substrate for worms.   Sexing is next to impossible.

Elephantnose Knifefish are a scaleless species that emit a weak electrical charge that they use to locate food and possibly others of their own kind.

Because of the weak electrical charges they occasionally emit, they should not be mixed with other bottom dwelling species in an aquarium environment or with others of their own kind, especially in small tank.

The Elephantnose Knifefish is best kept alone in a single species biotope environment.   Although some tropical fish keeping enthusiasts have successfully kept them with other knife fish species, they are generally intolerant to others of their own species.

Sternarchorhynchus oxyrhynchus do best in a large, densely planted aquarium of at least 55 gallon capacity, with a mud or sandy substrate, a few pieces of driftwood or bogwood, some smooth river rock made into caves for hiding, and some floating plants
to diffuse overhead lighting and provide additional security to the fish.

Because they are nocturnal, they need minimal lighting, so low light loving plants like Java FernJava MossAnubias spp. and Vallisneria can be used to aquascape the tank.

When exposed to bright aquarium lighting, Elephantnose Knifefish become withdrawn and will eventually quit eating and waste away.   They should never be kept in a tank with a gravel substrate.

Elephantnose Knifefish are extremely sensitive to water quality and require a good filtration system with regular water changes to keep them healthy.   Like most scaleless species, they are also sensitive to salt and most aquarium medications.

To date, no successful spawning has occurred in an aquarium environment.

Elephantnose Knifefish can be fussy about eating.   They relish live tubifex but will also eat bloodworms, small or chopped up earthworms, live brine shrimp, and blackworms.

They can be weaned to accept frozen bloodworms, blackworms, or brine shrimp but live foods should be provided when they quit eating. Because they are largely nocturnal, it is best to feed them just before you turn the lights out on the tank at night.

Elephantnose Knifefish (Sternarchorhynchus oxyrhynchus) are rare in the aquarium trade but can be occasionally found online from wholesalers or from specialty tropical fish keeping shops.

Elephantnose Knifefish (Sternarchorhynchus oxyrhynchus)

Elephantnose Knifefish (Sternarchorhynchus oxyrhynchus)

 

 

 

 

 

Minimum Tank Size: 55 gallons
Care Level: Moderate
Temperament: Peaceful
Aquarium Hardiness: Delicate
Water Conditions: 73-82° F, 6-12 °d, pH 6.5-7.0
Max. Size: 20″
Color Form: Gray, Black
Diet: Carnivore
Compatibility: Single species tanks
Origin: Venezuela, the Guaianes, Brazil
Family: Apteronotidae
Lifespan: 8-12 Years
Experience Lever: Advanced

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Karnataka Barb (Sahyadria denisonii)

Karnataka Barb (Sahyadria denisonii)

The Karnataka Barb (Sahyadria denisonii) is a new variety of Denison barb that has been collected from a new area in the state of Karnataka, India.   Karnataka is south of Kerala, in southern India where the majority of Red Line Sharks, up until recently, have been collected.

Although known to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts as the Karnataka Barb, Red Lined Torpedo Barb, Denison Barb, or Rose Line Shark, all are shoaling species synonymous to Sahyadria denisonii and are found in the fast flowing rivers, streams, and tributaries of southern India.

Like the Denison Barb, the Karnataka Barb is torpedo shaped and much longer than most other barbs.   They are fast swimmers that are shaped for speed and live in huge shoals to protect themselves from other predatory species.   In their natural environment they are frequently observed jumping out of the water.

Karnataka Barb (Sahyadria denisonii)

Karnataka Barb (Sahyadria denisonii)

The Karnataka Barb is predominately a silver color with a dark black line running the length of its body from the nose, through the eye and ending at the base of the caudal fin.

A bright red stripe that blends into a yellow stripe begins at the nose and runs through the eyes to about mid body, just above the black stripe.   The leading edge of the dorsal fin is bright red and the caudal fin is transparent with black over yellow accent stripes toward the tips.   The pectoral and anal fins are mostly transparent.

The Karnataka Barb has much more red than the Denison Barb, which makes it even more desirable to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts.

Like the Denison Barb, the Karnataka Barb is a peaceful fish that is a welcome addition to any large community aquarium.   They need good water flow with highly oxygenated water and they get along well with wide range of other similarly sized peaceful and semi-aggressive tropical fish species.

Karnataka Barbs are best housed in a densely planted aquarium of at least 55 gallon capacity, with a sandy or fine gravel substrate, some driftwood roots for them to hide among and some floating plants like Water Hyacinth, to provide security and minimize jumping.

Karnataka Barbs should be housed in groups of at least 6 to 8 specimens, and because of their skittishness and tendency for jumping, their tank must have a tightly fitting cover if floating plants are not provided.

A canister filtration system with a powerhead is recommended to provide the necessary current and oxygenation that this species requires.

In the wild, Karnataka Barbs consume both plant and animal based foods.   Although they are not picky eaters, in an aquarium environment they should be fed a balanced diet of plant, algae, and meaty foods.

Live, frozen, or freeze dried bloodworms, daphnia, brine shrimp, tubifex, a quality omnivore flake food or carnivore pellet will keep your Karnataka Barbs healthy and happy.

Almost all Denison Barbs sold to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts are specimens that have been bred in Indonesia, however, the Karnataka Barb so far is collected exclusively in the state of Karnataka, and is quite difficult to obtain.

When available from specialty shops or online dealers, they can be up to 6″ in size and quite costly.

Karnataka Barb (Sahyadria denisonii)

Karnataka Barb (Sahyadria denisonii)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minimum Tank Size: 55 gallons
Care Level: Easy
Temperament: Peaceful
Aquarium Hardiness: Hardy
Water Conditions: 60-78° F, KH 4-10, pH 6.8-7.8
Max. Size: up to 6?
Color Form: Black, Red, White
Diet: Omnivore
Compatibility: Good Community Tank Fish
Origin: Karnataka, India
Family: Cyprinidae
Lifespan: 8 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate

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Panda Garra (Garra flavatra)

Panda Garra (Garra flavatra)

The Panda Garra (Garra flavatra) or “Panda Loach” is endemic to the Rakhine Yoma/Arakan mountain range in Rakhine state, western Myanmar (Burma) and although incorrectly labeled as a loach; is often sold to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts as the Clown Loach, Panda Loach, Banded Butterfly Loach, or Rainbow Loach.

Although the Panda Garra and it’s related species are found predominately in the very shallow, clear, oxygen rich, streams of their range over substrates of mixed sand, gravel, pebbles and rocks; Garra flavatra have also been collected in relatively shallow, slow moving waters, with a number of specimens confined to almost stagnant pools.

In the Rakhine Yoma mountain range, Panda Garra were collected among Aplocheilus panchax, Puntius binduchitra, Rasbora daniconius, R. Rasbora, Olyra burmanica, Pterocryptis cf.

Panda Garra (Garra flavatra)

Panda Garra (Garra flavatra)

berdmorei, Sicyopterus fasciatus, Lepidocephalichthys berdmorei, Batasio elongatus and several unspecified Danio, Devario, Hara, Puntius, Parambassis, Pangio, Rasbora, and Schistura species.

Some of the other Garra specimens found in the same range of the Panda Garra includes Garra poecilura, which is the most similar to Garra flavatra in caudal fin pattern and body shape; Garra rakhinica, which has a comparable body shape but lacks the pretty caudal markings; Garra propulvinus and Garra vittatula, which are both an unremarkable, brown colored, laterally striped species ; Garra spilota, which has red fins, a coppery colored body with dark blue/gray blotches on the flanks; and Garra nigricolla, which is the larges of the species, distinguised by a dark stripe across the top of their head.

Garra flavatra is an attractive, active, entertaining species in the Cyprinidae family that contains over 100 recognized, but poorly documented species, most of which have never been seen by tropical fish keeping enthusiasts.   Because of their interesting behavior and attractive coloring, the Panda Garra is easy to recognize and has become more available in the hobby.

Panda Garra (Garra flavatra)

Panda Garra (Garra flavatra)

The Panda Garra (Garra flavatra) is the only member of the Garra genus that has alternating dark and light brown to black vertical bars on the flanks, and red markings in the fins.

Like all Garraina, they posess a modified lower lip that forms a somewhat adhesive disk that they use in turbulent waters to cling to the substrate while feeding.

In most species, the upper lip is almost absent, and both upper and lower jaws are keratinised (horny) and used to scrape food from the substrate.

Panda Garra are best kept in groups of 5 or more specimens, preferably in a biotope “hill stream” type community setting with other specimens collected from their range.

Garra flavatra should be housed in a well matured tank of at least 20 gallon capacity, with a mixed sand, gravel, pebble, and rock substrate, some driftwood branches, and a few hardy plants like Anubias spp., Bolbitis, or Microsorum attached to the rocks for decoration.   They need clean, well oxygenated water with a turnover of at least 10 times per hour, and regular water changes to keep them healthy and active.

An outside canister type filtration system with a powerhead and/or air stone is highly recommended to provide the necessary current and oxygenation.

Panda Garra have been known to  “climb” from the tank if water conditions are not to their liking, so a tightly fitting cover is also recommended.

The Panda Garra has been bred in an aquarium environment and at least two Myanmar exporters have been supplying the aquarium trade since 2008.

Adult specimens are collected during their natural breeding season which occurs from May to July.

Adults are housed together in large breeding tanks and conditioned with chopped earthworms, live Tubifex, and an algae rich diet.   The males develop turercules on their head when ready to spawn, and the females become noticeably gravid.   Breeders normally remove individual pairs at this stage and transfer them to smaller, highly oxygenated tanks with a moderate current.

Eggs are laid in the morning and hatch within 24 to 30 hours.   The fry are free swimming shortly thereafter and can be fed liquid fry food or a suspension made from egg yolk until they are large enough to accept newly hatched brine shrimp, usually in a week or so.   Continuous flowing water is believed to stimulate feeding and the growth rate of the fry.

In their natural environment adult Panda Garra graze on algae and other organisms from rocks with epilithic growth.   In an aquarium environment, they should be offered meaty foods such as live, frozen, or freeze dried bloodworms, Tubifex, brine shrimp, chopped prawn, chopped earthworms, etc. along with a quality sinking wafer containing vegetable matter or Spirulina.

They appreciate occasional treats of blanched spinach, melon, cucumber, and other fresh vegetables.   A river rock with live organisms placed in their tank on a regular basis is also readily appreciated.

Panda Garra are not common in tropical fish keeping shops and when available are usually misidentified as Panda Loaches, etc.   They are occasionally available online from importers in various sizes during their breeding season at relatively reasonable prices.

Panda Garra (Garra flavatra)

Panda Garra (Garra flavatra)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallons
Care Level: Moderate
Temperament: Peaceful
Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately Hardy
Water Conditions: 71.6 – 81F , 2-12 dKH, pH 6.5-7.5
Max. Size: 3.5″
Color Form: Brown, Tan
Diet: Omnivorous
Compatibility: Bio-tope and peaceful community
Origin: Myanmar
Family: Cyprinidae
Life Span: 5-6 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate

Posted in Featured Articles, Freshwater Fish, Loaches, Oddball Fish, Tropical Fish SpeciesComments (0)

Red Hook (Myloplus rubripinnis) School

Red Hook (Myloplus rubripinnis)

The Red Hook (Myloplus rubripinnis) is found throughout Northern South America in the Amazon, Rio Orinoco, and many of the other major river systems.  It has been collected in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela from the densely vegetated slower moving rivers and streams in these regions.

In the aquarium trade, Red Hooks are often sold to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts as “Silver Dollars”  however, their red with black edged anal fin, noticeably smaller adipose fin, and larger adult size quickly distinguishes them from their Serrasalmidae cousins.

All Silver Dollar species are found in tropical climates and prefer weedy river tributaries, with dense overhanging vegetation that provides the low light conditions they prefer.

Like most Silver Dollars, the Red Hook is a peaceful, but skittish, schooling species.  They are herbivores that in their natural habitat voraciously feed on the leaves of submerged and marginal plants however, they are opportunistic feeders that also eat earthworms,  small crustaceans, grubs, insects, and smaller fish.

In an aquarium environment, Red Hooks needs a huge amount of vegetable matter in their diet to prevent them from decimating a well planted tank.

Red Hook (Myloplus rubripinnis)

Red Hook (Myloplus rubripinnis)

The Red Hook (Myloplus rubripinnis) has a round, silvery, laterally compressed body with a long red pointed anal fin edged in black and a much smaller adipose fin.  They have small scales that give them a greenish blue sheen when viewed from different angles.

Although many tropical fish keeping enthusiasts say there is no way to differentiate between sexes, adult Myloplus rubripinnis can be sexed by the shape of their anal fin.  Females seem to have pinker bellies and an anal fin that points outward towards the tail, and then down to a point.    The anal fin in male Myloplus rubripinnis is usually somewhat longer and points almost straight down vertically, into the classic “J” shape.

Red Hooks do best in a densely planted, dimly lit aquarium of at least 75 gallon capacity, with a dark  sand or fine gravel substrate, some pieces of driftwood, a few well placed rocks for them to hide among,  and some floating plants to help diffuse any overhead lighting and reduce skittishness.    Hardy plants like Java Fern, Hornwort, etc. is recommended to minimize grazing.   They require good water quality and regular water changes.  A canister filter would be a good choice for this species to provide the water flow and quality necessary for their well being.

Because they are a schooling species, Myloplus rubripinnis do best when kept together with at least 5 or 6 other individuals in a single species biotope setup.   They are quite peaceful, and many tropical fish keeping enthusiasts successfully house Red Hooks with other larger peaceful fish in a community tank environment however, at least 3 or 4 should be kept together with plenty of hiding places to keep them from becoming too skittish, or reclusive.

To date, the Red Hook (Myloplus rubripinnis) not been successfully bred in an aquarium environment.

All Silver Dollars require vegetable matter in their diet and the Red Hook is no exception.   They should be fed commercial algae wafers, Spirulina flakes, cucumbers, lettuce, peas, zuchinni, spinach, and other fresh greens.   They will also eagerly accept regular offerings of fresh, frozen, or freeze dried bloodworms, tubifex, earthworms, ghost shrimp, and brine shrimp.

Myloplus rubripinnis are usually readily available in tropical fish keeping shops and online at reasonable prices.   They are usually sold as juveniles when they are 1 1/2″ – 3″ or larger in size.

Red Hook (Myloplus rubripinnis)

Red Hook (Myloplus rubripinnis)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minimum Tank Size: 75 gallons
Care Level: Moderate
Temperament: Peaceful
Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately Hardy
Water Conditions: 73-81 °F°, <10dgH, pH 6.0-7.0
Max. Size: 10″ or more
Color Form: Silver, Red
Diet: Omnivorous (primarily Herbivorous)
Compatibility: Aggressive to small fish
Origin: Northern South America
Family: Characidae (Serrasalmidae)
Life Span: 5-10 years or more
Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate

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Silver Dollar (Metynnis argenteus)

Silver Dollar (Metynnis argenteus)

Silver Dollar (Metynnis argenteus) is a generic name that is attributed to a number of tropical species in the Characidae (Serrasalmidae) family that are closely related to the South American Pacu and Piranha. All are popular with tropical fish keeping enthusiasts.

This Silver Dollar (Metynnis argenteus), is endemic to the Rio Tapajós drainage, in Brazil and except for the black shoulder patch that they possess slightly above and behind each eye, they are identical to the “common” Silver Dollar (Metynnis hypsauchen) in appearance.

All Silver Dollar species are found in tropical climates and prefer highly vegetated, weedy river tributaries, with low light conditions.

Like most Silver Dollars, Metynnis argenteus is a peaceful, skittish, schooling species that inhabits the densely vegetated river tributaries of their range.  Although they are primarily vegetarians and voracious plant eaters, they are opportunistic feeders and will also eat earthworms, small insects, small crustaceans, and small fish.   In an aquarium environment, they will wreak havoc in a well planted tank unless additional vegetable matter is provided.

Although Metynnis argenteus is listed as a semi aggressive species, they are more like Pacu in temperament.

Juvenile Metynnis argenteus can be housed in a peaceful community tank with fish of the same size but if a tankmate can fit into their mouth, they will eat it.   Adults should be housed with larger catfish, other silver dollar species, Oscars, Pacu, etc.

Silver Dollar (Metynnis argenteus)

Silver Dollar (Metynnis argenteus)

As their name implies, the Silver Dollar (Metynnis argenteus) has a silvery, round, laterally compressed body with a black shoulder patch slightly above and behind their eye.   They have small scales give them a sheen of green and blue when viewed at certain angles.   The anal fin of the male is edged in red which becomes more pronounced during breeding, and a few species have small dots on their flanks.

Silver Dollars are best housed in a densely planted aquarium of at least 55 gallon capacity with a dark gravel substrate, some pieces of driftwood for them to hide among, a few rocks, and some floating plants to diffuse overhead lighting. Hardy plants like Java Fern, Hornwort, etc. should be provided to minimize grazing.     A shallow, peat filtered tank is also recommended to replicate their water parameters.

Being a schooling species, Metynnis argenteus do best when kept together with at least 5 or 6 other individuals in a single species biotope setup.   In a peaceful community tank setting with other larger fish, at least 3 or 4 should be kept together with plenty of hiding places, to keep them from becoming overly skittish and reclusive.

The best way to breed Metynnis argenteus is to purchase 6 or more juveniles and raise them together in a large tank to adulthood until a pair, or pairs can be identified.

Their breeding tank should be heavily planted with fine leaved plants and have subdued lighting.   The water should be kept at a temperature of 80 to 82 degrees F, the pH slightly acidic, and at a hardness at 8 dgH or less.

The colors around the anal, caudal, and dorsal fins of the male will become darker, and the red around the chest area will intensify, when the male is ready to spawn.   He will begin chasing the females around the tank and shimmy up close to them to get them ready to spawn.

When a female is ready to breed, she will release up to 2,000 eggs which, after being fertilized by the male, will drop to the bottom of the tank.   The eggs will hatch out in about 3 days at a temperature of 82 degrees F.

Silver Dollars (Metynnis argenteus) are not likely eat their eggs or fry, but it is always better to remove them to another tank after spawning.   A week or so after hatching, the fry will absorb their yolk sacs, become free swimming, and be fed infusoria until they are able to consume freshly hatched brine shrimp, finely crushed spirulina, or commercial prepared fry foods.

Because egg mortality can be quite high, many breeders keep a layer of Indian Almond Leaves on the bottom of the breeding tank to promote the growth of humic substances which act as an antibacterial and antifungal agent to minimize losses.

All Silver Dollars require a huge amount of vegetable matter in their diet.   They can be fed commercial algae wafers, Spirulina flakes, and regular offerings of cucumbers, lettuce, peas, zuchinni, etc. They will also eagerly accept occasional offerings of fresh, frozen, or freeze dried bloodworms, earthworms, ghost shrimp, and brine shrimp.

Metynnis argenteus are readily available in tropical fish keeping shops and online at reasonable prices.   They are usually sold as juveniles when they are 1 1/2″ – 2 3/4″ or larger in size.

 

Silver Dollar (Metynnis argenteus)

Silver Dollar (Metynnis argenteus)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minimum Tank Size: 75 gallons
Care Level: Moderate
Temperament: Peaceful
Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately Hardy
Water Conditions: 75-82 °F°, <10dgH, pH 6.0-7.0
Max. Size: 6″
Color Form: Silver
Diet: Omnivorous (primarily Herbivorous)
Compatibility: Aggressive to small fish
Origin: Brazil
Family: Characidae (Serrasalmidae)
Life Span: 15 years or more
Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate

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Silver Dollar (Metynnis hypsauchen)

Silver Dollar (Metynnis hypsauchen)

Silver Dollar (Metynnis hypsauchen) is a generic name tagged to a number of tropical species in the Characidae (now Serrasalmidae) family which are closely related to the South American Pacu and Piranha; all of which are popular with tropical fish keeping enthusiasts.

The common Silver Dollar (Metynnis hypsauchen) is distributed throughout parts of Brazil, Guyana, Bolivia, Peru, in both the Amazon and Rio Paraguay drainages, and some of the northern rivers in the Guyana Shield. All species of Silver Dollars live in tropical climates and in highly vegetated, weedy rivers and prefer low light conditions.

The common Silver Dollar (Metynnis hypsauchen) is a peaceful, nervous, schooling species that inhabits the densely vegetated river tributaries of their range.   They are primarily vegetarians and zealous plant eaters, but they are also opportunistic feeders and will readily eat worms, small insects, and small fish.   In an aquarium environment, they can quickly decimate a well planted tank

Although they are listed as a semi aggressive species, they are more like Pacu in temperament.   As juveniles, they can be housed in a peaceful community tank  setting with fish of the same size.   However, if they can get a fish into their mouths, they will eat it.   Once full grown, they can be housed with larger catfish, other silver dollar species, Oscars, etc.

Silver Dollar (Metynnis hypsauchen)

Silver Dollar (Metynnis hypsauchen)

Metynnis hypsauchen is round and silvery; just as it’s name implies.   It’s body is laterally compressed, almost round in appearance and colored silver with a hint of green and blue.

The anal fin of the male is edged in red which becomes more pronounced during breeding.   Some species have a series of small dots on their sides.

It’s close relative, Metynnis argenteus, is also known to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts as the Silver Dollar.   This species looks identical to Metynnis hypsauchen except for the black shoulder patch that they possess slightly above and behind each eye.

Because Silver Dollars are a schooling fish that grow quite large, they are best housed in at least a 55 gallon or larger aquarium with a dark gravel substrate, that is densely planted with hardy plants like Java Fern, Hornwort, etc., some pieces of driftwood for them to hide among, and some floating plants to diffuse overhead lighting.   A shallow, peat filtered tank is recommended to replicate their water parameters.

Being a schooling species, they do best when kept together with at least 5 or 6 other individuals when housed in a single species biotope setup.   In a peaceful community tank with other larger fish,

Silver Dollar (Metynnis hypsauchen)

Silver Dollar (Metynnis hypsauchen)

at least 3 or 4 should be kept together with plenty of hiding places, to keep them from becoming overly skittish and reclusive..

The best way to breed Metynnis hypsauchen is to purchase 6 or more juveniles and raise them together in a 75 gallon or larger tank to adulthood.   Eventually a pair or two will develop.   The breeding tank should be heavily planted with fine leaved plants and the lighting should be subdued.   The water should be kept at a temperature of 80 to 82 degrees F, the pH slightly acidic, and the hardness at 8 dgH or less. .

Providing a warmer water change will often trigger spawning.

When ready to spawn, the male’s colors around the anal, caudal, and dorsal fins will become darker, and the red around the chest area will intensify.   The male will begin to court the females by chasing them around the tank and shimmying to entice them.   When ready to breed, the female will release up to 2,000 eggs which, after being fertilized by the male, will drop to the bottom of the tank.   The eggs will hatch out in about 3 days at a temperature of 82 degrees F.

At this stage, even though the parents will unlikely eat their eggs or fry, it is better to remove them to another tank.   After a week or so, the fry will absorb their yolk sacs and become free swimming.   They can initially be fed infusoria until they are able to consume freshly hatched brine shrimp, finely crushed spirulina, and commercial prepared fry foods.   Egg mortality can be quite high, but a layer of Indian Almond Leaves on the bottom of the breeding tank can minimize losses.

Silver Dollars require a large amount of vegetable matter in their diet.   They can be fed commercial algae wafers, spirulina flakes, and regular offerings of cucumbers, peas, zuchinni, etc.   They will also eagerly accept occasional offerings of fresh, frozen, or freeze dried bloodworms, earthworms, ghost shrimp, and brine shrimp.

Both Metynnis hypsauchen and Metynnis argenteus are readily available in tropical fish keeping shops and online at reasonable prices.   They are usually sold as juveniles when they are 1 3/4″ in size or larger.

Silver Dollar (Metynnis hypsauchen)

Silver Dollar (Metynnis hypsauchen)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minimum Tank Size: 55 gallons
Care Level: Moderate
Temperament: Peaceful
Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately Hardy
Water Conditions: 75-82 °F°, <10dgH, pH 6.0-7.0
Max. Size: 6″
Color Form: Silver
Diet: Omnivorous (primarily Herbivorous)
Compatibility: Aggressive to small fish
Origin: Brazil, Guyana, Boliva, Peru
Family: Characidae (Serrasalmidae)
Life Span: 15 years or more
Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate

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Leopard Bush Fish (Ctenopoma Acutirostre)

Leopard Bush Fish (Ctenopoma Acutirostre)

Leopard Bush Fish (Ctenopoma Acutirostre) are also known to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts as Anabas ocellatus acutirostris, Anabas acuitrostis, Leopard ctenopoma, Spotted Climbing Perch, Spotted Leaf Fish, Spotted Cichlid, and Spotted Ctenoporna.

Leopard Bush Fish are endemic to the Congo River basin in Middle Africa and can be found in the densely vegetated streams, rivers, and even stagnant ponds of their domain where they prey on any fish or insect small enough to fit into their voracious mouths.

Leopard Bush Fish are a highly aggressive, slow moving ambush species that is most active during the evening hours.    They are a labyrinth fish that like to lie motionless close to the surface, mimicking a floating leaf, where they can easily attack unsuspecting fish.

Like all labyrinth species, Leopard Bush Fish have a special labyrinth organ which allows the fish to breathe air and survive in muddy, oxygen depleted waters.

Leopard Bush Fish (Ctenopoma Acutirostre)

Leopard Bush Fish (Ctenopoma Acutirostre)

Ctenopoma Acutirostre have a base body color of yellow to dark brown, with large dark brown spots across the entire body that extend onto the fins.  They have large eyes and a slender, high profile body with a pointed head.

Both sexes have pointed spines on their dorsal, but males possess more developed patches of spines on their gill covers and at the base of their caudal fin.

Leopard Bush Fish can grow to over 6″ in captivity and do best in a densely planted aquarium of at least 55 gallon capacity, with a dark gravel substrate, plenty of driftwood roots, and lots of floating plants to subdue overhead lighting.   They require a lot of swimming space, plenty of places to hide, good filtration, and a tightly fitted tank cover; especially if you want to try breeding the species.

They can be housed in a community aquarium with peaceful fish larger than themselves, but cannot be kept with smaller specimens or aggressive species.   Good tankmates include Gouramis, Bala Shark, Silver Dollars, Corydoras, Plecostomus, Ancistrus Catfish, and other larger peaceful species.

Although Breeding Spotted Leaf Fish has been accomplished in an aquarium environment, it is very rare and there are only a few cases where successful spawning have occurred.   A large tank

Leopard Bush Fish (Ctenopoma Acutirostre)

Leopard Bush Fish (Ctenopoma Acutirostre)

of at least 55 gallon capacity is needed with lots of submerged and floating plants, a bubble type sponge filter, and a tightly fitting cover to provide the warm, humid air necessary for the development of the fry’s labyrinth organs.

The water temperature in the breeding tank should be 79 to 85 °F, with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0, and a water hardness of 2-4 ° dGH.

When ready to breed, the male will build a bubble nest under the floating plants.   The male will wrap his body around the female until she releases her eggs which are immediately fertilized by the male.   The eggs float into the bubble nest and hatch in about 48 hours.

The parents do not care for the eggs or fry and should be removed from the breeding tank.

After 2 days, the fry can be fed infusoria until they are able to accept baby brine shrimp and/or finely crushed flake food.   The fry need plenty of places to hide and the survival rate is reportedly quite low.

Leopard Bush Fish should be fed live, frozen, or freeze dried mosquito larvae, earthworms, tubifex, bloodworms, Drosophila fruit flies, small guppies, etc.   Live foods are preferred, but they can be acclimated to accepting flakes and floating pellets.

Ctenopoma Acutirostre are usually nor readily available to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts in local fish shops but can be occasionally purchased online and from importers at modest prices.

 

Leopard Bush Fish (Ctenopoma Acutirostre)

Leopard Bush Fish (Ctenopoma Acutirostre)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minimum Tank Size: 55 gallons
Care Level: Moderate
Temperament: Peaceful
Aquarium Hardiness: Hardy
Water Conditions: 73-83 °F°, 5-12 NK°, pH 6.0-8.0
Max. Size: 7 7/8″
Color Form: Dark Brown, Yellow
Diet: Carnivorous
Compatibility: Aggressive to small fish
Origin: Africa; Congo basin
Family: Anabantidae
Life Span: 8-15 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Advanced

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Astatotilapia flaviijosephi Dominant Male

Jordan Mouthbrooder (Astatotilapia flaviijosephi)

The Jordan Mouthbrooder (Haplochromis flaviijosephi or Astatotilapia flaviijosephi) is the only haplochromine cichlid whose natural range is not in the continent of Africa.  It is found in rivers, freshwater lakes, and freshwater springs in Israel and Syria, and because of habitat loss, is considered endangered.

There are a small number of isolated populations in the waters surrounding the Sea of Galilee, the Baisan Valley, Azraq Oasis, Lake Tiberias, and Lake Muzairb which may be considered sub-species.

Little is known about the Jordan Mouthbrooder in Syria, but all of the sub-populations are considered threatened.  In Israel, there are 4 or 5 populations that currently exist in lakes and rivers, but extreme droughts, pollution, and loss of water has resulted in a decline in habitat quality.   All populations are found in shallow, vegetated waters.

The Jordan Mouthbrooder is basically a silvery tan colored fish with twelve faintly visible vertical bars running along the sides of the fish. The fins are mostly transparent, but dominant or breeding males undergo an almost spectacular color transformation.

Astatotilapia flaviijosephi Juvenile

Astatotilapia flaviijosephi Juvenile

The pelvic fins and entire underside of the males turn a jet black, and two to three large orange “egg spots” appear on the anal fin and cross the fin rays. The bottom lip becomes a bright blue color and a distinct black bar appears at the top of the eye socket and continues forward and downward past the corner of the mouth into the black throat.

The head and rest of the body is a tan color with a slightly reddish tinge, and an orange splotched area begins around the base of the pectoral fin and continues rearward to the caudal peduncle.

When stressed, both sexes exhibit dark blotching along the flanks but males are much darker and brightly colored than females.

Adult male Jordan Mouthbrooders can reach a length of over 5″, with females being slightly smaller. Males can be distinguished from females by their diet and teeth.   Males posses molariform teeth and feed mainly on snails, while juveniles and females posses slender, blade like teeth and feed on insects, small echironomid larvae, oligochaetes, and amphipods.

Jordan Mouthbrooders can be housed in a 30 gallon or larger aquarium with a medium sandy or gravel substrate, some plants such as Anubias, a few rocks, and a piece of driftwood if desired.  Moderate filtration and bi weekly water changes are recommended to keep the water as pristine as possible.

Astatotilapia flaviijosephi are maternal mouth brooders that are reportedly relatively easy to breed.  They are seasonal spawners that in their native waters reproduce several times from April to July.

The females gestate the young for around two weeks at a temperature of 82° F.   Males court the females by fanning out a pit in the gravel at the base of a rock where spawning occurs.   When the male entices a gravid female into the pit with a series of shimming gyrations, spawning takes place and the male leaves the female to fend for herself.

The female will find a spot to brood her developing young and for up to two days after release, she will continue to allow the free swimming fry into her buccal cavity.   After this period, the female will continue to protect the area around her fry, but she will not allow them back into her mouth.

Jordan Mouthbrooders are a carnivorous species that do well on a variety of fresh and frozen foods.   Commercial carnivore pellets, flakes, and granules can be used as a staple diet, with regular offerings of fresh, frozen, or freeze dried bloodworms, brine shrimp, mysis shrimp, etc.

Because Astatotilapia flaviijosephi is regarded as endangered, it is unlikely that any will ever be available in a tropical fish keeping shop or online any time soon.  Obtaining specimens from breeders is possible through worldwide cichlid organizations.

Astatotilapia flaviijosephi Dominant Male

Astatotilapia flaviijosephi Dominant Male

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons
Care Level: Difficult
Temperament: Semi Aggressive
Aquarium Hardiness: Hardy
Water Conditions: 68-84° F, dH 18-30, pH 7.0-9.0
Max. Size: Males 5″+, Females 4″
Color Form: Silver, Tan, Black
Diet: Omnivore
Compatibility: Single species tank or other eastern cichlids
Origin: Israel and Syria
Family: Cichlidae
Lifespan: 5 years +
Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate

Posted in Asian Cichlids, Cichlids, Featured Articles, Freshwater Fish, Tropical Fish SpeciesComments (1)

Convict Cichlid (Archocentrus nigrofasciatus)

Convict Cichlid (Archocentrus nigrofasciatus)

 

 

 

The Convict Cichlid (Archocentrus nigrofasciatus)also known to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts as the Zebra cichlid, is found in the lakes, rivers, and streams of Central America, primarily from El Salvador to Guatemala on the Pacific coast, and from Honduras to Guatemala on the Atlantic side.

Although Convict cichlids are found in lakes, they prefer living in rivers and streams with rocky substrates and sunken branches where they can easily prey on small fish, insects, worms, crustaceans, plant matter, and algae.

Several color strains of Archocentrus nigrofasciatus exist in the wild such as the Honduran Red Point Convict found from Honduras south to Costa Rica, however both Amatitlania coatepeque from Lake Coatepeque in El Salvador, and Amatitlania kanna from Panama’s Atlantic coast which was originally identified as A. nigrofasciata, are now considered separate species.

Convict Cichlid (Archocentrus nigrofasciatus)

Convict Cichlid (Archocentrus nigrofasciatus) Female

Wild caught Convict Cichlids have 8 to 9 dark black vertical bars over a bluish gray body, a greenish tint on the fins, and a darker blotch on their operculum.

Males are larger but less colorful than the females and as they grow, develop a lump on their foreheads.  Males also have more pointed dorsal, ventral, and anal fins.

Female Convict cichlids are colored a pink to bright orange around their ventral area and the dorsal fin, and have more intensely colored black bands on the body.   Selective breeding has produced white, pink, and gold colored Convict cichlids which lack the distinctive black banding.

Archocentrus nigrofasciatus is an aggressive species that can tolerate a wide range of water conditions. They have been found in waters with a pH of 6.6-7.8, a GH from 63 to 77 ppm, and water temperatures from 79-84 degrees F. but they can also tolerate much cooler water.  Their low care requirements make them an excellent beginner species for newcomers to cichlid fish keeping.

Convict Cichlids should be kept in an aquarium of at least 25 gallons with a fine gravel or sandy substrate, plenty of rocks, some driftwood roots, and a few hardy plants like Java Fern or Amazon Swords for them to hide among, and a good filtration system.   Floating plants are recommended as a form of cover and to diffuse overhead lighting.  Because they come from moving streams and rivers, a power head or an outside canister filtration system is recommended to provide them with some current in the tank.

Convict Cichlids are notorious for rearranging their surroundings, so don’t expect them to leave the tank neat and tidy. This is another reason why canister filters are preferred for this species.

In general, Convict Cichlids are a relatively timid species but when they are breeding, they become extremely aggressive.  A breeding pair is fearless and will attack any size fish without hesitation. For this reason, keeping them in a single species environment is recommended.

If you choose to keep them in a community environment with other larger cichlid species, a 55 gallon or larger tank is recommended. But, even then, don’t overcrowd the aquarium. Some tropical fish keeping enthusiasts recommend keeping Convict Cichlids with faster swimming species like mollies or barbs in a community tank with some success.

Convict Cichlids are are prolific breeders that are unbelievably easy to breed.

If you decide to breed them, make room for a batch of at least 20 to 30 juveniles within just a few weeks.

Convict Cichlids start spawning at a very young age, and when they do, they will breed with any female Convict Cichlid in the vicinity.  Convict Cichlids will readily pair off to form a patriarch/matriarch family where both the male and female care for the young.

In the wild, Convict Cichlids will lay their eggs underneath rocky overhangs and in caves. In an aquarium environment, replicate these conditions by placing flat stones on top of each other, adding half of a clay flower pot to the tank, or cutting a section of PVC pipe and placing it in the tank.   Don’t worry about placement, the fish will just move everything around to their liking anyway.

If you feed them plenty of food, within a few weeks you can expect to see a batch of eggs on the upper part of the cave.   To promote breeding, increase the water temperature between 75-79°F. The eggs will hatch in 3 to 5 days and you can begin feeding the fry infusoria, freshly hatched brine shrimp, or finely crushed cichlid flakes almost immediately.   The fry grow quickly and should be fed 3 or more times a day.

The parents are incredibly good parents and will guard the eggs and the fry to the death.  They will also help the fry find food and will create pits for them to keep them safe as they mature.

In the wild, Convict Cichlids primarily feed on small insects, insect larvae, and small crustaceans.  In an aquarium environment, they will eat just about anything you put in the tank.   However, a quality cichlid flake or pellet should be their main diet with regular supplemental feedings of live, frozen, or freeze dried tubifex, bloodworms, brine shrimp, daphnia, chopped earthworms, ocean plankton, etc.

Convict Cichlids are readily available in most tropical fish keeping shops at reasonable prices when they are 1-1/2″ to 2″ in size.

Convict Cichlid (Archocentrus nigrofasciatus)

Convict Cichlid (Archocentrus nigrofasciatus)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons
Care Level: Easy
Temperament: Aggressive
Aquarium Hardiness: Hardy
Water Conditions: 68-82° F, KH 9-20, pH 6.5-8.0
Max. Size: 6″
Color Form: Gray, Black
Diet: Omnivore
Compatibility: Community or Single species tank
Origin: Central America
Family: Cichlidae
Lifespan: 8-10 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner

Posted in Central American Cichlids, Cichlids, Featured Articles, Freshwater Fish, Tropical Fish SpeciesComments (2)

Kribensis (Pelvicachromis pulcher)

Kribensis (Pelvicachromis pulcher)

The Kribensis (Pelvicachromis pulcher) or “Krib” as many tropical fish keeping enthusiasts call them, is endemic to Nigeria and Cameroon, Africa. Kribs are a popular aquarium species that are sold under various names such as; the common krib, red krib, super red krib, rainbow krib, rainbow cichlid, and purple cichlid

Although some populations of Kribensis have been found in brackish waters, they are more often found in the heavily vegetated still and slow moving waters of their range

Kribensis (Pelvicachromis pulcher)

Kribensis (Pelvicachromis pulcher) Female

Both Kribensis sexes have a dark longitudinal line that runs from the caudal fin to the mouth of the fish.   They have pink to red abdomens, and both their dorsal and caudal fins have gold ringed ocelli or eye spots on them. During breeding, the females develop a purple belly and the colors of both sexes become much more intensified. Males are larger than the females and have more pointed pelvic, dorsal, and anal fins. Females are smaller, rounder, and have more rounded dorsal and anal fins. Adult males have a much more elongated and spade shaped caudal fin, and also lack the gold sheen on the dorsal fin.

Kribensis are a shy and retiring species that are often recommended for community tanks, but like all cichlids, they become territorial and mildly aggressive when breeding. They can be housed with other West African Dwarf cichlids but they need enough tank space to set up territories for themselves. They can also be housed with barbs, danios, rasboras, characins, gouramis, Corydoras, and Loricariids.

Although a single pair of Pelvicachromis pulcher can be kept in a 20 gallon tank, they do best in a densely planted aquarium of at least 30 gallons, with a fine gravel or sandy substrate, some rocky caves or clay flowerpots for them to breed and hide among, and some driftwood roots for decoration and shelter.
Give them plenty of potential breeding spots and hiding places.

Kribensis are an easy to breed monogamous cave spawning species that make a great “first fish” for new cichlid enthusiasts.

The best way to obtain a pair is to buy a group of 6 or more juveniles and allow pairing to naturally occur. Set up the breeding tank with plenty of caves and an air powered sponge filter to prevent the fry from being sucked into a power filter.  The water should be in the 75-81°F range with a pH of 6.5-7.0.

If the pH is too acidic, the result will be mostly females. If the pH is to alkaline, more males will be the result.

Condition the breeding pair on a diet of live, frozen, or freeze dried bloodworms, brine shrimp, etc.

Spawning should commence when the colors of the pair intensify, especially the female. The female’s belly will turn a deep purple and she will initiate a spawning ritual to entice the male. When ready, the pair will choose a cave to spawn in and up to 300 adhesive eggs will be deposited on the walls or the roof of the cave where they are fertilized by the male. The female tends to the eggs while the male defends the cave against any intruders.

The eggs will usually hatch out in 2 to 3 days. The fry becoming free swimming after another 7 to 8 days. The fry are herded out of the cave en masse and shepherded around the tank by both of the parents. When a singles stray away from the heard, they are rounded up into the mouth of the parents and spit back out into the main group. Both parents provide brood care which lasts from 21 to 28 days.

At this point, some females will turn on their partners, so watch the pair carefully.

Feed the fry newly hatched brine shrimp or microworms, but keep them with the parents until signs of the next spawn are seen, then remove the fry to another system.

Kribensis are easy to feed and will accept most foods. Feed them a quality cichlid pellet and augment their diet with regular feedings of fresh, frozen, or freeze dried tubifex, bloodworms, mosquito larvae, brine shrimp, etc.

Kribensis are readily available to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts in a range of sizes at reasonable prices, or they can be purchased online.

Kribensis (Pelvicachromis pulcher)

Kribensis (Pelvicachromis pulcher) Male

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons
Care Level: Easy
Temperament: Peaceful
Aquarium Hardiness: Hardy
Water Conditions: 75-80° F, 0-12°H, pH 5.6-7.5
Max. Size: Males 5″, Females 4″
Color Form: Black, Blue, Red, Gold
Diet: Omnivore
Compatibility: Community or Single species tank
Origin: Nigeria, Cameroon
Family: Cichlidae
Lifespan: 10-15 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner

Some images courtesy of Kevin Bauman

Posted in African Cichlids, African Riverine Cichlids, Cichlids, Featured Articles, Freshwater Fish, Tropical Fish SpeciesComments (0)

Burton's Mouthbrooder (Astatotilapia burtoni)

Burton’s Mouthbrooder (Astatotilapia burtoni)

Burton’s Mouthbrooder (Astatotilapia burtoni) has been found in Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Zambia, and is considered a Victorian cichlid from the middle of Lake Tanganyika, however, it has also been collected from Lake Kivu, which is north of Lake Tanganyika and west of  Lake Victoria.

Burton’s Mouthbrooders, synonymous with Haplochromis burtoni, prefer living in the smaller streams, river mouths, shallower parts of lakes near the mouth of rivers, freshwater swamps, island deltas, and swamps near Lake Tanganyika; where several color varieties (including a blue and yellow morph) have been found.

Burton's Mouthbrooder (Astatotilapia burtoni)

Burton’s Mouthbrooder (Astatotilapia burtoni) Female

Non territorial male, female, and juvenile Burton’s Mouthbrooders are a sandy gray green, silver/brown color and except for orange anal fin spots, lack any other distinctive markings.  Juveniles may have a hint one or two horizontal bars and several faint narrow vertical lines on the body.

Dominant territorial male Burton’s Mouthbrooders are a bright gray to luminescent blue to yellow color, with lighter marbling, and a reddish orange splotch above the pectoral fins.  They have several distinct black head markings consisting of 2 to 3 bars across the forehead, a horizontal bar that extends backward from the eye along the body, and a bar that extends from the mouth to the eye.   They have blue dorsal and caudal fins with red spots, and an anal fin with an irregular row of 5 to 9 large orangs “egg” spots.    Incubating females may also possess head markings.

Dominant male Burton’s Mouthbrooders from the Lake Tanganyika area have more of a blue “glow” to their body and a red splotch behind the gill covers.  The

Burton's Mouthbrooder (Astatotilapia burtoni)

Burton’s Mouthbrooder (Astatotilapia burtoni) Male

black mask over their head is also much more intense than the variants found in the Nile and Kivu lake basins.  Specimens from the latter area also tend to have a more greenish glow over their body than the Tanganyikan variants.

Dominant male Burton’s Mouthbrooders are much more colorful than non-dominant males and females.  Males also grow much larger than the females.

Male Burton’s Mouthbrooders are highly aggressive and become more so as they become adults.  Males color up when another male is present in their territory and become as drab as the females when other males are absent.

Astatotilapia burtoni can be kept in groups of one male to at least three females in a tank with other fish that do not resemble Astatotilapia burtoni,  to minimize aggressive behavior.   A ratio of 3 males to 5 or 6 females in a single species tank will also minimize aggression, however keeping 3 males with several females will cause the demise of the sub-dominant male in short order.    At a size of 3″ it is difficult to keep more than one male in a 55 gallon tank.

Although they can be kept with other aggressive fish like mbuna types, Burton’s Mouthbrooders are best kept in a single species aquarium of at least 55 gallon capacity, with a sandy or fine gravel substrate and plenty of rocks, heaped high, to provide hiding places for bullied females.  Because they are mouthbrooders and enjoy digging in the substrate, only hardy plants, if any, should be provided.  They do best in clean hard water that should be changed weekly, or at least every other week.

If you can keep the male from terrorizing everybody else in the tank, Burton’s Mouthbrooders are easy to breed.   Spawning occurs like other Victorian cichlids; the females become gravid, produce eggs, and spawning occurs.

The male digs a breeding pit in the sand and vigorously defends it against intruders.   He then entices a female into the breeding pit where the eggs are laid and fertilized.   The female then holds the eggs in her mouth until hatching occurs, usually in about 18 to 22 days.

During breeding, the female will usually not eat and will keep hidden between the rocks.  When the eggs hatch, the female will tend to the fry and hold them in her mouth until they become large enough to take care of themselves.  The broods (from 12 to 20) and the fry are small, but the fry grow quickly.  In about 5 weeks, they will grow to about one inch in length.  The females are protective of their fry for a week or two after release.  With the slightest scare, all the fry will scoot back into the mouth of the female for protection.

The fry can be fed baby brine shrimp or finely crushed omnivore flakes.

In their natural habitat, Burton’s Mouthbrooders are opportunistic predators that feed on aquatic  insects, insect  larvae,  annelids,  small fish, small rotifers,  copepods,  plant  material, diatoms, seeds, and organic detritus.  In an aquarium environment, they do well on a quality cichlid flake or pellet, augmented with Spirulina flakes and live, frozen, or freeze dried bloodworms, Daphnia, earthworms, etc.

Astatotilapia burtoni is not a fish that tropical fish keeping enthusiasts will commonly see, however it is becoming more popular in fish keeping circles.  They are available online and from specialty fish shops at a size of 1 1/2″ to 3″ at reasonable prices.

Burton's Mouthbrooder (Astatotilapia burtoni)

Burton’s Mouthbrooder (Astatotilapia burtoni)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minimum Tank Size: 55 gallons
Care Level: Difficult
Temperament: Aggressive
Aquarium Hardiness: Hardy
Water Conditions: 75-79° F, GH 7-11, pH 8.5-9.0
Max. Size: Males 5″,  Females 4″
Color Form: Gray, Blue, Green
Diet: Omnivore
Compatibility: Community or Single species tank
Origin: West Africa
Family: Cichlidae
Lifespan: 10 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner

Images courtesy of Kevin Bauman

Posted in African Cichlids, African Riverine Cichlids, Cichlids, Featured Articles, Freshwater Fish, Tropical Fish SpeciesComments (2)

African Butterfly Cichlid (Anomalochromis thomasi)

African Butterfly Cichlid (Anomalochromis thomasi)

The African Butterfly Cichlid (Anomalochromis thomasi) is a small riverine cichlid that inhabits the heavily vegetated forest streams of Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia in Western Africa.

African Butterfly Cichlids prefer living in slightly acidic, oxygen rich streams with a great deal of overhanging vegetation. The fallen leaves, branches, etc. in the water column stains the water a tea color, which is caused by the tannin released during the decomposition of the decaying organic matter.   Anomalochromis thomasi often share the same waters with Hemichromis and Pelvicachromis species.

African Butterfly Cichlid (Anomalochromis thomasi)

African Butterfly Cichlid (Anomalochromis thomasi)

Anomalochromis thomasi have six black bars over a light brown to gray background.   Their dorsal and caudal fins are a dark brown to black color, edged with baby blue and red on the outside.   A diagonal black bar intersects the red iris in their eyes, and they have a dark black spot on their operculum with a red to reddish blotch on top.  Females have less distinct black markings, are a bit smaller than the males, and are noticeably rounder when viewed from the top; especially when gravid.

The African Butterfly Cichlid is a shy, relatively peaceful species but like all cichlids, it becomes territorial during spawning.  In an aquarium environment they can be kept with other dwarf African cichlids, smaller tetras, Corydoras, and gourami.  Because they are loosely gregarious, they do best in a single species tank in small groups.  They should not be housed with any of the more aggressive cichlid species.

African Butterfly Cichlids should be kept in at least a 30 gallon aquarium with a fine or medium size gravel substrate, plenty of rocks for them to hide and spawn upon, some driftwood, and a few broad leaved plants like Echinodorus sp. if desired.

These cichlids will not usually dig up the substrate, so a densely planted aquarium with a lot of rocky cover and roots makes an ideal habitat for them.   Some floating plants can be added to diffuse overhead lighting and a good filtration system is needed to maintain water quality.

The African Butterfly Cichlid makes a good choice for newcomers to dwarf cichlids.   They are hardy, relatively undemanding, peaceful, and easily bred in an aquarium environment.

If you plan to breed Anomalochromis thomasi, purchase a 6 or more juveniles and grow them out together.   Condition them on live or frozen foods until you can identify a pair, or pairs.   This species is monogamous and the pairs can easily be identified as they begin to defend their territories.

African Butterfly Cichlids are not too fussy about water chemistry.   They are substrate spawners and will readily breed in slightly acidic or alkaline water.

Place the breeding pair in a separate tank with a lot of flat stones and broad leafed plants.   An air powered corner sponge filter should be provided for water movement and filtration.   When she is ready to spawn, the female will start to clean off several plant leaves or stones to lay her eggs on. The male will join her in cleaning a selected area. When ready, the female will deposit her eggs and move away, letting the male fertilize them.  The process continues until up to 500 eggs are deposited.

The eggs hatch out in about two days. During this time, both parents defend the spawning area as the female tends to her eggs. Both take turns digging shallow depressions around the area.  When the eggs hatch, the parents move the entire batch of fry from pit to pit until they become free swimming; usually in about 3 to 4 days. It takes another day or so for the free swimming fry to completely absorb their yolk sacs, at which time they can be fed newly hatched brine shrimp or microworms.

The fry are slow growers and the parents will usually continue to care for their brood for another month or so before spawning again.

African Butterfly Cichlids are easy to feed.   They are not fussy eaters but should be fed a quality Cichlid pellet along with regular feedings of live, frozen, or freeze dried brine shrimp, bloodworms, daphnia, etc.

African Butterfly Cichlids are somewhat drab as juveniles and are frequently overlooked when found in tropical fish keeping shops.   However, once they settle into an aquarium environment, they color up well and are quite beautiful.   They are usually available on line and from specialty fish shops at a size of  1″ to 2″.

African Butterfly Cichlid (Anomalochromis thomasi)

African Butterfly Cichlid (Anomalochromis thomasi)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons
Care Level: Easy
Temperament: Peaceful
Aquarium Hardiness: Hardy
Water Conditions: 73-80° F, KH 10-15, pH 5.5-7.5
Max. Size: 3.15″
Color Form: Gray, Black
Diet: Omnivore
Compatibility: Community or Single species tank
Origin: West Africa
Family: Cichlidae
Lifespan: 10 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner

Images courtesy of Kevin Bauman

Posted in African Cichlids, African Riverine Cichlids, Cichlids, Featured Articles, Freshwater Fish, Tropical Fish SpeciesComments (0)

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