Tag Archive | "tropical fish keeping"

Leopard Catfish (Perrunichthys perruno)

Leopard Catfish (Perrunichthys perruno)

Leopard Catfish (Perrunichthys perruno)

Leopard Catfish (Perrunichthys perruno)

Leopard Catfish (Perrunichthys perruno) also known to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts as Perruno Catfish or Reticulated Pimelodid are native to Colombia and Venezuela, where they occurs in the Lake Maracaibo basin and Rio Negro system.   It is the only catfish species in the order Siluriformes of the monotypic genus Perrunichthys.

Juvenile Leopard Catfish are occasionally acquired by tropical fish keeping enthusiasts but because of their large size, over 23.6 inches, they require a large tank to thrive in captivity.

Leopard Catfish are a predatory, long whiskered species that are sometimes confused with the Sailfin Pimelodid (Leiarius pictus) and the Marble Antenna Catfish (Leiarius marmoratus)

Perrunichthys perruno have an elongated body with large deeply forked caudal fin, a depressed head, a broad snout, and a wide mouth.   The upper jaw is slightly longer than the lower jaw.   They have two pairs of shorter mandibular barbels and long maxillary barbels that in adult specimens can extend almost to the caudal fin.

Leopard Catfish (Perrunichthys perruno)

Leopard Catfish (Perrunichthys perruno)

Leopard Catfish have a dark chocolate brown body with lighter colored reticulated markings over the body and fins.   Their long barbels, dorsal, and paired fins are colored the same as the body but in some fish, the fins have spotted instead of reticulated markings.   Adult males are more slender than females, especially during the breeding season.

In their natural habitat, Leopard Catfish feed on fish, worms, crustaceans, and almost anything they can fit into their large mouth.   They are highly predatory and can fast for extended periods of time after consuming a large meal.

In an aquarium environment, they are best kept in a single species tank.   If housed in a community environment, they should never be kept with smaller fish species.   Good possible tankmates are Oscars, large characins, Pseudodoras niger, Osydoras niger, Pterdodoras granulosus, or Megalodoras uranoscopus.

Leopard Catfish are best kept in a planted aquarium of at least 150 gallon capacity with a fine gravel, sand, or mixed gravel/sand substrate, a few large river rocks, several large pieces of driftwood
or bogwood, and some large background plants.   A few floating plants can also be added for shade.

Perrunichtys perruno are intolerant of poor water conditions and should be provided with an oversize filtration system and weekly 25% water changes to maintain the water quality necessary for their well being. A power head is also recommended to provide some current in the tank.

To date there have been no successful breeding of Perrunichthys perruno in an aquarium environment.

Leopard Catfish are carnivores that in their natural habitat predominately prey on smaller fish, river crab, crayfish, worms, etc.    In an aquarium environment, they can be fed pieces of fresh dead fish, crayfish, mussels, prawn, earthworms, and even over time commercial sinking catfish pellets.

Leopard Catfish (Perrunichthys perruno) are usually not available to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts from fish stores except by special order or when brought in with mixed shipments, if at all.  They are occasionally sold online directly from importers and through wholesale facilities in various sizes.

Leopard Catfish (Perrunichthys perruno)

Leopard Catfish (Perrunichthys perruno)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minimum Tank Size: 150 gallons
Care Level: Moderate
Temperament: Predatory
Aquarium Hardiness: Hardy
Water Conditions: 72-79°F , >18ºdGH, pH 6.0-7.2
Max. Size: 24″
Color Form: Brown, Tan
Diet: Carnivore
Compatibility: Keep with larger fish
Origin: Colombia, Venezuela
Family: Pimelodidae
Lifespan: 20 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Advanced

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

Cobalt Blue Goby (Stiphodon semoni)

Cobalt Blue Goby (Stiphodon semoni)

Cobalt Blue Goby (Stiphodon semoni)

Cobalt Blue Goby (Stiphodon semoni)

The Cobalt Blue Goby (Stiphodon semoni) considered by many tropical fish keeping enthusiasts to be one of the most colorful freshwater gobies in the genus Stiphodon, is found in West Papua, Indonesia.

It range extends from Ambon Island chain, South Molucca Islands, east from western Sumatra across most of Indonesia, Northern Papua New Guinea, and as far as the Solomon Islands in the Bismarck Archipelago.

Although Cobalt Blue Gobies are similar in appearance to Stiphodon atropurpureus that is found outside their range in the Phillipines, they may coexist with less similar Stiphodon carisa in Sumatra, and Stiphodon atratus found from Halmahera to Papua New Guinea.

Cobalt Blue Gobies have fused pelvic fins that form a “pelvic disc” which is a common characteristic among gobiids that allows them to cling to rocks and other submerged surfaces.    The pelvic disc enables them to hold onto submerged rocks while feeding, move along the bottom against very strong currents, and to actually climb up waterfalls and fast flowing cascades.   This trait has given them the generic name of “rock climbing” or “clinging” gobies.

Because Cobalt Blue Gobies have replaceable, outwardly oriented teeth in their upper jaw, many tropical fish keeping enthusiasts also refer to them as “toothed lipped” gobies.

Cobalt Blue Goby (Stiphodon semoni)

Cobalt Blue Goby (Stiphodon semoni)

Cobalt Blue Gobies have a light gray brown body with an almost electric blue to blue/green lateral stripe that can become almost white in dominant or breeding males.   Depending on the velocity of the water where they are collected, all males have a tall, extended dorsal fin of varying height.   The males with “taller” first dorsal fins with one or more extended rays tend to live in slower moving streams and do not climb waterfalls as part of their life cycle.

Female Cobalt Blue Gobies have a much lighter body color, shorter first dorsal fins, and possess less colorful zig zag like lateral stripes along their body.

Cobalt Blue Goby (Stiphodon semoni)

Cobalt Blue Goby (Stiphodon semoni)

Stiphodon semoni are typically found at higher altitudes in narrow, rapid flowing runs and riffles that are broken up by wide, slower moving stretches that are usually located above the waterfalls or cataracts.

Cobalt Blue Gobies are almost always exclusive inhabitants of the short, coastal streams that are found on these tropical volcanic islands, and reside virtually free of predators above and below the cataracts and waterfalls.

Except for shrimp, neritid snails, other Stiphodon species, and gobies from the genus Sicyopus, their habitat makes them inaccessible to the majority of predatory fish species.

Stiphodon semoni are minimally territorial and generally peaceful in the wild as well as in an aquarium environment.

In their natural habitat, Cobalt Blue Gobies live in small groups where they stake out individual territories to feed on algae and bio films attached to the submerged rocks in the clean, clear, highly oxygenated water.

A pair or small group of Cobalt Blue Gobies are best kept in a biotope stream setting in an “aged” aquarium of at least 15 gallon capacity, with a substrate of varying size gravel and larger river rocks over a sandy base, with a piece or two of well aged driftwood and some leaf litter.   Males in particular like to burrow into the substrate when sleeping and spawning, so make sure there are plenty of different sized rocks scattered on the bottom and that the larger rocks sit on the base of the aquarium and not directly on the sand.

Aquatic plants are not necessary or present in their natural environment, but hardier species such as Anubias, Crinum, and Microsorum can be used in the tank for aesthetics.

Although Cobalt Blue Gobies do not necessarily need torrential water conditions, they do require a lot of water movement and extremely pristine water.   An oversize water filtration system with at least one powerhead is recommended to provide a turnover of at least 5 to 10 times/hr. of tank volume, but 10 to 15 times/hr. of tank volume per hour is much preferred.

Although weekly 30 to 50% water changes are also needed, the rest of the tank doesn’t have to be “spotless”.    Allow green algae to grow on all surfaces except for the front of the tank viewing area. Provide enough bright lighting to promote the growth of algae and other biofilm microorganisms.   Some tropical fish keeping enthusiasts “seed” their aquariums with a few pieces of river rock from a clean local stream to get things going.

The key for long term success in keeping this species is to provide them with a mature aquarium and a steady supply of algae covered rocks.

Lastly, because thse fish are climbers, a tightly fitting aquarium cover is highly recommended.

Although Cobalt Blue Gobies tend to be somewhat territorial, especially during the June to November breeding season, several can be housed together in a large “mountain stream” type community aquarium with other gobies such as Sicyopus, Sicyopterus, Rhinogobius, or Schismatogobius spp. provided the tank is large enough, there are plenty of rocky hiding places, and a steady supply of food is available.
A single male with two or more females is recommended.

Other peaceful, similarly sized species that live in well oxygenated streams such as Tanichthys, Microdevario, smaller Danio species, small characids, small poeciliid livebearers, loaches such as Gastromyzon, Pseudogastromyzon, Barbucca, or Acanthopsoides, and freshwater genera Caridina and Neocaridina shrimp can also make good tank mates.

Because of their complex, amphidromous breeding activity, the Cobalt Blue Goby (Stiphodon semoni) has not yet been bred in an aquarium environment.

In their natural habitat, adults live and spawn in the freshwater mountain streams, but the hatched larvae are swept downstream to the ocean where the fry spend the first part of their life cycle plankton developing into adults.

At some point in their development, they begin to migrate upstream and like salmon endure sometimes spectacular climbs over waterfalls and other obstacles to get to their hatching grounds.

During courting, the intensely colored males can be seen trying to coax the females into the spawning site, which is usually under the rocks.   During courtship, the males dive head first into the substrate followed by the female where spawning occurs.

Despite their small size, female Cobalt Blue Gobies can deposit as many as 10,000 tiny eggs per spawn. The pear shaped eggs, approximately .5 mm in diameter, are attached to the underside of rocks in the substrate and held fast by filaments.

The male guards the fertilized eggs until hatching occurs, usually within 24 hours.   The tiny undeveloped fry have a yolk sac but no mouth, anus, or eyes.   The yolk sac is absorbed in 3 or 4 days during which time the fry are dispersed downstream from their steep freshwater hatching stream to the sea.   They must reach the sea before their egg sacs are totally absorbed in order to survive on the microscopic plankton.

The larvae remain in pelagic form among the ocean plankton for 78 to 146 days or longer and eventually settle on the substrate in the shallow surf zone where they remain until they lose their temporary emerging caudal fin and begin the long journey back upstream to join the adults.   They often travel several miles inland through stretches of fast flowing water over cascades and waterfalls to reach their spawning grounds which can take several months to finish.

Cobalt Blue Gobies are sexually mature in about one year, and since they only live about two years, they initiate spawning almost immediately upon reaching their spawning grounds.

Amphidromy is not unique to members of Stiphodon and is practiced by all other genera.

Stiphodon semoni feed on algae and biofilms in their natural habitat.   In an aquarium environment they should be provided with sufficient amounts of algae, vegetable based sinking wafers, or spirulina wafers. They can be offered live or frozen bloodworms as an occasional treat, but only rarely.   Their elongated gut is specialized to process vegetable matter.

The Cobalt Blue Goby (Stiphodon semoni) is not a common purchase for most tropical fish keeping enthusiasts.  They are occasionally found in specialty shops and from importers online but many are misidentified due to incorrect labeling, over use of common names, mixing of undescribed species, taxonomic confusion, and lack of descriptive literature.   They are quite costly when available.

Cobalt Blue Goby (Stiphodon semoni)

Cobalt Blue Goby (Stiphodon semoni)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minimum Tank Size: 15 gallons
Care Level: Moderate
Temperament: Peaceful
Aquarium Hardiness: Hardy
Water Conditions: 74-76° F, H 36 – 215 ppm, pH 6.5-7.5
Max. Size: 1.9”
Color Form: Blue
Diet: Omnivore
Compatibility: Biotope and Commuinity tanks
Origin: Indonesia
Family: Gobiidae
Lifespan: 2 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Experienced

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

Red Shoulder Severum (Heros efasciatus)

Severum (Heros efasciatus)

         

Severum (Heros efasciatus) known to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts as Green Severum, Red Spotted Severum, Golden Severum, Hero Cichlid, and Banded Cichlid are found throughout the main channel of the Amazon, the rio Solimoes, and rio Xingu in South America.

Often confused with Heros severus, (previously known as Cichlasoma severum) Severum are a favorite South American cichlid kept by many tropical fish keeping enthusiasts.

Severum are found in calm, deeper, slower moving rivers and tributaries, as well as tannin stained floodplain lakes, usually around submerged branches and tree roots.   They prefer dimly lit waters.

Wild Severum, the Green variety, are one of the most peaceful of the larger South American cichlids and except during the breeding season, usually do not bother their tank mates.

Green Severum (Heros efasciatus)

Green Severum (Heros efasciatus)

Green Severum have a laterally compressed, oval shaped, beautiful bright green spotted body with dark light vertical bands and bright red eyes.   During the breeding season, Green Severum develop bright red orange bellies, anal and pelvic fins.   Males are larger, exhibit worm like markings on their gill covers, develop extended dorsal, anal, and pelvic fins, and often develop a nuchal hump.

The Golden Severum is a distinct captive bred color morph of the Green Severum.   They lack the faint black bands of Green Severum and are a bright yellow color throughout the body.   The dorsal and caudal fins are slightly whiter with yellow speckles.

The Red Spotted Severum is a selectively bred color variant of the Gold Severum, with dark red spots covering the entire body, sometimes into the fins.   They are native to lakes and tributaries of the Amazon Basin.

The Redheaded Severum is one of the more beautiful severums that grow to 8 inches and live up to 10 years.  Redheaded Severum are closely related to Green Severum with some of the same markings, but is colored a bright red over the face, back, shoulder, cheeks areas, anal, and dorsal fins.   Adult male Redheaded Severum have extended dorsal and anal fins, with females being more rounded.

Although Severum can be housed in a large community aquarium with other relative peaceful species of same size, they do best in a black water biotope setup in a tank of at least 60 gallon capacity with a sand or fine gravel substrate, a few river rocks arranged into caves, several pieces of driftwood or bogwood branches, and some Indian Almond Leaves on the bottom of the tank.

Except during the spawn, Severum are relatively peaceful for their size, however, when housed in a single species tank, they may develop a mean streak. This can be prevented by keeping them with several conspecifics.

Although aquatic plants are not necessary, they can be included for aesthetics.   Floating plants are recommended to diffuse overhead lighting.

Severum require clean water to thrive, so a good filtration system and regular water changes are essential to their well being.

Severum are substrate or cave spawners that are relatively easy to breed in an aquarium environment.   They require clean water and should be fed live or frozen bloodworms, chopped redworms, or tubifex to induce spawning. The best way to develop a breeding pair is to keep several juveniles in a large tank until a pair forms.

Severum are mouth brooders and spawning occurs on a flat stone, a piece of slate, the outside of a clay flowerpot, or similar smooth surface. The fish are excellent parents and both male and female will guard the eggs until they hatch, and then mouth brood the fry.

Severum fry are relatively large and are able to eat newly hatched brine shrimp or commercial powdered food as soon as they are free swimming.

Severum are omnivorous and in their natural habitat prey on small fish, insects, small crustaceans, worms, and vegetable matter.   In an aquarium environment they are not fussy eaters and will accept live, frozen, or freeze whole foods, such as blood worms, small red worms, tubifex, small shrimp, etc. as well as floating cichlid sticks or flakes.   Some vegetable matter should also be included in their diet such as shelled frozen peas, blanched spinach, dried Spirulina, etc.

The Green and Gold Severum are the most commonly sold species available to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts.   Redheaded and Red Spotted Severum are less common and demand a higher price online and from specialty fish shops.

Because of their large adult size, it is recommended that they be housed in the largest tank available regardless of their purchase size of 2″ to 6″.

Red Spotted Severum (Heros efasciatus)

Red Spotted Severum (Heros efasciatus)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minimum Tank Size: 80 gallons
Care Level: Easy
Temperament: Peaceful
Aquarium Hardiness: Hardy
Water Conditions: 72-84°F, 1-8°H, pH 5.5-7.2
Max. Size: 12 ″
Color Form: Green, Red, Yellow
Diet: Omnivore
Compatibility: Single species tank
Origin: South America
Family: Cichlidae
Lifespan: 8-10 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate

Posted in Cichlids, Featured Articles, Freshwater Fish, South American Cichlids, Tropical Fish Keeping, Tropical Fish SpeciesComments (0)

Grindal Worm (enchytraeus Buchholzi)

Grindal Worm (enchytraeus Buchholzi)

Grindal Worm (enchytraeus Buchholzi) are small white non parasitic worms that are closely related to earthworms and about one third the size of white worms.

Smaller than white worms, grindal worms grow to a little over 1/4″ in length and have a nutritional value of about 70% protein and 14% fat, which makes them a valuable addition to an aquarium fish’s diet.

Grindal Worms are hermaphroditic.  When the worms mate with another individual to fertilize each other, they exchange sperm cells and during copulation, eggs are laid in transparent cocoons which contain approximately 20 to 30 eggs.

As the density of the culture increases, the reproductive rate drops off, at which time the worms need to be harvested or transferred to a larger container.

Grindal Worm (enchytraeus Buchholzi)

Grindal Worm (enchytraeus Buchholzi)

Many tropical fish keeping enthusiasts find Grindal Worms a great transition food for small tropical fish fry that require a lot of baby brine shrimp to get full, yet are too small to eat white worms.

Culturing Grindal Worms is not difficult;  just provide them a warm, moist medium, and food.

Small plastic deli food or freezer containers about 4” X 4” X 2” tall, with a large hole punched through the lid for ventilation are fine for small batches.    Put a small piece of filter floss into the hole to keep out mites and small insects.

For the growing medium, you can use  ground coconut fiber or mix equal amounts of potting soil and peat moss with enough water to create a thick, almost muddy, mix.   If you squeeze a golf ball size of the mix in your hand and get a few drops of water from the ball, you have the correct amount of water for the medium.

Spread a 1 inch layer of the growing medium on the bottom of the container, add the Grindal Worm starter culture along with some food, cover the medium with a small piece of glass, Plexiglas, or plastic cut from a container cover, and keep the container in a warm space.  They multiply quickly at higher temperatures and reproduce best between 75-80°F.

A “soil-less” method using two kitchen pot scrubbers can also be used in lieu of conventional medium.  Place the scrubbers in the container and add enough water to cover the bottom scrubber and barely dampen the top pad.  Add the culture, food, glass cover, and container cover.

A Styrofoam tropical fish shipping container with a small modified aquarium heater can keep several cultures at the correct temperature, or you can just keep them on top of a warm aquarium hood.

Regardless of which medium you choose, let the Grindal worm culture stand undisturbed for at least 7 days to allow them  to propagate.

Feeding the Grindal Worms is not a problem.   Just sprinkle some ground up dry cat food, multi grain baby cereal, oatmeal, or fish food flakes over the medium, place a plastic cover over the food, and close the container cover.

Grindal Worm (enchytraeus Buchholzi)

Grindal Worm (enchytraeus Buchholzi)

The worms will come to the surface of the medium to feed and congregate around the pieces of food under the plastic.   As they reproduce and  become thick enough, they can be harvested with a pair of tweezers or just scraped off the plastic cover into your aquarium.

Harvest the worms before you feed them.

Grindal Worm cultures occasionally develop mite infestations.

If you spot teeny white or brown mites moving around on the surface of the culture medium, you have an infestation.

Usually mites will not pose any problem, but if the population becomes too great, you may need to start another Grindal Worm culture.

This is easily accomplished by collecting as many worms as possible from the top of the culture and placing them in a glass of water for about 10 to 20 minutes.    The worms will sink to the bottom of the glass, and the mites can be carefully poured off with the water.

Use the washed grindal worms to start another culture, or feed them to your fry.

A Grindal Worm culture can produce worms for up to 6 months, but the medium will usually start to go bad after 4 months or so.

Most tropical fish keeping enthusiasts keep at least 2 or 3 cultures on hand that have been started at different intervals.   Label the start date on each container and begin new cultures as needed.

Grindal worms cultures are readily available online from a variety of sources and are usually supplied with an information sheet, instructions for growing the worms, and even bags of growing medium.

Substantial quantities can be grown in containers as small as a Deli container up to a shoe box.

Posted in Featured Articles, Live Foods, Tropical Fish KeepingComments (0)

Pink Tail Chalceus (Chalceus macrolepidetus)

Pink Tail Chalceus (Chalceus macrolepidetus)

The Pink Tail Chalceus (Chalceus macrolepidetus) is found in highly oxygenated rivers and streams throughout northern South America in Colombia, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela.

Pink Tail Chalceus are considered a rare import and because of their large size are not usually kept by tropical fish keeping enthusiasts.

Pink Tail Chalceus (Chalceus macrolepidetus)

Pink Tail Chalceus (Chalceus macrolepidetus)

Pink Tail Chalceus are long and sleek with large iridescent silver scales that gradually diminish in size as they near the underside of the fish and a faint lateral line.

They have large eyes, a dark splotch on the lower gill cover, and dark red, pink, pale orange, or yellow fins.   The upper portion of the iris is orange to yellow.

The Pink Tail Chalceus is a skittish, predatory, mid to top water shoaling species that in their natural habitat feed on insects, aquatic crustaceans, worms, and smaller fish.

They are capable of sudden bursts of speed and in an aquarium environment often leap from the tank or injure themselves when startled.

Chalceus macrolepidetus is best housed as single specimens or in grops of at least 6 of their own kind. They need at least a 55 gallon aquarium with a sandy or gravel substrate with smooth river rock, a few background plants, some driftwood branches, and enough floating plants to diffuse overhead lighting and minimize skittishness.

They make good candidates for a large community aquarium with similarly sized characins like Leporinus, Brycon sp., Metynnis, Mylossoma, larger Loricariids, Pimelodiids, and Geophagus or Satanoperca sp. type cichlids.

Pink Tail Chalceus require a good filtration system with a powerhead for some water movement, a lot of free swimming space,and a tightly fitting cover to prevent jumping. Regular water changes are mandatory.

The Pink Tail Chalceus is an egg scatter that has been bred in an aquarium environment.  They require a very large, densely planted aquarium. Details are sketchy but females scatter up to 2000 eggs among the submerged vegetation that hatch out into relatively large fry that are capable of eating newly hatched brine shrimp as they become free swimming and the yolk sac has been absorbed.

The Pink Tail Chalceus is a carnivore that feeds primarily on insects and crustaceans. In an aquarium environment they should be fed live, frozen, or freeze dried prawns, mussels, clams, bloodworms, chopped earthworms, etc. along with floating carnivore flakes or pellets. Several small feedings daily are recommended.

When Pink Tail Chalceus (Chalceus macrolepidetus) are available for purchase, they are usually 3″ to 5″ in size. They are available from specialty tropical fish keeping shops and online from a variety of sources at moderate prices.

Pink Tail Chalceus (Chalceus macrolepidetus)

Minimum Tank Size: 55 gallons
Care Level: Moderate
Temperament: Peaceful
Aquarium Hardiness: Hardy
Water Conditions: 73-82°F , 5-18°H, pH 6.0-7.5
Max. Size: 10″
Color Form: Silver, Red
Diet: Carnivore
Compatibility: Keep with larger fish
Origin: South America
Family: Characidae
Lifespan: 15 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Advanced

 

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

Leopard Cactus Plecos L-600 (Pseudocanthicus leopardus)

Leopard Cactus Pleco L-600/LDA-73 (Pseudocanthicus leopardus)

The Leopard Cactus Pleco L-600/LDA-73 (Pseudocanthicus leopardus) is also known to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts as the Redtail Leopard Plecostomus and is found in the rio Branco, a tributary in the rio Negro basin in the Amazonas state of Brazil.

The Leopard Cactus Plecos L-600 is one of the sharp, spiked pseudo species that become extremely boisterous and territorial as they become adults. They are very similar to L-114 which is found in the Rio Demini in Brazil, but grow larger and are more startling in color.

This a shy species that prefers dimly lit conditions and requires pristine water quality.   Juveniles in particular are extremely sensitive to ammonia and nitrite spikes.

Leopard Cactus Plecos L-600 (Pseudocanthicus leopardus)

Leopard Cactus Plecos L-600 (Pseudocanthicus leopardus)

The Leopard Cactus Pleco L-600 has a brown to yellowish brown body that is covered with dark brown to black spots that extend to the fins.   Their fins are a bright red orange to scarlet color.   As the fish grow into adulthood, the body color leaches into the red fins making the fish look somewhat duller in appearance.

Males have a broader head and fins that are more pointed than females.

The Leopard Cactus Pleco L-600 is best housed in an aquarium of at least 70 gallon capacity with a dark sand or fine gravel substrate, several rocky caves or clay pipes for them to hide in, some driftwood or bogwood, some floating plants to diffuse overhead lighting, and plenty of free swimming space. v  Because of their boisterous behavior, live plants are not recommended.

Leopard Cactus Plecos require spotlessly clean, highly oxygenated water conditions with some water movement.   Over filtration and a powerhead or two is highly recommended along with weekly water changes to keep them healthy.   As stated, they are extremely sensitive to ammonia and nitrites in the water.

The Leopard Cactus Pleco L-600 is a cave spawner however there are no reports of this species being successfully bred in an aquarium environment.

The Leopard Cactus Pleco is a carnivore but not a predator.   In their natural habitat they feed on shrimp, small crabs, sails, various larvae, worms, small pieces of fish and plant matter.

In an aquarium environment they do well on prawns, shrimp, small pieces of fish, and vegetables to round out their diet. Once acclimated to their surroundings they will eventually accept a quality omnivore or bottom feeder pellet or wafer.

Pseudacanthicus leopardus L600/LDA73 are seldom available to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts and demand a high price when found.   Most enthusiasts who purchase Leopard Cactus Plecos online or from specialty fish shops buy the more common L-114 species which are considerably less expensive.

Leopard Cactus Plecos L-600 (Pseudocanthicus leopardus)

Leopard Cactus Plecos L-600 (Pseudocanthicus leopardus)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minimum Tank Size: 70 gallons
Care Level: Moderate
Temperament: Peaceful
Aquarium Hardiness: Hardy
Water Conditions: 73.4-82.5°F, GH 4-13 ° , pH 6.0 – 7.4
Max. Size: 12″
Color Form: Black, Brown, Yellow
Diet: Omnivore
Compatibility: Territorial
Origin: Rio Branco, Brazil
Family: Loricariidae
Life Span: 10-12 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate

Posted in Featured Articles, Freshwater Fish, Plecostomus, Tropical Fish Keeping, Tropical Fish SpeciesComments (1)

Shark Fin Mussel (Hyriopsis bialatus)

Shark Fin Mussel (Hyriopsis bialatus)

Shark Fin Mussel (Hyriopsis bialatus)

Shark Fin Mussel (Hyriopsis bialatus)

The freshwater Shark Fin Mussel (Hyriopsis bialatus) known to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts as the Shark Tooth Clam, Sailfin Clam, Pearl Mussel, Shark Tooth Mussel, or Shark Fin Shell is native to Southeast Asia and most frequently found in the sandy river bottoms of Thailand, Cambodia, and the Malay Peninsula.

In Thailand, Hyriopsis bialata is aquacultured for pearl production.   Small grains of sand are introduced into the shell where it is coated over time with layers of mother of pearl.   Although Hyriopsis bialatus originated in southeast Asia, it has become an invasive species in freshwater ponds, streams, and river bottoms in North America and other parts of the world.

The Shark Tooth Mussel has a bizarre shape that accurately resembles a large shark’s tooth. In their natural habitat, they can grow up to 6″ wide at the base, and sport a pointed, triangular tip at the top of the shell.

Shark Fin Mussel (Hyriopsis bialatus)

Shark Fin Mussel (Hyriopsis bialatus)

Shark Tooth Mussels (or Clams) are variable in color.  They can have a light beige to a dark brown base shell color that is frequently covered longitudinally with green to yellow stripes or striations.  They are not predatory and do little more than bury themselves into the substrate and filter the water they live in.

They normally do not open up their shells, and when they do, it is only a few millimeters to extend their white foot. Only dead shells remain fully open.

A single Shark Tooth Clam (Hyriopsis bialatus) should be kept in a tank of at least 20 gallon capacity, with a deep, sandy or extremely fine gravel layer of substrate for them to bury themselves into.   Shark Tooth Mussels should only be kept in an aged aquarium with enough suspended particles in the water to keep them adequately fed.   They thrive in detritus and mulm, so don’t worry about vacuuming the substrate.   Although they need no filtration system in their tank, they should have a small powerhead to provide enough water movement to keep detritus and other food particles suspended in the water column.

Shark Fin Mussels are used by some tropical fish keeping enthusiasts as an additional bio filter for heavily stocked community aquariums.

They usually present no problems with shrimp, snails, other clams or mussels, and most peaceful fish species, however, large crabs, crayfish, and a few species of predatory fish (loaches, Cichlids, some catfish, etc.) should never be housed with Shark Tooth Mussels.   Fan shrimp or snails from the genera Brotia and Taia make excellent tank mates.

Shark Fin Mussels are filter feeders that devour small particles of suspended detritus, animal, and plant matter from the aquarium water.

In the wild where there are plenty of microorganisms and lots of detritus in the water, the clams literally live “happy as clams”, but in an aquarium environment, especially with mechanical filtration, the water is too clean for them and they will eventually starve.

Over a very short period of time, the Shark Fin Mussel, even in a filterless aquarium, will quickly filter all of the food from the tank water and will have to be supplied a plankton based food to prevent them from starving to death.   Several high quality liquid plankton based foods are available for inverts, brine shrimp, daphnia, copepods, etc. that can be fed to Hyriopsis bialatus.   Twice daily feedings are highly recommended.

Although Shark Fin Mussels are are both male and female, can self fertilize their own eggs, and are aquacultured in southeast Asia for pearl production; they have not yet been successfully bred in an aquarium environment.

In the United States Hyriopsis bialatus are seldom seen by tropical fish keeping enthusiasts either online or in specialty fish shops.   Although rarely available, they are occasionally imported from southeast Asia and demand a hefty price tag.

Shark Fin Mussel (Hyriopsis bialatus)

Shark Fin Mussel (Hyriopsis bialatus)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallons
Care Level: Easy
Temperament: Peaceful
Water Conditions: 68 to 82 ° F, gH 8-18, pH 6.0 – 8.5
Max. Size: 6?
Color Form: Brown, black, green
Diet: Omnivore
Compatibility: Excellent community tank cleaner
Origin: Thailand
Family: Unionidae
Lifespan: up to 10 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner

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Redtail Catfish (Phractocephalus hemioliopterus)

Redtail Catfish (Phractocephalus hemioliopterus)

The South American Redtail Catfish (Phractocephalus hemioliopterus) known to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts simply as the “Red Tail Cat“, Cajaro, or Pirarara is native to the Amazon, Essequibo, and Orinoco river basins in South America.   It is collected as juveniles for the aquarium trade from the larger rivers, streams, lakes, and flooded forest throughout Bolivia, Brazil, Columbia, Ecuador, Guyana, and Venezuela.

The Redtail Catfish is a colorful omnivorous species that in their natural habitat can grow to almost 6 feet in length.

Because of their enormous size, the Redtail Catfish is considered a game fish in the Amazon, and has been introduced into many areas of Thailand as a sport fish.   They are also popular in South American exhibits where they are housed with other larger species such as Black Pacu, Arapaima, and other large catfish species.

Redtail Catfish (Phractocephalus hemioliopterus)

Redtail Catfish (Phractocephalus hemioliopterus)

Redtail Catfish have a brown to black colored back, yellow to white colored sides, and red to reddish/orange tipped dorsal, adipose, and caudal fins.   The head and upper part of the body is dotted with myriads of darker black to brown spots.   They possess a long pair of barbels on the upper jaw, and two smaller pairs of barbels on the lower jaw.

In the United States, juvenile Redtail Catfish are often sold to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts who quickly discover how fast they can outgrow their aquariums.

If you decide to purchase a juvenile Redtail Catfish, you will need a huge aquarium of at least 250 gallons, that will need to eventually be replaced by one of at least 2,000 gallon capacity.

Juvenile Redtail Catfish can be housed in a large planted single species tank with a sandy or fine pebble gravel substrate, some driftwood or bogwood, some large smooth river rocks, and some floating plants to diffuse overhead lighting.   They prefer low light conditions and should be kept in a dimly lit aquarium or a tank with floating plants like Water Hyacinth.

A large, efficient wet/dry type biological filtration system is highly recommended to deal with the huge amounts of waste produced by adult Redtail Catfish.    This type filtration system, located outside of the tank, is less likely to be destroyed by larger fish.   It’s a good idea to keep the heater in the outside sump as well.

If  housed as juveniles in a community environment, remember that even a small Redtail catfish will swallow almost anything it can get into it’s mouth, including objects in the tank.   They are peaceful to other fish of like size, but territorial towards conspecifics and other large Pimelodids.

Good tank mates for a large exhibit would be Pacu, Doradids like Oxydoras niger, large characins, and cyprinids.

Through the use of hormones, Redtail Catfish have been hybridized with other species like the Tiger Shovelnose catfish resulting in “Tiger Redtail Catfish” which occasionally are seen in the aquarium trade, however, to date they have not been bred in an aquarium environment.

In their natural habitat, Phractocephalus hemioliopterus are opportunistic predators that feed on live and dead fish, worms, crabs, snails, shrimp, and fruits that fall into the water column.

In an aquarium environment, they will eat almost anything you put into their tank but do best as juveniles on shrimp pellets, bottom feeder wafers, prawns, worms, krill, mussels, etc.  Feed only once or twice a week.

Larger specimens should be fed live or fresh dead white fish, shrimp, crabs, etc.   Avoid feeding Redtail Catfish the meat of mammals (beef, chicken, etc.) and keep their diet varied.

South American Redtail Catfish (Phractocephalus hemioliopterus) are readily available and the price of juveniles has been steadily dropping over the years.   They are readily available to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts online, from importers, and specialty fish shops at moderate prices.

NOT RECOMMENDED for most tropical fish keeping enthusiasts.

Redtail Catfish (Phractocephalus hemioliopterus)

Redtail Catfish (Phractocephalus hemioliopterus)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minimum Tank Size: 250 to 2,000 gallons
Care Level: Moderate
Temperament: Peaceful
Aquarium Hardiness: Hardy
Water Conditions: 70-79°F , 2-12°H, pH 5.5-8.0
Max. Size: 5′ 11″
Color Form: Black, White, Red
Diet: Omnivore
Compatibility: Keep with larger fish
Origin: South America
Family: Pimelodidae
Lifespan: 20+ years
Aquarist Experience Level: Advanced

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Debauwi Catfish (Pareutropius debauwi)

Debauwi Catfish (Pareutropius debauwi)

Debauwi Catfish (Pareutropius debauwi) commonly known to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts as African Glass Catfish, Dwarf Pangasius, or Striped African Glass Catfish are native to the Republic of the Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, and Gabon, Africa.

Debauwi Catfish are a small, shy, active, schooling species that are commonly found in flood planes and a number of central African rivers in the Congo River drainage.   They are opportunistic feeders that eat worms, crustaceans, insects, and plant matter found on the bottoms of the moderately flowing streams and rivers they inhabit.

Debauwi Catfish (Pareutropius debauwi)

Debauwi Catfish (Pareutropius debauwi)

Pareutropius debauwi are a long, slender species that is often misidentified as Pareutropius buffei, especially as juveniles.  They have a forked caudal fin, a single black mid lateral stripe, and a faint stripe low on the body from the head to the unspotted caudal fin.

Adults Pareutropius debauwi have one lateral stripe along the silvery white body, while Pareutropius buffei have three.
Pareutropius buffei also have black spots on the upper and lower portions of their rounded lobed caudal fins.

Pareutropius debauwi have pointed caudal fin lobes which lack spots, and a black adipose fin.   Pareutropious buffei have clear adipose fins.

Sexing Debauwi Catfish is somewhat difficult unless they are grouped together, but females generally have thicker bodies than males.

Debauwi Catfish are best kept in small schools of at least 5 to 6 individuals however, they do well with other active, peaceful species including African Tetras, Loaches, etc. in a community tank environment.

Debauwi Catfish are best kept in a densely planted aquarium of at least 55 gallon capacity with a dark sand or fine gravel substrate, some smooth river rock, a couple of pieces of driftwood
or bogwood for shelter, plenty of free swimming space, and some floating plants to diffuse overhead lighting.   They are sensitive to bright lighting and poor water quality, and require a good filtration system and a small power head to provide a moderate amount of water movement in the tank.   Regular bi-weekly water changes are recommended.

There are no reports of Pareutropius debauwi being bred in an aquarium environment however it is possible.

Both Pareutropius debauwi and Pareutropius buffei are egg scatterers that during the rainy season in their natural habitat lay their eggs among fine leaved aquatic plants.

A separate breeding tank densely planted with clumps of Java Moss or other fine leaved plants is recommended if you are serious about trying to breed this species.   Keep the pH around 6.5 to 7.0 and the water temperature at around 80°F.

Condition the fish with live or frozen bloodworms, tubifex, etc. and remove the two fattest females and one male into the breeding tank.   If spawning occurs, it will be early in the morning.   The females will deposit up to 100 white eggs in the Java Moss, which should be removed from the tank immediately following the spawn.   The parents will eat the eggs if left in the breeding tank.

The eggs will hatch within 72 hours and the fry can be fed microworms or newly hatched brine shrimp immediately after they have absorbed their yolk sacs.

Debauwi Catfish are not difficult to feed.   They will eagerly accept catfish pellets, shrimp pellets, a good quality flake food as well as live, frozen, and freeze dried bloodworms, tubifex, brine shrimp, etc.   Two or three small daily feedings are recommended.

Debauwi Catfish (Pareutropius debauwi) are seldom imported and are not common in the aquarium trade.  Most tropical fish keeping enthusiasts are actually sold Pareutropius buffei as Debauwi Catfish.

Debauwi Catfish (Pareutropius debauwi)

Debauwi Catfish (Pareutropius debauwi)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minimum Tank Size: 55 gallons
Care Level: Moderate
Temperament: Peaceful
Aquarium Hardiness: Relatively Hardy
Water Conditions: 73.4-81.8°F, 5-15 °d, pH 6.4 – 7.5
Max. Size: 4″
Color Form: Black, White
Diet: Omnivore
Compatibility: Shoaling, Community
Origin: Africa
Family: Schilbeidae
Lifespan: 5-8 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Advanced

 

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Madagascan Rainbowfish (Bedotia Madagascariensis) female

Madagascar Rainbow Fish (Bedotia madagascarensis)

The Madagascar Rainbow Fish (Bedotia madagascarensis) in found in the clear, flowing streams and waterways on the African island nation of Madagascar north of of Manambalo Creek and the middle and upper Ivoloina River.

Madagascar Rainbow Fish are collected from the small streams and lower stretches of rivers that drain into the coastal lagoons and lakes in the Atsinanana region of eastern Madagascar.

The full range of Bedotia madagascarensis is unknown to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts, however, south of Manambalo Creek and the middle to upper Ivolonia River, the Madagascar Rainbow Fish is replaced by Bedotia leucopteron, and north of the Ivoloina River by Bedotia longianalis, as well as several yet undescribed members of the genus.

Madagascar Rainbow Fish are a shoaling species that prefer living in extremely soft, clear, moderately flowing water that is partially or totally shaded by overhanging aquatic vegetation.   They have been found at altitudes as high as 30,000 feet in clear mountain streams and in black water swamps in low pH, tannin stained water.

Adult Bedotia madagascarensis seem to prefer deeper water habitats where they live in smaller groups of up to several dozen specimens while juveniles tend to congregate in the shallower, marginal zones of their range.

Madagascan Rainbowfish (Bedotia Madagascariensis)

Madagascan Rainbowfish (Bedotia Madagascariensis)

The Madagascar Rainbow Fish (Bedotia madagascarensis) is often confused with and misidentified as Bedotia geayi, which is a valid congener native to the Mananjary River system, immediately south of its natural range.

They are most easily told apart by differences in color pattern, particularly in the unpaired fins, and some morphometric counts.

For instance, in adult male Bedotia madagascarensis, the mid lateral body stripe extends into the caudal fin giving the central caudal rays a black color.    The dark area is enclosed by a silvery white or golden yellow which is surrounded by a broad dark band, and the distal tips of the fins are colored a dark red or bright white.

Bedotia geayi male

Bedotia geayi male

In male Bedotia geayi the mid lateral body stripe extends into the caudal fin to form a distinct spot which is surrounded by a thin, almost translucent border.   The rest of the fin is uniformly red in color.

Male Bedotia geayi also have a red spot on their lower jaw which is absent in Bedotia madagascarensis.   In addition to other morphometric differences in their fins, Bedotia madagascarensis have a longer head and snout.

In general, adult males are much more colorful and have a greater degree of color in the unpaired fins than females.   Females are less colorful and fuller in the body than males, particularly when gravid.

Because they are a peaceful shoaling species, Madagascar Rainbow Fish do best when kept in groups of at least 8 to 12 individuals in a densely planted aquarium of at least 55 gallon capacity, with a sand or fine gravel substrate, some driftwood or bogwood, some floating plants, and a layer of Indian Almond or other leaf litter over the substrate.

All Madagascar Rainbow Fish are intolerant of organic wastes and need spotless water conditions in order to thrive.    A high quality canister or hang on outside filter and 25% to 50% water changes are needed to keep them healthy and disease free.

Madagascar Rainbow Fish can be kept in a community environment with other peaceful species, but they are better suited for a biotope system.   A Madagascan community can be comprised of endemic cichlids such as Paratilapia polleni, Paretroplus menarambo, Ptychochromis oligoacanthus, etc. and a Corydora or two to clean the tank.

Bedotia madagascarensis is an egg scatter that is relatively easy to breed in an aquarium environment.   They deposit their eggs in fine leaved vegetation like Java Moss, Ceratophyllum sp., floating plants, or floating nylon breeding mops.

Spawning can be accomplished by placing a pair or a small group of one male with two to three females into an aged, 20 to 30 gallon aquarium.   Because the males can be quite aggressive with the females during spawning, make sure the tank is planted with some large and fine leaved plants, a few floating plants, and some driftwood roots for refuge.

The females will lay several large brown eggs daily among the fine leaved plants continuously over a period of several months until spawning is completed.   The eggs are attached to the plants by fine threads and can easily be removed each day into a rearing tank or simply left with the adults until the fry hatch out. The parents ignore the eggs and the fry.

The eggs will normally hatch in 6 or 7 days at which time the fry can be offered infusoria, rotifers, paramecia, or a commercial powdered fry food until they are capable of eating newly hatched brine shrimp, usually in a week or so.   Initially, the fry will swim in an oblique positon but in a few days they should start to swim normlly.

Because the fry are extremely susceptible to fluctuations in water parameters, they are considered difficult to raise.   During this early period, avoid performing any water changes for at least a couple of weeks.   Then only make very small changes.

Madagascar Rainbow Fish are not fussy eaters.   In their natural environment they feed on terrestrial insects and other invertebrates.   In an aquarium environment they will eagerly accept live, frozen, and freeze dried bloodworms, Daphnia, brine shrimp, fruit flies, etc. along with a good quality flake or granulated food.

Bedotia madagascarensis are available to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts from specialty fish shops and online from a variety of sources at a moderate cost as juveniles and adults.

Madagascan Rainbowfish (Bedotia Madagascariensis)

Madagascan Rainbowfish (Bedotia Madagascariensis)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minimum Tank Size: 55 gallons
Care Level: Easy
Temperament: Peaceful
Aquarium Hardiness: Relatively Hardy
Water Conditions: 72-89° F, dGH 10, pH 4.5 – 7.5
Max. Size: 4″
Color Form: Black, Red, White
Diet: Omnivore
Compatibility: Peaceful Shoaling Community
Origin: Madagascar, Africa
Family: Bedotiidae
Lifespan: 5 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner/Advanced

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Orange Laser Cory (Corydoras aeneus) pair

Orange Laser Cory (Corydoras aeneus)

The Orange Laser Cory (Corydoras aeneus) (CW 010) is a peaceful Peruvian species that is also known to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts as the Gold Laser Cory, Orange Stripe Cory, or Peru Orange Stripe Cory.

Orange Laser Coryadoras are found in the upper Amazonian rain forests of eastern Peru in the Upper Amazon, Marañón, Ucayali, Middle Ucayali rivers.

Green Laser Cory (CW009)

Green Laser Cory (CW009)

Although Orange Laser Coryadoras are imported as Corydora aeneus and are a recently identified species similar to the Green Laser Cory (CW009), they could actually be a variant or arguably Corydoras melanataenia.  Only time and the scientists will tell.

Regardless, the Orange Laser Corydora is a peaceful, secretive, shoaling species that do best in small groups when in an aquarium environment. In their native habitat they feed on worms, benthic crustaceans, insects, and plant matter.

Orange Laser Cory (Corydoras aeneus)

Orange Laser Cory (Corydoras aeneus)

Orange Laser Corys are a yellow brown or greenish yellow body color with yellow fins.  They posses a yellow to gold shoulder stripe that starts at the nape of the head and ends at the caudal peduncle.

They have a darker green mid body band that runs along the entire length of the fish to the tail and a gold patch on the operculum.

The tips of the fins in mature males are more pointed than the fin tips in females, which are more rounded.   Females also grow larger and have fuller bodies when viewed from above than males.

Orange Laser Corys are best housed in a densely planted tank of at least 30 gallon capacity with a sand or fine gravel substrate, a few smooth river rocks and overhead rockwork, and some bogwood or driftwood to provide them shelter.   Tall Amazon Sword type or floating plants should be used to diffuse overhead lighting.

Orange Laser Corydora do well in a community tank with other peaceful species of the same size such as Tetras, Rasboras and Danios but being a shoaling species, they do best with at least 5 or 6 of their own kind in a species tank or for breeding.

Orange Laser Corys require clean water conditions and a moderate amount of current in their tank.   A good filtration system and regular 25% to 50% water changes will keep them healthy and happy.

Orange Laser Corydoras have been bred in an aquarium environment.

Adult Orange Laser Corydoras do not guard their eggs.   They are egg scatterers that spawn in open water and attach 1 or 2 relatively large sticky eggs to cleaned stones, plant leaves, or the aquarium glass.    Females will lay anywhere from 10 to 40 or more (2 mm dia.) eggs per spawn which hatch out in 4 days at a water temperature of 78 °F.    The fry become free swimming in another 4 days and are able to consume newly hatched brine shrimp, Moina, etc.

Orange Laser Corydoras are easy to feed in an aquarium environment and will accept a wide range of commercial foods.   Omnivore tablets, granules, quality flake foods, and live, frozen, or freeze dried bloodworms, white worms, grindal worms, brine shrimp, Daphnia, and tubifex are eagerly accepted.

Although wild caught Orange Laser Cory specimens are occasionally available in tropical fish keeping shops, they are not common. They can be purchased online from a variety of sources when they are approximately .75″ to 1.5″ in size.

Orange Laser Cory (Corydoras aeneus)

Orange Laser Cory (Corydoras aeneus)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons
Care Level: Easy
Temperament: Peaceful
Aquarium Hardiness: Hardy
Water Conditions: 71-79° F, KH 7-8, pH 6.5-7.2
Max. Size: Males 2.5″ Females 2.75″
Color Form: Brown, Green, Yellow
Diet: Omnivore
Compatibility: Community tanks
Origin: Peru, Pucallpa
Family: Callichthyidae
Life Span: 5 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner

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Moina (Moina macrocopa)

Moina (Moina macrocopa)

Moina (Moina macrocopa) is a common freshwater crustacean generically known to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts as the water flea.   They are found to some degree in all parts of America, Africa, Asia, Europe, and almost every continent on earth.

Moina macrocopa are commonly found in stagnant or very slow moving water that contains large amounts of decomposing organic material.

High concentrations of Moina macrocopa are usually found in stagnant pools, slow moving streams, ponds, lakes, ditches, sewage polluted waters, and swamps holding large amounts of decomposing material.    In South East Asia, Moina macrocopa is grown on a massive scale to specifically handle the high pollution levels found there.

The highest concentrations of Moina seem to appear in temporary bodies of water where optimum conditions exist for only short periods of time.   They are extremely tolerant of poor water quality and fluctuations of dissolved oxygen levels that can vary from almost zero ppm, to super saturated oxygen levels.

The reason Moina macrocopa  survive in oxygen poor environments is because of their ability to synthesize hemoglobin.

Hemoglobin production is also believed to directly affect higher population densities and their ability to withstand high temperatures.

Moina are extremely resistant to water temperature extremes and easily withstand daily variations between 41°F and 88°F (5°C–31°C).  Their high tolerance to temperatures make them a favorite for commercial fish farmers and tropical fish keeping enthusiasts who raise their own live foods at home.

Moina (Moina macrocopa)

Moina (Moina macrocopa)

Like all Daphnia, Moina macrocopa have a pinkish colored body consisting of a head and a trunk.

They have large compound eyes on the side of the head that lie just under the skin, and a pair of antennae that appear to be their main method of locomotion.

The trunk is encased in a carapace that is periodically molted and the open brood pouch, where their eggs develop in female Moina, is located dorsally on top of the trunk.

The brood pouch of Moina is open, whereas Daphnia posses a completely closed pouch.

Moina macrocopa are smaller than their well known cousins Daphnia pulex, and their slightly larger relative Daphnia Magna.

Because Moina macrocopa are smaller than Daphnia pulex, (0.02-0.04 inch) and have a have a higher protein and lower fat content than other Daphnia; tropical fish keeping enthusiasts consider them an ideal live food for the smaller, hard to feed fish species.

Young Moina (less than .02 inch) are approximately the same size or only slightly larger than adult rotifers, and smaller than newly hatched brine shrimp.   The diminutive size of young Moina macrocopa makes them ideally suited for feeding to all types of very small fish fry, and a variety of tiny fish species.

Moina reproduce both sexually and asexually.

Under optimal conditions, Moina populations are all female that reproduce asexually when they are 4 to 7 days old.  Each female will produce from 4 to 22 broods every 1 to 2 days, with a lifetime production of 2 to 6 broods per female.

Under less than optimal conditions (abruptly diminished food supply), more males are produced and sexual reproduction resulting in ephippia (eggs similar to brine shrimp) occurs.

The switch from asexual to sexual reproduction is apparently stimulated by the amount of food that is available.   A sudden reduction in the food supply will result in an increase in egg production.   This also produces fewer young.

An increase in the food supply results in increased asexual reproduction with a much higher population of females and fewer being produced with resting eggs.

Moina (Moina macrocopa)

Moina (Moina macrocopa)

When Daphnia have very high populations, a dramatic decrease in reproduction results, however, this is not the case with Moina macrocopa.

Moina are easily cultured using any of the methods currently used for culturing Daphnia and other crustaceans in the Moinidae family.

Many Tropical fish keeping enthusiasts culture Moina at home in containers as small as a 10 gallon tank, or even a 5 gallon bucket.

For larger scale production or commercial operations; small ponds, animal watering troughs, plastic wading pools, old bathtubs, tanks, vats, or any large concrete, plastic, fiberglass or stainless steel container can be used.

Because Moina are extremely sensitive to copper, zinc, and chemical pollutants that are often present in tap water, use only bottled spring water or water collected from natural sources for culturing them.

The optimum water temperature for raising Moina is between 75°F and 88°F, at a pH between 7.0 to 8.0.  Low water temperatures and pH levels in excess of 9.5 will decrease the amount of Moina being produced.

When culturing Moina indoors, avoid sudden changes in water temperature and provide them with enough light and gentle aeration  in the form of large air bubbles to break up any surface film.

Aeration also keeps food particles in suspension and increases phytoplankton production which results in an increase in the number of eggs per female, the proportion of egg bearing females in the population, and the total population density.   In outdoor containers aeration is not necessary.

Moina feed on bacteria, phytoplankton, yeast, decaying organic matter, and are one of the few organisms that utilize the blue green algae, Microcystis aeruginosa.

Because Moina primarily feed on phytoplankton suspended in the water column (basically green water and protozoa), and large populations can quickly clear a pond of green water; feeding them green water over an extended periods is not practical.

Some of the other food options available for culturing Moina at home and in commercial applications are listed below:

Alfalfa meal or pellets
Bran pellets
Fresh or dried animal manures
Green water
Infusoria
Mineral fertilizers
Organic fertilizers
Soy flour
Sewage sludge (dried)
Spirulina
Wheat flour
Yeast
Any combination of the above

Fresh or dehydrated manure and sewage sludge is widely used to culture Moina in commercial applications.    To feed the Moina, fresh or dried manure, sewage sludge, bran, hay, and oil seed meals is suspended in burlap type mesh bags in the water column.

The following quantities of listed materials are used per 100 gallons of water initially as food for Moina.     One half to an equal amount should be added in 5 days.

1.Yeast:
0.3–0.5 ounces (8.5–14.2 g) of baker’s yeast.
2.Yeast and mineral fertilizer:
0.3–0.5 ounces (8.5–14.2 g) of yeast, and 0.5 ounces (14.2 g) of ammonium nitrate.
3.Alfalfa, bran, and yeast:
1.5 ounces (42.5 g) of alfalfa pellets or meal, 1.5 ounces (42.5 g) of wheat or rice bran, and 0.3 ounces (8.5 g) of yeast.
4.Cow manure or sewage sludge, bran, and yeast:
5 ounces (142 g) of dried manure or sewage sludge, 1.5 ounces (42.5 g) of wheat or rice bran, and 0.3 ounces (8.5 g) of yeast.
5.Cow manure or sewage sludge, cotton seed meal, and yeast:
Use 5 ounces (142 g) of dried manure or sewage sludge, 1.5 ounces (42.5 g) of cotton seed meal, and 0.3 ounces (8.5 g) of yeast.
6.Horse or cow manure or sewage sludge:
Combine 20 ounces (567 g) of dried manure or sewage sludge.
7.Chicken or hog manure:
Combine 6 ounces (170 g) of dried manure.
8.Yeast and spirulina powder:
0.2 ounces (6 g) baker’s yeast, 0.1 ounces (3 g) spirulina powder.

Add the above amount for the first two days, and every other day until culture is harvested.

For culturing Moina at home;  alfalfa, bran, and yeast are less objectionable to use and works almost as well.

Combine equal parts of a 1 1/2 gram mixture of yeastsoy flour, and spirulina into a glass of warm tank water (to activate the yeast) until fully dissolved.  Stirred into 2 liters of pond or aquarium water and pour the suspended mixture evenly around the culture.

The mixture  produces enough food for an established 80 gallon outdoor Moina culture.

Feed daily during the warmer summer months, and every 3 or 4 days during the cooler months.

Do not overfeed your daphnia cultures regardless of species.

Moina reproduce both sexually and asexually.

Under optimal conditions, Moina populations are all female that reproduce asexually when they are 4 to 7 days old.   Individual females will produce 4 to 22 broods every 1 to 2 days, with a lifetime production of 2 to 6 broods per female.

Under less than optimal conditions (abruptly diminished food supply), more males are produced and sexual reproduction resulting in ephippia (eggs similar to brine shrimp) occurs.

The switch from asexual to sexual reproduction is apparently stimulated by the amount of food available.   An abrupt reduction in the food supply will result in an increase in egg production.   This also produces fewer young that are mostly male.

An increase in the food supply results in increased asexual reproduction with a higher population of females, and fewer produced with resting eggs.

A well fed Moina culture will typically reach densities of 19,000 individuals per gallon.

 

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Tubifex Worms (Tubifex tubifex)

Tubifex Worms (Tubifex tubifex)

Tubifex Worms (Tubifex tubifex) also known to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts as Sludge Worms or Sewage Worms are a segmented worm species found in the the bottom sediments of rivers, lakes, sewer lines and discharge outlets worldwide.

Of the 16 known species of Tubifex in the genus below,  Tubifex tubifex is the most commercially raised:

Tubifex blanchardi (Vejdovský, 1891)
Tubifex harmani Loden, 1979
Tubifex costatus (Claparède, 1863)
Tubifex ignotus (Stolc, 1886)
Tubifex kryptus (Bülow, 1957)
Tubifex longipenis (Brinkhurst, 1965)
Tubifex montanus Kowalewski, 1919
Tubifex nerthus (Michaelsen, 1908)
Tubifex newaensis (Michaelsen, 1903)
Tubifex newfei (Pickavance & Cook, 1971)
Tubifex pescei (Dumnicka 1981)
Tubifex pomoricus (Timm, 1978)
Tubifex pseudogaster (Dahl, 1960)
Tubifex smirnowi (Lastockin, 1927)
Tubifex superiorensis (Brinkhurst & Cook, 1971)
Tubifex tubifex (O. F. Mueller, 1774)

Tubifex Worms (Tubifex tubifex)

Sludge worms (Tubifex tubifex)

Tubifex tubifex is a true earthworm in the class Oligochaeta which is easily recognized by its red color and mud tubes.

Tubifex tubifex is actually a  freshwater annelid in the family Tubificidae, and is one of the few invertebrates armed with an efficient manner of assimilating dissolved oxygen which allows it to thrive in sewage settling ponds and other bodies of inferior water quality.

Ranging in size from .40 to almost 3.35 inches in length,  Tubifex Worms are most frequently observed with their head segments embedded in mud tubes and their posteriors waving around collecting the limited dissolved oxygen from the currents created by their tail movements.

Tubifex worms selectively digest bacteria that is found in the organic matter of bottom sediment that they inhabitat and can survive in heavily polluted waters by waving their hemoglobin rich tails above the sediment to absorb any available oxygen.

The red color of Tubifex tubifex  (also known also as the bloodworm) is caused by the relatively large supply of hemoglobin which stores available dissolved oxygen in a manner comparable to the human blood system.

Like frogs and many other amphibians, tubifex worms are capable of exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide through their skin.   In addition, they can survive food shortages and drought conditions by forming a protective cyst and lowering their metabolism.

Tubifex worms are hermaphrodic, but to avoid self fertilization, the male and female organs become mature at different times.

Cross fertilization occurs when two mature Tubifex worms  join their anterior and ventral surfaces together with their anterior ends pointing in opposite directions.   The female reproductive opening of each worm is nearer to the male opening of another worm allowing the penial setae of one worm penetrate into the tissues of other worm and join the two together.   When the sperm of one worm is then passed into the spermathecae of the other worm, they separate and begin to produce egg cases called cocoons.

After the cocoon is formed the Tubifex worm withdraws its body from the egg case using backward wriggling movements allowing the cocoon to hatch.

Although massive balls (colonies) of Tubifex tubifex are occasionally observed in the water columns of lagoons, ponds, streams, marshes, and canals of their range, their natural habitats are usually devoid of the sufficient oxygen needed by their predators to survive, so Tubifex tubifex can “afford” its bright red color without fear of predation.

Commercially, tubifex are available alive, frozen, or freeze dried.   For most tropical fish keeping enthusiasts, tubifex worms are most often used in their freeze dried form as a high protein aquarium food for almost all freshwater species, however as a live food, they are fed to fish, frogs, salamanders, snails, shrimp, crabs, crayfish, turtles, etc.

Live tubifex worms are used by breeders to maintain and condition tropical fish and other aquatic species.   Even the pickiest of eaters will break their fast to chow down on tubifex worms.

Live Tubifex worms are available throughout Europe and many northern areas of the United States, and cultures can be purchased from a variety of sources online.

Tubifex worms are easily cultured by placing them in long, relatively shallow containers, with 2″ to 3″ of thick pond mud at the bottom mixed with bran, bread, and decaying vegetable matter.

The rearing container should be set up to have a gentle, continuous flow of water coming in on one side, and a drainage system on the other side.

When you receive your culture, rinse them thoroughly to remove the excess mud and any dead worms in chlorine free, chilled water (between 40° to 50°F), until the run off water is clear and free of debris .

Place about a .5″ thick layer of  Tubifex worms in the uncovered rearing container with about .80″ to 1.5″ of cool fresh water above the worms.

After the Tubifex worm culture is introduced into the container, it will take about 15 days for clusters of worms to develop, and a few days more before they can be harvested.

As the worms breed and develop into masses, they will come to the surface looking for oxygen and can be removed from the mud mixture in thick masses.   Wash the worms under a stream of chilled water to remove the excess mud.   Never use room temperature or aquarium water to wash the tubifex.

Once harvested and cleaned, Tubifex worms can be kept for several days in the refrigerator at 40° to 50°F if they are washed daily, or kept under cold running water.   It is not necessary to feed them if you do not intend to continue breeding the harvested worms.   When kept under continuous running chilled water, tubifex worms will remain in perfect condition for several weeks.

The occasional collection of wild tubifex worms from sewage contaminated waters that may harbor human pathogens responsible for hepatitis, tetanus, and a few other bacterial diseases has resulted in live tubifex worms being not as common and readily available as they once were to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts.

Concerns by tropical fish keeping enthusiasts about the introduction of parasites into their tanks by tubifex worms has resulted in the development of living, bacteria free cultures by several commercial sources.

In addition, tubifex that have been enriched with nutrients and pigment precursors biologically incorporated during the rearing of the worms has resulted in the availability of  laboratory produced Tubifex guaranteed free of parasites being sold online as de-watered cultures,  packaged on a piece of paper to save on shipping costs.

Many picky and hard to feed species like elephant nose fish, rope fish, AxolotlsDiscus, etc. apparently love the taste of live tubifex worms, however as with any live food, it is highly recommended to feed your fish a varied diet.   Although uneaten worms will not foul your aquarium water, do not feed any more than you fish will eat in about 15 minutes.

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Microworms (Panagrellus redivivus)

Microworms (Panagrellus redivivus) are actually small, round, free living nematodes, that are easy to grow, easy to collect and make a great food for tiny tropical fish and baby fry.

Traditionally, newly hatched brine shrimp nauplii have been used almost exclusively by tropical fish keeping enthusiasts as the initial food for fry however, they die within a few hours in freshwater, and the fry of many fish species find them too large to be ingested.   The most significant drawback to their use is the increasing cost of brine shrimp eggs.

Many tropical fish keeping enthusiasts now feed microworms as an initial diet to their fry, and as a complement to baby brine shrimp.

Of the thirteen currently recognized species of Panagrellus, many are widely used in aquaculture as a live food for a variety of crustaceans and fish species.

Microworms (Panagrellus redivivus)

Microworms (Panagrellus redivivus)

Panagrellus redivivus are approximately 1/16″ long and 50 microns in diameter.   They have a round mouth, a pointed tail, and are barely visible to the naked eye.   Because of their small size and shape, and the fact that they can live in fresh water for 12 hours or more, they are a prime live food source for fish that are too small to eat brine shrimp nauplii..

Panagrellus redivivus are sexually mature in about 3 days and unlike most other nematodes that lay eggs, Panagrellus redivivus produce live offspring.

Female Microworms deliver 10 to 40 young every 1 to 1 1/2 days during their 20 to 25 day lifespan. This means that an individual female will produce approximately 300 offspring during it’s lifetime.   The young grow quickly and triple in size the first day.   During the next three days, they will increase in size 5 to 6 times.

Microworms are easily cultured on a substrate of flour paste, baby cereal, porridge, rolled oats, or the like, with just enough warm water to form a thick paste.   The mixture should have a pasty consistency thick enough to be rolled into a ball.

Evenly spread a 1/2″ to 3/4″ thick layer of a rolled oat and yeast mixture into a flat, shallow, (2″ or 3″ high) covered, plastic food container, with a tablespoon or more of baker’s yeast evenly mixed in.   Make sure the lid on the container has several 1/8 ” holes drilled into it for air.

Sprinkle the Microworm starter culture evenly over the mixture and leave it in a warm, well lit location for a week or so.

In order to produce the greatest amount of microworms, the culture should be maintained at a room temperature of 68-85°F.

As the growing medium is broken down by the microworms, they will start to crawl up the sides of the plastic container where they can be easily harvested as needed.

Microworms (Panagrellus redivivus)

Microworms (Panagrellus redivivus)

Usually it only takes about 3 to 6 days before the surface of the growing medium is populated with a shimmering mass of microworms to feed your fish.

To optimize the production of microworms, simply stir the culture weekly.

As the rolled oats are used up by the yeast and the microworms, the mixture will become thin and soupy.   Although this does not diminish the amount of microworms that are produced, you can easily absorb the excess moisture that has accumulated by placing a small piece of sponge on top of the media.

In about a month, as the growing medium becomes exhausted and starts to turn brown,  microworm production will slow down and eventually cease.   When this occurs, it’s time to dispose of the original culture and start a new batch.

To harvest Panagrellus redivivus, simply scrape a batch off the wall and top of the container with a butter knife or a rubber spatula, or put a paint stick on the media for the worms to crawl onto and then scrape them off.

Typically an 8″ x 12″ culture of rolled oats will produce approximately 1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons of Microworms a day for three weeks or more.

Rolled oats are used in the above recipe because they are inexpensive and much more economical for the large scale production of microworms.

Tropical fish keeping enthusiasts also use the following mixtures to culture microworms with varying degrees of success:

The cornmeal mixture normally produces fewer Microworms than rolled oats and the other mixtures however, when it comes to mass production, they are all more expensive than the rolled oats used for livestock feed.

Most tropical fish keeping enthusiasts who are not into commercial breeding  can produce plenty of microworms using any of the above recipes.

Microworm(Panagrellus redivivus) starter cultures are available from a variety of sources online at reasonable costs.

Like any other live food, vary the diet of your tropical fish to keep them in prime condition.

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Daphnia pulex

Daphnia (Daphnia pulex)

Daphnia (Daphnia pulex) is the most common freshwater species known to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts as Water Fleas, Moina, or Water Bugs.

They inhabit almost every slow moving, nutrient rich body of water as plankton in open water lakes, living mainly in the upper portion of the water column near the algae rich surface, or attached to submerged vegetation on or near the bottom.   They are too small and weak to survive in strong currents.

Daphnia pulex are used by tropical fish keeping enthusiasts as a food source for their fish and to clear green water and debris from their tanks.   Daphnia pulex are easy to culture, fast growing, super nutritious, and very popular as a live fish or Axolotl food.

Because they are small, cheap, easy to keep alive, and have a transparent shell that makes their internal functions visible, scientists also widely use Daphnia for experimentation.

Daphnia pulex are smaller (.008 to .12 inch in length) versions of Daphnia magna, a larger cousin to Moina macrocopa, and the small cousin to Simocephalus vetulus.

Daphnia pulex

Daphnia pulex

They resemble a land flea in appearance and movement, and like all crustaceans have an outer shell that they molt as they grow.   In the wild, Daphnia pulex will only live about ten to thirty days, but in a controlled, predator free environment, they can attain 10 to 20 growth periods and live up to 100 days.

Daphnia pulex have a transparent, folded, shell like carapace, four to six pairs of flattened thoracic legs that are used to filter algae, bacteria, and detritus, a hook shaped intestine with two digestive cavities, and a posterior ventral opening.

They have large, dark colored compound eyes, two pairs of antennae on their head, and rows of small spikes along the back.

Male Daphnia pulex are generally smaller than females, have longer antennae, and have a modified post abdomen.

Female Daphnia pulex have a brood chamber located between the body wall and top of the carapace that is used to carry their eggs and are larger than males.

Daphnia pulex are prolific breeders and reproduce sexually as well as asexually in a process called parthenogenesis.

Sexual reproduction occurs during less favorable conditions, mainly during the winter months when lower temperatures, overcrowding, less food, and accumulation of wastes is highest.   Males copulate with the females to form fertilized eggs which are then kept in the female’s brood chamber and hatch out primarily as males.

Parthenogenesis occurs during more favorable conditions in the summertime when entire populations of Daphnia pulex consist almost entirely of females.

Parthenogenesis begins when the female molts her carapace as she grows and even without fertilization from the male, develops anywhere from two to twenty eggs in her brood chamber.    The eggs develop into immature females that are released during the next molt.

The young produced in this manner are more well developed than those produced sexually.   Although parthenogenesis is most used for rapid increases in Daphnia growth, it requires more favorable conditions than for sexual reproduction.

Breeding Daphnia pulex:

Daphnia pulex can be cultured in anything that holds water and is suitable for housing fish.   The proper size container depends on the amount of Daphnia you will require to feed your fish.

If you have only a few fish, start with a 20 gallon tank indoors.   If you are a breeder and have several species to feed, an outdoor pond, large cattle trough, fiberglass container, or even a plastic child’s wading pool would be more appropriate.   Anything that will maintain a seed culture for starting and feeding your daphnia will do.

If you are culturing Daphnia pulex indoors, you need to keep the culture from sudden changes in temperature, provide them enough light, and enough air in the form of large bubbles to break up any surface film.   Aeration is not necessary in outdoor containers.

Daphnia feed on phytoplankton in the water column; basically green water and protozoa.   A large culture of daphnia can clear a pond of green water almost overnight, so feeding them green water over an extended period of time is not practical.

Fortunately there are other food options available, the most common of which are listed below:

Dried blood
Green water
Infusoria
Soy flour
Spirulina
Wheat flour
Yeast
Any combination of the above

An equal part 1 1/2 gram mixture of yeast, soy flour, and spirulina mixed into a glass of warm water (to activate the yeast) until fully dissolved, and then stirred into 2 liters of pond or aquarium water produces enough food for an established 80 gallon Daphnia pulex culture.   To feed, pour the suspended mixture evenly around the culture.

An 80 gallon outdoor culture should be fed daily during the warm summer months, and every 3 or 4 days during the cooler months.

Do not overfeed your daphnia cultures, you can always add additional food if they are underfed and monitor the results.   If you have been underfeeding your cultures, the number of daphnia should increase.   The container water should be clear before you feed the culture again. If it is not, you are overfeeding the dapnhia.

Culture Problems:

When conditions are not to their liking, Daphnia pulex will die off.  Daphnia need a pH around 7.0 and the same water conditions as any other aquatic species.   When conditions improve, they seem to mysteriously reappear.

An indication of a healthy culture is when all stages of daphnia are present.    When no juveniles or larvae and only adults are present, it is an indicator that the culture is not doing well.

A sudden culture die off is almost always due to poor water conditions caused by overfeeding.

When this occurs, change the water in the container and let it get green, but keep the sediment on the bottom.   The debris on the bottom contains dormant eggs which will hatch into a new colony, or you can replenish the culture by adding more daphnia.    When the water begins to clear up again, the new culture has regenerated and needs to be fed.

Outdoor containers are subject to dragonfly and mosquito larvae infestations.

Wrigglers eat the same food you are feeding your daphnia and compete with them.   The plus side is that you can harvest the mosquito larvae and feed them to your fish along with the daphnia.

Covering the culture with mosquito netting will solve the winged insect problem

It’s a good idea to always keep several cultures of Daphnia pulex going in case one suddenly dies off.   A quart jar or two houses enough Daphnia to easily repopulate an outdoor pond or an indoor aquarium.

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Brine shrimp (Artemia salina)

Brine Shrimp (Artemia)

Brine Shrimp (Artemia) also known as Sea-Monkeys, is a prehistoric genus of aquatic crustaceans commonly used by tropical fish keeping enthusiasts the world over as a food source for adult tropical fish and their fry.

Brine Shrimp are found in inland saltwater lakes with high salinities up to 25%, which for the most part protects them from almost all predatory wildlife species.

Although several varieties of Artemia exist, all of them belong to a single species under the genus Artemis.

Brine shrimp (Artemia salina)

Brine shrimp (Artemia salina)

Adult Brine Shrimp can be identified by a hard exterior shell, tapered bodies, stalked compound eyes, eleven pairs of feather like legs, and usually do not exceed one half an inch in size.

Brine Shrimp produce dormant eggs known as cysts, which can be stored for very long periods and hatched on demand to provide a live food for crustaceans and tropical fish larvae.   This has led to the extensive use of Artemia in aquaculture and in particular the tropical fish keeping hobby.

Brine Shrimp during their initial stage of development do not feed.   Instead, they exist on the energy stored in the cyst.   When the cyst hatches in the wild, they feed on microscopic planktonic algae.   In an aquarium environment, they can be fed egg yolk, wheat flour, yeast, soybean powder, etc.

Adult brine shrimp easily adapt to wide fluctuations in water salinity and can live without any problem in bodies of water with higher salinity levels than seawater, as well as environments with only one tenth the salinity of marine water.

Both newly hatched and adult brine shrimp provide an ideal food source for tropical fish.   They are high in protein content, easily digestible, and can survive for several hours in a freshwater aquarium full of baby fry.

Brine shrimp cysts hatch in 24 hours at temperatures of 80º to 82º F.   Lower temperatures result in longer hatching times.   Baby brine shrimp have incomplete digestive and excretory systems, which means they cannot ingest or process food.   This means that their bodies are packed chocked full of energy, which makes them a perfect food for baby tropical fish.

Most tropical fish keeping enthusiasts hatch out their own “baby” brine shrimp, and many choose to grow them into adulthood.

Hatching brine shrimp eggs is a simple process and several types of brine shrimp “hatcheries” are commercially available for purchase online; or you can easily make one yourself.

The following examples are constructed from plastic one liter soda bottles and are only one of the many types you can build.

To grow baby brine shrimp into adulthood takes only about 3 weeks.

Fill a growing tank with saltwater that has approximately the same salt content as the brine shrimp hatchery water and locate it near a window or other light source. Install an airstone to provide water movement and a heater if necessary to maintain the water temperature between 65°F to 75°F.

Introduce the baby brine shrimp into the growing tank and for the first 24 hours do not feed them.

Fortunately, brine shrimp are not fussy about what they eat and almost any small food source can be used such as Spirulina powder, yeast, wheat flour, fish meal, soybean powder, egg yolks, or even a commercial fry food.

To keep the water quality in the tank reasonably intact, avoid foods that are easily dissolved in the water and definitely avoid overfeeding.

After 3 weeks or so, the brine shrimp will be large enough to feed to your tropicals.

Simply net them out of the growing tank and rise them off before feeding.

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Vinegar Eels (Tubatrix aceti)

Vinegar Eels (Tubatrix aceti) are harmless, non parasitic nematodes, that many tropical fish keeping breeders feed to smaller fry when larger microworms and baby brine shrimp or smaller infusoria cannot be used.

Many tropical fish keeping enthusiasts prefer feeding vinegar eels to smaller fry instead of microworms because of their ability to live in freshwater for extended periods.

Their enticing wriggling action as they swim in the water column makes vinegar eels a preferred food for many mid water fry species. Instead of dropping to the bottom of the tank and quickly dying off like microworms, they can survive for over a week in a freshwater aquarium environment.

Vinegar eels are super easy to raise. All you need is a glass jug, vinegar, water, some food, and a starter culture.

Fill a one gallon glass jug almost to the neck with a 50/50 mixture of apple cider vinegar and water.    Add 4 or 5 marble size pieces of apple along with your starter culture to the jug, cover with a rubber band over a small piece of cheesecloth, and set the jug aside in a dark location.

After a couple of months when you can see a light colored cloud of worms congregating at the top of the culture, the vinegar eels will be ready to harvest.

Below is another one of the many alternate methods for culturing and harvesting vinegar eels:

Although harvesting takes a little bit of effort, it does not require much time.  You will need a food baster, a small jar for the vinegar eels, a small funnel, and some fine coffee filters.

Make a small sieve by placing a coffee filter into the funnel.

Use the baster or a siphon to remove some of the cloudy liquid from the jug and filter it into the small jar.   Repeat until you have enough vinegar eels in the filter to feed your fry.

Pour the vinegar solution back into the culture, rinse off the eels that you filtered out of the culture with some fresh water, and transfer them into another jar filled with fresh aquarium water by reversing the coffee filter in and swishing it around a bit.

You will be able to see plenty of vinegar eels swimming around in the jar ready to be fed to your fry.   Just pour as many as needed into the rearing tank.

Unlike white worm, micro worm, and other cultures that “go sour” after some time, a vinegar eel culture can last more than a year without any special care.

Start a couple of cultures for a backup and you should have enough to take care of as many small fry as you can possibly breed.

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White Worms (Enchytraeus albidus)

White Worms (Enchytraeus albidus)

White Worms (Enchytraeus albidus) are are very easy to raise when kept in the right conditions and make an excellent live food source for a variety of carnivorous tropical fish species.

White worms are relatives of the common earthworm.   They are white, seldom grow over 1″ in length, are free of parasites, are high in fat content, and hate light so much that they will die when kept under direct light.

Optimal conditions for raising white worms are:

  • Cool temperatures
  • The correct amount of moisture
  • Darkness

Generally, white worms reproduce best when temperatures are kept below 70 degrees F.   When temperatures exceed 80 degrees F., the worms will start dying out.

White Worms need food, a cool dark location, and a moist (not wet) substrate to thrive and reproduce.   A dark corner on the floor of your basement would be an ideal location to raise your cultures.

Many tropical fish keeping enthusiasts use plastic containers to raise white worms, however, plastic containers can make it difficult to maintain the growing medium at the correct moisture level.

If the growing medium mixture is initially too wet when placed into a plastic container, it will remain wet and kill your white worm culture.   Plastic containers will seal in the moisture.   On the other hand, too little moisture can dry out the worms.

The culture medium should be just moist enough for you to form a ball in your hand that will not drip when squeezed.

Some tropical fish keeping enthusiasts prefer making small wood “worm boxes” from scraps of 1 X 4 pine boards.   The wood helps to regulate the moisture content of the medium by absorbing any excess moisture and releasing it back into the medium if it begins to dry out.

Two or three small 6” X 6″ X 15” long boxes with a wood, Plexiglas, or glass cover will keep any tropical fish keeping enthusiast supplied with plenty of white worms.

Although mediums for growing white worms vary, potting soil or a 50/50 mixture of peat moss and potting soil are the most popular choices.

Place a 3″ or 4″ layer in a container of your choice, wet the medium with a bottle sprayer, mix thoroughly with a wood paint stirrer, and let it sit overnight.

Remix the medium the next day and lightly pat it down into the container before adding your starter worm culture.

White worm starter cultures can be purchased online, from breeders, aquarium clubs, fish forums, etc.

White worms are not picky eaters.   They will eat almost anything but Cheerios, bread scraps, dry dog food, dry cat food, etc. are most often chosen as a food.

Place the worms at one end of the container and add a small amount of food just under the surface at the other end.  Do NOT overfeed.

Check the container ever other day and if more food is needed, add a bit more.   If food is still in the container after a few days, cut back on the amount you feed them.

All the food should disappear in 3 to 4 days.

When you start a new white worm culture, put a small amount of food in only one location.   As the culture grows, gradually increase the amount of food and spread it out to the edges of the container.   The worms will migrate to the food source.

In about a month, remove a small section of culture media along with the worms to start a second culture.

The white worms will form balls around the food and can easily be removed from the original culture with a plastic fork or spoon.   Scoop up the worms along with some of the media from the original culture and bury them at one end of the second container.

It usually takes about 1 month to grow a good population of white worms in the original container to feed to your fish.

Use tweezers to pick out the white worms from the media or scoop out a mass and place them in a container of water.   They will ball up in the water and can be easily removed free of any growing medium.

You can also place a plastic container lid on the surface of the medium.   The worms will congregate on the underside of the plastic lid and can be scraped off as needed to feed your fish.

Over time, the culture medium will begin to “sour”, but if you manage several containers and periodically add fresh medium to the original batch as you remove the worms and older medium, the original batch will stay refreshed.

Because it takes such a long time to get a new culture of white worms going, it’s much better to replace the medium a little bit at a time and keep several cultures on hand than to start a fresh new culture every time a batch goes “sour”.   Mark the dates on each container to keep track of everything.

When raising white worms, a long, narrow, relatively shallow container is preferable to a round, deep container.   This is mainly because of the migrating tendencies of white worms.

When using a long container, you can “heard” the white worms to one end of the container by placing the food at one end only.   When the worms migrate to the food, the old medium at the other end of the container can be easily scooped out and replaced without disturbing the entire culture.

This is not possible when a round container is used.

Remember that white worms are high in fat content and should not be exclusively fed to most fish species.

Unless your fish are being conditioned for breeding, most tropical fish keeping enthusiasts recommend feeding white worms no more than three times a week.

Unlike live tubifex, black worms, and other aquatic worms, white worms are free from parasites and are undoubtedly one of the best conditioning foods you can provide to your fish.

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White Worm Culture

Live Foods For Killifish

Killifish and many other carnivores in their natural environment feed on live foods like small crustaceans, worms, a variety of insects, and insect larvae.    Although a few species of killifish include algae into their diets, the majority of killifish kept by tropical fish keeping enthusiasts are carnivores that require live foods to keep them healthy and get them into breeding condition.

Many tropical fish keeping enthusiasts have some success switching their killifish over to flake foods but as a general rule, if you are not able to provide them with a variety of live and frozen foods, this species may not be the right choice for you.

A well balanced diet is important to all fish species, especially if you plan on breeding your stock and many experienced aquarists have opted to culture and raise their own food to meet the exact nutritional requirements of their fish.   If you are into breeding killifish or are considering it, you will either need a reliable source for obtaining live foods on a regular basis, or learn how to cultivate your own supply.

Although the following live foods are not exclusive to killifish, they are the most commonly propagated by tropical fish keeping enthusiasts.

  • Black Worms:

Black Worms are similar to tubifex worms and are one of the best foods you can feed to your tropical fish.   Black worms are rich in protein and nutrients, readily available for purchase, easy to raise, and can survive for indefinite periods in freshwater aquariums until eaten by your killifish.   Hardier than most other live foods, Black Worms are not prone to large die offs like adult brine shrimp or daphnia.

  • Bloodworms:

Bloodworms are actually the larvae stage of an airborne insect found in stagnant water ponds and pools.   They are so named because of their blood red color and are used by tropical fish keeping enthusiasts worldwide as a fish food.

Although live bloodworms are sold by some specialty fish shops, they are mostly sold in their frozen or freeze dried form.

Although live bloodworms can be raised in plastic containers with some garden soil, a dark room or closet is preferred.   Either way is a challenge.

First, collect the eggs from a stagnant water pond.   The eggs are gelatinous egg sacs that are usually attached to plants.   When the eggs hatch, they can be fed with powdered foods or farm animal (preferably pig) manure until they mature and can be netted in the dark, when they are most active.

To breed multiple generations of blood worms, allow a few of them to hatch into their adult (fly) stage and they will lay their eggs into the bloodworm container where the life cycle continues. Any escapees will head towards the nearest stagnant pool or pond to lay their eggs where you can continue to collect them.

Bloodworms are known to carry diseases and should be thoroughly rinsed several times to minimize any problems.

  • Brine Shrimp (Artemia):

Live Brine Shrimp are a good nutritional food source that are easy to propagate and are readily accepted by most tropical fish species including killifish.   Baby brine shrimp in particular, are high in protein content, replicate what the fish eat in the wild, and are a perfect food for juvenile and small adult killifish.

Some specialty fish shops carry live adult brine shrimp that are sold by the “scoop” or in small net fulls, but because they are so easy to raise, most aquarists hatch their own eggs for their fish.

Great Salt Lake Artemia cysts (brine shrimp eggs) are readily available in bulk, sealed, air tight containers.   They are best kept at a temperature of 40 degrees F which is why most hobbyists keep them in the refrigerator until they are ready to begin the hatching process.   A variety of brine shrimp hatchery kits are available online from a number of sources, or you can easily make one for yourself with some airline tubing, a small aquarium air pump, a liter or 2 liter bottle, and a small light or aquarium heater.

To keep a constant supply of fresh brine shrimp available, several cultures need to be maintained.   The video below is an example of how you can make a DIY hatchery that will provide a constant supply for fresh food.

Most suppliers of Artemia cysts will guarantee a 90 to 95% hatch rate.
Decapsulated brine shrimp eggs and eggs in different size increments are also available from suppliers. As a last option, you can also try feeding your killifish frozen brine shrimp.

  • Daphnia Magna:

Live Daphnia (Daphnia Magna) also known as “water bugs” or “water fleas” are an excellent live food source that can be cultured or collected from farm ponds.   They live in freshwater, are really easy to cultivate at home, will not foul the water, and will stay alive in the aquarium until your killifish are ready to eat them.    However, they should never be used exclusively as a food source because ingesting too many can act as a laxative to the fish.

Cultivating Daphnia at home is economical and provides a constant source of disease free live food.   Add the egg culture to some fresh aged tank water placed under a light source, and wait 48 to 72 hours for them to hatch.

Hatching Daphnia eggs:

Fill the culture tank with fresh, aged, (preferably green) water, from a healthy aquarium. (Avoid salty water)
Siphon water from the bottom of a healthy tank and collect enough organic matter to start the culture.
Add some pond snails, ramshorn, or corkscrew snails to the tank for cleanup.
Add live plants and a piece of driftwood if desired
Cover the bottom of the tank with natural, rock gravel (not the fake gravel you get from the pet store).
Add a length of rigid tubing to some airline tubing and submerse to create a slight stream of bubbles; just enough to dissipate any surface film in the tank.
Add a strong florescent light above the tank for a minimum of 20 to 72 hours and maintain a water temperature between 60 and 75 degrees F.
The Daphnia should be fed regularly and will reproduce quickly to provide you with an ongoing food source for your killies.

Most suppliers of Dry Daphnia Magna eggs will provide you with food for the culture, an instruction guide, and even a pipette to remove the Daphnia.

  • Drosophila Fruit Flies:

Many species of tropical fish in their natural environment subsist on a diet of insects and seldom if ever get them in an aquarium environment.
Drosophila Fruit Flies are a great way to provide live insects for surface feeding species like hatchetfish, butterfly fish, killifish, etc.   Although they can be purchased from some specialty fish shops, the best way to acquire a constant source is to raise them yourself.

Drosophila Fruit Flies are a flightless species that can be easily cultured in a soft drink bottle with a wide opening.   Purchase a commercial fruit fly medium or make some yourself from equal parts of crushed Cheerios and yellow oatmeal with a pinch of bakers yeast and water.   Put about 3 or 4 tablespoons of the mixture into the bottle with a pinch of yeast and shake up the bottle.    Add about 4 tablespoons of warm water to the bottle, plug the top with a cotton ball, and set it in a warm location for a couple of days to work.   Don’t stir the mixture.

After a couple of days remove the cotton ball and introduce about a dozen fruit flies along with something for them to crawl on into the bottle.   A wide strip of plastic from an old lawn chair cut to about 1 inch wide and long enough to reach the bottom will do just fine.

In about a week or two you will have adults ready for feeding.   Just remove the plastic strip and shake the adults into the aquarium.

The video below provides a quick alternative to the above method.

Flightless fruit flies, like Drosophila hydei or Drosophila melanogaster can be purchased from specialized pet shops or online from a variety of sources with a commercial medium starter and instruction sheet.

  • Grindal Worms:

Grindal Worms are small white non parasitic worms that are closely related to earthworms.   They are smaller than white worms, growing to a little over 1/4″ in length, and have a nutritional value of about 70% protein and 14% fat which makes them a valuable addition to an aquarium fish’s diet.

Grindal Worm cultures are readily available online from a variety of sources and are normally supplied with an information sheet, a medium mix, and instructions for growing the worms. A substantial quantity can be grown in a container as small as a shoe box.

  • Microworms:

Microworms are easy to grow, easy to collect, and make a great food for small tropicals and baby fry.   Many killifish breeders feed microworms to their fry as a complement to baby brine shrimp as an initial diet.

You can easily grow microworms in a small, wide, 2″ to 3″ high plastic container.   Mix some Gerber’s multi grain baby cereal with a little bakers yeast with enough warm water to form a thick paste that can be rolled into a ball and place it into the container along with the initial starter microworm culture.

Leave the culture in a warm location for a week or so until the growing medium breaks down and the worms are crawling up the sides of the container.   Harvested them by scraping them off the container walls as needed.

In about a month or so production will slow down and the medium will turn brown.   When this happens, start a new batch and dispose of the old culture.

  • Moina:

Moina macrocopa are a smaller version of Daphnia that grow to only 0.02-0.04 inch in size. They are a popular live food for fish fry and small killifish, and have a higher protein and lower fat content than Daphnia Magna.   Moina are cultured using the same methods that are used for Daphnia and are available online from a variety of sources.

  • Mosquito Larvae:

Depending on where you live, mosquito larvae are available seasonally or year round.  They can be collected from ponds, almost any standing water, or even cultured by placing them in a container of green water, but care must be taken to not allow completion of a full life cycle.   Few shops sell live mosquito larvae so they must be collected from slow moving water.

  • Tubifex Worms:

Tubifex worms are an excellent food source but they can carry diseases to your fish.   The tropical fish shops that do sell live tubifex recommend rinsing them thoroughly under cold running water in a shallow container to remove the nasty castings and keeping them refrigerated if they are to be used immediately.

If they are not being used immediately, they should be held in trays of cold running water which removes their wastes.

Frozen and freeze dried tubifex worms are readily available in most tropical fish shops.

  • Vinegar Eels:

Vinegar eels (Turbatrix aceti) are actually free living nematodes that eat the microorganisms in unfiltered apple cider vinegar, hence their name.   Their wriggling movements trigger the natural eating reflex of many species which makes them a frequently used first food for fish fry and adult killifish.

Vinegar eels are extremely easy to culture.   Just mix half apple cider vinegar with half apple juice in a bottle along with your culture and keep the temperature between 65 to 75 degrees F.

In a few days, millions of little vinegar eels will be swarming in the jar ready to be fed to your fish.   Vinegar eel cultures are more stable than microworms and can last up to a year or more, however a back up culture is highly recommended, especially if you are breeding your killies.

  • White Worms:

White worms reach a maximum length of 1″, are high in fat content, and are an excellent food source for all tropical fish species.   They are reasonably easy to raise under the right conditions and are not plagued by parasites like tubifex and black worms.

White worms need a moist substrate kept in a dark location at a temperature below 70 degrees F in order to thrive.   A three or four inch layer of a moist 50/50 mixture of peat moss and potting soil makes an excellent medium for growing white worms.   The moisture level of the medium is the most critical factor.   Too much water will crash the culture and too little water will dry out the worms.

The video below provides an alternate method for culturing white worms.

Because White worms are high in fat content, most tropical fish keeping enthusiasts do not recommend feeding them more than a couple of times a week unless the fish are being conditioned for breeding.

There are other live foods for killifish that tropical fish keeping enthusiasts feed larger species such as “red wriggler” earthworms, Scuds or Side Swimmers (Amphipoda), etc. but the main thing to bear in mind is that a variety of the above foods is key to good health and successful breeding practices.

Posted in Featured Articles, Live FoodsComments (2)

Red Striped Killifish (Aphyosemion striatum)

Red Striped Killifish (Aphyosemion striatum)

The Red Striped Killifish (Aphyosemion striatum) is found locally between the lower Mitmele River, in Equatorial Guinea and the lower Ogooué basin in Gabon, including the Mbei, Komo,and Gabon watersheds in western Africa, and is regarded as a good “beginners Killie” by many tropical fish keeping enthusiasts.

The Red Striped Killifish inhabits the freshwater swamps and slow moving coastal lowland rain forest streams and pools in its range, and prefers soft, slightly acidic, dimly lit, water in highly vegetated areas.

Red Striped Killifish (Aphyosemion striatum)

Red Striped Killifish (Aphyosemion striatum)

The Red Striped Killifish is an an attractive non annual species that is relatively long lived.   They have a pike like body shape with an upturned mouth and a dorsal fin that is set back toward the caudal fin, and slightly to the rear of the ventral fin.

The Red Striped Killifish is named for the vibrant red stripes that run laterally along the body flanks of the males.   They also exhibit red spots on the central portion of the caudal fin, and red/blue banding or edging on the dorsal and anal fins.

Red Striped Killifish (Aphyosemion striatum) female

Red Striped Killifish (Aphyosemion striatum) female

Adult males are larger, more intensely colored, and have longer caudal, dorsal, and anal fins than females.

Females are typically a dull brownish/creme color, have clear colorless fins, and are slightly smaller than the males.   Some variants do have black edging on their dorsal fins.

Aphyosemion striatum are best housed in a densely planted bio tope tank of at least 10 gallon capacity, with a dark sand or fine gravel substrate, a small piece of driftwood or two, some floating plants to diffuse the lighting an minimize jumping, and some dried Indian Almond leaves or peat moss on the bottom if you intend to breed the fish.   They do well in lower water temperatures and at room temperatures do not require a heater.

Red Striped Killifish are a peaceful species and are suitable for a community tank environment.   They can be housed with other small peaceful species of Dwarf Cichlids, Rasboras, Coradoras, Tetras, small Loricariids, etc. but need a tightly fitting tank cover to prevent them from jumping from the aquarium.

Aphyosemion striatum are very easy to breed in an aquarium environment.   Although most breeders do not use any filtration in the breeding tank, a small air driven sponge filter is recommended to prevent stagnation.

Select, separate, and condition your breeding stock on a diet of live or frozen foods for a week or so, and place either a conditioned male and two or three females, or a single pair into a small, unlit breeding tank with neutral to slightly acidic water at a temperature of 68 to 78 degrees F.   Use spawning mops, clumps of fine leaved plants like Taxiphylum, or a layer of peat moss on the floor of the aquarium as the spawning medium.

The fish will deposit their eggs in batches of 10 to 30 on the spawning medium daily for about two weeks, but it’s better to remove the fish after the first week.   Remove the eggs daily to a rearing tank or place them on a layer of damp peat moss in a small container.   Remove any infertile or white fungus coated eggs immediately to prevent the spread of the disease.

If you are incubating the eggs in water, transfer them into a small, covered aquarium filled with about 2 inches of soft, acidic water with a pH between 6.0 and 6.5, the temperature between 68 and 72 degrees F with 2 or 3 drops of Methylene Blue added. Keep the tank in total darkness for 10 to 14 days, at which time hatching should commence.

When incubating the eggs in peat moss, keep the container in a dark, warm location and leave it undisturbed for about 18 days.   Placing the eggs back into the tank water is all that is needed to induce hatching.   If they do not hatch when placed back into the tank, blow some air gently into the water through some airline tubing to slightly oxygenate the eggs or put them into a closed container in your pocket and walk around with them for an hour or so.

Aphyosemion striatum fry are tiny and initially need to be fed infusoria, green water, or liquifry.   After a couple of days the fry will be on the surface hunting for food and able to eat Vinegar worms, microworms, newly hatched brine shrimp, etc.

During the grow out period, the fry should be fed twice a day with small water changes every couple of days to maintain water quality and promote growth.   The fry are extremely susceptible to Velvet Disease (Piscinoodinium parasites) during this period.

As the fry grow larger, the water level in the rearing tank can be raised back to its normal level.

In the wild, Red Striped Killifish feed on aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates.   In an aquarium environment they should be fed small live, frozen, and freeze dried Daphnia, bloodworms, blackworms, brine shrimp, and tubifex.   In most cases they will also accept a good quality omnivore flake food.

Red Striped Killifish (Aphyosemion striatum) are relatively common and are available from specialty tropical fish shops and online from a variety of sources at moderate prices.

Red Striped Killifish (Aphyosemion striatum)

Red Striped Killifish (Aphyosemion striatum)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minimum Tank Size: 10 gallons
Care Level: Moderate
Temperament: Peaceful, Shy
Aquarium Hardiness: Hardy
Water Conditions: 68-73° F, 5-12°dGH, pH 6.5-7.5
Max. Size: 2”
Color Form: Gold, Brown, Orange
Diet: Carnivore
Compatibility: Biotope and Commuinity tanks
Origin: West Africa
Family: Nothobranchiidae
Lifespan: 3-5 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Experienced

 

Posted in Featured Articles, Freshwater Fish, Killifish, Non-Annual, Tropical Fish Keeping, Tropical Fish SpeciesComments (0)

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