Tag Archive | "tropical fish keeping"

Flagtail Prochilodus (Semaprochilodus insignis)

Flagtail Prochilodus (Semaprochilodus insignis)

The Flagtail Prochilodus (Semaprochilodus insignis) known to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts and Brazilians as Jaraqui, is endemic to Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, and Peru.

Flagtail Prochilodus (Semaprochilodus insignis) are quite common and one of the most widely distributed shoaling species found in South America, where they are locally utilized as a food fish.

Twice each year, huge shoals of Flagtail Prochilodus migrate over several hundred miles, foraging on organic detritus that they sift from the sediment along their migratory route.

The start of the wet season sparks the first spawning migration from the nutrient poor black water streams and tributaries to the silt laden turbulent white waters of the larger river head waters where spawning takes place.

During this period, the fish can be seen leaping in the rapids like salmon.   After spawning, the fertilized eggs drift downriver into the nutrient rich floodplains that act as a nursery for the fry, where they feed and grow into juveniles.

Unlike salmon that die after spawning, adult Flagtail Prochilodus return to the exact same spot in the flooded forest tributary or stream where they came from, to feed for the next 3 or 4 months.

The second mass migration takes place during the middle of the wet season.    Adult Semaprochilodus insignis will again travel upstream into the whitewater rivers and tributaries where they remain in the area until the water levels drop.   When water levels begin to rise again, the fish will spawn in the mouths of the tributary that they are currently in, and the cycle continues.

Flagtail Prochilodus (Semaprochilodus insignis)

Flagtail Prochilodus (Semaprochilodus insignis)

Adult Flagtail Prochilodus have a silvery torpedo shaped body, a red and black striped patterned tail, and red to orange anal and pelvic fins.

Semaprochilodus insignis and Semaprochilodus taeniurus both have black spots on their flanks as juveniles and are often confused with each other at that stage.

However, as adults Semaprochilodus insignis lose the dark flank spots that adult Semaprochilodus taeniurus retain.   Adult females are identical to males but have rounder bellies.

Juvenile Flagtail Prochilodus can be housed in a 55 gallon aquarium, however at least a 100 gallon or larger tank is recommended for adults.

Juvenile Flagtail Prochilodus (Semaprochilodus insignis)

Juvenile Flagtail Prochilodus (Semaprochilodus insignis)

Because they are aggressive towards their own kind in smaller numbers, Flagtail Prochilodus are best kept in an Amazon riverine biotope setting in groups of at least 6 or more individuals with a sandy or fine gravel substrate, some medium to large river rocks, and several large pieces of driftwood or bogwood.

Any type of soft leaf live plant will be eaten and are not recommended, but they need a “grow light” or other adequate lighting to promote the growth of algae that they graze on, and a tightly fitting tank cover to prevent them from jumping from the aquarium.

Because they require good water quality, a large outside wet/dry biological filtration system is highly recommended to take care of the biological load, and a powerhead to provide some water movement in the tank.

Flagtail Prochilodus can also be housed as single specimens, or in a community environment with other larger species such as Loricariids, peaceful cichlids, larger characins, knifefish, etc.

Flagtail Prochilodus are egg scatterers that in the wild migrate long distances to spawn in turbulent white water environments.   To date, there have been no reports of them spawning in an aquarium environment, and because of the difficulty in replicating their spawning conditions, it is highly unlikely.

In the wild, Flagtail Prochilodus are primarily herbivores that forage on organic detritus as they migrate.   They have an additional stomach that is filled with mud to aid them in processing the large amounts of organic sediment they ingest.

In an aquarium environment, they will accept algae wafers, most quality dried foods, live, frozen, or freeze dried bloodworms, brine shrimp, Daphnia, and copious amounts of vegetable matter. They will eagerly accept blanched lettuce, cucumbers, spinach, etc.

Flagtail Prochilodus are not a commonly available in tropical fish keeping shops but can usually be special ordered or purchased online as juveniles.    They are usually quite pricey.

Flagtail Prochilodus (Semaprochilodus insignis)

Flagtail Prochilodus (Semaprochilodus insignis)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minimum Tank Size: 100 gallons
Care Level: Moderate
Temperament: Peaceful
Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately Hardy
Water Conditions: 73-84 °F°, 1 – 15°H, pH 5.5 – 7.2
Max. Size: 14″
Color Form: Silver, Black, Red
Diet: Omnivorous (primarily Herbivorous)
Compatibility: Aggressive to conspecifics
Origin: Brazilian Amazon
Family: Prochilodontidae
Life Span: 10 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate

 

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Sparkling Gourami (Trichopsis pumila)

Sparkling Gourami (Trichopsis pumila)

The Sparkling Gourami (Trichopsis pumila) also known to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts as the Pygmy Gourami or Dwarf Croaking Gourami is found throughout the lower Mekong River basin in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Saigon, southern Vietnam.

Sparkling Gourami are closely related to Bettas and Pseudosphromenus and have a distinct preference for sluggish, still to stagnant environments that are dense growths of aquatic vegetation. They are collected from all types of slow moving lowland habitats in their range from rice paddy fields, canals, swamp forests, peat swamps, small river tributaries, and even roadside ditches.

Sparkling Gourami are often found alongside Anabas testudineus, Betta siamorientalis, Lepidocephalichthys hasselti, Macrognathus siamensis, Monopterus albus, Pangio anguillaris, Trichopsis vittata, T. schalleri, and Trichopodus trichopterus.

Trichopsis pumila are a small peaceful species that is unique in it’s ability to produce sounds, hence it’s common name Dwarf Croaking Gourami.   The sounds are believed to be used in lieu of physical confrontations and during courtship when females produce a “purring” sound to initiate spawning.   Sparkling Gourami, like other Anabantoidei, are a labyrinth species that allows them to breathe atmospheric air during periods of low .

Sparkling Gourami (Trichopsis pumila)

Sparkling Gourami (Trichopsis pumila)

The Sparkling Gourami has a dorsal fin that is set well behind the base of their pectoral fins.  They have a long single pointed spiny pelvic fin ending with a filament, pectoral fins that end in a single spiny ray, and a semi rounded caudal fin.

Trichopsis pumila are a colorful iridescent blue to blue green bodied species that posses a single solid dark stripe along the lateral line of the body and a second stripe comprised of a series of dark blotches above which, depending on the mood of the fish, will darken or completely fade out.   The fins are tinged with red to a brick color and spotted.

Sexually mature male Sparkling Gourami have a more intensely colored pattern than their female counterparts and develop longer ventral, anal, dorsal, and

Sparkling Gourami (Trichopsis pumila)

Sparkling Gourami (Trichopsis pumila)

caudal fins.   Sexually mature females can be more easily identified by placing a strong light behind the fish.   The ovaries in females will be clearly visible below the swim bladder.

Sparkling Gourami are best housed in a densely planted aquarium of at least 10 gallon capacity with a sandy or fine gravel substrate covered by some Indian Almond Leaves or other type leaves, some driftwood or bogwood with Microsorum or Taxiphyllum spp. attached, and some smooth rocks fashioned into caves to provide shelter.

The addition of dried leaf litter encourages the growth of beneficial microbe colonies as they decompose and is a valuable source of food for the fry.   Sparkling Gourami like a well shaded tank, so floating plants like Water Hyacinth, Water Lettuce, duckweed, or Cryptocoryne spp. should also be provided along with a tightly fitting tank cover to keep them from jumping out.   The cover also allows them access to the humid air they need during spawning.

Trichopsis pumila can be housed in a community environment with small peaceful schooling species like rasboras, barbs, danios, small loaches, Otocinclus, Swordtails, Tetras, Endlers, etc. but they do better as pairs or in small groups in a biotope setting.   Do not keep them with small shrimp such as Caridina cantonensis, Neocaridina heteropoda, etc. as they will quickly become a meal. Sparkling Gourami are shrimp assassins that are particularly fond of eating Red Cherry Shrimp.

Sparkling Gourami are easy to breed when maintained alone or in a small group biotop setting.

It is important to provide a tightly fitting cover or some Saran Wrap type material over the tank to provide a layer of warm, humid air for the fry.   This is necessary for the development of their labyrinth organs.

Like Betta Splendins, Sparkling Gourami are bubble nest builders.   Males will build a nest under a plant leaf, under the roots of a floating plant or any other surface vegetation, and will keep the female away from it until the nest is completed.

Spawning usually occurs underneath the bubble nest with the typical embrace of the male wrapping himself around the female.   The milt and eggs are released in a cluster which is then taken to the nest by the male.   The procedure is repeated several times until the female is spent.

The male will tend to the nest and guard it from interlopers until the eggs hatch, usually in 24 to 48 hours, and the fry are free swimming.   The fry will stay in the bubble nest until their eggs sacs are absorbed, usually within 2 or 3 days.

Once the fry are free swimming, the male will lose interest and leave them to fend for themselves.   The parents will usually will not eat their offspring.

The fry require infusoria for the first few days until they can accept microworms, newly hatched brine shrimp, or a commercially prepared fry food.

Small daily water changes are recommended until the fry are able to eat larger foods.

In the wild, Sparkling Gourami are opportunistic feeders that eat insects, small worms and other invertebrates.

In an aquarium environment, they will accept good quality flake foods and plenty of live, frozen, or freeze dried bloodworms, brine shrimp, ghost shrimp, Daphnia, etc.

Although Sparkling Gourami (Trichopsis pumila) are not a common item in tropical fish keeping shops they can usually be ordered from them or online from a variety of sources at reasonable prices.

Sparkling Gourami (Trichopsis pumila)

Sparkling Gourami (Trichopsis pumila)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minimum Tank Size: 10 gallons
Care Level: Easy
Temperament: Semi-aggressive
Aquarium Hardiness: Hardy
Water Conditions: 72-83° F, H 18-215 ppm, pH 5.0 – 7.5
Max Size: 1.6″
Color Form: Brown, Blue, Red
Diet: Omnivore
Compatibility: Peaceful community tanks
Origin: Southeast Asia
Family: Osphronemidae
Lifespan: 5-8 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Easy

 

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Parrot Pacu (Ossubtus xinguensi)

Parrot Pacu (Ossubtus xinguensi)

The Parrot Pacu (Ossubtus xinguensi) also known to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts as the Eaglebeak Pacu is an endangered species found only in the faster moving rapids of the Xingu River basin in the Brazilian Amazon.

Parrot Pacus have been observed in the system from Volta Grande do Xingu in the lower Xingu and it’s intersection with the Iriri River.

The Parrot Pacu is primarily a herbivore that feeds on filamentous algae, plant material, insect larvae, and small invertebrates that they find among the rocks. They are usually found among the crevices in the algae covered rocks that they frequent.

Smaller size juveniles (about 1 1/2″ long) are often found sheltering underneath broad stones in the rapids in large schools of 30 or more individuals.

Parrot Pacu (Ossubtus xinguensi) head

Parrot Pacu (Ossubtus xinguensi) head

Parrot Pacu are brownish in color, ovoid in shape and have a blunt snout.    Juveniles less than 2 ” in length have a mouth that points forward but as the fish grows, the mouth turns downward giving the fish a parrot beak like appearance, hence it’s common name.

Female Parrot Pacu are reportedly much more dominant than males, especially during the breeding season when females will stake out a rocky cave and guard it from other females until spawning is accomplished.    Parrot Pacu are small by Pacu standards and in their natural habitat only reach a length of about 10″.

A single Parrot Pacu can be housed in a riverine biotope setup in an aquarium of at least 55 gallon capacity with a substrate of smooth, water worn river rock, a few larger boulders, and large pieces of driftwood.   They do better in groups of 6 to 8 specimens which requires a tank of at least 200 gallon capacity.

Because they need highly oxygenated, pristine water conditions, an outside canister filter, at least two powerheads, and regular 30 to 50% water changes are recommended to keep them healthy.

To date, there have been no instances of Parrot Pacu being bred in an aquarium environment.

In the aquarium environment Ossubtus xinguensi will feed on flakes, algae wafers, vegetable matter, live and frozen foods like Daphnia, bloodworms, mysis shrimp, brine shrimp, ghost shrimp, small snails, small worms, etc.    They will hunt down larger shrimp and decorative crawfish if housed in the same tank.

Because of the reduction of natural habitat by Dam construction and the difficulty of sampling the species from the large rapids they frequent, the Parrot Pacu (Ossubtus xinguensi) has been listed as endangered, however, recent large scale collecting efforts targeting the rapids throughout the Xingu River basin have provided an abundance of new material that has led many to believe that they are more widespread than reported.

That being said, it is unlikely that most tropical fish keeping enthusiasts will be able to obtain a specimen from their local fish shop, importers or online.

Parrot Pacu (Ossubtus xinguensi)

Parrot Pacu (Ossubtus xinguensi)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minimum Tank Size: 200 gallons
Care Level: Extensive
Temperament: Peaceful
Aquarium Hardiness: Hardy
Water Conditions: 77.0 to 82.0° F, 5-20 H, pH 6.0-8.0
Max. Size: 10″
Color Form: Gray, Brown
Diet: Omnivorous (primarily Herbivorous)
Compatibility: Aggressive to small fish and crustaceans
Origin: Xingu River basin
Family: Characidae (Serrasalmidae)
Life Span: 10 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Advanced

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Black Pacu (Colossoma macropomum)

Black Pacu (Colossoma macropomum)

The Black Pacu (Colossoma macropomum) also known to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts as the Tambaqui, Blackfinned Colossoma, Giant Pacu, Cachama, and Gamitana Blackfinned Pacu is native to the Amazon and Orinoco River basins in South America.

The Black Pacu is a close relative to the Red Bellied Pacu (Piaractus brachypomus) and is the largest characin in the family that in it’s native environment can grow to a length of 4 1/2 feet or more.

Because of their enormous size and tasty flesh the Black Pacu is an important local food source that has been introduced into New Guinea, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Brazil, Venezuela, Cuba, Jamaica, Honduras, Panama, and even accidently into the lakes and canals of the warmer areas of the southern United States.

Because the seeds from the fruit and nuts that they eat pass undamaged through their digestive systems and are spread into other areas of their range as they migrate, Black Pacu fill an important niche in the ecological systems of their native habitats.

Black Pacu are a peaceful, solitary, shoaling species that as juveniles live in the slower moving tannin stained black waters of the flood plains, feeding on small fish, insects, snails, zooplankton, and decaying plant matter.

As they become adults, Black Pacu become more solitary and during the initial months of the flood season will move into the flooded forests to feed on the newly accessible fruits, nuts, and seeds

Black Pacu (Colossoma macropomum)

Black Pacu (Colossoma macropomum)

that drop into the water column.

Except for their dentils, juvenile Black Pacu (Colossoma macropomum) are often confused with juvenile Piranha which look almost identical.

Unlike Piranha which have sharp serrated cutting teeth, the dental structure of the Black Pacu resembles those of human molars, but the easiest way to tell juveniles apart without opening their mouth is to look at the jaw of the fish.

The lower jaw of a Piranha juts out well past the upper lip, whereas the jaw of a Pacu does not.

Black Pacu (Colossoma macropomum)

Black Pacu (Colossoma macropomum)

Black Pacu have a laterally compressed, gray to black body, with spots along the midsection and black fins.

The body of an adult Pacu is very deep and has a slight arch on the back.

Males have a sharper extension on their dorsal fin, a toothed anal fin, and are more brightly colored than the females.   Females are more rounded than males when viewed from the top.

Black Pacu are very hardy, can tolerate a wide range of water conditions, and are disease resistant, which makes them relatively easy to care for however, they require plenty of free swimming space.

Because they expel copious amounts of waste, they need frequent 30 to 50% bi-weekly water changes and a very large external biological filtration system or large pond filter to keep them healthy.

Unless you are an advanced tropical fish keeping enthusiast with substantial means, they are best housed in commercial aquariums or heated ponds.  However, other than their need for space, they are relatively easy to care for.

A huge tank of 600 to 1,000 gallons or more is required to keep Black Pacu in a community setting.   Housing them with small fish should be avoided, but larger slow moving species like Arowana, large Pimelodid, Loricariids, or Doradids catfish, large cichlids, or other large characins can be considered as tankmates in a community environment.

Pea gravel, river rocks, and water worn boulders can be used as a substrate along with a few large pieces of driftwoodor bogwood for decor, however, live plants will be immediately eaten.

Black Pacu have not been known to breed in an aquarium environment.   They are commercially bred in food fisheries through the use of hormones.

Black Pacus are omnivores that in their natural habitat consume fruits, grains, insects, snails, worms, detritus, and plant matter.   In an aquarium environment, they will readily eat most anything that they can fit into their mouths.   A pellet or Spirulina diet augmented with fresh and frozen vegetables will keep them healthy and happy.   They will eat lettuce, spinach, apples, peaches, grapes, bananas, peas, carrots, cabbage, and just about any vegetable matter you can come across with gusto.

Black Pacu (Colossoma macropomum) are readily available in tropical fish keeping shops as juveniles, usually mixed in with Red Bellied Pacus, Silver Dollars, Piranha, etc.   They are also available online and from auction sites at reasonable prices.

Remember that juveniles grow into adults quickly, so be prepared to upsize your tanks accordingly.

 

Black Pacu (Colossoma macropomum)

Black Pacu (Colossoma macropomum)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minimum Tank Size: 600+ gallons
Care Level: Moderate
Temperament: Peaceful
Aquarium Hardiness: Very Hardy
Water Conditions: 74.0 to 82.0° F, 2 – 15 dGH, pH 5.0-7.8
Max. Size: 42.5″
Color Form: Gray, Black
Diet: Omnivorous (primarily Herbivorous)
Compatibility: Aggressive to small fish
Origin: Amazon and Orinoco River basisns
Family: Characidae (Serrasalmidae)
Life Span: 25 years or more
Aquarist Experience Level: Advanced

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Red Bellied Pacu (Piaractus brachypomus)

Red Bellied Pacu (Piaractus brachypomus)

The Red Bellied Pacu (Piaractus brachypomus) locally known as the Pirapitinga, is probably one of the most commonly kept species available to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts.   It is primarily found in the main river channels of the Rio Orinoco and Amazon river basins in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, and Venezuela. The species is locally prized as a food fish and has been introduced into many areas where it is farmed. In southern Florida, they are considered an invasive species and are commonly found in many of the canals, lakes, and rivers of Broward and Dade Counties.

Red Bellied Pacu are a peaceful, shoaling species that prefer shallow, slower moving waters with overhanging vegetation which they target to feed.  During the rainy flood season which occurs between November and February, huge schools of Red Bellied Pacu move into the flooded forests to spawn and rear their young which remain in the flooded plains for the first few months of their lives.

In it’s native habitat, Red Bellied Pacu feed primarily on nuts, fruits, and seeds which drop into the water column, however, they are opportunistic feeders that will eagerly munch on caterpillars, insects, small fish, zooplankton, and crustaceans when fruit and nuts are scarce.

Red Bellied Pacu fill an important niche in the ecological system of their native habitat.  The seeds from the fruit and nuts that they eat pass through their digestive systems undamaged and are spread into other areas of their range as they travel.

Pacu Teeth

Pacu Teeth

Except for their teeth, juvenile Red Bellied Pacu (Piaractus brachypomus) closely resemble the Red Bellied Piranha (Pygocentrus nattereri).

Both posses a distinctive red belly and chest, but the Pacu has a set of crushing chompers that look remarkably like human molars (Left).

Piranha teeth

Piranha teeth

Although they are not aggressive, they have extremely powerful jaws and a crushing bite than cause an absent minded tropical fish keeping enthusiast a lot of pain if they are not careful feeding them or maintaining their tank.

Mature females are identical to males except for their more rounded bellies.

Juvenile Red Bellied Pacu are a shoaling species that lose their red bellies as they mature.   Adults tend to become more solitary and can grow to almost 3 feet in length.   At this stage they are often misidentified with their cousins the Tambaqui (Colossoma macropomum).

Because of their large size as adults, Red Bellied Pacu require a huge tank of at least 600 gallon capacity if they are being housed in a community setting.  Keeping them with small fish should be avoided, but large sedentary species like Arowana, large Pimelodid, Loricariids, or Doradids catfish, large cichlids, or other large characins can safely be housed in the same community setting.

Any substrate can be used but planting their tank is a futile effort as the plants will be eaten.   Choose some river rocks, water smoothed boulders, and a few large pieces of driftwood or bogwood to decorate the tank, but the most important factor in keeping Red Bellied Pacu is to provide plenty of free swimming space.

Because of their large size, Piaractus brachypomus excrete copious amounts of waste which requires frequent water changes and an efficient filtration system.   A large, external, wet/dry biological filtration system or a large pond filter is highly recommended.

Red Bellied Pacu (Piaractus brachypomus) have not been bred in an aquarium environment, however, because they are able to survive in oxygen depleted water and can withstand a wide range of

Red Bellied Pacu (Piaractus brachypomus)

Red Bellied Pacu (Piaractus brachypomus)

water chemistry, they are aquacultured in South America, the far East, and other areas as a food source.   They have been introduced into many lakes and ponds in Thailand and Malaysia as a sport fish.

Wild Piaractus brachypomus are primarily herbivorous that feed on fruit, seeds, and nuts. In an aquarium environment, they will readily accept floating omnivore pellets or sticks along with a variety of fruits and vegetables.

They love lettuce, spinach, apples, peaches, grapes, bananas, peas, carrots, cabbage, and just about any vegetable matter you can come across.

Except for some of the warmer southern States where they are illegal to keep, Red Bellied Pacu can be purchased as juveniles from specialty tropical fish keeping shops or online at very reasonable prices.

Juvenile Red Bellied Pacu (Piaractus brachypomus)

Minimum Tank Size: 600 gallons
Care Level: Moderate
Temperament: Peaceful
Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately Hardy
Water Conditions: 73-82 °F°, <15dgH, pH 5.0-7.5
Max. Size: 36″
Color Form: Silver, Red
Diet: Omnivorous (primarily Herbivorous)
Compatibility: Aggressive to small fish
Origin: Brazil, Columbia, Venezuela, Boliva, Peru
Family: Characidae (Serrasalmidae)
Life Span: 20 years or more
Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate

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Black Band Myleus (Myloplus schomburgkii)

Black Band Myleus (Myloplus schomburgkii)

The Black Band Myleus (Myloplus schomburgkii) known to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts as the Black Ear Pacu, Black Barred Myleus, Disk Tetra, or Disk Pacu is found in the Nanay River and several other areas of the Amazon River basin, as well as the Orinoco River basin in Brazil, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela.

Black Band Myleus (Myloplus schomburgkii)

Black Band Myleus (Myloplus schomburgkii)

Black Band Myleus are closely related to the Redhook (myloplus rubripinnis) in care and body shape, but they do do not grow as large and are easily distinguished from the Redhook by the single, black, vertical bar on the side of the fish.

Black Band Myleus are a peaceful schooling species that in an aquarium environment are best kept in groups of at least five or more fish.    Although they are generally considered a peaceful community fish that can be kept with other larger peaceful species, housing them with much smaller fish is not recommended.

Because Black Band Myleus inhabit the top and middle areas of the aquarium, they do well with peaceful bottom dwelling catfish, plecostomus, and other doradids.

Black Band Myleus are best kept in an aquarium of at least 55 gallon capacity with a sandy or fine dark gravel substrate, some driftwood or bogwood, a mat of floating plants to diffuse overhead lighting, and some hardier plants like Java Fern, Hornwort, etc. which will need to be replaced on a regular basis, to minimize grazing.

Black Band Myleus need regular water changes to ensure good water quality.   A canister filter is recommended as a good choice for this species to provide the water flow and quality necessary for their well being.

Because Myloplus schomburgkii are skittish and prone to jumping out of their tank when startled, a tightly fitting cover or a thick mat of floating plants like Water Hyacinth is recommended to minimize this activity.

Many tropical fish keeping enthusiasts elect to aquascape their tanks with plastic, fabric, or silk plants in lieu of having to constantly replace the live plants in their aquarium.

Myloplus schomburgkii are primarily herbivores that in their natural environment feed on fruits and vegetable matter that enter the water column, crustaceans, snails, clams, and small fish.   Although they are a peaceful schooling species, like Pacu and Pirranah, they have strong jaws which can inflict serious bites.

In an aquarium environment, Black Band Myleus need a large amount of vegetable matter in their diet.

They do well on a diet of algae wafers, spirulina flakes, omnivore flakes, and live or frozen bloodworms, earthworms, ghost shrimp, and brine shrimp, but their diet should also include regular offerings of cucumbers, peas, lettuce, and other fresh greens.

To date, there have been no reports of Black Band Myleus being bred in an aquarium environment.

Black Band Myleus are available online and from specialty tropical fish keeping shops and as juveniles are often sold as Red Hooks.

Black Band Myleus (Myloplus schomburgkii)

Black Band Myleus (Myloplus schomburgkii)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minimum Tank Size: 55 gallons
Care Level: Moderate
Temperament: Peaceful
Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately Hardy
Water Conditions: 73-81 °F°, <10dgH, pH 6.0-7.0
Max. Size: 4.5″
Color Form: Silver, Black, Red
Diet: Omnivorous (primarily Herbivorous)
Compatibility: Aggressive to small fish
Origin: Northeastern South America
Family: Characidae (Serrasalmidae)
Life Span: 5-10 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate

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Axelrodi Rainbow (Melanotaenia herbertaxelrodi)

Axelrodi Rainbow (Melanotaenia herbertaxelrodi)

The Axelrodi Rainbow (Melanotaenia herbertaxelrodi) known to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts as the Lake Tebera Rainbowfish is endemic to the Tebera Lake basin in Papua New Guinea.

The Axelrodi Rainbow is found only in Lake Tebera and it’s bordering streams and marshes which are surrounded by rainforest covered mountain slopes.   They are a peaceful schooling species that inhabit the clear, densely vegetated areas of their range and feed on small insects, worms, small crustaceans, and plant matter.

Axelrodi Rainbow (Melanotaenia herbertaxelrodi)

Axelrodi Rainbow (Melanotaenia herbertaxelrodi)

Male Axelrodi Rainbows are bright yellow, occasionally with a greenish tinge, and have a black to bluish black lateral line that begins just before the eye and runs to the base of the caudal fin.   Their dorsal, anal, and caudal fins can be either a red or yellow color.

Spawning males develop an intense blue or white stripe that begins at the first dorsal fin and extends over the nape to the tip of the snout.

During spawning the entire head of the male turns almost completely black and the rest of the body turns a bright yellow with red fins.

Males are always more brightly colored and larger than females and develop deeper bodies with longer dorsal and anal fins as they mature.

Axelrodi Rainbows are a peaceful species that can be kept with other similarly sized rainbowfish, danios, barbs, characins, and peaceful Corydora like catfish in a community aquarium.

Melanotaenia herbertaxelrodi is often kept with Rift Lake cichlids in community aquariums, but because it is a shoaling species, a minimum of at least 6 to 8 individuals should be housed together to bring out their best colors.

Axelrodi Rainbows are best housed in at least a 55 gallon aquarium with a sandy or fine gravel substrate that is densely planted with rather fine leaved plants.  Plenty of open swimming space should be provided for the fish.   Some rocks and driftwood can also be added to the decor, but because Axelrodi Rainbows are quite skittish and subject to jumping out of the aquarium, a few floating plants can be added to the tank to minimize this behavior.   High water quality is necessary to keep these fish healthy, but a strong current is not needed and will undoubtedly benefit the growth of the plants in the aquarium.

Axelrodi Rainbows are an easy species to breed.   They are egg scatterers and will eagerly deposit their eggs amongst the vegetation and substrate, especially on Java Moss.

Condition a group with live and frozen foods until the females are noticeably plumper and the males constantly display their colors with each other.   Remove the fattest female and the best colored male and place them in at least a 30 gallon breeding tank loaded with Java Moss, spawning mops, or other fine leaved plants and slightly hard, alkaline water (pH 7.5) at a temperature of 72-75°F.   This species does not do well in soft, acidic, water conditions.   No substrate is necessary in the tank, and only a small air powered sponge filter is needed to provide water movement and oxygen for the breeding pair.

Spawning can be induced by slightly raising the water temperature in the tank, at which time the pair will lay several batches of eggs daily, for a period of several weeks.   The eggs are attached to the moss by a small thread and although the parents will normally not eat the eggs, it’s much easier raising the fry if you remove the eggs daily and introduce them into a rearing tank.

Depending on water temperature, the eggs will hatch out in 7 to 13 days at which time the fry will need Infusoria until they are able to accept newly hatched brine shrimp, microworms, commercially prepared fry food, etc.   The fry stay close to the surface so keep away from sinking foods.

Axelrodi Rainbows are omnivorous and will eagerly accept live, frozen, and freeze dried foods. Regular twice daily feedings of a quality flake food will ensure that the fish stay healthy and display their best colors.

Axelrodi Rainbows are sometimes available from specialty tropical fish keeping shops and online from importers, retailers, and tropical fish forum members.  They are usually available for purchase  when they reach 2″ to 3″ in size.

 

Axelrodi Rainbow (Melanotaenia herbertaxelrodi)

Axelrodi Rainbow (Melanotaenia herbertaxelrodi)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minimum Tank Size: 55 gallons
Care Level: Easy
Temperament: Peaceful
Aquarium Hardiness: Very Hardy
Water Conditions: 68-79°F, 10 – 15 dGH, pH 7.5-8.0
Max. Size 4″
Color Form: Blue
Diet: Omnivore
Compatibility: Peacerful Community tanks
Origin: Papua New Guinea
Family: Melanotaeniidae
Lifespan: 6-8 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner

 

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

Crystal Red Shrimp (Caridina cf. cantonensis)

Bee Shrimp (Caridina cf. cantonensis)

The Bee Shrimp (Caridina cf. cantonensis) is a species of small freshwater filter feeders that is native to mainland China, Hong Kong and the New Territories, Malaya and Japan that has become the latest craze for tropical fish keeping enthusiasts.

In the wild, Bee Shrimp live in the moderate to faster flowing mountain streams and rivulets of their range in clean, soft,slightly acidic (pH 6.5), well oxygenated water, where they feed on small pieces of decayed vegetation and algae.

Tiger Bee Shrimp (Caridina cf. cantonensis)

Tiger Bee Shrimp (Caridina cf. cantonensis)

Wild Bee Shrimp (Caridina cf. cantonensis) have a clear body with a broad rough pattern of brown to black splotches and white stripes.

A second wild variety known as the Tiger Shrimp also exists that has a transparent body with thin dark bands.

All of the other existing bee shrimp color strains and patterns that we have available today were selectively bred from these two Asian populations.

Around mid 1990, a Japanese Bee Shrimp breeder named Hisayasu Suzuki discovered that a few specimens in his wild population were slightly reddish in color. By selectively breeding these specimens over the course of several years, he developed the first Red Crystal Shrimp.

When these dwarf shrimp became available to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts, breeders continued to selectively refine the initial strain to improve the delineation of patterns, the clarity of the color, and the overall coverage of the white stripes on the shrimp.   Since then, importers and breeders from all over the world have been introducing new stocks, species, and color morphs for hobbyists to the point that new strains seem to be appearing almost every month.   Shrimp breeders have given colourful names to the many variants of the bee shrimp such as the Princess Bee, Blue Bolt, Tangerine Tiger, Snow White, Black Bee, Golden Tiger, Blue Tiger,  Black Safari Tiger, Shadow Panda, etc. some of which are pictured below:

Black Bee Shrimp (Caridina cf. cantonensis)

Black Bee Shrimp (Caridina cf. cantonensis)

Tiger Bee Shrimp (Caridina cf. cantonensis)

Tiger Bee Shrimp (Caridina cf. cantonensis)

Bee Shrimp (Caridina cf. cantonensis)

Bee Shrimp (Caridina cf. cantonensis)

Snow White Bee Shrimp (Caridina cf. cantonensis)

Snow White Bee Shrimp (Caridina cf. cantonensis)

Blue Tiger Shrimp (Caridina cf. cantonensis)

Blue Tiger Shrimp (Caridina cf. cantonensis)

Bee Shrimp (Caridina cf. cantonensis)

Red Bee Shrimp (Caridina cf. cantonensis)

Golden Tiger Bee Shrimp (Caridina cf. cantonensis)

Golden Tiger Bee Shrimp (Caridina cf. cantonensis)

Red and Brown Bee Shrimp (Caridina cf. cantonensis)

Red and Brown Bee Shrimp (Caridina cf. cantonensis)

With over a dozen variants available today to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts, Caridina cf. cantonensis is definitely one of the most diversified of the many available species of dwarf Bee Shrimp.

Unlike their more adaptable cousins the Red Cherry Shrimp (Neocaridina heteropoda), Caridina cf. cantonensis are intolerant of swings in pH, extremely susceptible to toxins in the water, and in general will only thrive in a much narrower range of water quality conditions.

Although the Bee Shrimp is more challenging to care for than Neocaridina heteropoda, the dozens of stunning variations make them highest on the list for tropical fish keeping enthusiasts interested in keeping peaceful nano tanks and selective breeding projects.

Bee Shrimp (Caridina cf. cantonensis) are best kept in a mature planted aquarium of 10 gallons or less, with a sandy or fine gravel (pH neutral) substrate, a bubble up sponge or small hang on filter with a sponge prefilter, some Java Moss or Najas, and a small piece of aged bogwood.   All dwarf shrimp species require good filtration with either 10% weekly water changes, or 25% bi-weekly water changes.

Most Bee Shrimp and Crystal Shrimp require soft, low pH water, however, Caridina shrimp collected from Sulawesi need a higher pH, higher alkalinity, and higher water temperatures.   Reverse osmosis or deionized water with additives is often used to keep Caridina cantonensis and other soft water species.

NEVER introduce any species of dwarf shrimp into a newly set up aquarium.   Aged systems are more stable and have natural food sources like algae for the dwarf shrimp to feed on.

Although most tropical fish keeping enthusiasts set up small nano shrimp only tanks, small, non aggressive species like the emerald dwarf rasbora, Boraras rasbora, celestial danio, ember tetra, Endlers livebearer, sparkling gourami, blue eyed rainbowfish, otocinclus, or pygmy corydora catfish can be safely housed with Bee Shrimp. Nerite and several other small snail species can also be safely housed with them.

To prevent cross breeding, avoid combining different species of the same genus of dwarf shrimp in the same tank.   You can usually keep Caridinia with Neocaridinia together, but don’t keep two species of Caridina together unless you are trying to create a new strain.

As long as you can keep your Bee Shrimp alive, breeding them is simply a matter of obtaining both sexes.    Female Bee Shrimp are larger than males, more robust, and possess a more convex underbelly.   Female non opaque varieties are easily sexed by the presence of saddle shaped ovaries directly behind the head of the shrimp.

If both sexes of Bee Shrimp are present and the female is fertile and has just molted, she will produce pheromones that causes the males to swim frenziedly around the tank searching for her.   After mating and the eggs are fertilized, the female sticks them onto her swimmerets on the underside of her tail where she will carry them for the next month or so.   Females during this period are called “berried females” and will continuously fan her swimmerets to create a flow of oxygenated water over her eggs until they hatch out.

Once hatched out, the newly hatched Bee Shrimp are left to fend for themselves.   As long as no predatory fish are in the aquarium, the fry will do just fine as the parents will not destroy their offspring.   And, as long as the water quality in the tank remains clean and stable, the existing food in the aquarium is normally sufficient to achieve a high survival rate.

Dwarf freshwater Bee Shrimp shrimp are primarily algae eaters, but they are great cleaners and will eagerly accept a variety of prepared foods such as Spirulina Flakes, algae rounds, shrimp pellets, bottom feeder flakes or tablets, tropical color enhancing flakes, etc. Feed them only what they can consume in 3 or 4 minutes a couple times a day. Many breeders let them fast one day out of the week so they can clear out their digestive systems and clean up their tank.

Dwarf Bee Shrimp (Caridina cf. cantonensis) are active and almost continuously engaged in harvesting algae, cleaning up around their surroundings, or engaging in breeding activities.

The Crystal Red variety of Bee Shrimp is the most common and are far more readily available from tropical fish keeping stores on the Pacific Coast than on the Atlantic, however, the more exotic varieties are much more readily available from online Internet retailers, invert breeders, aquarium clubs, and auction sites, than from any brick and mortar shop.

Prices will vary from just a few dollars for the lower grades of more common varieties, to hundreds of dollars for the rarer high grade variants.

 

Blue Tiger Shrimp (Caridina cf. cantonensis)

Blue Tiger Shrimp (Caridina cf. cantonensis)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minimum Tank Size: 5 gallons
Care Level: Difficult
Temperament: Peaceful
Water Conditions: 68-74° F, KH 3-10, gH 4-6, pH 6.2-6.5
Max. Size: 1 3/4″
Color Form: Opaque, Red, Yellow, Blue, Black, White
Diet: Omnivore
Compatibility: Excellent cleaners
Origin: China, Hong Kong, Malaya, Japan
Family: Atyidae
Lifespan: 18 months
Aquarist Experience Level: Advanced

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

Banjo Catfish (Bunocephalus coracoideus)

Banjo Catfish (Bunocephalus coracoideus)

The Banjo Catfish (Bunocephalus coracoideus) known to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts as Guitarrita or Bicolor Banjo Catfish is a peaceful species found in the leaf littered creeks and ponds of the Amazon River basin in Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, and Uruguay.

Banjo Catfish (Bunocephalus coracoideus) are nocturnal predators that feed on small worms, crustaceans, debris found among the leafy bottom and occasionally smaller fish.   The sandy bottom forest streams, lakes, and ponds that they inhabit are normally littered with fallen leaves, branches, and other debris that they hide among.

Bunocephalus coracoideus is the most common and the largest of the “banjo catfish” species known to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts in dealers tanks however, there are several other undescribed species that occasionally make their way into the aquarium trade.

The Banjo Catfish when viewed from above, is a medium sized catfish with a broad flat head, a long skinny body that resembles the shape of a guitar, and a lumpy looking head; hence it’s native name “Guitarrita“.

Banjo Catfish (Bunocephalus coracoideus)

Banjo Catfish (Bunocephalus coracoideus)

The fish is a mottled dark brown to almost black color, which enables it to blend in well with its leafy surroundings on the bottom where they uncannily resemble a dead leaf.

They are not an active species during daylight hours where they often completely bury themselves in the substrate, and even at night they are slow movers.   They propel themselves along the bottom in slow jerky movements by taking in water through their mouth and quickly expelling it through their gills. Females are stockier than males, but both sexes have the same camouflage coloration.

The Banjo Catfish is a slow moving, peaceful, secretive species that is compatible with most other peaceful fish of similar size. They usually don’t even try to escape from a net and when released into the tank, they will simply drift down to the bottom.

They make good community tank candidates but should not be kept with smaller fish like neons, small shrimp, or fish fry.   In a community tank, they will usually remain hidden during daylight hours and will only appear at night to feed.

Banjo Catfish are best kept in a biotope setup in at least a 20 gallon tank with a soft, sandy substrate covered with rocks, pieces of driftwood, a few large hardy plants, and a layer of dried oak or Indian Almond Leaves on the bottom for them to hide among.   Because of their burrowing activity, they have a tendency to uproot plants. Because they prefer dimly lit conditions, a mat of floating plants should be considered to diffuse bright overhead lighting and although they are tolerant of a variety of water conditions, a good filtration system is necessary to keep them healthy and happy.

Although Banjo Catfish have been reportedly bred in an aquarium environment, it has rarely been successful. To have the best chance of success, purchase 6 to 8 mature specimens and feed them live foods until females are detected.

Like many catfish, Bunocephalus coracoideus spawn at night and lay their eggs directly onto the substrate. Females guitarrito will lay up to 4,000 eggs into the sandy substrate which will hatch out in around 3 days however, the adults will normally eat their spawn.  It’s a good idea to transfer the eggs immediately into a brooding tank with a sponge bubble filter containing the same tank water that the spawn came from until the fry hatch out.

Once the egg sacs are absorbed, the fry can be fed newly hatched brine shrimp or microworms

Banjo Catfish are easy to feed and will eagerly accept live or frozen bloodworms, tubifex, small or chopped earthworms, sinking shrimp pellets, sinking tablets, and commercially prepared flake foods. Feed them when the lights in the aquarium are turned off in the evening and remove any uneaten food the next morning.

Banjo Catfish are not common but are available from specialty tropical fish keeping shops and online from a variety of dealers, importers, and online catfish forums.

Banjo Catfish (Bunocephalus coracoideus)

Banjo Catfish (Bunocephalus coracoideus)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallons
Care Level: Easy
Temperament: Peaceful
Aquarium Hardiness: Hardy
Water Conditions: 68-80° F, 2-20 °d, pH 5.8-7.8
Max. Size: 6″
Color Form: Brown, Black
Diet: Omnivore
Compatibility: Community tanks
Origin: South America
Family: Aspredinidae
Life Span: 5 – 12 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner

Family: Aspredinidae

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

Red Cherry shrimp (Neocaridina heteropoda)

Red Cherry shrimp (Neocaridina heteropoda)

The Red Cherry shrimp (Neocaridina heteropoda) also known to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts as the Cherry Shrimp, Fire Shrimp, or Sakura Shrimp is a decorative species of dwarf shrimp that hails from Taiwan.

Red Cherry shrimp are probably the most popular of the dwarf shrimps that are now available to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts.   They are colorful, undemanding, very easy to breed, and do not take up a lot of space to adequately house.

The scientific name for Red Cherry Shrimp (Neocaridina heteropoda) is actually Neocaridina davidi ‘Red’ or Neocaridina denticulata sinensis, depending on where you purchase them.

The Red Cherry shrimp is a result of selective breeding from wild shrimp stock that were originally a brownish color.

Taiwanese breeders have been constantly producing these shrimp in even more intense red colors which has led to the necessity of grading the quality of the shrimp.   The highest grades have much more intense and opaque red colors.   The various grades are listed below from the lowest to the highest:

  • Cherry Grade or Low Grade Red Cherry
    Cherry grade is the lowest grade. Specimens are mostly translucent with some spots of light or pinkish red on the body. They are easy to find and are quite cheap compared to some of the higher grades.
  • Sakura Grade
    Sakura grade Red Cherry shrimp have much more red than Cherry grade shrimp. The red is a bit darker but still blotchy, expecially towards the bottom, and the legs are almost completely translucent.
  • High Sakura Grade/Grade AA Red Cherry Shrimp
    High Sakura grade AA Red Cherry shrimp are more opaque than low Sakura grade specimens. Their colors are much more intence and their legs show some blotchy coloration that the Sakura Grade lacks.
  • Fire Red Grade
    Fire Red Grade shrimp are intensely colored and almost completely opaque with evenly colored legs, with no blotchiness. The eggs and saddle in the females are more difficult to spot because of the intense coloration.
  • Painted Fire Red Grade
    Painted Fire Red Grade Red Cherry shrimp are so intensely colored that the color looks like it is painted onto the shrimp. The eggs and saddle in the females are invisible unless you have a strong back light. The red color is much darker than all of the lower grades with no translucent spots being visible.
    Painted fire red grade shrimp are beautifully colored and are usually quite expensive.
  • Bloody Mary Red Cherry Shrimp
    Bloody Mary Red Cherry shrimp are a relatively new addition to the grading charts.   The Bloody Mary line is a variation bred from a Chocolate Shrimp line.    Their color is similar to the Painted fire red grade shrimp, but even more intense.   Even the males are intensely colored and opaque, which is not the case with the lower shrimp grades.   This grade also has a shorter rostrum than other Red Cherry shrimp.
    Bloody Mary Red Cherry Shrimp are extremely expensive but many tropical fish keeping enthusiasts believe that their extremely vivid colors makes their purchase price more than worth it.
Red Cherry shrimp (Neocaridina heteropoda)

Red Cherry shrimp (Neocaridina heteropoda)

Like all species of dwarf shrimp, you do not need a large aquarium to keep them. A substantial colony can easily be raised in a 5 gallon, or even smaller tank.

Red Cherry shrimp do best in a tank with either a fully cycled, bubble up sponge filtration system or a small outside filter with a sponge prefilter.   A sandy or fine gravel substrate densely planted with some fine leaved plants and a small piece of driftwood for them to hide among is all the aquascaping that is needed.

If the tank is set up in a heated room, no heater is necessary but they do need a stable environment in their tank.

Although Red Cherry Shrimp are not very demanding when it comes to water quality, they are sensitive to nitrite and ammonia spikes.   A fully cycled, aged aquarium is a must for newly introduced specimens.   Regular water changes should be provided to keep the nitrates in check.

Red Cherry Shrimp are extremely peaceful and will never harm or bother their tank mates however, they are easy prey for larger fish species.   For this reason, most tropical fish keeping enthusiasts keep them in a single species biotope setting with other dwarf shrimp, small snails, or small fish species like green neons.

Red Cherry Shrimp are very easy to breed, in fact as long as the water parameters are kept stable, the shrimp will reproduce continuously.

In their natural habitat Red Cherry Shrimp will eat just about anything they can find.   Their diet is comprised of aufwuchs, algae, and other organic micro organisms.

In an aquarium environment, they can be fed a high quality shrimp pellet, frozen foods, and just about any kind of sinking food.   They will also appreciate a treat of blanched vegetables to round out their diet.

Red Cherry shrimp (Neocaridina heteropoda) are available online and from many specialty fish keeping shops in a variety of grades.   Their prices which can be quite expensive vary greatly according to grade, so keep in mind the following:

  • The more red, the better – Red Cherry shrimp with a greater amount of red and higher color intensity will fall into a higher category.
  • Opacity is an important factor – Higher grades of Red Cherry Shrimp will have more opaque bodies than those with translucent splotches.
  • Males differ significantly from females – Male Red Cherry shrimp are less brightly colored than females and also much smaller.   A female might fall into the highest grade, but her male counterpart could be a much lower grade.
Red Cherry shrimp (Neocaridina heteropoda)

Red Cherry shrimp (Neocaridina heteropoda)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minimum Tank Size: 5 gallons
Care Level: Easy
Temperament: Peaceful
Water Conditions: 68-85° F, KH 3-15, gH 4-8, TDS (Total Dissolved Solids)150-250, pH 6.2-8.0
Max. Size: 2″
Color Form: Opaque Red
Diet: Omnivore
Compatibility: Excellent cleaners
Origin: Taiwan
Family: Atyidae
Lifespan: 2 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner

Posted in Featured Articles, Freshwater Invertebrates & Amphibians, Shrimp, Tropical Fish KeepingComments (2)

Royal Knifefish (chitala blanci)

Royal Knifefish (chitala blanci)

The Royal Knifefish or Royal Featherback (chitala blanci) also known to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts as the Royal Clown Knifefish, Indochina Featherback, and Mekong Featherback is endemic to the Mekong river drainage in Cambodia, Thailand, Viet Nam, and Lao People’s Democratic Republic as well as the Mekong delta region and Tonlé Sap lake system.

Royal Knifefish are found in fast moving waters among the rocky rapids and submerged woody areas of the Mekong river and it’s larger tributaries throughout it’s range. Unlike many of their cousins, they show a definite preference for rocky habitats in the deeper pools and rapids of moderate to fast flowing water, but during the high water spawning season, they move into the flooded forests to spawn.

Locals have reported spawning behavior over rocky substrates, with the parents providing parental care to the young.

Royal Knifefish closely resemble their more common cousins, the Clown Knifefish. They are identical in shape and have the same small dorsal fin, a “humped” appearance, very small scales, an elongated anal fin which continues into the caudal fin, and they have the ability to breathe atmospheric air.

Royal Knifefish (chitala blanci)

Royal Knifefish (chitala blanci)

The belly of the Royal Featherback is paler in color, and their flanks are a deep gray with distinctive darker speckled markings. A series of many small, dark spots on the anterior portion of their body merges to form a series of oblique, irregular stripes that extends onto the anal and posterior caudal fins.

Despite the fact that the Royal Featherback (chitala blanci) is currently listed as “near threatened” because of dam construction and other habitat alterations; in their natuiral habitat they can grow to almost 4 feet in length and are often seen in southern Lao PDR to Kratie, Cambodia markets where they are locally consumed as a food fish.

In Thailand’s markets, juvenile and sub adult Royal Knifefish that are mostly collected from Laotian waters are a popular aquarium species.

Because of their large size, Royal Knifefish need an extremely large aquarium of at least 300 gallon capacity which is why they are usually kept in public institutions.

Tropical fish keeping enthusiasts occasionally acquire Royal Knifefish and house them in a small tank but they will quickly outgrow their surroundings. Although they are a predatory species, they are generally peaceful towards nearly all of their tankmates too big to be eaten, however, they have surprisingly large mouths and can easily eat fish up to 1/3rd of their size.

If you have the means to keep one of these fish, they should be provided with a sandy or fine gravel substrate, plenty of rocks of various sizes (some fashioned into caves) or pieces of plastic tubing, and driftwood for them to use as a refuge, and a large mature filtration system that provides plenty of water movement.

They require pristine, highly oxygenated water with a good deal of movement, so a canister filter and a few power heads should be considered mandatory along with a rigorous maintenance regime comprised of weekly 50-70% tank volume water changes.

Royal Knifefish also require dim lighting and because they are prone to jumping, a tightly fitting tank cover. A mat of floating plants like Water Hyacinth is recommended to minimize their jumping activity.

Although there are no reports of Royal Knifefish (chitala blanci) being bred in captivity, in their natural habitat during the wet season, males construct a nest in flooded forest areas from driftwood branches and leaves, and after spawning will remain there to guard the eggs and the fry.

Royal Featherbacks are predatory nocturnal carnivores that in their natural habitat feed on smaller fishes, crustaceans, and other invertebrates. In an aquarium environment, they adapt well to live, fresh dead, and frozen alternatives.

Juvenile fish can be offered live, frozen, and sometimes freeze dried bloodworms, earthworms, ghost shrimp, chopped prawn, etc.

Adults should be provided strips of fresh fish flesh, live river shrimp, whole prawns, whole shrimp, mussels, larger earthworms, etc.

They will accept shrimp pellets and other carnivore prepared foods but it should not be their staple diet and they should never be fed “feeder goldfish” or any type of pork, beef, or chicken flesh. The lipids in meat from mammals and birds cause excess fat deposits and organ degeneration and consumption of “feeder fish” can infect them with parasites.

Royal Knifefish or Royal Featherbacks (chitala blanci) are occasionally available online from auction sites and from specialty importers at exorbitant prices as juveniles and adults.

Royal Knifefish (chitala blanci)

Royal Knifefish (chitala blanci)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minimum Tank Size: 350 gallons
Care Level: Difficult
Temperament: Semi Aggressive
Aquarium Hardiness: Hardy as adults
Water Conditions: 75 – 85° F, 8-10 °d, 36 – 268 ppm, pH 6.5 – 7.2
Max. Size: 3′ 11″
Color: Silver, Bronze
Tank Compatibility: Aggressive to smaller fish
Diet: Carnivore
Origin: Cambodia, Thailand, Viet Nam, and Laos
Family: Notopteridae
Lifespan: 8 – 13 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Advanced

 

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

Clown Knifefish

The Knifefishes

Knifefish are a shy, secretive species that are found throughout Southeast Asia, Africa, Central America, and South America.   Although many tropical fish keeping enthusiasts find several of these species somewhat challenging to keep, they have also become one of the most sought after “oddball” species in the aquarium trade.

Freshwater knifefish species are generally grouped into two categories of neotropicals; the Gymnotiformes order which contains six families of weakly electric knifefish found in Central and South America, and the Osteoglossiformes order of featherbacks found in Southeast Asia and Africa.

The six families of weakly electric knifefish found in Central and South America are:

The banded knifefishes and electric eels (family Gymnotidae)
The sand knifefishes (family Rhamphichthyidae)
The bluntnose knifefishes (family Hypopomidae)
The rat tail and glass knifefishes (family Sternopygidae)
The ghost knifefishes (family Apteronotidae)
The aba (family Gymnarchus niloticus)

Royal Clown Knifefish

Royal Clown Knifefish

Weakly electric knifefish from Central and South America all have either flattened or rounded eel like bodies with no dorsal fin, a greatly reduced or nonexistent caudal fin, and an extremely long anal fin that begins near the pectoral fin area of the fish.   The long anal fin allows the knifefish to quickly move forward or backwards in an undulating fashion almost effortlessly with surprising bursts of speed.

Knifefish also possess an organ that allows them to generate a weak electric field around them that is believed to be used for navigation, spatial orientation, detecting food, and communicating with others of their own kind.

Male knifefish use the electric field to communicate with and court females during their mating rituals.

Depending on the species, some knifefish live along the banks of rivers where they sometimes burrow into the substrate, or on the flood plains among the leaves, roots, and plant matter, while others live in the the main channels of rivers, some in the quieter lakes, and some in lagoons.

All species are largely nocturnal predators that become extremely active at night when they can be found searching for small fish, insects, and crustaceans with their mild electrical field.

The featherbacks from Southeast Asia and Africa in the family Notopteridae all have long continuous fins along their undersides that join with the caudal and anal fin.   They have either no dorsal fins or if one exists, very small dorsals.

Unlike their Central and South American cousins, these knifefish can grow to quite a large size.  In their natural habitats they range in size from 8 inches in length, to well over 5 feet in length which makes a number of this species unsuitable for tropical fish keeping enthusiasts.

Knifefish are best housed in as large a tank as possible for the size of the species being kept.   Because they are shy and secretive, they should be provided with a lot of hiding places. Rocks formed into caves, hollow logs, dense foliage, lots of driftwood roots or bogwood, and some floating plants to diffuse overhead lighting is necessary to keep them healthy and happy.

Although some tropical fish keeping enthusiasts keep knifefish with similarly sized tank mates, they are highly territorial and do best when kept alone in a single species biotope setting.   They can be peaceful with equally sized tank mates, but because they are aggressive eaters, smaller fish will eventually wind up on their menu.  Knifefish are also good jumpers, so a tightly fitting tank cover or a thick mat of floating plants is necessary to keep them from leaving their aquarium.

Knifefish are carnivores that in their natural habitat feed on small fish, worms, small crustaceans, shrimp, and a variety of insects.  In an aquarium environment they can be fed live or frozen bloodworms, earthworms, tubifex, blackworms, mysis shrimp, ghost shrimp,  bits of shrimp, etc.  and because of their nocturnal nature, they should be fed just after you turn off the lights in your aquarium at night.   To help ensure good water quality that these fish require, make sure that any uneaten foods are removed from the aquarium the next morning.

Black Ghost Knifefish

Black Ghost Knifefish

The most common knifefish like the Clown Knifefish and Black Ghost Knifefish are readily available from specialty tropical fish keeping shops or from online suppliers.   The more uncommon and exotic specimens like the Royal Knifefish can be acquired directly from importers, online forums, online auction sites, etc.

Most knifefish are relatively long lived with an average lifespan of 3 to 8 years, but several species have been known to live in an aquarium environment well over 10 years.

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Platinum Sailfin Molly

The Molly (Poecilia sphenops)

Many tropical fish keeping enthusiasts regard the Molly (Poecilia sphenops) as one of the most popular aquarium fish, but because of their fast growth rate, birth size, reproduction rate, and brood numbers, they have also become a primary feeder fish in the aquarium hobby.

Except for the Endler’s livebearer (Poecilia wingei) and the well known Guppy (Poecilia reticulata) all species in the Poecilia genus of livebearing fishes are known as mollies (Poecilia sphenops).

Common (or short fin) mollies are found in the southern part of the United States to the Yucatan in Mexico and are native to fresh, brackish, and salt water environments.

Mollies are mildly aggressive, thrive in brackish water estuaries, and can grow to a maximum length of about 5 inches, but in an aquarium environment, they seldom exceed 3″ in length.

Selective breeding over centuries has produced several varieties of color variations, fin, and body shapes.

  • The Short Finned Molly (common molly): These fish inhabit the fresh water streams, coastal brackish and marine waters of Mexico. Wild specimens are a dull, silvery color, suffused with brown and green hues and are rarely kept as aquarium specimens. The Short Finned Molly is able to produce fertile hybrids with many Poecilia species, the most spectacular being the sailfin molly.
  • The Balloon Molly: The Balloon Molly, due to a genetic defect, has a deformed spine that gives it it’s characteristic appearance. Through selective breeding, it is widely available to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts and is a popular community tank fish.
  • The Black Molly: As the name implies, the Black Molly is totally black throughout, and is one of the most well known aquarium fishes. Black Mollies are prolific and easy to house.
  • The Dalmatian Molly: Dalmation mollies are silver colored fish bred with small black spots
  • The Golden Molly: Golden Mollies are often sold as the “24 karat” molly.
  • The Lyretail Molly: Lyretail mollies are selectively bred to have an altered caudal fin structure.
  • The White Molly: This species is a totally white colored molly.
Black Sailfin Molly (Poecilia latipinna)

Black Sailfin Molly (Poecilia latipinna)

Dalmatian Molly (Poecilia latipinna)

Dalmatian Molly (Poecilia latipinna)

Platinum Sailfin Molly (Poecilia latipinna)

Platinum Sailfin Molly (Poecilia latipinna)

Gold Molly (Poecilia latipinna)

Gold Molly (Poecilia latipinna)

Ornate Sailfin Baloon Molly (Poecilia latipinna)

Ornate Sailfin Baloon Molly (Poecilia latipinna)

Gold Dust Molly (Poecilia sphenops)

Gold Dust Molly (Poecilia sphenops)

Because Mollies are not very very aggressive, they make suitable tank mates for most community tanks.

Mollies prefer a well lit tank of at least 30 gallon capacity with plenty of strong plants such as Java Fern, Sagittaria, Vallisneria, or Anubias.    Because they are vegetarians, they do best in an aged tank with plenty of algae for them to graze on.    They have hearty appetites and require a good filtration system to remove the resulting waste products.

If your tank has no algae, they MUST be provided Spirulina flakes, herbivore flakes, or chopped boiled spinach to supplement their diet.

Mollies are best kept at a temperature of at least 78F. and although they are not very demanding when it comes to water quality, many tropical fish keeping enthusiasts recommend adding 1 teaspoon of sea salt per gallon to the aquarium water for optimum health.

Mollies are a versatile species and like guppies can be slowly acclimated to live in either freshwater or full strength saltwater.

Like most live bearers, Mollies are prolific and easy to breed.    A spawning box in a large breeding tank or an aquarium that is planted as densely as possible with a thick layer of algae and some floating plants to promote rearing the fry is all that is required.

Female Mollies give birth to anywhere from 10 to 60 young every 60 to 90 days.   The young are already formed and are approximately up to half an inch long at birth.

Mollies are omnivorous and eat meaty foods as well as algae.   Although they must be fed an algae based flake food, pellet, or wafer, they should also be provided with fresh, frozen, or freeze dried bloodworms, tubifex, brine shrimp, etc.

All varieties of Molly are commercially breed and readily available in tropical fish keeping shops throughout the country at reasonable prices in various sizes.   Medium size is generally 1″ to 1 1/2″, Large size about 1 1/2″ to 2″.

Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons
Care Level: Moderate
Temperament: Peaceful
Aquarium Hardiness:  Hardy
Water Conditions: 70-82° F, KH 10-25, pH 7.5-8.5
Max. Size: 3″
Color Form: Black, Green, Orange, Red
Diet: Omnivore
Compatibility: Community tank
Origin: Mexico, southern U.S.
Family: Poeciliidae
Lifespan: 2-5 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner

Posted in Brackish Water Fish, Featured Articles, Freshwater Fish, Mollies, Tropical Fish Keeping, Tropical Fish SpeciesComments (0)

Six Banded Distichodus (Distichodus sexfasciatus)

Six Banded Distichodus (Distichodus sexfasciatus)

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

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

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

Six Banded Distichodus (Distichodus sexfasciatus)

Six Banded Distichodus (Distichodus sexfasciatus)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Juveniles and adults are rarely seen for sale.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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Batik Loach (Mesonoemacheilus triangularis) Pair

Batik Loach (Mesonoemacheilus triangularis)

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

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

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

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

Batik Loach (Mesonoemacheilus triangularis) Pair

Batik Loach (Mesonoemacheilus triangularis) Pair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The recorded breeding yielded approximately 500 saleable individuals.

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

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

Batik Loach (Mesonoemacheilus triangularis) Pair

Batik Loach (Mesonoemacheilus triangularis) Pair

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

Blue Phantom Pleco L128 (Hemiancistrus sp.)

Blue Phantom Pleco L128 (Hemiancistrus Specie)

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

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

Blue Phantom Pleco L128 (Hemiancistrus sp.)

Blue Phantom Pleco L128 (Hemiancistrus sp.)

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

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

Green Phantom Pleco L200 (Hemiancistrus subviridis)

Green Phantom Pleco L200 (Hemiancistrus subviridis)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Forktail Rainbow (Pseudomugil furcatus)

Forktail Rainbowfish (Pseudomugil furcatus)

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

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

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

Forktail Rainbow (Pseudomugil furcatus)

Forktail Rainbow (Pseudomugil furcatus)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forktail Rainbow (Pseudomugil furcatus)

Forktail Rainbow (Pseudomugil furcatus)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forktail Rainbow (Pseudomugil furcatus)

Forktail Rainbow (Pseudomugil furcatus)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

New Guinea mudskipper (Periophthalmus cantonensis)

New Guinea Mudskipper (Periophthalmus cantonensis)

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

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

New Guinea mudskipper (Periophthalmus cantonensis)

New Guinea mudskipper (Periophthalmus cantonensis)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Guinea mudskipper (Periophthalmus cantonensis)

New Guinea mudskipper (Periophthalmus cantonensis)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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West African Mudskipper (Periophthalmus barbarus)

The West African Mudskipper (Periophthalmus barbarus)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

West African Mudskipper (Periophthalmus barbarus)

West African Mudskipper (Periophthalmus barbarus)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

West African Mudskipper (Periophthalmus barbarus)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

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Indian Mudskipper (Periophthalmus Septemradiatus)

Indian Mudskipper (Periophthalmus Septemradiatus)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Indian Mudskipper (Periophthalmus Septemradiatus)

Indian Mudskipper (Periophthalmus Septemradiatus)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Indian Mudskipper (Periophthalmus Septemradiatus)

Indian Mudskipper (Periophthalmus Septemradiatus)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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