Tag Archive | "tropical fish keeping"

White Worm Culture

Live Foods For Killifish

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

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

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

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

  • Black Worms:

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

  • Bloodworms:

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Brine Shrimp (Artemia):

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

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

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

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

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

  • Daphnia Magna:

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

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

Hatching Daphnia eggs:

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

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

  • Drosophila Fruit Flies:

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Grindal Worms:

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

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

  • Microworms:

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

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

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

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

  • Moina:

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

  • Mosquito Larvae:

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

  • Tubifex Worms:

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

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

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

  • Vinegar Eels:

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

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

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

  • White Worms:

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Featured Articles, Live FoodsComments (0)

Red Striped Killifish (Aphyosemion striatum)

Red Striped Killifish (Aphyosemion striatum)

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

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

Red Striped Killifish (Aphyosemion striatum)

Red Striped Killifish (Aphyosemion striatum)

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

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

Red Striped Killifish (Aphyosemion striatum) female

Red Striped Killifish (Aphyosemion striatum) female

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Red Striped Killifish (Aphyosemion striatum)

Red Striped Killifish (Aphyosemion striatum)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

Clown Killifish (Pseudepiplatys annulatus)

Clown Killifish (Pseudepiplatys annulatus)

The Clown Killifish (Pseudepiplatys annulatus) also known to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts as the Rocket Killie, Banded Panchax, or Clown Killie is a miniature non-annual species found in the slow moving streams in the swamps, savannas, and tropical rain forests of southern Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone,in West Africa.

In the wild, Pseudepiplatys annulatus or Epiplatys annulatus are found in very shallow warm, soft, acidic, slow moving water of their range, among aquatic plants and heavy marginal vegetation that they use for cover.

Clown Killifish (Pseudepiplatys annulatus)

Clown Killifish (Pseudepiplatys annulatus)

The Clown Killifish resembles a miniature pike.

They have an elongated, torpedo shaped body with an upturned mouth and round heads.

The dorsal fin begins just before the end of the anal fin and ends rather far back on the body. They have a spade shaped caudal fin with elongated central rays in adult fish. In males, the rays can be as long as the rest of the caudal rays.

Although there are several wild strains of Clown Killifish available to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts, those from Monrovia, Liberia (Pseudepiplatys annulatus monroviae) are generally regarded as the most colorful.

Clown Killifish (Pseudepiplatys annulatus)

Clown Killifish (Pseudepiplatys annulatus)

Except for some variations, Clown Killifish are cream colored, with four wide, vertical, black bands along the flanks that start just behind the head, and bright spot on top of the head between the eyes.

The dorsal fin in male specimens can be cream, light red, or a bright blue/with red.  The caudal fin in males varies, but is generally pale to sky blue, with the extended middle rays being bright red.

The bright red in some variations can be light orange, yellowish with bright red lines above and below, or even bright blue outlined in red, with bright yellow tips on the extensions.

Depending on the variant, the anal fin in males can be blue, blue outlined in red, fright red, or red outlined in blue. Likewise, the ventral fin can be either clear, a bright red, a bright orange, or a pale red color.

Female Clown Killifish are slightly smaller, less colorful, and have less developed fin extensions than males.  Most females have clear dorsal fins, clear caudal fins with faint orange, red, yellow colored extended rays throughout their length, and anal and ventral fins that are not always clear.

Clown Killifish are small and seldom grow larger than 1.4 inches in length, which makes them a great choice for smaller micro or nano aquarium setups.   They do best in small groups of 1 male to 3 females, 2 males to 6 females, etc. especially if breeding is anticipated.

The Clown Killifish can be kept in a densely planted nano or micro aquarium with a sand or very fine substrate, a small piece of driftwood, and some Indian Almond or other dried leaf litter on the bottom.

Fine leaved plants like Java Moss, Cabomba, Riccia, etc. are recommended, as are floating plants like Water Lettuce, Salvinia, or Lemna.   The floating plants reduce overhead light in the tank, provide a place for the fry to hide, act as a natural filtration system for the water, and are a source of micro foods for both adults and fry.   The addition of Indian Almond Leaves, alder cones, or dried leaf litter provides cover for the fish and as decomposition occurs, promotes the growth of beneficial microbe colonies that insure the health of the adults, the eggs, and the fry.

Pseudepiplatys annulatus are sensitive to deteriorating water conditions and should never be introduced into biologically immature systems. They need clean, well filtered water, but do not necessarily need an outside filtration system if 50% weekly water changes are performed.

Clown Killifish are egg scatterers that are quite easy to breed.   In a well decorated, biologically mature aquarium, the fry will usually materialize without human intervention, provided larger invertebrates such as snails or shrimp are not present in the breeding tank, as they will eat the eggs.

To save more fry, place two to three pairs into a breeding tank as described above and remove the medium in the tank every few days to a rearing tank for incubating and hatching. Courting males will exhibit some harmless belligerance toward each other until spawining takes place and eggs are deposited.

The extremely small eggs will hatch out in 10 to 14 days at a temperature of 75 to 77 degrees. The fry are extremely small and will initially feed on the natural production of microbes from leaf decomposition.   Add green water supplemented with infusoria to the rearing tank to help with initial growth. After 3 or 4 days, three or four days, they should be large enough to eat Paramecium and young nematodes. When the fry can be seen swimming on the surface hunting, feed them Vinegar eels or microworms until they are able to eat adult foods.

Adult Clown Killifish require live foods such as white worms, daphnia, brine shrimp, small bloodworms, and tubifex.   Vary their diet to keep them healthy.

Clown Killifish (Pseudepiplatys annulatus) are rarely available in tropical fish keeping shops but can be procured online from specialty dealers and Killifish societies at moderate prices.

Clown Killifish (Pseudepiplatys annulatus)

Clown Killifish (Pseudepiplatys annulatus)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Care Level: Moderate
Temperament: Peaceful, Shy
Hardiness: Hardy
Water Conditions: 73° – 78°F, 0 – 5 dGH, pH 5.5-6.5
Max. Size: 1.4”
Color Form: Gold, Brown, Orange
Diet: Carnivore
Compatibility: Biotope nano and micro tanks
Origin: West Africa
Family: Nothobranchiidae
Lifespan: 3-5 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Experienced

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

Lyretail Killie (Aphyosemion australe)

Lyretail Killi (Aphyosemion australe)

The Lyretail Killi (Aphyosemion australe) is a non-annual killifish known to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts as the Golden Lyretail or Lyretail Panchax and is found along the Atlantic coastline of Central Africa from Cape Lopesz, near the mouth of the Ogooué River, Gabon south, throughout the lowland areas of Africa.

This species of Lyretail Killi is peaceful, shy, hardy, easy to spawn, long lived, quite adaptable, and available in several color strains including Albino, Chocolate, Gold, and Orange.

In their native environment, Aphyosemion australe are found in small streams, swamps, and other permanent bodies of water where they feed on small insects, invertebrates, and crustaceans.

Lyretail Killie (Aphyosemion australe)

Lyretail Killie (Aphyosemion australe)

Lyretail Killies are a brightly colored species with flat heads, wide mouths, and extensions on the dorsal, anal, and caudal fins.   Males are larger, more brightly colored, and have more pronounced extensions to their fins than females.

Female Lyretail Killies are smaller, have rounder bellies and are drab compared to males.

Although the Lyretail Killie can be housed in a tank as small as 5 gallon capacity, a tank of at least 10 to 15 gallons is recommended with a dark sand or fine gravel substrate, densely planted with fine leaved plants and a small piece of driftwood for shelter.

A layer of floating plants such as water lettuce, Water Hyacinth, etc. is recommended to diffuse overhead lighting and minimize jumping.

Lyretail Killies can also be kept in a community environment with other shy peaceful species like rasboras, small corydoras, Loricariids, characins, some of the Anabantoids, and smaller dwarf cichlids.

Lyretail Killies are egg scatterers and relatively easy to spawn using several methods.

Most breeders place a well conditioned pair in a small unlit spawning tank,  with an air powered sponge corner filter.

In their natural habitat, Lyretail Killies deposit their eggs in the substrate or in clumps of vegetation.

In a spawning tank, the spawning medium can be either a layer of peat moss on the bottom of the tank, clumps of fine-leaved plants such as java moss in a densely planted tank, or spawning mops on a bare tank.

Many commercial breeders prefer a bare bottomed setup for ease of egg collection and tank maintenance.

The water in the spawning tank should be soft, with an optimum pH of 6.0-6.5, and a water temperature of 70-75°F.

When spawning commences, 10 to 20 eggs per day will be deposited for a period of up to 2 weeks.   The eggs should be removed daily for incubation in either water or a damp layer of peat moss placed in a small container.

The eggs are very susceptible to fungus and should be immediately removed when spotted to stop spreading the infection to healthy eggs.

When incubating the eggs in water, transfer them to a small aquarium using the original water from the spawning tank.  Keep the water depth at no more than 2 inches, and add 2 to 3 drops of methylene blue as a fungus preventative.   Eggs are light sensitive, so keep the tank dark until the eggs hatch out.   Depending on water temperature, healthy eggs will hatch out in 10 to 20 days

When incubating in peat moss, place the container in a warm dark spot and leave them alone for about 18 to 19 days.  Place the eggs in the rearing tank and the eggs will begin to hatch out.  If the eggs do not hatch out within a reasonable time, lightly aerate the water by blowing through a soda straw or length of airline tubing.

After hatching, add a couple of drops of green water or liquifry to the water daily until they are free swimming.   Once the fry are free swimming, they will be able to accept baby brine shrimp.

Fry are extremely susceptible to velvet disease, so small water changes every couple of days are needed to maintain water quality.

Adult Lyretail Killies are easy to feed. They will accept quality carnivore flakes as well as live, frozen, or freeze dried bloodworms, microworms, and daphnia.

The Lyretail Killi (Aphyosemion australe) is available online, from importers, and from specialty fish shops.   Although this species is one of the most commonly kept by tropical fish keeping enthusiasts, they are not a common item in most storefront shops.

Lyretail Killie (Aphyosemion australe)

Lyretail Killie (Aphyosemion australe)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minimum Tank Size: 10 gallons
Care Level: Moderate
Temperament: Peaceful, Shy
Hardiness: Hardy
Water Conditions: 70-89° F, 18-179 ppm, pH 5.5-7.0
Max. Size: 2 1/2”
Color Form: Gold, Brown, Orange
Diet: Carnivore
Compatibility: Community and Biotope tanks
Origin: Nigeria, Cameroon, tank raised
Family: Nothobranchiidae
Lifespan: 3-5 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Experienced

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

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

 

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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

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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

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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

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Six Banded Distichodus (Distichodus sexfasciatus)

Six Banded Distichodus (Distichodus sexfasciatus)

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

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

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

Six Banded Distichodus (Distichodus sexfasciatus)

Six Banded Distichodus (Distichodus sexfasciatus)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Juveniles and adults are rarely seen for sale.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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Batik Loach (Mesonoemacheilus triangularis) Pair

Batik Loach (Mesonoemacheilus triangularis)

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

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

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

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

Batik Loach (Mesonoemacheilus triangularis) Pair

Batik Loach (Mesonoemacheilus triangularis) Pair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The recorded breeding yielded approximately 500 saleable individuals.

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

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

Batik Loach (Mesonoemacheilus triangularis) Pair

Batik Loach (Mesonoemacheilus triangularis) Pair

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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Blue Phantom Pleco L128 (Hemiancistrus sp.)

Blue Phantom Pleco L128 (Hemiancistrus Specie)

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

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

Blue Phantom Pleco L128 (Hemiancistrus sp.)

Blue Phantom Pleco L128 (Hemiancistrus sp.)

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

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

Green Phantom Pleco L200 (Hemiancistrus subviridis)

Green Phantom Pleco L200 (Hemiancistrus subviridis)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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