Tag Archive | "tropical fish keeping"

Convict Cichlid (Archocentrus nigrofasciatus)

Convict Cichlid (Archocentrus nigrofasciatus)

 

 

 

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

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

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

Convict Cichlid (Archocentrus nigrofasciatus)

Convict Cichlid (Archocentrus nigrofasciatus) Female

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Convict Cichlid (Archocentrus nigrofasciatus)

Convict Cichlid (Archocentrus nigrofasciatus)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

Kribensis (Pelvicachromis pulcher)

Kribensis (Pelvicachromis pulcher)

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

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

Kribensis (Pelvicachromis pulcher)

Kribensis (Pelvicachromis pulcher) Female

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kribensis (Pelvicachromis pulcher)

Kribensis (Pelvicachromis pulcher) Male

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Some images courtesy of Kevin Bauman

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

Burton's Mouthbrooder (Astatotilapia burtoni)

Burton’s Mouthbrooder (Astatotilapia burtoni)

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

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

Burton's Mouthbrooder (Astatotilapia burtoni)

Burton’s Mouthbrooder (Astatotilapia burtoni) Female

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

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

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

Burton's Mouthbrooder (Astatotilapia burtoni)

Burton’s Mouthbrooder (Astatotilapia burtoni) Male

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Burton's Mouthbrooder (Astatotilapia burtoni)

Burton’s Mouthbrooder (Astatotilapia burtoni)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Images courtesy of Kevin Bauman

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

African Butterfly Cichlid (Anomalochromis thomasi)

African Butterfly Cichlid (Anomalochromis thomasi)

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

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

African Butterfly Cichlid (Anomalochromis thomasi)

African Butterfly Cichlid (Anomalochromis thomasi)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

African Butterfly Cichlid (Anomalochromis thomasi)

African Butterfly Cichlid (Anomalochromis thomasi)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Images courtesy of Kevin Bauman

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

Spotted Sleeper Goby (Eleotris picta)

Spotted Sleeper Goby (Eleotris picta)

The Spotted Sleeper Goby (Eleotris picta) is a large species that is also known to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts as the Spiny Cheek Sleeper Goby, Water Cow, or Water Cow Goby.

Several species of Sleeper Gobies are found in fresh and brackish water rivers, estuaries, and coastal regions throughout the Indo-west Pacific, from the eastern coast of Africa to the Hawaiian Islands, and in many parts of their range, they appear to reside only in fresh waters.

Although Spotted Sleeper Gobies are found in a variety of habitats including brackish estuarine and coastal areas, they are most often found in small coastal freshwater streams.

The Spotted Sleeper Goby inhabits rivers with low to high currents which generally occur in freshwater and occasionally in slightly brackish waters at the river mouths.

Smaller specimens are normally more abundant near the coast where they feed on small shrimp and fish.   Only larger individuals are found upstream.

Sleeper Gobies occur in American Samoa, Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Christmas Island, Comoros,Fiji, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritius, Micronesia, Mozambique, Myanmar, New Caledonia, Palau, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines Réunion, Seychelles, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Taiwan, Province of China, Tanzania,the Hawaiian Islands, Vanuatu, and  Viet Nam.

The Spinycheek Sleeper Goby has a broad head, a robust body, a short snout, a large mouth with a protruding lower jaw, with an upper jaw that extends to the middle or end of the eye.    They have several rows of teeth on their jaws, with an outer row of canines in the rear and an inner row where the jaws meet at the front of the mouth.   The front nostril overlaps the upper lip, the rear nostril is an open pit, and the gill openings extend to below the opercle.    All species have a strong forward pointing spine embedded in the skin at the lower corner of the preopercle which gives them their name.

Sleeper Gobies have two dorsal fins with the base of the second dorsal less than the distance from the end of that base to the tail fin.    Except for the tip of the snout, the top of the head, cheeks, opercle, and entire body is scaled with tiny scales.  They have no visible lateral line.

Spotted Sleeper Goby (Eleotris picta)

Spotted Sleeper Goby (Eleotris picta)

Spotted Sleeper Gobies and many other Eleotris species can change their colors depending on their mood, or to camouflage themselves.

The body of the Water Cow can be a tan to dark chocolate brown, usually with a few scattered brown spots on the upper sides and the top of the body being lighter than the sides.   Two stripes radiate across the cheek from the eye to the rear, with no dark spots on the upper part of the fish.

Eleotris picta can also be colored a light gray on top, with a darker gray color extending along the sides of the fish  to the undersides, which are lighter.

Sleeper Gobies are primarily bottom dwelling predators.    They are a sedentary species that when disturbed by larger fish, seldom get overly agitated however, they should never be housed with inverts or fish smaller then themselves, or they will be quickly devoured.

Don’t let their docile nature and inactivity trick you into putting them into a community tank setting.    They spend most of their time scanning the aquarium for potential prey and if it can fit into the Goby’s mouth, be assured the Goby will eat it.

This is one species that is best kept in a single species tank, or with peaceful fish larger than themselves.

Juvenile Sleeper Gobies can be housed in at least a 55 gallon aquarium until they grow out, and then transferred into at least a 100 gallon planted tank, with a medium to fine gravel or sandy substrate, some rocks formed into caves for them to hide among, and some driftwood or bogwood.    They will stay on or near the bottom of the tank and like to rest on the rocks and driftwood when they are not hiding in the rock work or in the substrate.

Although they are adaptable to a variety of water conditions, they do require a good filtration system and a powerhead to provide some current in the tank.

Sleeper Gobies have not been bred in an aquarium environment.  They have pelagic eggs and larvae.

In their natural habitat, “Water Cows” feed on a variety of insects, crustaceans, worms, and fish.     In an aquarium environment, juveniles can be fed live or frozen mysis shrimp, brine shrimp, bloodworms, etc.    Larger fish can be fed fresh or frozen shrimp, earthworms, mussels, silversides, bloodworms, or appropriately sized chunks of fish.     Although some tropical fish keeping enthusiasts  feeding their Sleeper Gobies  live feeder fish, it should be done only occasionally.

Sleeper Gobies should only be fed once a day.    They will eventually recognize their owners and often become quite friendly.  Over time they will eat out of the keepers hand.

Sleeper Gobies aka “Water Cows” are occasionally available from specialty fish shops, online, and from importers however, they are not a common aquarium fish.

Spotted Sleeper Goby (Eleotris picta)

Spotted Sleeper Goby (Eleotris picta)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minimum Tank Size: 100 gallons
Care Level: Difficult
Temperament: Peaceful
Hardiness:  Hardy
Water Conditions: 73°F – 82° F, 10 dH – 30 dH, pH 7.4 – 8.2
Max. Size: 20″
Color Form: Brown, Tan, Gray
Diet: Carnivore
Compatibility: Single species tank
Origin: Indo West Pacific, Africa, Hawaii
Family:  Eleotridae
Lifespan: 8 years plus
Aquarist Experience Level: Experienced

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

Black Spotted Eel (Mastacembelus dayi)

Black Spotted Eel (Mastacembelus dayi)

The Black Spotted Eel (Mastacembelus dayi) also known to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts as the Polka Dot Eel or Spotted Spiny Eel is found in Asia from the Irrawady and Chindwin river drainages of western Myanmar, and eastern Thailand.

Black Spotted Eels are found in rivers and streams with a lot of moving water, dense vegetation, and sandy or heavily pebbled bottoms.

During the dry season, the Black Spotted Eel migrates into the deeper canals, lakes, and floodplain areas where the water movement is minimal.

Black Spotted Eels are a shy, largely nocturnal species that spends the daylight hours buried in the substrate.  They become active at night when they come out to forage on worms, insect larvae, crustaceans, small fish, and occasionally vegetation.

Black Spotted Eel (Mastacembelus dayi)

Black Spotted Eel (Mastacembelus dayi)

Mastacembelus dayi have an elongated snout with both the dorsal and anal fins extending and joined to the caudal fin.

They can be colored a dark (almost chocolate) tan, to a light brown, and have a series of rather large, dark, irregular spots aligned along the entire length of its body.

The spots along the upper part of the body are normally darker than those below the lateral line, and some of the spots along the lateral line are more elongated than round.  The pattern begins from the tip of the mouth and extends to the rear of the eel.

It is almost impossible to sex Black Spotted Eels however, mature females are believed to be more full bodied than the males.

Because the Black Spotted Eel is a large species that can grow to over 20 inches in length, they require a densely planted aquarium of at least 55

Black Spotted Eel (Mastacembelus dayi)

Black Spotted Eel (Mastacembelus dayi)

gallon capacity with a sandy or fine gravel substrate, a piece of PVC pipe and/or plenty of rocks made into makeshift caves for them to hide among, some driftwood roots, and some floating plants to diffuse the lighting and afford them a sense of security.

Black Spotted Eels need pristine, well oxygenated water conditions with a decent water flow.   Frequent 30% weekly water changes are mandatory for this eel and a canister filter along with an adequately sized powerhead is highly recommended to produce the required conditions.

Like all spiney eels, they tend to be escape artists, so a tight fitting tank cover is highly recommended.

Black Spotted Eels are burrowers and will spend most of the daylight hours buried in the sand. Providing them plenty of hiding places will often get them moving around more.

Mastacembelus dayi get along well in a community tank with larger tank mates, however they need several caves or pieces of PVC pipe in the tank where they can retreat to.   They do not get along with others of their own kind, and smaller fish should never be kept with this species.   Although It is peaceful with larger tank mates, smaller fish will be regarded as food.

Over time, as Black Spotted Eels become more comfortable in their surroundings, they will recognize their owners and will often take food from their keepers hands.

Although the Black Spotted Eel has never been bred in an aquarium environment, it is presumed that their breeding process is similar to other Spiny Eels.

The courtship lasts for several hours. The pairs will chase each other around in a circle until breeding takes place. The sticky eggs are generally deposited among floating plants and will hatch out in 3 to 4 days. The fry become free swimming in a few more days and can be fed baby brine shrimp. Because of their susceptibility to fungal infections, the fry are difficult to raise and anti fungal water treatments or Indian Almond Leaves are often used to combat the problem.

In their natural habitat, the Black Spotted Eel is omnivorous.   They are opportunistic nocturnal feeders that will eat benthic insect larvae, worms, aquatic invertebrates, and some plant matter.

In an aquarium environment, they will eat live, and most frozen foods such as small fish, shrimp, bloodworms, and earthworms.   They can be trained to eat freeze dried bloodworms or brine shrimp but it should not be their primary diet.

Feed them only a couple of times a week, and then only after the lights in the tank have been turned off.

Black Spotted Eels, aka Polka Dot Eel or Spotted Spiny Eel, are commonly available online and at specialty tropical fish shops at reasonable prices.

Black Spotted Eel (Mastacembelus dayi)

Minimum Tank Size: 55 gallons
Care Level: Moderate
Temperament: Shy, Peaceful
Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately Hardy
Water Conditions: 74-82° F, 6-25 dGH, pH 6.0-8.0
Max. Size: 20″
Color Form: Brown, Tan
Diet: Omnivore
Compatibility: Community
Origin: Western Myanmar, Eastern Thailand
Family: Mastacembelidae
Lifespan: 8-18 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate

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Rhino Pleco (Pterygoplichthys scrophus)

Rhino Pleco (Pterygoplichthys scrophus)

The Rhino Pleco (Pterygoplichthys scrophus) also known to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts as the Alligator Pleco or Chocolate Pleco is found in the Marañon and Ucayali River basins at Nauta, Peru.

Rhino Pleco (Pterygoplichthys scrophus)

Rhino Pleco (Pterygoplichthys scrophus)

Rhino Plecos can be identified by the number of rays they have in their dorsal fins.   Most plecos, like the larger Hypostomus species, have 8 or fewer rays however, the Rhiono Pleco and all Pterygoplichtys species have more than 10.

Rhino Plecos have two horn like protrusions emanating from their large nostrils which are actually nasal flaps, and alligator like ridges along the sides of their body which give them their common name.

They can be colored black, a rich dark brown, cinnamon, or a light and dark mottled brown.

Sexing can be determined by comparing the papilla in adult specimens.   Male fish have a small, thick stump that protrudes from their underside.   In

Rhino Pleco (Pterygoplichthys scrophus)

Rhino Pleco (Pterygoplichthys scrophus)

female specimens, the stump is recessed or lies flat along the body.   Females are also chubbier than the males.

Although Pterygoplichthys scrophus is considered an omnivore, they are excellent algae eaters and will eat all but the hardiest of plants.   They will even eat floating plants when sufficient algae is not present in the aquarium.

Rhino Plecos are a shy, peaceful species that can become aggressive with other bottom dwellers if not given enough space, however, they generally make an excellent community fish and usually get along with any medium sized community tank species.

Rhino Plecos should be housed in a large densely planted tank of at least 55 gallon capacity, with a small to medium size substrate, some rocks positioned into caves for them to hide among, some bogwoodor driftwood, and some floating plants to diffuse overhead lighting.

Like most plecostomus, they need a good filtration system to remove the large amount of waste they produce. A good canister type filtration system is recommended to keep the water pristine.

There have been no successful documented breeding of Pterygoplichthys scrophus but they are believed to be cave spawners.

The Rhino Pleco is easy to feed and will readily eat a variety of foods.  They are voracious algae eaters but will also eat a good quality sinking pellet, algae wafers, blanched vegetables, as well as a variety of frozen or freeze dried foods.

Rhino Plecos are available online and from specialty tropical fish shops at reasonable prices when they are 1 1/2″ in size to adults.

Rhino Pleco (Pterygoplichthys scrophus)

Rhino Pleco (Pterygoplichthys scrophus)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minimum Tank Size: 55 gallons
Care Level: Moderate
Temperament: Peaceful
Aquarium Hardiness: Relatively Hardy
Water Conditions: 71-83°F, GH 0-12 ° dH, pH 6.0 – 7.6
Max. Size: 11″
Color Form: Black, Brown
Diet: Omnivore
Compatibility: Good community tank
Origin: Marañon and Ucayali River basins, Peru
Family: Loricariidae
Life Span: 10 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate

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Red Devil Pleco (Pseudacanthicus pirarara)

Red Devil Pleco (Pseudacanthicus pirarara) L025

The Red Devil Pleco (Pseudacanthicus pirarara) is also known to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts as the Scarlet Cactus Pleco, Cactus Pleco, Scarlet Pleco, or their formal identification as L025.   It is a relatively new unnamed species that was discovered in the lower to middle Rio Xingu, Sao Felix, Senador José Porfírio, Pedral do Caitucá, the Rio Bacajá and the Rio Iriri in Brazil.

Red Devil Plecos are found in clear, fast flowing, highly oxygenated warm water rivers and streams and are mostly a nocturnal species.

Red Devil Pleco (Pseudacanthicus pirarara)

Red Devil Pleco (Pseudacanthicus pirarara)

The leading edges of the fins of Pseudacanthicus pirarara are colored scarlet to reddish orange, which is most pronounced on their dorsal and caudal fins.

The Red Devil Pleco is a large pleco that in their natural environment can grow to over 17 inches in length.

Although both males and females posses pectoral odontodes, adult males have noticeably more odontodal growth on their fins, especially on their pectorals.   Males are usually more brightly colored than females and as the fish grow, the males become longer and more slender in appearance, compared to the chubbier and shorter females.

The Red Devil Pleco is similar to L024 except that it has more red in the fins, and the black spots on the body are more pronounced.   Their eyes look

Red Devil Pleco (Pseudacanthicus pirarara)

Red Devil Pleco Suiper Red (Pseudacanthicus pirarara)

“hooded” which give the fish an unusual, almost evil look; hence their name.

Red Devil Plecos cam be housed in at densely planted aquarium of at least 70 gallons (preferably larger) with a fine smooth gravel or sand substrate, plenty of driftwood, some rocks that are formed into caves for them to hide among, and some floating plants to diffuse the lighting in the tank and discourage jumping.

They need at least one power head or a canister filter to provide the fast flowing, highly oxygenated water they require to keep them healthy, and are best kept in a Loricade or single species tank.   Juveniles are particularly susceptible to nitrite and ammonia spikes so over filtration is recommended.

Red Devil Plecos are shy, reclusive, and non-aggressive to other bottom dwellers and as long as other species in the tank do not infringe on their space, or cave that they have staked out, they can be housed with other omnivorous species.   However, they are extremely aggressive and territorial towards conspecifics.

Barbs of all sizes seem to get along well with them in a mixed species tank.

Although many tropical fish keeping enthusiasts house them with Oscars, Cichlids, or other large Loricariids; it is not a good idea to do so.   They are quite messy and like all plecos will produce a large amount of waste.   In addition, because they are largely nocturnal, they will aggressively defend their territory and may cause problems when housed with similar sized nocturnal species.

Breeding Red Devil Plecos in an aquarium environment has not been successfully documented however some fish are being sold online as domestically raised breeding pairs.

Although Pseudacanthicus pirarara are not predators, they are primarily carnivores that have a healthy appetite.    They will accept omnivore sinking wafers when they become acclimated to your tank but prefer live, frozen, or freeze dried prawn, chopped mussel, small pieces of fish, mysis shrimp, bloodworms, etc.

Round out their diet with some vegetables or Spirulina wafers on a regular basis.

Red Devil Plecos are an uncommon species that are priced in the hundreds of dollars, if you can find one for sale.   They are occasionally sold in specialty fish keeping shops and online at ridiculous prices.

 

Red Devil Pleco (Pseudacanthicus pirarara)

Minimum Tank Size: 70 gallons +
Care Level: Easy
Temperament: Moderately Peaceful
Aquarium Hardiness: Hardy
Water Conditions: 74-79° F, KH 6-10, pH 6.0-7.4
Max. Size: 17″
Color Form: Black, Red
Diet: Omnivore
Compatibility: OK community tank fish with barbs
Origin: Rio Xingu, Brazil
Family: Loricariidae
Live Span: 10 – 15 years
Aquarist Experience Lever: Intermediate

 

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Julidochromis regani Kipili group

Convict Julie (Julidochromis regani)

The Convict Julie (Julidochromis regani) is a slender, torpedo shaped cichlid species that is endemic to Lake Tanganyika and found in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Tanzania, and Zambia.

Similar to Marliers Julie (Julidochromis Marlieri), the Convict Julie (Julidochromis regani) is a “dwarf cichlid” that is easy to breed and care for as long as the water parameters of Lake Tanganyika are met.

Convict Julie (Julidochromis regani)

Convict Julie (Julidochromis regani)

The Convict Julie grows to just at 5 inches in length and has an elongated, pale white to golden yellow body with four lateral varying black striped patterns that are determined by which section of the lake the fish re collected from.   The black lateral stripes run the length of body and are vertical on the dorsal fin. The outer edges of the caudal, dorsal and anal fins are white tinged with blue, and the pectoral fins are yellow.

Females are generally plumper than males but otherwise identical in color.   Adult males can be identified by a small genital papilla.

In an aquarium environment, Convict Julies do best in a highly oxygenated tank of at least 20 gallon capacity, with a sand or fine grain gravel substrate decorated with plenty of rock piles arranged to form caves and caverns.   Hardy plants can be added for aesthetics, but if you plan to house more than one Tanganyikan species of “rock dweller” in the tank, make sure to arrange the rocks into several distinct piles so the fish can stake out individual territories so as to minimize aggression.

Although more than one species of Julidochromis can be housed in the same tank, it is not recommended.    Because Convict Julies hybridize easily with other Julidochromis, Chalinochromis, Lamprologini, and Telmatochromis; it’s better to keep them in a single species tank.

Convict Julies are easy to breed and make excellent parents.   Although Julidochromis regani pairs are largely monogamous, females in the wild and in an aquarium environment often take on more than one mate.

Pairs can be easily identified by placing several juveniles into a tank and watching them bond and pair off as they grow.   Like many Lake Tanganyikan cichlids, Julidochromis regani are aggressive, secretive, territorial substrate spawners that like to retreat into rock crevices and caves for safety and to breed.   Unless you keep them in a huge tank, a breeding pair should be housed separately in a biotope setting.   Both parents will aggressively guard their eggs and care for the fry and as the fry grow, the parents can often be seen leading their brood around the aquarium.  The fry should be fed protein rich foods such as baby brine shrimp until they are able to eat omnivore flake foods and adult fare.

In their natural habitat, Julidochromis regani are omnivores that feed primarily on algae, crustaceans, insect larvae, and molluscs found in the aufwuchs.   They are opportunistic feeders that will also eat sand particles with filementous and diatomaceous algae.

In an aquarium environment, Convict Julies do well on a diet of quality flake or pellet food, augmented with live, frozen, or freeze dried mosquito larvae, mysis shrimp, Daphnia, brine shrimp, and plankton.

The Convict Julie can be purchased online and from specialty tropical fish keeping shops.   Because hybridization of this species is relatively common, be sure to purchase your fish from a reputable dealer, a member of a cichlid society, or from a reputable group.

Depending on size and variety, Julidochromis regani can be moderately expensive to very inexpensive.   When available for purchase, juveniles are usually sold when they reach 1 1/2″ in length.   Adults can be 3″ to 5″ in length.

Convict Julie (Julidochromis regani)

Convict Julie (Julidochromis regani)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallons
Care Level: Moderately Difficult
Temperament: Aggressive
Aquarium Hardiness: Hardy
Water Conditions: 77-79° F, KH 10-25, pH 7.5-9.5
Max. Size: 5.1″
Color Form: Black, White, Yellow, Blue
Diet: Omnivore
Compatibility: Other Lake Tanganyikan fish except other Julidochromis
Origin: Kipili, Lake Tanganyika, Africa
Family: Cichlidae
Lifespan: 5-8 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate to Experienced

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Blue Gularis Killifish (Fundulopanchax sjoestedti)

Acquiring Killifish For The Home Aquarium

Acquiring Killifish for the home aquarium can be a challenging proposition.   With only a few exceptions, most pet shops do not normally have a supply of  killifish, and those that do usually bring in Fundulopanchax gardneri, Aphyosemion australe, or Fundulopanchax sjoestedti.

The more unusual and rarer species are seldom, if ever, found in tropical fish shops.

Fortunately, we now have access to the internet which allows killifish enthusiasts the ability to purchase the eggs or adults from specialty breeders, importers, and members of various killifish organizations throughout the world.

Although having the means to acquire killifish for the home aquarium makes the job of finding them easier,  it can be a challenge (especially for beginners) to know which species to purchase.

Unlike most tropical fish species that have common names, killifish are generally referred to by their scientific names.

This requires some education which can only be provided by joining a killiefish association, a killie group, a club, or learning about them from books, journals, or other publications on or off line.

Although some pet store proprietors are familiar with killifish, many owners sell fish that are incorrectly identified by their suppliers.

Many killifish species and local strains look very similar to each other and can easily be misidentified.   In addition, many unnamed or unidentified species that are collected in the wild are often combined with shipments of identifiable fish and shipped to importers as a by catch.

Nothobranchius rachovii Beira ’91, is a beautiful killifish strain that is identified by the year it was originally collected (1991), and the locality where it was found.   It has no common name.

Tropical fish keeping enthusiasts who are interested in keeping killifish would do well to concentrate on acquiring the following before moving on to some of the rarer and more difficult to keep species.

  • Aphyosemion

Aphyosemion is a genus of African rivulines that as the name indicates, is endemic to Africa.   The killifish species in this genus are some of most popular with tropical fish keeping enthusiasts and are also the most commonly available.

Almost all of the species in this genus come from West Africa, and are relatively easy to acquire, keep, and breed.

The Lyretail killifish (Aphyosemion australe) comes in three color forms;  Chocolate Brown, Orange, and Gold, and is one of the more common killies found in tropical fish shops.

Aphyosemion ahliAphyosemion bivittatum, and Aphyosemion calliurum are also relatively common and make good “starter fish” for beginning killifish enthusiasts.

All are beautiful, easy to keep, and most can be easily bred using spawning mops, Java Moss, or floating plants like Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes).

  • Fundulopanchax

Several colorful species of the Fundulopanchax genus of killifish that are found in the near coastal fresh water streams and lakes of Western Africa, are also suitable for beginning killifish enthusiasts.

Among these are Fundulopanchax gardneri, Fundulopanchax sjoestedti, and Fundulopanchax filamentosus.

Fundulopanchax Sjoestedti pair

Fundulopanchax Sjoestedti pair

All of the species in this genus can be found in several color strains, and although some species like Fundulopanchax sjoestedti are more challenging to keep, most of the other species are easy to breed and care for and are suitable for beginning enthusiasts.

Fundulopanchax sjoestedti and Fundulopanchax filamentosus are bottom spawners.

Some species of Fundulopanchax gardneri are topwater spawners, while other species like Fundulopanchax gardneri nigerianus and Fundulopanchax gardneri garderni are both top and bottom spawners.

  • Epiplatys

All species in the Epiplatys genus are surface feeding killifish that prey on insects and other organisms that inadvertently fall into the water.

Many species in the Epiplatys genus are larger than the average sized killiefish.   All of them are extremely hardy, easy to breed in an aquarium environment, and will lay their eggs on spawning mops or  floating plants.

Both Epiplatys sexfasciatus and Epiplatys fasciolatus are good choices for beginner killiefish enthusiasts however, Epiplatys annulatus should be avoided.

  • Nothobranchius

Nothobranchius is a genus of small, freshwater, annual killifish that are found mainly in East Africa, from the Sudan to northern South Africa.

Several species occur in the upper regions of the Congo River Basin and two species are found in West Central Africa.   The largest number of over 70 species comes from Tanzania.

Without exception, these small East African annuals are prized for their beauty.

Nothobranchius rachovii

Nothobranchius rachovii

Nothobranchius rachovii is considered by many to be the most beautiful fresh water species in the world.   Unfortunately, all the species in this genus are short lived.

In their natural habitat, killifish in the Nothobranchius genus inhabit ephemeral pools that fill up during the monsoon season and dry up during the hot months.

Over the years, they have adapted to these harsh conditions and learned to lay their eggs in the substrate.   When the pools dry up and the parents die, the embryos survive in the hard clay by entering diapause, and when the pools fill up again during the wet season, the eggs hatch out and the life cycle repeats itself.

Nothobranchius furzeri reach adulthood in only 17 days and live for only 3 to 6 months

Breeding killies in this genus requires the patience of Job.   Their eggs need to be dried out of water for prolonged periods of as long as one year before they can hatch.

If you decide to try keeping any of these species, Nothobranchius guentheri or Nothobranchius korthausae would be an excellent choice for a beginner.

Although they are extremely hardy and can be kept in a variety of water conditions, most are susceptible to velvet disease.   In their natural habitats, they are often found in hard, alkaline pools of water but they do well in a variety of water conditions.

Adding 1/2 to 1 teaspoonful of salt per gallon of their aquarium water will minimizes any outbreaks.

  • Nematolebias

The Nematolebias genus of killifish is native to South America and includes many popular aquarium specimens.

Nematolebias whitei is an elegant, easy to breed killifish suitable for beginning enthusiasts that is also easy to care for, however, like all species in the Nothobranchius genus, patience is needed to breed them.    Several months must elapse after spawning before the eggs will hatch out successfully.

  • American killiefishes

Several species of killies in the genus Autrofundulus, Cyprinodon, Fundulus, Rachovia, and Rivulus among others, are good candidates for the home aquarium.

Jordenella floridae (Florida Flagfish)

Jordenella floridae (Florida Flagfish)

Jordenella floridae (the Florida Flagfish) is found throughout the state, and is frequently found in tropical fish shops.

They are interesting, colorful, inexpensive, easy to keep breed, and make an excellent choice for beginner killifish enthusiasts.

Fundulus auroguttatus, Fundulus cingulatus, and the Golden Topminnow (Fundulus chrysotus) are also some of the more colorful North American species that are easily kept in an aquarium environment.

The Desert Pupfish (Cyprinodon macularius) on the other hand, can survive extreme salinities, pH, temperature, and low oxygen content environments, but because it is on the endangered species list would not be an easily acquired species to keep.

Regardless of which genus you  acquire your species of killie from, some research is recommended before purchasing your specimen or their eggs.

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Blue Gularis Killifish (Fundulopanchax sjoestedti)

Killifish

Killifish are a group of egg laying tooth carps that comprise over 1270 species from various families including Aplocheilidae, Cyprinodontidae, Fundulidae, Profundulidae, Valenciida, and Rivulidae.   Of the 1270 species discovered, about 350 of these are found within the equatorial belts throughout the world.   The largest family Rivulidae, contains over 320 of the known species.

Although some of the specialized species of Killifish that have lifespans no longer than 9 or 10 months are found in temporary ponds, ditches, and puddles in the flood plains; most species of killifish have lifespans between 2 and 3 years, and are found in the lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams that have water throughout the year.    These killifish (Cyprinodon, Fundulus and Rivulus) are common in the Americas, Africa, Asia (including Aphyosemion, Aplocheilus, Epiplatys, Fundulopanchax and Lacustricola) and Southern Europe (Aphanius).

In the Americas, Killifish can be found as far south as Argentina, and as far north as southern Ontario.   They have also been found in Southern Europe, South Africa, as far south as Vietnam in Asia, the Middle East, and on several islands in the Indian Ocean.   To date, no species of Killifish has been discovered in Antarctica, Australia, or in Northern Europe.

Killilfish are an extremely hardy species that can withstand a wide range of temperatures, salinities, and pollutants (such as organochloride fertilizers and pesticides) however, most killifish in their natural habitat live in a soft, slightly acidic water environment, with a pH of 6.0 to 6.8, and at temperatures between 71 to 80° F.    Several species of Killifish are found only in extremely harsh ephemeral aquatic environments, where they have learned to survive and even thrive in periods of total or partial dehydration.

Although Killifish are primarily a freshwater species, they are also found in brackish to saltwater environments, and in areas where very few other fish species could survive.

Devils Hole pupfish (Cyprinodon diabolis)

Devils Hole pupfish (Cyprinodon diabolis)

The Devil’s Hole in Nevada, is an example of such an extreme environment that has a constant salinity and temperatures of 92 °F.

The Devils Hole pupfish (Cyprinodon diabolis) is the only natural resident of this 300′ deep cavern.

The eggs of many annual killifish species are like plant seeds, and rely on periods of drought in order for hatching to successfully take place.   Their eggs, when entirely submerged in water will not survive more than a few weeks unless they are allowed to dry out to be later reconstituted.

This fact makes the sale and distribution of many annual killifish species a simple matter of mailing the eggs, without the need for water to the recipient, so they can be hatched out at a later date.   A few species like adult Kryptolebias marmoratus can even survive out of water for several weeks.   However, few Killifish fall into this category.

All 1270 species of Killifish can be separated into three distinct breeding categories:

  • Annual species
  • Semi Annual species
  • Non Annual species

Annual species mature quickly and are generally short lived.   In their natural habitats, they are found in small ponds, ditches, puddles, etc. that dry up for sometimes for extended periods of months to years.   Killifish in this category tend to spawn continuously over extended periods to ensure the survival of the next generation.

A small number of eggs (usually only 3 to 5) are laid daily over a period of weeks, until the puddle or pond that they live in dries up.   The eggs remain dormant in a state of hibernation known as diapauses, until the coming of the rainy season, when the puddle or pond again fills up with water to stimulate the hatching of the eggs.   The eggs will hatch out in a matter of hours after the introduction of water.   The young of annual killifish species grow to adulthood very quickly, and as soon as they reach maturity, they immediately begin their spawning activities to continue the life cycle.   This process is ongoing until the pond or puddle dries up again and a new generation of killifish is produced.

Semi Annual species are generally longer lived than the annual species, and are found in areas that do not totally dry out in their natural habitat during the dry season.   The ponds, ditches, and puddles that they are found in may hold water throughout the dry season and at the worst, dry out to a moist muddy bottom as the rains subside.

These killifish are substrate spawners that lay their eggs in the muddy sediment or organic debris at the bottom of the pond or ditch.   As the rains subside, the water evaporates and the eggs remain damp and partially dry out in the sediment for periods of up to four months.   When the rains return again, the eggs hatch out within a few days and the live cycle begins again.

Semi annual killifish species can be bred in an aquarium environment by simulating these conditions using peat moss, spawning mops, or Java Moss.   Removing the eggs with the substrate, and partially drying them out for a period of 30 to 60 or more days (depending on species) essentially duplicates the spawning conditions.   The eggs usually hatch out in a just few days after the introduction of water to the substrate.

Non Annual species are the longest lived of the three groups, and many (such as the Aphyosemion genus) can live up to five years or more in an aquarium environment.  These fish live in small streams, ponds, and other permanent bodies of water that do not dry up during periods of drought.   Non Annual killifish are harder to keep and are usually more challenging to breed.

Most of them are plant spawners that in an aquarium environment are bred using spawning mops or Java Moss.   The eggs are incubated in water, not allowed to dry out, and usually hatch out in about 20 to 30 days depending on water temperature and species.

Blue Gularis Killifish (Fundulopanchax sjoestedti)

Blue Gularis Killifish (Fundulopanchax sjoestedti)

The largest killifish species can grow to almost 6 inches in length, but most killifish are less than 2 inches long.

Many klillifish species are as brightly colored as salt water fish and are prized by tropical fish keeping enthusiasts in the aquarium hobby.

Males are generally more colorful than females and often have incredibly elegant finnage.   The females are usually larger than the males and are always less brightly colored.

Most killifish are territorial and will defend their areas from other males in the tank.   They will vigorously mate with any available female in the area.   When housed in an aquarium environment, it’s best to keep at least two or three females for every male in the tank.   If you place more than a couple males in the same tank, it’s best to include at least three females for every male fish to minimize aggression.

In their natural habitat, the majority of Killifish are carnivorous and consume insect larvae, small invertebrates, mosquito larvae, worms, and zooplankton, however several species in the Americas do consume algae and other aquatic plant matter.

All killifish are great jumpers.   In their natural habitats, they often jump from puddle to puddle as their environments shrink.   In an aquarium environment, they need either a tightly fitting lid or some floating plants to discourage them from jumping out ot the tank.

Throughout the world, Killifish are prized by tropical fish keeping enthusiasts for their beauty, finnage, and breeding challenges, but they are also used as bait fish in many areas of the world, in laboratory studies in a variety of learning, aging, pigmentation, embryological, and endocrinological experiments, in inter tidal and nearshore pollution tolerance studies, and as a biological control agent to reduce mosquito populations in fresh and brackish waters.

If you have never come across any of these gorgeous little fish, it is probably because most tropical fish shops do not have a steady killifish supplier.

Unlike many other species of tropical fish, commercial suppliers are unable to mass produce killifish.   Therefore, most species are bred by small breeders out of their homes and occasionally sold to commercial suppliers, or are wild caught.

Shipping wild caught specimens is an expensive proposition.  Mainly because the males of most species fight when in close confinement, creating sometimes huge losses in shipments.    Additionally, most killies are excellent jumpers and because many fish shop employees do not keep their tanks tightly covered,  lots of expensive stock often ends up on the fish shop floor.

If you can find a pair of killifish in your local pet shop, you can be expected to pay in the neighborhood of $20 to $50 or more per pair.

Many tropical fish keeping enthusiasts breed killifish which are then distributed within killifish societies throughout the world.    If you care to join one of these societies online, many of these specialty breeders will sell the eggs and occasionally the adults at reasonable prices, and may even give away the eggs to members.

One of the best source of killies is the Fish and Egg Listing (F&EL) found in the Business Newsletter of the AKA (American Killifish Association).

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Blue Gularis Killifish (Fundulopanchax sjoestedti)

Blue Gularis Killifish (Fundulopanchax sjoestedti)

The Blue Gularis Killifish (Fundulopanchax sjoestedti) is native to the water holes, streams, and marsh areas of Nigeria and Cameroon, Africa.

Many tropical fish keeping enthusiasts regard the Blue Gularis Killifish as one of the best known and most sought after of all killifishes.

Blue Gularis Killifish (Fundulopanchax sjoestedti)

Blue Gularis Killifish Pair (Fundulopanchax sjoestedti)

Fundulopanchax sjoestedti is a large, colorful, semi aggressive, killifish that possesses a three forked tail that often has long streamers emanating from the tips.

Males have a distinctive color pattern that is predominately blue on the back and orangeish colored on the flanks, with dark reddish brown stripes.   The sides of the fish are purplish in color, overlaid with white spots and the head also has white spots with red markings.

Adult males are a vibrant blue and red color, with a distinctive three pronged “ice blue” colored tail that is sprinkled with random black striations and spots.

The middle of the three pronged tail is colored a light to fiery orange that is lightly outlined in black.   They have rather large pectoral fins that are trimmed in white along the outer edges and splashed with brown spots.   The yellowish blue dorsal fin is patterned similar to the caudal fin.

Several colour forms are available to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts, including a smaller variety known as the Dwarf Red Gularis.

Female Blue Gularis are smaller and lack the gaudy colors of the male.   They are usually colored a drab gray to brown color and have faint black spots, stripes, and reddish spots on the fins, with faint light red bars behind the eye.

Blue Gularis are relatively easy to keep in an aquarium environment and will thrive in a wide range of water conditions.

Although they can be kept in a community aquarium, they do best when housed alone in a biotope setting in a densely planted aquarium of at least 20 gallons, with a fine gravel or sandy substrate and with a layer of peat moss or Indian Almond Leaves on the bottom to keep the water softer and on the acidic side.   Driftwood or bogwood should be provided for cover along with a fewfloating plants to diffuse any overhead lighting and lessen the chances of the fish jumping from the tank.   Blue Gularis are accomplished jumpers, so the tank should have a tight fitting cover if floating plants are not provided.

Blue Gularis are relatively easy to breed substrate spawners, but getting the eggs to hatch into fry can sometimes be a challenge.   Because they are not an annual species, it is not necessary to remove their eggs from the water after spawning for them to hatch.   Females will deposit their eggs, which will generally hatch out in about 2 months, in a spawning mop or in Java Moss
.   After hatching, the young should be placed in a separate rearing tank and fed newly hatched brine shrimp,daphnia, or grindal worms.

Although many breeders use no filtration during breeding, a small corner sponge filter is recommended to promote water circulation, prevent stagnation, and minimize any fungal growths on the eggs.   The breeding tank should be kept dark with a layer of peat or Indian Almond Leaves on the bottom, and the water in the breeding tank should be soft, with a pH of about 6.5 and a temperature in the range of 74 to 78°F.

Because young Blue Gularis pairs commonly produce infertile eggs, it’s a good idea to choose an older trio of one male, to two females and separately condition them until the females become plump, on a diet of live black worms, tubifex, chopped earthworms, or mosquito larvae, before introducing them into the spawning tank.

If the water conditions are acceptable to the trio, spawning should commence rapidly with the females depositing their eggs on the spawning mops,, Java Moss
, or peat moss on the tank bottom.   A week or so after spawning, place the parents in separate tanks so the females can recuperate

Some of the eggs will be eaten if they are left in the breeding tank with the parents, so it’s a good idea to either remove the parents or the eggs, a week or so after each spawning.

When professional breeders incubate the eggs in water, they transfer the eggs into to a small tank with some of the original water from the spawning tank, to a depth of about 1 or 2 inches.   A few drops of Methylene Blue is then added to the water, and because the eggs are light sensitive, the tank is kept in complete darkness for about 3 weeks.   Daily checks are made for any white or fungused eggs which should be immediately removed.

An alternate method of hatching out the eggs is to remove any white (infertile) eggs from the tank a few days after spawning, and placing them on a bed of moist peat to incubate them.   Allow the peat from the aquarium to dry on a paper towel for a couple of hours, and then place it in a plastic zip lock bag labeled with the spawning date. Keep the bag at a room temperature of 70 to 75 degrees for 10 to 12 weeks, and then place the eggs with the peat into the rearing tank.   Wetting the eggs simulates the onset of rains in arid climates where the eggs remain buried in the soil and stimulates hatching.

The fry have no yolk sacs and are able to eat microworms and newly hatched brine shrimp within an hour or so after hatching.

One of the biggest problems Fundulopanchax sjoestedti breeders encounter using the first method is infertile or fungused eggs, however, the use of Indian Almond leaves will often solve the fungus problem.   The decomposition of the leaves in the tank produces desirable chemicals and microorganisms that can minimize fungus problems and be a benefit to the fry.

In their natural habitat, Blue Gularis feed on a variety of worms, crustaceans, mosquito larvae, small fish, and animal matter.   In an aquarium environment, they will thrive on live or frozen blackworms, bloodworms, daphnia, white worms, brine shrimp, tubifex, and chopped earthworms.

Although they will occasionally eat prepared and freeze dried foods, it should not be their primary diet.

When housed In a community tank, do not keep them with small guppies as they will hunt them down and eat them.

Tropical fish keeping enthusiasts can purchase Blue Gularis Killifish from specialty shops and from breeders online when they are approximately 1″ to 2-1/2″ insize. They are generally sold in pairs and command high prices.

Blue Gularis Killifish (Fundulopanchax sjoestedti)

Blue Gularis Killifish (Fundulopanchax sjoestedti)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallons
Care Level: Moderate
Temperament: Semi-aggressive
Hardiness: Moderately Hardy
Water Conditions: 73-79° F, KH 6-12, 5-20H, pH 6.0-8.0
Max. Size: 5¼”
Color Form: Black, Blue, Green, Red, Tan, Yellow
Diet: Carnivore
Compatibility: Community and Biotope tanks
Origin: Nigeria, Cameroon, tank raised
Family: Aplocheilidae
Lifespan: 3-5 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Experienced

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

Common Platy (Xiphophorus maculatus)

Common Platy (Xiphophorus maculatus)

The Common Platy (Xiphophorus maculatus), also known to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts as the Moonfish, Southern Platyfish, or Mickey Mouse Platy is native to North and Central America, but is also found in Belize and Central Mexico.

Platys share similar habitats with, and are closely related to Green Swordtails, which they will readily interbreed with when given the opportunity.  They are both found in ponds, canals, slow moving streams, backwaters, and even drainage ditches throughout their range.

Common Platy (Xiphophorus maculatus)

Common Platy (Xiphophorus maculatus)

The Platy is an easy to care for livebearer that comes in a plethora of color and fin variations, with the most common being a brilliant solid red, and like some other livebearers, is considered an invasive species in several countries.

Wild Xiphophorus maculatus are drab in color and lack the distinctive dark lateral line that is common to many Xiphophorus species, but breeders have developed a multitude of color varieties for the aquarium trade that commonly includes orange, red, scarlet, yellow, red/black, black/white, blue, etc.

Some of the more common Platy variations include the Wagtail, Blue, Simpson Tuxedo, and Simpson Coral Platy.

Common Platy (Xiphophorus maculatus)

Common Platy (Xiphophorus maculatus)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Common Platy Hybrid (Xiphophorus maculatus)

Common Platy Hybrid (Xiphophorus maculatus)

 

 

 

 

Common Platy (Xiphophorus maculatus)

Common Platy (Xiphophorus maculatus)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Common Platy Hybrid (Xiphophorus maculatus)

Common Platy Hybrid (Xiphophorus maculatus)

 

 

 

 

 

Common Platy (Xiphophorus maculatus)

Common Platy(Xiphophorus maculatus)

 

 

 

 

 

Common Platy (Xiphophorus maculatus)

Common Platy (Xiphophorus maculatus)

 

 

 

 

 

Common Platy (Xiphophorus maculatus)

Common Platy (Xiphophorus maculatus)

 

 

 

 

 

Female Southern Platyfish have a fan shaped anal fin and grow to a maximum size of 2.5 inches.

Although sexual dimorphism is slight, the caudal fin of the male is more pointed and the anal fin has evolved into a stick shaped gonopodium, which is used for reproduction.  Females are usually larger than males and both sport the same bright color patterns.

The males are almost always more brightly colored than the females.  Wild specimens of both sexes posses a distinctive dark lateral line.

All Platys are omnivorous and in their natural habitat forage on algae, plant matter, small insects, worms, mosquito larvae, and crustaceans.

The Common Platy is a hardy, easy to keep species that is perfect for beginning tropical fish keeping enthusiasts.

They are best housed in a densely planted, well maintained aquarium of at least 10 gallon capacity, with a gravel substrate, some driftwood, river rocks, and hardy plants like Java Fern or Java Moss for the young to hide among.  They are peaceful livebearers that can be housed with many other peaceful species

The Common Platy (Xiphophorus maculatus) is extremely easy to breed in a pond or aquarium environment and is capable of reproducing when they are only three or four months old.

Nothing special is required to trigger breeding activity, just make sure you have a larger ratio of females to males in the breeding tank or community aquarium.   Two or three females to every male will be just fine and when they begin to breed, the males will constantly try to breed with every female in the tank.

For this reason, it’s a good idea to place them in larger quarters with Java Moss for them to hide among.  When confined, the males continual advances will often stress out individual females to the point of death.

Once a female is impregnated, her belly will quickly swell and a dark gravid spot will appear near the anal fin.  The dark spot is actually the dark eyes of the fry pressing against the interior of the female’s belly.

After the female gives birth to the young, remove either the fry or the parents to a rearing tank.  Platys will quickly eat their young, which is why lots of cover is needed in a community tank if you plan to keep them together and save a few.  Water Sprite, Cabomba, Java Moss, etc. will give the fry a place to hide in and a fighting chance of survival.

You need to have a plan to deal with the continuous supply of babies you will undoubtedly acquire when keeping Platys.  A 30 gallon or larger tank will allow the plentiful supply of fry to grow to adulthood without overcrowding.  You can then give them away, trade, or sell them.

Like most livebearers, the newly born fry are pretty well developed, so no special fry food is needed.  They are able to eat powdered flake food as well as live, frozen, or freeze dried baby brine shrimp, microworms, daphnia, microworms,   When housed in a large tank they will grow quickly and

As adults, Platys do well on commercially prepared omnivore flakes, spiurilina flakes and live, frozen, or freeze dried bloodworms, blackworms, tubifex, daphnia
, brine shrimp, Drosophila fruit flies, and mosquito larvae.

Most varieties are readily available from tropical fish keeping shops or online when they are 3/4″ to 1-1/2″ in length at reasonable prices.

Common Platy (Xiphophorus maculatus)

Common Platy (Xiphophorus maculatus)


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Minimum Tank Size: 10 gallons
Care Level: Moderate
Temperament: Peaceful
Hardiness: Moderately Hardy
Water Conditions: 64-79° F, KH 10-25, pH 7.0-8.5
Max. Size: 2 1/2″
Color Form: Assorted, Orange, Red, Yellow
Diet: Omnivore
Compatibility:  Peaceful Community Tanks
Origin:  North and Central America
Family:  Poeciliidae
Lifespan: 3 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner

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Black Oranda Goldfish (Carassius auratus)

Oranda Goldfish (Carassius auratus)

Oranda Goldfish (Carassius auratus) are known to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts as Holland Ironmask goldfish, Wen, Flower of the Water, or Fancy Oranda, and are arguably one of the most popular goldfish breeds in the world.

Like all goldfish breeds, Orandas are descendants of a species of Central Asian (Siberian) wild carp known as the Prussian Carp, Silver Prussian carp, or Gibel Carp (Carassius gibelio).

Oranda goldfish are distinguished by a prominent bubble like head growth or hood on the head known as the wen, or crown.  Except for the eyes and mouth, the fleshy growth in mature specimens can completely encase the head of the fish.

Except for their heads, Oranda goldfish are similar to Veiltail Goldfish.   They have a short rounded or egg shaped body, with shimmering (almost metallic looking) scales, a split fan tail that is shorter than the Veiltail.  Except for their split tail fin, their fins are paired and unlike the Lionhead goldfish, they posses a dorsal fin.

Orange Oranda  (Carassius auratus)

Orange Oranda (Carassius auratus)

Orandas are available in a plethora of colors which is often incorporated in their name description.

Their metallic or matte scales can be colored black, red, white, calico, black and white, chocolate, white with a red Wen, bronze, and recently even a rare blue variety.

The fleshy Wen begins to develop in the Oranda when the fish is about 3 or 4 months old, but it takes about two years for the hood to become fully developed.   Although it is impossible to sex young Oranda goldfish, the males are generally smaller and slimmer than the females.  During the breeding season the male develops white prickles, called breeding tubercles, on their head and gill covers and the females, when viewed from above, are much fatter in appearance.

Oranda Goldfish are best housed in a tank of at least 30 gallon capacity with a medium gravel substrate, decorated with some colder water plants, a piece of driftwood or bogwood, some smooth rocks, and floating plants to diffuse overhead lighting.   Their Wen is somewhat delicate and bacterial infections can become a problem with sharp edged rocks, driftwood, or decomposing plants.  They are scavengers and will try to uproot live plants, especially when planted in fine gravel or a sandy substrate.

Orandas are a social species that should be housed (uncrowded) with at least 4 or 5 of their own kind.   They are a peaceful, slow moving species that should be kept with other slow moving relatives like the Lionhead Goldfish, Telescope Goldfish, and Celestial Eye Goldfish.   These are all delicate, slow moving varieties with poor vision, that when housed together should get plenty to eat.

All goldfish produce a tremendous amount of waste.  They need regular water changes and a good
filtration system that does not create a strong flow of current in the tank.   Orandas require a lot of oxygen, so an air stone is recommended along with a tank that provides the maximum amount of surface area (breeder tank) per fish.

Like all species of goldfish, the fancy Oranada Goldfish is not a true tropical fish.   They are a cold water species that does best at temperatures between 65 – 72° F but unlike other goldfish species, they cannot tolerate temperatures under 60° F.   They can tolerate salinity levels below 10% and specific gravity less than 1.002.

Orandas are egg layers that are relatively easy to breed in an aquarium environment.  In the wild, they always breed during the spring in groups as small as five individuals.

To mimic springtime breeding conditions in an aquarium environment, you will first need to stock some healthy fish into a breeding tank planted with Anacharis or other oxygenating plants.  Some solid surfaces (like clean slate) and/or spawning mops should be provided for the eggs to adhere to.

Induce spawning by feeding the fish live brine shrimp, worms, etc. several times a day, slowly lowering the water temperature to around 60° F, and then slowly warming the water approximately 3° F per day until spawning commences.   Spawning activity will usually occur when the water temperature reaches between 68° and 74° F.   During this process, the water quality in the breeding tank should be maintained with daily partial water changes of up to 20 %.

When the fish are ready to spawn, the male will push the female against the plants to stimulate her. She will drop tiny eggs that when fertilized by the males will adhere to the plants, slate, or spawning mops by sticky threads. Females can lay as many as 10,000 eggs per spawn over a period of three to four hours.

Separate the parents from the eggs immediately after spawning as the parents will devour as many eggs as possible.   Depending on the water temperature, the fertilized eggs will hatch in 4 to 7 days. Feed the fry specialty fry foods until they are able to consume crushed goldfish flakes or brine shrimp.

Fancy Oranda Goldfish are omnivorous and will eat all kinds of fresh, frozen, and flake foods.   A good quality flake food with supplemental feedings of live, frozen, or freeze dried brine shrimp, blood worms, daphnia, or tubifex worms will keep them free of parasites or bacterial infections.

Avoid overfeeding but because of their poor vision, allow them plenty of time to eat before removing any excess food from the tank.

Oranda Goldfish are relatively inexpensive and readily available in most tropical fish keeping shops and online as juveniles and/or adults. The fancier and rarer color variations like the blue scale variety are usually much more expensive.

Black Oranda Goldfish (Carassius auratus)

Black Oranda Goldfish (Carassius auratus)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minimum Tank Size: 20-30 gallons
Care Level: Moderately Difficult
Temperament: Peaceful
Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately Hardy
Water Conditions: 65-72° F, KH 2-15, pH 6.5-8.0
Max. Size: 7″
Color Form: Black, Red, White, Blue
Diet: Omnivore
Compatibility: Other slow moving species
Origin: Asia, China, Farm Raised
Family: Cyprinidae
Lifespan: 10-20 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate

 

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

Miniature Nannostomus (Nannostomus anduzei)

The Miniature Nannostomus (Nannostomus anduzei) also known to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts as Anduzi’s Naqnnostomus and Miniature Pencilfish, is found about 20 kilometers north of Puerto Ayacucho in Venezuela’s upper Orinoco river basin.   It has also been collected from one other area several hundred kilometers farther south in the rio Ererê  drainage, a minor tributary of the middle rio Negro basin in the  Amazonas state, Brazil.

The Miniature Nannostomus is a peaceful, shoaling, species that is the smallest member of the genus, and although relatively common as a by-catch among shipments from Manaus, are rarely available in large numbers to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts.

Nannostomus anduzei are collected in extremely shallow and slow moving perennial forest streams (called Caño Provincial) over sandy white substrates, with submerged roots and leaf litter.   The Caño Provincial originates from a freshwater spring surrounded by Mauritia flexuosa (the Moriche Palm) and flows about 2000 m into a wide, shallow lagoon next to the Rio Orinoco.  The lagoon has turbid water, with a mud substrate that supports both emerging and floating vegetation.

In December of 1984, when the species was originally collected, the water chemistry of the Caño Provincial had a pH of 5.0, and a water temperature of 80.6°F.   The water in the lagoon where Nannostomus anduzei was also collected among the plants was 86°F, at a pH between 5.0-7.0.    None of the fish were collected from the surrounding acidic black water habitats however, the  Brazilian rio Ererê fish were collected from a black water biotope, with all males possessing longer anal fins.

The Miniature Nannostomus is a very small fish.  They become sexually mature at less than .5 inch and achieve a maximum length of only .63 inch as fully mature adults.  Despite their diminutive size, they are a strikingly colored species.

Nannostomus anduzei

Nannostomus anduzei

They have a golden brown body with a metallic gold stripe that runs the length of the body along the lateral line.  They have patches of brilliant cranberry red on their anal and caudal fins.

Males have a longer anal fin, with some of the surrounding muscle modified to enable mating, are slimmer bodied, and are more brilliantly colored around the red patches on their anal and caudal fins, especially when in breeding condition.

Females can have a brighter metallic gold body stripe than males but the red patches on their anal and caudal fins are always less brilliant and somewhat paler compared to males.

Although they can be housed with other small fish such as Paracheirodon simulans (which it is sometimes exported with as a by-catch) in a small community aquarium, it’s small size and timid nature makes the Miniature Pencilfish particularly suited to a nano aquarium environment.

Place as many as you can acquire, or at least 10 individuals, in a densely planted aquarium of fine leaved plants of at least 15 gallon capacity, with a dark sandy substrate, some floating plants to diffuse overhead lighting, driftwood for the fish to hide among, and some Indian Almond Leaves or other leaf litter to promote the growth of microbe colonies.   The decomposition of the dried Indian Almond leaves releases tannins and other beneficial chemicals into the water and establishing a secondary food source for the tiny fish.

Miniature Nannostomus need a lot of free swimming space and clean, aged, slow moving water conditions in their aquarium, which makes a good filtration system and frequent water changes mandatory.  Gentle filtration with an air powered sponge type filter should be adequate.

Although breeding Miniature Nannostomus is not reported to be easy, they have been bred in an aquarium environment.  Their eggs are laid and fertilized between the leaves of fine leaved plants.   After spawning, the parents should be removed from the breeding tank and after three days, the eggs hatch out.  The fry should be fed fine infusoria when they become free swimming and freshly hatched baby brine shrimp or finely crushed omnivore flakes as they grow.

Nannostomus anduzei is an omnivorous micro-predator that in their natural habitat feed on small worms, invertebrates, and zooplankton in the water column.    In an aquarium environment, their small mouths and overall size require small portions of crushed flake foods, and daily offerings of live, frozen, or freeze dried brine shrimp, tubifex, microworms, grindal worms, Moina, etc.  They reportedly browse on algae and biofilm which may represent a significant portion of their diet.

Miniature Nannostomus are almost never intentionally exported from the wild for sale to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts however, occasional specimens do turn up as a by-catch with other species, primarily from Manaus shipments.    They can occasionally be found for sale online, but almost never in tropical fish shops.

Nannostomus anduzei

Nannostomus anduzei

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minimum Tank Size: 15 gallons
Care Level: Moderate
Temperament: Peaceful
Hardiness: Moderately Hardy
Water Conditions: 75-83° F,  H 18 – 90 ppm, pH: 5.0 – 6.5
Max Size: .5 – .64″
Color Form: Brown, Gold, Red
Diet: Omnivore
Compatibility: Nano- tank
Origin: Venezuela, Brazi
Family: Lebiasinidae
Lifespan: Unknown
Aquarist Experience Level: Intermediate

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Bubble Eye Goldfish (Carassius auratus)

Bubble Eye Goldfish (Carassius auratus)

Bubble Eye Goldfish (Carassius auratus) also known to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts as the Water Bubble Eye Goldfish, are descendants of a species of Central Asian (Siberia) wild carp known as the Prussian Carp, Silver Prussian carp, or Gibel Carp (Carassius gibelio).

Bubble Eye Goldfish are one of the more than 125 captive bred fancy goldfish varieties, that like their ancestors, inhabit slower moving and stagnant waters of rivers, lakes, ponds, and ditches where they feed on plants, detritus, small crustaceans, and insects.

Bubble Eye Goldfish were originally developed in China, and by the early 1500s were vigorously traded in Japan.   By the 1600s they had made their way into Europe, and eventually by the 1800s into the Americas.   Throughout the centuries, Asian breeders developed the majority of fancy goldfish colors and shapes that we see today in the tropical fish keeping arena, including the Bubble Eyes and closely related Celestial varieties. Domesticated goldfish are now distributed world wide.

Bubble Eye Goldfish (Carassius auratus)

Bubble Eye Goldfish (Carassius auratus)

Bubble Eye Goldfish are an egg shaped variety that have a double tail, no dorsal fin, and upturned eyes above fluid filled sacks that begin to develop when they reach 6 to 9 months of age.  Their body size and shape is similar to the Celestial Goldfish, which is a bit slimmer and whose eyes are more extremely upturned.  They have poor eyesight and although most specimens purchased in the Americas do not have dorsal fins, one China bred variety is bred with a dorsal fin.

Mature Bubble Eye Goldfish generally grow to a length of 5 inches or more. When they reach 2 years of age, the two distinguishing fluid filled pouches of skin on it’s cheeks become almost grossly large and delicate looking. They are bred in a variety of solid colors that include red, blue, chocolate, and black; as well as red/white, red/black, and calico bi-colored specimens.

Bubble Eye Goldfish are best housed in a tank of at least 20 gallons with a medium gravel substrate, decorated with some colder water plants, a piece of driftwood or bogwood, some smooth rocks, and floating plants to diffuse overhead lighting.   Keep in mind that their fluid filled sacs are delicate and can become a problem with sharp edged rocks, driftwood, or plants.  They are scavengers and tend to uproot live plants, especially when planted in fine gravel or a sandy substrate.

Bubble Eyes are a social species that should be housed with at least 4 or 5 of their own kind, but do not overcrowd.   They are a slow moving species that should be kept with other slow moving relatives like the Lionhead Goldfish, Telescope Goldfish, and Celestial Eye Goldfish.   Although none of these varieties will win any races, when kept together they should get plenty to eat.  Because they are one of the more delicate species, they should never be housed in a community tank environment.

Because all goldfish produce a tremendous amount of waste, they need regular water changes and a good filtration system that does not create a strong flow of current in the tank.   Bubble Eyes require a lot of oxygen, so an air stone is recommended along with a tank that provides the maximum amount of surface area (breeder tank) per fish.

Like all species of goldfish, the Bubble Eye Goldfish is not a true tropical fish.  They are a cold water species that does best at temperatures between 65 – 72° F but unlike other goldfish species, they cannot tolerate temperatures under 60° F. They can tolerate salinity levels below 10% and specific gravity less than 1.002.

Bubble Eye Goldfish are egg layers that are moderately easy to breed in an aquarium environment.  They are usually bred in groups as small as five individuals and in the wild, spawn during the spring.

To mimic these conditions in an aquarium, provide healthy fish with a tank planted with Anacharis or other oxygenating plants, solid surfaces (like clean slate) for the eggs to adhere to, and/or spawning mops.

Induce spawning by feeding the fish live brine shrimp, worms, etc. several times a day, slowly lowering the water temperature to around 60° F, and then slowly warming the water approximately 3° F per day until spawning commences. Spawning activity will usually occur when the water temperature reaches between 68° and 74° F.   During this process, the water quality in the breeding tank should be maintained with daily partial water changes of up to 20 %.

When the fish are ready to spawn, the male will push the female against the plants to stimulate her. She will drop tiny eggs that when fertilized by the males will adhere to the plants, slate, or spawning mops by sticky threads. Females can lay as many as 10,000 eggs per spawn over a period of three to four hours.

Separate the parents from the eggs immediately after spawning as they will devour as many eggs as possible. Depending on the water temperature, the fertilized eggs will hatch in 4 to 7 days. Feed the fry specialty fry foods until they are able to consume crushed goldfish flakes or brine shrimp.

Bubble Eye Goldfish are omnivorous and will eat all kinds of fresh, frozen, and flake foods. A good quality flake food with supplemental feedings of live, frozen, or freeze dried brine shrimp, blood worms, Daphnia, or tubifex worms will keep them free of parasites or bacterial infections. Avoid overfeeding but because of their poor vision and bubble sacs under their eyes, allow them plenty of time to eat before removing excess food from the tank.

Bubble Eye Goldfish are relatively inexpensive and readily available online and in tropical fish keeping shops in a variety of sizes.

Bubble Eye Goldfish (Carassius auratus)

Bubble Eye Goldfish (Carassius auratus)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallons
Care Level: Moderately Difficult
Temperament: Peaceful
Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately Hardy
Water Conditions: 65-72° F, KH 2-15, pH 6.5-8.0
Max. Size: 5″+
Color Form: Black, Red, White
Diet: Omnivore
Compatibility: Other slow moving species
Origin: Asia, China, Farm Raised
Family: Cyprinidae
Lifespan: 10-20 yearsAquarist
Experience Level: Intermediate

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

Elegant Pencilfish (Nannostomus limatus)

Elegant Pencilfish (Nannostomus limatus)

The Elegant Pencilfish (Nannostomus limatus) is a rare species of found in the Amazon River basin near Santarém, Brazil; specifically in Lake Mapiri and it’s tributaries.

Along with two other new species, Nannostomus britskii and Nannostomus nitidus (which DNA analysis suggests is synonymous with Nannostomus limatus), the Elegant Pencilfish was first described from a collection of preserved specimens found in the Sao Paulo museum by Stanley H. Weitzman in 1978.

Needless to say, the Elegant Pencilfish is extremely rare in the aquarium trade and is usually found in mixed shipments with other species.

Like other Pencilfish species, Nannostomus limatus typically frequents small rivers, sluggish tributaries, slow moving streams, and swampy areas that have an abundance of aquatic vegetation, submerged bogwood, and leaf litter.

Elegant Pencilfish (Nannostomus limatus)

Elegant Pencilfish (Nannostomus limatus)

Elegant Pencilfish are a small, elongated species that has one prominent dark horizontal stripe along the body from the mouth, through the eye, to the base of the caudal fin, and another lighter yellow/gold colored line above.

The top portion of the body is covered with relatively large darker brown outlined scales with dark, lined spots.   The undersides are a lighter to reddish color (in males) with a splash of red on the base of the caudal and anal fins.   They possess no adipose fin.   Adult males are always more intensely colored and a bit smaller than females.

The Elegant Pencilfish is a shoaling species that is best kept with at least 8 to 10 of their own kind in a nano-aquarium type setup.   In a community tank environment, the can be housed with like sized loricariid catfishes, peaceful characids, dwarf cichlids, and the smaller callichthyids.

Nannostomus limatus do well in a densely planted aquarium of at least 15 gallon capacity, with a dark sand or fine gravel substrate, some floating plants to diffuse overhead lighting, some driftwood or bogwood for the fish to hide among, and some dried Indian Almond Leaves or other leaf litter to promote the growth of microbe colonies.

During decomposition, the dried Indian Almond leaves produce tannins and other beneficial chemicals as well as establishing a secondary food source as the leaves decay.   Nannostomus limatus prefer clean, aged, slow moving water in their aquarium making frequent water changes a  necessity.   Power heads and filtration systems with heavy water flows should be avoided.

To date, breeding has never been reported in an aquarium environment.

Elegant Pencilfish are micro predators and in their natural environment feed on small invertebrates, minute worms, larvae of chironomids, etc.   In an aquarium environment they do well on a diet of live, frozen, or freeze dried Daphnia, baby brine shrimp, microworms, tubifex, or bloodworms.

Elegant Pencilfish (Nannostomus limatus) are almost never available in tropical fish keeping shops but may occasionally be acquired online from importers when discovered in mixed shipments.

Elegant Pencilfish (Nannostomus limatus)

Elegant Pencilfish (Nannostomus limatus)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minimum Tank Size: 15 gallons
Care Level: Difficult
Temperament: Peaceful
Hardiness: Moderately Hardy
Water Conditions: 72-82° F, GH <3, pH 4.5-6.8
Max. Size: 1.5″
Color Form: Silver, Black, Red
Diet: Omnivore
Compatibility: Nano- tank
Origin: Brazil, Lake Mapiri
Family: Lebiasinidae
Lifespan: Unknown
Aquarist Experience Level: Experienced

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Gold Rabbit Snail (Tylomelania gennifera)

Rabbit Snails (Tylomelania sp.)

Rabbit Snails (Tylomelania sp.) are a genus of freshwater gastropods endemic to lakes Poso, Matano, Towuti, Lontoa, Mahalona, and Masapi on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi.

Gold Rabbit Snail (Tylomelania gennifera)

Gold Rabbit Snail (Tylomelania gennifera)

Rabbit Snails are known to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts by a variety of names including the Giant Sulawesi Snail, Orange Giant Sulawesi Snail, Golden Giant Sulawesi Snail,Mini Golden Rabbit Snail, Golden Rabbit Snail, Elephant Snail, Sulawesi Snail, etc.

All species come from Lake Poso and the Malili Lakes system, Sulawesi, Indonesia and all are extremely rare and difficult to obtain in the United States.

All species of Rabbit snails, like Mystery snails, have both male and female genders and an operculum.

They have long, whorled, unicorn horn like shells that are colored light brown to black with a white crown, and strikingly beautiful body colors that can be bright orange, yellow, cream, black with yellow or white dots, black with yellow tentacles, black with yellow spots, or any combination between.

Many of the Rabbit Snails numerous different color forms are still awaiting formal description.

Rabbit Snails (Tylomelania sp.)

Rabbit Snails (Tylomelania sp.)

 

Giant Rabbit Snail (Tylomelania Sp.)

Giant Rabbit Snail (Tylomelania Sp.)

 

Yellow Rabbit Snail (Tylomelania Sp.)

Yellow Rabbit Snail (Tylomelania Sp.)

 

Gold Rabbit Snail (Tylomelania gennifera)

Gold Rabbit Snail (Tylomelania gennifera)

Their long, ridged, conical shells vary in appearance, and their small eyes set underneath the tentacles on their long, tactile (elephant nose like) snout lends to their overall rabbit face like appearance, which is undoubtedly how their common name was derived.

The Gold Rabbit Snail (Tylomelania gemmifera) found exclusively in Lake Matano, appears to have a bunny like “face” with an elongated head, drooping yellow antennae “bunny ears,” and a long, down turned mouth.   Another variety has a black body with yellow spots, yellow antennae, and yellow lips.   All are peaceful scavengers and one of the largest freshwater snails in the hobby, with some species reaching over 4 inches in length.

The adaptable nature of Sulawesi snails allows them to be housed safely with almost any species of fish, shrimp, snail, and live plants however, because they are from a tropical climate, aquariums with high temperatures are necessary for them to thrive.   Good tank mates include other types of snails like Nerite Snails, Mystery Snails, Golden Rabbit Snails, etc., dwarf shrimp like the Blue Velvet shrimp, Neon Yellow Shrimp, Sakura Red Cherry Shrimp, etc. and any non aggressive fish species.

Because of their large size, Elephant Snails need room to move around and should be housed in at least a 30 gallon semi-densely planted tank, with a sand or fine gravel substrate, some driftwood, rocks, and a few floating plants
to diffuse overhead lighting.   Avoid overcrowding the tank with too many plants.   Water quality and temperature is important with Rabbit Snails and like other snail species, they are extremely sensitive to copper in even minute amounts.

Under ideal water conditions, Giant Sulawesi snails have been known to breed in an aquarium environment, but at an extremely slow rate.  Unlike many other snail species, they will never create an overpopulation problem in your tank.

Their method of reproduction is somewhat unique.  When the male impregnates the female, an embryo is formed in a pouch or pod inside the shell of the female, where it receives nutrients from the female until it is fully developed.  When the embryo, or pod, is fully developed, the female will expel 1 to 3 egg sacs (or pods) into the water, where the casings of the pods dissolve to reveal a miniature version of the adult snail.   Tylomelania Sp. give live birth and produce one round white pod (with one to three baby snails) every six weeks or so which in the snail world, is an extremely slow reproduction rate .

In an aquarium environment, Sulawesi snails make excellent janitors.   They are constantly seeking out leftover food and vacuuming up detritus from the substrate.   They will eat algae, plant matter, and detritus from the bottom as well as algae wafers and invertebrate pellets.

Absent a good growth of algae in the tank, they have been known to occasionally munch away on plants like Java Fern.   These snails also have a penchant for trailing after other aquatic snails in the tank and grazing on the slime trail left behind (similar to terrestrial snails and slugs) by the other snail.

Rabbit Snails (Tylomelania sp.) are occasionally available from online suppliers and from specialty tropical fish keeping shops however, they are almost always on back order.  Purchase size is from 1-1/2″ to 3″ or more in length.

Yellow Rabbit Snail (Tylomelania Sp.)

Yellow Rabbit Snail (Tylomelania Sp.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons
Care Level: Moderate
Temperament: Peaceful
Water Conditions: 82-86 deg F° , <8 dH, kH 2-15, pH 7.5-8.5
Max. Size: .8″ to 4.7″ depending on species
Color Form: Brown, Yellow, Orange, black,
Diet: Omnivore
Compatibility: Community tanks
Origin: Sulawesi, Indonesia
Family: Pachychilidae
Lifespan: 2-4 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Advanced

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Japanese Trapdoor Snail (Bellamya chinensis)

Japanese Trapdoor Snail (Bellamya chinensis)

The Japanese Trapdoor Snail (Bellamya chinensis) is known to tropical fish keeping enthusiasts as the Chinese Mystery Snail, Black Snail, Trapdoor Snail, Japanese Mystery Snail, Black Japanese Trapdoor Snail, Asian Apple Snail, Rice Snail and Oriental Mystery Snail is actually classified as a “pond” snail that can survive in Northern climates and considered a problematic invasive species in several areas of the world.

Japanese Trapdoor Snails are native to East Asia, from the tropics of Indochina to northern China.  It’s native range is from Southeast Asia to Japan and eastern Russia, but is widely distributed in China and the United States.  In the late 1800s, they were sold for food in San Francisco’s Chinese markets and they are now well established in California and several Northeastern states.

The Chinese Mystery Snail scientific name (Bellamya chinensis) is synonymous with Cipangopaludina chinensis, Cipangopaludina chinensis malleatus, Cipangopaludina chinensis malleata, Viviparus malleatus, Viviparus chinensis malleatus, Bellamya chinensis and Bellamya chinensis malleatus.

Japanese Trapdoor Snail (Bellamya chinensis)

Japanese Trapdoor Snail (Bellamya chinensis)

The Japanese Trapdoor Snail is a large freshwater snail that has an operculum and gills.   When the body of the snail is fully retracted, the operculum (or trap door) seals the shell up to protect the snail against predators and from drying out.   They have a thin smooth conical globose shell with clear growth lines which is can be an olive green, greenish brown, brown, or reddish brown color.   The shell has 6 or 7 whorls and the inner color can be white to pale blue. Although Bellamya chinensis is usually a brown gray color, their colors and patterns can vary considerably.

Japanese Trapdoor Snails prefer bodies of water that have soft, muddy or silty substrates.   They can be found in freshwater lakes, reservoirs, slow moving streams and rivers, ponds, and rice paddy fields.   They prefer slow moving to stagnant water and can survive a variety of water chemistries.   For optimum growth they need a temperature of 68 to 82° F, a pH of 6.5–8.4, and calcium concentrations of 5–97 ppm. Bellamya chinensis will hibernate when water temperatures drop lower than 50° or higher than 86 °F. and are one of the few species that can survive in Northern climates.

Chinese Mystery Snails are voracious algae eaters and are used to control outdoor ponds, water gardens, and large aquariums with excessive algae growth.   They do minimal damage to plants and will also consume uneaten fish food, vegetable matter, diatoms, and decaying organic and inorganic debris from the bottom.   They are a peaceful species that make a great addition to ponds and in particular aquariums.   They will not eat fish eggs or plants, they will not overrun a tank, and they close up their operculum when the water quality diminishes; acting like a canary in a coal mine.

Japanese Trapdoor Snails are a live bearing species.   The embryos develop inside the eggs which remain in the mother’s body until they are ready to hatch.   All females will generally contain embryos from May to August.   The young are born in shallow water from June through October in eastern North America.   After the young are born, the females migrate into deeper water during the fall for the upcoming winter.

Females can bear over 100 offspring in any given brood and well over 200 in their lifetimes.   Females can live up to 5 years, while males live only 3 to 4 years.

In an aquarium environment, Japanese Trapdoor Snails will usually quickly consume all the algae in the tank and will need supplements of live, frozen or freeze dried fish foods, vegetables, algae wafers, carnivore pellets or bottom feeder tablets.

Bellamya chinensis is available for purchase online at a size of 1/4″ to 1 1/2″ except in states where they are considered an invasive species.

Japanese Trapdoor Snail (Bellamya chinensis)

Japanese Trapdoor Snail (Bellamya chinensis)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Care Level: Easy
Temperament: Peaceful
Water Conditions: 68-82° F, KH 5-90, pH 6.5-8.0
Max. Size: 2″
Color Form: Red, brown, black, tan
Diet: Omnivore
Compatibility: Excellent pond and community tank cleaner
Origin: Asia, Burma, Thailand
Family: Vivipariidae
Lifespan: Males 3-4 years, Females 5 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner

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Assassin Snail (Clea helena)

Assassin Snail (Clea helena)

Assassin Snails (Clea helena) are a colorful, carnivorous, freshwater species that is found throughout Southeast Asia; primarily Thailand, Malaysia, and (Lake Toba) the Indonesian island Sumatra.

Assassin Snails are tolerant of a wide range of water conditions.  They are efficient opportunistic carnivores that as their name implies, feed on live prey and scavenged detritus.

In their natural habitat they can be found in lakes, pools, ponds, and ditches, but they prefer faster flowing streams with a sandy or muddy substrate where they remain partially hidden under the sediment to ambush their prey.  Assassin Snails are not very active during daylight hours and will spend much of their time buried under the substrate until they sense a snail gliding past their lair.   When they sense a snail they will quickly become active, chase it down and devour it.

Assassin Snails have a conical shell that is attractively colored with dark chocolate brown and yellow bands.   They have an operculum, and depending on the amount of food available, can grow up to 1 1/4″ in length. They are NOT hermaphroditic, but because males and females are identical in size and shape, sexing is next to impossible.

In an aquarium environment, many tropical fish keeping enthusiasts find Assassin Snails extremely effective in reducing nuisance snail populations, and as long as water conditions are right and there is a plentiful food supply, they are relatively easy to keep.   They need good water quality, regular water changes, are susceptible to high Ammonia and Nitrite levels, and like other snails are intolerant of copper in even minute amounts.

Assassin Snail (Clea helena)

Assassin Snail (Clea helena)

Clea helena are definitely an eye catching addition to almost any planted aquarium and pose no threat to any other fish or shrimp housed in a community tank.

They will spend the majority of their time buried in the substrate, but when another snail passes by, they will quickly become animated and emerge to prey on it.

In short, Clea helena is a peaceful community tank resident that ignores fish, fry, shrimp, etc. but is devastating to nuisance snail populations.

If you have a large tank with an explosion of existing snails, consider adding about 5 Assassin Snails for every 15 gallons of tank space to eliminate the problem however, remember that these snails are indiscriminate hunters and will take out good and bad snails in your aquarium.

Assassin Snails have been successfully bred in an aquarium environment.   Although identification of the sexes is currently impossible, placing several snails together will eventually find a male and female locked together.   When this occurs, remove them to another tank where they will remain coupled for several hours.   The female will lay several square shaped egg capsules around 1 mm in height and width on the glass, plastic, or on the base of plants in the tank.   The eggs will hatch out within three weeks and the fry will disappear into the substrate.

Clea helena are fond of eating Malaysian Trumpet Snails, Ramshorn Snails, and Pond Snails. When snail populations in the tank become depleted, they require additional snails but will feed on fish flakes, grindal worms, bloodworms, and other protein rich supplements.   Assassin Snails are scavengers and will also accept dead fish or other meaty debris introduced into the tank, but care should be taken to avoid Ammonia and Nitrite spikes.

Assassin Snails are available in tropical fish keeping shops and online at an approximate purchase size of 1/2″ to 1″ at reasonable prices.   Well fed adults can grow to over 3 inches in length.

Assassin Snail (Clea helena)

Assassin Snail (Clea helena)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons
Care Level: Moderate
Temperament: Peaceful
Water Conditions: 75-80° F, KH 2-15, pH 6.5-8.0
Max. Size: 3″
Color Form: Chocolate Brown, Yellow
Diet: Carnivore
Compatibility: Predatory to other snail species
Origin: Southeast Asia
Family: Buccinidae
Lifespan: 1-5 years
Aquarist Experience Level: Experienced

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