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Practical Fishkeeping 06 2018

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The UK’s best-selling aquatics magazine
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with bright Lemon tetra
Set up
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Steve has been busy
chasing river dwelling
cichlids, fawning over Dianema,
identifying Koi and travelling the UK.
Check out his biotopes on page 62.
Dave has been
exploring all things
marine breeding this month. Check out
what he has to say on all the saltwater
species you can breed on page 83.
Tai is truly obsessed
with the Pantanal of
Brazil. This month he dives, avoids
Caiman, gets inspired and sets up a
biotope you can copy on page 32.
As well as telling us
about Indostomus on
page 8, Chris has been hard at work on
his biosecurity protocols. Find out how
to up your biosecurity game on page 70.
We love it when Keith
comes out from the
breeding projects in his fish house and
shares stuff with us. This month it’s
Dwarf golden barbs on page 76.
A German aquarist
who specialises in all
things brackish, Hans-Georg has finally
discovered exactly how mudskippers
spawn. Find out on page 22.
Stay in touch
Email us at editorial@
NOW THIS is the joy of being a
magazine editor. There’s so
much in this issue, I’ve been
showered in great submissions
from aquarists of all stripes.
What’s your area of interest?
Biotopes? Then check out the
Pantanal tank by Tai Strietman.
How about cichlids? I’ll wager you’ve barely dabbled
with the river-dwelling species like Retroculus. We’ve got
those in the bag too. Maybe you’re a Koi fan, in which
case you’ll love the guide we’ve got in here.
Before I forget, there’s a free feeding guide included.
Not all of us can afford to buy all the different types to
see how they behave, so we’ve done it for you. Dry
foods too expensive? Well, we show you how to make a
cheap frozen diet that we know your fish will love.
As a closing thought, I’ve conceded my beloved
Tailpiece section this month. Jeremy Gay had something
to say, and he said it well, so he has the page for a
one-off change. Check it out, it’s a great rant.
Nathan Hill, Associate Editor
Watch us on
Lemon tetra.
Photograph by MP&C
What’s the exact
name for a Koi with
a red spot on its
head? And why is it
so special?
Find out on page 38
Follow us at www.facebook.
With its armoured flanks and
a body that’s shaped like a
short pipefish, you’ll wonder
why you’ve never set up a nano
biotope for this tiny, peaceful
Cichlids are cool, but flowloving, river-dwelling cichlids
are really cool. Meet the
species that makes for a fun
home project.
Tai Strietman dips his nets in
the waterways of the Pantanal,
then sets up a red-themed
tank, dripping with gold, based
on his observations.
What goes on underground
stays undergound... until now!
German aquarist Hans-Georg
Rupp tells us what really
happens in those burrows.
We look at some of the many
colour varieites of koi out there,
and tell you how to distinguish
a good fish from a bad one.
Like a Corydoras that’s been
stretched on a rack, Dianema
cats are charming and
It’s a community staple, but
Steve Baker tells you why you
should look at the Lemon tetra
like it’s a modern classic.
Read Editor
Nathan’s fave
article this issue
– a guide to
all the different
Koi strains.
Biosecurity can be the
difference between a healthy
tank and a fish house disaster.
Discover how to make your
hobby a little safer.
Golden dwarf barbs are a small
species with a big presence.
Keith Naitby gives us the
Advances in understanding
mean that many marines can
now be bred at home.
They’re large, some are
venomous, and they hide
by day. But Tristan Lougher
suggests the Squirrelfish aren’t
a total write-off.
Exactly when a
mudskipper is
& wh
look l
he benefits to
arium livestoc
Buying a fish
directly from
Thailand is way, way
more complex than
you might think it is!
Which species of
marine fish uses
the spines of sea
urchins to protect
Family injured by toxic coral,
Yellow tangs given the all clear,
and Tesco apologises to PFK!
106 USED
Aquarium Systems foods,
Colombo filter media, a
Pufferfish book, and more!
Should we be buying wildcaught or farmed fish? We look
at the options.
BiOrbs reclaimed, geriatric
Clownfish, a feeding hack, love
for small stores, ruined Ram
cichlids and praise for ethical
retailer with a long pedigree,
the UK Catfish Convention,
and two of the finest stores the
country has to offer.
In the first of a new series,
we take a journey to a Malawi
specialist, a Leicester-based
Get two years for the price
of one with our fabulous
subscription deal.
PFK’s crack team of aquatics
experts are on hand to answer
all your questions. This month:
an upside-down Ryukin, corals
in the dark, ordering from
Thailand, and algae issues
solved, to name just a few.
delivered to
your digital
Stuck for inspiration on a tank?
We look at three completely
different biotopes you can try
out at home, from dark and
mysterious to clear, fast and
Get stuck in to a really British
project with our guide to
Stickleback keeping, how to
make your own pond stream,
dwarf catfish for a community,
and a floating aquarium.
Jeremy Gay takes the reins for
this month, and tells us why
he’s feeling his own efforts just
don’t match up to the ‘perfect’
tanks of the photoshopped
social media crowd.
Fancy a nano-biotope but don’t know what to stock? Look no further…
Chris works in
research and
regularly writes
for aquarium
range of nano tanks on
the market has opened
up the fishkeeping
hobby like never before.
Love them or hate
them, in the right hands
and with due diligence,
bigger doesn’t always mean better
with aquaria. Forget the ill-advised
packaging depicting micro-goldfish
merrily encircling the tank – instead
there are a number of different
shrimp, snail and fish species
that can happily be housed in
30 or 40 l of water.
6Scientific name: Indostomus paradoxus
6Origin: Asia: Myanmar.
6Habitat: Floodplains, slow-moving
blackwater streams.
6Size: Males 3cms.
6Tank size: 30x30x30cm.
6Water requirements: 5-7 pH, 2-8°H
6Temperature: 22-27°C
6Temperament: Territorial to conspecifics,
peaceful to most other fish and shrimp.
6Cost: In the region of £3 each.
25 l+
So which fish are suitable for these
resemblance to a pipefish, rather
smaller volumes of water? Danio
than sticklebacks such as the native
margaritatus and Boraras brigittae are Three-spine stickleback, Gasterosteus
typically raised when discussing
aculeatus. This diminutive body
small volumes of water, and will
shape, along with swimming stance,
undoubtedly provide a splash of
hints at a life spent living in the slow
colour to a planted nano. But there
lane, with individuals often observed
is another group of fish, the sole
resting on the substrate or
representative of the family
amongst leaf litter. The
Indostomidae, that’s well
characteristic dorsal fin
worth a look – the
spines, lacking the
interconnecting fin
membrane, are
Indostomids require live
present and they
food – the smaller the better –
sit in the
have swapped
so brineshrimp nauplii and
stickleback order
scales for
protective bony
banana worms are
with three species
plates, which
well worth a
currently described:
Indostomus paradoxus,
would-be predators.
Indostomus crocodilus
While I. crocodilus hails from
and Indostomus spinosus, a rarity
the Tapi River floodplains in
within the trade. I. paradoxus and
Thailand and I. paradoxus is found in
I. crocodilus are the two you’ll most
Lake Indawgyi and the Irrawaddy
likely encounter, with I. paradoxus
River in Myanmar, both typically
lacking the dark bands that are
frequent the same type of habitat.
present on the dorsal and anal fins
Slow-moving or still bodies of warm
of I. crocodilus.
water are a must, along with
At a glance, the elongated body,
submerged vegetation and suitable
narrow snout and small, puckered
hiding places. For a biotope, think
mouth means they bear more of a
slow-moving blackwater stream –
The characteristic dorsal fin spines,
lacking the interconnecting fin membrane,
are present and they have swapped scales
for protective bony armour plates, which act
as a deterrent to would-be predators
little surface agitation, a muddy
substrate with a thick leaf litter layer
and plenty of tall and surface plants
to help diffuse the light reaching
down into the tank. The vegetation
will help mark out territories
amongst males who, despite their
small stature, will defend their patch
against any intruders.
Indostomus have been bred in
captivity, so if maintaining a small
group, the addition of a few hollow
tubes or small caves will make ideal
nesting sites. Males court the
females with a quivering dance
routine, and it’s the males who
assume sole responsibility of their
brood post-spawn.
The most important point to note
is the diet. Live foods are the order
of the day and the smaller the better.
Those tiny mouths have a miniscule
gape – smaller still if you end up
with fry – so foods should reflect
this. In the wild, they will snap up
any zooplankton that float past, so
brineshrimp nauplii and banana or
micro worms should all be offered,
with commercially prepared dry
diets usually a no-go.
For sheer size and behavioural
interactions, Indostomus are the
perfect inhabitants for a species-only
nano tank.
paradoxus, a curious
fish, a gem to keep.
I. crocodilus, note
the faint dark band
in the dorsal and
anal fins.
Latest news and events from the world of aquatics
Jury still out on
New report suggests commercial aquarium collection “has minimal impact on populations”
HERE’S A possible reprieve
on the horizon for Hawaiian
fish collectors. After pressure
from a coalition of environmental
groups, the State supreme court
in the US deemed all commercial
aquarium fish permits for Hawaii
and Oahu invalid on October 27,
2017. At that time, there were 233
valid commercial aquarium permits.
But the Pet Industry Joint Advisory
Council, representing the aquarium
trade, has since worked with an
international consulting company
to survey 256 points around Hawaii
and 228 around Oahu.
The resulting Hawaii Island report
now suggests collection rates – less
than 1% of the population for the
37 species allowed for aquarium
collection – present minimal
impact, well below the 5-25% that is
deemed sustainable.
The report states: “Two studies
have concluded that the aquarium
fishery has no significant impact on
coral or the reef ecosystem. Based
on the low percentage of the overall
populations collected annually by
commercial aquarium fishers, which
is spread throughout the year and
across multiple areas, as well as the
targeted take of smaller, less fecund
individuals, commercial aquarium
collection likely has minimal impact
on populations in general.”
However, the environmental
groups that originally forced the
ornamental fish
collecting is still
in the balance
Aquatic News
Two studies have concluded that the
aquarium fishery has no significant impact on
coral or the reef ecosystem
Yellow tangs
are among the
most popular
collected in
Hawaii for
the aquarium
issue have said the surveys and
Summer Kupau-Odo.
report don’t go nearly far enough,
She continues: “The
and only focus on effects over a
(environmental assessments),
one-year period. Hawaiian law
however, do not discuss any
requires “identification
effects beyond a one-year
of cumulative and
period. That’s a glaring
secondary impacts,
and troubling legal
including longMORE INFO flaw, which prevents
term effects of
DLNR (Department
More details of the
the industry’s
of Land and Natural
documents can be found Resources) from
massive mining of
at finding no significant
reef animals,” says
Earthjustice attorney
The fish in our oceans are suffering from the way
humans neglect the planet, with a knock-on effect
on fish and corals. Sign at:
A scientific study over 23 streams
in Borneo has had surprising results.
A SAFE (Stability of Altered Forest
Ecosystems) project shows that
‘sustainable’ logging has just as
much impact on freshwater fish
biodiversity as complete
deforestation for
oil plantations.
Academics from Swansea University in South
Wales and Deakin University in Australia have
discovered vast deep sea meadows of carbonstoring seagrass, Thalassondendron ciliatum, in
the Indian Ocean. The discovery, at Great Chagos
Bank, was made while studying the movements
of green turtles via satellite tracking.
Be careful with
Zoanthid polyps
Poisoned by corals
Fishkeepers Chris Matthews and
crew and police arrived. The road
Emma Mundy from Steventon,
was closed and a police cordon
Oxfordshire, were taken to
erected. The family and fire crew
hospital following maintenance
were taken to the John Radcliffe
on their marine tank. The couple,
Hospital in Oxford and released
along with four other family
later that day, with those worst
members and four attending
affected kept in overnight for
firefighters, suffered breathing
observation. The remaining coral
problems that quickly turned to
was removed by chemicals officers
flu-like symptoms of coughing,
from Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue,
breathlessness and fever.
and Public Health England.
The previous evening, Chris and
OATA has produced an advice
Emma had been transferring the
leaflet for marine aquarists to
contents of a reef tank to a new
help prevent palytoxin poisoning.
aquarium and took the chance to
“Thankfully instances of
clean off some invasive coral. But palytoxin poisoning are rare, and
when disturbed, the Zoanthids
if people follow some simple
polyps attached to the rockwork
steps it can be easily avoided,”
expelled palytoxin – the second
said OATA assistant chief
most powerful toxin known to
executive, Dr Tracey King.
man. The following day the whole
“Our main advice is to ensure
family, including their two dogs,
that corals and live rock, which
came down with varying
may have been colonised by
levels of illness.
these species of soft
After researching
corals, should remain
online, they
MORE INFO submerged at all
realised it was
times. If aquarists
The safety leaflet can
possible they had
follow the simple
be downloaded from the steps outlined, the
been poisoned
OATA website at tinyurl. risk of palytoxin
and called 111.
Around 50
poisoning will be
ambulance staff, fire
greatly reduced.”
Tesco has publicly apologised to Practical Fishkeeping
for wording in its Tesco magazine that seemed to imply
PFK advised the keeping of goldfish in 25 l tanks.
In an item on goldfish keeping, Tesco wrote: “Once
you’ve invested in a tank that can hold at least 25 litres
of water, live plants and the fish, their upkeep is
minimal. And, if you look after them by not overfeeding
and replacing a third of the water every three weeks, they
could live for decades, says”
Understandably, we got on to Tesco and demanded to
know the source of their information, and it was soon
established that the (mis)information hadn’t come from
PFK at all.
Tesco later apologised on social media, saying: “In the
April 2018 issue of Tesco magazine, we offered advice
about keeping goldfish. We apologise if our advice has
upset anyone; this was never our intention. We printed
our feature in good faith and based on research from a
range of sources. However, we now accept there are
many widely differing opinions on keeping goldfish. We
acknowledge that Practical Fishkeeping magazine
strongly disagrees with the advice given in our article
relating to tank size and water changing
While we would have preferred a simple ‘Sorry to make
it look like we quoted you’, we’ll cheer ourselves in the
knowledge that Tesco magazine won’t be making any
more poor recommendations about keeping goldfish any
time soon.
Rheophilic cichlids
Rheophilic cichlids thrive in turbulent,
fast-flowing freshwaters and make for
a fascinating display.
Fast flow and
rocks keep these
cichlids happy.
Rheophilic cichlids
A family of S.
tinanti frolicking
in the flow.
Cichlidae is a massively
successful freshwater
group. It boasts 1,700
scientifically described
species, plus an
estimated 300-1,300
species either still
undescribed or not yet discovered,
making it one of the largest
vertebrate families known.
Cichlids are supremely versatile:
they inhabit anything from very soft
to very hard freshwater or brackish
water, and one, Tilapia guineensis,
even inhabits true marine conditions.
They live in all types of habitats
from static floodwaters to raging
river rapids, which brings us to the
focus of our feature – the fast-flow
specialists, rheophilic cichlids.
Go with the flow
Large rivers are hugely changeable
in character. The influences of
geology, gravity and corrosion shape
many different types of aquatic
habitat, resulting along the way in
diverse species of fish adapted to
niche conditions. But when flowing
waters become rapids, the river
turns into a very hostile place.
Several cichlid genera, however,
have adapted similar traits to deal
with this challenging habitat. A long,
slender body helps to cut through
the water, offering low resistance; a
strong, bony head aids good weight
bias and allows a large mouth
necessary for catching passing
meals; pectoral fins are able to clasp
to rocks – not as sophisticated as
that of a goby but still useful; and a
shrunken swimbladder results in
negative buoyancy for anchorage.
Due to the difficulties the
environment presents, very little
has been documented about the
natural lifestyles of these fish;
much of the information available
on their behaviour and breeding
has come from what’s been
observed in aquaria.
Cichlids of the Congo
The great Congo River harbours
several rheophilic cichlids that are
available in the hobby.
The Blockhead cichlid,
Steatocranus casuarius, is found in
turbulent parts of Pool Malebo
(formally known as Stanley Pool),
the lower Congo River and its
tributaries in both Republic of
Congo and the Democratic Republic
of the Congo.
6Scientific name: Steatocranus casuarius
The body shape is less extreme
6Pronunciation: Ste-at-oh-kran-us ca-soo-are-ee-us
than that of many other fast-water
6Size: Males to 12cms, females to 8cm
cichlids, so they commonly hold up
6Origin: Democratic Republic of the Congo
in pockets of slower water, ducking
6Habitat: Turbulent areas of the lower
in and out of the flow to feed. It’s
Congo River and its tributaries, usually in
therefore a good idea to offer high
calmer pockets of water
flow in the aquarium, along with
6Tank size: 90x30x30cms for one pair (80 l)
6Water requirements: 6.0-7.5 pH, 2-15°H
areas of less movement, sheltered
6Temperature: 24-28°C
by rockwork and so on.
6Temperament: Territorial with conspecifics
Blockhead cichlids are prolific
6Feeding: Sinking granules, pellets, frozen
diggers, creating caves and tunnels
and live shrimps and bloodworms
for themselves in the aquarium, so
6Availability and cost: Quite easy to find,
rock formations should sit directly
from around £8
on the base glass (or protective egg
crate) or even be stuck down with
silicone to eliminate the chance of
tunnels and caves. Although these
disturbance to rockwork – or, worse
fish naturally excavate less than
S. casuarius has
a less extreme
still, a crushed cichlid.
other blockheads, they may well
body shape.
The Slender blockhead
dig in the aquarium so, once
cichlid, Steatocranus tinanti,
again, provide sandy
is also found in the
substrate and secure
lower reaches of the
rockwork, and if you
River Congo, but
want any plants,
Blockheads are prolific
only known from
it’s best to stick to
diggers so make sure
Malebo Pool in
those that take to
rockwork in the tank
the Democratic
life anchored on
is secure.
Republic of the Congo
wood or rocks
(DR Congo). They inhabit
– Anubias, Java fern and
rapids and other turbulent
so on.
waters, usually being found
Another inhabitant of the
around the shorelines where they
lower Congo rapids is Teleogramma
also dig, but S. tinanti tends to
brichardi. It’s the only one of five
develop shallow pits, rather than
species in the genus to be exported
54 l+
Rheophilic cichlids
Forty-six and counting
The fish that inspired this article is
another Congolese fish – one with
quite a genetic heritage.
Physically and
In reference to R. lapidifer brood
Lamprologus congoensis is
care, the ancient Greek words
very similar to the other
and ‘ifer’ translate as ‘stone
rheophilic cichlids of the
since it likes to hides its
Congo River, but this fish
adhesive eggs by
is said to have had a
them with sand
huge effect on the fish
populations of the planet’s
second biggest lake,
Lake Tanganyika.
The Congo lamprologus made its
way along rivers and into the great
lake where it started to morph and
eventually created the genetic
soup that resulted in modern
A turbulent
Neolamprologus species – currently
section of the
46 are listed on
mighty Congo
It’s this rich history that
Congo lamprologus made its way along rivers
and into the great lake where it started to morph
and eventually created the genetic soup that
resulted in modern Neolamprologus species
6Scientific name: Teleogramma brichardi
6Pronunciation: Tele-oh-gram-ah brick-ah-dee
6Size: Males to 11cms, females to 8cms
6Origin: DM Congo, Lower Congo River at Kinsuka
6Habitat: River rapids and other
turbulent waters
6Tank size: 90x30x30cms for one pair
6Water requirements: 6.0-7.0 pH, 7-10°H
6Temperature: 20-23°C
6Temperament: Territorial and waspish,
more so with conspecifics
6Feeding: Sinking granules, pellets, frozen
and live shrimps and bloodworms
6Availability and cost: Rare and endangered,
around £20-£25
80 l+
The gargoyle-like
T. brichardi.
for the aquarium trade and is not
common in UK shops. T. brichardi is
found only in turbulent waters near
Kinsuka in DR Congo, roughly 50km
south of Malebo Pool.
This fish has a smaller head
compared to other rheophilic
cichlids, and the female exhibits bold
colour mid-body, especially when in
breeding condition. Its temperament
is said to be more pugnacious than
that of the blockheads. It’s a fish I’ve
wanted to keep for many years but,
of course, the one time I’ve seen it
available, I didn’t have the facilities
to keep it. Maybe one day…
6Scientific name: Steatocranus tinanti
6Pronunciation: Ste-at-toe-kran-us tin-anti
6Size: Males to 13cms, females to 10cms
6Origin: DM Congo, around Malebo Pool in the River Congo
6Habitat: Rapids and other turbulent waters, normally around the
6Tank size: 90x30x30cms for one pair
6Water requirements: 6.0-7.5 pH, 5-19°H
6Temperature: 25-28°C
6Temperament: Territorial and waspish,
more so with conspecifics
6Feeding: Sinking granules, pellets, frozen
and live shrimps and bloodworms
Availability and cost: Quite rare to find, but
most shops should be able to order them.
Around £15
80 l+
INSET: A tasty
encouraged me to create a set-up
for L. congoensis when I saw them on
sale. I’d already enjoyed keeping a
Tanganyikan tank and this seemed
the perfect next step.
Boys from Brazil
Crossing the ocean to South
America, the Rio Tocantins
system is where Retroculus
lapidifer inhabits rivers
draining into the
Atlantic in the
northeast of
Brazil, feeding
on benthic
invertebrates like
midge, caddisfly and
may fly larvae.
Sporadically available, R.
lapidifer is fussy when it comes to
water conditions, requiring warm,
clean, highly oxygenated water
with very low organic waste levels.
As it can grow up to 20cm, you’ll
need a large tank too, and weekly
water changes of up to 70% are
suggested to keep it happy, although
it will tolerate a wide range of
acidity and hardness.
Also inhabiting the Rio Tocantins
system, as well as the Rio Tapajòs
and Rio Xingu basins, are
Teleocichla. These cichlids seem to
endure the flow of the rapids rather
than embrace it, with some keepers
noting that they appear to hug the
edges of rockwork where flow is
subdued. However, it’s still best to
have a strong flow to provide the
high oxygen levels the fish require
and to encourage natural behaviour.
Teleocichla are by far the smallest
of the rheophilic cichlids I’ve
included here, needing a tank with a
footprint of just 60x30cm for a pair.
These micro predators are closely
related to Dwarf pike cichlids, which
inhabit slower-moving waters.
The hostility of the river
rapids is reflected in
the behaviour of
this group of
cichlids. They
are mostly
pretty territorial,
needing to defend
slack areas where food
can be found and young
nurtured. With this in mind, an
aquarium should be of sufficient
size, with lots of boltholes, caves
and tunnels offered, as well as areas
of differing flow.
When I use lots of rockwork I
always put a layer of plastic egg
crate on the bottom of the tank first.
It keeps jagged edges off the glass,
disperses the overall weight of the
rock, and helps protect the base
glass from any rocks that might
Rheophilic cichlids
L. congoensis –
the inspiration
for this article.
6Scientific name: Lamprologus congoensis
6Pronunciation: Lamp-row-low-gus con-go-en-sis
6Size: 15cm
6Origin: Republic of Congo; DM Congo at Matadi, Pool Malebo and
Boyoma Falls areas of the Congo River
6Habitat: Fast-moving, oxygen-rich waters
6Tank size: 120x35x30cm for one pair
6Water requirements: 6.0-7.5 pH, 5-15°H
6Temperature: 23-25°C
6Temperament: Territorial and waspish, more so with conspecifics
6Feeding: Sinking granules, pellets, frozen and live shrimps and
6Availability and cost: Rare, upwards of £10
Tanks and set-ups
Flow-loving, robust
tankmates are needed.
catfish will mix
given the room.
accidentally slip out of your hand
when you’re setting up the tank.
f eding time, stick to sinking
granules as far as dried
sidered. They will
, but this means
k cover, which
mpetition and
Sinking wafers or
ds have the same effect.
to offer these fish regular
frozen foods. They seem
for frozen foods to come to
m so there’s less need to
ak cover and fewer issues of
ggression. Mysis, brine shrimp, Krill
and bloodworm make for a good,
varied diet, with Daphnia for smaller
specimens or Teleocichla.
A tank of around 80-90 l is suitable
for keeping a pair of Steatocranus,
Teleogramma, or Lamprologus.
Retroculus would need a larger tank,
upwards of 350 l, while a pair of
diminutive Teleocichla can be kept in
a 60-70 l tank. Larger tanks offer
more of a spectacle and would allow
you to include other fish – something
like a 240-300 l tank with five to
seven Lamprologus, 10-12 African
red-eyed tetra, a Synodontis and a few
Chaetostoma among the rockwork
would make a lovely display.
Filtration should be strong, partly
to offer good flow, but more
importantly to provide good
biological filtration as these fish are
not hardy when it comes to
impurities in their environment.
Because of this it’s not a bad idea to
use chemical absorbent medias in
your filtration, such as activated
carbon and phosphate and nitrate
absorbers, but most of the time
organic and inorganic compounds
should be removed by large, regular
120 l+
water changes of 30-50% each week.
Water movement should be
supplemented by a powerhead,
something like 5,500 l per hour in a
200 l tank would be about right, and
if it’s set up on a wave-maker, then
all the better! Angle the powerhead
to deflect the flow off the rockwork
– this will help to create areas of
differing flow in the tank for a good
representation of natural conditions.
Rocks should feature heavily to
offer caves and tunnels for
territories, break the sightlines, and
break up the flow to create slack
areas of water, as well as areas of
direct high flow. It’s best to use sand,
or a mixture of gravel and sand, so
the cichlids can do some excavation
work and also to give a natural feel.
I like to have an air pump as a safety
net. With good flow and surface
movement, it makes little or no
difference under normal conditions,
but should the filter pump fail, things
could quickly turn hazardous for
these oxygen-demanding fish. The
air pump gives peace of mind.
Rheophilic cichlids are feisty, territorial and
competitive, but they’re generally quite shy
and flighty if kept on their own. Introducing
dither fish has made a world of difference in
my experience with Lamprologus congoensis,
but you need to get the right fish.
To start with, we’re looking for fish that will
sit up in the water, away from the regular
territorial digs and fin-nipping of the
cichlids. In open water the right set-up for
the cichlids will have strong flow, making the
tank unsuitable for many traditional dither
fish. So, top-dwelling, robust lovers of fast
water leads us to species like the African
red-eyed tetra (Arnoldichthys spilopterus),
Long-finned tetra (Brycinus longipinnis) and
Red-line torpedo barbs (Sahyadria
denisonii). The activity of these fish not only
adds to an interesting and vibrant aquarium,
but also instils confidence in the cichlids.
Given enough space, rheophilic catfish
such as Synodontis brichardi can be kept
and Rubbermouth plecos, Chaetostoma sp.,
would also suit the tank.
Don’t attempt to keep any of these
cichlids together or with other cichlids.
If housed together, injury and death are
likely outcomes.
Feeding frozen foods
seems to result in fewer
incidences of
6Scientific name: Retroculus lapidifer
6Pronunciation: Reh-trok-you-lus lap-id-ee-fer
6Size: 15-20cms
6Origin: North-east Brazil
6Habitat: Rapids and fast-flowing stretches of clearwater rivers
6Tank size: 150x50x50cms for one pair
6Water requirements: 6.0-8.0 pH, 3-13°H
6Temperature: 26-32°C
6Temperament: Peaceful with similar-sized fish, territorial when breeding
6Feeding: Sinking granules, pellets, frozen and live shrimps and bloodworms
6Availability and cost: You’ll have to search for this one, £20 plus
375 l+
The most
peaceful but
also the largest.
6Scientific name: Teleocichla
6Pronunciation: Tele-oh-sick-la
6Size: Around 6cm
6Origin: Rio Tapajos, Brazil
6Habitat: Fast-moving streams
6Tank size: 60x35x30cm for one pair
6Water requirements: Unknown
6Temperature: Likely 23-25°C
6Temperament: Shy, nervous
6Feeding: Sinking granules, frozen and
live shrimps and bloodworms.
6Availability and cost: Rare, £15 or
60 l+
Small and
Farmed fish or wild-caught – which is best in terms of fish
health, sustainability and habitat conservation? Nathan and
Steve choose opposing sides to see where it leads...
E SEE both farmed
and wild-caught fish
for sale in aquatics
shops. When farmed
fish are used to
aquarium life and
prepared foods, why
would anybody
want to buy trickier, unsettled fish that
have been snatched from the loving fins
of their mothers (or fathers…)?
NH: I’d say there are three reasons. First, wild
stocks (usually) come without the problems
of repeated inbreeding – some farmed fish
are hopelessly inbred (or even hybridised).
Secondly, I’d say variety. Those fish that can’t
currently be commercially spawned can only
come in from wild stocks. Third, it might
seem ironic, but many wild-caught fish
directly and indirectly
contribute to habitat
things, a great example is Project Piaba, with
the slogan ‘Buy a fish, save a tree’. Project
Piaba is all about teaching Amazonian natives
how to harvest and sell Cardinal tetras,
amongst other species. With the revenue
created by this renewable resource, the
indigenous peoples don’t need to resort to
‘slash and burn’ farming practices, which
would really be the only other economic
alternative. In fact, it’s in their interests to
ensure the area remains conserved, or their
income will evaporate. My stance on wild fish
is that, if well-managed, then ecological
downpoints go as far as carbon footprints
used in transport, but as an offset, habitats are
managed and maintained.
SB: Collecting wild fish is giving the natural
environment a value then – a better value
than crop growing, I guess, if it’s deterring
‘slash and burn’ tactics.
But wouldn’t it be great if it
stopped the cocaine trade
pouring turpentine and petrol
into local streams too! I guess
fish need a much higher value
for that… With the amount
of fishkeeping around the
world though, we couldn’t
rely on wild-caught fish;
natural waters would have
their fish numbers decimated.
We need farmed fish to take
pressure off natural stocks –
not just for fish numbers, but
for the bird life and so on
feeding on them.
aquarists often
have a ‘farmed
good/wild bad’
mindset, but
when you scratch
the surface,
things aren’t so
clear cut
SB: If farmed fish are
facing problems of
inbreeding, shouldn’t it be
the breeders getting wild
stocks to breed from – to
introduce ‘cleaner’ genetics,
rather than shipping in so
many fish from all over the
world? I understand some
fish are not commercially
viable or able to breed, but
I saw wild Neon tetra for
sale recently, so easily
farmed fish are still being
taken from the wild. Can you explain the
conservation angle? Surely stomping around
rivers and netting fish can’t be much good for
the environment.
NH: Farmers do indeed replenish stocks with
wild imports, but how many generations they
allow to inbreed before doing so varies from
farm to farm. On the conservation side of
NH: Cocaine growing is actually a good
example of an industry that’s being kept at
bay by the likes of Piaba. But I wonder just
how much pressure we really alleviate when
we move to farmed fish? A sticking point for
me has always been that it takes 4-5kg of food
to generate 1kg of farmed fish (and that’s at
optimal growth). Seeing as most of that food
will be derived from fish and fishmeal, I’d argue
you actually think the industry could be
sustained on wilds? You say some people
relish the challenge of wild fish keeping.
This means we still need farmed fish for
budding aquarists to cut their teeth on, and
for more casual fish keepers.
SB: But herring aren’t being killed for fish
food, surely; they’re being killed for human
consumption and the remains are mashed
together to create the fishmeal we use.
Also, from what I’ve seen of people’s wild fish
experiences, they can be tricky after import
– flighty in tanks, harder to get feeding and
more likely to die than a farmed fish that’s
used to an aquarium environment and
convenient diets. They’re not always the
best-looking fish either as they have the
scars of a wild life.
NH: If even an indirect demand for fishmeal
is being created by fish farms – which
by definition it will be – then
herrings and others are
being caught to cater for
it. Fishkeepers aren’t the
only ones using up
fishmeal, but their
contribution to
demand can’t be
Regarding wild fish
being tricky, some
aquarists relish that
challenge. And if they
can meet it, why not? I’d
need to see data before
committing to mortality
numbers, but given the number of
runts I see from farmed stocks, I’d be
surprised if farmed fish were, on a like-for-like
basis, showing higher survivability than wild
ones. Wild fish, by virtue of reaching
adulthood, have already endured a ‘natural
selection’ experience that many farmed fish
wouldn’t be able to endure. On looks, I beg to
differ! Apart the occasional scar, farmed fish
are sometimes so bland that next to their wild
equivalents they look like a different species.
I recall seeing some wild Pretty tetra at Pier
– a fish I’d kept and sold for decades – and
I couldn’t believe it was the same species.
SB: As insect meal prices slowly drop and
fishmeal costs increase, maybe there’ll be a
shift there in the future. You seem so pro
wild-caught fish and against farmed fish, do
that farming indirectly creates demand for
mass harvested, wild-caught fish of lower
economic value from other areas. So, buying
barbs from a farm might well leave the wild
barb counterparts alone, but leads to the need
for more herring instead. Given global fishing
pressures, that’s never sat easy with me.
NH: Oh, I’d not call myself anti-farming, and
the shift to insect meal would make me a lot
comfier with the world’s farming efforts. The
hobby is far too large and wasteful to rely on
wild-caught fish alone, and I quite agree that
the challenge of wilds is beyond many newer
aquarists. I think my main contention is that
even many experienced aquarists look at this
subject with a presupposition and few facts
– there’s often a ‘farmed good/wild bad’
mindset that prevails, but when you scratch
the surface, things aren’t so clear cut. But
I’d certainly like to see more in the way of
well-managed, habitat conserving, wild
collection. The problem is that all too often
it’s a case of ‘catch now, think later’,
and collectors strip ponds and
rivers bare in a bid to make
enough money to live on.
Ultimately, it’s down
to the individual to
decide whether they
prefer their fish
‘free range’ or
‘battery’, but
personally I think
that to say one
source is better than
the other is to not
understand the
complexity of each area.
I think this is the ethics
debate we’re most agreed on so far.
Years ago, my uneducated stance was
that wild-caught fish were bad for the
industry and the environment, but after
talking to people who have collected
wilds, and looking into the matter
further, I quickly realised there’s much
more to it. Finding out that many fish
are collected from depleting ponds in
the dry season (which means the fish
would naturally desiccate), and learning
about the huge environmental benefit
of protecting areas from far worse
human activity, has made me rethink.
Improvements in collecting and farming
practices would be very welcome, but
I think we can deduce that we need a
balance of both in the industry.
Do you have an opinion on farmed versus wild stocks that you’d like to share,
or perhaps a topic you would like to see discussed? If so, you can find us at or email
INSET: If well
managed, taking
fish from the
wild can provide
an income
for collectors
and also help
After eggs are fertilised
underwater, the male
brings down air to
increase oxygen levels
for larval development.
After hatching, the male usually
starts digging a new burrow,
though sometimes he goes
back and reuses an
older one.
After alternately diving
with the female to
spawn, the male collects
mouthfuls of air to deposit
in the egg chamber.
Following spawning the
female leaves the burrow
permanently, leaving the
male to attend to all the
brood care.
secret life
When water touches the
eggs, it stimulates the
larvae to emerge. When
ready to hatch, the male
removes all the air.
A keeper and
breeder of 50 years,
he specialises in
brackish water fish
and inverts.
What goes on underground stays underground
– until now! One aquarist shares his
experiences of breeding mudskippers.
mudskippers were
briefly the focus of
mainstream media
attention after
Professor Atushi
Ishimatsu and his
co-workers made an
unusual discovery.
They were studying the
underground burrows of Shuttle’s
mudskipper, Periophthalmus
modestus, which the male digs in the
mud of the intertidal zone, where
the mudskippers live. During earlier
research, Ishimatsu and his team had
confirmed the existence of an air
pocket in purpose-built egg chambers
inside the burrow. But now they were
able to show that in this bubble above
the water level, the mudskipper’s
eggs, sticking to the walls and ceiling
of the chamber, were apparently
well supplied with air brought in by
the male, in his mouth, during low
tide. Without this extra air, the
environment would be too low in
oxygen for the larvae to develop.
But that wasn’t all! The biologists
were also able to demonstrate the
hatching of the larvae was triggered
by the fact that the male removed
the air from the egg chamber at the
end of larval development. This
took place at nocturnal high tide,
when the raised water level meant
the eggs dipped into the water. And
since the entrances to the burrow
were submerged during high tide, the
larvae were able to leave the burrow.
Still, one question remained
unresolved. Exactly when did the
males bring the air into the egg
chamber? Two possibilities
presented themselves: either the
males would bring air into the egg
chamber before egglaying, so that
spawning and insemination would
take place above the water level; or
the whole process took place before
the introduction of the air.
Because the nests of male
mudskippers performing courtship
displays had been found with air in
the egg chamber – but as yet no
eggs – the researchers speculated
that spawning and insemination
took place out of the water. They
knew scientists had already
observed this in the Four-fingered
lipsucker, Andamia tetradactylus, and
thought this might be the case with
mudskippers too.
Now we know!
Now, however, we know more.
Three years ago I wrote an article
about the successful breeding of the
Dusky gilled mudskipper,
Periophthalmus variabilis, in the
aquarium. I had observed that
sometimes an increase in water
could be seen inside the entrances
of the ‘Y’ or ‘J’-shaped burrow
during the artificial low tides I
created, but only after the female
had left the burrow permanently.
Until then, the female had shared
the burrow with the male for several
hours and the pair had taken turns
to dive down the muddy water-filled
shaft. Since the female evidently no
longer visited the burrow, and the
larvae hatched about nine days later,
Males display
and fight for
be difficult because the chamber is
hidden deep in the mud and would
be impossible to locate precisely. In
addition, researchers would have to
be very careful not to introduce any
air into the egg chamber when they
inserted the endoscope, and the
artificially manufactured endoscope
access would have to be hermetically
sealed again so that no air later
introduced by the male could escape
from the chamber. Last but not least,
the problem of how to prevent
contamination of the endoscope
lens as it’s inserted into the egg
chamber would need to be solved.
Also, of course, in the egg
chamber itself you’d only be
able to observe spawning
and insemination if it
took place in the
air space –
otherwise the
turbidity of the
water would make it
impossible to record
the process.
At last, after 36 filmed breeding
cycles and several thousand hours
of video footage, my mudskippers
solved the problem in their own way
and revealed their secret! Twice the
male built his burrow directly
against the glass wall of the tank.
This was covered with black card in
such a way that not only the
burrow’s shaft but also the egg
chamber could be easily observed
once the cardboard was removed.
In two non-consecutive breeding
cycles, I was actually able to
observe and capture the spawning
and insemination inside the egg
chamber. It turned out that males
and females not only dive
alternately into the shaft of the
burrow, as I’d already observed, but
actually into the egg chamber too.
In the first breeding cycle, because
Mudskippers have some
unique adaptations to
inhabit the rich, muddy
intertidal zones of
tropical estuaries.
estion was that the alternate
f both fish was related to
ng and insemination of the
and the subsequent increase in
inside the burrow was caused
he air introduced by the male
placing the water from the egg
hamber after laying and fertilising.
As plausible as all that may sound,
I couldn’t be certain from the
evidence. It couldn’t be ruled out
that there was already a thin layer of
air inside the egg chamber before
spawning, and that the male
introduced additional air only after
mating, which would cause the
increase in water I’d observed.
At a scientific congress in
2011, professors
Ishimatsu and
some key
concerning the
behaviour of
mudskippers and asked for
direct video evidence on the
question of exactly where they
spawn – in air or in water. Again, the
biologists confirmed the hypothesis
of spawning in air, and suggested
that the oxygen brought in before
the act of spawning could possibly
lead to the oxidation of the egg
chamber walls, and would therefore
minimise the loss of oxygen during
larval development.
Unfortunately, any firm proof of
the conditions under which
spawning and insemination take
place failed to appear, because there
was no easy way to see into the egg
chamber from the outside.
Introducing an endoscope into the
egg chamber via the entrances of
the burrow was no good because
this would disturb the breeding
behaviour of the fish. Inserting one
directly into the egg chamber would
The eggs, sticking to the walls and
ceiling of the chamber, were
pparently well supplied with air
ght in by the male, in his mouth
chamber, and because no more
insemination was observed after the
female had left the burrow, we can
assume that not only spawning but
also insemination had taken place in
the water-filled egg chamber.
17 cm
Setting up a mudskipper tank
requires some ingenuity and lots of
water chemistry management.
Mudskippers are brackish fish, so
they need a mixture of fresh and
saltwater. With the aid of a
hydrometer to measure specific
gravity, you’re aiming for a gravity
reading of between 1.005 and 1.015,
using a marine salt – aquarium tonic
salt is different and won’t do the job.
The tank needs to be designed in
such a way as to allow a wet and a
dry area. This should involve a high
bank of incredibly fine sand, or even
arium mud, into which the fish
will make a burrow.
Filtration is difficult, partly
ecause you need a filter that can
ork with a shallow area of water,
also since biological activity is
urbed in brackish conditions. The
r should be greatly oversized for
water volume, as mudskippers
both greedy and messy.
other consideration is keeping
ank sealed. Mudskippers climb
– and very well, even up sheer
panes of glass. Unless the tank
s locked down like Fort Knox,
they’ll be out and on the floor.
Making a
burrow, one
mouthful at a
‘walk’ on their
pectoral and
pelvic fins.
Plaster cast of
a burrow with
egg chamber
on the left.
25 cm
the spawning onto the glass plate in
the water-filled egg chamber itself.
Since the eggs were not only
attached to the chamber ceiling
also to these areas of the glass
exposed after the introduction
by the male, this explained why
again and again, I found single
larvae a day or two before the
hatching of the clutch. It’s easy
imagine how small waves in th
chamber, caused by the male
bringing in new air, submerge th
eggs that hang just above the
water level, and trigger the
hatching of single larvae.
Due to the alternate diving an
on-the-back swimming of the
male and female in the egg
the water was so murky, only the
male and female’s alternate on-theback swimming at the ceiling of the
chamber could be filmed. Once she
had left the burrow and the male had
begun to introduce the air, yellowish
eggs could be seen on the glass wall
and on the edge of the dome-shaped
ceiling of the egg chamber. Although
the actual attachment of the eggs
wasn’t recorded, it was clear they
had been deposited there when the
chamber was flooded.
In the second cycle, I was able to
film both the glass wall of the egg
chamber and the entrance to the
burrow at the same time. This not
only showed which of the fish was
currently inside the burrow, but also
the first species
known to make
an air chamber.
Mudskippers to try at home
6Scientific name: Periophthalmus novemradiatus
6Origin: Coastlines of the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand and India
6Habitat: Estuarine mangrove swamps over mud
6Size: Reaches around 6.5cm fully grown
6Tank size: 80x30cm footprint minimum
6Water requirements: Brackish, ideally with
an SG of 1.005 to 1.010, and hard, alkaline
water; 7.5 to 8.5pH, hardness 15 to 25°H.
6Availability and cost: Only specialist
retailers carry these, with prices starting
around £15 each
40 l+
We Recommend... Two to try
For a common species, this one is pretty hard to find on sale.
Because of their size, it’s advised to house them singly or in
sexed pairs – these are highly territorial fish!
In the tank they spend more time out of water than in it,
but the rule still applies – good filtration is necessary.
Note that these are excellent and fast jumpers. Large fish in
particular can perform a dazzling leap, so be cautious when
lifting the lid for maintenance.
Possibly one of the most fun fish you’ll ever keep, these are tiny
compared to other ‘skippers, and eventually (read ‘quickly’)
become hand tame, jumping into an open palm to grab food.
Aim to provide about 30x30cm of floor space per individual, and
a tank no smaller than 80x30cm for reasons of water quality.
Create a bank at one or both ends as the fish need lots of land,
and decorate with plastic plants if you want the tank looking pretty
– salt will kill almost any plant except mangroves, which get huge.
6Scientific name: Periophthalmus
6Origin: All along the western coastline
of Africa
6Habitat: Estuarine mangrove swamps
over mud
6Size: Around 15cm fully grown
6Tank size: 120x30cm minimum
6Water requirements: Brackish, ideally
with an SG of 1.005 to 1.015, and hard,
alkaline water; 7.5 to 8.5pH, hardness
15 to 25°H.
6Availability and cost: Only specialist
retailers carry these, with prices
starting around £20 each.
60 l+
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help prevent secondary
The writer of our Letter of the month will win a 250ml pot of their
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Your letters, your thoughts and your
experiences shared.
Despite reading a wealth of
guidelines and tips in your superb
magazine, I almost gave up
fishkeeping. I hadn’t sought to
make up fish numbers in my 105 l
aquarium for a while, and was down
to a couple of one-off stragglers and
a small shoal of Black emperor tetra.
The reason behind it was that the
tank was subject to that horrible
black beard algae. It coated
everything from the two internal
filters to all of the plants. It was a
mess and I found myself avoiding
eye contact, even looking at the telly
(that’s how bad it got) for
entertainment instead.
I had tried everything I could glean
from the usual sources, but to no
avail. Then, looking online, I noticed
a biOrb 60 aquarium for sale. I’d
always wondered how different
fishkeeping would be with one of
these and decided to give it a go. I
know they’re not recommended as
such by experts in the industry, but I
had very little to lose. Also, a guy on
YouTube had had success by
removing the alfagrog stones
supplied and substituting them with
Bio balls in the outer base region,
and creating a sandwich effect
around the filter bowl with two
bumpy (i.e. only flat on one side)
foam pads, one on top of the other
– mimicking, I suppose, an undergravel filter system.
I bought some Seachem Matrix
and set to work. I already had a large
volcano ornament in my possession
and drilled various holes in it to take
the heater bracket and a couple of
Anubias nana plants. I also planted
some Hygrophila siamensis in my
wife’s tights (I just hope she’s not
reading this) embedded in some
plant substrate, and another
Anubias on a piece of bogwood that
I also attached a sprig of heather to.
Three months later, and by
modifying biOrb’s way of working,
the results are pleasing. Ammonia
readings have been zero for some
time now, and nitrate has come
down to 10ppm despite minimal
water changes (just 30% every
10 days).
What I’m also pleased about
is that there’s no black brush
algae, and the lone stragglers I
had (one Pearl danio and one
Cherry barb) seemed to fly round
scoff at the biOrb
but if you realise
the limits they
can house fish
Leer of
the Month
the tank together as though they
were the same species. The tank
shape didn’t seem to restrict their
movements, but when the danio
died (of old age) I made up the
numbers of the Cherry barbs, now
five, and still have two of the original
Black emperor tetras too. I’ll probably
add four or five Otos in time.
I know I’ll be limited in what I can
keep, and I still haven’t worked out a
way to net a fish should I need to,
but I’m glad I made the decision to
go spherical, so to speak. Was this a
good idea? I like to think so. When
you sit down after a hard day’s work
(and I still hope to achieve this
sometime), there’s nothing better
than watching your pets swimming in
the bit of ‘tropicana’ you’ve created.
Graham Phipps, via email
It was first imported in 1936, and
given its scientific name by the
ichthyologist Dr George S Myers.
It was named after the famous
American aquarist William T Innes
III, who founded the first successful
national fishkeeping magazine.
It comes from Peru and mainly lives
in blackwater streams across South
America, which is why it has such
incredibly bright colours.
It is one of the most popular fish in
the world. America will often import
as many as 1.8 million of them in a
single month!
The scientific name is Paracheirodon
innesi, and its full adult size
measures just 3cm when fully grown.
(Answer on tailpiece)
Follow us at www.facebook.
In its June 2015 issue, PFK
published my letter concerning the
length of time I’d kept two Common
clownfish, Amphiprion ocellaris – one
for 27 years (the female of a pair),
the other for 26 years (its mate).
I’ve now had the male fish for an
incredible 29 years, since it was
bought on 25 March 1989. To look
at it, you wouldn’t guess it was any
older than the presumably young
Common clownfish one sees for sale
in shops.
Sadly, in August 2015 I had to
‘terminate’ its mate who I’d had, as
I said, for 27 years – something I’ve
never consciously done to a fish
before. Her swim bladder had ceased
to function, causing her to swim like
an animated stone, and she would
only eat lobster eggs – not a viable
situation for a relatively large fish.
Worse, after their Heteractis crispa
anemone died during the
exceptionally hot weather in June/
July of that year, she wouldn’t
accept a substitute bubble-tip
anemone, Entacmaea quadricolor.
In fact, she was viciously attacking
it. I’d not been able to locate a
healthy H. crispa, and while
bubble-tip anemones are not the
natural hosts of Common clowns, it’s
said that they are accepted by most
clownfish. But not this one. She
would bite and rip at it, causing it to
retract beneath the rocks. Clearly it
would have succumbed in the end,
so she had to go.
Her mate, on the other hand, who
had been faithfully following her
during her aimless wanderings about
the tank, entered the anemone
immediately she was ‘removed’ and
has been contentedly wallowing in
its tentacles ever since, enjoying his
bachelor life.
I used to joke that these fish might
outlive me. Now, at 80, as far as the
surviving male is concerned, it’s no
longer a joke!
Derek Bunn, via email
NATHAN SAYS: That’s surely got
to be a record there, Derek. While
I’ve heard of goldfish hitting the
three-decade mark, I’ve never
encountered a Clownfish as close as
yours. Incredible stuff. How about
other readers? Do you have an
exceptionally long-lived fish we
should know about? Let us know.
you calling
Fish farming in
full swing.
After reading your excellent
discussion on Parrot cichlids (PFK,
Spring 2018) it got me thinking.
I have been trying to breed German
Rams for a few years now but always
run into problems. I’ve had pairs eat
their eggs straight after laying, or lay
eggs but look confused and not sure
what to do with other fish eating
I breed Apistogramma in my
community tank and their parental
instincts are excellent with fry
successfully growing to adults. I
guess it’s because they still have this
wild trait in them, unlike Rams.
I blame poor parental instincts of
Rams on overbreeding and I find it
really disappointing. I see them with
fancy long fins and in different
colours and it makes me upset –
Rams are my favourite tropical fish
and we’re ruining them. I heard
BELOW: Balloon
longfin rams –
a man-made
someone in my local fish shop talk
about a new black Ram! It’s getting
ridiculous! I just wonder if this will
stop, and if I’ll ever find a pair that
will show the wild parental instincts
they once had.
I would love to hear what you have
to say on this.
Fergus McGlade, via email
NATHAN SAYS: It’s not the first time
that farmers have removed a fish so
far from the wild form that it can’t
breed without help, and I doubt it’ll
be the last. I also wonder where it
will all end. I don’t think I’d be
surprised if by this time next year I’d
seen my first even longfin, balloon,
black ram. I wonder if breeders are
Email us at editorial@
Write to us at Practical Fishkeeping, Bauer Media, Media House, Lynchwood
Business Park, Peterborough, Cambridgeshire PE2 6EA
Which of the following two
would your dream tank be?
I’ve returned to tropical fishkeeping
after a 30-year break. What a long
way the hobby has come. Everything
is much more technical and
scientific so I’m having to learn a lot
of new things about water chemistry
and new fish types, but the PFK
diploma series has really helped me
get back into the hobby.
To start with, I went to a large,
national store, and inevitably my first
few months were a learning curve.
I messed up my filters by washing
them under tap water, which affected
the nitrogen cycle and I lost a few of
my prized new fish. Rather than
advice, the aquatic specialist staff
proposed possible problems that
could be solved by parasite, bacteria
and other disease treatments. Not
cheap, and I was still losing fish
anyway. I was ready to give up.
Despondent, I decided to get a
second opinion and found a small,
local, family based provider who
began to ask more questions and
made recommendations on fish
type, fish health and tank care
based on what my tank contained.
Following their advice and tips,
fatalities slowed and soon reduced
to nil. I went on to restock the tank
Martin Holmes sent us this
aquatic hack which is as basic
as it is genius. An everyday algae
magnet, to which he
soft aquarium planti
weight, now makes a
veg holder for his ca
to graze on – and wh
he needs to retrieve
he doesn’t need to
stick his whole arm
in the tank!
with more appropriate (and cheaper)
fish, which have all survived and are
very healthy and active. The shop
sources its fish in small quantities
from local, trusted breeders.
My experience has turned me off
the large, glitzy aquatic specialists,
and reassured me that despite
change and progress, the
enthusiasm of the small, local
aquarist shop hasn’t changed much
in the time I’ve been away, and I
can still get solid advice from
caring, enthusiastic fishkeepers. I’d
like to think my experience is
isolated and that the large retailers
have a code of ethics that ensures
fish wellbeing as well as profitability.
My drawer of water treatments has
remained shut tight for the last
couple of months. Now I’m enjoying
the tank, the fish and the hobby as
I’d hoped I would.
Thanks to PFK for keeping my
interest and enthusiasm going in
those difficult starter months, and
especially to the small aquarium
shops who reassured me that I
wasn’t getting it totally wrong!
Flavio Walker, Kent
First off, massive
congratulations on the new style
and layout. Especially loving the
ethical debate article.
now so caught up in ‘can’ they do
something, that they don’t stop to
think ‘should’ they do it.
This got me thinking about an
aspect of fishkeeping that sits a
little uncomfortable for me at times
– the ethics of our fishkeeping
in terms of welfare in relation
to wild-caught fish and
farmed fish.
While I love my slice of
pseudo river with mixed
community full of greenery,
and my ‘dog-like’ Figure eight
puffer brackish set-up, I often
wonder if my collections are
ethically sound. How far have they
come on planes, trains and trucks to
get to me? What are those conditions
like? What’s the environmental
impact of all that? If I’d not chosen
keep my scaly pets, would they
l reside in an idyllic river
mewhere in the tropics?
feel this is an area often tucked
ay and not discussed in our
bby, but one I’d very much like to
nderstand more about so I (and
others) can make more ethical
and sustainable choices.
John Allen, Grimsby, Lincolnshire
ATHAN REPLIES: You’ve totally
e-empted us on this one, John.
lick to page 20, and you’ll see
we’ve discussed exactly this!
A shallow Brazilian ditch, teeming with life, provides
the inspiration for a red-tinted Pantanal set-up.
Formerly an aquarist
at ZSL London Zoo,
Tai is a freshwater
habitat specialist.
Biotope aquaria
are his passion.
passion is for
the Pantanal
wetlands of
Brazil, an area
unknown to
many fishkeepers.
Situated in the south-west of the
country, the Pantanal region
overlaps the frontiers of eastern
Bolivia and northern Paraguay.
In this large, lowland basin, with
uplands and ridges forming a rim,
the rainy season sees floods move
from north to south, filling rivers,
turning meadows into lakes and
creating flooded forests and surreal
islands where farms sit on the high
ground, surrounded by endless
sheets of shimmering water, stained
here and there by palms and
spattered with waterlily pads.
The rains come first to the north of
the region and by the time they
reach the south, the northern waters
are already receding. This means
that instead of simply filling and
emptying, the Pantanal wetlands see
a rising and falling flood across an
area almost as big as France. This
takes place over six months, with
much of the water draining into the
mighty Paraguay River.
Meet the Pantanal
The Pantanal
bulges with fish
and aquatic
plant species.
Rio Paraguay will be familiar to
freshwater stingray enthusiasts,
being home to several species such
as the well-known Motoro stingray
(Potamotrygon motoro), Paraná river
stingray (P. schuemacheri), the
Large-spot river stingray (P. falkneri)
and the giant Short-tailed river
stringray (P. brachyuran). Other
infamous inhabitants include the
monstrously aggressive Wolf fish
(Hoplias malabaricus), the tank-like
Oxydoras kneri, the toothy Biara
(Rhaphiodon vulpinus), the striking
Barred Sorubim (Pseudoplatystoma
reticulatum) and the impressive
Dorado (Salminus brasiliensis).
A great number of other fish,
including piranhas, catfish, tetras,
cichlids, killifish, darters, knifefish
and eels inhabit the Paraguay River
basin and the wider Pantanal – over
260 species in total. The richness of
the fish fauna is complemented by
over 480 species of birds, plus the
Starting in Bonito
Harvesting young
estimated 10
million Caiman
inhabit the
BELOW: Birdlife
is abundant in
the area.
One excursion saw me driving
along a trail that was alternately
mud trail or sand dune. The road,
known as the Estrada Parque do
Pantanal, runs east to west towards
the Brazilian city of Corumbá on the
border with Bolivia.
Along one stretch, a small ditch
edged the road before feeding into a
larger stream that passed under the
bridge we’d just crossed. We stopped
to observe basking caiman and I got
If you want to explore this incredible
wetland habitat, the crystal-clear
rivers of Bonito are a good place to
start. You can snorkel among fish
and aquatic plants as part of an
ecotourism enterprise, and birders,
horse riders and those with a
passion for butterflies, flowers and
more are all catered for.
Large mammals are abundant, but
while my fellow travellers spoke
non-stop about sighting a spotted
cat, I was itching for the chance to
take my dip nets and explore the
nearest waters for fish.
It may sound strange to some, but
my excitement at seeing a jaguar
(which was intense) doesn’t match
the moment I first caught a little
wild Serpae tetra (Hyphessobrycon
eques) in a roadside ditch, or when a
shoal of Black widow tetras
(Gymnocorymbus ternetzi) burst
between my legs while wading
through a flooded meadow, as a
lady on the bank yelled “Mind the
snakes!” without a hint of humour.
legendary Giant Anaconda and 80
other reptile species – including an
estimated 10 million Caiman crocs.
It’s generally accepted that much of
the fauna and flora of the Pantanal
hasn’t even been properly
documented, let alone studied,
including many species of fish in
small headwater streams and
hard-to-access areas.
According to the World Wildlife
Fund (WWF) less than 2% of the
Pantanal is protected. Much of the
region is covered by private farms
(especially cattle ranches) and this is
a double-edged sword. On the one
hand, the farms’ wetland and forest
habitat is somewhat protected from
outside impacts or development; on
the other, if a farmer decides to
drain his lands to produce soy or
burn down forest for cattle grazing,
there’s nothing anyone can do.
Some farms are the size of English
counties and the scale of the
Pantanal region makes it difficult to
carry out assessments of habitat
destruction or degradation.
In creating a tank to represent the
ditch habitat I’d explored, I wanted
to include another species, the
elegant Sedge tetra, (Hyphessobrycon
elachys). I’d not seen it in that ditch,
but I knew it from at least one
location to the north-east, where it
inhabits the same waters as another
favourite of mine, the Broken-line
tetra (Hemigrammus ulreyi).
The dainty little Sedge tetras are a
joy to keep. Males have a blue-silver
sheen to them, with long fins that
they flare in display, while the
females develop a green-gold colour.
Both sexes have shades of
ABOVE: A shot
from a main
river with
wafting in the
result of Tai’s
iridescent blue around their eyes –
when they move into shadow, the
blue pops out while the rest of the
fish disappears. They are gentle and
hardy and adaptable to a range of
conditions and water parameters.
Plenty of cover will bring out their
best colours and behaviour.
I added a group of A. anisitsti that,
although energetic and boisterous,
tend to be well behaved when kept
in a decent-sized shoal. These fish
Making it happen
out and approached the tiny stream,
annoyed at an empty coke can in
the water. As I picked it up, a flurry
of movement caught my eye.
Dozens of tiny fish raced for cover. I
grabbed my nets and began dipping.
Within a few moments, I had
young Cichlasoma dimerus, countless
tiny Three-spot tetras (Serrapinnus
kriegi), Bloodfin tetra (Aphyocharax
anisitsi), Redflank bloodfin tetra
(Aphyocharax rathbuni) and several
other juveniles. It appeared the small
fish used the ditch as a safe space,
away from the stream’s predators.
In deeper water, Myriophyllum
matogrossense was choked with algae
and detritus, but the rich red tints of
its fine leaves were gleaming in the
sun. This plant is a favourite of
mine, and looking at this habitat I
had an urge to recreate it…
also appreciate cover but need
space as they race about. They tend
to occupy the upper levels of the
aquarium and if you’re feeding them
a diet of flightless fruit flies at the
surface of the tank they’ll show you
their inner piranha! In the wild, I
found them in considerable numbers
in very shallow water.
To complement them, and because
I’d encountered both species in the
same ditch, I added A. rathbuni. This
under-appreciated fish is a classic.
Given time, cover, good diet and
some females, the males develop a
beautiful green sheen with deep red
on the lower belly; their fins
accented with attractive white tips.
The females are demure; their green
is bluer and they lack the white fins,
but the red underbelly still stands
out. In the wild, they’re usually
found in small groups of five or so,
and I kept this ratio in the tank – two
males to three females.
I opted for another classic Pantanal
inhabitant for the lower levels, the
Serpae tetra (H. eques). Serpaes get
a bad rep, largely because they are
mistreated. Dumped into a
community tank in small numbers,
they can become agitated and begin
eyeing up the fins of slower
tankmates. They should either be
kept in sufficient numbers that any
boisterous behaviour stays within
the group or, as is the case in my
tank, housed with other small tetras
among lots of vegetation, where
they behave impeccably.
They dart about the bottom,
glide under the leaf litter and erupt
upwards when I move to the tank to
feed. My Serpaes have a deep
ruby-red colouration and are
doubtless farmed fish. Those in the
wild are a vivid, bright red and
usually don’t grow very large.
Planting up
I wanted to choke the tank with
plants for a moody, dark ambience,
which would contrast with the
colour and movement of the tetras.
I opted for three bunches of
Myriophyllum matogrossense, which
I ordered from UK firm Javaplants.
I was going to use my Brazilian
(and biotope correct) Nymphaea
gardneriana lilies, but had recently
moved them to another tank and
discovered they don’t like being
moved at all. They sulked, dropped
leaves and the new growth was not
as intensely coloured or the leaves
as thick. At £35 each, I wasn’t going
to risk moving them again so soon.
I compromised and used
Nymphaea zenkeri, which I pruned
low to imitate the lilies I’d seen in
Brazil. While N. zenkeri is African, its
colours aren’t dissimilar to various
Nymphaea species of the Pantanal.
To break up the red I added two
Serpae tetra are
boldly coloured
against a natural
bloodfin reflects
golden greens
in the body and
shows vivid red
in the fins.
The dainty little Sedge tetras are a joy to keep. Males have a
blue-silver sheen to them, with long fins that they flare in display
species of Mayaca both found in the
region. M. fluviatilis provided bright
green contrast, while M. sellowiana,
sourced from German firm
Aquasabi, provided darker green
and a rougher texture – plus it
produces beautiful orange tips when
kept under high light.
With the exception of the lilies, all
the plants in this tank appreciate
high lighting, CO2 injection, daily
fertilisers and gentle flow. The lilies
will reach for the light and don’t like
being blasted about, but will grow
steadily without CO2 or regular
fertilisers. I recycled an aquatic plant
substrate donated by Aquarium
Gardens for an earlier set-up. A few
Indian almond leaves, simmered for
a few hours, were added to replicate
the forest leaves found in these slow
moving, shallow habitats.
of the
Pantanal is
to the WWF
outlet. I find it is wise to let the
Black widow tetras (G. ternetzi) and
Myriophyllum grow to the surface
Pyrrhulina australis, together with
before pruning it back to the bottom lilies, giant hairgrass (Eleocharis
three inches. When replanting the
montevidensis) and Water Plantain
stems, I don’t cram them in so
(Alisma plantago-aquatica).
closely that light can’t penetrate
You could recreate ‘submerged
between them; if you do, the
forest floor’ with Bronze corys
top of the plant gets bushy
(Corydoras aeneus), Red-eye
while the lower part
tetras (Moenkhausia
becomes a bare stem.
sanctaefilomenae) and
To create a really full-on
Brown Acara (Aquidens
Pantanal river biotope,
portalegrensis), with
you could fill a
tangles of roots
Almond leaves provide
large tank with
and layers of
beneficial tannins as they break
M. matogrossense,
leaf litter.
down, and provide food for
and increase the
Or you could
flow using a
try a ‘river rapids’
micro-fauna which
river-manifold system,
setup, with Darter
fish will eat.
letting the plants bend in
characins (Characidium
the current, while adding
sp.), Leporinus striatus,
some Serpae tetras or
Leporellus trivittatus, Parodon
Moenkhausia marginatus (a rare
naisus and Ancistrus sp., using
find) and Darter characins,
powerheads, boulders, and letting
Characidum fasciatum. This would
aufwuchs and algae grow rampant.
need regular cleaning, pruning and
These are just a few of the
replanting until the plants become
beautiful habitats and fascinating
sturdy enough to handle the current, fish available from the region and I
but it would look amazing!
strongly recommend you read up,
take a look at videos online, and
Other options
perhaps have a go at recreating a
This, of course, is just one of many
Pantanal biotope at home.
Pantanal biotopes you could
When you can create an authentic
attempt. You might like to try
biotope with some of our most
‘flooded meadow’ with Whitespot
popular aquarium staples, what are
tetras (Aphyocharax paraguayensis),
you waiting for?
The Sedge tetra
is delicate in
both colour and
Plant cleaning
The Pantanal experiences variable
temperatures, and some winter
mornings even see frost on the
ground. In accordance with summer
temperatures (when aquatic plants
are at their most abundant) I kept
my tank at 24°C, with a pH of 6.5
and hardness of 36-357 ppm. As the
soft, feathery Myriophyllum leaves
collect detritus, it was important to
conduct frequent water changes
using some 6mm airline to gently
siphon around the leaves and stems.
I also used a small Azoo Skim 250
surface skimmer to pull floating
materials from the surface and
provide a gentle flow from the
opposite end of the tank to the filter
Diverse, decorative and
highly prized, these
exotic-looking beauties
came from surprisingly
humble beginnings.
The colours
and varieties of
modern day Koi
are remarkable.
eaten every Friday and on holy
days, it became a huge comme
entity. As Catholicism spread
westwards, so too did carp
cultivation, eventually leading
the worldwide distribution of
Cyprinus carpio.
Creating colour
In China, anomalies in fish suc
Bubble-eye and Celestial goldfi
were already admired, and this
where the first colour mutation
the carp were observed and
preserved. According to Chine
history, Confucius’s son was
given a coloured carp by King
Shoko of Ro, and from then
on, the fish were prized and
became the subject of many w
of Chinese art and literature.
Koi are believed to have been
introduced to Japan by the inv
Chinese; the first account of th
being kept by an emperor in Japan
dates back to 200AD. Japanese rice
farmers kept carp as food fish, but
somewhere between the 1820s and
1830s, they started to be bred for
Koi carp is possibly the
world’s most coveted
and valued fish. As the
Common carp, Cyprinus
carpio, it originated in
western central Asia
and spread in
temperate waters in both directions
– to Siberia and China in the east,
and up the Danube River in Europe
in the west. The carp of the Danube
were collected by the Romans
(proven by archaeologists’ findings
of carp bones, as well as those of
sturgeon and catfish, in the ruins of
ancient forts), and brought to Italy
in the 1st century AD where they
were cultivated as food. During
periodic floods, many carp escaped
the confines of cultivation and
gradually, over time, a population
was established.
After the fall of the Roman Empire
and the rise of Christianity, carp
began to be bred in the monasteries.
At this time, the carp was the only
cultivated fish, and since the
Catholic church ordered that fish be
Doitsu scales
Koi showing
Doitsu scales
As Koi took the world by storm,
some enthusiasts saw even more
potential in the fish, which
eventually led to the creation of
over 100 variants of Koi
The mountains
of Nigata, Japan,
are considered the
spiritual home of Koi.
aesthetic appeal – particularly in the
Prefecture, where the
y occurring mutations of Koi
be exploited and developed.
al interest in Koi in Japan
d in 1914 when Emperor
was presented with Koi for
erial Palace moat. This
he eye of every country in
d and before long Japanese
ured the hearts of millions.
ook the world by storm,
thusiasts saw even more
l in the fish, which
entually led to the creation
of over 100 variants of Koi.
These can be classified into
3 groups – Tancho, Kohaku,
Sanke, Showa Sanshoku,
ono, Bekko, Asagi/Shusui,
Kinginrin, Hikari
ono, Ogon, Hikari
ono and Kawarimono.
When carp were cultivated in
Germany for food, breeders had
Long-finned Koi, often called
‘Butterfly’, are shunned by
the Japanese and most
hardcore Koi keepers.
Koi, or Goi, is simply the
Japanese word for carp. What we
know as Koi are referred to in
Japan as Nishikigoi, meaning
coloured carp.
Although the average specimen in
captivity might live for 25 or 35
years, a female Koi named Hanako,
from Mino province in Japan, was
shown to be over 215 years old,
based on analysis of her scales.
Other Koi in the same pond were
found to be over 100 years old.
Like wild carp, Koi can grow to 36in
or more under perfect conditions.
Koi patterning
has always been
developed to be
viewed from above
Koi varieties
exploited a mutation in the scales
of some fish to minimise time and
effort in the kitchen. This mutation
meant the fish had fewer but
larger scales that didn’t cover the
skin entirely.
When 40 of these German carp
were exported to Japan in 1904,
Japanese breeders admired this
scale pattern – particularly the
symmetry of Leather carp, with a
single line of scales along the base
of the dorsal fin or no scales at all,
and the Mirror carp, which had the
dorsal row and a row of scales along
each flank following the fish’s lateral
line. The Armoured carp – those
with a mirror patterning plus
random patches (as they try to
revert to fully scaled) – are
considered to be the least desirable.
Japanese breeders named these
scales Doitsu (derived from their
pronunciation of the German word
‘deutsche’), so the fish became
known as Doitsugoi.
Koi can live for many years.
In terms of variety, Koi don’t
breed true – 20% is considered a
good percentage for lookalikes if
both brood stock are the same
variety, and even then, the
patterning may look very different
from that of the parents.
Over many years of selected
breeding, however, the Japanese
have created bloodlines that
produce quality in certain traits. For
those farms that focus on Gosanke
varieties (Kohaku, Sanke and
Showa), the fry produced should
carry good Gosanke qualities, but
other varieties produced are likely to
be of much lower quality.
Some traits, though, like Doitsu
scales and the presence of shiny
(Kinginrin) scales can be quite
The Japanese word Tancho literally means
‘red spot on the head’. Many people believe
this fish is prized above all others because
of its obvious link to the Japanese flag, but
Japan’s national bird, the Tancho crane,
and rarity are the reasons for the high value
placed upon the red dot marking.
Various head markings are considered
desirable, including a diamond, heart, oval,
square, cross and blossom, but no marking
is more prized than a simple clean circle.
The tancho marking should be in a central
position, deep and solid in colour, and have
a well-defined ‘kiwa’ (the edging to any
marking). It should not touch the eyes, lips,
cheeks, or shoulder scales.
Taisho refers to a period in Japanese
history, and it was at the Taisho Exhibition
in 1914 that the Taisho Sanke (originally
Taicho Sanshoku, meaning tri-colour) was
introduced to Japanese Koi breeders.
The modern strain of Sanke was bred by
Elizaburo Hoshino from Takezawa village
by mixing refined Kohaku and a black and
white strain called Shiro Bekko, but it took
time for proper standards to be developed
before Hoshino perfected the strain.
The basis of a good Taisho Sanke is a
good Kohaku with an overlaying and
enhancing black (sumi) pattern. Sumi
should not be present on the head, but the
fins may have streaks.
Think of Utsurimono as a two-coloured
Showa – it has a black base with overlaying
colour of either white (Shiro Utsuri) yellow
(Ki Utsuri) or red (Hi Utsuri). Sumi
patterning should cover 50% or more of the
fish’s back, and markings should be large,
outstanding patches. Small sumi markings
are not desirable in Utsurimono and are the
dread of all Utsurimono breeders.
Like Showa, Shiro Utsuri should have
motoguro – the starburst marking – whereas
the Hi Utsuri and Ki Utsuri should have
streak markings on their pectoral fins like
Taisho Sanke. Sumi markings should cover
the snout, the cheeks and jaws, and a
menware should split the head.
Taisho Sanke
Showa Sanshoku
The Kohaku – a white fish with red (hi)
patterning – is hugely popular and credited
with being the basis of fancy Koi breeding.
It should have hi markings on its head; for a
show Koi, the hi should be above the eyes
and above the lateral line in the body.
There are many names for particular
patterns of hi. A continual jagged or joinedup red pattern from the head to the tail is
known as Inazuma – ‘flash of lightning’.
One, two and three-step patterns are known
as Nidan, Sandan and Yondan, where
similarities are drawn with stepping stones.
Any pigmentation in the fins is considered
undesirable, but if you’re not taking your
fish to shows, you’re the only one to judge.
Where the Taisho Sanke is a white fish with
red and black patterning, Showa Sanshoku
is a black fish with red and white markings.
Black mustn’t be under any of the colours
though, as you wouldn’t see them.
To differentiate Showa Sanshoku from
Taisho Sanke, look at the head – the Showa
Sanshoku should have sumi colouring on
the head, whereas in Japan a Taisho Sanke
with sumi on the head would be culled.
The Showa has larger patches of sumi
that pass deeply in to the body, and head
markings – called menware – are important;
lightning strikes and Y-shaped markings are
highly prized. A starburst-like sumi marking
(motoguro) on the pectoral fin is desirable.
The Bekko is a solid-coloured fish with a
colour that contrasts with its sumi markings.
To be of contrast the base colour must be
white (Shiro Bekko), yellow (Ki Bekko) or
red (Aka Bekko). Bekko are an easy variety
to produce, so when judging show Koi, the
Bekko is scrutinised closely. Sumi markings
should be in the same vein as in the Taisho
Sanke; sumi on the head is accepted but
frowned upon, while those on the pectoral
fins can be more free in appearance –
blotches, streaks or white.
For the ideal balance of markings, the
sumi on a Bekko should be about 10% of
the top half of the fish. The Shiro Bekko is
more highly prized than an Aka or Ki Bekko.
Shusui tend to be favourites with newer Koi
keepers in Britain – perhaps because their
colouring is so different; they just stand out.
These varieties display a blue to grey
colouration on their back, a white belly, and
red below their lateral line, which may bleed
into the pectoral fins and onto the cheek.
The Asagi is a fully scaled fish with a
reticulated, net-like patterning due to each
scale having a dark centre and lighter edge,
while the Shusui is a German-scaled (Doitsu)
variety with smooth blue skin. The lighter
the blue or grey, the better, and while diet
and water conditions can affect this,
genetics have the largest influence. High
pH levels often means the colour darkens.
This variety appeared in Japan in 1921 and
is generally credited to Aoki-san who inbred
the gold for five years to produce the Golden
Ogon strain. These single-coloured Koi are
popular in ponds, but less so in shows.
The Ogon group is comparatively cheap to
buy, but not cheap looking – with a single,
bold colour they have great visual impact,
and are clearly seen against the background
of a pond. They’re friendly, bold fish so many
owners have a lot of love for this monocolour
variety. Either the boldness of feeding first or
the lack of patterning often leads to Ogons
growing bigger than fancier-patterned Koi.
Colours include yellow (Yamabuki), orange
(Orengi) and white (Platinum or Parachina).
In basic terms the Kinginrin is a fish with
shining scales – the term means ‘gold and
silver scales’ and it may be a Kohaku, an
Ogon or any other type of Koi. In skin with
yellow pigment, gold (‘kin’) will show, while
silver (‘gin’) will show on white and black
skin. They were seen in fish farms
belonging to Yoshida in 1927 and shown in
1929 when they were first sold.
In showing terms, a fish should have at
least 20 scales of kinginrin to be included
in the class, and the grouping of these
scales should be balanced and attractive.
The effect is enhanced if the pond is lit
from above, or with downward, underwater
lighting. (Ginrin Tansho Sanke shown below)
The Koromo is another fish with a net-like
marking where a dark mesh overlays the
red, hi markings. As with any Kohaku-based
variety, the skin should be snow white with
no yellow tint. The more defined the
mesh-like patterning, the better, and it
should cover all hi markings apart from
those on the head.
It is said that the Koromo is a result of
crossing Kohaku and Asagi; if you remove
all colours other than red and white you
should be left with a good Kohaku.
If a Koromo – or any other variety of
Koi, come to that – also has the red spot
‘tancho’ marking, the prefix of Maruten
is used.
The Japanese word ‘go’ means five, so the
name Goshiki simply means five colours.
This variety originally appeared at the
Tokyo show in 1918 and resulted from
crossing the Aka Bekko with an Asagi or an
Aka Sanshoku.
Modern breeders use an Asagi/Taisho
Sanke cross, lending light blue and dark
blue chromatophores from the Asagi, and
red, white and black from the Sanke. The
overall look of the overlaid colours is
explained as a purple.
The colour of this fish is temperature
sensitive and it’s best viewed above 10°C
– at this point the fish will darken, and even
maybe turn to black in near-freezing waters.
This is something of a catch-all term for
fish that are not included in the other
groups. They are generally produced by
crossing two, or sometimes three varieties
from the other groups.
Kawarimono are not regarded quite as
highly when it comes to showing; however,
they are very popular and may be the
best-selling group commercially – in part
because this is a large group with almost
endless variations in colour, markings
and patterning (fish shown is a Kujaku).
Kawarimono are also said to give contrast
to the traditional groups when kept
alongside them, making for a colourful and
attractive display in the pond.
Koromo / Goromo
Asagi / Shusui
Beautiful fish
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Dianema catfish
They have similar feeding
characteristics to Corydoras,
rooting around in the sand...
These cute cats are peaceful, long-lived and a breeze
to feed – the perfect addition to your aquarium
6Scientific name: Dianema longibarbis
6Pronunciation: Die-ah-nee-mah long-ee-bar-bis
6Origin: South America: Amazon River basin, Peru and Brazil
6Habitat: Found in creeks, tributaries, floodplains, lakes
and ponds
6Size: 10 cm
6Tank size: 90x35x30cm
6Water requirements: 5.8-7.8 pH, 2-20°H
6Temperature: 24-26°C
6Temperament: Very peaceful
6Feeding: Sinking pellets, granules, tablets,
frozen and live foods
6Availability and cost: Not common, from £7
D. longibarbis
showing off its
long barbels.
95 l+
Dianema catfish
ORTS ARE generally
flood water, lakes and ponds.
positioned in sheltered
Both species of Dianema are found
areas, defended by
in blackwater and clearwater
sand bars, land spits
habitats. A Biotope set-up would
and man-made barriers involve a pale sandy substrate,
to deflect the full power driftwood, root tangles, and for good
of tides and offer
measure a handful of leaf litter.
boats a safe haven.
They have similar feeding
Though the common name of
characteristics to Corydoras, rooting
‘porthole catfish’ is a reference to a
around in the sand for insect larvae
row of markings – porthole-like
they detect with their long barbels.
spots running along the fish’s lateral
When it comes to the aquarium
line – there is also a link to the
there’s one thing to be careful
positioning of ports. South
of – recently imported
America has the top
Dianema. They don’t
two rivers of the
tend to be strong fish
world as far as flow
when first shipped,
is concerned; the
being quite
Dianema activity levels will
Rio Negro, second
susceptible to
be encouraged if they are
only to the mighty
bacterial ailments
kept in a small group
Amazon River that
which could well be
of three to six
discharges an average
due to all available
of 175,000 cubic metres
Dianema being wildof water per second. So, fish
caught specimens. Once
who inhabit the main channel are
settled they are sturdy fish, and any
mostly large, strong and steamlined.
weakness to bacterial issues doesn’t
Our Dianema aren’t built for the
seem apparent after a few weeks.
main flow; they are more suited to
The best way to avoid issues is to
steadily bumbling around the slack
check with the seller how long
waters of creeks and slow-moving
they’ve been in stock; if in doubt,
tributaries or still-water habitats like
leave them, and go back to the shop
6Scientific name: Dianema urostriatum
6Pronunciation: Die-ah-nee-mah euro-stree-at-um
6Origin: South America: Amazon River basin
Habitat: Found in creeks, tributaries, floodplains, lakes and ponds
6Size: 12.5cm
6Tank size: 100x35x35cm
6Water requirements: 6.0-8.0 pH, 5-20 °H
6Temperature: 25-28°C
6Temperament: Very peaceful
Feeding: Sinking pellets, granules, tablets,
frozen and live foods
6Availability and cost: Quite a rare find,
£12 and upwards
120 l+
Egg and
fry care
When eggs are
seen, you should
remove them or
the parents from
the tank as they
will eat them.
Once newly
hatched fry have
consumed their
yolk sac they are
big enough to
feed on
nauplii and
active during the day (diurnal) so are
less effected by lighting than most
cats, but they will be more active in
slightly subdued lighting or if
shaded by floating plants.
a few weeks later to pick up your
porthole cats. It’s worth being
patient as these are surprisingly
long-lived fish for their size, having
the potential to live for over 10 years.
In the aquarium, you’ll find these
catfish very peaceful; again, they
could be compared to Corydoras
when it comes to temperament, with
no aggression to their own type
and no aggression to other tank
members – anything other than
small fry are under no threat.
reason for
the common
moniker is
LEFT: Use sand
or smooth gravel
to avoid causing
damage to
their sensitive
A gentle
tankmate with
an elegant look.
Feeding is a breeze. Dianema are
rarely fussy feeders, normally being
happy to chow down on any sinking
foods including soft pellets, granules,
compressed wafers and so on. If
they are hungry they’ll make the
effort to get to the surface and suck
up flake food in a rather ungainly
fashion. Of course, frozen and live
foods will be happily devoured and
should be offered from time to time
but they’re not a necessity for these
catfish, even in the first few days.
I’ve mentioned a biotope set-up
but these unfussy cats will be happy
in most styles of tank with a little
cover and correct water parameters.
Planted tanks are a common place
for Dianema to end up and they suit
them. Although they root around in
the substrate, they are not digging
fish and will cause no issue with
uprooting plants or stirring up
soil-type base layers. Bright lighting
does tend to put catfish off and
Portholes are no exception; they are
What’s on the menu?
as for many other South American
species – offer slightly soft water
around 25°C, feed well on frozen
and/or live foods, and watch out for
eggs. These bubble-nesting cats will
also need an imitation floating leaf
Breeding know-how
under which to build the nest.
There is little sexual dimorphism
If they prove stubborn to spawn
between immature male and female
you can try imitating the coming of
Dianema. When they reach maturity, the rainy season. First lower the
the male has stronger, thicker
water level, bring the temperature
leading rays to his pectoral fins
up a couple of degrees (over two
(which eventually become
to four days), slightly increase
more bristly) and the
the hardness, lower flow
female has a slightly
rates and don’t feed for
rounder body shape.
a few days. This will
There’s little
seem like the end
Yellow has proved to be a
of the dry
favourite colour for breeding
available on
season for the
Megalechis, so try adding
captive breeding,
some floating yellow
although it’s been
Next, introduce
polystyrene or
achieved many times.
the wet season by
It’s thought that along
knocking the temperature
with Megalechis,
down, doing large, cool, soft
Hoplosternum and Callichthys
water changes, and also
species, Dianema cats are bubble
introducing plenty of frozen or live
nesters like Gouramis and Betta.
foods. Flow can also be increased
Even though conflicting information but not so much that it might disturb
exists suggesting the eggs are laid in the nest building. Repeated failure to
pits excavated from the substrate,
spawn could be down to barometric
it’s still widely considered that these
pressures or the time of year –
fish use a bubble nest method. It’s
depending on the region, the wet
best to buy a group initially – four to season in South America starts from
six should give you good chances of
April to September so it may be that
having opposite sexes.
some species will only spawn during
Conditioning the fish is the same
these months.
Lemon tetra
Lemon twist
Often seen as a beginner’s fish,
the Lemon tetra can bring a
touch of sparkle to any tank.
Take a moment
to appreciate the
striking colours.
Lemon tetra
HE LEMON tetra is one
of the old guard. It’s
been adding a welcome
ray of sunshine to
aquariums for years
now, but there are
many people out there
who feel this fish is
underrated. They could well be
right, so this seems a good time to
check it out, along with its new
cousin, the modern Lemon with a
twist – of which more later.
As you wander the aisles of fish
tanks in your local shops, you see an
abundance of tetras suitable for
community tanks. They come in
many shades of red to orange, and
blue to purple; there are shining
silvers and reflective golds; but there
are very few yellow fellows. Moving
away from tetras, there are generally
very few yellow community fish at
all, other than selectively bred strains
of live-bearing guppies, platies,
mollies, and sometimes swordtails.
Yellow tends to be a colour
reserved for bold as brass species,
such as the Tanganyikan Lemon
cichlid and the Malawi Yellow lab
cichlid, plus countless marine fish.
But if you want variety of colour in
your community aquarium, or you
want a yellow theme, take a closer
look at the Lemon tetra,
Hyphessobrycon pulchripinnis.
This conspicuous characin has
charmed many a fishkeeper over the
years, and it makes a hardy,
adaptable, active and generally
very peaceful addition to your tank.
Fed well and kept in favorable
conditions, H. pulchripinnis will show
bright, vibrant yellows in the anal
and dorsal fins, contrasted by strong
black markings. The eye is
highlighted with a bright red-orange,
and the body offers a semitranslucent yellow, which is a much
stronger colour in mature fish kept
in the right conditions.
Murky past
The origin of the Lemon tetra is
somewhat clouded. Do a little
research and you’ll find they come
from the Rio Tapajós basins in
central Brazil. Do a bit more
research and you’ll discover they’ve
been found in one minor tributary of
the Rio Xingu, and that it’s been said
they never inhabited the Rio
Tapajós. There’s also some
suggestion they occur in the main
Amazon River. So many sources of
information play safe and list the
distribution as Amazonas or just ‘a
South American species’.
This confusion was likely started
because the fish that was first
described to science was a farmed
fish for the aquarium trade, so with
these specimens the exact locality
Young Lemon
tetra lack the
depth of colour
in the body...
…but mature
fish display a
body colour.
wasn’t clear. However, most records
relate to the middle and lower Rio
Tapajós. There is also a report from
the Rio Kaiapá, a tributary of the
Teles Pires several hundred miles
upstream in Mato Grosso state, and
the report from a minor tributary of
the Rio Xingu.
What we can say with confidence
is that H. pulchripinnis is widespread
and under no risk of endangerment.
In the wild, they are found in large
shoals – shoals of thousands where
the contrasting yellow and black fin
tones break up the outlines of
individual fish and baffle onlooking
predators with an effective haze.
Wild fish are very rarely collected
for the aquarium trade however,
due to the low cost of farmproduced fish.
The Lemon tetra prefers quite
shallow bodies of water with a
rather gentle pace. It’s naturally
found in both shaded, low-nutrient
small streams, with little to no
tetras are
happier in
numbers and
the Lemon is no
This conspicuous characin has
charmed many a fishkeeper over
the years, and it makes a hardy,
adaptable, active and generally very
peaceful addition to your tank
The albino
variant looks
part ghost, part
6Scientific name: Hyphessobrycon pulchripinnis
6Pronunciation: High-fess-oh-bri-con pull-krip-in-iss
6Size: 3.5-4cm
6Origin: Amazonas
6Habitat: Tributaries, small rivers, oxbow lakes and flooded forest
6Tank size: 60x35x30cm minimum for five fish
6Water requirements: 5.0-8.0 pH,
6Temperature: 23-28°C
6Temperament: Generally peaceful, may
nip long fins
6Feeding: Flakes, granules, frozen and live
6Availability and cost: Very common, around
£1.50-£3.50, dependent on size
70 l+
Lemon tetra
fin markings of the common strain,
instead exhibiting burnt orange
coloration in its place. The main
body colour also has a hint of
burnt orange, with the same
semi-translucent effect of the
standard strain.
Right now, there are questions
about whether this may actually be a
separate species due to the
pronounced difference in patterning,
but with no contrast in dentition, or
physical, countable traits such as fin
ray numbers and scale counts, it’s
likely this will turn out to be a
regional variant, rather than a valid,
separate species.
vegetation, and in clearwater rivers
gouramis, discus and dwarf cichlids.
with higher nutrient levels and good
Fish to avoid, obviously, are bigger
plant growth.
fish or aggressive species that may
In the aquarium H. pulchripinnis
eat or damage the Lemon tetra – but
will be happy in either a low-light
also slow-moving species with
blackwater style set-up, or a heavily
flamboyant finnage, such as guppies
planted tank with a good balance of
or fancy bettas, which may well get
cover and open water swimming
nipped by these active and curious
space. Like almost any tetra, the
Lemon will appreciate being
When visiting shops, you
kept in good numbers – six
may find some colour
is acceptable but they
variations available
will offer even more
nowadays. An albino
of a spectacle if
form is being
The more you have, the more
you keep at
effective they look. Rather than
least twice that
bred and pops
having lots of different fish,
many. I once put
up from time
try having more of
a group of 60 in an
to time.
8ft tank and they were
If you have a soft
one shoaling
wonderful to watch –
spot for albino fish then
great for shoaling and
you may well get excited
endlessly active.
about finding them; for me,
taking all the colour away from a
Fishy friends
Lemon tetra makes little sense, but
There are lots of options in terms of whatever floats your boat.
tankmates. Other small tetra family
A twist of orange
members, rasboras, danios, and
There’s also a new ‘orange-red’
less-boisterous barbs like Cherries
variety now available, sometimes
and Checkereds, plus small catfish
misleadingly called ‘Orange Bolivia’.
or loaches are all suitable, together
This strain shows none of the black
with larger, low-aggression fish like
Lemons like a
tank and their
colours show
up well.
An orange-red
variant is now
Got a fishkeeping question? PFK’s crack team of aquatics experts
are on hand to answer whatever you need to know...
The Question of the
Month gets a Tetra
goodie box!
Is answering all your
disease questions and
looks at a sick rainbowfish on page 58.
The gender of
clownfish – it’s
Is answering all your
community questions
and talks about butterflyfish on page 57.
Is answering all your
buying questions and
discusses Thailand imports on page 55.
Is answering all your
planting questions and
has a step-by-step guide on page 57.
Is answering all your
cichlid questions and
discusses tank centrepieces on page 56.
Is answering all your
freshwater questions
and explains algae growth on page 60.
Is answering all your
marine fish questions,
and looks at clownfish on page 55.
Should I add another clownfish?
In my 350 l tank, I have a large female Common
clownfish, aged four. Until eight months ago,
she had a mate and they spawned regularly,
although I never raised any of the youngsters.
Unfortunately, the male managed to jump out
of a small gap in the hood of the tank. Can I
add another small male to this set-up or will she
attack him? The tank has lots of live rock and
corals so he can get out of her way, but I don’t
want to stress him out or risk him being injured.
DAVE: It really depends on the temperament of
the female – some are more aggressive than
others – but there are some steps you can take
to maximise the chances of safely introducing
another (male) fish and re-establishing a pair.
Clownfish hatch out gender-neutral – initially
neither male nor female – but after a while they
become immature, non-breeding males. The
most dominant individual in the group becomes
female, with the next in the hierarchy becoming
a breeding male. If the female dies, the breeding
male changes sex, and sexually mature
individuals (those over a year or so in age) kept
alone for a couple of months will also become
female if they’re not already – it’s complicated!
You’ll want to maximise the chances of getting
a male fish as a potential partner to avoid
problems, and size alone isn’t always a
guarantee. Smaller fish aren’t necessarily males
if they’re over a year old and have been housed
alone, so aim to buy the smallest (captive-bred)
fish you can from a group that has been kept
together. A fish less than a year old will give the
best odds that you’re getting a male fish.
Remember to quarantine the fish before
introducing it to the display tank as both
captive-bred and wild-caught clowns can carry
parasites such as Cryptocaryon and Brooklynella.
If you get a very young fish you can be pretty
sure it’s unlikely to become a female when kept
in quarantine for the required period as it won’t
have reached sexual maturity. Once the new fish
is introduced, there may be some squabbling
from the female, but only for a few days.
Every question we receive gets a reply from our
experts. Include as much information as you
can about your set-up. Photos are useful, too. 55
Which South American centrepiece fish?
JEREMY SAYS: That’s a shame about
the D. filamentosus. I wonder if in fact
you were sold the less showy D.
maculatus, which stays more chequered?
Mature Bolivian rams,
Mikrogeophagus altispinosa, are fish of
beauty, and are peaceful. They are
larger than most dwarf cichlids too, at
7.5cm/3in adult length.
If you can track them down, Crenicara
are lovely, with male C. punctulatum
reaching nearly 10cm/4in. Males are
subtly coloured, yet flamboyant and
elegant at the same time.
Don’t write off the more common
Apistogramma species either.
A. macmasteri can attain 7.5cm/3in
if left to grow and the viejita morphs are
really pretty. A. hoignei and hongsloi
are worth looking into if you don’t want
the more common A. cacatuoides.
If the Cardinals are large, you could
try your luck with dwarf pikes,
Crenicichla regani, or even Krobia
xinguensis, but the Crenicichla, Krobia,
and other Nannacara, Ivanocara and
Laetacara will all be aggressive
when breeding.
The showier the male of the species,
the more they will display and posture
aggressively, just like cockerels in a
xinguensis – a
I have a mature 100cm/40in long, 200
l /44 gal South American aquarium
set-up, with Cardinal tetras, Hockey
stick pencilfish, a Butterfly pleco L168,
Bentosi tetras, an Oil catfish, some
Black otos, and a variety of corys. The
tank has both rooted and floating
plants, a sandy substrate, leaf, cone
and bark litter, coconut caves and lots
of rooty bogwood. The tank is 10% RO
water, temperature 26-27°C and 6.8 –
I have been looking for a centrepiece
fish for a while and tried out several
species. First I had the Golden eyed
dwarf cichlid, Nannacara anomala,
which bred and then became very
aggressive and territorial. Next the Ram
cichlid, Mikrogeophagus ramirezi,
which chased everything and was
always too small to be the centrepiece
fish anyway. Finally, I tried the
Checkerboard cichlid, Dicrossus
filamentosus, a truly lovely fish, but
their colours were lacking and they just
never seemed to be the centrepiece I
thought they would be.
I’m open to suggestions, but would
really like something full of colour,
character and charm – and, of course,
from South America to add to my theme.
Question of
the Month
Crenicichla regani –
but small fish will
be food.
If you can track them down, Crenicara are lovely. Males are subtly
coloured yet flamboyant and elegant at the same time
Sam wins a box of Tetra goodies:
100ml TetraMin and TetraPro Colour foods,
Holiday Food, Pleco Algae Wafers,
FunTips Tablets, 100ml SafeStart,
EasyBalance and AquaSafe water treatments
and Tetra Test 6 in 1.
Don’t forget
species – there are
some crackers.
Send your questions to: Fishkeeping Answers,
Practical Fishkeeping Magazine, Media House, Lynchwood, Peterborough,
PE2 6EA. Email us at
Why has this fish
turned upside down?
How long can my corals survive
without light?
I recently bought some lovely fancy goldfish but
in the last week or so one of them has been
acting quite strange.
The fish in question is a Ryukin and he has
begun to hang at the bottom of the tank, nose
down in the gravel, tail up like a dart. Over the
last few days he has started to turn completely
on his back at the bottom of the tank.
I thought it might be a swimbladder disorder,
but as soon as I feed the fish he is back to his
old self, swimming up to the food and eating.
Then, after a while he will go back to the
bottom on his back again.
In your opinion, could this be a swimbladder
disorder – if so
what would the
best course of
action be?
I have heard
that offering peas
can help. Is this
JEREMY SAYS: I’m not surprised that out of the
two fish, it is the Ryukin that is having the
trouble. The deep, squat body and short tail
makes it the most likely of any commonly kept
goldfish to have buoyancy problems.
Feeding different foods is all you can do. Try
offering peas, as you suggested, as well as
frozen and live Daphnia and, of course sinking
goldfish pellets.
Unfortunately, once they go, and the problem
cannot be fixed by food, I have never seen them
truly recover.
added bonus. Don’t worry about
I have a lighting unit on a tank I got
providing reef-quality light intensity,
secondhand and it has failed.
you’re just aiming for something to
Unfortunately, it’s built into the hood,
keep the corals ticking over.
so it’s difficult to use anything else
While the corals are on reduced
without actually taking the hood off and
lighting, it pays to feed them a little
leaving the tank open topped. I have a
more to keep them healthy, but don’t
firefish, so I’d sooner not risk this.
overdo it, and watch the water quality.
I have been told that I’ll need to wait
It might be possible to install a tube
anything up to 10 days for a
inside the existing hood (perhaps using
zip ties), but if this isn’t safe to do,
I have a mixture of LPS and
then you can ‘DIY’ a temporary
mushroom corals. Any
hood with a sheet of
suggestions as to how I can
polycarbonate – which is
get round the lighting
cheap and easy to work
problem please?
– and place the tube
I presume this is too
over this (cutting a
long for the corals
It always helps to keep
small window for
at least to be
older equipment that has been
the tube will
without light?
replaced for those times
ensure maximum
when you just need
light penetration).
might not look
particularly pretty, but it
DAVE SAYS: Generally,
should do the job.
LPS and especially mushroom
Bear in mind that when your
corals are quite hardy, and can
replacement light is fitted there’s a
survive for a while without light
risk that the corals could be subjected
– easily three or four days for most LPS,
to ‘light shock’ if they have become
and the mushrooms would probably be
accustomed to lower-intensity lighting
fine in your case.
for a while. To reduce the likelihood of
Ten days could be pushing it for some
any problems, gradually ramp up the
LPS though, so, to be on the safe side,
intensity of the light by adjusting the
I would suggest rigging up a temporary
the programme in the settings (if this is
light while you’re waiting for your
possible), or by initially shading the
replacement to arrive.
light with egg crate, removing it after a
This needn’t be anything flash; just a
few days.
single, cheap, fluorescent marine tube
It’s also worth reducing the normal
(T8 is fine) and ballast from your local
photoperiod by a couple of hours a day
store will do the trick. Some tubes
initially, and gradually increasing it over
incorporate a built-in reflector, but if
the next week or two.
not, fitting one to the tube will be an
Most LPS corals
can handle 3-4
days without
Ryukins are the first
to get buoyancy
What’s wrong with my rainbow?
PETER SAYS: It’s likely that the
ulcerative skin lesions you describe are
caused by either bacteria or virus – it’s
virtually impossible to say which without
examining the fish and taking skin
samples for analysis.
Judging from your covering note, it
would seem only one rainbowfish is
affected. So, we may ask, why hasn’t
the bacterial or viral infection spread to
the other rainbows, given that they have
presumably shared the same aquarium
for many months?
One possible explanation is that this
disease only afflicts fish that are
stressed. If so, the underlying cause of
stress could be old age, or perhaps this
is the dominant rainbowfish (it can be
very stressful to maintain the ‘alpha’
position). Conversely, maybe it’s low in
the pecking order (although I doubt it in
your case as the specimen looks too
large). We know that stressed fish are
more vulnerable to certain infections,
and this is due largely to stress lowering
the fish’s ability to fight diseases –
Please tell me what is causing
pinkish-white tumour-like ulcers to
appear on my male Blue rainbowfish?
The affected fish has had them for six
months but is otherwise feeding and
swimming normally.
Stress isn’t
always what you
think – holding
the ‘alpha’
position is
(specifically, stressed fish produce more
of the hormone cortisol, and high levels
of cortisol inhibit the immune system).
We know that mycobacterial infections
are more likely to attack old or badly
stressed fish, and we also know that
rainbowfishes seem more prone to these
types of bacteria, so I couldn’t rule out
the possibility that your fish has
mycobacteriosis. But, as already
mentioned, it’s equally likely to be viral.
If you have a spare aquarium, I would
Should I order
these fish from
I would like to try to keep – and
perhaps eventually breed – the L046
Zebra pleco.
During an evening of browsing on
the internet I came across a link to a
fish farm in Thailand. They are selling
5cm/2in juveniles for £50 plus VAT,
and have 7.5cm/3in fish available for
£60 plus VAT.
I am a little wary about ordering from
this company and was wondering if
you had any advice about buying fish
over the internet in this way?
Shipping costs
and paperwork
can make a
real meal of
importing fish.
suggest isolating this fish for a month
and medicating it with a mild but
wide-acting bacterial treatment (a plant
derived-remedy, such as Melafix).
I can’t promise that this will help (viral
infections are untreatable, and
mycobacterial infections are almost as
difficult to treat), but it’s worth a try.
Also, the isolation would eliminate any
dominance-hierarchy stress.
Hopefully, the isolated fish may begin
to show signs of improvement.
NATHAN SAYS: Assuming you were
to import these fish direct from
Thailand, chances are there would
be considerable freight costs (£100
or more by the time they reach your
door), and heaps of paperwork
involved. Also bear in mind there will
likely be a ‘no returns’ policy, and
even if there was, it wouldn’t cover
freight costs. So, you could order a
box of four fish at £240, plus £100
for freight, receive four dead fish,
maybe get some or all of your money
back on the dead ones, and still be
at least £100 out of pocket. Still, if
you want to proceed, it would be
advisable to contact CEFAS to
ensure you are up to date with the
latest documentation requirements.
Remember, some imports do
indeed look cheap, but once all the
factors are considered, you realise
that the removal of risk and faff is
the service that retailers – with their
import, quarantine and acclimation
infrastructure – offer us aquarists.
Send your questions to: Fishkeeping Answers,
Practical Fishkeeping Magazine, Media House, Lynchwood, Peterborough,
PE2 6EA. Email us at
While phosphate absorbers help
keep levels low, don’t let them get
to zero – you’ll still need a little to
keep the corals happy. Aim for
a phosphate level of
around 0.03ppm.
DAVE SAYS: It’s difficult to say
what’s triggered the outbreak of
cyanobacteria; it’s possible the
newly added snails have liberated
some detritus from the sand bed and
this has contributed to the problem,
but in any case these issues are
always due to excessive, unbalanced
nutrients. Without getting too hung
up on exact numbers, you should be
aiming for around 5-10ppm nitrate
and 0.05-0.03ppm phosphate.
Controlling these nutrients should
solve the problem.
First, evaluate nutrient input to the
system. It’s worth checking the
nitrate and phosphate levels of the
water from your shop and any RO
water used for top-ups just in case
there’s an issue. Review feeding
too – food is an excellent source of
nitrates and phosphates – and
consider cutting down a little if
nitrates and phosphates seem a bit
too high in the system.
Second, ensure efficient nutrient
export. This can be achieved through
may have
from the
sand bed.
the increased use of mechanical
filtration; additional water movement
or reviewing the placement of
existing pumps, which can help to
prevent waste from settling and lift it
into the mechanical filter; and
tweaking the skimmer for maximum
foam production. Increasing the
frequency of water changes
(assuming the make-up water is low
in nutrients) can also help.
Additionally, consider upping the
frequency of sand bed siphoning –
and, where possible, try to very
carefully manually siphon patches of
cyano. It’s common in many cases
for phosphate levels to be
unbalanced and abnormally high
when nitrates are already reasonably
low. In these cases, it can pay to run
an iron- or aluminium-based
phosphate-absorbing medium.
I have a 120x38x38cm converted
Juwel tank housing Xenia, Star
polyps, mushrooms and a couple of
LPS corals. Fish are four Chromis, a
Royal gramma, and a pair of Percula
clownfish. There are also some reef
hermit crabs and two Turbo snails.
I read that to help keep the sand
bed turned over it’s a good idea to
add Nassarius snails, so just after
Christmas I introduced four. I know
they’re still in there as they tend to
emerge when I feed the fish but I’ve
noticed over the past few weeks that
I’ve started to get a layer of red
cyanobacteria both on the substrate
and on the rocks. I’ve never had
much trouble with slime algae before.
Is this just coincidence, or have I
upset the balance in some way?
The tank has a skimmer plus two
FluvalSea pumps for extra circulation
but is otherwise filtered using live
rock. I use carbon filtration once a
month. The tank has a 15% water
change every week with salted RO
water from my local shop.
What has caused this slimy outbreak?
BOB SAYS: Your tank is right on the
minimum volume I’d recommend for
keeping an African butterflyfish, but it
really depends on the tank’s dimensions
– the ‘footprint’ of the tank needs to be
90x30cm or more to give sufficient
swimming room. If you do plan to buy a
butterflyfish, then returning the guppies
and danios might be a good idea –
partly for the reasons you mention and
partly because an adult butterflyfish
may well eat them.
These fish can indeed be slow to wean
onto dried foods and will usually need
feeding with frozen and live foods at
first. Most will accept some dried foods
after a time, but it’s still a good idea to
supplement this with frozen and live
foods occasionally.
Butterflyfish like subdued lighting and
Can I keep a butterfly in this tank?
I have an 81 l/18 gal planted tank with
tetras, a gourami, danios and guppies.
I was wondering if I would be able to
keep an African butterflyfish in my tank.
I’ve read that other surface-dwelling
fish will outcompete it for food and
space, but I’m considering returning my
danios and guppies. My gourami is
quite shy and doesn’t spend much time
at the surface anyway.
Also, do butterflyfish only eat frozen or
live food or will they accept flake food?
floating plants to hide among, and they
do not appreciate flow so be careful to
direct any power filter outlets back
against the sides of the tank if possible.
They are also prodigious jumpers, so
tight-fitting covers are a must.
need quite a
A diatom under
a microscope.
Is it possibly
NEALE SAYS: The green-brown slime
you describe are probably diatoms.
These fascinating protists are
photosynthetic organisms with silica
casings or ‘tests’ that resemble
beautifully sculpted glass boxes when
viewed under a microscope.
Of course, that doesn’t mean we
want them in our tanks, but for the
most part diatoms aren’t a problem if
the aquarium is balanced and working
properly. But if water chemistry is
unstable, or there’s too much light and
not enough plant growth, diatoms will
bloom, coating the glass walls of the
tank with a golden-brown covering
that feels slimy to the touch.
While diatoms don’t do any
harm, they are unsightly.
In the short term,
you need to figure
out why the
Nerite snails are effective
diatoms are
diatom consumers. They pose no
blooming in
threat to healthy plants and
your tank.
rarely, if ever, breed
Reviewing water
chemistry and, if
in aquaria.
necessary, providing
stability through buffers
and/or regular water changes
could outmay be required (check silicate
levels particularly). If there is a lot of
algae issues.
light but few fast-growing plants, then
adding something easy to grow, such as
floating Indian Fern or Vallisneria can
help to keep algae blooms of all kinds
under control.
While diatoms are relatively harmless,
they can be mistaken for blue-green
algae, which is much more troubling.
Blue-green algae are actually bacteria,
not protists, and despite their name,
Many types of
nerite snails are
I have kept fish for the past 25 years.
My current set-up is a 450 l/100 gal
tank with a Fluval FX6 filter, 300W
heater, no substrate, plastic plants, a
few aquatic stones and two pieces of
bogwood. I do a 25% water change
weekly; my water goes through a
three-stage HMA unit. Filter media
consists of Zeo-Carb, Biomax, biofoam
and mechanical foam.
For the past year I have had brown
slimy algae, which mainly covers the
tank bottom, the plastic plants and the
intake valve. I am using Green Away
and Brown Sludge Buster. I generally
clean the tank twice a month; if it gets
bad, I clean it on a weekly basis but the
algae is still there.
What is causing this and how do I
deal with it?
can be pretty much any colour
imaginable, although greenish-blacks,
blue-greens, and reddish-browns are
most common.
These algae tend to form mats or
slimes with a slightly hairy texture, and
when removed from the tank often have
a distinctive, mouldy smell. Blue-green
algae sometimes bloom in tanks with
unstable water chemistry, but they’re
more of an issue in tanks with
insufficient water movement and poor
water quality. They are notoriously
difficult to control unless the underlying
conditions are fixed – in which case,
once physically removed they tend not
to grow back again.
Send your questions to: Fishkeeping Answers,
Practical Fishkeeping Magazine, Media House, Lynchwood, Peterborough,
PE2 6EA. Email us at
What’s causing this algae problem?
How do you attach plants to a wood?
I keep Cryptoheros cutteri in a 90 l tank.
I really want live plants in there but any
time I put plants in, they get uprooted and the
roots get damaged when the fish move the
gravel around. I’ve tried leaving them in
baskets to protect the roots but they still don’t
do well. I have lots of rocks and some wood in
You can use Java Fern, Bucephalandra and
Anubias spp. as well as mosses. I tend to prefer
using fishing line to anchor them.
Next job is to wash off more of the growing
media, firmly swishing in water.
Tie off the fishing line (easier to do on wood
branches) and you’re done, ready for the tank.
the tanks and I’ve seen plants attached to
wood before, but how do I do it?
STEVE SAYS: It’s quite simple really; you can
use either wood or rocks (if they aren’t too
smooth). Just follow these steps...
First, remove the plastic pot and as much of the
growing media as you can by removing it by
hand. You may need to cut the pot off.
Tie the fishing line to the wood/rock and whip it
around the roots in your chosen position.
You can always put more than one plant on the
same piece of wood/rock but allow room to grow.
How much
should I
How often and how much
water should I be
changing in my 200 l/
44 gal tropical fish tank?
It has a Fluval 4 internal
canister filter and I have
added a Fluval 3 to boost
filtration. The Fluval 4
has coral gravel in the
centre section, as my pH
was on the low side. It’s
now 7.2 pH and the tank
is well planted.
At present, I change
36 l/8 gal every week.
BOB SAYS: Adding more
filtration is always a good
idea. However, the filter
can only deal with the
waste that the fish
produce, so your
beneficial bacteria
population won’t be any
larger whether you have
one filter of sufficient size
for the tank, or two –
bacteria will just spread
between the filters
wherever the conditions
best suit them.
I generally recommend
weekly water changes of
around 25% of the tank’s
volume, so for your tank
50 l/11 gal should be
sufficient. You’re already
close to this so it
shouldn’t be too much of
a task to take out and
replace an extra 14 l/
3 gal per week.
Many fishkeepers carry
out larger water changes
fortnightly or monthly,
but in the majority of
cases I believe that
‘little and often’ is better
as it will help to keep
your water chemistry
more stable.
Fancy recreating a biotope as a spring project? Here’s a
trio of different habitats that might float your boat, from the
simple to the slightly more challenging…
Which slice of
nature would
you choose?
Planted river
pg 64
HERE ARE different levels of biotope set-up.
Many peoples’ entry level biotopes consist of
fish from a defined area, any available plants
and a substrate that keeps the fishkeeper happy.
I would call this a very loose biotope –
everyone needs a little encouragement. Some
would not accept it as a biotope, calling it a
community tank. Taken to the extreme, a
biotope might house fish and plants from a particular
streach of stream with exact water conditions and substrate
that mimic that stream’s natural conditions. Realistically we
are doing this for our own gratification – I don’t imagine
even wild caught fish differentiate between foreign plants
and those they’ve been accustomed to in their natural
habitat. Let alone farmed fish that would see all plants as
equally unusual. However, there’s something in the idea that
fishes that would naturally co-habit could work better
together than a random mix of fish from around the world.
The evidence is limited, but there is a theory that fish from
the same area understand a certain ‘language’. From what I
have seen with mixing fish and building biotopes I would go
along with this theory even when it comes to farmed fish.
Researching and creating biotopes is extreme fun, and I
would encourage every fishkeeper to give one a go, but
which one...
pg 68
pg 66
African planted river
For my first biotope suggestion, I’ve picked the
quickly grow into aquatic plant havens each year
Congo Basin – most of the plant species available
during the wet season.
on the market from this area are fairly
Look at photos and videos of nature and
undemanding so the cost and complexity of
you’ll often find that only one or two plant
plant keeping equipment and upkeep need
species will cover a large area. Following
not get out of hand.
this trend in the home aquarium will
When looking to nature, it’s
add authenticity, although it’s easy
High-nutrient base
surprising how few streams and
to give in and add more variety
substrates help all rooted plants
stretches of river actually have
in vegetation.
strong plant growth. Forest
River substrates vary widely
grow, so they’re well worth
streams are often too shaded by
sand, soil, rock, gravel or
using even with lessoverhanging canopy; blackwater and
of these. The most
sediment-rich conditions massively
common – and most practical – substrate
restrict light penetration; and upper stretches
for the aquarium is a pale sand, ideally with
of rivers are often fast flowing with low nutrient
a variety of grain sizes.
levels. The ideal places for plant growth are clear
In nature, rocks often get uncovered by the flow
water, lowland areas – either a wide forest river, or
and driftwood sinks into the river bed – both would
rivers and streams running though unshaded
form attractive features in your tank, with contoured
grassland. Flooded fields and river basins also
substrate giving more visual impact.
We Recommend...
Upside down catfish, Synodontis nigriventris
African banded barb, Barbus fasciolatus
African one-lined tetra, Neolebias unifasciatus
Congo tetra, Phenacogrammus interruptus
Pick of the plants
For lush, vibrant plant growth, the Congo is quite
limited. I would go for Bacopa monnieri and
Ceratophyllum demersum, which would contrast
well in both structure and colour. In a large
enough tank, a third species could be Tiger lotus
lily, Nymphaea zenkeri.
South American blackwater
The blackwater habitat gets its name
from the tannic and humic acids that
are released into the water when fallen
leaves and branches break down,
giving the water a dark tint. These
conditions are mostly found in lakes,
slow-flowing and still tributaries, and
drainage ditches but also some larger
rivers can hold blackwater.
I must admit, I’ve picked South
America for a tannin-stained biotope
because it’s easy. Not only is there a
large selection of suitable fish in the
shops, but for the perfectionist there
are lots of South American botanicals
easily available too.
Because of the abundance of supply,
you can really hone your biotope,
pin-pointing the precise river or
tributary you want to recreate. I’m
going for Peruvian Amazon Basin here. the aquarium. Play sand, silver sand
If you don’t feel the urge to be South
and silica sand are all useful, but my
American-specific in terms of leaf
favourite is JBL Sansibar River sand
litter and seed pods, there are lots
– it’s quite dear, but the mixture of
of British leaves and types of
grain sizes looks very natural
wood that can be used to
and it tends not to compact as
great effect in this kind
often as finer sands.
of habitat.
Taker care to watch
Remember to boil
the pH, particularly if
Make your own blackwater
your botanicals
you’re using soft
extract! British Alder cones are
before use; it helps
water. The acids
great for this – boil in water,
clean off possible
leached from your
strain when cool and
impurities and bugs,
botanicals will build up,
keep in the
and also cuts down the
and while the right fish
time it takes for them to sink.
will handle a scarily low pH,
Soak them overnight and most
beneficial bacteria will suffer
will sink straight away.
below a pH of 4.0 and water quality
Most blackwater habitats have a
will then be a huge problem.
pale sandy substrate under the leaves,
Permanent pH tests will bring peace
or a muddy base – sand works best for
of mind.
We Recommend...
Agassizi’s dwarf cichlid, Apistogramma agassizii
Peruvian tetra, Hyphessobrycon peruvianus
Giant otocinclus, Hypoptopoma gulare
Most blackwater
habitats have a pale
sandy substrate
under the leaves, or
a muddy base –
sand works best for
the aquarium
Panda cory, Corydoras panda
I find the hillstream one of the most
restrictive biotopes to produce. Years
ago, it was the lack of plants that would
put me off before I’d given it a proper
chance. Nowadays I’m comfortable
relying on hardscape only to develop a
display, but hillstreams can be quite
limiting in terms of fish choice too.
If you’re looking for a very loose
biotope, like a South East Asian
hillstream, then you have quite a few
fishy options, but you’re still quite
limited on suitable fish for higher up in
the water. This is simply down to the
nature of the habitat. It’s not that fish
don’t swim in these rapidly moving,
high-altitude clearwaters, but to swim
there day in, day out, you need to be a
strong fish, and that usually goes hand
in hand with being a larger fish. Many
fish that do inhabit this part of the
water are not only large but also silver,
which means they have very little pull
When using large rocks or stacking
for the ornamental fish keeper.
rocks, put plastic egg crate on the tank
If you hone the biotope further – as
base before adding rocks or substrate.
I have here – with a regional focus (in
This helps disperse the weight and
this case, South-west Thailand) you’re
avoids pressure points.
even more restricted, but there’s also
A long period of light (12 hours)
more reward in getting it right
encourages algae, which will offer
– or at least righter!
a natural feel and also help feed
This habitat is full of
many hillstream inhabitants.
interesting rock and
A spotlight would
ground dwellers. Fish
enhance and highlight
For a natural look,
that are adapted to a
the nooks and crannies,
mix different grades of
niche environment are
and together with the
pebbles, gravel
my thing, and I’m happy
heavy surface movement,
and sand.
for my top water layer to be
give an attractive rippling
slightly lacking if my bottom is
effect in the tank.
busy with interesting creatures.
Adding some air bubbles in the
I find the best places to find large,
main flow of water can give a really
rounded river rocks are garden centres
nice effect too, aerating the water well
and aggregate building material
and enhancing the look of a crashing,
suppliers where they are often sold
high-flow stream – but take care not to
singley or in threes or so.
overdo it or the effect is lost.
South East Asian histream
We Recommend...
Horse-faced loach, Acantopsis dialuzona
Pearl danio, Brachydanio albolineata
Homaloptera confuzona
Collecting rocks and pebbles
from beaches, coastlines,
rivers, forests or anywhere
‘wild’ is illegal
Quarantine, cleaning and disinfecting could be the
difference between tank success and disease failure.
Here’s what you should know.
Chris works in
research and
regularly writes
for aquarium
essential part of
fishkeeping, and
correctly following
them can go a long
way to ensuring the
health of your
livestock. Overlook them, and time
you think you saved in the beginning
can quickly turn into several wasted
hours further down the line,
rectifying problems that could
have been easily avoided.
Biosecurity is the adoption of
practices that reduce the risk of
introducing infectious agents into
aquariums, and minimise any
subsequent transferal to other tanks.
Neglecting biosecurity is a story
many aquarists will be familiar with,
either from personal experience or
hearing about it from some other
misfortunate. “Help, I added a new
fish yesterday and now everything is
dying,” is a common cry.
Unless buying livestock direct from
a local breeder, your fish have likely
been on a whirlwind tour of
different fish facilities, and a
far-flung lake or reef if they’re
wild-caught. When fish arrive at
your fish store, stress levels are
usually high, making them more
susceptible to diseases that then
make their way into your tanks.
This is a common
protozoan disease that
spreads quickly. If
unnoticed for a while it
can quickly kill fish.
BELOW: Avoid
purchases if
multiple dead
fish are present.
What to look for when buying livestock
DEAD FISH – multiple casualties should be the signal to take your business elsewhere.
BODY CONDITION – fins should be intact, bodies should be well formed, and bellies rounded.
BREATHING RATES – fast breathing can be a sign of gill parasites, damage or poor conditions.
EYES AND GILL COVER – should be present and intact. Inbreeding and injury causes many to be absent.
FINS – should not be clamped against the body, as this indicates skin-dwelling parasites.
SKIN – shouldn’t be excessively slimy, as this indicates parasites or incorrect water chemistry.
ANUS – ‘threads’ protruding from the anus are an indication of intestinal worms.
FEEDING – all fish should be happy to eat, and any good retailer will show you this before purchase.
MAIN: Look out
for obvious skin
A good example to use for buying
a healthy fish is the Copperband
butterflyfish, Chelmon rostratus.
They are laterally compressed, so
you expect them to have an overall
flattened appearance, but this should
be complemented with smooth,
rounded sides. Any lumps on the
flanks could be protruding organs or
swim bladder, a sign of starvation.
Any ‘pinching’ on the head and
around the eyes is another sign of
malnourishment. There should be
no fin rays exposed, and no growths
present. Butterflyfish are particularly
susceptible to lymphocystis – a viral
disease that manifests during
periods of stress.
If you’re happy that your fish looks
healthy, the next step is to ascertain
whether it’s behaving normally.
Shoaling species should be doing just
that, with any individuals hiding or
listing on the bottom disregarded
instantly. In general, fish should be
alert and actively exploring their
environment. Avoid any displaying
hyperactive or skittish behaviours.
Always check your animals again
Viral infections
can’t be directly
treated. Through
good conditions and
good nutrition the
fish’s immune system
may overcome an
infection. ‘Lymph’
looks like tiny bits of
to be confu
with a
after they’ve been bagged,
doing this as the fish will often have a
particularly if you are buying a shoal
reduced quality of life, and could be
of fish. It takes a keen eye and
a vector for parasites or disease.
experienced netting technique
to separate out specific
The importance
If you have lots of tanks,
of quarantine
individuals from a larger
consider buying a net for use
shoal, so ensure that all
Acclimatising your new
with each. This will minimise
your fish are fighting fit, and
fish in a separate tank gives
the risk of transfering
that a runt hasn’t sneaked into
them the chance to recover
the bag to make up the numbers.
and you the option to assess
Tempting as it can be to ‘rescue’
them. The ideal quarantine tank will
small or deformed individuals, avoid
have a fully matured filtration system
Fish should be
full bodied and
smooth sided.
– a simple sponge filter is fine – along
with a cover object or two for
security, and dim lighting.
Using water from your main display
tank to fill the quarantine tank will
save you the hassle of performing
another acclimation process between
tanks, and regular water changes will
keep parameters constant across
both tanks. Remember to keep
testing – an ammonia or nitrite spike
could undo all your hard work.
The aim here is to monitor the
fishes’ progress and observe them
feeding away from the hustle and
competition of the main tank. The
quarantine tank should be an
adequate size to house any new
arrival, and using objects that are
easy to clean – like plastic plants –
will help provide a clean but secure
temporary home.
For those species whose natural
behaviours involve rooting around on
the tank base, a clean substrate is
recommended. If you don’t require a
substrate, simply print off a picture
of gravel, laminate it and slide it
under the tank. This will reduce any
reflections or glare from the tank
base while keeping the floor clear.
Always use a test kit to ensure
pH is matching between the
tank and acclimation tub.
A net will be needed
for transfering new
additions. Be sure
to use a separate or
sterilised net.
Any signs of disease can be treated
in isolation, away from your main
livestock, but it’s important to use
medication to treat known inflictions
and not to treat prophylactically as
this can induce further stress.
First steps in acclimation
Keeping any lights off, float the
unopened bag on the surface of the
quarantine tank, allowing the water
temperature in the bag to match that
of the tank, for about 20 minutes.
Next undo the bag and roll the
edges down, ensuring the bag still sits
above the waterline. Periodically, add
small quantities of water from the
main tank into the fish bag. Repeat
three or four times, then gently net
out the animal. Avoiding adding the
water from the bag into the main tank.
For sensitive species, such as corals
or invertebrates, the drip acclimation
method is often recommended, but it
can be good practice to use this for all
new purchases. As with the general
method, you first need to float the
bag in the tank to even out the
temperatures. Then gently transfer
the contents of the fish bag to an
empty container that has plenty of
An isolation tank only needs to provide filtration, heat
and shelter essentially.
You can be as outrageous as you like as long as the
basics are supplied.
A plastic tub or a
bucket can be used.
Ideally it should be
dark to keep fish
calm during mixing.
Some species will be more settled during quarantining
in a naturalistic setting.
Treatments are available that
temporarily bind any ammonia
in transport water.
Useful for introducing new fish
by drip acclimation. An airline
with flow reduction also works.
gloves are
useful for
Used to check that temperatures
in the acclimation tub and the
tank are equal.
room for more water. Test the pH
and, in the case of marine or brackish
species, also the salinity of the water
in both bag and quarantine tank, as
they need to match.
This method requires an
kit, or a siphon drip
The journey home is likely to
of airline. Stretch
elevate the stress levels in
this from the quarantine tank
your new acquisition
into the container below
regardless of your
holding the new fish, so gravity
driving ability
takes effect. By tying loose knots in
the airline (or using an airline control
valve), you can limit the flow to one
or two drops per second.
Once you’ve doubled the volume
of water in the container, discard half
and repeat the process, waiting until
the volume doubles once more
before you transfer the animal into
the quarantine tank.
Clean for success
Even the most
competent fish
catcher will
stress fish.
is one of several
you can use.
Poor hygiene in relation to cleaning
equipment is another issue aquarists
can fall foul of, particularly those with
multiple tanks. Aquarium equipment
like nets and siphons are potential
vectors for transmitting disease, and
must always be disinfected after use.
At the most basic level, allowing a
net or siphon to air dry, or immersing
it in a super-saturated salt or vinegar
solution, can work, but this won’t kill
Fish stores usually
all pathogens.
degrade mesh nets.
a quarantine
Instead, use
In terms of using
bleach with a
period of at least
disinfectants, which
siphon, the most
two weeks.
provide a much broader
effective method is to run
spectrum efficacy. Virkon
diluted bleach at a 1:10 ratio
Aquatic, for example, is a widely
through the siphon, then rinse
used veterinary disinfectant that has
thoroughly with dechlorinated water
the added bonus of being classified
and air dry. Diluted bleach can also
as a non-irritant at the dilutions of
be used to disinfect tanks.
1:100 or 1:200 needed for a net dip.
Sunlight is a disinfectant too, given
Once soaked, rinse the equipment
its spectra of infrared, ultraviolet and
thoroughly with dechlorinated water
visible light, but its efficacy depends
and air dry. Another disinfectant,
on many factors including intensity,
Anigene HLD4V, is marketed as a
time of day and cloud cover.
bactericidal, fungicidal, virucidal and
sporicidal product that is suitable for
Worst tanks last
soaking aquarium equipment. It’s
The amount of equipment you own
effective at a 1:100 concentration.
is likely to depend on the number of
Other disinfectants include
tanks you maintain. For a handful of
potassium permanganate (PP) and
tanks, it makes sense to have several
bleach. While PP is very effective at
nets, keeping a dedicated one per
oxidising organic material, it is an
tank. It’s also a good idea to have a
irritant and stains anything it comes
back-up siphon for emergencies.
into contact with. Diluted household
Focus on your order of service.
bleach can work too, but may
Tanks containing animals displaying
any kind of illness should always be
serviced last, and then the siphon
disinfected directly afterwards. If you
spot any signs of disease while
working, switch to your back-up
siphon as soon as you’ve finished that
particular tank. Continue using that
siphon instead, then thoroughly
disinfect both when you’ve finished.
While you’d never expose your fish
to Virkon Aquatic or bleach, certain
aquarium-safe disinfectants, such as
dyes or formaldehydes, can be used
to directly treat a range of ailments.
Methylene blue is a redox dye,
meaning it promotes oxygen
consumption within cells, and is
predominantly used to treat
methemoglobinemia – caused by
elevated levels of nitrites in the blood
– by restoring haemoglobin to its
normal oxygen-carrying state. It’s also
effective in treating fish eggs against
fungal infections, Ich and Saprolegnia.
Methylene blue is best used in a fish
bath, as adding it directly to the tank
can harm the nitrifying bacteria in
your filtration system, as well as your
plants. Malachite green can help treat
internal and external parasites, but
watch out as it will permanently stain
your aquarium silicon.
Aldehydes, such as formalin in its
Obey flow rates,
as water needs to
pass at a particular
speed for the UV to
work efficiently.
Use a
to avoid
soiling the
Methylene blue
is a great fish
A separate,
hang-on unit.
These use harmful radiation to
destroy tiny pathogens that are
free swimming.
formaldehyde state, can treat a range
of diseases caused by protozoans
(such as Costia) and trematodes, as
well as fungal infections. Formalin
can deplete levels of dissolved
oxygen though, so combine it with an
air stone if treating a low-flow tank.
SeaChem ParaGuard is a
formaldehyde-free alternative that
contains a blend of aldehydes and
malachite green. As with most
chemical additives, activated carbon
must be removed prior to treatment,
and make sure fish sensitive to such
medications are not exposed.
Ongoing sterilisers
Sterilisers are capable
of killing all
microorganisms in the
aquarium, including
bacteria, parasites and
algae. The two main
types are ozone and UV, and
both work on an energy excess.
Ozone is comprised of three
oxygen atoms, making it a highly
unstable and reactive oxidising agent,
and therefore an ideal steriliser. Air
drawn in through a pump is dried
and passed through a high-voltage
electric discharge, which breaks apart
the oxygen molecules (O2), forming
ozone (O3) when they recombine.
The ozone is directly injected into a
protein skimmer or ozone reactor,
where it reacts with the aquarium
water, destroying particulate organic
molecules. The water and air then
Using disinfectants
passes over activated carbon to
remove the remaining ozone and its
oxidants. The dose can be altered
depending on what you need.
With UV, the highly energised rays
penetrate cells and cause apoptosis
(where the cell effectively destroys
itself), and as bacteria and algae lack
protective cell structures, they are
particularly susceptible. As water is
pumped past the UV bulb, the slower
the flow rate, the longer the contact
time with the UV light, and the
greater the likelihood that the cells
will be destroyed or sterilised.
With a faster flow rate, the
DNA within the cell is
damaged, preventing
it from reproducing,
but not killing it.
Using a higher
wattage bulb
will also produce
the desired
sterilisation effect.
While UV sterilisation
means you don’t need to use
any toxic compounds, it only
affects the free-swimming organisms
that pass through it, leaving those
attached to the substrate or surfaces
untouched. Ozone, on the other
hand, needs careful calculation and
filtration to ensure no excess ozone
enters the main aquarium, which
would result in the death of
invertebrates and fish.
Remember, with all biosecurity
measures you can’t turn back the
clock, so it pays to get things right
first time around.
Gelius barb
A little bit
Small and subtle, the Golden dwarf
barb makes a great addition to a
tank with quiet inhabitants.
Starting his
business from
a garden shed,
Keith has bred and
supplied fish to the
trade for 25 years.
Often overlooked
in busy shop tanks
but a rewarding fish
to keep.
sound like the
buying tropical
fish for an
aquatic centre
has perils
aplenty for those responsible.
Rather than the exciting prospect
of visiting suppliers personally,
busy retailers usually purchase
livestock from the many and
varied lists arriving online.
During my early days in the
industry, lists used to circulate in
paper form, either sent by post or
via the strange whirring of the fax
machine. Nowadays, whatever
guise they take and whichever
country they originate from, it’s
always a weekly highlight to
peruse the species available.
As a buyer, you have to exercise
restraint. I kept a notice above my
desk that said, ‘Buy with your
head, not your heart’ – and then
totally ignored it! Turning a profit
from the sale of fish requires
strategic planning, rather than a
gung-ho approach. Few retailers
can generate reasonable margins
from anything beyond the norm,
and most must concentrate on
those species guaranteed to sell.
Fortunately, for a decent
percentage of hobbyists, there are
people within the supply chain
willing to stick their neck out and
get involved with something a little
less ordinary. These more unusual
varieties can be varied, but surely
stocking a small barb of
nondescript appearance is folly
when weekly targets need chasing?
A leap of faith
Some species find themselves
caught in a strange place where
striking colour, unusual behaviour
and rarity value has eluded them.
They’ve created little clamour and
are often bypassed by casual
observers. Gelius or Golden dwarf
barbs, Pethia gelius, would appear
to rank in this category at first
glance, but given time, they can
enliven a community of small
residents or animate a tank on
their own behalf.
A major drawback to their
popularity stems from the
difficulty retailers have in
displaying them. The fixtures and
fittings in many shops are uniform
– ideal for the bold and brash; not
so for those with subtler
tendencies. Arriving in their youth
as slim individuals with just a hint
of yellow and black, these little
barbs struggle to be noticed. It
takes a leap of faith from breeders,
collectors and retailers to offer
them to buyers with the hope of
better things to come. If you
discover Gelius barbs on one of
your shopping expeditions, you can
guarantee somebody there knows
their secrets, as they’ve made it
onto the order form for a reason!
First description
I’m sure the surgeon and naturalist
Francis Hamilton could never have
conceived Pethia gelius as an
aquarium subject when he named
this charming little barb in 1822.
Gelius barb
Described from specimens caught
several years previously, it was
included in Hamilton’s book
documenting fishes from the
Ganges and its branches. Nearly
two centuries on, the little fish has
undergone various name changes
and is currently known as Pethia
gelius. Two closely related species,
P. canius, which Hamilton also
described, and P. aurea make up
the trio. Distinguished from similar
members within the genus by
having an incomplete lateral line,
telling the three types apart
requires scale counts and analysis
of body proportions as their
colours are so similar.
Great river
Rising in the Eastern Himalayas,
the Ganges begins life in a rush of
water from countless branches.
These tumbling headwaters are
home to a distant relative of Pethia
gelius named by Hamilton as Tor
putitora. Better known as the
Golden Mahseer, this powerful
fast-water leviathan is well known
to anglers in the region.
As the waters calm and warm in
the Ganges’ middle reaches, its
tributaries become more inviting.
Diversity abounds and the Gelius
barb has found niches to exploit
across large tracts of northern
India, Pakistan and further south
into Bangladesh. Being so
widespread, there’s an inevitable
variation of habitat. Shallow
homes of sluggish nature are
favoured, but these can change
considerably with the arrival of
monsoon rains. This adaptability
has no doubt played a key role in
these fish conquering rivers,
canals, oxbow lakes, streams,
ditches and rice fields.
The water here is normally on
the soft and slightly acidic side, yet
it’s never particularly warm, due
to the sub-tropical climate. A range
between 18-24°C is common and
should be reflected when keeping
them in aquariums.
Although many of these barbs
begin life on the farms of Asian
breeders, wild fish are still sought
Shallow homes of sluggish
nature are favoured, but these can
change considerably with the
arrival of monsoon rains
by collectors. Plentiful in number, they
are harvested from May to October.
Bankside vegetation is an ideal
sanctuary for small fish trying to avoid
capture and it requires ingenuity to
extract them. Traditional methods
involve stiff triangular nets made
from bamboo that are thrust into the
plants and capture an array of
ornamental species. Thanks to this
approach, the desired fish can be
picked out, rather than removing
everything that swims.
It’s rare to find suitable tankmates
for P. gelius among these other
species, as most are larger in
size. Despite being
peaceful, many of the
barbs, Chela and
loaches would
these diminutive
fish within a
biotope-style aquarium.
I would therefore steer clear
of shoehorning them together
for the sake of authenticity,
choosing instead smaller danios,
rasboras and tetras.
Formation dancers
To see Gelius barbs at their peak, a
species-only tank has no comparison.
Growing to little more than 3.5cm, it
may appear wasteful to lavish them
with a large home but the rewards
are considerable. Unlike many
shoaling species that find their own
space once settled, P. gelius retains a
natural instinct for safety in numbers.
Give 30 or more fish a tank of 120cm
and you’ll be treated to their habit of
swimming in tight formation.
Despite their size and peaceful
temperament, these barbs are no
shrinking violets and will busy
themselves in open water if larger
species are absent. Being small, I’d
keep returns from external filters
turned down, or choose internal
models as flow rates tend to be
slower. Water parameters don’t need
to be exacting, although they seem to
like the UK’s softer-water areas.
The standard lighting in most
integral tanks is ample, but if
you’re planning to upgrade
for heightened plant
growth, be cautious
as it can wash
out the barbs’
colours. I’d also
consider a darker
substrate as it seems
to settle the shoal. Team
this with plants across the
rear and you will accentuate
the subtle combination of yellow
and black that develops with age.
I would try to emulate their wild
menu, offering items they can
comfortably deal with. Mosquito
larva is a nutritious staple for my
smaller species and eagerly accepted
by P. gelius in frozen or live form.
Daphnia, Cyclops and Artemia are also
accepted with a quality flake food.
As they mature, you will notice a
difference between the sexes as
females begin to exhibit a slightly
deeper and more rotund appearance.
Singly they are
pretty, in good
numbers they
are much more
6Scientific name: Pethia gelius
6Origin: Northern India, Nepal, and
6Habitat: Sluggish, often turbid
environments; ponds and ditches
6Size: 4cm.
6Tank size: 60x30x30cm
6Water requirements: 6-7 pH, 1-11°H
6Temperature: 18-24°C
6Cost: Around £3.50
60 l+
The Golden
dwarf barb will
find quiet water
away from the
main flow.
This will be picked up by the males,
who can occasionally be found
flexing their muscles in a little
lightweight squabbling. It’s not
uncommon for spawning to occur in
mature aquariums but a more
controlled approach will be required
for raising reasonable numbers.
Breeding Gelius
Reared under favourable conditions,
Gelius barbs are quite accommodating
when it comes to producing the next
generation. Tank dimensions don’t
need to be regimented; something
around 46x25x25cm will be ideal for
breeding and raising youngsters. As
with many fish, there are countless
ways to spawn these barbs. Although
sparkling clean tanks with pairs bred
over a removable plastic mesh
undoubtedly produces good yields,
I’ve lately re-evaluated my thinking.
Having spent hours in discussion
with friend and former shop owner
James Knock, we’ve concluded that a
more rustic feel to our fish breeding
has merits, and we can use nature’s
alchemy to rear fish in conditions
more akin to the wild. While I can’t
What’s in a
Aquatic literature has
veered towards Golden
dwarf barbs as the
common name for these
fish in recent times.
While this is generally
accepted, it appears the
old Gelius barb moniker
is still on the labels at
many fish shops.
make any guarantee of success, it
seems to embody all the right
principals of our hobby.
Cleansed of impurities, natural
rainwater still functions as an
ideal medium for spawning
softwater species. It may play
second fiddle to manufactured
RO, but once filtered through
activated carbon it retains the ideal
parameters. Bolstered with a little tap
water to avoid potential fluctuations,
this will leave conditions showing a
few degrees of hardness and a pH
around 6.5. A few bunches of
hornwort will help polish the water
while providing good spawning sites.
Autumn’s fallen leaves form a
backbone for all the magic. Spread
across the planet’s freshwaters,
aquatic hyphomycetes trigger their
slow decomposition within hours of
immersion. This microscopic fungus
is a crucial first step in breaking
down indigestible leaves, allowing
communities of bacteria and
microorganisms to flourish.
These will, in turn, be grazed
upon by countless species,
including tiny fish fry such as
Pethia gelius. I’ve used oak and
beech to good effect, but alter
my approach depending on the
fish in question. For blackwater
species, I place several leaves
directly into the breeding tank. With
the carbon removed, this allows vital
tannins to leach into the water.
My aim for species such as P. gelius
is to provide food and sanctuary to the
fry rather than alter water chemistry
An undemanding
breeding project
and a great
community fish.
leaves enhance
the environment
and offer a food
source for newly
hatched fry.
helps with
water quality
and offers good
spawning sites.
Gelius barb
drastically. This can be achieved by
adding a handful of leaves to your
breeding tank a couple of days before
the broodstock fish. The trick is to
soak them in a separate container for
a few weeks beforehand. An unseen
web of life will spread across their
surface during this period, making an
ideal food source for the baby barbs.
Introduce a single pair of P. gelius to
the breeding tank in the late afternoon.
With the temperature set to 23°C, the
only piece of additional equipment
required is a gently running sponge
filter. Allow this to mature in an
established aquarium and you will
have no concerns regarding water
quality issues. Natural daylight is
sufficient to trigger their reproductive
urge the following morning.
From my experience, spawning is a
straightforward affair. Males will
trail in close proximity to the
female and once a suitable site
is chosen amongst the
vegetation, several eggs are
laid and fertilised with a brief
flick. This will last for an hour or
so at which point the parent fish
can be removed.
With a torch and keen eyesight
you may be able to observe the
tiny glass-like fry that begin to
hatch after 30 hours. Feeding in
another four to five days, their
presence is announced with black
bellies full of miniscule food. These
young fish will find sufficient nutrition
amongst the leaf litter for a week or
so before it requires supplementing
with Artemia and microworm.
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6Used & Abused Gear
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6Make your own pond
6Dwarf cats for the
community tank
6Freshwater pufferfish
for species-only tanks
6Set-up for Sewellia
Breeding marine fish at home used to be nigh on
impossible. But now, with better understanding,
even relative novices can test the nursery waters.
Clownfish eggs,
ready and ripe!
Dave is a former
aquatics lecturer
and is curator of
the Blue Planet
aquarium in
aquarium, many species may
squabble, which can present a
problem unless dedicated tanks are
available. Specific cues may be
needed to initiate spawning – dwarf
angels (Centropyge spp.), for
example, require a simulated spring
with a raised water temperature and
increase in day length.
Tank design may also be
important; some fish require a
suitable depth for spawning rituals,
and the typical shallow reef tank
doesn’t always cut the mustard.
Tricky customers
In spite of these challenges,
breeding certain marine species
– mainly egg-depositors or
mouthbrooders with short larval
stages – is now within reach of
even hobbyist breeders.
Breeding marines has historically
been challenging for a number
of reasons:
6Establishing the right conditions
for spawning can be difficult. In the
6Many species are egg-scatterers,
and may spawn at night. This means
spawning often goes unnoticed, and
the buoyant, oil-filled eggs are soon
consumed by the tank’s filtration.
6The larvae of many marines have
protracted pelagic stages. In some
cases, the tiny larvae may drift in the
plankton for several weeks (as in the
case of tangs, with their bizarre
acronurus stage). During this time,
they may require specific foods,
such as crab larvae (zoea) of
exacting sizes that are difficult to
provide in captivity.
EWIND A couple of
decades, and the
consensus in the
hobby was that most
marine fish (bar a
few clownfish and
co) were effectively
impossible to breed.
Fast forward to today, and it seems
as if there’s a new species being bred
every week, with recent successes
including the Hawaiian cleaner
wrasse (Labroides phthirophagus),
Regal tang (Paracanthurus hepatus)
and Clown trigger (Balistoides
conspicillum), and more appearing at
a rate of knots.
These advances are the result of
intense research, hard work and
dedication – in many cases, the
resources required are considerable.
They’re thanks to the efforts of
expert breeders such as Matt
Pedersen and Matt Wittenrich;
commercial facilities including Bali
Aquarich and ORA (Oceans, Reefs
and Aquariums) of Florida; and
organisations such as Rising Tide
Conservation, which helps
coordinate breeding programmes at
a number of different facilities.
Clown Trigger,
breeding is now
in our hobby.
Hawaiian cleaner
wrasse, Labroides
The Banggai is a perfect
breeding project for the beginner.
In smaller systems, a single
male and female is
the way to go.
cardinals even
breed in mixed
home tanks.
Banggai cardinal
Pterapogon kauderni
Arguably the easiest marine fish to
breed thanks to its method of
reproduction (mouthbrooding) and
the ability of the fry to accept
Artemia from the off.
In smaller systems of around 100 l,
you’ll need to establish a pair to
prevent squabbling. Males can be
distinguished from females by
examining the vent in mature,
well-fed, plump individuals – males
have two tiny papillae in the vent
area, females only one. In larger
systems, several Banggai can be
kept together, then removed to
dedicated breeding tanks once
they’ve formed a pair.
The key to success is optimal,
varied nutrition and a stress-free
environment. Once spawning has
taken place, the male will gulp up
the eggs and they’ll spend the next
21 or so days in his mouth. You’ll be
able to see the developing eggs in
the male’s mouth, and you’ll need to
gauge when they’re ready. It’s best
to separate the parents from the
offspring once they’ve been spat out
(capturing the male and removing
the eggs manually can be stressful
and he may swallow the young).
The grow-out tank can be outfitted
with a sponge filter as the offspring
are relatively large (about 10mm in
length) and well developed. Some
form of cover is necessary – either
plastic plants or macroalgae like
Caulerpa or Chaetomorpha – or go
authentic and opt for a Diadema sea
urchin as they’d use in the wild.
The young will accept Artemia as a
first food, but it must be enriched
with a product containing HUFA to
prevent so-called sudden fright
syndrome. This phenomenon is the
result of fatty acid deficiency, and
results in spontaneous freezing and
death, particularly in response to
sudden changes in the environment
such as lights being switched on.
Caulerpa is
useful for
offering cover
for fry.
Rotifers will
be needed for
initial feedings.
Many clownfish have been
successfully captive bred, but the
common clown is one of the best
for beginners.
There are two methods of
establishing a pair. First, because
clownfish are protandrous
hermaphrodites (they begin as
gender-neutral, then become male,
with the dominant fish becoming
female), adding two immature
individuals to the aquarium will
allow a male/female pair to
establish naturally. Otherwise,
introducing a smaller (male)
individual to a larger (female)
specimen will allow a pair to form
– assuming they get along.
Once paired, the clowns clear a
space for egg-laying. Many
The natural
choice to offer
for Banggai fry
Although young Banggai
associate with black-spined sea
urchins (Diadema setosum)
in the wild, these aren’t
necessary in the
grow-out tank.
Common clownfish
Amphiprion ocellaris
Clowns can be
very prolific –
spawning every
couple of weeks.
commercial breeders provide
terracotta tiles or plant pots for them
to use as spawning sites as they’re
easy to remove. Breeding behaviour
is characterised by some aggression
from the female and a ‘shuddering’
from the male. After the eggs have
been laid and fertilised, they are
guarded and fanned to keep them
oxygenated. They take around a
week to hatch, and a prolific pair of
clowns might spawn every couple
of weeks.
If possible, remove the eggs
immediately before they’re due to
hatch (this is where removable
spawning sites come into their own),
or move the larvae to a grow-out
tank straight after hatching. The
larvae will need to be fed rotifers
initially, but can be weaned onto
enriched Artemia after a week or so.
For a breeding
project on a
small scale...
engage in a courtship ritual. The
male entices the female into his
spawning den and when the
These tiny (5cm) Caribbean cleaner
adhesive eggs are laid, he fertilises
gobies are an ideal breeding project
them. The male assumes parental
if space is limited. They can be
duties, guarding and fanning the
maintained in smaller systems of
eggs, even to the point of chasing
under 100 l and kept in groups,
the female away. A prolific pair may
allowing pairs or harems to
produce 1,000 eggs every few weeks.
establish naturally.
The newly hatched larvae should
Once the male has established a
be removed to a grow-out
suitable spawning site (providing
tank, and initially fed on
small sections of PVC pipe
enriched rotifers before
works well), he will
moving on to enriched
encourage the female
Artemia, followed by
to lay adhesive
frozen plankton
eggs. Once
Provide plenty of crevices
and fine-flake
fertilised, they
so the male dottyback can
take around 10
establish a territory. A piece
days to hatch,
of PVC pipe makes a
and spawning may
good spawning
take place every couple
of weeks.
Remove the larvae to a
grow-out tank and feed on
enriched rotifers.
Striped poison-fang blenny
Meiacanthus grammistes
Various Meiacanthus blennies have
been captive-bred for several years
(albeit on a limited scale), but this
particular species is an interesting
M. grammistes seems to exhibit
sexual dimorphism; the caudal (tail)
and pelvic fins of males appear to
be larger in relation to those of
females. There may also be some
extensions to the edges of the
male’s caudal fin, which aren’t
present on the tail of the female.
In spite of this, sexing can be a
bit hit and miss, so it’s a good idea
to keep multiple individuals, which
Neon goby
Elacatinus oceanops
The Red Sea endemic Orchid
dottyback (P. fridmani) is high on
many an aquarist’s wishlist, largely
thanks to its vivid purple and
blue colouration.
All dottybacks appear to be
hermaphrodites, and adding two
smaller individuals to a tank should
result in pair formation; the male
is larger and more colourful than
the female. In larger systems, a
number of juvenile individuals will
eventually form loose pair bonds.
Once a pair is established, the fish
The male guards
and cares for the
eggs to the point
of driving the
female away.
Orchid dottyback
Pseudochromis fridmani
Once a pair is established, the fish
engage in a courtship ritual. The male
entices the female into his spawning
den and when the adhesive eggs are
laid, he fertilises them
will mean that harems or pairs can
form naturally.
Fang blenny males take on the
responsibility of looking after eggs.
The male entices the female into his
hiding place (again, PVC tubes are
ideal for this purpose), and she
obliges by depositing clumps of
adhesive eggs. Once fertilised, the
male tends them until hatching,
which takes less than two weeks.
One male may mate with several
females – the females appear to tour
the area and visit several males in
succession. The tiny larvae should
be removed to a grow-out tank and
fed on rotifers initially, then enriched
Artemia nauplii.
Breeding checklist
For the best chance of success,
you need to providing optimum
conditions for breeding:
6Ensure the broodstock are healthy
and well fed – really try to fatten the
fish up. Variety is important, so mix
up the diet and supplement with
vitamin and fatty acid preparations.
6Research the specific needs of the
fish you’re going to breed. They may
require a particular approach to
establishing pairs or harems, and
aquascaping or furnishings tailored
to encourage breeding. Some
species will breed when cues such
as temperature, salinity and
photoperiod are adjusted.
6Provide optimal water quality.
This can be a challenge as you’ll be
feeding your broodstock heavily for
condition, but maintaining
parameters, such as keeping nitrate
at low levels, will all help.
Sexing the fang
blenny is your
first issue, or go
for a group.
Live food essentials
If you’re going to breed marine
fish, you’ll need to start some
form of live food culture.
6It’s vital to get cultures established
in advance, so you’re not caught
short – once hatched, fry can starve
within a matter of hours if not fed.
6Hygiene is paramount. Keep
culture vessels scrupulously clean,
but avoid scratching them when
washing as that creates the perfect
environment for bacteria to lurk.
Periodic bleaching of vessels (using
unscented bleach) and neutralisation
with sodium thiosulphate can help
keep on top of hygiene.
6Avoid cross-contamination if
you’re maintaining various types of
live food. A single tiny rotifer
accidentally introduced into a
phytoplankton culture can cause a
crash – if possible, house cultures
well away from each other.
6Enriching live foods like rotifers
and copepods with HUFA (highly
unsaturated fatty acid) preparations
can significantly boost their
nutritional value. In the case of
Artemia naulpii, it’s essential.
6When feeding live foods, density
– the number of prey items in a
given volume – is important. Provide
too low a density and the fish
expends too much energy between
feedings; swamp the grow-out tank
with prey, and the fish become
confused and may stop feeding. For
some species, the ideal prey density
may have been published, but more
often, you’ll need to experiment by
gradually adding prey and carefully
observing the reaction of the larvae
or fry. Newly hatched fish should be
feeding more or less constantly.
Phytoplankton on
your window sills
isn’t essential
nowadays as pastes
are now available.
Phytoplankton isn’t a food for larvae
or fry in its own right; instead it’s
used to feed zooplankton, such as
rotifers and copepods. Phyto culture
isn’t strictly mandatory nowadays as
concentrated pastes have emerged
onto the market; these are a
convenient alternative to culturing.
If you want to grow your own
though, Nannochloropsis is one of
the most straightforward. Starter
cultures can be in the form of bottled
phyto or inoculated agar discs.
Phyto requires a suitable vessel
(plastic bottles can work well),
lighting, aeration and fertiliser in the
form of Guillard’s F2. It’s important
to reduce contamination from
zooplankton cultures, as well as
bacteria introduced via air pumps.
Some breeders employ a ‘green
water’ technique to enhance larval
and fry survival. Here, phyto is
added to grow-out tanks to achieve
a slight green tinge. This gives
zooplankton the chance to feed up
until the moment it’s eaten, thereby
maximising its nutritional profile.
Rotifers are a
great universal
first food.
Although not a natural marine food,
the rotifer Brachionus plicatilis is an
ideal first food for many newly
hatched marine fish, with large (‘L’)
and small (‘S’) strains available.
Rotifer cultures can be established
easily in aerated plastic bottles from
starter cultures or dry ‘resting’ cysts,
and will then multiply rapidly.
Rotifers need to be fed on either
phyto or alternatives like Roti-Rich.
Once a culture gets going, harvest
them regularly using a 53-micron
What about probiotics?
Probiotics are the focus of research in aquaculture to improve
growth rates and survival in hatcheries. The idea is that beneficial
microbial fauna can be added to grow-out systems to directly
influence water quality and assist in colonisation of the growing
fish’s gut. This is still a niche area, although products such as
Sanolife MIC-F probiotic conditioner are already on the market
and may help the success of grow-out operations.
Dwarf angels require
environmental cues
to initiate spawning.
sieve. The strained rotifers
can be fed and the culture
returned to the vessel so
the immature rotifers it
contains can be grown on.
ABOVE: Fresh
young Artemia.
typical copepod.
Copepods are a valuable food for
many young marines. You can culture
various epibenthic (harpacticoid)
and pelagic (calanoid) copepods,
depending on the requirements of
the fish in question. It’s best to
choose true tropical species rather
than temperate ones, as these will
have higher survival rates when
added to the grow-out tank.
Copepod cultures can take a while
to establish and may reproduce
slowly. They’ll need regular feeding
with phyto, Roti-Rich or another
suitable food, but go carefully as it’s
easy to trash a culture through
Once established, there are two
approaches to harvesting. Either
adults and smaller nauplii/
copepodite stages can
be collected in a
53-micron strainer and
fed out; or the adults can be
collected with a 250-micron
sieve, and the culture water
returned to the vessel for the
smaller stages to grow on.
The various species of
Artemia (brine shrimp) are
an essential growing-on
food, and some young will
accept Artemia from the get-go.
Artemia is easy to culture. When
dry cysts are added to warm, aerated
and illuminated salt water, they’ll
hatch within 24 hours. The newly
hatched nauplii can be strained in a
153-micron sieve and enriched –
nutritionally they’ll be lacking, and
using them without enrichment can
lead to poor development and low
survival rates in your fish.
It’s important to use a HUFA
preparation before feeding out
Artemia. The Artemia should be
soaked in the product, then rinsed.
Beware of introducing unhatched
cysts into grow-out tanks. If these
are ingested by fry, they can cause
gut impaction. Separating out the
cysts can be tricky, but using
hatchable decapsulated cysts or
magnetised Artemia (which requires
the use of special magnetic
separator vessels) makes
the process simpler.
Grow-out tanks
You will need one of these to
manage the development of your
newly hatched fish. Larvae and fry
are unlikely to fare well in the same
aquarium as their parents – they’re
likely to be eaten or sucked up by
the tank’s filtration. Supplying
adequate live food is hard to do in a
typical aquarium too, so a dedicated
nursery area is a must.
At its most basic, a grow-out tank
can be nothing more than a bare tank
with a heater and aeration, and water
quality simply managed through
regular partial water changes.
If you opt for filtration, a simple
air-driven sponge filter is ideal, but
don’t run it too vigorously – very
small larvae can get stuck on the
sponge if air flow is too high.
Initially, transfer larvae or fry to the
grow-out tank using water from the
broodstock system so that you don’t
shock them with drastic changes in
water chemistry.
6The Marine Ornamental Fish
and Invertebrate Breeders
Organisation (MOFIB) –
6The Complete Illustrated
Breeder’s Guide to Marine
Aquarium Fishes by
Matt Wittenrich.
Nuts about
some species are even venomous. But there are
also some real gems for the aquarist with space…
Tristan is an aquatic
author who has
worked on various
research projects.
His day job is at
Cheshire Aquatics.
markings and
bright red
colours are
attractive to
from other members of the
Holocentrinae as they usually have a
notably elongate second dorsal fin.
Finding differences between
Neoniphon and Sargocentron is
particularly problematic. Neoniphon
tend to have a more slender
appearance than Sargocentron with
their elongate, pointed snouts and
large eyes. Silvery skin tones give a
pinkish, metallic colouration not
seen in members of the genus
Sargocentron, which have deeper
bodies and non-metallic
pigmentation that appears deep red
and shorter, robust snouts.
Furthermore, there can be
differences in the patterns of newly
imported individuals compared with
settled specimens.
Keeping squirrelfish
Although most squirrelfish are
smaller than most soldierfish, this
doesn’t mean that all squirrelfish can
be accommodated comfortably –
the Sabre squirrelfish, Sargocentron
spiniferum, is the largest in the
genus at 50cm.
Holocentrids are mostly
OW DO you tell a
Squirrelfish from
a Soldierfish?
Squirrelfish possess
a spine on the rear
margin of the
strongly angled gill
cover; a bone known
as the preoperculum. It’s venomous
in many species so take care when
handling it. Ideally use nets without
braided mesh as it will snag, and the
process of untangling can cause
considerable stress for fish and
aquarist alike. Certain Soldierfish
also have a spine of sorts but it’s
broader, shorter and not venomous.
If possible, try to discern the
difference between soldierfish and
squirrelfish before testing whether
the spine is venomous or not…
Separating the three genera of
squirrelfish – Holocentrus, Neoniphon
and Sargocentron – is a little tricky,
though geography helps. If the fish
originates from the Indo-Pacific then
it cannot be a member of
Holocentrus as they’re only found in
the Western Atlantic. Beyond that,
Holocentrus can be distinguished
Venomous in many
species of Squirrelfish, it
is also easily tangled in
nets when catching fish,
so handle with care.
nocturnal, making them reclusive in
a brightly lit aquarium – during
daylight you might only glimpse a
large eye looking back at you from a
cave. If you’re patient, squirrelfish
will come to accept daytime feeding
as their appetites get the better of
them, resulting in fish who are more
active than their wild cousins.
Squirrelfish might seem unsuitable
for reef aquaria, but they’re coral
safe, and provided that lots of space
and daytime refuges are provided,
they could be fine. They even offer
some interest when the lighting is
reduced – aquarists can simulate
dusk and moonlight, and squirrelfish
will emerge from hiding and search
for food.
Feeding and competition
hunt in
for motile
on a wreck.
With their big eyes, almost beak-like snouts
and mainly red colours, squirrelfish are always
likely to attract aquarists
Squirrelfish are predatory, eating an
array of invertebrates from molluscs
to polychaete worms, small crabs,
echinoderms such as brittle stars
and even small fish. You need to be
careful about housing them with any
free-living invertebrates that might
be considered bite-sized. Remember,
they’re active and adventurous at
night, and what may appear to be a
meek and mild fish in the daytime
can be a different proposition when
the lights go out.
Check that individuals are feeding
before you buy. Remember that
they’re often sociable fish, so a
A vast
would be
needed for
a shoal.
Squirrelfish are
named after the
sound they make
out of water –
like the alarm
call of squirrels!
These noises are
thought to
play a role in
with the
detecting sounds
made by others.
but True
The depth that
a squirrelfish
can swim down
to in the wild,
although they
normally swim
at a depth of
around 100ft.
solitary individual in a bright retail
and emerge to feed during brighter-lit
aquarium may not be the most
periods. Settled fish will become as
relaxed of specimens.
tame as damselfish over time.
Mysis is accepted by well-settled
Note that squirrelfish have big
individuals, but smaller fish
appetites! They can’t glean
may prefer brine shrimp.
anything from rock or
If your
glass surfaces, and
fish outright refuses
they’re not browsers,
frozen diets, try
so they’re entirely
The smallest Sargocentron of
river shrimp.
dependent upon
all is only known from two
Try feeding when
you for their food.
specimens collected using
the lights are
dynamite in the early part
lowered – they’ll
Selecting a
feed in almost total
of the last century.
darkness, but then you
With their big eyes,
won’t be able to see them
almost beak-like snouts and
take the food, which isn’t
mainly red colouring, squirrelfish are
particularly helpful. Turn off the
always likely to attract aquarists.
room lights to remove any
However, no-one needs a behemoth
distractions, and reduce the
in their smaller aquarium and so the
brightness of the aquarium. They
main task is to correctly identify a
should soon increase in confidence
species before purchase.
I worked out the average size of
fully grown squirrelfish based on
published data, and for the 33 species
currently described in the genus
Sargocentron it came to around
21cm. Many common species in
the hobby are in the 15-20cm size
potential range, although there are
some very notable smaller members
of the genus, with a handful in the
7-12cm range that could be worth
seeking out.
Otherwise, the selection criteria
that apply to all marine fish apply to
squirrelfish – check for condition
and reject any with any signs of
disease. They should be seen feeding,
and if you’re in any doubt, ask if an
individual can be held for you until it
has settled down after shipping.
Trying to acquire specific species
of squirrelfish will likely prove
6Scientific name: Neoniphon sammara
6Origin: Wide ranging tropical Indo-Pacific
6Tank size: 350 l but ideally much larger for two or more
6Size: 35cm maximum size, but average size closer to 22-23cm
6Availability and cost: Reasonable, but seldom identified to
species level; £20 to £30
This squirrelfish is often offered for sale as just
‘Sargocentron sp.’. It can be differentiated from
the similar N. argenteus as the latter lacks the
black blotch of pigment at the leading edge of
the dorsal fin. Newly introduced individuals are
often reluctant to come out of their refuges at
first, but their appetites soon get the better of
them and they can’t help but emerge to attack
offerings such as thawed Mysis shrimp.
One of the most common Sargocentron, and
relatively easy to identify due to the colour and
pattern of the dorsal fin – red-black with two
white streaks. Not always visible is the pale
region of whitish pigment that extends from just
below the second dorsal fin the to the end of the
caudal peduncle, though this feature can be less
apparent in newly imported specimens. Try to
confirm ID with a look at the dorsal fin. This
species’ modest size makes it a decent choice.
Scientific name: Sargocentron diadema
Origin: Tropical Indo-Pacific
6Size: 17cm
Tank size: 350 l, but ideally larger for two or more
Availability and cost: Sporadic, £20 to £40
need time
to adapt to
aquarium life
and feeding
6Scientific name: Sargocentron iota
6Origin: Indo-Pacific
6Tank size: 100 l or more
6Size: 8cm
6Availability and cost: Unknown – they’re rarely seen as identified
specimens, but do occur. Quite possible to acquire fish that are
misidentified as small specimens of other species. £20 to £100
The Dwarf squirrelfish is the second smallest
species of Sargocentron, measuring just 8cm
when fully grown. Its dinky size and attractive
all-red markings makes it ideal for smaller,
crustacean-free marine aquaria. The only issue is
finding one – look out for specimens with rounded
lobes on the tail fin, as this can help distinguish
the Dwarf from juveniles of larger species.
6Scientific name: Holocentrus rufus
6Origin: Tropical (and Subtropical) Western Atlantic
6Tank size: 350 l, but ideally much larger for multiples
6Size: 30cm
6Availability and cost: Moderate. Available from US suppliers to
the trade for £25 to £75
Of the two species of Holocentrus currently
described, the Longspine is probably the less
attractive as it lacks the yellow dorsal fin of
H. adscensionensis. At 30cm, however, it’s half
the size of the latter. It’s less common in the UK
hobby than it is in the USA; aquarists wishing to
acquire one might need to be patient, and make
their local marine specialist aware of their interest.
frustrating in the short term, but
hold out and you should see some of
the more widely available ones.
Collectors of Indo-Pacific squirrelfish
rarely distinguish between species
and this can mirror what’s offered
in stores.
Squirrelfish are not for every
marine aquarist, but to overlook
them is to do them a disservice.
They are hardy, generally peaceful
towards other fish and busy,
enthusiastic feeders once they’ve
settled into their new homes.
Correctly identifying species and
size potential is important – various
subtle spots or lines of pigment
enable aquarists who have done their
research to be confident in their IDs.
A notable plus point is that many
species are inexpensive by the
modern standards of marine fish.
A month of specialists
In the first part of a new series, Nathan Hill
and Steve Baker take to the roads to visit the
UK’s best clubs, shops and events.
UK Aquatics Imports
Pier Aquatics
Kings Lynn
Aqualife Leyland
Study Group
UK Aquatic Imports
8th March
NH: First on the agenda was a visit
to UK Aquatic Imports. Owner Rick
contacted me out of the blue to tell
me he’d just imported a rare Malawi
cichlid (featured in the May 2018
issue of PFK, News), so we took the
opportunity to head down there.
UK Aquatic Imports is based in
Stevenage, about a one-hour drive
from central London, two hours out
of Birmingham, and an hour from
PFK headquarters in Peterborough.
The first thing you need to know
about this place is that it’s not
your usual cash and c
style retailer. While fu
licensed to trade in
livestock, UK
Aquatic Imports is
effectively a large
fish house (well,
two) built into
someone’s house.
That’s no bad thing –
I’ve been to a few pre
like this, and they’ve all been
great. It just means that it’s not a
traditional style of shop – you can’t
turn up out of the blue on a
weekend for a leisurely stroll about.
Visits are made by appointment,
and while Rick is accommodating,
he is also busy. Our visit was
punctuated with phone calls and
disappearances as he sorted things
out on the business side.
UK Aquatic Imports deals with
African cichlids. Specifically, Malawi
cichlids. Real nice ones, and many
directly imported from the lake itself
– Rick sends orders out all around
the world, such is the uniqueness of
his bloodlines.
Point at any fish and he’ll reel off
everything about it. Location, when
it was caught, species, variety,
history, variants – the works. Rick is
a living Malawi encyclopedia.
tood out most for
? Cichlids I’d never
seen before. I fell
totally in love with
anagenys, as well as
curiously ‘lipped’
The visit to Rick’s
was eye opening. I’d
known of UK Aquatic Imports
for a while, but had never been
there or had contact with Rick.
The standout thing for me was Rick
himself. Nathan said he could reel
off info on his fish at the drop of a
hat, but also his knowledge of Lake
Malawi – and the connection he has
to the team out there collecting the
fish – was impressive. The size of
the premises surprised me as the
company has quite a following – if
you join the Facebook closed group
to see pictures of livestock, there’s a
good selection, so I expected
something on a larger scale. It can
only be testament to the way things
here are organised and run that such
a relatively small area can have such
a presence in the hobby.
I can’t say the fish themselves
amazed me. I’m not particularly
fond of Malawi cichlids myself, but
then that’s the downside of a niche
business; you’re targeting a small,
often extremely passionate and
knowledgable market. This seems
like just the place to supply (mostly)
wild Malawis to that market.
stunning, wild
williamsi or
‘Blue lips’.
amazing mouth
of Chilotilapia.
UK Aquatic Imports
at a glance
Lots to offer in
a little space.
Address: Berwick Close, Stevenage,
Hertfordshire SG1 2XJ
Telephone: 07837 949805
Number of tanks: 34 large
Areas of specialisation: Rift cichlids, Malawi
Opening hours: By appointment
Parking: Roadside residential, very easy.
A month of specialists
Most predatory
Malawis are too
large for tanks,
but not this one.
Threespot Torpedo
You don’t often see Malawi predators
on sale, and this one, barely
reaching 20cm in length, is even
realistic to house. Get a deep tank of
150cm length or more, keep the
lights low, put a layer of sand on the
bottom, along with some large,
rounded rocks, and you have a
biotope. Whilst a predator, this fish
isn’t territorially aggressive in the
same way as mbuna, so keep it with
a relatively peaceful mix of Malawis.
Fascinating fish – Threespot Torpedo
Scientific name: Exochromis anagenys
Origin: Lake Malawi (south eastern)
Habitat: Deep water, sand and rocks
Size: To 20cm
Temperature: 23-27°C
Water: Hard and alkaline, 7.6-8.4 pH, hardness 15-30°H
Feeding: Offer small frozen and fresh fish
Temperament: Predatory – house carefully with fish too big to eat
Price: £110
Clearwater Aquatics
14th March
NH: When I’m passing Leicester,
Clearwater is the mandatory go-to
stop for me. First of all, the
atmosphere is great. Get chatting to
the staff. See if you can’t grab Taufik
when he’s passing by – a friendlier
conversation you’ll never have.
Every time I’ve been here, the
layout has changed. I don’t
exaggerate. I’ve watched sections
come and go as Clearwater keeps
abreast of the latest trends. The
latest incarnation sees all the
freshwater systems being moved to
the back of the shop (the last few
times I’ve been, this was the marine
section) and all the marines coming
out to the front – and both have
expanded, making Clearwater the
most heavily stocked I’ve ever seen it.
Corals have always made up a big
chunk of the shop’s appeal, and this
visit was no exception. Trays upon
trays, packed out with all the softies,
LPS and SPS types you could want
invite you to find that extra bit of
room in your reef tank.
There’s a central room between
the marine and freshwater areas
that was housing Discus when I last
visited, and now it has become
a fancy goldfish and temperate
room instead.
As a freshwater fan, I was drawn to
the handfuls of nice Killifish on
offer. Clearwater is always a little
eclectic in its fish choice, and
among the usual community fare
you find the occasional surprise –
Liquorice gourami, for example,
were lurking in one sale tank.
I guess the only sticking point for
me was the abundance of
tankbuster types. While I appreciate
there’s a market for them, I still
wonder how many people in the UK
really have the facilities for adult
Finding the store is easy enough.
If you’re coming up from London,
which is about a two-and-a-half hour
journey, then you’re just following
the M1 up, then jumping on the
ringroad (trust me, you want to
avoid cutting through the city centre
to get there). It’s about an hour
and a bit from both Birmingham and
SB: When we got here I worked out
when I’d last visted, when I was at
college in Melton Mowbray... 19 or 20
years ago! That visit left a positive
impression so I was happy to see
Clearwater again. The atmosphere is
friendly and the staff were happy to
talk to me about the shop’s 23 year
history, the coming of competition to
Leicester and the recent re-fit. The
genius of the re-fit is that filtration
for the marines is now in the
basement, opening up more space
(for more fish!) on the shop floor.
Variety is good all round, I counted
16 brands of dry goods and I’m not
sure I got all of them. There were
Tanganyikan, Malawi, South and
Central American cichlids, killifish, a
good range of fish suitable for
popular nano tanks, a wide range of
community fish and freshwater
pipefish, plus discus will be making
a return. The coral and marine
sections offer great variety too.
Shame about the Redtail cats,
Tiger shovelnoses and so on being
offered for sale though…
Clearwater Aquatics
at a glance
Address: 338 Green Lane Road,
Leicester LE5 4ND
Telephone: 01162 743426
Number of tanks: 128
Opening hours: Tues-Thurs
10am-6pm; Fri 10am-12.30pm,
2.15pm-6pm, Sat 10am-5pm,
Sun 10am-4pm. Closed Monday
Parking: Roadside residential,
limited parking in front of store.
Corals galore
at Clearwater
of cute little
Catfish Study Group Convention 2018
23rd, 24th, 25th March
NH: Driving up to Wigan was rather
a long slog for us from Peterborough.
Every year, the Catfish Study Group
( hosts a
gathering of catfish fans from
around the world, all under one roof.
Things kick off on the Friday night
with a banquet and continue until
3pm on Sunday.
Depending on how you book, you
can turn up for a day, two days, or
go the whole hog with a room in the
adjacent hotel. The hotel is Kilhey
Court, part of the Macdonald Hotels
group, and very much a cut above
the usual budget hotel stopover
affairs. If you’re doing the full
shebang, then evening meals and
breakfasts are included. Like the
accommodation, the food is by no
means shabby, and excellent veggie
options are available.
We rolled up after a four-and-a-bit
hour drive from Peterborough (fourand-a-half from London, two hours
from Birmingham) in time for the
banquet and a light-hearted
presentation about catfish hunting
in Peru by four convention regulars.
I should stress early on that the
Catfish Convention may not be for
the faint-hearted, although it’s what
you make of it that matters. It’s safe
to say that, at one end, the event
represents something of a knees-up
for catfish fans coming together in a
rare meet-up. Tired faces propping up
the hotel bar at 4am are testimony
to the informal nature of the event.
Some of the presentations,
however, can be taxing for the casual
aquarist. The speakers are usually of
a very high calibre, intellectually
speaking, and are used to presenting
advanced ichthyological information
to like-minded individuals. Trying to
convey advanced information, like
the use of molecular tools to evaluate
the morphology of catfishes, is
A month of specialists
difficult enough at an academic
level. In a room full of aquarists, it’s
safe to say that a lot of information
goes over the heads of all but the
most immersive.
Still, there are things to be learnt.
In my case, this time around I learnt
about prehistoric land-bridges that
helped to distribute catfish many
millions of years ago. Plus, I never
knew that until some pesky
mountains popped up, the Amazon
used to flow the other way. Oh, and
that the Arctic was once a freshwater
sea. These things are new to me.
This year the theme was
‘Loricariinae’ – or whiptails to you
and me. That means that the talks
were geared mainly around those
and, by no small coincidence, a lot
of what was offered on sale was
whiptail orientated.
For those who hunger to see new
cats, there’s plenty of eye candy
during each presentation, as
undescribed/unseen species,
photographed right there at source,
flash across the screen. Better still,
if you have any queries, you have the
people that caught those fish right
there in the room. Fill your boots on
information. I know I did.
For the fishkeeper with an
incendiary wallet burning through
their pocket, plenty of spending
opportunities present themselves –
along with outrageous bargains on
rare and unusual catfish.
Point in case, Hypancistrus L333
on sale from a breeder, £15 each.
The last time I saw these in a
retailer, they were £40 a pop. And
Corydoras eversi F1, six for £100.
There’s a fish so rare I don’t think
any store in the UK has ever carried
them. There’s lots of deals like that.
Dry goods, too. What do you fancy?
Microworm cultures? Every size of
terracotta catfish cave you could
ever want (including some absolute
behemoths)? Catfish photography as
art? Foods? Ingenious ‘Hamburg
Mat’-style breeding tanks? It’s all
here, and all at respectable prices.
A word of warning for early birds
and misers. The presentations all
tend to run over a bit, so don’t
expect to get into bed before 11pm.
Also, the bar isn’t cheap once you
start getting fancy (and don’t even
look at the likes of Scotch…).
It’s worth bringing a few snacks
and supplies of your own. While
breakfast and evening meals are
included, lunch isn’t, so you can
either pay hotel prices for a
sandwich, or do what we did and
stop off somewhere to stock up.
One of the
delicate little F1
Corydoras eversi.
CSG Catfish Convention
at a glance
Telephone: None, but the website has a list of
email contacts for individuals
Number of tanks: Varies, but usually around 20
or more tanks of auction, sale and show fish
Areas of specialisation: Whiptails this time
Opening hours: Happens annually, see website
for booking and information
Parking: Hotel car park (gated), ample space.
Some talks
are taxing,
some are more
Albino Aspidoras
– a real treat for
the cat fan.
Fish art on
glass and
Pier Aquatics
A selection
of 400 tanks
briming with
24th March
Fascinating fish –
Cory ‘Ancestor’
Scientific name: Corydoras sp. ‘Ancestor’
Origin: Brazil
Habitat: Likely associated with fallen debris in
sandy and muddy streams
Size: Up to 6cm
Temperature: 22-26°C
Water: Soft and acidic, 6.0-7.2 pH, hardness
Feeding: Offer fresh and frozen bloodworm,
Daphnia, Cyclops, and sinking catfish diets.
Temperament: Super shy. Not good for bare tanks
Price: £275 (and that’s not a typing error).
‘Ancestor’ stole
the show for the
catfish fans.
A month of specialists
Pier Aquatics
at a glance
Address: Great George Street, Wigan WN3 4DL
Telephone: 01942 236661
Number of tanks: 400
Areas of specialisation: Rare and wild fish
Opening hours: Mon-Wed 10am-5.30pm,
Thurs 10am-8.30pm, Fri-Sat 10am-5.30pm,
Sun 10am-4.30pm
Parking: Roadside, plus some out front.
Aqualife Leyland
Cheirodon sp.
rio napo.
25th March
NH: Steve Spencer is a fishkeeper’s
fishkeeper, for sure, and it’s lucky for
us that he also happens to run one
of the finest little aquatic stores in
the country. Once again, the Catfish
Convention seems to have this
figured out, because it’s the same
distance (ish) from the hotel, but in
the other direction from Pier. A
20-minute drive and you’re there.
What you’ll notice straight away is
that the fish selection is small here.
As in, small in fish size, not in
numbers. The layout has a feel of an
early-90s store (it’s dark, the tanks
have black covers that really make
them ‘pop’ out, and the only light is
what emanates from the aquariums).
It’s delightfully nostalgic and that’s
compounded by the relentless
bubble and hum of pumps gruelling
away to run the primitive but
perfectly capable filters.
Every tank is a photography
nightmare. There are simply too
many fish. Whatever I try to capture
gets ‘photobombed’ by another fish
coming into shot. Scratches on the
elderly glass – often filled with algae
– make any picture harvest limited.
But as a buyer, what luck! Three,
four or five species of fish per tank.
Endless diminutive tetra, tiny barbs,
an avalanche of Corydoras, and then
the many oddities. This is another
eclectic store, heaving with treats.
For me, the appeal of Jellybean
tetra, obscure dwarf livebearers, and
dinky Cheirodon species (advertised
as Cheirodon sp. ‘nano’) is equal to
any other exotic fish.
When you visit, it’s easy to overlook
the plants – if you’re looking in the
fish tanks, and get transfixed as I do,
then you’ll fail to notice the plant
vats behind you the whole time. Turn
around, have a peek, and prepare to
give Aqualife as much credit for its
greenery as it gets for its fish.
Also, be sure you don’t miss the
handful of nano tanks. As you enter,
the main fish house is on your right.
Stop a moment and turn left instead.
There, up on a shelf is a row of
small tanks with some of the best
little nano fish you’ll see.
The small nano tanks on the shelf
beside the counter that look like
mini displays – they’re also sale
tanks. Give them the once over.
SB: Aside from
the many
lovely little fish
on display here,
it was a breath
of fresh air to
not see any
– that’s a big
thing for me!
Going home with
a plant I’ve been
after for nigh on
10 years (Barclaya longifolia) was
also something to smile about.
When you see quite a rare Whiptail
carrying a batch of eggs in a sales
tank, you can be confident that fish
husbandry levels are good and that
was reflected in the other fish.
Overall, I was impressed; a good
variety of responsible fish – some
rare, some I’ve not seen for years – a
good selection of healthy plants and
helpful, knowledgeable staff. The
only problem for me is that it’s so far
from home.
Don’t miss the
plants but also
investigate each
Aqualife Leyland
at a glance
Address: 338 Southport Road,
Ulnes Walton, Lancashire PR26 8LQ
Telephone: 01772 601777
Number of tanks: 126
Areas of specialisation: Smaller rarities.
Opening hours: Mon-Sat 9.30am5.30pm, Sun 10am-4.30pm
Parking: Garden centre parking, ample.
Maidenhead Aquatics Kings Lynn
4th April
NH: Store manager Emily contacted
me via email a couple of months
back to say she was putting on a
Betta splendens (Siamese fighter)
appreciation event. To
the fact there was go
to be cake on the day
and we didn’t need
any more convincing.
This was a close
one for us; just an
hour from PFK HQ.
From London, it
could be a three-hour
drive. Finding the pla
easy as it’s in the bowels of a
Dobbies Garden Centre within a retail
park. Getting in is trickier, as there’s
only one entrance to the park, and if
One superb
Betta on sale.
you overshoot it there’s no second
attempt until you spin around.
Kings Lynn Maidenhead has
undergone a lot of changes since I
here, mainly around
design of the fish
ouse. With new
systems in place,
the freshwater range
has expanded
(doubled perhaps)
and the whole feel is
stinctly ‘Maidenhead’
– which is to say it’s
smart and organised.
So, what about the fighters? Emily
had scoured high and low for a good
selection, raiding other Maidenhead
Maidenhead Aquatics @
Kings Lynn at a glance
Address: Dobbies Kings Lynn, Cambell’s
Meadow, Hardwick Road, Kings Lynn, Norfolk
PE30 4WQ
Telephone: 01553 767585
Number of tanks: 142
Opening hours: Mon-Thurs 9am-6pm, Fri
9am-7pm, Sat 9am-6pm, Sun 10am-4pm
Parking: Superstore parking, vast.
branches for their best, and what
was on show was very respectable.
On the day, everyone got a stab at
a free raffle to win one of Emily’s
hand-painted Betta pictures (see the
image below – they’re really good!)
n aside, the quality of the
d plants at this place is
exceptional, too. We’re fast
approaching peak pond
season, and the selection of
outdoor greenery was maybe
the healthiest I’ve ever seen.
The pond section is covered
but bright, and there wasn’t a
gle aphid or blackfly in sight.
Here’s where we’ve put various aquatics products through their
paces over a longer time period. See how they did
Tested by: Dave Wolfenden
Duration: Two months
RRPs: Herbivore Diet and Omnivore Diet £3.99 for 30g (mini/
maxi pellets); Mixed Flakes £9.99 for 30g (mini/maxi flakes);
Green, Purple and Red Seaweeds £5.49 for 15g; Reef Mist
£15.99 for 30g; Floating Distributor £8.99; Food Clip £4.99.
More info: Aquarium Systems UK tel. 01664 898495; www.
Aquarium Systems’ A la Carte range reminds me of those
posh, ‘premium’ cat and dog foods. Rather than a huge
can, they come in a dinky foil tray; instead of buying
mere petfood, you feel you’re providing the best money
can buy. And now we have a fabulous fishy version, all in
strong, top-quality, re-sealable ziplock bags.
First, there are pelleted feeds, including a herbivore
diet in ‘mini’ (0.8-1.2mm) and ‘maxi’ (1.2-1.5mm) sizes.
It’s claimed to be rich in Spirulina and other algae, and
contains 37% protein. There’s also an omnivore diet,
again in mini and maxi pellets, which is high in protein
at 55% and said to be boosted with omega-3 fatty acids
and multivitamins, including vitamin C.
I found that even the maxi pellets are quite small, so
larger fish ignored them, but they’re ideal for smaller
individuals. Some of the pellets sink immediately, while
others float for a while, so you can cater for bottomfeeding fish as well as those who prefer to dine nearer
the surface. In turbulent water, the pellets are more
likely to plummet; in calmer tanks, to float.
The Floating Distributor is a feeding ring with a sucker
for attachment to the glass, plus a monofilament tether
attached to the distributor. It helps prevent pellets
disappearing down overflows as soon as they’re added,
Get more than one, and you can set up separate feeding
stations so aggressive fish can’t dominate the food. Plus,
this one is in the shape of a pygmy angelfish – cute.
Also available are mixed flakes (both mini and maxi),
based entirely on seaweed rather than fish derivatives,
and packed with vitamins, minerals and trace elements.
They’re ideal as part of the diet for grazers and to
provide some algae for omnivores, and are best soaked
for a minute before feeding as they’re quite dry.
Seaweed – red, green and purple – comes in a more
‘raw’ form to provide natural feeding opportunities for
grazers such as tangs and angels. Also available is a Food
Clip in the shape of Aquarium Systems’ ‘flask’ logo.
Lastly, there’s Reef Mist – a fine, powdered invertebrate
food for filter feeders, also suggested as Artemia
enrichment; I guess you could also usefully gutload river
shrimp with it before feeding them to predators. It’s a
pungent, slightly sticky powder that needs suspending in
water before feeding out. As with any such feed, go easy
with it as it’ll play havoc with phosphates if overused.
If I’ve one gripe, it’s the ‘suitable species’ suggestions
on the packets. They’re all the same, regardless of the
feed type. It would be nice to see that, for example, the
herbivore and omnivore pellets were formulated for fish
with different requirements. My understanding is that
foods for marine and freshwater fish need to be formulated
differently because of each group’s requirements.
Good looking, good quality food range.
The ‘species suggestions’ on the packaging need a rethink.
Duration: Six weeks
Price: 12mm set £49.95; 16mm set £59.95
More info:
Pipework is a big thing for me. I put
plenty of thought into how filter
pipework (and cables) can be hidden
before starting to build my display.
I’ve never used glass pipework
before for three reasons. First, if my
set-ups have drilled bases, glass
pipes won’t fit. Second, plastic pipes
are versatile and adaptable – cut
them, join them with hose, even melt
them into shape. Third, the cost.
I used this Evolution Aqua 12mm
pairing the step-by-step tank and I
like them. But basically, because
you can’t manipulate them to weave
though rockwork, you can’t hide
them, no matter how hard you try.
So I placed them in plain view – no
more than 12cm from the front
glass – and, I have to say, not once
did I look at the tank and think
about the pipes. For me that’s proof
that they do what they’re meant to
– hide in plain sight.
Cleaning the right-angled bend
was rather awkward, however.
It took a fair bit of time and effort
with a pipe cleaner and a bottle
brush, with the uplift removed from
the tank, but cleaning the straight
pieces of pipe is easy.
The surface skimmer is a doddle to
use, and the suction cups on the
outside hold the pipework well.
The outlet ‘bulb’ gives an excellent,
concentrated turbulence. A fine
balance of calm in the tank, a nice
amount of surface movement and
good circulation around the tank.
Wonderfully discreet.
Difficult to clean right-angled bends.
Tested by: Nathan Hill
Duration: One month
Price: From £19.99
More info:
Years ago, I had a beast of a contraption to top up
sumps. It involved a temperamental float switch, a
peristaltic pump and a remote second sump. It was
utterly useless – half the time sucking water back
out of the sump and into the emergency top-up tank.
This device from Red Starfish is simple and
brilliant. Two sizes are available, a 4l and 2l model.
To use, fill it with top-up water
position over your sump, hos
down, and clamp into place
the acrylic screws either side
Next, with both hoses in th
(nothing will come out, as it’
hermetically sealed) cut ONE
the exact level you want the
water to remain. That’s it.
Now, every time the water l
drops through evaporation, t
shorter hose will have an ope
end exposed, causing the
hermetic seal to break. The
filler will then glug out a littl
water until the seal is made
again. There, I said it was sim
Genius, frankly.
You need some space above your sump.
Tested by: Steve Baker
Duration: Six weeks
RRP £114.99, but shop around and you’ll find it in the sub-£90 region.
The design of this external filter
makes it simple and easy to use, but
it lacks features such as a priming
mechanism. The stand-out feature
is that the pump is separate from
the filter body. This adds no
difficulty or downside as long as the
pipes aren’t left to drain (when it
makes priming a little awkward), but
may well mean that if the pump
fails you don’t need to buy a whole
new filter – just order a r
pump unit (which has a
consumption of only 6w
Removing the pipes fro
stops the flow to allow
you would expect, but
still flows through fro
uplift to outlet. This
an issue with normal
use, but if you want
clean or change the
pipework it’s worth
knowing, otherwise
you’ll find out the
hard way with a
puddle at your feet,
as lowering the outlet will empty
your tank. Also, the pipework isn’t a
universal size at 14/18mm.
I used this on a 105 l tank. Aquael
suggests it’s suitable for a 250 l
tank but personally I don’t think it’s
powerful enough for the flow I would
want on a tank of that size.
Good value, efficient and easy to use.
Very basic lacks features
We take a look at new products on the market right now
Somewhat overkill
for all but giant
tanks, the balls
rapidly shrink
through osmosis
once added to a
marine tank.
First look: Nathan Hill
Price: £29.99 for a 1-litre tub
More info:
OK, here’s something that doesn’t
quite behave how you think it will.
Colombo’s Bacto Balls package
comes in two parts – the balls and
the dispenser. Simply put, the balls
go in the dispenser, the dispenser
goes into your marine tank, and this
provides bacteria to the aquarium.
Which bacteria? Not a clue. I can
find no information on this
anywhere, and all I could find from
Columbo was a video that doesn’t
include so much as a single word.
On the packaging is the wonderfully
vague statement ‘DNA screening has
been used to select the best strains’,
without a hint of what those strains
are. So it could be Anthrax for all I
know, but the fact I’m still alive after
handling suggests otherwise.
One clue is in the claim that
‘organic waste is decomposed’,
which means there are heterotrophic
bacteria (not the autotrophic
bacteria associated with converting
ammonia and nitrite) in here at least.
Once in the tank, the balls shrink
rapidly (good old osmosis) down to
the size of a shrivelled pea. This,
I’m told, is normal and means the
balls are doing what they should do.
Do they work? Apparently so. I
know folk who’ve run these in
quarantine systems with livestock,
and they report an absence of
ammonia even after several weeks.
So I guessing there are autotrophs in
there as well, after all.
Dosage is five to 10 balls per 100
litres, weekly, so one tub has enough
for a 200 l tank for 40 weeks.
While bacteria impregnated into
temporary balls is all the rage, this
marine-only addition is more than
welcome. Chances are it’ll save
more than one tank after a major
power cut!
First look: Nathan Hill
Price £4.99 for a single guard (discounts for bulk purchases)
More info:
The Heron Guard is a design to cover a pond
with minimal impact on the overall aesthetic.
Out go unsightly nets and garish grids. In
come individual locking plates that look
slightly like the ghosts from an old game of
PacMan. Laid flat, these can be interlocked
in a variety of ways, allowing them to fit all
kinds of ponds. As the rounded ends of
each plate can swivel in the concave ‘tails’,
they’ll mould to shape for rounded, kidney,
straight and even squared 90° pond edges.
The idea is that the guards create a
floating barrier to herons – they refuse to
step onto them, and can’t reach far enough
over them to grab your fish. In theory, these
should also deter cats, who notoriously hate
standing on un t bl
Each plate m
you can calcul
for your pond o
Solutions’ web
To keep the g
place, they can
be anchored d
tethered with c
or fishing line.
they float, if th
tethered, they
bob away from
coverage area.
What’s not to love? Minimal visual
input, no risk of tangling, easy to
install and take out, and cheap
enough as you’re only buying what
you need. If you’ve got a heron
problem, you’d be silly not to.
The best fishy reads that should be on your bookshelf
AUTHOR: Ramasamy Santhanam
PUBLISHER: 2018 Apple Academic Press/CRC Press
RRP: Hardback £79.20; eBook £89.10; eBook rental version available for £49.50.
Despite a deserved worldwide fanbase, you’d be hard pressed to find a decent book
on pufferfish. There are books about pufferfish out there, and those worth
mentioning definitely look at the group through the lens of the aquarium hobbyist.
Bucking the trend somewhat, Santhanam’s book covers the other important roles of
puffers, such as their toxicology and nutritional value, but also includes lots of
valuable information within the species profiles, zooming in on specificities of each
species’ biology and ecology, as well as providing a run-down on basic husbandry
– even for species not commonly kept in aquaria.
What truly set this text apart for me was a dedicated chapter on diseases,
addressing a number of ailments known to afflict puffers right across the board. This
is something you’ll struggle to find elsewhere, let alone specifically about pufferfish.
Selling point number two would be the extensive, veritable bible of puffer profiles.
Admittedly, I wouldn’t rely on it for pinpoint identification of specimens, as a handful
of the species profiles employ glaringly wrongly assigned images. This would be
forgivable if the profiles gave accurate pointers on identification – sadly, not all do.
Even though the book’s content leans heavily on scientific literature, the language
is accessible to the layman, proving an easy read. This is strongly contrasted with
plentiful references to aquarium websites, however, which are cited within the text
and interrupt the flow horrendously.
If you’re an absolute puffer nut who needs access to all things puffy, then perhaps
this is the book for you; equally so if you happen to be a toxicologist. However, for
the hefty price and content offered, I can’t say this is a book suited to an advanced
fishkeeper, let alone an everyday hobbyist. You can find slightly less-specialised
books for a fraction of the price, which would much better suit the needs of an
oddball aquarist.
What truly set this
text apart for me was a
dedicated chapter on
diseases, addressing a
number of ailments
known to afflict puffers
across the board. This
is something you’ll
struggle to find
North East
Northern Ireland
Yorkshire &
of Ireland
South West
Retailer of the Year
South east
Lincs Aquatics, Alford, Lincs.
Runner up: Charterhouse Aquatics, London
Maidenhead Aquatics @ Windsor
Runner up: Crowder’s Aquatics, Hampshire
Online Retailer of the Year
South west
AllPond Solutions
Runner up: Charterhouse Aquatics
Emperor Tropicals, Devon
Runner up: The Aquatic Store, Bristol
Small Retailer of the Year
Octopus 8 Aquatics, Brough, East Yorkshire
Runner up: Aqua Design Aquatics, Skegness
Maidenhead Aquatics @ Wenvoe
Runner up: Maidenhead Aquatics @ Cardiff
Marine Retailer of the Year
Lincs Aquatics
Runner up: Seahorse Aquariums, Dublin
Cichlid Retailer of the Year
Wharf Aquatics, Pinxton, Notts.
Runner up: Seahorse Aquariums, Dublin
Catfish retailer of the Year
Charterhouse Aquatics, London
Runner up: Wholesale Tropicals, London
East Midlands
Lincs Aquatics, Alford, Lincs.
Runner up: Wharf Aquatics, Pinxton, Notts.
North east
Seahorse Aquariums, Dublin
Runner up: Wharf Aquatics, Pinxton, Notts.
DL Discus, Co. Durham
Runner up: Lanchester Aquatics, Co.
Discus Retailer of the Year
DL Discus, Co. Durham
Runner up: Devotedly Discus, East Sussex
Discovery Aquatics, Dundee
Runner up: Fishkeeper Inverness
Plant retailer of the Year
Republic of Ireland
Emperor Tropicals, Plymouth, Devon
Runner up: Seahorse Aquariums, Dublin
Seahorse Aquariums, Dublin
Runner up: Carrick Aquatics, Co. Monaghan
Pond retailer of the Year
Northern Ireland
Lincs Aquatics, Alford, Lincs.
Runner up: Seahorse Aquariums, Dublin
Clearly Aquatics, Co. Down
Runner up: Exotic Aquatics, Belfast
Oddball Retailer of the Year
North West
Wharf Aquatics, Pinxton, Notts.
Runner up: Tank Terror Aquatics,
Aquahome Aquatic Centre, Lancs.
Runner up: Pier Aquatics, Wigan
Shrimp Retailer of the Year
Seahorse Aquariums, Dublin
Runner up: Wharf Aquatics, Pinxton, Notts.
The Waterzoo, Peterborough
Runner up: Amwell Aquatics, Soham
Yorks and Humber
Octopus 8, Brough, East Yorkshire
Runner up: Ferrybridge Aquatics, Wakefield
West Midlands
Maidenhead Aquatics @ Mere Park
Runner up: Maidenhead Aquatics @ Shirley
South East
TOP 40
Abacus Aquatics, Kent
Aqua Design Aquatics, Skegness
Aquahome, Leyland, Lancs
Aqualife, Leyland, Lancs
Aquatic Finatic, North Yorkshire
Bow Aquatics, Devon
Carrick Aquatics, Co Monaghan
Charterhouse Aquatics, London
Clearly Aquatics, Co. Down
Crowder’s Aquatics, Hampshire
Cuddra Aquatics, St. Austell, Cornwall
Discovery Aquatics, Dundee
DL Discus, Co. Durham
Emperor Tropicals, Plymouth, Devon
Ferrybridge Aquatics, Wakefield
FishCove Aquatics, Wimborne, Dorset
Fishkeeper Braehead
Fishkeeper Coatbridge
Fishkeeper Inverness
H2O Habitat, Surrey
Innovation Aquatics, Southampton
Lanchester Aquatics, Co. Durham
Lincs Aquatics, Alford, Lincs
Maidenhead Aquatics @ Mere Park
Maidenhead Aquatics @ Shirley
Maidenhead Aquatics @ Wenvoe
Maidenhead Aquatics @ Windsor
New Concept Aquatics, Bonnybridge
Octopus 8, Brough, East Yorkshire
Pier Aquatics, Wigan, Lancs
Real Reefs, Gloucs
Riverside Aquaria, West Lothian
Seahorse Aquariums, Dublin
Sweet Knowle Aquatics, Warks
Tank Terror Aquatics, Cornwall
The Aquatic Store, Bristol
The Waterzoo, Peterborough
TriMar, Cornwall
Wharf Aquatics, Pinxton, Notts
Wholesale Tropicals, London
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The Aquatic Store
All our corals are
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CLASSIFIED To advertise here please call the sales team on 01733 366410
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To all our customers – thank you for your support with the PFK Awards
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• Discounted Pond Liners
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All fish are packed to travel anywhere in the UK
The Fish Bowl Ltd
133 Dawes Road,
London. SW6 7EA
Units 10 & 11, Dragonville Retail Park, Durham DH1 2YB
Tel: 020 7385 6005
Voted one of the Best shops in
the UK for the last 6 years
Aquatic and Pet Shop.
Open 5 days a week 10am to 6pm. Closed all day Thursday and Sunday
Now open on Sundays
For more details about the
shop and our opening hours
please visit our website
168 Halfway Street, Sidcup, Kent, DA15 8DJ
020 8302 8000 /
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House of Pisces ~ Scotland’s largest aquatic superstore by far
With over 1000 aquariums full of tropical, marine and cold water fish
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To advertise here please call the sales team on 01733 366410
Aqua Pond Paint :Bonds to Damp
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AQUARIUM MANUFACTURERS..supplying direct to the public at trade prices
This month former editor Jeremy
Gay takes the helm for a ‘guest
tailpiece’ where he tells us just how
ugly he feels every time he logs on...
Predator tanks. All gleaming, cramped and
overstocked. Then come the videos of the
fish being fed live prey from goldfish to
crabs and crayfish.
The images with the most ‘likes’ are put
in front of even more people and the whole
thing snowballs into digital elitism. Ugly
tanks don’t get a look in. Standard tanks
don’t get a look in either. It’s beauty
magazines all over again.
Where is the algae? Be it reef or
aquascape, there isn’t a speck of algae
anywhere in the tanks, and that makes me
very wary. How long have these tanks
been set up for? Has there been an overuse
of the dreaded Photoshop?
Where is the learning? As well as being
made to feel inadequate, I worry that it
creates demand for these perfect aquariums
and fish without any of the usual warnings.
Maturation, stocking, feeding, health...
What happens when someone walks into
an aquatic store, smartphone in hand, and
says “I want that,” holding an image of one
O NOT read beauty
magazines, they will
make you feel ugly.
These iconic words
appeared in the ‘Wear
sunscreen’ address given
to graduates in 1997 by
Mary Schmich of the
Chicago Tribune.
Schmich’s cautionary advice passed on to
readers of magazines filled with models
with age- and fat-defying DNA. Add
‘airbrushing’ – longer legs, blemishless skin
– and you can understand the difficulty
for some teenage girls to accept the way
they actually are.
It’s happening in fishkeeping too. I’ve
spent years working through the aquatic
content of social media, and as a
fishkeeper, I can draw many parallels.
On Instagram you don’t get pictures of
average tanks. You get pristine Altum
angels, or high-end reefs and aquascapes.
Siamese fighters are all £40 fish, not £4 fish.
of Amano’s aquariums? With thousands of
pounds and the right team of people (in
other words, the actual people who
installed and run it), you could have that,
but without the budget or people,
everything else is compromise.
Try, then, telling the monied newbie two
weeks in to expect six weeks of nuisance
algae, or that what they’re buying are the
same plants, corals or fish as in the
pictures, only smaller and less colourful.
Then the poor old aquatic store staff have
to retrospectively manage expectations,
which will never end well.
Digital fishkeeping has now become
about entertainment. I woke up to a video
of someone being bitten by a Wolf fish,
Hoplias spp. Held in a small, bare tank,
someone placed their hand in to annoy the
fish and it bit their fingers, jumping out and
landing on the floor in the process. The
camera went again and again to the
bleeding fingers, while in the background
the fish lay on the floor.
So I’m on the cusp of removing myself
from those sites and deleting the whole lot,
as sometimes it makes me feel rubbish
about myself and my tanks. For the many
hours I put in every single night, I get very
little actual learning from it. There aren’t
any words after all.
I don’t blame social media. These are
public spaces and if you’re a private person
then don’t go on them, and don’t engage or
upload information. But I do crave a place
where nice pictures are accompanied by
practical information and facts on every
aspect of a tank and its fish, its costs and
its restraints. I want to go back to loving
the fish I have, not feeling bad that my fish
and tanks aren’t as good as what seem, on
the face of it, to be everyone else’s.
Guess the fish answer from page 29: Neon Tetra
Jeremy Gay is a
former Practical
Fishkeeping editor
turned marketing
developer for
Evolution Aqua. In
his time he has run
an award-winning
store, and has a
love of fancy
goldfish strains.
New and exclusive to
An exclusive range of flakes, crisps and
granular foods for tropical and coldwater fish
All foods in this range contain Tetra’s unique
BioActive formula, which includes a balanced mixtur
of omega 3 fatty acids and essential vitamins
Enhances colours and maintains vitality
Clear water formula
We have over 160 stores throughout the UK, staffed by
Find a store near you today or visit ƂUJMGGRGTEQWM
Fed and recommended by
Packed with the info you need
to provide a healthy diet
g Guide
a live diet
Why the
10 off-the-shelf foods explained
We offer a variety of live fish food. Each pack has the product name printed on the front and
on the back you will find the EAN barcode for fast, efficient in-store handling.
Everything is packed in the Netherlands to ensure fresh, top quality products the whole year
We can offer the following live products:
Enriched Brine shrimp, Copepods, Daphnia, Glassworm, Mysis, Nauplii, Bloodworm large,
Bloodworm small, River shrimps and Tubifex.
Most of these items are available in BULK too.
175+ different species of plants.
Available potted and bunched.
Also a range of mosses, plants
on bogwood and on coconut!
45 different foods for goldfish,
tropicals and marines and
turtles. Available in 100ml,
250ml and 1000ml pots.
Award winning 100 gram
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500 and 1000 gram packaging
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The best quality from Holland!
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to f act us
you ind
sto r loca
ck i
st! l
A feeding fish is a
happy fish.
IT’S A busy old world out there and all too often the
only quality time we get with our fish is at
waterchange and feeding times. To see fish feeding
with gusto is a pleasure and a good sign that things
are well with the vitality of our fishy friends.
When it comes to buying fish food how many of
us put a lot of thought into food selection? It can be
a baffling choice and many stick to a ‘one food fits all’ approach.
By reading through this feeding supplement you might find that you
could offer a more refined menu, or maybe it will help to confirm that
you’re on the right track.
You’ll find tips on dried food diets, hints on how to prepare frozen
and livefoods and how to cater lovingly for your fish yourself while
saving money in to the bargain!
Steve Baker
What are the right choices for you?
Find out what’s in a typical tub of flake.
Handling delicate fresh produce
A guide to matching the right
food to the right fish.
A step-by-step guide to making
nutritious frozen meals.
PFK Staff writer.
With endless pots on the aquatic shop shelf, you could be spoilt
for choice. We look at what’s inside the packaging.
Crisps and flakes
Generally used for large, surface feeders like cichlids, but can
also be used to allow smaller surface feeders to graze.
Floating sticks are available in community menu, carnivore
and herbivore diets.
Commonly used for community tanks. Good for surfacefeeding fish, sink slowly for mid-water feeders and leftovers
are hoovered up by bottom feeders. Can be crushed to feed
young fish. Their high surface area means vitamin content
may leach quickly.
Frze -dried fds
Sometimes cubed, sometimes loose, Tubifex, bloodworm,
Daphnia, Krill – even snails – are available as freeze-dried
foods. Highly buoyant, they suit surface feeders only unless
soaked well in advance.
Sinking peets
Some varieties sink quickly for bottom feeders such as
catfish. Others sink slowly, allowing time for mid-water
feeders to feed. Manufacturing methods allow pellets to
retain vitamins. Can be high in protein and oil content so be
careful not to overfeed.
Ideal for feeding grazing bottom feeders like catfish and
loaches. Some break up to feed smaller fish in mid-water.
Some can be stuck to a glass surface by holding for a few
seconds to allow mid-feeders and surface dwellers to graze.
Liquid fry fd
Floating peets
Ranging from micro for small fish, to 10mm-plus for larger
species. Dedicated pellets are available for carnivores,
omnivorous and herbivores. If overfed, floating pellets can
easily be removed with a net.
Available for live-bearing species and egg-layers. Can be
used before hatching to encourage the growth of infusoria,
and when many fry have used their egg sacs they will feed
directly on the liquid food. Liquid foods are very messy and
fry foods are high protein, so be careful with water quality.
Algae wafers
Aimed at dedicated algae grazers and as a supplement to
omnivorous bottom feeders. Most algae wafers are hard,
enabling grazing fish such as Ancistrus to feed naturally.
Some wafers include wood fibres for plec species.
Available in micro form for small community fish, up to
around 2mm for medium-sized omnivores. Most are a
mixture of floating and slow-sinking granules. Useful for
feeding fish at all levels in the aquarium.
Ever wondered what makes up your fish’s supper?
King British tells us about the properties of its food.
QUARIUMS ARE uniquely one
of the few places where a diverse
range of species occupies the
same living conditions. All of
these varied species have
different nutritional, behavioural
and environmental needs that
need to be carefully managed.
Catfish are one of the most commonly kept
fish. Unfortunately, they are arguably also
the most misunderstood, especially when it
comes to diet.
Suckermouth catfish or ‘plecs’ have gained a
reputation for being algae eaters. Naturally, the
algae growing in your aquarium isn’t the most
attractive thing to look at. Not only is it
unsightly, but it also has a negative effect on
water quality, which will affect the health of
your fish. Seeking a quick fix, this is when some
people buy a suckermouth catfish – they think
the fish will be getting all the nutrients it needs
from the tank’s algae while keeping their
aquarium in pristine condition. Simple, right?
Wrong! While it is true that some catfish eat
Unique to King British foods,
the ingredient Immuno Health
Booster (IBH) heralds a major
breakthrough in nutritional science.
IHB is an immunomodulator,
which helps regulate the immune
system. In an aquarium or pond,
fish are constantly exposed to low
levels of infection. Adding IHB
to their diet helps boost their
immune defence mechanism,
helping them to fight infection
and parasites more effectively,
and reducing the risk of low-level
infections developing into fullscale problems.
algae, as well as hoover up excess food from the
substrate, it’s a common misconception that
this is all they need.
This myth is, unfortunately, the main reason
for premature catfish death.
Catfish are not scavengers and do not ‘clean’
the aquarium. Just as other pets need the
correct nutrition to flourish, so do fish.
What food should I choose?
Different species of catfish have different
dietary requirements and should be catered for
Some species eat wood and the bio-film that
grows on it. Others eat insects and larvae, while
King British’s range
of fish food caters
for a wide variety of
species, ensuring
optimum nutrition for
all the inhabitants of
your aquarium.
Just as other pets need
the correct nutrition to flourish,
so do fish...
King British specialist
range – specialist
foods for specialist fish
Just because a fish has a ‘sucker
mouth’ doesn’t mean that it eats
algae. Some are adapted to eat
microorganisms, while
others eat insects or
even wood!
King British Algae Wafers have been developed
to meet the nutritional needs of bottom feeding
algae eaters. Designed to sink to the bottom of
the tank where algae-eating
fish typically feed, they
contain Vitamin C and 45%
protein. They’re also coated in
King British’s unique Immuno
Health Booster.
King British Catfish Pellets are a complete food
for all catfish and algae-eating
fish. Containing 54% protein
and 15% oil (as required by
most catfish), they have been
developed with a low waste
formula for cleaner, clearer
some eat other fish. When it comes to selecting
the right food for your catfish it is essential that
you do your research.
Fuel your fish with King British
King British has worked with fishkeepers since
1971. Its aquatic specialists have studied natural
habitats, fish health and husbandry first hand.
All this knowledge and experience has helped
the company develop a complete range of
products for ornamental fish, including
complete foods. Its foods are made using
nutritionally advanced formulas, containing
optimum vitamin levels and amino acid profiles.
Many of its products, including King British
Fish Flake and King British Plecosomus Tablets,
are made using hydrolysed fish protein, instead
of fishmeal.
This helps increase digestibility, increasing
the amount of protein available to the fish.
Not only does this mean that the fish are
gaining optimal nutrition from the food, it also
reduces the amount of waste produced, aiding
good water quality.
King British’s use of the highest-quality
ingredients, combined with the company’s
extensive research into the nutritional needs of
fish, ensures that all fish fed with King British
will be provided with a complete, nutritionally
balanced diet.
Suckermouths will
need more nutrition
than just naturally
buit up algae in the
King British Plecostomus Tablets contain
spirulina algae and ergosan to enhance colour
and improve condition, as well as the essential
vitamins, minerals and trace
elements needed for good
health. The tablets are a
complete balanced diet
suitable for all Plecostomus
and other bottom-feeding
King British complete
fish food range
Includes complete foods for goldfish, tropical fish
and marine fish.
King British Goldfish Flake
is a complete food for all
coldwater fish, with 42%
protein and unique IHB.
King British Goldfish Floating
Pellets and King British
Goldfish Sinking Pellets are available too.
For more
information about
the complete
King British
Range, including
food, treats,
medicines and
water treatments,
visit kingbritish.
King British Tropical Flake is a complete
food for tropical fish with no
artificial colours, containing
47% protein and our unique
IHB. Also available for tropical
fish are King British Tropical
Food Mix and King British
Tropical Food Mix.
King British Cichlid Sticks (with IHB),
King British Cichlid Flake (with IHB)
and King British Marine Food are
also available.
Your essential guide on how to feed these popular
aquarium diets.
How much to feed?
All fish are different, but after a
meal, none should be bloated,
lethargic and panting, or still
visibly hollow. Offer food over
a 90-120 second interval, and
be sure to remove any uneaten
food with a net or a gravel vac
DON’T leave live bloodworms
to bury themselves into the
substrate. These ar th l
annoying midges th
start to plague your
room a few days lat
LAKE IS a superb, balanced food for
most fish – if only they’d all eat it!
Some fish are stubborn, and some
are finicky. Wild fish in particular
often have no idea what flake food is,
so they need weaning across to it
from other foods they recognise.
Of course, even the most
established, flake-happy fish will suddenly
reveal its wild side when a little live Daphnia is
placed in front of it, and there are also
additional health benefits from feeding live and
frozen foods. The shells of Daphnia, for
example, are a great form of roughage, while
the likes of Cyclops are heaving with health- and
colour-boosting carotenoids.
Frozen and live foods are often used to
condition fish for spawning or to ‘treat’ them.
They are usually more expensive than dry
foods, and live foods can, in rare cases, be
problematic, carrying pathogens on or inside
Here’s how to store and feed live and frozen
foods safely…
Frozen foods
Always keep them in a
freezer at -18°C. Once
defrosted, do not refreeze
Frozen foods come in either ‘slab’ or ‘blister
pack’ form. A slab is a solid mass of frozen food
that you just snap chunks off, while a blister is
conveniently divided into dozens of small
To use, snap off a piece of food, or extract
the desired number of cubes and place into a
small amount of cold (never hot) water to aid
defrosting. Alternatively, just allow the food to
defrost on a saucer at room temperature.
Drain off any liquid before use by pouring the
defrosted mix through a net and rinsing for a
few seconds under a tap – this is entirely a
personal choice, though some aquarists believe
it helps to reduce the amount of pollution going
in to the tank.
In the absence of draining and rinsing, simply
pour the defrosted food straight into the tank
brineshrimp (Artemia)
are adored by many.
LEFT: Rinsing
defrosted frozen food
is good practice.
What’s the worst
for disease?
Live Tubifex worms (now quite
rarely offered) grow in unsanitary
conditions, and are implicated in
carrying a wide range of illnesses
that can trouble fish.
Who’s that
Some live food will be caught
from ponds, and may have
bycatch. Look out for dragonfly
larvae, diving beetles and water
boatmen, and if you spot any,
remove them before feeding as
they can attack small fish.
Dwarf puffers
travancoricus) feed on
frozen bloodworms
and the fish will know what to do with it.
Alternatively, use a pipette to target feed
particular fish. Corydoras, for example, love it
when you ‘pipe’ some bloodworm just under
the surface of the sand so that they can dig for
it. Some fish may be so eager that they come up
to the pipette and feed straight from the nozzle.
Note that many frozen foods are blasted with
radiation prior to freezing, massively reducing
the risk of introducing any dormant pathogens.
Live foods
Buy as fresh as possible – live foods should
come in small, pre-portioned bags. Avoid buying
any ‘live’ food where over a third of contents of
the bag have already died. Note that refrigerated
live foods may be dormant but not dead!
Store in a fridge until ready to use, then snip
open the bag and pour the contents through a
net. Never pour the water from the live food
bag into the aquarium as it may be
contaminated with disease-causing pathogens.
Flush the live food using a cup of water taken
from the aquarium. Alternatively, rinse under a
gentle flow of cold tapwater.
Some literature suggests soaking the live food
in an off-the-shelf medicine prior to use, though
this will do little. Many medications, like white
spot cures, or antibacterial remedies have an
action that takes 24 hours or more – 10 minutes
in a jug isn’t going to have much effect!
Be vigilant!
Live food carries a tiny risk of
disease, so keep your eyes open
for signs of parasites in the days
following use. Unusual spots,
lesions, swellings and colour
changes may all indicate a foodrelated problem.
L IF E . . .WHE RE ’ S
With so many demands from work, home and family,
there never seem to be enough hours in the day for you.
Why not press pause once in a while, curl up with your
favourite magazine and put a little oasis of ‘you’ in your day.
To find out more about Press Pause, visit;
Feeding fish is one thing, but matching the right foods to your fish
is quite another. Here’s what some common species like best.
Demanding fry may need freshly
hatched brineshrimp, grindal worms
and micro worms as first foods.
Less-demanding species, many
cichlids, livebearers etc. can be
started on a prepared liquid diet,
followed with powdered foods, high
in protein to support quick
development. Crushed Artemia flakes
are good, as are live and frozen baby
brineshrimp, and Cyclops. With high
protein foods, be vigilant with water
changes to avoid poor water quality.
For guppies, mollies,
platies and swordtails,
the diet needs plenty of
vegetable proteins. There are
specific diets available, or you
can mix herbivore and generic
tropical flakes in equal measures.
Fresh veg will help provide the
plant proteins they need.
The Malawi ‘Mbuna’ are
algae and aufwuchs grazers.
Herbivore flakes, granules,
pellets and sticks are all
available. Regular fresh veg will
boost their vitality too, and a
weekly feed of frozen
brineshrimp, Mysis or
Krill will provide
Many cichlids feed on drifting
plankton and crustaceans
between rocks, so carnivore
diets with little or no vegetable
ingredients are ideal. Offer
flakes, granules and pellets, plus
regular feeds of frozen or live
shrimps. Avoid bloodworm as
it’s often linked to bloat issues.
Smaller catfish and loaches feed
on small sinking pellets, sinking
granules and wafers. Frozen
foods like Daphnia, Mysis and
bloodworm make a good treat.
Loaches relish fresh veg.
Larger catfish can be fed on
chunky sinking pellets and
frozen prawn, mussel and lance
fish. Catfish are nocturnal and
may not feed with the lights on.
Top-of-the-tank feeders like
hatchet fish and Rasbora enjoy
floating flake foods, micro
granules/pellets, plus
glassworm, black
mosquito larvae
and fruit flies.
A mixed bag if ever there was one! Many cats, like Ancistrus and Otocinclus,
feed predominantly on algae, so offer algae wafers, tablets, dried algae
sheets and fresh veg. Less common species need specialist diets including
cultured aufwuchs and paste foods.
Plecs eat a wide range of specialist diets including wood, aufwuchs and
meat. Some even live on bacteria that exist inside dead wood.
Save money and provide
a nutritious diet for fish
with our frozen recipe.
EEDING YOUR fish on frozen foods
is a joy, and almost all of them love
it, but the cost soon adds up. Making
your own will take up just an hour or
so of your time, and set you back a
fraction of what you’d pay for
branded foods. What’s more, you can
tailor it to your fishes’ needs.
The recipe here will make an omnivore mix
of around 50% veg, 50% flesh, which is great
for many tetra, cichlids, livebearers, barbs,
catfish and many more – they simply love it!
What you’ll need…
200g spinach £0.99
300g of seafood cocktail £4.50
140g cod fillet £2.50
200g peas £1.50
1 courgette £0.50
1 medium carrot £0.05
3 multivitamin pills £0.05
Powdered gelatine
(I used four Vege-Gel 6.5g
sachets) £1.00
Also needed:
Zip-lock bags
Measuring jug
A typical 100g blister pack of
frozen food from a store will cost
you around £2.50 or more. Once
made, the recipe shown here
works out at just under
45p for 100g.
Cod filet
Multivitamin pils
Frozen fishy feast – a step-by-step guide
Chop the courgette into slices, chop
the carrot up small, and place in a
steamer with the peas and spinach. Steam
the mixture for about four minutes, until
softened but not soggy.
Using the back of a spoon or
(carefully) with a knife, crush the
vitamins into a fine powder.
Cut the cod loin into cubes.
Put half of the seafood cocktail, cod,
vitamins and veg into a blender with
½ pint (280ml) of cold water. Keep the other
half of the ingredients for the next batch.
The water is essential and the mixture won’t
blend to the right consistency without it.
Pour out the food slurry and divide
into two equal portions – the fish,
vegetables, seafood and water will make
around two pints of fishy puree in total.
Because I like to tinker with my foods and
add additional ingredients, I like to work with
one pint at a time for the next step.
Mix one sachet of gelatine in ½ pint of
cold water and slowly bring to a boil
on the hob. Moving quickly, add one pint of
food slurry to the jelly-water and stir
thoroughly for one minute, but no longer –
you don’t want to cook the food, only mix it in
to the jelly.
Remove from the hob and let the food
cool for 10 minutes before spooning
into zip-lock bags. Lie the bags down to
remove any air, flatten gently with your hands
and seal. The thickness of the slabs can be
adjusted at this stage – small slabs for
small fish, thicker slabs for larger fish.
How to feed
Repeat stages 5 and 6 with the other
pint of slurry. If you want to add any
extra ingredients to your second batch – try
bloodworm or Daphnia (live or dried) or a tub
of powdered colour-enhancing flakes – do it
now, then bag the food as before.
Repeat stages 3 to 7 with the other
half of the ingredients, then lie all the
zip-lock bags flat in a freezer to store.
If you’ve made different mixes with a
variety of added ingredients, don’t forget to
label the bags clearly – and add the date.
To use the frozen food,
open the bag and snap
off a piece from the
slab. I like to defrost
chunks of the food in a
little cold water before
feeding. If you’ve got it
right, it should have a
soft, squishy consistency
when defrosted – firm
enough not to fall apart,
but soft enough for even
the smallest tetra to take
a chunk out of.
Algae Wafers contain our unique IHB ‘Immuno Health Booster’ helping
to protect against infection and disease. King British Plecostomus
Available from all good pet and aquatic retailers.
Healthy, Happy Fish
m al
or Me
lF t
ra ec
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Na ith I
Aquarium Fish Foods with Insect Meal
Uses cultured insect meal to recreate the natural
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Environmentally friendly and sustainable - reduces
Have you tried it yet?
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