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Practical Fishkeeping 11 2018

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BEGINNER?S MARINE GUIDE INSIDE
The UK?s best-selling aqu
Are you a
LOVER or
a HATER?
PREPARING
BOTANICALS
GET THE MOST
FROM YOUR
LEAVES & PODS
NOVEMBER 2018 �50
F lowerhorns
Lovable loaches
The best Botia
for snail control
All about Otocinclus
Community safe
algae-eating cat?sh
The doctor is in!
Why you want the
gorgeous Surgeon?sh
LEOPARD BUSHFISH
How to house the
peaceful pred
The
Cichlid Man
Meet the reader
with a unique
collection
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Welcome
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See page 52
*When you choose the print option and pay by
direct debit (minimum term 13 issues)
THE EXPERTS
STEVE
BAKER
This issue Steve has
been busy out on shop
tours and testing gear but what he is
really excited about are Botia loaches.
Read all about them on page 12.
LEE
NUTTALL
We set the UK?s most
prominent Central
American cichlid enthusiast to task with
a project in his comfort zone. Discover
Blue eye cichlids on page 74.
NEALE
MONKS
Usually a familiar face
on our FKA panel of
experts, I managed to drag Neale away
from answering questions to write about
Otocinclus. Check it out on page 80.
TIM
SMITH
Ichthyologist Tim is
back again this month
to tackle an oddball that ends up in a
lot of larger communties. Go explore the
Leopard bushfish on page 32.
TRISTAN
LOUGHER
True to form, Tristan
has delivered another
outstanding marine feature this month.
November is the turn of the Tangs, in all
their glory. You?ll find them on page 86.
TAI
STRIETMAN
Tai?s living the dream
studying fish in Brazil,
but he took some time out this month
to don his swimming goggles and go
underwater. Find out more on page 46.
Stay in touch
Email us at editorial@
practical?shkeeping.co.uk
THERE WAS a time I could
never have imagined seeing a
Flowerhorn on the PFK front
cover. Partly because I?m old
enough to remember when they
didn?t even exist, but hey.
They?re contentious ?sh, for
sure. Some folks will likely be
outraged that I?ve given them a ?platform? by recognising
them as a legitimate part of ?shkeeping. Well, we can all
bury our heads in the sand and pretend they?re not, but
while we?re down there the Flowerhorn will still be doing
the rounds and gaining popularity. With every week that
passes, they appear in more social media groups,
becoming more ?normalised? along the way.
My job here is to hold a mirror up to the hobby, not to
gesticulate about what I think is right or wrong (though
that is also fun). Anyway, you can make up your own
mind. Read the feature then tell me what you think of
the ?sh after. Just don?t shoot the messenger.
Nathan Hill, Associate Editor
Watch us on youtube.com/
user/practical?shkeeping
ON THE COVER
Flowerhorn cichlid.
Photograph by bluehand,
Shutterstock.
hich ?sh carries
around a portable
knife to slash its
enemies with?
Find out on page 86
Follow us at www.facebook.
com/PFKmag/
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK
5
Contents
NOVEMBER
32
46
INSPIRATION
08
12
22
HERE BE DRAGONS
Are you up for a challenge?
The grinning, sharp-toothed,
Dragon moray will make a
dramatic presence in your tank.
38
THE BEST OF THE BOTIA
Bags of character, but less than
half the size of the ubiquitous
Clown loach, Botia species
are far better suited to the
average-sized home aquarium.
46
WHO ARE
FLOWERHORNS?
Love them or hate them, the
Flowerhorns look here
to stay. We dive into
the underworld scene
where the Frankenstein
?sh with the bizarre
bulbous heads can fetch
hundreds of pounds.
6
32
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
74
LOVING THE LEOPARD
Marvel at the exotic spotted
kitten of the Bush?sh world ? a
stunning and stealthy predator
80
CURIOUS CAT
86
TANGTASTIC
Editor?s
Pi k
Far more than an algae-eater,
Otocinclus deserves a proper
place in our affections ? and
our aquariums.
A PASSION FOR CICHL
Meet young ?shkeeper Max
Pedley, whose cichlid succe
stories give us a warm, fuzzy
feeling inside, and hope for th
future of our hobby.
RIVER RICHES
Join Tai Streitman on location
in Brazil, where he grabs his
underwater camera and gets
up close and personal with a
multitude of species in their
natural habitat.
Here?s a riot of colour for your
reef tank ? come to the tang
Nathan?s favourite
article this issue
? our reader
interview with
Max Pedley.
PAGE 38
OL? BLUE EYES
Why Cryptoherus spilurus,
the Blue-eyed cichlid, makes
such an appealing addition to a
community tank.
temper, but Nannacara taenia,
the Striped dwarf cichlid, is a
pleasure to keep and breed.
5
THINGS
YOU WILL
LEARN IN
THIS ISSUE
2
Which type of
kitchen crockery
is best to use to
spawn Flowerhorns.
1
How to prepare
botanicals ready
for your tank.
4
3
The ideal water
conditions to
grow Xenia from
frags in your
marine tank.
How to set up the
perfect breeding
environment for
Apistogramma.
5
Everything you
need to know
about keeping
the popular and
colourful tangs.
64
12
bursting-at-the-seams aquatics
stores in Essex.
NEWS & VIEWS
10
20
30
AQUATIC NEWS
Studies into ?sh intelligence,
cleaner shrimps? healing
hands, and an outbreak of the
noti?able disease KHV.
GUIDE
108 GEAR
Our pick of the latest products,
including three aquarium lights
tried and tested, plus a ?rst
look at a new Tetra starter tank
and a simple bio ?lter.
ETHICAL DEBATE
PFK associate editor Nathan
Hill and staff writer Steve Baker
go head to head over whether
we should encourage hobbyists
to breed ?sh at home.
GEAR & REVIEWS
100 ROADTRIP
The PFK team visit three
Practical
Fishkeeping
delivered to
your digital
device
PAGE 52
64
52
66
55
FISHKEEPING ANSWERS
PFK?s crack team of aquatics
experts are on hand to answer
all your questions. This month:
rehoming Hoplos, identifying a
snail stowaway, growing Xenia,
and feeding ?sh when you go
on holiday, to name just a few.
KNOW-HOW: BUILD
APISTOGRAMMA A HOME
Pair these popular, much-loved
dwarf cichlids with a biotope
aquarium and you?ve a match
made in heaven.
SUBSCRIBE TO PFK
Enjoy Practical Fishkeeping
from just �50 a month ? and
never miss an issue.
KNOW-HOW:
PREPARING BOTANICALS
Biotopes for beginners ? how
to cook leaves and seed pods
and why adding them to a tank
can bene?t your ?shes? health.
REGULARS
LETTERS
The joys of keeping healthy,
happy ?sh, thoughts on tank
decor, and a cautionary tale
about buying ?sh mail order.
86
72
NEXT MONTH
Learn all about Piranha, breed
Wrestling halfbeaks, and the
electric world of Elephantnose.
114 TAILPIECE
Nathan worries we might
be the last generation of
?shkeepers, and wonders how
young blood can be attracted
to the hobby in a digital age.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK
7
FASCINATING FISH
Dragon moray eel
Here be Dragons
If you want a dramatic presence in your tank,
this grinning, sharp-toothed eel is the business.
W
ITH THEIR
mouth agape,
moray eels can
give off an
unnerving air of
menace. The
constant
opening and
closing motion reveals an impressive
array of teeth, and this is particularly
applicable to one aquarium species,
the Dragon moray, Enchelycore
pardalis. The distinctive curved
jawline, a trait of the Enchelycore
genus, prevents them from fully
closing their mouths, leaving them
with a ?xed toothy grin. Disturb one,
the jaws spread and that smile
switches to a roar. Rows of razorsharp teeth glint in the light as the
eel rocks from side to side,
displaying a clear warning ? mess
with me at your peril.
In reality though, this apparent
threat is usually directed towards
tankmates. The open gape has no
sinister meaning; rather the moray is
simply forcing water over its gills to
breathe using powerful muscles
located in its gill cavity.
ALAMY
Dental differences
When it comes to dentition, morays
can be divided into two groups.
Piscivores like the Dragon moray
boast enlarged fangs, perfect for
snatching ?sh from the water column,
while others like the Snow?ake
moray, Echidna nebulosa, possess
blunt, molar-like teeth ideally suited
to crushing the shells of crustaceans.
What makes a moray bite worse
than most are the various toxins
contained within the saliva and slime
coat. Analysis of a Yellowmouth
moray, Gymnothorax nudivomer,
revealed a cocktail of crinotoxins
8
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
that lead i
d i
d
bleedin
Pseudom
been de
Moray
instead
their ac
sense o
to help
locate p
nostrils
horn-lik
enhanc
appeal.
?never b
doesn?t
stimula
behavio
betwee
Conver
specim
weeks o
perseve
The D
enables
rockwo
develop
undulat
swimm
open. M
are mo
encoun
with jus
their he
expose
from th
rocky h
and wit
being th
region t
line por
detect p
from vi
pack a p
be ?xed
prevent inadvertent demolition jobs.
This ability to move through
Chris works in
conservation research
and regularly writes
for aquarium
publications.
your outlay through a breeding
project, you?d be better off looking
elsewhere. Juvenile morays have a
transparent planktonic stage,
known as leptocephalus, in which
they drift in the ocean currents,
undetected by predators, before
dropping back onto the reef to
undergo metamorphosis.
If you?re in the market for a moray
and have the large, mature system
to match its needs, you?d be hard
pushed to ?nd a more dramatic
candidate than the Dragon.
ALAMY
CHRIS
SERGEANT
intricate spaces also makes them
aquarium escape artists, so ensure
you ?t your tank with a secure lid.
Locating a Dragon for the aquarium
isn?t easy, and even if you do ?nd
one, it?s likely to command big bucks.
Dressed in a technicolour coat of
oranges, whites, browns and blacks,
colouration heavily in?uences the
price tag, with the most eclectic
purported to be collected from the
northern Japanese region of their
Indo-Paci?c home range.
If you?re thinking of recouping
Latest news and events from the world of aquatics
RESEARCH
Fish are brainier than
many people think
New studies suggest angel?sh can assess food quantities, and wrasse recognise their own re?ection
T
WO RECENT scienti?c studies
into the cognitive abilities of
?sh have again shown what many
?shkeepers already know ? that
they are far more sophisticated than
most people give them credit for.
The ?rst study involved aquarium
favourites angel?sh, Pterophyllum
scalare, and set out to see if they
could ?count?. Researchers offered
the ?sh two or more small portions
of the same food at the same time,
and the angels usually went for the
largest-sized portion. Interestingly
the study also seemed to show the
?sh were ?rounding off?, as when
four or more portions of food were
offered, they became less picky
about which one they ate.
Many vertebrates, including
humans, show this ability where low
numbers of something are counted
or assessed exactly, but larger
numbers are roughly estimated.
Fascinatingly, both angel?sh and
humans seem to swap systems at
around four. While this doesn?t show
counting in the strict ?One, two,
three...? sense, it does show ?sh are
able to discriminate between food
quantities, which would clearly be a
evolutionary advantage.
In a second study, Cleaner wrasse,
Labroides dimidiatus, have joined
a small group of mammals and
birds found to be able to identify
themselves in a mirror, suggesting
a level of self-awareness previously
10
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
Cleaner wrasse
seem to be
self aware.
SHUTTERSTOCK
NEWS
Aquatic News
Cleaner wrasse were ?rst put in an aquarium
witha mirror, which most soon attacked
FACT
Removing
ectoparasites
helps unlock
the cognitive
abilities of
the Cleaner
wrasses?
clients too.
thought to be beyond ?sh.
The wrasse were ?rst put in an
aquarium with a mirror, which most
soon attacked, thinking a rival was
in their territory. This aggression
lessened over a few days, to be
replaced by various other curious
and odd swimming behaviours.
The researchers then marked the
?sh with a small coloured gel spot
on their head. At ?rst the ?sh were
left to recover and swim without
the mirror in their tank, and no odd
behaviour was noted. However,
once the mirror was returned, all
the ?sh spent more time in front
of it in positions where the spot
was visible, as well as more time
rubbing the spot against things in
their environment. To try to rule out
physical irritation being a factor in
this behaviour, the scientists also
?marked? some ?sh with a colourless
gel in the same way, and found their
behaviour did not change when the
mirror was reintroduced.
While the ?ndings are fascinating,
it?s too early to assume these
charming ?sh are self-aware in a
manner similar to humans.
JEALOUS WOMAN BLEACHES FISH
A woman who killed her ex-partner?s fish by pouring
bleach into his aquarium after he had an affair
has received an 18-week jail sentence, suspended
for 12 months. The prosecution case was brought by
the RSPCA. Serena Reynoldson, 35, was also ordered
to pay costs of �0, a �5 victim surcharge, and
has been banned indefinitely from keeping fish.
FISH ?SKYDIVE? TO
RESTOCK USA LAKES
Thousands of tiny trout have been
dropped from a low-?ying plane to
restock hard-to-reach mountain lakes
in Utah. Utah Division of Wildlife
Resources claims the method is less
stressful than using trucks, with
95% of the 1 to 3in-long ?sh
surviving their skydive
trauma.
WOUND HEALING
NEW AQUATICS STORE FOR SUFFOLK
Fishkeepers in Suffolk now have a new store ?
Scope Aquatics in Tattingstone, near Ipswich.
Boasting 78 tanks of tropical fish, Scope
specialises in South and Central American cichlids
with many fish on sale bred by the store?s owner.
Find it inside Tattingstone Garden Centre, just off
the A137 (postcode IP9 2LX). Tel: 07342 981775.
VIRUS
Dr Shrimp to
coral 12 please.
SHUTTERSTOCK
KHV STRIKES
LINCOLNSHIRE
Healing hands of
cleaner shrimps
In the ?rst scienti?c study of its
noted that for the ?rst 24 hours
kind, scientists have proved in
the ?sh regulated the amount of
laboratory conditions that Cleaner
cleaning to the injured area. This
shrimp help speed the healing
corresponds with previous evidence
process in injured ?sh.
that this early period is vital for a
The researchers studied the
process called ?re-epithelialisation?,
behaviour and interactions of
whereby the open wound is
Skunk cleaner shrimp (Lysmata
covered rapidly by a layer of cells.
amboinensis) and Lyre-tail Anthias After this time, the ?sh allowed
(Pseudanthias squamipinnis) to
the shrimp to clean where it liked,
see whether or not the shrimps?
and the shrimps? actions helped
cleaning behaviour improved
reduce in?ammation and redness,
healing, and also to see whether
which is thought to help prevent
the shrimp ?cheat? and feed on
infection by secondary pathogens
their hosts? mucus
like viruses and bacteria.
or aggravate the
It?s hoped the shrimp
injury further.
may be able to be
Using high
MORE INFO employed as a
de?nition
green alternative to
Read
the
paper
?Cleaner
cameras, the
chemical treatments
shrimp
are
true
cleaners
of
team observed
for cleaning
injured fish? in full at
the interactions
wounds and
tinyurl.com/ybcqalha removing parasites
of shrimp with 126
injured ?sh. They
on farmed ?sh.
CORRECTIONS AND CLARIFICATIONS
In the October issue feature ?Saving the Reef? we erroneously credited two images ? a scuba
diver and an artificial reef ? to author Jonny Archer. The correct crediting of those images should
have been to Yunaldi Yahya. We apologise for any confusion that has arisen from this oversight.
Diseased and dying fish in two Lincolnshire lakes have
been confirmed as suffering from Koi herpesvirus, more
commonly know as KHV. The first outbreak was
confirmed by the Fish Health Inspectorate (FHI) at
K?s Lakes near Skegness, with a second one at
Locklands Lake a week later. As a result, all fishing
activity has been cancelled for the time being.
The virus affects all varieties of the Common carp,
Cyprinus carpio, both wild and ornamental. Symptoms
include gill lesions, with white or brown necrotic
patches being typical, sunken eyes, rough patches on
the skin and excessive mucus. Infected fish often
become lethargic, have trouble swimming and remain
near the surface longer than usual. In some populations
death rates can be as high as 80% and fish that do
recover and survive remain infectious for the rest of
their lives. High water temperatures can trigger
outbreaks with the disease most prevalent at 16-28癈.
While there is no risk to human health, the disease is
notifiable to the FHI and there are strict controls on the
movement of fish from affected ponds and the correct
disinfection of equipment.
STOLEN
Pond fish theft
devastates villager
An Essex pensioner has been left distraught after her
pond was emptied overnight of almost all its gold?sh.
The ?Braintree & Witham Times? reported that the
80-year-old resident of Silver End, who didn?t want to be
named, ?rst became suspicious when she noticed that
the pond water level was unusually low.
When she went to check why, she found only a handful
of the 100-plus ?sh remaining, and the ?lter blocked
with sediment that she thinks was stirred up by the
thieves as they netted the ?sh. Police have asked anyone
who saw anything suspicious to contact them on 101.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 11
TROPICAL
Botia loaches
12
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
THE BEST
Botia
Don?t Clown around. Attractive, lively, characterful Botia loaches
are far more suitable for your average-sized home aquarium.
FRANK TEIGLER
WORDS: STEVE BAKER
Note the rosy lips
of Botia striata.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 13
TROPICAL
Botia loaches
W
FAR RIGHT:
You can see the
reason for the
Yo-Yo nickname.
FRANK TEIGLER
BELOW:
Polka-dot loach,
Botia kubotai.
HEN IT comes
to loaches and
home aquaria,
the Clown loach
is still a hugely
popular seller
in the UK,
despite really
being an unsuitable ?sh for all but
the biggest tanks.
If you don?t yet know yet why so
many concerned hobbyists and
responsible sellers are trying to
stem the Clown?s long-term
popularity, it?s purely down to size.
If they grew to a maximum size of
10-15cm, they would be the perfect
tropical aquarium inhabitant ?
colourful, bold, playful characters,
not to mention helpful consumers
of (pest) snails.
Clown loach are communal,
active, attractive shoaling ?sh that
deserve to be admired, but they?re
also very large for shoaling tank ?sh.
14
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
With a potential size of 30cm-plus,
Top ten
and an absolute minimum of ?ve
The kingdom of Botia became a
?sh needed in order to to offer them smaller place in 2004 when the
con?dence ? and also give their
genus was revised and previous
viewer a chance of observing
family members were moved into
natural behaviour ? it makes a
new genera. Now the Botia genus
suitable tank for Clowns far
holds just 10 species, compared
from suitable for most
to the 67 members it held
homes and budgets. The
previously. Five of the
30-year or so lifespan
current 10 are
of these ?sh also
regularly available
Put aside some dirty tank
means that you?d
to the industry
water with plant matter and a few
be signing up
and the other
for as long a
?ve turn up
pest snails. You?ll soon have
responsibility as
sporadically.
a larder of snails to
having children.
Botia aren?t tricky
feed your Botia
The funny thing is,
?sh to cater for, but none
loaches.
there are lots of quite
are suited to very small
closely related loaches that are
tanks ? the smallest species
just as pretty and interesting as
require a 1m-long tank at least,
the Clown loach, but don?t have
for a small group.
the same issues of size and demand
The substrate is one area you need
on space.
to get right. Just as with Corydoras
Welcome, then, to the world of
cat?sh, there?s a health risk if you
Botia loaches?
use any form of sharp gravel, and
We Recommend...
Tankmates
SHUTTERSTOCK
turfed up; this is common with the
Yo-yo loach, Botia lohachata, and the
Polka-dot loach, Botia kubotai where
harbouring plants on wood like
Anubias, Bucephalandra and Java
fern is a good alternative.
The other Botia family members
are slightly smaller and tend not to
dig destructively, especially with
?ne gravel (rather than sand), and in
the presence of wood or rocks, so
these species are much more suited
to planted tanks.
Tight ?t
When thinking about tank decor,
there are a couple of things to be
wary of because these loaches have
a real love of tight spaces. If there?s
a small crevice made by your rock
NATHAN HILL
large-grade gravel is best avoided
even if it?s smooth. Sand is the best
option, but ?ne-grade, rounded
gravel (like 0.5-2mm pea shingle) is
perfectly acceptable.
The reason for this is twofold. First,
Botia loaches have very delicate
barbels around their mouths. On
sharp substrate they become sore
and damaged; worse still, with sharp
and dirty gravel they become
infected and they can lose them all
together ? it?s almost like us losing
our hands and our tongue.
Second, they have a tendency to
dig. This is easier to do in sand and
can be encouraged by adding
tunnels and tubes to the aquarium
and part burying them. With some
Botia this can lead to plants being
FRANK TEIGLER
Smaller Botia will happily mix with slightly sedate
?sh like Pearl gourami, pencil?sh and Corydoras, or
with faster-moving barbs, sharks and danios. Go for
bigger, more robust ?sh when mixing with the larger
Polka-dot and Queen loach. Barbs, Paradise ?sh
and Panchax will generally work nicely.
Often, unwitting customers have bought Clown loach after
asking, ?How can I get rid of the snails in my tank??
And yes, Clowns do eat snails, but so do all the other ?sh
mentioned in this article and they?re far more suitable for the
job. In tanks smaller than 90cm, you can look to Assassin
snails to help get rid of shelled pests too. Just remember that
large populations of snails are only possible if the food is
there for them, often from overfeeding or under-cleaning.
NATHAN HILL
Escargot no-go
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 15
TROPICAL
Bright, sparse tanks don?t
suit Botia. Offer them subdued
light, plants for shade and
lots of wood, tubes,
good 15-20 minutes, or
formation, a Botia
ornaments or
place it over a bowl of
loach will squeeze itself
rocks.
in. For this reason, you need
to use relatively smooth-sided
rock; if they rub against abrasive
lava rock, for instance, they?re likely
to damage their skin.
When it comes to wood ? or
moving and cleaning wood, to be
precise ? you also need to think
about their hiding tendency.
Removing wood from the tank and
leaving it on a draining board or in
the garden is highly likely to seal
the fate of a Botia loach or two.
They?re so good at getting ?stuck in?
that you?re unlikely to see them, so
you?ll probably give the wood a
shake to make sure no one?s there.
However, these ?sh have a trick ?
under each eye lies a serrated,
retractable spine. This spine is
quickly bought into play at any sign
of danger and gives the ?sh a real
stronghold for safety. So when it
comes to moving wood, you need to
either let it sit above the tank for a
16
A FISHKEEPING
PRACTICAL
tank water for the same
period, so any ?sh will drop
into a watery environment rather
than drying out in the wood.
This switchblade-like spine can
also play havoc when transporting
Botia and other related loaches. First
off, with getting them out of the
wood, then when they become
caught up in the net, and ?nally,
once in a bag they?re quite likely to
push their way into the corner,
pierce the bag and become stuck.
So, when you buy these spiny
loaches, you need to make sure the
shop uses a round-bottomed bag.
ABOVE: Botia
are happy in
a set-up of
wood, rocks
and plants.
BELOW: Young
?sh can be
tricky to identify.
FRANK TEIGLER
FRANK TEIGLER
Botia loaches
Active & attrac
FRANK TEIGLER
SHUTTERSTOCK
So, while there are
aware of and avoid
well worth the effo
get in return is a gr
active and attractiv
bottom feeders tha
more character an
personality, in my
than the most popu
community bottom
dwellers like Coryd
Their playful beh
sees them interacti
?sh further up in th
column, sometime
include themselves
rainbow?sh, barbs
tetras. They?re wel
in quite fast-?owin
ALAMY
The next thing to be wary of
with Botia is their sensitivity to
medications and nitrogenous waste.
Many sources say this is attributed
to their lack of scales; however,
they do have small scales that are
embedded into their skin. Many
parasite medications have a warning
about loaches, commonly stating
that a half-dose should be used in
tanks that contain them, but this is
mostly an issue with copper
and/or formaldehyde.
The other area to watch is water
quality, ammonia nitrite and nitrate.
Botia aren?t the kind of ?sh to be
introduced ?rst to a new tank; they
need to be added among the last
?sh, when your ?lter is well matured,
with a healthy bacterial colony.
FACTFILE
FACTFILE
BURMESE LOACH
DWARF CHAIN LOACH
6Scienti?c name: Botia histrionica
6Pronunciation: Bow-tee-ah hiss-tree-on-ik-ah
6Size: 12cm
6Origin: India and Myanmar
6Habitat: Relatively slow-flowing river sections shaded
by forest. High oxygen content with rocky and sandy
substrate
6Tank size: 120x45x45cm for five fish
6Water requirements: 6.0-7.5 pH, 5-12癏
6Temperature: 22-27癈
6Temperament: Active, playful, peaceful and largely peaceful
6Feeding: Sinking pellets, wafers and algae wafers, frozen and livefoods
6Availability and cost: Quite common; from around �
6Scienti?c name: Ambastaia sidthimunki
6Pronunciation: Am-bah-stay-ah sid-thi-monkey
6Size: 6cm
6Origin: Western Thailand and over the border into
Myanmar
6Habitat: Rocky, clearwater streams and headwaters
over rocks, wood and leaf litter
6Tank size: 80x30x30cm for five fish
6Water requirements: 6.0-7.8 pH, 2-13癏
6Temperature: 21-29癈
6Temperament: Active, playful and peaceful
6Feeding: Sinking pellets, wafers, and algae wafers, frozen and livefoods
6Availability and cost: Common; ��
The Burmese loach lives alongside the Polka-dot loach in
some natural habitats. It?s renowned as one of the most
playful Botia and the species name histrionica even makes
reference to this, with the Latin meaning ?excessively
dramatic or theatrical in style or character?.
B. histrionica is also said to be the most active Botia during
daylight hours as long as ample cover is provided. Young
?sh have dark vertical bars that turn into a mixture of dots
and wavy bars in adult ?sh ? during the transition they are
easy to confuse with Yo-Yo-Loach.
An honourable mention is deserved for the Dwarf chain
loach, Ambastaia sidthimunki, which was once included in
the Botia family. This ?sh and Ambastaia nigrolineata are
the smallest of this type of loach and A. sidthimunki is just
as peaceful as its slightly larger cousins, so it?s a good
choice for aquaria.
The downside is the price. Often found at around �, it
makes for a dear shoal of ?ve, but honestly, it?s well worth
it. These ?sh are still playful, but maybe not quite as active
during the day as several of the other species mentioned.
240 l+
70 l+
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 17
TROPICAL
Botia loaches
and less-active community ?sh such
as Pearl gouramis and pencil?sh, but
will still settle well with slightly
larger, faster-moving ?sh and ?ow.
Feeding is similar for all Botia
species ? they?re omnivorous
scavengers, consuming algae, dead
plant matter, aquatic molluscs,
crustaceans, worms and insects in
the wild, so offer a wide range of
foods in aquaria. Sinking pellets,
sinking wafers and algae wafers are
readily accepted as staple foods, but
it?s worth mixing things up with fresh
greens such as courgette, cucumber,
peppers and blanched spinach
weekly. Also, feeding regular frozen
Mysis shrimp, brineshrimp, Daphnia,
bloodworm and chopped mussels
will help encourage vitality and
health, as well as providing a frenzied
feeding show for the aquarist.
Family life
Loaches form gregarious, matriarchal
families with complex hierarchical
social structures. Often, the
dominant female will be larger than
SHUTTERSTOCK
Their playful behaviour sees them interacting
with fish further up in the water column
FRANK TEIGLER
very active when settled and happy
in a group, which means you should
avoid mixing them with shy or
particularly sedate species.
I would avoid mixing any Botia
with the likes of Discus, Chocolate
gouramis and Wood cats and so on.
I?ve also heard suggestions that they
don?t mix well with Corydoras
because of their hyperactivity
clashing with the more relaxed
nature of the Corys. However, I?ve
known many ?shkeepers who?ve
kept them together with no issues.
To be safe, I wouldn?t mix the
slightly more boisterous Yo-Yo loach
or Polkadot loach with Corys. As for
Botia striata, B. histrionica and
B. dario, they seem ?ne with corys
FACTFILE
FACTFILE
POLKA-DOT LOACH
CANDY-STRIPE OR ZEBRA LOACH
6Scientific name: Botia kubotai
6Pronunciation: Bow-tee-ah koo-bow-tie
6Size: 12-15cm
6Origin: Found around the boarder of Thailand and Myanmar
6Habitat: Relatively slow-moving, clear headwaters,
shaded by forest with fallen wood and leaf litter over
gravel and sand substrates
6Tank size: 120x45x45cm for five fish
6Water requirements: 6.2-7.5 pH, 3-10癏
6Temperature: 22-27癈
6Temperament: Active, playful, sometimes boisterous
6Feeding: Omnivore ? sinking pellets, wafers and algae
wafers, frozen and livefoods
6Availability and cost: Quite common; around �-�
6Scientific name: Botia striata
6Pronunciation: Bow-tee-ah st-rye-ah-ta
6Size: 9cm
6Origin: India: Maharashtra and Western Ghats
6
Habitat: Quick-flowing, clear rivers with bedrock
substrate and occasional gravel, sand and leaf litter
6Tank size: 100x45x30cm for five fish
6Water requirements: 6.2-7.5 pH, 3-12癏
6Temperature: 21-26癈
6Temperament: Active, playful and peaceful
6
Feeding: Omnivore ? sinking pellets, wafers and algae
wafers, frozen and livefoods
6Availability and cost: Common; from around �
240 l+
The Polka-dot loach is a relative newcomer to the genus,
described in 2004 when the genus saw Maurice Kottelat?s
revision. Juvenile B. kubotai are easily confused with young
B. histrionica as they both sport pale body colours with
dark, wavy vertical bars. As they mature, the markings
become far more obvious, splitting into a range of dots and
stripes to break up the outline of the ?sh. Eventually the
adult markings develop to display stretched out yellow
dots and wider bars of black.
18
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
135 l+
Botia striata is a personal favourite of mine, with more
distinctive markings than other family members and much
?ner stripes. Colours and even some detailing can be
compared to B. kubotai but there?s no confusing the two
species as they have very different markings.
Considering the Candy loach?s size, behaviour and
availability, this is the most suitable Botia for introducing to
general community tanks, and also for planted tanks as
they don?t tend to burrow and upset or damage plants.
FRANK TEIGLER
Sometimes they are
restful, but usually
not for long.
FRANK TEIGLER
SHUTTERSTOCK
males or oth
females furth
the hierarch
the mood and activity of the group.
Because of this family structure,
it?s important to maintain a group of
Botia in good numbers. Many are
kept in threesomes but they should
really be kept in groups of at least
?ve ? and ideally 10 or more.
If kept individually, Botia loaches
tend to become reclusive and
sometimes even aggressive towards
tankmates, particularly anything
bearing a similarity.
If kept in twos or threes, there?s a
possibility that the subdominant
individual will be harrassed to the
point of starvation.
FACTFILE
FACTFILE
YO-YO LOACH
QUEEN LOACH
6Scienti?c name: Botia lohachata
6Pronunciation: Bow-tee-ah low-ah-chat-ah
6Size: 12cm
6Origin: Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and India
6Habitat: Rocky creeks with gravely and sand substrates
6Tank size: 120x45x30cm for five fish
6Water requirements: 6.4-7.8 pH, 5-12癏
6Temperature: 24-29癈
6Temperament: Active, playful, sometimes boisterous
6Feeding: Omnivore ? sinking pellets, wafers and algae
wafers, frozen and livefoods
6Availability and cost: Common; from around �
6Scienti?c name: Botia dario
6Pronunciation: Bow-tee-ah da-ree-oh
6Size: 12-15cm
6Origin: Northern India, Bangladesh and Bhutan
6
Habitat: Found in fast-flowing, clear mountain streams
with rocky structures and bedrock substrate
6Tank size: 120x45x45cm for five fish
6Water requirements: 6.5-7.5 pH, 3-10癏
6Temperature: 23-26癈
6Temperament: Active, playful and peaceful
6Feeding: Omnivore ? sinking pellets, wafers and algae
wafers, frozen and livefoods
6Availability and cost: Quite common; around �
160 l+
The most well-known Botia is B. lohachata. Once known as
the Pakistani loach, now it?s mostly referred to as the Yo-Yo
loach due to its juvenile patterning. The Yo-Yo has been in
the hobby alongside Clown loach for several decades.
It?s easy to confuse B. lohachata and B. almorhae; as
juveniles they are easier to determine, but hectic dark
markings on a whiteish/grey background in both adults
make identi?cation dif?cult. However, the two species will
shoal together and are of similar size, so proper ID is not
of great importance to the hobbyist.
240 l+
The Queen loach you?ll see in the shops is visually the
closest match for Clown loaches ? the stripes are bolder
than the Candy loach and closer in colour than the
Burmese loach. As with the others though, the immature
?sh from the shop will change in appearance as they
mature. In this case, the golden bars will shrink until
they?re ?pin-stripe? thin. This species is said to appreciate
or need greater numbers for a community. Some advise 10
as a base group, while others who have kept just three say
they?ve been active, healthy and non-aggressive.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 19
OPINION
NATHAN HILL & STEVE BAKER
Part of the fun of ?shkeeping is the joy of spawning your own
livestock. But is it always good to bring so many young into
the world? While it feels like the right thing to do, is it really?
H
ow do you view home
breeding? Is it a good
thing that helps out with
conservation, or is it
something surplus to
requirements, populating
the hobby and the industry
with heaps of undesirable
fish it never wanted or needed?
SB: I?d say it has to be a bit of both and it all
depends on the amount of thought the
breeder has put in to sourcing, breeding and
raising their ?sh. As a good example, just look
at our reader visit this month (see page 38).
Max Pedley has invested in wild-caught rare
broodstock and made a real success of
multiplying them for others to enjoy.
On the other hand, a tank full of incestuous
Jewel or Convict cichlids is rarely of use to
anyone, comes around
too often, and causes an
ethical problem of what
to do with them.
SB: I honestly don?t think it would hit the
wild-caught sector. Just maybe, if British ?sh
breeders went to town on breeding Cardinals,
it would make an impact on sales of farmed
Cardinals imported from Singapore to the UK.
That could only be a good thing in my eyes as
it could cut pollution from transportation and
create industry at home.
The fact that we ?nd it harder to breed
tropical ?sh as economically as any tropical
country means I can?t see us pushing the
boundaries by breeding rarer ?sh we?ve now
collected from the wild, or even challenging
the major producers of the most basic ?sh.
NH: But my angle is that the current situation
in South America is the lesser of two evils.
Without the revenue gained from catching
Cardinals, the locals would have to ?nd
money elsewhere ? slash-and-burn forest
clearance for crops, or the
likes of gold-panning. These
would be catastrophic.
Regarding the costeffectiveness of breeding in
the UK, I think it?s only a
matter of time. Fossil fuels
are getting more expensive,
and with the high-end stuff
like Zebra plecs, it?s now
more cost-effective to breed
these ?sh in the UK, than it
is to wild import. I think
more species will soon follow.
But environmental concerns aside, how do
you feel about the potential for messed-up
bloodlines? If we cut to the chase, a decent
understanding of genetics and inbreeding is
essential to any successful breeding enterprise,
and that?s not the easiest thing to grasp.
And then again, there?s good money to be
made from deliberately spawning hybrids ?
just look at the Flowerhorn piece on page 22.
Assuming more and more people bred at
home, and put those hybrid ?sh up for sale
online, as is incredibly likely, what would be
the hobby rami?cations of that?
JACQUES PORTAL
Ideally, I?d like
to see a new
medication on
the shelves, a
?sh-suitable
contraceptive
NH: Yeah, but my
question is, what is the
wider impact of
spawning ?sh at home?
For example, I know that
when it comes to
wild-caught ?sh, there
are some parts of the
world where habitat conservation is
intertwined with ?sh collection ? species
are caught and sold, and the revenue this
generates is enough to stop destructive
farming practices.
Say, for example, hundreds of hobbyists
found a really easy way to breed Cardinal
tetras at home, and ?ooded the market with
hundreds of thousands of them. Would that
not risk stopping demand for wild-caught ?sh,
in turn giving the collectors in South America
no incentive to continue habitat conservation?
Even if we could make the hobby selfsustaining, would that be the right thing to do?
NH: I think you have more con?dence in
legislation controlling hybrids and poorquality ?sh than I do. But yes, I quite agree
that accidental fry are a problem that needs
addressing. It might be a pleasant surprise for
someone to ?nd that the pair of Jewel cichlids
they mistakenly bought for a community tank
have just bred, but then there?s the issue of
what to do with that couple-of-hundred fry.
And there?s the extra whammy that a
hobbyist doesn?t always value the urgency of
culling runts and deformities ? they feel bad
about destroying substandard fry, and so the
result is a surge of bad ?sh being rehomed.
With that in mind, should casual aquarists be
actively looking to avoid breeding? In my own
experiences, breeding ?sh was rewarding, but
far from essential to my hobby. But then, my
experience did help in my public aquarium
days, when spawning for conservation.
NEIL HEPWORTH
SB: Even with a highly ef?cient breeding
facility powered by solar and wind power,
I can?t see the UK producing ?trops? more
economically than a country that needs no
heating or insulation, just mud ponds and
good managment essentially.
Moving on to genetics and the muddle that
is hybrids, that worries me indeed. As far as
amateur home breeders are concerned, I?d be
just as worried about health issues going
undetected, let alone genetic troubles.
Look at the puppy farms; aside from all the
genetic issues caused by irresponsible
breeding, many puppies die from the viruses ,
infections or de?ciencies they leave the puppy
farm with, but new legislation is being brought
in in an attempt to deal with this. On a
business level, the new regulations should
help quash the same issue arising with ?sh.
I?m more worried about people that don?t
aim to breed. Accidental fry tend to come
from less-desirable ?sh or ?sh with little
value, like common livebearers. The
owners gave it no thought, so
the breeding pair came
from the same tank
(often meaning they
are siblings), and the
fry were fed on
crushed-up ?ake,
so weren?t offered
the nutrition
needed to rear
strong, healthy ?sh.
As for hybrids,
don?t get me started,
but it?s just another
area where humans do
what they want to please
themselves, and don?t consider
what?s right for mother nature and the
planet we rely on.
On the other hand, there are some excellent
?shbreeders with integrity in the UK.
SB: I?m sure you?re right. Most hobbyists
aren?t breeding savvy and some might feel a
sense of pride they raised a deformed ?sh ?
as if they?ve saved it, rather than realising the
error of maintaining genetically weak ?sh. I
suppose it doesn?t hurt if that ?sh is never
bred from, but that?s a big ?if? in this situation.
Should casual hobbyists actively avoid
breeding? I think most will, given the choice.
When selling common livebearers and
known easy breeders like Jewel cichlids, I?ve
always warned people about breeding issues
? overstocking the tank, being unable to ?nd
homes for them etc ? and most then want to
avoid it by keeping male-only tanks or
picking alternative species. But
how many shop assistants give
buyers all this information?
Ideally I?d like to see a
new medication on the
shelves, a ?sh-suitable
contraceptive. I think
it would be a huge
success with guppy,
molly and platy
keepers. It might even
encourage me to keep
Jewel cichlids again!
NH: While a water-soluble
contraceptive would be great
for hobbyists, the obvious danger is
that it would eventually end up being ?ushed
into our waterways and affect native stocks.
There are already strong links between the
decline of our native frogs and the use of human
oral contraceptives. As I recall, the link goes
that as they are passed out through the body
into the sewage system, then back into our
rivers, they affect the tadpoles? development,
leading to a severely skewed sex ratio.
I guess there are two important things for
readers to take away here. First, there are
consequences for breeding ?sh without any
forethought. While conservation may be a
great incentive, any aquarist who doesn?t
understand genetics and inbreeding could
cause more problems than solutions. And
second, if a ?sh is that easy to breed, chances
are the industry has plenty already.
Do you have an opinion on home breeding that you?d like to share, or perhaps a
topic you would like to see discussed? If so, you can find us at
www.facebook.com/pfkmag or email editorial@practicalfishkeeping.co.uk
INSET: Cute,
but what will
you do with
200 baby
Convicts?
SPECIES SHOWCASE
Flowerhorn cichlid
Flowerhorns?
Who are
It?s the most contentious cichlid in the world, with fans on one side and
haters on the other. Meet the underground world of the Flowerhorn.
WORDS: NATHAN HILL
prides itself on bloodline purity and
conservation efforts. Mention the
name in the wrong company and
you?ll prompt a hostile response.
The ?sh is a hybrid ? though of
exactly what is shrouded in mystery.
There are six potential ?sh on
the ingredients list: Redhead
cichlids, Paraneetroplus synspilus;
Red devils, Amphilophus labiatus;
Red terrors, Cichlasoma festae; Midas
cichlids, Amphilophus citrinellus;
Trimacs, Cichlasoma trimaculatum;
and a ?sh that is already hybridised
? the Parrot cichlid (itself of not
wholly certain origins).
At a glance, they are easy to
identify. They are squat but thickset,
their colours outshine almost
anything of natural origin, and
they tend to have long and trailing
?ns, especially dorsal and anal.
And then there?s the almost
hydrocephalic head, an
obvious and distorted nuchal
hump that de?nes the breed.
The feature is so prominent it
has its own name ? the kok
? and it gives the ?sh much of
its ?spiritual? value.
attitude. In some parts, they?re the
new king of aquarium ?sh, in a
way that would make you think that
Discus are outdated and ugly.
To their spiritual fans, a very real
and sizeable phenomenon, the
Flowerhorn is a symbol of luck,
prized amongst advocates of feng
shui ? a type of Chinese geomancy.
Around the world you?ll ?nd
Flowerhorn tanks positioned with
guidance from feng shui compasses
? luopan ? in the hopes of bringing
the owner wealth or improved
career prospects.
To aquarium purists, on the other
hand, they are abominations. They
are seen as mutts, a ?Heinz 57
varieties? approach to ?sh, and an
affront to a
hobby
that
Origins & strains
SHUTTERSTOCK
T
RYING TO pin down a
price on a Flowerhorn
can be hard. Valuations
can be whimsically
plucked from the air by
a breeder or trader,
based on some
nebulous quality. I?ve
been researching them for weeks,
and the nuances are hard to follow.
What I do know is that much of the
Flowerhorn scene carries with it a
closely guarded, pseudo-underworld
quality, where dealers can be so
secretive that sometimes it takes
effort to get them to tell you
somethig as simple as how much a
?sh costs.
What is a Flowerhorn? To their
aquarist fans, Flowerhorns are
personable pet ?sh, with intense
colours, pronounced and
exaggerated body shapes, and a
giant head that?s choc-full of
The ?sh?s origins date back to the
early 1990s, though it?s safe to say
that some were bred beforehand,
and probably more by accident than
design. By ?94, Taiwanese breeders
were mixing Red devils, Trimacs
and Parrot cichlids to create the ?rst
The huge ?kok? growths are
associated with prosperity, luck
and longevity within feng
shui, making a bigger kok
all the more prized.
A giant head
that?s choc-full
of attitude
Above: caption,
caption, caption
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 23
SPECIES SHOWCASE
Flowerhorn cichlid
FACTFILE
FLOWERHORN
6Scientific name: None, though often
made an honorary Cichlasoma
6Pronunciation: Sick-lah-so-mah
6Origin: Created in Thailand, Taiwan
and Malaysia initially
6Habitat: None, entirely man made
6Size: Varies according to strain.
Average 15-25cm, some rare types
reaching 30cm+
6Tank size: 200 l minimum for one fish
6Water requirements: Prefers neutral
to alkaline, hardish water; 7.0 to
8.0 pH, hardness 16癏 or more
6Temperature: 26-30癈
6Feeding: Omnivore, with specialist
dried diets available
6Availability and cost: Increasingly
appearing in stores, most sales still
online; prices starting from � for
juveniles up to several hundred pounds
for pedigree fish
200 l+
24
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
doubt that, then just look up some
of the many social media groups
created in their honour. Almost
every other post will be a ?What
type is this?? thread, frequently
followed by disputes in the
comments section as each expert
vies to pin down an exact name.
Keeping Flowerhorns at home
Part of their popularity is their
hardiness. As tough ?sh go, they
possess a superheroic resilience ?
there are even rumours of ?sh being
?lost? in transit and turning up almost
a month later at their destination,
still alive in their bags.
The Kamfa
type flowerhorn
is frequently
offered in UK
stores.
SHUTTERSTOCK
strains ? the Hua Luo Han, or simply
?Flowerhorn?. These were the
foundations of the strains to follow.
If you?re hoping for a simple guide
to who?s who in Flowerhorn circles,
then I apologise. It just isn?t that
straightforward. Flowerhorns are a
bit like the dog world; while there are
pedigrees, there are far more mutts.
The difference with Flowerhorns is
that every new cross is given a
name of its own, as breeders try to
establish fresh and lucrative strains.
At the core you have seven breeds,
or eight if you include an early
Flowerhorn forerunner, the King
Kong parrot ?sh. King Kongs are
rare in the UK (I only saw my ?rst
one this month) and likely an unholy
mix of Red devil and Parrot cichlid
? think of a giant Parrot cichlid with
a pronounced nuchal hump.
The other seven, and the names
you?ll see the most, are Kamfa (also
called the Classic Kamfa), King
Kamfa, Zhen Zhu, Golden Monkey
(also Kamalau), Kamfamalau, Thai
silk, and Fader (or Golden base).
Don?t get too hung up on that
core list. The scene has exploded,
and from these ?sh hundreds of
individual strains now exist, in every
combination imaginable. If you
Regarding tankmates,
it?s safest not to bother.
Flowerhorns are just so
aggressive that injuries or
deaths are assured
SHUTTERSTOCK
traders is 55 US
gallons, which
equates to just
over 200 litres
though the be
?sh are found
larger volume
this ? 600 litres is
typical of a real
?horn a?cionado.
Plenty of swimming
space is needed to
avoid obese ?sh, which
they will become if left to
a sedentary life with rich
foods. In particular,
development of the ?kok? is
Head ornaments
can be huge.
SHUTTERSTOCK
A tank for them can be as
decorated or as sparse as you
choose, and they seem unfazed
either way. A typical set-up will be as
barren as ?ve panes of glass, a
sturdy ?lter, heater and lighting.
That?s it. There?s some argument
that keeping them with substrates
and decoration helps to increase the
colours, though this is contested by
some keepers who argue that as the
?sh are prone to damaging
themselves on furnishings, an
emptier tank is the safer option.
Tank size is important, as they will
not ?ourish in too small a set-up.
The minimal size as touted by most
restricted in smaller set-ups.
Based on the Flowerhorn?s genetic
origins, you want to replicate
something for slightly alkaline,
slightly hardwater Central American
cichlids, so aim for a pH between
7.5 and 8.0, with a hardness from
16癏 upwards. For many of us in
the UK, that will be close to our
tapwater, but if you?re in a softwater
area, consider either slow-buffering
your water by using something like
crushed cockleshell in a bag in the
?lter (or go really old school and
have it as a substrate), or use an
off-the-shelf RO remineral product.
Frankly, though, if you want the
?sh at its best, start with RO water
(you can usually buy this at your
local aquatics store) and add a little
extra remineral to it until you get the
desired hardness. Don?t be shy of
big water changes ? 25% weekly
should be the minimum, though
35% may be better.
Note that speci?cations for water
quality will vary depending on your
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 25
SPECIES SHOWCASE
Flowerhorn cichlid
source, and there?s no set consensus.
Some keepers suggest you can go
as low as 6.8pH, with a hardness
below 10癏.
Flowerhorns do like it hot, and
while they survive just ?ne at
20-30癈, some keepers report the
best results in the 28-30癈 mark,
though for peace of mind it would
be worth speaking to your own
dealer about the optimal conditions
recommended. Trust me when I say
every breeder has their ?Goldilocks?
formula they will want to share ? not
too hot, not too cold, just right.
Feeding a Flowerhorn is a total
ABOVE: Note
the marking
and shape
differences
between the
female (left) and
male.
Environmental Impact
SHUTTERSTOCK
Because Flowerhorns are bred for their desirable traits,
substandard and sterile ?sh ? of which there are many per
spawn ? are often discarded, and that all too often means
into Asian waterways. Once released, they are aggressive and
ravenous. Stomach content analyses of feral ?sh from Asian
lakes reveal vast amounts of molluscs, ?sh and ?sh eggs,
causing ecological pressure on native species.
Despite
hybridisation,
the cichlid
shape is still
pronounced.
26
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
mine?eld. A simple browse around
the shops or online will turn up
dozens of Flowerhorn-speci?c
foods, and while some of these
seem founded on sound principles
? high levels of astaxanthin, for
example, will dramatically boost
colours ? some are more ?out there?.
Most dietary confusion seems to
stem around how to grow a large
?kok? on the head, with companies
claiming that high protein formulae
are the way forward. Given that the
main constituents of the kok are fat
and water, this is open to debate.
As well as dry foods, Flowerhorns
thrive on fresh, frozen and freezedried diets. Flowerhorn keepers like
to make up their own ?secret?
recipes, based around the likes of
fresh prawn and shrimp (excellent
for colour-enhancing carotenoids),
?sh pieces, beef heart, mussel,
cockle and greenfoods. Interestingly,
feral ?sh that have been caught from
the wild and analysed for gut
contents tend not to show any
greenery in their stomachs. Still,
those in tanks bene?t from dry foods
containing spirulina, so ensure some
is added to the diet.
Regarding tankmates, it?s safest not
to bother. Flowerhorns are just so
aggressive that injuries or deaths are
practically assured. Even adding male
and female Flowerhorns together
requires planning and observation
if violence is to be avoided.
Breeding Flowerhorns
An unexpected angle to
Flowerhorns is their fertility. Many
crossbreeds are outright sterile,
but this problem doesn?t blight the
?horns, and with a little effort, a
fertile couple will happily
reproduce in the home setting.
Males lag behind on fertility
stakes, and you?ll need to try out
many males in a spawning scenario
before ?nding one that can
produce viable milt. For females
this is much less a problem.
A cautionary note ? the market
is niche, and you?ll not make your
fortune from Flowerhorns whether
you can produce a unique strain
or not.
To spawn them, you?ll need a
pair. At 10 months, when sexually
mature, it?s usually only males
with a kok, while females have a
traditional cichlid head shape,
with some exceptions. However,
not all males develop pronounced
koks either, so you may need to
vent the ?sh (or ask someone
competent to do it for you). Held
upside down, the vent (just behind
the anus) of a female will be
rounded and up to the same size as
the anal opening, while that of a
male is smaller, slightly ?V? shaped
and pointing towards the anal ?n.
Alas, it takes something of a
trained eye to get the hang of this.
What?s in a Flowerhorn?
While it is hard to pin down exactly which species are used to make
Flowerhorns, the ?sh here have all been named as potential ?ingredients?. To
confuse things further, it?s unclear if these ?sh are cross bred to make a ?protohybrid? which is then crossed again until the breeder
ends up with something Flowerhorn shaped. Given
the markings, the Trimac cichlid seems an obvious
addition, while the Red terror seems to have
less of an in?uence on the ?nal ?product?.
Redhead cichlid
Trimac
Paot cichlid
Red teor
Spawning
Introducing the male to the female
takes time. Divide the male?s tank
with a mesh divider (not glass, as
you want smells to be able to
transport across), and put the
female on the other side, away
from him. After three days,
remove the divider to see how
they behave together. If he?s
aggressive, abort mission and put
the divider back in, and try again
after another three days. Keep this
up for four or ?ve times, but if he?s
aggressive every time, you might
want to concede defeat and try a
different female.
Spawning takes place on a
rounded dish. Some breeders use
clay dishes like those sold to go
under household plant pots, but
professional breeders report low
Midas cichlid
Red devil
27
SPECIES SHOWCASE
Flowerhorn cichlid
Weird
but True
The head
ornament is
given a category
based on its size
and density.
Hard kok
Semi kok
Waterhead
28
success with these. By all accounts,
the clay becomes a home for
problematic bacteria, leading to egg
deaths, and so commercial breeders
tend to use plates instead.
Lighting should be lowered
through the spawning period, but
not dark. An LED light set to
30-50% should do the job. Within
12 hours of spawning, you should be
able to gauge egg fertility based on
the colour, as the eggs will start to
turn white if infertile after this time.
Around 24 hours after spawning has
taken place and the eggs laid, it?s
usually worthwhile removing the
parents to another tank. After 48
hours you should start to see tails
appearing on the eggs. Complete
hatching can take three days.
You need do nothing for these
?rst few days as the yolks will see
the fry through, but after this, start
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
feeding with newly hatched (live)
brineshrimp. They develop fast and
need lots of food, with some breeders
feeding up to 10 times daily. As they
mature, move through larger and
larger foods ? after a couple of weeks
they?ll be able to take Daphnia.
But, as I?ve already said, shifting
your Flowerhead fry could be tricky.
Online there appear to be more
sellers than buyers, and you?ll ?nd
that a lot of traditional retailers will
think of them as monstrosities. You
spawn at your own peril.
As for pricing ?sh for sale, it seems
to be a case of pick a number and
hope. In my searches, I?ve seen
starting rates of � for bland-looking
?sh, to well over �0 for attractive
adults. The difference between them?
Some were brighter with bigger
heads. But I?ll confess; they didn?t look
like �0 worth of difference to me.
Where in the house?
If you?re practicing feng shui, you?ll want to house your ?sh
accordingly. In keeping with a luopan compass, these
positions will bring you?
NORTH
Increased career prospects
NORTH-WEST
NORTH-EAST
Increased wealth prospects
EAST
Increased family
well-being
prospects
Lines over the
head are known
as ?worm pearls?.
SHUTTERSTOCK
WEST
SOUTH-WEST
SOUTH-EAST
Increased wealth prospects
SOUTH
SHUTTERSTOCK
Flowerhorn pair
spawning over a
clay plate.
SHUTTERSTOCK
Colour,
bodyshape and
attitude make
for a popular
?sh.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 29
TANK COMMUNITY
Letters
Win
FISHSCIENCE AQUARIUM FOOD
The writer of our Letter of the month will win a 250ml pot of their
choice from this quality range of Fish Science food, which uses
natural ingredients. Email: editorial@practicalfishkeeping.co.uk
Your letters, your thoughts and
your experiences shared.
HAPPY FISH ARE
WHAT MATTERS
I?ve been catching up on my issues
of PFK and have just read Jeremy
Gay?s ?Tailpiece? column (Practical
Fishkeeping, June 2018) and felt I
had to email. I?ve been keeping ?sh
on and off now for 35 years and have
to say it is becoming a scienti?c art!
My ?rst ?sh was a gold?sh I won at
a fair when I was nine, and I kept
him successfully for about 23 years
with minimal fuss and equipment.
I now have a modest 70 l tropical
tank and after looking at all of the
tanks in the magazines and online,
I almost feel inadequate as I?m told
I need to have natural environments
and gin-clear water. I nearly
became obsessed with having a
beautiful tank, almost to the
detriment of my ?sh.
After sitting myself down and
asking what I really wanted
from my tank, I decided I would
be more than happy with
ammonia-free water and healthy ?sh.
So, I may not have crystal clear
water, but my ?sh are happy ? and
it?s my tank and I?m proud of it!
Well done, Jeremy, for highlighting
this as I was beginning to wonder
whether it was all still worth it. And
actually, of course, it is.
Love the new-look magazine,
especially the road trips. If you are
ever in Durham, Fish Alive are well
worth a visit. An honest local ?sh
shop with a good stock of marines,
and often all the ?sh you feature in
your magazine. The staff are fab too,
and always ready to help, even on
the end of a phone.
Carol Thackray, Co Durham
DECOR DISCUSSIONS
I?ve just read your ?Ethical debate?
piece in the September issue.
Firstly, I love this section of the
30
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
Leer of
the Month
TOP: It?s easy
to obsess over
a pretty looking
tank.
BELOW:
Tank decoration
is big business
these days.
magazine. One of the recent pieces
led to a debate between me and a
friend about whether it was right to
euthanase ?sh. He?s holds pro-life
views, and it turns out that extends
to ?sh too. His view was, if it?s still
alive, it still has a chance. I couldn?t
quite agree with him, but it provoked
a wonderfully friendly, albeit
passionate, discussion ? all sparked
by your piece.
Anyway, to September?s debate on
the subject of tank decor. As my
partner always says about polarising
views, the answer is probably
somewhere in the middle?
My community tank is home to
dark sand, a black background and
plenty of plants. But it does have a
couple of quirks that re?ect my
personality ? a T. rex skeleton head
ornament (which plants have grown
into and my bristlenose uses as a
hide), and a Lego diver, held on a
baseplate buried into the sand. At
?rst glance, the tank looks like a
natural community tank. Only when
you look closer do my interests peek
through (to clarify, my favourite ?lm
is ?Jurassic Park?).
There?s also an opportunity, as
ever, for education. When my
nine-year-old daughter wanted to set
up a micro tank, I made sure she
did it properly. We researched
appropriate ?sh, water conditions
and so on for the tank, and the kind
of things the ?sh would like.
Eventually when she was offered the
choice of ornaments, she chose
natural over garish, claiming it
would be better for this ?sh. With
one exception... a small Sebastian
ornament from ?The Little Mermaid?.
I think it?s important that when we
keep ?sh (or indeed any animal), we
Write to us at Practical Fishkeeping, Bauer Media, Media House,
Lynchwood Business Park, Peterborough, Cambridgeshire PE2 6EA
Email us at editorial@
practical?shkeeping.co.uk
WE ASKED...
Hybrid fish ? are you a fan of
them or not?
Follow us at www.facebook.
com/PFKmag
� YEAH, THEY?RE COOL.
� NO WAY, NATURAL FOR ME!
realise we are, in fact, playing God.
And with great power comes great
responsibility! It?s our moral duty to
make sure the ?sh are healthy and
happy, and that obviously bene?ts
us too (mainly through our wallets).
If that means providing a natural
environment for them, then that?s
what we should do. But I don?t think
there?s anything wrong with having a
sense of humour as we unleash our
genesis-like potential.
Leigh Austin, email
HOME DELIVERY
Thank you for the ethical debate in
the October issue of PFK on buying
?sh online. I have been debating
with myself over whether or not to
purchase ?sh over the internet.
My problem with going to a store is
that I don?t have a car, so it means
persuading friends who aren?t really
into the hobby to give up their time,
or going by public transport and
hoping the journey is not too
strenuous for any ?sh I might buy.
I wondered if you might consider
doing a review of the mail order/
internet companies in a future
article along the same lines as the
road-trip series. It would mean
actually buying some ?sh, of course,
but this expense would be offset by
your not paying for fuel.
Martin Harrison, Warwick
requesting a replacement or refund.
The dealer refused a refund because
he said I had waited two days (untrue).
He also blamed my tank water
quality. I did a 30% water change
and a water test two days before.
I sent a photo showing the surviving
?sh feeding at the surface. He stated
Discus are bottom feeders and were
at the top due to bad water conditions
and lack of an airstone! He also
suggested I allowed the ?sh to jump
out of the tank. He has threatened
to blacklist me with other dealers.
I include a photo of the three
remaining healthy ?sh alongside my
existing large Discus, which I?ve had
for a number of years. Two of the
Discus have poor colour, nothing like
the vibrant colours on the website. I
hope these will improve as they grow.
The terms and conditions on the
website state they do not guarantee
live ?sh sent by post, stating this is
?industry standard?, which is not true.
So if buying ?sh by post, check the
terms and conditions ?rst. Better
still, make the journey to a dealer?s
premises and buy larger ?sh that
have developed their ?nal colours.
The email exchanges between me
and the dealer are akin to the Monty
Python ?dead parrot? sketch. It was
YOU SAID...
20%
80%
NATURAL WINS!
80%
also pointed out to me that my
?existing large Discus? was a Severum.
David Webster, via email
BELOW: Buying
?sh by mail order
isn?t always a
smooth process.
DISAPPOINTING DISCUS
I was interested to read your debate
about buying ?sh mail order.
I bought four small Discus from a
prominent website. They arrived on
Friday morning and were all alive. In
the evening I noticed one had died.
I emailed the dealer the next day,
NATHAN REPLIES: Well, that sounds
like an unhelpful seller indeed!
While livestock guarantees are a
little vague, you?d do well to speak to
either trading standards or Citizens
Advice to see where you stand on a
loss in such a short space of time.
On the ?ipside, on this occasion the
retailer is denied the usual course
of action too ? when a ?sh dies, a
retailer will almost always request a
water sample to test before a
replacement will be given. In absence
of that, I can see why they might be
stand-of?sh. I?ll confess, this isn?t
an angle I?d thought about during
the original magazine discussion.
Admittedly, when it comes to
Discus suppliers, there are only a
couple I trust unconditionally ?
Devotedly Discus in Polegate and
Chen?s Discus in Doddington. Having
seen ?sh from both, I can vouch for
their outstanding condition.
STARTING WITH CLUE 5 GUESS THE FISH USING AS FEW CLUES AS POSSIBLE
5
Wild specimens of this fish escaped
from captivity in North America in the
1960s and have been a feral problem
there ever since. It?s a masterful escape
artist ? the challenge is to keep it tanked.
4
Adapted gills allow this fish to
breathe atmospheric air. As long as
the gills remain wet, it can survive for
up to 31 hours out of water. It can even
breathe through its skin.
3
It has a venomous sting located in
its dorsal and pectoral spines. While
small specimens and Asian types have
a bee-like sting, some African varieties
have been known to hospitalise people.
2
The fish grows to 30-45cm maximum
in aquaria. Because it grows so
quickly and feeds so ravenously, it?s
become a prime choice for aquaculture
and the majority are farmed for food.
1
In the wild it will often walk from one
river to another, using its pectoral
fins as anchors as the body twists from
side to side. It?s an unusual catfish,
being energetic even in daylight hours.
(Answer on Tailpiece, page 114)
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 31
SPECIES SHOWCASE
Leopard bush?sh
Loving the
LEOPAR
PHOTOS: FRANK TIEGLER / HIPPOCAMPUS BILDARCHIV
In its striking spotted coat,
the exotic Leopard bushfish
is a stunning and
stealthy predator.
TIM SMITH
An ichthyologist and
oddball aquarist,
Tim has been
involved with fish
for 15 years, from
retail to academia.
32
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
Leopard markings
break up the
bush?sh?s outline.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 33
SPECIES SHOWCASE
Leopard bush?sh
N
OTHING SAYS
?Africa? quite like a
?sh that adorns itself
with leopard pattern.
And no ?sh better
suits this theme than
the Leopard
bush?sh, Ctenopoma
acutirostre, who?s practically begging
to be added to your oddball African
set-up. Although outwardly curious
and cryptic-looking, the Leopard will
?t in quite well among many other
species of ?sh, so long as you follow
a few simple rules.
Just one among many species of
Ctenopoma, this dappled denizen is
probably the bush?sh you?re most
likely to stumble across at your local
aquatics shop. And for good reason
? most of the Leopard?s cousins are
rather drab, even if they do bring a
piece of personality to the table.
Sadly for them, looks sell, leaving us
with a relative abundance of this
spotted kitten of the bush?sh world.
Novice oddball keepers could
easily label the Leopard bush?sh
as a bit Leaf ?sh-like. For those
unfamiliar with them, the South
American Leaf ?sh, Monocirrhus
polyacanthus, is a highly specialised
predator that near-perfectly mimics
a leaf for ambush purposes, much to
the misfortune of the haplessly
unaware ?sh in their surroundings.
Once settled, the
personality of the
Leopard bush?sh
really shines through.
FACTFILE
LEOPARD BUSHFISH
6Scientific name: Ctenopoma
acutirostre
6Origin: Througout the middle Congo
and major tributaries in the Republic of
the Congo, Democratic Republic of the
Congo, and Central African Republic
6Habitat: Slow-moving backwaters,
tributaries and flooded forests, heavy
leaf litter and overhanging foliage
6Size: 15cm
6Tank size: At least 120x30x30cm
6Water requirements: Soft water
preferred, 5.0-7.5 pH, 2-12癏
6Temperature: 20-28癈
6Feeding: Mainly larger frozen foods
? Krill, Mysis shrimp, prawns etc.
Some may accept larger dried pellets
6Cost: Around �each
Ctenopoma means
?comb-cover?, refering
to the gill cover
34
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
108 l+
While occasionally available for
Hide and seek
aquaria, Leaf ?sh sometimes struggle You may need to squint into the
to adapt to captivity, and very rarely dealer?s tank to ?nd your Leopard
lose their taste for live foods.
Bush?sh specimens, since on arrival
It would seem that Leopard
they?re forgivably shy. They?ll be
bush?sh have found a loophole in
hiding behind or under whatever
evolution?s copyright laws, doing a
they can ?nd, but can often be
pretty good job of mimicking this
spotted poking their heads around
same leafy charade. And,
the corner to see what?s going
fortunately for all parties,
on. You can expect similar
they settle in aquaria far
behaviour when you ?rst
better than their
introduce them to their
South American
new home, so be an
You
might
come
across
other
counterparts, and
accommodating
Ctenopoma
species
for
sale
?
happily take on
host. Offer plenty
they have similar care
dead food to boot.
of hiding places
The real wow factor
and keep the lighting
requirements to the
in both these species,
to a minimum for the
Leopard.
though, are their
?rst week or two so your
protrusible mouths. In the
Ctenopoma can ?nd their ?ns.
less-than-split second it takes to
I?ve only seen a handful of
engulf their prey, the jawbones of
these ?sh reaching 15cm in aquaria,
these ?shes are extended outwards,
with most hovering just below that.
allowing the predators to strike
Given their moderate size and
from a little further away than their
reserved nature, you needn?t fret
prey could appreciate. Their poor
about providing voluminous living
victims have as little as a quarter of
conditions. What?s important is
a second to react.
providing an enriching environment.
Protrusible mouth parts
make the bush?sh an
excellent predator.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 35
SPECIES SHOWCASE
SHUTTERSTOCK
Leopard bush?sh
Wild Leopard bush?sh make their
home among tangles of plants,
woodwork and sunken leaves, with
each new nook and cranny
potentially offering refuge or a meal.
Taking a page from nature?s book,
try to create an environment that
will let this curious ?sh explore a
similarly elaborate environment.
You?ll ?nd yourself enjoying your
inquisitive pet?s explorative activities
and. as an added bonus, you?ll be
more likely to see your bush?sh in
an environment where it knows it
can comfortably retreat from the
limelight if it wants to.
Adding ?oating plants to provide
surface cover will be a big con?dence
booster for your Leopards. Not only
will it dim any excessive lighting
from above, it will also help allay
fear of predators striking from above
the waterline. Make sure you leave
some gaps, though. Ctenopoma are
what we call obligate air-breathers,
requiring surface-derived oxygen
owing to their reduced gill surface
area ? an unfortunate consequence
of them having that otherwise
handy organ, the labyrinth.
CONGO
Backwaters and flooded
forest floors offer the perfect
hunting grounds for the
Leopard bushfish. Shallow
waters minimise the chance
of predation and overhanging
foliage harbours many a
tasty morsel.
Leopard fare
To draw out the infamous ambush
behaviour of your Leopard, you
don?t have to go as far as offering
live food, which I feel should be
reserved for only the fussiest of
feeders. Most Bush?sh will treat
nearly any food item entering the
tank as a curious object, with a slow,
cautious approach, followed by a
rapid strike. But once comfy and
settled, they?re remarkably cichlidlike in their demeanour, anxiously
waiting at the surface of the tank
when you approach.
When choosing a diet for your pet,
lean towards ?sh, shrimp and
insect-based foods. Keep the portions
large enough to grab their attention,
but small enough to be taken in one
go. You can try throwing in pellets
on occasion, but more often than
not they won?t tickle the tastebuds
of our would-be predator. I prefer
not to waste my dry foods on them,
but if your ?sh will take dry food, be
sure to mix up the diet with fresher
foodstuffs as well.
Bear in mind that Ctenopoma won?t
pay much attention to smaller food
Calm or nervous?
When spooked, a bush?sh will darken its
body, turning a rich mahogany colour.
As the ?sh calms, the base body colour
becomes pale as milky tea with splotches.
The latin name
acutirostre
translates to
?sharp snout?.
gapes often seen in other predators,
items, and should your offering
you absolutely cannot take the risk
produce a fragmented mess, you?ll
of adding any sort of ?sh smaller
need someone on clean-up duties.
Either simply net or siphon out what than the length of this ambush
predator?s head.
remains, or have a handy tankmate
The same goes for invertebrates,
on standby to do the dirty work.
which will only serve as temporary
Some smaller species of Synodontis,
tankmates and nutritional
or substrate-oriented cichlids such
supplements for your Leopard.
as Pelvicachromis are your better
choices, but keep in mind that
bossier species might have a little
Leopard litters
too much character for your
As they hail from the same
bush?sh to handle.
lineage as gouramis and
An appropriate
Bettas, like them
?ltration system
Ctenopoma have a
should be employed
labyrinth organ.
The
Bushfish?s
relatives
to deal with the
While this means
Microctenopoma
are
just
as
high-protein diet of
they exhibit the
easy
to
care
for,
but
have
a
your pets, but ensure
same neat trick ?
much higher success
the theme of any
being able to take in
rate in breeding.
current produced is
oxygen from above the
more ?sluggish backwater?
water?s surface ? they differ
than ?jacuzzi torrent?.
from their distant relatives in
So long as you keep any boisterous that they don?t create a bubble nest.
species out of the picture, there?s
Nor is it apparent that they provide
just one more rule to keep regarding any form of parental care.
Ctenopoma housemates, and it?s an
I say ?apparent? because, hey, the
easy one to ?gure out given the
aquarium world isn?t always fully
Leopard?s predatory nature. Smaller
clued up on every breeding mystery
?sh ? especially cylindrically shaped
the hobby has to offer. There isn?t
species among the tetras, danios,
much literature available concerning
and barbs ? will have an awful
reproduction in the Ctenopoma
night?s sleep if you attempt to keep
genus as a whole, and doubly so for
them alongside Ctenopoma. While
the deeper-bodied clade the
Bush?sh don?t have the cavernous
Leopard bush?sh belongs to.
In the less-than-split
second it takes to engulf
their prey, the jawbones of
these ?shes are extended
outwards, allowing the
predators to strike
From what is known, they are
moderate to highly fecund ?shes,
scattering or depositing their eggs ?
most likely in a safe spot among
dense vegetation ? where they are
left to develop. In the absence of
parental care, it?s advisable to
remove potentially hungry adults
away from the eggs and resultant fry,
which should be offered only the
smallest of live foods.
Leopards aren?t antisocial ?sh
either. That?s not to say you?ll see a
tightly bound school parading
around your tank, but they?re
de?nitely not averse to having some
of their own kind around to form a
loose group with.
In theory, this should make it a
little easier for them to pair up
themselves, should any anabantid
enthusiast out there take up the task
of making parents out of these
stunning-looking spotted predators.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 37
READER TANK
Interview / Max Pedley
MEET THE FISHKEEPEER
ALL PHOTOS: NATHAN HILL
Name: Max Pedley
Age: 20
Occupation: Aquatic store employee
Time in hobby: Five years
Favourite ?sh: Dwarf cichlids
First ?sh bred: Zebra danio
Fish you?d most like to keep: In dreamland, an Arapaima. In the
real world, Apistogramma kullanderi.
38
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
A paion for
CICHLIDS
The future of ?shkeeping looks bright with rising
stars like reader Max Pedley around.
WORDS: STEVE BAKER AND MAX PEDLEY
Apistogramma D25.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 39
READER TANK
Interview / Max Pedley
L
IKE QUITE a few
non-technology-based
hobbies, the average
age of ?shkeepers
has been going
up year after year,
making many of us
worry about what
the future holds for our hobby and
the industry. Thankfully there are
some young shining stars out there
to give us hope and con?dence
that ?shkeeping will continue.
Max Pedley is one of them; he?s
fully immersed in the hobby, the
community and the industry, and
he thoroughly impressed us on
our recent visit.
When it comes to ?shkeeping,
what could you do in an 8ft-square
room sectioned off in a garage?
Max has put it to very good use.
He?s currently managing 50 tanks,
and has many different species at
various stages of breeding. That?s a
lot going on in a small space! I could
stand there and be entertained for
hours (as long as I had a torch).
Max is a ?shkeeper and a ?sh
breeder ? not a biotope, aquascaping
or plant-growing fan ? and his
considerable efforts go towards
sourcing rarities, maintaining the
right conditions, and breeding and
growing on healthy young.
We asked Max how his love of ?sh
came about, what ?oats his boat,
and what he might do next?
So Max, how did the world of
?shkeeping ?rst present itself
to you?
There?ve always been ?sh around
me. Nothing too interesting, but there
was always a gold?sh tank until the
age of 15 when I got my own tropical
set-up and things took off pretty fast.
What did that ?rst set-up
consist of ?
It was a 3ft tank (still in use, currently
in the ?sh room). It had black and
white ?chessboard? gravel, a load
of non-aquatic plants, and housed
Tiger barbs and Black phantom
tetra. It was a steep learning curve,
but the tank was essentially a
success as far as ?sh health went.
BELOW: Max?s
current favourite
? Apistogramma
baenschi.
OPPOSITE
PAGE, RIGHT:
A young Betta
channoides
feeds on
microworms.
OPPOSITE
PAGE, BOTTOM:
Max?s one
planted
aquarium,
surrounded by
There are too many to choose a real favourite and it changes daily
? currently it?s probably my Apistogramma baenschi
40
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
Is there a particular ?sh (or
group of ?sh) that grabbed your
attention and sent your hobby
in a certain direction?
There was always something about
the cichlids I saw in the shops ?
I particularly liked Haplochromis
venustus. I looked into different
cichlids, learned about dwarf types
and that took over really. I?ve been
mad about dwarf cichlids ever since.
You?ve chosen to turn your
hobby into a career (Max is
employed in an aquatics store).
How has that been working out
and do you ?nd you have as
much drive to maintain your
own aquariums after working
with ?sh all day?
It depends on the day. Some days
I come home and all I want to do
is feed around the ?sh house; other
days I look forward to getting in
there after work. Doing as much
maintenance as I can on my days
off work allows me to have the odd
?day off? at home when I need it.
What are your duties at work
and what does your average
day involve?
I get to focus on the livestock mostly,
so I check health, feed, scrub algae,
order livestock and, of course, sell
?sh and products. I enjoy it, I really
love talking with other enthusiasts.
How much time do you have
to put into all of your tanks
each week?
I spend about an hour a day doing
the basics ? checking health, feeding
and so on ? then around ?ve hours
during my days off work so, in total,
around 12 hours a week I?d say.
The north of England seems to
have a good ?shkeeping club
scene ? do you get involved with
any clubs or events?
I attend as many different meets as
possible. There are quite a few on
weekday evenings, so fortunately,
with me working weekends, that
doesn?t get in the way too much. I?m
actually considering setting up
a club myself.
You obviously have a love of
rarer dwarf cichlids. What?s
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 41
READER TANK
Interview / Max Pedley
your most prized species and
how do you track down the
more unusual ones?
There are too many to choose
a real favourite and it changes
daily ? currently it?s probably my
Apistogramma baenschi. Working in
the shop allows me to get hold of
some less-seen breeds, plus the local
community of ?shkeepers keep
each other up to date on which shop
is stocking what, and who has bred
what in the area.
How do you provide the right
water conditions for your
selected species?
The tapwater here is extremely soft;
it comes out with KH of 0, a GH of
1 and a pH of 7.4. I have two water
butts ? one for tapwater that settles
at a pH of 6.8; the other for RO so I
can offer my cichlids and Betta zero
hardness to encourage breeding.
I also use botanicals to add acidity.
Where do you get your
botanicals from?
I?ve had some seed pods kindly
donated from Fishman Aquatics to
see how my dwarf cichlids react to
them. (On our visit, there was an
Apistogramma with young, all sitting
in a Savu pod ? Ed.) Most bits are
collected locally though.
Feeding must be an important
consideration for you, with
conditioning broodstock and
rearing the young. What foods
do you use?
For normal feeding (not
conditioning) I use both Tetra Prima
granules and Tetra Colour Crisps
quite regularly. For frozen foods,
I use bloodworm, brineshrimp
and Daphnia. I often use Tubifex
to initiate spawning, and I grow
my own whiteworms (also for
conditioning) and microworms for
feeding fry.
An old shop rack
is perfect for a
?sh room.
Taeniacara
candidi.
Apistogramma
cf. pertensis.
Where possible, I like the fry I produce to go to local hobbyists.
Some go to work, where I can vet the buyers slightly.
What do you do with the fry
you produce?
Where possible, I like them to go to
local hobbyists, I try to avoid auctions
as I want to be sure they are going
to good homes. Some go to work,
where I can vet the buyers slightly.
What is your ultimate
fantasy tank?
An 8ft tank housing wild Discus,
Altum angels and Geophagus. I
would use silver sand, root wood,
leaf litter and light it using spotlights
to get that shaft of light breaking
through the canopy effect.
What?s your most prized or
useful piece of equipment?
My airpumps without a doubt. They
are so important to run the room.
I love air-driven ?lters too, nothing
can go wrong with them, and they
are excellent for breeding projects,
rearing fry and for offering good
aeration generally.
What upsets you most about
the hobby?
A lack of research. It?s all so easy
to do nowadays, too ? and it?s even
at your ?ngertips when you?re at
a shop. I also don?t like the other
extreme ? snobby ?shkeepers
that don?t help, but just point
out inadequacies and bash lessexperienced keepers.
Another thing is tankbusters.
I?d like to see a licensing system or
even a tax on big ?sh.
What has been the most
challenging ?sh you?ve kept?
Ivanacara adoketa have proved
tricky. I?m struggling to spawn them.
And the easiest?
Apistogramma sp. Gelbwangen
?Yellow cheek? ? they bred after just
one week. And Pseudocrenilabrus
nicholsi who bred after two days!
What projects have you got
planned out for the future?
I?m interested in trying a biotope
set-up, maybe entering the
International Biotope Contest with
a North American tank for Blue
shiners. It?s something I haven?t
done before.
What?s the set-up?
Max has an 8ft x 8ft ?sh house, sectioned
off inside his parents? garage. The ?sh
house?s chipboard sides are insulated with
roof insulation and bits of polystyrene
scavenged from old ?sh transportation
boxes. He heats the room with a space
heater to 25癈, rather than heating each
tank. This gives a warmer top half and
cooler bottom half, so he sites his ?sh
where the temperature suits them best.
Two water butts are used for storing and
warming tapwater and RO water.
Apart from one tank that?s run by a Fluval
FX6 external ?lter, all have air-powered
?ltration. Lighting the tanks is of little
importance to Max. With a torch he can
check their health and feed easily. When it
comes to catching ?sh or cleaning tanks,
he has several LED light units that can be
moved into position when needed.
The tanks are in a variety of sizes and
dotted about here and there. Some are
old shop units with the associated racking,
while others sit on hardware-style
racking systems.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 43
READER TANK
Interview / Max Pedley
Moenkhausia
agnesae.
Real
Apistogramma
viejita.
Betta rutilans.
Bolivian Ram,
Mikrogeophagus
altispinosus.
Tanks are full of
woody tangles and
spawning mops.
Hyphesobrycon
sp. Blue ribbon.
What?s in the tank ?
6paucisquamis
6borellii
FISH
DWARF CICHLIDS
Apistogramma:
6pantalone
6panduro
6cinilabra
6megaptera
6cf. hongsloi
6agassizii ?Tef�B
6baenschi
6D10
6njisseni
6sp. schwarzkehl
6erythrura
6bitaeniata ?Tef�
6sp. ?Gelbwangen? A62
6allpahuayo ?yellow?
6mendezi
6gibbiceps
6atahualpa
6norberti
6iniridae
6cf. pertensis
6D25
6viejita
6luelingi
6bitaeniata ?Rio nanay?
6cf. agassizii
6elizabethae
6eremnopyge
6cf. ortegai
6sp. ?Putzer?
6sp. ?Rautenband?
6helkeri
6tucurui
B
B
B
B
B
Others:
6Dicrossus maculatus
6Taeniacara candidi
6Etroplus canarensis
6Ivanacara adoketa
6Wallaceochromis
rubrolabiatus
B
6Nanochromis transvestitus
6Nanochromis parilus
6Pseudocrenilabrus nicholsi
6Mikrogeophagus altispinosus
6Mikrogeophagus ramirezi
(wild)
6Cleithracara maronii
CATFISH
Corydoras:
6metae
6CW023
6venezuelanus
6schreiben
6sterbai
6concolor
B
B
B
B
B
LABYRINTH FISH
Betta:
6channoides
6imbellis
6rutilans
Others:
6Sphaerichthys
osphromenoides
6Sphaerichthys vaillanti
6Trichogaster lalius
CHARACINS
Moenkhausia:
6costae
6agnesae
6sanctaefilomenae
6dichroura
6ceros
6collettii
B
Others:
6Entomocorus gameroi
6Centromochlus perugiae
6Tatia intermedia
6Tatia musaica
6Hemiloricaria eigenmanni B
Hemigrammus:
6filamentosus
6rhodostomus
6levis
6bellottii
6erythrozonus
6pulcher
6rodwayi
6boesemani
6sp. ?Neon green?
6rubrolineata
B
B
B
6melanostichos
6robertsi
6roseus
6rosaceus
6erythrostigma
6elachys
6aghula
6bentosi
6herbertaxelrodi
6metae
6cf. metae
6cf. pulchripinnis
Others:
6Paracheirodon simulans
6Axelrodia riesei
6Nematobrycon palmeri
6Crenuchus spilurus
6Poecilocharax weitzmani
6Characidium sp.
6Neolebias trilineatus
MISCELLANEOUS
6Microctenopoma ansorgii
6Channa sp. Fire & ice
6Geophagus tapajos
6Rachovia brevis
6Guppies
6Swordtails
Key: B ? Fish that Max
currently has breeding.
Hyphesobrycon:
6sp. Blue ribbon
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 45
HABITAT
THE PANTANAL
Come with us to deepest Brazil, where aquarist
Tai Streitman gets up close and personal with
species in their natural habitat.
TAI
STRIETMAN
Formerly an aquarist
at ZSL London Zoo,
Tai is a freshwater
habitat specialist.
Biotope aquaria are
his passion.
46
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
A large shoal of
Tetragonopterus
argenteus.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 47
HABITAT
THE PANTANAL
I
BELOW:
Serrapinnus
kriegi swim
through lily
stems.
48
?M CURRENTLY studying in
Brazil, and am lucky enough
to be only a few hours drive
from the Pantanal, one of the
largest wetlands on the
planet. The region contains
savannahs, forests, swamps,
rivers, lakes, saline pools
? and so, so many mosquitoes.
An invitation from wildlife ?lmmaker
Mauricio Copetti to visit an ecolodge
wasn?t something I was going to miss.
The lodge sits among hundreds of
hectares of forest and swamp,
criss-crossed by streams that ?ood
and submerge the surrounding
landscape. Between March and
June, the waters are relatively clear,
stained a soft yellow by the leaf litter
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
that accumulates along the bottom,
as well as from the millions of
aquatic plants along the river banks.
Rising and falling ?oodwaters
result in diverse fauna and ?ora.
During high water season, ?sh move
into the ?ooded forest to feed on
fruit, nuts, amphibians and insects.
Washed into pools and streams by
the rains, these feed countless ?sh,
crustaceans and water birds. Plants
such as the aquarium favourite
Hydroctlye sp. are well adapted to
this regime, growing immersed
along the banks in the dry season,
then booming in their submersed
form during the ?oods, when they
can take advantage of the nutrients
?ushed into the water from the forest.
In the dry season, many animals
are forced to congregate near the
bodies of water that haven?t dried up,
where some take advantage of
millions of trapped ?sh. Smaller ?sh
often survive the drought, living in
greatly reduced streams and forest
pools and the number that can be
found in one place is staggering.
Night manoueveres
We arrived at Mauricio?s lodge as
evening was beginning to fall, and
after dinner, I grabbed my torches
and ventured out to the riverbank.
I shone my torch at the shallows
and there, dotted around, about a
foot apart, were dozens of juvenile
Wolf-?sh, Hoplias malabaricus,
Darter tetra, Characidium
laterale, hover like
hummingbirds.
NATHAN HILL
NATHAN HILL
Red-eye tetra were
a real highlight.
stalking the hundreds of tetras who
were trying to shelter in the margins.
Turning the torch another way, it
shone upon a group of freshwater
needle?sh, Potamorrhaphis
eigenmanni, darting away. I crouched
down and examined the bottom
near the bank where a young
Spotted sorubim, Pseudoplatystoma
corruscans, was shuf?ing through the
mud, trailed by a Striped Raphael
cat?sh, Platydora armatulus. Among
growths of Hornwort (Certaophyllum
demersum) I saw Redbreast acara,
Laetacara dorsigera, trying to hide
among the stems and leaf litter
while predatory Acestroryhnchus
pantaneiro cruised above them.
A shoal of Tetragonopterus argenteus
raced up to the light, followed by
Astyanax lacustris and the odd young
piranha, Pygocentrus nattereri. As the
light of the torch skimmed the deck,
Ancistrus sp. ?ed into the dark water
beneath, while Hypoptopoma sp. sat
here and there, rasping on the wood.
Close examination
Early next morning we headed back
to the riverbank. In the light of day,
the water was a warm, tannin-stained
glow, with dozens of species visible.
In the shallows, tetras swarmed in
a multitude of shapes and colours.
The most beautiful specimens of
Rathbun?s tetra, Aphyocharax
rathbuni, that I?ve ever seen darted
before me. Their green was more
golden than normal and I struggled
to take my eyes off them.
They were accompanied by
Aphyocharax dentatus, Serrapinnus
kriegi, Moenkhausia dichroura and
more, while Characidium laterale
?itted like aquatic hummingbirds.
At the surface, the needle?sh were
back, stalking the small tetras.
At lower levels, hundreds of
Serpae tetras, Hyphessobrycon eques,
raced through the plants and leaf
litter. Cichlids, including Cichlasoma
dimerus and Pantanal eartheaters,
Satanoperca pappaterra, foraged
along the bottom, stiring up
clouds of sediment that
excited the other ?sh.
Two Spot pike
cichlids, Crenicichla
lepidota and
Crenicichla
fasciata,
cruised over the
sand. I was surprised
to see a pair of
C. lepidota happily moving
about with a C. semifasciata,
at times their bodies touching.
Crenicichla are usually very
territorial and don?t even like
members of their own species, yet
here they were, a contented trio.
Where the banks became steeper,
larger species such as Acestrorhynchus
pantaneiro, the Three-spot Leporinus,
Leporinus friderici, and Crenicichla
vittata moved slowly against the
strong current. Pimelodella gracilis
moved in small groups close to the
bank, examining the subtrate for food.
Towards the centre of the river,
Brycon hilarii and young Prochilodus
lineatus moved in large shoals, while
at lower depths, various Loricariidae,
including Hypostomus soniae, and
other armoured cat?sh clung to the
rocks and sat in crevices.
While the larger ?sh were mainly
in the middle of the river, my main
interest was in the smaller ?sh in the
margins. It was there I spotted my
?rst wild Red-eye tetra, Moenkhausia
sanctaefilominae ? a real highlight!
Messing about in boats
We spent several hours drifting
up the river in a small boat.
The banks were choked
with Water hyancinth,
and in many places,
dense stands of
Ceratophyllum
demersum
clogged the
margins. In the
tropical sun, this plant
grows huge, turning a
deep, rich shade of red.
Shoals of young Brycon hilarii
and Prochilodus lineatus swam
beneath in groups so big it took
minutes before they passed. I spotted
rays lying on sandbanks in the sun.
We emerged into a ?bahia?, where
the river widened out and slowed,
its surface covered with lily pads.
At the margins, great banks of
Water hyacinth provided habitat for
waterbirds who called in alarm as
our boat drifted into the wide bay.
In this relatively calm part of the
river, piranhas stalked between
the lily stems, as schools of
Moenkhausia dichroura darted about.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 49
HABITAT
THE PANTANAL
I spotted a number of Crenicichla
lepidota and a Mesonauta festivus
glide between the vegetation. Large
Prochilodus foraged among the silt at
the bottom, attracting the attention
of smaller species.
Observing behaviour
The largest C. vittata I?ve ever seen
passed right beneath me and I
followed it as it explored the rocks,
logs and roots along the bank.
Shoals of A. lacustris burst apart
before me and A. pantaneiro stalked
me closely, perhaps looking to catch
any ?sh startled by my presence.
I returned to the shallows and
spent some time watching a Pantanal
eartheater glide across the substrate,
halt abruptly, ingest a mouthful of
dirt and ?ush it through his gills as
he searched for food. He covered
several metres in a moment and I
was interested to observe a large
Red-bellied piranha follow at a
distance, then it too disturbed the
substrate where the cichlid had been
foraging. Perhaps it was hoping to
uncover prey such as small rays?
I got out of the water with a feeling
of great contentment and walked
over to the lagoon opposite the lodge.
The lagoon is fed by a fast-?owing
stream that emerges from a lake and
I was surprised to see a shoal of
Oscars, Astronotus ocellatus, sitting in
the ?ow. The group was made of up
large adults and sub-adults and they
appeared to be sunning themselves.
They moved into the shallow edge
of the stream, then turned on their
sides. I know Oscars do this to move
through very shallow water, but they
weren?t going anywhere, just moving
round and round in a lazy circle.
As the Oscars roved through the
shallows, small ?sh darted out of the
way and I noticed several predatory
Red wolf-?sh, Erythrinus erythrinus,
lying in wait nearby. These snakelike ?sh can be seen in the margins
Hoplias, the Wolf-?sh,
has vicious-looking teeth.
Rathbuns blood?n,
Aphyocharax rathbuni.
A Rusty plec,
Hypostomus soniae,
clings to rocks.
Serpae tetra,
Hyphessobrycon eques,
swims low down
through the plants.
ALAMY
Water hyacinth line
the riverbanks.
Lily pads shade
aquatic life from the
sun?s glare.
of the lagoons, often in pairs. They
are highly social but, despite being
quite small, they can be aggressive
and in?ict a painful bite. Like Hoplias
sp. they?re also able to ?walk? across
land for short distances in search of
a new home should their pool dry up.
Both the lake and lagoon are fed
by the river and it was interesting to
see how the different habitats, so
close to each other, are home to
very diverse species of ?sh, many of
which you might encounter in a
decent aquarium store back home.
The number of species found in the
river, occupying a range of
ecological niches and requiring
different resources, was astounding.
Home habitats
I couldn?t help but feel a little envy
that the waterways of my native
Cambridgeshire are relatively barren
in terms of species diversity. But I
did resolve to try to ?nd some local
clearwater habitats once I?m back
home and get into the water to ?lm
them (in my thermal wetsuit!).
There?s nothing like seeing familiar
species in their natural habitat. We
all know what a Perch looks like, but
wouldn?t you like to see how it
behaves below the surface? With
action/underwater cameras getting
ever cheaper, there?s no reason to
simply sit and look at photos of
habitats from the other side of the
world and dream. The UK has some
amazing aquatic habitats of its own,
and if you can get an affordable
wetsuit, the landowner?s permission
and an underwater camera, why not
go exploring? You could even stick a
GoPro camera below the surface from
the safety of the bank or a canoe.
Have you ever got into the water
and seen the beautiful gold sheen of
Rudd basking in the sun, the startling
red ?ns of Roach as they pass by in
a silvery school, or Gudgeon glide
over pebble substrates in droves?
I haven?t. I know how these ?sh
behave, but I?ve not yet explored our
native waterways to observe them.
An adventure worth pursuing, I think.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 51
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COMMON
SPECIES
SUBJECT TO
INJECTION AND
DIPPING
MP&C PIEDNOIR AQUAPRESS
6 Albino corydoras
6 Glass ?sh, Parambassis sp.
6 Parrot cichlids
6 Black widow tetra
6 Giant gourami
WHAT?S WRONG WITH INJECTED FISH?
Fish can be arti?cially coloured in a couple of ways ?
Fish have their mucous layers stripped, before
dunking in concentrated dyes stains them with arti?cially
bright colours.
6 Fish are dyed all over including the gills, causing
respiration issues.
6 Ink in the body can have serious effects on organ function.
6 Stripping away mucus leaves ?sh open to bacteria and
parasites.
Fish are stabbed with a needle, and dyes injected.
They may have patterns or words tattooed on the body.
6 Against ?sh body sizes, needles are huge. Imagine your
armbeing injected with a pencil for a comparison.
6 Injection sites are access points for infections.
6 Needles are not cleaned or sterilised, risking infection.
6 Chemical embolisms from injection can cause fatalities.
6 Injecting causes granulomas, tumours and cauli?ower
like growths.
6 The dyes cause in?ammation of skin and muscle tissues.
6 Injecting requires rough handing which is highly stressful.
or
Are they legal?
It IS illegal to dye a ?sh through
dipping or injection in the UK, but
NOT illegal to import or sell them.
Almost all dyed ?sh are commercially
produced in the far east, and
imported directly.
What can you do?
Ask if retailers have joined up
to the Practical Fishkeeping
Dyed Fish Campaign. Started
in 1996, the campaign asks
retailers to pledge not to sell
any dyed ?sh. If you see some
on sale, raise your concerns
with store owners. Because
dyed ?sh aren?t always
advertised as such, staff may
genuinely not know they are
stocking them! Your voice can
help make the difference!
ADVICE
Answers
Got a ?shkeeping question? PFK?s crack team of aquatics experts
are on hand to answer whatever you need to know...
questions@practicalfishkeeping.co.uk
THE EXPERTS
DR PETER
BURGESS
Is answering all your
disease questions and
offers consolation to a reader whose
tank was mysteriously wiped out while
they were away. Read Peter?s advice on
causes and cleaning on page 56.
BOB
MEHEN
TROPICAL
How big could
my Parrot
cichlid grow?
Win
The Question of the
Month gets a Tetra
goodie box!
Parrots may
get big, but
they aren?t too
boisterous.
Is answering all your
community questions
and discusses breeding Pygmy corys
on page 59, setting up a Congo biotope
on page 60, and recommends some
external filters to consider on page 63.
Is answering all your
cichlid questions and
looks at tanks and tankmates for a
Parrot cichlid on page 55, and keeping
Tiger barbs with Geophagus and other
cichlid species on page 58.
NEALE
MONKS
Is answering all your
freshwater questions
and looks at whether a reader might
have been mistakenly sold a male Betta
splendens instead of a female, and
identifies a stowaway snail on page 61.
DAVID
WOLFENDEN
Is answering all your
marine fish questions,
and discusses persuading Xenia to grow
on page 57, and preparations to make
for feeding fish and other reef creatures
when you?re away on holiday on page 62.
I have recently adopted a Parrot cichlid. I have
a community tank already, so am not a complete
beginner, but I would like some advice please.
The ?sh came to me in a 60x38x38cm tank
but I?m worried that this is not big enough.
At the moment he is about 8cm, but am I right
in thinking they get a lot bigger than that?
The tank has a Fluval U3 ?lter, which I
believe is slightly bigger than the tank needs,
but would an external ?lter be better and, if so,
what would you recommend?
Also, if I get a bigger tank, will I be able to
keep anything with him or are these ?sh
territorial? And will his body shape put him at a
disadvantage when it comes to feeding? I just
want to do the right thing for the little fella.
LLOYD WALSH, EMAIL
JEREMY SAYS: I?ve seen Parrot cichlids at
exhibitions in China that were 30cm in length,
although I would expect 20-25cm as a more
realistic adult size. With this in mind I would
recommend moving your ?sh to a tank of at
least 120-150cm in length long term, and out
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of the one he?s in right now as it?s too small.
There aren?t any bad external ?lters that I
know of, so opt for a model by any of the major
brands, and buy one that will be able to ?lter
this ?sh?s eventual long-term home, so
120cm+, and with a maximum ?ow rate of
1200 lph. You can pre-mature the external
?lter by running it in tandem with the internal
for four to six weeks while it matures, or by
removing all the mature media from the
internal ?lter and putting it inside the external.
Parrot cichlids can be territorial, but generally
they aren?t too bad. For non-cichlid tankmates,
consider large rainbow?sh species, big peaceful
barb species like Clown barbs, and any plecos
and medium to large-sized cat?sh species.
For cichlid tankmates, similarly sized
angel?sh would work well, but avoid really
territorial cichlid species like Midas cichlids or
any Central American cichlid breeding pairs.
Severums, Jewel cichlids and Jack Dempseys
would be ?ne ? again as long as they are
similarly sized and the latter two species are
not a breeding pair.
ALAMY
JEREMY
GAY
?
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experts. Include as much information as you
can about your set-up. Photos are useful, too. 55
ADVICE
Answers
Heavily stocked
tanks can go
down quickly.
With no one to net it out,
its decomposing body would fuel
a proliferation of bacteria
HEALTH
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56
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Should I sterilise my set-up after
a ?sh wipe-out?
What can I use to clean and sterilise
my fish tank and equipment following a
recent disaster?
I went away on holiday for two weeks,
and left my 150x75x45cm African
cichlid set-up running with two auto
feeders (with new batteries and
checked and working OK for two days
prior to leaving). On opening the front
door on my return, the smell told me
things were really bad. The tank was
heavily stocked with mainly male haps
and Aulonocara, Lake Victoria and
Tanganyika cichlids. The only survivor
seems to be a 30cm plec.
Most of the fish were floating on the
surface. Apart from the awful smell,
there was a thick and disgusting white
scum on the surface and a heavy buildup of what looked like cooking lard on
all rocks, plants, bogwood and glass.
How should I proceed? Do I clean and
disinfect everything, including the
Eheim 2260 and a 2080 filters and
media? Or should I only clean the tank
and filters, and discard all rocks, wood,
plants and filter media?
I love the hobby and have kept fish
for 25 years, but this has hit me really
hard as it was a beautiful show tank.
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Practical Fishkeeping Magazine, Media House, Lynchwood, Peterborough,
PE2 6EA. Email us at questions@practicalfishkeeping.co.uk
Big plecs are tough ?sh
when it comes to
water quality.
MARINE
Question of
the Month
NEIL HEPWORTH
from the water, and you say yourself the
tank was ?heavily stocked?. Even large
tanks, such as yours, can creep up in
temperature over a prolonged hot spell.
One scenario is that one of your ?sh
died, and with no one around to net it
out, its decomposing body would fuel a
rapid proliferation of bacteria that fed
on its carcass. These bacteria, although
not directly harmful to ?sh, will consume
oxygen from the water, further reducing
the dissolved oxygen levels in your tank.
As oxygen levels fall, some ?sh will
succumb to breathing problems, leading
to more deaths and so-on, like some
awful domino effect. It?s signi?cant
that the only survivor was your plec, as
these cat?shes have auxillary breathing
systems that allow them to tolerate very
low oxygen levels.
All these dead ?sh will fuel not only a
proliferation of bacteria but also aquatic
moulds (aquatic fungi) and it is these
various micro-organisms that are
probably causing the white scum over
the tank and decor. These bacteria and
fungi will be present in low numbers in
just about every healthy tank ? they will
only proliferate when there are high
levels of organic material in the
aquarium to feed on, such as lots of
uneaten food, or dead ?sh.
I suggest you thoroughly rinse the
gravel and decor in clean buckets of
I have no idea what happened while I
water, maybe using some hot water if
was away to cause this.
required. In terms of the ?lter, replace
MORRIS THOMPSON, EMAIL
any ?lter media that you cannot
clean thoroughly. Remember
PETER RESPONDS: You have
you are not dealing with
my heartfelt sympathy; it
disease-causing microbes
must have been awful to
so you don?t need to
return home to ?nd all
worry about
your precious ?sh
Aquarium monitoring
sterilising the
dead in their tank.
tank or decor.
I?m 99% sure that
systems are now available,
Once you have
the deaths are
Seneye or webcam water
cleaned and
related to a water
monitoring could help
reassembled your
quality issue, and not
tank with its surviving
an infectious disease.
avoid disaster.
plec, I would wait a couple
We will never know the
of weeks before adding just a
sequence of events that led to
couple of ?sh, and then very
these ?sh deaths, but the hot
slowly restock thereafter.
weather we experienced this summer
It?s a painful reminder to us all: the
may have been instrumental ? the
biggest threat to our ?sh when we are
higher the water temperature, the less
away is not starvation, but a
oxygen it can hold. The more ?sh you
deterioration in water quality.
have, the more oxygen they?ll consume
I have a small reef tank of around 100 l/22 gal
and I can?t grow Xenia. Despite others calling it
a weed, I ?nd it just disappears within a week
or two of adding it. I?ve tried with three separate
frags. I?m succeeding with polyps and LPS corals
plus Clavularia, but Xenia just won?t grow.
Would it be worth getting a larger specimen
rather than frags? I?d like to grow this if possible
as I love the way it moves.
KATE GARNER, EMAIL
DAVE REPLIES: Some people have great
success with Xenia (often too
much!), while others have the
same experience as you, but
the factors responsible
aren?t always that clear.
However, experience
Xenia don?t appear to actually feed
shows that Xenia tends
as they don?t have a functional
to do best in less than
gut; however, they can absorb
pristine water, so if your
organic and inorganic
nitrates and phosphates
nutrients directly from
are very low (for example
nitrates lower than 5ppm),
the water.
this could be a factor.
Allelopathy (toxins from
other corals) or direct
aggression through
stinging might also be
to blame. Allelopathic
chemicals can be dealt
with to some extent
through the use of
activated carbon and
water changes, and do
make sure the Xenia is
physically placed well
away from other corals (especially LPS).
Xenia prefer indirect current to brisk, direct
?ow, so position in areas of moderate water
movement. They also like moderate lighting, so
being in the upper to middle portion of the tank
can help. They may also react poorly to lower
pH, so try to maintain a stable pH of 8.2-8.3.
Finally, some folks claim iodine is important
for healthy Xenia. You can add iodine in the form
of Lugol?s solution and this shouldn?t do any
harm if done properly. It?s important to test
before (and during) dosing to ensure you?re not
adding too much; 0.06ppm is the level to aim
for, which is similar to that of natural seawater.
I hope this helps. Do remember Xenia can look
incredible but also be quite invasive, so you may
wish to try and keep it contained on dedicated
rocky ?islands?. This can be a useful technique
for managing its growth and keeping it in check.
ALAMY
ALAMY
Why can?t I get
Xenia to grow?
?
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57
ADVICE
Answers
Tiger barbs
need the right
tankmates to
avoid nipping
issues.
MP&C PIEDNOIR AQUAPRESS
Tiger barbs have a reputation for
being nippy but this is often
because they are not kept in large
enough groups (10 or more)
to display proper social
behaviour.
JEREMY SAYS: All Geophagus will be
able to cope with the boisterous nature
of Tiger barbs, but many Geophagus
species develop those ?owing dorsal
and anal ?n ?laments that will literally
be lost to the Tigers as they will nip
them off. Geophagus brasiliensis,
however, doesn?t have those and is
hardy and robust, so it would make a
great choice for your new set-up.
Also from South America are the
Acaras, with the Blue acara,
Andinoacara pulcher, being suitable
58
Blue acara
MP&C PIEDNOIR AQUAPRESS
Cichlasoma portalegrense
NEIL HEPWORTH
I recently upgraded to a 450 l/100 gal
tank. I moved three Clown loaches
of approximately 13.5cm each and
12 Tiger barbs into it from one of my
smaller tanks. I would now like to
introduce some cichlids. I?m a fan of
Geophagus species ? however, I?m not
sure how they will fare with the
boisterous Tiger barbs!
Can you please suggest a gregarious
cichlid that will be able to stand up for
itself, but won?t see the Tiger barbs as a
tasty snack?
AUGUSTA DOREY, EMAIL
MP&C PIEDNOIR AQUAPRESS
Which cichlids
can I keep with
my Tigers?
We recommend...
NEIL HEPWORTH
TROPICAL
Green terror
Severum
and widely available, but you could also
opt for any Aequidens, like A. metae
or A. diadema. True Cichlasoma
portalegrense would be suitable, along
with any of the Severums. Or what
about Central American cichlids like the
Blue-eyed cichlid, Cryptoheros spilurus
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FOR HEALTHY FISH
(read all about them on page 74), or
even dwarf pike cichlids?
Tiger barbs are generally better
behaved than they used to be as they
continue to be line-bred. I watched
some wild-caught Tigers recently that
were real terrors!
Send your questions to: Fishkeeping Answers,
Practical Fishkeeping Magazine, Media House, Lynchwood, Peterborough,
PE2 6EA. Email us at questions@practicalfishkeeping.co.uk
TROPICAL
I have been attempting to breed my
Corydoras pygmaeus for around six
weeks. I have ?ve left after my group
of 10 was reduced by a bacterial
infection, and I wish to bring their
numbers back up the ?natural? way.
I de?nitely have a mix of male and
female. However, my observations as
to how many of each swings back and
forth depending on how much live
food I?ve been giving them!
They are currently in a 25 l/5.5 gal
tank with a sponge ?lter, two
ornaments for hiding, and a thin layer
of sand. My method is to do daily
50% water changes, topping the tank
back up with a mix of 50% RO water
and 50% tapwater (which has a pH
of around 7.5). But I?m getting no
breeding behaviour at all and can
only ?nd con?icting opinions and
advice online and at my local ?sh
shop. What is your take on this?
Also, should my Corys breed, will
pond snails, Malaysian trumpet snails
or Ramshorn snails eat the eggs?
ANDY, EMAIL
BOB MEHEN SAYS: Pygmy corys are
lovely little ?sh. Due to their small
size and popularity they make a great
breeding project and it?s easy to ?nd
new homes for any extra youngsters.
It sounds as though most of what you
have done so far is a step in the right
ALAMY
How do I get my Corys breeding?
direction, and with a few small
changes you may have more success.
What is the pH of the water in your
tank? The pH of 7.5 you mention is
probably a little high, especially if
you?re in a hard water area. Ideally
you want soft, slightly acidic water
with a pH of around 6.5. This might
not sound like a big difference but
the pH scale is logarithmic, so pH 6.5
is 10 times more acidic than pH 7.5.
Like many Corydoras, it seems that
C. pygmaeus spawns after rainfall in
the wild, so dropping the temperature
of the water you use for your water
change by a few degrees from that in
the tank, and increasing circulation
(perhaps adding an extra airstone)
may help simulate this and trigger
spawning. You also need to make
sure you condition the ?sh well
beforehand with a good selection of
appropriately sized foods. Frozen
foods like Daphnia and Cyclops help
in my experience. Having more males
than females is good too, as the extra
competition stimulates them further.
Most Corydoras will eat their own
eggs so it?s best to remove the parents
after spawning ? this will also make
it easier for you to provide the best
conditions for the fry to thrive, as well
as remove competition for food.
I wouldn?t trust snails with the eggs
either, so make sure there are none in
the breeding tank.
Cool
acidic
water is
whats
needed
for cory
breeding.
TROPICAL
Will the window light cause me an algae problem?
ALAMY
I recently bought a 180 l/20 gal Juwel bow-fronted ?sh tank.
Due to the position of the windows in my living room, the
sunlight will catch a quarter of the tank in the evening. Will
this cause an algae problem? Should I ?t blinds to the window?
PETER STACK, EMAIL
BOB SAYS: Algae needs three key things to thrive: light,
water and nutrients. Too much natural daylight can cause
problems, so siting a tank away from direct sunshine is
usually a good idea (although sometimes you get to see your
?sh in a literal ?new light? when they are bathed in sunshine).
However, if you have plenty of plant growth in the tank then
the algae often can?t compete for light or nutrients, so it won?t
be a major issue, apart from perhaps on the front glass which
is simple to remove with a soft sponge scourer.
If this fails, then making sure you have a regular light period
of six to eight hours and keeping the blinds drawn will help.
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59
ADVICE
Answers
TROPICAL
How do I set up a Congo biotope?
Congo tetras
make a great
centrepiece.
NEIL HEPWORTH
MP&C PIEDNOIR AQUAPRESS
Synodontis
mix well with
Congo tetras.
I have 120x60x60cm tank that I
would like to set up to keep Congo
tetra. Please could you tell me
how best to decorate it to replicate
their natural habitat?
What?s the best temperature and
pH for these ?sh? Also what cat?sh
would you recommend as tankmates?
I only want those that come from the
same sort of region please.
How many Congos should I keep in
a tank of this size and is there a ratio
of males to females to aim for? The
tank will have an external ?lter.
JOOLS, EMAIL
BOB MEHEN SAYS: Congo tetra,
Phenacogrammus interruptus, are
magni?cent ?sh when mature so
I can totally understand why you?d
want to make them the centrepiece
of your display.
Information on their wild habitat
is sparse, but most sources point to
adding branching wood alongside
hardy African plant species such as
Anubias and ?oating plants where
possible. A sandy substrate with
scattered larger gravel and stones
usually makes a natural-looking
base. However, most people report
that these ?sh show their best
colouration when housed with denser
planting, so some compromise may
be necessary unless you?re
determined to follow as close a
biotope as possible.
I would start with a group of
between 10 and 15 juvenile ?sh
(mature ?sh are sometimes available
but attract a premium price tag) and
allow them to mature together ?
hopefully this should give you a good
mix of males and females; 50:50 is
about right, and you could always
add a few more mature males later if
the ratio is unbalanced (I once
bought a group of young Congos and
they all turned out to be female).
Despite their size (and quite
fearsome dentition, if you look
closely!), Congo tetras are peaceful
?sh, so this offers plenty of
opportunity for tankmates, as long
as they themselves aren?t overly
aggressive. Cat?sh-wise then,
Synodontis are the obvious choice,
although the large adult size of many
of the most attractive species, such
as S. angelicus and S. decorus,
probably discounts them from
inclusion. However, the ever popular
Upside-down cat?sh, S. nigriventris,
and the lovely Pyjama cat?sh,
S. flavitaeniatus, are both an
excellent match in terms of size
and temperament. A decent sized
group of either would really add to
your display.
TROPICAL
Will these ?sh be a risky addition to my tank?
I have been offered a pair of Hoplo
cat?sh by a friend who is closing down
his aquarium. He tells me they?re
totally peaceful, but I?m a bit worried
as they are quite big ?sh and my tank
contains some small Neons and danios.
It?s a 90x38x38cm tank ?ltered with
an external canister and decorated with
bogwood and live plants. The substrate
is very ?ne gravel. Other ?sh are four
Peppered corys, ?ve Lemon tetras and
60
an old male Kribensis. I?d like to take
the cat?sh, but is my tank big enough,
and will they get on with my other ?sh?
SPIKE W, EMAIL
BOB SAYS: Hoplos, Megalechis
thoracata, are great community ?sh ?
hardy, easy to feed, peaceful, comical
characters. They can worry some
tankmates through their sheer energetic
presence, especially when food is
EVERYTHING YOU NEED
FOR HEALTHY FISH
involved, but the ?sh you list as
currently at home in your tank should
be ?ne alongside them.
Your tank is perhaps a little small for
them though, as they have an adult
size of around 15cm, so ideally need a
bit more space than you currently have;
90cm is the absolute minimum length
of tank I?d recommend for them, due to
their bulky bodies in combination with
their rather clumsy swimming style.
Send your questions to: Fishkeeping Answers,
Practical Fishkeeping Magazine, Media House, Lynchwood, Peterborough,
PE2 6EA. Email us at questions@practicalfishkeeping.co.uk
NEALE SAYS: It is very unlikely that you were
mistakenly sold a male Fighter instead of a
female. Male and female Fighters are kept entirely
separate not long after they hatch, and the
mass-produced long?n varieties you see in most
shops are almost certainly going to be correctly
identi?ed as males and females anyway, simply
because of the way they?re farmed and the striking
differences in ?n length and colouration.
That said, the short?n varieties of Betta splendens
might be mistaken under some circumstances,
especially now selective breeding has produced
females with bright colours and longer ?ns. Here,
behaviour is often taken as the best indicator,
males tending to be much more aggressive towards
rival males and non-receptive females.
Females also have more rounded abdomens and
often a clearly visible off-white genital papilla just
in front of the anal ?n. The equivalent structure on
the males is rarely visible outside of spawning.
In terms of colouration, the females often have
paler bodies, even if their ?ns have plenty of
colour, and two or three dark, longitudinal bands
are frequently visible on the ?anks. Male and
female Betta splendens are otherwise similar in
terms of shape and size, but males usually have
OPICAL
ease ID
s snail
owaway
longer ventral ?ns and more obvious frills to their
gill covers, used when making threat displays.
The fact is that female Siamese ?ghting ?sh will
often squabble. The differences in aggression
between male and female ?sh is more often a
difference of degree, rather than an absolute ?one
is, one isn?t? sort of thing. So where males are
aggressive, the females can be too ? just not so
much. You see this in many cichlids, halfbeaks
and livebearers, where the males may well do a lot
of the ?ghting, but the females are by no means
completely passive, even towards one another.
Some aquarists keep what they call sororities ?
aquaria stocked with several female Betta
splendens. These work best when there?s a fair
number kept together, so perhaps half a dozen or
so in a 75 l tank would be a better bet than two or
three in a tank half that size. The tank needs lots
of surface area because Betta are air-breathing ?sh
that create their territories in ?oating vegetation.
That said, these sorority tanks are often a bit
hit-and-miss in terms of success. Personally, I
wouldn?t try one without having a ?plan B? in case
things went wrong. It?s much easier to keep a
single Betta female alongside dissimilar tank
mates, for example Corydoras cat?sh.
Betta eggs are laid in a ?oating bubblenest built
and maintained by the male. Without the male
guarding the eggs and ensuring the fry have easy
access to air, there is virtually no chance of them
surviving. It should be obvious if the male is
building a nest, and if there?s no evidence of that,
you can probably assume both ?sh are female.
Hoplos are quite
large cats, but
they?re super
soft characters.
MP&C PIEDNOIR AQUAPRESS
My 30 l/6.5 gal ta
contains two fema
Siamese ?ghters, b
together from the s
supplier from the s
tank. They usually
but recently one ha
compared to the ot
constantly chasing
We noticed that the smaller of the two began to
develop a fatter belly and today has started to drop
what we presume are eggs. We have separated her
for now. Is the larger Fighter a male then, and are
the eggs likely to hatch?
DAVID JESSOP, EMAIL
ALAMY
Have I b
by mist
ALAMY
TROPICAL
ht a piece of decor
icrosorum attached
for a temporary tank I have
running. Later, I spotted
this snail and would be
grateful if you could identify
it. There are two Assassin
snails in the same tank too.
ANNE DEMBOWSKI, EMAIL
NEALE REPLIES: What you
have there is a Tadpole snail,
either a Physella or Physa
species. These are small,
air-breathing freshwater
snails, closely related to the
big Lymnaea snails often
seen in garden ponds.
Tadpole snails, or Bubble
snails, are usually thought
harmless. They feed mainly
on algae, especially diatoms,
and also on organic detritus
scraped off solid surfaces.
They might nibble on very
tender plants, and will
certainly go for dying
leaves, but otherwise do
little harm in planted tanks.
As with any snail, if
conditions are favourable,
with lots of algae and
uneaten ?sh food, they may
multiply quickly and
become a nuisance.
Tadpole snails lay their
eggs on the glass in jelly-like
lumps a few millimetres
across. Inexperienced
aquarists may even mistake
these for ?sh eggs! These
lumps are easy to remove
with an algae scraper.
Your Assassin snails will
try to eat the Tadpole snails
given half a chance, but
they do have an interesting
defence. When harassed,
they grip the substrate ?rmly
and thrash their shells
about, dislodging, or at least
surprising, their predators!
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61
MARINE
I have a 45cm cube reef tank, set up
about nine months. It has a nano
skimmer and live rock ?ltration and
I also use carbon and a Poly?lter.
It is home to two Yellow coral gobies,
plus a hermit crab and another very
small stowaway crab I see from time
to time. The tank contains Xenia
and mushrooms.
I?m going on holiday for 10 days in
the autumn and I have no one to feed
the ?sh. They won?t touch any of the
dried foods I?ve tried, so an auto feeder
is out of the question. A shop about
20 miles up the road sells live
rotifers in bags. If I buy a couple
of bags of these and add
them before I go away, will
they last long enough for
these ?sh to be OK?
I don?t want to trust a
neighbour as I had a bad
ALAMY
How do I feed these ?sh while I?m away?
Building up stocks of
live foods is the way to
keep these gobies fed.
ALAMY
ADVICE
Answers
62
EVERYTHING YOU NEED
FOR HEALTHY FISH
experience in the past with a tropical
tank being badly overfed and this is
such a small set-up that I would sooner
not risk it.
SI NICHOLLS, EMAIL
DAVE SAYS: Your corals and
crab will be ?ne for 10 days
with no additional feeding, so
I wouldn?t be concerned about
them. However, this is de?nitely
going to be pushing it for the gobies,
so you?re right to be concerned about
them. These little ?sh will start to
starve after a few days of not feeding,
and they lose condition rapidly. The
tank should provide some natural
zooplankton that they?ll eat without
supplementary feeding, but almost
certainly not enough to justify leaving
them for more than ?ve days without
additional food.
Blitzing the tank with live food before
you go away is a good idea, and will
probably be suf?cient for four or ?ve
days (obviously depending on how
much you add). Adding live rotifers
would help in some way as any
copepods present can use these as a
food source. Live rotifers are very small
indeed, however, so you?ll want
something larger as food for the gobies.
Copepod cultures will be the best bet
as they?re much larger than rotifers, so
speak to your local ?sh shop and ask if
they can sort you out with some ? ideally,
both Tigriopus (?Tiger pods?) and Tisbe;
of these, Tigriopus are slightly larger.
You might want to start adding
copepods a week or two before going
away to make sure you?re happy with
the amounts and to get the system
really seeded with them. Add them to
the tank just before going away for sure,
but I think it?s best to ask a trusted
neighbour to check on the ?sh and add
a further shot or two of copepods
around day ?ve or six. Copepods will
survive for a long time if kept in the
fridge ? label up what you want your
designated ?sh-sitter to add, and ask
them to remove it from the fridge about
half an hour before feeding and ?oat
the bags or bottles in the tank (this will
help to prevent the copepods becoming
shocked). They can then simply tip the
contents into the tank. I don?t think
you?ll have any problems with the tank
being overfed in this way.
It?s probably a good idea to also leave
the number of your local ?sh shop with
the neighbour if anything does need
sorting while you?re away ? just in case.
I hope this helps. Have a good holiday!
Send your questions to: Fishkeeping Answers,
Practical Fishkeeping Magazine, Media House, Lynchwood, Peterborough,
PE2 6EA. Email us at questions@practicalfishkeeping.co.uk
TEMPERATE
What species of ?sh can I keep for mozzy control?
SHUTTERSTOCK
WCMM inhabit cold
streams at altitude.
Paradise ?sh are
hugely adaptable.
ALAMY
JEREMY REPLIES: You could keep
White Cloud Mountain minnows,
Paradise ?sh or both outdoors from
late spring until the autumn, as long
as water temperatures are above
15癈. As well as those, I?ve kept
Variatus platies outside, and Zebra
danios should be okay as long as
temperatures exceed 17癈. Rosy
barbs would also be ?ne at this
temperature, and Hillstream loaches
would positively enjoy large,
algae-covered surfaces with water
movement from the fountain.
Be aware of any pump inlets on
the fountain as obviously these
things aren?t really intended to keep
?sh. Cover any holes or exposed
pump inlets by forcing sponge into
them, and you?ll need some sort of
?lter medium (which again could be
a sponge inside a fountain pump
cage), and mature it, and test water
in the normal way.
As 70 l isn?t a huge volume of
water I would opt for maybe ?ve
White Clouds, ?ve Zebra danios and
a pair of Paradise ?sh, and if you
want them to be visible, opt for their
gold or albino morphs.
You must bring the ?sh inside
once the temperatures begin to fall.
The above species are all classed as
temperate but will not last even a
?mild? UK winter outside, especially
when the fountain will heat and cool
very quickly with its shape, build
material and water jets. Devices are
available to monitor ponds and
aquariums, and they can warn you
about temperature ?uctuations.
For autumn and winter care, an
indoor aquarium of the same volume
would be ?ne. If you can, you could
even move a mature ?lter sponge
from the fountain to the aquarium to
avoid any water quality blips.
Variatus platies
are tolerant.
SHUTTERSTOCK
I would like to keep ?sh in an
outdoor fountain in London
next summer to help deal with
mosquitoes. The fountain is a 70 l/
16 gal Corten steel fountain with
water lilies, and I can add whatever
else would make the ?sh happy.
It is in a south-facing, sunny,
wind-protected part of the garden.
I understand that ?sh such as
guppies will only survive in warmer
temperatures, and that they would
need to be brought inside before
frost and cold weather.
What sort of ?sh would you
recommend, and what sort of
aquarium do you suggest for
housing these ?sh indoors once
the weather turns colder?
CHRISTINA CURRY, EMAIL
TROPICAL
Which external ?lter is best for my tank?
BOB SAYS: In the vast majority of
cases, external ?lters offer the best
solution for ?ltering freshwater aquaria.
They provide a large media capacity
that doesn?t affect the volume of the
tank and can be discreetly hidden. As
you say, there are dozens to choose
from and they all work along the same
lines; it usually comes down to a
mixture of price, running costs, media
capacity and personal preference.
Top-end externals can cost hundreds
of pounds, while some of the budget
models are surprisingly cheap ? but you
do generally get what you pay for and
cheaper models may suffer from brittle,
?imsy plastic and power-hungry pumps.
Look into their power consumption too,
as they?ll be on 24/7 and over a year
this can make a considerable difference
in running costs which may mean your
?bargain? isn?t such a good one long term.
When buying
an external
power ?lter, be
sure the model
will ?t in your
cabinet.
JACQUES PORTAL
I?ve been told I would bene?t from an
external ?lter on my 125 l/28 gal tank.
It?s something I?d never thought about,
so I?m quite keen to buy one to reduce
cleaning time. But I?ve heard many
opinions on what?s good and what?s not.
Could you please recommend two or
three external ?lters that would work
well with that size tank? I gather most
people buy ones that are for use with
bigger tanks so as to get better ?ltration.
I just don?t know where to start!
DIANNE, EMAIL
Personally, I?m a big fan of Fluval
external ?lters and have used them
since the mid-1980s. Currently I run an
FX6 on my 220 l/49 gal tank and it?s a
wonderful piece of kit but may be a bit
too powerful for your tank. There?s a
smaller model (the FX4), but unless you
are keeping ?sh from fast-?owing rivers
it may still be too powerful, so have a
look at the Fluval 206 or 306 instead.
These are rated for tanks up to 200 l/
44 gal and 300 l/66 gal respectively.
If you don?t fancy Fluval, then Eheim
has a well-deserved reputation for
making top-end externals, and the Ecco
Pro range are solid performers with the
Pro 200 or 300 being good ?ts for your
tank, with low power consumption.
EXPERT AQUARIUM CARE WITH OUR DIGITAL
WATER TEST APP, DOWNLOAD HERE:
63
ADVICE
Know-how
So, you?ve caught wind of this ?tint the world?
movement in aquatics, but how do you join in
and get some botanicals into your tank?
WORDS: STEVE BAKER
IOTOPES ARE
What are the advantages?
no new thing.
Many leaves and seed pods have a
Aquarists have been natural antiseptic quality, increasing
recreating natural
the disease resistance of your ?sh.
habitats for many
As they break down, botanicals
years, but recently
encourage the growth of bio?lm
the biotope scene
and aufwuchs. This can be a real
has become much
bonus for those species that
more active, or at least louder than
specialise in eating this coating,
before. One trend that?s boomed of
such as Parotocinclus, shrimps and
late is the use of botanicals and it?s
hillstream loaches. Many young fry
not just biotope nuts embracing
will scavenge this microfauna
it; it?s also those who generally
from the surface of leaves too.
like a more naturalistic
If you are keeping ?sh
look, or who recognise
that naturally inhabit
the health bene?ts
forested areas, they
for ?sh.
will bene?t from
Start
small
and
build
up.
The
Cattappa
the tannic and
acids
released
will
have
an
(Indian almond)
humic acids
effect on your water
leaves have been
that are leached
parameters, especially
commercially
from the leaves
available for quite
and seed pods as
in soft water
some time, but now
they slowly break down
areas.
there are lots of other
in the water.
Indian leaves and seedpods
you can buy, plus a huge number
Like the blackwater look?
from South America too. There are
You can easily make your own
also plenty of British native leaves
blackwater extract with a lengthy
you can collect for use in your tank.
second boil of most botanicals,
If you?re buying botanicals from a
then collecting the water
reliable source, they will have been
once it?s cooled. Personally,
collected from areas of very low
I ?nd the best results are
pollution and pesticide use. If
achieved by using native
you?re collecting native leaf litter,
alder cones. After you?ve
you should strive to do the same,
collected your blackwater
but there?s always the possibility of
extract, keep in a wellcontamination. Here are the steps
marked bottle in the fridge.
you can take to safeguard your ?sh
Sometimes you may
and prepare your botanicals for use. experience a proliferation
B
Fish that inhabit forested
areas will benefit from the
tannic and humic acids
that are leached from
leaves and seed pods
of bio?lm build-up, which becomes
furry and quite unsightly. This
tends to be a phase that occurs
regularly on new botanicals in a
tank, or sometimes sporadically on
a particular type of botanical. This
build-up will die off eventually.
Alternatively you can remove
affected items and gently wipe
or brush the excess away, then
rinse the botanicals and replace
in the tank.
The aim is that the botanicals
break down in the water. As they
do, they release their goodness, but
they don?t last forever. Some leaves
will break down to nothing within
four weeks, some take four months,
while seed pods generally last
considerably longer, even
a couple of years. If you
?nd the ?skeleton? of the
leaf unsightly, you can
either remove it
before adding
replacement leaves,
or leave it there and
build up a layer of
leaf litter on top.
Botanicals
we used:
6 Catappa leaves
6Oak leaves
6 Bamboo leaves
6 Casulo pods
6 Pequeno pods
6Carambola lixo
6 Alder cones
Cook up some blackwater botanicals
Buy a cheap saucepan, or set aside an old one
specifically for preparing botanicals ? it?s likely
to help a little with domestic harmony. Add water
and your botanicals to the saucepan, bring to
the boil, then turn off the heat and let it sit for
at least 30 minutes.
2
Strain the water, rinse the botanicals and
replenish with fresh water, then leave to soak
until the whole lot is fully waterlogged. Ideally
add a bag of activated carbon to draw out any
lingering pollution. Most leaves will sink
overnight, seed pods may take a few days.
3
Discard the activated carbon, then drain and
rinse the botanicals again before adding them to
the bottom of your aquarium. If you?re not
particularly keen on the blackwater look, you can
soak the botanicals with the carbon for longer to
draw out more of the tannins.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 65
JACQUES PORTAL
1
ADVICE
Know-how
BUILD
APISTOGRAMMA
A HOME
Combine these much-loved dwarf cichlids with the popular
trend for biotopes and you can set up the ideal home
Apistogramma species will adore.
WORDS: STEVE BAKER
66
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
NEIL HEPWORTH
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 67
ADVICE
Know-how
Biotope tank
LIGHTING
Lights aren?t essential as these ?sh are happy in a
dark tank, but you might want a small light so you
can see their stunning colours and details, and you?ll
de?nitely need a light if you?re keeping plants as well.
F
OR DECADES, Apistogramma
have been loved by the
?shkeeping community all
over the world, but it
If you want to use leaf litter,
feels as if there?s an
but don?t want the water staining
upwards wave of
that goes with it, just put
apisto appreciation
carbon in your filter
right now ? especially for
the less-common species.
to absorb the
Also enjoying a boost in popularity at the
colour.
moment is the use of botanicals or leaf litter in
aquaria and, particularly if you?re looking at
setting up a biotope tank, this goes hand in hand with
the keeping of dwarf cichlids. Not only do leaves and
seed pods make the tank look and feel natural for
Apistogramma, they also leach humic and tannic acids,
have a background antiseptic quality, and build up a
layer of bio?lm ? the ?rst food of many fry.
Fallen leaves accumulate in the steady moving forest
streams of South America that Apistogramma species
inhabit. The leaves cover the river bed, forming an
?active? substrate that?s busy with all sorts of bacteria
and enzyme activity, it also hides higher lifeforms such
as insect larvae, aquatic molluscs and crustaceans. At
times of higher ?ow, sand can cover the settled leaves
too, resulting in a substrate made up of layers
of leaves and sand.
Twigs and branches constantly fall from the canopy
above. Once waterlogged and sunken, this arboreal
waste makes ideal shelter and play areas for a family of
small cichlids. With sand and leaf litter underneath the
fallen wood, it?s easy for mature Apistogramma to
excavate a cave if they can?t ?nd a ready-made one in
among the branches.
TANK
For a single pair of
Apistogramma, a tank as
small as 45x30x30cm is
suitable. To keep other
species alongside them,
something in the region of
60x38x38cm will suf?ce,
depending on the tankmates.
SUBSTRATE
Silica sand has a very natural look
and Apistogramma species will
burrow in it easily. Just be careful
of it compacting and becoming
anaerobic. To avoid this, run your
?ngers through the sand every time
you do a water change.
What to feed?
Apistogramma aren?t particularly fussy
when it comes to feeding, but one thing
they don?t take to is flake food. Granular or
pellet foods are far more readily accepted,
and ideally buy those made with bug
ingredients for protein, rather than fish or
fish derivatives. However, these dwarf
cichlids will show better colour and
vitality if they?re fed frozen or
live foods regularly.
FILTER
Most types of ?lter will work (though
not an undergravel ?lter, with having
sand). Just use a relatively sedate
turnover, something like three to
?ve times the tank volume per hour.
If the ?ow is too strong, aim it at the
glass, or opt for a spray bar to help
dissipate the ?ow.
JACQUES PORTAL
WOOD
The most natural-looking
wood will be a log of
some sort. Applewood
is a good option, but the
?sh will really be happy
with anything that offers
cover. Finer branches will
give the ?sh con?dence,
while allowing you to still
see them.
HEATING
A basic heater with
built-in thermostat is all
that?s required. Nearly all
Apistogramma will be happy
at a temperature of 24-25癈.
For some species this is
towards the high end of their
comfort range, for others it?s
the cool end of their range.
Know-how
ADVICE
What to feed?
Brding tank
As far as a biotope set-up goes, that?s about all you
need to know ? sand on the base, covered by leaf litter
with driftwood, logs and/or twiggy branches. If you
want it that bit more authentic, you can use South
American-speci?c botanicals, but native botanicals will
offer the same feel without the cost.
Equipment doesn?t need to be high-tech at all. You
can use an air-driven ?lter, or an internal, hang-on or
external power ?lter, but just don?t use anything too
powerful. Apistos enjoy a rather sedate ?ow naturally,
so it?s best to try to replicate that.
Powerful lighting is best avoided, and no lights is ?ne
as far as the ?sh are concerned.
When it comes to water parameters, soft and acidic is
the way forward for Apistogramma. It?s not essential to
keep them healthy, but it is essential if you want to get
them breeding. Soft and acidic isn?t such a simple affair
if you live in a hardwater area, as it means producing
your own reverse osmosis (RO) water, buying RO water
from a local aquatics shop, or collecting and treating
rainwater. For those in soft water areas, the simplicity
of adding a dechlorinator may be all that?s needed.
NEIL HEPWORTH
Soft and acidic is the way
forward for Apistogramma.
It?s not essential to keep
them healthy, but it is
essential if you want to get
them breeding
To bring the pair into breeding condition,
feed high-quality live and frozen foods that
provide the extra fats and proteins needed
to produce eggs and milt. Try black mosquito
larvae, Mysis shrimp, Daphnia, Tubifex or a
home-made whiteworm culture. The fry will
feed from their yolk sacs for the ?rst few
days. After that, provide home-bred
microworms and live or frozen
baby brineshrimp.
TANK
A tank of 45x30x30cm is suitable
so long as there?s a spare tank
to move the female into after
spawning. Otherwise use a
60x38x38cm tank so she has space
to retreat if the male gets aggressive
when caring for the young.
COVER
Offer an area of cover for the
female to go if the male becomes
aggressive. Rather than a cave,
it?s better if this is something she
can swim through, as opposed
to a place where she could get
cornered and trapped if the male
chases or follows her.
SUBSTRATE
Many breeders will keep
the bottom substrate free.
This makes it far easier
to keep a clean, hygienic
tank, especially when the
fry are on the move. On the
other hand, adding leaf
litter will encourage bio?lm
growth for the fry to feed on
in the early days.
LIGHTING
There?s no call for lights
here. The Apistogramma
pair will settle more quickly
without lights, and turning
them on and off could even
disturb the happy couple ? at
just the wrong moment.
HEATING
To encourage
Apistogramma to
spawn, raise the heat
and simultaneously
lower the water level
to replicate the end
of the dry season.
Then, to imitate the
coming of the wet
season, turn the
heating down and
raise the water level
with cool, soft water.
FILTER
Ideally you?ll need an air-driven sponge
or box ?lter ? these are excellent for
fry. A gentle, well-dispersed ?ow won?t
suck up free-swimming fry plus, as a
bonus, bio?lm will collect and cover the
sponge, offering a great feeding surface
for the fry?s ?rst meals.
AIRPUMP
You?ll need an
airpump to
run the ?lter,
but you could
also run an
airstone for
more movement
and aeration
if required.
If you?re siting
the pump below
the water level
(for example,
in the cabinet
underneath),
make sure you
use a nonreturn valve.
JACQUES PORTAL
SPAWNING SITE
Apistogramma are dedicated cave spawners
so they?ll need something to spawn in, whether
that?s a cave ornament, coconut shell, a piece
of wood or a section of pipe. The pair will
clean the surface in preparation and often lay
eggs on the ceiling of the cave.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 71
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Ol? blue eyes
There?s much debate about the
scientific description of this
South America cichlid, but he?s
a blue-eyed boy when it comes
to breeding in aquaria.
LEE NUTTALL
Lee has kept Central
Americans since
the mid-80s and
has a particular
fascination with
biotope aquaria.
74
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
Blue-eyed cichlid
in breeding colours.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 75
SPECIES SHOWCASE
Blue-eyed cichlid
HE BLUE-EYED
Blue-eyed boys
Cryptoheros spilurus are great little
cichlid, Cryptoheros
?sh to get into, especially if space
spilurus, is found in
and aquarium size is a factor. Adults
rivers and lakes on the
rarely reach 12cm in size and are
Atlantic slope of
regarded as mainly peaceful if kept
Central America from
in the correct aquarium conditions.
the south eastern area
I had the pleasure to keep and
of the Yucatan
spawn this species in 2012, and again
peninsula, Mexico, Belize and
Guatamala. Notable localities include earlier this year, when I was lucky
enough to buy a pair after randomly
Bladen River, Roaring Creek/ Blue
calling in at my local ?sh shop.
Creek in Belize, Lake Bacalar in
Fortunately, a pair had already
Mexico and Lake Izabal (type
spawned in the shop?s
locality) in Guatamala.
holding tank, but if
Habitats vary and the
you?re buying a small
?sh is reported to
group of ?sh, pairs
prefer small creeks
are easily sexed as
and the shallow
C. spilurus are reportedly
females display a
parts of clearwater
cave spawners in the wild,
dorsal blotch ? even
streams, lakes and
but will open spawn on a
in young ?sh. Males
rivers. According to a
piece of rock or
grow larger with
2005 report, ?sh with
driftwood.
?owing, unpaired ?ns,
a preference for sandy
and older dominant males
and rocky areas can be
can develop a nuchal hump.
found in high numbers in bulrush
When setting up an aquarium, you
areas around Lake Izabal.
Due to the wide distribution range, don?t need to think big tanks. A
single pair could successfully live and
Cryptoheros spilurus is found living
spawn in a 90x50x50cm aquarium.
sympatrically with a range of
In larger set-ups you could keep
different cichlid species. In the Lake
multiple pairs, and even different
Izabal area alone you can ?nd them
milder species of cichlid, such as
alongside Cincelichthys bocourti,
Thorichthys meeki and Cribroheros
Cribroheros robertsoni, Parachromis
robertsoni. In bigger aquariums, they
managuensis, Rocio spinosissima,
do well with even larger Central
Thorichthys aureus, Trichromis salvini
American cichlids, but avoid big
and Vieja maculicauda. In other
predatory guapotes ? like the Jaguar
rivers, Thorichthys meeki and Petenia
cichlid, for instance ? because of the
splendida are also neighbours.
T
Despite its colourful name, old Blue eyes isn?t an overly colourful cichlid,
A sexually
mature pair.
76
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
A perfect biotope
set-up for these Central
American cichlids.
but you?ll be guaranteed interesting behaviour and they?re bags of fun
FACTFILE
BLUE-EYED CICHLID
6Scientific name: Cryptoheros spilurus
6Pronunciation: Krip-toe-here-ross spill-yur-uss
6Size: Males 12cm maximum, females slightly smaller
6Origin: Rivers and lakes in the Atlantic slope of Central America
in Mexico, Belize and Guatamala
6Habitat: Rocky, sandy lakes
6Tank size: 90x50x50cm
6Water requirements: Medium hard, slightly alkaline water;
7.0 to 8.0 pH, hardness 16�+
6Temperature: 24-28癈
6Temperament: Relatively peaceful
cichlids, apart from at spawning time
6Feeding: Vegetable matter, flake with
Spirulina, pellets, prawns as a treat
6Availability and cost: Generally available,
but be careful of fish mislabelled as
sajica; around �50 each
NATHAN HILL
225 l+
possibility of the smaller C. spilurus
becoming an expensive snack.
You?d be surprised what a hungry
guapote can ?t in its mouth. When
setting up a smaller aquarium, it?s a
good idea to include little dither ?sh,
such as livebearers.
Decorate the tank using a sand and
gravel mix substrate, and pop in
some leaf litter as this encourages
natural feeding behaviour when the
?sh turn over the leaves to forage for
food particles. Add rocks and
driftwood to provide cover and
potential spawning sites.
If you want to include some plants
in your set-up, the most suitable
would be Ceratophyllum demersum
(Hornwort) and Vallisneria. Plant
these in small pots buried in the
substrate, with pebbles protecting
the roots in case of digging.
Hornwort would probably do better
if left entangled among submerged
branches and left to spread across
the surface, creating shady areas.
In many Central American
waterways, notably Lake Izabal,
there?s an abundance of Hydrilla, an
evasive species that is outcompeting
other plants in the lake. At home you
could substitute that with Egeria
densa, as they look quite similar. It
also works well as a ?oating plant,
combined with Hornwort.
Water quality is not so important
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 77
SPECIES SHOWCASE
Blue-eyed cichlid
What?s in a name?
Cryptoheros spilurus was ?rst
described as Heros spilurus by Albert
G黱ther in 1862. The Cryptoheros
genus came about later, originally
diagnosed by Robert Allgayer in
2001, as opposed to the thencurrent genus of Archocentrus.
According to the Cichlid Room
Companion: ?Allgayer established
the species in Cryptoheros as more
elongated than in Archocentrus, with
six to 10 anal spines, a signi?cantly
smaller number than in species of
the genus Archocentrus. The species
in Cryptoheros are small, with males
up to 12cm in total length. Females
remain substantially smaller?.
Several papers have since been put
forward regarding the status of the
group within the genus. A 2007
systematic revision of the species by
Breeding Blue-eyes
Blue-eyed cichlids become
sexually mature quite early on in
their development. It?s not unheard
of for females of only 4cm and
males of 6cm to spawn, although
my own ?sh were much larger
before they started.
78
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
A suitable pair will circle each
other, extending their unpaired ?ns
and ?aring gills. This pair-bonding
behaviour can last a couple of days,
sometimes without success, but
once they have successfully bonded,
they?ll begin to clear a suitable
spawning site, such as a rock.
In my experience, they seem to
prefer to spawn at an angle, rather
on than a smooth ?at rock. A mature
female usually deposits 200 or more
eggs. She will fan the eggs, providing
oxygen to ensure development,
while the male defends the territory.
Around day three, the eggs will
hatch and the pair will remove the
wrigglers to a nursery pit. By day
seven or eight, the fry become free
swimming, and the parents will
defend their offspring from all
comers. Both parents share the
upbringing; while one will feed the
fry, the other might chase away a
potentially dangerous threat.
If you plan to raise the young, only
remove a small portion during the
?rst spawn, at around week two.
The fry can be raised on
brineshrimp, infusoria and ?nely
crushed Spirulina ?ake.
Despite its colourful name, old
Blue eyes isn?t an overly colourful
cichlid, but you?ll be guaranteed
interesting behaviour and they?re
bags of fun to have around. Give
them a try.
We Recommend...
Tankmates
The Firemouth cichlid, Thorichthys meeki, has a
similar size, build and temperament to the Blue
eye. Still, because of the sometimes feisty nature
of these ?sh, they should only be housed together
in large tanks of 150cm or more to avoid
aggression ? especially when spawning!
SHUTTERSTOCK
as C. spilurus are fairly adaptable.
However, provide stable medium/
hard water, good ?ltration, water
with a pH between 7.0 and 8.0, and
a steady temperature of 26-28癈.
Replace a portion of water, say 20%,
twice weekly to encourage good
growth rates and spawning activity.
Feeding is fairly straightforward,
as Blue eyes will accept most
commercial and prepared foods, but
try feeding sinking foods, as this
encourages natural behaviour. It?s
particularly interesting when the pair
have fry as they stir up the sand in
search of food particles, as well as
foraging in the leaf litter.
Temperament-wise, C. spilurus are
very appealing. I wouldn?t regard
them as troublesome cichlids within
a community aquarium, but when
kept in a small group, expect some
conspeci?c aggression as hierarchy
and spawning behaviour develops.
In a large tank, this can be easily
managed, but in smaller aquaria,
once a pair has been established
it?s best to remove surplus ?sh.
TOP: Given
space, these
cichlids mix well
with others.
RIGHT:
Leaf litter
encourages
natural
behaviour.
Juan Schmitter-Soto split the
complex and erected the genus
Amatitlania, separating Cryptoheros
nigrofasciatus, the Convict cichlid, by
highlighting three synapomorphies.
Schmitter-Soto went on to separate
C. nigrofasciatus into four separate
species ? Amatitlania nigrofasciata,
A. kanna, A. coatepeque and A. siquia.
One of these, A. coatepeque, was
found to be a synonym and is now
known as Amatitlania nigrofasciata.
This leaves us with A. kanna and
A. siquia. The latter could possibly
be the currently undescribed
Amatitlania sp. ?Honduras red point?.
At that time, Schmitter-Soto had
also proposed splitting Cryptoheros
spilurus by adding Cryptoheros
chetumalensis and re-establishing
Cryptoheros cutteri as valid taxa, as it
was then regarded a synonym.
More recent works from 2016 by
Rican et al. establishes both genera,
but also moves ?ve species from
Cryptoheros to Amatitlania. This now
leaves Cryptoheros represented by
only three species ? C. chetumalensis,
C. cutteri and our all-important
Blue-eyed boy, C. spilurus.
Along with ?n and jaw morphology,
Cryptoheros can be separated from
Amatitlania by unique bar patterns.
Amatitlania females also display
iridescent gold to copper-red scales
on their sides and anterior ?ank.
Blue times two
The splitting of C. spilurus into two
different species is interesting. Prior to
Schmitter-Soto, the red morph, now
described as C. chetumalensis, was
introduced in 2005 as Cryptoheros
sp. ?Red ?n?. These were collected
from Rio Chahal, Guatamala, with
the type locality of Arroyo Agua
Dulce ? a tributary of Rio Hondo at
Sabidos in Quintana Roo, Mexico.
The species? red ?ns at both
locations look different to the type
locality C. spilurus, which hails from
Lago Izabal, Guatemala. This variant
has a subtle reddish colour, more so
on the female?s dorsal ?n, and may
go by the name ?Red ?n spilurus?
in the trade. By contrast, the
C. chetumalensis from Laguna Bacalar
in Quintana Roo are paler, and
similar to the type locality C. spilurus.
More work needs to be done on
the validity of species, as the current
consensus is that C. chetumalensis is a
regional variation. This doesn?t mean
we should lump it in with C. spilurus,
but instead appreciate its uniqueness
and keep the bloodline pure.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 79
TROPICAL
Otocinclus
Once marketed to hobbyists as simply an
algae-eater, Otocinclus deserves a proper place
in our affections ? and in our tanks.
NEALE
MONKS
Neale is a longstanding aquatics
author with a
particular passion
for brackish
water species.
S
OONER OR later, all
aquarists have to deal
with algae, and among
the most popular
algae-eating ?sh are the
small suckermouth
cat?sh of the genus
Otocinclus. On the one
hand they certainly have a good
appetite for green algae, and being
rather small ? most get to around
5cm in length ? they are well-suited
to life alongside other small ?sh
such as tetras and minnows.
But ?Otos? have a reputation
for being dif?cult to keep alive for
more than a few weeks, and if that
wasn?t bad enough, some aquarists
blame them for mysterious wounds
on the sides of slow-moving ?sh
such as angels.
So what?s the truth about
Otocinclus ? and are they really
worth keeping?
Llanos habitat
Otocinclus come from South
America, including Argentina, Brazil,
Peru and Venezuela, but whereas
many of the most popular South
American ?sh come from the dark
rainforest streams, Otos are more
80
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
associated with open habitats where
aquatic plants grow most thickly.
This is the renowned ?llanos?
habitat, from which come a few
other hobby staples, most notably
the Ram cichlid, Mikrogeophagus
ramirezi, where shallow, slow?owing streams are common.
Such is the world of the Otocinclus,
where large schools of these small
cat?sh move from one thicket of
plants to another, staying close to
the surface where the green algae
they feed on is most abundant.
Not for them the deep, dark pools
favoured by many of the more
colourful tetras, nor the fast-?owing
streams inhabited by the Bulldog
plecs of the genus Chaetostoma.
Translated into aquarium terms,
what Otocinclus need is a shallow,
brightly-lit tank with moderate
but not turbulent water current,
and when kept in conditions other
than these, they can?t be expected
to do well.
For the most part Otos come from
water that is soft, slightly acidic, and
tends towards the cooler end of the
tropical range, around 22-25?C.
They are quite adaptable with
regard to water chemistry though,
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 81
JIMMY REID
There?s a lot more
to an Oto when you
look closely.
TROPICAL
Otocinclus
SHUTTERSTOCK
Shrimp and
Otos share a
similar diet.
and can live perfectly well
in moderately hard water, even if
they are less likely to breed
successfully under such conditions.
Surface feeding
Like many other suckermouth
cat?sh, Otocinclus feed extensively
on aufwuchs, the combination of
algae and tiny invertebrates like
rotifers that encrust the surfaces of
submerged rocks and plants.
Otocinclus are found in shallow,
sunny streams precisely because
that?s where the green algae they
like to eat grows best.
Some aquarists mistakenly assume
Otos will be able to survive on just
the algae they ?nd in the aquarium
and a few bits of leftover ?sh food,
FACTFILE
COMMON OTTO
Scientific name: Otocinclus
6
macrospilus
6Pronunciation: Oh-toe-sin-kluss
mak-row-spill-us
6Origin: Peru, Colombia and Ecuador
6Size: 3.5cm
6Tank size: 45x30x30cm
6Water requirements: Soft water
preferred, 5.5-7.5 pH, 1-12癏
6Temperature: 22-26癈
6Temperament: Very peaceful. Don?t
mix with large fish
6Feeding: Largely herbivorous ? algae
wafers, aufwuchs, occasional
frozen foods
6Availability and cost: Common, often
mislabelled; from aound �50 each.
40 l+
82
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
It?s the green
algae they go for,
and other types
of algae will
be ignored
but when kept that way they
eventually starve to death. Of
course, they will eat some algae, but
it?s the green algae they go for, and
other types of algae, such as brush
algae and diatoms, will be ignored.
Indeed, the irony of keeping
Otocinclus for algae control is that
the algae they like to eat ? green
algae ? is the kind that only grows
quickly in well-maintained, brightly lit
tanks where fast-growing plants
probably keep algae in check already.
So, if you?re thinking about using
Otocinclus primarily for algae control,
the chances are your plan won?t
work and your ?sh might very
well end up starving to death.
BELOW:
O. macrospilus
has a small
range compared
to O. vittatus.
Otocinclus instinctively orient
themselves headfirst in the
water current, holding onto a
solid surface with their
suckermouth. This is
called rheotaxis.
To avoid predators, some Otos
mimic armoured cory species.
By schooling alongside them,
the Otocinclus blend in and
avoid their own
predators too.
JIMMY REID
O. cocama ? the
Zebra oto is a
real gem.
Big cat
Parotocinclus jumbo is
a quite commonly seen
cat?sh that looks like
a scaled-up Otocinclus
? adults reach around
7cm, so almost twice as
big as the average Oto.
It?s a mottled grey ?sh,
and while it looks like
an Otocinclus, it?s much
more like a Corydoras in
terms of behaviour and
requirements.
P. jumbo is more of an
omnivore than an algaeeater, and prefers to stay
close to the substrate,
rather than among the
plants. Kept in groups
and offered a varied diet
based around sinking
algae wafers and small
frozen invertebrates, it?s
otherwise easy to keep.
FACTFILE
COMMON OTTO
6Scientific name: Otocinclus vittatus
6Pronunciation: Oh-toe-sin-kluss
vee-tat-us
6Origin: Widespread over South America
east of the Andes
6Size: 3.5cm
6Tank size: 45x30x30cm
6Water requirements: Soft water
preferred, 6.0-7.5 pH, 2-16癏
6Temperature: 20-25癈
6Temperament: Very peaceful, but don?t
mix with large fish
6Feeding: Largely herbivorous ? algae
wafers, aufwuchs, occasional
frozen foods
6Availability and cost: Very common;
from around �50 each
Assorted Otos
Scientists currently recognise 18
species of Otocinclus, though it?s
likely there are a few others waiting
to be formally described. Only a few
are routinely traded, however, with
Otocinclus cocama, the Zebra oto,
being perhaps the most sought after.
It has bold black and white bands all
along its ?anks and ?ns and reaches
around 4-5cm in length. The black
band on the trailing edge of the tail
?n often has a distinctive W-shaped
marking, making this species one of
the easiest to identify.
The most commonly seen Oto is
probably the Brazilian species,
Otocinclus vittatus, although a
Peruvian species, Otocinclus
macrospilus, does look very similar
and is also regularly imported. Both
have light grey bodies with a thick
black band running from nose to tail,
but whereas this band is continuous
on Otocinclus vittatus, on Otocinclus
macrospilus it isn?t. Instead the band
runs along the ?ank, then there?s a
break, and then it resumes in the
form of a large blotch on the base
of the tail.
Of course, it doesn?t make much
difference which species you are
offered because their requirements
are identical to those of other
ABOVE:
O. vittatus ?
note the solid
black band from
nose to tail.
40 l+
Otocinclus, so if you have trouble
identifying the ?Common otos? in
your aquarium shop, don?t worry!
A fourth species you might see on
sale is Otocinclus flexilis, a species
that very much resembles the
Peppered cory, Corydoras paleatus,
in both pattern and colouration.
This is not coincidental: in the wild
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 83
TROPICAL
Otocinclus
?Giant? cat
Several Hypoptopoma
species have been
imported from time to
time, although none are
aquarium shop regulars.
That?s a shame, because
these are quite neat ?sh
well worth keeping.
Hypoptopoma gulare,
for example, is known as
the Giant Otocinclus,
with an adult size of
over 10cm. While many
aspects of their care
resemble those of typical
Otocinclus, they differ in
terms of reproduction.
While Otocinclus simply
scatter their eggs and
hope for the best, male
Hypoptopoma look after
the eggs and fry, just like
Ancistrus. This means
the males can be quite
territorial and aggressive,
so while groups of
Hypoptopoma work well
in large enough tanks,
do not overcrowd them.
TEETH
Otocinclus have
four sets of teeth
for combing
through algae
to extract the
aufwuchs within.
Otocinclus are
peaceful, schooling
?sh and do not
do well kept with
aggressive ?sh
Peaceful community
Whichever Oto you decide to keep,
always remember that these are
small, peaceful, schooling ?sh. They
do not do well kept with aggressive
or territorial ?sh. Buy a largish
group ? at least six specimens ? so
that they feel secure, and only keep
them alongside other small, gentle
?sh. Tetras are great companions,
but they also work well with
Corydoras, whiptails, and other
docile cat?sh that aren?t competing
for the same food.
Talking of tankmates, what about
the stories of Otocinclus rasping at
the mucus found on the ?anks of
ABOVE:
Otocinclus
are great for
cleaning small
leaves.
BELOW: It?s
amazing what a
close-up shows.
The swimbladder of these cats
has connections to the ears,
and the swimbladder is used
like a huge, internal
sound detector.
ODONTODES
Small, tooth-like
bony scales cover
the heads, and
can get tangled
when catching
them in nets.
JIMMY REID
WHISKERS
The sensory
taste receptors
of Otocinclus are
small compared
to other cat?sh.
Otocinclus will school alongside
Peppered corys and thereby avoid
its predators ? a behaviour known to
scientists as Batesian mimicry. It?s
certainly worth keeping the two
species together if you can because
the Otos won?t harass the corys.
Otocinclus vestitus is rarely seen, but
may be familiar to some aquarists as
the ?sh sold under a now obsolete
name, Otocinclus arnoldi. It is very
similar to Otocinclus vittatus in
appearance, but comes from Peru,
Paraguay and Bolivia, rather than
Brazil. Otocinclus vestitus is a little
unusual among Otos in preferring
warmer water, 25-28?C, which can
make it a better choice for use
alongside hothouse lovers such as
Corydoras sterbai and Cardinal tetras.
84
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
large, slow-moving ?sh? Discus and
angels seem to be favourite targets,
but presumably anything slab-sided
might be a target, such as gouramis.
Now, while this sort of antisocial
behaviour has certainly happened,
it?s hard to tease out the cause and
effect here. Were the angel?sh and
Discus already wounded somehow,
and the Otocinclus merely feeding
opportunistically? Or did the
Otocinclus actually attack the big
cichlids, taking advantage of its
greater speed and agility when
compared to the slower-moving
cichlid tankmates?
It?s very dif?cult to say, but the
theory is that Otocinclus rarely, if
ever, behave this way when properly
fed. It?s the neglected, half-starved
Otos that may turn their attention
towards other ?sh.
The shallow streams of
the llanos are not only
sunny and plant-?lled,
but also have high oxygen
levels. At a pinch, Otos
can gulp air, using their
specially modi?ed swim
bladder as a kind of lung,
but in the longer term
these cat?sh really do
need clean, oxygen-rich
water in order to do well.
Don?t try to keep
your Otocinclus in an
overstocked tank with
minimal water movement
because they won?t thrive
in these conditions. At
the same time, don?t
assume they?ll be happy
in a hillstream biotope
either ? these are ?sh
from slow-moving lowland
creeks and rivers, not
fast-?owing highland
streams. Brisk ?ltration
and moderate stocking
are the keys to success,
although it?s important
to avoid very high
temperatures too, as the
warmer the water, the
less oxygen it holds.
JIMMY REID
SHUTTERSTOCK
Why is oxygen
important?
Otos are very
social fish.
Note that Parotocinclus
have adipose fins that
standard Otocinclus lack.
FACTFILE
PITBULL PLECO
6Scientific name: Parotocinclus jumbo
6Pronunciation: Par-oh-toe-sin-kluss
jum-bow
6Origin: South America: Brazil
6Size: Known to grow up to 7cm or so
6Tank size: 60x30x30cm
6Water requirements: Soft water
preferred, though will tolerate neutral
to slightly alkaline; 6.5-7.5 pH, 5-15癏
6Temperature: 20-26癈
6Temperament: Very peaceful. Don?t mix
with large fish
6Feeding: More omnivorous than
true Otocinclus types. Feed plenty of
sinking wafers and tablets as well as
green foods
6Cost: Around �each
60 l+
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 85
MARINE
Tangs
TANGtastic
For colour, beauty and sheer drama, there?s nothing quite like a tang.
AQUARIUM ARCHITECTURE
TRISTAN
LOUGHER
Tristan is an aquatic
author who has
worked on various
research projects.
His day job is at
Cheshire Aquatics.
86
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
Nothing
matches the
grace of tangs.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 87
MARINE
Tangs
Classi?cation
The Acanthuridae family contains
more than 80 species belonging to
six genera. Five of these ?
Acanthurus, Ctenochaetus, Naso,
Paracanthurus and Zebrasoma ?
have species that are commonly
available in the hobby.
Characteristics
Diet & feeding
Most tang species are herbivorous,
feeding on algae including macro,
?lamentous, calcareous,
diatomaceous and even blue-green
forms. Some are rather speci?c in
the alga they consume, whereas
others are more generalised
herbivores. One genus, Ctenochaetus,
the bristletooth tangs, have
brush-like teeth that have evolved
to effectively remove detritus and
algal ?lms from hard surfaces.
Providing a diet of suf?cient
quality and quantity to reverse
weight loss is essential during the
important early days and weeks of
aquarium life for a newly imported
?sh. Tangs often arrive looking very
skinny and normal reef aquarium
rations may not be suf?cient.
So the onus is on the aquarist to
ensure the ?sh concerned receives
enough calories not only to sustain
it, but also to allow it to recover
lost body mass
Fortunately, for most species the
provision of both particulate diets
such as frozen brineshrimp and
Mysis and dried seaweed on clips
can allow these ?sh to gain weight
quickly and keep it on.
Reef compatibility
For the most part, tangs are
considered reef safe, particularly
when they are well fed.
Rogues occur, however. I have
experienced a Regal tang that
actively consumed zoanthids and
clam mantles, but such cases are
rare. Usually, tangs are a positive
in?uence in coral-rich aquaria
because they perform a useful role
in the prevention and control of
nuisance algae.
ALAMY
Tangs and surgeon?sh get their
common name from the specialised
scales located on the caudal
peduncle that can in?ict serious
wounds due to their scalpel-like
sharpness. These are used to
threaten rivals, deployed in a
defensive role, or used to deter other
species from entering territories.
The spines of some species, such
as the Regal tang, Paracanthurus
hepatus, have been shown to be
mildly venomous, but not all
Acanthurids have been investigated
and many are certainly not.
SHUTTERSTOCK
I
F THERE is a group of ?sh
that aquarists consider to
be compulsory additions
to the marine aquarium, it?s
the members of the family
Acanthuridae. We know
them collectively as tangs but
they also go by the name
surgeon?sh or, for at least one
genus, Unicorn?sh.
Tangs are not only beautiful, they
have the potential to be highly useful
in many aquaria. What could be
better than ?sh that not only look
amazing, but also earn their keep?
88
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
ABOVE:
Different-looking
tangs can
live together
comfortably.
BELOW LEFT:
Naturally tangs
live in large
numbers.
Many Acanthurids suffer greatly
when infested with protozoan
parasites such as marine velvet
(Amyloodinium) and marine white
spot (Cryptocaryon).
Although certain species seem
particularly resistant to such
infections, there are others for whom
an outbreak should be expected ? it
might take days or weeks, but it?s
coming. For species such as the
Regal tang, P. hepatus, Yellow-eyed
tang, C. strigosus, and the Powder
blue tang, Acanthurus leucosternon,
precautions should ideally be taken
before introduction.
For me, UV sterilisers are essential
for these species ? perhaps for all
tangs ? as they help to lower the
overall numbers of parasites and
algae at the free-?oating stage of
their life cycle. Quarantining is
useful, but having something
working for you in the display tank is
just as important in my opinion.
Territoriality
Tangs are territorial. Some tangs
are very territorial. Simultaneous
introductions help to reduce
territorial aggression between
species that are likely to clash,
though some species will dominate
an aquarium eventually, regardless
of how diminutive and apparently
timid they appeared when ?rst
introduced. Draw up a stocking list
and try to add the most territorially
aggressive species last.
NEIL HEPWORTH
BELOW RIGHT:
Yellow-eyed
kole tangs are
detritus eaters.
Disease
ALAMY
BELOW
CENTRE:
Indian Ocean or
Desjardine tang.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 89
MARINE
Tangs
Gem tang
NEIL HEPWORTH
6Scienti?c name: Zebrasoma gemmatum
6Origin: Western Indian Ocean
6Maximum size: Around 22cm
6Cost: From around �000
An extremely solitary tang, this species will be highly territorial
with its own ? not that most people can afford one, let alone
two! This ?sh is highly prized and incredibly rare to ?nd on sale
in the UK. When you do ?nd one, note that �000 represents
the lowest end of the price range.
Ye?ow sailfin tang
NEIL HEPWORTH
6Scienti?c name: Zebrasoma flavescens
6Origin: Hawaii and adjacent island chains in the Pacific
6Maximum size: Around 12cm average but 20cm is possible
6Cost: �-85
For some, the Yellow tang is a compulsory addition to their
aquarium, re?ecting the iconic status of this species in the
hobby. It is one of the smallest members of its genus and has a
liking for algae that cause problems in marine aquaria.
Its price has almost doubled over recent months due to
collection issues in the Hawaiian Islands where its natural
Ye?ow-eyed tang or Kole tang
A highly useful and attractive species, despite the dominant
colouration being brown. It has risen in price over recent
months due to its provenance, but remains worth every
penny. Adding it to the tank at the same time as a
Yellow sail?n tang affords complementary grazing
behaviour from both these Hawaiian species, while
reducing the risk of territorial aggression between them.
Powder blue tang
6Scienti?c name: Acanthurus leucosternon
6Origin: Indo-Pacific
6Maximum size: Around 15-25cm
6Cost: �-85
NEIL HEPWORTH
ALAMY
6Scienti?c name: Ctenochaetus strigosus
6Origin: Endemic to Hawaii
6Maximum size: Around 12cm
6Cost: �-85
90
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
Its hard to think of a nicer-looking marine ?sh than the Powder
blue tang. However, it?s the cause of much distress to aquarists,
because it can prove too dif?cult to care for in the long term.
Due to disease susceptibility and insuf?cient food intake, many
don?t survive beyond their few few weeks in the aquarium. It?s a
sad state, since most of them feed readily soon after importation.
By taking the necessary steps to increase the chances of
success with this species, aquarists can expect a robust and
long-lived ?sh that will turn heads throughout its life.
Purple tang
SHUTTERSTOCK
6Scientific name: Zebrasoma xanthurum
6Origin: Red Sea and Persian Gulf
6
Maximum size: Around 20cm usual for larger aquaria. Wild specimens
can achieve 35cm
6Cost: �0-200
Regal tang
Perhaps one of the most attractive of all tangs, this
species has a reputation for bossing almost every
aquarium into which it?s stocked. The time taken to
reach dominance depends on the size at which they are
introduced and the other species present. Eventually
they become the most dominant ?sh ? which is ?ne,
provided you don?t subsequently wish to add any
species that the Purple tang might take exception to.
SHUTTERSTOCK
6Scientific name: Paracanthurus hepatus
6Origin: Tropical Indo-West Pacific
6Maximum size: Around 30cm, but 15cm is more common
6Cost: �-40
The iconic Regal tang is often encountered by aquarists
when it?s very small ? 1-2cm is not unheard of.
Remarkably, given suitably benign tankmates, even
such modestly sized specimens can thrive.
Regal tangs have a reputation for being nervous ?sh,
wedging themselves in aquarium decor at the ?rst sign of
trouble. This mirrors their natural behaviour, where coral heads
and reef crevices are their refuges. Given time, most will settle and
become con?dent ? and develop enormous appetites.
Goldrim / Powder brown tang
SHUTTERSTOCK
6Scientific name: Acanthurus japonicus
6Origin: Indonesia and the Philippines
6Maximum size: Around 15-20cm
6Cost: �-65
Differentiated from the similar A. nigricans by the presence
of a red band in the latter portion of the dorsal ?n, both of
these species might be offered for sale as ?Powder brown? or
?Goldrim? tangs. UV sterilisation is highly recommended for
this species, as is the selection of feeding individuals.
Well-settled ?sh will deepen in colour, and the contrast
between the dark brown body, and the gold, red and white
of the ?ns and head, make this a truly stunning ?sh.
Blue spot unicorn tang
ALAMY
6Scientific name: Naso brevirostris
6Origin: Widespread tropical Indo-Pacific
6Maximum size: Around 25-45cm in aquaria
6Cost: �-90
Given the size potential of this species, it?s rather strange
that it can be found relatively commonly in the marine hobby.
However, it seldom achieves anywhere near its wild maximum size
(60cm) and is unusual-looking enough to attract many admirers.
It?s an extremely robust ?sh and although it often appears initially shy,
it becomes increasingly tame over time and will con?dently feed from
your ?ngertips when fully settled. The rostral spine is absent in juveniles
under 15cm or so, and elongates as the ?sh grows.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 91
MARINE
Tangs
Chevron tang
ALAMY
6Scienti?c name: Ctenochaetus hawaiiensis
6Origin: Central Pacific to Hawaii
6Maximum size: Around 25cm
6Cost: �0-250
A stunning ?sh with a substantial colour change from juvenile to adult,
Chevron tangs have always been expensive due to them never being
abundant throughout their rather large natural range.
They can be ?nicky feeders initially, and are prone to protozoan
parasite infestations, but once the ?rst few months of aquarium life
have been successfully negotiated, this tang usually settles in beautifully.
Brown sailfin tang
SHUTTERSTOCK
6Scienti?c name: Zebrasoma scopas
6Origin: Widespread Indo-Pacific
6Maximum size: Around 12cm
6Cost: �-40
It?s testament to the appeal of this species that it still has many
fans in the hobby, despite being arguably the least remarkablelooking member of the genus Zebrasoma. It?s certainly available at
more reasonable prices and usually ships very well.
Look out for colour aberrations that can command very high
prices, or the more reasonably priced yellow morph of the species
that can make for an interesting inclusion to the aquarium.
Atlantic blue tang
Small yellow juveniles of this species are hard to resist,
such is their beauty. However, they demand robust
tankmates due to their belligerent dispositions, which are
exacerbated when they?re stocked into aquaria too small
for them. To minimise territorial aggression, add them
into existing aquaria as the last ?sh,
In the right system, this is an attractive and hardy tang.
Achi?es tang
6Scienti?c name: Acanthurus achilles
6Origin: Oceania to Pacific Islands, including Hawaii
6Maximum size: Around 18-25cm
6Cost: �0-350
NEIL HEPWORTH
SHUTTERSTOCK
6Scienti?c name: Acanthurus coeruleus
6Origin: Western Atlantic into temperate waters
6Maximum size: Around 40cm maximum, but most are much smaller
6Cost: �-55
92
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
A simply stunning species that will grace any
aquaria but, like the Powder blue, it often suffers
from parasitic problems and is frequently
underweight when newly imported. Check that
it?s feeding before purchase and, while it?s
regaining weight, offer more food than you might
usually provide to the aquarium.
Keep a close eye on water quality. If any species
is worth going the extra mile for, it?s this one.
Lipstick tang
SHUTTERSTOCK
6Scienti?c name: Naso elegans / lituratus
6Origin: Indian Ocean including Red Sea
6Maximum size: Around 30cm
6Cost: �-100+
With its yellow dorsal ?n, N. elegans is easy to
distinguish from the black-?nned Paci?c species, N.
lituratus. Husbandry for each is identical.
Lipstick tangs are seldom aggressive towards tankmates
and are often ignored by belligerent residents. Be aware of
their size potential and ensure you offer a varied diet.
Indian Ocean sailfin tang
NEIL HEPWORTH
6Scienti?c name: Zebrasoma desjardinii
6Origin: Indian Ocean
6Maximum size: Around 30-40cm
6Cost: �-85
A striking ?sh that is often bought as a coin-sized juvenile,
with little regard for its size potential. Unlike some
members of the genus, it doesn?t seem to be overly
inhibited by the size of its aquarium, and it?s not unusual to
see individuals as big as dinner plates in aquaria that look
far too small for ?sh of this size.
In the right system, this is a superb ?sh, robust and longlived, that feeds on practically anything with enthusiasm.
Clown tang
One of a handful of members of the genus
Acanthurus that?s sometimes available when very
small ? juveniles measuring 5-6cm or so. Although
care should be taken that such ?sh are feeding,
those that do often settle quickly, and prove to be
very robust in the long term.
The only real issue is that many individuals
become very aggressive and will frequently harass
the less sturdy ?sh in the aquarium.
Goldrush tang
6Scienti?c name: Ctenochaetus tominiensis
6Origin: Western Central Pacific
6Maximum size: Around 14cm
6Cost: �-65
ALAMY
SHUTTERSTOCK
6Scienti?c name: Acanthurus lineatus
6Origin: Widespread tropical Indo-Pacific
6Maximum size: Around 25cm
6Cost: �-40
An often hardier alternative to the Kole tang, the
Goldrush is also less expensive and available at
smaller sizes. It may be ignored by larger territorial
residents. Goldrush tangs usually ship very well and
feed readily in dealers? aquaria. If they don?t, it may
be a sign that something is wrong.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 93
SPECIES SHOWCASE
Striped dwarf cichlid
Little fish
BIG ATTIT
While not easy to ?nd, the small Striped dwarf cichlid is a delight
to breed ? just watch out for that fearsome temper!
WORDS: JOHN RUNDLE
94
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
D
URING A visit
last year to a local
retailer, I came
across a small dwarf
cichlid that I hadn?t
seen or bred for a
long time. This was
Nannacara taenia,
the Striped dwarf cichlid. Of course,
I couldn?t resist, so I bought ?ve ?sh
and took them home.
Back in October 1968, on the cover
of an American ?shkeeping journal,
was a picture of a beautiful female
dwarf cichlid protecting her eggs,
which were on a ?at stone. Her dark
chequerboard pattern told me that
I had to breed this ?sh. The article in
the magazine was written by a
well-known aquarist of that time
from Czechoslovakia called Rudolf
Zukal and the ?sh was Nannacara
anomala, the Golden dwarf cichlid.
This was the start of my love for the
?sh from the genus Nannacara.
Meet the genus
Nannacara taenia
? a peaceful dwarf
However, a book published in
2006 reassigned N. adoketa and
N. bimaculata to the newly erected
genus Ivanacara. When I checked,
Ivanacara has not been recognised
on FishBase, but it has by Catalog
of Fishes. This can make it
confusing for ?shkeepers as the
genus Nannacara for these species
is still quite widely accepted.
(Editor?s note: At PFK towers, we
like to do a ?best of three? approach,
cross referencing Catalog of Fishes,
FishBase and Seriously Fish. Any
name that we can ?nd as currently
valid in two or more of these three
sources is accepted as up to date,
so we uphold Ivanacara, with
Nannacara as a synonym, as both
Catalog of Fishes and Seriously Fish
support this.)
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 95
NATHAN HILL
Nannacara is a small genus of dwarf
cichlids endemic to South America
but, like many of our ?sh, there is
argument about their names. For a
long time there were six recognised
species, namely:
6Nannacara adoketa
6Nannacara anomala
6Nannacara aureocephalus
6Nannacara bimaculata
6Nannacara quadnispinae
6Nannacara taenia
SPECIES SHOWCASE
Striped dwarf cichlid
Sexing the species
actually pick one out at the time.
It?s not dif?cult to sex Nannacara
My solution was to buy a group, so
anomala. The males have distinctly
I selected ?ve to take home.
pointed dorsal and anal ?ns, and the
My ?ve new ?sh were placed in a
females more blunt, rounded ones.
75x30x30cm tank with a mono layer
The females also show a broad,
(a single-grain coating) of gravel, an
wide, transverse dark band on the
internal homemade ?lter, small clay
body when not in breeding colour.
?ower pots and inverted clay plant
It?s not so easy to sex N. taenia,
dishes with openings cut in the side,
though. When I was selecting
and a short length of plastic pipe.
mine, the males could be
I added clumps of Java fern
identi?ed because they
and the temperature was
were displaying to
25癈. The water in my
each other (always
area is very soft
If searching for Ivanacara
a great way to
with a pH of
spot young
about 7.0, and
online, try both old and new names.
cichlid males)
has always been
Some stores may have them
and showing
perfect for
under Nannacara at a
bright red dots in
breeding dwarf
bargain price.
their bodies and ?ns.
cichlids. While it?s
Interestingly, these high
possible to keep them in
colours can disappear at the
water that?s slightly hard, soft
blink of an eye and then they
water is best if you want to try
look similar to females.
breeding them.
When fully grown, the males are
After observing the ?sh in their
the smaller ?sh, and females show a
new home for three days it was clear
secondary parallel line running
I had males and females. Two ?sh
laterally through the body, which is
were already showing red dots on
absent in the male. However, when
their bodies and displaying to each
the ?sh breed there is no doubt
other with aggressive postures.
which is the female as she shows the
characteristic chequerboard pattern. Getting them spawning
Nannacara are classed as a
While I was sure that there were
females in my dealer?s tank, I couldn?t moderately dif?cult dwarf cichlid to
Every so often she would dash over
to the front glass to tell me she was
boss, and that I should keep away
breed, due to their shy nature.
But if the tank has the right
enrichment (caves, plants and decor)
for them to feel secure, the odds of
success are in the ?shkeeper?s favour.
After a few days, a male had
selected one of the females and in
his best colours was seen trying to
tempt her into an inverted plant pot.
The next time I saw her she was just
poking her head out of the small
opening in the side of it.
A sure sign she was guarding eggs
was her boosted aggression ? she
would charge out to chase any of
the other ?sh who came too close.
STEVE HALL
Nannacara
taenia ? female
brood markings
96
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
ABOVE LEFT:
An adolesent
Nannacara
anamola
developing
body colour.
seven days and
As my ?sh house
I could clearly see
isn?t large I covered
Many fish are subject to
the tiny larvae
the front of
name changes regularly as
the tank with
taxonomists constantly seek developing a more
elongated shape
newspaper to give
to clarify the relationships
and the yolk sac
her some privacy.
between species.
getting smaller.
The eggs of
By now the larvae had
N. taenia hatch in
become free swimming, and this is a
about 48 hours and within three
sight that never fails to remind me
days, the female was hovering over
why I breed ?sh.
the top of the dish with a mass of
The female could be seen with her
tiny, dark, wriggling yolk sac larvae.
Every so often she would dash over brood of tiny fry close to her ? at
times they would hide in the gravel,
to the front glass to tell me she was
then reappear when the female
boss and that I should keep away.
thought it was safe.
This carried on for another
ABOVE RIGHT:
A young male
N. taenia with
a hint of red in
the dorsal ?n.
FACTFILE
A pair of N.
taenia (male
below).
STRIPED DWARF CICHLID
6Scientific name: Nannacara taenia
6Pronunciation: Nan-a-car-ah tee-nee-ah-tah
6Size: 5cm
6Origin: Known only from an area of the Rio Tocantins basin, Brazil
6Habitat: Small streams that are densely planted
6Tank size: 60x30x30cm
6Water conditions: Soft and acidic to neutral, 6.0 to 7.0 pH,
hardness below 10癏
6Temp: 23-28癈
6Temperament: Reserved until breeding,
then aggressive
6Feeding: Will take dried and frozen foods:
flakes, bloodworm, Daphnia and
brineshrimp.
6Availability and cost: Quite a rare find;
from around �per fish. We recently saw
some of John?s own fish for sale at
Maidenhead Aquatics @ Endsleigh
NATHAN HILL
54 l+
FRANK TIEGLER
While not a large ?sh, Nannacara
taenia are strong ?ghters when
guarding eggs or fry, and I?ve seen
small brooding females of
N. anomala taking on much larger
species of ?sh and winning.
It is worth noting that whenever
I have bred Nannacara anomala,
eggs were always deposited on an
external ?at surface, such as a stone,
and I?d therefore assumed the female
N. taenia would place them on top of
the plant dish, not in a cave site.
I made the decision to cautiously
remove all the ?sh in the tank except
the female with the eggs.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 97
SPECIES SHOWCASE
Striped dwarf cichlid
It?s dif?cult to sex
young specimens.
Why does hard water
affect spawning?
NATHAN HILL
Fish eggs have something called a
micropyle, where sperm gains entry. In
some softwater ?sh, the sperm of a male
carries a calcium molecule that has a
catalytic effect on the eggs as the sperm
enters, causing the shell of the egg to
harden and to seal the micropyle.
In hard water, where calcium is present
and freely available, the eggs can be
triggered prematurely, meaning they
cannot be fertilised.
Fattening the fry
98
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
Ensure you have a culture
of live food for your fry as
soon as you see breeding
behaviour. Don?t
wait until
later!
SHUTTERSTOCK
Mature N. anomala
males display a
stunning electric
blue colour.
Ivanacara
adoketa is a
larger ?sh.
NATHAN HILL
You have to be extremely careful
when breeding dwarf cichlids as
they will eat their brood if they feel
that the young are under threat.
The trick is to avoid disturbing them
too much. The young will take live
brineshrimp nauplii as their ?rst food
once they?re free swimming.
I fed newly hatched brineshrimp
(sometimes called Artemia nauplii) in
the morning, then live microworm
in the evening. (See October?s issue
of Practical Fishkeeping for a useful
step-by-step guide to growing
your own brineshrimp and
microworm cultures).
After three weeks, I removed the
female, then caught the fry and
moved them to a tank on their own.
They were now feeding on crushed
dry food, baby brineshrimp and
Grindal worm, and at seven weeks
old, were 2cm in length. The size of
the brood was amazing for such a
small ?sh ? in all, I grew on 150 of
the babies to young adults.
I was so pleased to come across
this not-often-found dwarf cichlid
and, of course, be able to breed it.
This meant I was able to pass on
young N. taenia to friends from my
local ?sh club, and I can hope they
too will grow them on and have
success in breeding them, helping
to keep them available to the hobby
for a long time.
For fans of ?sh breeding or even
just ?sh behaviour, these are
beautiful little dwarf cichlids with an
interesting spawning strategy, so do
look out for them!
So I joined this new gym.
I love it.
walk1000miles.co.uk
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GEAR & REVIEWS
Ro
t
This month we take a trip down to the southern end of Essex to
see three stores, all heavily stocked in their own unique ways.
TOTAL JOURNEY TIME: 4 HRS 10 MINS. MILES: 215
Albino thread?n acara
at Maidenhead Aquatics.
100 PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
Visit 1
Maidenhead Aquatics @
Summerhi?
August 29th
FASCINATING FISH
ALBINO THREADFIN ACARA
The Theadfin acara isn?t a rare fish by any means, but we?ve never
seen them available as albinos before.
6Scientific name: Acarichthys heckelii
6Origin: North Amazon basin: Peru, Colombia, Brazil and Guyana
6Habitat: Wide, lowland rivers with fallen wood, leaf litter and fine
sand. Often ventures into flooded forests and savannahs during
the wet season
6Size: Up to 20cm
6Temperature: 24-30癈
6Water: Unfussy ? 6.0-7.8 pH, hardness 4-20癏
6Feeding: Unfussy mid-water omnivore ? pellets, frozen and live
foods. Variety is said to be the key to colourful specimens
6Temperament: Very peaceful for a largish fish. May eat fish of
2-3cm or less. Mix with other peaceful to semi-aggressive fish
that suit the same conditions
6Price: �
ALL PHOTOS: NATHAN HILL
NATHAN WRITES: This store is
conveniently placed on a busy
carriageway, and inside a garden
centre. Just note that if you
overshoot the entrance, it?s not a
?ve-second job to turn round and
come back. Off to the next junction
you go, to come back past the store
on the opposite side, then spin around
at the next junction to try again.
The store spreads in two directions
? livestock to the left and dry goods
to the right ? and both sides are well
stocked. In the dry goods section
you?ll see a lot of familiar faces,
including Ocean Free, MicrobeLift
supplements, and Maidenhead
exclusive tanks and cabinets. There?s
roughly a 50/50 split between pond
gear and aquarium equipment.
In the other direction, along the
side and rear walls there?s a line of
tropical freshwater aquaria leading
to temperate tanks, while up the
middle you have indoor ponds and a
bank of marines. The marine section
has just been halved in size to make
way for a dedicated softwater system.
For ?sh quality, the pond vats are
the least impressive on variety,
though stock is healthy and prices
are pretty good ? three 8-10in Koi
on offer for �0, for example. The
temperate tanks house some nice
fancy gold?sh strains, but there are
plenty of danio and other temperate
options if preferred.
The marines are healthy but run of
the mill. If you want a striking tang
or pair of plump clowns, then great.
If you want unusual, then it?s not
really happening.
Summerhill brands itself as a
cat?sh specialist, and though
stocking was light due to the timing
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 101
GEAR & REVIEWS
Roadtrip: Eex
AT A
GLANCE
MAIDENHEAD
AQUATICS @
SUMMERHILL
Address
Summerhill Garden
Centre, Pipps Hill
Road, North
Billericay, Essex
CM11 2UJ
Telephone
01268 522259
Website
fishkeeper.co.uk
Number of tanks:
262 tropical,
27 marine,
9 coldwater,
9 ponds
Parking
Garden centre car
park, easy
of our visit, there certainly were
plenty of loricariids, from
Planiloricaria to Pseudacanthicus,
and heaps in between.
I shouldn?t downplay the store?s
commitment to cichlids either.
Towards the rear, there?s a good
selection of Geophagines, including
some unusual albino strains. African
Rift Valley fans will ?nd plenty to
pick from, while another bank of
tanks sees a selection of some
central American species. Oddities
are here, but they?re not too heavily
represented. Look out for the Glass
knife?sh, Eignemannia virescens, as
well as the corking group of
Ctenolucius Pike characins. There
were a few larger ?sh ? tankbusterlite, if you will ? in the mix too.
STEVE WRITES: The word that
springs to mind here is ?balanced?.
As someone who?s previously worked
in retail I know that basic, common
community ?sh sell, and keep most
shops open, no matter how
enthusiastic the staff are to sell
more specialist ?sh.
Livebearers, tetras, Corydoras and
so on ?ll the ?rst few rows of tanks,
then things get more and
more interesting as
Rocket Gar,
Ctenolucius
hujeta.
102 PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
you move along. Hockeystick
pencil?sh (�50), Corydoras
napoensis (�50) and Sail?n tetra
(�50), lead to Slender hemiodus
(�.50), Glass knife?sh (�) and
some 15cm Twig cat?sh (�).
Plecos are a strong feature, with
Spotted cactus plecs (�), Leopard
frog plecs (�), large Royal
panaque (�0), Goldie plecs (�)
etc. The south American theme
includes cichlids ? few dwarf cichlids,
but medium to large cichlids feature
strongly with the likes of albino
Thread?n acara (�), Geophagus
pellegrini (� per pair), Redneck
severums (�.50) and Chocolate
cichlids (�) all standing out.
At the far end there?s a wall of
Malawi cichlids, including Red-top
trewavasae (�50), Haplochromis
livingstonii (�50), Maylandia
lombardoi (�50) and Aulonacara
nyassae (�50). Then you get to
Central American cichlids and
unusual cat?sh including a mouthbrooding cat, Phyllonemus typus
(�). Then we?re back to common
?sh, with a good selection of
gouramis and rainbow?sh.
Plants ?nish off the run, but our
post-bank holiday timing meant there
wasn?t a great selection on our visit.
Pond equipment and ?sh are
offered, adequate enough to serve
the majority of customer needs and
wants. Unfortunately, pond plants
aren?t offered as they con?ict with
the garden centre?s products.
Marine livestock offers a bit of
everything ? reef-friendly ?sh, goodlooking inverts, corals of all levels and
non-reef friendly ?sh. For freshwater
tropical there?s plenty for the casual
?shkeeper, aspiring aquarist and
experienced hobbyist alike.
BOTTOM:
Glass knife?sh,
Eigenmannia
virescens.
FASCINATING FISH
GLASS KNIFEFISH
The Glass knife?sh is a curiosity. They swim in swift-moving,
deep water where plant waste builds up on the substrate and
little light penetrates. They are scaleless and sensitive ?sh and
produce electric signals to identify males from females.
6Scientific name: Eigenmannia virescens
6Origin: South America: Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana,
Suriname, French Guyana, Brazil and Bolivia
6Habitat: Ponds, creeks and ?ood plains
6Size: Male to 45cm, female to 20cm
6Temperature: 18-28癈
6Water: Soft and acidic 6.0-7.0 pH, 2-12癏
6Feeding: Rarely accept dried foods. Feed frozen or live black
mosquito larvae, bloodworm, Mysis and brineshrimp
6Temperament: Peaceful, nocturnal and very shy. Mix only with
sedate, peaceful tankmates and keep in groups of ?ve or more
6Price: �
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 103
GEAR & REVIEWS
Roadtrip: Eex
Visit
2
Creation Aquatics
August 29th
NH: How to sum up Creation? The
staff are amazing. The shop is
bonkers. The livestock might have
some customers walking out in
protest. Still, Creation stands
strong after over 30 years of
trading. If there?s a
problem with the
livestock, the
paying public
don?t mind.
So what?s up
with the livestock?
Legally, nothing at all.
But look about and you?ll
see dyed ?sh and tankbusters
all over. Young Giant gourami
appear in many tanks. Then there
are the Red-tailed cat?sh. The
Golden dorado. And so on.
But I didn?t come here for the
?sh. I came for the dry goods, and
oh my! WHAT a selection. Creation
is huge on the secondhand market,
with branded equipment at
outstanding prices.
Much of it isn?t boxed. Heaps of it
is used, with watermarks. It probably
won?t even have a price on it until
you pop over and see store owner
Mick. I left with three tanks, ?ve
AT A
GLANCE
Aluminium cat
shark, Ariopsis
seemanni.
CREATION
AQUATICS
Address
238 London Road,
Wickford, Essex
SS12 0JX
Telephone
01268 766553
Website
creationaquatics.
co.uk
Number of tanks
38 tropical,
12 marine,
9 ponds
Parking
Garden centre car
park, easy
104 PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
The ?rst time
we?ve seen King
Kong parrot?sh.
books, wood, food, an air pump and
other sundries for under �0.
Since my last visit Creation has had
a tidy up. Years back, I came with
former editor Jeremy Gay on a buying
trip and watched him climb over
products to get to the other side of a
pile, mountaineer style. Now there
are coherent walkways. That said,
if you?re in a wheelchair or have
mobility problems, some parts of
Creation will be a struggle to reach.
There are some awesome
nostalgia pieces to be had.
There are discontinued
tanks and cabinets
at knock-down
prices (all
used) and
even a small
?museum? of
early-era aquatic
equipment. Mick pulled
down an immaculate copy of
?Aquarist and Pondkeeper? from
1965. If the price was right, he
might even part with it.
For old equipment spares, this is
the place to go ? there?s a metal
rack coated in impellers. The
selection of pond pump ?ttings is
the largest I?ve ever seen. I?m
con?dent even the most obscure
ranges are tucked away somewhere.
From my perspective, I could lose
half a day just rooting about through
piles of unlabelled goods, but I like
to pretend that I don?t even know
about the ?sh house.
SB: Oh my! Nathan wanted to show
me Creation Aquatics for the ?rst
time, telling stories of nearly
drowning in nostalgic products while
being stared down by an 8ft tall
velociraptor (what else). Creation is
very entertaining to say the least.
If you scowl at untidy shelves, or
get upset about having to negotiate
part-blocked walkways, I suggest you
circumnavigate Creation. But if you
like to look, rummage and ?nd
bargains and items of historic
interest, then knock yourself out.
The selection of used tanks is
amazing on its own ? not just decent
?ve-year-old Juwel or Fluval tanks,
but all kinds of sizes and shapes.
If you can?t ?nd a tank here that will
?t into that awkward recess in the
living room, then you?re not looking
hard enough!
I?m a huge fan of shops stocking
spare parts ? why buy a new ?lter
when all you need is a replacement
part? Often, you can?t ?nd a spare and
can?t be without a ?lter while you
order one. Come to Creation and you
are likely to ?nd spares, used or new,
for anything made this side of Saturn.
What else seems out of this world is
the ethics of the livestock selection.
I wasn?t prepared for seeing quite so
many ?sh that anger me ? injected
Glass?sh, Balloon rams, gold?sh
housed with guppies, Elephantnoses
mixed with Fairy cichlids? And then
the tankbusters ? Tilapia buttikoferi,
Lemon barbs, Giant gouramis, Silver
arowana (�), Red-tail cats (�)
a 38cm Dorado (�0) and more.
The number of tanks we?ve recorded
here is quite misleading. While the
numbers are right, the size of these
tanks is maybe eight times the size
of a typical retailer?s tank, with many
around the 250 l mark. It?s the same
for both trops and marines.
Creation is huge
on the secondhand
market, with
branded equipment
at outstanding
prices
Visit 3
Swa?ows Aquatics
Colchester
August 29th
NH: What is it with Essex and heavy
stocking? Swallows embodies the
aquatic supermarket feel, with row
upon row of shelving for dry goods
and a vast livestock area. Even the
indoor pond section (let alone the
expansive outside one) is bigger
than some entire aquatics stores.
Since my last visit several years
ago, the marine section has shrunk a
little, yet the selection doesn?t seem
compromised for it. There are still
heaps of bright corals, racks of frags,
and a compressed ?sh section along
one wall. I?ve always been a fan of
the slightly unusual damsel?sh that
Swallows braves to import.
Swallows has an exciting tropical
freshwater spread. Whether you?re
after singular oddballs like a Fahaka
puffer?sh, or a shoal of rarities
you?ll need a second mortgage for ?
the Blackberry silver dollars,
Myleus schomburgkii at �0 each
? your niche tastes are covered. My
suspicion is that at least one of the
store?s livestock buyers has a South
American fetish, re?ected in the
likes of superb angel?sh. This place
has the feel you get when you enter
a store that?s been taken over by
hardcore hobbyists.
If you?re looking for run of the mill
?sh, they?re here too, but spruced
up a little. Instead of ?just? tetra,
there are cracking African varieties.
Rather than just standard Ancistrus,
there are attractive L-numbers dotted
all over. Pick any family, in fact, and
Swallows makes a real effort to keep
the stocking varied. Africans are
strong, with some impressive Frontosa
variants, and heaps of in-vogue
lamprologines and haplochromines.
One addition I don?t recall from
before (though I may be wrong) is
the selection of rainforest-type
plants. These would go nicely with
the increasing trend for open-topped
tanks with plants on wood over the
water?s surface.
On the dry goods side,
pick a big name
brand and it?s
likely to be here.
I spotted Fluval,
Oase, JBL, King
British, BiOrb,
API, Hozelock,
FishScience,
Hydor, Arcadia,
Nile or Fahaka
puffer, Tetraodon
lineatus.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 105
GEAR & REVIEWS
Roadtrip: Eex
Vitalis, Evolution Aqua and more.
Despite Swallows being a great
all-round supplier, this latest visit
has made me ?ag it up as a ?biotope
resource? for future projects. Bring a
couple of polystyrene boxes with you
when you visit, as chances are
something will jump out at you.
SB: This aquatics superstore covers
nearly every aspect of the hobby,
with a wide range of goods for each
direction. It doesn?t really specialise
in anything in particular, but by
that I mean that standards are
consistently high throughout.
I know this shop (I live
an hour away) for
offering one of the
best selections
of Tanganyikan
cichlids I?ve
seen. The rift
valley selection has
decreased of late, but
there are still 15 tanks of
Tanganyikans and a substantial
number of Malawis. It?s now
offering more South American ?sh
imported from Brazil and Columbia.
The selection of community ?sh is
big, with the usual favourites covered,
plus some slightly left?eld choices,
such as Panther danios (�35),
Splash tetra (�25), Golden skif?a
(�.95 per pair) and Empire
gudgeon (�95). There are more
specialist ?sh in the form of 5-6in
Discus (�), Guianacara geayi
(�.94), large Rio Nanay angels
(�0 per pair), Metynnis fasciatus
(�.99) and some sensible oddballs
including Polypterus endlicheri
(�.95), ?A? grade Flowerhorn
(�0), and Platinum Senegal
bichirs (�0), among others.
The business has been at these
premises for 13 years and the
staf?ng is stable. Swallows also
deals in reptiles, which sees some
crossover with ?shkeeping (and
birds), but the ?sh side of
things is far, far larger.
Water gardening and
ponds are well
catered for.
There?s a huge
range of pond
plants, plenty of
preformed ponds and
watercourses, water
features and a wide variety
of ?sh, including 16 vats
dedicated to Japanese Koi, plus
other pond ?sh and Israeli Koi.
There?s plenty of salty action too.
The marine selection caters for both
reef and ?sh-only set-ups, and there
were plenty of good-sized, strong
and healthy looking specimens.
Puffers and triggers feature highly
including a big Golden puffer
(�5), Porcupine puffer (�) and
a Pineapple trigger (�0). Other
?sh-only livestock included larger
angels such as the Scribbled angel
(�9.95), several different
Butter?y ?sh and many others.
Reef-friendly ?sh included Bartlett?s
anthias (�.95) and Flame
cardinals (�), alongside damsels,
clowns and hawk?sh.
You?ll also see a good selection of
tanks for sale here and they aren?t the
ones you see in every shop either.
Cleair Aquariums feature heavily,
alongside alternatively shaped Boyu
tanks, a few smaller tanks by Aqua
one, and a range of Biorbs.
With all the excitement in the ?sh
house and the outdoor pond area,
I didn?t get chance to assess the dry
goods closely, as time had ?own by
and Swallows was closing for the
night. But I know from previous visits
to this store that the stock of dry
goods has never left me disappointed.
ABOVE:
Rainbow goby,
Stiphodon
ornatus.
LEFT:
There?s a lovely
selection of
Japanese Koi.
AT A
GLANCE
SWALLOW
AQUATICS@
COLCHESTER
Address
Mill Race Garden
Centre, New Road,
Aldham, Colchester,
Essex CO6 3QT
Telephone
01206 242521
Website
swallowaquatics.
co.uk
Number of tanks
268 tropical,
45 marine,
28 pond/Koi
Parking
Garden centre car
park, easy
106 PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
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GEAR & REVIEWS
GEAR
FIRST
LOOK
A starter aquarium, a new bio ?lter, and lighting units on test
TETRA STARTER LINE LED 80L AQUARIUM
RRP: �.99
More info: tetra.net
This 80-litre tank is the third in the
series of Starter Line tanks produced
by Tetra. It continues the relatively
basic, robust and easy-to-use design
of its predecessors, but offers more
water volume than the 30 l and 54 l
models previously available.
108 PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
The new 80 l tank shares the same
footprint as the 54 l model. Both
measure 60cm in length and 30cm
in width, but with a 45cm height
(51cm including the lid) the 80 l
is 15cm taller, which allows for the
extra water volume. The equipment
is suitably uprated with a 10-watt
LED light, 75-watt heaterstat and a
7.5-watt ?lter providing a maximum
?ow of 600l/h. It all comes with a
two-year warranty.
The 75w heater is pre-set to 25癈
and sits neatly into a chamber of the
?lter housing, resulting in heated
water exiting the ?lter that?s pushed
around the tank. This method helps
to prevent any cool pockets of water
in the aquarium.
The light is pretty punchy. It?s
impressive how far 10w can go with
LEDs but the spectrum is rather
basic, providing a stark white light.
This is perfectly good for viewing
?sh and growing undemanding
plants, but if you struggle with
getting plants to ?ourish you may
need to invest in extra lighting.
Looking at the EasyCrystal ?lter
out of context, it?s a bulky looking
thing. Roughly a third of the size is
set aside to house the heater. But
put it into a working tank and you
might be surprised how easily it
becomes visually insigni?cant with
a few plants or hardscape in front of
it. The ?lter has a replaceable
carbon and ?oss cartridge (the tank
includes two cartridges), which need
to be replaced every four weeks,
plus a high surface area board at
the front as biological media.
The ?ow is not pressurised from
the pump, rather the water is
pumped into the ?lter and exits
10 watts of LED produces
a white light.
The chunky ?lter
conceals the
heater.
with gentle movement.
The tank is constructed from
6mm ?oat glass with black silicone
work and a ?oating base. The lid is
formed from sturdy moulded plastic
and incorporates the lighting
bracket, ventilation and a hinged
access lid for daily feeding.
Extras include two things you
can?t do without ? tap water
conditioner (100ml, treats 200
litres), and ?sh food (20g), as well
as the spare ?lter cartridge.
Food and
conditioner
included!
ZISS BUBBLE BIO ZB-300
RRP: �.99
More info: allpondsolutions.co.uk
Here?s a simple but well put together bio ?lter
produced by South Korean manufacturer Ziss
Aqua. Along with other Ziss products, it?s being
bought into the UK and sold by All Pond Solutions.
The Bubble Bio ZB-300 is rated for use in tanks
up to 300 l. In this size aquarium it will make a
good additional ?lter for concentrating on
processing ammonia and nitrite, but if used in a
much smaller aquarium (up to 80 l) it might well
be the only ?lter you?ll need, especially when
keeping lowish levels of stock or when breeding.
As it?s a bio ?lter, there?s no surprise it has
limited mechanical ?ltration; however, a disc of
coarse foam sits at the base of the ?lter (the inlet)
to ensure the bio media doesn?t become blocked
with particles. The bio media included is
manufactured by Ziss itself, but you?d be forgiven
for mistaking it for K1 micro. It?s of a very similar
vein and works in the same way, with each piece
knocking into the others as they tumble. This
results in a self-cleaning media, while inside each
piece a miniature refugium develops to house the
life needed to deal with ?sh waste.
Each plastic component is robust and well-made
and although the colour looks a bit grim, in a
working tank it?s an easy
shade to disguise.
You?ll need an airpump
to run this, with the size
depending on your usage
and tank size. There?s no
guide as to min/max ?ow
rates unfortunately.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 109
?
GEAR & REVIEWS
GEAR USED & ABUSED
d LED
FLUVAL PLANT 3.0 LED
Spec: 61-85cm 32w Tester: Steve Baker
Duration: 5 weeks RRP: �9.99 More info: hagen.com
GREAT FOR...
PLANTED
TANKS AND
ENHANCING
COLOURS
This is exactly what I wanted. I have
the older version (Fresh & Plant 2.0)
which offers a very good spectrum
and more than enough power, but it
has no controllability, just an on/off/
blues switch. This new, improved
model, however, has fully
Spec: 83.5-106.5cm 25w Tester: Steve
Duration: 5 weeks RRP: �3 More info: hagen.com
GREAT
FOR...MOST
FRESHWATER
TANKS.
I?ve had the older version of this and
its ability was impressive. That unit
was already quite controllable with a
remote control to pick out the
colour, power or weather setting, but
now, with the Bluetooth app and the
110 PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
ompared
customisable dawn and dusk
settings that ramp the lights up and
down over whatever period you
choose. Daytime (and night-time)
spectrum settings use ?ve colours
(pink, blue, cold white, pure white
and warm white) to get the desired
effect. Even in a heavily planted
paludarium, I had to throttle it back
a fair old way.
The surprise for me was the app.
I don?t tend to embrace technology
easily; other than social media this
was the ?rst app I?d installed on my
phone and it?s been a breeze to use.
It connects via Bluetooth, not WiFi,
and I?ve found the connection
faultless each time I?ve wanted to
?ddle with the settings.
Price-wise, I reckon �0 is
ld b
with less. But the RRP isn?t
necessarily the price you?ll pay;
without searching too hard I?ve
already seen this model at �0
which seems very good value to me!
Oh, it?s also IP67 waterproof rated,
so if you dunk it in the tank for 30
minutes or less, it?ll still be ?ne.
added controllability, this is an
all-round better product. The app
on this one is very similar to the
Plant 3.0 but with four different
colours to control rather than ?ve
(red, green, blue and white). The
dawn/dusk periods are fully
adjustable and there are imitation
weather conditions.
I?ve used this light on a nonplanted tank that?s 38cm deep, so
I didn?t need the full capability and
set each colour at around 60%.
The transition from dusk to off is
smother than many dearer units
(the plant 3.0 included).
There are plenty of options for
mounting. You can rest it like a
traditional luminare, ?x it to T8 or
T5 brackets, or use the retro?t
brackets to ?t it under a lid. Again,
Fluval have made it in compliance
with IP67 waterproof rating, so a
splash in the tank?s not a worry.
I think the price is ?ne for a 90cm
LED light with full adjustability, but
it?ll be cheaper if you shop around
? I quickly found it for �.99.
VERDICT
This suits high-energy planted
tanks mostly, but can be dialled
down to suit tanks of all kinds.
Plus you?ll see some lovely
enhanced colours in your fish!
EASE OF USE:
FEATURES:
VALUE:
OVERALL:
悙悙�
悙悙�
悙悙
悙悙�
VERDICT
This is a good freshwater light for
all but high-energy plant tanks,
and with four fitting styles it?s
likely to fit nearly all types of tank.
It?s easy to use too.
EASE OF USE:
FEATURES:
VALUE:
OVERALL:
悙悙�
悙悙
悙悙�
悙悙�
INTERPET TRI-SPEC 2
Spec: 52-60cm 22w Tester: Steve Baker
Duration: 5 weeks RRP: �4.99 + �.99 More info: interpet.co.uk
This light unit left me wanting,
unfortunately. I?ve been using it with
the additional app controller, but it?s
quite a restrictive form of control.
My biggest bugbear is with the blue
diodes. You set the dusk time for the
evening, but then there?s an auto
setting that keeps the blue lighting
on for a further three hours at the
same power as the daytime setting,
so you can view nocturnal activity.
If this was in any other room I
could probably just ignore it and
carry on, but it was set up in my
bedroom, and even 1% power in the
blue diodes was enough to disturb
my sleep. I contacted Interpet to
con?rm my options, and it was
suggested I could either turn off the
main light an hour after I got home
from work, or turn the blues off
permanently. I chose the latter, but
the tank just looked strange. The
app just needs an option to cancel
the additional three hours, which
seems a simple ?x to me.
The dawn/dusk settings only last
15 minutes each, with no option to
adjust them.
I found the app connectivity
unreliable. At least four times I
wanted to adjust the lighting but
couldn?t connect, even with the
phone touching the app unit. After
disconnecting the app cables and
re-connecting, it generally worked.
Next? I don?t like the size of the
diodes. The fact that they?re bigger,
fewer and further apart isn?t an issue
with the white diodes, but it means
the coloured diodes show a shaft of
colour rather than one blended
spectrum, and I wasn?t keen on the
effect. In my tank it sits roughly
4cm above the water surface. Given
more clearance, I?m sure it would
blend much better.
Fittings-wise this unit suits
?furniture tanks? with ?ap-style lids
like Juwel tanks and Fluval?s Roma
range. Retro?t brackets are included
too, so you can screw it into a lid.
It?s also IP67 waterproof rated.
VERDICT
It?s good for power, but I?m not a
fan of this unit. If it sat 20cm off
the water, and wasn?t in a bedroom,
I might be happier to use it.
EASE OF USE:
FEATURES:
VALUE:
OVERALL:
悙悙
悙
悙�
悙�
ALFA KOI TREAT MIX
First look: Steve Baker
RRP: �29
More info: interpet.co.uk
I?m sure you could hide these in someone?s
breakfast cereal or dried fruit mix to give them a
surprise. If you value your friendships though,
maybe feed them to your ?shy friends instead.
As a summer treat, these petri?ed carcasses will
help boost the growth of your Koi. They have a
protein level of 56%, fats and oils 20%, crude ?bre
4% and crude ash 7%.
As well as Koi, these tasty snacks would also be
happily devoured by larger cichlids like Oscars,
Jack Dempseys and so on, or chunky cat?sh ? any
carnivore or omnivore with a big-enough mouth
really. Just don?t feed too much at a time in
aquariums, or they will produce an oily ?lm on the
water?s surface.
Good price and a lovely treat for your fish.
Very bouyant ? they take a long while to absorb water.
14
The Aquatic Store
Really does have it all!
www.theaquaticstore.co.uk 01179 639120
28 North Street Bedminster Bristol BS3 1HW
QUAT
SA
I
CS
From plants to
Cichlids, Stingrays
to Snakeheads
LINC
LINCOLNSHIRE
BRISTOL
LINCOLNSHIRE
Hanger1 ? Strubby Air?eld
Woodthorpe ? Nr Alford ? LN13 0DD
01507 451000
EAST YORKSHIRE
Hedon Road ? Burstwick
East Yorks ? HU12 9HA
01482 898800
SOUTH YORKSHIRE
Great North Rd
Doncaster ? DN10 6AB
01302 711639
To all our customers ? thank you for your support with the PFK Awards
LARGE SELECTION OF
? Aquariums
? Fibreglass ponds
? Working Water
Features
? Waterfall Display
? Pumps
HUGE SELECTION OF
? Koi & Ornamental
Pond Fish
? Marine Fish & Invertebrates
? Tropical & Fancy Cold
Water Fish
? Pond & Tropical Plants
lincsaquatics-lincolnshire
CAMBRIDGESHIRE
Come & feed our friendly ?sh
? Discounted Pond Liners
? Lighting
? Food
? Ro-Water
? Tropical & MarineMix
? Treatments
All fish are packed to travel anywhere in the UK
lincsaquatics-eastyorkshire
lincsaquatics-southyorkshire
www.lincsaquatics.co.uk
CLASSIFIED To advertise here please call the sales team on 01733 366410
LONDON
Tropical
Marine
Cold Water
Open 7 days a week 01954 214530
www.nuttyaboutpets.co.uk sales@nuttyaboutpets.co.uk
175 St Neots, Hardwick, Cambridge, CB23 7QJ
RS ONLY
RETA IL SHOPPE
r all your
Thank you fo 1967!
support since
2
, London, E
Green Road 77292444
0
220 Bethnal
5356 Fax: 02
Tel: 020 7739
KENT
G TIMES
AY: CLOSED
? TUES, WED &
FRI 10.30-6.00
? SAT 10.00-6.00
? SUN 10.00-2.00
ww.wholesaletropicalsa
qu
atics.co.uk
The Fish Bowl Ltd
133 Dawes Road,
London. SW6 7EA
ABACUS AQUATICS
Tel: 020 7385 6005
Voted one of the Best shops in
the UK for the last 6 years
www.thefishbowlltd.com
email: thefishbowlltd@tiscali.co.uk
Now open on Sundays
OFFICIAL JUWEL STOCKISTS PLUS SPARES
For more details about the
shop and our opening hours
please visit our website
www.abacus-aquatics.co.uk
168 Halfway Street, Sidcup, Kent, DA15 8DJ
020 8302 8000 / enquiries@abacusaquatics.co.uk
COUNTY DURHAM
LEICESTERSHIRE
Retailer of
the year
North East
The only true aquatic Superstore, with over 250 stock tanks
specializing in community, rare and unusual cold water, tropical
and marine fish inverts and corals. Largest range of aquariums,
dry goods, frozen and live foods and Tropical plants.
Fish Alive
NOTTINGHAMSHIRE
Huge range of
livestock in more
than 600 tanks!
Special Event Weekend 29-30th Sept 2018
DISCOUNTS ON EVERYTHING!
www.wharfaquatics.co.uk
Opening hours weekdays 10.00 - 18.00, Saturdays 10.00 - 17.00, Sundays 10.00 - 16.00, Closed on Wednesdays
Units 10 & 11, Dragonville Retail Park, Durham DH1 2YB
Phone and fax: 0191 3843590
Aquatic and Pet Shop.
Open 5 days a week 10am to 6pm. Closed all day Thursday and Sunday
?UK Top Aquatic Retailer 2001?
LANCASHIRE
Readers?poll
2017
ODDBALL
RETAILER
OF THE YEAR
Readers?poll
2017
CICHLID
RETAILER
OF THE YEAR
Tel: 01773 861255 Marine direct: 01773 811044 Reptile direct: 01773 811499
Open 7 Days - 65-67 Wharf Road, Pinxton, Notts. NG16 6LH (near M1 J28)
SCOTLAND
AQUATICS
CENTRE
Over 250 tanks stocked
with Top Quality Fish and a
Huge dry goods section!
Tel: 01772 623497
www.aquahome.co.uk
Within Avant Gardens, (Opposite Leyland Golf
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5 STAR RATED SERVICE
AND AFTER SALES
OPINION
NATHAN HILL
Young blood is vital if this hobby
is going to continue. But can we
attract it, and what forces out there
are working against us? Could we be
the last in a long line of ?shkeepers?
A while back, Maidenhead Aquatics
started its Fishkeeper Fry programme,
which was little short of genius. The
programme introduced kids of primary
school age to aquaria, using instructional
videos and hands-on application of an
Are ?lmmakers
trying to make us
feel guilty?
114 PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
ALAMY
Youth woes
Winning it back
aquarium in their schools to get them
associated with how to keep ?sh. We
de?nitely need something like that, as
young ?shkeepers are a dying breed.
When I speak to industry heads about
this, they?re quick to blame the mobile
phone culture, and I guess that does have
some in?uence. People quip how
expensive ?shkeeping is, while paying out
� a month just for a handset that?ll be
obsolete in two years. Many phones cost
more than you?d pay for a full ADA luxury
tank complete with plants and ?sh. We?re
being outcompeted by tech.
How we view pets has changed, too. Or
rather, the way young people view pets has
changed. There?s been a shift in perception
that the over-30s might struggle to notice,
but it?s there. The new ethos seems to go
along the lines that everything humans do
is wrong (you?ll notice an awful lot of guilt
just for being alive with young folks now),
while everything that happens naturally
is good or right.
The problem we face as a hobby is
getting the message across that
?shkeeping can be good for the world.
That?s a tough sell, what with the world
trying so hard to prove us wrong. It?s
doubtful that the folks rightfully trying to
stop us dumping plastics in the oceans
are going to let up their hearts and minds
campaigns any time soon, and as long as
they do that, so people will vicariously
feel increasingly bad about their impact
on the aquatic world.
I sometimes wonder if documentaries
have hindered the hobby, too. I?ve noticed
a trend in documentaries to assign
personalities to the animals being shown.
No longer is a piranha ?just? a piranha
when it?s on TV. It?s an entity with hopes
and dreams, emotions and feelings. It?s
almost as though making the viewer feel
sympathy for the subject is the new goal
of the documentary maker.
This relentless anthropomorphism leaves
us increasingly emotionally attached to
?sh in the wild. And the more we see of
them, the more familiar we become with
them, the more we can feel guilt for our
?intrusion? upon their lives. Try to picture
being young and growing up with this stuff
when your mind is still formative.
And, of course, there?s the age-old
problem. To young people, ?shkeeping just
ain?t cool. I daresay that if you?re 40-plus,
like me, you couldn?t care less if someone
called you a nerd. I positively revel in it
these days. But then I?m not 15, trying to
?t in with an increasingly judgemental
peer group and hoping to get my ?rst
girlfriend. With all that against us, is it so
surprising that it?s hard to get newcomers
to the hobby?
Guess the fish answer from page 31: Walking catfish, Clarias batrachus
A
RE WE going to be the last
generation of ?shkeepers?
I sure hope not, but
recently I?ve come to
wonder if we?ll be the last
to carry a torch for this
fascinating hobby.
For one, I keep seeing
retailer after retailer going under, and as
much the old guard as the bright-eyed
newcomers building a store on dreams
and ambition. Don?t get me wrong, some
guys are doing great out there. But the
stores going under aren?t necessarily bad.
There are some great concepts biting the
dust. They?re just not getting new custom.
Nathan Hill
is Practical
Fishkeeping
magazine?s
associate editor,
biotope fancier,
aquascape
dabbler and
part-time amateur
skateboarder.
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YOUR FREE GUIDE TO STARTING A MARINE AQUARIUM
Marine Beginner?s
Guide
BUYER?S
GUIDE
15
SAFE CHOICES
What to look for
when purchasing
livestock
Friendly ?sh and accessible
inverts for your ?rst aquarium
CHOOSING YOUR TANK
Big or small, corals or ?sh?
We help you decide!
HARDWARE
ESSENTIALS
All the equipment
you need explained
LIVE ROCK
How it keeps your
aquarium clean
HOW TO KEEP A
MARINE AQUARIUM!
MARINE GUIDE
Welcome
S
O YOU fancy a marine tank? You?re not alone.
Marine aquaria are the fastest-growing area of
?shkeeping ? and for good reason. The ?sh are
colourful, the corals unique, and much of the life
is quite unlike anything you ?nd in freshwater.
But it isn?t as simple as buying a tank and
plonking ?Nemo? and his friends straight in.
Saltwater is a ?ckle chemical, and there?s much
that can go wrong in a marine set-up.
We?ve put together a basic guide overseeing some of the
key areas that a newcomer needs to know about. From
hardware essentials to feeding a coral, we hope you?ll ?nd
something in these pages that will
help you on your journey to
becoming a ?salty? ?shkeeper.
Good luck!
CONTENTS
04
06
08
TYPES OF MARINE TANK
Nano, ?sh-only, soft coral reef or
hard ? what kind of aquarium do you
want to create?
ESSENTIAL HARDWARE
From pumps to test kits, lighting
to heating, here?s the vital gear every
?shkeeper will need.
ROCKS OR FILTERS?
Filtration is essential, but how does
live rock compare to traditional
biological ?lters, and how do you go
about cycling your tank?
10
BUYING & ADDING YOUR LIVESTOCK
14
15 CHOICES FOR YOUR FIRST TANK
How to buy ?sh, what to look out
for, and 10 top tips for acclimatising
your new purchases.
Our pick of the 15 best ?sh, inverts
and corals for marine beginners.
Nathan, Associate editor, PFK
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK
3
Marine tanks are marine tanks, right? Well, no. From the
start you need to choose whether you want big or small,
and which kinds of creatures you?d like to keep.
Y
OUR MARINE options are roughly spread along
the lines of ?reef tank? or ??sh only?. As a newcomer,
a reef tank might be the one you have in mind ? a
colourful array of corals, shrimps, snails and ?sh,
over a well-designed layout of rocks and sand. But
it?s also quite a dif?cult tank to set up and maintain.
Alternatively, a ?sh-only set-up is just that ? an
aquarium with a handful of pretty marine ?sh
swimming about, but without live corals and other invertebrates.
Fish-only tanks are the easier of the types to keep, but without
corals decorating the layout, they?re the less colourful option.
Nano tank
These are small set-ups in the region of 100 litres or less ?
sometimes as little as 30 litres. They usually come as a
complete package of tank and essential hardware, giving
you a ?plug-in-and-play? package that you don?t have to
think about too much.
A word of caution. Because of their small water volumes,
nano tanks are among the most dif?cult to maintain
successfully. While they can seem excellent value for money,
you could easily set yourself up for a fall if you don?t have
much aquarium experience.
Also remember that being small, most nano set-ups are
y one or two
or crabs ? and
you want a
ank, it may not
p curiosity,
here you can
ose yourself in
he antics of a
Dancing shrimp
lambering
ver rock, a
ano tank
ould be ideal.
ET-UP COST:
OW TO MID
UNNING
OST: LOW
SHUTTERSTOCK
MARINE GUIDE
TYPES OF M
Fish-only tank
This type of tank was the staple in the early days of marine
?shkeeping, when coral care wasn?t understood, and when
hardware for successful aquaria simply hadn?t been invented.
One bene?t of this type of tank is that you can keep ?sh
that would otherwise destroy a reef set-up. Many ?sh feed on
corals or other invertebrates, and would make short work
of a beautiful layout.
Nowadays, many folks who keep ?sh-only set-ups are
interested in larger trophy ?sh, such as huge angel?sh and
puffers. These bigger ?sh have heaps of character and
become real pets, but the offset is that they need a lot of
space to live in.
Most modern ?sh-only tanks are referred to as ??sh only
with live rock?, or FOWLR, which will make sense when you
reach the pages of this supplement on rocks and ?ltering.
SET-UP COST: LOW TO MID
RUNNING COST: LOW TO MID
NEIL HEPWORTH
ARINE TANK
The ?rst type of reef tank is the easier of the two. So-called
?soft? corals lack the rigid calcium skeletons of ?hard? (or
stony) corals, which actually makes them less demanding.
While larger soft corals are sometimes quite brown and
bland in colour, there?s a whole galaxy of smaller soft coral
colonies like button polyps and mushrooms that can rival
many hard coral tanks.
A soft coral tank is considerably harder to run than a
?sh-only set-up as it requires much more attention to water
quality ? the amount of pollutants that the tank builds up.
There?s also the requirement for supplements to keep the
corals healthy and happy, plus the additional work of
feeding your corals.
SHUTTERSTOCK
SET-UP COST: MID TO HIGH
RUNNING COST: MID
SHUTTERSTOCK
Reef tank ? ?soft? corals
Reef tank ? ?hard? corals
Hard or stony corals represent the highest tier of marine
keeping and as a new starter you would do well to avoid this
type of tank as your ?rst attempt.
While stunning beyond compare, the most visually
arresting of these tanks have often been chemically
manipulated in ways far beyond the capabilities of marine
beginners, running ?ultra low nutrient? content so that corals
are left on the verge of starvation to make their colours pop.
The price of running such a tank, including the multitude of
supplements needed, can run to thousands upon thousands
of pounds annually.
This type of reef set-up looks spectacular, but it?s highly
aspirational and should remain so until you?ve really honed
the ?shkeeping craft.
SET-UP COST: HIGH
RUNNING COST: VERY HIGH
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK
5
MARINE GUIDE
ESSENTIAL
HARDWARE
In order to run a successful marine tank, a few key pieces
of hardware are essential Here?s what you?ll need
Circulation pum
Flow is vital, especially w
are concerned. Without
cannot feed properly an
excrete their wastes.
Pumps should be sized
the tank you have ? ther
no extra economy of sc
involved in buying too
large a pump for your
aquarium. Indeed, it ma
turn out to upset corals
and kill them off.
For extra effect, pump
connected to a wave-ma
with alternate ?ows from
other in order to create
forth washing motion.
Hydrometer or refractometer
Test kit
Absolutely essential. At a bare minimum you want tests
for ammonia, nitrite and nitrate, as well as pH. These
will tell you whether your tank is safe, and if any
adjustments in water management are needed.
Don?t be daunted by test kits ? most of them are no
very user-friendly, with easy to read instructions. Test
usually involves adding water to a test tube, mixing
reagents from one or two bottles and comparing to a
colour chart. They are quick to perform and make th
difference between success and failure.
Note that in a stony coral reef tank, the level of testi
may be so advanced as to require sending samples to
lab for a full analysis. However, for a beginner with a
coral tank, a good selection of liquid tests will suf?ce.
6
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
Given a choice between a hydrometer and a
refractometer (pictured below), the latter is generally
more accurate, but both of these devices are designed
to measure the amount of salt in your aquarium water.
Marine ?sh need to be kept within a very narrow
range of salinity, which equates to roughly 35g of salt
per litre of water. Regular monitoring will allow you to
see whether natural evaporation has made the water in
your tank especially salty. If it has, you can dilute it as
necessary until it?s within the acceptable range again.
A hydrometer or refractometer is also a vital piece
of equipment when it comes to doing your
regular partial water changes.
Tank
This can be made of either glass
or acrylic. Acrylic is tougher, and
a safer bet if you have children or
pets in the house, but it does
scratch more easily.
Glass aquaria come in either
plain or ?low iron? (sometimes
called optiwhite, or high-clarity)
construction. Some tanks have
lids, others are open-topped. Note
that open-topped tanks increase
the risk of ?sh jumping out (and
of things falling in), as well as
increase the rate of evaporation,
but tanks with a built-in hood may
be restrictive on lighting options.
Lights
Aquarium ligh
correct spect
growing cora
and come in t
types ? ?uore
and light-emi
diode (LED).
Fluorescen
are the cheap
option to buy
but have relat
running costs
wattages and the need to
replace light tubes regularly.
LED lights are more expensive,
but are far more cost effective in the
long run, and most have a lifespan
that runs into tens of thousands of
Cabinet
you to dim and brighten them,
change colours and spectrums to
suit particular corals, even to the
point of replicating natural sunlight
(including cloud cover) over the
course of a 24-hour cycle.
tein skimmer
This must be aquarium suitable.
Cheap MDF cabinets from
generic furniture suppliers may
be too weak, and are also prone
to swelling and degrading if they
get wet. Always use a designated
aquarium cabinet where possible.
Note that one litre of water
weighs 1kg, so a 120-litre tank,
combined with glass and rocks,
may weigh well over 150kg ? far
beyond the capacity of your
average bedside dressing table.
newcomers are baf?ed by
in skimmers, but they?re
ally quite simple devices.
ein skimmers use the power and
erties of tiny bubbles (which are
mely sticky to proteins) to
ct a froth of protein foam in a
hat sits on top of the skimmer.
e beauty of this is that in
ving proteins (which are made
f amino acids), the skimmer is
ving lots of the waste that has
otential to turn into ammonia
page 8 for more on this) before
had chance to become
onia. In turn, that puts a great
on biological ?ltration,
ning cleaner water and fewer
r changes.
otein skimmers can be ?ddly to
with and do require regular
tments to keep working at their
but once you get the hang of
, they?re no trickier than any
r piece of aquarium equipment.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK
7
While that might not sound a fair comparison,
rocks and ?lters in the tank can do pretty much the
same thing ? one perhaps better than the other!
F
ISH PRODUCE waste, just as we do,
in the form of urine and faeces. They
also excrete waste into the water
directly out of their gills. In the closed
environment of an aquarium, that
waste has nowhere to go, so it builds
up to toxic levels, poisoning the inhabitants.
The main type of aquarium ?ltration to deal
with waste is biological ?ltration. This method
utilises bacteria that use ?sh waste as a food
source, turning it into something less harmful.
In the ?rst instance, ?sh produce ammonia.
Uneaten food and other decomposing matter
also contribute to the build-up of ammonia. And
ammonia is deadly, even at the lowest levels.
Biological ?lters act as a home for bacteria
that convert this lethal ammonia into lessharmful nitrite, and eventually into nitrate.
These bacteria are really slow to develop. It
can take weeks or months to develop a colony
of them suf?ciently large to deal with the waste
in even a moderate-sized tank. So, the bacteria
need to be in place and coping before any
livestock is added to the tank. This is done
through either the addition of live rock, or
through the maturation of biological ?lters,
such as external canister or sump ?lters.
One annoying offshoot of biological ?ltration
is that it can only convert waste so far ? usually
to nitrate ? and this chemical still needs to be
controlled through regular water changes.
Live rock
Live rock is the ?go to? ?lter medium for the
modern marine tank. Live rock is formed from
old, dead coral skeletons, and naturally occurs
abundantly around reefs. Here, it behaves as a
biological ?lter for the sea, housing the
necessary bacteria required to convert wastes.
By harvesting this rock, aquarists can bring
??lters? straight from the sea and into their tanks.
While expensive ? even cheap live rock will set
you back double ?gures per kg ? it?s considered
by far the best way to maintain water quality
in a marine tank.
8
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
As a bonus, live rock goes above and beyond
the activity of standard biological ?ltration.
Because the rock is so porous, the bacteria
penetrate deep inside it, meaning additional
types of bacteria can occur. Among these are
bacteria who will even use nitrate as a food
source, converting it into harmless nitrogen gas.
As an extra bonus, live rock also comes with a
bounty of other life forms covering it! Alongside
colourful algae (especially the gorgeous, purple
encrusting types), live rock can come with tiny
polyps, corals, shrimps, crabs, sponges and more.
Unfortunately, that also means you sometimes
have a nuisance creature turn up as well, such
as a predatory Mantis shrimp, or a coral-eating
worm but, on the whole, most live rock is safe.
When buying live rock, make sure you only
buy ?cured? live rock. After collection and
transit, live rock turns foul for a short while and
requires soaking and maturation to ?ush out
any nasties within it ? this is the curing process.
While cheap, uncured live rock is available, if
you add this to your tank it will almost certainly
cause extreme water quality issues.
Always ask if it?s cured BEFORE you buy!
Biological canister ?ltration
You?ll be familiar with
biological ?lters if you?ve
ever kept freshwater ?sh.
They?re the canisters
that sit inside or
outside an aquarium,
contain different
types of media, and
need regular cleaning
and maintenance.
In marine tanks,
canister ?lters have
Above: Biological
supplements kick
start ?ltration.
Left: A typical
canister ?lter.
JACQUES PORTAL
MARINE GUIDE
ROCKS OR
FILTERS?
SHUTTERSTOCK
While cycling is a long-winded process,
adding biological supplements can help. These
liquids and tablets contain colonies of live
bacteria that settle in the ?lter. Some claim to be
able to mature a tank instantaneously, but it?s
best to take such claims with a pinch of salt.
During the cycling period, test the water
regularly to assess how much pollution is being
converted, and therefore how the bacteria are
developing. There are helpful calculators online
where you can upload your test results. They?ll
then tell you how much more ammonia to add
until your tank is ?nally ?mature? and safe for ?sh.
Above: Live rock
brings a reef tank to
full glory.
Below: Fresh live
rock is rich with
life and colour.
NEIL HEPWORTH
largely been made redundant by super-ef?cient
live rock, but some people do still like to use
them ? particularly those with ?sh-only systems.
The main drawback with a canister-type ?lter
in a marine tank is that it doesn?t have the ability
of live rock to convert nitrates into nitrogen
(unless expensive supplementary ?lters are
added). This means it?s more dif?cult to control
nitrates, and will require very frequent water
changes to dilute the nitrates back down.
Canister ?lters can also become dirty, so the
media inside them becomes smothered and
loses ef?ciency. In the event of a failure of the
pump, the bacteria inside may starve or
suffocate, leading to the ?lter ?crashing? and
being unable to convert toxic wastes.
Biological ?lters also need to be cycled (see
below) before ?sh can be added to the tank.
This is time-consuming and frustrating in a way
that live rock just isn?t.
What is cycling?
Cycling is the act of taking a ?lter without any
bacteria and colonising it with enough bacteria
to cope with the waste that will eventually be
produced by ?sh.
The main way of cycling a ?lter involves
adding liquid ammonia to simulate ?sh waste
over a long period, providing the bacteria with a
food source to grow on. Because the tank will
be highly toxic with ammonia throughout this
period, ?sh and corals cannot be added.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK
9
NATHAN HILL
MARINE GUIDE
Find a reputable
dealer for your fish.
BUYING & ADDING
YOUR
LIVESTOCK
Buying fish is a real delight, and your store should be able to
T
AKE ALONG details of
your tank. Include your
pH, ammonia, nitrite and
nitrate levels, as well as
the temperature and a list
of what livestock you
already have.
At least one staff
member should be able to tell you
exactly what conditions each and
every ?sh on sale needs to keep it
healthy. Never buy a ?sh that you or
the store know nothing about.
Ask what the ?sh are feeding on.
10
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
Don?t be shy about asking to see them
eating if you have any doubts, and
don?t buy ?sh that refuse to feed.
Investigate the sale tanks hard. If
any ?sh in there are sick, dead or
dying, don?t purchase from that tank.
Once you?ve bought your ?sh, keep
them in their insulated, dark packaging
for the journey home. Don?t keep
taking them out to check on them ?
you?ll only stress them out.
Remember, a good store will ask
you lots of questions to ensure that
they sell you the right ?sh.
Sun corals need
target feeding.
SHUTTERSTOCK
answer all of your queries. But it also helps to do your homework
so you know what you?re looking for before you visit.
Anthias needs lots of
small feeds.
10 STEPS TO
ACCLIMATISING
1
2
Transfer your ?sh or corals
into a clean bucket.
Use a length of airline to
start syphoning water from
the tank.
3
Use a clamp or valve to
slow the ?ow to around two
drops per second.
4
Allow the water from the
aquarium to mix with the
contents of the bucket.
5
6
Use a refractometer to
measure the salt levels in
both the tank and the bucket.
Use a thermometer to do the
same with temperatures.
7
When tank and bucket are
equal on both salt level
and temperature, move your
livestock out of the bucket.
8
Use a net to move ?sh,
but use a jug or a cup to
move invertebrates like corals
or anemones. Air exposure can
cause them problems.
9
Keep the lights off in the
tank for at least an hour
while the newcomers settle in.
10
Look for any signs of
damage or bullying from,
or towards, the new additions in
the days following introduction
XXXXXXXXXX
Cover the bucket with a
lid so it?s dark inside. This
helps to calm the ?sh and also
stops them jumping out.
A balanced diet for everyone
In order to keep your livestock at its
best, you?ll need to offer appropriate,
high-quality meals. And it?s not just ?sh
that need their daily rations ? corals
need consideration too!
Feeding your fish
Specialist marine ?akes will suf?ce for
many ?sh. These contain a good
balance of different ingredients that
provide a nutritionally complete diet.
Offer food more regularly for
plankton feeders. Species like Anthias
may need four or ?ve small meals a
day just to survive.
Live Artemia is relished by most
marine ?sh, but irradiated frozen
Artemia offers a safer alternative. Feed
a frozen diet at least twice a week.
Frozen foods in general are
excelllent, but be sure to mix it up.
Enriched Artemia and Mysis should be
staples in your freezer, but also look at
krill, chopped squid and green foods.
Many ?sh enjoy seaweed and
various vegetables. Attach some to the
glass with a feeding clip, and let the ?sh
graze at their leisure.
Turn down any pumps while feeding
to give the ?sh a chance to eat. Some
pumps even have a ?feeding? setting for
exactly this.
Any uneaten food should be removed
with a net after a few minutes.
?lter from the water. When feeding
corals, turn off the protein skimmer for
a short while, as it may inadvertantly
remove the food from the water.
Always follow the dosage instructions
on the pack closely, even if it doesn?t
look as if much food is going in. Giving
too much coral food will play havoc
with your water quality.
Prepare to ?target feed? some types
of coral. This involves loading a pipette
or syringe with food and squirting a
small amount directly at the corals.
Cleaning crew, such as hermit crabs
or snails, will also need feeding as they
won?t be able to to survive by relying
on scraps and leftovers. Offer small
morsels of meaty food like brineshrimp.
Feeding your inverts
Some types of coral need to be fed a
?nely powdered or liquid food that they
Food clips will let grazing ?sh eat
through the day.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 11
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SMART RETURN PUMP
EcoTech Marine has set new standards for
equipment in saltwater aquariums. The Vectra is
no exception. The world?s smartest return pump
can be run on a schedule, wirelessly give you
updates on the operation and be automatically
Your Marine Specialists
Visit your local Aquatics store for
great advice and fish that really
catch your eye
R
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O
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S
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F
F
O
10%
Marine ish
from TMC
Wide range of
tropicals
Coldwater and
pond fish
Website
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or trimaraquaria.com
AQUALUSH
SWINDON?S PREMIER
AQUATICS CENTRE
NEVER MISS
AN ISSUE!
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? Extensive selection of marine, tropical, and reptile
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MARINE GUIDE
NEIL HEPWORTH
NEIL HEPWORTH
NEIL HEPWORTH
15
CHOICES FOR
YOUR FIRST TANK
Firefish
Size: 11cm/4.2in, males smaller
Tank size: 100 l/22 gal minimum
Temperament: Peaceful
Reef compatible? Yes
Size: Up to 2.5cm/1in
Tank size: 15 l/3.3 gal minimum
Temperament: Peaceful
Reef compatible? Yes
Size: To 7.5cm/3in
Tank size: 40 l/9 gal or bigger
Temperament: Peaceful
Reef compatible? Yes
ALAMY
NEIL HEPWORTH
Astraea turbo snail
NEIL HEPWORTH
Common clownfish
Bicolor blenny
Green chromis
Royal gramma
Size: Up to 10cm/4in
Tank size: 100 l/22 gal minimum
Temperament: Peaceful
Reef compatible? Yes
Size: Up to 10cm/4in
Tank size: 100 l/22 gal minimum
Temperament: Peaceful
Reef compatible? Yes
Size: Up to 7.5cm/3in
Tank size: 100 l/22 gal minimum
Temperament: Usually peaceful
Reef compatible? Yes
14
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
NEIL HEPWORTH
SHUTTERSTOCK
PHOTOMAX
Mushroom rock
Size: Up to 7.5cm/3in
Tank size: 100 l/22 gal minimum
Temperament: Territorial and
semi-aggressive
Reef compatible? Yes
Size: N/A
Tank size: 15 l/3.3 gal minimum
Temperament: Aggressive grower
Reef compatible? Yes. An easy and very
desirable choice
Size: N/A
Tank size: 15 l/3.3 gal minimum
Temperament: Semi-aggressive
Reef compatible? Yes. An excellent
choice
ALAMY
NEIL HEPWORTH
Zoanthus polyp/Zoa
NEIL HEPWORTH
Neon blue goby
Green star polyps
Size: Up to 7.5cm/3in
Tank size: 100 l/22 gal minimum
Temperament: Semi-aggressive
Reef compatible? Yes
Size: 5cm/2in
Tank size: 30 l/7 gal or bigger
Temperament: Peaceful
Reef compatible? Yes
Size: N/A
Tank size: 15 l/3.3 gal minimum
Temperament: Peaceful
Reef compatible? Yes. Very desirable
ALAMY
SHUTTERSTOCK
Sixline wrasse
NEIL HEPWORTH
NEIL HEPWORTH
Bicolor dottyback
Cleaner shrimp
Yellow tail blue damsel
Blue-legged hermit crabs
Size: 5cm/2in
Tank size: 15 l/3.3 gal minimum
Temperament: Peaceful
Reef compatible? Yes
Size: Up to 7.5cm/3in
Tank size: 100 l/22 gal minimum
Temperament: Semi-aggressive
Reef compatible? Yes
Size: Up to 2.5cm/1in
Tank size: 15 l/3.3 gal minimum
Temperament: Peaceful
Reef compatible? Yes
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 15
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GEAR & REVIEWS
Ro
t
This month we take a trip down to the southern end of Essex to
see three stores, all heavily stocked in their own unique ways.
TOTAL JOURNEY TIME: 4 HRS 10 MINS. MILES: 215
Albino thread?n acara
at Maidenhead Aquatics.
100 PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
Visit 1
Maidenhead Aquatics @
Summerhi?
August 29th
FASCINATING FISH
ALBINO THREADFIN ACARA
The Theadfin acara isn?t a rare fish by any means, but we?ve never
seen them available as albinos before.
6Scientific name: Acarichthys heckelii
6Origin: North Amazon basin: Peru, Colombia, Brazil and Guyana
6Habitat: Wide, lowland rivers with fallen wood, leaf litter and fine
sand. Often ventures into flooded forests and savannahs during
the wet season
6Size: Up to 20cm
6Temperature: 24-30癈
6Water: Unfussy ? 6.0-7.8 pH, hardness 4-20癏
6Feeding: Unfussy mid-water omnivore ? pellets, frozen and live
foods. Variety is said to be the key to colourful specimens
6Temperament: Very peaceful for a largish fish. May eat fish of
2-3cm or less. Mix with other peaceful to semi-aggressive fish
that suit the same conditions
6Price: �
ALL PHOTOS: NATHAN HILL
NATHAN WRITES: This store is
conveniently placed on a busy
carriageway, and inside a garden
centre. Just note that if you
overshoot the entrance, it?s not a
?ve-second job to turn round and
come back. Off to the next junction
you go, to come back past the store
on the opposite side, then spin around
at the next junction to try again.
The store spreads in two directions
? livestock to the left and dry goods
to the right ? and both sides are well
stocked. In the dry goods section
you?ll see a lot of familiar faces,
including Ocean Free, MicrobeLift
supplements, and Maidenhead
exclusive tanks and cabinets. There?s
roughly a 50/50 split between pond
gear and aquarium equipment.
In the other direction, along the
side and rear walls there?s a line of
tropical freshwater aquaria leading
to temperate tanks, while up the
middle you have indoor ponds and a
bank of marines. The marine section
has just been halved in size to make
way for a dedicated softwater system.
For ?sh quality, the pond vats are
the least impressive on variety,
though stock is healthy and prices
are pretty good ? three 8-10in Koi
on offer for �0, for example. The
temperate tanks house some nice
fancy gold?sh strains, but there are
plenty of danio and other temperate
options if preferred.
The marines are healthy but run of
the mill. If you want a striking tang
or pair of plump clowns, then great.
If you want unusual, then it?s not
really happening.
Summerhill brands itself as a
cat?sh specialist, and though
stocking was light due to the timing
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 101
GEAR & REVIEWS
Roadtrip: Eex
AT A
GLANCE
MAIDENHEAD
AQUATICS @
SUMMERHILL
Address
Summerhill Garden
Centre, Pipps Hill
Road, North
Billericay, Essex
CM11 2UJ
Telephone
01268 522259
Website
fishkeeper.co.uk
Number of tanks:
262 tropical,
27 marine,
9 coldwater,
9 ponds
Parking
Garden centre car
park, easy
of our visit, there certainly were
plenty of loricariids, from
Planiloricaria to Pseudacanthicus,
and heaps in between.
I shouldn?t downplay the store?s
commitment to cichlids either.
Towards the rear, there?s a good
selection of Geophagines, including
some unusual albino strains. African
Rift Valley fans will ?nd plenty to
pick from, while another bank of
tanks sees a selection of some
central American species. Oddities
are here, but they?re not too heavily
represented. Look out for the Glass
knife?sh, Eignemannia virescens, as
well as the corking group of
Ctenolucius Pike characins. There
were a few larger ?sh ? tankbusterlite, if you will ? in the mix too.
STEVE WRITES: The word that
springs to mind here is ?balanced?.
As someone who?s previously worked
in retail I know that basic, common
community ?sh sell, and keep most
shops open, no matter how
enthusiastic the staff are to sell
more specialist ?sh.
Livebearers, tetras, Corydoras and
so on ?ll the ?rst few rows of tanks,
then things get more and
more interesting as
Rocket Gar,
Ctenolucius
hujeta.
102 PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
you move along. Hockeystick
pencil?sh (�50), Corydoras
napoensis (�50) and Sail?n tetra
(�50), lead to Slender hemiodus
(�.50), Glass knife?sh (�) and
some 15cm Twig cat?sh (�).
Plecos are a strong feature, with
Spotted cactus plecs (�), Leopard
frog plecs (�), large Royal
panaque (�0), Goldie plecs (�)
etc. The south American theme
includes cichlids ? few dwarf cichlids,
but medium to large cichlids feature
strongly with the likes of albino
Thread?n acara (�), Geophagus
pellegrini (� per pair), Redneck
severums (�.50) and Chocolate
cichlids (�) all standing out.
At the far end there?s a wall of
Malawi cichlids, including Red-top
trewavasae (�50), Haplochromis
livingstonii (�50), Maylandia
lombardoi (�50) and Aulonacara
nyassae (�50). Then you get to
Central American cichlids and
unusual cat?sh including a mouthbrooding cat, Phyllonemus typus
(�). Then we?re back to common
?sh, with a good selection of
gouramis and rainbow?sh.
Plants ?nish off the run, but our
post-bank holiday timing meant there
wasn?t a great selection on our visit.
Pond equipment and ?sh are
offered, adequate enough to serve
the majority of customer needs and
wants. Unfortunately, pond plants
aren?t offered as they con?ict with
the garden centre?s products.
Marine livestock offers a bit of
everything ? reef-friendly ?sh, goodlooking inverts, corals of all levels and
non-reef friendly ?sh. For freshwater
tropical there?s plenty for the casual
?shkeeper, aspiring aquarist and
experienced hobbyist alike.
BOTTOM:
Glass knife?sh,
Eigenmannia
virescens.
FASCINATING FISH
GLASS KNIFEFISH
The Glass knife?sh is a curiosity. They swim in swift-moving,
deep water where plant waste builds up on the substrate and
little light penetrates. They are scaleless and sensitive ?sh and
produce electric signals to identify males from females.
6Scientific name: Eigenmannia virescens
6Origin: South America: Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana,
Suriname, French Guyana, Brazil and Bolivia
6Habitat: Ponds, creeks and ?ood plains
6Size: Male to 45cm, female to 20cm
6Temperature: 18-28癈
6Water: Soft and acidic 6.0-7.0 pH, 2-12癏
6Feeding: Rarely accept dried foods. Feed frozen or live black
mosquito larvae, bloodworm, Mysis and brineshrimp
6Temperament: Peaceful, nocturnal and very shy. Mix only with
sedate, peaceful tankmates and keep in groups of ?ve or more
6Price: �
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 103
GEAR & REVIEWS
Roadtrip: Eex
Visit
2
Creation Aquatics
August 29th
NH: How to sum up Creation? The
staff are amazing. The shop is
bonkers. The livestock might have
some customers walking out in
protest. Still, Creation stands
strong after over 30 years of
trading. If there?s a
problem with the
livestock, the
paying public
don?t mind.
So what?s up
with the livestock?
Legally, nothing at all.
But look about and you?ll
see dyed ?sh and tankbusters
all over. Young Giant gourami
appear in many tanks. Then there
are the Red-tailed cat?sh. The
Golden dorado. And so on.
But I didn?t come here for the
?sh. I came for the dry goods, and
oh my! WHAT a selection. Creation
is huge on the secondhand market,
with branded equipment at
outstanding prices.
Much of it isn?t boxed. Heaps of it
is used, with watermarks. It probably
won?t even have a price on it until
you pop over and see store owner
Mick. I left with three tanks, ?ve
AT A
GLANCE
Aluminium cat
shark, Ariopsis
seemanni.
CREATION
AQUATICS
Address
238 London Road,
Wickford, Essex
SS12 0JX
Telephone
01268 766553
Website
creationaquatics.
co.uk
Number of tanks
38 tropical,
12 marine,
9 ponds
Parking
Garden centre car
park, easy
104 PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
The ?rst time
we?ve seen King
Kong parrot?sh.
books, wood, food, an air pump and
other sundries for under �0.
Since my last visit Creation has had
a tidy up. Years back, I came with
former editor Jeremy Gay on a buying
trip and watched him climb over
products to get to the other side of a
pile, mountaineer style. Now there
are coherent walkways. That said,
if you?re in a wheelchair or have
mobility problems, some parts of
Creation will be a struggle to reach.
There are some awesome
nostalgia pieces to be had.
There are discontinued
tanks and cabinets
at knock-down
prices (all
used) and
even a small
?museum? of
early-era aquatic
equipment. Mick pulled
down an immaculate copy of
?Aquarist and Pondkeeper? from
1965. If the price was right, he
might even part with it.
For old equipment spares, this is
the place to go ? there?s a metal
rack coated in impellers. The
selection of pond pump ?ttings is
the largest I?ve ever seen. I?m
con?dent even the most obscure
ranges are tucked away somewhere.
From my perspective, I could lose
half a day just rooting about through
piles of unlabelled goods, but I like
to pretend that I don?t even know
about the ?sh house.
SB: Oh my! Nathan wanted to show
me Creation Aquatics for the ?rst
time, telling stories of nearly
drowning in nostalgic products while
being stared down by an 8ft tall
velociraptor (what else). Creation is
very entertaining to say the least.
If you scowl at untidy shelves, or
get upset about having to negotiate
part-blocked walkways, I suggest you
circumnavigate Creation. But if you
like to look, rummage and ?nd
bargains and items of historic
interest, then knock yourself out.
The selection of used tanks is
amazing on its own ? not just decent
?ve-year-old Juwel or Fluval tanks,
but all kinds of sizes and shapes.
If you can?t ?nd a tank here that will
?t into that awkward recess in the
living room, then you?re not looking
hard enough!
I?m a huge fan of shops stocking
spare parts ? why buy a new ?lter
when all you need is a replacement
part? Often, you can?t ?nd a spare and
can?t be without a ?lter while you
order one. Come to Creation and you
are likely to ?nd spares, used or new,
for anything made this side of Saturn.
What else seems out of this world is
the ethics of the livestock selection.
I wasn?t prepared for seeing quite so
many ?sh that anger me ? injected
Glass?sh, Balloon rams, gold?sh
housed with guppies, Elephantnoses
mixed with Fairy cichlids? And then
the tankbusters ? Tilapia buttikoferi,
Lemon barbs, Giant gouramis, Silver
arowana (�), Red-tail cats (�)
a 38cm Dorado (�0) and more.
The number of tanks we?ve recorded
here is quite misleading. While the
numbers are right, the size of these
tanks is maybe eight times the size
of a typical retailer?s tank, with many
around the 250 l mark. It?s the same
for both trops and marines.
Creation is huge
on the secondhand
market, with
branded equipment
at outstanding
prices
Visit 3
Swa?ows Aquatics
Colchester
August 29th
NH: What is it with Essex and heavy
stocking? Swallows embodies the
aquatic supermarket feel, with row
upon row of shelving for dry goods
and a vast livestock area. Even the
indoor pond section (let alone the
expansive outside one) is bigger
than some entire aquatics stores.
Since my last visit several years
ago, the marine section has shrunk a
little, yet the selection doesn?t seem
compromised for it. There are still
heaps of bright corals, racks of frags,
and a compressed ?sh section along
one wall. I?ve always been a fan of
the slightly unusual damsel?sh that
Swallows braves to import.
Swallows has an exciting tropical
freshwater spread. Whether you?re
after singular oddballs like a Fahaka
puffer?sh, or a shoal of rarities
you?ll need a second mortgage for ?
the Blackberry silver dollars,
Myleus schomburgkii at �0 each
? your niche tastes are covered. My
suspicion is that at least one of the
store?s livestock buyers has a South
American fetish, re?ected in the
likes of superb angel?sh. This place
has the feel you get when you enter
a store that?s been taken over by
hardcore hobbyists.
If you?re looking for run of the mill
?sh, they?re here too, but spruced
up a little. Instead of ?just? tetra,
there are cracking African varieties.
Rather than just standard Ancistrus,
there are attractive L-numbers dotted
all over. Pick any family, in fact, and
Swallows makes a real effort to keep
the stocking varied. Africans are
strong, with some impressive Frontosa
variants, and heaps of in-vogue
lamprologines and haplochromines.
One addition I don?t recall from
before (though I may be wrong) is
the selection of rainforest-type
plants. These would go nicely with
the increasing trend for open-topped
tanks with plants on wood over the
water?s surface.
On the dry goods side,
pick a big name
brand and it?s
likely to be here.
I spotted Fluval,
Oase, JBL, King
British, BiOrb,
API, Hozelock,
FishScience,
Hydor, Arcadia,
Nile or Fahaka
puffer, Tetraodon
lineatus.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 105
GEAR & REVIEWS
Roadtrip: Eex
Vitalis, Evolution Aqua and more.
Despite Swallows being a great
all-round supplier, this latest visit
has made me ?ag it up as a ?biotope
resource? for future projects. Bring a
couple of polystyrene boxes with you
when you visit, as chances are
something will jump out at you.
SB: This aquatics superstore covers
nearly every aspect of the hobby,
with a wide range of goods for each
direction. It doesn?t really specialise
in anything in particular, but by
that I mean that standards are
consistently high throughout.
I know this shop (I live
an hour away) for
offering one of the
best selections
of Tanganyikan
cichlids I?ve
seen. The rift
valley selection has
decreased of late, but
there are still 15 tanks of
Tanganyikans and a substantial
number of Malawis. It?s now
offering more South American ?sh
imported from Brazil and Columbia.
The selection of community ?sh is
big, with the usual favourites covered,
plus some slightly left?eld choices,
such as Panther danios (�35),
Splash tetra (�25), Golden skif?a
(�.95 per pair) and Empire
gudgeon (�95). There are more
specialist ?sh in the form of 5-6in
Discus (�), Guianacara geayi
(�.94), large Rio Nanay angels
(�0 per pair), Metynnis fasciatus
(�.99) and some sensible oddballs
including Polypterus endlicheri
(�.95), ?A? grade Flowerhorn
(�0), and Platinum Senegal
bichirs (�0), among others.
The business has been at these
premises for 13 years and the
staf?ng is stable. Swallows also
deals in reptiles, which sees some
crossover with ?shkeeping (and
birds), but the ?sh side of
things is far, far larger.
Water gardening and
ponds are well
catered for.
There?s a huge
range of pond
plants, plenty of
preformed ponds and
watercourses, water
features and a wide variety
of ?sh, including 16 vats
dedicated to Japanese Koi, plus
other pond ?sh and Israeli Koi.
There?s plenty of salty action too.
The marine selection caters for both
reef and ?sh-only set-ups, and there
were plenty of good-sized, strong
and healthy looking specimens.
Puffers and triggers feature highly
including a big Golden puffer
(�5), Porcupine puffer (�) and
a Pineapple trigger (�0). Other
?sh-only livestock included larger
angels such as the Scribbled angel
(�9.95), several different
Butter?y ?sh and many others.
Reef-friendly ?sh included Bartlett?s
anthias (�.95) and Flame
cardinals (�), alongside damsels,
clowns and hawk?sh.
You?ll also see a good selection of
tanks for sale here and they aren?t the
ones you see in every shop either.
Cleair Aquariums feature heavily,
alongside alternatively shaped Boyu
tanks, a few smaller tanks by Aqua
one, and a range of Biorbs.
With all the excitement in the ?sh
house and the outdoor pond area,
I didn?t get chance to assess the dry
goods closely, as time had ?own by
and Swallows was closing for the
night. But I know from previous visits
to this store that the stock of dry
goods has never left me disappointed.
ABOVE:
Rainbow goby,
Stiphodon
ornatus.
LEFT:
There?s a lovely
selection of
Japanese Koi.
AT A
GLANCE
SWALLOW
AQUATICS@
COLCHESTER
Address
Mill Race Garden
Centre, New Road,
Aldham, Colchester,
Essex CO6 3QT
Telephone
01206 242521
Website
swallowaquatics.
co.uk
Number of tanks
268 tropical,
45 marine,
28 pond/Koi
Parking
Garden centre car
park, easy
106 PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
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insurance with mustard.co.uk
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GEAR & REVIEWS
GEAR
FIRST
LOOK
A starter aquarium, a new bio ?lter, and lighting units on test
TETRA STARTER LINE LED 80L AQUARIUM
RRP: �.99
More info: tetra.net
This 80-litre tank is the third in the
series of Starter Line tanks produced
by Tetra. It continues the relatively
basic, robust and easy-to-use design
of its predecessors, but offers more
water volume than the 30 l and 54 l
models previously available.
108 PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
The new 80 l tank shares the same
footprint as the 54 l model. Both
measure 60cm in length and 30cm
in width, but with a 45cm height
(51cm including the lid) the 80 l
is 15cm taller, which allows for the
extra water volume. The equipment
is suitably uprated with a 10-watt
LED light, 75-watt heaterstat and a
7.5-watt ?lter providing a maximum
?ow of 600l/h. It all comes with a
two-year warranty.
The 75w heater is pre-set to 25癈
and sits neatly into a chamber of the
?lter housing, resulting in heated
water exiting the ?lter that?s pushed
around the tank. This method helps
to prevent any cool pockets of water
in the aquarium.
The light is pretty punchy. It?s
impressive how far 10w can go with
LEDs but the spectrum is rather
basic, providing a stark white light.
This is perfectly good for viewing
?sh and growing undemanding
plants, but if you struggle with
getting plants to ?ourish you may
need to invest in extra lighting.
Looking at the EasyCrystal ?lter
out of context, it?s a bulky looking
thing. Roughly a third of the size is
set aside to house the heater. But
put it into a working tank and you
might be surprised how easily it
becomes visually insigni?cant with
a few plants or hardscape in front of
it. The ?lter has a replaceable
carbon and ?oss cartridge (the tank
includes two cartridges), which need
to be replaced every four weeks,
plus a high surface area board at
the front as biological media.
The ?ow is not pressurised from
the pump, rather the water is
pumped into the ?lter and exits
10 watts of LED produces
a white light.
The chunky ?lter
conceals the
heater.
with gentle movement.
The tank is constructed from
6mm ?oat glass with black silicone
work and a ?oating base. The lid is
formed from sturdy moulded plastic
and incorporates the lighting
bracket, ventilation and a hinged
access lid for daily feeding.
Extras include two things you
can?t do without ? tap water
conditioner (100ml, treats 200
litres), and ?sh food (20g), as well
as the spare ?lter cartridge.
Food and
conditioner
included!
ZISS BUBBLE BIO ZB-300
RRP: �.99
More info: allpondsolutions.co.uk
Here?s a simple but well put together bio ?lter
produced by South Korean manufacturer Ziss
Aqua. Along with other Ziss products, it?s being
bought into the UK and sold by All Pond Solutions.
The Bubble Bio ZB-300 is rated for use in tanks
up to 300 l. In this size aquarium it will make a
good additional ?lter for concentrating on
processing ammonia and nitrite, but if used in a
much smaller aquarium (up to 80 l) it might well
be the only ?lter you?ll need, especially when
keeping lowish levels of stock or when breeding.
As it?s a bio ?lter, there?s no surprise it has
limited mechanical ?ltration; however, a disc of
coarse foam sits at the base of the ?lter (the inlet)
to ensure the bio media doesn?t become blocked
with particles. The bio media included is
manufactured by Ziss itself, but you?d be forgiven
for mistaking it for K1 micro. It?s of a very similar
vein and works in the same way, with each piece
knocking into the others as they tumble. This
results in a self-cleaning media, while inside each
piece a miniature refugium develops to house the
life needed to deal with ?sh waste.
Each plastic component is robust and well-made
and although the colour looks a bit grim, in a
working tank it?s an easy
shade to disguise.
You?ll need an airpump
to run this, with the size
depending on your usage
and tank size. There?s no
guide as to min/max ?ow
rates unfortunately.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 109
?
GEAR & REVIEWS
GEAR USED & ABUSED
d LED
FLUVAL PLANT 3.0 LED
Spec: 61-85cm 32w Tester: Steve Baker
Duration: 5 weeks RRP: �9.99 More info: hagen.com
GREAT FOR...
PLANTED
TANKS AND
ENHANCING
COLOURS
This is exactly what I wanted. I have
the older version (Fresh & Plant 2.0)
which offers a very good spectrum
and more than enough power, but it
has no controllability, just an on/off/
blues switch. This new, improved
model, however, has fully
Spec: 83.5-106.5cm 25w Tester: Steve
Duration: 5 weeks RRP: �3 More info: hagen.com
GREAT
FOR...MOST
FRESHWATER
TANKS.
I?ve had the older version of this and
its ability was impressive. That unit
was already quite controllable with a
remote control to pick out the
colour, power or weather setting, but
now, with the Bluetooth app and the
110 PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
ompared
customisable dawn and dusk
settings that ramp the lights up and
down over whatever period you
choose. Daytime (and night-time)
spectrum settings use ?ve colours
(pink, blue, cold white, pure white
and warm white) to get the desired
effect. Even in a heavily planted
paludarium, I had to throttle it back
a fair old way.
The surprise for me was the app.
I don?t tend to embrace technology
easily; other than social media this
was the ?rst app I?d installed on my
phone and it?s been a breeze to use.
It connects via Bluetooth, not WiFi,
and I?ve found the connection
faultless each time I?ve wanted to
?ddle with the settings.
Price-wise, I reckon �0 is
ld b
with less. But the RRP isn?t
necessarily the price you?ll pay;
without searching too hard I?ve
already seen this model at �0
which seems very good value to me!
Oh, it?s also IP67 waterproof rated,
so if you dunk it in the tank for 30
minutes or less, it?ll still be ?ne.
added controllability, this is an
all-round better product. The app
on this one is very similar to the
Plant 3.0 but with four different
colours to control rather than ?ve
(red, green, blue and white). The
dawn/dusk periods are fully
adjustable and there are imitation
weather conditions.
I?ve used this light on a nonplanted tank that?s 38cm deep, so
I didn?t need the full capability and
set each colour at around 60%.
The transition from dusk to off is
smother than many dearer units
(the plant 3.0 included).
There are plenty of options for
mounting. You can rest it like a
traditional luminare, ?x it to T8 or
T5 brackets, or use the retro?t
brackets to ?t it under a lid. Again,
Fluval have made it in compliance
with IP67 waterproof rating, so a
splash in the tank?s not a worry.
I think the price is ?ne for a 90cm
LED light with full adjustability, but
it?ll be cheaper if you shop around
? I quickly found it for �.99.
VERDICT
This suits high-energy planted
tanks mostly, but can be dialled
down to suit tanks of all kinds.
Plus you?ll see some lovely
enhanced colours in your fish!
EASE OF USE:
FEATURES:
VALUE:
OVERALL:
悙悙�
悙悙�
悙悙
悙悙�
VERDICT
This is a good freshwater light for
all but high-energy plant tanks,
and with four fitting styles it?s
likely to fit nearly all types of tank.
It?s easy to use too.
EASE OF USE:
FEATURES:
VALUE:
OVERALL:
悙悙�
悙悙
悙悙�
悙悙�
INTERPET TRI-SPEC 2
Spec: 52-60cm 22w Tester: Steve Baker
Duration: 5 weeks RRP: �4.99 + �.99 More info: interpet.co.uk
This light unit left me wanting,
unfortunately. I?ve been using it with
the additional app controller, but it?s
quite a restrictive form of control.
My biggest bugbear is with the blue
diodes. You set the dusk time for the
evening, but then there?s an auto
setting that keeps the blue lighting
on for a further three hours at the
same power as the daytime setting,
so you can view nocturnal activity.
If this was in any other room I
could probably just ignore it and
carry on, but it was set up in my
bedroom, and even 1% power in the
blue diodes was enough to disturb
my sleep. I contacted Interpet to
con?rm my options, and it was
suggested I could either turn off the
main light an hour after I got home
from work, or turn the blues off
permanently. I chose the latter, but
the tank just looked strange. The
app just needs an option to cancel
the additional three hours, which
seems a simple ?x to me.
The dawn/dusk settings only last
15 minutes each, with no option to
adjust them.
I found the app connectivity
unreliable. At least four times I
wanted to adjust the lighting but
couldn?t connect, even with the
phone touching the app unit. After
disconnecting the app cables and
re-connecting, it generally worked.
Next? I don?t like the size of the
diodes. The fact that they?re bigger,
fewer and further apart isn?t an issue
with the white diodes, but it means
the coloured diodes show a shaft of
colour rather than one blended
spectrum, and I wasn?t keen on the
effect. In my tank it sits roughly
4cm above the water surface. Given
more clearance, I?m sure it would
blend much better.
Fittings-wise this unit suits
?furniture tanks? with ?ap-style lids
like Juwel tanks and Fluval?s Roma
range. Retro?t brackets are included
too, so you can screw it into a lid.
It?s also IP67 waterproof rated.
VERDICT
It?s good for power, but I?m not a
fan of this unit. If it sat 20cm off
the water, and wasn?t in a bedroom,
I might be happier to use it.
EASE OF USE:
FEATURES:
VALUE:
OVERALL:
悙悙
悙
悙�
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ALFA KOI TREAT MIX
First look: Steve Baker
RRP: �29
More info: interpet.co.uk
I?m sure you could hide these in someone?s
breakfast cereal or dried fruit mix to give them a
surprise. If you value your friendships though,
maybe feed them to your ?shy friends instead.
As a summer treat, these petri?ed carcasses will
help boost the growth of your Koi. They have a
protein level of 56%, fats and oils 20%, crude ?bre
4% and crude ash 7%.
As well as Koi, these tasty snacks would also be
happily devoured by larger cichlids like Oscars,
Jack Dempseys and so on, or chunky cat?sh ? any
carnivore or omnivore with a big-enough mouth
really. Just don?t feed too much at a time in
aquariums, or they will produce an oily ?lm on the
water?s surface.
Good price and a lovely treat for your fish.
Very bouyant ? they take a long while to absorb water.
14
The Aquatic Store
Really does have it all!
www.theaquaticstore.co.uk 01179 639120
28 North Street Bedminster Bristol BS3 1HW
QUAT
SA
I
CS
From plants to
Cichlids, Stingrays
to Snakeheads
LINC
LINCOLNSHIRE
BRISTOL
LINCOLNSHIRE
Hanger1 ? Strubby Air?eld
Woodthorpe ? Nr Alford ? LN13 0DD
01507 451000
EAST YORKSHIRE
Hedon Road ? Burstwick
East Yorks ? HU12 9HA
01482 898800
SOUTH YORKSHIRE
Great North Rd
Doncaster ? DN10 6AB
01302 711639
To all our customers ? thank you for your support with the PFK Awards
LARGE SELECTION OF
? Aquariums
? Fibreglass ponds
? Working Water
Features
? Waterfall Display
? Pumps
HUGE SELECTION OF
? Koi & Ornamental
Pond Fish
? Marine Fish & Invertebrates
? Tropical & Fancy Cold
Water Fish
? Pond & Tropical Plants
lincsaquatics-lincolnshire
CAMBRIDGESHIRE
Come & feed our friendly ?sh
? Discounted Pond Liners
? Lighting
? Food
? Ro-Water
? Tropical & MarineMix
? Treatments
All fish are packed to travel anywhere in the UK
lincsaquatics-eastyorkshire
lincsaquatics-southyorkshire
www.lincsaquatics.co.uk
CLASSIFIED To advertise here please call the sales team on 01733 366410
LONDON
Tropical
Marine
Cold Water
Open 7 days a week 01954 214530
www.nuttyaboutpets.co.uk sales@nuttyaboutpets.co.uk
175 St Neots, Hardwick, Cambridge, CB23 7QJ
RS ONLY
RETA IL SHOPPE
r all your
Thank you fo 1967!
support since
2
, London, E
Green Road 77292444
0
220 Bethnal
5356 Fax: 02
Tel: 020 7739
KENT
G TIMES
AY: CLOSED
? TUES, WED &
FRI 10.30-6.00
? SAT 10.00-6.00
? SUN 10.00-2.00
ww.wholesaletropicalsa
qu
atics.co.uk
The Fish Bowl Ltd
133 Dawes Road,
London. SW6 7EA
ABACUS AQUATICS
Tel: 020 7385 6005
Voted one of the Best shops in
the UK for the last 6 years
www.thefishbowlltd.com
email: thefishbowlltd@tiscali.co.uk
Now open on Sundays
OFFICIAL JUWEL STOCKISTS PLUS SPARES
For more details about the
shop and our opening hours
please visit our website
www.abacus-aquatics.co.uk
168 Halfway Street, Sidcup, Kent, DA15 8DJ
020 8302 8000 / enquiries@abacusaquatics.co.uk
COUNTY DURHAM
LEICESTERSHIRE
Retailer of
the year
North East
The only true aquatic Superstore, with over 250 stock tanks
specializing in community, rare and unusual cold water, tropical
and marine fish inverts and corals. Largest range of aquariums,
dry goods, frozen and live foods and Tropical plants.
Fish Alive
NOTTINGHAMSHIRE
Huge range of
livestock in more
than 600 tanks!
Special Event Weekend 29-30th Sept 2018
DISCOUNTS ON EVERYTHING!
www.wharfaquatics.co.uk
Opening hours weekdays 10.00 - 18.00, Saturdays 10.00 - 17.00, Sundays 10.00 - 16.00, Closed on Wednesdays
Units 10 & 11, Dragonville Retail Park, Durham DH1 2YB
Phone and fax: 0191 3843590
Aquatic and Pet Shop.
Open 5 days a week 10am to 6pm. Closed all day Thursday and Sunday
?UK Top Aquatic Retailer 2001?
LANCASHIRE
Readers?poll
2017
ODDBALL
RETAILER
OF THE YEAR
Readers?poll
2017
CICHLID
RETAILER
OF THE YEAR
Tel: 01773 861255 Marine direct: 01773 811044 Reptile direct: 01773 811499
Open 7 Days - 65-67 Wharf Road, Pinxton, Notts. NG16 6LH (near M1 J28)
SCOTLAND
AQUATICS
CENTRE
Over 250 tanks stocked
with Top Quality Fish and a
Huge dry goods section!
Tel: 01772 623497
www.aquahome.co.uk
Within Avant Gardens, (Opposite Leyland Golf
Club) Wigan Road, Leyland, PR25 5XW
House of Pisces ~ Scotland?s largest aquatic superstore by far
Large selection of Tropicals, Marine, Corals
and other livestock
Quality Liverock always in stock
Call us (0116) 274 34 26
All major brands stocked | Pond equipment available
With over 1000 aquariums full of tropical, marine and cold water fish
Huge range of aquariums, aquarium furniture and equipment at discount prices
Unit B/G, 207 Strathmartine Road, Dundee, Scotland, DD3 8PH
01382 832000 www.tropicalfish-scotland.com
www.clearwateraquatics.co.uk
Visit our website:
www.practicalfishkeeping.co.uk
FOR SALE
INTERNET
FOR SALE
Breeding Colony of LO46 Zebra Pleco?s, the group consists
of 11 fish, 6 Breeding Wild Adults and 5 F1 sub-Adults.
The Wild Adults were purchased from ?Rare Aquatics?.
Reluctantly selling
due to house move.
Buyer collects.
(ISLE OF WIGHT).
P L A N T E D AQ UA R I U M S P E C I A L I S TS
www.aquariumgardens.co.uk
01480 450572 info@aquariumgardens.co.uk
NATIONWIDE DISTRIBUTORS
�00 ono
AQUARIUM SAND
Tel: 07972 619337
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made for aquariums
DELIVERED TO YOUR DOOR
INTERNET
25kg
sack
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.co.uk
T:01254 208245
EVERYTHING FOR THE AQUARIUM,
PONDS AND REPTILES, TOP BRANDS
AT ROCK BOTTOM PRICES.
�.99
includes
P&P
Ring 01254 388815
to order
www.barlows-aquarium-supplies.com
UK MAINLAND ONLY
HUGE SELECTION OF GOODS,
FROM ALL MAJOR BRANDS
LOYALTY POINTS SCHEME
FINANCE AVAILABLE ON ALL
ORDERS OVER �0.
Barlows Aquatic Trading
AQUARIUM MANUFACTURERS..supplying direct to the public at trade prices
FRIENDLY AND
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FOR IMMEDIATE DESPATCH
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OK
Ring: 01254 388815
www.barlows-aquarium-supplies.com
e mail: barlowsaquatics@aol.com
or call in and see us at:
Brisol Works, Mount St., Accrington, Lancs BB50PJ
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sales@aquascape.co.uk
To advertise
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on 01733 366410
You can now buy single issues of
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FREE POSTAGE
More details at magsdirect.co.uk
To advertise here please call the sales team on 01733 366410
5 STAR RATED SERVICE
AND AFTER SALES
OPINION
NATHAN HILL
Young blood is vital if this hobby
is going to continue. But can we
attract it, and what forces out there
are working against us? Could we be
the last in a long line of ?shkeepers?
A while back, Maidenhead Aquatics
started its Fishkeeper Fry programme,
which was little short of genius. The
programme introduced kids of primary
school age to aquaria, using instructional
videos and hands-on application of an
Are ?lmmakers
trying to make us
feel guilty?
114 PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
ALAMY
Youth woes
Winning it back
aquarium in their schools to get them
associated with how to keep ?sh. We
de?nitely need something like that, as
young ?shkeepers are a dying breed.
When I speak to industry heads about
this, they?re quick to blame the mobile
phone culture, and I guess that does have
some in?uence. People quip how
expensive ?shkeeping is, while paying out
� a month just for a handset that?ll be
obsolete in two years. Many phones cost
more than you?d pay for a full ADA luxury
tank complete with plants and ?sh. We?re
being outcompeted by tech.
How we view pets has changed, too. Or
rather, the way young people view pets has
changed. There?s been a shift in perception
that the over-30s might struggle to notice,
but it?s there. The new ethos seems to go
along the lines that everything humans do
is wrong (you?ll notice an awful lot of guilt
just for being alive with young folks now),
while everything that happens naturally
is good or right.
The problem we face as a hobby is
getting the message across that
?shkeeping can be good for the world.
That?s a tough sell, what with the world
trying so hard to prove us wrong. It?s
doubtful that the folks rightfully trying to
stop us dumping plastics in the oceans
are going to let up their hearts and minds
campaigns any time soon, and as long as
they do that, so people will vicariously
feel increasingly bad about their impact
on the aquatic world.
I sometimes wonder if documentaries
have hindered the hobby, too. I?ve noticed
a trend in documentaries to assign
personalities to the animals being shown.
No longer is a piranha ?just? a piranha
when it?s on TV. It?s an entity with hopes
and dreams, emotions and feelings. It?s
almost as though making the viewer feel
sympathy for the subject is the new goal
of the documentary maker.
This relentless anthropomorphism leaves
us increasingly emotionally attached to
?sh in the wild. And the more we see of
them, the more familiar we become with
them, the more we can feel guilt for our
?intrusion? upon their lives. Try to picture
being young and growing up with this stuff
when your mind is still formative.
And, of course, there?s the age-old
problem. To young people, ?shkeeping just
ain?t cool. I daresay that if you?re 40-plus,
like me, you couldn?t care less if someone
called you a nerd. I positively revel in it
these days. But then I?m not 15, trying to
?t in with an increasingly judgemental
peer group and hoping to get my ?rst
girlfriend. With all that against us, is it so
surprising that it?s hard to get newcomers
to the hobby?
Guess the fish answer from page 31: Walking catfish, Clarias batrachus
A
RE WE going to be the last
generation of ?shkeepers?
I sure hope not, but
recently I?ve come to
wonder if we?ll be the last
to carry a torch for this
fascinating hobby.
For one, I keep seeing
retailer after retailer going under, and as
much the old guard as the bright-eyed
newcomers building a store on dreams
and ambition. Don?t get me wrong, some
guys are doing great out there. But the
stores going under aren?t necessarily bad.
There are some great concepts biting the
dust. They?re just not getting new custom.
Nathan Hill
is Practical
Fishkeeping
magazine?s
associate editor,
biotope fancier,
aquascape
dabbler and
part-time amateur
skateboarder.
3P]L 腪O MVVK
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
round.
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.
HX\H[PJWSHU[Z
KY` MVVK
-YVaLU腪OMVVK
LHZ`SPML WYVK\J[Z
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
blisters in 35 different flavours.
500 and 1000 gram packaging
also available and in stock!
Distributor of Easy-Life
products. Famous for EasyCarbo
and ProFito and more plant
fertilisers and water treatments.
3P]L 腪O MVVK -YVaLU 腪O MVVK ? +Y` MVVK ? 9LW[PSL MVVK
(X\H[PJ WSHU[Z ? 7VUK WSHU[Z ? ,HZ`3PMLWYVK\J[Z
0031 412 - 639 618
0031 412 - 623 052
sales@aquadip.com
www.aquadip.com
�
The best quality from Holland!
Weekly deliveries to the UK for more than 17 years.
Con
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YOUR FREE GUIDE TO STARTING A MARINE AQUARIUM
Marine Beginner?s
Guide
BUYER?S
GUIDE
15
SAFE CHOICES
What to look for
when purchasing
livestock
Friendly ?sh and accessible
inverts for your ?rst aquarium
CHOOSING YOUR TANK
Big or small, corals or ?sh?
We help you decide!
HARDWARE
ESSENTIALS
All the equipment
you need explained
LIVE ROCK
How it keeps your
aquarium clean
HOW TO KEEP A
MARINE AQUARIUM!
MARINE GUIDE
Welcome
S
O YOU fancy a marine tank? You?re not alone.
Marine aquaria are the fastest-growing area of
?shkeeping ? and for good reason. The ?sh are
colourful, the corals unique, and much of the life
is quite unlike anything you ?nd in freshwater.
But it isn?t as simple as buying a tank and
plonking ?Nemo? and his friends straight in.
Saltwater is a ?ckle chemical, and there?s much
that can go wrong in a marine set-up.
We?ve put together a basic guide overseeing some of the
key areas that a newcomer needs to know about. From
hardware essentials to feeding a coral, we hope you?ll ?nd
something in these pages that will
help you on your journey to
becoming a ?salty? ?shkeeper.
Good luck!
CONTENTS
04
06
08
TYPES OF MARINE TANK
Nano, ?sh-only, soft coral reef or
hard ? what kind of aquarium do you
want to create?
ESSENTIAL HARDWARE
From pumps to test kits, lighting
to heating, here?s the vital gear every
?shkeeper will need.
ROCKS OR FILTERS?
Filtration is essential, but how does
live rock compare to traditional
biological ?lters, and how do you go
about cycling your tank?
10
BUYING & ADDING YOUR LIVESTOCK
14
15 CHOICES FOR YOUR FIRST TANK
How to buy ?sh, what to look out
for, and 10 top tips for acclimatising
your new purchases.
Our pick of the 15 best ?sh, inverts
and corals for marine beginners.
Nathan, Associate editor, PFK
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK
3
Marine tanks are marine tanks, right? Well, no. From the
start you need to choose whether you want big or small,
and which kinds of creatures you?d like to keep.
Y
OUR MARINE options are roughly spread along
the lines of ?reef tank? or ??sh only?. As a newcomer,
a reef tank might be the one you have in mind ? a
colourful array of corals, shrimps, snails and ?sh,
over a well-designed layout of rocks and sand. But
it?s also quite a dif?cult tank to set up and maintain.
Alternatively, a ?sh-only set-up is just that ? an
aquarium with a handful of pretty marine ?sh
swimming about, but without live corals and other invertebrates.
Fish-only tanks are the easier of the types to keep, but without
corals decorating the layout, they?re the less colourful option.
Nano tank
These are small set-ups in the region of 100 litres or less ?
sometimes as little as 30 litres. They usually come as a
complete package of tank and essential hardware, giving
you a ?plug-in-and-play? package that you don?t have to
think about too much.
A word of caution. Because of their small water volumes,
nano tanks are among the most dif?cult to maintain
successfully. While they can seem excellent value for money,
you could easily set yourself up for a fall if you don?t have
much aquarium experience.
Also remember that being small, most nano set-ups are
y one or two
or crabs ? and
you want a
ank, it may not
p curiosity,
here you can
ose yourself in
he antics of a
Dancing shrimp
lambering
ver rock, a
ano tank
ould be ideal.
ET-UP COST:
OW TO MID
UNNING
OST: LOW
SHUTTERSTOCK
MARINE GUIDE
TYPES OF M
Fish-only tank
This type of tank was the staple in the early days of marine
?shkeeping, when coral care wasn?t understood, and when
hardware for successful aquaria simply hadn?t been invented.
One bene?t of this type of tank is that you can keep ?sh
that would otherwise destroy a reef set-up. Many ?sh feed on
corals or other invertebrates, and would make short work
of a beautiful layout.
Nowadays, many folks who keep ?sh-only set-ups are
interested in larger trophy ?sh, such as huge angel?sh and
puffers. These bigger ?sh have heaps of character and
become real pets, but the offset is that they need a lot of
space to live in.
Most modern ?sh-only tanks are referred to as ??sh only
with live rock?, or FOWLR, which will make sense when you
reach the pages of this supplement on rocks and ?ltering.
SET-UP COST: LOW TO MID
RUNNING COST: LOW TO MID
NEIL HEPWORTH
ARINE TANK
The ?rst type of reef tank is the easier of the two. So-called
?soft? corals lack the rigid calcium skeletons of ?hard? (or
stony) corals, which actually makes them less demanding.
While larger soft corals are sometimes quite brown and
bland in colour, there?s a whole galaxy of smaller soft coral
colonies like button polyps and mushrooms that can rival
many hard coral tanks.
A soft coral tank is considerably harder to run than a
?sh-only set-up as it requires much more attention to water
quality ? the amount of pollutants that the tank builds up.
There?s also the requirement for supplements to keep the
corals healthy and happy, plus the additional work of
feeding your corals.
SHUTTERSTOCK
SET-UP COST: MID TO HIGH
RUNNING COST: MID
SHUTTERSTOCK
Reef tank ? ?soft? corals
Reef tank ? ?hard? corals
Hard or stony corals represent the highest tier of marine
keeping and as a new starter you would do well to avoid this
type of tank as your ?rst attempt.
While stunning beyond compare, the most visually
arresting of these tanks have often been chemically
manipulated in ways far beyond the capabilities of marine
beginners, running ?ultra low nutrient? content so that corals
are left on the verge of starvation to make their colours pop.
The price of running such a tank, including the multitude of
supplements needed, can run to thousands upon thousands
of pounds annually.
This type of reef set-up looks spectacular, but it?s highly
aspirational and should remain so until you?ve really honed
the ?shkeeping craft.
SET-UP COST: HIGH
RUNNING COST: VERY HIGH
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK
5
MARINE GUIDE
ESSENTIAL
HARDWARE
In order to run a successful marine tank, a few key pieces
of hardware are essential Here?s what you?ll need
Circulation pum
Flow is vital, especially w
are concerned. Without
cannot feed properly an
excrete their wastes.
Pumps should be sized
the tank you have ? ther
no extra economy of sc
involved in buying too
large a pump for your
aquarium. Indeed, it ma
turn out to upset corals
and kill them off.
For extra effect, pump
connected to a wave-ma
with alternate ?ows from
other in order to create
forth washing motion.
Hydrometer or refractometer
Test kit
Absolutely essential. At a bare minimum you want tests
for ammonia, nitrite and nitrate, as well as pH. These
will tell you whether your tank is safe, and if any
adjustments in water management are needed.
Don?t be daunted by test kits ? most of them are no
very user-friendly, with easy to read instructions. Test
usually involves adding water to a test tube, mixing
reagents from one or two bottles and comparing to a
colour chart. They are quick to perform and make th
difference between success and failure.
Note that in a stony coral reef tank, the level of testi
may be so advanced as to require sending samples to
lab for a full analysis. However, for a beginner with a
coral tank, a good selection of liquid tests will suf?ce.
6
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
Given a choice between a hydrometer and a
refractometer (pictured below), the latter is generally
more accurate, but both of these devices are designed
to measure the amount of salt in your aquarium water.
Marine ?sh need to be kept within a very narrow
range of salinity, which equates to roughly 35g of salt
per litre of water. Regular monitoring will allow you to
see whether natural evaporation has made the water in
your tank especially salty. If it has, you can dilute it as
necessary until it?s within the acceptable range again.
A hydrometer or refractometer is also a vital piece
of equipment when it comes to doing your
regular partial water changes.
Tank
This can be made of either glass
or acrylic. Acrylic is tougher, and
a safer bet if you have children or
pets in the house, but it does
scratch more easily.
Glass aquaria come in either
plain or ?low iron? (sometimes
called optiwhite, or high-clarity)
construction. Some tanks have
lids, others are open-topped. Note
that open-topped tanks increase
the risk of ?sh jumping out (and
of things falling in), as well as
increase the rate of evaporation,
but tanks with a built-in hood may
be restrictive on lighting options.
Lights
Aquarium ligh
correct spect
growing cora
and come in t
types ? ?uore
and light-emi
diode (LED).
Fluorescen
are the cheap
option to buy
but have relat
running costs
wattages and the need to
replace light tubes regularly.
LED lights are more expensive,
but are far more cost effective in the
long run, and most have a lifespan
that runs into tens of thousands of
Cabinet
you to dim and brighten them,
change colours and spectrums to
suit particular corals, even to the
point of replicating natural sunlight
(including cloud cover) over the
course of a 24-hour cycle.
tein skimmer
This must be aquarium suitable.
Cheap MDF cabinets from
generic furniture suppliers may
be too weak, and are also prone
to swelling and degrading if they
get wet. Always use a designated
aquarium cabinet where possible.
Note that one litre of water
weighs 1kg, so a 120-litre tank,
combined with glass and rocks,
may weigh well over 150kg ? far
beyond the capacity of your
average bedside dressing table.
newcomers are baf?ed by
in skimmers, but they?re
ally quite simple devices.
ein skimmers use the power and
erties of tiny bubbles (which are
mely sticky to proteins) to
ct a froth of protein foam in a
hat sits on top of the skimmer.
e beauty of this is that in
ving proteins (which are made
f amino acids), the skimmer is
ving lots of the waste that has
otential to turn into ammonia
page 8 for more on this) before
had chance to become
onia. In turn, that puts a great
on biological ?ltration,
ning cleaner water and fewer
r changes.
otein skimmers can be ?ddly to
with and do require regular
tments to keep working at their
but once you get the hang of
, they?re no trickier than any
r piece of aquarium equipment.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK
7
While that might not sound a fair comparison,
rocks and ?lters in the tank can do pretty much the
same thing ? one perhaps better than the other!
F
ISH PRODUCE waste, just as we do,
in the form of urine and faeces. They
also excrete waste into the water
directly out of their gills. In the closed
environment of an aquarium, that
waste has nowhere to go, so it builds
up to toxic levels, poisoning the inhabitants.
The main type of aquarium ?ltration to deal
with waste is biological ?ltration. This method
utilises bacteria that use ?sh waste as a food
source, turning it into something less harmful.
In the ?rst instance, ?sh produce ammonia.
Uneaten food and other decomposing matter
also contribute to the build-up of ammonia. And
ammonia is deadly, even at the lowest levels.
Biological ?lters act as a home for bacteria
that convert this lethal ammonia into lessharmful nitrite, and eventually into nitrate.
These bacteria are really slow to develop. It
can take weeks or months to develop a colony
of them suf?ciently large to deal with the waste
in even a moderate-sized tank. So, the bacteria
need to be in place and coping before any
livestock is added to the tank. This is done
through either the addition of live rock, or
through the maturation of biological ?lters,
such as external canister or sump ?lters.
One annoying offshoot of biological ?ltration
is that it can only convert waste so far ? usually
to nitrate ? and this chemical still needs to be
controlled through regular water changes.
Live rock
Live rock is the ?go to? ?lter medium for the
modern marine tank. Live rock is formed from
old, dead coral skeletons, and naturally occurs
abundantly around reefs. Here, it behaves as a
biological ?lter for the sea, housing the
necessary bacteria required to convert wastes.
By harvesting this rock, aquarists can bring
??lters? straight from the sea and into their tanks.
While expensive ? even cheap live rock will set
you back double ?gures per kg ? it?s considered
by far the best way to maintain water quality
in a marine tank.
8
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
As a bonus, live rock goes above and beyond
the activity of standard biological ?ltration.
Because the rock is so porous, the bacteria
penetrate deep inside it, meaning additional
types of bacteria can occur. Among these are
bacteria who will even use nitrate as a food
source, converting it into harmless nitrogen gas.
As an extra bonus, live rock also comes with a
bounty of other life forms covering it! Alongside
colourful algae (especially the gorgeous, purple
encrusting types), live rock can come with tiny
polyps, corals, shrimps, crabs, sponges and more.
Unfortunately, that also means you sometimes
have a nuisance creature turn up as well, such
as a predatory Mantis shrimp, or a coral-eating
worm but, on the whole, most live rock is safe.
When buying live rock, make sure you only
buy ?cured? live rock. After collection and
transit, live rock turns foul for a short while and
requires soaking and maturation to ?ush out
any nasties within it ? this is the curing process.
While cheap, uncured live rock is available, if
you add this to your tank it will almost certainly
cause extreme water quality issues.
Always ask if it?s cured BEFORE you buy!
Biological canister ?ltration
You?ll be familiar with
biological ?lters if you?ve
ever kept freshwater ?sh.
They?re the canisters
that sit inside or
outside an aquarium,
contain different
types of media, and
need regular cleaning
and maintenance.
In marine tanks,
canister ?lters have
Above: Biological
supplements kick
start ?ltration.
Left: A typical
canister ?lter.
JACQUES PORTAL
MARINE GUIDE
ROCKS OR
FILTERS?
SHUTTERSTOCK
While cycling is a long-winded process,
adding biological supplements can help. These
liquids and tablets contain colonies of live
bacteria that settle in the ?lter. Some claim to be
able to mature a tank instantaneously, but it?s
best to take such claims with a pinch of salt.
During the cycling period, test the water
regularly to assess how much pollution is being
converted, and therefore how the bacteria are
developing. There are helpful calculators online
where you can upload your test results. They?ll
then tell you how much more ammonia to add
until your tank is ?nally ?mature? and safe for ?sh.
Above: Live rock
brings a reef tank to
full glory.
Below: Fresh live
rock is rich with
life and colour.
NEIL HEPWORTH
largely been made redundant by super-ef?cient
live rock, but some people do still like to use
them ? particularly those with ?sh-only systems.
The main drawback with a canister-type ?lter
in a marine tank is that it doesn?t have the ability
of live rock to convert nitrates into nitrogen
(unless expensive supplementary ?lters are
added). This means it?s more dif?cult to control
nitrates, and will require very frequent water
changes to dilute the nitrates back down.
Canister ?lters can also become dirty, so the
media inside them becomes smothered and
loses ef?ciency. In the event of a failure of the
pump, the bacteria inside may starve or
suffocate, leading to the ?lter ?crashing? and
being unable to convert toxic wastes.
Biological ?lters also need to be cycled (see
below) before ?sh can be added to the tank.
This is time-consuming and frustrating in a way
that live rock just isn?t.
What is cycling?
Cycling is the act of taking a ?lter without any
bacteria and colonising it with enough bacteria
to cope with the waste that will eventually be
produced by ?sh.
The main way of cycling a ?lter involves
adding liquid ammonia to simulate ?sh waste
over a long period, providing the bacteria with a
food source to grow on. Because the tank will
be highly toxic with ammonia throughout this
period, ?sh and corals cannot be added.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK
9
NATHAN HILL
MARINE GUIDE
Find a reputable
dealer for your fish.
BUYING & ADDING
YOUR
LIVESTOCK
Buying fish is a real delight, and your store should be able to
T
AKE ALONG details of
your tank. Include your
pH, ammonia, nitrite and
nitrate levels, as well as
the temperature and a list
of what livestock you
already have.
At least one staff
member should be able to tell you
exactly what conditions each and
every ?sh on sale needs to keep it
healthy. Never buy a ?sh that you or
the store know nothing about.
Ask what the ?sh are feeding on.
10
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
Don?t be shy about asking to see them
eating if you have any doubts, and
don?t buy ?sh that refuse to feed.
Investigate the sale tanks hard. If
any ?sh in there are sick, dead or
dying, don?t purchase from that tank.
Once you?ve bought your ?sh, keep
them in their insulated, dark packaging
for the journey home. Don?t keep
taking them out to check on them ?
you?ll only stress them out.
Remember, a good store will ask
you lots of questions to ensure that
they sell you the right ?sh.
Sun corals need
target feeding.
SHUTTERSTOCK
answer all of your queries. But it also helps to do your homework
so you know what you?re looking for before you visit.
Anthias needs lots of
small feeds.
10 STEPS TO
ACCLIMATISING
1
2
Transfer your ?sh or corals
into a clean bucket.
Use a length of airline to
start syphoning water from
the tank.
3
Use a clamp or valve to
slow the ?ow to around two
drops per second.
4
Allow the water from the
aquarium to mix with the
contents of the bucket.
5
6
Use a refractometer to
measure the salt levels in
both the tank and the bucket.
Use a thermometer to do the
same with temperatures.
7
When tank and bucket are
equal on both salt level
and temperature, move your
livestock out of the bucket.
8
Use a net to move ?sh,
but use a jug or a cup to
move invertebrates like corals
or anemones. Air exposure can
cause them problems.
9
Keep the lights off in the
tank for at least an hour
while the newcomers settle in.
10
Look for any signs of
damage or bullying from,
or towards, the new additions in
the days following introduction
XXXXXXXXXX
Cover the bucket with a
lid so it?s dark inside. This
helps to calm the ?sh and also
stops them jumping out.
A balanced diet for everyone
In order to keep your livestock at its
best, you?ll need to offer appropriate,
high-quality meals. And it?s not just ?sh
that need their daily rations ? corals
need consideration too!
Feeding your fish
Specialist marine ?akes will suf?ce for
many ?sh. These contain a good
balance of different ingredients that
provide a nutritionally complete diet.
Offer food more regularly for
plankton feeders. Species like Anthias
may need four or ?ve small meals a
day just to survive.
Live Artemia is relished by most
marine ?sh, but irradiated frozen
Artemia offers a safer alternative. Feed
a frozen diet at least twice a week.
Frozen foods in general are
excelllent, but be sure to mix it up.
Enriched Artemia and Mysis should be
staples in your freezer, but also look at
krill, chopped squid and green foods.
Many ?sh enjoy seaweed and
various vegetables. Attach some to the
glass with a feeding clip, and let the ?sh
graze at their leisure.
Turn down any pumps while feeding
to give the ?sh a chance to eat. Some
pumps even have a ?feeding? setting for
exactly this.
Any uneaten food should be removed
with a net after a few minutes.
?lter from the water. When feeding
corals, turn off the protein skimmer for
a short while, as it may inadvertantly
remove the food from the water.
Always follow the dosage instructions
on the pack closely, even if it doesn?t
look as if much food is going in. Giving
too much coral food will play havoc
with your water quality.
Prepare to ?target feed? some types
of coral. This involves loading a pipette
or syringe with food and squirting a
small amount directly at the corals.
Cleaning crew, such as hermit crabs
or snails, will also need feeding as they
won?t be able to to survive by relying
on scraps and leftovers. Offer small
morsels of meaty food like brineshrimp.
Feeding your inverts
Some types of coral need to be fed a
?nely powdered or liquid food that they
Food clips will let grazing ?sh eat
through the day.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 11
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can be run on a schedule, wirelessly give you
updates on the operation and be automatically
Your Marine Specialists
Visit your local Aquatics store for
great advice and fish that really
catch your eye
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