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Practical Fishkeeping 12 2018

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Electric fish with a long trunk!
Advice
21
COMMON
MISTAKES
PIRANHA!
Ambush predators
Tanganyika?s
?gobies?
Secret lives
of Jaw?sh
HANDSOME HALFBEAKS
Meet the longest chins
in fishkeeping
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print option with direct debit
THE EXPERTS
STEVE
BAKER
Steve has been getting
stuck in to the world of
piranhas, as well as listing some of the
common errors fishkeepers make. See if
you?re making any on page 74.
GABOR
HORVATH
Gabor has been doing
what he does best ?
breeding and photographing fish in his
fish house. This month it?s halfbeaks,
and you?ll find them on page 50.
NEIL HEPWORTH
NEALE
MONKS
We asked Neale to tell
us all about what we
can stick on the bottom of our tanks,
and what a result! Find out all about
different substrates on page 70.
AD
KONINGS
We tasked Ad with
delivering some of his
vast knowledge on Goby cichlids. After
a lifetime of study, he can share some
revelations with us on page 98.
DAVE
WOLFENDEN
Dave has been
investigating the
world of elephantnoses. Learn about
the fascinating lives of these snouty
mormyrids on page 78.
CHRIS
SERGEANT
Chris has delivered yet
another masterpiece,
this time all about ambush predators
in the underwater world. Find out the
sneaky fish with the fastest and biggest
bites on page 28.
?SHNAUZENORGAN? MAY well
be my new favourite word.
I never even knew it existed
until I read about it this month,
and then it made me realise
how this hobby is riddled with
cool facts ? cool facts and
cooler-sounding words.
Did you know, for example, that elephantnose have the
heaviest brain to body ratio of any animal on Earth? We
used to think it was us humans that packed the biggest
brains, but it turns out we got trumped by ?sh.
As for other awesome words, I?m reminded of
?schreckstoff? which I came across a few years ago when
researching pain and stress. It turns out that when some
?sh are hurt they release a chemical that acts as a
warning to others not to get near, and that?s the name of
the chemical.
Anyway, enough about me. What new words are you
learning this month? Let me know. Letters please!
Nathan Hill, Associate Editor
Watch us on youtube.com/
user/practicalfishkeeping
Red bellied piranha.
Photograph by AmazonImages/Alamy
Which ?sh
clings to a rock af
it has died?
Find out on page 22
Stay in touch
Email us at editorial@
practicalfishkeeping.co.uk
ON THE COVER
Follow us at www.facebook.
com/PFKmag/
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK
5
s
DECEMBER
28
22
scientist goes about setting up
a ?owing stream tank for agile
hillstream loaches.
INSPIRATION
08
14
RARE BEAUTY
The Crystal rainbow tetra is
still something of a mystery
to science, but it?s pretty as a
stained glass window.
44
HO
h
50
ELECTRIC ELEPHANTS
86
JAWS
92
JEWEL OF AFRICA
98
?GOBIES? OF LAKE
TANGANYIKA
THE ART OF THE
AMBUSH
A captivating look at aquatic
ambush predators of all
shapes and sizes, and the
specialised strategies they?ve
developed to catch their prey.
BITING FOR
THEIR LIFE
Its reputation precedes it, but
is the Piranha an aggressive,
cold-blooded predator or a
much misund
softy?
22
28
Editor?s
Pick
78
With their bigger-than-average
brains and peculiar trunk-like
snouts, elephantnoses are
simply unforgettable. Oh, and
they?re electric too!
Packed with personality,
meet the colourful, diverse,
burrow-dwelling members of
the jaw?sh family.
THE RUMMY-NOSE TRIO
As a perennial old favourite,
Rummynose tetra are
sometimes overlooked, but
these three little ?Rudolphs? are
well worth a second glance.
HAPPY HALFBEAKS
Distinctly odd-looking, slender
Wrestling halfbeaks are highly
recommended if you want to
keep (and breed) something
just a little bit different.
Read editor
Nathan?s
favourite article
this issue:
Rumeynose tetra
PAGE 44
Let?s hear it for Pelvicachromis
subocellatus, the lovely but
lesser-known cousin of the
Rainbow kribensis.
Cute as a button, these
attractive little ?shes? shared
parenting behaviour is
fascinating to watch.
5
THINGS
YOU WILL
LEARN IN
THIS ISSUE
1
The incredible
speed of the
Bluestripe pipefish
when it?s in hunting
mode
2
The uses of
different kinds of
substrates and how
to prepare them.
3
How to tackle
the problem of
feeding your fish
when you go on
holiday. What are
your options?
4
That a piranha
sheds its teeth
in sets, a quarter at
a time.
14
diffuser set from Colombo and
a Vultron airpump. Plus a look
at three brands of polymer
balls ? are these spheres
the future when it comes to
maturing your pond?
NEWS & VIEWS
10
20
39
AQUATIC NEWS
Fascinating deep-sea species
discoveries, ecstatic octopuses,
speedy sharks and a tribute
to the late Jack Wattley, the
?godfather of Discus?.
ETHICAL DEBATE
PFK associate editor Nathan
Hill and staff writer Steve
Baker go head to head on the
question of water testing.
LETTERS
REGULARS
42
57
Thoughts from a young
?shkeeper, biotope snobbery
and in praise of live food.
GEAR & REVIEWS
GUIDE
108 GEAR
66
The latest ?shkeeping products
reviewed, including a CO 2
5
The voltage that
an ?electric?
elephantnose will
give off if you
touch it.
86
Practical
Fishkeeping
delivered to
your digital
device
up three different popular
canister ?lters.
70
KNOW-HOW: ALL ABOUT
SUBSTRATES
From silica sand to aquatic
soil, what?s the best type of
substrate for your plants and
your livestock?
PAGE 42
SUBSCRIBE TO PFK
Enjoy Practical Fishkeeping
from just �50 a month ? and
never miss an issue.
74
HONEY, I HURT THE FISH
The 21 most common mistakes
in ?shkeeping ? and how to
avoid them.
FISHKEEPING ANSWERS
PFK?s crack team of aquatics
experts are on hand to answer
all your questions. This month:
keeping rice?sh, nitrite testing,
and how to tempt out a shy
cat?sh, to name just a few.
KNOW-HOW: SETTING
UP EXTERNAL FILTERS
A step-by-step guide to setting
MONTH
107 NEXT
Ram cichlids, Panaque cat?sh
and Tiger barb alternatives.
114 TAILPIECE
Nathan takes a friend to visit
a public aquarium and comes
out full of self loathing. Are
these once-loved attractions
now their own worst enemy?
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK
7
FASCINATING FISH
Trochilocharax ornatus
R
We still know very little about the mysterious Crystal rainbow tetra.
What we do know is that it?s stunning as a stained glass window.
WORDS: STEVE BAKER
8
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
T. ornatus was ?rst bought to the
attention of ichthyologists when it
was shipped from Peru in 2003 by
German importers Aquarium Glaser.
It was originally considered to be of
the Heterocharax genus, before being
described to science by Zarske in
2010. Zarske opened a new genus,
Trichilocharax, and tribe,
Trochilocharacini, for the Crystal
rainbow tetra due to rather
individual-looking dentition and
some hooked ?n rays that relate to
no other characin ? to this day we
know of no closely related tetra.
Other than just ?Peru?, scientists
aren?t sure about the distribution.
The specimens used by Zarske to
describe the species came from an
imported group, and while they
know the import came from Iquitos,
they don?t know where the ?sh were
caught, or from what kind of habitat.
It?s widely believed T. ornatus hails
from small blackwater streams with
little ?ow, low conductivity and
negligible hardness, and it does well
in these kind of conditions in
aquaria. There?s some thought that
their true distribution lies in the Rio
Nanay basin, though preferred water
conditions would be near identical
to those mentioned.
The new tribe is placed in the
subfamily Stevardiinae, a group of
over 300 species of Central and
South American tetras with many
members that adopt an internal
insemination strategy. It?s believed
that the Crystal rainbow tetra
does that too.
In the tank, this diminutive
delicacy (1.7cm maximum) displays
stunning colours under fullspectrum lighting, with blues and
greens re?ected in their bodies, and
males displaying beautiful burnt
oranges and yellows in their ?nnage.
Sexes are easy to distinguish,
with males harbouring longer,
more colourful ?ns, especially
the dorsal and pelvic ?ns, while
females develop a slightly more
rounded body.
Above: The subtle hues
of Trochilocharax ornatus.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK
9
NEIL HEPWORTH
I
T?S OFTEN said that, as
humans, we know more
about space than we do
about the oceans on the
planet we inhabit. In reality
that?s probably not strictly
true; we don?t even know the
size of the cosmos, let alone
what might exist within it.
But it continues to surprise me
how little we know of what?s much
closer to the surface, and this bonny
little tetra is one creature we know
of, but still know very little about.
I look at this ?sh and think of a
stained glass window, but in terms
of a common name, Trochilocharax
ornatus caught on as the Crystal
rainbow tetra, Orange-tailed glass
tetra, or the Hummingbird tetra,
depending on who you talk to.
Beware of researching by that
last common name though, as
Characidium fasciatum, the Darter
tetra, is also sometimes called the
Hummingbird tetra, and it?s a
very different ?sh.
Latest news and events from the world of aquatics
DISCOVERY
PREDATOR
FISH OF MANY
COLOURS
A stunning
discovery.
R
ESEARCHERS FROM the
California Academy of
Sciences, diving on the
St Paul?s rocks, a deep-water reef
1,000 miles off the Atlantic coast of
Brazil, have discovered a brilliantly
coloured new species of Anthias.
The divers were 130m down
when the small ?sh caught their
eye ? its neon pink and yellow body
and green ?ns made it stand out
?like an emerald in a coal mine?.
Further morphological investigation
alongside DNA analysis con?rmed
the ?sh is indeed new to science,
and has been named Tosanoides
aphrodite in honour of the Greek
10
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
DR LIUZ
ROCHA
?In a time of
crisis for coral
reefs, learning
more about
unexplored reef
habitats
is critical
to our
understanding
of how to
protect them.?
goddess of beauty and love. This
is only the fourth Tosanoides species
discovered, and the ?rst to be
found in the Atlantic (the others
live in the Paci?c).
Females are a solid reddish-orange
? typical of many ?twilight zone?
dwelling ?sh as red and blue light
can?t penetrate to this depth, so it
helps with camou?age.
However, the reason for the males?
?highlighter pen? colouration is still
being explored as it goes against
this theory. The scientists are
sequencing the ?sh?s vision genes to
try to better understand the bene?ts
of their extravagant colour scheme.
Scientists studying wildlife in
Karnataka, South West
India, have observed a
praying mantis
catching and
eating fish for
the first time.
The famously
predatory insect was
already known to feast
on other insects, small birds,
amphibians, reptiles and
mammals, but had never been seen to
prey upon fish ? until now.
The team spotted the 5cm-long male,
thought to be Hierodula tenuidentata,
the giant Asian mantis, striding out
among lily leaves in a roof garden pond
and grabbing its guppy victims from just
below the surface. It wasn?t a chance
meal either, as the same mantis
returned for several nights in a row to
do a bit more fishing.
As well as another reason for fish to be
wary, it leads to further questions about
the cognitive abilities of insects and the
eyesight of mantises.
HENRY MARCUS, CREATIVE COMMONS
Scientists delighted but puzzled by new, strikingly coloured,
?emerald in a coal mine? Anthias.
SHUTTERSTOCK
WATCH OUT,
THERE?S A
MANTIS
ABOUT!
� LUIZ ROCHA
NEWS
Aquatic News
WORLD?S MOST
EXPENSIVE KOI SOLD
MYSTERY POLLUTION IN WALES
An as-yet-unidentified pollutant has caused the
deaths of thousands of fish in a 5.5-mile stretch
of the River Clywedog, near Wrexham. Natural
Resources Wales (NRW) has described the deaths
as a ?major pollution incident?. NRW will remain
on site to monitor water conditions and assess the
impact on wildlife and the environment, as well as
investigating the source of the pollution.
A 90cm Kohaku called S Legend has
sold for a record �4 million (203
million Yen) in Hiroshima, Japan. All
we know of the buyer is that she?s
called Miss Yingying and is from
Taiwan, and intends to keep
the Koi in Japan, where it?s
expected to compete
in shows.
SANCTUARY FOR PARISIAN GOLDFISH
Upset by the poor conditions many goldfish are
kept in, the Paris Aquarium is offering them a
new home. Any fish handed in undergo a 40-day
quarantine before being introduced to a large
display aquarium that currently holds over 600
?rescued? goldfish. It?s hoped that the facility
will help to educate people about the adult size,
lifespan and care needs of the humble goldfish.
NEW SPECIES
OBITUARY
Trio of fragile
Snailfish found
Jack Wattley, the ?godfather
of Discus?, has passed
away, aged 95, on October
3rd, just seven days before
his 96th birthday. An author,
aquarist, businessman,
competition judge and
public speaker, Jack was recognised as a pioneer in
the field of Discus breeding, producing some of the
unique strains that are so popular today.
Jack started out as a hobbyist ? he was originally
the owner of many clothes stores ? until he began to
venture to the Amazon. It was here that he sought out
and found green Discus strains he?d heard lived in
lakes in Brazil. After taking these home and
succeeding with them, he returned to South America,
this time in search of blue strains, which he also
found, collected and shipped back home.
By crossing the green and the blue, Jack created the
first turquoise Discus to great acclaim within the
industry. Demand ? and Jack?s reputation ? grew
considerably. His fish acquired near-legendary status
and he remains a household name in Discus circles.
His other successes include the technique of raising
Discus fry without parents, a method he kept secret
for many years. Through this technique Jack went
from being ?just? a breeder of high-quality fish to a
successful producer on a commercial scale.
Jack will also be remembered for the books ?Discus
for the Perfectionist? and ?Handbook of Discus?, which
developed an almost cultish following. Some readers
might also remember his contributions to the
magazine world over his long career.
and fragile that they ?melt? if
brought to the surface. This
apparent weakness is actually a
strength, as the immense
crushing pressure at such depths
would instantly kill more
conventional ?sh.
Growing 20-25cm in length
they have temporarily been
named the Purple, Pink and Blue
Atacama snail?sh, pending
formal classi?cation.
They are so
soft-bodied and
fragile that they
?melt? if brought
to the surface
SHUTTERSTOCK
Snail?sh look as
ungainly as they
sound.
ALAMY
An international team of
researchers investigating one of
the deepest parts of the Paci?c
Ocean has discovered three new
species of abyssal ?sh. The team
used remote underwater cameras
to probe the Atacama Trench,
which runs for over 3,000 miles
at depths of over 8,000m along
the coast of Peru and Chile.
The new species are all from
the Liparidae family, commonly
known as Snail?sh, and have
made some startling adaptations
to survive in this extreme,
deep-water environment.
They are scaleless, translucent,
and their bodies are made of a
gel-like substance, with the
hardest parts being their teeth
and the bones in the inner ear.
Otherwise they are so soft-bodied
JACK WATTLEY
DIES, AGED 95
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 11
NEUROSCIENCE
ECSTATIC OCTOPUSES
An octopus
outside its usual
rave habitat.
SHUTTERSTOCK
Neuroscientists researching
similarities in animal brains have
found that octopuses appear to
react to the drug ecstasy in much
the same way as humans, despite
being separated by 500 million
years of evolution. Octopuses
are notoriously intolerant of their
own kind, and are thought to be
the most behaviourally advanced
invertebrates.
The research team ?rst observed
the interactions of octopuses for
30 minutes in a tank with three
connecting chambers ? one
contained a plastic action ?gure,
the other an octopus of the same
species in a safety cage.
They then exposed the same
octopuses to MDMA (ecstasy)
in a separate tank, before
reintroducing them to the threechambered aquarium.
After exposure to the drug they
spent far more time in the chamber
with the other octopus, and were
far more tactile, hugging the cage
and exposing parts of themselves
that they normally wouldn?t.
The octopuses were also observed
?fondling? an airstone or ?oating
around with all eight arms extended
in what the team described as a
?water ballet?.
The brain chemical serotonin
is believed to be fundamental in
these behaviours, just as it is in
humans, and the team believes
this study shows serotonin has an
important role in social interactions
right across species. This is not
just a human or mammalian
characteristic, but one of brains
in general.
BEHAVIOUR
SHARK SHOWS SURPRISING TURN OF FIN
Basking sharks, Cetorhinus maximus, are
well known as the second-largest species
of ?sh in the world, but few people had
them down as fast swimmers ? until now.
When your major prey is plankton,
speed isn?t really required, so the ocean
giant is more typically associated with a
laid-back, languid swimming style, with
little more than the occasional
tail ?n ?apping on the surface
in terms of dynamic action.
However, recent studies of the
species have recorded them ?breaching?
? hurling themselves right out of the
water in a manner usually associated with
faster-moving predatory species like the
12
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
Great white shark. Once video footage of
these leaps were studied in combination
with data from tracker tags on the ?sh,
surprised scientists worked out that some
of these apparently sedentary sharks
were reaching speeds of 11mph ?
twice that of the average Olympic 50m
swimmer. When the animal?s size and
weight (8m long; 2,700kg) were taken
into account, it was shown to be
directly comparable to Great whites in
terms of expended mechanical energy.
SHUTTERSTOCK
NEWS
Aquatic news
NEW
Photo by � Rodo
0
High Te
ch Aqua
rium Ec
ology
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SPECTRUM
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SPECIES SHOWCASE
Piranha
Bit
r
o
f
g
ni
The world can?t make its mind up about this South
American shoaling predator. What?s the truth? Is it a
cold-blooded predator or a much-misunderstood softy?
WORDS: STEVE BAKER
14
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
The fearsome
teeth of a Red
bellied piranha.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 15
ALAMY
ife
their l
SPECIES SHOWCASE
Piranha
W
ELL, IT?S a
cold-blooded
predator, literally.
And it?s mostly
misunderstood.
But I don?t think
I?ll go so far as to
say it?s a softy.
While the ?lms ?Piranha? (1978),
?Piranha 2? (1981) and ?Piranha 3D?
(2010) depicted our ?shy friends as
the most organised, hyper-aggressive
killing machines freshwater has ever
seen, now we?re bombarded by
documentaries aiming to redress the
balance. I?ve seen a presenter wade
into a swimming pool with a shoal
of piranha, and jumping into a river
seconds after catching them to show
they?re not just mindless killers.
So should we ignore the ?lms?
Nothing to fear? At your
peril! The name ?piranha? means
?tooth ?sh? in the Brazilian language
Tupi, and while few of us will come
into contact with these feisty ?sh in
the wild, if you do, approach with
real care. There are many, many
?shermen in South America with
bits of ?ngers or toes missing, and
even more with scars to prove these
?sh demand our respect.
The largest species ? the Black
piranha, Serrasalmus rhombeus ? has
a bite force of more than 32kg.
That?s from a ?sh whose record
catch weight is 3.83kg, putting it
ahead of the Great white shark in
jaw strength comparative to body
mass. Their teeth are made for
cutting ? each tooth is only about
4mm long, but they?re sharp as
razors and ?t snugly, interlocking to
slice through ?esh and steal a piece
before moving on to let another ?sh
take a bite.
It?s not unusual to ?nd piranhas
with missing teeth. Several times
over their life, they replace any
missing tricuspid (threepointed) teeth, but rather
than do it individually,
like sharks, they do
MP&C PIEDNOIR, AQUAPRESS.COM
Red-bellied piranhas make three
distinctive noises ? a ?bark? at
competitors, a low grunt
when circling, and a snap
of the teeth.
16
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
it by quarters, growing and replacing
all the teeth on one side of a jaw at a
time. These replacements are ready
developed in the jaw, waiting for
when they?re needed.
As with most opposing views, the
truth about piranha behaviour lies
somewhere in the middle. They
are ferocious, voracious predators,
who can strip all the ?esh from a
cow?s carcass in minutes, but at
the same time, the diet of the
Red-bellied piranha, Pygocentrus
nattereri, is largely made up of
aquatic invertebrates, crustaceans,
insects, seeds, nuts and fruits.
The classic Piranha ?feeding
frenzy? comes down to feeding
pressure. Through the best part of
the year, Red-bellies swim in small
shoals. Contrary to popular belief,
they don?t shoal as an aggressive
tactic to overcome prey, but rather
for safety from the likes of giant
river otters, caiman, river dolphins,
eagles and predatory ?sh species.
A shoal comprises around 20
individuals. Food is plentiful and
aggression levels are low, so you
They don?t shoal as an aggressive
tactic, but rather shoal for safety from
the likes of giant river otters
space to spread out, shoals BELOW:
external ?lters rather than
Piranhas
are
of piranhas meet shoals of
one massive one; not only
hundreds of other species, prey themselves. does this safeguard in case
and where mass shoals of
one ?lter fails, but two lots
piranhas congregate, the
of ?ow makes it easier to
feeding pressure results
avoid dead spots.
in the annihilation of
It?s ideal if heating is
meaty passers-by,
integrated with the
dead or alive.
?ltration, either
You?ll never
by using in-line
see this in
heaters or a
captive ?sh. For a
thermo?lter ? this
start, there just isn?t
also provides peace
same pressure to feed.
of mind that there are no
You?ll never have enough
power cables in the water
?sh in a tank to create such
to be chomped through.
pressures without running into
Lighting is up to the keeper.
serious water quality issues, and if
Although piranhas get stressed in a
you limit food to heighten aggression, sparse tank, they aren?t upset by
you?ll just end up with your piranhas strong lighting, so whether you want
Captiothe n,
tuckingcaption
in to each other.
dull illumination or a brightly lit
caption,
tank, your ?sh should be happy.
BELOW:
A mature Black
piranha showing
red eyes.
won?t encounter frenzied feeding in
these conditions. When water levels
get lower, and large numbers of ?sh
are brought together in everdecreasing streams and lakes towards
the end of the dry season, feeding
pressures are heightened. With less
Black background
Like other large ?sh, piranhas need
clean, healthy water conditions, but
produce a lot of waste to foul their
tank. With no suitable tankmates to
hoover up excess food, it?s a huge
job for the aquarist, necessitating
big, regular water changes and waste
removal. It also puts the emphasis
on providing strong ?ltration, both
mechanically and biologically. Most
keepers prefer to use two large
When attacking other ?sh,
Piranhas ?rst bite the ?ns and
eyes to immobilise their prey
before tucking in to more
?eshy parts.
MP&C PIEDNOIR, AQUAPRESS.COM
LEFT: The
revered Redbellied piranha.
Essentail maintenence
ALAMY
At certain times of the year,
Red-bellies congregate
in large numbers.
When it comes to substrate,
experienced keepers tend to go one
of two ways ? either a bare base or
black sand/gravel.
Bare glass is far easier to keep
clean but the ?shes? colours tend to
suffer. This can be limited by
painting the base black (underneath)
but the re?ective glass is still likely
to subdue colours slightly. A black
substrate, be it sand or gravel, will
help show off your ?sh, and can be
further enhanced by strong, green
plant growth. If you fancy a more
subtle, atmospheric tank, go for a
few large pieces of wood, sand, leaf
litter and low light levels. A couple
of spotlights to create shafts of light
will intensify the mood.
The next question is how many
?sh to keep. Red-bellies can either
be kept singly or in groups of ?ve or
more. On their own, they are still
active and show con?dence and will
need a minimum 200 l tank. The
larger S. rhombeus is a solitary ?sh in
the wild, but a solo specimen still
requires a tank of 500 l, ideally 2m
or more in length.
In numbers, Red-bellies want
about 100 l each, so a 150x60x60cm
tank would be a basic set-up for a
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 17
SPECIES SHOWCASE
Piranha
small shoal of ?ve, but you can
really see the bonus of a larger tank
with more ?sh. I?ve seen a few BIG
piranha displays, 1,000-1,300 l sort
of size and the result is stunning.
Distribution
Red-bellied piranhas are widely
distributed over much of South
America. Since 1997, ichthyologists
have classed Pygocentrus ternetzi
(described by Steindachner 1908) as
a southern strain of P. nattereri (Fink
and Zelditch couldn?t ?nd reliableenough characteristics to de?ne a
species), labelling P. ternetzi as a nonlinear cline (non-sequential features)
as they differ in body shape and
have more of a yellow belly than
red. These ?sh often go under the
trade name ?Yellow emperor
piranha? in shops.
P. nattereri are found throughout
the Amazon basin including
Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia,
Ecuador and Peru.
They?re also found in
Rio Essequibo in
Avoid the temptation to feed
Guyana and
ham, chicken, beef and so on.
Venezuela, Rio
The lipids from mammalian
Paran� in Brazil,
meats may not be
Paraguay and
metabolised
Argentina, Rio Uruguay
properly.
in Brazil, Uruguay and
Argentina, and among coastal
drains in north-east Brazil and
the Guianas.
The Red-bellies don?t restrict
themselves to particular habitat
Small shoals of
Red-bellies are
most natural.
18
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
Studies show that the sounds
of people playing, washing
and preparing food alert
piranhas to a possible
food source.
Red-bellies are found in
major river channels,
tributaries, and ?ood, oxbow
and man-made dam lakes
Black piranha
RED-BELLIED PIRANHA
6Scientific name: Pygocentrus nattereri
6Pronunciation: Pie-go-sen-trus natt-er-air-eye
6Size: 35cm maximum, but rarely more than 25cm in aquaria
6Origin: Widespread through South America
6Tank size: 100x45x45cm+ for an individual
6Water requirements: 5.5-7.5 pH, 4-14癏
6Temperature: 24-28癈
6Feeding: Omnivorous ? bloodworm, shrimps,
earthworms, prawns, mussels, lancefish and
fresh veg
6Availability and cost:
Reasonably common;
from �
200 l+
FACTFILE
BLACK PIRANHA
6Scientific name: Serrasalmus rhombeus
6Pronunciation: Serra-sal-mus rom-bee-us
6Size: 40-45cm
6Origin: Widespread over north and central South America
6Tank size: 200x50x50cm for an individual
6Water requirements: 5.0-7.5 pH, 2-15癏
6Temperature: 23-27癈
6Feeding: Mostly carnivorous ? shrimps,
lancefish, earthworms, prawns, mussels, etc.
6Availability and cost:
Quite a rarity: from
�, depending
on size
500 l+
Wild shoals protect the
hierarchy. Older, bigger fish
swim in the centre; smaller,
BELOW: An immature
young fish in formation
Black piranha lacking colour
around the edge.
in the eyes.
SHUTTERSTOCK
types. They are found in major river
channels, major and minor
tributaries, temporary ?ood lakes,
oxbow lakes and man-made dam
lakes. They prefer deeper waters,
but aren?t fussed whether they?re
white, clear or blackwater conditions.
Females generally grow larger than
males and have a rounder body
shape when mature, but the ?sh
can?t be sexed as juveniles. This
throws a ?y in the ointment if you?re
looking to keep a group, as males
become territorial as they mature.
A tank of mature males generally
ends up with individual ?sh almost
motionless in their part of the tank,
and not the interactive shoal their
keeper desires.
Evidence suggests that the Black
piranha, Serrasalmus rhombeus, is
endemic to Guyana. However, it?s
of?cially been recorded as coming
from Guyana, Venezuela, Suriname,
French Guiana, Colombia, Ecuador,
Peru, Bolivia and Brazil. It?s possible
that sightings outside Guyana have
been cases of mistaken identity as
identi?cation of certain species is
challenging. Some expect S. hollandi
and Pristoprycon aureus to be
declared synonymous with
S. rhombeus at some point.
The red eye is a good identifying
mark and gives rise to an alternative
common name, the Redeye piranha,
but the red eye isn?t developed in
juveniles. Add to this the fact that
geographical forms exist, there are
several synonyms (such as S. niger),
and confusion with common names
?Black?, ?white? and ?redeye? all being
used, and you can see the issues.
Black Piranhas shoal in shallow,
well-vegetated streams as youngsters,
then become solitary as they age
and mature, moving to deep areas
of major rivers. Like the Red-belly,
S. rhombeus adapts easily to different
water types and is happy in steadily
?owing water or at the edge of
rapids ? a favoured hunting ground.
Food items include ?sh, crabs,
insects, small mammals and chunks
of ?esh and ?n bitten from big ?sh.
Some keepers do mix them with
other Piranhas, but there?s always a
risk involved. Much safer to keep a
lone ?sh and revel in that singular
character. Despite their
fearsome reputation,
they can make a pretty
good ?pet?.
FACTFILE
MP&C PIEDNOIR, AQUAPRESS.COM
MP&C PIEDNOIR, AQUAPRESS.COM
NEIL HEPWORTH
P. nattereri
with obvious
red belly.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 19
OPINION
NATHAN HILL & STEVE BAKER
We?re told it?s the most important aspect to ?shkeeping and
that we?re awful ?shkeepers for not doing it, but just how
essential is water testing for the modern aquarist?
hen was the last time
you tested your water
and found a problem?
As a professional
?shkeeper, how often
would you say that
you?ve been ?saved?
by a test revealing
something you wouldn?t otherwise have
spotted? Is it possible for a ?shkeeper
to become so competent that they need
not test water at all?
SB: The last time I was saved by a surprise
test result?... I don?t think I recall an occasion
to be honest but, as a professional keeper,
I?d say I?m pretty good at knowing what to
expect, and my water testing is more to verify
my thoughts or observe the maturing of a
new set-up.
The last time I tested
water was a week ago,
I wanted to check the
GH and KH levels were
stable and where I want
them in a particular
tank. I was also checking
the performance of both
a PO4 and an NO3
absorbing media.
When I set up a tank,
and as I?m adding ?sh,
I?ll be testing between
two and seven times a
week, depending on importance. I do that
until I think I know the tank, normally about
three months, then I test bi-monthly, or if
I see a change in the tank or the ?sh.
To my mind, you can?t know what?s going on
in your tank without testing. You can only
assume, which is a risky game.
For argument?s sake, if I used RO water
from a trusted source, and tailored it myself
with minerals, I know the hardness of it, and
I think I have enough hands-on experience to
know exactly how the decoration I?m using
(I?ll go wood and leaf litter) will affect the pH.
I know I can add biological supplements and
ammonia over such a prolonged period that
maturation will be assured within four months
? at least to a level that I could add half a
dozen initial ?hardy? tetra to my tank. From
there, it?s a patience game. If I leave it six
weeks between additions, I have absolute
con?dence that the ?lter will have time to
mature for each new load of ?sh.
Let?s also assume I?m performing a weekly
50% water change, with enough mineral added
to my RO to avoid any kind of mineralde?ciency ?lter-crash. Aside from power cuts
or disasters outside my control, I can?t see
that testing is going to tell
me anything I don?t already
know here. Thoughts?
JACQUES PORTAL
I?m sure I could
wing it and get
away with it, but
I?d rather know
what?s happening
than risk the health
of any ?sh
NH: OK, this will sound wholly arrogant, and
it?s totally hypothetical, but I suspect I could
set up a tank this minute and get it right
through to completion ? including with
livestock ? without having to test once.
SB: You can?t know, you can
only make educated
assumptions in that
situation. I?m sure I could
wing it myself and get away
with it, but I?d rather know
what?s happening than risk
the health of any ?sh.
Plus, you and I are
experienced, professional
?shkeepers. I guess you wouldn?t suggest this
tactic for the average aquarist?
When I worked in retail, I always found
selling test kits tricky. They?re expensive and
people think they are too sciency, too
complicated and beyond them, but they?re the
only way to know about the quality of the
?shes? environment, and far more important
than substrate, lights, plants or ornaments.
NH: From a personal perspective, any
problems I?ve ever picked up from a test
haven?t been during my regular, weekly
check-up. Problems are never that convenient
as to happen on my test day. Rather, when
I?ve spotted something ? a ?sh looking a little
off-colour ? I?ve thought ?that looks like a
nitrite problem?, and tested it to con?rm.
My angle here is that I can?t recall a test
catching an issue in an established tank before
it became an issue. It?s always been the other
way around. But I?d not suggest this to a
newcomer. It?s only because I?m aware of how
a sickly ?sh looks that I can second guess the
problem and have it con?rmed through a test.
And my course of action is always the same
anyway ? water changes, ease back on
feeding, and unburden the ?lter.
Selling test kits is a nightmare. The thing is,
for the best part they?re really easy to use.
If you can ?ll a test tube to a line, add some
drops from a dropper, shake and compare to a
colour chart, then you can do it.
But then, you don?t even need to do that
any more. Something like a Seneye just goes
in the tank and emails or texts you if
the water quality shifts.
How would you get
people to test more
often? Or test at all?
How would you argue
its importance,
especially to the
newcomer?
SB: But the cost of
a Seneye... for each
tank! It?s not an
option many will
choose unless the
price of such systems
comes crashing down. As it
is, it?s only likely to be bought by
people who know the importance of
testing water, and own a serious reef,
Discus or similar tank.
The strip tests came in to simplify things, but
they?re still quite dear and mostly poor in their
ability. To argue the importance, I would point
out that testing is the only way to know
exactly what?s in the water, and therefore
what?s in your ?shes? blood. I would point out
that coming to the shop for a water test is
poor economy, as shops often charge for the
test, plus there?s petrol money and the
inconvenience to take into account.
I would also point out that if someone sees
a ?sh struggling on a Monday evening and
can?t get to an aquatics shop until Saturday,
there will be big issues before they know
what?s going on. But then most people still
wouldn?t buy a kit, so I was obviously missing
something in portraying how important
I believe water testing to be.
The fact that you ?thought ?that looks like a
nitrite problem?, and tested it to con?rm,?
shows that it?s more important to have a kit at
home, than to take a sample to a shop for
analysis every fortnight.
What?s your advice to novice and
intermediate hobbyists in respect of testing?
NH: I?ve tried a few approaches over the
years, and I?d not say that any were entirely
successful. I?m not even sure that the problem
is expressing the importance of testing.
Rather, I suspect the problem is that far
too many people still look at ?sh as
disposable commodities.
For those people who care about ?sh, I?d
say that testing (especially through an
ongoing monitor like a Seneye) is a way to
ensure they aren?t suffering, and a way to
correct that suffering if it occurs. For
those who don?t care about ?sh,
I?d plug testing as a type of
economic insurance. In a
tank ?lled with �0 of
livestock, a � bundle
of cheap test kits
annually is a way of
protecting that
investment. I?d back
that up by explaining
how the majority of
problems in aquaria are
due to water quality
issues that can be resolved
with regular testing. � is a
night out with a couple of
friends in a pub. I?m sure anyone can
forego one of those a year.
SB: I think you?re quite right there. Even a
full-on liquid kit can be had for the equivalent
of three nights out. But I think you?re probably
sadly right that many casual ?shkeepers see
?sh as disposable. They would rather risk the
life of a ?sh, than splash out and learn to use
test kits. As you say, it?s shortsighted ? even
with cheapish ?sh, a well-stocked 60cm tank
may have up to � worth of stock.
I think the myth of test kits being too sciency
needs quashing too. Who can?t get 5ml of
tank water, add three drops from bottle one,
three drops from bottle two, shake and leave
for ?ve minutes before comparing the colours
to a chart? if you need advice on the results, a
call to your ?sh shop should see you right.
Do you have an opinion on water testing that you would 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: The
more water tests
you can perform,
the safer your
?sh will be.
INSPIRATION
Stream tank
How flow can
ALAMY
JAY WILLIS
PHD
Jay is a scientist
researching
hydrodynamics of
river fish. He has
worked on pigeons,
beetles, tuna,
whales and krill.
22
set up a flowing stream tank,
but how does a profess
researcher go about it?
d
one, and this is what h
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
you go ?
H
ILLSTREAM
LOACHES are
small freshwater
species found in
the fast-?owing
streams of Asian
tropical rainforests.
In the wild, they
glide over smooth rocks in strong
currents and climb vertical, even
overhanging surfaces with ease.
Understanding how these tiny
?sh cope with such extreme
environments might lead to
signi?cant breakthroughs in ?uid
dynamics, perhaps allowing us to
reduce the drag on ships, or
reduce the cost of pumping water.
Hillstream loaches have unique
scale structures and body shapes,
and it may be these adaptations
that give them the ability to ?ght
the current without expending
signi?cant amounts of energy.
As researchers, our experiments
are only worth doing if the ?sh
we keep in the lab are healthy and
behave as they do in the wild. We
have spent several years improving
our aquariums to match the
ecotypes the hillstream loaches
prefer. To that end we went to
Borneo to see them in the wild.
Loaches in Borneo
Hillstream loaches come from
rainforest mountain streams.
It rains a lot. Surprisingly there?s
often only a thin layer of soil over
bedrock or clay, so rain reaches
the streams quickly. A river,
normally a trickle, turns into a
torrent in a few hours, or even
minutes. Leaves, twigs, silt,
gelatinous algae, and anything else
that can?t get out of the way, is
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 23
INSPIRATION
Stream tank
swept down on a torrent the colour
of milky coffee. A couple of hours
later, the clouds clear and the sun
reappears; four or ?ve hours later.
the sediment drops out and the
water clears. This cycle is repeated
every couple of days to every few
weeks, depending on the season.
People in Borneo eat these ?sh,
known as ?rokot?, but it?s quite a trek
to the high mountain streams, so they
aren?t eaten often. Many people we
met had fond memories of catching
them as children and were keen to
advise. One indicator was a certain
aquatic snail: ?Where there are snails
there are rokot.? It was true and useful
as the ?sh could be dif?cult to spot.
We were looking at methods for
sampling the ?sh in the future
without harming them, so we
captured a few with hand-nets and
photographed them before returning
them all to the rivers.
The tank
To keep hillstream loaches happy,
your tank should have some speci?c
features: fast ?owing water to allow
algae to grow in strong lighting,
darker protected areas with slower
?ow and even a few areas with little
or no ?ow. Variation is the key.
Like a tiny Adam Peaty, hillstream
loaches probably need regular
workouts to stay in top form, not
c
th
wa
abo
seco
high
like a
compa
moves
about h
per seco
quickly d
only a few
from the p
If you were
a current of
second throu
120 l tank, yo
shift the entire
second. That?s ome aquarium
pump ? 900,000 litres per hour!
There is an easier way to get
fast-?owing water though ? keep
some areas of the aquarium shallow.
What we saw in Borneo has been
applied to our tank design and
husbandry. Water is pumped to a
shallow platform, then ?ows over
rocks and falls back into the main
tank via a ramp or over a waterfall.
ALL PHOTOS|: JAY WILLIS
In the wild, when the stream floods,
loaches climb, rather than shelter
24
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
We used two Eheim compact+ 5000
pumps at full speed in a 100 l tank
through sponges on strainers to
move the water from the
main tank to the platform. A
rich layer of algae grows on
the rocks in the strong light.
The waterfall oxygenates the
water and provides constant
sound too; the ramp provides
access and an interesting
variable ?ow feature. We use
?of?ine? ?lters, and encourage
shrimps, snails and algae to
ABOVE:
We could learn
a lot about
hydrodynamics
from hillstream
loaches.
BELOW:
Sewellia ?SW01?
and ?SW02?.
share the tank. There?s no substrate,
just large rocks and bogwood. The
tank has both falling water and areas
with moderate to low ?ow.
In the wild, when the stream ?oods,
loaches climb, rather than shelter.
This time may be the equivalent of
the Olympic ?nal for these miniature
Adam Peatys. The deeper water may
allow them to get over objects that
would be barriers in shallower water,
and may also be where they can
more easily evade predators like
Clarias cat?sh. Cat?sh use suction to
RIGHT:
This set-up
offers different
environments
to replicate
nature?s variety.
BELOW:
When ?ow
drops, water
settles and
clears.
In their native Borneo,
these loaches are
called ?Rokot?.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 25
INSPIRATION
Stream tank
catch prey and so the loaches?
ability to remain attached without
substantial muscular effort may be a
bene?t in a surprise attack.
This behaviour in stream ?ooding
is subtly important as it means the
?ltering and nitrogen cycling services
loaches aren?t challenging their
physical limits all the time. Relaxation, that help ?feed? the main tank. The
idea is that they act like an upstream
rest and social activities are all parts
of ensuring peak performance when section of natural river, adding
smells and nutrition in the same way.
necessary. Often, we found them in
calm, clear pools, without excessive
?ow ? 0.2-0.4 m/s. Here they would Water parameters
The book ?The Borneo Suckers? by
graze and share space with shrimps,
Dr Tan Heok Hui provides
other ?sh and snails;
a good idea of what
naturally inquisitive but
hillstream loaches from
always near shadows,
Borneo are used to.
and fast-?owing and
From Dr Tan?s ?eld
falling water ? ever
Hillstream
loaches
often
notes, the average
vigilant. Our tanks
remain stuck to rocks and
pH of the water is
are designed to
other decoration even
7.5, with records
mimic these variable
after they?ve died!
from 6.0 to 8.7.
conditions in shelter,
There?s no similar book
lighting and ?ow.
for the Sewellia butter?y
We also use ?of?ine? living
loaches of Vietnam, but there is a
?lters ? tanks connected to the
great scienti?c paper for
main tank via smaller pumps. The
Sinogastromyzon puliensis, a similar
return water is piped onto the upper
species found only in Taiwan.
platform of the main tanks, often
Shyi-Liang Yu and Teh-Wang Lee
through a spray bar, to add to the
sampled ?sh in over 60 river sites.
?ow. These smaller tanks contain
Average pH was 8.2 (range 6.2-10.9),
?lter sponges, Anubias, shrimp,
average temperature 23癈 (range
snails and ?sh such as Danios. We
18-30癈), average ?ow 0.9 m/s
also put peat, Catappa leaves, Alder
(range 0.12-2.32). These average
cones and bogwood in here. We
parameters are a good place to start.
feed the Danios ?ake and some
We always aim for them ? also with
circulates through the main tank.
carbonate hardness over 7� kH,
These tanks provide a range of
Where there
are snails, there
are rokot
26
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
which pulls the pH up to roughly 8.0.
As a rule, we don?t measure pH or
GH, but monitor and maintain KH
around 8-10 units. We tested the
water in Borneo with standard test
kits (API liquid test kit KH, GH, and
pH) and con?rmed these average
?gures were accurate for ?ve of the
locations where we found ?sh.
Feeding
While hillstream loaches will eat
standard ?sh ?akes, we?ve found
ABOVE &
BELOW:
Flow rates
?uctuate
massively in the
forest streams of
Borneo.
Not just algae,
hillstream loaches
need the right algae.
they need to eat algae for long-term
health. We use Repashy Soilent
Green gel as a supplement to ensure
they always have access to a
well-balanced diet.
There are many types of algae, of
course, and some only grow in fast
?ow. After rocks have been grazed
by adult hillstream loaches for a few
months, they develop a dark, redblack algal layer full of bacteria,
crustaceans, diatoms, and other
food, such as snail and shrimp eggs.
Gelatinous algae can be a sign that
there?s too little ?ow in the tank. It?s
not toxic to the ?sh, it just stops
them getting at the stuff they like.
Husbandry
explore and re-establish favourite
places and routes. We often ?nd
small fry in the changed water and
move these to a separate tank for
juveniles. Occasionally we roughly
scrape the rocks with an old knife ?
the ?sh seem especially keen to
graze them after.
The behaviour we observe in our
aquariums is similar to what we saw
in the wild. Like many loaches,
hillstreams like to hide, especially
from people, and we ensure they
have adequate places to do so.
They?re naturally inquisitive and
social ?sh; while they may hide
when we enter the room, they
re-emerge after only a few
minutes. All sizes playfully
spar with similar-sized
?sh and they appear
MORE INFO
relaxed as they explore
Check out Jay and his
their tank.
colleagues? informal project
One good test of
blog: aquaticagents.com.
health is breeding and
Scienti?c project funded by
we?re pleased to say
The Leverhulme Trust.
some of our ?sh more or
less breed continually.
Repashy?s algae
paste food goes
down well.
Because these ?sh are used to
change in their natural rivers, they
don?t mind a big water disruption.
We clean the tanks weekly by
removing all the rocks and wood ?
everything out but the ?sh! So all the
rocks in the main tank are rinsed in
tank water and repositioned, with a
40-50% water change. The changing
pattern of rocks and caves, in a
familiar pattern of ?ow, is a further
stimulant to the ?sh, similar to their
natural habitat, and allows them to
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 27
BIOLOGY
Ambush predators
ALAMY
CHRIS
SERGEANT
Chris works in
conservation
research and
regularly writes
for aquarium
publications.
28
It?s all part of
the food chain.
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
THE ART OF THE
AMBUSH
Fascinating to observe, ambush predators of all shapes and sizes
have devised an arsenal of strategies to capture their prey.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 29
BIOLOGY
Ambush predators
S
much of the attention, the attached
videos of the octopus hunting
shrimp also caught the eye.
Surprise, surprise
While the Larger Paci?c striped
octopus?s particular method might
be a ?rst, the art of ambushing prey
? de?ned as a ?surprise attack from
a concealed position? ? is nothing
new, and a ploy utilised throughout
the aquatic animal kingdom. Such
predators typically hunt much faster
prey items, and would be easily
outpaced in a straight race, so they
use camou?age, mimicry or the
local topography in order to conceal
their whereabouts.
Coral reefs and the surrounding
sand?ats play home to some of
the ocean?s most cryptic ambush
hunters. Stone?sh, Synanceia
verrucosa, lie among the coral,
perfectly disguised against the
rockwork, while species such as
Papilloculiceps longiceps, the
Tentacled ?athead or Crocodile?sh,
make use of rocky ledges and the
RIGHT:
Crocodile?sh
even have
camou?aged
pupils.
BELOW:
Stone?sh mimic
algae-covered
rocks while
lying in wait.
ALAMY
TEALTHILY
APPROACHING a
shrimp, the octopus
pauses a short
distance away,
seemingly poised to
strike. But instead of
accelerating at speed,
the crafty cephalopod slowly unfurls
a tentacle, reaches round to the back
of the shrimp and gently taps it on
the abdomen. Startled, the shrimp
jolts forward in surprise, straight into
the waiting open arms of the octopus.
Videos of this canny hunting
behaviour captured the attention of
?sh-lovers and academics alike in
2015, when Roy Caldwell and
Richard Ross from the California
Academy of Sciences published a
paper in the journal ?PLOS One?.
Their study looked at the biology
and behaviour of the little-known
Larger Paci?c striped octopus, based
on observations of their captive
specimens. While the cephalopod?s
unique beak-to-beak mating
strategies and den sharing grabbed
30
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
surrounding sand bed. Crocodile?sh
have ?attened, elongated bodies
that give rise to an almost ?steamrollered? appearance. Added to their
adjustable mottled brown and tan
colouration, they blend seamlessly
with their surroundings. Various
tassels and protrusions help to break
up their outline, and their camou?age
is so detailed that even the pupil is
covered with an iris lappet,
disguising the outline of the eye.
Other species, such as the Atlantic
lizard?sh, Synodus saurus, or Peacock
?ounder, Bothus mancus, choose to
rest on the surface of the substrate,
while reef predators like the Red
grouper, Epinephelus morio, and
Trumpet?sh, Fistularia commersonii,
drift slowly around their hunting
grounds until their prey become
accustomed to their presence.
Once a false sense of security has
set in, they?re able to ambush their
targets with ease.
Thankfully, you?ll be hard pushed
to ?nd these species with their
voracious, indiscriminate feeding
habits and large size in the hobby,
but certain other predatory reef
hunters are better suited to life in a
home aquarium.
an eye. With this expandable mouth,
pharyngeal teeth and a stomach that
can swell to 30 times its resting
capacity, lion?sh can comfortably
consume prey half their size.
The Common lion?sh, Pterois miles,
and Red lion?sh, Pterois volitans,
regularly appear in the trade, but can
attain adult sizes in excess of 38cm,
so they need a tank to match. The
Spot?n lion?sh, Pterois antennata,
reaches half that size, about 20cm,
while smaller still, the Fuzzy dwarf
lion?sh, Dendrochirus brachypterus,
can be kept in tanks of 150 l.
SHUTTERSTOCK
Masters of disguise
ALAMY
Lion?sh are eye-catching, sporting
vivid splashes of red, white and
black across their outstretched body
and ?ns. While most ambush hunters
rely on remaining hidden, the lions?
striking appearance seems at odds
with this tactic ? against the backdrop
of a well-lit aquarium, the aposematic
colouration boldly publicises the
?sh?s venomous nature to the world.
But when the light drops, the true
cryptic effect of these colours is
revealed. The red, white and black
stripes, so conspicuous by day,
merge into the murky backdrop of
reef and rock, breaking up the ?sh?s
outline as it lurks in the shadows,
camou?aged from possible prey.
With all lion?sh, any tankmate that
can ?t inside their mouths inevitably
will. Like their other Scorpaenidae
cousins, they feed by rapidly
expanding their buccal cavity, which
generates a suction ?eld and allows
them to inhale prey in the blink of
BELOW LEFT:
Hawk?sh use
a perching
strategy to look
over their prey.
BELOW:
Flamboyant
camou?age
works on the
reef.
SHUTTERSTOCK
Lion king
For those wanting something a little
more unusual, look no further than
the Weedy scorpion?sh, Rhinopias
frondosa (see PFK, July 2018). In
contrast to the more active, larger
lion?sh, it lacks a swim bladder, so
prefers to hop over the sand using
modi?ed pectoral and pelvic ?ns.
Being a relatively sedentary hunter,
camou?age is critical, so what better
way to blend in than to mimic your
environment ? speci?cally the local
macro-algae, which gives the ?sh a
spectacularly plumed appearance.
Hawk?sh are another group of
ambush hunters that rest on coral or
rocky perches, motionlessly
surveying the reef. When a prey
item comes into reach, they swoop
down from their vantage point and
snatch up their victim before
returning to their perch, much like
their avian namesakes.
Their inquisitive nature and dinky
size make them a favourite among
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 31
BIOLOGY
marine aquarists, so several species
feature in the hobby. The Falco
hawk?sh, Cirrhitichthys falco, Pixy
hawk?sh, C. oxycephalus, Thread?n
hawk?sh, C. aprinus, and Longnose hawk?sh, Oxycirrhites typus, all
remain under 13cm when fully grown.
Ribbon eels, Rhinomuraena
quaesita, also crop up in the trade
from time to time. Spending their
time hidden in the rockwork with
only their heads exposed, they dart
from the security of their lair to
snatch ?sh or crustaceans from the
water column. Unfortunately, ribbon
eels are renowned for their refusal to
eat anything but live foods in
captivity, and their pristine water
requirements don?t tally with a
meat-based diet. Beautiful as they
are, they are best left in the wild.
Shrimp strategy
Fish aren?t the only creatures to use
ambush strategies. Many
invertebrates also lie in wait to bag
themselves a meal. Mantis shrimps
from the order Stomatopoda live in
rockwork or burrows dug into the
substrate. Obscured from view in
their tunnel, they wait until a potential
target passes overhead before
launching themselves at speed.
Unlike true shrimps, Stomatopods
possess pairs of raptorial
appendages, with ?smashers? such as
the Peacock mantis shrimp,
Odontodactylys scyllarus, using a
punching technique to overcome
their prey, and ?spearers? like the
Zebra mantis, Lysiosquillina
maculata, impaling their quarry on
their outwards-facing spines.
At over 50mph, a punch from a
Peacock mantis shrimp can deliver
an impact similar to a small calibre
bullet. As the mantis shrimp swings
forwards to strike, the movement
lowers the pressure of the
surrounding water, causing it to boil.
This instant forming and collapsing
of bubbles produces energy through
cavitation, giving a second blow to
the victim. Even if the initial strike
narrowly misses, the
resulting shockwave
will ?nish the job.
When housing mantis shrimps
When housing
from the order Stomatopoda,
stomatopods, tank
decor is important. Both
low lighting is a must, as
species dig burrows, so
strong illumination can
you need either a deep
lead to shell rot.
sand bed with coarse sand
and coral rubble, or a network of
dark PVC tubes buried beneath the
substrate. Live rock will help
disguise the pipes and serve as extra
cover. The more hiding places, the
safer the shrimp will feel, and the
more frequently you?ll see it.
While mantis species can enter
aquariums as live rock stowaways,
their unintended presence doesn?t
strike fear into a reef enthusiast the
way mere mention of the Bobbit
worm can. Marine aquarists may
already be familiar with Eunice
Fleshy
aphroditois? capabilities, but it
extensions and
was Sir David Attenborough who
ragged-looking
introduced this polychaete worm
?ns break up a
to the rest of the world in ?Blue
?sh?s outline.
ALAMY
Ambush predators
Ribbon eels
prefer to
conceal.
Planet II?, plucking ?sh after ?sh
from the water column.
Buried in the sand, with just their
jaws exposed, Bobbit worms make
quick work of any prey, snaring
them in their razor-sharp teeth
before dragging them deep into their
burrow. Hidden in the rockwork of
your reef tank, they will make short
work of your marine ?sh, and often
the entire reef set-up has to be
dismantled to get rid of the worm.
This is one ambush predator you
don?t want to encounter!
Spending their time hidden in the rockwork
with only their heads exposed, they dart from
the security of their lair to snatch fish or
crustaceans from the water column
adopt a similar tactic in the murk
waters of the Congo River, seekin
shelter at the edges of raging rap
As the torrents of water cascade
overhead, disorientated ?sh
swept around in the currents are
snatched up from the margins.
While it shares its locality with
the Tiger?sh, the Leopard
bush?sh, Ctenopoma acutirostre,
prefers a much quieter pace of
life. Seeking submerged driftwoo
The Zebra mantis
shrimp spears
its prey.
ALAMY
The Peacock
mantis shrimp is
a hard hitter.
SHUTTERSTOCK
Rather than camou?age, many
freshwater ambush predators
rely instead on the underwater
topography. Hidden within a shaded
lookout ? overhanging vegetation,
sunken obstructions, or even manmade structures like jetties ? the
sensitivity of the ?sh?s eye increases
in low-light conditions, giving it a
greater ?eld of visibility in comparison
to a ?sh in open water. This allows
the predator to spot its quarry ?rst,
and when fractions of a second can
make the difference between a meal
or a missed opportunity, such
advantages can be crucial.
The Northern pike, Esox lucius, is
the UK?s apex freshwater predator
and ambush hunter. Skirting round
the edges of large lakes and ponds,
Pike hang motionless in thick
vegetation, emerging with short
bursts of speed to grab passing ?sh
or water fowl.
Goliath tiger?sh, Hydrocynus goliath,
SHUTTERSTOCK
Shadowy affair
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 33
BIOLOGY
and dense foliage for cover, it
adopts a head-down hunting
stance, mimicking leaf debris,
while its spotted kittenish
colouration helps to
break up its outline.
Adults can reach 20cm
and their deceptively large,
extendable mouths make them
capable of taking any sizeable prey
that strays within reach.
Leafy disguise
Hop across the Atlantic to the
slow-moving water bodies of the
Amazon River basin, and there?s
another aquarium species whose
disguise has been inspired by
decaying leaf matter. The Leaf ?sh,
Monocirrhus polyacanthus, has
seriously upped the mimicry stakes.
As well as a leaf-shaped body,
mottled-brown colouration, and
head-down swimming stance, the
shape of its eye ? the main giveaway
with many cryptic ambush predators
? is broken up with bands of colour,
while a projection on the lower jaw
ABOVE:
Bobbit worms
are the stuff of
nightmares.
BELOW: Pike
lurk by shady
features to get a
sight advantage.
gives the impression of a leaf stalk.
Coupled with a tendency to drift
rather than swim, and the
ability to adjust its
colouration to match the
surrounding foliage, this
puts the Leaf ?sh among
nature?s ?nest mimics. With
their extendable mouths, they
can take prey items up to 30% of
their body length. The speed of
M. polyacanthus? strike has been
measured at 0.034 seconds from the
initiation of the strike to prey
capture. Incredibly, another species
in the marine trade, the Bluestripe
pipe?sh, Doryrhamphus excisus, was
even faster with a strike-capture
speed of 0.002 seconds.
Despite their lightning-quick
reactions, Leaf ?sh can be ?nicky
eaters in captivity, so are suitable for
experienced aquarists only.
Gut-loaded live prey is a must while
trying to shift them onto frozen or
prepared foods. They require a low
?ow set-up, low pH and hardness to
mimic natural water parameters,
and won?t tolerate ?uctuating
ammonia and nitrites.
Leaves as camou?age
Hailing from the blackwaters of
South-East Asia, the Pikehead,
Luciocephalus pulcher (see PFK,
September 2018), makes use of fallen
branches and leaf litter from above.
The tannin-stained waters provide
the cover from which it darts out to
grab its prey, with its protrusible
jaws capable of extending almost a
third of its body length ? impressive
given that adults can reach 20cm.
These predators aren?t for the
novice aquarist though, and not just
because they prefer live, rather than
pre-prepared diets. Coming from
such acidic waters, where there is
little in the way of local bacterial
communities, they can be
susceptible to infections.
The Wolf-?sh, Hoplias malabaricus,
is a predatory characin that also goes
by the names Trahira or Guabine,
depending on their Central or South
America source. Their nocturnal
ALAMY
ALAMY
Ambush predators
Going underground
Other ambush predators prefer to
go fully subterranean in their
hunting efforts. Endemic to S鉶
Francisco River basin in n th-east
Brazil, the Pacman cat?
Lophiosilurus alexandri
because its vast
mouth was likened
to the 1980s arcad
game character. I
grows up to 50c
length and spend
majority of time buried
the sand with just its head
ABOVE:
The Bluestripe
pipe?sh strikes
in 0.002
seconds.
ALAMY
anything that swims by.
Certain Puffer?sh also engage in
burying behaviour. The Hairy puffer,
Tetraodon baileyi, and Pignose
puffer, Tetraodon suvattii, from the
Mekong basin, appreciate a ?ne,
deep, sand substrate, interspersed
with rocks, as do the African Congo
puffer, Tetraodon miurus, and
Fahaka puffer, Tetraodon lineatus.
Puffer?sh have personality, but a
general intolerance of conspeci?cs,
and predatory behaviour towards
tankmates means
they?re best
suited to
solo
BOTTOM:
The Leaf ?sh is
a top mimic.
INSET:
Lurking Puffers
bury most of
their bodies.
ALAMY
their cavernous mou
rows of small teeth to grip their
inhaled prey. Larger prey items are
dragged back to their shelter and
devoured at leisure.
Unsurprisingly, these large cat?sh
require equally large aquariums,
with sunken wood, rocks and caves
for shelter. To improve your chances
of observing them in a tank, try to
position cave entrances so the
occupant faces outwards.
SHUTTERSTOCK
feeding habits mean they spend
most of the day hidden among the
vegetation, before emerging at night
to hunt. Having said that, any ?sh
that strays into range during daylight
hours is still likely to snared in their
vice-like grab ? their canine teeth
and reluctance to let go of their prey
giving rise to the wolf comparison.
Popular in the trade, adults can
reach 40cm, so real consideration
needs to be given to housing them.
Another group of benthic ambush
hunters from the Amazonian region
are Cephalosilurus. These cat?sh
have large heads and small eyes,
which add to their already bulky
appearance. Four species are
currently recognised, with C.
apurensis from Venezuela, and C.
nigricaudus from Surinam, being the
two most often encountered.
Cephalosilurus live life in the slow
lane. They stay motionless in a
favourite hiding place, snatching
anything that swims by. Barbels
around the mouth enable them to
detect movement in the water, and
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 35
BIOLOGY
Ambush predators
living. As with all Puffers, crunchy
prey items, such as unshelled
shrimps and snails, should be fed
regularly to wear down their teeth
and prevent overgrowth.
For those with truly mammoth
aquariums, another burrower, the
Ocellate river ray, Potamotrygon
motoro, has a particularly novel
approach to feeding. While it was
once thought only mammals chew
their food, these rays have been
observed grasping their invertebrate
prey in one corner of the mouth and
moving the sections of their jaw
from side to side, creating a shearing
effect. Even if tough exoskeletons
are capable of withstanding the
crushing power, they?re no match
for this tearing action.
Come into my parlour
Patience is key for all ambush
hunters, but some species have
specialised adaptions to entice prey
during lean spells. Bioluminescence
is commonplace in the deep ocean,
and an ideal way to get the attention
of passing prey. Some siphonophores,
Erenna sp., use ?ashing red tentacles
to mimic swimming copepods,
the ?rst recorded example of a
marine invertebrate using red
bioluminescence to tempt in victims.
Numerous deep sea ?sh use the
same tactic ? Barbeled dragon?sh,
Chauliodus sp., use an elongated
barbel protruding from their lower
jaw, while Atlantic football?sh,
36
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
Himantolophus groenlandicus, have a
modi?ed ray tipped with a luminous
bulb that they ?ick about to attract
prey in the abyss. In shallower
waters, reef residents also use lures
to grab their victim?s attention.
The Decoy scorpion?sh, Iracundus
signifer, is native to the Indo-West
Paci?c and its mottled red and white
colouration helps to break up its
body outline against the reef
backdrop. A closer look at its spiny
dorsal ?n reveals a prominent black
spot between the ?rst and third ?n
rays which, when viewed from the
side in conjunction with the other
spines, mimics the head of a small
?sh. This aggressive form of mimicry
lures would-be predators, who in a
?ash ?nd themselves inhaled.
Rather than employing a static
lure, the benthic-dwelling Angler
?at?sh, Asterorhombus fijiensis, has an
elongated ?rst dorsal ?n ray tipped
with a membranous structure. By
remaining stationary and ?icking the
?n ray above its mouth, these ?at?sh
can mimic tiny hippolytid shrimps
and bring food right to their mouth.
Fishing frogs
Another group of reef ?sh can be
observed casting their lures in the
aquarium. Frog?sh are members of
the Antennariidae family, and their
lack of a swim bladder means they
crawl, rather than swim, over the
reef. Their impeccable camou?age
mimics a variety of different reef
species, such as sea urchins, sponges,
tunicates and coral. Assorted warts,
?eshy protrusions and coloured
patches allow these predators to
blend in with their environment, and
ABOVE: The
Barbeled
dragon?sh
lures prey with
an elongated
barbel.
BELOW: The
Goliath tiger
?sh picks off
disorientated
prey from rapids.
they can even alter their colouration
over the course of a week if it?s not
up to scratch.
The Frog?sh waits in its ambush
site for a potential meal to approach,
and when one gets close, the show
begins. The ?sh?s modi?ed dorsal
ray, or illicium, is tipped with a lure,
or esca, which acts like a ?shing rod
to reel in any interested parties. As
the prey gets closer, the frog?sh
keeps its body compressed to the
ground, and orientates its mouth
upwards in the direction of its quarry.
As soon as it gets within one body
length away ? the ?strike zone? ? the
Frog?sh pounces. By forcing its
upper jaw out and lower jaw down,
it can expand its cavernous mouth
12 times its resting state. This
creates a negative suction pressure
within its mouth, sucking in its prey
in a blink of an eye. Such is the
speed of the strike, a mere 1/6000
of a second, that a Frog?sh can
pluck a ?sh from a shoal without the
others realising what has happened.
The Frog?sh?s hunting strategy is
so sophisticated that its esca comes
in different shapes and sizes
depending on the species it?s
mimicking. The Giant frog?sh,
Antennarius commerson, and Warty
frog?sh, Antennarius maculatus, use
lures resembling shrimp; Randall?s
frog?sh, Antennarius randalli, mimics
a juvenile squid; while the Threespot frog?sh, Lophiocharon
trisignatus, resembles a spidercrab.
Different Frog?sh even have
distinctive casts ? the Giant frog?sh
?shes above its head in the water
column, while the Warty frog?sh
waves its lure in a circular motion in
front of its mouth.
Another species, the Striped
frog?sh, Antennarius striatus, even
secretes a chemical attractant from
its esca to help it hunt in particularly
turbid waters.
From a freshwater perspective,
the Frogmouth cat?sh, Chaca chaca,
also uses lures to attract prey,
manipulating the barbels on its mouth
to resemble worms wriggling on the
substrate. If keeping Chaca species
in an aquarium, be aware that they
seem to reduce the pH of their
aquariums. It?s not yet known how
this occurs, but theories include the
release of a chemical lure to entice
prey, extremely potent digestive
juices, or a foul-tasting secretion to
prevent predation. Whatever the
reason, regular water changes and
testing is a must with these ?sh.
So, if you are considering housing
one of these incredible predators, be
sure to have your tank decor and
layout in check. The more cover you
provide, the more likely your
aquarium inhabitants are to engage
in their natural ambush behaviours.
That leaves you to just draw up a
chair and watch nature in action.
BELOW:
The Atlantic
football?sh is
a deep water
?sherman.
Atlantic football?sh,
Himantolophus groenlandicus,
have a modi?ed ray tipped
with a luminous bulb that they
?ick about to attract prey in
the abyss
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 37
COMMON
SPECIES
SUBJECT TO
INJECTION AND
DIPPING
MP&C PIEDNOIR AQUAPRESS
6 Albino corydoras
6 Glass fish, 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!
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
TANK COMMUNITY
Letters
Win
Your letters, your thoughts and
your experiences shared.
still have very similar patterns on
their bodies to the farmed wild
varieties of angels. Or perhaps
using hybrid ?sh like the electric
blue versions of the Jack Dempsey
or Mikrogeophagus ramirezi or even
the hybrid Electric blue acara in
Central American or South
American biotope/habitat/
communitope set-ups.
This is my personal experience
anyway, and I hope it might give a
bit of thought to those of us who
? like me ? sometimes intentionally
or unintentionally go into a moment
of biotope snobbery that might
prevent others from delving into
this fascinating portion of the
aquarium hobby.
Andy Basuki, Indonesia
NATHAN REPLIES: I like to think
that Tai did spark some discussions
with his comments ? he certainly
did right here between the PFK
staff! I?m an unashamed biotope
snob, and while I appreciate it?s a
niche of a niche of a niche, I can?t
think of any better way to really
enjoy the wilderness aspect of
?shkeeping. Admittedly, I?ve played
with plenty of communitopes, and
more than a few communities, but
my heart always goes back to the
absolute, purist layout.
Perhaps there?s something about
the untamed, unrestrained and
artistically chaotic nature of nature,
NEIL HEPWORTH
I was re-reading the March 2018 of
Practical Fishkeeping and stumbled
upon Tai Strietman?s Thai tank
set-up. I ?nd that creating and
recreating biotopes is a lot of fun,
as shown by my earlier letter to
PFK in regards to Nathan Hill?s
Neon tetra biotope set-up.
As you might remember, I talked
about the natural behaviour of
my Sawbwa resplendens in my
Lake Inle tank set-up (which is
sadly no longer active as it faced a
tank crash when I was away, and
a power failure wiped out the ?sh
population ? a sad loss of such
beautiful ?sh).
I am slowly spreading the love of
biotope tanks in the country I am
from and, regarding the biotope
snobbery that Tai mentioned in his
article, whether intentional or not,
on re?ection I may have done so to
my dismay. I know that it is a sad
thing, but I have since then done
some re?ection and tried to guide
people in trying their best to create
a habitat or biotope with substitute
?sh that might look similar to
the ?sh that may be available in
the biotope they are creating, or
even the plants.
I sometimes even helped them in
?nding out what possible ?sh those
might be in the area of biotope/
habitat that they are creating for a
communitope kind of set-up if a
true biotope/habitat is not possible.
The only time that I might
dissuade people from putting in
certain ?sh is when they use the
ornamental versions of angel?sh in
an angel?sh habitat set-up, though
I do encourage them to try to ?nd
the farmed, wild forms of angels
that are now starting to be more
available in the hobby.
Alternatively, I might suggest they
use those ornamental forms that
but show me a pristine planted
aquascape, and a mud-?lled,
algae-drenched slice of Amazon
oxbow, and I?ll make a beeline for
the tank full of muck every time.
WHERE ARE THE LOCAL
FISH SHOPS GOING?
I used to have three independently
owned LFS that I could visit, but
now there?s only one pet store with
some ?sh, or a long journey to visit
an out-of-town shop that has a
reasonable selection of ?sh.
Where I live isn?t lacking
?shkeepers. There are plenty of us
here, and these stores were all rather
well established. Is there a reason
that stores are closing down like
this? I hear the same thing when I
speak to ?shkeepers in other
counties too.
B Heldon, email
ABOVE: Electric
blue Jack
Dempsey.
BELOW: Asian
rummynose,
Sawbwa
resplendens.
NATHAN HILL
HUMBLE ABOUT BIOTOPES
NATHAN REPLIES: It?s a tough time
for all stores, not just independent
ones. I?m seeing lots of shops
vanishing, and it doesn?t look like a
trend that?ll go away any time soon.
?
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 39
I guess someone just needs to work
out what the next evolutionary stage
of aquatic trading should be, and
hopefully we?ll see another golden
age of ?shkeeping.
High rents and business rates, high
transport costs, high fuel costs, and
the dif?culty of trying to hire staff
with expertise (there really are only so
many, and most of them are already
in the industry) make it a hostile
environment in which to run a shop.
DO AQUASCAPERS REALLY
NEED FILTERS?
I?m hoping you can answer
something that?s been on my mind.
We all know that plants eat up ?sh
waste, and that planted aquascapes
have a huge amount of planting
compared to the number of ?sh in
them. So does that mean I can run
a tank without a ?lter? And if not,
just how much planting would I
need to stop needing a ?lter?
Gary Sneddon, email
NATHAN REPLIES: I?ve had a
situation where I accidentally left a
?lter off over a whole weekend in a
planted ?scape, and only noticed
when I spotted there was less ?ow
and a little more debris on the base
than usual. Obviously, I panicked
and tested the water straightaway ?
only to ?nd zero ammonia or nitrite.
That was in a 99 l tank with a LOT
of Cryptocoryne and about
20 smallish rasbora (3cm or so).
My tank coped admirably.
So yeah, I guess in theory you can
do it. Plants uptake ammonium
directly as a food source (they
actually have to convert nitrates
back into ammonium in order to
utilise it), so as long as they?re
established and there?s ample ?ow
and circulation in the tank, then it
should work. I?ll still always run a
?lter ?just in case? though.
IN PRAISE OF LIVE FOOD
I wanted to thank you, and
especially Gabor Horvath, for your
recent feature on breeding live
foods. I?m a bit of a hoarder and
I?m unable to throw out my old,
scratched tanks ? they?ve been
clogging up my shed and parts of
the garden for years.
After reading Gabor?s piece, I
cleaned up two of them to put in a
sunny spot in the garden, and
bought myself a couple of bags of
Daphnia and Cyclops to grow in
them. After a slow start where
nothing happened for the ?rst week,
they had a bloom of life and now I
have more than enough wriggling
things to treat my ?sh to a daily live
feed. They love it!
I?m now awaiting a delivery of
microworms I bought online, and
have my porridge oats at the ready!
ABOVE: Gabor?s
simple infusoria
set-up.
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
With all the live food they?re now
getting, I don?t think it will be long
before my Kribensis start to spawn,
so I want to be ready for it!
R Marsh, email
GLASSY EYED
I was fascinated by Tai Strietman?s
glass?sh tank in the October issue of
PFK and have now decided I want to
set one up for myself. My only
question is, where can I get quality
glass?sh from?
I don?t feel brave enough ordering
online, knowing that there are so
many injected ones out there, and
my local stores all seem to have
quite tatty ?sh. I?m based not far
from Derby.
Jenny Sands, email
LEFT:
Aquascapes ?
the ultimate
veg ?lter.
40
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com/PFKmag
GABOR HORVATH
TANK COMMUNITY
Letters
Email us at editorial@
practical?shkeeping.co.uk
NATHAN REPLIES: I think Tai?s ?sh
came from a Maidenhead Aquatics,
and I believe there?s a Derby branch
worth a visit. If you get no joy there,
give Wharf Aquatics at Pinxton a try.
Phone up in advance and if they
haven?t got any, I bet the guys there
will happily order some in for you.
Write to us at Practical Fishkeeping, Bauer Media, Media House, Lynchwood
Business Park, Peterborough, Cambridgeshire PE2 6EA
THE VOICE OF YOUTH
I was reading the November issue of
Practical Fishkeeping and I found
the opinion piece on young people
in (or rather, not in) the ?shkeeping
hobby very interesting.
I?m a 20-year-old living in Ireland
and while I?m fairly new to this
hobby, I like to think I still
qualify as ?young blood?,
so I thought I might
give my own take on
the topic.
The article touched
brie?y on what I think
is the key issue ? cost.
Fishkeeping is a hobby
that, particularly when starting out,
requires a great deal of investment,
not only in money, but also in time.
I must have spent hours on end
researching before I even bought a
single thing. The set-up itself has
cost me the equivalent of two or
three smartphones.
However I consider myself very
privileged to be able to take on that
cost. I work part time, along with
university, but I?m also able to live
in my family home, so I pay very
little in rent or utilities. Many
students are renting or living in
on-campus accommodation, many
of which don?t allow ?sh tanks due
to the risk of water damage. Even if
they did, many students then
return home for the summer
and transporting a ?sh
tank of any size is
something of an ordeal.
For younger children
and teenagers still in
primary or secondary
education, the barrier is
still monetary cost for many. They
don?t have jobs, so their parents
must foot the bill, and attempting to
convince most parents that you
need to spend more than � on a
?sh is a task in and of itself.
Not to mention that many of us
have had ?sh in the past ? a gold?sh
perhaps, in a 10-litre bowl. It died
WE ASKED...
If you had to choose, which
way would you go?
� CLEARWATER TANKS
� BLACKWATER TANKS
YOU SAID...
Leer of
the Month
62%
62%
CLEARWATER WINS!
38%
after a week or six months or a year,
and we convinced ourselves that we
must be ?sh murderers, and
shouldn?t put any more living
creatures in such perilous hands
ever again. This was my experience,
until I tentatively began to look back
into the hobby again. The typical
childhood experience of ?shkeeping,
except for those with parents in the
know, is often lacklustre.
That said, I know quite a few
people my age who would certainly
be interested in the hobby ? just not
right now. Much like having any pet,
many of us simply have to wait until
circumstances become favourable.
I certainly plan on upgrading once
I?m older ? once I have a house, and
a career to pay for it. Who knows
when that will be, but I?m hopeful it
could happen some day.
Alex Twyford, email
Tai is clearly an
inspiration to
fish keepers.
STARTING WITH CLUE 5 GUESS THE FISH USING AS FEW CLUES AS POSSIBLE
5
This fish is probably the best known
of all the species highlighted by the
Big Fish Campaign, which seeks to stop
their trade for home tanks.
4
As well as natural forms, there are
now multiple hybrids of this fish
in circulation, most of which have
terrible deformities.
3
While best suited to public aquaria,
the young of these fish are often
sold very cheaply as ?kittens? in the
hobby to unwary aquarists.
2
Though it looks quite predatory,
it actually feeds on a mixture of
fish, fallen fruits and invertebrates,
including freshwater crabs.
1
The largest-ever specimen of this
fish was measured at 134cm long
and weighed over 40kg. They are
rumoured to get even larger in the wild!
(Answer on Tailpiece, page 114)
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 41
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TROPICAL
Rummynose tetra
The
Rummynose
Trio
Some of the planet?s prettiest ?sh are right under our noses.
Time to take a fresh look at the familiar Rummynose tetra trio.
WORDS: STEVE BAKER
44
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 45
NEIL HEPWORTH
A Rummynose tetra
? but which of
the three is it?
TROPICAL
Rummynose tetra
T
HE DOWNSIDE of
being a household
favourite is that it?s
very easy to become
overlooked. You can
hang the most beautiful
painting in your hallway
and you?ll stand and
stare at it many times during the ?rst
month. If it?s lucky, there might be
appreciative glances for a few months
more before it becomes part of the
scenery. Other people, laying eyes on
it for the ?rst time, will be quick to
show their enthusiasm, which might
even re-ignite your love for the
painting. Eventually, though, you just
get used to having it around and it no
longer gets the attention it deserves.
There are quite a few tropical
favourites I can think of that have
fallen foul of the same issue as that
painting. At least they have for me,
which almost makes me feel envious
of new ?shkeepers. It would be
great to have that excitement all
over again!
If I?d never seen a Rummynose
tetra before, I?d be amazed at the
sight of them ? they?re a stunning,
bright, active ?sh, and renowned as
one of the best shoaling ?sh in the
trade. The red nose steals the show,
but I?m just as taken by the ?agstriped caudal ?n myself.
We see Rummynose tetras for sale
in nearly all aquatics shops now and
it?s been that way for years on end.
They?re regarded as a trop tank
staple and many think they?re well
worth the small extra cost over
tetras like Neons and Glowlights.
So, Rummynose tetras are lovely,
shoaling community ?sh, but once
you?ve seen one, you?ve seen them
all, right?
Wrong! There are three described
species that get sold under the
common name of Rummynose
tetra. Even if you see the scienti?c
name displayed on the pricing label,
it may be incorrect as identi?cation
at the exporter stage is rather
unreliable, and nearly all imports are
listed as Hemigrammus rhodostomus,
rightly or wrongly.
No need to panic, though. It?s not
as if any of the Rummynose species
Because of its bolder head
markings, H. belheri is most
desired and also the most
commonly sold of the
three species.
When you?ve
seen one, you?ve
seen them all,
right? Wrong!
grows into a 2ft-long, tooth-wielding
predator, and there?s very little
to tell them apart either physically
or behaviourally.
MP&C PIEDNOIR, AQUAPRESS.COM
A very shiny nose
46
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
So, what do we need to know about
keeping these Rudolph-like pisces?
The three species in question are
Hemigrammus rhodostomus, H. bleheri
and Petitella georgiae. They all
overlap in Brazil as far as distribution
is concerned, and they?re all happy
in very similar conditions. In nature
all three species are found in forest
streams and rivers adorned with
fallen tree trunks, branches, twigs
and leaves that have got soaked and
come to rest over a muddy or sandy
ABOVE:
Bright shades
of red are
encouraged by a
varied diet.
LEFT:
H. rhodostomus
?ghts down a
bloodworm.
RIGHT:
Although the red
heads of these
?sh are duller,
their stripy tails
stand out.
Don?t forget their greens. Rummynoses are unlikely
to tear a slice of cucumber apart, but they?ll nibble the
edges of lettuce and blanched spinach leaves
base. Both the Hemigrammus species
are found more often in blackwater
conditions, where tannins have
leached from the sunken ?ora and
stained the water like tea. Tannic
and humic acids leach and lower the
pH of these forest streams. Micro
fauna is abundant in the layers of
leaf litter as bacterial and enzyme
action breaks down the organic
?otsam. Simple life forms such as
rotifers and copepods feed on the
bacteria, in turn being eaten by ?sh
MP&C PIEDNOIR, AQUAPRESS.COM
MP&C PIEDNOIR, AQUAPRESS.COM
MP&C PIEDNOIR, AQUAPRESS.COM
who are used to prepared foods.
It?s well worth providing a wide
variety of foods though. Not only
will it boost health and vitality, but a
varied diet will also go a long way to
keeping those red noses bright.
Feeding regularly with live or frozen
Cyclops, Daphnia, black mosquito
larvae and small brineshrimp will
keep them happy and bright. It will
also help if the dry food contains
carotenoids (a natural red colour
enhancer) and don?t forget their
greens either. Rummynoses are
unlikely to tear a slice of cucumber
apart, but they?ll nibble the edges of
lettuce and blanched spinach leaves
? or just make sure their dried diet
includes some vegetable matter.
Rummynoses are
In terms of aquarium equipment,
regarded as top
shoalers.
Rummynoses are undemanding.
They need the right temperature,
basic ?ltration, some form of hide or
cover, and little else. Being small,
and other higher life forms.
ef?cient ?sh, these tetras
These three omnivores
don?t produce much in the
have small mouths, so we
way of physical waste
need to supply small
and they?re quite
food particles for
Having larger but peaceful
adaptable to
them. They will
different ?ow
happily eat
fish (like Festivum cichlids) will
rates, so any style
dried diets such
encourage shoaling fish to
of ?lter will suf?ce
as ?ake food and
swim together more
as long as it?s suited
micro granules ?
tightly.
to the size of your tank.
nearly all Rummynose
Lighting isn?t essential but
tetras for sale in aquatics
it helps us to admire our ?sh.
shops will be tank-bred ?sh
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 47
TROPICAL
Rummynose tetra
MP&C PIEDNOIR, AQUAPRESS.COM
Their natural habitats are dimly lit;
the tannin-stained water blocks out
the sun quickly if it manages to
penetrate the forest canopy, but
these tank-raised tetras are quite
happy in brighter set-ups as long
as there?s planting or some other
cover, and they look great against
a background of different greens.
If you?re going with a well-lit
tank, it?s advisable to use a dark
substrate to contrast with the
?shes? markings. Pale substrates
re?ect the light and tend to wash
their colours out, so go for black
sintered glass, gravel, black sand
or a dark planting substrate.
Another thing that limits the
Rummynoses? colour vibrancy is
hard, alkaline water conditions,
48
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
and these will have an overall
effect on the long-term health and
life expectancy of your ?sh, as well
as their colouring. The natural pH
range of all three species spans
from neutral (pH 7.0) down to an
acidity of pH 5.5. With most of
these ?sh being tank-bred. they?re
more adaptable, but you should still
provide a pH no higher than 7.5.
Tankmates
When it comes to tankmates, the
most dif?cult part for you will be
making decisions.
The three Rummynose species
are peaceful ?sh. Occasionally
they?ll have disputes within their
own shoal, but these rarely end
with any physical damage. One
limiting factor, though, is water
values ? there may be no argument
between a Rummynose and a
guppy, but they won?t suit the
same conditions.
The other thing is simply not to
mix them with any ?sh that may
pose a threat to them. Being
slender tetras, I would avoid most
?sh of 10cm or more. While there
are larger ?sh with small mouths,
like Festivum cichlids, many bigger
?sh will revel in a taste of tetra.
Often with shoaling ?sh, it?s more
effective to focus on one species in
an aquarium and go for numbers.
A shoal of 20 Rummynose tetras
will have much more visual impact
than four groups of ?ve different
?sh, and they?ll shoal tighter too.
FACTFILE
RUMMYNOSE TETRA
6Scientific name: Hemigrammus
rhodostomus
6Pronunciation: Hemi-gram-us
road-oh-stow-mus
6Origin: Venezuela and Brazil: lower
Amazon and Rio Orinoco basins
6Size: 5cm
6Tank size: 60x30x30cm for six (54 l)
6Water requirements: 5.5-7.0 pH,
2-15癏
6Temperature: 24-27癈
6Feeding: Flakes, microgranules, small
live and frozen foods
6Availability and cost: Very common;
around �50 each
HEAD
The red is a far stronger colour
than in Petitella georgiae. It covers
the head, not just surrounding the
eye, but con?ned to the head, not
extending to the trunk of the body.
TAIL
The true Rummynose has well-de?ned
markings on the caudal ?n that may
bleed partly, but narrowly, into the
body. This can be more reliable than
head colouring, which is more likely to
alter with mood and condition.
HEAD
If the red head markings extend to
the body, then it?s Hemigrammus
bleheri ? however, when stressed,
this colour will fade and differences
will be far less obvious. In general,
the red colouring is stronger than
seen on P. georgiae.
TAIL
Hemigrammus bleheri displays three
broken, dark bars on the caudal ?n.
Markings do bleed slightly into the
caudal peduncle (or wrist), but do not
extend to the body.
HEAD
The head colouration on the false
Rummynose is less vibrant than
either of the other species and
concentrated around the eye and
mouth. Being less colourful in the
head means P. georgiae is generally
the least desirable Rummynose.
TAIL
Three solid dark markings are present
on the tail of the false Rummynose.
Contrary to the others, a wide central
marking extends well in to the body
? an obvious sign for identi?cation.
54 l+
FACTFILE
FIREHEAD TETRA
6Scientific name: Hemigrammus
bleheri
6Pronunciation: Hemi-gram-us
blair-eye
6Origin: Brazil and Colombia: Rio Negro
and Rio Meta
6Size: 5cm
6Tank size: 60x30x30cm for six (54 l)
6Water requirements: 5.5-7.0 pH,
2-15癏
6Temperature: 23-26癈
6Feeding: Flakes, microgranules, small
live and frozen foods
6Availability and cost: Commonly sold as
true Rummynose; around �50 each
FACTFILE
FALSE RUMMYNOSE
6Scientific name: Petitella georgiae
6Pronunciation: Pet-it-ella georgeee-aye
6Origin: Peru and Brazil: Rio Purus, Rio
Negro and Rio Madeira
6Size: 5cm
6Tank size: 60x30x30cm for six (54 l)
6Water requirements: 5.5-7.0 pH,
1-12癏
6Temperature: 22-26癈
6Feeding: Flakes, microgranules, small
live and frozen foods
6Availability and cost: Often sold as
true Rummynose; around �50 each
ILLUSTRATIONS: STEVE HALL-MAXTED
54 l+
54 l+
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 49
SPECIES SHOWCASE
Halfbeaks
H
They?re odd looking, fragile and like to wrestle each other.
But Gabor Horvath says they?re well worth the effort.
GABOR
HOVARTH
A Hungarian
aquarist now living
in the UK, Gabor is a
proli?c ?sh breeder,
project undertaker
and writer.
50
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
there are still some signi?cant
differences between them that you
need to consider if you want to keep
and breed them successfully.
The freshwater halfbeaks most
frequently sold in the UK belong to
the genera Dermogenys and
Nomorhamphus, and here we?ll be
looking at the former of those.
These slender pike-like ?sh had
been on my aquarist bucket list for
ages, but for some reason I couldn?t
get hold of any. Then my luck
changed and I spotted a nice group
of Wrestling halfbeaks at the JMC
Aquatics? stand at the Aqua Telford
show. Fortunately they let me have
10 of them (thank you, Jane!) and
I could begin my halfbeak project.
I?ve learned a lot about these
interesting and very loveable ?sh in
the past few months, so now it?s
time to share this knowledge.
The trio
The genus Dermogenys includes
several species, such as D. pusilla,
D. sumatrana and D. siamensis.
The smallest and the least colourful
of the trio is Dermogenys siamensis,
barely reaching 4cm in length. In the
other two species, the females can
grow up to 7cm while the males stay
a little smaller, peaking at 5cm.
Colour-wise, the two larger
species are quite similar, with the
Odd but not ugly.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 51
GABOR HOVARTH
T
HERE ARE beautiful
?sh and even more
beautiful ?sh. There?s
no such a thing as an
ugly ?sh ? I prefer to
call them odd.
The halfbeak family,
hemiramphidae, got
more than its fair share of oddity,
with overgrown lower jaws and
rugged heads ? just take a closer
look at them. Most of the halfbeaks
are marine species, but there are a
few interesting livebearer ones that
spend their lives in freshwater or
brackish-water environments.
The halfbeaks available in the
market share many similarities, but
SPECIES SHOWCASE
Halfbeaks
males sporting orange or reddish
dorsal and anal ?ns. The easiest way
to tell them apart is based on the
position of the ventral ?ns. In the
case of the true Wrestling halfbeak,
Dermogenys pusilla, they?re
positioned around midway between
the pelvic and the anal ?n, while
Dermogenys sumatrana has them
closer to the anal ?n.
Wrestling halfbeaks can vary
greatly in body colour, from the
?natural? silvery brown, through to
gold, and to the almost white
?platinum? variety. All three
Dermogenys species mentioned
make appearances from time to time
in the shops, and all are traded
under the collective name of
Wrestling halfbeak.
Fish that feed on foods that
drop into their habitat from
elsewhere are called
allochthonous feeders.
Natural fighters
The ?wrestling? moniker originates
from the males? keenness to get
involved in territorial disputes with
their rivals ? a behaviour that?s
especially prominent in wild-caught
?sh. Those long beaks serve a
purpose ? to decide who?s boss they
grab each other?s beak and try to
wrestle down their opponents.
These ?ghts can sometimes last
over an hour, especially in the
con?ned spaces of aquaria.
In the ?shes? countries of origin,
people use them for ?sh-?ghts,
with bets placed on the outcomes,
just as happens elsewhere with
Siamese ?ghting ?sh. In aquaria
this ?ghting spirit is unwanted, but
with clever positioning of tank
FACTFILE
WRESTLING HALFBEAK
6Scientific name: Dermogenys pusilla
6Pronunciation: Durr-mow-gen-iss pew-sill-ah
6Size: Females to 7cm, males to 5cm
6
Origin: Many countries, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam,
Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Myanmar and India
6
Habitat: Usually slow or still waters, canals, rivers, lakes
and ponds
6Tank size: 90x45x30cm for a small group
6
Water requirements: Close to neutral ? 6.5 to 7.5pH,
hardness 5-15癏
6Temperature: 23-26癈
6Temperament: Males will spar with
each other (wild fish more so),
otherwise peaceful
6Feeding: Dried and frozen surfacefloating foods; flakes and pellets,
bloodworm, mosquito larvae and Daphnia
6Availability and cost: Relatively common;
starting around �each
120 l+
decor we can signi?cantly reduce
?ght frequency by breaking up lines
of sight and dividing the tank into
distinct territories.
My ?sh are fortunately quite
docile, as they were probably
tank-bred, so most of the time their
sparring only goes as far as a bit of
?n-?aring and mouth-gaping.
Sometimes the females also join
in the territorial disputes, but
those don?t last for long.
The plentiful ?oating
plants (Salvinia)
in my tank
de?nitely help
to reduce
aggression, as
they break up the
lines of sight and also
offer a retreat for the
weaker ?sh.
GABOR HOVARTH
Making a home
The natural habitats of the
Dermogenys halfbeaks include
slow-moving rivers and still waters
in South-East Asia. Most of these
biotopes have dense vegetation,
with ?oating plants or submerged
plants reaching up to the surface.
Halfbeaks spend most of their time
MP&C PIEDNOIR AQUAPRESS
Halfbeaks are very interesting and
challenging ?sh to keep and breed. I
can strongly recommend them to those
wanting something different
Bloodworm is a
favourite food.
among this surface greenery, waiting
for an occasional insect to fall in.
Their elongated lower jaw and
up-facing mouth enables them to
quickly pluck the unfortunate ?y
from the surface.
To keep them in peak condition we
should provide them with a similar
environment and diet in the ?sh
tank. As Halfbeaks, especially
those belonging to the
Dermogenys genus, tend to
stay near the top, the
amount of surface
area is much
more important
than the height
of the aquarium.
A ?sh tank with a
90x45cm base and a
tight-?tting cover is perfect
to house a small group of them.
They?re very adaptable and can be
kept in a range of water conditions,
so long as the extremes are avoided
and the water quality is pristine.
Fill up their tank with water
around 23-26癈, with a hardness of
5-15� and keep it close to neutral ?
6.5-7.5pH ? and you should have no
problems. Keep the parameters
steady, as these ?sh can be sensitive
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 53
MP&C PIEDNOIR AQUAPRESS
The ?natural? silvery
brown male (below) and
female (above).
SPECIES SHOWCASE
Halfbeaks
54
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
generally peaceful and can be kept
well together with similarly sized
community ?sh. Avoid boisterous
?sh as tankmates, as halfbeaks won?t
withstand even light harrassment.
Also avoid excessively small ?sh
(like Boraras microrasbora), because
they may be considered as dinner.
I house my halfbeaks with Peacock
gobies, Tateurndina ocellicauda, and
it?s a match made in heaven ? the
halfbeaks always stay near to the
surface, while the gobies occupy the
lower regions, breeding away.
Corydoras cat?sh, mollies, platies,
small rainbow?sh and deep-bodied
tetras are all suitable tankmates.
BELOW:
You can see
where the beak
will develop
from in the fry.
Baby ?beaks
MP&C PIEDNOIR AQUAPRESS
Persevere and in time your ?sh will
to sudden changes in both acidity
learn that your appearance means
and temperature.
Sometimes, halfbeaks can be found food and they?ll become braver.
My Wrestling halfbeaks are always
in brackish habitats in the wild, and
the ?rst to get to the food now,
to mimic this some aquarists put a
frequently poking my ?ngers with
little aquarium salt into their water.
their beaks to release their favourite
It?s not essential though, and every
treat of bloodworm.
species discussed here will happily
live and breed in completely
freshwater tanks at the parameters
Feeding and tankmates
listed above as well.
Halfbeaks are not very picky
Decoration-wise, they?re
eaters, as in nature they
not very fussy. Basically,
would grab anything
they don?t care about
edible falling into the
anything below
water, be that a
Keep
your
halfbeaks
at
their eye level.
worm, insect
high
temperatures
to
When choosing
or plant.
speed
up
spawning
decor avoid hard
If you imitate this
rocks and other similar
natural variety by
cycles.
blunt objects, which could
feeding a range of frozen
damage their beaks.
meals ? bloodworm, Artemia
Beak injuries are quite frequent,
or DIY frozen food ? as well as
as halfbeaks are easily spooked.
?akes, ?oating granules and live
When startled, they dart around the
foods such as Daphnia, mosquito
tank like tiny missiles, hitting the
larvae and fruit?y, they will be
glass or jumping out of the water
eternally grateful. The only thing to
altogether. So for the ?rst few days
remember is that if the food sinks
after their arrival, be very careful
further than 15cm or so from the
when approaching their tank.
surface, the halfbeaks will rarely
Use lots of ?oating plants or other
bother to follow it. To avoid water
vegetation reaching the surface to
pollution, it?s a good idea to keep
help relieve this initial stress. Dense
some cleaning crew with them to
?oating vegetation also helps if you
pick up these falling morsels.
want to breed them, as it provides
Despite the pike-like, predatory
protection for the newborn fry.
appearance of halfbeaks they?re
Dermogenys halfbeaks are livebearers,
but probably the hardest of the
halfbeaks to breed. Even when
successfully bred, the brood is quite
small, consisting of only six to 20
youngsters after a 26-42 day gestation
period, dependent on temperature.
The dif?culty isn?t getting them
pregnant, as mature males make
constant use of their andropodium
? a modi?ed ?n-ray used as a
reproductive organ, much like those
of guppies ? to ensure progeny.
The problem is that females will
give birth prematurely if frightened,
or produce stillborn fry despite
GABOR HOVARTH
takes a few weeks before they begin
to fully resemble their parents.
Since my ?rst success I?ve had
several broods, the largest consisting
of 14 fry. Luckily I didn?t experience
any of the pregnancy issues, probably
due to the extra care taken around
water changes and a varied diet.
The latter is a key factor to success.
I did a small experiment to see the
effect of feeding on the development
of the juveniles. I divided one lot of
fry into two, feeding the ?rst group
with high-quality dry food only, and
the second with a variety of live and
frozen fare. Among the members of
the ?rst group, half of the ?sh
became somehow deformed and
even the rest remained much
smaller than the ?lucky? fry in the
second group. They obviously
wouldn?t make ideal breeding stock.
Wrestling halfbeaks are interesting
and challenging ?sh to keep and
breed. I can strongly recommend
them to those wanting something a
little different. If you?re prepared to
go the extra mile and treat them
well, I?m sure these happy halfbeaks
will give you a smile.
ABOVE:
Fry look
suprisingly
normal, not even
quarterbeak.
BELOW:
Less striking,
but the natural
strain is more
colourful.
MP&C PIEDNOIR AQUAPRESS
being given the best possible care.
One reason often given for this is
the lack of certain vitamins in the
adults? diet. I?ve always tried my best
to provide my ?sh with rich food,
which included regular portions of
black mosquito larvae from my
water butt. Nevertheless, I was still a
bit nervous when I saw two of my
females getting progressively
plumper, which is a sure sign of an
ongoing pregnancy.
I?d read contrasting reports about
adults preying on their fry, so to
ensure the survival of the offspring,
I moved one of the females to a
well-planted separation tank when I
thought the time was right, and
divided my breeding aquarium into
two with a hard plastic mesh to
protect the newborns.
I must have guessed the timing
right, as next morning I found eight
tiny silver ?splinters? hiding among
the vegetation. Compared to the fry
of common livebearer types like
platies, these were quite large at
around 6-8mm long. This meant
feeding them caused no problem at
all, as they accepted newly hatched
Artemia and powdered ?oating
?akes straight away.
Interestingly the newborn fry of
the halfbeaks have no beaks yet ?
they just look like a ?normal? ?sh. It
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THE EXPERTS
DR PETER
BURGESS
TROPICAL
Is answering all your
disease questions and
suggests what to do about a shark with
a suspected tumour on page 59.
BOB
MEHEN
Is answering all your
community questions
and considers why aquatics shops don?t
sell ready-matured filters on page 56.
NATHAN
HILL
Is answering all your
planted tank questions
and tackles the difference between
liquids and carbon dioxide on page 63.
Is answering all your
cichlid questions and
discusses breeding Electric blue Jack
Dempseys on page 57.
NEALE
MONKS
Is answering all your
biotope questions and
looks at setting up a species tank for
Bumblebee gobies on page 58.
DAVID
WOLFENDEN
Is answering all your
marine fish questions,
and explains how to set up a small,
temperate reef tank on page 62.
Please do you have any tips for tempting my
Raphael cat?sh to come out during the day?
I have had him in a 450 l/100 gal large ?sh
community with rainbows and barbs for about
?ve weeks now, but he has wedged himself into
a cave and all I?ve seen of him so far is his tail!
I presume he?s coming out at night to feed, but
it must be long after I?ve retired to bed as I?ve
sat up after lights out and he hasn?t moved.
PHIL THOMAS, EMAIL
BOB REPLIES: As you are discovering, ?talking
cat?sh? such as the Striped Raphael or Humbug
cat?sh (usually Platydoras armatulus), are
incredibly secretive, almost entirely nocturnal
?sh seldom seen out during daylight hours. To
many cat?sh fanatics, me included, this is part
of their charm ? the fact that you might not see
your bashful charges for weeks, even months at
a time, only for them to suddenly make an
unexpected, show-stopping reappearance!
However, like most of us they can be
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encouraged to become a little more sociable
with the right incentive, and I?ve always found
they will stir from their hiding place ? even
during daylight ? for a tasty treat, with
bloodworm seeming to be a favourite.
Gamma-irradiated frozen bloodworm is the
best choice, being safe from the possibility of
introducing something nasty to your tank,
unlike the live alternative. Simply defrost a
cube, drop it into the tank and see what
happens. Your other ?sh will probably grab
most of it, so you may need to add a couple of
cubes worth. If your lights are on a timer then
it?s best to add the cubes just before the lights
switch off as the cat?sh is likely to be waking,
ready for its usual nocturnal scavenging.
It may take a few attempts to convince the
cat?sh that it?s worth braving daylight, so it can
also be worth dropping some in just after ?lights
out? and watching to see its reaction. Use a
torch covered with a red ?lm so that you can
see the cat?sh, but it can?t see you.
MP&C PIEDNOIR AQUAPRESS
JEREMY
GAY
How do I encourage my catfish out?
?
Every question we receive gets a reply from our
experts. Include as much information as you
can about your set-up. Photos are useful, too. 57
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Answers
Question of
the Month
Why don?t shops sell
ready-matured ?lters?
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58
EVERYTHING YOU NEED
FOR HEALTHY FISH
I?m completely new to the aquarium hobby and have just cycled my ?rst 90 l/20 gal
freshwater tank after a long period of research and con?icting advice. After weeks
of ammonia, nitrite and nitrate testing I can?t wait to stock my tank, and dream of
tackling the bigger set-ups and more exotic ?sh detailed in PFK every month.
As a beginner, this may be a stupid question, but why do aquarium shops not sell
already cycled ?secondary? ?lters that could be added to a new tank?
PHILIP CAMPBELL, NORTHERN IRELAND
BOB REPLIES: It?s great to hear of a new hobbyist thoroughly researching before
taking the plunge; many people dive straight in with disastrous consequences.
I?ve often wondered the same thing myself regarding cycled ?lters and media as
clearly it would make things far more straightforward, as well as allowing
newcomers to the hobby to add ?sh safely much sooner.
Many years ago, I knew of a shop that did more or less what you suggest by
offering mature ?lter media for customers buying a new ?lter. However, this
initiative was short-lived. When I asked the retailer in question why they?d stopped,
they explained that it was hard enough trying to get people to cycle their tanks
before adding ?sh, and when they tried to sell the mature media, newcomers often
thought it was some sort of con ? ?dirty? secondhand media being handed over and
the lovely, ?fresh?, clean new media that came with the ?lter being taken by the
shop! It all comes down to a lack of research by the customer.
There is also the practicality of keeping lots of mature media alive for the
purpose, especially when most shops sell a wide range of ?lter types and sizes, and
foam media tends to be cut to a speci?c size.
At the end of the day I suspect that this worthy and useful idea is just too tricky to
implement, and it?s easier for shops to sell a customer wanting accelerated stocking
a ?bacteria in a bottle? product and recommend low initial stock levels of hardy ?sh.
Send your questions to: Fishkeeping Answers,
Practical Fishkeeping Magazine, Media House, Lynchwood, Peterborough,
PE2 6EA. Email us at questions@practical?shkeeping.co.uk
JACQUES PORTAL
TROPICAL
MARINE
Why is this media clumping?
TROPICAL
Will these ?sh
breed true?
I would like to keep a pair of Electric blue Jack
Dempseys. Please could you tell me what size tank
I would need and how to get a pair?
Do they breed true? How should I furnish their
tank and what should I feed the babies on?
ROBERT SCOTT, EMAIL
JEREMY REPLIES: Electric blue Jack Dempseys are
hybrids and differ in head and body shape. They also
won?t breed true, so some people pair them with a
natural Jack Dempsey instead. Adult males will
reach 20cm in length, with females smaller.
A nice long-term home for a pair would be a tank
in the region of 120x50x45cm, although I have bred
medium-sized Jack Dempseys in a 75cm-long tank.
Provide lots of substrate with rocks, wood and slate
laid horizontally as they will dig everything up, and
choose spawning sites and spare pits to move the fry
to once hatched. Place a sponge over any ?lter inlets
to prevent the fry being sucked in.
I?ve raised Jack Dempseys on crushed ?ake food,
which the parents then chew up further and present
to the fry, but if I were doing it professionally and
wanted fast growth, I would start them on newly
hatched Artemia, and feed several times a day.
Calanus is good too, and you will see the little bellies
of the fry turning pink from feeding on it.
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NEIL HEPWORTH
JEREMY REPLIES: The K1 in the
photograph looks pure white and
brand new, and when it?s in that
state it will sit on top of itself at the
surface and not move. It will take
several days of soaking to bring it
down lower into the water where
it should be, or you can use a
maturation gel to coat the media,
also aiding sinking.
Some long-term users also
?mature? K1 with potassium
permanganate, a medication, which
coats the media and provides a key
for the bacteria to stick to.
One common issue with K1 is
actually using too much in relation
to ?sh load. K1 loves load (it comes
from the waste water industry) but
using too much can mean
maturation takes longer and the
eventual bio?lm is too thin (again
causing ?oating issues.)
Start with just a few litres of K1
and mature that ?rst, then add a
little more at a time if required.
DUNCAN GILL
I have an issue with the sump I?m
building. I have designated one of
the sections for K1 media, but after
adding the K1, I?ve found that the
media remains at the surface and
doesn?t move or tumble.
I have a large circular air stone
attached to a Blagdon Koi pump
which appears to produce enough
water turbulence. I have tried
moving this around but the pieces
of K1 media just become stacked
up on one another in a clump.
I have included a photo (right)
taken from above the sump to
hopefully give you an idea of what is
happening. Any advice would be
greatly appreciated.
DUNCAN GILL, EMAIL
59
?
ADVICE
Answers
NEIL HEPWORTH
TROPICAL
How do I set up a biotope for Bumblebees?
I have a tank that holds roughly 80 l/
18 gal and I'd like to set it up as a
single-species tank to keep Bumblebee
gobies. I'd like to re?ect the habitat they
come from as much as possible so what
would you recommend in terms of water
parameters, furnishing and so on?
How many will I be able to keep in a
tank of this size please?
ANNIE MATTHEWS, EMAIL
NEALE SAYS: De?ning the right habitat
for Bumblebee gobies is tricky for two
main reasons. The ?rst is that most
species are distributed across a range of
environments, from blackwater streams
to brackish mangrove swamps. In some
cases, there are distinct populations, so
you can get one batch of a given species
that thrives in a normal freshwater tank,
another batch that needs a bit of salt to
stay healthy, while a third does better in
soft and acidic blackwater conditions.
The second problem is that there are
numerous Brachygobius species that
have been referred to as Bumblebee
gobies over the years, and little or no
effort is made to properly identify them
on collection. So what you?ll see in your
local ?sh shop could be one of several
similar-looking species. Ichthyologists
have gone so far as to state that the only
way to safely identify Brachygobius
species is by looking at their DNA.
The Bumblebees you?ll see in aquatics
shops are most likely to be one of two
Southeast Asian species, Brachygobius
doriae and B. sabanus. Since both
species occur in freshwater and
brackish water habitats, and have the
same preference for small live and
60
Air-powered sponge ?lters are ideal,
frozen foods, distinguishing between
and if the water currents are gentle, you
them isn?t particularly important, and
can use live Daphnia and Artemia to
there are, in fact, lookalike species
feed these ?sh with ease, and it?s
from the same general area, such as
usually feeding, not water chemistry,
Brachygobius kabiliensis, that may get
that makes or breaks Bumblebee goby
imported from time to time. You could
systems. Most Bumblebees that die
set up the tank as a freshwater system
prematurely do so from lack of food,
or brackish water system as you prefer,
not water chemistry, so while
though medium hardness water with a
discussions about their natural habitat
neutral pH and a speci?c gravity
are important, you shouldn?t
between 1.001 and 1.002 is
worry too much if you can?t
probably a good default.
ID the specimens in
Regardless of water
front of you ? instead
chemistry, both these
focus on ensuring
gobies come from
your gobies get
streams ?lled with
One species you won?t see on sale regular offerings of
vegetation and
is Brachygobius xanthozona ? the healthy live foods.
decaying wood, so a
In the right tank
planted tank and
fish most often seen in books.
these gobies are
lots of driftwood is
Now called Hypogymnogobius
not dif?cult to keep
what you?re after.
xanthozona, it is very rare
and can be very
Most plants tolerant of
in
the
wild.
rewarding, especially
hard water will put up
once they start spawning
with a little salt without
and you get to watch the males
complaint, but hardy
look after their offspring.
Cryptocoryne species are perhaps the
As far as stocking goes, 40-45 l/9-10
most authentic for this situation, such
gal is probably ample for your ?rst
as C. wendtii, or the brackish-water
half dozen specimens, and you?ll want
specialist C. ciliata.
to allow another 5-6 l/1-1.5 gal per
Snail shells, ceramic caves, or hollow
additional specimen, with the proviso
ornaments of whatever kind will all be
that you provide plenty of caves and
used as shelter, with the males being
visual obstructions to ensure the males
very protective of their home territories,
aren?t ?ghting all the time.
as well as any eggs produced after
You also need to keep a group, not
spawning. Plants and wooden roots help
just two or three specimens, to ensure
to break up the territories, ensuring
any territorial aggression is spread out
rival males can keep out of each other?s
and hopefully diluted by the presence
way. The females are less territorial and
of a suf?cient number of females.
may even form loose schools at times.
So your 80 l/18 gal tank should
Since these gobies are so small, they
comfortably hold a dozen or so ?sh.
don?t require a lot of ?ltration or space.
EVERYTHING YOU NEED
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ABOVE:
Bumblebee
gobies are
small and full
of character. A
biotope setting
will suit them
best.
Send your questions to: Fishkeeping Answers,
Practical Fishkeeping Magazine, Media House, Lynchwood, Peterborough,
PE2 6EA. Email us at questions@practical?shkeeping.co.uk
COLDWATER
HEALTH
Does my shark have a tumour?
PETER SAYS: I agree this ?sh has some
sort of tumour. The slow growth of the lump
is typical of many tumours and, as you say,
the ?sh appears to shows no other signs of
ill-health and no obvious infections.
Unfortunately, although the photos you
ALAMY
sent were very helpful, we are unable to say
what type of tumour is causing the lump. To
categorise the tumour would require taking
a sample of the growth and examining the
tissue under a microscope (using special
chemical stains), which would be expensive
and won?t affect the outcome anyway, given
that we have no medications to combat
tumours in ?sh.
Depending on the type of tumour, it could
spread to other parts of the ?sh?s body, or it
may stay as a single mass. It could grow even
larger and start to push or press on vital
organs, causing signi?cant harm or death.
Or it may stop growing and cause no further
discomfort or damage. On the plus side, the
tumour won?t harm your other ?sh, even if it
bursts. And the chances are it won?t burst.
So, my advice is to do nothing, other than
closely monitor the ?sh for any signs of
abnormal activity, such as unusual
swimming behaviour (including dif?culty in
swimming), lethargy, loss of appetite and so
on. If it develops any of these abnormalities
then that may be the time to consider having
it put to sleep to prevent pain or distress.
Also, ensure that none of the other ?sh in
the tank are bothering it.
Can I keep a
young Pike?
Please can you tell me whether it is
possible to keep a young native Pike
of approximately 15cm in an aquarium,
just over the winter? If so, what should
I feed it?
SHAUN BUCKLEY, EMAIL
JEREMY ADVISES: If overwintering a
native Pike, I would actually do it
outside, perhaps placing the aquarium
in an unheated garage or shed. The
inside room temperature will be far too
warm, especially if the room the
aquarium is located in is centrally
heated, so you would probably need to
invest in a chiller.
Wild-caught Pike will not be used to
feeding on anything that isn?t alive. I
don?t believe in or recommend feeding
live ?sh, so try river shrimp and
earthworms or, if you are lucky, you
might be able to get it to take whitebait
thrown onto the surface and moved so
that it looks alive.
It will take time and perseverance to
get a Pike onto dead foods or even dry
foods, but it is possible, and by far the
best long term. As when ?shing for
them, it?s all about how you present that
food to start a strike or feeding response.
You may even need to be out of the
room, or hiding behind the door, and
use actual ?shing line (minus the hook!)
and wiggle the food around.
HOWARD DAVIES
I have a Red tail black shark that is around
?ve years old. I got him when he was very
small and until recently he was developing
and growing well. But around six months
ago a lump started to grow on his upper left
?ank. It has continued to get larger and is
now quite a size.
I?m assuming it is some sort of tumour.
He is in a 200 l/44 gal mixed community
tank that is well established and all his
tankmates are healthy and active. Is there
any danger of the growth bursting and
damaging the other ?sh in the tank?
I?m wondering at what point euthanasia
might be appropriate. He eats well and his
behaviour is unchanged. There are no
secondary infections such as ?nrot, fungus
or dropsy, swimbladder ?ne, so I don?t think
he is under any particular distress at the
moment. I?d appreciate your advice.
HOWARD DAVIES, EMAIL
Wild-caught
Pike will not be
used to feeding
on anything that
isn?t alive
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61
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Answers
POND
Why won?t my pond?s nitrite level fall?
nitrite 0.03mg/l and nitrate 50mg/l.
I live in East Devon, with decent hard
water but a high nitrate level. I am
surprised my pH is considerably higher
than my tapwater and wonder if this is
affecting bacteria colonisation of the
K1? I have tried EA Pond Bombs and
used EA Filter Start but this doesn?t
seem to have any effect. It may just be
a time thing, as I?ve noticed the K1 is
only just beginning to colour up. Your
advice would be most welcome.
KAI ROCKLIFFE, EMAIL
Below: Longterm nitritre
readings could
be down to
inaccurate tests.
NEIL HEPWORTH
I'd like to ask your advice regarding a
stubborn nitrite level I just cannot shift
in my 3,047 gal Koi pond.
The pond was completed and ?lled
in the summer of 2017, but due to
ongoing building work I only added the
?rst three 20cm ?sh in May this year.
The pond is covered all winter with an
untreated wooden frame (sealed with
G4) with 10mm twin wall polycarb sheet
and heated with an air source heat
pump. I run a Nexus 310 with 40 l of
K1 in the central chamber and 150 l of
K1 in the biological chamber. The pond
has an EA 35 UV after a Blue Eco 750
pump set at 2,200 rpm. Two returns at
opposite ends, one low and one below
the water line, give good variable ?ow
and keep the pond clean. I also have a
Spindrifter aerated bottom drain.
The ?rst three ?sh were thriving, so I
added two more 30cm Koi in early July.
Everything is working well and the ?sh
are happy, healthy and growing.
Ammonia levels are zero but I have
been unable to lower my nitrite to less
than 0.03 mg/l. Nitrate is a constant
50 mg/l, pH a constant 8.2 and KH
184. These never seem to ?uctuate, so
at least there are no swings in values.
It's worth noting my tapwater is pH 6.8,
JEREMY SAYS: With an identical
nitrite level of 0.03ppm in both pond
and tap, I would say that this is down to
the accuracy of your nitrite test kit,
and that you actually don?t have any
nitrite level at all.
If it was higher than that and you only
had three to five fish, I would actually
advise removing 100 l of the K1 from
the outer chamber of the Nexus, as
the surface area will be so great in
relation to fish load, proper biofilm
development would be hindered as it
would be so thin. But I wouldn?t worry
about that nitrite level, especially if
your fish look happy.
Regarding the pH, it may be worth
re-checking your tapwater pH at
different times of the day and
even different times of the year, and
also seeing if letting it stand makes a
difference, with CO2 gassing off and
oxygen diffusing in.
If the pH remains consistently lower
than in your pond, then something is
raising the pH, be that some ceramic
filter media somewhere, or a
blanketweed treatment perhaps. Check
there is no concrete in contact with the
water anywhere from the pond design
and build, or any water course.
TROPICAL
Which gourami would best suit this tank?
62
BOB SAYS: Gourami are very
underrated ?sh ? over-familiarity
sometimes means ?shkeepers ignore
what are actually some of the most
brightly coloured, attractive
community ?sh available.
An excellent candidate for your
tank would be the Pearl gourami,
Trichopodus leerii. These are
gorgeous, graceful mid-sized gourami
that reach around 12cm and don't
generally have the aggression issues
associated with their similar-sized
cousin Trichopodus trichopterus, the
Three spot/Blue/Opaline gourami.
Your tank has a volume of around
200 l/44 gal, so unless it has
unusual dimensions that mean it is
tall and thin, then you should have
room for a group of three ? ideally
two females and one male. They
EVERYTHING YOU NEED
FOR HEALTHY FISH
appreciate a well-planted tank
(?oating plants are also a good idea),
with some open swimming space and
only gentle water movement.
Pearl gourami,
Trichopodus leerii.
Send your questions to: Fishkeeping Answers,
Practical Fishkeeping Magazine, Media House, Lynchwood, Peterborough,
PE2 6EA. Email us at questions@practical?shkeeping.co.uk
ALAMY
I have a community set-up that needs
a feature ?sh or two. It holds
approximately 45 gal and has been
set up for four months. It has a mix
of real and fake plants and lots of
branchy wood with ?ne gravel at the
bottom. It has a Fluval ?lter.
Stock includes 10 Harlequin
rasboras, three platies, seven Cherry
barbs, four Otocinclus cat?sh and six
Sterbai cory catfish. I?m also planning
to get a Peppermint plec or
something similar at a later date.
I would quite like some larger
gouramis for this tank as feature fish.
Which would be the best choice?
Dwarf and Honeys are a bit too small.
Also, how many can I keep? Are they
best in pairs or groups and will my
other fish be compatible with them?
DAVE STUART, EMAIL
Which halfbeaks are best
for brackish tanks?
I?m planning a future brackish tank and have been trying to get some solid
information on brackish halfbeaks, including their sizes and water parameters.
Please could you offer some advice?
NATHANIEL BULLOCK, EMAIL
NEALE SAYS: Halfbeaks are very common in estuaries and mangroves all around
the world ? the problem for us aquarists is that relatively few, if any, of those
species are regularly traded.
The one truly brackish water genus of halfbeaks that has been traded is
Zenarchopterus, in particular, the River halfbeak, Z. buffonis. While these are very
rarely imported, they do appear on the stock lists offered by wholesalers, so those
retailers who specialise in importing oddballs and rarities may be able to get them
in as a special order. Zenarchopterus are quite large ? 15-20cm is typical ? and
highly social, which means you?ll need a big aquarium able to provide a safe home
for a school of these nervous, easily injured fish. They appreciate strongly brackish
water, with a specific gravity of 1.005?1.010, and require very clean water with
plenty of water movement and oxygen.
When it comes to the common halfbeak species seen in aquarium shops, those
divide up into three groups ? the Wrestling halfbeaks, Dermogenys spp., the
colourful Sulawesi halfbeaks, Nomorhamphus spp., and the Bearded halfbeaks,
Hemirhamphodon spp..
We can dismiss Hemirhamphodon immediately. All are more or less blackwater
specialists that inhabit rainforest streams. They have little tolerance for hard water
conditions, let alone brackish. Although very attractive, they?re best suited to expert
fishkeepers willing to set aside an aquarium that caters to their special needs.
Nomorhamphus species are the most commonly seen halfbeaks, especially the
lovely Celebes halfbeak, Nomorhamphus liemi. Again, we?re dealing with species
adapted to freshwater environments. While they aren?t too fussy about water chemistry,
provided extremes are avoided, they?re not commonly reported from brackish water.
Things become more interesting when we get to Dermogenys. Although mostly
found in freshwater, they?re also quite common in brackish streams, and will
tolerate slightly brackish conditions indefinitely, provided all else is amenable to
them. I wouldn?t recommend keeping them at a specific gravity above 1.003, but
that still makes them perfectly viable candidates for a mixed species set-up that
includes other small, peaceful fish species.
They?re especially good companions for gobies and flounders because they offer
no competition at feeding time. You could also keep them with any small
livebearers that need brackish water to do well, such as Micropoecilia species.
Identifying Dermogenys is a bit hit-and-miss though, despite the widespread use
of the name Dermogenys pusilla to describe any Wrestling halfbeak offered for sale!
Luckily, they?re all pretty similar in terms of care. Medium hardness freshwater,
with or without a little salt, seems to work well, along with good water quality.
Like all halfbeaks, they?re nervous but quarrelsome, so keep a reasonable number
(at least six, with females outnumbering males) and provide them with some
overhead shade, but also plenty of open swimming space where they can feed
without being harassed by their tankmates.
Adult size varies. Males reach around 4-5cm depending on the species, but the
females can get quite a bit bigger, 7-8 cm in some cases, and are far more stocky
in build than the slender, even scrawny looking males.
Will corys clean
my dirty gravel?
I have a 70 l/16 gal tropical tank with an
Interpet PF2 filter. It?s currently stocked with
five Lemon tetras, three Cherry barbs (I?m
hoping to get another), a bent Silver-tip tetra
that has survived a year, an 18-month-old
female guppy and a tiny female Bristlenose
catfish I've had 10 months.
I'd like to get some Corydoras catfish to stir up
my sand which, despite regular stirring, is
becoming quite stagnant. My nitrates are quite
high, so I don't think Panda corys are best. I?ve
been considering Dwarf or Pygmy corys. Would
they suit my tank and how many should I have?
ESTHER CLARK, EMAIL
BOB SAYS: As you suggest, Corydoras can be
helpful in gently stirring up sandy substrates to
keep them clean. However, if your tank's sand is
becoming stagnant it's worth looking at the
causes of this before adding the catfish, as a
stagnant substrate can be bad for their health.
How deep is the sand? Unless you?re growing
lots of plants, I would recommend a shallow
bed of 2cm maximum. This way it?s unlikely to
compact, and fish like the corys can easily dig it
over so it shouldn't become stagnant.
You mention high nitrates, so it may be worth
upping your water changes. The maximum
amount allowed in tapwater is 50mg per litre, so
even if you live in an area with readings that high,
you should be able to keep your tank level below
that with weekly 25% water changes. Using a
50:50 mix of RO and tapwater for changes can
also help keep the reading down in
high nitrate areas. If your
tapwater doesn't have a
high level of nitrates,
then this points to
possible overfeeding
or lack of water
The Pygmy cory, Corydoras
changes, as well as
pygmaeus, is lively, but won?t dig
too-deep substrate.
in the substrate to any great
Corydoras panda
degree. It?ll happily rest on plants
should be fine in your
tank if you can keep
or swim in midwater.
your substrate clean and
nitrate below 40mg/l.
Ideally, you need a
group of at least five.
ALAMY
TROPICAL
ALAMY
NATHAN HILL
TROPICAL
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63
MARINE
How do I set up a small temperate reef tank?
DAVE SAYS: The Catalina goby,
Lythrypnus dalli (right), is an absolutely
stunning fish, with its bright red body
and electric blue stripes. They?re small
(topping off at about 6cm), and bene?t
from a system tailored to their needs, so
a dedicated nano tank is perfect for
them as they can get lost in larger tanks.
Crucially, this is a subtropical species
as you?ve pointed out, being found
around the Paci?c coast of the Americas
from the top of Southern California down
to Peru. This means they require cooler
water temperatures than we?d keep
NEIL HEPWORTH
I have a tank of approximately 72 l/
16 gal which I would like to set up for
keeping Catalina gobies. I understand
they are temperate, so I?d like to know
the best temperature and specific gravity
(SG) and how best to set up the tank.
Will live rock still work at a lower
temperature and are there any inverts
(mobile and sessile) I can keep with
them? What about live sand ? will that
be OK? How many gobies can I keep
together (they will be the only fish)?
I have kept a reef tank in the past and
it was quite successful, so this wouldn?t
be my first attempt with marines.
WILL, EMAIL
typical reef inhabitants. Ideally, you?re
looking at an optimal temperature of
18癈, with a maximum of 21癈. Higher
temperatures lead to stress and
shortened lifespans, and also obviously
limits potential tankmate choices too.
It?s de?nitely possible to keep them,
however ? you?ll need a chiller, and the
tank should be decked out with a mixed
sand and rubble substrate for these
I have tried to keep Daisy ricefish now
on two occasions but they keep getting
whitespot. I have a 45 l/10 gal tank
with a heater, the filter is cycled and
water quality is always good. The tank
is planted with long-stem plants so
the fish have lots of hiding places.
There is also some bogwood and a
gravel substrate.
I have been keeping fish for eight
years and have two other tropical
community tanks that run without
problems, but I just can't get these fish
right. Please could you tell me what
they need so I can work out what I'm
doing wrong? I really like them and
would like to breed them eventually.
LUKE, EMAIL
TROPICAL
Why can?t I keep these
rice?sh successfully?
ALAMY
ADVICE
Answers
64
EVERYTHING YOU NEED
FOR HEALTHY FISH
NEALE SAYS: Rice?sh are normally
quite easy to keep, but there are one or
two things to think about before you try.
The ?rst is water chemistry. Daisy
rice?sh, Oryzias woworae, may well be
adaptable up to a point, but slightly hard,
neutral to slightly basic water chemistry
Send your questions to: Fishkeeping Answers,
Practical Fishkeeping Magazine, Media House, Lynchwood, Peterborough,
PE2 6EA. Email us at questions@practical?shkeeping.co.uk
PLANTS
Am I dosing enough ?carbon dioxide??
I?m trying to improve growth of my plants
by using liquid carbon dioxide, but I know
that an overdose is harmful to ?sh, and my
plants don?t seem to be growing any better
now that I?m using it.
Just how much can I go safely over on the
dose rate before I hurt my ?sh?
TREVOR FARRIS, EMAIL
NATHAN SAYS: There?s no such thing as a
safe overdose as far as the ?sh are
concerned. Your product will have been
tested to a standard called an LD-50, which
is the dose at which half the study sample
of organisms it was tested on died. This is
then used to calculate a safe dose.
Cutting to the chase, what you have there
isn?t liquid carbon dioxide, it?s a carbon
dioxide alternative, and while some of it
eventually decays into carbon dioxide, that?s
not what it is. The active ingredient in most
of these liquids is something called
glutaraldehyde, and it?s potent stuff.
Not all plants get on with glutaraldehyde,
and the likes of Vallisneria in particular tend
to die rather than thrive where it is used.
be used during spawning
seems to suit them best. If
as well, the females
adding a little aquarium
depositing their eggs
salt is necessary to
among them one
stymie whitespot, a
When trying to breed ricefish,
at a time. But
therapeutic dose
enrich their diet for a few days
also of use is the
of 2g per litre will
beforehand with Daphnia,
cover the plants
do them no harm
brineshrimp, fruit
provide, sheltering
at all, even across
newly
hatched fry from
many weeks. They don?t
flies or Grindal
the potentially
need salt, of course, but at
worms.
cannibalistic adults.
this very low dosage it?s an
I?ve never found rice?sh
easy way to inhibit whitespot
dif?cult to feed, with all the usual
without the need to use any other
small ?sh foods being welcomed,
medications. It?s just possible that
including powdered ?ake food,
some standard whitespot medications
have proved toxic in your situation, as is Daphnia, even frozen lobster eggs! But
their small size, slow swimming speed,
sometimes the case with sensitive ?sh.
and generally shy demeanour does
The second thing to bear in mind
mean they will lose out if kept
about rice?sh is that they come from
alongside other surface-swimming
sluggish streams and pools, rather than
species, such as danios.
rivers. The ideal aquarium for them
Far better to keep them on their own,
will have very gentle ?ltration ? an
with the tank tailored to their speci?c
air-powered sponge ?lter is probably the
needs ? in other words, with ?oating
ideal ? as well as numerous clumps of
rather than rooted plants, and sluggish
?oating vegetation. Needless to say, the
rather than brisk water currents.
roots and leaves of ?oating plants will
If you see your plants dying while using
liquid carbon, chances are there?s an
incompatibility, especially if the leaves
become transparent and start to dissolve. If
they turn other colours, then it?s more likely
a de?ciency of some essential nutrient.
Before writing off the liquid carbon, check
that the other parameters are all in line. Are
you using enough fertilisers for the tank?
Are you providing enough of the right kind
of light for the plants to grow? Is there
adequate circulation, and is the substrate a
plant-friendly type? Beyond that, are you
trying to grow particularly slow or dif?cult
plants? There are many factors at play here.
If everything else is suitably plant-friendly,
then I?d suggest trying injecting actual
carbon dioxide into the tank. While
daunting at ?rst, it?s actually pretty easy to
use once you have been hands-on with it,
and it is surprisingly economical over time.
In my own experience, liquid carbon and
carbon dioxide works well together. I had a
planted tank where I used both and a heavy
fertiliser regime, and the plants grew so fast
they were almost a nuisance!
We Recommend...
If you struggle with Oryzias woworae, it might be
worth trying the Indian rice?sh, Oryzias dancena
instead. This hardy and inexpensive rice?sh is
often sold as Oryzias melastigma, so you might
?nd it available under that name. Regardless of
this taxonomic confusion, it?s a pretty ?sh with
beautiful electric blue markings on the ?ns which,
in the case of the males, are elegantly extended
into lacy threads. It?s very easy to keep and breed,
and makes a great choice for planted nano tanks.
JJPHOTO.DK
primarily benthic ?sh. This could be
live sand, and the micro-organisms on
the sand will survive at these slightly
lower temperatures. As far as live rock
is concerned, you can expect much of
the life on reef live rock to survive in the
range of 18癈-21癈, although some of
the ?macro? life may experience die-off,
particularly towards the lower end of
this range. You?ll just need to keep an
eye on this, and monitor water quality
in case it?s impacted.
Clean-up-crew and mobile
invertebrates might be tricky, although
genuine subtropical species such as the
Margarita snail (Margarites pupillus) are
sometimes available. Salinity for
Catalina gobies is exactly the same as
for a typical reef tank ? 32-33ppt,
which at 18癈 is around 1.024 SG.
While one specimen can be kept in a
72 l/16 gal aquarium, do bear in mind
they can be quite territorial, so it?s best
to consider 150 litres or so if you?re
thinking of establishing a pair or trio.
Alternatively, a tropical goby might be
worth considering as you?ll have more
choice for tankmates, including mobile
invertebrates and perhaps even some
small corals. The tiny (2.5cm) red
striped goby, Trimma cana, from the
western Paci?c springs to mind here.
It?s a very attractive and peaceful ?sh,
perfect for a nano system, and it does
well in small groups if several are
introduced simultaneously.
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65
ADVICE
Know-how
SETTING UP
EXTERNAL FILTERS
Lots of people are daunted by external ?lters, but they?re easier to set
up than you might think. Here are the essentials you need to know?
WORDS: NATHAN HILL
Some filter designs come with a heater
built in. These require extra care when
removing the head, as a jarring move
will break the heater. To control the
heater, the thermostat will be
somewhere on the filter exterior,
probably on a dial
or similar.
66
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
E
XTERNAL CANISTER ?lters are great.
They?re big, which means they can house
a lot more media than internal ?lter types,
and that in turn makes them more
ef?cient and versatile. They?re also
conveniently placed out of view,
underneath or beside the tank where
they?re not an eyesore.
Over the following pages we?re looking at three
different canister ?lters, and the parts of them that
seem to cause confusion.
Aquamanta EFX200
The Aquamanta EXF 200 is the smallest in the EFX
range and suitable for tanks from 100 l (comfortably)
up to 200 l (at a stretch). Once out of the box, there are
a few things you need to do to get it up and running.
1
Unclip the four clasps holding the lid in place.
To do this, pull them outwards from the bottom
and then slide them in an upwards direction.
Once you?ve loosened all four clasps, you can
remove the head.
4
Remove the three media baskets. One contains a mesh
bag filled with carbon ? leave this as it is. One a block
of foam ? leave this. The third contains biomedia balls
in a plastic bag. These MUST be removed from the bag
before use. Briefly rinse them under a tap to remove dust.
7
Next position the canister?s head unit on top of the
body so that the protruding ?spout? underneath the
head aligns with the downpipe.
Don?t try to push it into place at this stage. Just
concentrate on aligning it the right way round.
How to prime
Most canister ?lters will not start unless they?re already
?lled. The easiest way to do this is to remove the canister
head and use a jug to ?ll the body with water from an
aquarium. When ?lled, replace
the head, ensure the hoses in
and out of the tank are connected
and the valves open, and
vigorously push up and down
on the priming (or start) button
while the ?lter is running.
After a big blast of bubbles,
everything should run just ?ne.
2
Turn the head upside down and find the impeller well
chamber. Twist the cover of the well anti-clockwise and
gently pull it away ? be careful not to pull out at an
angle as you risk snapping the impeller shaft, which
may be attached as shown in the photo above.
5
Place the three media baskets back in the canister ?
carbon at the bottom, biomedia balls in the middle and
foams on the top.
Ensure that all three trays are aligned so that the
downpipe runs neatly through all three.
8
Now gently push the head unit down. If it doesn?t sit
flush, remove and replace the baskets and try again.
DO NOT force the head unit down.
Once it?s sitting comfortably, secure the head unit in
place with the clamps.
3
Remove the impeller and inspect for damage such as
cracks or broken vanes. Reinsert the impeller and
replace the impeller well cover, making sure that the
ceramic shaft fits neatly down the middle of the
impeller. Twist the cover clockwise to lock it in place.
6
Find the plastic grid in the packaging.
Place the grid on top of the top media basket
(the one containing the block of foam and fine
foam pad), so that the canister filter?s downpipe
is exposed.
9
Insert the hose connection assembly into the slot in the
head, with the central lever in the ?up? position. Push
the lever down to lock it into place and open the valves.
(Lifting this lever locks the valves, retaining water in
the pipes and stopping syphoning when disconnected.)
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ADVICE
Know-how
Aqua Medic Aqua Fresh 50
This small and visually appealing ?lter is robust and
capable of ?ltering between 75 l (comfortably) and 150 l
(at a stretch). However, it has no priming facilities, which
makes it tricky to start. With limited media inside, this
product is likely aimed at planted aquascape keepers.
As this ?lter has no priming mechanism, in order to
start it you need to syphon water through it. Attach one
hose to the tank, and lower the other one below the
water level, into a bucket. Start a syphon action (you
can buy handpumps to do this) until the ?lter and all
hosing is ?lled with water. Reattach the hose used to
syphon and turn the canister on.
Alternatively, you can use a funnel to pour water down
the hoses until the canister and hosing is ?lled.
Note that to access the impeller you will need to
remove the pump unit from the canister and this
requires a screwdriver.
Open the filter by pulling the fastening clips
away from the canister. The metal clasps will
now lift away from the holding attachments
on the filter head.
2
Once you?ve removed the head, arrange
the media inside so that the little metal
stand sits on its legs at the bottom of
the canister.
Place the black
sponge on top of the
metal stand, and the
white sponge on top
of the black sponge.
Hold both in place
with the metal
spacer and then
replace the lid,
clamping it
back down.
3
This filter comes without valves, strainers or
water-return accessories, so buy these to your
taste (aquascapers tend to use glassware for
filters like this). To connect the hoses, push
them over the inlet nozzle (at the bottom) and
return nozzle (on top) using the provided
hoseclips to secure them in place.
4
Connecting hoses
Assemble any inlet and outlet pipes ?
downpipes and strainers at one end of
the tank, spraybars or duckbill returns
on the other. Cut hosing to ?t and
attach by pushing it over the stem and
then clamping down with the threaded
nut. (See photo right).
Connect your hoses to the ?lter valves
the same way (using the locking nut
to secure them). Note that nozzles
marked ?IN? are for water coming from
the aquarium, and those marked ?OUT?
are for water leaving the ?lter and going
back to the aquarium. (See right).
68
1
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
Tight hosing can be softened
by immersing it in hot water
for 20 seconds or so. This
makes fixture and
fitting a lot
easier.
Biomedia fact
Biomedia loses efficiency if it
becomes impregnated with waste
and may need replacing. Do this
over a prolonged period, removing
up to a quarter of the media in
one go and replacing with fresh.
Repeat every four weeks until the
media is replaced entirely.
JBL CrystalPro? e902
The e902 is a terri?c all-round canister ?lter with a ?ow that makes
it suitable for tanks of between 90 l (comfortably) and 300 l (at a
stretch). Because of its low wattage (11w max consumption) it?s
also one of the most economic ?lters on the market.
1
Carbon adsorbs organic waste until
its holding capacity is exhausted, so
in a relatively clean tank it may last
for months; in a dirty tank, just
weeks. The industry standard is to
replace the carbon entirely
every six weeks.
2
Remove the head unit by unfastening the four clips
holding it. Pull them away at the bottom and then slide
upwards until they release.
4
Turn the head unit over and then remove the
impeller well cover by gently twisting it in an
anticlockwise direction.
5
Remove the four media baskets from the canister body
and check them. Two of the baskets should contain
plain blue foam, one a block of corrugated blue foam,
and the fourth contains the biomedia balls.
7
Place the basket of biomedia balls in the bottom of the
filter. Place the two plain blue foam baskets above,
making sure they align. Finally place the basket with
the corrugated blue foam on the top.
8
To attach the hose connection assembly, there are
three levers. Ensure that the two levers on the canister
body are set to the ?closed? position, and the central
lever on the assembly is in the ?lifted? position.
Now firmly push the hose connection assembly
into place.
Ensure that you push down the central lever on the
assembly FIRST so that it locks into position.
3
Remove the impeller and inspect for damage such as
cracks or broken vanes. Reinsert the impeller and
replace the well cover, twisting clockwise to secure it.
6
Attach the head, making sure the wide spout fits flush
with the aperture on the top basket. Use the clips to
secure the head to the canister body. If the head isn?t
sitting flush, remove the baskets and check alignments.
9
Once the assembly is locked, push the two smaller
levers to the ?open? position.
This will open the valves inside the assembly so that
water can flow through it.
Connecting
spraybars
Don?t lose the cap!
Some spraybar assemblies come with a loose
cap that needs to be inserted into one end if the
spraybar is to work properly.
Some spraybars have
multiple parts that need to
be connected together with
a short length of rubber
hose. Note that the longer
you make a spraybar, the
less ?ow you will have from
each outlet.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 69
ADVICE
Know-how
S
T
JACQUES PORTAL
Sand, gravel, soil or enriched clay ? what?s the best
choice of substrate for your tank and your ?sh?
70
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
NEALE MONKS
Neale is an aquatics
author with a
passion for brackish
water species.
LAVA ROCKS
COLOURED
GRAVEL
C
HOOSING THE
right substrate is one
of the most
important decisions
to make when
setting up a new
aquarium. There are
so many options
available that it?s easy to end up
with the wrong kind or, at least, one
that doesn?t work out quite as well
as you?d hoped. Replacing substrate
is an expensive and time-consuming
process, so it?s something you?ll
want to get right from the off.
In some cases, the choice of
substrate comes down to personal
taste, but often, the best one for the
job really depends on what ?sh
you?d like to keep or which plants
you?re trying to grow.
NO SUBSTRATE
PLAIN GRAVEL
PLANTING
SUBSTRATE SOIL
COLOURED SAND
SILICA SAND
NO SUBSTRATE
Leaving the tank bare is a good
option for tanks where cleanliness
is the number one priority. This
includes breeding tanks, hospital
tanks and quarantine tanks.
Pros
6Faeces and decaying organic
matter are easily syphoned out
during water changes.
6Medications circulate around the
aquarium more effectively, making
it harder for pathogens to survive.
Cons
6Looks unattractive.
6There?s nothing to shore up
rockwork or piles of bogwood, so
you need to use self-supporting
ornaments and caves, such
as ?owerpots.
6There?s nothing for plants to root
themselves into, so you?re limited
to arti?cial plants, ?oating
plants, or epiphytic plants
attached to bogwood
or rocks.
6Overhead light
will re?ect
upwards off
the glass
bottom, stressing
the ?sh and causing
them to exhibit
subdued or washed-out
colours to try to blend in.
they forage for food. Sharper grades
of gravel may cause so much
damage that the ?sh become
prone to bacterial infections.
6While stirring the gravel
helps when cleaning
out dirt and debris,
plant roots will
make it harder
to do this
properly.
6It?s devoid of
mineral nutrients, so
provides little bene?t to
plants beyond anchorage.
PLAIN GRAVEL
COLOURED GRAVELS
For decades this was the default
choice, usually on top of an
under-gravel ?lter plate, where the
gravel acted as the biological
medium. While still a popular
choice (and rarely a bad one), think
about the alternatives before going
down this route as plain gravel does
have some shortcomings.
These are usually smooth gravels
that are painted and then covered
with an aquarium-safe varnish.
While not to everyone?s taste,
they?re often popular with children.
Pros
6Cheap and easily obtained.
6Lime-free gravel from aquatics
shops is chemically inert, so it won?t
change the pH or water hardness.
6Numerous grades available, from
?ne pea gravel ideal for small ?sh
communities, to almost pebbly
gravels less easily disturbed by
jumbo species.
6Its dark colour minimises
upwelling light, enhancing the
colours of your ?sh.
Cons
6Scratches and shortens the
whiskers of cat?sh and loaches as
Pros
6Lots of colours to choose from.
6Darker gravels, particularly black,
can highlight certain ?shes? colours.
6Chemically inert, so won?t change
the pH or hardness of the water.
Can you mix
substrates?
There?s no reason
why you have to stick
to one substrate
throughout the entire
aquarium. Mixing
silver sand and ?ne
gravel, for instance,
creates something that
resembles river gravel,
which would be ideal
for a biotope housing
Australian rainbow?sh
and other river species.
Or, you could use
one substrate over
most of the tank, but
put a plant-friendly
substrate into plant
pots hidden behind
rocks and bogwood.
This is a good way
to get the bene?t of
expensive substrates
without spending too
much money.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 71
ADVICE
Know-how
Cons
6Unnatural in appearance ? and
can look a bit naff!
6Brighter colours, particularly
white, re?ect light upwards, which
can stress ?sh and cause them to
exhibit subdued colouration.
6Fish with delicate colours look
dull next to red, blue and other
vivid gravels.
6Don?t contain mineral nutrients
for plants.
6Pricier than plain gravel.
SILICA SAND
This lime-free sand is
chemically inert
and widely used
by gardeners.
There are two
types available
? sharp sand and
smooth (or silver) sand.
Don?t use sharp sand as it
will scratch bottom-dwelling
?sh like loaches and cat?sh, but
silver sand can work very well if
cleaned thoroughly before use.
Silver sand is also marketed as
pool ?lter sand, which is usually
much cleaner than the smooth sand
sold by garden centres.
Pros
6Inexpensive and easy to obtain.
6Makes a fabulous substrate for
tanks with cat?sh, loaches, and
other burrowing or digging species.
6Natural in appearance, and a great
choice for biotope tanks.
6Won?t cause a change in the pH or
hardness of the water.
6Set up correctly, deep sand beds
become partially anaerobic,
fostering the growth of denitrifying
bacteria that can lower nitrate levels.
Cons
6Contains little in the way of
mineral nutrients, though plants will
root readily.
6It re?ects some light upwards, so
some ?sh will show weaker colours.
6Big ?sh can move it about,
potentially undermining rockwork.
6Some sand may end up in the
?lter if the ?lter inlet is too close to
the substrate.
6Sand will scratch the tank if
caught between the glass and an
algae scraper.
72
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
COLOURED SANDS
Some are arti?cial, some natural,
and some are industrial by-products.
Whatever their origins, they look
superb in the right tank, offering
more variety than plain silica sand.
Pros
6Usually chemically inert ? but
check with the manufacturer.
6Various dark shades are available,
including black volcanic sand that
can look absolutely fabulous in
planted aquaria, showing
off the subtly coloured
?sh and shrimps to
best advantage.
Cons
6Dearer than
plain silver sand.
6Some are too
sharp, so they aren?t
suitable for burrowers like
cat?sh and loaches.
6Some types contain mineral
nutrients that enhance plant
growth, but most of them don?t.
SOIL
We don?t recommend you dig up
your garden, but natural soil
products from aquarium shops are
useful for helping to replicate the
substrates found in rainforest
streams or pools.
Pros
6Very naturalistic, especially with
What about using peat?
In the past, peat was widely used in
aquaria to create rainforest biotopes ?
much like aquarium soil, but with the
added benefit of softening the water and
reducing the pH. This was seen as a good
way to create the conditions required
by species like killifish, who would lay
their eggs in the peat, enabling it to be
removed to another tank before hatching.
However, peat is an unpredictable tool
for softening water, and has been almost
entirely replaced by RO filtration.
More importantly, peat harvesting is
unsustainable. Peat bogs develop slowly
across many many thousands of years,
and cannot support industrial peat
extraction. If you come across an older
aquarium book that recommends peat,
use aquarium soil instead and manage
the water chemistry in whichever way
you prefer.
some Catappa leaves and bogwood
roots added.
6The dark colour enhances many
?sh, especially those with
?uorescent markings.
6Tends to tint the water over time,
further enhancing colours. The
tea-coloured water is particularly
appreciated by blackwater habitat
species, such as Discus.
6Burrowing ?sh love it and behave
in a very natural manner ?
BELOW:
A stark contrast
between a
naturalistic look
and colourfully
adventurous.
LAVA ROCK
CHIPPINGS
This is similar
to the large
pieces of ?lava rock?
sold as decoration and
makes a good alternative
to plain gravel.
Pros
6Lighter than gravel.
6It has a porous structure, which
allows slow movement of water
through the substrate. This creates
partially anoxic conditions that
foster the growth of denitrifying
bacteria, and maintenance of
non-oxidised mineral ions that
plants can use.
6Open structure, so good for
under-gravel ?lters and tanks with
substrate heaters.
ALAMY
Cons
6Better in tanks with small ?sh.
Larger ?sh will disturb the soil,
making the water murky and
potentially clogging the ?lter inlet.
6Contains some mineral nutrients,
particularly iron, but this varies
between brands, so you might need
to use additional fertiliser.
6Quite expensive, although in
tanks without rooted plants
you only need enough to
cover the bottom glass.
ALAMY
especially elephantnoses and spiny
eels, which don?t thrive in tanks
with gravel substrates.
6Plants root quickly, as you
would expect.
6Rough texture forms a secure
base for securing bogwood
and rockwork.
6Dark in colour, so shows
off ?sh well.
6Some types
include minerals
for good plant
growth, though
periodic use of
fertilisers may still
be needed.
Cons
6Rough texture, which can
cause damage to burrowing ?sh.
6More expensive than gravel.
PLANTED AQUARIUM
SUBSTRATES
Often based on mineral-enriched
clay, which slowly releases bene?cial
minerals around the roots of your
plants. Plants are more fussed about
light intensity than anything else
though, so if your tank doesn?t have
strong lighting, a fancy substrate
won?t make much difference.
Pros
6The best choice for aquariums
with rooted plants.
6Vigorous plant growth is the
easiest way to avoid algae
problems, so plants that get their
nutrients from the substrate, rather
than from the water column, will
really appreciate this stuff ? as will
your tank and ?sh.
6The better brands are guaranteed
to last for ?ve years before needing
replacement.
6Fine and smooth, so good for
burrowing ?sh.
6Dark brown, so works well against
the colours of your ?sh.
ABOVE: The
wrong substrate
can destroy
cat?sh whiskers.
Cons
6Very expensive,
although this is offset
by the reduced need
for periodic fertiliser
dosing. And the better
plant growth means
that you won?t be
replacing your plants
every few months!
Can I use coral sand?
Coral sand is mostly sold for use in
marine aquaria, but it does have some
niche applications in the freshwater side
of the hobby. Because it?s made up of
calcareous minerals, such as aragonite
and calcite, however, it will harden the
water and raise the pH, so it?s not suitable
for normal community tanks.
For ?sh from hard water environments,
like Malawian and Tanganyikan cichlids,
it?s ideal. On the other hand, because
coral sand is bright white, it?s not a good
choice for ?sh that dislike upwelling light.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 73
HONEY,
I HURT
THE FISH
Whether you?re new to the hobby, or fancy
a refresher, here are the most common
fishkeeping mistakes to watch out for...
WORDS: STEVE BAKER
Not preparing water correctly
NEIL HEPWORTH
The chlorine, ?uoride and heavy metals that occur in
tapwater all present problems for aquatic life. Use a
good dechlorinating ?uid or carbon-?lled canister to
neutralise or absorb these unwanted compounds when
doing a partial water change. Untreated tapwater will kill
bene?cial ?lter bacteria and irritate ?shes? gills and skin.
Scratching glass
Buying a too-small tank
It?s understandable to think that spending less
money on a smaller tank is a good way to ?nd out
whether you like the hobby or not. The reality is
that reduced volumes of water ?uctuate more,
and small tanks are restrictive, harder to maintain
and hold little value secondhand.
Although a 70 l tank might cost �-40 more
than a 30 l tank, the equipment is similar, it
won?t need much more by way of maintenance,
there?s lots more you can do with it, and a 70 l
tank has a far better resale value if you decide
?shkeeping?s not for you.
74
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
Location, location, location
Spending time deciding where to site your new
aquarium could save a lot of headaches later.
Avoid placing the tank in direct sunlight. This
will encourage algae to grow over your ornaments
and plants ? or the water might just turn bright
green. Keep it away from vents and radiators,
which will affect the tank?s stable temperature.
And don?t place it near a busy door ? regular
movement and banging will disturb the inhabitants.
Also, make sure there?s power nearby.
Adding
substrate
straight in
When you?re full of
enthusiasm, it?s tempting to put
in new gravel or sand straightaway, but
it needs a thorough clean first. Most
substrates are very dirty and
the ?dust? will cause
water quality
issues.
NEIL HEPWORTH
If you?re new to ?shkeeping,
it?s all too easy to scratch
the inside of a pristine, shiny
aquarium. Often, it?s down to
cleaning, and getting a piece
of gravel between your sponge/
magnet and the glass. Be very
careful not to pick up any stray
bits around the substrate layer;
even a single grain of sand can
leave an obvious scar.
NEIL HEPWORTH
ADVICE
Know-how
Introducing ?sh too quickly
NEIL HEPWORTH
It?s tempting to put new ?sh straight into your
aquarium so you can watch them, but patience is a
virtue in aquatics and a slow introduction is best for
your ?sh. First, turn off the light to keep your new
?sh calmer. Float the bag in the tank to equalise
the temperatures, then open it (rolling the bag down
so it ?oats), and add small amounts of tank water
regularly, over an hour or so, to introduce the ?sh to
your tank conditions. Catch the ?sh with a net, and
discard the transport water.
Leave the lights off for a couple of hours so that
your new introductions settle in with minimal stress.
Not researching ?sh
Many ?shkeepers have fallen foul of buying a
?sh on a whim only for it to cause destruction
in a community tank before outgrowing it.
Unfortunately, ?tankbusters? are being regularly
offered for sale again, so you really need to be
aware of what you?re buying.
If you don?t know, ask ? but ideally, do your own
research. You must be prepared to care for every
?sh you buy long-term and within the guidelines
of the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
Turning the power off
It still happens. If you haven?t
been told to leave aquarium
equipment running 24/7, then you
might not realise, but heaters and
filters need power all the time (other
than during maintenance) to keep
balanced conditions. This is why
prolonged power cuts can be
catastrophic for fish.
Correct dosing of your aquarium will be important, so whether you?re
using ?lter-boosting bacterial remedies, or medicating for parasites or
bacterial ailments, you need to know how much water your tank holds.
Overdosing some medications can lead to toxic shock and the death of
your ?sh; under-dosing could fail to treat an issue, potentially leading
to advanced problems and possible loss of ?sh.
To calculate the volume, use the sum:
Length x height x width (in cm), divided by 1,000 = volume in litres.
Then deduct 10% for substrate and ornament displacement.
Alternatively, just measure how many litres of water you add the ?rst
time you ?ll up your aquarium.
Leaving the lights on
Some people miss the point that lights need to go off at night for the
good of the ?sh and the aquarist. Although ?sh don?t fully sleep, they
do enter a transient state that?s as important to them as sleep is to us.
Constant illumination will ?burn out? the inhabitants, as well as causing
lots of algae growth.
If you can?t programme your lighting, you can use a simple plug timer
to stick to the same photoperiod each day. (It also looks like you?re at
home when you?re not.)
Just be careful not to use a digital timer with an LED light. Some
LEDs don?t like it and the light unit might be damaged.
Know your water
Soft or hard, acid or alkaline? These make big differences
to ?sh health, so test your tapwater to ?nd out which ?sh
are best suited to it. Unless you want the extra challenge
of altering your water chemistry, of course.
NEIL HEPWORTH
NEIL HEPWORTH
Know your tank volume
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 75
JACQUES PORTAL
ADVICE
Know-how
Feeding the wrong food
With an estimated 34,000 species of ?sh in
the world?s waters in 2018, there are some very
different approaches to aquatic life out there, and
diet is a major part of that.
Don?t assume all your ?sh have the same culinary
needs. Research the correct diets for each ?sh
you?re considering keeping, and look at the
ingredients of prepared, dry diets before you buy.
Not cleaning gravel
I?m surprised by the number of people who
use a jug to remove tank water, or just syphon
water from the top half of the tank when doing
water changes. Water changes are the perfect
opportunity to syphon settled waste from the
lower water column and vacuum your gravel to
remove trapped waste.
Don?t vacuum gravel if there?s plant substrate
below it. And if you?re using sand, just rake
your ?ngers through it, then syphon out any
disturbed waste.
Replacing an old filter with new
NEIL HEPWORTH
This applies to the ?lter as a whole, or just the ?lter media. It?s easy to
think removing an old, dirty ?lter and putting a nice, clean one in its
place is a sound idea but it?s not. Filter bacteria are THE most important
part of any tank and they need time to colonise a new ?lter or media.
Either have both running for six weeks before removing the old ?lter, or
remove the media from the old ?lter and place it in the new one (in other
words, transferring the bacteria).
Replacing a sponge? Change no more than 50% at a time. Cut it in half
if needed, and wait six weeks before changing the second half.
76
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
Over-cleaning
It?s a common dilemma. You go on holiday,
a neighbour pops in to feed the ?sh, and a
week later you get home to problems. Fishsitters tend to overfeed, not realising the
effect this can have on water quality. Even if
they have ?sh themselves, they won?t know
your tank or how much you normally feed.
Strategy 1: Buy a one-week pill box and
put your normal daily serving in each
compartment. (And hide the rest of your
?sh food).
Strategy 2: Most common aquarium ?sh can
go a week without food, so you could add
live plants to nibble on and leave them be.
Strategy 3: Automatic feeders can be very
useful, but set one up
a few days
before you
go away to
check the
settings.
There?s rarely a good
reason for large-scale
overhauling of ?sh
tanks. Draining tanks,
rinsing or boiling
gravel and ornaments,
and keeping ?sh
in a bucket in the
meantime, are all ways
to upset the biological
balance of the tank
and stress your ?sh.
Little-and-often water
changing and cleaning
is the way forward.
Even if things have got
on top of you lately,
a small clean each
day for a week is
far better than one
big overhaul.
NEIL HEPWORTH
Holiday feeding
Buying the wrong plants
Aquatic plants are just like
other plants ? they use
lots of different elements
for growth and we need to
provide them. Fish waste
will provide some food for
plants, but liquid additives
or nutrient-rich substrates
should be used to provide
both major and minor
elements needed for
lush growth.
Lighting is also very
important for plants,
so make sure your bulb
produces around 6,000
kelvin for better results.
Many aquatics shops
still stock and sell
unsuitable ?aquarium?
plants. Common houseplants
like Dracaena, Caladium,
peace lily, parlour palm,
spider plant, Fittonia,
Ophipogon, Acorus grass
and some ferns which just
rot away underwater.
This causes pollution of the
tank and encourages people
to replace them, spending
unnecessary money.
What to look for? Fleshy stems ?
and remember, no variegated plant
belongs underwater.
SHUTTERSTOCK
Not feeding plants
NEIL HEPWORTH
Washing ?lters in tapwater
After building up a colony of healthy ?lter bacteria, the last thing you should do
is clean your ?lter with tapwater. The chlorine will immediately kill the colony
and water quality will deteriorate rapidly, along with ?sh health. Instead, wash
?lters in a bucket of water taken from the tank during your water change ?
they don?t need to be spotless.
Your biggest allies in keeping ?sh are
?lter bacteria, but they aren?t present
in a brand new ?lter. Before you add
any ?sh to a tank you need a colony
of bacteria and there are two ways
to do it.
?Cycling? is the act of adding
organic waste to give bacteria
something to feed on in the absence
of ?sh waste. Household ammonia
is most often used (raising levels
to 4.0ppm), but some ?shkeepers
use ?sh food products. Monitor the
water parameters and perhaps add
live bacteria to secure a colony. Once
water test results are good (which
normally takes four to six weeks), you
can start stocking.
The other option, if you have
a ?shkeeping friend, is to
transfer some mature
Contaminated
?lter media from
equipment
their ?lter to yours,
Using the same bucket for
adding a small
group of ?sh
cleaning the aquarium and the car is
at the same
likely to be disastrous for your livestock. Play
time. Mature
it safe and buy a new bucket, pipe, sponge and
media
net to be used on the aquarium only. If
moved into an
you run more than one tank, it?s
empty tank will
best to have separate
die back unless fed
with ?sh waste.
equipment for
NEIL HEPWORTH
Not cycling your ?lter
each one.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 77
TROPICAL
Mormyrids
ELECTRIC
ELEPHANTS
With their distinctive trunk-like snouts and bigger than average
brains, elephantnoses are intelligent, unforgettable oddballs.
SHUTTERSTOCK
DAVID
WOLFENDEN
Dave is a former
aquatics lecturer
and is curator of
the Blue Planet
aquarium in
Chester.
78
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
Demanding but
rewarding, the
elephantnose needs an
experienced keeper.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 79
TROPICAL
Mormyrids
80
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
huge diversity across the group.
When the term ?elephantnose? is
mentioned, most ?shkeepers think
of species with a highly moveable,
protruding snout ? the wonderfully
named schnauzenorgan, used for
detecting food in muddy or sandy
substrates. The morphology of this
appendage varies according to the
predominant substrate type in the
species? habitat.
But not all species have a
schnauzenorgan; there are also
blunt-nosed species that tend to
feed in mid-water, rather than near
the bottom, and have more of a
dolphin- or whale-like appearance.
Friends electric
Schnauzenorgan or no, all
elephantnoses are weakly electric
?sh. This means they generate an
electric current from an organ in
their caudal peduncle ? essentially
highly modi?ed muscle tissue.
Mormyrids generate pulses of
electricity ? typically 20 pulses per
minute at rest, as opposed to the
constant waves produced by South
American knife?sh, although the
general principle is similar.
The head, plus the dorsal and
ventral parts of the ?sh?s body,
are covered in very sensitive
electroreceptors that can detect
the electric ?eld generated, which
is known as the electric organ
discharge (EOD). Objects entering
the EOD ?eld create distortions
that the mormyrid can detect and
interpret, and the degree of
distortion varies depending on
whether the object is inorganic
BELOW:
G. petersii
is the most
common and
most suitable
elephantnose for
home aquaria.
FACTFILE
PETERS? ELEPHANTNOSE
6Scientific name: Gnathonemus petersii
6Pronuciation: Natho-nee-mus peter-sea-eye
6
Origin: Widespread over central and
western Africa
6
Habitat: Slow-moving areas of dark,
muddy rivers with heavy plant growth.
6Size: 35cm max, rarely more than 25cm
6Tank size: 200x45x45cm for ?ve
6
Water requirements: 6.0-7.5 pH, 5-15癏
6Temperature: 24-28癈
6Cost: Around � each.
400 l+
ALAMY
W
ITH THEIR
bizarre and
unforgettable
looks, unique
behaviour and
incredible
ability to ?see?
using electricity,
the elephantnoses truly deserve
their oddball status. While they can
make incredible aquarium subjects,
they?re also somewhat cryptic and
demanding, so you need to put a lot
of thought into catering speci?cally
for their needs.
Elephantnoses belong to the
Mormyridae family, which currently
contains 228 recognised species.
All come from Africa and are found
in a variety of freshwater habitats ?
in some locations they?re extremely
abundant. None are found in
brackish water as even slight levels
of salinity raise the conductivity of
the water, affecting the ?sh?s
electrosensory abilities.
The strange appearance of the
mormyrids gives these species a
de?nite wow factor, but there is
(a rock, for example), or organic
(such as a predator or prey).
The EOD is an amazing adaptation
to a nocturnal lifestyle in turbid
water and is used for navigation,
foraging and communication. Using
the EOD, mormyrids appear to be
able to distinguish between different
materials in the water, and even
whether prey is alive or dead. EODs
are species-speci?c, and also vary
between male and females of the
same species, playing a crucial role
in courtship behaviour.
Mormyrids are intelligent ?sh,
having proportionally large brains
and a well-developed and
specialised cerebellum with a
tightly folded portion known as the
valvula cerebelli. The convoluted,
ribbon-like morphology of this
part of the brain gives it the huge
surface area needed to process the
highly complex information the ?sh
attains from the EOD. Unravel the
valvula cerebelli of a mormyrid, and
it?ll stretch to over 10 times the
body length of the ?sh itself.
Water parameters
Mormyrids are sensitive to changes
in water chemistry, so provide stable
conditions ? a mature, fully cycled
system is a must.
They will need a temperature of
24-28癈, with zero ammonia and
nitrite. Aim to maintain nitrate as
low as possible, too. Medium
hardness and a pH of 6.0-7.5 suits
them ?ne. Treat water with a
conditioner, and ideally age the
water by aerating and pre-heating
it over several days before
performing water changes.
Mormyrids have been shown to
have exceptionally high oxygen
Elephant drums
As well as the EOD, mormyrids also
communicate through a complex
system of clicks generated by their
swimbladders. Specialised muscles
?drum? on the swimbladder to generate
sound, and some species appear to have
evolved ?hearing aids? known as tympanic
bladders. These tiny gas-?lled structures
brush against the ?sh?s ear bones in
response to external noise, amplifying
the sound and signi?cantly boosting
hearing sensitivity.
demands (necessary to maintain
their huge brains) so you need to
ensure adequate turnover and
aeration to maintain oxygen as near
saturation levels as possible.
Choosing & quarantining
BELOW:
G. schilthuisi,
a rare ?short
snout? type.
When buying mormyrids, select
your specimens very carefully.
Elephantnoses can suffer damage
or be generally stressed by shipping,
so you need to closely inspect them
in the ?esh. Ensure they?ve settled
MP&C PIEDNOIR, AQUAPRESS.COM
With their bizarre looks, unique
behaviour and incredible ability to ?see?
using electricity, the elephantnoses truly
deserve their oddball status
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 81
TROPICAL
Mormyrids
We Recommend...
Tankmates
Diurnally active species that feed in mid-water,
such as the Congo tetra, Phenacogrammus
interruptus, can work well with elephantnoses.
They don?t do their best when housed with other
nocturnal species, or with lots of bottom-feeding
?sh who tend to outcompete them for food.
I?ve seen different mormyrid species housed
together with seemingly few problems, but on
balance it?s probably best to keep them in
single-species tanks to reduce hetero-speci?c
aggression. Some aquarists keep them with
South American knife?sh, such as the Black
ghost knife?sh, Apteronotus albifrons, but
obviously this isn?t a natural mix and can cause
issues with competition and aggression.
LOCATION OF ELECTRICAL ANATOMY
Elephant house
Electroreceptors
Central nervous system
Electric organ
NATHAN HILL
in at the dealer?s, and look for
full-bodied individuals with no signs
of emaciation. Ask to see them
eating if possible ? a good mormyrid
should be actively foraging and
greedily feeding.
Elephantnoses are often imported
with internal and/or external
parasites, so quarantining new
specimens is highly recommended.
The quarantine tank can be kept
quite dark, allowing the ?sh to settle
in and adapt to captive diets before
being moved to the main aquarium.
Mormyrids are scaleless ?sh,
so they are very sensitive to
medications. Most of the common
treatments that might safely be
given to other ?sh are a no-no,
including copper and formalin. Even
salt will cause issues, although
praziquantel appears to be safe if
treatment for ?ukes is required.
In general, resting the ?sh with
minimal disturbance, ensuring that
they feed in the ?rst few weeks, and
maintaining optimal water quality is
the best way to get them in good
health. For the quarantine system,
you?ll need a pre-matured ?lter and
be prepared to perform small,
frequent water changes.
Substrates are often omitted in
quarantine systems on hygiene
grounds, but with elephantnoses
it?s essential to include one.
82
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
Elephantnoses need a set-up that
caters for their particular and
exacting requirements. They
don?t fare well as an afterthought
addition to a community tank, and
now that aquarists and responsible
stores have wised up to this fact,
they are thankfully not offered for
sale as frequently as they were a
few years ago.
Mormyrids need larger tanks than
many people think. The most
commonly offered species,
Gnathonemus petersii, needs at least
a 2m-long tank for a group of ?ve
or so, slightly less for an single
specimen. Overall volume is less
important than area, and the bigger
the better ? these are de?nitely not
?sh for a nano tank.
They?ve been known to jump
when startled, so a coverglass, lid or
hood is a wise precaution.
Being nocturnally active and
well-adapted to murky water,
mormyrids may become stressed in
gin-clear, brightly lit aquariums if
they?re unable to hide, so provide
FACTS
& STATS
The largest mormyrid is
Mormyrops ang
the Cornish jack
It?s widespread
across Africa an
extensively fished
Adults can reach
1.5m in length
and weigh in at a
whopping 15kg.
15 KG
NEIL HEPWORTH
<1volt
is the
EOD of
mormyrids and presents no
risk to aquarists, unlike
the infamous electric
eel, Electrophorus
electricus, which can
discharge several
hundred volts.
20
plenty of cover and dimly-lit areas.
Stable rock caves are a good
addition and can be safely built
around pieces of PVC tube for a
discreet, natural look.
Soft, ?ne sand in which the
mormyrid can search for food is
an absolute must. Too often,
elephantnoses are placed in systems
with coarse gravel, which is totally
unsuitable. Large, rough-grained
substrates can damage the sensitive
snout and make it dif?cult for the
elephantnose to forage. Add some
smooth cobbles and wood to help
the ?sh feel at home.
Thoughtful planting can add visual
interest and provide excellent cover
for mormyrids, although the bright
lighting you need for some plants
may cause the ?sh to hide, so you?ll
need to strike a balance.
A planted system suitable for
mormyrids could have focused spots
of plant-rich zones, with other areas
left relatively dimly lit. Suitable
African plants include Anubias
species, which can be placed in the
substrate or attached to wood, and
African water fern, Bolbitis heudelotti,
which needs to be placed on rocks
or tied to wood.
Feeding mormyrids
The largest mormyrid species are
predatory, but those offered in the
trade tend towards smaller prey
such as larval and adult insects,
plus small snails and crustaceans.
That large brain requires a lot of
fuel, and mormyrids can rapidly
lose condition if their feeding needs
aren?t being met.
A well-fed elephantnose should
have a slightly plump appearance
? if the body isn?t slightly rounded,
the ?sh needs more food, and if the
body looks hollowed-out, then it?s
in real trouble.
Ideal foods for mormyrids include
bloodworm, tubifex and glassworm,
plus crustaceans like Daphnia.
These should preferably be live
when the ?sh are newly introduced
to encourage feeding, but once
settled, they will accept frozen and
freeze-dried versions (although
quality live food is best).
ABOVE:
A shoal of
elephantnoses
turn the sand
over while
feeding.
LEFT: The
Worm-jawed
mormyrid grows
to 40cm.
pulses per minute
at rest is typical
of mormyrids.
Female elephantnoses have
shorter electrical pulses
than males.
2cm
is how
deep
into the ground
the electrical organ
can sense if a bug is
dead or alive when
looking for food.
10
times the length of
the body is how long
the valvula cerbelli would
be if unravelled.
35cm
is the
length
Peters? elephantnose
can reach in the wild.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 83
TROPICAL
Elephants need
cover and areas
of darkness.
Breeding blues
Breeding mormyrids is a challenge,
although studies on Brienomyrus
brachyistius suggest courtship can
be initiated by lowering the water?s
conductivity from around 300 ?S cm-1
to about 20 ?S cm-1 by adding
de-ionised water. Breeding follows, with
nest-building and egg deposition.
However, that?s not the whole story.
While newly caught specimens of several
species appear to readily breed in
laboratory conditions, success with longterm captive mormyrids remains elusive.
A classic study on Gnathonemus petersii
provides some clues. After only two weeks
in captivity, the EODs of male and female
?sh became identical, meaning courtship
will not be initiated effectively. After a
month, the ?sh changed physiologically.
Marked hormonal changes were observed,
with some females exhibiting higher
testosterone levels than males.
This goes a long way to explain why
long-term captive mormyrids are so
dif?cult to breed.
84
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
Provide as much variety as
possible and experiment to a degree,
but do keep an eye on the condition
of the ?sh to make sure they?re
receiving adequate nutrition.
Importantly, these ?sh can?t
ef?ciently chew their food, so large
pellets and meaty chunks won?t
cut the mustard.
Peters? elephantnose
Of the 200-plus known mormyrid
species, only a handful make it to
the aquarium trade, and one species
makes up by far the vast majority
of individuals imported. Peters?
elephantnose, Gnathonemus petersii,
comes from the Niger and Congo
basins and for most aquarists, it?s the
quintessential elephantnose ?sh.
In terms of looks, G. petersii is
quite attractive compared to certain
other members of the family ? it?s
not exactly pretty by any stretch
of the imagination, but it has
interesting bar-like markings on the
posterior half. It varies from light
brown to black in colour, and there?s
sometimes a subtle iridescence
when it catches the light.
The ?sh?s most obvious feature is
its prominent schnauzenorgan ? see
one in action searching the substrate
and you?ll understand why providing
soft sand is so important.
G. petersii can reportedly reach
35cm in length, but most aquarium
specimens rarely exceed 25cm.
Even so, that?s still a big ?sh that
needs a considerable amount of
room, especially if it?s going to be
kept in small groups.
Keeping pairs can be problematical
as two individuals may ?ght
incessantly, so aim for ?ve or even
more ?sh if space permits. The
feeling here is that aggression is
spread out in a group, so no one
individual is targeted (much the
same way as Malawi cichlids fare
best in densely stocked tanks).
Some aquarists suggest that while
sub-adults may tolerate one another,
aggression and territoriality increases
as the ?sh reach sexual maturity.
This isn?t always the case, but
providing adequate space and hiding
places can reduce any problems.
NEIL HEPWORTH
Mormyrids
Assorted elephants
While Gnathonemus petersii is the species you?re most likely to see in aquatics stores,
others occasionally ?nd their way to specialist dealers.
MORMYRUS KANNUME
This species is relatively widespread across Eastern Africa
in a variety of habitats, including Lake Victoria and the
Lower Nile basin, but is not often imported. It has a
drab grey colouration, a relatively long dorsal ?n and a
fairly short snout, which gives it its common name, the
Bottlenose. A solitary species, it feeds extensively on
chironomid (midge) larvae and can reach 1m in length,
although 50-60cm is a more typical size. Obviously, it
needs an extremely large system to accommodate it.
CAMPYLOMORMYRUS TAMANDUA The Worm-jawed mormyrid from West and Central Afr
can reach 40cm, so it needs a very large system ? ea
2m-long for a single adult. Coupled with the fact it?s
intolerant of conspeci?cs in captivity, this is probably
?sh for most folks to avoid. Juveniles are quite attrac
with disruptive colouration, but this fades in adulthoo
and the ?sh assumes a uniformly drab colour
CAMPYLOMORMYRUS RHYNCHOPHORUS
The Double-nosed elephant ?sh gets its name from the
distinctive morphology of its schnauzenorgan. It?s a peaceful,
gregarious species that?s rarely seen in the trade, but can make
a good choice in the right system. It comes from the Congo
River basin in Central Africa and grows up to 20cm in length.
STEVE HALL-MAXTED
BRIENOMYRUS Members of the Brienomyrus genus are occasionally
imported from West and Central Africa. All three recognised
species are relatively small, growing to 10-20cm,
but classi?cation for the genus is still unresolved, so
identi?cation can be dif?cult.
They lack a prominent schnauzenorgan, which gives them
more of a whale-like appearance, but in spite of their cute
looks, they can be territorial and are best either kept singly,
or in groups of ?ve or more in larger tanks. They?re bottom
to mid-water feeders, and need a diet of Daphnia,
bloodworms and other invertebrates.
MARINES
Jawfish
SHUTTERSTOCK
TRISTAN
LOUGHER
Tristan is an aquatic
author who has
worked on various
research projects.
His day job is at
Cheshire Aquatics.
86
It may look terrifying,
but it's only a male
jaw?sh incubating
his eggs.
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
JAW
They live in burrows,
the males look after
the eggs, and they can
puff up their mouths to
look big if threatened.
Welcome the jawfish.
MARINES
Jawfish
W
HILE WE
should be
careful not to
project human
attributes onto
the ?sh in our
care, some
really do seem
to have wonderful characters and a
unique, ?shy ?personality?. Many are
also beautiful, some are pretty
disease resistant, and there are even
species that offer the opportunity
to spawn and rear them at home.
Some of those types can be found
within the fabulous jawfish of the
Opistognathidae family.
The Opistognathidae is a group of
small to medium-sized marine fish
that range from just a few
centimetres in length to around half
a metre ? specifically, a species
originally named the Giant jawfish,
Opistognathus rhomaleus.
There are currently four genera
contained within the family, of
Blue spoed jawfish
NATHAN HILL
6Scientific Name: Opistognathus rosenblatti
6Provenance: Eastern Pacific; Sea of Cortez
6Cost: �0-250
6Maximum Size: Around 12cm
A desirable species commanding a
high price. This subtropical fish can
be reclusive when stocked without
members of the same species, but
its territorial aggression means
aquaria need to be very large to
accommodate more than one
individual comfortably ? a 100cm
distance between burrows is the
average in the wild. Otherwise, it
can fit well into aquarium life, but
check individuals are settled and
feeding before purchase.
which one, Opistognathus, accounts
for the vast majority of species, with
over 65 currently described, and is
also home to all of the species
available in the hobby ? it's
represented by species from all
around the globe.
The other genera are Lonchopisthus,
a group of largely deeper-water
jawfish restricted to the subtropical
and tropical Atlantic; Stalix, a genus
where all member species are found
in the Indo-Pacific; and a more
recent addition to the family, the
genus Anoptoplacus ? currently
represented by a single species, the
tiny, deepwater Caribbean pygmy
jawfish, A. pygmaeus.
The jawfish?s common name
derives from the size of its head,
which can be 'inflated' through
muscular contractions to appear
substantially large, and make the
fish look more of a fearsome
proposition to predators than it
actually is.
Housing and feeding
Jawfish have a well-developed sense
of place; a phenomenon called site
attachment. They aren?t natural
roamers, instead finding a place they
like and staying there ? often for the
entire duration of their lives. Many
of the best fish for marine aquaria
are those for whom natural
territories could be contained within
the confines of a fish tank and many
jawfish tick this box.
There has been much written on
the requirements of jawfish with
regard to minimum depths of
substrate but, as with so many
aspects of the marine aquarium
hobby, any generalisation only tells
part of the story. In their natural
environments jawfish reside in
burrows that they excavate and tend
to themselves. These can differ in
composition and form between
species and also are influenced
strongly by the types of substrate
available to a particular individual.
Jaw?sh can
burrow in many
types of substrate.
which they will inhabit when other
areas of the aquarium seem to offer
a more textbook habitat for them.
To closely simulate their natural
environment, deeper substrates with
a mixture of rubble, sand and gravel
are preferred, but these aren't always
favoured by aquarists.
Jaw?sh love to dig and fuss about
their burrows, and watching them do
this and then return to sit inside their
latest creation is part of the enduring
appeal of these ?sh. However,
placing them into a well-established
aquarium can cause problems as
they disturb detritus-bearing sand
by digging and can potentially
undermine rock structures. It?s a
SHUTTERSTOCK
SHUTTERSTOCK
Many texts concerning jaw?sh
stress the need for substrate depths
of between 7cm and 15cm as an
absolute minimum. The truth is that
many species will make do with only
a fraction of this, and some are
highly resourceful in what they will
use to construct a burrow in which
they feel at home.
I've seen certain Caribbean species
pull substrate from all over the
aquarium to construct a conical
burrow, with an opening at the top
that gave it an appearance much like
a volcano. Others seem happy
beneath rocks and in crevices that
they ?ll and shape with rubble and
sand from the surrounding locale,
Ye?owhead or Pearly jawfish
The most commonly available jawfish in the hobby is
the best studied and most widely kept. It has been
successfully spawned and reared in captivity. Colonies
of four to six individuals can be kept in an aquarium of
200 l with adequate floor space. Broods are incubated
by the male for seven to nine days before the eggs
hatch. At just 15 days after hatching, the fry undergo
metamorphosis and begin building their own burrows.
SHUTTERSTOCK
6
Scientific Name: Opistognathus aurifrons
6
Provenance: Western Central Atlantic
6
Cost: �-35
6
Maximum Size: 10cm
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 89
MARINES
remarkable
resilience
when placed in
aquaria with the
likes of tangs and
dwarf angelfish. But, as with so many
fish combinations, compatibility can
be highly context-specific ? placed
with jawfish, aggressive species like
dottybacks and some wrasse often
go on to be bullies.
It pays to make jawfish an early
addition to any set-up, allowing
them time to create a place to call
home and develop it in a relatively
sedate environment. Add the busier
fish afterwards and your jawfish will
feel much more secure.
Breeding
Male jawfish typically court females
before spawning and it's then that
any differences between males and
females can be observed. The Blue
spotted jawfish male, for example,
develops a white front half, while
Tankmates
the rear part of his body turns
Although it's dif?cult to argue
almost black as he darts up
that jaw?sh will thrive in
and down in the water
otherwise-peaceful
column ? this is his
aquaria with a handful
way of displaying
of boisterous
Due
to
their
digging,
it's
his readiness
tankmates
best
to
introduce
jawfish
into
? something
to mate. In
aquaria before the sand has
that?s pretty
O. solorensis the
much true for all
female appears
a chance to hold too
fish ? they can show
bright yellow during
much organic
waste.
90
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
Dusky jawfish
6Scientific Name: Opistognathus whitehursti
6Provenance: Western Atlantic
6Cost: �-40
6Maximum Size: 14cm
Although not the most colourful species listed here,
the Dusky jaw?sh is perhaps one of the best candidates
for sole residency in a reef aquarium. It will dig, but
appears highly resourceful in its choice of burrow
material and can incorporate practically anything into
its structure. As with many species of jaw?sh, providing
a range of substrate sizes, from sand grains to gravel
and rubble, assists the ?sh in creating a lasting burrow
that it feels safe in. It settles well but care should be
taken when housing it with small ?sh as they could
de?nitely be on the menu.
Tiger or Blackcap jawfish
6Scientific Name: Opistognathus randalli
6Provenance: Indonesia and the Philippines
6Cost: �-40
6Maximum Size: Around 12-14cm
For most aquarists, a single specimen of this hardto-sex species will be plenty. Males are known to be
highly aggressive and prone to wrestling bouts featuring
jaw-locking ? the loser is quite likely to be evicted from
his burrow. The gold appearance of the upper portion
of the eyes can be useful for identi?cation purposes
? because of this, the species is also known by the
lt
ti
name of 'gold-specs' jaw?sh.
e and this is a beautiful ?sh to care
um.
SHUTTERSTOCK
shame as jaw?sh are reef-safe and
can be trusted with all but the tiniest
?sh and ornamental shrimp, and are
otherwise wonderful aquarium ?sh.
However, the biggest hazard for a
jaw?sh is probably an open-topped
tank. Use of a lid is compulsory to
prevent them from leaping from
aquaria. Jaw?sh are particularly
nervous when ?rst stocked into the
aquarium and it's no coincidence
that it's during the ?rst weeks after
introduction that they're most likely
to be found outside the tank.
Some jaw?sh are planktivores
whereas others consume a variety
of benthic invertebrates ? small
crustaceans and worms. Some
include small ?sh in their natural
diet. Most, if not all, should readily
accept frozen diets such as Mysis
and brineshrimp in the aquarium
and many can be weaned onto ?ake
and pellet diets.
CREATIVE COMMONS
Jaw?sh
ABOVE:
Breeding can
take place in his
burrow, hers or a
halfway house.
Red headed jawfish
6Scientific Name: Opistognathus solorensis
6Provenance: Eastern Indian Ocean to Tonga Central Pacific.
6Cost: �-40
6Maximum Size: Around 8-10cm
One of the most popular species in the UK hobby, the Red-headed jaw?sh
is sold under various common names. It is hardy once settled and can be
maintained in groups where space allows; offer around 300-400 l for four
to six individuals. Supplies of these ?sh can be a little sporadic; sometimes
one or two may be available, then there's an abundance of them.
SHUTTERSTOCK
the breeding season. Unfortunately,
these visual cues aren't likely to be
displayed by ?sh in shop tanks, so
buying a group and allowing them to
sort themselves into a little colony
where space allows is often the best
way to proceed. However, don?t try
this in smaller aquaria unless you?re
100% confident that the specimens
will tolerate one another?s presence.
If in doubt, keep jawfish singly.
Breeding can occur in the burrow
of either sex, or sometimes in a
halfway house built by the male for
the purpose. Successful spawning
results in a mass of fertilised eggs
that are incubated in the mouth of
the male. Different species have
varying brood sizes, but many consist
of hundreds of eggs that must be
regularly ventilated by the male. In
the case of the yellowhead jawfish,
he will partially spit out the eggs and
take them back into his mouth.
Male mouth-brooding is seen in
other marine aquarium fish, notably
the Cardinalfish (Apogonidae). The
male invests in the brood, limiting
the number of his offspring annually,
and sticking with the eggs from one
female at a time ? some species are
practically monogamous. This way,
he can guarantee that the brood he
is incubating is actually his.
Among the jawfish you'll find
everything from the affordable to
the exclusive. I've a feeling jawfish
are still to have their day and, as the
aquatics world expands its collective
knowledge, they'll likely be shown to
have even more to offer.
To fully appreciate them we must
be able to tolerate their relentless
re-aquascaping of the substrate and
their potential to bury corals or strip
the aquarium base of sand and gravel.
Are Jawfish so great we're prepared
to turn a blind eye to such antisocial
shenanigans? Only you can decide?
ALAMY
In their natural
environments
jaw?sh reside in
burrows that they
excavate and tend
to themselves
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 91
CICHLIDS
Pelvicachromis subocellatus
f
o
l
Jewe
Africa
ALL PHOTOS: RADEK BEDNARCZUK
While not as well known
as its Kribensis cousins,
this stunning little ?sh
is the perfect dwarf
cichlid for beginners.
RADEK
BEDNARCZUK
A pharmacist by
trade, Radek has
been keeping ?sh
since he was seven
and has a legacy of
breeding successes.
92
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
P. subocellatus mix well with
other dwarf cichlids that
like similar conditions.
Companion ?sh will help
to reduce timidity.
Low demand, high
reward ? what?s not
to love?
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 93
CICHLIDS
Pelvicachromis subocellatus
I
T?S A safe bet that you?ve
all seen Pelvicachromis
pulcher, the Rainbow
kribensis. I might even
venture the suggestion
that it?s the iconic, signature
species of dwarf cichlid,
probably on par with the
German ram, Mikrogeophagus
ramirezi. However, there?s another
member of the Pelvicachromis genus
that?s gentler and more hardy than
the better-known Krib, and it?s
rather surprising that it?s not more
popular and better-known than the
ubiquitous Rainbow.
Pelvicachromis subocellatus,
sometimes called the Ocellated
kribensis, inhabits slow-?owing
streams and still waters. It?s
colourful, doesn?t exceed 10cm in
length and is easy to keep. It?s also
easy to breed, and while there are
many colour morphs of this
species, to preserve line purity
they shouldn?t be cross-bred.
P. subocellatus is
distributed in West
Africa from Gabon
To encourage spawning,
to Congo, with
some breeders recommend
the particularly
cooling the water down
attractive
and adding salt (a
?Moulondo? variety
teaspoon to 10
hailing from the
Moulondo region
litres).
of Gabon.
Fry are well
camouflaged.
Ideal home
The species grows to a maximum
size of 8-10cm, so your tank doesn?t
need to be tall, but it should be
relatively long, with a large footprint.
For an adult pair, the aquarium
should be at least 60-80cm long,
30cm wide and 30cm tall. The
bottom of the tank is best covered
with ?ne sand as the species spends
most of its day down there, digging
in the substrate in search of food.
Add a good number of caves in
the form of coconut shells, roots,
?ower pots and lengths of PVC pipe,
as well as plants like Java moss,
Anubias, Microsorum, and some
?oating ferns ? this cichlid doesn?t
like bright lighting. Except when
spawning, P. subocellatus is pretty
peaceful, and ? another bonus ? it
doesn?t destroy plants.
Water current ? from a ?lter or a
diffuser, for instance ? shouldn?t be
94
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
When we see a female looking rotund and
very colourful, with a purple spot on her belly,
tensing her fins and arching her body repeatedly
towards a male, completely lost in the mating
dance, it can mean only one thing
too brisk. The species likes calm,
lazily ?owing, well-oxygenated
water. The ?lter should be
reasonably ef?cient, so that
metabolite levels remain
undetectable. Routine maintenance
should include weekly water
changes, regular vacuuming of the
tank bottom to remove any food
remains, and cleaning of the
sponges in internal/external ?lters.
P. subocellatus is ?exible with
regards to physical and chemical
FACTFILE
OCELLATED KRIBENSIS
6Scientific name: Pelvicachromis subocellatus
6Pronunciation: Pel-vic-ah-crow-miss sub-oss-ell-ah-tuss
6
Origin: Africa: Nigeria, Gabon, Democratic
Republic of the Congo
6
Habitat: Coastal pools and slow-moving
streams (some brackish water)
6Size: 8cm
6Tank size: 80x30x30cm
6Water requirements: 6.0-7.5 pH, 5-18癏
6Temperature: 22-26癈
6Cost: In the region of � a pair
70 l+
The female sees to caring
for the fry while the male
defends their territory.
conditions. The species does well in
both soft and hard water, and will
tolerate pH values from 6.0 to 7.5.
However, in the long run, they
prefer their water soft and slightly
acidic. It?s best to use natural
acidi?cation methods, such as
Catappa, beech or oak leaves.
As for feeding, vegetable foods
should predominate. The length of
this ?sh?s intestines far exceeds that
of its body, so the fewer animal
foods in the diet, the less the
likelihood of intestinal complaints.
For this reason, offer lots of plant
?bre and Spirulina, with only
occassional shrimp mix,
glassworms, Krill and black
mosquito larvae. They can also be
given dry foods, particularly
granulated types that fall to the
bottom, as they love to dig in the
substrate in search of periphyton.
Coconut shells
make ideal
shelters.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 95
CICHLIDS
Pelvicachromis subocellatus
Purple passion
Adult male P. subocellatus are bigger
than the females, and the species is
monogamous. When we buy a
group of ?sh, there?s a good chance
a natural pair will emerge ? all we
need to do then is to wait patiently
for the spawning.
When we see a female looking
rotund (as if she were about to
burst), and very colourful, with a
purple spot on her belly, tensing her
?ns and arching her body repeatedly
towards a male, completely lost in
the mating dance, it can mean only
produce up to 200 grains) will be
one thing ? eggs will be laid very
laid on the cave ceiling.
soon in one of the tank?s hiding
Some breeders use a simple trick
places, such as a coconut shell or
to encourage spawning by
?ower pot. An extended
replicating natural behaviours ?
ovipositor is another indicator
they half ?ll a coconut shell
that spawning will occur soon.
with sand, or push it deep into
When it comes to spawning, the substrate. The female will
So, there?ll come a day when
the female plays the leading then dig out the sand, just as
you can?t see the female.
Don?t worry, she?ll most likely
she would do in the wild.
role ? she is the one
be ensconced in one of the
While the female is in the
to initiate it.
caves, guarding her eggs.
hideout with her eggs, the male
Anything from a few dozen to a
?ercely guards the territory. He?ll
hundred eggs (though some females
become very aggressive, so it?s a
good idea to remove the rest of the
?sh from the tank, or separate the
The larvae feed from
pair from the others with a pane of
their yolk sacs for the
glass or acrylic.
?rst few days.
Some people do leave two mated
pairs in a tank, with caves for each
at opposite ends of the aquarium.
If any aggression or territorial
battles are seen, the aquarium can
then be divided.
Krib kindergarten
After a few days, depending on the
temperature, the young hatch.
Usually they are then moved in the
mouth to pre-dug pits in the
substrate, though in my tank, they
remained in the coconut until the
resorption of the yolk sac. After
about a week, the yolk sacs will be
resorbed and you then need to start
feeding the young. Freshly hatched
Artemia, microworms, grindal
worms and all kinds of foods for
egg-layer fry will be readily taken.
An amicable pair take care of their
young in turns, leading the cloud of
fry to various spots in the tank
(so-called ?canteens) where they?ll
discover meals of detritus and algae
on decaying leaves and so on.
These ?sh can be fascinating to
watch as the parents communicate
with their offspring by opening and
closing their pelvic ?ns, and
vibrating the whole body. In the face
of potential danger, following a
signal from the parent, the fry fall
motionless to the bottom of the
tank, playing dead.
Sometimes, however, squabbles
Add a good number of
caves in the form of coconut
shells, roots, ?owerpots
96
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
Both parents will
be defensive, even
towards each other.
We Recommend...
Tankmates
When breeding it?s best to avoid other tankmates,
but normally P. subocellatus are quite welcoming.
Many tetras, rasboras, cat?sh and barbs mix well.
You could stick to West African species with either
the One-lined characin, Nannaethiops unitaeniatus,
or Phenacogrammus interruptus, the Congo tetra.
ALAMY
break out between the pair, leading
in?uence the sex of these ?sh,
to losses among the fry. In such
which is determined during the ?rst
cases, the young may be left with
few weeks of life. If you want the
only one parent, usually the
sex ratio to be roughly even, the
female, or the whole batch may
optimal pH is 7.0 and the
need to be raised arti?cially.
temperature about 24癈.
Do remember that
With lower pH values
during the ?rst few
and higher
spawnings,
temperatures there
If
a
pair
looks
reluctant
disagreements
will be more
to spawn, try giving them
between the
females among
live foods such as black
young couple,
the offspring;
resulting in the fry
higer pH and
mosquito larvae and
being eaten, are quite
lower temperatures
glassworm.
likely ? they are
will lead to a
practising at being parents,
preponderance of males.
so don?t worry too much about
If you love small, colourful
it. Usually, after a few failed
dwarf cichlids, this species is sure
attempts, they?ll get it right. After
to take your fancy. They are ideal
four to six months, the new
little ?sh to help you learn about
generation themselves are ready
cichlid keeping, being relatively
to procreate.
tolerant of water conditions, easy to
Interestingly, water parameters
keep ? and, best of all, beautiful.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 97
FRESHWATER
Goby cichlids
La
?
i
With their strange swimming movements and fascinating
shared parenting behaviour, make space in your tank for the
cute goby cichlids of Lake Tanganyika.
AD KONINGS
Ad is an author,
photographer and
ichthyologist who
is widely regarded
for his work with
African cichlids.
98
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
Environment
Goby cichlids are adapted to the
turbulent water of the surge habitat
of Lake Tanganyika to such an
extent that this is the only place
you can ?nd them. They?re
distinguished from other cichlids by
their anatomy, as well as their
feeding and breeding behaviour.
All members of the group have a
similar anatomy: a short, laterally
compressed body with a remarkably
long dorsal ?n. To prevent them
from being swept away by the surge,
their swim bladders are reduced to
such an extent that they?re unable to
keep the ?sh buoyant. When they
rest on the substrate ? while not
swimming ? their pectoral and
pelvic ?ns are used to secure them
in position between rocks, and it?s
common to see the hind parts of
their bodies swaying in the current,
while their heads stay relatively
still in the sometimes vigorously
moving water.
In the lake, goby cichlids occur in
pure rocky habitats, rarely occurring
in shallow areas with sand, so if you
want to duplicate their natural
habitat as closely as you can, the
aquarium should contain a fair
number of rocks. If possible, these
should be piled up close to the top
in some part in the tank, as in
aquaria, goby cichlids are normally
found in the middle and upper parts
of the rockwork.
Above:
Eretmodus cyanostictus
?Mpimbwe orange
dorsal?.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 99
NEIL HEPWORTH
A
SMALL GROUP of
Tanganyika cichlids
is often referred to
as the goby cichlids.
There are ?ve
species described
and none grows
larger than about
9cm. The most common species are
Eretmodus cyanostictus, E. marksmithi
and Tanganicodus irsacae ? the latter
rarely grows bigger than about 7cm.
FRESHWATER
Goby cichlids
Adaptations
If you frequently notice the ?sh are
around the ?lter outlet, it probably
means there?s not enough oxygen in
the water. Excellent surface
turbulence can be provided with
airstones and/or power heads.
Most goby cichlids are monogamous
and live in relatively small areas of
about 2m diameter. In captivity they
are best kept as pairs and the only
way to tell the sexes apart with
certainty is to check the vents. Adult
females are smaller than males,
which is obvious in Eretmodus, but
less so in Tanganicodus. For a single
pair, you need at least a 100 l tank.
Suitable tankmates include cichlids
like Simochromis and Tropheus sp.
AD KONINGS
species that makes them so popular.
There?s no need to duplicate this
The dorsal ?n of the goby cichlids is
turbulent water in an aquarium
long compared to that of other
however. While goby cichlids can
Tanganyika cichlids and consists of
handle a strong surge, they
up to 25 spines. Generally, cichlids
probably prefer to expend less
use the soft-rayed rear part of
energy in calmer waters.
the ?n to ?ne-tune their position
What they do need, though,
in the water column, but with
A surge habitat is the ?wave
goby cichlids, any movement
zone? of a giant lake, where is oxygen-rich water. Most of
the time, the gobies rest on the
of it will push the ?sh nearer
waves crash on the shore,
substrate, so they actively need
the substrate. This, of course, is
much like at the
to pump fresh water over their
just what they need in turbulent
seaside.
gills. Fish that constantly swim can
water. The drawback is that when
breathe more easily as they only
they want to move from one place
need to open their mouth to allow
to another, they can only hop or
the water to ?ow over the gills.
energetically beat their pectoral ?ns.
So an excellent aeration system is
This odd swimming behaviour is
essential in a goby cichlid aquarium.
just one of the peculiarities of these
100 PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
FACTFILE
STRIPED GOBY CICHLID
Diet
The various goby cichlids have
different feeding specialisations,
although all species feed on
aufwuchs ? the layer of algae and
micro-organisms covering the rocks
and rubble of their environment.
Insects and their larvae, small
invertebrates, and mites ?nd refuge
in this algal mat, and provide food for
Tanganicodus irsacae.
The two Eretmodus species, E.
cyanostictus and E. marksmithi, are
pure herbivores while the Spathodus
ABOVE:
E. marksmithi,
?Kigoma?
Tanzania.
LEFT:
E. cyanostictus,
?Kasanga?
Tanzania.
grazzing.
FACTFILE
STRIPED GOBY CICHLID
6Scientific name: Eretmodus cyanostictus
6Pronunciation: Eret-mo-dus sigh-an-oh-stick-tus
6Origin: Africa: Endemic to the southern
part of Lake Tanganyika
6Size: Males 8cm
6Tank size: 100x30x35cm for a pair
6Water requirements: Hardwater: 8.0-9.0
pH, 12-25癏
6Temperature: 24-28癈
6Feeding: Herbivore pellets, spirulina ?akes,
blanched spinach, occasional frozen foods
6Cost: In the region of �-� each
AD KONINGS
100 l+
species, S. erythrodon and S. marlieri,
appear to be omnivores. As is the
case in so many other Tanganyika
herbivores, it?s the blue-green algae
(cyanobacteria) they?re after.
Eretmodus are unique among
Tanganyika cichlids by having a set
of chisel-shaped teeth that they use
to scrape off algae from the rocky
substrate. All other Tanganyika
herbivores either comb or pull algae.
In captivity it?s recommended to
feed goby cichlids Spirulina ?ake
food or other types of food with a
high vegetable matter content.
Planktonic crustaceans such as
Cyclops and Mysis are suitable to
feed too, but Artemia and other
soft-structured food shouldn?t be
given as they may upset the
digestive system.
Algae growing on the aquarium
rocks provide supplementary food,
and their growth can be encouraged
by placing a strong light directly
over the rocks that are near the
surface. Goby cichlids will reward
such effort by showing their best
colours and spawning frequently.
80 l+
Propagation
Spawning takes place on a
horizontal or slightly slanting rocky
surface. Egg laying is preceded by
the male moving over the spawning
site and assuming a head-up and
slanting posture while quivering his
anal ?n, probably simultaneously
releasing his sperm. The female then
nuzzles the male?s vibrating anal ?n,
after which she assumes a head-up
position and quivers her anal ?n in
turn. And now it?s the male that
nuzzles the female?s ventral region.
After a few of these pre-spawning
rounds, the female, assuming the
same head-up and slanting position
as before, releases an egg, which she
quickly picks up in her mouth.
After each egg has been laid and
collected, the male assumes the
head-up, ?n-quivering position, and
the female then nuzzles his anal ?n,
collecting milt. The eggs are
therefore fertilised inside the
female?s mouth, although some of
them may already have been
fertilised as soon as they were laid
and touched the substrate.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 101
AD KONINGS
6Scientific name: Eretmodus marksmithi
6Pronunciation: Eret-mo-dus mark-smith-eye
6
Origin: Africa: Endemic to the northern
two thirds of Lake Tanganyika
6Size: Males 5cm
6Tank size: 90x30x30cm for a pair.
6
Water requirements: Hardwater: 8.0-9.0
pH, 12-25癏
6Temperature: 24-28癈
6
Feeding: Herbivore pellets, spirulina ?akes,
blanched spinach, occasional frozen foods
6Cost: In the region of �-� each
FRESHWATER
Goby cichlids
FACTFILE
SPOTFIN GOBY CICHLID
6Scientific name: Tanganicodus irascae
6Pronunciation: Tang-an-ee-co-dus
ear-rass-say
6Origin: Endemic to the northern part of
lake Tanganyika
6Size: 7cm
6Tank size: 100x30x35cm for a pair
6Water requirements: Hardwater:
8.0-9.0 pH, 12-25癏
6Temperature: 24-28癈
6Cost: �-� each
100 l+
ABOVE:
T. irsacae,
Spotfin goby
cichlid.
RIGHT: Pebbles
in extreme
shallow water in
Lake Tanganika.
The female starts shaking her head and
releases one youngster at a time to be
carefully taken up by the male. The male is
well aware of what is going on, and waits
impatiently with his mouth half open
102 PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
AD KONINGS
after spawning. When you want to
grow the fry in a separate aquarium,
you could catch the male, once he?s
holding the larvae, and place him in
a nursery tank.
Alternatively, you could leave the
mouthbrooding male with the
female and try to have a more
natural way of reproduction by
creating an area in the upper
5-10cm of the water column that?s
?at and decorated with small rocks
and pebbles. This will be the nursery
area where the males will eventually
release their free-swimming fry.
To build up to such a shallow
nursery, you could use imitation
rocks instead of real ones, or you
could make one with a piece of
glass about 15-30cm long and
12-15cm wide ? glue this inside a
fake rock or out of sight against the
rear glass of the tank. Fill the little
platform with small rocks (nothing
larger than 10cm across) and
sprinkle with a thin layer of sand to
prevent the ?sh from ?arguing? with
their re?ection.
When lights are placed directly over
the small stones on the platform, a
lush algal vegetation will grow to
welcome the newborn gobies.
AD KONINGS
Tanganicodus produce about 20
eggs per clutch, Eretmodus about 35.
The female broods the eggs and
young for the ?rst 10 to 14 days
until the young are around 8-10mm,
but all the time the male stays close
by her side. At the end of this
period, the female tries to get her
partner?s attention once more,
signalling her readiness to transfer
the young, days before the male
?nally takes them. At ?rst it looks as
if the pair are going to spawn again,
with both male and female active in
chasing away intruders.
Once they?ve secured their
?swapping site?, the exchange of
young begins. The female starts
shaking her head and releases one
youngster at a time to be carefully
taken up by the male. The male is
well aware of what is going on, and
waits impatiently with his mouth
half open. Sometimes it looks as if
he?s begging the female for another
youngster, and almost picking them
out of her mouth!
After all the young have been
transferred to the male?s mouth, he
broods them for seven to eight days.
The male and female stay close
together during the entire brooding
period, and a mouthbrooding parent
does not eat. The fry are normally
released in extremely shallow water
among pebbles.
While you can breed gobies in a
special breeding tank, the simplest
way is just to leave them with other
cichlids in a community aquarium.
When a male and female have been
introduced into the tank, they
normally form a pair and stay
together most of the time, including
when they are not breeding.
Mouthbrooding females are easily
recognised by their swollen buccal
pouch. Never remove a
mouthbrooding female from the
tank because the larvae will be
transferred to the male two weeks
Another name for the
goby cichlids is
?Tanganyika
clowns?.
Tanganicodus
have smaller,
thinner mouths.
AD KONINGS
AD KONINGS
Eretmodus
marksmithi
?Mzungu?.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 103
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104 PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
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6The latest Aquatic News
6Fishkeeping Answers
6Ethical Debate
6New gear
reviewed
NEIL HEPWORTH
Regulars
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 107
SHOPS & EQUIPMENT
GEAR
FIRST
LOOK
Want to know how the goods on sale really perform? We put them
through their paces so you can sort the good from the bad...
They aren?t
cheap, they aren?t
easy to set up and
are risky when
set up wrong, but
C02 really helps
plant growth.
108 PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
COLOMBO CO2 PROFI SET AND SOLENOID
Price: Sold separately ? CO2 Profi Set sells for between �0-�0, Solenoid around �
More info: www.colombo.nl
Reviewer: Nathan Hill
In a market that was for a long while saturated with expensive
entry level CO2 diffusers, many of us lost con?dence in the idea
of affordable carbon for the aquascaping hobbyist. Some of us
took the risky high road of using CO2 ?re extinguishers to make
things economical, willing to offset the chance of a regulator
failure against forking out astronomical prices for aquariumdesignated cylinders of gas. Others persevered with off-the-shelf
designs and rapidly realised how costly it became.
This Colombo offering sits somewhere in the middle. It?s pretty
pricey, but arguably much safer than a ?re extinguisher. To its
bene?t, it has a cylinder that holds 800g of carbon dioxide ?
many of its nano rivals have cartridges (too small to even call
them a cylinder) as little as 20g.
You can assess the ef?ciency of that for yourself. For 20g
cartridges you?ll pay out somewhere between � and � for
three of them ? 60g total. A re?ll for the 800g Colombo set
comes in around �. But then again, I typically pay around
� for 2kg of CO2 in a refurbished ?re extinguisher. 800g will
supply me enough gas for about two or three weeks at best in a
60x30x45cm aquascape, assuming I?m not gassing heavily.
The regulator itself is weighty, sturdy and has a smooth enough
action. With CO2 dosing you want really ?ne tuning abilities, and
this has it. Whether you want one bubble of gas ev
second, second-and-a-half or two seconds, you can
it with accuracy. It connects directly to the top of t
cylinder through a thread action, and as long as yo
keep the threads absolutely clean (I?d frequently go
over my regulator/cylinder threads with a cotton bu
and some silicone lubricant), then you won?t exper
gas leakage. If it?s the ?rst time you?ve ever connec
regulator to a cylinder, I?d advise being quick, othe
little blast of released gas can give you a sudden ?h
Also in the package you get a length of CO2 resist
and a bubble counter/diffuser. Depending on how ha
is, that tubing will eventually turn a chalky white a
so I suggest replacing it every few months (but if yo
aquascaper obsessed with everything looking fresh
do that anyway). The bubble counter and diffuser p
the tank easily enough, held in place with a sucker
couple of spares as this will turn chalky after a whi
opening it up to clean it just involves unscrewing t
getting inside. Look closely and you?ll see a little sp g
as well. That?s the non-return valve that means if you ever run
out of gas, the water won?t start syphoning back out of the tank.
That?s the whole package. I won?t lie, it doesn?t seem ?that?
great value, especially if paying near the �0 kit price. With
� for the cylinder, that means I?m paying out �0 for a
regulator, some silicone airline and a bubble counter. I don?t
even get any cheap clamps and suckers to tidy up the airline.
You can build on the kit by adding a separately sold solenoid.
When plugged into a timed socket (around �upwards from
electrical and homeware stores), this allows total on/off control
of your gas supply. The usual ?scaper trick is to turn the gas on
an hour before the lights come on, and have it lead by an hour
when the lights go off again. This avoids huge swings of pH, as
well as wasted CO2 (since plants don?t use it at night).
My worry is that the solenoid is in-line. I?ve tried to butcher
something like this together in the past on a pressurised CO2
unit, and all that happened was that the hose exploded in the
night. Perhaps I was using substandard
hose ? or perhaps Colombo knows
something that I don?t.
Either way we couldn?t put it to
the test as the solenoid didn?t
work when we plugged it in,
and we?ve given up on
waiting for the replacement to
come through.
VERDICT
If you?ve got the money for
the refills and you don?t
mind setting the regulator
every morning and night,
then great. If you want to
run it with the solenoid then
I can?t really comment.
I would expect a LOT more
if I was paying the upper
end for this.
EASE OF USE: 悙
FEATURES: 悙
VALUE:
悙
OVERALL:
悙
Check valve,
airline and
diffuser
ccincluded
VULTRON AIRPUMP 1500
Price: Around �
More info: yihufish.com
Reviewer: Nathan Hill
Have you ever bought a product just because it had a cool
name? That?s what happened here. The Vultron 1500 is a
pyramid design airpump with a pumping depth up to
36cm, and is the smallest model in a line of ?ve.
The 1500 moniker refers to? I?m not really sure. The air
?ow rate (presumably at zero head) is 110 litres per hour
and it will deliver that at the expense of 2W of running
power. So it?s nicely economical.
This model comes with a single outlet, just under 1m
of airline, a non-return valve and funky looking glassmounted (with sucker) air diffuser. I?m loathe to call it a
stone, as it?s a plastic device with a foam pad, but it does
belt out air all the same.
Is it quiet? Well no, not
particularly, but then it?s no
louder than similar-sized
airpumps either
Flow is controlled by a curiously smooth rotating dial
on top of the unit which I reckon will be a bit of a headache
to use with wet hands. While you can clearly
see the port for the air ?lter underneath the unit, and while
it looks like it ought to be easy to access, I?ve not quite
worked out how to do
that yet.
As far as I can see,
VERDICT
This does the job, and for
maintenance will
not too bad a price. It?ll be
involve removing four
interesting to see how much
cross-head screws to
flow it loses when that filter
access the inside.
gets clogged though.
Is it quiet? Well no,
not particularly, but
EASE OF USE: 悙悙
FEATURES: 悙悙
then it?s no louder
VALUE:
悙悙
than similar-sized
OVERALL:
悙悙
airpumps either.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 109
?
SHOPS & EQUIPMENT
GEAR
FIRST LOOK
WHAT ARE POLYMER BALLS?
These handy spheres are relative newcomers to the pond
treatment scene. We talk to three manufacturers about their use.
ALL: STEVE BAKER
When it comes to pond remedies
bacteria breaking down elevated
and medications, the stock on most ammonia and nitrite levels.
shop shelves hasn?t changed much
Enzymes break down organic
over the last few years, but there?s
matter, enabling further breakdown
one obvious newcomer ? polymer
by bacteria, clearing up water
balls. They?re produced for both
clarity issues and built-up silt.
pond and aquarium use, but what
Pond balls are mostly suited to
exactly are they? And when should
boosting the performance of
they be used?
mature ?lters and ponds ?
It was Evolution Aqua?s
either in early spring when
Pure Pond Balls that
the bacteria colony is at
were the ?rst of this
an all-time low after
type of product on
the cold winter
Don?t
like
the
idea
of
a
spent
the market.
temperatures;
They introduced
when introducing
polymer ball bobbing about? Put it
the idea of
more
livestock,
in a filter bag and hang it in
polymer for
which increases
your filter so it can be
containing bacteria
the bioload; after a
easily removed.
and enzymes, but now
deep clean of the pond;
the larger polymer ?bombs?
or when you are suffering
are the more popular option.
with water clarity issues.
The idea? Just drop the ball in
Many pond keepers use them
your ?lter or directly into your pond
to kickstart new set-ups, and
and sit back while thousands of
although they will speed up the
little monsters escape the polymer
maturation period, there are
and get straight to work. Simple.
products out there more suited to
The mixture of bacteria and
starting a new system, such as
enzymes deal with cases of poor
Evolution Aqua?s pure+ ?lter start
water quality, with nitrifying
gel and Cloverleaf?s Bio Gel.
110 PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
What is polymer?
BELOW:
For ideal usage,
put the polymer
ball in a small
?lter bag and
pour any liquid
into the pond.
It?s a very loose term; the word
literally means ?many parts? and it?s
used to denote any substance that?s
made up mostly (or completely) of
similar (repeating) molecules
(monomers). DNA, cellulose and
muscle proteins are all natural
polymers, though most of us would
think of synthetic plastics like
polyethylene and PVC (poly vinyl
chloride) when the word comes up.
So what type of polymers are used
for pond remedies? We don?t know.
The companies understandably
don?t want to reveal their secrets,
but we did ask the manufacturers if
any residue (plastic or otherwise)
was left over from their product.
AQUA SOURCE
BALANCE SPHERE
First look: Steve Baker
Prices: �.95
More info: aquasourceuk.co.uk
Is there any purpose to the ?uid in the tub?
Aqua Source says: ?The liquid inside the tub
is a part of the manufacturing process, and
contains a small food source for the bacteria
to survive, as do the balls themselves. Some
bacteria and enzymes migrate from the
spheres, which is why you must put all of the
contents into the pond. This is how the
product can have a shelf life of two years.
?As with all bacteria, if it doesn?t have a food
source, then it will die, so after treating the
pond or aquarium with Aqua Balance Balls &
Sphere, most of the bacteria will die off if the
food source is not sustained. Effectively, it will
do its job of reducing ammonia and nitrite,
but the effectiveness and longevity depends
on other factors.?
And enzymes?
?The spheres also contain enzymes that will
also get damaged and die off, which is normal.
These speci?c enzymes chomp on the organic
Treats:
Up to
30,000 l
matter in the water, giving clearer water.?
Is there any lingering residue of the bomb
left once the bacteria is spent?
?There?s no lasting residue from the balls
once exhausted.?
Is there any concern of an allergic reaction?
?We?re not aware of any allergies to humans,
although we do advise that people do not eat
our balls! If swallowed, they would lead to a
dodgy tummy. The bacteria is harmless to
humans apart from that.?
Aqua Source has also adopted polymer balls
as a way of delivering other pond additives
including Aqua Balance Enzyme for promoting
?sh health and recovery, Blanketweed Resolve,
and a ?sh treatment called Remedy.
EVOLUTION AQUA
PURE POND BOMB
First look: Steve Baker
RRP: �.95
More info: evolutionaqua.com
Is there any purpose to the ?uid in the tub?
Evolution Aqua says: ?It?s classed as an
activator gel, but it also aids shelf life and
transportation.?
Is there any lingering residue of the bomb
left once the bacteria is spent?
?Yes, the bacteria, enzymes and a food source
lie dormant inside the ball when the product is
on the shelf for up to two years. The bacteria
have everything they need inside the ball to
stay alive and intact until they are needed.
?Once placed into an aquarium or pond, the
bacteria are enticed to leave the ball to feed
on nitrogenous waste. This can be seen by the
ball shrinking and breaking up. If you place
the bomb into a glass of RO water, with no
?ow or nitrogenous load, the ball stays the
same size and intact. If you place it in an
aquarium or pond with load and water ?ow,
the bacteria leave, and the ball shrinks. Our
?ball? is actually a net, only allowing certainsize bacteria in and out.
?A spent ball can be left in the pond where it
will actually act as a substrate media for
bacteria if no better biological ?lter media is
Treats:
Up to
20,000 l
available. But if you have a decent ?lter, and
don?t like the look of a spent ball, remove it.?
How do the enzymes and bacteria
work together?
?The enzymes themselves don?t consume
waste, but they can convert waste into other
waste, which bacteria can then use.
?Enzymes are very important, and we talk as
much about enzymes here as we do about
bacteria themselves.?
Is there any concern of an allergic reaction?
?I?ve never heard of one and I?ve seen a few
million bombs get manufactured, sent out,
and used all over the world, but I guess it?s
possible to be allergic to virtually anything.
Some people are allergic to prawn shells,
bloodworm or synthetic sea salt.?
Treats:
Up to
60,000 l
CLOVERLEAF
ABSOLUTE PEARLS
First look: Steve Baker
RRP: 15.99
More info: cloverleaf.uk.net
You don?t use a ?uid to carry the
pearls like other manufacturers
do, is there any reason for this?
Cloverleaf says: ?With all due
respect, we do use a ??uid?.
Unlike other manufacturers of
most ?ltration aids, we use living
cultures of various nitrifying
organisms ? archaea, anaerobic
and aerobic bacteria, plus the
enzymes these organisms
naturally produce (together with
a few nitrifying fungal and yeast
organisms), as the ??uidic soup?
that is absorbed by each of our
Cloverleaf Absolute Pearls.
?In fact, due to temperature
and particular atmospheric
conditions in our retailers, you
will sometimes ?nd a small
residue of this bacterial soup in
some packets of our pearls.?
Is there any residue when the
pearls are fully exhausted?
?Absolute Pearls are made of a
selection of natural organic
polymers that will either be
eventually fully digested by the
micro-organisms in the particular
aquatic environment, or shrink to
a pea-like ball. In time, this will
itself be absorbed by various
micro-organisms.?
Does the user need to be careful
with this product ? can there be
any allergic reaction at all?
?We do advise on each packet:
?Wash hands after use. Keep
in a safe place out of reach
of children?.
?This is only sensible, but no,
Absolute Pearls only carry the
micro-organisms that you would
normally ?nd in a healthy and
well-maintained pond ?lter.?
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 111
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OPINION
NATHAN HILL
When it comes to public aquaria,
tight budgets and old equipment is
a challenge. But are they giving out
such a negative message that they
become their own worst enemies?
I
?VE BEEN entertaining this month.
A close friend of mine came across
to the UK to visit, and so I took on
the traditional English role of
tour guide. Given that this friend is
deeply immersed in the aquatic
world, and given that we were in the
same city as a renowned public
aquarium, it was inevitable that after
introducing her to such British delights as
?sh and chips, we should saunter on in
and take a look.
Bracing myself
Now here?s a thing. I used to work in
public aquaria. I was aquarist at a Sea Life
centre for a few years in the mid-90s. My
memories of that place involve low-tech
gear and shoestring budgets, and while the
displays we had weren?t exactly cutting
edge, they were at least relatively well
matched to the calibre of home displays
of that time ? just a lot bigger.
Fast forward two decades, and it looks
Nathan Hill
is Practical
Fishkeeping
magazine?s
associate editor,
biotope fancier,
aquascape
dabbler and
part-time amateur
skateboarder.
Changing the world
like while the home hobby has evolved in
a huge way, public aquaria are still using
the same tired equipment that was already
borderline obsolete at its ?rst use.
This was my ?rst time entering a public
aquarium as a paying customer for as long
as I can remember. Since leaving Sea Life,
and because of the contacts I have, if I
ever want to visit one I can usually send
out a couple of grovelling emails and get a
gratis ticket. This time I wanted to pay. So
I did. Then I instantly regretted it when the
price came up. At � a head, I expect
guides to do somersaults on request and
follow me around wafting me with a huge
banana leaf and feeding me grapes.
The displays themselves were trying to
make the best of a bad situation. It appears
that since I left that side of the industry,
nobody has yet worked out how to stop
condensation forming on cold glass. It?s
just that these days they don?t bother to
wipe it off. Every time I pressed close to
an exhibit, I risked soaking myself.
NATHAN HILL
Ashamed yet,
human?
Guess the fish answer from page 39: Red tailed cat?sh, Phractocephalus hemioliopterus.
114 PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
The other thing that leapt out at me was
how downbeat the information was. I?ve
noticed this at a few public aquaria, and
I?ve no idea why the folks in charge of the
displays think we all want to be told what
total scumbags humans are ? I?ve seen a
couple of museums do this as well. I?ll be
enjoying myself watching a shark in a tank
right up until the microphone scornfully
announces that humans kill over 100
million sharks annually. Thanks for that.
In fact, many public aquaria are now
more like shrines of death and destruction
than they are celebrations of aquatic life.
From bleaching of corals to discarded
plastics, the emphasis of the public
aquarium seems to have shifted to two
hours of intense guilt-tripping. When I left
I had no fond memories, only self loathing.
Yet the thing that stuck with me most
was the absence of progress. I repeat, the
domestic hobby of ?shkeeping has moved
a long, long way in the last 20 years. Some
public aquariums have made great leaps in
that time ? just look at the work on coral
spawning that Jamie Craggs has done at
the Horniman museum. Unfortunately,
other public aquaria seem to have drifted
into becoming foghorns of misanthropy,
hellbent on shaming the everyday human.
All of this combined makes me wonder
if public aquaria, by and large, are going to
become just another evolutionary drop
out. Ultimately, for a moderate outlay, we
are all now capable of putting on a better
display tank at home. And more so, we
can do it without some heavy guilt trip
being laid on us just for existing.
Then again, I might just be sulky
because the shark tank was closed when
we visited.
A new range of aquariums & accessories
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Distributed in the UK
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If you would like more information or to stock this
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in Black, Walnut and Oak
ir burrows, and watching them do
this and then return to sit inside their
latest creation is part of the enduring
appeal of these ?sh. However,
placing them into a well-established
aquarium can cause problems as
they disturb detritus-bearing sand
by digging and can potentially
undermine rock structures. It?s a
SHUTTERSTOCK
SHUTTERSTOCK
Many texts concerning jaw?sh
stress the need for substrate depths
of between 7cm and 15cm as an
absolute minimum. The truth is that
many species will make do with only
a fraction of this, and some are
highly resourceful in what they will
use to construct a burrow in which
they feel at home.
I've seen certain Caribbean species
pull substrate from all over the
aquarium to construct a conical
burrow, with an opening at the top
that gave it an appearance much like
a volcano. Others seem happy
beneath rocks and in crevices that
they ?ll and shape with rubble and
sand from the surrounding locale,
Ye?owhead or Pearly jawfish
The most commonly available jawfish in the hobby is
the best studied and most widely kept. It has been
successfully spawned and reared in captivity. Colonies
of four to six individuals can be kept in an aquarium of
200 l with adequate floor space. Broods are incubated
by the male for seven to nine days before the eggs
hatch. At just 15 days after hatching, the fry undergo
metamorphosis and begin building their own burrows.
SHUTTERSTOCK
6
Scientific Name: Opistognathus aurifrons
6
Provenance: Western Central Atlantic
6
Cost: �-35
6
Maximum Size: 10cm
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 89
MARINES
remarkable
resilience
when placed in
aquaria with the
likes of tangs and
dwarf angelfish. But, as with so many
fish combinations, compatibility can
be highly context-specific ? placed
with jawfish, aggressive species like
dottybacks and some wrasse often
go on to be bullies.
It pays to make jawfish an early
addition to any set-up, allowing
them time to create a place to call
home and develop it in a relatively
sedate environment. Add the busier
fish afterwards and your jawfish will
feel much more secure.
Breeding
Male jawfish typically court females
before spawning and it's then that
any differences between males and
females can be observed. The Blue
spotted jawfish male, for example,
develops a white front half, while
Tankmates
the rear part of his body turns
Although it's dif?cult to argue
almost black as he darts up
that jaw?sh will thrive in
and down in the water
otherwise-peaceful
column ? this is his
aquaria with a handful
way of displaying
of boisterous
Due
to
their
digging,
it's
his readiness
tankmates
best
to
introduce
jawfish
into
? something
to mate. In
aquaria before the sand has
that?s pretty
O. solorensis the
much true for all
female appears
a chance to hold too
fish ? they can show
bright yellow during
much organic
waste.
90
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
Dusky jawfish
6Scientific Name: Opistognathus whitehursti
6Provenance: Western Atlantic
6Cost: �-40
6Maximum Size: 14cm
Although not the most colourful species listed here,
the Dusky jaw?sh is perhaps one of the best candidates
for sole residency in a reef aquarium. It will dig, but
appears highly resourceful in its choice of burrow
material and can incorporate practically anything into
its structure. As with many species of jaw?sh, providing
a range of substrate sizes, from sand grains to gravel
and rubble, assists the ?sh in creating a lasting burrow
that it feels safe in. It settles well but care should be
taken when housing it with small ?sh as they could
de?nitely be on the menu.
Tiger or Blackcap jawfish
6Scientific Name: Opistognathus randalli
6Provenance: Indonesia and the Philippines
6Cost: �-40
6Maximum Size: Around 12-14cm
For most aquarists, a single specimen of this hardto-sex species will be plenty. Males are known to be
highly aggressive and prone to wrestling bouts featuring
jaw-locking ? the loser is quite likely to be evicted from
his burrow. The gold appearance of the upper portion
of the eyes can be useful for identi?cation purposes
? because of this, the species is also known by the
lt
ti
name of 'gold-specs' jaw?sh.
e and this is a beautiful ?sh to care
um.
SHUTTERSTOCK
shame as jaw?sh are reef-safe and
can be trusted with all but the tiniest
?sh and ornamental shrimp, and are
otherwise wonderful aquarium ?sh.
However, the biggest hazard for a
jaw?sh is probably an open-topped
tank. Use of a lid is compulsory to
prevent them from leaping from
aquaria. Jaw?sh are particularly
nervous when ?rst stocked into the
aquarium and it's no coincidence
that it's during the ?rst weeks after
introduction that they're most likely
to be found outside the tank.
Some jaw?sh are planktivores
whereas others consume a variety
of benthic invertebrates ? small
crustaceans and worms. Some
include small ?sh in their natural
diet. Most, if not all, should readily
accept frozen diets such as Mysis
and brineshrimp in the aquarium
and many can be weaned onto ?ake
and pellet diets.
CREATIVE COMMONS
Jaw?sh
ABOVE:
Breeding can
take place in his
burrow, hers or a
halfway house.
Red headed jawfish
6Scientific Name: Opistognathus solorensis
6Provenance: Eastern Indian Ocean to Tonga Central Pacific.
6Cost: �-40
6Maximum Size: Around 8-10cm
One of the most popular species in the UK hobby, the Red-headed jaw?sh
is sold under various common names. It is hardy once settled and can be
maintained in groups where space allows; offer around 300-400 l for four
to six individuals. Supplies of these ?sh can be a little sporadic; sometimes
one or two may be available, then there's an abundance of them.
SHUTTERSTOCK
the breeding season. Unfortunately,
these visual cues aren't likely to be
displayed by ?sh in shop tanks, so
buying a group and allowing them to
sort themselves into a little colony
where space allows is often the best
way to proceed. However, don?t try
this in smaller aquaria unless you?re
100% confident that the specimens
will tolerate one another?s presence.
If in doubt, keep jawfish singly.
Breeding can occur in the burrow
of either sex, or sometimes in a
halfway house built by the male for
the purpose. Successful spawning
results in a mass of fertilised eggs
that are incubated in the mouth of
the male. Different species have
varying brood sizes, but many consist
of hundreds of eggs that must be
regularly ventilated by the male. In
the case of the yellowhead jawfish,
he will partially spit out the eggs and
take them back into his mouth.
Male mouth-brooding is seen in
other marine aquarium fish, notably
the Cardinalfish (Apogonidae). The
male invests in the brood, limiting
the number of his offspring annually,
and sticking with the eggs from one
female at a time ? some species are
practically monogamous. This way,
he can guarantee that the brood he
is incubating is actually his.
Among the jawfish you'll find
everything from the affordable to
the exclusive. I've a feeling jawfish
are still to have their day and, as the
aquatics world expands its collective
knowledge, they'll likely be shown to
have even more to offer.
To fully appreciate them we must
be able to tolerate their relentless
re-aquascaping of the substrate and
their potential to bury corals or strip
the aquarium base of sand and gravel.
Are Jawfish so great we're prepared
to turn a blind eye to such antisocial
shenanigans? Only you can decide?
ALAMY
In their natural
environments
jaw?sh reside in
burrows that they
excavate and tend
to themselves
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 91
CICHLIDS
Pelvicachromis subocellatus
f
o
l
Jewe
Africa
ALL PHOTOS: RADEK BEDNARCZUK
While not as well known
as its Kribensis cousins,
this stunning little ?sh
is the perfect dwarf
cichlid for beginners.
RADEK
BEDNARCZUK
A pharmacist by
trade, Radek has
been keeping ?sh
since he was seven
and has a legacy of
breeding successes.
92
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
P. subocellatus mix well with
other dwarf cichlids that
like similar conditions.
Companion ?sh will help
to reduce timidity.
Low demand, high
reward ? what?s not
to love?
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 93
CICHLIDS
Pelvicachromis subocellatus
I
T?S A safe bet that you?ve
all seen Pelvicachromis
pulcher, the Rainbow
kribensis. I might even
venture the suggestion
that it?s the iconic, signature
species of dwarf cichlid,
probably on par with the
German ram, Mikrogeophagus
ramirezi. However, there?s another
member of the Pelvicachromis genus
that?s gentler and more hardy than
the better-known Krib, and it?s
rather surprising that it?s not more
popular and better-known than the
ubiquitous Rainbow.
Pelvicachromis subocellatus,
sometimes called the Ocellated
kribensis, inhabits slow-?owing
streams and still waters. It?s
colourful, doesn?t exceed 10cm in
length and is easy to keep. It?s also
easy to breed, and while there are
many colour morphs of this
species, to preserve line purity
they shouldn?t be cross-bred.
P. subocellatus is
distributed in West
Africa from Gabon
To encourage spawning,
to Congo, with
some breeders recommend
the particularly
cooling the water down
attractive
and adding salt (a
?Moulondo? variety
teaspoon to 10
hailing from the
Moulondo region
litres).
of Gabon.
Fry are well
camouflaged.
Ideal home
The species grows to a maximum
size of 8-10cm, so your tank doesn?t
need to be tall, but it should be
relatively long, with a large footprint.
For an adult pair, the aquarium
should be at least 60-80cm long,
30cm wide and 30cm tall. The
bottom of the tank is best covered
with ?ne sand as the species spends
most of its day down there, digging
in the substrate in search of food.
Add a good number of caves in
the form of coconut shells, roots,
?ower pots and lengths of PVC pipe,
as well as plants like Java moss,
Anubias, Microsorum, and some
?oating ferns ? this cichlid doesn?t
like bright lighting. Except when
spawning, P. subocellatus is pretty
peaceful, and ? another bonus ? it
doesn?t destroy plants.
Water current ? from a ?lter or a
diffuser, for instance ? shouldn?t be
94
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
When we see a female looking rotund and
very colourful, with a purple spot on her belly,
tensing her fins and arching her body repeatedly
towards a male, completely lost in the mating
dance, it can mean only one thing
too brisk. The species likes calm,
lazily ?owing, well-oxygenated
water. The ?lter should be
reasonably ef?cient, so that
metabolite levels remain
undetectable. Routine maintenance
should include weekly water
changes, regular vacuuming of the
tank bottom to remove any food
remains, and cleaning of the
sponges in internal/external ?lters.
P. subocellatus is ?exible with
regards to physical and chemical
FACTFILE
OCELLATED KRIBENSIS
6Scientific name: Pelvicachromis subocellatus
6Pronunciation: Pel-vic-ah-crow-miss sub-oss-ell-ah-tuss
6
Origin: Africa: Nigeria, Gabon, Democratic
Republic of the Congo
6
Habitat: Coastal pools and slow-moving
streams (some brackish water)
6Size: 8cm
6Tank size: 80x30x30cm
6Water requirements: 6.0-7.5 pH, 5-18癏
6Temperature: 22-26癈
6Cost: In the region of � a pair
70 l+
The female sees to caring
for the fry while the male
defends their territory.
conditions. The species does well in
both soft and hard water, and will
tolerate pH values from 6.0 to 7.5.
However, in the long run, they
prefer their water soft and slightly
acidic. It?s best to use natural
acidi?cation methods, such as
Catappa, beech or oak leaves.
As for feeding, vegetable foods
should predominate. The length of
this ?sh?s intestines far exceeds that
of its body, so the fewer animal
foods in the diet, the less the
likelihood of intestinal complaints.
For this reason, offer lots of plant
?bre and Spirulina, with only
occassional shrimp mix,
glassworms, Krill and black
mosquito larvae. They can also be
given dry foods, particularly
granulated types that fall to the
bottom, as they love to dig in the
substrate in search of periphyton.
Coconut shells
make ideal
shelters.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 95
CICHLIDS
Pelvicachromis subocellatus
Purple passion
Adult male P. subocellatus are bigger
than the females, and the species is
monogamous. When we buy a
group of ?sh, there?s a good chance
a natural pair will emerge ? all we
need to do then is to wait patiently
for the spawning.
When we see a female looking
rotund (as if she were about to
burst), and very colourful, with a
purple spot on her belly, tensing her
?ns and arching her body repeatedly
towards a male, completely lost in
the mating dance, it can mean only
produce up to 200 grains) will be
one thing ? eggs will be laid very
laid on the cave ceiling.
soon in one of the tank?s hiding
Some breeders use a simple trick
places, such as a coconut shell or
to encourage spawning by
?ower pot. An extended
replicating natural behaviours ?
ovipositor is another indicator
they half ?ll a coconut shell
that spawning will occur soon.
with sand, or push it deep into
When it comes to spawning, the substrate. The female will
So, there?ll come a day when
the female plays the leading then dig out the sand, just as
you can?t see the female.
Don?t worry, she?ll most likely
she would do in the wild.
role ? she is the one
be ensconced in one of the
While the female is in the
to initiate it.
caves, guarding her eggs.
hideout with her eggs, the male
Anything from a few dozen to a
?ercely guards the territory. He?ll
hundred eggs (though some females
become very aggressive, so it?s a
good idea to remove the rest of the
?sh from the tank, or separate the
The larvae feed from
pair from the others with a pane of
their yolk sacs for the
glass or acrylic.
?rst few days.
Some people do leave two mated
pairs in a tank, with caves for each
at opposite ends of the aquarium.
If any aggression or territorial
battles are seen, the aquarium can
then be divided.
Krib kindergarten
After a few days, depending on the
temperature, the young hatch.
Usually they are then moved in the
mouth to pre-dug pits in the
substrate, though in my tank, they
remained in the coconut until the
resorption of the yolk sac. After
about a week, the yolk sacs will be
resorbed and you then need to start
feeding the young. Freshly hatched
Artemia, microworms, grindal
worms and all kinds of foods for
egg-layer fry will be readily taken.
An amicable pair take care of their
young in turns, leading the cloud of
fry to various spots in the tank
(so-called ?canteens) where they?ll
discover meals of detritus and algae
on decaying leaves and so on.
These ?sh can be fascinating to
watch as the parents communicate
with their offspring by opening and
closing their pelvic ?ns, and
vibrating the whole body. In the face
of potential danger, following a
signal from the parent, the fry fall
motionless to the bottom of the
tank, playing dead.
Sometimes, however, squabbles
Add a good number of
caves in the form of coconut
shells, roots, ?owerpots
96
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
Both parents will
be defensive, even
towards each other.
We Recommend...
Tankmates
When breeding it?s best to avoid other tankmates,
but normally P. subocellatus are quite welcoming.
Many tetras, rasboras, cat?sh and barbs mix well.
You could stick to West African species with either
the One-lined characin, Nannaethiops unitaeniatus,
or Phenacogrammus interruptus, the Congo tetra.
ALAMY
break out between the pair, leading
in?uence the sex of these ?sh,
to losses among the fry. In such
which is determined during the ?rst
cases, the young may be left with
few weeks of life. If you want the
only one parent, usually the
sex ratio to be roughly even, the
female, or the whole batch may
optimal pH is 7.0 and the
need to be raised arti?cially.
temperature about 24癈.
Do remember that
With lower pH values
during the ?rst few
and higher
spawnings,
temperatures there
If
a
pair
looks
reluctant
disagreements
will be more
to spawn, try giving them
between the
females among
live foods such as black
young couple,
the offspring;
resulting in the fry
higer pH and
mosquito larvae and
being eaten, are quite
lower temperatures
glassworm.
likely ? they are
will lead to a
practising at being parents,
preponderance of males.
so don?t worry too much about
If you love small, colourful
it. Usually, after a few failed
dwarf cichlids, this species is sure
attempts, they?ll get it right. After
to take your fancy. They are ideal
four to six months, the new
little ?sh to help you learn about
generation themselves are ready
cichlid keeping, being relatively
to procreate.
tolerant of water conditions, easy to
Interestingly, water parameters
keep ? and, best of all, beautiful.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 97
FRESHWATER
Goby cichlids
La
?
i
With their strange swimming movements and fascinating
shared parenting behaviour, make space in your tank for the
cute goby cichlids of Lake Tanganyika.
AD KONINGS
Ad is an author,
photographer and
ichthyologist who
is widely regarded
for his work with
African cichlids.
98
PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
Environment
Goby cichlids are adapted to the
turbulent water of the surge habitat
of Lake Tanganyika to such an
extent that this is the only place
you can ?nd them. They?re
distinguished from other cichlids by
their anatomy, as well as their
feeding and breeding behaviour.
All members of the group have a
similar anatomy: a short, laterally
compressed body with a remarkably
long dorsal ?n. To prevent them
from being swept away by the surge,
their swim bladders are reduced to
such an extent that they?re unable to
keep the ?sh buoyant. When they
rest on the substrate ? while not
swimming ? their pectoral and
pelvic ?ns are used to secure them
in position between rocks, and it?s
common to see the hind parts of
their bodies swaying in the current,
while their heads stay relatively
still in the sometimes vigorously
moving water.
In the lake, goby cichlids occur in
pure rocky habitats, rarely occurring
in shallow areas with sand, so if you
want to duplicate their natural
habitat as closely as you can, the
aquarium should contain a fair
number of rocks. If possible, these
should be piled up close to the top
in some part in the tank, as in
aquaria, goby cichlids are normally
found in the middle and upper parts
of the rockwork.
Above:
Eretmodus cyanostictus
?Mpimbwe orange
dorsal?.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 99
NEIL HEPWORTH
A
SMALL GROUP of
Tanganyika cichlids
is often referred to
as the goby cichlids.
There are ?ve
species described
and none grows
larger than about
9cm. The most common species are
Eretmodus cyanostictus, E. marksmithi
and Tanganicodus irsacae ? the latter
rarely grows bigger than about 7cm.
FRESHWATER
Goby cichlids
Adaptations
If you frequently notice the ?sh are
around the ?lter outlet, it probably
means there?s not enough oxygen in
the water. Excellent surface
turbulence can be provided with
airstones and/or power heads.
Most goby cichlids are monogamous
and live in relatively small areas of
about 2m diameter. In captivity they
are best kept as pairs and the only
way to tell the sexes apart with
certainty is to check the vents. Adult
females are smaller than males,
which is obvious in Eretmodus, but
less so in Tanganicodus. For a single
pair, you need at least a 100 l tank.
Suitable tankmates include cichlids
like Simochromis and Tropheus sp.
AD KONINGS
species that makes them so popular.
There?s no need to duplicate this
The dorsal ?n of the goby cichlids is
turbulent water in an aquarium
long compared to that of other
however. While goby cichlids can
Tanganyika cichlids and consists of
handle a strong surge, they
up to 25 spines. Generally, cichlids
probably prefer to expend less
use the soft-rayed rear part of
energy in calmer waters.
the ?n to ?ne-tune their position
What they do need, though,
in the water column, but with
A surge habitat is the ?wave
goby cichlids, any movement
zone? of a giant lake, where is oxygen-rich water. Most of
the time, the gobies rest on the
of it will push the ?sh nearer
waves crash on the shore,
substrate, so they actively need
the substrate. This, of course, is
much like at the
to pump fresh water over their
just what they need in turbulent
seaside.
gills. Fish that constantly swim can
water. The drawback is that when
breathe more easily as they only
they want to move from one place
need to open their mouth to allow
to another, they can only hop or
the water to ?ow over the gills.
energetically beat their pectoral ?ns.
So an excellent aeration system is
This odd swimming behaviour is
essential in a goby cichlid aquarium.
just one of the peculiarities of these
100 PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
FACTFILE
STRIPED GOBY CICHLID
Diet
The various goby cichlids have
different feeding specialisations,
although all species feed on
aufwuchs ? the layer of algae and
micro-organisms covering the rocks
and rubble of their environment.
Insects and their larvae, small
invertebrates, and mites ?nd refuge
in this algal mat, and provide food for
Tanganicodus irsacae.
The two Eretmodus species, E.
cyanostictus and E. marksmithi, are
pure herbivores while the Spathodus
ABOVE:
E. marksmithi,
?Kigoma?
Tanzania.
LEFT:
E. cyanostictus,
?Kasanga?
Tanzania.
grazzing.
FACTFILE
STRIPED GOBY CICHLID
6Scientific name: Eretmodus cyanostictus
6Pronunciation: Eret-mo-dus sigh-an-oh-stick-tus
6Origin: Africa: Endemic to the southern
part of Lake Tanganyika
6Size: Males 8cm
6Tank size: 100x30x35cm for a pair
6Water requirements: Hardwater: 8.0-9.0
pH, 12-25癏
6Temperature: 24-28癈
6Feeding: Herbivore pellets, spirulina ?akes,
blanched spinach, occasional frozen foods
6Cost: In the region of �-� each
AD KONINGS
100 l+
species, S. erythrodon and S. marlieri,
appear to be omnivores. As is the
case in so many other Tanganyika
herbivores, it?s the blue-green algae
(cyanobacteria) they?re after.
Eretmodus are unique among
Tanganyika cichlids by having a set
of chisel-shaped teeth that they use
to scrape off algae from the rocky
substrate. All other Tanganyika
herbivores either comb or pull algae.
In captivity it?s recommended to
feed goby cichlids Spirulina ?ake
food or other types of food with a
high vegetable matter content.
Planktonic crustaceans such as
Cyclops and Mysis are suitable to
feed too, but Artemia and other
soft-structured food shouldn?t be
given as they may upset the
digestive system.
Algae growing on the aquarium
rocks provide supplementary food,
and their growth can be encouraged
by placing a strong light directly
over the rocks that are near the
surface. Goby cichlids will reward
such effort by showing their best
colours and spawning frequently.
80 l+
Propagation
Spawning takes place on a
horizontal or slightly slanting rocky
surface. Egg laying is preceded by
the male moving over the spawning
site and assuming a head-up and
slanting posture while quivering his
anal ?n, probably simultaneously
releasing his sperm. The female then
nuzzles the male?s vibrating anal ?n,
after which she assumes a head-up
position and quivers her anal ?n in
turn. And now it?s the male that
nuzzles the female?s ventral region.
After a few of these pre-spawning
rounds, the female, assuming the
same head-up and slanting position
as before, releases an egg, which she
quickly picks up in her mouth.
After each egg has been laid and
collected, the male assumes the
head-up, ?n-quivering position, and
the female then nuzzles his anal ?n,
collecting milt. The eggs are
therefore fertilised inside the
female?s mouth, although some of
them may already have been
fertilised as soon as they were laid
and touched the substrate.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 101
AD KONINGS
6Scientific name: Eretmodus marksmithi
6Pronunciation: Eret-mo-dus mark-smith-eye
6
Origin: Africa: Endemic to the northern
two thirds of Lake Tanganyika
6Size: Males 5cm
6Tank size: 90x30x30cm for a pair.
6
Water requirements: Hardwater: 8.0-9.0
pH, 12-25癏
6Temperature: 24-28癈
6
Feeding: Herbivore pellets, spirulina ?akes,
blanched spinach, occasional frozen foods
6Cost: In the region of �-� each
FRESHWATER
Goby cichlids
FACTFILE
SPOTFIN GOBY CICHLID
6Scientific name: Tanganicodus irascae
6Pronunciation: Tang-an-ee-co-dus
ear-rass-say
6Origin: Endemic to the northern part of
lake Tanganyika
6Size: 7cm
6Tank size: 100x30x35cm for a pair
6Water requirements: Hardwater:
8.0-9.0 pH, 12-25癏
6Temperature: 24-28癈
6Cost: �-� each
100 l+
ABOVE:
T. irsacae,
Spotfin goby
cichlid.
RIGHT: Pebbles
in extreme
shallow water in
Lake Tanganika.
The female starts shaking her head and
releases one youngster at a time to be
carefully taken up by the male. The male is
well aware of what is going on, and waits
impatiently with his mouth half open
102 PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
AD KONINGS
after spawning. When you want to
grow the fry in a separate aquarium,
you could catch the male, once he?s
holding the larvae, and place him in
a nursery tank.
Alternatively, you could leave the
mouthbrooding male with the
female and try to have a more
natural way of reproduction by
creating an area in the upper
5-10cm of the water column that?s
?at and decorated with small rocks
and pebbles. This will be the nursery
area where the males will eventually
release their free-swimming fry.
To build up to such a shallow
nursery, you could use imitation
rocks instead of real ones, or you
could make one with a piece of
glass about 15-30cm long and
12-15cm wide ? glue this inside a
fake rock or out of sight against the
rear glass of the tank. Fill the little
platform with small rocks (nothing
larger than 10cm across) and
sprinkle with a thin layer of sand to
prevent the ?sh from ?arguing? with
their re?ection.
When lights are placed directly over
the small stones on the platform, a
lush algal vegetation will grow to
welcome the newborn gobies.
AD KONINGS
Tanganicodus produce about 20
eggs per clutch, Eretmodus about 35.
The female broods the eggs and
young for the ?rst 10 to 14 days
until the young are around 8-10mm,
but all the time the male stays close
by her side. At the end of this
period, the female tries to get her
partner?s attention once more,
signalling her readiness to transfer
the young, days before the male
?nally takes them. At ?rst it looks as
if the pair are going to spawn again,
with both male and female active in
chasing away intruders.
Once they?ve secured their
?swapping site?, the exchange of
young begins. The female starts
shaking her head and releases one
youngster at a time to be carefully
taken up by the male. The male is
well aware of what is going on, and
waits impatiently with his mouth
half open. Sometimes it looks as if
he?s begging the female for another
youngster, and almost picking them
out of her mouth!
After all the young have been
transferred to the male?s mouth, he
broods them for seven to eight days.
The male and female stay close
together during the entire brooding
period, and a mouthbrooding parent
does not eat. The fry are normally
released in extremely shallow water
among pebbles.
While you can breed gobies in a
special breeding tank, the simplest
way is just to leave them with other
cichlids in a community aquarium.
When a male and female have been
introduced into the tank, they
normally form a pair and stay
together most of the time, including
when they are not breeding.
Mouthbrooding females are easily
recognised by their swollen buccal
pouch. Never remove a
mouthbrooding female from the
tank because the larvae will be
transferred to the male two weeks
Another name for the
goby cichlids is
?Tanganyika
clowns?.
Tanganicodus
have smaller,
thinner mouths.
AD KONINGS
AD KONINGS
Eretmodus
marksmithi
?Mzungu?.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 103
ADVERTISING FEATURE
As eSHa celebrates its half century, it reveals how it?s stayed true to its
core aim of making high-quality health care products for aquarists.
T?S A FAMILIAR story
? a keen tropical
?shkeeper sees an
untapped potential and
goes on to develop a
product that achieves
worldwide acclaim.
eSHa?s story is much like
this, and it all began with its
Dutch founder, John de Cocq.
Over the past 50 years, he and
his son Marc de Cocq have
transformed eSHa into an
international business operating in
more than 25 countries.
John de Cocq
studies ichthyology before setting up
his own aquatics shop, Sea Horse.
Unimpressed by the ef?cacy of the
aquatic remedies then on the market,
he begins doing his own research
with help from a friendly pharmacist.
John launches eSHa (the
?SH? after his shop Sea Horse), in
Maastricht, Netherlands. eSHa was
of?cially registered in the Chamber
of Commerce in 1968, making it
50 years old this year.
Development
begins with the production of a
landmark product ? today known as
eSHa 2000 ? that treats fungi,
bacteria, ?n rot and more. Thanks to
its popularity, more products are
added to the range, eliminating
more specialised diseases.
As word spreads, demand
grows and eSHa evolves into a
wholesaler and production company.
It branches out into making glass
aquariums, importing accessories
from the Far East, and sets up a
plastic blow-mould facility for
aquarium ?lters and other products
in Maastricht.
104 PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
across Europe. eSHa responds,
investing in more manufacturing
facilities and increased
mechanisation.
eSHa introduces a
world-?rst: the ?ve-in-one eSHa
Aqua Quick Test, an easy-to-use dip
test measuring nitrate, nitrite, GH,
KH and pH. The latest version is a
six-in-one test, which adds chlorine
to the list.
A decision is made
to take eSHa back to its roots and
focus on what it does best. eSHa
rationalises its product portfolio, and
sells its wholesale operations, print
shop and aquarium and accessories
manufacturing facilities. All attention
turns to research, consultancy,
medicine production and more.
Regulations over
medicines are tightened across
Europe, which sees a major
shake-up in the industry. The Dutch
government is one of the ?rst to
implement the new EU laws, using
the big pharmaceutical companies
as a template. As a result, more than
three-quarters of Dutch veterinary
medicine producers and
manufacturers cease production.
Nikki Boumans, head of UK sales
and marketing, says: ?We were lucky
to stay in business, but had to build
a new manufacturing site and install
new quality control labs. However,
this meant we were able to
improve our products and ensure
quality research laboratories.?
The
aquarium and
pond markets
experience
strong
growth in
the UK and
Since the
launch of its
?rst product,
eSHa 2000,
the company
has been at
the forefront of
research into
highly effective
medicines,
supplements
and testing kits
for the aquatic
hobby.
The Dutch Ministry of
Health and Ministry of Agriculture
make it mandatory for manufacturers
to hold manufacturing licences for
the production of medicines for ?sh.
Today eSHa employs 18
staff members across its 1,800m2
production facility and has two
warehouses. Although John died in
2009, eSHa is still family owned.
Research and production is solely
concerned with health care products
and supplements for ornamental
?sh, products to combat aquatic
snails and algae, aquatic plant
supplements, and water test strips.
The company will no longer venture
into other ?elds, ?simply because we
believe in specialising in what we do
best,? says Nikki.
Research and new product
development is ongoing, and the UK
will soon have access to 18 products.
The latest, eSHa alx, has been
formulated to combat parasitic
crustaceans and can be used in
freshwater and marine aquariums.
Find out more at eshalabs.eu
eSHa 50 YEARS:
Est.
1968
THE SOLUTION FOR RELIABLE
AQUARIUM PRODUCTS
TH
eSHa OPTIMA
Algae
Vitamines
Crustaceans
Nematodes
UK/USA: Pl
miner ant extracts (400m
healthy wa als and trace element g), vitamins,
increases reter. Builds up the immus for natural,
colour sple sistance against dise ne system,
il ness. Reandour. Speeds up a fuase, itness and
freshwaterd lealet before use. Apl recovery from
children andaquariums. Keep out plication in
place and i pets. Store frost-freof reach of
n original pac e in a cool,
kaging. dark
GR: ??????
?????????, ????????????? (400mg)
?????? ??? ????? ??? ????? ,
????????? ??????? ????. ?????? ??????? ???
??? ???????????, ?????? ??? ???? ???? ??
???????? ? ? ???????? ??? ?????? ???????.
??? ????? ??? ???????? ???? ?? ????????.
???????? ? ???????? ?????? ?? ??.
????? ????? ?????? ??? ??????. ???.
??? ???? ?? ?????????
? ???????? ? ??
?? ???.
HU: N鰒閚yi
vitami kivonatok (400
rm閟zetes 閟nok, asv醤yi anyagok,mg),
nyo
tja az immueg閟zs間es vizet bizt melemek
閠 閟 eg閟z nrendszert, kond韈i髈s韙anak.
s
t
gs間ek kez間閠. Gyors韙ja te je 閟 a halak
s a 醫 a hasel閟e ut醤. Az a lk醕髎fe 閜 l閟t
v韟i halak. V閐zn醠ati utas韙� tAj醤l e?t
gt?l. Az 黺e je fagyt髄, f閚 t l ot az
lja eredeti c get 閟 a hasz 醠a i u 閟
somagol醩 ta 磲 t
ban.
FISH HEALTH BOOSTER
Water conditioner for ornamental ishes in freshwater aquaria.
Healthy water for healthy ish
Gezond water voor gezonde vissen
Gesundes Wasser f黵 Gesunde Fische
De l'eau saine pour un poisson en bonne sant�
eSHa OPTIMA is a unique combination of the
essential components found in tropical rivers,
lakes and streams. These components are
blended with trace elements, minerals, vitamins
and natural growth enhancers to give your ish
what they are accustomed to in their natural
environment.
AGAINST SKIN FLUKES, GILL FLUKES
AND TAPEWORMS
eSHa gdex�
Veterinary medicine for ornamental ishes in
freshwater and marine aquaria.
Freshwater turtles
Goldish
eSHa gdex� treats skin lukes, gill lukes (Monogenea like Gyrodactylus and Dactylogyrus) and
tapeworms (Cestodes). It can be used with all
our other freshwater medicines for an extremely
broad range of action.
eSHa gdex� does not colour the water and it will
not lead to a bacterial bloom.
eSHa HEXAMITA
Plants
Red leaf plants
Coral
Marine ish
lore Ch oor
Testkit
L18I24
lor,
Ch
Veterinary medicine for ornamental ishes
in freshwater aquaria.
eSHa HEXAMITA is a unique treatment
that combats diseases in Discus and other
Cichlids like ?Hole in the head disease?,
fungal and bacterial infections. It will prevent diseases in newly acquired stock and
will protect the ish from secondary infections. eSHa HEXAMITA can be used in combination with eSHa EXIT and / or eSHa gdex.
eSHa 2000�s wide range
action treats over 18
symptoms and disease
organisms. It treats
many fungal, bacterial
and parasitic infections,
helps heal wounds and
protects the skin layer.
50 x 6
300 Tests
Ch
DISCUS DISEASE TREATMENT
eSHa EXIT treats all
kinds of ?Spot? (Ichthyophthirius multiiliis), it
also cures Velvet. It is
safe to use with sensitive tropical ish.
www.eshalabs.eu
eSHa Labs - Postbus 431 - NL 6200 AK, Maastricht
#eSHalabs
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6The latest Aquatic News
6Fishkeeping Answers
6Ethical Debate
6New gear
reviewed
NEIL HEPWORTH
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WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 107
SHOPS & EQUIPMENT
GEAR
FIRST
LOOK
Want to know how the goods on sale really perform? We put them
through their paces so you can sort the good from the bad...
They aren?t
cheap, they aren?t
easy to set up and
are risky when
set up wrong, but
C02 really helps
plant growth.
108 PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
COLOMBO CO2 PROFI SET AND SOLENOID
Price: Sold separately ? CO2 Profi Set sells for between �0-�0, Solenoid around �
More info: www.colombo.nl
Reviewer: Nathan Hill
In a market that was for a long while saturated with expensive
entry level CO2 diffusers, many of us lost con?dence in the idea
of affordable carbon for the aquascaping hobbyist. Some of us
took the risky high road of using CO2 ?re extinguishers to make
things economical, willing to offset the chance of a regulator
failure against forking out astronomical prices for aquariumdesignated cylinders of gas. Others persevered with off-the-shelf
designs and rapidly realised how costly it became.
This Colombo offering sits somewhere in the middle. It?s pretty
pricey, but arguably much safer than a ?re extinguisher. To its
bene?t, it has a cylinder that holds 800g of carbon dioxide ?
many of its nano rivals have cartridges (too small to even call
them a cylinder) as little as 20g.
You can assess the ef?ciency of that for yourself. For 20g
cartridges you?ll pay out somewhere between � and � for
three of them ? 60g total. A re?ll for the 800g Colombo set
comes in around �. But then again, I typically pay around
� for 2kg of CO2 in a refurbished ?re extinguisher. 800g will
supply me enough gas for about two or three weeks at best in a
60x30x45cm aquascape, assuming I?m not gassing heavily.
The regulator itself is weighty, sturdy and has a smooth enough
action. With CO2 dosing you want really ?ne tuning abilities, and
this has it. Whether you want one bubble of gas ev
second, second-and-a-half or two seconds, you can
it with accuracy. It connects directly to the top of t
cylinder through a thread action, and as long as yo
keep the threads absolutely clean (I?d frequently go
over my regulator/cylinder threads with a cotton bu
and some silicone lubricant), then you won?t exper
gas leakage. If it?s the ?rst time you?ve ever connec
regulator to a cylinder, I?d advise being quick, othe
little blast of released gas can give you a sudden ?h
Also in the package you get a length of CO2 resist
and a bubble counter/diffuser. Depending on how ha
is, that tubing will eventually turn a chalky white a
so I suggest replacing it every few months (but if yo
aquascaper obsessed with everything looking fresh
do that anyway). The bubble counter and diffuser p
the tank easily enough, held in place with a sucker
couple of spares as this will turn chalky after a whi
opening it up to clean it just involves unscrewing t
getting inside. Look closely and you?ll see a little sp g
as well. That?s the non-return valve that means if you ever run
out of gas, the water won?t start syphoning back out of the tank.
That?s the whole package. I won?t lie, it doesn?t seem ?that?
great value, especially if paying near the �0 kit price. With
� for the cylinder, that means I?m paying out �0 for a
regulator, some silicone airline and a bubble counter. I don?t
even get any cheap clamps and suckers to tidy up the airline.
You can build on the kit by adding a separately sold solenoid.
When plugged into a timed socket (around �upwards from
electrical and homeware stores), this allows total on/off control
of your gas supply. The usual ?scaper trick is to turn the gas on
an hour before the lights come on, and have it lead by an hour
when the lights go off again. This avoids huge swings of pH, as
well as wasted CO2 (since plants don?t use it at night).
My worry is that the solenoid is in-line. I?ve tried to butcher
something like this together in the past on a pressurised CO2
unit, and all that happened was that the hose exploded in the
night. Perhaps I was using substandard
hose ? or perhaps Colombo knows
something that I don?t.
Either way we couldn?t put it to
the test as the solenoid didn?t
work when we plugged it in,
and we?ve given up on
waiting for the replacement to
come through.
VERDICT
If you?ve got the money for
the refills and you don?t
mind setting the regulator
every morning and night,
then great. If you want to
run it with the solenoid then
I can?t really comment.
I would expect a LOT more
if I was paying the upper
end for this.
EASE OF USE: 悙
FEATURES: 悙
VALUE:
悙
OVERALL:
悙
Check valve,
airline and
diffuser
ccincluded
VULTRON AIRPUMP 1500
Price: Around �
More info: yihufish.com
Reviewer: Nathan Hill
Have you ever bought a product just because it had a cool
name? That?s what happened here. The Vultron 1500 is a
pyramid design airpump with a pumping depth up to
36cm, and is the smallest model in a line of ?ve.
The 1500 moniker refers to? I?m not really sure. The air
?ow rate (presumably at zero head) is 110 litres per hour
and it will deliver that at the expense of 2W of running
power. So it?s nicely economical.
This model comes with a single outlet, just under 1m
of airline, a non-return valve and funky looking glassmounted (with sucker) air diffuser. I?m loathe to call it a
stone, as it?s a plastic device with a foam pad, but it does
belt out air all the same.
Is it quiet? Well no, not
particularly, but then it?s no
louder than similar-sized
airpumps either
Flow is controlled by a curiously smooth rotating dial
on top of the unit which I reckon will be a bit of a headache
to use with wet hands. While you can clearly
see the port for the air ?lter underneath the unit, and while
it looks like it ought to be easy to access, I?ve not quite
worked out how to do
that yet.
As far as I can see,
VERDICT
This does the job, and for
maintenance will
not too bad a price. It?ll be
involve removing four
interesting to see how much
cross-head screws to
flow it loses when that filter
access the inside.
gets clogged though.
Is it quiet? Well no,
not particularly, but
EASE OF USE: 悙悙
FEATURES: 悙悙
then it?s no louder
VALUE:
悙悙
than similar-sized
OVERALL:
悙悙
airpumps either.
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 109
?
SHOPS & EQUIPMENT
GEAR
FIRST LOOK
WHAT ARE POLYMER BALLS?
These handy spheres are relative newcomers to the pond
treatment scene. We talk to three manufacturers about their use.
ALL: STEVE BAKER
When it comes to pond remedies
bacteria breaking down elevated
and medications, the stock on most ammonia and nitrite levels.
shop shelves hasn?t changed much
Enzymes break down organic
over the last few years, but there?s
matter, enabling further breakdown
one obvious newcomer ? polymer
by bacteria, clearing up water
balls. They?re produced for both
clarity issues and built-up silt.
pond and aquarium use, but what
Pond balls are mostly suited to
exactly are they? And when should
boosting the performance of
they be used?
mature ?lters and ponds ?
It was Evolution Aqua?s
either in early spring when
Pure Pond Balls that
the bacteria colony is at
were the ?rst of this
an all-time low after
type of product on
the cold winter
Don?t
like
the
idea
of
a
spent
the market.
temperatures;
They introduced
when introducing
polymer ball bobbing about? Put it
the idea of
more
livestock,
in a filter bag and hang it in
polymer for
which increases
your filter so it can be
containing bacteria
the bioload; after a
easily removed.
and enzymes, but now
deep clean of the pond;
the larger polymer ?bombs?
or when you are suffering
are the more popular option.
with water clarity issues.
The idea? Just drop the ball in
Many pond keepers use them
your ?lter or directly into your pond
to kickstart new set-ups, and
and sit back while thousands of
although they will speed up the
little monsters escape the polymer
maturation period, there are
and get straight to work. Simple.
products out there more suited to
The mixture of bacteria and
starting a new system, such as
enzymes deal with cases of poor
Evolution Aqua?s pure+ ?lter start
water quality, with nitrifying
gel and Cloverleaf?s Bio Gel.
110 PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
What is polymer?
BELOW:
For ideal usage,
put the polymer
ball in a small
?lter bag and
pour any liquid
into the pond.
It?s a very loose term; the word
literally means ?many parts? and it?s
used to denote any substance that?s
made up mostly (or completely) of
similar (repeating) molecules
(monomers). DNA, cellulose and
muscle proteins are all natural
polymers, though most of us would
think of synthetic plastics like
polyethylene and PVC (poly vinyl
chloride) when the word comes up.
So what type of polymers are used
for pond remedies? We don?t know.
The companies understandably
don?t want to reveal their secrets,
but we did ask the manufacturers if
any residue (plastic or otherwise)
was left over from their product.
AQUA SOURCE
BALANCE SPHERE
First look: Steve Baker
Prices: �.95
More info: aquasourceuk.co.uk
Is there any purpose to the ?uid in the tub?
Aqua Source says: ?The liquid inside the tub
is a part of the manufacturing process, and
contains a small food source for the bacteria
to survive, as do the balls themselves. Some
bacteria and enzymes migrate from the
spheres, which is why you must put all of the
contents into the pond. This is how the
product can have a shelf life of two years.
?As with all bacteria, if it doesn?t have a food
source, then it will die, so after treating the
pond or aquarium with Aqua Balance Balls &
Sphere, most of the bacteria will die off if the
food source is not sustained. Effectively, it will
do its job of reducing ammonia and nitrite,
but the effectiveness and longevity depends
on other factors.?
And enzymes?
?The spheres also contain enzymes that will
also get damaged and die off, which is normal.
These speci?c enzymes chomp on the organic
Treats:
Up to
30,000 l
matter in the water, giving clearer water.?
Is there any lingering residue of the bomb
left once the bacteria is spent?
?There?s no lasting residue from the balls
once exhausted.?
Is there any concern of an allergic reaction?
?We?re not aware of any allergies to humans,
although we do advise that people do not eat
our balls! If swallowed, they would lead to a
dodgy tummy. The bacteria is harmless to
humans apart from that.?
Aqua Source has also adopted polymer balls
as a way of delivering other pond additives
including Aqua Balance Enzyme for promoting
?sh health and recovery, Blanketweed Resolve,
and a ?sh treatment called Remedy.
EVOLUTION AQUA
PURE POND BOMB
First look: Steve Baker
RRP: �.95
More info: evolutionaqua.com
Is there any purpose to the ?uid in the tub?
Evolution Aqua says: ?It?s classed as an
activator gel, but it also aids shelf life and
transportation.?
Is there any lingering residue of the bomb
left once the bacteria is spent?
?Yes, the bacteria, enzymes and a food source
lie dormant inside the ball when the product is
on the shelf for up to two years. The bacteria
have everything they need inside the ball to
stay alive and intact until they are needed.
?Once placed into an aquarium or pond, the
bacteria are enticed to leave the ball to feed
on nitrogenous waste. This can be seen by the
ball shrinking and breaking up. If you place
the bomb into a glass of RO water, with no
?ow or nitrogenous load, the ball stays the
same size and intact. If you place it in an
aquarium or pond with load and water ?ow,
the bacteria leave, and the ball shrinks. Our
?ball? is actually a net, only allowing certainsize bacteria in and out.
?A spent ball can be left in the pond where it
will actually act as a substrate media for
bacteria if no better biological ?lter media is
Treats:
Up to
20,000 l
available. But if you have a decent ?lter, and
don?t like the look of a spent ball, remove it.?
How do the enzymes and bacteria
work together?
?The enzymes themselves don?t consume
waste, but they can convert waste into other
waste, which bacteria can then use.
?Enzymes are very important, and we talk as
much about enzymes here as we do about
bacteria themselves.?
Is there any concern of an allergic reaction?
?I?ve never heard of one and I?ve seen a few
million bombs get manufactured, sent out,
and used all over the world, but I guess it?s
possible to be allergic to virtually anything.
Some people are allergic to prawn shells,
bloodworm or synthetic sea salt.?
Treats:
Up to
60,000 l
CLOVERLEAF
ABSOLUTE PEARLS
First look: Steve Baker
RRP: 15.99
More info: cloverleaf.uk.net
You don?t use a ?uid to carry the
pearls like other manufacturers
do, is there any reason for this?
Cloverleaf says: ?With all due
respect, we do use a ??uid?.
Unlike other manufacturers of
most ?ltration aids, we use living
cultures of various nitrifying
organisms ? archaea, anaerobic
and aerobic bacteria, plus the
enzymes these organisms
naturally produce (together with
a few nitrifying fungal and yeast
organisms), as the ??uidic soup?
that is absorbed by each of our
Cloverleaf Absolute Pearls.
?In fact, due to temperature
and particular atmospheric
conditions in our retailers, you
will sometimes ?nd a small
residue of this bacterial soup in
some packets of our pearls.?
Is there any residue when the
pearls are fully exhausted?
?Absolute Pearls are made of a
selection of natural organic
polymers that will either be
eventually fully digested by the
micro-organisms in the particular
aquatic environment, or shrink to
a pea-like ball. In time, this will
itself be absorbed by various
micro-organisms.?
Does the user need to be careful
with this product ? can there be
any allergic reaction at all?
?We do advise on each packet:
?Wash hands after use. Keep
in a safe place out of reach
of children?.
?This is only sensible, but no,
Absolute Pearls only carry the
micro-organisms that you would
normally ?nd in a healthy and
well-maintained pond ?lter.?
WWW.PRACTICALFISHKEEPING.CO.UK 111
BRISTOL
QUAT
SA
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CS
From plants to
Cichlids, Stingrays
to Snakeheads
LINC
LINCOLNSHIRE
14
The Aquatic Store
Really does have it all!
www.theaquaticstore.co.uk 01179 639120
28 North Street Bedminster Bristol BS3 1HW
LINCOLNSHIRE
Hanger1 ? Strubby Air?eld
Woodthorpe ? Nr Alford ? LN13 0DD
01507 451000
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Hedon Road ? Burstwick
East Yorks ? HU12 9HA
01482 898800
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Great North Rd
Doncaster ? DN10 6AB
01302 711639
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LARGE SELECTION OF
? Aquariums
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Features
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HUGE SELECTION OF
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Water Fish
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All fish are packed to travel anywhere in the UK
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lincsaquatics-southyorkshire
www.lincsaquatics.co.uk
CAMBRIDGESHIRE
CLASSIFIED To advertise here please call the sales team on 01733 366410
LONDON
The Fish Bowl Ltd
Tropical
Marine
Cold Water
Open 7 days a week 01954 214530
www.nuttyaboutpets.co.uk sales@nuttyaboutpets.co.uk
133 Dawes Road,
London. SW6 7EA
Tel: 020 7385 6005
www.thefishbowlltd.com
email: thefishbowlltd@tiscali.co.uk
OFFICIAL JUWEL STOCKISTS PLUS SPARES
175 St Neots, Hardwick, Cambridge, CB23 7QJ
Aquatic and Pet Shop.
Open 5 days a week 10am to 6pm. Closed all day Thursday and Sunday
COUNTY DURHAM
LANCASHIRE
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
Reef & River
AQUARIUM
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
MORECAMBE
Tropicals, marines, coldwater
and pond?sh.
Wide variety of aquariums
and dry goods in stock.
Pond pumps, liners, U.V?s
and plants in season
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IMPORTERS/
SUPPLIERS
OF RARE
AND EXOTIC
CORALS
All our corals are CITES registered.
We specialise in Australian and
hard to find species.
Mon 2-6 ? Tues 10-6 ? Wed 2-6 ? Thur 10-6
Fri 12-8 ? Sat 10-5 ? Sun 1-5
18 KEYHAM CLOSE, HUMBERSTONE, LEICESTER LE5 1FW
95-97 Lancaster Road, York Bridge,
Morecambe
01162 108112
www.dreamreef.co.uk
01524 419371
RS ONLY
RETA IL SHOPPE
r all your
Thank you fo 1967!
support since
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, London, E
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G TIMES
AY: CLOSED
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? SAT 10.00-6.00
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ww.wholesaletropicalsa
qu
NOTTINGHAMSHIRE
Huge range of
livestock in more
than 600 tanks!
TROPICAL - MARINE - POND & COLDWATER - REPTILES
Six-time winner of top UK aquatic retailer
www.wharfaquatics.co.uk
KENT
atics.co.uk
Readers?poll
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ODDBALL
RETAILER
OF THE YEAR
Readers?poll
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Tel: 01773 861255
Open 7 Days - 65-67 Wharf Road, Pinxton, Notts. NG16 6LH (near M1 J28)
ABACUS AQUATICS
Voted one of the Best shops in
the UK for the last 6 years
Now open on Sundays
For more details about the
shop and our opening hours
please visit our website
SCOTLAND
House of Pisces ~ Scotland?s largest aquatic superstore by far
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.abacus-aquatics.co.uk
168 Halfway Street, Sidcup, Kent, DA15 8DJ
020 8302 8000 / enquiries@abacusaquatics.co.uk
www.practicalfishkeeping.co.uk
WALES
WHOLESALERS
AQUASCAPE FISH IMPORTS
Tropical & Coldwater Live Fish Wholesalers
Unusuals inc Rays, Turtles, Crabs, Shrimps, Lobsters
Established 1973
55 John Street, Porthcawl, CF36 3AY
Tel: 01656 784646
Please mention
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More details at
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To advertise here please call the sales team on 01733 366410
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or call in and see us at:
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OPINION
NATHAN HILL
When it comes to public aquaria,
tight budgets and old equipment is
a challenge. But are they giving out
such a negative message that they
become their own worst enemies?
I
?VE BEEN entertaining this month.
A close friend of mine came across
to the UK to visit, and so I took on
the traditional English role of
tour guide. Given that this friend is
deeply immersed in the aquatic
world, and given that we were in the
same city as a renowned public
aquarium, it was inevitable that after
introducing her to such British delights as
?sh and chips, we should saunter on in
and take a look.
Bracing myself
Now here?s a thing. I used to work in
public aquaria. I was aquarist at a Sea Life
centre for a few years in the mid-90s. My
memories of that place involve low-tech
gear and shoestring budgets, and while the
displays we had weren?t exactly cutting
edge, they were at least relatively well
matched to the calibre of home displays
of that time ? just a lot bigger.
Fast forward two decades, and it looks
Nathan Hill
is Practical
Fishkeeping
magazine?s
associate editor,
biotope fancier,
aquascape
dabbler and
part-time amateur
skateboarder.
Changing the world
like while the home hobby has evolved in
a huge way, public aquaria are still using
the same tired equipment that was already
borderline obsolete at its ?rst use.
This was my ?rst time entering a public
aquarium as a paying customer for as long
as I can remember. Since leaving Sea Life,
and because of the contacts I have, if I
ever want to visit one I can usually send
out a couple of grovelling emails and get a
gratis ticket. This time I wanted to pay. So
I did. Then I instantly regretted it when the
price came up. At � a head, I expect
guides to do somersaults on request and
follow me around wafting me with a huge
banana leaf and feeding me grapes.
The displays themselves were trying to
make the best of a bad situation. It appears
that since I left that side of the industry,
nobody has yet worked out how to stop
condensation forming on cold glass. It?s
just that these days they don?t bother to
wipe it off. Every time I pressed close to
an exhibit, I risked soaking myself.
NATHAN HILL
Ashamed yet,
human?
Guess the fish answer from page 39: Red tailed cat?sh, Phractocephalus hemioliopterus.
114 PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
The other thing that leapt out at me was
how downbeat the information was. I?ve
noticed this at a few public aquaria, and
I?ve no idea why the folks in charge of the
displays think we all want to be told what
total scumbags humans are ? I?ve seen a
couple of museums do this as well. I?ll be
enjoying myself watching a shark in a tank
right up until the microphone scornfully
announces that humans kill over 100
million sharks annually. Thanks for that.
In fact, many public aquaria are now
more like shrines of death and destruction
than they are celebrations of aquatic life.
From bleaching of corals to discarded
plastics, the emphasis of the public
aquarium seems to have shifted to two
hours of intense guilt-tripping. When I left
I had no fond memories, only self loathing.
Yet the thing that stuck with me most
was the absence of progress. I repeat, the
domestic hobby of ?shkeeping has moved
a long, long way in the last 20 years. Some
public aquariums have made great leaps in
that time ? just look at the work on coral
spawning that Jamie Craggs has done at
the Horniman museum. Unfortunately,
other public aquaria seem to have drifted
into becoming foghorns of misanthropy,
hellbent on shaming the everyday human.
All of this combined makes me wonder
if public aquaria, by and large, are going to
become just another evolutionary drop
out. Ultimately, for a moderate outlay, we
are all now capable of putting on a better
display tank at home. And more so, we
can do it without some heavy guilt trip
being laid on us just for existing.
Then again, I might just be sulky
because the shark tank was closed when
we visited.
A new range of aquariums & accessories
now available in the UK
Distributed in the UK
Exclusively by
Norwood Aquarium
PURE
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Also available in medium & large
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www.norwood-aquarium.co.uk
If you would like more information or to stock this
range in your shop call us on 01883 625454
made in
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Fantastic Savings in
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Aquarium sets include matching
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