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FISHKEEPER January/February ‘17

Vol. 8/No. 1

For the Aquarist: Freshwater & Marine

The Peacocks


website for the aquarist

of Lake Malawi

Protein Skimmers 101 Top 12 tanks from the winning works from the IAPLC

Clean-up Crew in your Saltwater Aquarium Chalice Corals. Family Pectinildae Page 32 RSA R44.50 (incl. VAT) Other Countries R38.30 (excl. VAT)

The Lyretail Hogfish Page 26

A brand built on a lifetime of knowledge Tetra´s range of high quality and simple-to-use products, it has never been easier to care for goldfish and keep the aquarium looking good. january/february 2017 the fishkeeper



For the Aquarist: Freshwater & Marine

South Africa’s only magazine for marine and freshwater aquarium hobbyists.

January / February


Vol 8 / No 2 / 2017

16 38


features 04




32 36


Small aquariums need basically the same equipment as larger tanks so a heater (assuming tropical fish are kept) and filter are essential. A good light is also required if you wish to grow plants, or see your fish at their best.

A protein skimmer is a piece of equipment used in aquariums, especially marine and reef tanks, to physically remove organic materials from the aquarium water.



Dwarf gourami are beautiful, generally robust fish that are relatively easy to keep and can live for four years.

Top 12 tanks from the winning works from the IAPLC in Japan

In this article we take a look at the incredible works of art in the top 12 planted tanks of the IAPLC in 2016.


Once a larger lyretail hogfish is established in its captive home it may behave aggressively toward smaller or more docile tankmates.


You can think of the clean-up crew as the janitors for your tank. Having a proper clean-up crew can help keep your tank sparkling clean while limiting the amount of work you have to do in terms of scraping the glass or picking algae off your live rock.




The Malawi Peacocks possess several characteristics that have kept them in perpetual demand.

2 the fishkeeper january/february 2017

38 03 40

Sexing koi

regulars From the Editor Advertiser’s Index

Editorial T 32 26

08 08 26

30 36

he end of 2016 is here, and it is hard to believe how fast this year has gone. We once again had the privilege of grading the top 100 aquascapes for the IAPLC (International Aquatic Plants Layout Contest). 2016 once again had another high standard of quality layouts and I was pleased to see the high skill level of this years planted aquariums. All the top 100 aquascapes that were selected by the steering committee were of excellent quality making my judging responsibility quite a challenge, which I enjoy! I am always most excited to see aquascapes that represent or are as closely related to a natural underwater environment. What also appeals to me and which I enjoyed to see in this year’s contestants aquascapes was the use of a wider variety of plants in some of the contests aquascapes. Natural aquascapes inspire me the most, I think that it is due to the fact that their long term maintenance is more achievable and that the fish and plants are more suited to a natural environment and therefore I feel that they will do better in that style aquarium where there is a natural balance and equilibrium amongst the living organisms in their underwater environment. Some other exiting news is that marine aquaculture is reaching new levels and after several decades of research, the first stocks of captive bred Yellow Tangs (Zebrasoma flavescens) have been shipped to two mainland suppliers of fish for the aquarium hobby, namely Quality Marine and Segrest Farms. The Oceanic Institute at Hawaii Pacific University have spent the last several years trying to breed these fish in captivity and last year they were successful in breeding more than 500 fish, 400 of which are already at adult stage.

The research into successfully breeding these fish was costly, but the potential rewards should offset that cost. It is expected that these captive bred yellow tangs will cost twice as much as wild caught specimens, but the captive bred specimens have a lot going for them, including the fact that after they outgrew the pelagic larval stage, they were raised on commercially prepared foods. Once the Oceanic Institute perfects their process, and these rearing methods are made available, it could mean more captive bred Yellow Tangs available in the hobby and less wild caught specimens. Although this initial supply will be quite limited, they hope that as their research continues they will be able to provide more. Ultimately, their goal is that commercial suppliers will adopt this technology and provide significant numbers of captive-bred tangs to the industry.

THE FISHKEEPER volume 8 | number 2 January/February 2017 Managing Editor Rolf Dennison Design Layout Rolf Dennison Advertisements Elrisha du Plooy Subscriptions Pauline Visser Sales Ralphie Riggien Electronic Origination & Printing Dennison Publishing & Art Printers Disclaimer: The Editors and Publishers of Dennison Publishing do not accept any liability whatsoever with regard to any statement, fact, advertisement or recommendation made in this magazine and do not necessarily agree with the viewpoints expressed by contributors to The Fishkeeper. Š 2017 by Dennison Publishing cc. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any material from this issue in whole or in part is strictly prohibited.

Physical Address 83 Niagara Drive Waterfall Kwa-Zulu Natal South Africa Postal Address P.O. Box 32 Link Hills, 3652 Kwa-Zulu Natal South Africa tel: 031-7634054 fax: 031-7633811 Editor: Accounts: Pauline Visser

All profits from the sale of these captive bred yellow tangs will be put back into the research efforts of the Oceanic Institute.


As we getting to the end of the year, we offering some great Christmas specials so be sure to take a look on our website We would like to thank everyone for their support throughout 2015 and we look forward to your continued support in 2016. Happy Fishkeeping and compliments of the season to everyone!


Kind Regards The Fishkeeper Team

DEADLINES Issue March/April 2017 May/June 2017 July/August 2017

Colour Adverts 25 January 2017 25 March 2017 25 May 2017

Adverts: Elrisha du Plooy e-mail:

Sales: Ralph Riggien Bank Details Dennison Publishing Standard Bank Acc no. 062 557 971 Hillcrest Branch 045726 Subscribe now! Fill in the subscription form in your The Fishkeeper magazine and send it to us at one of the above addresses. Your The Fishkeeper will be delivered to you for just R215 for 6 issues including postage Please contact us if you have any enquiries. You can also subscribe online! Visit

Cover Photo: Aulonocara Firefish january/february 2017 the fishkeeper



Establishing a Clean-up Crew in your Saltwater Aquarium ARTICLE: By Jane Smith


ultivating a thriving saltwater tank is both a joy and a challenge. You spend hours researching the perfect combination of species for your tank and pick out the ideal equipment to keep your tank running properly. Even after you get it all set up, your work isn’t complete – you then have to maintain the tank! Luckily, if you set your tank up correctly the first time you shouldn’t have to worry about too much maintenance but you do need to make sure your tank water quality remains high. A simple way to do that is to employ a clean-up crew in your tank. A clean-up crew consists of snails, crabs, shrimps, and starfish in your saltwater aquarium that perform the following tasks: • • •

Clean-up detritus (non-living organic matter) Sift through your sand Keeps algae under control on a day-to-day basis

You can think of the clean-up crew as the janitors for your tank. Having a proper clean-up crew can help keep your tank sparkling clean while limiting the amount of work you have to do in terms of scraping the glass or picking algae off your

live rock. However, there are some things to keep in mind when establishing your cleanup crew. In this article you will learn the basics about having a clean-up crew in your saltwater tank.

When Should I Introduce my Cleanup Crew?

If you are cycling your saltwater aquarium with live rock (as most saltwater aquarists do) then you will want to add the cleanup crew right after the cycle is complete (before you add fish). There will be die-off from the live rock and probably some algae from the cycle that will need to be cleaned up immediately. The clean-up crew can take care of this, helping to make your tank safe for your fish. You only want to start off with snails and crabs as they are the hardiest. Starfish need an established food source in order to survive. Only after a couple of months (once you start to see a build-up of algae and detritus) should you add sand sifting starfish. Do not add all of your clean-up crew at once, however. You will need to add a few at a time to ensure that there is enough food to go around.

“If you take the time to research the specimens you want to include in your clean-up crew, however, and make sure to provide plenty of food, your cleanup crew will help you to keep your tank well maintained.”

Coral Banded Shrimp (Stenopus hispidus).

4 the fishkeeper january/february 20172016 november/december

What Are the Best Species for my Cleanup Crew? You really need a combination of species in order to do all of the tasks described in the bullets above. Some will sift sand, but not touch algae. Others will eat only a specific type of algae, but will not sift the sand. Obtaining a nice mixture will ensure that your tank stays clean. Snails are particularly popular as members of a saltwater clean-up crew because they are very efficient. Marine snails come in a variety of sizes and each species has its own specialty in regard to what type of food it prefers to eat. Some snails eat algae off live rock and other tank surfaces while some reach into crevices or even sift through sand for food. The most common snails for clean-up crew purposes include:

Cleaner Shrimp. These little creatures can get into the cracks and crevices that other invertebrates can’t reach to clean up detritus and uneaten fish food.

Turbo snails – Turbo snails are large aquatic snails that are particularly useful in eating algae. You need to be careful of these snails due to their size, however – they have been known to topple live rock. Turbo snails are particularly recommended for large aquariums because they can cover a large area in a short amount of time. If you do use turbo snails, make sure your live rock is secure and ensure that there is plenty of food for your snails to eat because they can go through algae fairly quickly. Asterea snails – These are good snails for getting rid of brown and green algae from the walls of your tank, from your live rock, and from your substrate (they will not eat longer hair algae). They are also useful for

Blue Leg Hermit Crab. A clean-up crew can be quite expensive to establish and then you need to keep it up-to-date by replacing dead specimens. january/february 2017 the fishkeeper


This is a colour form of heraldi there is yellow with a black saddle. It was once considered a distinct species referred to as C. woodheadi.

The most similar pygmy is the Herald’s angelfish (Centropyge heraldi), which is yellow with no blue markings.

In a newly cycled tank, you will want to start slow and then ramp up to your full stocking level or else they will all starve and you will end up buying a new clean-up crew. smaller tanks because they do not grow larger than a few centimetres. They do have problems, however, when they are flipped over as they cannot get back to their correct orientation and can die. If you see one on its back, you should flip it over. Trochus snails – Trochus snails are very similar to Astereas in terms of their algae eating, but they can rescue themselves when they are flipped over. They also stay small, making them a nice addition to smaller aquariums like nano tanks. Nerite snails – Again, this is a small snail (less than 2cm) that is very good at eating algae off the tank walls. They will even come out of the water from time-to-time. They are also included in many hobbyists’ refugiums as they do great with marine plants. Nassarius snails – These are one of the most interesting snails you can add to your clean-up crew (even though you will not be seeing much of them) because they target an area of the tank not addressed by the snails listed above - the sand bed. These snails actually bury themselves in the sand, stirring and sifting through it for food. They have a long siphon tube that protrudes from their front and you can often see it sticking out of the sand if you look closely. They will also come out of the sand bed to eat (again, a neat thing to watch) and will feed on many forms of

detritus that other snails ignore. They do require a deep sand bed (10cm for their survival and should only be added after the tank matures for several months after the cycle. Crabs are perhaps the second most popular group of animals when it comes to forming a clean-up crew. Hermit crabs in particular are highly beneficial because they scavenge all over the tank, eating the food that is leftover by your fish. It is important to be careful when adding crabs to your tank, however, because not all of them are reef-safe. The most common crabs for clean-up crew purposes include: Red-legged Hermit Crab (also known as the Scarlet Reef Hermit Crab or the Red Reef Crab) – These crabs do an excellent job of scavenging and keeping algae under control (they will even eat hair algae which most snails avoid). They will also eat fish food. Red-legged hermit crabs stay small and are very hardy -- unlike most hermit crabs, they are also generally peaceful towards others in the tank. They can sometimes attack snails, although the Red Hermit Crab is much less likely to do this than the Blue-legged hermit. To mitigate this problem, toss some spare shells in the tank so they are not fighting the snails for theirs. As they grow and molt, they will look for new shells so it is

6 the fishkeeper january/february 2017

important to offer these larger spares. They are considered reef safe. Blue-legged Hermit Crab – Another popular crab that will relentlessly eat just about anything in your aquarium (algae, scraps of food, etc.) is the blue-legged hermit crab. They are reef safe (although some people do report they can kill specimens that are injured or dying), but have been known to be aggressive towards snails. Adding spare shells of a variety of sizes to the tank will help reduce this aggression. Their bright blue legs are stunning and they are a great addition to a reef tank. Sally Lightfoot Crab – Again a relentless eater, the sally lightfoot crab will scavenge around the tank looking for bits of food or detritus and pick at algae constantly. They are generally considered reef safe although the larger ones have been reported to eat injured or dead fish if they cannot find other food sources. They also will crawl around on the corals a great deal, but this does not generally lead to problems. They get to be about 5 – 8cm in size. Emerald Green Crab (also known as the Emerald Mithrax Crab) – This crab stays fairly small 4cm and is considered peaceful and reef safe. The only time they have been known to munch on corals or fish is if their food supply runs out (you can supplement their diet with dried seaweed,

fish food, and meaty foods). If well fed, they get along perfectly well with other inhabitants. It is also well known for its ability to eat bubble algae, something very few reef safe species do. You may not think of shrimp as anything more than seafood, but they can actually be a valuable addition to the clean-up crew in your saltwater tank. These little creatures can get into the cracks and crevices that other invertebrates can’t reach to clean up detritus and uneaten fish food. Starfish also make great additions to the clean-up crew, not to mention their unique and beautiful appearance. Other species generally used for cleanup crew purposes include: Cleaner Shrimps – The most popular cleaner shrimps are the Pacific Cleaner Shrimp and the Scarlet Cleaner Shrimp (also known as the Red or Fire Shrimp). These shrimps do an excellent job of scavenging for leftover food, but they also pick parasites off of fish and are used to control saltwater ich. Coral Banded Shrimp – Again a very popular scavenger and a very beautiful shrimp in general. They are considered reef safe, but some have reported that they kill fish. However, most people disagree with these reports saying they are aggressive towards their territory and will chase fish away, but they will not actually kill a fish. Peppermint Shrimp – Make sure you get a true Peppermint Shrimp and not the similar looking Camelback Shrimp because only the true Peppermint Shrimp is reef safe. These shrimp are excellent scavengers and are one of the best methods for controlling Aiptasia. Sand Sifting Starfish – These can reach sizes up to 30cm so they should only be used in larger aquariums with deep sand beds. You also need to ensure there is an adequate food supply so they should only be added to established aquariums. They do an excellent job of sifting through

Turbo Snail. Snails are particularly popular as members of a saltwater clean-up crew because they are very efficient. the sand and turning it over. They also consume uneaten food and detritus. How Many Specimens Should I Have in my Clean-up Crew? There is no exact formula to decide how many snails, crabs or shrimp you can keep in your saltwater tank because every tank is different. Not only do you have to think about the gallon capacity of your tank, but you also have to think about what kind of fish and corals you have in the aquarium. Your best bet is to start with just a few specimens and to see how they fare – if they do well and you still have enough algae and detritus to support more, go and add a few more. Though there isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula, there are a few general rules for keeping invertebrates. The general rules for keeping invertebrates in a saltwater tank are: • •

1 snail 4 litres 1 crab per 15 litres

However, these rules do not mean you can put 20 Nassarius snails in your 75 litre aquarium. Instead, you want to mix and match the snails, crabs, and shrimps to get a good combination. Regarding how many of each species for the snails, consider these general rules: •

Asterea snails are usually kept

at one per 20 litres due to their annoying habit of dying when they are flipped over. •

Trochus snails can be kept at as

many as one per 4 litres •

Nerite snails can also be kept at as

many as one per 4 litres. •

Turbo snails should only be kept

at one per every 25 litres due to their size and extreme algae eating ability. •

Nassarius snails are generally kept

at one per 11 litres, but they depend more on the area of the substrate. If you have a tall tank then perhaps only keep one per 19 liters. These levels are for established tanks with a generous food supply of detritus and algae. In a newly cycled tank, you will want to start slow and then ramp up to your full stocking level or else they will all starve and you will end up buying a new clean-up crew. As you can see, a clean-up crew can be quite expensive to establish and then you need to keep it up-to-date by replacing dead specimens. Take this into account when you calculate the cost of your aquarium. If you take the time to research the specimens you want to include in your clean-up crew, however, and make sure to provide plenty of food, your clean-up crew will help you to keep your tank well maintained. january/february 2017 the fishkeeper



Top 12 tanks from the winning works from the IAPLC in Japan

ARTICLE: By Aqua Design Amano

Grand Prize World Ranking 0001 Title:Mighty Cave

Aquarium Size/ W120×D60×H55cm

Takayuki Fukada JAPAN

Aquatic Plants Bolbitis sp. Hemianthus Callitrichoides “Cuba” Fontinalis antipyretica Vesicularia sp.

Riccardia chamedryfolia Fissidens japonicus Monosolenium tenerum Fissidens fontanus Lilaeopsis novae-zelandiae

Fish & Invertebrates Kryptopterus bicirrhis Mr. Takayuki Fukada received the Grand Prize at IAPLC 2016. His layout was selected as Best Aquarium by three judges. Among the layouts reminiscent of a “spectacle” of eroded rocks which have been increasing these years, this layout reached a very high degree of perfection in terms of overall composition and the expression of natural feel in every detail. What is noteworthy about this work are the contrast between the unique-shaped rocks in front and the distant view at the back of it and the perspective emphasized by a white-sand trail leading towards the background. Furthermore, it is worthy of praise that the creator used a high-level originality to make this superb aquascape while using various conventional techniques including the expressions of sheer cliff and stone pillar, weeds and moss grown around them, and hanging vines. The fish species selected perfectly match the atmosphere of this layout.

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Gold Prize World Ranking 0002 Title:Dreamland

Aquarium Size/ W150×D55×H45cm

Chao Wang CHINA Aquatic Plants Riccardia chamedryfolia Vesicularia ferriei

Vesicularia filicinum Glossostigma elatinoides Bucephalandra sp. Fish & Invertebrates Paracheirodon axelrodi Trigonostigma heteromorpha

This Gold Prize winning work is very meticulously created using many pieces of branch-like slim driftwood. The composition is highly novel and skillful. However, the rating varied by judges as it did not appear natural to some of them. Silver Prize World Ranking 0003 Title:”The Rest of the Dream”

Aquarium Size/ W180×D60×H60cm

Junichi Itakura JAPAN

Anubias baeteri var. nana “Petite” Polygonum sp. ‘Pink’ Vallisneria nana Cyperus helferi Fontinalis antipyretica Nymphaea rubra Echinodorus tenellus Echinodorus angustifolius

Aquatic Plants WABI-KUSA Stemmed Plants MIX WABI-KUSA Stemmed Plants MIX (Red) WABI-KUSA Rotala rotundifolia(Green) WABI-KUSA Ludwigia arucuata Microsorum sp.”Tridentleaf” Ludwigia sp. Rotala sp.“Ceylon” Fish & Invertebrates Aphyocharax rathbumi Mikrogeophagus ramirezi var. Anomalochromis thomasi Otocinclus sp. Caridina japonica january/february 2017 the fishkeeper


The first Silver Prize winning work was highly rated for its high degree of perfection as a Nature Aquarium layout. Its stunning design embodied the ideal “aquascape” where aquatic plants and fish coexist in harmony. Silver Prize World Ranking 0004 Title:OverTime

Aquarium Size/ W120×D45×H45cm

Katsuki Tanaka JAPAN

Rotala sp. “Wayanad” Myriophyllum sp. Myriophillum tuberculatum Myriophillum elatinoides Bucephalandra sp. Echinodorus tenellus

Aquatic Plants Vesicularia ferriei Taxiphyllum sp. Micanthemum sp. Hemianthus Callitrichoides “Cuba” Eleocharis parvula Fish & Invertebrates Hyphessobrycon elachys Carinotetraodon travancoricus Otocinclus sp. Caridina japonica Neocaridina denticulata

This is a novel and unconventional layout depicting a crack on the ground or a deep valley. It uses various species of aquatic plants, from mosses to stem plants, and its composition is very well formed. However, the light from underneath the tank may be ‘excessive staging’. Bronze Prize World Ranking 0005 Title:To my friend in heaven

Aquarium Size/ W120×D45×H37cm

Adriano Montoro Nicácio BRAZIL Aquatic Plants Callitriche sp. Hemianthus micranthemoides Hydrocotyle tripartite Rotala najenshan

Utricularia graminifolia Eleocharis sp. Japan Eleocharis parvula Staurogyne sp. Pogostemon helferi

10 the fishkeeper january/february 2017

THE PLANTED TANK Official Distributors of Aqua Design Amano Products Contact for more information, or call 083 742 1954 january/february 2017 the fishkeeper


Rotala rotundifolia Rotala Mexicana Rotala green Rotala sp. Pink Glossostigma elatinoides

Limnophila sp. Vietnam Vesicularia sp. Bacopa sp. Reflexa Hygrophila pinnatifida Fish & Invertebrates Paracheirodon axelrodi Hyphessobrycon herbertaxelrodi Neocaridina davidi

The composition of this layout is orthodox but the overall balance is excellent. The perspective is also very well expressed with stone and cosmetic sand. The arrangement of aquatic plants is appropriate. The perfection level of this aquascape is very high. Bronze Prize World Ranking 0006 Title:The Forbidden Forest

Aquarium Size/ W120×D50×H45cm

Yoyo Prayogi INDONESIA

Aquatic Plants Taxiphyllum sp.

Vesicularia ferriei Vesicularia montagnei Fish & Invertebrates Hemigrammus rhodostomus

The creator of this layout used fine driftwood pieces to express tree roots eroded by water. This expression is reminiscent of riverside or underwater of tropical rainforest waters. There were other layouts having similar design, however this work was remarkable with excellent expression of natural ambience.

Bronze Prize World Ranking 0007 Title:Hideaway

Long Tran Hoáng VIETNAM

12 the fishkeeper january/february 2017

Aquarium Size/ W152×D78×H45cm

Aquatic Plants Fissidens nobilis sp. Mini Cryptocoryne parva Bucephalandra sp. Anubias barteri var. nana ‘petite’

Microsorum pteropus sp. Taxiphyllum sp. Riccardia chamedryfolia sp. Bolbitis heudelotii Marsilea hirsute Fish & Invertebrates Hyphessobrycon amandae Carinotetraodon lorteti sp. ‘dwaft puffer’ Neocaridina heteropoda sp. red cherry

The expression depicting an overhanging rock wall is very powerful. The bold and wild composition helps express the water flowing from the rear right of the center to the left front, adding a sense of openness to the layout.

World Ranking 0008 Title:Journey

Aquarium Size W150×D50×H50cm

Yufan Yang CHINA

This layout expresses the perspective by the tunnel-like structure in the center which was made by a combination of many thin driftwood pieces. Just as the last year’s Grand Prize work, this layout also uses extremely fine branches to depict vines.

World Ranking 0009 Title:Origin of the Dream Forest

Jin Liang CHINA

Aquarium Size W120×D60×H50cm

This layout expresses the perspective by the valley-like structure which becomes narrower towards the background. The perspective is further emphasized by placing smaller pieces of driftwood at the back while placing larger ones in front. january/february 2017 the fishkeeper


World Ranking 0010 Title:Searching for a Dream


Size W146×D60×H60cm

Yong Liu CHINA

This work has an impression like deep forest covered by moss. Dark green aquatic plants are mainly used but the ambience is not gloomy thanks to a moderate amount of open space. This arrangement makes the aquascape look appealing. World Ranking 0011 Title:Deep Forest Emergence

Aquarium Size W120×D60×H45cm


This layout has the composition like looking up a sheer cliff from underneath. The expression of tree roots and vine that have firmly got into rock crevices provide a good accent to the layout. World Ranking 0012 Title:Guiding Lights


Aquarium Size W120×D60×H60cm

This layout has a unique atmosphere reminiscent of a gaping hole in the wood. A natural feel of forest floor is skillfully expressed by combining various aquatic plants having different leaf shapes. 14 the fishkeeper january/february 2017 january/february 2017 the fishkeeper



Protein Skimmers 101 ARTICLE BY: By Clarice Brough CFS, Elizabeth M. Lukan, Carrie McBirney


hat is a protein skimmer?

A protein skimmer is a piece of equipment used in aquariums, especially marine and reef tanks, to physically remove organic materials from the aquarium water. In the open system of the ocean, organic waste products are removed and diluted to a level where they don’t cause harm. An aquarium is a closed system where these same organic materials and their breakdown compounds can quickly accumulate to a level that adversely affects tank inhabitants, especially corals. These organic materials include the waste products from invertebrates and fish and the decay products from dead organisms and uneaten food. Proteins are one of these organic materials hence the general industry name, protein skimmer. Collectively these by products from the breakdown of of biological materials are called Dissolved Organic Compounds (DOC’s). Protein skimmers are used to help remove these dissolved waste and organic materials. Protein skimmers improve water quality in a number of ways including reducing algae build-up, reducing phosphates, removing toxins released by corals and invertebrates, reducing water change frequency,

“Protein skimmer’s efficiency depends on the amount of crash (how hard the bubbles are forced into the water) and dwell time (the amount of time the bubbles spend in the chamber).”

16 the fishkeeper january/february 2017

increasing oxygen in the water, and increasing water clarity.

How does it work?

Protein skimmers work by a process called foam fractionation and are sometimes called foam fractionators. They originated in the waste-water treatment industry as a way to reduce the organic load before the water reached the activated sludge reactors. The process takes advantage the attraction between organic waste and air bubbles: When water full of dissolved organic compounds, is put in contact with a column of air bubbles, the waste products stick to the bubbles creating foam which is then collected and removed.

Tanks with fish generally have higher DOC loads.

The very simple chemistry behind this is that DOC’s are bipolar molecules, that is they carry charged (polar) and uncharged (non-polar) regions. These polar and nonpolar areas are attracted to the air / water interface of the bubble as it moves upward through the column of water. As these DOC studded bubbles get to the top of the skimmer they accumulate creating stable foam bubbles that take a long time to ‘pop’. The result is the DOC’s slowly concentrate at the top of the skimmer in the foam which accumulates and slowly gets pushed into a collection cup. A more detailed description of the chemistry can be found at Efficient skimming comes about when the water level and bubble flow in the column produce a foam with a fairly stiff consistency that accumulates at the top and overflows into the collection cup. The effectiveness of a skimmer is based on: • The amount bubbles produced: More bubbles means more interactions. • The size of the bubbles produced: Smaller is better, in a range of 0.5 – 1 mm. Smaller bubbles provide more surface area for reacting because more will fit in a given amount of space and so collect more DOC’s than larger bubbles. It is also easier to keep smaller bubbles from rising too swiftly in the reaction chamber giving them more time to react. • The contact time the bubbles have with the water: Termed dwell, the longer the contact between the bubbles and the water the more time the two have to react with each other. • The total amount of water it will process. • The turbulence created inside the reaction chamber: The design can adversely effects the protein carrying bubbles, bubbles crashing into each other can dislodge accumulated DOC’s from the bubbles and make the skimmer less effective. • The stability and ease of removing the foam produced: The bubbles creating the foam need to remain stable long enough

Some skimming methods are more suited to smaller volume tanks, some to larger. for rising bubbles to make a foam (termed ‘dry’ foam) that slowly flows into the collection cup. Foam bubbles that break quickly upon reaching the top of the reaction chamber (termed ‘wet’ foam) can deposit most of the DOC’s right back into the tank instead of the collection cup.

Skimmer Types

Skimmers utilize different designs and methods to remove the dissolved organic wastes, all with claims of efficiency and ability. In determining which design is the right one for your system, consider the following parameters as you research and shop: • What’s in the tank: Tanks with fish generally have higher DOC loads. • Tank volume: Some skimming methods are more suited to smaller volume tanks, some to larger. • Skimmer reaction chamber height: The taller the the reaction chamber, the longer the contact time between the water and

the air. Choose a unit that maximizes this for your setup. • Skimmer diameter: The larger the amount of tank volume to skim, the wider the skimmers reaction chamber diameter should be. • Water flow through the skimmer: The water flow rate and its direction thru the skimmer needs to be such to allow the air bubbles and DOC’s in the water to react. Also where the water is being drawn from influences efficiency as the surface layer of the water in your tank contains the greatest concentration of DOC’s. • Amount of air pumped into the reaction chamber: The volume of air pumped into the reaction chamber helps create and maintain bubble size and reduces potential turbulence of the air bubbles. You can break down protein skimmers into two general types based on the direction the water and bubbles move in them. In a counter current system the air bubbles flow against the direction of the water flow. In january/february 2017 the fishkeeper


Provide the Galaxy Coral with good light and a low to moderate water movement.

Before you buy, talk with your local fish store and solicit options from their professionals. a co-current flow system, the introduced air and water travel in the same direction within the reaction chamber.

Air Driven Skimmers

These were the first types introduced to the hobby. They can be gravity or pump fed and as in tank, independent units, or hang-on designs. They are for the most part inexpensive and easy to install with many DIY plans available. They can be very efficient at removing DOC’s but do require regular adjustments and maintenance such as replacing air stones and air pump diaphragms, both an ongoing expense. Counter-Current (CC) Air Skimmer: This style has a water pumped in at the top of the cylinder where it is directed downward at about a 45 degree angle to make the water swirl. Wooden air diffusers (airstones) and a powerful air pump produce bubbles that rise upward. DOC’s stick to the bubbles and accumulate as foam in cylinder neck. This is the original design first used in home aquaria and is a common type for those who like a DIY project as they are easy to construct. A minimum recommended height is 70cm with two to three air woods for every 10cm of column diameter. pros: good foam production with properly functioning air stones, good bubble size, maximum contact time (with taller units) cons: frequent maintenance in pumps and airstones, recurring costs, frequent tuning (water height adjustment in the reaction chamber)

Co-Current (CC) Air Skimmer:

These have an air source with an airstone or similar diffuser at the bottom of the reaction tube. The water is drawn up into the chamber in the same direction. The air and indrawn water combine as they

No matter what skimmer you choose, its efficiency will decrease if not properly maintained.

rise in the chamber. Usually found as a hang-on or in tank installations. pros: suitable for small (less than 30 gal) low capacity systems, good for beginners as easy to operate cons: minimum dwell time, dependent on quality of diffuser and pump used, frequent maintenance

Venturi Skimmers

This style uses a venturi injector and a powerful pressure pump to drive the venturi valve to create tremendous amounts of bubbles. The venturi valve delivers the water being treated as well as creating millions of microscopic bubbles. Venturi valves work by taking the high velocity water pumped into the valve’s main body, pushing it through a chokepoint where a nipple allows room air to be drawn into the valve and then injected into a swirling jet of water which is shot into the skimmer’s reaction chamber. Higher end units often come with a threaded needlecontrol valve to fine-tune the amount of air injected. There is generally less maintenance and adjustment in this type since the water pump drives both the air and water flow (co-current). When first introduced this design was popular because of its compact size and high efficiency. As skimmer designs have evolved, you are more apt to see a venturi valve as a part in other skimmer designs. pros: good water flow, good foam production, moderate contact time, eliminates air pumps and airstones cons: requires powerful pump, pump requires regular maintenance, valves can clog

Needle Wheel Skimmers

Also known as Aspirating, Air Shredding or Mesh Wheel skimmers. These draw air

18 the fishkeeper january/february 2017

into the impeller cavity of a powerhead or small pump to creates bubbles. The bubbles are chopped up into smaller bubbles by an impeller, specialized needle wheel, or pegged wheel. They have a very slow water flow and use low power pumps which makes them less expensive to operate. They are able to generate large amounts of foam. Because the needle wheels are a patented design, there is a wide range of price and effectiveness. Higher end models tend to be very effective, easy to clean and adjust so model research is imperative. pros: good foam production, good bubble size, excellent contact time, efficient to operate, smaller size cons: some needle wheel impellers can be prone to higher failure rates, damaged ones expensive to replace or repair

Downdraft Skimmers

One of the most powerful types of skimmers it is a design that is neither counter-current or venturi, it also referred to as Environmental Tower Scrubber (ETS). A jet of water is sprayed under high pressure into a narrow column (tower) containing plastic media balls. The water crashing through the balls creates creates thousands of ultra fine bubbles. These create a very effective foam that is channeled into a box below where it allows time for the DOC rich froth to rise up into a wide-mouthed tube and into the collection cup above it. Beckett skimmers are an evolution of the downdraft skimmers utilizing a Beckett nozzle (patented foam nozzle) instead of media balls to create foam. pros: good water flow, excellent bubble production and contact time, can process large volumes of water, suited for large systems and systems with large bio-load

cons: tend to be large and bulky, requires powerful pumps, difficult to clean, expensive to purchase and operate. Spray Injection Skimmers These look like smaller downdraft designs but use engineered injectors to create foam. Smaller in size than comparable Downdraft and Beckett skimmers and they use a smaller pumps making them more user-friendly and affordable than comparable styles. They are also some of the easiest skimmers to adjust and maintain. pros: excellent bubble and foam production, smaller size but with the performance of a larger unit cons: expensive, noisy

Choosing a skimmer Which skimmer to purchase entails evaluating all the various choices for compatibility with your system; how much effort and time you want to put in to getting and keeping it at peak performance, and how much you have to invest in the cost of the unit, running it, and maintaining it. Before you buy, talk with your local fish store and solicit options from their professionals. Seek out experienced hobbyists (through local clubs, aquarium societies, online forums) for insight and their experiences. Popular

does not always equate to effective. Placement: Skimmers can be placed in the sump, hang on the sump, in the tank, hang on the tank, or be free standing. If you already have a system set up, placement is the first consideration. To be most effective a protein skimmer should be the first step in your filtration process; any prefilter or other mechanical filtration that comes between surface-collected water and the skimmer seriously compromises its performance. If you have a wet/dry filter, an in-sump skimmer can be the easiest and most cost effective. If your sump does have that much space, an external model that sits next to the sump is an option. Both these have the advantage of being out of sight, are less likely to be bumped, and you may be able to use excess flow from the return pump to run it. If you do not have a wet/dry filter, then an internal or external hang-on-the-tank model will work depending on the space behind your aquarium or how much space in the tank you are willing to give up. The DOC’s you want the skimmer to remove are attracted to the thin, top layer of the water’s surface in the aquarium. Flow into the skimmer should include as much of this concentrated, undisturbed and raw water from the surface. Sump model skimmers generally receive water from built-in overflow boxes, bulkhead fittings, and other surface draining methods. Hang-on skimmers may include surface extraction boxes that force it to draw this top water

layer from the aquarium. Maintenance: All skimmers require cleaning to work their best. No matter what skimmer you choose, its efficiency will decrease if not properly maintained. Collection cups size influences how often you have to empty it; a built-in drain lets you hook up a larger container and empty it even less often. Look at the design to see how easy it is to access parts that may need replacement or cleaning. How much time you want to spend maintaining your skimmer is an important factor in selecting the right one for you. Efficiency: A protein skimmer’s efficiency depends on the amount of crash (how hard the bubbles are forced into the water) and dwell time (the amount of time the bubbles spend in the chamber). Also in play is the volume of bubbles produced, the water to air ratio, the volume of water processed, and turbulence inherent in the design. Cost: A skimmer purchase is not the piece of equipment to skimp on; get the best one you can afford as you don’t save any money when you find it inadequate and need to replace it. Think of the skimmer as a small percentage of the total investment to maintain a healthy system. Selecting one that is slightly larger than necessary is better than choosing one that is too small.

Skimmers utilize different designs and methods to remove the dissolved organic wastes, all with claims of efficiency and ability. january/february 2017 the fishkeeper


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The Peacocks of Lake Malawi ARTICLE: by Marc Elieson

Aulonocara German Red

“The Peacocks of Lake Malawi are exquisite fish with a remarkable specialization. Their striking colors, ease of care, relative peacefulness with other fish, and their prolific aptitude have made them a mainstay in the hobby.” he so-called Peacock cichlids of Lake Malawi have achieved sustained popularity among aquarium hobbyists for more than three decades. The Malawi Peacocks possess several characteristics that have kept them in perpetual demand. First and foremost, Peacock males are some of the most spectacularly adorned of all cichlids. Just like their avian namesake, Peacock males sport dazzling iridescent colors while females and juveniles remain quite plain. As juvenile males grow, they undergo a dramatic transformation from drab silver or grayish-brown into brilliant blue, tawny gold, bright yellow, blood red, and rusty orange. Once mature, their colours are omnipresent, unlike other spectacularly adorned cichlids whose colour is principally mood-dependent. Males are almost always on display, sticking their fins out, trying to catch the eye of a would-be admirer. In contrast, Mbuna and most Haplochromines only do this when exerting aggression or attempting to spawn.


Another factor contributing to their popularity is their relative peacefulness with other fish, making them suitable

candidates for a community-type aquarium provided the other tankmates are selected appropriately. Peacocks also breed readily and are relatively undemanding aquarium residents. These attributes make Peacocks appealing to both the beginner and advanced hobbyist. The Peacocks of Lake Malawi consist only of those fishes from the genus Aulonocara. Members of this genus are characterized by a remarkably enlarged lateral line system. The lateral line, or lateralis, is a line of perforated scales along the flanks of a fish which lead to a pressure-sensitive nervous system. Specialized cells within the lateralis, called neuromasts, enable a fish to detect vibrations and electrical impulses in the surrounding water. The lateralis is thus essential in allowing a fish to detect potential predators as well as prey (Loiselle 1985). Peacocks are particularly pressure sensitive due to an enlargement of the facial pores and an extension of the lateral line onto the jaw. The squamation across the bones of the face is left nearly devoid of scales, making this extension and enlargement of the cephalic lateralis clearly visible as pits and grooves

22 the fishkeeper january/february 2017

(Konings 2001). “These characteristic openings are easy to recognize if one observes Aulonocara spp. outside the water in slanted light.” (Spreinat 1995). The pores on the suborbital bones of the head are so dramatically enlarged they resemble the holes of a flute. In fact, when Regan erected the genus Aulonocara in 1921, he chose this name based upon this fascinating and unique characteristic. Aulonocara is derived from the Greek aulos, which means “pipe” and kara, meaning “head” (Eccles 1989). Living in deep and dark water, the Peacocks have developed and rely on their enhanced lateralis sense to hunt for food. Aulonocara are benthic insectivores and are therefore almost always found along the sandy bottom of the lake. They hunt sand-dwelling invertebrates with the aid of these enlarged pressure sensitive tubes in the flesh of their jaws. They hover motionless above the sand by just a few millimeters. With the very sensitive and enlarged sensory pores on the lower part of their head they are able to detect the micro-movements of tiny invertebrates in the sand. They hover motionless until such

a prey’s movements are detected. Such a detection is followed by an instantaneous bite into the sand. Sand is then strained for food by shooting it out the fish’s gills while retaining the acquired treat (Konings 1995). This hunting technique has not been documented in the aquarium, most likely due to the absolute lack of insect larvae and other small crustaceans living in the aquarium substrate. They often sift through the sand after each feeding, probably looking for any small particles of food that were missed. In the aquarium, Peacocks readily adapt to and accept almost any commercially prepared food. While they require animal protein in their diet, it is wise to also provide some Spirulina to keep their blue color looking its best. Similarly, a fish food with krill will maximize reds and oranges. All reputable cichlid foods contain an adequate amount of yellow pigment so as not to be a conscious concern in the selection of food. Frozen and live foods can be fed periodically but these are not essential. A quality fish food with high levels of protein will be sufficient. If used, frozen and live foods should only be used as supplements to a diet of flake and/ or pellet foods. Also be aware that larger adults will need more than just flake food to keep them in optimal breeding condition. It is best to feed Peacocks only one to two times a day, and never more than they can consume in two minutes. Unlike Mbuna, whose aggression necessitates feeding several times a day, Peacocks have a mild temperament and are very undemanding. Consequently, their feeding regimen should be minimal and infrequent but consistent.

Aulonocara stuartgranti. Living in deep and dark water, the Peacocks have developed and rely on their enhanced lateralis sense to hunt for food.

They hunt sand-dwelling invertebrates with the aid of these enlarged pressure sensitive tubes in the flesh of their jaws january/february 2017 the fishkeeper



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It is important to consider Peacocks’ natural habitat when contemplating how to arrange the aquarium they will inhabit. Sand is the substrate of choice. Gravel with its sharp edges may irritate their gills since they frequently “chew” and “sift” the substrate after each feeding. Furthermore, males like to dig shallow depressions in the sand prior to spawning, which is less likely to occur if gravel is used. Rocks are an important consideration. The vast majority of Aulonocara species exported for the aquarium hobby are rockdwelling cichlids. Specifically, they inhabit the intermediate zone, where the deep, open sand meets the rocks. They cling to the rocky niches of this biotope, which afford them much-needed protection on account of their relatively small size. In the aquarium, they likewise appreciate rockwork. Caves or large crevices are readily claimed and the areas in between or near rocks prove to be favourite places for breeding. A simple alternative to rocks are clay flowerpots. While not as aesthetically pleasing, they are quite functional. Some creative aquarists will even glue sand to pots and plastic pipes to disguise them. This can be done using 100% silicone or a hot-glue gun. In the aquarium, live plants are a viable option. Peacocks do not eat plants, unlike other Lake Malawi cichlids, but they nonetheless have a tendency to dig and uproot them. All plants should be fastened or secured. Java Fern should be tied to drift wood or rocks with black string or fishing line. Other plants should be potted (when possible) and wedged in between rocks. Even though Peacocks have adapted to a dimly lit environment in the wild, they readily adjust to the higher light levels required for the growth of aquatic plants. The water in Lake Malawi is quite alkaline, although minor differences from location

24 the fishkeeper january/february 2017

to location have been observed. The average surface temperature ranges from (23 - 28˚C), depending upon the time of year and location (Konings 2001). Being a large body of water set in the tropics, its fauna is never subjected to rapid changes in temperature or chemistry. In the aquarium, efforts should be made to create as consistent an environment as possible. The temperature of the water should be stable, without sudden fluctuations. A reliable heater will help maintain a fairly constant water temperature. A long-standing rule of thumb for getting the appropriate size heater is to select a heater with a rated wattage equivalent to 3 watts per 4-litre aquarium water. In addition to a stable water temperature, attention must also be paid to the water chemistry. The first step to creating stable water chemistry is to “harden” the water. GH and KH levels of the water should be no lower than 10. Levels lower than this will result in an unstable pH environment no matter how much effort or money is put into raising the pH. Water can be hardened with the use of chemicals, but the simplest (and least expensive) method is to use appropriate rocks. Limestone, for example, is made of Calcium bicarbonate, a natural buffer found in many biological systems. In the aquarium, it aids in resisting any deviations from the desired pH level of 7.8 – 8.0. In the lake, males are solitary and territorial. Males’ territories are usually 0.5 m in diameter and typically center around a crevice or a rocky overhang, which functions for rear cover and offers escape. In contrast, females live solitary or in small groups and usually linger near the males’ territory (Spreinat 1995). Keeping this in mind and relying on aquarists’ experiences over the last three decades, it is generally recommended to keep Peacocks in a ratio of one male to two or three females.

Breeding Peacocks in the aquarium is generally not very difficult. Courting rituals are both vigorous and prolonged, making them very exciting to watch. In the lake, males typically display at the entrance of a cave or grotto, where they have dug a shallow spot in the sand (Staeck 1981). They will display with their fins erect and oftentimes their thin, lateral bars darken. Courting males make darting, flashing movements in an effort to gain the female’s attention. Once a male has attracted a consenting female, he will lead her to this shallow nest. They will make several passes across the nest in the classic T-position before the female finally drops a few eggs. Just as the female reaches to pick them up, the male fertilizes the eggs. The two will repeat this process dozens of times, and it seems they only stop when the female eventually loses interest. Once spawning is complete, the female will incubate the eggs in her buccal cavity for a period of 21 to 28 days. When the fry are developed enough to swim and forage on their own, she will release them. In the wild, a mother will care for her young for the first week or more but this is only rarely observed in the aquarium. Depending upon the size of the female, spawns of most adult Aulonocara species number between 12 and 50 eggs and newly released fry measure roughly 10 mm. Most aquarists prefer to keep their aquariums in the range of (26 - 28˚C) on the grounds that spawning occurs more readily when these fish are kept in warmer water (Loiselle 1988). Warmer temperatures will also speed the development of embryos within the mother’s mouth, effectively reducing the “holding time” and thereby decreasing the duration of time between spawns. In the aquarium, where space is limited, males will continue to drive females for

several days after spawning. It is essential that females have shelter from pursuant males. Without shelter, females often abort the incubation. Female Peacocks do not eat during the incubation period. As a consequence, they can become weak and easily stressed if chased and nipped at repeatedly. For this reason caves and other shelter are necessary. In some instances temporary placement in another aquarium is the best plan. Brooding females can be removed from the aquarium and allowed to pass the incubation period apart from other fish without fear of causing her harm. It is recommended however that she not be removed immediately after spawning. The stress of removal shortly after spawning can lead her to abort the clutch. If a female is removed, consider allowing her three to seven days post-release to recover her strength before returning to the aquarium. When cared for properly, females will breed about every eight weeks (four weeks post-release). Regular water changes and a diet high in protein will keep them in top condition. Mbuna and Peacocks make poor tankmates primarily because Mbuna have a considerably more aggressive temperament (some would even say obnoxious). Their aggressiveness and hyperactivity have a tendency to stress the Peacocks. Keeping Mbuna together with Peacocks usually proves deleterious to the latter who are kept in a constant state of subordination. Some hobbyists who mix these two fish may argue that no such unfavorable conditions exist. This may sometimes appear superficially to be true, but Peacocks kept with Mbuna do not grow as fast, are less colorful, and do not live nearly as long. Peacocks removed from such an environment show dramatic turnaround within a short period

of time, confirming the sensibility of this recommendation. As you can see, the Peacocks of Lake Malawi are exquisite fish with a remarkable specialization. Their striking colors, ease of care, relative peacefulness with other fish, and their prolific aptitude have made them a mainstay in the hobby. With dozens of color patterns, you’re sure to find one that suits your taste. If you have never tried one of the Aulonocara species, I recommend giving them a try. You will quickly discover for yourself why they remain a hobby favorite after more than three decades.

Literature Cited Eccles, David H. And Ethelwynn Trewavas. 1989. Malawian Cichlid Fishes the Classification of some Haplochromine Fishes. Lake Fish Movies, Herten, West Germany. Konings, Ad. 1995. Cichlidae Live Part 2: Diving in Lake Malawi. Trophic Adaptations. Cichlid Press, El Paso, TX. 2001. Malawi Cichlids in their Natural Habitat, 3rd ed. Cichlid Press, El Pas TX. 2002. “Malawi Cichlids”. Enjoying Cichlids, 2nd ed. Ed. Ad Konings. Cichlid Press, El Paso, TX. Loiselle, Paul V. 1985. “Butterflies and Peacocks from Lake Malawi”. Freshwater and Aquarium Magazine, Mar 1985; pp. 10-21. 1988. A Fishkeeper’s Guide to African Cichlids. Tetra Press, Blacksburg, VA. Spreinat, Andreas. 1995. Lake Malawi Cichlids from Tanzania. A. Spreinat, Göttingen, Germany. Staeck, W. and H. Linke. 1981. Afrikaniscae Cichliden. II. Buntbarsche aus Ostafrika. Tetra-Verlag, Melle. january/february 2017 the fishkeeper


Marine “Although juveniles are usually quite peace-loving, once a larger lyretail hogfish is established in its captive home it may behave aggressively toward smaller or more docile tankmates.”

Lyretail Hogfish

Some fish species do sometimes eat them including some wrasses, filefish, butterfly fish and dottybacks. More often than not this is due to an inquisitive fish.

ARTICLE: Scott Smith

This is definitely a great species to keep in a non-aggressive aquarium of medium sized fish

he Lyretail Hogfish belongs to the family Labridae, which is one of the largest fish families found on coral reefs, with over 500 species occurring worldwide. As you would expect, this is a diverse group whose members vary in appearance, behavior and captive care requirements.


The Lyretail Hogfish along with other hogfish species are some of the most aquarium-suitable of all the wrasses. These fishes comprise the tribe Hypsigenyini with the majority of species belonging to the genus Bodianus. There are 29 described species in the genus Bodianus, and a number of undescribed forms. Currently Dr. Martin Gomon, a Labrid specialist, is revising the genus. The majority of hogfish are found on coral reefs and are most common in shallow to moderate depths (less than 40 m). However, there are some species that reside on rocky reefs,

26 the fishkeeper january/february 2017

in subtropical and warm temperate waters. For example, the Harlequin wrasse ( Bodianus eclancheri ), which are often koilike in colour, are only known from rocky reefs off the coast of Peru and Chile (including the Galapagos Islands). There are also a few species that are restricted to deep water. For example, Bodianus tanyokidus is a hogfish that has only been taken at depths greater than 100 m (Myers 1999). Lyretail Hogfish are active predators, whose diets consist mainly of benthic invertebrates, including mollusks, worms and crustaceans. Adults of several hogfish species commonly associate with fish that feed by grubbing in the substrate (e.g., goatfishes), which stirs-up prey that are unavailable to most hogfish. A number of Bodianus spp. act as facultative (parttime) parasite-pickers when they’re juveniles. The hogfish are protogynous hermaphrodites (they can change sex, from female to male) and at least some species exhibit a haremic social structure.

Although this species Berghia are very small generally does well in the home aquarium, small juveniles can be more sensitive to and add a very small transport stress and may have a more difficult time bioload to your tank. adjusting to captivity than large juveniles or subadults.

This wide-ranging hogfish is found from the Red Sea to the Line and Tuamotu Islands, north to southern Japan and south to New Caledonia and Tonga.

The Lyretail Hogfish has to be one of the most spectacular, and most divergent, of the hogfish species. It is easily recognized by its deeply incised to emarginate tail and its general form. In some ways it looks more like an anthias than a wrasse, hence its species name anthioides. The lyretail hogfish also has a bold colour pattern, consisting of orangish-brown on the head and anterior portion of the body, with the rest of the body is white with black spots. Adults may display temporary, and possibly permanent sexual dichromatism and appear to be sexually dimorphic, with males attaining larger sizes than females.

juveniles occur in deeper water where they commonly associate with the large sea fan, Subgorgia hicksoni. They feed on the small organisms that get trapped in the fan’s lattice-like structure. Juveniles are also facultative cleaners, setting up cleaning stations near sea fans or other prominent features on the reef. When feeding, larger lyretail hogfish often blow jets of water out of their mouth’s at the sand surface to uncover buried prey (this is known as hydraulic jetting). Adults also associate with goatfishes to consume prey items these fish flush out or expose with their chin barbels.

This wide-ranging hogfish is found from the Red Sea to the Line and Tuamotu Islands, north to southern Japan and south to New Caledonia and Tonga. Of the three species discussed in this article, it is the largest, attaining a maximum length of 21 cm.

Although the lyretail hogfish is usually observed singly, it is probably a haremic species. I have witnessed the spawning behavior of this species in the Red Sea. At dusk, a male courted two females near the top of a large coral head. The male was larger than the females and differed in color. He was much darker towards the front of the body than the females, his head was rusty- brown rather than orangish-

The lyretail hogfish is found on reef faces, fore reef slopes, drop-offs and on the back side of barrier reefs and occurs at a depth range of 6 to 60 m. It tends to prefer areas with rich coral growth. In the Red Sea, adults are often found in shallow, sandy areas on the back reef while small

brown like that of the females, and the “cheek” area of the male had changed to gray. The male swam around the female

The lyretail hogfish is found on reef faces, fore reef slopes, drop-offs and on the back side of barrier reefs and occurs at a depth range of 6 to 60 m.

with his fins erect, until one of the females joined him. The pair then swam, side-by- side, into the water column and shed their gametes. Although this species generally does well in the home aquarium, small juveniles can be more sensitive to transport stress and may have a more difficult time adjusting to captivity than large juveniles or subadults. In order to increase their chances of survival, smaller B. anthioides should be housed with docile fish species and provided with plenty of hiding places. Adolescents and small adults will readily adapt to aquarium life, but are quite active and need plenty of open swimming space. Although juveniles are usually quite peace-loving, once a larger lyretail hogfish is established in its captive home it may behave aggressively toward smaller or more docile tankmates. Moderatelyaggressive tankmates, like groupers, hawkfishes, angelfishes, and some of the more placid triggerfishes can be introduced into a tank containing an acclimated, adult lyretail hogfish. Juveniles will often clean other fish in the confines of the aquarium (this can be fascinating to watch!). I would recommend a tank of at least 285 liters to 380 liters in size for an adult individual. Lyretail Hogfish are active predators, whose diets consist mainly of benthic invertebrates, including mollusks, worms and crustaceans. january/february 2017 the fishkeeper



Breeding the Dwarf Gourami. W Berghia eating an Aiptasia.

“Dwarf gourami are beautiful, generally robust fish that are relatively easy to keep and can live for four years. They have interesting breeding habits in which the male looks after the eggs and developing fry.”

Berghia nudibranch.

ild male dwarf gourami is an astoundingly beautiful fish. The deepbodied, laterally compressed male can reach a size of about 6.5cm, with the female staying a little smaller. The wild form of the male has a metallic turquoise blue face and body, with a dozen or more bright orangey-red vertical stripes transecting the body from behind the gills and extending into the long-based dorsal and anal fins, as well as into the tail fin. The attractive female fish, on the other hand, is not nearly as colorful as the male, being a pale silveryblue with a faint trace of orange-yellow vertical stripes from behind the gills. Manmade strains of dwarf gourami are available, in which the male fish is predominantly blue or red, giving rise to the powder blue, neon blue and the red or sunset forms of the dwarf gourami. The female fish of all these varieties are much the same: a pale blue. It’s therefore important to buy a male and female from the same source, particularly if they are going to be used as breeding stock. The dwarf gourami (Colisa lalia), belongs to the family Belontiidae and has

ARTICLE: By Iggy Tavares

Flame Dwarf Gouramis

Berghia eating an Aiptasia.

28 the the fishkeeper fishkeeper january/february january/february 2017 2017

“The use of more than one filter in your tank allows alternate week cleaning which is safer for preserving your beneficial bacteria and seems to be less stressful to the fish.”

Berghia are not a quick solution

In the aquarium, dwarf gourami and other fish in this community are not fussy eaters; they will eagerly eat to Aiptasia control and it all flakes and do relatively well on them. However, all fish depends on how many you add.

a labyrinth organ that allows it to utilize oxygen from air gulped at the surface. The labyrinth organ contains a maze of lamellae that are well-supplied with blood vessels that absorb oxygen, enabling the gourami to live in water that has low levels of dissolved oxygen. Another peculiarity common to gourami is the long feeler-like pelvic fins used to touch things and even to greet other gourami. These long pelvic fins are also reputed to have taste cells. Today all dwarf gourami reaching the aquatic hobby are bred at fish farms in southeast Asia. When buying these fish, take time to observe them to ensure they are healthy and swimming well. Healthy

males will always be sparring or observing other males in their vicinity. Make sure the fish you select do not have any ulcers on their bodies and that the fins, including the long feelers, are all intact.

adult parent fish when they are not breeding (this aquarium can be a community tank). Another smaller aquarium could double up as the breeding aquarium, as well as the grow-out aquarium.

It’s easy to tell the colorful male from the smaller, plumper female. Additionally, the male’s dorsal fin is slightly longer and more tapered, compared to the rounder tip on the female. So, picking a male and female pair should be relatively easy.

Dwarf gourami are generally peaceful fish ideal for a community tank containing other small, equally peaceful fish. For this purpose, a medium-sized planted aquarium (90cm by 45cm by 45cm, 190 litres) would be ideal. A whole range of plants are suitable for this tank, with shorter plants for the foreground and taller plants, such as Cabomba caroliniana or Limnophila aquatica, for the back and sides of the tank. These are fast-growing, and three

Dwarf gourami tanks When breeding the dwarf gourami, hobbyists need more than one aquarium. The first aquarium is needed to hold the january/february 2017 the fishkeeper


Dwarf Cascade Filter


Honey Dwarf Gourami

Flame Dwarf Gourami

Dwarf gourami are beautiful, generally robust fish that are relatively easy to keep and can live for four years. or four strands can be allowed to drape on the water surface, which male dwarf gourami like because they can anchor their bubble nests there. For plants to do well, a substrate of 5cm to 7.5cm of small-sized gravel will do, though laterite is better for plant growth. Lighting from florescent tubes in the aquarium hood should provide at least 15 to 20 watts per square foot. Dwarf gourami originally come from water that is slightly acidic to neutral and relatively soft (pH 6.0 to 7.0; dH 4 to10), which is what is used to raise the farm-bred fish. The gourami will, however, adapt to other water conditions. The water should be of high quality, which requires the use of an adequate filtration system. Water temperature needs to be in the range of 24°C to 24°C. Water changes of 20 percent every two weeks will help maintain good water quality. There are many fish from southeast Asia that are small and peaceful, and would make good additions to a community tank containing a pair of Dwarf Gourami. The delicate threadlike pelvic fins of the Gourami could be a focus for fin-nippers, such as tiger barbs, but there are a lot of gentler barbs. Cherry barbs need to be kept in a shoal, as do danios (such as zebra or leopard danios), and these are a nice contrast in color to the barbs. For the substrate, a group of small loaches would do nicely. Other suitable fish include rasboras, tetras, platies and Corydoras. In the aquarium, dwarf gourami and other fish in this community are not fussy eaters; they will eagerly eat flakes and do relatively well on them. However, all fish like feeding on live foods or their frozen equivalents, which are readily available these days. Frozen bloodworms are quickly consumed, as are live whiteworms, Daphnia and mosquito larvae — which are a good way to bring fish into breeding condition. Breeding the dwarf gourami In the community aquarium, healthy, mature male and female dwarf gourami will usually spawn — but fry are unlikely to survive there. To raise gourami fry, get

a separate spawning/breeding tank. This tank could be perhaps a bit smaller than the display tank (60cm x 60cm x 40cm, 75 litres), without substrate on the bottom but with some floating Cabomba at the water surface. On the bottom, a few small clay pots laid on their sides will provide hiding places for the female, should she need to escape the attention of an overzealous male. Water conditions should be similar to that of the community tank. But water levels can be dropped to about the twothirds so it is easier for the male to pick up the fallen eggs and bring them back to the bubble nest. Temperatures should be around 26°C to 26.5°C. Filtration for the breeding tank is best provided by a mature air-driven sponge filter. The female dwarf gourami can be introduced to this tank on her own. Here, she should be fed on a diet rich in live food for a period of seven to 10 days, so she fills up with roe. At the same time, several jars of infusoria culture to feed very tiny fry are started with a crushed lettuce leaf in each jar of water placed on a sunny window sill. Another good culture to get going is microworms; start by obtaining a starter culture from any keen fish breeder, your aquarium club or by mail order. Microworms make an ideal second food for the fry as they grow, as do newly hatched brine shrimp nauplii hatched in saltwater from decapsulated brine shrimp eggs. Seven to 10 days after putting the female into the breeding tank, the male dwarf gourami can be introduced. Within a day or so, he should build a nest made of mucous-coated air bubbles anchored to the overhanging plants at the water’s surface. At the same time, he will court the female by flaring his fins and showing his brightest colors. Often there will be some chasing, at which time the female might need the cover of the pots to hide in. When ready to spawn, the female approaches the male and spawning takes place under the nest. During spawning, the male wraps his body around the female and turns her on her back, at which time eggs and sperm are released. They break from the spawning

30 the fishkeeper january/february 2017

embrace, and the male gathers the floating eggs and places them in his bubblenest. The spawning embrace is repeated time and again over the next hour or so until the female has released all her eggs. She is then chased from the scene, as the male takes full responsibility of caring for the eggs and fry. This is a good time to move the female back to the community aquarium carefully, without disturbing the nest and eggs too much. The water level should also be dropped to about 15cm; the reduced volume of water makes it easier for the tiny gourami fry to find food. The male guards the eggs in the nest, which should start to hatch some 24 hours later. The tiny, almost invisible fry continue to develop, occasionally falling out of the nest, to be promptly picked up by the male and returned to it. By day three, the fry are free-swimming and begin to disperse in spite of the best efforts of the male. At this stage, the male gourami should be returned to the community tank. Another way of managing this project is to allow the dwarf gourami pair to spawn in the community tank. A day or so after the spawning, when the male is looking after the eggs in the bubble nest, the nest with eggs can be removed to the growout tank that contains identical water to that in the community tank, leaving the adult gourami behind. This is easily done by carefully sliding a bowl under the nest and gently lifting the nest intact and then carefully releasing it at the water’s surface of the grow-out tank. Moving and culling To achieve the best results breeding dwarf gourami, the number of fish should be reduced by at least 50 percent by moving half the young fish to another tank or alternatively culling them by feeding them to the fish in the community tank. This is what happens all the time in nature, with just a few fish surviving to adulthood. It’s necessary to provide growing fish with adequate space in good-quality water with sufficient food to turn out high-quality fish. There is absolutely no point in turning out hundreds of stunted runts. By the time they are 4 weeks old, it is probably best to have

culled again and work with just 30 to 40 young fish to get quality results with just one grow-out tank. Growing out the fry Once free-swimming, the fry start to feed on foods small enough to fit into their tiny mouths. The best foods at this stage are live foods that are not likely to pollute the water. This is where the previously set-up infusoria cultures are used. A tablespoon of the infusoria culture should be added to the fry tank several times a day. Alternatively, liquid fry food for egg-layers could be used sparingly as not to pollute the water.

Small daily water changes done with care should be started using an air line covered in muslin fabric to siphon out the water but not the fry. Assuming the fry have been receiving plenty of tiny food, some six or seven days after becoming free-swimming, they should have grown enough to start tackling microworms, which can be included in the feeding regimen while keeping the infusoria feeding going. Newly hatched brine shrimp nauplii can also be added to the diet. As the gourami fry grow, they can be weaned onto crushed flake foods that are fed

The female dwarf gourami can be introduced to this tank on her own. Here, she should be fed on a diet rich in live food for a period of seven to 10 days, so she fills up with roe.

sparingly (to not pollute the water). At this stage, the water level in the tank can be increased over a few days to fill the aquarium. In spite of this added volume of water, the tank will soon be crowded with hundreds of young, growing fish. Dwarf gourami are beautiful, generally robust fish that are relatively easy to keep and can live for four years. They have interesting breeding habits in which the male looks after the eggs and developing fry. They do make for a satisfying breeding project that can be easily managed.

The male guards the eggs in the nest, which should start to hatch some 24 hours later.

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Chalice Corals. Family Pectinildae

ARTICLE: By Blue Zoo Aquatics “In short, corals from the Family Pectiniidae with chalice-like growth forms are undemanding, beautiful animals that should do well under a variety of light and flow conditions in an established, stable marine aquarium.�

ithin the Family Pectiniidae, there are currently five valid genera of coral according to Integrated Taxanomic Information System (ITIS). They are Echinophyllia, Mycedium, Oxypora, Pectinia, and Physophyllia. You will also see Echinomorpha listed as a genus, and it should be, although there is only one species. These stony corals from the Family Pectiniidae are known commonly to hobbyists as chalice, scroll, elephant nose, peacock, lettuce, plate, antler, palm, and hibiscus coral. They


Uneaten foods quickly start to decay, adding to ammonia and nitrate levels of the aquarium.

32 the fishkeeper january/february 2017

Deeper water varieties of Mycedium spp. can also do well in low light and shaded situations.

are, generally speaking, colorful, slowgrowing, aggressive corals with many possible growth forms (as suggested by the common names listed above). All may be considered quite suitable for a stable, established marine aquarium, and some are even considered hardy (though certainly noneshould be treated as beginner or “starter” corals). In this article, we are going to look at those corals from the Family Pectiniidae that commonly take on a chalice-like growth form. Overview The family name, Pectiniidae, probably originates from the Greek word for comb (“pectinis”) and is a reference to the coral’s skeleton, which in most cases is completely covered by the animal’s tissue. All of the known species are zooxanthellate, which means they host symbiotic algae called zooxanthellae within their tissue. Most of these corals possess long sweeper tentacles that they use, predominantly at night, for food capture. All known species are indigenous to the Indo-Pacific. Most of the corals from the Family Pectiniidae commonly imported for the marine aquarium hobby make good aquarium specimens. Once properly acclimated, almost all are tolerant of a wide range of lighting and flow conditions. Most (although not all) are aggressive and need a buffer zone so that their sweeper tentacles do not come into contact with other motile invertebrates. Some corals within the family (e.g., Mycedium spp.) are known to be capable of chemical warfare, while others (e.g., Pectinia spp.) are capable of producing copious amounts of mucus.

Water Parameters Your system should be an established tank of at least a year before you add any chalice corals. The water parameters should be standard for a reef tank system. You can keep the levels up with calcium reactor, two part dosing, kalkreactor, water changes etc. Be sure to keep your magnesium in the 1400ppm, low magnesium tends to lead to tissue loss around the edges of a colony. In regards to nutrient rich and nutrient poor systems. Personal experiece chalices normally dont do well in nutrient poor systems (SPS systems). I have tried to grow chalices alongside SPS corals in an SPS propagation system and they did poorly. Slow growth and poor tissue expansion. That system did not have any fish and only snails and hermits for algae control. The system I setup just for chalices is high nutrients (ie fish and snails to provide nutrients) along with a skimmer set to run a wet skim. I also don’t run carbon, but do run phosphate remover. A 75 litre water change is done every two weeks. This has kept the system running fine for over 4 years now. Chalice Propagation Chalices are fairly hardy corals to propagate as long as you follow some steps along the way. Take the colony you want to propagate and determine where you want to make your cut. Try to find an area where you won’t cut through any mouths. Flip the colony over and use a dremel or other cutting blade to score the back of the skeleton. Once scored, it should break by a gentle january/february 2017 the fishkeeper


Your system should be an established tank of at least a year before you add any chalice corals.

Chalices are fairly hardy corals to propagate as long as you follow some steps along the way. bend. Do this by having the underside of the coral facing you and bend down (so the coral flesh halfs come together. Now flip the coral to the flesh side and use a scalpel to cut the flesh along the score line. You should now have your frag removed from the main colony. Take the frag and main colony and dip in saltwater / iodine solution (or what ever coral dip you want to use). Mount the frag to a rock, frag plug, etc with superglue. Try not to get any superglue on any living tissue. Place the frag in low light and medium flow to heal. Most chalice corals will heal in about a week. Place the main colony back in its original spot on the reef. Regarding frag size. I try to make most of my frags have at least 2 eyes in size. If you can only get one eye try to make sure the frag is at least the size of a dime or larger. The True Chalice Coral – Oxypora spp. Although Pectiniidae’s growth forms are incredibly diverse, this article will focus on those which form a laminar or flat plate-like structure. Frequently this plate is foliaceous— often with curved, leaf-like structures—and it may be said to resemble a cup or chalice. The most common and well-known of these so-called chalice corals are those species from the genus Oxypora, which are also commonly referred to in the hobby as scroll corals. Oxypora spp. can exhibit magnificent spirals of wafer-thin plates rising from a thick base. At night, polyps emerge from prominent, albeit irregularly spaced, corallites. An undemanding beauty, the aquarist should be warned that Oxypora spp., like most members of the family Pectiniidae, possesses powerful sweeper tentacles. All of the known species are zooxanthellate, which means they host symbiotic algae called zooxanthellae within their tissue.

Genus Mycedium Oxypora spp. are frequently confused with species from the genus Mycedium. While corals from the genus Mycedium may be most commonly known to hobbyists as elephant nose coral or peacock coral, it is reasonable to also classify some members of this genus as chalice corals based on their growth form. The common name of elephant nose coral refers to the prominent corallites. Notice that these corallites are generally angled toward the outer edge of the coral in Mycedium spp., and this is frequently the distinguishing characteristic when compared to species from the genus Oxypora. Still, it is not uncommon to see species from both of these genera mislabeled. Like Oxypora spp., species from the genus Mycedium can pack a powerful punch if their sweeper tentacles come into contact with other sessile invertebrates. It is also known, as mentioned above, that some (if not all) Mycedium species have the potential to release toxins into the water as a means of competing with neighboring corals, especially soft corals. As such, they should be given a wide buffer zone and are probably not the most appropriate coral choice for a small aquarium. Both Oxypora and Mycedium species are considered fairly tolerant of varying degrees of lighting and current, although Oxypora spp. often do better with brighter lighting and lower flow situations, especially when placed in a vertical or nearvertical orientation. Deeper water varieties of Mycedium spp. can also do well in low light and shaded situations.

Most of these corals possess long sweeper tentacles that they use, predominantly at night, for food capture.

34 the fishkeeper january/february 2017

Genus Echinophyllia Corals from the genus Echinophyllia are favorites amongst reef aquarist looking for a brightly colored, chalice-like coral. These hardy corals are, in most cases, far more colorful than either Oxypora or Mycedium spp., and they are remarkably tolerant of a wide range of lighting and flow conditions. Their growth forms make them interesting to look at, as it is quite common for a single Echinophyllia specimen to exhibit both encrusting and plating behavior. While the portion of the animal in contact with the substrate will often encrust that substrate with a thin layer of skeleton, the upper portions, like Oxypora spp., will form thin foliaceous plates that resemble a cup or chalice. Like many other members of the family, Echinophyllia specimens are capable of aggressive behavior by way of their sweeper tentacles, which have been reported to approach a foot (or more!) in length. Not Part of the Family – Genus Echinopora It is not infrequent that Echinophyllia spp. are confused with animals from the genus Echinopora, which doesn’t even belong to the Family Pectiniidae. Echinopora spp. are currently classified as belonging to the Family Faviidae, which also includes such aquarium favorites as Caulastrea spp. (trumpet coral), and Favia spp. (moon, pineapple or closed brain coral). While Echinopora is indeed a Faviid, it can resemble the so-called chalice corals of the Family Pectiniidae. The operative word here is “can”, as the genus possesses incredible variety when it comes to individual growth forms, even within the same species. In fact, it is not uncommon to see an Echinopora specimen misidentified as Mycedium or Oxypora spp., especially if the specimen was

collected on the reef slope where the chalice-like growth form is most common. Echinopora specimens tend to do best in bright light situations with at least moderate current. Given a stable environment, however, these animals generally prove hardy. Genus Echinomorpha Moving back to the Family Pectiniidae, there is one last genus that requires mention in an article about chalice-like corals. It is the monotypic genus Echinomorpha, and it is a real beauty. Still somewhat rare, it is generally as undemanding as the other corals from the Family Pectiniidae already discussed. While extremely light tolerant, this coral colors up best under bright lights. Like many other species in the family, it should be considered an aggressive coral, capable of producing long sweeper tentacles, but with the proper placement, there is no reason it can’t be a centerpiece specimen. Conclusion In short, corals from the Family Pectiniidae with chalicelike growth forms are undemanding, beautiful animals that should do well under a variety of light and flow conditions in an established, stable marine aquarium. While they are zooxanthellate, it is recommended to supplement their diet with targeted feedings of phytoplankton, rotifers, baby artemia, and the like. Feeding at night is best, although a feeding response may be triggered during daylight hours. If you are looking for a beautiful, hardy coral to place in an established, stable reef aquarium, you will be well served to get to know the corals from the Family Pectiniidae better.

• • • • •

PET STOP JUNCTION Wonderboom junction centre, shop 71 Lavender road Annlin-west/Sinoville, Pretoria North 012 753 2093 january/february 2017 the fishkeeper



DGBJHDFJBG Maintaining

Nano Aquariums

ARTICLE: By Moolis Moolman of Pet Stop SA

Article by: Think Fish


small aquarium could be considered to be between 30cm and 60cm in length. Any smaller than this range and it is too small to keep any fish in, regardless of their size, unless you are an expert aquarist. Small aquariums need basically the same equipment as larger tanks so a heater (assuming tropical fish are kept) and filter are essential. A good light is also required if you wish to grow plants, or see your fish at their best.

The stability factor

In comparison to a fish’s natural environment, a small aquarium really is small, providing the right fish are chosen however, the space factor is not a problem. If the environment is sound and there is enough space for the fish to act in a natural manner, most small fish will thrive in small tanks. Some fish, such as the Siamese Fighting Fish (Betta splendens), seem to even prefer smaller aquariums, although this is more likely to be to do with a dislike of open spaces or busy communities. The major factor to consider in regards to the well being of the fish in small tanks is the smaller volume of water, and the effect this has on the environment. In a large volume of water, changes in chemistry caused by the addition of a pollutant are much diluted in comparison to the same level of pollutant being added to a smaller volume. To put this another way, the introduction of one gram of a substance to a 100 litre volume of water gives a concentration of 1mg/l (one milligram per litre) but the introduction of the same amount to only 10 litres of water gives us a concentration of 10mg/l (ten milligrams per litre). What this means is that any detrimental changes caused by common factors such as overfeeding,

The fastest “For thebuild-up surface levels, although of toxins is ammonia they willthese swim and nitrite, two elsewhere, Platies can take only a few (Xiphophorus maculatus) and hours to start killing your fish. Mollies (Poecilia sp. ) are always popular. Guppies are also popular fish but I would not recommend them for small aquariums due to their weak nature caused by intensive breeding.�

36 the fishkeeper january/february 2017

overstocking, bad maintenance and so on, are greatly increased in smaller aquariums. The only way to counter this effect and keep top conditions is to carry out a regime of regular water testing, proper maintenance, and most importantly, correct feeding levels.

Maintaining a small aquarium

Looking after a small aquarium is fairly easy and the basic principles are the same as for a larger aquarium, but less! Water changes are the key factor to consider; small and often is the rule here. Far to many fishkeepers routinely clean the aquarium every month or so, which usually involves an almost entire water change. The only time in which you should ever change more than half the water in an aquarium is as a response to an emergency situation. In a small tank, a large water change has a greater effect, and can cause various environmental factors to become unstable. It is good practice then to try to keep water changes at no more than 10% at any one time for small aquaria. If you have to increase the water changes due to improper water conditions (which may occur whilst the tank is new) then it would be better to increase the frequency rather than the amount. Changing 10% of the water each day for three days is much better than one 30% water change.

Filter maintenance

In smaller aquariums the filter is often a fairly basic unit with a simple pump and piece of foam which just needs a fortnightly rinse in water from the aquarium (never use tap water as the chlorine will kill the useful filter bacteria) It is a good idea to cut this piece of foam in half so that when the time comes to replace the sponge, one half can be changed a few weeks before the other, giving time for the bacterial population to colonise the new half. If possible, try to get a filter which allows room for additional carbon, or phosphate removing media; this will help in the long term control of water conditions.

Plants in small aquaria

Live plants are very beneficial in small aquaria as they have the ability to take up dangerous pollutants including ammonia, nitrites, and nitrates. This is extremely useful in small environments where water quality fluctuations are more likely, in this situation the plants almost act as a ‘safety net’, ready to soak up any excesses. Most small aquariums with fitted lights are ideal environments for some of the smaller aquarium plants to grow in; all that is required is a good, fine, and preferably nutrient rich substrate for them to root in.

tanks include the Cherry Barb (Puntius titteya), Checkered Barb (Puntius oligolepis), and Fiveband Barb (Puntius pentazona) For the midwater regions, shoals of small tetras are always a good choice, but avoid nippy tetras such as Red-Eyes or Serpaes. Neon Tetras (Paracheirodon innesi), Glowlights (Hemigrammus erythrozonus) and black or red Phantom Tetras (Hyphessobrycon sp. ) should do well, but neon’s are best added once the tank is well matured. For the surface levels, although they will swim elsewhere, Platies (Xiphophorus maculatus) and Mollies (Poecilia sp. ) are always popular. Guppies are also popular fish but I would not recommend them for small aquariums due to their weak nature caused by intensive breeding. Other good fish for small tanks include the Honey Gourami (Trichogaster chuna), Coolie Loach (Pangio kuhlii) and Harlequin Rasbora (Trigonostigma heteromorpha) A single male Siamese Fighting Fish also makes an excellent addition and will quickly become the most noticed fish in the tank. If you are considering a purchase of a small fish tank, then these example small fish tanks may be of help.

Feeding The Fish in Your Tank

The single most important factor in most aquariums, but especially smaller aquariums wellbeing is the quality and level of feeding. The food you place in the aquarium is the main, and in some cases only, source of waste produced in the aquarium. The less you feed, the less waste is produced, and the better the environment will be. Of course, your fish will need feeding correctly so a balance must be made between providing them with all the food they require, without overfeeding. A good rule to follow to achieve this is to feed your fish as much as they will eat in only a minute, without any food sinking to the bottom of the aquarium or being left over. Standard flake foods are a good choice for the fishes main diet, most flake foods produce less waste products than some other food types so it is wise to stick to this food type during the first couple of months. Once the tank is a few months old or when you start adding fish such as bottom dwelling scavengers or algae eaters, you will need to start feeding some different types of food and a varied diet will help your fishes overall health over a long period.

Choosing the Right Fish For Your Small Tank

In comparison to a fish’s natural environment, a small aquarium really is small, providing the right fish are chosen however, the space factor is not a problem.

Arguably the most important element of the aquarium is the fish, and choosing the right fish can be tricky given the wide range available. For small aquariums it is not a simple matter of choosing small fish, although obviously this is a factor. It is important to consider that the fish you choose will have to live together in a restricted space, so even a slight hint of territorial behavior or a boisterous nature could become a big problem. Common mistakes include fish like male Swordtails, dwarf Gouramies and dwarf cichlids, which may all turn into tank bullies. Fish that are constantly active, like Rosy barbs, or Danios will often do well in smaller tanks, but may annoy other tankmates with their constant movements. For the lower regions of the aquarium, and to make a good cleaning crew a mixture of small scavengers and algae eaters can be used. Small groups of Corydoras sp. make ideal scavengers whilst Otocinclus sp. and small Peckoltia sp. are good small algae eaters. Japonica Shrimps (Caridina japonica) are excellent additions to small aquaria and a group of these shrimps are also more likely to be seen in a small tank. Some barbs will also inhabit the lower regions, swimming amongst or just above the plants and décor. Good choices for smaller

Water changes are the key factor to consider; small and often is the rule here. january/february 2017 the fishkeeper



Sexing koi M

ARTICLE BY: Mike Snaden

any people think that the sexing of koi is extremely straight forward, and that things like body shape, pectoral fin shape, or flipping the koi over and looking at the vent will give us the answer conclusively in just a few seconds.

of the fin. You see, a male koi’s leading ray will tend to be thicker (stronger), with a slightly blunt front edge. Females, on the other hand, will have a more delicate leading ray, with a front ray profile that draws to a finer front edge.

Whereas this may be a relatively simple task, there are many misunderstandings over what constitutes a male, or female. My hope with this article is to help you to understand how the Japanese ascertain the sex of a koi before it is offered for sale, or kept as tategoi. Sexing large koi is usually quite easy, and obvious. In most cases, a breeder can simply flip the koi over and observe the vent or, if in doubt, check the koi for milt. With younger koi like tosai however, it is more a case of checking various aspects of the koi, and coming up with a percentage of odds of sex, like perhaps ‘80% female’. Although male tosai can be used for breeding in some cases, it is quite common for tosai not to be producing milt. This is when sexing as a measure of ‘odds’ comes into play.

A more common way of checking if a koi is male (when looking for males for breeding) is to check the gill covers for roughness. But this method is only really good for checking if a male is in breeding condition, as during the rest of the season the koi will more often than not have smooth gill covers, so this method is useless if you are looking for female koi.

Misconceptions One of the most common misconceptions, is that male koi have bigger pectoral fins than females. A koi’s fin size is absolutely no indication of sex. It is fair to say that some males can sometimes have pectoral fins that are a little more rounded, like table tennis bats, but just because a koi has fins that are this shape, or aren’t, is no sensible way of sexing them. What we can glean from a koi’s pectoral fins though is from their texture, and profile. Males will tend to have rough leading rays to their fins, but this isn’t always the case. Sometimes this roughness can’t be felt, but can be seen. This is why you will see breeders lift a koi from the bowl and watch the water run off the surface of the pectoral fin. If female it should appear shiny and smooth, but a male will look somewhat grainy as the water runs off. In addition to doing this, the breeder will also check the profile of the leading ray

38 the fishkeeper january/february 2017

Colour development Male koi tend to develop more quickly in terms of colour and sumi. This is largely why small males are frequently entered into koi shows. So, a male Go-Sanke will generally have redder colour, and the sumi will tend to be more developed and finished. But, once again, this isn’t a method that should be used when trying to sex koi. Even from the same breeding some male koi will have colour that appears softer, like a female, and some females will have colour that appears harder, like a male. To further complicate things, different quality levels between siblings exist, as well as the fact that some koi will take on characteristics, like colour, from the male parents, and some will have the characteristics of the female parent. It is quite commonplace for people to express their opinion of the sex of a koi because of the appearance of its skin, or perhaps the white skin on the head looks a little yellow. This can be the case with koi but, once again, is something that should be disregarded. Confused? Whilst female koi will tend to have cleaner skin than males, their condition can change depending on their surroundings. The feeding of higher protein food, particularly at warmer

temperatures, can cause the skin to become either slightly muddy in appearance, or very slightly yellow. Colour enhancing foods can also cause the same effect. It is also common for females (particularly large koi) to take on a muddy or yellow appearance during late August and September. This happens because of the koi going through its natural process of breaking down and disposing of eggs. Once this process is complete the skin will become brighter once again. Body shape Body shape is a tricky area when it comes to choosing koi. Many inexperienced hobbyists will often make the mistake of thinking that a female koi is in fact male, or vice versa, based on its body shape. Not only is it possible to make a mistake by judging a body shape, but it is

also possible to buy an inferior koi if judged on this basis. Male koi will tend to be slimmer than females, granted. But, young males will tend to have more body to them, and have a tendency to become slimmer as they get bigger. But this isn’t always the case. Some male koi can become Jumbo, and even have big bodies like females. Likewise, female koi can often appear to have male bodies. In fact, when buying relatively young koi, like nisai (two-years old), a more desirable female will have a strong, but slim, body. A koi with a great deal of volume at this size, and particularly one that appears to be carrying eggs, will seldom get big. It should also be pointed out that not many female koi will grow Jumbo. Genetics plays a huge part and, even with the right genetics, you need

Pearlscale Goldfish

This male is of reasonably high quality and, as you can see, the colour is very red. Male koi stay in good condition very easily, and are very well suited to harsher environments.


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to buy a koi with the right body type if you want one that will get big. In other words, don’t simply buy female koi because you think they all get big. Reaching a peak Another consideration when looking at male or female koi, is the duration of fun you can have from them. Male koi develop faster but are generally easier to keep, and stay looking good for a long time. Females on the other hand are the ultimate fun, if you have good raising techniques. With high-end female tategoi the challenge is to keep the koi from finishing until it becomes Jumbo, and then slowly raise it to its optimum condition. The reason for growing females in this manner is that their colour and sumi develops more slowly than males. Also, once a female reaches its peak it will then start to decline again in quality a year or two later. This is the reason that high-class females should be nurtured ideally in softer water, or mud ponds. The mud pond inhibits the koi’s development, hence creating a koi that reaches its peak later

in life, making for a much more beautiful koi as Jumbo. If on the other hand you raise a koi in harder water, or you choose to use a lot of clays or other mineral additives, the koi will reach its peak much earlier in life. Whereas these clays and mineral additives are great for conditioning koi for shows, they also limit the growth of the koi. If raising koi in such a manner, it is almost pointless trying to make it Jumbo as the condition of the koi will be on the decline a long time before it gets big! Look to your limits As far as growing koi to Jumbo are concerned, if you know that you can keep females in fantastic condition, and make them jumbo, great! But if you can only perhaps grow (or only wish to grow) koi to a maximum of say 70cm, then perhaps you are better off looking for male koi that have a likelihood of getting reasonably big. At least such koi will keep in good enough condition for them to get as big as you are hoping for.

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