Modern Aquarium

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1994 —

June 2013 volume XX number 4

20th Anniversary — 2013

Series III ON THE COVER Our cover this month features Xenomystus nigri, the African knifefish. For more information on this attractive and unusuallooking fish, see Sue Priest's “The Fish from Outer Space” on page 9. Photo by Susan Priest GREATER CITY AQUARIUM SOCIETY

Vol. XX, No. 4 June, 2013

In This Issue From the Editor G.C.A.S. 2013 Program Schedule President’s Message


President Dan Radebaugh Vice-President Edward Vukich Treasurer Jules Birnbaum Assistant Treasurer Ron Wiesenfeld Corresponding Secretary Sean Cunningham Recording Secretary Tommy Chang MEMBERS AT LARGE

Claudia Dickinson Al Grusell Emma Haus Leonard Ramroop

Pete D’Orio Ben Haus Jason Kerner

May's Caption Contest Winner Cartoon Caption Contest G.C.A.S. Bowl Show Rules The Fish From Outer Space by Susan Priest

Brine Shrimp You Could Write a Book on the Subject! by Jules Birnbaum

Key Largo Revisited by Stephen Sica

2 3 4 5 7 8 9 13 15


A.C.A. Delegate Bowl Show Breeder Award Early Arrivals F.A.A.S. Delegate Membership N.E.C. Delegate Programs

Claudia Dickinson Leonard Ramroop Warren Feuer Mark Soberman Al Grusell Alexander A. Priest Marsha Radebaugh Claudia Dickinson Claudia Dickinson Mark Soberman Technology Coordinator Warren Feuer

Pictures from our Last Meeting by Al & Susan Priest

Our Generous Sponsors & Advertisers What's In a Name? by Dan Radebaugh

Member Classifieds G.C.A.S. Happenings The Undergravel Reporter Headstands & Sign Language

18 20 21 24 26 27

MODERN AQUARIUM Editor in Chief Copy Editors Exchange Editors Advertising Mgr.

Dan Radebaugh Sharon Barnett Susan Priest Alexander A. Priest Stephen Sica Donna Sosna Sica Mark Soberman

Fin Fun (Puzzle Page) Scrambled Eggs


From the Editor by Dan Radebaugh few days ago my wife Marsha (you know—the attractive person who hands you your issues of Modern Aquarium each month) forwarded me a link from one of the local news outlets1 about a search by “environmental officials” for snakeheads in the Harlem Meer, a man-made lake in Central Park’s northeast corner. Signs have been posted around the lake advising anglers who may catch one of these fish not to release it, but to secure the fish and call 311 to have the fish picked up. The fish in question is Channa argus, popularly known as the northern snakehead, a much maligned invasive species from China that is known to be firmly established in the Potomac River, as well as in some other bodies of water in the U.S. and around the globe. I don’t know why the story struck me so negatively – perhaps I was just feeling tired and cynical, or perhaps because the reporter, one Tracy Strahan (who means well, I’m sure), happened to mention that C. argus is known as the “Frankenfish,” but my reaction was first, one of weary outrage (“Why are they picking on this poor damn fish again?”), and then one of suspicion. Is there some legislation brewing that needs a highprofile scapegoat? Well, yes, in fact, there is. It turns out that there is a new version before Congress of a Humane Society sponsored bill that was firmly shot down a few years ago (see Modern Aquarium May 2009, p. 25), that would make life much harder for people who keep pet fishes, reptiles, birds, or basically anything that isn’t a cat, dog, or farm animal. But I’m sure that the idea of any connection between that bill and a revival of “snakehead terror” is just unworthy speculation on my part. The news piece did, for good or ill, stimulate me to return to an article I began a few years ago but had lost interest in, the inspiration of which was all the same silly snakehead publicity that was going around at that time, in which I wondered how much of the fish’s bad press was traceable to its name. After all, we humans are mostly afraid of snakes; perhaps some of that fear and loathing carries over to other creatures named after them. Curiously, that negative association doesn’t seem to carry over to our automobiles; the Viper and the Cobra both come to mind. Perhaps we like to think of our cars as dangerous creatures—after all, plenty of us do get killed and maimed by them. There probably have been some articles on that subject, but that would be for another publication genre.



Moving on to another threateningly-named species, Sue Priest, in "The Fish From Outer Space," tells us about this month's cover subject, the African knifefish, Xenomystus nigri. Makes me wish I had tank space for another fish! Steve Sica, fresh from a story about sharks last month, eases off the threat level this month with a beautiful photo essay of his & Donna's diving trip to Key Largo. Well, there is a picture of a barracuda, so if we like we can feel threatened by that. Jules Birnbaum tells us about brine shrimp— surely a peaceful, as well as useful subject for aquarists, until you consider their ultimate fate. Not wishing to miss out on the mayhem, the Undergravel Reporter tells us about how some fish species utilize sign language and cooperative hunting. Uh-oh! Don't let any snakeheads read this; they might figure out a way to get rid of us and take over! * * * Remember, as always, we need articles! Modern Aquarium is produced by and for the members of Greater City Aquarium Society. Our members are our authors, and with ten issues per year, we always, always need more articles. I know several of you are keeping and/or breeding fish that I would like to know more about, and I’m certain other members would be interested as well. Share your experience with us. Write about it! If you’re a little unsure about the state of your writing technique, don’t worry – that’s why there are editors. If you have an article, photo, or drawing that you’d like to submit for inclusion in Modern Aquarium, it’s easy to do! You may fax it to me at (877) 299-0522, email it to, or just hand it to me at a meeting. However you get it to me, I’ll be delighted to receive it! 1

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Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

GCAS Programs



t is our great fortune to have another admirable cast of speakers who have so graciously accepted our invitation to join us throughout the coming season, bringing us their extensive knowledge and experiences. You certainly won’t wish to miss a moment of our prominent guests, not to mention the friends, fish, warmth, and camaraderie that accompanies each meeting. I know I can barely wait to see you here! Enjoy! Claudia March 6

Joe Ferdenzi 90 Years of GCAS!

April 3

Larry Johnson Lake Malawi

May 1

Sal Silvestri

Apistogrammas June 5

Leslie Dick Livebearers

July 3

Joseph Ferdenzi Do-It-Yourself Aquarium Gadgets

August 7

Silent Auction

September 12

Mark Denaro Bettas/Labyrinth Fishes

October 2


November 6


December 4

Holiday Party!

Articles submitted for consideration in Modern Aquarium (ISSN 2150-0940) must be received no later than the 10th day of the month prior to the month of publication. Please fax to (877) 299-0522, or email to gcas@earthlink. net. Copyright 2013 by the Greater City Aquarium Society Inc., a not-for-profit New York State corporation. All rights reserved. Not-for-profit aquarium societies are hereby granted permission to reproduce articles and illustrations from this publication, unless the article indicates that the copyrights have been retained by the author, and provided reprints indicate source and two copies of the publication are sent to the Exchange Editor of this magazine. Any other reproduction or commercial use of the material in this publication is prohibited without express written prior permission. The Greater City Aquarium Society meets every month, except January and February. Members receive notice of meetings in the mail. For more information, contact: Dan Radebaugh (718) 458-8437. Find out more, or leave us a message, at our Internet Home Page at: or Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

June 2013


President’s Message by Dan Radebaugh

ast month I mentioned that there was a scheduling problem with our September meeting, falling as it did on the first evening of Rosh Hashanah. That meeting, originally scheduled for September 4th, has now been rescheduled for September 12, here at the Queens Botanical Garden. Please note that the 12th is a Thursday night – not our customary Wednesday. The speaker that night will be Mark Denaro, a longtime friend of Greater City. You will recall that we have been searching for a candidate for Treasurer, to take the place of Jules Birnbaum, who is planning to step down from that office this year. Ron Wiesenfeld generously stepped up to act as Assistant Treasurer, and has been a great help, but we still need to find a replacement for Jules. Clubs such as ours don’t have a “staff,” and so we depend on members who are willing to donate their time and talents to make sure the club can function. We have to keep up with receiving and paying money from membership renewals, auctions, raffles, speaker expenses, and so on. If you feel you can help out, please let me know. We really need you!



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Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

Cartoon by Elliott Oshins

May's Caption Winner: Bill Amely

Just letting Bill know who's pulling the strings here!

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

June 2013


Support Fish in the Classroom! If you have any 5 or 10 gallon tanks, or any filters, pumps, or plants that you could donate to NYC teacher Michael Paoli's classrooms, could you please bring them in or email Rich Levy ( If you'd like to donate larger tanks, be sure and email Rich so he can make sure Michael can accommodate it.


June 2013

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

The Modern Aquarium Cartoon Caption Contest Modern Aquarium has featured cartoons before. This time though, you, the members of Greater City get to choose the caption! Just think of a good caption, then mail, email, or phone the Editor with your caption (phone: 347-866-1107, fax: 877-299-0522, email: gcas@ Your caption needs to reach the Editor by the third Wednesday of this month. We'll also hand out copies of this page at the meeting, which you can turn in to Marsha before leaving. Winning captions will earn ten points in our Author Awards program, qualifying you for participation in our special "Authors Only" raffle at our Holiday Party and Banquet. Put on your thinking caps!

Cartoon by Elliot Oshins

Your Caption: Your Name: Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

June 2013



June 2013

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

by SUSAN PRIEST Photos by the author Then something unexpected happened. The young lady who helped me with my purchase (she turned out to be a mind reader), told me that he first time I saw a knifefish was at a knifefishes were not the least bit fussy as to their Greater City Fish Show. It was shortly after care, and that one fish to a tank would be best. I Al and I had joined the club, in the early couldn’t help but notice that there were at least half 1990s. Carlotti DeJager had entered a black ghost a dozen knifefish in the tank in front of me, which knifefish. After this fish caught my eye, I had a made me question the validity of her advice, but hard time moving past it to view the killies, mbuna, the next GCAS meeting was only a few days away, or bristle-nosed plecos. I was mesmerized! so I didn’t let myself give in to fretting. Let me fast-forward your attention to the year Throughout those few days I noticed that I 2010. That was the year, after eighteen years as was spending more and more time watching this members of the GCAS, that Al and I decided to fish, which I had “temporarily” housed in a five make a concerted effort to win the bowl show gallon tank near my dining room table. I once competition. The rules allow for entering two fish again found myself to be mesmerized, and I every month, which we did. As we approached the convinced myself that Leonard would be, as well. fall of the year, and had already entered most of Rather than keep you in suspense, I will jump our fish which we considered to be worthy of a ahead to the day of the meeting. This was when I ribbon, I decided to go shopping. Harsha Perera’s discovered that my assumptions were wrong, that ZOO-RAMA AQUARIUM SHOP (Bronx Leonard was not the least bit bored, and that his location) is not far from my home, and that seemed attention had once again been captured by the like a good place to start. usual display of small, I was looking colorful fishes. My for something that mesmerizing knifefish would capture the didn’t win, place, or attention of the bowl show! show judge (aka Here is where Leonard Ramroop). my master plan I figured that he completely fell apart. must be bored with Instead of transferring the steady stream of the knifefish from the bettas and guppies bowl show table to the which paraded past raffle table, I put it him each month. I back into my tote bag. was looking for At this point I had to something distinctive admit two things to and unusual, Xenomystus nigri myself: 1) I didn’t something you don’t want to stop looking at this fish, and 2) it was time see every day. There were many large, beautiful for me to do my homework. discus, lots of lovely, diminutive livebearers, even exotic shrimps and crabs. AHA! What’s this? I’ll Part Two: Homework give you a hint. Suddenly I once again found myself to be mesmerized. A clear and reliable identification of this fish The little that I could remember having read was my first order of business. I turned to no less about the care of knifefishes seemed to be telling of an authority than Baensch’s Aquarium Atlas, me that they were a bit fussy, so my first reaction Volume I. The index directed me to the section on was to hesitate. BUT, I told myself, after it wins a “various true bony fishes.” I thought that I had ribbon in the bowl show I can put it right into the surely found my fish while I was viewing the auction, and someone more experienced and photo of the Asiatic knifefish (Notopterus knowledgeable than me will give it a loving home. notopterus). But, then I got a look at the photo of My plan was in place. the African knifefish (Xenomystus nigri), below it on the same page. That sent me scurrying to get a Part One: The Master Plan


Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S. (NY) Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

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good look at my own fish. Close scrutiny of both This fish is a predatory carnivore, and live of the photos, as well as of my fish, left no doubt in foods are the optimum choice. A pH of 6.0-7.0 my mind that the fish in my tank was indeed an (slightly acidic), and a temperature range of from 72-82EF are to this fish’s best advantage. “The African knifefish. fish will emit bell-like sounds produced by ejecting The distinguishing feature is the absence of air from the swim bladder.” a dorsal fin. It was clear to see in the photos that Asiatic knifefish had a short, narrow, upright Part Three: Outer Space dorsal fin, and that the African knifefish had a completely smooth back, just like my fish did. A We have given the knifefish a ten gallon much less distinctive, but equally defining feature, aquarium of its own in our bedroom. We keep the are the very small barbels near its mouth, which tank light on at night, and off during the day. are observable in the photo as well as on my fish, This nocturnal fish is active at all hours, and and which are absent in the photo of the Asiatic fish. The photos of both fish clearly show the doesn’t seem to have any objections to this reverse characteristic wave-like anal fin along the entire schedule. At night, when sleep is as elusive to you length of their body. [There are numerous as your dream from the night before, it provides an genera/species having the common name of hypnotic presence. The only plants in the tank “knifefish.” Two consist of a thick layer examples out of many of salvinia floating are the aforementioned across the surface. A Asiatic knifefish, combination of the Notopterus notopterus, salvinia, as well as and the beguiling black keeping the drapes ghost, Apteronotus closed, provide the albifrons.] recommended “darkened Now that we all environment.” know what fish we’re The temperature in talking about, let’s find the tank stays within the out more about it. previously prescribed The African range without the use of a heater. I have never knifefish is native to tested the pH, but our Zaire, Gabon, Niger, tap water is consistently and Liberia. In nature soft and neutral. There young fishes have been is a box filter in place. seen schooling, but the The fish gets fed adults adopt a mostly an alternating diet of solitary life. In an The fish from outer space! fortified live adult brine aquarium they will shrimp and small pelleted food. At feeding time, readily accept tankmates from other species, but when I push apart a space in the salvinia with my will be less tolerant of their own. They are best fingertip, I get nibbled! kept alone, but if you want to try keeping more The full frontal photo of this fish (above) than one of these fish in the same aquarium, they reveals a very other-worldly look, rather like should all be introduced at the same time. They are something from a galaxy far, far away. (Try nocturnal, and should be provided with a darkened Googling “Admiral Ackbar,” an amphibious environment. species of dubious gender from the planet Mon In the wild they are known to be egglayers. Calamari, of Star Wars fame, and make your own Sexual dimorphism has not been observed, and comparison.) Actually, I have come to the breeding in an aquarium has not been described. conclusion that this fish could qualify as proof of They can be expected to grow to one foot in life on Mars! But the thing that startles me the length. most about this photo is that after looking at this They emit a mild electric field around their fish several times a day for almost three years, I body. The fish uses this electric field for didn’t even know what it really looks like until I navigation, and to “see” what is nearby. Tubesaw this close-up of its face! shaped hiding places make them feel secure. A I have seldom seen a more contented fish. It perimeter of plants contributes to their comfort, shows no signs of being lonely or bored, and is not but they also need plenty of open areas for spooked by the approach of humanoids. One of swimming. The rippling motions of their long anal the reasons it is not spooked by us is that it can’t fin propel them both forwards and backwards. see us. This is due to the fact that its electric field (This feature is what makes them so mesmerizing.)

10 18

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Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S. (NY) Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

A wide view of the tank. doesn’t extend far enough to detect our presence. (It does have eyes, of course, but is apparently quite nearsighted.) Those clear plastic tubes on a stand that you see for sale in the fish department of pet stores are designed with these fish in mind. (Pretty much any clear plastic bottle with both ends cut off, and a little gravel inside to weigh it down horizontally, will provide the same effect.) I have given my fish some ceramic tube-shaped hideouts, which serve the same purpose, at least from the fish’s point of view. There is also a ceramic brick resting against the glass at an angle. The fish likes to hang out in the shadow of this tent-like “lean to.” I’m guessing that this also makes it think itself to be invisible. The fish is around six inches in total length, give or take a half an inch, at the time of this writing. I really can’t tell you reliably how long it was when we got it, but I would describe it as a slow grower. If it ever actually approaches twelve inches, it will definitely need a larger tank.

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S. (NY) Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

The still photos of this fish cannot illustrate the mesmerizing effect that I have referred to so often. To experience this phenomenon you need to see it up close and personal, in its live action mode. I have spent many an hour trying to choose a name for this fish. Mack (as in “The Knife”), Ginsu, and Mesmerelda were all front runners for a while, but ultimately I never settled on one. I hope that this fish will be mesmerizing me for many years to come. I have never heard it produce a sound of any kind. References Aquarium Atlas, volume I. Riehl, Dr. Rudiger, and Baensch, Hans A., Mergus Press, 1991. Aquarium Atlas, photo index volumes 1-5. Baensch, Hans A., and Fischer, Dr. Gero W., Mergus Press, 2002.

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Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

Brine Shrimp You Could Write A Book On The Subject! Story and Photos by Jules Birnbaum

couple of months ago I was driving home from a Long Island Killifish Association meeting. In the car with me were three of the GCAS’s expert fish breeders. These three men had well over 100 years, combined, in the hobby. At the meeting we had just attended there was a discussion about brine shrimp. In the car we decided that books could be written on the subject. Don’t be frightened—I’m not going to write a book here. I will discuss a little about the history of brine shrimp in the hobby, where they are found, and a few methods that can be used by anyone wanting live food suitable for fry. These little crustaceans are part of the Artemiidae family. It is said that they were first discovered in Iran in the year 982. The first report on them dates back to England in 1756. The eggs are referred to as cysts. One brand of Artemia is called Sea-Monkeys, which is an artificial breed known as Artemia NYOS (NYOS being short for New York Ocean Science), formed by hybridizing several Artemia species.* Brine shrimp are used today to test the toxicity of chemicals as well as for feeding fry. The cysts have even been taken into space on Apollo 16 and 17 to observe the effects of cosmic radiation on them. After returning from space, the eggs were hatched, and 90% of the embryos died. One variety, Artemia monica, known as the Mono Lake Shrimp, has been petitioned for placement on the US Fish And Wild Life Services endangered list. Most of the eggs we use are from the Great Salt Lake. This lake is flat, about 1,730 square miles, at an elevation of 4,200 feet, in the state of Utah. The lake has a salinity of 3 to 8 times greater than that of seawater. The Great Salt Lake is only about 14 feet deep in most places, and has a maximum depth of 33 feet. The salinity is constantly changing with the depth of the lake. The temperatures in the lake are between freezing and 80°F. It should be noted that migrating birds use the shrimp as part of their diet.


Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

There are now breeding ponds in San Francisco devoted to producing a San Francisco strain of the Great Salt Lake Artemia franciscana cysts. In pictures taken from the air they look like red areas. The eggs can easily last 25 years in a sealed container. Eggs will survive freezing with no problem, and even boiling temperatures for up to 2 hours. After hatching, the life cycle of the shrimp is about one year. Egg prices have been rising steadily over the past few years (what else is new?). Pet shop owners, such as Harsha Perera of Zoorama and Steve Gruebel of Cameo Pet Shop, can provide you with a can of eggs at a fair price and without shipping costs. You can expect to pay over $50 per pound for an 80% hatch rate. If you use a spoonful of eggs a day, as I do, you can expect the container to last 4 months. I would not buy the small vial containers, since humidity getting into the vial usually reduces the hatch rate. The cost per ounce is also not economical. Storing containers of eggs also was a topic of discussion at the meeting we had just attended. Moisture is something to be avoided. Some said to store the container in the freezer, but others had found that when the frozen container is opened to remove eggs, condensation forms that is damaging to the eggs. Some store the eggs in a refrigerator. Either method works for me to preserve the eggs. Some take out enough eggs to last for a couple of weeks, so that the main container is opened less often. Until the container is first opened it can be stored at room temperature, though some sellers advise storing even unopened containers in the refrigerator or freezer. Methods of hatching the eggs are numerous, but I will try to provide you with one that works well for me. The hatchery I use was purchased from the fishroom supply house, JEHMCO (see photo at left). These are inexpensive, and come with instructions. They will work for

June 2013


feeding a few tanks of fry or a small species tank. This unit holds about a half pint of water and one spoonfull of cysts. A new batch should be prepared daily. This has been sufficient for the number of spawns I have at any one time. My JEHMCO unit has been in use for 7 years. It is simply a small container attached to a stand, with an air hose attached to provide aeration and water circulation. Simply add water from your tank, and a spoonful of marine or kosher salt. Do not use iodized salt—it will not work. There is a valve at the bottom of the unit to collect the nauplii (hatched cysts). Place the container in a warm spot (80°F) with a small light to help trigger the maximum hatch rate. It is preferable for the hatchery to have a cone shape at the bottom, in order to keep the eggs in suspension, which is essential for hatching the eggs. The eggs should hatch in 24 hours, or longer if the temperature is lower. They should be collected and fed as soon as possible so that the food value is at its greatest. Collecting hatched eggs is simple. Remove the air hose, and place a light near the bottom to attract the shrimp. The shells come to the top and the hatched shrimp will be attracted by the light source. The bottom valve is opened and the shrimp are collected in a fine brine shrimp net. The next step is to gently run some water through

the small brine shrimp net containing the shrimp to remove the salt. Lastly, shake out the brine shrimp in a container of aged water, and feed to your fry. I use a turkey baster to give a shot to each tank. A more common, inexpensive type of hatchery can be made yourself (see above). Cut the top off of a large soda bottle. Next make a stand by cutting the bottom of another such bottle and use this bottom to seat the first bottle, which is placed with the opening of this bottle facing up. Then simply insert an air supply either from the open top or through the bottom, by drilling 14

a small hole in the bottle cap. You will need something to remove the hatched brine shrimp, such as a turkey baster. For larger fishrooms, two such hatcheries can be used, alternating between the two. If you want to get more ideas for constructing your own hatchery, Google “images of brine shrimp hatcheries.” Please keep in mind that some of the info you see will not be accurate, or scientific. Small, inexpensive brine shrimp nets are sold for collecting nauplii. I recently acquired a vintage wire net that has a much finer material, such as is used for handkerchiefs. I find fewer small nauplii are lost by using this net. Some experienced aquarists report that by using seawater their hatch rate is superior to that achieved by preparing the water using kosher salt. I myself have tried using seawater, collected by my son in the middle of Long Island Sound. My results were inconclusive. As with many things in the hobby, you will develop a feel for what works best. I also add a small amount of baking soda to bring up the pH, and sometimes use water from my African tanks. Those aquarists using seawater, who had previously prepared the water themselves, might not have achieved the proper parameters of water required for a maximum hatch rate, and so the use of sea water solved their problem. There is a method of raising brine shrimp to maturity indoors, by using the old water used to hatch them. Simply use a low, wide, plastic container. Add the used hatchery water to this container, along with a small amount of powdered fry food, and an air hose. Eventually you will have some live food for your small species breeders. David Ramsey has a few YouTube videos on the subject. One last thought about the use of decapsulated brine shrimp eggs. These are brine shrimp eggs with the hard shell (chorion) removed. This is done by exposing the eggs to a hypochlorite solution. They can be purchased, dry, in small packages. The advantage is there are no shells to enter your tank, and the hatch rate is supposed to be better. The decapsulated, unhatched cysts are edible and easily digestible by the fry. My problem with this method is that I believe fry like to go after things that are alive and moving. I told you we could write a book on this subject! *

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Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

Key Largo Revisited Story and Photos by Stephen Sica

Banded butterfly fish, Chaetodon striatus. This adult fish was almost five inches long. The body is silver to white; this fish was more whitish. The first black bar always runs through the eye. Common to occasional in Florida, they often travel north on Gulf Stream. Found singly and in pairs from 10 to 60 feet, they tend to ignore divers.

hose of you who have been members of the Greater City Aquarium Society for several years may remember that Donna and I visit Key Largo every Halloween for a divers’ reunion. This year, the reunion was held in mid-September. Last year, we also attended Fantasy Fest Week in Key West prior to our annual reunion in Key Largo. We had quite a time. I say this as I review my photos of last year’s revelers and their body-painted-on costumes. Believe me, some of those costumes were award winners! Since this is a publication about fish, sooner or later I guess that I have to say something about fish. Let me think a minute. Oh yes, on the opening day of the reunion we attended a lecture and slide show by the Coral Restoration Foundation, whose home base happens to be Key Largo. After the lecture we were enlisted as volunteers to visit their underwater coral farm and help prep the corals for “planting,” by cleaning the trees used to grow the corals. While corals are not fish, they are close enough, if you use your imagination. I must say that cleaning those coral


Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

growing trees of stray growth was an excellent way to attract fish. Anything growing on them—mostly corals and tiny crustaceans—was eagerly gobbled up as soon as it was scraped off. I’m considering writing an article about the Coral Reef Restoration Foundation and its work, so I won’t go into any more detail for now on this subject. As for the rest of our visit, Donna had developed a slight head cold and throat congestion a few days prior to our departure. Clogged throat or nasal passages do not blend well with diving, but since we so look forward to visiting with our once-a-year diving friends, Donna decided to tough it out. For example, there are Svetlana and her daughter Anastasia, who was currently in Russia practicing her English to prepare for a six week visit with her mother and her American boyfriend, Jeremy, who happens to be a local dive instructor. Love must truly be blind, because Ana and Jeremy cannot communicate with each other through a common language. For some reason unknown to us, Svetlana took a liking to Donna a few years ago. Her boyfriend had purchased a second home in Key Largo

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earlier this year, so we were invited over for a barbecue. We heard many stories, and saw numerous photos on her computer about her family and hometown in the Ural Mountains. Its most prominent citizen is a man whom she personally knows—a Mr. Kalashnikov, who is ninety-two years of age and in good health as of this writing, and who invented a famous Russian weapon which bears his name. While Svetlana is no expert, she is an enthusiastic diver, and a good example of the many interesting people that we have met in the Florida Keys over the years. Fortunately, the water was clear, and Donna was able to dive in a limited fashion with minimal discomfort other than nosebleeds. Instead of doing three days of diving during the weekend, we limited ourselves to diving only on Friday and Saturday. We passed on Sunday. When the boat returned, everyone said that it was the best of the three days. It figures… Saturday was a “bonus day,” on which we did three dives for the price of two. We made five dives in two days before deciding not to further exert ourselves.

Split-Crown feather duster worm, Anamobaea orstedii. There is a longitudinal split of the crown into mirrored halves. Common colors are brown, orange-brown, maroon and violet with white spots and bands. May be solitary or in groups of three or four on reefs. Common. Tubes are often deeply encased in coral. They instantly retract the crowns when approached by divers.

Longspine squirrelfish, Holocentrus rufus. My identification of this fish is uncertain. It may be a common squirrelfish, which is rarely found below forty feet. You may see a longspine at 100 feet. The longspine does not exceed twelve inches. Its most prominent identifier are white triangular markings at tips of dorsal fin spines. In this photo the dorsal fin is partially retracted, but the tips appear to have the white triangles.


We stayed shallow and in close proximity to the boat. While our dive profiles were very conservative, we did manage to see some interesting sea life. Our first dive was on the wreckage of the Benwood, which lies in forty to fifty feet of water and is home to many fish. From a previous article you may recall that the Benwood was sunk in a collision with another ship while running without lights during World War II to avoid U-boats. Our remaining four dives were shallow reefs at some new places that we had never seen before. Rather than my trying to describe these sites, here are photographs showing some of the interesting fish and sea life that we saw. There are some usual suspects here. Some fish just seem to appear all of the time and strike a ready pose for the camera. Others have to make it difficult. I hope that there are one or two worthwhile subjects here. If not, I can always blame Modern Aquarium’s illustrious editor, so please make me look good (again), Dan!

Great barracuda, Sphyraena barracuda. This fish inhabits the locale of the Benwood shipwreck. There are many small schooling grunts in and around the wreck to sate this barracuda’s appetite whenever it requires a snack or a meal.

French angelfish, Pomacanthus paru. It is hardly possible to dive Florida or the Caribbean Sea without making a close contact with this fish. Of course then I have to photograph it. An adult specimen is a remarkably attractive image.

June 2013

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

Moon jelly, Aurelia aurita. This jellyfish is very common in Florida and the Caribbean. It is distributed worldwide and year-round, but abundant during brief periods during the year. They were very abundant in the Keys last September. Found near the surface and over reefs, their short, fringe-like tentacles, which are barely discernible in photo, are mildly toxic. They can sting bare skin and cause an itchy rash.

A pair of Spotfin butterfly fish, Chaetodon ocellatus. The black dot on outer edge of rear dorsal fin is the most distinctive feature. I almost always observe them in pairs; they are very common on the shallow reefs.

Black margate, Anisotremus surinamensis. This fish is in the grunt family. It averages one to one and one-half feet, and is found at a depth of 10 to 60 feet. It has a high profile and a dark patch behind the pectoral fins. The color is silvery-gray. It is not common in Florida and the Caribbean.

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

Rock beauty, Holacanthus tricolor. A favorite photography subject for me, this typically shy specimen refused to come out and offer a good pose. Between my distance from the fish and particles in the water, this was my best photo out of six. This eight inch fish was on the reef at 30 feet.

Masked, or glass goby, Coryphopterus personates or hyalinus. There is no way to visually determine which species of goby this is without a hand examination. The glass goby is bright orange with a smaller, more slender body, but a side-by-side comparison is necessary. Maximum length is one and one-half inches. The masked goby inhabits waters between 10 and 35 feet, while the glass goby is found from 40 to 100 feet. I found this fish at about 30 feet. Is it a masked goby?

Donna was having a bad hair day until she remembered that she was underwater!

June 2013


Pictures from our

Tonight’s Speaker: Sal Silvestri

A BIG happy 90th Birthday to Elliot Oshins

Looking for bargains

Ed Vukich is working hard

Winners of the 2012 NEC Article Awards:

Jules Birnbaum

Dan Radebaugh

Sue Priest 18 18

Al Priest June June2013 2013

ModernModern Aquarium - Greater City A.S. Aquarium - Greater City(NY) A.S (NY)

last meeting

Photos by Al & Susan Priest

A warm welcome to our newest members:

Victor W. Hritz

Bob Hicks

Frank Policastro Jr.

Returning member: Bob Kahn

Door Prize winner: Dan Puleo

Last Month’s Bowl Show Winners

1st Place: Carlotti DeJager

2nd Place: Ruben Lugo Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S. (NY) Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

3rd Prize: Rich Waizman June 2013 June 2013




June 2013

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

What’s In a Name? by Dan Radebaugh

Bad Invasive Species!

Good Invasive Species?

nce again, snakeheads are back in the news1. Lock up your children and your dog—they’re here! Sound a bit silly? Well yes, it is. While the northern snakehead, Channa argus, has starred in at least three movies (Snakehead Terror, Frankenfish, and Swarm of the Snakehead) and had supporting roles in several TV shows, this fish poses no more a threat to us or our dogs than does that swarm of giant, mutated alligators that’s been hiding out in New York’s sewer system all these years. Yes, it is an invasive species, and yes, big fish do eat little fish, but please, folks, it’s just a fish. Get a grip! One question that has been bugging me through all the repetitious snakehead furor is, why all the excitement over this fish? It’s hardly the only introduced species in the city/state/region/country. As we who are fishkeepers know, it certainly isn’t the only predator in (name a body of water). The Harlem Meer, where the latest furor is centered, is a manmade lake in Central Park. Nothing is endemic to it. Does anyone really believe that the largemouth bass, yellow perch, sunfish, carp, and other species stocked there for fishing are all native to local waters, or that these species are not also predators? So what is it? We humans are pretty fearful of snakes; could a fish with “snake” in its name inspire similar loathing just by association? I have to believe that this has to be part of the equation of fear and hysteria attached to this animal. Let’s compare the northern snakehead to another large, invasive, but much-loved predator, Oncorhynchus mykiss, the rainbow trout, or steelhead. Wildly popular in angling circles as well as in aquaculture (fish farming), Oncorhynchus mykiss, native to watersheds of the northern Pacific from eastern Russia to northern Mexico, is now ubiquitous all around the globe, having been introduced to at


Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

least 45 countries, including every continent except Antarctica, often with predictable negative impact on some indigenous species, particularly other trout species2. I can understand their popularity in the world of fish farming. They grow faster and become larger than many other trout species, and can thrive in somewhat warmer water than several of their cousins. You can buy them whole or filleted at most well-stocked grocery stores, or order them at countless restaurants. Depending in large part on what their diet has been, they can be quite delicious. What I find more difficult to understand is the continued rate of introduction for non-aquaculture use (mostly angling). Why keep putting this fish into streams where we know it’s likely to out-compete native species? Is it just the name? Is “rainbow trout” romantic and appealing to us, while “snakehead” evokes dark visions of the National Guard having to bring up heavy artillery to save us, our children, and our dogs from being attacked and devoured by foreign, (and therefore?) bloodthirsty monsters? Historically, introducing fish species for economic gain or just for fun has been common practice, even policy, in this country and others, along with resistance—both official and unofficial—to having existing flora and fauna overwhelmed by the new introductions. As an example, has anyone seen the recent movie, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen? Also, policies of one organ of government can sometimes be at odds Current rainbow trout distribution. with policies of another. From USDA

June 2013


In the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for the fishing industry. Meanwhile, keeping any species of instance, there is an ongoing effort to rid the park’s snakehead anywhere in this country has been banned, streams of rainbow trout, but that hasn’t seemed to regardless of the fact that many Channa species are put a damper on continued stocking outside the park. small, tropical (so not capable of colonizing most U.S. Does anyone think that the rainbows won’t just swim waters), and would make perfectly fine aquarium fish. back in to the park? It isn’t as though the snakehead is a fish unlike In one western state where we often vacation, anything North America has ever seen. The bowfin there has been a great deal of official outrage over the (see photos below) is one snakehead-like native fish, introductions of non-native though much older than the species like the rainbow and snakehead in evolutionary SPECIES NOTES brook trout, and the damage terms, having been around being caused to indigenous Scientific name: Channa argus since the time of the species in that state, such as Common name: Northern Snakehead dinosaurs. This fish is the cut-throat and Apache sometimes kept by aquarists Adult standard length: 3.5 feet, 15 lbs trout. Nevertheless, Marsha with a bent towards and I visited a state-run Temperature: 14-22° C “something different.” hatchery there that seemed Distribution: China, Korea, eastern However, it can eventually to be exclusively raising Russia. Has been introduced into other grow to around forty inches rainbow trout. Where is the countries for aquaculture in length, and, like most fish, logic? will eat anything that will fit Reproduction: Egglayer -- Build Closer to home, though into its mouth. Unlike the clearly embracing raising spawning nests in aquatic vegetation. burbot (Lota lota), another environmental awareness as Temperament: Highly piscivorous North American fish rather part of their mission, much Environment: Stagnant water with mud similar in appearance to of Cold Spring Harbor’s substrate & aquatic vegetation the snakehead, the bowfin hatchery production seems is not a good food fish. Nutrition: Top-level predator. to be rainbow trout. They One recipe I came across say that the fish are used Piscivorous; will also eat crustaceans, recommended the “plank” for stocking private ponds. amphibians, and other small animals. method of roasting this fish. Maybe it’s just that money “Fix it between two planks is money, but could it be more than that? Is there a of wood, season, and roast over hot coals. Then throw mystique at work here? I remember as a young teenaway the fish and eat the planks.” However, the ager vacationing with my family in then rural North bowfin does produce excellent caviar. Carolina. Between the cabins where we stayed and The northern snakehead is an important food fish the road was a small mountain stream, with a foot in its native Asia. In fact, most snakeheads that come bridge where you could look down into the stream and to this country (these days illegally) were brought see the rainbow trout (waiting for you to toss them here because of demand from the growing Asian some bread crumbs). It was a magical setting, and I communities around the U.S., who want to eat what donated my share of bread crumbs, but I wonder if it they like to eat. I can’t blame them. I recall from my would have seemed the same if I were looking down time overseas that after about a year I would have been at “snakeheads” instead of “rainbow trout.” I think willing to (well, I actually did) spend serious time and the snakeheads need a better publicist. Remember, the energy in search of a McDonalds hamburger. trout there were just as invasive, and just as predatory, The Asian food/health connection is important. as the snakeheads would have been. One of the original colonies of C. argus that So rainbow trout can apparently be stocked eventually colonized the Potomac was released into a anywhere, as long as it’s in a “private” setting or small tributary of that river by a man who had brought officially sanctioned by local government to encourage some snakeheads (from Manhattan, I seem to recall),


June 2013

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

for medicinal purposes, and then ritually released the What do we actually know about how snakeheads uneaten individuals into the wild. This apparently has may affect, or have affected waterways where they been a common means of introduction for this species, have been introduced? The answer seems to be, not and likely for others. much. For instance, “If northern snakeheads do have While it may seem that I am defending the “rights” some ecological impact in the Potomac, largemouth of invasive species and downplaying the potential bass are likely to suffer, says U.S. Geological Survey damage they can cause, that is certainly not my intent. fishery biologist Walter Courtenay, who in 2002 One only has to remember the chestnut blight that wrote a snakehead risk assessment for the agency3.” destroyed the apex forest Ironically, the largemouth of the eastern U.S., Dutch bass, Micropterus SPECIES NOTES elm disease, the West Nile salmoides, is no more virus, or the gypsy moth, to Scientific name: Oncorhynchus mykiss native to the Potomac be soberly reminded of how Common name: Rainbow trout, than is C. argus, having much damage an unfamiliar been stocked there for the steelhead organism can inflict upon benefit of anglers. For an ecosystem. Also, with Adult standard length: Can grow as some perspective, we might so much of the natural large as 4 feet, and weigh over 50 pounds look at Japan’s experience. world disappearing at a rate Environment: Marine; freshwater; C. argus was introduced unlikely to diminish any brackish; benthopelagic to rivers in Japan in the time soon, protecting what’s early 20th century. The Temperature: Prefer cool water left is important. But please, largemouth bass followed let’s keep some perspective, Distribution: Northern Pacific in 1925, reportedly and at least try to base our watershed, from eastern Russia to “terrorizing native fish and reactions on factual data. northern Mexico snakeheads alike”3, though The default official view Reproduction: Anadromous like here, there has been over the past twenty years Nutrition: Opportunistic predator. Will little study of the ecological or so, including in laws like effects of either. Official the one mentioned above, take fish up to 1/3 their own length. ironies abound. The blue seems to be “guilty even if catfish Ictalurus furcatus, proven innocent.” This is “a sharp-spined transplant not an effective or acceptable stance. It simply breeds from the Mississippi River basin that arrived in the contempt for all regulations, and encourages petty Potomac late in the 20th century, is a headache for bureaucrats to be ever pettier. (Potomac) fishery managers now, who fear it could interfere with the commercial fishing of channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus)—which were introduced from the Mississippi basin decades earlier3.” So as you can see, we’re not exactly dealing with a virgin wilderness here, and a little restraint in how we react to each new “crisis” would probably be a good thing. By all accounts, factory farming of hogs is causing far more damage to the Potomac than any fish is capable of. We can’t make up for centuries of unwise decisions by becoming hysterical over one species that is not so much different than many others that we’ve mismanaged, just because its name happens to contain the word “snake.” Current northern snakehead distribuition in North America. From USGA




Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

June 2013


Member Classifieds WANTED: For Restoration Project: Does anyone have some pieces of bubble-edge glass? Perhaps from a broken or old tank? Need three pieces -- Will pay! Please contact Steve: ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

FOR SALE: Need 6 1 2 1

to part with 10 fully set up tanks: Ten-gallon tanks 20-gallon-long 30-gallon tanks 125 gallon tank with wood stand and canopy

Call Gerry: 347-837-5794 -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------FOR SALE: Fish Hobbyist’s Dream Home: $189,000! Fishroom: 15 X 26 – Almost 400 square feet. 10 Picture-window tanks, with builtin wall shelving underneath for storage. Room for more tanks, with pressurized air system throughout the room. Full sink (hot/cold) with work space; ceramic tile floor. Pond Room: 12 X 16 – Almost 200 square feet. 300 gallon indoor pond for tropical fish. Mag pump, ceramic tile floor, large cathedral windows, lots of light for growing plants. Gorgeous views. Great place to read the Sunday papers. Rest of House: 2 BR, 2 BA, HUGE kitchen with 49 cabinets and drawers. All rooms huge, LR/desk area. Almost 2,000 square feet. Central A/C. Climate: 340 sunny days last year. Mild winters with absolutely NO snow shoveling. Location: Truth Or Consequences, New Mexico. Great name, huh? Was formerly called Hot Springs (and yes, we’ve got ‘em). Very friendly community. Cars actually stop for you to cross the street. Rarely hear a car horn. Two blocks from town. 24

June 2013

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

House Location: On historic site for Geronimo and his braves, where they ground holes in huge boulders (on the southern edge of the property) for cooking maize. Evidence still there (placard next to property). Just 20 feet below us stands a fish pond stocked with trout, and another hundred feet down is the Rio Grande River, for rafting, tubing, and fishing. For even greater bass fishing, we’re only five miles from Elephant Butte Lake, the largest lake in New Mexico, which also features water sports such as boating, swimming, fishing, jet skiing, etc. There are two marinas. View: Tremendous! From the front porch (completely tiled) you have the best view of Turtleback Mountain rising majestically above the park and river in front of you. Breakfast on the porch is breathtaking! Lunch too! Taxes: Only $600 per year. Summing Up: We’ve lived here for 19 years, and I both the fish pond and the fishroom built for my hobby, but I’m now 83, and it’s time to retire from the hobby. We watched our grandchildren grow up as they spent all their summers here. Irreplaceable memories. You could have them too. Charlie Kuhne: (575) 894-2957

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

June 2013


GCAS Happenings


Last Month’s Bowl Show Winners: 1 Carlotti DeJager 2 Ruben Lugo 3 Richard Waizman

Blue Full Moon Betta Hemiancistrus Sp L 141 Female Halfmoon Betta

Unofficial 2013 Bowl Show totals to date: Richard Waizman 10 Ruben Lugo 6 Jerry O'Farrell 1

Mario Bengcion 5

Carlotti DeJager


A warm welcome back to renewing GCAS members Tommy Chang, Rod DuCasse, Robert Kahn, Ron Kasman, Donita Maynard, Dick Moore, Flor & Orel Munoz, and Elliot Oshins! A special Ritchie!

welcome to new



Bob Hicks, Vicor Hritz, Frank Policastro Jr.,



Here are meeting times and locations of some aquarium societies in the Metropolitan New York area: GREATER CITY AQUARIUM SOCIETY


Next Meeting: July 3, 2013 Speaker: TBA Topic: TBD Meets: Meets the first Wednesday of the month (except January & February) at 7:30pm: Queens Botanical Garden 43-50 Main Street - Flushing, NY Contact: Dan Radebaugh (718) 458-8437 Email: Website:

Meets: 2nd Tuesday of each month at at 8:00 pm. Alley Pond Environmental Ctr.: 228-06 Northern Blvd. Contact: Gene Baudier (631) 345-6399

BIG APPLE GUPPY CLUB Meets: Last Tuesday each month (except Jan, Feb, July, and August) at 7:30-10:00pm. Alley Pond Environmental Ctr.: 228-06 Northern Blvd. Contact: Donald Curtin (718) 631-0538

BROOKLYN AQUARIUM SOCIETY Next Meeting: June 14, 2013 Speaker: Laura Birenbaum Event: Dry shipping corals and other inverts Meets: 2nd Friday of the month (except July and August) at 7:30pm: NY Aquarium - Education Hall, Brooklyn, NY Call: BAS Events Hotline: (718) 837-4455 Website:

LONG ISLAND AQUARIUM SOCIETY Next Meeting: June 21, 2013 Speaker: Christine Williams Pasagelis Topic: The Breach at Old Inlet Meets: 3rd Fridays (except July and August) 8:00pm. Room 120 in Endeavor Hall on theState University at Stony Brook Campus, Stony Brook, NY Email: Margaret Peterson - Website:


NASSAU COUNTY AQUARIUM SOCIETY Next Meeting: September 9, 2013 Speaker: TBA Topic: TBD Meets: 2nd Tuesday of the month (except July and August) at 7:30 PM Molloy College - Kellenberg Hall ~1000 Hempstead Ave Rockville Centre, NY Contact: Mike Foran (516) 798-6766 Website:

NORTH JERSEY AQUARIUM SOCIETY Next Meeting: June 20, 2013 Speaker: Joe Ferdenzi Topic: A History of the Hobby in America Meets at: The Lyndhurst Elks Club, 251 Park Avenue, Lyndhurst, NJ 07071 Contact: NJAS Hotline at (732) 332-1392 Email: Website:

NORWALK AQUARIUM SOCIETY Next Meeting: June 20, 2013 Speaker: TBA Topic: TBD Meets: 8:00 P.M. - 3rd Thursday of each month at: Earthplace - the Nature Discovery Center - Westport, CT Contact: John Chapkovich (203) 734-7833 Call our toll free number (866) 219-4NAS Email: Website:

June 2013

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

Headstands & Sign Language

In a study published in the journal Nature Communications, a team of scientists studied the hunting habits of various fish and discovered that two species, grouper and coral trout, use what the researchers call a “headstand” signal to direct their hunting companions to prey. Groupers hunt with A series by “The Undergravel Reporter” giant moray eels. Coral trout—also called Napoleon wrasses—partner with octopuses (and, In spite of popular demand to the no, the plural of octopus is NOT “octopi”). contrary, this humor and information The researchers found that when prey column continues. As usual, it does escaped its hunting party, a grouper occasionally NOT necessarily represent the moved to where the fugitive prey was hiding and opinions of the Editor, or of the would rotate its body, head downward, and would Greater City Aquarium Society. shake its head back and forth in the direction of the prey, giving what ’ve always suspected that researchers called a my fish were studying my “headstand” signal. movements and somehow Coral trout make a passing that information to similar signal. the whole tank. How else The website of does it explain that, when I Popular Science approach a tank with a can of magazine compares food or a container of worms, this to “a heist movie the entire population of the where everyone has a tank knows to gather in the specialty: the grouper corner where I'm standing, and coral trout are but when I have a fishnet in generally faster, so my hand, not a single fish they can race over to can be seen out in the open? where prey is hiding, The Red Sea roving coral grouper while the giant moray Well, I don't know if (Plectropomus pessuliferus marisburi) eels squeeze into the following study is related smaller spaces and the or not, but at least two wrasses use jaws that species of fish have been can crush coral to get shown to use the human at the prey. ...Still, equivalent of sign language there's no honor to help each other hunt. among criminals: While this discovery is a first dinner goes to for fish, the use of “gestures” whichever sea creature as a means of snags the prey first. communication has The hunted fish can previously been found to wriggle away from its occur in primates and hiding spot, giving 1 ravens. (Yes, ravens, you both the hunter fish remember Alfred and the other creature Hitchcock’s “The a shot at chowing Birds,”don’t you?) down.”(2) Coral Trout (Derek Keats) Now, if I could only get one or two fish in each of my tanks to “rat out” the location of hiding fish I’m trying to catch...


References 1 2 -diabolical

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S. (NY)

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

June 2013

June 2013



Fin Fun The common names of various freshwater egg-laying fishes are shown below, next to their (unscrambled) scientific names. See if you can UNscramble all of them. Scientific name

Scrambled common name

Pterophyllum scalare


Jordanella floridae


Carassius auratus


Xenomystus nigri


Monocirrhus polyacanthus


Gnathonemus petersii


Parambassis ranga


Toxotes jaculatrix


Macropodus opercularis


Astronotus ocellatus


UNscrambled common name

Solution to our last puzzle:

28 24

June June2013 2013

Modern Modern Aquarium - Greater- City A.S.City (NY) Aquarium Greater A.S (NY)