Modern Aquarium

Page 1



JANUARY 1994 volume 1



Series III

Vol. I, No. 1

January, 1994


ON THE COVER This month's cover picture is of a Cichlasoma haitiensis. To learn more about this fascinating and rarely photographed fish, read "A Spawning of Cichlasoma haitiensis" by Greater City Aquarium Society President, Joseph Ferdenzi in this issue.

The Origin of Modern Aquarium

From the Editor's Desk .




President Vice-President

A Spawning of Cichlasoma haitiensis


. . . . . ; . . . . . B e n Haus


Emma Haus

Corres. Secretary

. . . . Sharon Mirabella

Recording Secretary Membership


Pat Piccione

A Tale of Two (Sick) Cichlids


A Plant Is A Plant


Warren Feuer

Members At Large Mary Ann Bugeia Joe Bugeia Don Curtin Doug Curtin Mark Soberman Jack Oliva Steve Sagona Vincent Sileo Greg Wuest

The Spawning and Care of Kribensis


MODERN AQUARIUM Editor Assistant Editor Art Director Advertising Mgr Executive Editor

Warren Feuer Alexander Priest Stephan Zander Mark Soberman Joseph Ferdenzi

Articles submitted for consideration in MODERN AQUARIUM must be received no later than the 10th day of the month, three months prior to the month of publication. Copyright 1994 by the Greater City Aquarium Society. All rights reserved. Reproduction in any form of the articles, illustrations or photographs appearing in this magazine is prohibited without express written prior permission. Unless other rights have been retained by the author, and noted in the article or photograph, the Greater City Aquarium Society generally grants noncommercial reproduction rights to other recognized aquarium societies and naturalist organizations upon request. The Greater City Aquarium Society meets every month, except during July and August. Meetings are the first Wednesday of the month and begin at 8:30 P.M. Meetings are held at the Queens Botanical Gardens. For more information, contact Warren Feuer at (718) 793-8724.

The Origin of


AQUARIUM Series III By Joseph Ferdenzi


equels are generally not as good as the original. Ask any "Rocky" movie fan. So, why is the Greater City Aquarium Society reviving Modern Aquarium, a hobby classic? Because there are exceptions to every rule. Didn't "The Godfather, Part II" also win a Best Picture Academy Award? We strive to repeat our prior success with Modern Aquarium. Series III. With this first issue in Series III, it seems appropriate to briefly discuss Series I and II. From best as can be gathered, Series I began some time in the mid to late 1950's. From personal correspondence with Gian Padovani (the first co-editor, along with a gentleman by the name of Peter Nicholas), a few facts can be learned. The original mission of the magazine was to fill in some of the void of information caused by the paucity of aquarium magazines existent at that time. The now venerable Tropical Fish Hobbyist (TFH) was then in its infancy. The main magazine relied on by aquarists at that time was limes' classic, The Aquarium. However, some aquarists had come to believe that the content of The Aquarium had grown a bit stodgy. In a sense, according to Padovani, this gave rise to the origin of the title Modern Aquarium, i.e., a modern version of The Aquarium. Padovani does not recall who exactly came up with the title idea, but he is fairly certain of its derivation. He does not recall that anyone ever suggested the title as a repetition of any previous magazine published by the Society. Padovani's recollections seem to dispose of the notion that, at some time in its past (the Society was founded in 1922), the Society had previously published a series called Modern Aquarium. Hence, the 1950's series is being referred to as Series I. It is unclear how frequently and for how long Series I was published. Unfortunately, no

complete set is known to exist. The author has three issues which were provided by long-time member and past President, Gene Baiocco. The earliest issue is from June of 1957, and features a pair of Colisa lalia (dwarf gouramies) on the cover. The issue is designated as Vol. I, No. 4. The second issue is dated December of 1957 (no volume or number) and features a fanciful party scene on the cover. The last issue is from January 1958 (again no volume or number) and has a Synodontis angelicas on the cover. Apparently, the magazine was intended to be a monthly publication. Each issue had, respectively, 12, 8, and 8 numbered pages — rather thin. The pages of the magazines were 8Vi" x7". Thanks to Padovani, a professional artist, the graphics and "look" were quite good, but it suffered, especially in comparison to Series II of the magazine and today's computerized "print shops," with regard to its printing quality. (It should be noted that Padovani also contributed his artistic talents to many issues of the Series II Modern Aquarium.) Although the club endeavored to use the best production techniques available at the time (Gestetner stencils, etc.), budget constraints foreclosed the use of a professional printer. Owing to these various limitations, it does not appear that Series I magazines ever enjoyed widespread popularity outside the club's immediate membership. However, they do provide details regarding the activity of the Society. From that perspective, they form an important part of the club's historical archives. At some point, the magazine ceased being produced, but it is unclear when. In 1968, under the editorial leadership of Dan Carson, Modern Aquarium (Series II) was resurrected. The first issue was published in November of that year, and during its six year run (the final issue was published in December of 1974), it became a hobby classic. The reasons for that are many. Firstly, the staff of the magazine was made up of a very talented and dedicated group of aquarists. They knew how to keep and breed fish. They knew the other leading hobbyists of their day — both within and without Greater City. This enabled them to write articles of interest to aquarists and about aquarists. The series of biographical profiles of leading hobbyists, called "Hobby Builders," served to chronicle a partial history of the hobby. These profiles are enjoyable, and important reading even today. Secondly, the magazine featured many excellent black and white photographs. Because the aquarium hobby is an essentially visual one,

these photos played an large role in making Modern Aquarium a significant magazine. Even today, it is rare to encounter a club publication that features such extensive use of photography. Finally, the magazine was composed and printed using professional printing methods. This gave the magazine a crisp and "finished" look. Indeed, many of the issues feature a cover price (which ranged over the years from 35C to 40C) because the issues were sold "over the counter" in pet shops! Under a succession of editors, the longest reign being that of Herb Fogal, the magazine was produced on a regular monthly basis, with the exception of the months of July and August. Volume I consisted of eight issues. Succeeding volumes began in September of each year, and ran ten issues per volume.

The final volume, Volume VII, comprised four issues. The magazine was always printed in an 8'/2"x5'/2" format — the same as the two national magazines of the day, The Aquarium and Tropical Fish Hobbyist. With all these attributes, it is little wonder that Modern Aquarium Series II became widely regarded, and has since become a collector's item. Some complete sets are known to exist. Anyone seeking to research the history of the aquarium hobby in America for the years 1968 to 1974 would need Modern Aquarium as a reference source. It is hoped that Modern Aquarium. Series III, will become as valued as its progenitor.

It is a tremendous privilege to be working with such talented and committed people. Our Art Editor, Stephan Zander, has an incredible talent for layout and format. Al Priest, my very capable Assistant Editor, makes <*\ Warren Feuer magic occur from a Word Processor. Of course, we get our inspiration from Joe Ferdenzi, the Executive Editor, whose long time dream and goal has been to resurrect Modern Aauarium. In this issue, Joe has contributed an abbreviated history of Modern Aquarium. We also have a great Advertising Manager, Mark Soberman. Let me tell you, I've seen Mark in action and I know he'll be quite successful in getting hen you see professional athletes advertisement for Modern Aauarium interviewed after an important victory, One thing that makes Mark's job easy is very often the stars of the game will make a the quality of this paper and all of the very comment like "I couldn't have done anything talented and committed people I've mentioned without my teammates". Now don't get me above can all hold their heads up in pride over wrong, I'm not trying to compare the creation of the work they've done here. Before I forget, Modern Aquarium to a Super Bowl victory, but there's one more very important group to thank, the staff of Modern Aquarium has worked just and that is the Board of Directors of Greater as hard at achieving our goals as the athletes you City. The Board has supported and encouraged see interviewed on TV. They, being the editorial staff through all of our efforts and professional athletes, receive different rewards growing pains, and having a board as supportive, than we do, mostly in the form of THE BIG helpful and competent as ours really makes what BUCKS, but our achievement shouldn't be down we do possible. Thanks so much guys. played just because we do this for free. I'm So, if you like what you see, let the beginning to digress from my point so let's crew know. If you have suggestions as to what forget the reward issue for now. you'd like to see in Modern Aauarium in the What I'm getting at is the fact that this future, let us know as well. is a team effort involving many players and my editorial direction is just one small part. So let me take this opportunity to thank my fellow teammates and welcome you, the reader, to the premier issue of the new Modern Aquarium.

From The Editor's m Desk -&ÂŁ3


A Spawning Of

Cichlasoma haitiensis

by Joseph Ferdenzi

n the Fall of 1987, I was fortunate enough to receive a gift of five Cichlasoma haitiensis from my good friends Dr. Ken Lazara and Bill McNiff. Ken and Bill are widely known for their expertise in killifish, and they, as well as myself, are all long time members in the American Killifish Association and the Long Island Killifish Association. However, on their 1987 expedition to the Dominican Republic, they and Dr. Mike Smith of the American Museum of Natural History, collected among other things the little known cichlid that is the subject of this article. Cichlasoma haitiensis is confined to the Caribbean Island of Hispaniola, which is divided between the nations of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. In addition, it may be the only endemic cichlid found on the island. There is a second putative species, vombergae, but this is still the subject of scientific inquiry. Its other closest relative is tetrecanthus, the Cuban Cichlid, which, as its popular name would indicate, is endemic to the island of Cuba, and one of only two cichlids found there (ramsdeni being the other). Indeed C. tetracanthus and C. haitiensis are similar in appearance. Haitiensis presents a typically robust, guapote-like, body configuration. The caudal fin is rounded and none of its fins display any unusual length. Mature males, however, do have extended filaments on the dorsal and anal fins. The body coloration, outside of spawning dress, is of alternating beige and light brown striations. The striation pattern is very faint. In


addition, the anterior half of the body displays a jumbled arrangement of dark spots and dashes. Females display a dark spot at the base of their spiny dorsal fin, which males lack. The fins are colorless with the exception of the dorsal fins and the ventrals. The former mimics the blotched pattern of the body, and the latter are brown-tinged. At present, the largest of the fish, the male, is about 8 inches in length, exclusive of the tail (SL). The largest of the females grow to about 5 inches. The fish in my care were collected in a creek entering the Rio Jaina, in water 0.5 meters deep. Other specimens were found in the Balnearneo Las Marias, the Arroyo Rancho de Yagua, and the Rio Yagui. The waters which they inhabited at Rio Jaina were overshadowed by trees and shrubs, with grass and fine roots trailing in the water. Juveniles hide in this vegetation. The water was turbid, with a temperature of 33째 C, and a pH of 7.35. The substrate consisted of sand, gravel, silt, and leaf litter. Upon receiving my five specimens, I placed each in separate 5 gallon tanks. At this time, the fish varied between 2.5 and 3 inches in length. I assume the pH was in the range of 7.2, as my tap water is 7.0 and I add salt and some sodium bicarbonate to it. In any event, the fish displayed no trauma or other ill effects following their introduction. Initially, I fed the fish exclusively on live guppies. These they aggressively hunted and devoured. The fish displayed very healthy appetites. I used live guppies, I suppose, out of an overabundance of caution due to the fact I knew I was dealing with wild animals. It now seems this caution may have been unnecessary. At present, I rarely give the fish live food as they are consummate eaters of all sorts of prepared and freeze-dried foods. Not that all has been without tribulations. Two fish were lost to disease, which broke out about a month after I received them. These fish displayed the symptoms of a puss-like, white substance protruding from their bodies. They were alternately treated with various medications, ranging from Clout and Furanace to Malachite Green. While the fish showed some remission after treatment, only one healed completely. Nevertheless, I was grateful to be left with three healthy specimens. After a few months of acclimation, the fish were moved to a more permanent home. This consisted of a 29 gallon tank, outfitted in the following manner. The substrate consisted of #3 and #5 regular gravel and #3 dolomite. Filtration consisted of one outside power filter (180 gph) and a large box filter. A 100 watt


heater was also provided. However, the most important aspect of the housing consisted of dividing the tank into three separate compartments (see drawing). Again, an overabundance of caution induced me to make that arrangement. My thought was to allow the fish to grow in peace by thwarting that

Diagram of grid divider

Grid compartments allowed the fish to share the same tank compatibly.

well known Cichlasoma ferocity that especially displays itself in confined quarters. Indeed, this proved to be a very prudent arrangement. The division was accomplished by using standard white fluorescent lighting grids (with 1/4" square holes), cutting the 4' X 8" strips into four pieces, and assembling them (as indicated in fig. 1) in the following pattern. The base, "A," I cut 1/2" less than the width of the tank. For its length, it is cut several inches less than the length of the tank, but this is not critical. Sides "B" and "C" are cut so that they leave no gaps between the front and rear panes of glass, and so that they reach up to the beginning of the tanks plastic molding. Sides "B" and "C" are fastened at their bottom to base "A" by means of several plastic utility ties pulled tightly. Piece "D" is used as a brace, and consists of a small rectangle (roughly 3" in width) placed towards the rear of the middle chamber and tied to "B" and "C" by means of plastic ties also. Each piece is placed into the tank one at a time, and, for ease of fit (trying to fit it in the tank after assembly is extremely difficult), tied together while in the tank. Gravel is added afterwards. The compartments were equal in size (approximately 10" in length).

Each compartment received a large (4" to 6" diameter) clay flowerpot, laid on its side. In addition, the center compartment was weighed down with a large rock for stability. The fish display some timidity. Upon approaching the tank, they generally retreat to the cover of the flower pot. In typical cichlid fashion, they also set about rearranging the gravel into various mounds. I have never tried plants, but assume they would not be rooted for long. The water in their tank was well aged before they were placed into it. In addition, approximately one teaspoon of salt per 3 gallons was added, and approximately one teaspoon each of sodium bicarbonate and epsom salt per 10 gallons was also used. This results in a pH in the moderately alkaline range. However, as I am not a believer that narrow or unique chemical parameters must be strictly adhered to for most fish, I ran no tests on the water. I knew the water to be of the best quality in that it was free of pollution and would remain so due to careful nitrogen cycle management. Most importantly, the tank would be underpopulated, and the fish segregated and free of stress. All went well with the fish thereafter. They ate ravenously. No diseases cropped up. They appeared to behave normally. Yet, I could not detect anything that I could describe as prespawning activity, not that this overly concerned me, as I regarded the fish to be on the young side. On a visit to my home, world renowned cichlid expert Dr. Paul Loiselle opined that of the three fish, two of the fish, including the one in the center compartment, were females. This was excellent news, and at least gave hope for the future. The future arrived one Sunday evening on July 16, 1988. After returning from a family outing, I set about to do some work in my fish room. As I passed the C. haitiensis tank, I casually glanced down (the tank is situated on a rack, about 6 inches from the floor) only to witness a most startling event. There were about 200 baby fish swimming around in the center compartment! Equally striking was the fact that the fish guarding them, presumably a female (this was later confirmed), was entirely jet black in color, with the exception of her clear fins, save for the anterior portion of the dorsal which was also black. To say I was delighted would be a slight understatement. I quickly removed the majority of the spawn from the tank as a precaution against any possibility that the fry might be eaten by the

parent or the neighboring fish, including the father. Remarkably, the babies seemed to treat the dividers as solid barriers. 1 noticed not one fry outside the center compartment, although it would have been extremely easy for the fry to swim through the 1/4" square openings. It was, therefore, relatively easy to siphon out the fry with a clear 3/8" diameter hose, as they stayed put in one place. A dozen or so fry were left with the parent. The remainder of the fish were placed in a bare 5 gallon tank, aerated by one box filter. The water was made up half of newly treated water and half from their original tank. The fry seemed to settle in quite well. I fed them nothing that night. Owing to the summer heat, the water was quite warm, 84째F. In the spawning tank the temperature had been 82째F, and the pH tested out at 7.2. A remarkable feature of the fry was that they were a good 3/8" in size. Their size was especially noted inasmuch as they were alongside a 5 gallon tank containing angelfish (Pterophylum scalare) fry that had hatched out a week earlier and were considerably smaller. The fry did well. In the first two days, only a handful perished, but none died after that. The fry were fed newly-hatched brine shrimp and finelyground prepared foods. High water quality was maintained by partial water changes every second day. After a week of care in this fashion, the fry were moved to a well-established, but barebottomed, 15 gallon tank to grow further. The female had continued to guard the remaining fry. She also retained her jet black color. Only after removal of all the fry did her normal color return. It is regrettable that the fish does not maintain this ebony hue at all times. If it did, I am sure the fish would enjoy great popularity. Indeed, it would probably have significant commercial value as well. Exactly one month after I sighted the first spawn, I noticed the female had turned black again. This induced me to do a close inspection of her compartment. Lo and behold, there was a mass of hundreds of eggs on the inside curve of her flowerpot, about midway from the bottom. The side chosen was the side closest to the male's compartment. Nevertheless, as the flowerpot rested at a 180 degree angle to the grid separating them (see photo), I anxiously awaited to see if the eggs were fertile. A week later, the fry had hatched. There were hundreds again. I was astounded at how the male had been able to fertilize these eggs. The male may have taken painstaking care to maximize the angle at which he had released his sperm so as to enable them to reach the eggs.

On the other hand, he may have "flooded" the tank with sperm. This remains to be determined. On the second occasion, I left the spawn in with the female. She zealously guarded the fry, and, again, they huddled about her, and did not stray into the other compartments. Regretfully, this experiment ultimately failed. About two weeks later, I could no longer see any fry. I assume their mother and/or tankmates devoured them for some inexplicable reason. The fry from the first batch are being raised in a large but shallow 40 gallon breeder tank. They show no aggression towards each other at this stage (1 inch). They are fed primarily live baby brine shrimp. However, they also eat flake food, freeze-dried blood worms, and live blood worms. I have now distributed some of these fish to other local aquarists who report that they are doing well. The fish spawned again in February of 1989. It was significant that, on this last occasion, the water temperature was a moderate 76째F. The fry were observed free-swimming, in the open, about 12 days after the eggs disappeared (hatched). Of interest is the fact that the fry had dispersed themselves into the male's compartment as well, and he was guarding them as would any good cichlid parent. Notwithstanding the somewhat drab coloration of sexually inactive individuals, C. haitiensis is a welcome addition to our hobby. It has proven hardy and easy to care for. Although mine were wild fish, they adapted themselves remarkably well to captivity. Indeed, this is something of an understatement given that the fish spawned .through a divider, without any physical contact, and yet accomplished fertilization so completely that over 200 healthy fry were produced. It is little wonder that fish continually present an enthralling facet of our natural world; a facet, which, more than with any other group of animals, can be repeated in even the most modest of homes, and this feature alone no doubt will continue to endear fish keeping to future generations of aquarists. Acknowledgements I wish to express my gratitude to Dr. Ken Lazara and Bill McNiff for giving me the opportunity to work with the fish they collected. I would also like to thank them and Dr. Paul Loiselle for their assistance in the preparation of this article.

by Warren Feuer

hy do we keep fish? Whenever you get a bunch of aquarists together, there are invariably different answers to this question. For some, there is the desire to have a pet, any pet, and, due to constraints caused by living quarter realities (e.g. no dogs allowed), allergies, spousal conflicts or even monetary limits, fish appear to be the optimum pet. Those who overcome these obstacles to have a pet are often true animal lovers. I know this to be true in my case, at any rate at the start of my fishkeeping. I am not allowed to have a dog in my apartment building, I'm allergic to cats and keeping a bird did not appeal to me due to the noise and feather factor as well as the extremely high price of some of the nicer birds I've seen. I kept fish when I was younger and found the idea of keeping them appealing. Eight tanks later, fish have obviously become more than a surrogate for a dog or cat!! Many aquarists enjoy the challenge and reward of breeding fish. In fact, some folks only keep fish until they have bred them and then trade or sell the fish and go on to breeding other species. This is certainly one good way to limit the number of tanks one has at a sane level. At present, with the extensive destruction of natural habitats occurring throughout the world and with man's feeble attempts at creating a better world while still not really comprehending the impact of his actions (the Lake Victoria experience, for example), the ability to breed fish in our home aquariums is becoming more and more important. Some keep fish for their aesthetic appeal. Several months ago I met someone who was setting up a 170 gallon reef tank as the centerpiece of his living room because he loves the way reef tanks look and wanted an eye catching piece of "living art". Hopefully, this an lover will follow a regular schedule of maintenance and care that will keep his art work alive and beautiful. Doctors recommend fish tanks for people who suffer from stress. Watching fish swim


around is purported to be relaxing. Between work and family, the little time I have for my fish is usually spent on either maintenance or feeding so I don't really get much time to just sit and watch my fish swim. But, if you have the time, try this experiment: Turn off all the lights in the room where your tank or tanks are kept (except the tank lights, of course!). Now, just sit back and watch the fish swim around. As an added mood enhancer, put on some soft music, and maybe even have a nice glass of wine (no driving if you drink please). If you can't relax after this experiment, you need a long vacation away from what's bothering you. There are always those people who like to have the latest toys, even hi our hobby. To them, the fish hi the tank are almost an after thought to the fancy equipment they've purchased. In this category of "toy lovers" also go those folks who buy fish tanks for things like "air action divers" and "bubbling skulls" or maybe the latest gum ball aquarium and then decide a few fish might be a good thing to put in the tank!! Some of these people actually see the error of their ways and become real aquarists, but most quickly tire of this toy like all others and either throw them out or store them away, indeed, sometimes these goodies can be found at garage sales. Some people, myself included, remember keeping fish when they were younger, and when accessorizing their homes, naturally include a fish tank or two, or fifty or eighty!! In many cases, people have continued to keep fish tanks from childhood non-stop through their adult years. At GCAS we have quite a few members who have kept fish 30. 40 and even 50 years. And finally, there are those brave and enterprising souls who decide to make a living out of the hobby. Some attempt this by selling the spawn of their breeding efforts, while others enter the tank set-up and maintenance business. Others go into the retail end as pet-shop owners. I know several people who have had success with the sale of the spawn, and, one only has to look in the classified ads of the hobby magazines to find fish for sale - mostly, it seems Discus and Angels, which are probably the most in demand, or popularity. Of those I know who have tried to make a business out of the hobby, I've never asked if they still enjoy the hobby aspect. Perhaps one day I'll take a poll. The retail end, if done right, can be successful and pleasant, albeit hard work. For those who have the right mind set, it's a perfect way to combine business and pleasure. So there you have it. Many reasons why we keep our finny friends. Oh, I think there is one more. They just look nice. And that may be the best explanation of them all.

"A Plant Is A Plant Is . . ." by "The Undergravel Reporter'

This humor and information column does NOT necessarily represent the opinions of the Editor, or of the Greater City Aquarium Society.

onsider this description of an aquarium: Tank water is sucked up through a plastic uptake tube (with plastic guard at the tip), through PVC plastic tubing into a plastic encased canister filter. Inside, in separate plastic containers, are plastic "bio-balls" (for biological filtration), a foam plastic insert and/or polyester filter floss (for physical filtration), and charred coconut shells (or other form of activated carbon) for chemical filtration. The water is then forced (by a plastic impeller driven from a plastic encased filter motor) up through another PVC plastic tube, through a plastic spray bar (attached to the wall of the acrylic plastic wall of the aquarium by plastic clips), to allow the filtered water to return. The water falling from the spraybar helps to aerate the water. A plastic hood (with florescent light protected by clear plastic sheet) helps regulate humidity and keeps the fish from jumping out. Extra aeration is provided by an air pump pushing air through more PVC tubing and additional filtration is provided by a plastic foam box filter. See any problems with this picture yet? Probably not. Now, let's add some fish, some snails, some gravel, a plastic plant and plastic driftwood. Wait, PLASTIC plants and driftwood? That's unnatural! Right, as if this network of PVC tubes is any more "natural." I'm pretty sick and tired of hearing tirades against plastic plants and rocks. Usually the speaker has no qualms about separating mating pairs of cichlids with plastic grids and



letting the male fertilize the eggs through the openings in the plastic. Perhaps that only duplicates the "natural" conditions of Lake Tanganyika (where, as we all know, plastic cichlid grids are harvested for export)? This same "purist" will have no problem with having a Madagaster lace plant from Africa sitting in an aquarium with swordtails native to Mexico, as long as the plant is a "live" one. And, I've yet to hear complaints about feeding brine shrimp (a salt water invertebrate) to fresh water fish which, in their "natural" environment, would never see shrimp, brine or otherwise. Let's face facts. An aquarium is, by its very nature, unnatural. White clouds (a cold water fish from China) are never found "naturally" in the same water as neon tetras (which come from the Peruvian Amazon). Bettas do not "naturally" have styrofoam cup halves floating in their spawning grounds. Airstones, filters, powerheads, heaters, chillers, florescent (or incandescent) lighting, and all the other accessories we use to help our fish grow, are an attempt to simulate natural conditions by decidedly unnatural means. There is nothing wrong with this. Are incubators for premature human infants "unnatural?" Yes, of course they are. But, they

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