Modern Aquarium August 2011

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August 2011 volume XVIII number 6

Series III ON THE COVER Our cover this month shows a DC-3 belonging to Paramount Aquarium receiving a new engine in Leticia, Colombia, as described by Alan Mark Fletcher in his article, "How World War II contributed to the Golden Decade of the Aquarium Hobby, the 1950s," which begins on page 10. Photo from Alan Mark Fletcher GREATER CITY AQUARIUM SOCIETY Board Members

President Vice-President Treasurer Corresponding Secretary Recording Secretary

Dan Radebaugh Edward Vukich Jules Birnbaum Mario Bengcion Tommy Chang

Members At Large

Claudia Dickinson Al Grusell Emma Haus Leonard Ramroop

Pete D’Orio Ben Haus Jason Kerner

Committee Chairs

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

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

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

Vol. XVIII, No. 6 August, 2011

In This Issue From the Editor G.C.A.S. 2011 Program Schedule President’s Message Our Generous Members Cartoon Caption Contest Our Generous Sponsors & Advertisers Rules for Tonight's Silent Auction Wet Leaves by Susan Priest

It's Not a Bird! by Stephen Sica

How World War II Contributed to the Golden Decade of the Aquarium Hobby, the 1950s by Alan Mark Fletcher

Pictures from our Last Meeting by Susan Priest

Carpy Diem! Part II: The Fantastic Four (The Rise of the Silver Surfer) by Dan Radebaugh

G.C.A.S. Happenings The Undergravel Reporter Survival of the Fittest Ugliest

Fin Fun (Puzzle Page) Shape Up!

2 3 4 4 5 6 6 7 8 10 14 17

24 25 26

From the Editor by Dan Radebaugh


es, this is still Modern Aquarium, though the vintage aircraft and auto on our cover would seem to belie the ‘modern’ part of the title (come to think of it, I don’t see any fish or aquariums there either). Nevertheless, that aircraft and others like it played an important role in the phenomenal growth of the aquarium hobby in the years following World War II. We are delighted to have Alan Mark Fletcher back this month with another fascinating article on an important part of our hobby’s history. See "How World War II Contributed to the Golden Decade of the Aquarium Hobby, the 1950s," on page 10. Uncharacteristically, we have a few treats for saltwater enthusiasts this month. In her “Wet Leaves” column, Sue Priest reviews Dr. Robert J. Goldstein’s Marine Reef Aquarium Handbook, which sounds as though it would be a great reference for reefkeepers. Steve Sica shows us some brilliant photos of a goldspotted eel in its natural habitat (see “It’s Not a Bird” on page 8), and the Undergravel Reporter stays with both the saltwater and the eel themes in “Survival of the Fittest Ugliest,” on page 25. Sue also shows us some “Pictures from our last meeting” on pages 14 and 15, which is followed by Part II of my two-part “Carpy Diem!” series. The “Fin Fun” puzzle, as usual, closes the issue. Oh! We also have something new this month! If you look on page 5, you’ll see a cartoon by Eliot Oshins. What you won’t see is a caption. That’s what we want you to provide! We envision this as an ongoing feature―each month there will be a cartoon, but no caption. You, our readers, will send us what you think should be the caption. The editorial staff will choose the winning 2

caption, which will appear in the following month’s issue. 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! 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!

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Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

GCAS Programs 2011


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 August 3 September 7

Silent Auction Mark Soberman Keeping and Breeding Corydoras

October 5 November 2

TBA Ted Judy Going Gabon!

December 7

Holiday Party!


Winter Break


Winter Break

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 2011 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)

August 2011


President’s Message by Dan Radebaugh


irst of all this month, I’d like to extend our thanks to Jeff Bollbach for stepping in as our speaker last month. His introduction to Aquabid was very well received. Once again I am reminded how fortunate we are to have so many “in-house” experts to draw on for their knowledge. Thanks, Jeff! The second item is an email I received from Abigail McFeely of Tropical Fish Hobbyist. Many of you expressed interest in their offer of a free subscription to the digital edition of TFH. Her message is below:

I apologize for my delay in getting back to you. Here is the link that your members need to use to opt-in to the digital subscription.

Abigail M. McFeely Circulation Coordinator Tropical Fish Hobbyist TFH Publications and Nylabone Products One TFH Plaza - 3rd & Union Avenues | Neptune City, NJ 07753 P: 1-(888)-859-9034 E:

There is a time limit on this offer, but Abigail has offered a couple of weeks’ extension for us. If you are interested, please act quickly.


Our Generous Members Each month a blue sheet is located on our auction table where those members who donate items to the auction can indicate their donations if they wish to do so. Due to the immense generosity of those who donate, we have no shortage of items to be auctioned. A warm thank you to the following members and others who so generously contributed, making last month’s auction the bountiful success that it was: William Amely Sharon Barnett Mario Bengcion Jules Birnbaum


Jeff Bollbach Rod DuCasse Michael Macht Ed Vukich

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Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

The Modern Aquarium Cartoon Caption Contest Cartoon by Elliott Oshins

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 (August). Winning captions will earn ten points in our Author Award Program, qualifying you for participation in our special "Authors Only" raffle at our Holiday Party and Banquet. Put on your thinking caps!

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

August 2011


GCAS Thanks You! Our Generous Sponsors and Advertisers The Greater City Aquarium Society extends our heartfelt thanks to the following manufacturers for their generous donations. Thanks also to our advertisers, whose contributions to our success as a Society are deeply appreciated. Please patronize our supporters. Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Aquarium Technology Inc Ecological Laboratories HBH Pet Products Koller-Craft Kordon, LLC Marineland Microbe Lift Ocean Nutrition America Omega Sea Red Sea


Rena Rolf C. Hagen San Francisco Bay Brand Seachem Zoo Med Laboratories Inc. Cameo Pet Shop Coral Aquarium Nassau Discus World Class Aquarium Zoo Rama Aquarium

August 2011

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

Sometimes the table of contents is not the best place to start, but in this case I think it is appropriate. Chapter three, water quality, takes thirty pages to cover such topics as wave makers, RO (reverse osmosis) and DI (deionized) water, and strontium, as well as topics more familiar to a Series On Books For The Hobbyist freshwater hobbyists. As we continue to read, we by SUSAN PRIEST learn that aragonite is a substrate material, an algal mat is a type of filtration, and a color rendering here was no need for me to peruse my list of index is something we need to know about previously reviewed books to find out if I had lighting. already discussed this one. I definitely would As you thumb through the pages and look at have remembered a book about alien creatures, the fascinating animalia, at times you might think which was written in an out-of-this-world language. you are looking at a mushroom, an insect, or a Right up front I must confess page out of a dermatology to a prejudice which will color textbook. The main body of my pont of view. I am strictly animals under discussion are Marine Reef Aquarium a freshwater girl, and it will be the corals. Sponges, molluscs, Handbook - 2nd Edition my ignorance of the topic of echinoderms and annelids By Robert J. Goldstein, Ph.D. reef keeping which will come (segmented worms) are some Barrons, 2008 into play. I find myself to be others. Virtually all of these very much a stranger in a very creatures are invertebrates, but strange land. if you make it most of the way Not that many through the book to years ago the chapter 22, there are commercial fish even a few fishes! hobbyist magazines Our author has gave virtually no given us a modest coverage at all to the glossary, but the marine side of the index also serves to hobby. These days direct us, via an extra they have either step, to the definitions determined that the of hundreds of terms. number of people I frequently found seeking this kind of myself turning to both information has of these resources. m u l t i p l i e d Has anyone exponentially, or they come up with the are trying to convince meaning of us that we are missing colpomenia? It is a o u t b y n o t brown gas-filled participating. Perhaps bubble algae. You they are being driven can read about this, as by their advertisers, well as several other who want us to be brown algaes, on buying the expensive page 70. equipment and supplies Keeping a reef necessary. Whatever tank is not for the case may be, there everyone. (I found are a lot more articles out that it is definitely covering the marine side of the hobby than there not for me!) If you are considering delving into used to be. I rarely give them my attention. this strange and fascinating world, then put this Probably a lot of you do, and are bringing a base of book on your list of must-have resources. In knowledge to this venue which I don’t have. addition to detailed information on the care and Colpomenia - what do you think this is? It feeding of the wildlife, it will steer you away from could be a life form, a disease, or maybe a crater on many mishaps. If you are already a reef keeper, it a faraway planet. Reading this book is like reading will fine-tune your skills. a biochemistry textbook. Science geeks will feel right at home in these waters!


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




IT’S A SNAKE EEL! Story and Photos by Stephen Sica hen I first “discovered” this unique animal I was hesitant to write about it, but I had listened carefully to Dr. Judith Weis’ “Do Fish Sleep?” lecture. Yes, I recalled, eels are fish, and since Modern Aquarium is about fish, I could share my experience with an uncommon fish. It all began last winter. In 2010 my brother and his wife had purchased a condominium in Delray Beach, Florida, and decided to spend the winter there―a decision made on the spur of the moment. Seeking company, he phoned his family and friends, but no one was anxious to visit him, until my wife Donna and I decided to make the trip in early April of 2011. We calculated that it should be fairly mild to warm by then. A few weeks prior to our departure, I received one of my dive magazines, which fortuitously contained an article about underwater national parks. Key Biscayne is south of Miami on the way to the Keys; we had been in the vicinity many times. After arriving in Florida, Donna made a few phone calls, and soon we were booked on the Saturday afternoon tourist snorkel boat, but we would be diving. The day soon arrived. My brother drove us the sixty miles to the park, and after a brief lecture and touchand-feel exercise by the park ranger, we boarded the flat platform boat which took us across Biscayne Bay to a shallow reef in only thirteen feet of water. Donna and I swam around the reef underwater, occasionally catching sight of the kicking legs of a snorkeler. It was difficult to navigate because of surge, and the visibility was less than ten feet. During the course of our forty minute dive we saw several torpedo rays, a few angelfish, butterfly



fish, doctor fish, and sergeant majors. About halfway through our dive I looked straight down and found myself staring at a thin snake-like animal. It was very long, and difficult to frame in my camera because of the surge that was rocking me back and forth. Its head was always poking or burrowing in the sand, but I was able to take three photographs. I called Donna’s attention to it (although she insists that she saw it before I did), and we both studied it for a few moments before it slithered into the coral and sand on the bottom and disappeared. We gazed awhile at its last location, but it was gone. We then searched the immediate vicinity, but we could not find it. I think that it burrowed into the sand near some hard corals. Back on the boat, I showed my photos to the divemaster, and queried him. Neither he nor the captain had ever seen this animal before. The divemaster had a sophisticated scrolling phone-like device with a large screen. I do not even know my own cell phone number, so this device was beyond my primitive knowledge. I think it was an upscale phone. He tried researching the animal and showed me several photos, but he could not find a match. I would have to wait until we returned home. Once we got back home to New York, I took out my Reef Fish of Florida, Bahamas, and Caribbean identification book by Paul Humann and Ned DeLoach, carefully checking the chapter about eels. In the snake eel family, Ophichthidae, I spied Myrichthys ocellatus, the goldspotted eel. I am almost positive that is the animal that we saw. The book describes the distinctive features of this eel to be bright yellow-gold spots with diffuse black borders on the body and head. It also describes

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Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

the eel as having a thin, tan body that may have a yellow to green cast. These eels are occasional to uncommon in the Bahamas and Caribbean, and uncommon to rare in Florida. They usually hide during the day in sand or on shallow patch reefs, but occasionally do come out into the open. They emerge to forage at night, and can move beneath sand. Relatively unafraid of divers, they often allow a close approach before disappearing into sand or a hole. Their average size is one to two and one-half feet, with a maximum of three and one-

half feet. They are found between depths of five and forty feet. I estimate that the specimen I saw was at least three feet in length. It was found in thirteen feet of water, and I think that it disappeared into the sand near coral. As a result of the low visibility and the surge, I cannot unequivocally state that what I saw was a goldspotted eel. Here is the photo from the fish identification book, as well as my photos. What do you think?

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

August 2011


How World War II

Contributed to the Golden Decade of the Aquarium Hobby, the 1950s by Alan Mark Fletcher

This DC-3 has flown millions of fish. Looks like Atkinson Field, British Guiana. From Alan M. Fletcher.


irst of all, it is important to point out that WWII was all-consuming for Americans, in a way that had not been seen before and will never be seen again. Every aspect of our lives was in some way directed toward the war effort. We were told what we could eat (food rationing), where we could travel (fuel rationing), what we could say, and what we could wear; and we willingly complied. We gave up most of our civil rights, confident that they would be returned to us after the war. My father, who was a Presbyterian minister, and in poor health, went to work in a New Jersey defense factory. My mother worked as a secretary in a government office. My older brother enlisted in the Navy halfway through his college education and served as a quartermaster (steers the ship) on a small gunboat that went in with the landing troops to provide cover fire, in several of the later Pacific invasions. As a teenager I was a warden, trained to search for enemy planes (which never came!) and to watch at night for homes that might be violating the blackout regulations. I was in ninth grade in Dec. 7, 1941. The Pearl Harbor attack took place on a Sunday. On Monday morning the junior high principal called us all into the school auditorium 10

to hear President Roosevelt give his famous “Day of Infamy” speech, live. We were only a typical family. Everyone worked in some way to win the war. Even members of pacifist religious groups went to work in hospitals and other essential non-military services. Just this morning I received a query from Steve Hinshaw, in Alaska, asking why the cover of his 1942 copy of Exotic Aquarium Fishes looks so different from the other editions. It was the war. Everyone had to make do with what they were able to get their hands on―even printers. I suspect that those wartime Exotics might be worth more than others. Al Klee has correctly pointed out that the aquarium hobby and industry benefited mightily from the U.S. economic boom that followed the war. People had money to indulge in hobbies, and entrepreneurs had the confidence to take a gamble on new products. We even had sufficient wealth that we were able to fund the rebuilding of our former enemies, and the other European and Asian nations that had been devastated by the war. Even the Green Revolution of the 1960s and ‘70s, which made food available to poor countries all around the world, grew out of that post-

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Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

Awaiting transportation home. Lagos, Nigeria From Alan M. Fletcher.

Fred Cochu and his pilot, Captain Doc Moor, one of several great pilots employed by Paramount. From Alan M. Fletcher.

Aquarium Hamburg and founded Paramount Aquarium in New York City. Paramount had a virtual monopoly on fish imports to the U. S. during the 1950s. WWII was the first big war in which aircraft played a dominant role. Even the first unpaved airstrips in remote places like Leticia, Colombia were built for security reasons. But most important, ultimately,

war prosperity. Some cynics have called it geopolitics and U.S. hegemony, but I believe it was American generosity, pure and simple. The aquarium hobby benefited from the war before it ever became worldwide, however. Many Germans came to the U.S. in the 1930s because they did not like what was happening in their country, and many of them, being Jewish, feared for their lives. The aquarium hobby will owe an eternal debt to some of them, and in particular to Hugo Schnelle and Fred Cochu, brothers-in-law (photo opposite) who left

Hugo Schnelle (left) and Fred Cochu, Partners in Par amount Aquarium. Cochu was married to Schnelle's sister. From Alan M. Fletcher.

Paramount's PBY amphibious plane on Yarina Cocha. To take off the plane had to run the length of the lake to get up on the step, then spin around 180 degrees and race in the other direction to get up in the air. A frightening experience! Photo by Alan M. Fletcher. Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

for the aquarium trade, there was a huge demand for all kinds of aircraft built in America, but needed for the war effort in Europe and Asia. Thousands of aircraft were ferried from the U. S. to the war theaters. Thousands of Army Air Force pilots did nothing but fly new planes across the oceans. They delivered their planes to where they were needed, and then hitched

August 2011


a ride back to the U.S. to transport another airplane. There were two main air routes between Europe and North America. Planes could fly to Newfoundland, to Greenland, to Iceland, and finally to Great Britain. But that route was subject to frequent bad weather, and downed pilots stood no chance of surviving in the bitter cold water. The shortest distance across the Atlantic Ocean is actually from the east coast of Brazil to Senegal, West Africa. That became the main route. To make this passage from the New World to the Old possible, U.S. Navy SeaBees constructed airfields, most of them with concrete runways. They built airbases in Panama, Trinidad, British Guiana, Surinam, near Belem at the eastern hump of Brazil, and northern Venezuela. (A raunchy but very popular WWII song was about the airbase at Point Cumana, Venezuela. It was called “Working for the Yankee Dollah”. But enough. You can figure out the rest of it.) Many thousands of aircraft of all types hopped between these bases, finally winding up at the Brazil base, where they took on every drop of fuel they could and went across the Atlantic, nearly on the Equator. After the war these bases became major transportation sites for Paramount Aquarium and a few fringe exporters/ importers. On my first trip to British Guiana (now Guyana) we stayed in an abandoned military barracks at Atkinson Field, south of Georgetown. On subsequent trips we stayed with Louis Chung, who


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Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

was the principal collector of Guianese fishes in the 1950s. It should be noted here that during WWII, Paramount Aquarium had a secret contract with the U.S. government to collect and import electric eels, for use in secret government research. To my knowledge, the nature of that reseach has never been revealed. But the important point is that even during the war Paramount had its own aircraft and was able fly them through any or all of the U.S. bases in South America. When the war ended, they already had a mechanism in place for the transport of all aquarium fishes. No other company had that advantage. I have always wondered how they carried those big metal cans, loaded with highvoltage electric eels. It must have been a great relief to everyone to have been able to shift over to carrying neon tetras! Immediately after the war ended, thousands of new and nearly new airplanes of all kinds were sold off by the government at a fraction of their true value, or scrapped. Paramount Aquarium was able to take advantage of this surfeit of aircraft. During the 1950s they owned a Lockheed Lodestar, a Navy PBY flying boat, A Curtis C-46 cargo plane, a converted Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bomber, a very fast twin-engine light bomber whose designation I cannot recall, and several Douglas DC-3s (C-47, military). I made at least one trip in most of them. The DC-3s had the best cost ratios of any planes Paramount ever owned. They were slow, but they were real workhorses. Some DC3s are still in service around the world, after 60 years.

I would not be surprised if some were still being used to fly aquarium fishes from remote airstrips in South America and Africa. Spare parts for most former military aircraft were abundant, easily available, and inexpensive. On

one trip to Leticia in a DC-3 an engine blew out on landing. A new engine was flown in from Miami in a few days, and it was installed by Paramount’s copilot, who was also a certified A&E mechanic. We had intended to be home for Easter, but the delay enabled Fred and me to celebrate the Easter holiday with an Indian Baptist congregation. That was a memorable experience. I have previously mentioned how this air travel, combined with tightly sealed inflated plastic bags in styrofoam-lined cartons made it possible to fly millions of staple and new fishes to the U.S. in hours instead of weeks, and they arrived in excellent condition. With such quantities of old and new fishes available, it is no wonder the hobby thrived in the 1950s! The hobby in the 1950s was also boosted by the GI Bill of Rights, which enabled thousands of veterans to attend colleges and professional schools at little cost. Most of the younger ichthyologists of the 1950s who identified the new fishes, and the engineers, chemists, and business people who brought the innovations to the hobby were educated under the GI Bill. I know that WWII contributed in more ways than these to the boom in the hobby of the 1950s, but I have written enough. Hopefully, other AHHS* members who are as old as I am will be inspired to add to this WWII thread. *This story was originally posted on the website of the Aquarium Hobby Historical Society:

Fish cans loaded on plane for Paramount Aquarium (before the days of bags and cartons). From Alan M. Fletcher. Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

Photos on page 12 are from the October, 1965 issue of The AOPA Pilot (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association). August 2011


Pictures from our

Our speaker: Jeff Bollbach.

Jeff with Dan Radebaugh.

Donita Maynard

Temes Mo Desiree Martin

Rod Du Casse

Donna & Steve Sica Kin Tung Ha

14 18

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

last meeting Photos by Susan Priest

Our newest member:Eddie “Tankbuster” West

Our friendly security guard:James Adams

Last Month’s Bowl Show Winners:

1st Place: Joe Magnoli

2nd Place: Bill Amely

3rd Place: Richard Waizman

Last month’s Door Prize Winners

Pete D’Orio Modern Aquarium20 - Greater City A.S (NY)

Jalil Morris August 2011 August 2011

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

Computer Consulting Jason Kerner Consultant

Repairs / Upgrades Virus Removal Data Recovery DSL / Cable Setup Wireless Internet A+ Certified 16

(718) 469-5444 August 2011

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Carpy Diem! Part II: The Fantastic Four (The Rise of the Silver Surfer) by Dan Radebaugh

Silver carp on the Illinois River. Photo by Nerissa Michaels.1


s I mentioned in Part I (Modern Aquarium May, 2011) of this 2-part series, despite the somewhat controversial history of the common carp here in the USA, the species making the big splash in the press these days are the so-called Asian carp: the grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella), the silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix), the bighead carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis), and the black carp (Mylopharyngodon piceus). Known in their native China as "the four famous domestic fishes," these “new” fish have been cultivated as important food fish in China for centuries. Native to the large rivers of eastern Asia, they require large rivers in which to successfully spawn. Whereas the goldfish (Carassius auratus) and the common carp (Cyprinus carpio) have been with us here in North America for around 200 years, these new four only began arriving here during our lifetimes (well, my lifetime anyway). Another difference between the Old Guard and the new Fantastic Four is that while both the goldfish and the common carp (as koi) have been and continue to be favorites of ornamental fishkeepers (like us), the “Asian carp” have Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

been imported for what can perhaps best be described as utilitarian―even industrial―purposes. While the culture of the common carp for human consumption is no longer of much commercial importance in the USA, certain other fish species have become commercially viable. One of these species is the channel catfish, Ictalurus punctatus, which is not only popular among anglers, but also among shoppers at your local grocery store. You’ll even find them available as cute little juveniles in tropical fish shops (I suggest self-restraint―they get really big, and eat a lot). Channel cats are farmed extensively in the South, most notably in Mississippi and Arkansas. Discussing fish farming isn’t of course the purpose of this article, but there is a connection. As those of you who have maintained outdoor fish ponds (maybe even some of you who keep only indoor aquariums) have probably experienced, algae can become a problem―even if you aren’t stocking your ponds to the max and feeding your fish boo-coos of food in order to grow them to market size as rapidly as possible. Think of all those nutrients together with all that sunlight. Talk about going green! What’s a catfish farmer to do? Hmmm,

August 2011


Maybe keep something else in the pond that will eat the algae―something that might even become a secondary cash crop as well? Perhaps a filter-feeder of some sort? Well, do I have a fish for you!

Bighead carp. Photo: angling/big-head-carp.htm.

The bighead carp, Hypophthalmichthys nobilis, seems to have first been brought to this country in 1972 by an aquaculturist in Arkansas to help maintain water quality in culture ponds. It was subsequently studied by the Arkansas Fish & Game Commission and Auburn University to assess potential benefits and impacts. A filter-feeder, the bighead's diet is primarily zooplankton, and it grows very rapidly. By the 1980s some of these fish had begun to appear in the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, probably as escapees from aquaculture facilities. Many more escaped during the great Mississippi flood of 1993, and more still as a result of Hurricane Katrina. Intentional, though illegal introductions also occurred in several states, including Oklahoma and California.2 Because of its fast growth rate, ravenous appetite, and large size (the record for bow-fishing is

Bighead carp distribution (USGS). See legend on page 21.

92 pounds3), the assumption has been that the bighead carp would devastate native fish populations should it reach the Great Lakes, though actual studies don’t seem to unequivocally support this conclusion2. Of course studies have likewise failed to prove that this carp actually does improve the water quality in culture ponds. Regarding direct impact on native fishes, the bighead's main diet being zooplankton, all larval fishes (fry) would be on the menu, as well as some small adult fishes. As to competitive impact, a study in 2008 showed that, as adults, the bighead carp and silver carp in the Missouri and Mississippi systems do have dietary overlap with the native bighead buffalo (Ictiobus cyprinellus) and the gizzard shad (Dorosoma petenense), but not much with the paddlefish (Polyodon spathula).2 In March, 2011 the bighead carp was declared an “injurious species” under the Lacey Act by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

What is the Lacey act?

The Lacey Act of 1900, introduced by Iowa Senator John F. Lacey, and signed into law by President William McKinley, was the first federal law protecting wildlife. At the time, illegal commercial hunting was devastating many species of game, including wild birds. Poaching was carried out in one state, and the animals were sold in another. The law prohibited the transportation of illegally taken animals across state lines, and began to address some of the potential problems of introducing non-native birds and animals into ecosystems. The law has been amended several times, and today its chief application is to prevent the spread of potentially injurious non-native species of plants and animals by making it illegal to “import, export, transport, sell, receive, acquire, or purchase in interstate or foreign commerce any plant in violation of the laws of the United States, a State, an Indian tribe, or any foreign law that protects plants,4” though commercial hunting is still an important component of the act, what with the increasing international and domestic wildlife trafficking. The Lacey Act does have its critics. Many complaints revolve around what might be called “common sense” failures by those responsible for enforcement. One example given by Wikipedia is the case in 2000 of four Americans who were convicted, three of them serving 8-year prison sentences each. Their crime―importing lobster tails from Honduras in plastic bags rather than in cardboard boxes as prescribed by Honduran law. This despite the fact that Honduras was no longer enforcing that regulation.5 On the other hand, just a cursory overview of headlines will show how creative people can be at breaking any law if they think they can make some money by doing so. Despite its faults, the Lacey Act is an important tool for protecting animals, both domestically and abroad. 18

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Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

Grass carp. Service.

Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish & Wildlife

The only species in its genus, the grass carp, Ctenopharyngodon idella, has for centuries been cultivated in China for food, but in Europe and North America its primary use has been aquatic weed control. In North America it is also known as the white Amur (a name invented for marketing purposes, as it avoids the term “carp,” which Americans don’t like). A true vegetarian, this fish does not exhibit the bottom feeding behavior that we associate with the goldfish or the common carp. They “will not control emergent species such as cattail or bulrush, or floating leaved species such as water shield or water lily. Even among preferred submergent plant species, selectivity and consumption rate varies widely according to a vast array of factors including water temperature, dissolved oxygen and presence or absence of attached algae.”6 As fry they are omnivorous, but soon come to prefer filamentous algae. At about six inches they switch to rooted succulent submergents, feeding by shearing off the weed tips.7

Grass carp distribution (USGS). See legend on page 21. Though not pictured on this map, the grass carp also currently inhabits Hawaii.

Grass carp were imported into the USA for the purpose of controlling aquatic weeds without the use of herbicides. The first shipment was received in 1963 by Auburn University, where they were spawned in 1966. A small number of fry were also produced at the Fish Farming Experimental Station in Stuttgart, Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

Arkansas in 1965.8 Following distribution by various state and federal agencies, by 1978 the grass carp was extant in 35 states, and now has been recorded in 45 states.9 Opponents of exotic species raised fears that the voracious grass carp would consume all the aquatic vegetation in the country, leaving nothing for the survival of anything else, and so the grass carp was later outlawed in most states. To be fair, if you look in a certain way at what we know of this fish, those concerns were not unfounded. In a closed system (say a pond stocked with grass carp, with no predators or other means of keeping the carp population in check, they can reach high enough densities to consume every plant in the pond, altering the habitat in that body of water for years. While in some situations this might be a good thing, clearly some means of control would be desireable. What are Triploid Carp? In most animals there are two types of cells in the body―haploid and diploid. During the process of reproduction, haploid cells (male and female) unite to form a diploid zygote, which divide by mitosis to form more diploid cells. Diploid cells contain two complete sets of chromosomes, whereas haploid cells contain only one set. A triploid cell then would contain three complete sets of chromosomes. Triploid cells occur in nature, but rarely, and not with favorable results. Triploid human fetuses for example are usually spontaneously aborted. As a process applied to fish, immediately after fertilization the eggs are shocked using either hot or cold water. This results in the retention of an extra chromosome set, making the fish that hatch from those eggs incapable of producing viable young. This triploid process allows the creation of large numbers of sterile fish, with the result that population densities can be controlled, while still taking advantage of the biological/commercial usefulness of the fish. There’s still a rub. In order to produce triploid fish, a fertile population will continue to be required. This still leaves open the possibility that―intentionally, accidentally, or through a natural disaster such as a flood or hurricane―fertile fish could still be released into the ecosystem. So annoying, these living organisms! In the early 1970s a man in Arkansas named Jim Malone, who was important in the grass carp project, in response to the fears that led to these fish being outlawed, devised a way to hybridize them with bighead carp. The offspring continued to consume aquatic weeds, but were sterile, which encouraged renewed interest in them for weed control.10 By the 1980s the development of the triploid process (see box above) allowed sterile fish to be produced in

August 2011


large numbers, and has led to still more use of these fish. In Florida for instance they are important for flood control by preventing aquatic weeds (many of them invasive) from clogging drainage canals. On a more negative note, grass carp imported directly from China are suspected of being the source of an Asian tapeworm Bothriocephalus opsarichthydis that has infected the endangered native woundfin, Plagopterus argentissimus by way of the red shiner, Cyprinella lutrensis.9

The black carp. Photo: underwater-world-fish-black-carp.html

The black carp, Mylopharyngodon piceus, presents a similar, though dietarily different story. A molluscivore, the black carp, also known as the snail carp, was first imported into the U.S. in the early 1970s as contaminants in a shipment of grass carp going to Arkansas; subsequent deliberate introductions in the 1980s were for the purpose of controlling the yellow grub, Clinostomum margaritum, in aquaculture ponds.11 As aquarists, probably most of us are at least academically familiar with black spot disease, which is caused by the larvae of parasitic flukes, and causes the appearance of black spots on fish (including the meat). This disease poses no threat to humans, and the organisms are killed in the cooking process. The creature involved has a life cycle that includes multiple hosts, or vectors. Eggs of the parasite hatch and infect snails, where Fish with black-spot diease. the larvae grow and Photo: develop until they fish_diseases/black_spot/ leave the snail to find a new home―burrowing under a scale into a fish’s skin, and forming a black cyst. If the fish is eaten by an aquatic bird or mammal, the larvae mature in that animal’s intestine and produce eggs, which may then be returned to the same or another body of water by way of the new host’s feces. In the aquarium this disease is not a serious concern, as the organism will be unable to complete its life cycle, and eventually will die. The yellow grub has a similar life cycle. Dropped into the water in the feces of birds such as herons and 20

egrets, the larvae find a snail, develop, and then target fish (and in an aquaculture pond, there are lots of fish to target). They burrow inside the fish and form a cyst about the size of a BB. If anyone cuts the nodule open, he’ll find a worm inside. Needless to say, this is not a commercially acceptable outcome. How would you feel about finding a worm in your dinner? So what to do? Enter the black carp. Stocked in a pond at a rate of five to ten fish per acre, the carp effectively eliminate the snail population in that pond, thus breaking the life cycle of the grub. While catfish are quite resistant to the yellow grub, which is an endemic organism, many other farmed fish are not, and the situation for catfish farmers is still quite serious in light of a new parasite, Bolbophorus confusus, which has begun showing up in Mississippi delta catfish ponds. B. confusus is believed to be an exotic, but no one seems to know from where. This parasite, which uses pelicans and snails as vectors, not only makes the catfish inedible―it actually kills them. Several fish farms have gone out of business in the wake of its appearance.

Black carp distribution (USGS). See legend on page 21.

The Fish & Wildlife Service is currently in the process of listing the black carp as an injurious species under the Lacey act―a decision that has been quite controversial, with fish farmers feeling seriously betrayed by the agency and rather desperate about their options.12 Some parties involved in the controversy have suggested chemical treatments to kill the snails, but apparently the chemicals, in addition to adding a marketing problem, are only about 80% effective, versus nearly 100% for the carp. For its part, the FWS is legitimately concerned that, should non-sterile black carp escape and populate the Mississippi, our native mollusk species, two-thirds of which are already threatened or endangered, would be at serious risk. "The Silver Surfer" Last but certainly not least on our list of Asian carp invaders is the much-publicized silver carp, Hypophthalmichthys molitrix. The media attention devoted to images of this fish leaping from the water at the sound of boat motors, and crashing into boaters, fishermen, and water skiers, has almost certainly given the anti-exotic groups sufficient political leverage to

August 2011

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

successfully press for Lacey Act banning of not only this species (H. molitrix) and others; it has also helped provide needed public awareness of the wider problem of invasive species in general. Interestingly however, the 60 Minutes episode concerning H. molitrix revealed that this fish's manic leaping behavior is unknown in its native China. Current speculation is that specimens originally imported into the US possessed a genetic variant that favored the behavior, and subsequent generations from this variant group are what constitute the now wild population in the Mississippi.

the carp from gaining access to the Great Lakes, the Corps of Engineers has constructed a “barrier” of electrical shock generators that they hope will prevent the carp from moving from the Illinois River into Lake Michigan. How successful this system will be is anyone’s guess. The other alternative, sealing the artificially created canal links between the lake and the river at Chicago, would cause greatly added cost and inconvenience to industrial transport between those two bodies of water. Minnesota, Ohio, and Michigan joined in a suit to force the closing of the canal, but the Supreme Court recently declined to rule on it.

• •

Silver carp reacting to the sound of a motor boat.

The silver carp’s pharyngeal structure allows for finer filtration than does that of its cousin the bighead, so the silver carp’s diet leans more toward phytoplankton (plants, algae, bacteria, detritus, etc.) than the bighead’s, which is more zooplankton. This carp was introduced into the US in 1973 by a private fish farmer in Arkansas to control phytoplankton in culture ponds, and it has also been widely used in that capacity in sewage treatment lagoons.10 By the 1980s it had been stocked in several other states, both deliberately and accidentally (for example as contaminants in grass carp shipments).


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Reality check Wait! We might not be doomed! One of the problems with all the media hysteria and (consequent?) political and scientific hullaballoo is that we really just don't know very much about what is really going on. What little research has been done doesn't allow us to go much beyond 2-point data set comparisons (in 1979 the number of gizzard shad in this area of the river was X, and now it is Y), and in a large river system such as the Mississipi/Missouri there are a lot of variables that could affect data collection outcomes and their meanings.

Silver carp distribution (USGS). See legend Below.

Silver carp can swim as fast as 23 miles per hour, and can leap as high as ten feet out of the water.13 As with the bighead carp, there is fear that should these fish become established in the Great Lakes, they would overwhelm and destroy fisheries that have been painstakingly brought back from devastation by pollution and the sea lamprey. To the end of preventing Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

Joe Deters and Erinn Beahan, Arctic Slope Regional Corporation contractors working with U.S. Geological Survey, return to the ramp after collecting silver carp for a study on Omega-3 fatty acids in Feb., 2009. The health of silver carp in the Missouri River has recently started to decline because of lack of food. Courtesy of USGA.

August 2011


Recent reports from areas where the bighead and silver carp populaton explosions were first noted have shown large numbers of these fish that are now underweight, malnourished, and too weak to successfully spawn. The zooplankton supply has grown scarce—rotifers down 50% compared with a study in 1979, and crustacean zooplankton down 90% compared with that same study. Perhaps the drop is a result of the bigmouth and silver carp, perhaps not. The result however, is that there isn't now enough food in the river to support the carp population that has built up from the early 1990s. Scientists are expecting a die-off of the carp, though they don't expect them to disappear from the river.14 Another, less formal survey published in the Peoria Journal Star's fishing section15 showed that in spite of the fact that in 2008 silver carp accounted for 51% of all fish collected in the Illinois River's LaGrange Pool, native fish seem to be thriving, with the notable exception of gizzard shad, which have become scarce. The largemouth bass population has actually increased (all those young carp to eat?). The bass and other game species prey on the young carp as well as on young gizzard shad. The carp, however, grow very quickly, whereas the gizzard shad stay vulnerable to predation for much longer. Commercial fishermen, whose business has been hurt by the reduction in the numbers of bigmouth buffalo and gizzard shad, are slowly beginning to shift their operations to catching bighead and silver carp. The price per pound is relatively low, but the large size of each fish makes up for that to some degree. For this approach to succeed of course, markets must be developed. In this regard, some of the Lacey Act provisions are less than helpful. The market for carp

in the United States is now mostly limited to the large Asian-American communities in New York, Chicago, and California. Traditionally in these cultures, carp are purchased live. The Lacey Act provisions forbidding the possession, sale, or transport of live "injurious organisms" is a real obstacle when it comes to getting these fish to their most likely current market. This is doubly ironic in that all four of these carp are not only highly valued as food fish in their native China, but also seriously overfished. On the other hand, here we are with many more than we want. Surely there's an opportunity here for some creative thinking. The Future It is this writer's opinion that we're still far from the end of the Asian carp story. It seems to me unlikely that the electronic barrier on the Illinois River will indefinitely keep the carp out of the Great Lakes, even if the Illinois River were the only potential source for the carps' arrival, which it is not. Nor do I believe there's much likelihood that the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal will be sealed. The fact is that silver carp have already been found upriver of the barrier, and carp DNA (but no carp) has been found in Lake Michigan. Further, between 1995 and 2003 five individual bighead carp were found in Lake Erie, though they don't yet seem to have established a breeding population there. Various other schemes are in the works to physically separate the Great Lakes from the Mississippi, but all seem to be years away from implementation, all would be expensive, all would seriously interfere with commerce, and all could ultimately fail. Is it worth it? That's where the political process comes into play. Stay tuned.

1 Asian-carp 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Stickney, R.R. 1996. Aquaculture in the United States. p.186. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 9 10 Stickney, R.R. 1996. Aquaculture in the United States. pp.203-204. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 11 12 13 considered-a-barrier/ 14 reproductive-problems/ 15


August 2011

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

August 2011


GCAS Happenings


Last Month’s Bowl Show Winners: 1 Joe Magnoli 2 William Amely 3 Richard Waizman

Blue Angel Betta bellica Half-Moon Betta

Unofficial 2011 Bowl Show totals to date: Mario Bengcion 14

Richard Waizman 9 Harry Faustmann 5

Joe Magnoli 9

William Amely 8

A special welcome to new member Eddie West!

Here are meeting times and locations of some aquarium societies in the Metropolitan New York area: Greater City Aquarium Society

East Coast Guppy Association

Next Meeting: September 7, 2011 Speaker: Mark Soberman Topic: Keeping and Breeding Corydoras 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: September 9, 2011 Speaker: Joe Caparette Event: Unique Corals 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:

Nassau County Aquarium Society Next Meeting: September 13, 2011 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: August 20, 2011 Speaker: None Event: Picnic Meets: Lyndhurst Elks Club, 251 Park Avenue Lyndhurst, NJ 07071 Contact: NJAS Hotline at (732) 332-1392 Email: Website:

Long Island Aquarium Society Next Meeting: September 17, 2011 Speaker: Rit Forcier Topic: My Million Gallon Salt Water Tank 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:


Norwalk Aquarium Society Next Meeting: August 18, 2011 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:

August 2011

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

The 14- to 18-inch hagfish looks like an eel. In fact, there is debate over whether it is really a fish. The 300 million-year-old creature has no jaws and one nostril. Essentially blind, it dwells in the dark more than 1,000 feet down.3

A series by The Undergravel Reporter In spite of popular demand to the contrary, this humor and information column continues. As usual, it does NOT necessarily represent the opinions of the Editor, or of the Greater City Aquarium Society. espite the fact that it has four hearts and two brains, and is believed to be the oldest living connection to the first vertebrate, several species of the marine animal known as the hagfish are, according to a recent study1, in danger of extinction. Of the known 76 species of hagfish worldwide, nine qualified under criteria by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as critically endangered or vulnerable, while two more qualified as near threatened.2 Hagfish are simple, tubelike scavengers with gruesome feeding habits: When the ugly predator encounters a carcass on the sea floor, it burrows into the body cavity of the dead or dying animal. There it eats, not only with its mouth, but also with its skin and gills. “By consuming the dead and decaying carcasses that have fallen to the ocean floor, hagfish clean the floor, creating a rich environment for other species including commercial fish such as cod, haddock and flounder,” says Landon Knapp, research assistant for the IUCN Marine Biodiversity Unit at Old Dominion University, and lead author of the study. “The presence of hagfish in areas of intense fishing is extremely important as large amounts of bycatch are discarded.” Hagfish are also an important part of the food chain, being prey for fishes, seabirds and even marine mammals, including seals. When fishing pressure was focused on hagfish in certain locations in the north-western Atlantic, the stock of other commercial species, such as flounder, plummeted. “Hagfish are a great example of one of those ‘not-so-cute’ species that play a vital role in ecosystem health,” says Cristiane Elfes, Programme Officer for the CI-IUCN Biodiversity Assessment Unit.


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

Paddy Ryan / Its appearance is repulsive enough to earn it a role in an episode of TV’s “Fear Factor” where contestants sat in a vat of the creatures (which, incidentally, excrete slime when they are stressed) and had to push them through holes. Nonetheless, it is regarded by some as a gourmet delicacy and even thought to be an aphrodisiac by others, although I would think that just the sight of these creatures would have the exact opposite effect!

Broiled hagfish at a South Korean restaurant Lee Jin-man / AP

1 -body-snatchers-bad-news-for-marine-environment 2 3 ns/health-sexual_health/t/despite-ick-factor-slime -eel-has-sex-appeal/

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Fin Fun Whether it is to blend in with their environments or to stand out in the hopes of attracting a mate, the bodies of many species of fish have distinctive patterns. Below are two columns: on the left are the common names of patterned fish, whose names generally indicate the pattern involved. On the right are the scientific names of these fish. See if you can correctly match them. Common Name

Scientific Name

Three-lined pencilfish

Chapalichthys pardalis

Lined seahorse

Trichopsis schalleri

Barred loach

Fundulus rathbuni

Speckled killifish

Crenicara punctulatum

Checkerboard cichlid

Nemacheilus fasciatus

Polka-dot splitfin

Nannostomus trifasciatus

Dotted corydoras

Corydoras bondi Hippocampus lineolatus

Threestripe gourami Threestripe corydoras

Corydoras maculifer

Blackstripe corydoras

Corydoras trilineatus Source:

Answer to last month’s puzzle:

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

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