Modern Aquarium October 2010

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October 2010 volume XVII number 8

Series III ON THE COVER Our cover photo subject this month is a male Paratheraps synspilus. For more information on this large, colorfrul, and personable cichlid, see “Going the Distance,” on page 15.

Photo by Marsha Radebaugh


President Vice-President Treasurer Corresponding Secretary Recording Secretary

Pete D’Orio Al Grusell Emma Haus

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

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

From the Editor G.C.A.S. 2010 Program Schedule

G.C.A.S. Sponsors and Advertisers Breeding a Little Mistake by Jules Birnbaum

Wet Leaves by Susan.Priest

Last Month’s Bowl Show Winners Photos by Alexander A. Priest

Committee Chairs

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

In This Issue President’s Message

Dan Radebaugh Mark Soberman Jules Birnbaum Warren Feuer Edward Vukich

Members At Large

Claudia Dickinson Artie Friedman Ben Haus Leonard Ramroop

Vol. XVII, No. 8 October, 2010

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

Going the Distance with Paratheraps Synspilus by Dan Radebaugh

Member Classifieds G.C.A.S. Happenings The Undergravel Reporter Prognostications

Fin Fun (Puzzle Page) International Roots

2 3 4 6 9 11 13 15

19 20 21 22

From the Editor by Dan Radebaugh

t’s officially Autumn, and many of our sister societies are holding their Fall shows and auctions. As you look through the pages of this month’s Modern Aquarium you’ll see several notices, some from nearby, and some from a good distance away. Some are an easy day trip, while some might be an excuse to take an extended week-end excursion. You’ll also see a notice for the annual All Aquarium Catfish Convention. This is a real temptation for me. I’ve always had a soft spot for catfish―maybe this will be the year when I finally get to this convention. Catfish also play a featured role in this issue of Modern Aquarium, as Jules Birnbaum gives us an account of his experience, albeit accidental, with keeping and breeding Aspidoras albater, a small, Corydoras-type catfish from the Amazon basin in Brazil. In her “Wet Leaves” column, Sue Priest reviews an intriguing book called Freshwater Aquarium Models, by John Tullock. Al Priest follows with photos of our winners from last month’s Bowl Show competition. Al, by the way, is currently running first in this very tight race with Mario Bengcion; it’s still too close to call. Our speaker this evening, Rusty Wessel, will be discussing cichlids and livebearers of the Panuco Valley in Mexico. I have no idea where the Panuco Valley is, and I look forward to learning about it, so to at least honor the broader locale I’ve included a brief account of my experiences with Paratheraps synspilus, a North/Central American cichlid hailing from southern Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize. The Undergravel Reporter challenges us with some daring fishkeeping prognostications, although he disavows accountability for them on the grounds of mortal limitations. One of his predictions prompts me to wonder whether, by the year 2100, there will be a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Robots. It seems



almost inevitable, doesn’t it? Let’s see; by 2100 I’ll be umm, well, I guess I’ll have to take the same pass as Undie. A Call for 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 insecure 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 can fax it to me at (877) 299-0522, email it to gcas@earthlink. net, or just hand it to me at a meeting. However you get it to me, I’ll be delighted to receive it!

October 2010

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

GCAS Programs 2010-11


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 September

Ed Vukich Cichlid Breeding Tails


Rusty Wessel Mexico - The Panuco Valley: Livebearers and Cichlids of the Region


Joseph Ferdenzi My Fishroom: Adventures in Fishkeeping


Holiday Party!


Winter Break


Winter Break


La Monte Brown Native Fishes

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 Copyright 2010 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)

October 2010


President’s Message by Dan Radebaugh


ast week Marsha and I ran into Joe Graffagnino, GCAS member and President of the Brooklyn Aquarium Society. We were all guests at a dinner held at the New York Aquarium in celebration of the first anniversary of the Aquarium’s “Sea Change” initiative, which I wrote about in this column last November. The “Sea Change” aims to significantly upgrade the Aquarium, both in terms of its physical plant and exhibits, and in terms of its place in the Coney Island community. The affair was well attended by local politicians, business leaders, and educators, and the mood was very upbeat and “can-do.” While the centerpiece of the new plan is a large new shark exhibit, which will take some time to fund and construct, the Aquarium did unveil several new exhibits, including both fresh and saltwater habitats. Though small in scale, these exhibits bode well for the future, featuring fish and other animals from Western Pacific reef systems, as well as from a couple of the large African lakes, and even included a few Amazonian settings. It’s all very encouraging, and I commend the Aquarium and the Wildlife Conservation Society for their initiative. On the Greater City home front, the end of the year is approaching, and we have some matters of importance to handle. Our friend and colleague Warren Feuer has announced his intention to step down as Corresponding Secretary at the end of this year, and Artie Friedman, who has been busy working on Wednesday evenings for over a year now, has suggested that his seat on our Board of Governors be taken over by someone who will be better able to attend meetings on a regular basis. While in days of yore Corresponding Secretaries were responsible for all manner of letter writing, in these days of telephone, email, and social networking, the primary responsibility of the Corresponding Secretary is to correspond in whatever manner he/she deems necessary with sponsors and potential sponsors. 4

The Corresponding Secretary is in effect the face of GCAS to the manufacturers and other businesses who help support us (that’s where most of our terrific raffle prizes come from, among other things). For this position then, we need someone who likes to talk to people and is a good communicator, and who enjoys interacting with people, both other hobbyists and folks on the commercial side of the hobby. The at-large members attend our Board meetings, and help us discuss and decide matters affecting our Society. The Board of Governors meets monthly, sometimes just before our general meeting on the first Wednesday of the month, and sometimes at one of our homes the week before the general meeting. Nomination sheets will be available at tonight’s meeting. If you’d like to become more active in the Society, and you feel you would be comfortable and effective as either Corresponding Secretary or as a member-at-large of our Board, please―don’t wait to be asked! Fill in your name and contact information on one of the nomination sheets and turn it in to me either this evening or before our next meeting in November. You can fax it to me (877-299-0522) or email me a note indicating your interest (send to gcas@earthlink. net). At our November meeting the full membership will be told who the nominees are, and the vote will be taken by secret ballot at our December Holiday Party. Good luck to all nominees!


October 2010

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

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

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

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

October 2010


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October 2010

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

The G.C.A.S. Proudly extends a most Warm Welcome to

Our Guest Speaker

RUSTY WESSEL Speaking on Mexico - The Panuco Valley: Livebearers and Cichlids of the Region

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

October 2010



October 2010

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

Breeding a Little Mistake by Jules Birnbaum


year ago, I was the winning bidder on Aquabid for 6 of what were supposed to be Scleromystax kronei catfish, from the fishroom of one of the top cory catfish breeders in the country. Instead of just the six, he sent me 12 juveniles, for which I thanked him sincerely. After a year I noticed they seemed to be very small for S. kronei, and asked our cory expert, Mark Soberman, to take a look. After a careful examination he stated these were not S. kronei, but were a nice little cory called Aspidoras albater. The breeder was very embarrassed, apologized for the mistake, and offered a refund, which I refused. How could I ask for a refund when I had received 12 lovely fish? He then stated he would send me the S. kronei at no charge when his latest spawn grew out. I’ve found most of the well known breeders to be very reliable people, and this man was no exception. Aspidoras albater comes from the lower Amazon in Brazil. It is part of the Corydoras group, in the family Callichthyidae. The genus name Aspidoras, translated from the Latin, means “shield skin”. This refers to their covering of bony plates. Albater translates to “white and black” coloring, though this fish is really tan with black markings. Aspidoras are small, peaceful fish that constantly work at the bottom of the tank. You have heard the expression, “bottom feeder,” and that they are. Since I had 12 juveniles, I let them pair off. If you are going to try to breed this fish, success will come more easily by purchasing a group of six or more, and letting them pair off on their Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

own. There can be some attrition when dealing with juvenile fish. Hopefully you will end up with a few of each sex. There are many positives about this fish. First, their size, which when fully grown is about 1.4 inches. How about setting up a five or ten gallon tank with a few small killies and a group of these little catfish? Second, their active nature makes them interesting to watch. Mine are constantly moving all over the bottom of the tank. Third, Aspidoras is an excellent community fish that does a great job of cleaning up excess food. (Contrary to common belief, catfish do not eat waste, and will die of hunger if they don’t have access to food.) Fourth, their breeding habits are very interesting. Their tank should have a pH of 6.2 to 7.2, which is neutral to slightly acid. Although I used a 20 gallon tank, a 10 will work. Corys usually do better in cooler temperatures of 70 to 77 degrees. The female will lay eggs (which are fairly large) on the glass, sometimes above the water line. If you decide to remove them to a hatchery it is rather easy. They will also lay eggs deep inside a sponge filter tube. I still don’t know how they get into and out of the tube, but then the fish is small. (As a matter of fact, I lost one of the females that way. She somehow got into the sponge filter tube, but couldn’t get back out, and perished.) Fifth, I’m told they usually will not eat the eggs or the fry, which is a big plus if your space is limited. However, if the parents get hungry or frightened I would not altogether trust them. I presently have six surviving adults

October 2010


and about 20 one-month old fry in their own 20 gallon tank. A. albater has one large additional positive, in that if you go away on vacation, they should survive on a few wafers or pellets dropped in the tank on your way out (but don’t overfeed them). Bottom feeders in general seem to survive longer than most without being fed. One well known local breeder told me he removed all his fish from a heavily planted tank so that a pest that was killing his fish would not have a host on which to feast. Two months later he was again getting ready to introduce some fish, when to his amazement, he saw a loach which he had originally missed come out from a heavily planted area of the tank. The filtration of choice for many catfish breeders is a well aged sponge filter. Some breeders like to squeeze out the sponge filter in the hatching container so that the fry can easily get at some microscopic food. If you only have a hang-on filter you can still use it, since the fry usually stay at the bottom. A piece of nylon stocking covering the intake will work as a safety device. A box filter can also be modified to act as a sponge filter. Since catfish like to dig in the substrate for food I like to use a thin layer of number 1 gravel on the tank floor. If you prefer a planted tank, Java fern, Java moss, and dwarf Anubias will all work. These catfish do not seem to be interested in live plants other than to seek protection or shade. It might be well to keep the lighting at a low level, since these fish seem to be less shy in this kind of lighting. This of course is just my preference. I do a 25% water change each week with aged tap water. The water level does not have to be very high, since you are dealing with bottom dwellers. Water surface area is more important than depth in the breeding setup. Snails could be kept in the tank, but since there will be catfish eggs attached to the glass it might be safer to try to move the snails to another tank. If you don’t have another tank available for the snails, any container with a little fish food will do.


Now you are ready to be that magical breeder. The final magic includes feeding the parents plenty of live or frozen foods such as black worms, daphnia, blood worms, etc. Once you believe them to be properly conditioned, you might want to do a final water change with somewhat cooler water, as this could induce the parents to deposit eggs. Like magic (I’m a genius―NOT!), one day the eggs appear. You will now spot a cluster of about 15 eggs. You have a choice to leave them in the tank or, if it’s a community tank, to get hold of a plastic eye dropper such as might be used for measuring medication, and use it to remove the eggs. These can be placed in a small, maybe one gallon container, perhaps such as is used for leftover food. For this fry tank I constructed a mini sponge filter using sponges designed for women’s hair curlers and some hard tubing. I give credit to Joe Ferdenzi for this idea. Some breeders use a few drops of methylene blue in the hatching container to prevent fungus from attacking the eggs. Once the eggs hatch you should do water changes to get rid of this chemical, which is harmful to the nitrifying bacteria in the sponge filter, as well as to any live plants. The fry will hatch in a few days, and can be fed dry starter fry food, micro worms, etc., and after a week they will be able to fatten up on baby brine shrimp. You can easily make your own brine shrimp hatchery from a large plastic soda bottle. Harry Faustmann is our local expert to see about live food. After a few months you can submit the proper form for the Breeder’s Award Program, and make a little fish food money for yourself selling these little cuties at our auctions, as well as a generating a few bucks for the Society. I hope this article has interested you enough to try these little fish or other corys. They will give you many hours of relaxation and enjoyment away from the real world, which as we all know, can be tension producing.

October 2010

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

what he means by this. In the aquarium model called White Cloud Mountain, he recommends either 13 Tanichthys albonubes (white cloud mountain minnows), or one pair of Macropodus opercularis (paradise fish) to a 20 gallon tank. “Throughout this book, water hardness a Series On Books For The Hobbyist preferences for fish and plant species will be given in parts per million of calcium carbonate (ppm by SUSAN PRIEST CaCO3) because many utility companies use this any books on the subject of fishkeeping unit of measure.” Mr. Tullock then explains how devote a modicum number of pages to the to convert this to dGH or KH (German degrees of topic of aquascaping. Having hung hardness.) He considers very soft water to be <75 around the aquarium hobby for a number of years ppm CaCO3, moderately hard 160-220 ppm now, I have observed that many fishkeepers don’t CaCO3, and very hard water >360 ppm CaCO3. (With these numbers as really care WHAT their tanks guidelines, you can fill in the look like. A lot of them are bareintermediate levels yourself.) bones breeding tanks, and some Freshwater Aquarium You might want to write this of them house anti-social types Models formula onto an index card who have killed off their By John Tullock and post it somewhere in your tankmates. Besides, most Wiley Publishing, 2007 fishroom! aquariums are in the basement He has an idea that I where nobody else will see them really like a lot, and I haven’t anyway. However, if you want come across it to show your tanks to elsewhere. Try making other people, or you your own aquarium enjoy looking at backgrounds by taking attractive tanks yourself, a few photos with your I might just have digital camera of something here for you. whatever strikes your Step-by-step and fancy. It could be a fish-by-fish, as it is rock formation, a described on the back hedge, a brick wall; cover, is an accurate whatever! Then put it assessment of the text in into you computer and this book. It is broken play with it. Stretch it, down into three sections. “morph” it, even The first two, Aquarium change the color. (My Basics and Aquarium mind conjures up a Mechanics, get you photo shoot at The started. These are Bronx Zoo.) You may followed by 87 have to take either a “Freshwater Aquarium paper copy or a digital Model Designs.” These copy to a print shop to are sub-divided into six get a final version in geographic areas, as the correct size to fit well as several “Purely your tank. He further offers tips on how best to Artistic Designs.” Breaking the categories down a bit further, I’ll mount it. I am going to give you an abbreviated use some of the models from South America as examples. This section describes models for the example of one of the models. It is called Shallow Room Temperature Amazon Tank, the Tale of Two Pool in Southern India. The “ingredients” include Tetras Tank, and the Flying Fish Tank, to name but neutral water at 75E F, Java fern, Java moss and a few. (Remember, there are 87 different models red mangrove plants, driftwood, mangrove roots altogether.) The section with artistic designs has a and waterworn rocks, dark background and model called The Big Easy Tank, “For the person substrate, a hang-on filter, and one fluorescent who wants a few large colorful fish that are easy to tube, with 0.5% seawater (12 0z. in the recommended 20 gallon tank). For livestock he care for.” Our author is a proponent of what he calls a has choosen 2-3 pairs of Aplocheilus blockii, “roomy” tank. I will use an example to explain (peaceful green panchax).


18Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY) Modern

October 2010

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


Here is a partial quote of his text: “Tidal creeks and brackish pools connect the mangrovelined shore to freshwater streams. Position a mounted Java fern right of center and toward the back. On either side place additional small pieces of driftwood. Mangrove roots should be placed with the curved portion toward the left. This establishes the right side of the tank as the shore of the creek.” This is a very brief example of the kind of detail to be found throughout. So, what’s missing from this picture? You guessed it; the picture! There aren’t any photos of the finished product(s). Our author really wants us to succeed with these model aquariums, but in order for us to want this for ourselves as much as he wants it for us, we need to see what success looks like. I think that the most useful and easy to digest features are the appendices, which can be found right before the index at the rear of this 280 page book. There are several charts which crossreference fish and plants by locality, temperature preferences, pH and hardness ranges, and more. My

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

advice is to start at the right side of the chart, and when you have found, for example, several listings for fish which prefer our neutral NYC tap water, then move to the left of the chart to find the names of the fish. You can then cross-reference these with fish which all prefer like temperatures, again, moving from the temperature listings on the right to the names of the fish on the left, looking for fish which show up on both lists. I know what you’re thinking; this sounds a bit like work. Actually, it’s fun, and can be useful in any number of fishkeeping situations. In spite of the absence of photos of even a few of the completed model aquariums, I really like this book. It overflows with detailed explanations and useful suggestions on every area of fishkeeping. Our author’s love and mastery of his topic is evident on every page.

October 2010 October 2010

Modern Aquarium - Greater City19 A.S (NY)

Last Month’s Bowl Show Winners

1st Place Winner: Al Priest

2nd Place Winner: Bill Amely


Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

3rd Place Winner: Mario Bengcion

October 2010 October 2010

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


DANBURY AREA AQUARIUM SOCIETY Serving the Hudson Valley Area, Westchester, Fairfield, and Litchfield Counties

25th AUCTION - Fall 2010!  Â? Â? Â? Â? TO BE HELD AT THE: Carmel Firehouse 94 Gleneida Ave (Corner of Route 52 & Vink Drive) Carmel, NY 10512  Â?  Â?  ­ €, 1 red dot/10 lots, 50/50 split, *60/40 for 6 or more lots, and preprinted

lot # labels (no description, please label your bags) *Acceptable lots will be determined by the auction committee Vendors: TBA

Food &Refreshments will be available ‚� ƒ

REGISTRATION.................................8:30 AM TO 11:15 AM VIEWING OF GOODS........................10:00 AM TO 11:15 AM AUCTION..................................................11:30 AM TO 5 PM RAFFLE..........................................................................50 / 50

„ „ „ „ … � � �� † 14

October 2010

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

Going the Distance with

Paratheraps synspilus by Dan Radebaugh don’t remember why I decided I wanted a synspilum. The third victim was another―younger―female. I don’t think it was the name. It may have just By this time I was doing better at constructing dividers, been from seeing a picture and thinking, “Me but she somehow allowed herself to be cornered on want!” As I recall, there was happenstance involved. the wrong side of the fence. Her sister (both obtained I was perusing some of the forums I frequented at the from an online acquaintance in Tennessee) has been time, looking for used tanks for sale locally. I found wiser. I’ve found with several of the Central American one, and when I contacted the seller, he asked me if cichlids, that lacking sufficient space, the males, even I’d like a young synspilum for a few extra dollars. I at a young age, will harass the females quite literally said, “Sure!” He warned me that he had bought it to to death. No single, vicious attack, just constant be a show fish, but it had run afoul of a red terror and harrying. In a large enough tank, the female can avoid been seriously beaten up, and he had some fear that being cornered, but without enough room to run, the it might not even survive, much less ever be suitable outcome is likely to be bad. to show. He suggested we put off the exchange These two actually bonded when, as an for about a week, so that he could be sure it would experiment, I put them in the 210 gallon tank. Sure remain alive. Ever the enough, the additional agreeable customer, I space took away a concurred, and a week lot of the conflict or so later he drove between the two, and by with the 55-gallon she, seeing him assert tank & stand, and a himself with the other plastic bag containing fish, was impressed one young (maybe 2 (Oh! You’re so big and inch) male synspilum strong!). Even the 210 without a single fin left experiment had to be on its body other than interrupted for awhile, the dorsal. Even after as he and my datnoid the extra wait, I had just, well, clashed. The serious doubts that it datnoid wanted to be would survive. the undisputed ruler of Male on left, female on right. Well, I found the tank, the synspilum out pretty quickly disagreed, and they that wounded or not, he was still a warrior, as he just wouldn’t let it go. Neither could quite prevail, immediately attacked a young green terror I was but one or the other would eventually tire and become keeping in his (intended) new tank. Locking lips with vulnerable, so back to the 75 he (and she) went. the green terror (at least twice his size), he seemed Some months later I had occasion to try this quite determined to “go the distance,” so I netted him again, having moved some of my other tenants around. out, and made room for him in a ten-gallon, where he This is part of keeping cichlids; they sometimes just stayed for several weeks, recovering his health and decide they don’t like so-and-so anymore, so changes finnage. Since then, using some judgment with regard have to be made. Sometimes adding a hideout will do to his tankmates has been de rigueur. the trick, but not always―or even often. This time Until recently, most of his life with me has been there was no belligerance at all expressed on the part in solitary confinement, at least as far as other cichlids of either the synspilums or the datnoid (whew!), but are concerned. He has twice defeated tank dividers now my pair of Herichthys carpintis was also living and killed his neighbor (the first was the green terror, in this tank, and the two males occasionally decided when I tried housing the two of them in a 75 with a that this town wasn’t big enough for the both of them. divider; the second was a female synspilum whose As with the datnoid, sometimes one would gain the company he mostly liked—maybe a little too much. upper hand, and sometimes the other, necessitating an


Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

October 2010


Good fences make good neighbors.

intervention. So, back to the 75 and the divider, where they again resided for a time. For about the past year, the two had gone through all the motions of preparing to spawn, but have never quite consummated it. Finally, one day I came home and Marsha said, “We have synspilum eggs!” I don’t know what finally pushed them over the edge. I had done a water change the night before, and with the outside temperature in the 90s, their non-air-conditioned room probably got pretty warm. Whatever the key, there she was, on “his” side of the divider, hovering over an egg-covered piece of driftwood, with him supervising from near by. Alas, the eggs developed fungus, and were eaten. As of this writing, the pair is back in the 210, taking turns acting interested, but never seeming to be in the mood at the same time. One new and surprising development―if she’s “in the mood” and he isn’t, she may turn the tables and impatiently chase him. Usually though, he’s still the aggressor. So what is P. synspilus like to keep, and is this male’s psycho killer attitude normal? Well, a little background is in order. The “red-headed cichlid,” the “fire-head,” and the “quetzal cichlid” are a few of the common names for this fish (though I personally have never heard them referred to as anything except synspilum). More formally, they are also known as Cichlasoma synspilum, exCichlasoma synspilum, Vieja synspila, 16

and, more currently, Paratheraps synspilus, as well as other designators1. Sometimes you’ll see a double “L,” used, as in Vieja synspillum. They’re native to southern Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize. There are a few other members of the Vieja genus (from the same general part of the world) that look somewhat similar: V. bifasciatus, V. fenestratus, V. guttulatum, and V. maculicauda are a few examples, but to my eye none of these shows such brilliant, electric coloration. These fish are true omnivores. While they will eat small fish if they happen upon them, their meaty tastes seem to be satisfied by insects, small crustaceans, and gastropods. Of all my current cichlids, these and the uarus seem most to enjoy fruits and vegetables. Beyond their staple diet of assorted pellets, as treats they welcome a variety of choices: live mealworms, freeze-dried krill, surplus snails, the occasional bug, as well as tomato or cucumber slices, orange sections, corn, peas, broccoli, etc. They will eagerly intercept algae wafers intended for your bottom feeders, so be sure a few get through to their intended consumers. As to water, P. synspilus seems to be fairly flexible, with an advertised pH range of 6.4 to 8, and temperatures from the mid-70s to mid-80s2. Some of their native range includes brackish water1. The main concern with water is to be sure you have enough, as these fish do grow. Maximum size for males is between 14 and 17 inches, with females being somewhat smaller.

October 2010

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

Behavior can vary substantially depending on tank size and tankmates. In smaller tanks (under a hundred gallons) they tend to be very shy and want hiding places, and will go to some lengths to provide one for themselves. Mine have dug hideouts under a piece of driftwood, where they’ve had to lie on their sides between the bottom of the tank and the driftwood, until I provided a more comfortable cave. Early on, once I had finally assembled a divider that the male couldn’t batter down, he was still somehow getting to the other side, and we couldn’t figure out how he was doing it, as he was careful to never make the crossing while we were watching. We finally tricked him into thinking we weren’t looking, and saw how he maneuvered his body through the opening that I thought was too small for him. Once moved into a 6-foot tank the shy behavior and desire for hideouts instantly went away. So what about the psycho killer thing? Well, I have a theory. It’s based on a couple of observations, plus some admittedly weakly-founded speculation. At under three inches and badly beaten up, this male was nevertheless intensely colored and highly aggressive, whereas the two females I later purchased were, at a larger size, still very faintly colored, and it took them both several months to color up. The male’s original owner had purchased him specifically for show purposes. There are breeders, particularly in the Far East, who are reputed to use a lot of hormones to achieve quick growth and intense color. I speculate that this fish could have originated with such a breeder, and his hyperaggressiveness and early intense color were possibly some fishy equivalent of what in humans is sometimes called ’roid rage. As I say, it’s speculation. I don’t know enough about how the hormones used for color enhancement affect fish behavior, nor do I know where this fish originated. Still... Since becoming an adult, this male has mellowed considerably. He is of course still no pushover, and the female still needs either a divider or a large tank in order to safely cohabit with him, but in a large community tank he’s now a fairly solid, if assertive, citizen, though if they do spawn in the large (community) tank, I’ll be very watchful about the well-being of the other residents. I’d also speculate that some of his occasional harassment of the female is out of boredom. The other evening, a guest walked near one end of the fish tank, and the male immediately abandoned annoying the female to go see what this stranger was up to. Cichlids are, by reputation and my own observation, intelligent,

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

curious fish, and I often wonder if I shouldn’t do more to provide them with needed mental stimulation. Like many other pets, in the absence of interaction with their owners they will come up with their own diversions, and not all of those will be positive. On the more amusing side, one of the unusual games this fish has invented for himself involves a concrete block and swimming upside-down. Referring to the concrete block in the picture on the opposite page, he’ll swim from left to right (from our view) just over the top of the block and next to the front glass. When he clears the block he’ll point his nose down, do a vertical U-turn and swim upsidedown back past the block but at center level, clear it, and then return to normal orientation. We haven’t been able to photograph this yet; when we approach the tank with the camera he loses interest in his game and pays attention to us. While a bit frustrating, this does point up the fact that our fish, in addition to providing us with interesting viewing, are themselves often quite interested in viewing us. Simply coming up to the tank, settling down and paying some real (but relaxed) attention to them is a great way to give them some stimulation, and at the same time give ourselves some insights into their behavior and welfare. All in all, P. Synspilus is a very nice fish to keep if you have sufficient tank space. Personable, owner-responsive, easy to feed, and very colorful, P. Synspilus really stands out in a tank. It is a large fish, so keeping up with your water changes is important. Though a moderately tough customer with other fish, P. Synspilus is quite gentle with humans. A couple of my other fish require me to remain aware of where they are in relation to my hands and arms while I do tank maintenance; that has never been an issue with these fish. Now if I can just get a successful spawn from them…

Photos by Marsha Radebaugh 1 php?ID=12322 2 php?id=105 3 php?genus=217

October 2010



October 2010

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

Member Classifieds EQUIPMENT: 1 Eheim 2217 Canister filter $125 1 Emperor 400 Bio-Wheel HOB Power Filter $30 1 Coralife Turb Twist 18 watt with 3 extra (never used) UV bulbs $50 1 Coralife Superskimmer 125w/ pump $100 2 Solarmax 36� HO double-T5Lighting System w/Moonlight $159 ea (new) All nearly new, in original boxes. Call (631) 563-1404 -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Moving to Florida 125 gallon tank fully equipped w/wood stand-300 30 gallon tank fully equipped w/iron stand-50 Contact Steve Dash: (516) 889-4876 noon till 8pm -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Filters: Eheim 2076 (for tanks up to 90 gallons) $200 Marineland C-160 (tanks up to 30 gallons) $50 Call Temes: 718-468-1569

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

October 2010


GCAS Happenings


Last Month’s Bowl Show Winners: 1 Al Priest 2 William Amely 3 Mario Bengcion

Gold Angel Male Betta Malawi Zebra

Unofficial 2010 Bowl Show totals to date:

Al Priest 21 Mario Bengcion 18 Robert Hamje 10 Harry Faustmann 1 Richard Waizman 1

William Amely 3

A warm welcome back to renewing GCAS members Ron Pandolfi and Leonard Ramroop!

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: November 3, 2010 Speaker: Joseph Ferdenzi Topic: My Fishroom: Adventures in Fishkeeping Meets: First Wednesday of the month (except January & February) at 7:30pm: Queens Botanical Garden 134-20 Dahlia Ave (at Main St.) - Flushing, NY Contact: Dan Radebaugh (718) 458-8437 E-mail: 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: October 8, 2010 Speaker: None Event: Giant Auction Meets the 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:

Next Meeting: October 12, 2010 Speaker: Todd Gardner Topic: Breeding Marine Fish 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: October 21, 2010 Speaker: Rick Borstein Topic: No buckets, no hoses. Automating Water Changes in your Fish Room Meets: 7:30 PM Lyndhurst Elks Club, 251 Park Avenue, Lyndhurst, NJ 07071 Contact: NJAS Hotline at (732) 332-1392 e-mail: Website:

Norwalk Aquarium Society

Long Island Aquarium Society Next Meeting: October 15, 2010 Speaker: Al DiSpigna Topic: Livebearers Meets: 3rd Fridays (except July and August) 8:00pm. Greenhouse Meeting Room, Holtsville Ecology Center, Buckley Road, Holtsville, NY Email: Margaret Peterson - Website:


Nassau County Aquarium Society

Next Meeting: October 21, 2010 Speaker: Tony Terceira Topic: Photography 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 E-mail: Website:

October 2010

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

Prognostications 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. Greetings, my friends. We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives. The Amazing Criswell - Plan 9 From Outer Space oes anyone remember Jerome King Criswell, A.K.A. “The Amazing Criswell,” a self-proclaimed psychic known for some wildly inaccurate predictions? (Among other things, he predicted the world would end on Wednesday, August 18, 1999.) Maybe you remember “Plan 9 from Outer Space,” a movie often cited by critics as the worst film ever made (even worse, if possible, than “The Attack of the Killer Tomatoes”), in which Criswell made “predictions” at the beginning and end of the movie, and provided some narration. No? Oh well, I guess I’m showing my age again. Anyway, I intend to make some of my own predictions, so here goes:


Figure 1: Robot tank cleaner

I predict that by the year 2100, water changes will be completely handled by robots without the need for human intervention. These robots will also clean the fishroom floor and take out the garbage. I predict that pet shops and aquarium stores will be replaced with aquatic vending machines in supermarkets by the year 2100. And finally, I predict that yours truly, the Undergravel Reporter, won’t be around in 2100 to answer for these predictions.

Photos: Figure 1 -fish-tanks/ Figure 2

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

October2010 2010 October

Figure 2: Fish Vending Machine

17 21

Fin Fun Trial and error will teach you the temperature, pH, and hardness preferences of the plants in your aquariums. But, have you ever wondered where in the world they got their roots? Test yourself as to how many you can match up correctly using the “legend of nationalities” below. (We’ve done the first one for you, as an example.) AF - africa, AS - asia, NA - North america, SA - south america, WW - worldwide Common name

Scientific name


Amazon Swordplant

Echinodorus amazonicus


Ceratophyllum demersum

Banana Plant

Nymphoides aquatica

Dwarf Anubias

Anubias nana

Giant Bacopa

Bacopa caroliniana

Dwarf Bacopa

Bacopa monnieri


Lemna minor

Java Moss

Vesicularia dubyana

Water Fern

Bolbitis heudelotii


Salvinia auriculata

Red Cabomba

Cabomba furcata


Answer to our last puzzle: Common name

Scientific name

Blackworms--------------------- Lumbriculus variegatus Brine shrimp--------------------- Artemia salina Fruit flies--------------------- Drosophila melanogaster Grindal worms--------------------- Enchytraeus buchholzi Microworms--------------------- Panagrellus redivivus Mosquito larvae--------------------- Culiseta longiareolata. Tubifex worms--------------------- Tubifex tubifex Vinegar eels--------------------- Turbatrix aceti Water fleas--------------------- Daphnia pulex Whiteworms--------------------- Enchytraeus albidus

22 24

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


The Boston Aquarium Society presents our New w Date! Locatio n!

SUNDAY OCTOBER 31ST, 2010 Fishy fun and fellowship for all including a drawing for a complete aquarium set-up & refreshments.

Location: Knights of Columbus Hall 11 Sanborn Street Reading, MA 01867

Things to know... How do I get there ? x Item registration begins at 10:30 AM, By Car: See our website for a link to bidding starts at 12:00 PM. directions via Google Maps x 60/40 split in favor of vendor. Public Transportation: x Maximum of 15 lots per person. Knights of Columbus Hall is located near the x Cash or checks only please MBTA Commuter Rail. x Save time, get your Vendor Registration Form online and fill it out before Our event is an open house attending the event! Everyone is welcome ! Free Admission



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