Modern Aquarium September 2012

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September 2012 volume XIX number 7

Series III ON THE COVER This month's cover features a turn-of-the century (19th to 20th, that is) photo of the main floor of the New York Aquarium, an institution that played an important role in the development of the aquarium hobby in the USA. This photo appears in the offical guide Joe Ferdenzi mentions in his "An Historical Note on the Balanced Aquarium," on page 9.

Vol. XIX, No. 7 September, 2012

In This Issue From the Editor G.C.A.S. 2012 Program Schedule President’s Message Last Month's Caption Contest Winner


President Dan Radebaugh Vice-President Edward Vukich Treasurer Jules Birnbaum Corresponding Secretary Sean Cunningham Recording Secretary Tommy Chang Members At Large

Claudia Dickinson Al Grusell Emma Haus Leonard Ramroop

Pete D’Orio Ben Haus Jason Kerner

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

2 3 4 6

Our Guest Speaker: Felicia McCaulley

7 8 An Historical Note on the Balanced Aquarium 9 by Joseph Ferdenzi Cartoon Caption Contest

The Shy Hamlet: Faux Rock Beauty? by Stephen Sica

Trials and Tribulations with Betta macrostoma by Joseph Graffagnino

Wet Leaves Project Seahorse by Susan Priest

Fish Wars! A Tale of Two Channels Part II: Tank Battles! by Dan Radebaugh

MA Classics Rating the Loricarids by Warren Feuer

A Rare Little Wonder from Mexico Skiffia multipunctata by Jules Birnbaum

Our Generous Sponsors & Advertisers G.C.A.S. Happenings The Undergravel Reporter Leaping Lizards Fish

Fin Fun (Puzzle Page) See the Seahorse?

10 12

15 17 20 26 27 30 31 32

From the Editor by Dan Radebaugh

ell, here it is again—September! The Silent Auction is done. Labor Day has passed. The country is full of children with mixed feelings about returning to school. No more half-day Fridays (sigh!). Those of us with outdoor ponds will start bringing the critters indoors again. Denver Lettman has won another Caption Contest. Each of our members will sit down and write that article they’ve been thinking about for Modern Aquarium (hey, if you don’t ask…). We have a fairly diverse issue this month: a few articles devoted to specific fish, but each is a little different. Joe Graffagnino describes his efforts to breed the notoriously difficult Betta macrostoma, Jules Birnbaum tells us about his experiences with Skiffia multipunctata, a rarely kept little livebearer from Mexico, and Steve Sica, in “The Shy Hamlet: Faux Rock Beauty?” tells us about an epiphany he had regarding imitative coloration. Our MA Classics article this month is an award-winning survey of loricarids from a few more than a few years back by Warren Feuer. Joe Ferdenzi takes us back to still earlier days in the aquarium hobby, to explore the oncehallowed concept of the balanced aquarium, and discusses how the New York Aquarium influenced early American aquarium hobbyists, both in general and specifically regarding this concept, which was still very much alive when I first began keeping fish some – well, OK – more than some years ago. Parenthetically, when it opened, the New York Aquarium was the world’s largest, and as Joe points out, it was hugely influential on the aquarium hobby in this country. With the explosion of major public aquaria both nationally and worldwide, I think it’s about time for that venerable institution to be brought back to its former prominence. Some excellent first steps are being made in that direction; let’s hope this will be a continuing trend.



I have a small entry in the issue—Part II of my two-part series, “Fish Wars,” which began last month. The Undergravel Reporter, apparently suffering from Olympics withdrawal, checks in with a piece showing us the acrobatic abilities of our wet pets. For some reason, both our Fin Fun puzzle and Sue Priest’s “Wet Leaves” review this month are about seahorses. Hmmm, could it have something to do with our speaker Felicia McCaulley’s topic this evening? I guess it’s possible… * * * 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 gcas@, or just hand it to me at a meeting. However you get it to me, I’ll be delighted to receive it!

September 2012

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

GCAS Programs


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


March 7

Meet the Experts of the GCAS

April 4

Felicia McCaulley Tips and Tricks to Aquarium Photography on a Budget

May 2

Jeff Michels Dwarf Cichlids

June 6

Rich Levy Virtual Fishroom Tours: Joe Ferdenzi and Jules Birnbaum

July 11

Rich Levy Virtual Fishroom Tours: Jeff Bollbach and Rich Levy

August 1

Silent Auction

September 5

Felicia McCaulley Seahorses

October 3

Rachel O'Leary Freshwater Invertebrates

November 7

Joe Ferdenzi GCAS 90th!

December 5

Holiday Party!

Articles submitted for consideration in Modern Aquarium (ISSN 2150-0940) must be received no later than the 10th day of the month prior to the month of publication. Please fax to (877) 299-0522, or email to gcas@earthlink. net. Copyright 2012 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)

September 2012


President’s Message by Dan Radebaugh


ack in April in this column, I mentioned that there were a few openings on our Board. Gratifyingly, these have now mostly been filled. However, one very important post remains vacant for 2013. That is the post of Treasurer. We have been somewhat spoiled over the years I’ve been here – when I first joined the club Jack Traub was the everpresent, model Treasurer. Jules Birnbaum has likewise provided admirable service during his three-year stint. But now Jules feels the need to step down from the position, and we need a Treasurer. It isn’t an office that we can get by without. Bear in mind that we’re not taking care of Fort Knox here – our budget is quite modest. You don’t need an advanced degree in accounting, or to have been treasurer of some other organization. You don’t have to sign up to be Treasurer for life! You do need to be honest, dependable, and at least able to balance your checkbook. Some familiarity with spreadsheets (such as Excel) would be a help to you. You would have some basic financial reporting to do, but nothing overly arcane. Common sense will take you a long way. You would also need to come to our meetings, but if you’re reading this you most likely do that anyway. If you feel you would be able to serve the club in this role, please see me, Jules, Marsha, or any other Board member (look at the first page of Modern Aquarium for the list of Board members). If you know of someone who you believe could do a good job at Treasurer but who may be too shy to volunteer, by all means be a tattletale! Tell us, and we’ll follow up. We need a Treasurer!


Kingfish (

Good for the Hobby – Organizations – Industry Ray “Kingfish” Lucas Celebrating 23 years in the business (1989-2012) of participating at your events. 4

September 2012

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

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

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

September 2012


Cartoon by Elliott Oshins

August's Caption Winner: Denver Lettman

Then Starbucks called, and the rest is history!

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Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

The G.C.A.S.

Proudly extends a most Warm Welcome to

Our Guest Speaker

Felicia McCaulley Speaking On

Seahorses! elicia is a lifelong aquarium enthusiast who worked in's call center tech support, and as the Diver's Den photographer/marine life identifier for five years. She has also worked for The Hidden Reef in Philadelphia. She currently sits on the Board of Directors for MASNA and NCPARS, as well as the Review Board for the Marine Breeding Initiative.


Felicia spoke to us back in April about how to take quality fish pictures on a budget. This evening we welcome her back to talk to us about "Seahorses!"

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

September 2012


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

Cartoon by Elliot Oshins

Your Caption: Your Name:


September 2012

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

An Historical Note on the

Balanced Aquarium by Joseph Ferdenzi n my last installment of Nostalgia Notes, about the Nassau Pet Shop (Modern Aquarium, August, 2012), I mentioned that the store prominently featured a so-called “balanced aquarium” in one of its display windows. I also noted that the “balanced aquarium” was regarded as an aspiration of most aquarists of that day. But just how far back did this aspiration go for American hobbyists? Quite a ways, it seems. My earliest official guide to the New York Aquarium was published in 1901. Back then, the aquarium was located in Battery Park, at the very tip of southern Manhattan. Although the American aquarium hobby was in its infancy, the New York Aquarium sought to provide guidance to those early hobbyists. Here, then, is what they wrote in their 1901 guide:


Balanced Aquaria The illustration [below] represents a small balanced aquarium, with fresh water plants and animals. To keep fish in an aquarium there must be a supply of oxygen. It is probable that a majority of the people who keep in the house a few gold fish in a globe or tank provide the fish with air by changing the water, but the air in the water is soon exhausted and the fish may suffer or die before the water is again changed. In a balanced jar or tank the water plants with the aid of light are constantly producing oxygen, thereby providing the animal life with air and also keeping the water pure; the animals give off carbonic acid gas, which the vegetation

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

requires for its growth. It is well to use on the bottom of the aquarium fine gravel of sufficient depth to cover the roots of the plants and to hold them in place; to prevent the clusters of plants from floating, wind narrow strips of sheet lead loosely around the lower end of the stalks. The best plan is to put the gravel, plants, and water in the aquarium and place it near a window where it will get sufficient light, thus starting aeration before putting in any animal life. Be sure to have plenty of plants; do not overstock with animals. All dead matter, both animal and vegetable, should be removed daily. Quite small fish will thrive best and will be less destructive to the plants. Newts, tadpoles, and a few small snails, as for instance the Physae and Planorbis, are interesting. The newt, a comic acrobat, is an amusing little animal. The five-spined stickleback, Eucalia inconstans, is a very interesting little fish; it is one of the nest builders. Even if you do not meet with entire success at first, if you persist you will be well repaid, for a balanced aquarium is both beautiful and instructive.

This text establishes that the concept of the “balanced aquarium” has been around since the dawn of the hobby. And, with no less an authority behind it than the New York Aquarium, it is no wonder that the concept took hold in the minds of countless generations of hobbyists. Over time, some came to debunk the concept, but I still believe it has some validity. In fact, I still know a few aquarists who practice the art of maintaining “balanced aquariums.” While it is a challenge, it can be very satisfying once achieved. Now, mind you, you don’t have to be a complete purist about it; if you can establish an aquarium that relies on a minimum of technology and water changes, then you would have succeeded in creating a “balanced aquarium,” as far as I’m concerned. Perhaps in a future article I will give you the details of one such aquarium. For now, I hope you enjoy this glimpse into the wonderful history of our hobby.

September 2012


THE SHY HAMLET: FAUX ROCK BEAUTY? Story and Photos by Stephen Sica

ecently, I was reviewing several of my best underwater and fish photos from our most recent cruise. Donna had planned another successful vacation, and I was able to photograph some unique sea life. As a matter of fact, I had managed to photograph a hamlet. At the time I was unsure of its species. It was a shy hamlet, Hypoplectrus guttavarius. I have taken photographs of hamlets over the years, but I don’t believe that I have ever had an opportunity to take a good close-up of the shy hamlet. I wondered why? This fish is definitely uncommon in most of the Caribbean, although it is found occasionally in the eastern Caribbean. I started contemplating whether I ever had seen one in the wild. I found it difficult to believe that I had not, but you just never know. I have swum with, through, and by thousands of fish, but unless you have a very nice photograph to reference, you either don’t remember, or don’t know for sure. During the cruise, in which we visited five islands and made two dives at each one, I had



taken exactly three photographs of a rock beauty angelfish. This fish has been on my mind, such as it is, because I had written an article about the rock beauty that was recently published in Modern Aquarium. I stated in that article that I am always on the lookout for an opportunity to photograph a rock beauty because I don‘t feel that I have taken that definitive photograph. Therefore, whenever I see one, I try to photograph it. You may ask what does the shy hamlet have to do with the rock beauty? I have no idea—or so I would have said until recently. I thought that these fish had nothing in common, insofar as my general knowledge of fish goes, but I did notice that both fish have a yellow face and chest area, and a black body toward the rear. Also, both the shy hamlet and rock beauty have yellow tails. Obviously, these fish have similar color patterns. I had forgotten about this observation until a few weeks later. I was paging through my dive magazines to catch up, when I saw a photograph of a shy hamlet and a rock beauty hovering within one inch of one

September 2012

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

I photographed this rock beauty in Bonaire just below the reef at the start of the wall. A few seconds later I looked to my right, and about ten yards away at the lower portions of the reef was another rock beauty. I conjectured that they were a mated pair.

another. Their color similarities were strikingly obvious. What do we have here? In a very brief Scuba Diving magazine article, in “Currents,” a section of notes and news briefs, authors Ned and Anna DeLoach wrote “Miscalculation.” The authors are renowned underwater photographers. Ned DeLoach is also the co-author of my marine fish reference book. Every fish in the book is referenced by a photograph taken by these co-authors. Both of these fish inhabit fairly shallow reefs. To paraphrase the DeLoach article, the rock beauty considers nibbling a tasty sponge a delicacy, while the shy hamlet prefers a juicy shrimp. Many shrimp and other small crustaceans have declined to hide upon sighting a familiar looking yellow and black fish. Unfortunately, this failure of the shrimp to hide has led to its demise in the mouth of a shy hamlet. It appears that shrimp can’t tell the difference between the rock beauty and the shy hamlet because of their similar colors. This kind of mimicry appears to be common among reef fish, with about sixty reported examples. These relationships are not always discernible, because of the limited number of colors and patterns among the thousands species of fish. As a result, mimicry can be difficult to substantiate. There are nine Caribbean hamlet species. Most of these do not closely resemble any predatory fish. This has led “scientists to propose that aggressive

This rock beauty was lying in a shallow crevice in hard coral. When I first saw it, the fish appeared to be reclining. It did not swim away, but lay protected in its niche while I took one photo. I don’t recall why I did not attempt more photos, since the fish was stationary. This may be my best photograph of a rock beauty.

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

Hamlets generally congregate in small groups by recesses near the bottom of deep reefs. The shy hamlet reaches a maximum length of five inches and inhabits depths from ten to fifty feet. They are in the sea bass family. This shy hamlet was photographed against a reef in shallow water near the shoreline in St. Lucia. It let me approach within a few feet, and I was able to photograph it. The fish swam openly along the reef, and I was able to take two additional photos.

mimicry might be the driving force behind speciation of their group.” I had never considered this possibility. Should I admit that I did not know about mimicry, or hope that I just didn‘t remember? Over many years of natural fish observations, I had not noticed this phenomenon, though perhaps I simply wasn’t

This is an average size adult shy hamlet; its length is about four inches. The blue and black markings around and near the eyes of this species are very distinctive. Many species have markings on the snout and/or by their eyes. All fins of the shy hamlet are bright yellow.

paying enough attention. I’ll try to watch for it in the future so that I can offer an original comment. I do have a final question: Do fish or other forms of sea life see in color? Was that shrimp eaten because it saw a “harmless” yellow and black fish? Maybe it did, or maybe I should look for my copy of Do Fish Sleep? It may have the answer.

September 2012


Trials & Tribulations with

Betta macrostoma by Joseph Graffagnino y friend Al Priest asked if I would attempt is an accomplished escape artist), and that it is a fussy to breed a difficult fish—Betta macrostoma. eater. The crème de la crème was that if the female Al had some crazy idea that I was an doesn’t like the male she will kill him. Great! Just accomplished fish breeder. His goal was to have other what I need, a black widow/praying mantis with fins! hobbyists raise and spawn this difficult species. Al I needed to do my homework before I could believes, and I agree, that endangered species should be accept a pair of these beautiful and complicated fish. held by aquarists who are capable of maintaining and, My studies included speaking with other hobbyists and hopefully, spawning the species. researching reliable websites. Betta If a tank crash in one hobbyist’s macrostoma is commonly called home wipes out that hobbyist’s the Brunei beauty, spotfin betta, entire colony, other hobbyists will peacock betta and the orangecheck still have that species, reducing the betta (because of the orangelikelihood of its total loss to the red coloration males exhibit; hobby. If this can be accomplished the females by comparison are a locally, imagine what could be grayish brown). When in breeding done on a global scale? mode the male gets brighter, and I admit that I enjoy a the female exhibits very dark challenge, especially in trying to Male (right) and female Betta macrostoma. horizontal banding on her normally breed difficult tropical fish. I enjoy gray body, with a green coloration all types of freshwater fish species, and have had a on the top of her back. modicum of success in the spawning and raising of This species is found in the nation of Brunei and their fry. In the anabantoid family, I have worked with the Malaysian state of Sarawak, each of which are on the several types of gouramies, paradise fish, ctenopomas island of Borneo, in Southeast Asia. This species is on and bettas. I must admit that various species in the the CARES (Conservation, Awareness & Recognition Betta genus have proven to be the most challenging. Endangered Species Preservation Program) list as I have been unsuccessful with Betta machachai (blue a Threatened species marked as Vulnerable. The form), Betta smaragdina, Betta livida, Betta coccina, country of Brunei has forbidden exportation of the Betta imbellis, and Betta tussyae. I have been species from their country, and made it illegal to house successful with Betta splendens, Betta channoides, this species in a home aquarium. and Betta unimaculata, and have had partial success Betta macrostoma’s natural environment with Betta albimarginata, Betta brownorum, and Betta includes two main ecosystems. One location has fastmacrostoma. What I mean by partial success is that flowing, clear water near waterfalls, and the other these fish bred for me, but either the eggs didn’t hatch, environment consists of slow-moving streams and the fry didn’t survive the mandatory 60 day limit to peat swamps, littered with plant roots and submerged qualify as a successful breeding, or the fry quantity leaf litter, making the water brown and acidic. In was less than the limit required for Breeders Award an aquarium this species requires many caves and Points (either 6 or 10 depending on various aquarium hideouts, driftwood, Java fern, Java moss, and floating society rules). plants such as duckweed and fairy moss. Their natural Al had made it known that Betta macrostoma diet is insects and small invertebrates, such as snails was especially difficult to maintain, and breeding was and shrimp. In an aquarium, young fish will take betta even more challenging. I know of other experienced pellets, but adult fish prefer frozen brine shrimp, krill, hobbyists who have tried and failed to keep this blood worms, or live brine shrimp or blackworms. I species. The only aquarist I know of with the skill have tried live guppies, as well as pellet and flake food, (or luck?) to persevere and succeed with this species but with no success. The guppies they just ignored. is Al Priest. He mentioned to me that I would need When I introduced a pair into an aquarium that an adequate sized aquarium, the correct aquatic had hiding places, caves, driftwood, live plants, a good environment, a tightly covered aquarium (this species cover of floating plants, and a tank divider, the male



September 2012

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

Betta macrostoma: Vital Stats Did I mention that this species is difficult to maintain? From what I have heard and read, B. macrostoma is comfortable within the following parameters: Temperature: 68 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Use higher temperatures to promote spawning. pH: 3.0 to 6.0 Water Hardness: 0 to 90 PPM (very soft!) Aquarium size: A forty gallon tank for a pair of fish is recommended. I housed a pair in a 15 gallon-wide aquarium (24” L x 12” W x 12” H) that had a tank divider; the assumption being that anabantoids would prefer length and width over depth. Lighting: Subdued. A low-wattage flourescent. In retrospect I think a blue or red cover over the bulb would have dimmed the lighting more and been better. Bettas don’t enjoy bright or even semi-bright lighting. Filtration: Large sponge filter, or corner filter with charcoal and ammonia chips. I should have added peat pellets, but instead I used almond leaves and Tetra’s Blackwater Extract. Maximum Size: 3½ to 4½ inches for adults. Diet: Carnivore (see details in main text). was very excited to see the female. He would continue to try to attract her, and attempted innovative ways to get around, over, or through the tank divider to be by her side. The problem invariably was that she just wasn’t in the mood for him, and within a few moments she would start to chase him all around her area, trying her best to bite his head off. There was no doubt who was the boss in that couple.

Left: Beginning of the embrace. Right: The embrace.

move or just remove the tank divider. The pair would then circle each other, while rising in the water until they were just below the surface. The female would lay still while the male wrapped himself around her stomach area and squeezed out her eggs. The female would then dive down to catch the eggs in her mouth. After she had collected several eggs, she would clasp onto the male’s gonopodium, from which she draws his milt to fertilize the eggs. With several now-fertilized eggs in her mouth, the pair would go to the bottom of the tank, where the female would spit the fertilized eggs into the male’s mouth. They would continue this process until the female was stripped of eggs, leaving the male holding all the fertilized eggs in his buccal cavity, where he kept them until they hatched—usually in 20 to 22 days.

Above: Transfer of eggs. Left: milt.

Female dives for eggs and

Problems: The male ate the eggs within hours of holding them. Possible reasons are that he was a juvenile fish and not mature enough to hold the eggs, the pH was too high, he saw movement within or outside the tank, the female harassed him, or the eggs weren’t fertile. The pair spawned again 12 days later with the same results. You can’t strip and artificially hatch Betta macrostoma eggs because the oblong-shaped eggs are soft. They would crumble in a hatchery unless they were a few weeks old, when they become firmer and closer to hatching. I had mixed results with stripping eggs from another Betta mouthbrooder, Female heavy with eggs. Betta unimaculata. One time I removed 69 eggs from Once the fish grew accustomed to their a brooding male, but only 9 of those eggs hatched. environment, they settled in nicely. When the female Another time I stripped him of 80 eggs, and 22 of them was ready to spawn she would undulate her body in hatched. Around the fifth time I left him alone, and he an “S” shape in front of the male. Her colors would released approximately 70 live fry. Obviously it pays change within minutes, going from a gray-brown to a to allow him to hatch his own eggs. black horizontal pair of lines that were separated by My biggest problem was maintaining a low pH. light gray. Her back would turn a dark green. The My tap water comes out at 7.0. I do not have a reverse male, in response, would become brighter in his osmosis (RO) unit, nor do I have access to rainwater, orange/red coloration. At this point I would either so the best way I’ve found to achieve low pH is via Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY) September 2012 13

a Brita® water filter. A Brita filter knocks my water down to 5.5 pH. This is great for a 5 gallon tank, but of course larger tanks become a problem. This species demands frequent (50% weekly) water changes. If I stretch out the water changes to biweekly or longer, the acidity remains, but organic pollutants build up, creating other problems such as “sudden death syndrome,” where a fish just dies for no apparent reason (this may be the result of infected or dying live food or frozen food that went bad). Or the fish might die from a bacterial and/or fungus infection, or cloudy eyes (also a bacterial infection which comes from dirty water), or the fish may just stop eating and waste away. Another problem may occur when you move the fish into another tank—even if it’s a larger tank. This species doesn’t handle stress very well. A move to a new environment could have a fatal effect on them.

Betta macrostoma is extremely territorial. Moving them to another aquarium, adding additional fish to an existing aquarium, or even rearranging the items in the aquarium could lead to a fight to the death over territory. Nor does this species tolerate most medications—not even something as mild as Melafix®. I would enjoy writing about how to raise the fry and how to keep a colony of juvenile fish from not killing each other, but I haven’t gotten that far yet. These fish are very difficult to maintain in an aquarium, so if you can achieve success then you are a dedicated and talented aquarist. I intend to try again to maintain and breed this beautiful and endangered species. B. macrostoma is not for everyone, and you must be willing to dedicate your time and the resources necessary for maintaining these demanding fish, but if you succeed, then your accomplishments are truly great.

Resources: Photos by the Author.


September 2012

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

distracted by the photos as well. There are also several uncluttered and easy-to-understand maps which young eyes, as well as those of you with bifocals, will appreciate. Coral reefs are the largest living structures on earth, and whenever one of them is destroyed, a Series On Books For The Hobbyist countless sea creatures are left homeless. Coral reefs, mangroves, and sea grasses are all closely by SUSAN PRIEST linked. Seahorses (as well as many other fishes and animals) spend different parts of their life in y reviewing this book I can check off two more than one of these habitats. “If one part of this items on my to-do list for this year’s ecosystem suffers, all parts suffer.” As a conservation theme. It is a children’s book consequence, the wildlife it supports will suffer as well. ( 7), and it is about a marine topic ( 7). In addition to describing the dependancy of Seahorses are one of seahorses on these nature’s most enchanting interconnected habitats, creatures, and most Project Seahorse this book introduces us to people, be they Pamela S. Turner a family whose wellfishkeepers or not, are Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010 being depends on these attracted to them at first three ecosystems just as sight. Therein lies part of much as seahorses do. the problem where these highly endangered fishes are concerned. The “Digoy swims the reef at night. He mounts a universal appeal of seahorses lures people without kerosene lantern on the front of his paddleboat. the necessary skills and knowledge to care for them The lantern shines down through the shallow water and lights up the reef below. Digoy pulls the boat into bringing them home. along with a rope held So, what is Project in one hand. Instead of Seahorse? Basically, it using a scuba tank, he is people from many holds his breath when walks of life pooling he dives.” Most of the their resources with the time he engages in common goal of underwater spear safeguarding seahorses fishing. This is the and everything that they method he uses to catch need to thrive, as well as the fishes by which he ensuring the livelihood provides for the needs of people who have of his family. It is traditionally made their dangerous and livings by harvesting exhausting. Digoy used them. to collect and sell “In Handumon, a seahorses, which community in the brought in more money, Philippines, villagers and conservationists have joined together to protect but members of the community of fishers to which the seahorse and the coral reefs where these quirky he belongs have all noticed that the number and fish live. (The) founders of Project Seahorse work size of seahorses in these waters has dramatically tirelessly to protect both Handumon’s seahorses and decreased. “How can reefs be protected, along the livelihood of local fishing families.” Does this with the livelihood of people like Digoy? Finding scenario sound familiar to you? It should. solutions to this thorny problem is a main goal of Specifically, it should remind you of an excerpt Project Seahorse.” Ms. Turner offers us some little known from July’s review of People in Nature, and a brief tidbits about the life cycle of seahorses. For discussion of Projeto Piaba in Brazil. example, did you know that seahorses mate for The photos are nothing short of captivating. This book is written with children of reading age in life? She does not spell out the details of the mind, but if you put it in the hands of a very young complicated care which they require if they are to child, he or she will be yearning to learn what it has be kept in captivity. She does, however, document to say about these wonderful creatures. If you the threats to their present as well as future lives in happen to be reading it to him or her, you will most nature. The consequences of over-harvesting as assuredly lose your place in the text, as you will be well as “blast-fishing” are two of the most harmful.


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An abbreviation which you will frequently encounter is MPA. This stands for Marine Protected Area. These come in many forms. Can you conjure up in your mind what an underwater national park might be like? If you can, then Project Seahorse needs you! A pet peeve of mine is tropical fish hobby magazines which entice you into buying a copy by printing a photo of a seahorse on the cover. Once you get inside they offer you an article which instructs you as to “How to Keep Seahorses in ?#? Easy Steps” (you fill in the missing number). I know all of you have come across one or more of these magazines/articles. Seahorses are among the most endangered animals on the planet, and you cannot learn all there is to know about how to take care of them by reading one magazine article!! Fortunately for seahorses, most of the people who buy and read these magazines know their own strengths and limitations well enough to prevent them from making a disastrous mistake. This book will help readers of every age and level of fishkeeping experience to gain a broader view of the situation. There is a one-page glossary which highlights some of the terms that the author would like readers to remember. (Did you know that a polyp is an animal?) I especially liked another one-page feature called “How to Help Seahorses.” Each line begins with a letter from the word SEAHORSE, and offers some sage advice. For example, the third line, which begins with the letter A, says “Avoid buying souvenirs and curiosities made from dead seahorses.” This book goes well beyond being informative. To call it entertaining would be selling it short. I hope I have already made the point that it will hold the attention of every reader, regardless of age. If you plan to lend it to your neighbor, make sure that you already have a second copy for yourself, as you might not get it back! The last chapter in the book is entitled “Onion World.” It reminds us that “Seahorse conservation, like all conservation, means action on many levels.” It uses the analogy of the many layers within an onion. What I took away from this chapter, as well as from the book as a whole, was that there is a part for each person to play in these efforts. Have you found your part yet?


Conservation Alert Project Seahorse is part of a series of books called “Scientists in the Field.” These are non-fiction children’s books with a target audience of independent readers ages 9-14, and for inclusion in classrooms from grades 4-8. One of its objectives is to shed light on careers in science. As I observed early on for myself, the publisher recommends all of these books as good choices to be read aloud for pre-readers. This series was first introduced in 1999, and several books are added to it each year. Here is a small sampling of available titles: The Wildlife Detectives: How Forensic Scientists Fight Crimes Against Nature 1999 Project Ultraswan 2002 Diving to a Deep Sea Volcano 2006 Science Warriors: The Battle Against Invasive Species 2008 For a complete list of titles and authors, visit: features/science/children.shtml All of the books in this series were published by Houghton Mifflin Books For Children.

September 2012

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

FISH WARS! A Tale of Two Channels

Part II: Tank Battles by Dan Radebaugh Brett and Wayde take on jaw-dropping aquarium builds, from such intricate and interesting locations as inside restaurants, casinos, banks, hotels, churches, offices, mansions, museums and zoos. Their tanks are for celebrities and ordinary Joes, and their aquariums and their business are filled with the most unusual... and larger-than-life creatures in the world.

mentioned last month in Part I of “Fish Wars!” that I can’t recall a time when there was more animal related, and specifically fish related programming on television. Last month I discussed the competition between Discovery Channel’s Animal Planet series, Monster Fish, and National Geographic’s Nat Geo Wild entry, River Monsters. Well, it isn’t only the fish that are being contested; it’s also the fish tanks. Animal Planet got on the board first, with TANKED. To quote their description of the show,


I have to admit that it’s an easy show to watch. I believe that the television-viewing world is by now savvy enough about these “reality” shows to understand that they are not only concept-driven, but pretty thoroughly scripted as well. Not that I’m necessarily complaining; watching a show about any business that just followed people around recording what happens on any given day would likely be described more as a penance than as entertainment. Both these shows try to entertain. TANKED seems to play up the dysfunctional aspects of a family business as the show’s chief source of entertainment and comic relief. There are a lot of practical jokes, “misunderstandings,” and general yukking it up. There are also predictable difficulties with the jobs. These folks are building very large, complex tanks out in Las Vegas, and shipping those tanks (and fish) to locations all around the country, often on extremely tight deadlines. There are picky clients, erroneous measurements at the site to be dealt with extemporaneously—even difficulties like overcoming too-small doors when transporting the tanks (and life-support systems) into the installation site.

"TANKED, a six-episode series, dunks viewers into the high-decibel, family-owned business of Acrylic Tank Manufacturing (ATM), one of the country’s leading and most successful builders of aquariums. Led by brothers-in-law (and business partners, best friends and rivals) Brett Raymer and Wayde King and housed in a state-of-theart, cavernous facility located in the center of Sin City, ATM literally has created thousands of enormous, conceptual aquariums for high-profile clients. Working with opinionated and outrageous family and staff, Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

September 2012


The TANKED crew with a mob-themed fish tank.

All of these scenarios are of course part and parcel of any business. To me, this show makes its biggest impact with “concept” tanks—turning old automobiles, phone booths, pinball machines, even churches, into fish tanks. Very creative stuff! Even so, the corny, low comedy is what keeps it all from turning into a documentary that only die-hard aquarium buffs would watch. The producers need a bigger audience than us. I have heard some criticism from other fishkeepers that the show neglects proper care of the fish in its presentation. While this is probably a valid complaint, the show is, after all, about the tanks, though in response to this criticism, the producers have added a bit more fish information to the format in the current season. Also, most people who are able to buy fish tanks on this scale will probably also buy the services of someone to properly maintain them (and their inhabitants). All in all, while I do at times become impatient with the “zany antics” of the cast, I have watched every episode to date, and I’ll likely continue to tune in. Not to be outdone, National Geographic has risen to the TANKED challenge by introducing a similar show of its own, FISHTANK KINGS, featuring Florida-based Living Color Enterprises on its Nat Geo Wild channel. From "Each episode follows the dedicated team as they work to create some of the most impressive fish tanks ever developed: Mat Roy is the president and is responsible for overseeing all projects and running operations at Living Color. His favorite part of the process is seeing the look on clients’ faces as they view their aquarium for the first time. Francis Yupangco, lifelong fish geek, is the head marine biologist, overseeing the construction and marine life in the custom tanks. Ben Alia is the senior project manager, whose expertise allows the team to fabricate the most sophisticated of designs. Jose Blanco is production and safety manager, planning and creating a happy home for the fish. John Manning is life support system designer, responsible for creating intricate systems in small spaces that will ultimately keep the exotic creatures inside the tank healthy."


As the above paragraph implies, the fish themselves, their collection, and concerns for their care, get more air time in this show than in TANKED, though whether this difference is more meaningful in tone or in substance is debatable. Regarding tone, the very first episode shows us a different conceptual approach to presenting a world-class custom aquarium business. Rather than the “lovable family comedy” approach of TANKED, in FISHTANK KINGS the emphasis is on corporate drama—bidding the job, project management, interaction with corporate clients, interdepartmental tensions, and yes, extemporaneous solutions to onsite snafus. For instance, the first episode is about first securing the bid, and then building and installing the fish tanks for the Miami Marlins’ baseball stadium, and this episode pretty much sets the tone for those that follow. The second episode involves using a submarine to collect some rare species for the Florida Aquarium.

A member of the Living Color construction crew firing a baseball at the fish tanks to test impact on the Miami Marlins' backstop fish tank.

Just as in TANKED, interdepartmental/ personality conflicts serve as tools for maintaining our interest. Not that these are necessarily faked; ask anyone with a job if tensions don’t occasionally color the work environment. However, this is being filmed, and everyone knows they’re being filmed, and “being yourself” in front of a camera is not the most normal thing in the world to do. FISHTANK KINGS’ more corporate-flavored adventures provide a nice balance to the “zany antics” of their rivals on the other channel. In summary, these are both fun and informative shows to watch. Their schedules overlapped for a few weeks earlier in the year, and whether by chance or design, we could watch one of them starting at nine, and then switch channels at ten to see the other. It was great! I could get two-hour fish fix all in one night! Now I just need to find a therapy show to help me deal with the tank envy…

September 2012

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

North American Native Fishes Association

2012 NANFA Convention Sept 13-16, 2012 Salt Fork State Park, Eastern Ohio Hosted by the Fish Division of the Ohio State University Museum of Biodiversity The convention features Friday night banquet and auction Great lineup of speakers on Friday Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday field trips All for just $75 For additional information including a schedule and on-line registration visit Or contact Brian Zimmerman 330-417-9476 T-shirts available soon‌

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

September 2012


MA Classics With the recent release of the 2011 FAAS Publication Awards, I thought we could take a look at an award-winning article from very early in Series III of Modern Aquarium. This is a First-Place winning article from Series III Volume I, numbers 2/3 – the February/March issue of 1994. We got off to a good start! I think you’ll recognize the name of the author.


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Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

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September 2012

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

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September 2012

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

September 2012


A Rare Little Wonder from Mexico by Jules Birnbaum

he spotted Skiffia multipunctata is an active little fish that is great to watch. It thrives very well in small tanks, eats anything, its fry are very large, it does well with live plants, and my experience indicates that this fish is very smart. Silver and black in color, it’s also a rare fish in the hobby. I first acquired several of these fish from a breeder of endangered livebearers (Greg Sage, Select Aquatics), most of which are on the C.A.R.E.S. list. Unfortunately, the fish l acquired from Greg did not do well. I was told by Rit Forcier, a livebearer expert, that my water might have not been correct for these fish. He suggested that I bring my pH up higher, to approximately 7.8, keep the temperature at 72 degrees, and make the water harder by adding some crushed coral to my filter or using some African Cichlid mix. I did all these things, but apparently too late, because they kept going to fish heaven. (I wonder if there is such a place?) However, after spending all that time and money ($75) I picked up some of these Skiffia at one of our large GCAS auctions. The fish I pick up in this way usually live and have no diseases. There are only a few ways I can be sure I am getting healthy fish. The first is at our auctions, and then there is Steve Gruebel at Cameo Pet Shop, and Harsha Perera of Zoo-Rama. We are fortunate to have both as members of GCAS. The six adult Skiffia I acquired at the auction were placed in their own ten gallon tank filled with stored, aged water. No special attention was paid to the pH. I added an aged box filter, a few Java ferns, and a bunch of



Java moss. There was no heater or overhead light on this tank, and the water temperature was approximately 74 degrees. Sexing the fish is a little difficult, as both male and female look very similar. The male looks darker, and has more spots when breeding. Like guppies, the males do chase the females around, and seem to be slightly smaller. There is no male gonopodium. The male has a modified anal fin, which is separated by a notch called an andropodium, that is used to impregnate the female. This anal fin modification is also found in some members of the Goodeidae family. Unlike some of our more familiar livebearers, the female must be impregnated for each pregnancy. From what I have found by visiting the fishrooms of several top breeders, subdued light is usually a good idea in a breeding setup. The famous Rosario LaCorte is a prime case in point. For those of you who have been lucky enough to visit his fish room, you will recall that when he wants to show you what is going on, he moves a shop light from tank to tank. Java fern and Java moss do fine in indirect light. They just grow very slowly, and there should be no algae problem without bright lighting. I added a few small kronei catfish to clean up the excess food, because I was going to feed the fish several times a day. The food I used was a good quality flake (42% protein), brine shrimp (prepared daily), and blackworms three times per week. This special feeding is really not essential, but it

September 2012

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

does fatten up the females. These livebearers are no major challenge to breed, and even our newest, most inexperienced members should have no problem getting them to spawn. The newborn are very large, and thus the spawns produce no more than 8 to 10 fry. I was

Aquarium Pharmaceuticals Aquarium Technology Inc. Cameo Pet Shop Cobalt Aquatics Coral Aquarium Ecological Laboratories HBH Pet Products KingďŹ sh Koller-Craft Kordon, LLC Marineland Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

amazed at the size of these newborns coming from such a small mother. To play it safe I placed a gravid female in a small breeding trap floated inside the tank. After she gave birth I tried to remove the female with a small net, but she just jumped back into the tank. (Are they smart, or what?) Look for bags of Skiffia multipunctata at a future GCAS meeting. Check out the C.A.R.E.S. list online, and give one of these endangered fish a home. Please contact Tommy Chang, who is heading up this program at Greater City. He might be able to help you acquire one of the fish on the list. Photos by Alexandra Horton

Microbe Lift Ocean Nutrition America Omega Sea Red Sea Rena Rolf C. Hagen San Francisco Bay Brand Seachem World Class Aquarium Zoo Med Laboratories Inc. Zoo Rama Aquarium September 2012



September 2012

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

125:$/. $48$5,80 62&,(7< 46th ANNUAL

TROPICAL FISH SHOW Sponsored by the

Earthplace, the Nature Discovery Center

Saturday, September 29th, 2012 (Noon to 4:00p p.m.) Sunday, September 30th, 2012 (10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.)

& Auction NAS Annual Auction (will also feature lots from the IBC show)

Sunday, September 30th, 2012 Auction Starts at 12:00 p.m. (noon) At Earthplace, the Nature Discovery Center Westport, Connecticut

Special Feature In Conjunction with the NAS Show The Connecticut Betta Club Will Sponsor an

International Betta congress Sanctioned Betta Show

For Information & Rules for the IBC show contact Doug at:

Please note that there are special rules to enter the IBC which differ from the NAS Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

September 2012


GCAS Happenings


Last Month’s Bowl Show Winners: No bowl show last month due to Silent Auction

Unofficial 2012 Bowl Show totals to date: Robert Hamje Ruben Lugo

10 Jerry O'Farrell 5 Carlotti deJager

10 3

Richard Waizman 9 William Amely 8

A special welcome to new members Artie Mayer and Steve Hinshaw!

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: October 3, 2012 Speaker: Rachel O'Leary Topic: Freshwater Invertebrates 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

Nassau County Aquarium Society

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 14, 2012 Speaker: Mike Hellweg Topic: Fish Breeding Contest with Ted Judy Meets: 2nd Friday of the month (except July and August) at 7:30pm: NY Aquarium - Education Hall, Brooklyn, NY Call: BAS Events Hotline: (718) 837-4455 Website:

Long Island Aquarium Society Next Meeting: September 21, 2012 Speaker: Guy Van Rossum Topic: Rainbowfish 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:


Next Meeting: September 11, 2012 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: September 20, 2012 Speaker: TBA Topic: TBD Meets at: The Lyndhurst Elks Club, 251 Park Avenue, Lyndhurst, NJ 07071 Contact: NJAS Hotline at (732) 332-1392 Email: Website:

Norwalk Aquarium Society Next Meeting: September 20, 2012 Speaker: Pete Izzo Topic: Uruguay Collecting Trip 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:

September 2012

Modern Aquarium - Greater City A.S (NY)

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. hether it’s a goldfish, a cichlid, or a loach, just about any fish can jump (OK, maybe not a starfish, but I’m not even sure about that). Considering how many times I’ve heard fellow aquarists mention that a fish “found” the only possible opening in an aquarium to jump through, it should come as no surprise that a study at Northern Arizona University by professor of biological sciences Alice Gibb proved that fish can not only execute impressive jumps, but that these leaps can happen with great precision.



Discovery News reported1 on research published in the Journal of Experimental Zoology: Ecological Genetics and Physiology inspired by a mangrove rivulus jumping out of a small net and back into the water. Professor Gibb noted that the move wasn’t just a random flop; the fish appeared to be in full control. This control wasn’t lost on land either. Professor Gibb says that this has significant implications for evolutionary biology, because it implies that "the invasion of the land by vertebrates may have occurred much more frequently than has been previously thought." In other words, land life on Earth probably started with leaps and bounds, with terrestrial jumping by fully aquatic fish. Tests on fish species ranging from guppies to mosquitofish demonstrated that even clearly non-amphibious fish could jump with skill and direction on land. (Ever notice that when trying to pick up a fish which has landed on the floor, it almost always seems like the fish is intentionally jumping away from you?) Professor Gibb further reports that the mosquitofish can jump out of the water to get away from predators, and then jump back in! (Unfortunately, I’ve never seen a fish jump back into its tank after having jumped out and landing on the floor, or worse yet, behind the tank.) The Northern Arizona University researchers found that many species produce a coordinated maneuver in which the fish curls its head toward its tail and then pushes off the ground to propel itself through the air. That particular maneuver, I have seen in action in my fishroom.

Photo courtesy of Northern Arizona University

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17 31

Fin Fun See the Seahorse?

According to Wikipedia, “Seahorse is the title given to forty-seven species of marine fish in the genus Hippocampus.”1 In the word-search puzzle below, see if you can find the common names of 13 seahorse species. Solution next month.

E S L H G V F G J Q B K K M D 1
















Solution to last month’s puzzle:

Common name

Scientific Name

cherry barb ---------------------------------------- Puntius titteya chocolate cichlid ---------------------------------------- Hypselecara temporalis chocolate lyretail ---------------------------------------- Aphyosemion australe honey gourami ---------------------------------------- Trichogaster chuna jelly bean tetra ---------------------------------------- Lepidarchus adonis peppermint goby ---------------------------------------- Coryphopterus lipernes peppermint pikehead ---------------------------------------- Luciocephalus pulcher strawberry darter ---------------------------------------- Etheostoma fragi Source:



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

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