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FRESHWATER AQUARIUMS & TROPICAL DISCOVERY

Breeding

L-Cats

❙ Easy Labidochromis ❙ Lush Plants ❙ Exploring Sumatra

JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2012


$0/5&/54r70-6.& /6.#&3 EDITOR & PUBLISHER |

James M. Lawrence

INTERNATIONAL PUBLISHER |

Matthias Schmidt

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF |

Hans-Georg Evers

CHIEF DESIGNER |

Nick Nadolny

SENIOR ADVISORY BOARD |

Volker Bohnet, Christopher Brightwell, Olaf Deters, Jay Hemdal, Ray Kingfish Lucas, Dr. Joachim Knaack, Michael Schluter, Ingo Seidel, Julian Sprung, Jeffrey A. Turner, Dr. Stanley H. Weitzman, Maike Wilstermann-Hildebrand

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WELCOME TO AMAZONAS

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AQUATIC NOTEBOOK

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TRANSLATOR |

Mary Bailey

ART DIRECTOR | DESIGNER |

Linda Provost

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Mirko Barts, Nora Brede, Tanya Denker, Nadja Sommer (image editing), Louise Watson, Thomas Weidner Alexander Bunten, Will Bunten, Bayley Lawrence, Eamonn Sweeney, John Sweeney

COHORTS |

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BUSINESS & MARKETING DIRECTOR |

Judith Billard | 802.985.9977 Ext. 3

FIRST BREEDING OF THE CACTUS CATFISH, L 97

by Udo Wanninger

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BREEDING PANAQOLUS SP. L 201

by Farid Laid

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AQUATIC TRAVEL: SERRANÍA DE LA MACARENA

by Oliver Lucanus

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AQUARIUM GARDENING: GROWING STEMMED PLANTS

by Maike Wilstermann-Hildebrand

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HUSBANDRY & BREEDING: 3 EASY LABIDOCHROMIS FROM LAKE MALAWI

by Jens Hamann

EDITORIAL & BUSINESS OFFICES |

Reef to Rainforest Media, LLC 140 Webster Road | PO Box 490 Shelburne, VT 05482 Tel: 802.985.9977 | Fax: 802.497.0768

BREEDING ATTEMPTS WITH L 25

by Christoph Girardet

Anne Linton Elston

ASSOCIATE EDITORS |

COVER STORY: BREEDING LORICARIID CATFISHES

by Hans-Georg Evers

SENIOR CONTRIBUTORS |

Jeffrey Christian, Robert M. Fenner, Marco Tulio C. Lacerda, Michael Lo, Martin Thaler Morte

edited by Hans-Georg Evers

FEATURE ARTICLES

SENIOR EDITORS |

Mary Bailey, Michael Kokoscha, Matthew Pedersen, Mary E. Sweeney

by Hans-Georg Evers

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AQUATIC TRAVEL: BRACKISH-WATER LIFE IN SUMATRA

by Hans-Georg Evers

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FIELD GUIDE: THE GRAZING NERITES

by Maike Wilstermann-Hildebrand

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AMAZONAS, Freshwater Aquariums & Tropical

Discovery is published bimonthly in December, February, April, June, August, and October by Reef to Rainforest Media, LLC, 140 Webster Road, PO Box 490, Shelburne, VT 05482. Application to mail at periodicals prices pending at Shelburne, VT and additional mailing offices. Subscription rates: U.S. $29 for one year. Canada, $41 for one year. Outside U.S. and Canada, $49 for one year.

by Hans-Georg Evers

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AMAZONAS™ is a licensed edition of

AMAZONAS Germany, ISSN: 1861-2202 Natur und Tier Verlag GmbH | Muenster, Germany All rights reserved. Reproduction of any material from this issue in whole or in part is strictly prohibited. COVER:

Pseudocanthicus sp. L 25 Photo by I. Seidel

HUSBANDRY & BREEDING:

The Splash Tetra (Copella arnoldi) by Cornelia Hinz & Claus Fischer

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CALENDAR:

Upcoming events by Mary Sweeney

POSTMASTER: Send address changes to: AMAZONAS,

PO Box 361, Williamsport, PA, 17703-0361

FISH ROOM:

The underground world of Carsten Goll

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HANDS-ON:

Hatching tips by Hans-Georg Evers

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NEW SPECIES SNAPSHOTS

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SOCIETY CONNECTIONS

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PARTING SHOT:

by Eric Isselée

AMAZONAS 3


EDITORIAL

W E L C O M E TO A M A ZO N A S

AMAZONAS 4

Dear Reader,

It is a real pleasure for me to welcome you to the first issue of AMAZONAS Magazine in the English language! When we started this magazine in Germany in 2005, we never expected the huge worldwide positive response to what we do—often from aquarium enthusiasts who cannot read a word of German. When asked by members of the English-speaking aquarist community when we planned to publish our magazine in English, I have always had to politely ask for patience. In collaboration with our partners in the United States, James Lawrence and Reef to Rainforest Media, we are finally making it happen. AMAZONAS focuses strictly on fresh water and brackish water, dealing with the aquatic life forms of tropical and subtropical rivers, lakes, streams, rice paddies, and all manner of aquatic environments on our planet. This allows us to concentrate on fishes, aquatic plants, and invertebrates for the aquarist who loves to keep, observe, and even breed the huge variety of creatures found in tropical waters. Although the name AMAZONAS might imply that we only cover the South American continent, we go wherever interesting fishes and aquatic life are found. AMAZONAS is created and published by aquarists for aquarists, and our goal is to deliver pure aquatic passion expressed through clear writing, high-quality pictures, and exciting design. Our editorial board consists of expert aquarists—both hobbyists and professionals—as well as leading scientists, ensuring that we provide you, our readers, with accurate, reliable, and in-depth information. Over the years we have built up a global network of corresponding partners, mostly from tropical countries that are the native sources of our animals and plants. These people, exporters and explorers alike, are an important source of information for us. We also rely heavily on aquarists who specialize in certain species or groups of species and are willing to share their experiences, so that the information we give you on keeping and breeding a particular species is first-hand and based on actual experience. A third of every issue deals with a specific topic, shedding light on a group of fishes, invertebrates, or aquatic plants. The remaining two-thirds deals with many other facets of our fascinating hobby. You will find reports on habitats and aquatic scenes all over the globe, as well as interviews with hobbyists and professionals with special insights on different aspects of our hobby. Over the years we have been able to publish numerous reports and articles on topics that were previously unexplored. I am more than happy to share all this with you. We produce this magazine for passionate aquarists like you. Join us and be a part of the global AMAZONAS family! I promise you will not regret it. Yours sincerely, Hans-G. Evers


AMAZONAS

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AQUATIC

NOTEBOOK

This female Orange Rili was the starting point for attempts to fix the Orange Rili color form.

article and images by Hans-Georg Evers

AMAZONAS

Miracles of shrimp breeding

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Hardly any other branch of the aquarium hobby has produced so many new domesticated forms recently as the breeding of “fancy” shrimp varieties. New cultivated forms—or, more accurately, mutations—have been appearing on the Internet at ever-shorter intervals. Most of these forms are far from fixed and breeding true, and many a buyer is disappointed when he finds that the offspring of his fancy new shrimps bear little resemblance to their usually very expensive parents. The breeding of fancy shrimps is based on the same genetic principles as those used for guppies. Anyone who has ever been seriously involved in breeding guppies knows how long it can take before a new strain proves to breed true and can accurately be described as a new cultivated form. Aquarist Gerd Arndt, from Aukrug in Germany, is well on the way to breeding a new strain of the popular Cherry Shrimp, Neocaridina heteropoda. This shrimp is—unlike the sometimes delicate Red Bee forms of Caridina cf. cantonensis—fairly problem-free in its husbandry and appears to offer just as much genetic potential. Arndt’s very lovely strain of the Sakura cultivated form produces a number of gold- and even orange-colored specimens, from which he has produced a now relatively stable strain through selection and back-crossing. At present he and a breeder friend,

Frank Kuhlich, already have a large number of specimens that they are using to try to stabilize the orange as an allover color, as in the Sakura Shrimp. The Orange Sakura will then constitute a distinct new cultivated form, making many shrimp enthusiasts very happy. In spring 2010 an Asian breeder introduced so-called “Rili Shrimps” on his website. In these Neocaridina heteropoda only certain parts of the body are pigmented, while others remain transparent. Solid red and yellow Rili Shrimps have been known, and even the first blue specimens are already being celebrated as a new color form. But these shrimps are certainly not deserving of the label “new cultivated form.” German breeders have also reported being aware of such specimens as mutations of their Red Fire, Yellow Fire, or Sakura. Gerd Arndt has produced not only the Orange Sakura but also numerous individuals that some-

Solid-colored female of the new Orange Sakura color form of the Cherry Shrimp, Neocaridina heteropoda.


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times exhibit transparent areas on the body. Normally such specimens would be culled to avoid “diluting” the strain, but on closer examination Arndt noticed a number of particularly attractive individuals and decided to experiment with them. One female with a bright orange thorax and transparent abdomen looked almost unreal. In the absence of a male of the same color, Arndt put this female together with a male in which the head and tail were orange and the central part of the body transparent. These specimens were the starting point for the ongoing attempt to fix the Orange Rili. Shrimp breeding continues to be exciting, and on seeing the photos presented here some shrimp purists will certainly get fidgety. There is no denying how attractive they are!

So-called “Rili Shrimps” turn up in broods of the Orange Sakura. The photo shows a selection of various Rili Shrimps. These shrimps produce both pure Orange Sakura and Rili Shrimps when bred.

Below, clockwise from top left: Males of the Orange Sakura (left) are, as in other cultivated forms of Neocaridina heteropoda, less intensely colored. The new color form is still not completely stable. There are yellow, only partially orange, and all-over orange-colored Orange Sakura. Specimens like this, with an orange top to the head (so-called Orange Head) were initially present.

AMAZONAS

Red Rili Shrimps have occurred during the breeding of Sakura Shrimps by Arndt and other breeders.

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Above: Breeder Gerd Arndt mated the orange-headed female with a male like this. The F1 produced mainly Orange Sakura, which are to be used for back-crossing.


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AMAZONAS

Biotopes

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AQUATIC

NOTEBOOK A group of adult G. dacrya. The photo illustrates the mood-related intensity of the infraorbital stripe very nicely.

article and images by Thomas Weidner

New Guianacara described In rrecent years science has started to take an iinterest in the genus Guianacara, as evidenced by the description of Guianacara cuyunii and Guianacara stergiosi by López-Fernández, Taphorn, and Kullander in 2006. And now Arbour and LópezFernández have described another new saddlespot cichlid, Guianacara dacrya. As chance would have it, in November 2009 I obtained juveniles of a Guianacara that I have always identified as G. cuyunii until now, as my fishes exhibit

AMAZONAS

For comparison, Guianacara geayi from the Oyapock River.

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the narrow mid-lateral vertical band, at most three scales wide, typical of that species. I had given no further thought to the fact that G. cuyunii apparently shouldn’t have any visible lateral spot on this lateral band, as I didn’t think this was all that important, and in any case the dark pattern elements in Guianacara species vary according to mood. I am now wiser: it is clear from Arbour and López-Fernández (2011) that I am probably keeping Guianacara dacrya. Unlike Guianacara stergiosi, G. sphenozona, G. owroewefi, and G. geayi, Guianacara dacrya has a narrow vertical lateral stripe, which normally occupies only one and a half to two scales and is never more than three scales wide at its broadest point. In adult G. dacrya, the first three dorsal-fin spines and the membranes between them are always black, a character that is also seen in juvenile G. geayi and G. sphenozona but disappears in adult specimens of those species. G. dacrya exhibits whitish dots in both the soft and the spinous parts of the dorsal fin, but this is not the case in G. owroewefi and G. sphenozona.


NRMEUW LA &

FO K AGE PAC

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Avove: Dominant adult male of G. dacrya. The infraorbital stripe and even the “teardrop” are practically invisible. Left: Female G. dacrya with a clearly visible “teardrop” at the bottom of the infraorbital stripe.

AMAZONAS

Right: G. owroewefi shouldn’t have whitish dots on the dorsal fin.

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If a lateral spot is visible in G. dacrya, then it is small and in the upper course of the Essequibo. and round and lies on or slightly below the upper lateral The description of Guianacara dacrya increases the line, as is also the case in G. stergiosi. The other species number of described saddlespot cichlids to seven species. exhibit either a large, oval lateral spot (G. owroewefi) or It is likely to rise even higher as more undescribed species the lateral spot lies on or clearly above the upper lateral become known in the aquarium hobby—from the drainages of the Río Trombetas and the Río Curua in Brazil, for line, as in G. sphenozona. Apparently, only adult G. dacrya example. are supposed to exhibit a clearly visible lateral spot on the lateral band, a character that clearly distinguishes them from G. cuyunii. Unfortunately, I have neglected to check REFERENCES this in my juveniles, so I cannot say for certain whether Arbour, J.H. & H. López-Fernández. 2011. Guianacara dacrya, a new this character is significant. species from the Río Branco and Essequibo River drainages of the Guiana Up to a length of 1.75 inches (45 mm), juveniles Shield (Perciformes: Cichlidae). Neotrop Ichthyol 9 (1): 87–96. of G. dacrya exhibit a distinct infraorbital stripe that Lopez-Fernandez, H., D.C.B. Taphorn, and S.O. Kullander. 2006. Two New fades with increasing age until often only a spot on the Species of Guianacara from the Guiana Shield of Eastern Venezuela (Perciformes: Cichlidae). Copeia 2006 (3): 384–95. lower part of the operculum remains. This spot is usually round, always visible, and looks a bit like a teardrop—the name dacrya is derived from Greek dakryo, meaning to weep, and the authors of the description state that it refers to the “tear-streaked appearance of the infraorbital stripe.” There are additional characters that can best be seen through direct comparison in the home aquarium. Unlike G. cuyunii, G. dacrya has darker branchiostegal membranes and a shallower body. And compared to G. stergiosi and G. cuyunii, G. dacrya has a larger eye diameter as well as a shorter head and shorter MODULAR FILTRATION SYSTEMS pectoral fins. G. dacrya also Add Mechanical, Chemical, Heater typically exhibits filamentous Module and UV Sterilizer as your extensions to the dorsal, anal, needs dictate. and caudal fins, but this is INTELLI-FEED undoubtedly dependent on Aquarium Fish Feeder AQUASTEP status within the group and/ Can digitally feed up to 12 times daily PRO® UV if needed and keeps fish food dry. Step up to new or the well-being of the fish in Lifegard technology question. to kill disease Guianacara dacrya is found causing BIO-MATE® micro-organisims. in Guyana, and in all probabilFILTRATION MEDIA ity also occurs in the drainages Available in Solid, or refillable FLUIDIZED BED FILTER with Carbon, Ceramic or Foam. of the Río Branco and the Río Completes the ultimate biological Uraricoera in Brazil. Although filtration system. there have been no validated QUIET ONE® PUMPS collections in these rivers, the A size and style for every species has been recorded in need... quiet... reliable and energy efficient. the drainages of the Ireng, the Takutu, and the Rupununi Rivers in Guyana, which all Visit our web site at discharge mainly into the Río www.lifegardaquatics.com Branco. G. dacrya has also for these and many other Email: info@lifegardaquatics.com been recorded in the Kuyuwini proven products. 562-404-4129 Fax: 562-404-4159

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AQUATIC

NOTEBOOK

article and images by Ingo Seidel

New scientific names for L-number catfishes We have known the popular Golden Nugget Plecs as aquarium fishes more than 20 years, but it is only recently that the first forms have been scientifically described. Brazilian ichthyologists Rapp Py-Daniel, Zuanon, and de Oliveira (2011) have examined the L-catfishes L 18, L 85, L 177, and L 47 and established the two species Baryancistrus xanthellus and Baryancistrus chrysolomus for them.

The best-known Golden Nugget, L 18, as well as its adult form, L 85, are now called Baryancistrus xanthellus. However, Rapp Py-Daniel et al. also classify both L 18 and L 177 together under this name. The more frequently imported L 18, from the vicinity of Volta Grande on the lower Río Xingu, differs from L 177 from the Rio Iriri (a tributary of the middle Río Xingu) by having a darker base color. Moreover, in L 177 the spots on the body are usually more orange-yellow in color and, as a rule, somewhat

AMAZONAS

The attractive L 47 has now been described as Baryancistrus chrysolomus.

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larger. The grouping together of two such similar and variable forms in a single species is not unusual in ichthyology, even though experienced L-catfish enthusiasts can easily tell L 18 and L 177 apart and the description of two separate species would have been completely justified. But we can live with this decision as long as we continue to distinguish the two forms by their L numbers. By contrast, Rapp Py-Daniel et al. didn’t consider (and don’t even mention) the fine-spotted L 81, a third


L 85 is the adult form of the new species Baryancistrus xanthellus.

AMAZONAS

The similar species Baryancistrus sp. L 81 so far remains undescribed.

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L 177 from the Río Iriri is now also assigned to Baryancistrus xanthellus.

form of Golden Nugget Plec that is also native to the Río Xingu. It is unknown whether this L-catfish will be described as an additional species at some point. Be that as it may, it is worth mentioning that, unlike previously published descriptions of L-catfishes, the paper by Rapp Py-Daniel et al. does refer to the relevant L numbers, and even mentions a breeding report on L 177 (Leuenberger, 2007). We have waited a long time for such a rapprochement between science and the aquarium hobby, and this one is undoubtedly the result of Lucia Rapp Py-Daniel attending the L-Wels-Tage (L-Catfish Days) in Germany in 2009. The so-called Magnum Pleco L 47 has been given the name Baryancistrus chrysolomus by Rapp Py-Daniel et al. The Brazilian ichthyologists give the distribution of

this species as the Río Xingu from the vicinity of Volta Grande to downstream of Belo Monte, as well as the Río Iriri and its tributary the Río Curuá. The type series used for the descriptions of these two species consist largely of relatively small specimens. We know from imports and observations in the field that both species can attain lengths of more than 12 inches (30 cm). REFERENCES

Leuenberger, J. 2007. Aus Fehlern lernen und mit viel Geduld doch zum Erfolg—Nachzucht von Baryancistrus sp. L 177. BSSW-Report 19: 13–18. Rapp Py-Daniel, L., J. Zuanon, & R.R. de Oliveira. 2011. Two new ornamental loricariid catfishes of Baryancistrus from Río Xingu drainage (Siluriformes: Hypostominae). Neotrop Ichthyol 9 (2): 241–52.

AMAZONAS

The correct name for L 18 is now Baryancistrus xanthellus.

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“Wow!” AMAZONAS Volume 1, Number 2 March/April 2012

Use the convenient reply card in this issue, or subscribe online: www.AmazonasMagazine.com

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Become a charter subscriber to AMAZONAS and don’t miss a single issue!

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AQUATIC

NOTEBOOK

Otothyropsis piribebuy

article and image by Ingo Seidel

AMAZONAS

The “Little Brown Oto” (LG2) finally gets a scientific name

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The delightful Little Brown Oto, an Otocinclus-like catfish from Paraguay, has been very popular among aquarists for many years. Although this species was sold for a long time under the made-up name Otocinclus sp. Negros, nobody realized that it couldn’t be an Otocinclus at all until Evers & Seidel (2001) pointed out, in Volume 1 of their Wels-Atlas (Catfish Atlas), that it belonged in an undetermined genus that they referred to as LG 2 (Loricariid Genus 2). But these fishes are like Otocinclus in that they lack an adipose fin. Calegari, Lehmann, & Reis (2011) have now described the species as Otothyropsis piribebuy. The specific name relates to its provenance, as it was described from the Río Piribebuy in the Río Paraguay system. It is a typical inhabitant of whitewater rivers. The specimens on which the description is based were caught among trailing bank vegetation (grasses) and groups of Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia) on the water’s surface. The genus Otothyropsis was erected by Ribeiro, Carvalho, & Melo in December 2005, some years after the publication of the Wels-Atlas, and hitherto contained only a single species, Otothyropsis marapoama from the Río Tietê system in southeastern Brazil. Ribeiro et al. cite as characters of the genus a simple central scute on the

rostrum, enlarged odontodes (spine-like structures) on the upper and lower margins of the snout, and a dermal flap over the iris. Otothyropsis piribebuy is undoubtedly one of the best members of its group for the aquarium because its maintenance has proved easy and it is fairly undemanding with regard to water parameters. Because of its southerly distribution, it can be kept at a room temperature of 61–68°F (16–20°C) or even in a tropical aquarium at 75–82.5°F (24–28°C). This dwarf catfish is also fairly easy to breed in the aquarium. The females attach their small, greenish eggs to aquatic plants. There is no subsequent brood care. REFERENCES

Calegari, B.B., P. Lehmann A., & R.E. Reis. 2011. A new species of Otothyropsis (Siluriformes: Loricariidae) from the Río Paraguay basin, Paraguay. Neotrop Ichthyol 9 (2): 253–60. Evers, H.-G. & I. Seidel. 2001. Wels Atlas, Vol 1. Mergus Verlag GmbH, Melle, Germany. Ribeiro, A.C., M. Carvalho, & A.L.A. Melo. 2005. Description and relationships of Otothyropsis marapoama, a new genus and species of Hypoptopomatinae catfish (Siluriformes: Loricariidae) from Río Tietê basin, southeastern Brazil. Neotrop Ichthyol 3 (4): 489–98.


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NOTEBOOK

Male Crystal Rainbow Tetra, Trochilocharax ornatus.

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Evers, H.-G. 2006. Minisalmler aus Peru. Amazonas 8, 2 (6): 78–82. Zarske, A. (2010): Der Kolibrisalmler Trochilocharax ornatus gen. et sp. nov.—ein neuer Salmler aus Peru. (Teleostei: Characiformes: Characidae). Vertebrate Zoology 60 (2): 75–98.

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Two new Dicrossus Römer et al. (2010) have described two new dwarf cichlids of the genus Dicrossus from the Amazonian part of Brazil, thereby increasing the number of species in the genus to five. Dicrossus foirni from the upper Rio Negro drainage and Dicrossus warzeli from the Rio Tapajós have already been known to aquarists for a number of years. The name Dicrossus warzeli was chosen by the authors to honor posthumously the well-known aquarist Frank Warzel, who caught the species as long ago as 1994 in the central drainage of the Tapajós and subsequently wrote about it. An in-depth article on this species will appear in a forthcoming issue of AMAZONAS.

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The Crystal Rainbow Tetra (see also Evers, 2006) has recently been scientifically described. Zarske (2010) has described the new genus Trochilocharax (in allusion to the hummingbird family Trochilidae) with the single representative Trochilocharax ornatus from the Peruvian state of Loreto. He doesn’t cite a specific collecting locality. The reproductive strategy of this really tiny fish (less than ¾ inch/2 cm long) is interesting and involves a form of internal fertilization, although we are not told precisely how this functions. The systematic position of the new genus is likewise unusual, and for this reason a new tribe, the Trochilocharacini, has been erected for it within the subfamily Stevardiinae. The Crystal Rainbow Tetra is an interesting little species for the dwarf-fish enthusiast. It has already been bred successfully in the aquarium, with juveniles turning up in densely planted tanks. The details of breeding procedures remain unknown. Where are the aquarists interested in finding out?

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Römer, U., I.J. Hahn, & P.M. Vergara. 2010. Description of Dicrossus foirni sp. n. and Dicrossus warzeli sp. n. (Teleostei: Perciformes: Cichlidae), two new cichlid species from the Rio Negro and Rio Tapajós, Amazonas drainage, Brazil. Vertebrate Zoology 60 (2) 2010: 123–38. Threat display by males of Dicrossus warzeli.


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AMAZONAS 21


AMAZONAS C OV E R

STORY

Breeding

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loricariid


catfishes… by Hans-Georg Evers

For more than 20 years, hundreds of different species from the enormous family of loricariid catfishes (Loricariidae) have been swimming into our tanks. Initially welcomed with a frenzy of enthusiasm, the new rarities, such as the Zebra Plecostomus and Co., may have had their day as a craze, but they still have a lively following among serious aquarists. Is the cessation of exports from Brazil, which banned their collection in 2004, a reason for to keep L catfish and let them wither and die—or a huge incentive to home breeders?

AMAZONAS

H.-G. EVERS

Not all loricariid catfishes are bred regularly in captivity. The lovely Scobinancistrus aureatus from Brazil has to date been bred only by accident.

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C OV E R

STORY

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no end in

TK

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Breeding loricariid catfishes on a grand scale: part of Torsten Hartung’s setup described in the text. PHOTO: O. DETERS


TK

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sight?

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Hypancistrus sp. L 174 from the Rio Xingu is one of the species that can be retained in the hobby only with considerable effort.

I will never forget the moment. A civil servant at the time, I stood in a pet shop in Munich and stared, as if in a trance, at the first live Zebra Pleco (L 46) I had ever seen. The price amounted to more than $500, and, for me at the time, almost two months’ pay. I fell madly in love with this fish at first sight and swore that one day I, too, would have loricariid catfishes like that. In fact, it wasn’t all that long before these and other sensationally colored species from the Rio Xingu and Rio Araguaia/Rio Tocantins basins in central Brazil (and somewhat later, the Rio Tapajós as well) were attached to my aquarium décor and creating a furor in the aquarium hobby. Numerous aquarists wanted to keep the striped, the speckled, and the spotted plecs, and if possible to also breed them.

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Pioneering work The German Association of Aquarium and Terrarium Societies (VDA) work group on barbs, tetras, loaches, and catfishes, founded at the end of the 1980s, included a small group of particularly enthusiastic aquarists who were concentrating on trying to breed

H.-G. EVERS

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Hypancistrus species like this L 400 have become rare in the aquarium hobby because of the lack of wild-caught imports.


Almost as if it were laughing: Panaque sp. L 191 has not yet given up its breeding secrets.

Hypancistrus sp. L 136 c is a really attractive form that is being bred by Ernst Schmidt.

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TOP: H.-G. EVERS; BOTTOM: I. SEIDEL TK

L-number catfishes, so named because new species were being found faster than they could be described properly and given scientific names. Back then my friend Ingo Seidel and I worked together with numerous hobbyists and actually managed to “crack” one or two species. When it became clear that these catfishes were cave brooders and required suitable spawning sites, we measured our fishes and produced tailor-made caves by gluing pieces of slate together. One friend also enjoyed making pottery, and this soon led to the invention of the classic loricariid catfish pipes that can nowadays be purchased in many places. I remember endless discussions with Ingo and other friends, including H.J. Franke, who was considered a fine aquarist among enthusiasts at the time. A kind of “gold rush” mood prevailed back then, and each new breeding success was cause for celebration. And, of course, I was also successful with the epitome of the L-number catfish fever, L 46, Hypancistrus zebra. I still maintain and breed this, my favorite fish, today and will undoubtedly continue to do so. The 1990s were wonderful years for us catfish

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enthusiasts. New imports were constantly arriving, new regions traveled, and new species discovered. Eventually Ingo and I began work on the Mergus Catfish Atlases (Evers & Seidel, 2002, Seidel & Evers, 2005). A work of such magnitude is something you undertake only once in a lifetime, and after 10 years the sisyphean task was finally completed with the publication of the second volume. Just five years ago you could still find Hypancistrus species in every pet shop, and numerous enthusiasts had high-rise stacks of pipes with gaudily striped loricariid catfish tails beckoning from each one. But if you look around the shops these days, in many cases you will search in vain for the attractively patterned loricariid catfishes from Brazil. Has the fire gone out? Will L 46 and its relatives suffer the same fate that the dwarf cichlids of the genus Apistogramma did a few years ago? Has the circus—now shrunken to nano size and wildly unpredictable—moved on in its search for new sensations, leaving behind nothing but a few remaining diehards and bare, desolate land?

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Brazil and conservation

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There is no doubt that the ban on exports of the most popular species from the country with the greatest variety of species has drastically limited the choices available in the shops. But many breeders are complaining that they can no longer offer these Hypancistrus species and others at sensible prices. That may be at the heart of a general reduction in interest in these fishes. Brazil is currently hungry for power, and is thoughtlessly destroying the habitats of the species (see Ekstrøm, 2010). And this at a time when scientific study and taxonomic work on the part of Brazilian ichthyologists seems to have ground to a halt. Cynics have already remarked that the Brazilians won’t get around to working on these species until long after they have all become extinct.

What can we aquarists do to change the situation? Ad hoc programs for preserving species in captivity have generally awakened interest. At the first International L-Number Days in Hanover, Germany, in November 2009, more than 140 participants from some 14 different nations demonstrated that the handful of diehard enthusiasts seemed to be larger than originally assumed. So we can indeed attempt to save the species present in the aquarium hobby, joining forces to preserve populations for a while. But it would be naive to assume on that basis that we could make a long-term contribution to the preservation of these fishes. Leaving aside the fact that only the most attractive species stand any chance of being bred on the widest possible scale in the long term, it will also be only a matter of time before they disappear from the aquarium hobby again, perhaps forever. I have no doubt that the preservation of these species can be guaranteed only in the wild, in their original habitats. When I consider the effort required to breed the little Hypancistrus sp. L 174, for example, and grow them to a reasonable size, then compared to the Rio Xingu my numerous aquaria are but a drop in the ocean. But we aquarists can do those things that are the strengths of the aquarium hobby. We can maintain the live fishes, study them, and deliberately breed them. We can also experiment and thus gain insights into the biology of a group of fishes that were still largely unknown 20 years ago, and report our findings. Specimens preserved in formalin tell us nothing on the subject. It is by now clear to many aquarists who are extensively involved in the maintenance and breeding of ancistrine loricariid catfishes that certain fundamental conditions must be met in order to breed the species successfully. I have already discussed this in countless articles and lectures, but nevertheless never tire of reeling

H.-G. EVERS

Hypancistrus sp. L 174 at a few months old. Only a small number of eggs are produced per spawn. The young grow very slowly and are rather delicate.


off the most important factors. In addition to a relatively high water temperature of 82.5 to 86°F (28 to 30°C), an adequately strong current and oxygen saturation, and the presence of suitable caves appropriate to body size, the most important factor is having the patience not to constantly be fiddling around with the aquarium or shining a flashlight on the fishes. Recently, sudden changes in water quality have led to astonishing breeding success, especially in members of the genus Panaqolus. Believe it or not, specialist loricariid catfish enthusiasts continue to make progress and perform fundamental pioneering work on the breeding of L-number species (nowadays including some fairly large ones) and the evolution of new rearing methods. This article is followed by a selection of breeding reports on species that have not previously been bred successfully in the aquarium and/or are not currently available as imports. And to represent the numerous loricariid catfish fans who devote themselves to breeding their pets in tank-filled cellars and fish rooms, I would now like to introduce two aquarists who have been very successful.

I have known Ernst for quite a while from meetings of catfish enthusiasts. He is a charming man with a predilection for Ancistrus species and small Hypancistrus, which he breeds fairly successfully at his home in the small Bavarian town of Neuendettelsau. Ernst is a family man and his family takes absolute priority, so he must focus his breeding efforts to be practical and efficient. His small setup of some 15 aquaria houses a number of attractive species such as Hypancistrus zebra, Hypancistrus sp. L 136, Ancistrus sp. L 309, and a number of others. To avoid hybridization, Schmidt maintains his Hypancistrus species singly, or maybe together with an Ancistrus species. As well as the fundamental factors mentioned above, he regards the correct food as being of particular importance. He mixes various high-quality prepared foods to make a special mixture, which is the only diet he offers his fishes. He grinds it fine for the fry and juveniles. I really like Ernst Schmidt’s idea for floating rearing containers. These are made using a piece of 4-inch (10-cm) cross-section plexiglass tubing some 4–6 inches (10–15 cm) long. The bottom is sealed off with fine

Right: Ernst Schmidt with the rearing container he has devised. Below: The Schmidt floating rearing container in use.

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H.-G. EVERS

Ernst Schmidt

Above: Numerous hiding places are particularly necessary in densely populated rearing tanks.

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Far left: The parentless loricariid catfish eggs are kept moving around in the Arndt “incubator” until they hatch. The stream of water pouring into the right-hand chamber has to be strong enough to keep the eggs afloat so that they don’t drop to the bottom. Once hatched, the fry will automatically attach themselves to the glass with their mouths. Left: Fry-rearing setup chez Hartung.

gauze. The resulting “sieve” is fitted with a buoyancy ring made of Styrodur, a dense, waterproof styrofoam product. He then suspends an airstone in the rearing container, and the airlift effect constantly circulates in fresh water and the fry are supplied with adequate oxygen. The fine-ground food can readily be “grazed” from the gauze by the fry. Every day Ernst cleans the container with a toothbrush. The fry grow exceptionally quickly in these conditions.

Torsten Hartung Torsten and Anke Hartung live in the little town of Kaltenkirchen to the north of Hamburg. Anke accepts the space-consuming hobby of her partner: Torsten breeds a large number of loricariid catfishes, his absolute favorites, in some 2,900 gallons (11,000 L) of water divided

between 44 aquaria. He started only a few years ago, having rediscovered the aquarium hobby of his youth. But, as he says with a smile, the virus has affected him more severely in middle age. The well-maintained setup is housed in two rooms. There are four large blocks of tanks, each equipped with a centralized filter. The immaculate aquaria are heated VTJOHBOBRtUIFSN¥IFBUFYDIBOHFSDPOOFDUFEUPUIF home’s water heating system. This has almost halved the previously high electricity costs. Hartung keeps each species separate for breeding. A number of large aquaria are used for rearing his own and other tank-bred youngsters for subsequent breeding attempts. He keeps primarily the attractive Hypancistrus species, but also Panaqolus sp. L 204, Hemiancistrus subviridis

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TOP: O. DETERS; BOTTOM: H.-G. EVERS

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Hartung has already had a first spawn of Hemiancistrus subviridis L 200.


L 200, and other genera (Leporacanthicus, Baryancistrus) swim in his large-dimensioned, scrupulously clean aquaria, which are decorated with wood he has collected himself and masses of homemade clay pipes. Hartung’s feeding secret isn’t a secret at all: he happily relates how he regularly catches vast quantities of live water fleas (Daphnia sp.) in summer. He also uses dry food pellets and food tablets. The brooding males are transferred into the well-known “Gerd Box,” named after the German aquarist Gerd Arndt, who developed these small, suspended containers at an early stage; they are fitted with airlift tubes to provide a constant flow of fresh water and have by now become standard equipment among loricariid catfish breeders. Likewise the Arndt “incubator”—in which loricariid catfish eggs, extracted from caves, are kept floating until they hatch—is constantly employed in the Hartung hatchery. Once the young reach a certain size they are transferred into the aquaria in the rearing blocks, where they are grown on to saleable size. The rearing tanks are equipped with numerous hiding places.

No end in sight! Some of the early excitement generated by discovery after discovery of new L-number species may have lessened, but there are still sufficient enthusiasts and serious aquarists around the world to whom these curiouslooking fishes are just as important as in the past. And there is still the challenge of keeping and breeding the now-rare Brazilian species. Many loricariid catfishes have not yet condescended to spawn in captivity, and others have only recently provided the first insights. This is where pioneering home breeders are eagerly applying themselves with patience and elbow grease, as the saying goes. For the L-Number Circus, there is no end in sight!

Above, top: The classic method used by loricariid catfish breeders: the “Gerd Box.” One long side of the suspended box is fitted with gauze panel. Fresh water is introduced via an airlift. In this way the young are kept healthy and close together for optimal feeding. The constant supply of fresh water from the main tank guarantees permanently good water quality. Above, bottom: For every loricariid catfish there is a made-to-order ceramic home. Only the tail is visible.

TOP: H.-G. EVERS; RIGHT: T. HARTUNG

REFERENCES

Ekstrøm, J. 2010. Der Belo-Monte-Staudamm am Rio Xingu— ein vorprogrammiertes Desaster. Amazonas 31, 6 (5): 8–12. Evers, H.-G. & G. Arndt. 2009 a.: Viel Platz für Babys—Bau einer Zuchtanlage mit Zentralfilter. Amazonas 26, 5 (6): 72–5. Evers, H.-G. & G. Arndt. 2009 b. Viel Platz für Babys—Bau einer Zuchtanlage mit Zentralfilter. Part 2. Amazonas 27, 6 (1): 72–4. Evers, H.-G. & I. Seidel. 2002. Wels-Atlas volume 1. Mergus Verlag, Melle, Germany. Seidel, I., & H.-G. Evers. 2005. Wels-Atlas volume 2. Mergus Verlag, Melle, Germany.

Torsten and Anke Hartung in the main fish room.

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C OV E R

STORY

—Article and images by Christophe Girardet; translations by Michael Kokoscha & Mary Bailey

Breeding Attempts with L 25 Pseudacanthicus sp. L 25, also well known as the Red-Finned Cactus Catfish, has always been one of my favorite fishes. Since 2001 I had dreamed of owning a pair. The maintenance of these fishes is not exactly easy, as they grow very large and can be rather badly behaved. Because L 25 originates from the Rio Xingu in Brazil, it is also not easy to obtain several sexually mature individuals. Naturally, I wanted to be able to determine what sex they were and was already dreaming of breeding success!

From February 2008 onwards I told everyone who would listen that I was on the lookout for adult wild-caught L 25. Eventually a friend phoned me at the end of August 2008. “Listen, I’m in Germany and have 10 adult L 25 right in front of my nose … still interested?” “You bet!” Nevertheless, I first wanted to know if the fishes appeared healthy, whether they were sexable, and, of course, “How much?” I don’t like buying fishes sight-unseen, but I decided to rely on my loricariid-experienced friend and let him pick out three individuals for me. Late that afternoon, on his way back home, he met me on the expressway near where I worked. The very same day the catfishes took up residence in a 422-gallon (1600-L) aquarium at my home.

Above: My 422-gallon (1600-L) aquarium, described in the text.

Below, left: Male in the future breeding cave. Below, right: Pseudacanthicus are rather territorial loricariid catfishes. Here my two male L 25 are fighting for precedence.

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I fed the catfishes twice per day with deep-frozen shrimps and Pacific Krill (1½–2 inches/4–5 cm). Every two or three days they received Hikari algae wafers and Tetra Prima granulate. In addition, I periodically chucked a potato or zucchini into the aquarium, mainly for the Baryancistrus and Glyptoperichthys—though I have sometimes seen an L 25 feeding on it. Maintaining these catfishes in the aquarium requires a lot of space. The tank measured 126 x 27½ x 27½ inches (320 x 70 x 70 cm) and was filtered by two Eheim 2080s. During the week I changed at least 105 gallons (400 L) of water (tap water at 14°dGH and 8°KH). In the same aquarium I maintained not only a number of Crenicichla sp. “Río Guariquito” but also five Retroculus xinguensis, which were gradually approaching sexual maturity. After a few months I decided to provide the cichlids with a suitable spawning substrate in order to encourage them to breed, and in so doing I didn’t give a second thought to the catfishes. I liberated around 30 L of pebbles from a nearby river and simply tipped them onto the sandy bottom of the aquarium. In my stupidity it simply didn’t occur to me that pebbles from a river

TK

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Lots of space required


Female L 25 in my big aquarium.

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TK

Pseudacanthicus sp. L 25 is my absolute favorite fish. The gorgeous red color of the fins is incomparable.

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have a temperature of about 34°F (1°C) in the European winter, while my Xingu aquarium was at around 82.5°F (28°C). My Retroculus now spent the whole night digging in order to construct a nest (or at least try to), and in the process moved the pebbles from one side of the aquarium to the other. As early as the second day the water stank! I didn’t give a thought to the pebbles, but went looking for a large dead fish.

Water changing I responded with a water change using 105 gallons (400 L) of rain water. Eventually I managed to count the inhabitants of the aquarium and none was missing. The large L 25 male (in this case there was no doubt regarding sex) was sitting in his cave and fanning—at least, he was moving his ventral fins rhythmically. At first I thought that he was doing this because of the high level of water pollution, but then I discovered that he wasn’t alone in his cave. At this point I became a little worried, as I wasn’t sure about the sex of the other fish. Were they spawning or fighting over the cave? The water continued to stink the next day. I performed a further 105-gallon (400-L) water change with rain water. The temperature dropped to 75°F (24°C), but the situation appeared to improve. The two L 25s were still together in the pipe. I decided not to interfere. But it was incredibly difficult to keep my hands out of the aquarium. On the third evening I performed another 105-gallon (400-L) water change, but this time with tap water. The water now smelled normal and I could no longer see any oily bacterial film on the surface. When I took a quick look into the cave I saw only the male, who was, however, still fanning. I was already dreaming of fry, though I didn’t get my hopes too high. It was very difficult to photograph or even see clearly what was going on in the 20-inch (50-cm) deep cave. I decided to cross my fingers and leave the male in peace. On the fourth evening the male abandoned the cave, leaving it empty. I found only a few egg shells and wasn’t sure whether any fry had hatched at all. But I could now readily identify the female, who had retired to the rear of the aquarium. She had been injured slightly by the male, but as far as I could tell not seriously—just a few bites to the dorsal fin and tail. Her genital papilla was very well developed. I feared that I had disturbed the fish but hoped that the female was still carrying some eggs.

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Breeding diary

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Day 1: After getting home from work today I did my round of the fish room to make sure all was well. Naturally I started by looking for my three favorite fishes. I was able to find the putative second male but no trace of the other two fish, so I next checked all the caves with a flashlight. I found my pair in the third, close together, fanning and quivering.

Because I didn’t want to make any more mistakes, I carefully retreated and left the two of them in peace. Day 2: No change! The two fishes are staying in the cave all the time. The female appears to be very still, which worries me a bit. Hopefully the male hasn’t killed her. I would love to post something on my favorite forums, but announcing the spawning would guarantee that something would go wrong. So I’ll bide my time. Day 3: Before I went to work this morning I could see that the female was moving. I assumed that she wanted to leave the cave. But the male had other plans. By that evening the male was alone, but fanning an enormous clutch. Although the cave is very wide I can hardly see the spawn, as the male is concealing it with his body and fins. It is amazing what a powerful stream of water he is producing in and out of the cave. Day 4: The male is guarding his clutch very conscientiously. But because of the depth of the cave it is difficult to take photos. The male is covering the spawn at the rearmost end of the cave. I am particularly anxious not to disturb him a second time. Day 7: I think that the only way of enabling the male to perform the brood care will be to set up a species aquarium. Yesterday an 8-inch (20-cm) long Crenicichla female discovered that there must be something tasty in the cave. The L 25 male fought to protect his eggs and Clutch on the fourth day after spawning.

On day 7, hatching begins.


Day 6 after hatching, and the yolk sac is still rather large.

After 12 days the yolk sacs have still not been used up and the ďŹ rst body pigmentation is visible.

By the 15th day the fry are dark in color and their yolk sacs have almost disappeared.

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Day 25: The fry exhibit a light-colored stripe pattern on the back. Artemia nauplii and food tablets are eaten greedily.

in so doing came almost completely out of the cave. The same thing happened again in the evening. I can see that the ball of eggs has been damaged during the skirmishes and broken into three parts. I don’t want to risk leaving the spawn in an aquarium with cichlids. I’m not sure if it is the right decision, but I will take the spawn away from the male. Day 9: It seems that my intervention wasn’t a good idea. I didn’t have a spare rearing aquarium to which to transfer the spawn, and had to leave the eggs in a suspended breeding trap for 48 hours. I made haste to prepare a 14-gallon (54-L) aquarium with sand from another aquarium and a small external ďŹ lter, and then moved the eggs for the second time in the space of two days. I damaged a number of the eggs in the process. I am afraid that these two moves will prevent the hatching of many larvae. Six days have passed since the spawning and I think it is still too soon for hatching under normal circumstances. I fear major losses despite the addition of methylene blue. Day 10: This morning I spent 45 minutes cleaning the rearing tank and removing the dead eggs and larvae. The water smells bad again already, as a major part of the larvae and eggs have died off in the poorly ďŹ ltered 14-gallon (54-L) aquarium. I estimate that I have lost around 100 eggs or larvae in the last 15 hours. Daily water changes may well be the answer. When I left for work today the rearing tank was clean with no dead or fungused larvae and eggs. But given the poor conditions I must expect further losses. Day 11: I can’t stop this process of attrition. Even if I change the water daily and clean the tank twice per day, the larvae continue to die regardless. The same desolate sight every time I go into my ďŹ sh room. It was a rather stupid idea to take the clutch away from the male so early on. I should have left the eggs with him despite the threat from the cichlids. I believe there are three fundamental problems: tUPPGSFRVFOUNPWFTUPEJGGFSFOUXBUFSDPOEJUJPOT tUPPNVDICBDUFSJBPOUIFCPUUPNPGUIFSFBSJOH tank, weakening the eggs and larvae, tUPPFBSMZIBUDIJOHDBVTFECZUIFmSTUUXPQPJOUT Day 12: Things looked a bit better this morning. I found no dead larvae. I think that I underestimated the original size of the clutch. I have lost around 20–30 eggs per day during the last four days and there are still 77 left. On the basis of experiences with my Pseudacanthicus sp. L 320, at 82°F (28°C) hatching should have begun on the eighth day after spawning. Because of my mistakes, the larvae hatched two days too early. I was worried that this would have an adverse effect on the survivors, but today they are a nice shape, with the beginnings of eyes, well-developed circulatory systems, and tiny tails. Day 13: Because of the problems in rearing, the growth rate is undoubtedly not representative. I still have around 70 larvae in the rearing aquarium. I have decided

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Day 30: The fry have increased in bulk and the fins are becoming yellow.

Day 37: It is already possible to recognize the young as little cactus catfishes.

Adult males of L 25 have much thickened first pectoral-fin rays densely set with odontodes or dermal teeth.

to remove the substrate, as this will make it easier to monitor and clean the tank. Day 17: The yolk sacs are getting steadily smaller. Although there are now only 50 larvae remaining, I am a lot more optimistic than a week ago. The original alpha male in the 422-gallon (1600-L) aquarium appears to have changed his behavior. I probably caused him a degree of stress by taking the spawn away from him. He has now adopted the behavior of a subordinate individual and the second male has been challenging him for supremacy. The first male has retreated to the rear of the aquarium and is fanning in a previously empty cave. He only rarely comes out to feed. Day 19: I am beginning to feed the fry, but it seems to be still too early. Could this have something to do with the temperature? Day 21: I think that 79°F (26°C) is inadequate for rearing L 25. The tank is heated to above the ambient temperature in my fish room and is sited near the air conditioner. Even with a heater set at 82°F (28°C), the water temperature in the rearing tank measures only 77–79°F (25–26°C). I must do something about that. Day 23: I covered the rearing aquarium with a pane of glass. Within a few hours the temperature rose to 82°F (28°C)—a huge difference. The larvae have come out of their hiding places and also appear to be feeding at last. A couple of degrees makes a huge difference. Day 30: There are now 32 fry, a meager total. I think I know what went wrong, and will have another try in the summer.

Substrate in the rearing tank?

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Group of young at the age of 75 days.

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I have read numerous articles about substrate in the rearing tank without being able to make up my mind what is correct for my fishes. Some people say that a bare glass bottom is much easier to keep clean, and others say that a new bacterial film can develop on it. I have used a sand substrate for rearing three times (twice with L 320 and once with the L 25 discussed here) and each time I lost more than 80 percent of the brood. This was probably less a matter of the substrate and more of mistakes in maintenance. But as soon as I decided to go for a bare bottom and daily water changes I stopped losing fry.


Determining sex My two breeding specimens measure only 12–14 inches (30–35 cm) Standard Length, and the characteristics I used to determine sex probably work only in individuals of the same size. First of all I looked at the body form. Males are much slimmer than females. Their head profile is longer, and in my male, at least, the color is reddish rather than brown, while the reverse is true of the female. The dorsal, pectoral, and caudal fins are smaller in the female. The males appear to use their fins to make themselves look larger and broader. I have observed that the dorsal fin in my males appears to be higher. I am not sure whether this is a reliable character, but the caudalfin lobes in the female are only ¾–1¼ inches (2–3 cm) long as opposed to 2–2¾ inches (5–7 cm) in the male. Does this depend on the time of year or the position of the fish in the order of rank? I don’t know the answer, but this character can be clearly seen in my aquarium. It comes as no surprise that the pectoral fins of the male are set with rather impressive odontodes, also known as dermal teeth. The fin rays are much thicker and longer in the male than in the female.

A new attempt At the end of September 2009 I started trying to stimulate the fishes to spawn again with daily water changes. I installed an 80-gallon (300-L) storage tank in my fish room so as to be able to aerate, heat, and filter the tap water for 24 hours prior to water changes. From the end of September to mid-November I changed 80 gallons (300 L) of water around five to six times per week, depending on my motivation. The water was replaced immediately as it was siphoned off, so that the water level dropped hardly at all and the temperature fell only from 88 to 80.5°F (31 to 27°C).

Six weeks passed without anything happening, apart from the female getting continuously fatter. Then in mid-November she joined the male in his cave. The male evicted her again on the fourth night (November 23) and then fanned and guarded the spawn very conscientiously for some days. But the Retroculus and the other loricariids in the aquarium were causing him stress, and early in the morning of November 27, just as I was about to leave for the 1st International L Catfish Event in Hanover, Germany, I found part of the clutch (around 40 eggs) outside the cave. I quickly removed the eggs before the other fishes could eat them, and with high hopes transferred them to the rearing tank I used the first time around. I couldn’t see whether the rest of the eggs in the cave were OK, but the male was still fanning diligently. However, I now had to be on my way! When I returned home four days later, I found only four larvae left! The trumpet snails had eaten the rest of the spawn. Had the eggs not been fertilized? The only positive was that I now knew how to trigger spawning in my L 25s: massive water changes and very good feeding, plus soft, warm, very well aerated water. Finally, I was able to exchange the second male for a (putative) female in Hanover. The new fish is much smaller (8 inches/20 cm Standard Length), and I am still not quite sure about its sex. We’ll just have to wait and see.

A little Pseudacanthicus sp. L 25 at the age of 111 days.

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TK

Right: Complete! After 250 days the youngsters are miniature copies of their parents. Now all they have to do is to grow on well, I hope in order to breed the next generation one day.

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C OV E R

STORY by Udo Wanninger

First Breeding of the Cactus Catfish L 97 Long fascinated by the beauty of the Pseudacanthicus species, for some time I had been toying with the idea of adding a second species to my Pseudacanthicus sp. L 114. But I was initially deterred by the literature, which repeatedly cites an eventual size of more than 16 inches (40 cm). Moreover, cactus catfishes, as Pseudacanthicus are also called in recognition of their robust spines, are notorious for being extremely rough fellows. Only recently have I learned that there are purportedly also smaller species.

As far as I could tell, only L 65 and L 114 appeared to be smaller than the rest of the Pseudacanthicus. I remained of this opinion until I took a look at a book by Ingo Seidel (2008), in which, to my astonishment, not only L 65 and L 114 but also L 97 are stated to be catfishes of only 8 inches (20 cm) adult size. The book had been available in the trade for probably less than 10 days when I first made contact with the author and asked him whether the size details were a mistake or genuinely applicable. Ingo Seidel confirmed the size data and told me he had seen numerous L 97, but none of them had been longer than 8 inches (20 cm). A few weeks later, in April 2008, I discovered a

number of L 97 at Aquaglobal in Seefeld, near Berlin. The group of six had come in only that day and obviously still had to spend a while in quarantine. Their 80-gallon (300-L) tank contained only a single hiding place, a large plastic cave around 16 inches (40 cm) long. When I looked at the fishes my pulse rate rose to 180, and although they were far from cheap I reserved the group pending my return from a meeting of the Mecklenburg catfish enthusiasts in Negast, Germany.

Marked territorial behavior I had intended to pick up all six fishes three days later on my return journey to Switzerland. But on arrival I stood

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TK

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Half-grown specimens are still relatively coarsely spotted and reminiscent of the juvenile pattern.


horrified in front of the tank and was forced to realize how territorial cactus catfishes can be. The largest male had attacked the other L 97 specimens in the tank to such an extent that almost all their fins were shredded. Some of the catfishes had large gashes in their skin so that red areas were visible. It was painful to see. I nevertheless decided to buy three of the six catfish. From breeding reports on L 114, L 25, and Pseudacanthicus leopardus I knew that it was possible to make a stab at sexing them on the basis of head shape (males have a broader head) on the one hand, and on the other by the smaller fins of the female. I thought that the catfishes I was buying must be a female and two males, although I wasn’t positive because of the state they were in. It wasn’t possible to detect clear differences in the size of the dorsal or ventral fins. Back home I quarantined the L 97 for eight weeks in a well-decorated tank with a wealth of cover and hiding places. The battered catfishes quickly recovered, and I now regretted not having bought all six. Still uncertain regarding the sex of the fishes, a month later I transferred them to a bucket and looked at them from above. The Pseudacanthicus sp. L 97 were by now well fed and all their wounds had healed. On the basis of the broad head and the large ventral and dorsal fins, it was rapidly clear to me that I had acquired three males. There was no longer any point in staring hopefully at them, and disillusionment set in. My friend Patrick Kowalski, who works at the aquarium store

Deister Aquaristik, immediately offered to keep a lookout for L-97 females. Thus a few weeks later, in April 2009, I obtained another three L 97 from Deister Aquaristik, two of which were definitely females.

Breeding preparations The breeding tank was a species tank and apart from the L 97, housed only a number of Red Fire Shrimps and a few trumpet snails. These performed a very useful service as scavengers, as they could get into places inaccessible to the catfishes. I arranged the breeding tank so that it provided more than enough caves of various sizes, shapes, and materials. On top of the caves I placed an assortment of clay tiles and pipes, so that there were multiple shady areas, refuges, and hiding places. The experience at Aquaglobal had clearly shown me what havoc cactus catfishes can wreak in just a couple of nights. Because they can be very territorial, I wanted to limit this behavior by providing sufficient hiding places. I adjusted the water parameters to 82.5°F (28°C), pH 7, and conductivity 150 μS/cm. The tank was aerated using an airlift-powered filter containing bonded filter matting. I fed the fishes generously every day, alternating tablets containing fish products and live food with black and red mosquito larvae, mussel meat, and Artemia. Twice a

Relatively coarse spotted specimen of Pseudacanthicus sp. L 97 from the Rio Tapajos.

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H.-G. EVERS

This specimen of L 97 exhibits a much finer spotting.

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The male has entered a cave, and the eggfilled female waits to be allowed in.

week I gave them “Udo’s Power Food,” which I make myself. I am convinced that this makes a significant contribution to females developing a nice big clutch of eggs. Soon all the new arrivals had settled into their new tank. Two caves were occupied by the male and the females found their own little places in the gaps in between as well as beneath the tiles. The females became increasingly rounded and one genital papilla became clearly visible during the same month.

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Water changes using rain water

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By adding tap water I now continually altered the water parameters in the direction of pH 7.8 and conductivity 300 μS/cm in the space of a single month. From May 2009 on, I used rain water, and thus radically altered the water parameters. To do this I changed 50 percent of the tank volume daily for seven days, refilling it with warmed-up rain water. I raised the temperature to 86°F (30°C) and adjusted the water parameters to pH 6.5 and conductivity 50–100 μS/cm. To my delight, spawning activity soon became evident. A female only 6¼ inches (16 cm) long approached the largest male with striking frequency and kept trying to intrude her head into his cave, whereupon she was repeatedly evicted with powerful beats of his tail. I didn’t stop the water changes with warm rain water. Far from it: I immediately increased the amount of water changed from 50 percent to 70 percent. This caused the temperature in the tank to drop to 77°F (25°C). In order to get it back up to 86°F (30°C) as quickly as possible, I installed two additional 75-watt heaters to supplement the two of the same wattage already in use. I thus achieved the desired 86°F (30°C) in less than two hours. This water changing lasted for around four days until success became evident. The activity of the female didn’t diminish at all: on the contrary, after each water change I saw lively action in the tank. Not infrequently there was a regular chase around the aquarium, until eventually the male was exhausted and, breathing rapidly, returned to his home cave. This spectacle continued until one morning in May 2009, when I saw that the indefatigable efforts of the female had borne fruit. I was very happy to see the female was now in


the cave and the male behind her, defending the entrance against the intrusion of rivals and Peeping Toms armed with flashlights. I was even more excited the next morning when I saw that the female had left the cave. Flashlight in hand, I managed a quick glimpse of an impressive ball of eggs. Its size was astonishing in view of the small size of the female. In the days that followed I kept the tank covered with a handkerchief to protect it from inquisitive spectators, and installed a portable 36-watt UV sterilizer in the filter system. I hoped that this would help protect the eggs against fungus spores and other pathogens. I had

to grit my teeth and exercise self-discipline to keep from checking the cave for changes more than once a day.

An annoying mishap On the sixth day after spawning, I discovered two larvae that had been accidentally fanned out of the cave, and was able to siphon them off and transfer them to an already-prepared suspended container fitted with an airlift and containing three trumpet snails, two small Sea Almond leaves, and an airstone. When, on the seventh day, there were another 30 or so larvae whizzing around in the tank, all of which I had

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U. WANNINGER

I use my largest suspended containers for rearing the larvae, above. You can see the larvae with their large yolk sacs lying close together at right.

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After consuming their yolk sacs, the fry are almost black and already exhibit the first white patterning.

to laboriously transfer to the suspended container, I decided to empty out the cave. To my surprise the visibly irritated male left the cave as soon as I picked it up. I was now able to pour its entire contents into the suspended nursery. A rough count with the aid of a small wooden stick produced the impressive total of 120 larvae. I was glad I had chosen to use my largest nursery, which had an area of 12 x 8 inches (30 x 20 cm). Unfortunately, for unexplained reasons, around five larvae were dying every day, and were then siphoned out of the container using an airline. In order to prevent further die-off I dosed the water with a few drops of methylene blue and changed 50 percent of its volume daily, using rain water that I had hardened somewhat by adding 5 percent tapwater. The pH rose to 7.0. After a few days this treatment had a noticeable effect, but unfortunately, by then I had lost around 30 larvae. It was now a matter of looking after the remaining 90 larvae and giving them plenty of attention. I regularly cleaned the container with a nylon brush from then on to prevent any likelihood of fungus coating the bottom. The larvae had by now almost entirely used up their yolk sacs. One evening I cleaned the suspended container as described and turned off the air supply in order to do so. Unfortunately I forgot to turn it back on again. The next morning a wretched scene met my gaze: only 16 larvae were still alive. I could have kicked myself for my mistake. Luckily there was no one else there for me to blame it on in my frustration.

Easy to rear By the seventh day after hatching the yolk sacs were completely exhausted. From then on I fed the fry in the morning and evening with a pinch of my “power food,” which they took eagerly. Within a few days the fry grew on to 1¼ inches (3 cm) and

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TK

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The white spots of a three-week-old Pseudacanthicus sp. L 97 look particularly attractive in dorsal view.


Three-week-old L 97s have attractive white spots.

appeared to be constantly hungry. Rearing the fry in the suspended container was very easy, as they were literally swimming in the food. Any leftovers were consumed by the trumpet snails. As the young catfishes increased in size I was able to offer larger portions. When they were 1½ inches (4 cm) long I transferred the little catfishes to a rearing aquarium, which they shared with Peckoltia compta and some Hypancistrus zebra. The water parameters in the rearing tank were pH 7 and conductivity 200 μS/cm at a temperature of 82.5°F (28°C). I fed the youngsters all sorts of foods, including various food tablets, a variety of frozen foods, and my “power food,” so that within a few months they grew on to a size of 2–2½ inches (5–6 cm). Apart from the mishap with the air supply that cost me almost the entire brood, I have no significant problems to report in rearing the fry and young catfishes. Because of its relatively small eventual size the Cactus

Catfish L 97 is an extremely attractive species for aquaria 59 inches (150 cm) upwards in length. A well-designed setup with clean water, good hygiene, and adequate hiding places is, however, essential for successful breeding. Because of the IBAMA-imposed ban on the export of all Pseudacanthicus species originating from Brazil, it has become practically impossible to put together breeding groups consisting of newly imported specimens. It is now up to us to bring single specimens together in order to create successful breeding groups. It remains to be seen whether L-number catfish breeders can cope with the constant demand for Pseudacanthicus. I very much hope so. REFERENCES

Seidel, I. 2008. Back to Nature—Handbuch für L-catfishes. Ettlingen, Germany. Wanninger, U. 2008. Zuchterfolg bei L 114. Amazonas 18, 4 (4): 24–9.

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U. WANNINGER

1¼ inch (3 cm) long juvenile of L 97.

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C OV E R

STORY by Farid Laid

Breeding Panaqolus sp. L 204 In my view, the banded loricariid catfish known as Panaqolus sp. L 204 is one of the most beautiful L-number catfishes. It is still frequently encountered in the trade, either half-grown or as 1.5-inch (4-cm) juveniles. These fishes originate from the Río San Alejandro and similar tributaries of the Ucayali in Peru, where they are found in fast-flowing reaches, usually attached to wood, which they also unconditionally require in the aquarium. Panaqolus sp. L 204 does not originate from very acid water such as we are used to with numerous L-number catfishes. The relatively high conductivity (200 μS/cm) in the natural habitat means the water parameters are different. These catfishes can readily be maintained in mediumhard water at a pH of around 8.2–8.4, but this doesn’t mean they won’t tolerate a pH of around 6. The temperature should be between 80.5 and 86°F (27–30°C). As already mentioned, these fishes are found mainly among roots and dead wood, and the aquarium must always contain this type of material. I feed them a staple diet of food tablets of various shapes and sizes, including meaty, vegetarian, and wood-enriched foods. I also feed vegetables such as zucchini, carrots, kohlrabi, and sweet red peppers, as well as shelled finger-thick shrimps that I buy from an Asian shop.

Aquarium setup I set up a 26-gallon (100-L) tank for eight L 204 around 4 inches (10 cm) long. I couldn’t yet distinguish males

and females as the fishes were quite simply still too young. After a few months I had the opportunity to take over three adult specimens from a well-known catfish breeder, and, of course, I didn’t have to think twice. I now had a total of 13 individuals. Hence, as soon as possible I set up a tank of their own for the three new adult specimens. The aquarium was a standard manufactured 40 x 24 x 16 inch (100 x 60 x 40 cm) with a volume of 63 gallons (240 L). I had contacted Janne Ekstrøm, who had already bred these gorgeous fishes. He wrote and told me that his tank had a through-flow system and was constantly fed with fresh, soft water. I was immediately able to rule out this method, as my tanks are sited in the bedroom and there was no way at all that I could implement a through-flow system. On the topic of water I was single-minded: it must be low in bacteria! And so there had to be a UV sterilizer, which I duly installed after setting up the tank. The unit was rated at 36 watts and had a continuous throughput of 264 gallons (1,000 L) of pre-filtered water

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H.-G. EVERS; OPPOSITE PAGE: I. SEIDEL

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Half-grown Panaqolus sp. L 204 are imported now and then.


Adult male L 204.

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TK

Female L 204.

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A new tankmate

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Some months passed and I created a chart on which I noted all changes such as temperature, variations in pH and conductivity before and after water changes, and barometric pressure, in order to study any new behaviors that might not have been evident previously. The fishes spent much of their time between the tubes and even more within the tangle of wood, instead of in the tubes. Not once did the male venture into a tube! Six months went by before I discovered the male in a tube for the first time, and then only for brief moments.

A rethink was in order. I filled all the tubes with sand, hoping that the male would occupy and defend his cave if he had to first clear it out. But none of the sand was cleared away. The fishes continued to stay between the tubes. The cover was so good that I could rarely find all three fishes at once. I now made the first major change, as my patience was exhausted. I emptied the tank and set it up again from scratch. In so doing I laid some nine tubes directly on the bottom glass and topped them with a large piece of bogwood that occupied almost half the tank. I also added a new tankmate, a lovely big male that had caught my eye among the other 10 fishes in the other aquarium. I thus provided the large male with a competitor, who at first repeatedly resorted to flight, but eventually occupied a cave and defended it. I couldn’t help but notice signs of nibbling: the big male was working away on the edge of his rival’s cave. I never found out why he did so, but he kept doing it and usually disappeared again afterwards. It wasn’t long before I increasingly saw a female hanging around in the vicinity of the new, smaller male. At last things were getting interesting. And at last what I had been expecting on the basis of descriptions on the Internet took place: the female approached the male and tried to establish contact with him via the filamentous tips of his caudal fin. The male now came out of his cave in a rage and drove away the disturber of his peace.

H.-G. EVERS

per hour. Filtration was accomplished with a homemade internal filter with three blocks of foam and two Czechmanufactured airlifts. To provide current replicating their native conditions, I mounted a current pump with a throughput of 660 gallons (2,500 L) per hour on the same side of the tank, next to the filter. The substrate consisted of a very fine black sand that covered the entire bottom to a depth of a good 1.5 inches (4 cm). To provide the catfishes with hiding places and spawning sites I used clay pipes and bamboo tubes, which I arranged wall-to-wall along the entire rear glass. As in all of my breeding tanks, I topped the tubes with a layer of slate so that all the entrances were shaded. This is important, as, depending on the catfish species, caves may not be used if the entrance is too brightly illuminated. As the finishing touch I placed several pieces of bogwood above the slates to create further shady places and extra caves.


Breeding aquarium for Panaqolus sp. L 204 with lots of bogwood to nibble and as cover. A current pump provides water movement, which seems important in replicating conditions in the wild for this species.

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F. LAID

Portrait of Panaqolus sp. L 204.

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Not 10 minutes passed before the female again “hopped” backwards on her ventral fins in the direction of the cave entrance. And again the male drove her away. I watched this happen regularly for three days. I didn’t dare take photos at this stage of things. I could hardly believe my eyes when I eventually found the two fishes in the tube! The harmony lasted for two days and then the two of them went their separate ways. Unfortunately things stayed that way and I observed no further approaches. Also, the male began to leave his cave and roam into different abodes, insofar as the big male would allow him to.

A little neglect… I rearranged the tank again. This time I simply placed a large piece of wood against the rear glass, without adding any sand and plants. But this time I not only put tubes on the bottom but also perched some on the wood. Some I wedged in place, others I laid on the bottom so that their entrances pointed towards the rear or sides. And some I simply shoved in among the woodwork 4 inches (10 cm) beneath the water’s surface.

Again, almost a year went by. I simulated rain and temperature fluctuations, used healing earth (which I added to the new water during water changes), dosed the water with marine salt to produce large differences in conductivity and changes in osmotic pressure, and slowly adjusted the parameters back to the starting point during the subsequent weekly water changes of 70 to 80 percent—all to no avail. Meanwhile, I had stopped keeping my records up to date and I had begun to neglect the tank—as usually happens when you start to give up on something. I fed the fishes as usual, but the neglect went so far that the foam pre-filter of the UV sterilizer became so clogged that the unit almost stopped working. During this period the water level regularly sank by a couple of inches (4–5 cm), so that the airlifts could no longer provide any circulation. The younger male now occupied two favorite tubes, one in the bottom right-hand corner and the other at the top left beneath the airlift outlet. These were the only caves where he wasn’t bothered by the larger male. After a long wait I again saw one of the two females in the vicinity of the the two caves, staying close to the smaller

Far left: This juvenile is only slightly orangepigmented, and the snout stripes are rudimentary.

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F. LAID

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Left: With increasing size the pattern shows more contrast. Beautiful curved lines have already developed on this juvenile.


A Panaqolus sp. L 204 at only a few weeks old. The banding is not yet fully developed.

male. This behavior continued for a long time, but I never saw the two of them together in the cave.

…followed by success Then one evening, when I checked my tanks with a flashlight before going to bed, I discovered something small and stripey that disappeared immediately from the beam of the light. In addition to the catfishes I was keeping only Malaysian Trumpet Snails and Red Fire Shrimps in the tank. I now began to illuminate every conceivable corner of the tank with the flashlight beam. Then I again found something striped, and I could hardly believe my eyes when a half-inch (14-mm) little catfish came into view. I removed the cave belonging to the smaller male and emptied it into a net in the hope of finding a throng of young catfishes. But there were only three little fishes in the net and I couldn’t understand it at all. I now cleaned the pre-filter of the UV unit and fetched my camera to take the first photos. Then, to my astonishment, about 50 little catfishes suddenly appeared in a corner where I had restored the current. It had taken me four whole years to provide the fishes with such poor tank conditions that a shortage of oxygen probably prevailed in the bottom corners due to the lack of current. The little fishes must thus have been lurking beneath the airlift outlet. Further proof that breeding fishes is more than a matter of theory! As a colleague once said to me, “Nature will always try to reproduce herself, and if the conditions are right she will do so. It is just a matter of time.”

F. LAID

Seidel, I. & H.-G. Evers. 2005. Wels-Atlas volume 2. Mergus, Melle, Germany.

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REFERENCES

At the age of around three months my little “stripey socks” have a beautiful contrasting pattern.

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Serranía de la

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AQ UATI C

TRAVEL

Macarena

article and images by Oliver Lucanus a

W

hen my friend Robert first showed me photos of Colombia’s Rio Caño Cristales, I thought they were fakes—the 30-year-old transparencies showed a red stream flowing through a fascinating landscape. It is still Macarenia clavigera is one of the loveliest of all aquatic plants.

possible to fish the river, even though most of the Serranía de la Macarena remains politically unstable.

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Chaetostoma cf. thomasi in the clear water of the Río Guejar.

Crenicichla sp. in the Río Guejar.

Some 30 years ago, Robert was a landowner in San Juan de Arama, at the northern end of the Serranía de la Macarena in Colombia. The town was founded back in 1539 by German immigrants and is one of the oldest European settlements in South America. It lies at the boundary between the lower slopes of the Serranía and the plains of the llanos, which extend from here all the way to the Río Orinoco. Robert actually considered building a hotel in the gorge of the Río Guejar, but shortly afterwards Colombian FARC guerillas politely suggested he should leave the area—probably not a bad option for a US citizen. For almost three decades, the area around the Serranía de la Macarena was a center of operations for FARC, and the little towns of San Juan, Macarena, and Uribe found themselves beyond government control. Nowadays these towns and the Río Duda form the front in the Colombian civil war. One day, I received an enthusiastic phone call from Robert. He was planning to fly to Macarena and I

absolutely must go with him. The nephew of the former mayor, Herr Meyer, a Colombian of German origin, would also be there, and his grandson was the current mayor of the town.

A brief visit to the Río Guejar The journey to San Juan is easy nowadays. It takes four hours from Bogotá to Villavicencio, and then another four hours by car on tarmac roads to San Juan. From there you travel across pastureland to the end of the Serranía de la Macarena, a table mountain that actually belongs to the Guyana Shield—although it lies 620 miles (1,000 km) from the foothills, on the western side of the Orinoco, and only around 3 miles (5 km) from the foothills of the Andes. Numerous species of plants and animals are endemic to this small mountain chain, including several species of coca plant that grow wild there. Unfortunately, the wildlife of the region is threatened as never before. The National Park designated in 1948 is being increasingly

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From a distance, the Serranía de la Macarena mountain chain is reminiscent of the table mountains of the Guyana Shield. The eastern flank of the mesa has broken away to form a deep gorge, through which the Río Guejar now flows.

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Above: There are even Apistogramma alacrina in the rapids! Right: Characidium sp. in the rapids.

destroyed by deliberate burning. The forest is shrinking on all sides of the mountains, thanks to illegal cultivation and grazing. The end of the Macarena mesa has split away from the main body of the tableland, and the Río Guejar flows through the deep gorge between the two parts. The military commandant in San Juan offered to let us travel to the river with the relief guard. The cool water of the clear river is home to countless bottom-dwelling characins of the genera Parodon and Characidium, plus, of course, Chaetostoma, which scrape algae from the rounded rocks with their suckermouths. Apistogramma “Rotpunkt” (formerly called Apistogramma alacrina, although some believe it is a separate species) is probably the commonest species of its genus in the Colombian llanos and is exported frequently from Villavicencio. Even so, it was surprising to find it here in the rapids. In addition there were rays and large catfishes in the deeper parts of the river. Unfortunately, the soldiers stationed at the river weren’t particularly eager to accommodate us, and after much too short a time—only an hour—we were taken back to San Juan.

This rheophilic characin may well be an undescribed Parodon species.

The red river

The Río Guejar in the Macarena gorge.

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A flight to Macarena was planned for the next day. The little town had been back under government control for only a few weeks. During the flight over the mountain chain from San Juan in the little Cessna, which lasted for around an hour, we were able to see the little town and the deep red Caño Cristales flowing across the mesa not far away. The fact that 2,000 soldiers belonging to various special units were going to arrive in Macarena on the same day probably came as a surprise to us alone. The offensive they planned against the guerillas on the Río Duda, only a short distance away, put the kibosh on our plans to see the petroglyphs at the Río Guayabero, but nobody seemed to have a problem with our visiting the Caño Cristales. Since the arrival of the military, foreigners had not been allowed to visit this region, and we were the first to come here in years. The part of the river acces-

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Apistogramma alacrina from the Caño Cristales.

sible to tourists is around 1.25 miles (2 km) long and is guarded by soldiers—perhaps simply because we wanted to go to the river. Up until a short time ago, coca was still being cultivated everywhere along the Caño Cristales, and we could still see some of the infrastructure of that cultivation along the footpath. After around 30 minutes by boat and then an hour more through the baking heat of the Serranía de La Macarena, we reached the Caño

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Cichlasoma sp. with fry.

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Cristales, the “River of the Five Colors” as the local people call it. During the dry season the Caño Cristales is little more than a stream, but no less spectacular for all that. Depending on the depth of the water, the color of the Macarenia clavigera growing everywhere in the stream can be described as deep red, pink, or even green. Seen in shallow water over white sand, it looked brilliant red— every aquarist’s dream!


The Caño Cristales from the plane. The red color of the Macarenia is visible even from the air. Over the millennia this little river has carved out a bizarre moonscape. Circular pools, waterfalls, and unusual formations characterize a stretch of river around 2.5 miles (4 km) long. During the dry season the water is usually less than 6.5 feet (2 m) deep.

Macarenia belongs to the family Podostemaceae, a little-known group of plants found throughout the tropics but to date not cultivated successfully in the aquarium. Its aquarium requirements probably include strong light, a rapid, steady current (turbulent water movement would tangle the fine fronds and pull them away from the substrate), and soft, nutrient-poor water. An attempt at cultivation would most likely be pointless unless a tank specially designed for plants in this group was set up in advance. In addition, members of the Podostemaceae grow only on rocks, making their transportation difficult. The little stream was extremely clear and correspondingly poor in nutrients, but even so there were a number of fishes present. Where the water was very shallow and rapid, there were killifishes of the genus Rivulus as well as Apistogramma alacrina and a whole set of characins; the larger pools contained solitary Brycon up to 16 inches (40 cm) long, Hoplias malabaricus (Wolf Fish), and a Cichla-

soma species. However, the fishes were rather unremarkable compared to the splendid red of the plants. The political tension in Colombia is abating and the country is an exciting destination for aquarists. The splendid biotope of the Caño Cristales is certainly worth a visit. A new road is going to be built between the Serranía de la Macarena and the Andes, and then straight across the Colombian llanos. The Caño Cristales is valuable as a tourist attraction, but it remains uncertain how long it will be before the Macarena forest is completely cleared along the Río Guejar. Like many of the loveliest places in the world, this area is a potential source of income from tourism, but a small group’s shortsighted desire for profit is threatening the entire region. Acknowledgments: My special thanks to Robert and Gustavo, as well as the Meyer family in San Juan, who helped us cope with the logistical challenges of our visit.

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At close quarters Macarenia clavigera resembles Cabomba, but the red color is even more intense.

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AQ UA R I U M

GARDENING

article and images by Maike Wilstermann-Hildebrand Stemmed plants such as Water Wisteria, Ambulia, Hornwort, and Elodea are among the bestknown aquarium plants, and regarded as uncomplicated. Their rapid growth makes them valuable for ďŹ lling out a tank with lush growth, but it also creates an element of maintenance.

Growing

Stemmed plants can be used to create a contrast-rich aquarium design and at the same time provide the ďŹ shes with cover.

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stemmed plants 56

Aquarium plants are roughly divided into two categories on the basis of their habit of growth. On the one hand we have the so-called rosette-forming plants, in which all the leaves issue from a single central point, and on the other there are the stemmed plants, in which the indi-

vidual leaves are arranged in a variety of ways along one or more branching stems. Because stemmed plants do not as a rule grow out of the water in the aquarium, they do not form any ower buds and there is nothing to limit the growth of the leader. This means that our stemmed


Ludwigia palustris is easier to cultivate than other redstemmed plants.

Ambulia (Limnophila sessiliora) is a good plant for beginners.

After purchase, the lead weight and damaged leaves are removed from the plants.

such as laurel and spruce the leaves or needles can have a life of 5–10 years, but in our aquarium plants the life expectancy of an individual leaf is a few weeks to a few months. How long the leaves survive depends to a very large extent on the availability of light and nutrients. A

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plants just keep on growing and can be virtually immortal. New growth takes place at the tip of each shoot, with new leaves being formed there. Thus the leaves increase in age from the top to the bottom of the stem. Leaves have a limited lifespan. In evergreen trees

Cabomba aquatica is very beautiful but unfortunately rather delicate.

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A sharp knife is used to cut the stem above a side shoot. That way both cuttings will have growing points.

Left: Growth patterns of top cuttings, central cuttings, and the basal part of the stem. Because the bottom part doesn’t need to produce new roots, it may grow faster than the rootless cuttings.

vital, functional, and attractive by providing the plant with light and nutrients.

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Optimal growth

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lack of potassium and too little nitrogen (N) will cause the leaves to age more rapidly. If the lower part of the stem doesn’t receive enough light, this will accelerate the aging process as well. During the aging process (senescence), nutrients are lost from the leaves. Chlorophyll and stored minerals are broken down and transported from the old leaves to the younger shoots. As a result the older leaves turn yellow and die. The lower part of the stem becomes bare. We can thus influence how long the section of stem remains

The relatively rapid growth of stemmed plants makes them biologically valuable for the aquarium. During the process of growth the plant takes up nitrate and phosphate, among other things, and converts them into building blocks for its own structure. The more mass a plant produces, the more nutrients it can bind up. If it grows rapidly it also takes up nutrients rapidly. This is particularly beneficial where large amounts of nutrients are constantly being introduced into the aquarium as a result of generous feeding. And for this reason, particularly vigorous growth is seen in Hygrophila, Bacopa, and the like in beginner’s tanks with dense populations of fishes. By contrast, aquarium professionals with barely measurable levels of nitrate and phosphate in their water often have difficulty cultivating “beginner’s plants” such as Elodea and Hornwort.


TIPS

With a little practice, planting using tweezers is quite easy.

Upward growth of the stems is accelerated by high temperatures and a large supply of nitrogen. A temperature of 71.5–77°F (22–25°C) will suit most plants. They will grow at higher temperatures, but then require more light and nutrients. If the light is inadequate then the shoots become “leggy,” in other words the sections between the leaves (internodes) get longer. In such cases the leaves are usually small and the stem spindly.

The optimal situation for the plant is to have adequate nutrients, in the correct proportions, for unlimited growth. Ideally, carbon dioxide (CO2) will then act as a limiting factor, as a restricted supply of carbon will result in the slowing of growth in the plant. If other nutrients are present in too-small quantities, this will result in disturbances in the metabolism of the plants and express itself as discoloration (chlorosis), malformation, and shortening of the lifespan of the leaves. Hence it is important to use fertilizer to supplement all trace elements regularly—not just iron.

The correct way to take cuttings

Stemmed plants develop roots at the leaf nodes, hence at least one such node should be inserted into the substrate when planting.

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Only a few stemmed plants, such as Pogostemon helferi and Staurogyne repens, have a creeping habit under water. The majority rapidly grow up to the water’s surface. Some species, for example Limnophila aquatica, will soon protrude above the water and sometimes even form flowers. Other plants, such as Heteranthera zosterifolia, simply grow along the surface and thereby shade any plants growing below. For this reason the stems must be pruned regularly. Leaving aside the fact that this “cutting back” tailors the vegetation so it once again accords with our aesthetic

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The stem should always be severed between two leaf nodes. Depending on conditions, the plants produce roots or side shoots at these points. When the cutting is subsequently planted, at least one leaf node should be inserted into the substrate, so that the roots can spread out from it into the planting medium. The trick is to cut just above a side shoot, as then the lower cutting will already have a growing point and develop quickly. Always use a sharp knife or razor blade to take cuttings, slicing through the stem with a single long stroke and without exerting any pressure, in order to avoid squashing. Blunt knives, scissors, and even fingernails can result in squashing of the lower end of the stem, the part that will be exposed to particularly destructive microorganisms in the substrate. A clean cut will heal more readily and assist the rooting of the cutting.

Planting the stems

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Hornwort can be held in place at the bottom by tying it loosely to a piece of wood. This plant can’t be pushed into the substrate like other stemmed plants.

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requirements, in removing pieces of plant from the aquarium we also remove the nutrients they contain. If the stems and leaves were left to rot in the aquarium, the nutrients would end up back in the system water. By the same token, it is also important to remove old and dying leaves from the aquarium. “Pruning” is perhaps not quite the right term for this type of “aquatic gardening.” We are actually rejuvenating our plant population. Because the growing tips are the youngest, most vital parts, they are of special interest when we remove them. We can use them as tip cuttings, though they shouldn’t be too short. They will initially need to derive nutrients from their own tissues in order to form new roots. If the cutting is too short then it will die. We therefore need to harvest the upper section of the stem, severing the top 4–8 inches (10–20) cm with a sharp knife. In this way we obtain material for propagation that equates with the bundles of stemmed plants we can buy in the shops. Depending on the overall length of the stem, its now-decapitated lower part can sometimes be cut into additional pieces to obtain further cuttings. The bottom, rooted part can be left in situ, as it will often sprout a side shoot from a leaf axil. However, this new shoot will grow satisfactorily only if it is provided with enough space and light.

Depending on the effect you want to achieve, you can shorten the stems to different lengths. They should be planted in the substrate working from the rear of the tank forwards, with the longer stems at the back and becoming progressively shorter towards the front. Each plant should be inserted individually to ensure that every shoot receives light all the way down to its lower foliage, as otherwise the less well illuminated parts of the plant will lose their leaves. The distance between the cuttings will depend on how broad they are in diameter from leaf tip to leaf tip and how closely the leaves are positioned on the stems. For example, leaf-bearing stems of Limnophila aquatica have an overall diameter of up to 3 inches (8 cm) and should be positioned sufficiently far apart that the leaves of two adjacent plants only touch or overlap slightly. The same applies to other species with dense foliage, for example Limnophila sessiliflora and Cabomba species. The distance doesn’t need to be as great in some other plants, for example Hygrophila angustifolia, where the leaves are very long but at the same time narrow, as the open nature of the foliage means there is less shading. But they should still be at least 1½–2½ inches (2–3 cm) apart so that the plants will have sufficient root space in the substrate. The best way to plant cuttings is to use tweezers. The smaller the plants and the closer together they are to be planted, the smaller the tips of the tweezers should be. The lower end of the cutting should be held carefully with the tweezers so that the latter, rather than the plant stem, makes the necessary hole in the substrate. As when taking the cutting, it is important to avoid squashing or nicking the stem when planting. Within a week of planting the cuttings will have formed new roots and will have grown a fair bit in length. Depending on the growing conditions and the species of plant, within around 14 days they may again have grown so tall that they require further pruning.


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Biotopes

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HUSBANDRY

& B R E E D IN G

3 Easy article and images by Jens Hamann

Labidochromis from Lake Malawi

After the “mbuna” mouthbrooding cichlids from Lake Malawi first invaded our aquaria back

in the 1970s, it was more than 10 years before the first yellow Labidochromis were imported to enchant us with their gorgeous coloration. The first wild-caught specimens were taken to Burundi by Pierre Brichard, a Belgian collector, then bred and exported, and this initially gave the false impression that they were actually Lake Tanganyika cichlids.

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Here we will take a closer look at three especially commendable members of the genus from Lake Malawi, the southernmost of the Great Rift Valley lakes in East Africa.

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Because Labidochromis belong to the mbuna group— that is, the rock-dwelling cichlids of Lake Malawi—the aquarium should be decorated with lots of rockwork in which low-rank individuals can take refuge. Sand or fine gravel are the most suitable substrate materials. The tank should be no less than 50 gallons (200 L) in volume. A temperature of 75–79°F (24–26°C) is perfectly adequate. These fishes are very adaptable when it comes to total hardness and will be happy at values between 5° and 30°dGH. A pH between 7.5 and 8.5 is advisable, while the conductivity is unimportant. Labidochromis fall into two trophic groups in the natural habitat: some use their specialized dentition to pick aquatic invertebrates out of crevices, while others graze on biocover growing on the rocks. While this green matter appears to be simple algae, it actually includes various types of hair and unicellular algae, along with a variety of small crustaceans and other microorganisms, including insect larvae, snails, mites, and other zooplankton. This means it is important to know to which group a species belongs, as only members of the second group will be interested in vegetable food. For these species foods with a large component of Spirulina algae are recommended, with the addition of fresh vegetables such as lettuce leaves and slices of cucumber and zucchini. Both groups can be fed live and frozen foods such as Daphnia, Artemia, Mysis, and mosquito larvae. But an element of individual experimentation is desirable here, as these

fishes are greedy omnivores and welcome variety. Mbuna, especially males, tend to grow larger in captivity than in the wild, as their food requires less effort to collect and is often more nutritious. As long as the additional size is naturally proportioned it causes no apparent harm, but obesity is another matter. This is usually caused by feeding unsuitable foods (e.g. warmblooded protein such as beef heart) and protein-rich dried foods, and is likely to result in ill health and shortened lifespan. If you want to retain the natural Labidochromis size of 3½–4 inches (9–10 cm; females remain around ¾ inch [2 cm] smaller), then feed aquatic-protein foods in carefully measured amounts. A food-free day each week can be beneficial in counteracting over-generosity by the aquarist. Females are less likely to achieve outsize dimensions because they regularly fast during the roughly three-week brooding period, though if a female has been transferred to a separate tank to brood we can compensate with targeted feeding after the fry have been released and before she is returned to the main aquarium. In fact, some females will start to take tiny amounts of food again after around 10 days of brooding. The 15–20 fry are already about ½ inch (12 mm) long on leaving their mothers’ mouths, and immediately fall upon anything and everything edible of suitable size. Finely crumbled dried food will suffice in principle, but freshly hatched Artemia nauplii will significantly hasten growth.


A splendid male Labidochromis sp. “Yellow.”

Female Labidochromis sp. “Yellow” have less black in the fins.

“Yellow”

Labidochromis sp.

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Even juveniles as small as ¾ inch (2 cm) long are already bright yellow in color.

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Male Labidochromis sp. “Mbamba Bay.”

Labidochromis sp.

“Mbamba Bay”

Juvenile Labidochromis sp. “Mbamba Bay” around 1¼ inches (3 cm) long.

Female Labidochromis sp. “Mbamba Bay” are plain-colored.

Thus anyone who already has a bit of experience with the maintenance of cichlids should find that Labidochromis species present no problems, and will instead reward dedicated aquarists with their bright colors and distinctive behaviors.

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Labidochromis sp. “Yellow”

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The species name Labidochromis caeruleus remains a matter of heated debate in some quarters, hence the form in question will be termed Labidochromis sp. “Yellow” here. In contrast to its almost ubiquitous occurrence in pet shops, in the wild it is encountered almost exclusively at a few individual spots in the northwestern part of Lake Malawi. It is one of the invertebrate-picking species. These cichlids are very easy to breed under virtually any water conditions, so the fishes offered for sale are almost entirely aquarium populations, and for years only very small numbers of wild-caught individuals have been imported. These can be recognized immediately by their

roughly tenfold higher price, reflecting the cost of collecting and air freight. These fishes are, however, popular not only by virtue of their striking coral-reef-fish-like coloration but also because they can be housed with a wide range of tankmates. In my experience, Labidochromis sp. “Yellow” is the most peaceful Labidochromis, and can be kept with the quieter Aulonocara species, but it can also hold its own in the company of larger fishes such as Copadichromis or Nimbochromis species. From a total length of around 1½ inches (4 cm) upwards, the sexes can be determined by there being more black in the fins of the male. A typical mode of mbuna behavior is what can be termed the “dance” of the females, and is exhibited in this form only by the yellow Labidochromis. This involves two or three adult females circling rapidly in a sort of “fish carousel.” This often continues for several minutes and is resumed after a short “breather.”


Mouthbrooding female of the “Red Top” color form.

“Hongi”

Labidochromis sp.

Male Labidochromis sp. “Hongi.” Note characteristic multiple “eyespots” displayed by males.

Labidochromis sp. “Mbamba Bay”

and exhibit a higher degree of aggression, although this is mainly limited to its own species. As a rule, however, these fishes maintain a fixed order of rank, and hence any squabbles are infrequent and rather trivial.

Labidochromis sp. “Hongi” Another very popular Labidochromis is L. sp. “Hongi,” a biocover-feeder that has been regularly imported since the 1990s. Here, too, the natural distribution region is very small and lies on the part of the east coast of Lake Malawi belonging to Tanzania. The name of the form refers to tiny Hongi Island, where this territorial species inhabits the rocky littoral (shoreline) zone and is most commonly encountered at depths of 16–33 feet (5–10 m). Like the two previous species, it is uncomplicated to breed, and hence these fishes are frequently to be found in well-stocked aquarium stores. The base color is light blue, with only faint dark vertical bars that may disappear completely, depending on

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Other Labidochromis species such as Labidochromis sp. “Mbamba Bay” are not as commonplace by far in the trade, although they likewise offer a rich palette of colors. Males exhibit four black vertical bars on a blue-violet body, while the caudal and dorsal fins are edged with orange-yellow. There are two to four “eggspots” on the anal fin. The coloration of females is noticeably plainer and inconspicuous overall, and they have no eggspots or just one. The distribution of Labidochromis sp. “Mbamba Bay” in the lake is very localized and restricted to the southern part of the Tanzanian coast, where it is found at a depth of up to 50 feet (15 m). The species is thought to be an algal mat–grazer, eating both algae and meaty items. As with Labidochromis sp. “Yellow,” Labidochromis sp. “Mbamba Bay” can be housed with other fishes without problem, although it is more boisterous. If the two forms are maintained together in the same aquarium, L. sp. “Mbamba Bay” will assume the dominant position

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During spawning in Labidochromis sp. “Hongi,” the male lies on his side and displays his eggspots after the female has laid and is collecting up the eggs. In this way the eggs are fertilized in the mouth of the female.

mood. A very striking feature is the dorsal fin in males, which, depending on the geographical population involved, can be a bright yellow or a bold orange, as in the form termed “Hongi Red Top.” The respective shade of color extends onto the top of the head and the back and recurs from the throat region to the ventral fins. Just like Labidochromis sp. “Mbamba Bay,” this form has a black band across the forehead between the eyes. Three to five eggspots can be seen on the anal fin, and there are sometimes eggspots on the tip of the dorsal fin as well. Females exhibit a similar color pattern, but are overall noticeably paler. They also almost always have just

one eggspot, rarely two. If Labidochromis sp. “Hongi” are purchased as juveniles and housed with larger species, a little patience is required, as these fishes often don’t begin to assume adult coloration until they are around 3 inches (8 cm) in length. But from this time on there is no stopping them, and the males are continually busy trying to climb as high as possible up the “ladder of rank.” Here, too, Labidochromis sp. “Yellow” will sooner or later become subordinate, although this doesn’t cause any problems. There has never been any hybridization in my aquaria. The relationship between Labidochromis sp. “Hongi” and L. sp. “Mbamba Bay” is significantly more complex. Peaceful coexistence is possible only if one of the species is happy with the position of underdog, which both seem to find very difficult. Because of the close relationship between the two species, dominant males will also mate with females of the other form, so the two species are best maintained in separate aquaria.

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AQ UATI C

TRAVEL

article and images by Hans-Georg Evers

Brackish-water life in

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Sumatra

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Our spirits sank faster the further we journeyed through the endless plantations of oil palms. We were traveling through eastern Sumatra, Indonesia’s large western island, with the intention of investigating the fish world of the Sungai Tungkal drainage—but we were finding only a small number of species. The rainforest had been felled and replaced with a monoculture of oil palms. The fishes had disappeared, except for a few resilient species. Frustrated, we set about finding a place to spend the night in the coast town of Kuala Tungkal.


Left: A glimpse of the Sungai Tungkal through mangroves near Kuala Tungkal.

are removed and cleaned after the brood has flown. In Kuala Tungkal the swiftlets live in houses of stone and the poor people in wooden shacks by the stinking river. To attract the birds, the owners of the swiftlet houses play CDs of swiftlets twittering into the night—so loud that we had to shout to make ourselves heard as we hastily ate supper (no, not birds’ nests!) in a restaurant. “Let’s get out of here,” I yelled, “and look for somewhere out of town!”

On the edge of town

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It was already late when we drove into the town. A deafening racket greeted us. Kuala Tungkal is a swiftlet town. These birds use their saliva to construct the renowned nests that are regarded as a culinary delicacy by the Chinese. The producers receive the equivalent of $1,000 US per kilo of the product. No wonder there are so many people trying to make their living selling swiftlet nests. Swiftlets are raised in purpose-built multistory buildings with hundreds of entrances for the birds. The nests

We found refuge in the Hotel Mulia at the edge of Kuala Tungkal and intended to quickly discuss our route for the following day. Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be: power outages and all sorts of (irritating) things brought my nocturnal planning to a halt. But that made the next morning all the more pleasant. I was happy to forgo the exotic breakfast in the dining room, which probably hadn’t seen a mop since it was built, preferring to take a bit of a look around behind the hotel. The hotel was right by the Sungai Tungkal, which at this point, around 3 miles (5 km) from the sea, was strongly influenced by the tides. Red Mangroves and Nipa Palms made it unequivocally clear that the water flowing past so sluggishly must at least be brackish. I later measured a conductivity of 5800 μS/cm and a water temperature of 79.3°F (26.3°C). Attracted by a troop of monkeys and armed with my camera, I forced my way through the prickly botany and froze momentarily when my gaze encountered the shoreline. A colony of mudskippers were frolicking on the shore and going about their business: sifting the muddy water for anything edible, driving away competitors with erected dorsal fins, and ever on the alert. The largest males of what I will call Periophthalmus sp. 1 were around 4¾ inches (12 cm) long and a sight to see. The hard rays of the first dorsal fin were greatly

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Above: The Mudskipper Goby, Parapocryptes serperaster. Seen from the front, the sucker-like ventral-ďŹ n structure of this goby is clearly visible.

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I caught masses of Sumatran Halfbeaks, Dermogenys sumatranus, at the bases of the Nipa Palms.

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1

Right, top to bottom: 1. Male Sumatran Halfbeak, Dermogenys sumatranus, with a slightly yellow tail and a red spot on the dorsal ďŹ n. 2. Female Dermogenys sumatranus are uniform gray. 3. Stigmatogobius brocki from the Sungai Tungkal. 4. Mugilogobius sp., an attractive little goby.

2

3

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4

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A lucky shot: large mudskipper, Periophthalmus sp. 2, snapping up air.

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prolonged. I later tried to find out the name of the species, but in vain. I watched their merry activities for probably a quarter of an hour, until suddenly they started to take flight en masse. Large and small flung themselves into the murky water and were suddenly lost to view. The reason for this soon became obvious when it slowly clambered halfway out of the water onto the mud: a roughly 12-inch (30cm) long specimen of a second species, Periophthalmus sp. 2, which apparently regarded its cousins as tasty mor-

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The much larger Periophthalmus sp. 2 appeared only briefly by the bank.


sels. I was previously unaware that there were predators among the mudskippers, but the behavior of this colossus could only be interpreted as hunting for fresh ďŹ sh. Hidden behind the vegetation, I managed to take a nice photo of this species taking in air, and then the plump fellow was gone again. Once again peace and quiet reigned on the mud bank, and slowly but surely the previous inhabitants of the ooze returned. But not for long, as the two-legged monster in the bushes inadvertently decided to take a mud bath.

Dance in the mud: Periophthalmus sp. 1 displaying.

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Have you ever spent a holiday by the sea and gone for a stroll along the mudflats? Imagine the muddiest spot, where you sank in over your knees, and you will have some idea why in retrospect I don’t regard as particularly clever what I did on that morning on the shore of the Sungai Tungkal. The others on the bank had a good laugh. But I had fishes in the net, so it was all worthwhile. I could see halfbeaks swimming around immediately beneath the water’s surface, close to the bushes. I had never previously seen the live coloration of Dermogenys sumatranus. I have to admit that I can see no differences from Dermogenys siamensis and D. pusilla from the Malay Peninsula. Nevertheless, I brought a number of specimens back with me and I already have a number of youngsters of the second generation of their descendants in my tanks. After initial maintenance in highstrength salt water, the fishes are now living in straight Hamburg tap water and appear to be perfectly happy. Next I detached a number of snails of the species Neritina pulligera from the mangrove trunks. Then my eye fell on a remarkable creature, happily sitting out of the water on a mangrove root in the sunshine. The Mudskipper Goby, Parapocryptes serperaster, a goby-like fish around 8 inches (20 cm) is on the evolutionary path to the mudskippers: it occasionally turns up in the aquarium trade (Riehl & Baensch, 2000) and has apparently been successfully ignored to date. The staple food of these bottom-dwelling fishes in the river appeared to be the myriad glass shrimps that I caught with every sweep of my net along the banks. A lucky sweep got me two more goby species in the mesh of my large net. These later turned out to be exclusively brackish-water species in the aquarium and won’t make do with normal tap water. In Germany the genus Stigmatogobius is familiar to goby enthusiasts—yes, such people really do exist. The Knight Goby, Stigmatogobius sadanundio, is regularly imported from Indonesia. Stigmatogobius brocki are less attractive, like to spend their time in open water, and in addition are rather quarrelsome among themselves. Anything that will fit into their big mouths is swallowed, including small conspecifics, as I subsequently found out during transportation. All in all, these are probably not attributes that will have everybody shouting “I want some!” The exact opposite may prove to be true of the final species, which I will—perhaps rashly—term Mugilogobius sp. here. As long as some salt is added to the water, these dwarfs are quite exquisite little fishes, adult at around 1½ inches (4 cm) long. They, too, squabble all day long, but their quarrelling is invariably low-key. After a few months, mine stupidly somehow found their way out past the cover glass and I discovered one little mummy after another on the floor. So my unintentional mud bath proved to be not only beneficial but interesting from an aquarium-hobby point of view. As we journeyed onward, my traveling companions, Jeffrey Christian from Maju Aquarium (Cibinong on Java) and the “Betta Hunter” Mulyadi, bravely put up with this muddy, ill-smelling German, who eagerly flung himself into the closest oil palm irrigation ditch to get rid of the itching. And we did in fact catch more fishes among the oil palms—but that’s another story. REFERENCES

Kottelat, M., A.J. Whitten, S.N. Kartikasari, & S. Wirjoatmodjo. 1993. Freshwater Fishes of Western Indonesia and Sulawesi. Periplus Editions, Jakarta, Singapore. Riehl, R., & H.A. Baensch. 2000. Mergus Aquarien Atlas, volume 3, 5th edition. Mergus, Melle, Germany.


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F IE L D

GUIDE article and images by Maike Wilstermann-Hildebrand The aquatic grazing snails known as Nerites have been very popular aquarium occupants for many years, owing to their small size, industrious foraging, and reluctance to breed in aquaria, preventing their becoming pests. Around 10 to 20 species, some quite attractive, are kept regularly, but telling them apart isn’t exactly easy. At present there is no comprehensive identification key for all the grazers. Here I would like to summarize the most important diagnostic characters for members of the family Neritidae of interest in the aquarium hobby.

The

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grazing Nerites 76

The majority of snails were described by early taxonomists on the basis of their shells, with particular attention being paid to coloration and pattern. But these characters are variable. This can be readily seen in the Zebra Snail. In the aquarium these snails sometimes exhibit patterns on newly formed areas of shell different from those on older parts. This dependence of the pattern on environmental conditions is also seen in other species. It therefore comes as no surprise that each species has been scientifically described many times, resulting in confusion and many invalid but synonymous scientific names.

The shells of Nerita species are particularly thick. In some cases there are strikingly large teeth at the edge of the opening, in others tubercles on the columellar lip. There may also be structures on the surface of the operculum. Left to right: Nerita costata, N. albicilla, and N. plicata from Fitzroy Island, Queensland, Australia.

Only later were the soft parts of the mollusks studied and utilized for identification purposes. But not all characters are usable for systematic classification. For example, the differences in the teeth on the radula (tongue) are sometimes greater within the species than between them. Hence the radula is not used for determining members of the family Neritidae. Genera and species can be more reliably distinguished using differences in the reproductive organs for both sexes, the form and size of the spermatophores (sperm packets), and the form of the operculum (see image,


The columellar surface is located on the underside of the shell. It is the area next to the opening, and differs in color from the rest of the shell’s surface. The section of the edge of the opening that adjoins the columellar surface is known as the columellar lip or columellaris. In Nerita species there are large bumps on the columella, commonly referred to as columellar teeth or simply horn edging rib septum peg “teeth”—and sometimes additional teeth are found on the outer lip of the opening, which has picked up the jargon term “palatalis.” In Neritina and Clithon the teeth are much finer, and there are never any on the outer lip. The columellar surface may be smooth or may exhibit nodules. All Nerita, Neritina, Neritodryas, Theodoxus, and Clithon species have a semicircular operculum that can be used to close off the large tooth shell opening or aperture. In callus Theodoxus, Clithon, and Neritina species (with the exception of Neritina variegata) the operculum has an edging of reddish or brown horny proteinaceous material. Such edging doesn’t occur in Nerita and Neritodryas. thorn There are one or two apophyses on the inner surface of the operculum. These are calcareous processes to which the columellar muscle is attached in the vicinity of the left-hand side of columellar fine teeth surface the opening. These processes are termed the rib and the peg. In Clithon species there is a more or Parts of the shell in species of the family Neritidae, using Clithon diadema as an example. less well-developed wall (septum) between the rib and the peg. In Neritodryas the peg grows out of the edge of the rib and there is a deep cavity in the opposite). In addition, the surface of the egg capsule exoperculum below. hibits species-typical structures that are visible using the Septaria species are visibly different in form from the electron microscope and polarized light. other Nerites. In these mollusks the shell is symmetric, External characteristics very shallow, and exhibits only half a whorl. The underside has only a narrow wall at the posterior edge and is Because we aquarists typically don’t want to dissect otherwise open. The operculum is incorporated into a our snails in order to identify them, we have to restrict small pouch between the foot and the visceral sac and is ourselves to external characteristics. The species can be not visible from the outside. It is flat, almost rectangular, recognized fairly reliably on the basis of the columellar and can have one (S. porcellana and S. tessellata) or two surface (the central column in the shell) and the opercuribs (S. livida, S. sanguisuga, and S. cumingiana). lum (the “door” of the shell). Opercula of Neritina turrita (above) and Clithon diadema (below). In Clithon species there is a more or less well-developed septum between rib and peg, lacking in species of the genus Neritina.

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Genus Neritina

Because of the long “wing,” Neritina auriculata has been given the trivial name Batman Snail.

The typical nerite grazers—the Zebra Snail, the Steel Helmet Snail, and the Batman Snail—belong to the genus Neritina. They have thick, smooth shells with no sculpturing. In some species the shell is oval in form with clearly visible coils; in others it is hemispherical, with the last half whorl completely surrounding the others. Sometimes the shell has wing-like flanges around the opening (Neritina latissima, N. auriculata, N. violacea). There are fine, often barely visible small bumps called “denticles” on the columellar lip. The opening is semicircular and can be closed using the operculum. With the exception of Neritina variegata, all species have a horny edge to the operculum.

Neritina auriculata

Above: Shells and opercula of Nerita auriculata. Below: Shell and operculum of N. latissima. The rib and peg are yellow.

Neritina auriculata (Lamarck, 1816) is offered for sale now and then as the Batman Snail. It is one of the less easy-to-keep species and has a high mortality rate. It may be that they are collected in brackish water and don’t always make the adjustment to fresh. However, a part may also be played by inadequate feeding during the period from collection to arrival in our aquaria via exporter, wholesaler, and retailer. Successfully acclimated specimens have lived for several years in the aquarium. The light brown to black shell is around 1.8 cm long, 1.6 cm wide, and 0.7 cm high. It is shallow and has wing-like flanges on the posterior edge. The columellar lip region is very broad and white-gray to cream in color, while the operculum is light brown with gray lines and a red horn edging. The rib is white and the peg orange. These snails live in rivers, close to the mouth, and often in brackish water. They are distributed across the entire Indian Ocean, in Southeast Asia, and from the Pacific islands to French Polynesia. In 1985 water parameters were measured at various sites in Tonga and Samoa as temperature 77–78.25°F (25–25.7°C), pH 6–6.9, electrical conductivity 76–140 μS/cm, and total hardness between 2° and 5°dGH.

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Neritina coromandeliana

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The oval shell of Neritina coromandeliana (Sowerby, 1832) is pink-violet with black stripes, but if the outer proteinaceous shell layer is intact the effect is more of brown with black stripes. It is up to 28 mm high and 24 mm wide. The columellar region is gray-white


and smooth, with distinct denticles at the margin. The operculum is smooth and gray-brown with a red horn edging. These snails live on wood and leaves among the mangroves of Indonesia and Malaysia. The distribution region extends from eastern India to the Philippines. This species wasn’t covered by either Starmühlner (1993) or Haynes (2005), and hence there is no description that can be used for a direct comparison with the other Neritina species discussed here. On the basis of the description in Tan & Clements (2008) I can state that I have never yet owned this species. I cannot, however, rule out the possibility that these snails may be imported and maintained occasionally.

The columellar surface of N. pulligera is black-gray. An orange-yellow line runs along the edge of the opening. The rib is whitish and the peg yellow.

Neritina gagates The shells of Neritina gagates (Lamarck, 1822) are smooth with a yellow-brown base color and black bands. Sometimes the light base color is reduced to a few spots. This description by Brown (1994) is relatively superficial and makes comparisons difficult. Haynes (2005) depicts the penis, spermatophore, and operculum. The species differs from Neritina turrita in all three characters. The distribution region encompasses South Africa, Madagascar, the Seychelles, and islands in the Indian Ocean. These snails live on rocks in rivers that are influenced by the tides. Because snails from this region are rarely imported and the majority of species originate from Asia, it is unlikely that this species has made it into our aquaria.

Neritina turrita, with its various color forms, is one of the most popular snails in the aquarium hobby. The spotted variant is also known under the synonym N. semiconica.

Neritina latissima Neritina pulligera

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Neritina latissima (Broderip, 1833) was brought back from Mexico by an aquarist years ago and sold as the “Mexican Snail” via a pet store in Berlin. It is doubtful whether these mollusks have been imported via the wholesale trade. These snails have proved very easy to maintain. However, I have been able to obtain them only once and do not know if they are still maintained in the hobby. The shell is shallow, brown, and has winglike flanges laterally. It measures up to around 2.4 cm long, 2.3 cm wide, and 1.1 cm high. The columellar area and opening are white. The operculum is gray inside and out, flat, and smooth. The horn edging is bright red, the rib and the peg yellow. The distribution region lies along the Pacific coast of Central and South America.

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Typical features of Neritina turrita are the orange-yellow columellar surface and the orange-pink operculum.

Neritina pulligera Neritina pulligera (Linné, 1767) is often sold as the Steel Helmet, O-Ring Snail, or Dusky Nerite. These snails are good aquarium occupants and have a long life expectancy. The name is sometimes treated as a synonym of Neritina violacea, but it is in fact a distinct species. The shell is up to around 2.7 cm long, 2 cm wide, and 1.5 cm high. It is shallow and brown in color. Juveniles often exhibit a black pattern with fine lateral lines. The columellar lip is orange-yellow laterally and gray to black in the middle. The edge of the opening has an orangeyellow ring. The operculum is light brown with gray lines and a red horn edging. The rib is white and yellowish, the peg orange-yellow. These snails stick their egg capsules almost exclusively to the shells of conspecifics. More rarely they are found on wood or singly on the aquarium glass. The capsules are laid in small groups of up to 10 and contain only a small number of eggs. On some occasions I have found just a single developing larva. There are usually 8 to 20, rarely more. The veliger larva has two vela (sail-like lobes) rimmed with cilia, all the same length. Neritina pulligera is found in fast-flowing rivers, where it lives on stones and foliage. The distribution region encompasses South Africa, Kenya, Madagascar, the Andamans, Southeast Asia, Taiwan, and the Pacific islands.

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Neritina tahitensis

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Originally the “Batman Snails” were thought to be Neritina tahitensis (Lesson, 1830), but they have now been identified as N. auriculata. The shell of Neritina tahitensis is light brown with a pattern of fine red or black lines. It is shallow with wing-like flanges at the edge. The area of the columellar lip is very broad and gray to orange-brown in color. The opening is white-blue. The operculum is light brown with

Variations in the coloration of Neritina turrita.

a red-brown horn edging. These snails live on rocks near river mouths, often also in brackish water. They occur in the Philippines, the Solomons, Fiji, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Samoa, and French Polynesia.

Neritina turrita The Zebra Nerite, the Orange Track Snail, and the Tractor Tire Snail are all forms of the species Neritina turrita (Gmelin, 1791). There are forms with fine lines, broad stripes, or a pattern of dots and fine streaks arranged in spiral lines. In the Orange Track Snail it is possible to discern faint spiral lines in the vicinity of the pattern of spots and streaks. The shells can be up to around 2.7 cm long, 1.8 cm wide, and 1.5 cm high. It can often be observed that after changes in environmental conditions this species exhibits a different pattern from the original on the new part of the shell. Stripes may become wider or narrower, change direction, or disappear completely. Sometimes the pattern changes completely. Neritina semiconica is a synonym of N. turrita. The columellar region is yellowish to orange. Sometimes, however, this is overlain with a layer of fresh, rough, white callus that is laid down during periods of growth. The operculum is pink to orange and has a narrow red horn edging. The females lay around 15–20 egg cocoons at a time, in loose rows on wood, stones, and the aquarium glass. Each cocoon contains around 50 eggs, and these develop into larvae. The veliger larva is around 0.1 mm in size and has two vela with long, villous cilia. These snails live on mud and wood in the mouth regions of rivers. They are often found in the brackishwater zone. The distribution region encompasses Southeast Asia, Taiwan, the Solomons, the Fiji Islands, Samoa, and French Polynesia.


Neritina variegata is easy to recognize by the red spot on the columellar lip and the absence of a horn edging on the operculum.

Neritina variegata Neritina variegata (Lesson, 1831) is not very often seen in the aquarium. Its shell is up to around 2.5 cm long, 1.8 cm wide, and 1.4 cm high. It is hemispherical and smooth. The base color varies from olive and yellow to orange to black. Lighter individuals have a pattern of black lines. The columellar plate is white with a red area at the top. The anterior edge of the opening is likewise white. The operculum is black with a white spot on the nucleus. In rare cases the light area is larger, and part or all of the operculum is gray. Unlike in other species, the operculum lacks a horn edging. These snails live on stones and rocks in rivers with fast- or slow-flowing water. In 1985 water parameters were measured at various sites in Tonga and Samoa as

The underside of Neritina violacea is orange to bright red in color.

temperature 78.3–80°F (25.7–26.7°C), pH 7.0-7.6, conductivity 65–110 μS/cm, and total hardness between 1.3° and 3°dGH (Starmühlner 1993). The distribution region encompasses Southeast Asia, the Solomons, Vanuatu, Fiji, Samoa, Guam, Ponape, and Truk.

Neritina violacea Neritina violacea (Gmelin, 1791) was discovered for the aquarium hobby some years after N. pulligera. The shell is around 2 cm long, 1.7 cm wide, and 1.1 cm high. It is black and has sometimes numerous and sometimes only a few white spots. The columellar region and the opening are orange to red in color. The operculum is orange and gray with an orange horn edging. The egg cocoons are around 1.5 mm long and 0.25 mm high, and each contains 40–60 larvae. These snails live on stones in rivers near the coast. The distribution region encompasses India, Southeast Asia, New Guinea, the Solomons, and Fiji.

Neritina virginea

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Neritina violacea in the aquarium..

Neritina virginea (Linné, 1758) occurs along tropical coasts in Central America and in the Caribbean. Because the species was first imported to Europe from the Cajo Largo in Cuba it is sometimes known as the Cajo Largo Snail. It will live for several years in the aquarium without problems. The shell is a maximum of 1.3 cm long, hemispherical, solid, and smooth. It exhibits a very variable pattern of lines, streaks, and dots. The color ranges from yellow to orange-brown and red to black. The actual colors and their distribution in the pattern are very variable. Often there are alternat-

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ing light and darker spiral bands, within which there are smaller light or dark streaks or dots. The columellar surface is whitish to yellowish in color.

Theodoxus species at first glance, Clithon is a distinct, well-differentiated genus. Characteristic features include the presence of a penis sac behind the right-hand feeler, long filaments on the spermatophores, and a more or less well developed septum between peg and rib on the inside of the operculum. The columellar lip (or columellaris) exhibits not only a number of fine denticles but also a single larger tooth that isn’t found in Neritina species. In the aquarium hobby these snails come in various colors—olive, black, black and yellow, and gray and yellow. As in Neritina turrita, the patterning in Clithon species can alter if their living conditions change. Small, young specimens in particular often have very long thorns, while in older individuals these may have been eroded and be missing. Identification of these snails is particularly difficult in the hobby, as unfortunately the literature provides hardly any usable diagnostic characters. Most of these snails are labeled as Clithon corona or C. diadema in the aquarium hobby. They certainly cannot be C. waigiensis, which is one of the species that never have thorns.

Genus Clithon

Clithon corona or Clithon diadema?

The shells of Clithon species are hemispherical. Some exhibit one (C. corona, C. squarrosus) or two (C. diadema) series of thorns. Clithon nucleolus has just one striking thorn on the right-hand side close to the opening. Clithon rarispina and C. pritchardi only rarely possess thorns. Others are smooth (Clithon waigiensis, C. francoisi, C. olivaceus) like Neritina species. Although the shells are very variable and sometimes cannot be distinguished from those of Neritina or

It is impossible to distinguish Clithon diadema and C. corona reliably on the basis of external characters. I have examined more than 80 shells of olive-colored, black and yellow, and black and gray individuals with a size of 7–18 mm. None of them had two series of thorns as given by Haynes for C. diadema. The surface of the columella is always white. It is sometimes roughened and sometimes smooth and transparent in the upper region so that the shell color shows

Neritina virginea, above, in the aquarium and, left, with a smaller Neritodryas cornea on its shell.

The Bumblebee or Spiky Nerite, Clithon diadema: note horns.

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rib

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peg septum


through. Only in the shells of the latter group does the surface of the columella appear narrow and slanted as described by Starmühlner (1993) for C. diadema. Examination of the dentition of the columellar lip reveals three groups regardless of the color and size of the shell. If the teeth below the large tooth are clearly visible there will also be some above it. If the teeth below are difficult to see, they are often absent above. In some shells these fine teeth are completely absent, so this character cannot be used to differentiate the species. In both species there are spiral grooves on the outside of the operculum. The fact that they are supposedly more distinct in C. corona is little help in identification if you are unable to make a direct comparison and have no previous experience. In live individuals the only other clue is the color of the nucleus. In my specimens it is yellowish regardless of the shell color. Unfortunately, I can reliably categorize the operculum in only two of my empty black and yellow Clithon shells. These two specimens have a yellow nucleus and a yellow peg. The sharp slope typical for C. corona is absent. The septum between the peg and the rib is clearly developed. On this basis the yellow-and-black-striped specimens are Clithon diadema. Because there is no way of differentiating the other specimens, I assume that all the other shells in my collection also originate from C. diadema. On that basis I have never kept Clithon corona.

Clithon corona The shell of the Horned Nerite, Clithon corona (Linné, 1758), is light brown to yellowish and exhibits three to five black stripes or a pattern of variable triangular spots. In young specimens in particular there are up to 10 spines up to 6 mm long. In older individuals these spines have eroded away and are sometimes completely absent.

According to Starmühlner (1993) there are finer denticles both below and above the single larger tooth on the columellar lip. The surface of the columella is whitish to yellowish and fine-grained. The opening is white and bluish. Haynes (2001) describes the surface of the columella as orange with a black spot on the upper margin and the operculum as “creamy pink.” Starmühlner describes it as brilliant whitish externally with a yellowish to reddish spot on the nucleus. There is a distinct curved groove on the outside, while the inner side exhibits a sharp slope and is reddish, becoming darker towards the margin. The rib is whitish and flattened. The peg is reddish yellow. There is a weakly developed septum between the rib and the peg. These mollusks are common and widespread, living on and beneath rocks in fast-flowing water. They are found in the lower, tidal reaches of rivers, where they often also live in brackish water. In 1985 water parameters were measured at various sites in Tonga and Samoa as temperature 77–86°F (25–30°C), pH 6.5–8.0, conductivity 62.5–900 μS/cm, and total hardness between 1.6° and 20°dGH (Starmühlner 1993).

Clithon diadema The shell of Clithon diadema (Broderip, 1832) is up to 2 cm long not including the thorns, 1.4 cm wide, and 1.1 cm high. It has a faint pattern of spiral stripes, overlain with a pattern of light-colored triangular spots edged with reddish to black lines. There are sometimes also spiral bands. The columellar region is sloping and narrow, and both it and the opening are white. According to Starmühlner (1993) there are denticles on the columellar lip only beneath the larger tooth, but my own observations suggest that this character is very variable. The operculum is whitish to light gray with an

The peg is yellow and the septum clearly developed. On the basis of the description by Starmühlner this must be Clithon diadema.

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The single large tooth and a number of smaller teeth can be clearly seen on the columellar lip of this Clithon diadema shell.

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orange-red horn edging and yellowish nucleus. The upper surface is fine-grained and has a shallow curved groove on the outer side. The rib is slightly ridged and connected to the yellow peg by a well-developed septum. Haynes (2001) states that these snails usually have two series of thorns and also pictures shells of that type, but I have invariably found just one series; in addition, there is no other mention of a second series of thorns anywhere else in the literature. The thorns are situated at increasing intervals on the right-hand side of the shell somewhat above the suture. The older ones are usually broken off or reduced to short remnants. The longest thorn I have measured was 4.3 mm long and was on a shell measuring 10.6 x 8.3 mm. The thorns were all smaller on larger shells. I have counted up to nine thorns. I do not know at what intervals of time or for what reason these thorns are formed. Perhaps the snails produce just one per year, maybe at the end of the summer when the water becomes cooler or at the beginning of the summer when it becomes warmer? Although the snails in my aquaria are constantly growing, to date none of them has started to develop such a thorn. In some shells the last thorn is more than 2 cm from the edge of the opening, but the distance between the thorns is otherwise usually 5 to 7 mm. As mentioned earlier, I am not sure to what species my snails belong. Clithon diadema lives on rocks in the vicinity of river mouths and is often found in brackish water. These snails occur upstream as far as the tide-influenced freshwater zone. In 1985 water parameters were measured at various sites in Tonga and Samoa as temperature 78.25–78.6°F (25.7–25.9°C), pH 7–7.6, conductivity 140–210 μS/cm, and total hardness between 2.3° and 5°dGH (Starmühlner 1993). The distribution region extends from Southeast Asia to New Guinea, the Solomons, Vanuatu, Fiji, and Samoa.

Septaria to a family of its own. This result was confirmed by Haynes (2005) in her revision of the genus. Septaria is thus a distinct genus of the family Neritidae, like Neritina and Clithon.

Septaria porcellana The Abalone Snail Septaria porcellana (Linné, 1758) has been repeatedly available in the trade for a number of years but is difficult to maintain. It is often assumed that these snails won’t accept artificial food and will starve once they have grazed away all the algal growth in the aquarium. I have never seen these snails eating food tablets, but I can’t rule out that they may nevertheless consume the leftovers at night. I have maintained single specimens for up to three years in the aquarium together with apple snails and Neritina species, without having any noteworthy coating of algae in the tank. However, the mortality rate in Septaria porcellana is very high. It may be that these animals suffer injuries through removal from the substrate during collection

The Porcelain Limpet–like Nerite, Septaria porcellana, in the aquarium.

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Genus Septaria

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A thin, smooth, shallow, and symmetric shell is characteristic for the 13 species of Septaria. The operculum is incorporated in the foot, so the snail cannot use it to close the shell opening. The columellar region is reduced to a narrow septum at the posterior end of the shell. Septaria suffreni exhibits sexual dimorphism. The middle of the septum is prolonged into a tongue in males but not in females. In 1975, Golikov & Starobogatov sought to establish a family Septariidae for the genus Septaria, but this didn’t meet with universal acceptance. Holthuis (1997) performed an extensive phylogenetic analysis and came to the conclusion that the differences between Septaria and Neritina were insufficient to assign

Shell and operculum of Septaria porcellana.


and subsequent multiple transfers between the various intermediaries. They attach themselves very tightly and probably suffer damage to the attachSeptaria tessellata on a piece of wood. ment points between musculature and shell when forcibly removed from the substrate. The shell is symmetric, shallow, up to 2.7 cm long, and almost equally wide. The relationship of width to length is, on average, 0.79. The apex extends beyond the posterior margin of the shell. The base color is yellowbrown, on which there is a variable pattern of black or reddish lines. A reddish pattern often remains behind if the periostracum comes away. The septum is narrow and yellowish and curved at its margin. The operculum is almost square, pale pink with a relatively long rib and an orange-yellow horn edging. These gastropods live in the tideinfluenced freshwater zones of rivers and in fast-flowing reaches further inland. They are found on rocks. A single specimen was found at the mouth of the River Maloata in Samoa in 1985. The water temperature there was found to be 80°F (26.5°C), the pH was less than 6.6, the conductivity 76.2 μS/cm, and the total hardness 2°dGH (Starmühlner 1993). The distribution region encompasses New Guinea, the Solomons, Vanuatu, New Caledonia, India, the Andamans, Indonesia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Japan, Guam, Saipan, and northern Australia.

Septaria tessellata

These mollusks live in brackish water in the tidal zones of rivers. The broad form is found on rocks in fast-flowing water. The narrow form lives on the stems of grasses in calmer brackish water. The distribution region extends from eastern India, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia, and New Guinea to the Solomons and East Africa.

Genus Neritodryas The genus Neritodryas contains four to eight species. The shell is hemispherical and thick-walled, smooth but sometimes with fine spiral grooves. The shell covering is usually black or brown and doesn’t have a horn edging. A typical feature is that the rib of the operculum is deeply grooved and has a multi-lobed tip. The peg grows from the edge of the rib, beneath which there is a deep cavity in the operculum. Little is known about this genus. Haynes (2001) names three species: Neritodryas cornea, N. chimmoi, and N. subsulcata. Neritodryas dubia, which doesn’t occur in

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Septaria tessellata (Lamarck, 1816) is an attractive species that has been imported and sold as S. porcellana. The mortality rate of the specimens that I obtained from a wholesaler was 100 percent. Septaria tessellata lives exclusively in brackish water in the wild. Erroneously identified as S. porcellana and placed in fresh water, they had no chance of survival. The oval shell is up to 27 mm long. There are two types of shell: a broad form with an average width-tolength relationship of 0.67 and a narrow form with a breadth to length relationship of 0.45. The apex doesn’t extend past the posterior margin of the shell. The base color is yellow-brown or yellow-green patterned with black or red straight, curved, or zigzag lines. The narrow form also has longitudinal stripes that become wider towards the anterior margin of the shell. The septum is rather broad and has a curved margin. The operculum is white to light yellow, and is elongate with an incurved rib and a transparent horn edging. It is proportionately narrower in the narrow form. The male has a relatively long, slender penis with a long papilla.

Shells and opercula of Septaria tessellata, the Mosaic Nerite.

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The columellar region is white and has a black line at its upper margin. The lip of the opening is white. The operculum is black or brownish. The rib is flattened, with a broadened tip bearing grooves in a fan pattern. The peg has the form of a narrow stalk with a globular head and extends from the margin of the rib, beneath which there is a large, deep cavity in the operculum. This Southeast Asian species lives in brackish water in mangrove swamps and in hardwater rivers. Shells and operculum of the Horny Nerite, Neritodryas cornea, from the Philippines.

the area researched by Haynes, isn’t included in his list. However, up to eight Neritodryas species are mentioned in the literature. No identification key exists for the genus. In N. subsulcata the peg is shallow and smooth and positioned at an angle of around 90° to the rib. In N. dubia (Gmelin, 1791) the peg is shallow and smooth and points in the opposite direction from the tip of the rib. In N. cornea it is shaped like a club with a slender shaft. I have been unable to find any details of the operculum in N. chimmoi (Reeve, 1856).

Neritodryas cornea The shell of Neritodryas cornea (Linné, 1758) is up to 2.6 cm long. It is black with white or yellowish dots and lines, and has fine longitudinal grooves on its surface.

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The River Nerite, Theodoxus fluviatilis, won’t acclimatize to every aquarium.

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Genus Theodoxus The genus Theodoxus differs from the other members of the family Neritidae in that these snails are the only ones that develop into fully-formed snails inside an egg cocoon. Some 50–150 unfertilized eggs, together with one to three fertilized eggs, are laid in the cocoon. The unfertilized eggs serve as food for the developing young snails. The number of offspring is significantly smaller in Theodoxus than in other species of the family Neritidae. This is compensated for by the young snails being better protected in the cocoon and having a greater individual chance of survival. In this way they can also colonize waters that have no direct access to the sea. One disadvantage is that their rate of spread is very slow. Because the snails can move only by creeping along and cannot float several miles per day with the current, their populations are often very localized. They spread by traveling along hard-surfaced substrates such as jetties, walls, or concreted sections of bank. Large areas of mud and silt act as breaks in these inhabitable surfaces and limit the


Aquascapers like to use grazing snails as cleaners, as they are very effective for removing algae without damaging the plants.

spread of the snails. The habitat of these snails is not, however, limited to fresh water. They are also found in the Baltic Sea (T. fluviatilis) and the Caspian Sea (T. schultzii). There are some 20 species in the genus.

Theodoxus fluviatilis The River Nerite can readily be maintained and bred in the aquarium. Its hemispherical shell is up to 11 mm long, 7 mm wide, and 4 mm high, and has a smooth surface. The color varies from white with black or reddish markings to black with a few whitish or yellow lighter areas. The surface of the columella is white. The operculum has a slender white rib. The peg is small and in some cases is completely lacking.

Shells and an operculum of the River Nerite, Theodoxus fluviatilis.

T. fluviatilis is widespread in European waters, from Great Britain, Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, eastern Europe, and into western Russia, southern Europe, and Turkey. It is highly adaptable to both freshwater and brackish water habitats. It does best with a stony substrate, as it lives on rocks, less commonly on dead wood, and grazes on algae and diatoms. Its population densities in nature have been recorded as exceeding 6,000 snails per square meter. This species has historically been seriously affected by water pollution. It has been found more frequently again since water quality has improved. The species is considered endangered in Germany and Switzerland and hence may not be taken from the wild. Wild specimens have a very high mortality rate if they are introduced into an aquarium. Captive-bred specimens from aquarium strains are sometimes available from invertebrate auctions or Internet forums.

Nomenclatural confusion

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It is particularly annoying that for some years articles have repeatedly been published citing incorrect genus names that other authors have then adopted without checking, so that they now turn up everywhere in the aquarium-hobby literature. The genera Vittina and Dostia do not exist! These names, along with Neritona and Neripteron, were introduced by Baker (1923) for subgenera of Neritina. Baker’s subdivision of the genus was based on characters of the radula, but the characters he cited are unreliable because of the variability of the radula, and in consequence these subgenera are not recognized as valid today (Brown, 1994; Haynes, 2005; Tan & Clements, 2008). In addition, he didn’t provide any illustrations and descriptions, so the specific identity of the specimens he examined cannot be checked (Brown 1994). It

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is particularly remarkable that although he didn’t examine any Septaria species, he nevertheless divided that genus into three sections that are likewise not recognized as valid (Haynes, 2001). It would appear that the nomenclature suggested by Baker became so widespread mainly because in those days it was usual to copy everything uncritically. In the same way, incorrect Latin names find their way into the aquarium-hobby aquarium literature. It is incorrect to use the name of a subgenus—regardless of whether it is scientifically relevant or not—without simultaneously citing the genus name. Scientific names consist of the genus and species names in combination. In the event that it is of interest, the subgenus name can be cited in brackets after the genus name, for example Neritina (Dostia) violacea. But because in this case the subgenera are unusable, they should be left out completely, leaving us with Neritina violacea. Regrettably, Behrendt (2009a, 2009b) and Behrendt & Lukhaup (2009) ignored this rule by incorrectly writing Dostia violacea or Vittina turrita. Because their incorrect nomenclature has been adopted, unchecked, by numerous aquarium-hobby authors, it is now found all over the place. REFERENCES

Baker, H.B. 1923. Notes on the Radula of the Neritidae. Proc Acad Nat Sci Phil 75: 117–178.

Barsiene, J., G. Tapia, A.M. Pujante, & A. Martinez-Orti. 2000. A comparative study of chromosomes in four species of Theodoxus (Gastropoda: Neritidae). J Moll Stud 66: 535–41. Behrendt, A. 2009a. Unten, oben, rundherum schön—die Violette Napfschnecke. D Aqu Terr Z (DATZ) 62 (2): 38–40. ———. 2009b. Flexibel und aquarientauglich: die Zebrarennschnecke. D Aqu Terr Z (DATZ) 62 (5): 26–9. Behrendt, A. & C. Lukhaup. 2009. Schnecken fürs Aquarium. Munich, Germany. Bergleiter, S. 1997. “Süßwasser-Napfschnecken” im Aquarium. D Aqu Terr Z (DATZ) 50 (10): 680–81. Bitter, F. 2009. Schnecken-Fibel. Ettlingen, Germany. Brown, D.S. 1994. Freshwater Snails of Africa and their Medical Importance. 2nd edition. London. Glöer, P. & C. Meier-Brook (2003): Süßwassermollusken. 13th edition. Göttingen, Germany. Haynes, A. 2001a. Freshwater Snails of the Tropical Pacific Islands. Institute of Applied Science, Suva, Fiji. Haynes, A. 2001b. A revision of the genus Septaria (Ferussac, 1803) (Gastropoda: Neritimorpha). Ann Naturhist Mus Wien 103 B: 177–229. Haynes, A. 2005. An evaluation of members of the genera Clithon (Montfort, 1810) and Neritina (Lamarck, 1816) (Gastropoda: Neritidae). Moll Res 25 (2): 75–84. Tan, K.S. & R. Clements. 2008. Taxonomy and Distribution of the Neritidae (Mollusca: Gastropoda) in Singapore. Zool Stud 47 (4): 481–94. Tan, K.S. & S.S.C. Lee. 2009. Neritid egg capsules: are they all that different? Steenstrupia 30 (2): 115–25. Starmühlner, F. 1993. Ergebnisse der österreichischen Tonga-Samoa Expedition 1985 des Instituts für Zoologie der Universität Wien: Beitrage zur Kenntnis der Süß- und Brackwasser-Gastropoden der Tonga- und SamoaInseln (SW-Pazifik). Ann Naturhist Mus Wien 94/95 B: 217–306.

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F ISH RO OM

TOUR

by Hans-Georg Evers Ducking our heads, we made our way down the steps to the cellar of the large old farmhouse. I could already hear the bubbling; only an old iron door barred our way. “Pull hard and squeeze through,” came the order from behind us. “Plump people have a hard time here!” Heads still bent, we pushed our way inside.

Welcome to the

underground world

of Carsten Goll Carsten Goll, a heating engineer born in 1973, is one of those full-blooded aquarists who started very early in the hobby. At the age of 12 he filled his first aquarium with guppies, and thanks to their proverbial fecundity he soon accumulated increasing numbers of aquaria. The guppies were followed by cichlids, and before long by armored catfishes, which still remain a particular interest. Goll is currently one of the few home-breeder generalists who have specialized to some extent but nevertheless continue to try their hands with other fishes. He simply likes to breed all the fishes he keeps. It’s no wonder the 80 to 90 aquaria in his basement room are packed full of youngsters—his “cellar children.”

Panda Cory, Corydoras ortegai, successfully. At present he is maintaining around 40 species; the Corydoras eques and the pretty little C 123 are his favorite fishes. In 2000 his tank-breds included the first xanthic (yellowish) Panda Corydoras (Corydoras panda). Nowadays their descendants are up to 100 percent pure white. He produces hundreds of these fishes for the wholesale trade, and told me he had obtained several tank-bred males that were pink in color. Curious about this, I asked him to show me these fishes, but unfortunately they had gone

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Armored or mailed catfishes are Goll’s favorite fishes, and he has already managed to breed some 60–65 species. These include a number of species about which he can be really proud. He has cracked the Horseman’s Cory, Corydoras eques (at a water temperature of significantly less than 68°F [20°C]), has already recorded spawning in the Hi-Fin Peppered Cory, Scleromystax macropterus, and is probably the first aquarist to breed the Loreto

Carsten Goll is a fish breeder through and through.

H.-G. EVERS

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Mailed catfishes


View of one of the two hallways between the aquaria in the Goll cellar.

missing at some stage. But he showed me an incredibly bad photo of pink-colored corys that he had taken with his cellphone, so I believed him. Goll seems to have an interest in color forms generally. He is breeding a brilliant scarlet variant of Endler’s Livebearer that would bring tears to your eyes. And then there is the saga of the Blue Dempsey.

The good old Jack Dempsey is still a fish to reckon with as far as older aquarists are concerned. This Central American cichlid species, named after a famous American boxer and given the new scientific name Rocio octofasciata in a recent revision, was formerly a popular, albeit rather aggressive, aquarium fish. This species underwent a renaissance a few years ago when the first specimens of the so-called “Blue Dempsey” made their debut on the aquarium-hobby scene. They are generally supposed to have first been bred by an Argentinian aquarist, and rumor has it that deliberate hybridization with a second, unknown species led to the first blue specimens, though that is vehemently disputed, including in Argentina. It is a fact that the first tank-breds turned up in Buenos Aires, and since then they have been bred by various aquarists in southern South America and also exported from there. That is also

Water Carsten Goll’s water comes out of the tap medium-hard, with a total hardness of 14°dGH (carbonate hardness 6°KH), electrical conductivity 420 μS/cm, and pH 7–7.5. The majority of his fishes are bred in this water. Reverse osmosis and alder cones are used to adjust the water chemistry for those species that require softer and more

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O. DETERS

The Blue Dempsey

how the first specimens made their way to Europe and into the hands of Carsten Goll. The Blue Dempsey needs to be kept cool. At too-high a water temperature, permanently above 77°F (25°C), the fishes grew, but Goll was unable to breed them. Mating two pure Blue Dempseys together didn’t produce any healthy pure Blue Dempseys, so Goll breeds a naturalcolored female Rocio octofasciata with a lovely big Blue Dempsey male. These open brooders are enormously productive and can produce clutches of 800 or more eggs. Some 50 percent of the offspring from this combination were blue at the age of around four to five weeks. It is important that the rearing temperature is 73.5° to a maximum of 77°F (23–25°C). If it is too high, the fishes won’t turn blue. And at too high a water temperature young Blue Dempseys that have already colored up will lose their color again, turn black, and never get the blue color back again.

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The rarest armored catfishes are bred in the cold cellar.

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the species in question originate from temperate climes, Goll maintains and breeds them with great success in the heated part of the cellar.

Rainbow Shiners The Rainbow Shiner, Notropis chrosomus, a native of the southern United States, is extremely attractive even in normal coloration. But when these fishes come into breeding condition they provide the aquarist with a veritable fireworks display of colors. Goll keeps a breeding group in a 48-inch (120-cm) aquarium with no substrate. The only piece of equipment is an egg-saver consisting of a plastic container filled with coarse (1–2 inch/3– 5 cm) pebbles. The breeding group, which is made up of mostly males, spawns in a shoal above the gravel, and after spawning the eggs are simply siphoned off with a narrow tube and hatched separately. At 71.5°F (22°C) the first fry hatch after around three days and swim free after a week. They are not difficult to rear using slipper animalcules (paramecium) and the smallest of newly hatched Artemia nauplii. For a long time only males of this species were available in the trade. Since Carsten Goll started with the species a few years ago, females have also become available, and subsequently many aquarists keeping these gorgeous fishes in unheated aquaria have bred them successfully. Notropis chrosomus is a good aquarium fish that doesn’t require any cold over-wintering but will breed all year round. Anyone who owns a garden pond should also try Chaos reigns in the “eggs and fry corner.”

TOP: O. DETERS; BOTTOM: H.-G. EVERS

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acid conditions. The aquaria are filtered mainly with simple foam filters that are cleaned frequently. Water care is a very important factor, says Goll, particularly for rearing. Up to 80 percent is changed twice every week in the armored-catfish rearing tanks. And weekly partial water changes are de rigeur for the broodstock as well. The cellar is centrally heated, so the water temperature in the aquaria can be quite different in different places. The anteroom of the breeding cellar itself isn’t heated, and contains a number of aquaria that are home to species that prefer things cooler. These are predominantly armored catfishes from southeastern Brazil, such as Scleromystax barbatus and Scleromystax sp. CW 38. But other species from cooler regions can also be found in the Goll household. In particularly cold winters the temperature here generally drops to below 59°F (15°C), but the fishes usually survive this without problems. When


Above: A group of Blue Dempseys, almost of saleable size, in one of the numerous rearing tanks. Right: The Rainbow Shiner is an attractive fish even in its normal coloration.

them outside during the summer, as the males will be very active in the shallow bank zone and can constantly be observed spawning if a bed of gravel is provided there.

Carsten Goll is a laid-back fellow. He has a host of tricks that he calmly explains, for example what to do if a mailed catfish species won’t spawn. He puts the noodle-thick specimens in a bucket for a few days and parks it somewhere or other. Quite often the fishes begin to spawn when they are subsequently put back into their original aquarium. He likes to experiment, he adds with a twinkle in his eye—with the water temperature, with the addition of alder cones or current pumps, with switching the light-

ing on and off and altering other factors. But you need to have very precise knowledge of your fishes and do the right thing at the right time. The same applies when it comes to breeding, even with difficult species. His cellar looks as if a bomb has hit it. There are buckets, plastic tanks, food containers, and even a ther-

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H.-G. EVERS

Chaos reigns

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Spawning Rocio octofasciata. Natural colored female in front, with male of the Blue Dempsey color form behind.

mos bottle all over the place, including on the aquaria. The “egg and fry corner” is devoted to plastic tanks full of eggs and newly hatched fish fry next to and above one another. Clothespins hold bubbling airlines in place—a chaos of green plastic. Goll’s job is very demanding and leaves him short of time for his favorite activity, the production of “cellar children.” Although he is an active soccer player, the aquarium hobby is his greatest passion. So a Saturday idled away in his breeder’s cave is simply splendid. Here he can do—and not do—as he pleases. He revels in the ambient chaos. In the final analysis he knows where to look for anything when he needs it. So why should he clear out the entire cellar just because we were dropping by? That wouldn’t be authen-

tic—he would regard it as false and untruthful. “He’s quite right there,” thought I, as I climbed back up the steps, happy to be back in the sunlight and able to stretch to my full height, in my hand a bag of Rainbow Shiners. I simply couldn’t resist them.

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H.-G. EVERS

AMAZONAS

Xanthic Corydoras panda are one of Carsten Goll’s specialities. The species breeds in large groups. The spawning mops with eggs are then removed and the eggs hatched separately.


Spawning Rainbow Shiners, Notropis chrosomus, above the egg-saver bed of pebbles.

AMAZONAS

H.-G. EVERS

Carsten Goll rears large numbers of Endler’s Livebearer, Poecilia wingei “Scarlet Red.”

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HUSBANDRY

& B R E E D IN G

article and images by Cornelia Hinz and Claus Fischer Copella arnoldi, the Splash Tetra, is an old friend in the aquarium hobby and therefore somewhat neglected. But it is undoubtedly one of the most interesting fishes to keep in a captive system; in order to protect its eggs from predators, it not only lays them out of the water but also practices brood care until they hatch.

Acrobatic fishes:

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Splash Tetras 96

Male Splash Tetra, Copella arnoldi. Below: Female Splash Tetras have shorter fins than males and remain significantly smaller.


When we acquired our first pair of this classic aquarium fish, we couldn’t wait to see Copella arnoldi spawning and taking care of the eggs in real life. Luckily, Splash Tetras are greedy omnivores and very willing to spawn. The well-fed female develops a rounded belly, her ovipositor emerges, and courtship ensues. The pair look for a suitable place to lay the eggs: in the wild this would be a spot underneath foliage hanging close to the water’s surface. The courting pair spend time swimming close together to prepare for a simultaneous leap.

The female has released her eggs and is the first to fall back into the water.

However, this doesn’t mean that you have to suspend plants above the tank. In captivity the eggs are usually attached to the cover glass or one of the panes of the tank, and for this reason the water level should be lowered slightly. We set up a paludarium for our Splash Tetras, with Pothos Vines and Java Fern above the water’s surface, but unfortunately, despite all our efforts, the fishes preferred the cover glass. Spawning in Copella arnoldi: probably on overhanging plant leaves in the wild, and on the cover glass in the aquarium.

After the eggs have been fertilized the male falls back as well.

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Splash Tetra eggs. The tiny fry are readily visible in the eggs. The male remains beneath the eggs until they hatch and splashes them with water to prevent them from drying out.

Right: The newly hatched fry are tiny and need to be provided with the tiniest of live foods for the first few days.

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Acrobatic spawning

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At the beginning of the spawning the male repeatedly swims energetically towards the female until the latter adopts the correct position and body contact is achieved. The female positions herself slightly above the male and contacts his back with the side of her belly. The two fishes then swim together to the water’s surface and position themselves almost vertically, side by side. Adopting a slight S shape, the fishes now take aim at their target, and after a short delay make their upward leap. It takes a while for them to synchronize their leap. Initially only one fish jumps and then quickly falls back into the water. This happens several times, and every time the preparation has to start again from scratch. When both partners finally leap synchronously they must next manage to remain stuck in place, pressed tightly together, in order to spawn. Attaching themselves to the substrate with the aid of their large fins (especially in the male) and the film of water, the fishes initially lay a maximum of just 10 eggs. Usually the female drops back into the water somewhat earlier than the male, who is still fertilizing the eggs. It can take hours and many acrobatic jumps to complete the spawning ritual. The pair deposit up to about 200 eggs.

After spawning the male remains nearby and prevents the spawn from drying out by repeatedly splashing water onto the eggs. This is performed with a sure aim, using a lightning-fast beat of the tail that is almost impossible to see. Some observers have been misled to believe that the male is spitting the water into the air. At this stage the female is no longer tolerated in the immediate vicinity. The splashes of water also keep the larvae wet when they hatch after three days. Their development can be observed particularly nicely if the eggs are attached to the aquarium glass. For example, after one day the eyes are already clearly visible. (See image, top.)


Rearing the fry If you want to rear the fry, shortly before they hatch you should carefully remove the eggs from the substrate using a clean razor blade and transfer them to a small container. The tiny fry will have little chance of survival in the company of their parents or other fishes. It is not necessary to splash the eggs the way the male does, as they will also develop very well underwater. Filtration of the container isn’t necessary either. You can even do without heating as long as it is kept in a warm spot (for example, on the windowsill above a radiator). Around 75°F (24°C) is a suitable temperature. Our normal tap water (pH 6.9; conductivity 240 μS/cm) has proved adequate. But that will, of course, depend on the nature of the local water supply. The pH should be in the neutral or slightly acid range and the hardness should be low to moderate. The larvae initially still have a yolk sac, but this is soon consumed. Because of the tiny size of the fry you should use very small foods to rear them. We have found rotifers, paramecium (slipper animalcules), and other infusorians to be suitable first foods. Later we feed vinegar eels, then Artemia nauplii after around two weeks. At this stage at the latest, the fry should be transferred to a larger rearing tank. There is one special point about the fry that should be no cause for concern: sooner or later you will spot a

long, mobile “thing” above the tail—this is not a parasite, but the so-called hydrostyle, which initially may perform a balancing function to assist the as-yet poorly developed caudal fin (Hetz, 2006). It also occurs in other Copella species. As soon as the caudal fin has developed, the hydrostyle disappears.

Eating machines Despite the minimal demands posed by the Splash Tetra with regard to water parameters, food (essentially eats anything that fits into its mouth), filtration, and temperature (68–82 °F/20–28 °C), it does have one drawback if you want to keep it with other species. Females in particular are extremely greedy and appear never to be satisfied. Given the opportunity they will fill their bellies to the bursting point. Schistura cf. balteata and Akysis sp. temporarily housed with the Splash Tetras got hardly any food unless we fed them in total darkness. Splash Tetras shouldn’t be kept with slow-feeding species, and it is important not to overfeed them. Aside from that, Copella arnoldi, which can also easily be maintained in a group, are rewarding and interesting fishes to keep, and the spectacular spawning ritual means they never become boring. REFERENCES

Hetz, S.K. 2006. 100 Jahre Spritzsalmler. BSSW-Report 18 (3): 21–9.

A young Splash Tetra a few weeks old. The hydrostyle can still clearly be seen above the caudal fin, but will disappear in the near future.

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AQ UA R I U M

CALENDAR compiled by Mary Sweeney

JANUARY

APRIL

21

Swap Meet, Grand Valley Aquarium Society, Grand Rapids, MI www.grandvalleyaquariumclub.org

1

Swap Meet, Brooklyn Aquarium Society, Brooklyn, NY www.basny.org

29

Auction, Greater Hartford Aquarium Society, Hartford, CT www.ghasct.org

6–8

Show, Eastern Iowa Aquarium Association, Marion, IA www.finflap.com

14

Auction, Michiana Aquarium Society, Roseland, IN www.michianaaquariumsociety.org

15

Auction, North Jersey Aquarium Society, Nutley, NJ www.njas.net

20–22

Workshop, Missouri Aquarium Society, St. Louis, MO missouriaquariumsociety.com

26–29

Convention, American Livebearer Association/Gold Coast Aquarium Society, Dania Beach, FL www.livebearers.org

FEBRUARY 12

Auction, Missouri Aquarium Society, St. Louis, MO www.missouriaquariumsociety.org

19

Workshop, Raleigh Aquarium Society, Raleigh, NC www.raleighaquariumsociety.org

25–26

KilliKarnival, Michiana Aquarium Society, Roseland, IN www.michianaaquariumsociety.org

MARCH 4

Spring Auction, Greater Akron Aquarium Society, Akron, OH www.gaas-fish.net

10

Swap Meet, North Jersey Aquarium Society, Nutley, NJ www.njas.com

23–25

Convention, Northeast Council of Aquarium Societies, Cromwell, CT www.northeastcouncil.org

24

MAY 25–27

American Killifish Association Convention, American Killifish Association/Missouri Aquarium Society, St. Louis, MO www.aka.org

JUNE 22–24

Auction, Grand Valley Aquarium Society, Grand Rapids, MI www.grandvalleyaquariumclub.org

North American Discus Association Convention, Atlanta Aquarium Association, Atlanta, GA www.discusnada.org

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SEPTEMBER

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9–14 Contact: mary.sweeney@reef2rainforest.com

International Aquarium Congress (IAC), hosted by Two Oceans Aquarium, Cape Town, South Africa www.iac2012.co.za


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AMAZONAS 101


HANDS -

ON

The eggs of Pseudomugil ivantsoffi are sometimes difficult to hatch.

HELP WITH HATCHING t by Hans-Georg Evers

Two old-time tricks to try

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The flake is simply scattered on the surface of the water. The black eggs are clearly visible on the bottom.

The next morning the newly hatched fry are congregating in the corners of the container and can be caught.

H.-G. EVERS

AMAZONAS

Have you had this problem? You have finally accumulated a nice number of eggs from the fishes you are trying to breed, and then the larvae simply won’t hatch. This often happens, especially in areas with fairly hard water, and the frustrated breeder has to stand by and watch as the eggs die off one by one. I have seen this happen with the blue-eye species Pseudomugil ivantsoffi. After more than 25 days the eggs had turned a deep black and were obviously fully developed, but wouldn’t hatch. Then I remembered an old trick that worked for our grandparents, which I now always use in the event of such problems. You put the eggs in a shallow container with only a couple of inches of water and sprinkle flake or granules on the surface. (I prefer to do this in the evening and remove the fry with a pipette the next morning.) The rapid decay of the food results in an extreme shortage of oxygen in the water; the egg membranes begin to contract and then, sooner or later, rupture. However, the breeder must be very vigilant and remove the fry quickly, before they die from lack of oxygen. Usually they don’t all hatch, but with some species you can repeat the process a few days later. This trick works with all fish species whose eggs are collected and hatched separately—killifishes, rainbowfishes, mailed catfishes, and others. There’s another version of this trick that I haven’t tried myself, but I know breeders who have: put eggs and a little water in a small plastic film canister and stick it in your pants pocket. You can walk around with the eggs in your pocket all day, and by evening the fry have hatched from the eggs. Perhaps you, too, know an old trick from your grandfather’s day? If so, write and tell us. We like to publish good tips!


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S P E C IE S

SNAPSHOTS

➊ C H A R A C O D O N AU D A X ➋ C O R Y D O R A S F OW L E R I ➌ C A R I D E N A C A N T O N E N S I S ➍ H YG R O PHIL A PINNATIFIDA ➎ CYNOPOTAMUS ARGENTEUS ➏ NOTHOBRANCHIUS BOKLUNDI

1|

Shimmering heat, desiccated vegetation, and black lava scree all the way to the horizon—the Guadiana Valley in the heart of the Mexican state of Durango is not a place where you expect to find fishes. Its lifeblood is the Río Mezquital, or rather was until in the mid-1960s, when all higher life in this river was wiped out by the discharge of untreated waste water from a cellulose factory. Several species/local forms of the goodeid (splitfin) genus Characodon disappeared at that time, along with other endemic fishes. Nowadays small populations are found only in tiny residual waters with no direct connection to the river system. Perhaps the most attractive member of the C. audax group (according to current classification) originates from the Laguna Seca, a small spring-fed body of water near the hamlet of Guadalupe Aguilera, some

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Male Characodon audax “Guadalupe Aguilera”

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37 miles (60 km) north of Durango. The unpaired fins of the approximately 2-inch (5-cm) long male are bright red with broad black terminal bands, while the sides of the body are flushed with red and bear numerous metallic scales. Characodon audax “Guadalupe Aguilera” bears comparison with the most colorful killifishes! Aquarium maintenance presents no problems as long as the normal goodeid requirements are observed (moderately hard water, not too warm, with a pH above 7; frequent water changes; a rich and varied diet). Because adult males can be rather aggressive among themselves, it is advisable to keep the species in a well-decorated species tank with dense planting. Given such conditions, even newborn fry will not be hunted down by the adult fishes.

Characodon audax “Guadalupe Aguilera” combines interesting territorial behavior with the colorfulness of a killifish and the ease of breeding of an uncomplicated livebearer. In addition, it is one of the rarest fishes in the world. In 2006 the wild population in the Laguna Seca still comprised an estimated 300 individuals (G. Teichmann, pers. comm.). Its survival (assuming it still exists at all today) is acutely endangered as a result of water pollution and, above all, by the tilapias introduced there. —Günther Schleussner

Fowler’s Cory, Corydoras fowleri

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The actual distribution region of Fowler’s Corydoras is still not clearly defined. Only two specimens, one from the Caño del Chancho near Pevas, Peru, and a second from the fish market in the border town of Letitia, Colombia, formed the basis of Böhlke’s description. In addition, the more than strange original description by Burgess (1997) of the very similar Corydoras coriatae, which purportedly originates from the Río Aguaytia, a blackwater tributary of the Ucayali west of Pucallpa, provides no genuinely useful information on the distribution of C. fowleri. In recent years various different, rather variable forms ascribed to C. fowleri have been discovered in the area around Pevas and in the upper Río Napo. The habitats have invariably been small clearwater rivers in undisturbed rainforest. The species is well camouflaged by its markings, and for most of the year lives quietly among the leaf litter; assuming the fish can be found at all, it is relatively easy to catch with a small hand net. This probably also explains the territorial and sometimes aggressive behavior of these fishes among themselves when they are housed in the aquarium. If the tank is too small these fishes will chase one another, and there are often losses as a result. In recent years it has become increasingly clear to me that Corydoras fowleri has a fairly wide distribution region along the upper Amazon in Peru and probably also in Colombia. Its rarity is explained by its remote distribution in the upper courses of Amazon affluents. I regard the validity of C. coriatae as more than doubtful because of the demonstrably different patterns exhibited by each of the geographically separate populations of C. fowleri. In summer 2010 I had a nice surprise when Amazon Aquatics (Rednitzhembach) received the variant of C. fowleri pictured here from a supplier in Colombia.

G. SCHLEUSSNER; OPPOSITE PAGE, TOP: H.G. EVERS; BOTTOM: F. WANG

Bold Characodon, Characodon audax


Corydoras fowleri male from the border region between Venezuela and Brazil.

wild-caught. Karge (2010) gives southern China as a possible source, but whether they come from the wild or from a hatchery remains unknown. It has also been impossible to discover for certain whether the coloration of these shrimps has been enhanced using food containing astaxanthine. Specimens of this form of the Tiger Shrimp have probably already reached Europe, and it would certainly be a good thing for shrimp enthusiasts if this color variant were available in a strain that breeds true. —Hans-Georg Evers

  Enquiries revealed that the fishes were collected in the border region between Venezuela and Brazil and reached Colombia from there, as is currently the case with numerous Venezuelan fishes. Should these details prove to be true, then Fowler’s Corydoras will be shown to have a much larger distribution region than was previously assumed. —Hans-Georg Evers REFERENCES

Böhlke, J. 1950. A new catfish of the genus Corydoras from the Peruvian Amazon. The Fish Culturist 30 (4): 26–7. Burgess, W.E. 1997. Corydoras coriatae, a new species of callichthyid catfish related to Corydoras fowleri. Tropical Fish Hobbyist 45 (8): 138–47.

Orange Tiger Dwarf Shrimp, Caridina cantonensis

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Caridina cantonensis, “Orange Tiger”

Karge, A. 2010. Caridina cantonensis—Golden Tiger Shrimp. www.caridea.de <http://www.caridea.de/>

Hygrophila pinnatifida

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Hygrophila pinnatifida (Dalzell, 1851) Sreemadhavan, 1969, an aquatic plant from India, didn’t make its debut in the aquarium hobby until 2008 and has hitherto been circulated only among enthusiasts. At the 2010 Interzoo this lovely plant was simultaneously offered as new by several nurseries and is now also available in the trade. Hygrophila pinnatifida has deeply notched lanceolate leaves. When cultivated underwater the latter are green to reddish brown on the upper surface and pink to red-violet underneath. The leaves are pedunculate (stalked) and grow to around 4–6 inches (10–15 cm) long. A special feature of this plant is that it forms horizontal side-shoots that sink to the bottom like runners and root independently, not only in the substrate,

AMAZONAS

H.-G. EVERS

Since the beginning of 2010, spectacular new dwarf shrimps have been arriving in Hong Kong and Taiwan from China under the names “Orange Tiger” and “Orange Pearl”. It is thought that they are

REFERENCES

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S P E C IE S

SNAPSHOTS

Hygrophila pinnatifida, center, with notched leaves and reddish highlights.

but also attaching to rocks and wood. The tips of the mains stems should be removed regularly in order to encourage this branching. Cultivation isn’t difficult, but this plant grows rela-

tively slowly. It can be maintained in the aquarium in soft or hard water, at a pH of between 5.5 and 8 and a temperature of 68–82.5°F (20–28°C). —Maike Wilstermann-Hildebrand REFERENCES

Muth, H. 2009. Hygrophila pinnatifida (Dalzell) Sreemadhavan (Acanthaceae), ein aquaristisch neuer Wasserfreund aus Indien. Aqua Planta 2/2009: 48–56.

“River Dog Tetra,” Cynopotamus argenteus

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Cynopotamus argenteus

Cynopotamus argenteus (Valenciennes, 1836) is a fish that will certainly cause the hearts of some ambitious fans of predatory tetras to beat faster. I too knew this species only from photos and so was very pleased when at the end of 2009 my friend Stefan Körber (Mülheim in the Ruhr) brought a number of these little jewels back from a trip to Argentina for me. He caught the fishes among water hyacinths in one of the numerous quiet side-arms of the Río Paraná where it flows into the Río de la Plata east of Buenos Aires.

TOP: M. WILSTERMANN-HILDEBRAND; BOTTOM: S. THAMM

AMAZONAS

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The fishes were initially only ¾ inch (2 cm) long, but their coloration and their “predatory faces” made identification easy. Unfortunately they suffered somewhat during transportation, but with patience and a lot of glassworms and Artemia I was able to rear three specimens. My fishes grew slowly despite generous feeding with live and frozen foods, and took eight months to reach 2½ inches (6 cm) in length. Housing them with other fishes is not entirely problem-free. Attempts to do were foiled by the fact that over-boisterous tankmates dominated the Cynopotamus and snatched the food away from them, or the “River Dogs” shredded the fins of other tankmates such as Charax stenopterus. Very small tankmates were regarded as food. Because Cynopotamus enjoy peace and quiet, they should be given a species tank to themselves. My trio are kept in a 30-gallon (120-L) aquarium, with plenty of cover in the form of bogwood and an airlift to create a gentle current. Because in many large tetras the striking black and white pattern is seen only in the juvenile stages, I will be interested to see whether adult specimens (the species supposedly attains more than 8 inches [20 cm]) retain their coloration. But because of their slow growth I will probably have to be patient for a while yet….

published in summer 2010, and it was named in honor of its collector. We know two color morphs of Nothobranchius boklundi, a red and a blue. The species is fairly easy to breed. The incubation period of the eggs of this seasonal fish is around three months when stored in peat. The fry are already quite large on hatching and can immediately take Artemia nauplii. —Stefano Valdesalici; translation: Hans-Georg Evers REFERENCES

Valdesalici, S. 2010. Nothobranchius boklundi (Cyprinodontiformes: Nothobranchiidae): a new annual killifish with two male colour morphs from the Luangwa River basin, Zambia. aqua, International Journal of Ichthyology 16: 51–60.

—Sascha Thamm; many thanks to Stefan Körber for the fishes and for valuable information.

Boklund’s Killifish, Nothobranchius boklundi During a vacation in Zambia in the spring of 2009, Jørn Boklund discovered a new Nothobranchius species in two residual pools along the Luangwa River near the main entrance to the Luangwa National Park. The same species had, in fact, already been discovered by Elsabe van der Westhuizen during an amphibian expedition in the northern part of the Luangwa National Park, again in the drainage of the Luangwa River. Despite heavy rainfall the following spring, Boklund managed to catch further specimens. At the time of the collection, the type locality was a pool some 330 feet (100 m) in diameter, around 5 feet (1.5 m) deep in the middle. The aquatic vegetation consisted of a number of Nymphoides sp. The slightly cloudy water had a pH of 7.2 and a total hardness of 2°dGH. The water temperature measured 71.5°F (22.0°C) at 16 inches (40 cm) of depth. The only other fish species was an undetermined Barbus sp. The other known site is a small pool used as a watering place by many wild animals (elephants, buffalo, and others). The original description of the species was

Nothobranchius boklundi, red color morph

AMAZONAS

A. PERSSON

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Blue color variant of Nothobranchius boklundi

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SOCIETY

CONNECTIONS

U.S. AQUARIUM SOCIETIES ARIZONA

Dry Wash Aquarium Society, Phoenix, AZ www.DryWashAquarium.org CALIFORNIA

Sacramento Aquarium Society Sacramento, CA www.SacramentoAquariumSociety.org San Francisco Aquarium Society San Francisco, CA www.SFAquarium.org Silicon Valley Aquarium Society San Jose, CA www.SiliconValleyAquariumSociety.com COLORADO

Colorado Aquarium Society, Arvada, CO www.ColoradoAquarium.org CONNECTICUT

Greater Hartford Aquarium Society Manchester, CT www.GHASCT.org New England Livebearers Association Bristol, CT www.NELivebearers.org Norwalk Aquarium Society South Norwalk, CT www.NorwalkAS.org DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

Greater Washington Aquatic Plant Association www.GWAPA.org FLORIDA

Gold Coast Aquarium Society of South Florida, Cooper City, FL www.GCAquarium.org Tampa Bay Aquarium Society, Tampa, FL www.TBAS1.com GEORGIA

AMAZONAS

Atlanta Area Aquarium Association Atlanta, GA AtlantaAquarium.com

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HAWAII

Honolulu Aquarium Society, Honolulu, HI www.HonoluluAquariumSociety.org

ILLINOIS

MISSOURI

Federation of American Aquarium Societies Champaign, IL www.FAAS.info

Missouri Aquarium Society, St. Louis, MO www.MissouriAquariumSociety.org

Greater Chicago Cichlid Association Brookfield, IL www.GCCA.net Green Water Aquarist Society, Alsip, IL www.GWASOC.org INDIANA

Circle City Aquarium Society Indianapolis, IN www.CircleCityAqClub.org Michiana Aquarium Society, South Bend, IN www.MichianaAquariumSociety.org IOWA

Eastern Iowa Aquarium Association Cedar Rapids, IA www.FinFlap.com MARYLAND

Capital Cichlid Association, Forest Hill, MD www.CapitalCichlids.org Potomac Valley Aquarium Society, Fairfax, VA www.PVAS.com MASSACHUSETTS

Boston Aquarium Society www.BostonAquariumSociety.org Pioneer Valley Aquarium Society Chicopee, MA www.PVAS.net Worcester Aquarium Society, Worcester, MA www.WorcesterAquarium.org MICHIGAN

Greater Detroit Aquarium Society Royal Oak, MI www.GreaterDetroitAquariumSociety.com Grand Valley Aquarium Society Grand Rapids, MI www.GrandValleyAquariumClub.org

NEW HAMPSHIRE

New Hampshire Aquarium Society Rollinsford, NH www.NHAquariumSociety.com NEW JERSEY

Jersey Shore Aquarium Society Freehold, NJ www.JerseyShoreAS.org North Jersey Aquarium Society www.NJAS.net NEW YORK

Allegheny River Valley Aquarium Society Olean, NY www.orgsites.com/ny/ARVAS Brooklyn Aquarium Society, Brooklyn, NY www.BASNY.org Central New York Aquarium Society Syracuse, NY www.CNYAS.org Genesee Valley Koi & Pond Club Rochester, NY www.ggw.org/GVPAKE Greater City Aquarium Society, Flushing, NY www.GreaterCity.org Long Island Aquarium Society Stony Brook, NY www.LIASOnline.org Nassau County Aquarium Society Rockville Center, NY www.NCASweb.org Niagara Frontier Koi & Pond Club North Tonawanda, NY www.NFKPC.org Tropical Fish Club of Erie County Hamburg, NY www.Tropical-Fish-Club-of-Erie-County.com NORTH CAROLINA

Southwest Michigan Aquarium Society Portage, MI www.SWMAS.org

North Carolina Aquarium Society Raleigh, NC www.NCAquariums.com/society

MINNESOTA

Raleigh Aquarium Society, Raleigh, NC www.RaleighAquariumSociety.org

Minnesota Aquarium Society, Roseville, MI www.MNAquarium.org


OHIO

VIRGINIA

FINLAND

American Cichlid Association, Hamilton, OH www.cichlid.org

Potomac Valley Aquarium Society, Fairfax, VA www.PVAS.com

Cleveland Aquarium Society, Cleveland, OH www.ClevelandAquariumSociety.org

WASHINGTON

Finnish Cichlid Association, CIKLIDISTIT RY, Vantaa, FI http://www.aquahoito.info/cichlids/index. html

Columbus Area Fish Enthusiasts Plain City, OH www.ColumbusFishClub.org

Greater Seattle Aquarium Society Seattle, WA www.GSAS.org

Greater Akron Aquarium Society, Akron, OH www.GAAS-FISH.net

Puget Sound Aquarium Society Federal Way, WA www.thePSAS.org

Great Lakes Cichlid Society, Euclid, OH www.GreatLakesCichlidSociety.net

WISCONSIN

Medina County Aquarium Society Medina, OH www.geocities.com/MCASfish/index Ohio Cichlid Association, Brunswick, OH www.OhioCichlid.com Stark County Aqua Life Enthusiasts Society Canton, OH www.ClubScales.com Youngstown Area Tropical Fish Society Youngstown, OH www.YATFS.com OREGON

Greater Portland Aquarium Society Clackamas, OR www.GPAS.org

Milwaukee Aquarium Society, Milwaukee, WI www.MilwaukeeAquariumSociety.com

INTERNATIONAL AQUARIUM SOCIETIES AUSTRALIA

New South Wales Cichlid Society Moorebank, NSW www.NSWCS.org.au Victorian Cichlid Society Inc., Mitcham, VIC home.vicnet.net.au/~cichlid

PENNSYLVANIA

Queensland Cichlid Group Inc. Clayfield, QLD www.qcichlid.org

Aquarium Club of Lancaster, Hershey, PA www.ALCCPA.com

BELGIUM

Bucks County Aquarium Society Chalfont, PA www.BCASOnline.com Greater Pittsburgh Aquarium Society Pittsburgh, PA www.GPASI.org

Belgian Cichlid Association www.cichlidae.be/ CANADA

Saskatoon Aquarium Society Saskatoon, SK www.SaskatoonAquarium.com

Tropical Fish Club of Erie County Hamburg, NY www.Tropical-Fish-Club-of-Erie-County.com

Montreal Aquarium Society, Montreal, QC www.theMontrealAquariumSociety.com

TEXAS

Hamilton & District Aquarium Society Hamilton, ON www.HDAS.ca

Houston Aquarium Society, Houston, TX www.HoustonAquariumSociety.org VERMONT

Tropical Fish Club of Burlington, VT Burlington, VT www.tfcb.org/

Association Regionale des Aquariophiles de Quebec, Ste-Foy, QC www.ARAQ.org Aquarium Society of Winnipeg Winnipeg, MB www.ASW.ca

Association France Cichlid, Hoenheim, FR www.FranceCichlid.com GERMANY

Deutsche Cichliden-Gesellschaft (German Cichlid Society) www.DCGonline.de SINGAPORE

Discus Club Singapore www.DiscusClubSG.com/ UNITED KINGDOM

Anabantoid Association of Great Britain, Doncaster, UK www.AAGB.org Bristol Aquarists’ Society, Bristol, UK www.bristol-aquarists.org.uk The Federation of British Aquatic Societies www.FBAS.co.uk Greater Manchester Cichlid Society www.nekrosoft.co.uk/GMCS Middlesex & Surrey Border Section, British Koi Keepers Society www.MSBsection.co.uk The Calypso Fish and Aquaria Club www.calypso.org.uk

G ET

LISTED! Contact: Mary Sweeney, Senior Editor mary.sweeney@reef2rainforest.com A fulsome thanks to Ray “Kingfish” Lucas of Kingfish Services of Boston, New York, for his invaluable help in establishing this directory and the Amazonas Aquarium Calendar of Events. www.kingfishservices.net

AMAZONAS

Black River Aquarium Society Rutland, VT www.angelfire.com/vt/brasvt/

Durham Region Aquarium Society www.DRAS.ca

FRANCE

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INDEX

A DV E R TI S E R S

American Marine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 89 www.americanmarineusa.com

Ocean Nutrition . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 www.oceannutrition.com

Aqua Craft Products® . . . . . . inside back cover www.aquacraft.net

Piscine Energetics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67 www.mysis.com

Aqua Medic . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9, 61 www.aqua-medic.com

Reef Dynamics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2 www.reefdynamics.com

Aquatic Life . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .103 www.aquaticlife.com

San Francisco Bay Brand . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .101 www.sfbb.com

Boyd Enterprises. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5 www.chemipure.com

Segrest Farms . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .7 www.segrestfarms.com

Brightwell Aquatics . . . . . . . inside front cover, 1 www.brightwellaquatics.com

Sicce . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72, 73 http://sicceus.com

EcoTech Marine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20, 21, 74, 75 www.ecotechmarine.com

Tunze . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 www.tunze.com

Hikari . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 www.hikariusa.com/am

Two Little Fishies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 66, 88 www.twolittlefishies.com

LFS Locator . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 111 www.lfslocator.com

ZooMed. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 110, back cover www.zoomed.com

Lifegard Aquatics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13 www.lifegardaquatics.com

For an AMAZONAS Media Kit or other information, please contact:

James Lawrence, Publisher • 802.985.9977 Ext. 7 • James.Lawrence@reef2rainforest.com

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Macro image by Eric Isselée of Betta splendens scales and fins.



Amazonas jan feb 2012