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Parosphromenus deissneri (top & center) Photos: H. Linke Parosphromenus quindecim (bottom). Photo: H.-G. Evers

Successful breeding of the Sunshine Pleco: Scobinancistrus aureatus


HUSBANDRY & BREEDING: Cryptoheros septemfasciatus: Delicate beauty from Central America


Snail vs. snail: Assassin Snails

by Neale Monks



The immortal Malayan Burrowing Snail by Mary Bailey



The Fruit Snail: Neritina juttingae by Maike Wilstermann-Hildebrand

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After a four-hour hike into the Peruvian jungle, the editor rests with a group of friendly native children. (See pages 88-89 for new Peruvian fishes.)


Dear Reader,


I am writing these lines in the seclusion of a small Danish island. The wind is whistling around the house and the rain is dripping from the thatched roof as I put together plans for the forthcoming issues of AMAZONAS. This is just a break from home—a time to relax and collect my thoughts—and has nothing to do with collecting fishes. A vacation like this is a good time to separate the important from the unimportant, to examine yourself and what you are doing. The main feature in this issue has been so long in the planning that the contributors will undoubtedly be glad to finally see the fruits of their labors in print— and in English. Well-planned aquarium features don’t just grow on trees. They can require long and careful preparation, and above all a team of authors who really know their stuff. In this issue, a number of articles on the dainty little Licorice Gouramis of the genus Parosphromenus have been gathered together under the auspices of acknowledged expert Dr. Peter Finke, scientific manager of the Parosphronmenus Project. Like so many of the fish groups that we have previously presented here, these dwarfs are only familiar to a relatively small circle of labyrinthfish enthusiasts. But no magic wand is required to achieve success with these fishes, and because

the habitats of many of these attractive little gouramis are seriously endangered in their native lands, it is high time they received a bit of publicity. The authors who wrote these fine articles have all been intensely involved in the study of “Paros” species for decades. “An editor’s lot is not a happy one,” as the saying goes, and unfortunately there is sometimes an element of truth in that. A balanced issue should always include articles on species that have not yet played a role—or have played only a minor one—in the aquarium hobby. But to achieve that you have to keep your ear to the ground. Oliver Lucanus brings us an exciting group of newly available and very appealing Crenincichla spp. pike cichlids from the Río Uruguay, Río Parana, and Río Iguassu drainage in Argentina, while Maike Wilstermann-Hildebrand looks at a relatively new invertebrate import, the so-called Fruit Snail, Neritina juttingae, from Borneo. It’s time for this editor and his dogs to take a walk and stretch their legs. While we battle through the Danish rains, you can sit in comfort and read this new issue of AMAZONAS. Happy reading!




NOTEBOOK Caridina spinata “Yellownose” Sulawesi shrimp

Breeding Sulawesi shrimps t by Stev Kolditz I would like to relate my experiences with breeding the Sulawesi shrimps Caridina spinata “Yellow Nose”, Caridina spinata “Goldflake”, and the Harlequin Shrimp, Caridina woltereckae, none of which could be called easy to breed. I can give no guarantee that it will work for other breeders, but I think that my experiences represent a good starting point for additional attempts. In my opinion a Sulawesi tank should always be well established and not kept too sterile. I clean only the front glass, in order to be able to see in. And the arrangement of the tank should remain the same right from the start, as the shrimps react to frequent changes by becoming more shy and may also stop breeding or discard their eggs. It is fine to add snails of the genus Tylomelania or Malayan Burrowing Snails, as the young shrimps enjoy their end products.

stressed individuals), and they died after a short time. But the remaining specimens soon produced offspring. The youngsters initially grew fairly quickly, but grew very

Caridina spinata “Yellow Nose” has striking long white antennae.


I am particularly attracted by the fabulous appearance of Caridina spinata “Yellow Nose”, the first species from Sulawesi that found its way into my aquarium. My first wild-caughts arrived in July of last year. Of the 20 specimens I ordered, 7 were infected with the Sulawesi plague (probably a bacterial infection, which affects



Caridina spinata “Yellow Nose”

slowly as young adults. I currently have the second generation growing on. My Caridina spinata “Yellow Nose” live in a 5.28-gallon (20-L) Tetra AquaArt tank containing reverse-osmosis water treated with a special salt from Roland Lück. The aquarium is filtered by an air-powered sponge filter. The pH value of the tank is 7.5, the total hardness 6°dGH, the carbonate hardness 3°KH, and the electrical conductivity 440 μS/cm. The temperature is a constant 86°F (30°C). My tank is set up for breeding and contains only some basalt chippings and a little crushed coral as substrate. A number of pieces of pagoda rock and dragon stone, together with bits of slate glued one above the other, provide the shrimps with sufficient hiding places. There is also a bit of “Pellia” (Monosolenium tenerum) and a few balls of moss. I believe that regular water changes play a major and important role, and I change 10 percent of the water weekly. In addition I add a knife-tip of montmorillonite powder every week. I feed every three days with the standard types of food, which I grind to a powder, using only as much as will stick to a moist fingertip. Every two weeks I give a little scalded Stinging Nettle or Common Chickweed as well. The shrimps enjoy both. The breeder Astrid Weber received a number of my first youngsters. She placed them in a tank with a pH value of 8.5 and she, too, reports breeding success.

The aquarium for my Caridina spinata is arranged for ease of monitoring.

Right: Young Caridina spinata “Yellow Nose” in my aquarium.

I have been keeping Caridina spinata “Goldflake” since September 2011. Unfortunately, 14 specimens out of a total of 25 wild-caughts were infected with the Sulawesi plague. Like the “Yellow Nose”, these died within four days. However, the rest of the population has remained stable to the present day and has now also presented me with offspring. My Caridina spinata “Goldflake” currently live in a 5.28-gallon (20-L) Tetra AquaArt tank with some basalt chippings and crushed coral as substrate, pagoda rocks, an old, leached-out root, and a piece of algae-covered “holey rock.” Here, too, I harden the reverse-osmosis water with the special salt and change 10 percent of the water every week. The pH value is, however, 8.5. The carbonate hardness is 2°KH, the total hardness 7°dGH, and the electrical conductivity 330 μS/cm. The temperature invariably measures between 82 and 86°F (28–30°C). Caridina spinata “Goldflake” are rather inquisitive. If you stand in front of the tank they hide, but if you slowly move further away they come out again. They graze the whole day through until they

Adult female Caridina spinata “Goldflake”.

A pleasing success: young C. spinata “Goldflake” in the aquarium.



Caridina spinata “Goldflake”



NOTEBOOK Left: My aquarium for Caridina woltereckae, the Harlequin Shrimp.

come across a piece of food. Then they remain where they are until none is left. They receive the same foods as my other Sulawesi shrimps.

Harlequin Shrimps And finally we come to the Harlequin Shrimps, Caridina woltereckae, which are currently regarded as very difficult to keep and even more difficult to breed. Along with my


Harlequin Shrimps are considered difficult to keep.


Caridina dennerli, they are my absolute personal favorites. I got them in September 2011. Unfortunately, out of 25 individuals, 5 failed to survive the journey and another 5 the first molt. Another three specimens didn’t like my first water change. But the remainder of the shrimps enjoy the best of health. They live in a standard 14.25-gallon (54-L) tank, which is equipped with a heater and two air-powered sponge filters. The larger of the two can manage 87 gallons (330 L) of water per hour, the smaller 21 gallons (80 L) per hour. I think filtration of the water is particularly important for this species, as they are known to be very delicate. The tank is set up with basalt chippings, some crushed coral, large scalded pebbles, a large, algae-covered piece of “holey rock,” some broken slate, and two small pieces of bogwood. I keep the temperature constant at 86°F (30°C). As with the other species, I use reverseosmosis water with a pH value of 8.5, treated with the special Sulawesi salt. The total hardness is 6°dGH and the carbonate hardness 3°KH. The conductivity measures 300 μS/cm. I have installed a dimmed light above this tank, as the Harlequin Shrimps don’t seem to be very fond of over-bright conditions. After only a very short time I discovered the first females carrying eggs. Because wild-caughts, at least, are really very shy, I have sometimes sat for hours in front of the tank in order to catch a glimpse of a C. woltereckae. Egg-carrying females are particularly good at hiding themselves. But my patience has been rewarded. I usually get up very early, and the first thing I do is take a look at the tank housing my Harlequin Shrimps. One morning I witnessed the hatching of a number of young. I could hardly believe it! Ninety percent of the first clutch have grown up and are now almost as large as the parents. So far I have counted a total of three clutches, and at the moment there are 28 youngsters growing on and three females are carrying again. In order to help the shrimps overcome their shyness so I can watch them, I have used a trick advised by Karin Latos in Amazonas. I put a number of home-bred Blue-Footed Shrimps in with the Harlequin Shrimps, and just two days later I was able to see and watch almost all my shrimps—a wonderful sight. I hope that with this article I have been able to provide a number of fundamentals for the maintenance and breeding of these gorgeous species. But I’d like to stress once again that these creatures are not for the beginner in the realm of Sulawesi shrimps.


Below left: One of my female C. woltereckae carrying eggs.

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Male blue morph Apistogramma allpahuayo shortly after capture at the type locality; this is the dominant, neutral-mood color pattern of blue morph males.

t by Mary Bailey


German ichthyologist Dr. Uwe Römer and an international team of researchers have recently described a new cichlid of the genus Apistogramma from Peru. It has been given the name Apistogramma allpahuayo, in reference to its occurrence in small forest streams in and around the Reserva Nacional Allpahuayo Mishana, a rainforest reserve about 18.5 miles (30 kilometers) southwest of Iquitos that covers approximately 58,000 hectares (143,321 acres) in the Nanay drainage, Departamento Loreto. It is the 72nd described member of the genus, though quite a few more undescribed species are known to hobbyists. Although Apistogramma allpahuayo is new to science, in fact, it has been exported for the aquarium hobby since at least 1995. However, because the collecting locality given originally was incorrect, the species was misidentified as Apistogramma juruensis (Jurua Dwarf Cichlid), even by Dr. Römer in Volume 1 of his wellknown Cichlid Atlas (2001), where additional photos and information on aquarium care can be found. In the hobby literature, Apistogramma allpahuayo has also been termed the Schwarzkinn or Black Chin Apisto and Apistogramma “Pucallpa”. The new species is thought to be a member of the Apistogramma cacatuoides complex and most closely related to the Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid, which comes from the same general area of Peru. But it is easily distinguishable from that species and from all other apistos in that it has a black W-like marking on the chin, not seen in

any other known member of the genus. It is a mediumsized fish and, as is usual in the genus, exhibits sexual dimorphism of size; males measure up to 1.5 inches (4 cm) and females up to 1.25 inches (3.1 cm) SL. As in most other Apistogramma, the sexes also differ dramatically in their coloration and finnage (see photos). Males are polymorphic, with a blue and a yellow morph known from the type material and other color variants from aquarium-fish exports.

Ecology The description of the new species came about as the result of ecological research on several aquatic habitats in Peru during 2010 and 2011 by members of the Laboratoire Mixte International (LMI). The team collected various fishes, including several Apistogramma, some undescribed, and were able to obtain sufficient information and material for an in-depth study of Apistogramma allpahuayo and its scientific description. Their research indicates that the new species has a limited distribution and is endemic to the Rio Nanay system. It is found mainly in small blackwater quebradas (streams) with a pH of around 5, and mostly in the Reserva Nacional Allpahuayo Mishana. All but one of the collection sites were situated in dense rainforest, and in all the habitats studied the bottom was covered with leaves, twigs, branches, fallen trees, and a layer of fine brownish detritus. Apart from algae, no submersed vegetation was recorded.



New Apistogramma species described



Left: Female Apistogramma allpahuayo in the aquarium, showing the typical dominant, aggressive broodcare pattern. Note the eggs on the “ceiling” of the flowerpot cave. Below: Type habitat of Apistogramma allpahuayo in the Reserva Nacional Allpahuayo Mishana in Peru.


microhabitat preference in a number of Apistogramma species and believe that they must be specially adapted to the low-oxygen conditions. The ability to survive in such areas may offer protection from predators and/or a lack of competition for resources from other species.



An interesting feature of the Apistogramma habitats was the very low oxygen content of the water in some places, which were nevertheless favored by breeding females apparently guarding eggs or larvae and shepherding small fry. The authors have observed this type of

The area where the new species occurs differs from the central Amazonian rainforest in Brazil in that the terrain is more undulating and there is higher ground between watercourses. Hence there are no inundation zones, although the researchers found evidence that water levels in the streams rise dramatically when there is heavy rainfall. Due to this topography, streams belonging to different systems are very isolated, as there is no seasonal flooding of the entire area to link them. This may be the reason for the high species diversity and limited distributions of endemic fishes in this part of the Departamento Loreto.

cies is retained in the hobby through continued captive breeding. Perhaps the change of name will help in this respect!


Römer, U. et al. 2012. Description of Apistogramma allpahuayo sp. n., a new dwarf cichlid species (Teleostei: Perciformes: Geophaginae) from in and around the Reserva Nacional Allpahuayo Mishana, Loreto, Peru. Vert Zool 62 (2): 189–212. Römer, U. 2000. Cichlid Atlas: Natural History of South American Dwarf Cichlids, vol. 1. Mergus, Melle, Germany, 508–27.

Reproductive behavior


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Apistogramma allpahuayo (under other names) has been bred successfully in captivity many times. Like most members of the genus, it prefers to be polygamous but will breed in pairs if there is no other option. Like those of related species in the Apistogramma cacatuoides complex, males exhibit highly ritualized aggressive behavior, threatening one other with their mouths wide open. This is thought to be the reason why males of this group have disproportionately large mouths compared to conspecific females and both sexes of other apisto groups. Sex change has occasionally been reported in South American dwarf cichlids, including Apistogramma species, but Apistogramma allpahuayo is the only apisto in which its occurrence has been unequivocally proven. An adult female of typical appearance bred successfully on repeated occasions, but after her partner male died she grew to male size, took on typical male coloration and morphology (such as finnage), and spawned successfully with a daughter female. The fish was later preserved for study of its gonads, and the results will be published when they are available. Since 2008, very few specimens of this species have been imported, perhaps because a major part of its distribution is protected as a nature reserve where no commercial fishing is allowed. This a good thing from a conservation standpoint, but aquarists should try to ensure that this attractive and interesting spe-




One of the colorful, almost brilliant red Neocaridina heteropoda “Red Cherry” Shrimps, kept outdoors.

I keep my Red Cherry Shrimps in these outdoor tanks year ’round.



I have been breeding the Red Cherry or Red Fire Shrimp for years. Along the way it occurred to me that I might improve color intensity using suitable food and direct sunlight. Because of lack of space—I needed the 66-gallon (250-L) aquarium I’d been keeping them in for the young Angelfishes I had bred—I was compelled to move the shrimps elsewhere. I had prepared a fiberglass tank outside. It was the end of May and the water had a temperature of around 64°F (18°C) in the sun. I felt that according to everything I had read, that ought to suffice for these very adaptable shrimps. The fiberglass tank had the following dimensions: length 3.28 feet (100 cm), width 3.28 feet (100 cm), depth 2.62 feet (80 cm). It had cold spring water about 50°F (10°C) constantly flowing through it. The jet of water from the inlet had a diameter of some .39–.47 inch (10–12 mm), and the tank contained a number of pieces of bogwood and some Willow Moss. I introduced approximately 1,300 Red Cherry Shrimps. The shrimps were typically colored—the females red or reddish, the males predominantly colorless. Only a few males were slightly reddish in color, and the young were completely colorless. The red of every female intensified, and about 50 percent of the males became noticeably red in color. Even the little juveniles had a slight reddish sheen. What could be the reason? I hadn’t changed anything about the feeding. But various algae had developed in the outdoor tank, probably because of the direct sunlight. There were thread algae that were barely recognizable as such because the shrimps kept them short. One alga looked like a cushion of moss and another was a light green color. I also noticed that the shrimps mostly stayed in the Willow Moss and regularly grazed on it. I assume

that algae had developed on the moss as well. The moss, which had previously proliferated, now stopped spreading. Perhaps the shrimps were eating it as fast as it grew in their search for algae. Over the summer I also fed the usual green clumps of algae from a pond. The shrimps literally fell upon the newly introduced algae on the first day, but they paid no attention to it the next day. I assume that they had combed the harvested algae for tiny organisms and that thereafter the algae itself was of no interest. The Red Cherry Shrimps bred dramatically. By the end of August there were around 10,000–12,000 individuals, and they were such an intense red that they bore a resemblance to the Sakura Shrimp. I sold a lot of them and the rest remained in the tank over the winter. The inflowing spring water had a constant temperature of around 50°F (10°C) in winter and summer. Despite several spells of freezing, the Red Cherry Shrimps survived beneath the ice. Remarkably, only adults were still present in the spring. But I did discover some River Shrimps. I assume that they had enjoyed eating the young shrimps. The following spring there were still around 500 Red Cherry individuals in the tank, and they bred vigorously after the tank was cleaned out and the River Shrimps removed. The next year I used larger tanks that were constantly fed with fresh water, and with these I achieved the same results. This experiment indicates to me that color intensity in these shrimps depends on the food, and that they can tolerate temperatures ranging from around 39 to over 86°F (4–30°C). But beware! This means they can also survive in natural waters. The consequences are hard to foresee, as evidenced by the introduction of other species of animals.



Red Cherry Shrimps in the open air







NOTEBOOK Melanochromis mpoto, male in breeding coloration at Chitande Island, Lake Malawi, Malawi.

Melanochromis —taxonomically resolved? tCZ.BSZ#BJMFZ


pigmentation pattern. For example, female and juvenile M. auratus are golden yellow with black bands, while breeding males are black with yellow bands. However, in some species breeding males completely lose their bands.

A new species As well as resolving a number of existing problems within the genus (see below), Konings and Stauffer describe a new species, Melanochromis mpoto, familiar for many years as Melanochromis “blue” (Ribbink et al. 1983). The name of the new species, mpoto, is derived from ChiTumbuka, the language spoken along the northwestern shore of the lake; it means “northern” and refers to the wide distribution of the species in the northern part of the lake. It has been recorded along the northwestern shore between Nkhata Bay and Chitande Island, near Chilumba, and on the northeastern shore between Matema and Hongi Island. Although Ribbink et al. (1983) reported the species from Likoma Island, Konings and Stauffer have been unable to locate it there. Melanochromis mpoto is found in both rocky and intermediate habitats. Although it has been seen to feed on plankton, it is mainly predatory (on smaller fishes and invertebrates), usually living solitary but sometimes forming small packs to hunt. Males in breeding color have been seen in the lake, but are apparently not territorial. Male M. mpoto are very similar to male M. kaskazini, and the two species seem to have similar hunting behaviors. However, the possibility of their being geographical


A major frustration among aquarists is the way scientific names seem to be forever changing. But Ad Konings and Jay Stauffer, the authors of a 2012 paper on the Lake Malawi endemic genus Melanochromis, believe that their recent review finally ties up the loose ends for this monophyletic genus, the species in which have all (to the best of their knowledge) been described. After many years of underwater research, Konings probably knows the lake and its fishes better than anyone else alive—so it seems unlikely, albeit not impossible, that any additional species lurk undetected, and the current diagnosis of the genus on the basis of melanin patterns and morphometrics looks very solid. We can but hope the authors are right! Like many other Malawian genera, Melanochromis was originally characterized by its morphology, including its pharyngeal dentition. During the first part of the 20th century, taxonomists’ over-reliance on pharyngeal dentition led to a number of errors in classifying Malawi cichlids, including the assignment of Melanochromis auratus to Pseudotropheus for many years, which was obviously incorrect (at least to aquarists). In the 1980s, the realization that melanin patterns are important led to a major reexamination of Malawi cichlid taxonomy. The generic diagnosis of Melanochromis has subsequently been revised a number of times, and the melanin pattern of contained species now plays a major role. The genus now includes only species with a basic melanin pattern consisting of two black longitudinal stripes on a light background; most adult specimens exhibit sex-related reversal of this


11 15



Melanochromis mpoto, female at Katale Island, Lake Malawi, Malawi.


Loose ends


Most of the problems mentioned earlier relate to the taxonomic work of Johnson, who described a number of mbuna, including Melanochromis species, during the 1970s and ’80s. Most, if not all, of these descriptions were problematic and have caused numerous headaches ever since. In the course of the research for their paper, Konings and Stauffer discovered that in describing Melanochromis chipokae and M. loriae, Johnson (1975) muddled up both the photographs and the females of the two species. In other words, each description is based on a male holotype (the single specimen chosen to represent the species, and therefore the “right” species by definition) and females of the other species, with the wrong species illustrated. This monumental error was followed by another in 1976, when Axelrod and Burgess described M. parallelus without comparing their new species with Johnson’s—although, to be fair, this may have been due to ignorance of Johnson’s work, which was published in a hobby magazine with very limited circulation. Konings and Stauffer have now compared the material and established that M. parallelus is the same species as M. loriae, and thus a junior synonym of the latter. They have also redescribed M. loriae and M. chipokae, so accurate, detailed descriptions for both taxa are at last available. A decade later, in 1985, Johnson described a further species of Melanochromis, M. robustus. The holotype is an “outsize” male that had obviously been seriously over-

fed in the aquarium before it was killed and preserved, although Johnson claimed that it was preserved two weeks after it was captured. However, a photo of the live holotype taken some years prior to the description shows a very different fish that could not possibly have laid down the fat deposits of the preserved specimen within such a short time. Johnson also gave the type locality as “Chizimulu Island” (that is, Chizumulu), but Konings and Stauffer believe this is an error. The holotype was obtained through the aquarium trade, so source information may not have been reliable (the trade is notorious for misspelling and mixing up unfamiliar names). M. robustus is a very large mbuna; they have found similar Melanochromis of similar size only at Chinyankwazi Island, and the photo of the live holotype agrees well with the wild male specimens from that location, which they suggest should be regarded as the type locality. Again, the authors have provided a comprehensive redescription for future reference.

Identity crisis resolved The final “loose end” is the fish described as Melanochromis brevis by Trewavas in 1935, known only from type specimens and not unequivocally identified with any living cichlid in the lake. Over the years, this species has been repeatedly moved back and forth between Melanochromis and Pseudotropheus, not only by the unreliable Johnson but also by more reputable authors. It has also been confused with other species, including M. robustus. This confusion has also, not surprisingly, manifested in the trade, and over the years I personally have seen at least three different cichlid species, both living and in photos, labeled M. brevis—and not one of them looked remotely like a Melanochromis; none had the characteristic longitudinal bands.


variants of a single species is precluded by females and juveniles having a very different coloration. Moreover, no intermediate forms have been found, and the two species are, in fact, sympatric over the entire range of M. kaskazini, which extends from Nkanda to Lundu.

“Wow!” AMAZONAS Volume 1, Number 6 November/December 2012

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Trewavas described M. brevis from two specimens, an adult and a juvenile, without designating either as the holotype. As the rules of taxonomy now require a holotype, in such cases it is normal for anyone reviewing a species to choose one of the type specimens (syntypes) as a lectotype, which thereafter enjoys the same unique status as a holotype. Konings and Stauffer have now designated the larger specimen as a lectotype. Because of the past confusion with M. robustusi, they compared the two species and found them to be distinct. Neither specimen, not even the juvenile, exhibits any pattern of bands or bars, which means that the species cannot belong to Melanochromis as currently defined; all juveniles of the genus possess a black midlateral band. The authors also sought to find living specimens of the species and discovered that it matches with the fish termed Pseudotropheus “williamsi Nkhudzi” by Ribbink et al. (1983). Live specimens display two horizontal rows of spots on the flank, which is a characteristic of Pseudotropheus williamsi, type species of its genus. So this little mbuna’s identity crisis has finally been resolved, and henceforth it should be known as Pseudotropheus brevis (Trewavas 1935).

The final tally Melanochromis, as now understood, contains the following 15 species:



Melanochromis auratus (Boulenger, 1897) Melanochromis baliodigma Bowers & Stauffer, 1997 Melanochromis chipokae Johnson, 1975 Melanochromis dialeptos Bowers & Stauffer, 1997 Melanochromis heterochromis Bowers & Stauffer, 1997 Melanochromis kaskazini Konings-Dudin, Konings & Stauffer, 2009 Melanochromis lepidiadaptes Bowers & Stauffer, 1997 Melanochromis loriae Johnson, 1975 Melanochromis melanopterus Trewavas, 1935 (type species of the genus) Melanochromis mossambiquensis Konings-Dudin, Konings & Stauffer, 2009 Melanochromis mpoto Konings & Stauffer, 2012 Melanochromis robustus Johnson, 1985 Melanochromis simulans Eccles, 1973 Melanochromis vermivorus Trewavas, 1935 Melanochromis wochepa Konings-Dudin, Konings & Stauffer, 2009 Konings and Stauffer’s paper also includes a handy table showing events in the colorful taxonomic history of Melanochromis, and ends with a key to the genus that gives the usual diagnostic characters and includes color photographs of the species—a novel and potentially very useful approach, especially for aquarists. REFERENCES

Burgess, W.E. and H.R. Axelrod. 1976. Studies on the family Cichlidae: 4. Two new species of mbuna (rock-dwelling cichlids) from Lake Malawi. Tropical Fish Hobbyist 24 (7): 44–52. Johnson, D.S. 1975. More new Malawi cichlids. Today’s Aquarist 2, 15–26. Johnson, D.S. 1985. Lake Malawi’s monster Melanochromis, Melanochromis robustus, sp. n. Today’s Aquarist 1 (1): 3. Konings, A.F. and J.R. Stauffer, Jr. 2012. Review of the Lake Malawi genus Melanochromis (Teleostei: Cichlidae) with a description of a new species. Zootaxa 3258: 1–27. Ribbink, A.J. et al. 1983. A preliminary survey of the cichlid fishes of rocky habitats in Lake Malawi. S Afr J Zool 18: 149–310. Trewavas, E. 1935. A synopsis of the cichlid fishes of Lake Nyasa. Ann Mag Nat Hist 10 (16): 65–118.

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by Martin Hallmann t What distinguishes highly specialized soft- and


blackwater fishes from “normal” species, those adapted to more typical water parameters? The majority of fishes live in nutrient-rich water with a neutral pH and moderate hardness. But Parosphromenus species are quite different. The water they live in is very akin to distilled water, but is also extremely acid and brown in color. What effects does this have on their ecology?


Why are Licorice Gouramis the way they are?



During courtship, Licorice Gourami males exhibit bold markings and colors; this is a Parosphromenus nagyi (Nagy’s Licorice Gourami) male from the Cherating biotope. The headdown courtship position is typical of P. nagyi. Both sexes exhibit “sexy eyes,” no doubt highly visible even in the gloom of a blackwater stream.

Blackwater streams The dwarf fishes that we know as Licorice Gouramis are thus specialized predominantly on very acid waters with a low “germ” count, for example, blackwater streams. They are children of the tropics, inhabiting regions with very constant temperatures and rainfall throughout the year. They occur on the Malayan Peninsula, in Sumatra and


Typical Licorice Gourami biotope, in Cherating, western Malaysia. Within a short distance, this spring-fed pool at the edge of a wood becomes a large, sometimes fast-flowing stream. Some of the loveliest blackwater aquarium fishes live here: rasboras, chocolate gouramis, fightingfishes, Pangio loaches, and others. Licorice Gouramis inhabit heavily vegetated areas with little current in 20–40 inches (50–100 cm) of water. Unlike most labyrinthfishes, they do not use an accessory breathing system, so they need clean water that isn’t too warm.

To understand the husbandry demands of the rare and beautiful Licorice Gouramis, we must start with their native blackwater habitats in southeast Asia. “Normal” water is a suitable medium for most tropical freshwater fishes. It permits the development of food chains consisting of bacteria, uni- and multicellular organisms, plankton, crustaceans, and insects, with fishes and piscivorous fishes at the top of the chain. The similarity of the surrounding chemical milieu and that of the body cells facilitates the metabolism of the resident life forms. By contrast, the Parosphromenus species are specially adapted to extremely nutrient-poor, almost sterile blackwater streams—a biotope that is hostile to life as far as the majority of “normal fishes” are concerned. Because it isn’t at all easy for the normal fish organism to cope with pH values of 3 to 4 and practically distilled water, our Parosphromenus have had to develop a strategy to do so: they glean their trace-element requirements from the small amount of minerals in the water and eat a specialized diet that consists almost exclusively of the juvenile stages of the ubiquitous shrimps, which process the substrate of leaf litter, making difficult-to-obtain nutrients available to higher links in the food chain.



Borneo, and on the islands of the Riau Archipelago. Their distribution region includes remnants of once-extensive natural forests, swamps, and elevated moorlands, which are subject to the fairly constant rainfall prevalent in the tropics throughout the year and which store the water and then slowly give it up again, buffered to a low pH. However, in the tropics there are also intervening dry periods that can have a dramatic effect on aquatic life forms. Although it sometimes doesn’t rain for many weeks in western Malaysia, cool, clean blackwater continues to flow out of the slightly elevated woodlands. Around Kuantan, for example, the ground is frequently covered in a layer of peat, even near the coast. The blackwater wells up from numerous gullies and pools among the trees, initially creating small streams. It is astonishing how rapidly these streams increase in size compared to lowland rivers. The input of water from the adjacent soil must be very large. Within a short distance these rivulets expand to broad streams, often becoming large rivers within a few miles. Sea tides also play a role in the ecology of these lowland coastal waters of the tropics. The deep, soft, moist forest floor, enriched with huge amounts of organic residues, acts like a sponge, initially compensating for gaps in the rainfall. Even in the dry season, water of largely optimal quality, chemistry, and temperature continues to flow. The water issuing from the forest floor under the force of gravity is conditioned by the shade and the cooling effect of evapora-

tion. During its passage through the ground, the rainwater absorbed by the forest floor (or peat bog) is enriched with the tannic, humic, and fulvic acids contained in the masses of dead plant material in the soil. The result is very soft, acid, and dark-stained water with antiseptic properties. As we will see, this staining plays an important role. These cool waters, which have extremely low electrical conductivity, no measurable hardness, a pH of 3 to 5.5, and a temperature between 77 and 84°F (25–29°C), represent an ecological niche for our Licorice Gouramis. These fishes will die at a temperature a little above 86°F (30°C). With air temperatures typically around 104°F (40°C), it would spell doom for the inhabitants of a stream if the influx of cool water were to cease.



This P. quindecim male exhibits extreme contrast in its markings and coloration. In this species the male courts the female in a horizontal body position, often twisting around the longitudinal axis of the body and pushing beneath the female.

Parosphromenus species can also live in waters with less extreme parameters (as evidenced by their adaptability in the aquarium and the fact that they are sometimes caught in acid clearwaters), but are undoubtedly adversely affected by competitors there. There are both directly limiting factors and those that have an insidious effect. The important influence of the upland moors, swamps, and layers of peat is demonstrated by the fact that where these natural reservoirs and water-conditioning layers are removed or drained by ditches, the blackwater is replaced by warm, stagnant, nutrient-rich water. Widespread destruction of forests and agricultural land use, mainly for oil-palm plantations, is systematically, rapidly, and permanently destroying these blackwater biotopes. Unfortunately, the blackwater fishes cannot adjust.

Water color and courtship coloration What effect does this specialization on the biotope described have on the appearance and behavior of Licorice Gouramis? It is now known that the 20 or more species of the genus are amazingly homogenous in their behavior and requirements. They also have limited evolutive capability; these fishes are highly specialized, and tolerate only slight alterations to their basic environmental conditions, which have remained constant for centuries. The blackwater stream ecological niche, with its extreme water parameters (where only a highly specialized fish community can develop, as certain disruptive influences are excluded) and very low light levels, is relevant to the development of extreme color patterns and the effective courtship movements of Licorice Gouramis. They are known as extremely colorful, butterfly-like fishes with contrast-rich patterns. Photographs typically show males exhibiting a mood-related color pattern and displaying their finnage. The brief moment during which the fins are fully spread apparently produces a spectacle that is attractive to the female. The contrast-rich color patterns and gleaming bands,

Male Parosphromenus alfredi.

spots, or edgings are accentuated when the fish twists in the light entering the dark water from above. The fish assumes an oblique position along the longitudinal axis so that the vertically incident light rays are reflected by the iridescent surfaces of the fins. Such extremely contrasting display coloration is unnecessary in clearwater biotopes, and could even be dangerous. But when the fish adopts a normal, horizontal body position in the dimly lit conditions in the tangle at the bottom of a blackwater stream, there is no light reflection and the outline of the fish is virtually invisible to either friend or foe. Only for the brief moment when he spreads his fins in the oblique position does the male abandon his camouflage against predators.

Species-specific display coloration Licorice Gouramis are superficially very similar, and most don’t differ in size and form but only in their coloration and fin patterns (although there are a number of exceptions). Because these differences are critical when it comes to recognition of the correct reproductive partner, we regard them as criteria for the differentiation of species. The small size of these fishes, and the fact that mood-

Far left: We found Betta tussyae (Tussy’s Fightingfish) in the same blackwater stream, but always in shallow pools with water flowing through, at the shady edge of the wood.


Left: Numerous predators constitute a threat to the Licorice Gouramis, which are not particularly well armed or flight-efficient and for this reason rely on cover, shadow, and very limited movement for protection. We caught well-fed nandids and this large Belontia hasselti (Malay Combtail) in the Licorice Gourami biotopes.


related coloration is displayed only when the fish is thriving, make it considerably more difficult to distinguish the species. However, their color patterns—which relate to the display coloration of the males—can be used to distinguish clearly recognizable types. The species-typical body pattern should always be considered together with the coloration and patterning of the fins. This gives us five basic types. In the commonest type, the banding and margins of the fins follow the body outline. Because of the strongly contrasting colors and metallic effects of the markings, the body outline appears larger and more impressive when the fins are spread. This display coloration is exhibited by the majority of Licorice Gouramis. All members of the Parosphromenus harveyi (Harvey’s Licorice Gourami) group, as well as P. allani (Allan’s Licorice Gourami) and P. quindecim, plus the lanceolate-finned P. filamentosus (Spiketail Licorice Gourami) and P. deissneri (“the” Licorice Gourami), exhibit this type of patterning in the fins. It is combined with striking white and blue to black and turquoise ventral fins and longitudinal striping of the body, similar to that seen in pencilfishes (Nannostomus). P. nagyi (Nagy’s Licorice Gourami) is an exception. The uniform red-brown fin color and striking white fin margins in P. anjunganensis (Anjungan Licorice Gourami) probably represent a reduced variant of the submarginal band. There are also other types of pattern, such as the “starry sky” in the fins of P. linkei. This is also seen, in reduced form, in P. pahuensis, in combination with lateral spots (ocelli) like those seen in Betta coccina. The two members of the Parosphromenus parvulus

group exhibit a simple, light-dark contrast on the body (no striping, just divided in two), with broad and extremely reflective white margins in the unpaired fins with contrasting black and red. These are the only two species in which the ventral fins are unimportant in communicating with conspecifics. The ventral fins of almost all other Licorice Gouramis are intensely colored and are displayed by spreading them apart from one another, but those of P. ornaticauda (Redtail Licorice Gourami) and P. parvulus are small and transparent. Then there are the more plainly colored Licorice Gouramis, such as Parosphromenus paludicola (Swamp Licorice Gourami). The males of this species, and to a lesser extent the females as well, exhibit flank spots and pastel turquoise and red-violet reflective markings in the fins. Finally, in Parosphromenus sumatranus (Sumatra or Fire-Red Licorice Gourami), practically the only marking apart from the irregular, low-contrast patterning in the unpaired fins is a striking ocellus on the dorsal fin. The essentially transparent ventral fins exhibit a dark-line marking that ends in the filament.

Head-standing and “sexy eyes” And now we find ourselves in the middle of those confusing color features that are only intermittently displayed. These are inseparably interwoven with specific modes of behavior and situations. We have already outlined the dramatic courtship display of the male, who seeks to present himself to the female literally in the best light. This courtship includes not only fin-spreading and maximum expression of col-




Unlike almost all other Licorice Gouramis except P. parvulus (Cherry-Spotted Licorice Gourami), P. ornaticauda doesn’t use reflected sunlight but light shining through from above. By approaching the female from above and simultaneously angling his body, he causes the very broad white fin edgings to gleam brilliantly.

oration, but also making sudden passes above and below the female. The details of this behavior vary in accordance with the groups mentioned above, and may be useful in undertaking the systematic separation of species. We recognize head-up courters (Parosphromenus sumatranus, P. parvulus, and P. ornaticauda) and headdown courters or horizontal courters (the majority of the others). The head-up display is seen in males of the P. parvulus group and both sexes of P. sumatranus. All members of the P. harveyi group display head-down, and P. quindecim, P. linkei, P. paludicola, and P. filamentosus in a normal, horizontal swimming position. Mood-related color patterns are a lot less striking in females, but close observation shows that they exhibit interesting differences. In almost all species, female coloration during courtship is characterized by the striping becoming paler and by the appearance of a black vertical bar through the eye (so-called “sexy eyes”). This marking is also seen in males in the corresponding mood. However, in the “odd men out,” Parosphromenus parvulus and P. ornaticauda, neither sex ever exhibits sexy eyes, and the females display a contrast-rich, light-dark body coloration during spawning. Even the red flame of the caudal fin is then visible in P. ornaticauda females, making them look very similar to the males. In addition to the species-specific markings and coloration, there are other ways of determining the species. All species with a lanceolate caudal fin often exhibit a typical backward and forward jerking with fins spread, but to the best of my knowledge, all other forms remain at rest in the water. A further striking species-typical and

apparently unique behavior is the courtship dance of P. ornaticauda. (The sibling species P. parvulus exhibits this in a very dilute form.) During courtship the male flits around the female in an erratic circular or zigzag pattern. An example of as-yet-unexplained behavior is the up-and-down rocking of the body, with the back straightened and the eye representing the pivot, seen in all courting Licorice Gouramis of the Parosphromenus harveyi group.

Habitat specialists Obviously the courtship, the enticing of the female to a pit dug in the substrate, the ritualized spawning, and the almost overbearing brood care by the male for 10 days are all part of the successful “Licorice Gouramis in the blackwater stream” model. And the paucity of movement on the part of the few, but relatively large, fry (there are hardly any microorganisms suitable for first foods for small fry in the sterile environment) ensures that enough young fishes grow to maturity. The seeking out of suitable habitats and the subsequent sedentary nature of these fishes are striking. Licorice Gouramis are never found en masse in their native waters, but they may occur in large numbers together with shrimps in suitable places, such as beneath overhanging turf or among the masses of small roots in holes in the bank beneath trees. Some have documented the colonization of current-poor bank areas on the insides of bends in streams. In practice, the fact that Licorice Gouramis settle only in certain spots in the stream means that different collectors working in the same body of water may have

Parosphromenus sp. “Langgam” is a very lovely species, not yet scientifically described.


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widely different results. In the course of time one develops an eye for it, and sometimes luck plays a part. Somehow these very dainty little fishes are able to hold their own among other, much more robust-looking species. By analyzing the environment in great detail during a number of trips to the tropics, I have established that they are neither able to defend themselves nor adept at flight. Their strategy is to “creep” along close to the food-rich substrate with minimal movement, no noticeable aggression or strong territoriality, little in the way of striking coloration except during courtship, and reliable and highly effective brood care. Licorice Gouramis have also abandoned the use of the labyrinth (an accessory respiratory organ that labyrinthfishes use to take in atmospheric oxygen). They are independent of the water’s surface, but require cool, oxygenrich (flowing and clean) water. Overall, the strategy is advantageous in this environment, but only in this environment!

Not very adaptable

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I find the rigidity of the ritualized behavioral patterns noteworthy. They appear to have evolved over a very long period of time and are not easy to change. Licorice Gouramis are highly specialized, and therefore not very adaptable. Unfortunately, this means they are demanding both in the aquarium and in the wild. The severe and fundamental encroachment of humans on a highly specialized ecological niche can be repaired only with difficulty. Such encroachment is destructive of endemics, initially locally and later generally. The loss of Licorice Gouramis is a great shame, but it is one of the smaller problems of mankind. We humans are, however, able to react when we become aware, and the Parosphromenus Project is such a reaction. Every life form, every species is a response to a habitat. Looked at logically, the effects of physical size and the influence of biological parameters, such as food organisms, competitors, and predators, are too important to have random consequences. The result is numerous inventions of evolution, usually inconspicuous, but also very complex and sometimes fantastic-looking. The occupation of ecological niches, the development of display coloration, and the special modes of behavior in Licorice Gouramis are examples of this. As aquarists we can and must learn lessons from this if we want to maintain Licorice Gouramis correctly, breed them, and preserve them.

The Parosphromenus linkei (Linke’s Licorice Gourami) shown here is using reflected light from above, as well as light shining through, to display his “starry sky” courtship coloration and iridescent lateral ocellus. This photo shows the sort of contortions the fish performs in order to achieve the maximum effect.

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in Licorice Gourami biotopes



article and images by Horst Linke t Licorice Gouramis are very special fishes, but they can be quite challenging to keep in the aquarium. Information on their natural habitat is indispensable in order to provide them with optimal living conditions in the aquarium. How do these fishes live in the wild? What niche biotopes do they occupy? What water parameters occur in their natural habitat, and can we replicate those conditions so we can keep Licorice Gouramis in our aquariums? The fact that I have been a devoted fan of the colorful little Parosphromenus species for many years has been reason enough for me to carefully investigate their distribution regions during my travels. In recent years I have been able to find around 20 of the roughly 30 different species, both described and undescribed scientifically, and study their habitats.

Blackwater biotopes Above: Around 2 miles (3 km) from the village of Kurau we investigated a large blackwater swamp area that is fed by and drains into a small river. Parosphromenus deissneri (Licorice Gourami) lives here among dense marginal vegetation. Above right: In this small river about 2 miles (3 km) from Kurau, we found numerous P. deissneri.


Left: Two male P. deissneri in the aquarium, in normal coloration. Note the elongated hard ray in the center of the lanceolate caudal fin.

All the known Licorice Gouramis of the genus Parosphromenus live in stained blackwaters. Note, however, that blackwaters aren’t really black, but a dark red-brown color, produced in part by peat-like materials but mainly by the decomposing leaves of trees and scrub that grow close to the banks. These dead leaves accumulate in multiple thick layers and release numerous substances, especially humic substances, which prevent any noteworthy population of bacteria in the water. These substances are very important to the health and well-being of the resident fishes, and often even essential for their survival. The staining of the water can be particularly strong during the rainy season or after a heavy rainfall, as the runoff percolates through the layers of leaf litter and peat and washes large amounts of humic substances into the rivers. However, despite the variation in color, the water parameters alter only slightly during these seasonal changes; the water is always very soft and mineral-poor, very clean, and very acid, with a carbonate hardness that is


Right: Deissner’s Licorice Gourami, Parosphromenus deissneri, from the area north of Kurau. These fishes exhibit impressive coloration and markings, particularly when displaying. They are among the most beautiful Licorice Gouramis.

Below, left: The research site at Kepayang on Belitung. The water here was only slightly brownish after a heavy rainfall. This was the habitat of Parosphromenus sp. “Belitung”, a rarely seen Licorice Gourami species. Below, right: In large parts of Kalimantan, the rainforest has given way to a low-lying scrub landscape. Due to increased exposure to the sun, the water temperature in these areas tends to be elevated.

barely measurable. It can also happen, though, that the water color becomes temporarily lighter following very heavy rainfall if the runoff doesn’t percolate through peat-like material. It is then only weakly brownish, and as the result of minerals being washed in the pH may rise briefly from below pH 4 to slightly more than pH 5. However, the rest of the water parameters usually remain unchanged. To aid would-be Parosphromenus keepers, here are a number of examples of the natural habitats that I have visited at a variety of seasons over the course of the years.

Parosphromenus deissneri on Bangka


The Licorice Gourami best known by name is undoubtedly Parosphromenus deissneri, although until recently its actual appearance was unknown to many aquarists because other forms were being sold under the same name. Adult males of this species have a lanceolate caudal fin with a prolonged fin ray at its center. They exhibit a strik-


ing gray, but no red in the otherwise black fins with no edgings. During display, however, red longitudinal bands appear on the body between the typical dark stripes. For many decades the name Parosphromenus deissneri was used as a catchall for all Licorice Gouramis that couldn’t be identified for certain, and by some for all Licorice Gouramis, regardless of their appearance. Some in the trade continue this practice even today. But the natural habitat of this species is the small Indonesian island of Bangka off the southeast coast of Sumatra, well away from the main collecting areas for Licorice Gouramis. I last visited this island at the beginning of September 2008, during an expedition by the EAC/AKL (the German labyrinthfish association). Unfortunately, the Bangka landscape is being taken over by oil-palm plantations, and the habitats of many wild creatures are becoming severely limited. Parosphromenus deissneri is found mainly in the northern and eastern parts of the island. Our first study

site lay around 2 miles (3 km) from the village of Kurau, 17 miles (27 km) south of Pangkalpinang, the island’s capital, heading in the direction of Toboali. It was a small blackwater stream with little current, with some wider sections and links to large swampy areas on either side of the road; it flowed through dense scrub at this point. The water here was “deep black,” a dark red-brown. The visibility was less than 20 inches (50 cm) and the water was clear. The pH was 4.72 and the electrical conductivity measured 4 μS/cm at a water temperature of 80.5°F (27.0°C). The water in the bank zones was 32–40 inches (80–100 cm) deep and easily negotiable. There was a dense growth of plants, sometimes emerse, that formed thick clumps in places, and a gentle current prevented the water from stagnating among this vegetation. We found mainly Parosphromenus deissneri in this habitat. The population density was amazingly high. Another site we investigated was likewise situated in the eastern part of the island, but this time north of the road from Sungailiat to Puding Besar. This was a small stream, only around 40 inches (1 m) wide, that issued from an area of woodland, flowed parallel to the road for a short distance, and then crossed it. This, too, was a dark blackwater, with a temperature of 81.7°F (27.6°C), a pH of 4.84, and an electrical conductivity of 8 μS/cm. The water was very clear and had a slight current. The water depth was 16 inches (40 cm) on average. Parosphromenus deissneri was particularly numerous in small areas of low current among the plants. Here, too, the population density was high, and all the fishes were in good physical condition. Dur-

ing the time of our visit there was repeated heavy rainfall, and hence the water was in motion. Parosphromenus deissneri is endemic to the island of Bangka, and its distribution on the island probably covers an area around 44 miles (70 km) in diameter. Its purported occurrence on the neighboring island of Belitung to the east has not yet been confirmed. However, Belitung is home to one or possibly even two species of the genus Parosphromenus. My research revealed that Parosphromenus deissneri is exclusively a blackwater dweller, so in the aquarium these fishes should be maintained only in water with plenty of humic substances (that is, peat) added to approximate their natural habitat.

Undescribed Licorice Gouramis on Belitung During our travels on the island of Belitung we were able to find Licorice Gouramis in several places, but we were of the opinion that they were all one species. These fishes, too, were living in blackwater biotopes, albeit of a less extreme type but nevertheless containing water with a pH in the acid range. As an example, I will discuss a site at Kepayang, on the road from Tanjungpandan, the largest town on Belitung, to Kuala Kampit in the east of the island. This was a watercourse around 10 feet (3 m) wide, up to 16.5 feet (5 m) in places, flowing through a scrub and woodland landscape and shaded almost everywhere. At the time of our research (September) the water here was only slightly brownish following heavy rainfall during the night. The pH was “only” 5.59 and the conductivity measured 9 μS/cm at a water temperature of 77.4°F (25.2°C). The water had a slight to moderate current and averaged 28 inches (70 cm) deep. The Licorice Gouramis were found among overhanging branches and



Driving the roads between Palangkaraya to Buntok is quite an adventure. If you want to find Parosphromenus here, you have to negotiate difficult rainforest tracks and cross two large rivers, the Sungai Kapuas and the Sungai Berito. Sometimes the only way to cross a river is on a primitive car ferry like this one.


Left, top: The population density of Parosphromenus parvulus is very high at the edges of the forested areas that remain between the large rivers Kapuas and Berito. Left, bottom: Male Parosphromenus parvulus in display coloration. At this time the color and markings of these fish are noticeably different from those of all other Parosphromenus species.

only faintly brownish in color after heavy rainfall. The pH was 5.03 and the conductivity 8 μS/cm at a water temperature of 77.5°F (25.3°C). These Licorice Gouramis exhibited no parallels with Parosphromenus deissneri in their appearance, and their coloration was more like that of one of the P. bintan group. It should nevertheless be noted that male fishes from Belitung lack any blue in their display coloration. Apart from a faint turquoise stripe pattern on the fins, they exhibit a bold black body coloration. On the basis of study of other groups in July, it is thought that these Parosphromenus live predominantly in less acid water and hence may be less problematical to maintain in the aquarium. The species is thought to have only a small distribution on Belitung, with a diameter of 31 miles (50 km) and getting smaller due to increased clear-cutting for plantations.


Parosphromenus in Kalimantan Tengah


aquatic plants, mainly along the margins where the current was weak, and in small bays. The substrate consisted of light sand like that in the biotopes on Bangka, and in places was covered in dead, black leaves. We also caught the same Parosphromenus species during our investigation of a woodland region between Bantan and Pelulusan in the south of the island of Belitung, where they were living in a small stream in almost complete darkness due to the close-packed trees. The stream was only about 6.5 feet (2 m) wide and up to 2 feet (60 cm) deep; the current was moderate and the water was

Parosphromenus parvulus, the RedSpotted Pygmy Licorice Gourami, was described by Vierke in 1979 and is one of the smallest of the genus, but surprisingly, it is thought to have the largest distribution region of the Parosphromenus species. Parosphromenus parvulus lives in the blackwater rivers of southern Borneo. Its natural habitat is in the Indonesian part of the island and is believed to be restricted to the province of Kalimantan Tengah. Edith Korthaus and Walter Foersch first caught these little Licorice Gouramis in 1978 in Palangan in the west of the huge province, where we also recorded this species in 1990. But during my own travels in 2009 I netted

Right: Displaying male Parosphromenus sp. “Belitung” in full color.

Bottom, left: Numerous fish species, including P. parvulus, can often be found in pools of water only 4–8 inches (10–20 cm) deep and in water-filled ditches along the rainforest tracks. Bottom, right: A large percentage of the watercourses in Kalimantan Tengah are blackwater biotopes. They are the habitat of numerous very interesting fishes popular in the aquarium hobby.

fishes of this species between the Kapuas and Berito Rivers, as well as to the east of Buntok in the eastern part of Kalimantan Tengah. The species is thus distributed from Palangan via Pundu, Tangkiling, and Babugus to Buntok, an area around 310 miles (500 km) in diameter, the largest distribution known to date for any Parosphromenus species. These fishes always live in blackwaters with slight current. They are found in the richly vegetated marginal zones of smaller rivers, as well as in small streams, swamp regions, shallow vegetated residual pools, and ditches along rainforest tracks. The most westerly occurrence known to me is the so-called Planduk (deer stream) of Korthaus and Foersch, on a tributary of the Sungai (River) Sampit at the edge of the village of Palangan. In July 1990 we found Parosphromenus parvulus in this stream, along with Betta foerschi (Chameleon Betta) and other species. The stream was also home to a second species of Parosphromenus, so far not described scientifically, which is currently termed Parosphromenus sp. “Palangan” and has rarely been imported. The stream was only around 6.5 feet (2 m) wide, up to 10 feet (3 m) in places, with a slight current and water that was dark red-brown in color. It was very mineral-poor and had a pH of 4.6

with a conductivity of 18 μS/cm and a water temperature of 76°F (24.5°C). The Licorice Gouramis were found almost exclusively in the sometimes densely vegetated marginal zones, and were not very numerous at this site. The stream followed the edge of a cultivated woodland area and flowed past rubber plantations. Some two years previously, in August 1988, we had caught Parosphromenus parvulus around 155 miles (250 km) to the east in the Tangkiling area, some 18 miles (29 km) north of Palangkaraya. The site was a small river with strongly red-brown, slightly flowing water. The shallow bank zones were vegetated with dense clumps of plants. The water was very clear and mineral-poor; carbonate and general hardness were both less than 1 degree (German), the pH was 4.1, and the conductivity measured 28 μS/cm at a water temperature of 82.8°F (28.2°C) in the shallow marginal zones and 78°F (25.5°C) at a depth of 20 inches (50 cm). Parosphromenus parvulus was living syntopic (sharing a habitat) here with two species of Chocolate Gourami, Sphaerichthys selatanensis and Sphaerichthys acrostoma, but there was no second Licorice Gourami species at this site. The rainforest here had already given way to a low-growing brush landscape on both sides of the road. Around


Bank zones in blackwater biotopes are among the preferred haunts of Parosphromenus species. The water here is always slow-flowing and very mineral-poor.

necessary to tackle sometimes difficultto-negotiate rainforest tracks and cross two large rivers, the Sungai Kapuas and the Sungai Berito. In 2009 there were still small, primitive car ferries across both rivers, but large bridges were under construction. Once they are completed it is likely that the majority of this region will be transformed into plantations, resulting in the loss of further large tracts of forest and perhaps the disappearance of the small, water-filled ditches, usually only 4–8 inches (10–20 cm) deep, along the tracks.

Successful maintenance 20 years later, during our visit in June 2007, the area had changed completely, but we were still able to find Parosphromenus parvulus in the Tangkiling area. Large rivers and small streams, sometimes with associated swamp regions, can still be found in this area today. The most easterly occurrence we investigated was an area of blackwater swamp by the road from Buntok to Ampah, about 155 miles (250 km) east of Tangkiling/ Palangkaraya. Here Parosphromenus parvulus was living syntopic with Parosphromenus filamentosus. The clear, gently flowing blackwater had a pH of 3.7 and a conductivity of 20 μS/cm. The water temperature was 84.7°F (29.3°C) in the shallow areas exposed to the sun. The water was heavily stained dark red-brown, indicating that the humic substances content was very high and the bacterial density very low. During our research in June 2009, the population density of Parosphromenus parvulus was still high. In order to reach Buntok from Palangkaraya, it is

Biotope information and the remarks at the beginning of this article are very important as a basis for the successful maintenance of Licorice Gouramis in the aquarium. The above-mentioned sample habitats of a number of Licorice Gourami species from Indonesia are not identical in every detail to the habitats of other species, but are representative of most of them. Awareness of their most important characteristics is necessary for the keeping and breeding of these fishes in the aquarium. They also convey a picture of the changes to which many of these habitats are currently being subjected. Extremely soft water, the complete absence of carbonates, and the huge importance of humic substances are three fundamental elements of Licorice Gourami biotopes, but in many places these are being greatly limited and devalued by changes in land use. I strongly feel that we can and must preserve in the aquarium that which is present in ever-decreasing quantities in the wild.


Why are almost all Parosphromenus in the trade labeled “deissneri”?


Parosphromenus deissneri was the first Licorice Gourami species to be described, as long ago as 1859. For almost 100 years it was thought to be the only Parosphromenus species, although fishes that looked different were sometimes found at a wide variety of places. Even today the name is still in popular use, but hardly anyone is familiar with the fish to which it actually belongs. Until recently the true Parosphromenus deissneri, endemic to the island of Bangka, had never turned up in the trade, although almost all species sold are known by this name. Why? The reason is that two species occur on Bangka, and the second, which we now know as Parosphromenus bintan, has a much wider distribution. It is easy to distinguish the two species by the difference in the structure of the caudal fin in males, but the over-100-year-old type specimen of Parosphromenus deissneri was a female that was so

damaged that this character could no longer be checked. For this reason the much more widely distributed fish was for many years thought to be P. deissneri, plus almost none of the finds during that 100 years originated from Bangka. The situation wasn’t clarified until 1998, when it finally became clear that the genus contained multiple species. An officially sanctioned re-description was published and a so-called neotype designated, but many people still haven’t changed their ways. Even today it is a pretty safe bet that the fishes labeled P. deissneri in the trade are not that species at all. But the lesson is being learned, and recently exporters and importers have been making the effort to apply the correct names to the fishes they supply. —Peter Finke


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Licorice Gouramis article and images by Günter Kopic t Breeding Licorice Gouramis requires followMale Parosphromenus ornaticauda (Ornate Licorice Gourami) in display coloration in front of the spawning cave.

ing certain protocols, but with a little effort any conscientious aquarist can succeed. Günter Kopic, who has been keeping and breeding Parosphromenus species, the genus known as Paro, for more than 25 years, tells us how he does it. I was still a boy when I started keeping my first fishes, including labyrinthfishes such as the Dwarf Croaking Gourami, Trichopsis pumila. As a married adult still without a permanent home, I found my desire to have an aquarium was reawakened. My wife had no objection, so in 1984 I set up my new aquarium. I still had the old angle-iron tank from my boyhood, but I didn’t want to put it in the living area, so the cellar of our rented apartment became my fish room. The aquariums proliferated fairly quickly. Because of the limited size of the cellar they were mostly smaller affairs. I had an increasing desire to keep killifishes, but this was virtually impossible because they were so hard to find. An unconventional dealer tried to obtain some for me, but what I actually received were Brown Spike-Tailed Paradise Fish (Pseudosphromenus dayi) and Peaceful Bettas (Betta imbellis). My interest in labyrinthfishes continued to grow, and I joined the IGL (International Labyrinthfish Association). I purchased my first Licorice Gouramis, six young Parosphromenus nagyi, at my very first IGL meeting in October 1986. A good six months and a new tank later, they spawned and the first young Nagyi’s Licorice Gouramis were soon swimming in my tanks. I was infected with the Paro virus. When we built our own house five years later, I planned the cellar fish room well in advance, specifically designing it for the maintenance and breeding of Parosphromenus species.


Small aquariums


I have found that a 5-gallon (20-L) aquarium is suitable for maintenance and breeding. The shelves of my racks are 16 inches (40.6 cm) wide, so I place the tanks end-out. In addition to the space-saving aspect—more aquariums can be fitted in side by side—I have found that Licorice Gouramis, which are rather shy, can be seen more easily using this arrangement. I think this is

immediately, but only after 7–14 days of monitoring the water parameters.

Live food Availability of a suitable food supply is a further prerequisite for the keeping and breeding of Licorice Gouramis. Only in the rarest of cases will they accept prepared foods such as flake or granules. Occasionally individual fishes can be persuaded to eat suitably fine frozen or dry foods,

Top: Pair of P. ornaticauda spawning. In this species the male closes the embrace with his tail. Bottom: As in many species, the female P. ornaticauda attaches her eggs to the ceiling of the cave (a half flowerpot); the male often assists her. In most species the female becomes much paler during the spawning phase, but in this species she colors up like the male—light above, dark below.


because a larger flight distance is available. Hence I have been able to observe the majority of spawnings, which take place in the caves nearest the front. The setup of my aquariums is spartan. Two or three homemade caves (half flowerpots), a small air-powered internal filter containing two fine-pored foam inserts with peat granules sandwiched in between, and a small piece of slate to hold the filter in place are sufficient for Licorice Gouramis. The cave ceiling shouldn’t rise toward the front, because if the fish construct a bubblenest it could slip out. Dark substrate and/or beech leaves (Fagus sylvatica) can be used as décor, but aren’t necessary and may sometimes even hinder effective breeding. It is important to have a tight-fitting cover glass, as Licorice Gouramis are very good at jumping. The lighting is less important, but shouldn’t be too bright. Larger aquariums are required for rearing only if the number of fry is high. In most cases the brood can be left in the breeding tank up to a size of .5 inch (1.27 cm), providing they are fed accordingly. I always try to move my Licorice Gouramis to newly set-up aquariums at intervals of around three months. Usually a water change isn’t necessary for that period of time. Larger, fully decorated aquariums are suitable for keeping groups of Licorice Gouramis. There will always be a number of young maturing, provided there are no other fishes present. For many species, soft, slightly acid water will suffice for maintenance, but when it comes to breeding Licorice Gouramis the water parameters are especially important. In my experience they must be very close to the parameters in their natural habitat, especially when dealing with wild-caught fishes or the first tank-bred generations. For example, in 1988 I was maintaining a form from the Parosphromenus bintan group, sold in those days as P. deissneri “Red”, which didn’t spawn unless the pH was less than 3. The subsequent tank-bred generations weren’t as demanding. Luckily, I have access to spring water for my Parosphromenus. The conductivity is between 85 and 115 μS/cm and the carbonate hardness less than 0.01°dKH, while the pH is 6.5 at the spring and 7.0 after being left to stand. The pH can then be adjusted to the range required for breeding the Licorice Gouramis via the quantity and quality of the peat granules used. Because carbonate hardness is virtually non-existent, it may even be possible to lower the pH below that of the peat granules. De-ionized or reverse-osmosis water makes a suitable alternative. Newly set-up aquariums shouldn’t be populated with fishes


Clockwise from top left: Pair of P. linkei (Linke’s Licorice Gourami) beneath the bubblenest. The photo clearly shows the dark bars through the “sexy eyes.” Usually the pair sink during the “paralysis” that follows a spawning pass. Only rarely do they float upward, as this male P. linkei is doing. Pair of P. linkei collecting the eggs after a successful spawning pass. Male P. linkei guarding the not-yet-free-swimming larvae. The brood comprises about 50 young.


such as CYCLOP-EEZE.


(Editor: Nano fish importer and breeder Rachel O’Leary says that she augments live foods with very high quality fine and crushed rations with newly arrived wild fish. “I fed them live white worms initially, but now they are eating crushed flake and Repashy Shrimp Souffle as well as Xtreme Catfish Scrapers—those pellets are like crack for fish.”) However, you must be prepared for the fact that the long-term maintenance and breeding of these fishes may require the virtually permanent availability of mouth-size live foods. Fortunately, the cysts (“eggs”) of Artemia species provide us with a food that is available year-round and

easy to handle. Depending on the size of the fry, Artemia nauplii are usually an excellent and easily regulated rearing food. In my view, long-term maintenance and breeding are possible using Artemia nauplii, but it is better to improve the menu with assorted other food organisms. One can, for example, resort to culturing various food organisms such as Moina, Grindal worms and microworms, and vinegar eels. I usually have the last two of these available. In general, springtails (order Collembola) and fruit flies (Drosophila) are less suitable as foods because they remain at the surface. Obviously, “pond foods” are very suitable for Licorice Gouramis, provided relevant conditions are met. In addition to suitable bodies of water at a convenient distance, legal restrictions, and the seasons of the year, you must consider quality and quantity. Try to find minimally polluted waters that contain the correct size of food organisms and no fishes.

Natural breeding And now we come to the most important part—the breeding itself. Only in the rarest of cases is it possible to select broodstock specially. Usually you have to start with the few specimens you have managed to obtain. The

Left: Pair of true P. deissneri (Licorice Gourami) spawning in the cave. I have found these fishes to be rather shy. Right: In P. deissneri the spawning embrace isn’t closed by the male’s tail. The eggs can be seen emerging from the female.

Above: A trade form of P. anjunganensis. As this photo shows, during the spawning phase, the female turns pale and her stripe pattern almost disappears. Below, left: This gorgeous Licorice Gourami male originated from an import consignment and is very probably Parosphromenus allani. Below, right: The stripe pattern of the female also fades in P. cf. tweediei (also known as P. sp. “Pontian”) during the spawning phase.



more harmoniously the pairs put down to breed behave, the easier breeding them will be. Ideally, you should buy six to eight half-grown juveniles and let them mature together. Assuming both sexes are present, loose pairs will form at the onset of sexual maturity. These pairs should then be used for subsequent breeding attempts. But most Parosphromenus species don’t spawn on command. Sometimes you wait in vain for courtship, pairing, spawning, and fry. Even if these hurdles can be surmounted, breeding may still founder on a variety of factors. For example, a poor fertilization rate in young and, above all, older pairs often results in the male eating all the eggs after one to three days, even if a number of eggs were developing. I once obtained a pair of Parosphromenus nagyi around four years old; they spawned regularly, but the eggs always disappeared after three days at most. So I removed a complete clutch—with some 150 eggs, it was the largest Parosphromenus clutch I had ever had—and incubated it artificially. After a short time I had around 50 free-swimming Parosphromenus nagyi fry. Another reason for failure is egg-eating parents,


Above, left: These Licorice Gouramis from the Bintan group were imported by Aquarium Glaser. Right: Male Parosphromenus cf. bintan courting his female. The “sexy eyes” with black eye bars indicate that both are ready to spawn.

though this is relatively rare. More often, the parent fishes regard the free-swimming fry as food and hardly any young grow on. For this and other reasons, I usually transfer the parents to another aquarium shortly before the fry become free-swimming. The best time to do this is when the larvae are positioned horizontally on the ceiling of the cave.

Artificial breeding


I always prefer the relatively natural method of breeding described above to artificial incubation of the eggs. Only when natural methods don’t work and I have no


Right: Several geographical variants of P. nagyi (Nagy’s Licorice Gourami) are known, but they differ only slightly. This adult pair are tank-breds from parent stock from the collecting site “Mersing Kluang 16/314" in Malaysia. Egg counts of more than 100 are possible in this case.

other adults available do I remove one or more clutches. The method and equipment I use for artificial hatching originate from Jakob Geck, and I have adapted them very little. A stock solution of 1 gram Trypaflavin (Acriflavin) to 1 liter distilled water is an important aid. Warning: this anti-bacterial remedy will kill plants. When removing clutches I carefully transfer the eggs underwater into plastic bowls containing about 6.75 ounces (200 ml) of water, to which I add 0.01 ounces (0.3 ml) of the Trypaflavin solution. I remove one or two dead eggs from the bowls every day. After hatching I carefully change two-thirds of the volume of water from the breeding tank. Shortly before they become freeswimming, the larvae and the contents of the bowl are transferred into a 1.8-pint (.85-L) jar. A day after feeding begins I add a small ramshorn snail to eat dead food organisms; the snail’s droppings can be removed relative-

Where can I buy Licorice Gouramis? Licorice Gouramis are rarely available in the aquarium trade. And when they are, they are almost invariably wildcaught specimens from the previous breeding season. Try to buy healthy specimens: not emaciated, no external signs of disease, no clamped fins. Perhaps they like to hide or their colors are faint, but that is quite normal. Don’t worry too much about the name under which they are being sold—it will often be incorrect. It is more important that both sexes are present. All specimens with a hint of colored banding in the unpaired fins will be male.

Females almost always have colorless, transparent dorsal, caudal, and anal fins. It is best to buy Licorice Gouramis as tank-breds directly from a good breeder, as then you will be sure to obtain healthy, vital individuals, often from a guaranteed location, with the correct species name. They also will have been kept in the right water and fed with the right live food. If you don’t know such a breeder, then go to the auctions held by your local labyrinthfish association. But the best course is membership (free) in the Parosphromenus Project and an email to distribution@parosphromenus-project .org. The project is currently developing a distribution service to help new Licorice Gourami fans obtain fishes. As a beginner you shouldn’t set your heart on a particular species right away—that usually doesn’t work and is also not particularly sensible. —Peter Finke

Left: The circling of the pair and their spawning passes often cause previously attached eggs to detach from the ceiling of the cave. Plenty of pairings are unsuccessful on the first attempt. Below: These gorgeous fishes were imported as P. sp. “Pontian”. They are very probably Parosphromenus tweediei.


Left: Juvenile P. ornaticauda at the age of 10 weeks.

ly easily from the jar by stirring briefly so that they collect in the middle of the bottom. Every day I top up the jar by about .40 inch (1 cm) using water from the breeding aquarium. Two to three weeks after free-swimming I am able to carefully transfer the fry into an aquarium previously prepared for them.

Rearing using Artemia The best food for rearing the fry is very freshly hatched Artemia nauplii, though I initially feed smaller fry with vinegar eels as well. These have the advantage that they continue to swim actively for several hours in the water,


Below: In my fish room, the middle row, with side-by-side 5-gallon (20-L) tanks, is mainly reserved for Licorice Gouramis. The setup for breeding these fishes is Spartan—the aquarium contains only a filter weighed down by a piece of slate and two homemade pottery caves. A close-fitting cover glass is important.


even in the acid environment, while microworms sink to the bottom and die more rapidly. Other food organisms of suitable size should be added to the diet as soon as possible. Subsequent rearing usually presents no problems. Depending on the species, young fishes reach sexual maturity at 9 to 12 months old. Parosphromenus can sometimes live to be relatively old—my records show that my oldest tank-bred female from the F2 generation of Parosphromenus deissneri attained an age of about nine years and five months—but are then of only very limited use for breeding. In my experience the optimal age for broodstock is between one and three years old. Licorice Gouramis are gorgeous and very interesting pets, but certainly not suitable for every aquarist. A certain amount of experience is required, as well as the ability to provide the correct water parameters and live foods of the right size. The maintenance and breeding of these fishes places demands on the aquarist, but they are generally achievable. Breeding, including for several generations, is readily possible in the case of many species, and invariably fascinating. I have tried to share some of my experiences during 25 years of keeping and breeding Parosphromenus. My breeding records (which I recommend that everyone keep) show, for example, that in the space of two years I documented 96 spawnings (35 of which successfully produced fry) of nine different species and forms. In another year I had a total of 146 spawnings from 19 pairs. However, I must warn everyone who is interested in Licorice Gouramis after reading this article: Beware! the Paro virus is quick to strike—but it’s well worth it.





The Parosphromenus Project: a global conservation network by Peter Finke t Despite all the taxonomic difficulties, the genus Parosphromenus, with 18 recognized species and an additional 20–40 local variants (and even more to follow), is still easy to overview. And despite all the diversity and publicity, one thing can be agreed upon: the existence of the entire genus is seriously endangered. It is thus a prime example of the need for well-organized conservation activity in the aquarium hobby. But there are two major hurdles to be surmounted: these colorful little fishes will eat only live food, and they obligatorily require extremely soft, acid water with a low bacteria count.


Experiences so far Unfortunately, conservation activity in the aquarium hobby is often based on a number of illusions, if it is practiced at all. Some people believe that the fishes we breed can be reintroduced into the wild—a false hope



The days of the vast majority of the blackwater jungle swamps, streams, and upland bogs of Malaysia and Indonesia are numbered. Since 1960, large areas of primary forest have been falling victim to Top right: This is what the majority of Licorice chainsaws and burning, initially in western Malaysia, then on the maGourami biotopes used jor islands, such as Sumatra, and currently in Kalimantan (Borneo) to look like. This still and Sarawak. The lowland wetlands are being drained to make way for unspoiled biotope of P. plantations (oil palms and tropical woods), the blackwaters are being anjunganensis is in the channeled away in the direction of the sea, and even the hilly regions drainage of the River Kapuas, Kalimantan are increasingly subject to destruction and drainage. Barat. It’s hard work The indigenous peoples have long since realized what immense collecting in the jungle! destruction is taking place in their homelands. But they are powerless in comparison to the powers in charge of the development. The orangutan is put forward as a symbol of the wildlife conservation that is taking place, but the success is very patchy. The formerly rich Bottom right: This is how the destruction biodiversity of this hotspot on our planet is disappearing—and with it, begins. The former bed totally unremarked by most people, numerous small fishes such as the of a jungle stream has truly gorgeous Licorice Gouramis. become a makeshift This was all foreseeable in 2005, when, with the unstinting help of track for four-wheelMartin Hallmann, I founded the “Paro-AG” (the nucleus of the curdrive vehicles, which are used to open up further rent Parosphromenus Project) in the IGL (International Labyrinthfish access. Association); our chief motivation was to do something to counter the destruction. For decades, aquarists and their organizations have neglected to get involved in any attempt to make the hobby conscious of its political dimension and take action on that level. It was clear to us right from the start that the most important task—making an effective contribution to saving original habitats—was going to be very difficult. We felt powerless in the face of the concentrated economic might of international concerns at work in Southeast Asia. Nevertheless, we are doing what we can; he who fails to take the first small step will never be able to do anything more far-reaching later.



but this operated almost exclusively in German and was inaccessible to many who might have been interested. By limiting it to the central European sphere of activity where it was founded, we hampered the growth of a project that we now realize must be active globally and in multiple languages. Compared to many similar endeavors, we were relatively well organized even back then, but not well enough. Most people who go to the effort of initiating conservation programs talk a lot about maintenance conditions, methods, and stud books, but too little about networking, organization, communication, and management. We, too, initially underestimated the importance of those elements, but those were years of learning and development, and we did achieve valuable initial successes and gather experience that stood us in good stead during the reorganization of the project in 2010.

A new beginning A serious conservation network has a chance of success only if it can involve professionally organized projects across the globe. My experience with the organization of international research groups proved useful here. The Internet is a real blessing when it comes to this sort of thing; it requires little material expense, albeit a heavy expenditure of time, to establish virtual links across international and intercontinental boundaries. Although we started in Germany, the potential for real growth lies in the Scandinavian countries, in the U.S., and in Asia, where many of the fishes originate. So English and French are now the main languages of the project. Linguists and translators are important members of our staff. Japanese still presents problems, but that will have to change, as there is a strong Licorice Gourami



(or a show of ignorance) for all sorts of reasons. Others believe that they can achieve something significant working alone or with a few friends from a club—also an illusion. Or they think that a few years’ effort can make a substantial contribution to the future. Sadly, conservation is often little more than a passing interest for many aquarists. But the real problem is one of much greater dimensions. In light of what we know now, we were comparatively ignorant and naïve when we started back in 2005. In our first years we have attempted to avoid making certain major mistakes, though in so doing we have made other ones. One such mistake was believing that problems obtaining stock, experienced by many aquarists who would have liked to work with us, were none of our concern. We got a large number of inquiries along the lines of, “How can I get hold of some Licorice Gouramis?” We passed on a few addresses, but otherwise replied, “Unfortunately, not from us. We aren’t responsible for distributing Licorice Gouramis, we’re just trying to organize their conservation. Setting up a supply line would overstretch us.” Even though that was true, it was nevertheless a mistake. Large numbers of young fishes were sometimes available, but in spite of that a lot of people who were really interested gave up in disappointment because they couldn’t obtain stock. Another mistake we made was underestimating the general information deficit regarding Licorice Gouramis. Nowadays there is more aquarium literature available even on killifishes and L-number catfishes than there is on Parosphromenus species. We could have made a lot of information available via our newly founded ParoForum, which by now has had well over a million hits,

Far left: Islands of clear-cutting appear in the primary forest. First the trees are felled and taken away, and then the remaining vegetation is destroyed. Left: After a downpour the cleared area looks like this: a planting bed for the oil palms that seal the fate of the former swampy jungle and its rich, specialized flora and fauna.

scene in Japan. In 2012 the project homepage will be accessible even in Chinese (Simplified Chinese). The one-man organization has now become the steering group, a team of people with separate roles who meet twice a year and remain in close communication the rest of the time. An international advisory board of wellknown experts has been appointed to advise the steering group. Its members come from Germany, England, France, the U.S., Japan, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Cooperation with other interested parties is important. We approached every expert and those with a serious interest right from the start, whether or not he or she was a member of the IGL. Nevertheless, the link with the IGL proved an impediment that had to be eliminated during the professionalization of the project. The German Paro-AG, now headed by Martin Hallmann, remains the nucleus, but other organizations in Europe, including the European Anabantoid Club (AKL/ EAC), the Anabantoid Association of Great Britain (AAGB), the Verband Deutscher Vereine für Aquarienund Terrarienkunde e.V. (VDA, the association of German aquarium clubs), and the European Aquarium and

Terrarium Association (EATA), are now equal partners and the resources of all the organizations are shared. Major museums, such as the Natural History Museum in London and the Raffles Museum in Singapore, are now cooperating institutions. The same applies to a number of research organizations, such as the Fish-BOL group in Guelph, Canada. We don’t run the Paro Project on anyone’s behalf or under the auspices of any organization or sponsor, but as an independent network of people whose sole agenda is Licorice Gouramis.

Current activities The current activities of the Parosphromenus Project are twofold: the preparation of truly reliable information and practical networking, both on a global level. In 2011, using private donations from Licorice Gourami enthusiasts, we established a large, advertisement-free, trilingual (German, English, and French) website for the Parosphromenus Project, accessible at Two older important instruments of the project have also been integrated into the website: the regular newsletter, now available in three languages via a global distributor from some 250 addresses in 17 countries, as well as the census that has taken place every six months in spring and autumn since 2005, and thus provides a

Bottom: Can Licorice Gouramis still be found here? Maybe, if the soil still has an adequate peat content and springs still rise in the islands of remaining jungle. But the habitat (here in western Malaysia) is by and large suboptimal.



Right, top: Nowadays the surviving Parosphromenus biotopes often look like this one in western Malaysia: no longer any jungle, a dead, straight track with a roadside ditch and oil palms on the other side. The blackwater organisms have vanished or been driven to the edge of existence as a result of the intensive human activity.


very detailed picture of the aquarium populations of what are now more than 50 different Parosphromenus forms, a critical evaluation of trends, and information on who has which species. Moreover, the website includes an innovative open forum for information from and communication with interested outsiders. This forum is designed to be free of linguistic constraints. Anyone can use the language of his or her choice, though English predominates. We have set up four sections: three major regional sections for Asian, European, and American users, where they can express their very different perspectives, and a global section where we can talk about Licorice Gouramis and their problems independent of these regions. Additional special features of the new website are interactive land maps, allowing the user to zoom in on the home territory of the fishes via Google Maps, multiple links to the literature and other websites, and regularly updated

news from the world of the Licorice Gourami hobby. Because it is the best way to spread the word about the possible impending extinction of these fishes, our most important current activities are being played out in the field of networking. There are two elements that will determine success or failure. First, enlisting additional aquarium enthusiast friends of these fishes who are willing to try breeding them, and second, the onerous but absolutely essential task of bringing influence to bear on the authorities in Malaysia and Indonesia, in order to effect a change of heart there.

Involving the hobby Licorice Gouramis are not fishes for the mass market, and they won’t and shouldn’t become such. But we are convinced that among the hundreds of thousands of aquarists all over the world, there must be a few hundred


Information The Parosphromenus Project Distribution hotline: Anabantoid Association of Great Britain (AAGB)


American Labyrinth Fish Association (ALFA) (Coming soon.)


Livestock The Wet Spot Tropical Fish Anthony Perry Portland, Oregon Exotic Aquatics Michael Hellweg St. Louis, Missouri Invertebrates by Msjinkzd Rachel O’Leary York, Pennsylvania Anubias Design Mark Denaro Indianapolis, Indiana The Fish Hut Lanarkshire, Scotland Tropical Fish Importers & Exporters London, England (wholesale only)


Unless you have access to an exceptional aquarium shop, or a dealer willing and able to special-order Parosphromenus spp., finding Licorice Gouramis may require a bit of research. The Parosphromenus Project has an active coordinator who can connect would-be Licorice Gourami buyers with private breeders and dealers known to import these fishes from time to time. Contact is easily made by email. Beginners may have to be flexible about the species they acquire, as availability varies greatly.

who won’t be deterred by the water and food problems of getting involved in conservation breeding, because they would like to add a sense of purpose to their hobby. Many young people feel attracted by precisely this motive. Reducing the burden on the still-too-small number of breeders, so that instead of the current two to five species/forms per breeder, in future there are two to five breeders to a single species/form, is a sensible goal and one that is attainable on an international scale. To achieve this we will need to organize exchanges of fishes, and in addition we don’t want to sever all links with the trade. Ending the habitat destruction in the countries of origin is much more difficult to organize. We are working in three directions here: we are trying to forge links with conservation organizations that are already active on the spot; we are eagerly seizing upon every hint that

the indigenous populations are wise to the damage that their governments, regional authorities, and locally active concerns are causing; and we are establishing links with everyday life in the industrialized western world and demonstrating that we aquarists are playing a part in the destruction by purchasing palm-oil products or tropical woods. We also need to criticize the oft-lauded plantation agriculture. Only if our awareness of our own involvement in the destruction becomes sharper and more precise can we expect to influence people living on the spot, and through them the landscape itself. Even if this comes to pass too late for many Parosphromenus species, the aquarium hobby cannot simply sit back and wait for the news of their demise. We must make an active contribution to the necessary changes. We are involved. Below: The central part of the author’s Parosphromenus setup.


article and images by Steve Waldron t For the past three years, I have been trying to hone my skills


as an aquascaper, studying the works of Takeshi Amano and applying my observations of nature and art to create an artistic aquarium design style of my own. This has been quite an adventure. My studio space is crowded with various planted aquariums, finely aquascaped nano tanks, and other products of my aquascaping experimentation years. These aquatic gardens are lush with plant life and tiny schooling fishes that I selected primarily for their ability to add energetic elements to the aquascape.


However, I found myself longing for an aquarium that was a true fish tank—an aquarium filled with raucous and lively fishes that could be seen from any spot in my studio. I wanted an aquarium in which the focus was not plants but the movements, cool behavior, and interactive nature of the fishes. I have had a life-long admiration for the fishes and natural history of the Amazon basin, and I wanted species from that incredible region to dominate the tank. With these goals in mind and an empty 75-gallon (284-L) fish tank, I set out to create an aquarium that I began to think of as an “Amazon Reef” tank.



Aquarium design The author’s 75-gallon (284-L) Amazon-inspired aquascape, featuring one central island of rock, driftwood, tall branches, and cichlid-proof hardy plants that provide hiding and nesting places for the fish population.


In designing my Amazon Reef, I was keen to take inspiration from a few techniques absorbed during my study of tropical marine coral reef aquariums—my favorites. I am a freshwater aquarist and have not yet made many inroads into the exciting world of the mini-reef saltwater hobby, but I am certainly inspired by it. I love the way coral reef fishes seem to glide through the aquarium, constantly weaving in acrobatic, fluid motion between the structures of the reef, and moving in synch with other fishes in the tank. There is a dance and harmony in the way tropical saltwater fishes swim that I have rarely seen in freshwater aquariums. I wanted to encourage this behavior in my Amazonian fishes. If there is any inland freshwater ocean in the world, in my opinion the Amazon is it. Certainly, I thought, these exotic rainforest fishes had the potential to form a beautiful display that rivaled the well-designed coral reef tanks I had seen. Thinking back to coral reefs I had observed in nature, I realized I could design a “reef” of branches, driftwood, and select aquatic and terrestrial plants that might provide the same structural function for my freshwater fishes as a coral reef does for its inhabitants. The physical structure of an oceanic coral reef offers a myriad of niches and hiding holes into which small fishes can quickly disappear when threatened by danger. This likely gives these little fishes, the “fast food” of the ocean, some psychological security and keeps them swimming in the wondrous schooling symphonies of color and form we see on coral reefs.


My aquarium is home to a pair of Geophagus sp. “Pindare” (Parnaiba), relatively peaceful biparental mouthbrooders.

every penny. I have not found a better source in the commercial trade or in nature for wood that offers the aesthetic value of ADA’s wood; branch wood has twists and curls that look sculptural, while horn wood is dense and anchors the aquascape with solid form.

Fish selection


I built the structure of my freshwater Amazon Reef from the ground up, using locally collected lava rock as the bedrock. On top of the rock piles, I wove a tangle of twiggy sunken branches, hollowed submerged logs, and carefully placed clumps of the epiphytic semi-aquatic ferns Microsorum pteropus (Java fern) and Bolbitis heudelotii (African Fern). Though Java Fern and Bolbitis are not Amazonian plants, I chose to use them because they are tough-leaved plants that would be able to withstand some abuse from the cichlids I planned to add to the aquarium. I also like their epiphytic growth form, which would allow me to decorate and ornament the hardscape with splashes of greenery. I had no real philosophical qualms about adding Asian and African aquatic ferns to my Amazon-inspired aquascape. Had I been designing the aquarium as a true biotope, an accurate microcosm of what might be encountered in the fishes’ natural habitat, I would have taken a different approach and filled the aquarium with dead leaves, stones, and branches. It is hard to find suitable driftwood in the lakes and streams near my home in Seattle, so I chose to use the commercially available driftwood products known as “branch wood” and “horn wood” distributed by Aqua Design Amano. These aquarium wood products are quite expensive—and worth


The aquascape has a base of lava rock, “branch wood,” and “horn wood.” Shoaling Bleeding Heart Tetras provide color and movement. Opposite page: the aquascape features a central mass of structure with myriad hiding holes.

My goal was to create a central structure similar to a coral bommie—an isolated coral head surrounded by a sandy expanse. The sandy areas in my Amazon Reef would provide foraging space for the Geophagus cichlids and catfishes I planned to keep in the aquarium. When selecting sand for Geophagus and catfish alike, one must make certain the particle size is small enough to accommodate the foraging activities of the fishes. The individual sand grains should be smooth to prevent damaging the fishes’ sensitive mouth parts. Geophagus are also known as “eartheaters” for their habit of grabbing mouthfuls of sand, sifting through the particles for tasty tidbits through specialized structures in their gills and jaws, and then spitting out the remains. A tank full of Geophagus is a fun sight to see—in addition to their constant foraging, earth-eating antics these fish are very peaceful and social, like to be kept in groups, and are adorned in pastel or iridescent rainbow-hued scales. Geophagus remind me a bit of the unusual and wonderful schools of sand-sifting goatfishes I have seen while snorkeling the reefs of Hawaii. I also like the outlook of a fish whose life is an endless quest for something tasty to eat! I chose to add eight very young Geophagus sp. “Red

might in a saltwater aquarium; it is a colorful, intelligent, territorial perch-like ďŹ sh that is strongly tied to structurally complex microhabitats rich with caves and overhangs. My group consisted of a dominant male and female pair and a half-dozen or so of their half-grown fry. A. barlowi are one of the few Apistogramma known to

Amazon Reefâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;Aquarium SpeciďŹ cations t4J[F WPMVNF UJNFJOPQFSBUJPO 48 x 21 x

18 inches/122 x 53 x 46 cm (L x W x D), 75 gallons/284 liters; established January 2012. t1MBOUT Java fern, Microsorum pteropus (â&#x20AC;&#x153;Windelovâ&#x20AC;?, â&#x20AC;&#x153;Tridentâ&#x20AC;?, and â&#x20AC;&#x153;Narrow Leafâ&#x20AC;? cultivars); Bolbitis heudelotii; Philodendron species. t'JTIFT Ancistrus sp. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Calicoâ&#x20AC;?, Apistogramma barlowi, A. hongsloi, Apistogrammoides pucallpaensis, Aspiradoras sp. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Araguaiaâ&#x20AC;?, Geophagus sp. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Pindareâ&#x20AC;?, G. sp. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Red Head Tapajosâ&#x20AC;?, Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma, Megalechis picta. t-JHIUJOH Two 24-watt LED strips (Ecoxotic 12K White/Magenta and 8,000K White); two 15-watt PAR 30 (Ecosmart). t'JMUSBUJPO Two Eheim 2217 Classic canister ďŹ lters; â&#x20AC;&#x153;Philodendron Hydroponic Plant Filter.â&#x20AC;? t8BUFSQBSBNFUFST NBJOUFOBODF pH 6.6; carbonate hardness 1â&#x20AC;&#x201C;2 KH; general hardness 4â&#x20AC;&#x201C;5 dGH; nitrate (NO3) 10 mg/L; temperature 80°F/26.6°C; 30% weekly water change. t'FFEJOH Frozen Spirulina-enriched Artemia, Kenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Premium Guppy Flake Food, Kenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Premium Earthworm sticks, live blackworms, live newly hatched Artemia nauplii. t0XOFS Steve Waldron, Seattle, Washington.


Head Tapajosâ&#x20AC;? and a pair of Geophagus sp. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Pindareâ&#x20AC;? to my Amazon Reef. These two are the smallest Geophagus species known (maximum adult length is 5â&#x20AC;&#x201C;6 inches/12.7â&#x20AC;&#x201C;15.25 cm) and some of the most beautiful. G. sp. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Pindareâ&#x20AC;? has huge, luminous orange eyes that constantly greet viewers of the aquarium; adult G. sp. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Red Head Tapajosâ&#x20AC;? is on ďŹ re with a thick blaze of red pigment that streaks across the top of its head. At some point in the not-too-distant future, these guys will outgrow their present home in the Amazon Reef, and I have plans to move them to larger quarters. I look forward to applying what I have learned in designing this aquascape on a larger and, hopefully, even more awesome scale. Every reef needs a school of brightly colored ďŹ shes to tie the design together, and just as coral reef enthusiasts ďŹ nd their favorites in Anthias, Chromis damselďŹ shes, and the like, I looked to the tetras to add the vibrant energy of a ďŹ sh school to my Amazon Reef. Luckily, nature has blessed the Amazon region with a huge array of schooling characin ďŹ shes that are both exquisitely colored and graceful swimmers. For every aquascape, no matter what its size, there is a tetra that will ďŹ ll the openwater niche with exuberance. I selected the Bleeding Heart Tetra, Hyphessobrycon erythrostigma. I was a bit weary of tiny no-see-um species populating my aquariums, and the Bleeding Heart offers a solid 2.5 inches (6.35 cm) of color and fantastic form. These guys also remind me of mini-piranhas in the way they attack their food and signal to the other ďŹ shes that a feeding frenzy has begun. I chose to incorporate a family group of the dwarf cichlid Apistogramma barlowi to ďŹ ll the niche that a dwarf Centropyge angelďŹ sh or damselďŹ sh


The author’s “Philodendron Hydroponic Plant Filter” at the top back of the aquarium helped clear up algae problems. The plants’ long roots droop into the water and absorb nutrients.

incubate their developing fry orally. After the fry hatch, the female Apistogramma barlowi gathers the wriggler fry into her mouth and keeps them safe until they are able to swim freely. The male A. barlowi also sports a cool “war bonnet” of fin extensions along his dorsal fin and a beautiful pale blue sheen to each scale. Females of the species look like electrified yellow and black bumblebees when brooding fry. To add some diversity, I also mixed in a lone male Apistogramma hongsloi and a single male Apistogrammoides pucallpaensis. Though closely related to A. barlowi, A. hongsloi and Apistogrammoides are much smaller fishes and spend more time lurking in the caves formed by the driftwood and stone. Every vacant territorial niche in a coral reef seems to have its occupant, and

I wanted to mimic the effect in my Amazon Reef. I feel that every community aquarium needs an oddball fish to break the symmetry of more elegant fish selections. I needed to look no further than the catfish; no Amazonian biotope aquarium would be complete without a selection of these whiskered weirdos. The oddest of my oddball catfishes are three Megalechis picta, the Painted Hoplo Cat. With their bony plates of armor, antennaelike whiskers, brown coloration, and beady little eyes, the M. picta initially reminded me of a swimming cockroach rather than a fish; I almost took them out of the aquascape. I am glad I was too lazy to do so—they have turned out to be some of my favorite fish. They usually hide in the tangle of wood and ferns, but when the tetras signal a feeding frenzy, the Hoplo cats quickly take notice and swim about, actively seeking food, and can be trained to take food from the hand. They propel themselves through the water column much as a shark does, wagging their tails and holding their pectoral fins tight to their bodies. A small shoal of the tiny, active Aspiradoras sp. “Araguaia” catfish, some half-grown Ancistrus plecos, and a single Zebra Nerite snail, Neritina natalensis “Zebra”, comprise the cleanup crew in the Amazon Reef.



8239 Enterprise Drive, Newark CA 94560 (800) 624-7322

Challenges Creating an aquarium anchored in the principles of aquascaping with aquatic plants offers the freshwater aquarist the benefit of ecological stability. Plants and fishes grow in a synergistic fashion—the fishes’ metabolites are actively sequestered during plant growth. Plants suck up ammonia and other waste products toxic to the fish. I have come to rely on plants not only for their beautiful foliage, but also as nitrogen sponges that help keep the ecological balance of my aquariums in check. In this tank, the fish bio-load is high and plant density is relatively low, and I found myself battling outbreaks of green water and other algae nuisances during the first two months of the aquarium’s life. I could tell the ammonia was spiking just based on the behavior of my fish; the Geophagus’s activity would slow and look less perky. Geophagus are generally robust fish, but are sensitive to even slight concentrations of pollutants. I found myself doing water changes every three days, yet still could not prevent the green water from turning the water to pea soup and causing fish activity to slump. I needed help from the plant kingdom, but there was an aesthetic dilemma: if I were to put more aquatic plants in the aquarium itself, the hardscape and structure of my design would get obscured and the foraging activity of the fish would likely destroy any fine-leaved plant species. I decided to extend the aquascape above water and

added some terrestrial plants to the design. Tropical Philodendron were placed in the back of aquarium, grown hydroponically and acting as a sort of plant filter for absorbing the waste produced by my herd of Amazon fishes, not unlike similar plants growing at the edge of a rainforest creek. It worked. As soon as the Philodendron began to send its roots into the aquarium and grow aggressively, the green water and algae blooms became just a memory. The Amazon Reef is situated near a south-facing window. Even though I live in cloudy and inclement Seattle, the aquarium does occasionally experience a flood of natural light—enough to spark an algae bloom. I decided to experiment with a low-energy LED lighting system that would highlight the colors of the aquarium’s inhabitants and keep the aquatic ferns alive but would not encourage algae. Two 24-watt, 48-inch LED strips were retrofitted into a pair of T5 reflectors, and I mounted two 13-watt PAR 30 bulbs in pendant fixtures. I have been very satisfied with this system so far. The colors of the fishes really pop, and the glitter lines produced by the LED lights ripple through the aquarium with an enchanting shimmer. As the fish glide in and out of the branches and stones, shafts of light catch the rainbow spangles of Geophagus scales and illuminate the swirling tetras, cichlids, and catfishes. I feel transported to a stream in the neotropical rainforest, swept away in an exotic aquatic wonder that rivals any found on this beautiful planet.




New pike cichlids from Argentina article and images by Oliver Lucanus t Several species of pike cichlids from the Río Uruguay drainage in Argentina have begun to be exported in recent years. The most attractive of these, including Crenicichla minuano, C. hadrostigma, C. missioneira, and C. tendybaguassu, started to appear in 2006. Unfortunately, just five years later these lovely fishes had virtually disappeared into oblivion, despite the successful breeding of what was arguably the most interesting species, Crenicichla tendybaguassu (Big Lip Pike Cichlid), by Matthias Kählig in Hannover, Germany. In January 2012, new species were again exported from the Iguassu and the upper Parana drainage, including several very attractive pike cichlids, which hopefully will be preserved in the aquarium hobby. The more than 30 species of the Crenicichla species complex from the Río Uruguay, Río Parana, and Río Iguassu drainage remain something of a puzzle, and it can at times be difficult to identify the individual species. Crenicichla yaha This relatively small pike cichlid with a subterminal mouth is not as striking as the other species presented here, but is suitable for smaller aquariums, where it should be kept with fishes over 1.5 inches (4 cm) long. It


Crenicichla missioneira was one of the first pike cichlids to be imported from Misiones.


is the only one of the species presented here that can be kept and bred in a 50-gallon (190-L) tank. Its behavior and appearance are similar to those of Crenicichla minuano from the Río Uruguay drainage. As in many species of the C. lacustris complex, females are easily recognizable

The Big Lip Pike Cichlid, Crenicichla tendybaguassu, has already been captive-bred. This is a male with the characteristic fleshy lips.

by having one or more ocelli (eyespots) on the dorsal fin. Males have a completely red- or pink-colored dorsal fin and small dots on the flanks. Length: 5.7 in. (14.6 cm).

Crenicichla mandelburgeri This is an attractive, medium-sized pike cichlid of the C. lacustris group. Females have a very clearly defined ocellus on the dorsal fin. The species is widespread in the middle Río Parana. It is generally more aggressive than C.

yaha, but can nevertheless be maintained in a 75-gallon (284-L) aquarium. Larger fishes, such as Gymnogeophagus or Australoheros cichlid species from the same region, make suitable tankmates. Length: 4.5 in. (11.5 cm).

Crenicichla iguassuensis The Crenicichla of the Río Iguassu drainage are particularly difficult to identify, because in addition to C. iguassuensis, C. tesay and a new, still undescribed species

The attractive Crenicichla mandelburgeri has now been imported.


Crenicichla minuano turned up in the aquarium hobby a few years ago.

Crenicichla yaha is a small species that has now been imported for the first time.

have occasional specimens with well-developed lips. This means that within a single species there can be a series of forms that appear not to belong together on the basis of head shape, but nevertheless form part of the same species. My C. iguassuensis, which is now 8 inches (20 cm) long, seems to be doing well in a 120-gallon (450-L) tank with a turnover rate of 5,250 gallons (20,000 L) per hour. Its boisterous behavior and large mouth suggest that this species might present problems in a smaller tank or one with less water movement. Length: 5.5 in. (14 cm).

Crenicichla sp. “Botox” or “Iguassu Big Lips 2” Crenicichla sp. “Botox” is being kept in the same tank, and is an ideal occupant despite its smaller size. The powerful body is shorter than that of the somewhat similar


Crenicichla iguassuensis grows somewhat larger and is more aggressive than the similarly colored C. yaha.


C. tendybaguassu from the Río Uruguay, but Crenicichla sp. “Botox” is far more attractively colored and is certainly one of the most interesting of the pike cichlids. Males have a striking red lower lip and gills and a multitude of small dots on the flanks, typical of all species of the C. mandelburgeri complex. Fully colored males of this species are extremely intolerant of rivals, but generally leave males in subdominant coloration, females, and other fishes in peace. Females have an elongate ocellus on the dorsal fin and a light yellow base color, with few or no dots on their flanks. A word on names: since the first pictures of this fish were sent to me in 2009, the collector and I have used the name “Botox”. Pialek et al. (2010) called the species Crenicichla sp. “Iguassu Big Lips 2”, which is also a good

Crenicichla semifasciata, from the middle and lower Parana, has already been imported a number of times.

Crenicichla hu was recently described from Misiones. This black pike cichlid is one of the more aggressive members of the genus.

name (though “Angelina Jolie” might be more appropriate). Unfortunately, the species has also appeared on the Internet under the pseudo-scientific name Crenicichla sp. “Tendyguassu”, a reference to its similarity to C. tendybaguassu from the C. missioneira complex, but it is not closely related to that fish. It is probably better not to use that name, in order to avoid mix-ups.

Crenicichla hu The first photos of Crenicichla hu made it clear that this was a new species. Up to that time, no black pike cichlids

had been known from the southern species complex. The males of this species bear an amazing similarity to Crenicichla cametana, so it isn’t very surprising to find that Crenicichla hu is very aggressive and quite unique among the southern pike cichlids. The species is the only Crenicichla in the Arroyo Piray-Mini, a tributary of the upper Río Parana. The name hu means “black” in the Guarani language of the Misiones region. Males are almost uniformly black or gray with a few dark spots or stripes, and the dorsal fin has a dark red margin. Females are even darker, almost completely black

Perhaps the most impressive of the newly imported species is Crenicichla sp. “Botox”, or “Iguassu Big Lips 2”, named for the thick lips of the males.


or black-blue, and have a zigzag pattern of black spots on the dorsal fin, which has a white margin. The species is undoubtedly an interesting fish to keep, but it requires a degree of skill to select appropriate pairs and tankmates. Five adult specimens in an 80-inch (2-m) tank proved not to be a good idea. Even 10-inch (25-cm) C. missioneira were badly injured by the 6-inch (15-cm) C. hu within a few hours. A group of adult Myleus and a current pump with a turnover of 2,600 gallons (10,000 L) per hour calmed the situation down a bit, but after that the males were kept separately. A pair eventually formed from a male and two females, and all the other fishes had to be removed from the tank shortly thereafter. After two days of violent combat the pair are now living happily together and exhibit little shyness: just four days after their arrival in Canada the female was taking earthworms from my hand. I hope that peace continues to reign and that the pair will spawn.

Above: This newly imported species is traded as Crenicichla sp. “Uruguay Black Line”.

Acknowledgments: Jens Gottwald, Matthias Kählig, Vinny Kutty, and Henrique Varella helped with the challenging identification of the Crenicichla species. If I have made any mistakes, I would be grateful to have them corrected.

Below: Crenicichla vittata is a large, widespread species.



Piálek, L., O. Rícan, J. Casciotta, and A. Almirón. 2010. Crenicichla hu, a new species of cichlid fish (Teleostei: Cichlidae) from the Paraná basin in Misiones, Argentina. Zootaxa 2537: 33–46.



Video of Crenicichla sp. “Botox” or “Iguassu Big Lips 2”: Video of Crenicichla hu:

This ray arrived in the same consignment as the cichlids. In all probability it is Potamotrygon schuhmacheri.


upper Río Parana

C. celidochilus CASCIOTTA, 1987

upper Río Uruguay

C. empheres LUCENA, 2007

upper Río Uruguay

C. gaucho LUCENA & KULLANDER, 2007

upper and middle Río Uruguay

C. hadrostigma LUCENA, 2007

upper and middle Río Uruguay

C. haroldoi LUENGO & BRITSKI, 1974

upper Río Parana


Arroyo Piray-Miní (Río Parana drainage)

C. igara LUCENA & KULLANDER, 1992

upper Río Uruguay

C. iguassuensis HASEMAN, 1911

Río Iguassu

C. jaguarensis HASEMAN, 1911

upper Río Parana

C. jupiaensis BRITSKI & LUENGO, 1968

upper and middle Río Parana

C. jurubi LUCENA & KULLANDER, 1992

upper Río Uruguay

C. lepidota HECKEL, 1840

middle and lower Río Parana

C. mandelburgeri KULLANDER, 2009

middle and lower Río Parana

C. minuano LUCENA & KULLANDER, 1992

upper and middle Río Uruguay

C. missioneira LUCENA & KULLANDER, 1992

upper and middle Río Uruguay

C. niederleinii HOLMBERG, 1891

upper and middle Río Parana

C. prenda LUCENA & KULLANDER, 1992

upper Río Uruguay

C. scottii EIGENMANN, 1907

middle and lower Río Parana

C. semifasciata HECKEL, 1840

middle and lower Río Parana

C. tendybaguassu LUCENA & KULLANDER, 1992

upper and middle Río Uruguay

C. tesay CASCIOTTA & ALMIRON, 2009

Río Iguassu

C. vittata HECKEL, 1840

middle and lower Río Parana and Río Uruguay


Río Iguassu and Arroyo Urugua-i


Río Parana, Arroyo Urugua-i

In addition there are certainly a dozen more undescribed species whose precise systematic position has yet to be determined. Those pictured in this article are: C. sp. “Botox/Iguassu Big Lips 2”

Río Iguassu

C. sp. “Uruguay Black Line”

middle Río Uruguay

To date, only preserved specimens of the rare Crenicichla igara are known.



& B R E E D IN G

Above: Freshly caught, half-grown specimens of Scobinancistrus aureatus do justice to their popular name, Sunshine Pleco.


Wild-caught adults retain the sunshine-yellow coloration, but develop orange ďŹ n edgings.


Successful breeding of the

Sunshine Pleco —Scobinancistrus aureatus

by Rajanta Sinardja Rahardja t In recent years numerous loricariid catfish species have been bred in the aquarium. One species whose breeding has only been rumored up until now is the Sunshine Pleco, Scobinancistrus aureatus. This article describes my attempts to breed the species professionally in our hatchery. Since 1999 my wife and I have been commercially breeding Tanganyika cichlids at our Bellenz Fish Farm on the Indonesian island of Java, and since 2002 we have bred loricariid catfishes as well. In addition to the Zebra Pleco, Hypancistrus zebra, which we have been breeding in large numbers since 2004, we have bred a number of other species with varying degrees of success. Scobinancistrus aureatus has been one of my favorite fishes for many years, and in December 2008 we imported our first adult Sunshine Plecos, which measured between 6 and 9 inches (15–22 cm) SL.

as cover. At each corner of the tank we placed specially manufactured ceramic pipes for the males, which they readily accepted as hiding places and, subsequently, as breeding caves. The caves measure 15 x 4 x 3.125 inches (38 x 10 x 8 cm). In addition to the rectangular shape, it is important that both male and female can disappear

The beautiful Sunshine Pleco is native to the middle and lower Río Xingu. Juveniles and half-grown specimens live in water depths of 3.28–9.8 feet (1–3 m), while adults inhabit the very dark environment of deeper water. To replicate their natural environment, we keep our loricariid catfishes in a darkened room; the only light comes from one open door. Only during daily maintenance and feeding do we turn on a dim light. We are sure that this is a major element in our success, and not just with this particular catfish species. Obviously, it would be impractical for the average aquarist to keep fishes in pitch-dark rooms, but it is worth trying with species that have so far resisted attempts to get them to breed. The aquariums we set up for our Sunshine Plecos measure 80 x 32 x 28 inches (200 x 80 x 70 cm) and hold 250 gallons (960 L) of water. The bottom is covered with a layer of gravel about 2 inches (5 cm) deep, with an undergravel filter beneath. We installed powerful current pumps to circulate the water and assure a high oxygen content, without which successful breeding is unlikely.

Rectangular breeding caves In the middle of each breeding tank there is a large piece of wood, which the females like to sit on and use

Male from above. Note the broad head and the stout pectoral-fin rays with numerous little odontodes. Females are plumper than males and have a more pointed head shape.



Peace and quiet


Top left: One of our large aquariums for a breeding group. Note the boxy ceramic cave with roughened interior. Middle: The eggs are hatched in these incubators. A pump continuously supplies the bowls with filtered water via a hose, so that the balls of eggs are constantly in motion. Bottom: View of the rearing facility. Fifty percent of the water in the rearing tanks is changed every day to ensure cleanliness. Note the “cave-bricks” that serve as hiding places.

of 4°dGH and a pH of 7.5. About 50 percent of the water is changed several times weekly, so there is no measurable nitrite or nitrate. The low nitrogen content and the high oxygen level, combined with a relatively high water temperature, are prerequisites for successful breeding. This applies to all loricariid catfishes from the clearwater rivers of the Brazilian Shield. We feed the adult fishes once a day, shortly before nightfall. After the food has been given there is complete darkness in the aquarium room and the fishes can feed undisturbed. We use Hikari Algae Wafers, foodfish pellets with a relatively high protein content (trout pellets), sometimes boiled snails, and a strip of squash once a week to ensure adequate roughage. Regular feeding, always at the same time of day, appears to be important. These fishes are greedy feeders, and once they have settled in they will also eat during the day when a small amount of light streams in the open door. Because they consume an enormous amount, the breeder must be careful not to give them too much, or the water quality will suffer.


completely into the cave to spawn. The long pipes are placed on the bottom and have a slightly roughened inner surface. The shape and design of the caves prevent the eggs from being fanned out. We have had that problem with other species using tubular breeding caves with smooth interiors, and since we changed there have been no further problems of that kind. We set the water temperature to 82.5°F (28°C). We use aged spring water that has an average general hardness

Each breeding tank is populated by three males and five females. This permits the fishes to decide for themselves who is going to spawn with whom. The males take possession of the caves right away, and are sought out by any female who is ready to spawn. When adult individuals are viewed from above, the sexes are relatively easy to determine on the basis of shape. Robust, well-fed, sexually mature females have a greater body girth. Their heads are more pointed and the first rays of the pectoral fins are hardly widened at all, as is the case in the slimmer males, whose pectoral-fin rays are also much more densely set with tiny odontodes. Prime males are larger than females and have a very broad head shape, as well as larger pectoral and ventral fins. Large loricariid catfishes can sometimes be rather boisterous among themselves, and for this reason subordinate individuals need sufficient hiding places. The strongest male will soon seek out a territory and occupy the caves in it. But the alpha male isn’t necessarily the best at performing brood care, so it is important to watch and see if the “boss” also looks after the eggs properly or is too busy squabbling. If this happens, it is sometimes



Boisterous males

Top row, L to R: Day 3 after spawning. The first empty eggshells indicate that larvae have already hatched. • By the fourth day all the larvae have hatched. They are premature and their yolk sacs are far too large. • On the fifth day the larvae are already recognizable as tiny plecos.

Bottom row, L to R: Larvae on the sixth day after hatching. • On the eighth day the larvae begin to develop pigmentation. Their yolk sacs are still rather large. • By the 12th day after hatching the yolk sacs are almost exhausted, and the dark-pigmented fry are transferred to the rearing tank.

better to take the alpha male out of the tank and replace him with the second-ranking male.

out of the cave. (At the time we were still using circular cross-section pipes.) These first balls of eggs were taken out and placed in incubators of our own design (see image). The water was changed every day, and methylene blue was added for the first four days to prevent fungussing of the eggs. Larvae began to hatch from the artificially incubated eggs just three days after spawning—far too early, as we

Plenty of rearing tanks We had our first clutches almost precisely two years later, in December 2010. Unfortunately, it turned out that the breeding male was initially very inept and didn’t look after the eggs properly, and at some point they were fanned

L to R: Little Sunshine Plecos at 45 days. • At 90 days, Scobinancistrus aureatus shows signs of adult coloration. They are around 1.25 inches (3 cm) long. • At 150 days the young are 2–2.5 inches (5–6 cm) long and clearly identifiable as small Sunshine Plecos.



Fully colored, 4-inch (10-cm) Scobinancistrus aureatus at 300 days—the pride of any breeder!


realized after several successful episodes of brood care by the father. The larvae remained in the incubator until their huge yolk sacs were used up, and were then transferred to small aquariums measuring 24 x 16 x 12 inches (60 x 40 x 30 cm), about 20 gallons (75 L). The fry that hatch under the care of the father are shaken out of the cave at this stage and likewise reared separately. Only 20 youngsters are placed in each rearing tank, which, given up to 200 eggs and an average hatch rate of 80 percent, means a multitude of small rearing tanks. During the first month of life we feed freshly hatched Artemia nauplii once per day. Thereafter we augment the menu with crushed Hikari Algae Wafers and Dr. Bassleer Biofish high-protein dry ration (size S). It is very important not to feed too much, in order to avoid deterioration of the water quality. But too little food will prevent continuous, regular growth. Throughout the rearing period, 50 percent of the wa-

ter in the rearing tanks is changed every day. As with the adults, we provide the young fishes with a dark environment and a large number of hiding places to ensure optimal development. The little fishes are already territorial, but using bricks with holes in them we can quickly create so many hiding places that none are left without a cave. The young fishes are disturbed only once per day by the water change and the feeding that follows, and can devote all their energy to growth for the rest of the day. And growth is rapid. After 150 days the youngsters average 2–2.375 inches (5–6 cm) long. After 300 days the first broods have already attained a length of 4 inches (10 cm) and are exhibiting beautiful coloration. In that respect they are a match for their parents and the pride and joy of their breeders. ON THE INTERNET

Bellenz Fish Farm:




& B R E E D IN G

Cryptoheros septemfasciatus:

Delicate beauty from Central America


Río San Juan, Costa Rica


Of all the small Central American cichlids, the Seven Banded Cichlid, Cryptoheros septemfaciatus (Regan 1908), is one of the most beautiful and peaceful. It is so easy to keep that it can be recommended to beginners without hesitation. It was once readily available to aquarists, but has not been seen as frequently in recent years, due in part to Costa Rica’s policy barring the exportation of their native fauna. It is good and right that these gems are kept and appreciated, especially given their interesting behavior and the ease of breeding them. It falls to aquarists to ensure that this beautiful cichlid remains available. t article by Juan Miguel Artigas Azas

It is not clear when C. septemfasciatus was introduced into the aquarium hobby. Stawikowski and Werner (1985: 257–8) showed aquarium pictures of both C. septemfasciatus and C. myrnae in 1985. At that time, the recently discovered Cryptoheros myrnae from the Sixaola River in Costa Rica was considered a color morph of C. septemfasciatus. Stawikowski and Werner also mentioned that in the United States, both an albino and a golden morph were already available, which indicates that the fish had been in circulation for at least a few years. However, I have not been able to find older records of their keeping. The specific name septemfasciatus derives from the Latin septem (seven) and fascia (band), thus the Seven Banded Cichlid. This refers to the dark vertical bars or spots, usually quite faint, on the flanks of preserved specimens of this fish.

C. septemfasciatus is a small cichlid with a laterally compressed, oval body. The head is short with a stepped, slightly curved frontal profile. The mouth is small, with relatively thick lips; the lower lip is usually blue in males. The eyes are small and dark, with a blue iris. The body has seven vertical bands that normally only show as black blotches at the middle part of the flanks. The first vertical bar is located at the insertion of the dorsal fin and is just barely visible. The third bar, the most conspicuous large vertical blotch, is located in the middle of the flanks. The last bar is at the base of the caudal fin and is always visible. The live fish has a brown or olive green base color, with a bluish cast on the sides and yellow or red areas, depending on origin, on the lower part of the head and chest. Males can reach 4 inches (10 cm) in length, both in the natural habitat (Bussing 1998) and in the aquarium. Females are smaller at 3 inches (7 cm) total length. C. septemfasciatus is sexually dimorphic. Males may grow larger than females, but what really sets them apart are their different color



The fish



patterns. The ventral half of the flanks of males is red or yellow, depending on origin, with a more intensely colored area on the chest. They are also adorned with sky blue scales, more evident at the middle or back of the flanks. The dorsal fin looks red, particularly near the base. Females, in contrast, often show a pattern of two black blotches in the middle part of the dorsal fin, with yellow vertical markings in between. There is a bright yellow area that runs from the opercular area back to the beginning of the caudal peduncle, with more intense coloring in the middle of the flanks. Instead of the red exhibited in males, the females’ ventral area, including the lower part of the head, is solid sky blue—although some males have sky blue on the lower part of the head.

The habitat C. septemfasciatus is found in Atlantic Costa Rica, from Río Banano south of Limón to Río San Juan at the Nicaraguan border, from 4 to 2,000 feet (12–600 meters) above sea level (Bussing 1998). It inhabits tropical to rainforest areas. Rivers and creeks where it is found are at least partially, and often completely, surrounded by large tropical trees. C. septemfasciatus inhabits shallow zones of clear, oxygenated water with different velocities. The substrate is normally sand, rocks, rubble, gravel, silt, and occasionally mud. Areas with sunken branches or tree trunks and leaf beds are apparently preferred (Bussing 1998, personal observations). Water temperature stays between 70 and 80°F (21–27°C) (Bussing 1998). I once saw this species at 68°F (20°C) in the Puerto Viejo de Sarapiquí River. Stawikowski and Werner (1998: 466) reported a pH in the range of 5.5 to about 8 and hardness values from 0 to 8 (usually 5) with a dGH of 2–9°KH (usually 5) at temperatures of 76–83.5°F (24.5–28.5°C) in the dry season. Bussing (1998) makes the observation that in areas where C. septemfasciatus is found with the Convict Cichlid, Cryptoheros nigrofasciatus, the former is found in the faster currents and maintains a separation from the latter.

The biology C. semptemfasciatus is an omnivorous cichlid, eating algae, leaves, and fruits, as well as aquatic insects. It also ingests considerable amounts of sand and detritus (Bussing 1998). In the aquarium it will eat small tankmates, and likely



Female displaying two characteristic black splotches on her dorsal fin, with a yellow area running from her gill cover back along her flanks and a sky blue ventral area. Previous page: native habitat of the species and, inset, a female with black blotches on her dorsal fin.

also does this in the wild. It is common to see adults stirring up fine substrate areas with their pectoral fins and bellies, then swimming backwards to see if any edible particles have been uncovered. They also turn over sunken leaves in search of food. C. septemfasciatus breeds in the spring and early summer in the northern hemisphere. Its distribution range is located at about 8° N latitude, which provides it with a very stable day length throughout the year. Breeding season occurs from approximately December to May, although the exact limits have not been determined. Breeding activity apparently hits a peak in March and can continue to a lesser degree beyond the beginning of the rainy season in May, and even until August if the weather conditions allow for it. C. septemfasciatus are biparental cave spawners. Pairs form breeding territories among rocks. C. septemfasciatus (and Cryptoheros as a whole) look for caves or well-covered areas for their nesting sites. Males start breeding efforts when they are as small as 2.5 inches (6 cm), and females at 2 inches (4 cm). Males establish territories in suitable places and are courted by females who, while passing by, present males with their ripe, colored bellies in an attempt to lure them. If both accept, the female stays. When courting, colors intensify in both sexes, and when breeding starts they adopt a very striking coloration, with a clear background and dark bluishblack below the eyes, from the snout to the ventral area. The black blotches at the middle part of the flanks and caudal peduncle intensify. As in other Cryptoheros species, females try to mate with the largest males they can and males correspondingly try to obtain the largest females, which normally results in big males pairing with big females. Once a pair is established, their bond is quite stable. Females deposit 100–200 ovoid eggs, which attach with small filaments to a pre-cleaned vertical surface inside their spawning cave. Eggs measure 1.8 mm long by 1.4 mm wide (Coleman 1996). Eggs take 72 hours to hatch at 80°F (27°C) (Stawikowski and Werner 1998: 456). Hatching times vary with temperature.

Unlike the female, the male, below, has a reddish cast over its flanks and along the base of the dorsal fin.


Male guarding fry near a spawning cave. Cryptoheros septemfasciatus males are known to be more assertive in defending their young than other Central American cichlids.

Five days after hatching, when the wrigglers have used up the heavy yolk sacs that supply them with nutrients for the first days of their lives, they reach the free-swimming stage. Fry congregate in a dense pack and stay beneath their mother. The male’s role at this stage is to stay close and guard the territory, chasing away any and all intruders. This includes much bigger animals. Males always stay close to the females and are braver than many other Central American cichlid species, which are less willing to risk themselves in defense of their babies. Females always stay above the babies. The parents signal the babies to follow them with spasmodic movements in which they open and close the ventral, anal, and dorsal fins and simultaneously and suddenly shake the body. The pack of babies follows the partner showing this behavior. Both parents guide the babies throughout the area of the spawning territory during the day, seemingly never straying far away from the nest, and consistently return to the spawning cave in the afternoon to pass the night. The female then stays inside the cave and the male just at the entrance, taking up a defense against nocturnal predators. C. septemfasciatus follows the same fry feeding behavior observed in C. nigrofasciatus and documented by Brian Wisenden et al. (1995), which is something to behold. Males and females alternately get close to the soft substrate, sinking their ventral areas in it and waving their pectoral fins vigorously, producing clouds of detritus from which the babies pick their food. The babies would otherwise pick the detritus looking for edible matter. This behavior can be observed both in the wild and in the aquarium (if a soft substrate is provided). Pairs of C. septemfasciatus guard their babies for an average of six weeks after spawning, when they are about .25 inch (10 mm) long. Males rarely desert females who are caring for babies, even in high-stress situations. Fry guarded by just a female are less likely to survive.


In the aquarium


C. septemfasciatus is an easy-to-keep cichlid for beginner aquarists, provided that water conditions are good. Because it is such a mildly aggressive cichlid, a 50-gallon (190-L) tank is ideal to keep a colony of them, and in fact I have kept such a colony for the last 12 years without a problem. They can be kept in smaller tanks, but I would not recommend it because this fish’s beauty and behavior cannot be well observed in very small tanks. For decoration I use a layer of fine sand, driftwood, and some inverted pots (with opening at the top) that the fish use for breeding. A starter group of four specimens of any size can be raised in such a tank in the company of dither fish like poecilids (guppies, swordtails, platies) or medium-sized characinids (tetras), although when C. septemfasciatus grow they can and will eat some of the smaller poecilids. Keep in mind the pristine conditions of their natural habitat when considering aquarium maintenance. In their natural environment they have clean, oxygenated water, and it should be provided for their well-being. As long as extremes are avoided, water chemistry seems to be less important than it is with other fish, although water changes should be performed on a regular basis. Low oxygen content causes problems with

their health and they can succumb to poor water maintenance, like any fish. Feeding C. septemfasciatus is not a problem, as they are voracious eaters. Any quality commercially prepared food should work perfectly well for them, and it is advisable to offer a variety of rations for carnivores and herbivores, including Mysis shrimp, adult enriched brine shrimp (Artemia), and Spirulina. The colony I keep is comprised of about 25 individuals of several ages. They breed and raise fry in the tank, but the number always remains the same. There are four dominant males and if one dies, another subdominant male immediately replaces him. Aggressive interactions take place but rarely cause significant damage. The group is in balance with the environment. Breeding takes place often, but if I wanted to raise more fry I would remove them when they were small. The group I keep exhibits all the forms of behavior that I have observed in their natural habitat. C. septemfasciatus can easily be mixed with other Central American cichlids. Thorichthys (Firemouth Cichlids) make good companions, but C. septemfasciatus can also hold their own against larger cichlids like Astatheros and Paratheraps. C. septemfasciatus are prolific cave brooders and need a cave-like structure to breed in. As mentioned above, an overturned flowerpot with a hole in the bottom works very well, as they like the entrance to be on top. The pairs hold a territory around their chosen nests, and they dig out all the sand from underneath it. Then they defend the immediate surroundings, an area about 20 inches (50 cm) in diameter. This is not a particularly large territory. Once the spawn takes place on an interior wall of the flowerpot, the male defends the surrounding area and rarely enters again; only the female spends time inside. Fry care in the aquarium is as prolonged as it is in the wild. Once the eggs hatch, the wrigglers remain at the bottom of the nest until they become free-swimming. After the fry become freeswimming, they are guided around the vicinity of the nest and taken back inside at dusk. It takes several weeks for the fry to abandon their parents and learn to hide from other adult fish. Babies can be fed Artemia nauplii, but the parents will also provide them some food by expelling some fine particles of what they eat or stirring up fine sand to release particles of detritus.

Conservation C. septemfasciatus is not listed on the International Union of the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)’s Red List of Threatened Species. While part of their area of distribution is located inside biosphere reserves in the Limón province of Costa Rica, the lowlands in the southern part of their range is in an area of banana plantations, which have severely polluted the rivers with fertilizers and insecticides. The stability of the population is a serious concern because its native range has been reduced so drastically.

Male with red on flanks and at base of dorsal fin. This species is only mildly aggressive and can be kept in breeding colonies in a 50-gallon (190-L) aquarium.


Bussing, William. 1998. Peces de las aguas continentales de Costa Rica. Editorial de la Universidad de Costa Rica, San Jose, pp. 1–271. Coleman, Ron. 1996. The Cichlid Egg Project. The Cichlid Room Companion. Accessed December 20, 2011.

Wisenden, Brian D., T.L. Lanfranconi-Izaea, and M.H.A. Keenleyside. 1995. Fin digging and leaf lifting by the Convict Cichlid, Cichlasoma nigrofasciatum; examples of parental food provisioning. Animal Behaviour 49 (3): 623–31.


Stawikowski, Rainer and U. Werner. 1985. Die Buntbarsche der Neuen Welt—Mittelamerika. Reimar Hobbing GmbH, Essen, Germany.




Snail vs. Snail:

BSUJDMFBOEJNBHFTCZ/FBMF.POLTtPersonally, I don’t mind snails, but many aquarists do, and eliminating large populations of unwanted snails can be extremely hard work. Indeed, in the past many aquarists believed it was virtually impossible to completely wipe out aquarium snails without recourse to snail-killing chemicals called molluscicides. Though effective, molluscicides have some serious drawbacks. For one thing, they are often at least as toxic to shrimps as they are to snails, and fishes can be poisoned by them as well. Even if they don’t kill your fishes, the sudden death of hundreds, if not thousands, of snails in your aquarium can place a huge load on the biological filter as those little corpses decay.


Top: One of this Assassin Snail’s eyes can be seen at the top of its head, close to the shell aperture.


Left: The shells of adult Assassin Snails are up to about an inch long, strongly ribbed, and attractively colored with yellow and brown spiral markings.

ASSASSIN SNAILS Old-school snail control Assassin Snails, Clea helena, take prey up to about their own size and largely ignore much bigger snails like adult Tylomelania spp.


In the past, snail-killing poisons were rarely recommended by experienced aquarists, who instead identified three other ways to manage snail populations. The first was to keep them out of the tank in the first place. Snails often get into tanks via aquarium plants, and that route of introduction can be effectively closed off by dipping new plants in a molluscicide bath for 20 minutes, then rinsing them well before planting them. The second step was to kill or remove any snails (or egg clusters) found in the tank as quickly as possible. There are even special snail traps available, for example the JBL LimCollect, which you bait with catfish pellets and empty on a regular basis. Used every night for a couple of weeks, these work reasonably well, but they do pose a definite risk to any small fishes that can swim inside them. Indeed, air-breathing species like Corydoras can get stuck inside them and drown. The third part of the classic snail control program was to add a snail-eating fish, typically a loach or pufferfish. The problem here was that snail-eating fishes often have little impact on the pest snails but bring a whole set of new problems with them. Botiine loaches (such as Skunk Loaches, Yasuhikotakia morleti) are the loaches most likely to eat snails, but they do so only when hungry, and if there are easier meals available, they’ll ignore the snails. They also tend to be social but boisterous animals, so you can’t add just one, and by the time you’ve added a decent group of five or more specimens, there’s a good chance they’ll harass some of the other fishes in the tank. Pufferfishes are even harder to accommodate. None of them are safe in community tanks: At best, they’re fin-nippers, and at worst they simply view other fishes as meals to be eaten whole or one bite at a time. On top of that, most of the puffers


Assassin Snails seem to spend a lot of time in huddles—probably mating, or at least engaging in pre-mating behavior.

routinely traded are brackish-water fishes, so they could only be kept in a freshwater aquarium for a short time.


The modern approach


While the traditional three-pronged approach to snail control sometimes worked well, all too often it failed completely. Part of the problem was a misconception among aquarists that snails were pests that should be eliminated, rather like White Spot (Ichthyophthirius), whereas in truth snails are a symptom of an underlying problem with aquarium maintenance. If snails are thought of as machines that turn algae, uneaten food, and organic detritus into baby snails, the problem becomes clear: Snails will multiply most rapidly in a poorly maintained, dirty, overstocked aquarium with little or no plant growth. In tanks that are kept clean, where the fishes aren’t overfed, and where rapid plant growth keeps algae in check, snails rarely cause any real harm, and their numbers can be much more easily controlled. Essentially, snail populations will grow as large as the available food supply allows, but it’s possible to use biological controls to slow down population growth even further. Loaches and pufferfishes aren’t much use here, as we’ve seen, and it should be noted that adding new fishes to an aquarium will ultimately mean more food in the tank for the snails, whether it’s uneaten fish food, organic

This view from underneath an Assasin Snail clearly shows the muscular foot, the two sensory antennae, and the long, tube-like siphon used to sniff out potential prey.

waste, or the algae that grow when nitrate and phosphate levels go up. What the aquarist wants is something that eats snails above all else, but is small enough not to cause any major changes in the cleanliness of the aquarium. Is there such a beast? Yes, there is, and it’s called the Assassin Snail, or more scientifically, Clea helena. This predatory snail, formerly known as Anentome helena, is a member of the whelk family (Buccinidae), and as such, an odd freshwater member of an otherwise saltwater family of mollusks. It comes from Southeast Asia and normally inhabits streams and lakes. In the wild these snails like to burrow into soft sediments, a habit that will be seen in aquariums with sandy substrate. Although the species eats a range of prey items, as well as carrion, Assassin Snails do feed extensively on small snails, and this is their prime value to aquarists. If kept in reasonable numbers, they will hunt down and kill most of the small pest-snail species including Physa, Physella, and Melanoides spp., the latter including the notorious Malayan Turret Snail, Melanoides tuberculata.

Basic care Before looking at how Assassin Snails should be used by aquarists to control snail populations, let’s quickly review their basic care. In general, they are undemanding. Like most snails, they need reasonably hard water for their shells to develop properly, and will do best in water with a dGH of 10° or higher and pH levels from around 6.5 to 8. As for temperature, they do well at 72–82°F (22–28°C),

so they should fit into most tropical community setups. Assassin Snails are carnivores that consume both carrion and live prey, and under aquarium conditions will as readily take frozen bloodworms or bits of seafood as they will live snails. But being rather opportunistic animals, they don’t limit their hunting activities to snails, and will certainly eat fish eggs and larvae and immobile fry, and may consume small or juvenile shrimps as well—though I haven’t noticed any major problems keeping a few of them with breeding populations of Cherry Shrimps (Neocaridina heteropoda). In any event, Assassin Snails probably won’t need any special feeding in the average community tank, and in the unlikely event that they eliminate every single snail in the aquarium, they will probably get by on fragments of fish food or the odd meaty treat the aquarist puts out for them. One aspect of the Assassin Snail picture that’s often ignored is the fact that, like any other snail, given good conditions they’ll breed readily. In some ways this is a positive attribute. As any biologist will tell you, predators breed more slowly and require more space than herbivores, so each gallon of water in your aquarium will support fewer Assassin Snails than it would, say, Malayan Turret Snails. Eggs are laid one at a time and the juvenile snails develop quite slowly, so you may not be able to spot them until months after the introduction of the adults. Given that the adult snails have a lifespan of only a couple of years, it’s important to get them breeding if you want a long-term check on the pest-snail population.

Physa and Physella spp., often called Tadpole Snails, are among the commonest pond snails to become established in aquariums. Most prefer to eat algae and do little damage to healthy vegetation, but some species may nibble on delicate plants.


You don’t have to do anything special to prompt Assassin Snails to breed, save one thing: keep a good-sized group! Unlike most other snails, they’re not hermaphrodites: in other words, some are males and some are females, and you need both sexes if they’re to breed. Since you can’t sex them visually, get a reasonable number to be sure you’ve got a mix of both sexes and that you have enough to make inroads into pest-snail populations; you’ll need something like five to six specimens per 10 gallons (38 L) of water.

Do they work? The bottom line is yes, Assassin Snails do work, but only if used as part of a “whole aquarium” approach to snail control. That may well start with physical removal of as many pest snails as possible, followed by improvements in overall aquarium maintenance. Remove uneaten food, siphon out debris on a regular basis, keep filter media rinsed clean, install fast-growing plant species to keep algae in check, review stocking levels, and, if necessary, remove surplus livestock. Once you’ve done these things, you will have already tilted the odds against the pest-snail species, reducing the amount of food available to the adult snails; this in turn means fewer baby snails and less food Right: Snail trap baited with catfish pellets will help eliminate some snails over a period of weeks, but small fishes may also be caught. (A trapped Corydoras will drown.)


Below: Assassin Snails won’t kill very large snails like Tylomelania sp. (traded as “Elephant Snails” or “Rabbit Snails”), but they will certainly hunt down the much smaller offspring of these species.


for the baby snails, so they’ll grow more slowly. With fewer baby snails being added to the overall pest-snail population, all you need now is something to eliminate some of the adults, and that’s where the Assassin Snails come into the picture. They will hunt down from one to three adult pest snails apiece each day, and over time you should find fewer and fewer adult pest snails in the aquarium. The Assassin Snails will eat some of the juvenile pest snails too, and once they start breeding, there will be juveniles consuming suitably small prey snails as well. It’s unlikely they’ll eliminate every snail in your aquarium, and some pest snails will surely survive in places where Assassin Snails don’t seem to go, like on floating vegetation and inside biological filter media. But the overall impact of these little hunters is significant, at least when used as part of an overall snail-control strategy.

The classic pest snail is probably the Malayan Turret Snail, Melanoides tuberculata. While it does not harm plants, it multiplies so fast that its population can quickly reach plague proportions.

THE IMMORTAL Malayan Burrowing Snail CZ.BSZ#BJMFZtI can’t remember exactly when it was, or how, that the notorious Malayan Burrowing Snail (Melanoides tuberculata) came into my life. It was somewhere between 1978, when the fish house was built, and my ex leaving for pastures new in 1987—he was here when the snails first put in an appearance and his reaction was one of immediate doom. He had been keeping fishes a lot longer than I, and straightaway recognized the “pretty little snails” I had spotted for what they were—the aquarium equivalent of the mosquito. The species, variously called the Malayan Turret Snail, the Malayan Trumpet Snail, the Malayan Livebearing Snail, and the Red-Rimmed Melania, is livebearing, and it takes only one small snail to start a plague. Where they came from I have no idea. Perhaps they arrived in the packing water with some new fish; I am fairly sure plants weren’t responsible, as there were none in the affected tank and hadn’t been for a long time. In 1987, finding myself happily single again, and with more time on my hands (much less washing, cooking, and tidying to do, and no gainful employment for several months), I decided to try to eliminate the snails. I mercilessly removed every one I could find, but to no avail; there was always a reserve population in the gravel. I toyed with using a molluscicide, but I’m against using chemicals if I can possibly avoid it—who knows what residues may linger even after water changes. Plus I didn’t fancy trying to clean hundreds, maybe thousands, of dead and decomposing snails out of the gravel. As luck would have it, shortly thereafter I was given some young Haplochromis (Ptyochromis) fischeri—in those days misidentified


We managed to stop them spreading by imposing permanent quarantine on the tank— separate nets, separate siphon tube for water changes—and as the tank was next to the door, we siphoned the waste water (and any visible snails) straight onto the flower bed outside, so no buckets were required. The tank was now used only as a holding tank for young cichlids set to leave for new homes, and we did our best to make sure no snails left with them. We were lucky they hadn’t spread, though, as typically these snails first colonize the gravel and only appear at night, until their population has become so large that they have to come out by day to forage. So they must have been present for some time before we took any precautions.



as H. (P.) sauvagei—from Lake Victoria, a species that was purportedly a snail-eater. In the lake, maybe, but not in my tank—at least not unless I crushed the snails for them. Generations of captive breeding and a diet of easier meat had apparently eliminated any interest whatsoever in “food in the shell.” I later learned that, in fact, the dentition of some, if not all, long-term captivebred “Vics” has actually adapted to an aquarium diet, or maybe “devolved” away from the natural diet would be a better way of putting it. But my fishes didn’t even try to attack the snails, even if left unfed for several days to try and concentrate their minds a little. Then, with impeccable timing, I got myself a job in the investment business just in time for the 1987 stockmarket crash, and for a few years had other things than snails on my mind. I was away from home a lot and kept only half a dozen tanks of fishes on “tickover.” The “snail tank” was left fish-free and unfed. The snails prospered, regardless. As I recall, my next onslaught was in summer 1991, when I was made redundant and took to a full-time, home-based career in aquarium publishing of one sort or other. To start with, work was less than full-time, so “project snail” resumed. I drained the tank, then removed the gravel a small amount at a time, put it in a bucket, poured boiling water over it, left it to stand till cool, stirred vigorously, and poured off the water and (apparently) dead snails that came to the top. The steril-


ized gravel was then stored in lidded buckets which, on the belt and braces principle, I left outside all winter, so what had been scalded was frozen several times. Come spring, I eagerly set up the tank with the sterilized and deep-frozen gravel, filled it with water, and congratulated myself on my victory. After about a month, I saw the first snails pottering around on the gravel after lights-out. In 1993 I decamped to the other side of the UK to live for four years, though I kept my house in Devon (and the fish house) for future reference. Most of the fishes were sold or given away, as I had limited space for tanks in my new home. The fish-house tanks were drained and everything switched off. On my return in 1997 I set up again. Each tank—including the “snail tank”—was cleaned out, its bone-dry gravel washed, and set up anew. A few weeks later—as you will probably have guessed—the first snails appeared from the gravel to taunt me. And there matters have rested. The Malayan Burrowing Snail can survive boiling, freezing, and life without food and water for several years, so I am forced to assume it is immortal and invincible. I enjoy a challenge, but I know when it’s time to admit I’m licked. Then again, recently I have been hearing great things about a predatory beastie called the Assassin Snail (Clea helena), and am tempted to have another go. The popular name has a certain appeal after all I’ve been through!




& B R E E D IN G

the Fruit Snail —Neritina juttingae

article and images by Maike Wilstermann-Hildebrand t Back in 2007 or 2008, an attractive snail with


spines on its shell, a member of the genus Neritina, was imported. These interesting and useful grazing animals are sold as Fruit Snails and have now been identified as Neritina juttingae (Mienis, 1973).


As a rule, Clithon species are the only members of the snail family Neritidae that have spines on their shells. Neritina juttingae is an exception in this respect. This Neritina species develops numerous spiral ribs on which short, open spines are located at irregular intervals. In some specimens these spines are strongly developed, while others exhibit only the spiral ribs. The shell is around .5 to 1 inch (1.5–2.5 cm) long and .7–.78 inch (1.8–2 cm) wide. It is thinwalled compared to other Neritina species. The surface is light brown, but often looks dark brown to black as the result of blackish deposits. The columellar surface is white. A more or less bright orange–yellow ring runs along the margin of the mouth. The protective operculum is red-brown with a deep red edge. As is so often the case, the precise distribution of this snail remains unknown. It is known from just one location on Borneo (Sarawak), where adult specimens have been found some 2–2.5 miles (3–4 km) upstream of the brackishwater zone. The bottom of the small, slowflowing river consists of sand and coarse rubble. The snails sit on rocks thrown into the river to anchor a bridge. Water parameters are unknown. The Fruit Snail is found there together with Neritina pennata, occasionally offered for sale as the Diamond Snail. The size of its distribution region is also unknown. It supposedly occurs on Borneo and Sumatra, and Singapore is also mentioned in

Above: Neritina juttingae on a piece of wood. Below: The residue of egg cocoons is often visible on the shells.

Upper and underside of Neritina juttingae. Note red operculum (“little lid”) on the underside. It is supposedly called a Fruit Snail because it resembles the spiny southeast Asian durian fruit, genus Durio.

the literature. But the species isn’t included in the Singapore species list of Tan & Clements (2008). These snails never leave the water. By day they prefer to sit on or beneath wood, rocks, or leaf litter. At night they creep across the open substrate in search of something to eat. They also graze algae, but require additional food to survive in the aquarium. The same number of Neritina juttingae will produce far more egg cocoons in an aquarium with wood and leaf litter than they will in a tank without leaves. This can be taken as a sign that the leaves constitute an additional source of food. These snails will also take rabbit pellets and fish food. The temperature should be 77–82.5°F (25–28°C). In order to avoid shell damage the pH should not be less than 6.5. Carbonate and total hardness should both be measurable. I add ground cuttlefish bone to the food in order to provide the snails with an adequate calcium supply. Neritina juttingae prefers to lay its eggs on the shells of conspecifics. Sometimes cocoons can also be seen on apple snails (Ampullariidae). Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to breed these snails, as they undergo a free-swimming larval stage in brackish water or in the sea. REFERENCES

Tan, S.K. and R. Clements. 2008. Taxonomy and Distribution of the Neritidae (Mollusca: Gastropoda) in Singapore. Zool Stud 47 (4): 481–94.



CALENDAR compiled by Mary E. Sweeney






All Species Show and Auction Michiana Aquarium Society Elkhart, IN

Annual Auction, New Hampshire Aquarium Society, Newington, NH


Tropical Fish Show and Auction Norwalk Aquarium Society Norwalk, CT

Convention, All Catfish Convention, Potomac Valley Aquarium Society, Hyatt Dulles, Herndon, VA


Giant Fall Auction, Regina Aquarium Society Regina, SK, Canada

Convention, 1st European Discus Championship Dortmund, Germany


Fall Show and Auction London Aquaria Society London, ON, Canada


Show and Auction Saskatoon Aquarium Society Saskatoon, SK, Canada


Megaauction, Silicon Valley Aquarium Society, San Jose, CA e-mail: SiliconValleyAquarium


Giant Fall Auction, Brooklyn Aquarium Society, New York Aquarium, Brooklyn, NY


Convention, Aquatic Gardeners Association, hosted by Missouri Aquarium Society St. Louis, MO


Annual Meeting, Potomac Valley Aquarium Society, Fairfax, VA


Extravaganza!, Ohio Cichlid Association Strongsville, OH






Auction, Motor City Aquarium Society Madison Heights, MI

Annual Winter Swap Meet, Grand Valley Aquarium Club, Grand Rapids, MI

AMAZONAS AMAZONAS is a sponsor of the AACA 2012 Convention 85

Sources Look for AMAZONAS Magazine in these outstanding local aquarium shops. UNITED STATES

Arizona Aqua Touch 12040 North 32nd St. Phoenix, AZ 602-765-9058

Arizona Nature Aquatics 3025 North Campbell Ave. Tucson, AZ 520-321-9000

Arkansas Northside Aquatics 7610 Counts Massie Rd Ste A Maumelle, AR 501-803-3434

Worlds Under Water 2105B Creekview Fayetteville, AR 479-521-7258

California All Seas Marine, Inc (Distribution Only) 1205 Knox St Torrance, CA 310-532-7769



Neptune’s Tropical Fish

Kalihi Pet Center

1970 E County Line Rd Unit A Highlands Ranch, CO 303-798-1776

1199 Dillingham Blvd Ste C-101 Honolulu, HI 808-841-5234

Connecticut All Pets Club 479 E Main St Branford, CT 203-483-7387

All Pets Club 405 Queen St Southington, CT 860-621-4664

All Pets Club 1167 N Colony Rd Wallingford, CT 203-265-1899

Aquatic Wildlife Company 179D Deming St Manchester, CT 860-648-1166

House of Fins 99 Bruce Park Ave Greenwich, CT 203-661-8131

Aquarium Concepts


6920 Amador Plaza Rd Dublin, CA 925-829-0583

Barrier Reef

Ocean Aquarium 120 Cedar St San Francisco, CA 415-771-3206

Tong’s Tropical Fish 8976 Warner Avenue Fountain Valley, CA 714-842-2733

Trop-Aquarium & Pet Center 1947 Main Street Watsonville, CA 831-761-3901

White’s Pets 5212 North Blackstone Fresno, CA 559-438-4343

1921 NW Boca Raton Blvd Boca Raton, FL 561-368-1970

Boardroom Aquatics 12795 Kenwood Ln Fort Myers, FL 239-275-8891

The Planted Aquarium Store 3230 NE 12th Ave Oakland Park, FL 954-990-8871

Sea Life Aquarium & Service 174 Semoran Commerce Pl Apopka, FL 407-889-9887

Georgia Aquarium Outfitters 175 Old Epps Bridge Rd Athens, GA 706-546-1337


MVPets 7429 S Westnedge Ave Portage, MI 269-492-7387

Oceans and Seas


26085 Gratiot Ave Roseville, MI 586-778-2223

Fish, Aquariums & Stuff

Preuss Pets

6112 West Fairview Ave Boise, ID 208-377-1119

1127 N Cedar St Lansing, MI 517-339-1762


New Hampshire

Sailfin Pet Shop

Laconia Pet Center

720 S Neil St Champaign, IL 217-352-1121

1343 Union Ave Laconia, NH 603-524-8311


New Jersey

Inland Aquatics

Aquarium Center

10 Ohio St Terre Haute, IN 812-232-9000

1295 Blackwood Clementon Rd Clementon, NJ 856-627-6262


Pets, Pets, Pets

Aquatic Environments 730 E Kimberly Rd Davenport, IA 563-445-3687

Maryland House of Tropicals 7389F Baltimore Annapolis Blvd Glen Burnie, MD 410-761-1113

Massachusetts South Coast Scientific 109 McArthur Rd Swansea, MA 508-678-8306

2 JFK Blvd Somerset, NJ 732-545-6675

Tropiquarium & Petland Ocean Plaza 1100 State Rte 35 Ocean, NJ 732-922-2300

New York Eddies Aquarium 1254 New Loudon Rd Rt 9 Cohoes, NY 518-783-3474

Pet Friendly


845 Manitou Rd Hilton, NY 585-366-4242

Blue Fish Aquarium

North Carolina

2939 Wilson Ave SW Ste 109 Grandville, Mi 616-667-2424

Moby Dick Pet Store 3700 Sashabaw Rd Waterford, MI 248-673-2520

Blue Ridge Reef & Pet 103 WNC Shopping Ctr Dr Black Mountain, NC 828-669-0032



Oasis Tropical Fish

Pet Advantage

1604 S Highway 97 Redmond, OR 541-504-0535

350 Dorset St South Burlington, VT 802-860-1714



Oddball Pets & Aquarium

Cichlid Solutions

262 Joseph Street Pittsburgh, PA 412-884-2333

6405 Dickens Place Ste D Henrico, VA 804-673-0657


Pet & Aquatic Warehouse

Austin Aqua-Dome 1604 Fortview Rd Austin, TX 512-442-1400

Birddog & CatďŹ sh Petshop 115D Old Boerne Rd Bulverde, TX 830-980-8900

Fish Gallery Houston 2909 Fountain View Dr Houston, TX 713-523-3474

Pet World 2700 Carson St Fort Worth, TX 817-577-1955

The AďŹ shionados 825 Erin St Unit 3 Winnipeg, MB 204-295-5375 AUSTRALIA


Water World Ananda Dutta Lane Howrah-7111 01 West Bengal 91-983-022-5574

Aqua Blue Distribution (Distribution Only) 17 Cairns St Loganholme, Queensland 07-3806-4255

2408 Wards Rd Lynchburg, VA 434-239-6787



Stunning Corals Wolvenlaan 285 1216EV Hilversum Noord-Holland 06-1569-9743

Anthias CANADA

Reef Wholesale (Distribution Only) 12 Vulcan St Etobicoke, ON 613-884-7258

Big Alâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Aquarium Supercentres 3511 99th St Edmonton, AB 780-435-3474

3 Chemin De Maupas 69380 Les Cheres 33-437-50-29-80 GREAT BRITAIN

Midland Reefs (Distribution Only) Mount Road Trading Estate Burntwood, Staffordshire 44-0154-3685599


Aquarium Depot (Distribution Only) #1 Mackenzie Park Capital Hill 392 Le Roux Ave Halfway House 1685 27-11-805-8899










Male Pyrrhulina sp. “Pevas”

Pyrrhulina sp. “Pevas”




When my recently imported tetras colored up, they took my breath away. On the basis of body form and finnage I had already classified the species as related to Pyrrhulina brevis (Short-Lined Pyrrhulina), but was surprised at how beautiful the male’s color became once he had settled in. The caudal fin and the black-edged anal and ventral fins were bright red, and—very unusual for the genus—depending on mood, there were rows of brilliant red dots on a dark longitudinal band on the body. The females didn’t exhibit this coloration. On the basis of information from Martin Mortenthaler (Iquitos, Peru), these tetras originate from a small rainforest stream in the vicinity of Pevas. A number of interesting Pyrrhulina forms with red coloration in the fins are now known from the upper Amazon, but they haven’t previously included such a beauty. —Hans-Georg Evers

of the body and the iridescent blue operculum make it easy to distinguish these fishes from all similar species. According to the collector, Mortenthaler’s father-in-law, these mailed catfishes live in a small clearwater tributary of the Río Napo, accessible only by boat from Iquitos. Let us hope that a few more specimens will soon arrive so that we can begin to try to breed this attractive species. —Hans-Georg Evers

Cyphotilapia “Blue Mutant”

Corydoras sp. “Rio Napo”


Experts among mailed catfish fans will immediately think of the species C 85 or C 84 when they see the photo of this new species from the drainage of the Río Napo in Peru. Martin Mortenthaler in Iquitos kindly arranged for me to receive these fishes via EFS in Sonnefeld, Germany. They are very reminiscent of species from the Corydoras davidsandsi (Sands’ Cory) assemblage and other sand-colored species with black patterning. But the black dots on the upper half

Corydoras sp. “Río Napo”

Cyphotilapia cultivated forms


Regardless of whether the fishes are sold as “Black Widow” or “Blue Mutant”, the question remains, do we actually want that sort of thing? I am talking about the “cultivated forms,” more precisely mutations, of Cyphotilapia frontosa, C. gibberosa, and C. sp. from Lake Tanganyika—species that, in their natural coloration, are among the most majestic fishes that can be kept in the aquarium. Mutation is, in fact, a natural process resulting in permanent changes in genetic makeup. In this case, however, Man has used targeted line-breeding to develop aquarium strains that are increasingly further from the wild form. What is really remarkable about the Cyphotilapia “color forms” is the fact that although they are deplored by many of us, they keep turning up on stock lists and hence also find takers. —Norbert Knaak

  Gastromyzon lepidogaster “Boy, are they big!” I exclaimed when I discovered an unfamiliar hillstream loach in one of the tanks at Aquarium Dietzenbach. They were a good 3.25–3.5 inches (8–9 cm) in total length and very variable in pattern, so identifying the species was relatively easy after consulting H.H. Tan’s book The Borneo Suckers (2006). Gastromyzon lepidogaster, from the north of the island of Borneo, is the largest species of the genus known to date. I am keeping them, together with a number of other species of the genus and mailed catfishes, in an aquarium with a bottom area measuring 40 x 20 inches (100 x 50 cm). The tank is heavily filtered, and every 14 days I change 50 percent of the water (neutral, medium-hard tap water). The fishes aren’t at all shy and can be seen during the day, usually clinging to the front glass, which makes doing a head count easy.






SNAPSHOTS Gastromyzon lepidogaster can be very contrast-rich in its coloration.

This “gray mouse” is also G. lepidogaster. REFERENCES

Tan, H.H. 2006. The Borneo Suckers: Revision of the Torrent Loaches of Borneo (Balitoridae: Gastromyzon, Neogastromyzon). Natural History Publications, Kota Kinabalu, Borneo.

Panaqolus sp. “Rio Galvez”


My specimens are all differently colored, with every type of pattern and intermediates, ranging from very contrasty head markings and striped caudal fins to light speckling on the body. Anyone interested in these small, peaceful Gastromyzon species will be pleased that an additional species has been imported. Unfortunately, these fishes have still not been bred successfully. —Hans-Georg Evers

Fans of wood-eating loricariid catfishes have reason to celebrate. EFS in Sonnefeld, Germany, has recently imported from Peru a new species of the genus Panaqolus, a member of the tiger-striped group of species. Martin Mortenthaler (Aquarium Río Momon) in Iquitos obtained these fishes from a fisherman who had caught them in the Río Galvez. This river, in the east of the Peruvian province of Loreto, combines with the Río Yaquerana at their confluence to form the Río Yavari (Javari), well known as the boundary between Peru and Brazil. The Río Galvez is a typical whitewater river, and the maintenance of these 4-inch (10-cm) catfishes presents no difficulties. We already know a whole series of tigerstriped Panaqolus that inhabit the lowland rivers of




the Amazon basin. Now they have been joined by a further species.

Male Rhinogobius gigas

—Hans-G. Evers

Rhinogobius gigas


In recent years, numerous new species of the genus Rhinogobius have turned up in the aquarium hobby. Of course, this also means that increasingly more species of this goby genus are being scientifically described and grouped together in species complexes. Rhinogobius gigas Aonuma & Chen, 1996 is one such species. It is known from Taiwan and belongs to the Rhinogobius brunneus species complex. That means that specimens of this species may have already been imported for the aquarium hobby as Rhinogobius brunneus. Comprehensive morphological and molecularbiological research has established that a total of at least eight species from Taiwan can be distinguished within the Rhinogobius brunneus species complex (Chen & Shao, 1996). These include a number already known in the aquarium hobby, for example Rhinogobius candidianus, R. henchuenensis, R. rubromaculatus, and R. nagoyae formosanus. By contrast, on the basis of the results of the same research, Rhinogobius giurinus is no longer assigned to the R. brunneus complex. The

new species have been scientifically described. Rhinogobius gigas has been regarded as a distinct species since 1996, and a number of these fishes have recently been imported from Taiwan. The specific name gigas, the Latin word for giant, refers to the fact that this is the largest of the Rhinogobius species known from Taiwan. On the basis of field observations, males grow up to 4 inches (10 cm) long. In keeping with their size, they are rather robust and powerful gobies, and males exhibit marked territorial behavior. It is unwise to house them with smaller fish species in the aquarium. Their aquarium maintenance is easy. I keep my specimens at room temperature in relatively hard water with a certain amount of current and a high oxygen content. They will greedily take any type of meaty frozen food and live foods of suitable size. At present there are no reports on the Panaqolus sp. “Río Galvez” breeding of Rhinogobius gigas in the aquarium. —Michael Taxacher REFERENCES

Chen, I.-S. and K.-T. Shao. 1996. A taxonomic review of the gobiid fish genus Rhinogobius Gill, 1859, from Taiwan, with descriptions of three new species. Zool Studies 35 (3): 200–214.



Aonuma, Y. and I.-S. Chen. 1996. Two new species of Rhinogobius (Pisces, Gobiidae) from Taiwan. J Taiwan Mus 49 (1): 7–13.




U.S. AQUARIUM SOCIETIES ARIZONA Dry Wash Aquarium Society, Phoenix Arizona Aquatic Plant Enthusiasts (AAPE) Tuscon & Phoenix CALIFORNIA Sacramento Aquarium Society Sacramento San Francisco Aquarium Society San Francisco Silicon Valley Aquarium Society San Jose COLORADO Colorado Aquarium Society, Arvada CONNECTICUT Greater Hartford Aquarium Society Manchester Northeast Livebearer Association Bristol Norwalk Aquarium Society South Norwalk DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA Greater Washington Aquatic Plant Association FLORIDA Gold Coast Aquarium Society of South Florida, Cooper City Tampa Bay Aquarium Society, Tampa


GEORGIA Atlanta Area Aquarium Association Atlanta


HAWAII Honolulu Aquarium Society, Honolulu

ILLINOIS Central Illinois Tropical Aquarium Club (CITAC) Bloomington Federation of American Aquarium Societies Champaign Greater Chicago Cichlid Association Brookfield Green Water Aquarist Society, Alsip INDIANA Circle City Aquarium Club Indianapolis Michiana Aquarium Society, South Bend IOWA Eastern Iowa Aquarium Association Cedar Rapids LOUISIANA Southeast Louisiana Aquarium Society Baton Rouge / New Orleans MARYLAND Capital Cichlid Association, Silver Spring MASSACHUSETTS Boston Aquarium Society, Boston Pioneer Valley Aquarium Society Chicopee Worcester Aquarium Society, Worcester MICHIGAN Greater Detroit Aquarium Society Royal Oak Grand Valley Aquarium Society Grand Rapids Southwest Michigan Aquarium Society Portage MINNESOTA Minnesota Aquarium Society Roseville

MISSOURI Missouri Aquarium Society, St. Louis NEW HAMPSHIRE New Hampshire Aquarium Society Rollinsford NEW JERSEY Jersey Shore Aquarium Society Freehold North Jersey Aquarium Society, Nutley NEW YORK Allegheny River Valley Aquarium Society Olean Brooklyn Aquarium Society, Brooklyn Danbury Area Aquarium Society (DAAS) Carmel Central New York Aquarium Society Syracuse Genesee Valley Koi & Pond Club Rochester Greater City Aquarium Society, Flushing Long Island Aquarium Society Stony Brook Nassau County Aquarium Society Rockville Center Niagara Frontier Koi & Pond Club North Tonawanda Tropical Fish Club of Erie County Hamburg

NORTH CAROLINA North Carolina Aquarium Society Raleigh Raleigh Aquarium Society, Raleigh

VIRGINIA Central Virginia Aquarium Society Richmond Potomac Valley Aquarium Society, Fairfax

OHIO American Cichlid Association, Hamilton Cleveland Aquarium Society, Cleveland Columbus Area Fish Enthusiasts Plain City Greater Akron Aquarium Society, Akron Great Lakes Cichlid Society, Euclid Medina County Aquarium Society Medina Ohio Cichlid Association, Brunswick Stark County Aqua Life Enthusiasts Society, Canton Youngstown Area Tropical Fish Society Youngstown

WASHINGTON Greater Seattle Aquarium Society Seattle Puget Sound Aquarium Society Federal Way

OREGON Greater Portland Aquarium Society Clackamas PENNSYLVANIA Aquarium Club of Lancaster County Lancaster Bucks County Aquarium Society Chalfont Greater Pittsburgh Aquarium Society Pittsburgh TEXAS Houston Aquarium Society, Houston

INTERNATIONAL AQUARIUM SOCIETIES AUSTRALIA New South Wales Cichlid Society Moorebank, NSW Victorian Cichlid Society Inc. Mitcham, VIC Queensland Cichlid Group Inc. Clayfield, QLD BELGIUM Belgian Cichlid Association BERMUDA Bermuda Fry-Angle Aquarium Society CANADA London Aquaria Society London, ON Saskatoon Aquarium Society Saskatoon, SK Montreal Aquarium Society, Montreal, QC Hamilton & District Aquarium Society Hamilton, ON


FINLAND Finnish Cichlid Association, CIKLIDISTIT RY, Vantaa FRANCE Association France Cichlid, Hoenheim GERMANY Deutsche Cichliden-Gesellschaft (German Cichlid Society) Frankfurt am Main MALAYSIA Malaysia Guppy Club SINGAPORE Discus Club Singapore UNITED KINGDOM Anabantoid Association of Great Britain Doncaster Bristol Aquarists’ Society, Bristol The Federation of British Aquatic Societies, Sussex Greater Manchester Cichlid Society Middlesex & Surrey Border Section, British Koi Keepers Society The Calypso Fish and Aquaria Club London Thanks to Ray “Kingfish” Lucas of Kingfish Services in Boston, NY, for his invaluable help in establishing this directory and the AMAZONAS Aquarium Calendar of Events.

Contact: Mary Sweeney, Senior Editor


VERMONT Tropical Fish Club of Burlington Burlington

WISCONSIN Milwaukee Aquarium Society, Milwaukee Central Wisconsin Aquarium Society Wausau

Durham Region Aquarium Society Oshawa, ON Regina Aquarium Society Association Regionale des Aquariophiles de Quebec, Ste-Foy, QC Aquarium Society of Winnipeg Winnipeg, MB


A DV E RTI S E R S Ocean Nutrition . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7

Aqua Craft Products® . . . . . . inside back cover

Piscine Energetics. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15

Aqua Medic . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9, 85

Reef Dynamics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 81

Boyd Enterprises . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3

San Francisco Bay Brand . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 54

Brightwell Aquatics . . . . . . . . inside front cover

Segrest Farms . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43

EcoTech Marine. . . . . . . . . . . . . 18, 19, 26, 27

Swiss Tropicals . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35

Hikari . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67

Tunze . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 83

LFS Locator . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 95

Two Little Fishies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7, 35

Lifegard Aquatics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11

The Wet Spot . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87

Malawi Cichlid Conservation Fund . . . . . . . . 80

Vermont Business Brokers . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87

Milwaukee Instruments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 55

ZooMed . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13, back cover


All-Aquarium Catfish Convention . . . . . . . . . 94

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

James Lawrence, Publisher • 802.985.9977 Ext. 7 •






Keeping and breeding discus, for beginners to experts, will be featured in the November/ December 2012 issue of AMAZONAS.

Amazonas sep oct 2012