TERS & SHIFTERS: Marine cleaners for your substrate HOW TO PUT THAT SPARKLE BACK IN YOUR TANK
Showstopping barbs for your community
Issue 3 March 18 £4.50
Ov tre wi m off
STOP THOSE THAI FLAVOURS CORAL Reader’s QUARRELS amazing Top tips for a peaceful reef
Mekong basin biotope
a ul m al o r Me lF t ra ec tu ns Na ith I W
Aquarium Fish Foods with Insect Meal Uses cultured insect meal to recreate the natural MRWIGXFEWIHHMIXXLEXQSWXƤWLIEXMRXLI[MPH )EWMP]HMKIWXIHERHTVSGIWWIHF]XLIƤWLVIWYPXMRKMR less waste - it’s what they have evolved to eat Environmentally friendly and sustainable - reduces XLIYWISJƤWLQIEP[LMGLMWXEOIRJVSQXLIWIE ŷERHXLIƤWLVIEPP]PMOIMX Have you tried it yet?
Welcome Learn from the best
JEREMY GAY is a former PFK editor and now Evolution Aqua’s Business Development Manager. He walks us through the quirky breeding of the Splash tetra on page 56.
DAVE WOLFENDEN is curator at the Blue Planet Aquarium in Cheshire Oaks. He offers advice on breaking up coral ﬁghts on page 50.
TRISTAN LOUGHER works in aquatic retail and has sold marines for 15 years. He looks at how to keep your substrates aired by using sifters and shifters on page 96.
New year, new PFK? You’re probably wondering why I’m on the welcome page instead of Karen this month. If you’ve been out of the loop, you won’t know that she’s left us, taking her highly coveted editing skills to a fresh challenge on a whole new (non-ﬁshy) magazine. While this issue is still ‘hers’ I’ve been chomping at the bit to get my hands on the welcome page since day one. She blinked and, well… the rest is history. I’ve witnessed just how hard Karen has worked on this magazine over the years, and more importantly just how close she was to it, emotionally speaking. It’s one thing to edit, but another to edit with love. This month also marks the end of the long-lived, much-loved PFK online forum. It had an amazing run over its many years, witnessing everything from spats (guilty) to couples ﬁnding love and even getting married after meeting on there – plus a whole lot of ﬁsh content in between! I’d like to thank everyone involved in making that forum what it was – on one hand, the moderators for their tireless efforts in its smooth running. On the other, each and every one of you who ever got stuck in to help answer a ﬁshkeeper’s enquiries. I’ve not left much space for the ‘usual’ welcome, so I’ll be brief. We’ve got Cherry barbs, Ember tetra, an amazing Thai biotope, rare African Killiﬁsh, a journey back to the Victorian age of aquatics, and all of your favourite regular features. It has been a busy last issue from the outstanding Karen Youngs!
40 Tai’s outstanding Thai set-up.
34 Ember tetras for everyone!
72 New wild Nothobranchius found.
Nathan Hill, Associate editor
Get more PFK! GEORGE FARMER is a world-renowned aquascaper. He meets an amazing German aquascaper with a praiseworthy tank on page 22. www.practicalﬁshkeeping.co.uk
Choose a Marine or Freshwater bundle when you subscribe to PFK – page 48.
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arc Cover image: Peter Maguire
ON THE COVER
CHERRY BLOSSOMS If you want to colour up a community tank, fancy starting a biotope project or you’re thinking about going down the aquascaping path, you’ll ﬁnd the Cherry barbs extremely hard to beat.
TAI’S THAI TANK After creating a splendid biotope inspired by a photo of the Mekong Basin, one talented aquarist shows that you don’t need to be totally authentic for a tank that feels right.
TURF WARS There are silent battles taking place in your reef tank, as corals wage a constant war on each other. Dave Wolfenden looks at how you can intervene before things turn deadly.
LET THE CAT OUT OF THE BAG!
SIFTERS AND SHIFTERS
With reputations preceding them like their ﬂowing whiskers, some catﬁsh need no introduction. Bob Mehen highlights eight of our all time feline ﬁshy favourites. Most marine tanks beneﬁt from a clean up crew to keep substrates tidy, but exactly which types of reef janitors are better than others? Tristan Lougher gives us a few options to consider...
NEWS & REVIEWS
14 16 104
FISHKEEPING NEWS The latest on how the aquarium industry is targeting cyanide ﬁshing, the deepest-dwelling ﬁsh we’ve ever seen, and details of this year’s Catﬁsh Convention.
FISH IN THE SHOPS Spotted on our rounds this month were a cheeky mudskipper, a lithe Leporinus, and a river-dwelling, ﬂow-loving cichlid.
Fluval’s new mains-powered aquarium vacuum, Colombo’s Marine Test Lab and the new Eheim streamON+ ﬂow pump reviewed.
In association with
Pretty, polite and perfectly proportioned Ember tetras, and how you should keep them.
Enter the fascinating world of the Splash tetra and its relatives, a ﬁsh you should deﬁnitely try breeding!
With all the sections of the PFK diploma in your possession, it’s time to look back over what we’ve covered.
THE DEEPER CLEAN Here’s what you need to know to keep on top of unsightly muck and keep your tank sparkling.
DEAL WITH PHOSPHATE The effects of phosphate on your aquarium or pond and how to keep it under control.
YOUR FISH & TANKS
22 28 32
FULL OF LIVING COLOUR Meet aquascaper Jurijs Jutjajevs, from Germany, who has turned is skills into a profession.
All your tank and ﬁsh pics, feedback and letters.
ME & MY TANK Meet a Yorkshire aquarist with no less than 30 tanks.
An expedition to Uganda to ﬁnd a mysterious banded killiﬁsh results in the discovery of an undescribed Nothobranchius population...
SEARCHING FOR KILLIFISH IN THE PEARL OF AFRICA
FISHKEEPING ANSWERS Some of the world’s top experts answer your questions.
PLUS SUBSCRIBE TO PFK! Choose a freshwater or marine goody bag when you subscribe.
SOMETHING POTTY FOR THE PARLOUR
An insight in to the early days of ﬁshkeeping for the Victorian middle classes.
Nathan Hill embraces the wind of change in what may be his last tailpiece.
CHERRY BLOSSOMS MP&C PIEDNOIR AQUAPRESS.COM
If you want colour for your community tank, fancy starting a biotope project or you’re thinking about going down the aquascaping path, you’ll ﬁnd Cherry barbs extremely hard to beat. WORDS: NATHAN HILL
Fish of the month
For such small ﬁsh, male Cherry barbs pack a lot of colour. www.practicalﬁshkeeping.co.uk
arbs have a bad rep, borne from the falsehood that they nip. While retailers and publications have worked hard to highlight the reality of the issue — that very few barbs actually nip – the old myths prevail. Guilty by association, many folks are drawn in to the intense red of a Cherry barb, Puntius titteya, only to be repelled once they see the word ‘barb’ in the name. Let me send out assurance here and now — Cherry barbs are not biters. A more peaceful ﬁsh you’re unlikely to ﬁnd in this whole magazine. Male Cherry barbs are showstoppers. With cerise hues from deep and burnished, to almost neon-light intense, there’s no naturally occurring freshwater ﬁsh that can rival them. Perhaps one or two marine ﬁsh, but nothing fresh. Combined with dark checkering along each ﬂank, and sometimes with a lighter streak running from snout to tail tip, they are magniﬁcent.
Females? Not so amazing, but only comparatively. While the males are garish, the females are reserved, keeping their deepest red consigned to the anal ﬁn. Still, the body is a pleasing enough yellow nectarine hue, sometimes brighter or darker pending on the light source. Newcomers are thrown by the exaggerated differences between male and female. ‘I’ll have six of the reddest ones’ is a phrase that every retailer knows. Listen out for it when you see someone buying Cherry barbs in your local store and see if you can hear the subsequent sigh of the person serving, too. Six of the reddest ﬁsh, aside from giving you a paltry shoal, will serve up a platter of males alone, and without females to tease out their colours, they will soon fade. For those in the know, Cherry barbs are prized. The aquascaping world has long understood their worth in adding a stark splash of red to offset an otherwise verdant
layout. Biotopes can be made for them — maybe should be made for them to see them at peak — but the generic farmed ﬁsh we have access to in stores are mostly destined for communities, where they ﬁt in perfectly.
Cherry garden Cherry barbs are common enough in tanks. It’d be nice to imagine that they ﬂourish in the wild too, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. In a pre-aquaculture age, before many of our aquarium favourites were being churned out by Eastern farmers, Cherry barbs were often yanked out of their native habitats. That, along with deforestation and the pollution that goes hand in hand with urban sprawl, all played a part in a population decline. Yet depending on who you listen to, the ﬁsh is either endangered or quite safe. Cynical readers may already be on the IUCN website, scratching their heads. The
Male Cherry barbs are showstoppers. With cerise hues from deep and burnished, to almost neon-light intense, there’s no naturally occurring freshwater ﬁsh that can rival them.
Fish of the month This wild Cherry has colours quite unlike the farmed ﬁsh.
G Scientiﬁc name: Puntius titteya. G Size: 4–5cm. G Origin: Sri Lanka. G Aquarium size: 60 x 30cm footprint for a group; 54 l volume. G Water requirements: Soft and slightly acidic to neutral. Ideally aim for 6.5–7pH and try to keep hardness below 12°H. G Temperature: 20–27°C. G Feeding: Flake, live and frozen Daphnia, Artemia, Calanus and bloodworm. Carotenoid rich food will really bring out that red colour. G Availability and cost: Very common; from around £2.50. pH
9 8 7 6
Temp C 30 28 26 24 22 20 18
Keep these ﬁsh in numbers — aim for at least 12 in your shoal. www.practicalﬁshkeeping.co.uk
MP&C PIEDNOIR AQUAPRESS.COM
IUCN — the International Union for Conservation of Nature — is the go-to reference for anyone wanting to know a species’ wild status. It archives all the ﬁsh we know of and assesses how secure or vulnerable they are. Follow the Cherry barb’s IUCN classiﬁcation over the years; 1988, vulnerable; 1990, vulnerable; 1994, vulnerable, and you’ll see a ﬁsh that’s in trouble. Strange then that the IUCN Red List published in 1996 had the Cherry barb down as low risk, albeit on a conservation dependent basis. But Sri Lanka, the pear-shaped island country off of India’s southern tip, and the Cherry barb’s natural home, begs to differ. The country has the highest biodiversity density in all of Asia and a heap of endemic species – animals and plants that are not found anywhere else on Earth, meaning the organisms are vulnerable, and tied to a narrow range. In 1999 an IUCN report relating speciﬁcally to Sri Lanka classiﬁed the Cherry as “highly threatened” (The 1999 list of Threatened Fauna and Flora of Sri Lanka). While the report identiﬁed as provisional rather than formal, it rested on real observations from the ﬁeld and assessments by individuals closely connected to the ﬁsh. Those on the ground told us that Cherry barbs were not thriving. Yet despite their issues, the Cherry barb has at least shown that it’s capable of relocating. While we can’t undo overﬁshing in a hurry, we can sometimes swerve ﬁsh away from the worst predicaments and ﬁnd them new habitats. As far back as the early 1980s, conservationists were trialling the relocation of various barb species, including
Barbus titteya as the Cherry was called then. Within a few years, the Cherries established themselves within a niche not dissimilar to the one they’d come from. Deforestation is a big issue for many ﬁsh, but especially Cherry barbs. Much of their food is allochthonous, meaning that it comes from outside the rivers they inhabit, falling in from the forest above. No forest, no food. No food, no ﬁsh. The forests they inhabit only occur in the wet zones of Sri Lanka, across the southwestern regions, fed by monsoon winds from the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean. Rainfall here can be intense, typically 250cm or more annually. The north and east of the island remains dry. Much of the forest clearance was done under the watch of the old British colonies, chopping down wood for a global, industrial machine. Recent years have seen further damage, especially during the lawlessness of civil wars — those readers who are savvy with global affairs might remember Sri Lanka’s connection to Tamil Tiger activity. As recently as 2006, little more than 4.5% of the original forest was still standing. Since then, conservation efforts have been implemented, tens of thousands of trees replanted, and the land once offered for agriculture is instead under protection. Still, Cherries aren’t quite in the clear. In 2017 a huge oil spill was reported in the area, and the impacts of plans for major river diversions have yet to be properly assessed. If you’re panicking at this stage, then don’t. The ﬁsh you see on sale today aren’t wild caught, or at least not those in the UK. They’re raised in such numbers on farms that the labour of sourcing, catching and
transporting them from the wild is a ﬁnancial dead-end by comparison. They’re well managed in the farms, too. Runts are rare and hybrids not a problem. Not that the ﬁsh won’t hybridise, that is. Given the right conditions, it’s possible to cross Cherry barbs with Checkered barbs, Oliotus oligolepis, but nobody is (to my knowledge) churning these crosses out.
Deforestation is a big issue for many ﬁsh, but especially Cherry barbs. Much of their food falls in from the forest above. No forest, no food. No food, no ﬁsh.
Setting up for Cherries
decoration in the form of twigs, branches and leaves. Despite the leaves that fall, the water remains clear and mostly free of acidic staining. For all the plants above the waterline, underneath the water things are barren, though a little marginal growth sprouts up here and there. Conditions are soft and slightly acidic, with a range of temperatures through the year. We even know the species that live alongside them. At the extreme end, and not something you’d recreate at home, you have the likes of Channa gachua snakeheads – lurking predators that would no doubt soon develop a taste for Cherries. Combtail paradise ﬁsh, Belontia signata, are another neighbour, and although waspish and untrustworthy in a small set-up, they might work in a larger one. The Giant danio, Danio malabaricus, is another local native which beneﬁts from a bit of space. Black ruby barbs, Pethia nigrofasciata, are another commercially available, farmed ﬁsh that you’d often ﬁnd in Cherry habitats. Various Puntius species— keluma and bimaculatus — may live nearby. Schistura notostigma loaches may snuffle along the substrates, while huge (but unsuitable) Tyretrack eels, Mastacembelus armatus, wriggle around in the marginal plants. Setting up a tank just needs to incorporate elements of the above.
Despite the unavailability of wild ﬁsh, you could still put together a wild tank and the ﬁsh will behave just as they would, had they been caught in Sri Lanka. Cherry barb biotopes seem relatively well explored, both in tanks and in the ﬂesh. In years past, former PFK editors have even been out there to see the ﬁsh ﬁrst-hand. Recreating something accurate is easy enough. Cherry barbs are stream dwellers, living in extremely shallow, slow-to-moderate ﬂowing waters. Look from the air and likely you wouldn’t spot them — the streams are shrouded in dense forest canopy making sunlight exposure minimal at best. The stream substrates are a mixture of sand and stones, many of which jut proudly from the inches-deep water. The forest canopy supplies much of the natural The Cherry barbs available in UK shops are all captive bred.
in the rear of the tank, that would be a great way to hide hardware. In a shallow set-up, ﬁlters and heaters become more obvious. Better still, invest in a natural looking, resin-moulded tree-root effect backdrop and hide hardware behind that. By drilling a couple of holes low down, you can easily arrange an outlet for a pump and a strainer to let water through. An internal canister ﬁlter on its side connected to a piece of hose will give all the ﬂow that you’ll need. Avoid external canisters here. Speaking from experience, when they lose their prime, they can be swines to get running again. Decorate with coarse sand (ﬁne sand will be blown about) and rounded cobbles — river cobbles from a garden centre are my weapon of choice. Add a few branches and broken twigs. If you can’t source twigs, get something like a tangle of Redmoor root and take a hammer to it. Arrange for some wood to break the surface, climbing up the backdrop, and you can use them to hold
Cherry barb habitat in Sri Lanka.
Try going shallow For a real project, consider going hypershallow. It may be way outside your comfort zone if you’ve never tried one, but such tanks are easy to create. Getting a tank with a larger than usual footprint would be an advantage, but not essential. Because of the reduced water volume of the shallowness, use something at least 80cm long. If you can install a weir
The bright red of Cherry barbs comes from carotenoids, an organic pigment found in foods. They can’t generate it themselves (the only animals that can are aphids and spider mites) so they need a rich source to stay at their best. Colour enhanced ﬂake foods will usually contain the ingredient astaxanthin, which is a rich carotenoid source. However, my own experiences revealed that one of the best ways to ‘redden‘ Cherry barbs was to use Calanus supplements. Calanus are marine copepods, bright orange in colour, that carry a huge carotenoid load. If you can source the frozen varieties, these are taken most readily, but if not, there are Calanus ﬂakes and powders (great if you make your own food mix) that will do much the same job. A ﬁsh ﬁlled with carotenoids has a better immune system, but in Cherry barbs you’ll see the added beneﬁts of increased displaying and spawning. Even though females are paler than males, males will choose the reddest females to spawn with. If you can’t get Calanus, a healthy balance of ﬂake foods, Daphnia, Artemia, Cyclops and bloodworm will still go a long way to keeping them intense.
The role of carotenoids
Fish of the month Females in spawning condition will be plump with eggs.
MP&C PIEDNOIR AQUAPRESS.COM
Spawning takes place in the early morning.
Will they spawn?
MP&C PIEDNOIR AQUAPRESS.COM
Breeding Cherries is quite possible, but you’ll need a dedicated tank. Use a 45 x 30cm all-glass tank with a small, air-driven ﬁlter. Scatter the base with marbles or large-grain gravel, enough to allow eggs to fall to the base of the tank without the adults reaching them. Fill it with water that’s slightly acidic and set it a degree warmer than the main tank. Condition the Cherry barbs in advance with lots of live and frozen foods. You’ll see the females becoming distinctly plump as they ﬁll with eggs, while the males’ red intensities will soar. Select a couple of pairs and move them to the breeding tank. Spawning will take place in the early morning, with eggs dropping safely to the bottom — like other barbs, these are egg scatterers. When the females are thin again, and you can see eggs under the marbles, move the parents back out and sit back for 48 hours until the fry start to hatch out. Start feeding the fry from the start, with Liquifry and infusoria, moving on to microworms and eventually Artemia nauplii.
Surprisingly, given their niche habitat, feral populations of Cherry barbs released by aquarists have established themselves successfully in Mexico and Colombia.
terrestrial plants. If you really want plants under the water consider a few small Cryptocoryne. Personally I’d leave this tank bare and position ferns into the wood above. If you can place them so that the roots reach the water they’ll thrive. Attach a little Java moss or similar around the waterline of the decor with superglue — and it’ll grow both into and above the water. Provide enough light for your plants, but don’t go beyond that. Brighter light will just lead to shy ﬁsh, defeating the object. Go for soft water. Ideally you want a pH around 6.8, but you don’t want anything hard. While farmed ﬁsh are tolerant of carbonates, in a shallow tank with a reduced water level you’ll rapidly develop a line of scale around the water’s edge, ruining the effect, so use soft for selﬁsh reasons. Plump for a temperature between 20–27°C. Go for a decent group of 12 ﬁsh, with one male per three females. They’ll not shoal together, but will form loose clusters, with the most dominant male taking on the deepest colours and showing off to both the ladies and the subordinate males. Or just buy a shoal for a community tank. I promise they’ll still look amazing in it. If you do, go for something heaving with plants, contrary to the suggested biotope layout. As aquascapers know, they colour up more when there’s lots of greenery about.
FISHKEEPING NEWS Latest news and events from the world of aquatics. MARINE NEWS
Aquarium industry targets cyanide ﬁshing Scientists are a step closer to ending the deadly and destructive practice of illegal cyanide ﬁshing, thanks to new research. The use of cyanide to stun and capture ﬁsh for both the ornamental and food trades is still a problem in tropical seas, particularly in the Coral Triangle region, despite governments introducing laws against it. It involves dissolving cyanide in either bottles or drums and using it to stun ﬁsh living within the coral reefs, making them easier to catch. But it has detrimental effects on the ﬁsh, coral reefs and the ﬁshers involved. Now, two separate reports commissioned by the Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association (OATA) and the company behind the global chain of Sea Life aquariums have helped to bring a validated test for cyanide usage a step closer. A robust detection test will accurately detect whether cyanide has been used in a targed way, distinguishing it from background levels already present in the environment from other sources. Ben Spinks of the Sea Life network’s Marine Animal Welfare and Development office in Weymouth, Dorset, said he and his colleagues were keen to ﬁnd a way of ensuring no
cyanide-caught ﬁsh ended up in Sea Life displays. “This is an aspiration we share with OATA, which wishes to prevent such ﬁsh reaching high-street aquatic suppliers and their customers,” he added. Dominic Whitmee, chief executive of OATA said: “This illegal practice tarnishes our industry’s reputation. Like Sea Life, we want to see it ended and to trade only in legal and sustainably caught ﬁsh.” So the two bodies have collaborated. Sea Life owner’s Merlin Entertainments has commissioned a detailed analysis of various detection methods and OATA has funded a study on how cyanide is metabolised in ﬁsh to ﬁnd the best indicator of exposure to test for. Both reports were carried out by executive agency Cefas (Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science), with the Fish Health Inspectorate acting as an independent co-ordinator. “It was important to have this independent assessment, and the results give us a clear path towards our goal of having safe, reliable tests that are robust enough to stand up in court, that can help to end illegal cyanide ﬁshing permanently,” said Dominic Whitmee. “They
tell us what is now necessary to establish ‘baseline’ background cyanide levels for each region and what the best indicators to test for are. They also offer recommendations as to which test methods offer the most promise for laboratory or ﬁeld tests.” OATA and the Sea Life chain will deliver both reports to industry colleagues and call for their support, as well as that of key research centres. “These reports represent the best science currently available in the ﬁeld and we hope they will galvanise all those already involved in the development of the tests,” said Dominic Whitmee. “OATA continues to do what we can to help ﬁnd a solution to this problem but we need everyone with an interest to come together and collaborate to ﬁnd a solution.” “The livelihoods of many thousands of families are at stake,” Ben Spinks added. “There are 370 million people living in the Coral Triangle, stretching from Malaysia and the Philippines to Indonesia and the Solomon Islands, and most rely on the ocean. It is important for their futures, as well as for the reputations of the aquarium trade, that we move as quickly as we can to eradicate illegal cyanide ﬁshing and help safeguard the health of the marine environment in the region.”
Cyanide ﬁshing is a highly damaging practice for the reef and the animals that live there — and also for the ﬁshers themselves. PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
PURR-FECT WEEKEND FOR CATFISH FANS The Catﬁsh Study Group’s 2018 Convention takes place over of the weekend of March 23–25, 2018. The venue will be The Kilhey Court Hotel, Chorley Road, Standish, Wigan, Lancashire, WN1 2XN. This is a superb four-star hotel with a conference room that holds up to 300 people. There will be trade stands, specialist societies and sales tanks set up over the weekend. The speakers for the 2018 CSG Convention will be: O John Lundberg: Curator, Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, USA O Raphael Covain: Natural History Museum of Geneva, Switzerland O Rupert Collins: UK O Norman Behr: Germany O Michael Hardman: Finland (ish!) O Plus a joint talk by regular conventioneers Steve Grant, Jamie Horne, Allan James and Richard Smith.
There will also be an opportunity to visit one of the best catﬁsh retailers in the UK — Pier Aquatics in Wigan.
Early bird bookings (by January 21) will receive a discounted rate on convention tickets (£25 for the weekend or £20 per day for residents; £35 for the weekend for non-residents). If you want to stay for the weekend (b&b and evening meal included), room rates per night are £90 per delegate if single occupancy or £70 per delegate in a shared room. OYou can ﬁnd more details and download the convention booking form at: www.catﬁshstudygroup.org
Get to meet other catﬁsh enthusiasts. Pic shows Corydoras pantanalensis.
Didcot aquatic Meet the deepest ﬁsh in the ocean store to close An aquatic shop in Oxfordshire is closing its doors after more than 40 years. Vic Thomas has run the Angel Aquarium and Pet Centre with wife Cindy in Brasenose Road in Didcot since 1973, but at 75 years old, he’s decided it’s time to retire. The shop will close in the new year, after which the premises will be taken over by a printing company. Vic says: “There’s some sadness to give it all up, it’s been my life for so long. It feels like the right time to step away from it now. But I will always stay interested in people’s pets and the industry.”
This little snailﬁsh thrives at depths of up to 8,000 metres/26,200ft — that’s almost ﬁve miles deep! It’s found in the Mariana Trench near Guam and it’s just been given an official name by the international team of researchers that discovered it. The Mariana snailﬁsh, Pseudoliparis swirei, is the deepest-dwelling ﬁsh that’s been collected from the ocean ﬂoor. Mackenzie Gerringer, of the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor
RIGHT: A CT scan of the Mariana snailﬁsh. A small crustacean (the green shape) can be seen in its stomach. Image courtesy Adam Summers/ University of Washington.
Laboratories says: “They don’t look very robust or strong for living in such an extreme environment, but they are extremely successful.” Snailﬁsh are found at many different depths in marine waters around the world, including off the coast of San Juan Island, where Gerringer is continuing research on the family of ﬁsh. In deep water they cluster together in groups and feed on tiny crustaceans and shrimp using suction from their mouths to gulp prey. Little is known about how these ﬁsh can live under intense water pressure, which at that sort of depth would be similar to an elephant standing on your thumb!
BELOW: Mariana snailﬁsh, Pseudoliparis swirei. Image courtesy Mackenzie Gerringer/University of Washington, University of Hawaii.
This month we look at ﬁsh from three separate continents, all unique and all needing a little extra care if you want to keep them in the right way. WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHY: NATHAN HILL
BLUE-SPOTTED MUDSKIPPER What a boring name for a ﬁsh that’s a living circus. I prefer the alternative — Boddart’s goggle-eyed goby — but I bet you won’t see it sold as that. Mudskippers exploit a niche. You might not know, but marine sediments are packed with organisms. We all know about worms, but what about harpacticoids? ‘Harpacs’ are silt-dwelling copepods and there are thousands of different types, all wriggling about thinking they’re safe in the substrates. Well, not when goggle-eyes are about. Mudskippers munch them left, right and centre. These ﬁsh are euryhaline, able to withstand full strength marine and completely fresh water, but do best in a
brackish set-up. To keep them properly, you’ll have to have a tank with deep substrates that they can burrow in. That’s not exactly straightforward in a tank, so maybe improvise with catﬁsh tubes or lengths of pipe with the bottom ends plugged. You’ll need a tank with a well-ﬁtting hood — these things can climb vertical panes of glass. And it’ll need to be part water, part land. Given any chance of a makeshift island, they’ll be out, as I found when I put my hand in the tank to move something and had skippers straight up my arm. They’re territorial as hell, and you’ll want to set them up in a species tank, but they are so, so fun.
Seen at Neil Hardy Aquatica, Surrey
Fish in the shops
the Scientiﬁc name: Boleophthalmus boddart Size: To 22cm. Origin: Mainly coastal India and southern China, also found in the Persian Gulf. Aquarium size: Minimum 120 x 45cm footprint. Water requirements: Brackish water, hard and alkaline: 8.0pH, >5g per litre salt. Temperature: 25°C, ensure high air temperature as well as water. Temperament: Territorial, not suitable for communities. Feeding: Live and frozen Mysis, Krill, Artemia, Calanus and some spirulina and other algae foods. Availability and cost: You’ll need a very specialist store for these. Prices to be conﬁrmed as these are still at a wholesale
9 8 7 6
Temp C 30 28 26 24 22 20 18
CONGOCHROMIS SABINAE There’s a big handful of aquarists who are very attached to Congochromis — and rightly so. If you’ve been around the block, got tired of Apistogramma, did all you could with Malawi mbuna and had your ﬁll of Central Americans, then these Congolese ﬁsh could plug that cichlid-shaped hole in your life. Congochromis are rheophilic, so they like a layout with a bit of ﬂow. They’re from shallowish rivers, around 100cm deep under thick forest canopies and surrounded by dense patches of marginal plants. So that’s what you’re trying to recreate.
These are blackwater species, living where the environment has been stained a rich red and conductivity is low. You want RO water, plenty of leaf litter and a switched on approach to regular water changes — remember, at an extremely low pH biological ﬁltration struggles to take place. It probably wouldn’t hurt to crack the ﬂow up a little, too, if you can do it without blowing the leaf litter everywhere. This isn’t one for the everyday community, but if you’ve got the contacts to track you down some small Congolese tetra and maybe a few killiﬁsh, you’ll have a great communitope.
G Scientiﬁc name: Congochromis sabinae. G Size: Males to about 7cm, females to about 5cm. G Origin: Various points around the Congo river system. G Aquarium size: Minimum 60 x 30cm footprint. G Water requirements: Very soft, very acidic water: 4.0 to 6.2pH, hardness below 4°H. G Temperature: 25 to 27°C. G Temperament: Territorial, will leave non-cichlids alone. G Feeding: Flakes will be taken, along with live and frozen Daphnia, Cyclops, bloodworm and Tubifex. G Availability and cost: Pop up from time to time in specialist, backwoods retailers, starting around £25 each. pH
8 7 6 5
Temp C 30 28 26 24 22 20 18
Seen at Neil Hardy Aquatica, Surrey
Fish in the shops
SPOTTED LEPORINUS Big(ish) and active, the Leporinus of South America are related to but not quite the same as the headstanders. You’ll see ﬁsh like these often appearing in habitat videos online, bumbling about without a care in the world. Amazing the difference that an open river can make. In tanks, juveniles are twitchy and get bolder as they age. As they get bolder they also get territorial and will chase off their own kind. They have a ﬁne array of teeth, well suited to crunching through vegetation, and in a planted tank they rip plants apart, seemingly just for the G Scientiﬁc name: Leporinus maculatus. G Size: To around 18cm. G Origin: Guyana, Paraguay and Suriname. G Habitat: Flowing creeks over rocks and sand. G Aquarium size: Minimum 120 x 30cm footprint. G Water requirements: Soft, acidic to neutral water: 6.0 to 7.2pH, hardness below 12°H. G Temperature: 22 to 26°C. G Temperament: Territorial amongst their own, nippy with long ﬁns and small ﬁsh. G Feeding: Meaty foods all round: ﬂakes, pellets, bloodworm, Daphnia, frozen Mysis and Krill, small river shrimp. G Availability and cost: Hit and miss, some stores occasionally get them but most don’t. These were priced at £7.95 each.
sake of it. You need to watch them with long ﬁns, too, as their curiosity is expressed through inquisitive nips. Yet they have a place. Topping out just under 20cm they are superb alongside a larger community of ﬁsh where shoals of smaller species aren’t an option. In a six-footer a trio can be kept together safely enough — in that kind of community, with large loricariids, heavy-set cichlids and big barbs, these guys will ﬁt in a treat. Don’t stick them in with stuff like Angelﬁsh, though. They’ll probably get stripped.
Temp C 9 8 7 6
30 28 26 24 22 20 18
Seen at Wharf Aquatics, Pinxton
Fish in the shops
Jurijsâ€™ 60cm Nature Aquarium style set-up.
FULL OF LIVING COLOUR
Meet aquascaper Jurijs Jutjajevs, from Germany, who has turned his skills into a profession. WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHY: GEORGE FARMER
t’s always really great to get invited into other aquascaper’s homes. German aquascaper, Jurijs Jutjajevs, has two stunning Nature Aquariums in pride of place in his modern apartment based in Frankfurt, Germany. I’ve known Jurijs for years and we have spent many hours discussing aquascaping together. Jurijs’ tanks are immaculate. Both were still relatively immature on my visit but still looked amazing, so I could anticipate how stunning they would be given a couple more months or so. Jurijs is no stranger to high-end kit, running two of the most expensive aquascaping lights on the market — the ADA Solar RGB and Lupyled units. The colour rendition provided by the new ADA LED unit was among the best I’ve ever seen on any aquarium. The smaller of the tanks, an ADA 60-P was running almost 100% ADA kit. The larger 120cm aquarium had more customised options.
PFK: The colours in your aquascapes are amazing! What’s your secret? JJ: Intense lighting from the ADA Solar RGB LED unit combined with lean dosing. Also, the substrate might play a role, it’s the new Amazonia Light soil from ADA, which again plays into lean dosing. PFK: How do you come up with an aquascape design? JJ: The original design I created was inspired by a work from Takashi Amano or one of the Nature Aquarium Gallery staff. I saw a photo by Marcin Wnuk (Poland) after his 2016 Japan trip. It was one of the ﬁrst display aquariums by ADA promoting the new Solar RGB. However, I rushed it the ﬁrst time, because I had focused too much on recording the setting up on video for this aquarium. After the layout was showcased in Magdeburg (the new location for the Art of the Planted Aquarium Contest) on the ADA booth I moved into a new place and neglected the aquarium for a few months. The picture of the aquarium that I took at the Magdeburg event was my IAPLC entry 2017 and I really liked it, but I never was happy with the hardscape. So, I decided to rescape the aquarium, and basically reused the hardscape, but arranged it in a better way. I’ve also made some changes to the original plant layout.
Meet the ’scaper Name: Jurijs Jutjajevs. Age: 30. Occupation: Aquascaper. Time in hobby: 20 years. First ﬁsh kept: Kuhli loach. Favourite ﬁsh: Dario sp. ‘Black tiger’. Fish you’d most like to keep: Discus. Favourite plant: Riccardia chamedryfolia. Favourite aquascaper: Yusuke Homma.
The original 60cm set-up before the re-scape.
TANK SET-UPS 60CM NATURE AQUARIUM G Tank and cabinet: ADA 60P (60 x 30 x 36cm) with Cube cabinet (glass). G Lighting: ADA Solar RGB (130W LED) eight hours. G Filtration: ADA Superjet ES300. G CO2: Pressurised system with solenoid. G Substrate: Full ADA system with Aqua Soil Amazonia Light. G Fertilisers: Full ADA system.
Takashi Amano (centre) oversees the setting up of the Floristas Submersas aquarium in Lisbon. PFK: Do you ever experience algae issues? What are your best tips to help against algae? JJ: I always have pretty strong diatoms in the beginning, but they go as fast as they come. My best advice to handle diatoms is: no liquid nutrients, a short lighting period and introduce algae eaters. Nerite snails and Amano shrimps are a great combination. PFK: You use a lot of ADA products. Do you ﬁnd them better than other brands in terms of growing plants? JJ: ADA offers a simple and user-friendly complete system. I mostly like ADA products for their design — the new fertiliser bottles almost look like perfume bottles. But it’s not only the looks, I like, it’s also the nature aquarium philosophy that is in the brand. There are no unnecessary elements. All the focus is on having the best possible result inside the aquarium and nothing should distract from it. The ﬁlters are built to last and everything else is the best quality possible. PFK: You were involved with the construction of Floristas Submersas (Forests Underwater) in Lisbon — the huge 160,000 l, 40-metre long Nature Aquarium and last creation from the late Takashi Amano. Can you give us an insight into what that was like? JJ: It was a once in a lifetime experience — something that I will probably tell my kids and annoy them with. It was a huge privilege to be involved in this project and I feel great honour every time I see pictures and videos of this majestic aquarium. It’s almost three years on and I can still remember which stones I put in, which driftwood I attached moss to — everything. It started like an adventure but on the ﬁrst day everyone quickly understood we were there for work and not for fun. Every detail was planned, sketched and scheduled by the Japanese. They have drawings, sketches and 3D models of every part of the aquarium. The plants have been planted with 1:1 sized planting maps showing the distance between each plant. You can ﬁnd a written diary of this event with lots of pictures and all related videos on my German blog www.lernscapen.de/lissabon (Google Translate can help you.) PFK: The German aquascaping scene is much larger than ours in the UK. Any ideas why this might be? JJ: It is probably because of the historical tradition with aquatic gardening. Also, the Dutch Aquarium Society was very strong in the past and probably had a great impact on Germany. PFK: You’re very well known on social media. What beneﬁts does social media bring to aquascaping and to you? JJ: Social media is a great place to connect with other like-minded people from all over the world. You might be the only one into aquascaping from your city, but there are thousands in the world and social media brings people together. I have friends all over the world. Not just Facebook friends, but people who I have actually met on my trips to different countries. Also, social media allows me to share my knowledge and passion for
G Water: Full RO with added minerals. G Hardscape: Frodo stone and Manzanita wood. G Plants: Glossostigma elatinoides, Microsorum ‘Trident’, Cryptocoryne wendtii ‘Green’, Cryptocoryne beckettii ‘Petchii’, C. wendtii ‘Tropica’, Rotala sp. ‘Vietnam H’ra’, Ludwigia palustris, Persicaria sp. G Fish: Dario sp. ‘Black tiger’, Gold ram, Green neon rasbora,Flame tetra, Chilli rasbora, Nerite snails, Bee shrimp.
120CM NATURE AQUARIUM G Tank and cabinet: Custom (120 x 50 x 40cm) with custom cabinet. G Lighting: Lupyled TheONE 0.116. G Filtration: Oase Biomaster 250. G CO2: Pressurised system with solenoid. G Substrate: Tropica Plant Soil. G Fertilisers: Tropica Specialised, 20ml per week. G Water: Full RO with added minerals. G Hardscape: Frodo stone, Ancient Juniper wood G Plants: Bucephalandra ‘Red’ and ‘Wavy’, Microsorum ‘Trident’, Cryptocoryne balansae and C. undulata ‘Red’. G Fish: Ember tetras, Dwarf corys, Nerite snails, Amano shrimp.
aquascaping with everyone in the world. For the aquascaping community social media also offers a platform everyone can share their work and get feedback. Ask questions and get them answered. PFK: You’re a well-known professional aquascaper. Do you ﬁnd having your own aquascapes at home too much work sometimes? JJ: Back in the days when I used to have a dozen plus maintenance customers, I literally got tired of my own tanks at home and there was a time I had none at all. Over the years my work situation has changed and I’m happy to have my own set-ups at home again, although I travel a lot and so I try to stick with easy maintenance set-ups only. I currently have two aquariums set up, one empty and another waiting in the pipeline, so it will be a total of four. And for 2018 I have put together a tough schedule for myself, such as when I’m going to rescape each tank. PFK: What’s your best advice for a beginner? JJ: Set SMART goals: Speciﬁc, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. Perhaps you want to get the plants growing — or just a speciﬁc plant. Or maybe you want to overcome and master the algae, or achieve a certain look or a new layout style. Don’t try to go for perfection. There will always be something you could have potentially done better. If you follow the SMART formula, you should rescape your aquarium as often as possible after each goal has been achieved. This is the best way to learn and improve your skills. If you are a beginner aquascaper with only one aquarium, this advice is crucial — you are unable to try out different ideas in different set-ups and messing about constantly in the same aquarium to try out your PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
Reader visit Decor emerges from the water in this open-topped aquascape.
My work situation has changed and I’m happy to have my own set-ups at home again now. But I travel a lot, so I try to stick to easy maintenance set-ups only. Ember tetras in the larger set-up.
ideas is unlikely to lead to success. So, try to completely rescape it two or three times a year. This way you will repeat certain techniques, like creating the hardscape layout, going through the cycling period and overcoming algae issues. You can reuse the substrate, hardscape and plants if you want, or swap some with friends locally or via social media — there are plenty of possibilities these days to trade hardscape and plants for people who seriously want to learn all about aquascaping and improve their skills dramatically. PFK: How can readers see your work and get hold of you? JJ: Thanks to my wide presence on social media, it is difficult to miss me nowadays. Simply google Jurijs Jutjajevs or Jurijs mit JS and look for the same on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. More content can be found soon on www.scapefu.com or with help of google translate on www.lernscapen.de
Jurijs’ larger 120cm aquascape. www.practicalﬁshkeeping.co.uk
Planting layout of the 60cm set-up.
ROTALA SP. ‘VIETNAM H’RA’
GLOSSOSTIGMA ELATINOIDES MICROSORUM ‘TRIDENT’
Maintenance 60cm set-up Daily: ADA fertiliser series, check CO2, check ﬁlter, check temperature, feed ﬁsh. Weekly: 50% water change, clean glass, trim plants as required. Monthly: Clean ﬁlter. 120cm set-up Daily: Check CO2, check ﬁlter, check temperature, feed ﬁsh. Weekly: Dose Tropica fertiliser, clean glass, trim plants if required. Monthly: Clean ﬁlter.
Both set-ups complement Jurijs’ modern living space. PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
Black tiger Dario CRYPTOCORYNE WENDTII ‘TROPICA’
Scientiﬁc name: Dario sp. ‘Black tiger’. This species is now thought to be a colour form of D. hysginon. Size: Males to around 3.2cm; females to about 2.8cm. Origin: Myanmar. Aquarium size: 45 l for a small group of a male and a couple of females. Water requirements: Neutral to slightly alkaline water conditions preferred. Aim for around 7–7.8pH but keep the hardness below 12°H if possible. Temperature: 20–25°C. Feeding: Live and frozen Daphnia, microworms, glassworms and Artemia nauplii. Won’t usually accept dried foods. Availability: Not often available — sometimes also sold as Dario sp. ‘Pyjamas’ and Dario sp. ‘Myanmar’.
CRYPTOCORYNE WENDTII ‘GREEN’ SPOTLIGHT ON
Rotala sp. ‘Vietnam H’ra’ Type: Stem. Height: 20cm+. Origin: Asia. Growth rate: Medium to fast. Demands: Low, but stronger illumination and the use of CO2 will result in a more intense red colour.
Frodo stone and Ju niper wood are used to fabulous effect here.
The place to share your ﬁsh, tanks, letters and photos From the
Tissue cultured plants will be pest-free.
CHAT ROOM Find the new PFK chat room at www.facebook.com/groups/ PracticalFishKeeping/
What ﬁsh do you think is underappreciated in the hobby? Maybe it’s a stunning ﬁsh that’s so common it doesn’t get a second glance or one that should be popular but for some reason is hardly seen.
SimonA. Morgan Paradise ﬁsh, Macropodus opercularis.
EmilyCook Diamond tetra, Moenkhausia pittieri. Massively underappreciated due to the often drab juveniles in the shops. Nothing better than a fully mature male with their stunning diamond scales and long ﬂowing violet ﬁns.
FredCharles Wilkinson Spiers
TISSUE CULTURED PLANT CONVERT When I ﬁrst saw tissue cultured aquarium plants in my local shop — tiny tubs of tiny plants that cost way more than larger specimens, I must admit I couldn’t see the beneﬁt at all. However, after putting larger specimen plants in my tank for immediate effect and then a few weeks or sometimes days
later, seeing tiny little snails appear, which then multiplied over and over, I was beginning to see what all the fuss was about. I added an Assassin snail that eventually got on top of the snail outbreak, but it took a while, even when I was removing plant leaves that had eggs on and some of the gravel where they were lurking.
The writer of each star letter will win a 250ml pot of their choice from this quality range of food, which uses natural ingredients. Email: editorial@practicalﬁshkeeping.co.uk
ONa na na na
The Caped Crusader may be the scourge of villains in Gotham, but the Batman snail, Neripteron tahitensis, is far better at confronting nuisance algae in the average community tank. This one is on patrol in Rocky Crowder’s tank.
NathanHill Lipstick barbs, Pethia erythromycter.
Russ Richardson Splash tetra, Copella arnoldi.
Ben Barber Shadow and Debauwi catﬁsh, Hyalobagrus ﬂavus and Pareutropius buffei.
Win FishScience aquarium food
The Blind cave ﬁsh, Astyanax mexicanus. Dead easy to keep, highly unusual, eats virtually anything, lots of interesting information on it as it’s the source of many studies, and never hides from view. It doesn’t even care if you keep it with horrible neon gravel!
Spiny eels — all types but especially Fire and Tyre track, Mastacembelus erythrotaenia and M. armatus.
Now I wouldn’t buy anything else but tissue cultured plants, and have learned to have more patience as some are slow growing, but boy is it worth it to have minimal maintenance on cleaning and water change days and not spending so much time removing the little pests.
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TANKCOMMUNITY FROM FACEBOOK
Loricariid catﬁsh (plecs) are one of the most diverse groups of aquarium ﬁsh with dozens of species regularly available. This magniﬁcent Blue phantom, Hemiancistrus sp. L128, belongs to Chris Edwards.
Responses to our question ‘What’s the best aquarium you’ve ever seen?’
Jack Heathcote’s mega tank.
O A Better Betta home Heathcote’smegaaquariumis oneofthem! TL Brehm: TheoldBelleIsle aquariuminDetroitMichigan USA–anoldearly20th century(1904)classically designedbuilding.Theyhad upgradedtheinnerworkings tomakesurethattheanimals werekeptproperly,butkept theoriginaltileand architecturalfeel. Su Delve: Thegiantkelp aquariumatMontereyBay Aquarium.Mostofthe displaystherearemindblowing. Bradley McGuinness: AAC Harlowdisplaytank. Gethin Roberts: Hastobe DavidSaxby’shomereeffor me.Tohavesomethingthat impressiveinyourliving roomisunbelievable. Paddy Flint: InAmsterdam Zoothereisarecreationof canallife,withsomemonster carpmoochingaroundinit. ThatwasthemostnaturalI’ve seen. Emily Holden: Florestas submersasinLisbon Aquarium. Sophie Washer: Mine.That andthePantaRheirivertank. Matthew Pederson: I’vebeen tomany,andthereare perhapssomethatwillbump theseoutofthetopspot,butto date,I’mtornbetweenthe DallasWorldAquariumand LongIslandAquarium. They’rebothverydifferent, andbotharespecialtome. LongIslandisoneIwantto bring my kids to someday...at least that’s what I said whenI was there (before I even had kids), and the unique set-upof DWA is rather enchanting.
While many male Betta splendens spend their lives in solitary conﬁnement, females tend to be a little less feisty and can be kept groups in larger ‘sorority’ tanks. This beautiful tank belongs to Sophie Perrett.
Quality control Is it me or is the quality of ﬁsh on sale in the shops getting poorer? I travel a lot with my job and if there’s an aquatic shop in the area I tend to pop in. I’ve been keeping ﬁsh for 30 years and what I have noticed over the past two or three years in particular is an increase in lacklustre ﬁsh and deformed or sickly looking specimens in many shops. I’ve also found many of the ﬁsh that used to be easy, downright difficult to keep for more than a few months these days. Platies, Guppies, Rosy barbs, Neons and danios are all included in the list of ﬁsh I seem to be unable to keep these days despite regular tank maintenance and ideal water conditions. Is it inbreeding that’s creating this weaker stock or are shops just reverting to the cheapest possible suppliers? Or is it a mixture of both?
JASON BAGSHAW, EMAIL
Calming effect on cats
I recently set up one of my company’s Somnium Jellyﬁsh aquariums in the cat section of my local vet’s surgery, and got a rather unexpected reaction. It has been well documented and proven over many years that the health beneﬁts of owning and aquarium are great for your health and mind, but after installing the Somnium, vets at the surgery say they are ﬁnding that the cats in particular are much easier to handle and asses when they pop in to get treatment. The effects are not like a sedation by any means but rather just a calming effect, and a few cats that hated being seen have now allowed themselves to be handled and have full health checks. Attached are just a couple of quick pics of the tank in-situ. You can imagine how the jellyﬁsh really light up and glide in the tank. (The word ‘Somnium’ means ‘to dream’, by the way!)
DANIEL GRIFFITHS, ASUTEK LTD. Vet’s surgery jellyﬁsh tank.
Jimmy Reid: Jack
Are you ﬁnding Platies less hardy these days?
OSweet as Honey
Honey gourami, Trichogaster chuna, are a brilliant choice for smaller, peaceful community tanks. They seldom reach more than 5cm and can be kept in groups. This ‘golden’ Honey gourami belongs to Carl Baldwin. CONTACT US Address Practical Fishkeeping, Bauer Media, Media House, Lynchwood, Peterborough, PE2 6EA Email: email@example.com If you or someone you know are aged between 16 and 24 and are interested in work experience opportunities at Practical Fishkeeping go to www.gothinkbig.co.uk
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Marine tanks can be an expensive addiction, but Richard Ross’s lush marine tank is packed with a fascinating and varied selection of inverts showing that you don’t need dozens of ﬁsh to make a marine tank sparkle.
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BioPlus Internal Filter
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Fishkeeper: Max Pedley. Age: 19. Occupation: Aquatic store assistant. Whereabouts? Mirﬁeld, West
Time in the hobby: I’ve always been
interested but only been a hardcore keeper for three years. Number of tanks? 30.
What attracted you to the hobby? I’ve always been interested in replicating the natural environments of animals, and I guess this leads on to ﬁshkeeping quite well!
What’s your favourite ﬁsh? I think at the moment it would have to be Apistogramma baenschi (though this changes weekly!). Other favourites include Channa andrao, Apistogramma elizabethae and Ivanacara adoketa.
What’s the most challenging ﬁsh you have kept? I can’t say I’ve really found a particular species of ﬁsh challenging , though It did take me a while to ﬁnally breed my Apistogramma bitaeniata, so I guess I’ll go with them.
And the easiest? Apistogramma panduro! Apart from the fact that they bicker like married couples, this is a really forgiving, straightforward species that makes for an excellent breeding project for anyone getting into dwarf cichlids.
My current ﬁsh Currently I’m really enjoying keeping Apistogramma. Species I have at the moment include pertensis, iniridae, macmasteri, panduro, trifasciata, nijsseni, agassizi, bitaeniata, steindachneri, elizabethae, sp. ‘Nanay’, barlowi, sp. abacaxis paulmuelleri, cacatuoides, baenschi and hongsloi . In my main display tank, I have a large group of tetras, many of which are unidentiﬁed (newly imported Cardinals from South America always contain one or two unknown gems), a few odd dwarf cichlids including Checkerboards and Rams and a breeding group of Rineloricaria parva. I also have a few other odd bits in the ﬁsh house such as Channa species and a pair of Ivanacara adoketa.
the appeal of stunning bright colours. You’ll ﬁnd that any ’scape I have had inﬂuence over or owned will contain both of those species. I hope to see suppliers stocking them more frequently in the future.
sis Otothyrop piribebuy.
Do you have any favourite plants? Hmmmm, this is a tricky one. I think it has to come down to either Lagenandra meeboldii or Nymphaea sp. (red Tiger lotus). I ﬁnd both to be really straightforward, while also having
My advice for beginners Get a handle on how the nitrogen cycle works and this will give you a head start in ﬁshkeeping . Choose ﬁsh which will do well with your tapwater. Get a few years of experience under your belt before you begin to alter conditions for different species.
Save time: Keep your lights on a timer. You’ll be surprised how long you spend turning them on and off. Another tip would be to work out a way of performing water changes without having to lug buckets backwards and forwards.
Max’s plante d layout.
Things I wish I’d known: Exactly what I wanted from an aquarium back when I started ﬁshkeeping. Shop around and visit stores with good display tanks. This will help you to get an idea of exactly what end result you wish to achieve. When I started out in the hobby, I thought I wanted a standard community with ﬁsh from all over. If I had looked around for inspiration, I would probably have gone for a more South American biotope type feel.
My wish list...
Save money: If you are building a ﬁsh house, insulation is key. Opt for the best quality you can afford and this will help you in the long run. On a more domestic level, I think my best tip would be to buy pond dechlorinator — much better value.
Which ﬁsh would you like to keep next? G Apistogramma kullanderi (pictured above). It’s the holy grail of apistos. One day I hope to own a pair. G Heckel discus — currently I don’t have the tank space or time I would need to dedicate to this species in order to truly appreciate it, but one day I will build an aquarium around a group.
What would be your dream aquarium?
Max is a huge fan of Apistogramma species. www.practicalﬁshkeeping.co.uk
MP&C PIEDNOIR, AQUAPRESS.COM
I’m going to have to go back to the Heckel discus. It would be about 7ft long, rootwood heavy scape with a shoal of Nannostomus eques cruising the surface. The bottom would be occupied by catﬁsh of the genus Tatia, with dwarf cichlids roaming the substrate in search of a tasty morsel (I think A. elizabethae would look nice). I might even throw in a handful of P. leopoldi angels for good measure!
Pretty, polite and perfectly proportioned, the ﬁery orange Ember tetra graces the tanks of ﬁshkeepers across the globe. Here’s how to keep this burning beauty.
WORDS: KEITH NAITBY
Once rare, Embers are now an in-store staple.
make an appearance. These were the rarities I desired and one Saturday the ﬁshkeeping gods obliged in vivid orange. I had seen the ﬁery little tetras on a magazine cover but coming face to face with them in real life was a seismic shock. The tank label conﬁrmed it: Ember tetras! These ﬁsh were amongst the ﬁrst UK imports and came with a price beyond my spending power. Sensing disappointment, my big sister offered a favourable loan and the terms allowed me to take ten of these glorious new tetras home.
hile our hobby has been blessed with some delightful discoveries over recent years, few have since become community tank favourites. Beyond beauty, there’s a list of potential hiccups that can affect the popularity of a seemingly perfect ﬁsh. Will it grow too big? Will it stay too small? Has it got a suitable temperament? Can it be bred and raised in commercial numbers? For these reasons, many species have fallen by the wayside. Take a walk along the rows of community ﬁsh at your local shop and you’ll be viewing species that no doubt claimed their position more than 60 years ago. Having said that, one treasure that has become established as an aquarium classic managed to break through in the 1980s. Pretty, polite and perfectly proportioned, the Ember tetra now graces aquarist tanks across the globe.
the thrill of opening that rickety wooden door and dousing my senses in noise, heat and smell. This was a world where the audience were kept in darkness. Every surface black, every tank a brightly lit stage for the players. Despite the abundant supply of money being fed regularly to his till, I’m sure the owner of this cavern must have despaired at my frequent appearances. Most of his stock became familiar quite quickly but there was usually also something new to be admired and appreciated. Unfortunately, funds were at a premium so I had to content myself with the lesser creatures. While Neons and glowlights were pretty, I hankered for something a little grander. I travelled with explorer Heiko Bleher through the pages of aquatic magazines and on occasion some of the ﬁsh featured would
Senses were immediately doused in noise, heat and smell. This was a world where the audience were kept in darkness. Every surface black, every tank a brightly lit stage for the players.
Some of us become addicted to the hobby rather quickly and once ﬁshkeeping had entered my consciousness, ﬁnding a cure became impossible. Every book was devoured, every magazine purchased. My theatre was the large damp shed at the rear of an old fashioned pet shop. The thrum of an airblower and bubbling tanks would beckon from yards away, shortly followed by
The perfect resident This ‘dream’ ﬁsh that Heiko Bleher uncovered has been captivating us for more than 30 years now. His hope that it would become a favourite among aquarists worldwide has certainly materialised and
Despite being tiny, Embers are still active carnivores!
Favourite ﬁsh palette. Thankfully, today’s specialist lighting has improved our ﬁshkeeping experience no end with a vast choice of options. If your hood or canopy can accept several ﬂuorescent tubes I would still look to deliver a slightly pink hue as this will help to enhance those orange colours. The full spectrum offered by LEDs is an impressive alternative but you may need to tweak the output a touch as Ember tetras can appear translucent under brighter conditions.
Setting up home
Adult sizes barely reach 2cm.
you can now ﬁnd them in countless shops. They tick just about every box when it comes to an ideal community tropical. It could be argued that a ﬁsh growing to little more than 2cm is slightly small for a tank of this nature but I’ve kept them with all manner of similar sized species without problems. Like many ﬁsh of diminutive size, they will become overwhelmed and lose impact if you mix them with larger tank mates, so stick to other small tetras, pencils and rasboras as companions. Smaller Corydoras types work well and pairs of apistos add contrast in the lower reaches. As with all shoaling species, company is essential to their wellbeing. How many you keep all depends on tank size and personal preference. Although half a dozen would sit in a nano tank, they won’t be able to express themselves as nature intended. Ember tetras may be small but this doesn’t stop them wanting to stretch their ﬁns and they school beautifully with space and numbers allowing. 50 together in tight formation is a survival strategy for them and a thing of beauty for us and a traditional 120cm tank would comfortably accommodate a shoal of this size. It won’t cost a fortune either - one of my local shops sells ten ﬁsh for £20.
Flowing in a north easterly direction through Brazil’s Mato Grosso state, the Rio d M t d ws water from sources along its . The network of ams supplying its iddle reaches plays These tetras have a ost to a diverse range pleasing effect when set of ﬁsh and one of them can claim against a traditional black Ember tetras as a Temperature background. Couple this with resident. How these requirements are some planting towards the characins avoided equally simple and rear to give them conﬁdence the twentieth century around 26°C will suit until its latter years is them admirably. and to encourage them own to a question of To get the very best to gather near the moteness. Looking from that uniform viewing pane. stream, they appear to orange, some thought i ed in a small area lighting requirements along the left bank where terrain, needed. Readers of a certain vintage habitat and distance between waterways will remember Grolux light tubes being all has played a key role in restricting their the rage when these ﬁsh ﬁrst made an movements. This environment has also appearance. Despite limitations in aquarium conditions, they had a remarkable created tributaries with a slower ﬂow rate and higher temperatures than those on the effect on ﬁsh tilted towards the red/orange
Embers work well in small planted tanks.
Illuminating facts The undemanding nature of these little characins has played a crucial role in their popularity. Although soft acidic conditions occur in nature, they will adapt to whatever comes out of your tap and with the vast majority now captive bred, tinkering with water chemistry is unnecessary.
What’s in a name? The Ember tetra was described by Drs Jacques Gery and Andre Uj in 1987. In a ﬁtting tribute, this new species was named Hyphessobrycon amandae in honour of the collector’s mother, Mrs Amanda Bleher, who had lived in Brazil for many years and had a great interest in the aquatic fauna and ﬂora there.
Little Embers Most of the Ember tetras appearing in shops originate from breeders and farms in warmer climes, with a decent sprinkling from the Czech Republic. Tank bred ﬁsh reared in Europe will usually arrive slightly larger than those of Far Eastern origin and are a little easier to spawn. Sexing them is easy as females are heavier built than males. While these ﬁsh can be spawned quite readily, raising the fry can prove a challenge. Their nutritional needs must be fulﬁlled with miniscule items for the ﬁrst week or so and living organisms are by far the best solution. Although infusions of various fry food can be purchased off the shelf, they can’t compete with creatures that need hunting down. There is no great mystery to raising tiny Paramecium and Youtube videos can show you how it can be produced in water-ﬁlled jars. Once the young ﬁsh are beyond this point they can be fed Artemia and microworm. Growth isn’t rapid but you won’t need much space to rear them. With the convenience of a space heated hatchery, I was able to spawn pairs of Embers in 30 x 20cm tanks. This size is impossible to heat individually so I would consider a 45 x 30cm more practical with a 50W heater thermostat. Mine were all bred in rainwater which can still be used if it’s ﬁltered over carbon ﬁrst to remove impurities — an old fashioned air driven box ﬁlter works wonders for this job. After a couple of days, replace it with ﬂoss and add a few Catappa leaves to the tank. This will
O Scientiﬁc name: Hyphessobrycon amandae O Size: 2cm. O Origin: Rio das Mortes, Mato Grosso, Brazil O Aquarium size: 45 x 30 x 30cm minimum for a group. O Water requirements: The natural habitat is soft and acidic and these conditions are best for breeding but these ﬁsh are very adaptable. Aim for around 6–7.5pH for general keeping. O Temperature: 25–27°C. O Feeding: Suitably sized dried foods along with frozen and live Daphnia, mosquito larvae and brine shrimp nauplii. O Availability and cost: Reasonably easy to get hold of and usually priced at around £2 each. 0
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5 NEIL HEPWORTH
right bank of the river. With this in mind, I would be inclined to emulate the natural ﬂow rates by keeping ﬁlter returns turned down. White sand dominates the riverbeds in this region of Brazil and is therefore the only choice for those wishing to create an authentic slice of the wild at home. The downside to this material in aquariums is that Ember tetras look far better over a dark substrate. Nature of course knows best but from an aesthetic viewpoint these ﬁsh appear richer in colour when light doesn’t reﬂect beneath them. One solution for biotope tanks would be a riverbank style of layout that incorporates plenty of plants from the region. This clear-water community could include Echinodorus martii, Mayaca ﬂuviatillis and the beautiful Cabomba furcata if you have sufficient light for its red colour to ﬂourish. Despite this area being dominated by savanna shrubland, forests trace the water courses allowing roots and fallen braches to form part of the aquatic landscape. This evergreen tapestry is an essential driving force for the local ecosystem, providing homes for a wealth of small invertebrates that feed into the waterways. Mosquitos are one beneﬁciary of this environment and their larvae are eagerly accepted by Ember tetras in aquariums. Live Daphnia are also relished and the addition of brine shrimp nauplii will really accentuate that orange pigment thanks to their colour enhancing carotenoids.
Females become notably plumper.
Wild Ember habitat, as recorded by discoverer Heiko Bleher.
PFK recommends Glass tetras, Monkenhausia oligolepis, although not found in substantial numbers could be included in larger tanks. For something a little more unusual, Hemigrammus levis and Serrapinnus piaba might be worth tracking down. Even killiﬁsh fans are rewarded with Melanorivulus zygonectes being present in the vicinity. You may need some artistic licence with catﬁsh choice as Otocinclus affinis, Corydoras nanus and C. julii are reportedly found but are not necessarily the true species.
If you can’t ﬁnd the similar but deeper bodied Moenkhausia oligolepis, stock M. sanctaeﬁlomenae in tanks of 90cm+.
Hemigrammus levis is uncommon in shops, but it does come in as bycatch with other tetras.
Gold tetras, Hemigrammus rodwayi, would look stunning alongside Embers.
AQUARIUM PHOT0 DK
The British Killiﬁsh Association may help track down Melanorivulus zygonectes.
Fish sold as Corydoras julii are almost always C. trilineatus.
AQUARIUM PHOT0 DK
M PHOT0 DK
There’s an ample choice of tank mates to choose from if you wish to incorporate them in a regional biotope. One species that ties in beautifully with the Embers’ palette would be the Gold tetra, Hemigrammus rodwayi. Wild ﬁsh are more striking due to a trematode parasite accentuating their scales but the farmed versions shine pleasantly enough. As with many small tetras in the wild, these different species will occasionally coalesce within aquariums to produce a delightful mix of colour.
Otocinclus make peaceful tank mates, but are best added when your set-up is mature.
infuse the soft acidic water with tannins before you add the ﬁsh four to ﬁve days later. Fed a varied diet, females will soon become plump with roe. Pick a single pair and transfer them to your breeding tank in the late afternoon. The change to sparkling fresh water will induce their reproductive instinct and a feisty exchange will normally preceed egg laying. Look at Java moss or tight clumps of Hornwort as a natural spawning medium. When the females begin to show interest in the plants, males follow in close proximity and spawning normally begins within an hour of ﬁrst light. With both ﬁsh side by side, a rapid ﬂick results in eggs being laid and fertilised. This will last for around two hours at which point they can be removed. Hatching within 30 hours, the fry will be feeding ﬁve days later. Female Embers deposit eggs in favoured locations and once hatched, fry will remain within this safety zone. This allows food to be squirted into the sanctuary via pipette over those ﬁrst crucial days.
Tai’s Thai tank This gorgeous set-up was inspired by a photo of the Mekong Basin, and it proves that you don’t have to be totally authentic for a biotope to look and feel just right. WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHY: TAI STRIETMAN
’m a huge fan of looking at photos of natural habitats (or if I’m lucky enough, visiting them) and then trying to recreate them in an aquarium. As many of you will know, having an empty tank in front of you is like looking at a blank canvas that’s just aching to be ﬁlled with beautiful creatures, decor and plants. For me, recreating a piece of habitat in a glass box in my home is not only a challenge but incredibly rewarding. A section of Amazon stream, a Nigerian pool or an Australian creek in my living room enables me to transport myself to far off places while watching the ﬁsh go about their lives naturally. It’s a therapeutic experience. They don’t care about how bad my day at work was or the President’s latest tweet — they also might not care whether I’ve given them the exact plants that are found on their section of river in an obscure region of Borneo or a massive sunken shipwreck. Having said that, in my experience I’ve found that giving ﬁsh natural surroundings and what could be described as ‘familiar’ features brings out their best colours and behaviours. You might scoff and say, “why would a ﬁsh that’s been farm-reared in Singapore care whether you faithfully recreate their Peruvian habitat when they’ve never experienced such conditions themselves?” Well, all I can say is that they seem to respond well to accurate recreations of their natural habitat. Whether it’s something innate in their instincts who knows — try it for yourself and see.
Use your imagination Attempting to set up a ‘biotope’ tank for ﬁsh, where the aquarist tries to recreate their natural habitat as best as possible, does not have to be difficult if you are prepared to make compromises and use your imagination. The important thing is to look at the elements that make up a habitat and
Watching the ﬁsh go about their lives naturally is a therapeutic experience.
While the plants may not be right, the look certainly is!
They don’t care about how bad my try to recreate them with the resources at hand. Can’t get hold of that particular lily from New Guinea? Get one from West Africa! The ﬁsh won’t worry as long as it provides the cover that they need and if it helps the viewer to visualise a beautiful pool with lilies, regardless of the plants’ origin, then great! This ability to be ﬂexible is important because although the hobby has access to ﬁsh and plants from around the world, you can’t get everything all the time and there is The real deal habitat shot of Thailand.
no point in becoming frustrated with a project and giving up because the seed pods you’ve added to the tank are from the Amazon rather than the Congo. Biotope snobbery is something that really saddens me; why turn up your nose at someone who is doing their best to recreate a tank, but has substituted plants from another area, as long as the layout and theme is relevant?
A Mekong Basin tank While browsing the photos of native habitats posted by a hobbyist from Thailand on Facebook, I came across one which had a real impact on me. A bed of low-growing green lilies stood in front of tall stands of narrow grasses in clear water. It was crisp, bright and full of soft textures which were pleasing to the eye. Straight away I wanted to recreate it. There are many plants from the region to choose from, but sourcing the speciﬁc lilies and Isoetes grasses from Thailand was near impossible. That was the point where I had to say, “Okay, what’s the alternative?” In this case, I went for Nymphoides hydrophylla ‘Taiwan’ to represent the lilies. This plant rarely grows more than 20cm before the leaf sprouts a whole new lily plant, which in the wild would fall away and drift off to establish itself elsewhere. In the aquarium, it can be pinched off and replanted. These plants grow fast and so a few can quickly provide you with a near endless supply of new plantlets. They are hardy, tolerant of a range of temperatures and great ﬁllers. Their gentle green colour and soft textures make them visually very PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
day at work was, or the President’s latest tweet. Step-by-step
Aquatic plant soil is spread out evenly across the tank and water is added to make it damp. It’s easier to work with damp soil than it is to try planting in dry substrates.
The plants are carefully planted into the damp soil with planting tweezers and regularly sprayed to keep them moist. Long spells of dryness will kill off even hardy aquatic plants.
E. montevidensis is planted from the middle to the back, N. ‘Taiwan’ in the middle to the front and N. gardneriana at the very front. A single N. zenkeri is planted off-centre in the mid ground.
With the plants arranged the tank is ﬁlled and all the hardware ﬁred up. Take note of the use of glass inlets and outlets (lily pies) for ﬁltration. These are unobtrusive alternatives to plastic.
appealing and they grow happily without CO2, but feeding them with quality fertiliser will keep them nice and strong and will stop them from going pale. For the grasses, I looked to Eleocharis sp. ‘Montevidensis’, a South American plant found across Southern Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina. The tall leaves, up to 50cm, are thick and strong and the plant readily puts out runners. I have seen them growing in the wild and they form dense stands of elegant green towers, often slowly climbing up the bank and out of the water. Frequently they sit in only a few inches of water before being submerged during the ﬂood season — at which time their growth slows. Thus, in the aquarium it is the plant that really beneﬁts from CO2 injection and though it takes a little while to establish, once it is happy it will really go for it! It was the perfect substitute for the Thai grasses. I wanted some red to break up the green and this came in the form of a beautiful Nymphaea zenkeri. Again, though not native to Thailand, (it comes from West Africa), it would still look natural while also adding something ‘extra’ to the scene. In order to give the arrangement a more
natural appearance, I added a number of botanicals that I had been given by Scott Fellman of Tannin Aquatics. He had provided a number of seed pods, leaves, bits of wood and woody-substrate for a previous tank, all of which originated in the Amazon. Once added they completed my Thai biotope perfectly; few habitats will be free of plant material and detritus and the Mekong Basin is no exception, full of waterways stuffed with leaf litter, fallen branches and other items from the surrounding forests. I also added several Brazilian Nymphaea gardneriana, a low growing, orange-red lily, to add colour to the front of the tank and diversify the lower levels.
The ﬁsh From the start, I knew which ﬁsh I wanted to showcase; my school of lovely, tiny Spice rasboras, Boraras uropthalmoides — one of the smallest vertebrate species known to science. Rarely reaching more than 1.5cm, they live in large shoals amongst dense vegetation and leaf litter in a range of habitats in the Mekong Delta. Records indicate that they’ve been found in Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and
G Scientiﬁc name: Boraras uropthalmoides. G Size: Tiny - 1.5cm maximum. G Origin: Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. G Aquarium size: 45 x 30cm footprint; 40 l volume or more. G Water requirements: 6–7pH; hardness ideally <10°H. G Temperature: 21–28°C. G Feeding: Small live and frozen foods such as Daphnia and Artemia along with suitably sized dry foods. G Availability and cost: Relatively common nowadays, though moreso in specialist stores. Prices start around £2.95 per ﬁsh. Buy large shoals for optimal effect, as these are tiny ﬁsh! Tank volume
The little army of shrimp quietly worked over the substrate and leaf litter, occasionally parting like the Red Sea for Moses as a comparatively gigantic Amano shrimp stormed through Amano shrimp outsize their Cherry cousins.
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Vietnam. There is a well-known population living in the canals, pools and ditches that surround the world-famous temple of Angor Wat in Cambodia. Photos of them in the wild show hundreds shoaling through tall stands of aquatic grasses. For such tiny ﬁsh, staying in large groups is an important defence mechanism. In a large aquarium, a group of a hundred or so could be maintained quite happily. In my 100 l set-up I had 30 and they exhibited conﬁdent behaviour and beautiful colours. Needless to say, these are not ﬁsh that will thrive in the general community. They are vulnerable to anything bigger than a platy and will remain timid if kept in small groups with other more boisterous ﬁsh. They appreciate dense cover and leaf litter, through which they dart and search for food. One of the joys of this underrated species is watching them tackle live food. A full-size Daphnia or Artemia is a challenge for these little ﬁsh and the spectacle of the neargladiatorial battles that take place are incredible to watch — picture Sperm whale vs Giant squid! I highly recommend that PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
Scientiﬁc name: Trichopsis pumila. Size: Around 3.5cm. Origin: Lower Mekong River Basin in Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand Aquarium size: 45 x 30cm footprint; 40 l volume or more. Water requirements: 5–7.5pH; hardness <12°H. Temperature: 22–28°C. Feeding: Small live and frozen foods such as Daphnia, Artemia and bloodworm along with suitably sized dry foods. Availability and cost: Farmed in great quantities in Europe and the Far East, these are readily available in many stores.
Scientiﬁc name: Rasbosoma spilocerca. Size: To 3cm. Origin: Lower Mekong River Basin in Laos, Thailand and Cambodia. Aquarium size: 45 x 30cm footprint; 40 l volume or more. Water requirements: 6–7pH; hardness <10°H. Temperature: 22–27°C. Feeding: Small live and frozen foods such as Daphnia and Artemia along with suitably sized dry foods. Availability and cost: You’ll likely need a well stocked or specialist store to ﬁnd these, but they’re not too expensive. Expect to pay in the region of £2.50 each.
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every aquarist set up a dedicated species tank for these amazing ﬁsh at some point. Lurking in dense vegetation in a nano tank in my living room I had a pair of Sparkling gouramis, Trichopsis pumila. These are another of my favourites — beautiful, full of character and with interesting behaviour, Sparkling gouramis are all-round great ﬁsh. Again, they are small and may suffer in a community tank, although I have watched an irate male chase a Red-tailed black shark after it had the temerity to enter the
Scientiﬁc name: Crossocheilus oblongus. Size: To 15cm. Origin: Thailand to Indonesia. Aquarium size: Ideally 120 x 30cm footprint; 108 l volume for a singleton, larger for a group. Tai’s specimen will move to a larger tank when he grows. Water requirements: 6–7.5pH; hardness <15°H. Temperature: 21–26°C. Feeding: Dried foods containing Spirulina; fresh vegetables such as peas, spinach and courgette; algae. Availability and cost: Common, but ensure you’re buying the correct ﬁsh. Prices around £3.50 upwards.
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gouramis’ patch of leaf litter. I had decided that the tank needed a clean-up crew and this came in the form of several Amano shrimp and a group of Caridina cantonensis, aka ‘Tiger’ Cherry shrimp. They have been breeding in all my tanks like mad, are natives of the Mekong Basin and are great at keeping the tank clean of detritus. Their subtle colouration and interesting ‘stripe patterns’ make them both beautiful and natural-looking additions.
The creaking stand I had become worried about the tank stand on the nano set-up housing the Sparkling gouramis, Trichopsis pumila, as I kept hearing a sort of ‘creaking’ sound. I wondered if it was time to take down the tank and ditch the stand, thinking I could add these biotope-correct ﬁsh to the Thai project. But after moving them in with the Boraras in another room, I heard the creak again. Soon I realised that it was the gouramis ‘creaking’ at each other! Such vocalisations are well documented in Croaking gouramis, Trichopsis vittata and other ﬁsh, but the level of noise produced by these 2.5cm creatures was incredible. The pair quickly settled in at the new tank, carved out their territory and continued to noisily argue from time to time.
Spice rasbora are tiny vertebrates.
However, a rogue population of red Cherry shrimp also found their way into the tank and I decided to leave them there because hunting for them in the leaf litter would have been a real pain and a disturbance to the other inhabitants! I also added a small Siamese algae eater, Crossocheilus oblongus. These are best kept singly or in a group (a pair often ﬁght) and they can grow to 15cm. Juveniles however are suitable for smaller tanks and make short work of a variety of algae. The largest ﬁsh in the tank, my SAE has a calm demeanour and has spent his time cleaning leaves and resting on lilies and will feed on JBL Novotabs from my hand. I had intended not to add any further species until I walked into Maidenhead Aquatics @Scotsdales and spoke to the manager, Max Compton. In a small tank in a corner was a group of Dwarf scissortails, Rasbosoma spilocerca, miniature versions of their big cousins. I’d not seen them in captivity before. As I began with excitement to ask Max if I could borrow them for the Thai set-up he was already sighing and reaching for the nets (this was not his ﬁrst Tai-wants-to-borrow-ﬁsh rodeo). I happily went home with ten of these rare and underrated little ﬁsh. These ﬁsh are also found in the Mekong Basin (including Thailand) and they appreciate plenty of vegetation in the aquarium. They can appear washed-out in the store and timid at home and it takes a quiet tank, keeping them in a shoal and plenty of live food to get them to colour up and become conﬁdent. I added them to the tank once the N. Taiwan had already become quite dense and they spent a few days pretending not to exist, before they began to emerge for feed at the front of the
tank. Within a week they were charging about with the Boraras and beginning to show the lovely yellow that runs along their lateral line and in their tail ﬁns. They have a prominent jaw and high mouth which gives them a slightly thuggish expression.
Time to sit back and enjoy… Although I have been ﬂexible in my choice of plant species, when I compared the tank to the photo that had originally inspired me, I could see that in terms of the kinds of plants, their layout and the overall construction of the habitat, I had been faithful in my representation. All that was left for me to do was to sit back in my chair and watch my tiny Boraras battle Artemia, listen to the gouramis squabble and watch the Dwarf scissortails switch this way and that in mid-water before torpedoing a panicked Daphnia. The little army of shrimp quietly worked over the substrate and leaf litter, occasionally parting like the Red Sea for Moses as a comparatively gigantic Amano shrimp stormed through. To heck with the biotope snobs, this is my creation — my animals are demonstrating through their behaviour and colour that they are content and well cared for, my plants are healthy and I am getting nothing but pleasure from watching my tank.
I used a custom-made 90 x 45 x 30cm aquarium. A shallow tank can produce challenges but also means you need less light and plants can ﬁll the space much faster. Many wild habitats are also incredibly shallow. I’ve found aquarium favourites such as Laetacara dorsigera and in only a few centimetres of water. To simulate the clear waters of my chosen tropical habitat the lighting is quite strong, with four 36W bulbs kept low over the tank, on for eight hours a day. Filtration is provided by an external canister ﬁlter rated for a 300 l tank and I used a Hydor inline heater to maintain the 25°C temperature. CO2 is injected into the tank using a pressurised system at two bubbles per second and TMC fertiliser is added O Thanks to: Dave Pierce daily. from Aquarium Gardens, The pH is 6.0 with who supplied the plants hardness between Charming ﬁsh if you can and several bags of 18-179ppm ﬁnd them! aquatic plant soil (1–10°H) to for the project. replicate the soft Max Compton waters of Maidenhead of the Mekong Aquatics@ Basin. I Scotsdales for change 50% the loan of of the water the Dwarf each week, scissortails. easily done on a tank of this size!
Biotope ideas Habitats under threat I feel very strongly about getting more people interested in biotopes because many of the habitats we are keen on recreating are under threat. Deforestation, pollution, dams, drainage — the list goes on. If hobbyists researching their chosen biotope learn more about the dangers the habitats face, then maybe they will get involved, spread awareness or act directly in some other way. We have a huge responsibility as aquarists to publicise the threats faced by fragile ecosystems, many of which are the natural homes of our beloved ﬁsh. I think it is important to know for example, that the peat forests of Indonesia, from which your Espei rasboras, Trigonostigma espei originate, are being devastated by logging, slash and burn agriculture and palm oil plantations. What can the humble hobbyist do? Buying fewer palm oil products or donating to wildlife conservation organisations is a good place to start. If we don’t act, in the future we may look for habitats, only to ﬁnd old photos of forests, rivers, wetlands and reefs that no longer exist.
Dwarf scissortail rasbora.
One of the joys of Spice rasbora is watching them tackle live food. A full-size Daphnia or Artemia is a challenge for these little ﬁsh and the spectacle of the near-gladiatorial battles that take place are incredible to watch Wide footprints allow for dense planting.
Alternative ﬁsh This was an easy tank to create and could be replicated to varying degrees with a whole range of species from the Mekong Basin. You could try Tiger barbs, Puntigrus tetrazona; Croaking gouramis, Trichopsis vittata; Dwarf chain loaches, Ambastaia sidthimunki, Blackline rasboras or Rasbora borapetensis to name a few.
You can ﬁnd footage of the tank featured here at: https://youtu.be/ C2pat3O6Wxw
Dwarf chained loaches.
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There’s a silent battle going on in your reef tank. Those innocent looking corals are constantly waging war on one another and the results can be lethal to the weaker side. Here’s how to keep any casualties to a minimum…
WORDS: DAVE WOLFENDEN
ook at a coral-festooned patch of reef, and it appears to be a picture of harmony. But, in fact, corals are perpetually engaged in turf warfare to secure the limited and valuable space on the reef. Corals, corallimorphs, zoanthids and even sponges have evolved a variety of offensive and defensive strategies. Some of these (such as the use of specialised stinging tentacles) are blatant, whereas others can be more subtle — although sometimes just as lethal. Accommodating corals while taking into account the diverse tactics they might employ can be a challenge but some planning can help to limit any issues.
Sweeper tentacles Some corals have specially modiﬁed, and often highly elongated, tentacles which are used speciﬁcally for aggressive encounters. These sweeper tentacles will often be deployed when the feeding polyps retract at
night, and are speciﬁcally used if the presence of another coral is detected — so rather than being randomly cast out, their use can be highly targeted. The sweepers of some species can really pack a punch, with some of the more aggressive corals capable of easily killing competitors if specimens are placed too close to one another. Sweeper tentacles are a feature of many LPS corals — but by no means all. The Fox coral, Nemenzophyllia turbida, for example, lacks them and as such is one of the more peaceful species. LPS which possess them may extend these tentacles out just a few centimetres, but some corals may have incredibly long sweepers which can make housing them a challenge, especially in smaller systems. Hammer corals (Euphyllia) sweepers, for example, may extend to 15cm and those of the tooth corals (Galaxea) can reach a whopping 30cm from the edge of the colony in some cases. Incidentally, the reach of the sweeper
tentacles is not necessarily related to the size of the colony; very small colonies of some species have extremely long sweepers. In reality, corals are dynamic in how they use these lethal weapons, as it appears that corals can vary their arsenal of sweeper tentacles according to their current needs. Studies of species such as the Lettuce coral, Agaricia agaricites, from the Caribbean suggest that the coral dramatically increases the number of sweepers in response to the presence of competitors. The development of the tentacles in terms of reach and concentration is dependent on the species of competitor encountered and the distance of the competitor from the coral. It also appears that sweeper development concentrates at speciﬁc parts of the colony nearest to competitors and interestingly, it seems that the coral’s other tissues may shrink as the tentacles develop. This ﬂexible approach to sweeper tentacle deployment suggests that they’re costly for
If corals are being stung, relocate the victim and/or aggressor immediately. Be sure to remove any pieces of sweeper tentacle still attached to the victim using tweezers, as they can remain active for some time after breaking off. The use of a coral dip on affected specimens may help to reduce the risk of necrotic tissue succumbing to bacterial infections.
Soft corals use chemical warfare to compete for space on the reef. www.practicalﬁshkeeping.co.uk
the coral to develop and maintain — so rather than adopt a strategy of permanently packing heat, they opt to dedicate resources to sweepers only when they’re actually needed. Where I’m going with this is to suggest that it’s best to monitor corals (especially the more aggressive LPS) to watch for changes in sweeper tentacle production over time. A seemingly benign coral with inconspicuous or even non-existent sweepers could start to develop them if other corals (perceived as competitors) are placed nearby or vice versa. So be sure to provide a suitable ‘no man’s land’ around all corals —this will vary between species — but keep an eye out for potential aggression. ‘Lights-out’ is prime time to check for aggressive interactions.
Mesenterial ﬁlaments Many corals, most notably LPS species, employ mesenterial ﬁlaments — perhaps in addition to sweeper tentacles. Mesenterial ﬁlaments are white, stringy masses which are ejected from the animal’s gut. They’re coiled ﬁlaments which give the gut a large surface area for digestion. They’re packed with stinging nematocysts, and because they’re involved with digestion they secrete a range of enzymes which can dissolve the tissue of competitors in vicious closequarters combat. SPS corals aren’t renowned for their aggressive tendencies, but some species can sting when needed. If certain SPS colonies are placed too near other, they may exude so-called acontia ﬁlaments; this phenomenon is sometimes seen in
Acropora corals. Acontia ﬁlaments can also occasionally be seen in mushrooms and other polyps, and are analogous to mesenterial ﬁlaments. They may occur in response to stress and damage, but they can also be employed for defence when colonies impinge on each other, so take care even with SPS. While they’re nowhere near as aggressive as many LPS and can generally be placed much closer together, these corals still need their personal space to prevent warfare from breaking out.
Chemical warfare Various soft corals, zoanthids and mushroom polyps engage in a form of ‘chemical warfare’ through the release of toxins which can affect the settlement, growth, health or reproduction of
Sweeper tentacles can deliver a painful sting, so don’t touch them with your bare hands.
Marine These two stony corals are competing for turf by attacking and attempting to outgrow one another.
competitors. This tactic, known as allelopathy, employs chemicals including terpenes which can either be released into the water or directly applied to competitors which are invading their ‘personal space’. The terpenes include hundreds of bioactive chemicals which have antifouling and antimicrobial properties as well as being directly toxic to competitors (terpentine — used as paint thinner — is a terpene). Allelopathy has developed in these animals because they lack the rigid skeleton and often powerful nematocysts of stony corals. It’s been suggested that toxic compounds originally employed as antipredator defences have been co-opted as potent offensive weapons. These can be used in direct contact to
Those harmless looking mushrooms are more potent than you think...
Hammer and tooth corals are pretty handy with their sweeper tentacles so watch what you place them next to. www.practicalﬁshkeeping.co.uk
LPS corals don’t have a monopoly on sweeper tentacles. The Caribbean gorgonian Erythropodium caribaeorum (an encrusting, mat-forming species) has been shown to spontaneously develop sweepers in proximity to stony corals. The gorgonian modiﬁes existing polyps on the colony’s edge to form its club-tipped, nematocystladen weaponry, allowing it to muscle into new territory, as well as helping it to hold ground against those trying to overgrow it.
defend against encroaching colonies or even emitted in non-contact situations as a kind of biological ‘Agent Orange’, allowing soft corals to clear the immediate area of competitors in the battle for limited real estate on the reef. We’ve known for some time that soft corals can directly harm stony corals in both contact and non-contact situations. In one study, Devil’s hand coral, Lobophytum pauciﬂorum; Tree coral, Sinularia pavida, and Xenia sp. were placed next to Porites and Pavona stony corals in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, and the results compared to sites where soft corals had not been relocated. The results demonstrated very variable susceptibility among the two stony corals to the transplanted softies. In the case of Xenia, contact needed to be made to cause harm to both Pavona and Porites, but few effects were seen in non-contact situations. Sinularia pavida had no effect on Pavona, and needed to be in direct contact with Porites to cause signiﬁcant mortality. Lobophytum pauciﬂorum was found to cause signiﬁcant necrosis in Porites polyps even when not in direct contact; however, in the case of Pavona it needed to be in direct contact to cause any damage. An ingenious study (also on the Great Barrier Reef) used tiles placed radially around Sinularia ﬂexibilis and Sarcophyton glaucum as a settlement substrate for stony coral larvae. The study revealed that the number of larvae (spats) settling on the tiles was reduced in the presence of the soft corals compared to sites tested without soft corals. Interestingly, the greatest reduction in spat numbers was noted on tiles downstream of the soft corals, suggesting the softies were releasing chemicals which negatively impact stony coral settlement. In this case, it’s not clear if chemicals emitted by the softies were directly toxic to
the coral spats, or if the stony coral larvae simply avoided downstream sites in response to some chemical cue and settled elsewhere — although clearly something was happening to reduce settlement. The bottom line is that the situation is very complicated and we are nowhere near to fully understanding how allelopathy plays out between soft corals and other invertebrates due to the range of speciesspeciﬁc interactions possible and the complex cocktails of terpenes they produce. However, it’s clear that direct contact between softies and other corals should be avoided, and precautions taken when attempting to mix soft and stony corals as allelopathic chemicals emitted into the water can cause problems.
Essential steps for mixing hard and soft corals Excessive soft coral growth can cause poor growth or even mortality of stony corals, so many aquarists consider softie-dominated systems to be a no-go area for stony corals. But if you are going to keep a mix of soft and stony corals, then there are some steps which should minimise any issues. In any case, these should also be considered for softie-only tanks as well: O Avoid placing soft corals in direct contact with one another, and allowing them to touch stony corals is a deﬁnite no-no. OEmploy aggressive skimming to help export allelopathic chemicals which may be emitted. O As these chemicals are organic in nature,
granular activated carbon (GAC) will help to adsorb them; it could also pay to augment GAC with another organic-adsorbing media such as Purigen. Unfortunately, we can’t measure terpenoids or other allelochemicals present in the water to determine when GAC needs to be changed and it’s hard to suggest an alternative measurable parameter which could be used as a ‘proxy’. Therefore, it’s best to err on the side of caution and change carbon frequently (every two weeks or so). If the health of corals in the system appears to be taking a dip, consider changing carbon more frequently to see if things improve. O Water changes will help in some way to dilute accumulated toxins which have been released by soft corals into the water.
Sponges secrete chemicals which affect the health of coral symbionts, and even cause bleaching.
The high potency and diverse effects of coral terpenes means they have medicinal potential, and there is increasing interest in soft corals such as Sinularia as a source of anti-inﬂammatory, antibiotic and even anti-cancer drugs. 54
Hard and soft corals in this magniﬁcent reef set-up have grown to ﬁll the spaces between them and some now pose a danger to their neighbours.
Xenia has been shown to cause problems only when in direct contact with stony corals.
species appeared to inhibit photosynthesis by the coral’s zooxanthellae; some species also appeared to initiate bleaching in the coral, suggesting that their alleopathic chemicals are more potent than others. This study involved direct contact between the sponge extract and the coral, but we
don’t yet know whether the chemicals involved can be released by the sponges into the water. In any case, it makes sense to space out any sponges you are adding to your aquarium to prevent them coming into contact with other sessile invertebrates. It’s also a good idea to run chemical ﬁltration such as activated carbon as a precaution.
Galaxea fascilcularis can have extremely long sweeper tentacles.
It’s not just corals…
Many species of sponge employ allelopathy to allow them to compete with reef-building corals. A study of several Caribbean sponge species used extracts from the animals combined with gels which were placed against coral heads of the Grooved brain coral, Diploria labyrinthiformis on reefs in the Bahamas. The results demonstrated variability in the allelopathic effects of the sponges tested. For at least one species of sponge, little effect was noted, but in many cases there was a clear impact on the health of the corals subjected to sponge extract. Speciﬁcally, the metabolites of many
relatives. This is deﬁnitely a ﬁsh to try breeding — just ensure you keep a lid on your tank!
WORDS: JEREMY GAY
Copella sp. in their natural habitat.
he Splash tetra belongs to an exclusive club, as it is often used to demonstrate the weird and wonderful in the freshwater ﬁsh world, and the diversity in the ﬁshes of the Amazon. Its common name comes from this ﬁsh’s extraordinary breeding technique — pairs leap up out of the water, cling to an overhanging leaf and lay eggs on it. The eggs are then splashed by the male from below to keep them moist. The reason for this evolutionary adaptation? Predation, or rather their attempt at avoiding it, as Amazonian waters are ﬁlled with literally thousands of ﬁsh species which would put Splash tetra eggs on their menu. Every year the mighty Amazon River and its tributaries ﬂood into the rainforest, providing an abundance of space for ﬁsh to feed and breed. With it then comes abundant overhanging vegetation (or at least there used to be), and the Splash tetra found its survival niche while at the same time cementing its place in natural history books and TV documentaries. Copella arnoldi is the Splash tetra’s correct scientiﬁc name, although it may also be sold and listed under its synonym of Copeina arnoldi. Copeina is actually a related genus of similarly shaped ﬁsh, as is Pyrrhulina, yet despite looking superﬁcially similar, and mistaken for the true Splash tetra at times, only Copella arnoldi, named after ichthyologists Edward Drinker Cope and J. Paul Arnold, uses the extreme terrestrial breeding method.
Splash tetras, Copella arnoldi. Males are longer and more slender, with elongated ﬁnnage.
Like many ﬁsh of the lower Amazon, C. arnoldi is adapted to warm, soft, acidic water, stained with tannins from the tree leaves and branches. Warm acid pools, rich in organic matter, also suffer from low oxygen levels, so laying eggs up in the air may have a second advantage — oxygen. The pH can be as low as 4 and never above 7, and water temperatures can approach 30°C. The Splash tetra likes archetypal Amazonian water conditions for sure, and will be seen at its best in aquariums which replicate those water parameters and decor.
Tank set up The male Splash tetra grows larger than the female, yet is still a small ﬁsh at just 5cm fully grown. Despite their diminutive size I prefer to see mine swimming in the upper layers of aquariums at least 90 x 30cm and would never consider them as nano ﬁsh for tiny cube tanks. Water movement should be kept at a minimum, and if you want to keep it strictly biotope correct then use leaves and wood, over a substrate of sand or soil. True aquatic plants are rare in acid pools as the dark water blocks the light and lacks nutrients. Floating
Splash tetras leap from the water to spawn on overhanging leaves.
Splash tetra eggs laid on the underside of the aquarium coverglass.
NATURE PICTURE LIBRARY
plants could be an option if you crave greenery, or some Philodendron house plants growing above the water line, with their leaves and stalks draped in the water. A modern take on the Splash tetra habitat could be a paludarium — a glass vivarium set up with water in the bottom and jungle vegetation up above. A very natural, environmentally rich tank in which to house Splash tetras, and in theory, the ideal place for them to spawn as you can control the humidity and temperature above the water line too. Don’t be afraid to keep Splash tetras in shallow tanks like the water areas in vivariums. In nature, they inhabit the upper water levels only, and my anecdotal observations are that most small surface dwelling aquarium species inhabit only very shallow waters in the wild. If they ventured out across the surface in deep, natural waters they would be picked off by predators from below.
Developing Splash tetra fry.
MP&C PIEDNOIR AQUAPRESS.COM
Tank mates My OCD would ﬂare up if I mixed Splash tetras with anything other than small Amazonian catﬁsh, cichlids and characins, although the choice there is still vast. Apistogramma, Corydoras, banjo catﬁsh, and the hundreds of tetra species would all make perfect Splash tetra companions. But as soon as I stray towards Splash tetras I like to mix them with other interesting small stuff. There are the Splash tetra’s cousins to consider — other Copella, such as C. PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
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Being so adapted to jumping and surface life, Splash tetras aren’t suitable for over-ﬁlled, open-topped tanks. Always ﬁt a lid or coverglass — and with luck they’ll spawn on it!
These ﬁsh are surface feeders, so ensure you offer ﬂoating foods. NEIL HEPWORTH
would consist of tiny terrestrial insects falling onto the surface from above, tiny insects hatching at the surface from aquatic larvae, as well as the microscopic life that can be slurped from the still surface ﬁlm. In the aquarium small ﬂakes can make up the staple diet, but get creative and offer aphids from the garden, or ﬁrst instar crickets, fruit ﬂies and springtails from the reptile shops. They aren’t difficult ﬁsh, but offering them a jungle diet feels right, and is so easy to do these days.
Provide the above water conditions and Splash tetras will breed. My ﬁrst ﬁsh bred on the glass condensation covers of the aquatic shop I worked in. Just make sure you have true Copella arnoldi (take picture along with you for reference) and ensure you purchase both males and females. The males are larger, but they also have long ﬁns, whereas the females are small, shorter bodied, and with much shorter ﬁns. The male entices the female over after picking an overhead, suitable site, before embracing as the two of them leap out of the water and cling to the leaf, or more usually in aquariums, the cover glass. They lay up to 200 eggs depending on size and maturity, and the male hangs around for the next three days, splashing water up onto the eggs until the fry have hatched and dropped into the water. The female takes no part, other than the actual spawning, and once the hatched fry drop into the water the male demonstrates no parental care after that. Feed the fry on infusoria or strained, steamed egg yolk, and if you want them to survive, move them to a separate tank with gentle or no ﬁltration, and regular partial water changes. If you can raise them you should ﬁnd a ready market in shops, clubs and online for the adults, as they are by no means commonly available ﬁsh.
G Common name: Splash tetra. G Scientiﬁc name: Copella arnoldi. G Size: To 5cm. G Origin: Lower Amazon. G Aquarium size: 90 x 30cm footprint minimum; 80 l volume. G Water chemistry: Soft and acidic; 4–7pH. G Temperature: 26–30°C. G Feeding: Floating ﬂake foods, fruit ﬂies, springtails and ﬁrst instar crickets. G Availability and cost: More likely to crop up in specialist stores. Price around £3.95 each. pH
9 8 7 6
Temp C 30 28 26 24 22 20 18
Breeding Taeniacara candidi likes things soft and warm and doesn’t do well in hustle and bustle communities. Splash tetras make great tank mates for this delightful cichlid.
G TANK MATES
Marbled hatchetﬁsh are rather timid in nature and tend to fare better in biotope tanks. A Splash tetra set-up is ideal.
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With its upturned mouth and slung back dorsal ﬁn, the Splash tetra is a surface feeder, so feed ﬂoating foods. In the wild this
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carsevennensis, C. nattereri, C. compta or C. meinkeni; or the similar Copeina and Pyrrhulina species. Or how about the fascinating, beautifully delicate pencilﬁsh? Plenty to study there. Hatchetﬁsh would make ideal tank mates. Or what about those more delicate dwarf cichlids such as Biotoecus or Taeniacara Both like it super soft and warm, and do best in more specialist set-ups. Avoid large, boisterous tank mates. With the exception of the banjo catﬁsh I’d avoid anything with an adult size much over 5cm.
Beckford’s pencilﬁsh make colourful and active additions to a Splash tetra community.
AQUATIC In association with
With all sections of the PFK diploma in your possession, let’s look back over what we’ve covered, and make sure we understand the basics... WORDS: NATHAN HILL
PART SIX: REVISION
ow that you’ve read all ﬁve parts of the PFK diploma, you’ll be preparing for your online test, so to help you, let’s revisit some of the key pointers for each section. The important thing to remember is that you are aiming to pick out the speciﬁc facts of each area. The test, when it comes, is not the kind of test that requires hundreds of words – no part of it runs as an essay. Instead, it will be conducted in the form of multiple-choice answers to a series of questions. To succeed, you’ll need to be able to
identify the correct answers from a selection of possible responses. The layout below is a selection of practice questions, each of which probe your knowledge on key areas explored. Though they’re not laid out as multiple-choice questions and answers, they are designed to stimulate your mind to re-explore some of the main areas you’ll be tested on. ] Answers can be found on page 78
at www.practicalﬁshkeeping. co.uk/diploma and at the end of the course we’ll send you a link to take the free online exam. Pass the exam to receive your Fishkeeping Diploma!
Revising part one: Water quality and chemistry
1a) What are the ﬁve aspects of water?
1g) How many mg/l of calcium and magnesium ions make up 1dGH?
1b) How much more acidic is water with a pH of 5.0 than water with a pH of 6.0? 1c) What effect does biological ﬁltration have on pH? 1d) What effect does carbon dioxide have on pH?
1l) Why are tall, cylindrical tanks inefficient at gas exchange?
1h) Which two forms can ammonia take in aquaria, and what are their chemical symbols? 1i) What effect does salt (NaCl) have on nitrite toxicity?
1e) What is KH a measure of in aquaria?
1j) What effect does photosynthesis of plants have on oxygen levels in a tank?
1f) Is rainwater rich or deﬁcient in
1k) What is the OATA recommended
concentration for oxygen levels at 25°C in freshwater?
In association with
Fishkeeping Diploma Part 6 Revising part two: Filtration 2a) What are the three main categories of ﬁlter function?
3d) What will happen to the chemistry of rainwater that passes over calcium rich rocks?
2b) What is the main purpose of a mechanical ﬁlter?
3e) In which ﬁsh organ do you ﬁnd the bulbus arteriosus?
2c) Which two pollutants are biological ﬁlters designed to control?
3f) Which kind of ﬁsh typically have a labyrinth organ?
2d) What are the three necessary criteria for a surface to become biologically active?
3g) What is the correct name for the tail ﬁn?
organism’s cells to produce more of itself?
3h) What is the function of the Weberian apparatus?
4h) At which stage of the life cycle is it possible to treat white spot parasites?
3i) Which way does a terminal mouth point?
4i) Which nutritional disease leads to kinked spines?
2f) How do autotrophic bacteria mainly develop in aquaria?
3j) If a ﬁsh cannot osmoregulate properly, what usually happens to it?
4j) What’s the usual course of treatment for an intestinal blockage?
2g) How quickly can heterotrophic bacteria double their population?
3k) What is the correct term for a livebearing ﬁsh?
Revising part 5: Maintenance
2h) What does an ion exchange resin media do?
Revising part 4: Disease
2e) What is the collective name of bacteria that can utilise organic carbon as a food component?
2i) How often is it advised to replace carbon ﬁlters?
4a) Is a colour change and a ﬁsh’s refusal to feed a speciﬁc or non-speciﬁc sign of an illness?
2j) Is ﬁsh-in cycling safer or more dangerous than ﬁshless cycling for ﬁsh?
4b) Would a sudden drop in temperature cause acute or chronic stress in a ﬁsh?
2k) All things being equal, will ﬁlters mature faster at 28°C or 15°C?
4c) ‘Yawning’ in ﬁsh is sometimes associated with which type of environmental disease?
2l) What effect will a pH of 4.0 or lower have on biological ﬁltration?
Revising part 3: Habitat and physiology 3a) Roughly what percentage of all freshwater on Earth is found in all rivers and lakes combined? 3b) What is brackish water?
5a) What is the danger of positioning a tank near a radiator? 5b) What is the purpose of a ‘drip loop’? 5c) What is the term used to describe the combined mass of ﬁsh in a tank? 5d) Using the cm (ﬁsh) per litre (water) method, what is the maximum combined length of ﬁsh an 80-litre tank with external canister ﬁlters could hold?
4d) What damage can CO2 dosing do to a ﬁsh’s kidney?
5e) What should be the maximum depth of a coarse, gravel substrate in a typical community tank?
4e) Which bacterial infection can become so bad that a ﬁsh’s organs are exposed?
5f) What type of decoration can discolour aquarium water?
4f) What is the name for an illness that can transmit from ﬁsh to humans?
5g) Cheap ornaments with harmful paints may affect which type of ﬁsh mainly?
4g) Which kind of pathogen hijacks and
5h) Which type of ﬁsh produces a more constant stream of ammonia — a grazer or an opportunistic predator?
3c) What is the term used for a habitat that contains still or very slow water, like a lake or pond?
5i) Which is more expensive to use for waterchanges RO or tapwater? 5j) Why should yo not cap te tubes for water test with your ﬁngers?
HOW YOU CAN GAIN YOUR DIPLOMA Go to www.practicalﬁshkeeping.co.uk/diploma and register for the free online exam. You will later be sent a link to take the exam (there will be a paper copy option for readers without online access). If you pass the exam, you will receive your Fishkeeping Diploma, to show that you have successfully completed the course. Open to UK www.practicalﬁshkeeping.co.uk
residents only. The Fishkeeping D and should not be confused with the type of diploma presented by colleges, universities and other educational establishments.The Fishkeeping Diploma is awarded by PFK in association with Fluval. For more info on Fluval, visit www.ﬂuvalaquatics.com/uk
Let the cat out of the bag! Some catﬁsh need no introduction — their reputation precedes them just like their ﬂowing whiskers. But there are many more beautiful community catﬁsh that barely seem to get a look-in. Here are eight of our favourites...
hen it comes to catﬁsh, who doesn’t know or appreciate the ubiquitous Bronze cory, Corydoras aeneus, the ‘go-to’ ﬁrst ‘cat’ in countless community tanks? Similarly, there WORDS: MEHEN are few ofBOB us who haven’t kept the hirsute Bristlenose (Ancistrus sp.), that familiar fuzzy-faced suckermouth catﬁsh that won’t grow to a foot-plus long monster and will have a good nibble at nuisance algae for you.
And who hasn’t been wowed by the sleek, silver and black spotted beauty of the Pims, Pimelodus pictus, as it restlessly patrols the tank ﬂoor at pace? But for every one of these show stealers, there are dozens of beautiful, underappreciated catﬁsh that seem to slip under the radar, despite offering everything a ﬁshkeeper could hope for in a be-whiskered community citizen...
MP&C PIEDNOIR AQUAPRESS
Corydoras are the ﬁrst catﬁsh for many.
We all know Corydoras make brilliant community catﬁsh. They’re small, peaceful, generally hardy and come in a wealth of attractive patterns. Most of us will cut our catﬁsh teeth with either Bronze, C. aeneus or Peppered C. paleatus, but it can be easy to overlook these stalwarts once you become a more seasoned ﬁshkeeper. Take a closer look at the Peppered cory — Corydoras paleatus in particular and you may realise that you’ve forgotten that these really are beautiful ﬁsh. While many appear to be adorned with just a selection of grey colours and the occasional dark spot, the best conditioned specimens are magniﬁcently lustrous and burnished with metallic blue. Females are wonderfully chunky, plump ﬁsh while the smaller, slimmer males boast a higher, sharper dorsal ﬁn.
G Scientiﬁc name: Corydoras paleatus. G Origin: South America. G Size: 7cm/2.5in — females bigger than males. G Tank size: 60 x 30cm minimum footprint. G Water requirements: Very adaptable — pH 6 to 7.5, soft to moderately hard water. Aim for somewhere in the middle of all these parameters for a happy medium. G Temperature: From 15 to 26°C. G Availability and cost: Extremely common, from £2.50 each. pH
8 7 6
26 24 22 20 18 16 14
TOP TIP SHUTTERSTOCK
As a ﬁrst breeding project, Peppered corys are hard to beat. Wellconditioned adult ﬁsh only need a cool water change to trigger spawning and the resulting fry are easy to raise and sell on.
Synodontis were once the ‘go-to’ catﬁsh if you wanted bold pattern and colour. In the last 25 years they have fallen from grace with the onslaught of similarly marked plecs from South America. At the same time, many man-made hybrid ‘Synos’ have muddied the waters for many of us, lessening their appeal. Despite this, Synos can make wonderful aquarium subjects and Synodontis ﬂavitaeniatus (the Pyjama catﬁsh) is a great G Scientiﬁc name: Synodontis community choice. As the common name ﬂavitaeniatus. G Size: Around 15cm/6in. suggests, they are marked G Origin: Africa; Congo river. with striking horizontal G Aquarium size: 90 x 30cm minimum yellow and brown stripes. They can look a little faded footprint for a lone specimen. G Water requirements: Adaptable as in brightly lit shop tanks, but they’ll soon deepen in long as the water isn’t too acidic. Aim tone once happily for a neutral pH with soft to ensconced in calmer moderately hard water. G Temperature: 24–26°C. surroundings. As Synos go G Availability and cost: Less than they’re relatively small and are generally happy to be common, around £20 upwards. kept in a group. 0 pH Temp C Ensure that any tank for 9 30 them has plenty of caves, 28 8 and if you position 26 24 decoration right, you’ll see 7 22 them swimming along the 20 18 undersides of wood and 6 rock as they traverse the 5 layout.
Be wary of stocking Pyjama catﬁsh alongside larger, more armoured catﬁsh such as plecs, especially if hiding places are at a premium. The Synos’ soft, scaleless bodies can take a beating.
TOP TIP The generic name ‘Mystus’ is thought to be derived from the Latin mystax, (meaning ‘moustache’), in reference to the long barbels of these catﬁsh.
With their sleek body shape and impressive whiskers, Pimelodus pictus catﬁsh are a regular sight in most shops and they do make great aquarium subjects, as long as you don’t put them in with most smaller community species because they’ll promptly eat them the moment they’re big or hungry enough to do so. However, there is an overlooked Asian species that shares many of the features that make Pims so sellable, without the tank mate snacking tendecies. Introducing the Two-spot Mystus, Mystus bimaculatus. Two-spots are beautiful little ﬁsh with a gorgeous mahogany red body, marked with, as both its common and scientiﬁc names suggest, two large black ‘eye’ spots ringed with ﬂashes of creamy yellow. With a maximum size of 8cm/3in they are safe with all but the smallest tank mates and even these are generally ignored if kept well fed. Like so many catﬁsh they are bolder and more settled when kept in groups and will welcome shady nooks in the form of wood and other decor. They will show their best colouration in a blackwater aquarium, but are adaptable enough to tolerate less tannic conditions as long as the water isn’t too hard or alkaline.
FISH FACTFILE G Scientiﬁc name: Mystus bimaculatus. G Origin: Asia; Sumatra. G Size: 8cm/3in. G Tank size: 60 x 30cm minimum footprint. G Water requirements: Soft and acidic. G Temperature: Warm with a temperature of around 28°C. G Availability and cost: Uncommon, starting around £5 each. 0
Temp C 9 8 7 6
30 28 26 24 22 20 18
Plecs, plecos, sucker-mouth catﬁsh, Loricariids... they dominate the catﬁsh hobby like no other family. But as a seemingly never-ending line of such new and exciting species arrive, old school classics fall by the wayside like the Clown plec, Panaqolus maccus. The lovely chocolate brown ﬁsh are marked with ﬁne yellow stripes, squiggles and spots, making each ﬁsh truly unique. Young ﬁsh are especially striking and though their colour lightens with age and maturity they are still handsome ﬁsh. Unlike so many of the cheaper, commonly encountered plecs, Clowns don’t become massive and even modest-sized aquariums can house a small group. In the wild, Panoqolus maccus is a whitewater species, found in Add plenty of wood rivers ﬂowing when keeping Clown plecs through the as they are a wood-eating Orinoco. This is a ﬁsh that species, although they still appreciates some need to be offered veg such ﬂow, so don’t be as cucumber and peas afraid to rig up some alongside commercially circulation pumps and get things moving. prepared foods.
G Scientiﬁc name: Panaqolus maccus. G Origin: South America; Venezuela. G Size: 8cm/3in. G Tank size: 60cm x 30cm minimum footprint. G Water requirements: Soft water, with a pH around neutral and a temperature of 25°C. G Temperature: Aim for a temperature of around 24–26°C. G Availability and cost: Quite common, starting at £8 for juveniles. 0
Temp C 9 8 7 6
30 28 26 24 22 20 18
Everyone loves a cory don't they? Those winking eyed, true community catﬁsh that come in a wonderful array of bold patterning. For some reason, many of their closest cousins seem to get the short end of the stick and are largely ignored. Chief among these is the gloriously green Emerald catﬁsh, Brochis splendens, which as the second part of its scientiﬁc name suggests, really does shine. They are basically a bigger, chunkier Corydoras, with a longer dorsal ﬁn. Care is more or less identical to the commonly kept corys - keep them in groups of ﬁve or more on a soft sand substrate and provide a few shady Especially lovely places to rest up in the form of plants and wood.
juvenile Brochis splendens occasionally appear, covered in dark spots and with an oversized bright orange dorsal ﬁn. Less scrupulous dealers mark these as ‘Sailﬁn’ or ‘Hiﬁn’ corys.
G Scientiﬁc name: Brochis splendens. G Size: 9cm/3.5in. G Origin: South America; Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia. G Aquarium size: 60cm x 30cm minimum footprint. G Water requirements: Hardy and adaptable but the best colour is shown in soft, acidic water. G Temperature: 25–27°C. G Availability and cost: Requires specialist stores, starting around £6. pH
9 8 7 6
Temp C 30 28 26 24 22 20 18
AQUARIUM PHOT0 DK
Marbled talking catﬁsh
This oddball catﬁsh is the sort that makes an occasional appearance during daylight (often triggered by food), only to disappear for the next couple of months. These ﬂeeting cameos offer glorious glimpses into the often nocturnal world of our bewhiskered charges. Talking catﬁsh (Doradids) are a fairly common sight in dealers’ tanks, particularly the boldly striped Humbug catﬁsh, Platydoras armatulus, and the polka-dotted Agamyxis pectinifrons. However, these tempting youngsters can grow into impressively sized adults (20cm and 15cm respectively), with equally impressive mouths that can make short work of small ﬁsh dozing near the substrate. Less commonly seen, but a little more suitably sized, is the Marbled talking catﬁsh, Amblydoras nauticus (often erroneously labelled A. hancockii). While not as distinctive as its black and white relatives, it has its own subtle aesthetic, marked with a palette of brown and tan spots, bars and blotches over a cream background. They have the same saw-tooth sides and ﬁn spines as their larger kin and as their name suggests are capable of ‘vocalising’ when disputing territory or when removed from the water.
While Corydoras are undoubtedly the kings of community Callichthyids, they have some fantastic armoured catﬁsh cousins that really don’t get the exposure they deserve. The handsome Porthole catﬁsh, Dianema longibarbis, is just such a ﬁsh, often passed over in favour of its slightly larger, more showy relative the Flagtail catﬁsh (D. urostriatum) or the bulky, comical Hoplos (Megalechis sp.) This is a real shame because they make wonderful community ﬁsh and a group can offer something really different. They are happy to ﬂutter energetically in the mid-waters or rootle enthusiastically in the substrate, nose down and tail up in a quest for food. At rest on the tank ﬂoor and among plants they can often look like a group of poorly moored airships. Growing to around 10cm/4in they are completely peaceful and only ask that any tank mates have a similarly relaxed demeanour. Their colouration is a warm pinkish hue marked with black speckles and a line of larger black spots along the lateral line.
G Scientiﬁc name: Dianema longibarbis. G Origin: Brazil and Peru. G Size: 10cm/4in — females a little larger than males. G Tank size: 75 x 30cm minimum footprint. G Water requirements: Very adaptable once settled — pH 6 to 7.5, soft to moderately hard water. G Temperature: 24–26°C. G Availability and cost: Not overly common, starting at £7. pH
9 8 7 6
Temp C 30 28 26 24 22 20 18
AQUARIUM PHOT0 DK
All the Porthole catﬁsh in the trade are wild-caught, and as a result they can be a little delicate at ﬁrst. But once settled they are hardy and long lived.
The ﬁn spines and body scutes of doradid catﬁsh can become tangled in nets and are sharp enough to puncture the skin. Use a jar to catch these ﬁsh in if possible and don’t handle them!
G Scientiﬁc name: Amblydoras nauticus. G Origin: Peru. G Size: 9cm/3.5in. G Tank size: 75cm x 30cm minimum footprint. G Water requirements: Very adaptable, but aim for around neutral pH and soft to moderately hard water. G Temperature: Aim for a 24–26°C. G Availability and cost: Reasonably common, starting around £8.
AQUARIUM PHOT0 DK
9 8 7 6
Temp C 30 28 26 24 22 20 18
Catﬁsh eh? They’re all brown and live under a rock, only coming out when the lights go out, right? Catﬁsh have a reputation that can be hard to shake but in such a vast group of ﬁsh there will always be noteworthy exceptions. The Three-striped African glass catﬁsh (Pareutropius buffei) is a great example, swimming against the tide of sedentary, nocturnal brownness that most people see in their heads when catﬁsh are mentioned. Great little mid-water swimmers and constantly in action, a shoal could ﬁll the same gap that a tetra species such as Penguin tetra (Thayeria boehlkei) could. While sometimes a little pale in shop tanks, these lovely catﬁsh soon darken up once settled into suitable accommodation with reasonable water movement and plenty of open space for swimming (and dense planting to offer security). Then they should display a lovely blue sheen to compliment their black horizontal stripes and pale background.
TOP TIP Pareutropius buffei are often sold as ‘debauwi cats’, which is inaccurate as the P. debauwi is rarely if ever imported.
FISH FACTFILE G Scientiﬁc name: Pareutropius buffei. G Origin: Africa; Benin, Nigeria. G Size: 8cm/3in. G Aquarium size: 90cm x 30cm minimum. G Water requirements: pH around neutral, soft to moderately hard water. G Temperature: Aim for a temperature of around 24–26°C. G Availability and cost: Increasingly common, from £4.95. pH
9 8 7 6
Temp C 30 28 26 24 22 20 18
8Three-striped African glass ﬁsh
Something potty forthe
parlour WORDS: FRANCINE KIRSCH
ack in Victorian times, aquariums were a must-have ﬁxture for many middle class homes. Whether these often elaborate pieces of furniture could be considered beautiful depends very much on your taste — perhaps ‘wacky’ is better word for some of them. Unfortunately, few of these extraordinary aquariums have survived. Those that have are more often used as display or ‘conversation’ pieces because their rusted metal can be dangerous to ﬁsh. And although ‘Steampunk’ designers incorporate examples into industrial art — online ﬁrms reproduce old aquariums, and do-it-yourselfers turn new ones ‘Victorian’ by attaching vintage-style trims — few match the nuttiness of the originals.
Leading the way with ferns While goldﬁsh were ﬁrst brought to Europe around 1600 and were being kept in glass bowls by the late 1700s, their low survival rate was a problem until the role of plants was properly understood. Englishman Nathaniel Ward led the way in the 1820s when he showed how ferns could be kept alive indeﬁnitely in properly established glass receptacles called Wardian cases. In that nature-crazed era, the Wardian case hit a middle class nerve so much so that a mass circulation magazine stated: “a drawing room without its fern case would now be considered scarcely furnished.” Aided by the industrial development of cheap glass, cases might have pagoda-like
tops or ornamental ironwork around their edges, imitating Gothic cathedrals. Ward even put a miniature version of Tintern Abbey’s ruined arch into one of his, paving the way for the aquarium’s future look. Briton Robert Warington’s 1849 discovery of the symbiotic relationship in his water tank between plants and aquatic animals made the modern aquarium possible. Aquarium builders were soon introducing water newts, mussels and turtles — even ladders so the turtles and tadpoles could exercise, cautioning that “all should be covered with a net to prevent escape”. Working at the same time as Warington, Philip Henry Gosse coined the word ‘aquarium’ in a popular 1854 book that appealed to Victorians already fascinated by tales of the lost city of Atlantis, the new natural history museums and modern seaside resorts.
Fish on display The ﬁrst public aquarium appeared in London Zoo in Regent’s Park in 1853. But the largest (for decades) was Brighton’s, opened in 1872. Alon with ﬁsh-watching, it offered thrice-daily band music, concerts every Saturday afternoon and visits during the evening. The aquarium exhibit at the 1900 Paris Exposition included a replica o wrecked ship and moving (artiﬁcial) ‘mermaids’ and the ﬁrst Le Havre
Exhibit’s aquarium reproduced (in scale) Scotland’s Fingal’s Cave. The second featured the Israelites ﬂeeing Egypt via the Red Sea — high waves included.
Fascination with nature With all this inspiration, Victorians were quick to add home aquariums to their growing collection of natural items so that soon, “hardly any middle-class drawing rooms did not contain an aquarium, a fern-case, a butterﬂy cabinet or a shell collection.” One enterprising home workshop enthusiast even combined an aquarium with a fountain, a fern-ﬁlled basket and a birdcage, prompting a critic to This ‘two-in-one’ design has similarities with the paludariums of today. ALAMY
Take a look at some of the elaborate aquarium styles that were popular with the nature-crazy Victorian middle class.
The public aquarium at Brighton opened in 1872.
The largest aquarium was Brighton’s, opened in 1872. Along with ﬁsh-watching, it offered thrice-daily band music, concerts every Saturday afternoon, and was open at night. BELOW: ‘Window gardening’ Victorian-style.
RIGHT: Multi-tank households are catered for here.
The earliest home aquariums were essentially reversed bell jars and glass cake covers. Home enthusiasts also tried wash basins, milk pans, foot baths and even a glass vase: “This will make a handsome ornament for the dining table and may also be used to hold a bouquet.” But instructional articles often suggested starting with a glass jar, since “much about managing an aquarium can only be learned by practice.” Early manufactured aquariums were (logically) available from the same sources that supplied Wardian cases but their glass was often too fragile to withstand the weight — or cold temperatures — of water. Yet the brave (or foolish) continued to hang BELOW: Marine aquarium illustration published in Cassell’s Household Guide.
Combination pieces Very soon it struck the buying public that
combining their parlour’s nature preserves into one piece was a good idea. At ﬁrst there were improvisations — like a ﬁsh bowl mounted above a birdcage, supposedly so the canary inside could be entertained by the swimming ﬁsh. There were also insect aquariums for aquatic spiders and paludariums where plants and rockeries rose above the water level for tiny frogs and turtles to enjoy. But by the 1870s combinations were big business. In 1875, one major aquarium producer sold an octagonal model whose central pedestal held a glass dome for ferns, and which had plant pots ﬁlling each side support. In fact, plant holders sprouting from the ﬁnials of octagonal tanks became so popular that some manufacturers began to alternate candle holders with them, or substitute fountains or cherubic ﬁgures for the pedestal. The 1872 book Window Gardening featured four aquarium combinations among the Wardian cases. According to the author, one that replaced an entire window and contained rockwork and a fountain along with ﬁsh and plants was “a great curiosity,” that required “great pains of preparation.” Another, with a ﬁsh bowl suspended over a plant and ﬂower basket, was described as “cheerful to look at” because it was “charming to see the lively little animals swimming about.” Meanwhile, a similar contraption shown in a woman’s magazine at the time was described as a “unique and
“hardly any middle class drawing rooms did not contain an aquarium, a fern case, a butterﬂy cabinet, a shell collection.”
Antique aquarium on display at the Horniman Museum.
Aquariums as furniture
ﬁsh tanks on walls or from the ceiling, suspend ﬁsh bowls from cord to mimic hanging ﬂower baskets and use aquariums as room dividers with unfortunate and messy results. As a piece of parlour furniture — and for those concerned with nature — aquarium designs often found obvious inspiration in the Wardian case, especially with its ornate cast iron trimmings and stands. Many Victorian aquariums were rectangular (like most ferneries). An especially elaborate example had a cast iron border of soldiers, a dog, women in period dress and a tree containing a squirrel. Its four ﬁnials were shaped like cranes and its base was molded with shells and water lilies. The octagonal shape was also very popular. An 1870 colour plate in Cassell’s Household Guide shows a typical octagonal aquarium set upon an iron base with molded dolphin heads. London’s Horniman Museum also has a ﬁne octagonal example on display in its large aquarium exhibit. Rustic-style aquariums were a perfect ﬁt for the conservatory and with the era’s popular rustic-style parlour furniture. A cabinet photo, taken in the 1870s, shows a young woman resting her arm on an aquarium bordered with branches and set upon a tree stump. Another example had tree motifs on its stand where an iron stump seemed to be sprouting leaves.
write: “All that seems to be missing is a dog kennel.” At ﬁrst, aquarium accessories only consisted of stones for holding down plants and sheltering ﬁsh. But soon there were cement and terracotta castles, followed by ruined columns and arches. Daniel Carter Beard, co-founder of the Boy Scouts of America, encouraged the young readers of his two nature books to create aquariums but discouraged them from using accessories inside since “such things are in bad taste…ruined castles are not found at the bottoms of lakes and rivers, and china swans do not swim on stream and ponds.”
Aquariums with integrated plant holders were particularly popular.
tasteful ornament for the sitting room.” Perhaps the aquarium that would seem silliest to modern aquarium lovers is the one which had a ﬁsh globe positioned above a dolphin-shaped stand, hidden (in the drawing) by a jungle of plants and further ornamented with a fabric valance embroidered with ﬁsh. It was described as “suitable for a bay window, though so highly ornamental that it would appear as a rich and beautiful elegancy wherever it is placed.” Recently, the Antiques Roadshow’s American edition featured an 1886 ‘combo’, made by an ironworker in his spare time. A very large bird cage topped an equally large aquarium, both originally lit by gas. Later on, he added electricity to work the aquarium’s water pump. While respecting their ancestor’s ingenuity, his family had long referred to the creation as ‘The Monstrosity’.
TOP RIGHT: Aquarium incorporated into a two-tier ﬂower basket. BOTTOM RIGHT: Rustic furniture was popular in Victorian studio photos. Here the subject leans on a rustic aquarium.
Post-Victoria Around 1890, when electricity provided a way to heat water and keep it ﬂowing freely, aquarium plants became a matter of choice rather than necessity. But although novelty aquariums — especially combination aquariums — became less common, they were still made. House-shaped aquariums were popular, as well as those with Egyptian themes and ﬁsh bowls ﬂanked by pottery ﬁgures of children or bathing beauties. Even if you don’t use them for ﬁsh, these old treasures would still make a fun addition to your aquarium room if you can ﬁnd one.
¼ Butler, Henry D. The Family Aquarium; or Aqua Vivarium, a “New Pleasure” for the Domestic Circle, etc., 1858. ¼ Damon, William E. Ocean Wonders, 1879. ¼ Gosse, Philip. The Aquarium: An Unveiling of the Wonders of the Deep Sea, 1856. ¼ Hibberd, Shirley. The Book of the Aquarium and Water Cabinet, 1856. Humphreys, H. Noel. Ocean Gardens: The History of the Marine Aquarium, 1857. ¼ Mulertt, Hugo. The Goldﬁsh and its Culture, 1883. ¼ Williams, Henry T. Window Gardening, 1872.
Collecting locality Apapi UGN 17-9, habitat of an undescribed Notho ugand
killifish in the PEARL OF AFRICA An expedition to Uganda to ﬁnd a mysterious banded killiﬁsh results in the discovery of an undescribed Nothobranchius population and a close encounter with a lion… WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHY: BÉLA NAGY
No ordinary safari destination In early June 2017 I landed at Entebbe’s International Airport with my friend Gábor Petneházy, with whom I had collected killiﬁshes in Chad and in the Democratic
Madi Opei 12 11 10 Kitgum Pager
Republic of Congo on previous occasions. From the moment you Arua land at this airport, with its Gulu breathtaking equatorial location Moroto 15 16 on the forested shore of islandUGANDA ma Karu ach Pakw Omanima strewn Lake Victoria, it’s clear that Falls Lira ni Uganda is no ordinary safari stop. 9 Victoria Lake With its unique blend of savanna 17 Nile 8 Old Nariam Kwania 7 and forest creatures it is simply Masindi 6 ke Kelim La Lake 18 dazzling even for the seasoned 5 Lu Albert Kyoga 4 go Hoima African traveller. go 3 After our arrival, we Kamuli 2 Nkusi enjoyed the hospitality of Kiziba Tororo Luwero Kaj and his family at the Iganga 1 Fort Portal Mubende 19 beautiful waterfront Jinja Mityana house overlooking Lake pala Kam Kasese Victoria and then left for Entebbe Katonga our collecting trip early Lake Buganga George the next morning. Masaka Kalisizo LAKE VICTORIA Uganda is a landlocked Mbarara country in eastern Africa 20 and the equator passes through the southern third of its territory. It takes its name from the earlier kingdom of Buganda, which encompassed a portion of the south of the country including the actual wa As
here is an annual killiﬁsh in Uganda which has only been known via preserved museum specimens that date back to around 50 years ago. Since then, several collecting expeditions have failed to ﬁnd it, including a trip I made myself a few years ago. It seems that this ﬁsh represents one of those mysteriously elusive species that often escape our grasp. It would be very easy to recognise it if we could ﬁnd it — the nice banded pattern on the ﬁns is a unique feature among annual ﬁsh in Uganda and distinguishes it from other killiﬁsh in the area. So I thought it was time again to try to ﬁnd this rare ﬁsh, especially sice Kaj Østergaard from Denmark, a pioneer discoverer of several killiﬁsh populations as well as an enthusiastic birder, had settled down in Uganda and kindly offered to organise the trip with me. Our objective was to collect killiﬁsh and pay special attention to the genus Nothobranchius. The life expectancy of these annual killiﬁsh barely spans one summer. These amazingly colourful ﬁsh live in seasonal ponds in the East African savannas. Their life cycle comes down to just a few frantic months in the rainy season, until the water dries up. During this time, they hatch, grow, reproduce and die, leaving their eggs buried in dry mud to hatch with the rains of the following year.
“For magniﬁcence, for variety of form and colour, for profusion of brilliant life — bird, insect, reptile, beast — for vast scale — Uganda is truly ‘the Pearl of Africa’.” SIR WINSTON CHURCHILL Nothobranchius sp. Apapi UGN 17-9, male photographed in the ﬁeld.
Habitat Nothobranchius sp. Apapi UGN 17-9, wild-caught male photographed in the aquarium.
capital Kampala. It is unlikely that any of the unexplored regions of the world have awakened more fascination than the sources of the Nile. The upper course of the stream has long been impenetrable. Over the centuries, all the continents were discovered and oceans were charted but still in the mid nineteenth century, the centre of Africa remained largely unknown. Waterfalls, huge swamps and marshlands, as well as hostile tribes prevented all kinds of exploration. However, this time we were expecting a smooth and uncomplicated journey. From the capital Kampala we drove eastwards to reach Soroti by the evening, from where we planned to reach the area of our mysterious striped friend the day after. During the ﬁrst day, we found several populations of a Lacustricola species, which potentially represent an undescribed species, as well as a population of Nothobranchius ugandensis. This latter species of annual killiﬁsh is found in most parts of Uganda. The next day, we aimed to explore the area along the road from Soroti to Moroto, where the explorer Tait had collected the elusive killiﬁsh in 1969 and 1971.
Where were the adults? During the day we explored many promising sites but we found only young specimens of the widespread Nothobranchius ugandensis. Locals often gathered around us to watch us while we were collecting. They explained that the rainy season in this particular area was somewhat strange that year, as after the ﬁrst rains there had been a sudden drought period and most ponds had dried out. The rains had only started a couple of weeks or so before our arrival. This was the reason why we hadn’t found anything — or at least only very young ﬁsh — in these hopeful habitats. We diligently continued to explore all potential biotopes, even though walking www.practicalﬁshkeeping.co.uk
The collected ﬁsh specimens are bagged individually in plastic bags Photo Kaj Østergaard.
in the deep mud of the pools took up a lot of energy. We tried our luck in every pool we saw, hoping for a breakthrough. Tait recalled that his collection location had been 43 miles from Soroti. By that point in the day, we had explored the area very thoroughly — just like so many collecting teams over the past decades. We also investigated the habitats along smaller crossroads. We were at a place where several branches of the seasonal Apapi River crossed the road, and we stopped for an umpteenth time at another promising habitat. Despite being tired, I told my companions: “I would regret it my entire life if we didn’t try”. We entered the water and after the very ﬁrst scoop I had two adult Nothobranchius females in my net. This was a good sign, and in this pool we ﬁnally found some adult ﬁsh. Then, after the ﬁrst move with his net, Kaj
managed to catch the mysterious banded killiﬁsh and we could ﬁnally prove that the species exists. We were around Tait’s original location and this new species was found together with Nothobranchius ugandensis. The latter was certainly more abundant in the habitat, but luckily we had managed to capture several specimens of the banded Nothobranchius too. Interestingly, this habitat was just a couple hundred metres from, and on the same ﬂoodplain as, one of the locations of my previous collecting trip back in 2009. On that occasion, I had captured 50 ﬁsh at that place and another 100 at a second location close by — but the banded species had not been amongst them.
Mane event After our successful catch, we moved on to the north-eastern part of Uganda. We
travelled through the relatively isolated Karamoja area. This region borders Kenya on the east and South Sudan in the north. The Karamojong people living here are proud of their traditional nomadic shepherd lifestyle, which they keep to this day. The Karamojong ﬁghters have practically always lived for their cattle, believing that their god gifted all the cattle in their known world to them. The only problem was that neighbouring tribes maintained the same belief, leading to conﬂicts that made the entire region dangerous and impenetrable for travellers for many years. Fortunately, circumstances have changed and our trip passing through the area was pleasant and problem-free. Our next stop was at the Kidepo Valley National Park in the north-eastern corner of the country. Due to the isolated location of this amazing wilderness and its diverse fauna, many people consider it to be one of the ﬁnest African national parks. Kaj had been here several times and he arranged our accommodation. We were lodging in individual bungalows at a campsite situated within the boundaries of the park and spent an exciting couple of days exploring. We organised safari rides in the mornings and afternoons, then had our dinners in the open-air restaurant at the campsite, where the waiting jackals devoured our leftovers with gusto. One night, we could barely sleep due to the noise being made by a lion roaring somewhere nearby. Looking out the window, we saw a group of zebra running through the camp, followed by the beast himself! Before we knew it the lion was walking among our huts, and for a long time we could do nothing but sit and listen to him breathing. What an experience.
Nothobranchius robustus Kalisizo UGN 17-20, wild-caught male photographed in aquarium.
After the exciting safari adventures, we headed west along the South-Sudan border. Still in the north-eastern part of the country, we stopped in a promising area and Kaj showed a photo of a Nothobranchius species to the local children. The oldest of them immediately recognised the ﬁsh and offered to show us a place where we could ﬁnd what we were looking for. When we at last arrived at our destination, we soon had killiﬁsh jumping around in our nets and smiles on our faces. We also collected superb adult specimens of a Nothobranchius ugandensis population — proof once more that local people know their environment very well.
Adventures along the border During our trip across the northern part of Uganda, we were heading north in the area of Madi Opei when we saw a larger pool near the road, where road building workers
cleaned the platform of the trucks into the water. The site looked like a promising Nothobranchius habitat, so we decided to try ﬁshing and found another interesting population. This species also had a striped pattern, similar to the ﬁsh caught previously in the Soroti area, but this one had a generally darker body colour. Despite the relatively large size of this biotope we managed to collect only a few pairs of ﬁsh over a relatively long period of time. It took considerable effort, especially under the strong African midday sunshine. We were ﬁnding specimens about every half hour or so, so it was a pleasant surprise when Gábor suddenly claimed four in a single miraculous scoop with his net. We bagged each ﬁsh individually, which is our normal procedure, and continued on our way. After the day’s exertions we spent the night in the city of Kitgum, where the heat
Collecting locality Busunju UGN 17-19, habitat of Lacustricola bukobanus.
Habitat in my hotel room was unbearable. In the evenings I’d made a habit of changing the water in the bags of ﬁsh we were keeping with us but here there was nowhere to carry this out in the open air, and as a result I was forced to work in the very hot room. Later however the heat was somewhat relieved by a short thunderstorm, and as I lay on my bed under the window I was pleasantly cooled by rain dropping on my back. Continuing our journey along the frontier, we needed to cross the Nile. Kaj found out that the only bridge had been destroyed, but we were able to cross with a ferry. Then we arrived at Moyo, where we found a Catholic mission that could provide accommodation for us. During our journey, we passed by many crowded refugee camps. News reports suggest that there are more than a million refugees from South Sudan — it’s no wonder, as the political situation is very unstable and the living conditions are difficult on the other side of the border. In addition, almost everyone has a weapon, including children.
“Looking out the window, we saw a group of zebra running through the camp — then a lion came walking among our huts…”
Rainmaker’s services not required
In Uganda, people traditionally practise rituals for everything, including rainmaking. Rain is important because abundant rainfall is necessary for a good harvest. Generally, each tribe has a god that is believed to bring rain. When it is badly needed, the elders approach the medicine man with a gift and demonstrate the necessity of the rain. The rainmaker then instructs the elders to ﬁnd a black bull, which will be slaughtered and the meat roasted, and the rainmaker carries out a solemn ceremony. Luckily, the weather was favourable at the time of our journey and we found good conditions for the seasonal ﬁsh at most places. So fortunately there was no need to sacriﬁce a black bull on this occasion.
The next day we continued our journey to reach the extreme north-western corner of Uganda. After leaving from Moyo, we found a couple of Nothobranchius ugandensis populations in a nearby marshy area before turning to the border. When looking at the maps during the preparation for our trip, I had seen promising swampy areas close to the border - parts of river systems running in the north into South-Sudan. Getting closer to the border, local people conﬁrmed the existence of these marshy areas and that the Nothobranchius species shown on our picture was known to live in the ponds. However, approaching the border was not easy. Roads were narrowing and it seemed that cars did not really use the route. When we reached the border it was closed and the guards warned us that the South Sudan army was waiting on the other side, so we took some photos and quickly turned back. From there we headed south towards Kaj’s place — a journey of about three days. North of Pakwach, still on the west bank of the Nile, we collected a nice population of Lacustricola kassenjiensis, then bagged a few specimens of Nothobranchius
Spectators following the ﬁshing activity of the author - Photo by Gábor Petneházy.
ugandensis at a subsequent site. The males of this latter population had not completely coloured up yet, and their current colour pattern seemed somewhat different from other populations in Uganda. In the ﬁnal part of our journey, we collected some Lacustricola bukobanus in a papyrus swamp. After returning to Kaj and his family, I moved again into the very comfortable guesthouse. The terrace of the house provided the perfect place to carry out the usual daily water changes for the ﬁsh. The next day — our last day for collecting — took us to the south, where we collected Nothobranchius robustus near Kalisizo. This southerly population seemed to be more colourful than the variants in the rest of the country. It was living together with Lacustricola bukobanus and the lovely cichlid species Pseudocrenilabrus multicolor. After we achieved this last goal, there was nothing much left to do but prepare for the journey home, take some pictures of the amazing bird life at the lakeside and chat about our adventures with some nice food and a couple of drinks.
Pseudocrenilabrus multicolour has also been collected at the locality Kalisizo UGN 17-20. Wild-caught male photographed in aquarium.
AQUATIC In association with
Below are the answers to the test questions we gave you on page 60. See how well you did — are there any areas you need to brush up on before you take the real exam? 1a) Gas content, movement, temperature, chemistry, quality 1b) Ten times more acidic 1c) It lowers pH 1d) It lowers pH 1e) Water hardness 1f) It is deﬁcient 1g) 17.86mg/l 1h) Free ammonia, NH3 and ammonium, NH4+ 1i) Salt lowers nitrite toxicity 1j) It increases oxygen levels 1k) 6mg/l 1l) They have a low surface area to volume ratio 2a) Mechanical, biological, chemical 2b) Removal of particulate waste 2c) Ammonia and nitrite 2d) Access to oxygen, access to food, omission of light. 2e) Heterotrophic bacteria 2f) Through binary division 2g) As quickly as 20 minutes 2h) Swaps one chemical for another 2i) Every 4 to 6 weeks. 2j) Fish-in cycling is more dangerous to ﬁsh 2k) Faster at 28°C 2l) It will inhibit biological ﬁltration 3a) 0.01% 3b) A mixture of fresh and salt water 3c) A lentic habitat 3d) It will increase hardness
3e) Within the heart 3f) Anabantoid ﬁsh 3g) Caudal ﬁn 3h) Sound detection 3i) Directly forwards from the ﬁsh 3j) It is unable to regulate mineral content and dies 3k) Ovoviviparous 4a) A non-speciﬁc sign 4b) Acute stress 4c) Nitrate poisoning, or generic poisoning 4d) It can cause calciﬁcation 4e) Ulcers 4f) A zoonotic illness 4g) A virus 4h) The theront, or free-swimming stage 4i) Vitamin deﬁciency 4j) Feeding food with indigestible content, using Epsom salts 5a) Overheating or ﬂuctuations in temperature 5b) To stop water running into electrical points 5c) Stocking density 5d) 144cm of ﬁsh in total 5e) 5cm depth 5f) Wood and/or leaf litter 5g) Suckermouth catﬁshes 5h) Grazers 5i) RO water is more expensive 5j) This is a health risk and will contaminate tests
Improve your Fishkeeping Practical advice and great ideas to ensure you get the most from your hobby.
The deeper clean ereâ€™s what you need to know to eep on top of unsightly muck and ut the sparkle back in your tank.
Deal with phosphate The effects of phosphate on your tank or pond and how to keep it under control.
Fishkeeping Answers Your problems solved by our team of top aquatic experts.
Improve your Fishkeeping
To keep your aquarium looking great, you should be invested in cleaning it regularly. Here’s what you need to know to keep on top of unsightly muck and put the sparkle back in your tank. Algae wiping This is a job you really can’t avoid. The longer you leave your glass between wipes, the more resilient the algae on it will get. You’ve a few tools at your disposal to help you clean it. O CREDIT CARD – any kind of rigid-edged, plastic card will do the job, but old expired store or bank cards do the job nicely. Hold at roughly a 45° angle to the glass and scrape. Excellent at getting algae out of shallow scratches in the glass. Useless for decor and plants. Usually safe for plastic tanks. ORAZOR – a sharper, harder version of the plastic card, razors in a dedicated, aquarium safe handle are amazing at getting the most stubborn types of algae off of glass. Useless for decor and plants. Use cautiously at tank
and then rinsed between uses, especially if used for multiple tanks. Good for removing algae on smooth decor as well as glass, and from the leaves of some tough plants.
Firm pads are good at removing all types of algae.
Algae-free and sparkling clean. Now that’s a tank to be proud of!
edges as razors cleave through silicone. Never use on plastic tanks. O PAD – ﬁrm pads are good for all kinds of algae on glass, though stubborn algae may require extreme effort. Soft pads (for plastic/ acrylic tanks) are good for the mildest (green or brown) algae. Pads should be rinsed, or ideally bleached in a 5–10% bleach solution
O ANY OF THE ABOVE ON A STICK – some cleaners come on a long handle for extra reach. This can come at the expense of some of the downforce that can be applied to them. O ALGAE MAGNET – you need to get these the right way around. The magnet with the rough surface goes inside the tank, the smooth and felty surface goes outside, and then it’s pretty obvious how it works. Beware that an overzealous connection with a side pane of glass can cause a breakage. Also beware that if a single bit of sand or gravel gets trapped between the inner magnet and the glass, you can get a lot of scratching done before you realise.
Basics Black brush algae (sometimes abbreviated to ‘bba’) growing on a rock.
Make sure you get the side of the algae magnet with the rough surface inside the tank.
OROBOT – the ultimate in ostentatious and lazy, a ‘robot’ is an automated glass cleaner that periodically runs up and down the front pane of glass. Note that it can only clean one pane, and all designs usually struggle to clean close to the substrate, leaving long algae ‘rims’ along the bottom couple of centimetres. Also, very expensive.
O TOOTHBRUSH – invaluable for precision removal of stubborn algae types on all surfaces, though cleaning glass will be laborious this way.
Green ‘cyano’ algae.
‘Soft’ algae types
O BLUE/GREEN ‘CYANO’ ALGAE – welcome to hell! Cyano is a green ‘skin’ — actually photosynthetic bacteria rather than true algae — with the texture of thick spiders’ webs. It coats everything and is associated with direct sunlight hitting the tank, poor ﬂow, low oxygen and dirty substrates. It comes away from surfaces easily, then settles as small fragments that will start growing again. Its control requires not just removal of the cyano itself, but rectifying the cause. Note that killing it with medications (which is really hard to do) could potentially release toxins into the water. O GREEN ALGAE – this is the generic green skin that most tanks eventually develop on glass and decor. Routine wiping and water changing will keep this algae in check, but in unplanted tanks, high nitrates and phosphates are implicated as a major cause of problems. Test for both of these parameters and deal with them if they’re high. The higher they get, the faster it’ll return.
O BROWN ALGAE/DIATOMS – a light brown skin, looking like a layer of dust, that’s almost always associated with a new tank. Easy to wipe off but returns quickly. It will eventually go away on its own once your aquarium reaches a certain stage of maturity.
Slow-growing plants such as crypts are prone to problems with ‘green spot’ algae.
O THREAD ALGAE – rare but annoying, long strands of brown algae that form anywhere. This type of algae is sometimes associated with new tanks, or tanks with excess iron fertilisers, and usually in tanks with poor ﬂow and low oxygen. Remove it by winding around a toothbrush or a pipe cleaner. Rectify problem outbreaks with water changes, increased ﬂow and removal of excess nutrients.
Improve your Fishkeeping Turn ﬁltration off again and remove the water for your weekly water change, with emphasis on gravel cleaning.
Remove media from your ﬁlters (it’ll now have algae trapped in it) and rinse thoroughly in the waste water to ﬂush out dirt and algae.
Replace ﬁlter media, reﬁll with clean water and switch everything back on.
Plastic plants and decor can be cleaned of ‘soft’ algae types by removing them, rinsing with warm water and wiping with an algae pad. ‘Firm’ algae types may require the decoration to be soaked in an off-the-shelf ornament cleaner, usually mixed with warm water and left covering the decor for ten minutes or so. The algae can then be wiped with a ﬁrmbristled toothbrush before being thoroughly rinsed and returned to the tank. Extremely stubborn algae can sometimes be shifted by soaking the decor in a 10% bleach solution for ﬁve to ten minutes, and then wiping carefully with a toothbrush (to avoid bleach ﬂicking everywhere). Bleaching can also degrade colourful ornaments quickly, so be highly cautious, and remeber to rinse the decor thoroughly before replacing it in the aquarium. For decoration that’s affected with tufts of black beard algae, you can remove the affected pieces and apply some algaecides (such as Easylife Alg-Exit) directly to the growth. After several minutes, the algae will turn a light pink colour (indicating that it has died) and you can brush it off with a toothbrush.
Glass cleaning to remove algae is a fact of life when it comes to tank maintenance.
Green water in aquaria is usually caused by excess sunlight. It’s not common — but may take weeks to clear.
‘Firm’ algae types O GREEN SPOT ALGAE – pernicious little ‘dots’ of dark green algae that form on glass, decor and plants. Associated with tanks where CO2 is low, and tricky to remove when it gets a foothold. Razor blades or plastic card edges are needed to get under it and lift it off the glass and toothbrushes will be required to get it off of decor. It will ruin plants if it starts to grow on them, so cull leaves when it appears, and address it the moment it begins to show up on surfaces. O BLACK BRUSH ALGAE – the bane of aquascapers, this is a tough, short, dense, very dark and tufty algae (it’s actually a red algae type). Remove at ﬁrst sight. Plants will need affected leaves trimmed off. Fluctuating CO2 is the main culprit, but excessive KH is also implicated. More abundant in tanks with poor circulation.
‘Free’ algae types O GREEN WATER – free swimming algae cells that turn the whole aquarium green. Rather rare in aquaria, and stubborn when it comes to any remedial action. Direct sunlight is one cause, along with excess ammonia and other nutrients in the water. Remedy green water problems with a combination of water changes and removal of the underlying cause. It may linger for weeks at a time. Below is our preferred maintenance regime for algae wiping: Turn the ﬁlters off and algae wipe the glass. Remove any heavily soiled decor and clean outside of the tank.
Turn the ﬁlters back on and leave the tank for ten or 20 minutes.
An aquarium substrate is a sink for a lot of nutrients in a tank. It’s where ﬁsh faeces and uneaten food goes, where snails go to die, and where a cornucopia of life abounds. How you clean your substrate depends on what it’s made of, and crucially what its role is. How you deal with plant substrates or biotope substrates is profoundly different to community tank substrates. Aquariu gravel beneﬁts regular d cleans. T grain siz that part down be the gaps up near bottom tank. Clean syphon cleaner, you pus cleaner
Basics the substrate. Don’t just skim the surface. Don’t feel you need to clean the entire substrate in one sitting, as you may lose too much water in doing so. Focus on a third or half of the substrate at each sitting. Get experience in controlling the ﬂow. A gravel syphon needn’t be an all or nothing affair. If you experiment with kinking or pinching the hose as it is running, you’ll soon learn to slow or stop the water ﬂow, without losing the syphon action. Once you have that down, you can practice lifting gravel into the cleaner at full ﬂow, then slowing it down to stir the gravel and lift the muck away. When you get good at that, you’ll ﬁnd you can clean the whole tank without removing more water than necessary.
A gravel cleaner is one of the most important pieces of ﬁshkeeping kit you can own.
Sand substrates beneﬁt from regular ‘skimming’ and periodic airings. Being compact, debris tends to gather on top of it, instead of being concealed. But compaction also reduces water and air ﬂow, leading to dead anaerobic patches where oxygen cannot reach. When you start to see waste forming, skim with a syphon (with or without a gravel cleaner attachment) or a submersible vacuum by lifting the waste from the top of the sand. You will lose a little each time to the vacuum ﬁlter or when ﬂushed out with waste water, so replace as needed. Don’t push the gravel cleaner into the sand as you will lose most of the substrate. Weekly or fortnightly, it is wise to rake through any sand deeper than 1cm to turn it over, and then follow up with a skim once debris has settled back down. Look out for bubbles or black sand, or both. If these appear when you are raking, you have anaerobic patches, suggesting your sand bed is too deep in those areas. Specialist planting substrates (below, left) are usually designed to be left alone, as they store and slowly release many of the nutrients required by plant roots. One beneﬁt of aquascapes is that they usually have a low biomass of ﬁsh compared to other types of tank set-ups, and their waste is managed mainly by the plants present. Weak vacuum gravel cleaners (such as some battery powered types) can be used to skim debris collected on top of it, and even pushed in to mats of carpeting plants to lift waste that has fallen over them. In hard to reach places, use a turkey baster to ‘puff’ debris from crevices or behind decor. Depending on your precision, you can also use it to lift waste directly out. Biotope substrates vary from setting to setting, but in the case of thin sand substrates covered in leaf litter, these are often left alone for the most part. Rather than ﬂush waste out of the substrate, the aim is to develop colonies of micro and macro-organisms such as copepods, ostracods and worms that feed on the organic debris that forms. In the event of excess debris collecting in the tank, skim it using a syphon hose without a gravel cleaner attachment (for precision).
Improve your Fishkeeping
Deal w phosp
Tetra’s Dave Hulse looks at the effects of phosphate on your aquarium or pond and explains how to keep it under control. ALAMY
WORDS: DAVE HULSE, TECHNICAL CONSULTANT AT TETRA
The ﬁsh and plants that you keep in your aquarium and pond have a signiﬁcant effect on your water quality. One of the biggest chemical changes that occurs is the accumulation of waste products. These may be in the form of toxic compounds such as ammonia, which must be converted into a non-toxic form or other compounds such as phosphate. Unfortunately, while it isn’t toxic, phosphate can cause other problems by encouraging the growth of unwanted algae.
or pond will increase is also excreted into t your ﬁsh as they met Another signiﬁcant s phosphorus is the ru cells. Fish and plants constantly shedding cells and tissue into t water, where the cells again rupture and rel their contents.
What is phosphorus?
Phosphorus i natural habita
Phosphorus is a vital biochemical. It is not just found in your ﬁsh’s body, but is also found in numerous other vital biochemicals. One of the main inputs of phosphorus in your aquarium and pond is ﬁsh food. Artiﬁcial diets like ﬂake and pellet foods have a phosphorus concentration in the region of one per cent, so after each feeding session the amount of phosphorus cycling in the aquarium
In the natural environ sources of phosphoru primarily the weathe rocks and breakdown sediments. These rel phosphorus into the and account for most global concentration
urces are agricultural mal manures and wage which ﬁnd their way tems and the sea where it en surface water and the d sediments.
y is it a blem? phorus will cycle through erous forms in the water. olved Inorganic phorus (DIP) is the most dant form (it is also n as Orthophosphate, ive phosphate and phate). Another form of phorus in water is olved Organic phorous (DOP), and this unts for the phosphorus nd to organic compounds
Water quality freshwater environments, freshwater algae and plants (macrophytes) have evolved to be able to store phosphate inside their cells as Condensed Inorganic Polyphosphates. This enables the plant or algae to use the stored phosphate when levels of DIP in the water have dropped to growth limiting levels. This phosphate storage is known as ‘luxury consumption’ and may help to explain why controlling algae in ponds or an aquarium is so difficult. In marine environments, phosphorus levels tend to be more stable. The level in natural seawater is around 0.07 mg/l, with higher levels recorded inshore due to pollution and river inputs. Consequently, nitrogen tends to be the limiting nutrient in marine environments and marine algae are not quite so thrifty with their phosphorus. Marine seaweeds are known to excrete DIP and DOP into the water. The level of phosphate in marine aquaria is generally far higher than natural seawater so marine algae such as Caulerpa may be adding to the overall phosphorus level as well as lowering it.
How to keep it under control The inputs of phosphorus in a pond or aquarium are primarily ﬁsh, their food and plants. So surely the best way to keep phosphate levels down is to reduce the amount of ﬁsh, plants and food — but where is the fun in that? The key to controlling phosphorus is to increase the outputs of phosphorus in the system so
they are more balanced. Freshwater aquariums and ponds where higher plant growth is encouraged should show a reduction in levels of DIP in the water as the plants assimilate and grow. If the phosphorus demands of the higher plants leave a surplus DIP then algal growth can be expected. Another way phosphate can leave the water is through aeration. When water is aerated, orthophosphate becomes bound to dissolved organic compounds (DOC) in the water. This DOC is attracted to the surface with air bubbles and as these rise to the surface and burst, the orthophosphate leaves the water via minute airborne droplets of water known as an aerosol. One study showed how 90% of the orthophosphate was removed from a sample of seawater after 24 hours of aeration with an aquarium air pump. Liquid additives can also be very effective at the removal of phosphates from aquarium water. Tetra PhosphateMinus can remove 2 mg/l of phosphate when used as instructed and will cause no water clouding, KH reduction or pose any threat to aquarium inhabitants. Phosphate accumulation in ﬁshkeeping systems is inevitable and signiﬁcantly increases the risk of troublesome algae growth. It should be tackled on numerous fronts, such as limiting inputs through sensible feeding regimes of quality ﬁsh foods and using phosphate removers. Higher plant or macroalgae growth will also help lock up phosphate out of reach of the algae.
Caulerpa may add to the overall phosphorus level in your marine tank as well as helping to lower it.
dissolved in the water. Finally, a signiﬁcant proportion of the phosphorus will be bound to particulate matter in the detritus and sediment, and this is known as Particulate Organic Phosphorus (POP). None of the forms of DIP, DOP or POP are directly toxic to ﬁsh. The problem with elevated levels of phosphate in aquarium or pond water is that it encourages algae growth. Phosphorus is required for plant growth, but excessive levels of phosphate can mean increased growth of plant life. In lakes and rivers, the enrichment of the water with nutrients is termed ‘eutrophication’ and this can lead to heavy growth of algae or aquatic plants. These nutrients are mainly nitrate and phosphate, with phosphate being the limiting factor in freshwater environments. In other words, it is the presence of phosphate that triggers the plant growth, and it is phosphate that most commonly runs out ﬁrst. Because phosphate is a limiting nutrient in
Every time you feed your ﬁsh, the amount of phosphorous in the water will increase.
Dave Hulse is Tetra’s Technical Consultant. He has 20 years of experience within the aquatics industry, and has been involved in education and training for the last 15 years, having taught at both Sparsholt and Reaseheath Colleges. He is currently based at the School of Life Sciences at Keele University where he turns his hand to other subjects in the biological sciences — although he usually manages to crowbar a piscatorial reference in at some point! With such a varied nd rich background in aquatics, Dave brings a ealth of experience to support Tetra and its ustomers.
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Fishkeeping Answers Send your questions to PFK and you’ll receive a personalised reply from one of our top experts. Remember to include as much information as you can about your set-up — a photo is useful too. There’s a box of goodies from Tetra for the letter of the month.
OUR TEAM OF EXPERTS TRISTAN LOUGHER works in aquatic retail and has sold marines for 15 years. He has written books and taken part in research projects. Tristan works at Cheshire Waterlife. BOB MEHEN has been keeping ﬁsh since the 1970s and has a particular passion for catﬁsh. He helps to moderate the PFK website forum and excels at advising and guiding new keepers.
Q. What can I do about this powdery substrate? A year or so ago, my local aquarium store advised me to use JBL ProScape plant soil to improve plant growth in my 280 l tropical community tank and suggested placing it on top of the existing gravel to avoid dismantling the set-up. This worked well for the plants, but now much of the substrate has disintegrated into a ﬁne dark dust which coats the leaves and the hardscape. Every time a cory or loach moves around large clouds are released. They are unsightly and I’m concerned they could clog the ﬁlter. Can I cover this powder with a layer of sand or ﬁne gravel? Or can you suggest another solution? The tank is well planted and the substrate ‘sandwich’ is already 6–8cm deep in places. STEVE BRIAULT, EMAIL
substance, which is perfectly ﬁne for the plants, but — as you’ve experienced — can be a problem if you have bottom dwelling ﬁsh. For this reason I always recommend avoiding these soils if you have types of ﬁsh that constantly move the substrate. You can top the soil with another layer of gravel or sand but because it’s lighter (not as dense) the soil will usually rise above it again and then you will be back to square one. My long-term solution would be to either re-home your catﬁsh or invest in a new substrate system, such as Tropica Plant Substrate or Dennerle 9-in-1 underneath inert quartz gravel with 1–3mm rounded grains. GEORGE FARMER
Unfortunately, this is a common issue with all of these commercial soils. They degrade over several months into a soft mud-like
GEORGE FARMER is a world-renowned aquascaper. He co-founded the UK Aquatic Plant Society and now works as a freelance aquatic specialist. NATHAN HILL is PFK’s features editor. He’s worked as a public aquarist, managed a number of aquatic stores and has lectured in aquatics.
NEALE MONKS has kept ﬁsh for over 20 years. He has authored a number of ﬁshkeeping books and has a particular passion for brackish species.
JEREMY GAY has kept ﬁsh most of his life. He’s managed an award-winning store and is a former PFK editor. He’s now Evolution Aqua’s business development manager.
Soil substrates are ideal for plants to root into, but they can be stirred up by bottom dwelling ﬁsh once they start to degrade.
Send your questions to us at: Fishkeeping Answers, Practical Fishkeeping Magazine, Media House, Lynchwood, Peterborough, PE2 6EA or email them to us at questions@practicalﬁshkeeping.co.uk
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Fishkeeping Answers TROPICAL
Q. What’s causing this stalking behaviour? My Elephantnose ﬁsh has started chasing one of the Clown loaches about. He seems to be stalking it and won’t leave it be except to feed. The Elephantnose has been in my tank for over a year but the two Clown loaches are new. They are quite small, at about 7cm each. The tank is 340 l in size, so I think it should be big enough. It also includes some Bleeding heart tetras and Giant danios, both of which the Elephantnose ignores completely. STEVE MASON, EMAIL
The Elephantnose is a mildly territorial species and once settled in and well fed they will throw their weight around. This comes as quite a surprise to people who think that they are delicate ﬁsh because of their dismal survival rate in community tanks. The fact that you have kept yours for a year is actually really impressive, and presumably that means it is feeding well and growing nicely. That being the case, its behaviour is quite normal for the species and not easily ﬁxed.
Sometimes they ignore dissimilar ﬁsh entirely, only going for their own kind and other electric ﬁsh (such as some of the South American knifeﬁsh). Unless you have space for a very large group, Elephantnoses are best kept singly, and only ever alongside non-electric ﬁsh species like barbs and characins. Quite why your Clown loach has been targeted is hard to say. Perhaps they are competing for hiding places or food? Both species are bottom dwellers, both forage at
Clown loaches ideally need to be kept in groups of at least ﬁve — and that means a big tank.
Everything you need for healthy ﬁsh 88
Elephantnoses do best either kept singly or in large groups.
night and like to sift sand for insect larvae, worms and tiny crustaceans, so there’s a lot of overlap in requirements. Adding more Clown loaches to the aquarium might help to spread out the aggression, but that’s hard to recommend for a tank your size. In fact, I’d be tempted to rehome the two Clown loaches as they’re going to get pretty big eventually and a decent school of ﬁve to six will need more space than your current aquarium can provide. Apart from dither ﬁsh like the danios and tetras, the best bottom dwellers for life alongside Elephantnoses are things like L-number plecs and Synodontis catﬁsh that will be all but immune to their aggression. But do also make sure that any such catﬁsh have hiding places of their own, because competition for caves and burrows will certainly be one possible source of friction. There’s not much an Elephantnose can do to a Panaque or Synodontis of similar size, but there’s also no need to actually make life difficult for either species! NEALE MONKS
Q. Should I switch my pond off completely for winter? I recently read an article which recommended that I should switch off pond electrics such as ﬁlters and fountains during the winter period. In my small 1000 l pond I have an internal ﬁlter which returns its water direct to the pond (there’s no fountain or waterfall), and an outdoor air pump. I was thinking of switching off the air pump for the winter to save on electricity and wear and tear — assuming that the oxygen demand in the pond is going to be less in the winter — but can I continue to run the ﬁlter throughout the year? I’d like to keep the bacteria on the biological media going over the winter if possible. MICHAEL HILL, EMAIL
Yes, you can keep the ﬁlter running, although I recommend moving it up out of the deepest part of the pond, to enable a thermal layer of 4°C water for the ﬁsh to hibernate in. The bacteria in your pond ﬁlter will stay alive, but the population may shrink over the winter. This is due to decreases in the ﬁshes’ metabolism — less gill movement, less ammonia and less waste as a result of little or no food being given over the winter period. You are right about your air pump. Cold water holds masses of dissolved oxygen, so additional aeration won’t be necessary. JEREMY GAY
LETTER OF THE MONTH
Steve Mason wins a box of Tetra goodies: 100ml TetraMin and TetraPro Colour foods, Holiday Food, Pleco Algae Wafers, FunTips Tablets, 100ml SafeStart, EasyBalance and AquaSafe water treatments and a Tetra Test 6-in-1.
Pond ﬁlters can be left running over winter, but the numbers of beneﬁcial bacteria will fall due to the inactivity of your ﬁsh.
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Fishkeeping Answers TROPICAL
Q. Why are my Angelﬁsh hiding?
MALCOLM COUZENS, EMAIL
Angelﬁsh naturally inhabit shady rivers with little overhead lighting and in the aquarium they will be quite nervous in open tanks with bright light. Simply allowing the aquarium plants to cover the surface a bit will help. You could choose tall plants such as Vallisneria species with leaves that help to cover the surface of the water, or else opt for low-maintenance ﬂoating plants such as Indian fern, Ceratopteris thalictroides or Amazon frogbit, Limnobium laevigatum which will do the job nicely. Another trick is to switch the room lights on for a few minutes before turning on the aquarium lights. If you switch the tank lights on while the room is still dark it can shock and stress your ﬁsh. Since your Angels are still small they will be feeling quite vulnerable, and the fact they’ve only been in your tank for a few days will be
making things worse. els are Give them a couple Young Ang sex. to le ib more weeks to settle imposs in and it’s also likely your Angels will become a lot bolder as they get bigger too. A couple of other bits of advice though: Angels aren’t really suitable for a 45 l tank much beyond about half their adult size. Your standard issue farmed Angelﬁsh should reach about 10–12cm in length, and you’re going to want a tank upwards of 90 l for ﬁsh that size. In addition, juvenile Angels can’t be sexed at all and even adults are extremely difficult to sex outside of spawning, so pairs, or in groups of at least six specimens when shopping for juvenile that allow aggression to be spread out ﬁsh, you’re just as likely to get two relatively harmlessly. of the same sex as you are to get one male Adult Angels can sometimes view Neons and one female. Two females isn’t a problem, as food, by the way. While this depends on but two males will likely squabble, so their relative sizes, you have been warned! observe and act accordingly. Generally, NEALE MONKS Angels are best kept either singly, in mated
I’ve recently introduced a pair of juvenile Angelﬁsh into a 45 l aquarium where they live alongside some Corydoras catﬁsh and Neon tetras. But whenever I turn on the light they hide and they only seem to come out when the lights are turned off. Is this normal? How can I make them come out during the daytime?
The leaves of vallis will grow to spread over the water surface, offering security for your ﬁsh.
Everything you need for healthy ﬁsh 90
Q. Will my stand take the weight of this tank?
Q. How can I get my pH down? A
NICK BROWN, EMAIL
Shrimp will do well in a wide range of water chemistries but won’t tolerate sudden changes.
It’s always easier to keep ﬁsh that suit your local tapwater rather than trying to adjust the water to suit the ﬁsh you’d like to keep. As you are seeing, trying to balance water with various additives and mixes can become confusing and it’s hard to maintain a stable environment when there are so many factors at play. I’m not familiar with the products you ‘ve mentioned, but it is possible the two different supplements you’re using are working against one another, or at least affecting the stated properties of each. You ﬁlled your tank initially with local tapwater and despite six weeks of water changes with the remineralised RO, you’ll still have a signiﬁcant volume of the original tapwater in the tank — which might explain the KH reading you are getting despite adding freshwater with no measurable KH. You don’t mention the GH and KH readings for your tapwater but if high, these could be a factor in buffering the water against change. The minerals you are using are intended to remineralise RO water, so you’d probably have been best off ﬁlling the tank with this to start with, although eventually your water change routine should dilute the remaining tapwater so that it no longer has an effect on chemistry. Hopefully at this point you should be able to get the water to maintain the chemistry you’re after. With ﬁsh, and often more so with inverts, stability is key. Many can tolerate chemistries far removed from the ideal if gently acclimatised and kept stable — it’s sudden swings and extremes that are dangerous. However, clearly your current stock will do best in the kind of conditions you are aiming for, rather than hard, alkaline water. BOB MEHEN
I’ve recently bought a Fluval Flex 57 l ﬁsh tank and I’m wondering what the weight of it will be when it’s set up and how strong a base I will need to support it. I am hoping that a 12mm solid wood base will be okay. The supporting sides of the stand are 71cm apart and it also has a back support but nothing at the front. Should I add some extra support? ALISON CRAVEN, EMAIL
I am struggling to attain a target pH of 6.5 in my 90 x 45 x 45cm aquarium. I set it up 10 weeks ago using dechlorinated tapwater of 8pH. After noticing the high pH at set-up I’ve been performing 20% water changes every week using RO water with added Shrimp King Bee Salt and Salty Shrimp Blackwater powder. The water I add has a pH of 6.5–6.8, hardness of about 6°H and a usually unrecordable GH. Despite this, the lowest pH I can achieve is 7.4 (6°H, 2KH) but it seems to creep up to 7.8 between water changes. I added Fluval peat to my external canister ﬁlter but it hasn’t really done anything. The substrate is natural white Dennerle quartz gravel and I have a large amount of red lava rock in the tank (I am told neither of these affect water chemistry). I attached plants and mosses to the rocks with aquarium-safe superglue. I became impatient around four weeks ago and starting adding ﬁsh despite the high pH. I now have Cardinal tetras, Dwarf chain loaches, orange Sakura shrimp and Amano shrimp. All the inhabitants are in good condition, feed well and are deﬁnitely thriving. Ammonia and nitrite have never been recordable and nitrate is <10 ppm. I am not really keen on adding chemicals to adjust the pH and was considering using almond leaves but I’m trying to avoid tea-coloured water. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
It’s always a good idea to check the strength and suitability of any piece of furniture that you’re planning to use as a tank stand unless it was designed for the purpose — ﬁsh tanks can be surprisingly heavy. Working out the weight of your tank is relatively straightforward: one litre of water weighs one kilo. While your tank is sold as holding 57 l, this is often the volume of the tank if it was ﬁlled to the brim with nothing else in it. You can seldom (if ever) ﬁll a tank to the very top, so you generally lose a percentage of volume and weight due to this. However, sand, gravel and rocks obviously take up some potential volume and are heavier than water (or they’d ﬂoat!) and you have to allow for the weight of the tank itself. But taking all this into account for a small tank like a Fluval Flex I’d be surprised if it weighs more than 70 kg/11st. That’s the same weight as the average UK adult woman, so if you know one it could be worth asking her to carefully sit on the stand to see how it fares before ﬁlling the tank! If seated correctly, tanks should spread their weight evenly. The back support will certainly add to its robustness but if you are concerned it may be worth bracing the top panel with some extra timber underneath A dedicated stand to prevent will be designed to any bending. take the weight of BOB MEHEN the full aquarium.
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Fishkeeping Answers MARINE
Q. Can I keep these ﬁleﬁsh? I have been away from ﬁshkeeping for about nine years but I’m in the throes of setting up a reef tank again. I’ve noticed that even in the time I’ve been away things have moved on, on the marine front. I’ve seen a couple of Harlequin ﬁleﬁsh, Oxymonacanthus longirostris for sale — which used to be a big ‘no’ back in the day — but it’s a ﬁsh I always fancied keeping. Are they any easier to keep now or would I do well to steer clear? Is there another ﬁleﬁsh that would be suitable if not? My tank holds around 180 l and there are no ﬁsh stocked in the system so far — so I could limit future stocking choices to tank mates that are compatible with a ﬁleﬁsh if needs be. JOSH BRETT, EMAIL
In the wild, Harlequin ﬁleﬁsh are obligate corallivores and they preferentially feed on Acropora millepora. This strong dietary preference for Acropora is the reason they are such a challenge to maintain in the aquarium. Traditionally they’ve been a real no-no in the hobby as survival rates have been dismal. Previous successes with maintaining the species have tended to come from aquarists with huge systems packed with SPS which could cope with the frequent munching of polyps by the ﬁleﬁsh. The idea is that because SPS grows quickly, if there is enough established coral then the damage is spread out and the overall health of the aquarium’s coral population isn’t compromised. However, the current thinking is that Harlequins can be maintained with prepared diets. In fact, marine expert Matt Pedersen has managed to wean Oxymonacanthus longirostris onto frozen feeds on several occasions and has actually bred the ﬁsh. He suggests that initially the ﬁsh should be kept
adopts a headstanding posture to complete on Acropora while being offered a range of the effect. While opportunistic and frozen foods such as Mysis, adult Artemia and ﬁsh eggs as well as pellet and ﬂake. After potentially capable of nipping at corals, this is a reasonably reef-safe species if kept a while they should forgo Acropora entirely, well fed. allowing them to be maintained solely on the This ﬁsh also has the very useful ability to prepared diet. munch pest anemones, hence its common However, this is potentially a tricky process name of Aiptasia-eating ﬁleﬁsh. Admittedly, requiring huge amounts of dedication and it’s not the prettiest ﬁsh you’ll ever see, but it you’ll need to ensure there’s a constant grows to a manageable 12cm and at least supply of coral on which the ﬁsh can feed earns its keep! until they’re fully ‘weaned’. You’re also facing the issue of what do if they can’t be DAVE WOLFENDEN successfully trained to accept artiﬁcial diets — Despite recent advances, can you realistically the Harlequin ﬁleﬁsh is provide a diet of their still a very demanding speciﬁc coral as feed species to keep. potentially indeﬁnitely? It can be done (and Matt deserves a huge hat tip for his work) but Harlequins still fall into the ‘very demanding’ marine ﬁsh category. Because many ﬁleﬁsh simply grow too large or are too opportunistic to live in a reef — posing a threat to corals and other invertebrates — they’re all a risk to some degree. Many of the smaller, more colourful species are delicate and difficult to get feeding. With that said, one very interesting species to consider is Acreichthys tomentosus. It’s not strictly a reef species. Instead it inhabits seagrass beds — in fact, its cryptic looks mimic fragments of seagrass and it often
The Aiptasia-eating ﬁleﬁsh mimics seagrass in its natural habitat.
Everything you need for healthy ﬁsh 92
Q. How do I save these baby Banggais?
It deﬁnitely sounds as though your male is mouthbrooding, which is good to hear — but obviously something is happening to the offspring and it’s possible that one of the adults is eating them. Realistically, males tend to eat the eggs early on — just a few days after fertilisation — if they haven’t been adequately fed prior to mating, but they tend to be good parents once the young are fully developed. Females are more likely to eat fry but it’s hard to say deﬁnitively. Considering that the incubation period of Banggai eggs is around 21 days, it’s likely from your experiences that the young are being incubated to full term, but one or both parents are eating them as the male ejects them. Occasionally, some young can survive if there are enough nooks and crannies for them to hide away in; a Long-spined urchin can help in this regard, but it’s best to remove the male to a separate tank. Just prior to the time the male is ready to release the offspring (roughly 21 days from
PETER GRAINGER, EMAIL
the time he starts to refuse food), very carefully catch him and transfer him to a small aquarium. Some people ‘strip’ the male of offspring at around day 21 or when they are clearly fully formed, but this can be difficult and stressful, so I’d wait for him to eject them himself, at least on the ﬁrst attempt to see how he behaves. You should end up with 20–30 fry. When you’re sure all have been ejected by the male, move him back to the main aquarium. The young can feed straight away and should be given newly-hatched Artemia nauplii from the get-go. It’s very important that this is enriched with a HUFA (highly unsaturated fatty acid) supplement to prevent so-called sudden fright syndrome (SFS), which can result in large-scale mortalities. After a while, the babies will accept frozen feeds — again, it’s best if these are enriched prior to feeding out. DAVE WOLFENDEN
Adding an inline dechlorinator to your hosepipe can make pond top-ups much simpler.
I have what appear to be a pair of Banggai cardinalﬁsh on their own in a small tank with live rock and a few soft corals. Every few weeks one of them (the male I assume) stops eating and his lower jaw gradually expands. I assume he is carrying eggs but he then resumes eating after three or so weeks with no sign of any young. I assume the parents are eating them. Do I need to isolate the male or is there anything else I can do? Would a Diadema urchin help if I could obtain one?
Long-spined urchins provide a safe haven for young Banggai cardinalﬁsh.
Banggai cardinals make an ideal intro into marine ﬁsh breeding.
Q. How can we top our pond up more easily? We have a pond with about 80 goldﬁsh. It holds 10,000 l of water and we top it up by ﬁlling a tub with 40 l of water, adding the appropriate amount of Tetra Pond AquaSafe and tipping the mixture into the pond. It’s a lot of work for two 72-year-olds! Can we put a dechlorinating pre-ﬁlter on the garden hose? Or is there another easy way of dechlorinating the water? MARILYN BLENKINS, EMAIL
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Yes, you could attach an inline dechlorinator to your hosepipe. You can ﬁt it anywhere between the tap and the pond and for best results you should hang or mount the unit vertically. Inline dechlorinators work by passing chlorinated tap water through a special carbon granulate. The slower the water passes through, the better they work — 4 l per minute is recommended. As a guide, adjust your tap until the hose takes 10 minutes or more to ﬁll a 40 l bucket. Then remove the bucket and put the hose straight into the pond with the same water speed. You won’t need a liquid dechlorinator as well. JEREMY GAY
Tetra UK 93
Fishkeeping Answers TROPICAL
Q. Do freshwater puffers need a clean-up crew?
SAM PUTNAM, EMAIL
Pufferﬁsh don’t need a ‘clean-up crew’ so the ideal tank mate in this regard is nothing! Freshwater pufferﬁsh are acutely sensitive to nitrate, and as carnivores for the most part, protein-rich foods like snails and bloodworms will make up the bulk of their diet. Regardless of the pufferﬁsh species being kept, you’ll have to work hard to balance their considerable appetites on one hand with their sensitivity to nitrate on the other. Adding tank mates of any kind simply makes things more difficult. And because pufferﬁsh tend to view tank mates as either meals or territorial threats, you’ve got a compelling case for a single-species set-up. For sure some people keep Dwarf puffers
Floating plants like this Amazon frogbit, will help keep nitrates in check.
I’m setting up a 45 l tank for Dwarf puffers. I hear they are messy, so what ﬁsh do you recommend for cleaning up after them and how many? Also, there will be some wood in the tank which I would like to keep clear of algae. Will Amano shrimp work, or will the puffers eat them? For the substrate I’m planning on having 25% pelleted soil and 75% silver sand with leaf litter, wood, pebbles and rocks added. Do you recommend any plants for the set-up? The lights are good and there is soil available for planting, but there will be no CO2 injection. Floating plants will be added and the tank is open-topped. The water will be 20% RO water and 80% tap and I’ll be doing frequent 15% water changes. How many Dwarf puffers would you recommend for this tank set-up?
with Otocinclus, but these catﬁsh are sensitive and need plenty of fresh green algae, so unless you’re going to optimise the tank to their speciﬁc needs, they aren’t likely to enjoy their full lifespan in the aquarium anyway. So, I’d avoid them as tank mates. Dwarf puffers aren’t messy compared to plecs or Oscars, but it helps if your set-up is well-ﬁltered and easy to clean. I’d recommend having epiphytic plants if possible, grown on bogwood roots or lava rock — both of which are ideal for creating the complex, three-dimensional habitats that Dwarf puffers need. The more vertical structures and line-of-sight barriers, the less likely the males are to attack each other. The standard epiphytes of the aquarium trade are Java moss, Java fern and various Anubias species, all of which tolerate a broad range of environmental conditions without complaint. Avoid excessively bright light or algae might be a problem. Ideally add some ﬂoating plants such as Indian fern or Amazon frogbit because they will further
enhance your puffers’ living environment. Best of all, ﬂoating plants absorb nitrogenous waste from the water too. On the other hand, epiphytes and ﬂoating plants get no beneﬁt from fancy soils, the former because they grow so slowly and the latter because they get minerals from the water instead — and in fact rich soils will probably spur algae problems more than anything else. I’d go with a thin layer of sand or gravel here, something easy to stir and clean as needed. A gentle water ﬂow is ﬁne for these puffers and for all the plants mentioned (though not for Otocinclus, which prefers cool, fastﬂowing water with lots of oxygen). Water chemistry is relatively unimportant, just avoid extremes and keep it stable — 5–15°H, pH 6–7.5 is ﬁne. For stocking I’d recommend 20 l minimum for the ﬁrst Dwarf puffer and 10–15 l for each additional specimen. A single male plus a couple of females sounds about right to me. NEALE MONKS
Dwarf puffers are sensitive to nitrate so ensure the tank is easy to clean and don’t neglect maintenance.
Everything you need for healthy ﬁsh 94
Yellow tangs are sensitive to ammonia.
Q. What’s wrong with my tang? My Yellow tang looks like he has done 10 rounds with Mike Tyson. My water is spot on apart from a very low trace of ammonia, which I am doing a water change for. He is in a 400 l tank with eight other ﬁsh, three Cleaner shrimps and a varied clean-up crew. I have a sump with Miracle mud and Caulerpa, a nitrate reactor, carbon reactor and a protein skimmer. ROB EDWARDS, EMAIL
Q.Can I keep a cow in my tank? I spotted a gorgeous little marine ﬁsh at my LFS at the weekend, called a cowﬁsh. How would I keep one of these, what size tank would I need and what could I keep with it? Are they reef safe? ANITA LOWE, EMAIL
Cowﬁsh are perhaps the most improbable-looking ﬁsh you’ll ever see, and it’s easy to see why they have grab factor. They’re imported as tiny juveniles and with their cute demeanour and inexplicable looks they have huge appeal. They can make for a pretty poor impulse purchase, however, because they can be quite a handful. There are two species of cowﬁsh you’re likely to see in the trade: most commonly the frankly bizarre Long-horned cowﬁsh, Lactoria cornuta, and occasionally the
(only slightly less peculiar) Hovercraft ﬁsh, Tetrosomus gibbosus. These species present issues with their overall size. The Hovercraft ﬁsh can reach around 25–30cm and the Long-horned cowﬁsh tops out at a whopping 50cm — so don’t expect them to stay as manageable as the cute little thing in the LFS because they grow a lot and quickly too. As far as tank size is concerned, you’re looking at up to 1000 l to keep an adult Long-horned cowﬁsh happy. Cowﬁsh are also a risk for any ﬁshy tank mates. When they become stressed or injured they can release a toxin (known as pahutoxin), which discourages predators on the reef. In the closed conﬁnes of an aquarium, pahutoxin can potentially cause a wipe out of tank mates. To be fair, the risk is small in a peaceful environment so there shouldn’t be much worry on this score providing the ﬁsh is kept with non-aggressive species, but it’s something to consider. They’re also not particularly reef safe. While small individuals could be maintained without causing too much mayhem in a reef aquarium (although they may munch feather dusters and other small invertebrates), as they age they
become increasingly destructive and may eat sponges, brittlestars and shrimp and nip the mantle of clams. They may sample the odd polyp but will generally leave corals alone. On balance, the best system for these ﬁsh is a very large ﬁsh-only aquarium, containing live rock (known as a FOWLR set-up) and peaceful inhabitants. DAVE WOLFENDEN
From the photos you supplied, it looks like the ﬁsh is suffering from some kind of secondary bacterial infection, but a specialist ﬁsh vet would need to diagnose that and identify the bacteria involved. There can be any number of causes. Yellow tangs are very sensitive to ammonia, so this could be one. It’s also possible that the ﬁsh has had some sort of trauma and this has created a site for a bacterial infection to take hold. Either way, if the ﬁsh gets stressed by a dip in water quality it may exacerbate the problem. It’s worth ﬁnding out what caused the ammonia issue in the ﬁrst place and sorting it out. The water changes will help, but you could also use something like Ammo-Lock or AmQuel Plus. They as binders so the ammonia stops being toxic he aquarium. It’s a temporary approach but ’ ds ar Rob Edw rth considering. Yellow tang. d move the ﬁsh to a quarantine tank and feed a ried diet including plenty of nori and other algae. vet needs to diagnose whether this is a bacterial fection or not, but the use of a broad-spectrum ntibiotic in quarantine won’t hurt. To aid recovery, inimise stress to the ﬁsh and maintain excellent water quality. DAVE WOLFENDEN
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Many marine ﬁshkeepers employ a clean-up crew to help keep their substrates clean. But are some types of reef janitor more beneﬁcial than others? Here are some of the options to consider… WORDS: TRISTAN LOUGHER
ost marine ﬁshkeepers prefer to have a layer of coral sand or gravel at the bottom of their aquarium. It has a natural appearance and reﬂects light, resulting in a brighter vista. Well-managed substrates can also enhance an aquarium through the release of pH-buffering carbonates, assist in the removal of waste products and provide a habitat for a
range of fascinating creatures. However, they can also cause potential issues because they accumulate detritus and act as a surface for various forms of algae, mostly undesirable, to develop on. This is where the deployment of a speciﬁc ‘clean-up crew’ is necessary . There are many different creatures to choose from — you just need to ﬁnd out which one is best for you.
Pink hot dog sea cucumber Scientiﬁc name: Holothuria edulis. Size: Around 30cm total body length. Origin: Widespread throughout the Indo-Paciﬁc . Aquarium size: 180 l minimum.
Sea cucumbers are fascinating animals that can keep the sand clean by removing detritus, uneaten ﬁsh food and other organic material as they feed. The edible particles are digested and the inedible parts are ejected from the other end in much the same way as a terrestrial earthworm feeds. The greatest issue to be aware of with sea cucumbers is that they can release a particularly nasty toxin when they are in a stressful situation. It’s called holothurin and it’s lethal to ﬁsh. For the species outlined here such events are rare — I only know of one conﬁrmed instance with an aquarist I know personally, although there are many references online to the so-called ‘cuke nuke’ mass die-offs. Therefore it is difficult to recommend these animals for any aquaria where ﬁsh are present but there are many aquarists who have kept these echinoderms for years with no issue.
This snail is a shifter, moving sand about as it travels around the aquarium and also when it buries itself in the substrate as a refuge. It loves the brown diatoms that often grow on the surface of the sand and will happily graze them all day long. It will keep it aerated and turned over by pushing through it in hop-like movements. Unlike sifters and some other sand movers, the conch has little or no interest in the organisms that colonise the sand naturally. They don’t fare well in aquaria with abundant cyanobacteria (slime algae) on the sand and tend to bury themselves to escape it which can lead to starvation. Also, if it starts climbing onto rockwork or stretching its long, trunk-like proboscis to reach algae growing on the glass then this is usually a sign that its preferred food is in short supply. Offering dried algae is worthwhile — many will accept this alternative and you will still beneﬁt from its shifting behaviour.
Black sea cucumber
Scientiﬁc name: Holothuria atra. Size: 20–30cm length in the aquarium. Origin: Widespread throughout the Indo-Paciﬁc ranging from the Red Sea to Australia. Aquarium size: 180 l minimum.
The same warning about the potential for toxin release applies to this cucumber as it does t edulis. The Black cucumber has longer feed tentacles with which it ‘mops’ the substrate picking up edible morsels along with partic from the substrate itself. These inedible bit sand and gravel are ingested and pass throu the gut before being expelled from the anus loosely packed pellets that soon break apart leave the sand clean. Keeping one or more o these animals can result in a very clean substrate but will reduce the overall diversi life present in it.
Scientiﬁc name: Conomurex luhuanus. Size: Around 5-6cm. Origin: This species of gastropod mollusc is widespread in the tropical Indo-Paciﬁc. Aquarium size: Stock one conch per 45 x 45cm aquarium footprint and add them one at a time. Assess the impact they are having and then add more if necessary.
Mini mud snail
Scientiﬁc name: Nassarius sp. Size: Around 8-10mm. Origin: Indo-Paciﬁc. These specimens originated from Cebu in the Philippines. Aquarium size: Any size provided they can ﬁnd enough to eat.
Another favourite sand shifter is this diminutive little mollusc. By itself it will have little impact on a sand bed, despite being an able burrower. However it is one of the few molluscs in the hobby with an entire life cycle that can be completed in the average reef aquarium. Populations grow and become sustainable without any help — uneaten food, detritus and ﬁsh waste is enough. These snails also have an acute sense of smell that enables them to seek out and eat leftover ﬁsh food. Note that small individuals may be targeted by many wrasse species including Peacock wrasse (Macropharyngodon spp). and their relatives.
Sand sifting sea star
3 things you may not know about your sand bed Coral sand is not an inert substance. Usually resulting from the natural weathering (wave action, water currents, boring organisms, excretion by parrotﬁsh) of hard skeletal material deposited by marine invertebrates, it might consist of calcium carbonate as the mineral aragonite, which is derived from stony corals, or have its origins in the shells of molluscs or even tiny single celled organisms called foraminiferans (forams for short).
The sand or gravel can act as a site for the precipitation of calcium carbonate — it’s present in the water column and reefkeepers strive to keep it at an optimum value for the sessile invertebrates in their care. Without repeated agitation of the substrate it can cause concretions, where sand grains bond together to form stony lumps in the sand.
The respiration of organisms in your aquarium and the accumulation of detritus in the substrate results in the production of carbon dioxide. This gas is acidic in solution and will break down the calcium carbonate of the sand or gravel, resulting in a decrease in particle size (the carbonate liberated in the process can help to buffer the pH which is beneﬁcial to the system). This means your sand bed changes over time. If not moved about or ‘turned over’ regularly, compacted areas can emerge and detritus and bacteria can proliferate. These dead spots can facilitate anaerobic bacteria and the production of hydrogen sulphide — the ‘bad egg’ gas.
This nocturnal species of echinoderm tends to bury itself during the day and emerge at night to forage for food, which in itself is enough to turn over sand and keep it free of detritus. But it will also repeatedly push into the sand, looking for edible morsels within the substrate. For some aquarists this scavenging, opportunistic foraging of Astropecten works beautifully to create a clean substrate. For others, it can prove to be a nightmare because useful animals within the sand bed become threatened. Many are stocked to deal with unsightly sand and proceed to feed on the naturally available food and then starve to death. Target feed by placing meaty foods such as shellﬁsh beneath the animal — this embraces the sand moving and detritivorous activity of the sea star.
SIFTER & SHIFTER
Cerith snail Scientiﬁc name: Cerithium atratum. Size: 3–5cm shell length. Origin: Tropical and Sub-Tropical Atlantic including the Caribbean. Aquarium size: 30 l for a single specimen but larger systems are better.
This marine mollusc is a shifter that buries itself in the sand when it’s not feeding. The substrate will get moved as it feeds but typically it grazes ﬁlms of algae that grow on the surface of the sand or gravel rather than in and among it. There are a few species of cerith available for the aquarium trade of which C. atratum is generally accepted to be the hardiest. Each species has its own characteristics and degree of resilience, which may explain why aquarists have had such varied experiences with these snails. Some prove particularly hardy or consume a wide variety of sand-based algae but others don’t. As with so many species of herbivorous mollusc they’re difficult to wean onto alternative diets once they’ve fulﬁlled their purpose, so start with less and build up.
Scientiﬁc name: Astropecten polyacanthus. Size: 10–12cm arm span is typical for this species. Origin: Widespread throughout the Indo-Paciﬁc. Aquarium size: 100 l upwards.
SIFTER & SHIFTER
Marine Dwarf red-legged hermit crab Scientiﬁc name: Paguristes cadenati. Size: Around 3cm. Origin: Tropical and Subtropical Atlantic including Florida and the Gulf of Mexico. Aquarium size: 15 l minimum.
Essentially these hermits will go where the food is, whether that be on rockwork, behind the rockwork or on the sand or gravel substrate. With such an opportunistic omnivore, it would be optimistic to stock only one or two individuals in a system and hope that they decide to hang around on the sand. Here you need to build up stocks gradually with pauses of a week or more in between, always monitoring the impact of the population on the environment. They can do a good job keeping the sand surface clean as they move over it and pick up morsels of organic material and algae, but their impact is likely to affect only the very upper surface of the substrate.
White-barred goby Scientiﬁc name: Amblygobius phalaena. Size: Around 15cm total body length. Origin: Western Paciﬁc including Australia and the Philippines to Micronesia. Aquarium size: 150 l minimum but better in larger systems, especially when kept in male-female pairs.
Although not the most beautifully coloured of marine ﬁsh, this little goby can justify its inclusion in many aquaria simply because of its sand-sifting behaviour. Like Valenciennea, A. phalaena removes edible particles from the substrate by taking large mouthfuls and sorting it inside the oral cavity. Rejected particles are ejected through the gills. As a largely monogamous species there is scope for maintaining pairs. Aquarium spawnings have been reported, usually occurring in burrows dug out by the parents. Males have a distinctive crescent of black dots on their tail ﬁn while females have a single spot. This ﬁsh can drop substantial amounts of sand on corals so it’s best for ﬁsh-only-with-live-rock systems or with corals that can withstand regular sand showers.
Pistol shrimp and their partner gobies are entertaining and fascinating, but if you’re adding them to an established system, be aware that the burrowing activity of the Alpheid shrimp can liberate large amounts of ﬁne detritus that was hitherto locked away in the sand. Although mechanical ﬁltration and protein skimming can deal with this, when it’s suspended in the water column much of it will settle back down on the sand and this can lead to outbreaks of slime algae.
Court jester goby Scientiﬁc name: Koumansetta rainfordi. Size: 8.5cm total body length. Origin: Western Paciﬁc including Australia (Great Barrier Reef/Coral Sea) and Philippines to Fiji. The Red Sea to the Eastern Indian Ocean is populated by the similar K.hectori, Hector’s goby. Aquarium size: 60 l minimum.
This is a wonderful little ﬁsh that can be easily overlooked due to its small size. Up close its colours are exquisitely beautiful and it can have a useful role to play in assisting with sand cleanliness in a peaceful aquarium, even picking at ﬁlamentous algae if it’s present. This is a sifting species but in comparison with other gobies that use their mouths to dig into the substrateits mouth is small and will therefore have a limited impact on a large expanse of sand. Occasionally, tank-bred individuals are available in the hobby and these are worth seeking out as they are usually better feeders than wild-collected specimens. In an aquarium context they need to be seen feeding and also given time tofeed — don’t keep them with greedy feeders. Peaceful and sedate aquaria suit this ﬁsh best. Husbandry is similar for Hector’s goby, the only other member of the genus.
Watch the slime!
Most sand shifters and sifters see slime algae as something best avoided — it is toxic to most after all. Therefore, when stocked in a tank with very dirty sand (likely with a mat of cyanobacteria growing over its surface), your substrate movers may become reclusive and hide in a corner or beneath the sand. In some circumstances it can be better to remove the offending sand and replace it. This will usually eliminate existing issues with cyanobacteria.
Glider gobies Scientiﬁc name: Valenciennea spp. Size: Around 15cm total body length. Origin: Indo-Paciﬁc: A widespread genus of around 15 species of marine goby of which at least ﬁve are regularly found in the hobby. Other species may occur but more infrequently. Aquarium size: 100 l minimum.
Valenciennea gobies can prove excellent sifters of sand and can transform a diatom-covered, detritus-stuffed substrate bed into a pristine environment in a relatively short period of time. However, they are not without their issues. They remove beneﬁcial organisms from the substrate as well as liberating detritus and have a reputation for losing weight in the aquarium. Whether this is due to internal parasites or lack of suitable food is the cause of some debate in the hobby. Perhaps the greatest problem encountered by aquarists with members of this genus is their ability to jump out of uncovered aquaria. and they can be nervous especially when ﬁrst stocked into their new home. Make sure you see them actually feed — not simply take food into their mouths — because it might be subsequently rejected through the gills.
sh — the drawbacks Twinspot goby Scientiﬁc name: Signigobius biocellatus. Size: 7.5cm total body length. Origin: Western Paciﬁc: Australia and Vanuatu to Micronesia. Aquarium size: 60 l will accommodate a male-female pair.
A truly wonderful ﬁsh for a very peaceful reef aquarium. In the lagoons and silty areas where this species lives it sifts mouthfuls of sand for edible morsels. Perhaps the greatest obstacle to the long-term care of this ﬁsh is providing sufficient food long-term. Some individuals will simply refuse the frozen diets widely available in the hobby and others can be extremely picky about what sized morsel they are prepared to ingest. Although they can undertake a useful role in sand maintenance, this is a small ﬁsh even when fully grown and is therefore limited with how much it can sift. As such, they are best stocked for their interest and beauty, with a ‘support team’ of benign shifters such as small mud snails and Strawberry lipped conches. The former can be highly useful in seeking out and consuming any food missed by the gobies. Stocking pairs of this species can increase the chances of success.
y and potentially effective sand sifters , like depositing rejected sand particles upon corals in the aquarium, which is something that most don’t enjoy and some can’t tolerate. There is little you can do to stop this behaviour and the only way to deal with it is to place corals carefully — ideally not on the substrate at all. Sand sifting ﬁsh such as the larger Valenciennea species also strip the sand of beneﬁcial life forms. For many this is outweighed by having a clean sand bed, but if you enjoy seeing the varied organisms it may be best to seek alternative cleaners.
Valenciennea gobies are excellent sifters of sand. In a short period of time they can transform a diatom-covered, detritus-stuffed substrate into a pristine environment.
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Nathan Hill reviews the latest ﬁshkeeping products. FIRST SIGHT
Fluval Provac Former vacuum efforts from a range of companies ha met with a certain trepidation that often turns to out disappointment as soon as the things are switched on powered vacuums can sometimes be a paradox — the precisely because they don’t suck. The Provac has forgone the one advantage that batt gravel vacuums have — while they require no power does. It plugs straight into the mains. The payoff for t that does what many don’t. It pulls water through its respectable rate. Even with the return raised out of th good 10cm, it churns out ﬂow greater than a lot of int I’ve owned. For its highs, it has one annoying low. The low is the on/off button. That little tyke sure is stubborn. You can press it and the ﬂow stops, but unless you push it right down until it clicks, it pings back on a fraction of a second after you lift your ﬁnger away. A high is the built-in LED that illuminates the substrate, because we all do the correct thing and turn our lights off for safety reasons when we work on our tanks, right? Well, I know I do, and this thing really helps ﬁnd my way about, until the chamber ﬁlls with mulch and then it all goes dark for a moment.
Well, buy some more. They come in packs of four (actually packs of three plus one free — not sure I get that either), and I can’t really give you a lifespan per pad. If you’ve got a sandy tank with leaf litter, probably not that long. If you’re a ’scaper trying to get a few particles off of your Glossostigma carpet, it’ll last years, I’m guessing.
What’s that funky thing? Pull off the red ﬁlter chamber, and look in the Provac packaging, and you’ll ﬁnd this little black nozzle. It pushes on to the water return nub that juts from the Provac’s body, and on to it you can attach a length of hose — the gravel cleaner just became a motorised syphon for a gravel clean and water change. Depending how much water you’re taking out, it’s pretty good. If the water is really low though, it struggles. If you’re doing a 25% water change on a 35cm deep tank, it’ll cope just ﬁne. If you’ve got one of those six-foot column tanks, then you’re barking up the wrong tree.
At full retail, I’d be on the fence — £65 is a big ask, and I’d have to weigh up if it’s really introducing enough help into my life to warrant it. With a bit of online rummaging, I see that they’re mainly selling around £10 to £15 below that, which takes the edge off a bit. If I had just one tank, it’d be a luxury. If I had a ﬁsh house with dozens of tanks, it’d be a valuable tool. O Ease of use: 4/5 O Features: 5/5 O Value for money: 3/5 O Overall: 4/5 O Price: RRP at £64.99 O More info: uk.hagen.com
What about when the foam gets too ﬁlthy to clean?
What about the ﬁlter? This red part is where the water is returned, and where the waste is collected. That means this is the bit that needs regular cleaning or changing, and the ﬁne foam medium in there can clog pretty quick (based on how dirty the tank is, of course ). There’s no awkward catches or buttons, the red ﬁlter housing just slips right in and out of the body. Knock it when you’re cleaning and there is the chance it’ll come off, as I found, but for the best part it holds okay. See the black bit on the bottom of the red chamber? That simply pulls out and then another inner chamber slides out and you can get to the foam. It’s easy. PRACTICAL FISHKEEPING
Eheim streamON+ 6500
Opening up Removal of the outer casing involves pressing down two holding clips on either side, then wriggling until the device separates into two. Getting the impeller out requires no special tools, it just pulls straight out. Eheim suggests giving the impeller an occasional once over with citric acid (lemon juice) to remove any scale.
Is Eheim the company to watch again? Here’s hoping. It had been off my radar for years until it reappeared with some vibrant late-2017 offerings. This one’s probably my favourite. The feel of it is somewhat more industrial than I’m used to with ﬂow pumps. Usually, they’re all ergonomic curves and futuristic looking, but this one is angular and brutalist. Reminds of the old Volvo cars of the 1980s, for some reason. Out of the box you get your pump and a magnetic holder. You need to screw the pump in to the internal holder, which takes about ﬁve seconds, then it’s good to go. There’s only 6W of power consumption at full pelt, so running costs aren’t going to be an issue.
Adjustable ﬂow Flow is not controlled remotely, so if you want to plug this into a controller or wavemaker, only the on/off types will work. Instead, ﬂow is regulated by a screen controlled by a tiny lever on the outer housing — that little grey nub at the top. There are three settings for it, which it clicks in to — fully open, fully closed and mid-way. The ﬂow rate ranges from 6500 lph when fully open, down to 3500 lph closed. The visual difference in output is pretty striking. The midway point obviously sits somewhere between these ﬂows. Eheim suggests that these ﬂow rates make the streamON+ 6500 suited for tanks between the 150 and 350 l capacity range. I’d say it depends what you’re doing with it. For the freshwater heads out there, a couple of these would go great in a 80cm Tanganyikan goby cichlid biotope, with a surge device creating a back and forth wave action. Just tossing that one out there.
It’s gutsy, straightforward and easy to work with. It doesn’t have much in the way of frills, but in my world that means there’s less to go wrong. I’ll be using this for all sorts of projects over the coming year. Hopefully the price will be in the right ballpark, too. OEase of use: 4.5/5 OFeatures: 4/5 OValue for money: Unknown OOverall: 4/5 OPrice: TBA OMore info: www.eheim.com/en_GB
Low vibrations The magnet holder is one of those pokey, skin-pinching strength magnets, so watch yourself when attaching, but it’ll cope with glass from 6mm to 12mm thick. To reduce the noise of the pump resonating through your tank (and isn’t it annoying how some cabinets can act like ampliﬁers for that?) there’s a ‘double holder’ design, with the magnet housing connected to the pump holder via four rubber dividers.
PFKNewGear Colombo Marine Test Lab I’ve got a friend who constantly borrowed my Colombo Testlab freshwater test kit, right up until the point where he didn’t give it back. I have a few different kits, but that was the one he always wanted. It was the easiest, he found. If he had a marine tank, he’d be delighted to hear that I now have the Colombo marine test. It’s a smart, sassy little bundle, and tidily presented in a black case, which (like my other kit) gives absolutely no indication which way is top and which is bottom. I honestly think I’ve yet to open it the right way up, which is annoying. The kit tests ﬁve marine speciﬁc areas — nitrate (0.25 to 4.0mg/l), phosphate (0.03 to 0.80mg/l), KH, magnesium and calcium. While some of the tests may require more reagent than others, Colombo proudly states you’ll get 40 tests of each.
What do you get? The tray inside houses all of your reagents, syringes, testing cups and powders. You get a 5ml syringe for ﬁlling cups with water, and the smaller syringes are needed for the Calcium, Magnesium and KH tests. The powders are used with the Calcium and Nitrate tests, respectively. As well as the tray, there’s a package of spoons, syringe tips and powder measures. Keep them safe, as the kit is useless without them. Alongside them are the instructions and the colour charts for the nitrate and phosphate tests.
How easy is it to use? Look for yourself. If you’re familiar with the usual ‘add reagents, shake about, leave ten minutes and compare to a chart’ types of kit, then the nitrate and phosphate tests you’ll pick up right off the bat. The KH, Calcium and Magnesium tests are the titration type, which means that you add water to the testing cup (5ml in each case), followed by a few drops of the ﬁrst reagent for that test (and powder, if needed). This will turn the sample in the cup one obvious colour. Then it gets trickier. Next you ﬁll the 1ml syringe (with the ﬁne tip attached) all the way to exactly the 1ml mark, with the ﬁnal reagent. Now, slowly adding the reagent to the cup, you’re waiting for a sudden colour change. So, in the case of testing KH, the sample starts blue, but once you add enough of the last reagent, it’ll turn yellow. At that point, you stop and calculate exactly how much reagent you just used. The amount that has gone in is critical to work You then take the measurement for how much reagent you used, and ﬁnd its place on the provided chart. The number next to the measurement will be the KH concentration of the water. For example, if I used 0.4ml of reagent to initiate a colour change, then my KH according to the chart is 8°KH. Trust me when I say that it’s a lot easier than I’ve made it sound there. Oh, and full UK retail price is £42.99, but as it’s new very few stores might be carrying it yet.
Colombo Aiptasidol Ah, a nice simple product. Aiptasidol is Colombo’s answer to nuisance Aiptasia in a reef set-up. If you’ve never used any kind of Aiptasia control before, then it’s more hands-on than you might think. In the package, you get a 100ml bottle of Aiptasia ‘poison’ (sodium hydroxide based), a 1ml syringe and a curious long needle set at a jaunty angle. First things ﬁrst, keep this whole package away from kids. You should be keeping all of your potions and test kits well away from kids, but this is the one aquarium staple you have that could do real damage. Killing the Aiptasia sounds easy, but isn’t always so. You ﬁll the syringe, with the needle attached, from the bottle, giving the bottle a brisk shake ﬁrst. 1ml of ﬂuid can be used in up to 50l of water in your tank, per day. With the syringe now loaded it’s time to get in the tank. Turn off any ﬂow pumps, because you don’t want any spilled treatment blowing about the place. Now, the awkward bit. Slowly creep up on an Aiptasia with the needle end of the syringe, place the tip right over the mouth, and gently drop a bit into its disc. Try covering the whole disc for best effect. Get it wrong, and the anemone
will feel you coming, freak out and retract, then you can’t kill it. It’s a bit of an acquired skill, along with actually spotting the things in the ﬁrst place. That’s it! The Aiptasia, now smothered with Aiptasidol all over its tentacles will shrivel and die. Really big Aiptasia may need more than one dose to ﬁnish them off, so if it looks like it’s recovering a couple of days later, give it another blast. If you do spill some, then it’s no worry as it’ll just biodegrade naturally. OPrice: Most retailers are pitching 100ml at around £8.49. OMore info: colombo.nl
PFKNewGear PRODUCT NEWS
Compact skimmer from Eheim Eheim has launched a new protein skimmer for marine tanks up to 300 l. The Eheim Skim Marine 300 is a compact skimmer powered by highly efficient needle wheel technology. It has an adjustable air intake which sucks in air independently and determines the skim rate. It is easy to attach the skimmer to the aquarium glass using the magnetic holder or it can be installed in a sump if preferred. Eheim says that the skimmer is quiet in operation and has a low energy consumption while offering a high skimming performance. It can be completely disassembled for cleaning. The Eheim Skim Marine 300 also comes with a three-year warranty. O More info: www.eheim.com
Tetra expands its problem-solving range Tetra has added new Phosphate Minus and pH/KH Minus solutions to its popular problem-solving range for aquariums. Aquarium life relies on a balance of various water parameters, and phosphate concentration is one of them. Phosphate is a plant nutrient that arises naturally over time from contributing factors such as ﬁsh waste, food residues, and dead plants. However, a high phosphate concentration can stem plant growth and lead to an increase in algae growth. Providing a fast-acting solution, Tetra PhosphateMinus naturally reduces excessively high levels of phosphate in aquariums without clouding the aquarium water or leaving any residue on the substrate. What’s more, Tetra PhosphateMinus is even suitable for soft water so there’s no need to test carbonate hardness before using. For those looking to also regulate carbonate hardness levels, Tetra pH/KH Minus provides a controlled reduction of this, alongside pH value, leading to improved plant growth from the release of CO2. Tetra PhosphateMinus and Tetra pH/KH Minus are suitable for all fresh water and marine aquariums and are available in 100ml bottles with an RRP of £4.85 and £4.30, respectively. O More info: www.tetra-ﬁsh.co.uk
Vitalis ﬂake food for Rift Valley cichlids Following on from the success of Vitalis Rift Lake Green Cichlid Pellets, aquatic nutrition specialist, World Feeds, has launched a new ﬂake food for the herbivorous cichlid species of the African rift lakes, including Tropheus and many mbuna species. New Vitalis Rift Lake Green Flakes boast the same tailored, spirulina rich formulation as the pellets, but they are designed to provide a method of feeding small and juvenile cichlids with lower protein requirements. Importantly, the latest cichlid ﬂakes have the added versatility that they can be left large for feeding bigger ﬁsh when required. The balanced ﬂakes also deliver key nutrients from a blend of high quality algae, and incorporate natural pigments to achieve healthy ﬁsh colouration. O Available in three pot sizes: 30g, 90g and 200g. O More info: vitalisaquatic.uk or worldfeeds.uk.
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THE ROLL OF HONOUR Retailer of the Year Lincs Aquatics, Alford, Lincs. Runner up: Charterhouse Aquatics, London
Yorkshire & Humberside
Republic of Ireland
AllPond Solutions Runner up: Charterhouse Aquatics
Small Retailer of the Year Octopus 8 Aquatics, Brough, East Yorkshire Runner up: Aqua Design Aquatics, Skegness
East Midlands Wales
Online Retailer of the Year
TOP 40 (IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER)
Shrimp Retailer of the Year Seahorse Aquariums, Dublin Runner up: Wharf Aquatics, Pinxton, Notts.
REGIONAL South east Maidenhead Aquatics @ Windsor Runner up: Crowder’s Aquatics, Hampshire
South west Emperor Tropicals, Devon Runner up: The Aquatic Store, Bristol
TOP SPECIALISTS Marine Retailer of the Year Lincs Aquatics Runner up: Seahorse Aquariums, Dublin
Cichlid Retailer of the Year Wharf Aquatics, Pinxton, Notts. Runner up: Seahorse Aquariums, Dublin
Catﬁsh retailer of the Year Seahorse Aquariums, Dublin Runner up: Wharf Aquatics, Pinxton, Notts.
Wales Maidenhead Aquatics @ Wenvoe Runner up: Maidenhead Aquatics @ Cardiff
London Charterhouse Aquatics, London Runner up: Wholesale Tropicals, London
East Midlands Lincs Aquatics, Alford, Lincs. Runner up: Wharf Aquatics, Pinxton, Notts.
Abacus Aquatics, Kent Aqua Design Aquatics, Skegness Aquahome, Leyland, Lancs. Aqualife, Leyland, Lancs. Aquatic Finatic, North Yorkshire Bow Aquatics, Devon Carrick Aquatics, Co Monaghan Charterhouse Aquatics, London Clearly Aquatics, Co. Down Crowder’s Aquatics, Hampshire Cuddra Aquatics, St. Austell, Cornwall Discovery Aquatics, Dundee DL Discus, Co. Durham Emperor Tropicals, Plymouth, Devon Ferrybridge Aquatics, Wakeﬁeld FishCove Aquatics, Wimborne, Dorset Fishkeeper Braehead Fishkeeper Coatbridge Fishkeeper Inverness H2O Habitat, Surrey Innovation Aquatics, Southampton Lanchester Aquatics, Co. Durham Lincs Aquatics, Alford, Lincs Maidenhead Aquatics @ Mere Park Maidenhead Aquatics @ Shirley Maidenhead Aquatics @ Wenvoe Maidenhead Aquatics @ Windsor New Concept Aquatics, Bonnybridge Octopus 8, Brough, East Yorkshire Pier Aquatics, Wigan, Lancs Real Reefs, Gloucs. Riverside Aquaria, West Lothian Seahorse Aquariums, Dublin Sweet Knowle Aquatics, Warks. Tank Terror Aquatics, Cornwall The Aquatic Store, Bristol The Waterzoo, Peterborough TriMar, Cornwall Wharf Aquatics, Pinxton, Notts. Wholesale Tropicals, London
North east DL Discus, Co. Durham Runner up: Lanchester Aquatics, Co. Durham
DL Discus, Co. Durham Runner up: Devotedly Discus, East Sussex
Plant retailer of the Year
Emperor Tropicals, Plymouth, Devon Runner up: Seahorse Aquariums, Dublin
Discovery Aquatics, Dundee Runner up: Fishkeeper Inverness
The Waterzoo, Peterborough Runner up: Amwell Aquatics, Soham
Pond retailer of the Year
Republic of Ireland
Yorks and Humber
Lincs Aquatics, Alford, Lincs. Runner up: Seahorse Aquariums, Dublin
Seahorse Aquariums, Dublin Runner up: Carrick Aquatics, Co. Monaghan
Octopus 8, Brough, East Yorkshire Runner up: Ferrybridge Aquatics, Wakeﬁeld
Clearly Aquatics, Co. Down Runner up: Exotic Aquatics, Belfast
Maidenhead Aquatics @ Mere Park Runner up: Maidenhead Aquatics @ Shirley
Discus Retailer of the Year
Aquahome Aquatic Centre, Lancs. Runner up: Pier Aquatics, Wigan
Oddball Retailer of the Year Wharf Aquatics, Pinxton, Notts. Runner up: Tank Terror Aquatics, Cornwall
in the pril issue of
On sale February 14th 2018
DISCOVERING PARADISE The temperature tolerant Paradise ﬁsh are colourful divas with a long hobby legacy. Find out how to keep an old-school ﬁsh in a modern set-up. THE SEARCH FOR APHANIUS
WARTS AND ALL! Chris Sergeant gives us the lowdown on the Warty frogﬁsh, a species that walks about and traps its prey with a lure. SHUTTERSTOCK
Chris Englezou goes on the hunt for an obscure Pupﬁsh in Cyprus, in a quest to aid conservation.
BLAST THOSE AIPTASIA
Pest anemones can be a reefkeeper’s headache, but with the correct control methods they’re not the pain they once were.
O An Opsarius river set-up, OFish in the shops, ONew products, OGlassﬁsh, OAll of your ﬁshkeeping questions answered by our experts 111
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Come & feed our friendly ﬁsh • Discounted Pond Liners • Lighting • Food • Ro-Water • Tropical & MarineMix • Treatments All ﬁsh are packed to travel anywhere in the UK
RETA IL SHOPPE r all your Thank you fo 1967! e support sinc , London, E2 l Green Road 0 77292444 220 Bethna 02 x: Fa 56 53 Tel: 020 7739
01382 832000 www.tropicalﬁsh-scotland.com INTERNET
EAST YORKSHIRE Hedon Road • Burstwick East Yorks • HU12 9HA
To all our customers – thank you for your support with the PFK Awards LARGE SELECTION OF • Aquariums • Fibreglass ponds • Working Water Features • Waterfall Display • Pumps
Here at DKP we specialise in producing bespoke ﬁbreglass ﬁsh tanks for the discerning customer who wants the BEST for their ﬁsh. The DKP product range includes Filters, Bakki’s and Tanks 400, 450, 900 & 1500 gallons in rectangular with 700 & 800 gallons in circular but any bespoke size can be catered for including viewing windows.
Now open on Sundays
Six-time winner of top UK aquatic retailer
Tel: 01773 861255 Marine direct: 01773 811044 Reptile direct: 01773 811499
Classiﬁed To advertise here please call the sales team on 01733 366410
Aquatic and Pet Shop. Open 5 days a week 10am to 6pm. Closed all day Thursday and Sunday
Units 10 & 11, Dragonville Retail Park, Durham DH1 2YB Phone and fax: 0191 3843590
Tel: 020 7385 6005 www.theﬁshbowlltd.com
The Aquatic Store
133 Dawes Road, London. SW6 7EA
AY: CLOSED ● TUES, WED & FRI 10.30-6.00 ● SAT 10.00-6.00 ● SUN 10.00-2.0 0
P L A N T E D AQ UA R I U M S P E C I A L I S TS
www.aquariumgardens.co.uk 01480 450572 email@example.com
Barlows Aquatic Trading AQUARIUM MANUFACTURERS..supplying direct to the public at trade prices
To advertise please contact James Belding on 01733 468410
AQUASCAPE FISH IMPORTS Tropical & Coldwater Live Fish Wholesalers Unusuals inc Rays, Turtles, Crabs, Shrimps, Lobsters
DAILY NATIONWIDE DELIVERIES CALL NOW FOR FREE monthly TRADE lists 8QLTXH ¿VK ODEHOOLQJ V\VWHP Tel: 0121 331 1212 Fax: 0121 331 1414 ZZZDTXDVFDSHFRXN ZZZ¿VKODEHOVFRXN firstname.lastname@example.org
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OK Ring: 01254 388815 www.barlows-aquarium-supplies.com e mail: email@example.com
or call in and see us at: Brisol Works, Mount St., Accrington, Lancs BB50PJ
DID YOU KNOW? BEGINNERS’ GUIDE TO MARINES FREE24-PAGE
XCITING IDEAS FOR 90CM TANKS AZ
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All the colours of the rainbow Discover the dazzling Micro Lord — the coral every reefkeeper is after!
The arguments for and against keeping these remarkable ﬁsh
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OCTOBER ‘17 ISSUE 11 £4.40
Discover the tiny, colourful and fascinating relatives of the rainbowﬁsh
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You can now buy single issues of practical ﬁshkeeping magazine online with
FREE POSTAGE More details at magsdirect.co.uk 113
Tailpiece with Nathan Hill
s you’ve seen from the welcome page, Karen is off, moving to another title within the media machine that is our employer, Bauer Media. The editor has left… long live the editor! Karen has, in her time, sailed a ﬁne ship and handled a difficult job, striking a balance of content that appeals to a wide range of readers. Not every ﬁshkeeper is entry level. Not every ﬁshkeeper is a focussed expert. As far as I’ve seen on Karen’s watch, there’s always been an article for both. If I was in your position, dear reader, I might ask what editorial changes mean for the future of PFK. When a new person takes on an existing role, it’s tradition that they put their own stamp on it, unintentionally or otherwise. Will the mag look different? Will it stay the same? In true cop-out style, I’m going to say it’ll be a bit of both. If you like my own writing — and I am ever grateful to each and every one of you for taking the time to read it — then fear not. I shall still have page presence, just not as much. If I’m your least favourite writer, then good news! In my place, we will have a new staff writer joining us. A real ﬁshkeeper’s ﬁshkeeper of a staff writer, too. Each and every applicant for the job was tremendous, though, and it made the ultimate decision difficult.
Tell us if we made you smile One of my favourite aspects of this magazine is how all of you, at home, have ownership of it. If we make an error, we are corrected. If we write something you don’t
Getting out to see you, dear reader, is our prime focus. We want to see your tanks, we want to see your ponds, we want to see the ﬁsh you’re breeding... 114
Karen is off to pastures new in 2018.
like, we get letters and emails telling us so. I value this close relationship of editorial team and reader and keep this door wide open, with an invite for anyone. Tell us if we made you smile. Tell us if a page didn’t hold your attention. I’m precious, for sure, but not vain. PFK is yours — is ours — so own it with us. The greatest difference for the foreseeable future will be with interaction. We were so darned busy this year that we didn’t get out on anywhere near as many visits as we wanted. We’ve already agreed — my mysterious new staff writer and I — that getting out to see you, dear reader, is our prime focus. We want to see your tanks, we want to see your ponds, we want to see the ﬁsh you’re breeding, and by golly we’re going to. We want our faces at more club meetings and event days, and we want to chat ﬁsh with each and every one of you until all our voices are hoarse. So that’s one change. There’s a great deal that I really like about the magazine. I love featuring new ﬁsh as they appear in stores. I love hearing about habitats from people who have visited them ﬁrst-hand — nobody writes with as much passion about a biotope as a person who’s seen it from a snorkel and goggles perspective. I love to see tanks coming together, step by step. My inner ‘geardo’ loves to ﬁddle with new products, as and when I can get my mitts on them. In particular, I love to see your questions and
the suggestions our team of aquatic experts have for resolving them. These are solid features and they are very safe. I also want to see a return to the hands-on approach. I want more breeding reports. I want the magazine to be a resource with tricks and tips for all those areas where aquarists ask, ‘how?’ This means anything from rearing your own foods to making your own equipment for niche tasks. In short, I want to make Practical Fishkeeping more… practical! And with your feedback and involvement, we can make that happen. It falls to me to thank Karen immensely, and on behalf of the whole team, for the work that she has put in over her many years in PFK editorial. Price’s Law states that the square root of people in a business provide 50% of the output. In a team of 100, 10 people do half the work. In our own small team, it often felt like Karen was doing 99% of the work, while the rest of us just plugged the tiny gaps in her prodigious output. I hope you join me in wishing Karen all the best in her new role and raise a glass to toast the blood, sweat and RO that she’s put in to make PFK the publication it is today. Cheers! Nathan Hill is still technically Practical Fishkeeping’s features editor and he’s really going to miss his long mornings of sitting back and searching for ﬁshy news stories online.
Parting is such sweet sorrow, so they say. Not for me — it means I get a promotion.
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