Emma Turner comes across an interesting livebearer that's not commonly encountered in the hobby.
Scientific name: Skiffia multipunctata, Pellegrin, 1901
Origin: Endemic to the Lerma river basin, Mexico.
Size: Females to 6cm/ 2.4” TL, males slightly smaller.
Diet: In nature, these graze mainly on aufwuchs growing on submerged plant stems and also on some types of algae. They’re also attracted by small insects at the water surface.
Try to provide a varied diet of both vegetable and meaty fare, including frozen mosquito larvae, Daphnia and blanched spinach.
Over time, these fish usually accept dried foods, such as flake and green/vegetable flake.
Water: Moderately hard and slightly alkaline conditions are recommended, pH 7.2-8.5, DH 12-25°. Temperature should be 25-28°C/77-82°F.
Habitat: In the wild, these viviparous goodeids have been found inhabiting ditches, quiet river channels, small lakes, and spring-fed ponds — the substrate there usually being a mixture of mud, sand, silt and rocks. These fish typically prefer relative shallows up to 1m/3.3’. The vegetation there comprises duckweed (Lemna spp.), bulrush (Typha spp.), and Water hyacinth, along with plenty of green algae.
Some habitats are abundant with roots of Taxodium — flood- tolerant conifers — which provide some excellent hiding places and ample opportunities to graze aufwuchs.
Aquarium: This should be mature and well-filtered, with plenty of shady areas provided among aquatic vegetation and décor, such as small driftwood pieces or spindly Sumatra wood.
Both of these could be used to good effect to simulate the maze of tree roots that are found in this fish’s natural environment.
S. multipunctata is a fairly peaceful species, but will nip the fins of long-finned species. They are therefore best kept in a species tank environment, with a ratio of at least two females to every male.
This will reduce the amount of attention that any one female receives from the amorous males and will further your chances of raising more fry from them.
Notes: Wild populations of S. multipunctata have apparently been in decline since 2000. Ichthyologist J Lyons considers them endangered in the wild, now being found at only six of a previous 14 historical known sites.
However, they have not as yet been evaluated for IUCN red list status.
The fish pictured above have been commercially bred in the Czech Republic.
Sexing: Male coloration is highly variable; the background colour of silver/light greyish-brown often being superimposed with some patches of bright yellow and orange.
When in breeding condition, the males typically display large random black or brown blotches on the flanks. In some specimens, these have been known to cover almost the entire fish.
Female fish are silver to greyish-brown, without blotches or striking colours, and they show a fuller belly and noticeable gravid spot when carrying fry.
Breeding: This is pretty straightforward. When spawning, the male will line up his genital opening with that of the female to inseminate her. Males do not possess a gonopodium, as is seen with guppies.
The gestation period is between six and eight weeks, depending on water temperature. Sizeable, mature females may give birth to up to 20 fry, but the brood size is normally ten to 15, as the fry will emerge particularly large and quite well developed.
It’s unusual for adults to pursue the young, especially in tanks that have plenty of plant cover.
The fry are usually quite easy to feed and will take crushed flake, plus some small frozen foods such as baby brineshrimp, Daphnia and Cyclops.
It’s best not to keep different species of Skiffia together, as hybridisation will occur.
Availability: These fish were photographed at Maidenhead Aquatics @ Crowland.
Price: On sale at £11 each, or three for £30.
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Nathan Hill spotlights an attractive livebearer that's easy to keep and breed, and makes a far hardier alternative to the often problematic Dalmatian molly.
Common name: Leopardfish
Scientific name: Phalloceros caudimaculatus.
Synonyms: Girardinus caudimaculatus.
Size: Males reach a little over 3cm/1.2”. females typically to 6cm/2.4” but have been known closer to 7.5cm/3”.
Distribution: Native to South America, from Brazil to Uruguay and Argentina. It has also been introduced in an attempt to control numbers of mosquitos in Australia and Ethiopia where it now proliferates.
Diet: Like many small livebearers, this is an aufwuchs and algae grazer when not chasing small insects or crustacea from the bottom of its environment. In the aquarium it can turn to plants, damaging softer leaves.
It will happily accept most offered foods, although use plant-heavy dried foods to maintain colours and vigour.
Water: Incredibly tolerant of many parameters, this fish seems unfazed at pH values between 7.0 and 8.0, although in their native range 7.4 to 7.6 is the norm. Hardness values anywhere between 8 and 20° are accepted. Some keepers report increased success when using very low levels of salt.
Temperature: Anecdotal reports suggest these fish have survived in waters plummeting to 5°C/41°F. Records show fish caught from waters below 10°C/50°C, although their duration in these conditions is uncertain.
Conversely, they have been found in waters up to 35°C/95°F.
They can be considered subtropical, a tank of 15-20°C/59-68°F is optimal and an indoor, unheated aquarium will easily sustain them.
Habitat: Their natural range consists of slow, lagging rivers and streams, as well as ponds densely packed with weeds. They are even found in similar habitats in estuarine regions and have some degree of brackish tolerance.
Aquarium: Your aquarium should be heavily planted and have a fine gravel or sand substrate. Surface cover is preferred, with duckweed floating at the top of the tank.
Notes: The leopardfish is now considered a pest in some parts of the world where its introduction to eat mosquito larvae was a role in which it has spectacularly failed.
Although easy to breed, it is not a common import into the UK and will often need to be tracked down by the keen aquarist/breeder.
Breeding: This is easily achieved as the fish is a livebearer. Males can be sexed through the presence of the gonopodium and by their smaller, leaner size.
Try to keep three to five females for every male, as they have voracious reproductive appetites, and can pester solitary females.
Offspring numbers are linked to age of adults, with younger fish producing fewer young. Expect as low as ten fry for a young female, and up to 100 for a good-sized adult. The gestation period runs for an average of 24 days.
Some keepers panic when the offspring appear stillborn, as they will often drop to the tank bottom and remained curled up in the substrate for some time before moving.
Why we like it: The only realistic rival to the leopardfish’s markings is the Dalmatian molly. This latter fish is often in poor condition, emaciated, or the result of bad breeding lines, and tends to be problematic to keep. By contrast, Phallocerus are incredibly hardy and have none of the inherited genetic problems mollies can carry.
Availability: These fish were spotted at S and C Aquatics, County Durham.
Price: £4.99 each.
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Nathan Hill spotlights a beautiful killifish he came across on a recent shoptour.
Scientific name: Chromaphyosemion volcanum “Econdo”.
Origin: Mount Cameroon, Cameroon.
Size: Approximately 5cm/2”.
Habitat: Found in ponds and smaller streams around Mount Cameroon, they prefer swampy regions. Specimens are almost always found over volcanic soils — hence their name.
Diet: Ravenous aquatic insect and crustacean feeders, they will quickly take to most dried foods. Live food may help to condition the fish into breeding and bring out best coloration.
Water: Soft, acidic is favoured. Hardness levels of 1-10° KH are tolerated, alongside a pH of 5.5-7.0 and temperature range of 25-27°C/77-81°F.
Aquarium: A smaller tank is all that’s needed, although frondy plants should be abundant if wanting to keep females safe from male aggression.
Water changes should be frequent, although fluctuations of water chemistry should be avoided. A soft, peaty substrate should be used if wanting to bring out the best in both markings and potential spawning activity.
Avoid aggressive tank mates and house with other Chromaphyosemion
and Aphyosemion from the same region.
Notes: This was a total chance find during a recent PFK shoptour. In the aquarium these fish appeared slightly drab, but once photographed exposed colours in their fins, indicating what will be a beautiful adult species.
Availability: These were found at S and C Aquatics, Durham, at £7.99 each, or a pair for £15.
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Nathan Hill spotlights a lovely, active fish that's ideal for a fast-flowing sub-tropical aquarium.
Alternative common names: Royal Opsarius, Butterfly trout, Green-barred danio.
Synonyms: Barilius pulchellus, Daniops macropterus.
Origin: China, Laos and possibly Thailand.
Size: To 11cm/4.3”.
Diet: This fish is a ready feeder and takes almost anything that hits the surface of the tank. These are surface and midwater feeders that are less inclined to take any food once it reaches the bottom of the tank.
Offer dried foods along with frozen treats such as bloodworm and Daphnia.
Live foods will be snapped up within seconds and insects are also appreciated.
Water: Preferred pH sits between 6.5 and 7.5. KH is accepted between 8-12. This tropical/sub tropical fish prefers things slightly cooler at 21-24°C/70-75°F and will rapidly lose weight if kept at higher temperatures.
Habitat: This fish comes from fast moving and clear streams.
Aquarium: Ensure a good-sized tank for this incredibly active species and avoid any shy tank mates that may be spooked by Opsarius’ incessant and rapid swimming behaviour.
As active fish go, these are larger than many typically offered for sale and a tank of 1m/3.3’ length should be the minimal size you should consider.
A good, open swimming area is required, ideally with laminate flows of water they can fight against. Oxygen levels should be very high.
Opt for a sandy and cobbly base, with longer grasses for décor. Opsarius will swim at all levels and have no requirement for caves or other hiding places.
Tank mates can be made up of almost any fish that enjoy the same water parameters but, if opting for a biotope set-up, other fishes found alongside wild Opsarius include Puntius rhombeus, Rhinogobius taenigena, Schistura and Sewellia species, plus Rasbora paviana.
Notes: Opsarius pulchellus is a rare find in the UK hobby, which is a shame as it’s both easy to keep and a unique, bright attraction.
Early indications are that this fish is easy to breed, although keeping the adults from consuming their eggs is something more of a challenge.
Sexing is performed by observing the contrasting shapes of individual fish, with females being plumper as well as deeper bodied than males.
Despite the moderately high price of these fish, efforts should be made to keep a shoal of six or more, although anecdotal evidence hints at these fish being content even when in pairs.
Availability: This is the first time I have seen these fish on a PFK shoptour and the specimens photographed were found at Abbey Aquatics and Reptile Centre in Suffolk.
Price: £15 each.
Emma Turner takes a look at a stunning goby for the brackish aquarium.
Scientific name: Mugilogobius mertoni (Weber, 1911).
Common names: Kanu goby, Chequered mangrove goby.
Origins: Australia, Brunei, Indonesia, Madagascar, Mayotte, Mozambique, New Caledonia, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Rodrigues, and Seychelles.
Size: To 8cm/3.2”.
Diet: These need a variety of small meaty foodstuffs and frozen Daphnia, Cyclops, bloodworm, white mosquito larvae, vitamin-enriched brineshrimp and baby brineshrimp should be ideal. They may get interested in small sinking pellets/granules and crushed flake.
Water: This species is from marine, brackish and freshwater environments, but most commonly encountered in brackish estuaries, mangroves and coastal freshwater streams. Hard, alkaline water is required, preferably moderately brackish. Temperature should be 25-28°C/77-82ºF and water well oxygenated.
Aquarium: A mature tank with good filtration and water movement is necessary. Have soft sand, with resting places, such as driftwood, caves formed from rocks/slate, and scatterings of cobbles/small pebbles. Plants are not necessary.
This species is best as a male-female pair. If more than one pair is together, ensure visual barriers and a spacious tank, otherwise males may fight.
Tank mates should be peaceful and of a similar size, as adult specimens will prey on tiny fish.
Several vibrant geographical colour variations are known.
Sexing: Sexually dichromatic. Well-conditioned males will be more colourful than the fuller-bodied females.
Identification: Elongated body, a rounded head and mouth terminal to sub-terminal. Dorsal spines total seven, dorsal soft rays total six to eight, anal spines one. There are six to eight anal soft rays and two dorsal fins. There are 26 to 37 scales in lateral series, eight to 13 in posterior transverse series and nine to 19 small pre-dorsal scales.
Base of pectoral fins and pre-pelvic area has small cycloid scales. Belly has ctenoid scales.
The caudal is rounded, body brownish, grey-yellow to grey-violet with seven to 11 dark diagonal stripes on the flanks, two to three black spots or short stripes at the base of the caudal. First dorsal has a black mark and a white stripe on its superior margin. The head displays several irregular red and blue stripes.
Availability: The fish pictured was recently on sale at Maidenhead Aquatics, Crowland.
Price: £9 each.
Not as rare as its bamboo-munching namesake maybe — but as Emma Turner explains, this beautiful little loach from China is a rare enough import to make it a three-figure purchase.
Scientific name: Protomyzon pachychilus (Chen, 1980).
Common name: Panda loach
Origin: Small mountain brooks, up to 885m/2,900’ above sea level, flowing into the Xi Jiang river in the Dayaoshan mountains of Guangxi Province, China.
Diet: In the wild, these bottom dwellers feed mainly on tiny benthic invertebrates. In the aquarium, they will eat most foods offered if of an appropriate small size.
Offer a good variety of fare, such as mini bloodworm, baby brineshrimp and Daphnia, as well as small sinking catfish pellets, crushed flake and even powdered fry foods if your specimens are really tiny.
Water: Freshwater. Hard, alkaline conditions are best; pH 7.2-8.2, with a general hardness of up to 25°DH.
Temperature should be in the sub-tropical range of 18-22°C/64-72°F. Highly oxygenated water is vital.
Aquarium: The tank should be well matured before adding this species of fish.
A river style set-up is essential, along with decent filtration/water movement and a high level of oxygenation.
Use a substrate of sand or very fine smooth gravel, with small, rounded cobbles and pebbles placed in the path of the flow.
Driftwood is not absolutely necessary. Do not add too much bogwood as this will affect water chemistry, rendering it too soft and acidic for these loaches.
Robust, broad-leaved plants, while not strictly necessary, will make the tank more aesthetically pleasing and they will create further resting places for P. pachychilus which will enjoy gently browsing about on the leaves, seemingly ‘surfing’ in the current.
Lighting may be fairly bright to encourage some natural algae growth and to help simulate the shallow stream conditions they experience in the wild.
You may need to find a way to chill the water to a subtropical temperature, however, during unusually hot summer months.
Other fish normally found alongside P. pachychilus in nature include Erromyzon (formerly Protomyzon) sinensis and Vanmanenia pingchowensis.
Behaviour: Panda loaches are peaceful fish, enjoying their own kind and should be kept in groups of five or more.
The larger the group, the better the chances are of obtaining both sexes — which may lead to spawning opportunities.
Any tank mates should be of similar size and temperament, and which also thrive in fast flowing, cool water.
Description: Juvenile P. pachychilus are very eye-catching, sporting bold black blotches on a creamy-white body.
This pattern changes drastically as the fish mature, breaking up and taking on a much less striking, but still attractive mottled brown/cream appearance. A dark band often forms along the lateral line.
Notes: P. pachychilus is listed as of ‘least concern’ on the IUCN red list of endangered species, but ‘rare’ in the China Red Book of Endangered Animals and ‘vulnerable’ on the China species red list.
The main threats come from habitat degradation, including deterioration of water quality due to pollution, construction of hydropower dams, electro-fishing and seasonal changes such as severe desiccation of some of the waterways.
One population that lives in the Buquanhe river remains inside the protected area of the Dayaoshan National Nature Reserve in China, but other populations living outside are at risk.
Availability: The pictured fish were on sale at Maidenhead Aquatics, Crowland.
Price: As a very rare import, this fish is expensive. Expect to pay upwards of £100 for each fish at 2cm/0.8” and bear in mind they should be kept in groups.
Jeremy Gay discovers a tank-bred version of this stunning catfish.
Scientific name: Synodontis granulosa.
Common name: Synodontis granulosus. The genus Synodontis has gone through a recent gender change — meaning that synos with names ending in 'us', now end in 'a'.
Origin: Endemic to Lake Tanganyika. East Africa.
Tank size: 150 x 60 x 60cm/5 x 2 x 2’ for one and much larger for a group, and group members are said to be aggressive toward each other when adult. Logically, house this fish in a large Lake Tanganyika biotope aquarium, although it will predate cichlid fry at night.
Diet: Omnivorous, readily accepting frozen foods and sinking dry foods. Will eat small fish.
Water: Hard alkaline, pH 7.8-8.4, temperature 22-26°C/72-79°F.
Notes: This Synodontis catfish has been a legend for many years, reaching us through only one known wholesale supplier.
Ten years ago prices ranged from £450-£650 for a single, wild-caught specimen and only diehard collectors would pay! Then came an influx of juvenile 'granulosus' from another wholesaler, causing prices to dip to just £30 per fish.
However, these weren’t true granulosus, being at best hybrids of true species and a similar species and at worst a hybrid between two different species.
Because so few have been around, proper ID has been difficult, especially with juveniles, but you’ll know when you see a true granulosa as it has angular fins with white margins, white whiskers and a body that in the right light (or dark!) is black.
Bright light or stress will reveal a lighter body colour with small black spots.
The specimen pictured was one of several in stock at Trimar Aquaria and Reptiles, Cornwall, bought as tank-bred Synodontis granulosa from wholesaler Neil Hardy Aquatica, the original importer of the true species.
From what we gather they are bred using hormone injections by breeders in the Czech Republic. Rightly or wrongly Czechoslovakia is also where many syno hybrids have been created, though how breeders can cross a hardwater, cuckoo Synodontis multipunctata with a softwater, egg scattering Synodontis ocellifer I’ll never know.
Either way I guess that similar techniques have been used to breed the true granulosa and it makes financial sense to breed these true, as then you can ask more money for them.
Sexing: You can sex Synodontis by examining their bits. The genital papilla on males is well developed and pointed, while the females have only a lightly raised, rounded protrusion.
In most species females will normally be larger and fuller bodied to hold all those eggs. Depending on species, these may range from less than hundreds to hundreds of thousands.
Availability: I’ve probably seen five true, wild, granulosa across the length and breath of this country in the past ten years.
Only recently did we see true tank-bred granulosa and that was on the Neil Hardy trade stand at Aqua Telford 2011 — then subsequently on sale at Trimar in November 2011.
Price: £125 each for 8cm/3" fish.
Emma Turner reports on the Chinese imperial flower loach â€“ a fish with undeniable beauty, a unique gargantuan size, and a price tag to match.
Common names: Chinese imperial flower loach, Royal clown loach, Giant Chinese loach
Scientific name: Leptobotia elongata (Bleeker, 1870).
Origin: Native to the middle and upper reaches of the Yangtze River, China. Introduced to other regions in the country. Found in swiftly flowing waters.
Size: Up to 60cm/23.6”.
Photo copyright © Ken Childs
Introduction: This is a very special member of the Cobitidae family of loaches, long revered as the ‘Holy Grail’ of loach keeping, due to its unique gargantuan size, undeniable beauty, and scarcity in the ornamental fish trade.
Sadly, it would seem that in recent times the larger breeding adults are not as commonly encountered in the wild as they once were. This is not due to exports for the aquatic trade, as these have always been few and far between, and of fish smaller than 15cm/6”.
Instead, this drop in numbers is due partly to overfishing for the food industry (although not fished for specifically, larger specimens are often a by-catch); and also from hydro-electric damming activity along the tributaries of the Yangtze River, which means the species can no longer migrate to its preferred spawning grounds.
Pollution also plays its part in some areas.
There are reports of captive breeding of L. elongata via hormone treatment, but this has not yet taken off on a large scale.
The Chinese government supposedly recognises that this is a species of special concern, yet they are not actively protecting it, and even now it is still waiting to be evaluated for IUCN red list status. This is despite catches and sightings being down some 80% on what they were 10 years ago with specimens over 25cm/10” now rarely encountered.
L. elongata needs aquaculture and dedicated aquarists to come to its aid, and fast.
Diet: Carnivorous. Offer small specimens bloodworm, white mosquito larvae, chopped prawns and Mysis. Larger specimens are reported to feed on small catfish, loaches and shrimp in the wild, so offer large prawns, chopped lancefish/smelt etc.
There is no call to offer live fish as part of the diet as not only is it considered unethical, but it also brings with it the potential risk of disease being introduced to the aquarium, plus there’s often little nutritional value to be gained.
Larger specimens have remarkable appetites, hence the need for oversized filtration and regular partial water changes.
Be aware that L .elongata often shuns pellet/dried foods and will hold out for meatier fare. Feeding a diet that is rich in carotenoids (such as is found in many crustaceans) will help to intensify their beautiful colours.
Photo copyright © Emma Turner
Aquarium conditions: These giants of the loach world require enormous tanks, with correspondingly powerful filtration to deal with the large amounts of nitrogenous wastes produced. A high level of oxygenation is absolutely essential; powerheads that create a vigorous stream effect are ideal, especially when angled slightly upwards to create a churning effect at the water’s surface.
Juveniles grow quickly and require enough space so as not to become stunted and later suffer health problems.
The fast-flowing subtropical waters in the native range of L. elongata are naturally hard and alkaline, with smooth water-worn gravel/pebbles as a substrate. There are significant seasonal fluctuations in temperature from around 5°C/41°F in winter to approximately 29°C/84°F in summer. But for best long-term care in the home aquarium, try to maintain 15-22°C/59-72°F.
Water with a pH 7.2-8.2 and GH 12-25° GH would be preferable. L. elongata does not appreciate bright lighting and should be kept under subdued illumination. Provide plenty of shady hiding places such as large PVC tubes, and caves built from smooth cobbles/small boulders/slate or sizeable pieces of driftwood, and here they will spend most of the day resting.
Crepuscular by nature (most active at dusk and dawn), L. elongata is a gregarious species that must be housed in groups, five fish being considered the absolute minimum in order that they may form a pecking order. Keeping a lone specimen would be considered cruel as these cobitids depend so much on company of their own kind, this behaviour often only truly appreciated when sizeable shoals are maintained together.
Choose any tankmates with much care, as although L. elongata is not an aggressive species, it is predatory and mature specimens will eat any fish small enough to be sucked into their capacious mouths.
Sexing: Unknown, although mature females are likely to be fuller bodied.
Identification: Elongate and compressed body, with a subinferior horseshoe shaped, thick-lipped mouth along with three pairs of sensory barbels. Eyes are small and scales minute. The dorsal fin is located in the posterior section of the body, and the caudal fin is deeply forked. Body colour varies from a golden yellow to light greyish-brown, with 5-8 bands/blotches of dark brown.
As the fish mature, the elongated, serpentine body shape develops into a much wider, stockier form. The background colour of the fish tends to become more gold and the caudal fin turns an intense red. Once the fish reaches 20cm/8” or so, the dark bars tend to ‘break up’, with the fish taking on a much more marbled appearance, these rosettes of colour leading to the common name of Imperial flower loach.
Notes: L. elongata was supposedly last imported into the UK some 15-20 years ago when wild populations were more stable. However, given the extremely likely longevity of this hefty cobitid under appropriate conditions, it is somewhat surprising that there are no reports of large adults still currently residing in home aquaria.
One school of thought is that most of the specimens that arrived during that time were not true juvenile L. elongata, but instead large adults of the similar-looking (but smaller growing) L. pellegrini. Both have been traded under the common name of 'Royal clown loach'.
Availability: Maidenhead Aquatics @ Crowland, Pier Aquatics and AquaMart UK.
Price: Expect to pay upwards of £175 each depending on size, bearing in mind that this species must be kept in good sized groups.
Erwin Schraml discovers an exciting new cichlid with a rather unfortunate scientific name.
Scientific name: Haplochromis aeneocolor
Origin: Lakes George and Edward, and intersecting Kazinga channel, in Uganda.
Size: In nature males can reach 10cm/4” SL.
Diet: Predominantly this is a detritus feeder, as stomach content analysis revealed mainly plant remains and insect larvae. However, some adult insects are also eaten. Like almost all haplochromines, this species can be fed all kinds of artificial and frozen fish food in your tank.
Water parameters: Temperature should be between 24-28°C/75-82°F, pH between 7.5 and 8.5, and hardness around 10° GH, but this fish tolerates up to 30°C.
Aquarium: Several males can be kept in the same aquarium, as long as territories provided are large enough. Tank size should be at least 90 l/20 gal.
Notes: H. aeneocolor is a moderately aggressive species and, depending on stress factors, females brood for two to three weeks and can carry 40 or more fry in their mouths.
Peter Greenwood described this species in 1973 and aeneocolor is a combination of the Latin words aeneus and color, which not only means bronze coloured, but is also a double entendre term to describe the brassy appearance of some "easy" women!
However, males show up almost any spectral colour and will appear in different morphs. Besides most frequent brassy coloured specimens, there’s also a dusky blackish and a bluish morph in existence.
In 1980 Greenwood placed this species in Astatotilapia, but this genus is ill defined and it would be better not to use it before a better definition is available.
Price: £10-15 depending on size.
Availability: All good fish shops.
Emma Turner profiles an unusual characin from the Rio Negro.
Common name: Small-scale glass tetra
Scientific name: Charax condei, Géry and Knöppel, 1976
Origin: Rio Negro, Brazil.
Size: To 5.5cm/2.2”.
Diet: Variety of small meaty frozen foods, such as mosquito larvae, vitamin-enriched brineshrimp and Daphnia. Once settled, they should start to take flake and micropellets.
Water: Freshwater in a range of 23-25°C/73-77°F, soft, acidic conditions, pH 5.5-6.8 and DH up to 8°.
Aquarium: C. condei is a rare blackwater species infrequently seen in the trade. It is best maintained in a group of at least six, due to its shy disposition and shoaling nature.
The tank must be well matured and peat filtration would help simulate the acid blackwaters of the natural habitat. Create plenty of shady hiding spots among driftwood and rocks.
Plants are fairly sparse in the natural habitat, so are not essential. However, they will help with water quality, will make the aquarium look more pleasing and provide additional shady retreats. Dark décor and dim lighting is preferable.
Notes: C. condei, although peaceful, is a micro-predator, so companions should be chosen carefully. They must be of a suitable size but also calm as C. condei are easily bullied by belligerent tank mates. Corydoras catfish would be ideal.
It is not uncommon to see this species head down, similar to some of headstander species.
Some suppliers and older literature still refer to this fish under its old synonym Asiphonichthys condei.
Sexing: Unknown, although mature females in breeding condition are likely to appear fuller bodied.
Availability: This species is seldom seen in the trade and these fish were spotted on sale at Maidenhead Aquatics @ Crowland.
Price: Then on sale at £11 each or three for £30.
Just take a look at this little beauty, discovered on sale at an Essex shop. Nathan Hill has the lowdown on this fabulous tetra, which we hope may soon become more commonly available in the hobby.
Common name: Imperial blue rainbow tetra. Sometimes known as Hyphessobrycon sp. Red-Blue and the Blue Peru redfin tetra
Scientific name: Hyphessobrycon sp.
Origin: The fish shown is a captive bred example, but originally they come from Peru.
Size: Unknown full adult potential.
Diet: Like other Hyphessobrycon, they feed readily on dried foods, but will also be happy to take aquatic invertebrates.
Water: Although the fish here is being kept in harder, alkaline water, expect them to thrive in clean, soft acidic water with a pH of around 6.5. Temperature range of 24-25°C is preferred.
Aquarium: Many Hyphessobrycon appreciate tanks with a flow of water, so provide regions where pumps create ample movement. Plants will be used as cover, and should be provided. These fish will not fare well in low numbers, and would be liklier to retain their shoaling instinct if kept in numbers of 12 or more.
Notes: These tetras have been known from around 2006 when they were first imported from Peru.
Many fish that are traded under the Red-blue moniker are subtly different from each other — some having more green, others having yellow-orange fins rather than red.
Either way, these are stunning fish and show a great deal of potential for bringing colour to any tetra-based aquarium.
The individuals shown were at Wayside Aquatics in Essex, and brought in as tank bred specimens and not wild caught.
Although young, a myriad of colours were already forming on them and they were starting to take the metallic blue tint that adults carry.
Sexing: Expect plumpness of females, and potentially tiny hooks on the anal fins of males.
Availability: These are not a commonly found fish, and the fish pictured are the first that the author has seen in the flesh. With Czech and German programs we can hope that these fish become more prolific in the hobby, but it is unlikely that they will become cheaper as a result.
Price: These retailed at £3.95 each during a recent visit.
Neil Woodward spotlights a recent import at Pier Aquatics, which is sure to leave catfish fans drooling...
Scientific name: Nannoptopoma sp. Robocop.
Common name: Unknown, possibly Robocop.
Origin: Alto Nanay, Peru.
Maximum size: Very similar to other Nannoptopoma, so expect 3-4cm/1.2-1.6” on average.
Water parameters: Optimal temperature would be 27°C/80°F, pH 6.8, with GH as low as 0-3 depending on season.
Diet: Like other Nannoptopoma, taking large amounts of vegetation. A high metabolic rate means that they require large volumes of food that will not pollute.
Habitat: Assumed to live among shoreside vegetation and wood.
Aquarium: A smaller tank could be used, but water must be very clean and well oxygenated. Don’t house with other loricariids that would compete for food.
Notes: This fish is very similar to Nannoptopoma sp. Peru. As they have only just appeared in the industry there are no known reports of breeding. We can assume that like other Nannoptopoma/Hypoptopoma the male may guard the eggs in spawning.
Identification: Both the zebra pattern and intense red ring to the eye distinguish this fish from other Nannoptopoma.
Availability: Infrequent. PFK hadn’t seen these fish anywhere else in the UK prior to recently visiting Pier Aquatics, Wigan.
Price: £9.50 each.
Emma Turner takes a look at a rather pretty tetra that's a rare find in the shops.
Scientific name: Pseudochalceus kyburzi, Schultz, 1966.
Origin: Coastal rivers on the Pacific side of Colombia.
Size: To 8cm/3.15".
Diet: Omnivorous. Will take flake, micro granules, small frozen foods such as mosquito larvae, Daphnia, vitamin-enriched brineshrimp and vegetable-based foods.
Water: Freshwater with a temperature range of 23-26°C/73-79°F. Soft, acidic conditions are required; pH 6.0-7.0, DH to 12°.
Aquarium: This rarely seen species is best maintained in a group of at least six, faring better with its own kind. This will benefit natural behaviour and create a far more effective display.
Rival adult males can be territorial with one another, but no serious damage should occur providing the tank offers sufficient space and is well decorated with plenty of visual barriers/shady retreats among rocks, bogwood and heavy planting. It must be mature and well filtered.
Sexing: Males in breeding condition will display more intense colours, particularly on the caudal fin, and have a longer dorsal fin. Mature females will appear fuller bodied.
Availability: Seldom seen, these were on sale at Maidenhead Aquatics @ Crowland.
Price: £5 each or six for £27.
Emma Turner introduces a tiny goby that's capable of dramatic colour changes to suit its moods and surroundings.
Common name: Taiwanese colour change micro goby
Scientific name: Schismatogobius ampluvinculus
Origin: Japan and Taiwan.
Size: Up to 2.6cm/1”.
Diet: These require a variety of small sized meaty foodstuffs. Frozen baby brineshrimp, Daphnia, Cyclops and mosquito larvae should be readily taken and, in time, also be interested in small sinking pellets/granules and crushed flake.
Water: Known from temperate freshwater moderately flowing brooks. Neutral to slightly alkaline conditions are preferable; pH 7.0-7.8, with a general hardness up to 20° DH. Temperature should be between 18-24°C/64-75ºF.
Aquarium: A mature tank which should be well filtered with good water movement and oxygenation. The substrate should be soft sand or fine grade rounded gravel, so the gobies can bury themselves and there should also be ample retreats created from rocks, cobbles, pieces of slate and driftwood. Lighting may be fairly bright to simulate the shallow streams of wild habitat. This species is peaceful, so may be maintained in groups. Tank mates should be small, peaceful and able to thrive in the lower temperature.
Notes: S. ampluvinculus is capable of dramatic colour change, depending on substrate choice and mood. The specimen pictured here adopted a golden hue to match the silica sand.
Sexing: Sexual dimorphism is pretty well developed, with the males always having longer jaws and slightly larger heads than the females of the species.
Identification: Seven dorsal spines (total): nine-nine dorsal soft rays (total): one anal spine and nine anal soft rays. Body colour is creamy yellow-white with four wide transverse dark bands. The eyes are high and close set, tongue is bi-lobed. The most notable features of Schismatogobius are a total absence of scales and remarkable variation in colour.
Availability: Not regularly seen. The fish pictured was on sale at Maidenhead Aquatics
Price: On sale at £17.50 each or three for £50.
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Recognise this popular marine fish? It's actually an aberrant colour form of the Bicolor angelfish, Centropyge bicolor. Dave Wolfenden has the lowdown on this fish.
Scientific name: Centropyge bicolor.
Common name: Bicolor angel (aberrant colour form).
Origin: Widespread throughout the Indo-Pacific.
Habitat: Reef associated, from lagoons through rubble zones to reef drop-offs. Generally found in shallow water.
Adult length: Up to 15cm/6”.
Tank size and set-up: Select one 120 x 45 x 45cm/48 x 18 x 18” as these fish are active swimmers and territorial. Provide ample rocky aquascaping with rubble areas and several hiding places.
Water conditions: This delicate species will always demand optimal water quality.
Diet: Feed a variety of flake, fresh and frozen fare supplemented with algae-based feeds. Mature systems with live rock aquascaping and/or those with refugia are recommended as they provide additional natural feeds to graze on and forage.
Is it reef safe? It’s risky. Some are perfect but other individuals can rapidly destroy a reef system. Overall, a FOWLR (fish only with live rock) system is the safest bet.
Tank mates? May be aggressive with conspecifics in smaller systems and it’s advisable to add all individuals at the same time. Heterospecific tank mates shouldn’t include larger, predatory species.
Breeding method: This fish is a protogynous (female first) hermaphrodite. After a spawning ritual, eggs are broadcast into open water. Many Centropyge species have now been captive bred and efforts are under way to commercially rear C. bicolor.
Notes: Although it may not appeal to everyone, colour variants of this species are rare and highly sought after in the hobby, so expect to pay top dollar for such a specimen!
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Dave Wolfenden takes a look at a fabulously coloured marine wrasse which is suitable for the reef tank.
Scientific name: Anampses femininus.
Common name: Blue-striped orange tamarin wrasse.
Origin: South Pacific, from Australia to Easter Island.
Habitat: Juveniles are found in relatively shallow water, adults to about 30m/100’ and in rocky and reef habitats.
Adult length: To 25cm/10”.
Tank size and set-up: 120 x 45 x 45cm/48 x 18 x 18”, to include rocky aquascaping and fine sandy substrate to allow for foraging.
Water conditions: This fish needs excellent quality water and will quickly go downhill if conditions deteriorate.
Diet: Accepts a wide range of fresh, frozen and processed feeds, including Mysis, chopped mussel and flake. Feed regularly.
Is it reef safe? Yes. It’s well behaved with sessile invertebrates, although delicate ornamental shrimp, small crabs and other small mobile invertebrates will be attacked.
Tank mates: Best kept without conspecifics in all but the largest aquaria, as they can be very territorial — and never keep more than one male in the same aquarium. Heterospecific tank mates should be peaceful or semi-aggressive species. Large predatory or overly boisterous fish are a no-no.
Sexing: The species name is derived from the extravagant coloration of the female. Sexual dichromatism (difference in coloration between sexes) is seen in A. femininus, with protogynous hermaphroditism the rule. All start out as female, with some entering the terminal phase and becoming male.
Females are bright orange with electric blue stripes leading to a blue posterior portion of the body. Males have vivid blue markings on a subtle orange-brown background.
Breeding method: They are broadcast spawners in the wild, doing so randomly in large groups, but there are no reports of captive breeding.
Notes: This is only for experienced aquarists with established systems. It tends to be sensitive in transit and careful acclimatisation and quarantining are mandatory.
Price: Expect to pay £180 as they are infrequently collected.
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Dave Wolfenden checks out a fabulous but rather challenging cuttlefish...
Scientific name: Metasepia pfefferi.
Common names: Pfeffer’s flamboyant cuttlefish or Flamboyant cuttlefish.
Habitat: Shallow waters on ‘muck’, muddy or sandy substrates and sometimes reef associated around the rubble zone.
Adult length: Females have a mantle length of up to 8cm/3.1”, males slightly smaller.
Tank size and set-up: 120 x 35 x 35cm/48 x 14 x 14” to include a fine sandy substrate with limited live rock aquascaping. Substrate surface area is more important than depth.
Water conditions: Standard tropical marine conditions and temperature at 25°C/77°F. Maintaining optimal water quality is essential.
Diet: This species has a seemingly insatiable appetite and needs feeding several times a day! Start with live prawns and it’s often possible to wean M. pfefferi to frozen meaty foods.
Is it reef safe? They won’t feed on sessile invertebrates, so it’s possible to keep them in a tailored ‘reef’ environment — one with limited rock aquascaping and ample substrate area.
Tank mates: They are best kept in a species tank, without any other cephalopods or any fish species. However, they tend not to attack hermit crabs.
Sexing: Females grow larger and males possess a modified arm known as a hectocotylous.
Breeding method: The male transfers a spermatophore (sperm parcel) into the female’s mantle cavity. She lays a bundle of eggs, and both individuals enter senescence (a prolonged degenerative phase) after breeding. This species has been bred in public aquaria, but it’s a rare event in captivity.
Notes: While appealing, these animals can only be recommended to very dedicated and experienced aquarists, as they are extremely challenging and expensive!
They have a lifespan of usually less than a year and by the time many of the few specimens in the trade reach their owners, they are already on borrowed time. They may exhibit cannibalism in aquaria if insufficiently fed or crowded.
Matt Clarke checks out a gorgeous plec which lives in almost total darkness in its natural habitat.
Common name: L90
Scientific name: Panaque bathyphilus, Lujan and Chamon, 2008
Origin: Described from the upper Maranon and middle Solimoes stretches of the Amazon river.
Size: Around 40cm/15”.
Diet: There’s no precise data available, but it’s probably a detritivore or general scavenger like other species.
Notes: Panaque bathyphilus was described by Nathan Lujan and Carine Chamon a couple of years ago following its discovery in deep waters of the main river channel where it lives in almost total darkness.
The extreme elongation of the tail filaments is an adaptation to detec predators and surroundings.
There are thought to be at least two colour forms of P. bathyphilus: this normally pigmented form, being sold as the 'Ojo Chico' form and a white one which lacks melanin as a further adaptation to life in the dark. The pigmented is the more common form.
Aquarium: Dim lighting is a must because this fish is adapted for life in the main river channels where the water is murky and light levels extrermely low.
Most plecs have a structure in their eye called an iris operculum, but it’s missing from this species.
Due to its size it will need spacious quarters and plenty of places to hide in, so add lots of bogwood to provide such refuges, particularly if the tank is lit.
Availability: We spotted this one on sale at Maidenhead Aquatics @ Wembley.
Price: On sale for £159.
This item first appeared in the October 2010 issue of Practical Fishkeeping magazine. It may not be reproduced without written permission.
Matt Clarke checks out a gorgeous wrasse for the marine tank.
Scientific name: Halichoeres rubricephalus, Kuiter and Randall, 1995.
Common name: Red-head wrasse.
Origin: Endemic to the Flores and Banggai Islands off Indonesia in the western central Pacific, which are also home to the Banggai cardinal and the stunning lionfish Pterois kodipungi.
Size: Up to 10cm/4”.
Diet: There’s no specific data on diet, but most Halichoeres are foragers which pick at rocks and among the substrate for small benthic invertebrates and algae. They are typically simple to feed and readily will accept frozen Mysis and Artemia.
Aquarium: There’s little information on aquarium care of rubricephalus, so it’s not known whether this fish is safe for the reef aquarium.
Some Halichoeres have been successfully kept in reef set-ups, but larger ones may look on certain shrimp as food and could pick at corals, so be cautious. They’re not usually aggressive as wrasses go and should be added individually, unless you’re able to obtain a sexed pair.
Sexing: Like other wrasses, this species may change sex and males and females are sexually dichromatic, so look completely different and could easily be mistaken for separate species.
Males have a greenish body with a blue edge to the unpaired fins and characteristic red head.
Females are yellow with blue longitudinal pinstripes and a couple of dorsal spots.
Notes: This species, which was originally known as Halichoeres sp. ‘1’ and is listed in Kuiter and Debelius’s 2006 book as Hemiulis rubricephala, was named Halichoeres rubricephalus by Kuiter and Randall in 1995.
According to Kuiter, the type specimens were found on Wair Bleler reef in Flores at about 30m/98’. It’s apparently found among dense stands of coral on rubble slopes on the coastal side of reefs at 10-35m/33-115’.
Availability: This was on sale at Oasis Aquarium, Manchester, as an Australian Ruby-face wrasse.
Matt Clarke spotlights a marine angel that originates from the middle of nowhere!
Scientific name: Apolemichthys griffisi (Carlson and Taylor 1981).
Common name: Griffis’ angel.
Origin: Found in the Pacific Ocean from the Indo-Malayan region to the Line Islands in the Pacific south of Hawaii.
Most specimens have been collected from Kiribati, a group of 32 coral atolls straddling the equator between Australia and South America.
Size: Up to 30cm/12”, but usually not more than 20-25cm/8-10”.
Diet: According to ichthyologist Richard Pyle, A. griffisi feeds mainly on sponges and tunicates.
Aquarium: This is a very rarely seen angel as it’s from the middle of nowhere! As a result, hardly anything has been written about keeping the fish in aquaria. Apparently most of them are being imported from the Line Islands and Christmas Island.
A. griffisi is said to occur on outer reef slopes and drop-offs at depths of 15-100m/50-330’ and is seen individually, in pairs and, when juvenile, in small groups.
Notes: This species is named after the late conservationist Nixon Griffis.
Availability: We spotted this on a recent visit to The Abyss in Manchester. It’s one of the first we’ve seen on sale here and is reportedly not a common fish in the wild, hence the price!
Price: On sale for £500.
This item first appeared in the May 2010 issue of Practical Fishkeeping magazine. It may not be reproduced without written permission.