How do I set up for these panchax?

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A reader asks how to keep Red-chinned panchax in his tank. Neale Monks advises...

Q) My local retailer has some Red-chinned panchax in stock at the moment, and I’d like to have a go at keeping and hopefully even breeding them. I’ve been keeping fish for four years and have bred Kribs and Corydoras, but I’ve never kept killifish before. Please could you offer some advice?

C. MARSTON, VIA EMAIL

A) Neale responds: Epiplatys dageti is a non-annual killifish which shouldn’t be too difficult for a moderately experienced fishkeeper.

Coming from West Africa, it is found in shallow swamps and slow-moving streams, usually in forested areas. Water chemistry varies, but tends towards the soft and slightly acidic; if you can, aim for around 2–12˚dH, pH 6.5 to 7.0. More acidic, even blackwater, conditions could be provided, but bear in mind that filter bacteria work more slowly the lower the pH, so you’d need to adjust stocking levels accordingly. Water temperature is less critical, but curiously, this is one of those species where ambient temperature affects the ratio of male to female fry in any given batch of eggs. Supposedly, 22–23˚C results in a balance between the two sexes, but a slightly higher temperature favours males over females.

Almost all killifish are shy and prone to jumping. Floating plants or at least tall plants with some floating leaves will go some way to inhibiting this, but I always keep mine in tanks with a secure cover. On the other hand, being small fish adapted to sluggish or still water habitats, filtration is a simple requirement to satisfy, with air-powered sponge filters being ideal.

A dimly-lit tank is best — plants can be used to provide this shade if you want. Upwelling light is almost as bad as light from above, so don’t use pale-coloured sands or gravels. Instead, black volcanic sand could be used, or even coir.

Under good conditions spawning will happen readily. Unless you’re aiming to breed killifish on a large scale, you may be able to get away with leaving the eggs in with the adults. While the adults are predatory, in a tank with plenty of floating plants at least a few fry will survive long enough to be removed to another tank, and until you find them, you’ll find the fry will forage across sponge filters, finding all the tiny invertebrates and algae they like to eat.

Red-chinned panchax are somewhat gregarious. Keep at least six specimens, and the more the merrier. Males may chase one another at times, but little harm is done. Some people keep them with peaceful bottom-dwellers but if you want some fry, the species is best kept alone. Even inoffensive Whiptails might view fish eggs as food, although they’d ignore moving fry completely.

Flake food is usually readily taken, and a colour-enhancing flake will help to bring out the fiery colouration on the chin, from which these fish get their name. They will enjoy frozen or live foods such as Brine shrimp and Daphnia, and these small crustaceans are also very good for bringing out the red colour.