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March 08, 2013

Over the years, my interests in fish have shifted throughout the continents. My love for African cichlids had grown into the fishes of Southeast Asia, and eventually moved to South America where I now concentrate on the eartheater family. I suppose these things happen when you are offered such a wide variety of fish as often as I am. I mention this because my view as a hobbyist is that I prefer to set up “biotopes” versus a tank of misfits spread from all over the world. My reasoning is that, in my personal opinion, the fish do better. It’s almost like they recognize that these tank mates would have come from the same river, swamp, or roadside ditch in some far off country where the bugs are the size of your head.

For example, I would always find my Malayan Yellow Pygmy Cats (Hyalobagrus flavus) schooling with my Snakeskin/Rhombo Barbs (Puntius rhomboocellatus) in my own home aquarium. When we keep them here in the shop the cats often hide if placed with fish from South America. It’s as if they are afraid of the tetras that they are now being housed with. In the past, I have given you some ideas on different biotope aquariums from around the globe. Of course, these have all been replicated based off of my own experiences, or simply a dream tank that I think would look great in my own home. In fact, some of the pictures that I have used have been from my personal collection over the years. Sadly, my days of having a fish room have given way due to various home related moves, but I’m still happy to offer my assistance in biotope tanks.

This week I thought I’d help give you some ideas of setting up an aquarium from South America. There were several new fish that arrived last week that would be perfect candidates for such a tank. My thoughts were one of the new rimless glass tanks that have been out on the market. Recently, we received a tank made by Mr. Aqua that measures 36x18x18. These dimensions make up a body of water that is 46 gallons. It’s an immaculate tank that will make for a sound layout for our new amazon tank. To begin, we will lay down a layer of Amazonia substrate on the sides of the aquarium, leaving the middle and the front to be filled in with sand. I’ve chosen a few pieces of Amano branch wood to place on the sides of the tank, and have taken the liberty to tie some moss onto it. Directly under the wood we’ll place some lace rock that will be surrounded by Lilaeopsis brasiliensis “Micro Sword”. In the back we shall plant one of my favorite plants, Cabomba pulcherrima “Purple Cabomba”, to help push the livestock to the front of the tank. I like to keep things fairly simple in my tanks, but some carefully placed Nymphea rubra “Dwarf Lily’s” will help bring some red out against all of that green. We’ll set up an Ehiem canister filter to power everything. For lighting we’ll use an Aquaticlife T-5 HO fixture to keep our plants growing strong. Now that the tank is planted and cycled, we can start to add some livestock!

One of my most beloved characins is Axelrodia riesei “Ruby Tetra”. There is little to no literature out there on the web or in books on these stupendously colored micro fish. It is such a shame because they are truly one of the best tetras to be exported from the Río Meta in the country of Colombia. Ruby Tetras are a brilliant red color with white tips of the fins, as you can see by the photo. They seem to reach a maximum size of just under an inch, and are a very tranquil fish that is usually found lurking near decorations in an aquarium. Despite their bashfulness, there is a way to combatant this. We’ve found the more you have the more outgoing they become. This is a fairly large tank, so a group of about 40 ought to make for a magical school sifting through the tank.

 Axelrodia riesei

I like to have a “show” fish in my tanks, and after a brief hiatus the majestic Dicrossus maculatus “Spadetail Checkerboard Cichlids” have become of season again from the Río Tapajós in Brazil. Male Spadetail Checkerboard’s have remarkably colored ventral fins that seem to represent another fish from the neotropics - Geophagus altifrons (don’t forget to check the list for the altifrons from the same river!). These paired fins grow to almost the length of the fish and can display all of the colors of the rainbow. Females can be told apart by slightly shorter fins, and lack the blue sheen that can be found in the males. It also seems that they become slightly larger than the boys at a size of 2.5”. These “dwarves” of the Amazon are among the most challenging species to breed in aquaria. This is because they require extremely soft water for the eggs to hatch. This is not needed to house them, but is recommended if you wish to breed the fish. A group of six fish would make a crowning center piece in the tank, and who knows, maybe we might just get a spawning from them!

Dicrossus maculatus 

Under all of this activity I would recommend keeping a group of 12 Aspidoras spilotus, a member of the Corydoras family. These wonderfully spotted catfish grow to around 2” in length, and would make an excellent bottom feeder. They can be found throughout the coastal rivers of the Ceará State of Brazil. Near the banks of these rivers they can be found grazing through the substrate for microorganisms like insect larvae and freshwater invertebrates. This size of a school should encourage them to want them to swim around the tank, rather than hide under the driftwood.

Aspidoras spilotus

The tank seems to have come along nicely these past few weeks, but it seems that with all of this light we are starting to see some diatom algae (better known as brown algae) starting to form on the glass. What better way to help clean up that unsightly mess than a bushynose pleco? Well, it just so happens that we have an amazing batch of the infamous Ancistrus dolichopterus “Blue Seam Ancistrus” L183 straight from the Río Negro here to take care of your problem for you. These Loricariids grow to about 4” in nature. In an aquarium they’ll probably get a little larger due to regular feedings. They have also been called the “Starlight Ancistrus” in the trade because of the little white dots that cover the body of this fish. When you a gaze upon them it’s almost like you’re staring into some far off galaxy. These have been selling out quickly, so don’t miss your chance!

Ancistrus dolichopterus L183

I’d say with all of these fish and plants that the tank is finally complete. If you want to set up your own South American biotope featuring all of these fish, please email me for information. Like always, I’ll be here to answer all of your questions in aquarium keeping.

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Anthony Perry
Sales Manager