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July 15, 2011

Welcome back to this week’s newsletter!

This week was a big one for us here at the store. Another Singapore order arrived this Monday and will be ready for your home aquarium this upcoming week. Many of you had requested special items, and we did our best to accommodate these needs. So be sure to check the list in our products link to see what cool new items we received!

The Borneo rainforest is the oldest in the world at around 130 million years old, making it almost 70 million years older than the Amazon. The country is home to one of the few places to still have wild Orangutan, the Borneon Orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus), and an amazing parasitic plant that produces the world’s largest known flower, the Rafflesia arnoldii, which can reach a meter in diameter! It is also my favorite country in the world, as many of you know. You can also still find the local tribes of the Dayak people, who were known for practicing Headhunting, though this practice disappeared due to religious influences of the east. It had resurfaced again in the 90’s when the people were using ethnic violence against the Mandurese, but now this practice lies dormant…

With all this diversity of life, there is much hidden under the surface of blackwaters that are part of the Borneo Freshwater Swamp Forests. There hidden among all the fallen leaves and branches lies a vast family of cyprinids to some of the world’s most unique loaches. Among these fishes lies a family that is unique to the small island. The Chocolate Gourami complex from the family Osphronemidae contains some of the coolest gouramis found in the trade. This week we are proud to offer three different species and one unique cousin to this week’s list, so let us begin with a little back ground.

Unlike the many Anabantoids that build bubblenests, both families of Sphaerichthys and Ctenops are mouthbrooding labyrinths. They are considered to be more difficult to keep in a home aquarium due to their specific needs of water quality and feeding. They prefer softer more acidic water (Ph 4-5, though low 6’s would be acceptable), as well as warmer water (79-88 degrees) that they prefer to be kept as blackwater (which means they like dark brown water). Feeding should be either small live foods like baby brine or daphnia, or frozen foods of the same. Don’t let all of their requirements discourage you – they’re amazing fish and with a little bit of guidance and the proper education, you’ll succeed!

Many of you are familiar with the common Sphaerichthys osphromenoides “Chocolate Gourami”. It’s easy to see where the name comes from as the fish is literally much like the color chocolate. The body is tall and contains 3-4 tan stripes that run vertical. The nose comes to a point with bigger eyes that are probably designed to see insects floating on the surface. Now just imagine a school of these in a blackwater biotope.

Sphaerichthys osphromenoides

Set them up in a dimly lit 30 gallon with Malaysian root wood or beech or oak (remember to strip off the bark and let dry), and let some peat settle in the filter. Plant the tank well with low-light plants - Java Ferns and Java Mosses rooting on the wood and a variety of Cryptocorynes lining the back of the tank with their bronzes, reds, and greens. Let a few almond leaves settle among all the plant life. When they are ready to breed, Chocolate Gouramis will often display right in the middle of the tank, their fins fully erect as they circle one another. Try a school of Puntius rhomboocellatus “Rhombo Barb” in the tank, and they will dart quickly under the group trying to avoid being part of the action, or maybe hoping an egg or two will drop down within their grasp…

Puntius rhomboocellatus

Perhaps you want to get a little wilder - go with Sphaerichthys selatanensis “Cross Bar Chocolate Gourami” instead in this beautiful aquarium. This fish is much like its cousin in color and pattern, but has an additional line running horizontally across the body.

Sphaerichthys selatanensis

Maybe you would like a little more color from your dream tank – go with Sphaerichthys vaillanti “Valliant Chocolate Gourami”. The amazing hues of reds and greens on the females will astonish you with their rich colors when in breeding form. The face is olive green and the body turns a beautiful red. Seven to eight dark bars appear down the body. The males, however, are just a brown fish, typically smaller than the females.

Sphaerichthys vaillanti

The last member of our family is not considered a chocolate type, but does display similar colors. Because of its visual similarity I thought it appropriate to mention here. Ctenops nobilis “Nobel Gourami” has a body that is much more elongated than members of the other genus. The mouth is much larger and more likely to eat larger prey such as flies or small fish that pass by. The anal is fin is a gorgeous yellow and the caudal fin has a red border. An eyespot can also be found on the tail. In my experience the tank should be well covered with this species because in my experience they like to jump. Nobel Gouramis are probably one of the most unique gouramis there is, and I was extremely happy with my group when I had kept them.

Ctenops nobilis

Any of these fish would be ideal for the South East Asian aquarium described above. Though it may take a few months of hard work and dedication, it pays off when you finally add the centerpiece: the Chocolate Gouramis!

Until next week, thanks again for all your orders and support of our growing business.

Anthony Perry
Sales Manager