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August 17, 2012

Happy August, folks! I’m excited to announce I’ve been asked to continue writing newsletters for your entertainment and education.

Since I began working for the Wet Spot Tropical Fish, a year ago this month, my sister has been asking for my advice on fish and stocking more and more. I find it very hard to answer the question of how to stock an aquarium from scratch – there are so many gorgeous fish that I adore to choose from. After much musing on her most recent inquiry into an empty 20 gallon, I finally devised a cunning plan: The spotted tank.

I like to start my stocking plans with a centerpiece fish. For this particular plan, I chose a small group of Pseudomugil gertrudae “Gertrudae Rainbow”. These fish are also known by the common name “Spotted Blue Eye” and are found in northern Australia and southern Indonesia. Their body is a pleasantly bold yellow with small black dots which merge together to become three black stripes along their tail. Their fins are bright blue-white with black spots and their brilliant blue eyes add a wonderful flash of color. These fish are beautiful and small enough for nano tanks, reaching only an inch and a half at the largest. They are incredibly undemanding in terms of water chemistry, enjoying temperatures between 70°F and 82°F, a pH between 6.0 and 7.5, and between 0 and 10 degrees of hardness. Another gorgeous and similar fish is Pseudomugil iriani, “Irian Red Neon Rainbow” which features an orange-red body and a brilliant blue stripe down its dorsal edge.

Pseudomugil gertrudae

My next choice was a complimentary schooling fish to add a little more motion to the aquarium. After much perusing, I decided upon Boraras naevus “Strawberry Rasbora”. This little fish is a pleasing red, with the brightest red coloration surrounding the black spots near its pectoral, anal, and caudal fins. The Strawberry Rasbora tops out at a mere three-quarters of an inch, thrives in water between 75°F and 82°F, and prefers slightly acidic water (6.0-7.0 pH) at a low hardness (0-10 degrees).

Boraras naevus

I’m quite the fan of layered tanks with different species to occupy each level of the aquarium. Unfortunately, spotted surface fish are a little harder to find than those dwelling in the middle levels. I did consider Hemirhamphodon tengah “Borneo Red-Line Gold Spot Halfbeak” (what a mouthful!) but finally decided on the top-level schooling fish Carnegiella strigata “Marble Hatchet Fish”. This popular fish is a member of the only family of fish known to use powered flight – achieved by beating its pectoral fins like a bird’s wings. The hatchet fish’s incredibly strong pectoral muscles account for approximately 25% of its body weight, allowing a fish as small as the Marble Hatchet Fish (topping out at only an inch and a half) to fly for several yards before reentering the water. These fish prefer a temperature of 75°F to 82°F, a pH of between 5.0 and 7.0, and a minimal hardness of between 0 and 10 degrees. A great alternative to these common hatchets would be the less often seen Carnegiella marthae “Marthae Hatchet Fish”.

Carnegiella strigata

Finally, I chose a dwarf Corydoras to occupy the bottom of the tank – Corydoras habrosus. This tiny Corydoras, reaching a maximum size of less than an inch and a half, is known by many common names – “Dainty Cory”, “Salt and Pepper Cory”, and “Venezuelan Pygmy Cory”. As with most Corydoras, this species is a bottom-feeding scavenger, requiring a soft and sandy substrate, and care should be taken to ensure that enough food reaches the bottom of the aquarium to keep them well fed. It should be noted that if these fish are only allowed leftover food from the feeding of the tank’s other occupants, it will probably not thrive.   These Corydoras should be kept in a group of six or more at a temperature of 72°F to 79°F, a pH between 6.2 and 7.2, and a similar hardness as the other fish considered – 2 to 12 degrees is ideal.

Corydoras habrosus

With all these wonderful fish, how should the aquarium be aquascaped? With the exception of the Marble Hatchet, all of these fish prefer low currents – the Marble Hatchet enjoys a slightly higher current, but will do fine in a slower setting. All these species prefer floating and surface plants to diffuse light and give them a sense of safety. Both the Gertrudae Rainbow and Strawberry Rasbora like dense planting; to allow the Corydoras and Hatchet Fish room to school and swim, the majority of dense planting should be along the sides and back of the aquarium with open near-surface space as well as open sand substrate for the habrosus.

Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed reading about my theoretical spotted aquarium as much as I enjoyed planning it and sharing it with you!

Jessica Supalla
The Wet Spot Tropical Fish