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Spotlight Fish Blog

Janaury 22, 2016

Bridging (metaphorical) gaps with fish...

You may think that mammal lovers, bug lovers, and most importantly, fish lovers share very little common ground with one another. Think again my friends! Fresh water tanks hosting the charming Zebra Kutu, affable Shovelnose Bee Catfish, or the lovely Butterfly Catfish will be exciting to share with your friends or acquaintances that prefer whiskery or spiny pets and wildlife. All members of the Catfish order, Siluriformes, these fish are popular in the freshwater aquarium hobby due to their unique natures within their kind. Many may not be aware of the vast array involved in this order, which contains 3,000 species. Today, we are taking this opportunity to outline these few that we are proud to offer our wonderful clients!

WS Synodontis nigriventris Zebra Kutu

Synodontis nigriventris, more commonly referred to as the Zebra Kutu, hails from the densely vegetated rivers of the Congo, where they have developed an incredibly unique and interesting predator avoidance behavior. While we may be familiar with fish being lighter on their bellies than their dorsals to be more difficult to spot by lurking predators above, the Zebra Kutu evolved to be lighter on their dorsals than their bellies for the same reason. How, you may ask does this coloration reversal have the same effect? It will all make sense when I fill in this crucial bit of information: they spend 90% of their time upside down. How this fish manages its lifestyle without any other known anatomical differences between other fish species has baffled ichthyologists for years, who affectionately (though somewhat obviously) refer to them as “upside down catfish”.

In addition to the fun of watching these fellas do backstroke, they Zebra Kutus are exceptionally wonderful fish to keep due to their interesting stripy patterns, general un-fussiness, and peaceful demeanors. Zebra Kutus can be kept in nearly any community tank that does not house aggressive species. They do best in waters between 75 and 82°F with pH of 6.0 to 7.5, and hardness of 5-20 dH. Their aquariums should have soft light, with sandy or rocky substrate, with plants and driftwood to hide in. Their overly peaceful nature tends to manifest in a general shyness, which seems to be mitigated by keeping them in groups of 3 or 4. As unfussy omnivores, these fish will happily accept most live, frozen, and dried foods, while greedily coveting vegetal foods like peas or cucumbers. For those of us who love oddballs, offering these foods to a surfaced and inverted Zebra Kutu can be the highlight of any day!

WS Leiocassis sp Shovelnose Bee Cat

Leiocassis sp., also known as the Shovelnose Bee Catfish, is a member of the Bagrid Catfish family. This family is sometimes referred to as naked catfish due to their lack of scales, and each species in the family exhibit elongated faces and prominent snouts. While many fish from this family are known to humans as delicious meals, this particular species reaches 3.3 inches and has a lovely black and yellow pattern on its body, making them more interesting to observe in freshwater tanks than on our plates. Much like the insect for which they are named, these fish tend to be territorial with conspecifics, so while they are great community fish, they should have plenty of space and hiding spots to soften any aggression. Shovelnose Bee Catfish should be kept in waters between 68 and 79°F, pH between 6.0 and 7.4, with strong current and oxygenation. They can be fed most live, frozen or dried foods, though they prefer the former two to the latter. Have any beekeepers for friends? Show them these interesting catfish to win them over to your side!

WS Erethistes pussilus

Friends not into bees? How about butterflies, or cats for that matter? Erethistes pusillus, also known as the Butterfly Catfish or the Giant Moth Catfish, is a beautifully graceful fish from the southern Asian waters of Bengal and Myanmar. With swooping mottled fins that fan out like butterfly wings, these fish spend their time burrowing and gliding across the sandy bottoms in harmony with all others in the tank. This tranquility can actually be a fault when kept with fast moving fish like danios, barbs, cichlids, and tetras, who will outcompete their slow moving friends. They do best in very clean waters between 68 and 73°F with pH of 6.2 to 6.8. It is also suggested that air stones be added to their tanks, since they are very sensitive to oxygen dips that results in skin shedding. Need to decompress at the end of the day? Watching these Butterfly Catfish glide across your tank is the perfect complement to a glass of wine and listening to John Mayer.

   

     

Spotlight Fish Blog

Janaury 22, 2016

Bridging (metaphorical) gaps with fish...

You may think that mammal lovers, bug lovers, and most importantly, fish lovers share very little common ground with one another. Think again my friends! Fresh water tanks hosting the charming Zebra Kutu, affable Shovelnose Bee Catfish, or the lovely Butterfly Catfish will be exciting to share with your friends or acquaintances that prefer whiskery or spiny pets and wildlife. All members of the Catfish order, Siluriformes, these fish are popular in the freshwater aquarium hobby due to their unique natures within their kind. Many may not be aware of the vast array involved in this order, which contains 3,000 species. Today, we are taking this opportunity to outline these few that we are proud to offer our wonderful clients!

WS Synodontis nigriventris Zebra Kutu

Synodontis nigriventris, more commonly referred to as the Zebra Kutu, hails from the densely vegetated rivers of the Congo, where they have developed an incredibly unique and interesting predator avoidance behavior. While we may be familiar with fish being lighter on their bellies than their dorsals to be more difficult to spot by lurking predators above, the Zebra Kutu evolved to be lighter on their dorsals than their bellies for the same reason. How, you may ask does this coloration reversal have the same effect? It will all make sense when I fill in this crucial bit of information: they spend 90% of their time upside down. How this fish manages its lifestyle without any other known anatomical differences between other fish species has baffled ichthyologists for years, who affectionately (though somewhat obviously) refer to them as “upside down catfish”.

In addition to the fun of watching these fellas do backstroke, they Zebra Kutus are exceptionally wonderful fish to keep due to their interesting stripy patterns, general un-fussiness, and peaceful demeanors. Zebra Kutus can be kept in nearly any community tank that does not house aggressive species. They do best in waters between 75 and 82°F with pH of 6.0 to 7.5, and hardness of 5-20 dH. Their aquariums should have soft light, with sandy or rocky substrate, with plants and driftwood to hide in. Their overly peaceful nature tends to manifest in a general shyness, which seems to be mitigated by keeping them in groups of 3 or 4. As unfussy omnivores, these fish will happily accept most live, frozen, and dried foods, while greedily coveting vegetal foods like peas or cucumbers. For those of us who love oddballs, offering these foods to a surfaced and inverted Zebra Kutu can be the highlight of any day!

 

WS Leiocassis sp Shovelnose Bee Cat

Leiocassis sp., also known as the Shovelnose Bee Catfish, is a member of the Bagrid Catfish family. This family is sometimes referred to as naked catfish due to their lack of scales, and each species in the family exhibit elongated faces and prominent snouts. While many fish from this family are known to humans as delicious meals, this particular species reaches 3.3 inches and has a lovely black and yellow pattern on its body, making them more interesting to observe in freshwater tanks than on our plates. Much like the insect for which they are named, these fish tend to be territorial with conspecifics, so while they are great community fish, they should have plenty of space and hiding spots to soften any aggression. Shovelnose Bee Catfish should be kept in waters between 68 and 79°F, pH between 6.0 and 7.4, with strong current and oxygenation. They can be fed most live, frozen or dried foods, though they prefer the former two to the latter. Have any beekeepers for friends? Show them these interesting catfish to win them over to your side!

 

WS Erethistes pussilus

Friends not into bees? How about butterflies, or cats for that matter? Erethistes pusillus, also known as the Butterfly Catfish or the Giant Moth Catfish, is a beautifully graceful fish from the southern Asian waters of Bengal and Myanmar. With swooping mottled fins that fan out like butterfly wings, these fish spend their time burrowing and gliding across the sandy bottoms in harmony with all others in the tank. This tranquility can actually be a fault when kept with fast moving fish like danios, barbs, cichlids, and tetras, who will outcompete their slow moving friends. They do best in very clean waters between 68 and 73°F with pH of 6.2 to 6.8. It is also suggested that air stones be added to their tanks, since they are very sensitive to oxygen dips that results in skin shedding. Need to decompress at the end of the day? Watching these Butterfly Catfish glide across your tank is the perfect complement to a glass of wine and listening to John Mayer.

   

     

September 11, 2015

Happy Friday, readers; we’ve made it through one more week. One of our catchers is on vacation so we’re having to move orders around more than usual; please bear with us until he returns.

I’m focusing on just one genus again, the Steatocranus of the Congo River basin, known colloquially as “Buffalo Heads”, “Block Heads”, or “Lion Heads”. Specifically, all four of the species I’ll be talking about today occur in and below the Pool Malebo, formerly Stanley Pool, situated between Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Our fifth species, S. irvinei, occurs in the Volta River in Ghana and is expected to be reclassified into a different genus in the near future. The capitals of the Congo Republic countries are situated on either side of Pool Malebo’s outflow, just before the Congo River begins its flow through a series of waterfalls and rapids known as the Livingstone Falls. Technically,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Pool Malebo is just a widening of the river as it branches around a large central island, M’Bamou Isle, and before it reaches the falls, but it is so large that it looks like a vast lake.

Lake

Livingstone Falls is not a waterfall in the conventional sense; the descent of the river is 1100 feet over 150 miles – a grade of only 0.14%. However, some of these are the highest flow drops in the world – as the Amazon has no falls or rapids, the Congo (the second-highest flow river in the world behind the Amazon) takes that category with its series of Livingstone Falls rapids. Just past Pool Malebo the rough water begins with huge waves and sprays. Most of the small Congo fish from Pool Malebo we keep in aquaria avoid these areas; Steatocranus species are one of the few to find homes even a short distance west towards the rapids.

The Steatocranus species are rheophilic cichlids – they are specially adapted to spend their time in high-current waters. Each species has an underdeveloped swim bladder to some extent, decreasing their buoyancy and preventing them from being swept away in the current, forward-placed pectorals, and a powerful caudal fin. They must work hard to swim from the bottom of the aquarium and sink once more, causing a method of locomotion akin to hopping across the substrate. Most species have large mouths and thick lips. Both males and females of every species develop some degree of nuchal hump, a fatty deposit on the top of the head, though that of males is much larger. The current in their aquarium need not be high, as these fish tend to rest and nest in more sedate areas sheltered by rocks or banks, but high oxygenation is required for the health of these fish. A sand substrate is strongly advised as Steatocranus are known diggers and excavators – rooted plants may be dislodged so, if plants are desired, they should be floating or able to be rooted to rock or driftwood.

Speaking of nesting, all species breed in the same manner – they are monogamous pair-bonding fish in one of the most extreme cases of such. A fish whose partner passes will often refrain from finding another mate and remain ‘single’ for the rest of their lives. A small group of juveniles is best grown out together, allowing pairs to form naturally. If only one pair is purchased and the pair is not already bonded to one another, there is a chance that they will not like each other and will never bond. Bonded breeding pairs are best kept in their own home, away from other members of their genus. Dither fish such as Phenacogrammus interruptus “Congo Tetras” are an excellent addition with these fish, as they may be skittish without the company of schooling fish. However, keep a close eye on the tank if the pair begins to breed and be prepared to remove the dither fish if the pair becomes aggressive with them.

The Steatocranus pair will nest in a cave, possibly excavating a pit themselves beneath the décor, whether that cave be stacked rocks, driftwood or a clay pot. Only one entrance to the cave should be available – many pairs have been observed to reject caves if they have a ‘back door’. The female will lay an average of 30-60 large yellow to olive-green eggs (up to 100 eggs have been observed) on the walls and roof of the cave and defend the brood from any who come near. The male stays on the outskirts and defends the outlying area, preventing any other fish from approaching their brood. The eggs incubate for approximately five days and will become free-swimming, though they will stay in the cave, after another five days or so. Multiple broods can be left in the same aquarium; older juveniles will not harm their younger siblings and the parents will continue to tolerate their children.


Steatocranus are generally hardy and unfussy fish – a pH around neutral or slightly basic will suit them, as will a low to moderate level of hardness. They are not particular about these parameters as long as they are acclimated properly. Their eating habits are likewise easy to maintain – they will accept live, frozen, or freeze-dried meaty foods as well as flake – variety is the spice of life, however, and it is advisable to refrain from feeding only flake or pellet food (there have been reports of strict pellet food diets in particular causing gastronomic distress in these fish). Occasional treats of blanched green pea can also help their digestive health by providing a nice dose of fiber.

Our most common species, Steatocranus casuarius “Buffalo Head” is common to see in the hobby. It has a comparatively short and thick body and a fairly well-developed swim bladder, occupying the calmer Pool Malebo waters and less-turbid areas off the Congo’s main river channel. Males reach about five and a half to six inches with females around four and a half to five inches. This species seems to possess one of the largest average nuchal hump sizes for both males and females and a fairly standard dark brown to black body coloration. Their scales each have a white margin and occasionally dark vertical bars or horizontal stripes can be seen, depending on the individual and their mood. Well-kept and healthy specimens develop brilliant blue to turquoise eye coloration – very striking on their dark bodies!

steatocranus c

Steatocranus tinanti “Slender Buffalo Head” is also fairly common in the hobby. As their common name implies, these fish have much, much shallower bodies with a high aspect ratio (length to height is around 4 or 5 to one, easily). Males are just as long as those of S. casuarius, but females will only reach around four inches. The males have notably large heads with thick jaws and large humps and have lovely extensions to their dorsal fins; females have smaller heads and barely noticeable humps. The color of these Slender Buffalo Heads is a dove grey to yellow depending on mood with hints of brown and red in their fins. Their humps carry just a bit of green iridescence and some specimens will show darker horizontal stripes from their caudal peduncle to their gill plate. This species has shining silver eyes with slight hints of brownish-red in well cared for specimens.

Steatocranus tinanti

Steatocranus gibbiceps “Buffalo Head” is the type species for the genus, the first Buffalo Head to be formally described by science in 1899. The stocky-bodied males are similar in shape to S. casuarius, but will only reach four and a half to five inches in length, with females around four inches. There is little difference between the two species at a quick glance. S. gibbiceps is slightly more elongated and, instead of the dark scales with light edges of S. casuarius, S. gibbiceps has pale scales with dark margins. Vertical banding is fairly common to see in this species, likely due to the overall lighter coloration of their olive-grey bodies. As with S. casuarius, good health will bring out those gorgeous blue eyes.

Steatocranus gibbiceps

Finally, Steatocranus sp. “Red Eye” is not yet described, but it has been known as a by-catch from Kinshasa exports since around the year 2000. We were lucky to get a group of these beautiful fish. Their body shape lies somewhere between S. gibbiceps and S. tinanti – fairly elongate, but still a little stocky compared to the Slender Buffalo Head. They are also one of the smallest species with males under four inches in length and females under three. They are similar in sexing respects to the most common S. casuarius with females carrying less of a hump and males having quite a dramatic hump. Their scales are neither edged in dark or light coloration but instead have a light-colored crescent shape at the trailing edge with the rest of the scale dark. Most notable for this species is, as its name suggests, their bright, cherry red eyes – these set the species apart from all other known members of the genus and really make a gorgeous feature.

Steatocranus sp Red Eye

Well, my dear readers, be sure to let me know what you think – I’m worried I may be writing too long of newsletters recently, so please send me some feedback! Are you enjoying the length and extra information or would you prefer the short paragraphs with quick overviews? Let me know and I’ll do what I can to get this newsletter to be the most appealing it can be!

As always, thank you,

Jessica Supalla

December 11, 2015

December 11th, 2015

             Are you growing out your winter whiskers? Facial “hair” can be quite fetching for both people and fish, though arguably more purposeful for the latter! The most well known whiskered fish belong in the order Siluriformes, more commonly referred to as ‘catfish’. Named for their prominent barbels, catfish palpate and sense the surface upon which they move in search of arthropodic or detritus snacks. There are 40 families of catfish containing 4,500 known species, and while the larger of these fish may be most commonly found on our dinner plates, there are a large number of small catfish species that make great aquarium pets!

 One of the most notable families of aquarium catfish is Corydoras, who gained popularity in the hobbyist market due to their peaceful and diurnal nature, which makes them enjoyable to watch during the day. Meaning “helmet skin”, corydoras are armored catfish found in slow moving and small freshwater streams all over South America. They thrive in waters with a pH between 4.0 and 7.0, temperatures between 70 and 80℉, and soft waters with a range of 18-90 ppm. As bottom dwellers, corys prefer to have rocky or sandy substrate to sift through and should be fed sinking pellets supplemented with live or frozen foods like bloodworms. Corys also tend to be a little shy but become much more exuberant when there are aquarium plants for cover, and when they are kept in groups of three or more of the same species. Corys do extremely well in community tanks and may actually serve as the canary in the mineshaft, so to speak. When water quality is poor, they frequently dart to the surface and poke their snouts above the water to breathe air, which should signal to aquarists that it is time for a water change, though it should not replace normal water quality tests.

The Wet Spot currently houses 36 cory species on our extensive fish list. Some of our favorite corys are Corydoras weitzmani and Corydoras sp. C003 who can be thought of as the masked-men of the family. C. weitzmani, also known as the two-saddle cory, are a wild Peruvian light brown fish that exhibit one black band along their dorsal and one along their caudal peduncle (resembling saddles) as well as a thin black stripe around their eyes. Males and females are difficult to distinguish, however, the females tend to be slightly more full-bodied than the males and in large groups they are relatively easy to breed.

WSCorydoras weitzmani

 Several hundred corys available to aquarists are as of yet, not given proper scientific names, rather they are named by C-numbers. One of these corys that the Wet Spot offers is Corydoras C003, who are also known as Deckeri Corys. These fish exhibit the same body type and lack of sexual dimorphism as C. weitzmani, but also have black spots on their tan back resembling chain-linked armor and a black eye mask. Think medieval soldier meet the Dread Pirate Roberts and you get C. C003!

WSCorydoras sp C003

Some less commonly known South American armored catfish that make great aquarium fish include those from the genus Ancistrus. These fish are bushynose plecos that are well known as “sucker” fish that attach themselves to solid substrate like rocks or the side of the aquarium glass. They help to keep algal growth in the tank at bay. One of our favorite Ancistrus species on our fish list is Ancistrus claro, who are 2.5-3.0 inches in length with flattened bodies and heads, hooked barbels around their mouths, and intricate black marbled patterns on their gold bodies. These fish prefer to live in waters between 73 and 82, with pH of 6-7.5, and hardness of 36-268 ppm. They do best in tanks set-up to mimic rushing streams with many rock or driftwood substrates to anchor themselves on. In the wild, they are omnivorous preferring to feed on aquatic invertebrates. In captivity, they can be fed a variety of dried and sinking foods, supplemented by live or frozen foods like mosquito larvae or bloodworms, plus some fresh fruit and vegetables.

WSAncistrus sp Claro LDA 08

Bring home your own good natured and lovable spiky-headed catfish today!         

August 28, 2015

Good afternoon, dear readers. I wish I could tell you about last weekend’s outdoor adventures, however, we had a fierce wind from the East for most of the weekend – this time of year is wildfire season in Eastern Oregon and our entire valley was covered in smoke. The air quality index was rated as unhealthy for all individuals and visibility was extremely limited – even the trees across the street were greyed with haze. I spent most of my weekend indoors, aside from working on a small sailboat I’ve inherited. Hopefully soon I’ll be able to get it out on a lake again, but it does need plenty of work!

Last week I spoke on Lake Tanganyika; this week, I’m moving on to another Great Lake of Africa. Lake Victoria is the second largest lake in the world in terms of surface area (seventh in volume) behind our Lake Superior, though it is significantly less deep than Lake Tanganyika (the second largest lake in the world in terms of volume behind Lake Baikal of Russia, seventh in surface area).  The African Great Lakes all occur in the Rift Valley - an area of stretching and uplift caused by plate tectonics and noted for its alkaline water quality.

The Lake Victoria basin is noted for the incredible number of haplochromine cichlids and their explosive and radiative speciation - that is to say, the rapid transition from a mere handful of species to a veritable plethora of different fish. There have been several mass extinctions in the lake followed by repopulations and further speciation. 

Most recently, the introduction of the Nile Perch as a cultivated food source caused the near or complete extinctions of many hundreds of native cichlids. Commercial fishing utilizes the haplochromines of the lakes as bait for long line fishing, further threatening populations. Decreasing lake transparency due to erosion and excessive plant growth creates conditions wherein unique species cannot see the visual breeding cues of their own strains, opening the door for hybridization. These issues place us hobbyists in the unique position to cultivate the endemic fish of Victoria and potentially preserve the unique species and localized strains of the lake.

Lipochromis sp. “Matumbi Hunter” was formerly considered a Haplochromis but has since been moved to a new genus. However, the validity of the genus is in question and the true placement of these fish is still under consideration. These are four to five inch elongate fish with large mouths and incredible speed. Males are a beautiful amalgam of sky blue and acid green when displaying for females, silver-backed and yellow-bellied with a thick black lateral line when resting. Their fins are painted in blue and red with prominent yellow egg spots. Females, as with many Victorian cichlids, are a comparatively drab silver with a charcoal lateral line and hints of blue and yellow in their fins. The primary diet of these fish in the wild or in some home aquaria is the eggs and fry of other cichlids – their name of Hunter refers to their ability to speed through the water to catch their tiny prey. Breeding this fish can be time-consuming and frustrating –the mouthbrooding females tend to produce only eight to fifteen tiny eggs at the height of their breeding with young fish often only producing and holding four or five eggs. The typical signs of holding for other fish tend not to apply – the small egg and spawn size does not produce the distended chin or dark patch typically indicative of holding; instead, watching for a female that declines food will likely indicate that she is holding. Removing a female for rearing can also prove difficult as they will often spit their eggs if one attempts to net them – separating the female in the same tank until the fry are released or stripping her early and rearing the eggs in a commercial tumbler are two popular methods for rearing this species. Care of this species is fairly easy, though a bit of guesswork – their native habitat is unknown and, as they are critically endangered in the wild, we are unlikely to find out exactly what their habitat choice is. Rocks and sand are a good choice for hardscaping with somewhat hard water and an average temperature of around 78-80°F.

WS Lipochromis sp Matumbi Hunter

“Haplochromis” sp. “Thickskin” “Obliquidens”, occasionally referred to as H. sp. #44, is an unquestionably gorgeous and absolutely aggressive Victorian Cichlid. As with Lipochromis sp. “Matumbi Hunter”, they are of uncertain taxonomic status – it is thought they will eventually be moved to the genus Astatotilapia. The four to five inch males are brilliantly colored – olive green with sunny yellow sides and thick black stripes, bright red anal and caudal fins, and brilliant blue dorsal edged in red. The females are slightly smaller and a shimmering olive green. These maternal mouthbrooders begin breeding around one year of age with an average spawn of about 30 eggs and incubate their eggs for 25 to 30 days. Some keepers will strip the females after 15 days to allow her to eat and regain her strength. While these fish are suitable for keeping with other Victorian cichlids, they are very prone to hybridization and care should be taken to avoid this if one wishes to breed the Thickskin. Keep in mind their aggression levels when housing with other fish as well. In the wild, these fish feed upon mostly insect larvae and small invertebrates from the shallow, sandy shore regions. A fairly meaty diet with treats of insect larvae and a bit of spirulina would keep these fish in good condition, as will parameters in line with the Matumbi Hunter.

Haplochromis Thickskin

Xystichromis phytophagus “Christmas Fulu” is another incredibly beautiful Victorian, though it has recently become extinct in Lake Victoria itself, likely due to the introduction of the Nile Perch. In the wild, it can still be found in the much smaller papyrus-lined Lake Kanyaboli of Kenya. The four inch males are some of the most colorful fish found in the hobby – their faces are powder and electric blue, blending through purple at their forehead to red and red-orange over their neck and back. At and below the lateral line, their bellies and tails are lime green with a central yellow area. Their fins are beautifully painted in powder blue and cherry red with inky black ventral fins and distinct, if small, yellow egg spots at the trailing edge of their anal fins. A series of black blotches marks the fish, varying in number and intensity with mood, but notably crossing the face and forehead and trailing horizontally from the back of the fish’s head down the body. Females are a soft gold color with yellowed fins. As a whole, the species is much less aggressive than the Thickskin, but may still exhibit territorialism and some aggression while breeding. The Christmas Fulu is a polyamorous maternal mouthbrooder – the spawning male will dig a pit and coax a ripe female to spawn there; when finished, he will seek another ripe female shortly after. Females will release and hold around thirty eggs at a time for a period of fifteen to twenty days, with eighteen being the average. Stripping or separating holding females is advised if one wants a high fry survival rate. In the wild, these fish live in sandy areas beneath high plant growth and feed on decaying leaf litter and other plant matter. They will not regularly feed on live plants – it is therefore thought that the fish gains its nutrition from consuming the microorganisms present on decaying leaves. A diet high in vegetable matter, such as a 50/50 mix of standard cichlid feed and spirulina flake, will keep these fish in prime condition. Meaty treats such as bloodworm or cyclops will help bring out even more of their red coloration, but these treats should be given very sparingly as the Christmas Fulu’s digestive system is not developed to handle high protein diets and it can cause some gastrointestinal problems. A temperature around 80-85°F is typical for their natural habitat, however, they do quite well at the lowest temperature of this range with a pH around 8.0.

WS Xystichromis phytophagus

Astatotilapia latifasciata “Zebra Obliquidens” is not known from Lake Victoria proper, but is native to one of the smaller Victoria Basin lakes to the North, Lake Kyoga in Uganda, and its tiny satellite lake, Lake Nawampasa. As its own entity, Lake Kyoga is fairly large in surface area at 660 square miles – larger than all but ten of the United States’ lakes, including our Great Lakes. However, it is very shallow with a maximum depth of less than nineteen feet and an average depth of about ten feet. Nearly all areas of ten feet or less are covered with water lilies and the shores are occupied by papyrus and water hyacinth. The Zebra Obliquidens of these lakes is known to be critically endangered and thought by some to be completely extinct in the wild. Thankfully, the population in the aquarium hobby is thriving and we’re in no danger yet of losing this fish in captivity. These are the largest fish of this group with males reaching five and a half inches. Both males and females show the thick black vertical bars of their namesake, each starting from the top of the body and ending just shy of their ventral side, and both sexes show the same sunny yellow coloration. Males, however, have a shining silver dorsal edge and a cherry red belly. They are comparatively peaceful for Victorians and typically only show territoriality to their own species – species that look very similar to them may also be targets, however. Their hardscaping preference is soft sand and rocky outcrops to claim as their territory and a standard cichlid feed will keep them in good health. A slightly lower temperature between 78-80°F and a pH around 8.0 will suit the Zebra Obliquidens perfectly.

Astatotilapialatifasciata

Thank you for reading once again – it means the world to me.

Jessica Supalla

September 18, 2015

Thank goodness it’s the weekend, readers – it’s been quite a week here.  The winds of change have hit our department and with them we’ve had to do quite a bit of reorganizing in the meantime.  Thank you for your patience with our communication and shipping during this week – we’re still short-staffed with our catcher on vacation, but soon he will return and we’ll be right back to it!

The Gymnogeophagus genus belongs to the subfamily of Geophaginae eartheaters, which likewise includes such popular genera as Geophagus, Satanoperca, Apistogramma, Acarichthys and Mikrogeophagus.  It’s a good idea to keep any Geophaginae species on a sandy substrate to allow them to sift through the sand for leftover food particles.

These fish in general have a similar triangular body shape to Geophagus species, though slightly more laterally compressed and stocky.  Males develop a large, attractive ‘hump’ on the top of their heads at maturity which extends from the front of the dorsal fin to the upper lip  When kept in a group with other males, only the dominant fish’s hump will grow large while the others will remain rather subdued.  If the current dominant male is removed from the group, the “beta” fish will assume his dominant role and his hump will expand.   

Gymnogeophagus species have two breeding habits – their historic substrate spawning and the newly developed mouthbrooding tendencies.  As species convert slowly from substrate spawning in monogamous pairs to harem-based maternal mouthbrooding, the species will apparently undergo a period of ‘delayed’ mouthbrooding wherein the female picks up the eggs only several days after laying.  For breeding purposes, substrate spawning species (of our available species, only G. meridionalis, G. sp. “Blue Neon” and G. sp. “El Norte” are substrate spawners) are best kept in pairs, while mouthbrooders prefer groups of one male and multiple females.  We’ll start the list with our mouthbrooders before moving on to our substrate spawners.

The majority of our Gymnogeophagus balzani specimens are fairly small and unsexable, but don’t worry too much: as a mouthbrooding species, G. balzani is a harem breeder, so don’t let this discourage you from picking up some extra beautiful girls!   Their bodies fade from brownish-grey on the dorsal side to golden brown on their bellies and are decorated with vertical barring of darker and lighter stripes, as well as a large black spot at mid-body.  This is all overlaid with brilliant iridescent spots and patterns, adding an amazing flash of interest as the fish moves.  G. balzani’s fins are beautiful gold with bright white spotting on the edges and trailing sides of the dorsal, anal and pelvic fins.  Males develop dorsal fin extensions and an overlay of brilliant red on their dorsal’s trailing edge.  While brown and silver are generally considered “drab” colors for fish, the balzani elevates this coloration to a new level of beauty.

WS Gymnogeophagusbalzani

 

G. gymnogenys “Yerbalito” is the Gymnogeophagus species with the largest range of the genus, including Southern Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina.  Due to the incredibly large distribution, G. gymnogenys has many different phenotypes; ours hail from Arroyo Yerbalito near the border of Uruguay and Brazil.  In Geologic terms, an arroyo refers to a deep-cut seasonal streambed in an arid area, often the result of spring runoff from snowy hills.  In this usage, however, arroyo appears to refer to a deep-cut perennial stream.  The Yerbalito gymnogenys is quite a stunning fish – the overall color is a lovely honey gold color with cheeks and upper lip marked with bright iridescent blue.  Many of the cheek spots are surrounded by cherry red coloration and this same coloration is mirrored in the blue-spotted red unpaired fins.  Most notable is the black bars running from lateral line over the dorsal edge of the fish – one at the forward base of the dorsal fin and the other running from mid-cheek, through the eye and over the base of the male’s nuchal hump.   The nuchal hump of G. gymnogenys “Yerbalito” is fairly narrow and pointed, especially when compared to such species as G. balzani.  G. gymnogenys reaches six inches in length and prefers water in the mid to high seventies Fahrenheit and is, according to most reports, an incredibly unfussy eater. 

WS GymnogeophagusgymnogenysYerbolito

Our last mouthbrooding eartheater is Gymnogeophagus labiatus “Rio Olimar,” an absolutely stunning variety of fish.  Compared to many other Gymnogeophagus species, G. labiatus has a more elongate body with more blue tones and a quite rotund nuchal hump featuring splendid mauve coloration.  The Rio Olimar’s coloration is a base of green-gold to amber with vertical black striping over the caudal half of the body.  The entirety of their body is overlain with iridescent blue-green scales, creating an exquisite shimmering effect.  The fins are a soft red color with bold, brilliant blue-green stripes and spots.  G. labiatus is named for the particularly fleshy appearance of their lips compared to other members of the genus.  In nature, G. labiatus occurs alongside G. meridionalis, mentioned last week, as well as G. gymnogenys

WS GymnogeophaguslabiatusRioOlimar

We’ve just three more species to go – the substrate spawners! Gymnogeophagus sp. “Blue Neon”, often classified into the Rhabdotus species group, features very linear lateral patterning, with its neon blue iridescent scale markings occurring in parallel lines at the scale borders along its chocolate brown body.  As this coloration extends up the body towards their dorsal edge, the blue coloration expands until it is the dominant tone of the body under the dorsal fin.  The blue tone is so vivid as to nearly appear violet over the fins and the red tones typically carried by Gymnogeophagus species are somewhat cooler in tone, tending almost towards a fuchsia.  These fish are positively stunning.

WS GymnogeophagusspBlueNeon

Gymnogeophagus sp. “El Norte” is also known as G. sp. “Sequeria” and is likewise classified into the Rhabdotus group.  In contrast to the “Blue Neon”, the “El Norte” has very limited and paler blue coloration over a more golden body color.  Their fins are mostly cherry red with black outer edges on the dorsal, anal and ventral fins and a brilliant yellow tail.    Most notably, however, is the amazing mid-body barring – a central vertical black belt is bordered at front and back with pale, nearly glowing white, bands.  In full coloration, the interest on this fish is astounding with amazing plays of golds, reds, oranges, blues, greens, and browns.  It is hard to match the El Norte in sheer brilliance.  While our little fish aren’t quite as colorful as adults, I highly recommend them for any fan of eartheaters.

WS GymnogeophagusspENorte

Finally, Gymnogeophagus meridionalis is definitely one of the most splendid Gymnogeophagus species I’ve seen.  G. meridionalis is a gorgeous caramel color with a stripe of black bordered with cream running vertically from their dorsal to ventral edge, placed between the ventral and anal fins.  Their entire body is overlaid with amazing iridescent blue spots that string together into beautiful lateral stripes along their tail.  Their anal and dorsal fins are brilliant red with blue spangles with the dorsal fin fading to black along its top edge and the anal fin fading into dark caramel.  The tail is layered with caramel and red colors and features the same blue spangles, as well as black filamentous extensions at the top and bottom edges.

WS Gymnogeophagusmeridionalis

Well, it’s been quite a week – thank you all for your patience and once more for reading!

Jessica Supalla

 

August 21, 2015

Hello again, my friends. We’ve reached the end of the week once again – I was hoping to head out to the forest, perhaps Bend and Central Oregon this weekend, but it is looking like that won’t happen. Fortunately, I did get to head to the Coast Range last weekend and was able to stargaze to my heart’s content and, perhaps more interestingly, spent a good fifteen minutes chasing and playing with a Pacific Jumping Mouse, Zapus trinotatus – it was surprisingly friendly and even allowed me to pet it a little.

Zapus trinotatus

Anyways, we’ve gotten some new Lake Tanganyika cichlids in this week! Lake Tanganyika is the second deepest and second most voluminous lake in the world, just behind Russia’s Lake Baikal in both cases. There are 250 known species of cichlids and 75 non-cichlid, nearly all of which live in the first 590 feet of depth. This is most remarkable to consider as the average depth is 1,870 feet with a maximum depth of over 4,800 feet. It is this massive depth and the relatively consistent temperatures of the region, which cause the emptiness of its depths – without convection from temperature variation and current along a shallow bed, much of the water at depth is anoxic, that is, devoid of oxygen and not suitable for fish and other animal life. The pH averages 8.4 throughout the lake, peaking at 9.2 in some areas.

The “Shellies” are a very popular group of Tanganyikans due to their ease of care, size and beauty – a breeding group can be kept successfully in a 20 gallon or larger aquarium and a single pair can be maintained and bred in a ten gallon aquarium. “Lamprologus” ornatipinnis is our newest acquisition in the group and definitely a beautiful little fish. Males are said to reach either two or three inches total length with females half that size – I’d like to hedge bets with a maximum size of two and a half inches in the average home aquarium. These are harem shell spawners, so a good number of females, with a significantly smaller proportion of males would be ideal – females are fairly pale and silvery with a bit of violet coloration, while adult males will display brilliant lavender and green horizontal stripes. Their fins are pinstriped in white and black – truly an attractive little fish.

WS Lamprologus ornatipinnis

Lepidiolamprologus kendalli is a much larger and more aggressive fish. They will grow up to eight inches in size and have elongate, torpedo-like bodies and wide mouths designed for quick movement and predation. Their bodies are camouflaged to blend with the local rockwork, featuring mottling of chocolate brown and white over cream and bronze, with a slight touch of iridescent blue around the cheeks and mouths. These lovely piscivores should be kept only with other large fish, provided with rockwork and a minimum aquarium size of 75 gallons – they are large fish and, if kept in a group or with other species, will definitely need the space!

WS Lepidiolamprologus kendalii

If you desire an open-water species of Tanganyikan cichlid, consider a Cyprichromis, perhaps C. leptosoma "Utinta". At maturity, these beautiful fish display vivid blue heads and dorsal edges, creamy sand-colored bellies and electric blue fins. Some males sport blue tails to match the rest of their fins, while others show brilliant sunflower yellow tails. The females will be significantly more silver with less pronounced coloration. These are true C. leptosoma with a maximum size of four inches, as opposed to the five to six inches of the "Jumbo" varieties. A group of six to ten of these fish would make an excellent school of dithers above your rock-dwelling Tanganyikans, provided they are not large piscivores like L. kendalli.

WS Cyprichromis leptosoma utinta

Finally, we have the most amazing sand-sifters, Xenotilapia (Enantiopus) melanogenys “Kipili”. With thick heads and long, tapered tails, these are definitely some unique fish in shape, coloration and behavior. They tend to hop along the substrate like gobies, sifting the fine sand for food particles and displaying to their conspecifics with an extended gill region. Mature males are sandy toned with an overlay of iridescent violet coloration. Each of their fins are intricately striped and marked in yellow, blue, white and black. The snout of the fish, from between the eyes to the upper lip, is inky black, fading to intense green and violet over the head to the dorsal fin. While females are significantly paler, a close look will reveal that they share this coloration as well. This species is truly one of a kind.

WS Enantiopus melanogenys

Thank you all for reading – I do hope that, once again, you’ve enjoyed this week’s information.

Jessica Supalla