April 24, 2015
Happy Friday, friends! I’m writing to you from the past (namely, Thursday) to tell you about our brand new acquisitions – Wild fish from Lake Malawi! This is one of the most exciting times for us, to be able to acquire these fish from our suppliers. This week, I’m going to focus on a few Mbuna and, next week, we’ll take a look at some Haps. As a general rule, keep your Mbuna over a sandy substrate with plenty of complex rockwork and provide a diet high in vegetable matter, as an excess of protein can cause bloat.
We’ll start with the incredibly popular Metriaclima sp. “Gold Zebra” from Kawanga. These absolutely lovely specimens are sunflower yellow with deep brown to black chins and bellies. Their body is banded with brown-black as well, with bolder bands towards the fish’s head and face and narrower as they proceed towards the tail. Their anal fin is brilliant sky blue with a hint of black and a cluster of four to five bright yellow egg spots. An adult size of four to five inches, with males the larger of the sexes, dictates a 30 gallon minimum for one of these fish. They can be highly aggressive and are best kept away from any similar looking fish such as other Gold Zebras or yellow Mbuna. They are frequently found at depths in excess of 40 feet where plankton is abundant. Dominant males and females graze heavily on biofilm, while subdominant males must vie for food in the plankton clouds. These territorial males will claim a region of open sand between rockwork and construct a nest beneath an appropriately sized rock. While OB females do occur, we’ve received brown females in this shipment.
Next, a fish we have frequently but rarely see wild specimens of: Metriaclima sp. “Long Pelvic Mdoka”. These are beautiful, sky blue fish with burnt sienna banding and brown faces. The sienna continues as deep orange into their blue-white dorsal fins. The long pelvic fins they are named for are the same deep orange with brilliant white leading edges. Males of this species will grow to about five inches in size, making them one of the large Mbuna, particularly of the Metriaclima genus. These fish are significantly less aggressive than the Gold Zebra and can be housed with other semi-aggressive Mbuna around the same size.
Finally, we wanted to highlight a very, very unusual fish to see in the hobby – Metriaclima lanisticola. These fish have remarkably stubby bodies, perfectly adapted to their unusual shell-dwelling manner. They are even named for their tendency to nest in empty snail shells from the Lanistes genus. Nevertheless, they are a maternal mouthbrooder despite being considered a “Shellie”. These fish aren’t much to look at color-wise, often sporting grey flanks with dark barring and perhaps some iridescence, but a displaying male will show a pale blue belly and orange-red dorsal edge – to catch one of these stubby little fish in display is truly a treat. Most specimens don’t grow much past two or perhaps three inches, making this special little fish a perfect candidate for a small Mbuna tank or species setup – a group could be housed very comfortably in a 40 breeder style tank. The fish is non-aggressive to other species, though males may be a little territorial with each other – be sure to place plenty of shells for each to stake a claim! Additionally, an interesting tidbit to this fish – they are considered a “cleaner” fish. Any non-Mbuna fish that presents with fin fungus as associated with wounds caused by aggression or parasites will be graciously cleaned of fungus by M. lanisticola.
With that, we’re done for the week with these three beautiful Mbuna. I do hope you’ve enjoyed this and we’ll see you back next week for round two: the Haps!
April 17, 2015
Happy Friday! It’s a landmark day in the life of Jessica – as this arrives in your email, I’ll be signing a lease at my new home. I’m not sure what their restrictions on aquariums will be, so wish me luck – I’m hoping they’ll allow me to bring my aquaria with me. If they don’t, I’m sure they’ll be kept in excellent condition by my family. However, with a new home come new dreams and plans! Plans, which include an empty 33 gallon long-style tank that I have that is just begging for a hillstream habitat.
I’ve already got an overpowered Eheim 2215 canister, but I’d probably add a powerhead or two to increase the current even more, as well as the aeration of the water. My Cobalt NeoTherm heater is fully adjustable so I can maintain the cooler, 72°F water temperature preferred by so many hillstream fish. Right now I have black sand and Amano branch wood – I think I’ll keep my moss-covered wood and add enough rounded black river rock sloping against the back wall to make the aquascape resemble the meeting of sand and rock in a pooling stream. My Cryptocoryne jungle will need to be moved to a new tank, which may cause the notorious “Crypt Melt”, but I know they recover just fine once they’ve adjusted to their new habitat. They would likely do alright in this hillstream setup, but it’s not in my aquascape dream – I may keep a few in the back as faux riparian vegetation, though. I’ll also be netting out my plethora of floating Salvinia.
I’ve wanted to keep hillstream loaches for years now, but this tank had been occupied by a few fish I’d brought home years ago – donations to our storefront. With the years and my moving around the city, the fish have been retired to a smaller, more easily resituated 16 gallon bowfront, leaving my beloved 33 Long to lay fallow, crying out for life.
When I met our new Sewellia, I’ve got to say, I instantly fell in love with their blue eyes. These are undescribed Sewellia sp. “Fireworks”, an absolutely beautiful and unique species. I’ve never seen a Sewellia, or any hillstream loach for that matter, with blue eyes! A few moments ago we brought the overhead light down from the tank and directed it straight into the tank to reflect off the dorsal sides of the loaches plastered to the back of the aquarium. Each of their golden spots, surrounded by chocolate brown, shines with a brilliant metallic sheen under the light – especially at the base of each fin. This surely creates their namesake – the bright spot at the base of their pectoral and ventral fins are surrounded by tiny black and gold ticks radiating outward along their fin rays. Just before the edge of the fin, a black band outlines their fins and is in turn surrounded by a halo of white. These fish are truly, truly jaw-dropping. There is little information on them out there, but a safe bet is to treat them just as you would the more common Sewellia lineolata “Reticulated Hillstream Loach” - high current, cool and clean water, and a diet of algae and awfwuchs should keep these stunning Fireworks in perfect condition.
Of course, these new Fireworks aren’t our only hillstream loach –not by any stretch of the imagination. I’ve also considered another recent acquisition – our Hemimyzon nanensis “Royal Butterfly Loach” from Thailand. These are much more elongate loaches than the Sewellias with rounder fins and a flatter nose. They sport mottling of brown and cream over their flanks and faces and brown saddles outlined in pale cream over their dorsal edge. They’ve been measured at just about two inches in the wild, but one of our specimens is pushing two and a half inches total length! These pretty little fish will likewise graze on algae and diatoms, so I’ll have to be sure to allow some growth in my 33-Long before I add either species of hillstream loach.
Finally, I should have some sort of fish that isn’t stuck to glass, rocks or woodwork all day, and a Cypriniform is the perfect choice for a hillstream tank. They may be common, but I think a great fish would be Celestichthys choprae, the “Glowlight Danio”. This is a small schooling fish that reaches just over one inch in length. Overall they are a yellow-orange, somewhat squash-like, color. Their dorsal half is laterally striped in bright orange and iridescent blue. The orange coloring fades into that squash color over the lower half of their body, which is vertically striped with blue. As though their little bodies weren’t colorful enough, their fins are almost more splendid! While mainly transparent, the upper and lower edges of the caudal fin and outer edges of the dorsal and anal fins are striped with brilliant orange, black and iridescent blue. Seeing this fish school is a sumptuous aesthetic experience and I think they’ll be an excellent contrast no matter which hillstream loach I choose.
Well, thank you for reading and wish me luck in moving! Next week, I’ll be out of the office from Friday through Tuesday – Quinn and Chelsea can help you with your orders as usual.
March 27, 2015
Happy Friday, folks! Those of you who have called or emailed in the last week will have noticed we have a new associate in our office – please help me in welcoming Quinn to the team! You can reach him through our usual avenues of communication and he’ll help you out with your orders and technical questions.
I’m happy to announce we just got a new group of Ancistrus dolichopterus “Blue Seam Ancistrus”, L183, a gorgeous wild form of Ancistrus from Brazil. These beautiful fish are charcoal black in color and sprinkled with brilliant white spots. Their caudal and dorsal fins are edged in vivid blue-white, an absolutely striking feature for this lovely fish. As the fish ages the white spots become smaller in proportion to the body and more are developed. This stunning fish prefers soft, acidic black water conditions though ours are acclimated to fairly neutral water chemistry. Ancistrus species are omnivorous and enjoy a varied diet of vegetables and proteins. L183 reaches a maximum of four inches and a group of five or six could be housed perfectly in a 125 gallon planted aquarium. But what should we put with this beautiful fish?
Nematobrycon lacortei “Rainbow Emperor Tetra” is a moderately active and very colorful option for a midwater aquarium occupant. N. lacortei is fairly similar as juveniles to N. palmeri “Emperor Tetra”; however, the Rainbow Emperor has red eyes as opposed to the Emperor’s blue and is often considered the more colorful of the two. The two inch Rainbow Emperor is named for the stunning coloration that occurs above their black lateral line – they show the most amazing rainbow iridescent coloration, slightly mottled above the lateral line along their tail and most often seeming to fade from their red facial coloration through yellow and green to blue at their caudal edge. Their anal fins are trimmed with yellow and black and their tails sport a black stripe through the center, continuing their dark lateral line. This stripe becomes a lovely fin extension in male specimens. As a shoaling species, large groups are recommended and will bring out the best appearance and behavior of this fish – I’ve chosen a sizeable group of twenty-five specimens for my 125 gallon tank.
Nannostomus eques “Brown Tailed Pencilfish” is a perfect choice to hover at the surface of my South American aquarium. These amazing fish have very distinct checking of colors, making their stripes of brown, cream and burgundy red appear hashed onto their bodies. While the upper lobe of their caudal fins are transparent, the lower is deep burgundy and gives rise to other common names for this fish, including Hockeystick or Diptail Pencilfish. The anal fin is likewise colored with burgundy and their ventrals are tipped in bluish white. With a genus named for their tiny mouths, these fish are best fed on baby brine, Cyclops, micro-wafers, or well-crushed flake. I think a group of eighteen of these fish will be a perfect complement to the other fish in my planted tank.
I’d like one more group of schooling fish -- Hyphessobrycon sweglesi “Red Phantom Tetra”. This is a lovely fish hailing from the Orinoco in Colombia. H. sweglesi is a beautiful silvery-red color with brilliant red fins. The dorsal fin is capped with black; it is extended in males and tipped with white in females. A large black spot dominates the center of the body. Their natural habitat is slow-moving and tannin-stained waters. At maximum length, this lovely, full-bodied tetra reaches about 1.5”. Red Phantom tetras are peaceful, non-competitive and prefer the presence of vegetation or driftwood for cover. To bring out their best color, frozen and live foods are recommended.
Finally, I’d like an interesting centerpiece fish for my tank – even though each of these fish is striking and amazing in their own right, an active and personable cichlid would round out this aquarium perfectly. In fact, I think Aequidens diadema “Twin Spot Flag Cichlid” would be absolutely perfect. When not breeding, this is a wonderful, peaceful species of cichlid with fairly easy care. They will readily accept live and frozen foods, though ours are very nicely trained to accept a combination of Cichlid Xtreme pellets and spirulina flake. Their maximum size is likely to be around 5-6” and their care, in terms of water parameters, is quite easy. Fairly soft water at a neutral pH and temperatures around 80°F will suit these fish quite well. When breeding, the male will become very defensive of his fry – it is advisable to remove tankmates or a spawning pair to a different home during this time. The male will take on the most gorgeous deep black and green coloration with hints of red around his two spots – one at mid-body and the other at the caudal peduncle.
Bogwood, decorative rocks and a dark sandy substrate would be ideal in this theoretical aquarium. An Eheim 2219 or Rena Filstar XP4 should do well on this tank, depending on your brand preference. I am a fan of Eheim myself, but our maintenance guys swear by Rena. Personally, I would be more than happy to equip this tank with a Current Satellite LED+ Pro fixture, but I’m a big fan of the incredibly customizable light system as well as storm and cloud effects.
Thank you all for reading and, once again, welcome to the team, Quinn! It’s wonderful to have you with us.
April 10, 2015
Well, friends, we’ve made it through another week. It’s Friday and with that comes the newsletter. This week, it’s all about big Cyprinids – the fish we colloquially refer to as ‘sharks’.
Our most recent acquisition is Labiobarbus leptocheilus, the “Sailfin Shark”. These beautiful, metallic silver fish are ticked with black at the tips of their scales and will occasionally feature darker lateral lines that fade as they approach the front of the fish’s body. The dorsal fin of these fish give rise to their names – they are tall and gently curved, extending half the length of the fish’s body. As the fish matures, their now-translucent fins will gain black speckling and red tones, particularly visible in the pectoral, ventral and anal fins. These peaceful, gregarious hillstream fish are widespread in Southeast Asia and enjoy cooler, clean and well-oxygenated water. An immaculately clean tank with neutral water kept in the low 70s Fahrenheit will suit them perfectly. Due to a very large adult size of up to eight to ten inches (with the largest specimens reported to top out at twelve inches) and gregarious nature, these fish should be kept only in large aquaria for long-term maintenance – an eight foot length is ideal.
Next up is Labeo chrysophekadion “Black Shark”, a beefier, deeper bodied fish with a pointed head and large finnage. These fish are deep charcoal black from snout to tail with a thin white edge to their gill plates and leading fin rays. These are very much specialist fish – their adult size is up to two feet in length, necessitating a tank with a comfortable swimming length of twelve feet or more and a depth from front to back of at least three feet to allow the animal to turn comfortably in the space. These fish are also cool-water loving – an outdoor heated or chilled pond to keep the temperature between 65° and 78°F would work well for this fish. They can be remarkably territorial and aggressive to other members of their species or other fish that look similar in appearance, so it is best to keep these fish as single specimens.
Finally, one of the best species of ‘shark’ for the home aquarium – Epalzeorhynchos frenatum, the “Rainbow Shark”. These are much smaller, more peaceful fish with an adult size of five to six inches and lovely coloration of deep brown-black and brilliant cherry red fins. They sport a bold black spot at their caudal peduncle, as well as a black stripe from snout to eye. The popular albino form has paler, strawberry pink fins and a peachy body tone. Each fin is bordered in a fine edge of white. The Rainbow Shark prefers the same water parameters as its larger cousins above and, much like the Black Shark, can be somewhat territorial with similar-looking fish so a single specimen is advisable in your large community tank. A group of loaches and a robust, upper-level schooling cyprinid would make ideal tankmates.
Thank you all for reading and we’ll see you back here next week!
March 13, 2015
Good evening, friends! With St. Patrick’s Day looming around the corner, we’ve planned another fun, themed sale from Monday through Wednesday for all you online customers. This week, it’s all about the green fish – check out some quick write-ups below and a few more fish at the end of the list.
First on our list of green fish is Aphyocharax rathbuni "Green Fire Tetra". This particular tetra has a fairly long and lean body, much closer in shape to the popular Neon and Cardinal Tetras than the full-bodied Bleeding Heart or Serpae Tetra. This slender fish has a beautiful green body color with a bold red stripe on the caudal half of its ventral side. The brilliant red covers the entire area above the anal fin and fades into the caudal peduncle. Often the red will also mark the base of the anal and caudal fins and the anal, ventral, and dorsal fins will be tipped in bright white. Green Fire Tetras grow to just under two inches in length and enjoy well-planted aquaria with neutral pH and a temperature between 68 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit. Take care to keep this gorgeous characin in a sizeable school in order to view its best colors and natural behaviors.
The Bushynose Pleco, Ancistrus sp., is a taxonomic mystery. Having been introduced into the hobby in the 1920's with no recorded collection locations, its identity is a mystery. As a longstanding member of the fish hobby, the common Ancistrus has been bred into numerous ornamental strains. Each variety, however, features their namesake beautiful, bizarre fleshy growths upon the snout of the mature males. Color morphs of the Bushynose pleco can be grouped by tone or distance from the natural coloration. Those closest to natural coloration include the "Green Dragon" color morph - a mottled fish with a cast of forest green, olive, and khaki. These lovely fish are available in both short and long finned varieties, both of which are part of this sale.
The "Gold/Green Cory", Corydoras melanotaenia, is a true beauty in the aquarium. Unlike the above-mentioned Cory cats, the Gold/Green Cory enjoys cooler water from about 68 to 73 degrees Fahrenheit and the typical neutral to slightly acidic water. These beautiful little Corydoras have an overall golden coloration to their body and fins, marked by a dark stripe beneath the iridescent green coloration of their scales along the flank. These fish are fairly elongate, with slightly shorter dorsal edges and longer snouts than the average Corydoras build. This species is native to the Rio Meta of Colombia and enjoys overhanging rocks, wood, and plants. These fish are quite similar in coloration to the ubiquitous Corydoras aeneus "Bronze Cory", though the Bronze Cory is significantly stockier and larger than any of the above-mentioned species. Unlike the brilliant golden color of the C. melanotaenia's fins, Bronze Cories have dark brownish finnage and an overall brown and blue coloration. C. aeneus is still a beautiful fish, however, and shouldn't be disregarded as a gorgeous addition to the community aquarium.
We have a fascinating color morph of Puntius tetrazona available right now, the "Green Tiger Barb". As far as ornamental fish strains go, this is a quite fascinating one. Specimens of Puntius tetrazona have been selectively bred for broader and darker black bands with the end result of a nearly black fish. Of course, it does not appear to be a black fish - the Green Tiger Barb reflects stunning green coloration over its black markings. This color effect is the result of light scattering off micro-particles of the fish's scales. This is known as the Tyndall effect, an optical physics property responsible for blue eyes in humans and the apparent blue color of vehicle exhaust and opalite glass.
Finally, I would like to invite you all to join me in saying farewell to Anthony – after ten years, he’s moved on to hopefully bigger and better adventures. So long, Space Cowboy. You will be missed.
April 3, 2015
Hello and welcome to the weekend. Once again, it’s time for the weekly notes. We’re going to keep it short and sweet this week, with ony one fish – the absolutely amazing and rare Crenicichla zebrina, the “Zebra Pike” of Venezuela.
These are absolutely stunning pike cichlids. In the literature I’ve found, they’re described as growing to about ten inches, though this should be considered a rough estimate for specimens housed in a home aquarium. They are a beautiful golden color overall with an olive green dorsal side, darker grey-green lateral line, and beautiful sunflower yellow belly. Their chins and cheeks are brilliant cherry red and the back half of their body is striped with alternating dark and light bands, golden and deep bronze, giving rise to their name. Their striping carries gracefully onto their dorsal, caudal and anal fins, all of which radiate from gold at their base to brilliant red at their far edge.
The Zebra Pike’s most overt ocellata are the large black spot, ringed in pale cream, located just behind the head and above the pectoral, and the smaller black spot on the caudal peduncle. The foremost body spot varies drastically from individual to individual, often with the upper third divided into a separate, smaller spot or several smaller spots. Some specimens do possess further ocellation in the dorsal fin, but this is not present in all specimens and is not indicative of sex. In fact, C. zebrina have previously been sexed via ultrasound, as seen in the video below.
These fish are only known from the Rio Ventuari – knowing this, we would expect them to enjoy a pH of around 6-7.5 and a temperature in the upper 70s Fahrenheit. A dark substrate and plenty of driftwood, rocks, and a few plants will definitely help these beauties feel at home. Caves and other hides will be more than welcome for these fish, as will a meaty diet of live and frozen food. There are as of yet no reports I’ve found of these fish taking prepared foods. While it is theoretically possible to train these fish to accept prepared pellets or flakes, we’ve not yet had luck weaning them away from frozen and live feed.
Thanks for reading! For those of you who are local, this Sunday is Easter – we will be open from (12 am to 5 pm) Pacific only. For those of you not local, our Online Sales Department hours will be the same – Monday through Friday 8am to 5pm, closed Saturday and Sunday.
March 6th, 2015
Good evening! It’s been warming up quite a bit here in Portland Oregon – warm enough for impromptu beach trips and observing our sea birds just before their nesting season, including Western Sandpipers, Brown Pelicans and the occasional Cormorant. Of course, we’re not actually here to talk about birds, so let’s get down to some fish.
There’s not a lot of information about Auchenoglanis cf. occidentalis “Bouche” “Giraffe Cat” out there other than what can be found on Planet Catfish. The largest reported specimen in the hobby was just less than one foot in length and beginning to fill out to a mature body shape. It is unclear just how large this species could potentially grow in the home aquarium, with some species of Auchenoglanis topping out around one foot and others, such as A. occidentalis itself, growing up to three feet in the (very large) home aquarium. The beautiful specimen featured in the first five photos on Planet Catfish was kept in a very warm tank around 82°F, fed twice daily, with water changes of 70% weekly! This encouraged a very fast growth rate from three inches to twelve inches in approximately nine months.
Acanthocobitis botia “Zipper Loach” is one adorable little loach – with a maximum length of three inches and a peaceful temperament, it is suitable for any sand based community aquarium. These fish have silvery backs and white bellies. They are marked above their lateral lines by dark grey stripes and chevrons with a diagonal trend, as well as with small rounded marks and circles below the lateral line. Their fins are largely translucent with black banding and often show a red tone in mature specimens. Zipper loaches are a fairly long nosed species with sand-sifting habits, so be sure to provide a soft substrate.
Finally, Tatia intermedia, occasionally called either a “Driftwood Cat” or “Snowflake Woodcat”, is an adorable, stubby-faced cat with large eyes and a plump body. Their bodies are chocolate brown with oval, laterally-extended cream spots that fade as the fish grows older. This species is fairly easily sexed, with males featuring an enlarged upper caudal fin lobe and a specialized anal fin known as a gonopodium. These fish occur in the Marabitanos area of Brazil and, as their ommon names suggest, enjoy wedging themselves safely into small crevices in wood or rockwork. They are largely nocturnal but can be trained to be active earlier in the day via scheduled feedings.
Thank you for reading once again. I must say, I’ve been writing these notes regularly for well over a year and I’m still enjoying it. I do hope you all feel the same way. The only thing I miss is being able to read our new notes every week!