Saturday, November 19, 2011

Hydrocynus vittatus - African Tiger Fish

Common name(s): African Tiger Fish, ATF, Tiger Fish

Scientific Name: Hydrocynus vittatus, or Hydrocynus forsksahlii (Slimmer and yellowish tail)

Family: Alestiidae

Origin: Africa

18 - 32 inches in captivity. Between the two species, ATFs can grow to over four - five feet, but in aquariums, less than half to about half of that is expected at the maximum.

Minimum Tank Size:
 125 US gallons - 6' long minimum (the longer, the better!)

Care: Let's take in mind the enclosure first; because of this fish's strength, speed, and size, a very large tank is important. I've successfully kept a small one in an 80 Gallon, but when he gets larger, he'll need much more room.I would suggest 125 at a bare minimum. The bigger the better. A 240 or more would be reasonable. The reason such a tank is needed is because these fish can seriously hurt themselves by running into the glass if it is too small of an area. Within your large tank, large plants (like swords) and larger-sized tankmates (bottom dwellers - NOT mid-dwellers) are okay, but rocks, sharp objects, and other hard objects are to be left out. A tiger fish can fatally wound itself if running into objects as hard as rocks or as sharp as, i don't know, a sharp rock. This is especially true when they hunt. When attacking its prey, they're likely to charge at it seemingly full force. Whatever is behind it's prey, the tiger fish will most likely run into. Don't under-estimate the power these fish output. Standard lighting, heating and filtration is clearly necessary. Keep a good cover on the top of the tank. These fish are very gutsy jumpers if they need to be. Substrate type is unimportant, as these fish are mid-dwellers. Keep water chemistry in good quality (common sense). Nitrites and nitrates should be an attempted zero, and try to keep pH steady at 7.2 to 7.6. Never forget water changes weekly and clean out any leftover "fish-bits" that the ATF hasn't eaten. It is recommended here and there to keep them in small shoals - 5 minimum. 

Feeding: Guppies, Ghost Shrimp, Rosy Reds... ...etc. Do not dump feeder fish straight in from the store, quarantine them long enough until you can tell they are safe to feed. Some ATF owners have swayed their fish to eat non-live meaty food, but a lot of ATFs will not eat unless their food is "fun" and hard to catch - it seems that they like a challenge, and would get bored eating prepared or frozen foods.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Black Ghost Knife - Apteronotus albifrons

Common name/s: Black Ghost Knife, Ghost Knife, Ghost Ray

Scientific name: Apteronotus albifrons

Family: Apteronotidae

Origin: Amazon River, South America

Maximum size: 24 Inches in the wild. Usually not that large in captivity.
Care:The Black Ghost Knife requires a tank that it can turn around in which should have a width of 24 inches. Although they can be raised in small tanks, you must upgrade to the BGK's full size eventually. A tank size of 80 Gallons is sufficient. This fish rarely gets over 20 inches long in captivity. The amount of waste this fish produces is low, however a hang-on style filter is still beneficial. They are sensitive to water conditions, they will tolerate pH levels from 6.5 to 8. They do best in temperatures ranging from 75F-82F (24C-28C). Tank mates may include other 'oddball' fish like eels, butterfly fish and the like, however, they are fine with any non aggressive fish that is not seen as food, so larger community fish like Angels, larger Botia species and many more will do fine.

The black ghost knife is nocturnal so seeing them all the time is not a common thing. They are also blind and so rely on their sensitive electrical sense to find food and find their way around the tank. The BGK also has a particularly large mouth, so anything that fits in there is under risk of being eaten as BGK's are fish eaters as well.

Feeding:Black Ghost Knives will usually accept fish flakes, small live fish, chopped earthworms, blood worms, brine shrimp, glass worms, tubifex worms, and beef heart to name a few.

Sexing and Breeding:There is no physical way to sex a black ghost knife and not much has been accounted on there breeding behaviour however a courtship is involved before the female lays eggs (Spawning).

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Piranhas are carnivorous freshwater species from the subfamily Serrasalminae. There exists many different Piranha species, divided into five genera:
 Catoprion, Pristobrycon, Pygocentrus, Pygopristis and Serrasalmus. The Piranhas inhabit South American rivers and several species have been successfully kept by aquarists.  

Pygocentrus cariba:
Commonly known as Caribe, Cariba, Cariba piranha, Black shoulder piranha, Shoulder spot piranha, Orinoco piranha, Black eared piranha and Venezuelan red belly piranha. Native to Venezuela.

Pygocentrus nattereri:
Commonly known as Common piranha, Red piranha, Red bellied piranha, Redbelly piranha and Red breasted piranha. Found in many different parts of the Amazon. Captive bred specimens available.

Serrasalmus piraya:
Commonly known as Blacktail piranha, San Francisco Piranha, Piren and “The King of the Piranhas”. Native to the Rio San Francisco region of the Amazon. Hard to obtain and quit expensive. Decorated with a golden streak. Highly aggressive.

Pygocentrus brandtii:
Commonly known as Green Piranha, Brandtii piranha and Cavaca. One of the most aggressive Piranha species. Native to the Rio San Francisco region of the Amazon. Sports a golden colouration.

Serrasalmus rhombeus:
Commonly known as Black Piranha. Feature dark markings and red eye. Not a schooling fish! 

The Piranha Aquarium:
Different Piranhas reach different maximal sizes and it is therefore impossible to say how large a Piranha aquarium should be. You have to research the species you are interested in and find out how large they can become as adults. Generally speaking, you should provide each fish with 15-20 gallons of water. Most Piranhas are schooling fish that should not be kept alone, so quite a big aquarium will be needed. Also keep in mind that it is easier to keep the water quality up in a large aquarium. If you keep a
large school, you can decrease the figure somewhat, especially if you have strong filtration and perform frequent water changes. 

Decorating a Piranha aquarium:
When decorating your Piranha aquarium, you should try to create a replica of the River Amazon where these fishes live. Piranhas appreciate drift wood, areas of dense vegetation and open spaces to swim around in. (A strict hierarchy will develop in the aquarium with one of the bigger Piranhas being the leader when they swim around.) You should ideally also install a powerhead that will provide a strong and steady current, since this will make the environment more similar to the River Amazon.

Maintaining a Piranha aquarium:
Since Piranhas feed on meaty food and are pretty messy eaters, keeping the water quality up will be one of your most important tasks. Use a combination of mechanical and biological filtration and make sure that the mechanical filters are powerful enough. When buying a mechanical filter, you should get one that can cope with at least 50% more water than what is found in your aquarium. If you have a 200 gallon aquarium, you should get a filter suitable for a 300 gallon aquarium and so on. The River Amazon is acidic and the pH-value in the aquarium should therefore be between 6.5 and 6.9. Piranhas can adapt to conditions up to ph 7.5, but it is not really healthy for them. The water temperature should be high, around 27 degrees C.

Feeding Piranhas:Piranhas are carnivore and must be give live, fresh or frozen meaty food types in the aquarium. You can for instance give them fish fillets, lean chicken meat, and beef heart without any fat. Prawns can be used to promote vivid coloration. A few hours after feeding, check your aquarium for any leftovers that may otherwise pollute the water. Piranhas never return to eat rotten meat. In the wild, Piranhas do not necessarily eat every day. You can therefore feed them every second or third day in the aquarium.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Hemichromis Bimaculatus - Jewel Cichlid

Scientific Name(s): Hemichromis bimaculatus
Common Name(s): Jewel Cichlid, African Jewelfish, Blue Jewel, Red Jewel, Red Jewel Cichlid
Family: Cichlidae.
Species Type: African Cichlids, Other
Maximum Size: 5 inches.
Life Span: 8 years.
Natural Habitat: African streams and rivers.
Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons.
Tank Region: All over.

Possible Tank Mates: Other African cichlids - be sure to provide plenty of hiding spots.
Sexing Information: Males tend to be more colorful, especially as adults.
Diet: Carnivorous - does well with flake or pellet food.
Temperment: Aggressive and territorial.

The jewelfishes from Africa are one of the most beautiful, and most bellicose, of the cichlids. While bimaculatus was the original jewelfish introduced into the hobby many years ago, there are now a number of other species available. They all behave the same and require the same conditions. Being from western Africa, they need softer, more acidic water than the cichlid of the rift lakes in eastern Africa. This is definitely not a community fish. In fact, when they mature, and most especially when they are breeding, there is virtually no other fish that can be in the tank with them. But their beauty and behavior make it worthwhile to consider keeping a tank just for them.

Breeding Information:
 Easy to breed once you have a pair, which is somewhat difficult. Sexes are somewhat difficult to tell - generally, the males have more blue reflective scales than the females, who tend to have a deeper reddish hue with a wider girth. However, this is not always the case. Place one mature male with a number of mature females and watch for a pair bond to form, then remove the others as they will be killed if forced in close proximity to the eggs. The female will lay several hundred eggs on a flat surface - usually a dugout in the back of the aquarium, although you can provide flat rocks to encourage them. The eggs will hatch in a few days and the fry will be guarded in typical cichlid fashion. They can reproduce approximately every 3 weeks once they get going.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Demasoni Cichlid.

Species name: Pseudotropheus demasoni
Common Names: Demasoni
Family: Cichlidae (Cichlids) , subfamily: Pseudocrenilabrinae
Order: Perciformes (perch-likes)
Class: Actinopterygii (ray-finned fishes)
Max. size: 10 cm / 4 inches
Environment: freshwater
Origin: Lake Malawi¸ Pombo Rocks
Temperament: Very Aggressive.
Water parameters: pH 7.5-8.5,Temperature 24-28°C / 75-82° F

Can be kept with other species with the same temperament.

Aquarium Setup:
This very beautiful fish is very aggressive and needs a relatively large aquarium.Its recommended to keep a larger amount of this fish to avoid some of the aggression. 20-30 fishes are recommended.Requires stone formations that allow the fish good hiding places and free areas to swim on.Don’t use roots in your aquarium since they lower PH levels.Feeding: Accepts all kinds, however the bulk of their diet should consist of vegetables.

Mouth-brooder.The fish is even more aggressive during spawning and you risk loosing a few fishes due to fighting. The female will brood for approximately 3 weeks. You can tell if a female is brooding by her enlarged mouth and the fact that she isn’t eating. Fry accepts most kinds of food. Brooding females can be isolated for more productive breeding. It is recommendable to try to make the isolation as short as possible to avoid that the females loses their social status which may cause fights once they are returned. Stress might cause the females to eat eggs and fry. Some fry may survive in a community tank.

Herichthys Cyanoguttatus - Texas Cichlid.

Scientific name:  Herichthys cyanoguttatus
Common name:  Texas cichlid 
Max. size: 30 cm / 12 inches
pH range: 6.5 – 8.0
dH range: 8-25
Temperature range: 21-24° C / 70-75° F

The Texas cichlid is the only cichlid native to the United States. .The Texas cichlid is considered difficult to keep, primarily due to its feisty temperament. This fish is not recommended for beginners. If you take good care of your Texas cichlid it can reach an age of 15 years.

Texas cichlid common names:
The Texas cichlid is primarily known under two names in English: Texas cichlid and Rio Grande cichlid. Sport fishers sometimes refer to it as the Rio Grande perch. 

Texas cichlid description:
The Texas cichlid displays a sparkling golden colour with pearly highlights. The body and fins are decorated with white and turquoise dots. Along the middle, rear half of the body and at the base of the caudal fin of the fish you can see several small black dots. Many Texas cichlids have three black bars on the body. Juvenile Texas cichlids are pearl-gray with white dots on body and fins. They have two prominent black dots; one in the centre of the body and one at the base of the caudal fin.During the breeding period, the underside of the Texas cichlid turns completely black and the three black bars will intensify in colour.

Texas cichlid setup:
In the wild, Texas cichlids are found in densely grown pools and runs of small to large rivers and it is a good idea to mimic this type of environment in the aquarium. A single Texas cichlid can be kept in a 75 gallon aquarium, while a couple needs at least 125 gallons. If you get a pair, be prepared to divide the aquarium into two separate parts in case of extensive violence. If you want to keep a Texas cichlid with other fish, the aquarium must be at least 125 gallonsFins sand is an ideal substrate for a Texas cichlid aquarium, and plenty of rocks and roots should be added to create hiding spots. It is also a good idea to use rocks, roots and plants to divide the aquarium into several territories. As mentioned above, the natural habitat of the Texas cichlid contains plenty of aquatic plants. Since the Texas cichlid likes to burrow around plants and sometimes even attack plants, it is important to pick sturdy species that can handle this type of behavior. Your Texas cichlid will definitely appreciate getting some floating plants to hide under.

Texas cichlid tank mates:
The Texas cichlid is a territorial fish and you must be careful when picking its tank mates. Only combine the Texas cichlid with fish that can fend for themselves and will not tolerate being bullied. You can for instance combine Texas cichlids with other big cichlids from Central and South America

Texas cichlid care:
The Texas cichlid is sensitive to high levels of organic waste. Combine proper filtration with frequent water changes. Changing 25-40% of the water once a week is a good rule of thumb, but you might have to modify it to suit your particular aquarium. The pH-value should be kept around neutral (pH 7.0) and the water should be soft or medium hard. The recommended water temperature is 70-75° F (21-24° C) but these fishes can adapt to higher temperatures as long as the change is gradual.

Texas cichlid feeding:
Wild Texas cichlids live on insects, crustaceans, worms and plant matter, and it is advisable to mimic this varied diet in captivity. The Texas cichlid is known to readily accept most type of dry, frozen and freeze-dried food in the aquarium. You can for instance use high-quality flakes or cichlid pellets as base, and supplement with vegetables, algae based food, and different types of live/frozen/freeze-dried meaty foods such as worms. 

Auratus Cichlid

The auratus cichlid, Melanochromis auratus, is a freshwater fish of the cichlid family. It is also known as golden mbuna and Malawi golden cichlid. It is endemic to the southern region ofLake Malawi, particularly from Jalo Reef southward along the entire western coast down to Crocodile Rocks. This cichlid is found in rocky habitats and prefers a pH range of 7.0–8.5 and a temperature range of 22–26°C.Auratus cichlids are small, elongate fish that can grow up to 11 cm. Juveniles and females are bright yellow with black and white stripes on the upper half of the body. Adult male coloration is drastically different with dark brown or black body and light blue or yellow stripes on the upper half of the body.Like many other cichlids from Lake Malawi, auratus cichlids are mouthbrooders. Females hold their fertilized eggs and fry, in their mouth for a few weeks before releasing the fry.

The auratus cichlid is among one of the most popular mbuna cichlids in the aquarium trade. Juveniles of this fish have a striking coloration and are commonly available in most pet shops. However, auratus cichlids, especially the males, are territorial and highly aggressive, even on thembuna cichlid standard. In most cases, it is best to keep one adult male with many females. Some fish stores only stock female Auratus in their tanks, because Auratus have the ability to change gender color. Most commonly, this is the case of an all-female tank where the most dominant assumes the male role, and changes in coloration but no actual gender change. Very rarely will a male change into a female. Their tank should be set up with a lot of rocks with caves and hiding places. Auratus cichlids natural food source is algae but those in aquariams will usually take whatever food that is fed to them.

Discus Fish

Discus fishes are large cichlids that have been appreciated by aquarists since the 1920\'s and there are several different Discus cichlids to choose among. The Discus derives its name from its body shape. This fish have a strong lateral compression and the body is nearly circular. The eyes of a Discus are usually deep red. Discus fish are colorful fishes and you can enhance their coloration further by feeding them a suitable diet. If you feed your Discus a lot of brine shrimp, any red coloration will usually be increased.

All Discus fish variants originate from the Amazon region in South America. They prefer lakes, deep puddles and smaller rivers and streams. The water in this region is acidic and you should therefore provide your Discus with a pH between 6.0 and 6.5. It is also important that you keep the water in the aquarium soft, 0-3dH is recommended. Discus cichlids like to stay in the shadow during the day and the ideal water temperature in the aquarium is 25-29°C (77-84°F).

Discus cichlids are not very competitive and if you place them in the same aquarium as more assertive fish species, e.g. Angelfish, your Discus might be without food and starve or suffer from malnutrition. More docile species are therefore recommended as tank mates. Keeping several Discus cichlids together is a very good idea since Discus cichlids feel more at ease when in a group. A small group consisting of 6-8 specimens is ideal if your aquarium is large enough. You can also keep Discus with schooling fish, e.g. characins, since their presence will have a calming effect on the Discus. It should however be noted that Discus can consider smaller fish as food if it has not been brought up together with small fish.  

The Blue Discus (Symphysodon aequifaciatus haraldi) is also known as and Turquoise Discus. A Blue Discus fish with strong blue lines is called Royal Blue Discus. A Red Royal Blue Discus will have red markings in addition to the blue ones. The Blue Discus variants can reach a size of 15 centimeters (6 inches). The Green Discus (Symphysodon aequifaciatus aequifaciatus) has turquoise and blue markings on its head and upper body. The anal and dorsal fin is also turquoise. The Green Discus will reach the same size as the Blue Discus. The Brown Discus (Symphysodon aequifaciatus axelrodi) will also stay at a size of 15 centimeters (6 inches). Its body is brown or yellowish brown.

The Heckle Discus (Symphysodon discus) is commonly referred to as just “Discus”. It is sometimes also sold as Pompadour Fish. It will grow larger than Blue, Green and Brown Discus and a size of 20 centimeters (8 inches) is not uncommon. The Heckle Discus is also more complicated to keep than the Blue, Green and Brown Discus variants. Even advanced aquarists consider the Heckle Discus to be a challenge, since this discus is very sensitive to changes. Even small changes or tiny amounts of pollutants can weaken the Heckle Discus and make it unable to withstand diseases

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Salamander, Axolotl

Species name: Ambystoma mexicanum.
Common name: Axolotl, Water dog, Mexican Salamander.
Family: Ambystomatidae.
Order: Caudata.
Class: Amphibia.
Maximum size: Usually 10-12 inches (25-30cm), sometimes much larger.
Environment: Cold, freshwater lakes in Mexico.

Origin: Native to the high altitude Lakes of Xochimilco and Chalco in central Mexico, these amphibians are under great threat in the wild. Fortunately they are a hardy captive species and very useful in research for their extraordinary regeneration abilities, which is why their numbers are so high in captivity. Their external gills, tails, and legs can all be regenerated if damaged or removed.

Temperament: Axolotls will eat tankmates small enough to be eaten whole. They may grab at fish too large to be eaten whole and damage fins and other body parts.

Company: Their external gills prove to be too irresistible to most fish. Many fish are simply too small to be housed with axolotls. Axolotls are best kept in species only tanks with axolotls of similar size, this will provide the minimum risk of damage.

Water parameters: Temperatures in the low 60s Fahrenheit (16-19 Celsius) are ideal. They can tolerate temperatures up in to the low 70s (about 22 Celsius). Above this and stress can lead to a quick death. For axolotls pH is not too important as long as it is not extreme. High water quality must be maintained at the same level as aquarium fish, so ideally nitrates should be maintained at no more than 20ppm.

Aquarium setup: Since they will roam the bottom, only using the rest of the tank for the occasional trip to the surface for a gulp of air, a large footprint is desirable over extra height. Open areas to roam along with places to hide will serve the axolotls well. PVC pipe connectors serve as an ideal shelter because they are smooth and will not damage the axolotls, come in various diameters to fit any size axolotl, are cheap, easy to clean, and will host green algae to cover their bright white appearance. Live plants can be used to help maintain water quality and serve as a good natural accent to the tank. They can be dirty, as would any animal of their size, and therefore require ample filtration and water changes. Canisters as well as good hang-on-back filters will do very well. High flow can cause stress, evidenced by forward pointing gills and a sideways curled tail, so these need to be looked for. To alleviate this spray bars on canisters can be used to diffuse the flow of the filtration. Although they can breathe atmospheric air, it is good to keep the oxygen levels up in the tank for the axolotls and the nitrifying bacteria keeping their water clean, so an air pump with air stone is recommended. Sand is the ideal substrate. Gravel can be ingested and can block their digestive tract. Bare bottom provides no traction, which long term can become stressful for them. Sand is good because it will keep debris in the water. With enough flow the debris will keep moving until it gets to the filter. Sand will not trap debris the way gravel will, which can lead to water quality issues. Sand is also more natural.

 Feeding: Axolotls are carnivorous. A high quality diet is vital for them to thrive. This is best achieved with high quality pellets. Most commonly used are soft, sinking trout chow pellets. Some high quality aquarium fish foods have been shown to also provide a complete and balanced diet for axolotls. Some keepers include small strips of various meats, but these can lack the micronutrients and trace elements found in high quality pellets, are nutritionally imbalanced, and are unnecessary. As with any carnivores, many choose to feed live foods. This should be avoided because they carry the same risks as feeding them to fish in that they can introduce many pathogens, increase aggression, and are nutritionally incomplete. Feed foods that can be swallowed whole.

Breeding: Axolotls can be sexed by looking at the genital area. Males have a noticeably swollen cloaca while females have a smoother appearance to the area around the cloaca. Stimulating mating is done in ways similar to many fish. By simulating seasonal changes they would experience in the wild (photoperiod, changes in temperature, etc.) they will be triggered to breed. By shortening photoperiod followed by increasing it again or slightly raising the temperature followed by dropping it (simulates onset of rainy season) you can mimic these natural events. The male will deposit spermatophores (packets of sperm) on the bottom of the tank and then lead the female above them at which point she will pick them up with her cloaca. Later she will lay the eggs individually, preferably on plants (fake are fine, they are easy to remove from the tank and will not rot). The eggs can be reared in a separate tank. After a couple weeks they will hatch and the offspring need to be fed live foods as would be done with many fish with very small fry. Later they will accept non-living food items.