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Marine Biologist/Aquatic Husbandry Manager I was one of those kids who said "I want to be a marine biologist when I grow up!"....except then I actually became one. After a brief time at the United States Coast Guard Academy, I graduated from Coastal Carolina University in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina in 2004. Since then, I've been a marine biologist at That Fish Place - That Pet Place, along with a Fish Room supervisor, copywriter, livestock inventory controller, livestock mail-order supervisor and other duties here and there. I also spent eight seasons as a professional actress with the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire and in other local roles. If that isn't bad enough, I'm a proud Crazy Hockey Fan (go Flyers and go Hershey Bears!).

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Yellow Tangs and other popular aquarium fish affected by Hawaii Fish Collection Ban

The Yellow Tang has been one of the most popular and iconic saltwater aquarium fish for decades and its popularity increased even more after Disney’s “Finding Nemo” introduced us to Bubbles, the neurotic Yellow Tang kept in Dr. Sherman’s dental office at 42 Wallaby Way. However, its days as an aquarium mainstay may be over due to new legislation from Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) banning Hawaiian aquarium fish collection.

Yellow Tang (Zebrasoma flavescens)

Some History

The waters around the Hawaiian islands are some of the most unique habitats on Earth. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), an average of 21% of fish species above 100 feet deep and up to 50% of fish between 100-200 feet deep are endemic to Hawaii, meaning they are found nowhere else in the world[1]. Many other fish that are also found elsewhere may have different color variations around Hawaii or nearby islands. They face some unique challenges as tourism grows and habitats shrink, however. Overfishing and habitat loss threaten some populations and recreational activities like fishing, snorkeling, boating and others can damage reefs and their inhabitants. Naturally, such an important part of Hawaii’s economy and natural history needs protection.

As the aquarium industry grows, so does the concern about its impact on the environment. In recent history, this first began seriously intersecting with Hawaii’s preservation efforts in 2017. In September of 2017, the Hawaii Supreme Court halted the renewal of all aquarium collection permits pending an environmental review of the practices used and their impact on native populations. Prior to this ruling, collections were allowed by permit using fine mesh nets (HRS §188-31[2]). Over the following year, this statement was revised and expanded[3] but live collections continued in smaller capacities. Other activities like spearfishing did not appear to be impacted. In August 2020, the aquarium collection industry took another hit when an impact statement from a number of aquarium fish collectors and the National Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council was rejected by DLNR[4]. As of January 2021, the DLNR announced that not only were permits no longer being renewed but all existing permits were invalid and all collection was halted indefinitely pending environmental review[5].

The actual impact of aquarium fisheries on populations has long been debated and is extremely controversial for both sides. The Marine Aquarium Society of North America’s Hawaii Ban Fact Check page[6] argues many of the ban proponent’s claims. In one study cited on the page, the impact of aquarium fisheries compared to recreational fisheries and commercial food industries shows the high value and low impact compared to recreational and commercial food fisheries. It also cites a growth in the population of popular aquarium fish like Yellow Tangs and Kole Tangs in the most common collection areas despite the increase in fish being collected from these areas for the aquarium industry[7].

So…what now?

While this ban is in effect, don’t expect to see Hawaiian fish[8] like Yellow Tangs, Kole Tangs, Achilles Tangs, Potter’s Angels, Fisher’s Angels, Flame Angels, Blonde Naso Tangs and many more. We have seen the prices of these fish increasing in price and dropping in availability since the early 2010’s and those prices have tripled just between fall 2020 and January 2021. A Yellow Tang that we may have been sold for around $65-70 in October would have sold for $400 or more in January 2021, and we’ve seen some other online retailers advertise them for over $1000.

Due to their breeding and life cycles, many of these species are incredibly difficult to breed in captivity. While a few breeders are just starting to figure out some species like Yellow Tangs, we are a long way off from seeing them as commonly as easier fish like clownfish, and they are still very small and expensive when they are available.

Moorish Idol (Zanclus canescens)

What are some alternatives?

While these species may not be seen in our tanks anytime in the foreseeable future, there are alternatives to give you a similar look or function. These three species in particular are just the most popular fish affected by this ban. Some of these alternatives do have different size ranges, care requirements and compatibility guidelines than their inspiration so be sure to research all choices carefully.

Many other species that are endemic to Hawaii will disappear from the aquarium industry for awhile, and others that are native to Hawaii but also found elsewhere may become scarce or increase in price. If you can no longer find your Dream Fish after this ban, feel free to let us know and we can help you find it or recommend some alternatives.


References

[1] https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/news/mar14/nwhi-fish-species.html

[2] https://law.justia.com/codes/hawaii/2018/title-12/chapter-188/section-188-31/

[3] https://dlnr.hawaii.gov/dar/announcements/update-of-supreme-court-ruling-regarding-aquarium-fishing

[4] https://apnews.com/article/environment-fish-hawaii-36a172b2e1b27ab3a5ef31e359948f2e

[5] https://dlnr.hawaii.gov/blog/2021/01/12/nr21-006/

[6] https://masna.org/hawaiibanfactcheck/

[7] https://masna.org/blog/marine-aquarium-fishery-relative-to-recreational-and-commercial-fisheries/

[8] https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fish_of_Hawaii

How Much Does That Aquarium Cost?

One of the most common questions we get is “How much does it cost to set up a tank?” This is also one of the most difficult questions for us to answer because there are so many options! Every piece of equipment – filters, lighting, heaters and more – has different varieties, options and price levels. Some may be more efficient than others and some may be more cost-effective. We are always happy to go over the options available to you and what we would recommend for any tank you are trying to create.

To give you a general idea of tank costs, we’ve gone through some of our store display tanks to give you an idea of how much the tanks you see would cost. This is only intended as a general example of the costs for different types of tanks. Keep in mind, these are our display tanks so most of them feature the Best Of The Best products we would recommend and some of the newest options available. These tanks are typically going to be more expensive than the average tank a hobbyist may set up. If you are on a budget, we can show you some lower cost options similar to those shown here.

These lists were created in late October 2020 and the availability and prices of these items are subject to change at any time. These lists are for equipment only for most tanks and do not include any livestock (fish, inverts, plants, or live rock) or decorations.

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From our largest displays to our smallest:


220-gallon African Cichlid Tank

This tank contains Lake Malawi African cichlids. It is a freshwater tank with rocks and substrate chosen to maintain a high pH and water hardness.

TOTAL:$4,248.45$3,700.85
Item #ProductNon-Loyalty PriceLoyalty Price
268336 x2Precision Submersible Heater – 400W – Up to 125gal (2 used)$96.78$87.98
242340 x3Marineland C-530 Canister Filter – Up to 150 gal. (3 used)$659.97$599.97
243990Monterey Aquarium Stand – 72 in. x 24 in. – Black$1,341.99$1,219.99
211776*180 Gallon Aquarium – Black – 72 in. x 24 in. x 24 in.$747.99$679.99
213319 x250lbLoose Rocks (Sold by 10th-lb, 250 lbs used)$975.00$725.00
268729 x4Florida Crushed Coral – 40 lb. (4 bags used)$153.96$139.96
253894Maxi-Jet 1200 Water Pump (295/1300 GPH)$28.59$25.99
277396 x2**Aqueon OptiBright+ LED Light Fixture – 18-24 in. (2 used)$153.98$139.98
211863Marineland Perfecto Glass Canopy 72 in. x 24 in.$90.19$81.99
*The 220-gallon tank is no longer manufacturer. The 180-gallon has the same footprint and is the largest tank made by this supplier at this time.
**The lights currently on this tank have been discontinued. This is a comparable fixture.

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100-gallon Neptune Apex Reef Tank

This tank is designed as a high-end reef tank for SPS and LPS corals. It features the latest in automation and filtration with WIFI controls.This setup isn’t for the budget-conscious. The equipment on this tank is The Best Of The Best and the latest, most hi-tech to hit the market to date.

TOTAL:$8,381.70$7,726.90
Item #ProductNon-Loyalty PriceLoyalty Price
282686Innovative Marine INT 100 Gallon$1,430.00$1,300.00
279255Innovative Marine APS Stand for 80/100$769.99$699.99
278295Innovative Marine Hydrofil Ti-Reservoir$109.99$99.99
278294Innovative Marine Hydrofil Ti-Pump$76.99$69.99
278293Innovative Marine Hydrofil Ti-Controller$76.99$69.99
281692Innovative Marine Hydrofil Ti-Return Bracket$25.29$22.99
267978Trigger Ruby 36 Sump$384.99$349.99
248866Reef Octopus 200 Internal Protein Skimmer$395.99$359.99
275933Ecotech Radion XR30 Pro LED$923.99$839.99
267881Ecotech XR30 Tank Mount$114.99$103.99
268606Ecotech MP40 Vortech$403.99$366.99
249321Ecotech Battery Backup$173.25$173.25
280134Neptune Apex System EB832$839.99$799.99
280146Neptune Auto Feeder$104.99$99.99
280143Neptune Wireless Expansion Module$132.99$124.99
280135Neptune DOS/DRR Kit$469.99$449.99
280141Neptune Flow Monitoring Kit$209.99$199.99
280136Neptune Par Monitoring Kit$314.99$299.99
280139Neptune Wave Pump$192.99$174.99
280142Neptune Leak Detection Kit$159.99$149.99
281546Neptune COR20 Return Pump$359.99$324.99
284268Neptune Trident Water Analyzer$659.95$599.95
285114Eshopps Bio-Lux Ceramic Media$49.39$44.89
(Back view of all the high-tech equipment on this tank)

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120-gallon Reef Tank

This long-established reef tank at the front of our store has mostly LPS and soft corals with fish and inverts.

TOTAL:$2,609.11$2,371.90
Item #ProductNon-Loyalty PriceLoyalty Price
211805120 Gallon with 1 Corner-Flo – Black – 48 in. x 24 in. x 24$549.99$499.99
211814Pine Majesty Stand – Black – 48 in. x 24 in.$296.99$269.99
268336Marineland Precision Submersible Heater – 400W – Up to 125 gal.$48.40$43.99
286756 x2Hydra 32HD Light Fixture – Black (2 used)$807.38$733.98
278399 x2Aqua Illumination Single Arm Mounting Kit for Hydra 26/52 (2 used)$169.38$153.98
247676Crystal 30 Sump – 30 in. x 12 in. x 15 in.$296.99$269.99
284342EcoTech Marine – Vectra S2 Centrifugal Pump – 1,400 gph$329.99$299.99
198276*Instant Ocean SeaClone Protein Skimmer 150 – up to 150 gal.$109.99$99.99
Various plumbing parts
*Protein skimmer currently on this tank has been discontinued. This is a comparable piece.

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72-gallon Bowfront Planted Community

This freshwater tank has live plants and tropical community fish including barbs, rainbows, dwarf cichlids and other fish.

TOTAL:$1,235.23$1,102.68
Item #ProductNon-Loyalty PriceLoyalty Price
277936Aqueon 72g Bowfront Aquarium$280.49$254.99
277937Aqueon 72g Bowfront Cabinet Stand$417.99$379.99
281583Aqueon Heater Pro Series V2 – 300W$43.99$39.99
282941 x2Finnex 24/7 Planted + Color Changing LED Fixture – 48 in. (2 used)$314.58$285.98
279832Aqueon Quietflow Canister Filter – 55 – 100 Gal$148.49$114.74
250660Pico Evo-Mag Circulation Pump – 4W – 180 gph$29.69$26.99

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60-gallon Cube Planted Tank

This freshwater tank is heavily planted to feature the plants with some community schooling fish, shrimp and inverts.

TOTAL:$1,537.35$1,397.45
Item #ProductNon-Loyalty PriceLoyalty Price
262396Marineland 60 Gallon Cube Frameless Aquarium*$274.99$249.99
245164Cube-Sized Aquarium Stand – 24 in. x 24 in. – Ventura – Black$241.99$219.99
249512Jager Aquarium Heater – 200W – 15 in – 79-106 Gallons$35.19$31.99
203870 x4Eco-Complete Planted Aquarium Substrate – 20 lb. (4 bags used)$118.76$107.96
287694Radion XR15 Pro G5 LED Light Fixture$461.99$419.99
271436Marineland Magniflow Canister Filter 360$160.59$145.99
205404 x2Oceanvisions Background – Crystal Black – 23″ (2 used)$10.98$9.98
283251Milwaukee Instruments Inc. – PH Controller$131.99$119.99
271415UFO CO2 Diffuser$12.19$10.99
212406Silicone Airline Tubing – 8 ft.$3.99$3.59
283253Milwaukee Instruments Inc. – C02 Regulator$84.69$76.99
*Discontinued. A similar model is available with corner overflows (see 60-gallon Seahorse Cube).

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60-gallon Cube Seahorse Tank

This saltwater tank is the same style as the planted tank above but with a corner overflow connected to a sump filter under the tank. It contains soft corals and a group of Lined Seahorses (Hippocampus erectus).

TOTAL:$2,199.36$2,000.06
Item #ProductNon-Loyalty PriceLoyalty Price
262398Marineland 60 Gal Cube Frameless Aquarium Corner Flo-in back$439.99$399.99
245164Cube-Sized Aquarium Stand – 24 in. x 24 in. – Ventura – Black$241.99$219.99
281582AqueonHeater Pro Series V2 – 200W$41.79$37.99
212355Floating Thermometer – Economy$3.69$3.29
287695EcoTech Marine Radion XR30 Pro G5 LED Light Fixture$923.99$839.99
256403Ecotech Radion Hanging Kit$52.79$47.99
268975Eshopps The Cube R-Nano Refugium$284.99$259.99
206397Supreme Aqua-Mag 700 Water Pump with 10 ft. Cord$93.49$84.99
278293IM AUQA – Hydrofill Ti – Controller$76.99$69.99
204181 x3Flexible Tubing – Clear – 3/8 in. (Sold per foot, 3 feet used)$4.47$3.87
288543Seapora Aquarium – 5.5 gal$17.59$15.99
265344Aquatop Nano Water Pump – 7W – 118 gph$17.59$15.99
Various plumbing parts

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32-gallon Reef BioCube

The BioCube system has integrated filtration built into the back of the tank. This BioCube is a reef tank featuring LPS and soft corals.

TOTAL:$703.96$639.96
Item #ProductNon-Loyalty PriceLoyalty Price
276561BioCube LED Aquarium – 32 gallon$428.99$389.99
280207Aquarium Stand for BioCube 29/32 – Black$219.99$199.99
268332Marineland Precision Submersible Heater – 150W – Up to 40 gal.$25.29$22.99
250660Pico Evo-Mag Circulation Pump – 4W – 180 gph$29.69$26.99

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25-gallon Frameless Cube Reef Tank

This reef tank is set up to feature an Eshopps Refugium and Sump but a more decorative stand is available and is priced here.

TOTAL:$1,140.74$1,037.94
Item #ProductNon-Loyalty PriceLoyalty Price
262311Marineland 25 Cube Frameless Aquarium$153.99$139.99
245163*Cube-Sized Aquarium Stand – 18 in. x 18 in. – Ventura – Black$197.99$179.99
268332Marineland Precision Submersible Heater – 150W – Up to 40 gal.$25.29$22.99
268975Eshopps The Cube R-Nano Refugium$284.99$259.99
206452Supreme Aqua-Mag 500 Water Pump with 10 ft. Cord$82.49$74.99
279548Eshopps X-160 Mid-Level Line Protein Skimmer – 100-225 gal$395.99$359.99
Various plumbing parts
*This tank is not on a traditional stand in our store. This is a compatible stand for this tank.

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10-gallon GloFish Community

This GloFish kit contains the lighting and filtration needed for the popular GloFish that “glow” under blue actinic lighting. While on a counter in our Fish Room, stands are available for this basic 10-gallon size. This is a good beginner tank setup and similar kits are available without the GloFish options.

TOTAL:$196.87$178.97
Item #ProductNon-Loyalty PriceLoyalty Price
259867*GloFish Aquarium Kit – 10 Gallon$81.39$73.99
268816Tetra HT30 Submersible Heater – 100 Watts$16.49$14.99
212160**Pine Wood Majesty Stand – Black – 20 in.$98.99$89.99
*includes filtration, lighting, tank.
**This tank is not on a stand in our store. This is an appropriate stand for this tank size.

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9-gallon Fluval Flex

This desktop aquarium is aquascaped into a bonsai garden setting wit freshwater shrimp, snails and gobies. The filtration and lighting are integrated into the tank.

TOTAL:$148.26$134.76
Item #ProductNon-Loyalty PriceLoyalty Price
260291Fluval Spec V Aquarium Kit – 5 gal. – Black$98.99$89.99
268816Tetra HT30 Submersible Heater – 100 Watts$16.49$14.99
268713Estes Aqua Sand – White – 5 lb.$5.29$4.79
288182Dragon Bonsai Tree – Small$27.49$24.99

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8.75-gallon Shrimp Tank

This tank from Aqueon is one of the most uniquely-shaped tanks available and has integrated filtration. While not on a stand in our store, it will fit onto a standard 20-inch-wide stand. The aquarium kit includes filtration, special shrimp substrate, and lgihting in addition to the tank itself.

TOTAL:$233.77$212.47
Item #ProductNon-Loyalty PriceLoyalty Price
282534*Aqueon – LED Shrimp Aquarium Kit – 8.75 Gal$109.99$99.99
279878Aqueon Submersible Glass Heater – 50W-Up to 20 Gal$24.79$22.49
212160**Pine Wood Majesty Stand – Black – 20 in.$98.99$89.99
*includes filtration, substrate, lighting, tank.
**This tank is not on a stand in our store. This is an appropriate stand for this tank size.

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5-gallon Fluval Spec V Nano-reef

This Fluval Spec V tank is set up as a nano-reef – a challenging system for advanced reefkeepers – but the Spec V kit can be used for freshwater aquariums as well.

TOTAL:$217.77$197.97
Item #ProductNon-Loyalty PriceLoyalty Price
260291Fluval Spec V Aquarium Kit – 5 gal. – Black$98.99$89.99
283274Marine+ 24/7 SE Automated LED – 20 in$85.79$77.99
248234Koralia Nano 240 – 240 gph – 3.5W$32.99$29.99

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Daunted by these costs? Don’t be!

As we mentioned, there are a lot of options that can be customized. Kits are also often available that can help you bundle the equipment you need to make it easier to purchase, especially for smaller sizes below around 55-gallons. You can start out higher end or start basic and upgrade as your skill level and interests grow!


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Hopefully, these aquarium setups will help give you an idea of the investment needed for a variety of types and sizes of aquariums. Many of the options for each tank can be swapped out depending on your needs and budget, and our associates are always available to assist you in making the best choices to make your vision a reality!

Why We Wait Until May 1st to Sell Pond Fish & Plants

Springtime = Pond Fish Time!

At our retail store in southcentral Pennsylvania, there are a few things we can always count on as soon as the temperatures start to rise: that particular fragrance as farmers get their fields ready for planting, new road construction projects, and our pond customers to start looking for new pond fish and plants for their outdoor ponds. However, those first warm days of the year aren’t the best time to start stocking your ponds. In our area in particular, the first warm days don’t mean it will stay warm. It is pretty common during a Pennsylvanian spring to have sunny 70 degree days followed by chilly 30 or 40 degree nights and even snow flurries. Even if it is warm during the day, that is only the air temperature…water temperatures and ground temperatures take far longer to warm up and stay a consistent temperature.

 

Springtime is one of the more dangerous times of the year for new and old pond fish alike. Moving fish that are kept in a climate-controlled indoor system like our retail store to an outdoor pond with cooler and inconsistent temperatures leaves them extremely vulnerable to stress and secondary infections like the dreaded Aeromonas bacteria. Fish already in a pond that are “awoken” from their winter dormancy by the warm temperatures are also vulnerable as the water temperatures affect their metabolism and immune systems.

 

Garden Pond

So when should you add new pond fish and plants or “open up” an existing pond for the spring?

Keep an eye on the water temperatures and wait until the temperature is consistently above at least 50-60 degrees. Do not feed any fish already in your pond until water temperatures have stabilized above 40 degrees as your fish will have trouble digesting food in cold temperatures, and use a Spring and Fall Formula fish food that is easily digested until your ponds temperatures have stabilized above 60 degrees. For plants, wait until any danger of overnight frost has left your area. Weather websites like AccuWeather.com often have Lawn & Gardening sections that can help you determine when the best time is for your area. It may be necessary to wait even longer for more tropical, warmer-water plants like the popular Water Hyacinth.

 

While the weather conditions in your area may vary and the seasons are always a little different every year, we’ve found that for our area, May 1st is a good guideline for the safety and health of the fish and plants. This is also around when many hatcheries and nurseries start having the best stock available as well so we can get you the best variety and healthiest stock possible!

For more information on Spring Pond Maintenance, check out these related That Fish Blog posts:pond lilly

Keeping Finding Dory Characters in the Home Aquarium

The saltwater aquarium hobby has seen huge blooms after the release of Disney’s “Finding Nemo” in 2003 and again with “Finding Dory” in 2016. Many movie-goers want to take a real live Nemo or Dory home for their own aquarium but don’t realize what that actually involves. So, what do you need to take your favorite animated fish home without becoming a Darla?

© 2016 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

© 2016 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

© 2003 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

© 2003 Disney/Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

The fish and other sea creatures featured in these movies are, first and foremost, saltwater animals. That means they need a saltwater aquarium. This isn’t as easy as putting some table salt in your home aquarium. The water has to be mixed to the correct levels (Specific Gravity 1.020-1.024) in a separate container before being added to the aquarium. Most of these creatures are also tropical, which means the tank needs a heater to maintain warm water temperatures (75-80 degrees F). The décor of saltwater tanks is usually different than freshwater as well; unfortunately, ornaments like Mount Wannahockaloogie just don’t work very well in saltwater aquariums. Most saltwater aquariums use natural crushed coral substrates and live rock although non-animated decorative ornaments are usually safe. For more information of basic aquarium care, visit our Saltwater Aquarium Basics Guide.
So what about the fish and other animals? Some of the movies’ characters are obviously impossible and even illegal to keep in home aquariums. Others are very difficult while some are very common and easy for hobbyists to care for. We are only going to discuss those characters here that are within the scope of our hobby.
( ❶ “Finding Nemo”, ❷ “Finding Dory”)

 

Hippo Tang (Paracanthus hepatus)

Hippo Tang (Paracanthurus hepatus)

“Dory” and her parents: Hippo Tang (Paracanthurus hepatus) ❶ ❷

Max Size: 12”
Minimum Tank Size: 150 gallons
Difficulty: Moderate
The Hippo Tang is a fairly delicate fish with a weak immune system. They also grow too large for many aquariums. Although tempting, only experienced aquarists with larger, established aquariums should attempt this fish. Like other tangs, Hippo Tang can become very territorial and only one should be kept per tank.

For more information on keeping Hippo Tangs, visit our Tangs & Surgeonfish Care Guide. 

“Nemo” and “Marlin”: Clownfish (probably Amphiprion ocellaris) ❶ ❷

Ocellaris Clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris)

Ocellaris Clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris)

Max size: 4”
Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallons
Difficulty: Easy
We could debate about exactly which kind of clownfish are featured in these movies, but they are probably Ocellaris Clownfish. Percula Clownfish are also very similar in care and appearance (they just develop thicker black margins). Clownfish like these are some of the easiest saltwater fish to keep and can be kept in much smaller aquariums than many of their costars. Captive-bred fish are much hardier and better for the environement than their wild counterparts. Their anemone home is much more delicate however and has some much more intensive requirements. Most clownfish – especially captive-bred – don’t need an anemone to be happy and healthy.

For more information on keeping Clownfish, visit our Clownfish Care Guide and Clownfish and Anemone Preference Guide.

 

Common Octopus (Octopus vulgaris)

Common Octopus (Octopus vulgaris)

“Hank”: Octopus (Octopus sp.)

Max Size: Depends on species
Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons for small species
Difficulty: High
Octopus are very specialized and difficult to care for and need a specially built aquarium to keep them from escaping like Hank so often does in “Finding Dory”. They will also eat almost any tankmates they are kept with. Only expert aquarists should attempt an octopus.

 

“Gill”: Moorish Idol (Zanclus canescens)

Moorish Idol (Zanclus canescens)

Moorish Idol (Zanclus canescens)

Max Size: 7”
Minimum Tank Size: 75 gallons
Difficulty: High
Although not as delicate now as they were even when “Finding Nemo” was first released, Moorish Idols are still difficult to maintain for long. It is difficult to keep these fish healthy through collection and it can be tricky to get them to eat in home aquariums. It is best to stick with hardier lookalikes like the Longfin Bannerfish (Heniochus sp.) for new or novice aquarists.

 

Porcupine Puffer (Diadon holocanthus)

Porcupine Puffer (Diadon holocanthus)

“Bloat”: Porcupine Puffer (Diodon holocanthus)

Max Size: 20”
Minimum Tank Size: 200 gallons
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Although these puffers are usually only a few inches in length when they are sold for aquariums, they can grow to almost 2 feet long! Puffers also have very strong beak-like teeth and can crush through shells. Unfortunately, most of his tankmates in Dr. Sherman’s office wouldn’t have survived being kept with a puffer. Puffers “blow up” as a stress reaction and, while comical to us, this is very stressful and even dangerous to the puffer and should NEVER be provoked for any pufferfish.

 

“Peach”: Starfish

Red Knobbed Starfish (Protoreaster lincki)

Red Knobbed Starfish (Protoreaster lincki)

Max Size: Depends on species
Minimum Tank Size: Depends on species
Difficulty: usually Easy
It is difficult to tell exactly what kind of starfish Peach is but most of the thick-bodied starfish like her are fairly easy. However, most of these also eat snails and other inverts so use caution when choosing your starfish and its tankmates. They are sensitive to water quality and changes in water quality so make sure the tank stays clean and stable.

 

Royal Gramma Basslet (Gramma loreto)

Royal Gramma Basslet (Gramma loreto)

“Gurgle”: Royal Gramma Basslet (Gramma loreto)

Max Size: 4”
Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons
Difficulty: Easy
Royal Grammas are colorful fish found in the Caribbean and western Atlantic Ocean, unlike the Pacific homes of most of the other fish in the movies. They are hardy and easy to keep, but can be territorial. Only keep one basslet in the aquarium unless it is very large with lots of rockwork.

 

“Bubbles”: Yellow Tang (Zebrasoma flavescens)

Yellow Tang (Zebrasoma flavescens)

Yellow Tang (Zebrasoma flavescens)

Max Size: 8”
Minimum Tank Size: 75 gallons
Difficulty: Easy
Yellow Tangs like Bubbles were some of the first to be kept by home aquarists and are still some of the most popular. They are hardier than tangs like the “Dory” Hippo Tang but are also more aggressive. Once they establish a territory, they will not tolerate other tangs – or possibly even any other fish – entering it. Only keep in a large tank without any other closely-related tangs or closely-colored fish.

 

4-stripe Damsel (Dascyllus melanurus)

4-stripe Damsel (Dascyllus melanurus)

“Deb”: 4-stripe Damsel (Dascyllus melanurus)

Max Size: 3”
Minimum Tank Size: 30 gallons
Difficulty: Easy
Damsels like Deb are some of the hardiest and easiest saltwater fish to keep. They are usually recommended as the first fish for any saltwater hobbyists to attempt. Most damsels can get very territorial however so make sure the tank isn’t overcrowded and there is plenty of territory for these fish. The 4-stripe Damsel specifically is one of the milder-tempered of all damselfish.

 

“Jacques”: Skunk Cleaner Shrimp (Lysmata amboinensis)

Skunk Cleaner Shrimp (Lysmata amboinensis)

Skunk Cleaner Shrimp (Lysmata amboinensis)

Max Size: 3”
Minimum Tank Size: 20 gallons
Difficulty: Easy
Like Jacques, shrimp like these will clean parasites and dead scales off of other fish, but they will also eat almost any other food they are given. They are some of the easiest shrimp to keep but, like the starfish, need stable and pristine water quality. Shrimp molt their shell to grow so it is common to find an empty shell every now and then. Don’t keep with predatory fish (like pufferfish, for example) as shrimp are often easy prey.

 

Seahorse (Hippocampus sp.)

Seahorse (Hippocampus sp.)

“Sheldon”: Seahorse (Hippocampus sp.) ❶❷

Max Size: Depends on species
Minimum Tank Size: at least 30 gallons for most species
Difficulty: Moderate to High
Seahorses are easy now than years ago and captive-bred seahorses are becoming more and more available. They are still very delicate though and keeping them with any other tankmates is difficult. It is best to keep them in a seahorse-only tank and by advanced aquarists only.

 

“Tad”: Yellow Longnose Butterfly (Forcipiger flavissimus) ❶❷

Yellow Longnose Butterfly (Forcipiger flavissimus)

Yellow Longnose Butterfly (Forcipiger flavissimus)

Max Size: 9:
Minimum Tank Size: 100 gallons
Difficulty: Moderate
Because of their very thin “beaks”, it can be difficult to get these fish to eat in home aquariums. They need small food items at least once or twice a day. They may also eat some corals as well as the tubed feet from starfish and sea urchins.

 
These characters are just a few of the sea creatures that Disney’s revolutionary “Finding Nemo” and “Finding Dory” franchises have brought to the forefront of the both the aquarium hobby and pop culture, but they are the most suitable for aquarium life. If you choose to bring any of these movie stars into your home, choose carefully so you can give them the best home possible. Remember, as Bruce and his crew have taught us, “Fish are friends”!
© “Finding Nemo”, “Finding Dory” and all the characters within are created by and property of The Walt Disney Company.

Plant Profile: Baby Tears vs Pearl Grass

“Baby Tears” is one of the most popular aquarium plants available and is popular as a foreground and midground plant. It has very small leaves and will stay short to cover the bottom under high lighting or will grow taller and bushier under moderate lighting. However, as is often the problem with common names, when we discuss “Baby Tears”, we may be talking about different plants. There are several plants that may be referred to as “Baby Tears”. That description above can apply to any of them. They all have small roundish leaves and grow in similar conditions…so which is the “real” one? That’s as tough to answer as the sneakers/tennis shoes/running shoes/trainers name debate.

Baby Tears and Pearl Grass

L: Baby Tears (M. umbrosum)
R: Pearl Grass (H. micranthemoides)

“Baby Tears” vs. “Pearl Grass”

The two most common “Baby Tears” available to aquarists are Hemianthus micranthemoides (also called “Dwarf Baby Tears” or Pearl Grass) and Micranthemum umbrosum (the species most often known as Baby Tears, also called “Giant Baby Tears”). The main difference between these two plants is in the leaf shape. M. umbrosum (“Baby Tears”, from here on out) generally has round, almost completely circular leaves. H. micranthemoides (“Pearl Grass”, for the rest of this blog) has elongated leaves, more tear-dropped or elliptical in shape.

 

Both of these plants have almost identical care and can usually be used interchangeably but there are some small differences here too. Baby Tears is usually easier to care for and tends to grow a bit faster than Pearl Grass, but Pearl Grass is a better foreground plant that will stay shorter and have smaller leaves under high light. Baby Tears tends to be taller and bushier but either can be pruned and trimmed to maintain a height or growth pattern. Both plants can be grown in bunches or on a surface like driftwood, rock or a plastic mat to form a thicker carpet; use fishing line or string to hold it in place under the roots start to attach.

 

A thick mat of Glossostigma in an aquarium

A thick mat of Glossostigma in an aquarium

Glossostigma: A Third Look-alike

 

Another plant, Glossostigma elatinoides (usually shortened to “Glosso”) is also very close to Baby Tears and Pearl Grass in appearance and is sometimes confused with these two plants. It has pairs of small, round leaves that are somewhat in between Baby Tears and Pearl Grass in shape, a rounded teardrop but with the widest and roundest part of the leaf at the end rather than by the stem. They stay short and small under very high light but the leaves will become bigger and taller under lower light. This plant can also be planted in the same way by attaching it to a hard surface or planting each stalk individually until it begins to spread on its own.

 

 

Oct 2016 UPDATE: Recent publications have listed that the Pearl Grass found in the aquarium trade may correctly be Hemianthus glomeratus, not H. micranthemoides. Though these two plants are very similar, they have some slight differences in native range and in the flowers. H. micranthemoides may actually be essentially extinct and it is thought that the Pearl Grass known to aquarists in the recent hobby is likely H. glomeratus.

 

(Baby Tears image by Alex Popovkin, Bahia, Brazil from Brazil (Micranthemum umbrosum (J.F. Gmel.) S.F. Blake) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)