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Contains articles featuring information, advice or answering questions regarding aquarium fish and other livestock.

Freshwater Stingrays: Points to Consider Before Your First Purchase

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here. Stingrays – mysterious, beautiful and odd – are difficult to resist, and therein lies their main drawback as aquarium fishes. While not particularly delicate, experience with other fishes does not always serve one well where stingrays are concerned. Their husbandry is not well known, and there are a number of special considerations which must be borne in mind.A marine species (the little skate, Leucoraja erinacea) was the first ray to catch my attention. I was about 7 years old, prowling the stalls of NYC’s famous Fulton Fish Market in the pre-dawn light. Accompanied by my grandfather, we were seeking new pets – octopus, turtles, eels and such – that rarely appeared in pet stores at the time. The skates, while living, were in bad shape, but I vowed to give them a try someday. Eventually, freshwater rays appeared in Manhattan aquarium shops, and I was off and running.

Following are some points to consider before purchasing your first freshwater stingray. Having a handle on these matters beforehand will greatly increase your chances of succeeding with these spectacular fishes.

Medical Precautions
Stingrays are venomous animals. While no freshwater species are known to have caused human fatalities, we know very little about the nature of the toxins they produce, and individual sensitivities may be a concern.

Speak with your doctor and arrange for medical care in the event of an emergency before purchasing a stingray.

Selecting an Individual: Size
The small stingrays that appear in the pet trade are not adults but rather are babies of a variety of large species. Even those sold as “teacup rays” will reach at least 18 inches in diameter when mature (2-3 years), and will require a tank measuring 4′ x 2′ x 2′ if they are to thrive. Adults of several trade species approach 3 feet in diameter.

Furnishing the Aquarium
Stingray skin is easily damaged by ornaments that are safe for other fishes; they do best in a sparsely-furnished aquarium. Even small specimens will quickly uproot plants and dislodge filter tubes, aerators and heaters.

Use smooth stones as a substrate. Typical aquarium gravel is too rough and may cause skin lesions. Substrates designed for marine aquariums raise the pH to dangerously high levels and sand, while acceptable, poses water quality problems (please write in for further details).

Stingrays often alight upon aquarium heaters, but seem not to respond to the high temperatures generated. Heaters must always be shielded by a PVC sheath or heavy rocks.

Personal Observations in the Field
While on a field research assignment in Venezuela, I was happily situated within the range of 4 species of freshwater stingrays. The animals spread out onto the flooded grasslands during the rainy season, and were rather easy to find.

The largest individual I observed was dead and floating down the Orinoco River. Spanning nearly 4 feet across, it easily supported the weight of the black vulture that was feeding upon its carcass.

A Hands-On Experience with Stingrays
Please be sure to visit That Fish Place/That Pet Place in Lancaster, PA (the world’s largest pet store) for a chance to hand feed our friendly marine stingrays.

More to follow next week. Until then, please write in with your questions and comments. Thanks, Frank Indiviglio.

Further Reading
Please check out the book Freshwater Stingrays.

An interesting article on the conservation of South American stingrays is posted at http://www.cites.org/common/com/ac/20/E20-inf-08.pdf.

Image referenced from Wikipedia and originally published by Raimond Spekking.

Florida Ricordea – More than Just a Mushroom

There are two species of Ricordea readily found in the aquarium hobby; the Yuma and the Florida. Both offer an amazing pallet of colors and vary in size. The Yuma variety is found in the Indo-Pacific region, while the Florida species is found in the Caribbean and around coastal Florida. Ricordea yuma are typically the larger variety, but tend to be  more difficult to keep alive. They are also more expensive, with some prices topping $100 per polyp. The Florida species are by far hardier and can tolerate a wider range of lighting. Florida ricordea can be expensive, but typically not much more than $50 per polyp, more on the average of $20 to $30 dollars per polyp.

As far as water quality, a healthy reef system is all they require with an average of 3-5 watts per gallon of lighting. They can thrive under Power Compact, Metal Halide, and T-5 lighting. If the ricordea becomes well established and “happy” in your aquarium, they will begin to divide, leaving you with more ricordea than you originally purchased. You can also force them to divide by cutting them in half or if you are feeling lucky, in quarters. Water flow can be variable, low to moderate and more turbid. Try to avoid high, laminar flow,  it can cause the ricordea to detach or just to melt away in the worst case. They make a great addition to smaller aquariums because they typically only get a few inches in diameter while having very little aggression towards other corals. Like many other corals, they will “fight” back if too close to other corals, so give them a little room to grow. Through photosynthesis, ricordea gain a majority of their food. However, they will also feed on phytoplankton and zooplankton.

The Florida ricordea found in the aquarium trade are collected throughout the Caribbean and Florida. However, new regulations in Florida that are set to begin in July may cause the price to increase. The limits on collection are going to decrease by more than 50 percent. This should force the price of each polyp to increase noticeably. The drastic increase should be offset slightly by the import of ricordea from places like Haiti.

Overall, I would highly recommend the Florida Ricordea to anyone with a healthy reef tank. The color variety and hardiness make this coral a perfect choice for most aquariums, small and large.

Aquarium Livestock Highlights This Week

Patty here. For any of you that do not know already, we receive several shipments each week of freshwater fish and saltwater fish and inverts.  For our local customers it is just a short ride away to see what is new, nice and interesting each week, but the process is understandably more complicated for many of you faithful readers.

We like to periodically highlight some items, whether rare, particularly nice, or just plain fun in our opinion so that you can inquire about them or even place an order for them online if you are interested.  Some of this week’s items are highlighted below.  If you have any questions about featured stock of anything that you may be interested in online or in the store, please feel free to e-mail us at marinebio@thatpetplace.com, livefish@thatpetplace.com, or contact us by phone at 1-877-367-4377 for our live shipping dept. or 1-888-842-8738 to be connected to a representative in our fishroom.

We’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have about available stock that is featured in the blog or other items available.  And please excuse us in these creature features if the photos aren’t online immediately, They take us a little while to post!

This week’s highlights include:

Beautiful Anthias!  The Purple Tukas, Square-spots and Lyretails all arrived in splendid condition and with lovely color.

We received some spectacular Black Clarkii Clowns, five in total all over 3 inches in length.

Check out the Coral Frag category for available varieties the present stock looks great so if you’re looking to start a new colony, check them out.

Also new and looking good our Masked Rabbitfish, Camel Shrimp, and our big bold Lutescens Wrasse.

On the Freshwater side:

The small Cobalt and Red Scribble discus are looking great!

We also have some fat Asian Bumblebee catfish and a nice batch of Arched Corys.

New to us are the Fireline Danios, Flash Plecos, and Volkswagon Plecos.

And for those plant lovers out there you can bring a little of the outdoors in with the lovely Tiger Lotus for aquariums or add a little curiosity with those crazy moss balls!

Who knows what’s in store for next week!

The Jawfishes: Colorful, Burrowing Clowns for the Marine Aquarium

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.  In the jawfishes (Family Opistognathidae) we find some of the most entertaining and interesting of all marine aquarium subjects.  Constantly popping in and out of their uniquely constructed burrows, all are very active and quite comical to behold.  Although perpetually occupied with minor territorial disputes, they get along well in groups, and are quite willing to display a wide range of interesting behaviors once they settle in.

Diversity and Lifestyle

Over 60 species of jawfishes, all inhabiting marine waters, may be found in the Indian Ocean, Western and Central Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean (from the Gulf of California to Panama).  

Jawfishes sport huge eyes and mouths on an enlarged, blunt head that, to many, evokes the image of a bulldog.  The body tapers quickly behind this, suiting them well to the burrowing lifestyle that all have adopted.  The strong jaws and head are used to hollow out subterranean retreats, while the slender body allows the fish to quickly slip inside, tail-first, at the slightest sign of danger. 

Jawfishes rarely stray far from home, making short feeding or defensive forays but generally staying within easy reach of the burrow’s entrance.  Most cover the entrance of their homes with a pebble at night, and the males of all species incubate the eggs within their mouths.

Yellow-Headed Jawfish (Opistognathus aurifrons)

A group of these beautiful fishes in established burrows makes a delightful exhibit, with bright yellow heads constantly appearing and disappearing as they survey their territories for food or foes.  They slip tail-first into their homes with amazing speed, and pop out just as quickly.  Growing to a length of 5 inches, the body of the yellow-headed jawfish is delicately colored in pale blue. 

 

In contrast to many other fishes that maintain a regular home base, yellow-headed (and most other) jawfishes are relatively inoffensive towards one another.

Providing the Right Substrate

Jawfishes require a substrate that allows for the creation of burrows that retain their structure and can serve as permanent homes.  Without such, they will fare poorly.  You may need to do a bit of experimenting, in terms of substrate composition, if you add jawfishes to an established aquarium. 

If you are starting from scratch, a 1:1 mix of our Natural Ocean Substrate  and Pearl Beach Aragonite will work well.

Diet

Jawfishes readily feed on all manner of animal based frozen and pelleted  foods, and particularly relish live brine shrimp, Mysids and blackworms.

They are quite alert and vigorous feeders, but please be aware that many individuals will not venture far from their burrow.  Therefore, be sure that a suitable amount of food is placed within easy reach, lest they be out-competed by less “homebound” species.

A Caution

Jawfishes scuttle about but rarely swim, and so we tend to think of them as “bottom fish”.  However, for reasons as yet unexplained, they frequently manage to jump out of aquariums at night. 

I’ve not had the opportunity to watch jawfishes with the assistance of a night-viewing bulb, so as to perhaps understand just what it is they do after dark…please write in if you beat me to it.  In the meantime, be sure that your aquarium hood fits securely, especially around filter tubes and other equipment.

Further Reading

The Monterey Bay Aquarium exhibits yellow headed jawfishes, and has posted interesting information here.

Please write in with your questions and comments.  Thanks, until next time, Frank Indiviglio.

New and Not So Common This Week at That Fish Place

Patty here.

Just a quick blurb on some of our newest additions to stock this week!  We received a few things that we don’t see very often, so if you’re in the mood for something new check it out. 

img_1335On the salty side you’ll find our biggest excitement for the week, a male Crosshatch Trigger.  He’s big, bold and beautiful.  We also got a lovely little Yellow Assessor, who’s not to shy and would look terrific in someone’s reef!  Other items of note are a small Watanabei Angel and two new damsels, Limbaugh’s and some big Scissortail Chromis.

img_1530Not too much fresh on the freshwater end this week, but there are the Swamp Eels that might be very interesting in the right tank.  Also some nice looking Albino Butterfly Bristlenose Plecos.  There are also some other  fish for communities that don’t come around too often including Inky Barbs, Burma Danios, and Empire Gudgeons.

Drop in over the holiday or check them out online!  Have a Great Memorial Day!