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Freshwater Nano Aquarium Environments – The Things You Can See

Hey guys, Craig here again. With an increase in technology, the economic crunch, and just the versatility of smaller tanks in general, the popularity of nano tanks has exploded in the past 5 years. Not surprising, since many kits are now available with everything you need to get started. In addition to the obvious advantages of these tanks, I feel these small tanks give aquarists an opportunity to go back to their roots, so to speak, and focus on why they started in the hobby in the first place, their love of aquatic species. Nano tanks bring to the forefront the activities of the creatures within, and more accurately, provide access to a wealth of animal behaviors that may be missed in a large aquarium environment.  Sam has talked about some of his experiences with marine nano tanks, now let’s explore some freshwater ideas!

The Shell Dwellers – Small in Size, Big on Attitude

N. multfasciatusPerhaps one of the most amazing behaviors exhibited by any fish is that of the shell dwelling cichlids from Lake Tanganyika. Several species exist, each of them exhibiting the curious habit of living in abandoned snail shells. Not only do they use the shells as shelter, they even spawn and rear their young the shells! Neolamprologus multifasciatus, for example, can thrive in a small aquarium and may exhibit courting and dominance behaviors within its own colony. In a small aquarium, each member of the colony will pop in and out of its own shell and guard the entrance like a little bulldog. Even when cleaning the aquarium, your giant hand does nothing to discourage a dominant male from nipping at you to protect its little home! A sandy substrate and some empty snail shells that are about 2 or 3 inches in diameter are about all you need to give these fish the décor that they need to perform!

Dwarf Rasboras – Fish for the Smallest of Spaces

Bororas sp.Smaller freshwater tanks can have their mini-fascinations too. With several new species of tiny fish being brought into the hobby, putting together a stunning little freshwater nano tank is easy! One of the little fish from Thailand, Boraras sp. “South Thailand”, could easily be the centerpiece to such a tank. These little guys are less than an inch long at adult size. In a 12 gallon aquarium, you could easily keep a school of 10 to 12 fish. Given their diminutive size, keeping these fish with anything else would be extremely hazardous to their health, making them ideal candidates for a small species set-up. Dwarf Rasboras also show some interesting behaviors.  Males of this species will often move away from the school and stake out a little territory in an attempt to coax willing females down to spawn. In an aquarium with many other fish, intriguing little actions like this might easily go unnoticed.

Cherry Shrimp Colonies for Tiny Tanks

Cherry ShrimpNano tanks aren’t just suited for observing fish. You may want to consider keeping freshwater shimp! Little Cherry Shrimp are fascinating to watch as they graze on algae and skitter around the aquarium. In a small aquarium, you could start with 5 or 6 of these shrimp and you may have double that number within several weeks. Cherry Shrimp are known to be prolific, and with no fish in the aquarium to eat the baby shrimp, you can see the development of your very own little colony. An easy set up for these would include dark, natural sand with a couple of moss balls and a nice small piece of driftwood for decoration. The moss balls will help to provide natural food as well as an intriguing habitat for your shrimp.

Something for Everyone

These are just a few of the exciting freshwater creatures and aquatic behaviors you may have missed in a larger tank. From cichlids to shrimp, just a little creativity can really make something small into something special. Does anyone out there have their own little stunning aquarium they would like to share? Please feel free to comment and tell us what you keep in a nano tank.

Until Next Time,

Craig

Captive Bred Fish for Aquariums and the Difference Between Selective Breeding and Breeding Hybrids

Hello, Jason here. Over the years the aquarium trade has progressed to cater to the demands of consumers and to comply with the prevalent eco-issues at the same time.  Now more than ever, consideration is also given to the impact the trade has on native populations and the integrity of  stock. The livestock in the aquarium trade is increasingly supplied by breeders captive bred or captive raised fish.  Some fish are bred for color, behaviors or another reason that makes them unique and interesting to the potential buyer. While this is good as it helps protect wild populations from being over harvested, it does bring up another Parrot Hybridproblem that appears within the aquarium trade from time to time. Breeders are constantly trying to keep up with the growing demand for fish, so their methods may not always produce the best quality of fish. This is often most noticeable among Cichlids, especially African Cichlids, though some of the better known hybrids commercially available are derived from New World Cichlids.

Some breeders are more concerned with quantity and saleability that the integrity and quality of the fish they are producing for the trade. Hybrid fish result when two distinct species produce offspring together, sharing qualities of both species. Fish with physiological deformities may result as with Bloody Parrots, but at the very least, captive hybridization can obscure or pollute pure genetic lines that should be kept pure, from a conservation stand point.  Defects can be small like an abnormal color pattern or body shape, or more advanced. Many hybrids will look very similar to one of the two species that it came from, but it may have unique coloration or slightly different shape. Some of these hybrid fish may never show any sign of distress as a result of their questionable lineage. Some hybrid fish are born sterile.  Fish of poor breeding like this may have issues surviving or thriving in the aquarium.  They may have trouble feeding or swimming, especially with tankmates that do not have similar disadvantages.  If they do have a defect that is enough to effect these abilies, they will not have the ability to thrive without special attention in many cases. Some hybrids may also have difficulty in fending off disease.

Long fin Gold Ram

Some breeders choose to selectively breed species, typically to develop or reproduce a specific mutation that occurs within a species, but is not found in the wild.  These are often carefully bred for a specific result such as elongated fins or to enhance a particular color that some fish bear naturally to some degree.  These fish still maintain their species integrity, but display more prominently the desired trait they were selected for.  True conservationists may shy away even from these selectively bred variants to maintain the most naturalistic display possible, though color variants are usually more acceptable than hybrid fish.

Keep quality in mind when looking for a new fish for your aquarium. Reputable breeders take pride in the fish they produce, and are careful to breed good stock, with pure lines to preserve the integrity of the species they are helping to conserve.  There are many breeders that selectively breed purebred strains that have brighter coloration and better health because the species lines are kept pure. These are the fish you want to look for to keep in your aquarium.

Until next time,

Jason

Reef Trends – The Chalice Coral Craze

Hello, Cory here with a short blog on an interesting new wave in the world of reefing, the new obsession with Chalice corals.  A couple years ago, Chalice Corals were not very popular or in demand type of coral, despite the ease of care and collection. They were offered around the country, at very reasonable prices. This is no longer the case. With the influx of ridiculously colorful specimens in the market, the Chalice Coral craze has begun!

The Chalice Coral’s appearance can be difficult to describe. Chalice corals are part of the Pectiniidae Family, more specifically the Genus Echinophyllia, but Mycedium and Oxypora species can also be considered in the group. Chalice Corals can be very easy to Crazy orange Chalicekeep. They require low to moderate light, with a few species needing a bit more to help bring out some of the intense coloration. Due to the ability of Chalices to adapt to most lighting conditions, you must try to replicate the lighting conditions of the store or person before you, or the coral may change it’s colors completely. After a few weeks to a couple of months, you may have a coral that looks nothing like the one you purchased. Too much and too little water movement can have negative effects, but don’t worry too much. They can be tolerant of most currents as long as they are more turbulent rather than laminar. These corals can be very aggressive, but most lack very long sweeper tentacles, so the space around them can be manipulated. Since thier growth is relatively slow, you don’t have to worry about them encroaching upon your other prize corals. However, always remember over time they may eventually converge with a neighboring coral and the battle will begin. They primarily feed at night, preying upon small, meaty foods such as cyclops and oyster eggs.

For the past year or so, Chalice Corals have become the popular corals to keep, like Acans and Zoanthid polyps before them. Prices per frag range from 15 to 20 dollars for the standard variety. The more uncommon varieties are ranging from 50 to as muchMiami Hurricane Chalice as 300 dollars or more per frag, depending on the size!  One example, the Tyree LE Bumble Gum Monster Chalice can be as much as 250 dollars per ¾ inch frag! Recently, an extremely rare species, coined the My Miami Chalice frag was auctioned for 2000 dollars on eBay. The frag was close to an inch in size. My collection includes two variants at the moment, the Sour Apple and the Christmas Chalice. That Fish Place carries a few varieties such as the Miami Hurricane and the Rainbow Delight (Jason Fox frags)with many others hopefully to come in the future.  Check them out!

Until next time,

Cory

Why cichlids – Diary of a Cichlid Maniac

Hi, everyone. Jose here. Ever wonder why some people keep certain species of fish over others? Some people like to keep Oscars and Jack Dempseys because they eat other fish, others keep African Cichlids for their colors. Some choose bloody parrots because they are “cute” (hahaha, sorry), yet others of you have angels and rams for their elegant fins and coloration.

My reason for being a “cichlidiot” (cichlid idiot) at first was their color. I started out Mbuna from Lake Malawi. I got a 55 gallon, a bunch of rocks and plants, and kept Pseudos and yellow labs. Well, the plants got trashed, so it ended up being a tank full of rocks. Then I added the Electric blue Ahli Sciaenochromis ahliand a Bicolor Peacock (let the games begin). That poor peacock didn’t stand a chance between the Ahli and the Mbuna. Lessons learned along the way, my obsession with cichlids of all types and from all regions has contributed to a lot of fun and interesting aquarium adventures through the years. So, away with the pretty little Mbunas and onto Malawi haps, like the Eye-biter, the Livingstoni, etc. I went. Besides the outstanding colors, each species also had some very interesting feeding and breeding behavior that fueled my interest.

Next came the Victorians. These were smaller than the big guys I was used to, but with color and spunk, careful mixing of pairs (a lot of females look alike and you can end up with hybrids) my reason for these guys was the fact that they were almost wiped out due to the introduction of the Nile Perch to their native habitats. Keeping fish like these is a great way to keep species going.

Next for me were the Tanganyikans. The Brichardi complex with its long flowing fins got me hooked, then, I fell in love with Featherfins and Shell-dwellers. Tanganyika is a very diverse lake with multiple types of spawning rituals. You have egg layers, and mouth-brooders, and egg scattering species, all very interesting to breed and observe.

Then we have the West Africans. These colorful and interesting fish live in the rivers of West Africa, and include different types of Kribs, Jewel Cichlids, and not to forget, some of the tilapia species. After a few years, my madness moved on to South American Dwarf Cichlids and then the discus. Breeding them was an accomplishment.

Dwarf pikes and rams were next on my list, and the fun and headaches of keeping Central Americans soon followed.  They are bruisers; big, mean and with a lot of attitude, and even smaller centrals think they are their larger cousins with plenty of attitude for their size.

Finally I ventured into fish from Madagascar (most of which are either extinct or in danger of being extinct), which were a treat to keep. They are a lot like the centrals in behavior and habitat conditions. And I can’t forget to mention the Chromides from Asia and the new cichlid they’ve found in Iran.

Now that I’ve outlined the path of my decent into cichlid madness, I’ll talk about my favorites from each location in some future installments.

Until next time

Jose

Volunteering in Marine Conservation – Sea Turtles, Seals and Horseshoe Crabs

Frank Indiviglio with nesting Leatherback TurtleHello, Frank Indiviglio here. Today I’d like to highlight some simple ways that you can become involved in hands-on research with marine animals. Next time we’ll take a look at programs designed for people interested in fishes.

Sea Turtle Research in Costa Rica

The Caribbean Conservation Corporation, founded in 1959 by legendary turtle biologist Archie Carr, was the world’s first marine turtle protection organization. Promoting conservation through research, and political advocacy, CCC is based in Florida, and its primary field station is nestled between rainforest and sea at Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica. Volunteer researchers have always figured prominently in the group’s work, and today a number of interesting opportunities are available.

Sea Turtles, Jaguars and Frogs … My Experience with CCC

My first field trip to Tortuguero, working with green turtles and 1,500 pound leatherbacks, hooked me for life. I and other researchers tagged and measured turtles, counted eggs, and monitored nests.

I also participated in studies focusing on the area’s 300+ bird species and was lucky enough to see kinkajous, caimans, ocelots, tapirs, jaguar tracks (overlapping my own!), arboreal tarantulas, strawberry poison frogs and a host of other incredible animals.

Working with Seals

Frank Indiviglio with baby leatherback turtlesSeals of several species are becoming increasingly common in coastal urban areas, where they face threats from boat collisions, harassment and pollution-related diseases. The Seal Conservation Society maintains a comprehensive list of organizations that assist injured seals and provides information for those interested in becoming wildlife rehabilitators, beach monitors or “seal watch” tour leaders.

Untrained people should not approach seals – injured animals and females returning from hunting to claim their pups can be extremely dangerous. In the USA, sick or harassed seals can be reported to the local police or the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s 24 hour emergency hotline: 800-853-1964.

Helping a Living Fossil

Most people do not realize that no intravenous drug produced in the USA reaches the market without first having been tested with a chemical produced by an ocean-dwelling relative of the spiders.

Compounds within the blood of the horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus) far surpass synthetics in detecting drug impurities. Biomedical companies draw blood from millions of these ancient (as in “unchanged for over 200 million years”!) creatures yearly. Although horseshoe crabs harvested for blood samples are released, coastal development and collection for the bait trade has caused US populations to plummet.

Based in the Northeastern USA, Project Limulus relies upon volunteers to monitor over 5,000 spawning horseshoe crabs each spring in an effort to help formulate conservation strategies.

Over 17,000 horseshoe crabs have been tagged by US Geological Service volunteers working along the Delaware Bay. Their work seeks to assist both horseshoe crabs and a shorebird known as the red knot. Undertaking one of the longest known bird migrations (Argentina to the Arctic), red knots somehow time a stopover on their trip to coincide with the spawning of the Delaware Bay horseshoe crab population. Red knots rely upon horseshoe crab eggs to fuel the last leg of their amazing journey, and have suffered massive declines since this food source has become scarce.

Further Reading

Please see my article Hands on Experiences in Sea Turtle Conservation for further information on working in Tortuguero, Costa Rica.

Well, that’s just the tip of the iceberg…please write in if you are interested in other research opportunities. I’ll cover fish-oriented programs in the future. Thanks, until next time, Frank Indiviglio.