Home | Freshwater Aquariums (page 30)

Category Archives: Freshwater Aquariums

Feed Subscription

Contains articles featuring information, advice or answering questions regarding freshwater aquariums, livestock or equipment.

A Livestock Preview: New and Interesting Arrivals in our Fishroom

Hey  Everyone!  Patty here.  Thought I’d take a minute to highlight some of the new and interesting things we’ve gotten in this week in the fish room.  With the Anniversary Sale coming this week, I’m sure there will be more to see and buzz about for the weekend, but here is a look at just a couple of the newest arrivals that are looking particularly pretty.  All of the regular favorites will be here for the sale along with some special goodies that will make the visit even more worthwhile!  We hope you can make it in this weekend!

Lake Terbera rainbow

Lake Tebera Rainbow
Like other Rainbowfish, this species is great for larger community aquariums. They are larger, but active and peaceful. Rainbowfish are also great additions for their shimmering colors.

small blood parrot

Small blood parrot
This batch came to us with more natural looking coloration instead of the traditional brightly colored Bloody Parrots.


Lelupi are a staple in the world of African Cichlids, sought after for their interesting habits as well as their bright yellow-orange coloration. These are lovely!

Gold faced datnoid
Datnoids have a mystique about them that is quite a draw. This species has attractive bars and a golden sheen in the head and face. Enthusiasts should check these out!

yasha haze

Yasha haze
The Yasha Haze Goby has been around in the market for a few years now, but every time one arrives it’s beauty still astounds me. This is a great candidate for a reef or nano-reef system.

Orange-spotted Sea Slug
This pretty slug is a real spectacle! A Pacific native, its bright orange dots make it easy to spot.


Despite is rather cryptic, cave-dwelling personality, Swiss Guards and other related basslets like the Swales Swiss Guard (also here) have amazing color and will not disappoint in the right environment. They are most at home in a rocky reef home.

Feel free to contact our livestock department or a fishroom associate if you are looking for anything in particular before you come in or if you are interested in having something live shipped to your door.

A Community Aquarium for Fishes, Shrimp and Frogs – West African Oddities – Part 3

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here.

Please see Parts I and II of this article for general information and for details concerning the care of elephant nosed and butterfly fishes.

Dwarf Clawed or African Dwarf Underwater Frog, Hymenochirus boettgeri, H. curtipes

This tiny (males to 1 inch, females to 1.4 inches) aquatic frog is a real pleasure to keep.  It is perpetually on the prowl, sticking its pointed little head into every nook and cranny in its ceaseless search for food.  A group so engaged is really quite comical to behold…they look like nothing so much as squadron of tiny, flattened divers!

Habitat and Habits

Dwarf clawed frogs move slowly about the aquarium bottom and among the plants, and save “free swimming” for trips to the surface for air.  In deep aquariums, they do best when provided with “ladders” to the surface in the form of (preferably live) plants.  They are at their best in heavily planted aquariums, and will utilize every square inch available to them. 

Small size and bold demeanors render these frogs ideal observation subjects. It is quite easy to provide them with a habitat in which they will reveal to you nearly all of their natural behaviors, and captive reproduction is not uncommon.  Dwarf clawed frogs are not favored aquarium animals in the USA, due largely to the fact that they are usually kept improperly.  Typically housed in bare tanks with active fishes that out-compete them for food, they usually expire in short order. 

Feeding Dwarf Clawed Frogs

In addition to dense cover, dwarf clawed frogs need a varied diet of small, live invertebrates.  Blackworms can account for up to 75% of their food intake, supplemented whenever possible with live brine shrimp (brine shrimp alone are not an appropriate diet), whiteworms, bloodworms, mosquito larvae and similarly-sized aquatic organisms.  Newborn guppies may be taken by particularly large individuals.  I’ve had my best breeding results when I provided my frogs with occasional meals of pond-seined fairy shrimp and other tiny invertebrates.

I have not had much success in inducing dwarf clawed frogs to accept non-living food items, but others have reported good results with some individuals.  I suggest that you feed them as described above, but experiment with Reptomin Select-A-Food  (freeze dried and pelleted components), freeze-dried fish foods  (mysis shrimp, daphnia, bloodworms) and frozen mosquito larvae.

As dwarf clawed frogs feed largely by day and elephant nosed fishes by night, competition for live blackworms is rarely a problem.

A Unique Hunting Strategy

Dwarf clawed frogs use a suction-based feeding technique, unique among amphibians, to capture their prey.  The tiny hunters lunge forward while extending the front limbs and opening the mouth, after which the body is recoiled.  Like other members of the family Pipidae (African clawed frogs, Surinam toads), dwarf clawed frogs are tongue-less.

Hybrids and Feral Frogs

Only Hymenochirus boettgeri and, to lesser extend, H. curtipes, appear in the trade; there is some evidence of hybridization between the two.  H. boettgeri has been introduced to Florida and is apparently well established.

An Important Distinction

It is important that you are able to distinguish this frog from young African clawed frogs (Xenopus laevis).  The two are frequently housed together in pet stores….Xenopus grows quite large and will consume smaller frogs, fishes and shrimp.

In dwarf clawed frogs, the appendages of all 4 limbs (fingers and toes) are webbed; Xenopus possesses webbed feet only.  Dwarf frogs are also more flattened in body form, and their heads are very narrow, nearly “pointed”.

Giant African Fan Shrimp, Atya gabonensis

African Fan ShrimpThis stoutly-built West African native is bound to become more popular as time goes on.  Built more along the lines of a crayfish than a shrimp, yet completely benign toward tank-mates, it feeds by sweeping food into its mouth with feathery appendages.  Fan shrimp are quite social in nature, with groups often sharing the same shelter even when others are available. 

The Importance of Shelter

I have found African fan shrimp to be compatible with the other animals mentioned in this article, provided that they have access to secure shelters.  They seem to be very much “home oriented”, and become quite stressed when their retreats are disturbed in any way. 

Be sure to supply your shrimp with caves and other such hideaways that will not be disturbed by foraging elephant- nosed fishes (the other species pose no concerns), and do not move the shelters once they have been occupied.  Small rock dens  or Mopani wood shelters  are ideal.

Please see my article on the Natural History and Care of African Fan Shrimp  for husbandry details.

I was recently told of an unusually large (possibly 8 inch) fan shrimp that was residing in a local pet shop.  I went to see the animal, only to find that it had expired and had been discarded.  Please write in if you have observed fan shrimp larger than 5 inches or so – we have a great deal to learn about this animal…perhaps there is more than 1 species in the trade.

Further Reading

You can read more about the dwarf clawed frog and its relatives at http://research.amnh.org/herpetology/amphibia/names.php?taxon=&family=&subfamily=&genus=hymenochirus&commname=&authority=&year=&geo=0&dist=&comment=.


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

Essential Nutrients for the Planted Aquarium

Essential Nutrients for the Planted Aquarium

Uruguayensis SwordBrandon here. Anyone who gardens or keeps houseplants knows that plants need a boost once in awhile to look their best and maintain lush, consistant, healthy growth.  Aquarium plants are no exception, but it may be difficult to decide which supplement to use.  Here is an overview of some of the components you may see in the supplements, and what they do to help you along in your aquatic gardening. 

*In order of highest to lowest required concentration


  • Nitrogen: Used for formation of amino acids, protein, DNA, and various other functions such as osmoregulation and nutrient uptake. Deficiencies result in stunted growth and cell death.
  • Potassium: Important in breaking down carbohydrates for protein production.
  • Used in production of seeds and fruits.
  •  Important for overall plant growth.
  • Generally not harmful if overdosed
  • Calcium: Used as a signaling mechanism for environmental stress.
  • Excess calcium interferes with phosphorous and can lead to health problems.
  • Magnesium: The central molecule in chlorophyll. Also used for enzyme activation.
  • Phosphorous: Used in DNA and RNA to hold base pairs. Also found in Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) and ADP, which is used for energy storage and transport. Nitrogen and phosphorous are the two most important elements found in plants.
  • Deficiencies result in stunted growth and cell death.
  • Sulfur: Used to create certain amino acids.
  • Deficiencies usually indicated by decreased or stunted growth and yellowing of entire plant. Low levels of sulfur are required for plants health.


  • Chlorine: Used for chemical signals between cells. Also used in opening and closing of stomatal guard cells (important in terrestrial plants).
  • Iron: Used as an electron acceptor and donator in photosynthesis. Also used in the creation of new chlorophyll molecules.
  • Iron deficiencies are indicated by yellowing leaves. The plant cannot function without iron and the processes it is involved in, and can die from stress.
  • An excess of iron can result in a build-up of free radicals within the plants tissues, which damages cells and DNA and can also lead to plant death. In the aquarium an excess of iron can be readily absorbed by algae which can result in algae blooms.
  • Boron: Enzyme activator used for making starch, which is used in the production of cellulose.
  • Used for sugar transport to meristems (the parts of the plants where new growth forms).
  • Manganese: Enzyme activator. Needed for the production of chlorophyll.
  • Zinc: Enzyme activator. Required for leaf formation.
  • Deficiencies result in what is called “little leaf” syndrome.
  • An excess of zinc interferes with metabolic function and may result in plant death.
  • Copper: Enzyme activator.
  • Inhibits shoot and root growth when overdosed. Also interferes with electron transport during plant metabolism. Can result in plant death.
  • Molybdenum: Important in the reduction of nitrates, which provides nitrogen for the creation of proteins.
  • Nickel: Enzyme activator. Used in breaking down urea.
  • Inhibits shoot and root growth when overdosed. Can result in plant death.

Other non-mineral elements required for plant growth:

  • Carbon: usually acquired from carbon dioxide through photosynthesis. Found in sugars, carbohydrates, starch, and every part of the plant.
  • Oxygen: acquired through photosynthesis, respiration, and from water. Also found in sugars, carbohydrates, starch, and every cell of the plant.
  • Hydrogen: acquired through photosynthesis, respiration, and water. Again, essential compound in the makeup of sugar, starch, carbohydrates, and cellular structures.

Carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen are the most prominent elements found in plants (found in the highest concentrations). Because they are readily available from the aquarium water they do not need to be supplemented (with the exception of carbon which can be added to the aquarium with a CO2 reactor).

Hopefuly this helps clear up some of the confusion with planted tank supplementation.


Different Fish For Tank Cycling – Starting With Something Different

Hello everyone! This is Craig. Just the other day I was helping a customer and was showing him some fish that would be hardy enough to cycle his brand new freshwater community aquarium. I went through the normal fish selections of zebra danios, blue danios, and white clouds. He expressed a certain… lack of enthusiasm towards fish that, while being sturdy and inexpensive, did not show as much character as he would have hoped. “Everyone has those fish…” is a common response to the zebra danios. Having thought about this a bit… I decided to put together a short list of fish that are durable, inexpensive, and… well… different than the zebra danio.

Brilliant RasboraFirst on the list would be the brilliant rasbora. Rasbora borapetensis is a beautiful and hardy fish. An elongated fish with gold and black lateral stripes and a red tail, the brilliant rasbora will attain a size of close to 3 inches in length. In larger schools they are quite impressive as they cruise the aquarium in a tight formation. They will not nip at plants or long fins, so brilliant rasboras make a beautiful and active addition to the community aquarium.

Harlequin RasboraStaying with the rasbora group of fishes, the harlequin rasbora ( Rasbora heteromorpha ) is another fish that is beautiful, hardy, and peaceful. The harlequin rasbora is a small schooling fish that is pink with a large black triangle covering the back half of the fish. Barely reaching 1.5 inches, this fish shows very well in schools of 8 or more. As the fish ages, the color intensifies and is really quite spectacular. The harlequin rasbora is a little gem that can be included in almost any small community aquarium.

Another hardy and colorful fish that can be used a “starter fish” is the Serpae tetra. The Serpae tetra ( Hyphessobrycon eques ) is a beautiful tetra that does best in schools of 6 or more. This fish has had a long standing history of being one of the more sturdy tetras and, when kept in a warm aquarium, can show a deep crimson color with a black spot on their sides. When kept in smaller numbers, the Serpae tetra can be somewhat nippy, but that problem is easily solved by adding more individuals to the school.

Serpae TetraThe cherry barb ( Puntius titteya ) is still another colorful and hardy small fish to add to this list. While most barbs have a tendancy to be little nippers, the cherry barb is quite a bit more relaxed and very rarely nips at fins. The males of this species are a nice cherry red, while the females are a burnt orange color. This barb swims toward the lower regions of your aquarium and will do best in groups of 5 or more. Mixing the ratio of males to females will produce the best color and will also produce some interesting courting displays from the males.

Cherry BarbSo, for those of you that want to start your freshwater community with a little more color or variety, there are options! There are actually more options than listed above, but these 4 species of fish are, quite possibly, the top 4 choices for cycling a new tank. Just remember to be patient when beginning your new aquarium, and you should have no troubles at all!

A Community Aquarium for Fishes, Shrimp and Frogs – West African Oddities – Part 2

Frank Indivlgio here.

Check out: A Community Aquarium for Fishes, Shrimp and Frogs – West African Oddities – Part 1, to read the first part of this article.

Water Quality

Great care must be taken with water quality…in fact, the elephant noses’ sensitivity is such that they have been used to monitor water quality in industrial situations.  They should only be introduced to well-cycled aquariums, and the test kit mentioned earlier should be employed regularly to test ammonia levels and other water quality parameters.  That being said, when cared for properly the elephant nose will reward you with many years of enjoyment…I know of no one that regrets adding them to their collection.

African or Fresh-Water Butterfly Fish, Pantodon buchholzi

Inhabiting the same waters as the elephant nose and well suited to the same aquarium is the African butterfly fish.  Living on the surface and active by day, the butterfly fish is the elephant nose’s polar opposite.  The two rarely interact and nicely illustrate diverse and very unusual survival strategies. 


An Unusual Appearance and Lifestyle

Wing-like pectoral fins lend this oddball its common name, and long rays trailing down from the pelvic fin add to its unusual appearance.  When viewed from above it does indeed bring a butterfly to mind, but it is more likely a dead, floating leaf that the fish is imitating. 

This well-camouflaged predator spends its life floating quietly on the surface, where its appearance and upturned mouth suit it admirably as a specialized hunter of terrestrial insects that fall into the water.  In West African rivers teeming with competitors, the butterfly fish, much like the elephant nose, has evolved a unique way of exploiting a food source not available to most other fishes.

Feeding African Butterfly Fishes

African butterfly fishes feed only at the surface and will not dive for food.  While most individuals will accept flake and freeze dried diets, they really come to life when offered live insects.  Their reactions at such times will leave you with no doubt as to their dietary preferences.

Being highly evolved to feed upon a unique food source (land-dwelling insects), butterfly fishes do best when provided with the same in captivity.  They will take a variety of foods, but I have found them to fare best on diets comprised largely of small live crickets, newly molted (white) mealworms, mealworm beetles, wax worms and wild caught moths, spiders and other invertebrates (the Zoo Med Bug Napper  is a very useful insect trap). 

Canned insects  provide a convenient of increasing dietary variety.  Zoo Med’s Anole Food  contains small freeze dried flies – another great way to provide a natural food item to this most interesting denizen of tropical West African waters. 

As you might gather from the foregoing, butterfly fishes rarely thrive in typical community aquariums.  However, when fed properly and established in an appropriate environment, they are very hardy – living well in groups and not at all shy about revealing their unique hunting skills.  The powerful pectoral fins enable this fish to skitter across the surface when threatened and to jump well, so be sure that your aquarium is securely covered.

Further Reading

Please see my article The Use of Electrical Impulses in Elephant-Nosed Fishes  for further information on a newly discovered mode of elephant nosed fish communication.

You can read about the natural history of the African butterfly fish at http://www.fishbase.com/Summary/speciesSummary.php?ID=2075&genusname=Pantodon&speciesname=buchholzi

Next time we’ll take a look at some interesting invertebrate and amphibian members of the “West African Oddities Community Aquarium”.  Until then,   please write in with your questions and comments.  Thanks, until next time, Frank Indiviglio.