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Yasha Haze Gobies – the Stars of My Nano Reef Aquarium

Hey everyone, Sam here. Nano tanks are a really popular trend in the aquarium hobby.  The first tank that I’ve ever owned was a 20 high.  Since then, I’ve continued to go smaller and smaller, with each endeavor ( to a 10 gallon then a 2.5 gallon).  Nano tanks are fun and can be set up almost anywhere!  Smaller tanks are cheaper to set up, but not necessarily easier to take care of, especially when you have a busy schedule. 

Yasha haze gobyOne of my favorite fish in the aquarium hobby is the Yasha-Haze Goby (Stonogobiops yasha).  The Yasha-Haze Goby is a small fish that only gets about 2 inches long.  It is white with red stripes going down the sides and yellow translucent fins. Magnificent!  It has a very large first dorsal ray, which extends over an inch high.  The goby feeds on small meaty foods such as mysis shrimp or copepods.  In a well established tank, it will be able to find a good food supply just from copepods, but regular feeding will keep it in great health.  The Yasha-Haze Goby has an interesting behavior of paring up with a small pistol shrimp.  The pistol shrimp will help dig a burrow while the goby stands guard.  Once the burrow is dug, the pistol shrimp will hide down in the burrow and the goby will swim right outside of the burrow.  The shrimp will keep one of its antenna on the goby and if there is any sign of trouble the shrimp will know instantly and retreat further back into the burrow.  In return for building the burrow, the goby will gather food and bring it to the shrimp.  The best shrimp to use is the Randall’s Pistol Shrimp (Alpheus randalli).  These both work great in small tanks and are awesome as the primary occupants of a nano tank!

Randalls shrimpBoth of these animals are interesting in their own respect, but when paired up they can become an amazing sight to watch.  The key to helping these animals pair up if they are not purchased together is patience.  Allow them time to find each other and set up a burrow.  If they are not disturbed during this time, the patience will be rewarded ten fold as you watch them interact together in one of the most interesting ways. 

 Best of luck,


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,


Extreme Makeover – That Fish Place Touch Tank Edition

ClosedHey readers, Dave here. It has been a busy couple of weeks here at TFP leading up to the holiday season.  It has been especially busy for me, as the top of my to-do list suddenly changed to repairing the touch tank.  Originally installed in 2002 (as somewhat of an experiment), the Marineland Touch Tank was in dire need of a makeover.

After many patches and repairs over the years, the old tank liner finally had so many holes in it that it could no longer hold water.  The liner needed to be replaced!  For anyone who has ever replaced the liner in their pond, Removing the wallyou know what an ordeal that can be.  We found a temporary home for our touch tank celebrities, and jumped into the physical mess of getting the old liner out, including removing the hundreds of pounds of rock and substrate. Luckily, we are out of pond season here in Lancaster, so we had the Sharks in holding systemadvantage of being able to convert one of our Koi holding systems to saltwater, as a temporary house for our touch tank buddies,  while their home is being renovated. Next we’ll be getting the newer, more flexible liner installed and getting all the animals back home! It’s a whole lot going on, in a short amount of time.

Many, many people (both local and distant) visit the store, in part to see the stingrays and other creatures in the display.  There has been a parade of sad faces come around the corner, expecting to see their touch tank friends, but finding destruction in stead.  Remodeled filtrationNever fear, the rebuild will only take a few more days, and the touch tank will be better than ever!  Along with the new liner, there are also some filter upgrades taking place behind the scenes.  We are truly sorry about the down time for the touch tank, this is the first time we have closed it since it opened seven years ago.

Stop in soon and see the stingrays in their newly renovated home.



Crazy Cats – Bizarre and Interesting Catfish Species for Your Aquarium

Hello everyone, Craig here,  and I have to admit something… I LOVE catfish.  Big and clunky, or little and petite, doesn’t much matter. I just love catfish! We’ve been getting some pretty amazing catfish in lately, and I wanted to just highlight some of the crazy species we see here from time to time.

Hog-nosed BrochisLet me start with Brochis multiradiatus, otherwise known as the Hog-nosed Brochis cat.  Not exactly a Corydoras cat, this larger cousin of the Cory’s has a lot of character. These big fellas are about 4 inches long and they are like vacuum cleaners at the bottom of your aquarium! They are brown to grey with a metallic green overlay, and elongated, pig-like noses. These cats are not as commonly seen as their little cousins the Corydoras. Hog- nosed Brochis cats have always proven to be sturdy and hard working residents in community and semi-aggressive community aquariums.

Spoon-faced whiptailWant something weird? Well, the first time I saw the Spoon-faced Whiptail, I was practically speechless. The bizarre body structure of Planiloricaria cryptodon has to make it one of the strangest looking fish of the catfish in the world. With a head that is flat and round, these guys really do live up to their common moniker of Spoon-faced Cat. To make them even more interesting, they have very long tail filaments that can easily be as long as their bodies. They get rather large, growing up to a little over 8 inches, but they are very effective scavengers. In an aquarium with soft, fine substrate these cats will crawl around the bottom and suck up any left-over foods that might have settled there. Totally strange, but hard working, too.

Next on the list is the Spatula-barbeled Catfish, Phyllonemus typus. These small catfish from Lake Tanganyika are something really special. Their coloration is silky brown with a white belly, and they have long, thin barbels that each end in a flattened, feathery black tip. I can remember seeing these fish in books when I was younger and wondering what they looked like in person… well, I gotta say, they are even more beautiful than in the book, in my opinion.

Perhaps the star of the current list of catfishes we have in stock is the Starlight Bristle-nose Catfish, Ancistrus dolichopterus, or L-183.  A stunning and somewhat new addition to the world of plecos, the Starlight Pleco has Starlight Bristlenose Plecodark coloration with tiny white speckles covering the front half of its body. The edges of its tail and dorsal fin are a bluish-white color. These are highly prized by breeders and collectors. These plecos only attain a size of about 4 inches. I can see how some people are absolute fanatics about this fish.

The selection of catfish in our fish room is constantly changing. These listed above barely even scratch the surface of the interesting and beautiful species available in the market. Anybody out there have a favorite catfish species to tell us about? It is kind of like being able to live out a personal fantasy, being able to order and see these amazing fish every day! If you’re ever interested in these or any other catfish we have available, or if you have any questions we can answer, please feel free to comment below or stop in and take a look for yourself.  

Thanks, Until next time,


Marine Shark Species in the Home Aquarium – A Cause for Careful Consideration

Sharks hold a fascination for everyone, whether they inspire fear or admiration.  They are iconic creatures many of us automatically associate with oceans, reefs, beaches and aquariums.  Though I have to say I am not a supporter of most sharks being placed in home aquariums, the possibility and temptation presents itself too often to be ignored.  Perhaps the best option is to present readers with enough information on some more appropriate species, and to encourage interested parties to research before purchase, so that these beautiful creatures will be kept in captivity more successfully.

In the vast majority of cases, captive sharks are best kept and observed in large, public aquariums, or better yet, left in their native waters to thrive.  Most species are simply too large, too mobile, and too high maintenance for the home aquarist.  If you have a VERY large aquarium, more than adequate filtration, and the financial means to acquire and support them, there are a couple of species that are less demanding that I’d like to introduce.  These species are the most common in the trade, and may be kept successfully with the right care and housing.

Bamboo Sharks, Coral Catsharks, and Epaulettes

Bamboo Sharks (i.e. Banded Catsharks) are probably the most frequently offered type of shark in the aquarium trade.  Several species are seen, they are banded brown and tan, and may have spots when they mature. Those in stores are reasonably priced and are typically sold as young pups. Egg cases are also available, allowing you to observe the embryonic shark as it develops and hatches in captivity (usually in 3-6 months). Pups are about 6 inches long when they emerge.  These sharks are native to the Indo Pacific and have the potential to grow to about 3.5 feet in length.

Coral Catsharks are a little less frequent, but they have very attractive black, tan and white patterns.  They are true tropical reef sharks, and grow to just under 30 inches in length.  They are quite docile, but should not be underestimated.

Epaulette SharkEpaulettes are very attractive, too, but they are not seen often in the trade.  These sharks are also tropical, collected from Australia and the surrounding region.  They are usually pale brown in color with dark spots all over and an ocellated black spot just behind the gills.  They reach a size of a little over 3 feet and are usually more expensive that cat or bamboo sharks.

Horn Sharks

Horn Sharks are another common type imported for sale.  Also known as bullhead or pig head sharks, these have stout bodies, a short, blunt head, with ridges over the eyes, and a prominent spine on the front of each dorsal fin.  Most often California or Mexican Horn sharks (and once in a while Port Jackson Horn Sharks from Australia) are found in pet stores.  These sharks grow to about 3.5 feet at maturity.  They are found along sandy bottoms and in kelp beds along the western coast of California and Mexico to Central America. These sharks prefer cooler water than those above (a chiller may be required), and they tend to excavate rock and substrate. 

We have 2 resident Horn Sharks here in our Touch Tank.  They spend most of their time under the rock formations in the center of the tank, but become quick and active when they smell food.  With the cooler temps, large volume and heavy filtration in the display they have grown quite fat and happy.  We’ve even found several spiral-shaped egg cases in the past couple of years!  These sharks are quite docile, with a mouth full of teeth designed to crush more than to tear. 

To Be Avoided

Several other species are seen from time to time including Wobbegongs, Dogfish, Nurse Sharks, and other even less appropriate species.  These should not, in my opinion, be offered or purchased for home aquariums  due to their large potential size, and/or special requirements.

Keeping Sharks

Shark Egg CasesSharks and egg cases should NOT be placed in tanks of less than 180 gallons (preferably larger), and the tank should be well-established. Despite their small purchase size and relatively sedentary behavior, they grow quickly and need space to move freely and turn.  The larger the tank the better (think about 3 times or more the length of the sharks adult size), furnished with some minimal rock piles and a cave where the fish can retreat and rest.  You’ll also want to supply ample flow and filtration as well as a good protein skimmer.  Even if you feel that the tank you already have may be large enough for the baby shark, or that you’ll have time to upgrade to a larger tank when necessary, it would be best to have an established tank of adequate size and function before considering a shark.

These fish will prefer their salinity on the higher side to mimic sea water, and keep it constant.  They will require regular water changes to keep their conditions pristine.  A varied diet of meaty foods should be supplied, including but not limited to shrimp, clam, krill, squid, silversides, and others (fresh or frozen, not live).  These fish can be fed 2-3 times each week, but be careful not to over feed for the sake of the shark and the water quality.  Hand feeding should be avoided to prevent accidental bites (don’t underestimate their speed or agility!).  Other fish may be housed with these sharks, as long as they are of adequate size, but be observant as some fish tend to be notorious harassers of sharks. Bottom dwellers and invertebrates like crabs, shrimp, and urchins should be avoided as they may become casual meals.  Also be aware that sharks have acute sensitivity to metals and chemicals in medications, so if a problem arises, thorough research should be performed before adding any treatment to the tank.

When you’re ready and you have carefully considered purchasing a shark, look for healthy, well-adjusted specimens that are feeding well and are not emaciated.  Avoid sharks with visible parasites or that look sunken (though newly hatched pups take a little while to fatten up).  With the right care and set-up they can be interesting and long-lived pets. 

Thanks for reading, and please let us know if you have any comments or questions about sharks for a home aquarium.

Until next time,


Shark egg cases image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Jean from flickr by falashad
Epaulette Shark image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted from flickr by Jim Capaldi