Species Profile – Golden Orfe

Please welcome back Patty Little with an excellent species profile on a popular pond fish.

Golden OrfeTypically, when we consider fish to populate ornamental ponds, it’s koi and goldfish that are the most well-known and sought after types chosen. If you’re in the market for a new and interesting fish, let me introduce you to the Golden Orfe.

Golden Orfes, also known as Ides, are popular and attractive pond fish. They are long and slender with peachy-orange bodies and often small black spots across the back of the fish. Orfes originated in Europe and are dark, silvery blue in their wild form. The golden form was developed by selective breeding for ornamental use. Around 1880 Orfes were first imported to the U.S. and propagated in ponds along with goldfish and carp.

Orfes are sought after for their color and behavior. These docile fish are active swimmers, often staying near the surface where that can easily feed. Though they can grow to about 18 inches or more, they are not aggressive and will not cause harm to other fish in the pond, though tiny fish and fry may be seen as a food item. They are schooling and will be most comfortable in groups of at least three. Small Orfes make great additions to ponds as their social nature may encourage other pond fish to the surface and they will dine on insects and insect larva, especially mosquitos. They are fast swimmers, and some caution should be used in shallow ponds or garden ponds with bare edges as they may become stranded if they jump out of the water.

Golden Orfes are terrifically suited for larger ponds, at least 500 gallons, and should be housed in ponds deep enough for winter survival and with plenty of area to accommodate their mature size. They thrive in cooler temperatures up to about 77 F. They also require lots of oxygen and will appreciate waterfalls, streams and fountains that agitate the surface of the water. High temperatures and still, stagnant waters are detrimental to their health.
Sexing Orfes is not an easy task, particularly when they are young. Mature breeding adult females tend to have a heavier or thicker body than males, but even if you can’t tell male from female if you have a small school of these fish odds are you will have both. Breeding comes naturally and will occur in the Spring if the fish are mature and if they are given ample space and well-maintained conditions. Orfes are similar to carp, so you may notice some chasing and courting behaviors when the fish are preparing to spawn. Huge numbers of eggs are usually expelled on submerged plants and roots in well oxygenated areas of the pond. You may or may not notice the presence of fry once the eggs hatch, and survivability will probably be very low, but these fish grow quickly, and any baby Orfes that make it will look a lot like Rosy-red Minnows.

Under the right conditions, Orfes can be interesting and beneficial additions to ornamental ponds. Look for them to be available where koi and other pond fish are sold in the Spring. They may have sporadic availability due to their popularity and may be hard to come by in areas that have very hot climates, as they do not tend to hold up well in such locations.

Thanks for the great post Patty

Until Next Time,

Dave

Go with the Flow: The “Yes, and..” philosophy of aquarium care

Please welcome Eileen Daub with her first post to That Fish Blog!Eileen, Marine Biologist at That Fish Place

As a professional actress in my free time away from That Fish Place, I’ve learned a lot from the theater world that I’ve brought back into our fish room (and vice versa….pronouncing the Latin scientific names of some of these fish really helps to untangle Shakespeare sometimes, believe it or not). One of the biggest tips that the dramatic community can give to aquarists is the theory of improvisation and “Yes, and…”, like the actors in shows like “Whose line is it, anyway?” use to think up those jokes and skits on the spot. To an actor, improv means saying “Yes, and…” to whatever someone else throws their way.

“Hey, you! You’re hair just burst into flame!”

“Yes, and…it saves on heating bills.”

“That dog there just jumped over a house.”

“Yes, and…he fetched his own ball from the gutter while he was up there, isn’t that nice.”

So, what does this have to do with keeping your fish alive and getting your plants and corals to grow? You’d be surprised. For example, our store alone currently sells over 30 products to raise pH or lower pH or raise pH but lower hardness and all kinds of things to make the number on your pH test match what your fish should be kept in. Well, instead of matching your water to a fish, why not try it the other way.

“My pH is really low.”

“Yes, and…discus, killifish, tetras, and other Amazon species love more acidic water.”

“My water hardness is really high and I can’t get the pH down.”

“Yes, and…that doesn’t work for these tetras but those African cichlids love hard water, and hard water with lots of minerals makes a good foundation for reef and marine tanks.”

Need more convincing? Ok, what about all that algae in your aquarium. Instead of scrubbing until your fingers have blisters or putting more chemicals in your tank than in a high school chemistry lab, work with it. Is the hair algae going crazy in your marine tank? Why not try a blenny, bristletooth tang, or a sea hare to help eat it up (or if you get really creative, pick up a small pair of craft scissors and make it your damsel’s new front lawn…tiny garden gnome statue optional)? If lighting is an issue, remember that fish don’t have a 9-5 schedule like the rest of us. If you are only home in the evenings to enjoy your tank, adjust the timers so the lights aren’t on when you aren’t around.

Better yet, how about those inevitable outbreaks of disease or an unpreventable accident. It happens to the best of us – I once wiped out my entire home saltwater aquarium because of an unquarantined new arrival – but the key to enjoying your aquarium instead of dreading its maintenance is how you respond.

“My tank just keeps getting ich outbreaks/bacterial infections/cloudy water/aquatic alien abductions.”

“Yes, and…now I’m going to figure out what to do about it.” (I hear aluminum foil tank covers work well for alien abduction problems. Doesn’t prevent the crop circles in hair algae though, sorry)

Very few things in the aquarium hobby are spontaneous; the cause of the problem might just be tricky to find and sometimes, we just might have to learn to adjust to and live with the problem. Ich and other parasites can be almost impossible to completely prevent, but if you’re fish seem to be especially prone, you might want to switch their diet, add supplements to boost their immune system, or avoid invertebrates and keep a low copper dosage in the tank, for example.

A favorite director of mine likes to refer to improv actors as “Chaos Surfers” – they take whatever anyone throws at them, accept it and ride it forward. I say, why stop there? Aquarists can do the same. We can take whatever our aquarium is telling us and instead of fighting against it, we can accept it and make what we have work for us. We just have to be flexible enough to realize that even when our aquarium “scene” is going the way it might have been planned in our head, what we do have is just as good in a completely different way.

Thanks, Eileen

We look forward to more blogs from you in the future!

An Invasive Species Account: The Northern Snakehead

Please welcome back Brandon Moyer for another excellent post. Brandon Moyer

We carry hundreds of different species of fish and inverts here at That Fish Place, That Pet Place that come from all around the world.  There are, however, certain species that are no longer available to us by act of law.  Their release into the wild and the lifestyles and behaviors they exhibit has earned them the title of invasive species.  This blog is the first in a series of popular invasive pet species accounts.  One of these is commonly inquired about here at That Fish Place and is notorious worldwide.

The Northern Snakehead, Channa argus, is one species of fish that has been introduced into non-native waters where it has thrived and disrupted its new habitat.  The snakehead family originates from Asia and parts of Africa.  The Northern Snakehead, which is invasive in the United States, originates from Southeast China and Korea.  Snakeheads are apex predators, meaning that they stand at the top of the food chain and eat almost anything they can get in their mouth.  Females can release anywhere from 1,300 to 15,000 eggs during a single spawn.  They can spawn up to five times in a single year.  They can survive in waters which range in temperature from 0 to 30 degrees Celsius.  What makes them more threatening is that they can survive out of water for four days by breathing air with modified organs, even longer if they construct a muddy burrow.

The first invasive snakehead in the United States was discovered in Spiritwood Lake in California in 1997.  The first established population of snakeheads was found in Crofton, Maryland in 2002.  This population provided proof that snakeheads were able to invade and flourish in US waters.  Since then juvenile and adult snakeheads have been found in the Schuylkill River in Pennsylvania, Lake Wylie in North Carolina, Meadow Lake in New York, and several other states in the eastern United States.  When snakeheads enter a new body of water they tend to disrupt the food chain.  Juvenile snakeheads compete for food with juveniles of native species.  Adults also compete for resources with adults of native species and become so aggressive that they will also kill and eat them.
Northern Snakehead

Their aggressive behavior, distinct appearance, and large size made snakeheads a popular aquarium fish, although due to their potential to invade natural ecosystems, they are illegal in over half of the United States, including Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New York.  Irresponsibility was the main cause of their invasion into US waters.  We as responsible aquarists must realize the impacts that snakeheads, and many other species of fish, may potentially have in the wild to prevent these species turning from pets to pests.

I hope that this blog was informative and illustrated the importance of keeping our pets in the aquarium.  Check back for more invasive species blogs. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey.

Thanks Brandon!

Until Next Time,

Dave

 

Using Ozone in the Home Aquarium

The use of ozone has long been a standard practice in industrial and public water purification plants, and large scale public aquarium filtration, as one of the best and most efficient means to increase water quality, while still being able to promote water conservation.   One of the biggest problems to overcome in these closed water systems is the accumulation of dissolved organic waste from various biological sources such as animal waste and decomposing food and plant material.
In aquariums of any scale, mechanical filtration will remove large organic and inorganic solids, and biological filters will remove dissolved organic material in the form of Ammonia and Nitrite, this still leaves behind a large number of other dissolved and colloidal organic materials that will accumulate over time (the ones causing colors and odors being most noticeable).  In most cases these materials are only removed by physical water changes, or chemical absorption media.  While frequent water changes may be practical for removing these dissolved materials in smaller aquariums where you are not dealing with large volumes of water, it is not a practical method for removal of these materials in large systems or in systems where water conservation is at a premium.  Using chemical absorption media is expensive, and is limited in is ability to remove all of these undesirable dissolved organics.  This is where the use of Ozone comes in, I will try to answer some basic questions about ozone below

So, what is ozone, and how does it work to remove these dissolved organic molecules?
Ozone is a naturally occurring highly reactive form of oxygen gas comprised of three oxygen molecules (O3) that is also highly unstable and short lived.  It is this inherent instability of the ozone molecule that is taken advantage of for use as a strong oxidizing agent.  “Normal” oxygen, as found in air and water, has two oxygen molecules (O2) and is very stable.  When ozone molecules break down, they lose an oxygen molecule, forming a stable “normal” oxygen molecule, and a free single oxygen atom.  It is this free oxygen atom that attaches to dissolved organic compounds, which in turn causes them to break down into simpler forms that can consumed by heterotrophic bacteria , or recombine into forms that can be removed with mechanical filtration or protein skimming.  The organic molecule that gained the free oxygen atom and subsequently broke apart is now said to be oxidized.  This is a bit of an oversimplification of the process, but it is a about as general an explanation as I can give without losing too many of you. (and myself, chemistry was never my strong point)

How do I get ozone, and how do I use it in my aquarium?

As I have already discussed ozone is a highly unstable gas, so it is not possible to store, or purchase ozone, it only has a life span of a few seconds before it breaks apart.  Ozone needs to be generated as needed with a device called an ozonizer or ozone generator.  Most modern units available for the aquarium hobby use a Corona Discharge method to create ozone. In a Corona Discharge unit, air is passed through a strong electrical field which causes atmospheric oxygen (O2) to break apart into single oxygen molecules.  Some of these oxygen molecules will then combine back together after passing through the electrical field to form Ozone (O3).  This generated ozone gas must then be quickly used before it breaks apart again.  Most marine aquarium hobbyists already have the perfect piece of equipment for introducing ozone into their aquariums, their protein skimmer.  Ozone needs to have contact time with the water so that it is exposed to the materials that you wish to oxidize.  Fractionating the ozone gas by drawing it into the air intake of your protein skimmer, you can use your skimmer as a highly efficient contact chamber.  This works for both venturi type, and air pump driven protein skimmers.  You need to make sure that your skimmer is made of ozone safe materials, and that you use ozone safe air tubing.  Some plastics and rubber can be damaged by ozone, and cause leaks or failures if exposed for prolonged periods of time.  There are also ozone reactors available, but they are a bit more difficult to use, and harder to find.

How much ozone needs to be used, and is it safe for aquarium inhabitants.

The best way to monitor and control ozone is with the use of an ORP monitor or controller.  ORP stands for Oxidation Reduction Potential, and In terms of your aquarium water, it reads an electrical voltage in Milli Volts (mV) which measures the oxidation ability of the water.  As Ozone is applied the ORP level increases.  Natural sea water has an ORP value of 350-400 mV.  ORP levels of 200 or less in your aquarium are indicative of low oxygen, high dissolved organic, conditions.  By monitoring the ORP level in your aquarium, and maintaining it between 250-350mV, you can adjust your ozone dosage accordingly. Using an ORP controller simplifies this process to shut off you ozone generated at a desired ORP level.  You should never exceed an ORP of 400mV in your aquarium.  Ozone units like the Red Sea AquaZone Plus have a built in ORP controller.

Most manufacturers of ozone units recommend a dosage rate between 5-15mg per hour per 100 liters (26 gallons) many different size units are available, so you can choose an appropriate output unit for your size aquarium, and most have a variable output.  Controlling your ozone output is very important, too much is not a good thing; very low doses will provide you with excellent results in most cases, overdosing can be harmful to both you and your aquarium inhabitants.  There are several methods to make sure that you are applying the correct amounts of ozone into your aquarium.  The goal when introducing ozone into your protein skimmer is for all of the ozone to break down in the chamber or escape through the top of the skimmer.  You do not want ozone to escape freely into your aquarium, it will also oxidize organic material in there, which will cause damage to fishes gills, and invertebrate tissue.  You also do not want high concentrations of ozone to escape into the air; it is harmfull to your lungs if in high enough levels.  Most hobbyist units do not produce dangerous levels of ozone.  You can use carbon in your sump chamber that the skimmer discharges into, or on top of your protein skimmer to absorb residual Ozone, and use an Ozone test kit to make sure that none is escaping the reaction chamber into your aquarium.  Overdosing Ozone can also produce some harmful compounds, mainly in the form of hypochloric and hypobromic acids, this is why you should not exceed and ORP of 400 mV It is a not a good idea to use ozone in small confined spaces, a well ventilated room or aquarium cabinet should be considered.  If you are not using an ORP meter or controller, a conservative approach should be used, stick to the 5mg per hour, per 100 liter rate to be safe.  Another caution when using ozone is to use an air dryer to make sure that the air that is drawn into the ozone generator is dry, a simple and effective unit like the Red Sea Air Dryer, uses regenerable desiccant  beads to draw moisture out of the air.  Moisture can react with Ozone to create nitric acid, which can damage equipment, and lower the pH in your aquarium.

What are the benefits of using ozone?

 

Water clarity is the number one reason most people use ozone.  There are many dissolved organics that can discolor your water, ozone will oxidize these and produce water that is crystal clear.  This is especially beneficial to reef aquariums where light penetration is crucial.  Many people do not even realize how discolored their water is until they see the difference ozone can make. Ozone also has disinfecting properties, pathogenic bacteria, single cell parasites and algae, viruses are all destroyed by contact with ozone.  Increased dissolved oxygen levels from the reduced organic load and bacterial oxygen consumption.  Ozone will destroy pesticides, detergents, and many other toxins that may be in your tap water.  Many organisms release substances that are intended to defend themselves, or inhibit predators or competitors that can accumulate over time and become problematic will be destroyed by ozone.  Ammonia and Nitrite are oxidized into less harmful Nitrate when exposed to Ozone.  And as mentioned previously, using ozone can reduce the amount of water that needs to be changed in closed systems.

 

 

I hope that this has shed some light on Ozone use in the home aquarium, and that I answered some of the questions that you may have about Ozone use.  Feel free to leave comments if you’re looking for any additional info.

 

Until next time,

 

Dave

Freshwater Clams for the Ornamental Aquarium

corbicula clamWelcome back Patty Little to That Fish Blog!

Clams and other bivalves are well known for their filtering capabilities, absorbing toxins and nutrients from natural waterways both freshwater and saltwater. While clams and their relatives are common to reef aquaria, there are also clams available for freshwater tanks. The clams offered most commonly by pet stores are Corbicual sp. from freshwater Asian waterways. They can be interesting and beneficial additions to freshwater tanks, so I thought it might be worth a little article to help anyone along that may be considering the addition of these inverts.

These clams grow to about two inches across, and may live for months or years depending on their living conditions. They range in color from golden tan to black, and sometimes accumulate algae on their shells. They can be housed in even small tanks, 5-10 gallons, as long as they have enough water movement, decent filtration, and are provided with supplemental food when necessary. These clams should thrive in temps from 65-82 F and will need somewhat harder water to maintain a healthy shell. They are also best suited to an aquarium with a fine substrate bed as they like to burrow into the sand. You will be able to see the clam’s siphon as it protrudes.

Clams feed by filtering detritus and nutrients from the water column. Depending on your tank, you may or may not need to supplement your clam with invertebrate foods, as in many cases they will take in what they need when you feed your fish and as they stir through the substrate. The result should be a cleaner and clearer aquarium.

Now for some cautionary notes. First, be sure that you house your clam with appropriate tank mates. Avoid housing them with predatory fish and other carnivores like many cichlids, puffers, rays, and bottom dwelling shrimp and crayfish that may agitate the clam. Though they are buried, their tissues are delicate and can be easily damaged, and if they are frightened or disturbed, they will not be able to feed and may starve. Remove your clams if you must treat your aquarium for any reason, particularly with copper based medications, as they cannot tolerate any copper in the water.

Though you may find freshwater clams and mussels in local ponds, streams, rivers, and lakes, it is generally a bad idea to collect species from the wild for use in a home aquarium. Wild specimens may be carriers of disease and tiny parasites that can be detrimental to captive fish. As they absorb toxins, these toxins may also be released into the otherwise pristine water you maintain. The other issue is that some bivalve species reproduce by releasing tiny larvae. These larvae may attach to the slime coat or gill filaments of your fish, and the resulting infection may be deadly. It is best to purchase clams from a reputable dealer so you know what you are introducing.

Finally, though it should be common sense, as responsible aquarists or keepers of any non-native species, clams and aquarium water should never be disposed of or introduced to waterways for any reason. Introduction of non-native species can have horrific results. Use caution and be responsible with any plant or animal you may not be able to care for by contacting other enthusiasts, pet stores, or authorities for safe solutions to finding a new home to prevent serious environmental impact.

Thanks Patty,

Until Next Time,

Dave