Introduction to Triggerfish

Welcome back Mellisa, I hope that you enjoy this general article about Triggerfish. These are facinating, beautiful, and fun fish to keep in your marine aquarium.


Triggers are with out a doubt some of the most aggressive saltwater fish available to hobbiest. They are carnivores and will eat any small tank-mates. Triggers usually aren’t very picky when it comes to food. They should be fed shrimp, scallops, krill as well as meaty pellets. Triggers should be housed in a large tank 100 gal or more. Larger wrasses, groupers, eels, and large angels are acceptable tank-mates. Most triggers are not reef safe and will chomp on corals, eat crustaceans, as well redecorate the tank upsetting corals and live rock. Use extreme care when placing heaters and power head cords inside the tank. Triggers tend to be very curious and may nibble on the cord causing harm to themselves as well as other tank mates. An aquarist must use caution when working in the tank to avoid being bitten.

In the store we sell several different species of triggers. Some are very aggressive and should be kept alone while others are fairly docile and may be kept in a reef tank with caution.

One of my favorite triggers is the Queen trigger (Balistes vetula). What can I say, I love my queens (Queen angels and Queen triggers). Queen triggers are gorgeous but don’t let their attractiveness fool you. They are very aggressive and get very large which may be part of the reason this fish is not seen all that often in the trade.

The Fuscus trigger (Pseudobalistes fusco), Clown trigger (Balistoides conspicillum), and Undulated trigger (Balistoides undulatus) are also very aggressive triggers but are commonly seen in the trade. These triggers are very attractive and will add character to any predatory tank, just make sure other tank-mates are established and will be tough enough to hold their own.

There are a few triggers that are considered “reef safe” with caution since they are mainly planktivorous. While these “reef safe” triggers do not eat coral, they will most likely eat hermit crabs and shrimp, so be prepared for this behavior if you try them in your reef.

Some triggers in this category include Blue Jaw triggers (Xanthichthys auromarginatus), Sargassum triggers (Xanthichthys ringens), Pink Tail triggers (Melichthys vidula) and Niger triggers. These triggers appear to be less aggressive and are commonly seen in the trade.

I hope that you enjoyed Mellisa’s article. Until next blog,

Brackish Water Aquarium Basics

One of the aquarium topics that seems to create a great deal of confusion amongst our customers is what is a brackish aquarium, and what do you need to successfully keep brackish fish. To shed some light upon this niche of aquarium keeping, I would like to welcome Lexi Jones back to our blog, to share this article about brackish aquarium basics that she has written.
Welcome Lexi!
You might ask, “What is brackish water?”

Brackish water is a mix of freshwater and saltwater, as in estuaries, mangrove swamps, or brackish rivers. The salinity is higher than freshwater, but less than salt water. The specific gravity should be kept between 1.005 and 1.015 for a brackish water aquarium, depending on the type of habitat. You may have to increase the salinity of the water over the fish’s lifespan; this also depends on the type of fish you plan to keep.
Owning a brackish water aquarium is very unique. It is also easier to keep than a saltwater aquarium, being that the fishes in these habitats are used to fluctuations in salinity and water parameters.

The basic supplies you will need to start a brackish water aquarium are as follows:

Aquarium– Brackish aquariums can be set up in just about any size aquarium, I would start with at least a ten gallon size. As with any fish that you plan to keep in an aquarium, you should know the adult size of the fish, and make sure that you have chosen an appropriate match for the size aquarium you have.
Filter– Hang on the back bio-wheel and mechanical power filters, or canister type filters are the best types for a starter brackish water aquarium.
Substrate– sand. This can be any saltwater aragonite sand or even children’s play sand. This sand will help to stabilize the pH of the aquarium, which should be between 7.6 and 8.4 depending on the type of habitat.
Heater– The temperature should be about 80- 82 degrees Fahrenheit. You need to make sure the heater is adequate in size. A rule of thumb is 5 watts of heat per gallon. You will also need a thermometer to make sure the temperature stays constant.
Any tank should have a Glass top or hood. Brackish water aquariums will evaporate water faster than most freshwater aquariums, given the higher temperature recommended. The use of a hood will help to reduce evaporation as much as possible.
Lighting is another requirement, but how much you need varies. If you are only keeping fish, a simple fluorescent bulb fixture will suffice. However, if you plan on keeping plants more intense lighting is required. Also, the light should only be on for around 10 hours a day.
Marine Salt– I use Instant Ocean at home, but any brand of marine salt will work. DO NOT use freshwater aquarium salt; this is not the correct salt to use for brackish or marine tanks.
Hydrometer or Refractometer Hydrometers and refractometers are devices that measure the salinity and/or specific gravity of your aquarium water, and allow you to make sure that you are maintaining the proper salt levels in your brackish aquarium
Water Conditioner– This will remove chlorine and chloramines that are in tap water. Prime and AmQuel are both good water conditioner products to use.
Bacterial Supplement– Products such as Stress Zyme, Stability, or Cycle add beneficial bacteria to the aquarium. The bacteria in these products help to jump-start the aquarium by breaking down organic waste. It may take up to 6 weeks to start a large aquarium. For more information look up Cycling an Aquarium.

That will help you start. If you have any questions feel free to call us, or send us an e-mail

Thanks Lexi
Until next blog,

The lighter Side of the Aquarium

Anyone who has spent much time around That Fish Place knows that one of the things we try to do is to not take ourselves too seriously, and to try and have a little fun with our work. So, in the spirit of having a little fun, here are some stupid fish jokes. (and please, if you have some of your own post them in a comment, and we can expand the list)

What did the trout say when it hit a wall?

Why did the whale cross the road?
To get to the other tide.

Why didn’t the lobster share his toys with his friends?
He was too shellfish

Where do shellfish go to borrow money?
To the prawn broker!

What’s the difference between a fish and a piano?
You can’t tuna fish!

Rift Lake Cichlids for Small Aquariums – Breeding Shell-dwelling Cichlids

I’d like to welcome Jose Mendes to That Fish Blog. Jose is our resident Cichlid Pro. In addition to working at TFP for 13 years, he’s been breeding Cichlids for over 14 years and has produced over 200 different species. Check out Jose’s article below on setting up a Nano-cichlid habitat.

10 Gallon Rift Lake Cichlid Habitat

Working at That Fish Place/That Pet Place, I get a lot of questions regarding what type of African cichlids can be kept in small aquariums – particularly 10 gallon aquariums. Here I will try to answer some of the common questions concerning basic requirements and species specifics.

When a customer asks which cichlids are ok for a 10 gallon tank, I tell them to keep shell dwellers. These fish are from Lake Tanganyika and the majority of them only reach an adult size of 2 to 3 inches in length, though some do grow larger.

Let’s start with the tank itself. A regular 10 gallon glass tank is fine. For substrate, I prefer sand like Carib Sea Aragamax which I mix with Carib Sea Tahitian Moon black sand. The reason for choosing Aragamax is that not only does it help maintain the pH level in the aquarium, but it allows the fish to act naturally and bury their shells. My setup at home consists of a small cave in one corner and the remaining area is sand; into which I add 2 snail shells for each fish. For fish up to 2 inches I like shells the size of a quarter. (Medium turbo or apple shells work nicely.)

A 50 watt aquarium heater will be just fine. The temperature should be set between 78 and 80 degrees.

Filtration for this tank should be an outside power filter that turns the tank volume over 8 to 10 times an hour. Under gravel filters should be avoided!

The water chemistry in the lake is very hard with a pH of around 9.2. I’ve found from breeding shell dwellers that a pH of 8.4 or higher and a general hardness of at least 10 dkh is best for them.

Before I detail a few of the species, I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned from keeping and breeding these fish:

Weekly water changes: I’ve always done them and always will. 10% is enough to make a difference in health, vigor, and spawns.

Water conditions in my breeding tanks were all the same and were as follows: pH 8.6, General hardness 15+, and temperature 81 degrees.

For feeding; do not feed worms! Bloodworms, black worms, or tubifex. These will kill African cichlids sooner or later. Appropriate food would be any prepared small cichlid flake. They prefer sinking foods, but not necessarily pellets.

Have patience. Breeding shell dwellers is easy. Start out with a group of 5-6 individuals of one species. Don’t move the shells around and don’t add new fish. The fish will reward you for your diligence.

Now let’s detail some of the species that I would recommend for a 10 gallon aquarium. Once again do not mix more than one species per tank.

Lamprologus kungweensis: Adults reach lengths of 2.5 inches with females being slightly smaller than males. An identifiable trait of this species is the golden/yellow mark above each eye that becomes more apparent as they mature. Sexing is not easy there is not much dimorphism. Besides being smaller, the female is lighter in color and less intensely marked.

Neolamprologus Ocellatus GoldLamprologus ocellatus: A stunning 2 inch fish whose name means “eyespot” due to the distinctive spot, outlined in gold, on the fish’s operculum. In addition to the gill cover, the ocellatus has a gold colored iris, a golden cream colored body and clear fins speckled with blue or gold. Sexing is fairly easy; the male’s dorsal fin is edged in an orange/red band while the female’s is clearly paler and often edged in white. Also, mature females are rounded while males are more oblong in shape. The most distinctive feature of a pair is the size difference. Males are almost ½ inch larger than females and the teeth appear larger and more prominent. One of my favorite shell dwellers on the market is the Golden Ocellatus, which has a golden sheen to the whole body.

Lamprologus ornatipinnis: As the name implies, the appeal of this species lies in its ornate fins which are distinctively marked with a series of striations that vary in color from purple to black. While a mature male may reach a total length of 2 inches, the females are ½ inch smaller. The female is also considerably plumper with a metallic purple sheen developing over the abdomen as she comes into breeding condition.

Lamprologus signatus: Another small but striking shellie, males top off at 2 inches, females slightly smaller. L. signatus are more elongate or torpedo shaped than other Lamprologus species. These display clear sexual dimorphism. The flanks of the males are crossed by dark vertical bands that extend through the dorsal to anal fins. The females are drab with only a slight pink hue to their abdomen.

Neolamprologus boulengeri
Neolamprologus brevis: At less than 2 ¼ inches N. brevis is a shiny beige color with up to nine silvery-white bands. Iridescent pastel blue striations mark the upper jaw, the cheek, and the anterior third of the body. Females are slightly smaller and show fewer extensions of the pectoral fins.

Neolamprologus boulengeri: Attaining a length of 2 ½ inches, N. boulengeri is an attractively marked shell dweller. In addition to the characteristic blotch pattern across the flanks, they have a yellow/orange margin in the dorsal and anal fins. The upper jaw sports a vivid metallic blue moustache which continues as a thin blue iridescent stripe across the operculum and flank.

Neolamprologus Meleagris
Lamprologus meleagris: The so called “lace lamp” or “pearly ocellatus”, L. meleagris is a diminutive silvery/black cichlid that rarely exceeds 2 ½ inches in total length. Its flanks are purplish with a series of irregular pearl like spots that highlight the scales and fins. The throat is silvery with hint of blue; the eye is set off by a bright blue streak behind the orbit. Females are smaller than males and their colors are not as intense, even when breeding.

Neolamprologus multifasciatus: The smallest of the shell dwelling cichlids of Lake Tanganyika. As the name implies, N. multifasciatus has a “many striped” pattern over its body. The edges of the caudal, anal, and dorsal fins are highlighted with bands of yellowish/orange and white. Sexing mature specimens is simple because though the female is marked the same as the male, she is fully grown at under 1 inch, while the male reaches 1 ¼ inch.

Neolamprologus similis: Similar in appearance to N. multifasciatus but with a larger eye and greenish/brown body color and contrasting light green markings. The bands extend further over the forehead of the fish. Adult size is nearly identical to N. multifasciatus as well.

In closing, I would have to say that shellies are the type of cichlid for people who want to keep cichlids but don’t have the room for a larger tank, (especially college students) and their natural breeding behavior is fun to watch. They are a lot of personality packed into a small fish!

Species Profile: Long Horn Cowfish

Welcome back Melissa! Enjoy her profile on the Long Horn Cowfish, or Lactoria cornuta.
Cowfish are very cute curious fish. Who couldn’t love a bright yellow box shaped fish with whitish blue spots and little horns sticking out from its head and behind its caudle fin?? Cowfish are very friendly and have great personalities. They are generally peaceful and get along with other peaceful fish like chromis, anthias, and basslets. They may eat small inverts as well as graze on live rock, and pick at algae from time to time. In captivity, they usually accept brine shrimp, mysis shrimp, krill, as well as other frozen foods. They should be fed small portions several times a day. With frequent feedings water quality must be continual”Long Horn Cowfishly monitored. It is a good idea to only house one cow fish per aquarium since they are aggressive towards their own species. A single cowfish should have at least 100gal since adults can reach a max size of 18”. If cared for properly they can live in an aquarium for many years.
Cowfish, as well as other members in the box fish family, are able to produce an ostracitoxin which is found in the mucous secretions in their skin. However, the cowfish must be alive to to release this toxin. They only appear to excrete the toxin if they are stressed or feel threatened. Cleaner shrimp and fishes that feed on the slime coat of other fish should be avoided as tankmates because they may provoke the cow fish to release its toxin. If the toxin is released in a closed system the water will usually have a milky haze and the fish immediately start gasping. It would only take a matter of minutes to kill the cowfish as well as the rest of its tankmates. Inverts tend to withstand higher concentrations of the toxin than fish and are more likely to survive. If you suspect the toxin is in your tank, add fresh carbon immediately. If carbon is used and replaced regularly you may see little to no effects of the toxin.

Cowfish are a unique and interesting fish. They may not have soft cuddly fur but they are as close as you can get to an underwater puppy dog!