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

My Top 10 Favorite Victorian Cichlids, From the Mind of a Cichlid Mad Man

What’s up everyone, Jose here again. I’m back for another installment of my top 10 Cichlids. This time, I’m going to talk about some of my favs from Lake Victoria.

In the last 20 to 30 years many Victorian species have been driven to extinction by a variety of factors, including the introduction of
the Nile perch, increased human population and also increased pollution. It’s a real shame, too considering many species were still undiscovered. One more reason why we should never release non-native species.

Vics are very hardy and easy to keep and will do well in most dechlorinated tap water with a ph of 7.5 and up.

Many people have asked me why I would keep certain fish over others and it’s tough to give one  reason. I like them for their rarity, color, attitude and spawning behaviors just to name a few, and most Vics do well in an easy-to-mange 36×18 tank. Well let’s begin with my top 10 in no order.

Astatotilapia Aneocolor– Known as the Yellow Belly Albert this 3 to 5 inch species is a stunner with a red back

and a yellow belly and blue dorsal. One year I put one in my patio pond for the summer and when i brought him back

in he had a purple back and his belly was gold. I would keep them in a 55 as they are pretty aggressive.
Astatotilapia nubilus– If there was ever a candidate for anger management this is the guy. The nubilus tops out

at 4 inches. I like this fish because it is jet black with red fins and some striking egg spots in the anal fin.

 

Haplochromis sp. Dayglow– This 4.5 inch herbivore has a powder blue head, a black verticle bar across the eyes,

red tail fin that contrasts a yellow green body, a red blotch behind the gill and 3 to 4 orange egg spots outlined

in black.

Hap sp. Ruby green– This 4 inch herbivore is sometimes confused with hap Flameback. Males have a red back with a

green bottom, they also have a blue dorsal and large orange egg spots in the anal fin. I have kept and bred this

species and can say that I have had males color at 2 inches. Highly recommended.

 

Paralabidochromis Chilotes– This 5 inch carnivore has many geographical color morphs. The particular strain I like

has a blue face and back, a red body and a blue anal fin. It also has fleshy lips. A very odd and awesome fish to try.

 

Pytochromis sp. Hippo Point SalmonPytochromis sp “hippo point” – Another 5 inch carnivore that is mildly aggressive towards other fish except that it

hates other males. It also likes to feed on the snails Bellamya and Melanoides. Its most striking feature is the

bright crimson red on the majority of its body with the remainder being green. During breeding and fights it also

has a white face with a black bar going through its eye.

 

Pundamilia nyererei Ruti Island Pundamilia Nyererei “ruti island” – A 4 inch fish, this is another one of those species that has a few different

color morphs. I chose the ruti island because i thought the red was really intense  with its mixture of green

and yellow body, black barring and red dorsal. I’m happy i did.

 

Xystichromis phytophagus– The christmas fulu. This 4.5 inch herbivore lives up to its name with its red,yellow,

green,marroon body and blue dorsal. It also has a black bar going through the eye and on its cheek; and a red tail.

 

Harpagochromis sp “blue rock hunter– This 5 inch piscivore is an aggressive species that needs plenty of room.

Males are mostly blue with some tints of yellow or green in the body and a white dorsal edge.

 

Haplochromis sp “all red”- This 6 inch herbivore is a relatively peaceful species except towards its own kind.

It colors up pretty much like a Nyererei except that it has more red in the head and chest area.

 

So there it is: my top 10 vics. I hope this blog might get someone interested in these awesome species. Check out my top 10 Malawis if you haven’t.  Until next time.

Jose

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,

Sam

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

Nudibranches – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Cory here. I thought I’d take my next few blogs to go over the “ins and outs” of Nudibranches. Like lots of organisms living in an aquatic system, these interesting creatures bring a host of features to your saltwater tank. And, along with the good, it’s important to point out the bad…and the down right ugly things about nubibranches in your aquarium too.

The Bad:

Nudibranches target Montipora, Zoanthids, and Softies

There are so many coral eating organisms, Butterflies and Angelfish are the obvious ones. However, some of the worst pests are ones that you can barely see. Flatworms and Red bugs are most notorious for destroying Acropora species. However, Montipora species have their own pest: a Nudibranch.

Montipora CapricornisThey are hard to see, especially if you do not know what you are looking for. The largest I have seen was a half centimeter in length, tucked behind a crevice in the coral. They are always near a piece of the coral that is in the process of dying. This particular nudibranch feeds only on Montipora tissues, more commonly the plating varieties such as Montipora capricornis. They lay their eggs in a spiral or cluster, on the underside of the coral. Usually hatching within a few days, depending on water conditions, they immediately begin munching on the coral tissue. A couple adult Nudibranches can easily consume a one inch frag in 24 hours.

There isn’t a simple way to eradicate them. Dipping the corals in a Lugols Iodine or Tropic Marin Pro Coral Cure solution will help to loosen the nudibranches, so they can be extracted. The dip however, will not kill the egg mass. The eggs must be removed immediately using a scraper, toothpick, or a toothbrush. Any portion of the coral that has died or seems to be infected should be cut off just in case there are eggs imbedded in the skeleton.

Nudibranches are also commonly found feasting on Zoanthid polyps. These particular types of Nudibranches are especially hard to find because they look very much like the polyp that they are eating, even matching the color in most cases. Zoanthids commonly close and stay closed for days, eventually polyps begin to disappear. This is usually the first sign of infection. Again, like the Montipora Nudibranches, dips will only remove the adults, leaving the eggs behind. The eggs are usually laid on the underside of the poylps, but can also be found on the rock itself.

Soft corals have many different species of Nudibranches that prey on their tissues. Some are extremely large and colorful, while others camouflage themselves, making detection extremely difficult. Like other corals, removing the adults with coral dips and manually removing the eggs when possible is the only effective way.

There are so many species of Nudibranches in the oceans, many found on the Reef and serving some purpose good or bad. We are learning more each and everyday about Nudibranches, what they eat and where they come from. We are importing corals from around the world, in some cases from areas we have never collected before. With new locations, comes new pests and most likely new Nudibranch species, good and bad.

Check back soon for the next part of this article.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Cory