That Fish Place Aquariums and Fish Recap – Week of 9/21

MACNA boothGreetings! The big news this week? MACNA!! Our team is on location in Atlantic City for this year’s main event, and Dave will be tweeting on all the cool stuff going on there. I’m sure we can also look forward to a blog recap highlighting the showstoppers.

In the news this week: more new species. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the diversity we find on this little blue planet blows my mind. This time the newly discovered critters were found at around 500 meters depth near the Canary Islands. Don’t be expecting to see these deep water oddities in your local aquarium store, but take a look anyway because they’re just cool.

There was also this article on a risque new Chimera or Ghost Shark species discovered off the Southern California coast!

PufferfishAs if there wasn’t enough at the beach to look out for as a hazard, people in New Zealand now have to be aware of puffers and puffer toxin when they’re frolicking on those beautiful coasts. This piece should hit home with aquarists, too, as fun and adorable as puffers are there is a risk involved in keeping them in aquariums that has to be kept in mind, as the toxin has the potential inflict some serious damage. Read more on puffer toxin in Eileen’s blog about toxins.

And now for a look at the future of the aquarium hobby! We all know that leaving our precious aquariums home alone for extended periods of time can be stressful, and many of us can relate to the horror of tank disasters that can occur while we’re on vacation or working long hours. Why not construct your own robot to monitor your tank? Seems like an impossibility? Not when it comes with the help of the braniacs at Erector! The Spykee Robot may be the key to giving you a little piece of mind.

This week we got some pretty cool stuff in the fish room in addition to all the favorites. Here are the highlights:

I’m a fan of Possum Wrasses. Also known as Arrowhead Wrasses and Pygmy Wrasses, these little beauties are fun to watch, s Tanaka Possum Wrasseand they’re reef safe. Their small size makes them suitable for even smaller tanks. The Tanaka Possum Wrasse is the newest arrival!

We also received a lovely little Polleni Grouper. Only about 3-4″ and very pretty! Of course, I’ve never seen an ugly Polleni.

On the fresh side, the Zebra Loaches that arrived this week are looking particularly robust and active. Those attractive stripes would complement any community tank. The new Bug-eye Squeaker Cats, Synodontis contractus, also caught my eye. Synos are interesting looking cats in general, but the patterns on these are very attractive and the current stock is fat and happy. If you’re on the market for African Cichlids, I recommend the adult Pseudotropheus acei with their spectacular blue color.

Until next time, Patty

Pufferfish image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Mbz1

Koi Ponds in Autumn – Maintenance and Dietary Changes

Hello, Frank Indiviglio here. As fall arrives in the temperate zone, outdoor koi ponds will need some attention if all is to go well when the temperatures drop.

Basic Considerations

Japanese water gardenThe metabolisms of both koi and the various bacteria that occupy the pond and filter slow down as temperatures fall. Your fish will not be as hungry as usual, and leftover food will not decompose as quickly as in the summer. Dead plants and other organic material in the pond may also remain more or less “intact” through fall and winter.

However, don’t be fooled by the relative “quietness” of this time….as temperatures rise in the spring, decomposition will begin and the resultant ammonia spike may kill your fishes. Therefore, take care to be extra vigilant in removing organic detritus from your pond as fall approaches.

Cleaning

Be sure that your pond filter is in good shape and running well…rinse or replace filter media and continue with routine backwashes.

If necessary, install a leaf cover or net. This is not merely an aesthetic consideration…decomposing leaves will rob water of oxygen, lower the pH and increase the ammonia level.

To control the amount of dead plant material that enters the pond, remove any aquatic or emergent plants that will not survive the winter.

Health Checks

It is especially important that your koi be in good health as the weather changes. Immune systems will be stressed by the falling temperatures, leaving the fishes open to illness and parasitic infection. Bacteria and fungi that are ever present, and may be of little concern to healthy fishes, will prove dangerous to those not in the peak of condition during the fall and winter.

Feeding

As fall progresses, switch your koi from high protein pellets to more easily digested foods or wheat germ based pellets designed for use in cool water. Do not feed your fishes when temperatures drop below 52 F.

Temperature

Make sure that heaters or surface de-icers, if required, are in good working order. If you utilize a heater, set its thermostat for 62 F. Koi will feed lightly at this temperature, but keep an eye out for leftovers. In unheated ponds, cease feeding at 51 F.

Further Reading

For optimistic readers already thinking spring’s arrival, please see our article Koi, a Matter of Extremes in Spring.

Please check out our koi and outdoor pond books for further information.

For interesting forum comments and photos dealing with overwintering koi under extreme weather conditions, please see the forum at koi-bito.com.

Please write in with your questions and comments.

Thanks, until next time,

Frank Indiviglio

Japanese water garden image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Solipsist

Why cichlids – Diary of a Cichlid Maniac

Hi, everyone. Jose here. Ever wonder why some people keep certain species of fish over others? Some people like to keep Oscars and Jack Dempseys because they eat other fish, others keep African Cichlids for their colors. Some choose bloody parrots because they are “cute” (hahaha, sorry), yet others of you have angels and rams for their elegant fins and coloration.

My reason for being a “cichlidiot” (cichlid idiot) at first was their color. I started out Mbuna from Lake Malawi. I got a 55 gallon, a bunch of rocks and plants, and kept Pseudos and yellow labs. Well, the plants got trashed, so it ended up being a tank full of rocks. Then I added the Electric blue Ahli Sciaenochromis ahliand a Bicolor Peacock (let the games begin). That poor peacock didn’t stand a chance between the Ahli and the Mbuna. Lessons learned along the way, my obsession with cichlids of all types and from all regions has contributed to a lot of fun and interesting aquarium adventures through the years. So, away with the pretty little Mbunas and onto Malawi haps, like the Eye-biter, the Livingstoni, etc. I went. Besides the outstanding colors, each species also had some very interesting feeding and breeding behavior that fueled my interest.

Next came the Victorians. These were smaller than the big guys I was used to, but with color and spunk, careful mixing of pairs (a lot of females look alike and you can end up with hybrids) my reason for these guys was the fact that they were almost wiped out due to the introduction of the Nile Perch to their native habitats. Keeping fish like these is a great way to keep species going.

Next for me were the Tanganyikans. The Brichardi complex with its long flowing fins got me hooked, then, I fell in love with Featherfins and Shell-dwellers. Tanganyika is a very diverse lake with multiple types of spawning rituals. You have egg layers, and mouth-brooders, and egg scattering species, all very interesting to breed and observe.

Then we have the West Africans. These colorful and interesting fish live in the rivers of West Africa, and include different types of Kribs, Jewel Cichlids, and not to forget, some of the tilapia species. After a few years, my madness moved on to South American Dwarf Cichlids and then the discus. Breeding them was an accomplishment.

Dwarf pikes and rams were next on my list, and the fun and headaches of keeping Central Americans soon followed.  They are bruisers; big, mean and with a lot of attitude, and even smaller centrals think they are their larger cousins with plenty of attitude for their size.

Finally I ventured into fish from Madagascar (most of which are either extinct or in danger of being extinct), which were a treat to keep. They are a lot like the centrals in behavior and habitat conditions. And I can’t forget to mention the Chromides from Asia and the new cichlid they’ve found in Iran.

Now that I’ve outlined the path of my decent into cichlid madness, I’ll talk about my favorites from each location in some future installments.

Until next time

Jose

Volunteering in Marine Conservation – Sea Turtles, Seals and Horseshoe Crabs

Frank Indiviglio with nesting Leatherback TurtleHello, Frank Indiviglio here. Today I’d like to highlight some simple ways that you can become involved in hands-on research with marine animals. Next time we’ll take a look at programs designed for people interested in fishes.

Sea Turtle Research in Costa Rica

The Caribbean Conservation Corporation, founded in 1959 by legendary turtle biologist Archie Carr, was the world’s first marine turtle protection organization. Promoting conservation through research, and political advocacy, CCC is based in Florida, and its primary field station is nestled between rainforest and sea at Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica. Volunteer researchers have always figured prominently in the group’s work, and today a number of interesting opportunities are available.

Sea Turtles, Jaguars and Frogs … My Experience with CCC

My first field trip to Tortuguero, working with green turtles and 1,500 pound leatherbacks, hooked me for life. I and other researchers tagged and measured turtles, counted eggs, and monitored nests.

I also participated in studies focusing on the area’s 300+ bird species and was lucky enough to see kinkajous, caimans, ocelots, tapirs, jaguar tracks (overlapping my own!), arboreal tarantulas, strawberry poison frogs and a host of other incredible animals.

Working with Seals

Frank Indiviglio with baby leatherback turtlesSeals of several species are becoming increasingly common in coastal urban areas, where they face threats from boat collisions, harassment and pollution-related diseases. The Seal Conservation Society maintains a comprehensive list of organizations that assist injured seals and provides information for those interested in becoming wildlife rehabilitators, beach monitors or “seal watch” tour leaders.

Untrained people should not approach seals – injured animals and females returning from hunting to claim their pups can be extremely dangerous. In the USA, sick or harassed seals can be reported to the local police or the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s 24 hour emergency hotline: 800-853-1964.

Helping a Living Fossil

Most people do not realize that no intravenous drug produced in the USA reaches the market without first having been tested with a chemical produced by an ocean-dwelling relative of the spiders.

Compounds within the blood of the horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus) far surpass synthetics in detecting drug impurities. Biomedical companies draw blood from millions of these ancient (as in “unchanged for over 200 million years”!) creatures yearly. Although horseshoe crabs harvested for blood samples are released, coastal development and collection for the bait trade has caused US populations to plummet.

Based in the Northeastern USA, Project Limulus relies upon volunteers to monitor over 5,000 spawning horseshoe crabs each spring in an effort to help formulate conservation strategies.

Over 17,000 horseshoe crabs have been tagged by US Geological Service volunteers working along the Delaware Bay. Their work seeks to assist both horseshoe crabs and a shorebird known as the red knot. Undertaking one of the longest known bird migrations (Argentina to the Arctic), red knots somehow time a stopover on their trip to coincide with the spawning of the Delaware Bay horseshoe crab population. Red knots rely upon horseshoe crab eggs to fuel the last leg of their amazing journey, and have suffered massive declines since this food source has become scarce.

Further Reading

Please see my article Hands on Experiences in Sea Turtle Conservation for further information on working in Tortuguero, Costa Rica.

Well, that’s just the tip of the iceberg…please write in if you are interested in other research opportunities. I’ll cover fish-oriented programs in the future. Thanks, until next time, Frank Indiviglio.

Fish and the Need for Speed – The World’s Fastest and Slowest Fish

Dave here. Did you ever hear or see a news story that sent your mind into overdrive with strange thoughts? Last weeks news story about the Cincinnati Zoo’s record setting cheetah named Sarah, who ran 100 meters in just 6.13 seconds, was one of those stories that got me to thinking. What is the fastest fish? What is the slowest fish? Why do I think about these things?

Well the first two are relatively easy to answer. The fastest recorded fish speed is that of the Cosmopolitan Sailfish, Istiophorus platypterus , who has been recorded at an amazing 68 mph. The slowest fish is the dwarf sea horse ,Hippocampus zosterae, who reaches a blazing speed of .001 mph. Sarah the Cheetah reached 70 miles per hour on her record breaking 100 meter run (who knew there were records for these things?) it would take the dwarf seahorse 62 hours to cover the 100 meters.

As for the third question, I still have no idea; maybe someday I will be a contestant on Jeopardy.

Until Next Time,

Dave