Vinegar Eels (Turbatrix Aceti) Today, I want to write a short post on how you can culture and grow a cheap and easy source of live food for newly hatched fry. They are perfect for the smallest fry that may be too tiny to eat newly hatched brine shrimp and for species that will not eat liquifry or other non-living food at first. Fish that fall into one or both of these categories include beta splendens, most gourami fry, some corydoras, killifish, and some small tetras to name a few. Ideally, these fish should be fed infusoria which can be prepared a couple of weeks ahead of a planned spawning. But in cases of accidental spawning or in cases where you want to provide a stepping stone between infusoria and brine shrimp, vinegar eels are perfect. Before I tell you how to make a culture, let me tell you what they are. Vinegar eels are a kind of roundworm also known as nematodes. They are non-parasitic and live in extremely acid environments. Most frequently, you can find them in bottles of apple or rice vinegar…generally the red vinegars are the most likely places to find them. If you go into your cupboards now and pull out an old botle of vinegar, you can hold it up to the light, close one eye, and look into it carefully. If you are lucky (?) you will see very, very small, almost transparent, worms thrashing in a figure-8 pattern. If you see them, congratulation! You’ve got vinegar eels! Incidentally, be careful who you tell this to. After reading about vinegar eels when I was about 8, I checked the bottle in my mother’s pantry and, upon spotting the worms, I excitedly showed them to her. She was not as impressed as I was and she threw the bottle away.
Anyway, you can start a culture by pouring the vinegar into an old jam jar. Add a couple of slices of apple without the peel into the jar. You can leave the cover off or just put it on loosely to allow air exchange. The next step is to forget about it and allow the little roundworms time to multiply. When you need them you can use an eyedropper to collect some worms. You cannot get vinegar into your fish tanks, so put them into a fine mesh net like you buy for baby brine shrimp and help the vinegar drip out by touching the bottom of the net into a dish of fresh water. Then just add them to your tank of fry.
The benefits? Vinegar eels wiggle widely whenever they want to move which draws the attention of newly hatched fish and triggers feeding response. They are easier for the fish to capture than rotifers and, unlike microworms, they will live up to a week in freshwater. Also, your culture jar can be left aline for up to two years without maintenance..and the only maintenance really needed are fresh apple slices and maybe a little more vinegar to replace what evaporated. The drawbacks? They are not meant to be a longterm food source. They do not have as much nutritional content as brine shrimp and are only meant to be fed for about a week until the fish can take newly hatched brine shrimp. Another drawback is that growing worms in a jar of vinegar somewhere in your house will not endear you to your spouse/parent/partner/roommates. Keep the jar hidden!
EMERALD BROCHIS (Corydoras splendens)– I am sure many of you have walked into a fish store and come across a catfish the resembles an oversized bronze corydora. That is the Emerald Brochis. These gentle giants can grow to twice the size of most corydoras species but retain the fun, playful attitude of their smaller cousins. Like their cousins, the should be kept in a school of 6 or more. An appropriately sized tank is therefore needed with the minimum size being 115 liters/ 30 gallons. They don’t seem to notice their size differences and will often school with other cory species particularly when young. But because they are bigger and higher than other corydoras, you can safely keep them with some large but peaceful South American cichlids.
Origin: Peru, Columbia, Brazil, Ecuador
Size: 8 cm/ 3 inches
Temperature: 20-28°C/ 68-82°F
Feeding: Like all corydoras, they are easy to feed. They will eat any sinking food and they relish bloodworms.
Habitat: Provide a substrate of sand or rounded gravel that will not cause injury to their whiskers as they root through it for food. If you are using gravel, be sure to vacuum it weekly to prevent bacterial buildup beneath the surface that could cause infections if their mouths become injured. An airstone in the tank will lessen the number of times corydoras have to surface for air and a long tank that provides swimming space is better than a deep tank of the same water volume.
Breeding: Lays eggs like most corys on the walls of the aquarium. The emerald brochix tend to lay their eggs closer to the surface of the water.
Sulpher-Headed Hap (Otopharynx Lithobates) When talking about the cichlid species of Lake Malawi, you will inevitably hear these three terms: mbuna, peacocks, and haps. The mbuna are the ones that give Lake Malawi cichlids the reputation of being aggressive. They are all primarily vegetarians. The term peacocks refers to the genus Aulonocara which, unlike the mbuna, do not inhabit rocky areas, form schools, and browse food from the substrate. They are generally considered the most peaceful of the Malawian cichlids. The third term, haps, refers to fish-eating cichlids that were formerly all placed in the genus Haplochromis. Generally, they also live in open water and can be fairly aggressive. However, today’s fish, the sulpher-headed hap, is somewhat of an oddity. First, it is a rock dweller and will rarely stray fat from the substrate or the rock pile it calls home. Second, it is peaceful for a Lake Malawi cichlid and can even be kept in a general community tank with fishthat share similar water parameters. Namely, its potential tankmates should be able to stand a pH of 7.5 or higher. Some rainbowfish are suitable as well as some livebearers like mollies. However, this hap is still a fish-eater so the tankmates should be bigger than the sulpher-head’s mouth. The most common color variety show bars on the flanks on the body, but the beautiful Zimbabwe form is pictured here. The males all undergo a striking color change when thet are in the mood to bread. The side becomes a dark blue that shines with a metalic or neon glow. The yellow on top of the head and the entire dorsal fin turns a bright orange. Breeding is the only time when this fish becomes territorial and when aggression issues may arise. You can keep a group in a 160 liter/50 gallon tank using one male with three of four females. Do not keep this fish with mbuna.
Origin: Lake Malawi
Size: 16cm/ 6.5 inches
Temperature: 24-28°C/ 75-82°F
Feeding: Although it eats fish in nature, they accept all kinds of food in captivity. In order to maintain their health, provide regular feedings of meaty foods like bloodworms and chopped prawns.
Habitat: The most important things are keeping this fish in a tank with relatively high pH and providing them with a rocky outcrop that forms numerous caves and crevices. They do not need plants, but unlike most Malawi Cichlids, they do not destroy them.
Breeding: Maternal mouthbrooders. It is best to breed them in a species tank. T30 to 50 eggs are laid first on a flat stone and the mother then picks them up. She will carry the eggs for 4 weeks and not eat during that time. She will eat or spit out the young.
Ropefish Aka Reedfish (Erpetoichthys Calabaricus) If you love reptiles, this fish is for you. It is the most snake-like freshwater fish there is. Everything about it, from its scales to the way it holds its head up as it slither-swims through along the bottom of the tank to the shape of its mouth calls to mind a smiling, friendly serpent. Of course, it is not closely related to reptiles at all. Instead, the ropefish is related to the birchir. Personally, I like the look of this fish more than the birchirs, but they are not as popular as their cousins. There are probably two reasons for this. The first is that they are quite difficult to convince to spawn in the aquarium, although that has been recently accomplished. The other is that these fish are escape artists and are able to exit the tank, in some cases never to be seen again. They have a swim bladder that has evolved to allow them to breath air and they can survive a considerable length of time outside of water. In fact, they may drown if they do not have access to air. Like the lungfish, birchir, and newts baby ropefish are born with external gills that are soon reabsorbed. As adults, you should house them in a 150 gallon, 550 liter tank but of course juveniles can be raised in smaller spaces. These fish grow quite slowly, but they live a long time under the right care. They have been known to live around 20 years in home aquaria and do not seem to be capable of reproduction until they are at least 10 years old. You can keep them with peaceful fish that are too large to swallow but nothing that is too boistrous and speedy as they may outcompete the ropefish at meal times. Ropefish are generally nocturnal but will adapt to your feeding schedule.
Origin: Western Africa
Size: Generally 30cm/ 12 inches. There is a single record of a wild specimen measuring 3 times that length.
Temperature: 23-30°C/ 73-86°F
Feeding: Prefers to eat live and frozen food items. Although some learn to eat cichlid pellets, that is very rare and they never learn to recognize flakes as food.
Habitat: Give your ropefish a heavily planted aquarium with tangles of driftwood or tree roots that it can hide in and explore.
Breeding: Rare but possible. You need a heavily planted tank. Males can be distinguished from the females by their thickened anal fins. The pair perform a graceful dance and deposit eggs among the plants. The babies hatch with a large yolkdac still attached and they live off that for 2 weeks before needing to feed.
COLDWATER CASEFILE: White Perch (Morone Americana) I have to admit, this fish was not on my list of coldwater species to cover. When I was contacted by a member of this group several weeks ago and asked to write a species profile on it, I hesitated to commit to it. There are so many more colorful fish out there that I thought would be better suited for tank life and/or are more interesting that I didn’t think I would ever get to the white perch. But recently, that person asked again saying that the white perch would so arrive, so I gave in. First, to clarify, the white perch is not a perch. It is related to some of the sea basses such as the striped bass, a common marine game fish found along the Atlantic seaboard of the USA. Like its larger relative, the white perch is a commercially important fish. However, unlike the striped bass, the perch is more at home in fully freshwater environments. Even individuals living out to sea return to fresh or very lightly brackish water to spawn. And there are many, many areas where these fish live in landlocked lakes and ponds. Unfortunately, it has been introduced into many areas where it is not native and has decimated local fish populations. Many states, even those where it is native, have laws preventing you from re-releasing captured individuals, so check with the local laws if that is your intent. Why would a native fish not be welcome back? Unlike many fish, the populations of white perch are not in decline. A single, small female can lay 20,000 eggs when breeding while a full sized adult can lay in excess of 250,000! This is a fact that the aquaculture industry is able to exploit and these fish are raised by the ton on farms for food. Receiving fish from a farm is probably better than catching one because the farm raised fish have likely been reared on a diet of pellets. Wild fish primarily eat fish and fish eggs.
Origin: From Canada to S. Carolina. Originally rare or absent from areas north of Boston, but was accidently introduced by fishing fleets entering Boston Harbor in the early 1900s.
Size: The average size of the white perch is 23cm/9″ however they can grow up to 40cm/ 16″. They tend to be smaller in areas where food is limited.
Temperature: Room temperature is fine.
Feeding: In nature, it eats fish almost exclusively and occassionally worms. In the aquarium, they may eat a fish-based pellet food if they were reared on the farm, otherwise you can try strips of raw fish, bloodwarms and earthworms. Crabs, shrimp and squid are also taken.
Habitat: These fish are very adaptable to water conditions. I wouldn’t go smaller than a 75 gallon / 280 liter tank for an adult and bigger is better. These fish have been known to migrate if they are not landlocked so swimming space is important. They generally trav in large schools but their size may make that impossible to replicate for most aquarists. Substrate and decorations are unimportant. They will not bother any plants you choose to add. Because they are large predators, they produce a lot of waste, so make sure your filtration is adequate.
Breeding: They are bred on fish farms in huge numbers by stripping the roe and milt from the parents. Natural reproduction in captivity has not been recorded in captivity to my knowledge. They become capable of breeding at 6 inches
Note: the fish in the photo are young. The pattern on the back will fade leaving the fish olive and silver.
Daisy’s Rice Fish (Oryzias Woworae) My first thought upon seeing this fish for sale for the first time was not “how pretty” but “who’s Daisy?” As it turns out, Daisy Woworae is a museum worker in Java who was the first person to photograph these fish in there natural habitat and to collect some for science. That was in 2010 and after that the fish was introduced to aquarists where it has found a niche and is growing in popularity and availability. The only limiting factors are (A) their size and (B) they don’t show their best colors in a fish store display tank. Their small size means you have to be careful what you house them with. At just 3cm/ 1inch long, even some commonly kept community fish like swordtails, angelfish, and mid-sized gouramis might take an unhealthy interest in these tiny fish. Their colors in fish shops tends to wash out, especially if the tank is bare. They may appear silvery with a hint of red outlining some fins. However, once you get them home in a tank where they can feel secure and their full delicate beauty emerges. The males become a metalic blue while their paired fins are red and the tail has an attractive red outline. The females tend to look more golden than blue. Their paired fins are often clear but the may have more red outlining the lower half of their body. They tend to shoal rather than school but they still like to have a group of their own kind around them. Consider buying 8 or more if you get them. At their size, even a large group like that can be kept in a 10 gallon/ 40 liter tank. They don’t have any special water requirements, but they look great in a planted tank and will help reduce algae on plants as the browse for food throughout the day. They are not fully algae eaters, but the do include it in their diet as they wait to be fed.
Size: 1inch/ 3cm
Temperature: 23-27°C/ 73°-82°F
Food: Easily fed on any small food, including flakes. Their volors show up best on a varied diet.
Habitat: Although they are from slow moving, heavily shaded forest streams where there is little sunlight for plants, they look great in planted tanks. Their natural habitat includes a lot of fallen branches and leaves in the water over a sand bottom. But these fish are not picky and you can design your tank in any way you wish.
Breeding: Like other rice fish, the females lay eggs at dawn that remain atteched to them by a tiny string. Eventually the small cluster of eggs brishes against something and remains stuck their. The parents will not eat the eggs, but the fry will be eaten. In my case, I would transfer egg-carrying females to a floating net breeding box with hornwort in the morning. By afternoon I would remove her. Eggs hatch between one and two weeks later. Usually, just 5-15 eggs are produced at a time, but they can lay eggs almost daily if in good health.
Coral Red Pencilfish (Nannostomus Mortenthaleri) I am not sure why, but it seems that pencilfish in general are not often carried in fish shops. Maybe it varies by location, but I can count on one hand the number of times I have seen any species of pencilfish for sale in one of my local stores. Fortunately, internet shops are likely to have some in stock. That is where I had found these beautiful little coral red pencilfish. They are known by several other common names such as the red arc pencilfish, ruby red pencilfish, and Peruvian red pencilfish. You’ll probably notice that all the common names contain the word red. That is because the brilliant white central stripe that you see on the fish in the photo becomes nearly completely red in mature males. These pencilfish are smaller than most. But that doesn’t mean that you can put them in a small tank. Unlike most Nannostomus species, the male coral red pencilfish are extremely aggressive with each other. They get along fine with other small fish or with dwarf South American cichlids, but the males cannot tolerate each other. In nature, a subordinate male can easily escape the attention of the dominant male, but in the confines of the aquarium it usually means death. There are ways to prevent this from happening. It may seem counterintuitive but the more males you have, the better chance of survival subordinate individuals have. That is because the aggression the dominant male shows is spread out among more fish, so the less aggressive males have time to catch their breath and recover before their next confrontation. You should buy at least 10 and keep them in a roomy 30 gallon, 115 litre, tank. You should have lots of plants and decorations to break line of sight which will also help to reduce the aggression level in your group. The plants also help the fish to color up to their full potential. And speaking of color, do not panic if you buy these fish but you find them completely lacking in bright colors each morning when you turn on the light. The coral reds have a night coloration that strongly differs from the colors they display in daylight. These pencilfish make ideal dither fish if you are trying to breed dwarf cichlids because they never eat the fry of other fish.
Size: 2-3cm/ 1 inch or slightly less
Temperature: 24-28°C/ 74-82°F
Feeding: It will eat any dried food that fits in its very small mouth. It also accepts daphnia, grindel worms, and small mosquito larva.
Habitat: As mentioned above, broken like of sight is important. Decorate the plant well with plants, driftwood branches, and stonesto maintain peace in yout tank. Another important factor to raise these fish successfully is pH. It should be kept beelow 7.0. The filtration should not create too strong a current in their tank.
Breeding: Choose the fattest female and brightest male from among your group. Prepare a small aquarium with aged water and fill most of it with fine leaved plants like hornwort or with an artificial spawning mop. No filtration is necessary in the breeding tank. Remove the parents after two or three days. Babies should start to appear shortly thereafter.
OSCAR (Astronotus Ocellatus) All of us in this group are passionate about our fish, otherwise we wouldn’t be a part of a group. But in the aquarium hobby there are three groups of fishkeepers that demonstrate a strong attachment to and passion for their fish. Those would be people who raise puffers, bettas, and oscars. It not surprising that all of these fish share a similar trait that makes it possible for people to bond with their fish. They recognize their owners and seem to beg for attention from them. Of course, before our emotional side takes over, we can admit that this response to the owner’s presence is a Pavlovian reaction. They know that a certain person means food is possible to rain down from the sky due to the fact that the humans think swimming back and forth excitedly in front of the glass is cute. However, the oscar does demonstrate other characteristics besides begging for food that make keeping one more akin to owning a puppy than many fish. For example, oscars are famous for their ability to sulk. When you first get an oscar or when you upgrade it to a new tank the fish seem to go through a period of sulking where they often become less actiive, turn pale. And may refuse to eat. Don’t wory, he or she will soon be content again after they get their pique out of their system. Although they are very popular, think twice or even three times before buying them. They require a longterm commitment and they get relatively large. A single specimen needs a minimum of 190 liters, 50 gallons but more volume is better. Also consider carefully before deciding to breed these fish. They can have up to 2000 eggs at one time and, like the convict cichlid, fish shops are unlikely to take them they often have enough in stock from who have returned their adult fish because of space constraints. Populations of wild oscar occur in several countries where irresponsible fishkeepers had released their unwanted pets into local waterways.
Origin: Most of South America
Size: 25-35cm/ 9-14″
Feeding: They are unfussy eaters in the aquarium and they will take any live or frozen foods. They will also eat pellets. In nature their preferred food are different species of small amazonian catfish, so be careful what you house them with. They will accept vegetable matter when they ate very hungry.
Habitat: Oscars are from places where the water moves slowly so, although you will need heavy filtration for these large fish, do not have the return water flowing too strongly. A good filter is essential, preferably a sump, as they are sensitive to the hole-in-head disease when kept in dirty water. A sump is also a good idea because the heater can be kept there. Oscars reportedly are able to break heaters. Do not decorate your tank as in the photo. Oscars dig in the substrate and will uproot plants.
Breeding: Eggs are laid on flat rocks with both parents caring for them They babies can be separated from the parents immediately after thet are free swimming
Madagascar Rainbow Fish (Bedotia Madagascarensis) While the vast majority of extant rainbowfish come from Indonesia, Australia, and surrounding areas there is a group thatcan be found living in waterways on the African island nation of Madagascar. The genus Bedotia, of which there are several species some of which have not yet been assigned a species name, are share their dustant cousins’ peaceful nature and can be kept with a wide variety of common community fish including other rainbows. Newly added tankmates may receive a lot of unwanted attention from Madagascars that might stress sensitive species, but no real harm is done and they will soon ignore the newcomers. The only time when they become aggressive is during breeding where the male pursues the female relentlessly. She requires hiding places to shelter her from the males during those times. Males are easily told apart from females by having either bright red or bright yellow in their fins. In nature, the red and yellow finned varities school together and when breeding you are likely to get variation among the fry. Unfortunately, it is becoming less common in the wild because of the introduction of platies and gambusia to Madagascar. Previously, the rainbowfish could be found in most moving waterways but are now restricted to areas of strong currents and places where there are black water conditions. Fortunately, it breeds readily given a separate spawning tank and they are often available to hobbyists. Although these are pretty and generally peaceful fish, they don’t share the popularity of some rainbows. This is because the become drained of all their colors in a bare tank and are likely ignored by shoppers looking for bright additions to their aquariums. In a well-planted tank, they eventually color up into things of beauty.
Size: to 10cm/ 4″
Feeding: Accepts all of the standard aquarium foods, but feed live foods like mosquito (larvae or adults), bloodworms, fruit flies, and brine shrimp when conditioning for breeding.
Habitat: These fish enjoy living in a well-planted tank with some swimming areas. They are quite fast when swimming and a long tank of at least 30 gallons/110liters should be considered. While they do not require a strong current from the filter, the tank should be supplied with extra oxygen. Most fish are farm or tank raised these days so they can withstand a pH between 5 and 7.5. They will thrive and remain in good health with regular weekly water changes.
Breeding: Provide a pair with a well planted, slightly smaller tank than what they’re used too. The male will chase the female and she will lay a few large, strong eggs daily for about a week. The parents generally don’t bother the eggs if they are being well fed on live foods. Otherwise, rake the eggs out each day. After a week remove the parents or they will eat the fry. The babies are difficult to raise although they eat well..even finely powered dry foods. This is because they are very sensitive to water chemistry. No water changes should be done in the nursery for several weeks and a good sponge filter and fine air stone should be used.