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    Frontier Society - Sections - Aquarium Enthusiast


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Designer Fish Keeping And Aquarium Concepts

Frontier Society
"Society has evolved"


The little big fish

Florida native mini fish Heterandria Formosa is worth seeking out

When I was a child, my friends and I would always go down to the creek and see what we could catch. I had assorted ten gallon tanks in my backyard, and used to throw my catches into those tanks. The tanks, of course, did not have filters or lighting, and were just glass containers of water. We were kids, after all, and our families didn't have the money to spend on those things. It was also before I started getting a $2.00 a week allowance. It was the late 70's to early 80's, which was before the Internet and a lot of things that kids take for granted today, too.
My friends and I would go down to the creek with our containers and hunt down assorted things. We didn't know what the "minnows" were at the time, but we caught lots of Gambusia Affinis, Heterandria Formosa, and Gambusia Affinis Holbrooki (black and white Gambusia that I named "Panda fish"). One day, we even caught an odd little amphibian known as a Siren that we thought was a freshwater Eel, and it was so cool that my best friend Jeff and I actually argued about who would keep it. It went home with me, but later jumped out of the tank, dried out, and died. In regards to the fish, however, one of my favorites were the small minnows with the cool stripe along their body and the red mark on their fins. I remember wondering what they would look like when they grew up. That little "baby" minnow was the Heterandria Formosa.

Introducing the Dwarf Top-Minnow
Heterandria Formosa
Also known as: Least Killifish; Mosquito Fish; Dwarf Fish
From: Southeastern United States; Florida to the Carolinas
Environment: Rivers and streams along dense floating plants and the banks
Personal observations:
These fish are awesome, and now that I am an adult and have learned so much more over the years, I not only know exactly what I am dealing with, but I appreciate these fish much more. I remember back in 1980 or 81 I kept these fish in an outdoor ten gallon tank with some Gambusia. Because it was just a tank and it was outside, I didn't keep them long enough to really learn much about them (I did feed the "minnows" to the baby Snapping Turtles that I hatched out of eggs). What I did learn by keeping them in such harsh conditions, however, is something that a responsible fishkeeper would never get the chance to learn. I learned just how tough these little fish were.
We had a severe cold front come through one night, dropping the Tampa temperatures around 20 degrees Fahrenheit. In the morning, when I went outside, I found that half the Formosa Tank was solid ice. The fish were lifeless and appeared dead on the bottom of the tank. Well, the temperatures warmed above freezing that afternoon and the ice melted. It was still quite cold outside, and the water in the tank was in the 50's, I would guess. The "dead" fish came too and began swimming around as if nothing happened! Well, not all, as a few were dead, but most of them came back. I couldn't believe it. I still can't. Some people say that to put down a sick or terminal fish, you place it in a glass and then into the freezer. I disagree, and the above example is why. Freezing a fish may not be the most humane way to end its life. The best way would be to severe its spinal cord with a knife or small blade just behind the head, as it is quick and the fish feels no pain (unless the fish has pop eye, which could be a symptom of piscine tuberculosis (Mycobacterium spp.), which can be transmitted to humans in rare instances. Such fish should not be handled).
As an adult, I have learned a great deal about this fish. It is a livebearer, much like the Gambusia and the common Guppy, although it isn't related to them. It is the 8th smallest vertebrate to give birth to fully formed young, and is the smallest of the livebearer fishes. The males only grow to less than an inch (2cm) and the female grows to less than an inch and a half (3.5cm). At those sizes, a small ten gallon tank is a really big, and you can keep up to 30 of these fish in such a tank. There's even more information about them, too!

The males are aggressive to each other.

The females won't normally eat their babies.
Quite possibly because they are too big to eat when they are born; they can be up to a third of her size! How is this possible? Read on to the next point.

They are true livebearers

The Chinese Algae Eater
Community Aquarium Terrorist

It happens all so innocently. You install those new lights over your fish tank for your first aquarium plants, or you set up your first designer aquarium near a window where a soft shaft of sunlight can break into it. Before you know it, you have an algae problem as it covers the glass.
You stroll into a LFS looking for a little fish to eat the algae. You talk to a kid who looks like he can barely make high school, and he knows exactly what you need. "We have these algae eaters here..." he says as he guides you to a tank with a school of one inch long fish with slender bodies. The fish are clinging to the glass with their sucker mouths, and dart around nervously as you peer into the tank. The teenager tells you that they are recommended, as they will eat algae, and will only grow big enough to fit your tank. So you buy one.

Introducing the Chinese Algae Eater
Gyrinocheilus aymonieri
Also known as: Sucking Loach, Sucker Loach, Golden Algae Eater
From: Thailand, Southeast Asia.
Environment: Mountain streams and rivers of Thailand and India. Sucker mouth appears to be an adaptation for holding onto rocks in swift current, rather than eating algae. Indeed, the digestive system of this fish is short in length, denoting a meaty, carnivorous diet rather than a herbivorous, which requires a lengthy digestive tract needed to digest complex plant matter.
Personal observations: This fish is a total bastard in a planted, aquascaped tank. It learns the layout better than you do, and can swim very fast. When we had to remove one from a tank, we had to tear down the tank to get him out. As you are about to find out, there is good reason to not get the fish altogether unless you design a specialty designer aquarium with this fish in mind, such as a river tank designer aquarium.
This fish is carnivorous, likes shrimp, small fish, and meats in its diet, and is not a true loach.

An eager worker

At first, the little fish seems to be a fit for the tank. It hangs out in the caves, caverns, and other locations along the bottom. It darts away nervously from the other fish, even the peaceful platy, and seems very timid. It even seems to spend long amounts of time grazing over the glass, munching on the algae. Or, is it?
The algae doesn't disappear. What the fish is actually doing is eating micro organisms living in the algae. As the weeks pass, the aquarium owner finds the need to clean the glass themselves, while the little fish starts to grow.
And does it ever grow.

Transformation into a menace

Chinese algae eaters, unknown to the kid who talked you into buying the little fish, can grow up to 10 inches, which is much too large for a tank under twenty gallons in size (and even this is pushing it). What also was unknown is that the fish grows a different personality over time, too.
The aquarium owner will probably first notice something is different when pits start showing up in the substrate, and the carefully sculpted floor of the designer aquarium becomes altered. They may even see gravel flying up from behind the decorations. Upon inspection, they see the "algae eater", now four times it's original size, digging around the gravel. The fish is no longer skittish, either. It starts to chase away any fish in the tank that happen to come near it. As time goes on, the carefully decorated tank doesn't look so good as terraces and the layout becomes eroded. Plants become uprooted and features displaced. The aquarium owner also begins to notice the smaller fish in the tank disappearing as the Chinese algae eater begins to eat them. Fish such as Angelfish and Discus begin to show lesions on their sides, too, as the algae eater races up and attaches to their sides to feed on their body secretions.
We wrecked a designer aquarium correcting the mistake of buying this fish in the first place. If a pet shop employee tries to sell you a Chinese algae eater, ask to speak to their manager and insist that the employee learns more about the fish that they sell. These fish are not that intelligent, and are not interesting enough to put up with the trouble, especially when most people buy them ONLY because they are told that the fish eat algae, which is far from the truth. These fish are sold through ignorance, both on the part of the seller and the buyer.

The right fit

The Chinese algae eater does have a place, and that is in large fish tanks with lots of current, such as designer tanks set up to emulate rivers and streams. This might be the only reason that we can think of to warrant buying one of these bastards. The author of this article is setting up such a tank and may try these fish for that purpose, and they may redeem themselves in time, but we are not holding our breath. It does not eat algae, and should not be sold for this as they always are.

Genuine alternatives for an algae problem

If the fishkeeper is looking for a fish to eat algae, a shoal of four, or more, Otocinclus catfish (Otocinclus affinis) should be obtained. The Otocinclus look cool (with profiles much like mini sharks! Take that, you red tailed shark lovers!), and can clear a fish tank of algae in no time at all. The little fish like to school, so get at least six or more of them. Another alternative is the Molly (Poecilia velifera), which craves algae and will adore you for putting them in a tank with it growing. Well, they will adore you only IF you put sea salt in the water. Mollies are brackish water fish, and cannot survive in fresh water without any salt added. Other fish will benefit from having salt added, as well. Mollies will even eat thread algae!

The Betta
Beauty, Personality, and Intelligence

It's almost a cliche. In offices, schools, and on desks in homes everywhere are brightly colored fish harnessed in small bowls, containers, and jars. The fish, while very beautiful, look bored and lethargic in their isolation. Their owners have small containers of "betta pellets" next to their pets, as the fish don't eat anything else. Welcome to the sight of the average Betta as a pet, American style!

Introducing the Siamese Fighting Fish
Betta splendens
Also known as: Betta
From: Thailand, Southeast Asia.
Environment: Rice paddies, stagnant pools, and flooded forests.
Personal observations: Keeping this fish like most people do is a tragedy. There is much more to this fish than most people know about, and the Betta is often kept from exploring it's own potential.
Did you know these facts about Betta's?

They can breath air, and can drown if trapped underwater.

They can flare their gills, dance around, and show off.

They spawn using bubble nests.

They possess the most beauty that you can ever witness. They show it when they spawn.
The Betta spawning is almost like a complex ballet, and is one of the most beautiful, and sometimes tragic, thing that you can see in your life.

Betta's are good parents to their fry.

They like to jump.

They are not afraid of people.

They can be very analytical.

They have complex personalities.

They can learn from other fish.

They have interesting ways of surviving.

They can be kept in aquariums.

They can be kept TOGETHER.

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UPDATED 10/09/07








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