Fish Health & Treatments
There are many skin parasites that infect fishes. One such parasite is the anchor worm. However, despite its name, it is not a worm, but a large, parasitic crustacean of the Lernaea species. And although the parasite can infect any fish, pond fishes are most susceptible. Once attached to the fish's skin, it buries its head deep into the muscle tissue.
Symptoms and Types
A fish infected with anchor worms will have red and inflamed skin irritations. Take a closer look, and you can see the parasite's body sticking out, appearing like whitish-green threads. The fish will also rub or brush itself against objects, in an attempt to get rid of the anchor worm(s).
The anchor worm can be easily removed by carefully pulling it out from the fish's skin. The infected area is then treated with a topical antibiotic ointment. Afterwards, the pond or aquarium should be sanitized and disinfected, in an effort to remove any adult parasites, larvae or eggs.
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is a heart and blood vessel condition which is recognized by the low number of red blood cells found in the animal. It can affect many types of fishes, so be observant of your pet and take your animal to the veterinarian if anemia is suspected.
Symptoms and Types
The most common symptom -- which is also quite visible -- is abnormally pale gills in your fish.
Fishes can have anemia due to many reasons; among them:
Bacterial, fungal, viral and parasitic infections
Folic acid deficiency (especially prevalent in channel catfish)
Exposure to high levels of nitrites – found in the water – for an extended period of time
An infestation of blood-sucking parasites (i.e., leeches)
The blood that is drained by the leeches causes anemia in fishes. They can also introduce other parasites into the fish's blood stream. Usually, aquariums and fishponds become infested with leeches because there is an infected plant or animal in the environment.
Anemia is not very common in fishes. When it does occur, however, the veterinarian will seek to treat the underlying cause of the condition. For example, increasing folic acid in the fish's diet can resolve anemia do to a deficiency in the substance. Anemia due to infections and parasitic infestation, on the other hand, are treated with medications for the infection, followed by a thorough cleaning of the fish's environment (i.e., aquarium, pond). If necessary, the infected fish may be quarantined until all traces of the leeches and its larvae and eggs are gone. Water should also be tested regularly to keep nitrite levels correct.
Eye Disorders In Fishes
Eye disorders in fishes can be due to disease, infections, or injury.
Symptoms and Types
These disorders can cause the eye(s) of the affected fish to display any of the following symptoms:
Enlargement (giving an appearance of a popping eye)
Blood in the eye
Parasites within the eye
Abnormality around the eye
A fish’s eye is usually examined with a penlight or a flashlight. These are used to ascertain whether the problem is within the eye or in the area surrounding it.
Eye injuries usually occur during shipping and handling, especially if the fish is struggling. Blood in the eye, however, is generally due to infection or injury.
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There are many common eye disorders affecting the fishes. The three main eye disorders in fishes are:
Gas Bubble Disease: This eye disorder is recognized by the tiny gas bubbles found in the cornea – the thin, transparent tissue covering the eye. The fish may also form tiny bubbles in the gills or fins. Usually a gill biopsyis needed to confirm the gas bubble disease. The veterinarian will then recommend appropriate treatment for the fish.
Cataracts: Fishes can also suffer from cataracts, which is a common eye disorder causing the eye lens to become opaque. Cataracts can be due to nutritional imbalance, parasitic infection, and other genetic or unknown factors. Unfortunately, there is usually no treatment for cataracts.
Eye flukes: This is a type of parasitic infection, which is usually seen in fishes found in the wild. An infected fish will have enlarged and cloudy eyes, occasionally with tiny worms also being found in the eye. The fish will generally become blind in the infected eye, and it may develop a cataract, too. Unfortunately, there is no treatment for eye flukes.
Aeromonas Infection in Fish
Many types of bacteria can infect multiple organs of a fish. One such common infection is caused by the Aeromonas salmonicida bacteria. It is generally due to poor sanitation or nutrition, and is recognized by the red ulcers which cover the fish.
Koi and goldfish are the pet fishes most susceptible to Aeromonas infections, as are most warm water and freshwater fishes. In severe cases, it can prove fatal for fishes.
Symptoms and Types
The Aeromonas bacterial infection affects multiple systems in the fish's body, resulting in such symptoms as:
Enlarged eyes (exophthalmos)
Accumulation of fluids in the abdomen (ascitis)
Renal dropsy (kidney damage)
Most infected fish have reddening of the body, with hemorrhagic spots in the gills, tail, fins, body wall and internal organs of the animal, while others display skin and gill ulcers.
Although the Aeromonas salmonicida bacteria causes the infection, injuries, seasonal changes, sharp changes in water temperature, and poor sanitation or nutrition can all put the fish in state where it is more susceptible to the bacteria.
Depending on the type of Aeromonas bacteria the fish has, the veterinarian will prescribe medication to eliminate the infection -- usually antibiotics. This medication can either be injected into the fish or added to the fish's water.
Saprolegnia and Ichthyophonus Hoferi
Fungal infections in fish can cause damage to multiple body systems, such as the liver, kidney, and brain, and usually occur when the fish is in a weakened state, either due to injury or trauma. It can also develop if a fish is placed in poor living conditions (i.e., substandard water quality or an overstocked fish tank).
Saprolegnia and Ichthyophonus hoferi are two such fungi that can be found in fish, whether they are kept in tanks, aquariums or ponds.
Symptoms and Types
The Saprolegnia fungus infects fish (or its eggs), affecting its internal organs and deeper tissues. Symptoms include light gray, cottony growths on the skin, fins, gills, and eyes.
The Ichthyophonus hoferi fungus mainly infects older fish which are kept in aquariums. However, it is an uncommon fungal infection that typically occurs due to infected raw fish food. If left untreated, it may prove fatal for the fish. Symptoms are species-specific, but unlike Saprolegnia, it will present small black growth in the skin. This fungus also causes bulging eyes, loss of color, ulcers and cysts in internal organs, and sometimes causes fish to swim in abnormal circular movements.
The Saprolegnia fungal infection is caused by having an unclean environment containing dead and decaying organic matter.
The transmission and cause of the Ichthyophonus hoferi fungus is unknown, but keeping a clean environment for your fish is always a good practice.
Treatment of the Saprolegnia infection is accomplished by medicating the water with potassium permanganate, after removing skin pathogens. While increased salt levels, combined with good electrolyte and calcium levels in the water, are good treatment options for an Ichthyophonus hoferi infection, another possible measure is raising the water temperature to 82 degrees Fahrenheit (consult a veterinarian first), as the Ichthyophonus fungi are more virulent in colder waters.
It is important to thoroughly clean and sanitize the fish tank, aquarium, or fishpond for either of these injections.
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Removing dead infected fish, sanitizing the environment, and not feeding your pets raw fish are all good ways to prevent either of these fungal infections.
New Tank Syndrome in Fish
Similar to "old tank syndrome," new tank syndrome is a fish disease that occurs in aquarium fish that live in water with high levels of ammonia.
New tank syndrome leads to ammonia toxicity in the fish, which can quickly become fatal. Fish will often die suddenly, without warning.
The aquarium water is frequently cloudy and smelly due to the excessive ammonia and nitrite levels.
Also known as the "break in cycle," the cause of the high levels of ammonia in a new tank are due to the lack of beneficial bacteria in the water — bacteria that keep the water levels safe by breaking down ammonia and nitrite into harmless nitrogen compounds. In a newly set up tank, these bacteria have not a chance to establish, allowing the ammonia and nitrite levels to quickly become toxic for the fish living in the water. This usually occurs in tanks that are just 1 to 20 days old, and maybe longer, since it takes a few weeks for the bacteria to establish themselves in enough quantity to keep up with the amount of waste the fish are producing.
This is not limited to new tanks, of course. Some other reasons for a sudden increase in ammonia levels include:
Overfeeding of fish
Overstocking of fish
Improper dechlorination of water containing chloramines (i.e., sodium thiosulfate can create a reaction which releases ammonia)
A cleaning that is too thorough
Change of old gravel to new gravel
Sudden changes in water temperature
The key to preventing new tank syndrome is to allow the new water conditions to cycle through the nitrogen cycle before adding fish. Of course, the cycle cannot even begin until fish have been added to the water, so it is not helpful to allow the aquarium to sit for a few weeks before adding the fish. It is only through the cycle of waste and establishment of beneficial bacteria that will begin the cycle. Using a few "starter fish," to begin the new aquarium — hardy species of fish that are less susceptible to harm from ammonia levels — before adding any new fish will set the cycle in progress. You can then determine the progress of the cycle by checking the water chemistry over the course of about 4-6 weeks.
Some owners have also found it helpful to add already established gravel from an older tank to help speed up the process. If you do not have an already established aquarium from which you can take gravel, the handler that you will be buying your starter fish from may be able to help you with a sampling of gravel that the fish have been living in. It is not wise to change the water until the cycle has completed.
You can also control ammonia levels by avoiding overfeeding, since uneaten food will contribute to organic debris. Perform regular pH tests on the water throughout the initial process will help you to track the progress of the cycle and make changes accordingly, so that you can determine when to safely add new fish to your aquarium. Your tank will be cycled once you can measure nitrates in the water and ammonia and nitrite levels are at zero.
Old Tank Syndrome in Fish
Old tank syndrome occurs in fish aquariums with high levels of ammonia and nitrite and low levels of water pH. It can be caused by overstocking, but is most commonly the result of inattentive tank maintenance. This condition can affect an age or species of fish, but is most dangerous to new fish that are added to established aquariums.
The primary symptom of old tank syndrome is the death of new fish that are placed into a long established tank, while the old fish remain alive and apparently healthy. This is because the old fish are accustomed to the balance of the water, even adjusting to conditions such as build-ups of certain chemical or bacterial levels. The old fish often do not show any signs of being affected by the unhealthy levels in the water. The new fish, however, have been accustomed to a different water balance and are shocked by the sudden change in conditions.
On testing, the water will show measurable nitrite and ammonia levels, which can be toxic to fish, and a lowered pH level. pH levels below 6 indicates a serious imbalance, often leading to the loss of beneficial bacteria, which then leads to a dangerous and toxic increase in ammonia and nitrite levels in the water.
The cause of the high levels of ammonia — which leads to old tank syndrome — is often due to less than ideal water maintenance, and a sudden drop in the water's pH level. When the pH of the water suddenly drops below 6.0, the biofiltration system is unable to metabolize ammonia properly. This can also potentially occur when new water is added to a tank in excessive quantities.
If your fish are suffering from old tank syndrome, begin by adding a few gallons of new water each day. This will allow the water to adjust to healthy bacterial levels again, and the fish to adjust to the change gradually. Remember that your old fish have become accustomed to the levels in the water, even though the levels are unhealthy. Too much of a change to very clean water may kill your fish.
Once the beneficial bacteria are well established again, ammonia and nitrate levels will drop back down to levels closer to zero — as they should be. Never dump the water entirely and start with new water and materials, as this could result in "new tank syndrome," a toxic condition that can result in the deaths of all of your fish.
To prevent old tank syndrome, maintenance is the primary concern. New water should be added to the old on a regular basis to maintain acceptable pH levels. Never remove and replace the water entirely, as that could cause another set of problems. Additionally, testing the water balance is an essential part of caring for fish. Performing regular pH tests on the water will enable you to monitor and track the health of your fish water and make adjustments accordingly.
Ammonia levels greater than 2 mg per liter will cause toxicity symptoms in the fish.
(Dactylogyrus And Gyrodactylus )
There are many types of parasites that can infect a fish's skin. Two such microscopic parasites are Dactylogyrus and Gyrodactylus. These are tiny flatworms, which infect goldfish, koi and other types of fish.
Symptoms and Types
Fishes infected with these parasites will display sores and ulcers on the skin and gills, have a pale skin color, and be covered with small hemorrhages. Dactylogyrus and Gyrodactylus infections should be diagnosed and treated quickly because they can become fatal for your fish
Veterinarians will prescribe medicated water with formalin and praziquantel. Once the fish is placed in the water, the medications should eradicate any parasites.
The fish's environment should be cleaned and sanitized to prevent Dactylogyrus and Gyrodactylus infections. And any new fish should be quarantined or isolated before it is introduced into an environment filled with healthy fish, especially if the fish is suspected of having such infections.
Bony fish have a specialized organ called a swim bladder. The purpose of this organ is to contain oxygen and gases to maintain neutral buoyancy at the fish’s desired depth, similar to a diver’s buoyancy compensation device (BCD). These fish, called physostomes, fill their swim bladder with oxygen by gulping air at the water’s surface, where it quickly passes through a pneumatic (air) duct to the bladder. In physoclist fish, a specialized gas gland that pulls gases from the blood keeps the bladder filled. The swim bladder is surrounded by a tough outer membrane and lies just under the spinal cord in the coelomic cavity.
In addition to aiding posture and swimming ability, some fish use their swim bladder for sound production and detection. This organ is very significant in the overall health of fish. However, it is not exempt from disease and dysfunction.
What Causes Swim Bladder Problems?
Many contributing factors can cause swim bladder disorders. One of the most overlooked components is water quality. Poor water quality can result in sudden and chronic stress in fish. Stress causes disruption in regular homeostasis, which can result in negative or positive buoyancy disorders. If your fish presents with a buoyancy disorder, water quality should be checked immediately and corrected if necessary.
If your fish needs to be seen by a doctor, make sure your veterinarian is comfortable working on aquatic animals before you proceed. Or, to find an aquatic veterinarian near you,
Depending on the cause, swim bladder disorders may be temporary or permanent. If your fish has a permanent swim bladder disorder, they can still live a full and happy life with some lifestyle modifications. With positively buoyant fish, some of the fish’s body can spend too much time above the water’s surface, making it important to keep their skin moist. Do not cover the top of your tank to keep your fish submerged. This will result in decreased oxygen diffusion. Ask your veterinarian what can be applied to fish skin to protect it from air. Negative buoyancy disorders, with a fish spending too much time close to the bottom of the aquarium or pond on its side, belly, or head, will need to be controlled with a clean, non-abrasive substrate, such as glass stones. It is critical that these tanks be kept very clean.
Fish with compromised swimming ability will need help eating. With any buoyancy disorder, you will need to introduce hand-feeding. Be patient and try some tasty treats, such as small bits of shrimp, to get them started. Once they have gotten the idea, go back to their regular diet. Fish are smart and will catch on to the new routine quickly. When hand feeding, do not grab your fish! Bring the food to them in whatever position works best for them.
Preventing Swim Bladder Disorders
Buoyancy disorders in fish can be difficult to decipher and may have no permanent solution. If you have a fish that is starting to have problems swimming, check your water quality first. Water quality is often overlooked with swim bladder disorders. With physostomous fish, try a sinking or neutrally buoyant diet to keep excess air from getting into the swim bladder.
If the swimming problem persists, consult your local aquatic veterinarian to help set up X-rays to evaluate the swim bladder. Once the problem has been diagnosed and discussed, make a plan with your veterinarian for your fish’s future. Fish can live long, happy lives with swim bladder disorders, it will just require a few changes to your tank and regimen.
Lymphocystis disease is a common viral infection which affects the skin and fins of saltwater and freshwater fish. Although it is serious, it does not cause any health problems; the disease only disfigures the fish.
Fishes kept in aquariums or outside in ponds are both susceptible to Lymphocystis disease. The painted glassfish is the most prone aquarium fish to contract this infection.
Symptoms and Types
The viral infection causes growths on the skin or fins, which look similar to cauliflowers.
The Lymphocystis disease does not pose any health problem to the fish, but the growths may make the animal less aesthetically pleasing.
A microscopic examination of the skin tissue is done to properly diagnose the viral infection.
Once Lymphocystis disease has been diagnosed, the veterinarian may recommend to not treat the fish. This is because the infection is not terminal. However, antiviral medication is sometimes prescribed, but it rarely cures the disease.
When keeping aquarium fish, a lot of time and research goes into what is normal versus what is abnormal. It can be challenging to distinguish. Among these challenges are worms. What are they? Where do they come from? Are they dangerous to my fish and their environment?
Depending on your system and fish aquarium setup, sometimes worms are a normal, natural, and unavoidable occurrence. But other times they can be an indication that something is very wrong with the health of your system.
What is an Aquatic Worm?
Many an aquatic hobbyist is confused when they see a long, milky string coming from their fish’s anus. However, this is not actually a worm at all, but a normal gastrointestinal secretion. Just as mucus coats the feces of other animals, fish tend to pass mucus when they are not eating, or between large, infrequent meals. This worm-like structure is completely normal and is no cause for alarm.
True worms can be either parasitic or commensal, and internal or external. Parasitic worms act only in their best interest and at the expense of their hosts’ resources, whereas commensal worms either benefit their hosts, or have no effect on their host or environment.
Aquatic reptiles and amphibians are much different from fish, but they can also be infected with worms. They can contract the same internal and external parasites as their terrestrial cousins.
Types of Aquarium Worms
In aquariums, there are many types of worms that should be noted, from very basic flatworms to prickly bristle worms.
Trematodes - Flukes
The most basic of the worms are monogenean and digenean trematodes. These small worms can cause extreme irritation to the skin, gills, and eyes in fish. Commonly referred to as “flukes,” these parasites are guaranteed to be a problem at least once in any fish keeper’s career.
Flukes are microscopic, so they cannot be seen with the naked eye. If you have ever looked at your fishes’ skin mucus under the microscope, you probably have seen them.
Flukes exist in almost all systems in very small numbers, but do not always induce clinical signs of disease. Only when an individual or system is stressed do these small numbers rapidly multiply and spread throughout your tank or pond. Clinical signs of illness related to these parasites can include red, irritated skin, flashing behavior (rubbing against objects or walls in the tank), or bruises from flashing. These parasites are relatively easy to treat, but cannot be eradicated fully.
Crustaceans – Anchor Worms
Although they may be true crustaceans, individuals of the Lernea genus have been given the name “anchor worms.”
Another common parasite in the hobbyist community, the worm part that is visible to the naked eye is only the reproductive organs of this parasite. These crustaceans burrow deep into the fish’s muscle, resulting in large ulcers in many species of fish.
Anchor worms are very irritating to fish and can cause secondary infections. However, they are easily diagnosed and can be treated simply.
Aquatic vets usually combine treatment of the aquatic environment with manual removal of the worms while the fish is under sedation. This method will catch all reproductive adults and their offspring.
Annelids – Bristle Worms, Fireworms, Leeches
Most of the common worms people are familiar with are members of the annelid group. This group includes earthworms, polychaete worms, and leeches.
One of the most common residents in saltwater systems are bristle worms. Many a hobbyist has mistakenly stumbled upon these worms while cleaning out the tank substrate. How do you know bristle worms are in your tank? They sting! Bristle worms flare their bristles in defense, penetrating human skin and injecting a powerful neurotoxin, which produces intense irritation and a painful burning sensation at the site of contact. Their close cousins, the fireworms, hurt even more.
The good news is that the more common bristle worms will not hurt fish in any way. They are mostly just a problem for the caretakers. Fireworms, however, are known to attack invertebrates.
Any chemical treatments that would work on bristle worms and fireworms could also negatively affect the many helpful organisms in a marine system. The best way to get rid of bristle worms and fireworms is to cut off their food supply. Most bristle worm infestations are secondary to overfeeding. The excess fish food that sinks to the bottom of the tank becomes the main food source for worms lurking in the substrate. Cutting off leftovers is the best treatment for any bristle worm infestations.
Leeches are another problematic group within the annelids. These suckers will attach themselves to the side of a fish or to the inside of their mouths, where they secrete an anticoagulant (blood thinner) that can significantly affect fish health. They are found in both freshwater and marine systems.
Although adult leeches are easy to see and manually remove, life cycle (i.e., potential offspring) considerations should be taken with any treatment protocol.
Cestodes - Tapeworms
Internal cestode parasites, such as tapeworms, are significantly harder to diagnose in fish. Active passing of cestode segments in the feces can be very difficult to see. More commonly, failure to thrive or gain weight is the most frequent sign of infection. Positive diagnosis of cestode infection can only be made with a fresh fecal microscopic exam.
Water-based treatments do not work well against internal cestodes. A prescription for a food-based medication is best and can be obtained from your aquatic veterinarian.
Nematodes – Hookworms, Roundworms
One of the largest group of worms, the nematodes contain a variety of parasitic, commensal, and zoonotic worms that can all potentially affect aquatic animals. This contains the genera Ancylostoma, Uncinaria, Bunostomum, and Toxocara.
Many aquatic invertebrates can be involved in the nematode life cycle. It is important to understand how these many components can be involved in parasite life cycles.
Larval migrans, a disease characterized by the migration of larval stages of nematodes, aka hookworms, within all body tissues, can cause significant disease in humans and other animals.
Treating Your Aquarium for Parasitic Worms
Your first step is to check with a trained professional who can make the correct diagnosis. When treating for potential parasite issues of any kind, it is always best to make sure that you actually have a real parasitic problem rather than treating for something that “looks funny.”
Reaching for any over the counter (OTC) worm treatment may make the problem worse. And using any antibacterial product for a parasitic infection is irresponsible and can breed antibiotic resistant organisms. Overuse of treatments is a very widespread problem in the aquatic industry, a problem that can be easily solved by working with a professional specifically trained to work with aquatic systems.
Preventing Parasitic Aquatic Worms
When dealing with potential parasitic organisms, prevention is always key. However, no aquatic system is immune to worm invasion. It is impossible, in fact, to guarantee that any system is worm-free. The best thing any fish caretaker can do is to properly quarantine all new, sick, or injured fish, and to stimulate a fully functioning fish immune system with proper water quality, an appropriate environment, and good nutrition.
Quarantining all new additions, be they fish, invertebrate, or plant, will help prevent the spread of worms. 4-6 weeks in a completely separate system will allow you to observe any disease processes.
If you are unsure about the health of animals being purchased, question your aquatic provider about their safe quarantine practices. If they do not have any quarantine or biosecurity protocols in place, or are unwilling to share any of that information, seek out another source.
Saltwater Fish Disease Symptoms and Treatment
This saltwater fish disease page provides a listing of the more common marine fish diseases, ailments and problems with symptoms and treatments. Before you use any medication on your tank be sure to properly diagnose the disease and try to figure out why your fish have the disease. Many diseases are brought on by the fish being stressed due to transport, water quality issues or being acclimated incorrectly. If you've just set up your tank, please read about new tank syndrome in the articles section.
Always use a quarantine tank or at minimum do a freshwater dip that is pH and temperature adjusted for a few minutes. If the fish shows signs of extreme distress, such as jumping or becoming inverted, remove them from the dip immediately.
Whenever you use any type of medication on your saltwater fish, first remove any activated carbon in your filtration system. If left in, the carbon will remove the medication from the water, doing you no good. If you have invertebrates in your tank, make sure that the medication is safe to use with invertebrates (another good reason to have a quarantine tank). Read the directions on the medication bottle very carefully!
Get Some Cleaner Species
Another good idea is to include some of the "cleaning" species in your aquarium. Use caution if you plan on keeping them with Lionfish, Triggerfish or any other predatory species. There are both fish and shrimps that can perform a cleaning function in the saltwater aquarium. Some are better than others when it comes to the task of removing external parasites and dead tissue.
Some of the better ones that you'll hear about a lot are the Skunk Cleaner Shrimp and the Neon Goby. The skunk cleaner shrimps do a very good job. See the photos on the shrimp's profile page of them cleaning a Yellow Tang. Some authors have reported that the coral banded shrimp is a cleaner shrimp. We've kept them for several years and have never witnessed them cleaning hide nor hair. Maybe they only do it when the lights are off. Another fish that cleans other fishes as a juvenile is the Longfin Bannerfish. The bannerfish doesn't seem to do as good a job (and not as often) as the cleaner shrimp or the neon goby. It's really something to see a larger fish slowly approach the cleaner shrimp and allow the shrimp to climb on board to start cleaning.
Table of Common Saltwater Fish Diseases and Problems
Disease / Problem
Red or inflamed gills. Fish are gasping for air at the surface.
Ammonia poisoning is easily preventable. Avoid adding expensive and less hardy tropical fish until the aquarium has cycled. For more information on cycling your aquarium please read about the nitrogen cycle.You can use a substance called zeoliteto help absorb ammonia but the best solution is to ensure that your aquarium has cycled and that your tank is not overcrowded. If your tank has not yet completed the nitrogen cycle, you will need to perform frequent water changes to keep the ammonia levels down.
Bloated fish, scales are raised
This is not really a disease, but a symptom of a bacterial infection. There are medications available but try to increase the quality of the water by performing a 25% water change. Do this once every 3 days. If your fish's condition doesn't improve, try the medication. Your local pet store should have medication for this disease. Remove any carbon filtration before using medication because the carbon will absorb the medication.
Hole in the Head - HITH, sometimes referred to as Head and Lateral Line Erosion - HLLE
Small holes or indentations on the head of fish, advanced cases may show markings along the lateral line of the fish
There are many theories out there, but no conclusive scientific evidence as to what exactly causes this disease. However, it may be attributed to poor water quality, lack of proper nutrition and/or the use of activated carbon for prolonged periods. Be sure to give your fish the best water that you can by performing frequent water changes. Give them vitamin enriched foods and change out, rinse activated carbon thoroughly to remove dust or stop using activated carbon for a period of time to see if conditions improve.
Marine Ich or Ick (Cryptocaryon)
Small white spots showing up mainly on the fins or in advanced cases it may look like your fish has salt all over it. The fish may seem to "flash" or rub against objects in the tank.
This is a fairly common fish disease and your local pet store or online store should have medication you can use. Here is a popular Ich medicine. Ich usually arises due to stress. Many believe that you can increase the temperature of your water to 82 degrees Fahrenheit to speed up the cycle time of this parasite. Remove any carbon filtration before using medication (rid-ich) because the carbon will absorb the medication. Try to prevent this from happening by quarantining your fish in a separate tank before introducing them into your main tank. Saltwater ich is treatable if caught in the early stages. Move the fish to quarantine and medicate according to the directions on the bottle.
Nitrite / Nitrate poisoning is not a disease but will kill your tropical fish. It results from having a large bio-load on the filtration system or from not performing enough water changes. Perform a partial water change immediately and monitor the nitrite and nitrate levels closely until the situation is resolved. You may have too many fish in the tank and will need to perform more frequent water changes.
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Most or all of the fish are usually found at the water surface. They may be gulping at the surface with their mouths.
Check the temperature of the water. Higher water temperatures require higher levels of oxygen. You will need to increase the aeration in the tank with air stones or increase the flow rate with your filters. Try to decrease the temperature of the water by floating ice cubes in plastic baggies and turning off the tank light. If sun light is entering the tank from a nearby window, try closing the shades. Also, if you have an overcrowded aquarium you will definitely need to increase the aeration in your tank.
Velvet looks similar to ich but velvet shows up as smaller white or gray dusty spots on the fish. Tropical fish with velvet will have rapid gill movement and may be rubbing on surfaces in the tank.
There are a lot of products out there to treat this disease.
Saltwater Tangs showing small black spots on their sides.
Get a cleaner shrimp and keep your water parameters in line. Ammonia or nitrites high? Shame on you. Your tank isn't cycled and you have a whole mess of issues ahead. Wait until the tank has cycled before adding fish. High nitrates? Vacuum the sand and clean out the filters, empty protein skimmer more frequently. Also give those tangs more seaweed in their diet.
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Saltwater Aquarium Tank Setup Guide
It seems like we have been getting a lot of new posts on the forum about basic saltwater aquarium setup information. I've written this saltwater aquarium tank guide to hopefully make it easier to understand the start up process for those just getting into marine tanks. I'll make it a step by step article so it is easier to follow.
STEP 1: DETERMINE THE TYPE OF SALTWATER AQUARIUM YOU WANT
There are three common types of saltwater aquarium setups. The Fish Only, the Fish Only with Live Rock (FOWLR) and a reef tank. I really just consider two of those as viable setups. The fish only set up is really kind of difficult in terms of biological control of the filter and (in my opinion) makes it harder to keep a saltwater tank without live rock. Live rock is awesome and will become the primary biological filter in your tank. FOWLR tanks are the way to go for someone new to the saltwater side of the hobby. Reef tanks require a little more precision and can be much more expensive to set up and stock because they require more equipment and more expensive livestock usually.
Size matters. If you want to set up a nano saltwater tank (anything less than 30 gallons usually) then you have your work cut out for you. The upside to a smaller tank is the start up and ongoing maintenance costs. The downside is that smaller tanks are harder to maintain, harder to keep stable and you have less choices in terms of the fish and inverts you can keep.
A saltwater aquarium can definitely be more expensive than a freshwater aquarium. If money is tight, don't set up a marine tank right now. If you start skipping needed equipment like protein skimmers or good quality live rock, you are just going to be cutting yourself short and making the hobby less enjoyable. Come back to it when the finances loosen up and set things up right.
So we've narrowed down your choice to either a FOWLR or a reef tank. Which will you choose? Your choice will determine what you need in the next step.
STEP 2: SALTWATER AQUARIUM EQUIPMENT
If you chose a FOWLR tank, here is a list of equipment needed:
Aquarium - go with at least a 30 gallon or preferably much bigger. Your chances of success are better and you will get hooked and wish you had a bigger tank.
Substrate - if you want to have a sand bed there are commonly three options. You can go with a shallow sand bed, a deep sand bed (helps with nitrification) or a bare bottom. Shallow sand beds or bare bottom tanks are the easiest to setup and maintain. Research the benefits of deep sand beds to see if that is something you want to pursue. More info on choosing a substrate: Substrates 101.
Live Rock - get about one pound per gallon or more of the good, high quality porous rock. Base rock is cheaper but really does nothing other than take up space and allows you to build up your rock structure. I only use the good rock in my tanks. More info on Live Rock.
Saltwater Mix - the brand doesn't really matter these days.
Refractometer - to measure the salt content. A hydrometer would work too but they are less accurate.
Protein Skimmer - you need a skimmer. We get this question all the time. You can run a tank without a skimmer but it means you will have to do way more frequent partial water changes to avoid algae issues. Save yourself the headaches and get a skimmer. More info: Protein Skimmer.
Powerheads - provides water movement which is very important in saltwater tanks. You want to have turbulent flows. The amount of flow you need is around 10 to 20x the tank volume for a FOWLR in my opinion. This will help keep detritus from accumulating on the bottom or behind the rocks and improve the chances that it will be broken down and skimmed out of the system.
Reverse Osmosis Water Filter - you need this for the initial filling and top offs of your tank. Starting with pure water is very important and will help you avoid many water quality and algae issues.
Heater - two smaller rated heaters are better than one heater in case of malfunctions. You also need a thermometer to monitor the tank temperature. Digital thermometers are inexpensive and do a fine job.
Test Kits - get test kits for ammonia, nitrite and nitrates. You will use these during the initial break in of the tank and until the aquarium cycles.
Lights - the type and size doesn't really matter in a FOWLR. Standard lights that come with aquarium kits are usually fine. A mix of bulbs in the white and blue actinic range provide some nice colors.
Sump and/or Refugium - is a separate tank under your main display tank that allows you to hide equipment and provides more water volume since it is plumbed into the main system. These are optional upgrades but worth it.
Notice in the list above that I didn't mention a mechanical filter... I haven't run a mechanical filter on my saltwater tanks in years. I use a combination of ample amounts of high quality live rock, turbulent water flows provided by power heads and the protein skimmer removes dissolved organics as they break down in the water column. Very easy to set up and maintain and you don't have to worry about nitrate build ups in the mechanical filter which can lead to algae issues.
If you chose a REEF TANK, here is a list of equipment needed:
Substrate - sand or bare bottom
Salt Mix - there are reef type salt mixes which are usually higher in alk/calc.
Protein Skimmer - you need a skimmer. Period.
Powerheads - how many needed is based on the fish, invertebrates and corals you want to keep
Reverse Osmosis Water Filter - you definitely need one. More info here: Reverse Osmosis Filter for Aquariums.
Test Kits - get test kits for ammonia, nitrite, nitrates, magnesium, alkalinity, calcium and phosphates. There are reef testing kits which have all of them included. Get the liquid test kits. Salifert makes some good test kits that are easy to read. More info on Aquarium Test Kits.
Lights - the corals you want to keep will dictate the type of lighting you need. More info on Aquarium Lighting.
Calcium Reactor - if you plan on having a tank full of hard corals a calcium reactor is the way to go. Otherwise you can supplement with the two-part solutions and replenish needed elements via water changes. More info on the Calcium Reactor.
Sump and/or Refugium - the sump allows you to hide equipment and provides more water volume since it is plumbed into the main system. A refugium allows you to grow macro algae and pods for the benefit of the display tank. These are very good additions but optional.
Various Reactors - you can set up more reactors in your sump for Biopellets, Phosphate reducers, Activated Carbon, etc. These are optional but can bring some good benefits.
STEP 3: RESEARCH THE FISH, INVERTS AND CORALS
This is the most important part of the entire process since it dictates the equipment and tank that you need. Take your time here and enjoy the research process. It's what makes the hobby so much fun in my opinion.
For a FOWLR your research required is much less. You basically need to research the compatibility of the fish you are interested in keeping. Make a list of the species that catch your interest and then research each of them. Figure out how well they acclimate to the home aquarium, how they interact with con specifics and other species, how easy they are to feed and what size tank you'll need.
For a reef tank you have your research cut out for you, but it can be quite fun! First figure out the type of corals you want to keep such as SPS, LPS or soft corals. It is best to stick with one type and avoid mixing coral types since the lighting setup you need is based on the corals you want to keep. Research the fish and inverts too. You want "reef safe" type fish and inverts. Fish and inverts labeled reef safe will not usually harm corals, but research thoroughly. Get your plan of tank inhabitants and write it all down on paper then double check it.
STEP 4: SET UP THE SALTWATER AQUARIUM
Ok, so we have the type of tank we want to set up and we have researched the tank inhabitants. Now we can start buying equipment and setting up.
If you want to set up a FOWLR check out the Saltwater Aquarium Setuparticle.
If you are setting up a Reef Tank read the Reef Tank Setup article for a step by step guide.
Once everything is set up you want to make sure your tank cycles. More info here: Aquarium Nitrogen Cycle.
STEP 5: SLOWLY INTRODUCE LIVESTOCK AND KEEP UP WITH TANK MAINTENANCE
Once your tank has cycled you can start to slowly introduce livestock. Take your time here and make sure you acclimate your new arrivals correctly. This period of time is crucial and mistakes are made when things are rushed.
Develop a daily, weekly and monthly maintenance schedule and stick to it. There are more details in the saltwater aquarium setup and reef tank setup articles linked above on maintenance routines.
This article may look kind of short but I did that on purpose to keep it simple. Explore the linked articles provided to get more information on a particular topic. I wanted this article to provide a quick overview of what all is involved and at the same time not scare away newbies with a huge article since there are already lots of articles on most topics needed for research. You can spend many hours or days researching and this is the best way to go. Research everything (fish, inverts, corals, equipment, etc.) thoroughly first and you will save yourself some serious cash
Setting up a saltwater FOWLR or reef tank used to be way more difficult in the past but these days it really is not difficult at all. It is more expensive than a freshwater but I think that once a saltwater aquarium is set up with the right equipment and stocked wisely it is easier to keep a saltwater tank going than a freshwater tank. Be forewarned, it is extremely addicting.
Maintenance Transporting & releasing your fish Water quality needs to be monitored all of the time, especially during initial set-up and when stocking the tank. This helps to reduce the chance of causing any damage to the animals because of the build up of high ammonia (NH3) and nitrite (NO2 - ) levels. It is also advisable to test for nitrate (NO3 - ), pH and hardness. Don’t forget to monitor the temperature of the aquarium too. Regular partial water changes are required to remove excess nitrate. This should be carried out as often as required. Remember smaller fish tanks will require more regular maintenance as the water is less stable than in larger aquariums. Filters need to be checked for clogging and waste build up. If they require cleaning, NEVER rinse them under a tap as this washes away the beneficial bacteria. If clogged, rinse the filter media in some of the waste tank water during a routine water change. Fish are easily stressed for instance by excessive lights, vibrations, noise and movement. When transporting your fish home try to reduce the stressors your fish are subjected to. Your OATA retailer will usually sell you your fish in a plastic bag. Try not to keep them in this too long. It is best that once purchased, the fish should be taken home straight away to avoid any changes in the chemistry and temperature of the water in the bag. Once home, your fish will need to acclimatise to their new environment. It is best to switch off aquarium lights and float the bag in the water of your tank for up to 30 minutes to ensure the temperature in the bag is the same as the aquarium water. Slowly add small volumes of aquarium water to the bag. This allows the fish to acclimatise to any differences between the retailer’s water and your own. This can take up to half an hour. Once complete, slowly release the fish into the aquarium adding as little of the shop water as possible and discard the bag and excess water (Note: this process may take longer with more specialised species like Discus). Ask your OATA retailer for any more advice you need regarding the species you have selected. How to... Set up & maintain a freshwater aquarium 1 General maintenance Checklist Before you buy make sure: You have the appropriate equipment and position for the aquarium. You have researched all the species you are interested in and your final choices are all compatible. You are familiar with how to transport and release your fish. You are aware of the daily, weekly and monthly maintenance your aquarium will need. You are prepared to look after your fish properly for the duration of their life. 1 2 3 4 5 May 2013 © Copyright OATA Ltd 2010 Never release your aquarium animals or plants into the wild Never release an animal or plant bought for a home aquarium into the wild. It is illegal and for most fish species this will lead to an untimely and possibly lingering death because they are not native to this country. Any animals or plants that do survive might be harmful to the environment.
Introduction Maturing your tank Adding your fish Equipment Stocking levels Positioning your tank Setting up an aquarium can be an enjoyable and rewarding hobby for adults and children alike. It has been shown that watching fish in a healthy and well maintained aquarium can reduce your stress levels. But before purchasing an aquarium, you should consider all the aspects raised in this leaflet to ensure the underwater community which you choose to create is looked after properly, and that the fish remain healthy. As a general rule you should, within reason, buy an aquarium as big as possible. Larger aquariums contain more water and it easier to maintain a healthy environment in it for your fish. Once all of the equipment is ready, the tank should be positioned carefully so it is: 1. Out of direct sunlight and away from sources of heat. 2. On a perfectly flat level surface or stand which can indefinitely support the weight of the tank when it is filled with water. For help choosing the type of tank that you would like to keep ask your retailer. There are also a range of OATA care leaflets covering the majority of species commercially available. Before adding any fish, get some advice from your OATA retailer about the species in which you are interested. As with the rest of the animal kingdom, not all fish species will peacefully cohabit. Different species may also prefer different water types. Patience is a virtue, add fish slowly. Overstocking or stocking too quickly may cause ‘new tank syndrome’ when the filter is not capable of coping with the increased waste load. Ammonia and nitrite can quickly build up to unhealthy levels and often fish will not survive. Healthy fish have clear bright eyes, undamaged fins, intact scales, no ulcerations or bumps, appropriate swimming and steady breathing. Do not purchase a seemingly healthy fish if sickly fish are present in the tank with it. Fish diseases can be easily carried without showing any symptoms. If in doubt ask your OATA retailer for advice. It is not possible to say exactly how many fish your aquarium can hold. The differences in size, species requirements, water parameters and compatibility of fish available are vast. Ask your OATA retailer for advice on stocking densities for your chosen aquarium. Aim to create as natural a set up as possible, for example shoaling fish need to be kept in numbers. Remember that decoration and plants take up space, however these are recommended additions. Live plants help to remove nitrate, and ornaments can provide less boisterous and reclusive fish with a safe retreat. The diet and feeding requirements vary between species. Some feed at the surface, others will be found throughout the water, while others will spend most time at the bottom of the tank. Be sure to have suitable food to cater for all of your fishes needs. Do not expect to fill your tank with as many fish as your OATA retailer. They are able to stock tanks more heavily than home aquariums due to their management expertise and advanced filtration systems. Freshwater fish have little or no tolerance of ammonia (NH3) or nitrites (NO2 - ) therefore the aquarium needs to be ‘matured’ before being fully stocked. Maturing a tank involves growing a population of nitrifying bacteria in the filter media. These bacteria are responsible for quickly breaking down fish waste into ammonia, nitrites (both of which are dangerous to fish) and then to much less toxic nitrates. Once the aquarium has been filled and the water has been dechlorinated, switch on your equipment. It is advisable to leave the aquarium for at day or two. This ensures that the temperature is reached if it is a tropical set-up, as well as ensuring that the equipment is working correctly. Following this process there are two commonly used methods to mature the aquarium’s filter. A commercially available bacterial supplement can be added, following the manufacturer’s instructions, or a small number of fish can be added to the aquarium. Whichever method you use, the ammonia and nitrite levels should initially successively rise and then fall while the nitrate (the end product of filtration) levels will usually continue to rise. It is important if you have added fish that the levels of these waste products do NOT rise above the guidelines given below (these are for domestic aquaria). Regular partial water changes will be required. You should use test kits regularly to monitor any changes in water quality and take action as necessary. Once these levels have dropped to a safe level (preferably zero) permanently, the tank is mature and stocking can continue slowly. Each time you add more fish or increase feeding, a ‘mini’ maturation process will take place. The time for maturation will vary from aquarium to aquarium and therefore needs patience. The equipment required depends upon the type of set up that is chosen. Freshwater aquaria can be used to keep either coldwater species e.g. goldfish which must be kept at room temperature or tropical species which must be kept in heated water. A generalised checklist for a freshwater aquarium should include the following: 1. Glass or acrylic aquarium 2. Suitable stand (if appropriate) 3. Gravel 4. Filtration 5. Lighting 6. Secure lid 7. Siphon cleaning device (recommended) 8. Ornaments 9. Plants 10. Heater (tropical set-ups) 11. Water conditioner/dechlorinator 12. Thermometer 13. Water testing kits 14. Food
TETRA RASBORE DANIOS
Introduction Maintenance Feeding Water requirements Potential problems Aquarium requirements Although these fish originate from different parts of the world, the water conditions they like are quite similar. As with all fish, these three species all require good water quality and, wherever possible, the water parameters should be within levels set out below: Temperature: 18 to 27°C pH: 6.5-8 Ammonia: 0mg/l (0.02mg/l may be tolerated for short periods) Nitrite: 0mg/l (0.2mg/l may be tolerated for short periods) Hardness: Moderately soft - hard (5 to 19°dH) These three fish groups belong to the families Cyprinidae (rasboras and danios), Characidae, Lebiasinidae and Alestidae (tetras). Danios and rasboras originate from Asia, while many of the tetras are found in the Amazon basin in South America and Africa. However, the vast majority of aquarium specimens are captive bred at farms throughout the world. These small species do not generally require large tanks. An aquarium of 45 litres would allow a shoal of five or more to be housed. It is not advisable to keep these fish in smaller numbers because they may not thrive. Ideally, the tank should have a swimming space with live plants so that the fish have plenty of cover. The background of plants can help you better appreciate the wonderful colours of the fish and can also act as a spawning area for the fish. Be aware that too powerful a filter may be detrimental to the shoaling behaviour of the fish because strong currents can sweep them around the tank. These fish may adapt to the various water types throughout the country. Many will thrive in harder water once acclimatised. You may get better colouration from these fish if the tank water is adjusted to the parameters listed earlier. Ask your retailer for help on how to achieve this. Changing the parameters of the water in which the fish are kept should always be done slowly over a number of weeks to avoid stressing the fish. These groups of fish are all omnivorous. However in the wild it is common to find these species preferentially feeding upon a meaty diet including small crustaceans and insect larvae. The fish are normally captive bred and they should accept most aquarium foods readily, including flakes as well as Tubifex and frozen and live foods. The fish should be fed what they can eat in a few minutes 1 or 2 times a day. Remove any uneaten food to reduce waste build up. A water quality problem will affect fish behaviour and can be shown by clamped fins, reduced feeding, erratic swimming and gasping at the surface. Immediately test the water if any of these symptoms are shown. If in doubt as your OATA retailer for advice. At least once every two weeks a partial water change of 25 to 30% is strongly recommended (a siphon device is useful to remove waste from the gravel). The water should be tested regularly to ensure pollutants such as ammonia and nitrite do not build up. Ensure you either allow the replacement water to stand or aerate it to remove any chlorine present. Ideally, treat all replacement water with tap water conditioner before adding to the aquarium. Filters should be checked for clogging and blockages. If the filter needs cleaning, then do not run it under the tap as any chlorine present may kill the beneficial bacterial population that has established in the media. Instead, it can be rinsed in the tank water which is removed during a partial water change as this reduces the amount of bacteria which are lost. Good husbandry is essential as these fish can be stressed by even the smallest amounts of ammonia and nitrite. Test the water to monitor the ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels every week, especially during initial set-up and after adding extra fish. There are over 150 species of tetra in the three families listed above. Not all the members of these groups are suitable to be covered in this leaflet, for instance the Red-Bellied piranha, which is a member of the Characidae family. There are 70 members of the Rasbora genus, although there are only a handful found in the aquarium trade. All of these fish are relatively small, making them good fish for smaller tropical community set-ups. Their body length varies from species to species, however in general the most common aquarium species range from 3 to 15cm. Although small, these fish can live several years in a well-matured set-up with good water quality. Tetras can be identified by a small fleshy fin known as an adipose fin situated between the dorsal (back) and caudal (tail) fins. Arguably, the Neon tetra is the most recognised tropical freshwater aquarium fish. These fish are found in schools in the wild and like to be kept in groups in a home aquarium. Biology The small size and simple husbandry requirements of these groups make them one of the most popular beginner fish to community tanks. Avoid keeping them with large aggressive fish which could make an easy meal out of these small species. Good tank mates include other tetras, livebearers, Plecostomus and other non-aggressive species. Compatibility Before attempting to breed from any of these fish, it is important to know the difference between males and females. In general, the females will tend to be a little larger and slightly plumper in the body than the males. Each species has slightly differing breeding requirements. As most of the fish which are commercially available are captive bred, breeding at home may be possible. Ask your OATA retailer for more advice regarding the species which you are keeping.
LIVE BREEDERS GUPPY ETC
Introduction Maintenance Feeding Water requirements Potential problems Aquarium requirements This group of fish are relatively hardy and will adapt to most aquarium water. However, it is advisable to keep the water parameters within the following guidelines although fish may acclimatise to different water conditions over time. Temperature: 18 to 28°C (64 to 82°F). pH: 7.0 to 8.0 Ammonia: 0mg/l (0.02mg/l may be tolerated for short periods) Nitrite: 0mg/l (0.2mg/l may be tolerated for short periods) Hardness: Slightly hard to hard (9 to 19°dH) This group are known as livebearers because unusually for fish the females give birth to free swimming live fry (ovoviviparous) rather than laying eggs. In the wild, these species are found in Northern, Central and Southern America. Almost all aquarium specimens are captive bred. All of these species prefer a planted aquarium for two reasons: 1. They are all omnivores and will eat some of the plants 2. If breeding, the fry will have plenty of cover A heater, filter and aeration are also required, and it is advisable to have lights, both to aid the growth of plants and to simulate daylight to bring out natural behaviours and colour of the specimens. The aquarium should be large enough to comfortably house at least three fish. A ratio of 2:1 (female:male) is best as this helps to avoid single females being pestered by numerous males. This group of fish are omnivores, however a vegetable based diet is often preferred. The diet for your fish should match this, including flake, frozen, spirulina and freeze dried foods. The fish should be fed what they can eat in a few minutes 1 to 2 times a day. Remove any uneaten food to reduce waste build up. A water quality problem will affect fish behaviour and can be shown by clamped fins, reduced feeding, erratic swimming and gasping at the surface. Immediately test the water if any of these symptoms are shown. If in doubt ask your OATA retailer for advice. At least once every two weeks, a partial water change of 25 to 30% is strongly recommended (a siphon device is useful to remove waste from the gravel). The water should be tested regularly to ensure that pollutants such as ammonia and nitrites don’t build up. Ensure that you either allow the replacement water to stand or aerate it to remove any chlorine present. Ideally, treat all replacement water with tap water conditioner before adding to the aquarium. Filters should be checked for clogging and blockages. If the filter needs cleaning then do not run it under the tap as any chlorine present may kill the beneficial bacterial population that has established in the media. Instead, it can be rinsed in the tank water which is removed during a partial water change as this reduces the amount of bacteria which are lost. Good husbandry is essential as these fish can be stressed by even the smallest amounts of ammonia and nitrite. Test the water to monitor the ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels every week, especially during initial set-up and after adding extra fish. If only mollies are kept then the addition of aquarium salts is advisable, this is not required with swordtails, guppies or platies. Check with your OATA retailer as to how much salt should be added to your aquarium. Mollies are capable of tolerating high salinities however the increase of salinity should be gradual to avoid shocking the fish. Guppies, mollies and swordtails can be kept in brackish (low salinity) water, however they are best kept in freshwater. These fish can thrive in a home aquarium in the which the water quality is well maintained and live for 3 to 5 years. They belong to the family Poeciliidae. Males in all of these species can be identified by their elongated anal fin, known as the gonopodium. Females have a triangular anal fin. Male swordtails have an extension to the caudal (tail) fin. Males guppies are often brightly coloured compared to the females. This difference has been selectively bred as the wild caught species are much duller. Maximum body length: Platy: female 6 to 10cm and male 4 to 8cm Molly: female 10 to 16cm and male 10 to 15cm Swordtail: female 10 to 12cm and male 8 and 12cm Guppy: female 4 to 6cm and male 3.5 and 5cm Biology These fish make good community tank inhabitants. Generally, they are not aggressive, although male Sailfin mollies (which can be somewhat larger than ordinary mollies) can become aggressive if not paired with a female. These fish will do well with other passive fish that have a preference for medium-hard water conditions. If wishing to breed from your fish then avoid stocking larger fish species which could easily eat the fry as they are born. Compatibility All of these fish are easily bred in home aquariums, in fact it is probably difficult to stop them breeding if you have both sexes. It should be noted that the females may produce between 20 to 80 fry following a pregnancy (which may last 24 to 30 days). It is advisable to keep the female in a suitably large breeding net. She should be separated from the newly arrived young to avoid her eating them. The fry should be reared separately until they are large enough to feed freely and not be easily eaten themselves. Try to avoid stressing a pregnant female. Breeding
Introduction Maintenance Feeding Water requirements Potential problems Aquarium requirements This group of fish are relatively hardy and will adapt to most aquarium water. However, it is advisable to keep the water parameters within the following guidelines although fish may acclimatise to different water conditions over time. Temperature: 20 to 27°C pH: 6.0 to 7.5 Ammonia: 0mg/l (0.02mg/l may be tolerated for short periods) Nitrite: 0mg/l (0.2mg/l may be tolerated for short periods) Hardness: moderately soft to hard (5 to 19°dH) Barbs make an active addition to an aquarium. However, some of them can be aggressive and are notorious fin nippers. These species originate from Asia and belong to the order Cyprinoformes. As these fish should be kept in shoals, a tank of at least 45 litres is recommended. However, adult Tinfoil barbs require a much larger tank of at least 250 litres. Keeping these fish by themselves or in pairs is not advised. They can quickly become stressed which can lead to aggression towards other tank mates or the outbreak of disease. There should be a large swimming space provided in the tank as these fish are very active. Due to the nature and fast metabolism of these fish, the level of dissolved oxygen should be high, especially when keeping the larger species such as the Tinfoil. This can be achieved through the addition of an air pump and air stones or venturi power heads. A heater and filter are also required. Ideally the water should be soft and slightly acidic, this mimics the rivers and streams in which they can be found in the wild. If you need to change your water parameters this should be done slowly over several weeks to avoid stressing the fish. Barbs are fairly hardy fish and have a preference for water which is in the range of 20 to 27°C. Aquarium lighting and a secure lid is beneficial as these fast swimmers may leap from the water from time to time. The majority of these fish are omnivorous, happily feeding upon worms, crustaceans, insects and plant matter. The exception is the Tinfoil barb which prefers a vegetable diet. These fish will readily accept most aquarium foods. However, if keeping the Tinfoil barbs be aware that live plants may be eaten. Their diet should consist of a good quality tropical flake or pellet which should be supplemented with live and frozen foods. These fish should be fed what they can eat within a few minutes 1 to 2 times a day. Remove any uneaten food to reduce waste build-up. A water quality problem will affect fish behaviour and can be shown by clamped fins, reduced feeding, erratic swimming and gasping at the surface. Immediately test the water if any of these symptoms are shown. If in doubt ask your OATA retailer for advice. At least once every two weeks a partial water change of 25 to 30% is strongly recommended (a siphon device is useful to remove waste from the gravel). The water should be tested regularly to ensure pollutants such as ammonia and nitrites do not build up. Ensure you either allow the replacement water to stand or aerate it to remove any chlorine present. Ideally treat all replacement water with tap water conditioner before adding to the aquarium. Filters should be checked for clogging and blockages. If the filter needs cleaning then do not run it under the tap, any chlorine present may kill the beneficial bacterial population that has established in the media. Instead it can be rinsed in the tank water which is removed during a partial water change, this reduces the amount of bacteria which are lost. Good husbandry is essential as these fish can be stressed by even the smallest amounts of ammonia and nitrite. Test the water to monitor the ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels every week, especially during initial set-up and after adding extra fish. The species most often found in the aquarium trade belong to the genus Puntius. The majority of these fish are not large, although there are exceptions such as the Tinfoil barb which grows quickly and has potential to reach 35cm in aquariums. Smaller barbs (such as Tiger, Rosy, Cherry and Ruby barbs) grow to between 5 to 10cm. Females are slightly larger than the males. Tiger barbs are among the top 10 most popular aquarium species. There are different colour variations available including Albino and Green. The males can be distinguished via a reddish nose and red line across the tip of the dorsal fin. In the wild these are active shoaling fish and in the aquarium they need to be kept in groups of four for five, which may also help to lessen aggression towards other fish. These fish can live for 4 to 5 years in a home aquarium in which the water quality is well maintained. Biology Tiger barbs are particularly aggressive fin nippers and therefore should not be kept with any more timid or long finned species. Tinfoil barbs are not aggressive by nature but due to their size should not be kept with small fish species which would fit into their mouth and be swallowed. Other barb species are suitable for most community aquariums. However they also can all display a certain amount of aggression if not kept in shoals. All may nip the fins of other species especially those which swim more slowly or which have longer fins. Compatibility Barbs are among the easier fish species, particularly the Tiger barbs, to breed. Barbs produce large numbers of fry after successful spawning. A larger aquarium is required if you plan to keep the fry alive especially as the adults will eat them voraciously. The male and female fish should be placed into a breeding tank with a spawning mop. Once spawning has occurred remove the adults as they will eat the eggs. The fry should hatch within three or four days. Breeding
Introduction Maintenance Feeding Water requirements Potential problems Aquarium requirements This group of fish are generally viewed as being hardy, although there are exceptions. The water of the aquarium should match the following parameters, although the fish may acclimatise to different water over time: Temperature: the majority tolerate a range 22 to 28°C however Paradise fish can tolerate a cooler 17°C. pH: 6.0 to 8.0 Ammonia: 0mg/l (0.02mg/l may be tolerated for short periods) Nitrite: 0mg/l (0.2mg/l may be tolerated for short periods) Hardness: Moderately soft to hard (5 to19°dH) Anabantids are a diverse group of fish that have adapted to living in oxygen-poor waters. These adaptations include the ability to utilise atmospheric air as a source of oxygen and bubble nesting behaviour which ensures adequate oxygen levels for their developing young. In the wild these species are found in Asia, ranging from India to Cambodia. There is one main species of Betta fish, several colour varieties of Paradise fish and many gouramis currently available from OATA aquatic retailers. The smaller species, such as the Dwarf and Honey gourami, and the Betta fish might be best provided with a minimum aquarium size of 45 litres. The larger species in this group, including the Paradise fish and the Trichogaster gouramis, might be best provided with a minimum aquarium of 90 litres. (There are exceptions such as the Giant gourami, although these are rare in home aquariums). These fish may prefer soft to medium/hard water so check the parameters of your aquarium water, if you wish to change it do it slowly and ask your OATA retailer for advice. These fish can adapt to differing water parameters. A heater is required and a planted tank with a gentle current is advisable. Lights will help to bring out natural colours of the fish, especially in the males, and aid plant growth. If males and females are to be kept, the tank should be able to hold three adults. Male gouramis and Paradise fish have been known to pester females for mating a ratio of 2:1(females:males) is recommended. Male Bettas must be kept by themselves as they are very aggressive towards one another. This group of fish are omnivores. In the wild they have a preference towards a meaty diet and are found feeding upon insect larvae, crustaceans and zooplankton. In the home aquarium they should be provided with a good quality tropical flake or pellet and supplemented with frozen, freeze dried and live foods. These fish should be fed what they can eat within a few minutes 1 to 2 times a day. Remove any uneaten food to reduce waste build-up. A water quality problem will affect fish behaviour and can be shown by clamped fins, reduced feeding, erratic swimming and gasping at the surface. Immediately test the water if any of these symptoms are shown. If in doubt ask your OATA retailer for advice. At least once every two weeks a partial water change of 25 to 30% is strongly recommended (a siphon device is useful to remove waste from the gravel). The water should be tested regularly to ensure pollutants such as ammonia and nitrites do not build up. Ensure you either allow the replacement water to stand or aerate it to remove any chlorine present. Ideally treat all replacement water with tap water conditioner before adding to the aquarium. Filters should be checked for clogging and blockages. If the filter needs cleaning then do not run it under the tap, any chlorine present may kill the beneficial bacterial population that has established in the media. Instead it can be rinsed in the tank water which is removed during a partial water change, this reduces the amount of bacteria which are lost. Good husbandry is essential as these fish can be stressed by even the smallest amounts of ammonia and nitrite. Test the water to monitor the ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels every week, especially during initial set-up and after adding extra fish. This group of fish all belong to the family Osphronemidae and are characterised by their labyrinth organ which allows these species to survive in warm, low oxygen waters. Male gouramis have a pointed dorsal fin and elongated anal fin rays. Males of this group are more colourful than females, this is often enhanced during breeding times. The common aquarium fish can reach the following sizes: gouramis 7 to 15cm; Paradise Fish 6 to 10cm; Siamese fighter 6.5 to 7.5cm In good water quality and without ailments, these fish can thrive for many years in an aquarium. Many members of this family have a characteristic elongated ray on each pelvic fin. These are similar to whiskers and are used to sense their surroundings. Male Betta fish are known for their extremely elongated fins and bright colouration. Biology These fish are generally thought of as non-aggressive and therefore can be a good addition to a non-aggressive community tank. They add a welcome attraction to the surface of an aquarium as they gulp the air using the labyrinth organ. Betta fish are not recommended for semi-aggressive or aggressive community tanks because, due to their long fins, they are often subjected to fin nipping which can lead to disease and death. Compatibility The majority of Anabantids use bubble nests during breeding however, there are a few species which have different strategies. A bubble nest is a delicate structure produced from the mouth of the female or male and sometimes contains plant debris to help hold it together. The eggs will be placed into this and, due to its delicate nature, water flow from filters should be reduced. The male and female Anabantids will ‘dance’ during courtship, once this has successfully occurred the eggs will be deposited into the nest. The male will fiercely defend this area from all other fish. The eggs will usually hatch within 1 day and within 2 to 3 days you may see the young swimming. Breeding
Introduction Maintenance Feeding Water requirements Potential problems Aquarium requirements This group of fish are relatively hardy with the possible exception of the Silver (Bala) Shark. However, it is advisable to keep the water parameters within the following guidelines although fish may acclimatise to different water conditions over time: Temperature: 22 to 26°C pH: 6.5 to 7.5 Ammonia: 0mg/l (0.02mg/l may be tolerated for short periods) Nitrite: 0mg/l (0.2mg/l may be tolerated for short periods) Hardness: Moderately soft to moderately hard (5 to 15°dH) This group of fish are not really sharks at all as they lack cartilage and teeth and are more closely related to the humble minnow. In a freshwater tropical aquarium, they can make striking additions. In the wild they can be found in South East Asia. Due to the size they can reach when mature, a minimum tank size of 100 litres will be required for adult specimens. This is especially true for the Silver sharks which need to be kept in groups of four or five. Be aware that if a small aquarium is first purchased, a bigger one will be required as the fish grow. The aquarium should be filtered, heated and aerated. All of these species are active swimmers so there should be no sharp objects or ornaments which could cause injury. Ideally the tank should contain robust plant species and bogwood, with large open swimming spaces. A secure hood is also recommended because these fish may leap from the water and aquarium lighting should be supplied to aid the growth of the plants and bring out good colouration in the fish. Fine gravel or sand can help to mimic the natural environment of lakes and rivers from which these fish originate. Wherever possible, try to maintain soft slightly acidic water. This is preferred by these species. Although they will tolerate harder alkaline water, colouration and behaviour may be better in acidic water. If you wish to change the water hardness this should always be done slowly over time to avoid stressing your fish. These species are all omnivores, feeding upon a mixture of micro-algae and plankton in the wild. Therefore, this should be replicated in the home aquarium. A good quality flake or pellet should be fed as the staple diet with the addition of some live and frozen foods. The Rainbow and Red-Tailed sharks will also feed off micro algae growing on the surfaces of the aquarium. These fish should be fed what they can eat in a few minutes 1 to 2 times a day. Remove any uneaten food to prevent waste build-up. A water quality problem will affect fish behaviour and can be shown by clamped fins, reduced feeding, erratic swimming and gasping at the surface. Immediately test the water if any of these symptoms are shown. If in doubt ask your OATA retailer for advice. At least once every two weeks a partial water change of 25 to 30% is strongly recommended (a siphon device is useful to remove waste from the gravel). The water should be tested regularly to ensure that pollutants such as ammonia and nitrites don’t build up. Ensure you either allow the replacement water to stand or aerate it to remove any chlorine present. Ideally treat all replacement water with tap water conditioner before adding to the aquarium. Filters should be checked for clogging and blockages. If the filter needs cleaning then do not run it under the tap, any chlorine present may kill the beneficial bacterial population that has established in the media. Instead it can be rinsed in the tank water which is removed during a partial water change, this reduces the amount of bacteria which are lost. Good husbandry is essential as these fish can be stressed by even the smallest amounts of ammonia and nitrite. Test the water to monitor the ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels every week, especially during initial set-up and after adding extra fish. There are five main species of freshwater shark available for the home aquarium, however two of them grow to a size that most hobbyists would not be able to house. These are the Black Shark (Labeo chrysophekadion) 90cm and the Iridescent Shark (Pangasius hypophthalamus) 100cm. The three remaining species are the Silver, Red-Tailed Black and Rainbow sharks. These will grow to a maximum size of 12 to 30cm in home aquariums. All of these species are endangered in their wild habitats and it is believed that the Red-Tailed Black shark is extinct in the wild due to habitat loss. All specimens found in the aquarium trade are captive bred. In a well-maintained aquarium with good water quality, these fish can survive for many years due to slow growth rates. The Red-Tailed shark has reportedly lived for more than 8 years. The Red-Tailed and Rainbow sharks are good tank cleaners, with mouths situated on the lower side of the head making them good bottom feeders. They can make useful additions to reduce the build-up of micro algae and remove uneaten foods in the gravel. Biology Silver Sharks are large fish which require a large aquarium to house the required numbers (four or five). However, they are also one of the few larger species which may peacefully co-habit with smaller species such as tetras and danios. In fact they are a welcome addition to most large community tanks. The Rainbow and Red Tailed sharks are reasonable peaceful fish while juvenile, however they become more aggressive as they get older. Therefore they are not suited to mix with placid fish such as small tetras and guppies. They can be kept successfully with larger tetras, danios, barbs and rainbowfish. Be aware that if two specimens are kept together, one may almost certainly harass and dominate the other, this often leads to reduced feeding, poor health. Compatibility These fish are not reported to have been successfully bred in home aquariums, however the majority available are captive bred. Breeding
Introduction Maintenance Feeding Water requirements Potential problems Aquarium requirements These fish are highly sensitive to the water in which they live, how well you manage the water quality in the aquarium will determine how successful you will be as a discus keeper. It is recommended you maintain the following conditions in your aquariums: Temperature: 26 to 30°C pH: 6.0 to 7.5 Ammonia: 0mg/l (0.02mg/l may be tolerated for short periods) Nitrite: 0mg/l (0.2mg/l may be tolerated for short periods) Hardness: soft to moderately hard (0 to 12°dH) Discus belong to the genus Symphysodon and are held in the highest regard among fish keepers and by some as the ultimate freshwater tropical species. These cichlids are found in the wild in South America. They do not have the same aggressive temperament as many other cichlids but have much more specialised care requirements. It is recommended discus are kept in groups of four or five. This coupled with the size they reach and the good water quality requirements mean large aquariums are recommended. As a guide they might be best provided with a minimum tank size of 200 litres. The addition of rocks and bogwood décor helps to mimic the natural environment. If you have a planted aquarium, be sure to provide the fish with open swimming spaces large enough to allow your group to move freely. Good filtration is necessary to ensure the water chemistry remains stable. Other equipment required includes a heater, thermometer, lighting and water testing kit. These fish live in moderately soft water. In order to achieve this the use of a RO water with added salts and minerals, dechlorinated tap water or de-ionised water is recommended. The fish may benefit most from the use of RO water. This will make the water extremely soft and allow for easy pH adjustments. Try, where possible, to match the water of your retailer when first purchased, and if you want to change the water from these levels do it slowly over a period of weeks. Captive bred discus are somewhat hardier than previously available wild caught fish and can tolerate slightly alkaline harder water. Discus are carnivores, therefore they require a meat-based diet. The use of specially formulated cichlid/discus foods occasionally supplemented with frozen beef heart and other frozen and live foods should provide a suitable diet. These fish should be fed what they can eat within a few minutes 2 to 3 times a day. Remove any uneaten food to reduce waste build-up. A water quality problem will affect fish behaviour and can be shown by clamped fins, reduced feeding, erratic swimming and gasping at the surface. Immediately test the water if any of these symptoms are shown. If in doubt ask your OATA retailer for advice. At least once every two weeks a partial water change of 25 to 30%, is strongly recommended although, more frequent smaller water changes would be preferable as this species is quite sensitive to rapid change. (a siphon device is useful to remove waste from the gravel). The water should be tested regularly to ensure that pollutants such as ammonia and nitrites do not build up. Ensure you either allow the replacement water to stand or aerate it to remove any chlorine present. Ideally treat all replacement water with tap water conditioner before adding to the aquarium. Filters should be checked for clogging and blockages. If the filter needs cleaning then do not run it under the tap, any chlorine present may kill the beneficial bacterial population that has established in the media. Instead it can be rinsed in the tank water which is removed during a partial water change, this reduces the amount of bacteria which are lost. Good husbandry is essential as these fish can be stressed by even the smallest amounts of ammonia and nitrite. Test the water to monitor the ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels every week, especially during initial set-up and after adding extra fish. These fish are fairly large although they do not grow quickly, a maximum body diameter of 20cm may be achieved in the ideal water conditions. All discus have a flattened body with short fins – it is this body shape which gives rise to the common name ‘discus’. There is no easily discernible difference between the males and females, both species are brightly coloured and of similar size when fully grown. They can be sexed during breeding by looking at the genital papilla, which is pointed in males and rounded in females. The Symphysodon genus contains three species from which the aquarium fish are derived. However, these three species are yet to be agreed among scientists, with recent studies contradicting each other. There are many vibrant colour varieties available to purchase. Many have been especially bred for the aquarium market and can make striking displays in tanks. Discus have a small stomach so eat regularly and can be found actively searching for food throughout the day. Biology Most discus enthusiasts keep their fish in species only tanks, due to the strict water quality they require. Often they can be kept with other hardy catfish such as members of the Corydoras family and medium sized tetras. There are reports of single specimens kept in community tanks failing to thrive. Compatibility A group of juvenile discus bought together (and with a bit of luck) will form pairings. Alternatively some shops may also sell a proven breeding pair, however they are often more expensive. A pair which is ready to breed will need to be placed into a breeding tank. This should be large enough for two adults and contain an unobstructed vertical surface onto which they can lay their eggs. Carry out regular partial water changes to induce spawning. Eggs are deposited onto a vertical surface. These will hatch after three days and the free swimming fry will feed from mucus supplied through the skin of their parents. Fry food should be supplied from five days and remove young from the parents’ tank to a separate tank at around two weeks of age. Breeding
Introduction Maintenance Feeding Water requirements Potential problems Aquarium requirements The Malawi cichlids are a specialised group of fish and this is reflected in the water parameters. The following is preferred but they can be acclimatised to other water over time: Temperature: 23 to 28°C pH: 8.0 to 8.6 Ammonia: 0mg/l (0.02mg/l may be tolerated for short periods) Nitrite: 0mg/l (0.2mg/l may be tolerated for short periods) Hardness: Slightly hard to hard (9 to 19°dH) Malawi cichlids are very colourful, diverse and aggressive fish. It is thought they are some of the most colourful tropical fish that can be kept. In the wild they are found in Lake Malawi, Africa. This is the third largest lake in Africa, eight largest in the world and thought to hold more fish species than any other lake on the planet. This group of fish require relatively large tanks, this helps to reduce aggression and should provide space for territories to be established. This might best be provided by a tank of minimum size of 100 litres. If a smaller tank is purchased it may need to be upgraded in the future. These fish often dig into the substrate with their mouths, therefore a smooth gravel (not horticultural gravel) or sand base should be used to avoid injury. In order to maintain the alkalinity of the water, coral gravel can be placed into the filter. Good filtration is a must in cichlid tanks. These fish are relatively dirty compared to other tropical species. The aquarium will also require lighting. The fish’s colouration shows up best under white light. A heater, thermometer and secure lid are also required. Rocks and caves provide territories, the use of limestone and coral rock may help to maintain the hard alkaline water which is preferred, even in soft water areas. The tank should be large enough to house each species to be kept in a ratio of 1:2/3 (male:female). This prevents the males from harassing a single female. If juveniles are bought it may be difficult to sex the fish. Ask your OATA retailer for advice. These fish are omnivores in the wild and will feed insatiably. They should be fed two to three times a day in an aquarium. They will be seen actively picking up rock to eat the algae. Remove any uneaten food to reduce the build-up of waste. For the home aquarium there are specialised cichlid pellets available. These act as a good staple diet, although this can also be supplemented with fresh vegetables and algae tablets. A water quality problem will affect fish behaviour and can be shown by clamped fins, reduced feeding, erratic swimming and gasping at the surface. Immediately test the water if any of these symptoms are shown. If in doubt ask your OATA retailer for advice. At least once every two weeks a partial water change of 25 to 30% is strongly recommended (a siphon device is useful to remove waste from the gravel). The water should be tested regularly to ensure that pollutants such as ammonia and nitrites do not build up. Ensure you either allow the replacement water to stand or aerate it to remove any chlorine present. Ideally treat all replacement water with tap water conditioner before adding to the aquarium. Filters should be checked for clogging and blockages. If the filter needs cleaning then do not run it under the tap as any chlorine present may kill the beneficial bacterial population that has established in the media. Instead, it can be rinsed in the tank water which is removed during a partial water change as this reduces the amount of bacteria which are lost. Good husbandry is essential as these fish can be stressed by even the smallest amounts of ammonia and nitrite. Test the water to monitor the ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels every week, especially during initial set-up and after adding extra fish. There are 13 genera into which the Malawi cichlids can be placed. All of these fish are somewhat aggressive although this varies from species to species. The size range of this group is reasonably large, however depending upon the aquarium into which they are to be housed, there is generally a Malawi which would be appropriate. They can grow to between 5 to 20cm. Many of these fish show colour differences between the sexes. The males are often brightly coloured and females slightly duller. In some species, egg spots can be found on the anal fin of the males. Juveniles do not always show differences, sometimes you need to wait until the fish are adult before accurate sexing can occur. This group of fish are mouth brooders, the female or male (species dependant) will carry the fry in his/her mouth until they are large enough to feed. In good water quality and without ailments, these fish can thrive for many years in an aquarium. Biology Malawi cichlids should not be added to a community set-up due to their aggressive nature. They need to be kept in cichlid-only tanks. Other possible tank mates could include catfish of the Synodontis catfish family. These catfish originate from similar waters as Malawi cichlids and will adapt well to the same water conditions. While originating from a different continent, common plecs and bristlenoses may also be compatible in a Malawi cichlid tank. When stocking your cichlid aquarium try to introduce a small group of fish. This can help prevent one or two individuals becoming territorial over the entire tank. If you do want to add more at a later date, try rearranging the décor (rock and caves) soon after the new fish are added. This means that the fish have to concentrate in establishing new territories and reduces fighting. Compatibility Some Malawi Cichlids can be bred in an aquarium. They are mouth brooders which is different to many other tropical species, making breeding a rewarding challenge. Malawis will successfully breed in a tank with other fish and if there are plenty of hiding places, some of the fry may survive. A male will usually exhibit bright colours and show digging behaviour before spawning occurs. The female will hold the fertilised eggs in her mouth for between 21 to 40 days. The fry, when released, are larger than most other fry and can feed readily. Breeding
Introduction Maintenance Feeding Water requirements Potential problems Aquarium requirements Catfish are fairly hardy fish and like all fish they will thrive in water closest to their natural environment but may acclimatise to different water over time. Temperature: 21 to 28°C pH: 6.5 to 8.5 (species dependent) Ammonia: 0mg/l (0.02mg/l may be tolerated for short periods) Nitrite: 0mg/l (0.2mg/l may be tolerated for short periods) Hardness: Soft to very hard (2 to 29dH° species dependent) Catfish are a popular addition to a tropical set-up. They are found throughout the world’s freshwater systems and are often sourced from Asia, South America and the African lakes. The most common types of catfish found in the aquaium trade are Corydoras and suckermouth catfish, although there are many others available. The size of the aquarium required to house catfish depends upon the species kept. Some species, including the corys, Banjo, Glass and some suckermouth catfish, remain small, therefore might be best provided with a tank of 90 litres. If more specialised species are to be kept such as the Synodontis and Pictus catfish a larger tank of 120+ litres is recommended. There are other catfish available which get very large, such as the Red-Tailed, Pangasuis and Shark catfish. These can reach over a metre in length when mature and the average hobbyist cannot meet their requirements in the home environment. Some catfish are reclusive animals, therefore caves and shelter should be provided. Often species are nocturnal therefore will not be seen until the lights are turned off. For these species a blue moon light can be added to the tank if you would like to observe activity at night. The exact water requirements are entirely species dependent. Seek further advice from your OATA retailer regarding your species. Live or artificial plants are beneficial as they can help to mimic the natural streams, lakes and rivers in which these fish can be found. Sand or gravel substrate is recommended so that the fish can scavenge and dig through it to locate food and detritus. The tank needs to be heated. Predominantly, catfish eat insects and crustaceans, and some of the larger species are carnivores. In the home aquarium they should be provided with tropical catfish food and supplemented with frozen and live meaty foods, such as bloodworm, insect larvae and brine shrimps. Catfish will often feed until their stomach is distended, and some feeding behaviours can be fascinating to watch, such as the Upside-Down catfish. These fish should be fed what they can eat within a few minutes 1 to 2 times a day. Remove any uneaten food to reduce waste build-up. A water quality problem will affect fish behaviour and can be shown by clamped fins, reduced feeding, erratic swimming and gasping at the surface. Immediately test the water if any of these symptoms are shown. If in doubt, ask your OATA retailer for advice. At least once every two weeks a partial water change of 25 to 30% is strongly recommended (a siphon device is useful to remove waste from the gravel). The water should be tested regularly to ensure pollutants such as ammonia and nitrites do not build up. Ensure you either allow the replacement water to stand or aerate it to remove any chlorine present. Ideally treat all replacement water with tap water conditioner before adding to the aquarium. Filters should be checked for clogging and blockages. If the filter needs cleaning then do not run it under the tap as any chlorine present may kill the beneficial bacterial population that has established in the media. Instead, it can be rinsed in the tank water which is removed during a partial water change as this reduces the amount of bacteria which are lost. Good husbandry is essential as these fish can be stressed by even the smallest amounts of ammonia and nitrite. Test the water to monitor the ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels every week, especially during initial set-up and after adding extra fish. Due to the geographical range of aquarium catfish, there are many genera which are available. This wide range leads to big differences in body size, which can grow between 2cm to 150cm (species dependent) and longevity, which can go between 5 to 20+ years (species dependent in good water quality and without ailments.) Sexing catfish is not easy. Many have no discernible differences between males and females including the Glass catfish, suckermouth catfish and Banjo catfish. Corydoras catfish can be distinguished by differences in fins and width of body. Catfish often have barbels situated near their mouth. These are used for location of food, as they act as olfactory organs (smell) and to aid movement through dark or murky waters. The species Pimelodus pictus (Pictus catfish) has barbels which are often the length of its body. These barbels and fins can easily become entangled in nets so care should be taken when handling. Most catfish do not have scales; instead they can be armoured with bony plates, such the corys, or fleshy like the Pictus and Synodontis varieties. Biology Some catfish are quite reclusive but can be added to most community aquariums depending upon the other fish being kept. The smaller corys and Glass catfish will happily cohabit with other small fish such as tetras, livebearers and Rasboras. They also need to be kept in shoals, and it is recommended that these be a minimum size of at least five individuals. These species will not usually thrive by themselves or in pairs. The larger Synodontis and Pictus cannot be kept with small species because they will eat them, however they can be added to community tanks containing larger species and also kept alongside some active cichlids. Compatibility Most catfish will not breed in the home aquarium (with the exception of the corys). In order to induce spawning the temperature of the tank should be raised by two or three degrees for two weeks. After the two weeks a large water change should be carried out. This can induce spawning. Wait for the egg casing to harden then gently remove the eggs and place into a small tank filled with water from the aquarium. The fry should hatch within three or four days. Breeding
Introduction Maintenance Feeding Water requirements Potential problems Aquarium requirements This group of fish are fairly robust and do well in an appropriate aquarium water. In the wild they thrive in slightly soft acidic water but can acclimatise to different water in time: Temperature: 22 to 28°C pH: 6.0 to 8.0 Ammonia: 0mg/l (0.02mg/l may be tolerated for short periods) Nitrite: 0mg/l (0.2mg/l) may be tolerated for short periods) Hardness: Soft to hard (0 to 20°dH) This is a group of moderately aggressive to aggressive fish which originate from Central and South America and are members of the cichlid family. Some of the more common species you are likely to find for sale will be covered in this leaflet including the Angelfish, Oscar, Parrot cichlid, Severum, Firemouth cichlid, Convict cichlid and Jack Dempsey. Due to the size and aggressive nature of this group of fish a relatively large aquarium is required. This may be best provided with a tank of 90 to 250 litres dependant upon species. Be aware that if a smaller aquarium is purchased initially it will need to be upgraded as these fish grow. These fish require an open swimming space and a planted area. It is also advisable that the base of the aquarium should contain rocks and bogwood to provide some cover. For the more aggressive species such as the Severum, Jack Dempsey and Convicts it is advisable that these plants are artificial as they will be dug up and damaged easily. The Angelfish require a taller tank due to body shape and it is advised that it is planted. The aquarium will also require lighting and heating. Be careful where the heater is situated as some of these more aggressive fish can break it if they swim into it. Filtration should be effective, these fish get large and like other cichlids are messy and will quickly pollute tank water with faeces and waste. Oscars and Severums are both carnivores feeding upon small fish, worms and insect larvae. The remaining fish are omnivores, however meaty foods are preferred. In the home aquarium, these fish will accept most foods. It is important to supplement tropical flakes and pellets with live, frozen and freeze dried foods. These fish should be fed what they can eat within a few minutes 1 to 2 times a day. Remove any uneaten food to reduce waste build-up. A water quality problem will affect fish behaviour and can be shown by clamped fins, reduced feeding, erratic swimming and gasping at the surface. Immediately test the water if any of these symptoms are shown. If in doubt ask your OATA retailer for advice. At least once every two weeks a partial water change of 25 to 30% is strongly recommended (a siphon device is useful to remove waste from the gravel). The water should be tested regularly to ensure that pollutants such as ammonia and nitrites don’t build up. Ensure you either allow the replacement water to stand or aerate it to remove any chlorine present. Ideally treat all replacement water with tap water conditioner before adding to the aquarium. Filters should be checked for clogging and blockages. If the filter needs cleaning then do not run it under the tap as any chlorine present may kill the beneficial bacterial population that has established in the media. Instead, it can be rinsed in the tank water which is removed during a partial water change as this reduces the amount of bacteria which are lost. Good husbandry is essential as these fish can be stressed by even the smallest amounts of ammonia and nitrite. Test the water to monitor the ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels every week, especially during initial set-up and after adding extra fish. These fish get relatively large in size. The common aquarium sizes are listed below: Oscars: 25 to 45cm. Parrots: 15 to 20cm. Convicts: 10 to 15cm. Severum: 15 to 20cm. Firemouth: 15 to 20cm. Jack Dempsey: 10 to 25cm. Angelfish: 7.5 to 15cm. These fish can all (except the parrot cichlid) be found inhabiting American river systems, including the Amazon. The parrot cichlid is not a true species. Instead, it is believed to be a hybrid between two or more Central American cichlids, although the exact ancestry of this species is unclear. Being a hybrid, this fish does not possess a scientific name. In good water quality and without ailments these fish can live for many years. They grow quickly and will reach maturity within a short time frame. Sexing: Parrots: unknown. Convict: adult males are larger with longer fins and develop a fatty lump on the forehead. Jack Dempsey: males have pointed dorsal and anal fins. Firemouth: adult males are larger and more brightly coloured. Severum: Males have pointed fins. Oscar: no obvious difference. Angelfish: adult males usually larger. Biology It is normal for cichlid species to be very aggressive. This is true for the Oscars, Firemouth, Jack Dempsey, Parrot and Convicts. For these fish it is suggested they are kept alone or with other robust aggressive cichlids. There needs to be plenty of space because these fish are territorial. They can be kept with large bottom feeding fish such as Synodontis catfish and plecos. The remaining two fish, Angels and Severums, are not as aggressive. Severums can be kept with other medium-large peaceful fish. The Angelfish is a good addition to a community tank and can be housed with small fish if bought as a juvenile. Compatibility The majority of these fish can be successfully bred in the home aquarium except for the Parrots, due to them being a hybrid species and many hybrid species are infertile. They are all egg layers and will be seen cleaning a flat surface prior to breeding. Once the eggs are laid the parents will protect their fry either in a small school, or in the case of the Jack Dempsey, their fry will be placed into pre-dug pits in the substrate. The Severum use bi-parental mouth brooding, meaning both the male and female carry the young. Breeding