Category Archives: video posts

Monterey Bay Aquarium – Open Sea Gallery

I am in San Jose, CA, this weekend visiting friends and giving a talk to the Pacific Coast Cichlid Association.  I made the pilgrimage to Monterey for lunch and a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  I only shot video of one gallery this time.  I have several videos of this wonderful aquarium already posted, but I cannot go to any aquarium without making at least one video.  The Open Sea gallery is unique.  There are lots of places with kelp forests, tide pools, coral reefs and rocky shores.  Monterey Bay Aquarium is the only place I have been to with big tuna!  Enjoy…

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Breeding Project: Endler’s Livebearers and Small Guppies

I have been looking for an opportunity to start working with some small livebearer species for a while, but I have not pulled the trigger on buying small groups of fish that would take a long time to build up into a good size colony.  I want some livebearers types that are desirable as aquarium subjects, but will also produce enough culls to feed my growing collection of small predatory fish like dwarf pike cichlids and small wolf fish.  A member of our local club (Madison Area Aquatic Hobbyists), Jeff Zwicker, recently posted an ad to sell his colonies of Endler’s livebearers and other guppy types, so I took a trip out to see them… and made a purchase.  Six different colonies!  Enjoy the video….

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One of my favorites…

Pelvicachromis kribensis ‘Moliwe’ is one of my all-time favorite fish.  I am rarely without a pair.  I still have a few fish that are descendants of fish that I brought back from Cameroon in 2009, but the pair in this video is a wild pair imported about 6 months ago.  This is the second spawn.  You may wonder why I have these larger tetras in the tank, because they can be a risk to the fry.  Watch the parents work together to protect their brood.  I want to see that behavior, and I believe that the need to work together to protect the fry makes the pair better parents.  Enjoy…

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Unpacking a Shrimp Order – 3 Part video

I am presenting a video about importing, acclimating and quarantine of freshwater shrimp in a three-video series.  Part One describes the unpacking, initial inspection and acclimation of the shrimp.  Part two shows the first feeding.  Part three will cover additional inspection.

Shrimp are more delicate than most fish species, so the process for acclimating them is different than for fish.  Unfortunately, if the shrimp arrive in poor condition and the water fouled, the ‘cut and dump’ method used for fish would result in a ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ situation.  Leaving the shrimp in the crappy bag water will kill them, but so will dumping them into new water without acclimating them.  Having a good supplier who knows how to ship shrimp is, therefore, very important.  I stopped buying shrimp in 2014 because of problems at arrival, as well as a rampant parasite issue.

Part One will describe the steps I use for acclimating shrimp, and how I inspect them for parasite problems.

Part Two describes the first feeding of the shrimp.  I use a gel food combination of my own diet, Ted’s Most Excellent and Repashy’s Super Green (equal amounts of each), and present the food in small ceramic feeding discs.  I like the discs because it keeps the food in one place and allows me to see how well the shrimp are getting to it and the amount that they are eating.

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Overhauling My Reverse Osmosis Filter

I use pure water created by a reverse osmosis machine to soften my rock-hard tap water so I can breed soft-water fish species.  I also use it when I import fish from places where the water is very soft, so it is easier to acclimate them to life in hard water over a week or so.  On a daily or weekly basis, I use relatively little RO water, about 30-40 gallons.  When I need to use soft water for acclimating an importation of fish, however, I will use about 400 gallons!  So my RO machine will produce 180 gallons per day, and I store the water in two 220-gallon containers until I need it.

A month ago I decided to work harder to spawn some of my Apistogramma and other soft water species.  They all looked good, but none of them were breeding.  My test kits and meters were long-gone, so I bought some new testers, which indicated that I had a problem with hard water.  Specifically, by reverse osmosis membranes had given up the ghost and needed to be replaced.  That is the topic of this video… the overhauling of an old RO machine.  Enjoy….

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Breeding Project: Apistogramma

Merry Christmas!

Here is the next installment in the Breeding Project video series, but this time I will not be introducing just a single species.  Instead, this video is going to describe what I do when I am working with any species in the genus Apistogramma.  Enjoy…

Breeding Apistogramma – full transcript

Time for another Breeding Project, but this time I am not going to describe a single species. This video will describe the strategies I use to breed Apistogramma, dwarf cichlids from South America.

There are differences between species of apistos, but for the most part the tanks are set up the same. I will describe the basic layout of the tank, filtration, water changes and feeding, and then address the methods I use to get the water parameters right. I will end with a little tour of the different Apistogramma species I am currently hoping to spawn.

I use relatively small aquariums for breeding Apistos, usually a 10-gallon tank for most species, and maybe a 15-gallon or 20-gallon long aquarium for larger, more boisterous species, or for species that breed in trios or harems.

Let’s start with a bare tank and set it up for housing a pair of apistos. This is a 10-gallon aquarium faced end-out on the aquarium. Orientation does not matter, but going end-out makes it easier to create some visually-isolated hiding places in the tank.

Substrate is a secondary concern to me. Apistogramma are not big diggers, so having a layer of sand or gravel on the bottom is not required. I like to use a light dusting of sand, maybe ¼” at the deepest, for aesthetics, but I think that an apisto will be perfectly happy in a bare tank. Especially if there is some leaf litter (which we will get to).

I use small, air-driven sponge filters to keep the water clean. And I want the air flow to the filter to be adjustable. I turn the air down and raise the lift tube up to the surface so that the water flow does not disturb the overall calmness of the water in the tank. Most apistos are not found in fast moving water. Most are found in bottom-land swampy areas with no current at all.

Something that I do that most people do not, is place a yarn spawning mop in the back of the tank next to the filter. The purpose of the mop is to provide a dense hiding place in the tank. Fish that are being chased can escape under, behind or even into the yarn of the mop. The mop will also collect some detritus as it ages, and will become a source of microscopic food particles for small fry. The yarn will also be more surface area for beneficial bacteria in the aquarium, which helps the water stay clean.

I use a spawning cave of some type in the tank. The caves can be just about anything that provides a protected place for the female to lay her eggs in. Apistogramma prefer to lay their eggs on vertical surfaces, or the roof of the cave. Small openings are also helpful. The male does not need to fit in the hole, because be can flood the cave with his milt… but the fertilization rate will be higher if he can get into the spawning site with the female.

A piece of driftwood provides more structure, and will also release tannin into the water. Tannin helps to lower the pH in soft water, and has some chemical properties that benefit the fish in ways that are not completely understood. The natural habitats for these dwarf cichlids are usually black-water habitats with a lot of tannin.

Leaf litter is a natural cover, which also provides hiding places, adds tannin and reduces the pH. I like to use oak, elm, beech and magnolia leaves, which much be dry before using them. I soak the leaves in hot water, and let them sit in the water overnight, before using them. Soaking removes most of the tannin and helps the leaves to sink. There will still be plenty of tannin in the leaves to benefit the fish. I do not use any type of chestnut, hickory or walnut leaves, which contain some alkali chemicals that can kill the fish.

I maintain my fish room temperature at 75F, and the top row of tanks on my racks stay about that temperature all the time, so I do not use heaters in apisto tanks. A few species like water temperature to be a bit warmer, so I may use a heater for them, or a may use a heater to increase temperature to get a reluctant pair to spawn.

When I start an aquarium for a new breeding pair, I use my tap water in the aquarium because the fish have been quarantined in my tap water. I let the aquarium run for a couple days before adding the fish.

I have the advantage of being able to see many individuals to choose from. I pick females based upon color. A female that is showing breeding colors in the quarantine tank is probably a dominant female. I like to start breeding pairs as trios, with the second female being slightly smaller than the first that I choose.   Sometimes the two females live in harmony, and sometimes one is chased a lot. A female that is being chased too much will be removed once it is apparent that the male and dominant female are going to get along.

The fish I choose are young and vibrant. I do not want a big, old male. Large dwarf cichlid males may be a bit past their prime. Males are also going to be aggressive towards the female at first, so a smaller male is less likely to kill her.

I start to soften the water a day after I introduce the breeders to the aquarium. The automated water changer is not turned on over these tanks. Once each week I remove 50% of the water and replace it with reverse osmosis water. Each week the water will become a little softer, and a little more acidic.

The staple, everyday food for the breeding Apistogramma is live baby brine shrimp. Also feed my Ted’s Most Excellent gel food every other day, and live black worms once or twice each week.

My method to lowering the pH is to let it happen naturally in the aquarium. In my experience, this takes some time, and old, well-established tanks will maintain a more consistently lower pH. So I rarely start over on tanks for breeding apistos. I just let the humus in the tank build up. I do remove some of the mulm and clean the filters, but I never give the tanks a really thorough scrubbing.

The pH is not going to be significantly reduced in your aquariums unless the buffering capacity of the water, which is measured as KH or carbonate hardness, is very low. This is why, if you have hard alkaline water, a reverse osmosis filter or other source of very soft water is necessary to really get serious about breeding lots of soft water cichlids. Not all species need the low pH, but many of them do.

I do a 50% water change on my breeding tanks once each week. Between water changes the tannins in the tank can build up to make the water look like dark iced tea. When the leaves stop staining the water this dark, I know that it is time to add new leaves.

The last thing to mention is the interactions between dwarf cichlids and other fish. Dither fish are important to help cichlids feel more comfortable and to give them some targets to attract their attention. I like to use small tetras or pencil fish as dithers. Here is a tank with Nannostomus mortenthaleri, the coral red pencil type 1 as a dither. This tank has candelita tetras, a nano species from Peru. Here is the other coral red pencil, Nannostomus rubrocaudatus. This is Nannostomus beckfordi, which is probably my favorite dither, because it is hardy and inexpensive.

Interactions with other cichlids are also important, but when keeping the pairs in small tanks, the results of those interactions can be lethal. Having a row of aquariums side by side can help. I try to keep cichlids of the same species, or at least in the same species group, in adjacent tanks where they can see each other through the glass. The fish will display and spar with each other through the glass without being able to actually fight.

Using a mirror every now and then can also substitute for interaction between cichlids, but the trick can grow old if it is used to often. I use ‘mirror therapy’ infrequently, no more than once or twice each week, and only with pairs that I am trying to trigger to spawn because they have been reluctant to get down to business. I leave the mirror in for about 20 minutes, or until the fish stop flaring at their reflection. Mirror therapy sessions are great opportunities for taking photographs or videos.

In my experience, consistency is the key to success for breeding apistos, except when whatever you are doing in the tank is not working. Healthy dwarf cichlids that are in good condition should spawn readily, so when a good-looking pair does not spawn after a few weeks, I start to change things up. The only sure fire way to NOT be successful spawning fish is to do the same thing that is not working over and over again.

That is how I set up a tank to breed soft water dwarf cichlids. Now let’s take a look at a few of the species that I currently working with.

Apistogramma allpahuayo – the Peru black-chin

Apistogramma allpahuayo is a cacatuoides-group apisto that can be found in bottomland swamps in northern Peru. These black chins are exported as the ‘yellow’ variety, but I collected these myself during my trip to Peru last August. There are other varieties available, and I am working with three of them. This is the variety from the Rio Tigre. They are still quite young, but the females are already sparring for dominance. This was imported as Apistogramma allpahuayo ‘blue’, and it is a very pretty type. I think that it looks a lot like the Rio Tigre form, however, and I am not sure exactly where it comes from in Peru.

Apistogramma sp. ‘schwarzkehl’

The black-throat dwarf cichlid is an undescribed species from Colombia, that was exported to me as another species. I think this is a very pretty apisto, but I only held back one trio to work with. Of the two females in the tank, one is clearly dominant, and the other is serving as a target, but the pair has not tried to kill her. I have gotten fry from this pair once, but they were eaten. Hopefully they will spawn again soon.

Apistogramma sp. Kelleri

This cichlid is one of the two mouth brooding species that we know of. Kelleri is still undescribed. It is a larger species, and I have seen males that are pushing 5”. I have had this pair for a year, and have seen the female guarding eggs several times, but I have never seen her hold the larvae in her mouth. I recently moved them to a larger aquarium, and have not seen a spawn yet, though today the female is showing spawning colors and trying to get the male to enter the cave. Maybe they will spawn soon.

Apistogramma cf. leulingi

This pair of apistos are not wild caught fish. I received fry from a friend who brought the original pair back from southern Peru a couple years ago. The experts say that this is not the true A. leulingi, but it is certainly very similar. This is a very pretty member of the cacatuoides group. This is the shyest apisto in my collection, and getting a glimpse of the pair usually requires the use a this mirror.

Apistogramma aggasizii ‘Rio Tapiche’

The aggie from the Rio Tapiche in Peru is my favorite variety from that country. The males are a spectacular green and blue in the body, with a yellow chin and breast and red dorsal. I just got these about a month ago, and just got them set up. I have a pair with a large male, and a group of younger fish that I hope to get two pairs out of. This is one of the smaller males. The largest male would not cooperate for the camera.

Apistogramma baenschi – the Inka apisto

Inka is a popular species in the nijsseni-group. The males are large, robust fish with red-blue bodies and bright orange-yellow dorsal fins that are tall and highly serrated. The females are bright yellow with black bumblebee stripes. This very showy cichlid is relatively easy to spawn.

Those are a few of the Apistogramma that I am working with. There are others, and I will share more of them with you when I make the update on this breeding project.

There are a lot of good resources for information about Apistogramma and other dwarf cichlids. Two of my favorites are the Mergus Atlas books by Dr. Uwe Romer. These books describe many species of dwarf cichlids from all over South America, and cover information about their habitat and husbandry.

Let’s try something a little different with this video… If you have a video posted on YouTube featuring an Apistogramma, paste a link to it in the comment section. I would like to see the fish that you are keeping. If you do not have a video to post, but still want to share your experiences with keeping or breeding Apistos, please feel free to comment here or on my blog site, where you will find the complete transcript from this video.

Please subscribe to my Youtube channel… Thank you for watching… TedsFishroom.

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Breeding Project: Benitochromis nigrodorsalis

The next species I will present in the Breeding Project series is a chromidotilapine cichlid from Cameroon, Benitochromis nigrodorsalis… the black-dorsal Benitochromis, from the Moliwe region.  Enjoy….

Transcript from the video:

This will be a video about another species that I am currently working with. The first species in this series is the loricariid catfish Panaqolus albivermis, which are doing very well. They have settled in and are very active. They eat a ton and make a pretty big mess. I do not like to let the detritus build up in the aquarium, so I use a siphon every few days to remove what I can see. This is a lot a dirt! I also knock out the filter once a week… even more dirt!

Right below them on the rack is a group of cichlids from Cameroon, Benitochromis nigrodorsalis from the Moliwe region. I am fortunate to have collected this species during my trip to Cameroon in 2009, but I did not bring any back with me, because it is a species that is commonly available from specialty fish suppliers.

The genus Benitochromis used to be a part of the genus Chromidotilapia, and the species in both genera are similar. Benitochromis are generally medium-size cichlids found in the small rivers and streams of western Cameroon. Their reproduction is interesting in that they are pair-bonding bi-parental mouth brooders, which means that both parents will share in the task of incubating the eggs. Hopefully we will have a chance to see this in action.

Here are some pictures of the habitat in Moliwe, Cameroon, where we found Benitochromis nigrodorsalis. This is probably the most collected region of Cameroon, and there are several species in the hobby that come from there. One of the most commonly bred West African cichlids in the hobby, Pelvicachromis kribensis from Moliwe, is found in the same streams as the black-dorsal Benitochromis. We found them both in the same section of the stream we were collecting in.

The Moliwe region of Cameroon is under heavy palm oil cultivation. 20 years ago this area was heavily forested, but now all you can see are row upon row of palm oil trees. This has changed the stream significantly. More sun hits the water, so plants and algae are thicker. Water is probably warmer too. The palm oil plantations also mean more people, and their livestock, are using the stream.

I do not know what the actual impact on the fish fauna in the Moliwe region is, but palm oil in general usually has a negative impact. Right now there are still fish to be collected, but who knows what the future will hold.

The aquarium for this project is a 30-gallon breeder that is filtered with a Poret foam matten wall filter. The dual lift tubes supply a steady gentle current in the water, which the cichlids like. I have set the décor up to mimic the natural habitat with a sand substrate, wood for cover, some Anubias sp. plants and leaf litter.

The water parameters in the wild are very soft, but with a neutral pH. Every breeding account I have found on this species describes them as being perfectly happy in harder water conditions, up to pH 8.0 and 600 ppm TDS. My tap water falls under that at pH 7.4 and 300 ppm TDS, so I am not planning to use any special water conditions. If the fish do not try to spawn, or have a hard time hatching eggs, I may soften the tank with some reverse osmosis water. Without dropping the hardness in the tank the leaves and wood are not going to lower the pH very much at all.

Water temperatures in Cameroon are cool, rarely above 75F, and without a heater this aquarium will stay in the low 70’s .

The dither fish for this aquarium will be a school of yellow-tail Congo tetras, Hemigrammopetersius caudalis. This is not a biotope species from the same rivers as this Benitochromis, but I like the look of this tetra.   Having tetras in the tank helps the cichlids to feel more comfortable. I put the tetras in the tank a few days before I added the cichlids.

Mature male black-dorsal cichlids are easy to identify. They are larger than females, have more elongated fins and a more completely black dorsal fin. Females are smaller and less colorful, with more rounded fins.

Four B. nigrodorsalis are going into the aquarium: two males and two females.

These fish have been in quarantine for 8 weeks, with no problems. This species is very hardy, and any problems that do occur are usually a result of aggression. So I will watch these four carefully until I know which two are the dominant pair, and then move the other two out for their own safety.

Feeding these cichlids is easy. They are omnivorous that like to chew on detritus in the substrate looking for small invertebrates, eggs and even decaying plant matter. I feed my gel food formula, Ted’s Most Excellent, as a staple diet, and give them additional food items a few times each week. Any flake, small pellet or gel food will be readily accepted.

Since I am using my tap water, the automated water changer will be turned on, which will give the aquarium a small 20-30% water change three times each week. Once every couple weeks or so I will use a gravel vacuum to stir up the substrate, remove accumulated detritus and give the fish a larger water change.

When the cichlids do breed I will be back with an update on this Benitochromis nigrodorsalis breeding project. A great resource for more information about this or any other Benitochromis sp. cichlids is Dr. Anton Lamboj’s book, The Cichlid Fishes of West Africa. This book was published in 2004, but they are still available by searching on line.

If you are keeping, or have kept, Benitochromis nigrodorsalis, and want to share your experiences with it, please let us know in the comment section below this video, or in a comment on my blog. The entire transcript from this video is available on my blog site: www.tedsfishroom.com   Reading the details may be easier than trying to find a moment in the video.

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Automated Water Changing

Anyone who changes water in a fish room with hoses and buckets dreams of automating water changes.  I wanted one for years, and when I moved the fish room to its current building two years ago I finally installed one…. and it is a real game changer.  If it were not for the water changer, I would not have enough time in a day to maintain all the aquariums that I have.  An automated system is well worth the effort to install, and they are not very expensive.  The hardest part is drilling all the tanks, but there are ways to do it without drilling.

 

Here is a transcript of the video:

Water changes are the most labor intensive job in a fish room. The larger the room, the more time it takes. Most of us want to automate as much of the task as possible. I would not have the time to keep up with water changes in my fish room if I had to do them all by hand. This video will show you how I manage the task in my fish room.

 

Water Softener

Before we get to changing water, take a look at these two sponge filters. The filter on the left has been calcified but high general hardness in my tap water. The filter on the right is what a clean filter with no calcification looks like. The calcium and magnesium content of my tap water is so high, that when I opened the fish room all of my filters looked worse than this in less than two months. Huge problem!

I had to solve this problem by installing this 98,000 grain water softener onto the main water line into the bulding, which removes most (but not all) of the general hardness from the water.

This water softener exchanges most of the Mg and Ca general hardness for sodium chloride. Using water parameter terms, before the water softener the GH of the tap water is 18 – 20 degrees of hardness and about 480 parts per million total dissolved solids. The KH before softening is 14-16, and the pH is about 8.2. After passing through the water softener, my tap water parameters are GH 6-7, KH 5-6, pH 7.4-7.6 and about 300 parts per million TDS.

But most of those dissolved solid particles are sodium chloride, which does not bother fish in such low amounts. When you treat your tank with aquarium salt at a rate of one tablespoon per ten gallons, you are putting a higher concentration of salt in the water than I get out of my water softener. That salt has the added benefit of discouraging parasites like velvet and ich… salt is not a cure for those diseases… but the salt can help prevent the parasites from getting a start. That is a topic for a future video.

Another advantage to the water softener is that it removes the chlorine from the water, so I do not need to add water conditioner when filling tanks. My water utility does not add chloramines, and I am not sure if the water softener would remove that molecule.

Most homes are not using a water softener on the main line coming into the building like mine is. Typical water softeners are only plumbed to the hot water line, and the cold water is not being softened. Keep that in mind if you have a water softener in your home… only a portion of the water you are running to your tanks will be conditioned.

Automated Water Changer

My fish room is divided into two areas. The main section contains 176 aquariums that are connected to an automated water changing system. The other 52 aquariums are not connected to the water changer.

Water flowing to the automated water changer comes through this dedicated tap, which has both hot and cold water spigots so I can adjust the temperature of the water. My cold tap is far too cold in the Winter, and I have to add hot water to the flow.

The water passes from the tap through these prefilters: two sediment filters and one carbon filter. Note the discoloration on this prefilter. Even with my 98,000 grain water softener, a lot of crap, especially iron, is making it to this point in the system. I need to change these prefilters once a week, and you can really hear the difference between the water flow through filters that are new and those that need to be changed.

The manifold for the water changer itself has a solenoid control valve at the back end. These valves are sold for lawn and garden irrigation systems. The valves are controlled by a lawn and garden sprinkler system control panel, in this case a Rain Bird unit. Each valve feeds a separate zone in my fish room, which I will describe in a moment.

Here is a tip for planning your fish room… buy two times the number of valves you will need for your system. Valves can go bad, and finding one that will fit your manifold may be impossible 2 or 3 years after you set the system up. If you buy them in the Fall, most stores that sell them will have them on sale. I bought mine on sale at a large hardware store for about $10 per valve.

After the solenoid valve, the water passes through a check valve, which prevents water from flowing backwards through the system. This is not a big problem for my changer because path of the piping goes from the manifold to the ceiling, so there is really no way that water can flow via gravity past this point anyway. The check valves are making sure that there is no fluid backpressure on the solenoid valves, which can shorten the life span of the rubber seal in the valve.

After the check valve, the water passes through a pressure regulator, which reduces the tap water pressure to 30 psi. The pressure regulator is absolutely required if you are going to be using small emitters over the tanks. Without the reduced pressure, you risk breaks and leaks in the system.

Above the pressure regulator is a disconnect where I can separate the valve assembly from the line. Do not forget to use this connector. You do not want to have to cut your water lines to replace a bad valve.

My fish room has four zones that are separated by the size tank on each zone. All of these 30-gallon breeder tanks are on zone 1.

Zone 2 has all 10-gallon tanks. Zone 3 has all 15-gallon tanks. Zone 4 has all 20 gallon tanks. I set it up this way so that each aquarium in a zone will get the same percentage water change when the system is running.

Each aquarium has a 10-gallon per hour valve overhead that flows water into the aquarium, and an overflow bulkhead through which water will leave the tank. The overflow drains through flexible tubing to a drain pipe at the bottom of the rack. The pipes run around the perimeter of the room and into a floor drain in my tap room.

All of these tanks get 1/3 of their volume in new water three days each week. The 30-gallons in zone 1 will get 10 gallons of new water through the 10-gph emitter, so the timer on the system will run for one hour on the days that this zone gets a water change. But one hour is too long, and I will run out of hot water, so I break that one hour up into four 15-minute periods separated by two hours. The amount of water changed is small and spread out over 8 hours. All of the zones are set up this way.

The Other Aquariums

The tanks that are not on the automated water change system cannot be plumbed easily to the water changer. Someday I will come up with a way to get this side of the room more automated, but it is not a priority. These tanks have been shifted around three times since opening the fish room, and I am still not 100% happy with how the space is being used.

Water changes on these tanks require siphons, hoses and time, but they are not so many tanks that this is a big problem. I also try to use these tanks more for breeding than the tanks on the water changer, because breeding tanks contain fewer fish and do not need water changes as frequently.

One difference on this side of the room is that I plumbed these aquariums for drain and fill water changes. I can turn this valve and walk away as the tank empties, close the valve when the water level is at the amount of water change I desire, and then refill the tank.

Drain and fill is better for breeding fish and raising fry than a flow through water changer, because drain and fill is perfectly efficient. 100% of the water leaving the tank is old. The water changer is less efficient, because some of the new water entering during a water change will also leave the tank during the same water change. Those larger, 100% efficient water changes are better for breeding and raising fry, because the growth inhibiting chemicals which accumulate in old water are more completely removed.

Special Water Parameters

Keeping fish healthy and breeding them are often two different issues. Most fish can happily live in most tap water conditions, but require more specific parameters to successfully reproduce. Soft, acidic water is the most common type of water that we need to recreate. If your tap water is as hard and alkaline as mine is, the only way to truly drop the hardness and pH is to use reverse osmosis.

My r/o unit has two membranes and is rated at 180-gallons per day. I am not going to go into the details of my R/O machine in this video, as that is a topic for another time. I store reverse osmosis water in these 250-gallon carboys, and distribute it to the aquariums with a hose and a pump.

Access to Drain Pipes

When you design your fish room you will probably want to put all of the pipe for your water changer behind the racks. You should also build in a way to access the drain system from the front of the racks. These pipes at the bottom front drain into the same system as the automated water changer, and I use them to siphon water from the tanks for special maintenance tasks. The fewer buckets you need to carry the better.

Closing

My fish room still has a lot of hoses and buckets, and even with the water changer I spend a couple hours every day on general maintenance, manual water changes and solving problems in the fish room. The automated water changer provides that time. Without it, just doing the water changes would be a full time job.

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Breeding Fish Series: Panaqolus albivermis – Part 1

I am starting a new video series on breeding fish.  This will be a very ambitious project.  Over the next few weeks I will start video series on several species.  I am also going to start publishing a written transcript for each video here in the blog.  A few people have commented that it is hard to search through a video for the information.  I cannot promise that the video voice over and the script I publish will be exactly the same, but it will be close…. and the pertinent information will be the same.

The first species in the series will be a loricariid catfish:  Panaqolus albivermis – L204 – the flash pleco.  I have been getting some nice specimens of these this year, so I thought I should give spawning them a try.  I have never spawned any pleco other than tank-strain Ancistrus sp.  Enjoy….

Video Transcript:

I have made an early New Year’s resolution to step up with the video posts in 2016. I am going to try very hard to post at least once each week. The biggest challenge is coming up with video ideas. I know… I still have a lot to finish on the fish room itself, and I will be getting to those sooner rather than later.

But I also want to start posting a lot more videos about the fish that I keep. After all, that is what my blog is all about… keeping fish. I have gotten away from breeding fish in the past two years, but my other early New Years resolution is to actually work with some of these really cool species I have been importing.

This video is the first in a series showcasing the fish I am actually working with. The plan is to introduce each species in an initial video that describes setting up an aquarium for a that species, and outlining the plan of action for successfully spawning them. Followed a few weeks later by a video of the fish settled in and, hopefully, spawning. The series for each species would end with a video showing the rearing of the fry. This is an ambitious project, but I should be able to keep up if I build some momentum.

First up… a pleco… Panaqolus albivermis, which is also known by it’s L-number designation: L204, and by the common name Flash Pleco. I am told that the common name refers to the bright white to orange thin stripes that resemble lighting on a jet black fish. Gotta love common names.

Panaqolus is a genus of loricariid catfish from South America. Panaqolus albivermis comes from Peru. Specifically the San Alajandro river, which is a relatively small flowage in the upper Ucayali River system. Most notable about that stream… it is not a soft water habitat. The relatively short San Alejandro drains water from the Andes into the Ucayali, and the pH alkaline… some measurements as high as 8.4! That is one reason I chose to work with this catfish. The water that comes into my aquariums through my automated water changing system is within the correct parameters for the species. No need for reverse osmosis for this pretty pleco!

Panaqolus belong to the group of sucker mouth catfish that like to dine on soft wood. In fact, just about everything they plecos like is associated with wood. So the aquarium will need to include a lot of driftwood for them to chew on and hide in.

The aquarium itself is a 30-gallon breeder aquarium located on the top shelf of my racks. The temperature will stay warmer up there, but I will also use a 200 watt heater in the tank to keep the water at a toasty 82F.

The tank is going to be filtered by a Poret foam 5” cube filter that is powered by a cube lifter lift tube that moves a lot of water. This will be plenty of mechanical and biological filtration for the amount of biomass I will keep in this tank.

The filter will not provide enough current, which the plecos need, so I am also including an Aqueon circulation pump at the end of the tank opposite the filter. The position of the pump is very important. Loricariid breeders have told me that the flow needs to run perpendicular to the openings of the spawning caves. So that is what I have done. The caves are all lines up with the opening facing the front of the aquarium (so I can see into them easily), and the circulation pump pushes water past the openings. You can see that flow when I drop some sand into the current.

The tank will receive a minimum of three small water changes each week through the auto-drip system. Once each week I will also use a siphon to remove detritus from the bottom of the tank. Wood-eating catfish are notoriously messy. The cube filter will also clog with wood dust very quickly, and I will need to pull it regularly to knock it out. That is one reason the filter is not deeply buried in the pile of wood.

The tank is set up. Wood… check. Caves… check. Current…. Check. Heater and filter…. Check. Ready for fish.

One of the negatives to keeping plecos is that they hide a lot, so if you want to have some action in the tank you should include a school of tetras or other fish that will stay out in the open. I have a lot of these Hyphessobrycon sp. ‘junior’ tetras that are also from Peru, so I added a school to the tank. This is another species I have not spawned, so maybe I will be able to use this tank to collect some eggs from them as well.

The catfish will come from this group of young adult wild fish that were imported a few months ago and are well quarantined. I have pulled them out of the tank they are in and put them into this tray so I can get a better look at them.

Panaqolus males that are in their full breeding glory are easy to see. They grow odontodes…. Hair-like filaments… all over their body. These fish are not in breeding condition, however, so I cannot use odontodes to sex them.

Body shape is not much of a help either with the flash pleco. Females may be a little rounder or a little wider, but that is not a sure thing. Most pleco males have broader heads and narrower bodies, but that turns out to be not so sure a thing in this species either.

When in doubt, look for differences. I am going to choose six fish. When I look at the group, I see some that are broader in the head and brighter in color, compared to some that have smaller heads, round sides and are not as bright in color…. And I think these are the females.

Male loricariids can be evil bastards, so I am only going to choose two of the ones I think are males. I will also pick four that I think are females. Six fish may eventually be too many in a 30-gallon once they are full grown and spawning, but I like to start a group a little larger than what I think it will eventually become. Adding new fish to an established group may not be a good idea.

Here are the six fish I chose going into the aquarium, and now this breeding project has officially begun!

The flash plecos will eat the driftwood in the aquarium, but it cannot be the only thing in their diet. Animal protein is not a great idea for these fish, although a little can help to bring females into breeding condition. I feed the tank something every day. Loricariids that live in warm water have a high metabolism, and need a lot of food.

Vegetables are excellent… here I am feeding the tank some zucchini, which they like a lot. Other vegetables they like include fresh green beans, any squash, cucumber and even watermelon. The trick to feeding fresh vegetables and fruits is moderation. Feed small amounts so that the water is not fouled, and do not leave the food in the tank until it rots.

I also feed Repashy Morning Wood, a gel food diet designed for wood-eating catfish. The gel contains a lot of cellulose, so it is like wood, but it also contains more nutrients, vitamins and minerals. I feed Morning Wood at least three days a week, and I like to feed it on these ceramic disc feeders, which are heavy and stay in one place in the tank.

The last thing that I like to feed the flash plecos is hard wood stems with the bark. I like oak, ash, maple or fruit trees the best. I stay away from any conifer, hickory or walnut, all of which contain a lot of alkali chemicals I am not sure are safe for fish. I leave the stems in the tank until the plecos have stripped them of the bark and underlying tissues they are after.

Now my small colony of Panaqolus albivermis are in their new home, but it will take a few weeks until they are truly settled and comfortable. I will be back with an update about them just as soon as I see some breeding behavior.

If you would like more information about the flash pleco, or any catfish, I encourage you to visit planetcatfish.com . This website contains a huge amount of information about all types of catfish. If you are looking to breed catfish, spend some time in the Catfish of the Month articles, which are mostly breeding accounts, and there is one in there on the flash pleco.

For more information about sponge filters, take a look at the video linked right here. If you want to buy some Poret foam filters, you can go directly to the source at www.swisstropicals.com .

Repashy gel foods, including Morning Wood, and the disc feeders that I use, are available in my Stock Shop. The address for that website is www.tedsfishroom.com/catalog.   I may also have some flash plecos for sale, but not all of the time.

If you are keeping this species and want to share your experiences with it, please let us know in the comment section for this video, or in a comment on my blog. The entire transcript from this video is available on my blog site: www.tedsfishroom.com   Reading the details may be easier than trying to find a moment in the video.

Thanks for watching TedsFishroom…

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Installing a Corner Matten Filter

No secret that I am a huge fan of Poret foam wall filters (matten filters).  Here is a video that will take you through the step of installing a corner matten filter kit from Swiss Tropicals (the link will go to the site where you can buy the kit).  I really like the corner filter set up, which looks nicer in a display tank than a wall that blocks one end of the tank.  The corner filter basically ends up looking like an overflow box on a bottom-drilled reef-ready tank.  The whole project will take a couple days because you need to let the silicone dry on one brace before you can install the other.  Here is a list of the things you will need:

  • corner matten filter kit from Swiss Tropicals (foam wall, braces, jet lifter)
  • something to measure with and a straight edge
  • marker that will write on glass (a Sharpie will do)
  • paper towels
  • rubbing alcohol
  • heavy objects to support the braces while the silicone dries (I use books)
  • masking tape
  • 100% silicone sealant (I use the product made by Dap)

You can use a hand-squeeze tube of silicone, but a caulk-gun style tube is a lot easier to use.  That will be a lot more silicone than you will need, but it is not expensive stuff.  Sorry for the not-so-great video editing.  I will do better next time…

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Filed under Fishroom, video posts