Aquatic Experience 2016 – Aquascape Competition

The 2016 Aquatic Experience took place the first weekend in November in Schaumburg, IL. This is a GREAT event, and everyone should try to make it next year… same weekend. This year I was there with other members of Madison Area Aquatic Hobbyists promoting Cataclysm 2017, but I also participated in the ACA sanctioned cichlid show and in the small-tank division of the AGA/Fluval aquascape competition. Here is a video about how I set that tank up, which took 6th place. My scape two years ago was awarded 3rd place, but there were more entries this year, and all of them looked really nice. I will have to step up my game next year!

Cataclysm 2017

Registration for Cataclysm 2017, hosted by the Madison Area Aquatic Hobbyists, is live.  This will be the second running of this catfish-themed convention.  The inaugural event took place in October of 2015, and was a lot of fun.  Several things have changed for 2017, including moving to a large, and nicer, hotel.  The logo is a link to the website, and some details follow:



Dates:  September 22-24, 2017

Where:  Crowne Plaza – Madison, Wisconsin


  • Julian Dignal – owner of Planet Catfish and world traveler.  Julian will most likely be talking about oddball catfish and a travel log
  • Eric Bodrock – easily on of the world’s authorities on breeding fish in general, and especially Corydoras catfish
  • Jeremy Basch – quickly becoming a world authority on spawning oddball catfish, especially wood cats.  Jeremy was the first to spawn the jaguar catfish, Liasomadoras oncinus
  • Charles Meuller – a newcomer to the speaker ranks.  Charles specializes in breeder the challenging lip-brooding species such as Pseudohemiodon and Planiloricara, as well as the very challenging Pseudacanthicus plecos. 

Rare Catfish Auction:  In 2015 we had 87 lots of different uncommon to exceedingly rare catfish in our rare catfish auction, and we intend to hit 100 bags in 2017!  The rare fish auctions take place between speakers on Saturday.

Hospitality Suite:  Wisconsin = Food = Beer….  need I say more?

Banquet:  Yes… were are adding a Saturday evening banquet and speaker to the program in 2017

Sunday Auction:  The Sunday auctions will be an all-species fish and plant event, not just catfish!

Raffles/Silent Auctions:  We will again have a wide array of supplies and equipment for auction and raffle, including some tank and stand combos.

Vendors: We have doubled the amount of space we can provide to vendors, and will do our best to fill that space.  Room sales are also encouraged.

Why a ‘catfish’ event?…  There is a catfish that is applicable to any aquarium genre, from nano planted tanks to giant tank-buster tanks.  There are a lot of cichlid events every year.  There are many killifish shows every year.  At least one major livebearer convention.  A huge marine convention (and many smaller).  And even a MASSIVE all-aquarium event that is held every year.  Until Cataclysm, the aquarium hobby in the USA had one great catfish-specific event every other year (All-American Catfish Convention).  Now there is a catfish event EVERY YEAR.  

Even if you are not specifically a catfish fanatic, there is something for everyone at Cataclysm.  There will be plenty of non-catfish to buy, and plenty of buyers to sell your fish to.  The vendors are certainly not catfish specific, and neither are the donated raffle and silent auction items.  And the camaraderie at an aquarium event like Cataclysm may be the best reason of all to attend.  We hope to see you in Madison next September.  Register early!  We will have some giveaways happening over the next several months, and the longer you are registered, the greater your chances are of winning something.

Spawning Tank for Egg Scatterers

I am in the process of planning the last rack build for my new fish room, which will be a rack of smaller aquarium specifically for hatching eggs and raising fry.  There will also be tanks used to collect eggs from scattering species.  I used to do this with mops or other spawning media on the bottom of a bare tank, and then net the adults out after they lay the eggs.  The challenge with some species is seeing the eggs, especially is there is a lot of spawning media in the tank.  I prefer to use a false bottom system, with a screen through which the eggs will fall, making is easier to separate the fish from the eggs.  But all the methods I have tried before have never been as easy or as effective as I want them to be.  This time I am going to build spawning tanks with screen bottoms out of 2.5-gallon tanks and set them into larger tanks to collect and hatch the eggs in.  This video will show you how I built that 2.5-gallon egg trap.

Breeding Project – Dawkinsia rohani – Part 2

The first attempt to raise the fry of the Rohani barb was unsuccessful, so I collected a LOT more eggs and tried again.  I tried a few different ways to incubate the eggs, but the end result was that the best method was to use a filtered incubator aquarium with subdued light.  Just like I tried the first time.  I think that the original batch of eggs were infertile.  That is not uncommon with larger egg scatterers that have not laid eggs in a long time.  Takes a while to work the old eggs out.  I have had this happen with Congo tetras too.

Breeding Project – Dawkinsia rohani


I have had a small group of four Rohani barbs for about 5 years.  They have been living in my 150-gallon display tank in my living room for quite a while.  I have always intended to try to induce them to spawn and raise some fry, and now that time has come.  There were two challenges to overcome.

  • Space requirements – These are not small barbs!  The males are over 4″, and they use the entire 150-gallon tank chasing each other and displaying for the females.  I think that they could get by spawning in a 75-gallon, but I do not have an open tank that big to move them to.  So I had to figure out a way to collect eggs from them in the 150 they are in.
  • No information – Everyone I asked about spawning this species told me that it has not been done.  I do not believe that to be true, but there is certainly no information about raising the fry.  The process to hatch the eggs and rear the fry will be trial and error until the requirements are figured out.

The first video will show the spawning, egg collection and first attempt at hatching.  Enjoy…

Tannins in the Aquarium – Part 2

Here is the second part to the video set on using botanicals to infuse tannins into an aquarium.  Tannins are an important part of a soft water, black water aquarium.  Fish from these habitat really thrive in tannin-rich water.  They are more active and their colors are vibrant.  The botanicals that I feature in this video series came from Tannin Aquatics .  I am very happy with the products Tannin Aquatics sent me.

Tannins in the Aquarium – Part 1

I keep a lot of fish species from soft, black-water habitats.  I have visited some of these places in both Africa and South America, and have seen many videos shot by traveling aquarists.  The factor in those habitats that is the most obvious, and the least represented in most aquariums, is the amount of decaying organic matter that rests on the bottom of the habitat, be it puddle or stream.  I have waded into water netting fish and sunk to my knees in thick piles of leaves, sticks, seed pods and any other organic matter that hits the water and sinks to the bottom.  There are plenty of pretty, clear, sand-bottomed, fast running streams in the tropical world, but most of the fish we keep come from the mucky waters.

I started keeping botanicals in my aquariums several years ago.  After visiting Peru last year, I have greatly increased the amount of organic debris I put in with my dwarf cichlids, but nowhere near the amount that is in the natural habitat.  To match that I would have to fill a 10-gallon tank full from top to bottom with leaves, but I do not think that is wise in such a small volume of water.  The bottomlands we were collecting in had ponds with thousands of gallons of water over a thick layer of debris, but the water was still deeper than the layer of leaves.  If you tried it in a 75-gallon tank you would want 10-12″ of matter on the bottom with clear water over it.  Someday I will have the guts to try that!

This video begins a short series on using botanicals in the aquarium.  I will show you leaves, bark, seed pods and other things that I use.  I will also introduce you to a great source of exotic botanicals, Tannin Aquatics.  I shot this video just after getting a big box of items from Tannin Aquatics, many of which I had not tried before.  So far so good.  The first episode will show you how I prepare the heavier objects, such as bark, coconut husk and seed pods, before putting them into the tanks.

Feeding Flies to Betta sp. ‘Antuta’

Before I tell this story I want to make the point that I keep a VERY clean fish room.  All my fish foods are kept in tight containers, and most of it is kept in a fridge or freezer to preserve its freshness.  I take out the garbage at least three times each week, especially if there is something stinky in the trash can.  The rare dead fish are not tossed into the garbage, they are flushed.  I sweep the floor once a week.  I flush out the drain gutters once a week by putting a hose into each of the open ends, just in case something that can rot gets into the gutters.  I take the cleanliness of the fish room very seriously!

So I was very surprised, and somewhat concerned, this week when dozens of green bottle flies showed up in the fish room.  You have probably seen these flies before.  They are a medium size fly with an iridescent emerald green color.  Pretty for a fly, but not something that I want infesting the fish room.  The green bottle fly is a carrion fly, which means that it lays its eggs in rotting organic matter.  My immediate reaction was to find the dead carcass where the flies were breeding.  I ransacked the fish room.  Nothing.  Nothing stinks like dead flesh either.  I have no idea where the flies are coming from, but I have to assume that they are getting into the basement from within a wall where there is something dead.  I am confident that my room itself is not producing the flies.  So what to do with the flies?

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.  I have been given flies, so I will use them for fish food.  They are pretty easy to catch with a dry fish net.  Just leave one light on in the fish room and all the flies go to that place.  So far there have been a out a dozen flies at a time in the fish room, so I spend a few minutes catching all I can for a few minutes and feeding them to the fish.  The life cycle of the fly is long enough that if I catch them a couple times every day I should be preventing them from laying more eggs.  Eventually the flies will disappear.  Until that thankful day the fish will get some great live food!

75-gallon Planted Tanks Project – Part 6 – Filtration

I had intended to try to cover filtration, lighting and CO2 all in one video, but it would have been too long.  Here is an episode on filtration.  You will hear me describe a new product my Boyd Enterprises… ChemiPure Green.  That product is not on the market yet, but I really like it.  I am sure that it will be released soon.