The world's longest aquarium. Photograph by NTD Television.
By David E. Boruchowitz
How does a 110-foot aquarium sound to you? Well, one went on display last week at a fish expo in Taipei, Taiwan. With a volume of close to 7000 gallons, the setup houses hundreds of fish, mostly cichlids. The decor of the aquarium focuses on dozens of well-known Taiwanese landmarks, and the design is meant to evoke various Chinese artistic styles.
Several of the details provided in the news account make me wonder what is meant. For example, the tank is composed of seven sections that are connected with “a curved tank displaying waterfalls.” The video gives us a glimpse of these connecting tanks, but it isn’t possible to determine if they have waterfall backgrounds, incorporate overflows for the sections on either side of it, or represent waterfalls in some other way. Also, the tank boasts “tempered glass with an extra explosion-proof layer,” whatever that is!
Mysteries aside, it appears to be a great display, and the seven sections enable them to include a great variety of types of fish that otherwise could not be kept together. Those of you with 12- or 15-foot tanks, this gives you something to strive for, and the rest of us can just dream bigger…
Ted Judy's 75-gallon tank featuring cichlids and swordtails. Photograph by Ted Judy.
Many Mexican and Central American cichlids share their habitats with various species of swordtails. Many hobbyists think the combination is either difficult or impossible to replicate in captivity—and it certainly doesn’t help that many cichlid fans see swordtails as live food!
In the November issue’s “Cichlid World” column, Ted Judy showcases his aquarium that proves the combination can not only work, but work well http://www.tfhdigital.com/tfh/201111/#pg29. He makes several key points that are critical to success, including that the cichlid species must not be overly aggressive, large, or a known piscivore. It is also wise to include only adult swords that are not much smaller than the cichlids. Providing plenty of room and hiding places is also a must.
In this particular tank, the swift current is also a critical feature that is easily noticed due to the sideswept substrate and blowing plants. The current was added because the fish come from a well-oxygenated riverine habitat, but it provides the added bonus of allowing the fish to exercise naturally and to expend extra energy. On the downside, the female swordtails must be rotated out of the tank to give birth both because of the fast current and so the fry can escape hungry cichlids.
So the next time you are considering what to put in with your cichlids, try thinking about swordtails—they are not simply feeder fish!
Tomato clownfish in an anemone. Photograph by Hristo Hristov.
By David E. Boruchowitz
The Indian research team that developed successful protocols for captive production of tomato clownfish at a commercial level http://www.tfhdigital.com/tfh/201111#pg83 has provided us with a video of a pair of clowns with their spawn, which is placed on a clay flowerpot saucer. (The eggs are orange.) The smaller of the fish is the male, and he is seen tending the eggs at one point in the video. After they hatch, the fry are raised in special vessels to maximize survival.
One of the exciting things about this article is that although developed for commercial interests and to provide broodstock to hatcheries, the methods described can easily be adapted by hobbyist breeders who want to produce clownfish at home.
The world's smallest aquarium (and smallest aquarium net). Photograph by Anatoly Konenko http://www.crookedbrains.net/2011/05/worlds-smallest-aquarium.html
By David E. Boruchowitz
How do you do a water change on an aquarium that holds only 2 teaspoons (10 ml) of water? With a syringe!
That’s how micro-miniature artist Anatoly Konenko of Omsk, Russia fills his inch-long planted tank so as not to disturb the aquascape. This is certainly taking the nano tank craze to its extreme. The tank is so small that the meniscus (the U-shape of the water surface in a vessel caused by the water climbing the sides by capillary action) is clearly visible. The aquarium is populated with recently-free-swimming zebra danio fry, though not on a permanent basis. Here’s a video of the tank:
And if you want to see some similar ideas, check out our article from a couple of years ago:
A thunder-line royal pleco. Photograph by Leighton Lum.
Royal plecos are somewhat rare plecos that are highly sought after by catfish enthusiasts. Unlike many of the plecos seen for sale, royal plecos have bold colors and patterns that make them stand out in any tank.
This green pleco has a great home for itself. It has peaceful tankmates such as Congo tetras, rainbowfish, and roseline barbs. It has driftwood to feed on and hiding places to dart into. You can also see that there is substantial current in the aquarium.
A great white shark patrols the Open Sea Exhibit at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Photograph by the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
By David E. Boruchowitz
Regular readers will undoubtedly remember our October 2005 cover story about the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s record successful maintenance and subsequent release of a baby great white shark. Since then they have kept and released four others, and now the sixth is in their million-gallon Open Sea exhibit. If you want to catch a glimpse of it, you can try their live webcam at http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/efc/efc_opensea/open_sea_cam.aspx and for the full article, check out http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/cr_whiteshark/whiteshark_ours.aspx.
Freshwater shrimp are one of the hottest newcomers to the aquarium hobby, and selectively bred red ones are extremely popular. One of the amazing things you can observe in your pet shrimp is the way they feed. Seeming to stare off into the distance, they sample detritus completely by touch and scent, moving their feeding appendages in apparent fast forward, transferring edible finds to their mouthparts at the same pace. Here’s a close-up video that shows the process: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CWL2XUU8PJw
Bichir _Polypterus endlicherii_. Photograph by Ed Wong.
By David E. Boruchowitz
There’s a nice video of a tankful of bichirs feeding on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAleBB9AIb8. It’s been up for four years and has gotten about 15,000 hits, but it’s still getting comments. There are several things I like about it:
It has bichirs! (Pronounced like “bikers.”) These fascinating living fossils give us a glimpse of what fish looked like shortly after their main lineage split off from the lineage that gave rise to lobefin fishes and tetrapods (amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals). They have both gills and lungs and look and act a great deal like salamanders.
There are 20 bichirs in a 90-gallon tank. I certainly hope the owner has farmed them out to other tanks as they grew, but I always enjoy seeing that I’m not the only hobbyist who gets carried away at times with a favorite group of fish!
The aquarist is feeding them what looks like fresh fish meat. In any case, it’s not live goldfish! Feeder fish are never a good choice for predator diets.
The video clearly shows that the fish are finding the food by smell and touch, not sight. They are very good at ferreting out every last morsel of food, but their tiny eyes hardly contribute to the effort.
At the end it shows one of the largest bichirs head to the surface for a breath of air. These fish are obligate air breathers, meaning they must breathe air to survive, and their tanks need to have an airspace at the top. (They also need a sturdy and secure cover, since they will definitely escape if given an opening large enough—which is probably not as large as you think!
Last but not least, the video shows what the books (and my experience) say is impossible: bichirs of quite different sizes kept together. Bichirs normally will eat any animal small enough to swallow, including their own kin. The few times they’ve been spawned in captivity, cannibalism was a constant problem as the fry grew at different rates. As of the time of the making of this video, these very well fed fish hadn’t started to dine on each other, but I wonder if the peace lasted…
Take a look at the video, and if you’ve got the tank space, maybe try some of these fantastic fish!
The author's wild-caught oscars imported from the Rio Orinoco. Photograph by Ted Judy.
Nine months ago, I decided to get a group of oscars to grow out, which was when I found out that there are not very many in stores, so I ended up buying some wild fish imported from the Orinoco River in Venezuela. They are probably Astronotus ocellatus, but they may also be an undescribed species. They have a lace-like pattern in their fins that is not seen in the tank strain A. ocellatus, and they do not have as much red (which has been developed in tank strains through selective breeding). I have six of them growing up in a 75-gallon tank. I expect to have to reduce the number eventually, and I am hoping to end up with a nice breeding pair. So far the fish are much more shy than the tank-raised oscars I have kept in the past, but they are no less intelligent. I can tell by the way they look at me.
Fake rock can be made of cement and sand, as is being done on a commercial scale at this coral farm in Indonesia. Photograph by James Fatherree.
Setting up a reef aquarium can be an extremely challenging venture. You have to choose from all the different types of equipment out there, the type of fish you want, whether or not to include invertebrates, etc. One of the most important decisions you have to make during the setup is what type of rock to use. James Fatherree explains the pros and cons of live, base, and homemade rock in the September 2011 issue of TFH http://www.tfhdigital.com/tfh/201109/#pg51.