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Issue: February 2007

Reflections on February: Armchair Aquarium Month

Author: Ted Coletti

LU 0207
Photographer: Jay Luto
Livebearers Unlimited: February 2007

[Note: This article mentions using medications not specifically formulated for use on aquarium fish. Using any such medication should only be done with the advice and supervision of a veterinarian or an authority on fish health. Always follow dosage instructions carefully.—Eds.]

For most of us, February is the pits. The “dead of winter” is aptly named, as the outside world is devoid of life. Here in the northern states, most days feature snowy landscapes, which, while initially charming, lose their allure with every new shoveling. And don’t forget the cold!

By February, the many months of diminished daylight will probably trigger a seasonal slump to your spirit. There is no holiday of lights and color to brighten this dreary month, sans a birthday for about 5 percent of you, or Valentine’s Day, which is a commercial holiday for those who care to mark the day in such fashion (or are required to, by a commercially influenced significant other).

Did I mention how cold and dark it is? Yep—for most folks February, quite simply, stinks. But we aquarists have a great escape from this seasonal stockade. A retreat to an island of warmth, color, and light. That old armchair near our tank, or that fishroom once thought damp and dreary, becomes respites from Old Man Winter. I never hate sticking my hand in the warm water of an aquarium during the month of February. Welcome Armchair Aquarium Month!

A Great Equalizer

February is also the month we commemorate Martin Luther King Day. I mark this holiday too as a time when we should all think about judging others via the “content of their character” and no other attributes.

I’ve always felt that the aquarium hobby can be held up as a fine example (in a very small way) of Dr. King’s vision. When I attend my local fish club meeting, or go to one of our shows, it is a collection of classes, races, educations, incomes, occupations, ethnicities, and neighborhoods. In the residential and occupational segregation that is our society, I would never have the opportunity to socialize with most of these folks, and I’d have little in common. But here we are, talking fish, and it doesn’t matter what you look like, where you come from, what you do for a living, or how much formal education you have. We all share the same fascination for the hobby. High esteem, if achieved, is earned by one’s aquaristic accomplishments or generosity to fellow hobbyists or the club.

Yes, the aquarium hobby is a great equalizer.

Livebearers Back at Shows!

I had the distinct pleasure of judging the livebearer classes at November’s North Jersey Aquarium Society (NJAS) Annual Show. It was very encouraging to see that after several years of declining attendance, this show had nearly 300 entries, lots of visitors, several junior entries, and Sunday newspaper coverage. NJAS was smart enough to think of the “big picture” and did not close the showroom for judging until 6 p.m. in order to introduce the public to the hobby. Club members and the general public were strongly encouraged to enter fish. TFH’s own Wayne Leibel presented a slide talk, as did guppy champ Bob Larsen. The event was capped off by a huge Sunday auction.

There were so many livebearer entries that I was forced to split the classes and gladly solicit the aid of fancy Xiphophorus expert Bobby Ellerman to help judge. There were over 40 livebearer entries in four classes from various hobbyists at this general fish show, which is three times the amount from the previous year. This bodes well for the livebearer hobby, as does the American Livebearer Association membership roster, which has grown from 275 in 2001 to over 400 today. On these pages are some of the fish displayed. Bobby and I were nearly knocked off our feet with some of the entries, including a lyretail wag platy and a Norton-esque hi-fin swordtail that took first in its class.

I am frankly tired of hearing the whining from lazy fish clubs that the hobby is dying and that they can’t compete with the internet and video games. The baby boom was over 40 years ago, folks. Adults are the growing demographic. Get off your duff, get some fresh blood on your boards, and do some guerrilla public relations. Put on a weekend show/workshop/auction and stop relying on the regional conventions for your annual event fix. These are a wonderful and important part of our hobby, but they cannot grow your local club all by themselves.

Beth Ann Bates, NJAS public relations chairwoman, and the rest of her board, should be commended for providing this annual outreach event, which serves as proof that you can grow your local hobby and your club.

Letters on Levamisole

In my two years writing “Livebearers Unlimited,” no column has garnered as much interest as my piece on regularly de-worming your fish with levamisole hydrochloride (TFH May 2006). Here’s a sampling:

I read your recent article on de-worming livebearers with interest. This is a topic that has been discussed in great detail among loach keepers. Since many loaches are wild-caught, they often arrive skinny, with internal parasites. Their long journey before reaching us in the U.S. gives the parasite plenty of time to multiply in a starved, weakened fish.

Many loach keepers treat this condition with levamisole either as a prophylactic or as a cure. My dosing is 1½ ml per 10 gallons using a 13.65-percent solution of levamisole that I purchase as powdered sheep de-wormer from a vet supply catalog. (Charlie, via email)

I found your article in TFH on de-worming livebearers quite intriguing!  I keep Endler’s livebearers and guppies. Each are in different tanks, but each are also housed with various types of snails I raise. I am concerned about de-worming, as I’m afraid of how it will affect my snails. Also, how often do you use levamisole hydrochloride for prophylactic use? (Faith Eversole, via email)

Charlie’s dosing regimen for loaches appears more highly concentrated than my own, but we are dealing with different fish and he didn’t specify if that concentration includes the water used for mixing. My dosage is to split powdered levamisole (easily obtained through equestrian or cattle supply catalogs for under $20) into 5 gram portions, and mix in 3 ounces of water for approximately a 5-percent solution. I then dose 2 ml per 10 gallons every six months as a prophylactic, as needed, and with new fish. If fry are present I may use 1 ml per 10 gallons.

Levamisole is easily overdosed, regardless of what is often stated. Your experience and mine indicates that dosing needs to be tailored to the fish type. I also found it interesting that loaches are often infected with Camallanus. Loaches love snails, which are reported carriers of some internal parasites. Levamisole, like other anthelmintics, does have a negative impact on snails.

More Letters

Dear Dr. Ted,

Help me with a debate: Is superfoetation the correct terminology used for the storage and usage of sperm in female poeciliids? By the way, I attend NJAS meetings when I’m in the area for Indian food.

Thomas Gillooly

Yardley, Pennsylvania

Dear Thomas,

Poeciliids (guppies, mollies, platies, swordtails, etc.) store “packets” of sperm that are usually used after or near the birth of a brood. Poeciliids demonstrate follicular gestation (fertilized while in the ovary) of a type called ovoviviparity. Essentially they are egglayers, laying eggs inside the body instead of in the water.

Most hobby texts claim fetal poeciliids receive their nourishment exclusively via their independent yolk sac (lecitrophic), but research is discovering maternal contribution through the pericardial sac (matrotrophic) in a growing number of species.

A few poeciliids show quasi-viviparous gestation, with mostly pericardial sac nourishment and just a little yolk. Poeciliopsis prolifica is highly matrotrophic, with almost all of its fetal nourishment supplied by the mother. Some, like the diminutive Heterandria formosa, also demonstrate superfetation. This is the “assembly line” process where a female holds embryos at different stages of development. H. formosa needs to do this because it is such a small fish, and this makes it easier for a female to deliver large broods but over a longer period of time (every few days).

True viviparity occurs in the four-eyed fish Anableps (follicular gestation and belly sac), and goodeids (ovarian gestation and trophotaenia umbilical), for example. The Asian halfbeak family displays a variety of viviparity modes by species.

Next time you attend an NJAS meeting, Thomas, stop by and say hello (and bring some sag!).

Dear Dr. Ted,

What’s the deal on Ataeniobius toweri? I heard it’s an odd bird among goodeids because of its embryonic care. I haven’t kept it yet, but European hobbyists claim it also needs high temps near 78°F? Is this goodeid the exception to the rule?

Artie Palmer

Sacramento, California

Dear Artie,

I spoke with the godfather of the livebearer hobby, James K. Langhammer, about this fish recently to get more details and the latest research. Ataeniobius toweri is indeed an oddball among Goodeids! In their fetal stage they do have trophotaenia umbilical, but they lose them during embryogenesis (other goodeids have these still attached at birth). Its habitat around the Laguna Media Luna is indeed a warm biotope, shared with some cichlid species. But A. toweri is one of the easiest goodeids to maintain and they tolerate almost any normal culture conditions. Jim feels that more water changes and the use of filters would make a major difference in what the Europeans call a “problem fish.”

Dear Dr. Ted,

I notice you are always making fun of Wayne Leibel in your columns. Do really hate him? I’ve met Dr. Leibel at aquarium events and he is a friendly and helpful man. I know you don’t care for cichlids, but you must respect a person who actually has done research, and has his PhD, in an ichthyology-related discipline. Please tell us if this is all an act or if you really feel this way.

Skamta Plaisanter

Edison, New Jersey

Dear Skamta:

Thank you for your frank feedback. I am sorry you took me so seriously; I actually do like cichlids.

Livebearer Newsroom

It’s Time to Register for ALA 2007!

April 2022 at the Vancouver, Washington, Hilton. Three crazy days and nights of speakers, city tours, banquets, parties, auctions, fish shows, product expo, and livestock vendors. Go to the Pacific Northwest Livebearers Group website ( or the ALA website ( above for details and speaker list!


Dr. Ted Dengler Coletti has been an aquarist and freelance writer for over 20 years. He resides with his patient family, aquariums, and guitars in the New Jersey Skylands, and sits on the Board of the American Livebearer Association. He is a founder of the Northeast Livebearer Association and the Aquarium Hobby Historical Society. Questions, suggestions, or mysis gutloaded with bacon bits can be forwarded to

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