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MUNDANE HELP FOR THE FISH ROOM

GCCA’S CICHLID CHATTER — MAY 1999

by Rick Borstein

These days, technology has invaded the fish room. Electronic heaters, exotic filtra- tion systems and a wide array of foods and medications are available to the aquarist. However, it is often the more mundane tools that help us the most.

Take for example, the bucket. Could you keep fish without one? I have my own favorite. It’s a Rubbermaid bucket that has wide pouring spout, comfortable handle, and holds about 2-1/2 gallons. It’s tan, so it looks clean even if it isn’t. I have several 5-gallon white buckets, too. They’re useful, but they don’t fit under the faucet of my utility sink very well and they are just too big to be used as often.

A recent find of mine is new kind lid for 5-gallon buckets called a Gamma Seal. You snap a lid ring on the bucket, then use the included screw-in top with rubber seal. It’s great for transporting fish because it is water tight, but easy to unscrew and net fish out. The screw lids are about six bucks and would be a great way to take fish to a show. I ordered mine from the Sportsman’s Guide catalog at 800.888.3006.

Another mundane tool that I use daily is a turkey baster. I use it for feeding brine shrimp, removing eggs and fry from filters and cleaning up fry tanks. It’s also fun to use as a “squirt gun” to drive away an over-protective cichlid when you’re trying to snatch a slate full of eggs.

I keep a flashlight in my fish room. Most of my tanks are planted, so it can be pretty difficult to see if a spawn has taken place. Recently, I noticed that my Neolamprologus gracilus were behaving a bit differently. I couldn’t see any activity, but had a hunch that they were getting ready to spawn. The next day I looked again and couldn’t detect a thing. Time to grab the flashlight! With the help of the light, I was able to look through the thick forest of Cryptocryne to see a thick plaque of eggs deposited at the base of some driftwood. A couple of days later I used the flashlight again to find the wrigglers. Boring tool, but without it I wouldn’t have those fry.

I have a 150-gallon tank with a wet/dry system. Wet/dry filters are great, but I was having a hard time keeping the pre-filter clean. Uneaten food (Doromin sticks and floating pellets), quickly clogged the foam pre-filter. My solution was a $3.85 floating feeding ring. The foam keeps the ring afloat and my Frontosa haven’t been able to dislodge it yet.

I like planted tanks and that means having adequate lighting. I use standard fluores- cent shop lights stocked with Gro-Lite bulbs over each tank. The light is great for the plants, but is also very good at growing algae! I’ve tried a variety of algae scrapers, algae magnets, algae pads, but I haven’t yet found anything as effective as a good old single-edged razor blades. I buy them in a 100-pack from a nearby True Value hard- ware store for about five bucks. I use a new blade each week when I do my tank maintenance. A minor concession to convenience is that I do keep around a couple of blade holders. These come in fluorescent colors which makes them much easier to find when you drop them in your tank. I always scrape the tank walls before I do my water changes. Once you drop the water level, it seems that the green stuff gets a lot harder to remove.

Old toothbrushes often find their way down to my fishroom. They still perform better than any expensive filter brush I’ve used, and you can’t beat the price. For really small items, try a kid-size toothbrush we have a lot of these around, too you can clean some really tight places.

Sometimes little things can save you from having to think a lot. I usually do my water changes on Saturday mornings while trying to take care of a one year old, so I get easily distracted. I usually change about 30–50% water change on every tank. Each tank needs a different amount of dechlorinator and it’s hard to remember how much to put in. For under a dollar, I purchased a Garden Measure at a local nursery. This small graduated plastic measure is marked off in both teaspoons and milliliters. You will also find free graduated measures with kid’s cough syrup and products like Nyquil. I used a permanent marker to write the gallon equivalents next to the teaspoons on the Garden Measure. Now that I measure everything exactly, I find that I use less and save money. A gallon of Novaqua is about $30, so it pays to measure exactly.

I was talking to my wife Sharon the other day, and I remarked to her that I thought I had found every way there was to flood our basement floor when I do my water changes! I had spilled buckets of water, forgot to turn off the Python, left the plug in the sink and had it overflow and a variety of other idiotic methods. To Sharon, the glass is always half full and she was sure that there were lots more ways to turn my fishroom floor into a swimming pool.

Of course, she was right! I came home from a long business trip and looked into my 6-month-old, black-sealed 25 gallon aquarium and noticed that it was only halfway full of water. I was really tired and pulled out the Shopvac, broke down the tank, moved the fish, etc.

Spurred to action, I purchased a water alarm for a bout fifteen bucks. The tiny box is powered by a 9-volt battery and when it detects water, it emits a piercing alarm. You will find them in the home improvement centers located near the sump pumps. If your home has a sump pump, believe me, you’ll want more than one!

I like to feed my dwarf plecos (Ancistrus sp.) some vegetable matter every week or so. I tried a variety of veggie clips without much luck. I guess a dozen plecos and several cichlids attacking a half zucchini was too much to ask these products to withstand. I gave up on the store bought solution. Now, I rubber band the zucchini to a heavy piece of slate and put it that the tank. The fish like it and I now I don’t have zuchinni islands floating around my tanks.

Recently, I had the unenviable task of trying to remove a large Geophagus that was bullying my Frontosas in my 150. In my heavily landscaped tank, this was no easy task. After twenty fruitless minutes trying to coax the fish out of the rock work, I got an idea. I grabbed a 36” piece of rigid one-eight inch plastic tubing, and blew into cave where the fish was hiding. Success! Scared by the bubbles, he moved right out and I was able to catch him easily. Cost for the tubing? Under a dollar.

Sometimes the simplest solutions are both cheaper and better. So, look around your fish room and try to discover the mundane, but effective solution. 

SUPPLEMENTING NEWLY HATCHED ARTEMIA

GCCA’S CICHLID CHATTER — MAY 1999

by Bill Vannerson with contributions from David Kawahigashi and Eric Lund

There was a discussion on several Internet Killifish email lists regarding supple menting newly hatched baby brine shrimp (BBS), Artemia, with vitamins or cal- cium. The results of that discussion brought two important points to light for fish keepers of any species. One, hobbyists can supplement their BBS to add valuable nutrients to their fish, both fry and adults. Two, the power of the internet as a resource. 

Supplementing BBS

Supplementing live food is nothing new. Many hobbyists have been adding vitamins to their worm cultures before feeding to fish and, to a lesser extent, adult brine shrimp as well. The strategy is to have the supplement ingested by the food and then by the fish when they consume the food. The debate on the mailing lists started when some- one questioned the effectiveness of applying this technique to BBS. Would supple- ments added to the hatching water be ingested by brine shrimp nauplii and then consumed by the fish? Or would the supplement simply stay suspended in the hatch- ing water without providing and additional value to our fish?

The answer comes down to whether or not newly hatched Artemia will consume the supplement. The answer is yes, but not right away. Artemia are filter feeders but don’t start feeding until after their second molt, referred to as the instar 2 stage.

According to David Kawahigashi at San Francisco Bay Brand, the commercial fisheries have been practicing this for quite a while. “Supplementing nutritional components, such as vitamins or calcium, into live brine shrimp has been practiced by aquaculture hatcheries for around 10 years. This bio-enrichment or bioencapsulation of brine shrimp nauplii (instar 2 or adults) began using emulsified fish oils containing high HUFA’s or highly unsaturated fatty acids for marine finfish and crustacean larvae. This ‘break- through’ enabled the culture of many other new marine species to be developed (flounder, sea bass, tuna, ornamental marine sp.).”

Why Supplement

Eric Lund, researcher from University of Wisconsin, Madison, explains, “Briefly, salt- water fish all require a fatty acid that is common in marine fish oils called DHA (docosahexanoic acid) in their diet. They cannot make it from precursors, so it must be present in their food. Freshwater fish have a limited ability to make DHA from a particular precursor fatty acid of the omega-3 variety (linolenic acid), but they too can grow and reproduce well on a diet that includes DHA.”

“Brine shrimp are a great food for all small carnivorous fish, but they contain virtually no DHA. Marine fish larvae fed only Artemia exhibit mass mortality a few days after they start feeding. Aquaculture operations get around this problem by adding an emulsion of phospholipids rich in DHA to newly hatched Artemia. The Artemia eat the emulsion (more of it also sticks to the outside of their bodies). The Artemia are then fed to the fish or can then be kept refrigerated for up to three days.”

Enriching or bioencapsulation Artemia is essential for marine fish, but not for freshwater fish. Then why bother at all? Eric further explains, “I do believe, however, that for some delicate killies [and other freshwater fish] that experience high moralities before sexing out, that enriching Artemia may be of some benefit. Another tactic worth trying is to feed enriched Artemia to the adults for several weeks prior to breeding them. In other species, fish eggs with low levels of DHA generally have poorer survivorship to first feeding than eggs that are rich in DHA. Giving females a diet high in DHA allows them to put more DHA into their eggs. As you all know, weak and feeble killie fry can be the result of several factors including inbreeding, bad water conditions and improper incu- bation conditions, but poor parental nutrition may play a role as well.”

Symptoms of Essential Fatty Acid Deficiency

The essential fatty acid end product, DHA, is an important component of cell mem- branes in retinal tissue (eyes), neural tissue and cardiac tissue. Deficiency symptoms may include:

  • Sudden fright syndrome— Fish, usually juveniles, go into shock or twitch convulsively when frightened.

  • Poor visual acuity— reduced ability to locate prey

  • Worn fins

  • Poor growth rates

  • Poor egg viability

  • High mortality rates under stressful conditions such as shipping

    Note that factors other than essential fatty acid deficiency can cause all of these symptoms. Essential fatty acid deficiency is not a problem with most freshwater fish fed a varied diet. It is possible, however, that supplementation with a lipid emulsion may increase growth rates, fecundity and fry survivorship. So, if you are having problems raising a particular species, it may be worth a try.

    How to Supplement

    There are three ways you can feed your fish bioenriched shrimp; buy enriched frozen shrimp, enrich live adult shrimp or enrich newly hatched nauplii.

  • Bioenriched frozen shrimp
    Bioenriched frozen shrimp are available but may be difficult to find. David Kawahigashi explains, “Although we do not market any enrichment formula, we do enrich and freeze live adult
    Artemia with a HUFA formula and Spirulina algae for the aquaculture and aquarium markets. However, almost all of the sales for these two enriched products go to the aquaculture market due to the “unawareness” of the benefits of bioenrichment in the aquarium trade.”

  • Enrich live adults
    Enriching live adults is not difficult. Just add the supplement to brine shrimp 12-16 before feeding fish.

  • Enrich Nauplii
    Adding supplements to newly hatch brine shrimp is a little more complicated. Baby brine shrimp will not ingest the supplements until after the instar 2 stage begins, about 12 hours after the nauplii hatch. However, most fish breeders prefer to feed newly hatched Artemia as close to hatching as possible in order to maximize the nutritional value.

Once the cyst hatches, the nauplii begin to consume stored protein reserves, just as newborn fry live off of their egg sac. The longer you wait to feed them, the less nutritional value that’s passed on to the fish. The only way to counter act this is to feed the Artemia. This is not usually done because of difficulties in raising nauplii to adulthood. It’s just not worth the effort when one can readily purchase adult brine shrimp.

A compromise solution is to maintain two separate sources of baby brine shrimp, one that is bioenriched and one that is not but has higher protein reserves. Follow your normal routine for collecting and feeding from hatcheries that are not enriched. Re- duce the amount you would normally feed and replace with a portion from the en- riched hatcheries. Since enriching requires extra time, you may want to set up multiple hatcheries to alternate. You also may store enriched Artemia in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Quick List

Here’s a quick checklist of the steps required to produce bioenriched Artemia:

  • Prepare and hatch baby brine shrimp as normal, 24 hours for standard cysts or 16

    hours for decapsulated cysts.

  • Add bioenrichment 6 hours after hatching This will be after the instar 2 or second molt.

  • Feed within 12-16 hours or the shrimp will have digested the enhancement for- mula and you need to start over

  • Store any unused nauplii in the refrigerator for up to three days.

    The Future

    David mentions, “I am now working on bioenriching Haematococcus algae [super high astaxanthin for color enhancement] and some anti-bacterials into our live Artemia for product development. Because Artemia are non-selective and continuous filter- feeders, pretty much anything can be taken into the gut of a live Artemia, as long as the particle size is between 5 to 50 microns. Vitamin supplements must be in a non- soluble form as Artemia cannot ‘drink’ soluble components.”

    Eric Lund is also working on some new research at UWM that he’s not at liberty to discuss in detail

Selcon is a popular liquid supplement for enriching artemia nauplii.

This convenient product includes an eyedropper top for easy dosing and complete directions.

This article was originally published by the author in another journal and is presented here at the request of the author.

The Internet as an Aquarium Resource

The whole issue of enriching Artemia began as a relatively benign question posted to an Internet email lists. In a few days, input from hobbyists and experts, who are also hobbyists, poured in, adding to the collective knowledge of the group. The dynamics of this information exchange and the speed at which it was dissemi- nated is a prime example on how the power of the internet can benefit the hobby. For those of you not familiar with email or the Internet, I’ll explain.

Lists

An author of a message sends it to the list server via standard email services from his or her local Internet service provider (ISP). An ISP is company that provides Internet connection, including companies such as America Online, CompuServe and a whole host of others both large and small. The list server replicates the message and sends it out to all of the subscribers. So if there are 500 people subscribing to a particular list, then 500 people will receive a copy of the email message.

Anyone on the list can respond to the original message either privately to the origina- tor or back to the list server, where everyone can see the response. It’s best to respond back to the list if the topic of the email is of public interest, that way everyone can benefit from the shared knowledge of all of the responses. The collection of messages and the responses is referred to as a thread, as in a string of correspondence.

Subscribers to a list can be from anywhere in the world. I have seen contributions from Alaska to Australia, Hungary to Hong Kong, South America to Singapore. The only place I haven’t seen a message from is Antarctica, but I’m sure it could happen.

There are several lists that I subscribe to including Killies, KillieTalk, Live food, Apistos and Cichlids.

There are a bunch of others, including one focusing on brine shrimp alone. Visit FishLinkCentral for a more comprehensive source of lists.

Access to Experts & Speed of Information Exchange

Because threads are open conversations between fish folks from around the world, subscribers can benefit from the knowledge and opinions of some of the best experts available. David and Eric happen to be two extremely knowledge- able experts on supplementing Artemia that participate on several email lists. When the original question was posted, they both decided to freely join in and share their knowledge and expertise. Most hobbyists probably would not have known them or the expertise using traditional means of communication, such as letters —referred to as “snail mail” by Internet users. And if someone did know them, the response most likely would have been addressed to single individual, not to hundreds around the world. And the exchange was quick! Within days, literally hundreds of hobbyists learned about the benefits of supplementing BBS. There has been a lot of fanfare regarding the information age and the Internet.

 

BREEDING CHALINOCHROMIS TRIFASCIATUS

By Willie Heard

I purchased a BAP bag of eight Chalinochromis trifasciatus which was brought in by Bill Constantelus. He said they spawned on January 3, 1997. I purchased them in March of 1997 and paced them in a ten gallon tank. In July of 1997 I moved them to a twenty gallon tank.

One day while making a regular water change, I noticed some of the trifasciatus hanging near the top of the tank. I grabbed a flashlight and found the reason, free swimming fry around a clay flowerpot. I guess they spawned sometime around April 19, 1998.

The parents resemble Chalinochromis popelini in color and striping. They are gold- fish-like in body sheen with long striped running from the head to the tail. The parents were fed the same diet as all of my fish. Alternately, frozen brine shrimp, Tetra Cichlid Flake, Tetra Green Conditioning Flakes, and Hikari pellets.

Water was changed every four days— one-fourth of the tank volume. No additions of any kind were added. Lake Michigan water is all I use.

The spawning tank consisted of two large pieces of desert coral rock with plenty of different size holes. I left all the fish, both parents and fry, together because I didn’t have any open tanks. Besides, I couldn’t tell which fish were the parents.

Surprisingly, everything worked out well. They are all doing fine. ■ 

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