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Galeocerdo cuvier, Tiger Shark. Postage Stamp Madagascar

Sir Peter's New Wrasse

Re: Variations on a Fairy Wrasse Theme, Marine Aquarium Explorer Newsletter

Thanks for Scott Michael's write-up of Cirrhilabrus scottorum.

Rob Pyle and I were with Sir Peter Scott and his wife Philippa when we found that fish. Peter made a painting of it on the spot.



John E. Randall , Ph.D.
(Editor: Dr. John E. Randall is Senior Ichthyologist Emeritus of the Bishop Museum in Honolulu, member of the Graduate Faculty in Zoology of the University of Hawaii, and Distinguished Fellow of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists. See Scott’s Fairy Wrasse, Variations on a Fairy Wrasse Theme.)

Lionfish Bahamasa Encounter

Re: Lionfish Invasion Spreads

We have now seen the invasive Lionfish firsthand while diving in the Bahamas.

I know it's not supposed to be there, but I was thrilled to be able to see them without getting on a plane to the other side of the world!

We have seen them in both red and black colors and during the day as well as on night dives.They seem rather territorial as we would see the same animals on a night dive in the same spot were we saw them earlier in the afternoon.

John & Eileen Siminger,
Charlotte, Vermont

Fish Farm Dreams

Hi. I am Shalika from Sri Lanka. I am a 28 year old boy. I am a graduate from University of Kelaniya. Last year I started aquarium in my place. I have some theoretical knowledge about this subject from the university time. I am growing some varieties of Swordtails (red, berlin, pineapple, and green).I am breeding them, but not scientifically. My output is normally 10,000 per month (length 3cm). It is not enough. I have 10 cement tanks (10' x 10') and 5 man-made ponds (35' x 35'.) Normally, local and export markets are very good, but they need new varieties, good body color, length is 4-5cm. My knowledge is not enough to this. Dear Mary, if you can please advice to me how to put out well conditioned fish in to the market. It is my dream to export swordtail fish. So this is my thorough information. If you can please kindly advise me.

Bye, Shalika

The Green Swordtail (Xiphoporus helleri) is found in the wild in Sri Lanka, an introduced species, as is the Platy (Xiphophorus maculatus). That speaks well for the area for farming these species. If you were in a position to find some of these wild-living fishes, once they were cleared of disease, they would bring wonderful vigor into your broodstock. You would have some interesting offspring from which to improve your lines. I assume that the fish you are breeding from were cultivated by someone else, not caught in the wild. That is one possible problem: that the fish you are breeding are so inbred that they cannot give you the performance you are working for. I do not know your circumstances, so it is a bit difficult to pinpoint why the fish are not as large as the market requires. It appears that you are doing a splendid job with your 10,000 swordtails per month. It is not as easy as it sounds, and I am sure you work very hard.

A manual for commercial production of the swordtail, Xiphophorus helleri. United States Department of Agriculture, Center For Tropical and Subtropical Aquaculture, CTSA Publication Number 128. 36 p. (Tamaru, C.S., B. Cole, R. Bailey, C. Brown and H. Ako. 2001.) can be found at [1]. I believe it will be an extremely valuable resource for you for years to come in your great swordtail adventure.

Also, there are a number of other desirable aquarium species native to Sri Lanka: gouramis, loaches, danios, and barbs. Do you have the time or desire to go fishing? Breeding some of the more difficult species could prove lucrative while helping to prevent exploitation of popular aquarium species from the wild.

Good luck and full nets,
Mary E. Sweeney,
Senior Editor

Boycott? Bah.

Re Boycotting the Wild Banggai Cardinalfish

This species is not threatened in the wild.

In diving in and around the Banggai Islands for decades, seeing Pterapogon having been intentionally spread widely around Sulawesi (a massive island of some 73,000 square miles), and become resident along much of its shores, I can assure you that this fish is more than plentiful in its previous limited range, as well as where it has been transplanted.

Testimony to its unthreatened status is also the fact that this fish is offered by Indonesian culturists and collectors outside the area for 10-25 cents per specimen (FOB Indo.) in six-hundred-lot pricing...

Lastly, a comment re misleading, okay, lying with statistics...

... the numbers for specimens reportedly collected are for a period of years, whereas the population number given is static; i.e. there is no descriptive data offered for recruitment, optimum or sustainable yields, or even guesses as to such.

Robert M. Fenner,
San Diego, CA

Arrest that Fish!


Among the first fish that I bought was one juvenile Chinese algae eater (Gyrinocheilus aymonieri). But I was dismayed when I read that this is one of the fish that your site considers as among the worst freshwater fish species.

I'm afraid you are right. I have noticed that it chases the other fish in the community tank where I put it in. So, I took it out of that community tank (it sure was a very demanding task catching the CAE) and it is now in a quarantine tank.

I don't really want to get rid of it, although a friend has indicated his willingness to adopt the CAE. Should I insist on keeping the CAE, what suitable tankmates for it would you suggest?

Edgar Javison (Philippines)

"Friends are quiet angels who lift us to our feet when our wings have trouble remembering how to fly."

Law of Reality: Never ever get into fights with ugly people; they have, literally and figuratively, nothing to lose! Remain being beautiful today and always.

Bad Actor

Hello again, Edgar. Well, you've hit upon one of my real bugaboos. The Chinese Algae Eater is, in my opinion, one of the worst fishes that can be kept in the aquarium. It's just not a nice fish. While it may eat algae while a juvenile, once it gets a little size on, it eats regular fish food and the slime from the sides of the other fishes. This isn't good for anyone but the so-called algae eater. Its tendency to rasp off the sides of the other fishes is exaggerated when one is keeping flat-sided fishes like Angelfish and Discus.

Better choices in algae eaters would be Crossocheilus siamensis, the Siamese Algae Eater, or Ancistrus spp., the Bristlenoses. Depending on tank size, there are any number of Plecos that will also do a good job.

If you plan to keep this CAE, maybe it would be good company for crustaceans like crabs, shrimps, and lobsters, but it's definitely no friend of other fishes.
Mary E. Sweeney,
Senior Editor

Succulent Worlds

Re Microcosm Aquarium Explorer Newsletter
It must be Tuesday! I've met the Royal Panaque. I'm drawn in by the beautifully written, attractive, succulent world. I greatly look forward to my Tuesday morning trip to someplace far away, outrageously colorful and incredibly mystifying and dreamlike!

Caroline Biddle McKenzie
Burlington, Vermont

African Clawed Frogs

I have two 50-gallon tanks, and one of them (which is a menagerie of the fishes I bought when I started out in this hobby) has four albino African Clawed Frogs. At first I was hoping they were African Dwarf Frogs, but a friend of mine confirmed what I have long suspected, that they were African Clawed Frogs, which grow to a maximum of 5 inches.

So now, I am planning to set up a third tank to house these frogs. But I would like to give them some tankmates. I've asked in online forums dedicated to fishkeeping and have received contradictory reactions: some advised me to keep the tank solely for the frogs; others suggested that I choose non-aggressive fish that are similar in size to the mature frogs.

May I ask your opinion (and maybe suggestions) on what would be appropriate tankmates for the four albino African Clawed Frogs? At the moment, I am thinking of getting a pair of Sturisoma panamenses and a Clown Pleco, thus making this tank a frog-and-catfish community. My concern now is on the middle-level swimmers; I wanted the Glass Catfish but it seems that it grows to only 3 inches, which would make them easy prey to mature clawed frogs.

Am I going in the right direction?

— Edgar Javison,
The Philippines

We are each of us angels with only one wing, and we can only fly by embracing one another. — Luciano de Crescenzo, The Philippines

If you've got time, do drop by my weblog at http://elj.tiddlyspot.com/

When Frogs & Fishes Don't Mix

I have heard of many sad accidents with African Clawed Frogs (Xenopus laevis) during my 21-year tenure answering aquarium questions. Usually the problems occur in a community setting the moment the frog gains enough size to consume tankmates.

These frogs have pretty amazing appetites, and this is part of their charm, but not if it is at the price of a favorite Betta or Goldfish. Though the adult African Clawed Frog may measure only 5 inches at maturity, its capacious mouth makes it threatening to fishes very nearly that size.

Yes, it can happen that some of the larger armored catfishes, a larger Clown Loach (Chromobotia macracanthus) or a larger Goldfish could be kept with the frogs, but why? A well-covered species tank of these frogs is likely to be far more interesting than one with fishes. Where either the fish or the frog is threatened in its own aquarium, it can never be a source of pleasure for its keeper.

Consider also the matter of water quality. African Clawed Frogs are heavy eaters and produce copious amounts of waste. Keeping aquarium water sweet enough for fish is an art in itself, doing so for fishes of the size to compete with the frogs, and in the presence of the frogs could be quite a challenge.

Please try to enjoy the frogs for their own sakes and amuse yourself by handfeeding the greedy little beasts. They’ll eat right out of your hand, shovelling bits of food into their mouths with their little “paws.” If you must add fishes to the mix, make them the large armored catfish, but don't expect the frogs to leave even them alone. If you choose big cichlids, you could even see frogs being chased as food. I don't like communities with African Clawed Frogs.

Do be sure to cover the frog tank very carefully. They are notorious for leaving their tanks to tour the neighborhood, often to find that this is a hazardous proposition.

If these frogs had been the Dwarf Frogs, Hymenochirus spp., as you had hoped, we would be having a different discussion, and I would be planning with you the many fishes I would recommend as tankmates.

Sorry, Edgar, but still I believe you will get great pleasure from the company of these animals.
Mary E. Sweeney,
Senior Editor

Endangered Fish by Country

I am Sabari Krishna from Tamilnadu, India . I am an aquarium hobbiest and also running a pet shop.

I would like to know the list of rare species of fishes in India which is endangered.

Thank you.

Sabari Krishna.G

The Editor replies:

We usually look first at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) site:

IUCN Red List

IUCN maintains a "Red List" of species (birds, amphibians, mammals, fishes, invertebrates, plants) that are threatened or extinct. This is a work in progress and the lists change frequently.

Your regional IUCN office is here and may be able to provide the list you seek:

ARO - IUCN Regional Office for Asia
N 63 Sukhumvit 39 Soi Phrompong
Sukhumvit Road, Wattana, Klongtan
Bangkok 10110
Tel: ++66 (2) 662-4029
Fax: ++66 (2) 662-4388
Email: [email protected]

First Captive-Bred Mandarins

Re: Breeding the Green Mandarin by Matthew Wittenrich

I enjoyed meeting Matt Wittenrich recently and received an autographed edition of his wonderful book.

I want to mention that most articles on mandarins and mandarin breeding overlook the article I wrote on the subject for FAMA back when I was living in Alexandria, VA.

It was titled Baby Mandarin and described the story of how I raised one from a captive spawn.... I believe I was the first to do it; this was back in 1989.

I know that Robert Brons and Bill Addison did it a few years later, and I am not sure when Wolfgang Mai first raised them. Obviously many people had spawned them, but the first rearing probably was in a small apartment in Alexandria Virginia.

It is interesting to compare Matt's experience with mine. I recall that I could not get them to survive on rotifers alone during several attempts. It was only when I made an infusoria culture using wild seaweed collected from Ocean City, MD that I succeeded. The main food was apparently copepod nauplii, but it may also have included some protozoans. The growth rate in mine was much slower.

It will be interesting to see how quickly Matt's achieve marketable size. My experience, and that of Bill Addison and Robert Brons showed a growth rate of little more than one inch per year. At that rate the wild harvested specimens would appear to be 3-4 years old. Perhaps weening them onto artificial diets could produce a faster growth rate. In any case, tiny mandarins are a potential gem for nano tanks, something I've pointed out to breeders for years.

Julian Sprung,
Miami Gardens, Florida

Wild Mandarin Realties?

Re: Breeding the Green Mandarin by Matthew Wittenrich

Very interesting.

Of course, until the price to wholesalers of mandarins rises WELL above $2 ea., aquaculturing them will not be economically viable.

Collecting wild zooplankton is just too labor intensive to justify all but rearing of the most expensive fishes.


Charles Delbeek,
Waikiki, Hawaii

Class vs. Mass

The Editor replies:

You are right, of course, about captive breds costing more.

Funny thing, though, here in Vermont people are paying $35 for captive-bred Banggai Cardinals, and the local store (which dominates this market) won't sell wild-caught specimens of this species.

They often can't keep the CB Banggais in stock. (I believe they are coming from ORA.)

Class vs. mass, I guess.


Angels or Demons?


After reading your model 50-Gallon South American Angelfish Community, I decided to set-up a 50-gallon freshwater community tank wi th 4 angelfish, together with the Rummynose Tetras and Diamond Tetras in that model aquarium, dwarf cichlids and Corydoras Catfish.

However, your profile of the angelfish shows that angelfish "live in peaceful schools when young, but pair off at about 9 months of age, after which the pairs typically become quite territorial and aggressive."

Considering that they'd be much bigger than the other fish in this community (especially the tetras), should I go ahead with this community? Or should I limit my community to only one angelfish?
— Edgar Javison, The Philippines

We are each of us angels with only one wing, and we can only fly by embracing one another. — Luciano de Crescenzo, The Philippines

If you've got time, do drop by my weblog at http://elj.tiddlyspot.com/

Mary Sweeney replies:

Dear Edgar:

That’s a very good question. While a 50-gallon aquarium is more than adequate in size for all these fishes, it is true that adult male Angelfish are no angels. In any aquarium, with any territorial fishes, there is a problem when it comes time for them to spawn. When an adult male Angelfish selects a female and they start to set up housekeeping—a vertical substrate is selected, cleaned, and guarded preparatory to the laying of the eggs—a previously peaceful aquarium can become a dangerous place for any other fish that could be seen as an interloper.

The male Angelfish is very aggressive toward other male Angelfish especially, because let’s face it, that curious fish is not there to congratulate the expectant parents, but to steal either the eggs or the female. Other females will be chased from the spawning site, but perhaps not molested, as it is not unheard of for a male Angelfish to have two spawns going with separate females on opposite sides of the tank.

As for the tetras, the species recommended won’t be eaten, and they are fast enough to evade the lunges of the protective parents. The spawning adults don’t usually stray too far from the spawning site. As long as intruders leave when notified, the attention of the couple is more closely directed toward the eggs than curious tetras.

You won’t be able to sex baby Angelfish; otherwise, you could just purchase three females and one male or a pair, and everyone would be happy. No, those little Angels are as cute and innocent looking as can be, and there’s no telling the boys from the girls. One would never imagine that in a few short months they would grow to such a size and temperament.

In fact, people who are interested in breeding Angelfish and other cichlids generally acquire six to eight youngsters, grow them up all together, and move out the extras as soon as dominant pair forms. (Friends and your local fish store should be more than happy to buy, barter for, or adopt your spare, nicely grown angels.)

As I suspect that you are not interested in breeding, and I think you will give your fishes every possible advantage, including regular water changes and an interesting and varied diet, I would advise you to select the most handsome Angelfish you can find, and surround this lucky fish with several schools of tetras (no Neons, Cardinals, or other vulnerable species), one or two trios of dwarf cichlids. (These fish too, are territorial, but in a 50-gallon tank there is ample space for several territories for dwarf cichlids.), and an assortment of Corydoras catfishes and a medium-sized pleco-type.

The Angelfish will be the king of the tank and will become a real “pet” that will focus on your presence rather than compulsively cleaning upright objects in the tank preparatory to spawning every couple of weeks after the onset of adolescence.

You haven’t mentioned whether you intend to use live plants in this aquarium, but if you do, you may rest assured that none of the fishes mentioned will be a problem with plants. Angelfish look especially good in an aquarium planted with Vallisneria or any of the other tall, strappy plants. The Angels like to wend their way through the forest of long leaves.

Mary Sweeney

Editorial Submissions?

Hi, my name is Hanna Benediksdóttir and I live in Selfoss, Iceland. I have a huge interest in aquarium fishes and everything related to it. I was wondering if you needed someone to write articles, submit photographs, edit articles or help watch a section of the site. I may not know everything about aquarium fishes but I'd love to learn more.

Thank you,

April 26, 2008

  • James Lawrence replies:

Dear Hanna Benediktsdóttir,

Thanks for your interest in Microcosm Aquarium Explorer. To get started, I would be very pleased to see an article and some images from you to get to know your work and interests better. Articles can have been previously published, as long as you are the author and have the rights to republish them on the web.

Our site is new, and we are just starting to look for contributors, so I am very pleased to hear from you.

By the way, no one knows everything about aquarium fishes.

James Lawrence,
Editor & Publisher

Unknown Frogfish

Cryptic frogfish seeking a positive identification.


Could you please ID this Angler fish?

Thank you.

David Liebman
April 14, 2008

  • Editor: We are looking into this. Readers with suggestions are invited to join in.
  • Frogfish? What frogfish? Aw, I think you're kidding. There's no frogfish there, or is there? - Mary Sweeney, April 28, 2008

To the Editor

Microcosm Aquarium Explorer invites correspondence from its readers.

For publication, a letter should include the writer's name, hometown, state/province, and country.
Please send to: [email protected]