Kribensis

kribensis-breeding-pair-guarding-nest

kribensis-pair-with-young

Kribensis : Everything you need to know

Kribensis (Pelvicachromis pulcher) inhabits a range from Benin, into Nigeria and Cameroon, but mostly Nigeria..
It was first introduced into the hobby in the 1950s and immediately became a big hit with aquarists.

In the wild kribensis breed in the side of river banks by digging away soil between roots to create a cave. Wild kribensis live on the riverbed between roots and leaves.

Feeding kribensis

kribensis-feeding
kribensis-feeding

Kribensis are omnivorous, eating a mix of animal food and vegetable matter. Algae is good for them.
In the aquarium they readily eat flake or dried food with ease, but the occasional piece of veggie matter such as cucumber slice or lettuce or even algae is relished. Live food can be used to prime them when you want to start breeding them.

To get the best from your kribensis supplement their diet with plenty of fresh greenery such as blanched spinach and dandelion, flaked pea, and any of the seaweed products frequently marketed for marine keepers.

Kribensis behaviour

kribensis pair guarding cave
kribensis pair guarding cave

Kribensis are a little shy and need peaceful dither fish. They also need lots of hiding places such as caves made from clay pots or half coconut shells and plants to make them feel safe. This will encourage them to come out so you can see more of them.

Although kribensis are mostly found in rivers, they do not like a fast water flow. That is explained by the fact they inhabit the bottom of the river on the river bed amongst roots, rocks and caves where the waterflow is very slow. They have a good knowledge of their surroundings, which means it is better to not change the aquarium set up as this unsettles them.

Kribensis Description

kribensis-female-breeding-colours
kribensis-female-breeding-colours

Male kribensis are larger than females. In the aquarium the biggest males are about 4 inches and the biggest females about 3 inches. In the wild specimens have been found just under 5 inches long.

Males are long with a gently curved underneath from head to tail. Females are stubbier with a rounded red/purple belly. Males might have a red/pink patch near the throat

Female kribensis fins are rounded while kribensis males fins have longer and pointed fins.

Kribensis Colour

kribensis male in breeding colours
kribensis male in breeding colours

Kribensis have a black/dark stripe on a creamy background running along the side and another dark stripe on their backs that extends into a dark dorsal fin edged in yellow. Both males and females have blue in their pectoral fins and other lower fins, especially when they are breeding. Females become more yellow especially above the stripe when they are breeding. Most kribensis have an eye spot in the top of the tail fin and at the rear of the dorsal fin. Some male kribs have multiple eye/egg spots in the tail fin.

These eye/egg spots being on the dorsal and tail fin are thought to help in coordinating egg fertilisation during the upside down laying of eggs onto the breeding cave ceiling.

When in breeding mood the area between the red belly and the tail darkens on the female. This accentuates the females red/purple belly.

Water conditions for kribensis

They like slightly acid and soft water from the wild but most aquarists keep them in neutral ph water. Because of the

kribensis-for-sale-in-shop
kribensis-for-sale-in-shop

long time that kribensis have been kept and bred in captivity with few wild specimens coming through, they have become adapted to a wide range of waters conditions. They are capable of breeding in a wide range of ph values.
The temperature ideally should be at 77F but kribensis are happy any where between 75-80F

How and where to buy kribensis

A good place to buy is from online sources such as gumtree, aquarist classified, craiglist from a private breeder. You can also buy from your local aquarium store. Be wary of buying from your large pet chain which will usually have untrained staff. Remember young fish will have less colour than more mature fish so they might have disappointing colours when you buy.

Check all your different sources for buying fish and try to buy from two or three sources a few fish each to give a better genetic mix for your fish.

Do not just choose the largest fish from a brood or you will end up with just males. Sometimes you can tell males and females by body shape when the young are larger but smaller fish you can’t really tell so size is a reasonable indicator.

Kribensis tank set ups

Kribensis cichlids can be kept and even bred in a community aquarium, a species aquarium or even in a West African biotope aquarium

kribensis-community-aquarium
kribensis-community-aquarium

Kribensis in the community aquarium

Make sure you don’t get fish that out compete them for food. With Kribs being bottom feeders, they usually wait until the food goes lower before eating especially. It is best to avoid tankmates that snap up their food near the surface before the kribensis get a chance to feed. This is most noticeable when the kribensis are small and hide a lot.

Kribensis rely on dither fish such as a school of small tetras to tell them whether it is safe to wander out of hiding. A few peaceful dither fish will encourage them to come out and explore instead of hiding so that you get to see them and admire their beauty.

Avoid other bottom feeders such as catfish which will disturb the kribensis, especially when they are breeding.

Kribensis species aquarium

kribensis-west-african-biotope-aquarium
kribensis-west-african-biotope-aquarium

Having a tank of just kribensis can come about if you have had a breeding pair and kept all the offspring. The tank must be quite large at least 160 litres. You need to kit it out with plants, dark sand and many cave like structures such as half coconut shells or half clay pots. The kribensis males will form harems, dispelling the myth that kribensis form monogamous relationships.

Kribensis biotope aquarium

If planning on biotope, then sand, branches and cobbles are the prime choice of décor. For planting, provide opulent growth. Tangles of Crinum species and banks of Cyperus, Ceratophyllum and Ceratopteris, plus ample Anubias and Bolbitis fastened to the wood will provide abundant cover.
For authentic fish, think of Brycinus longipinnis tetra, and Pareutropius buffei catfish. Aphyosemion gulare killifish are abundant in the same areas as kribensis and make a pleasing enough companion. Also jewel cichlids are found in kribensis territory in West Africa

kribensis-breeding-tank
kribensis-breeding-tank

Kribensis breeding set up

-24/30in long aquarium
-heater
-2 x mature sponge filters
-2 or 3 half clay pots or half coconut shells
-plants unlike other cichlids they are not great plant uprooters. However they may nibble on plants.
-driftwood
-rounded stones
-dark sand substrate or very fine dark gravel
-low wattage light to provide dim lighting at night

Preparation for breeding kribs

kribensis-eating-live-food
kribensis-eating-live-food

Buy 6 or more young kribs. Be careful to not just buy the larger fish in the tank as these are usually males. Remove any other bottom dwelling fish from the aquarium such as catfish. Kribensis prefer soft neutral water but can breed in a wide variety of water conditions. So just keep the aquarium water parameters stable and clean. Note: Higher ph tends to increase the ratio of females to males born whereas lower ph gives you more male to female offspring.

Prime the pair by feeding plenty of live foods including chopped earthworms. Keep the temperature at about 76F. If they fail to start breeding then raise the temperature a couple of degrees to encourage breeding but not go higher than 80F

kribensis-female-displaying-to-male-2
kribensis-female-displaying-to-male

Kribensis breeding behaviour

Kribensis can become very territorial when breeding and caring for young so be careful of other inhabitants. The female’s red belly will become solid red/purple. The top of her body between the dark stripes will become yellow. Her throat will also become yellow. Both fish will develop bluish pectoral and ventral fins and they will also develop a blue edge to the gill plate.

The female will bend her body sideways exposing her red belly to the male. If he is interested he will follow her to the breeding cave. They will then go through a ritual of shimmying behaviour to each other. They will

kribensis-pair-cleaning-nest
kribensis-pair-cleaning-nest

then take it in turns to go into the cave and come out again possibly spitting out some substrate outside the cave. This mimics the behaviour in the wild where they dig holes in the soil at the side of the river to create a cave. Each time they come out they will shimmy to each other.

Kribensis females usually lay about 200 eggs. Young kribensis mothers lay less eggs.

The female will usually lay her eggs on the roof of a cave but sometimes they are laid on the floor if it is suitable. The eggs are large and adhesive so stick to the cave wall. The female mouths them to keep them clean until they hatch. She will not leave her cave until they hatch. They hatch after 3 days and the fry will not become free-swimming until after another 7 days. Do not feed the fry until they become free-swimming.

Raising the kribensis fry

kribensis mother guarding her brood
kribensis mother guarding her brood

Kribensis parents co-operate in protecting the eggs and herding the young. The female will usually be closer to the young while the male will skirt around the perimeter protecting from threats.

In the wild kribensis are known to co-opt other kribensis fry into their own brood. It is thought to raise the survival rate of the baby kribs. The reason could be safety in numbers and as a backup for stray fry.

Harmless dither fish can help the parents to co-operate in looking after their brood. The parenting kribensis will focus their attention on protecting their fry from an external threat rather than considering each other as a threat.

Sometime, however one parent might get nervous of the other parent and push her/him away especially if there are no other fish in the aquarium. This is usually the male that is seen as a threat but sometimes the female will be pushed out. It is best to remove the harassed parent from the tank.

To protect the male(or female) from the overprotective parent then provide plenty of hiding places and a bigger aquarium. This should keep them safe. You could also consider moving him/her to another tank if the bullying gets too much.

kribensis-pair-guarding-eggs
kribensis-pair-guarding-eggs

Surprisingly for such a small fish, they lay quite large eggs and when the fry hatch they are quite large and can eat brine shrimp from birth. This makes raising the fry a lot easier for the beginner. The fry also pick at microscopic life forms growing on algae growths on the glass and on sponge filters.

keep a low wattage night light on so that the parents can protect the fry especially if there are other fish in the aquarium. Daily water changes of 5% and having many plants will keep the nitrate levels down.

As the fry grow you can start feeding flake food. You will also need to thin out the brood by selling on the young or moving them to another tank, depending on how many young fish you have.

Relatives of the kribensis

Most Pelvicachromis are readily bred in the aquarium. Breeding behaviour and care is similar to P.pulcher.

pelvicachromis-taeniatis-male-female
pelvicachromis-taeniatis-male-female
Pelvicachromis taeniatus

Historically this was the original kribensis but has been replaced by the popularity of pelvicachromis pulcher. There are many colour variations and patterns in males of all species of Pelvicachromis, Several populations of each species appear to co-exist in different regions. Pelvicachromis taeniatus are sometimes offered with names hinting to which region they were caught from. You might see P. taeniatus ‘Nyete’ or ‘Moliwe’ which will differ substantially to P. taeniatus ‘Niger red’.

Pelvicachromis subocellatus
pelvicachromis-subocellatus-male-female
pelvicachromis-subocellatus-male-female

The males are less colourful than normal kribs but the females are quite interestingly coloured having a dark collar between the head and the red belly and another dark area the other side of the red belly. The tails have a yellowish net pattern in them.

Other “kribensis species from the Pelvicachromis family include:

  • Pelvicachromis drachenfelsi
  • Pelvicachromis kribensis
  • Pelvicachromis roloffi
  • Pelvicachromis silviae
  • Pelvicachromis sacrimontis

There is also an albino version of the kribensis that is not a true albino and does not breed true. The albino will have pink eyes and a mostly white body but the female will still have the red belly. Both male and female will have yellow edging to the fins.

Common livebearer illnesses: how to recognise and treat them

pineapple male swordtail

Common livebearer illnesses

livebearers facts and info

How to maintain healthy livebearers

Most tank raised livebearers are quite healthy fish. In other words they hardly ever get sick as long as their aquarum is kept clean and healthy and nothing goes wrong such as a faulty heater.
However, dirty water, overcrowded aquariums, overfeeding or even a poor diet can lead to livebearers getting sick.

Diseases can be avoided and should be avoided rather than relying on medications and treatments to cure sick fish it is better to avoid the conditions that lead to sick fish.

Here are some common sense tips:

  1. Don’t buy sick fish. Even apparently healthy fish should be quarantined for a few weeks in case of hidden illnesses to avoid spreading illness to your existing fish.
  2. Remove dead fish immediately. I dead fish which may have been carrying an illness will release its illness into the water as it decomposes. Also a decomposing fish will rot and pollute the water causing the other fish harm. A partial water change after removing a dead fish is a good idea too.
  3. Check your fish daily for any signs of lack of health such as lethargy, clamped fins, scratching against objects or unusual breathing by the fish.
  4. Treat your fish as soon as a disease is spotted. Some diseases can only be cured if the disease is treated early.
  5. Keep common fish medications at hand. In other words buy them early. Methylene blue, malachite green, white spot medication and an antifungal medication are helpful first aid. Also sea salt is often helpful.

Common illnesses that affect livebearers

1) White spot
The signs of white spot are white dust like spots about the size of a grain of salt sprinkled over the body and fins of affected fish.
Treat fish early. Fish can die from untreated white spot. Raise the temperature to 85F but less for livebearers from cooler waters. Add some salt to the water. 1 teaspoon per 5 litres of water. Treat with the latest white spot medication as well.

2) Mouth fungus (cottonmouth)
Recognised by white fluffy growths around the mouth or occasionally along the fins. Although it looks like fungus, it is not. It is actually caused by a bacterial infection – columnaris.
Treat fish with marycin, salt added to the water and malachite green. Cottonmout has become resistant to some antibiotics so you might have to re-treat with a different antibiotic.

3) Fin Rot
Signs of fin rot are split or frayed edges to the fins with dark or white edging to the fins.
Treat with nitrofurazone or a similar wide spectrum antibiotic. Also add salt and methylene blue to the water.

4) Fish tuberculosis
Symptoms include bloated stomachs, pop-eyes, body abscesses and protruding scales.
This is very difficult to treat because TB forms a protective mass coating that prevents antibiotic penetrating to kill off the bacteria. Very sick fish are best killed.

5) Gill flukes
Symptoms include: fish having laboured breathing with gill covers open. Fish may also start scraping their gill plates against objects.
Treat with praziquantel baths. Alternatively treat with a dylox bath.

6) Intestinal parasites or worms
Symptoms are thin bellied fish, stringy white poop. Fish may go off their food.
Buy anti-parasitic medication that can be mixed into the fish’s food. If the fish are not eating you will have to capture the fish and inject the medication directly into the fish’s mouth.

7) Cloudy Skin
Slimy looking film on the skin or fins is an infection of ciliates or flagellates. This may be cured by raising the temperature slowly over several days until it reaches 85F and treating with methylene blue.

8) Poisoning
The fish will have clamped fins and may dart about the tank and rub against objects. Fish will also breathe heavily.
The main causes of water poisoning are Chlorine from tap water, ammonia from decaying organic matter or a build up of fish urine and poop, chemicals from aerosol sprays, insecticides such as fly killers are pretty bad.

Do an immediate 50% water change with safe water that has been standing for at least 24 hours and is the same temperature as your aquarium. Remove any decaying matter or dirt in the aquarium, remove excess mulm from filters, stop feeding. After 24 hours do another 50% water change.

9) Fungal infections
Symptoms are white or greyish fluffy patches on the body or the fins. This may come about from injury to the body or fin. Dab the affected area with cotton wool dipped in malachite green or set up a malachite green bath dip for the fish. Leave the fish in the bath for 1 hour.

10) Shimmies or livebearer disease
Symptoms are when your fish continually rock from side to side.
This is thought to be because many livebearers prefer hard alkaline water with some salt added. Livebearers kept in soft acidic water will over time develop this disease.
Treat by adding some salt to the aquarium and find ways of adjusting the ph and hardness of the water. Perhaps by the use of crush coral sand or dolomite sand.

 

How to buy livebearers

blue lace leopard skin guppy male

Where and how to buy livebearers

Here are the main sources of livebearers

Your local aquarium pet store is a good source of fish
Your local aquarium pet store is a good source of fish

You can of course go to one of the large pet chain stores where you will be able to buy some off the shelf guppies, platies or mollies and sometimes swordtails. However don’t expect any fancy variety or high pedigree fish. If you are a beginner just starting out then this is not a bad place to start out. You will however have to be more careful with the health of the fish you buy here because these are not cared for by experts in fish keeping but by shop staff who may not have experience in looking after fish at all.

There are smaller specialised aquarium shops that will carry a greater variety of livebearer and occasionally will stock the excess brood of a professional breeder. You might be able to pick up some near pedigree stock.

Aquarium clubs are a much better place to buy more specialised forms and rare species of livebearer. You will also be able to buy wild strains of newly imported fish that are not available anywhere else. The American livebearer association or the British livebearer association are the obvious clubs to join. Other local clubs are less likely to have livebearers that you might particularly want.

internet classified adverts is a good source for fish
internet classified adverts is a good source for fish

You can also browse aquarist magazines in the classified section to see if the livebearer you are after has come up for sale.

Before buying your fish, it is best to inspect it first. Be prepared by taking with you several plastic bags and a polystyrene carrier box to take your fish home comfortably without much heat loss. Before you set off to buy you must have your home aquarium all set up.

Now, with the spread of the internet you can also buy fish from an online source. There are several good options available to you. Ebay, craigslist, gumtree, and others have a good fish for sale section. Aquarist classifieds has several specialised fish for sale sections that are also sorted by area.

There are also online firms that do mail order tropical fish. They deliver tropical fish to your door overnight no matter where you live in the country. But sometimes when the weather is particularly cold they might not deliver. Another drawback to this is that you cannot inspect the fish before hand. Home delivery of fish relies on mutual trust from the buyer and seller. The advantages are that you can pick exactly the fish you want with you having a wide choice. Also you do not have to make wasted journeys looking for your fish. The cost of delivery can be reduced by buying several fish at the same time.

In the winter some firms will deliver fish but will include special heat packs that maintain the temperature of the water for 24 hours until they can safely reach you. These are expensive and you the purchaser will have to pay extra for this delivery method.

Always buy healthy livebearers

How do you recognise a healthy livebearer? Once you have picked out the fish you are interested in, take a good long look at it in the aquarium. Also, look at other tankmates that share the same tank as well. Examine the body for any white or grey fuzzy patches. Examine the fins for any splits or frayed edges. Check for any abnormal swelling of the eyes or swelling of the abdomen. Check for any scales that stick out pine cone like. Look at the gills they should not be red in colour. check the belly of the fish. If it is concave or the head of the fish looks too big for the body. This is a sign of a poor upbringing. If any of the previous symptoms are present in the fish you are considering then do not buy the fish.

Your ideal fish should have scales and skin with bright colours and have no white grey,brown spots on the skin. The skin should not have a cloudy mucous or fluffy patch anywhere. The fins should be held proud and erect, held away from the body. Clamped fins are a bad sign. Frayed fins are a sign of ill health.

Examine the mouth of the fish. The fish should not have white/grey patches around the lips. The mouth should be sharp and clear.

Next observe the fish swimming. The fish should be active not skulking in a corner. It should show signs of wanting to feed when you come near the aquarium. The fish should not be stuck to the floor of the aquarium nor should it be stuck floating at the surface. This is a sign of swim bladder problems. If you see any of the fish in the aquarium with their mouths near the surface gasping for air and gills opening and closing then this is a sign of poor water conditions(but don’t confuse this with fish trying to feed).

Can I buy just a single livebearer?

It is best to buy a group of fish together because livebearers are social animals and develop inter-fish relationships such as dominance and recognise familiar individuals. You can buy a single fish to add to an existing aquarium but be careful of bullying of the newcomer. Swordtail males will fight each other so it is best to buy only 1 male for any individual aquarium.

How many male and female livebearers should I buy?

If you are buying young fish then to guarantee a reasonable group of males and females you should buy 6 or more because there is no way of telling the sexes apart at a young age.

If you buy adult fish then you can distinguish the males from the females.

  1. Males are more colourful than females. Females are dull in colour but may have some colours in the fins.
  2. Males are usually smaller than females of the same age.
  3. Males have a stick like ventral fin, where the females have a normal triangular shaped fin. The males use this fin to fertilise the females. This fin is located near the fish’s vent.
  4. The males have larger dorsal fins than the females.
  5. Males are slim built while females are plump in shape.

Once you learn to tell apart males from females then you are ready to buy a breeding group. Try to buy 2 females for every male.

Best time of the year to buy livebearers

There is a greater abundance of fish for sale during the spring, autumn and christmas time. So these are the best times to buy your fish. When you buy your fish make sure you don’t have a holiday or business trip planned in the weeks after purchase. It is best to be there for the first few weeks while your fish settle in to oversee if there are any problems.

How to bring your newly bought livebearers home

Set up your home aquarium before you start looking for fish. It should ideally be cycled with a mature filter. After you have purchased your prized specimens always head straight home. When you arrive home, immediately place the unopened bags in the aquarium water.

Leave the fish in the bag for at least 15 minutes to give a chance for the water temperature to equalise with that in the tank. After that you can slowly top up the bag with some water from the tank. Wait 5 minutes then top up again with some more water. Keep repeating until the bag is full. Then release the fish into the tank.

If you have bought small fish or baby fish less than an inch long then you can bag them together in large bags, 4 to a bag. You should put adult fish or fish an inch or bigger in size, singly into separate bags. The bags should be filled with 3/4 air and 1/4 water by the person selling you the fish. They should use the water from the aquarium the fish came from.

Quarantining your newly bought livebearers

When you become serious at the hobby and have prized specimens at home that would be a great loss if they died then you must use a quarantine tank to keep your new arrivals away from your established fish. This gives you a chance to see if your new fish have any hidden illnesses or not. Keep your new fish in quarantine for at least 2 weeks, but better still for 4 weeks to be absolutely safe. If the new fish appears well after this time then they can be transferred to the main aquarium.

Have the right livebearer aquarium set up

Most livebearers can live quite well in a community tank. Your community tank can consist of a variety of livebearer species, a single livebearer species or even include some other community fish alongside. The choice is yours.

Use a single species tank if you are line breeding pedigree livebearers. Note that some closely related livebearer species can interbreed and you will end up with unwanted mongrel fish.

When having a community tank you should try to make sure all the fish are of a similar size and similar activity level. This will help to reduce bullying of small fish by bigger fish and active fish stressing out more placid fish. Also the more active fish will always get to the fish effectively starving the less active fish.

You should always include more females than males for all species. A ratio of 2 females to every male is a good starting point. This is because most males will be continually trying to mate with the females. Too much male attention stresses the females.

Livebearers generally prefer hard alkaline water of ph higher than 7.5. Some species even benefit with some sea salt added to the water. The main species of livebearers prefer temperatures between 74-80f. However the sunset platy a close relative of the common platy prefers lower temperatures between 70f and 75f. Goodeids also prefer lower temperatures similar to sunset platies.

Compatible fish for a livebearer community tank

Most small tetras are compatible with guppies, mollies and platies or other similar livebearer species.

Small corydoras catfish are ideal for most livebearer tanks because the corys stay along the bottom avoiding the livebearers who mostly live along the top of the aquarium.

Most dwarf cichlids make ideal companions because they also occupy the bottom of the aquarium and are not overly aggressive. The presence of livebearers in a dwarf cichlid tank actually gives the dwarf cichlids more confidence to come out more rather than hiding in plants and caves.

Barbs, rasboras and danios are a little more active and occupy the same space as livebearers but can still make good companions for medium to large livebearers such as swordtails and sailfin mollies.

Even for a livebearer single species tank, the addition of a few corydoras catfish can liven your aquarium by having some activity in the lower half of the tank which is usually deserted in a livebearer aquarium set up.

Setting up a Community tank here

Suggested starter groups here

Essential facts about Livebearers here.

Maintain a healthy Livebearer aquarium here.

Livebearers – essential facts

Lovely delta tailed golden guppy male

Introduction to livebearers

guppies and platies in a community tank
guppies and platies in a community tank

(Livebearers – the essential facts that you should know)

More about breeding livebearers here

More about keeping healthy livebearers here

Although a beginner’s fish livebearers have a fascination breeding behaviour and birthing method. The females give birth to live young. Baby fish that are the exact miniature version of the adult. There is also something for the advanced fish keeper. There are other exotic species of livebearer. Good examples are the mexican topminnow and endlers guppy as well as the half beaks. There are many other uncommon species almost as good as the common livebearers.

In the tropical fish hobby, there are four families of live-bearer available.

1. Livebearing tooth carps (Poeciliidae). This is the largest group of live-bearers and includes some well known aquarium favourites. Mosquito fish, guppies, platies, sword tails and mollies are all members of this family. There is an international fish club called “American Live-bearer Association” that is open to livebearer keepers all over the world. There is also a British version available to hobbyists in the UK called “British Livebearer Association”.

goodied livebearer xenotoca eisini male
goodied livebearer xenotoca eisini male

2. Goodeidae includes the Mexican topminnow. These are rare livebearers in the hobby.

More about Goodeids here

3. Half-beaks(Hemirhamphidae). These fish are straight long fish with a long pencil like beak shaped mouth. There are 20 species of half beak. Half beaks are occasionally found in the hobby.
4. Four-eyed fish (Anablepidae). These fish are interesting for their ability to equally see above the surface of the water as well as in the water simultaneously. Their eye balls have evolved into two bulbs with the upper part of the eye above the waterline and the lower part under the surface. They are incidently livebearers.

Where are livebearers found in the wild?

Live bearers are mostly from the Americas but some species are found in Asia. Their range extends from north America to Argentina in South America. Most livebearers eat mosquito larvae especially the mosquito fish. This ability of livebearers to eat lots of mosquitos and breed rapidly led them to be used in coutries with mosquito and malaria epidemics in S.E. Asia and the Philipines. However, these livebearers were so successful that they spread all over sub-tropical and tropical asia and even into parts of Southern Europe.

male and female halfbeaks fighting
male and female halfbeaks fighting

Goodeid livebearers (Mexican Topminnow) live in the rivers and lakes of the Mexican plateau and all the way down the rivers that lead into the Pacific.

Halfbeaks are found all over S.E Asia and can be found in both fresh and brackish water.

Four-eyed fish are found all along the west coast of South America. They are nearly always found in brackish water.

Livebearers’ early history

European aquarists started keeping livebearers from 1890 onward. They were in popular demand when they first appeared because they gave live birth. Because of their popularity they were very expensive. Prices quickly fell when hobbyists started breeding them and selling on the young. Livebearers have always been easy to breed in the aquarium so became widespread throughout Europe.

Livebearer social and reproductive behaviour

Most live bearers are shoaling fish, so do best in a group of 6 or more fish. This group or shoal of fish will develop a pecking order of dominance where an alpha male will dominate other males. The alpha male will show off brighter colours and display his fins better that the subordinate males. The dominant fish will always get to the food first. He will either chase away others or they will retreat as he approaches. The alpha male will always get a better chance to mate with the available females. The females will be more likely to accept him as a mate and he will chase off rival males too.

Most livebearers are non-aggressive community fish but the males may get territorial. Also larger species such as mollies can be boisterous to timid tank mates. Swordtail males are the most aggressive to each other. Keeping 2 or 3 will lead to bullying and death of the weaker males. Surprisingly keeping 5 or more males does actually reduce the bullying against weaker males because the bullying is spread around. Always keep more females than males. A ratio of 2 females to each male is a good starting point to reduce male attention to manageable levels.

Nearly all livebearers do not recognise their young. They will eat any young that appear in their tank as if it was a form of live food, even when it is their own young they are eating.

Courtship behaviour of livebearers

Guppy and swordtail males are very flirtatious and ardent lovers. Males will swim back and forth in front of the females while flexing their bodies in display to the female.

male mollies will present their bodies in front of a females and then spread their fins to their full extent so that the female gets a good display before trrying ti impregnate her.

Other species have a wham bam, thank you ma’am method of mating. The males will lie in hiding waiting for a suitable female. When a female passes by the male will pounce and mate by inserting his gonopod into the females opening and fertilising her.

Some species of livebearers have males that have a hook on the end of their gonopod so that it firmly attaches to the female’s opening while he is inseminating her as she struggles to get away. Not every mating results in successful fertilisation of the female. The ratio is about 10% chance of success. So the males are always trying to repeat the process to guarantee fertilisation of the female.

If the female is not interested in mating she will make a determined effort to escape the male’s attention. Since males are nearly always trying to mate and you might get several males trying to mate with a single female, it is best to provide several females for every male while also providing bushy plants for the females to hide in when they need a break.

Reproduction in livebearers

Livebearing is the most advanced form of reproduction. It is almost universal in all species of mammals. In reptiles and fish it does occur in the occasional species. Most fish species lay many eggs which are fertilised by the males in open water. The livebearers have developed internal fertilisation of the eggs with hatching of the eggs internally. Most species of livebearers eggs hatch shortly before birth and young fully formed livebearers which are miniatures of the adults ae born.

In Goodeid livebearers, reproduction is even more evolutionary advanced. The eggs hatch early internally and the young embryos develop internally and nourished through a form of attached umbilical chord, which is similar to mammals.

Some species of livebearers have females that can store sperm internally following a successful mating. The stored sperm not only fertilises the present batch of eggs but also can fertilise future batches of eggs as they develop following a pregnancy. It was demonstrated in an experiment that a mosquito fish from one fertilisation was able to produce 11 broods one after the other for a period of a year without any access to a male mosquito fish.

 

Suggestion list of compatible fish groups for your aquarium

fish tank set up

How to set up your tank fish from top to bottom

To increase the chances of your fish being compatible you need to consider the fishes’ territory. Fish swim in different zones of the aquarium. Some swim near the surface. Some swim midwater. And yet others stay near the floor of the aquarium. Generally fish in one zone will be less territorial with fish from another zone.

Here I will list suggested fish groups by tank size with an eye on maximum compatibility.

2 foot 50litre tank

amazon biotope with angels rummy nose and rams
amazon biotope with angels rummy nose and rams

Small amazonian biotope

Surface fish
4 hatchetfish
Midwater fish
8 neon tetras
2 angel fish
Bottom dwellers
4 panda corys

More on amazon biotope here


Small slice of an Asian stream in your living room

rasboras breeding pair male on left
Male and female breeding pair of harlequin rasboras

Surface fish
4 hatchet fish
Midwater fish
4 Harlequin rasboras
6 cherry barbs
Bottom dwellers
4 kuhli loaches
1 siamese algae eater

————————————–
Dwarf Cichlid Breeding set up

Surface fish
4 Lemon tetras
Bottom dwellers
Male and 2 female cockatoo dwarf cichlids
3 three stripe corydoras

More on dwarf cichlids here

————————————

pedigree red guppies
pedigree red guppies

Livebearer community set up

Surface fish
6 guppies 2 male 4 female
Mid water fish
3 sword tails 1 male 2 females
Bottom dwellers
3 bronze corydoras
 

 
More on livebearers here
———————————-

30 inch 76liter tank

Amazonian biotope aquarium

Surface fish
2 silver hatchet fish
midwater fish
3 emperor tetras 1 male + 2 females
5 lemon tetras
Bottom dwellers
3 peppered corydoras

More on the Amazon biotope here

————————————

kuhli loaches on gravel eating
group of kuhli loaches in an aquarium

Slice of an asian stream

Surface fish
3 glass catfish
midwater fish
6 harlequin rasbora
Bottom dwellers
5 kuhli loaches
1 siamese algae eater
——————–

Amazon dwarf cichlid aquarium

Surface fish
6 cardinal tetras
midwater fish
mated pair(1 male+1 female) of blue rams or bolivian rams
Bottom dwellers
6 pygmy corydoras
——————————-

4 foot 110 litre tank

male pearl gourami with red breast
male pearl gourami with red breast

Large gourami Asian biotope

Surface fish
male and female pearl gourami or male + female blue gourami (breeding pair)
midwater fish
6 checkerboard barbs or 8 harlequin rasboras
Bottom dwellers
5 kuhli loaches
——————————

Asian busy community tank

Surface fish
5 zebra danios
midwater fish
5 rosy or ruby barbs
Bottom dwellers
2 siamese algae eaters
6 kuhli loaches

———————————————-

kribensis breeding pair
kribensis male and female breeding pair

Non-rift valley African community tank

Surface fish
midwater fish
5 red eye tetras
Bottom dwellers
5 kribensis

More on kribensis here
———————————————-

Convict community

Surface fish
6 guppies
midwater fish
5 bleeding heart tetras
Bottom dwellers
5 convict cichlids
———————————————-

all male peacock aquarium
all male peacock aquarium

Malawi Community

Surface fish

3 Mollies

midwater fish
6 peacocks (jacobfreibergi) 2 males 4 females

Bottom dwellers

6 yellow labs

More on Malawis here

 

10 Different starter fish groups for beginners

rosy barb males

10 different starter fish groups for a beginner’s community tank

20 most popular fish here

three year old Walstad aquarium
three year old Walstad aquarium

Nearly everyone in the fish keeping hobby starts off with a community tank. These offer the best combination of bright colors and fascinating inter-species behavior, and are easily maintained by beginners if the right fish are chosen from outset.

When it comes to selecting fish for a community tank, it is important to take the experience of the aquarist into consideration. Highly experienced aquarists with years of practical fish keeping knowledge will be able to maintain more exotic combinations of fish than beginners can. If you are just beginning your first community tank, the lists below may help you get on the right path from the start.

It is not just a matter of selecting any fish from a list of community fish one by one. Individually each fish might make a good beginner fish. However, it is when you buy several different beginner fish that problems might arise. So, you must buy beginner fish that will create a community of compatible fish.

Choosing compatible fish

male pearl gourami with red breast
male pearl gourami with red breast

Your choice of fish has to be determined based on their compatibility with one another. This means taking two major factors into account: the behavior of the fish, and the environment in which it will thrive. Two fish that require very different water conditions will never be compatible—you need to make sure that your fish can physically complement one another.

The behavior of your fish is another important element: aggressive fish are generally off-limits for beginners, since any environmental stress will invariably cause the fish to lash out and attack its neighbors. Your first fish need to be peaceful, hardy, and willing to adapt to a wide variety of situations.

An additional consideration to take into account is the part of the aquarium that your fish prefer to inhabit. Ideally, you would like some fish to rest around the bottom of the aquarium, some of them in the middle area, and others around the surface. Selecting your fish based on these criteria will help ensure that they live peacefully with one another. Fish in different zones will mostly keep out of each other’s way.

10 ideal community fish set ups for beginners

fish tank set up
typical aquarium with fish and plants
  • The livebearer tank – Beginners would do well to start off with livebearers such as platies, mollies and swortails. Buy 1 male with 3 females of each type of fish. Avoid guppies that are usually a little delicate because of extensive in-breeding. Also, buy a group of 6 dwarf corydoras to inhabit the tank floor. This aquarium will provide you with a colourful, lively and interesting group of fish that are hardy. As long as you perform reasonable maintenance this beginner tank should be a success.

Essential facts about livebearers

  • The danio starter tank—Schooling fish like danios make an excellent starting point for a community tank. You will have to keep between six to ten of them, but you can then enjoy their excellent coloration and fascinating behavior properly. Zebras danios and pearl danios are the best species to choose from, but other danios make good beginner fish too. To complement the danio school, a smaller school of Corydoras catfish and a couple of kribensis cichlids will offer you a simple and beautiful community tank set up.
  • Watching a large shoal of cardinal tetras is an enchanting experience
    Watching a large shoal of cardinal tetras is enchanting

    The two-school variety tank—If you have a larger tank, between 120 liters and 200 liters in size, you can keep two separate schools of six to ten fish each. Try combining a school of giant danios with another school of gold barbs along with six bottom-feeding Corydoras and one algae-eating bristlenose pleco. Add one male and two female swordtails if you have the room for them.

  • The novice’s nano tank—A small tank , ideal for beginners starting out with a tank between 40 and 80 liters in volume, this tank focuses on small fish: two schools of six zebra danios, small tetras, or white clouds, along with one male swordtail and two female ones, six Corydoras, and a Peckoltia catfish.
  • The Asian Riverbed—If you can install a reasonably powerful current in your 120 to 200 liter aquarium, you can enjoy this South-East Asian biotope easily: 15 zebra danios, 10 tiger barbs, 4 tinfoil barbs, and a single red tail shark. Be sure to add in plenty of sturdy plant species that will thrive without extra carbon dioxide or fertilizers to enjoy this tank at its best.
  • male and female honey gouramis
    male and female honey gouramis

    The Gourami Aquarium—If you have between 120 and 200 liters of volume to fill, you can base your tank on two schools of six gourami fish: one male and three female pearl gouramis and the one male with three female dwarf gouramis. Add a few kribensis to populate the lower range of the tank. Add six corydoras to complete the tank.

  • The Malawi Tank—Malawi cichlids can be great fish for beginners, because they are quite hardy. They are territorial at first but eventually once they establish a pecking order, aggression quietens down. But the beginner must have a very strong filtration system for this aquarium. This combination of fish is ideal for a plant-free tank between 120 liters and 200 liters. Six red zebras, six Labeotropheus trewavasae, and six Pseudotropheus socolofi will go together perfectly. Keeping the tank stocked to the limit will actually help reduce aggression. You can add a Cuckoo catfish or two if necessary.

The perfect Malawi tank

  • The small Amazon tank—With 100 liters of tank volume, you can keep a beautiful Amazon-themed tank. The star of the show will be a single angelfish, supported by six hatchet fish and a school of six bottom-dwelling Corydoras catfish. Be sure to include plenty of driftwood in the tank to give it the proper rainforest feel.
  • The large Amazon tank—While not strictly an Amazon biotope, this stretch of the imagination is a perfectly viable option for a beginning aquarist with 200 liters of volume to fill: eight neon tetras, eight cherry barbs, eight panda corydoras, three Oto fish, four zebra loaches, one pearl gourami and a single bristlenose pleco to round out the bunch.

Amazon biotope aquarium

  • amazon biotope with angels rummy nose and rams
    amazon biotope with angels rummy nose and rams

    The tiny apartment tank—If size is an issue and you don’t have more than 40 liters to work with try this rewarding and simple tank set up: two platys, male and female, along with six neon tetras and six cherry barbs. Small tanks require great care, since changes in water conditions can affect your fish very quickly.

The nano fish tank

With any of these tanks, you should be able to enjoy a peaceful, colorful, and highly rewarding initial foray into the community tank experience. Many of the theme tanks can be easily refitted into a full-scale biotope with minimal adjustments, giving you room to improve later on as well!

 

The 20 most popular fish and how to feed them

The 20 most popular fish and their favorite foods

Suggested beginner fish groups

Fish foods

daphnia swarm
a swarm of daphnia

Fish are just like any other pet when it comes feeding—they need to be fed regularly, and different specimens will assuredly have different tastes and preferences. Your choice of fish food will readily affect the health and wellbeing of your fish, so you want to make sure that you make the correct choice concerning your particular species of fish.

It should be noted that in some cases, certain combinations of fish foods will help encourage breeding. That is normal day to day feeding needs to be enhanced when you need to prepare your fish for breeding. In most cases, live foods such as brine shrimp are best, since their presence gives some fish species a cue that the environment is ripe for breeding. In the list that follows below, you will see breeding options added on where appropriate.

Food options and feeding for the most popular fish.

There are two broad categories when it comes to fish food: processed foods and live foods. Of these two choices, live foods such as brine shrimp and bloodworms are generally superior, but often require cultivation. Processed foods, on the other hand, are inexpensive and easily obtained at any aquarium supply store. Among the processed choices, there are further options, including:

  • Fresh foods
  • Frozen and freeze-dried foods
  • Canned flakes or pellets
  • Sinking Food Tablets

Flake food is generally the most popular of these options, but the list below will show that certain species have much to offer the enterprising aquarist who invests in a supply of specialty foods.

The favorite foods of the 20 most popular freshwater aquarium fish

  • Angelfish—This tall community-friendly fish is not a fussy eater. Angelfish will gladly live off of a variety of commercially available flake foods and freeze-dried options. For the best results, supplement its diet with some fresh bloodworms, brine shrimp, or even leftover vegetables like peas.

    Blue and pink marble plakat style betta
    Blue and pink marble plakat style betta
  • Bettas—These extremely popular fish are easy to take care of. They will accept canned flake and freeze-dried foods, but they do their best with small fresh worms. Specialized Betta foods are widely available at pet stores, and breeding can be encouraged using live foods.
  • Barbs—The barb family of fish consists of numerous species that share, among other attributes, a major appetite for just about anything they can fit in their mouths. Barbs love flake, they love frozen foods, they love worms, and they love your aquarium plants. Make sure your barbs are getting a dose of vegetable fiber so they’ll leave your plants alone.
  • Guppies—Live-bearing fish that are commonly seen in a wide variety of community tanks, guppies have a great appetite for small live foods. They will also eat frozen worms and flakes, and have a particular fondness for variety. Try feeding them the occasional slice of zucchini or other vegetables.
  • dalmation molly male
    pedigree dalmation molly

    Black Molly—These beautiful black fish are useful algae-eaters for your tank. However, they will need to supplement that food source with flake food or blanched vegetables. The black molly feeds at the surface of the tank, so make sure your food floats, or the fish may not find it.

  • Serpae Tetras—These small and very popular fish are known to nip away at their neighbors fins. They are not picky eaters, but extra care should be taken to make sure that their tank mates also get to eat. These fast-moving fish can quickly consume more than their fair share of food, leaving slower fish unfed.
  • Rummynose Tetras—Your red Rummynose tetras will survive on a diet that consists of commercially prepared flake foods without issue. They are perfectly fine with dry and frozen foods, but prefer live brine shrimp, mosquito larvae, and brown worms.
  • Rosy Tetras—The abundantly seen Rosy Tetra prefers a diet that consists of flakes and worms. These fish will eat very small fish if given the chance, so care should be taken if you choose to combine them with juveniles or fry.

Pristella_tetra

  • Black Tetras—Very popular fish for beginners, Tetras are not picky about what they eat, and will even breed on a diet of dry flake food. Your black tetras will be perfectly happy with anything even remotely resembling fish food. Give them a good quality flake-and-vegetable diet to ensure their best health.
  • Blue Gourami—This species of fish, like most of its Gourami cousins, will exhibit its best coloring and behavior when given a diet of small live foods with leftover vegetable matter such as zucchini or peas. They will eat flake and freeze-dried foods, as well, but higher quality options are recommended.
  • Kribensis—These undemanding fish are perfect for beginners. They are tolerant of most water conditions and food sources. They will eat nearly anything, but offer the best results when fed a combination of flake food and frozen bloodworms or brine shrimp. Being middle to bottom feeders, you can try sinking pellets.
  • Discus—These cichlids are peaceful, tall fish that are very popular for larger community tanks. They will accept flake food, but should be given more in order to encourage the best health: frozen or live worms, shrimp meat, and Spirulina to enhance their coloration. Discus fish will happily eat chopped up beef heart.
  • oscar2
    Oscars are popular but can grow very large and eat a lot of meaty foods

    Oscars—The oscar is an intelligent fish that will learn to recognize its owner. It is also a characteristically aggressive fish, and it will eat its tank mates if given the opportunity. Naturally, this fish does best with a meat-based diet. Live worms are ideal, but frozen ones are acceptable as well. Do not feed your oscar guppies or other fish.

  • Catfish—Corydoras and related species of catfish are bottom-dwellers that will gladly eat any food that falls to the bottom of your tank. In order to make sure that enough food reaches your catfish, purchase some sinking tablets. Corydoras will only breed if worms, with blackworms being a particular favorite.
  • Zebra danios—This very popular fish prefers a diet consisting of a wide variety of small live food choices: bloodworms, brine shrimp, Tubifex worms, and insect larvae are favorites. They will also accept frozen and flake foods, but you should take care to supplement the diet of this fish with romaine lettuce or other green leafy vegetables.
  • Frontosa cichlids—Possibly the most popular fish from Lake Tanganyika, the frontosa cichlid likes meat. Some specimens will ignore flake food, requiring you to provide a steady, varied diet of krill, worms, or daphnia. This fish is one of the few that can be trained to eat directly out your hand.
  • Jack Dempseys—These aggressive fish are popular pets since, like Oscars, they will identify and develop a relationship with their owner. They are not picky eaters, and will gladly thrive off of a diet of flake foods or just about anything else.
  • white cloud mountain minnow pair
    white cloud mountain minnow male and female

    White Cloud—This popular beginner’s species is very happy to live on a diet of canned flake foods. Supplementing that diet with live foods such as brine shrimp or even frozen bloodworms can help: extra nutritional options like these will intensify its colors.

  • Platies—The live-bearing platy comes in an enormous variety of colors, sizes, and finnage types. These community-friendly fish will are content with commercially-prepared flake food, but will thrive if given an extra boost of vegetable matter in their diet. With a vegetable-heavy diet and some aquarium plants, they will readily breed.
  • Goldfish—Last, but not least, the ever-popular goldfish is happiest when presented with live worms, but will feel perfectly fine when provided with flake and sinking pellet foods. The key with goldfish is recognizing that they look for food either at the surface of the tank or at the bottom. Choose a food that sinks or floats to make feeding easy.

Why do my fish keep dying?

two dead goldfish neglected in an aquarium

Why do my fish keep dying?

Mistakes beginner fishkeepers make

two dead goldfish neglected in an aquarium
two dead goldfish neglected in an aquarium

There can be several reasons for the death of your fish; however for beginners the main reason is new tank syndrome. This is a situation where you have bought new fish and placed them in a newly set up aquarium. Your fish start dying and you are unable to explain the cause. This syndrome is usually experienced by new fish owners who have yet to master keeping fish safe, healthy and alive. Here are some things that you should look out for and avoid to explain and prevent new tank deaths

  • Uncycled aquarium & filter
  • Water chemistry problems
  • Diseases
  • Poor diet and overfeeding
  • Over population
  • Wrong type of fish
  • Buying sick fish

Uncycled aquarium & filter

dead catfish on the tank floor
dead catfish on the tank floor

 
Most fish owners will be buying their new pets along with new equipment, such as an aquarium and a filter. They will fill the aquarium with water and then put in the fish and they will think that the work is done. This is a common error by most new fish owners. Even before you introduce your desired fish population, you need to create a nitrifying bacteria bed in your aquarium and filter.

Take note that the same way human bodies have good bacteria that can protect them from harm, so does the aquarium. An aquarium and especially the filter must have good bacteria that can protect them from risks to their health. The bacteria work by neutralizing or converting toxins that are produced by the fish’s droppings and urine such as ammonia and nitrites.

Without good bacteria, these toxins build up in the aquarium. When they reach dangerous levels, the fish will absorb these toxins and cause them to become ill. Since it is often difficult to detect if a fish is sick, new fish owners will only discover it when it is too late and the fish are dead or about to die.

It takes time for the healthy bacteria in the filter to build up, between 4-6 weeks before a healthy population of bacteria develops in the filter capable of fully removing fish waste products. So, what do you do in the mean time? You have to do daily partial water changes to dilute these toxins. Perhaps, remove 5% of the water and top up with (chlorine free) fresh water.

dead fish on the tank floor that needs removing asap
dead fish on the tank floor that needs removing asap

This explains a common pattern to newly bought fish that will be fine for up to a week or longer. Then something seems to change and the fish start getting ill. Finally they start to die. And, the few fish that survive start to get better and if all is well the survivors live a long time.

This is all explained by the cycling of the filter and the fish waste product. When the fish first enter a new aquarium with fresh water there is no waste matter in the water. As the fish start to poop and urinate in the water this waste starts to build up. This poisons the fish. Slowly the bacteria in the filter build up and digest this waste cleaning the water, but this takes weeks to establish.

Water chemistry problems

Fish require a delicate balance in the chemicals in the water. Clear water does not necessarily mean an ideal environment for the fish. Ammonia, nitrites and nitrates are some of the chemicals, which when uncontrolled, can cause significant harm to your fish that will eventually lead to death. These toxins are from the waste your fish produce. These are harmful toxins that should be neutralized or kept at a minimum during the course of your taking care of the fish.

Cycling explained in full here

When looking after fish as pets you are not necessarily taking care of the actual fish themselves but rather of the water quality instead. Measuring devices and kits are available to keep a check on the various chemical parameters of the water of your fish tank. You must also have keen observation, noting changes such as the tinge of the water, any discoloration of the gravel in the aquarium or the behaviour of your fish. However, as a beginner, if you rely solely on observation, the toxic levels will already be too high to before you understand that something is wrong. At this point any chance for survival of your fish is slim.

Tap water usually contains chlorine which is lethal to your fish. To remove it leave the water standing for 1-2 days before adding to your aquarium. Alternatively, use dechlorinating medication that removes chlorine immediately from tap water.
Check the ph and hardness. Ph between 6.6 – 7.6 is okay for most fish. Test the hardness level. A moderate level of hardness is ideal for most beginner fish.
Diseases

Don’t buy sick fish! Beginners often buy fish that have illnesses from the pet shop. This is easier said than done. Check the pet shop aquarium if there are any sick or dead fish in there. Check if there are any spots on the fish or markings or fungus like patches. Make sure the fish are active and swim towards food. Don’t buy fish that are sulking or have clamped fins (ie fins held close to the body). Check the fish has bright colouration.

Another cause for fish death is because of disease. As the water quality becomes poorer from elevated levels of toxins, the fish health also becomes poorer with it. When the fish become weaker, they are more vulnerable to disease. A healthy fish will normally be able to resist these illnesses but a weakened fish will succumb to them.

Some examples of these diseases are bacterial infections, fungal infections, internal parasites in the fish’s body, dropsy and other opportunistic diseases. Most new fish owners will attempt to cure these diseases by adding antibiotics, anti-parasitic or anti-bacterial medicine into the water. However, without treating the underlying cause of the disease, which is the toxicity from waste matter, there will still be fatalities, despite the medication. Experienced fish owners are able to nurse a fish back to health where a beginner may or may not succeed.

Poor diet and overfeeding

Most new owners will enjoy feeding their fish. Who wouldn’t enjoy seeing their fish swim towards the food and follow the trail wherever you sprinkle the food? It is also fun to see some fish diving towards a food pellet that sinks towards the bottom of the aquarium. Ironically, feeding your fish or rather overfeeding is also one of the main causes of fish death.

Fish should be fed once a or twice day, with the fish eating everything within 5 minutes. But most new owners will feed their fish every chance they get. On top of this over feeding, other members of the family may also be feeding the fish on their own without the owner’s knowledge. Fish food that is uneaten, such as food left floating on the surface of the water or sitting on the aquarium bed will rot and pollute your aquarium, leading to the same problems as fish waste. Rotting food in the aquarium is the second biggest cause of fish deaths after new tank syndrome.

Over population

Another cause of death for fish is the population itself. Despite the care you make on making a balance in the water chemistry, proper feeding schedule and best equipment you can provide, your fish may still die because there are just too many fish in too small an aquarium. But problems may also arise if you have the wrong combination of fish species.

There isn’t a strict rule on the ideal number of fish for a certain size of aquarium. More experienced fish owners recommend a ratio of 1 inch of fish for every 1 gallon of water. Take note that the 1 inch is meant to be measured on each fish’s eventual adult size. The more fish there are, the greater the chance for oxygen deficiency, self pollution and diseases to spread.

The wrong combination of fish can also lead to stress and deaths. If you put together an aggressive fish with a more passive or smaller fish, the passive fish may be bullied. In their natural environment, a passive fish would be able to escape the aggressive fish, but in an aquarium they have no chance for escape. The constant stress will cause death.

Wrong type of fish

Finally, the beginner may have bought a difficult to care for species of fish. Difficult fish may need special water requirements, special dietary needs or some other type of specialised care. You must always ask the pet shop owner if the fish you are buying are beginner community fish to avoid such problems. Only buy more difficult fish when you have more experience.

You should buy popular starter fish such as gold fish, tetras, platies, swordtails and bettas. These are colorful, active and most importantly easy to care for. Avoid buying difficult fish such as saltwater fish.

Recommended compatible fish groups here

Conclusion

Once you have mastered the two main causes of fish death which is new tank syndrome and rotting uneaten food in the aquarium you will have a good chance of keeping your fish alive long term. And, if you follow all the above advice you should hardly ever see a fish death in your tanks. If you follow all this advice, not only will your fish stop dying but you will see your fish in full glowing health.

14 best fish from Lake Tanganyika

Cyphotilapia frontosa male

14 best fish from lake Tanganyika

I will assume that you know how to set up a typical lake Tanganyika aquarium with the correct hard water and high ph paramaters with typically a sandy substrate and some rocky areas with cave like structures. And that you need over filtration and many small water changes to maintain the Tanganyika aquarium.

Some of the following fish live in deeper waters so like less light and less water movement. While other species live in the shallows and like more light with plenty of water movement.

paracyprichromis nigripinnis - blue neon cichlid
paracyprichromis nigripinnis – blue neon cichlid

Paracyprichromis nigripinnis – blue neon cichlid

The blue neon cichlid is a very attractive shoaling fish. So there needs to be a group of over 6 fish. It has a salmon coloured body with thin blue lines and blue tinged fins. It is a long dart shaped fish.
It is a shy fish and prefers subdued lighting and rocky caves. the rock structure should be tall. The males hang upside down underneath rocks. Feed with daphnia, brine shrimp and small grained dried foods. Keep in a species tank or with other shy and peaceful fish.
It is a maternal mouthbrooder where the female will brood from 21-28 days. It is difficult to breed. But once bred, the fry are quite large and will eat baby brine shrimp

Julidochromis ornatus – golden julie

Julidochromis ornatus - golden julie
Julidochromis ornatus – golden julie

The golden julie is probably the most beautiful of the julidochromis species. It grows to around 3 inches. Keep in a typical Lake Tanganyika setup with sandy substrate and rock formations at both ends of the tank.
Needs a diet of live food and dried foods. Be careful of large water changes as this disturbs the fish.
Golden julies are cave spawner with both parents tending the spawn and fry. Golden julies form extended families where young fish from previous spawning help guard newer spawnings. The fish mate like typical cichlids forming definite marriages. So it is best to buy 6 or more youngsters and allow themselves to pair off naturally.

Tropheus kiriza

More about tropheus here

These fish are black with a wide belt of yellow around their middle from belly to dorsal fin. They are a maternal mouthbrooder. kiriza’s are aggressive between themselves but do not bother other fish too much. They eat algae and the lifeforms in the algae. So must be fed with mostly vegetable matter such as spirulina. They grow to about 5 inches in length. Aggression may be lessened by having 6 or more Kiriza’s. They like rocky formations and caves above sand. They live near the shore so a lot of water movement is appreciated by them.
Difficult to keep, so buy tank raised specimens and do frequent small water changes and over filter the water. Feed only once or twice a day.

Tropheus duboisi

tropheus kiriza male female spawning
tropheus kiriza male female spawning

The duboisi starts off as a spotty teenager, black in colour with white spots. But when he matures he will have a blue face, black body and a white band. They will grow to 5 inches. Feed spirulina and other vegetable matter and some veggie based dried foods. They are maternal mouthbrooders and the female will hold the eggs and fry for about 21-28 days before releasing them. Feed the fry on baby brine shrimp and microworms.

All tropheus are active and boisterous fish. They should not be kept with timid or smaller fish to reduce aggression. This is the easiest of the tropheus species to keep, but still not for the beginner.

Tropheus bemba

Similar in appearance to kiriza except it has a wide orange band on its black body. Feed in the same way. Spirulina, veggie matter and veggie based dried food. Grows to 6 inches long. Will breed at 2.5 inches. Best kept in larger aquariums. Feed only once or twice a day to prevent bloat.
Difficult to keep – see tropheus kiriza

Tropheus ikola

Similar in colour to the kiriza except the yellow band is a wider band that covers the mid half of the body and the head and body being black.
Difficult to keep – see tropheus kiriza

Cyphotilapia frontosa

Cyphotilapia frontosa male
Cyphotilapia frontosa male

Known as “fronts” by aquarists. They are the kings of the Tanganyika set up growing to 12 inches. They are tameable and will eat from your hand. But you do need a very large aquarium to succeed with them because they are gregarious and you need at least 6 fish for them to be happy. They are female mouthbrooders. They are fairly easy to care for. Keep in an open sandy aquarium with a few rocky shelters. They are gentle giants and can be kept with other not too small fish.

Cyprichromis leptosoma

They are a schooling fish that swim in open waters. It is recommended to keep at least 10 in an aquarium. They are an attractive fish with elongated blue bodies and fins and a yellowy orange tail. There are various colour morphs, all of which are attractive. They grow to 3-4 inches long. So, to keep 10 in an aquarium requires a large aquarium. There is a giant morph that grows to 5 inches or over.

Cyprichromis leptosoma male
Cyprichromis leptosoma male

They are a maternal mouthbrooder. But they breed mid water. The female lays some eggs. The male fertilises them and then the female backs up to catch her newly fertilised eggs in her mouth. They fry are released after 3 weeks into a cave or other secluded spot. The few fry are quite large.
They are peaceful and relatively easy to keep and will eat most foods offered to them. They can coexist with cave dwelling tankmates because they live mid-water.
lamprologus ocellatus – shell dweller – small 2″ – breed inside shell
This is called the frogface cichlid because of its bulging eyes and large head. It has a delicate beauty with a bluish silvery sheen on its sides. It is a small fish at just under 2 inches, quite lively but peaceful. It is a candidate for a nano aquarium but with hard water. The frogface makes an ideal Tanganyika community fish. it lives on the sandy floor of the aquarium and requires snails shells for territory and breeding. Always have more shells than frogface cichlids otherwise an individual without a shell will get bullied. The female will lay eggs inside her shell which the male will fertilise. The shells are usually buried in the sand with only the mouth exposed. They eat a mixed diet of small live food and high quality pellet food.

Lamprologus signatus

Lamprologus signatus live and guard their own shells. Breeding occurs in the female’s shell. The eggs hatch and the fry slowly leave the shell when they become free swimming. The adults do not eat the fry. Feed the fry with newly hatched brine shrimp.
They grow larger than their relatives ocellatus up to 3 inches. They have an attractive pattern of many vertical dark bars on their sides.

Neolamprologus Similis near snail shells
Neolamprologus Similis near snail shells

Neolamprologus Similis

Known as the zebra shell dweller. This is another nano species. It is even smaller than ocellatus. They have wonderful breeding behaviour. They breed in the female’s shell but also have extended families where young from previous spawnings will help guard the new fry. Less of a digger than the other shell dwellers.
Zebra shell dwellers can be included in a Tanganyika community aquarium alongside other Neolamprologus such as brichardi, or smaller Julidochromis species and even open water species such as the blue neon cichlid. It is easy to care for and readily breeds. Empty French escargot snail shells are ideal.

Neolamprologus leleupi

Neolamprologus leleupi lemon cichlid
Neolamprologus leleupi lemon cichlid

Commonly called the lemon cichlid. This is a long time favourite of aquarists because of its brilliant yellow colour. Both males and females are equally yellow. The lemon cichlid is a peaceful fish except when spawning. They can be community fish but note that they can grow up to 5 inches and they like good water conditions. They need to be kept in a light sandy aquarium otherwise they will darken and lose their brilliant yellow colouration.
The lemon cichlid is a solitary fish only coming together with the female when it is time to mate. Breeding occurs in caves. Both the male and female guard the young. The fry become quite large and are well guarded by the parents.
The lemon cichlid needs foods rich in carotene so that it can keep its brilliant yellow colour. Also, if not using a proprietory Tanganyikan salt mix for the water then use of iodine containing salt must be added to the water occasionally.

Xenotilapia flavipinnis

Known as the yellow sand cichlid. They swim in groups close to the sand. Keep a group of at least 6 fish together. They grow to 3.5 inches. They are peaceful and make a good community fish with other peaceful fish. They do like good water conditions so provide good filtration and water changes. The yellow sand cichlid heads to rocky areas when breeding. Both fish will mouthbrood. At first the mother takes all the eggs into her mouth. After 8-10 days the eggs are transferred to the father’s mouth. The father holds the fry for a further 10 days and releases the free swimming fry.nd microworms. You can feed the fry on baby brine shrimp a The parents keep protecting the young for a further 3 weeks. The fry will re-enter the male’s mouth when frightened.

Enantiopus kilesa

male enantiopus kilesa displaying passing females
male enantiopus kilesa displaying passing females

This is truly a beauty of a fish. Well, the male anyway. He has a blue sheen along his body and a turqoise forehead with a yellow throat that he expands for display. It is a long torpedo shaped fish, growing to 5 inches in the aquarium. But what is more remarkable is that the male builds sand mounds and ditches to impress passing females. Both male and female hover above the sand.
They breed as typical mouthbreeders with the male and female twirling round each with their mouth on the other’s vent area.
So it goes without saying, you need a fine sandy substrate.
They can eat good quality pellets and live or frozen foods. They are not aggressive. You need a large group of at least 8 to see the full range of behaviours. So, you need a 6 foot tank or even bigger. enantiopus is not a difficult fish to keep and breed but it is not a beginners fish either.
Do not overfeed. Feed only once or twice a day. It can be a community fish when kept with other peaceful Tanganyika species.

Lestradea perspicax

This is another peaceful sand loving mouthbrooder. It grows to 5 inches and should be kept in groups of 8 or more. It makes a good community fish with other peaceful Tanganyika species such as neolamprologus, julidochromis and xenotilapia species. Needs to be kept in a 48 inch tank or bigger with lots of sand and some rocky areas.
It is a maternal mouthbrooder. The males dig pits to attract the females. They breed in the pits with the typical mouthbrooder twirling. Not the most attractive fish but makes up for it in the behaviour department.

Nano fish in a nano aquarium

litretank15

The Nano Fish Aquarium: Benefits, Drawbacks, And Guidelines For Use

15 litre nano tank
15 litre nano tank

Nano aquariums are increasingly popular because you can keep them anywhere and cost less than larger aquariums. There are a number of reasons why newcomers and experienced aquarists alike may find themselves interested in purchasing and keeping a nano fish aquarium. It is like the aquarium keeper’s version of bonsai. The small size of these aquariums, generally 56 litres or less, make them ideal for a variety of environments where keeping a large fish tank is out of the question.

These nano aquariums are a very attractive choice for people who would like to keep a small number of fish in their bedroom. Other possible locations include offices and other commercial settings where the presence of a small fish tank can add a pleasant, lively atmosphere. In these situations, it may not be possible to dedicate much space to the fish tank, making the nano fish aquarium a very convenient option.

Some experienced aquarists claim that nano aquariums do not represent a healthy habitat for fish. And that can be true if extra care is not taken to maintain the tank’s health. The truth is that if they are set up and cared for properly, they can harbour an ideal environment. These smaller tanks offer a number of advantages that makes fishkeeping a hobby that is available for everyone.

Benefits of Nano Fish Tanks

chili rasbora
chili rasbora

• Nano aquariums tend to be much less expensive than their larger counterparts, allowing nearly anyone to keep them.

• Their small size ensures that you can find space for them anywhere, and in many cases it is possible to keep several of them without issue.

• Aquariums are often excluded from the, “no pets” rules common to small flats and college dormitories. A nano fish aquarium can be a convenient way to circumvent those rules.

• With their small size they are lighter and can be placed almost anywhere. Nano aquariums do not require dedicated stands.  Nano tanks can be placed on an office desk with ease.
These can serve to make these tanks very attractive for many beginning aquarists, but the pros must be balanced with the cons of keeping such a small tank, as well.

ember tetra
ember tetra

Drawbacks To Keeping A Nano Fish Tank

• Very small aquariums are more susceptible to dramatic changes in water quality due to the much lower volume of water present.

• If a problem with water quality develops, it can turn fatal for the fish very quickly— sometimes within hours.

• Since nano fish tanks are more sensitive to changes in temperature and water chemistry, they require a stricter approach to monitoring water conditions and performing water changes.

• Your fish choices are somewhat limited by the smaller space afforded by a nano fish aquarium. Only small, non-territorial fish should be included in a tank of this size.

jelly bean tetra
jelly bean tetra

Choosing Fish For Your Nano Fish Aquarium

As with any aquarium, you should base your decisions around which fish you would like to keep. It is necessary to select small, peaceful fish who will get along with one another, since it is unlikely that there will be enough room for territorial fish to feel comfortable in. Also smaller fish because of their small size tend to be shoaling fish which you might want to avoid.
There are quite a few species of fish that are small enough to be kept happily in a nano fish aquarium. However, it is necessary to consider the combinations of species carefully in order to be sure that they are all compatible with one another—especially when sharing such a tiny space.
You must take into account that most smaller species are shoaling fish. If you want several different species rather than a shoal of 1 species then you need to find non-shoaling fish.

pygmy sunfish
pygmy sunfish

This is a recommended list of small tropical fish that you should choose from:

best nano aquarium fish

• Dwarf rasbora,
• Chili rasbora,
• Tetras (glowlight, rosy, red phantom, jelly bean, or neon),
Splendid Dwarf Gourami,
• Threadfin Rainbow Fish,
• Lamp Eye,
• Clown Killifish,
• Dwarf Croaking Gourami,

norman's lamp eye fish
norman’s lamp eye fish

• Dwarf Driftwood Catfish,
• Dwarf Ornate Bagrid,
• Dwarf Corydoras,
• Aspidoras Pauciradiatus,
• Marbled Otocinclus,
• Upside Down Catfish,
• Carnegies livebearer,
• Slender Pygmy Swordtail,
• Pygmy Sunfish.

There may be other species available to you at your local aquarist or online and you should certainly investigate all possibilities.

pygmy swordtail
pygmy swordtail

As a quick look at this list will clearly show, a great number of these species are of the dwarf- or pygmy- variety. This is an important distinction since the small space effectively limits the size and number of fish you can keep.

Many of these fish, such as neon tetras and dwarf corydoras, are schooling fish. If you plan on keeping a schooling fish in your mini tank, you will have to make room for 6-8 individuals. This means that just one species can quickly fill up your tank space, making it more difficult to express variety in your choices of fish.

Another issue that you are advised to take into account include the hardiness of the species and how social individual members of that species generally act. Shy fish can have a hard time in small tanks unless you opt for a single species tank.

Choosing fish for beauty

two male sparkling gouramis posturing
two male sparkling gouramis posturing

Select the combination of species that you think will offer you the most striking, colourful and beautiful nano tank that you can keep. But take into consideration: the preferred depths of your fish.

Your fish should be selected not only according to their colour, size, and compatibility, but also according to their most comfortable zone of depth. It is a well-known fact that catfish tend to inhabit the aquarium floor, for example. If you combine these fish with other species that prefer the surface or centre of the tank, you should enjoy less conflict in your tank than you would otherwise. When the fish fully occupy the full depth of the aquarium, it adds interest.

How To Take Care Of Your Nano Fish Aquarium Successfully

threadfin rainbowfish male displaying
threadfin rainbow fish male displaying

The secret is to scale down everything in proportion. This includes the fish, mini-species should predominate. Also the viewing distance must be reduced. Mini aquariums can be quite fascinating when viewed from close up. The plants also must be the mini varieties so that you can several different plants with different colours, leaves and textures. Filter speeds have to be scaled down too. However, you need to scale up your monitoring of the water conditions. A test kit is vital and should be checked more often than a large aquarium.

Once you are sure what species of fish you would like to keep, you will need to consider aquarium placement: In general, it is important to keep your aquarium out of direct sunlight. An algae bloom could prove to be devastating, so it is best to choose a comfortable indoors area such as the bedroom for your nano fish aquarium and let your aquarium light do its job.

A sponge filter is one of the best options for very small fish tanks, they tend to be small and offer enough filtration to handle the needs of the small volume of water that the tank holds. An air pump is highly recommended as well, although you will want to make sure you do not create too much turbulence in the water.

Water changes for small aquariums should be performed once or even twice a week. The small size of the aquarium means that you can complete your entire water changing procedure in only a minute or two, but skipping a change can have disastrous results, so be sure to remain vigilant and schedule your changes with care.

Plant And Lighting Considerations For Your Nano Fish Aquarium

black line tetra or black neon tetra
blackline tetra black neon tetra

Naturally, you will want to decorate your nano tank, and while live plants may seem like too much trouble to go through for such a small tank, they are can make very beautiful additions that also help keep the nitrogen cycle balanced properly. Java moss is an excellent choice since it is hardy, decorative, and easily cared for. Also floating plants can also add some low maintenance plant life to the mini aquarium.

If you choose to include a live plant in your nano setup, you will need to provide it with an adequate light source. Thankfully, small actinic bulbs are widely available online and in aquarium supply stores. You may not have room for more than a single plant, but it can be a great help in keeping your tiny aquarium healthy.

Buyer’s Beware: Nano Tanks To Be Avoided

Nano aquarists will find a number of nano tanks advertised that are under 5 litres and marketed as, “closed”, “low maintenance” or “no maintenance” aquariums. These products are generally fraudulent they cannot sustain healthy fish for long.

Also avoid tanks that are too small to accommodate a heater or filter. Trying to keep fish alive and healthy without the use of these important tools is asking for trouble.

In general, you should choose tanks and tools from brands that you trust. Low quality nano aquariums will inevitably lead to problems later on. If you choose a trustworthy brand that is known for making professional-quality equipment for your nano fish aquarium, you will rest easier knowing that your fish are in safe hands.

Finally, when you have carefully followed the above steps, you will be ready to sit back and enjoy what might turn out to be a fascinating nano spectacle in your home or office.

Setting up a beginner’s community fish aquarium

beginners aquarium

5 Key tips on setting up a beginner’s community fish aquarium

Child choosing fish in aquarium storeIf you are new to the world of keeping tropical fish, there are a number of key considerations that you should keep in mind when you are choosing your very first community fish aquarium. These considerations are important for anyone who would like to keep a healthy, productive and colourful community aquarium, since fish are notoriously sensitive creatures and the choices you make in this regard will seriously affect them.

Often, people who are just starting out in the wide and wonderful world of tropical fish community aquarium keeping will simply walk down the aisles of the aquarium section of their local pet store and collect the most colourful combination of fish they can find there and throw them all into whatever aquarium seems to fit their tastes. While a good eye for beauty is great to have, it is critical to apply some forethought and expertise to your choices as well to ensure that your fish lead happy lives.

See also set up beginners aquarium

and avoid these mistakes

Tip Number One: Choose The Right Fish

choice of beginners fish aquarium storeIn general, your interest in keeping an aquarium should remain focused on the fish that you would like to have living there. While it is perfectly reasonable to see an aquarium you really like and then choose the fish afterwards, it is important that the fish you keep are chosen based on their compatibility with the environment that you wish to keep them in.

Some species of fish, for example, are very difficult to keep alive and happy in a community environment. They can be overly sensitive to water quality, require special marine conditions to survive, or represent a species that does not get along with other fish in your community fish aquarium. It is always best to start with hardy, well-disposed community species.

Here are some examples of popular fish that are ideal for living in a freshwater community aquarium:

selection of beginners tropical fish• Barbs And Rasboras; (But not tiger barbs)
• Corydoras Catfish;
• Danios (including the popular Zebra Danio);
• Loaches;
• Guppies;
• Black Mollies; (or any coloured molly)
• Swordtails;
• Tetras;
• Rainbowfish.

There are numerous other species of fish that are well behaved and offer an easy experience for fish enthusiasts to plan their first aquarium. As always, good research is important before any purchase so that you know what to expect.

See also suggested compatible fish groups

Tip Number Two: Choose The Right Size Tank

choice of fish tanksThere is a common misconception among beginning aquarium owners that smaller tanks are always easier to keep than larger tanks. This is not true— in fact, smaller tanks make it harder to control the water quality correctly and make it easier for a tiny mistake to end up with disastrous results.

Ideally, a tank in the range of 200 litres allows for small changes in pH, ammonia, or nitrite levels in the tank to have a less drastic effect than if you begin with a tiny tank. The water quality will change over time and you will need to be ready to address those issues before their consequences become realised.

For a beginner’s community fish aquarium, it is important to appropriately measure the amount of space that you have for your tank and to relate that with the size and number of fish you would like to keep. Two useful rules of thumb can be applied when choosing the size of your tank. In general, you want to have:

• 1.5 litres of water for each centimetre of fish length;

• 30 square centimetres of surface area per centimetre of fish length.

These are not strict rules and they do not take into account the activity level of the fish, social behaviour, and their eventual growth. However, they are very helpful for beginners to gauge the right size of their tank in relation to the fish they’d like to keep: miniature tanks for small schools of tiny fish, and large tanks for larger specimens or greater numbers.

Tip Number Three: Keep Live Plants In Your Aquarium!

selection of beginners aquarium plantsWhile it is possible to successfully keep a thriving community fish aquarium without live plants, it is advisable for beginners to keep a healthy number of live plants in their aquariums for a number of reasons:

• Plants oxygenate the water that your fish and for the essential bacteria rely on to survive.

• Plants, as living organisms, are notably more complex than algae and utilize waterborne nutrients more effectively and readily than algae can. Having a mixture of the two is a good option to consider.

• Plants offer additional decorum that double as an important part of the living ecosystem you are creating. In terms of their natural beauty, they are vastly preferable to little pirate ships or plastic pieces for creating a pleasant aquatic environment.

See also beginners plants

Tip Number Four: Invest In Your Filter

different types of filter
canister, power, sponge, internal filters

Your water filter is one of the most important elements of your community fish aquarium. While you may hear that it is okay to purchase an aquarium filter that turns your water two or three times per hour, it is recommended that you get a filter that will do so at least four or five times per hour for the best results.

When in doubt, remember that it is perfectly okay to get a filter slightly larger than necessary, but that a smaller filter can easily lead to frustrations in your community fish aquarium. Under-investing here can undermine your entire attempt at successfully keeping a thriving aquarium environment.

Tip Number Five: Use A High Quality Submersible Heater thermostat

There are a number of aquarium heaters available on the market, and you owe it to your fish to choose a high quality submersible heater instead of a more expensive titanium solution or a hanging heater. This piece of equipment is vital to your community fish aquarium and, if chosen correctly, will provide years of service without causing any problems.

There are certainly better and more complicated heating solutions on the market, but simple submersible heaters represent the best choice for beginners. Hanging heaters may require you to cut a hole in the aquarium hood in order to make room for the head of the heater, and submersible titanium heaters are more expensive solutions meant for tanks with large, boisterous fish.