Fancy guppy, platy, molly and swordtail pedigree types

fancy guppy delta tailed guppy

fancy guppy veiltail champion

Fancy guppies, platies, mollies and swordtails

All the four popular livebearers available in your local shop are pedigree varieties or cross breeds. You will not find wild type (fish found in the wild or resemble fish from the wild) livebearers for sale. These fancy livebearer fish have been developed over many years of selective breeding. They are usually mass produced from tropical fish farms from the far east and Florida.

Pedigree in livebearers is measured by how close a particular fish is to an ideal fish in terms of colour, pattern, body shape and fin shape.

The laws of genetics applies to livebearers as it does to all other animals. You would be wise to learn the basics of mendelian genetics. Mendel’s law means that if two parent fish of different colour breed then the young will not be a blend of the two colours. If a pure red guppy breeds with a pure blue guppy then the young will not be

fancy guppy female champion

purple. The young will be either all red or all blue depending on if red or blue is the dominant colour. However the other colour has not disappeared it is still there but hidden behind the dominant colour. His second law means that every gene is inherited from an individuals parents – half from the mother and half from the father. When reproduction takes place then these genes split apart and recombine with genes from the other fish in complicated but predictable ways.

Mendelian_inheritance

Livebearers are ideal fish for selective breeding

Basic livebearer breeding for beginners

More advanced breeding techniques

Of all livebearers the four main livebearers (guppies, platys, mollys and swordtails) and their close relatives are ideal fish for selective breeding because fish such as guppies do not breed true. Every guppy differs from its parents slightly. These slight deviations can be developed over the generations to create new fancy varieties. That is why they have proven so popular with breeders. The other livebearers breed true most of the time so take a lot of work to produce new fancy varieties.

Guppies and mollys are closely related and it is sometimes possible to interbreed them to obtain a feature from one species to the other to create a new variety. Likewise swordtails and platys are also closely related and can interbreed to create new varieties.

male and female fancy guppy mating
male and female fancy guppy mating

If you want to be successful in pedigree breeding always select parent fish that are healthy, are in their breeding prime in terms of age and do not have any genetic defects.

When buying pedigree stock great care must be taken when buying the female in particular. The female’s pedigree is not obvious and just because most females look alike does not mean that they do not carry pedigree genes because they do. Using any old female for breeding is likely to result in a mongrel brood which is pointless.

When breeding for pedigree then you must apply selective breeding techniques.

1. Choose the best male and female that most closely fits the pedigree profile you are after

breeding pair hi fin tuxedo swordtails
breeding pair hi fin tuxedo swordtails

2. Culling. This means you must kill off or dispose of young fish that do not match the pedigree profile.
However you must wait until the young fish are half grown before you can tell whether there is no chance of them becoming good pedigree specimens or not. Remove all fish that do not make the grade. Also it makes good sense to separate young males from young females to prevent unwanted breeding. But beware that some young males develop late and may look like females longer than other males. Keep an eye on this.
This separation of males from females allows you to grow the fish until they hit their prime and then picking the best two without the fear of unwanted pregnancies

Fancy guppy pedigree types

short round tail Moscow guppy
short round tail Moscow guppy

Pedigree guppies have a standard body length that excludes the tail fin of 1 inch which is 26mm. This is because of cross breeding with mollies to obtain black genes then crossing back.

The tail types are divided into short and long tail types.

Pedigree guppy tail fin shapes

Short tail types do occasionally occur naturally in the wild. The short tailed varieties are the round-tail, spear tail and spade tail.

The long tailed varieties do not occur in the wild but are the result of extensive line breeding to lengthen and shape the tail to a defined pedigree standard. The long tailed varieties are flag tail, veil tail, fan tail, delta tail, lyre tail, double sword tail, bottom sword tail, top sword tail and pin tail.

Snakeskin delta tail guppy
Snakeskin delta tail guppy

Pedigree guppy colours

After fin shapes, colour is another important factor in pedigree
Guppies are described with a basic background colour together with an overlay colour called cover. This technically refers to the different layers of pigmentation and other iridophores that refract colours in the guppies skin.

The base colours for guppies are

Grey This is the wild grey/olve green type colour
Albino This is the lack of black pigment cells. There is an albino version called the glass-belly that has no pigment at all and has the pink eyes.

gold coloured guppy
gold coloured guppy

Gold Yellow colour but when black pigmentation is present appears bronze
White This is formed from white pigment cells and the lack of other colour forming cells.
Blond This is a light yellow colour. They have dark eyes.
Silver This is when the shiny iridophores overlay white pigment cells.
Blue Guppies don’t have blue pigment cells. Blue is created by black pigment cells that are refracted through iridophore cells creating an iridescent blue. They lack the red and yellow pigment cells.
Cream
Pink
Lutino
fancy guppy pedigree colours

Cover colours and patterns are a secondary layer of colour that gives the guppy its final colouration. Patterns include leopard skin or snakeskin, while emerald is a cover colour.

black lyretail swordtail
black lyretail swordtail

Fancy swordtail pedigree types

There are 3 basic fin types in sword tails
1) Normal fins – as in the wild type
2) Tall fins – where the dorsal is larger than normal
3) Lyre finned – where the all fins have extended edges in a lyre shape. This sometimes results in a lyre shaped gonopodiumm that is so deformed that such a fish cannot mate.
Sword tails come in several ground colours but not as many as the guppy.

Sword tail ground colours include:

pineapple male swordtail
pineapple male swordtail

green
pink
gold
albino
blond
white
silver
cream
There are so far 3 cover colours in Swordtails: Black, red and orange. The orange covered fish are called pineapples.

The common swordtail varieties are:

berlin cross swordtail female
berlin cross swordtail female

Berlin cross swordtail.
This originated in Berlin. This is a red sword tail with a black spotted body. This variety does not breed true. You have to cross a red sword tail with a red sword tail with black spots. That is why it is called a cross.
Frankfurt cross swordtail.
Originated from Frankfurt. The front half of the fish is red while the rear half of the fish is black. This variety also does not breed true and has to be crossed from a red with a Frankfurt cross.
Hamburg cross swordtail.
Originated from Hamburg. Has yellow fins, black body with blue/green metallic scales on the sides.
Wiesbaden Cross swordtail.
The fish is black with shiny scales. The top of the fish and the bottom of the fish are either red or green.
Green swordtail.
This has a green body with a red zig-zag band on the side.

red lyre tailed sword tail
red lyre tailed sword tail

Red Swordtail.
Both the ground colour and the cover colour is red. This gives the fish a deep red colour. The red albino has no ground colour but does have a red covering colour. The resulting fish is red with red eyes and a red tail. But its colour is not as deep as the normal red sword tail.
Tuxedo sword tail
The body is two thirds matt black covering a red ground colour. The black extends over most but not all of the body. The back is usually red.
Wagtail sword tail
Red bodied fish with all black fins. There are white, orange and yelow bodied varieties but all must have black fins.

Fancy platy pedigree groups

There are two basic species of platy that are closely related and over the years they have been interbred.
The maculatus platy is deeper bodied than the variatus platy. The maculatus platy comes from warmer waters than its close relative. The variatus platy grows more slowly than the maculatus platy. Most varieties have been developed from the maculatus platy with interbreeding to bring the varieties over to the variatus platy.

sunshine platy variatus
sunshine platy variatus

Fancy platy fins.

The point at which the body and tail meet should be a nice gentle curve and angle will be penalised by judges.
Most platys have tall dorsal fins that are square or flag shaped. Some platys have a brush like tail that is similar to the spear point tail in guppies.

The ground colours for platys are green,red and albino

The cover colours for platies are red, blue, marigold and black.

Well known platy varieties are:

comet platy = where the upper and lower edges of the tail fin are black.
2 spot platy = where the base of the tail has two dark spots. One above and one below.

mickey mouse platy
mickey mouse platy

Half moon platy = Where the base of the tail has a black crescent band.
Moon platy – where there is one large rounnd spot at the base of the tail.
Salt and pepper = Where the base colour(white) is dotted over with black dots all over.
Blue mirror platy = This variety has a green/grey base colour overlaid with shiny blue scales on the sides.
Coral platy = This variety is foreshortened so looks chubby. This variety is deep red.
Bleeding heart platy = This variety has a blond ground colour with a red patch on its breast and red bands coming up from the red patch.
Tuxedo platy = The body is two thirds matt black
Wagtail platy = Red bodied fish with all black fins.

Variatus platy colours

The only ground colour is green/grey
Sunset platy = This variety has bluish sides, yellow dorsal and red tail.

Hawaii platy variatus
Hawaii platy variatus

Hawaii platy = Matt black body with a yellow dorsal fin and a red tail fin.
Marigold platy = This variety has a yellow back and yellow dorsal fin. The lower half of the fish is orange as well as the tail being orange.

Fancy molly pedigree types

There are two closely related molly species in the hobby. The normal molly and the sailfin molly. Over the years they have been occasionally interbred in an attempt to create new varieties or improve existing varieties of molly. The normal molly has a small dorsal. Other fin types for the molly include a tall dorsal fin type, a veiltail fin type and a lyretail fin type. Note that some males with fancy fins have difficulty breeding because the gonopodium (being a fin) is also affected. So the male cannot fertilise his female.

female dalmation molly
female dalmation molly

The main colours for mollys are

Black, white, and green

The main molly pedigree types are:

Midnight molly = black body with a red dorsal fin
Albino mollys are common
White molly = silver white body and fins
Piebald molly = white molly with black dots all over
Golden molly = golden yellow molly. Some golden mollys have are overlaid in marbled black.
Liberty molly = blue sides and red edged fins .

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.

 

Selecting midground plants for your aquarium

Good midground plants will stand out from the background
Good midground plants will stand out from the background
Good midground plants will stand out from the background

What is a midground plant?

More about aquascaping basics here

More about foreground plants here

More about background plants here

A midground plant is a plant that acts as a filler in the mid area of the aquarium. Usually planted as individual plants. Midground plants should have distinctive large leaves and colour. They should be short plants to not block out the background. A good midground plant will stand out against the background without dominating the scene. Midground plants create the ‘body’ of the aquascape, whereas background plants create the skeleton of the aquascape.

I will list below recommended midground plants for your aquarium that are easy to care for.

Anubias barteri known as broadleaf anubias

Anubias barteri makes an excellent midground plant
Anubias barteri makes an excellent midground plant

This is a slow growing plant that has tough, firm dark leaves and is recommended for an aquarium with fish that destroy plants. It should be planted singly in the midground. They prefer a heated substrate. Needs moderate to bright lighting. Temperature range of 72F-82F. ph of 5.5 to 8 and moderately soft water.

Giant Bacopa

This is a fast growing plant that likes bright light and can be kept in hard watere. It is a stemmed plant with medium spade shaped leaves all along its stems. Can be propogated by taking cuttings. Leaves can turn red under very bright light. It can tolerate lower light levels. Temperature range 68F-82F. Water ph 6.5-7.7.

Japanese Cress

Healthy specimen of japanese watercress
Healthy specimen of japanese watercress

An unusual plant with a disorganised growth pattern. It is not strictly tropical so should only be used in the unheated aquarium. It is hardy except that it can be affected by medications and chemicals. It does prefer bright light. Temperature range is 61F-72F. Water ph 6.5-7.8.

Stargrass

This plant can grow tall and should be trimmed down. The leaves are long and slender and grow out in groups of 5,6,7 leaves giving it a star like shape. They do better with a little fertiliser occasionally and good lighting. Temperature range is 72F-80F. Water ph 5-7 and low hardness is preferred.

Water pennywort

The leaves of this plant are large and round with lace like edging. The leaves grow all along winding and branching stems. This plant will try to reach the water surface, where it will grow leaves that block out the light to the aquarium below. So, trim back before the plant reaches the surface. It prefers bright light. Temperature range is 68F-82F. Water ph range is 6-8.

Green ludwigia makes an excellent midground plant but needs good light
Green ludwigia makes an excellent midground plant but needs good light

Green ludwigia (ludwigia palustris)

This is an easy to care for plant. There are various varieties of this plant. The best, recommended variety has bright solid green leaves which are medium/small in size. It prefers bright light. Temperature range 64F-80F. Water ph range is 6.5-7.5 with moderate hardness.

 

A guide to keeping and breeding fancy goldfish

Champion grade veiltail goldfish with the ryukin back
The comet goldfish is a simple variant on the common goldfish
The comet goldfish is a simple variant on the common goldfish

A guide to keeping and breeding fancy goldfish

Goldfish are one of the perennial favorites of the aquarium trade. It is difficult to imagine a fish more evidently associated with fish keeping than the goldfish. While everyone is familiar with the traditional appearance of the common goldfish, the various varieties known as fancy goldfish offer a much wider selection of colors and forms than the layperson would expect.

All of these fish share similar needs when it comes to successfully keeping them. Because they create more waste than any other fish, it is necessary to provide them an appropriately powerful filtration system. This is because their digestive system lacks a stomach; food passes through their body very quickly, making it easy for you to end up with more mess in your tank than you know what to do with.

Specialised Care for fancy goldfish

Although care is similar to common goldfish, you do have to take into account the shape and features of the different varieties. The “chubby” varieties are prone to swim bladder problems and so should be fed with more fresh greens and live food and avoid or restrict feeding them with dried foods. And you may need to keep a heater in the tank in the winter to protect them from colder temperatures because they are not as strong as the common goldfish.

The bubble eyes are prone to damage to the bubble so avoid any sharp or abrasive objects in the tank. Both the bubble eyes and celestial types have poorer eyesight so you need to feed them close by and keep an eye on any uneaten food to remove it.

Ideal goldfish equipment

Nice example of a veiltail. Chocolate coloured veiltail
Nice example of a veiltail. Chocolate coloured veiltail

While it seems reasonable to imagine that goldfish belong in a bowl, the truth is that they need lots of space to survive. Use a large tank if you want to keep more than a few goldfish at a time, or keep them in an outdoor pond. Ponds offer numerous benefits to goldfish due to the large size, but offer poor visibility to aquarists.

If you keep a tank for your goldfish, you can create a tightly controlled, ideal environment for breeding. Before getting into breeding though, you will need to install a powerful filter that can move ten times the volume of the tank per hour in order to keep the water clean. That means a 100-liter tank should move 1000 liters per hour, in order to compensate for the waste these fish produce.

Goldfish do not need heaters in indoor tanks, but you may want one in order to encourage early breeding. These fish are biologically programmed to begin breeding when the water gets warm and food becomes abundant. Choosing which breed to breed, however, requires an introduction to the various types of fancy goldfish available.

Types of fancy goldfish

oranda goldfish with ryukin style back
oranda goldfish with ryukin style back

Despite the wide range of appearances common to different species of fancy goldfish, they are biologically very similar to the standard common goldfish. Most of them are characterized by a single major difference that they exhibit when compared to the common goldfish. Different sizes, colors, fin and body shapes, or other combinations of special features define the various species:

  • Comet Golfish – The single-tailed comet goldfish is similar in appearance to the common goldfish, but features a long forked tail. They come in a wide variety of colors, but the common gold coloration remains most prevalent. Comet goldfish come in white, red, and various spotted colorations as well. Comets as well as common goldfish can be wintered outside in ponds that ice over.
  • Fantail Goldfish – Fantails are one of the more basic fancy varieties. They have a sturdy tail fin that is forked into two when viewed from above. The top of the split tail will be closer together than the bottom of the tail creating a fan shape. The top of the tail fin should be firmly held above horizontal. The ends of the tail fin will be rounded. The body is deep and wide, egg shaped in fact. Fantails can be wintered outside in ponds as long as it doesn’t ice over.
  • Ryukin style back veiltail goldfish
    Ryukin style back veiltail goldfish

    Ryukin Goldfish – This is the Japanese version of the fantail and veiltail. They are distinguished by having a distinct humped back starting from behind the head and ending at the tail. Also, their tail fin fans out wider than the fantail. Finally the tail rises higher than the fantail. These goldfish come in red, white, black, and orange color combinations as well as the calico version. There is also a lionhead version too. Ryukin can be wintered in ponds with no ice because they have been outcrossed back to the common goldfish to re-introduce vigour.

  • Veiltail Goldfish – While featuring a body shape largely similar to that of the fantail, veiltail goldfish have a distinct double tail that is lengthy and uniquely square-edged, without any forking between lobes. The best ones will have a straightish end to the tail fin rather than lobed. The bottom of the veil in champions is horizontal and not diagonal. They come in many colors, with metallic varieties also available. Calico specimens are particularly attractive, where the colours should run into the fins. The veiltail is one of the less hardy breeds of goldfish and should not be wintered outdoors.
  • bristol shubunkin has wider tail fin than the london shubunkin
    bristol shubunkin has wider tail fin than the london shubunkin

    Shubunkin – The fascinating Shubunkin goldfish is a single-tailed type of fish featuring nacreous scales that are a blend of both metallic and transparent genes. The fins are similar to the common goldfish except they are elongated. They come in a wide variety of colors, most often with overlapping patches. This mixture of colours is called calico. Deep blue is the background colour with overlayed patches of red, brown, orange, yellow and black. The colour should extend into the fins. These can be wintered in ponds that don’t ice over.

  • Black Moor Goldfish – This species of fancy goldfish is surprisingly not gold in color at all. In fact, it is jet black with metallic scales, and sometimes a very slight orange tinge. They tend to be longer and thinner than most other goldfish varieties.
  • Pearlscale Goldfish – The pearlscale goldfish is a very popular fish for beginners. While very similar in appearance to fantails, every one of its scales feature a distinctive raised bump that makes it look like it is covered in pearls. The best specimens have a round, globe like body. Additionally, this type of fancy goldfish can grow significantly larger than others, so needs to be given sufficient space to thrive in successfully. A pearlscale with a lionhead is called a crown pearlscale.
  • Highly developed goldfish with telescope eyes, calico colour and oranda hood
    Highly developed goldfish with telescope eyes, calico colour and oranda hood

    Oranda Goldfish – One of the most colorful varieties of fancy goldfish, the oranda subspecies comes in combinations of red, black, blue, white, brown, and black. This species features a unique “hood” that covers part of its head. While they are born without this hood, it grows into place over the first two years of the fish’s life. The size of this growth is affected by the diet and water conditions the fish enjoys. Similar to the fantail but with the hooded growth similar to the lionhead.

  • Telescope Eye Goldfish – This sub breed, also sometimes called a demekin goldfish, dragon goldfish, or globe eye goldfish, feature extra large, protruding eyes and a round body. Fantails, blackmoors, orandas, veiltails and other shortbodied breeds can have telescope eyes.
  • Lionhead Goldfish – The distinctive lionhead hood  and lack of a dorsal fin separates this fancy goldfish from the other breeds. Apart from the signature growth on its head, it features short fins and a rotund body structure. Colors include numerous combinations of red, orange, white, black, blue, and brown.
Tancho lionhead goldfish. Tancho=red just on hood
tancho lionhead goldfish the red should be limited to the hood

These are only ten varieties of fancy goldfish—there are many more commercially available types, and even rarer varieties available to the fortunate aquarist. Many of these species look so different than the common goldfish that only experienced aquarists can recognize them as goldfish.

Because of the intentional genetic differences bred in fancy goldfish to develop their unique characteristics and traits, goldfish pedigree is important for individuals who wish to breed goldfish. Breeding fancy goldfish successfully requires access to adequate information about their lineage. This allows you to choose which characteristics you would like to see emphasized.

How to breed fancy goldfish

You can breed fancy goldfish in the aquarium or when the weather is warmer in a pond. In the aquarium you can breed them as early as march by using a heater to raise the temperature to about 65F.

Crown pearlscale goldfish showing perfect spherical body
Crown pearlscale goldfish showing perfect spherical body

If you have a male and female of fancy goldfish that you would like to encourage to breed, you need to set up the appropriate conditions. Female goldfish tend to anchor their eggs to something solid when they spawn, so you will want to add some live plants or a spawning mop to your tank.

Spawning mops, which are designed to protect the eggs from hungry adults while making it easy to transport eggs, are also widely commercial available for this purpose. Using a spawning mop, you can easily collect the eggs and deposit them in a secondary breeding tank, ensuring their safety in the process.

Feeding chopped earthworms, brine shrimp, or black worms to the fish can help mimic the abundance of spring time, when goldfish would naturally breed. Feed them three times a day and the fish will begin to enter the breeding mood.

If the female looks plump with eggs and the fish haven’t bred then try spraying cooler water into the aquarium first thing in the morning. This should trigger them to breed. The male will start chasing the female around the aquarium.

Sexing your fish for breeding

Blackmoor with the ranchu lionhead body and hood
Blackmoor with the ranchu lionhead body and hood

Once you set up the conditions for breeding, it is likely that your fish will enter breeding season, when they can be sexed. Identifying female goldfish can be tricky, especially for fancy varieties in which individuals can look very different. The following four steps can help:

  • See if you can identify the shape of the vent, located between the anus and anal fin of the goldfish. Female vents are convex and rounded, looking somewhat like the protruding “outie” navel a human being might have.
  • Feel the abdomen of the goldfish to determine how soft and yielding it feels. The area between the pelvic and anal fins on a female goldfish should be softer than that of a male goldfish.
  • Observe the pectoral fins. Females tend to have shorter, rounder pectoral fins than males do.
  • Males usually develop with pimples around the pectoral fins and gill area during the breeding season.
  • Males will start to gently chase and bump females before they are ready to breed.
Show quality ranchu lionhead goldfish
Show quality ranchu lionhead goldfish

Once you’ve conclusively identified your males and females, you should take the extra step of separating males and females into separate tanks for a few days before introduction.

Then select which male to breed with female. Often just picking your best female specimen with the best male specimen and allowing them to breed doesn’t give the best resulting offspring. With a little experimentation it can be discovered that a fish with slightly overlong fins should be bred with a fish with shorter fins to get a brood with perfect finnage.

It should be noted that calico coloured fish (including shubunkins) do not breed true. Only half the offspring will be calico coloured. The other half will be either metallic or pink in equal numbers.

Breeding season, however, is usually enough to get them to begin. Your males will become atypically aggressive towards the females, who will release their eggs in response.

Spawning behavior and raising fry

Show quality veiltail oranda goldfish
Show quality veiltail oranda goldfish

The male will chase the female for up to several hours. When the male bumps the female she releases eggs, which he will immediately fertilise. The temperature of the water with the eggs can be raised to 72F to help with egg development. During the next 3 days you can place the eggs in their own tank or remove all thish. Add methylene blue to your breeding tank’s water in order to prevent fungus growth on the unfertilized eggs and protect your fertilized ones.

Once they hatch, they will live off of their egg yolk for a day and a half. Only then do you need to feed them. They eat infusoria for a few days. Then start feeding on newly hatched brine shrimp.

After the fry have hatched, you should remove the spawning mop from the tank, taking great care to allow your fry to escape from inside the media first. You may then focus on raising them with an excellent diet of live brine shrimp and immaculately clean water.

After 4 weeks they can move onto bigger foods such as blood worm and chopped earthworms. And, weather permitting you can move the fry outside into ponds so that greater numbers can be grown. At 8 weeks they can eat finer grained fish food or flakes. The more delicate breeds will have to be brought back indoors before winter sets in. At this stage you should cull as many defective fish as possible.

Culling your goldfish

Calico lionhead. More blue in the colour would be better
Calico lionhead. More blue in the colour would be better

The last part of successfully breeding your fancy goldfish is rigorously culling your brood in order to ensure that the best specimens survive. Unless you are fortunate enough to have access to unlimited aquarium space, there is no way that the hundreds of even thousands of fry you are caring for will be able to survive without culling them weekly using a small net. Be sure not to discard your fish in the toilet.

When goldfish are born they are the colour of their native ancestors which is a greyish green colour. So it is not easy to cull for colour until later on. The young will start to change to the adult gold from the age of 5 months onwards. The green will darken to almost black then the orange colour will break out from this. Fish that change colour later such as 12 months and later will have a deeper richer red than fish that colour early. But some fish actually never change colour and stay green all their lives.

A lot of the brood will revert back to the natural form. Breeds such as fantail with the double tail can be easier to cull. Remove all fry with a single tail, leaving only the double tailed fry. But also note whether the tail has completely divided or not. Many otherwise perfect fantails have tails that don’t completely divide. These need to be removed too. Breeds that lack a dorsal fin can have fry culled that have the dorsal fin.

calico oranda
calico oranda

The lionhead and oranda do not develop their raspberry like growths on their head until they are about 12 months old so culling is difficult. However, you can still cull for the twin tail and lack of dorsal in the lionhead. But note that an oranda is not just a lionhead with a dorsal. If you are breeding lionheads and the fry have a dorsal you can’t just declare them as orandas. The lionhead has a more splayed fantail than the oranda and the back has a different curve.

Fancy goldfish require more rigorous culling, since they will doubtlessly feature much wider variation in their traits and characteristics, including body deformities and missing organs. You will need to begin separating and culling your fish after two weeks of life in order to make sure that you end up with a handful of healthy, high-grade adult fish in the end.

After several breeding and raising fry, you will gain experience as to which young show promise and which young should be culled earlier.

If you keep it up and handle your fry right, you’ll soon have a new generation of fancy goldfish, bred to your exact specifications.

Always match your fish against champion grade fish. There are many examples on the internet showing high quality body shapes, coloration, finnage and other features. Strive to emulate the best specimens and proven champions. This goes for purchases as well. Use the show class standards to help you buy the best specimens you can.

 

Koi varieties explained – a guide to recognising the varieties of koi

some champion koi varieties swimming together

Koi varieties explained: a comprehensive guide to recognising koi varieties

Feeding koi here

Building a koi pond here

champion grade quality koi varieties
champion grade quality koi varieties

Koi remain one of the most lasting and popular varieties of fish for the discriminating aquarist. They are one of the few fish with records of keeping koi going back hundreds of years, though modern koi as we know them have been around for just over one hundred. Originally hailing from Japan’s Niigata prefecture, koi fish have become a staple fish for many aquarists.

So many koi, so little time

Any hobbyist with a passing interest in koi fish may have, at some point, asked themselves just how many varieties of koi fish exist in the world. This is a tough question to answer, since new species are developed every year. The current count uses thirteen separate classifications with more than a hundred individually named varieties.

Since there are enough individual varieties to fill an encyclopedia with, this article will represent each of those thirteen categories with their most popular fish. Some categories feature multiple koi worth mentioning. If you would like to delve deeper into the world of koi fish, there are great supplementary resources available, including high quality books with exhaustive lists of individual varieties.

The beginning Koi: Kohaku

champion kohaku koi
champion kohaku koi

Experts in the koi industry often claim that keeping koi begins and ends with Kohaku. It is believed to be the first ornamental koi variety.This deceptively simple white fish with red blotches is emblematic of the species, and may very well be the fish that comes to mind when you mention the word, “koi”.

Because of their simpler coloration, these koi are often recommended for beginners to the koi hobby. Interestingly, high quality specimens are also coveted by advanced koi keepers for their subtle patterns and elegant coloration. A high quality Kohaku koi features a snowy white complexion and a uniform red hue. Orange is common, but generally avoided in favor of a deeper crimson coloration.

Tancho Kohaku is a specific variety of this category that features a single bright red circle on the forehead, symbolizing the Japanese national flag. A koi with the tancho mark alongside other markings is called a Maruten Kohaku.

Show quality kohaku have very clearly defined edging to the red coloration, ie any blurring of the red into the white is penalised. Kohaku is still the most popular variety of koi in Japan.

The Taisho Sanshoku Koi: Sanke

taisho sanshoku or sanke - a white based koi with red and black
taisho sanshoku or sanke – a white based koi with red and black

Sanke koi are white based with red and black patches over the white. This particular variety enjoys a historical name alongside its common name. Taisho Sanshoku refers to the era and region from which this koi originates. Sanke koi look very similar to Kohaku koi except they have distinctive black markings in addition to their white and red coloration.

The best way to judge the quality of a Sanke koi is by first appealing to their Kohaku-like markings. Bright, snowy white and a deep, crimson red is ideal. After identifying these elements, you can examine the black spots, which should by an inky, pure black. Young sanke koi often have black spots that appear blue in hue; as the fish matures, this blue becomes a jet black shade in time.

The black koi: Showa

showa champion grade koi
showa champion grade koi

Showa koi are often confused with sanke koi, since they feature the same combination of white, red and black markings. The difference is that Showa koi are distinctively black-based, with additional white and red markings overlaying the black foundation.

High quality specimens are prized for the balance between the three colors. It is ideal for the showa koi to have a distinctive swath of black color that forks out from the base of the pectoral fins, making for a striking and powerful display of color.

Showa will have some black on its head whereas a sanke will not and good quality modern showas have more white than previously. Again, there should be no blurring. a sharp edge to the colours is preferred for show quality showas.

The fire and ash koi: Hi Utsuri = black with red

ki utsuri which is the yellow version of utsurimono
ki utsuri which is the yellow version of utsurimono

The Utsurimono family contains koi with a pattern containing two highly distinct colors. Of these, the most popular and visually striking is the Hi Utsuri black with red. It is easily recognizable by its black foundation and bright red markings. The two colors should offer a stark contrast, with the deeper hues being more prized than lighter shades.

Hi Utsuri are commonly sought out for unique asymmetric color patterns. Often, koi experts will recommend Utsurimono koi with the most quirky patterns possible, in order to emphasize their character. There is a yellow version with yellow markings over the black foundation – ki utsuri and a white version with white patches over the black – shiro utsuri.

The rock garden koi: Bekko

superb aka bekko red based with black markings
superb aka bekko red based with black markings

Shiro bekko koi are incredibly popular for their stark black-on-white coloration. Often confused with Shiro Utsuri, a white-on-black variety, these ones feature minimal black markings that should resemble the placement of small stones used in Japanese rock gardening against a white sand surface.

The ideal combination is a clean, snowy white with small specks of strong black overlying the koi’s scales. There should be no black on the koi’s head, or below the lateral line of the koi. A checkerboard pattern along the koi’s back is a sign of particular excellence.

There are two other main bekko types the aka bekko which is a red based fish black markings over it and the ki bekko which is a yellow based fish with black markings over it.

Show quality bekkos have distinct black markings without speckling and clearly defined edges to the black and the base colour should be snow white in the shiro bekko, crimson red for the aka bekko and a canary yellow for the ki bekko.

The single-color metallic koi: Hikarimuji

hikarimuji ogon yamabuki is a metallic yellow fish ie gold coloured
hikarimuji ogon yamabuki metallic yellow fish ie gold

Hikarimuji koi feature a single shiny metallic color, with no other markings anywhere on the body. The best specimens feature a bright and metallic finish, highly prized for their reflective surface and beautiful metallic luster. The colour must be evenly spread over the whole body.

These fish come in all colors, from vibrant white to deep orange or yellow. The most consistent and bright the coloration is, the higher quality the koi.
Yamabuki Ogon – pure metallic yellow/gold. Platinum Ogon – pure metallic white/silver. Orange Ogon – pure metallic orange/copper. There are also the kin matsuba and gin matsuba which have raised metallic markings that look like pine needles, where the individual scales are seen.

The metallic koi: Hikarimoyo

These koi are similar to Hikarimuji koi, featuring the same metallic luster, but with multiple colors. This is a koi classification that features multiple individual types, such as the colorful Kujaku koi, also known as the peacock koi.

The key to determining the quality of these koi is in their metallic luster. Coloration is unique for each individual and generally takes second place in importance to a strong, shiny metallic tinge.

The autumn water koi: Shusui

shusui are an almost scaless fish with a row of blue scales along the back
shusui are an almost scaless fish with a row of blue scales along the back

This species of koi adds a fascinating character to any koi collection. Shusui is the scaleless version of the Doitsu Asagi. The Shusui should only have two rows of blue scales on its back and might have scales along its lateral line. The common name Shusui means, “autumn water” and is used to describe the unique double row of blue scales running down the length of the koi’s back. On each side of the body there are vibrant red markings.

The scalelessness gives a smooth appearance to the fish and if the colours are clear and bright without blurring then the fish has an almost painted gloss like appearance.

These koi have few characteristics for determining a high quality specimen from a low quality one, but the most important aspect of coloration to consider is the blue dorsal line. The blue should be even, continuous and symmetrical.

The veiled koi: Ai Goromo

Ai goromo fish is like a kohaku with purple within the red patches
Ai goromo fish is like a kohaku with purple within the red patches

These striking fish feature purple markings on a white background, and are highly prized by koi enthusiasts. The name of this koi’s classification category, Koromo, means, “veiled” and refers to its vignette. The most prized specimens feature a deep purple robing that covers a portion of the scales while leaving a characteristic fade to red around each marking. The purple colour is a result of blue or black coloration blending into the red.

When young, these fish can resemble Kohaku koi. Often, the purple coloration does not set in fully until the fish has reached maturity. It can be helpful to assess the koi’s value from a Kohaku standpoint, substituting red for deep violet.

The five-color koi: Goshiki

goshiki kanno koi - female - five colours red,white,black and blue and slate
goshiki kanno female – red,white,black and blue and slate

While it is very rare for one of these koi to prominently feature all five colors, the Goshiki koi remains one of the industry’s favorites due to its bright, rainbow-like combination of colors.

A high quality specimen will exhibit red, black, white from the sanke with the grey, and blue colorations from the asagi. This is because the original goshiki were developed by crossing a sanke with an asagi. Only the rarest specimens will feature these colors in equal proportions.

The rarest specimen of Goshiki koi is one with a bright red Tancho mark on the forehead. Also highly sought after are Goshiki koi featuring the stepped patterns often seen in Kohaku koi.

The crow koi: Karasugoi

all black version of the koi
all black version of the koi

Karasu is Japanese for, “crow” and refers to the jet black coloration of these koi. They always feature rows of scales running along the dorsal or lateral lines and generally feature a white underbelly. Sometimes, these fish feature a white head and black body.

The best specimens are a deep black with no metallic scales. Note that when any scales are lost the replacement scale that grows will not be jet black and may ruin an otherwise good specimen.

Particularly valuable speciments often feature a wavy white and black pattern covering the flanks of the fish. It is this particular coloration that gave rise to the term, “dragon fish” in reference to koi.

The black net koi: Matsuba

gin matsuba means white metallic with black in the scale
gin matsuba means white metallic with black in the scale

The matsuba is a highly prized and very beautiful fish with a solid, metallic base of color featuring a black net pattern along the scales. The base color change: white, yellow, and red are common varieties, but the black net pattern remains a constant.

The value of this type of koi is based on the metallic sheen of the scales, and the consistency of the black patterning. Vivid contrast between the two colors is highly sought after by koi enthusiasts.

The strange koi: Kawarigoi

Kawarigoi is a catch-all term for just about any variety of koi that does not fit neatly into the existing classification system. Kawari is a word that refers to something strange or with unusual characteristics. It should go without saying that Kawarigoi are a varied bunch, and often contain unusual hybrids between other species.

Finding a quality Kawarigoi is usually up to personal preference. These koi are prized not for their adherence to a standard classification of beauty, but for their individual uniqueness. If you find a Kawarigoi that suits your fancy, it is a good one!

Learning more about koi

While this article touched on some of the most popular and distinctive species, the koi trade is a deep and historically significant one. Further reading is highly recommended for anyone interested in keeping koi as a hobby.