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Species: Acarichthys heckelii
Species: Corydoras atropersonatus
Species: Ctenopoma acutirostre
Species: Devario aequipinnatus
Species: Etroplus canarensis
Species: Fundulopanchax gardneri
Species: Geophagus brasiliensis
Species: heros appendiculatus
Species: Melanotaenia boesemani
Species: Melanotaenia parkinsoni
Species: Puntius rhomboocellatus
Species: Stiphodon atropurpureus
Community fish at Maidenhead Aquatics, Aylesbury
Maidenhead Aquatics at Aylesbury is one of the smaller branches in the chain and feels a lot like a traditional family-run tropical fish shop. The focus is very much on community fish, coldwater fish and pond supplies, though there is also a small marine section and a few oddball and jumbo tropical fish dotted about as well.
Visiting the store
The Aylesbury branch of Maidenhead Aquatics is in fact rather nearer to Wendover than Aylesbury. The store alongside the Wyevale Garden Centre on the Wendover Road (B4009) just northwest of Wendover village. Bus route T1 stops here, and Wendover railway station is about 1.5 miles away.
The fish room is L-shaped, with the long part of the room dedicated to coldwater and tropical fish, and the short part around the corner being the marine section. The tropical section of this room is lined on both sides with three rows of tanks, plus some additional tanks at the bottom for jumbo fish. On our visit to Maidenhead Aquatics at Aylesbury these jumbo fish tanks held, among other things, some stingrays, a part-grown giant gourami, good-sized Synodontis euptera, and a very handsome Giraffe Catfish (Auchenoglanis occidentalis) that really needs to be loved!
We were particularly impressed by the selection of danios available at Maidenhead Aquatics at Aylesbury. While chatting with the store manager, it soon became clear they’re danio fans, and like to recommend them to aquarists setting up their first tropical or coldwater aquaria. Unlike goldfish, danios are much better suited to life indoors in relatively small aquaria. Danios are undemanding when it comes to water chemistry as well, and will do well in both soft and hard water provided extremes are avoided. About the only thing danios insist on is that they’re kept in a group, and we were pleased to see discounts on danio species when purchased in groups of five or six.
One of the danios on sale at Maidenhead Aquatics at Aylesbury was the Leopard Danio (Danio rerio var. frankei). Although this fish has been around for years, it’s not all that often seen. In terms of care it is identical to the Zebra Danio, but the Leopard Danio has spots rather than stripes, and makes a very attractive alternative. Like the Zebra Danio this species gets to about 6 cm in length, eats anything, is easy to breed, and will jump out of uncovered tanks. Though usually kept in a tropical setting, the Leopard Danio will do fine in an unheated tank provided the water doesn’t get much below 18 degrees C.
The Spotted Danio (Danio nigrofasciatus) is a smaller species, getting to less than 4 cm in length. It’s a jewel of a fish with a slightly bluish body, a dark band along its midline, and a few speckles on its flanks and belly. This species looks best kept in a large group, and being quite small, it will be shy if mixed with substantially larger tankmates. A group of a dozen or more would look great in a planted aquarium, and kept that way would be superb dither fish for Apistogramma, Badis and other small bottom-dwelling fish. Unlike some of the other danios really does need to be kept quite warm; 24-28 degrees C is best.
A step up in size is the Bengal Danio (Devario devario). This is an old favourite, and one of the best medium-sized danios for the community aquarium. It has a blue body with yellow markings, but its colours change dramatically depending on the lighting, and sometimes it can seem almost purple in colour rather than blue. It isn’t quite as hardy as some of the other danios, and does need a spacious aquarium with good water quality to do well. But schools of these fish can look fantastic, and they’re invariably peaceful companions to mid-sized community fish such as loaches, the larger Corydoras, and non-aggressive cichlids like acara, angels and some of the geophagines. It isn’t fussy about water temperature, and can be kept anywhere between 15-25 degrees C.
At the top end of the danio size range is the Giant Danio (Devario aequipinnatus). In general terms maintenance is much like the Bengal Danio, but because it gets to 15 cm in length it needs to be kept in a fairly large aquarium. It is hardy, but a tropical rather than subtropical or coldwater species, and will not do well below 22 degrees C. Giant Danios are notorious bullies that will hog food given the chance. As such they’re not good choice for quiet community tanks, but they are ideal dither fish for bottom feeders such as Clown Loaches, Hoplosternum, Royal Plecs, and so on. Giant Danios can also work well with large, non-predatory barbs and characins.
Like danios, rainbowfish have a well-earned reputation for adaptability and reliability. Some may be a touch sensitive immediately after purchase, but once settled into a well-maintained, mature aquarium rainbowfish kept properly tend to live a long time. All they really need is water that isn’t too soft, middling water temperatures, a good quality diet, and the company of their own kind.
We saw several species at Maidenhead Aquatics at Aylesbury, including a couple of relatively unusual ones. Parkinson’s Rainbowfish (Melanotaenia parkinsoni) for example is not all that often traded, perhaps because the juveniles are fairly nondescript silvery fish. But the adults are outstanding, and there were some adults in the tanks that really grabbed the eye! Mature fish are a good 15 cm long, with silvery-blue heads and bright orange midsections and tails. Their fins are also orange with some black markings.
Another interesting species is the Lake Kubutu Rainbowfish (Melanotaenia lacustris). This is a somewhat smaller species, only getting to about 10 cm in length. It is noted for its blue-green colouration. The Red-Striped Rainbowfish (Melanotaenia rubrostriata) is another distinctive species remarkable for the red stripes on its flanks. It is somewhat like the Eastern Rainbowfish (Melanotaenia splendida) and some authors consider the Red-Striped Rainbowfish to be a subspecies of that species.
The Boesemani Rainbowfish (Melanotaenia boesemani) is very popular thanks to its steel-blue head and yellow-orange body and tail. Alongside the farmed specimens on sale, Maidenhead Aquatics at Aylesbury also had in stock some wild-caught subadults, a group of which would make a stunning addition to any large community tank. A much smaller rainbowfish is the Neon Rainbowfish (Melanotaenia praecox) that only gets to about 6 cm or so, and makes a good alternative to the usual barbs and tetras. This species has shimmering blue flanks and red fins.
Barbs are good choices for community tanks with slightly acidic to neutral, soft to moderately hard water. Although some species have a reputation for being fin-nippers, that’s usually because they aren’t being kept properly. When it comes to keeping barbs, the more the better! In groups less than six specimens barbs may be either very shy or very nippy, depending on the species. In most cases barbs are best kept in groups of at least ten specimens.
Among the less often traded species that we saw on our visit to Maidenhead Aquatics at Aylesbury was the Rhomb Barb (Puntius rhomboocellatus). This pretty little barb gets to about 8 cm and has unusual green diamond-shape markings on its pinkish-orange flanks. It is one of the shyer barb species. It is very peaceful and works well with gouramis, dwarf cichlids and so on. Because it is so quiet and easily bullied, it must be kept in a large group and in a well-planted tank with plenty of shade. Rhomb Barbs are easy to keep, but they do not like hard water, and they have a marked preference for live and frozen foods rather than flake. They are very active though and highly entertaining when kept in the right tank.
Another excellent little barb is the Cherry Barb (Puntius titteya). Like any other barb this species needs to be kept in a school of six or more specimens. The pink females mostly hang about together, but the cherry-red males chase one another about, making them great fun to watch. Cherry Barbs often appear a bit washed out in retailers’ tanks, but once settled into a well-planted aquarium with water that isn’t too hard they soon colour up nicely.
Killifish and gobies
Killifish are small fish known for their bright colours, but they’re aren’t as widely traded as they should be. We saw two at least species on sale at Maidenhead Aquatics at Aylesbury, Fundulopanchax gardneri and Aplocheilus lineatus. Fundulopanchax gardneri is a West African species that needs soft, slightly acidic to neutral water. Males are fantastically colourful, being covered with green, red and blue speckles. They get to about 6 cm long, and given the right conditions are quite easy to breed. These killifish are normally kept in single-species settings, since they’re too predatory to mix with smaller fish but too shy to get along well with larger tankmates.
Aplocheilus lineatus is one of the relatively few South Asian killifish. It isn’t fussy about water chemistry, though it prefers neutral, not too hard water. Artificial morphs known as the Golden Wonder Killifish are widely traded, and these were the ones on sale in Maidenhead Aquatics at Aylesbury. These fish are bright yellow-green with darker green fins, and in a shady aquarium with some floating plants they can look absolutely stunning. Aplocheilus lineatus gets to about 10 cm long and is a confirmed predator easily able to swallow neon or guppy-sized prey, so tankmates should be chosen accordingly.
Gobies are another group of small, colourful fish. On sale at Maidenhead Aquatics at Aylesbury during our visit were at least two Stiphodon species, the Freshwater Neon Goby (Stiphodon atropurpureus) and the Ornate Goby (Stiphodon ornatus). The Freshwater Neon Goby is a notable for the vivid neon-blue stripe running along its flanks, while the Ornate Goby is off-white with a checkerboard pattern of black speckles. Both these species come from hillstream habitats where they feed on algae and tiny invertebrates. Under aquarium conditions they need water that is oxygen-rich, not too warm (around 25 degrees C is fine) and with a strong water current. They are finicky feeders and a healthy growth of green algae is required for long-term success. In addition they will also take algae wafers, insect larvae and finely minced seafoods.
Other interesting community fish
Although the store has a good supply of ‘classic’ community fish, we were pleased to see that Maidenhead Aquatics at Aylesbury also had a good range of more unusual community tank species as well. A personal favourite of the author is the Spotted Climbing Perch (Ctenopoma acutirostre), a predatory gourami-like fish from Africa. This species is beautifully marked with dark brown patches on a light brown body and gets to about 15 cm in length. It is predatory and will eat small fish, but kept with tankmates too large to be eaten, such as Kribs, Congo Barbs and Dwarf Synodontis this fish makes an excellent addition to an African-themed community tank. Spotted Climbing Perch have little interest in flake or pellets, but greedily take wet-frozen and fresh foods, including bloodworms, krill, lancefish and chopped seafood.
Corydoras were well represented, with several varieties on sale. One eye-catching species was Corydoras atropersonatus, an infrequently traded species with an off-white body, a black band through its eye, and a few dark speckles on its flanks. At only 5 cm when mature this is one of the smaller Corydoras, and makes an excellent community tank resident. Like almost all Corydoras it dislikes warm water and is best kept around 22-24 degrees C, and as such makes an ideal companion for other species that prefer relatively cool conditions, such as Neons, Platies, Swordtails and Danios.
Cichlids are intelligent, personable fish that are often chosen to round out large community tanks. Alongside the usual Angels and Kribs, we were pleased to see Maidenhead Aquatics at Aylesbury stocked a few more adventurous species. The standout species here were some very competitively priced Canara Pearlspots (Etroplus canarensis). These cichlids are peaceful and gregarious, and though they eat soft plants they are otherwise not problematic to keep at all. Maximum length is around 10 cm, and ideal tankmates would include things like Bengal Danios, Torpedo Barbs and Pakistani Loaches.
Among the South American cichlids was the Severum species Heros appendiculatus. Like other Severums this is a fairly large cichlid, 15-20 cm long when mature, and a pronounced plant-eater, but it is also quite a mild-mannered species that gets along well with Plecs, Clown Loaches and characins such as Silver Dollars. Breeding pairs can be quite aggressive though. Severums have been popular in the hobby for decades, but the quality of the fish on sale has varied wildly, and it is good to see some properly identified, nicely marked fish like these on sale.
We also spotted at least two eartheaters, the Thread-Finned Cichlid (Acarichthys heckelii) and the Pearl Eartheater (Geophagus brasiliensis). The Thread-Finned Cichlid is a fairly small species that only gets to about 15 cm long. It has quite a deep, rounded body and is covered with rows of bright blue speckles. As its common name suggests, its fins are quite well developed. The Pearl Eartheater is rather larger, up to 30 cm long, and is pinkish in colour with lovely blue spots on its face, flanks and fins. Maintenance of both species is much like other eartheaters in that water chemistry is less critical than water quality, both species being highly sensitive to nitrate.
Overall we enjoyed our trip to Maidenhead Aquatics at Aylesbury, a small store perhaps and overlooked because of it, but something of an Aladdin’s Cave with plenty of interesting fish to catch the eye. We’ve focused on community tank species here in particular, but advanced aquarists looking for oddball fish wouldn’t have been disappointed, with some interesting catfish, loaches and predatory fish dotted about the tanks.
To find out more about the shop and to view their current stock list click here.
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