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Interesting community fish at the WaterZoo
25 August 2017
The WaterZoo is a highly regarded aquarium shop in Peterborough, conveniently located a few minutes' drive from the city centre. Regularly winning awards in the aquarium press, the store is known for its well-trained staff and the information they readily share with prospective customers. Posters can be found dotted around the showrooms providing information on selecting livestock and acclimating them to the home aquarium, while a range of free leaflets are available to provide more detailed help for those dealing with things like healthcare and water quality management.
The shop is about one mile from the city centre, at 439 Lincoln Road, Millfield. There is parking in front of the store, while bus route 1 (from the Queensgate Bus station in Peterborough city centre) stops nearby. Peterborough railway station is about 1.3 miles away.
Our focus for this stock list review was those species available well suited to the community tank but for one reason or another now widely kept by beginners to the hobby. For more about the WaterZoo including contact details, click here. As always, the information presented here is accurate at the time of writing, but to avoid disappointment, if a particular species described here is of interest we recommend calling the store before setting out on a long journey.
Thick-Lipped and Banded Gouramis
Known to science as Trichogaster labiosa and Trichogaster fasciata, these two species are rather similar in appearance, being medium-sized gouramis up to 10 cm in length with laterally compressed bodies well suited to slipping in and out of thick vegetation. Both sexes are steely-blue with orange oblique stripes, but the males tend to have stronger colours than the females, especially on the fins. As well as the wild-type colouration, an artificial form of Trichogaster labiosa is available that lacks the blue stripes, resulting in a fish that is essentially orangey-red all over.
Both these species are available at The WaterZoo and both can be very good community fish. They mix particularly well with danios, loaches, catfish, and other dissimilar species unlikely to bring out any aggressive tendencies in the males. As with most gouramis, the males are bubble-nest builders that can be aggressive when spawning, but otherwise this species is tolerant and easy-going, and may be kept either singly, in pairs, or in large groups (say, 5 or more). They are very easy to feed, consuming all the usual flake foods as well as small invertebrates such as brine shrimp, and have no particular demands in terms of water chemistry. Like all gouramis, they dislike strong water currents, and do particularly well in thickly planted tanks with plenty of overhead shade.
Aquarists who have struggled to keep Dwarf Gouramis healthy will find these two gouramis a pleasant change, while their smaller size and milder temperaments make them good alternatives to the larger gouramis such as Three-Spot Gouramis and Kissing Gouramis. Note that older aquarium books refer to these species as Colisa labiosa and Colisa fasciata.
Hemiloricaria lanceolata is one of several whiptail catfish imported from time to time, most of which make superb community tank residents. Indeed, if you can keep Corydoras, you can keep whiptails! As their name suggests, whiptails have long, narrow bodies, with the body between their abdomen and the base of the tail being particularly extended and whip-like. But despite their delicate-looking appearance, these are basically robust and hardy animals that will thrive in a peaceful community tank alongside small, inoffensive fish such as tetras, rasboras and minnows.
All the whiptails are gregarious, and Hemiloricaria lanceolata is no exception. While singletons can do well, it's more fun to see these catfish interact with one another, the males holding small territories really no bigger than the immediate area around a bogwood crevice or hollow ornament of some kind. Their swimming ability is limited, and most of the time they prefer to 'walk' along the substrate, propping themselves up with their pectoral and pelvic fins. Ideally they should be provided with a sandy substrate, and in such a tank they will spend some of the time digging into the sand, sometimes hiding away almost completely.
Comical in behaviour and fun to watch, whiptails are not fussy about water chemistry or diet, and should adapt to most aquaria perfectly well. A good diet for them would be based around algae wafers and frozen foods such as bloodworms and brine shrimp. All in all, definitely worth checking out when you visit The WaterZoo.
The genus Anostomus includes a small number of South American characins adapted for life in fast-flowing rivers where their cigar-like shape and upturned snouts allow them to nibble at food in rocky crevices that other fish cannot reach. Anostomus ternetzi is one of two species occasionally seen in the better aquarium shops, including The WaterZoo, the other being Anostomus anostomus.
While Anostomus tend to be a bit aggressive when kept singly, as they usually are in aquaria, these fish have much to commend them. They are certainly attractive, Anostomus ternetzi for example sporting golden-yellow stripes along its brown body as well a patch of cherry-red on its snout that gives the species its common name. With a maximum length of around 10 cm, a group of six or more specimens is possible in a large tank (upwards of 250 litres) while a singleton might be maintained in a tank upwards of 150 litres.
Although they do need a good water current and plenty of oxygen, Anostomus are otherwise hardy and adaptable. Water chemistry is not a major issue, and being omnivores, they will consume a range of meaty and green foods, plant material such as blanched lettuce, courgette, cucumber and peas being particularly welcome. Small invertebrates like bloodworms and brine shrimp are also enjoyed. Anostomus can be fin-nippers though, particularly when hungry, so they should be kept only with other equally active species, including L-number catfish, loaches, the larger barbs and danios, and so on. They will often swim slowly about the tank, head downwards, searching for food among the rocks and bogwood roots. Do be careful when choosing plants for a tank containing Anostomus -- they happily consume soft-leaved plants, particularly floating plants, but generally ignore the tougher species such as Anubias and Java fern.
Hemigrammus filamentosus is a small (to 4 cm) tetra that superficially resembles the Buenos Aires Tetra, Hyphessobrycon anisitsi with its silvery body, red anal and tail fins, and the black blotch on the caudal peduncle. But whereas the species is a bit on the boisterous side, Hemigrammus filamentosus is a peaceful dwarf tetra ideally suited to communities of gentle, inoffensive species. Its common name comes from the white extensions to the dorsal and pelvic fins particularly prominent on the males. Females also differ in that their tail fins tend to be transparent rather than red.
Because it is not widely traded yet, the appearance of the Threadfin Tetra at The WaterZoo is noteworthy because this fish has the potential to be a really good fish for smaller community tanks. For a start, this species appears to be fairly undemanding; it does prefer relatively soft water but is not too fussy (anything between 2-12 degrees dH, pH 6.5-7.5 is fine) and does well across a broad temperature range. It should be kept in a reasonably large group though, preferably 8 or more specimens, because it is small and easily spooked. Otherwise it gets along with other peaceful tankmates, eats all the usual aquarium foods, and does not appear to be particularly prone to disease or injury. All in all, Hemigrammus filamentosus looks set to become a hobby staple as it becomes more established in the trade and, hopefully sooner rather than later, bred by hobbyists as well.
Corydoras sp. "Peru Orange Stripe"
This catfish has been traded periodically for some years now, but remains undescribed so far as the scientific community goes. Aquarists assume that it is related to the popular Bronze Corydoras Corydoras aeneus, the two being very similar in size, shape, behaviour and maintenance. But as its common name suggests, this species sports a bright metallic orange band along its flanks from behind the eye, across the back, and then down towards the caudal peduncle. A smaller stripe is often seen on the bottom half of the flank between the anal fin and the caudal peduncle. The two sexes are similar, but males tend to be smaller, less stocky, and their dorsal fins are longer and more pointy in shape.
So far as care goes, these catfish tick all the right boxes, so their appearance at The WaterZoo is welcome. They are extremely peaceful and need to be kept in groups of at least five specimens if they are to feel secure and settled. They prefer a soft, sandy substrate that allows them to forage most naturally, but smooth, fine gravel will work too. They do not damage plants, even when rooting about for food, and will consume any small titbits of food them come across. Despite being efficient scavengers, all Corydoras should be properly fed, algae wafers and sinking catfish pellets making inexpensive and healthy staples.
Different Corydoras species usually mix well, but a reasonable number of each species should be kept together rather than a pick-'n'mix approach where a group contains only one or two specimens of each kind. Corydoras are prone to being bullied by boisterous bottom-dwellers such as cichlids (even dwarf cichlids) and some of the more active loaches, and work better with tankmates that occupy the middle and upper levels of the tank, such as minnows, tetras, gouramis, Angelfish, and so on.
A number of interesting aquarium fish have been sporadically imported from the Salween River basin on the Burma-Thailand border in recent years, including this species, known scientifically as Botia kubotai, now in stock at The WaterZoo. Like other Botia, these are active fish that do best in groups, and given a maximum length of around 15 cm, a group of 5-6 specimens will need a reasonably spacious aquarium, preferably over 180 litres. On the other hand, they aren't nearly as big as Clown Loaches, making them much easier to keep successfully in home aquaria.
Polka-Dot Loaches are also rather less snappy than some of the other Botia species, getting along well with pretty much any active midwater species of similar size, including medium-sized barbs and characins. L-number catfish would also make good companions. While Polka-Dot Loaches aren't considered to be particularly nippy, there is a risk they might harass the long-finned or slow-moving aquarium fish, so adding them to tanks containing things like Angelfish or gouramis should be avoided.
As their name suggests, these dark reddish-brown fish are covered with numerous small off-white blobs, including several vertical rows of largish blobs interspersed with irregular patches of smaller blobs. Sex differences are slight, but as is common with loaches generally, sexually mature females are distinctly rounded around the abdomen. They are omnivorous and will consume all the usual sinking foods, with algae wafers and small invertebrates like bloodworms and brine shrimps being particularly useful staples. Water chemistry is not critical, but it should be stable, and not too hard.
Known to science as Oryzias woworae, this little fish has been a bit of a hit in the hobby, combining bright colours, small size, and a fair degree of adaptability. Male Daisy's Ricefish are silvery-blue with bright red fins, while the females are more yellow and the red colouration on their fins is less intense. Both have bright metallic blue eyes. Maximum length is no more than 3 cm, making them among the best choices for 'nano' tanks, anything upwards of 35 litres being viable, though as with any fish, the more space you can offer them, the happier they'll be.
Initially rather expensive, the species can be picked up at The WaterZoo for rather more reasonably nowadays thanks to the efforts of fish breeders around the world. Indeed, the species isn't difficult to breed at home. Like other ricefish, female Oryzias woworae carry clumps of large eggs around on their anal fin after spawning. When they find suitable vegetation, they will brush off one or two eggs at a time, before swimming off to deposit further eggs elsewhere. Once the fry emerge they are quite large, almost as big as guppy fry, and almost as easy to rear on powder or liquid fry food.
So far as maintenance goes, the species may be kept either on its own or alongside other small, nano-sized community fish including tetras, catfish, and other inoffensive species. They need medium hardness, slightly alkaline water and dislike strong water currents. Floating plants are particularly welcome, especially if you want to gather up the eggs for rearing elsewhere. If kept in a single-species set-up, thick vegetation will allow some of the fry to avoid being eaten by the adults, the adults generally ignoring the eggs.