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Unusual catfish, danios, and more at Britain's Aquatic Superstore in

Unusual catfish, danios, and more at Britain's Aquatic Superstore in


Fish for the connoisseur...

One of the rarest catfish in the hobby, Neosilurus ater is a
freshwater catfish from Papua New Guinea. It is one of the Plotosidae, with the marine eel catfish Plotosus lineatus being one of its closest relatives. Like the eel catfish, this is a big beast, and can get up to 45 cm in length, though captive specimens are generally a bit smaller. Again like eel catfish, the juveniles enjoy being in groups while the adults are territorial and best kept singly. Otherwise, these fish present no particular problems. They are peaceful towards tankmates too big to be eaten, such as plecs, large barbs and loaches, cichlids, and so on. For the aquarist wanting to re-create its natural environment, tankmates such as the freshwater archerfish Toxotes microlepis and large sleeper gobies, Eleotris spp., would be ideal companions. In terms of water chemistry requirements they are very adaptable, but a strong water current with plenty of oxygen is essential given that these fish live in fast flowing waters. While they will eat small fish, their normal diet is insects, molluscs, and crustaceans, which can be easily obtained as frozen foods. Like some other large catfish, Neosilurus ater has a reputation for being easily tamed, with some specimens willingly taking food from their keeper's hand! All in all, a superb fish for the catfish enthusiast.

At the other end of the size scale are a couple of very unusual
labyrinth fish. Malpulutta kretseri, sometimes called the ornate
paradisefish or spotted gourami is a small fish (no more than 4 cm long) naturally found only in western Sri Lanka. It is very rare in the wild, and trade in wild-caught fish is consequently restricted, and
commercially-bred fish are only occasionally seen. Malpulutta kretseri must have soft, acid water to do well, and like many other softwater fish, becomes sensitive to bacterial infections when kept in improper water conditions. Besides being a rare fish, it is also an attractive one, with a body spotted with brown on a cream coloured background and lacy blue fins. The males are a bit larger than the females and have longer, more strongly coloured fins. As far as temperament goes, these fish are peaceful, but being very shy and prone to jumping, are best kept alone in a covered aquarium thickly planted with floating species such as hornwort. Otherwise, these fish are fairly easy to keep and breed. In breeding conditions, the males become exceptionally beautiful, and after spawning, will guard the eggs and fry.

While Malpulutta kretseri is rare it isn't especially difficult
to keep, something that cannot be said for Ctenops nobilis. A
mouthbrooding labyrinth fish from India and Bangladesh, this species is not often seen, largely because of its failure to adapt to most community tank aquaria. One problem with this fish is that it a subtropical species: keep it at no more than 20 degrees C. Higher temperatures seem to cause this fish to "burn out" rather quickly. They also need very soft, very acidic water (a pH as low as 4.0 has been recommended). On the other hand, these fish are attractive and interesting. They are leaf-like in shape and colour, with a rather long snout and large eyes. Mature males develop a red fringe to the dorsal and tail fins and the anal fin becomes distinctly yellowy. Both sexes have a prominent eyespot at the base of the tail fin. These fish feed primarily on insect larvae. Though otherwise peaceful, males are territorial. Probably best kept in a single-species tank, though other peaceful, subtropical fish might be added, such as golden barbs, Puntius gelius.

Another oddball labyrinth fish is the delightful black-tail chocolate
gourami, Sphaerichthys acrostoma. A superb little mouthbrooding gourami from Borneo, it has requirements similar to those of Malpulutta kretseri. Besides these rarities, BAS also have a good selection of Betta species, such as the large moutbrooding betta Betta pugnax, and lots of gouramis, including the utterly delightly little sparkling gourami, Trichopsis schalleri, a pretty and surprisingly noisy fish for the mini community tank.

Big barbs and carps are always popular with aquarists after fish to
keep with large catfish and cichlids, and BAS have a couple of very
unusual species that fit this bill nicely. Scaphognathops bandanensis is a 40 cm species from Southeast Asia rather resembling a tinfoil barb in shape but with unusually large dorsal and anal fins and a very broad and robust mouth. It normally inhabits mountain streams, so clean, well-oxygenated water is a must, but otherwise this is an adaptable fish that eats both small animals and plant matter. From the same part of the world comes Cirrhinus molitorella, a fish of similar size known as the mud carp on account of its fondness for sifting mud and sand while feeding. It feeds primarily on algae and decaying plant matter. It is a splendid steel-blue in colour with a distinctive dark band just behind the gill cover. Both these species would do well kept in groups of
three or more.

...And fish for the community tank

Not so very long ago, danios were often overlooked by aquarists as
being nothing more than hardy fish for beginners. In recent years though, a staggering variety of a new species have arrived, mostly from Burma and the Indian subcontinent. BAS has a wide selection of the new additions to the hobby in the form of species such as Danio feegradei, the beautiful little tiger danio Devario maetaengensis, and the lovely glowlight danio, Danio choprai. Danio feegradei is remarkable for having a variety of colour patterns depending on the status of the fish in the school, with dominant males being particularly handsome. Definitely a fish best kept in a decent size group so that you can appreciate this unusual behaviour. A first in the UK is the Blue Moon danio from Burma, tentatively identified as a species of Danio, but rather resembling a deep bodied Devario devario in shape and colour.

Like the danios, angelfish are victims of their own success, with
aquarists often ignorning the rather gaudy artificial forms in favour of other, more exotic South American cichlids. BAS has some wild-caught scalare angelfish, and for anyone who hasn't seen the real thing, these are a treat. Wild Pterophyllum scalare have bold black stripes on a clear silver body, white pectoral fins, and bright red eyes. Best of all, they grow to an impressive size. Expect adults to reach up to 15 cm in length and considerably more than that in height. These fish need warm (at least 28 degrees C), soft (hardness less than 7 degrees GH), and an acidic pH (around 6.0) to do their best, particularly if you want to breed them -- and you do! Unlike commercially bred angels, these fish make good parents, and their offspring will be in great demand by your fishkeeping friends.

On the livebearer front, BAS have some of the less commonly seen
halfbeaks in stock. Dermogenys pusilla is one species often mentioned in books but rarely seen in the shops. It is a hardy, adaptable halfbeak and the best halfbeak species for inexperienced aquarists to try their luck with. It will accept water chemistry from soft and acidic through to slightly brackish, though as with all halfbeaks, acclimating them to your aquarium slowly is very important. Males fight among themselves, and in small tanks it is best to keep only one male. Otherwise they are peaceful, and ignore their tankmates. Breeding is fairly easy, with females producing small broods of baby fish around 1 cm in length. These can be easily raised in newly hatched brine shrimp, powdered flake, and small daphnia and other pond foods. At the other end of the difficult scale, Hemirhamphodon kapuasensis is a gorgeous little fish
with red abd blue markings and a very long snout, but it needs very soft and acidic water to do well.

Even smaller than the halfbeaks are the swamp guppies Micropoecilia picta, lovely little relatives of the common guppy. Delightfully active and very variable in colouration, these are hardy fishes that need hard, alkaline water to do well. The addition of a little salt will help as these fish are naturally inhabitants of brackish water; keep the specific gravity around 1.003-1.005 for best results.

Among the nicest community fish are glassfish, misunderstood fish that work as well, if not better, in freshwater tanks than in brackish
water. A rarely seen species is Ambassis agrammus, a sturdy little fish with a slightly smokey, olive tint to its body and a distinctively tall dorsal fin. Pseudambassis siamensis is similar but has a more glassy appearance. Both these species are pushy, outgoing fish that like a mix of shady and open areas, and mix very well with tetras, barbs, and Corydoras catfish. A smaller species from India is Pseudambassis lala, distinguished by an electric blue edge to the dorsal and anal fins most prominent on mature males.



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