• Species: Carinotetraodon irrubesco

  • Species: Monodactylus sebae

  • Species: Dawkinsia filamentosus

  • Species: Julidochromis marlieri

  • Species: Puntius lineatus

  • Species: Rhinogobius duospilus

  • Species: Violet Plec, L137

  • Species: Takifugu ocellatus

  • Species: Anomalochromis thomasi

  • Species: Anabas testudineus

  • Species: Trichopodus trichopterus

Stock list review : The WaterZoo

27 February 2019


The WaterZoo is a remarkably well-stocked aquarium shop in central Peterborough that has been highly regarded among hobbyists for many years now. Besides the generous selection of fish and marine invertebrates on sale, the shop has acquired a reputation for offering shoppers useful advice in the form of labels on the tanks, leaflets, and of course communication from the staff.

In this article we're going to look at some of the fish currently in stock at The WaterZoo, focusing on some of the rarely seen species that might be kept in either a community or biotope aquarium. While correct at the time of writing, if you're planning a long trip to visit The WaterZoo, please get in touch to check availability of any livestock you are particularly interested in. As well as contact details, more information about the store can be obtained by visiting The WaterZoo page elsewhere on this site.

Violet Plec, L137, Cochliodon sp.

The WaterZoo usually has a good variety of South American catfish in stock, including Corydoras, L-numbers and Whiptails. Among the L-numbers available, this uncommon import is a good choice for community tanks, provided you have sufficient space. With a maximum length of around 25-30 cm, it's about half the size of the more commonly sold 'plecs' such as Pterygoplichthys spp., so best suited to tanks upwards of 250 litres. It gets its common name from the violet tinge to its dorsal and caudal fins rather than its body, which is in fact brown, albeit attractively broken up into patches of darker brown on a light brown background. Evidently some form of camouflage, once clamped onto a piece of bogwood this catfish would certainly be difficult to see in its natural habitat. All Cochliodon are omnivorous with a preference for vegetable foods, and in the aquarium will accept courgette, cucumber and cooked peas alongside the usual algae wafers and catfish pellets. While territorial towards one another, singletons work very well kept alongside dissimilar fish such as tetras, small South American cichlids and Corydoras. Avoid very hard water; 2-15 degrees dH, pH 6-7.5 is recommended.

African Butterfly Cichlid, Anomalochromis thomasi

Apart from the famous Krib, the cichlids of West Africa are not well known, which is a shame because many of them are peaceful, colourful, and well worth keeping. It's therefore very nice to Anomalochromis thomasi in stock at The WaterZoo, being a relatively small cichlid (up to 8 cm long) that is not particularly aggressive or territorial. Their colours vary with mood, dark patches appearing when stressed, but otherwise the fish are silvery with yellow around the head and across the back, have red eyes, black patches on the flanks, and numerous small red and blue speckles all over the body and fins. Males and females are quite similar, though males tend to be larger once fully grown. Anomalochromis thomasi is a shy species that appreciates a well-planted tank with plenty of shade, and will get along nicely with community fish that leave it alone. If you were going for a truly African theme, then Congo Tetras would make useful dither fish, while a small Synodontis species such as Synodontis nigriventris would occupy the bottom feeder niche. Anomalochromis thomasi may be kept singly, in mated pairs, or ideally small groups so that they can pair off naturally. Like other West African cichlids they prefer soft water and a certain amount of warmth; aim for 2-12 degrees dH, pH 6-7, 25-30 degrees C.

Striped Barb, Puntius lineatus

All the usual Southeast Asian barbs, rasboras and danios can be seen at The WaterZoo on a regular basis, but the Striped Barb is a standout species that only occasionally turns up in aquarium shops. While it lacks the bright colours of some barb species, its small size, streamlined body shape, and its horizontal black and yellow stripes make it a very eye-catching species for the more experienced aquarist stocking a biotope tank. Like many other streamlined fish, this active species can be nervous if kept in the wrong environment, and must be kept in fair numbers, at least six specimens, but realistically ten or more would be better. Given their small size (around 5 cm) such a group won't be too difficult to obtain and manage, and once settled they will perform the role of open water dither fish very well. Striped Barbs are very peaceful and should get along well with small barbs, rasboras, loaches and catfish from the same environment. In the wild these fish come from swampy, marshy pools and streams with plenty of vegetation around the margins, so tall plants such as Vallisneria or thickets of large Cryptocoryne species could be used to create the right sort of setting. The water chemistry tends towards the soft and acidic; pH 6-7, 1-10 degrees dH is recommended. Water temperature shouldn't be too high otherwise oxygen levels may dip; around 22-24 degrees C is ideal.

Julidochromis marlieri

The WaterZoo holds good selections of the ever-popular Rift Valley cichlids, including several of the species we know as 'Julies', or Julidochromis. Coming from Lake Tanganyika they are popular choices for use in Tanganyikan communities thanks to their attractive colours and easily managed behaviour. Julidochromis marlieri is often described as one of the prettiest species, with pale yellow-white body marked with vertical and horizontal stripes that extend onto the fins creating a complex set of markings. Adults get to around 14 cm in length. Maintenance is similar to that of other Tanganyikans. Plenty of rocks should be provided to ensure there are sufficient hiding places for all specimens, and the water needs to be hard, alkaline, and of very good quality, Tanganyikan cichlids being especially sensitive to ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. Robust filtration will be important, some aquarists also adding powerheads or airstones to provide some extra current as well. Since males and females look very similar, potential breeders usually rear a small group of specimens, and then remove surplus individuals once a breeding pair has formed. Julidochromis will take good quality cichlid flake and pellet foods, but they prefer live and frozen foods such as krill, daphnia and brine shrimp.

Climbing Perch, Anabas testudineus

Although it is one of the most famous of the labyrinth fish, the Climbing Perch is only very rarely seen in aquarium shops; indeed, this writer hasn't seen them for at least twenty years, making their appearance at The WaterZoo particularly remarkable! In the wild these fish will supposedly move from one pond to another over land, using their modified gill covers as props to support their weight. Climbing Perch are basically greenish-grey in colour, paler underneath. Wild specimens supposedly get to around 20-25 cm in length, but this seems to be rare in captivity, most adult specimens only getting to about 10-15 cm. Like all labyrinth fish they are able to breathe air using the lung-like labyrinth organ in their head. Climbing Perch are hardy and easy to keep. They will adapt to both soft and hard water, and eat most types of food including flakes, pellets, frozen invertebrates and small live foods such as earthworms and brine shrimp. They are predatory though, so tankmates should be of similar size, and in terms of personality, Climbing Perch are sometimes pushy and territorial, so tankmates should be reasonably tough animals in their own right. Loricariid catfish make good companions, as do large barbs and characins, but avoid aggressive cichlids which may pick fights with the Climbing Perch.

White Cheeked Goby, Rhinogobius duospilus

These subtropical gobies are ideal inhabitants for a room temperature aquarium alongside other subtropical fish, of which there are a surprising number in the trade. Many of the sucking loaches, such as the Sewellia lineolata also in stock at The WaterZoo, will cohabit well with White Cheeked Gobies. They'd enjoy the same environmental conditions without competing too strongly for food. Among midwater species, White Cloud Mountain Minnows are obvious and colourful picks, doing much better at room temperature than in tropical tanks. In terms of general care, White Cheeked Gobies are benthic predators that appreciate small invertebrates such as bloodworms and brine shrimps. They generally show little interest in dried foods, so do not expect them to do well on flake. As with other East Asian fish, water chemistry isn't critical but shouldn't be too soft, and neither should it be too warm; 10-20 degrees dH, pH 7-8, 18-22 degrees C will work well. While the males are territorial, this instinct extends only so far as their chosen cave or burrow, so unless the tank is very small, it's perfectly possible to keep several gobies together. Spawning occurs readily, and the males guard the eggs as with other gobies, but the fry are very small and difficult to rear. Sexual dimorphism is not strong, though the males tend to be more colourful and a little larger. Note that older aquarium books may refer to this goby as Rhinogobius wui.

Ocellated Puffer, Takifugu ocellatus

While this is definitely one of the most beautiful pufferfish in the trade, the Ocellated Puffer is also one of the most demanding. Because of this it is rarely seen in aquarium shops, but ambitious aquarists will certainly welcome their arrival at The WaterZoo. To cut a long story short, they are subtropical brackish to marine fish, and they need to be kept accordingly. While juveniles will tolerate freshwater for a while, perhaps a few weeks, they really need to be moved in brackish water as soon as possible. Juveniles might be maintained at around half-strength seawater (around 17 grams marine salt mix per litre) adults will probably need marine conditions to do well (35 grams/litre). Water temperature should be moderate, around 18 degrees C, which may require a chiller during hot summers or else placing the aquarium somewhere relatively cool, such as a cellar. Besides water chemistry and temperature, the right kind of substrate is important, Ocellated Puffers being burrowers that appreciate a sandy substrate into which they can dig. The substrate should be deep enough that they can completely dig themselves in, which they will do on occasion. They are not sociable and should be kept alone. As with other puffers, they eat all sorts of meaty foods, but take care not to use too many mussels or prawns as these contain high levels of thiaminase that can lead to vitamin B1 deficiency.

West African Mono, Monodactylus sebae

This unusual fish resembles an Angelfish at first glance, being taller than it is long, and bearing four vertical black stripes on its otherwise silvery body. However, unlike the Angelfish this species has scales running almost all the way along up and down its dorsal and anal fins. It is also far more active than the Angelfish, darting around with great speed and agility. Like other Monos, this attractive species inhabits estuaries, harbours and shallow bays, but sometimes migrates many miles upstream into freshwater habitats. Maintenance is not difficult, but as a brackish water fish it cannot be kept in a freshwater tank indefinitely. The precise salinity doesn't matter, but SG 1.005 to 1.010 is recommended for juveniles. Adults are happier at the higher end of that range, and may be kept in marine tanks if desired, where they make useful dither fish in FOWLR systems. Maximum length is said to be 25 cm in the wild, but realistically specimens around 15 cm in length (and a good 20 cm in height) would be considered on the large size under home aquarium conditions. Monos tend to be nervous if kept singly, but twos and threes may sometimes become aggressive. Combining them with other large brackish water species such as Common Monos, Green Chromides or Scats will help dissipate any aggression, encouraging all the fish to settle down better. These fish are easy to feed, eating all the usual flakes, pellets and frozen foods.

Red-Eye Red-tail Puffer, Carinotetraodon irrubesco

No freshwater pufferfish is recommended for community tanks without reservations, but one that comes close is Carinotetraodon irrubesco. This rarely seen species sometimes gets rolled into batches of another, but much more aggressive, Southeast Asian pufferfish species known as Carinotetraodon lorteti. However, The WaterZoo has batches of Carinotetraodon irrubesco in stock that will be of interest to fishkeepers wanting to keep a small, relatively peaceful pufferfish species in a carefully selected community setting. As its common name suggests, males have red tails as well as brown bodies, cream-coloured bellies, and reddish eyes. Females also have red eyes, but they are mottled brown in colour except for their bellies, which are cream-coloured with short brown squiggles. Carinotetraodon irrubesco get to about 5 cm in length, males tending to be a bit bigger than the females. They appreciate quiet, shady tanks where they mostly patrol the substrate looking for worms, crustaceans and snails. Carinotetraodon irrubesco is easy to keep doing well across a broad water chemistry range; 2-20 degrees dH, pH 6-8 will do fine, though ideally aim for the softer, more acidic end of the range if possible. Males and females coexist well, given space. They largely ignore their tankmates, rarely exhibiting the fin-nipping behaviour commonly seen with other puffers. Nonetheless, tankmates should be ones that stay in the top half of the tank away from territorial males, and quick enough to avoid any occasional nippiness. Rasboras, danios and the like should all work well.

Filament Barb, Dawkinsia filamentosus

The Dawkinsia barbs are medium-sized South Asian barbs noted for their delicate colours and peaceful nature. Dawkinsia filamentosus comes from Sri Lank and gets to about 12-15 cm in length. It is an active fish that will need plenty of space; a school of 6-8 specimens for example would need a tank at least 200 litres in size, and given their size would be best suited to fairly robust community fish such as L-number plecs, Clown Loaches, and medium-sized non-aggressive cichlids such as Blue Acara. Both sexes are basically silvery green, with a dark patch close to the base of the tail. However, the males have much longer dorsal fin rays, hence the 'Filament' part of their common name. Males also sport black and orangey-red patches on the two lobes of the tail fin. Mature males will develop greenish or reddish tints, particularly on the upper half of the flanks. Maintenance is much like that of other barbs, with water chemistry tending towards the softer end of the range if possible; 2-10 degrees dH, pH 6-7 is ideal, t. Water quality is important, and there should be plenty of current otherwise this stream-dwelling species is not likely to do well. Robust filtration offering turnover rates around 8-10 times the volume of the tank per hour will suit it well. Tankmates that appreciate similar conditions, such as loaches and L-number catfish, would make ideal companions.

Opaline Gourami, Trichopodus trichopterus

Here's a classic fish widely mentioned in aquarium books but under-appreciated by advanced hobbyists. That's a shame, and one of the nice things about The WaterZoo is that there's a healthy variety of these bread-and-butter fish that make great fish for those making a start in this hobby. The Opaline Gourami is a morph of a widespread gourami species known to scientists as the Three-Spot Gourami (often referred to as Trichogaster trichopterus in older aquarium books). Wild fish are mottled brown, and get their name on account of the three spots visible when the fish are looked at from the side, one on the caudal peduncle, one midway along the flank, and the third being the black pupil of the eye. Artificially bred forms including blue, gold, violet and silver forms, and the Opaline Gourami may be any of these colours, though blue and gold Opaline Gouramis are commonest. What distinguishes it from other types is that instead of the three black spots the blue or golden colour is marbled, resulting in a very attractive fish. Opaline Gouramis are good community fish, but the males can become aggressive with age, primarily towards their own kind or fish of similar shape, such as other gourami species, bettas, even cichlids such as Angelfish. They may also harass very small and inoffensive species like Neons and Guppies. They usually work great with dissimilar species of similar size though, including medium-sized characins, barbs, rainbowfish, loaches and catfish. If all else fails, stick with the females. While colouration is the same for both sexes, males have distinctly longer dorsal fins compared with the females. Otherwise maintenance couldn't be easier, Opaline Gouramis doing well in both soft and hard water, feeding on pretty much any food offered to them including flake and pellets, and handling temporary water quality problems much more successfully than many other fish.