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  • Species: Pterophyllum scalare - Red Devil

Stunning Species Available: Tropical Fish 2 Your Door

11 September 2020

Some new livestock available at Wildwoods this week including a number of rarely-seen catfish and cichlids.

Wildwoods is easy to get to, ten minutes' drive from Junction 25 of the M25, and there's plenty of car parking in front. If you're coming by public transport, Crews Hill station (Travelcard zone 6) is a 10-15 minute walk away. Unless you've been to Wildwoods, it's hard to describe just how wide the range of livestock available truly is, but if getting to Wildwoods isn't possible, then you'll be pleased to know that they also have a reliable and well-established mail order service that dispatches healthy, happy fish safely delivered to your door!

Cyphotilapia frontosa Mpimbwe Blue

The 'Mpimbwe Blue' form of this popular Tanganyikan cichlid is not often seen, and it's worth noting that a lot of the cheaper Frontosa cichlids sold in aquarium shops are hybrid fish derived from a mix of geographical variants. As its name suggests, the 'Mpimbwe Blue' form comes from an area around Cape Mpimbwe and is noted for having more blue colouration than usual, particularly on the fins and face. The ones at Wildwoods are juveniles, and so more easily adapted to the home aquarium than mature adults.

Frontosa cichlids are not difficult to keep in some ways, adapting well to captivity despite coming from the deeper parts of the lake. They readily consume good quality pellet foods as well as frozen foods like lancefish and krill. In terms of social behaviour they are relatively tolerant and easy-going, but do best in mixed sex groups of five or more specimens. Ideally, they'd be kept as a harem consisting of a single male and multiple females, but Frontosas are notoriously hard to sex, with only older, dominant males developing the large nuchal hump characteristic of the species.

The only real challenge to keeping this species is the size of the aquarium needed: with a maximum length of well over 30 cm, you will need something like 500 litres to keep a small group well. The tank should be dark and sparsely decorated with rocks, as befits a species that favours deep water and prefers to hunt at dawn and dusk. Filtration needs to be top-notch (as with any large cichlid) and nitrate levels in particular should be kept as low as practical, certainly below 40 mg/l, and ideally below 20 mg/l.

Apistogramma agassizii 'Super Orange'

Apistogramma agassizii is one of the better known South American dwarf cichlids, and does very well in captivity. Over the years several artificial strains have been produced with enhanced colouration, including the 'Super Orange' strain available at Wildwoods. While wild-caught fish are shy and need very soft and acidic conditions to do well, domesticated fish are more adaptable and can do well in peaceful community tanks.

In terms of maintenance, Apistogramma agassizii is typical of the genus. Water that is not too hard is important: aim for 2-12 degrees dH, pH 6.0-7.5. A temperature around 25 C is ideal, and water movement should be sluggish but not quite still, so a gentle filter, even something air-powered, would be useful. Like most dwarf cichlids Apistogramma agassizii appreciates a dark tank with plenty of overhead vegetation and a substrate of sand and leaf litter. Bogwood roots help to create the shady nooks that mated pairs like to use for spawning, with the female largely taking care of the fry while the male defends the territory.

Brachyplatystoma capapretum

Brachyplatystoma are large, predatory catfish from South America. One species, Brachyplatystoma filamentosum can reach 2-3 metres in length, but Brachyplatystoma capapretum is much smaller, with a maximum length of around 75 cm. Obviously a catfish this big will still place substantial demands on the owner in terms of living space, but as 'giant' predatory catfish go, it's certainly among the more desirable species in the trade.

Keeping this fish successfully will depend primarily on the size of the tank, which surely needs to upwards of 1000 litres for adult specimens. Younger fish may be kept in smaller tanks, but they do grow quickly when properly looked after, so potential owners really do need to plan ahead. As you'd expect for a powerful nocturnal predator, tankmates need to be chosen with extreme care. It is probably easiest to keep this fish on its own, but any robust but easy-going deep-bodied or heavily armoured fish of similar size should work, such as Pacu or giant Thorny Catfish. As with most pimelodid catfish, these fish readily take all the usual frozen foods such as lancefish and prawns when young, a chunky pieces of white fish filet and squid as they mature.

Otocinclus cocama, Zebra Otto

The Zebra Otto is a very popular but rarely seen small South American catfish that makes a nice addition to well-maintained communities of other small, gentle species. Like other Otocinclus this species is small (around 4 cm long) and highly sociable (so keep in groups of at least five specimens). Otocinclus cocama is much more attractively coloured than its relatives, with beautiful zebra-like black and white markings.

In the wild Otocinclus cocama feeds primarily on aufwuchs, the combination of algae and microscopic invertebrates that encrust submerged rocks and wood. Upon import these catfish can be half-starved, and a period of time in a quarantine tank to 'fatten them up' on algae wafers will be very useful. Otherwise, make sure they're not kept with anything likely to compete with them for food, and certainly don't assume that they can scavenge or otherwise get by on whatever algae is in the tank -- they won't. Otocinclus cocama appreciates very clean water that isn't too warm (around 22-24 C is ideal) and to encourage the growth of green algae, there should be plenty of light shining on suitable flat surfaces such as pebbles. A brisk water current is very beneficial, and the Zebra Otto will not last long in an overstocked, under-filtered aquarium.

Channa pardalis, Meghalaya Leopard Snakehead

Dwarf Snakeheads have steadily maintained their popularity among advanced aquarists through their combination of attractive colours, robust personalities, and in some cases, breeding potential. The Meghalaya Leopard Snakehead comes from the Himalayan foothills of northeastern India where it can be found in lakes and streams. It is a very beautiful species with plenty of blue colouration on its fins and body. Maximum length is around 25 cm. Channa pardalis is basically a territorial loner, but in very large tanks groups of juveniles have been maintained long enough for stable pairs forming as the fish mature.

Like all snakeheads Channa pardalis is a predator, but it will not molest fish of similar size that leave it alone. The larger barbs might be a possibility if you're after a biotope aquarium. What does matter is ensuring the water isn't too warm, not quite subtropical, but certainly no warmer than around 24 C, and a couple of degrees cooler in winter. Feeding can be tricky initially, with live foods like earthworms and river shrimps preferred, but once settled these fish consume chunky frozen foods such as lancefish and strips of squid. As with any predatory fish, avoid overuse of thiaminase-rich foods like mussels and prawns that can leave to vitamin B1 deficiency.

Pterophyllum scalare 'Red Devil'

It probably goes without saying that Angelfish are among the world's most popular tropical fish, but good quality examples of the rarer varieties, such as the Red Devil, are not widely seen. These fish are recognised for their deep red colouration, and groups of them can look especially impressive in a deep tank with subdued lighting. Otherwise they resemble the standard Angelfish and reach a maximum length of around 10-12 cm.

Maintenance conforms to that of any other tank-bred Angelfish, but these pedigree fish will need good care to do well. This includes a reasonably large tank (upwards of 250 litres for a small group) with generous but gentle filtration that keeps nitrite and ammonia at zero without creating too much water current. Nitrate level should be low, ideally below 40 mg/l and preferably below 20 mg/l. Water temperature should be towards the warmer end of the range, 25-28 C being ideal. Water chemistry isn't critical, but very hard water should be avoided: 1-15 degrees is fine, but the lower end of that range would be best, especially for breeding. Angelfish consume all the usual flake and pellet foods, but some colour-enhancing foods, or frozen crustaceans such as brine shrimp, will help keep their red colour looking good.

While juvenile Angels are social, as adults the group breaks up into territorial pairs. Consequently, Angels are most easily kept singly or in mated pairs, or else in groups of at least six specimens to avoid bullying. Sexing juveniles is essentially impossible, so breeders tend to buy groups and allow nature to take its course, removing pairs as they form. Angels spawn readily, but the parents can be rather inept, in which case removing the eggs and rearing them manually becomes necessary.

Pseudotropheus sp. Polit 'Lion Cove'

The fish we call Pseudotropheus are among the more aggressive Mbuna, that group of cichlids that lives around the rocky shores of Lake Malawi feeding on algae and small invertebrates. The males of this particular variety, likely an undescribed species, have a brilliant powder blue body with dark blue-black stripes across the face. Their unpaired fins are almost electric blue in colour, while the anal fins are almost black edged with blue-white. Females and juveniles are basically brown tending towards orange on the face and fins, and of course have the classic yellow egg spots on the anal fin. Maximum length is around 10 cm, though most specimens are a bit smaller.

Keeping this Pseudotropheus is really not much different to keeping any other Pseudotropheus species. Your main problem is social behaviour, with the males being extremely territorial, to the point of killing any weaker males that cannot escape. Unless the tank is very large and decorated with lots of rocks and caves, the species is most easily kept as a harem containing one male alongside three or more females. Keeping them with other Mbuna species that will disrupt the male's territoriality is helpful, but it's best to choose other genera, such as Labidochromis and Melanochromis, with which they cannot hybridise. That way, any offspring produced will be pure-bred Pseudotropheus sp. Polit 'Lion Cove' that will be welcomed by other cichlid enthusiasts.

Otherwise, the main issues are diet, water chemistry, and water quality. Like other Mbuna, a plant-based diet is what they need, with Spirulina flakes for herbivorous fish being ideal staples. Avoid protein-rich foods as these can cause health problems such as bloating. The water needs to be hard and alkaline of course, but also of good quality: zero ammonia and nitrite, but also very low in nitrate.

This article was expertly written by Neale Monks and cannot be reproduced without the permission of Tropical Fish Finder.