6 Tips for Picking Your First Aquarium Fish

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The right aquarium fish can make all the difference. Here’s 6 great tips to help you choose the best beginner fish as you embark on your aquarium keeping adventure!

Choosing your first aquarium fish may seem like a daunting task for a beginner. However, with a little research, you will be able to know what fish will prove to be hardy, undemanding, and well-suited to beginners. Perhaps the pet store may have recommended guppies, neons, or catfish, but many beginners have found it difficult to raise them, considering that they are still learning the ropes of aquarium fish care.

These six important tips will help you pick your first aquarium fish. Taking care of these fish species will certainly be a rewarding undertaking that will fuel your love for the hobby.

1. Choose fish which can easily adapt to new surroundings

A good first species should be one that is hardy, active, confident, and disease resistant. Select fish that appear healthy. Avoid fish that manifest visible signs of disease such as white spots, discolored skin patches, frayed fins, etc. Make sure that the fish can withstand water fluctuation since a new tank often has fluctuations in water quality that can stress your fish.

Aside from water conditions, your new fish should be able to adapt well to the presence of aquarium decorations and to the company of other fish species in the tank. Large or active fish can thrive well alone in a tank with little aquarium decor. However, there are fish species that find being alone distressing. Even with excellent water quality, you may find your pet hiding, not feeding, and may become vulnerable to illness.

2. Avoid fish with known specific feeding habits

Pick a fish species that can be fed a simple flake food for the first 6-8 weeks. Fish with specific feeding habits may result in excess amounts of waste products leading to high ammonia and nitrites in the water. The accumulation of these compounds is hazardous to your fish population.

3. Select fish from the same community

Selecting fish species from the same community will help ensure that you achieve balance in your aquarium. If you choose to get several varieties, make sure that they will get along well. Be sure to select the hardiest species. Fish that belong to the same community will have similar water chemistry and temperature requirements while exhibiting like behavior.

4. Start with peaceful community fish species

Aggressive tropical fish species may need to be fed live feeder-fish and this can certainly add up on your list of responsibilities. It is important to know which aggressive fish species can be matched, or else your peaceful community fish species may end up being eaten by its more aggressive tank mates. Aggressive fish species also need more tank space. Some of the tropical fish species that can thrive well in a community tank include tetras, gouramis, and platys.

5. Don’t buy too many at once

It is important that you stock your aquarium slowly. Being a neophyte, you run the risk of losing large numbers of fish to disease or bad water quality. Putting in many fish at the onset may overload the new tank water and lead to a build up of ammonia. The size and type of your tank and aquarium filter will help determine the amount and frequency of introducing new fish species to your tank. As a rule of thumb, no more than six small fish species should be added every seven days.

6. Buy from reputable breeders and pet shops

Before buying fish from a breeder or pet shop, it is recommended to visit the establishment and observe how they take care of the fish. You can see for yourself if the fish has a healthy appetite or is suffering from any health problems or defects. Never buy fish from aquarium shops that are not particular about maintaining hygiene and sanitation in their tanks. Pet shops that allow dead fish floating inside the tank or fail to quarantine sick fish should never be patronized.

Peter Hartono is the founder and CEO of Just Aquatic – a proud Australian company that provides excellent online aquarium supplies for betta fish tanks, goldfish tanks and also aquatic plant care products carrying top of the line brands including API, biOrb and Exo Terra.

Striped Rafael Catfish, nicest “thorny” catfish pokes in on Animal-World

April 2, 2014 by  
Filed under Aquariums, Catch All, Freshwater fish

Spotted Rafael Catfish, Agamyxis pectinifrons

The Striped Rafael Catfish will be quite prickly if touched, but it is a darn nice fellow with a very pleasant attitude!

Despite its thorny protection, the Striped Rafael Catfish is a peaceful, friendly companion towards its tank mates. That is at least towards the one that are big enough that they don’t look like food! This fellow is moderately sized and very pretty too. It’s about 6″ in length with bold black and white striping running horizontally along its body.

Curiously, in the wild the youngsters can act as cleaner fish. They will clean ferocious piscivores (fish that eat other fish!) like the Wolf Fish Hoplias cf. malabaricus. These deadly predators allow them to remove parasites and dead scales from their skin. Cleaner fish are usually striped, so it may be that their patterning triggers recognition, allowing the juveniles to get to away with snacking on the predator, rather than it snacking on them!

If you’re a beginner looking for your first catfish, this pleasant fellow could be just the ticket. It’s hardy and will eat just about anything that lands on the bottom of your tank. It may rest most of the day due to its nocturnal nature, but then at night it will emerge to become a great natural vacuum as it snacks on tasty morsels on the substrate. Yet despite its nocturnal tendencies, this fish also has a very curious nature. Once its comfortable in its home, it may very well come out of hiding during the day just to scout around!

Provide it with a comfortable home and it can live 20 years or more. A decor of driftwood and rocks that offer caves where it can rest, and a bit of plant cover to help subdue the light, and you will have a happy catfish for a very long time.

Learn more about the nicest “thorny” catfish. Pictures and information for the Striped Rafael CatfishPlatydoras armatulus, also known as the Humbug Catfish, along with habitat and aquarium care!

Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

Aquarium Fish Get Mean, Meet the Bad Guys

Red-bellied Piranha, Pygocentrus nattereriRed-bellied Piranha. Photo © Animal-World: Courtesy Jonas Hansel

Bad guys come in all shapes and sizes. Sometime even fish that are considered great community members can get mean!

There are several aquarium fish species which are known to exhibit aggressive behavior. One of the important causes of aggressive behavior inside the tank is attributed to their being territorial, thus you may find some fish species that chase away or nip at others as a means of protecting their space inside the tank.

Yet fish aggressiveness is also attributed to competition for food and difference in size. Sometimes fish will fight when a dominant one feels that its status is being threatened by another fish. Aggression can also be a warning sign; sick fish can become aggressive while other fish tend to bully sick fish. In some instances, a recognized peaceful fish can become aggressive, thus it is common to have one mean fish in the bunch.

The most common manifestations of aggression inside the tank include tail beating, fin-nipping, pushing water at the enemy, mouth-locked wresting, chasing, biting, and even killing.

When choosing to keep a community aquarium, you should know which species can live harmoniously together. Most species of aggressive fish are more suitable for a single species aquarium.

Some of the aggressive fish groups include the following:

Tiger Barb – The Tiger Barb is considered a good community fish however it is prone to nipping fins, thus they should not be kept with long-finned fish species such as angelfish. Tiger barbs can become aggressive if there is overcrowding inside the tank.

Large Tetras – Tetras are considered community dwellers however there may be an aggressive one in the group. When adding new fish, be sure to observe the temperament and whether the new addition is compatible with the rest of the inhabitants of the tank.

Cichlids – Many varieties of cichlids are aggressive and are best kept in one-species tank. Many cichlids can grow to very large sizes. These include the Green Terror, Jewel Cichlid, and Red or Tiger Oscar. African Cichlids are known to be highly predatory and extremely territorial. While not all Cichlids are very aggressive, the largest is usually the dominant one, behaving aggressively towards all the other tank inhabitants.

Giant Danio – The Giant Danio’s long and narrow body can crowd out other fish in the tank. It is also very active and likes to school.

Red Belly Piranha – Piranhas are notoriously predatory. They are known to eat live food. In fact, they will bite fingers when aggravated or hungry.

Large Gouramis – Kissing Gouramis are recognized for being mean and energetic. Gouramis are also considered fin nippers.

Large Rainbow Fish – Although Rainbow fish can live well with other species in a community tank, they can grow large and their fast speed makes it easier for them to prey on smaller inhabitants of the tank.

Wolf Fish – The freshwater wolf fish is a well-known aggressive predator. Also called “Piranha eater”, they have voracious appetites for feeder fish. Any fish that looks like prey can be disemboweled by the wolf fish. Although they don’t really mess with other fish, they are territorial and will nip other inhabitants of the tank.

Peter Hartono is the founder and CEO of Just Aquatic – a proud Australian company that provides excellent online aquarium supplies for betta fish tanks, goldfish tanks and also aquatic plant care products carrying top of the line brands including API, biOrb and Exo Terra.

Spotted Rafael Catfish, talking spotted spectacle on Animal-World

March 27, 2014 by  
Filed under Aquariums, Catch All, Freshwater fish

Spotted Rafael Catfish, Agamyxis pectinifrons

Not only is the Spotted Rafael a looker, but this catfish can talk!

The Spotted Rafael Catfish is a hardy fellow with a striking pattern of white spots on black. This spotted white-on-black design makes it very attractive and desirable. The spotting is quite variable with big spots, little spots, and even a few spots fusing into bars, and no two catfish will look exactly the same!

Looks and durability are some great things about this fish, but now let’s examine some of its other awesome attributes.

First off, this looker can also talk, and is often referred to as the Spotted Talking Catfish. It rubs its pectoral fins (the ones sticking out to the sides) by rotating them in the shoulder sockets which then produces “Clicks”, “groans”, or “squeaks!” Aquarist usually hear it vocalizing when they are removing it from its tank.

Which leads to its next cool attribute, it is a Thorny Catfish with built in armor. Its protective coverings start with heavy armor over its face and neck. Then it has rigid spines in its top and side fins that it holds out in an erect fashion to ward off any threats, or when disturbed. It also has a series of tiny spines along the sides,running the length of its body. No fish in its right mind is going to mess with this armored “thorny” dude!

Another great attribute is its daily routine of helping to keep the aquarium clean. It is nocturnal, so during the day it likes to rest, but at night it becomes a great natural aquarium vacuum. It will spend its evening and nighttime hours busily scavenging tasty treats from the bottom of the tank.

But the last and BEST attribute… it is a peaceful fish. It likes companions and enjoys hanging out with similar types of catfish. It’s moderate in size, at about 6 Inches, but it gets along great with most other moderately sized or larger fish, even with more aggressive fellows. I guess if you have all that built in armor, you just don’t have to be a jerk!

An aquarium with lots of natural decor and a variety of community fish will create a very attractive showpiece. Give it ample space with at least 35 gallons of water (though more is better), and you will be rewarded with a wonderful companion fish for up to about 10 years!

Learn more about this cool spotted “talking” catfish. Pictures and information for the Spotted Rafael CatfishAgamyxis pectinifrons, along with habitat and aquarium care!

Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

Ocellated Synodontis, Large-spot Catfish making a splash on Animal-World

March 25, 2014 by  
Filed under Aquariums, Catch All, Freshwater fish

Ocellated Synodontis, Synodontis ocellifer

Ocellated Synodontis, an upside-down catfish with very large spots!

The Ocellated Synodontis is not a clown, but it does have a very spotted coat!

Sometimes those spots can be very large, and in size it’s not too small either. Most seen in an aquarium will be less than 10 inches, but if you see this dude in the wild, it could be a whopping 20 inches in length!

A good-sized aquarium with lots of natural decor and a variety of community fish will create a very attractive showpiece. But even better than that, this is a great environment for housing a very cool large-spotted Synodontis catfish. Rocks, driftwood, and twisted roots all work great to make places of refuge, and wood is especially appreciated for it to will rasp on. And because it’s nocturnal, plants floating on the surface help keep the light subdued during the daytime.

This fish spends its evening and nighttime hours peacefully scavenging delicious morsels from the bottom of the tank, and its days resting in a cozy hiding place. It pretty much gets along with almost any other tankmate, even semi to aggressive cichlids. It does get pretty big though, so beware of keeping it with very small fish. When these little fellows fall to sleep near the bottom of the tank at night, they could easily become scrumptious snacks!

In the wild it schools with its own kind while young, but then becomes a solitary fellow as it matures. Consequently, adults can be somewhat aggressive towards other Synodontis catfish species, especially if the tank is too small and without enough hiding places for all.

This easy keeper is not fussy about food, and with its non-intrusive demeanor, it makes a great community fish for both beginners and advanced aquarists. It can live for up to 20 years, so as long as its watery home is at least 50 gallons in size and is well kept, you can have this interesting and attractive fellow for a good long time!

Learn more about this “Large-spot” catfish. Pictures and information for the Ocellated Synodontis Synodontis ocellifer, along with habitat and aquarium care!

Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

Why I Hate Crabs

Emerald Crab or Green Clinging Crab, Mithraculus sculptusEmerald Crab or Green Clinging Crab Mithraculus sculptus is a dark green color and comes from the tropical waters of the Caribbean Sea

Crabs in the Saltwater Aquarium

No, I am not talking about our old aunts or other relatives, although they can probably fit loosely into this topic if I could throw them in my saltwater tank! For the sake of family peace, however, I have had to refrain myself during one visit. An odd circumstance arose that would have lent itself to the submergence of a crabby relative INTO my 150 gallon tank! Yet, I digress…

I am talking about crabs; all species, all genus, all colors, all shapes and all sizes. Be assured, that eventually these little hellion monsters, with evil intentions and back biting ways, will murder another creature in your tank, that you spent your hard earned money on! It’s just their nature, and they can’t be blamed. Even the ones with “small claws” have been known to cause problems, especially in a reef tank. I am sure there are a few well behaved crabs out there, but I am not risking my inhabitants on something that can be easily replaced with a less opportunistic murderer.

My first experience with the “little darlings,” was when I bought my first “clean up crew” for my 8 week old cycled 55 gallon saltwater tank. During this time, my research was quite focused on water quality, live rock, substrate, skimmers, heaters, and lighting. I did however, intend on doing research on the fish I was going to buy. After all, how can you screw up buying a “clean up crew?” …Everybody else is doing it!

Reef Hermit Crab, Clibanarius rhabdodactylusReef Hermit Crabs, Clibanarius species, are omnivorous marine crabs, but mostly prey on small animals and scavenge carrion

Hermit Crabs

My appreciation for hermit crabs were short lived. Over a period of about 4 months, the hermits, one by one, took out my snails, which of course COST more then THEY did. Yes, there was plenty of food and algae for both, perfect water parameters, and no predatory fish; so nothing else would have killed the snails. For me, the last straw was the loss of my prized Jumbo Nassarius Snail, who was one of five I had in my tank. The day I saw a hermit crab rockin’ that snail’s shell, was the day I pulled each and every one OUT of the tank and returned them to the store.

I actually have witnessed larger hermit crabs starting to attack a resting or sick fish! Then a friend of mine related a story of a puffer fish that was attacked at night, and dead by morning. She owned the puffer for a long time, and it was not sick. I remember once, when looking in someone else’s reef, I noticed a hermit crab sitting on top of a healthy SPS coral. As I observed this little beast, I noticed it was tearing the flesh off of the coral! Enough said!

If a fish dies, your nassarius snails will converge and consume, but they will never touch a live fish, only a rotting one. This will keep your water quality from deteriorating if a fish does die. This makes nassarius snails great inhabitants! Over time, I discovered that brittle starfish also do just as good of a job getting extra food that the fish missed.

Emerald Crabs

Back to the crabs! Well, against my better judgment I did buy an emerald crab down the line to take care of some green bubble algae. Once again, another little monster crab had to be extracted as it threatened my Halichoeres wrasses that were napping under the sand. I swear you could hear him say, “Where did those morsels go? The algae just ain’t cutting it!” My wrasses were unusually afraid of this emerald crab as it grew. So were we…

Reef Crabs

The worst experience I’d ever had was a reef crab that hitchhiked on some live rock. I bought the rock from a gentleman whose system crashed when the power went out. This is common during hot summer days in Las Vegas. I didn’t know there was a little monster stowed away in the rock and the way I found out was not cool! One morning, my fairy wrasses came up to be fed, and I noticed that my Scott’s Fairy Wrasse was no where around. This was odd, because he was usually the first in line for breakfast. I started looking for him and found this big, black, butt ugly, reef crab slowly scraping the now gutted sides of my most expensive wrasse! The Scott’s was NOT sick and I owed him long enough to rule out disease. Why is it ALWAYS the MOST expensive fish that is killed?

Thus started my long search for this monster in the bowels of my tank after he scampered away…. sideways… the LITTLE FREAK! I found him in a twisted and gnarled piece of live rock, which of course was UNDER a bunch of other live rock! So I had no choice but to remove the rock from the tank and chase him out of the middle. That was the WEIRDEST 30 minutes of my life up to that point. With saltwater tanks, these weird minutes start to accumulate over the years… just wait, you’ll see! So I got the little turd out and put him in a refugium as I decided what his fate would be. Let’s not go there.

Crabs Begone!

I started to search for fish that would not typically eat snails but WOULD eat crabs. Why? I had this suspicion he had a brother! Enter the Harlequin Tuskfish. I loved that fish! For as big and scary his teeth were, he was not even the dominant wrasse in my tank. One day, about a week after I bought him, I found remnants of yet ANOTHER reef crab on the substrate. So I blurted out, “WHO’S A GOOD BOY? WHO’S A GOOD BOY? WHOOOOOSE A GOOOOD BOY?!?!” Yes, another weird moment, as my family members looked at me perplexed; since, well, we DIDN’T have a dog!

Upon further research, the Internet supplied more and more horror stories of crabs wreaking havoc in tanks. Reef crabs include Mithrax Crabs (Mithraculus sp.) and Xanthid Crabs, and these are some of the worst culprits. The Mithraculus crabs belong to the Majidae family of “spider crabs”, which has around 200 species in 52 genera. The Xanthidae family is huge, with 133 genera and 572 known species.

Horseshoe Crab, Limulus PolyphemusHorseshoe Crab Limulus Polyphemus. This is a saltwater crab, yet it is more closely related to spiders, ticks, and scorpions than to crabs.
A wide variety of marine crabs can be seen here, at Dr. Jungle’s Animal-Image: Saltwater Crabs

Now I am sure there are crab lovers out there, and in certain set ups, hey, go right ahead!

Yes, they are very useful, but only in the ocean. There are many seasoned writers and hobbyists who have written books that will back me up on not keeping crabs in most closed systems. One may say that there are certain crabs like the tiny blue-legged hermits that don’t cause problems. Well, except if you happen to have those little nassarius snails! So YES, I did try those and they started to kill my little nassarius snails that, by the way, were perfectly fine up to that point.

Crabs are opportunistic scavengers, not pets. They are “cute” but the snails in your tank are thinking, “Well, I know one day I will be disemboweled by that heathen.” So the snails sulk away, out of the grip of the new resident… for now.

Carrie McBirney is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

Pink Skunk Clownfish, Unique in pink on Animal-World

March 6, 2014 by  
Filed under Aquariums, Catch All, Saltwater Fish

Pink Skunk Clownfish, Amphiprion perideraion

Pink Skunk Clownfish, a pink anemonefish with a white skunk stripe!

Beginners to advanced aquarists love this little dude. The Pink Skunk Clown is one of the most unique anemonefish. It stands out with its awesome pink hue topped with a skunk-like white stripe. But even better, it is one of the smallest clownfish with a personality to kill for. It works well in a reef tank, but is just as wonderful in a community setting.

It is a delicate clownfish with a shy and reclusive nature, happiest when it can call an anemone its home. Along with its color and friendly personality, its timid characteristics also add to its charm. For the aquarist who is willing to make sure the tank is pristine, this unusually decorated clownfish can provide a one-of-a-kind attraction for years. Beginners and advanced aquarists alike can marvel at its beauty and pleasant personality.

Keep it with other small fish that are peaceful and relatively calm and you can enjoy a lifetime of beauty and perfection in a smaller aquarium. Or conversely, add it to a reef with an anemone and have a supreme addition with interesting color and personality.

It can be kept singly without an anemone, but is also great as a pair with an anemone and a small group of like kind sub adult companions. Its diminutive size makes it great for a smaller aquarium, and beginners can have great success as long as they use due diligence in keeping the water in top condition.

Pink Anemonefish can be obtained as captive bred fish and are available as a single specimen or as a pair. Keep one in a smaller tank, or a pair and some little guys in a larger tank and you’ll have a great aquarium.

Check out more about this pink “skunk-striped” anemonefish. Pictures and information for Pink Skunk Clownfish, along with habitat and aquarium care!

Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

Health Benefits of Owning an Aquarium

Fish keeping as a hobby has gained popularity all over the world!

Aquariums are a good alternative for people who desire to keep pets, aside from cats and dogs.

The Chinese people believe that aquariums bring good luck to homes and offices. The water it contains is one of the five elements of the earth. Water is said to generate positive energy and promote calm and harmony. Water is also believed to bring in good luck, wealth, and prosperity.

Keeping an aquarium filled with bright fish and lush vegetation in the office or in your home offers therapeutic benefits for your physical and mental health. The miniature aquatic ecosystem is a great way to bring nature indoors. Spending a few minutes following the swimming movements of the fish and listening to the sound of running water will certainly reduce your body’s reaction to stress while inducing calmness and enhancing positive feelings.

The beneficial effects that you can gain from observing the tranquility of the aquatic environment and its inhabitants have been shown to be similar to the results attained when petting a dog or cat. This simply shows that interaction with animals and nature can lower stress levels while offering a lot of other health benefits.

People that are constantly bombarded with stressors can suffer from hypertension. Studies have shown that those who had fish in their room or office experienced a reduction in blood pressure and a stable pulse rate. The graceful movements of the fish make them a great stress reducer.

Elderly People

Fish make a perfect pet of choice for the elderly since they don’t have the energy to meet the physical demands of keeping a dog or cat. Fish keeping also gives them the satisfaction of being able to care for another creature. It is also a great way to overcome their solitude.

Hyperactive Children

Children can also enjoy the multiple health benefits of watching fish in the aquarium. Hyperactive kids have been shown to relax and gain social benefits including developing a sense of responsibility and good nurturing abilities when caring for fish.

Alzheimer Patients

Patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease have been shown to reap several health benefits from spending time with aquariums. Several studies have shown a positive effect on the patients’ nutritional intake and weight gain. Consequently, these patients also required fewer nutritional supplements. Patients also tend to have lesser displays of physically aggressive behaviors.

Patients

Doctors and dentists often put an aquarium in their waiting rooms because of the calming effect it exerts on patients who are quite nervous while waiting for results of medical tests or waiting for the dentist.

No matter how old you are, owning an aquarium will certainly offer you a lot of health benefits. Today’s busy lifestyles will constantly bombard you with a lot of stressors. However, at the end of the day, you will find peace and tranquility as you spend time gazing at the enchanting aquascape of your fish tank.

AUTHOR CREDIT:

Peter Hartono is the online ambassador for Just Aquatic – a website dedicated in providing homegrown aquatic plants and aquarium supplies for fish and aquarium enthusiasts as well as aquascape hobbyists.

My Newbie Saltwater Aquarium Mistakes… and a Few Good Choices

Saltwater Aquarium Guide for the Beginner, Aquarium Setup and CareSee the Saltwater Aquarium Guide, Beginner Saltwater Aquarium Setup and Care

Good, bad, and best choices for the saltwater aquarium beginner.

As I sit here staring at my 75-gallon semi reef tank, with my Platinum and Picasso Percula Clownfish, Halichoeres Garnoti Wrasse, and Royal Gramma… yes, I’ve started over again after moving… I thought about how I got to this point. I thought that the things I’ve learned, a few good choices along with my newbie mistakes, which started in 2005, might be of use to someone. As I reflect, I realized it wasn’t all bad and I did learn a lot along the way.

My first saltwater tank was a 55-gallon in 2005. The first bit of advice I can give you is that you WILL want corals, so just buy a good light now! You can remove some of the bulbs if you think you are going to have a fish only tank, but you will have all the watts you need when you can’t help but buy that first coral!

Back to my first tank… I read what I could on the internet, and at the time, you could get live Fiji rock on eBay from a reputable dealer for $.99 a pound! Excited to find such a great buy, I did order the 50 lbs of live rock and eagerly awaited its arrival. The tank was set up with the proper salt level of 1.023, and this made sense to me since the ocean is about that or higher.

That was my first good choice. My first bad choice? Well that would be crushed coral. A guy at the LFS (live fish store) who seemed to be knowledgeable on the subject, we will call him Mr. Crushed Coral, told me that this was the best choice. I recall they were out of sand, yet he assured me this was better at keeping the pH up, and yes that made sense to me… at the time, and in certain applications it does have its uses.

One good choice was that a different guy at my LFS, who was actually quite knowledgeable in some areas, told me due to the hot summers here in Vegas, to wait and see what temperature my tank could maintain on its own. He said if 82°F was the lowest you could get it to in the summer, then keep it there! This was good advice due to the fact that keeping it at 78°F in the summer would be near impossible, and the fluctuations between 78°F at night and 82° during the day would cause Crypt and other stresses. I also found from this the best way to medicate your fish in the reef! Read on!

Crushed Coral, Crushed Heart

So I went home, rinsed and then dumped in my crushed coral per Mr. Crushed Coral’s instructions. I also observed where the temperature tended to hover and found that 82°F was the magic number, and set it there. In the meantime, the live rock had been delivered to my house, and it was amazing!

At the 4 week mark I did a 50% water change, as advised by Mr. Crushed Coral, and I saw emerge from the rock, a peanut worm! Coolest, freakiest thing I ever saw… well up to this point. The little dude kind of hung around the rock for the first week after that water change and then decided, “Hey, I need to burrow, because I am a WORM after all!” That did it. The crushed coral sliced and diced up Mr. Wormy in no time as I watched dumbfounded that I thought sand was not the better choice!

Upon further research on the internet, which we all tend to do after a mistake which we never even realized, I found it WAS a mistake. I found that good quality reef sand will also keep up your pH! So I bought this sand and replaced half of the crushed coral initially, then the other half 2 weeks later, to give the bacteria and other creatures a chance to migrate. I also read how crushed coral, especially when several inches deep can hold anaerobic pockets, which can cause issues if released. Lesson learned, note to self… only reef quality sand.

Starfish, Love/Hate Relationships

I was now ready for my clean up crew, which you guessed it, included hermit crabs, snails, and a sand-stirring starfish. Yeah, it was the Mr. Crushed Coral dude, again. Well, one out of 3 creatures in the cleanup crew were not too bad. Why do I say this? Well the hermits systematically hunted and killed all my snails for their shells, so yeah, THERE was money well spent! To this day, I will only add a hermit crab if I have a fish that likes to eat them! Yes I love Harlequin Tuskfish!

I also noticed over the next 12 months my tank seemed unstable. I was testing my saltwater tank daily, almost to an OCD level! Thus my parameters of calcium, magnesium, iodine, etc were all good, no ammonia or nitrites and only about 5 nitrates. I also slowly added fish, at the rate of one every 2 weeks. One day I noticed my sand-stirring starfish had crawled up on a rock, and later that same day, during a conversation with my seawater supplier, I was telling him how my tank just didn’t seem to want to stabilize.

He happened to look in the tank and see the starfish on the rock (at the time I didn’t know it was dead) and he said, “There is your problem! They eat all the good stuff in the sand, and then once it is gone, they starve to death! In a much larger tank they are fine, but not a 55 gallon.” I was like, “Oh great guru, please guide this newbie!” We took out the starfish, uh, okay Sea Star, and to this day I still have it… on my window sill… yeah, I know.

He then sold me some of his live rock from one of his established systems for $2.00 a pound and I got some GREAT stuff! He also gave me copepods, then after a few weeks, my tank was stable! To stir sand, I found the jumbo nassarius snails are best and their babies are adorable! At that point, my sand was being stirred, water was stable and I then had a new brittle starfish that was very cool, eating the extra food the others missed. I loved that starfish! Err, Sea Star. Note to self, don’t even bother with Linckia Starfish.

Temperature

One bit of information I stumbled upon while talking to an online website who sold fish bears repeating. They told me they purposely keep their tanks at 82°F to prevent the Cryptocaryon life cycle from completing, thus their fish rarely if ever had it! This would explain why I never had Crypt, and why any fish that I added who may have had a few spots never developed any more. I will say to this DAY, when my tank is at 82°F NO ONE gets sick!

To illustrate how harmless 82°F is, around the early part of 2006, my local UPS guy asked if I had a saltwater tank, noting the companies I was ordering from. I showed him my 55-gallon tank and on the spot he offered me, for FREE, a 150-gallon tank! He just finished with the hobby. This was oddly a foreshadowing of what I WOULD BE DOING with tanks over the next decade, but didn’t know it yet! So I continued with the temperature staying at 82°F, and I added more live rock and inhabitants to my 150-gallon reef over time. Eventually I had a Heteractis Magnifica (Magnificent or Ritteri Anemone), 2 Bubble Tips, various SPS (soft polyped stony corals), mushrooms (corallimorphs) zoanthids, one Kenya Tree, and LPS (large polyped stony corals), with all inhabitants, including fish, thriving. Of course, I never had cold-water fish! Note to self… no, you cannot have the Catalina Goby.

Medicine

One time, back in 2007, I ordered some black perculas… yeah they were HOT back then! One had Brook! Quinine Sulfate, pharmaceutical grade cured one as I treated it in a separate tank, but I lost the male. I bought it from Nationalfishfarm.com and these people are very knowledgeable! One morning I noticed, in my 150-gallon tank, a few of my fish had Crypt, and the temperature was only 77°F because of a failed heater. I had an extra one on hand, but I needed to figure out what to do.

After hours of researching, I settled on Seachem’s Metronidazole and Seachem’s Focus. The idea behind these products was awesome! The food and medication is bound together and will not affect the water chemistry or harm any inverts or bacteria! I used 3 parts Focus (binds the food and the other Seachem medication) to 1 part Metronidazole (used for Crypt and a few other illnesses) to 1 tablespoon of fish food, which can be dry or wet, then stored the leftover in the fridge. Upon following the instructions, my fish recovered very quickly! No need to bomb the tank, remove the fish, or relocate corals! To my horror, upon one of the feedings, my Magnificent Anemone accidentally ATE this mixture of food and medication, (thanks to the clownfish “feeding him”), but nothing ever happened! It is an amazing product! Note to self… check the expiration date on the Metro and Focus…

Next time I will talk about my “charge” mistakes. Fish, corals, or creatures I was talked into buying at the local fish store, and regretted it every day since… but learned a lot from!

Saltwater aquarium success can be yours! Learn how to set up your aquarium with our Saltwater Aquarium Guide, Beginner Saltwater Aquarium Setup and Care. Then select the best fish with our Beginner Saltwater Fish Guide, Hardy Marine Fish for the Beginner’s Saltwater Aquariums.

Carrie McBirney is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

Cinnamon Clownfish, adding spice to Animal-World

Cinnamon Clownfish, Amphiprion melanopus

Cinnamon Clownfish makes a spicy splash on Animal-World!

The Cinnamon Clownfish looks like it’s bathed in your favorite spice. The amount of black can be a lot or a little, giving it a dusting of cinnamon color.

This is one of those “bullet-proof” clownfish that does really well in any saltwater aquarium or reef tank. It’s lively demeanor, sturdy build, and durable nature make it a delight for beginners, but it’s equally satisfying for any aquarist.

Most are a pretty red or reddish brown with a splash of black on the body and lower fins. And there is a bright stripe of white, or sometimes blue, across the head. All that is brightly contrasted with reddish orange fins on top and a pretty yellow tail.

This pretty anemonefish, however, does have an attitude! It is the boss of its home and gets even scrappier if it has an anemone. Usually it will get along with most other fish and won’t eat corals, but it is very quarrelsome with other clownfish. Second in aggression only to the Maroon Clownfish it won’t tolerate other anemonefish, other than a male/female pair.

Fortunately it can be kept singly, and it does just fine without an anemone as long as there is plenty of rockwork. It’s great for a smaller aquarium and for a new hobbyist that doesn’t want to jump into being a reef keeper. But Cinnamon Clowns want to dominate their keepers too! So be careful when you do maintenance because these guys are known to “bite the hand that feeds them.”

Cinnamon Clowns can be obtained as captive bred fish and are available as a single specimen or as a pair. Keep one in a smaller tank, or a pair in a larger tank with equally tenacious companions and you’ll have a great aquarium.

Check out more about this “cinnamon” colored anemonefish. Pictures and information for Cinnamon Clownfish, along with habitat and aquarium care!

Clarice Brough is a team member at Animal-World and has contributed many articles and write-ups.

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