Amazing pictures of plankton bioluminescence in Lake Victoria. Not the Lake Victoria in Africa, the Lake Victoria in Australia. The Aussie Lake Victoria is a salt lake in the southeastern part of the continent. There are no cichlids in this lake, but the photos are a must see. Commonly known as “sea sparkle”, this bioluminescence is created by the the plankton Noctiluca scintillans. During daylight, blooms of N. scintillans appear as a cloudy red scum in the water. At night, water movement causes a chemical reaction inside the plankton creating an electric blue glow.
Plankton bioluminescence. Photo by Phil Hart
Scientist aren’t sure why these plankton glow when water is disturbed. Theories range from a defense mechanism to scare away predators to a form of camouflage. To see more pictures of this rare plankton bioluminescence, visit Dailymail.co.uk for more pictures by Phil Hart.
The ECO-Cycle Aquaponics Kit by ECOLIFE is designed to turn your 20 gallon aquarium into a productive organic garden. ECOLIFE’s organizational goal is to resolving conflict between conservation needs and community needs. While the ECO-Cycle Aquaponics Kit won’t solve the world’s problems, it was designed to be an educational and useful tool. The idea behind this kit is to create a closed system. Nitrates at the end of the Nitrogen Cycle are used to feed the plants. The plants will consume the nitrates thereby reducing them in the water. Will it work and eliminate the need to water changes? That remains to be seen. Keep in mind that community fish tanks don’t seem require water changes as often as cichlid tanks. According the ECOLIFE;
“The ECO-Cycle Aquaponics kit may be used to demonstrate concepts such as the nitrogen cycle, the role of bacteria in ecology, the function of water in ecology, living systems, plant and animal life cycles, hydrodynamics, and the science of food production.”
Basically the ECO-Cycle Aquaponics kit pumps water from the tank and uses it feed the plants growing above the tank. The kit comes with everything you need to retrofit an existing 20 gallon fish tank. The kit including a pump, lights, plant growing media and filtration. More information on this kit is available in the ECOLIFE Magazine Fall 2012 issue(PDF). The kit and everything that it includes can be purchased directly from ECOLIFE. This product would undoubtedly be great in a classroom situation. For others, this might be a great excuse to add one more tank to your home. Just imagine the benefits of having fresh herbs while teaching your kids about science.
As anyone who has ever kept these little Tanganyikans knows, unshelling a shell dweller isn’t going to happen unless they want to leave their shell. Shellies can go into their homes and wedge themselves so well that even a predator can’t pull them out. There are several techniques to getting these little cichlids out and they all involve a similar principle. Shellies appear to dislike being elevated from the bottom of the tank. The article Unshelling Shell Dwellers explains a system to get multiple fish at one time. There are also YouTube videos that demonstrate how to get a shellie to leave its home by raising them off the ground.
While the two methods mentioned above work well, these techniques don’t always fit my needs. Sometimes I need to catch one particular shellie without disturbing the rest of the tank or having it leave its shell only to enter another. When I need catch one fish (or several, one at a time), I use a plastic water bottle. The first step is to cut it all the way around where I’ve draw the red line. You want to find the spot on the bottle where the upper part is wide enough so it won’t fall into the bottom of the bottle.
Once you’ve cut the upper portion off, simple reverse it into the lower part of the bottle. Put it into your tank and let it fill with water making sure there is no air trapped on the edges. With all the air out, it should stay at the bottom of the tank. Then simply pick up the shell with the fish you want and place it, shell opening down, into the upper part of the bottle. Make sure to align the mouth of the shell with the hole in the water bottle. I also place a small net on top of the water bottle. I once had a shellie exit the shell and instead of going straight down, it squeezed in between the shell and the water bottle to escape up and over the edge.
In a few minutes, the shell dweller will leave its shell and drop down into the water bottle. Congratulations, you’ve just unshelled and trapped it all in one shot. Repeat as needed. This technique also works great for catching fry that hide around rocks. Simply put some crushed flake into the water bottle trap, fill with tank water and lay it on its side. Place it close to where the fry hide and walk away for a while. The opening is too small for larger fish but the fry will eventually swim into the bottle and not be able to find their way out.
The Ohio Cichlid Association Winter Auction. Beat cabin fever and get some incredible deals on cichlids, catfish and dry goods. The auction will be held on February 9, 2013. Registration is between 10am and 12pm. Auction begins at 11am. Holiday Inn – Strongsvile – 15471 Royalton Road. Located at I-71 and Route 82 just 10 minutes south of Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. For more information, including auction rules, auction flyer and seller form, visit the OCA Winter Auction page.
The OCA brings together cichlid and catfish enthusiasts to increase the enjoyment of the fish keeping hobby. The OCA meets on the first Friday of every month except July in Cleveland, Ohio. The OCA year is centered around three major events: the OCA Winter Auction in February, the OCA Fishy Swap Meet in Fall, and the OCA Extravaganza. The OCA Extravaganza is the world’s largest cichlid and catfish convention, and is organized by the OCA every year on the weekend before Thanksgiving in Cleveland Ohio.
Petrochromis sp. “Red” Bulu Point. Photo by Sarah Roberts
Petrochromis sp. “Red” Bulu Point is not the type of cichlid most hobbyist are likely to keep. Like other Petrochromis, P. sp. “Red” is a large cichlid with aggression and diet considerations. However, seeing a tank full of them is stunning and not something you will soon forget. I have often run scenarios through my mind of how I could somehow keep a tank of them. Unfortunately my conclusion is always the same: not right now.
Found in deep waters of Lake Tanganyika, P. sp. “Red” is often difficult to find and not collected often. P. sp. “Red” can grow to over 10 inches and have a voracious appetite. Petros are highly aggressive toward other Petros. A tank with a dozen can quickly become a tank with a single male. Despite this, Petros have very little aggression toward other genera. If you are thinking of possible housing some in a large tank with some frontosa, dietary issues would make them unsuitable tank mates. It is recommended Petros be fed a vegetarian diet like spirulina flakes or pellets. For anyone thinking of keeping Petrochromis, make sure you read the Care and Maintenance of Petrochromis article by Leigh Kissane. If you want specific information of P. sp. “Red”, Greg Pierson has written an article titled Petrochromis sp. “Red – Bulu Point”. Both articles are very informative and have some great pictures.
Thanks to the relatively mild winter weather in South Texas, it is possible to keep an outdoor cichlid pool year round. Greg Steeves of AfricanCichlids.net has experimented through the years with in-ground ponds, small kiddie pools and most recently a rather large above-ground pool. The article Raising Cichlids Outside was written several years ago and details some of his early outdoor cichlid pool projects. Since then Greg has upgraded to much larger, adult sized pools. Normally the fish would be caught and brought indoors when the temperatures began to drop. Last year it was decided to keep the outdoor cichlid pool running through the winter.
So armed with a pool sand filter, large pump, a very powerful heater and a 16′ above ground pool, the experiment continued. The pool holds around 5500 gallons of water and was stocked with various cichlid species from Lake Malawi and the Lake Victoria Basin. The fish included Pseudotropheus acei, Ps. flavus, Ps. saulosi, Ps. lombardoi, Astatotilapia latisfaciata, Paralabidochromis sauvagei, and Labidochromis caeruleus. After the first cold snap in South Texas, the solar blanket was peeled back and the video below was shot. As you can see, the fish look good and active. The large heater held the water temparature between 67-72 degrees despite the outside temperatures of 20 degrees. Hopefully Greg will write a more detailed follow up Raising Cichlids Outside II.
Pundamilia nyererei, Lake Victoria. Photo by Robert De Leon
Researchers are studying a cichlid species from Lake Victoria in hopes that the fish’s regenerative abilities can be used to cure heart disease in humans. Pundamilia nyererei can regrow damaged heart tissue at the rate of 20% within weeks of being damaged. The British Medical Foundation hopes this ability can lead to new treatments for people who have suffered heart damage. Although it is not thought that P. nyererei repairing ability can prevent heart problems, they do show promise in repairing damage. The article in AllAfrica.com goes on to say that this same fish, also known as a Zebra fish, was responsible for the development of the cholesterol-lowering drug rosuvastatin (Crestor).
The AllAfrica.com article states that a study published in the Journal of European Urology credits Zebra fish embryos for the development of rosuvastatin. However, no scientific name is given for the Zebra fish in the abstract I read (unfortunately this study isn’t available for free). The abstract can be found here. It is important to note that Zebra fish could be a common name for multiple different species. This is the problem with using common names, but that is for another blog. P. nyererei, like many of the native cichlid species of Lake Victoria have been devastated by the introduction of non-native commercial fish, pollution and now the spread of water hyacinth in many parts of the lake. If it turns our that P. nyererei and other species from Lake Victoria hold benefits in medical research, perhaps a bigger effort can be mounted to protect what is left of native cichlids from the lake. Lake Victoria is often used as an example of what evolution can create in a short period of time, it is not surprising that species from the lake can provide medical breakthroughs not found elsewhere.
**UPDATE: Just heard from a forum member. Turns out the Zebra fish used in the development of rosuvastatin was a danio rerio.
Julidochromis dickfeldi “midnight blue”. Photo by Dave Hansen
Not much is known about the origins of Julidochromis dickfeldi “midnight blue”. If they exist in the wild, its location has never been made available. The story I heard about 10 years ago was that a regular pair of J. dickfeldi spawned and some or all of the offspring had the “midnight blue” color. Once two of the new color variant spawn, all their offspring also have the same color. Other than the difference in color, J. dickfeldi “midnight blue” act just like normal J. dickfeldi. They appear occasionally on retailer price lists and would make a great addition to a community tank or a small tank with just the pair.
Covering 27,000 square miles, Lake Victoria is the world’s second largest lake in terms area. Due to its size, Lake Victoria’s weather conditions can change rapidly creating sudden thunderstorms with six-foot waves. The severe weather together with small crafts and no life jackets contribute to an estimated 5000 deaths each year. Most of the fatalities are fisherman in small boats. In order to save lives, the World Health Organization led a project to bring cell phone text warning system for local fisherman. Read more about the dangers on Lake Victoria and the efforts to save lives at CNN.com and AlertNet.