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Cichlid intelligence is put to the test

cichlid intelligence

Labidochromis caeruleus, aka yellow labs. Photo by Robert De Leon

Just a little over a week ago we posted a blog about a study of fish intelligence. Now it appears some scientists from MacEwan University in Canada have done some experiments on cichlid intelligence. The experiments were conducted with Labidochromis caeruleus, a popular mbuna from Lake Malawi. Yellow labs not only showed that they can quickly learn where to obtain food, but they can retain that knowledge for an extended period of time. L. caeruleus could even abandon formerly learned feeding spots when researchers changed feeding patterns.

The researchers will be presenting their findings today at the Society for Experimental Biology meeting. The study of cichlid intelligence has not been published for peer review, but you can read more about their findings on LiveScience.com.

Electric eels shock evolutionary biologist

electric eels

Electric eel. Photo by Steve Johnson CC BY-SA 3.0

Fish that developed the ability to create their own electricity for defense or to hunt prey is truly amazing in and of itself. What surprised scientist was that the fish that can generate their own electricity evolved this characteristic the exact same way, even though they aren’t related to each other. Convergent evolution is not all that unusual. We see it all the time in cichlids where specific characteristics are similar even though the fish are not related. One example are Tropheus for Lake Tanganyika and Tropheops from Lake Malawi. Both fish live in the same type of rocky habitat and scrape algae from rocks. The result is that both these fish look alike and behave in the same manner. Another example is the nuchal hump found in several species both in African and New World cichlids.

What really sets the electric eels apart from run-of-the-mill convergent evolution is that the ability to create electricity from muscle tissue is very difficult to do. Not only did these eels manage to do it, but they all followed a very long and unique evolutionary path to accomplish it. These eels are not related, but they all developed the exact same mechanism to do something very unusual. To read more about this discovery about electric eels, visit PHYS.ORG.

electric eels

Tropheus and Tropheops. Photos by Ad Konings.

Pam Chin returns to the LTAC radio show

pam chin

Cichlid enthusiast Pam Chin returns to the internet radio show Let’s Talk About Cichlids. The LTAC radio show is a live, call-in internet radio show dedicated to cichlids hosted by Greg Steeves. Pam Chin will appear on the June 27th broadcast set to start at 8pm EST. Fans of Pam or cichlids in general can call (949) 534-0637 to ask questions or participate in the discussion during airing.

Pam is a founding member of Babes In The Cichlid Hobby; a group dedicated to raising money for cichlid research and conservation. Pam has kept cichlids for decades. She is also known for her Ask Pam column which has appeared in many publications including the Buntbarsche Bulletin, Cichlid News and Cichlidae Communique. Pam is also involved with the C.A.R.E.S. preservation program. Make sure to point your internet browsers to the Let’s Talk About Cichlids radio program tomorrow (Thursday) night.

Fish intelligence, sentience and ethics

fish intelligence

Discus tending to its eggs. Photo by Diskuslaich1a CC BY-SA 3.0

A recently published paper for review by Culum Brown from Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia should be of interest to cichlid hobbyist. Titled Fish intelligence, sentience and ethics, Brown proposes that fish are a lot more intelligent than what we have always assumed. After reviewing scores of research papers on fish’s sensory perception, cognitive abilities and abilities to perceive pain, Brown suggests they are intelligent enough to merit the same treatment we afford other vertebrates.

Some fish are known to use tools to crush shells in order to find a meal and some species of cichlids will glue their eggs to surfaces which they can move around. Everything from long-term memory to Machiavellian intelligence to cooperative behaviour is used to get a better understanding of fish intelligence. If you would like to read more on this study, visit Springer Link. A synopsis on Brown’s paper has been put together by Popular Science.

Water change DIY alarm video

water change

Screen capture from video

I’ve done it myself on many occasions. You’re filling the tank after a water change. You know the water is running, but you tell yourself there is plenty of time to take care of something else. All of a sudden you start wondering what is making the splashing sound. Sound familiar? Yep, you’ve just overfilled your tank and water is everywhere.

The video below shows a great DIY project for using a smoke alarm to alert you when your tank is almost full. The only component from the fire alarm you are using is the test button. By using a couple wires and the water from your tank, you can complete a circuit and the alarm will sound. You could probably make the same type of alarm with a battery, wire and a buzzer, but it wouldn’t be enclosed in a fire alarm case. Watch the video to see how easy it is to set up. Make sure you run multiple tests on your DIY water change alarm before you put all your trust in it.

Vancouver Aquarium unveils new exhibits

Vancouver Aquarium

Following a $45 million expansion, the Vancouver Aquarium has opened its doors with an additional 55,000 square feet of space. The expansion is the largest in the aquarium’s history since first opening in 1956. While the aquarium is mostly devoted to marine life, one of the new exhibits features schools of cichlids from Lake Malawi. Other additions include the Fly River exhibit featuring animals from New Guinea and a Red Sea coral reef exhibit. If you live in the Vancouver area or plan to visit in the future, take a day to enjoy the new and improved facilities.

For more information on the Vancouver Aquarium, visit www.vanaqua.org.

Fluval Accent aquariums make life easier

fluval accent

Fluval Aquatics has come out with an all-in-one aquarium package that includes a tank, filter, heater and lighting. While an all-in-one aquarium is nothing new, the Fluval Accent aquarium offers a little extra. The Accent aquarium is not only uncluttered with wires and pipes, but includes a self-cleaning filter and does water changes. Take a look at the video below for a demonstration of how it works.

So what about larger aquariums? The current model is only 25 gallons but Fluval has been demoing a stand-alone Simpletec power filter that can be added to your aquarium. Although the idea of a self-cleaning and water changing filter sounds great, there are a couple issues that come to mind. First of all, changing even 10% of a larger 55 gallon aquarium can’t be easily done with just one bucket. There are water changing systems already that do away with the bucket altogether. Now if the filter could pump water through a hose to the sink and then that same hose be used to refill the tank, then we are in business. My other concern is the self-cleaning system on the filter. How effective would it be on a larger tank with messy fish? If the self-cleaning feature isn’t effective and I have to clean the filter the old fashioned way, what is the point? We’ll have to see when the stand-alone filters come out and what they have to offer.

For more information on the Fluval Accent aquarium, visit FluvalAquatics.com.

Piece of Lake Tanganyika video

A short video from the My piece of Lake Tanganyika topic.

A great topic started by Cichlid-Forum member sumertiw on the creation of his little slice of Lake Tanganyika. The video above and great close-up photos of Altolamprologus sp. compressiceps “Sumbu shell” and ‘Lamprologus’ multifasciatus can be found in the topic. Both species are ideal for a small Lake Tanganyika setup. Even though the A. compressiceps are sure to try and pry on the multifasciatus offspring, you’d be surprised at how determined the little blue-eyed shell dwellers can be in protecting their young. It should make for some interesting behaviour with few dull moments.

Make sure to check out the My piece of Lake Tanganyika topic for more great photos like the one below. If you want to see more great fish and aquatic plant pictures, head over to sumertiw’s photography website – www.playsofrays.com.

Piece of Lake Tanganyika

Altolamprologus sp. compressiceps “Sumbu shell”. Photo by Sumer Tiwari

2014 ACA Louisville Convention

2014 aca

The American Cichlid Association will have its 2014 annual convention in a little over a month in Louisville. The 2014 ACA Louisville Convention will be held Thursday, July 10th 2014 through Sunday, July 13th. If you haven’t made your arrangements to attend, there is still time. There are still a couple days to take advantage of the discounted registration fee. On the 10th of June prices will go up. The convention will have the usual events; presentations, vendor area, fish show, and auction. A tour of Rusty Wessel’s Fish House is an option for an extra fee, but space is limited.

For more information and to register for the 2014 ACA Louisville Convention visit the ACA Convention page.

Astatotilapia latifasciata from Lake Kyoga

Astatotilapia latifasciata

Astatotilapia latifasciata pair. Photo by Robert De Leon

It is a common misconception that all Victorian cichlids come from Lake Victoria. The term “Victorian cichlid” is used as a catch-all for cichlids from Lake Victoria and the smaller surrounding lakes, rivers, streams and swamps. Astatotilapia latifasciata were originally native to Lake Kyoga until pollution and predation from non-native species wiped them out. A small population may still exist in neighboring Lake Nawampasa. The two lakes are separated by a swampy area and it is believed that the Lake Nawampasa population made their way across before they disappeared from Lake Kyoga.

Both sexes have the black bars on their backs, but only the males sport the bright red and yellow on their sides. Astatotilapia latifasciata was one of the first species of Victorian cichlids I ever kept. These fish are prolific spawners and my trio quickly spawned out of control. I couldn’t give them away fast enough. They are generally not very aggressive and make a great addition to many different types of aquarium setups. They can also be housed with certain other Victorian cichlids without much risk of hybridization. If you would like to read more about Astatotilapia latifasciata, take a look at the Species Profile by Marc Elieson.

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