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Gold rush impacts the Amazon River

gold rush

Gold miners in the Amazon. Ron Haviv / VII

The Amazon gold rush continues and its impact in the region isn’t slowing down. An article on Smithsonian.com details the devastation taking place as gold fever leaves little room for protecting the ecology. Even the History Channel is cashing in on the gold rush with a reality show about some construction workers from Alabama who try their luck at mining for gold.

Mining for gold has a negative impact on the local ecology, especially when there are no restrictions on the methods being used. Particularly when mercury, a highly toxic metal, is carelessly used in the process. Read all about this on the Smithsonian.com article.

Anti-netting device article by Ad Konings

anti-netting device

Pseudotropheus saulosi at Taiwanee Reef in 2003. Photo by Ad Konings

An excellent article by famed ichthyologist Ad Konings has just been made available in the Library. Folks …it’s payback time describes the importance of the anti-netting device in preserving the cichlids in Lake Malawi and how he was able to find financing for 2000 devices.

The waters around Taiwanee Reef have been devastated by unscrupulous collectors. Particularly affected have been the populations of Pseudotropheus saulosi. A video filmed in 2010 shows how the area once known for Ps. saulosi is now almost entirely bare of the species. Take a few minutes to read the article and enjoy the underwater footage. Hopefully the simple anti-netting device will have a big impact on the preservation of cichlid species.

Finalists for The Art of the Planted Aquarium selected

finalists

Although not generally associated with cichlids, planted aquariums can be a real treat to cultivate and enjoy. While many cichlids can destroy all your hard work in a matter of hours, some groups like Apistogramma and Mikrogeophagus do very well in a planted aquarium. If you are looking for some inspiration on how to add some green to your tank, take a look at some of the finalists for The Art of the Planted Aquarium 2015.

A playlist of many videos can be found here: Youtube

The Art of the Planted Aquarium is a German aquascaping competition that takes place every two years. Finalists are selected from regional competitions. For more information and to view past finalists and champions, visit planted-aquarium.de.

Non-native species cause problems here too

non-native species

Non-native “jewel cichlid” causing problems in Florida waters.

We’re all too familiar with what happened to the native cichlids of Lake Victoria after the introduction of a non-native species. The Nile Perch (Lates niloticus) was intentionally introduced into Lake Victoria in the 1950s and led to the extinction or near-extinction of hundreds of local cichlid species. It should come as no surprise that releasing your African or South American aquarium fish into your local waters can have a negative impact on the native wildlife. Unfortunately, hobbyists who think they are setting their fish free are causing damage to their local waters. Often times non-native species have an unfair advantage when released. They may be much more aggressive than local species and at the same time have no predators to control their numbers.

To learn more about the impact non-native fish can have on local waters and what is currently taking place in Florida, read the article Freshwater exotics altering ecosystem on news-press.com.

Tank of Merit for July 2014

tank of merit

Tank of Merit July 2014 by Iggy Newcastle

The latest Tank of Merit was submitted by Iggy Newcastle. Iggy’s tank is titled Malawi ‘Deep’ and is an effort to recreate the rock biotype of Lake Malawi. The tank is inhabited by several mbuna species and looks like it is non-stop action. Biotype tanks really bring out not only the unique behaviours of the fish, but are also beautiful.

Having new merit tanks can only be done with member participation in the Aquarium Gallery. If you want to participate, submit one or more of your tanks. There are some things you can do to improve your chances of being awarded. Make sure the main tank photograph captures the entire tank. At the same time, stand close enough so the tank fills the entire frame of the image (or crop your photo). Include a description of the tank and its inhabitants. Make sure you include a description of your setup and a couple close up photographs of the aquascaping and/or fish.

You can see Iggy’s Tank of Merit in the main page of the Aquarium Gallery. Make sure to click on the Malawi ‘Deep’ link.

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.


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