Amphilophus trimaculatus

Amphilophus trimaculatus, aka Trimac Cichlid, from Central America.

A. trimaculatus is a Central American cichlid that makes its home in rivers and lagoons. Originally from El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Southern Mexico. A. trimaculatus has been introduced to other areas of Mexico and Central America. Males can grow quite large reaching up to 15 inches. Females will be a few inches shorter. They can be aggressive and should be kept with other fish that can take care of themselves. Such a large fish should not be kept in anything smaller than a 75 gallon tank. Since they do best when not alone, consider a larger tank to accommodate tank mates. Like other cichlid species, more information on A. trimaculatus can be found on its species profile page.

Amphilophus trimaculatus

Amphilophus trimaculatus (Trimac) by George Chernilevsky

Changes to Classifieds section

We’ve made some changes to the Classifieds section of the site!

Classifieds section

In the past, this section has been closed to retailers who are not sponsors, this is no longer the case. Anyone may now post in the Classifieds section. This change will benefit members as they will now be able to browse ads from other retailers and large scale hobbyists. We encourage all retailers to post ads in the appropriate sections. If you are a large scale hobbyist, meaning you have fry from many different species at one time, you are also welcome to take advantage of the Classifieds section.

Please keep in mind that by posting ads, you are agreeing to the Classifieds section Rules and Guildlines. Some of the Rules and Guildlines have not changed. They include limits to how many ads can be posted, no ad “bumping” and several others. Make sure you read then to avoid violations.

Members looking for fish; take advantage of the Wanted ad type option. Let retailers and other hobbyists know what you are looking for.

Mysterious fish nest

We’ve seen Cyathopharynx furcifer nests, but this mysterious fish nest had scientist baffled.

Mysterious Fish Nest

Underwater crop circles. World Mysteries and Bristol University

Discovered by Yoji Ookata off the coast of Japan, this 6-foot wide mysterious fish nest caused quite a stir. Not only was the pattern intricate and radially-symmetrical, but scientist had no idea what created it. It took some time before Yoji Ookata finally discovered the perpetrator and was able to photograph it in action. Turns out male puffer fish create these nests in hopes of attracting a mate. The nest, with its many peaks and valleys, will also serve to protect an egg clutch from ocean currents.

This video contains more images of the puffer fish and its nest:

In addition to puffer fish and C. furcifer, other fish also create intricate nests. For more examples of these nest and others, visit the WebEcoist article.

Tropheus duboisi video

A short Tropheus duboisi (Maswa) feeding video. Never realized how fun an algae wafer stuck to the glass can be. Almost as entertaining as a dog chasing a laser pointer.

Tropheus duboisi are often recommended for hobbyist who want to take the Tropheus plunge. It is said that this species isn’t as aggressive as other Tropheus and that they are also a little more hardy. That does not mean that a Tropheus-recommended diet can be ignored. In the wild, Tropheus graze on algae and although the sometimes consume some protein while feeding, they are herbivores. If your are considering Tropheus, take some time to read through the various articles in the Tropheus Corner. You will find a wealth of information about proper care, feeding and tank setups.

Tropheus duboisi

Tropheus duboisi. Photo by Manfred Werner

Aquariums nationwide show increased attendance

Aquariums attendance

Aquariums nationwide have seen an increased attendance. This is a positive sign in so many ways. People going out and spending money on leisure activities is a good sign for the economy. Aside from that, aquariums will have a good reason to keep their doors open and the local economies in cities with aquariums will benefit. According to some articles, investment in exhibits has helped drive up attendance and that benefits us all. According to the Baltimore Sun, the National Aquarium in Baltimore, MD and Washington DC has shown its first increase in revenues since the recession began. The Texas State Aquarium in Corpus Christi, TX set a new attendance record in 2012. The Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, IL became the most visited aquarium in the U.S., topping the nation’s largest aquarium in Georgia. The Chicago Sun Times credits popular exhibits with lifting the Shedd Aquarium to the number one spot.

Aquariums are making a big push to keep those attendance numbers up. The National Aquarium is promoting Fishing for Love this February with special promotions for couples. The Texas State Aquarium is focusing on environmental issues to attract attendees. Visit your local aquarium’s website to see what new exhibits and offers they may have.

Cichlid Globetrotting – Lake Malawi and beyond

“Cichlid Globetrotting” is an episode from the much larger “Cichlids of Lake Malawi” series mentioned in an earlier blog. Like in the original trailer, “Cichlid Globetrotting” has some great video footage of Lake Malawi cichlids. However this episode also shows cichlids from other parts of the world. Included in this episode is a short segment of some Oscars (Astronotus ocellatus) in their native waters. For some reason there isn’t much video footage of Oscars in the wild.

The rest of the video focuses on the Okavango Delta. The Okavango Delta, located in Botswana, is one of the world’s largest inland deltas. As shown in the video, cichlids have learned to adapt to their ever changing environment. Some of that change is due to seasonal flooding as the Okavango river swells from rains north of the delta. During the video, the cichlids are referred to as River Brean. I’m only guessing, but they could be species of Oreochromis. Youtube has a large selection of videos about the Okavango Delta. Although they are great wildlife videos, there isn’t much focus on fish species.

Cichlid Globetrotting - Okavango Delta

Okavango Delta. NASA

North Carolina Aquarium seeking volunteers

North Carolina Aquarium seeking volunteers

North Carolina Aquarium

The North Carolina Aquarium in Pine Knoll Shores is seeking volunteers. This Saturday, February 2nd, the aquarium will be hosting an open house for anyone interested in donating their time to the aquarium. If you live close by and this is something that interests you, make sure to stop by between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. Aquarium staff and veteran volunteers will be there to discuss opportunities and benefits. No experience necessary. According to the North Carolina Aquarium website;

“The Aquarium is recruiting interpreters for a new volunteer post to help visitors get a bird’s-eye view of the salt marsh….Interpreters also are needed at the two popular touch pools. At the Tidal Touch Pool, interpreters offer insight into the life cycles of horseshoe crabs, spider and hermit crabs, ocean snails and other invertebrates. Skate and Ray Encounters interpreters share the joy of touching these gentle creatures. Volunteers also assist in visitor education, exhibit interpretation, helping with special events throughout the year and in a variety of other ways.”

Although it does not appear this aquarium has much in the way of cichlids, it is still a great opportunity to learn and help out. Volunteers also receive the added benefits of free admission and discounts at the Aquarium Gift Shop and on special activities. If this is something you would be interested in doing, visit the North Carolina Aquarium Pine Knoll Shores website for more information and directions.

Plankton bioluminescence

Plankton bioluminescence

Plankton bioluminescence. Photo by Phil Hart

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 2

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.

ECO-Cycle Aquaponics Kit

ECO-Cycle Aquaponics Kit

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.

Unshelling a shell dweller

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.

Unshelling a shell dweller

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.

Unshelling a shell dweller

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.