Another quite amusing behavioral trait is
their propensity to do 'headstands' while
feeding. Reports from friends to whom I
have sent fry, as well as observations in my
own fishroom, have noted this behavior in
both adults and juveniles. It is quite a sight
to see a large school of P. maclareni standing
on their heads, perfectly perpendicular,
methodically picking through the substrate
or tearing algae from a rock surface.
Although I keep my colony of 11
in a 470-liter ( 1 2 5 - g a l l o n ) aquarium, mainly
due to the five M. myaka, I venture
to guess one could house a decent sized colony
in as small as a 150-liter (40-gallon)
aquarium. Only during spawning have I ever
witnessed any aggression and it is usually in
the form of tail bashing, mild chasing, and
gill flaring. The tail bashing behavior is
quite entertaining to watch and can be observed
in both males and females. Two fish,
usually of the same sex, will display to each
other with their heads aligned with the
other's tail. Then they proceed to smack
each other with their tails while swimming
in circles, gills flaring. Never have I witnessed
any damage done, not even so much
as a torn or nipped fin, and they are almost
oblivious to any other fish in the tank.
The first photo of P. maclareni I saw was
taken by Dave Hansen. It was a great closeup
shot of the pungu's amazing set of teeth.
However, this appearance is in stark contrast
to its demeanor. Judging by those teeth, you
might think P. maclareni to be a fierce carnivore
but instead it uses these teeth and
strong jaw muscles for a much more specialized
purpose: dining on the freshwater
sponges that are also endemic to the lake.
While it will also use them to tear into sunken wood
looking for insect larvae, this must make up a small
part of the diet, for if you feed it large quantities of animal
protein, it will quickly succumb to problems of the
intestinal tract. This is why it is recommended to
provide P. maclareni with a herbivorous diet
that includes a sprinkling of insect larvae and crustaceans
as the occasional treat.
The aquarium that houses my P. maclareni
has a sand and pea gravel mixture for substrate,
and piles of rock and a few pieces of
driftwood make up the decor. The pH of the
water is about 8.2 and the KH and GH are
around 250 ppm (mg/L). I don't mess with
my water; it comes from the well this way.
Tank maintenance is simple and quick. Once
a week I do a 50 to 70 percent water change,
vacuum the gravel, and clean the front glass.
Filtration is accomplished with two hang-on
filters that I also clean during the water
change. I rinse the bio media in some of the
tank water that I have drained into a bucket
and squeeze out the sponge. Unless there is
an impeller blockage or one of the intake
tubes is plugged up, I do not clean the filter
any further except to wipe down the outside
Breeding of the Pungu
When I first decided to get a colony of P.
maclareni, I was under the impression that
they had never been bred in the aquarium
and I set out to be the first. Unbeknownst to
me, Dr. Paul Loiselle had already accomplished
this feat ten years earlier in 1999.
When I finally stumbled across the account
of his trials, I was at least relieved to know
that he had experienced some of the same
issues I was facing. They just flat refused to
breed, and when they finally did they would
never carry to full term. It was by sheer accident
that I found the key to the successful
breeding of P. maclareni: 86º F + temperatures!
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