most hobbyists (that write- sadly a small proportion), I am quick
enough to go into print to advertise a success in breeding or
maintaining a species of anabantoid, but what you will rarely hear
about are my crass mistakes or my continuing failures. However,
sometimes there is as much to be learned from these as there is from
the good things in life, so in this catalogue of confessions, I hope
there may be something to learn.
To start with, there are those
fish that I have never been successful in keeping alive, long-term.
These include the chocolate gourami and Ctenops nobilis.
The latter may surprise you, as was probably the first person to
observe it spawning, but the truth is, that I was never able to
maintain it for much longer than a few months and I was never able to
raise any young. The distinction of being the first to achieve this, is
held by a Danish member, Svend Bitsch. Similarly, after many years of
trying with Sphaerichthys osphromenoides, one year is the longest I have ever maintained it.
reason for these failures, I put down to my water quality. Both seemed
susceptible to diseases like Velvet. Large filtered tanks seem more
suitable for them than the still aquaria and infrequent water changes
that are my norm. Like many people, I initially experienced difficulty
with the Betta coccinagroup
and licorice gouramis but since I switched from distilled water at
neutral pH, to rain water at 5 pH (or less!), I find that their
maintenance is routine. Nevertheless, they do not all breed as
predictably as I would like and both tend to be susceptible to eye
damage. I haven't tried chocolate gouramis since my conversion to
rain-water so the time to try them again may be near.
list of failures can be summarised in one word- carelessness! How many
times have you emptied fish from a bag into the tank, only to find the
body in the bag, hours later. Always count the fish out of the bag.!
The same can happen when netting fish. Scooping at a young C.damasi, I
removed the net and could not find the beast in its folds- stranger
still, I couldn't locate it in the tank either. Days later I found its
sad, dry corpse on the carpet. It had flipped out of the net as I
withdrew it from the tank. After removing some Betta persephone fry
from their father in the proscribed manner, by removing the nest along
with the floating tube, thumb and forefinger over each end, I was
surprised to be unable to find the male later. Eventually I found his
body in a jar of live food by the side of the tank. In his fury, he had
jumped out of his tank, fortunately into the jar of cold water. Had I
checked quickly, I would have been able to save him.Malpulutta kreteseri is
particularly good at jumping out of tanks in my experience but everyone
seems to have their own favourite candidate. What seems to happen, even
with small fish, is that during chases, they speed into the tank corner
and then rush up the angle of the corner. Unfortunately, this is just
the place where we cut holes for access of filters, heater leads etc.
Always use a cover plate and plug all holes- however apparently small.
in a cold climate and keeping tropical fish, puts us at the mercy of
electrical power and the reliability of heaters and thermostats.
Surprisingly, perhaps cooling is more acceptable than overheating. I
have lost adult females of both Ctenopma occelatum andC.acutirostre from
full size pairs that I had spent many years growing on for breeding (It
takes at least 5 years!) to this cause, while the males recovered. I
had a disaster at work where temperatures dropped to 15°C, and
eliminated many south-east Asian fish while leaving the Ctenopomas,
unaffected. Generally the damage due to low temperatures can be
moderated by checking temperatures when you feed - if the fish don't
come forward, this is a clue- after all, this is usually at 12h
weather used to cut off my power regularly in the semi-rural environs
of Slough. If I had notice, I could borrow a small generator at work
which would neverheles need refuelling every 2h. When this was
unobtainable, I would have to stay up all night, boiling water, puting
it into poly bags and floating them in my 11 three foot tanks.
usually, though, the thermostat contact gets stuck and the fish get
boiled. I have lost some real rarities like this, quartets ofC.pellegrini, C.oxyrhynchum, youngSandelia capensis.
Nowadays, I try to keep a species in at least 2 tanks while the advice
is always to use heaters that are only just powerful enough to heat the
requisite size of tank. That way, the temperature only increases
slowly. Unfortunately this is difficult for me as I have many tanks in
the garage where ambient temperatures may fluctuate by 30°C from winter
to summer. Aquaria in the house should experience changes of less than
half this. Usually the heater stick because they are relatively
expensive and we allow them to become elderly. Sometimes it takes years
to find a species or grow it on so it is a false economy not to replace
elderly equipment-we all know this, but we all do it! These days I am
happy to pay extra for the new breed of heater which is supposed to cut
out, rather than overheat.
The next category of failures relates
to breeding. I cannot consider it a success unless I raise the young in
good numbers and can continue to maintain the species through home
breeding. I have learnt that it is best to leave the fry with the
parents, rather than move them into new water- at least a few will
survive but it is much better to remove the parents or remove the fry
with their home water. I still don't consider that I raise a large
enough proportion of the young. This is mainly due to lack of
preparation- not having enough cultures of the correct food (infusoria,
microworm, grindal worm) at the right time. Despite all this, there are
still mysteries that I have yet to fathom. After a small success in
raising a few C.murei, I have been unable to raise any young
subsequently, even though they spawn monthly, despite trying reduced
water levels, buffered water, green water as well as infusoria. After
1-2 weeks, the entire batch slowly dies out. Having said that, what was
it that allowed me to raise a few to adulthood the first time?
perfectly healthy fish will die from apparently unexplained reasons.
Sometimes they will be found floating with no co-ordination after
having been apparently healthy minutes before. I don't have any
justified explanation for this, but have tended to put it down to heart
attacks/strokes for which I mainly hold responsible my overfeeding. Our
'pet' fish tend to be pampered, obese and susceptible to this sort of
malady. On at least one occasion, I have heard a door slam in the room
beneath a tank and seen a fish react to this by rocketing across the
tank, into the side, to float, almost lifeless to the surface.
though it is to put this down on paper, there may be some point in it,
if it warns you of my mistakes, so they are not duplicated. Sadly,
human nature being what it is, I am by no means confident of repeating
these old mistakes through carelessness.