2018 ACA Convention

Official 2018 ACA Convention poster. Image from http://www.2018acacares.com/wp/.

It’s almost that time a year again! The annual ACA Convention is quickly approaching. Sponsored this year by the Houston Aquarium Society and Houston Cichlid Club, the convention will be July 4-8th in….wait for it…Houston, TX.

If you want to meet some of the most respected cichlid keepers in the country, see some of the most beautiful cichlids, and make some new friends in the hobby, you should make an effort to attend. If you’ve never been, you’re missing out. From the gigantic fish room to the vendor room, it’s three solid days of nothing but cichlids. As always, there will be raffles, auctions, and vendor samples. Oh, and did I mention the speakers? If you do anything, attend some of the talks. They are always very informative.

Visit the official 2018 convention website to register, to make accommodations, and see the speaker list/schedule.

Paul Butler interview

Paul Butler

Though I’m a member of several Facebook cichlid groups, I rarely post in them. I use Facebook just to help me stay informed about what other cichlidophiles are talking about.

Just over a year ago, I came across a Facebook post by today’s interviewee that I thought was very interesting. So much so that I asked him if I could copy part of it and write a blog entry about it. He graciously agreed, and you can find it here. One thing led to another, and here we are.

Let me introduce Paul Butler, who resides in Salisbury, Wiltshire, England. He is the owner of PB Cichlid Photography and founder of a popular cichlid group on Facebook. As a fishkeeper for 23 years, Paul has kept many species of fish from coldwater and brackish to freshwater tropical and marine. He currently maintains a pond with Shubunkins, a Malawi Haps and Aulonocara tank, and a marine tank. When he’s not watching his fish, he’s photographing them…or someone else’s.

Let’s get going!

The Cichlid Stage: As founder of the Facebook group Cichlid Keeping Done Right (CKDR), describe it for the readers and why you started it.

Read morePaul Butler interview

CARES Exchange publication

Cover of April 2018 issue of The CARES Exchange. Image from https://caresforfish.org/.

If you’ve never heard of or are not familiar with the CARES program, I encourage you to learn about it. Rather than describe it myself, visit the interview I did with Greg Steeves. He did a fantastic job describing the program, including information about how you can get involved.

Another lesser known benefit of the program is the publication of the CARES Exchange. The latest issue (April 2018 PDF) has a great article written by Pam Chin about Lake Tanganyika, which is quite timely coming on the heels of Wolfgang Staeck’s article about the lake in the latest issue of Cichlid News, which I posted about last week.

The purpose of the Exchange is

…to make available a listing of CARES fish from the CARES membership to those that may be searching for CARES species.

To this end, it includes species for sale with the seller information as well as a section dedicated to those looking for specific species.  However, don’t overlook the articles and other nuggets of information in each issue. NOTE: CARES is not cichlid specific.

A Lake Tanganyika primer

Latest cover of Cichlid News magazine. Image from http://www.cichlidnews.com/.

If you’re looking for a good summary description of the lake, including some historical information on cichlid collection there, check out the latest issue of Cichlid News magazine. Wolfgang Staeck has written a very nice little article about the lake titled “The aquaristic history of Lake Tanganyika and present threats to its ecology”.

The Cichlid News is subscription only, but it often has articles that you won’t find anywhere else. If you don’t already subscribe, I would encourage you to do so. For a mere $24, you can get the digital version emailed directly to you as a PDF file four times a year ($26 for the print version). The articles are written by knowledgeable cichlidophiles, many of whom are hobbyists just like you. Each issue typically has four or five articles plus a “What’s New Across the World” section that lists both newer cichlid species and species with increasing demand in the hobby. Complete with full color photos and a short fish description, this section might just facilitate interest in a species you’ve never kept. The current issue profiles 10 different species.

Check it out!

Cichlid threat discrimination

Hypsohrys nematopus. Image from https://www.fishpedia.fr/. Photo by Robert Allgayer.

Have you ever wondered if bi-parental cichlids actually distinguish threats to their brood based on the threat agent? In other words, are cichlid parents able to determine and rank the threat level of other fish (conspecific or not) to the brood their protecting? The short answer is Hypsophrys nematopus (formally Neetroplus nematopus) can. It’s not out of the realm of comprehension that other cichlid species can do the same.

Conducting an experiment in-situ at Lake Xiloá in Nicauragua, a group of scientists exposed 23 breeding pairs of H. nematopus to territorial threats of equal-sized agents from three species: bigmouth sleepers (Gobiomorus dormitor), convict cichlids (Amatitlania siquia), and a species of molly (Poecilia sp.). The nematopus level of aggression exhibited toward these fish in the experiment varied but was conclusive for each species of interloper, suggesting that nematopus can distinguish levels of threats based on the threatening species and vary their own aggression accordingly. However, the aggression you see in your own tank from breeding pairs of cichlids may or may not be similar. While many cichlid behaviors in closed systems (e.g., fish tanks) may mimic natural behavior in the wild, that is not a given for every cichlid species. Remember, this experiment was conducted in a natural setting, not an artificial one like an aquarium.

For more information on the experiment and its results, you can read the paper from Behavioral Ecology here.

Citation: Sowersby, W., Lehtonen, T. P., Wong, B. B. M. “Threat sensitive adjustment of aggression by males and females in a biparental cichlid.” Behavioral Ecology,  ary037. 2018. https://doi.org/10.1093/beheco/ary037.

A dwarf among dwarves

Biotoecus opercularis.. Photo from https://www.ciklid.org/.

So you think your cichlid is a true dwarf species? Probably not when compared to Biotoecus opercularis. Typically maxing out at less than two inches in length, this little South American jewel is not commonly available in the hobby. Nonetheless, if you’re looking for a nice, soft water dwarf cichlid outside of the Apistogramma or Mikrogeophagus genera, this might just be your fish.

Check out this piece about the B. opercularis at Reef2Rainforest.

Alternative shelter

Various types of alternative or artificial shelter. Photo by the author.

Unless you’re opposed to having your tank(s) appear unnatural, nearly anything that is chemically and biologically inert is fair game for use as shelter for your cichlids. This includes items such as ceramic pots, various aquarium ornaments (e.g., ships, pagodas), artificial plants, ABS/PVC pipes and fittings, etc.

Most cichlids will take advantage of items already in the aquarium as places to hide or seek shelter such as submersible heaters, sponge filters, and filter return tubes, but you should supplement those items with additional material. Try what you like. In fact, if you’ll make notes of your cichlids’ behavior, you’ll quickly learn what they’re preferences are as well (e.g., do they prefer the white PVC or black ABS plastic, do they prefer a particular size of ceramic pot).

Also remember some cichlids are quite particular about where they’ll lay eggs. Cichlids may be egg scatterers, cave spawners, shell spawners, or even plant or gravel spawners. If you want to be successful breeding, find out what kind of spawners you have and make an effort to accommodate them. Giving them multiple options (types of caves, plants, or shells) increases the odds that they will find something acceptable and spawn for you.