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.

J. R. Shute interview

J. R. Shute 

To date, all of the interviews I’ve conducted for the blog have been with aquarists who are involved with cichlids in some capacity. Today’s interviewee is different. Because I am a real proponent of fish conservation, I’ve been looking for someone to interview who is heavily engaged in the practice. Many of the core values of fish conservationists span all types of fish, cichlids included.

J. R. Shute is co-director of Conservation Fisheries Incorporated (CFI), founded in 1992 by he and co-director Patrick Rakes.

Over the past 25+ years, CFI has worked with more than 60 species of rare and imperiled fishes of the southeast United States, some of which are considered the rarest in the country. Recently, J. R. and Patrick were awarded the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southeast Regional Director’s Conservation Partner Honor Award in recognition of “Outstanding Performance”.

A few weeks ago I asked J.R. if he would be willing to do an interview for the blog about CFI and the organization’s efforts. He happily agreed and, after giving me a personal tour of CFI’s facility a few weeks ago, we completed the interview.

Let’s get started!

Read moreJ. R. Shute interview

Mitigate vibration, reduce sound

If you’ve followed the blog for a while, then you’ve read some posts about sound in the aquarium and its effects on the inhabitants. I am a huge proponent of sound reduction in aquaria.

Quite simply, sounds are products of vibrations. Thus, anything that vibrates can create audible noise, depending on the frequency and the sensory capabilities of the recipient. All power filters produce vibration, hence sound. This continuous sound propagates but can’t dissipate in closed systems like fish tanks. So whether you use sponge filters, canisters, sumps, or HOBs, you’re generating noise in your aquarium.

Read moreMitigate vibration, reduce sound

A new heater to market

Image from http://thegoldfishtank.com/.

A few days ago, I was fortunate to be given a prototype of a new submersible heater under development, which will eventually be released by one of the major aquarium equipment companies. It’s made of carbon fiber with a thermal shutoff, a patented out-of-water safety shut-off, and patented thermostat. I also passed along a couple of improvement suggestions, which I hope will be implemented.

Stay tuned for more information about this heater. At present, there is no set date for it to hit the market.

The variables DO matter

So what exactly does the title of this post mean? If you’ve done your due diligence with regard to cichlids, then you’ve undoubtedly read they are naturally aggressive and more so than many other tropical fish in the hobby. However, your experience may not reflect that. Why? The variables.

Members of each cichlid species carry innate behaviors, but like humans, every cichlid has a personality. Yes, mbuna species are known to be pretty aggressive in aquaria, but the breadth and depth of that aggression depends on many things. The species, gender mix, aquascape, tank size, tank mates, water temperature, time of day, and amount of light are all variables that can determine how a specific cichlid behaves, including how aggressive it might be.

That cichlid your friend has that is a nightmare might be a whole lot friendlier under different circumstances. The challenge for you as a cichlid keeper is to be able to identify those circumstances and understand them. How do you do that? Just pay attention.

Juan Miguel Artigas Azas interview

 

Juan Miguel Artigas Azas 

Where do you go for information about cichlids – species profiles, articles, etc.? If you’re like many cichlidophiles, you use multiple resources to satisfy your craving for cichlid knowledge. However, if there is one resource that I would recommend to any and all cichlid keepers, it would be the Cichlid Room Companion (CRC). As one of the largest, oldest, and most comprehensive databases for cichlid information, CRC is perhaps the best online site for cichlid aquarists. Today’s interviewee is the man responsible for it.

For those of you who’ve been in the hobby for a long time, Juan Miguel Artigas Azas really needs no introduction. Not only is he the creator of CRC, but he’s also an expert on Central American cichlids, especially those from his native Mexico. In addition, he is a regular speaker at various tropical fish events around the world. If you’ve ever attended the annual convention of the American Cichlid Association (ACA), you’ve probably also seen him and his extremely informative presentations. Without further ado, let’s gets started.

The Cichlid Stage: As a long time aquarist, how did you first become interested in cichlids?

Read moreJuan Miguel Artigas Azas interview

Interested in discus?

Alenquer Red Discus. Image from https://www.azgardens.com/.

Discus are some of the most colorful cichlids available in the hobby. Though few in species (only three formally recognized), there are multiple types, strains, groups, and classes used to distinguish them. If you’re a fan of discus, then you might consider joining the North American Discus Association (NADA). Founded in 2004, NADA is a non-profit organization whose goals naturally revolve around promoting this beautiful, mostly peaceful fish. Membership is very reasonable at $10 per year. Also visit their Facebook page to see the latest news about the association.

If you want to see some of the most awesome discus assembled in one place, you might also consider attending the 2018 Discus Show being held this year in New Jersey July 12-15.

Call it ‘fatal distraction’

Lamprologus ocellatus. Image from http://www.pinterest.com/.

In the world of cichlids, there are many species that simultaneously occupy predator and prey roles. That means paying attention to what’s going on around you is important. You can get eaten while you’re looking for food. But searching for food is only one predation distraction in the life of a cichlid. They also engage in mating, brood protection, territory defense, fighting, and other activities. Thus being completely distracted could be fatal if you’re a cichlid.

So how do species negotiate the effort they expend doing any of the activities above versus expended effort avoiding being eaten? A Japanese researcher recently set out to  answer that question, sort of. Experimenting with the ever popular shell dwelling, dwarf species Lamprologus ocellatus from Lake Tanganyika, Kazutaka Ota from Osaka City University actually sought to determine if vigilance during interspecific aggression decreased during intraspecific aggression via predation. In other words, how much effort was expended by male ocellatus fighting with other ocellatus versus effort spent looking out for predators.

Citation: Ota, Kazutaka. “Fight, fatigue, and flight: narrowing of attention to a threat compensates for
decreased anti-predator vigilance.” J Experimental Biology. 2018. https://doi.org/10.1242/jeb.168047

Does that flash photo affect your fish?

A recent study published in Applied Ichthyology suggests that flash photography of your cichlids may not stress them. The purpose of the study was to determine if flash photography triggered a stress response in the beautiful and popular Ram cichlid (Mikrogeophagus ramirezi), a dwarf species from South America. Cortisol and glucose levels, post exposure to the flash, were measured using whole-body homogenates (e.g., cells). In other words, the fish used in the study were euthanized shortly after the experiment and chopped into pieces where the body cells could be extracted and broken down.

The results of the study showed that the Rams in the experiment had lower cortisol levels than the Rams from the control group. Obviously, the expectation was that cortisol levels would rise from the flash exposure, indicating a potential increased stressor response.

The authors went on to express that the conclusion of the study should not be generally applied to other fish species. In other words, the authors stressed that, if the same study was conducted on other cichlid species, the same results and conclusion might not result. However, the effect of flash on your own cichlids could be similar.

Citation: Knopf K, Buschmann K, Hansel M, Radinger J, Kloas W. “Flash photography does not induce stress in the Ram cichlid Mikrogeophagus ramirezi (Myers & Harry, 1948) in aquaria.” J Appl Ichthyol. 2018;00:1–7. https://doi.org/10.1111/jai.13673