The Aquarium Gazette

Publication 6 times
year on a Bi-monthly
basis

                      THE AQUARIUM GAZETTE

                          ‘Where articles come first’

At the Aquarium Gazette our policy is put the quality and variety of our feature articles before any other consideration.  With this in mind we work with leading authors, photographers and illustrators who are all dedicated to the aquarium hobby.

Tropical freshwater

We bring you the best coverage of both egglaying and livebearing fish species that range from commonly available to rarely seen species. 

Perhaps the best-known egglaying fish in the World is the Neon tetra.  In Issues 4 and 5 Karel Zahradka covered this specie in great detail and not only introduced us to the ‘original’ Neon but also to several new colour and fin forms produced in Eastern Europe.  Below is a snippet from Issue 4:

‘Since the original description was made these fish became the type species for a new genus known as Paracheirodon.  Here they are joined by P. axelrodi (Cardinal tetra) and P. simulans (False Neon tetra).

In the wild the Neon tetra, which grows to a size of 3cm, is found in the blackwaters of southeastern Colombia, eastern Peru and west Brazil.  Water temperatures here range, depending upon the season, from 21 to 29 C.

These little characins are one of the World’s most popular aquarium fish.  As this photograph, taken by Iggy Tavares, shows they are best maintained in shoals.  They will live in certain community situations but are best kept in a species dedicated aquarium.  Feeding is easy as they take live brine shrimp, daphnia and small pieces of commercial flaked/pellet food.

One essential routine is that you check their body colour, which naturally fades in darkness, each day as fading colour can be a sign of the onset of Pleistophora hyphessobryconis (Neon tetra disease) which is so lethal, and currently has no effective cure, that it can wipe out your aquarium stock within a short space of time.

Start of the new

By the end of the 1980’s the Far Eastern fish breeders had begun to produce a golden/albino form of Neon tetra.  These fish have never become fully established in Europe and, as far as the U.K. goes, they seem to arrive in large numbers and then disappear again for several years.

More recently out of the Far East have come a variation of the golden form known as the Lutino in which all of the famous Neon colours are replaced by a plain pink and a Diamond Head in which the red neon colour is broadened while the blue banding fades to obscurity’.

So onto the best selling livebearing specie we go. 

No not the glorious Guppy (covered so beautifully by Karel Zahradka in Issue 12) but the playful Platy.  In Issue 10 Dr. David Ford covered this specie to perfection.  Below is a snippet from David’s article:

The Fun Fish

An Orange Mickey Mouse Platy. Look closely at the caudal peduncle (area were body ends and tail starts) of this female and you will see the Mickey Mouse pattern.  Photograph by Keith Pearson                                                               ‘Only the Platy could be bred to have the face of Mickey Mouse and sell like hot cakes because of it! It is the dream fish for aquarists - pretty, active, peaceful, eats anything, accepts all waters, many varieties and easy to breed, what more can you ask of a tropical fish?

Even its name is funny.  The original scientific name was Platypoecilius and so it became Platy for short.  This was in all languages so the French, Germans, Spanish

and others know the fish as the Platy too.  When books such as German Fish Encyclopedia are translated into American English, US grammar rules are applied and the plural form makes the ‘ys’ become ‘ies’ – hence a shoal will be Platies.  But British English grammar would make this ‘plate–is’ and the pronunciation is ‘platt-is’, so UK books use the (correct) term Platys, American books write Platies (indeed they call them ‘colorful Platies’).

Also, the fish is no longer Platypoecilius because the two different genera Platypoecilius and Xiphophorus (Swordtails) within the family Poeciliidae, were found to be scientifically the same (some can even crossbreed).  Hence the Platy is now Xiphophorus too.

This photograph, courtesy of Keith Pearson, of a male Guntheri Swordtail shows exactly why the genus name Xiphophorus means ‘Sword Carrier’.

However, Xiphophorus means ‘Sword Carrier’ and aquarists say ‘Why does the Platy have the same name as a Swordtail, when it has no sword?’ The reason is that when the Swordtail was first named, the Latin ‘sword’ was given not because of the tail sword, but because the male’s gonopodium (the anal fin) was wielded like a sword during courtship!  The Platy male certainly has one of these - and displays it too’.

Now when we move onto the unusual freshwater species

Choosing a snippet was extremely difficult as we have covered unusual catfish (including reports of first aquarium spawnings), characins, loaches (including the first spawning of Sewellia and Botinae species) and many more.  At the end of the day their rating as ‘favourite Public Aquarium fish’ won the day so our snippet is from the articles on Red-bellied Piranha, written by David Marshall that appeared in Issues 4 and 5:

‘Of the World’s numerous and spectacular freshwater fish it is without doubt the three species of characin, commonly known as Red-bellied Piranha that are the most well known outside of fishkeeping and angling circles. They arouse the most morbid curiosity in the human mind and are probably the most misunderstood fish of them all!

Piranhas, of which there are over 30 scientifically recognised species, are endemic to South America, covering an estimated 4 million square miles of the Continent.  Here they are found in a variety of habitats that include major river systems, streams, seasonal lakes and the rainy season flooded forests.

Photograph by Iggy Tavares

All of the Piranhas belong to the large family Icthyologists named Characidae - the Characins.  The Characidae family has an ancient lineage, which can be traced back to a super continent modern day geologists refer to as ‘Gondwanaland’.  It was here that the first characins emerged, and formed their defining features of an adipose fin (not present in all species), replaceable teeth (most species) on the jaw and a linkage of bones between the swimbladder and inner ear (Weberian Apparatus) that allows for the hearing of high frequency sounds.

When geological upheaval caused Gondwanaland to break apart it left the common characin ancestors geographically split into two branches.  Those that found themselves, in what is now Africa, encountered restricted habitats and competition from, in the main, cyprinids that restricted their evolution to around 200 species split between 30 genera.  In what is now Central and South America more favourable conditions and less competition from fellow fish species, would lead to an explosion in characin diversity that now shows itself through well over 1,000 species currently split between 250 genera.

At some point in time one or more of the emerging South American characins struck on the idea of making fellow characins and other ‘local’ fish species their main food source.  From this starting point the Piranhas we now know emerged in a variety of head shapes, body colours, size, social arrangements (tolerance of own kind or individual lifestyles) and temperament but all with two defining features of spectacular dentition and an almost flattened anatomy that allows for quick mobility and turns’.

Coldwater fish

We have covered Goldfish (including a remarkable article in Issue 11), Koi, water features and Sterlets among others.  However the greatest amount of reader feedback came from the writing skills of Majid Ali and the photographic skills of Mark Duffill that we combined to produce Coldwater plecs and loaches for the aquarium, Issue 3.

‘A stunning piece of work’ was our readers’ verdict so here is a snippet:

Borneo Sucker - Very similar in appearance to the Hong Kong plec. but with a flatter body. These fish have a total body length of 4". According to my research their requirements are very similar to those mentioned above. I am of the opinion that 73 F is the optimum temperature requirement for these fish. They make great 'fish viewing' as it is possible to see their hearts and blood circulatory system working. They can move over aquarium decor at an incredible speed, can cling to rocks like limpets and their escape manoeuvres have to be witnessed to be believed.

Levett's loach - Originating from China these peaceful fish, best kept in small groups, keep to themselves. Nocturnal in nature they occupy the middle and bottom areas of the tank. Omnivorous in diet. They are another Hong Kong plec. look alike but are brighter in colour and more attractive in looks. Aquarium temperature 72 to 74 F.

 

This beautiful fish is known in the hobby as Sewellia ‘species’ spotted

 

                             In recent times a fourth Plec. look-alike has emerged in the form of the Sewellia genus. For more information on these fish I refer you to the beautiful article written by Bede Kerrigan in Issue 1 of The Aquarium Gazette’.

Marine

Dick Mills and Paul Barrow have told us how to set-up tropical marine and native marine aquaria respectively and we have also featured marine conservation projects.  However, for our snippet we will look at something very different, as we are the only aquarium magazine to take Cryptozoology seriously.  So we take a snippet from the article on Super eels by Jonathan Downes in Issue 6:

‘The Great Sea Serpent is surely one of the greatest enigmas of zoology. For as long as men have ventured out to sea there have been stories of sea monsters, and in 1968 the renowned Belgian zoologist Professor Bernard Heuvelmans wrote a classic book; In the Wake of the Sea Serpent on the subject. His thesis was that there was no single species of unknown animal responsible for the plethora of sea serpent reports. Instead, he suggested, there were at least eight unknown species of serpentine animal living in the world’s oceans. He hypothesized five unknown giant marine mammals, two unknown species of giant marine reptile and two new species of giant fish.

I had the privilege of knowing Bernard for ten years or so before his death and he was a fine zoologist. Recent advances in palaeontology have cast doubts on some of his theorising, but I am convinced that he was spot on with at least one of his eight theorised sea serpent species.

Heuvelmans described how many of these mysterious creatures looked like gigantic eels, and he dubbed them `Super Eels`. He suggested that they might not all be of a single species, or indeed even belong to a single genus. However, there seems little doubt that such giant angilliformes do, indeed exist’.

Aquarium plants

From Issues 1 to 13 Jeff Walmsley told our readers everything they wanted to know about aquarium plants.  The 13 parts build into a superior textbook.  Just to add to our knowledge Dorothy Reimer has also produced aquarium plant articles for us.

Here is a snippet from one of Jeff’s pieces:

‘In this issue, we move on to look at the ways, in which an external filter -the only kind worth having for a planted aquarium - can compensate for this unhelpful quality, and help rather than hinder you in maintaining the quality of your display.

Healthy plants require clean, nitrate and phosphate-free water.

So far in this series we’ve only considered the drawbacks of a bio-filter for the planted aquarium.  It does keep your fish healthy, but at the price of feeding the algae pest. 

As explained previously, nitrogen represents only around 0.7% of plant structure, and if you have a nitrate reading at the end of the day, just before lights out, you have too much nitrogen.  But nitrogen isn’t the only algae stimulant; the other is phosphate, and plants and algae need even less of this than they do of nitrogen - on average, around 0.08%, or less than one thousandth part of their structure has been found to represent phosphorous.  These two substances (released by mankind’s activities) have been responsible for destroying vast areas of wild habitat - tens of thousands of square kilometres, in fact we don’t want to imitate man’s pollution of the natural environment in our aquaria, so we need to do exactly what the rest of the world is doing - get rid of the excess; and the filter can help us do this.  Products are available for use in an external filter, which will remove both excess nitrate and excess phosphate’.

And more

If it lives in or around water then you will find it featured in The Aquarium Gazette.  Freshwater shrimps, Yabbies and Poison Dart Frogs have all featured We also have reviews of Public Aquaria and other places to find aquaria.   Community Zone features news of views from Aquatic Societies.  We could end without the mention of our commitment to conservation.  For our snippet we go to the article on Amazonian Giant Otters, written by Carol Bennetto and the Staff of the Chestnut Centre for Issue 7.

Our readers said ‘some of the most wonderful wildlife photographs we have ever seen’:

‘Otters are members of the Weasel family (mustelidae), along with mink, stoats and badgers. There are 13 species of otters alive today, inhabiting all the Continents excepting Antarctica and Australia.  All are excellent swimmers with long, slim, streamlined bodies and short limbs.

Giant Otters are the largest member of the otter subfamily and have characteristic luxurious velvet-soft fur that keeps them dry even when submerged. Sea otters have the thickest fur of any mammal – up to 1 million hairs per square inch. By contrast humans only have 20,000 hairs on their entire head! Because of their fur Giant Otter populations were nearly decimated by hunting.

This head portrait of a Giant Otter was taken in the Pantanal wetland.  The people of the Pantanal and Amazon regions know Giant Otters as ‘River wolves’.

By 1975, the numbers of Giant Otters in South America had been drastically reduced by intensive hunting for the fur trade.

The Giant Otter was declared one of the 20 most endangered mammals in the world, nearly extinct - yet precious little was known about their biology and behaviour. Dr Nicole Duplaix conducted the first study of Giant Otters in the wild in Suriname in 1976, which greatly aided   the development of a series of conservation measures to save them. She has studied otters for decades in the wild and in captivity and now focuses on the Giant Otter throughout South America including Brazil, Guyana and Suriname. She is the founder and Deputy Chair of the IUCN-SSC Otter Specialist Group, a world- wide body of otter biologists dedicated to studying and conserving otters. She also Co- founded TRAFFIC, an organisation that monitors and documents the trade in endangered and protected species. Today Giant Otters are protected everywhere and their numbers have increased’.

 

Hope you have enjoyed our little preview of The Aquarium Gazette.  As we like to say at the Aquarium Gazette office ‘we are banging the drum for a new approach to aquatic journalism’.

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