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NERM Week 2021: Forum Member Articles (FMAs)


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As part of the upcoming C.A.R.E. Forum Anniversary on July 14, this thread is dedicated to articles written by our very own forum members! In order to include as many members as possible—from newbie writers to experienced wordsmiths—we will be accepting three types of Forum Member Article (FMA):

  • Self-Posted Article (SPA): an article written and self-posted by a forum member. SPAs have not been reviewed by an editor. 
  • Reviewed Article (RA): an article written by a forum member that has been reviewed by an editor. RAs have been reviewed for basic grammar and style only. RAs are self-posted by the author. 
  • Sticky Article (SA): an article written by a forum member that has passed editorial review and final approval. SAs are showcase pieces that are reviewed for grammar, style, and quality. Following final approval, SAs are uploaded as a sticky post by the thread administrator.

Our FMAs will be similar in layout and writing style to the Aquarium Co-Op blog, with perhaps the exception of Aquarium Science articles. Review a few blog posts to become familiar with this writing style and article layout. 

To achieve a consistent look across all articles, we ask that all authors use the following writing tools: 

To minimize clutter and keep FMAs easily searchable, please do not post comments, discussions, or questions to this FMA thread. All non-article posts will be removed. For comments or discussions, please start a new topic thread and link back to the article you would like to discuss. If you have a question, first check whether it is answered in the writer guidelines or article template. If your question is not answered in either of these resources, please send DM your question to @Anita

Article Categories: 

  • Tips & Tutorials—practical application based on firsthand experience
  • Personal Narrative—funny story, life lesson, significant event, personal philosophy
  • Care Guide—firsthand experience, backed with references
  • Aquarium Science—interesting science, written for the layperson

If you are not sure what category your article fits into, please DM @Anita

Let’s Get This Party Started!
And one last favor from your managing editor and primary contact, @Anita Our FMA team consists of volunteers, all of whom have generously offered to help share the workload. I ask you to be mindful of their time and remain respectful in all communications. Bear in mind that if eight authors wait until July 10th to submit their articles for review, we will end up disappointing a whole bunch of people. To help make your editor's job easier, please follow the writing guidelines and use the article template. 

Please DM @Anita with questions or concerns. Thank you! 😎

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Successfully Culturing Drosophila hydei [Tips & Tutorials]

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(Image by Brian Gratwicke, Creative Commons BY 2.0.) 

Aquarium fish thrive best on live foods, such as fruit flies, brine shrimp, daphnia, mosquito larvae, blackworms, and more. According to Culturing Live Foods by Mike Hellweg, nothing works better than live foods for getting fish into prime spawning condition[1]. Even if you are not breeding them, consider feeding your fish live foods for enhanced nutrition. And besides, fish love it!

Drosophila hydeithe Easy Live Food

 Fruit flies are easily cultured without specialized or expensive equipment. In my fish room, fruit fly cultures take up less than a square foot of space. I raise Drosophila hydei, which are about 3 mm (⅛ in) as adults, small enough to fit in my mutt guppies’ mouths. I also harvest young larvae to feed smaller fish, such as Aspidoras pauciradiatus. I use a strain of Drosophila with a genetic defect that affects their wing muscles. They have wings but cannot fly. 

 

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(Image by sabakuINK. Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0.)

Most commercial culture kits use quart-sized plastic containers filled with fly medium and excelsior fibers or coffee filter paper. I think these cultures are far too messy and difficult to harvest from. Also, a quart container produces more flies than needed to feed my small, 10-gallon aquariums.

I should point out that my first job out of college was as a fly wrangler for a Drosophila genetics lab. From that experience, I knew cultures could be sustained in small milk bottles plugged with gauze-wrapped cotton or foam plugs. And that led me to devise a system that is perfect for small-to-medium scale cultures. 

Setting Up the Culture

Here’s what I use for one culture:

  • 12 oz glass bottle*

  • foam plug, 45-65 mm

  • 1/4 cup dehydrated culture medium

  • slightly less than 1/2 cup of boiling water

  • pinch of dry, baker’s yeast

  • Drosophila hydei culture bottle or vial

  • small, plastic funnel

*There is always the risk of injury from a glass bottle breaking during handling. I am comfortable using glass, but you may want to use plastic.

 

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(Image by sabakuINK. Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0.)

And that’s it for supplies and equipment! Purchasing Drosophila cultures online is ridiculously expensive. You are better off checking local fish or pet stores—I purchased a vial of D. hydei at Petsmart for a few bucks. It took some hunting but eventually, I found the right-size foam plugs at an online homebrewing store. If you cannot find foam plugs that fit, you can use cotton balls wrapped in cheesecloth to plug the bottle. You want the plug to fit snugly enough that small larvae cannot wriggle out. 

To set up your culture, mix up enough culture medium to fill the bottom couple of inches of the bottle. Be sure to use boiling water, which ensures the setting agent is fully activated. If you use hot or warm water, the culture medium will not set up properly. You want the culture medium to be fairly stiff. The consistency should resemble sticky bread dough before kneading. You may need to use a spoon or spatula to push the medium into the bottom of the bottle.

Fit the foam plug in the bottle opening and let the culture cool to room temperature. Do not leave the bottle open or you risk contamination by insects, mold, or bacteria. When the culture is completely cooled, remove the plug and sprinkle a small pinch of dry yeast on the surface of the culture medium. This is the secret ingredient that stimulates the flies to lay more eggs. Even if your culture medium contains yeast, sprinkling a bit more on top will increase your yield. Make sure the culture medium is completely cooled before adding flies! If you add the flies too soon, while the culture medium is still warm, they may get stuck on the condensed moisture coating the inside of the bottle.

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(Image by sabakuINK. Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0.)

Here’s the best part of this system. No more shaking flies all over your counter or watching them jump frantically out of the quart container. Fold a towel into a pad about one inch (or more) thick. Place the culture bottle on this pad and remove the plug. Place the plastic funnel in the opening of the culture bottle. Tap the side of the Drosophila bottle to knock the adult flies to the bottom. Quickly invert the Drosophila bottle into the funnel. Hold the top bottle tight against the funnel so the flies cannot escape. Grasp the bottom bottle with your other hand. Holding everything together, raise the bottle-funnel-bottle configuration and gently pound it on the pad to knock the adult flies from the top bottle and into the bottom bottle. When the top bottle is empty, lift it and the funnel up. Plug the bottom bottle, which now contains your transferred flies. 

Growing, Harvesting, and Feeding

D. hydei take roughly 21 days to complete their life cycle at 21°C (70°F)[2]. This cycle is shorter at warmer temperatures. One way to maximize yields and create a continuous supply of young larvae is to transfer the adult flies to a new bottle every few days. I usually can get about three bottles out of one set of adult flies. 

 

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(Image by sabakuINK. Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0.)

Harvesting larvae is easy. Just use a spoon to scrape larvae off the inside of the bottle and drop them into the tank. Harvesting adults is nearly as easy. I use an empty jar at the bottom of the bottle-funnel-bottle configuration. Then I put the jar filled with flies into the freezer. I freeze extra larvae and adults for later. The freezing, by the way, bursts the flies’ exoskeleton, which softens them up and helps them sink. I also mix frozen larvae and adults into Repashy gel food. The pupae are the least desirable for feeding because of their hard shells. My mutt guppies will only try eating them if nothing else is available. Often, I end up scooping up a bunch of floating pupae and throwing them into the yard.

Nutritional Value

Drosophila are packed with nutrients. According to Reptiles.com, the nutritional profile of D. melanogaster ranks up near the top of feeder insects[3]. I propose that the nutritional profile of D. hydei is very similar. Drosophila have more protein than black soldier fly larvae, mealworms, superworms, crickets, nightcrawlers, snails, waxworms, or silkworms. 

D. melanogaster Nutrition Profile

  • Moisture: 70%

  • Protein: 21%

  • Fat: 5%

  • Fiber: 5%

  • Ash: 2%

References

  1. Hellweg, Mike. Culturing Live Foods. Neptune City, NJ: TFH Publications, Inc. 2008.

  2. Brinks, A. “Which fruit fly is right for me?” Josh’s Frogs blog. January 22, 2012

  3. Healey, Mariah. “Feeder Insect Nutrition Facts for Reptile Keepers.” Posted November 18, 2017. Updated November 5, 2020. 

Edited by Anita
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How to Deal With an Aquarium Catastrophe [Tips & Tutorials]

How to Fix a Leaking Aquarium without Draining? - Aquarium Sphere
How to fix a leaky aquarium. Credit: Shutterstock. Fair use of copyrighted content under an editorial license. 

Ask any aquarist what their worst fish-related fear is and it's going to be “when my aquarium explodes/ bursts.” Although this is a very rare occurrence and probably not something to fear, it's important to be ready for it. Here’s how to be prepared if such a thing does happen, and also, how to prevent it. I will be discussing the time my aquarium burst a leak and how I handled it.

How to Be Prepared 

The truth of the matter is that you can never be prepared for this situation. There is a good chance of this happening when you're at work, sporting events, school, etc. 

When my aquarium started to leak, I was at school. The lunch bell had just rung and I was debating going home for lunch or buying something from the school cafeteria. Little did I know what was going on at home. Luckily, I had decided to go home and make my own lunch. When I got home there was water everywhere!

The best way you can be prepared for a situation like this is to have a plan. Your plan will vary from aquarium to aquarium. For me, my plan was to get some buckets, fill it up with water, and put fish in the buckets. Looking back, I made plenty of mistakes. (I kept a HOB filter with a small black coarse sponge and some charcoal) For one, I did not do anything to keep my filter media (where most of your beneficial bacteria lives) wet. I simply left it out to dry. I would suggest to keep the filter media wherever you are keeping your fish. For example if your putting the fish in buckets, add the filter media in the buckets submerged underwater with the fish.


How to Prevent a Mess from Happening 

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My leaking 10-gallon aquarium. Credit: James Black

Later that evening I went to buy another 10-gallon aquarium at a local fish store (LFS). Several years later I’m still using this aquarium. Here are some suggestions for buying a new tank:

  1. The biggest piece of advice when buying a tank is don’t cheap out. The tank that broke was a cheap tank from Walmart, and as a result it lasted 3 months. If you can’t afford a reliable tank now, wait until you can.

  2. Read reviews on the tank before you buy one. Once again I didn’t do so. Looking back at reviews, the tank had 2/5 stars and most reviews had the same experience I did. 

  3. Buy from trusted resources/companies. Buy from companies that you know make good tanks and that you and others have had good experiences with. Buy from an LFS instead of a large chain store. 

  4. Do not buy second-hand aquariums. I know this is tough and sometimes I even fail because it's just too good of a deal to pass up. But when you can afford to buy a brand-new tank, always do so.

  5. Always do research before buying an aquarium. Just like any other big purchase, make sure others have had good experiences with it. 

Conclusion 

Always have a plan! Even though you don’t think it will ever happen to you, you never know. Without a plan, you're doomed to face a big mess if your tank ever bursts. Also, stay calm if this catastrophe happens. You won’t get anything productive done if you're panicking. 

Think about what exactly you’ll do and take measures to prevent such a thing from turning into a disaster. It may help to write down your emergency plan for you to look back on in case this situation ever occurs.

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A Co-Opted Midlife [Personal Narrative]

by Dave (Fish Folk)

 

THE FIRST TANK

Questions like, “What if I had just bought a new gaming console instead?” haunt me. Four years ago I was given a nice cash gift for Christmas by a family friend. Against all odds, I blundered into a fish store and bought a 20 gallon aquarium kit, a pile of fake plants, several bags of pea gravel, and some gaudy resin ornaments. Sometime too soon thereafer, five fancy goldfish were unceremoniously dumped in. I cringe about this now and freely admit it was garish and overstocked. But that winter we watched our new aquarium more than our flatscreen TV.

 

FINDING CORY

Like most kids these days, my eldest son got into YouTube. As that new-tank winter rolled along into summer, he began watching the sort of YouTube channels that feature “Watch me dig holes in my yard and fill them with live animals!” sorts of videos. Of course he asked to tear apart our yard. I bowled a Dad-famous “NO!” strike.

But one fateful evening, I came through the door from work to see him glued to YouTube. He was watching this remarkably calm, ordinary guy deliver a deep dive talk into live aquarium plants. Aside from memorizing the algorithms for solving a 4x4 Rubik’s Revenge earlier that year, I had never before seen him so totally glued to YouTube. This sparked an idea: what if I let him have a new fish tank in his own room? I could even build him a stand for it! So with the warm support of my then unsuspecting wife, I repurposed a bunch of lumber, bought him a 10 gal, and set him up with a tank in his room. When he adamantly insisted on live plants only, I sensed that ordinary-guy-aquarist from Washington State knowingly nodding off camera somewhere.

 

YOUTUBE

Things kept evolving. I told myself that it was all my son’s hobby. I think we were about five tanks in when he announced his desire to start a YouTube channel. “What about?” I asked. “I don’t know. Stuff I’m into” he replied. We went round and round until it was agreed that I would help him if and only if he started an aquarium YouTube Channel. We were tinkering around with some folk-style electronic music mixing one night, and the name FISH FOLK kind of came to mind. I became the camera guy and editor, and my son would share things he was learning about fish we were keeping.

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RAMS

As new tanks were added, new species were tried out. This brought us to search for the most beautiful small freshwater aquarium fish we could get our hands on. At the time, we were really only connected to one Local Fish Store. We went in to inquire about German Blue Rams. The owner discouraged us, having been pretty well burned trying to keep and sell them. Dissappointed, we stopped by another Local Fish Store down the road. They did carry Rams, and helped us acquire our first pair. When these spawned, we went into high gear to record everything, research frantically, and try to raise up fry. Our first attempt had some short-lived success. It was just enough to hook us on breeding. When they spawned again, we were ready. Though only seven Rams survived from our first successful spawn, each one grew into a massive, beautiful specimen.

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MTS

What had started as a simple goldfish tank exploded into over twenty one aquariums scattered throughout the house. Each one was developing its own curated story as our YouTube channel continued, and as we experimented with new fish and new community tanks. By this time, we were talking about this way too much to everyone. Irene’s video “4 Stages of New Fishkeepers” came up on my YouTube playlist, and it succinctly summarized everything we were experiencing. According to her programme, our next fateful step as aquarists was to join a fish club.

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BAP & FISH CLUB

And so we did. The nearest club to us was the Potomac Valley Aquarium Society, near Washington D.C. It is a haul for us, but we were so eager to find other fish geeks, that we signed up virtually sight unseen. The monthly meetings featured excellent speakers, and closed with exciting auctions.

But the main club feature for us was BAP: Breeders Award Program. We set off on a mission, and did not stop until my son had earned his Advanced Breeder’s Award. Because of our distance, we documented everything on YouTube, building sometimes elaborate, month-long video compositions to verify our successful spawning reports. He enjoyed all of this up to a point, but for me this became something else.

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A CO-OPTED MIDLIFE

It was when my son announced that he really did not feel like continuing to make regular videos for the YouTube channel, but just wanted to peacefully enjoy fish keeping that everything began to come into focus for me. What had been sparked by the whim of a boy was now a raging gasoline fire in the upper story of my adult midlife. I have thought over this long and hard, and can only say for certain that there are an infinite number of worse ways to expereince  a midlife crisis.

 

THE C.A.R.E. FORUM

So, for my part, I have gently embraced the awkwardness of adoring a hobby I barely knew existed just a few years ago. I have grown comfortable being a NERM. And with a community like the C.A.R.E. Forum, I can join up with  enthusiastic fellow aquarists who all share and learn, laugh and sympathize in appropriate measure together.

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WORKING WITH NATURE

There is a stimulating wonder to working with nature that most other hobbys simply cannot compare with. From where I sit, there is a satisfaction to raising a cloud of fish fry that far exceeds a perfect game of golf, rebuiding the engine of a classic sports car, or daily tending to a small yacht. Part of the crisis in midlife is finding an outlet for creative passions, unreached dreams, and most importantly just once and for all being yourself. While aquatics is no good if it enslaves someone to faulty idealism, what it provides by way of stimulating contact with living creatures can set many things into focus. Which is all to affirm the sound advice contained in that wood-carved refrain hanging up in the Aquarium Co-Op: “ENJOY NATURE DAILY.”

Edited by Fish Folk
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Dwarf Pike Cichlid: My Experience Keeping and Breeding Crenicichla Regani Rio Tapajos [Care Guide]

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Crenicichla Regani Rio Tapajos: top wild caught male and bottom wild caught female and F1 fry 10 days after cave emergence. Credit: M.Proctor.

 

Crenicichla regani Rio Tapajos is an amazing species that I have enjoyed keeping and breeding. They belong to genus Crenicichla that contains over 100 species. The C.regani I obtained are of the Rio Tapajos locality. The Rio Tapajos runs 1200 miles and it has a river basin nearly three times the size of Florida and is home to at least 323 identified fish species in addition to the C.regani (The Tapajos River 2021).

Females have the well-defined eye spot on the dorsal fin. The genus is further divided into various groups of similar pike species. The wallacii group contains pike up to 13.9 cm (5.5 in). The regani is a member of the wallacii group (Bednarczuk 2010).  I keep my C.regani Rio Tapajos is at a temperature range of = 24°-27°C (75°-81°F)and pH = 6.8.0-7.0and Grow Out Tank Minimum Size = 76 l (20 gal)and Pair Bonding and Breeding Tank Size = 189 l (50 gal)  and Adult Sizes = Up to 14 cm (5.5 in ) and up to 11.5 cm (4.5 in ).

Obtaining Initial Stock and Developing Them Into A Well-Bonded Pair

I received my initial stock of two pairs of wild caught regani in May of 2019 from an online vendor. The adult fish were placed in a 50-gallon tank with adult platy for dither fish and plants and caves and malaysian trumpet snails and assassin snails. Feedings throughout were once a day rotating between frozen bloodworms and frozen whole krill with vitachem and extreme pellets and krill flake. Live baby brine shrimp once per week was provided to encourage spawning. I believe in the introduction of fry food on a regular basis to encourage fry production from parents. In mid-2020and The dominant pair became well-bonded by staying together and fighting the subdominant pair to the point that they drove they were removed from the tank. I utilized a 2 degree temperature drop, leave litter for tannin increase and  On 1 January 2021 I discovered the parents with a cloud of fry.

Finding My First Batch of Regani Fry: Worth the Wait

The fry of the C.regani were guarded by the adults. Both would manage the fry but the female was primarily the parent who would chase down the adventurous fry and grab them and spit them back into the center of the fry school. Fry were sent back into the spawning cave to sleep every night and were guarded by both adults while sleeping.  Both adults would change color intensity and pattern and head shake and posture at times of fry rearing. This behavior was clearly a communication between the adults and the fry to cause an appropriate response either from the fry or the other member of the pair. Fry infrequently picked at the slime coat of the adults who were tolerant of the behavior. This may have been useful in establishing healthy digestive systems of the fry.

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C.Regani Rio Tapajos: wild caught female and F1 fry day of cave emergence. Credit: M.Proctor

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C.Regani Rio Tapajos: wild caught male and F1 fry day 10 after cave emergence. Credit: M.Proctor

Removing the Fry

I removed the fry in two stages. Those who remained with the parents the longest grew the fastest and were more outgoing. Those who were moved at day 15 grew slower and were more likely to hide. Those fry who remained with the parents until day 66 were large and more outgoing and less likely to hide. Frozen bloodworms were accepted beginning on day 15. The fry benefitted from learned behavior by remaining with with the parents. The fry with the parents would eat any food the adults were eating while the fry separated from the parents earlier would ignore the food until hungry enough to try on their own.

 image.png.97796dfe3c418e1072d6870283d1d6bc.png

C.Regani Rio Tapajos: F1 fry day 15 in Ziss Breeder Box within 189 l (50 gal) breeding tank. Credit: M.Proctor

image.png.e1d4a9f9ba5b1e65f4bc5af2bf0c1236.png

C.Regani Rio Tapajos: F1 fry day 19 moved to their own 76 l (20 gal) grow out tank. Credit: M.Proctor

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C.Regani Rio Tapajos: F1 fry day 58 with parents 189 l (50 gal) breeding tank. Credit: M.Proctor

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C.Regani Rio Tapajos: F1 fry day 66 all moved to 76 l (20 gal) grow out tank. Credit: M.Proctor

These dwarf pike have been rewarding to keep. They produced a large amount of fry and exhibited some of the best parental care I have ever had the pleasure to witness in a fish species. Regani appear to be very tolerant of other fish as my pike only have fight in them when paired up for breeding purposes. That fight is directed almost exclusively at other regani pike and rarely at other fish in the aquarium unless they get too close to the fry ball.  I plan to work further and get into the F2 generation either later in 2021 or sometime in 2022.

  

Glossary 

F1 Generation: The first generation of offspring from the parent fish. 

 

Rio Tapajos: 1200 mile long river in Brazil with hundreds of freshwater species living in it.

Wild Caught: Fish caught from their wild natural habitat  

 

References

Bednarczuk, Radek. 2010. "It's Dwarf Crenicichla Time!" Tropical Fish Hobbist Magazine. March. https://www.tfhmagazine.com/articles/freshwater/its-dwarf-crenicichla-time.

Proctor, Matthew R. 2021. "Crenicichla Regani Rio Tapajos." Divide: Proctor, Matthew R, January 10.

2021. "The Tapajos River." The Nature Conservency. July. https://www.nature.org/en-us/about-us/where-we-work/latin-america/brazil/stories-in-brazil/the-tapajos-river/.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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