Showing posts with label clownfish aquariums. Show all posts
Showing posts with label clownfish aquariums. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Nano Fish: Small Size, BIG Personalities

So many choices, so much temptation. How do you choose which fish would love your nano tank?

I have had the privilege of having a small variety of nano fish species in my tank. Size and looks are not the only consideration when choosing fish. Diet, compatibility and personality are equally important.

This article will focus more on the personality and diet of just a few nano fish varieties rather than a size per-gallon or number of fish per-gallon rule.

The token Clownfish
Probably the most recognized fish and the one found in most marine tanks, the clownfish is both amazing and a jerk. They will bully other inhabitants, even attack your hand but will always be constantly swimming about and drawing your attention with their antics. They spawn in the home aquarium if they are paired with an appropriate sized mate. They are easy to care for and will readily eat anything you throw at them. They form pairs naturally although it is not necessary to keep a pair. Their host of choice in the wild is an anemone and they share a symbiotic relatonship with anemones, but in the home aquarium they have been known to favor everything from zoanthids to overflow boxes. Not all clownfish are created equal however; Maroons, for example, get big and are mean. Available in a variety of colors and patterns, there is a clownfish for every budget. Clownfish are actually Damselfish, other species of this family are often considered bullies also, with a few exceptions like Springeri's. Many hobbyists cycle a new tank with a damselfish but this is an outdated method not to mention cruel to the poor fish.

Gobies, in general, are a perching or hopping fish. They hop from coral to coral or from one spot to another on the substrate. They do not actively swim around except when making a beeline for a tasty morsel they must have. Many live in burrows, some with a symbiotic buddy shrimp. Some gobies have unusual diets, like the Yellow Clown Goby that enjoys munching on SPS polyps, while still enjoying foods you feed. It is not unusual to have occasional sightings of your goby, especially a burrowing goby. Some are cleaners, like a sand-sifting goby or neon goby which cleans other fish. Overall, the Goby fish comes in beautiful colors, sizes and also temperament. Only one goby of each species should be kept in a tank unless they come as a mated pair. Some species of hi fin shrimp gobies sometimes allow other species to share their burrow and their shrimp. I have a Wheeler's Shrimp Goby named Grumpy and ever since he lost his pistol shrimp, he tries to jump out of the tank once a day to off himself. Gobies also come in micro sized species like Trimma and Eviota which are perfect for even Pico tanks.

Their personalities alone make the Blenny fish a popular aquarium inhabitant. They chew on algae and swim about like an eel. Some are known to nip at clam mantles too. They do not have a swim bladder which makes them swim for a bit, then perch for a bit and repeat. They are an active fish, fun to watch and make any crevice or forest of corals a hiding place. My favorite is the Midas blenny. A beautiful yellow with big blue eyes, Geowge the Blenny was constantly bullied by my female clownfish. She even caught him by the tail twice. Geowge was healthy and even bit me one day (true story). Only one Blenny should be kept in a tank unless they came as a mated pair.

Specialty feeders and for the advanced hobbyist, Dragonets are gentle, gorgeous fish that come in many sizes, colors and patterns. They eat only live foods like copepods that are in every aquarium, however they deplete this food source extremely rapidly and for that reason they should only be kept in a mature aquarium that has been established for at least a year. Dragonets can be trained to accept prepared foods, or you can culture Tisbe pods for it. Mandarin feeding will generally compromise your water quality as this fish needs to be fed several times a day. They are gentle fish and do well in a species-only tank where they are not out-competed by faster, quicker fish when being fed. Dragonets are easy to sex by their dorsal fins and will pair and spawn readily in the home aquarium.

The six-line wrasse is a popular choice to keep pests at bay and to add a splash of color. A very active fish, a six-line wrasse can sometimes be a bully. While most wrasses get too big for a nano tank, the 6 line, Pygmy, Pink streaked and Possum Wrasse stay small and do well in a community aquarium. They are easy fish to keep, accept a variety of foods readily and prefer a tank with sand to sleep in. It is common to see a wrasse bury itself in the substrate to sleep at night. Wrasses can and do jump and a lid is needed on your tank if you intend to keep one. I have a 6 line I named Mark Sanchez for the Jets QB who has the number 6 jersey.

Generally a shy fish, firefish will come out to play when they are comfortable in your aquarium. They have very elegant long bodies with unusually shaped fins and swim about in jerky motions. Their coloration is beautiful, the bodies have an ombre effect with more than one color on each fish. They do well in pairs if they are sold as such but otherwise do well on their own. They are known jumpers so a lid on the tank is essential to keep these fish. They are non aggressive and a great addition to the aquarium.

Gentle and bold, the most noticeable Cardinalfish is the Bangaii. Striking black and white coloration, huge eyes and a tendency to stay in the water column, Bangaii are always looking for a photo op. It is difficult to sex the Bangaii Cardinalfish, but if done correctly a pair will readily spawn. Other species are the pajama cardinal, and several striped varieties that do well as a small group without aggression. They are an active fish and once acclimated to your tank will always be out and about looking for food.

The Royal Gramma is the most popular choice of Basslet for the nano hobbyist. Swimming upside down is one of the characteristics of this fish. The Royal Gramma comes in a gorgeous fuchsia and gold combination but others, like the Gold Assessor and Black Cap, are also striking. They can become territorial and prefer the darker areas of the tank, especially rock caves. They are aggressive towards their own kind.

An active fish, Chromis are a low maintenance species that are usually kept in small groups as they are a shoaling fish. I had 3 that were named Google, Chrome and Picasa. They are quick and non aggressive although they can be mean to one another sometimes. Chromis are usually inexpensive fish and add an instant splash of color and movement to any reef. They are not finicky eaters and have also been kept in predator tanks like Mantis and Frogfish because they are quick enough to evade becoming a meal (although their luck can run out anytime).

There are more fish than these that are appropriate for nano aquariums. Whichever combination of fish you choose, be sure to check compatibility before purchasing.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Tips to get clownfish to use a host anemone

There are many reasons people get into the reef aquarium hobby.

For some, it is the beauty and color of fish and corals. For others, it is the challenge of keeping a successful “piece of the reef” in their home.

What inspired me to change all my freshwater aquariums into reef tanks was a desire to keep a pair of True Percula Clownfish with an anemone host. This was my goal and I eventually achieved it, although it did take some time to get there.

If this is your goal as well, this article should help your dream become reality!

Today I will cover the symbiotic relationship between clownfish and anemones, address myths you often read on aquarium message boards plus provide tips and tricks myself and others have used to successfully coax clownfish into using a host anemone.

Before we dive any deeper (pun intended), let’s first discuss the symbiotic relationship of clownfish and sea anemones. It is pretty evident to most what clownfish get out of the relationship. First, they get a “home” within the stinging tentacles of the anemone that protect it from predators. Without this fortified home base, slow-moving clownfish are sitting ducks for larger predatory fish, like groupers and barracudas.

What do anemones get in return?

Anemones also receive protection from polyp-eating predators, such as butterflyfish and angelfish. If you keep a pair of clownfish in your aquarium, you may already be familiar with just how protective they can be. My clownfish often bite me during routine tank maintenance. When it comes unexpectedly, it can be quite a scare! In addition to protection, anemones also receive sustenance from clownfish in the form of food scraps and feces.

Now I’d like to bust a couple of myths that have been circulating for years to help thwart the spread of misinformation.

I’ve heard this first myth numerous times and it simply isn’t true: “Tank-bred clownfish will not use a host anemone.” I have only kept tank-bred and raised clownfish in my reef aquariums and they all eventually adopted a host. In fact, in aquariums where I had no anemone, my clownfish would find another host to suit their needs.

I have had clownfish host in open brain corals (Trachyphyllia geoffroyi), xenia, anthelia, Euphyllia (Frogspawn, Hammer), Heliofungia (which looks like an anemone anyway) and even a Derasa clam.

The second pervasive myth I often encounter is: “Clownfish need an anemone to survive.” Again, this simply isn’t true. Clownfish will survive just fine without an anemone to host them. As I mentioned earlier, clownfish often find a replacement host to snuggle up to or, in the case of a fish-only aquarium, stake out an area and establish it as their home turf.

With our myth-busting out of the way, it’s time to talk tips and tricks. Your objective is to ensure your clownfish and anemone are a match and that they “find” each other.

The best piece of advice I can offer is to get a clownfish and anemone that would naturally pair up together in the wild. A big mistake I have seen over the years is people purchasing Condylactis anemones (sometimes referred to as Atlantic or Pink-Tip Anemones) and hoping their clowns will use them as host. While there are exceptions to every rule (even I have seen this once), these anemones rarely host clowns.

I personally have found the best anemone for hobbyists to use is the Bubble-Tip Anemone (Entacmaea quadricolor). Not only are these anemones colorful, tank-propagated specimens are common (side note: purchase an anemone that is tank propagated, if at all possible). According to Anthony Calfo, 12+ clownfish species prefer BTAs.

The following table from Anthony Calfo shows popular anemone hosts with compatible clownfish.

What do you do if you have the right clownfish and anemone but your clown STILL won’t use the anemone as a host? This is where things get tricky.

We know clownfishes use anemones for protection. So if the environment you’ve created for them feels safe, they may not have any desire for protection. Perhaps the clownfish has been living in your aquarium for years without an anemone and already has a home territory. Maybe you have an anemone perched elsewhere in your tank your clown shows no interest in. Whatever the case may be, your goal is for them to form a symbiotic relationship. However, it may require some persuasion in order for them to form a bond.

The best way I have found to accomplish this is to make the clownfish in your aquarium feel less safe. You can achieve this by adding more fish (preferably larger fish if your tank can accommodate them) or rearranging the aquarium rock in your aquascape. Your newly evicted clownfish is then forced to find a new home.

Another trick is to attach a mirror or a photograph of a clownfish to the outside of your aquarium. The idea behind this ruse is to give the illusion another clownfish is invading your clown’s territory. The ideal outcome is your clownfish will feel threatened enough by the intruder to dive into the waiting tentacles of the anemone.

If your goal is to create a symbiotic relationship between a clownfish and anemone in your aquarium, hopefully the suggestions in this article help you get there. If your clown and anemone already get along swimmingly, we would love to hear in the comments how you made it happen to help other readers.

I thoroughly enjoy watching my clowns nuzzling, nibbling and spawning in the comfort of their anemone hosts and I know you will, too!