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Caring For Your Tropical Fish

Leon Rudduck, (Editor)
Cover Picture
Scan Notes
1. Introduction
2. The Aquarium
3. Setting Up
4. General Care and Maintenance
5. A Selection of Fish Species

For those intending to keep Tropical Fish for the first time, this concise and informative publication
contains all the information required for their selection and care. The text is lavishly illustrated with
high class color photography and detailed line drawings.

Scan / Edit Notes

A handy little book that is compact but valuable. It covers the subject of caring for fish quite
admirably. I scanned this one for my children whom are into looking after fish.
Versions available and duly posted:
Format: v1.0 (Text)
Format: v1.0 (PDB - open format)
Format: v1.5 (HTML)
Format: v1.5 (PDF - no security)
Format: v1.5 (PRC - for MobiPocket Reader - pictures included)
Genera: Animals - Tropical Fish
Extra's: Pictures Included (for all versions)
Copyright: 1987
First Scanned: 2002
Posted to: alt.binaries.e-book
1. The Html, Text and Pdb versions are bundled together in one zip file.
2. The Pdf and Prc files are sent as single zips (and naturally don't have the file structure below)
Structure: (Folder and Sub Folders)
{Main Folder} - HTML Files
|- {Nav} - Navigation Files
|- {PDB}
|- {Pic} - Graphic files
|- {Text} - Text File

1. Introduction
All around the world, millions of people keep aquaria of one sort or another, ranging from a simple
bowl with a single goldfish, to a vast tank containing a section of a coral reef, complete with its
animal life; from minute, single-celled organisms, through various invertebrates to bizarre and
brightly colored coral fish. The most popular branch of fish keeping however, is the tropical
freshwater aquarium, in which one endeavors, as near as possible, to create a natural facsimile of part
of a tropical river bed, or a section of a lake, containing rocks, tropical plants and, of course, the
appropriate fish.

An attractive tropical aquarium display.

The fascination of fish keeping began many centuries ago in China, when color mutations of the
common goldfish were first bred for their aesthetic appeal rather than, as was hitherto the case, as
items for the menu at noble banquets. Many varieties of goldfish were soon developed and a
commercial interest in these living gems' arose. The hobby soon spread to Japan, where further
varieties were produced by selective breeding and the production of 'perfect' specimens soon became
an art. It was not until the late 18th century, that goldfish found their way to Europe, where it became
fashionable for the nobility to display them in indoor tanks or ponds. From thence, the goldfish and its
color varieties, has found its way to all corners of the earth and people of many nationalities have
gained much pleasure from keeping them.

The keeping of tropical freshwater fish started somewhat later, probably due to the technical
requirements of keeping them alive, particularly with regard to providing adequate warmth for these
sensitive creatures in the cold temperate climate. Many generations of fish keepers must have had
great disappointments in their attempts to keep exotic species alive in the early days, but we have to
thank these pioneers of aquatics, for the combined snippets of information which have been passed,
by word of mouth, through club journals or through magazines, to give us the technology which now
means that even the most basic of aquarists can set up a display without the problems experienced by
our fish keeping ancestors.

Red and white Oranda goldfish

This does not mean, however, that the hobby of fish keeping should be taken lightly. Remember, we
are dealing with living things, which totally rely on us for their welfare. They must be provided with
all the life support systems necessary to keep them, not only in the best of health, but to be able to
behave normally, as they would in their wild habitat and ultimately, to reproduce - a sure sign that
things are to their satisfaction.
Before making the decision to keep fish, we must ask ourselves the following questions: Do we have
sufficient time to maintain our aquarium? Do we possess the ongoing enthusiasm to maintain our
aquarium indefinitely? Do we have sufficient space for an aquarium? Do we have the approval of
other members of the household? Can we afford it?
With regard to the amount of time we can spare, once an aquarium has been set up and it is operating
correctly, it should take no more than a few minutes each day to carry out routine maintenance
procedures and, each week, perhaps at the weekend, we should set aside an extra hour or two for the
more time consuming tasks. Whether one has the ongoing enthusiasm to maintain his interest is a
personal question which can only be answered by the individual. An aquarium takes up little space in

the home and, indeed, can become the focal point of the lounge or hall. There are many aquarium
sizes and space for one can usually be found in even the smallest apartment. Before acquiring an
aquarium, it is advisable to discuss plans with the whole family. It is better to make the hobby a
family affair, rather than to risk complaints that 'he/she is more interested in his/her fish than with the
With regard to expense, one can spend as little or as much as one can afford. Those with a tight
budget should not be deterred the simplest tank can be set up very inexpensively and
improvements can be made as time progresses.
This little book cannot pretend to be a complete treatise on all aspects of tropical fish keeping and
space does not allow in-depth discussion of every factor. However, the author attempts to cover all
salient points which will enable the beginner to set up and maintain a tropical freshwater aquarium,
stock it with tropical fish and plants and, it is hoped, enjoy many years of the pleasure and fascination
which this hobby has given and gives to millions of keen enthusiasts throughout the world.

2. The Aquarium
In this chapter, we can regard the fish tank and all its life supporting accessories as the aquarium and,
having decided to have one, the first consideration will be, where it is going to be sited. Assuming it is
to be a display aquarium, it should be placed in a fairly prominent position in the home, where it will
be the focal point of one room or another, but should not be sited where it will interfere with the
activities of members of the household. An aquarium is best placed away from windows, unless we
are talking of roof lights, as natural light entering through the side panes, will cause excessive growths
of algae, and disorientate the tank's inhabitants which, in the wild of course, would be accustomed to
light entering the water from above only. We can accomplish this by using artificial lighting, which
will be discussed in more detail later.

Silver veiltail angelfish

Consideration must be given as to the suitability of the stand on which the aquarium is to rest.
Remember that even a modest tank of 90cm (3ft) in length, when filled with substrate, rocks and
water, can weigh as much as 125kg (275lb). So we may have to dispense with the idea of using the
old card table, or a chipboard sideboard, unless we can devise some way of strengthening it with angle
iron. What is infinitely better is to purchase or construct a purpose made stand or cabinet which is
reinforced with angle iron, or stout wooden supports.
The size of the aquarium will be dictated by the amount of space available and, possibly, expense.
However, it is highly recommended that the newcomer to the hobby should start with a smallish tank
so that, if anything goes wrong in the initial stages, we only have a small disaster to cope with rather
than a big one. Fish size will also have a bearing on the capacity of the tank and one should be aware
of the size certain fish can reach before obtaining them. The following table will give one an idea of

the capacities and weights of various tanks and the total length of fish which can be safely kept in
them. This means the total of all the lengths of all the fish added together to work out a stocking level.
The lengths of the fish do not include the tail fin.

Table Of Conversion
Note that the conversions given, from metric to imperial are only approximate. Remembering that a
liter of water weighs 1 kilogram and a gallon weighs 10 pounds, some idea of the weight of the tank
can be assessed.

Types of Tanks
There are several types of tanks available on the market. The old, metal framed tanks, which consisted
of an iron frame, with the glass panes affixed with putty, can now be regarded as obsolete; one always
had problems with the frames rusting and the putty cracking, causing leaks. Modern aluminum, or
stainless steel framed tanks are reasonable but the most suitable form offish tank is the one known as
the 'all glass aquarium'. This consists simply of sheets of glass bonded together with silicon rubber
sealing compound. The discovery of this compound has revolutionized aquarium construction and it is
now possible for anyone to construct a tank of any size or shape. The only major precaution to take is
that one is using glass of adequate strength for the size of the aquarium being constructed. Of course,
you do not have to construct your own aquarium; ready made models of all sizes are available from

your aquarist's suppliers; it is even possible to buy a complete kit, with every accessory to set up and
maintain a tropical display.
One of the most basic requirements in a tropical fish aquarium is a means of maintaining the
temperature at an adequate level for the fish (and plants). The temperature requirements of tropical
fish vary from species to species and depend upon the native habitat. In spite of this, there are some
species which can withstand a range of temperatures and others which cannot. It is important to
ascertain the heat requirements of the species you obtain and ensure that you acquire groups of
individuals which will tolerate similar conditions. The majority of tropical fish will thrive at a
temperature of around 25C (77F) so, unless you live in the tropics, there is going to be a need for
some form of supplementary heating.
There are many methods of heating a fish tank, ranging from the space heating of the room in which it
is kept, through to heat pads and cables, internal heaters and thermostats. The simplest and most
satisfactory way, at least for the beginner with a single tank, is the thermostatically controlled heating
element, contained within a heat resistant glass tube and which is immersed in the aquarium water.
Such heaters come in various sizes and, are placed near the bottom of the tank, so that convection
currents are created. The thermostat may be an integral part of the heating tube, or it may be contained
in a separate tube. With large aquaria, it is advisable to obtain two or more heaters and place them in
different parts of the tank, to ensure an even distribution of temperature. The thermostat is adjustable
and can be set within a given range, to maintain the temperature at the desired level. It is best not to
skimp, when buying heaters, choose a good reliable make, preferably with a guarantee.

The simplest way of heating a fish tank is with the thermostatically controlled heating element within
a heat resistant glass tube.

Lighting is another important factor in the tropical fish tank. It is necessary for 95% of the light
intensity to enter the aquarium through the surface of the water, so that we avoid troubles with algae,
and disorientation of the fish and plants. If plants are to be grown in the aquarium - and a tropical
freshwater aquarium without plants can be compared to strawberries without cream - then adequate
lighting is doubly important. Plants cannot function properly without a balanced quota of intensity and
duration of light. Fish may also be affected by photoperiod (duration of daylight) and seasonal
variances in day/night cycles may play an important part in bringing certain species into breeding
There are many kinds of lights which can be used for the aquarium. Early aquarists used simple,
domestic, tungsten bulbs, mounted in the tank hood but they were forever having problems with their
plants, as the quality of light emitted by such bulbs is very poor; if used at all, tungsten bulbs should
only be accessory to other lighting. The kind of lighting most widely used is fluorescent tubes, which
emit a broad-spectrum quality of light with particular accent on the blue end of the spectrum. Such
tubes emit light which is about the nearest we can get to natural daylight and come under such trade
names as 'Gro-Lux', 'Day-Glo' and Tru-Lite'. They come in a number of lengths (and wattages) and it
is easy to obtain a combination suited for any size tank. A 150cm (5ft) long tank, for example, would
probably require 3 x 120cm (4ft), 40 watt tubes.

One of the latest trends is to allow aquatic plants to behave naturally and, instead of being pruned to
below the water surface, they are allowed to grow out into the atmosphere and will complement
terrestrial plants which are kept in pots outside the aquarium for added decoration. For such displays,
quartz halogen, or mercury vapor lamps, both of which emit a high intensify of light, are used. The
lamps also emit heat, so they should be suspended at least 50cm (20in) above the plants.
Although, in theory, a correct balance of animals and plants in the aquarium should provide adequate
oxygen for the fish, in practice this is extremely difficult to accomplish. Fish extract oxygen from the

water by passing it over their gill membranes. In natural bodies of water, oxygen is produced by
plants in the process of photosynthesis (which will be discussed later) and further atmospheric oxygen
is dissolved in the water during natural movement caused by gravity, wind or convection. Apart from
a small amount of convection created from the heaters, we do not have this natural movement in the
aquarium, so we have to provide it by artificial means. Gas exchange takes place at the water surface;
excess carbon dioxide floats off into the atmosphere, whilst atmospheric oxygen enters the water. In
order to gain maximum benefit from this gas exchange, it is important that water movement ensures
that every part of the water body reaches the surface constantly.
The means by which this water movement is accomplished in the aquarium is by way of a mechanical
aerator which drives air through a tube at the end of which is a diffuser stone. This splits the air up
into myriads of tiny bubbles from which a certain amount of oxygen is dissolved but, more
importantly, the bubbles rising to the surface create constant currents in the water. There is a whole
range of mechanical aerators available from your supplier, from a tiny diaphragm pump for use with a
single aquarium, to a large compressor, suitable for aerating hundreds of tanks. The air is passed
through plastic tubing to a diffuser stone which should be anchored near the base of the tank. For
large tanks, two or more diffusers may be used. Sometimes, aeration pumps may be a little too violent
for your aquarium, in which case the airflow can be adjusted by using little clamps on the air tube.

Filtration is necessary to keep the water crystal clear and to ensure that waste materials are removed,
or broken down and rendered harmless. There are two main types of filtration, mechanical and
biological. Mechanical filtration may be operated with the aerator, or power filters maybe used. The
simplest type of filter is the airlift; an internal airlift filter usually consists of a plastic box with small
holes in the lid. Through the center of the lid, a wide tube is passed which nearly reaches the bottom
of box. The area around the tube is packed with a filter medium nylon wool being the most

The box is concealed in some corner of the fish tank and an air diffuser stone is passed into the base
of the central tube. Upon switching on the air supply, a current is created up the wide tube as the
bubbles rise. The water must be replaced and the only way it can do this is to pass through the holes in
the lid and through the filter medium to the base of the tube. Particles are removed from the water as it
passes through the nylon wool. These filters are amazingly efficient and the nylon wool must be
changed frequently as it soon becomes clogged with the filtered off material. Other types of airlift
filters include external ones, where the water is lifted out of the tank and fed, by gravity, through a
filter medium before running back into the aquarium.
There ore several makes of power filter available on the market; these maybe designed for internal or
external use and are driven by an electric motor, which operates a pump to force water through a
dense filter medium. Various filter media are recommended or supplied by the manufacturer and
should be used to their instructions.
The most efficient kinds of filters are the biological types. These may be external and fed by an airlift,
or the actual gravel substrate of the tank can be utilized. An undergravel, biological filter consists of a
plastic filter plate which fits into the bottom of the tank, leaving an empty space beneath, about 1cm
(1/2 in) deep. A pipe (or two for larger plates) passes through the corner of the rear of the plate, and
reaches to the top of the tank, where there is an angle for returning the water. The whole of the filter
plate is covered with a series of holes, too small to allow the gravel to pass through. When the tank is
set up, an air tube and diffuser stone are passed down the tube and, when the air is switched on, a
current passes up the pipe in the same way as that described for the airlift filter.
The water to feed the current must then pass through the gravel and under the filter plate. As organic
mulm (fish waste and plant waste) builds up in the gravel, it is soon colonized by bacteria, which feed
upon the mulm, breaking down any potentially dangerous substances containing nitrites or ammonia
and converting them to relatively harmless nitrates. It takes a few weeks, after the tank has been
newly set up, for the biological filter to reach its full potential, after which, you will have crystal clear
water and the fish will be safe from pollution.

The principle of mechanical filtration.

Water is removed, waste products removed and clean water is returned to the tank.

3. Setting Up
Before setting up your tank, ensure that you have all of the basic equipment to hand, and remember, do not
purchase any fish until the tank has been allowed to settle for at least two weeks. The following list of
equipment will enable you to check out that you have everything.
Aquarium tank and stand. Sheet of expanded polystyrene or thick cardboard. Aquarium hood (unnecessary
if mercury vapor lamps are being used). Lighting units. Heater. Thermostat (or combined heaterstat).
Thermometer. Aerator. Air tubing and clamps. Diffuser stones. Filter (undergravel, airlift or power). Filter
medium (unnecessary if undergravel filter is being used). Gravel. Decorative rocks and wood. Plants.
Electrical plugs.
In addition, you may require the following equipment for continued maintenance:
Siphon tube (for removing debris from the bottom of the tank). Feeding ring (for giving live food, eg
tubifex, to the fish). Fishing net (for catching sick fish etc.). Algae scraper (for cleaning the inside of the
glass). Bottle brush (for cleaning out airlift tubes, filters etc.). Forked planter (for bedding aquatic plants).
Before placing the aquarium on the stand, place a suitably sized sheet of expanded polystyrene or a few
sheets of corrugated cardboard on it. This will even out the weight of the tank as it is filled and prevent
cracking of the glass. Place the tank in position and fill it with water to test the leaks. If it is sound, the
water is removed again (by siphon). If there are leaks, pinpoint where they are and repair with silicon
rubber sealer. Thoroughly clean the inside of the tank. Place undergravel filter plate into position (if being
used). Place washed gravel in the bottom of the tank (it can be cleaned by passing a strong current of water
through it, via a hosepipe; it is clean when the effluent runs clear) to a depth of about 3cm (1 1/2 in) at the
front and 7.5cm (Sin) at the rear.
The next thing to do is to landscape the substrate with rocks. Choose rocks which are inert and will not
release harmful substances in the water.
Limestone should be avoided but sandstone, flint or granite are usually safe. If you are unsure about the
quality of the rocks, purchase them from your supplier or seek advice. How the rocks are arranged is a
personal choice and gives one the opportunity to try out one's artistic talents. In general, the smaller rocks
should be placed to the front of the tank, the larger ones to the rear. With careful planning, interesting
terraces, cliffs and caves can be created. Some aquarists like to use decorative wood in their set up; this
may be bogwood or natural tree roots. Dead wood is preferable and it is advisable to boil it for about an
hour before use, to remove or destroy any potentially dangerous sap.
Next, place the heater(s), filter(s) and aerator(s) in position. These can usually be concealed behind rocks
or wood for the best effect. Ensure that the electrical connections and wiring are safe and correct.
Remember that a combination of electricity and water is potentially dangerous; if unsure about any aspect
of the electrical appliances, consult an electrician. Do not switch anything on yet.

Try and choose plants which will require similar water conditions to the fish. Smaller plants should be
placed at the front part of the tank, larger ones at the rear. It is best to leave a plant-free swimming area for
the fish near the front center. The plants can be pushed in position with a special forked stick, available
from your supplier. Plants may be obtained ready rooted, or as cuttings. The latter may have to be
weighted, to hold them in position until roots have formed; This may be accomplished by tying glass or
ceramic beads near the base of the stem, with nylon thread. Some plants will require pockets of organic
rooting material, concealed under the gravel. Ask your supplier about the requirements of particular plant
species. Plants are important in nature for their production of oxygen during photosynthesis. They absorb
carbon dioxide and water and, using strong Iight as an energy source, they combine the two substances to
form organic building compounds. In so doing, a surplus of oxygen is produced, which is released back
into the water (or atmosphere). There is a symbiotic relationship between animals and plants; the former

producing waste carbon dioxide, which is taken up by the plants. In turn, the plants release excess oxygen
which may be used by the animals and the cycle continues. At night plants do not photosynthesize and
consume oxygen, although not in quantities that would be detrimental to the fish.
There are many hundreds of plant species which may grow in the aquarium and there is room here to
mention only a few of those more easy to cultivate. A useful little plant for the aquarium foreground is hair
grass. Eleocharis, which is bright green, grass like and only grows to about 15cm (6in). It is good in
contrast with tape grass, Vallisneria, which grows up to 60cm (24in) high and has long, narrow, strap-like
leaves. Water wisteria, Hygrophilo, is a very popular plant amongst aquarists; it has thick, feathery, lightgreen foliage and grows to about 15cm (6in). A very decorative plant is Cabomba, which can grow to a
length of 200cm (78in) but is limited by water depth; its dark green, opposed leaves are divided into
feathery segments. Cryptocoryne species have broad, dark green leaves, which contrast nicely with the
other plants. Amazon swords, Echinodorus, are ever popular and will complement shoals of little South
American tetras nicely.




The Water
The water is the environment in which our fish live, and unless we get the quality of the water right for
particular plant and fish species, we are unlikely to be very successful. In natural habitats the quality of
water varies from location to location. It may be hard or soft, acid or alkaline and, in many cases, plants
and fish from one environment do not readily adapt to another. Water hardness depends on the amount of
mineral salts in solution; the more salts the harder the water. Hardness in water maybe measured in parts
pet million (p.p.m.) or in degrees of hardness. It is possible to obtain test kits for calculating the hardness
of water and these should be used to the manufacturer's instructions. Most tropical fish tanks fall into the
medium-soft to medium-hard range, but there are exceptions, and you should ensure that any fish or plants
you purchase are suited to the conditions in your tank. Most tapwaters are reasonably hard and, if you
want to set-up a soft watered aquarium, you must use distilled or rainwater.
Acidity, or alkalinity is measured on a pH scale, where 7 is neutral, anything below 7 is acid and anything
above 7 is alkaline. The majority of soft, tropical waters are slightly acid to neutral, in the range of pH 6.57.0 and this is what we have to aim for in the average aquarium. Again, there are exceptions and these
must be ascertained before we make a purchase. Test kits for ascertaining the pH of water are available
and these should be used to the manufacturer's instructions. It is possible to buy buffering solutions with
which we can adjust the pH to the correct level.

When filling the tank with water, it is best to pour it via a large plate, or a sheet of brown paper resting on
the substrate. This is to prevent the water disturbing our lovingly prepared landscaping. Sometimes it is
best to partially fill the tank with water before planting, as this helps us to see how the plants are going to
appear. When the tank is full (to 2.5cm (1 in) of the top), the life support systems can be switched on and
the whole system left to mature for at least 14 days, before any fish are introduced. During this time,
temperature should be checked regularly and adjusted as necessary. The pH should be measured and
adjusted and a good eye should be kept on the plants; if they are doing well, then we can be reasonably
sure that everything is going to plan.
Only after the period of maturity should the fish be introduced. Purchase fish from a reputable dealer or
breeder and examine each one carefully for signs of wound or disease. Reject those with torn fins,
blemishes on the scales, eye problems, an emaciated appearance or obvious signs of disease. It is advisable
to purchase only half of the number of fish you are going to require ultimately, and ensure that these settle
well into the new aquarium before acquiring the remainder. Fish are normally transported in water filled
plastic bags, which have been boosted with compressed air for the journey. On arrival at home the bags
should be floated on the surface of the aquarium, to allow temperatures to adjust. After about 15 minutes,
the fish can be gently released into their new home. It is best not to feed them for the first 24 hours
allowing them to become accustomed to their new surroundings.

4. General Care and Maintenance

Once the fish tank has been set up, matured and the fish added, surprisingly little time is required for
general maintenance. Temperature should be checked daily, when the fish are fed and, in the early
stages, it is advisable to check the pH every other day. Uneaten food, or large pieces of plant material
should be siphoned out as soon as possible.
Once per week, the insides of the glass should be cleaned with an algae scraper. Plants should be
pruned when necessary, dead leaves and excessive growth being pinched out with the thumb and
forefinger. Water will be lost to evaporation, so the tank must be topped up at regular intervals,
preferably with rain or distilled water rather than tapwater.

Fish Feeding
Whilst different species of fish are not necessarily alike in their feeding requirements, most of the
more popular aquarium fish will do well on a good quality dry food, available from your supplier.
Such foods are manufactured from a combination of plant and animal material and contain flavorings
which will be attractive to your fish. Theoretically such foods are a balanced diet in themselves,
containing all of the necessary proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and trace elements that a fish
should require. However, in practice, many fish often get bored with such a monotonous diet and, it is
wise to give them supplementary changes at regular intervals.
Most fish will eagerly accept the various kinds of live foods that are readily available. Daphnia, or

water fleas are tiny reddish colored crustaceans, which abound in sunny, stagnant waters; they can be
collected in a fine mesh net, purchased, or you can culture them in an algae ridden water butt. Liberal
amounts of daphnia can be added to the fish tank, there is little danger of pollution as the Daphnia will
continue to live, until eaten by the fish. Other small water creatures, such as mosquito larvae and
bloodworms will also be readily taken. When introducing wild caught food into the aquarium, beware
not to include any predatory creatures, such as dragonfly nymphs or water beetles, which could
damage, or even kill your fish. Tubifex are red, slender worms, which are usually collected from the
mudflats of murky rivers. They must be thoroughly cleaned under running water before being fed to
the fish. Tubifex are often fed via a feeding basket a plastic container with holes just wide enough
to allow individual worms to pass through and which floats on the water surface. The fish eagerly
grab the worms as they come through the holes, thus preventing them from colonizing the aquarium
substrate. Other foods which may be cultivated include whiteworms, Enchytraeus, tiny worms which
may be kept in cultures on loam and fed with porridge oats. Starter kits can be obtained from your
supplier. Earthworms are an excellent food and can be found in all sizes. Large worms can be cut into
smaller pieces to suit the size of the fish.

Fish Health
In a well kept aquarium, fish should rarely succumb to diseases which are normally brought on by
stress. Newly imported fish are most susceptible to diseases, caused by the trauma of being caught,
being transported over long distances and being placed in differing qualities of water over a short
period. This reduces the resistance to diseases, which are continually present under normal
circumstances, but which the fish can fight with its natural immunity. Here are a few of the more
common diseases and their treatments:
Fungus Infections:
This is one of the commonest ailments afflicting tropical fish and is usually caused by the fungus
Saprolegnia which appears like patches of cotton wool on the body and fins. If untreated, the fungus
will soon invade the body tissues and death will ensue. Special treatments for fungus diseases are
available from your dealer and should be used to the manufacturer's instructions.

White Spot:
This is another, fairly common disease, which is caused by the protozoan, Ichthyophthirius.
Symptoms are tiny white spots on the body and fins. The spots may join up in severe infestations. The
fish will rub themselves against surfaces in an attempt to relieve the irritation. Many proprietary
remedies are available, usually based on malachite green, or methylene blue. These should be used to
the manufacturer's instructions.
Fish Lice:
Fish lice are not lice at all, but small Crustacea with the scientific name of Argulus, which attach
themselves to the body usually between the scales. They can be killed by immersing the fish in a
solution of 1 gram per litre of potassium permanganate for about 45 seconds.
Anchor Worm:
Not a worm, but another crustacean parasite, anchor worm (Lernaea), is a long, thin worm-like
creature which attaches itself to the body and fins. It may be removed by bathing the fish in a solution
of common salt (15 grams per litre) for a period of 20 minutes.
There are many other, less common, diseases and parasites which can affect fish and it is impossible
to deal with all in this small book. You should seek advice from your dealer or a veterinarian if you do
not recognize the symptoms of a particular affliction.

5. A Selection of Fish Species

There are many hundreds of tropical, freshwater fish species available to the aquarist and, only a cross
section of the more common, or popular types can be given here. Fish are scientifically categorized
into 'families' depending on similarities and differences between them. Here, we will mention the
more important families and a few examples from each.
The Characins, Characidae: The characins include all of the popular little tetras and related species,
most of which are found in the vast river systems of tropical South America. They are mainly shoaling
fish, and quite small (although exceptions include the infamous piranha) and a group forms an
excellent exhibit in the aquarium. A favorite is the tiny neon tetra, Paracheirodon innesi, reaching just
4cm (1 1/2in) in length. It is metallic blue and red, which shows up well under artificial light. The
closely related, and just as colorful cardinal tetra, Paracheirodon axelrodi is slightly larger. Other
colorful members of the family include the flame tetra, Hyphessobrycon flammeus, the glowlight
tetra, Hemigrammus erythrozonus and the beaconfish, Hemigrammus ocellifer. Most tetras require
soft, slightly acid water (pH 6.5) and are reasonably peaceable in community with other species.

Neon tetras

The Cardinal tetra is a peaceful and active fish and prefers soft, slightly acid (Ph 6.5 or lower) water.
The Cyprinids, Cyprinidae: These are sometimes referred to as the carp family as the common carp
also belongs here. Many of the smaller, tropical species are suitable for the aquarium. They are shoal
or group living fish and should not be kept singly. Groups of six or more, make a fine display. Many
cyprinids show no particular water quality requirements and will live quite happily in a tank set up
with tapwater. There are a few exceptions however and some require soft, slightly acid water if they
are to breed. One of the most well known is the tiger barb, Barbus tetrazona; which grows up to 7cm
(2Kin) and has four, vertical black stripes on a silvery gold background. The tinfoil barb, Barbus
schwanenfeldi, is a much larger fish reaching 30cm (12in). Its silver body and red fins make a group
look fantastic in a large tank. Another little barb which does well in the aquarium is the rosy barb,
Barbus conchonius; this charming little fish is green and metallic red, reaching a length of 10cm (4in).
The danios are another branch of the family and these include the popular little zebra danio,
Brachydanio rerio. This 5cm (2in) species is clothed in a livery of brown and gold, longitudinal stripes
and displays well in large shoals. The larger, giant danio, Danio malabaricus, is suited to smaller
shoals. The rasboras are a well known group within the family and include the harlequin, Rasbora
heteromorpha, a reddish fish, with a hatchet-shaped black patch at its rear end. It reaches 5cm (2in).
The scissortail, Rasbora trilineata, is a larger fish and, as its name suggests, it has an impressive
scissor like tailfin. One of the more solitary members of the family is the red-tailed black shark, Labeo
bicolor. Growing to 15cm (6in), this fish is sooty black with a red tailfin. It is usually kept singly or in
a pair in company with other species. It is an excellent scavenger.

Tiger barb.
Most barbs are active and do not like an overcrowded environment preferring a well aerated

Harlequin fish.
This species prefers soft acid water and a well planted aquarium providing both light and shade.

Red tailed black shark.

The Cichlids, Cichlidae: Another large family of fish with branches in Africa and South America.
Species require different water conditions depending where they come from. Requiring soft, slightly
acid water and coming from South America, we have the well-known angelfish, Pterophyllum scalare.
This 'tall' fish reaches about 12cm (4V$in) in length. It is fairly easy to breed if given the right
conditions. More difficult to keep and breed is the related discus, Symphysodon discus. As its name
suggests, it is a round bodied species. Not recommended for the beginner the discus must have soft,
acid water and a high (27C, 81 F) temperature. A popular and friendly fish, which is not so fussy
about water conditions is the oscar, Astronotus ocellatus. Usually brownish with eye-like markings,
the oscar grows to 30cm (12in). Due to its large size, it cannot be kept with smaller fish, but it makes
a great pet!
Some of the African members of the family Cichlidae, include the colorful and challenging species
from the lakes Malawi, Nyasa and Tanganyika. Most of these species require hard, alkaline water and
include the golden Nyasa cichlid, Melanochromis auratus, growing to 11cm (41/2 in) and being
yellow, with longitudinal black stripes; the lyretail, Lamprologus brichardi, a brown, streamlined fish
with a lyre-shaped tail, reaching 10cm (4in) and found in Lake Tanganyika. A more colorful species
from the same lake is the masked julie, Julidochromis transcriptus. This 10cm (4in) species is yellow,
with black marbling and a vivid blue edging to its long dorsal fin.

The Discus is a difficult fish to keep and requires clean, soft, acid water.

Variegated angelfish.
The angelfish is certainly an aquarium favorite and aquarium breeding has developed many new
color and finnage strains.

The Oscar is a fairly hardy species, and will tolerate a wide variety of conditions, from soft acidic
water, to hard alkaline conditions.

Golden Nyasa cichlid.

The Livebearers, Poeciliidae: The members of this family include what are perhaps the most popular
of all tropical freshwater fish, the guppies, mollies and swordtails. Unlike most fish the pociliids, bear
living young, rather than lay eggs. The guppy, Poecilia reticulata, has many domestic varieties of
color and shape. The males grow to 3cm (1 1/4 in), the females to twice that length. They are very
easy to keep and like most livebearers, prefer hard, alkaline water. The swordtail, Xiphophorus

helleri, is distinguished by the long, sword-like appendage on the lower portion of the male's tail.
Growing to about 10cm (4in), the swordtail, like the guppy, comes in many color varieties, the black
molly, Poecilia sphenops, is an attractive color variety of the species, which also occurs in many other
colors. The sailfin molly, Poecilia latipinna, is famous for the huge erectable dorsal fin of the male,
which he raises when excited. The many members of this family of livebearers are very suitable for

The guppy requires a water quality close to Ph7 (neutral) and a water temperature about 25 C (75

Golden swordtail Only the male has the sword like extension to the caudal fin.

Golden sailfin molly (male)

Golden sailfin molly (female)

The mollies like the guppy swordtail and platy produce living young which are in general much easier
to feed and raise than the young of egg laying fish.

Black variatus platy.

The Egg-laying Tooth Carps, Cyprinodontidae: Closely related to the preceeding family, but egglaying, this group contains some amazingly colorful fish including the American flag fish, Jordanella
floridae. Growing to around 6cm (2 1/2in), this species is marked with red, metallic spots, arranged in
rows along the body. Some of the African members of the family are even more colorful and include
the so called killifish. The lyretailed panchax, Aphyosemion australe, grows to about 6cm (2 1/2in)
and is bright orange, marked with red. There are several other species in the genus. Some live in areas
where the waters dry up in the dry season. The fish lay eggs which survive in the mud but the adults
themselves die.

The American flag fish prefers slightly alkaline water.

Lyretailed panchax.
The Labyrinths, Belontiidae: The labyrinth fishes of southern and eastern Asia are able to respire with
atmospheric oxygen when waters begin to dry up in their native habitat. The famous Siamese fighter,
Betta splendens, is the most well known. The male fish may be vivid red, or blue; with long, flowing
fins. The female is more sombrely colored. The male builds a bubble nest in which to hatch the eggs.
There are several species of gourami in the family. The pearl gourami, Trichogaster leeri, is
beautifully marked in mother-of-pearl colors and grows to about 10cm (4in). Most of the family are
easy to keep and do not require special water conditions other than a temperature of around 25C
There are many other families with just a few species suitable for the aquarium. Many aquarists like to
have one or two catfish in their tanks to act as scavengers. The largest family of catfish is
Callichthyidae which includes the various Corydoras species; they have large scales, giving them an
armored appearance. The bronze-catfish, Corydoras aeneus is bronze colored on the back, pinkish
below and grows to about 7.5cm (3in). The closely related armored catfish, Callichthys callichthys,
has very long feelers and is interesting in that the male builds a bubble-nest and guards the eggs until
they hatch. One of the most popular of all catfish is the pleco, Hypostomus plecostomus, of the family
Loricariidae. It is a mottle brown fish growing to 45cm (18in) but usually remains much smaller in the
aquarium. It is an accomplished algae eater and grazes from the rocks and even the plants, using its
rasping mouthparts.

Siamese Fighting Fish Keep males apart; they will fight.

Pearl Gourami.

The Catfish is a peaceful species and is a useful fish in the aquarium as it scavenges for waste food.