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Anabantoids - an overview

By Mike Hellweg

Actual transcript follows click here to jump down.

 

When I mention the word Anabantoid, I'm sure the first thing that comes to most Aquarist's minds is the group of fishes we know as Gouramis. Some of you might even think of the Siamese Fighting Fish. The name "Bubblenesters' might also come to mind. By the end of this program, I hope you all will be a bit broader minded when it comes to Anabantoids, and might even be encouraged to try your hand at keeping and maybe even breeding some of these wonderful animals.

Let me begin by saying that the following are from my own experiences and research working with and learning about the Anabantoids over the past 3 decades. It's in no way meant to be a scientific treatise, and I don't want to argue the finer points of what is or is not a valid scientific name. I'm stating everything in general terms to make things easier for the audience. This is a hobbyist work presented by a hobbyist to other hobbyists. There are as many ways to do things in this hobby as there are hobbyists. None of them are wrong, and most of them are at least somewhat "right". This is only the way I do things, it works for me. It may or may not work for you. Remember, too, that fish don't read books or listen to talks! : )

I promise I won't get too technical, but some basic science is in order to define the group of animals we'll be talking about. Taxonomically speaking Anabantoids are a suborder of the Order, or group of fishes, collectively known as the Perciformes, or Perch-like fishes. This means they are cousins of the Perch, the Darters, the Cichlids, and the Badids, among others. They are found only in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia from India to as far north as the Korean peninsula. In addition to various anatomical similarities, nearly all of these fishes practice some form of brood care. We'll come back to that a bit later.

One of the main things that separate the Anabantoids from other Perciformes is the presence of an accessory breathing organ, known as the Labyrinth. Thus the Anabantoids are often referred to as "Labyrinth Fish". This organ is a modification of the bone structure behind the gills, covered by a vast network of thin capillaries. It allows the fish to gulp atmospheric air, extract oxygen and release carbon dioxide directly to the air. The Anabantoids have become so dependent on this ability that many species will actually drown if denied access to the air!

One interesting myth that has grown in the aquarium lore about this organ is that the fry must have warm, humid air above the water surface while the labyrinth organ is developing or they will develop pneumonia and die. No one is sure exactly where this myth originated, but it is often repeated in the literature from the 1950's onward. Many scientific studies have been done that have disproved this myth. Countless hobbyists have raised Betta splendens spawns at room temperature with no special provision for the protection of the fry. I have had Paradise fish spawn outdoors in November (in a heated tub pond kept at 65 degrees) and they successfully raised several hundred fry. Nighttime air temperatures often dipped into the low 30's before I moved them indoors. I also had a pair of Trichopsis schalleri (one of the Croaking Gouramis) spawn in a tank that had an occasional current of air from the air conditioner blow across the surface. I raised nearly 200 fry from that spawn in that tank with no problems. Simply stated: This myth is not true!

The Labyrinth organ allows Anabantoids to take advantage of habitats that would be inaccessible to fish that cannot utilize atmospheric oxygen due to the low dissolved oxygen content of the water. They are often found in swamps, roadside ditches, rice paddies, shallow ponds, puddles and even in damp leaf litter on the forest floor! Larger species are often stocked into rice paddies along with the rice, and are harvested right along with the rice at the end of the growing season.

Larger species are prized as food and are often found in market stalls crammed into jars, buckets, or even wrapped in wet leaves - still very much alive! While this may seem cruel in our eyes, they form an important source of protein in the local diet, and have been brought to market in this same way for thousands of years. The fishes' ability to live under these conditions is a testament to their hardiness! They can be kept in buckets, tubs or jars until the family is ready to cook them, and so provide a fresh, safe source of meat for the family diet. It may be the only safe meat they get. Anyone who has visited the other meat vendors' stalls in an open-air market can attest to the questionable quality of the meats that are offered (not to mention the flies and the stench!). Fresh fish is a welcome change!

Now that we know a little about the fish, let's discuss their needs in captivity.

Anabantoids will do well in most commercially available tanks and can live out their entire lives, even spawning and raising a brood of fry in that same tank. Even though they will survive in small aquaria, don't keep them in small, cramped tanks. Give them room to exhibit their natural behavior, and gear the size of the tank to the adult size of the fish. Smaller Anabantoids can be kept in tanks as small as 5 -; 10 gallons, with medium sized Anabantoids doing better in 20 – 30 gallon tanks. Medium to large Anabantoids should be kept in 55 – 75 gallon tanks, and truly giant species should really be kept in super tanks or indoor ponds. Planted tanks are best, with some floating plants to provide security and a place for the bubble nest builders to build their nests. Most Anabantoids can be kept in community tanks, and are often the "star attraction" of such tanks with their bright colors and "friendly" behavior toward the hobbyist. Just make sure that the fishes in the community are similar in size, or the Anabantoids will take advantage of your generosity and eat the live food that you provided for them!

Most Anabantoids do well in small groups, generally with one male and a few females. Males of many species will scrap amongst themselves, but if enough room is given, little harm will be done. If there isn't enough room, you might find that one dominant fish kills all of the other fish of their sex in the tank. With enough room, you'll see behavior similar to what happens in the wild. The dominant fish will threaten the other fish, which will take on submissive coloration and behavior and move off with no harm done. No matter the size of the tank, I try to provide several "caves" made from flowerpots laid on their sides or pieces of PVC pipe – with openings facing in different directions. My rule of thumb is to have more "caves" than there are fish, so every fish feels comfortable and has a place to rush to hide if it feels threatened.

Anabantoids are GENERALLY warm water fish that do best with water temperatures close to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. There are some notable exceptions, which I'll mention below when I talk about the individual groups of fish. Most species will do just fine at normal tropical fish maintenance temperatures of 76- 78 degrees Fahrenheit, though they will need warmer water if you want them to breed.

Feeding Anabantoids is not a problem. Even wild caught fish of most species will take flake foods within a few days. Standard size pellet foods work well as a staple diet for larger species, while micro pellets will work for all but a few species. Don't feed them a diet of the same foods every day, though. Mix it up to give them variety and provide them with all of the nutrients they need. Many Gouramis, especially the Trichogaster species and the Kissers, like to have some vegetable matter in their diets. I give them Spirulina based flakes, and they love Duckweed (Lemna sp.) too. Most Anabantoids love meaty foods, and will eat frozen and freeze dried foods with gusto. I thaw and rinse frozen foods in a separate container before feeding the tank. Others just drop the frozen chunks right into the tank and let them thaw in there as the fish pick at them. Both methods work equally well.

If you can provide them with an occasional meal of live foods, so much the better. Live worms make excellent foods for Anabantoids. Make sure you size the worms to the fish, though! Even a small fish will try to tackle a large worm, but it would be better to offer them a bite-sized meal! I feed live black worms to my fish at least once or twice a week. Smaller fish like Licorice Gouramis will get Grindal Worms, while larger fish like some of the Bushfish will get Red Worms. Pinhead crickets are also great food for medium sized Anabantoids like the Trichogaster species, and the larger Kissing Gouramis and True Gouramis greedily eat larger crickets and mealworms. Only the Pike Gouramis of the genus Luciocephalus seem to require live fish on a regular basis. Make sure the feeder fish are healthy and free of disease, and feed them well before feeding them to the Pikes.

There is no one "best" filter for an Anabantoid tank. Any type of filter will work just fine with the Anabantoids, though there are a few things to keep in mind when you are setting up your system. Gear your filter to the type of fish you want to keep. First of all, you'll want to remember that many Anabantoids are large-bodied fish and will produce a larger amount of waste than a thinner bodied fish of similar length. Secondly, many Anabantoids need a calm surface area to spawn, so you'll want at least a certain amount of the surface to be turbulence free. You'll also want to remember that most (though not all) Anabantoids don't like the strong current of many power filters. Undergravel filters often inhibit live plant growth. And sponge and box filters provide a lot of turbulence at the surface. Canister filters are often the filter of choice for planted tanks, and will serve you well in a nice planted community tank stocked with Anabantoids and other fish, but they are expensive to buy – often costing as much as the rest of the system combined! So what is a hobbyist to do?

Use whatever filter you will be able to easily and regularly maintain. Every hobbyist will have his or her own preference that develops over time as they build experience. Most of us have several old filters we don't use anymore for one reason or another. Just remember that if you won't maintain it or it's too difficult to maintain, even the most expensive filter will rapidly become useless to your fish. Personally, I use sponge filters. I cover the surface with Water Sprite so that a large area is calm. I rinse the sponges once every other week, and rotate airstones every couple of months.

As for water, most of the water sources in the US are local rivers, springs or impoundments. Generally, with the exception of folks who have "liquid rock", the water is fine for keeping fish IF it's fit to drink. Even "liquid rock" is fine for keeping fish, but won't work if you want to get them to breed. If you are unlucky enough to have liquid rock, I can emphasize with you. I had it for several years. I was still successful with breeding soft water fish, but it was a lot more work.

Let's talk about water parameters in general. This is often the most controversial thing that I mention when I do a talk on fish. We are often told to monitor and even change pH, ammonia, hardness, etc., but are not told why or what these parameters mean. We often hear you have to keep this fish in soft, acid water or that one in hard, alkaline water, but what does that really mean? And how do you do it? Very few hobbyists are chemists, and even fewer actually understand what playing around with all of these parameters can do in an aquarium.

Let me preface this by saying I've been keeping and breeding fish since the early 1970's, and have done so in different homes with very different water parameters and have had vastly different levels of success depending on methods that I've used. I've not just worked with and bred a few varieties of fish, either, but with over 150 species from about 20 families just in the last dozen or so years since I've been active in my club's Breeder's Award Program, and many more before that. Many of those (70+ species) have been Tetras, Rasboras, Anabantoids, and other fish that are considered "difficult" to breed, so I do have some basis for what I'm about to say. I'm not trying to brag, but to let you know that I do know what I'm talking about and can prove it by what I've been able to do with it. I've also talked to a lot of other successful long-time hobbyists over the years, and have found most of them agree with this philosophy, too. You'll not find it in too many books nor will you hear about it in most shops – I'm not sure exactly why. I have developed this basic philosophy: let the fish adapt to your water, don't try to adapt your water to the fish.

Why do I speak this "heresy"? Because nearly all freshwater fishes are remarkably adaptable animals. In the wild, a fish might experience a temperature fluctuation of more than 20 degrees in a short time when their hot riverside puddle is suddenly flushed with torrential rainwater. In a similar way they might also experience a sudden change in hardness, salinity or pH. This might stun them or stress them temporarily, but a healthy fish won't suffer long term harm from these changes. In many species, these very changes are the trigger for spawning! In addition, many species are found in several streams separated by many miles and flowing over vastly different terrain. Most areas in the Tropics are subject to huge seasonal fluctuations in water parameters. In Southeast Asia, where many of our most popular Anabantoids come from, they might be found in an acid water swamp in one area, and a few miles away might be in a hard water limestone pond. With a few exceptions, they can't just get up and leave the water they find themselves in, they have to adapt. In general, fishes that are found in the softest, most acid water in the wild are the most adaptable, while those found in harder, more alkaline water are less adaptable, and those found in marine water are the least adaptable of all.

Again without getting too scientific, the main reason fish can't take changes in captivity is due to the fact that stresses due to crowding and poor water quality have weakened them. Dissolved organic matter (uneaten food, waste products, rotting plant matter, etc.) combines with the "end product" of bacterial activity (nitrate) and slowly poisons the fish. The water may be perfectly clear, but testing would show a high dissolved solids content, a slowly dropping pH, and a nitrate reading that is off the scale. THAT is the reason for frequent testing. When you start to see these changes, you should change the water. The water would appear yellow to the eye. I have seen some tanks that were reading over 500 ppm of nitrate AFTER a 50% water change with tap water that had no nitrate content! This often is the opening that many disease organisms need to take advantage of the fish and make them ill. This weakens the fish further, then, when there finally is a change in water parameters, the further stress placed on the fish kills it. But if you are doing regular filter maintenance and regular large water changes you won't need to monitor water parameters.

Test when you first set up the tank so you know what your water parameters are. Test the water parameters of new fish so you know how long to let them adapt to your water, and slowly drip your water (in your quarantine tank) into their bag or bucket. Remember that changes from harder to softer water are more stressful on the fish and should be done more slowly, and you'll be fine. Also remember, the reagents in test kits degrade over time. If you have old test kits, throw them away.

If you stock lightly and do regular water changes with your own tap water, you will limit the stress placed on the fish by poor water quality and crowding. pH and hardness would be of secondary importance. If you were not trying to get the fish to breed, they would be totally unimportant. One key to success, not only with Anabantoids, but also with all fish, is to do large, regular water changes. Since you are not having to monkey with the water parameters first, you will be more apt to do regular water changes instead of just doing them when the fish are visibly distressed – when it's often too late!

Anyway, the point of all of this is to say that with a few exceptions for breeding, most Anabantoids will do just fine in your local tap water for their entire lives. I know, it's a long way to make a short point, but I thought I should go through my reasoning as to why I'm saying it. : )

Now, let's talk about the fish.

First, let's briefly cover the groups of Anabantoids that hobbyists are less likely to encounter.

First there is the Anabantidae, with the genera Anabas (the Climbing Perch), Ctenopoma and Microctenopoma (the Bushfish). These are generally heavy-bodied large predatory fish that are not too often seen in aquaria. The Anabas and Ctenopoma are generally considered food fishes in their native lands. Most are large, and are various shades of brown and gray. They eat anything that will fit in their mouths. Some are a bit scrappy with other fish in their tanks, while others ignore anything that won't fit in their mouths. They are rarely kept in aquaria, and are not much sought after except by advanced hobbyists looking for a challenge. Most will not reach maturity for a couple to several years. Mature fish will spawn readily, often when a storm front comes through. The eggs of most species float, and no nest is made. Fry are able to eat newly hatched brine shrimp once they are free swimming. Anabas species are banned in many southern States due to their prolific nature and their much overblown ability to move from one water body to another by "walking" with spines in their gill covers.

The Microctenopoma are often found in aquaria. They are generally smaller versions of the Ctenopoma, and some scientists still lump them into Ctenopoma. Some are attractively patterned, and most do well in standard community tanks. They prefer meaty foods and love frozen bloodworms. They are "hidden spawners", with the male building a small bubble nest in some hidden nook, often in a cave. Fry are generally small and need infusoria for a few days before they can take baby brine shrimp.

Next, we find the Belontiidae, the Combtail Gouramis of the genus Belontia. These are rarely found in aquaria, though they are often very attractive. The males and females often display bright rust to orange coloration with metallic blue highlights, and the unpaired fins sport long extensions. The extensions on the tail look like the teeth of a comb, hence the common name. Sadly, these beautiful fish grow up to 6" or so and are rather aggressive, both with other Combtails and with other fish. In general, they need a large, well-planted species tank to do their best. They might do well with larger Barbs and Rasboras, and might possibly do well with some Cichlids, but the other fish should be able to take care of themselves or have enough room to swim away! They spawn at the surface, sometimes with and sometimes without a nest. The eggs are free floating. The male often takes the eggs into his mouth and moves them to another area. Fry can be fed infusoria for a few days, then will take baby brine. Due to the number of eggs (more than 5000), a large number of fry will be lost to starvation unless a lot of food is present. It is best to remove some of the eggs to another tank to hatch and feed and leave the rest to their fate in the main tank.

The next group is the Helostomatidae, the Kissing Gouramis of the genus Helostoma. These fish are often kept at a small size for their interesting display of "kissing" one another. This is a behavior that is little understood and endearing to the hobbyist until he/she learns that their cute little Kisser will quickly grow into a 10 – 12" monster, even in a small tank! These are a popular food fish in their native land, and are often cultured in ponds on small farms. Interestingly, they are fed pig droppings as a staple diet, and they grow very quickly on this food (though I can't imagine what this makes them taste like!). They take a few years to reach maturity and require a large tank (6' or larger) to do well. They lay up to 10,000 floating eggs and provide no parental care. The fry need infusoria for a week or so, and will then do well and grow quickly on live baby brine shrimp. Again, if you are lucky enough to get them to spawn for you, remove a few eggs to raise in another tank, and leave the rest to their fate. There is no point in trying to raise that many fry!

Now we come to a rare and little kept group of predators, Luciocephalidae, the Pike Gouramis. There is almost no information on the husbandry of these 6 – 8" fish except that they are piscivores – which means they eat fish! I have never seen them for sale, and have only recently seen photos of living fish, so I won't really comment on them further.

The last small group of Anabantoids is Osphronemidae, the True or Giant Gouramis. These animals can live for 20 years or more and reach a size of 30". They are considered an excellent food animal. While they are often seen for sale at a size of 2 – 3", I can't really recommend them for the average hobbyist's tank. You would need at least a 300 to 1000 gallon tank or a good sized, deep pond to give them a real home. Why keep an animal that you can't provide a home for when it reaches maturity? Don't expect the shop to take it back, another hobbyist to take it, or a local zoo or public aquarium to take it either – they won't! I won't comment further on this group of fishes, either.

Now we have the group of Anabantoids we are all most familiar with: The Gouramis and the Bettas. They belong to the largest two sub-families of Anabantoids, the Trichogasterinae and the Macropodinae, respectively. Nearly all of the fish you will encounter in the hobby will be in one of these two groups. There are enough species in these two groups to keep even an advanced hobbyist busy for many years, yet many of these fish are among those recommended for the beginner's first tank! Many of them are very colorful. Some have been selectively bred to many different color variants. Some are very easy to get to breed, others are challenging even for advanced hobbyists with years of experience. Some are very peaceful. Some are very aggressive amongst themselves but do just great with other fishes, others make you wonder how they even get together to breed in the wild they are so aggressive!

They exhibit fascinating breeding behavior. Some fishes build large, elaborate nests, even weaving in plant leaves. Others build tiny, hidden nests. Yet others build no nest at all. Still others are paternal (the father carries the eggs) mouthbrooders. And still others are maternal mouthbrooders. And finally, some species build nests sometimes, are mouthbrooders other times, and are generally confusing to everyone! Some species have even yet to be bred by hobbyists, and even today some have not yet been available in the hobby!

First we have the Gouramis: Trichogaster (Three spot and it's color variants, Snakeskin, Moonlight, and Pearl); Colisa (Dwarf, Honey, Thicklip, and "Giant" or Banded), Parasphaerichthys (False Chocolate) and Spaerichthys (4 species of Chocolate Gouramis).

Trichogaster Gouramis all grow fairly large (4 – 8") and are a bit scrappy when full-grown. They will do well in community tanks of appropriate sized fish. They build large bubble nests and lay many eggs. 1000 or more is not uncommon for an adult female. The fry need infusoria for a week or more then will take live baby brine shrimp or vinegar eels.

Colisa Gouramis are small to medium sized fish (1-1/2" to 3") that are peaceful and do well in community tanks. Mature males will scrap amongst themselves, so it's best to keep just one male to a tank. They build HUGE nests, up to nearly a foot across and a couple inches high, and weave bits of plant matter into the structure. The nest may last long after the fry have moved on. Some males will spawn with more than one female in the same nest. Fry hatch in about 12 hours, and are very small when first free swimming. They need green water for a few days, then infusoria for a week up to two weeks, and then live baby brine.

Paraspaerichthys Gouramis are very uncommon in the hobby. I have only seen them once. Some reports have them being a mouth brooder, others have them building a small nest. I don't know, I've never had breeding success with them.

Sphaerichthys Gouramis are seldom seen for sale. There is somewhat of a mystical quality about them. I could (and did, TFH, November 2000) write a long article about them. I won't go into detail here. These small (1-1/2" to 2-1/2") Gouramis are reputed to be hard to keep, and I found that the case in the past. But recently I have had much success with keeping them. They are maternal mouthbrooders and once mature are fairly easy to induce to spawn. The trick is to keep them long enough for them to reach maturity! In the past, I followed the limited literature and kept them at pH of 4.0 – 5.0, 0 carbonates and a temperature of 90 degrees to get a spawning. I found them to be VERY aggressive amongst themselves at this temperature, and do not recommend these water parameters to anyone – the water has no buffering capacity, biological activity is virtually nil in the filter, and the water can crash very quickly. Recently, keeping them in normal tap water (pH 7.0 – 7.2, total hardness of 125 ppm, mostly from carbonates) and at a slightly elevated temperature (82 degrees) was enough to induce them to successfully spawn – with much less aggression!

Now we move to the largest grouping of Anabantoids, the Macropodinae. They are all elongated fish with torpedo-like bodies. This group includes the Bettas (40 – 60 species, depending on the author); Ctenops (1 species); Macropodus (4 or 5 species); Malpulutta (1 species); Parosphromenus (a dozen or so species); Pseudosphronemus (2 species) and Trichopsis (3 or more species).

Ctenops is the Noble Gourami. It is rarely seen in the hobby, and can be a bit touchy if kept in "dirty" water. I have not had success with spawning them yet, and have heard that they are a mouthbrooder. I can't verify that, though.

Macropodus is the group of Paradisefish. These are mostly temperate water fishes found as far north as the Korean peninsula that can take very cool water temperatures. They are somewhat aggressive, though can easily be kept with most common community fishes. Males are more colorful than females and have longer and more fin extensions, but both males and females are beautiful and well worth the fuss – just don't keep them with Angels or fancy guppies and you'll not have any trouble. They spawn easily, and produce many fry. Some fry can take live baby brine as a first food, but you are better off at least starting them with infusoria for a few days first.

Malpulutta kretseri is a beautiful, very, very rare fish found only on Sri Lanka, where it is endangered due to habitat destruction. It is easy to spawn, and produces a few dozen fry that will take infusoria for a few days and then live baby brine shrimp. One problem is that spawns are frequently nearly all one sex or the other. While probably temperature related, I don't know for sure.

Parosphronemus are the Licorice Gouramis. I'm not sure why the earned this moniker! It might have something to do with the black stripes on them, but I don't know for sure. What I do know is that they are beautiful. These tiny fish often come in with Velvet infections and losses are high unless they are treated right away. This gives them the reputation of being very delicate, but that is not true. It also causes the prices to be uncommonly high! Once the Velvet is gone, they are very hardy and long-lived. They do require very small live foods as most of them don't reach an inch when full grown! They do best in small groups in species tanks. I prefer to feed them Grindal worms and live baby brine shrimp. I have had some take micro pellets, but most ignore anything that isn't moving. They seem to do better in cooler water, and I have had breeding success only in aquaria that were in the low to mid 70's. They spend a lot of time hiding in the plants, and build a secret nest under the leaves of plants or in a cave. A dozen to 20 fry would be a good spawn. The fry will take infusoria for a few days, followed by live baby brine. Most of the time, though, by the time you notice the fry they are already eating the same food as the adults. Due to the small brood size, they have found enough micro fauna to graze on for the first few days! The parents don't seem to be too interested in the fry, and they can be raised in the tank with the adults.

Pseudosphronemus are the Spiketail Gouramis. They are similar to the Licorice Gouramis in behavior and care, but grow larger (to 2") and can be kept in community tanks. Spawns of 50 – 70 are common, and fry are large enough for live baby brine.

Trichopsis are the Croaking Gouramis. There are two, three or more species, depending on what authority you consult. They are all smallish, and one species (the Pygmy or Sparkling Gourami) can be considered one of if not the smallest species of Gourami. They all build secretive nests below the surface, taking advantage of whatever decoration might suit their needs. Spawns of 20 are common, though the largest species, The Croaking Gourami, can lay more than 100 eggs. Fry need infusoria for a week or so, then baby brine.

Finally we come to the largest single genera – the Bettas. Incidentally, I'll throw in on the side that it is pronounced Bet – tuh, not BAY-TA. Sorry, but it's a pet peeve of mine. The name is derived from a local Thai name for one of the species – Ikan bettah; not BETA, which is the second letter of the Greek alphabet. My two cents.

Anyway, when you hear the name Betta you might instantly think of the Siamese Fighting Fish, but that is only one of up to 60 species. Interestingly, most of the known species of Betta are not nest builders, but rather are mouth brooders! There are so many different species that hobbyists have divided them into several species groups to make it easier to understand their varied needs. Many species are small, but some Bettas can reach up to 6' or so! They are found all over, from lowland swamps to mountain streams, and many species are found in only a small area -perhaps only a single stream. Some species spend their entire lives hiding in the leaf litter, while others spend their time in open waters. Some build large bubble nests, while others build very small nests. The females of the mouthbrooding species are often more aggressive than the males, and multiple brooding males can be seen hiding in the same cave! All of the eggs that I have seen so far, from both small and large species, both bubble nesters and mouthbrooders, look very similar! They remind me of small, flat whitish balls, like a basketball without any air in it. And they are all about the same size. I'm not saying this is so for all species, but I found it an interesting similarity in the 15 or so species I've seen spawn so far.

Also, in general, the mouthbrooders seem to prefer cooler water than the nest builders. I've had them spawn in water that was in the upper 60's, and stop spawning at all in water that was more "Betta like" in the low 80's. Young mouthbrooders also seem to generally be much larger and able to take baby brine shrimp upon release, while most young bubble nesters need at least a few days of infusoria before they are ready to take baby brine. However, some domestic Betta splendens strains will take baby brine as a first food.

And that brings us to the end of this "talk" on Anabantoids. I hope you might want to learn more. There are many excellent books out there on the group, though most are long out of print. Some of the best that you can easily find still in print are Bettas by Bob Goldstein which covers many of the species in the genus in detail, and Gouramis and Other Labyrinth Fishes by Gary Elson and Oliver Lucanus. Both are published by Barrons and are available through most bookstores.

I know I covered a lot in a short time. Are there any questions?

transcript

  • [20:05 09/07/2004] <@craig> Good evening everyone, welcome to this weeks Live! Fishchat!
  • [20:05 09/07/2004] <@craig> Tonights speaker is Mike Hellweg, his topic: Anabantoids.
  • [20:05 09/07/2004] <@craig> Mike, when ever you are ready, take it away!
  • [20:06 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Okay. This is basically the same talk I've given to a half dozen or so clubs over the years - you guys just don't get the slide show.
  • [20:06 09/07/2004] <+Mike> When I mention the word Anabantoid, I'm sure the first thing that comes to most Aquarist's minds is the group of fishes we know as Gouramis. Some of you might even think of the Siamese Fighting Fish. The name 'Bubblenesters' might also come to mind. By the end of this program, I hope you all will be a bit broader minded when it comes to Anabantoids, and might even be encouraged to try your hand at keeping and maybe even breeding some o
  • [20:13 09/07/2004] <+Mike> The Labyrinth organ allows Anabantoids to take advantage of habitats that would be inaccessible to fish that cannot utilize atmospheric oxygen due to the low dissolved oxygen content of the water. They are often found in swamps, roadside ditches, rice paddies, shallow ponds, puddles and even in damp leaf litter on the forest floor! Larger species are often stocked into rice paddies along with the rice, and are harvested right along with the rice at the
  • [20:14 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Larger species are prized as food and are often found in market stalls crammed into jars, buckets, or even wrapped in wet leaves - still very much alive! While this may seem cruel in our eyes, they form an important source of protein in the local diet, and have been brought to market in this same way for thousands of years. The fishes' ability to live under these conditions is a testament to their hardiness!
  • [20:14 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Larger species are prized as food and are often found in market stalls crammed into jars, buckets, or even wrapped in wet leaves - still very much alive! While this may seem cruel in our eyes, they form an important source of protein in the local diet, and have been brought to market in this same way for thousands of years. The fishes' ability to live under these conditions is a testament to their hardiness!
  • [20:15 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Now that we know a little about the fish, let's discuss their needs in captivity.
  • [20:15 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Anabantoids will do well in most commercially available tanks and can live out their entire lives, even spawning and raising a brood of fry in that same tank. Even though they will survive in small aquaria, don't keep them in small, cramped tanks. Give them room to exhibit their natural behavior, and gear the size of the tank to the adult size of the fish.
  • [20:16 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Smaller Anabantoids can be kept in tanks as small as 5 - 10 gallons, with medium sized Anabantoids doing better in 20 - 30 gallon tanks. Medium to large Anabantoids should be kept in 55 - 75 gallon tanks, and truly giant species should really be kept in super tanks or indoor ponds. Planted tanks are best, with some floating plants to provide security and a place for the bubble nest builders to build their nests.
  • [20:17 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Most Anabantoids can be kept in community tanks, and are often the 'star attraction' of such tanks with their bright colors and 'friendly' behavior toward the hobbyist. Just make sure that the fishes in the community are similar in size, or the Anabantoids will take advantage of your generosity and eat the live food that you provided for them!
  • [20:17 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Most Anabantoids do well in small groups, generally with one male and a few females. Males of many species will scrap amongst themselves, but if enough room is given, little harm will be done. If there isn't enough room, you might find that one dominant fish kills all of the other fish of their sex in the tank. With enough room, you'll see behavior similar to what happens in the wild
  • [20:18 09/07/2004] <+Mike> The dominant fish will threaten the other fish, which will take on submissive coloration and behavior and move off with no harm done. No matter the size of the tank, I try to provide several 'caves' made from flowerpots laid on their sides or pieces of PVC pipe - with openings facing in different directions. My rule of thumb is to have more 'caves' than there are fish, so every fish feels comfortable and has a place to rush to hide
  • [20:19 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Anabantoids are GENERALLY warm water fish that do best with water temperatures close to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. There are some notable exceptions, which I'll mention below when I talk about the individual groups of fish. Most species will do just fine at normal tropical fish maintenance temperatures of 76 - 78 degrees Fahrenheit, though they will need warmer water if you want them to breed.
  • [20:19 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Feeding Anabantoids is not a problem. Even wild caught fish of most species will take flake foods within a few days. Standard size pellet foods work well as a staple diet for larger species, while micro pellets will work for all but a few species. Don't feed them a diet of the same foods every day, though. Mix it up to give them variety and provide them with all of the nutrients they need.
  • [20:20 09/07/2004] <+Mike> If you can provide them with an occasional meal of live foods, so much the better. Live worms make excellent foods for Anabantoids. Make sure you size the worms to the fish, though! Even a small fish will try to tackle a large worm, but it would be better to offer them a bite-sized meal! I feed live black worms to my fish at least once or twice a week.
  • [20:21 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Smaller fish like Licorice Gouramis will get Grindal Worms, while larger fish like some of the Bushfish will get Red Worms. Pinhead crickets are also great food for medium sized Anabantoids like the Trichogaster species, and the larger Kissing Gouramis and True Gouramis greedily eat larger crickets and mealworms.
  • [20:22 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Only the Pike Gouramis of the genus Luciocephalus seem to require live fish on a regular basis. Make sure the feeder fish are healthy and free of disease, and feed them well before feeding them to the Pikes.
  • [20:22 09/07/2004] <+Mike> There is no one 'best' filter for an Anabantoid tank. Any type of filter will work just fine with the Anabantoids, though there are a few things to keep in mind when you are setting up your system. Gear your filter to the type of fish you want to keep.
  • [20:23 09/07/2004] <+Mike> First of all, you'll want to remember that many Anabantoids are large-bodied fish and will produce a larger amount of waste than a thinner bodied fish of similar length. Secondly, many Anabantoids need a calm surface area to spawn, so you'll want at least a certain amount of the surface to be turbulence free.
  • [20:24 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Use whatever filter you will be able to easily and regularly maintain. Every hobbyist will have his or her own preference that develops over time as they build experience. Most of us have several old filters we don't use anymore for one reason or another. Just remember that if you won't maintain it or it's too difficult to maintain, even the most expensive filter will rapidly become useless to your fish.
  • [20:24 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Personally, I use sponge filters. I cover the surface with Water Sprite so that a large area is calm. I rinse the sponges once every other week, and rotate airstones every couple of months.
  • [20:25 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Let's talk about water parameters in general. This is often the most controversial thing that I mention when I do a talk on fish. We are often told to monitor and even change pH, ammonia, hardness, etc., but are not told why or what these parameters mean. We often hear you have to keep this fish in soft, acid water or that one in hard, alkaline water, but what does that really mean? And how do you do it?
  • [20:26 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Very few hobbyists are chemists, and even fewer actually understand what playing around with all of these parameters can do in an aquarium.
  • [20:27 09/07/2004] <+Mike> . Many of those (70+ species) have been Tetras, Rasboras, Anabantoids, and other fish that are considered 'difficult' to breed, so I do have some basis for what I'm about to say. I'm not trying to brag, but to let you know that I do know what I'm talking about and can prove it by what I've been able to do with it.
  • [20:27 09/07/2004] <+Mike> I've also talked to a lot of other successful long-time hobbyists over the years, and have found most of them agree with this philosophy, too. You'll not find it in too many books nor will you hear about it in most shops - I'm not sure exactly why.
  • [20:28 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Okay, now that I've set it up, here goes:
  • [20:28 09/07/2004] <+Mike> I have developed this basic philosophy: let the fish adapt to your water, don't try to adapt your water to the fish.
  • [20:28 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Why do I speak this 'heresy'?
  • [20:29 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Because nearly all freshwater fishes are remarkably adaptable animals. In the wild, a fish might experience a temperature fluctuation of more than 20 degrees in a short time when their hot riverside puddle is suddenly flushed with torrential rainwater.
  • [20:29 09/07/2004] <+Mike> In a similar way they might also experience a sudden change in hardness, salinity or pH. This might stun them or stress them temporarily, but a healthy fish won't suffer long term harm from these changes. In many species, these very changes are the trigger for spawning!
  • [20:30 09/07/2004] <+Mike> In addition, many species are found in several streams separated by many miles and flowing over vastly different terrain. Most areas in the Tropics are subject to huge seasonal fluctuations in water parameters.
  • [20:30 09/07/2004] <+Mike> In Southeast Asia, where many of our most popular Anabantoids come from, they might be found in an acid water swamp in one area, and a few miles away might be in a hard water limestone pond. With a few exceptions, they can't just get up and leave the water they find themselves in, they have to adapt.
  • [20:31 09/07/2004] <+Mike> In general, fishes that are found in the softest, most acid water in the wild are the most adaptable, while those found in harder, more alkaline water are less adaptable, and those found in marine water are the least adaptable of all.
  • [20:31 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Again without getting too scientific, the main reason fish can't take changes in captivity is due to the fact that stresses due to crowding and poor water quality have weakened them.
  • [20:32 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Dissolved organic matter (uneaten food, waste products, rotting plant matter, etc.) combines with the 'end product' of bacterial activity (nitrate) and slowly poisons the fish. The water may be perfectly clear, but testing would show a high dissolved solids content, a slowly dropping pH, and a nitrate reading that is off the scale.
  • [20:32 09/07/2004] <+Mike> THAT is the reason for frequent testing. When you start to see these changes, you should change the water. The water would appear yellow to the eye. I have seen some tanks that were reading over 500 ppm of nitrate AFTER a 50% water change with tap water that had no nitrate content!
  • [20:33 09/07/2004] <+Mike> This often is the opening that many disease organisms need to take advantage of the fish and make them ill. This weakens the fish further, then, when there finally is a change in water parameters, the further stress placed on the fish kills it. But if you are doing regular filter maintenance and regular large water changes you won't need to monitor water parameters.
  • [20:34 09/07/2004] <+Mike> If you stock lightly and do regular water changes with your own tap water, you will limit the stress placed on the fish by poor water quality and crowding. pH and hardness would be of secondary importance. If you were not trying to get the fish to breed, they would be totally unimportant.
  • [20:35 09/07/2004] <+Mike> One key to success, not only with Anabantoids, but also with all fish, is to do large, regular water changes. Since you are not having to monkey with the water parameters first, you will be more apt to do regular water changes instead of just doing them when the fish are visibly distressed - when it's often too late!
  • [20:35 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Anyway, the point of all of this is to say that with a few exceptions for breeding, most Anabantoids will do just fine in your local tap water for their entire lives. I know, it's a long way to make a short point, but I thought I should go through my reasoning as to why I'm saying it. : )
  • [20:35 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Now, let's talk about the fish.
  • [20:36 09/07/2004] <+Mike> First, let's briefly cover the groups of Anabantoids that hobbyists are less likely to encounter.
  • [20:36 09/07/2004] <+Mike> First there is the Anabantidae, with the genera Anabas (the Climbing Perch), Ctenopoma and Microctenopoma (the Bushfish). These are generally heavy-bodied large predatory fish that are not too often seen in aquaria. The Anabas and Ctenopoma are generally considered food fishes in their native lands. Most are large, and are various shades of brown and gray.
  • [20:37 09/07/2004] <+Mike> They eat anything that will fit in their mouths. Some are a bit scrappy with other fish in their tanks, while others ignore anything that won't fit in their mouths. They are rarely kept in aquaria, and are not much sought after except by advanced hobbyists looking for a challenge.
  • [20:37 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Most will not reach maturity for a couple to several years. Mature fish will spawn readily, often when a storm front comes through. The eggs of most species float, and no nest is made. Fry are able to eat newly hatched brine shrimp once they are free swimming.
  • [20:37 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Anabas species are banned in many southern States due to their prolific nature and their much overblown ability to move from one water body to another by 'walking' with spines in their gill covers.
  • [20:38 09/07/2004] <+Mike> The Microctenopoma are often found in aquaria. They are generally smaller versions of the Ctenopoma, and some scientists still lump them into Ctenopoma. Some are attractively patterned, and most do well in standard community tanks.
  • [20:39 09/07/2004] <+Mike> They prefer meaty foods and love frozen bloodworms. They are 'hidden spawners', with the male building a small bubble nest in some hidden nook, often in a cave. Fry are generally small and need infusoria for a few days before they can take baby brine shrimp.
  • [20:39 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Next, we find the Belontiidae, the Combtail Gouramis of the genus Belontia. These are rarely found in aquaria, though they are often very attractive. The males and females often display bright rust to orange coloration with metallic blue highlights, and the unpaired fins sport long extensions. The extensions on the tail look like the teeth of a comb, hence the common name.
  • [20:40 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Sadly, these beautiful fish grow up to 6' or so and are rather aggressive, both with other Combtails and with other fish. In general, they need a large, well-planted species tank to do their best. They might do well with larger Barbs and Rasboras, and might possibly do well with some Cichlids, but the other fish should be able to take care of themselves or have enough room to swim away!
  • [20:41 09/07/2004] <+Mike> The next group is the Helostomatidae, the Kissing Gouramis of the genus Helostoma. These fish are often kept at a small size for their interesting display of 'kissing' one another. This is a behavior that is little understood and endearing to the hobbyist until he/she learns that their cute little Kisser will quickly grow into a 10 - 12' monster, even in a small tank!
  • [20:41 09/07/2004] <+Mike> These are a popular food fish in their native land, and are often cultured in ponds on small farms. Interestingly, they are fed pig droppings as a staple diet, and they grow very quickly on this food (though I can't imagine what this makes them taste like!).
  • [20:42 09/07/2004] <+Mike> They take a few years to reach maturity and require a large tank (6' or larger) to do well. They lay up to 10,000 floating eggs and provide no parental care. The fry need infusoria for a week or so, and will then do well and grow quickly on live baby brine shrimp. Again, if you are lucky enough to get them to spawn for you, remove a few eggs to raise in another tank, and leave the rest to their fate. There is no point in trying to raise that many
  • [20:43 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Now we come to a rare and little kept group of predators, Luciocephalidae, the Pike Gouramis. There is almost no information on the husbandry of these 6 - 8' fish except that they are piscivores - which means they eat fish! I have never seen them for sale, and have only recently seen photos of living fish, so I won't really comment on them further.
  • [20:43 09/07/2004] <+Mike> The last small group of Anabantoids is Osphronemidae, the True or Giant Gouramis. These animals can live for 20 years or more and reach a size of 30'. They are considered an excellent food animal. While they are often seen for sale at a size of 2 - 3', I can't really recommend them for the average hobbyist's tank. You would need at least a 300 to 1000 gallon tank or a good sized, deep pond to give them a real home.
  • [20:44 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Why keep an animal that you can't provide a home for when it reaches maturity? Don't expect the shop to take it back, another hobbyist to take it, or a local zoo or public aquarium to take it either - they won't! I won't comment further on this group of fishes, either.
  • [20:44 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Now we have the group of Anabantoids we are all most familiar with: The Gouramis and the Bettas. They belong to the largest two sub-families of Anabantoids, the Trichogasterinae and the Macropodinae, respectively. Nearly all of the fish you will encounter in the hobby will be in one of these two groups.
  • [20:45 09/07/2004] <+Mike> There are enough species in these two groups to keep even an advanced hobbyist busy for many years, yet many of these fish are among those recommended for the beginner's first tank! Many of them are very colorful. Some have been selectively bred to many different color variants.
  • [20:45 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Some are very easy to get to breed, others are challenging even for advanced hobbyists with years of experience. Some are very peaceful. Some are very aggressive amongst themselves but do just great with other fishes, others make you wonder how they even get together to breed in the wild they are so aggressive!
  • [20:46 09/07/2004] <+Mike> They exhibit fascinating breeding behavior. Some fishes build large, elaborate nests, even weaving in plant leaves. Others build tiny, hidden nests. Yet others build no nest at all. Still others are paternal (the father carries the eggs) mouthbrooders. And still others are maternal mouthbrooders.
  • [20:46 09/07/2004] <+Mike> And finally, some species build nests sometimes, are mouthbrooders other times, and are generally confusing to everyone! Some species have even yet to be bred by hobbyists, and even today some have not yet been available in the hobby!
  • [20:47 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Now, lets look at each group individually. I won't go into too much detail, just enough to whet your appetites! : )
  • [20:47 09/07/2004] <+Mike> First we have the Gouramis: Trichogaster (Three spot and it's color variants, Snakeskin, Moonlight, and Pearl); Colisa (Dwarf, Honey, Thicklip, and 'Giant' or Banded), Parasphaerichthys (False Chocolate) and Spaerichthys (4 species of Chocolate Gouramis).
    [20:48 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Trichogaster Gouramis all grow fairly large (4 - 8') and are a bit scrappy when full-grown. They will do well in community tanks of appropriate sized fish. They build large bubble nests and lay many eggs. 1000 or more is not uncommon for an adult female. The fry need infusoria for a week or more then will take live baby brine shrimp or vinegar eels.
  • [20:48 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Colisa Gouramis are small to medium sized fish (1-1/2' to 3') that are peaceful and do well in community tanks. Mature males will scrap amongst themselves, so it's best to keep just one male to a tank. They build HUGE nests, up to nearly a foot across and a couple inches high, and weave bits of plant matter into the structure. The nest may last long after the fry have moved on.
  • [20:49 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Some males will spawn with more than one female in the same nest. Fry hatch in about 12 hours, and are very small when first free swimming. They need green water for a few days, then infusoria for a week up to two weeks, and then live baby brine.
  • [20:49 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Paraspaerichthys Gouramis are very uncommon in the hobby. I have only seen them once. Some reports have them being a mouth brooder, others have them building a small nest. I don't know, I've never had breeding success with them.
  • [20:50 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Sphaerichthys Gouramis are seldom seen for sale. There is somewhat of a mystical quality about them. I could (and did, TFH, November 2000) write a long article about them. I won't go into detail here. These small (1-1/2' to 2-1/2') Gouramis are reputed to be hard to keep, and I found that the case in the past. But recently I have had much success with keeping them. They are maternal mouthbrooders and once mature are fairly easy to induc
  • [20:51 09/07/2004] <+Mike> The trick is to keep them long enough for them to reach maturity! In the past, I followed the limited literature and kept them at pH of 4.0 - 5.0, 0 carbonates and a temperature of 90 degrees to get a spawning. I found them to be VERY aggressive amongst themselves at this temperature, and do not recommend these water parameters to anyone - the water has no buffering capacity, biological activity is virtually nil in the filter, and the water can
  • [20:51 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Recently, keeping them in normal tap water (pH 7.0 - 7.2, total hardness of 125 ppm, mostly from carbonates) and at a slightly elevated temperature (82 degrees) was enough to induce them to successfully spawn - with much less aggression!
  • [20:51 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Now we move to the largest grouping of Anabantoids, the Macropodinae. They are all elongated fish with torpedo-like bodies. This group includes the Bettas (40 - 60 species, depending on the author); Ctenops (1 species); Macropodus (4 or 5 species); Malpulutta (1 species); Parosphromenus (a dozen or so species); Pseudosphronemus (2 species) and Trichopsis (3 or more species).
  • [20:52 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Ctenops is the Noble Gourami. It is rarely seen in the hobby, and can be a bit touchy if kept in 'dirty' water. I have not had success with spawning them yet, and have heard that they are a mouthbrooder. I can't verify that, though.
  • [20:52 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Macropodus is the group of Paradisefish. These are mostly temperate water fishes found as far north as the Korean peninsula that can take very cool water temperatures. They are somewhat aggressive, though can easily be kept with most common community fishes.
  • [20:53 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Males are more colorful than females and have longer and more fin extensions, but both males and females are beautiful and well worth the fuss - just don't keep them with Angels or fancy guppies and you'll not have any trouble.
  • [20:53 09/07/2004] <+Mike> They spawn easily, and produce many fry. Some fry can take live baby brine as a first food, but you are better off at least starting them with infusoria for a few days first.
  • [20:54 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Malpulutta kretseri is a beautiful, very, very rare fish found only on Sri Lanka, where it is endangered due to habitat destruction. It is easy to spawn, and produces a few dozen fry that will take infusoria for a few days and then live baby brine shrimp. One problem is that spawns are frequently nearly all one sex or the other. While probably temperature related, I don't know for sure. I'm working with them now.
  • [20:55 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Parosphronemus are the Licorice Gouramis. I'm not sure why the earned this moniker! It might have something to do with the black stripes on them, but I don't know for sure. What I do know is that they are beautiful.
  • [20:55 09/07/2004] <+Mike> These tiny fish often come in with Velvet infections and losses are high unless they are treated right away. This gives them the reputation of being very delicate, but that is not true. It also causes the prices to be uncommonly high! Once the Velvet is gone, they are very hardy and long-lived.
  • [20:55 09/07/2004] <+Mike> They do require very small live foods as most of them don't reach an inch when full grown! They do best in small groups in species tanks. I prefer to feed them Grindal worms and live baby brine shrimp. I have had some take micro pellets, but most ignore anything that isn't moving. They seem to do better in cooler water, and I have had breeding success only in aquaria that were in the low to mid 70's.
  • [20:56 09/07/2004] <+Mike> They spend a lot of time hiding in the plants, and build a secret nest under the leaves of plants or in a cave. A dozen to 20 fry would be a good spawn. The fry will take infusoria for a few days, followed by live baby brine. Most of the time, though, by the time you notice the fry they are already eating the same food as the adults.
  • [20:56 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Due to the small brood size, they have found enough micro fauna to graze on for the first few days! The parents don't seem to be too interested in the fry, and they can be raised in the tank with the adults.
  • [20:57 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Pseudosphronemus are the Spiketail Gouramis. They are similar to the Licorice Gouramis in behavior and care, but grow larger (to 2') and can be kept in community tanks. Spawns of 50 - 70 are common, and fry are large enough for live baby brine.
  • [20:57 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Trichopsis are the Croaking Gouramis. There are two, three or more species, depending on what authority you consult. They are all smallish, and one species (the Pygmy or Sparkling Gourami) can be considered one of if not the smallest species of Gourami.
  • [20:57 09/07/2004] <+Mike> They all build secretive nests below the surface, taking advantage of whatever decoration might suit their needs. Spawns of 20 are common, though the largest species, The Croaking Gourami, can lay more than 100 eggs. Fry need infusoria for a week or so, then baby brine.
  • [20:58 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Finally we come to the largest single genera - the Bettas. Incidentally, I'll throw in on the side that it is pronounced Bet - tuh, not BAY-TA. Sorry, but it's a pet peeve of mine. The name is derived from a local Thai name for one of the species - Ikan bettah; not BETA, which is the second letter of the Greek alphabet. My two cents.
  • [20:58 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Anyway, when you hear the name Betta you might instantly think of the Siamese Fighting Fish, but that is only one of up to 60 species. Interestingly, most of the known species of Betta are not nest builders, but rather are mouth brooders! There are so many different species that hobbyists have divided them into several species groups to make it easier to understand their varied needs.
  • [20:59 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Many species are small, but some Bettas can reach up to 6' or so! They are found all over, from lowland swamps to mountain streams, and many species are found in only a small area - perhaps only a single stream. Some species spend their entire lives hiding in the leaf litter, while others spend their time in open waters. Some build large bubble nests, while others build very small nests.
  • [21:00 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Also, in general, the mouthbrooders seem to prefer cooler water than the nest builders. I've had them spawn in water that was in the upper 60's, and stop spawning at all in water that was more 'Betta like' in the low 80's.
  • [21:00 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Young mouthbrooders also seem to generally be much larger and able to take baby brine shrimp upon release, while most young bubble nesters need at least a few days of infusoria before they are ready to take baby brine. However, some domestic Betta splendens strains will take baby brine as a first food.
  • [21:00 09/07/2004] <+Mike> And that brings us to the end of this 'talk' on Anabantoids. I hope you might want to learn more. There are many excellent books out there on the group, though most are long out of print. Some of the best that you can easily find still in print are Bettas by Bob Goldstein which covers many of the species in the genus in detail, and Gouramis and Other Labyrinth Fishes by Gary Elson and Oliver Lucanus. Both are published by Barrons and are avai
  • [21:00 09/07/2004] <+Mike> I know I covered a lot in a short time. Are there any questions?
  • [21:01 09/07/2004] <@craig> Thank you Mike!
  • [21:01 09/07/2004] <@craig> Folks, if you have a question for Mike, please type: /query craig I have a question
  • [21:02 09/07/2004] <@craig> I'll start things off. :-)
  • [21:03 09/07/2004] <@craig> Mike, you mentioned the pink gouramis will take crickets as food. Any specific type of cricket?
  • [21:03 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Personally, I use the canned crickets from Jungle. They're made for feeding herps, but are great for feeding large fish, too. My wife doesn't appreciate the live cricket escapees. : )
  • [21:04 09/07/2004] <@craig> That answered my second question, how to feed them. Thanks.
  • [21:04 09/07/2004] <+Christine> Thanks. Have you ever heard of or experienced a trichogaster building and maintaining a nest elsewhere besides the water surface?
  • [21:04 09/07/2004] <+Mike> But the large live crickets also work well.
  • [21:05 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Only the leeri. They sometimes build them under leaves down lower in the tank. The other ones build such large nests that they will float to the surface.
  • [21:05 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Of course, that doesn't mean they won't. Each male has his own preferences.
  • [21:06 09/07/2004] <+Christine> Okay, thanks. cuz there's something "fishy" going on in one of my caves
  • [21:06 09/07/2004] <@craig> Anyone else have a question for Mike?
  • [21:06 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Could very well be. If the surface is too choppy, or there are too many perceived threats, maybe he is building one down low.
  • [21:07 09/07/2004] <@craig> Sorry Christine, go ahead. :-)
  • [21:07 09/07/2004] <+Christine> So, would you recommend pormoting breeding of these in a community tank?
  • [21:08 09/07/2004] <+Christine> Or would the aggression be too risky for other inhabitants?
  • [21:08 09/07/2004] <+Mike> They'll breed, but the other fish will eat the eggs/fry. It will be very stressful on the male as he tries to guard the nest, too.
  • [21:08 09/07/2004] <+Christine> Okay, thanks Mike
  • [21:08 09/07/2004] <+Mike> It would be better to move them (or the other fish) to another tank.
  • [21:09 09/07/2004] <+Christine> alright, thanks:)
  • [21:09 09/07/2004] <@craig> My interest in pink gouramis is going to show here.
  • [21:09 09/07/2004] <+Mike> How big are they?
  • [21:09 09/07/2004] <@craig> Mike, can you give me any hints on sexing pink gouramis?
  • [21:09 09/07/2004] <@craig> One is 6 inches.
  • [21:10 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Not until the female's almost ready to lay eggs. Then she'll have a small white nub coming from the vent. That is the egg tube.
  • [21:11 09/07/2004] <+Mike> They've got a bit of growing to do yet. Kissers usually spawn for the first time when they're about 8" long and about a year and a half to two years old.
  • [21:11 09/07/2004] <@craig> So its going to be a matter of having a group of them and hoping for a pairing?
  • [21:11 09/07/2004] <+Mike> That's the easiest way.
  • [21:11 09/07/2004] <+Mike> And boy, will you know they've spawned!
  • [21:12 09/07/2004] <+Mike> The surface will be covered with eggs - and the other fish will be eating them!
  • [21:12 09/07/2004] <@craig> Caviar.. :-)
  • [21:12 09/07/2004] <@craig> Is there anyone else who would like to ask Mike a question before I open the floor for general discussion?
  • [21:13 09/07/2004] <@craig> While I am waiting for queries..
  • [21:13 09/07/2004] <@craig> Mike, I would like to extend my gratitude to you for taking the time to be here with us tonight.
  • [21:14 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Glad I could help out. Hope I didn't put anyone to sleep! ; )
  • [21:14 09/07/2004] *** craig sets mode: -m
  • [21:14 09/07/2004] <@craig> The floor is now open. :-)
  • [21:14 09/07/2004] <@Jessica> Mike, that was an excellent presentation.
  • [21:14 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Thanks for inviting me to speak!
  • [21:14 09/07/2004] <@Jessica> Thank you so much for coming :D
  • [21:15 09/07/2004] <@craig> Cindy, thanks for hooking him.. (pun intended)
  • [21:15 09/07/2004] <+Mike> You're welcome! I always love to talk about fish!
  • [21:15 09/07/2004] <cindy> I just wanted to thank Mike and tell him that when it comes to his opinion on allowing the fish to adapt to local water and large frequent water changes, he is preaching tothe choir here!
  • [21:15 09/07/2004] <@craig> Yes he is. ;-)
  • [21:15 09/07/2004] <+Mike> How're the Endler's doing Cindy?
  • [21:15 09/07/2004] <russ> Mike, that was probably the best presentation of a group of fish that I have ever heard. Even from past program presentations through various societies I have been a memner of :-)
  • [21:17 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Thanks Russ! It's much easier talking while sitting down!
  • [21:17 09/07/2004] <cindy> The most interesting I've seen, too. One OT question, since I apparently don't know how to /query Craig during the moderated part..can you tell us a lettle aobut your fish room/basement/house situation? It sounds like youare breeding quite a few species, or do you breed them at different times?
  • [21:18 09/07/2004] <+Mike> I've got 60 tanks, mostly 10's and 55's, with a few others thrown in for good measure.
  • [21:18 09/07/2004] <+Mike> I work with "small fish" under 4" in length. I try to breed everything I can get my hands on.
  • [21:18 09/07/2004] <+Mike> The more of a challenge they are, the more I enjoy working with them!
  • [21:19 09/07/2004] <@craig> And I thought 8 tanks was bad. :-D
  • [21:19 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Different fish will spawn at different times, and my fishroom cycles through the year as far as temperatures, etc.
  • [21:20 09/07/2004] <cindy> I take it your significant other isn't as obstinant as some of ours... I love the Endler's...they are precious. I haven't lost one yet, and have shared some with Gopi in WI and Shari in CA, so they are moving across the U.S.
  • [21:20 09/07/2004] <+Mike> My wife is a pseudo hobbyist (she likes fancy goldfish!), though I'm sure I spend more time on the hobby than she would like!
  • [21:21 09/07/2004] <+Mike> We're both active in our local club, too.
  • [21:21 09/07/2004] <+Mike> I'm glad to hear they are doing well and moving around the country!
  • [21:21 09/07/2004] <@craig> I would love to have some of them, but with the addition of the 210 I need to cut my tank load down a bit.
  • [21:22 09/07/2004] <+Mike> That silly little fish has been among the most popular I've ever kept! Everyone loves to see them when they come into the fishroom!
  • [21:23 09/07/2004] <@craig> Hehe, I sorta did that with loaches around here. ;-)
  • [21:23 09/07/2004] <+Mike> BTW, Cindy, our club is having a fishroom tour in September, and my fishroom is on the list.
  • [21:23 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Which loaches?
  • [21:24 09/07/2004] <cindy> OMG- I'll be there...did I miss the meeting this month? I keep meaning to join...The first fry I got, the week after you delivered them in March, are having fry of their own now. I find the largest four females you gave me do eat fry, and are pretty good at it, so I think I will move them to my small tetra tank.
  • [21:24 09/07/2004] <@craig> I have too many species of them to pick one Mike. :-D
  • [21:25 09/07/2004] <+Mike> A friend in Indy set up a 210 with many community fish, including a group of Zebra Loaches. They keep spawning, and he can't catch a single one of them! It's hilarious to watch him try!
  • [21:25 09/07/2004] <+Mike> No Cindy. The meeting is next Thursday at 7:30.
  • [21:26 09/07/2004] <@craig> Friend, Indy? I'm in Lafayette!
  • [21:26 09/07/2004] <+Mike> You know Charlie Grimes?
  • [21:26 09/07/2004] <@craig> No..
  • [21:26 09/07/2004] <@craig> Maybe I should tho. :-)
  • [21:26 09/07/2004] <cindy> I'll be there. I want to buy some plants for this 55, too. And I am going to get some of them to Craig one way or another when his 210 gets established and he settles into a new routine...he jsut wont believe how little extra work a tiny ten of the Endler's are.
  • [21:26 09/07/2004] <+Mike> I wouldn't admit it if you did! : )
  • [21:27 09/07/2004] <+Mike> They're almost carefree!
  • [21:27 09/07/2004] <@craig> Cindy, give me some time. The water situation here got me fairly rattled.
  • [21:28 09/07/2004] <cindy> When I move the four largest females, I'l have them coming out my ears...I figure you'll be receptive about the time we decide to take the boys to the Children's Museum in Indy...
  • [21:29 09/07/2004] <@craig> Let me know when, my niece hasn't been there yet, might make a day of it with you.
  • [21:29 09/07/2004] <cindy> Sound like fun!
  • [21:29 09/07/2004] <cindy> Mike, will you be bringing plants to the meeting next week?
  • [21:30 09/07/2004] <@craig> You have to come see the clown loaches and most of all Pinkie!
  • [21:30 09/07/2004] <cindy> I'd love to see them all...I didn't get to see Shari's, and won't make that mistake again.
  • [21:30 09/07/2004] <+Mike> I'll be bringing a few for our HAP. Email me before the meeting and I'll send you a list of what I've got right now.
  • [21:31 09/07/2004] <@craig> Mike, Pinkie is my 6 inch pink gourami who has literally been through hell and back.
  • [21:31 09/07/2004] <+Mike> What happened to him?
  • [21:31 09/07/2004] <@craig> Ignorance of the beginning aquarist.
  • [21:31 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Ouch. Good thing they're tough!
  • [21:32 09/07/2004] <@craig> He should be bigger than he is considering his age, but he's still growing.
  • [21:32 09/07/2004] <cindy> He's a beut now...you sure can't tell he got a rough start...
  • [21:32 09/07/2004] <+Mike> He'll catch up to where he should be with good care now.
  • [21:33 09/07/2004] * @craig takes this opportunity to show off a picture
  • [21:33 09/07/2004] <@craig> http://www.2cah.com/pets/210/210pinkie.JPG
  • [21:33 09/07/2004] <@craig> :-D
  • [21:33 09/07/2004] <+Mike> But are you sure you're ready for a foot long eating machine?
  • [21:33 09/07/2004] <@craig> Oh yeah. :-D
  • [21:33 09/07/2004] <cindy> He'll be the reigning king of the 210...
  • [21:33 09/07/2004] <@craig> I've got a 17" pleco, so... ;-)
  • [21:35 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Who's the other fish with him?
  • [21:35 09/07/2004] <@craig> In the picture above?
  • [21:35 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Yes.
  • [21:36 09/07/2004] <@craig> A juvie, no name yet.
  • [21:36 09/07/2004] <+Mike> See, you're on your way to a group of them! : )
  • [21:37 09/07/2004] <@craig> http://www.2cah.com/pets/210/210pinkie1.JPG -- shows the size difference better..
  • [21:37 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Just don't feed them pig poop like they doe in SE Asia!
  • [21:37 09/07/2004] <@craig> They LOVE hikari algae wafers...
  • [21:37 09/07/2004] <cindy> Mike, I'll e-mail you Tuesday to see what you'll have...
  • [21:37 09/07/2004] <@craig> Oops..
  • [21:38 09/07/2004] <cindy> Was it something we said?
  • [21:38 09/07/2004] <JP> It's that little red button. It's ebil.
  • [21:39 09/07/2004] <cindy> Hey, while we are waiting, can someone tell me what I shoudl do besides typing /query craig I have a question during that part?
  • [21:40 09/07/2004] <@Jessica> double click on craigs name
  • [21:40 09/07/2004] <cindy> OH! Thanks!
  • [21:40 09/07/2004] <@Jessica> then type in i have a question or me or something like that :-)
  • [21:40 09/07/2004] <cindy> His name on the right screen?
  • [21:40 09/07/2004] <@Jessica> sure cindy :-D
  • [21:40 09/07/2004] <@Jessica> yes
  • [21:40 09/07/2004] <+Mike> AOL is starting to act up
  • [21:41 09/07/2004] <cindy> Boy, do I feel dumb...
  • [21:41 09/07/2004] <@Jessica> don't cindy. its a different thing :-D took me awhile to learn the controls
  • [21:41 09/07/2004] <@craig> Cindy, we don't bite, you could come around ya know. :-D
  • [21:41 09/07/2004] <cindy> Mike I had a heck of a time getting on tonight, so it may not be just AOL
  • [21:41 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Okay. I keep appearing and disappearing...I feel like a ghost!
  • [21:42 09/07/2004] <cindy> It's jsut hard for me to do more than read the transcripts...my boys were taking baths and I had to get up 4-5 times while reading to separate them..don't know how they can fight when one is in the tub and one isn't, but they do...
  • [21:42 09/07/2004] <@craig> You are doing just fine Mike.
  • [21:43 09/07/2004] <cindy> Will you be able to piece it all together for the transcript?
  • [21:43 09/07/2004] <@craig> Yes..
  • [21:43 09/07/2004] <cindy> Cool!
  • [21:43 09/07/2004] <@craig> Mike, if you can, could you email me the text of your chat so I can fill in the missing tidbits?
  • [21:44 09/07/2004] <@craig> craighp@2cah.com
  • [21:45 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Sure. I'll send it over in a few minutes. Word okay?
  • [21:45 09/07/2004] <@craig> Yep, all formats supported. :-)
  • [21:45 09/07/2004] <cindy> Maybe Mike will be gracious enough to consider returning? I know you're busy, but this really was the best Moderated chat yet, and I'd love to hear you again...
  • [21:46 09/07/2004] <@craig> I could also set him up with some webspace..
  • [21:46 09/07/2004] <cindy> Can I bring my camera to the fish room tour, to share pics at Badman's?
  • [21:46 09/07/2004] <@Jessica> Mike, I second the request for a repeat. This was an excellent chat
  • [21:47 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Thanks! I'd be happy to visit and speak again!
  • [21:48 09/07/2004] <russ> Thats great. Again great presentation
  • [21:48 09/07/2004] <@craig> Mike, do you have a website somewhere around people can visit?
  • [21:50 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Craig, the text is on it's way.
  • [21:50 09/07/2004] <@craig> k.
  • [21:50 09/07/2004] <@craig> Now answer my question. :-D
  • [21:50 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Sure Cindy. Bring your camera and snap away!
  • [21:51 09/07/2004] <+Mike> As for a website: www.minifins.com will be up soon. I have to fire AOL first - they won't let me update it!
  • [21:51 09/07/2004] <@craig> I have a few gigs to spare here, yours for the asking.
  • [21:52 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Thanks. A friend of mine is hosting it on his server. I just can't send the files to update it. AOL keeps kicking me off when I try.
  • [21:53 09/07/2004] <cindy> Hey, is the photo on MASI your fishroom? Oh! I just thought of one Q I couldn't get in with my techincal difficulties...what is the difference between green water and infusoria?
  • [21:53 09/07/2004] <@craig> I would resist the urge to say it but I can't.. AOL sux. :-)
  • [21:53 09/07/2004] <@Jessica> lol
  • [21:53 09/07/2004] <+Mike> I'll have a library of articles that I've written over the years.
  • [21:53 09/07/2004] <+Mike> That's Dorothy Reimer's fishroom.
  • [21:54 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Randy Carey has a couple of photos of me and my fishroom on his site, but I'm not sure of the URL's anymore. His site is Characin.com.
  • [21:54 09/07/2004] <cindy> Very nice...I'll check his out, too. Will that be on the tour, too? Or is it old news to you guys? I've linked to a few of them on MASI here>>>
  • [21:54 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Green water is single celled algae in water. It's about as small a food item as you can get.
  • [21:55 09/07/2004] <cindy> So green water is phytoplankton and infusoria are zooplankton?
  • [21:55 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Infusoria is small one celled and multicellular animals from the same size as the algae to a size that isthat are big enough to eat the algae.
  • [21:55 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Basically, yes.
  • [21:56 09/07/2004] <+Mike> No. Dorothy is in London, and Randy is in Minneapolis.
  • [21:57 09/07/2004] <cindy> So the next time one of the other teachers is asking for help with their nasty tanks full of green water, I should nab a jar before dong massive water changes and gravel vacs...and i really jumbled that last part up...I'll be sorry to miss Dorothy's and will check Randy's website for pics of your room...
  • [21:58 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Yes! That's the best stuff to start out many egg layer fry.
  • [21:58 09/07/2004] <cindy> ..and I shared a couple of your articles at MASI with members here...
  • [21:59 09/07/2004] <cindy> You know... the funny thing is..I've never figured out how to make a tank or jar like that...how DO they do it?
  • [21:59 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Great! The seahorse one has been very popular. I've heard it reprinted at least a dozen or so times.
  • [21:59 09/07/2004] <cindy> That was the first one I shared...
  • [21:59 09/07/2004] <cindy> It got 2-3 people here pretty excited...expecially Roxanne...
  • [22:00 09/07/2004] <cindy> Do you have any SW tanks currently?
  • [22:00 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Green water is easy to grow. Boil some rice grains and once they cool, pour them and their water into a jar, then add some filter squeezins and sit it on the window sill.
  • [22:01 09/07/2004] <+Mike> I've only got one brackish tank - with Syngnathus scovellii.
  • [22:01 09/07/2004] <cindy> Plain old white rice? I've tried the lettuce way and got nada...
  • [22:01 09/07/2004] <+Mike> I'm working on getting more seahorses...
  • [22:01 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Yes. The lettuce way stinks - literally.
  • [22:01 09/07/2004] <cindy> Do you like the SW shop in St. Charles?
  • [22:02 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Haven't been in there in a while. He used to run a good shop, though!
  • [22:02 09/07/2004] <+Mike> I get stuff from Chuck down at TWP on Watson. He's a MASI member, too.
  • [22:03 09/07/2004] <cindy> I like to go in there and dream...but will probably wait until I retire in a couple years to jump...I am just afraid they won't be here that long...I didn't know there were any other reef stores since that one in Bridgeton closed....I'll go check out the one on Watson...
  • [22:03 09/07/2004] <@craig> Sorry about that, had a canister intake get clogged..
  • [22:04 09/07/2004] <cindy> Are the new plants "shedding" a few leaves?
  • [22:04 09/07/2004] <@craig> Not that tank, my 75..
  • [22:04 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Clayton Pet has great stuff, both fresh and saltwater. But she's very proud of it...
  • [22:05 09/07/2004] <@craig> Silly moss stuffs up everything..
  • [22:05 09/07/2004] <cindy> Oops! Soes that mean you don't want any more?
  • [22:05 09/07/2004] <cindy> Even in dire straights?
  • [22:05 09/07/2004] <@craig> More is good. :-D
  • [22:06 09/07/2004] <@Jessica> moss rocks.
  • [22:06 09/07/2004] <@craig> My 75 is a moss farm though, I spend time everyday yanking away from the filter intakes.
  • [22:06 09/07/2004] <@Jessica> wish i could convince the stuff in my 55 to take off
  • [22:06 09/07/2004] <+Mike> I better head out. My wife wants to use the computer for a while. : ) Domestic tranquility!
  • [22:06 09/07/2004] <@craig> Thanks again Mike!
  • [22:06 09/07/2004] <@Jessica> Mike, many thanks :-D
  • [22:06 09/07/2004] <cindy> You can never have too much in my book, but I don't want or have it in all my tanks...Good night, Mike, me too...
  • [22:06 09/07/2004] <+Mike> Let me know if you want me to talk again sometime.
  • [22:06 09/07/2004] <@craig> Cindy, thank you too.
  • [22:06 09/07/2004] <@Jessica> definately
  • [22:07 09/07/2004] <@Jessica> I'll email you :-D
  • [22:07 09/07/2004] <@craig> k, folks head on back to #badmanschat
  • [22:07 09/07/2004] <@craig> Closing up shop for the night here. :-D
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