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Tips for Keeping Exotic Fish

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by Jonathan Phoon (subscribe)
I love trying new food and new restaurants. My other passions are Origami and Pokémon
Published October 2nd 2014
My dad loves keeping fishes and we always have an aquarium in our house. His first serious venture was trying to breed the Discus. These freshwater aquarium fish have distinctive disk-shapes and bright colours. The Discus are leisurely swimmers so it is very calming to just sit and watch them glide around the tank. They are notoriously difficult to breed as they are very fussy in choosing their mates so it was with a lot of pride that he managed to breed them. His tanks were quite bare, with just a clay breeding cone in the middle without any gravel or plants in the tank. His favourite was the Brown Discus which was considered wild-caught. He gave the aquarium away to another breeder when we relocated to a different house.

Discus Fish
Brown Discus

Discus fish
Discus fish with babies

Our second aquarium is totally different from the Discus tank. He purchased a Juwel Rio 180 tank, Juwel is considered as the Rolls Royce of aquariums. This time round, he designed his aquarium using Takashi Amano's methodology and concepts. The tank has lush plants and arrangements of stone, gravel and driftwood. Visitors to our house are amazed at how clear the water in the tank is.

Our Current Aquarium

According to dad, frequent water changes and heavy plant growth help to control algae growth in the tank as the plants compete with the algae for nutrients. The plants grow very well because he also injects CO2 into the tank and fertilise them. The lighting of the tank is also set on a timer so that the lights turn off for three hours at midday to help break the cycle of algae growth. We always have some algae eating fishes like the Bristlenose Catfish, Siamese Flying Fox and Otocinclus Affinis to control the dreaded bearded algae from taking hold. The whole family was thrilled when our Bristlenose Catfish gave birth to many baby fish. However, only three survived out of the whole lot but there is only one left now. We are hopeful that we will get some more baby fishes in future because dad has placed many breeding logs and caves to aid the breeding process. The male Bristlenose Catfish has got distinctive array of tentacle-like antennae on the upper surface of the snout thus earning him the nickname of bristlenose. It looks like he hasn't been shaving with all those bristles.

Bristlenose Catfish
Male Bristlenose Catfish

Bristlenose Catfish breeding caves
Bristlenose Catfish breeding caves

CO2 Equipment
CO2 Equipment

Dad changes approximately half the water in the tank once a week. The process takes him about two to three hours. The fishes are fed twice a day. I used to feed them manually but nowadays I only need to fill the automatic feeder once a week. It is an essential piece of equipment when we are away on holiday. We like the F14 Auto Feeder because this design allows us to fill it with different types of fish food to suit all the different fishes we have. We purchased it on eBay.

Auto feeder
Fish Mate F14 Auto Feeder

To give the aquarium some colour, we kept a shoal of Neon Tetras. They tend to swim together in a group criss-crossing the tank. However they don't seem to survive long and we are now without any. We hope to get some Cardinal Tetras in future. As Cardinal Tetras are pretty pricey (about $10 per fish), we decided to keep Endlers Guppies. They are much smaller than the normal Guppies but they are prolific breeders so if you have a few pairs you will get a tankful in a couple of months. To stop the tank from being over-populated, we returned the female guppies to the shop and kept the male ones. The males are the colourful ones.

Corydoras, Endlers Guppies
Corydoras and Endlers Guppies

Our tank only has two types of plants, Anubias and Java Ferns which we tie to driftwood and logs. Their roots will then grow and cling to them later. We also have some sort of seaweed-like plants. The other inhabitants in our aquarium are Cherry Shrimps and Corydoras. The Corydoras do not have scales but their flanks are covered in layers of over-lapping bony plates like the singles on a tiled roof. They also have barbels or whiskers round their mouths. The shrimps are also pretty easy to breed and from the initial ten which we got I dare say we may have at least a hundred by now.

Cherry Shrimp
Cherry Shrimp

We frequent two aquariums in Adelaide as we considered them the best stocked with good quality fishes and equipment. They are Seaview Aquarium Centre at Anzac Highway, Plympton and Aggies Aquarium at Research Road, Pooraka.
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Why? An interesting pet like no other
When: Anytime
Where: At home
Cost: Prices vary
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