Fire eels, Peacock Spiny Eels & Half-banded Spiny Eels

I've kept three flavours of freshwater eel to date and wanted to share my experiences with those who are considering adding an eel to their freshwater aquarium. The three types of eel I have cared for are Fire Eels, Peacock Spiny Eels and Half Banded Spiny Eels.

Freshwater Fire Eels

I have to be honest, Fire Eels freak me out somewhat. I suppose this is considering how large they can actually grow (over a meter). I saw a full-sized one once that looked more like an Anaconda than a fish.

Freshwater Fire EelSo be warned, Fire Eels can grow very large. They are also aggressive eaters with quite an appetite. Any morsel-sized fish that are in your tank will soon disappear – especially newly added fish. Fire Eels also produce a lot of waste when well-fed.

On the plus side I found my fire eel to be very active and not at all shy. You can begin hand-feeding it in a matter of days and they'll come right to the surface to beg like other fish may do.

It is also important to note that fire eels are mostly active at night and love to burrow. In other words he/she may keep you up at night with incessant burrowing and will most likely leave your decorations and plants uprooted.

Freshwater Peacock Spiny Eels

Spiny Peacock EelI find these spiny eels the most boring of all the freshwater eels I have kept. People seem to have varying experiences of them. I've heard about some that hand-feed, some that even eat flakes and others that chill on plants during the day.

What's more likely is that you will never see your spiny eel once introduced to a freshwater aquarium. Many fish owners report that they simply forget that they have spiny eels until they clean out the entire tank and find them living an underground existence.

The biggest problem I had with my Spiny Peacock Eel is that he didn't eat ANYTHING. I have a freezer full of exotic fish foods that were all rejected. He got horrendously thin so I eventually put him in my guppy tank to chow down on some fry. He sadly got himself tangled in a decoration and died. I have been filled with guilt ever since getting a Spiny Peacock Eel.

Freshwater Half Banded Spiny Eels

Half Banded Spiny EelA Half Banded Spiny Eel is what a currently have in my main tank and is by far the best freshwater eel I have ever cared for. He is extremely active day and night, is tame, adventurous and simply a delight to have. He hangs on and in plants, inside a sea shell and tubes and even discovered a hole in my driftwood. Burrowing hasn't been an issue (granted he is only about 8cm). He has a healthy appetite for bloodworms, whether been hand-fed them or otherwise.

I would highly recommend Half Banded Spiny Eels over any other freshwater eel. Granted I have only kept these three types, but my experiences of them are incomparable.

What freshwater eels have you kept?

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FISH CARE: Guide to treating Ich in a freshwater aquarium

The following guide to treating Ich in a freshwater aquarium is a collection from various fish forums and experts. As someone who has dealt with Ich before, I can attest to the accuracy of the following treatment method for ridding your freshwater aquarium of Ich entirely.

Treating Ich Guide: What is Ich?

Ich (Ichthyophthirius multifiliis), or White Spot, is a protozoan parasite that exists free floating in aquarium water. It can affect most aquarium fish but is most commonly found infecting small-scaled fish such as loaches.

Treating Ich Guide: Signs of Ich:

Fish with Ich - Treating Ich in a Freshwater AquariumThe first signs of an Ich infestation may be rapid breathing, redness around the gill area, clamped fins, loss of appetite and lethargic or reclusive behavior; but the most common sign is the appearance of tiny white spots on the skin of the fish that resemble grains of salt. Infected fish may also begin flashing by continuously rubbing themselves
against rocks, gravel or aquarium decorations.

Treating Ich Guide: Ich life cycle:

Ich has three life stages, which are important to understand for proper diagnosis and treatment.

  1. The white spots on an infected fish are visible during the trophont phase of the cycle. The spots are actually scarring that occurs as the parasite burrows under the fish's skin. Beneath each white spot, the Ich is forming a tiny cyst in which it multiplies by cellular division. At this stage of the infection, the Ich is impervious to medication.
  2. When the cysts mature, they burst and release thousands of the tomont-stage cells into the water. The tomonts develop a slimy coat immediately after emerging from the infected fish, which allows each one to adhere to aquarium décor, substrate and even the glass walls of the tank. Once the encapsulation is complete, the organism begins a second stage of reproduction by further cellular division.
  3. Finally, the Ich is released from the capsules in its theront phase. These microscopic theronts swim out in search of new host fishes and begin the cycle again. It is only during this free-swimming phase of the life cycle that medication is effective.

A step-by-step guide to treating Ich in a freshwater aquarium:

1. Perform a 50% water change by vacuuming the substrate well. This will eliminate a large portion of the Ich cells in the tank immediately.

2. Remove any carbon from your filtration system. Carbon depletes the active chemicals in Ich medication from the water. Throw this carbon away as it may harbour more Ich cells.

3. Gradually increase the water temperature to 30°C (86°F). Warmer water speeds up the life-cycle of Ich. Note that exceeding this maximum temperature for too long can, however, further stress or even kill many fish. Also consider the temperature requirements of any live plants and other fish you may have in your tank when treating Ich.

4. Dose your tank with Ich medication (best are ones that contain the chemicals formalin and malachite). Follow the instructions carefully on your Ich medication of choice to ensure you don't overdose. Some argue that one should only use half the instructed amount for small-scaled or scaleless fish, but most new Ich meds on the market are safe for all fish.

5. Try to increase aeration by either lowering the water level to allow a splash from the return flow of your filtration, by turning up the power on your air pump, or by cleaning or using a new air-stone. Gill function of infected fish is usually compromised by the Ich parasite and they will benefit from an increased oxygen supply.

6. Wait a minimum of two days before dosing the tank again. Some aquarists have had success waiting four days between treatments. Remember - when treating Ich you want to expose the maximum amount of theront cells to the medication for the longest possible period of time.

7. Perform another 50% water change and then dose the tank again. Repeat this cycle of large water changes followed by medication (with 2-4 day intervals) at least four times to ensure you rid your tank of Ich entirely. Just because there are no more spots on your fish, doesn't mean that that Ich is not still alive in the water in the invisible theront stage. Remember to wash thoroughly after coming in contact with treated water.

8. Once the full course of medication has taken place, slowly begin lowering the water temperature back to normal, and place fresh carbon in the filtration system. Note: It is essential to continue treatment for at least three days after the last visible sign of Ich is gone. Some waterborne cells may still be alive in the tank.

General tips for avoiding or treating Ich in a freshwater aquarium:

  • A good, general tip is to feed your a fish the most varied diet as possible during any medication phase, as this will give them the best fighting chance against any infections.
  • A final tip is to never add the water from a fish store into your tank. Once you have acclimatised new fish by gradually pouring tank water into the plastic bag, you should pour this water out over a net before adding the new fish.

The treatment method above has been tried and tested and will minimise stress on fish in most situations. Once the tank has been cleared of Ich, your attention should shift to water quality and rebuilding a healthy and mature bio filtration cycle and a comfortable home for your fish.

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SOMETHING FISHY: Freshwater Tropical Fish Profiles: Goldfish

Goldfish are possibly the most widely-kept fish species due to their hardiness and availability. They come in all different shapes and sizes - from the mutant looking to the fancy varieties. They are a highly versatile fish species, capable of living in temperatures close to freezing. They are also not fussy about water conditions and will accept all manner of foods.

Goldfish - Freshwater Tropical Fish ProfilesIt is often recommended that goldfish shouldn't be kept with other tropical fish varieties. One reason is that they are very messy fish that produce a lot of waste and will also uproot and eat plants. Another reason is that the metabolism of goldfish increases the warmer the water is in which they are kept. This can cause a gluttonous appetite resulting in the goldfish growing quicker and perhaps eating more than their fair share of food.

There is also the risk of overfeeding goldfish in an aquarium. They can become constipated if they eat too much, which can cause swim bladder. Goldfish can lose their balance if they get swim bladder and may be found floating upside down. A lot of amateur goldfish keepers assume their fish is dead and often flush or bury it while it's still alive! If a goldfish with swim bladder is left for a day or two they will often right themselves.

Hobbyists interested in keeping goldfish should also know that it is a long-term commitment. Many varieties can live up to 30 years and will also grow quite large if kept in a heated aquarium. Below are two of the more popular goldfish varieties.

Freshwater Tropical Fish Profiles: Fancy Goldfish

  • Fancy Goldfish - Freshwater Tropical FishLifespan: 10 – 30 years
  • Temperature: 5°C – 27°C
  • Tank Region: All over the tank
  • Temperament/Behavior: Very peaceful
  • Size: 8-13 cm (3-5 inches) but can get bigger
  • Diet: Omnivorous. Will gladly accept most fish foods.
  • Origin/Habitat: China originally, then Japan and Asia.
  • Breeding: Lay their eggs on vegetation on the bottom of the tank.
  • Gender: Males have small white spots called tubercles around their gills when ready to spawn. Females are noticeably larger when swelling with eggs and the males may start to chase the females around the tank.

The Goldfish is a favorite for many. They are usually very hardy - capable of living in temperatures ranging from 4°C to 32°C. Being Chinese, Goldfish have extremely long lifespans if cared for properly, so getting one can be a long-term commitment. Many varieties of Goldfish are available with varied markings. Fancy varieties and colours include gold, orange, white and black.

Freshwater Tropical Fish Profiles: Black Moor Goldfish

  • Black Moor Goldfish - Freshwater Tropical FishLifespan: 10 – 30 years
  • Size: 10 - 25cm (4 - 10 inches)
  • Tank Region: All over the tank
  • Origin/Habitat: Central Asia and China.
  • Breeding: Egg layers that spawn readily in the right conditions.
  • Temperament/Behavior: Very peaceful and a great community fish.
  • Temperature: Very hardy. Can tolerate temperatures close to freezing.
  • Diet: A very happy eater. It is not hard to get your Black Moor Goldfish into accepting all kinds of food.
  • Gender: Although is it impossible to sex Goldfish when they are young and not in breeding season, the male is usually smaller and more slender that the female.

The Black Moor is a type of goldfish that has a beautiful velvety look and bulging, telescopic eyes. Most Black Moors stay black but their colour can change with age. They can be gray or black and they can revert to a metallic orange when kept in warmer water. Since their eye-sight is far from perfect, they may need a little extra help to find their food.

Goldfish generally produce a lot of waste, so good filtration is essential for maintaining the water quality of the aquarium. Regular water changes are strongly recommended to keep these fish healthy. Goldfish are very social animals and thrive in a community. Not only are they a great community fish, but they are great scavengers as well. Provide a large gravel substrate to keep your Goldfish occupied and they will help vacuum your substrate.

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SOMETHING FISHY: Freshwater Tropical Fish Profiles: Cichlids

Cichlids are a freshwater tropical fish species that belong to the family Cichlidae. Some of the most well-known cichlid species are Angelfish, Gouramis, Oscars, and Discus fish. Cichlids are part of an extremely diverse family and inhabit a multitude of different environments. They can also vary significantly when it comes to size, temperament, feeding habits, preferred water quality, etc.

Cichlids live in fresh, brackish waters (mostly in large lakes) and can be divided into three main groups: African cichlids, Central and North American cichlids, and South American cichlids. Cichlids are efficient feeders that capture and process a very wide variety of foods, which is thought to be one of the reasons why they are so diverse. There are now more than 2000 described cichlid species and this number is on the rise.

Even though different cichlid species look and act very differently, they all share some common characteristics. Cichlids have a single nostril on each side of the forehead (instead of two) and have teeth in both the upper and the lower jaw – and in the throat! Here are a few popular cichlids.

Freshwater Tropical Fish Profiles: Dwarf Gourami

  • Dwarf Gourami - Freshwater Tropical Fish ProfilesSize: 8cm (3 inches)
  • Life span: 3 – 4 years
  • Temperature: 25°C – 28°C
  • Tank Region: Middle to top
  • Origin/Habitat: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh
  • Breeding: Can be difficult. They build bubble nests for their eggs.
  • Temperament: Mostly peaceful and hardy. Good fish for beginners.
  • Diet: Will eat flakes, freeze dried and live foods. Best to vary their diet.
  • Gender: Easy to determine. The male is more colorful while females are usually more gray in colour.

Originating in the warm waters of India, the Dwarf Gourami is not only beautiful but can be particularly hardy as well. They are generally peaceful creatures and make a great addition to a fully cycled community tank and are easy to care for.

Freshwater Tropical Fish Profiles: Paradise Fish

  • Paradise Fish - Freshwater Tropical Fish ProfilesSize: up to 10cm (4 inches)
  • Temperature: 16°C – 26°C
  • Tank Region: Top and middle
  • Origin/Habitat: Korea, China, Taiwan and Malaysia.
  • Diet: Prefer live foods but will eat flakes, frozen foods and brine shrimp.
  • Temperament: Fairly peaceful. Males may be aggressive towards one another.
  • Gender: Males are vibrantly coloured and easy to identify by their thick swollen lips.
  • Breeding: Similar to Siamese Fighting fish. The male will build a bubble nest to house the eggs during spawning.

Paradise fish are a beautiful and territorial species that are popular choices for the home aquarium. They come in a variety of colours but their beauty demands that they be given consideration and their needs are met. A varied diet will help improve their colouring, but this tropical fish looks most impressive when it flares up against other semi-aggressive fish of similar size. Dwarf Gouramis are perfect tank mates for Paradise fish, as both will have beauty contests and show their true colours without harming one another.

Freshwater Tropical Fish Profiles: Gold Gourami (Three Spot Gourami)

  • Gold Gourami - Freshwater Tropical Fish ProfilesSize: 15cm (6 inches)
  • Life span: 4 – 6 years
  • Temperature: 22°C – 29°C
  • Tank Region: Middle to top
  • Origin/Habitat: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh
  • Breeding: The Gold Gourami is a bubblenester and easy to breed.
  • Diet: Flake food, slow sinking granules, brine shrimp and bloodworms.
  • Temperament: Generally peaceful although larger males may be aggressive.
  • Gender: Males have longer, pointed dorsal fins, females: shorter, rounded fins.

The Gold Gourami is an impressive looking and hardy fish that does very well in a community aquarium. They are generally peaceful creatures that don't grow too large or harass other fish if given enough space. They enjoy the company of other Gourami species and like to hide among plants. Like many cichlids, they are interested in their surroundings.

Freshwater Tropical Fish Profiles: Angelfish

  • Angelfish - Freshwater Tropical Fish ProfilesLifespan: 8 – 10 years
  • Size: Up to 15cm (6 inches)
  • Temperature: 23°C – 29°C
  • Tank Region: Mostly middle
  • Origin/Habitat: Amazon River
  • Breeding: Egg layers. Fairly easy to breed
  • Gender: No noticeable difference except when breeding
  • Temperament/Behavior: Generally peaceful, but can be aggressive eaters and may become territorial while breeding.
  • Diet: Usually very good eaters, they will take flakes, pellets, freeze dried (blood worms, brine shrimp) and especially live foods.

The freshwater Angelfish is a very popular tropical fish because of its unique shape and their interesting personalities. Angelfish are aggressive eaters and will go to the top of the tank when they see you approach. Angelfish are curious about their environment but can become very territorial at times.

Freshwater Tropical Fish Profiles: Blue Ramirez (Blue Ram)

  • Blue Ramirezi - Freshwater Tropical Fish ProfilesLifespan: 4 years
  • Size: 5 – 6 cm (2.5 inches)
  • Temperature: 25°C – 28°C
  • Tank Region: All over the tank
  • Origin/Habitat: South American Rivers (Columbia and Venezuela)
  • Diet: Omnivorous. Will gladly accept flakes or pellets but supplementing their diet with frozen foods such as blood worms or brine shrimp is recommended.
  • Breeding: Breeding Blue Rams is typically easy. Males and females will often pair up, especially when they grow up together in the same tank.
  • Gender: Males tend to have a longer, more pointed dorsal fin. Females tend to be smaller in size and have a red or orange hue on their pelvis.
  • Temperament/Behavior: Peaceful and a bit on the timid side. Can be safely kept with other Rams or non aggressive community fish such as silver dollars, Plecos, Corys or Tetras.

The Ramirez is both a colourful and characterful little fish. They are typically on full display with all their fins up and can bedazzle one when caught in the sunlight. The bonds that form between male and female Rams is something special if you wish to breed Blue Rams. Provide lots of vegetation for your Rams to feel safe and secure (as they can be quite shy) and you’ll notice them getting braver and embarking on bigger explorations around your tank.

Tropical Fish Profiles: Pearl Gourami

  • Pearl Gourami - Freshwater Tropical Fish ProfilesSize: 13cm (5 inches)
  • Temperature: 25°C – 28°C
  • Tank Region: Middle and top
  • Breeding: Bubble nest builder
  • Lifespan: 3 – 4 years and longer
  • Origin/Habitat: Asia, Thailand, Indonesia
  • Diet: This is not a picky fish. They will eat flakes just as quickly as they’ll eat live and frozen foods.
  • Temperament/Behavior: Mostly peaceful but they may scrap with other Gouramis. Males seem to be more aggressive than females.
  • Gender: Relatively easy to determine. The male has a longer dorsal fin and will develop a red breast, which becomes more visible at spawning time.

Pearl Gouramis are a very attractive fish with tons of tiny white 'pearl' shapes dotting its body and a horizontal black bar that runs down its length. Pearls also have a labyrinth organ that allows them to breath atmospheric oxygen. The labyrinth organ evolved in fish species that frequently found themselves in low oxygenated water. You will frequently see Gouramis come to the surface for gulps of air.

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SOMETHING FISHY: Freshwater tropical fish profiles: Exotics

There is a fantastic array of freshwater tropical fish species for the budding hobbyist. Here are a few of the more exotic tropical fish species that get along swimmingly in a large community tank.

Freshwater Tropical Fish Profiles: Black Ghost Knife

  • Freshwater Tropical Fish - Black Ghost KnifeTemperature: 24 - 28°C
  • Lifespan: 10 years and longer
  • Size: Grow up to 50cm (20 inches) but will only grow up to a foot in a small tank.
  • Origin/Habitat: Amazon River basins in South America
  • Diet: Besides beef-heart, Black Ghost Knife Fish will accept frozen bloodworms, shrimp pellets, brine shrimp and tubifex worms.
  • Special characteristics: After the Black Ghost Knife is accustomed to its tank, it can develop a strong relationship with its owner. Owners are known to hand-feed their Black Ghost Knife fish beef-heart. Additionally, owners are able to pet and stroke the fish and it will actually run through its owner’s hands.

The Black Ghost Knife is known for its flowing movement and unique body shape. They are similar to a rippling black curtain as they swim through an aquarium. Due to having poor eyesight, the Ghost Knife species have developed electrical organs that allow them to send out electric pulses to navigate through water. Hobbyists should avoid placing other fish species that use similar electric navigation in the same tank as their electrical pulses may interfere with each other.

Freshwater Tropical Fish Profiles: Black Pangasius (Iridescent Shark)

  • Black PangasiusTemperature: 22°C – 26°C
  • Tank Region: Middle-bottom.
  • Size: Can grow very large (up to 130cm)
  • Origin/Habitat: Southeast Asia (Thailand, Laos and Vietnam)
  • Temperament: Very peaceful fish but can be quite shy and skittish.
  • Diet: Omnivorous. Especially like live food but will accept most foods.
  • Gender: Males have darker stripes and are more slender than females.
  • Breeding: Breeding in a home aquarium has never been accomplished.

The Black Pangasius is a very mobile little creature that will actively swim up and down the length of an aquarium. They can however be quite nervous fish and are easily spooked. It is recommended that the Black Pangasius be kept with more of its own species to relieve stress. Also be warned that this fish can grow VERY large and either needs to be kept in a very large tank or released when it grows too big for your rig.

Freshwater Tropical Fish Profiles: Glass Catfish

  • glass catfish - Freshwater Tropical FishSize: 10cm (4 inches)
  • Temperature: 21°C – 26°C
  • Lifespan: 3 – 4 years and longer
  • Tank Region: Middle near a water flow
  • Gender: Almost impossible to determine
  • Origin/Habitat: Borneo, Sumatra, and Thailand
  • Temperament/Behavior: Peaceful yet very timid
  • Breeding: They are egg-laying fish, but so far breeding them in captivity has not been successfully recorded.
  • Diet: Strongly prefer live foods but will learn to eat freeze-dried, frozen food (thaw it first), and flakes.

You should keep at least four Glass Catfish together in your aquarium and preferably a few more. This is a shoaling fish that does not survive in a tank without other members of its own species. A solitary Glass Catfish can actually die of loneliness. You should provide plenty of plants in your aquarium for these fish so that they feel safe. They are very shy and will fare much better if they have plenty of hiding places.

Freshwater Tropical Fish Profiles: Female Siamese Fighter (Betta Splenden)

  • Female BettaSize: 7cm (3 inches)
  • Life span: 2 – 3 years
  • Tank Region: Top dweller
  • Temperature: 24°C – 30°C
  • Origin/Habitat: Cambodia, Thailand
  • Temperament: Very peaceful towards fish of similar size.
  • Diet: Prefer live foods but will eat flakes, frozen foods, bloodworms and brine shrimp.
  • Gender: Males have noticeably largely and more impressive fins than females.
  • Breeding: Siamese fighting fish are bubblenesters and breeding them is not difficult.

There is a bit of a misconception around Siamese Fighting fish. They do not swim around attacking everything in sight - it is only the males that spar with one another and that should not be kept in the same tank. Female bettas are wonderfully peaceful and independent fish despite being a bit on the shy side. Provide her with a secure hiding place and she will often pop her head out and swim up to you. Most female bettas are quite plain looking in comparison to males but there are a few rare gems that are just as beautiful.

Freshwater Tropical Fish Profiles: Hoplo Catfish

  • Hoplo CatfishSize: up to 10cm (4 inches)
  • Temperature: 17°C – 28°C
  • Tank Region: Mostly bottom dwellers.
  • Origin/Habitat: Brazil and Amazon river basins.
  • Temperament: Very peaceful and a good scavenger.
  • Gender: Mature males have thicker pectoral fins than females.
  • Diet: Shrimp Pellets, Tubifex worms, and other sinking foods but will also swim to the surface and feed on flakes.
  • Breeding: When breeding the male displays a blue/purple sheen under it's belly. The fish build a bubble nest using leaves and twigs.

The Hoplo Catfish is a great addition to a community tank. They are easy to care for and unfussy about water conditions, tank mates and food types. The do not harm other fish and their reasonable size and armour plating protects them from the occasional nip. They are also good at keeping your substrate clean and are active and characterful creatures. They also like to explore all the nooks and crannies in an aquarium and do not shy away as much as other catfish species.

Freshwater Tropical Fish Profiles: Fire Eel

  • Freshwater Tropical Fish - Fire EelTemperature: 24°C – 27°C
  • Tank Region: Mostly bottom
  • Lifespan: Up to 10 years and longer
  • Temperament/Behavior: Generally peaceful but may hunt new, unsuspecting small fish
  • Size: Can grow up to a meter in length (roughly 40 inches) if housed in a large enough tank
  • Gender: Distinguishing between the sexes can be difficult, but a mature female is usually plumper than the male.
  • Origin/Habitat: Found in floods and streams in India, Borneo, Malaysia, Sumatra, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Burma.
  • Breeding: Very hard, but not impossible. The female lays roughly 800 to 1200 translucent eggs on floating plants.
  • Diet: A carnivore. Live foods such as earthworms and black worms are the best diet but frozen blood worms will suffice.

The Fire Eel is a nocturnal predator best suited to a large aquarium. A soft substrate is necessary for this fish as they love to burrow. This may uproot plants and rearrange decorations so it is often best to provide a dark cave for your Fire Eel to discourage digging. At first, a Fire Eel is usually very shy and prefers to come out only at night.

If you provide your Fire Eel with an aquarium setup that makes it feel safe, it can become quite an affectionate fish and learn to take food from your hand. A tight lid should be used for any long, slender fish as they will often try to escape from the aquarium. The Fire Eel should be kept with fish of similar size or larger and will not tolerate its own kind. Be warned that if you add any new small fish to your tank it will happily devour the newcomers.

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