Conservation of Fishies

Apparently without even realizing it, I’m participating in conserving an endangered species! The CARES Preservation Program has Psuedotropheus saulosi listed as endangered in its natural habitat. That’s awful! Now I feel rather pressured to raise my fry successfully – thankfully I have a 10 gallon and a 20 long that I can use as fry-grow-outs. (That also means that I’m back to the “quarantine bucket” method of fish medication, but that does work, even though it’s not elegant.)

Thankfully, there are some people doing their best to restock Lake Malawi with saulosi – unfortunately they suffered a heater mishap that killed a number of their fish, according to one forum post I read, but the first release has gone forward!

Now, for anyone not interested in my babbling about my particular setup, feel free to stop reading now. You have been warned. I’m not even going to post any pics right now. 😉

My little group of fry – along with the rusties, who are just sort of lucking out since I was planning to let them take their chances – are now swimming happily in the 10 gallon. I had to clean the thing out since I’d just used it in a failed attempt to save a guppy, but a wipedown with hydrogen peroxide should have eliminated anything troublesome. (I then “seeded” it with a cupful of sand from the main tank, and moved the HOB from the 20, so it should have enough beneficial bacteria to support such teeny fish!)

I’m also more and more convinced that using any kind of air-driven object in a hard-water aquarium setup is a big mistake. The scale – hard water deposits – is horrendous and ugly. I’ve seen sponge filters used with discus and that makes sense – those fish need water so pure it’s practically distilled! And for the love of all that’s holy, don’t use airstones to create bubbles unless you’re madly in love with the look. If you’re running a properly sized filter for your tank (meaning, of course, overpowered, since those guidelines on the boxes are lies, I tell you, lies! You know most companies rate their filter by running the thing with no filter media in it?? HAH!) you definitely don’t need to worry about oxygenating the water. If the water column is moving properly, enough oxygen and carbon dioxide will be crossing over to keep things in balance, even in heavy stocking conditions.

In other news, I have a third male saulosi who’s put on his bars, but hasn’t gone blue yet; I’m really hoping that he will put on the blue like the other two males. However, I’ve noticed that my saulosi are kind of easily intimidated by larger fish – I didn’t get any good color out of my first male until I’d swapped out the red zebras for rusties. And now that my rusties are maturing, I’m finding out that those blithe assurances that rusties are fairly non-aggressive (for cichlids) all over the web are… not exactly true. My dominant rusty male is finally putting on some of the purple I’ve been waiting to see, but he’s also turning into a pretty nasty character, which means I may need to rehome him and see if one of the other rusties will take his place. I do think I have another male – there’s one fish in particular the alpha rusty likes to chase about. Thankfully the “hanging in the corner behind the filter nozzles” stage didn’t last all that long and they settled, but I’m not going to take a lot of chances with “wait and see” now that they’re mature and breeding.

I’m pretty sure I have a fourth male, but he’s kind of mottled and half-sized so I’m not going to hold my breath waiting to see if I can get a fourth male to color. One thing’s for sure, I’m going to need more female saulosi! Grow, baby fish, grow! Hunting the Cichlid Forum archives, I stumbled across a discussion about what conditions are best for fast growth, and one breeder maintained that the larger the tank size, the faster the fry will grow. That’s when I got off my butt and cleaned out the 10 gal! I should be able to grow them out to 1.5″-2″ in the 20 long, I hope, and by that size they’ll be large enough to go into the main tank. Going to have to figure out what I’ll be doing with the extra males, though. Of course, first I have to figure out which ones are the “extra” males… and since dominant or stressed females can go splotchy-barred too, until a male’s nose goes blue determining the sex of the fish is kind of hard.

Also, I totally swiped the battery-powered LED light strips from off the underside of the kitchen cabinets to light the fish tanks. Pretty sure that makes me strange. Although I’m not a totally crazy fish lady – I bought some vallisneria from a guy who posted an ad on craigslist, and his entire basement is full of large aquariums. It’s totally awesome. And way more work than I ever want to have to do. I just want a six footer someday!

One thing I’ve noticed, though, is that apparently there are either two “color morphs” for dominant males – or something odd’s been going on in the tank-bred population. Older photos of saulosi males – like the ones in the profile linked at the top of this post – are far lighter in color than my males, who all have deep black “beards” and bellies. It makes me wonder if this is something that was deliberately bred into the population, or is an artifact of “careless” commercial breeding. I haven’t stumbled upon any “standard” phenotype for saulosi, though, so I’m not sure if the lighter, blue-all-the-way-down morph is the more highly desirable one. Since earlier photographs are more likely to show the wild phenotype, I am guessing that the lighter, blue morph would be considered more desirable from a conservation standpoint – but it’s also entirely likely that people have been selectively breeding them for darker black markings. I just really hope the darker color isn’t an indication of some kind of hybrid cross contaminating the bloodlines!


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