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Dwarf Crayfish

September 22nd, 2008

This weekend, I spent some time over at another GWAPA member’s house, Dave (ingg), and I wanted to share a couple pictures of his Dwarf Crayfish. I have kept this kind of crayfish before, and even had them breed for me, but I don’t have them any longer. They’re really neat invertebrates, and since they don’t get as large as normal crayfish, they can’t eat your fish.

Dwarf Crayfish

Dave’s got a fair number of crays in a 37G aquarium. I think they’ve started to breed for him, but I’m unsure as to whether or not any of the babies have survived to adulthood. As you can see below, they’re pretty much just smaller replicas of larger crayfish.

Dwarf Crayfish

I wonder if these guys would survive in my sunfish tank? They’ve all but annihilated any of the shrimp that I’ve put in that tank, but since the crayfish are generally a little bit more feisty, maybe they could defend themselves? If anyone has any experience keeping dwarf crays with shrimp-eating-fish, I’d love to hear your advice.

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Collecting in the Potomac River

August 11th, 2008

On Saturday, a few GWAPA members got together in Virginia along the Potomac River to see what fish we could pull out of the river. Armed with the necessary permits and a few experts in native fish, we started pulling seine nets through some areas near the shore. Most of the shoreline was completely consumed by Hydrilla, an incredibly invasive exotic weed from Asia.

Potomac River

Potomac River, Virginia

Initially, the Hydrilla was way to thick, and besides pulling a few crayfish from the water, we didn’t have a whole lot of luck. We eventually crossed the street, and found a better location a little bit upstream in a creek that feeds into the Potomac.


Large Crayfish

Once we did this, we started pulling out all kinds of fish and critters. By pulling the net through the Hydrilla we were able to target the fish we were interested in, while also doing the river a service by pulling much of the noxious weed from the water and onto the bank.

Fish in Seine Net

Fish in Net

The main fish I was interested in finding on this trip was the Blue Spotted Sunfish, Enneacanthus gloriosus, which is a beautiful native sunfish that only gets to 2-3 inches in length. This makes it a wonderful fish for the planted aquarium, as it should not rearrange the tank like some of the larger sunfish, and loves the cover that plants provide.

Blue Spotted Sunfish

Blue Spotted Sunfish

We were also hoping to find some snakeheads, not to keep for the aquarium because doing so is illegal, but to see how widespread they really were in the river. Although a bit disappointing to us, I suppose it’s a good thing that we didn’t actually pull any in our nets. Had we found any, legally, you have to euthanize them on the spot.

Banded Killifish

Banded Killifish

We did get a large number of Banded Killifish, Fundulus diaphanus, which are also good fish for the aquarium. They get to about 4 inches in length, but most of the ones we pulled in were smaller than that. In addition to the killies, we also found one or two darters, specifically, the Tessellated Darter, Etheostoma olmstedi, which are fascinating bottom dwelling fish. I really would have liked to find more of these guys.

Tessellated Darter

Tessellated Darter

Besides the fish, we also pulled in a number of other aquatic creatures, including a countless number of nasty looking bugs, beetles, and dragonfly nymphs. In addition, we got some grass shrimp, Asiatic clams, and all sizes of crayfish.

Asiatic Clam

Asiatic Clam

The area where we found all the fish had a number of aquatic plants including Heteranthera dubia, Vallisneria americana, Myrophyllum, Najas, and a beautifully flowering Lobelia cardinalis. While many aquarists keep the small form of Lobelia cardinalis, you can see that this would be a beautiful pond plant!

Lobelia cardinalis Flowers

Lobelia cardinalis Flowers

With great weather, and a good haul, we had a really great time at the Potomac River this weekend. Huge thanks go to Bob in GWAPA for organizing the trip, and to everyone else for participating. Finally, I want to thank Jeff U for taking fantastic pictures, and allowing me to use them on this website.

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Aquafest 2007 – Speakers

October 23rd, 2007

On Saturday, three local clubs, GWAPA, CCA, and PVAS put on a great aquarium festival. Over 100 hobbyists attended, and the fish show was stocked with the best fish of the area. Three key speakers were present, each giving very insightful presentations about their area of expertise.


Tony Orso gave the first talk about West African Fish. Tony and his wife breed many exotic fish, and also had a vendor table setup with many for sale. During his talk, Tony rattled off facts about more West African fish than I could scribble notes about in my notebook. He ran through nearly all of the Hemichromis jewel cichlids, spent quite a bit of time on the Tilapia, and many other genera. As it turns out, he talked about Nanochromis nudiceps, which I ended up snagging in the auction on Sunday. Ultimately, I have a long list of species names that I need to start chugging into the web to learn more about after this presentation.

Rusty Wessel

Next on the bill was Rusty Wessel to talk about experiences collecting in Honduras. Rusty has been to the country over 18 times, and noted many differences between his visits. He mentioned how much more accessible the rivers became after Dole corporation built paved roads all throughout the country to transport their produce from the fields to port. Unfortunately, deforestation by slash/burn, generally poor infrastructure and pollution throughout the country, and introduced Tilapia still threaten the native fish population.

Liberty Molly - Rusty Wessel

Above is a brand new fish discovered in Honduras called the Liberty Molly. Rusty was nice enough to bring a pair of these to auction on Sunday. He talked about many different river systems, including the Rio Choluteca that flows toward Nicaragua, and is home to many convict cichlids and a native anableps livebearer, shown below.


The Honduran Red Point Convict Cichlid is another excellent fish from the country. It is easy to breed, producing up to 75 fry per spawn, and only grows to 3-4 inches in length. In addition, it’s not very agressive, and is pretty too, as you can see below. This species was just described about a week ago, and is distinguished from other convicts by the broken vertical line above the head.

Honduran Red Point Convict Cichlid

Rusty went on to cover a number of other native fish such as the Rainbow cichlid, Black-belt cichlid, Jack Dempsey, cuteri, and many others.

Eric Do at Aquafest 2007

Finally, GWAPA’s speaker, Eric Do gave his presentation about “Freshwater Invertebrates in Planted Aquariums.” I was fortunate enough to spend most of Friday with Eric and a few other GWAPA members as we gave him a brief tour of Washington D.C. Not only does Eric know his invertebrates and plants, but he’s a great guy. Eric gave an updated version of the same presentation I saw him give at the AGA last year. He went through a huge list of shrimp that we know in the hobby — Cherry Reds, Amanos, Snowball, Red Dragons, Tigers, Greens, etc…

Crystal Red Color Morph

New to his talk were many pictures of some of the color morphs breeders are creating with the crystal red shrimp. Above is a very valuable anomaly of a crystal red where half of its body is red and the other half is black. He also noted that although uncommon, crystal reds and cherry shrimp can hybridize so they should be kept separately. In of tank of many females of one species, and only a few males from the other, nature will find a way.

Aegla platensis

Finally, Eric introduced the Aegla platensis freshwater dwarf crab. It really looks more like a cross between a crayfish and a crab, but is a crab nonetheless. It only gets to 2″ in length. Neat!

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Dwarf Crayfish Babies

December 6th, 2006

Dwarf Crayfish baby

While away the AGA, my little brother, who was caring for my tanks, told me that he saw two of the dwarf cajun crayfish on top of one another. So, when I got back, I eagerly looked to see if the female had eggs, and she did! A few weeks later, I have really dwarf crayfish babies. Up close they look like translucent miniature versions of their parents. I estimate that they’re about one week old right now. Use the adult crayfish and java moss for scale on the baby below.

I’ve counted about 10 at any given time, but they’re so hard to see, that I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that I have many more than that.
Dwarf Crayfish adult and baby

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AGA 2006 – Day 1 Speakers

November 11th, 2006

Erik OlsonAfter many months of waiting, the 2006 Aquatic Gardeners’ Association Conference is underway after president, Erik Olson, welcomed all attendees. He introduced many of the speakers for the weekend conference, and asked several local clubs to come up to the podium to speak about their activities. There was a brief, unexpected intermission, when one of the folks, who will rename unnamed, fainted at the podium, and needed some time to readjust themselves to their surroundings.

Fortunately, everything resumed without a hitch, and our first speaker, Eric DoEric Do gave the opening presentation about invertebrates. Eric is from the host club, the San Francisco Bay Area Aquatic Plant Society, and gave an excellent presentation with many very professional-like macro photos of shrimp, snails, crayfish, and even triops. He described how he uses the “drip-method” to acclimate all of his new arrivals, and recommended feeding them a number of prepared foods, veggies, with a new homemade food by a hobbist in Finland, being especially good. Eric covered pretty much any small shrimp in the hobby, including cherry reds, amano shrimp, cardinia sp. ‘red dragon’, green shrimp, bee shrimp, tiger shrimp, crystal reds, ghost shrimp, etc. The green shrimp were particularly interesting because the photos Eric showed demonstrated how they camouflaged themselves based on their environment. He also talked about how some of the more Cardinia sp. 'red dragon'expensive shrimp are graded, using crystal reds as an example. Basically, the width and number of white bands on a crystal red define how “good” of a shrimp it is. He mentioned how folks in Asia are trying to selectively breed a crystal red shrimp that is entirely white, with all the white bands merging together.

Eric wrapped up his presentation by going over a number of other small invertebrates, spending the most time on dwarf crayfish – the cajun and orange varieties. After that, he quickly flipped through a couple of pictures of various snails, triops, and a few other VERY small invertebrates.

Jeff SenskeThe second, and last, presentation for the evening was about Aquarium Photography by Jeff Senske of Aquarium Design Group, in Houston, Texas. Jeff is well-known in the aquarium community, and on the online forums, for pictures of his tanks. He wanted to briefly share a few of his tips and tricks to successfully shooting an aquarium. A few tips:

  • Add extra light over the tank. (Flash, or another light strip)
  • Use a high F-stop for more depth of field
  • Use a low shuttle speed so your fish aren’t blurry.
  • Never use your camera’s auto-mode.
  • Shoot in RAW mode, if your camera supports this.
  • Underexposure is easier to fixed in Photoshop, than overexposure.
  • Take a Photoshop class. He recommended NAPP classes. This will teach how to properly use layers, brushes, and curves. (These are the three basic things he described as being essential to touch-up photographs.)

Obviously, he gave a lot more detail through demonstration about these various topics, but it’s not really possible to describe them all here.

Overall, a pretty good opening night. The vendor room is setup, and very nice. Aqua Forest is present, showing off lots of ADA goods. SeaChem, Ray Lucas, Zoomed, and otheres are also here.

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Dwarf Crayfish

October 26th, 2006

Last weekend at the Catfish Convention, I picked up two pairs of dwarf crayfish. They weren’t labeled so I don’t know their exact species, but I’m guessing they’re cambarellus shufeldtii. I was told that they’re pretty easy to breed, so I have them in a tank all by themselves with some wood and java moss, so we’ll see what happens. Thus far, they seem to be pretty timid creatures. If I get near the tank, you see a quick flurry of activity while they flee from wherever they were at to their new “hiding place.” Once there, they tend to stay perfectly still until I leave. I had a scare the night that I put them in the tank. I came back about 2 hours later and saw one of them laying sideways, motionless, and dead. It took me a second to see something behind it, chewing on the dead one. Infact, it wasn’t dead at all. It molted!
Dwarf Crayfish

If I do pretty well with these guys, I might try splurging for those fancy orange dwarf crayfish that are going around aquabid these days. Before I do that, I’m going to have to figure out how to sex the ones I have. The guy I bought them from showed that the males have an extra pair of legs under the tail, where the females do not. What seemed quite apparent at the moment, isn’t so obvious when I look at them after getting them home. If anyone has any pointers on this, please comment.

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2006 Catfish Convention – Auction!

October 22nd, 2006

Today was the final day of the 2006 Catfish Convention, and consisted solely of an all-day auction. This auction was made up of 10 lots, plus a dry-goods lot run by Ray “Kingfish” Lucas to help raise money for next year’s convention. The auction started at 10:00am. By 1:00, there were so many items to auction, that they had only gotten through lots 1 and 2, and the dry goods. I didn’t stay until the end because I had blackworms that I needed to get home to the refrigerator, but I imagine it went on for hours after I left.

Everyone checking out the auction goods before it started
(Everyone checked out the auction goods before it started.) 

I came home with a fair amount of “loot” from this convention. I don’t have any pictures of it now, but I’m sure I’ll post some in the future:

I came home with a fair amount of “loot” from this convention. I don’t have any pictures of it now, but I’m sure I’ll post some in the future:

  • anubias barterii nana “petite”
  • 3 Red Lizard Whiptail Catfish
  • crypt. wentii. (thanks Sean)
  • 2 pairs of Dwarf Crayfish, regular brown variety.
  • 5 juenvenille L-279 Bristlenosed Plecos (Ancistrus sp.”Huacamayo”)
  • 13 young melanotaenia praecox rainbowfish.
  • 1 Pair apistogramma viejitas (This is my favorite pull for the weekend!)
  • 1 potion of Blackworms from Eastern Aquatics.
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2006 Catfish Convention – Day 2

October 21st, 2006

Mark Soberman - Talking about African catfishToday was the second day of the 2006 Catfish Convention. I was able to attend most of the sessions today, and I must say that all were of very high quality. Tomorrow, the convention will wrap up with an all-day auction.

The first session of the day was about African catfish, and was presented by Mark Soberman. Mark gave a brief overview of the 9 families of catfish native to the contient. A few highlights included Austraglanidae, who are an endangered species in South Africa. Of course, he had to mention the Claridae family of catfishes, who are an air-breathing group of catfishes that are now banned in the U.S. after a series of incidents related to Snakeheads. Don’t forget the Malapteruidae, who include a few electric catfish, and the Mochakiadae, who are Africa’s largest family of catfish.

Really, all of these were just leading up to Mark’s favorite group of African catfish, the Synodontus. Synodontis catfsh include many of the fish we are familar with in our LFS’s, such as the upside-down catfish. He describe a number of fishes, but also lamented a little bit, at the current influx of Synodontis hybrid fishes coming out of Singapore fisheries. Mark feels that African catfish species are unique enough in their own right, that the hybridization only confuses hobbiests.

Inbetween sessions, I decided to take a trip down the hall to the Fish Showroom. Fish ShowroomThis room have about 200 tanks in it, stocked full of conference attendee’s best fish from their fishrooms. There were more than just catfish represented in this rooms; there were: catfish, killies, bettas, cichlids, livebearers, danios, pretty much any class of fish you can think of.

After purusing the fish, and admiring more than a handful of beautiful specimens, I headed back to the lecture hall for Ian Fuller’s second talk of the conference about Breeding Corydoras.

Ian covered all aspects of his breeding techniques for Corys. He recommends the following:

– buy fish already at breeding age.

– know how to seperate males from females. For example, males often have an elongated ventral fin. Females usually have broader bodies. Males are usually the more colorful fish.

– Use smaller tanks, such as 10-20 gallons.

– Use RO water, adjusting it to 6.5-7.0 PH, GH 0-3 degrees, mix in 1 part Epson salt, 1 part Marine Salt, and 2 parts chalk.

– Use fine grained salt/gravel. Do NOT use a bare-bottom tank because it’s bad for the Cory’s barbles.

– Setup the tanks with oak leaves, beech twigs, java fern/moss, etc.

– Feed a variety of foods. Brine shrimp, microworms, earth worms, and Tetra tabs are especially good.

– Trigger spawning by doing massive water changes, temperature changes, PH crashes, etc.

– When you see eggs, add Alder cones to the water as a mild anti-fungal treatment. Move the eggs to a hatching container with Java moss.

The last session I attended today was by Dr. Peter Unmack about Austrailian catfishes. I think that Dr. Unmack might have had the most interesting talk of the day, largely because it featured catfish that I had never seen before.

There are only two families of catfish in Austrailia. Many of the species in these families actually spend a portion of their life in saltwater. Many are mouthbrooders (pictured right). Unfortunately, there aren’t many Austrailian catfish that are suitable for aquaria. Furthermore, the ones that are, rarely are seen because their natural habitats are too remote to easily collect and ship. This is a shame because most of these catfish would be relatively easy to keep. For example, they can tolerate a wide range of PH swings because in nature, when streams flood, the solids are diluted, causing the PH to drop. But, when the water recedes, the PH skyrockets. The catfish don’t care. Infact, this fluxation might trigger spawning.

The Plutosidae family is a really interesting family of catfishes. The look like someone took a South American catfish’s head, and put it on the body of a knifefish, or eel.

Neosilurus hyrtlii

One of the most widely distributed fishes from this family is the Neosilurus hyrtlii (left). As you can see, they don’t have distinct caudral or dorsal fins. Peter also described the Neosiluroides cooperensis, which he thinks is one of the most bizarre catfish in Austrailia. This fish is found in Cooper Creek, has unusually good eyesight, and is an adept predator of other fish and shrimp. They lay huge eggs, and are rarely caught under 6″ in size. In his experience, it will kill anything it see’s.

Peter wrapped up his talk with a slideshow of other Austrailian fish, including rainbowfish and gobies.

After this session, I decided that I couldn’t risk not buying a few fish/crayfish that were on sale out of one of the hotel rooms, so I promptly bought more than I needed, and headed home to put my new fish in their tanks.

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About Me

July 18th, 2006

Rather than trying to write up a coherent essay about myself, I decided to use a FAQ format:

How did you get into aquariums?

Growing up, I had aquarium on and off with varying degrees of success. I never tried live plants when younger, but I did keep all of the common ornamental fish, plus some of the shrimp, snails, crayfish, crabs, and newts that were available. My childhood AGA 20G-high tank is still in use today!

When did you start adding live plants to your tanks?

Back in 2002, my wife thought it would be a good idea to add an aquarium to our living room. Little did she know, that this small room accessory would turn into a renewed obsession with aquariums. As soon as we decided to setup an aquarium, I started researching what other folks were doing on the Internet. For no particular reason, other than the beautiful pictures I saw on the web, I decided to try a few common plants (swords, ludwigia, anacharis) from PetSmart. Additionally, a co-worker bought me Amano’s Nature Aquarium, Nature Aquarium World: Book 1 (Natural Aquarium World) which introduced me to planted tanks on a whole new level. From there, it’s just history.

What is a guitarfish?

I first came up with the name “guitarfish” to use as a handle on an online forum. Unable to come up with any “good” handles, I started to think of the things I enjoy. I love to play my guitar, and I love my aquariums. Thus guitar + aquarium fish = guitarfish. Little did I know, at the time, that there is actually a family, Rhinobatidae, of rays called guitarfish. I apologize in advance to any visitors to this site looking for large ocean rays, only to find a site about freshwater weeds and attractive bait fish.

You like nature, huh?

Growing up, I spent a lot of time running through the woods, climbing trees, catching frogs, watching deer and squirrels, and generally spending time outdoors. This has given me a large appreciation for the natural world. I’d much rather spend my vacations hiking on wilderness trails then going through amusement parks. (I do enjoy a good roller coaster on occasion, however.) When I visit these nature parks, I try to photograph them, and share them on this site. I don’t think most aquarists’ interest in nature is confined to a glass box filled with water.

What camera do you use?

Canon Digital Rebel XTi 10.1MP Digital SLR Camera with EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 Lens (Black)Right now, I’m using the Canon Rebel XTi (400D) with a variety of lenses. If you like or dislike one of my photos (or articles), I love to receive comments and criticism.

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