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    Mystery Plant from Texas Discus Ancistrus sp. L279
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Catfish Convention Auction

October 19th, 2008

After an extremely busy couple of days preparing for and attending a family wedding, I managed to carve out some time to attend the All-Aquarium Catfish Convention auction. I was very pleased to be able to catch up with Dr. Devon Graham, who runs and operates Margarita Tours, which is the company I traveled to the Peruvian Amazon with in August 2007. In addition, from everyone I talked to, it sounds like the convention itself was a tremendous success. I’m very proud of GWAPA participating on Friday night with a workshop about planted-tank-friendly catfish, and representing with a beautiful informational display table. That was all made possible by the work of some very dedicated members.

The auction was huge, consisting of 10 lots of items. I brought 15 bags of plants and fish, and I suspect everyone else did similarly because there could be no less than 1000 items there. Plants, catfish, killies, cichlids, tanks, tools, equipment, it was all present. My only buy of the day was a fantastic grab, pulling 20 Bristlenosed Pleco juveniles for only $14. I have no idea what I’m going to do with all of those if they reach adulthood, but I’ll enjoy raising them up, possibly breeding them, and passing them onto other aquarists. I’d love to hear what everyone else in attendance came away with.

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Face-to-Face with Catfish

March 31st, 2008

In my 54G corner aquarium, I’ve got quite a few different kinds of catfish. All of them are different looking, and each has a unique character.

The Ancistrus sp. L279 bristle-nose plecos stay around 3-4″, and are usually found sucking on the driftwood in the tank. They’re fairly timid, but do come out often enough to enjoy.

Ancistrus sp. L279

The Siamese Algae Eater, SAE, is a very common algae eating fish. They are commonly confused is the Flying Fox, which is not nearly as effective an algae eater. Becoming popular once they were observed eating black brush algae, they are often recommended to new aquarists as a means of algae control. Unfortunately, most people do not initially realize that the small fish they purchase in the store, turn into 6-7″ blimps. Despite their size, they’re usually lazy enough, lounging around most of the time in their old age, that they do not disturb the aquascape.


The Botia sidthimunki loach is a fantastic little catfish that stays small, is constantly active, and is very social when kept in a group. I have five of these in the tank, and they’re always scurrying around, chasing each other throughout the aquarium. They do not harass other tank mates, however, well, except for snails or shrimp!

Botia sidthimunki

I have a couple varieties of corydoras in this tank. Cories are also very social catfish, constantly searching the bottom areas of the tank. Occasionally, you will see one shoot from the substrate all the way up to the water surface, and then dart back down. Apparently, cories have adapted to be able to breath air from the surface, allowing them to survive in poorly oxygenated water. I’ve also witnessed them playfully swimming upside-down at the water surface for awhile before swimming back down to the bottom.


Overall, I can highly recommend all of these catfish, for different reasons. The A. sp. L279 are great little plecos that eat algae, but don’t overwealm the tank. The SAEs get bigger, but are peaceful, and also eat algae. The “sid the monkey” loaches are a great, active, addition to any tank, and will eliminate snails from your aquarium. And corydoras are just plain fun to watch!

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All-Aquarium Catfish Convention 2008

March 12th, 2008

All-Aquarium Catfish Convention 2008PVAS is once again hosting the bi-annual 2008 All-Aquarium Catfish Convention on October 17-19. If you’ve never been to a fish convention, this is the premier event to do so, renowned speakers and guests traveling large distances to attend.

This year, the theme of the convention is Expedition Amazon, which will cover a wide array of topics, including both fish and habitat in the Amazon River. Workshops and field trips will further the experience, culminating in what should be an enormous auction on Sunday.

Registration is now open, with an early-bird discount of only $30. GWAPA will also be involved in the convention on Friday night, giving a short workshop on what catfish are appropriate for a planted aquarium. And, on a personal note, I’m very much looking forward to seeing Devon Graham, a fantastic tropical biologist, and leader of the Amazon expedition my wife and I took last August. It’ll be great to see him again.

Finally, you can have a 1 in 50 shot of going to the Amazon yourself, as Margarita Tours has generously donated a trip to Peru. $50 per ticket, for the trip of a lifetime. (I know, I’ve been there.)

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Catfish Like Zucchini

February 20th, 2008

For many catfish, specifically “suckerfish” like plecos, it’s often stated that you want to keep wood in your aquarium as it’s an integral part of their diet. It’s also true that they ought to be fed other vegetable matter, such as algae wafers, veggie-based pellets, and so on. Well, fresh, clean vegetables are also a cheap and much appreciated treat for these fish.

Chinese Algae/Zuchchini Eater

We had zucchini as part of our dinner last night, so rather than throwing the ends down the disposal, I cut the stalk off, and set aside 4 small circles of the squash for my catfish. Now, these vegetables were certified organic, so I was fairly confident that they would be pesticide free. In the summer we grow our own vegetables, so we know their source as well. If there’s any doubt, at the least do a thorough washing, and at the best, don’t throw them in your tank. Also, if they’ve been contaminated with any oils, butter, or seasonings, don’t put them in the aquarium.

Chinese Algae/Zuchchini Eater

The problem with fresh zucchini is that it floats. Placing the pieces in a small dish with a bit of water, I microwaved them for 4-5 minutes, or until they stopped floating. This boiling process breaks down the cellular walls, allowing them to become water logged. Alternatively, you can tie them down to a heavy object. The last step is to slice a couple notches in the rind of the squash. The reason being that the catfish eat out the soft core, and could potentially get the “ring of rind” caught around their bodies.

Chinese Algae/Zuchchini Eater

At first, when I dropped the cooled zucchini into the aquarium, none of the fish took much notice. I was surprised that the cories didn’t seem to care for it at all. Then, my chinese algae eater (CAE) found one of the pieces, and started going to town. Two other plecos (Ancistrus sp. L279) took notice and latched onto the same piece. A rigmarole of back-and-forth swapping of the vegetable pieces ensued for 20 minutes before I let them continue on for however long.

Chinese Algae/Zuchchini Eater

Even when not scraping the inner core of the zucchini, the CAE sat over top of one of the pieces, claiming it as his own. While this was going on in my 54G, Red Lizard Catfish and some cherry shrimp were devouring two pieces in my 75G tank. Over the next day or two, I’ll pull out the rind once all of the “good stuff” has been eaten.

Bottom line, if you’re chopping squash for dinner, set aside a couple rounds for your catfish — they’ll love you for it!

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Welcome Home Red Lizards

December 6th, 2007

After nearly 6 weeks in 20L, I finally returned my four Red Lizard Catfish, Hemiloricaria sp. ‘Red’ (L10a), to the 75G tank. I’ve been leaving them out for two reasons: I wanted the water chemistry in the 75G to stabilize, and I wanted the Utricularia graminfolia to get partially established before I reintroduced them to the tank.

Red Lizard Catfish

These pale reddish catfish are quite lazy fish in my tanks. They spend a large deal of their time lounging on the substrate or hardscape. It would be fantastic if they actually ate some of the black-brush-algae they’re laying on in the pictures. Fortunately, the Amano shrimp are slowly mowing that down.

Red Lizard Catfish

Despite their less-than-ideal appetite for algae, they stay small, and they’re colorful, so I enjoy having them in my tank. They’ve already seemed to settle back into their larger home. The 75G is quickly turning into a catfish tank with all of the corydoras, Ancistrus sp. L279, and these guys.

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Ancistrus sp. L279

November 18th, 2007

At both the Catfish Convention and the Aquafest auction, I picked up a bag of Ancistrus sp. L279 dwarf bushy-nosed plecos. After keeping them for other a year, I think this species is a fantastic match for a planted aquarium. They max out in length around 4 inches so they’re not going to inadvertently uproot plants from their size. Mine are not shy, so I see them on wood or lounging on open substrate, and they’re fairly active algae eaters. Plus, they’re very attractive fish with white markings on the tips of their tail, and many have very nice spots on their body. I’m guessing that the spots are a gender distinction because some of mine have very pronounced ones, and others not so much.

Ancistrus sp. L279

I don’t have any with huge sections of tentacles/growths on their snout, but they do have some small barbels. I’m hoping that as my latest batch grows up, they’ll develop these further. I’ve seen this species posted on Aquabid, sometimes called Ancistrus sp. ‘Huaca Mayo,’ so if you come across this listing, give them a try — they’re a great little ancistrus!

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Red Lizard Catfish

September 20th, 2007

The Red Lizard Catfish, or Hemiloricaria sp. ‘Red’ (L10a), is my new favorite catfish. It’s a whiptail catfish, but stays much smaller than your typical whiptail. This fish tops out around 4 inches in length, making them a wonderful catfish for all but the smallest of tanks. I bought three of these fish last fall at the Catfish Convention from a vendor out of Erie, PA.

Red Lizard Catfish

Native to the Rio Tocantins in Brazil, I thought that these fish would fit in nicely with my Apistogramma cacatuoides. They’re very active fish, constantly scurrying along the rocks, glass, and substrate looking for something to eat. They’re not aggressive at all, and the cichlids don’t seem to bother them, even when the cichlids are spawning. I’m really hoping that some vendors at AquaFest 2007 will have more of these so that I can stock several more in my tanks. I haven’t tried breeding them yet, but it has been done, so if I do get more, I may dedicate a small tank to that purpose.

Red Lizard Catfish

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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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Catfish Convention 2006 – Day 1

October 20th, 2006

Andrew Blumhagen and Ian Fuller kicking off the conventionToday was the first day of the All Aquarium 2006 Catfish Convention put on by the Potomac Valley Aquarium Society,Ian Fuller a large local aquarium club. The program director is Andrew Blumhagen (left), who opened the convention by introducing to us hobbiest, and corydora expert, Ian Fuller (right), all the way from Great Britain.

Ian’s first, of two, presentations at this convention was largely about identifying corydoradine catfish. He presented a number of well drawn slides, such as the one below, showing in detail the growing number of problems in the

classification system of these fish. Basically, he demonstrated how two entirely different species can look too similar to differentiate when put side-by-side. His claim, is that you must know the exact locality to correctly identify the fish. Toward the end of his talk, he mentioned that the situation is only being exacerbated by human factors, such as deforestation, pollution, and dam construction. These factors are causing species to migrate out of their normal habitat, entering new environment. The changes in their environment are causing the fish to develop different color morphs, further complicating identification.

Lee FinleyThe second speaker at the convention was Lee Finley, who gave a presentation focusing solely on how to feed your catfish the kind of food they would normally eat in the wild. Basically, catfish don’t just eat algae and detritus when in the wild. Depending on the species, they’ll eat wood, bark, algae,Vampire Pleco detritus, veggie matter, fish, insects, larvae, worms, the list goes on. His slide of the commonly known Vampire Pleco, or Rabbit Tooth Pleco, illustrated how specialized some of these catfish have become. These Plecos used their “two front teeth” to chisel away at wood, searching for inserts; much like a Lee Finley - Time for Dinner?wood pecker would do in a forest. Unfortunately, Lee had to rush through his talk in order for everyone to make it to the much anticipated Italian dinner.

Finally, the last topic I was able to hear for the day was put on by Dinyar and Rusty Lalkaka. This father and son duo gave us a quick tour a number of interesting Asian catfishes. Even though Asian Catfish are only second to South American fish in terms of the diversification of both species and genus, few hobbiest know or keep them. One of the lone exceptions is probably the glass catfish, which are at every LFS in the world.
The last two topics were titled “Catfishes in the Classroom” and “Breeding Loricariids.” Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to stick around for those two, but I’m sure they were quite interesting. Stay tuned for more convention coverage from Day 2, tomorrow!

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