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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CCA – Ad Konings – September 2007

September 9th, 2007

CCA’s September 8th meeting probably drew a record crowd, and for good reason; Ad Konings, author of over 30 books and expert of African cichlids traveled from his home in Texas to speak to us about the feeding behavior and relationships of Lake Malawian cichlids. There were quite a few items up for auction, including some of Ad’s books and fish traded from another club via a fish swap. Ad’s talk was fascinating, and included countless video clips demonstrating each type of feed behavior found in the lake cichlids.

To summarize his talk, he says that all cichlids in Lake Malawi are either algae eaters (herbivores), invertebrate eaters (carnivores), or fish eaters (piscivores). Inside of each of these groupings, there are a number of specializations describing exactly how they feed. For example, within the algae eaters, Tropheops tropheops is a “shaker,” which means that they lock their jaws on strands of algae, and shake their body to rip off whatever algae will detach from rocks. Others, such as Pseudotropheus sp. “elongatus aggressive” have specialized jaws with teeth protruding outward to be able to scrape algae completely from the rocks. Then, Hemitilapia oxyrhynchus is considered a “leaf stripper” which means that they affix their jaws on strands of Vallisenaria and then slide the leaf through their jaws, stripping it of any algae.

Copyright, Ad Konings. Presented at CCA September 2007 meeting.

The carnivores are even more specialized. Pseudotropheus sp. ‘williamsi’ leap from the water to catch flies congregating overhead in still patches of air surrounding large rock outcrops. Protomelas pleurotaenia blows detritus from the substrate, hoping to unearth hidden insects and invertebrates to feed upon. Meanwhile, cyrtocara moori will follow other earth-eating fish, and feed on any extra food in the clouds of detritus that they create. Mylochromis epichorialis only feeds on small crabs, while Aulonocara stuartgranti has a specialized holes in their jaw allowing it to use sonar to pinpoint insects underneath the substrate to prey upon.

Copyright, Ad Konings. Presented at CCA September 2007 meeting.

Finally, the fish eating cichlids find ways to prey upon other fish for their food. Metriaclima pursus cleans scales of other fish, often where the other fish willingly allow the Metriaclima to work. Caprichromis liemi manages to dart toward other fish, ripping aquatic lice from their throat for their meals. Genyochromis mento is a fin biter that has many color morphs throughout the lake to match the color patterns of its prey in each area. That allows the fish to get close to its prey, and nip patches of finage from unsuspecting fish. Nimbochromis livingstonii plays dead on the lake floor near other fish’s fry, waiting for them to move close enough for attack. Sciaenochromis fryeri actually imitates algae-eating behavior to get close enough to their target prey.

Copyright, Ad Konings. Presented at CCA September 2007 meeting.

This is only a subset of the information that Ad delivered during his presentation. It’s really fascinating how specialized the fish in Lake Malawi are. In Lake Malawi there are over 884 species of cichlids. That’s more than the 800 species of freshwater fish in all of North America. With so many species in a single lake, each has adapted to best be able to survive in their own micro-environment. A fascinating talk!

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Ted Judy on Pelvicachromis (CCA April 2007)

April 14th, 2007
April 2007 CCA Meeting
Milling around before the meeting

The Capital Cichlid Association’s April 2007 meeting featured a well-known dwarf cichlid expert, Ted Judy, from Colorado to speak about west African dwarf cichlids of the Pelvicachromis genus.

Pat opening CCA meeting
Pat shows off the new poster.

Before the meeting started, everyone was milling around, engaging in typical fish talk, and admiring the upcoming auction goods. Pat Kelly, CCA‘s president, opened the meeting by showing off a new club poster that is going to be spread around to the local stores to help advertise the clubs’ existence.

Then, Pat introduced Ted Judy, who had prepared an excellent presentation about the Pelvicachromis genus of west African cichlids. Ted opened his presentation with a brief overview of the cichlid family. Pelvicachromis is a very popular group of cichlids that have

Ted Judy at April 2007 CCA Meeting
Ted Judy

been in the hobby for a long time. The Pelvicachromis pulcher was first kept and bred in the 1960s, and gained widespread affection since it is a colorful fish, that is peaceful enough to be kept in a community setting. In general, Pelvicachromis can be easily sexed by looking at the ventral fin. A male will have a pointed ventral fin, with iridescent blue markings, while a female’s fins will be more rounded. All Pelvicachromis species are coastal fish, found only in freshwater streams/rivers within 100 miles of the ocean. Their habitat does not consist of much vegetation, so the substrate is quite silty/muddy. Therefore, the Pelvicachromis often sift the sand, feeding on decaying matter and invertebrates found in the sand. The pH of these streams is usually close to neutral, 7.0.

Based on Ted’s observations in the wild, he has come up with his own unique formula for feeding his Pelvicachromis. Since their diet consists of 70-80% vegetable matter, he tries to replicate this by mixing vegetable and spirulina flakes, with a small portion of protein-based flakes, such as “cichlid flakes” into one container. He then feeds his fish this combined flake mix, ground into small pieces so that it can be easily eaten. To rear fry, or prepare fish for spawning, he will mix in some brine shrimp, daphia, or grindle/white worms. He will also feed krill to bring out more color in a fish.

When seeking breeding pairs, Ted recommends buying a group of 6 fish, and putting them into a smallish 20G tank. Within a month, if a pair has formed, Ted removes all but the weakest other fish. He has found that by leaving one extra Krib in the tank, the pair has a target to “beat” on, which helps to strength the pair’s bond. Setting up the Krib’s breeding space is relatively straight forward; just add a few hollowed-out coconuts, with just enough space for the male to enter. He notes that pH affects the ratio of male and female fry produced. More acidic water produces more females, while alkaline water tends to create more males. Once the fry are free swimming, raise them on powdered flake food and brine shrimp, and make sure to do lots of water changes. Ted does a 20% water change everyday when first raising fry.

Ted then proceeded to discuss many different species and color morphs of Pelvicachromis, providing pictures of each. He did an excellent job giving geographic collection information for each species, as well as, the probability of finding each species domestically depending on political or logistical complications. Each species was accompanied by a slew of information that I recommend you research further on web:

Ted Judy’s profile on Cichlid Room

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CCA – February 2007 Meeting

February 12th, 2007

The Capital Cichlid Association’s February meeting was one of the best meetings I’ve been to in a long time. This month’s meeting was less of your typical meeting, and more of a photography workshop. The organizers setup three tanks, with three beautiful African cichlids in them. Surrounding the tanks were the proper barriers, backgrounds, and flash equipment to get the perfect shot. Basically, they setup the right environment so that you can come, armed with your best camera, to try to make the shot.

The meeting opened with three brief talks, describing a few tips for photographing fish. Basically, get as much light above the tank as possible. Shoot at a F11-F18 to make sure the whole fish is in focus. And, if possible use at least one flash unit over the aquarium, and possibly a second flash on the side as a “fill” light. Other than that, clean your glass, be conscientious of reflections, and if all of that fails, clean the image up in Photoshop.

Here’s an image that I captured. I had to do a little bit of Photoshop work to clean it up, but overall I think it looks okay. Not the greatest, but okay. If nothing else, this is one beautiful fish!

Cichlid at CCA Meeting

Of course, after the workshop, we had the regular mini-auction and raffle. I decided to try daphnia for the first time. So far, the fish love ’em — big surprise!

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CCA – January 2007 Meeting

January 13th, 2007

Michael Barber - January 2007I attended the Capital Cichlid Association’s January meeting today, where Michael Barber, a club member, talked about his experiences collecting fish in Iquitos, Peru. I have an extra sense of interest about this topic because my wife and I are contemplating a similar trip this year through Margarita Tours, to see the Amazon, and collect fish there. I came to the meeting, armed with a pad of paper and pen, to jot done any tips to make living on a riverboat for week, in wet clothes from wading in the muddy, murky water of the Amazon more enjoyable. Fortunately, Michael offered some advice, along with plenty of inspiration for making the trip.

Items for the Mini-Auction
Items for the mini-auction

Michael showed off a few simple items, such as an expandable dip net, collapsible bait bucket (for fish), and quick-drying zip off nylon pants. All of these things, combined with a can of insecticide to ward off pest made his life a bit easier. Of course, a breathable hat and pair of river shoes also helped him keep dry and comfortable. Besides these tips, (which probably aren’t that exciting for you, but are helpful for me) Michael spent most of his presentation showing off lots of great pictures of the fish he and others collected while on the trip. They encountered everything from apistos, to severums, to plecos, knifefish, anacondas, tree frogs, to fresh-water dolphins.

Auctioning Off Items
The Mini-Auction Underway

The folks at Margarita Tours also work with Project Amazonas, to help promote conservation and humanitarian efforts in the region. Michael said that on his trip, they invited two British dentists along to setup free dental clinics at all of the local villages they stopped at along the way. It really sounds like a life-changing kind of trip, on so many levels. We’re still in the planning stages, but I really hope to make it down to Peru soon!

One last exciting note: CCA announced their speaker lineup for 2007, and while a number of quality speakers will present, they’ve managed to commit African cichlid expert, Ad Koenig, to present in September. If you’re in the region, I suggest you come to this meeting!

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