How to show your fish at fish shows

About fish shows

Gozo fish show

Gozo fish show

You’ve learned to keep your fish from dying. You have managed to breed your fish. Now what? Entering your fish into a local fish show is a great next step in taking your fishkeeping hobby to the next level.
With experience you can win trophies, ribbons or prizes such as aquarium equipment or money.
You can show off your prized champion fishes and your skill at raising and breeding your fish.
Fish shows are a good place to keep abreast of new products. Many new products and different interesting species are usually on display.
Usually there are door prizes giving the entrants many chances to win fishkeeping equipment such as heaters, filters or lighting.
You will certainly meet fellow aquarists who will be expert in various fields of fishkeeping. You can learn a lot by asking questions. These experts always take great pride in answering questions, so that they show show off their great expertise on their favourite subject.
You can also ask company representatives of manufacturers about any equipment that they have on display and advice on equipment in general.
You may have to attend shows a few times to see what your competition is like before you will be ready to start entering your fish into the show.
It is only when you start showing off your fish that your fishkeeping skills will really improve and you will become a real expert.
Only through research, and putting into practice what you pick up will you be able to consistently high quality show grade fish.

international fish shows for the best fish

international fish shows for the best fish

Different types of fish shows

Most aquatic competitions are organised by aquarium societies. Some are very large such as the International Betta Congress (IBC) or local to large towns or cities.

Small fish shows

Small fish shows are sponsored by local clubs. To enter a fish into one of these shows you do have to be a member of the local club.

Regional fish shows

These are shows where different clubs compete against each other. A regional show forces you to cooperate with other members of your club in a team effort.

Open fish shows

Same as regional shows except that these are open to the general public and not just members of any particular fish club or aquarium society.

Fish exhibitions or Aquatic Conventions

These are the largest shows that you can enter. These types of show are hosted by tropical fish magazines and international societies.
Many aquarium equipment manufacturers will be present. They usually showcase their latest product line in aquarium filters, lighting, aquariums and aquarium equipment. They will try to sell you something if you look like a prospect.

How fish shows work

Understanding classes in fish shows

Here a judge is grading discus at a show

Here a judge is grading discus at a show

Fish shows put fish into classes so that similar fishes will be judge against each other. Fish shows have many rules for a fish class. You will have to make an effort to understand these rules and comply with these rules to have a decent chance of winning.
Fish have to be compared like for like to make it fairer and easier for the judge to make a decision. That is why you have to enter your fish into a specific class. Make sure you put your fish into the correct class. Classes are grouped by similar species. Groups such as livebearers, central american cichlids, dwarf cichlids and the like are examples of classes and should be easy for you to decide which class is best for your fish to be entered into.
Classes can be further divided into sub-classes. For example a livebearer class can be divided into guppy, platy, molly and swordtail classes. Then guppy class can also be further sub divided into tail type classes such as spade tail, round tail, lyretail, etc. Make sure your fish is suitable for the class you intend to enter it into.

Increasing your chances of winning a fish show

Pedigree dragon scale koi betta

Pedigree dragon scale koi betta

Try to prevent or discourage people from looking at your fish before the judges arrive. You don’t want your fish to be unnecessarily stressed before the judges have arrived. Stressed fish may lose their colour.
You can actually train your fish not be be spooked out by strangers coming to inspect them. What you need to do is recreate competition-like conditions for your fish at home.
Place your fish’s holding tank somewhere lots of people will pass to and fro in front of, with the occasional person peering into the tank. Or arrange for several members of your family to pace back and forth near the tank several times a day. And also tell them to peer into the tank, while you observe your fish’s behaviour. When the fish becomes accustomed to this attention then you can train less often. Also you can try shining a torch at the fish occasionally so that when the fish is at the show the fish will not be startled by a judge with poor eyesight flashing a torch at your fish to better see it.

Never present ill fish at shows. Only take fish that are in tip-top to the show. The stress of the show and the travelling to and from the show does put a fish under stress. Such stress can kill or make ill a weak fish. You will not be popular at the show if you bring a sick or weak fish.
A small holding tank can be used to keep your fish safe and well before the show so that your prize fish can avoid getting into a fight or injured with other fish. You can also keep a close eye on your fish’s health. Feed live food and vegetable tidbits in preparation for the show. Make sure you clean the tank with water changes and syphon off any waste matter daily.
Don’t include decorations in the holding tank that may injure your fish. You can however include floating plants and some java moss or java ferns. Have a bare bottom or a thin layer of sand at the bottom of the holding tank.
Your fish needs to be relaxed and stress free in the holding tank. And maintenance and observation will be easier.

Champion grade koi shusui scaleless

Champion grade koi shusui scaleless

Exhibiting your fish in a professional manner

Get hold of a copy of the rules for the class you expect to show your fish in. Study the rules carefully before you fill out an entry form so that you can familiarise yourself with the rules of the contest you want to enter your fish into.
Take your fish to the show early so that your fish has time to settle down. Stressed fish may have washed out colours. Adding a little salt to the holding tank can help your fish regain its colour.
Always take water from home with you to the show. Do not use water from the show, which may be markedly different than the water you have at home. Many owners who ignore this end up with sick fish after the show. Also for a day or two before the show stop feeding. This will not harm your fish, but will reduce any toxins in the water and your fish will become more active.
Always use a show tank that is the appropriate size for the size of fish that you will be showing. A small fish in a large tank will look lost, while a large fish in a small tank will look cramped.
Make sure you read the rules in regards to the set up of the show tank. Some shows don’t allow gravel. Make sure you clean the glass throughly on the outside of the tank and inside.
When your show tank is all set up then stand back and look at the whole set up with the fish inside. Look at it with the eye of a judge. Make adjustments where necessary.

Show guidelines for showing fish

wonderful champion crown pearlscale goldfish

wonderful champion crown pearlscale goldfish

Judging guidelines are usually very strict. Contestants are usually not allowed near their tanks when the fish are being judged. So, be patient.
Each class has a single judge who will judge and score your fish on its own merit and not in comparison to neighbouring fish.
After all the fish in all the classes have been judged, a best of show award is given to the best fish in the show overall.
Aquarium societies have set up benchmarks or standards that each fish can be directly compared to. Obviously the fish that is closest to the benchmark is usually judge to be the winner.
Most fish are judged on a point system. Points are allocated in sections. Some points for size, some for shape, some for colour, finnage and deportment. Some sections are appointed more points than others, so be aware of this. The fish with the most points altogether is the winner.

Size and body weight of show fish

Size is a consistently high scoring factor. Bigger fish score more than smaller fish.
The fish’s body must be fully intact. No bumps or growths or deformities. They are not tolerated well by the judges. The fish’s body must be of the correct shape and correct proportion. The fish should not look bloated or anorexic.

Colour and fins of show fish

A fish’s body colour is determined by various layers of pigmentation that is found in the scales and the flesh underlying the scales of the fish. In the wild, colour is used for camouflage, display, mating and for shoaling purposes.
In shows, the fish must meet the the show standards for colour which might be markedly different than wild colours. Many show fish have colours that have been mutated over many generations away from the original wild colouration. Colour can be a very important factor in scoring for a show and a lot of points out of the total go to good coloration.
Fish do have some chameleon like abilities when it comes to colour. They can adjust their colours to better blend in with their surroundings. In bright tanks they can become washed out while in dark tanks they can darken.
Your fish’s coloration should be even all over the body and fins. The colour should not look washed out or be in patches unless it is a patterned fish.When 2 or more colours appear on a fish the borders where 2 colours meet each other should be well defined without colour bleeding.
Do not be tempted to use artificial colouring methods to improve the colour of your fish. These techniques leave the fish looking artificial and most judges will instantly recognised an artificially coloured fish and disqualify it.
Fins should all be present and well formed. Any missing or deformed fins are severely frowned on by judges. It is better to not enter such fish because you want to build up a good relationship with the judges for future shows. All fins must be in good condition with no tears, splits or frayed edges. The fins should all be held wide open and properly coloured. The fins should all be symmetrical in shape and size.

Overall condition of show fish

There should be no missing or damaged scales. Eyes should be bright and clear and symmetrical. The eyes must not be bulging or look sunken. The fish must be in perfect health and have a healthy and alert appearance.
Transporting fish to and from a show
Transport the fish’s display tank in an insulated wooden box. Darken the tank by covering with a cloth. Cushion the tanks so that vibrations and jolts are not transmitted to the tank and the fish. Make sure you arrive early to set up your show tank and give your fish time to settle after their stressful journey. Relaxed fish always display better and always score better than skitty fish with stressed colours.

 

Foreground plants and specimen plants

Foreground plants and specimen plants

More about aquascaping basics here

More about midground plants here

More about background plants here

These are plants that stand out as individual plants. They occupy the middle to front of the aquarium. They usually have large leaves and visible stems. Only a few are needed or even a single large dominating plant is a possibility. Here is a range of easy to care for foreground plants.

cryptocoryne-beckettii

cryptocoryne-beckettii

Cryptocoryne Becketti

Long slim pointed leaves with a serrated edge. The plant can turn from green to red in brighter light. Use of fertiliser and brighter light helps this plant grow faster but is not necessary.

Plant separately in individual pots. It does not like its roots touching the cold aquarium bottom.

It gows 6″ to 8″ and requires low to medium lighting with a temperature range of 75-82F. It is a nice low maintenance plant once established.

Cryptocoryne Undulata

cryptocoryne-undulata

cryptocoryne-undulata

It has long slim pointed leaves with wavy edges. The leaves grow upwards from short thin stems.
Leaves tend to turn red or brown when kept in bright lighting which can be quite attractive depending on your own personal preference. In moderate to low lighting the leaves remain green.
It grows between 4″-8″ and is flexible in terms of the lighting conditions provided.
It does best in temperatures between 72F-82F and a ph 6-8
It is an easy to care for plant

Cryptocoryne Wendtii

It has medium to long slim pointed leaves with wavy edges. The leaves gow up from thin short stems and are green in colour.
This is the most popular and most recommended of the crypt plants. They grow between 4″-6″ but there are also larger sub-varieties of Wendtii.
It likes a water temperature of 72-82F and a ph between 6-8. It likes low to moderate lighting
This is the easiest to keep of the crypts.

cryptocoryne-willisi

cryptocoryne-willisi

Cryptocoryne Willisi

It has long slim pointed leaves with wavy edges. The leaves gow up from thin short stems and are green in colour.
This plant likes medium to bright light.
It grows to 6″ in height. Ph of 6.5 -7.2 . Temperature range 72-81F
It is one of the toughest Cryptocoryne species.

Echinodorus Tenellus

It has a grass like appearance with nice long slim green leaves. Under water grass that will cover most of the foreground area. Place larger plants within the middle of it.
Will grow and spread quickly once established. It prefers soft water with a ph of about 5.5-7.5
It grows to 3.5″ and likes bright lighting. Keep the temperature between 62F-80F

Lilaeopsis-novae-zelandiae

Lilaeopsis-novae-zelandiae

Lilaeopsis novae zelandiae

This is a grass like plant with long thin green leaves that bunch together. It propogates off runners. Just take cuttings when the mini plants develop roots.
Needs bright lighting. Grows between 3″-5″ high. Keep at temperatures between 64F-82F. It has a pH range 6.8-7.5

Giant Sagittaria

Long but wide green leaves that fan out from the base and no stem. Can also be placed in a coldwater aquarium.
Grows to 8″ tall. It needs bright lighting. Teperature range of 61F-79F

More unusual foreground plants

Anubias-barteri-nana

Anubias-barteri-nana

Dwarf Anubias

A short plant with green privet shaped leaves. It is good for low lit aquariums. Temperature range of 72-82F. ph range of 6.0 – 9.0. Grows from 3-4 inches tall. Can be attached to bogwood or rocks away from the aquarium floor. It develops a good root system.

Java Fern

This is a popular plant and for good reason. It is a relatively easy to care for plant that survives in most aquarium conditions. The leaves are bitter tasting to most fish and is usually left alone. It likes low lighting conditions. It will grow to 10inches tall. Temperature range of 68-79F. Ph between 6-8 ph. It prefers not to be planted but to have its roots attched to a rock or a piece of bogwood. The plant has long wide pointed leaves.

Radicans Swordplant

radicans-sword

radicans-sword

Quite a large plant. Can grow up to 24 inches. So you need a larger taller aquarium. It has long stems and round leaves. It likes bright light and a temperature range between 64-82F. PH 6.5-7.5. An easy to care for plant.

Red Tiger Lotus

This is a stunning and dominating plant with variegated red, orangey or yellow leaves. The leaves are wide, round and crinkly. It can grow to 12-20 inches tall. It needs bright light and a temperature between 72-82 and a ph of between 6.5-7.5. Relatively easy to care for but will need to be pruned occasionally.

Java Moss

This not a plant but is a moss that grows in the shape of a bush. It can be pruned and trimmed to the right shape and size. It is not fussy over lighting conditions. It is a tough and undemanding plant that grows slowly and doesn’t need much attention. Fool proof plant. Temperature range of 68F-86F. Ph 5-8 or more.

Sprucing up an old aquarium

Sprucing up an old aquarium

Find out about how to maintain a tank here

Find out about aquascaping here

Perhaps you have an old aquarium that hasn’t been used in a while and you want to spruce it up and make it usable once again. Or you could have an aquarium that is in use, but you have had it for a long time and you might be feeling a bit bored with it, even if your fish aren’t. After all, every once in a while we need to change the décor of our home, right? An aquarium is like a tiny room in our house that needs sprucing up every once in a while. There are a number of ways to spruce up an old aquarium for your pleasure and for the current or new occupants.

Give your aquarium a good clean

It’s best to start with a thorough cleaning of your aquarium. While you likely clean your tank weekly, as recommended, sometimes an aquarium needs some spring cleaning, aka. a complete overhaul. Before you decide to spruce up the old aquarium, start by cleaning it thoroughly. In fact, you can alter the appearance of your aquarium simply by making everything bright and clean once again.

Changing the water

The first thing you will need to do is change the water in the tank. To do this, you will need to syphon off at least half the water in the aquarium and add “aged water” to the tank to replace the water you removed. What is “aged water”? This is water that you have poured from your home faucet into a never-used or sterilized container, such as a bucket.

The key to aging this water is to allow it to sit and reach room temperature. You can allow it to sit and aerate long enough to de-chlorinate, which takes about 24 hours, or you can use a de-chlorination tablet or solution from your local pet store. You should also ensure your water is at the correct pH level, between 6.5 and 7.5. If your water is outside of this range, use a product from your pet store to adjust the pH of the water.

Cleaning the gravel bed

All kinds of debris gets buried in the gravel bed of your aquarium, including fish waste, uneaten food, and parts of plants that are dead and decomposing. These need to be removed by syphoning them from the tank. For this reason, it is ideal to do this at the same time you are removing old water from the tank.

Remove any accessories you have in your aquarium before you begin. Live plants can also be removed and placed in a dish of water. Place one end of the syphon in a bucket and place the other end in the tank. As you syphon the debris, use the end of the syphon hose or your fingers to gently stir up the debris, but not so much that it spreads throughout the whole aquarium. Remove as much debris as you can.

Scraping and cleaning the tank

After about half the water and as much debris as possible is removed from the aquarium, you can clean the sides of the tank and the accessories that were in it. Scrape any algae and other material off the sides of the tank and wipe it clean with paper towel. Use a brush or abrasive pad to clean accessories. Never use soap or chemicals when cleaning any part of your tank. It is also important not to change or clean the filter at this time. Good bacteria live in your aquarium and in the filter. Since you have probably cleaned much of it out of the aquarium, you need what is in the filter, so wait two to three weeks before cleaning or changing the filter.

Tank accessories

Once your tank is clean the real fun can begin. Changing the accessories in your tank, or simply adding new ones, is perhaps the easiest way to spruce up your old aquarium, but there are other ways to make it look grand and provide you with a much-needed change. Here are a few suggestions:

Get some live plants:

If you have only synthetic plants in your aquarium, you can choose to replace or augment those with live plants. If you are unsure about using live plants, just start with one or two. They will help oxygenate the water and create a more natural environment for your fish. They also look beautiful. You might have to trim them back as they grow and they will need a full spectrum light on the tank, but otherwise they are very low maintenance.

Change the color of the gravel:

This is a bigger job that requires the removal of the old gravel, but changing the color of the gravel will really add some new zing to your aquarium.

Go with a theme:

You can choose new accessories for your aquarium based on a specific theme. You are only limited by your imagination, so check out the many different types of accessories and themes at your local pet store and online. Choose from sunken ruins, Easter Island, Super Mario, a bathroom scene, Sponge Bob Square Pants, an underwater volcano, or any one of a number of others. Make up your own scene for a more personalized aquarium.

Use a 3D background:

3D aquarium backgrounds offer an added dimension of scenery for both you and your fish. These backgrounds don’t just offer a pretty 3D picture on a 2D surface; they offer a vertical 3D surface that is textured and can even provide crevices, ledges, and rocks fish can explore and hide in. A 3D background definitely provides your fish with a more natural-looking environment, making them feel right at home.
Add different fish: Finally, to spruce up your old aquarium, you can add new fish. Of course, you have to have the space for these fish and you need to be sure the new species can comfortably live with the fish you already have, but as long as these factors allow for it, new colors and types of fish can be a welcome change.

Change the lighting:

You can go with a brighter light to bring life to a dark aquarium. Or get a day glo type bulb to reveal more natural colours. There are even bulbs that bring out reds or blues more. If you have red fish or blue fish that you would like to bring out the colours, then bulbs like this will add sparkle to your aquarium.

Sprucing up an old aquarium can be a fun, creative project. You can do it on your own or involve the whole family. Just remember that the happiness and wellbeing of your fish come first. As long as this is your first priority, use your imagination and have fun creating an aquarium that will not only look great, but will become a conversation piece for anyone who visits your home.

How to cure and prevent cloudy or green water

How to Cure and Prevent Cloudy or Green Water

How to achieve clear water here

Why your tank gets dirty

There are a number of potential causes for cloudy or green water in a fish tank or aquarium. It is important to be able to determine the cause of the cloudiness or green color in the water so you can correct any problems in the tank. For this reason, even though there are chemicals you can purchase at your local pet store, this should not be your go-to for clearing the water your tank. Yes, they will clear the water, but the underlying cause of the cloudiness or green color will persist.

Some of the reasons water becomes cloudy or green are essentially harmless or will resolve themselves over time and others are representative of an issue that needs to be dealt with. Cloudy water and green water are entirely separate issues, with different causes. Let’s first take a look at curing and preventing cloudy water and then examine how to cure and prevent green water.

Cloudy Water

Cloudy water in your aquarium is not always an indication that something is wrong. In fact, in most cases, the cause of the cloudiness will be resolved on its own or with the help of the filter and you don’t need to do anything. However, anytime the water looks cloudy, it is important to assess the situation and the environment to determine the cause. Once you know the cause, you can eliminate it if need be and get rid of the cloudy water.

If your aquarium is new and you haven’t even had any fish in it, yet the water has turned cloudy, the problem is probably due to accessories in the tank. If these accessories are new and haven’t been properly rinsed off prior to introducing them to the tank, they can cause the water to turn cloudy. If it is an accessory that is safe for use in aquariums, then the filter and/or regular water changes will remove the cloudiness. If the accessory is not intended for use in an aquarium, it may be dissolving or disintegrating in the water, which is dangerous for your fish. The object should be removed and the water completely changed.

If you have had fish in your aquarium for a few days to a couple of weeks (depending on the number of fish in the tank) and the water has turned cloudy, it is likely due to the fact that the filter hasn’t completely cycled the water yet. The filter is responsible for cleaning the water of the waste left by the fish. If the setup is new, the filter takes time to go through one full cycle. Once it does, the cloudiness will be cleared up.

Sometimes when an aquarium has only been set up for a few minutes or even hours or it has just had a large volume of water changed, it can have a gray cloudy look to it. This is due to tiny bubbles of oxygen that are suspended in the water. You may have seen something like this in a freshly poured glass of water. This is nothing to worry about; the bubbles will dissolve in the water or make their way to the surface.

If you have wooden accessories in your aquarium, they can sometimes release tannins into the water. If your aquarium water looks like weak tea and you have any wooden accessories, then this is the cause. This cloudiness and the tannins that cause it are usually for your fish. However, if this happens, be sure to monitor the PH of the water regularly because the tannins might soften the water and cause the PH to drop. If this happens, you will need to adjust the PH level of the water.

Green Water

An aquarium blighted by algae

An aquarium blighted by algae is an eyesore

If you have had an aquarium for a long time, then most likely you won’t deal with cloudy water, unless you introduce new accessories into your tank or have just change a large amount of water. More likely, with older aquariums, you will have a problem with your water turning green. Green water in your aquarium means you have an algal bloom. Yup, you read that right. Just like the algal blooms you may have read about in the news that fill up many of our lakes and oceans, your aquarium water can be filled with an algal bloom.

In general, the presence of algae in your aquarium is a good thing. It’s a sign of a healthy tank that can support life. However, you don’t want this growth of algae to get out of control and form an algal bloom. Algae on the glass is beneficial but algae in the water is unsightly. There are a few reasons why there could be too much algae growth in the water, including the following:

Overfeeding: Whenever you feed your fish, there should be no food left floating in the water within a few minutes after feeding. If there is leftover food, then you are giving your fish too much and it could cause algal blooms to form. You can easily fix this problem by reducing the amount of food you give your fish.

Infrequent Water Changes: Algal blooms can grow quickly if there is too much time between water changes. Be sure to do small water changes regularly to prevent the buildup of nitrates, something algae thrive on. If your tank hasn’t had any water changes in a while, then you need to do a few large water changes a few days apart, replacing as much as 25%-30% of the water each time, until the tank is clear.

Too Much Light: If water changes and feeding are under control, then too much light might be the culprit. Algae thrive on light, so cutting back on the amount of light your aquarium is getting might just solve the problem. Also, if direct sunlight is hitting the aquarium this can trigger an algae bloom.

Poor plant growth: Plants and algae feed off the same nutrients in the water. So if you have good plant growth, this remove the nutrients from the water that algae rely on.

Healthy Water Means Healthy Fish

Just remember to assess the situation any time the water in your aquarium doesn’t look right. While it might not amount to anything important, you probably don’t want to risk the health and safety of your beloved pets by ignoring the situation. Keep a close eye and keep the water clean to have happy fish you will enjoy for a long time to come.

 

Selecting midground plants for your aquarium

Good midground plants will stand out from the background

Good midground plants will stand out from the background

What is a midground plant?

More about aquascaping basics here

More about foreground plants here

More about background plants here

A midground plant is a plant that acts as a filler in the mid area of the aquarium. Usually planted as individual plants. Midground plants should have distinctive large leaves and colour. They should be short plants to not block out the background. A good midground plant will stand out against the background without dominating the scene. Midground plants create the ‘body’ of the aquascape, whereas background plants create the skeleton of the aquascape.

I will list below recommended midground plants for your aquarium that are easy to care for.

Anubias barteri known as broadleaf anubias

Anubias barteri makes an excellent midground plant

Anubias barteri makes an excellent midground plant

This is a slow growing plant that has tough, firm dark leaves and is recommended for an aquarium with fish that destroy plants. It should be planted singly in the midground. They prefer a heated substrate. Needs moderate to bright lighting. Temperature range of 72F-82F. ph of 5.5 to 8 and moderately soft water.

Giant Bacopa

This is a fast growing plant that likes bright light and can be kept in hard watere. It is a stemmed plant with medium spade shaped leaves all along its stems. Can be propogated by taking cuttings. Leaves can turn red under very bright light. It can tolerate lower light levels. Temperature range 68F-82F. Water ph 6.5-7.7.

Japanese Cress

Healthy specimen of japanese watercress

Healthy specimen of japanese watercress

An unusual plant with a disorganised growth pattern. It is not strictly tropical so should only be used in the unheated aquarium. It is hardy except that it can be affected by medications and chemicals. It does prefer bright light. Temperature range is 61F-72F. Water ph 6.5-7.8.

Stargrass

This plant can grow tall and should be trimmed down. The leaves are long and slender and grow out in groups of 5,6,7 leaves giving it a star like shape. They do better with a little fertiliser occasionally and good lighting. Temperature range is 72F-80F. Water ph 5-7 and low hardness is preferred.

Water pennywort

The leaves of this plant are large and round with lace like edging. The leaves grow all along winding and branching stems. This plant will try to reach the water surface, where it will grow leaves that block out the light to the aquarium below. So, trim back before the plant reaches the surface. It prefers bright light. Temperature range is 68F-82F. Water ph range is 6-8.

Green ludwigia makes an excellent midground plant but needs good light

Green ludwigia makes an excellent midground plant but needs good light

Green ludwigia (ludwigia palustris)

This is an easy to care for plant. There are various varieties of this plant. The best, recommended variety has bright solid green leaves which are medium/small in size. It prefers bright light. Temperature range 64F-80F. Water ph range is 6.5-7.5 with moderate hardness.

 

Background plants for your aquarium

Which background plants for your aquarium?

More about aquascaping basics here

More about foreground plants here

More about midground plants here

How to recognise good background aquarium plants

What is meant by ‘background plant’? This refers to plants that will be placed along the back and sides of your aquarium. These type of plants usually grow tall and cover most of the rear of the aquarium. And finally they usually provide a good background contrast to foreground plants. This is achieved by having bushy growth or fine leaves. Listed below are the best background plants in terms of beauty and ease of care.

Magenta Water Hedge (Alternanthera Reineckii)

red water hedge plant nice alternative to green

red water hedge plant nice alternative to green

This is a plant that will contrast well against other green plants because of its red/purple coloured leaves.

Because it is a little short it has to be planted in groups to form an effective background or as a space filler between taller plants. There is a taller variety that does make an ideal background plant.

Allow space between each stem so that each plant will obtain enough nutrients from the substrate and also they don’t block each other’s access to light. It does need good lighting or it will not thrive. Push fertiliser tablets near its roots because they do like a lot of nutrients. The water hedge prefers neutral to slightly acidic and soft water with a temperature range of 72F-80F. Hardiness is average.

Green Cabomba

fast growing green cabomba with bushy fronds

fast growing green cabomba with bushy fronds

This is a plant that needs strong lighting and fertilisers tablets near its roots or it tends to disintegrate. It is better to keep the aquarium water well filtered because the fine frond like leaves collect debris. Plant cabomba in groups. Easy to propogate by taking cuttings from the top. Prune when it grows too long. Temperature range is 60F-80F. It prefers water that is around neutral in ph with a moderate hardness. It is medium in difficulty to care for.

Onion Plant

This plant sometimes known as the aquatic onion plant resembles an onion plant but is unrelated. It grows long slender but thick leaves that don’t branch. It has a bulb above its root system. The leaves tend to spiral slightly as it grows. It is a tough low maintenance plant. It is good with cichlids and goldfish. It needs moderate lighting. Temperature range of 64F-80F and can handle a wide range of water conditions around neutral ph and moderate hardness.

Cryptocoryne Balansae

cryptocoryne balansae variety crinkly leaves

cryptocoryne balansae variety crinkly leaves

This plant has long slender crinkly leaves with pointed tips. It can grow well in hard water and can be grown under different brightness. However it will grow faster in bright light. It propogates by sending out runners with plantlets that grow on the runners. It is a hardy plant and easy to care for. Plant in groups for a nice effect. One of the best background plants. Temperature range 73F-82F. It likes a wide range of ph between 6-8ph and a moderate hardness level.

Broadleaf Amazon sword plant

This is a good beginners plant and makes a good background plant but does need to be kept pruned because it grows large. It needs a reasonably bright light. It can cope with a temperature range between 68F and 82F. Does benefit from the occasional fertiliser tablet. It does not care much about its water chemistry as long as extreme conditions are avoided.

Ruffled Amazon sword plant

This is another easy to keep amazon sword variety. It is more bushy than the broad leafed amazon and its broad leaves have an attractive crinkle to them. It needs the occasional fertiliser tablet and some good lighting to thrive. Temperature range of 72F-82F and likes a wide range of ph and hardness with slightly acid being preferred.

Spadeleaf plant

The spade leaf is an easy to care for background plant

The spade leaf is an easy to care for background plant

This is a very broad leafed plant. It is easy to look after and grows quickly when supplied with bright light and tablet fertilisers. It can become quite bushy because of its fast growth. It likes a temperature range of 50F-82F. It likes a wide range of ph and water hardness.

Water wisteria

Water wisteria is an easy to keep plant with finely branched leaves. Use a table fertiliser near its roots and a bright light to ensure good growth. Water wisteria likes a temperature range of 73F-82F. Likes average water conditions around 7 ph but is not too fussy.

Dwarf Hygrophila

This is a popular aquarium plant and for good reason. It is low maintenance and very hardy. It will grow under nearly all aquarium conditions. Plant in groups of five in the background to create a bushy background. It does grow rather quickly. It does prefer bright light but can get by in moderate lighting. The preferred temperature range is 64F-86F. Ph range 5.0ph – 8.0ph.

Green myriophyllum

The green myrio is a great beginners background plant

The green myrio is a great beginners background plant

A great looking background plant that creates a fine leaved layer of green bushes all along the back of the aquarium. Keep the aquarium well filtered because debris in the water will collect in the plants fine leaves. Temperature range between 59F-77F.

Dwarf Rotala

Dwarf rotala is a stem plant with leaves that grow all along single stems. In bright light the leaves take on a reddish colour over the green. This plant grows quickly when kept in brightly lit aquariums. It is an easy to care for plant. Temperature range is 68F-84F. Ph 5.5-7.5.

Straight vallisneria

The vallisneria is a tough, easy to care for plant. It reproduces by sending out runners on which plantlets sprout out. Each plantlet can be cut off when the plantlet has grown roots. It will grow quickly in the right conditions. Because of this it needs to be thinned out by separating out the leaves of the plant. vallisneria grows best in bright light but it will tolerate low lighting conditions. It is best planted in thickets surrounding the back and sides of the aquarium. Temperature range of 59F-86F. ph range is ph6-ph8.5.

The corkscrew vallisneria is prettier than the straight version but not as tough

The corkscrew vallisneria is prettier than the straight version but not as tough

Corkscrew vallisneria

The corkscrew vallisneria is similar in appearance to the straight version but with spiral leaves. It is not as hardy as the straight leaved version and needs moderate to hard water to thrive. And will not do well unless bright lighting is provided. Temperature range of 75F-82F. Ph range is ph6-ph8.

 

Aquascaping for Beginners: Getting the basics right

Aquascaping for Beginners: Getting the basics right

More about foreground plants here

More about midground plants here

More about background plants here

About Aquascaping

balanced aquascaped rocks, plants, gravel and fish

balanced aquascaped rocks, plants, gravel and fish

Aquascaping is the art of setting-up, decorating and arranging aquatic plants along with stones, rocks, driftwood or cavework in an aesthetically pleasing manner. Also termed as underwater gardening, aquascaping was first introduced to the world way back in 1990’s by Takashi Amano from Japan, who made the natural underwater gardens look like dreamscapes. Although it is possible to create an aquascape with plants only, it can also be set up with fish as well as plants; or with rockwork, hardscape and no plants by following some specific methods.

If you find it difficult to create an aquascape then scan through the many examples of good aquascape scenes on the internet and pick a scene that you really like and that you can replicate.

Basic Principles for Aquascaping

aquascape to replicate amazon river scene with angelfish

aquascape to replicate amazon river scene with angelfish

To reach the perfection in the design of your aquascape you must follow a few important principles that are listed below:

Simplicity is the key – While aquascaping is all about imagination, it is recommended that you follow a particular style and maintain simplicity which would make the aquascape look more appealing to the human eye.
 
Choosing the aquascaping style – There are several major styles that you can choose from, which you can create a visually-enticing aquascape. These include the Japanese-inspired nature style, the garden-like Dutch style, the jungle style and many others. While the nature aquarium style is the re-creation of terrestrial landscapes – mountains, hills, valleys, etc., the Dutch style is characterized by terraces or raised layers containing distinct types of plants with different leaf types.

Balanced aquascape using moss covered driftwood.

Balanced aquascape using moss covered driftwood.

Maintaining Proportion- To maintain harmony in the aquarium, it is crucial to strike the perfect balance between plants, decorative items and fish as well as between filled and empty spaces in the aquarium. Also, arrange plants, rocks and wood in a manner that there is a balancing contrast of light and dark spaces.

Use your imagination- There are no defined rules for aquascaping. Use your imagination to make a beautiful aquascape that has clean water and an appropriate amount of light, CO2, and other essential elements.

To ensure proper care, maintenance and success of an aquascape, aquascapers must keep in mind several factors to strike balance in the closed system of the water tank. These factors include:

  • aquascape with clever use of various plants and driftwood

    aquascape with clever use of various plants and driftwood

    Filtration System

  • Liquid fertilizers
  • Medium to high level of lighting
  • Maintaining the correct amount of carbon dioxide to support photosynthesis
  • Frequent water changes
  • Substrate and fertilization
  • Algae control

Plants and Plant Types

Besides the layout, style and design of an aquascape, aquascaping require specific ways to ensure proper care and maintenance of plants underwater. One of the most crucial things that aquascapers must keep in mind is choosing healthy and vibrant plants. Also, they must be trimmed to get the desired shape and positioned properly using a thread. Before beginning, you must know the plants and plant types that we shall discuss now!

Dwarf hair grass makes a nice flooring plant

Dwarf hair grass makes a nice flooring plant

Carpet Plants: Just as the name suggests, carpet plants are used by aquascapers to create a mat of plants or a lush of green lawn, making the underwater garden more beautiful and attractive. You can choose foreground pl ants such as Hairgrass, Dwarf Baby Tears, Java Moss, Water Wisteria or Willow Moss as they stay low to the ground and spread horizontally across the floor of the water tank.

Fast Growing Plants: When you begin with aquascaping, you can choose fast growing plants like hornwort, Vallisneria, Cabomba and Hygrophilia that would grow quickly, with no effort and would not even put a hole in your pocket. Other stem plants including sword plants, Java fern are also suitable but a little expensive.
Floating plants: While a number of floating plants can block light, many aquascapers prefer using them for visually-enticing aquascape. These plants include Hornwoot, Java Moss and Najas.

Artificial Plants: While using artificial plants is not considered aquascaping, it is one of the easiest ways for beginners. So, if you find it difficult to care for and maintain natural plants, you can go for artificial plants that do not require light or water parameters.

green cabomba or fanwort makes a nice bushy background plant

green cabomba or fanwort makes a nice bushy background

Location for Short, Large and Bushy Plants

To create a beautiful landscape underwater, it is essential for aquascapers to place the plants in an aesthetic manner. The major aspect to keep in mind is the focal point. It can be anything like a rock, a piece of driftwood or a bunch of plants or even one dominant plant. It is recommended to begin with carpet plants at the foreground and place the bushy and large plants at the background.

You can begin with the focal of the water tank and continue with the low-growing and mid-growing plants. At the end, place the higher plants. You can choose an appropriate composition such as the concave set up, the convex set up, the rectangular set-up, the triangular set up, or the Iwagumi set-up.

Different Coloured plants

red water hedge plant nice alternative to green

red water hedge plant nice alternative to green

To create in-depth perspective and make the aquarium look more natural, aquascapers use plants of different colours and sizes. Plants can be grown in groups and with rich colour contrast. Commonly used plants for colour contrast and highlights include lutea, lucens, wendtii, walkeri, and becketii of the Cryptocoryne species, Ammania, Alternanthera reineckii and Rotala.
Notably, 3 plant species per foot would be preferred to ensure good colour contrast.

Open Spaces for Fish

Before you kick-start aquascaping, you must understand that plants as well as fish are EQUALLY important in your water tank. When you provide the best conditions for your plants to stay healthy, you are providing a healthy environment for the fish as well. At the same time, it is a must to wisely use spaces between plants by creating imaginary streets as well as pathways. Also, make sure that you have as must open space as must filled space to provide space for your fish to lively comfortably and happily.

Hardscape: Use of Bogwood/Driftwood

discus in an amazon biotope with driftwwod to simulate roots

discus in an amazon biotope with driftwwod to simulate roots

Hardscape is one of the most commonly used techniques used by aquascapers across the globe. It involves using driftwood, rocks and resin sculptures. Driftwood adds a decorative touch to the aquarium, while making it look natural. The wood can be the main focal point, around which the plants can be placed. Many aquascapers prefer using the Malaysian driftwood or manzanita branches, depending on their preference.

Use of Rocks and Stones

In addition to wood, aquascapers use rocks and stones at the heart of their aquarium to create a natural-looking aquascape underwater. You can place boulders, large cobbles and smaller pebbles aesthetically in the water tank to further enhance its beauty. The classic way to use rocks is to place 2-4 flat rocks on the bottom of the aquarium and then arrange other rocks in the order of their size. Alongside, you can also add airstones and submersible lights to create visual effects and make the water tank more attractive.

Balanced aquascape with driftwood, plants and hairgrass carpet

Balanced aquascape: driftwood, plants and hairgrass carpet

Get Started!

Aquascaping is not all about creating a plan and sticking rigidly to it. Sometimes it is better to do a quick sketch up and then proceed to plant according to your rough draft. Then when it’s all laid out, you can see that it might not be right so you will need to rearrange things until you get it right. And don’t forget plants do grow and some grow more than others. So your aquascape will actually develop over time.

Aquascaping is all about imagination and creating enchanting visuals that appeal to the human eye. So, make sure that you use your imagination to create an amazingly-looking aquascape. Happy aquascaping!

10 most common mistakes beginner fish keepers

10 most common mistakes beginner fish keepers make and how to avoid them

Typical overcrowded and incompatible fish tank

Typical overcrowded and incompatible fish tank

New aquarium hobbyists are generally an excitable bunch—they are quick to purchase all the tools necessary and eager to begin their first foray into the colorful and rewarding world of fish keeping. That excitement, however, can lead to some important oversights when it comes to maintaining a successful tank. If you are new to the aquarium hobby and would like to ensure success, make sure you avoid these common pitfalls:

Number one: lack of patience

In order to ensure the success of your aquarium, you must be able to provide your fish with a stable environment that is carefully and patiently attended to. The desire to get everything done right now and enjoy a colorful display of fish may be overwhelming, but if you do not take the time to address the water conditions of your tank first, you run the risk of killing fish.

Examples of impatient behavior that threatens fish include placing fish into your tank before it is cycled, placing multiple fish in your tank on the same day, and overfeeding. It is important that each of these steps is taken carefully and with respect towards appropriate timing.

Make sure you treat tap water to remove chlorine or allow a bucket of tap water to rest for 36 hours before adding to the aquarium.
When adding new fish they should ideally be quarantined first and when putting a fish into an aquarium put the bag into the aquarium first for 15 minutes before emptying the fish into the aquarium.

Don’t overfeed your fish. Any uneaten food should be removed within five minutes. Use a siphon to hover out uneaten food. The amount of food a fish can eat is minute. Most beginners overestimate what their fish can eat.

Don’t feed just for entertainment, to get the fish to actively swim for food is not a good idea.

Don’t buy sick or unhealthy fish. Keep your money in your pocket and find a shop where they sell healthy fish.

Wait until your fish tank is ready before buying fish.

Number two: not understanding the nitrogen cycle

All about cycling here

Make sure you have a good filter. The more powerful, the better. Not buying a filter is the surest way to fish death.

This mistake links heavily with mistake number one, since an unsuccessful tank cycling is often the result of impatience. Getting bacteria in your tank to reliably convert toxic ammonia into nitrite and nitrate is of critical importance to the health of your fish, and it takes time. If you rush this important step, your fish will have a very hard time surviving.

Thankfully, there are numerous guides on this website and others dedicated to helping newcomers understand the nitrogen cycle. By following those guidelines to the letter and giving your tank time to become the ideal environment in which the necessary bacteria can grow on your filter medium, you will ensure that your first fish thrive.

Buy a filter with a lot of surface area such as a sponge and make sure it is well powered. The bigger the aquarium the more powerful a filter you need. The filter is not there to just filter ‘bits’ out of the water but more importantly it is there to allow bacteria to break down fish waste into harmless substances.

Do not clean everything in the tank. You will remove the healthy bacteria. Washing the gravel is a big no-no. But you should hover the gravel to remove any debris or fish waste.

Do not wash the filter’s sponge in tap water as you will kill the healthy bacteria.

Also do not use soap or detergents or any other chemicals to clean the aquarium or any equipment. Most are poisonous to fish.

Number three: buying a small tank

Often, newcomers to the aquarium hobby will look at large tanks and think they require expert-level care due to their size when in fact, the opposite is true. Large tanks offer a far more forgiving environment for your fish when it comes to water quality—one of the most challenging areas for newcomers.

If you choose a small tank, you run the risk of upsetting the balance of water acidity, hardness, or ammonia levels very easily. In a large tank, even significant mistakes can be remedied with relative simplicity, owing to the greater volume of water present. You are much less likely to accidentally kill your fish in a large tank, so it is worth it to invest in the biggest one you can afford!

Goldfish bowl – this is a big no-no.

Number four: overstocking your tank

If you succeed in properly cycling your tank and setting up the right conditions for your fish to thrive in, you still run the risk of overstocking your tank with fish. Experienced aquarists can run highly populated tanks, but a newcomer would invite disaster by the attempt.

There are many rules to combining the ratio of fish to tank volume, but one of the most common is through measuring the total length of your fish and comparing that to the volume of tank. One safe option is to measure 1 cm of fish for every 2 liters of water. Thus, a 60 liter tank (16 gallons) could reliably support 30 cm (12 inches) of fish.

Stop buying every fish that takes your fancy. If you buy more fish, you must first buy another aquarium.
Also check the adult size of the young fish you buy. When your fish start to grow they can become overcrowded.

Number five: choosing incompatible fish

Suggested compatible fish

Appropriate research into the needs and behaviors of your fish is key to maintaining a safe and pleasant environment for them. Certain species require very different water conditions, and others will behave aggressively. It helps to have the advice of an experienced aquarist on hand when choosing your fish so that you can enjoy a colorful, rewarding selection of fish.

While there are numerous guides available for choosing your first group of fish, and many helpful suggestions can be found online, even the most studied of newcomers can make mistakes. Taking fish behavior, ideal water conditions, and favorite position in the tank (bottom-dwellers, surface feeders, etc.) into consideration is best done with the help of a mentor.

Number six: overfeeding

Easily the most common mistake made by new fish owners, overfeeding can have disastrous consequences on the condition of your tank. Fish are opportunistic eaters that will generally consume whatever food is present—just because they eat does not mean they needed to be fed.

When starting out, feed your fish once per day, taking care to test the water before feeding and, if necessary, withhold their food for a day or two. You are not starving your fish, but making sure that their waste is effectively processed before you introduce more food. Give them only enough food for them to finish in five minutes, and they should be fine.

Number seven: infrequent water changes

Many new aquarium owners, having learned about the nitrogen cycle and taken the time to set up their tank properly, make the mistake of believing that this chemical cycle will take care of all waste in the tank. While it does convert harmful ammonia into nitrate, it does not protect against high levels of nitrate which can irritate fish—you still need to perform water changes and hover your substrate every week.

Also do not change more than 25% of the water at any one time.

Number eight: insufficient filtration

Your filter could be the single most important piece of equipment in your tank. Not only does it separate debris from your water, but most of the beneficial bacteria responsible for the nitrogen cycle inhabit the filter medium. For this reason, you should err on the side of over-sizing your filter.

For the best results, purchase a filter that can turn the volume of your aquarium 4 or 5 times per hour. This is slightly more than commonly recommended, and ensures that you have enough power to keep your water in prime condition. Remember, too much filtration is never a problem, but insufficient filtration is a constant frustration.

Number nine: not adhering to a maintenance schedule

Suggested maintenance schedule

This mistake is often the root cause of mistake number seven. Fish keeping is not a set-and-forget hobby—you need to apply yourself to keeping your fish healthy on a regular basis. Depending on the size of your aquarium, you will need to dedicate between one and three hours per week to cleaning the tank, testing the water, and performing your water changes.

Doing this effectively requires that you introduce this into your weekly schedule. Newcomers to the hobby who attempt to rely on their intuition will suffer disastrous consequences eventually. Keeping track of your maintenance schedule is key to success, and easy to organize: simply set up a reminder program in a calendar application on your computer or smart phone for reliable reminders.

Change 10% of the water every week should be fine for most fish. Rinse the filter out in aquarium water when the flow starts to slow down.

Number ten: not including live plants

Suggested beginners plants

While newcomers to the aquarium hobby often like the look of live plants, they frequently omit these important and helpful aquarium guests, thinking that they require too much maintenance. In reality, live plants reduce maintenance needs by passively out-competing algae for nutrients in the tank and oxygenating the water efficiently.

If you want to ensure the greatest conditions possible for your first aquarium, invest in some hardy live plants and let them perform some of the work for you. You will be glad you did!

Even if you have a good filter removing the fishes waste products. Over time nitrates will build up. When you do water changes you dilute the nitrate however you do not remove it entirely. Plants remove nitrate so helping to remove the low level waste of nitrates.

Plants also help to remove some toxins from the water. Plants help prevent algae by absorbing fertiliser from the water before algae can absorb it.

Don’t buy snails to clean algae, they will just eat your plants and poop everywhere.
Also, don’t leave your aquarium by a sunny window. You will just get a tank full of green water, even with plants. And don’t leave your aquarium light on all the time. 8-10 hours a day is sufficient.

Conclusion

The decision to keep your first aquarium can be an exciting one, and it is easy to rush into things, but the best results come to the aquarists who focus patiently on providing the best environment for their fish. Address these ten common mistakes to enjoy the best chance of success for your first fish tank.

 

A guide to keeping and breeding fancy goldfish

The comet goldfish is a simple variant on the common goldfish

The comet goldfish is a simple variant on the common goldfish

A guide to keeping and breeding fancy goldfish

Goldfish are one of the perennial favorites of the aquarium trade. It is difficult to imagine a fish more evidently associated with fish keeping than the goldfish. While everyone is familiar with the traditional appearance of the common goldfish, the various varieties known as fancy goldfish offer a much wider selection of colors and forms than the layperson would expect.

All of these fish share similar needs when it comes to successfully keeping them. Because they create more waste than any other fish, it is necessary to provide them an appropriately powerful filtration system. This is because their digestive system lacks a stomach; food passes through their body very quickly, making it easy for you to end up with more mess in your tank than you know what to do with.

Specialised Care for fancy goldfish

Although care is similar to common goldfish, you do have to take into account the shape and features of the different varieties. The “chubby” varieties are prone to swim bladder problems and so should be fed with more fresh greens and live food and avoid or restrict feeding them with dried foods. And you may need to keep a heater in the tank in the winter to protect them from colder temperatures because they are not as strong as the common goldfish.

The bubble eyes are prone to damage to the bubble so avoid any sharp or abrasive objects in the tank. Both the bubble eyes and celestial types have poorer eyesight so you need to feed them close by and keep an eye on any uneaten food to remove it.

Ideal goldfish equipment

Nice example of a veiltail. Chocolate coloured veiltail

Nice example of a veiltail. Chocolate coloured veiltail

While it seems reasonable to imagine that goldfish belong in a bowl, the truth is that they need lots of space to survive. Use a large tank if you want to keep more than a few goldfish at a time, or keep them in an outdoor pond. Ponds offer numerous benefits to goldfish due to the large size, but offer poor visibility to aquarists.

If you keep a tank for your goldfish, you can create a tightly controlled, ideal environment for breeding. Before getting into breeding though, you will need to install a powerful filter that can move ten times the volume of the tank per hour in order to keep the water clean. That means a 100-liter tank should move 1000 liters per hour, in order to compensate for the waste these fish produce.

Goldfish do not need heaters in indoor tanks, but you may want one in order to encourage early breeding. These fish are biologically programmed to begin breeding when the water gets warm and food becomes abundant. Choosing which breed to breed, however, requires an introduction to the various types of fancy goldfish available.

Types of fancy goldfish

oranda goldfish with ryukin style back

oranda goldfish with ryukin style back

Despite the wide range of appearances common to different species of fancy goldfish, they are biologically very similar to the standard common goldfish. Most of them are characterized by a single major difference that they exhibit when compared to the common goldfish. Different sizes, colors, fin and body shapes, or other combinations of special features define the various species:

  • Comet Golfish – The single-tailed comet goldfish is similar in appearance to the common goldfish, but features a long forked tail. They come in a wide variety of colors, but the common gold coloration remains most prevalent. Comet goldfish come in white, red, and various spotted colorations as well. Comets as well as common goldfish can be wintered outside in ponds that ice over.
  • Fantail Goldfish – Fantails are one of the more basic fancy varieties. They have a sturdy tail fin that is forked into two when viewed from above. The top of the split tail will be closer together than the bottom of the tail creating a fan shape. The top of the tail fin should be firmly held above horizontal. The ends of the tail fin will be rounded. The body is deep and wide, egg shaped in fact. Fantails can be wintered outside in ponds as long as it doesn’t ice over.
  • Ryukin style back veiltail goldfish

    Ryukin style back veiltail goldfish

    Ryukin Goldfish – This is the Japanese version of the fantail and veiltail. They are distinguished by having a distinct humped back starting from behind the head and ending at the tail. Also, their tail fin fans out wider than the fantail. Finally the tail rises higher than the fantail. These goldfish come in red, white, black, and orange color combinations as well as the calico version. There is also a lionhead version too. Ryukin can be wintered in ponds with no ice because they have been outcrossed back to the common goldfish to re-introduce vigour.

  • Veiltail Goldfish – While featuring a body shape largely similar to that of the fantail, veiltail goldfish have a distinct double tail that is lengthy and uniquely square-edged, without any forking between lobes. The best ones will have a straightish end to the tail fin rather than lobed. The bottom of the veil in champions is horizontal and not diagonal. They come in many colors, with metallic varieties also available. Calico specimens are particularly attractive, where the colours should run into the fins. The veiltail is one of the less hardy breeds of goldfish and should not be wintered outdoors.
  • bristol shubunkin has wider tail fin than the london shubunkin

    bristol shubunkin has wider tail fin than the london shubunkin

    Shubunkin – The fascinating Shubunkin goldfish is a single-tailed type of fish featuring nacreous scales that are a blend of both metallic and transparent genes. The fins are similar to the common goldfish except they are elongated. They come in a wide variety of colors, most often with overlapping patches. This mixture of colours is called calico. Deep blue is the background colour with overlayed patches of red, brown, orange, yellow and black. The colour should extend into the fins. These can be wintered in ponds that don’t ice over.

  • Black Moor Goldfish – This species of fancy goldfish is surprisingly not gold in color at all. In fact, it is jet black with metallic scales, and sometimes a very slight orange tinge. They tend to be longer and thinner than most other goldfish varieties.
  • Pearlscale Goldfish – The pearlscale goldfish is a very popular fish for beginners. While very similar in appearance to fantails, every one of its scales feature a distinctive raised bump that makes it look like it is covered in pearls. The best specimens have a round, globe like body. Additionally, this type of fancy goldfish can grow significantly larger than others, so needs to be given sufficient space to thrive in successfully. A pearlscale with a lionhead is called a crown pearlscale.
  • Highly developed goldfish with telescope eyes, calico colour and oranda hood

    Highly developed goldfish with telescope eyes, calico colour and oranda hood

    Oranda Goldfish – One of the most colorful varieties of fancy goldfish, the oranda subspecies comes in combinations of red, black, blue, white, brown, and black. This species features a unique “hood” that covers part of its head. While they are born without this hood, it grows into place over the first two years of the fish’s life. The size of this growth is affected by the diet and water conditions the fish enjoys. Similar to the fantail but with the hooded growth similar to the lionhead.

  • Telescope Eye Goldfish – This sub breed, also sometimes called a demekin goldfish, dragon goldfish, or globe eye goldfish, feature extra large, protruding eyes and a round body. Fantails, blackmoors, orandas, veiltails and other shortbodied breeds can have telescope eyes.
  • Lionhead Goldfish – The distinctive lionhead hood  and lack of a dorsal fin separates this fancy goldfish from the other breeds. Apart from the signature growth on its head, it features short fins and a rotund body structure. Colors include numerous combinations of red, orange, white, black, blue, and brown.
Tancho lionhead goldfish. Tancho=red just on hood

tancho lionhead goldfish the red should be limited to the hood

These are only ten varieties of fancy goldfish—there are many more commercially available types, and even rarer varieties available to the fortunate aquarist. Many of these species look so different than the common goldfish that only experienced aquarists can recognize them as goldfish.

Because of the intentional genetic differences bred in fancy goldfish to develop their unique characteristics and traits, goldfish pedigree is important for individuals who wish to breed goldfish. Breeding fancy goldfish successfully requires access to adequate information about their lineage. This allows you to choose which characteristics you would like to see emphasized.

How to breed fancy goldfish

You can breed fancy goldfish in the aquarium or when the weather is warmer in a pond. In the aquarium you can breed them as early as march by using a heater to raise the temperature to about 65F.

Crown pearlscale goldfish showing perfect spherical body

Crown pearlscale goldfish showing perfect spherical body

If you have a male and female of fancy goldfish that you would like to encourage to breed, you need to set up the appropriate conditions. Female goldfish tend to anchor their eggs to something solid when they spawn, so you will want to add some live plants or a spawning mop to your tank.

Spawning mops, which are designed to protect the eggs from hungry adults while making it easy to transport eggs, are also widely commercial available for this purpose. Using a spawning mop, you can easily collect the eggs and deposit them in a secondary breeding tank, ensuring their safety in the process.

Feeding chopped earthworms, brine shrimp, or black worms to the fish can help mimic the abundance of spring time, when goldfish would naturally breed. Feed them three times a day and the fish will begin to enter the breeding mood.

If the female looks plump with eggs and the fish haven’t bred then try spraying cooler water into the aquarium first thing in the morning. This should trigger them to breed. The male will start chasing the female around the aquarium.

Sexing your fish for breeding

Blackmoor with the ranchu lionhead body and hood

Blackmoor with the ranchu lionhead body and hood

Once you set up the conditions for breeding, it is likely that your fish will enter breeding season, when they can be sexed. Identifying female goldfish can be tricky, especially for fancy varieties in which individuals can look very different. The following four steps can help:

  • See if you can identify the shape of the vent, located between the anus and anal fin of the goldfish. Female vents are convex and rounded, looking somewhat like the protruding “outie” navel a human being might have.
  • Feel the abdomen of the goldfish to determine how soft and yielding it feels. The area between the pelvic and anal fins on a female goldfish should be softer than that of a male goldfish.
  • Observe the pectoral fins. Females tend to have shorter, rounder pectoral fins than males do.
  • Males usually develop with pimples around the pectoral fins and gill area during the breeding season.
  • Males will start to gently chase and bump females before they are ready to breed.
Show quality ranchu lionhead goldfish

Show quality ranchu lionhead goldfish

Once you’ve conclusively identified your males and females, you should take the extra step of separating males and females into separate tanks for a few days before introduction.

Then select which male to breed with female. Often just picking your best female specimen with the best male specimen and allowing them to breed doesn’t give the best resulting offspring. With a little experimentation it can be discovered that a fish with slightly overlong fins should be bred with a fish with shorter fins to get a brood with perfect finnage.

It should be noted that calico coloured fish (including shubunkins) do not breed true. Only half the offspring will be calico coloured. The other half will be either metallic or pink in equal numbers.

Breeding season, however, is usually enough to get them to begin. Your males will become atypically aggressive towards the females, who will release their eggs in response.

Spawning behavior and raising fry

Show quality veiltail oranda goldfish

Show quality veiltail oranda goldfish

The male will chase the female for up to several hours. When the male bumps the female she releases eggs, which he will immediately fertilise. The temperature of the water with the eggs can be raised to 72F to help with egg development. During the next 3 days you can place the eggs in their own tank or remove all thish. Add methylene blue to your breeding tank’s water in order to prevent fungus growth on the unfertilized eggs and protect your fertilized ones.

Once they hatch, they will live off of their egg yolk for a day and a half. Only then do you need to feed them. They eat infusoria for a few days. Then start feeding on newly hatched brine shrimp.

After the fry have hatched, you should remove the spawning mop from the tank, taking great care to allow your fry to escape from inside the media first. You may then focus on raising them with an excellent diet of live brine shrimp and immaculately clean water.

After 4 weeks they can move onto bigger foods such as blood worm and chopped earthworms. And, weather permitting you can move the fry outside into ponds so that greater numbers can be grown. At 8 weeks they can eat finer grained fish food or flakes. The more delicate breeds will have to be brought back indoors before winter sets in. At this stage you should cull as many defective fish as possible.

Culling your goldfish

Calico lionhead. More blue in the colour would be better

Calico lionhead. More blue in the colour would be better

The last part of successfully breeding your fancy goldfish is rigorously culling your brood in order to ensure that the best specimens survive. Unless you are fortunate enough to have access to unlimited aquarium space, there is no way that the hundreds of even thousands of fry you are caring for will be able to survive without culling them weekly using a small net. Be sure not to discard your fish in the toilet.

When goldfish are born they are the colour of their native ancestors which is a greyish green colour. So it is not easy to cull for colour until later on. The young will start to change to the adult gold from the age of 5 months onwards. The green will darken to almost black then the orange colour will break out from this. Fish that change colour later such as 12 months and later will have a deeper richer red than fish that colour early. But some fish actually never change colour and stay green all their lives.

A lot of the brood will revert back to the natural form. Breeds such as fantail with the double tail can be easier to cull. Remove all fry with a single tail, leaving only the double tailed fry. But also note whether the tail has completely divided or not. Many otherwise perfect fantails have tails that don’t completely divide. These need to be removed too. Breeds that lack a dorsal fin can have fry culled that have the dorsal fin.

calico oranda

calico oranda

The lionhead and oranda do not develop their raspberry like growths on their head until they are about 12 months old so culling is difficult. However, you can still cull for the twin tail and lack of dorsal in the lionhead. But note that an oranda is not just a lionhead with a dorsal. If you are breeding lionheads and the fry have a dorsal you can’t just declare them as orandas. The lionhead has a more splayed fantail than the oranda and the back has a different curve.

Fancy goldfish require more rigorous culling, since they will doubtlessly feature much wider variation in their traits and characteristics, including body deformities and missing organs. You will need to begin separating and culling your fish after two weeks of life in order to make sure that you end up with a handful of healthy, high-grade adult fish in the end.

After several breeding and raising fry, you will gain experience as to which young show promise and which young should be culled earlier.

If you keep it up and handle your fry right, you’ll soon have a new generation of fancy goldfish, bred to your exact specifications.

Always match your fish against champion grade fish. There are many examples on the internet showing high quality body shapes, coloration, finnage and other features. Strive to emulate the best specimens and proven champions. This goes for purchases as well. Use the show class standards to help you buy the best specimens you can.

 

Koi varieties explained – a guide to recognising the varieties of koi

Koi varieties explained: a comprehensive guide to recognising koi varieties

Feeding koi here

Building a koi pond here

champion grade quality koi varieties

champion grade quality koi varieties

Koi remain one of the most lasting and popular varieties of fish for the discriminating aquarist. They are one of the few fish with records of keeping koi going back hundreds of years, though modern koi as we know them have been around for just over one hundred. Originally hailing from Japan’s Niigata prefecture, koi fish have become a staple fish for many aquarists.

So many koi, so little time

Any hobbyist with a passing interest in koi fish may have, at some point, asked themselves just how many varieties of koi fish exist in the world. This is a tough question to answer, since new species are developed every year. The current count uses thirteen separate classifications with more than a hundred individually named varieties.

Since there are enough individual varieties to fill an encyclopedia with, this article will represent each of those thirteen categories with their most popular fish. Some categories feature multiple koi worth mentioning. If you would like to delve deeper into the world of koi fish, there are great supplementary resources available, including high quality books with exhaustive lists of individual varieties.

The beginning Koi: Kohaku

champion kohaku koi

champion kohaku koi

Experts in the koi industry often claim that keeping koi begins and ends with Kohaku. It is believed to be the first ornamental koi variety.This deceptively simple white fish with red blotches is emblematic of the species, and may very well be the fish that comes to mind when you mention the word, “koi”.

Because of their simpler coloration, these koi are often recommended for beginners to the koi hobby. Interestingly, high quality specimens are also coveted by advanced koi keepers for their subtle patterns and elegant coloration. A high quality Kohaku koi features a snowy white complexion and a uniform red hue. Orange is common, but generally avoided in favor of a deeper crimson coloration.

Tancho Kohaku is a specific variety of this category that features a single bright red circle on the forehead, symbolizing the Japanese national flag. A koi with the tancho mark alongside other markings is called a Maruten Kohaku.

Show quality kohaku have very clearly defined edging to the red coloration, ie any blurring of the red into the white is penalised. Kohaku is still the most popular variety of koi in Japan.

The Taisho Sanshoku Koi: Sanke

taisho sanshoku or sanke - a white based koi with red and black

taisho sanshoku or sanke – a white based koi with red and black

Sanke koi are white based with red and black patches over the white. This particular variety enjoys a historical name alongside its common name. Taisho Sanshoku refers to the era and region from which this koi originates. Sanke koi look very similar to Kohaku koi except they have distinctive black markings in addition to their white and red coloration.

The best way to judge the quality of a Sanke koi is by first appealing to their Kohaku-like markings. Bright, snowy white and a deep, crimson red is ideal. After identifying these elements, you can examine the black spots, which should by an inky, pure black. Young sanke koi often have black spots that appear blue in hue; as the fish matures, this blue becomes a jet black shade in time.

The black koi: Showa

showa champion grade koi

showa champion grade koi

Showa koi are often confused with sanke koi, since they feature the same combination of white, red and black markings. The difference is that Showa koi are distinctively black-based, with additional white and red markings overlaying the black foundation.

High quality specimens are prized for the balance between the three colors. It is ideal for the showa koi to have a distinctive swath of black color that forks out from the base of the pectoral fins, making for a striking and powerful display of color.

Showa will have some black on its head whereas a sanke will not and good quality modern showas have more white than previously. Again, there should be no blurring. a sharp edge to the colours is preferred for show quality showas.

The fire and ash koi: Hi Utsuri = black with red

ki utsuri which is the yellow version of utsurimono

ki utsuri which is the yellow version of utsurimono

The Utsurimono family contains koi with a pattern containing two highly distinct colors. Of these, the most popular and visually striking is the Hi Utsuri black with red. It is easily recognizable by its black foundation and bright red markings. The two colors should offer a stark contrast, with the deeper hues being more prized than lighter shades.

Hi Utsuri are commonly sought out for unique asymmetric color patterns. Often, koi experts will recommend Utsurimono koi with the most quirky patterns possible, in order to emphasize their character. There is a yellow version with yellow markings over the black foundation – ki utsuri and a white version with white patches over the black – shiro utsuri.

The rock garden koi: Bekko

superb aka bekko red based with black markings

superb aka bekko red based with black markings

Shiro bekko koi are incredibly popular for their stark black-on-white coloration. Often confused with Shiro Utsuri, a white-on-black variety, these ones feature minimal black markings that should resemble the placement of small stones used in Japanese rock gardening against a white sand surface.

The ideal combination is a clean, snowy white with small specks of strong black overlying the koi’s scales. There should be no black on the koi’s head, or below the lateral line of the koi. A checkerboard pattern along the koi’s back is a sign of particular excellence.

There are two other main bekko types the aka bekko which is a red based fish black markings over it and the ki bekko which is a yellow based fish with black markings over it.

Show quality bekkos have distinct black markings without speckling and clearly defined edges to the black and the base colour should be snow white in the shiro bekko, crimson red for the aka bekko and a canary yellow for the ki bekko.

The single-color metallic koi: Hikarimuji

hikarimuji ogon yamabuki is a metallic yellow fish ie gold coloured

hikarimuji ogon yamabuki metallic yellow fish ie gold

Hikarimuji koi feature a single shiny metallic color, with no other markings anywhere on the body. The best specimens feature a bright and metallic finish, highly prized for their reflective surface and beautiful metallic luster. The colour must be evenly spread over the whole body.

These fish come in all colors, from vibrant white to deep orange or yellow. The most consistent and bright the coloration is, the higher quality the koi.
Yamabuki Ogon – pure metallic yellow/gold. Platinum Ogon – pure metallic white/silver. Orange Ogon – pure metallic orange/copper. There are also the kin matsuba and gin matsuba which have raised metallic markings that look like pine needles, where the individual scales are seen.

The metallic koi: Hikarimoyo

These koi are similar to Hikarimuji koi, featuring the same metallic luster, but with multiple colors. This is a koi classification that features multiple individual types, such as the colorful Kujaku koi, also known as the peacock koi.

The key to determining the quality of these koi is in their metallic luster. Coloration is unique for each individual and generally takes second place in importance to a strong, shiny metallic tinge.

The autumn water koi: Shusui

shusui are an almost scaless fish with a row of blue scales along the back

shusui are an almost scaless fish with a row of blue scales along the back

This species of koi adds a fascinating character to any koi collection. Shusui is the scaleless version of the Doitsu Asagi. The Shusui should only have two rows of blue scales on its back and might have scales along its lateral line. The common name Shusui means, “autumn water” and is used to describe the unique double row of blue scales running down the length of the koi’s back. On each side of the body there are vibrant red markings.

The scalelessness gives a smooth appearance to the fish and if the colours are clear and bright without blurring then the fish has an almost painted gloss like appearance.

These koi have few characteristics for determining a high quality specimen from a low quality one, but the most important aspect of coloration to consider is the blue dorsal line. The blue should be even, continuous and symmetrical.

The veiled koi: Ai Goromo

Ai goromo fish is like a kohaku with purple within the red patches

Ai goromo fish is like a kohaku with purple within the red patches

These striking fish feature purple markings on a white background, and are highly prized by koi enthusiasts. The name of this koi’s classification category, Koromo, means, “veiled” and refers to its vignette. The most prized specimens feature a deep purple robing that covers a portion of the scales while leaving a characteristic fade to red around each marking. The purple colour is a result of blue or black coloration blending into the red.

When young, these fish can resemble Kohaku koi. Often, the purple coloration does not set in fully until the fish has reached maturity. It can be helpful to assess the koi’s value from a Kohaku standpoint, substituting red for deep violet.

The five-color koi: Goshiki

goshiki kanno koi - female - five colours red,white,black and blue and slate

goshiki kanno female – red,white,black and blue and slate

While it is very rare for one of these koi to prominently feature all five colors, the Goshiki koi remains one of the industry’s favorites due to its bright, rainbow-like combination of colors.

A high quality specimen will exhibit red, black, white from the sanke with the grey, and blue colorations from the asagi. This is because the original goshiki were developed by crossing a sanke with an asagi. Only the rarest specimens will feature these colors in equal proportions.

The rarest specimen of Goshiki koi is one with a bright red Tancho mark on the forehead. Also highly sought after are Goshiki koi featuring the stepped patterns often seen in Kohaku koi.

The crow koi: Karasugoi

all black version of the koi

all black version of the koi

Karasu is Japanese for, “crow” and refers to the jet black coloration of these koi. They always feature rows of scales running along the dorsal or lateral lines and generally feature a white underbelly. Sometimes, these fish feature a white head and black body.

The best specimens are a deep black with no metallic scales. Note that when any scales are lost the replacement scale that grows will not be jet black and may ruin an otherwise good specimen.

Particularly valuable speciments often feature a wavy white and black pattern covering the flanks of the fish. It is this particular coloration that gave rise to the term, “dragon fish” in reference to koi.

The black net koi: Matsuba

gin matsuba means white metallic with black in the scale

gin matsuba means white metallic with black in the scale

The matsuba is a highly prized and very beautiful fish with a solid, metallic base of color featuring a black net pattern along the scales. The base color change: white, yellow, and red are common varieties, but the black net pattern remains a constant.

The value of this type of koi is based on the metallic sheen of the scales, and the consistency of the black patterning. Vivid contrast between the two colors is highly sought after by koi enthusiasts.

The strange koi: Kawarigoi

Kawarigoi is a catch-all term for just about any variety of koi that does not fit neatly into the existing classification system. Kawari is a word that refers to something strange or with unusual characteristics. It should go without saying that Kawarigoi are a varied bunch, and often contain unusual hybrids between other species.

Finding a quality Kawarigoi is usually up to personal preference. These koi are prized not for their adherence to a standard classification of beauty, but for their individual uniqueness. If you find a Kawarigoi that suits your fancy, it is a good one!

Learning more about koi

While this article touched on some of the most popular and distinctive species, the koi trade is a deep and historically significant one. Further reading is highly recommended for anyone interested in keeping koi as a hobby.

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