Oddballs: A Primer
Oddballs are fish that don't fit in any of the common families, and some don't even fit in the common tank :) However, properly cared for, the oddballs are fascinating, and in some cases, oddly beautiful, fishes.
There is no way to lump them into one water parameter, or even tank size, but in this post I'll list several of them with their care. Questions are, of course, welcome.
Now, some species.
The African Butterfly Fish (Pantodon buchholzi) is native to still, vegetation-choked water ways of Western Africa, and is not only our first oddball; its the only member of its genus.
Pantondon (means teeth everywhere) buchholzi reach nearly 5 inches, and is the most common oddball in shops.
They are perfect for a planted tank that has top swimming room, especially one with a few floating plants in it, as it mimics the natural habitat. They prefer water between pH 6.5 to 7.5, moderately soft to moderately hard. It is unwise to keep top-swimming fish like danios with them, as they will naturally snatch and eat them, and Pantondons have surprisingly large mouths. Also, their tank MUST be covered, as the fish will sail right out at night. They are strictly top feeders; if it doesn't float and wiggle, they won't eat it.
Really a sort of flying fish, African Butterfly Fish have long, wing-like pectoral fins, especially the males, making it easy to identify the sexes when viewed from the top. The top of the fish is flat, and the ventral and anal fins are feathered with long, feeler-like rays. Their large eyes look forward and up to spot prey, and the colors are browns and blacks
They are strictly carnivorous and live food is mandated with them. They are particularly fond of crickets. You can dust the crickets with powders designed for color or lipids (NatureRose and Protein HUFA are brands) as it improves health and vitality. Earthworms, small healthy live fish, cockroaches; all will be eagerly eaten, though you'll probably have to hand-feed the worms and the fish. Live foods designed for lizards like meal worms are perfect, and mixing them with frozen or freeze-dried examples over time can wean Pantodons off purely live foods. Variety is particularly important with these fish. African Butterfly Fish are also long lived, with 15 years or more common.
They do well in groups of their fellows given the space, and you may see a rare breeding when kept en masse. The large, yellow eggs float, collecting around floating plants, and the parents don't touch the eggs, nor the tadpole-like young. They aren't difficult to wean on to floating high quality pellets, but you'll have to lower the water in the fry tank to just a few inches to get the food and the little Butterfly Fish together.
Anableps anableps from the coast of South America is our next oddball and is a livebearer of another sort from the guppies, swordtails and mollies we know - for the larger, brackish-water tank.
Reaching a foot in length and doing far better in groups of six or more, Anablep's common name - Four-Eyed Fish, is incorrect, as the fish has two eyes, but the iris is split to see both above the water, to spot predators and fishkeepers, and under the water to search for food.
They are long, golden and silvery, slender fish. The sides are divided by a trio of blue-black lines, and the belly is greenish white. Males have a gonopodium for copulation and identification, and they are noticeably smaller and more slender than the females. Their water must be brackish, say 1.015 specific gravity. Temperature should be around 77 degrees, pH about 7.5 to 8 and fairly hard, gH of about 14.
Also, the surface area should be large, and you can add a beach area if you wish on one end of the tank as occasionally Anableps likes to haul out on land, usually to look for food, like a cricket which has crawled out of the water. They MUST have live food to have live young, and nothing is more discouraging than to see baby Anableps being born dead. A tank about 200 gallons is good for a group of them. The tank can be kept half full if you use a beach (which your should) and a few floating plants wouldn't be amiss. Anableps tends to take a rest, time to time, on floating plants.
Foods should float, as they won't take anything that sinks. Live foods are preferred and very beneficial to them. Crickets, meal worms and earthworms are good, and they will take the latter two right from your hand. You can also feed them freeze-dried food like krill, but emulsify them with Selco or Super Selco first to increase the nutrition and to make them more palatable to the fish. Variety is vitally important with these fish. Anableps are always hungry so they should be fed enough to eat in within a minute - no less than four times a day - as starved, they suffer deformities, disease and death. The water has to be very well filtered and very clean, as they are quite sensitive to dissolved organics like Nitrate.
Breeding them is very, very special, because not many keep them in groups, feed them correctly or keep them in large enough tanks. Remember, surface area is most important, so a custom-made acrylic tank may be necessary to keep a group of these fascinating fish.
The babies are nothing short of charming, and will take food like small freeze dried shrimp right from your hand. The parents should be removed after spawning. Mine never ate the babies, but err on the side of safety by removing the parents.
Small surface-dwelling fish are a big no-no with Anableps, because the will by nature eat them. Larger tankmates like Archer Fish are ignored.
Anableps are very neat fish, and one of my favorites.
A favorite of the brackish tank due to its method of getting food is Toxotes jaculatrix; the Archer Fish of the mangrove swamps of Southeast Asia.
Simply a silvery, flat-topped, 10-inch fish with black markings half-way down the body, Archer Fish are almost strictly surface feeders, and their food of choice is insects.
In the top of the fish's mouth is a groove where, by the pressure of the tongue and the snapping of the gills, the fish can shoot down any insect that alights on a plant within the adult fish's 10-foot range. Their large eyes account for the natural refraction of water, though it takes youngsters some time to learn to correct for the diffraction. When an insect is spotted, the archer pokes his snout out of the water and shoots a stream of water that nearly 100 percent of the time downs the insect. A rare miss is followed by a machine gun of water pellets from the Archer Fish. They often shoot in groups, and there's no enmity if another gets the insect shot down.
Small ones can only shoot five or six inches, but the range increases as they grow.
They can also jump out of the water to snatch a bug off a branch that's within a foot of the water, so make sure to cover your Archer Fish tank.
They will eat insects like crickets happily, and soon learn to take pelleted foods that float as well. If it's an insect that floats, Archer Fish will eat it, and bugs are their best food. Dust them with vitamin and mineral powders for maximum nutrition. You can hand-feed Archers things like meal worms, which are a good food, being the larvae of a beetle. Though they feed mostly on the surface, they can go deeper, if it's something they see and wish to eat, like live shrimp.
The Encyclopedia of Live Foods by Charles Masters has information on culturing several kinds of bugs to feed your Archers and other insect-eaters. It's recommended you culture your own insects to feed your fish, because you'll be secure in knowing they come from a clean source.
Their ability to shoot down insects that land on vegetation is what makes these fish a dependable show for visitors. You can toss live house flies under the cover, and watch your Archers pick off each one.
By the way, Toxotes means a bowman (archer).
On to Part 2
Last edited by Dave66; 07-15-2008 at 07:06 AM.
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