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  1. Default Oddballs: A Primer

    0 Not allowed!
    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.
    When a finger points to the moon, the imbecile looks at the finger.

    Omnia mutantur nihil interit.

    The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go

  2. Default Part 2

    0 Not allowed!
    A kind of Goby and one of the most unusual and rather challenging fishes to keep are the Mudskippers; Periophthalmus genus.

    There are 17 species of Mudskippers in the Genus, all of them highly amphibious, brackish water fish. Periophthalmus argentilineatus (silver-lined), which reaches six inches long, is very wide spread in Mangrove mud flats in Eastern Africa, Southeast Asia, Australia, Southern China, Japan, Madagascar and Samoa - is the most likely species you'll run across. They are yellowish-white on the bottom with an attractive green and blue-speckled black top. The eyes are on top of head and protrude, and can swivel as the fish looks for food.

    There are nine Genii of Mudskippers, but other then the members of the Periophthamus Genus, the other 8 are rarely if ever available.

    Regardless of the species, Mudskippers are very difficult to keep alive, and special custom-made tanks are necessary to have a hope of keeping the species. They eat live food only - small live crabs and other live crustaceans, but will take insects, like crickets, as well. They MUST have variety, so you must be well-versed in culturing a variety of amphibious Crustacean life forms long BEFORE buying the fish. They WILL NOT take anything prepared or frozen.

    Only the most experienced and dedicated hobbyist should even attempt keeping these fish. I rescued six of them from someone who begged me to, as they were rapidly fading. I cut down a large acrylic tank and built a land and water section in it at top speed. It was close, but I managed to save all six, as at the time I lived close enough to the ocean to harvest sand crabs and sand fleas to feed them with until I got all my cultures going. I kept them for 8 months before I found a zoo to take them off my hands.

    The 'land' part of the tank must be soft enough, like muddy sand, so the mudskippers can construct burrows. Mangrove roots in the water are helpful, as they naturally crawl on them . The water must be brackish; 1.015 specific gravity, with a pH between 7.5 and 8.5 and as hard as a marine tank. A cover is necessary to keep the humidity high as the fish must be kept moist when out of the water, and the temperatures are 80 to 88 degrees; no less and no more.

    The tank MUST be large and wide, say 12 x 6, as Mudskippers need the space. They must be kept in groups, but too many will cause fighting for territory and death, thus the space so each male can have his own burrow and territory. The pairs lay the eggs in the male's burrow if his dance and display pleases her, and he guards them. As they are air breathers, he blows bubbles of air on the eggs and fry. When the fry consume their egg sacks, they emerge and head for the water, where they will remain for some time before becoming amphibious like their parents. The fry can be fed live swimming crustacea, starting with Mysis shrimp, the size dictated as the fry grow. If you mix a quality meaty pellet of a suitable size with the crustacea, the little mudskippers often learn to eat them, to their benefit. Tank bred fry are much more hardy than their wild caught parents. The water must be kept very, very clean, so any uneaten must be PROMPTLY removed

    Mudskippers can really leap - more than two feet - if they are startled, angry at a too close neighbor, or especially if they see a tasty crab.

    A fascinating group of fishes, but not one to be kept casually.

    Growing to an impressive size is Chitala chitala, the Clown Knife Fish of all over Southeast Asia.

    A jumbo freshwater fish for the very large planted aquarium and a food fish in Asia, C. chitala reaches nearly four feet long. A very silvery fish with a line of black spots surrounded by white on its lower half; the number, size, and dispersion of the spots depending where the parent fish were from. The anal fin covers nearly the whole bottom of the fish, and is used to stay in place and for stealthy movement toward prey. The body is long and shaped knife-like, obviously, and narrows to a pointed head with large eyes. The mouth is large can can swallow surprisingly large foods.

    On to Part 3
    When a finger points to the moon, the imbecile looks at the finger.

    Omnia mutantur nihil interit.

    The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go

  3. Default Part 3

    0 Not allowed!
    They are confirmed predators, and can dominate fish their size and larger. Suitably-sized fish will be eaten, and with their size, many fish, even adult Cichlids like Oscars, are suitably-sized. Being confirmed carnivores, the food must be meaty. White fish flesh, frozen penaeid shrimp - if it's meaty and lean, they will eat it. It's not advisable to feed them live fish unless you're sure of the source and culture them yourself. Live fish SHOULD NOT be the primary food source as such rich food will damage the fishes' kidneys causing total renal shutdown and death. Foods must be frozen or prepared fish, and crustacean based.

    They soon learn to take prepared foods as well. High quality and varied pelleted foods should be the main diet. To my experience they are most eager toward pellets with a large percentage of marine fish flesh as an ingredient. As with any carnivorous fish, a vegetative pellet will provided the greens they get from eating live prey in nature.

    They are native to the still, plant-choked swampy areas of Southeast Asia, thus they prefer soft, slightly acid water pH 6.0 to 7.0, and the well-planted aquarium. However, they are adaptable within reason, but do need cover like floating plants and overhangs to shelter under. Best temperatures are the upper 70's and lower 80's, say 78 for general maintenance of the species.

    They obviously need very large aquariums in the many hundreds or thousands of gallons. They can be kept in groups in a large enough aquarium if introduced together as youngsters, and can be home bred, either on a flat rock or shallow depression. A slow temperature raise up to 88 degrees usually triggers breeding, but it is VERY advisable to remove tankmates when they do, as the male, who guards the eggs and fry, is far beyond aggressive and will kill every other fish in the tank, not matter what it is. I don't know of any way to divine the sexes, other than venting the fish, and venting an adult Knife Fish is a challenge indeed, as they are incredibly powerful fishes. I tried it exactly once, and ended up wet and beat up as did my helpers, and still didn't find out the sex of that fish. For those who want to try it, goodness knows why, he's pointed and she's rounded. I kept them for nearly five years in the 80's when I was in my big-fish stage.

    A fascinating fish to keep, but it's adult size demands deep pockets, and lots of space, for that huge planted aquarium.

    A truly unique fish for the aquarium are the Morymids, family Mormyridae, of the still, dark waters of Western Africa.

    The most commonly available species is Gnathonemus petersii - the Elephant-Nose Fish - native to slow-moving waters and found near stands of driftwood in the rivers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria and the Cameroon. Topping out at nine inches, Peter's Elephant Nose is black to dark gray, depending on the specimen. A crescent of white is near the tail, and that area is what makes the Elephant nose truly unique, the fish's appearance not withstanding.

    The caudal peduncle, the part of the body before the tail, is quite thin and generates a weak electrical field by contracting the muscles there, and surrounds the fish. The electric field helps them navigate, identify each other, and find prey in dark or muddy water. Thus, if you drop in some live worms in the middle of the night, the Elephant Nose fish will quickly find them by the motions of the worms.

    The body is laterally compressed, meaning they are narrow when viewed from the front. The fish's lower jaw has a trunk-like proboscis attached that is lined with electrical receptors to help them zone in on food and each other. The eyes are small, and the fish has poor eyesight, but with their electrical systems they navigate perfectly well. The tail is deeply forked, and the dorsal and anal fins are far back, and nearly perfectly symmetrical.

    They can easily be kept in groups, with six or more best. Do not by any means keep a pair, as one will bully the other to death. Less than six is a gamble you don't want to take. They are perfectly amiable fish in a school unless you try to add another to the group; it will be attacked, and the proboscis can be used as a weapon.

    They are deeply attached to worms as a food source. Easily-cultured California Black Worms (Lumbriculus variegatus) are a favorite, as are clean earth worms of a suitable size. Frozen bloodworms, live White Worms - Elephant Nose Fish love them. If it's a worm and you can culture it, your Elephant Noses will happily eat them. They will, however, eat prepared foods, pellets specifically, but to keep them long term, feed them live (best) and frozen worms most frequently. They commonly live well over 10 years, how far over, I don't know, as I kept them from 1978 to '88, and they were still hale and hearty when I sold them.

    They prefer water pH 6.8 and soft, and planted tanks with a good deal of driftwood is perfect. They will adapt up to pH 7.5 and moderate hardness, but don't do as well. Best temps are 73 to 80 degrees. They are quiet, deliberate, fishes, so don't keep them with fast eaters or aggressive fish. You may have to target feed them if you keep them with quick eaters like larger tetras (lemons, rosys).

    They eschew bright light, so be sure there are areas that are dark with the wood so your fish will be comfortable. Overhanging wood is recommended, as are floating plants. Remember, these are dark water fishes. Make sure you build several dark hiding places for them.

    Another unique feature is their brain to body weight ratio, which is larger than ours. They use their large brains to process all the information from their multiple sensors.

    To my knowledge they haven't been bred in aquariums. In my research at the time prior to keeping the fish, it was suggested that aquarium sizes were too small for the full expansion of the electrical fields, so they couldn't determine the sexes. We have the same problem, as there are no obvious differences between the sexes of Elephant Nose Fish. Perhaps the key to breeding them would be a large enough aquarium. Mine were kept in a 200 gallon, so it'd have to be larger than that.

    There are many more species of Morymids, though several have different needs in water parameters, so do your research prior to buying them. All are dark-water fishes.

    An all together fascinating family of fishes.

    Almost prehistoric in vintage and appearance are the Bichirs, African fishes of the Polypteridae family. All are from the still waters of Africa.

    Incredibly tough fishes, pH and hardness levels mean nothing. All they need is clean water and good food. I've kept two Polypterus species over the years; P. ornatipinnis and senegalus. Still have the ornatipinnis - the Ornate Bichir, and have since I was 12 years old.

    Mine is in pH 6.8 soft water in a 40 gallon breeder, but as above, they are very, very adaptable, as long as it's clean. If it's a meaty food, they will eat it. They have a keen sense of smell, and will even eat pelleted food. I feed mine live worms, penaeid shrimp, white fish flesh, apple and pear chunks and three kinds of pelleted food. They define bulletproof hardy. As long as the water is clean and you feed them, they will thrive in nearly any tank of suitable size.

    Bichars ignore fish too large to eat, so they are unusual tankmates for the larger aquarium. Larger because the Senegal Bichir reaches nearly 16 inches, the Ornate Bichir close to two feet, though mine is 18 inches. They can be kept in groups, but pairs are VERY ill advised as just one will get all the food. In a group of five or more they can be quite entertaining, as they occasionally wrestle for a tasty bit of food. They are phenomenally long-lived, as I personally know of a Senegal Bichir that has outlived two owners, so is at least 80 years old. You might have to write your Bichir into your will for its continued care.

    Tankmates should be mellow themselves, as Bichirs can be picked on by aggressive fish like Cichlids. Larger tetras and barbs are OK, as long as they grow large enough not to be considered food. You shouldn't keep them with plecos, as they usually suck on the Bichir's sides. Tank should have cover for your Bichirs - a well-planted tank with driftwood and stones is perfect.

    They are true living fossils, as Bichars can trace their kind back 60 million years, to the time of the dinosaurs. Thus, the popular common name of 'Dinosaur Eel' is apropos, though the aren't eels.

    Perhaps the most durable fish you can buy, thus I recommend them. Only caveat is tank size, tank mates, and good filtration and maintenance.

    There are many other fish that can be considered oddballs, fish that are off the beaten track. And they may need very large tanks, or special foods, or different water conditions. I've touched on just a few species that I've kept over the years that in the broad sense can be considered oddballs. What not try and oddball in that next tank?

    When a finger points to the moon, the imbecile looks at the finger.

    Omnia mutantur nihil interit.

    The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go

  4. #4


    0 Not allowed!
    Very cool!! I had no idea about birchirs being prehistoric!

    50G Tank - Kyathit Danios, Zebra Danio, Swordtails, Silver Hatchetfish, Platy, Gold Barbs, Cherry Barbs, Bolivian Rams, Apisto, Zebra Loaches.
    20G 'Nano Fish' Tank - Pygmy Rasboras, Lampeyes, Sparkling Gouramis, CPD, Bronze Corydoras, Cherry Shrimp
    Wanted: More CPD's and Loaches.
    Keep updated with my fish world in my Blog! And my tanks Blog!

  5. #5


    0 Not allowed!
    Great primer Dave!

  6. Default

    0 Not allowed!
    Dave, good info my man, hope to see more primers, especially on the South American cichlid species ;) lol.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Across the great pond from the state of Seattle

    Awards Showcase

    have an octopus - angelcakes a clownfish for your super sense of humor!!!! - ladyoutlaw50 doning the superman suit - Lady Hobbs Let's have a Drink ;) - Fishalicious For the wife! - Lady Hobbs 
    thanks buddy for your help - angelcakes somebody gotta show you love :) - The Red Severum Thanks for all your help with my cherries!! Crawfish was the closest to a CS - Gemini Thanks for the photo lesson! - northernguy Have a drink on me.. hope tomorrow is a better day x - Fishalicious 


    0 Not allowed!
    Hi HO HI HO of to the LFPS I go....

    ME: Hey guys I'm here...
    LFPS: So
    ME: I'm looking for an oddball fish
    LFPS: Which one?
    ME: The brown one
    LFPS: Which Brown one
    ME: the one that can zoom thru the air witht he greatest of ease..
    LFPS: *Funny Look*
    ME: You know the moth fish or what ever it is called
    LFPS: You mean an African Butterfly fish
    ME: No that is too sweet a name for this killer...You are the experts you should know what I want.
    LFPS: *Shakes head and walks away*
    ME: *Driving home with more mollies for the kids tank.*

    Thanks Dave now I really want my Bichir tank again but the suggestion of the butterflies has got me a thinkin'
    This posting was approved by:
    William S. Burt

    All words in this post are completly fictional, any resemblence to actual words is strictly a cowinky dink. No Animals were harmed in the making of this post. Now as far as Humans go there were probably a few hurt and maybe even killed. Please do not copy and paste this post with out the expressed written consent of the owner. Quoting is allowed but only too boost the owners already over inflated ego.

  8. #8


    0 Not allowed!
    Thanks Dave! Always love reading your work, find out something new everytime!
    Cheers mate!

  9. Default

    0 Not allowed!
    I did not know you could keep bichirs in that small of a tank!

  10. #10


    0 Not allowed!
    Thank you, Dave, your primers are always excellent.

    Liters to Gallons conversion calculator

    "Keeping fish for any period of time doesn't make you experienced if you're doing it wrong. What does, is acknowledging those mistakes and learning from them." ~Aeonflame
    your argument is invalid." ~Mommy1

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