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What Makes African Tetra Different?

Both the South American and African Tetra belong to the Characin group, and the only difference between them is basically the geographical location which they were originally found. While most of the common tetra fish belong to the South American group, there are also quite a number of popular aquarium species which originate from Africa. The African Tetra basically looks just the same like their SA counterparts in terms of size and shape, and they share some common behaviors like for instance their shoaling abilities and also their requirement on having acidic blackwater condition. Although the African Tetra do not get as much attention or fanfare as the other characins, but however if you are an avid collector, they are definitely one of the coolest pet fish which you should get and add it to your freshwater fish profile. Below is the list of some of the most popular African Tetra that you might want to consider to become part of your community tank dwellers.

African tetra fish
Picture from left: Long-finned, Jelly bean and Congo Tetra
Long-finned African Tetra (Brycinus longipinnis)
Long-finned Characin (as they were sometimes referred to) is one of the most peaceful shoaling community species. They are naturally found living in Niger river in the Western part of Africa especially in Sierra Leone and those specimen that you find sold in pet stores are most probably imported and then commercially bred to make them adapt to live in home aquariums. The fish which are overall plain silvery-green in color, except for a vertical black line near the tail fin, will do just fine living in a tank specially tailored for the other tropical freshwater fish like for example the platy, guppy, pencilfish or even danios. The long-finned tetra can be easily sexed based on their finnage appearance whereby for the males you can see that the top dorsal fin is slightly longer and extended upwards compared to the females which are noticeably shorter. In terms of water temperature, anywhere between 25 and 27 degree Celsius (around 75 degree F) will be just fine for them and preferably the water should also be soft and acidic in nature. Consider adding peat or bogwood in your attempt to lower the pH. The fish can grow up to 5 inches in length, much bigger than the average aquarium neon tetra and their activeness is often associated with constant feeding of live bloodworms.

Congo Tetra (Phenacogrammus interruptus)
Congo Tetra is another fine example of fish which is part of the African Tetra group. A healthy adult Congo tetra can display a very discerning display of iridescent yellow color on their silvery body plus a little bit of bluish-green shade if you observe carefully especially under dimmed lighting. They make excellent pets and similar like their long-finned tetra cousins, males can be easily differentiated from the females based on the length of their fins. Overall they do not require any special attention in the community setup and if you can provide the same level of care just like the other characins, they will adapt just fine. Similar like the other shoaling species, the fish should be in a company of at least 5 to 7 of them in a group and in terms of breeding, most of the time, it will happen naturally provided that the pH is at the acidic range (around the region of 6.0). The Congo Tetra prefer having dense and well-planted setup, thus you can consider adding aquarium plants like hornwort or cabomba which can easily outgrow the rate which they get eaten or destroyed by the fish.

Jelly Bean Tetra (Ladigesia roloffi)
The Jelly Bean Tetra (also aptly called dwarf characins) belongs to the same part of Africa where you find the Long-finned African Tetra. They are very shy and cautious pet fish which has the tendency to jump out of the tank when they get stressed out or scared. The Jelly Bean name was given mainly because of their size as most of the time, in a pool of healthy adult fish, you will most likely find adult specimen measuring less than an inch (below 2.5cm) in length. Being overall yellowish-green, the color intensity can be used as an excellent indicator to determine the health status of your pet fish. To keep them active and fully accustomed to the home aquarium living environment, make sure that the tank is heavily planted to provide cover for them to retreat to and hide. To counter their jumping behavior, you can also consider adding some floating aquatic plants like duckweed. But however, in order to ensure that the plants populations are always kept in check, you should routinely remove and reduce the foliage growth or else they can be a real nuisance as duckweed especially can overgrow and completely cover the whole aquarium surface. Other than focusing on this requirement, Jelly Bean Tetra is overall an undemanding fish which requires very little effort to maintain.

Other African fish species: Tilapia and African Lemon Yellow Cichlids

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Studying South American Tetras Needs

The South American Tetras are considered among one of the largest groups of freshwater fish. They are naturally found in rivers with the waters slightly acidic in nature (around region of 6.5, the lower the better, up to 5.8) and the tetras are often associated with their active behavior, fast swimming ability, small size and most notable is their shoaling characteristic. The fish are collectively known as The Characins or Characidae which also include the African Tetras but to stick to our topic of discussion here, we will only focus on the South American species. There are quite a number of commonly found tetra fish (about 20 to 30) which has been commercially bred and domesticated in home aquariums around the world, and to quote a few examples would be the neon tetra, emperor tetra, banded rummy nose, yellow banded tetra and the black phantom.

aquarium tetra fish
Picture left to right: Red Eye, Black Phantom and Rummy Nose Tetra
The water requirements
South American Tetras are well-known for its demands in terms of having the right water quality. Most people failed in their attempts to rear the fish because they fail to understand their most basic requirement whereby only a fully-cycled aged tank (3 months old is the best) is suitable for them to live in and with the nitrate level needs to be as low as possible with the recommended range dipping below the 20ppm cut-off point. And because of that, in order to achieve the required level, you will need to have a highly-dense planted tank in order to establish the perfect aquarium condition.
Also another factor to watch out for is the pH. Based on my own experience although you can keep the tetras living in aquarium having pH close to neutral range, but however, they exhibit higher survival rate and are livelier when kept in water with pH at 6.5. Thus in order to attain that level, you will need to have peat, bogwood added to the tank for the purpose of pH adjustment. Nevertheless the best setup would be an aquarium equipped with an online pH indicator to give an on-the-spot reading on the actual water pH.
The South American species are also considered tropical fish and thus, the right temperature should be at least 27deg Celsius minimum. This is to ensure that they propagate and most important is to minimize the chance of developing unwanted disease. Thus, if you are living in cold climate countries, be prepared to invest on getting a reliable aquarium heater to ensure the water temperature maintains at a stable range.

Life spans in captive aquariums
Tetra fish are known to live for at least 2 years minimum with some species like the emperor tetra surviving as long as 5 years. This is provided that their welfare is well-taken care off and with the best nutrition, it is not uncommon to see the fish reaching an average life-span of 3 years. Most novice hobbyist laments on how difficult it was to care for the fish, with some experiencing their pets dying in just a matter of days or even hours after they were released into the aquarium but my advice is, as long as you follow the basic water requirement detailed out above, your fish should be fine.

Let’s us study some of the most popular aquarium tetra fish:
Black Phantom Tetra (Hyphessobrycon megalopterus)
Black phantom tetra is easily identified based on the presence of a black color patch appearing close to the area adjacent to both sides of the gills. They have a relatively transparent-like body with certain variant of the fish appears to be slightly brownish in color. They only attain size of up to maximum 2 inches in length and just like their other tetra cousins; they share a similar non-aggressive, active and shoaling trademark. Trying to identify between a male and female should prove to be relatively easy as the males have a longer dorsal fins compared to the female fish. Feed them mixture of live foods and dried flakes which they would readily accept.

Banded Rummy Nose (Hemigrammus rhodostomus)
Banded rummy nose is an Amazonian species with its signature red color tip appearing at the front end of its body which is very noticeable. Unlike the other tetra fish, this one has an overall longer torpedo-shaped body. Similar like the black phantom tetra, they only reach a miniature size of 2 inches in length. The color pigment of its body is slightly yellowish on the upper half while the rest of the lower half is silvery. The fish is peaceful and highly sociable in nature, and is definitely a recommended choice, suitable to be added to a community aquarium. Their choice of tank mates should be limited to other non-aggressive species like for example platy, bristlenose catfish, rainbowfish or guppy and you can even consider picking the other South American tetras to keep them company.

Yellow Banded/Red Eye Tetra (Moenkhausia sanctaefilomenae)
The yellow banded tetra is different from the other fish marked by the presence of a thin reddish line appearing on the top of its eye. Overall, when viewed at certain angle, you can actually distinguish the yellowish shade appearing on its silvery scales and the patch also appears more vividly at its tail region combined with black (refer to the picture above). Unlike the other tetra which is relatively small, the yellow banded tetra can reach slightly bigger size up to 3 inches in total. Overall, the shape of the fish is rounder but however, this characteristic does not deter them from being a fast swimmer. Just like all the other tetra fish, they prefer moving in groups, with the presence of their own kind around them and they seem to exhibit stronger shoaling behavior as you rarely find one fish straying away from the group

Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon innesi)
This is perhaps the most popular of all. The neon like appearance is very profound especially when viewed under the fluorescent light. However, compared to the other fish, neon tetra can be very susceptible to disease and sometimes you can end up losing a whole batch of fish without any clear indication to show that they are infected. Neon tetra is characterized by the combination of 3 standard colors, the most is blue, then red and some part at the belly region is silver. They can only breed when pH drops below 6.0 and healthy specimens often display brighter neon coloration (a clear indication of their health status). Females have thicker and plump body, a sign that they are carrying eggs while males are slightly thinner and shorter in length. More information on neon fish can be found at this page about general information and another written post about breeding neon fish.

Aquarium Fun Facts:

1) Do you realize that the Characidae fish group once included the Sabre Tooth Tetra or better known as Vampire fish, which has been reassigned to its own fish classification?
2) Avoid keeping the tropical South American Tetra with brackish water fish like Mollies

comparison between fluval and eheimComparing Between Different Fish Filters (Advantages and Disadvantages). How about other brands like the BiOrb?

Exciting New Ways to Keep Pet Fish

Aquarium fish keeping hobby is something dynamic as there are always fun and exciting new ways which you can explore and make the whole experience enjoyable. There are in fact endless new ideas and possibilities which you can try and experiment with, and the limit is your own imagination. Combining different choices and setups, the fun part of all these is actually seeing your piece of work turn into the perfect work of art. Over the years, the image of a simple childhood activity has turned into something big, complex, and highly advanced as you will soon discover as you continue to read on. Let’s look at some of the options which a hobbyist can play around to spruce things up.

1. Get different aquarium shapes and setups
Let’s face it; keeping fish does not necessarily mean having to confine your pets to live in an old boring square-shaped tank. If you are the creative type and would like to have something different, then why not opt for the round or even the odd-shaped fish tank? Not to be compared to a simple fish bowl, which is practically dull, these specially designed tanks that you can see sold in pet shops actually come from reputable brand names and they all have the necessary equipment like filter and lighting fixture combined into one single package. If you observe careful, the aim of the design is to make it compact; use of top quality acrylic material will create the high transparency glass-like appearance and overall, is also created for ease of maintenance in mind. Nowadays there is also a range of specially-designed aquarium forming the term “unique aquariums” which are actually constructed to blend and fit in nicely into your modern living room concept like for example, the coffee table fish tank, kitchen aquarium cabinet and some others, all beyond simple imagination. Even nowadays round or odd-shaped aquariums are preferred over conventional square tanks, as it is considered the most convenient setup for keeping small pet fish like neon tetra, platy and is also suitable to house the tiny freshwater shrimps.

biorb fish tankplanted fish tank
How about getting a round shape biorb or even try out with different plant layout? The possibilities are endless…

2. Decorate the tank
Having an empty bare-bottom fish tank might sound like a good idea especially for those cleaning freak. You don’t have the gravel that can accumulate dirt, it is easy to scrape off the algae growing at the corners and overall you can significantly cut down the time to do a complete tank cleaning. However, the downside to all these is you will end up having a plain boring aquarium. Not many will agree with this, but do you realize that decorating the tank with plants and other decorative items actually offers its own benefits? Take for example the aquarium plants. The living flora growing in the water can actually serve as biological filtration to absorb harmful chemical buildup in the water and in turn improves the water quality. The layer of gravel which forms the base of the tank can actually become the filter media for a type of filter system call the “undergravel filter”. Having decorative materials like shells also serve as hiding spot for certain type of fish like cichlids and the list goes on and on. Overall, depends on how you manage, there are certainly pros and cons involved but definitely the benefits outweighs the negative impact.

3. Mix and create a community aquarium
One of the challenges to aquarium fish keeping is how to create a community setup whereby you can have different species of fishes, all living together in the same tank and interact with one another without showing any hostile behavior. The benefit when having different types of fish that co-exist together is that it will turn the aquarium towards having a more natural look, and with all the different shapes and colors contributed by the variety of species, this will help portray a more vibrant and lively surrounding. Most of the time spent will be on experimenting which type of fish will go along well with the other and overall this involves some research, some trial and error before you come up with the perfect setup. Trust me; this is all worth the effort.

4. Transform it to saltwater
While freshwater is fun, turning your aquarium into saltwater tank opens up new possibilities. There are species that only thrive in marine environment like colorful giant saltwater clams, living corals, anemones, feather duster worm, starfishes, seahorses and to the more exotic unicorn fish which you can consider. Also another point to take note is that when comparing between freshwater and saltwater species, those from the marine fish families tend to be more colorful. Maintaining a saltwater tank also presents new challenges because the water that you intend to mix in has to be first tested for the correct salinity. Sometimes you will also need to invest on new equipment like wave makers to keep certain types of marine fish and overall, all these will involve some reading to understand that particular species behavior. The marine field is often reserved for those advanced aquarists who has mastered the skills and brought together their knowledge from freshwater aquariums. Also you might be interested to read up on basic saltwater aquarium maintenance and troubleshooting before you take the giant step.

5. And finally....Turn it into Aquaponics!
Lately aquaponics is becoming the recent trend in aquarium fish keeping. Aquaponic is actually a different concept which combines both fish keeping and vegetable planting into one single standalone independent system. Instead of having just the fish tank alone or the plant bed lying around in your garden, you can actually utilize the waste generated from your pets and in return, whatever worms growing in the plant bed can be used to feed your fish, up to the point whereby it is self-sustainable by its own. Most of the advanced systems have been upgraded to be fully automated which means that once you have really fine-tuned the setup, such as tank capacity, flow rate, timer, the rest of the daily maintenance will require very little intervention. Read more about aquaponic and how you can actually build a simple setup despite having space constraint. Related fishkeeping topic: Guide on upgrading to new fish tank.

comparison between fluval and eheimComparing Between Different Fish Filters (Advantages and Disadvantages). How about other brands like the BiOrb?

What causes fish jump out from tank?

Hatchet fish swimming in an aquariumIf your pet fish is jumping out from the tank, it’s a tell-tale sign that something is not right. Fish just like any living creature will not resort to such drastic action unless there is a specific reason that drives them to do it. Most of the time it is not difficult to figure it out yourself and as a responsible pet fish owner, it should be your duty to find out why it happens and take steps to rectify the situation. Let us consider all the facts and factors stated below.

Poor living condition
Water which is too warm, extremely low temperature, dirty, lack of oxygen, highly alkaline or acidic way out of their liking and coupled with prolonged condition will often leave them with no choice but to jump out of the aquarium. For example, if you have a platy living in a tank without any form of heater during the winter, and the temperature drops way below the minimum 82deg Fahrenheit (28deg Celsius) that they require, it is a sign that you are inviting trouble to happen. Sometimes when you introduce new pet fish from the water in the bag which is warmer compared to the water in the new tank having much lower temperature, this can also stimulate the same effect. Thus, always watch over your water quality and it is a good practice to perform a routine check on your water temperature before you add in the new fish. Also another factor to consider when it comes to living condition is when you have a tank with the size too small to accommodate your pets. This is especially when you force them to live in an aquarium with practically no room to swim or maneuver around and this is just a disaster waiting to happen.

Fighting and Bullying
Let’s face it, no matter which living species we refer to, there are bound to be internal competition that can lead to fighting. Whether it is for food, living space, to claim territorial dominance, in searching for partners, or simply just a male to male duel to see which one is stronger, all these are bound to turn out to become an ugly business. Losers will often left with no choice or way out of the mess and thus jumping out from the aquarium seems to be a sensible option. A good example would be Betta fighting fish. Sometimes fighting can also be due to tussle occurring among different groups of fish and usually size is a major factor here because the smaller fish will often become the subject of bullying by their larger tank mates. In this situation, either you transfer your pets to a separate aquarium or split them apart by introducing a tank partition to ensure they will not bump into each other anymore.

Fungus or Parasite Infection
Fungal growth or parasitic infection (normally those that survive living off the slime on the body of the fish) can cause your pet to swim in an erratic matter, often scratching onto the surface of the tank and to certain extent can even lead to them jumping out from the tank. When you notice this happening, a quick remedy is usually to introduce some salt (0.5% concentration) and to deal with specific situation, I suggest you check out the post on fungus infection and anchor worm infestation.

The Fear Factor (Scared or Startled)
This usually happens when you introduce a fish to a new living environment. Based on my own experience, when you have a fish living in a pond where the only threat they can see is from the above and out of a sudden you decide to put them into a glass tank with a 360 degree view of a totally new environment, they will start to freak out. This is because they haven’t really adjusted themselves with the condition and this happens mostly to fish bred in pond with those that have never experience life living in a glass tank. For example, if you are decide to transfer your koi carp from a pond to a fish tank (to winterize them indoor) then the jumping out of the tank scenario is something you should certainly watch out for.

Bright lights, sudden flash can also startled your fish. Paradise fish for example are known as frequent jumpers because anything new or something happening out of a sudden will cause them to leap out of their enclosure. Make it a point to avoid putting the tank too close to TV or moving source of light. Also if you have an aquarium without any form of lighting fixture, it would be a good idea not to suddenly turn on the lights for the room as it will cause your fish to dash around frantically searching for a hiding spot. To deal with this problem, it is either you construct a proper hiding space for them to retreat to or make it habit not to turn on the lights for the room once you have switched it off.

Traits of The Fish
Certain fish has the tendency to jump out of the water. This has nothing to do with size as sometimes even the larger fish can decide to perform the stunt. Fish species that shows this behavior is mostly due to predatory nature that leads them to hunt for creatures out of the water. One good example is the freshwater trout, distichodus fish and silver arowana which can reach few feet above the water in a single jump. Thus, if you are keeping those type of pet fish, either make sure you have a very large tank to accommodate their jumping behavior or else, put a protective cover or netting to ensure that they won’t end up out of the water. Also, if you are keeping small hatchet fish which are top surface dwellers, be wary on their sudden change of mood especially when you are performing tank cleaning and lowering down the water level. The last thing that you want to see is some dried up dead fish lying motionless on the floor.

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About Me

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My fascination and interest towards aquarium fish has led me to devote my time towards caring and learning about this wonderful pet.

Aquarium fish keeping is a very challenging and exciting hobby. When I first started, I never knew much or have the necessary guidance back then because none of my family members were actually a keen hobbyist. And because of that, I’ve encountered numerous failures and the worst part is having to deal with dead fish every time when you started to grow fond and getting attached to my pets. However, I persevered and took steps to find out and search for information from other hobbyist, apart from the knowledge gained and learned from my own experience and research. The blog that I’ve created here is meant to share useful information and tips about aquarium fish keeping so that new hobbyist will not make the same mistakes that I’ve made in the past."

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