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Elassoma Gilberti


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#1 Erica Lyons

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Posted 22 August 2010 - 01:19 PM

Hello, all.  A fellow NANFA member requested that I share the story of my progress with breeding Elassoma gilberti (a close relative to Elassoma okefenokee).  So I'm making this topic, to share my trials and tribulations with getting this species to live comfortably and breed in the home aquarium.  

If you spot me doing anything wrong that would prevent the fish from living happily or from breeding, please tell me.  

I received an adult male, two (or three?) females, and several fry/juveniles and some live food from a very nice NANFA member this week.  They were housed initially in a 10 gallon aquarium with a standard hood (3 inch incadensent bulbs), a layer of half inch gravel substrate, and hornwort (ceratophyllum).  There is an airstone amidst the mass of ceratophyllum.  The ceratophyllum is made to sink beneath the surface (it would naturally float to the top) by being wrapped around a rectangular 1/2 inch PVC tube frame, the bottom half of which is buried in the gravel.  

But then I read on another NANFA forum that the Elassoma fry have a higher survival rate with sand substrate than they do in gravel.  Apparently the fry are so small that they can get stuck in the small interstitial points of a gravel substrate.  So I went to Home Depot and picked up a bag of Pavestone Play Sand ($4), removed all of the gravel from the aqurarium, and slowly added cups of sand.  This caused me intense stress (omg there are fish in this tank!  What if I squish one!  *moves really slowly*) but the fish didn't seem to mind.  One of the fish was actually far less shy when the water was murky from sand, and tolerated me staring at it.  Now that the water has cleared, they're all back to hiding in the plants all the time.  They are very very shy.  If I walk near the tank, they all hide.  

When I was at Home Depot I also picked up two 18 inch lights, $10 each, to make the aquarium brighter.  They're kind of yellow, though, which I'm not too pleased about, but at least they're better than the hood that came with the aquarium.  Oh, they didn't quite fit in the tank (20 inch opening) so I used packing tape to decrease the aquarium lip a little.  The lights are resting on the taut packing tape a few inches above the surface of the water.  It is very stable.    

Here is a picture of the aquarium, taken just now, which is two or three days after the sand was added:  
Attached File  E. gilberti tank after sand settled.jpg   212.19K   28 downloads

I am adding crushed flake food every five hours or so (a tiny tiny bit.  The snails can handle it even if the E. gilberti eat none of it).  And I add microworms once a day.  And there are moina and rotifers.  I've also purchased a colony of special, extremely small moina on aquabid that should be arriving in the mail and housed in a 2 L former soda pop container.  
By the way, microworms are becoming my favorite thing ever.  You just let them sit in their little container, and they breed, and you feed them to your fish.  It's so easy.  And they're kind of cute, too, the way they wiggle.  

Yup, that's the progress so far.  I have to say, I really am not happy with how shy the Elassoma gilberti are.  Hopefully they'll get used to seeing the big giant head in the window like the darters in my 55 gallon aquarium did (they were shy when I first got them, but eventually got over it).  Because the majority of the time when I try to find fish in that tank, I can't.  I'm actually more likely to see one of the two extremely tiny cherry shrimp.  *sighs*  

I do, however, like how they color change.  When they first arrived and were being lifted out of their box, the fish were very very pale, basically clear.  When I was temperature and pH adjusting them in their floating bags surrounded by dense plants, they changed to sandy brown.  And the one fearless one I saw when the sand was still making the water murky was a light brown with dark brown stripes on it.  I hope that in time they will become less shy and even more colorful.  :)  I can't wait to see their breeding colors.  :)

Edited by Okiimiru, 22 August 2010 - 01:33 PM.


#2 Elijah

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Posted 22 August 2010 - 11:32 PM

What kind of bulbs are you using on your light? Cool white lights work very well for plants, otherwise I would use daylight-6,500K light bulbs.
With that amount of hornwort an airstone is probably unnecessary- it off-gasses what co2 is in the water feeding the plants.I use no filters or airstones in my Elassoma tanks, but I do have some plants that are known for putting out serious oxygen.
It is my experience that Elassoma are quite illusive. I look in my tanks at night with a flashlight to see them, but I am a super geek about this. I think I remember seeing them a lot more often after they were in their tank for about 6-7 months, but then I had to move the tank and ended up re-aquascaping and now they always hide.

#3 Erica Lyons

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Posted 23 August 2010 - 12:29 AM

View PostElijah, on 22 August 2010 - 11:32 PM, said:

What kind of bulbs are you using on your light? Cool white lights work very well for plants, otherwise I would use daylight-6,500K light bulbs.
The bulbs are incandescents.  I'm not pleased about that (I prefer full spectrum), but at least it's brighter than the two little rinky dink three inch incandesents that came with the tank.  I'm going to examine the casing and see if I can't take out the bulbs that came with the housing and put in full spectrum bulbs of the same size.  


View PostElijah, on 22 August 2010 - 11:32 PM, said:

With that amount of hornwort an airstone is probably unnecessary- it off-gasses what co2 is in the water feeding the plants.I use no filters or airstones in my Elassoma tanks, but I do have some plants that are known for putting out serious oxygen.
The natural equilibrium concentration of carbon dioxide in water that is in contact with air is 2 parts per million, or roundabouts.  My test kit isn't very accurate in that range.  Because I'm not injecting any extra carbon dioxide into the water, the highest concentration possible is the equilibrium concentration.  In the depths, the ceratophyllum decreases the CO2 below the equilibrium concentration as it uses up the carbon dioxide to grow.  So the airstone actually is replenishing the carbon dioxide in the aquarium.  It circulates the water and pushes the low CO2 concentration water that is in the depths towards the surface, where the CO2 can be replenished by coming from the atmosphere.  
If I were injecting CO2 at 20 or 30 ppm, then no, I wouldn't want to have an air stone because, since the air stone increases exchange between the air and the water, the concentration of carbon dioxide would be pushed down towards its equilibrium value of 2 ppm.  But I'm not injecting carbon dioxide, so the airstone is acting to raise the concentration of CO2 up towards the equilibrium value.  


View PostElijah, on 22 August 2010 - 11:32 PM, said:

It is my experience that Elassoma are quite illusive. I look in my tanks at night with a flashlight to see them, but I am a super geek about this.
I read that and immediately looked in the tank for Elassoma with a cell phone flash light, and we saw some!  I was beginning to worry that they weren't still in there.  Are they clear when they sleep?  That's strange.  This is seeming more and more like a chameleon fish.

Edited by Okiimiru, 23 August 2010 - 12:40 AM.


#4 fundulus

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Posted 23 August 2010 - 07:08 AM

I wouldn't be absolutely committed to CO2 measurements for plant growth. At different pH values the balance shifts between CO2, HCO3- and CO3--. The HCO3-, more commonly available over pH 7, can be fixed by aquatic plants' photosynthetic pathways about as well as CO2.
Bruce Stallsmith, Huntsville, Alabama, US of A

#5 Erica Lyons

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Posted 23 August 2010 - 08:01 AM

View PostOkiimiru, on 23 August 2010 - 12:29 AM, said:

I'm going to examine the casing and see if I can't take out the bulbs that came with the housing and put in full spectrum bulbs of the same size.  
Nope.  The casing can't be opened without breaking it, and it claims that there are "No serviceable parts inside".  *shrugs*  I'm not too worried about the lighting level.  Ceratophyllum isn't one of those plants that you have to pamper.  It's actually the fastest growing plant I know of (besides rhizome aponogetons, which grow initially off of stored energy) so I'm not too worried about the plant being able to live without full spectrum lights.  My bet is that it will grow slower, like at the rate that a normal plant would.  

I wonder if the lower lighting level (incandescents, yellowish, instead of full spectrum bulbs, bright and clear white) will encourage the fish to be less skittish.  Sometimes if you lower the lights or change the bulb to a red bulb instead of a white one, you can encourage nocturnal or shy animals to come out.  Like ghost knife fish.

Edited by Okiimiru, 23 August 2010 - 08:23 AM.


#6 Erica Lyons

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Posted 23 August 2010 - 08:17 AM

View Postfundulus, on 23 August 2010 - 07:08 AM, said:

I wouldn't be absolutely committed to CO2 measurements for plant growth. At different pH values the balance shifts between CO2, HCO3- and CO3--. The HCO3-, more commonly available over pH 7, can be fixed by aquatic plants' photosynthetic pathways about as well as CO2.

That is true.  My pH is 8.2, so measuring dissolved carbon dioxide levels isn't a true reading of the carbon available in the water column.  You're right, a lot of it exists as HCO3- in basic water.  I'm not sure which one(s) the test kit I was using tested for.  It was the Red Sea CO2 freshwater test.  Image: http://lh4.googleuse...Aa4XWl4q4Ij-k-S

Edited by Okiimiru, 23 August 2010 - 08:51 AM.


#7 gerald

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Posted 23 August 2010 - 10:19 AM

They were living on the floor of my porch the past several months, so they're not accustomed to associating a human face with food (maybe show them your ankles & feet instead). That'll change, especially if your face remains visible for awhile each time food appears.  Pygmies startle easily when you walk past the tank, but if you're sitting fairly still they'll eventually make the face=food connection.
Gerald Pottern
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#8 Erica Lyons

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Posted 23 August 2010 - 12:39 PM

View Postgerald, on 23 August 2010 - 10:19 AM, said:

They were living on the floor of my porch the past several months, so they're not accustomed to associating a human face with food (maybe show them your ankles & feet instead). That'll change, especially if your face remains visible for awhile each time food appears.  Pygmies startle easily when you walk past the tank, but if you're sitting fairly still they'll eventually make the face=food connection.

That made me laugh  :)

#9 Michael Wolfe

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Posted 23 August 2010 - 05:20 PM

View Postgerald, on 23 August 2010 - 10:19 AM, said:

They were living on the floor of my porch the past several months, so they're not accustomed to associating a human face with food (maybe show them your ankles & feet instead). That'll change, especially if your face remains visible for awhile each time food appears.  Pygmies startle easily when you walk past the tank, but if you're sitting fairly still they'll eventually make the face=food connection.

Very good advice Gerald... I will second that... pygmies will hide a lot... but if you always add the food at the front glass... and set up a flower pot of rock ledge or something facing forward... one of the big males will figure it out in not very long... and he will actually begin to defend what he percieves to be a "feeding territory"... OK well I admit I am making that term up, but I think it makes my point.  I have seen males very passive just hanging out... but when I introduced the food there was all sorts of turning black, fin flaring, popping, and even some interesting charging attacks (even have some bad video of one of those... just becasue I was there... with a camera... somebody...well everybody... thought it mightbe dinner time).  Tough little fish, it you can really be tough at 3/4 inch long!

Only their names and residence make one love fishes. I would know even the number of their fin-rays, and how many scales compose the lateral line. I am the wiser in respect to all knowledge, and the better qualified for all fortunes, for knowing that there is a minnow in the brook.
Henry David Thoreau, Excursions, 1863


#10 Erica Lyons

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Posted 23 August 2010 - 06:15 PM

View PostMichael Wolfe, on 23 August 2010 - 05:20 PM, said:

Very good advice Gerald... I will second that... pygmies will hide a lot... but if you always add the food at the front glass... and set up a flower pot of rock ledge or something facing forward... one of the big males will figure it out in not very long... and he will actually begin to defend what he percieves to be a "feeding territory"...

It would be great if they acted like that!  I love fish with spunk.  :D  Here is a photo of the tank, rearranged to add more caves throughout the front part of the tank.  There are two little "territories", one cave complex on the left and one individual cave on the right.  There's an elassoma gilberti in the front middle of the picture in the java moss.  When it saw me it slowly slid away, which is progress.  Before now they'd been darting away as quickly as they could.  So I fed the spot that it had moved away from (microworms) and then moved away from the tank.  Maybe tomorrow I'll stick around when I feed 'em.  :)

Attached File  Gilberti Tank rearranged post sand.jpg   201.83K   3 downloads

#11 schambers

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Posted 23 August 2010 - 09:10 PM

I'm not visualizing your lights very well.  If you can change the bulbs, you can use the spiral compact fluorescent bulbs.  You may have to look around a little, but I've found them in "daylight" spectrum and small enough that I even use them in my 10 gallon hoods.  I love those bulbs in the 10 gallon tanks.  Plants really grow well for me.
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#12 nativeplanter

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Posted 24 August 2010 - 08:16 AM

View PostMichael Wolfe, on 23 August 2010 - 05:20 PM, said:

Very good advice Gerald... I will second that... pygmies will hide a lot... but if you always add the food at the front glass... and set up a flower pot of rock ledge or something facing forward... one of the big males will figure it out in not very long... and he will actually begin to defend what he percieves to be a "feeding territory"... OK well I admit I am making that term up, but I think it makes my point.  I have seen males very passive just hanging out... but when I introduced the food there was all sorts of turning black, fin flaring, popping, and even some interesting charging attacks (even have some bad video of one of those... just becasue I was there... with a camera... somebody...well everybody... thought it mightbe dinner time).  Tough little fish, it you can really be tough at 3/4 inch long!

I noticed once, with a tank that was set on a high windowsill, that pygmies were less shy when approached/watched from below rather than from above.  Makes me winder if the majority of their predators are birds.  Except things like pickerel would ambush from below...  Anyway, I got really good views of these fish by having the tank raised up higher than usual.

#13 Michael Wolfe

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Posted 24 August 2010 - 08:45 AM

View Postnativeplanter, on 24 August 2010 - 08:16 AM, said:

I noticed once, with a tank that was set on a high windowsill, that pygmies were less shy when approached/watched from below rather than from above.  Makes me winder if the majority of their predators are birds.  Except things like pickerel would ambush from below...  Anyway, I got really good views of these fish by having the tank raised up higher than usual.

Interesting thought... you know when we cought these in the Okefenoffe they were in floating vegitation... living in the top 6 inches of water that was nearly waste deep... add to that the fact that I know I have kept mine with water lettuce and they seem to love hiding in the thick weeds at the top of the water lettuce.  Your observation makes sense to me.

And you know all fish hate "the tall vertical thing"... fish run away when you stand in a stream... but come to investigate you when you lay down and snorkel.

Only their names and residence make one love fishes. I would know even the number of their fin-rays, and how many scales compose the lateral line. I am the wiser in respect to all knowledge, and the better qualified for all fortunes, for knowing that there is a minnow in the brook.
Henry David Thoreau, Excursions, 1863


#14 nativeplanter

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Posted 24 August 2010 - 09:27 AM

View PostMichael Wolfe, on 24 August 2010 - 08:45 AM, said:

"... fish ... come to investigate you when you lay down and snorkel.

Do they really???  I've only snorkeled in salt water, where they didn't seem to care one way or the other.  Now I really need to get myself some prescription goggles!

#15 gerald

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Posted 24 August 2010 - 10:54 AM

View PostMichael Wolfe, on 24 August 2010 - 08:45 AM, said:

And you know all fish hate "the tall vertical thing"... fish run away when you stand in a stream... but come to investigate you when you lay down and snorkel.

I've noticed that too: many fish (especially intelligent/observant Perciforms like sunnies, darters, cichlids, anabantoids) seem more at ease and less prone to freak out in tanks on stands at head-level, rather than down low.  {My skinny legs and heron-like schnoz probably don't help matters).
Gerald Pottern
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#16 Elijah

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Posted 24 August 2010 - 11:04 AM

View Postnativeplanter, on 24 August 2010 - 09:27 AM, said:

Do they really???  I've only snorkeled in salt water, where they didn't seem to care one way or the other.  Now I really need to get myself some prescription goggles!
I bought a pair of decent($60) goggles this summer. I wear glasses and figured that I would not be able to see anything that was not right in front of my face, but I have found that everything is enlarged underwater, so I can see really well without a prescription set of goggles.
Not sure what your vision is like but mine is fairly bad- I cannot red this email with my glasses off, so this may work for you too.

#17 Erica Lyons

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Posted 24 August 2010 - 01:07 PM

View PostElijah, on 24 August 2010 - 11:04 AM, said:

I bought a pair of decent($60) goggles this summer. I wear glasses and figured that I would not be able to see anything that was not right in front of my face, but I have found that everything is enlarged underwater, so I can see really well without a prescription set of goggles.
Not sure what your vision is like but mine is fairly bad- I cannot red this email with my glasses off, so this may work for you too.

I had LASIK surgery two years ago and highly recommend it.  From walking into the clinic to walking out to my car, the whole operation visit took about an hour and fifteen minutes.  And then you're done, you've got perfect vision.  The recovery was just me putting in anti-bacterial drops for a week, to make sure it didn't get infected.  That's it.  No prescription goggles ever again.  ^_^
Lol, the week after I had LASIK I went on the GoodTime III (a day-cruise ship on the Cuyahoga River).  I bent my head to look down into the water and moved my hand to catch glasses from falling down my nose--glasses that weren't there.  That's when it really hit me that I didn't have them on any more.  :D


Update about the Elassoma:  A fearless one has begun inhabiting the clump of java moss in the front of the aquarium.  When I walk into my room I do it slowly, and he/she (I think it's probably the male) looks at me and slowly slips deeper into the tank.  I feed him microworms and stand there, and he looks at me and hesitates.  Today he swam away again, but we'll see if he doesn't stay there and eat worms tomorrow.  :D  

Their tank is five feet off of the ground, maybe five and a half.  I'm not sure if being up high is helping them overcome their fear.  Or maybe it's that I'm feeding them every few hours.

Edited by Okiimiru, 24 August 2010 - 01:18 PM.


#18 Erica Lyons

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Posted 24 August 2010 - 01:23 PM

omg cute little fish!  
This is the least-shy I've seen one so far.  It was watching me, deciding whether or not I was dangerous.  I guess it felt safe in its cave.  It even tolerated my flash!  

Apologies for it being out of focus.  The E. gilberti was tolerant, but not that tolerant.  It didn't wait around too long.  
Attached File  020.JPG   64.36K   14 downloads

Edited by Okiimiru, 24 August 2010 - 01:33 PM.


#19 nativeplanter

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Posted 24 August 2010 - 02:13 PM

View Postgerald, on 24 August 2010 - 10:54 AM, said:

I've noticed that too: many fish (especially intelligent/observant Perciforms like sunnies, darters, cichlids, anabantoids) seem more at ease and less prone to freak out in tanks on stands at head-level, rather than down low.  {My skinny legs and heron-like schnoz probably don't help matters).

Oh, Gerald, your schnoz isn't that bad.  More bittern-like, I suppose.

(Heck... at least it's not spoonbill-like!)

#20 Newt

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Posted 24 August 2010 - 02:24 PM

View Postnativeplanter, on 24 August 2010 - 09:27 AM, said:

Do they really???  I've only snorkeled in salt water, where they didn't seem to care one way or the other.  Now I really need to get myself some prescription goggles!

I discovered that sheepshead minnows and mummichogs are not at all afraid of snorkelers- in fact, they feel confident enough to attempt grazing on one's arm and leg hair.  They may not be big, but they can get some good leverage with their crocodile-style rolling attack.

Okiimiru- Sounds like you have a good setup.  When I had E. zonatum I kept amphipods in the tank.  The pygmies ate the young enthusiastically but left the adults alone.  Your cherry shrimp might fill a similar role; do you know if your two are male and female?  I would also suggest Java moss as a good addition to the hornwort.  Its softer texture and smaller interstices might be more appealing to some of the pygmies.

Nathan Parker.





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