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#1 JackHaldane

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Posted 27 March 2018 - 11:14 AM

I'm going to try keeping all my dumb questions in a single thread henceforth, so here it is. About two weeks ago I added 5 Elassoma Okefenokee to my 10g aquarium, 2 obvious males, 1 obvious female and two juvies. They get daily grindal worms and I have seen them eat, they have full bellies, and I have seen them poop. My two males are often colored up in full blue/black, and I have seen a bit of dancing. I assume this means I am doing something correctly. 

 

My big female died sometime last night, I found her this morning. I inspected the body and it matched Erica's description, the fish looked healthy and fine apart from being dead as a doorknob. I feel absolutely awful about it and I am hoping to get some advice here. If there is anything about my setup that can be improved I definitely want to fix it. Basic stats of the tank: lots of plants, some driftwood, Miracle Grow organic potting soil with sand cap, sponge filter. Parameters have been 0/0/0 NH3/NO2/NO3, pH 7.5 for months, I check weekly. I kept the tank with snails only for a time to make sure it was stable. I know these fish have short lifespans and the female was big (comparatively) when I got her, about an inch long, so I know it's possible that it was just her time. But I don't want to assume that. I will test my parameters again after work today and report.

 

I also have a bunch of inane questions about Pygmy behavior. 

 

Album of pictures, some tank shots and pretty males. 

 

Questions:

1) How is my setup? Is there enough cover for the fish?

 

2) If males are colored/dancing, does that mean that the tank is suitable for them? This debate comes up about bettas often, where it is often argued that building a bubble nest does not mean they are in a suitable environment (they sometimes do it in the awful cups). Would my males be dancing if there was something off about the tank?

 

3) Is there any significance to the different combinations of black/tan and blue/not blue? Sometimes my males are all black, no blue, sometimes they are tan but showing lots of blue irridescence, and sometimes they are both black and blue. 

 

4) What age/size is sexual maturity for females? My juvies have grown a lot and are both approaching 1/2", they look to have the distinctively curvy female appearance and if I squint I think one of them has an egg spot like the adult female did. 

 

Thanks for reading, a bit worried about my fish at work. Post advice or pygmy sunfish pictures... Lots of dead links in these forums. 



#2 JasonL

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Posted 27 March 2018 - 01:33 PM

I keep Elassoma zonatum in a similar 10 gallon setup so I will chime in. Your tank and its parameters look quite good to me. Seems like ideal Elassoma habitat and thus I tend to doubt your fish loss is due to husbandry practices. I lose adult fish every so often and think it's mostly just age related. My Elassoma change colors quite a bit depending on their mood. They seem to darken up when excited and get pale when more timid or scared. Overall I think you're doing a good job and congrats on putting together such a nice looking biotope.

#3 Michael Wolfe

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Posted 27 March 2018 - 04:42 PM

Your fish looks great, your tank looks a little open. If you can see all the fish, you need more cover. They really like to hide.

Dancing means they are happy and are trying to attract the female so that is very good

Tan/Black is just fine and healthy. Black/Black/irredescent is saved for the ladies.

Not sure about your size question exactly. But 3/4 is def adult enough.
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#4 JackHaldane

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Posted 28 March 2018 - 08:46 AM

Jason, thank you for the kind words about my tank. Would you post a picture of your tank/fish? I just like to see Elassoma setups, I love the fish.

 

Michael, thanks very much for your helpful insight. I am acutely aware that the tank is a bit sparse, some of the plants are growing far more slowly than I expected. In particular, I've gotten much better crypt growth with similar hardware in the past, I think I've underestimated the amount of light that floating plants block. I'm planning to trim the anacharis in the back soon and propagate it to fill in some of the bare spots. The vals on the left side of the tank are also sending off new runners every few days and I'm confident that the whole region will be a jungle of grass soon enough. If you have other suggestions for adding hides, even as temporary stopgaps, I'm all ears. I suppose I could throw in some more small clay pots or bits of pipe, but I'm trying not to block the light to my plants any more than I already have. I'm hoping to forestall a light upgrade for as long as possible, I like to keep setups simple and cheap when possible. Of course, I will spend more if it keeps the animals happy.

 

My big male has been extra territorial since yesterday, I would say aggressive but these fish are so peaceful toward their own. Every time he sees the smaller male, he colors up and dances at him, which seems to frighten him into the shrimp tubes/mayaca clump. Makes me wonder, do these fish guard/defend unhatched eggs?

 

He is also dancing for the larger (female?) juvie, does this mean that she is sexually mature, or is that wishful thinking? 

 

Here's another question, my dominant male either hates snails or really wants to eat them. I regularly see him strike at adult ramshorns who are twice his size with surprising vigor. I kind of expected these fish to eat baby snails but leave the adults alone. Anyone else see this behavior in Elassoma? I kind of miss how goofy and carefree my snails used to be, these days they expose just enough of the foot to crawl around the tank and no more. Little things are traumatized. 



#5 Michael Wolfe

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Posted 28 March 2018 - 12:24 PM

a few things from that post:

  1. "these fish are so peaceful toward their own" - erhherr, thank you for playing you just have them spread out enough.  They actually hit really hard and can have others cowering in the corner.  But this will come with more crowded conditions and competition for food.  That's why I was concerned about your cover and your female.
  2. if he's dancing he at least thinks she's ready... are you sure your juv male is really male?  Watch the juv female and see if she begins to look filled up... you can usually even see her turn pinkish in the area where she is carrying eggs.
  3. They LOVE snails... they really love snail eggs... they can survive for a week from snail eggs and juv snails in your tank.  What are you feeding your fish?  They may be hungry or they may just like to eat live snails.

Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing. - Benjamin Franklin

#6 JackHaldane

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Posted 28 March 2018 - 04:03 PM

1. Oof, damn, good to know I suppose. Guess I shouldn't have drawn conclusions based on five tiny fish in a 10g. I've been amazed by how calm they've seemed, but you are right that they have lots of room to run and hide. Hopefully I get them to breed and actually have the problem of more crowded conditions in the future. I've spent a lot of time watching them, guess I thought I had a better idea of their temperament, and I've owned some real jackass fish.

 

2. The smaller male is absolutely male. He will hide in the shrimp tubes and turn black, swim out into the open part of the tank and try to dance. He just usually gets chased out by the larger male. I've seen them both black on a few occasions, so it is definitely two males. 

 

3. Yeah, that was what I had read on the forum. I havne't seen them eat the eggs but all my tiny pinhead baby snails have vanished. I'm feeding them grindal worms 1-2 times per day, and I feed them quite a lot. They go to ground immediately and start hunting when I drop them in, and they all seem pretty fat. I also feed some snail-jello 2-3x/week for the snails and various small hitchhiking inverts in the tank. I've seen many people mention that they ate small snails/eggs, but no one ever mentions the adults so I guess I just assumed they would be left alone. Poor things. 



#7 JasonL

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Posted 28 March 2018 - 07:24 PM

Attached File  image.jpeg   138.13KB   1 downloads

Jack

Here's a recent pic of my tank, 10 gallon with hang on back filter. I probably have around 8-10 Elassoma zonatum with at least 3 males. Also have a couple slough darters, grass shrimp and snails that I caught with the Elassoma. Most of the substrate, wood and plants came from the same site too as I was trying to recreate their biotope as much as possible which was basically a swamp near my house.

I feed them all bloodworms and I think the snails provide a supplement as well plus whatever invertebrates come with the plants. Successful breeding not likely in my tank with shrimp and darters but I'm not that concerned since I can replace them pretty easily when numbers get low. I do see males stake out some territories though.

Personally I like the look of your tank. I've seen a lot of Elassoma setups just packed with plants and realize this is probably more realistic to their natural environment and better for fry survival. But I like the open space look personally and have found they become less shy over time particularly around feeding time.

Good luck.

#8 JackHaldane

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Posted 06 April 2018 - 10:33 AM

Jason, you really put the fear of God in me. I'd prefer to keep a tank that keeps the fish comfortable, and I would like to raise some fry successfully. I went to my local shop and bought generous portions of mexican oak leaf, anacharis, and bacopa. Really got the back half of the tank stuffed now, although it gradually opens up toward the front glass. Hopefully I can propagate the oak leaf/anacharis and crowd the plants in even more. 

 
Michael, you are a prophet of ill tidings. My fish aren't peaceful, they were just still getting accustomed to the tank. My alpha male is an absolute bully, I'm very glad for the added plants, or else I would be afraid for the subdominant male's life. I've even seen the larger female juvie beat up on the smaller unsexed juvie. Luckily there are lots of places in the tank for everyone to hide now.
 
On the plus side, the fish are getting quite bold and learning to associate me with the grindal worms. My dominant male spends almost 100% of his time in full breeding colors darting around the tank and dancing, he is really gorgeous. I'm still surprised by the way pictures and videos completely fail to capture their colors, especially with some tannins in the water and natural sunlight. For now, I'll just keep everyone well-fed and watch for fry. Fingers crossed.


#9 JackHaldane

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Posted 17 April 2018 - 09:42 PM

Holy crap! I was in the tank trying to propagate my mexican oak, and I happened to see the absolute smallest fish I have ever encountered! It looked like a ~1/2 cm tadpole, we have fry! (Or at least a singular fry). I am now way too frightened to do any cleaning or water changes, I could siphon up 100 specks that size without noticing. Guess the algae is going to win the battle today.

Advice for maximizing their chances? I know food is a major concern, and unfortunately I don't have vinegar eels or anything like that. I do have some fairy shrimp eggs, which I know can be subbed for freshly hatched baby brine shrimp. I will start trying to hatch those tomorrow. I also have a generous amount of leaf litter and a ridiculous copepod population.

After seeing the thing, I am concerned that it is so much smaller than the grindal worms I feed to the adults. I think that keeping mom and dad VERY well fed for the next few weeks might be critical. Extra grindal worms! Anyone know how long it will be before they are too big for snacking?

#10 gerald

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Posted 18 April 2018 - 07:40 AM

Leaf litter will feed rotifers and copepods, which will hopefully feed your Elassoma fry. They are 3-4 mm at hatching.  Put some new (dead) leaves in a bucket of water, seed it with water from a good plankton source (pond, floodplain pool, or established aquarium) and add those leaves a few at a time to your fry tank.   Well-fed parents are not usually too predatory on fry, but older siblings may beat up their younger brothers and sisters.  Moving the breeders to a different tank every month or two is one way to keep the fry segregated by age.  If you just want enough survivors to keep your own colony going and not trying to raise lots of them, then this deosn't matter.

 

If you use "seed water" from a pond or floodplain pool, pour it through a fine-mesh net so you just get the rotifers and tiny plankton, not bigger bugs or Hydra.


Gerald Pottern
-----------------------
Hangin' on the Neuse
"Taxonomy is the diaper used to organize the mess of evolution into discrete packages" - M.Sandel


#11 JackHaldane

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Posted 25 June 2018 - 07:00 PM

Thanks all for your advice about keeping my pygmies. This is a small update, but also another request for help. I followed Gerald's advice and just used leaves/alder cones to keep a strong infusoria culture going, last week one of the babies got large/brave enough to eat grindals with the adults. Today there was a second one! (You can see both in this photo). Hopefully there are still more hiding in the moss that will come out as they grow. 

 

Unfortunately, I was also a little troubled when I looked at one of my girls today. She is pale, not very active, and is breathing pretty hard. She also showed no interest in food. The other three adults and two babies look absolutely fine, and are eating, swimming around etc. very normally. She might also be a little bloated, here are some photos of her I just took. (1) (2) 

 

Possibly relevant info: I received some malaysian trumpet snails yesterday, I thought they might improve the health of my substrate. They came along with a few plants. All I've done thus far was to add some cattapa leaves/alder cones for extra tannins. Other than keeping a close eye on her, is there anything else you folks would recommend? I don't have a hospital tank but I could set one up.



#12 Matt DeLaVega

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Posted 25 June 2018 - 09:36 PM

Man that looks like a really neat tank. I can be no help with your fish health concerns, but they generally have fairly short lifespans correct? I didn't re-read the whole thread, but could age be a factor?


The member formerly known as Skipjack


#13 JackHaldane

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Posted 26 June 2018 - 08:58 AM

I understand that pygmies live about a year in the wild, and more like 2 in captivity, so pretty short lifespans. But I've only had these adults about 4 months and they were fairly young when shipped to me, so age might be a factor but I'm unsure. 

 

Today she was floating upside down in the water spangles, I went to net her out and she zipped into some moss and wriggled in there to hide. So, not dead, but major issues with equilibrium, whatever the root cause is the swim bladder is not functioning correctly. I've had success treating a similarly sick betta with warm water, some aquarium salt, and daphnia, but she doesn't seem interested in food. 

 

Anyone seen a similar ailment in pygmies? Conflicted on netting her out. On the one hand, without a cycled hospital tank I will probably do more harm to her than good. On the other hand, she may spread whatever this is to the rest of my colony. Welcoming any thoughts. 



#14 gerald

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Posted 26 June 2018 - 12:32 PM

Derek refers to this as "pygmy plague" or something; there was a discussion thread awhile ago on the NANFA facebook page.  We don't know what it is - most likely a bacterial infection - but it seems to happen more in soft, low-conductivity water.  Adding salt (1 teasp /gal) and aragonite/coral gravel for supplementary GH hardness seems to prevent it or cure early stages, but once they get pale and stop eating it's rare that they recover.


Gerald Pottern
-----------------------
Hangin' on the Neuse
"Taxonomy is the diaper used to organize the mess of evolution into discrete packages" - M.Sandel


#15 JackHaldane

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Posted 26 June 2018 - 01:47 PM

Gerald, thank you. I think you nailed it, and it's good to know that there's an easy preventative. My tapwater is very soft, don't have numbers for kH/gH offhand but I've measure them, and they're on the low end. The TDS in my tank has also been steadily dropping over the past 2 months or so, it used to be quite a bit higher than my tap, but they've been slowly equalizing (probably because the soil is leaching less as it ages?). 

 

So, when you say "salt", I have regular aquarium salt (NaCl?), epsom salt (MgSO4), and a remineralizer for RO water from my shrimp keeping days, which is a very complex mixture of different salts and minerals. I know epsom salt directly boosts Gh hardness, the remineralizer will boost both Gh and Kh, and the aquarium salt (assuming it's NaCl? Don't know offhand) will just change the TDS without affecting Gh/Kh. Which would you recommend as an immediate-term solution?

 

I'll hoof it to the LFS and get some crushed coral this weekend. Thanks for the tip, this is why I love the forum! Good news is I still have 3/5 of my original pygmies, and 2 new juvies.  No worse off, at least. With any luck there are more juvies hiding in the jungle somewhere so I think the colony can be saved. Wondering now if that early death of my adult female might have been the same cause. I was much less familiar with their normal behavior then, might have missed the signs. 



#16 gerald

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Posted 28 June 2018 - 12:28 PM

The "remineralizer" will provide the needed Ca and Mg in a biologically suitable ratio.  You wont need crushed coral if you're using that instead, although it wont hurt either; it just wont dissolve much until there is "room" for it (in the chemical sense).  Epsom salt will raise GH, but only the Mg component, so water hardened with Epsom will be Ca-deficient unless there's another Ca source.  I would also add some salt (table salt, kosher salt, "aquarium" salt, instant ocean, or whatever is handy) at least temporarily until the "plague" is gone. 


Gerald Pottern
-----------------------
Hangin' on the Neuse
"Taxonomy is the diaper used to organize the mess of evolution into discrete packages" - M.Sandel





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