October 2013 Meeting

Sunday, October 27th, 2013 at 9:46 pm

Viktor Gyorffy hosted the October 26 meeting at his home in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Shane Linder, of PlanetCatfish.com spoke on the topic of “Catfishes and the Planted Aquarium.”


President Kris Weinhold opened the meeting with a recap of AquaFest 2013, held at the Dulles Hyatt last weekend, and with several announcements.


The deadline for submissions for the Iwagumi aquascaping contest is November 17. If you haven’t already taken pictures, there’s still time to clean up your tank and get a picture. There are significant prizes this year, so it’s worth entering even if you’re not sure you have a chance of winning.


Plans are underway for the next AGA Convention, which GWAPA has agreed to host. Suggestions for speakers that were posted on the forum have been forwarded to AGA. AGA is “similarly minded” as far as potential speakers, and now it is a matter of pairing topics to speakers. Usually only one or two international speakers are brought in, depending on the budget.


We are looking to nail down a date soon; right now the weekend of April 10-12 2015 is a possibility.


Brightwell Aquatics has a new line of substrates, FlorinVolcanit. It is similar to Aquasoil, but has much less of an ammonia spike. A rep from Brightwell Aquatics has put us in contact with a local store that will work with us on a group order of substrate and other Brightwell Aquatics products, such as their full line of fertilizers. The store is currently a reef store, but is looking into expanding into high tech planted aquariums. Depending on how much we order, we could get significant discounts: We will get 10% off of an order of $250 or more, 15% off of an order of $500 or more, and 20% off of an order of $1000 or more.


Information about Brightwell’s products can be found on their site: http://brightwellaquatics.com/products/


Please see the thread in the Group Orders section of the forum if you are interested in participating or have any questions: http://www.gwapa.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=34&t=5769


Our next meeting will be our annual Holiday potluck party on Sunday, December 1. We will not have a speaker, but will have our usual mini-auction, and will elect board members for the next year.


If you are interested in having a say in how the club is run during the next year, please consider running for a board position. There is usually just one board meeting soon after elections, and most business is conducted on the forum. Next year’s board will have a large role in working with the AGA on speakers and other facets of the convention.

Catfishes in the planted aquarium

Shane Linders talk “Catfishes and the Planted Aquarium” was “a brand new talk,” but it is a subject he’s written about for years, in Tropical Fish Hobbyist magazine and elsewhere. Shane, who keeps “a lot of planted tanks,” says there is a natural fit between a planted tank and catfish. He gave a an overview of catfish species, gave recommendations for catfish for different sized tanks, and showed us slides of many of his tanks. His talk was somewhat informal, and we were encouraged to ask questions both during and after his presentation.


Catfish belong to the order Siluriformes. There are 36 families of catfish, and 3100 described species. By comparison, there are 1650 cichlid species. Catfish are found on every continent except Antarctica (but catfish fossils have been found there). One in 20 vetebrates is a catfish. New species continue to be described; 100 new catfish species were described between 2003-2005. A whole new family of catfish was found in 2005. No other species are being found at the rate that catfish are found.


Heavy aquatic plant growth is very rare in nature, and is almost always seasonal. There is a huge difference between wet and dry seasons in such environments, and plants grow emersed much of the year but are adapted to grow underwater during seasonal flooding. “A planted aquarium is a wet season tank,” Shane said, “A snapshot of a specific season.”


The big question a hobbyist will need to answer is whether the tank is for the fish, or the fish is for the tank. Shane usually has a fish in mind, and builds a tank around that fish’s needs. In contrast, in a tank where plants are the focus, a hobbyist would first look at the plants’ needs, and then consider what fish can live there.


Shane listed the following considerations when choosing to keep catfish in a planted tank:


Dissolved o2 levels

Substrate (is it too sharp for substrate dwellers?)


Light (Not all catfish will be happy in a high light tank)

Tank dimensions

Frequency of water changes


Decor/hiding places (needed by most catfish)


Feeding (some eat only on the substrate, if the entire substrate is planted, food may not make it to the fishes)


What type of planted tank you want to keep is an important consideration. A heavily planted, high light, high tech tank is gorgeous, but not suitable for many catfish species. In contrast, a low light, low tech tank opens up many possibilities. Shane likes to go with what he calls the “50/50,”  a tank is that is nicely planted, attractive to the eye, with driftwood, and open spaces that will make catfish happy. As an example, Shane showed a slide of one of his tanks that used oak branches and leaves from his yard, and gravel from a nearby creek.


Shane gave recommendations on specific species that would work well in various sizes of tanks.


The small aquarium top 5:


Otocinclus. A  “hugely underrated fish in the hobby,” otocinclus have been overlooked in the “whole pleco craze” that began a number of years ago. “They’re like miniature plecos,” are peaceful, school, and don’t fight with anyone. In a heavily planted tank, they will breed. It may take a year, but you will start to see fry. There are about 6-8 species that are available at any given time, and are usually very cheap. “Otos come in in really rough shape,” Shane states,  “They are often starved.”  It’s worth buying a group of about 15, and after a few weeks in quarantine “you’ll have 10 good ones.”


Hyalobagrus. There are three different species of these fish from Indonesia, none of which gets bigger than one inch. They get a gold sheen, and sexes are easily distinguished, as the females get a gravid spot and males have papilla, much like the gonopodium on many livebearers. They will school all over the tank, mostly staying in midwater, but will come up to the surface to feed. They are not found in planted environments in nature. They will be found in areas where a meadow has flooded. They are blackwater fish, needing soft water and a low pH.


Hara.  There 10-12 different species showing up in the hobby, going by a number of different common names, such as “moth cats.” They get no bigger than .5 inches. They tend to stay on the substrate. They have been spawned in the UK.


Centromochlus “is a group of fishes that ten years ago no one kept.” Due to the planted aquarium hobby, they’ve really taken off. They stay under 1 inch, and are pretty with interesting color patterns. They are mostly nocturnal, “but with a planted tank, fish don’t have to be the focus.”


Dwarf corydoras     “It’s hard to do a small heavily planted tank and not do corydoras.” Some “normal” corydoras will also stay small and are suitable for a small tank. Stay away from those that come from the coast of Brazil, because they need cold water.


For the larger tank:


Farlowella is Shane’s personal favorite: “I’ve made it my goal to collect every described species.” He describes it as “the absolute perfect planted tank fish.”  It is unobtrusive, never bothers other fish, and is happy to spawn in a planted tank. As a bonus it will also help keep algae off of the glass. (At this point, Shane took a moment to address the “the myth of the worker fish.” There is no fish that will make your tank cleaner. Some fish do help keep algae under control, but every fish adds waste to the tank.)


Some people have trouble with farlowellas, just as with otocinclus. After they eat all the algae in your tank, they will starve unless you feed them. They cannot be expected to live off of what they find in the aquarium. Before adding them to a tank, Shane runs lights longer than usual to get a good growth of algae. After that, he rubber bands cucumber, spinach, lettuce, or pumpkin to a piece of slate. If you really want to keep this fish, food must be available to them 24/7.


Farlowellas may make the occasional opportunistic meal of bloodworms or other food if they find it before other fish, but they will never be able to outcompete their tankmates for food. Shane has tried “probably everything” for food. Algae wafers are hit or miss; some fish eat them, others won’t touch them. They love Repashy Soilent Green, although Shane does find it a “pain” to deal with. It is really good for fry, however, and he describes Tetra Bits as a “magic food.”


Loricariids. Shane showed us a slide of the Peruvian Amazon with big “floating meadows” –big mats of grass that float on the river. A four meter seine is used to catch the loricariids here, by pulling it under the floating mass and bringing it to shore, where it will be found to be filled with Loricariids.


Sturisoma, often called the “royal farlowella,” is another favorite of Shane’s. There are six different species, and he has never seen them labeled correctly. They are a “worker catfish with a lot of personality.” They will spawn on an Amazon sword leaf or on the glass.


Ancistrus are a “mixed bag” for the planted tank. There are individuals who live 10 years in a tank and never hurt a thing, and others that will do damage to plants. A planted tank “is never right without an ancistrus,” but “watch them.”


Ancistrus that are all brown are whitewater fish. They come from habitats where the water is faster flowing, with water the color of “coffee with milk,” and rocks and wood. These ancistrus are more likely to eat plants. Ancistrus that are dark gray to black with white, gray, or off white spots are blackwater fish. These are better in planted tanks.


Kryptopterus vitreolus or “glass cats” are transparent, silvery, and look good against green plants. They are a schooling fish, and the bigger the school the better –8-15 in a 30 gallon tank looks great. These fish are less skittish in a planted tank.


Hypoptopoma. These are often called “giant otocinclus.” They get to be about 2-3 inches, and are a better planted tank choice than ancistrus. Like the otocinclus and farlowellas, they will need some “TLC” in a quarantine tank after purchase.


Shane showed some slides of different habitats, and the tanks he has created to mimic those habitats. “An aquarium needs to look like a part of nature,” he told us. “Look at the environment where your fish comes from. Get the habitat right, and the fish will reward you.”


He advises against getting “too bogged down” in trying to create a biotope. Showing a picture of one of his tanks, he conceded that java moss may not be found in Venezuela, but “do you really think your fish can tell the difference?”


Shane admits to being “the cheapest aquarist ever.” None of his tanks has co2, and for lighting he uses 4 ft shop lights from home depot. “You can do a nice planted tank for very little money.” He does say that if you are going to use cheap lights, if you do not replace bulbs after 6-9 months “your plants are going to go downhill.”


Shane concluded his talk by stating that there are many catfishes for your tank, whether you have a planted tank and want to choose the fish that will work in that tank, or you pick the fish first and want to build the tank around that.



The meeting ended with our usual mini-auction.