It always sort of amazes me when I get into a conversation about fish with someone and it turns out they have no idea where the fish come from, especially freshwater fish. Once when I was delivering fish to one of the better stores I sell to, the owner and I got into a discussion with a customer. When I asked the owner where a certain fish came from, his response was “They all come from you.” Seriously, I doubt that many hobbyists (and some store owners), especially at the starter level, have any idea what the natural habitats of their fish are. Even though almost all freshwater fish come from breeding facilities in Florida or the Far East, I think it is interesting to let folks know where they live(d) in the wild.
The easiest way to do this is by setting up display tanks that are biotopes—tanks that show fish, plants and invertebrates that all come from the same place in nature. Probably the easiest biotope tank to set up is an African cichlid tank; they’re beautiful, hardy and active. You do have to be careful not to mix lakes, and you also need to have lots of rocks for hidey-holes—and for babies to hide in.
How about a true South American blackwater biotope? Cardinal tetras would be the featured fish with maybe another school of a different tetra and with some cory cats and an L-number pleco. And let’s not forget livebearers. A terrific biotope tank could be put together with sailfin mollies, platies and swordtails. A West African tank would have to include some kribensis, but also some African butterflies, and Congo tetras. That’s stretching it a little, since they are not really going to found in the same body of water in the wild, but they are from the same part of the world. Also, kribensis will always spawn if there is a male and a female in the same tank, and that can also be very interesting as a display for your customers.
You can also include plants that are from the same location as the fish. Biotope tanks can make interesting displays, and some of your customers will probably want to set them up for themselves at home.