Many of the most exciting new fish this past year come from places that have been difficult to reach in the past for geographical or political reasons. These species have the potential to become popular aquarium fish in the not-too-distant future, and all should be of great commercial interest to aquarium fish farms.
The current peace in the Congo has allowed collectors to bring fish not only from primary and surrounding locations in Kinshasa/Brazzaville but also from further outlying areas. Among these fish are two small but spectacular species that have not been in the hobby for at least 25 years because of political problems in the Congo. Both come from swampy regions with shallow, slightly acidic water.
Aplocheilichthys (Congopanchax) brichardi are the most striking of the lamp-eyed killifish. Like all lampeyes, they need to be fed on a regular basis and do not fare well at holding stations in Africa or during shipping. By the time the tiny fish (adult size is 1 inch) arrive here, they are often emaciated and can only be saved with large amounts of live brine shrimp and other tiny live foods. The males display fantastic metallic blue bodies and deep red fins, whereas females are less strikingly colored. These tiny fish are best kept in a group of at least six in a species tank or with other tiny soft water species. It took many years for this species to be exported again in 2006, and only a small number have been brought to North America and Europe; but this should be sufficient for killifish enthusiasts to establish it in the hobby.
The African clown barbs (Barbus hulstaerti) are perhaps the most beautiful African barb, but until 2006 they had not been exported from the Congo in nearly 25 years. They are fully grown at 11⁄2 inches, and will not harm plants or chase tankmates. They will eat all small live foods (e.g., Daphnia, brine shrimp nauplii). Among themselves, they are aggressive enough to be interesting aquarium fish, with the males establishing small territories and chasing each other in circles during courtship or territorial disputes. In aquariums with soft, slightly acidic water and many plants, the species will breed, and small numbers of young can grow up in the aquariums with the adults. This is certainly the nicest African fish to be exported in many years.
South America is normally the most likely place for exciting aquarium fish to be found, but this year there were fewer truly spectacular species exported. It has also been a year for some well-known favorites to receive scientific names as scientists try to catch up with the hundreds of recently found freshwater fish in South America.
Corydoras weitzmani was the most-talked-about cory catfish in the hobby for a long time. Its type locality in the Peruvian Andes long remained uncertain, and there had been no sightings or photos of this species since its description in the early 1970s. In the past year, exporters from Peru have been sending this beautiful and hardy Corydoras species in small numbers. Like other cories, they will eat any food offered and accept most water conditions. The water should not be too hot (not more than 78 degrees Fahrenheit), and the pH range should be from 6 to 7.5. Armored catfish fans have already bred the species in captivity, and it should certainly establish itself in the hobby. Corydoras weitzmani will likely be produced by commercial fish farmers in Asia along with C. sterbai and C. panda.
Hypancistrus furunculus finally has a name: the mega clown pleco. When two beautiful specimens of this catfish were first introduced as LDA19 (in the 1990s), they were among the most sought-after plecos in the trade. Later, the species also received an L-number (L-340), which further added to the confusion surrounding this fish. Many of the loricarids are variable in color pattern, with only few of the H. furunculus displaying the well-contrasted orange (or yellow) bars and dark brown stripes. Certainly, this small catfish (up to 5 inches) is one of the most beautiful plecos that is now exported from Colombia in good numbers. Like nearly all loricarid catfish, this species is not an algae-eater, and needs to be fed properly with frozen foods, live foods and sinking prepared foods. They are not too difficult to breed in aquariums with warm water (82 to 86 degrees), a slightly acidic pH and significant current.
In the past two years, many new small fish from Southeast Asia have been discovered and exported for the first time. Most notable among them are many beautiful danios, freshwater puffers and some interesting barbs. The past year was the most impressive year for fish from this region.
Celestichthys marginatus, known as the celestial pearl danio (formerly known as the “galaxy rasbora”), is both a good and unfortunate example of how much a new, colorful fish can excite the aquarium hobby. First discovered in a clear water hillside stream in 2006, this fish quickly became one of the most sought-after species from Asia. As scientists raced to describe the new fish, exporters set too many nets, and there were too many fishermen.
As quickly as the new fish had made a name, there was news that the habitat was in trouble, and collected numbers were dwindling. Shocking images of a habitat destroyed by aquarium fish collectors were shown on the Internet. This is a rare occurrence, because our hobby generally causes habitats to be protected by the people profiting from them. Most people in the developing world are aware of the damage caused by overharvesting a natural resource.
Within a year of the fish first being discovered, the price had fallen to one-quarter of the original value, then rose again as the fish became more scarce in its only known natural habitat. It is still uncertain if it is also found in other similar habitats in the surrounding hills, but breeders in Asia and Europe are already beginning to breed this small (about 1 inch) fish in good numbers. Certainly, this attractive fish will become a favorite in the aquarium hobby. It can eat any small foods, and water conditions should be a pH around neutral at 75 degrees.
Schistura is a genus of loaches from Southeast Asia. At the moment, there are 180 described species (most of them scientifically discovered in the past 10 years) of these often very similar loaches. There is little literature on these interesting fish, and almost no photos have been published to identify them. They are found in small, clear streams in the foothills of the mountainous regions of Myanmar (Burma), Laos and Vietnam, and they have spread throughout the region as far as India, Turkey and China. Most species attain a length of 2 to 3 inches.
In the aquarium, they require cooler temperatures (below 75 degrees Fahrenheit) and well-filtered, fast-moving water. Like all loaches, they will eat most sinking foods, but prefer live and frozen food of any kind. They make excellent aquarium fish that can be kept with barbs, gouramis and other small community fish. Some species are territorial, especially toward members of their own species. Recent imports from Myanmar and Thailand included small numbers of these beautiful loaches.
Sewellia lineolata is a sucker-finned hillstream loach from the Mekong Basin. Although it was discovered about 160 years ago, it has only been exported as an aquarium fish in the past two years. Known as the gold line sucker-fin loach, it is widely distributed in the hills surrounding the Mekong River in China, Vietnam and Cambodia.
Like all sucker-finned loaches, they require oxygen-rich water and frequent water changes. The background body color of Sewellia ranges from cream to fluorescent yellow. They are initially shy fish that quickly become favorites in a community aquarium. Despite a physical appearance that suggests algae eating, they prefer insect larvae and should be fed with high-quality frozen and live foods whenever possible. Their maximum size is 21⁄2 inches, and aquarium temperatures should never exceed 75 degrees. They will also eat most sinking foods, with a preference for live and frozen food.
You now have an idea of some great new fish from some interesting locations. Keep a lookout for these species in the future.