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Species: Aethiomastacembelus ellipsifer
Species: Apistogramma viejita
Species: Channa stewartii
Species: Heros 'rotkeil'
Species: Julidochromis ornatus and Protomelas taeniolatus 'boadzulu'
Species: Mugilogobius sarasinorum
Species: Parathelphusa pantherina
Species: Peckoltia L134
Species: Steatocranus tinanti
Species: Traccatichthys taeniatus
Species: Tropheus brichardi
Oddballs and unusual community fish at Maidenhead Aquatics, Worthing
Maidenhead Aquatics, Worthing is a small branch with big ambitions! The management and staff are keen to make this store the sort that attracts fishkeepers from wide afield, and to that end have made some very interesting choices when it comes to freshwater fish. Alongside the usual community tropicals they’ve stocked an amazing array of catfish, cichlids and oddballs. Practically every one of the tanks had something rare or unusual!
The Worthing branch of Maidenhead Aquatics is actually in Findon, a small village a couple of miles northwest from the centre of Worthing. It is located within the Wyevale Garden Centre just off the A24. By public transport the nearest railway station is Worthing, from where bus route 1 can be taken to get to Findon itself.
Gobies are underrated by aquarists, though their small size means that they’re among the easiest oddballs to add to community tanks. One of the most striking species on sale at Maidenhead Aquatics at Worthing was the black goby (Mugilogobius sarasinorum) from Indonesia. This small freshwater goby comes in a variety of colours including brown and grey, but the specimens on sale here were deep velvety black. At about 4-5 cm long, these are very striking fish. Males are a bit larger than the females, and though they are territorial they are not particularly aggressive. As with most other gobies, the main problem with the maintenance of this species is feeding; flake and pellet foods are not adequate, and the aquarist will need to supply them with suitable live, fresh or wet-frozen foods.
Rhinogobius candidianus is a colourful goby from East Asia. Sexual dimorphism is obvious, the males being bigger, more colourful, and sporting longer fins. Basic colour is creamy-pink with numerous red and blue speckles on the flanks plus some blue and yellow on the fins. Basic care is straightforward, though in common with other East Asian fish this gobies prefer low to middling water temperatures, 18-24 C being ideal.
Aquarists with a taste for the more unusual would find Eleotris melanosoma an interesting species. This South Asian sleeper goby is mottled brown with a pale brown band across its dorsal surface. Like most other sleepers is distinctly predatory, and will need to be fed live or frozen foods. Like most other Eleotris this species is found in a range of freshwater, brackish water and saltwater habitats. The maximum length of this fish is around 20 cm, but most specimens remain much smaller. Like other sleeper gobies it is territorial and predatory, but otherwise a good companion for dissimilar fish of similar size.
The catfish selection at Maidenhead Aquatics at Worthing includes a good variety of small to medium sized Loricariidae. Alongside some nice Sturisoma and Rineloricaria, we were particularly impressed by the selection of Peckoltia. These catfish are similar to Ancistrus in terms of size, but look more like Hypostomus in overall build. They eat some algae, but are omnivores and shouldn’t be bought with that role in mind. They really need a mixed diet including things like algae wafers, cooked peas, courgette slices, bloodworms and seafood. They generally do not harm plants. Among the species on sale were Peckoltia brevis, Peckoltia L134 and Peckoltia L163. All three get to about 12 cm in length and will prosper best in soft, slightly acidic water that contains lots of oxygen and is not too warm.
Another neat catfish is Akysis vespa, one of several species traded as Asian bumblebee catfish. This is a lovely little hillstream catfish that only gets to about 4 cm in length, and makes a fine companion for other small hillstream fish like Sewellia loaches and White Cloud Mountain minnows. Clean, oxygen-rich water around 18-22 degrees C will suit this species very well. It is a carnivore, and enjoys small invertebrates such as bloodworms but quickly adapts to suitably sized catfish pellets.
At the other end of the size range is an old favourite, the giraffe catfish Auchenoglanis occidentalis. This African catfish gets to a good 50 cm in length and is very chunky, so is only a viable choice for the biggest community tanks. But it is remarkably peaceful, and works well with fish too large to swallow: silver dollars, Congo tetras, Australian rainbowfish, tinfoil barbs, and so on. Although not exactly pretty, this catfish is friendly and easily tamed, to the degree that happy specimens can be hand fed and even petted.
The hillstream biotope is increasingly popular with advances aquarists, and Maidenhead Aquatics at Worthing had a good selection of species on offer during our visit. One of the most eye-catching was the colourful loach Traccatichthys taeniatus, a species sporting a metallic green-yellow band along its flanks and red patches on its fins and belly. It is gregarious but like most loaches feisty, so needs to be kept in a fairly large group so that any aggression is spread out. This species only gets to about 10 cm in length and would make a good choice for use alongside Barilius spp. hillstream trout, some of which were on sale at the store when we visited.
Another hillstream loach of sale was Sewellia lineolata, a fairly small species that only gets to about 5 cm in length. This strongly compressed species looks almost flounder-like, but is beautifully coloured and not at all shy. Kept in groups these fish will swim about on algae-covered rocks occasionally chasing one another about. Like all hillstream loaches they need fairly cool water, 18-22 C, and strong water current, at least 8 times the volume of the tank in turnover per hour. These loaches feed on algae and aufwuchs, and compete poorly with aggressive loaches.
One of our favourite hillstream loaches is the red orchid loach, Homaloptera orthogoniata. This peaceful loach is gregarious and should be kept in a group of three or more specimens. It is rather lizard-like in shape, and marked with oddly angular light and dark blotches across its face and flanks. Their fins are reddish. The specimens we saw on sale were small juveniles a few centimetres long, but adults reach about 12 cm in length.
Maidenhead Aquatics at Worthing is on the chalky South Downs, and the local hard water chemistry is perfectly suited to keeping Rift Valley cichlids. We were impressed by the selection of Malawian, Tanganyikan and Victorian cichlids in stock. Rather than the usual hotchpotch of hybrid Melanochromis and Pseudotropheus, were some good quality specimens of species that are smaller, less aggressive, and just plain easier to keep. Spotted among the cichlids on sale were Dimidiochromis, Maylandia greshakei, Neolamprologus buescheri,
Among our favourite Tanganyikans on sale were Julidochromis marlieri and Julidochromis ornatus, two very pretty rock-dwelling species noted for their bright colours and fairly tolerant, in territorial, personalities. Julidochromis ornatus in particular only gets to about 7-8 cm in length, and pairs can work remarkably well with midwater community fish that appreciate similar conditions, such as swordtails and rainbowfish. Julidochromis marlieri is slightly larger, up to about 12 cm or so in length, and a bit more aggressive. They’re good choices for Tanganyikan communities, but being predatory, they shouldn’t be kept with very small tankmates.
Maidenhead Aquatics at Worthing maintains a soft water section as well, and RO water is available to those aquarists without access to their own soft water supplies. Besides discus and angelfish, the soft water cichlids on sale at Maidenhead Aquatics, Worthing included a couple of small species, Steatocranus tinanti and Apistogramma viejita, as well as a lovely breeding pair of ‘Rotkeil’ severums.
Steatocranus tinanti is a rheophillic from the Congo region of Africa and consequently needs to be kept in a fast-water community tank alongside species such as danios, minnows, small loricariid catfish and inoffensive loaches. Males and females are highly dimorphic, the males having noticeably larger heads and more brightly coloured fins.
Apistogramma viejita is a colourful South American dwarf cichlid. Basic maintenance is much like other Apistogramma, which is to say that soft, slightly acidic water is required for long term success. Although territorial, small schooling fish that swim away from the substrate will be ignored. Apistogramma do not damage plants, and Apistogramma viejita is no exception. In fact this species looks lovely in a shady, well-planted aquarium.
The ‘Rotkeil’ severum Heros appendiculatus is a good choice for the large South American community tank alongside loricariid catfish and large characins such as silver dollars. They also work exceptionally well with clown loaches. At up to 20 cm in length this species needs plenty of space, but kept properly both sexes develop outstanding red colouration across its head, shoulders and ventral surface, Sexing severums is notoriously difficult and best done by looking at the genital papillae, though males typically have longer fins and more blue markings on their faces. Severums are tolerant most of the times, but breeding pairs can be a bit hard on their tankmates. Because severums enjoy green foods they will need things like cooked peas and spinach in their diet if they are to remain in optimal conditions. Needless to say they will also eat soft plants, though tough plants like Java fern and Anubias are generally left alone.
Other interesting fish
One charming species we saw on our trip to Maidenhead Aquatics at Worthing was the delightful rainbow snakehead Channa stewartii. As its common name suggests, this species is very prettily marked with orange-red speckles on its green-grey body and bright blue across its throat, ventral surface and anal fin. Snakeheads are generally quite easy to keep and the rainbow snakehead is no exception. It is predatory and will eat substantially smaller tankmates, but at up to 25 cm long when fully grown, it’s a viable companion for things like clown loaches, spanner barbs and so on.
African spiny eels are very uncommonly traded, so seeing Mastacembelus vanderwaali on sale at Maidenhead Aquatics at Worthing was a bit of a surprise. This species is from the Upper Zambezi/Okavango region. Maximum length is believed to be around 15 cm, though most specimens stay a bit smaller than that. As with all spiny eels it is predatory so tankmates should be chosen carefully. Wild fish live in fast-flowing rivers where they live among rocks, so the aquarium will need a good water current, lots of oxygen, and plenty of rocky caves. Mastacembelus vanderwaali is territorial towards its own kind, but otherwise unaggressive.
Characidium ‘darter tetras’ are often overlooked, but they can make good additions to clean, well-oxygenated South American community tanks. Unlike most other tetras, these have a loach-like shape and personality, swimming close to the bottom and resting on their fins. The species on sale at Maidenhead Aquatics at Worthing was probably Characidium fasciatum but all Characidium are rather similar in shape, colouration and size, getting to about 8-10 cm in length. Characidium are territorial towards their own kind and best kept either singly or in large groups. They are completely peaceful towards dissimilar fish.
Not a fish of course, but a worthy footnote to our review is the leopard crab Parathelphusa pantherina. In the wild at least they are more or less entirely aquatic, and even in aquaria with land areas rarely seem to leave the water. Like most other freshwater crabs they do best in water that is not too soft or acidic. In terms of behaviour they are aggressively territorial towards one another, and though not overtly predatory, they will catch and eat small fish given the chance. They will also eat snails and shrimps so should not be maintained with them. Crabs are generally omnivorous and eat both plant and animal foods, but care should be taken to provide some calcium, whether snails or unshelled seafood such as shrimps.
Maidenhead Aquatics@ Worthing Findon now have their full stock list available. To view the stock list now click here.
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