GCCA’S CICHLID CHATTER — MAY 1999
by Bill Vannerson with contributions from David Kawahigashi and Eric Lund
There was a discussion on several Internet Killifish email lists regarding supple menting newly hatched baby brine shrimp (BBS), Artemia, with vitamins or cal- cium. The results of that discussion brought two important points to light for fish keepers of any species. One, hobbyists can supplement their BBS to add valuable nutrients to their fish, both fry and adults. Two, the power of the internet as a resource.
Supplementing live food is nothing new. Many hobbyists have been adding vitamins to their worm cultures before feeding to fish and, to a lesser extent, adult brine shrimp as well. The strategy is to have the supplement ingested by the food and then by the fish when they consume the food. The debate on the mailing lists started when some- one questioned the effectiveness of applying this technique to BBS. Would supple- ments added to the hatching water be ingested by brine shrimp nauplii and then consumed by the fish? Or would the supplement simply stay suspended in the hatch- ing water without providing and additional value to our fish?
The answer comes down to whether or not newly hatched Artemia will consume the supplement. The answer is yes, but not right away. Artemia are filter feeders but don’t start feeding until after their second molt, referred to as the instar 2 stage.
According to David Kawahigashi at San Francisco Bay Brand, the commercial fisheries have been practicing this for quite a while. “Supplementing nutritional components, such as vitamins or calcium, into live brine shrimp has been practiced by aquaculture hatcheries for around 10 years. This bio-enrichment or bioencapsulation of brine shrimp nauplii (instar 2 or adults) began using emulsified fish oils containing high HUFA’s or highly unsaturated fatty acids for marine finfish and crustacean larvae. This ‘break- through’ enabled the culture of many other new marine species to be developed (flounder, sea bass, tuna, ornamental marine sp.).”
Eric Lund, researcher from University of Wisconsin, Madison, explains, “Briefly, salt- water fish all require a fatty acid that is common in marine fish oils called DHA (docosahexanoic acid) in their diet. They cannot make it from precursors, so it must be present in their food. Freshwater fish have a limited ability to make DHA from a particular precursor fatty acid of the omega-3 variety (linolenic acid), but they too can grow and reproduce well on a diet that includes DHA.”
“Brine shrimp are a great food for all small carnivorous fish, but they contain virtually no DHA. Marine fish larvae fed only Artemia exhibit mass mortality a few days after they start feeding. Aquaculture operations get around this problem by adding an emulsion of phospholipids rich in DHA to newly hatched Artemia. The Artemia eat the emulsion (more of it also sticks to the outside of their bodies). The Artemia are then fed to the fish or can then be kept refrigerated for up to three days.”
Enriching or bioencapsulation Artemia is essential for marine fish, but not for freshwater fish. Then why bother at all? Eric further explains, “I do believe, however, that for some delicate killies [and other freshwater fish] that experience high moralities before sexing out, that enriching Artemia may be of some benefit. Another tactic worth trying is to feed enriched Artemia to the adults for several weeks prior to breeding them. In other species, fish eggs with low levels of DHA generally have poorer survivorship to first feeding than eggs that are rich in DHA. Giving females a diet high in DHA allows them to put more DHA into their eggs. As you all know, weak and feeble killie fry can be the result of several factors including inbreeding, bad water conditions and improper incu- bation conditions, but poor parental nutrition may play a role as well.”
Symptoms of Essential Fatty Acid Deficiency
The essential fatty acid end product, DHA, is an important component of cell mem- branes in retinal tissue (eyes), neural tissue and cardiac tissue. Deficiency symptoms may include:
Sudden fright syndrome— Fish, usually juveniles, go into shock or twitch convulsively when frightened.
Poor visual acuity— reduced ability to locate prey
Poor growth rates
Poor egg viability
High mortality rates under stressful conditions such as shipping
Note that factors other than essential fatty acid deficiency can cause all of these symptoms. Essential fatty acid deficiency is not a problem with most freshwater fish fed a varied diet. It is possible, however, that supplementation with a lipid emulsion may increase growth rates, fecundity and fry survivorship. So, if you are having problems raising a particular species, it may be worth a try.
How to Supplement
There are three ways you can feed your fish bioenriched shrimp; buy enriched frozen shrimp, enrich live adult shrimp or enrich newly hatched nauplii.
Bioenriched frozen shrimp
Bioenriched frozen shrimp are available but may be difficult to find. David Kawahigashi explains, “Although we do not market any enrichment formula, we do enrich and freeze live adult Artemia with a HUFA formula and Spirulina algae for the aquaculture and aquarium markets. However, almost all of the sales for these two enriched products go to the aquaculture market due to the “unawareness” of the benefits of bioenrichment in the aquarium trade.”
Enrich live adults
Enriching live adults is not difficult. Just add the supplement to brine shrimp 12-16 before feeding fish.
Adding supplements to newly hatch brine shrimp is a little more complicated. Baby brine shrimp will not ingest the supplements until after the instar 2 stage begins, about 12 hours after the nauplii hatch. However, most fish breeders prefer to feed newly hatched Artemia as close to hatching as possible in order to maximize the nutritional value.
Once the cyst hatches, the nauplii begin to consume stored protein reserves, just as newborn fry live off of their egg sac. The longer you wait to feed them, the less nutritional value that’s passed on to the fish. The only way to counter act this is to feed the Artemia. This is not usually done because of difficulties in raising nauplii to adulthood. It’s just not worth the effort when one can readily purchase adult brine shrimp.
A compromise solution is to maintain two separate sources of baby brine shrimp, one that is bioenriched and one that is not but has higher protein reserves. Follow your normal routine for collecting and feeding from hatcheries that are not enriched. Re- duce the amount you would normally feed and replace with a portion from the en- riched hatcheries. Since enriching requires extra time, you may want to set up multiple hatcheries to alternate. You also may store enriched Artemia in the refrigerator for up to three days.
Here’s a quick checklist of the steps required to produce bioenriched Artemia:
Prepare and hatch baby brine shrimp as normal, 24 hours for standard cysts or 16
hours for decapsulated cysts.
Add bioenrichment 6 hours after hatching This will be after the instar 2 or second molt.
Feed within 12-16 hours or the shrimp will have digested the enhancement for- mula and you need to start over
Store any unused nauplii in the refrigerator for up to three days.
David mentions, “I am now working on bioenriching Haematococcus algae [super high astaxanthin for color enhancement] and some anti-bacterials into our live Artemia for product development. Because Artemia are non-selective and continuous filter- feeders, pretty much anything can be taken into the gut of a live Artemia, as long as the particle size is between 5 to 50 microns. Vitamin supplements must be in a non- soluble form as Artemia cannot ‘drink’ soluble components.”
Eric Lund is also working on some new research at UWM that he’s not at liberty to discuss in detail
Selcon is a popular liquid supplement for enriching artemia nauplii.
This convenient product includes an eyedropper top for easy dosing and complete directions.
This article was originally published by the author in another journal and is presented here at the request of the author.
The Internet as an Aquarium Resource
The whole issue of enriching Artemia began as a relatively benign question posted to an Internet email lists. In a few days, input from hobbyists and experts, who are also hobbyists, poured in, adding to the collective knowledge of the group. The dynamics of this information exchange and the speed at which it was dissemi- nated is a prime example on how the power of the internet can benefit the hobby. For those of you not familiar with email or the Internet, I’ll explain.
An author of a message sends it to the list server via standard email services from his or her local Internet service provider (ISP). An ISP is company that provides Internet connection, including companies such as America Online, CompuServe and a whole host of others both large and small. The list server replicates the message and sends it out to all of the subscribers. So if there are 500 people subscribing to a particular list, then 500 people will receive a copy of the email message.
Anyone on the list can respond to the original message either privately to the origina- tor or back to the list server, where everyone can see the response. It’s best to respond back to the list if the topic of the email is of public interest, that way everyone can benefit from the shared knowledge of all of the responses. The collection of messages and the responses is referred to as a thread, as in a string of correspondence.
Subscribers to a list can be from anywhere in the world. I have seen contributions from Alaska to Australia, Hungary to Hong Kong, South America to Singapore. The only place I haven’t seen a message from is Antarctica, but I’m sure it could happen.
There are several lists that I subscribe to including Killies, KillieTalk, Live food, Apistos and Cichlids.
There are a bunch of others, including one focusing on brine shrimp alone. Visit FishLinkCentral for a more comprehensive source of lists.
Access to Experts & Speed of Information Exchange
Because threads are open conversations between fish folks from around the world, subscribers can benefit from the knowledge and opinions of some of the best experts available. David and Eric happen to be two extremely knowledge- able experts on supplementing Artemia that participate on several email lists. When the original question was posted, they both decided to freely join in and share their knowledge and expertise. Most hobbyists probably would not have known them or the expertise using traditional means of communication, such as letters —referred to as “snail mail” by Internet users. And if someone did know them, the response most likely would have been addressed to single individual, not to hundreds around the world. And the exchange was quick! Within days, literally hundreds of hobbyists learned about the benefits of supplementing BBS. There has been a lot of fanfare regarding the information age and the Internet.
By Willie Heard
I purchased a BAP bag of eight Chalinochromis trifasciatus which was brought in by Bill Constantelus. He said they spawned on January 3, 1997. I purchased them in March of 1997 and paced them in a ten gallon tank. In July of 1997 I moved them to a twenty gallon tank.
One day while making a regular water change, I noticed some of the trifasciatus hanging near the top of the tank. I grabbed a flashlight and found the reason, free swimming fry around a clay flowerpot. I guess they spawned sometime around April 19, 1998.
The parents resemble Chalinochromis popelini in color and striping. They are gold- fish-like in body sheen with long striped running from the head to the tail. The parents were fed the same diet as all of my fish. Alternately, frozen brine shrimp, Tetra Cichlid Flake, Tetra Green Conditioning Flakes, and Hikari pellets.
Water was changed every four days— one-fourth of the tank volume. No additions of any kind were added. Lake Michigan water is all I use.
The spawning tank consisted of two large pieces of desert coral rock with plenty of different size holes. I left all the fish, both parents and fry, together because I didn’t have any open tanks. Besides, I couldn’t tell which fish were the parents.
Surprisingly, everything worked out well. They are all doing fine. ■
Interview by Rick Borstein
GCCA’S CICHLID CHATTER — MARCH 1999
Tell us about yourself... how did you get started with Cichlids?
When I was born in 1956, I didn’t have gills, yet— unfortunately as, at an age of 2, I al- most drowned in the goldfish pond of my grandma. It was not until I was twelve that I got my first aquarium. Not long after that I got more, stocked with the first Tanganyikan cichlids that were available in the Netherlands. I made all the mistakes that novice aquarists make today, but experience was built up. During my biology study, I helped out on Saturdays at Verduijn Cichlids, at that time, Europe’s best assorted cichlid shop. My first trip to Africa was to Malawi in 1980 and from then on I was hooked on “cichlids in the wild”.
In the last ten years, I have visited Lake Malawi and Tanganyika more than once a year and I am slowly developing “the cichlid picture” in my mind. Coupled with yearly trips to Mexico, I’m getting an idea how cichlids do in the natural environment. After 42 tanks in Germany, my wife allows me only two in El Paso; the first is almost 500 gallons...
You’ve been diving and observing cichlids in Africa for many years. Can you share with our members an interesting story of finding new cichlids?
For many years, I have been publishing books and articles on Malawi cichlids in German and in Germany. Some other authors in Germany don’t like that and try to outdo me. One of them, let’s call him Andreas, even tried to copy every single step I took in getting photos of Malawi cichlids. When I went for the first time to the Tanzanian part of the lake, that same person managed to go a few weeks earlier and got a boat from the same fish collector as I did. I was with Martin Geerts and Laif DeMason, who owned the boats all of us were using, was with us as well. At Manda, halfway through our trip, we chanced to meet Andreas and since our visit was a surprise for him, he couldn’t conceal a new fish he collected in the area we were supposed to go to next. In a little baby swimming pool, he had little a blue-black barred mbuna which resembled Pseudotropheus saulosi males. He refused to tell us where he found them even though the diver, who caught the fish, was on Laif’s payroll. Laif’s partner in Tanzania, Erling, agreed with Andreas, who was leaving the country in a few days, that he would take these new fish home! Laif was very angry because Andreas was using his boats and his divers and now that a new and exciting new mbuna was found, he wasn’t even able to get it. Worse, someone else was going to breed the fish and make money on the European market. Andreas and Erling left with the lake steamer to Itungi port, where Laif’s fish house was. Since Andreas wanted to visit a crater lake north of Itungi port, the two of them left for a couple of days. In the meantime, Laif took the next lake steamer —in those days there were two services a week— and steamed up north, to Itungi. In the fishhouse, he found the little mbuna and added a few big predators to the tank after he made sure that there were no females among them. Andreas, was upset —we later heard— but still took the remaining fish with him in a box to Germany. He desperately wanted someone to name this fish after him and also had preserved material. Since his voyage would take him through Malawi (shorter than flying out of Tanzania), he was faced with a very cold check-in agent at Lilongwe airport. Nobody is allowed to take live fish out of Malawi, no exceptions! Whatever he did, there was no way he could take the fish with him. Therefore he asked the driver and manager of Laif’s operation in Tanzania, Freddy, if he would take the fish back and ship them the next week with the proper documentation. Freddy agreed. Unfortunately on his way back to Tanzania, Freddy’s had car trouble and he had to stay overnight in Malawi, in the highlands (cold nights). You guessed it— the fish were dead the next morning. So, Andreas only had preserved specimens left. In the meantime, Laif, Martin, and I continued our trip and also found the fish, collected it and preserved some specimens. I thought it a good idea to quickly name this species after Laif — he had done so much for me and other hobbyists by making available Tanzanian cichlids— before someone else could publish a description naming the fish in honor of Andreas. So I did and that is the story of Pseudotropheus demasoni.
Are there any current or forthcoming environmental issues that concern you as an observer and writer about African cichlids? What are they and what is the risk?
The environmental issue in Lake Malawi is the overfishing done by the local population. There is exponential [population] growth in Malawi and food is scarce. More and more Africans revert to fishing on the lake, just for their own families. There is nothing we can or should do about it. The situation is better in the Mozambique and Tanzanian part of the lake. Fishing on Lake Tanganyika is very extensive in the southern section, which belongs to Zambia, and many species have been lost from that area. Other parts of the lake are in relatively good shape. Fortunately, the infrastructure of the surrounding countries is very poor so that big industry is not likely going to settle on the shores of these lakes and pollute the water.
You often speak of interesting fish behaviors that you observe while diving. What can we do as aquarists to promote natural behavior in our tanks? What cichlids might respond best to changes? What fish will be a continuing problem in regards to eliciting natural behaviors?
The best way to promote natural behavior is to provide the fish with a natural environment. Therefore, I write books. I tell you how the fish lives and what it needs and the aquarist has to use his or her imagination in trying to copy that. I under- stand that a complete natural environment cannot be created in your living room, but you can go a long way. In principle, the fishes that can be accommodated with relatively little space do best in an aquarium. Fishes that are large and territorially aggressive, such as Petrochromis species, are not good aquarium fishes— they want to show their natural behavior!
You’ve traveled extensively and met cichlid hobbyists in clubs around the world. What differences have you noticed between hobbyists and clubs in the US and around the world? Similarities? Recommendations for our members and club?
Granted that an aquarium is always unnatural, there are many possibilities to create a very natural looking environment for your fishes. And my idea of a modern aquarium is a “slice from the wild”, a most naturally looking habitat for fishes. Unfortunately, a great number of US hobbyists, even though they love their fish, do not know or do not want to spend the effort and money to create such an environ- ment. We must not forget that we don’t really know whether or not a fish is dis- tressed because the shelter given to him consists of a gray plastic pipe instead of a rocky cave. The issue here is that such a fish is given a shelter or is given the amount of room and compatible room mates. And in this area, regrettably, many aquarists fall short. If a hobbyist is interested in e.g. Tanganyika cichlids, he or she is not going to try to keep all 200 different species. The big boom for cichlids happened about ten years ago when a lot of people could make money with breeding some, at that time, rare species, but now these species are not rare any longer and we are back to those hobbyists that enjoy keeping a good-looking aquarium. And, I might add, those numbers are growing. There is nothing more pleasing than a beautifully decorated aquarium with healthy fishes in it. Even for non-aquarists such a setup is a joy to watch! A friend of mine in Sweden deals in those very natural looking rocky backgrounds and he says that the sale of those very expensive —but also very natural— backgrounds in Scandinavia is skyrocketing. The reason seems simple— people want to have a “slice of the wild” and now, it seems, they can get it! As I see it, the cichlid enthusiast of the next century has a single, large tank of more than 100 gallons with a decoration which equals that of the natural environment of the fishes he/she is keeping. The fish in this tank of the future are compatible with the artificial environment and with the other tank mates. The peripheral systems, such as pumps, filtration, heating, are state of the art and keep the quality of the water at its best. Everything is automated so that the aquarists and his/her family can fully enjoy the tank without the weekly water changing and cleaning chores.
You’re an author, speaker and publisher and acknowledged cichlid expert in our hobby What’s next for Ad Konings? What is your next challenge?
I don’t see writing and speaking about the cichlids as a challenge. I’m a hobbyist like anyone who reads this and I love to observe and to think cichlids. So my next challenge is— more cichlids! ■
Editor’s Note: I recommend that you visit http://www.cichlidpress.com which is the web site for Ad’s publishing company. On the site, you can learn more about collect- ing cichlids in Africa and even get a look at the accommodations available for your own cichlid safari!
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The Greater Chicago Cichlid Association — GCCA — is a not-for-profit, educational organization, chartered in the state of Illinois, dedicated to the advancement and dissemination of information relating to the biology of the fishes in the family Cichlidae, with particular emphasis on maintenance and breeding in captivity. We are simply cichlid hobbyists who love cichlids.