So Called Difficult to Keep Fish.

Paul B

Well-known member
Location
Long Island NY
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There are no real difficult fish, they were getting along just fine in the sea before someone came along and collected them. They know what they need and if we studied them in the sea, we would also know what they need and it isn't always about food. But most of the time, it is. There is a reason different fish come from different places. Why moorish Idols come from the South Pacific and not Coney Island, why mandarins come from the Philippeans and not Bayone New Jersey. I have spent time underwater with most of the fish I have ever kept and I learned more from swimming a few minutes with them than from all the articles I read about them. We as aquarists have a large list of fish some consider difficult. I say, the fish are not difficult but the aquarist is either lazy or just doesn't know what that fish is supposed to eat. Not all fish will thrive on "normal" aquarium fare. Many will eat it, but eating something doesn't always equate with thriving.

It is not the fishes fault if we can't (or don't want to) have the correct food on hand for that particular fish. I myself used to buy certain fish that had a bad reputation for dying because of not eating. I would figure that I am just smarter than anyone else so I will just feed what I usually feed and the fish will be fine. But I was not as smart as I thought and I lost plenty of fish with that type of thinking. How many people buy moorish Idols and feed pellets, mysis, flakes and wonder why that fish only lived a few months to a year? How many mandarins die in people's tanks even though we "taught" them to eat pellets or mysis? How many twin spot gobies are lost? Why do we lose so many copper band butterflies? Are Supermodels really that skinny. Oh, Sorry, my mind drifts.

Some of those fish are not really difficult and are actually pretty robust. They just must be fed correctly. Feeding a mandarin pellets or mysis is not the correct food for that fish and although they may eat it, it also needs a bunch of pods every day, or it will be short lived. A mandarin should live many years, not just 3 or 4. As a matter of fact I find mandarins one of the easiest, least maintenance, most disease resistant fish there is. But you can't put it in a five gallon tank that you started last Tuesday and teach it how to eat ramon noodles while it watches Oprah Winfrey give away Cadillac's to homeless cats. A mandarin needs pods "or" something like a pod such as a new born brine shrimp and they need them not only every day, but all day. A fish such as a mandarin (or pipefish) don't have a real stomach and can't store food. So those pellets you fed it didn't do it much good after the 15 minutes it took to pass through it's digestive system and be eliminated as soon as it finds a pod. I hatch brine shrimp every day to feed my mandarins and pipefish and they are all spawning. My tank is large and very old so there are plenty of pods, but I want my fish to spawn so they do not contract any diseases. That is why I feed them live, newborn brine shrimp besides just the pods they can catch.

Copperband butterflies are one of my favorite fish and I have been keeping them since the 70s. They also have a bad reputation and many people buy them just to try to eliminate aiptasia which is a shame because they are arguably one of the most interesting and beautiful fish we have access to. They are also very hardy and live over 10 years. Unfortunately you won't have any luck breeding them in a normal home aquarium as it is just to small for them. Copperbands are notorious for not eating for a couple of reasons. They are almost never fed in a store because they don't have the foods on hand that they need and, like many fish with that skinny shape, they don't stay healthy for long without food. Not much fat on their bones, sort of like Paris Hilton. But the reason people buy them to eat aiptasia is because a copperband was obviously designed to eat worms. I have dove with them and that is what they need to eat. They will also eat mysis and clams but worms should be in their diet "every" day. Mysis is not a suitable food for them to eat on a daily basis because mysis is mostly shell. A fish such as a copperband (or long nose butterfly) needs meaty food every day and that meaty food should be a "whole" food such as a clam or better yet, live blackworms. Some copperbands will eat pellets and even fewer will eat flakes, but they will be short lived on that type of diet. Speaking of flakes, I realize that many people use flakes every day and I know that businesses make money selling flakes. There are some fish that will thrive on them, fish in the damsel family will live fine on flakes, but most fish will need supplemental feedings as flakes are dry. Dry food does not contain oils as oils go bad (and stink) If I need to use flakes or pellets, I add fish oil to those foods to greatly enhance their nutrition. Remember, any food that does not need refrigeration and stays fresh for months is either full of preservatives, or there is nothing good in it to go bad because vitamins, and oil go bad without refrigeration. White flour is a perfect example. Whole wheat flour is much easier to make but it needs refrigeration, so they remove everything in it that is nutritious and you can store it forever without refrigeration. But to call it food, they need to supplement it with vitamins and minerals. If they didn't add vitamins and minerals, it is just paste. Look at any loaf of white bread and you will see that it always has vitamins and minerals added. Whole wheat flour already had those things in it but they were removed because refrigeration is expensive.

Then we have the larger carnivores such as the lionfish and moray eels. Those types of fish don't need a variety, they just need fish. Whole fish and not shrimp tails or fish fillets. They also don't need goldfish but they can be used in an emergency. Small, whole salt water silversides can be found in an LFS and that is what those fish should be fed. Live, salt water fish would be better but unless you live near the sea (like I do) it would be hard to collect such fish. You people in Arizona, stop looking because you won't be able to collect those fish where you live so you need to move or keep kissing Gourami's.

Many fish have problems living in home aquariums for different reasons. Lookdowns, panther groupers, parrotfish and Orbit Batfish get huge. Moorish Idols, besides eating a large portion of their diet as sponge, live in mated pairs. (The ones I have seen anyway but I also say a bunch of solo ones) Some fish have other concerns that can not easily be accommodated in a home aquarium. Fish such as shrimp fish live in the spines of sea urchins, flatfish such as flounders need fine sand to bury themselves in and one of the most beautiful filefish, the orange spot filefish eats coral polyps. Because of their beauty, they are unfortunately often sold, but very few people can keep one for any length of time unless you have a lot of coral you want to feed to that fish. Parrotfish eat hard coral for the soft tissue inside. Fish in the surgeon fish family such as tangs are successfully kept but those types of fish always live in schools, sometimes with hundreds or thousands of individuals and because of that, they are always under stress which is the reason of their so called "ich magnet" status.

Generally, if a fish is very unusual or very beautifully colored, it is harder to keep in an aquarium. I am not sure why that is it but the prettiest pipefish are very delicate as are the best looking most colorful seahorses, filefish or a variety of tiny gobies. Those creatures can definitely be kept but much more care and time is needed to satisfy their needs. I also don't know why brown, ugly, fish will live forever and you almost have to run them over with a 1955 Oldsmobile, then put it in reverse and run them over again to kill them. When I was stationed in Viet Nam, I had an ugly, brown catfish in a 10 gallon tank by itself. For a year, no one fed it, looked at it, changed or even added water to it's tank. That thing lived until the week before I came home. It was in a couple of inches of water. I am not sure how or why it died, but I did notice Oldsmobile tire prints on it's back.

 

clsanchez77

20 Year Noob
Location
Metairie, LA
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As always @Paul B, well written. Thanks for sharing.

One thing I would add is I found an online database years ago that scientifically profiles all identified fish. Everything on the site is backed by scientific references. It is like wikipedia for fish, except you actually have to have some kind of scientific credential to edit information on the site.

On the site, you will find native locations, food items, sometimes what its the fish, sometimes what other fish it associates with, mating rituals, etc. The quantity/quality of information does vary by the fish. The Copperband Butterfly information is sadly pretty limited. Many other "difficult" and common fish have a lot of information already on this site.

Here is the Copperband Butterflyfish:

A common species found singly and in pairs along rocky shores and coral reefs; also in estuaries and silty inner reefs (Ref. 9710, 48636). Territorial species (Ref. 48636). Oviparous (Ref. 205), monogamous (Ref. 52884). Forms pairs during breeding (Ref. 205).
Unfortunately in this case, the food items is only listed as benthic invertebrates, which is not very helpful.

On many of the other fish that are considered not reef-safe, you can usually view their territory and eating habits, which helps demystify the boolean answer to a complication question regarding "reef safe"

Please note with this being an international community forum, you may have to look the fish up on your local fishbone mirror sites. You can do this by changing the *.org or *.se in this case to the one local to your area. I find sometimes different servers get overwhelmed and you have to use other servers.
 

Paul B

Well-known member
Location
Long Island NY
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clsanchez77, thank you for that link. Of course I have no scientific credentials to put after my name, but I can make up a few:
CCW
DDste
Arbws:
Depttk:

They look very prestigious. Unfortunately most of what we read in books is re hashed information and some of it was written decades ago.
Sort of like those Axelrod and Burgess reports of those ich studies with that ich life cycle chart that we have all seen a dozen times.

I remember when those guys came up with that and I am sure it is correct and ich parasites live 72 days then automatically drop dead while watching reality shows. But they don't mention that it doesn't matter what ich does as long as the fish are immune to them. :rolleyes:

Great White sharks are also dangerous, but if you don't go in the water, they probably won't eat you.

I am sure some, or maybe all the information in my book is wrong (I actually made most of it up in a drunken stupor) And I didn't use any one elses information or research except for some things by "Robert Straughn". The Father of Salt Water Fish Keeping and my mentor.

But most of the stuff I learned either by keeping those fish or diving with them. In the 60+ years of doing this, I have killed more fish than StarKist Tuna, but I also kept a few of them alive. Some of them are still alive after almost 30 years.

Now, in my ancient life, I don't have any more problems in this hobby except for sometimes encountering a nasty Mod or someone who started their tank last Tuesday and they just want to argue for the sake of arguing. (When you get to my age, you really don't feel like arguing)


The only reason I have any SPS in my tank is because many years ago, on RC people were arguing with me saying I can't keep SPS because my tank is to dirty. Then I had them growing up my walls. I was laughed off RC. Those people are now out of the hobby.

Then I was told, many times that I can't run a reverse undergravel filter because it is a nitrate factory and all factories are in China so your tank will crash.
(unless I move to China)
That was fifty years ago and those people are out of the hobby now.

I was told, and am still told that I can't keep tangs because I have ich in my tank. Burgess and Axelrod told me and mailed me 7 copies of their ich life cycle chart. I use them for place mats.
I had more tangs than Lady GaGa has meat dresses and never lost one to ich. Burgess and Axelrod are now long gone. They probably had ich.

I am told I can't use NSW because it has "nasties" in it. Those people think their fish come from a sterile Microwave factory in Bayone New Jersey and don't realize they come from the ocean. An ocean that is filled with things like wash water from Colombus underwear and Osama Bin Laudin's socks.

I have been to many of the places where our fish are collected and some of them are so polluted, you don't even want to wash your dog in it. :sick:

Only experience (and arguing) will get you through this hobby. Maybe with a little common sense. :unsure:

Keeping one fish for a few weeks by feeding it the latest canned, flake food is not considered "Great Success". Abraham Lincoln had Great Success, until he got shot.

Christina Agulara, has Great Success, Henry Ford had Great Success, Nancy Pelosi.............OK I won't go there. You decide.

If you want to learn how to take care of a fish, put on a Speedo and jump in the water with it. Not as a tourist with 43 other tourists, but as a fish.

Go to a tropical destination and hire a guide. Tell them what you are looking for and they know the places where that creature is because they probably ate one for breakfast.
Lay on the bottom until you realize you left your cell phone in your shorts or you run out of air. Don't move. Just watch that fish/crab/snail etc. And you will learn all you need to know.

If you see that fish eat flake food, then feed that to your fish. :oops:

Quite a few years ago.


References:

Me.
 
Last edited:

Paul B

Well-known member
Location
Long Island NY
Country flag
Clsanchez77, My hermit crabs have canker sores older than most people here. :p

I lived most of my life before they invented computers cell phones, credit cards, Justin Beiber or most other things.
This hobby was so much easier before the internet because I think it is better to have no information than a lot of information, most of which is either wrong, mostly wrong or contradictory so you can't tell what is wrong.

I also feel the hobby was more rewarding when you had to experiment to keep something alive and in the days when very few things were available, you appreciated what you had more.

Now I can buy almost any fish at any LFS. I had to travel 50 miles to Manhattan to the only store that had salt water fish and buy the one individual fish they had, spots or no spots, but usually with spots.

I learned very quickly how to cure those fish and have never had a problem since.

Now people buy a fish and go on Facebook for the rest of the day for their fish keeping methods and News in General.
I never go on Facebook unless someone sends me some stupid thing that I have to look at. I hate facebook. I wrote a book and know what my face looks like, so whats the purpose.

I also have many friends, mostly from school so I don't need a lot of extra friends on Facebook that I don't know and will never meet.
I have enough friends on this forum :cool:

Of course I know a lot of people on other forums that really hate me. (some on R@R) I am not sure if they are jealous of my hair, my tank, my wife or just me in general. Some of them just don't get my writing.

Many people figure I lie about keeping fish for so long without having any disease or quarantining. After all. it's totally impossible. But those people are all Noobs. The people who know me from 40 years ago, know about my methods and are tired of arguing with me. :LOL:

 

Tamberav

Well-known member
Country flag
I am pretty sure all your fish are dying and you just secretly replace them with identical fish... (jk!)

I noticed some of the newer pellets have fish oil listed in the ingredients and have to be refrigerated. TDO chroma boost is the one I noticed.
 

Tamberav

Well-known member
Country flag
As always @Paul B, well written. Thanks for sharing.

One thing I would add is I found an online database years ago that scientifically profiles all identified fish. Everything on the site is backed by scientific references. It is like wikipedia for fish, except you actually have to have some kind of scientific credential to edit information on the site.

On the site, you will find native locations, food items, sometimes what its the fish, sometimes what other fish it associates with, mating rituals, etc. The quantity/quality of information does vary by the fish. The Copperband Butterfly information is sadly pretty limited. Many other "difficult" and common fish have a lot of information already on this site.

Here is the Copperband Butterflyfish:



Unfortunately in this case, the food items is only listed as benthic invertebrates, which is not very helpful.

On many of the other fish that are considered not reef-safe, you can usually view their territory and eating habits, which helps demystify the boolean answer to a complication question regarding "reef safe"

Please note with this being an international community forum, you may have to look the fish up on your local fishbone mirror sites. You can do this by changing the *.org or *.se in this case to the one local to your area. I find sometimes different servers get overwhelmed and you have to use other servers.
I come across this site a lot and find it useful. I do wish it had more information. I have always been curious about keeping a blue dot jawfish at an ideal temp but not sure what that is. Bob Fenner said upper 50's-60's so that's probably correct information though.
 

clsanchez77

20 Year Noob
Location
Metairie, LA
Country flag
I come across this site a lot and find it useful. I do wish it had more information. I have always been curious about keeping a blue dot jawfish at an ideal temp but not sure what that is. Bob Fenner said upper 50's-60's so that's probably correct information though.
Yea, it is limited, I suppose because the data has to meet a certain level of confidence - hobbyist anecdotal observations are certainly not going to be tolerated there lol.
 
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