Tag Archive | "Killifish"

Blue Gularis Killifish (Fundulopanchax sjoestedti)

Acquiring Killifish For The Home Aquarium

Acquiring Killifish for the home aquarium can be a challenging proposition.   With only a few exceptions, most pet shops do not normally have a supply of  killifish, and those that do usually bring in Fundulopanchax gardneri, Aphyosemion australe, or Fundulopanchax sjoestedti.

The more unusual and rarer species are seldom, if ever, found in tropical fish shops.

Fortunately, we now have access to the internet which allows killifish enthusiasts the ability to purchase the eggs or adults from specialty breeders, importers, and members of various killifish organizations throughout the world.

Although having the means to acquire killifish for the home aquarium makes the job of finding them easier,  it can be a challenge (especially for beginners) to know which species to purchase.

Unlike most tropical fish species that have common names, killifish are generally referred to by their scientific names.

This requires some education which can only be provided by joining a killiefish association, a killie group, a club, or learning about them from books, journals, or other publications on or off line.

Although some pet store proprietors are familiar with killifish, many owners sell fish that are incorrectly identified by their suppliers.

Many killifish species and local strains look very similar to each other and can easily be misidentified.   In addition, many unnamed or unidentified species that are collected in the wild are often combined with shipments of identifiable fish and shipped to importers as a by catch.

Nothobranchius rachovii Beira ’91, is a beautiful killifish strain that is identified by the year it was originally collected (1991), and the locality where it was found.   It has no common name.

Tropical fish keeping enthusiasts who are interested in keeping killifish would do well to concentrate on acquiring the following before moving on to some of the rarer and more difficult to keep species.

  • Aphyosemion

Aphyosemion is a genus of African rivulines that as the name indicates, is endemic to Africa.   The killifish species in this genus are some of most popular with tropical fish keeping enthusiasts and are also the most commonly available.

Almost all of the species in this genus come from West Africa, and are relatively easy to acquire, keep, and breed.

The Lyretail killifish (Aphyosemion australe) comes in three color forms;  Chocolate Brown, Orange, and Gold, and is one of the more common killies found in tropical fish shops.

Aphyosemion ahliAphyosemion bivittatum, and Aphyosemion calliurum are also relatively common and make good “starter fish” for beginning killifish enthusiasts.

All are beautiful, easy to keep, and most can be easily bred using spawning mops, Java Moss, or floating plants like Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes).

  • Fundulopanchax

Several colorful species of the Fundulopanchax genus of killifish that are found in the near coastal fresh water streams and lakes of Western Africa, are also suitable for beginning killifish enthusiasts.

Among these are Fundulopanchax gardneri, Fundulopanchax sjoestedti, and Fundulopanchax filamentosus.

Fundulopanchax Sjoestedti pair

Fundulopanchax Sjoestedti pair

All of the species in this genus can be found in several color strains, and although some species like Fundulopanchax sjoestedti are more challenging to keep, most of the other species are easy to breed and care for and are suitable for beginning enthusiasts.

Fundulopanchax sjoestedti and Fundulopanchax filamentosus are bottom spawners.

Some species of Fundulopanchax gardneri are topwater spawners, while other species like Fundulopanchax gardneri nigerianus and Fundulopanchax gardneri garderni are both top and bottom spawners.

  • Epiplatys

All species in the Epiplatys genus are surface feeding killifish that prey on insects and other organisms that inadvertently fall into the water.

Many species in the Epiplatys genus are larger than the average sized killiefish.   All of them are extremely hardy, easy to breed in an aquarium environment, and will lay their eggs on spawning mops or  floating plants.

Both Epiplatys sexfasciatus and Epiplatys fasciolatus are good choices for beginner killiefish enthusiasts however, Epiplatys annulatus should be avoided.

  • Nothobranchius

Nothobranchius is a genus of small, freshwater, annual killifish that are found mainly in East Africa, from the Sudan to northern South Africa.

Several species occur in the upper regions of the Congo River Basin and two species are found in West Central Africa.   The largest number of over 70 species comes from Tanzania.

Without exception, these small East African annuals are prized for their beauty.

Nothobranchius rachovii

Nothobranchius rachovii

Nothobranchius rachovii is considered by many to be the most beautiful fresh water species in the world.   Unfortunately, all the species in this genus are short lived.

In their natural habitat, killifish in the Nothobranchius genus inhabit ephemeral pools that fill up during the monsoon season and dry up during the hot months.

Over the years, they have adapted to these harsh conditions and learned to lay their eggs in the substrate.   When the pools dry up and the parents die, the embryos survive in the hard clay by entering diapause, and when the pools fill up again during the wet season, the eggs hatch out and the life cycle repeats itself.

Nothobranchius furzeri reach adulthood in only 17 days and live for only 3 to 6 months

Breeding killies in this genus requires the patience of Job.   Their eggs need to be dried out of water for prolonged periods of as long as one year before they can hatch.

If you decide to try keeping any of these species, Nothobranchius guentheri or Nothobranchius korthausae would be an excellent choice for a beginner.

Although they are extremely hardy and can be kept in a variety of water conditions, most are susceptible to velvet disease.   In their natural habitats, they are often found in hard, alkaline pools of water but they do well in a variety of water conditions.

Adding 1/2 to 1 teaspoonful of salt per gallon of their aquarium water will minimizes any outbreaks.

  • Nematolebias

The Nematolebias genus of killifish is native to South America and includes many popular aquarium specimens.

Nematolebias whitei is an elegant, easy to breed killifish suitable for beginning enthusiasts that is also easy to care for, however, like all species in the Nothobranchius genus, patience is needed to breed them.    Several months must elapse after spawning before the eggs will hatch out successfully.

  • American killiefishes

Several species of killies in the genus Autrofundulus, Cyprinodon, Fundulus, Rachovia, and Rivulus among others, are good candidates for the home aquarium.

Jordenella floridae (Florida Flagfish)

Jordenella floridae (Florida Flagfish)

Jordenella floridae (the Florida Flagfish) is found throughout the state, and is frequently found in tropical fish shops.

They are interesting, colorful, inexpensive, easy to keep breed, and make an excellent choice for beginner killifish enthusiasts.

Fundulus auroguttatus, Fundulus cingulatus, and the Golden Topminnow (Fundulus chrysotus) are also some of the more colorful North American species that are easily kept in an aquarium environment.

The Desert Pupfish (Cyprinodon macularius) on the other hand, can survive extreme salinities, pH, temperature, and low oxygen content environments, but because it is on the endangered species list would not be an easily acquired species to keep.

Regardless of which genus you  acquire your species of killie from, some research is recommended before purchasing your specimen or their eggs.

Posted in Featured Articles, Freshwater Fish, Killifish, Tropical Fish KeepingComments (2)

Blue Gularis Killifish (Fundulopanchax sjoestedti)


Killifish are a group of egg laying tooth carps that comprise over 1270 species from various families including Aplocheilidae, Cyprinodontidae, Fundulidae, Profundulidae, Valenciida, and Rivulidae.   Of the 1270 species discovered, about 350 of these are found within the equatorial belts throughout the world.   The largest family Rivulidae, contains over 320 of the known species.

Although some of the specialized species of Killifish that have lifespans no longer than 9 or 10 months are found in temporary ponds, ditches, and puddles in the flood plains; most species of killifish have lifespans between 2 and 3 years, and are found in the lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams that have water throughout the year.    These killifish (Cyprinodon, Fundulus and Rivulus) are common in the Americas, Africa, Asia (including Aphyosemion, Aplocheilus, Epiplatys, Fundulopanchax and Lacustricola) and Southern Europe (Aphanius).

In the Americas, Killifish can be found as far south as Argentina, and as far north as southern Ontario.   They have also been found in Southern Europe, South Africa, as far south as Vietnam in Asia, the Middle East, and on several islands in the Indian Ocean.   To date, no species of Killifish has been discovered in Antarctica, Australia, or in Northern Europe.

Killilfish are an extremely hardy species that can withstand a wide range of temperatures, salinities, and pollutants (such as organochloride fertilizers and pesticides) however, most killifish in their natural habitat live in a soft, slightly acidic water environment, with a pH of 6.0 to 6.8, and at temperatures between 71 to 80° F.    Several species of Killifish are found only in extremely harsh ephemeral aquatic environments, where they have learned to survive and even thrive in periods of total or partial dehydration.

Although Killifish are primarily a freshwater species, they are also found in brackish to saltwater environments, and in areas where very few other fish species could survive.

Devils Hole pupfish (Cyprinodon diabolis)

Devils Hole pupfish (Cyprinodon diabolis)

The Devil’s Hole in Nevada, is an example of such an extreme environment that has a constant salinity and temperatures of 92 °F.

The Devils Hole pupfish (Cyprinodon diabolis) is the only natural resident of this 300′ deep cavern.

The eggs of many annual killifish species are like plant seeds, and rely on periods of drought in order for hatching to successfully take place.   Their eggs, when entirely submerged in water will not survive more than a few weeks unless they are allowed to dry out to be later reconstituted.

This fact makes the sale and distribution of many annual killifish species a simple matter of mailing the eggs, without the need for water to the recipient, so they can be hatched out at a later date.   A few species like adult Kryptolebias marmoratus can even survive out of water for several weeks.   However, few Killifish fall into this category.

All 1270 species of Killifish can be separated into three distinct breeding categories:

  • Annual species
  • Semi Annual species
  • Non Annual species

Annual species mature quickly and are generally short lived.   In their natural habitats, they are found in small ponds, ditches, puddles, etc. that dry up for sometimes for extended periods of months to years.   Killifish in this category tend to spawn continuously over extended periods to ensure the survival of the next generation.

A small number of eggs (usually only 3 to 5) are laid daily over a period of weeks, until the puddle or pond that they live in dries up.   The eggs remain dormant in a state of hibernation known as diapauses, until the coming of the rainy season, when the puddle or pond again fills up with water to stimulate the hatching of the eggs.   The eggs will hatch out in a matter of hours after the introduction of water.   The young of annual killifish species grow to adulthood very quickly, and as soon as they reach maturity, they immediately begin their spawning activities to continue the life cycle.   This process is ongoing until the pond or puddle dries up again and a new generation of killifish is produced.

Semi Annual species are generally longer lived than the annual species, and are found in areas that do not totally dry out in their natural habitat during the dry season.   The ponds, ditches, and puddles that they are found in may hold water throughout the dry season and at the worst, dry out to a moist muddy bottom as the rains subside.

These killifish are substrate spawners that lay their eggs in the muddy sediment or organic debris at the bottom of the pond or ditch.   As the rains subside, the water evaporates and the eggs remain damp and partially dry out in the sediment for periods of up to four months.   When the rains return again, the eggs hatch out within a few days and the live cycle begins again.

Semi annual killifish species can be bred in an aquarium environment by simulating these conditions using peat moss, spawning mops, or Java Moss.   Removing the eggs with the substrate, and partially drying them out for a period of 30 to 60 or more days (depending on species) essentially duplicates the spawning conditions.   The eggs usually hatch out in a just few days after the introduction of water to the substrate.

Non Annual species are the longest lived of the three groups, and many (such as the Aphyosemion genus) can live up to five years or more in an aquarium environment.  These fish live in small streams, ponds, and other permanent bodies of water that do not dry up during periods of drought.   Non Annual killifish are harder to keep and are usually more challenging to breed.

Most of them are plant spawners that in an aquarium environment are bred using spawning mops or Java Moss.   The eggs are incubated in water, not allowed to dry out, and usually hatch out in about 20 to 30 days depending on water temperature and species.

Blue Gularis Killifish (Fundulopanchax sjoestedti)

Blue Gularis Killifish (Fundulopanchax sjoestedti)

The largest killifish species can grow to almost 6 inches in length, but most killifish are less than 2 inches long.

Many klillifish species are as brightly colored as salt water fish and are prized by tropical fish keeping enthusiasts in the aquarium hobby.

Males are generally more colorful than females and often have incredibly elegant finnage.   The females are usually larger than the males and are always less brightly colored.

Most killifish are territorial and will defend their areas from other males in the tank.   They will vigorously mate with any available female in the area.   When housed in an aquarium environment, it’s best to keep at least two or three females for every male in the tank.   If you place more than a couple males in the same tank, it’s best to include at least three females for every male fish to minimize aggression.

In their natural habitat, the majority of Killifish are carnivorous and consume insect larvae, small invertebrates, mosquito larvae, worms, and zooplankton, however several species in the Americas do consume algae and other aquatic plant matter.

All killifish are great jumpers.   In their natural habitats, they often jump from puddle to puddle as their environments shrink.   In an aquarium environment, they need either a tightly fitting lid or some floating plants to discourage them from jumping out ot the tank.

Throughout the world, Killifish are prized by tropical fish keeping enthusiasts for their beauty, finnage, and breeding challenges, but they are also used as bait fish in many areas of the world, in laboratory studies in a variety of learning, aging, pigmentation, embryological, and endocrinological experiments, in inter tidal and nearshore pollution tolerance studies, and as a biological control agent to reduce mosquito populations in fresh and brackish waters.

If you have never come across any of these gorgeous little fish, it is probably because most tropical fish shops do not have a steady killifish supplier.

Unlike many other species of tropical fish, commercial suppliers are unable to mass produce killifish.   Therefore, most species are bred by small breeders out of their homes and occasionally sold to commercial suppliers, or are wild caught.

Shipping wild caught specimens is an expensive proposition.  Mainly because the males of most species fight when in close confinement, creating sometimes huge losses in shipments.    Additionally, most killies are excellent jumpers and because many fish shop employees do not keep their tanks tightly covered,  lots of expensive stock often ends up on the fish shop floor.

If you can find a pair of killifish in your local pet shop, you can be expected to pay in the neighborhood of $20 to $50 or more per pair.

Many tropical fish keeping enthusiasts breed killifish which are then distributed within killifish societies throughout the world.    If you care to join one of these societies online, many of these specialty breeders will sell the eggs and occasionally the adults at reasonable prices, and may even give away the eggs to members.

One of the best source of killies is the Fish and Egg Listing (F&EL) found in the Business Newsletter of the AKA (American Killifish Association).

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