Jewel Cichlid

The Jewel Cichlid, hemichromis bimaculatus, is a beautiful fish that inhabits streams from southern Guinea to Central Liberia. During breeding conditions, the males have intense red colouration which is spectacular to see. These cichlids are territorial and should be housed in a spacious, well planted aquarium with abundant shelters. If there are enough shelters, these fish will be less aggressive as each of them is able to claim a certain territory within in the aquarium. Include several flat-topped rocks to mimic the cichlids natural environment. If a breeding pair is established, the female will spawn on these flat-topped rocks (flat leaves are also possible). The pair will then take turns to vigorously guard to fry. The Jewel Cichlid is omnivorous and will take dried and live foods. Keep these fish well fed or else they will become nasty fin nippers!

Calabar Python

The Calabar Python, Calabaria reinhardtii, is probably one of the most toughest snakes on the planet. Its skin is more than 15 times thicker than an average snake. Scientists believe that this thick layer of skin protects the snake from bites by mother rodents protecting their young. The Calabar Python preys exclusively on young rodents, hence the need to protect itself from protective mothers. Despite the thickness of the skin, it remains flexible. Pharmaceutical companies have shown interest in mimicking the qualities of the snakes skin to develop puncture-resistant medical gloves! The Calabar Python does have some limitations. It cannot swallow large prey like other snakes normally do. This partly explains their preference for small rodents. It also has a very small clutch size for a snake laying an average of 4 eggs per clutch. Other snakes normally lay up to 100 eggs per clutch 😊

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Illustration and data retrieved from Mongabay Newsletter “The toughest snake on Earth lives in Central Africa and eats baby rodents”

Leaf-cutter Ant

The famous leaf-cutter ant, Atta, is endemic to Central and South America. They can carry leaves up to 3x their body weight and use the gathered leaves for growing a special fungus that they use as food. Leaf-cutter ant colonies are some of the most complex societies in the animal kingdom with a sophisticated caste system…also their mounds, which go to 9 meters deep and 30 meters accros, have in-built ventilation and waste disposal systems! The queen of the ant colony is massive (3x bigger than anyone else) and can live for as long as 15 years producing 1000 eggs a day! 💪 🐜🐜🐜 Taken in Corcovado National Park, Costa Rica 

Pictus Catfish

The Pictus Catfish, Pimelodus Pictus, is a small species of catfish with extreme long barbels. The barbels can even reach to the caudal fin! Pictus Catfish are active bottom feeders that are usually most active at night. They inhabit the Amazon and Orinoco river basins and are common in the aquarium trade. In captivity they are omnivorous and eat vegetables, blood worms and insects among others. They are relatively peaceful fish and can be kept with other fish of similar size. Larger Pictus Catfish, however, will have a go at smaller fish (small tetra’s for example). Pictus Catfish are non-territorial so a shoal of 5 or more will make this species of catfish feel more at home. Furthermore, it is important to provide plenty of plants, rock, caves and driftwood in soft water. A dimly lit aquarium encourages the fish to be more active.

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Uara Cichlid

The Uara Cichlid, uaru amphiacanthoides, is a large species of cichlid native to South America in Northern Brazil and parts of Guyana that can grown up to 30 centimeters in length. It inhabits clear water tributaries, particularly around submerged branches and tree roots. Uara Cichlids can be recognized by their large eyes and distinguishing large spot on the body. In the aquarium it is a surprisingly peaceful fish considering its size and the aggressive behavior of most other cichlid species. It can be housed together with tetras, angels and species of characins. Uara Cichlids do need be housed in large tanks of about two meters in length. These fish can be fed frozen foods such as blood worms or brine shrimp, but will also happily eat vegetables such as lettuce, peas and spinach. Dried foods will also be gladly accepted. Juveniles often feed on the slime coat of their parents, similar to what Discus do.

NEW: Purple Pig-nosed Frog

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Bhupathy’s purple frog (Nasikabatrachus bhupathi): Photo taken by Jegath Janani

A new species of frog was discovered in the Western Ghats of India by a group of scientists. This species is adapted for life underground. Small eyes, short limbs and a long snout allow it to live almost its entire life underground. This amphibian does not even go to the surface to feed. It uses its long tongue to slurp insects in underground tunnels! Only during the first rainfall of the rainy season does the frog go to the surface to reproduce. The resulting tadpoles have a unique adaptation since they cling to rocks underneath waterfalls with their sucker-mouths to feed on algae. It is one of the few species of frog to do so. For more information, please refer to the article below:

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/08/purple-frog-new-species-discovery-india-monsoon/?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=Social&utm_content=link_fb20170825news-purplefrog&utm_campaign=Content&sf108958150=1

Åndalsnes, Norway

Spent several days in the awesome Norwegian fjords with hundreds of waterfalls and peaceful surroundings. The magnificent scenery was shaped by past glaciers that have eroded the rock to form steep U-shaped valleys. When the glaciers retreated, some of the valleys became filled by the ocean, creating the sublime fjords of Norway. Some of the fjords are over 1300 meters deep! Thousands of waterfalls dot this pristine and rugged landscape making it a heaven for outdoor sports such as hiking, skiing and fishing. The train ride from Dombås to Åndalsnes was one of the most scenic train rides I have ever experienced. Particularly towards the end when the train descends to sea level towards the foot of the fjord at Åndalsnes. The nearby Trollstigen and Trollveggen and are the two main highlights of the region. Trollstigen is a 20km breathtaking zigzagging road that crawls up over a mountain pass crossing many waterfalls along the way. Tourists from all over the world come to Trollstigen during the summer to witness it for themselves. Trollveggen is in the adjacent valley and is Europe’s highest vertical cliff at over 1000 meters high. At the top of the of the cliff several sharp rocks can be seen which are referred to as the “trolls teeth”:P. Base jumping was popular here, but after several fatal accidents this has now been banned.

Romsdalseggen is a 10km hike that is definitely worth doing. From Åndalsnes, take a bus to the other side of the nearby mountain and walk the entire path back to Åndalsnes. It takes approximately 6 to 8 hours and passes through pristine landscape and very steep mountain cliffs. At some point the cliff almost go vertically down left and right of the path. You should not have fear of heights when attempting this walk!

Norway is one of the most expensive countries in the world, so in order to save a bit of money you can opt to camp in the many campgrounds for about 14 euro’s for two persons and make use of the facilities. We stayed at the Åndalsnes camping ground which was a pleasant place to stay 🙂

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Anambas Archipelago, Indonesia

The remote Anambas Archipelago in Indonesia has rarely been heard of, but that is part of its beauty as it still has pristine beaches with healthy corals! The archipelago consists of 240 islands and can be accessed either from Bintan or Batam by ferry which takes approximately 8 to 9 hours.

There are two main islands, Pulau Jemaja and Pulau Siantan. The ferry will most likely arrive at P. Jemaja first. P. Jemaja is a very laid back island with friendly locals. There is a long 7 kilometre beach called Pantai Padang Melang which has white sand and calm waters. Nearly all villages on the island can be accessed by road so renting a motorbike for a day is a good idea. In the capital of the island, Letung, a local boat can be hired called pompong to sail to nearby islands. I managed to strike a deal for Rp. 700.000 for one day (about 45 euro’s), which was considered cheap. With the boat captain and guide onboard, we went to three islands: P. Mangkai, P. Mubur and P. Impol. Along the way we saw numerous other islands as well. The snorkelling at P. Mubur was amazing with pristine corals and a lot of coral reef fish! P. Impol had beautiful green hills with palm trees and P. Mangkai had impressive rock formations.

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Coral reef at P. Mangkai
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Pantai Padang Melang at P. Jemaja
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On the way with the Pompong!

Pulau Siantan is home to the capital of the Anambas region, Tarempa. This is a rather crowded place compared to Letung, but the people are just as friendly. There are more accommodation options and restaurants than in Letung. I stayed in the comfortable Sakura Hotel and Laluna Resto was my personal favourite for meals. The island of Siantan is rather mountainous so road access to other areas is rather limited. An impressive waterfall can be reached called Air Terjun Temburun. This waterfall has is a series of small lagoons where water flows slowly from one to the next. I went there during a dry period so the water level was not that high. Arung Ijau in the west of Siantan island is the best place to watch the sunset. Also in Tarempa pompong’s can be hired to go to nearby islands. Pompong’s are more expensive in Tarempa than in Letung and you will have to pay more than Rp. 1.000.000 for a days hire. On the day that I hired a pompong from Tarempa, we visited three islands: P. Nongket, P. Penjalin and P.  Mangkian. P. Nongket was a very peaceful place with large boulders where one can swim through. Corals were very good here and it’s a good place for photography with calm clear waters, large boulders and underwater life. P. Penjalin is one of the remotest islands in the Anambas Archipelago and had spectacular rock formations. One of which had a rock that was one push away from falling down! The snorkelling was excellent to the south side of the white sanded beach. I spotted a school of Napoleon Wrasse! P. Mangkian also had good snorkelling, but the current was quite strong due to deep waters around it. Also here, I spotted a school of Napoleon Wrasse. Watch out for the black sea urchins as they can pierce your stomach if you don’t watch out! On the last day of my stay we chartered a small speedboat to the island of Rengek where there was good snorkelling at the south side of the beach close to the drop-off. P. Rengek is near Tarempa so chartering a boat to this island costs about Rp. 350.000. I shared this with friends so it became even cheaper than that.

All in all, a very worthwhile experience travelling to these lovely islands. I can highly recommend it! Friendly people, good corals and white beaches. Remember to always bring your plastic and other types of waste with you and don’t touch the corals in order to preserve this place!

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Boulders at P. Nongket
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Butterfly fish at P. Nongket
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Coral reef at P. Penjalin
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Rock about to fall at P. Penjalin!
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Clown fish at P. Rengek

 

How to distinguish a predatory fish

Predatory fish are awesome in their own right, but are obviously not well-suited for a community tank setup. Here are several distinguishing features that predatory have. None of these features alone would identify a predator, but a combination of them is a worrying sign 😉

Size: Fish that are two or three times bigger than other tank mates might view others as food.

Torpedo body: Long arrow-shaped bodies are designed for sudden bursts of speed to catch prey. Pike and gars are good examples.

Teeth: This may sound obvious, but fish with long obvious teeth designed for grabbing and holding are bound to eat anything that fits in its mouth.

Whiskers: Species of catfish have long elongated whiskers for detecting prey in dark deep waters. Expect them to munch on any type of fish that gets detected with these whiskers.

Camouflage and hiding: Although some peaceful species use camouflage to avoid predation, some use it to hunt! Fish that burry themselves or blend in well with leaves prepare themselves for a surprising attack.

Eye position:  Fish with forward facing eyes give them overlapping vision and in-depth perception for ambushing prey.

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Pike (Esox lucius)

 

 

 

Giant Snakehead

The Giant Snakehead, channa micropeltes, is one of the largest snakehead species. Lengths over 1 meter are regularly encountered. They are found throughout South-East Asia and have been introduced elsewhere in the world where they are considered an invasive species. Giants Snakeheads are highly adaptable and have the ability to crawl onto land and breath air in muddy conditions. They possess a primitive lung, located behind the gills, which it uses to gulp air. It can therefore travel short distances over land!

These fish are ferocious predators and will chase down anything that will fit in their mouth. They have very sharp teeth that can rip fish into half. It should therefore only be kept in aquaria with similar sized fish, but even then it is risky. Despite its aggressive nature, it is a very beautiful fish with juveniles having distinctive bright lines across their body.  As the fish grows older they develop a pattern comprising a broad, dark longitudinal stripe. Adults will defend their brood at all costs and have occasionally injured humans.

IMG_65174Pictures above is thanks to Zooish from Zoochat