Category: Blog

Silver Dollars: Part II: Keeping Them

Welcome back, and again, sorry to keep you guys hanging! Well, last time we went through a lot of the textbook type stuff and made sure you didn’t come home with a Pacu or Piranha when you just wanted some Silver Dollars! This time, the fun stuff…my experiences with these fish, and recommendations for keeping them.


You’re going to get at least a group of five Silver Dollars, preferably seven or more. They are a schooling fish, and a nervous fish as well, so they will do much better if kept in the recommended size groups. With this in mind you are going to need at least a thirty gallon long tank for your Silver Dollars, and preferably something a little longer than that since these guys like to swim.

I say they are a nervous fish, but at the same time they are an extremely hardy fish. Like I said, I’ve had my guys for almost three years without one casualty. They will panic when you go to work inside the tank, dashing corner to corner, up to the water surface and into the sad/gravel. Don’t worry they’ll calm down, just try to be a little more careful so as not to unnecessarily stress them. A couple of mine will even come to water’s surface and splash me with their tails when I’m trying to work in the tank. Annoying, but painless and slightly humorous as well!

You might panic when you first bring home your Silver Dollars, or if you move them from tank to tank (which I’ve done about three times with this same reaction each time!). My Silver Dollars upon settling into their new home will sink to the bottom of the tank and keel over on their sides, looking as though they are moments from death. The first time this happened I found myself doing water changes until they righted themselves. It’s behavior that I’m used to now! Again, no need to unnecessarily stress the fish, so don’t move them around for fun or show, but nothing to panic about. Keep some Stress Coat on hand to dose the tank with afterwards, I find this does actually help.

My Silver Dollars will eat flakes, but be sure to buy some spirulina flakes so they get their veggies. They are primarily a herbivorous fish, but will eat just about anything in captivity. Bloodworms are chewed up, and krill is even funny to feed them—they’ll catch onto a bit and start chewing with a bit hanging out of their mouths. As they chew they dart back and forth avoiding the others who want to come steal their Krill away. They chew and chew until the piece of krill disappears. They are more than willing to bite off more than they can handle in this way!

Hoffman and Swinburne – Bird Isles: Man-made Islands in New York Harbor are Bird Sanctuaries

Hoffman Island and Swinburne Island were created in Lower New York Bay to receive, quarantine, and give medical treatment to immigrants. Now they harbor birds.

In the 1870s, when New Yorkers constructed two islands by piling rock, sand, and timbers into New York Harbor, they had no idea that they were building a National Park. At the time, Swinburne and Hoffman islands merely answered the challenge of finding somewhere to put immigrants who had potentially infectious diseases. New York did not want cholera or yellow fever. They did not want typhoid or smallpox, or any other epidemic disease that might arrive any day with shiploads of poor immigrants from overseas. Anyone who arrived ill went to hospital, usually on Swinburne island. Anyone who had been exposed to someone who was ill went into quarantine on Hoffman Island. No one was thinking of birds then:

  • 1870 – Swinburne Island (originally called Dix Island) was constructed. It served as a hospital for people suffering from infectious diseases.
  • 1872 – Hoffman Island was constructed. Initially, Hoffman Island was an entry point for immigrants arriving by sea. Anyone suspected of having an infectious disease or having been in contact with an infectious disease was quarantined on Hoffman Island.
  • 1892 – Ellis Island opened as the official entry point for immigrants. Hoffman Island was still used as a quarantine station.
  • 1931 to 1937 Hoffman Island was a place for birds for the first time. The island was used to quarantine imported parrots in an attempt to control parrot fever.
  • 1938 to mid 1940s – Hoffman Island became the first Maritime Service Training Station (United States Merchant Marine).
  • WWII – Swinburne Island was used as a control center for the defensive mines placed along the coast.
  • Post WWII – Hoffman and Swinburne islands were abandoned to the waves and the birds. Nature started to make real islands out of them.
  • 1972 – The Clean Water Act was passed, alleviating some of the pollution in the New York Harbor waters, and making the environment there more welcoming to birds.
  • 1972 – The pesticide DDT was banned, resulting in a slow turnaround in the fortunes of raptors such as the Peregrin Falcons, formerly common along the coast.
  • 1974 – Hoffman and Swinburne Islands both came under the control of the US National Parks Service.
  • Today – the islands are part of Gateway National Recreation Area. Hundreds of water birds have found sanctuary on the islands and many nest there. Though Hoffman and Swinburne Islands are not open to the public, harbor tours bring ecotourists close to the shore to enjoy cormorants, egrets, glossy ibis, herons, gulls, and other birds. The islands are a focus of New York City Audubon’s Harbor Heron’s Project.

Many years of neglect followed many years of intense human occupation. The two islands, created by people, evolved into natural ecosystems left to the birds and whatever other wildlife could make its way there. Slowly, the city around them made slow progress at improving the environment. While no one was really looking, and to just about everyone’s amazement, a bird sanctuary was created right in the middle of New York Harbor. Now New Yorkers find themselves with two natural treasures to enjoy and protect—Hoffman and Swinburne Islands are so much more today than they were in the beginning.

Improve Joint Function And Flexibility

The suffering caused by dog arthritis can be greatly reduced if one can improve joint function and flexibility. Several factors affect joint health. Environmental agents and the stresses caused by a dog’s own metabolism are two of the most common culprits. The goal of arthritis treatment using nutritional supplements is to combat these factors with substances that heal the dog’s body and help it fight disease. In doing so, the dog will be healthier and better able to build and maintain cartilage.

Supplements Can Improve Joint Function And Flexibility

Since arthritis is a disease of the cartilage whereby the body’s ability to produce enough of this vital tissue is reduced, research into dog arthritis has focused on how to maintain a dog’s cartilage. If a dog’s body can maintain its cartilage, then the need for dependency on drugs is eliminated. A way to help the dog’s body do this is to deliver nutrients through the use of supplements. Certain naturally occurring substances have been found to strengthen cartilage and prevent the stresses that are products of metabolism.

If a one can improve joint function and flexibility in this way, then the pain and inflammation of arthritis will no longer be a major factor that prevents your dog from enjoying freedom of movement. The key is to protect the existing cartilage, stimulate the growth of new tissue and reduce swelling that causes pain. Nutritional supplements have proven to be able to accomplish these goals. When taken over the course of several months, they can greatly improve the condition of a dog’s cartilage.

Today, there are alternatives to surgery and drugs and their unwanted side effects. Supplements that target joint health can greatly improve joint function and flexibility by helping a dog’s body heal itself. Freedom of movement and freedom from drugs can give your dog a better quality of life and better overall health, two goals toward which every dog owner strives.

The Healthy Diet

Just as humans need proper nutrition to develop correctly and healthy, so do your finned friends. So, how do you offer your breeders and fry a healthy and varied diet?


There are many kinds of foods that you can offer your fish, from fresh vegetables, to live food, flake food, algae, tubifex worms and earthworms. The list is very long, and all are good sources of nutrition as long as they are not the steady diet for your fish.

The first step when searching for fish food, is to read, read, read everything you can get your eyes on. Including the food packaging. Foods low in vitamins and minerals promote poor health, slow growth, and disease, for the breeder it is a good idea to purchase the best your wallet can handle.

The food that you offer to your fish needs to include carbohydrates, minerals, proteins and vitamins. Carbohydrates provide energy, and helps fish resist disease, however, excessive carbohydrates can be harmful. Minerals and proteins help fry grow properly, and are needed more by younger fish than adults. Vitamins provide a base for good health.

While making sure that your fishes receive the nutrition that they need, you may find yourself overfeeding them! The fish’s stomach is about the size of its eye, and feeding a small pinch to adult fishes is quite adequate. The fry require three feedings in a day, but the aquarist needs to be aware that overfeeding causes obesity and other health issues. Also, a lot of the food you offer will end up rotting on the bottom and will cause clouded water and it may harm the fish if they eat it. If you accidentally overfeed, don’t worry too much, simply remove the excess food with a gravel cleaner and keep on learning.

The common rule of feeding is to offer only what your fishes can consume in three to five minutes. This is a good time for you to observe your fish’s behavior before, during and after the feeding.

You may notice that you have a picky fish! This is not very common in Guppies and Mollies, but the Platy and Swordtail may alarm you by ignoring food! Don’t worry about this, as some fish are just plain picky, others will eat everything you offer. If you have a picky eater, just vary the foods you present and rejoice when you see the fish nibbling.

Livebearers are omnivorous, and tend to swim and eat at all levels of the tank. Guppies, Platys and Swordtails tend to be surface eaters, so avoiding pellet foods may be a good idea. When it comes to the Molly, you can include small pellets in their diet as they constantly pick at the bottom of the tank, searching for food. Because these fish need green foods, you can purchase vegetable food at your pet shop, or you can offer small pieces of lettuce and spinnach leaves. You can also serve cooked potato and fresh peas as a little treat.

Heros Severus
The Green Severum

A long-time hobby staple, the Severum is a laterally compressed cichlid with many physical similarities to the King of the Hobby, the Discus. We’re dealing with a little more attitude in terms of the Severum (which can be good or bad, you can keep them with other boisterous cichlids), but a lot less water maintenance.


The Green Severum is beautiful fish, which when not stressed possesses a freckled green body covered with seven black bands. With age, all but the last of these bands (the one closest to the tail) will disappear, which is also the appearance taken on by stressed juvenile and adolescent Severum. There is also a Gold Severum commonly available which is very popular and less aggressive than the Green Severum. I can testify to their meekness, I tried one of these out in an all cichlid tank similar to the one in which I keep my 3 ½-inch Green Severum, and it was pestered until its death three weeks later. There just didn’t seem to be much fight in this fish. Just when I thought it had fell into a routine where the attacks had subsided, I woke up one morning and found the fish dead.

I have had better luck with Green Severum. I have two, in separate tanks, that were purchased from the same tank two and a half years ago. A bit of information that may or may not be pertinent, but advice I followed upon buying my Severum, so I’ll swear to it: Pick out fish with red eyes, they seem to be the stronger, more aggressive fish in a school of young Severum. I have two strong, healthy fish, so when the time comes for me to find more Severum, I’ll be looking for the red eyes.

The bigger of my two fish is a 5 ½-inch specimen kept in a 65-gallon tank with a 6-inch Oscar, 6-inch Pike, and three 4-inch Pimelodus pictus catfish. The other fish is only 3 ½-inches long and is kept in a 30-gallon long tank with a 5-inch Pike, a 4 ½-inch Gold Acara, a 6+-inch Whiptail Cat, and a 3 ½ inch Geophagus surinamensis (who may soon need to move to calmer surroundings!). When I purchased the Severum each was under an inch and the size difference was truly negligible, though slightly noticeable. At that time the smaller of the Severum was the more aggressive and it was that little fishes attack’s which led to me splitting the pair. As the larger fish grew he also became much more territorial.

My Problems with Plecos…Part I

Time for fish that I have had very little luck with-Plecos. First off there are just so many that I never know what I’m really buying. The pet stores do not help when they have three or four tanks housing three or four different species yet label them all “Pleco.” I like to research the fish I buy before making a purchase, but even if I grab a book off the rack at the fish shop and flip through the pages in front of the tanks, I still cannot say with certainty if the Pleco I’m reading about is the same one I’m watching. Luckily, some generalities may be drawn.


If the label outside the tank just reads “Pleco,” what you’re looking at is more than likely going to achieve gargantuan sizes of a foot at minimum and even up to two feet if you happen to have a Snow King Pleco. The plain Pleco is what you want to buy if you have a fifty or sixty-gallon tank housing a couple of large cichlids. Basically, your new Pleco will be fine if he’s bound to be a tankmate for any of the fish we’ve previously discussed here. Generally, you should not combine Plecos with members of their own species unless you do so at the time of purchase. They will be territorial towards each other otherwise.

If you have a tank of tetras or other tiny fish, you’ll want a Clown Pleco or a Bristle Nose Pleco. These guys don’t grow much beyond four or five inches. They’re just as efficient as the big boys are, on their own scale of course. If you find these little guys too hard on your eyes, there are still more options.

For medium cichlids, there is the one member of the Pleco family which I can truthfully claim success with, the Whiptail Cat. This fish is actually from the genus Rineloricaria, but it looks like a streamlined Pleco. They’re not very active, tend to stick to their favorite spot at the bottom of the tank, and don’t cause much trouble.

If little fish are your game (and my apologies, I will get to the little guys eventually!) then you want to go with a batch of otocinclus. These fish are so tiny they almost look like tadpoles with their bulbous heads and slim bodies. If you have a nice 30-gallon show tank with fifteen to twenty neons or cardinals, a cool dozen Otocinclus will keep things clean for you…and they don’t eat plants.

Breeding Pseudotropheus Zebra

If you are interested in breeding African cichlids, I recommend P. Zebra because they are one of the easiest to breed. Due to their long tenure in the hobby, these fish are quite inexpensive, and also quite hybridized, at least among the various color morphs. There are also albino strains of these fish!


Decades before the explosion of Rift lake cichlid popularity, this fish made a tremendous splash in the hobby with its unusual habits, multiple color morphs, and exotic origin. It seemed that every shipment of this Nyassa cichlid brought another color morph, and it was hard to believe that these bright blue, orange, striped, and mottled fishes could all be the same species. With most fish species, the female has the duller colors but with P. Zebra, the females can be as brightly colored as the males.

Of about average aggression (for Mbuna there is plenty), these fish are extremely easy to care for and breed. Most species are in the five-inch range. They are quite omnivorous, and always hungry. They will hybridize freely among their own species and even with some other cichlids.

  1. Zebra are mouthbrooders, which means the mother carries the eggs in her mouth until they hatch and the fry are old enough to come out on their own. The mother will let the fry out at night when there are no other fish around, then she takes them back in. This continues on for 18 days.

Within a few days, the fry will be swimming all over the tank and at every level, it is best to feed them three to four times a day crushed up flake, and only a bit at every feeding as to not foul up the tank. Water changes of 20% should be done every two days. This will help the fry to grow up faster and healthier.

If you are serious about breeding these fish, you should maintain only one P. Zebra morph per tank. It is best to only have one male and several females per tank as well. I find that I do quite well with keeping a large tank with about forty fish in it with only one male of the different species and many females per male.

How can you tell if your fish is pregnant? Look under the mouth and you will see a bulge that forms and this will get bigger as the fry develop. The bulge will actually look like black and blue markings. Once you notice the bulge, count 18 days and put the mother in a birthing tank so she can let out her fry.

The Six Month Transition: Hobby to Business

After all the adventures of raising the fry and breeding your fish, a new challenge arises – selling to make room for the new.


Livebearing fishes are quite popular with the fishkeeping population, the guppy usually being number one on the list. Finding people willing to take your beautiful fins from your aquarium will not be very hard, but sometimes settling on a suitable asking price is difficult. Sometimes getting people to actually hand the money over can be a problem, and finding out where to advertise can be a pain, but none of this is impossible.

The Guppy and Platy are usually mature enough at four to five months of age for it to leave your loving care. The Swordtail and Molly are usually five to six months of age before they should be released into another home. Females will most often mature earlier as they don’t have as many colors to develop, meanwhile, males need to be given the time to fully grow into their spectacular colors. Number one, this gives you the chance to pick out your newest breeders, and it also gives you a more beautiful product to entice those who answer your ads.

Investigating the different avenues of selling your fish is usually the hardest the first time around. After that you have a somewhat constant advertising base that changes infrequently, usually with only additions.

The Saturday Shopper usually provides free ad space about 15 words long. In this ad, be very clear about what you offer and your asking price. Also make mention if it is firm, and whether or not you will accept checks. Usually this is not a common practice and because purchases over $30 are very rare only cash is accepted. Grocery stores and some pet stores have bulletin boards that are open to your advertising. Here you don’t have to worry so much about a word count, but it should contain only the most pertinent information. Don’t include your address as visits are by appointment only.

After you know where you are going to place information about your product, it is time to decide on a price. This is often times the most difficult part of the selling process. First, visit all your local pet stores and write down their asking price. This may not be very difficult to do if you live in a small area as I do. My competition is very small as the local pet shop sells Guppies for $3.25 each, and the other sells them for $1.97. I can comfortably sell my guppies for $2.00 while providing healthy, beautiful and young fish and a 24-hour guarantee.