Category Archives: Saltwater Fish

Banana Moray Eel

Gymnothorax miliaris

DifficultyModerate
Minimum Tank Size125 Gallons
DietCarnivore
Water Parameters72-78 F, pH 8-8.4, Salinity 1.020-1.025
AggressionAggressive
Size2'

The Banana Moray Eel is the second smallest commonly kept moray eel, next to the dwarf moray eel. They come in at two feet but pack more aggression than most other eels their size. Combine this with their high price and you have an eel meant for only a couple aquarist.

Their bodies are yellow all the way to their tail with black spots along the top half of their body and dorsal fin. A morays dorsal fin runs along their entire body, starting from the back of their head and ending just after it curves around their tail. The black dots give the eel the appearance of a spotted banana that we see at grocery stores.

Quick Tips

  • Secure all exits on the tank, including cutouts around filtration cords
  • Weigh down the lid so they cannot push the top off
  • Eels can survive out of water for hours so always put them back in the tank before assuming they have died
  • Most Banana Eels are reef safe but should be watched early on

Growth Rate

Banana Eels are sold between five and twelve inches long, allowing aquarists to keep them in much smaller tanks while they are young. For these eels you could keep them in a 35 for the first few months of ownership and transition them into a larger tank once they have grown. This should be done with caution, as most aquarist will do this when they have an existing smaller tank and are setting up the newer tank or are waiting for the tank to finish cycling.

The problem with doing this with the Banana Eel is its aggression. Placing them into a smaller tank while they grow will endanger any preexisting fish. The longer the eel is in the tank, and therefore the bigger they get, the more likely it is that they will attack fish who will not be transferring to the bigger tank.

The Banana Eel will grow dramatically over the first few months of ownership. Much like puppies become dogs faster than we would like, the Banana Moray Eel will get big and dangerous quickly. This is unlike many fish, which take years to get any amount bigger than adolescent.

On the other hand raising them to be used to fish swimming around them while they are younger can reduce their aggressive tendencies further down the line. Combine this with low cost fish like damsels and the risk of losing cheaper fish could easily be worth the reward of keeping the Banana Eel with other tankmates. More on this  after feeding.

Diet & Feeding

The Banana Moray Eel, like all moray, has sharp teeth rather than round teeth.  This makes feeding them more dangerous. To keep your hands safe always feed with an extended set of tongs or non sharp skewer. Eels are not accurate when striking food and can easily bite into hands and lead to infections. Not to mention they are two feet of solid muscle. The last thing you want is to be bitten by a moray eel.

A Banana Eels diet should consist of:

  • Frozen Silverside fish
  • Squid
  • Octopus
  • Mussels
  • Shrimp
  • Crab

While they can be fed live feeder fish doing so will only increase their aggression. Additionally feeder fish are not as nutritious as frozen fish are. They only time I would suggest using live feeder fish is if you have trouble getting your eel to eat and are worried he may starve. Keep in mind that eels can go three months without eating, so a few days should not be too concerning.

The Banana Eel has been known to have an annoying trait in which they will bite food off the feeding stick but not eat the food. This happens when they are not too hungry. The feeding stick excites them and they take a swing at it on instinct, but then remember they aren’t hungry and let go of the food.

Aggression

The banana is only slightly more aggressive than other moray eels, but it is still enough to change them from semi aggressive to aggressive. It is very common to keep them with larger fish, but they will likely prey on any smaller, slower creatures in the tank. This means slow moving blennies, shrimp and crabs are not safe with the Banana Eel.

Moray eels are nocturnal hunters. This makes it difficult to monitor their behavior and notice them acting up. Do not keep them with small fish that you are not willing to lose.

All that being said the Banana Eel is not difficult to keep with anything over 4 inches in size. Smaller fish will often be safe but that really depends on the eels personality.

Feeding Regularly and on a consistent schedule will reduce the eels aggression, as will failure at getting moving fish. If the majority of their meals comes from a still feeding stick they will not have a reason to strike at free swimming fish.

Breeding & Gender

There is no real way to tell the gender of these eels in the home aquarium, nor can they be bred without absolutely massive tanks. They will change genders as they age, making pairing them not too difficult, but again you will not be able to tell which has changed genders.

Yellow-Head Moray Eel

Gymnothorax fimbriatus

DifficultyEasy
Minimum Tank Size125 Gallons
DietCarnivore
Water Parameters72-78 F, pH 8-8.4, Salinity 1.020-1.025
AggressionSemi-Aggressive
Size2' 6"

The Yellow-Head Moray Eel is one of the smaller moray eels we can bring to the home aquarium. They are not too difficult to care for and help create an interesting display tank.

As their name would suggest they have bright yellow heads, with a long white body covered with black splotches. Their dorsal fin runs from the top of their head to their tail, giving them a flowing fin atop their muscular body.

The Yellow-Head Moray Eel has razor teeth and can actively hunt tank mates, meaning this eel should not be kept with fish you cannot afford to lose. Depending on how the eel is cared for, they can be peaceful enough to keep with many other fish. We will go over this more in depth later in the aggression section.

Moray eels are intelligent and despite common beliefs can see people that are a few feet away from the tank. They will identify between different people, what the people are holding and the time of day. Feeding tongs during their feeding hours will excite them. Those same tongs won’t even get their attention other times.

Combining all these features shows why eels tanks are my all time favorite. They are extremely interactive, easy enough to keep and beautiful to watch.

Growth Rate

The Yellow-Head Moray Eel will often be sold at a very small size, often under a foot in length, which can be very misleading to newer aquarist. These eels will reach at least two and a half feet, often times getting bigger than that.

When starting out the Yellow-Head Moray Eel can be placed in a smaller tank, but do not plan on keeping them in anything under 100 gallons for long. Eels will grow in just a couple of months, both in length and width. Make sure their final tank will be ready to accept them before they out grow any temporary tanks. Eels are very hardy and should not be too bothered by changing tanks, so don’t worry too much about a short term tank.

While a two and a half foot eel does not sound too big, they get surprisingly thick, making them very strong fish. This means they can move around rocks while trying to wriggle through them or push off lids to escape the tank.

Note: Always keep their tanks sealed with heavy lids and absolutely no small holes. Eels will find any exit they can and won’t think twice about hopping out of the tank. In the ocean they would just roll into more water, so their is no built in fear of death when exiting their aquarium.

Diet & Feeding

Right away I want to clearly state do not feed an eel by hand. Even smooth teeth eels like the snowflake eel can do some damage if they get a good bite on our hands. Unlike a pebble tooth eel, the Yellow-Head Moray Eel has extremely sharp teeth which will have no trouble cutting you and causing infections.

This eel will be happy eating shrimp, mussels, silversides, crabs, both frozen and live fish as well as squid. They will eat two or three times a week when fed large meals, more often when fed smaller meals.

While moray Eels have bad eye sight they will usually notice the food you put in the tank right away. Here are some tips when it comes to feeding eels:

  • Use tongs or a non sharp skewer to feed
  • Hold the food in front of the eel, shaking the food occasionally
  • Do not simply drop food in the tank
  • Avoid live feeder fish if possible
  • Feed just before or after the lights go out

Wooden tongs are the best tool, as they can hurt their teeth if they bite into metal. As eels use their heightened sense of smell to find food, keeping close and shaking occasionally makes it very easy to pinpoint the foods location. If you drop the food into the tank it may go unnoticed for a long time, leaving the eel hungry and contaminating the tank. Feeding at night will have a higher success rate as they are nocturnal hunters. Feeder fish will entice the eel to hunt any free swimming fish, endangering any tankmates you have or may add in the future.

Feeding slowly often leads to more calm eels, which can coexist with other fish.

Eels are messy eaters and will require strong filtration. A powerful protein skimmer is also recommended, as they can remove debris from the tank before they have a chance to break down.

Aggression

The Yellow-Head Moray Eel is semi-aggressive, which really means it can vary wildly just how aggressive the eel is. Those who are fed frozen foods in a calm manner are much more likely to sit idly by and let fish swim past them undisturbed. On the opposite end eels fed more erratically, like tug of war with the feeding tong, or live fish will view moving fish as targets and can strike whenever they are hungry enough.

This brings me to my second point. An eels aggression is tied directly to how well fed they are. The hungrier an eel is the more likely they are to strike for food. Try to feed your eel on a schedule to avoid any unwanted aggression.

Breeding & Gender

Moray eels cannot be bred in the home aquarium realistically. Likewise there is no real way to tell the gender of the Yellow-Head Moray Eel. Many eels will change gender while aging, so this is likely a moot point anyways as they will change to whichever gender is appropriate if there are multiple eels.

Dwarf Golden Moray Eel Care Guide

Gymnothorax melatemus cf.

DifficultyEasy
Minimum Tank Size65 Gallons
DietCarnivore
Water Parameters72-78 F, pH 8-8.4, Salinity 1.020-1.025
AggressionSemi-aggressive
Size12"

The Dwarf Golden Moray Eel is a prized small eel,  found in the indo-pacific ocean. They are easy to keep when given the proper tank and make for a charming addition to any reef tank that does not house small, slow swimming fish.

The Dwarf Golden Moray Eel has sharp teeth, making it more dangerous than other pebble tooth eels, however they are unlikely to bite humans unless you are feeding them by hand.

The benefits of choosing the Dwarf Golden Moray Eel over other eels are:

  • They are one of the smallest eels
  • The do not cause trouble in the tank unless trained to hunt live feeder fish
  • They are easy to spot and often remain visible
  • Will often last over four years

Overall These eels are an easy addition to mid sized tank who would like to try out eels. The only downside is that Dwarf Golden Moray Eel tend to be more expensive than other eels.

Special Tank Needs

Be sure that there are absolutely no holes, loose mesh or foam that the eel can escape through. Easy exits can often be found around filter and pump tubing or automatic feeders. If you can remove any cover with a light push then it is likely that your eel will escape at some point.

The great thing about the Dwarf Golden Moray Eel is its small size. Before adding the eel to the tank you can easily set up a home for them using PVC pipe and tubing. These will allow your eel to hide under the sand without fear of shifting rocks hurting them. It also allows you to pick where your eel will spend a lot of their time.

Remember that the Dwarf Golden Moray Eel will be spending almost all of its time at the bottom of the tank. This means you will need to keep the water aerated by using a low placed power head that is facing upwards. This will draw in water from above without blowing sand around like a downwards facing powerhead would. You can also place filter outlets low in the tank, but this will not move the same amount of water as a powerhead would.

Critical note:

Eels will almost never eat when placed in an isolation tank. They are made to go long periods of time without eating and will not eat when they do not feel safe. However as the Dwarf Golden Moray Eel is so small you could create a nano tank with rocks, caverns and sand and treat it as an isolation tank.

Behavior & Aggression

The Dwarf Golden Moray Eel is almost a peaceful eel, however it is able to eat small fish and have dangerous teeth. That being said unless you feed them with feeder fish or have very slow fish such as scooter blennies you should have no issues with the Dwarf Golden Moray Eel in a peaceful tank.

Because the Dwarf Golden Moray Eel has two rows of sharp teeth you should not keep them together with other eels unless you have a lot of experience with them. Multiple sharp teeth eels will need a lot larger of a tank so that they can have their own cave systems and feel safe. Remember, an insecure eel is a starving eel.

Most fish will not harass eels unless they are very large predatory fish. The Dwarf Golden Moray Eel is able to eat shrimp and crabs, so be wary when adding them to tank with inverts you want to keep.

Diet & Feeding

The Dwarf Golden Moray Eel is a carnivore and will accept:

  • Frozen meats
  • Frozen silverside
  • Live feeder fish
  • Shrimp and crabs

While with most fish live foods, such as brine shrimp, are encouraged the Dwarf Golden Moray Eel should be kept on a frozen diet. Frozen foods often have much more nutrition in them and are easier to keep on hand. Additionally the eel will not always eat when you expect them to. Removing frozen food from the tank is much easier than loose feeder fish.

Eels are very messy eaters. This means they will need a tank with excessive filtration and a protein skimmer to keep the water safe.

Dwarf Golden Moray Eel should always be fed with a feeder stick, as their teeth will easily break skin if they miss their meal and bite your hand.

Their bite and tug is no joke. Only feed with a feeder stick. It may look cool to feed an eel by hand but they can’t tell what they are biting until they have some teeth around it. Whatever you end up using to feed them, be sure it has a very dull end. Eels can easily cut themselves if they strike a pointed metal skewer.

Their feeding should consist of two or three big meals a week. Feeding can be difficult due to their poor eye sight, but once you are used to feeding them it is not too difficult to get the Dwarf Golden Moray Eel to notice their meals.

Pajama Cardinalfish Care Guide

Sphaeramia nematoptera

DifficultyEasy
Minimum Tank Size20 Gallons
DietCarnivore
Water Parameters72-78 F, pH 8-8.4, Salinity 1.020-1.025
AggressionPeaceful
Size3 1/2"

The Pajama Cardinalfish are found in the western pacific ocean, north of the great barrier reef. They are fairly easy to care for, will not show hostilities in the tank and will spend a lot of their time in the open. Cardinalfish are always interesting to add to a tank, as the float around with rigid bodies rather than swim with a wiggle like most other marine fish.

The Pajama Cardinalfish is a schooling fish, so it is recommended you get at least two of them, if not more. They are fine on their own but they will be far less stressed out when placed in the tank as a group of fish.

Pajama Cardinal Fish

A young Pajama Cardinalfish

Their bodies have a unique coloration to them as their body is comprised of three different sections. They also have bright red eyes making the Pajama Cardinalfish extremely colorful unlike the Banggai Cardinalfish. The pajama’s head is a bright yellow or silver, with black stripe continuing down where dorsal fin is. behind the spotted back end of red brown dots. front and two pectoral fins are vibrant while other mostly clear inconspicuous. so many different colors intensities on its body, no wonder Pajama Cardinalfish is commonly picked for a mid sized marine aquarium.

The basic requirements for the Pajama Cardinalfish are:

  • No existing hostile cardinalfish
  • Open space in the midsection of the tank
  • No predatory fish

You can expect the Pajama Cardinalfish to live up to four years. They are very hardy fish and make for great starter fish in new tanks.

This page will focus on the behavior, feeding and breeding of the Pajama Cardinalfish. If there’s anything I do not cover, feel free to ask in the comment section. I check it regularly and am happy to answer questions.

Behavior & Aggression

Cardinal fish will behave much like Neon Tetras, floating in place or darting around with very little in between. When first introduced to the tank they will likely hide behind anything they can find, but unlike many saltwater fish they are unlikely to stay hidden long and cannot easily hide themselves in rockwork. This means you will likely be able to see the Pajama Cardinalfish swimming around in the tank on their first day.

Cardinalfish, both when alone or when placed in the tank with a school, will often find an open area and make it their home. They will spend most of their time floating around that one spot, making short trips around the tank before returning home. They also enjoy areas under an overhanging rock or corals, but these areas are likely to be taken by other fish if the Pajama Cardinalfish is not introduced before territories are established.

The Pajama Cardinalfish will almost never show any amount of aggression. They may have issues with similar fish, such as other breeds of cardinalfish, however they are the most peaceful of their species. That being said they are much more likely to be bullied rather than bully fish themselves.

Due to their passive nature you should make sure no other fish is harassing the cardinalfish too much. It is expected that other fish may chase them away when either fish is new to the tank, but their should be no long lasting conflict between the pajama and its tank mates. If their are any issues you can try the following to help reduce aggression:

  • Rearrange rocks and decorations to reset territories
  • Add more rocks to create additional hiding places
  • Add more pajama cardinal to create a safe school

Most of these issues are worst case scenarios. In reality the physical aspect of adding multiple Pajama Cardinalfish, meaning acclimating them and moving them intro the tank, should be the hardest part. They should cause no issues and not be harassed by any fish that isn’t already making trouble in the tank.

As with all new fish be sure to have a tight fitting lid. The Pajama Cardinalfish doesn’t jump often but any new fish could be startled and jump to escape even the most harmless of tankmates.

Diet & Feeding

The Pajama Cardinalfish is a carnivore and will accept:

  • Prepared foods such as flakes, pellets and mixtures
  • Frozen foods, the most common being mysis shrimp, brine shrimp and bloodworms
  • live baby brine shrimp/feeder shrimp

As with most fish try to keep a varied diet to ensure the fish stays healthy. Live brine shrimp are a great option, as you can feed the shrimp whatever you would like them to pass onto the fish in your tank. To do this you would need a set up to produce feeding shrimp, but if you are going to have a tank for a long time you may want to look into it.

The pajamas do not have too hard of a time competing for food as they are quick and will be alerted by any member of their school who sees the food. This makes them great for fish who have a hard time noticing when you are feeding the tank.

One of the issues you may run into when feeding is an aggressive competitor. The Pajama Cardinalfish will not fight with other fish to get food. If you notice they are not being allowed to eat try feeding on the opposite sides of the tank at the same time. Once chased away the cardinals will find the second set of food and be free to eat in peace.

Breeding & Sexing

The Pajama Cardinalfish can be bred in the home aquarium and will often do so when given a stable environment with a comfortable amount of food. If you do not want them to breed then you must only select females. The picture below shows a male with an extended second dorsal fin on the left and a female on the right.
Male and female cardinalfish
The difference in gender is mostly visible in the second dorsal fin. Males will have an extended tip on their secondary dorsal fin while females will just barely extend past the fin. Males will be larger while females are more round, but those two traits are much harder to use as indicators.

They are mouth brooding fish, meaning after breeding the male will carry the eggs in his mouth until they hatch. The male will not eat during this time and the female will protect the male until the fry are hatched.

The fry are not as fragile as most other species and will begin free swimming right away. During this time they may be fed any freshly hatched brine shrimp, copepods or amphipods.

Royal Gramma Basslet Care Guide

Gramma loreto

DifficultyLow
Minimum Tank Size30 Gallons
DietCarnivore
Water Parameters72-78 F, pH 8-8.4, Salinity 1.020-1.025
AggressionPeaceful
Size3"

The Royal Gramma Basslet can be found in the Western Atlantic Ocean making their home among colorful corals and rocks. With their rich, colorful bodies of purple and yellow their is no better hiding spot. These fish feature a bright yellow back half and purple front. On their dorsalfin there is a single black dot. Finally an orange streak runs from their mouth past their eye but not reaching their dorsal fin. These qualities combine to give the Royal Gramma Basslet a look that draws a lot of attention in the aquarium.

The basic requirements for this fish are:

  • No other purple fish
  • Plenty of rocks
  • No predatory fish

This page will focus on the behavior, feeding and breeding of the Royal Gramma Basslet. If you have any questions unanswered feel free to ask in the comments and I’ll be sure to reply.

Behavior & Aggression

These fish can almost be treated the same as a firefish at first. They are very shy and will stick to hiding in rocks when first introduced to the aquarium. They will quickly find their own home in the rockwork and claim it for themselves, only leaving their home when they feel completely safe in the tank.

Once the have settled in you can expect to see the Royal Gramma to either follow around other, more confident fish or stick to their own homes. They should not always be hiding in the rocks and will often be free swimming, bot not too far from their home.

When placed in small tanks or with other fish who like to hide in the rocks you may see some aggression from these fish. The Royal Gramma is famous for its dives, meaning it will flares its fins, open its mouth and charge other fish. They will always turn and barely touch the other fish, but it can be quite alarming to the aquarist. If you see this behavior carry on for too long you have a couple of options.

  • Rearrange the rocks to reset teritories
  • Add more rocks to create additional hiding places
  • Add a slightly bigger fish to calm the Gramma down
  • Let the fish resolve the issue themselves

More often than not the diving will not last more than a few hours. One of the outcomes would be the bullied fish will leave the Royal Gramma’s area and learn not to go back there. The other is the fish puts up resistance and the Gramma learns it cannot harass the fish. This is very common with clownfish, as the Royal Gramma Thinks it can harass the smaller male but will soon stop when the larger female shows up.

Fish that the Gramma may be aggressive to would be those of similar shape and color. The only big thing you need to watch for is the purple color. Not a whole lot of fish have this so it shouldn’t be too hard. If you do have similar colored fish it should only be in a much larger tank where they can work out their own space.

The other odd behavior they share with the firefish is sticking to the rocks they live in. The Royal Gramma will often push itself against the rocks, making it swim awkwardly or even upside-down. If you see this don’t be too alarmed. It’s just something they do in their rocks.

As these fish are shy you will need a well fitted lid with covered holes. The Royal Gramma Basslet likes to jump when scared and can aim for small holes to escape whatever it is afraid of. Be sure to cover any extra space with mesh netting or extra filter padding.

Diet & Feeding

Royal Gramma Basslet are very easy to breed in the home aquarium, meaning many new ones will be aquacultured. This makes them much more accepting of frozen foods, such as mysis shrimp, brine shrimp, blood worms and bits of frozen fish. They are also much quicker to accept prepared foods like flakes and pellet foods.

The Royal Gramma Basslet should have an easy time competing for food, darting from its area to wherever the food is. The should be fed twice a day, but can get by with a once a day feeding if need be. The Basslet is capable of getting fairly fat, meaning they can store food much better than a lot of other small fish.

While these fish are very accepting of prepared foods you should always keep rotating what you feed your fish. This helps ensure they are getting a balanced diet which helps their bodies fight against disease. An easy cycle is mysis shrimp, flakes, blood worms and pellets. You could keep only one prepared food instead of both flakes and pellets if you would like to.

Breeding & Sexing

The Royal Gramma Basslet is a Protogynous hermaphrodite, meaing they are born female and will change male when required. For the Basslet this is the most dominant fish in the group. This makes pairing the Royal Gramma Basslet very easy when they are young but more difficult as they age. For this reason if you plan to breed this fish start with a larger tank.

Even when young and opposite genders you can expect a decent amount of fighting as they look similar/are the same fish. A larger tank will reduce the stress this puts on the fish until they form a pair with each other.

Once they have paired they will only breed after the male has built a nest out of algae and small rocks. The female will then lay a clutch of eggs which the male will fertilize. The eggs will stick to the nest until they hatch. This should take under one week.

To rear the fry you will either want to remove all the fish from the tank or transfer the rock their eggs are on into an incubation tank. The new tank should have water parameters as close as possible to the tank the eggs were laid in.

Once the eggs have hatched you will need to wait at least one day before feeding. You can then feed them rotifers or copepods until they are able to eat live brine shrimp.

Firefish Care Guide

Nemateleotris magnifica

DifficultyLow
Minimum Tank Size20 Gallons
DietCarnivore
Water Parameters72-78 F, pH 8-8.4, Salinity 1.020-1.025
AggressionPeaceful
Size3"

From the Indian and Pacific Ocean, Firefish are a great fish to have in a peaceful marine tank. Caring for them is easy however they need to feel safe in the tank. They are very shy and will spend a lot of their time hidden behind any cover they can find, especially when paired with more aggressive fish. This behavior is why they are often called dartfish, as they will quickly dart into cover throughout the day. This trait, when combined with their white body and colored tail makes for a nice addition to the tank.

Behavior & Aggression

One of the biggest issue new owners will have with this fish is its shyness. When added to the tank you will almost never see the Firefish. It will likely spend the first few days hidden, only taking a few glances at the tank. Even when added as the first fish to a recent new tank of mine the fish was in hiding for the entire first day, only coming out for a short bit during the scheduled powerhead off feeding time.

Firefish

A Firefish staring out of the tank

Firefish will often rest or swim in place facing the current in search of food. Additionally they will keep an eye on anything that moves, running for cover if they don’t feel safe. This makes them easy to feed once they are settled into the tank, as even when the powerheads are on they will find food in the moving currents. They favor hanging around the reefs in the wild, making them favor coral areas in the tank. They will also be in contact with the bottom of the tank semi-often, so be sure to use soft substrate so that you do not damage their body.

While they will usually find enough hiding spots inside the rock structure of the tank, Firefish can dig under the rocks to create even more hiding spots for themselves. This is a slow process and isn’t usually noticeable until you see them dart into their hole. If you do not have a lot of unoccupied hiding spots in the rocks of your tank you should either add more rocks or rearrange them to create more hiding spots.

When hiding the Firefish is able to use its long dorsal fin to hold itself in place. They will also use the fin to signal other Firefish, which can often be seen when they see their reflection.

While they do interact with other Firefish, you should only have multiple fish if you either:

  • Buy them as a mated pair
  • Have a very large tank

Firefishpair somewhat similarly to clownfish. They do not like others of their own kind unless it is their partner and can get territorial with fish that look identical to them. Having multiple Firefish seeking hiding spots in a small tank is never a good idea.

Diet & Feeding

These fish are really easy to feed. They will usually be facing the current looking for prey to blow towards them. The Firefish should be fed meaty foods like mysis shrimp, brine shrimp, finely diced seafood and prepared foods. They will also hunt for any algae and zooplankton that is already in the tank.


A comfortable Firefish during feeding time.

There are two important notes to feeding Firefish.

The first is that they are not competitive eaters. Other quick fish such as wrasse can out compete the Firefish, leaving it with very little to eat. This can be solved by having multiple feeding zones, one where the free swimming fish will find and one where they shy firefish will frequently be.

The second note is their small stomachs. Firefish should be fed twice a day to stay healthy. In larger tanks they may be able to hunt enough in the tank to help sustain their diet, but relying on that is not a good idea. Most fish will pick at the tank for foods just like the Firefish will. If you use automatic feeders you may need to schedule them to do two smaller feedings, but you should watch these take place the first few times. If too little food is dispensed the quick eaters may switch over to the Firefish’s area and eat the food that was meant for them.


This video is a perfect example of how shy firefish can be in the tank. They will hide inside the rocks when they don’t feel completely secure. Hiding spots like these are how you can go weeks without seeing them.

Copperband Butterflyfish Care Guide

Chelmon rostratus

DifficultyHigh
Minimum Tank Size120 Gallons
DietCarnivore
Water Parameters72-78 F, pH 8-8.4, Salinity 1.020-1.025
AggressionPeaceful
Size8"

Everyone recognizes this fish. Their beautiful golden stripes, long mouth and peculiar personality make it a favorite among aquarists everywhere. They are fairly difficult to care for, and their little mouths can get just about anywhere, resulting in injury when paired with the wrong power head or filter. This combined with their difficult feeding habits and frequency to pick at anemones and inverts makes them difficult to place in the home aquarium.

When selecting your Copperband Butterflyfish always ask to see them fed. They are almost always picky eaters, and seeing them eat readily is a huge pro.

Behavior & Aggression

The Copperband Butterflyfish is one of the most passive fish there is. These guys will not harass any other fish but can easily be harassed by larger fish.

There is however one exception to the Copperband Butterflyfish’s tolerance, other Copperband Butterflyfish. Unless you have a mated pair or an extremely large tank you should not attempt to house multiple butterflyfish. Otherwise they will fight with one another.

Note:When pairing the Copperband Butterflyfish with semi-aggressive fish you will need a tight fitting lid. When startled the Butterfly fish is a frequent jumper, which can lead to a quick loss.

While butterflyfish are generally considered not reef safe, the copperband will generally not bother corals, with a few individuals nipping at them from time to time. The exception here are star polyps, which are frequent targets of the Copperband Butterflyfish. Additionally they will prey upon fan worms and Aiptasia, however you may need to tempt them onto the Aiptasia by covering them with other foods.

Overall the Copperband Butterflyfish is not very hardy making it a poor choice for inexperienced aquarists. Likewise they are not a good starter fish for an uncycled tank and are instead best added to a well established tank.

Diet & Feeding

This is where most aquarists go wrong. It is not uncommon for a butterfly fish to refuse food, even to the point of starvation. For this reason we as responsible aquarists must find foods that they will accept until we can transition them onto our target food.

Remember: The Copperband Butterflyfish is a poor hunter. Feeding the bare minimum in order to reduce waste in the tank will often see these fish slowly starve to death. Opt for more heavy feedings with more frequent water changes.

This video is a perfect for those new to the Copperband Butterflyfish. You can easily see how they will use their long mouths to pull food out of hard to reach areas. Additionally they take very small bites, making group feedings difficult as other fish will frequently out compete them. To keep costs down I distract the other fish and get the Copperband a head start on feeding. This allows me to feed them only frozen mysis which is significantly cheaper than clams. Clams are, however, one of the best foods for getting a picky Copperband Butterflyfish to eat.

As the Copperband Butterflyfish can be picky you may need a variety of frozen foods to get them started. Brine shrimp are the most easily accepted food, however it is also the least nutritious of choices. Only use this if you absolutely cannot get the butterfly to eat anything else.

The second easiest choice would be blood worms. Again these do not have all the nutrients your butterflyfish will need, however they are fairly big and will typically be accepted by picky eaters.

Finally the best frozen food to use is mysis shrimp. These are much more nutritious than the previous two choices, however they are also the least accepted food. You can use all three foods to slowly ween the Copperband Butterflyfish to a healthier diet.

Reviving Emaciated Copperbands

Sometimes when we order fish online we receive a fish far skinnier than we could have imagined. These emaciated fish will often die within a day or two unless extreme action is taken.

The first step is to offer a small amount of food once the fish has settled in. If you have noticed the fish is emaciated before adding them to the main tank I highly suggest you use an isolation tank. This will make the feeding much easier and keep the fish from being harassed.

If the fish is not eating try switching to more easily accepted foods. While they may not be as nutritious any food will help. You can leave a fair amount of food in the tank with them, even if they don’t eat it right away. Part of the reason butterfly fish starve is because they naturally swim around, deciding what to eat. This gives them that opportunity.

Once the fish eats all is not well yet. The key here is to keep the feedings coming. Small but frequent feedings will help them become a healthy weight again.

Breeding & Sexing

Due to their large size and fragile nature, the Copperband Butterflyfish has not been bred in captivity as of yet. Likewise their gender cannot be determined except for size. Males will be larger than females, however the size difference will frequently just be age. For these reasons I cannot recommend trying to pair butterfly fish without a large 200+ gallon tank.

Court Jester Goby Care Guide

Koumansetta rainfordi

DifficultyMedium
Minimum Tank Size10 Gallons
DietOmnivore
Water Parameters72-78 F, pH 8-8.4, Salinity 1.020-1.025
AggressionPeaceful
Size3"

The Court Jester Goby is a beautiful fish who provides a lot of flare. As they can be kept in smaller tanks they are a hobby favorite. The goby is reef safe, however they can sprinkle sand on low placed corals. They can also present some challenges when it comes to feeding, so be ready for a bit of extra work should you get a picky eater.

Remember to keep a completely sealed lid. These fish can be quite skittish and are prone to jumping. Their small bodies make even small opening a danger

Behavior & Aggression

While these fish are primarily sand sifters, they are not sitting blennies. Instead these guys stay swimming in the water column at all times, swimming about like a wrasse or chromis. This speaks to their more timid natures, as they frequently dart away if any fish sneaks up on them.

The Court Jester Goby is peaceful towards all fish except for its own kind. While this is true of all fish, the Court Jester Goby is actually fairly easy to breed. Because of this many owners will keep multiple of these gobies in the same tank. To do this you will need a larger tank with plenty of space, hiding spots and sand.

When stocking your tank you will need to treat this goby as a prey fish. They can react slowly at times and are very easy target for more aggressive fish. Even wrasse should be avoided in most cases.

Diet & Feeding

This is what will make or break your gobies lifespan. Some Court Jester Gobies will readily accept frozen and flake foods, either taking them straight from the water column or picking them up as they hit the ground/rocks. This can happen more frequently with captive bred gobies and encouraged further by having low competition when it comes to feeding. Unfortunately most of these gobies will refuse prepared foods, sticking strictly to sifting sand and pecking at rocks.

For picky fish I highly recommend watching their movements and feeding habits. Once you’ve established the Court Jester Gobies frequented feeding spots you can attempt to target feed them. This is done by securing nori(edible seaweed) in the location they frequent. This is much easier with gobies who frequent the rocks. For sand sifters I recommend using smaller rocks to keep the nori in place.

For those looking to go the extra mile the same can be done with mysis & brine shrimp. Simply bury these (not too deep) in their frequently sifted areas. While mine did spit the first piece out he did keep the others that he found. These shrimp must be small, cut pieces. They will not accept whole shrimp.

Keep in mind that many Court Jester Gobies will continue to refuse prepared foods for their entire first year, and sometimes even longer! Because of this I recommend you have a well aged sand bed before adding this fish.

Natural foods would be most forms of algae growing in the tank. The most frequently eaten algae are cyno and soft hair algae. They will not eat tougher hair algae or red hair algae. While this may make the Court Jester Goby an amazing janitor for algae blooms, you will need to ensure you have a more consistent form of food for them.

Breeding

Like most gobies the Court Jester Goby is impossible to distinguish the gender of. Thankfully they can and will change genders if they are looking to breed and are not kept in too small of an environment. The larger, more dominant goby will become male while the smaller fish will remain female.

Spawning will take place in burrows, making low hanging ridges ideal when attempting to breed these gobies. Once the eggs have been laid the male will protect the cavern from all other fish, including the female. These eggs will hatch within 3 days, sometimes faster depending on your tanks temperature. The warmer the water the faster the hatch will be.

The fry are quite small, only 2mm at most and will feed on their egg sacs for the first few days. After that they will need to feed on microorganisms. This makes rearing them incredibly difficult, with the majority of success being in breeding facilities rather than the home aquarium.

Green Mandarin Care Guide

green mandarin
Synchiropus splendidus
DifficultyHigh
Minimum Tank SizeVariable, see feeding section
DietCarnivore
Water Parameters72-78 F, pH 8-8.4, Salinity 1.020-1.025
AggressionPeaceful to non-mandarins
Size4"

The Green Mandarin is one of the most exotic salt water fish available. Their behaviors mimic that of a humming bird, as do their feeding habits. While mandarins can come in a variety of colors and sizes, the Green Mandarin is a mixture of blue, orange and green.

The Green Mandarin is a peaceful fish capable of extreme, but short, bursts of speed which leave only a dust trail visible. This allows them to hide from aggressive fish, or simply dash away when startled. The Green Mandarin does swim in the water column much more frequently then other members of the dragonet family but still spends plenty of time picking the rocks and glass for copepods, making it a mixture of bottom dweller and free swimming fish.

Diet & Feeding

Green Mandarins are constantly hunting for various pods to eat in the tank. Pods are small crustaceans that offer high amounts of nutrition. The ones most frequently used to feed Green Mandarins are copepods and amphipods, with Tisbe Pods (Tisbe biminiensis) being the most frequently used pod.

While tanks are often able to keep up production of pods with the mandarins intake, they cannot be sustained. For example a Green Mandarin who eats 1,000 pods per day in a tank that produces 1,000 pods a day sounds possible. However as the cycle continues the pods will be of younger and younger age, making them less likely to reproduce. Eventually the pods will mostly be juvenile and unable to reproduce, letting the Green Mandarin wipe out the entire population!

green mandarin

How can this be combated? Green Mandarins will revert to eating live foods when either under stress or simply when comfortable around your method of distribution, as seen in the above video. The most common way live foods are given to mandarins are via rigid tubing with pipettes or turkey basters. Slowly get the Green Mandarins used to the devices presence by moving it closer each day. When they do not run away you may attempt feeding.

Green Mandarin behind coral

A Green Mandarin peeking past coral

Green Mandarins one of the most picky dragonet family members and will often only eat Nutramar Ova or live brine shrimp. Nutramar is difficult to find, but you may be able to have your local fish store special order it. Live brine shrimp can be bought more easily or even grown using cultures. However if you are going to be culturing food I highly recommend you learn how to culture copepods.

To feed the Green Mandarin any of these foods simply shut off the power heads while they are hunting, preferable on the substrate or a flat rock with nothing above it, and ready the pipette or baster. Place the tool directly in front of the mandarin, the closer the better, and slowly release the food. It may take several attempts, and if so it is best to net or suck out the food using a baster and try again. The mandarin will stop, look at the food for a short while and either ignore or attack it. Feed them as long as they are interested and scoop out any excess food to avoid water contamination. Keep in mind that other fish will try to steal this food. be discrete or feed the other fish at the same time as your mandarin.

I personally kept a Green Mandarin in a 10 gallon tank by feeding them 4-5 times a day. This was a bit expensive but allowed me to start up a copepod culture and replenish the tank he and his mate had decimated. With frequent feeding they may be kept in smaller tanks. If no supplementary feeding is planned they should be limited to well aged, copepod packed 50+ gallon tanks per mandarin. For extra safety use this in combination with a refugium or copepod culture.

Aggression

green mandarin

A Green Mandarin Hunting

Mandarins are peaceful and will not attack any other fish except other mandarins. This is seen by aggressive swimming and constant displaying of the dorsal fins. If the smaller mandarin does not swim away fin nipping and tail pulling are common results. The larger, more dominant mandarin will keep harassing the other until either

a.) The other mandarin dies/is removed

b.) The other mandarin shows it is the opposite gender

If the mandarins are opposite genders they can coexist peacefully and even spawn eggs. To keep large numbers of mandarins, which I highly advise against due to food constraints, you will need 2-3 females per male.

Breeding & Sexing

Mandarins are one of the easiest fish to find genders on. The Males have much larger front dorsal fins than the females.

For breeding you will need to adjust your tank parameters a bit.

  • Temperature of 75-80 F
  • Salinity 1.024-1.026
  • pH 7.7-8.3
  • 0 Ammonia/Nitrite
  • Near 0 Nitrate
  • >1 Phosphate
  • Frequent Feedings
  • Frequent Water Changes
  • Sand Substrate

Mandarins will not spawn when hungry, and may even turn hostile towards one another if they food is scarce enough. When well fed the male will begin courting the female. She will either respond and follow him around or ignore him. After a few courting sessions she will begin to swell with eggs and become more accepting of the males advances.

After enough courting has taken place the Green Mandarins will start doing ‘rises’ in which they lock fins and swim to the surface of the water. This often happens 3″-4″ from the substrate and is more successful in taller tanks. At the top of the rise the mandarins will swim apart and down to the sand bed. After this they will either resume courting and do additional rises, start hunting for food or bury themselves in the sand. Eventually at the end of the rise the mandarins will release their eggs and genetic material, fertilizing the eggs before they both return to the bottom of the tank.

The female can lay over 300 eggs, with the quantity greatly depending on her health. The same can be said for the males fertility. If you intent to raise Green Mandarin fry it is essential you scoop out as many eggs as possible and place them into a separate tank. The eggs do best when kept suspended in the water without any rough force impacting upon them. This is easy to replicate by using a model of the kreisel.

The eggs tank should be kept as clean as possible, with the water temperature ranging between 74-79 F. The average hatch time on these eggs ranges between 12-16 hours after spawning. Once hatched Green Mandarin fry must be fed using small foods. The best foods to use for raising mandarin fry are Cyclopeze, Hikari enriched brine & mysis shrimp, Omega 3 brine shrimp and piscene energetics. The frequent water changes required to keep these fry alive will quickly deplete your foods, making strainers highly effective for reusing foods.

Once the fry have developed enough they can be fed using copepods and rotifiers, with copepods being my more common choice. Fry may be introduced to the tank when they reach 1″ in size, but I personally wait for 1.5″ to lessen bulling/improve tolerance. Always drip acclimate these fry, as their tank is often cooler than he main tank. Introduce them at lights out for the best results.

Remember: If you plan on multiple mandarins it is highly advised that you start your own copepod culture. Mandarins are aggressive pod hunters and can wipe out pods entirely when left unattended.

How To Culture Copepods

Culturing copepods is one of the more time consuming tasks in the marine aquarium hobby. The fact of the matter is that some fish just cannot be kept without a strong presence of these “pods” making for difficult creatures to keep. This is especially true when breeding fish, as fry will almost certainly be unable to eat the same full sized food their parents can.

For owners who’s fish choose not to eat, copepods can be the solution for the fishes diet. Pods elicit a powerful feeding response, making even the most picky fish dash around searching for more pods to eat. Once the fish is in a feeding mind set, adding in new foods becomes much easier. This makes pods essential to almost any marine tank.

This copepod guide will be directed towards breeders and keepers of difficult to keep fish such as Mandarins. Adding a short boost of pods may be enough to train one or two picky fish, but fry and Mandarins will need a never ending supply of pods. Even the smallest of Mandarins can clean out a tanks pod population in a few days. Without starting your own culture or housing a massive and well aged tank, purchasing copepods will easily eat away at your savings. This makes starting your own culture an essential part of breeding and Mandarin keeping.

What Are Copepods?

Copepods are small crustaceans with over 10,000 different species. They can be found in both fresh and salt water. They can be either free swimming or crawling depending on the species of copepod you choose. For Mandarins we suggest you pick up Tisbe biminiensis.

Tisbe pods, as the are more commonly called, are the easiest pods for most fish to hunt. They crawl across the surfaces in your aquarium, allowing Mandarins an easy chance to look over the area and peck them from the surface. They make for a highly nutritional food source and are one of the easiest pods to culture.

When reproducing pods lay eggs which can float into the water column, making in sump breeding not as consistent as a separate culture. Once the eggs are fertilized they are placed back in the mothers care until they hatch. After hatching their are six stages of growth for pods. Until the 5th stage of growth the pods gender cannot be determined, making younger pods unable to sustain cultures. The complete aging cycle of the copepods is achieved in a short matter of 10-12 days. newborn pods are attracted to lights where as adults hide in substrate from the light. While this does serve to keep the breeders alive in your tank, the light attracted newborns will be eaten by fish before they are able to re-breed, ending the cycle.

While highly nutritious to our fish, copepods do not possess the fatty acids that our fish need. For this reason we use phytoplankton to culture our pods, feeding them a source of fatty acids that will be passed on to our fish. Pods fed through detritus and fish waste have far less nutritional value to our fish.


Now, lets get our culture started.

What You will Need

  • A long, airtight container, preferably not see through
  • Reverse osmosis water
  • Aquarium salt
  • Copepod starter culture
  • phyto-feast or phytoplankton
  • Air pump with air line and air control valve
  • 50 micron strainer
  • Filter floss

Setting Up Your Copepod Cultures home

First you will want to mix together the water your culture will be using. You do not want to use existing tank water to culture your pods. Our tanks will actually have a number of small life forms living in them, and including these in out culture can either crash or over take the copepods, wasting our time and efforts.

Reverse osmosis water is a strong recommendation but not 100% needed. The culture will be in a small amount of water, making purity very valuable. Unlike our tanks we will not want to be doing water changes to our culture, as this will result in large numbers of the copepods being thrown out. The reverse osmosis process will give you the best foundation for culturing copepods.

The amount of water you will want is about 2/3rds of your containers maximum capacity. This gives you a nice base and a buffer for water parameters. Mix this water in a separate container and leave it there for now. Be sure your salt has completely dissolved before using the water.

Optimal Breeding Temperature:
While copepods can survive anywhere between 21-82 degrees Fahrenheit, the best temperature for culturing pods is 68-77 degrees

For your containers you will want to drill two small holes into the lid of your container. The first will be to supply your culture with oxygen via the air line tubing. You want the tubing to reach all the way to the bottom of the culture to create a full aeration effect and get some water movement. The second hole is simply to allow small amounts of air to move in and out of the container. By covering the second hole with the filter floss you will reduce the outgoing air and help reduce evaporation.

Getting The Culture Started

Now that we have everything in place we can begin the culturing process. First you will want to place your starter culture into the main container. Begin drip acclimation by dripping the new water into the starter cultures container. You can do this by using your airline tubing and control valve. Create a siphon from the new culture water and set the control to only allow a slow drip to go through. Let the water drip into the copepods container until it has tripled in size. The process should take between 20-40 minutes.

With the culture in place you will now give them their first feeding. For phyto-feast fed cultures use only a fed drops into the culture, creating a light clouding effect. If you are using actual phyto then you will want the water to turn a lime green color.

Remember:
This is a very small amount of water you are feeding. Over feeding can result in a crash, killing off your culture and ending the process. Only feed the pods what they need and do not try to rush through excess nutrients.

For your aeration you can use either an air stone or just the end of your airline tubing. If you are going just the tubing route you will want rigid tubing to keep the tube straight. The water level will be only a few centimeters deep, making a minor curve in the tubing enough to stop the air flow. Next adjust the air flow until 3 bubbles a second are produced. For air stones you will want to adjust your air flow until it creates a small amount of water movement.

With the pods fed, the aeration and filter floss in place and the lid secured you will now be moving your containers into a well lit area. This can be their own personal light of just on the window seal, whatever works best for you.

Congratulations! Your culture has been successfully started.

Maintaining The culture

As your copepods eat their food you will notice the water begins to clear up. You will want to feed them once or twice a day, using how clear the water gets as a gauge for the next feeding. If the water is completely clear you will want to step up the feeding. When the water is still cloudy try dialing the feeding back just a small amount. Eventually you will come to a happy medium of feeding the culture.

As the culture sits the water level will fall due to evaporation. Continue to top off the culture with the reverse osmosis water. This keeps the salinity at the same levels and adds clean water to the system.

Monitor the PH of the culture. Anything above a PH of 9 means you must perform a water change and increase aeration. You can add the removed water to your display tank, provided it is in good enough health to take a small PH hit, to preserve any pods your culture will be losing.

After a months time there will likely be a lot of waste at the bottom of your container. Siphon out 2/3rds of the copepod culture and pass it through your strainer, throwing out the dirty water. Next siphon the remaining 1/3rd of the culture into a temporary container, rinsing off the strained copepods at the same time. Be sure you don’t siphon out the waste too. With their container empty and all the pods now in a temporary home you can clean their main container. Never use cleaning chemicals. Simply hose down the container and wipe it off with paper towels or a new, unused sponge. Any added chemicals or oils from dirty kitchen cloths can impact the culture.

With the culture in it’s small temporary home, create a new batch of reverse osmosis water, matching the salinity and temperature of the existing culture. Place your existing culture back into their main home and begin the drip acclimation process again. Your pods will now have clean water and can continue breeding.

Population Explosions and Collecting

Within one week you will likely see an increase in your cultures activity. New pods have been produced and the culture is actually visible on the sides of their container. Soon after, and sometimes before, the first week you will witness a population explosion. What seemed a small culture will suddenly seem over run with life now as your culture begins to take off. Leave these new pods in the culture for a little while longer.

After ten days the culture should be ready to harvest. Begin a siphon and remove 1/3rd of your culture. Use your strainer to separate the copepods from their water. Add these copepods to your tank and your harvest has been a success.

With a third of the culture now gone you will need to refill the container with a new batch of salt water, matching both the salinity and temperature of the culture. It is recommended you drip acclimate this water as well to prevent shocking your established culture.

Safeguarding Your Hard Work

With the successful harvest complete your pods will be reduced and re-breeding just as when you started the process. Wait another 7-10 days and harvest again, repeating the process.

While this is the exact situation you were hoping for there is one last step we urge you to take. All cultures will crash at some point. After all this hard work it would be a shame to have to re-order your pods and start over. Instead of feeding the first harvest into your tank, place them into a second culture! This will double your production and ensure that only half of your culture can crash at once.