Category Archives: Saltwater Fish

Royal Gramma Basslet Care Guide

Gramma loreto

Minimum Tank Size30 Gallons
Water Parameters72-78 F, pH 8-8.4, Salinity 1.020-1.025

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

Minimum Tank Size20 Gallons
Water Parameters72-78 F, pH 8-8.4, Salinity 1.020-1.025

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 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

Minimum Tank Size120 Gallons
Water Parameters72-78 F, pH 8-8.4, Salinity 1.020-1.025

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

Minimum Tank Size10
Water Parameters72-78 F, pH 8-8.4, Salinity 1.020-1.025

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.


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

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

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!

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 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.


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.

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 gage 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.

Stars and Stripes Puffer Fish Care Guide

Arothron hispidus
Minimum Tank Size200 Gallon
Water Parameters72-78 F, pH 8-8.4, Salinity 1.020-1.025

The Stars and Stripes Puffer fish is a large, non reef safe fish. They are extremely maneuverable and highly intelligent, making them a prized choice for a fish only or fish only with live rock set up.

With their high intelligence, large body and no spine body these are one of the easiest puffers to own. They do not frequently harm their tank mates, unless they are simply too small to be paired with a puffer and are eaten. Their balloon like shape when puffed is purely for intimidation, however they can knock over fragile rock structures when inflated.

The personality is what really drives most puffer owners. The Stars and Stripes Puffer Fish will even allow people to pet it, provided it is not in a stressful environment.

Warning: slightly loud start to the video.

Behavior & Aggression

At a foot and a half in length, these fish are threatened by few domestic fish and exhibit a heightened sense of intelligence. Do not be surprised when the Stars And Stripes Puffer Fish acts up when you are around, as they love to get attention this way.

When they are not eating or interacting with other fish/their owner it is common for the puffer fish to sit in one or two spots. Frequently this will be any pumps or skimmers.

When planning for the Stars And Stripes Puffer Fish it is important to plan ahead. While the average purchased puffer will be between 2-4 inches, they will quickly shoot to a foot in length in a single year. While you can have them live in a smaller tank to begin with I highly recommend putting them in their large tank straight away. That being said if your large tank has semi aggressive, large fish already in place it would be better for the puffer to grow before being introduced into the tank.

While puffer fish are not inherently aggressive, the Stars And Stripes Puffer Fish is fairly large and will eat any fish small enough to fit in it’s mouth. This will slightly limit your options on tank mates, however there are enough large fish to choose from that it’s a non-issue.

The Stars And Stripes Puffer Fish is definitely one of the more gentle puffer fish and should be paired with only semi-aggressive fish. Introducing the puffer to triggers is a huge gamble and not something I would recommend.

Diet & Feeding

Because the Stars And Stripes Puffer Fish has a beak rather than lips it tends to be a messy eater. Likewise its large body will produce a fair amount of waste, meaning you will need a powerful filtration system. Having a large protein skimmer in place will help cut down dramatically on waste in the tank.

When selecting foods you may want to consider more dry foods. Wet foods, such as frozen or chilled meaty foods, will make an even bigger mess. This will in turn need a better filtration system.

A good Stars And Stripes Puffer Fish diet consists of marine meats, specially prepared foods and hard shelled shrimp. Using a variety of foods will help keep the puffer healthy while the hard shelled shrimp serve to grind down the constantly growing teeth of the Stars And Stripes Puffer Fish. Additionally you may want to sneak in some greens/herbivore food into their diet. This will help keep their immune system strong.

You may want to be discrete when feeding the Stars And Stripes Puffer Fish. These puffers will learn to beg quickly when seeing their owner feed them. This will detract heavily from the natural environment look that most aquarists strive for.

Breeding & Sexing

Just as its smaller brethren the porcupine puffer fish, the Stars And Stripes Puffer Fish has not been bred in captivity. This is largely due to their size, as the eggs cannot survive in smaller bodies of water.

Additionally these puffers are much harder to sex than other puffers, as they will rarely lay eggs in captivity. This is the only method known to sex the Stars And Stripes Puffer Fish. There are no physical difference.

Tanaka Pygmy Wrasse Care Guide

Wetmorella tanakai
Minimum Tank Size10 Gallon
Water Parameters72-78 F, pH 8-8.4, Salinity 1.020-1.025

The Tanaka Pygmy Wrasse is a low maintenance, low profile wrasse with beautiful colors. They like to spend a majority of their time hiding in the rock work. Some are so elusive that the tank owner will only see them a few times a day, even when there are no predatory fish to frighten them.

Tanaka Pygmy Wrasse are more rare than most wrasse and make for excellent additions to peaceful tanks that cannot handle the aggressive temperament of most wrasse. Their small size also make them the perfect option for nano tanks.

Tank Specific Need

The Tanaka Pygmy Wrasse is a non demanding fish. Avoid any predatory fish, or else you will only see the Tanaka Pygmy Wrasse once or twice a week.

Be sure to have a good amount of live rock/plenty of decoration for the pygmy to swim around, as they live in rockwork in the wild. Giving them little to no hiding spaces will stress out the fish.

As with all wrasse you will want to keep a tight lid or mesh cover on the tank, as they can easily jump through small holes in the lid.

Tank Mates to Avoid

While the Tanaka Pygmy Wrasse is much less aggressive than other wrasse, they should still only be kept one male and multiple female Tanaka Pygmy Wrasse. Do not mix with other wrasse, as they will fight.

The Tanaka Pygmy Wrasse will not fight with other tank mates and can be prone to bullying. If there are any other aggressive fish you can expect the Tanaka Pygmy Wrasse to spend its days in secrecy. Peaceful to semiagressive tank mates are recommended.

The Tanaka Pygmy Wrasse will eat copepods, flat worms but not shrimp or snails. Do not pair the Tanaka Pygmy Wrasse with other fish dependent on copepods unless they are housed in a much larger tank.

If some of their tank mates turn out to be more aggressive than expected the Tanaka Pygmy Wrasse should have an easy time keeping themselves safe as long as the tank has plenty of rockwork.

Diet & Feeding

The Tanaka Pygmy Wrasse should be fed high quality fish flakes, frozen mysis or brine shrimp, finely diced fish and whatever pods the tank can produce.

This particular wrasse has been known to be a bit finicky when it comes to eating. Feed them with low to no flow in the tank, and start out with mysis or brine. They will often not accept pellets right away and are much more receptive of flakes.

Tessalata Eel Care Guide

Gymnothorax favagineus
Minimum Tank Size180 Gallon
Water Parameters72-78 F, pH 8-8.4, Salinity 1.020-1.025

Tessalata Eel are rare fish in aquariums, not because of their difficulty but because of their size. Coming in at no less than 5′ when mature, these eels demand a tank made specifically for them. Attempting to house them with other fish can work for sometime, however these eels will eat just about anything that tries to live with them. Be ready to have a tess only tank.

Despite the anger issues these guys are not too difficult to keep. Simply feed them enough food and keep the water parameters at good levels.

Remember the Tessalata Eel is huge and strong. You will need a tight, secured lid that cannot simply be pushed off. Many eels have died by knocking weak hoods off and jumping from their tanks. Thankfully eels can live for a few hours out of water. Return the eel to the tank as quickly as possible while staying safe. The eel will be panicking and may be dangerous.

If you are ready to have an eel only tank, occasionally stocked with feeder fish at best, the Tessalata eel may be for you. If not there are plenty of other great eels who get along just fine with fish.

Special Tank Needs

Eel tanks are always set up differently than normal aquariums. The lid should be held in place, all holes should be covered with a mesh netting that the eel cannot break and the live rock should form multiple caverns for them to duck and slither through.

The first thing these eels will do when released into a new tank is seek out their new homes. Their large bodies simply do not fit in PVC piping so they are out of the question. Even if you purchase the eel small enough for PVC this runs the risk of your eel getting stuck later in its life. Instead only use rocks, which should be secured together using aquarium safe epoxy.

Eels love to spend all day in their hideout, looking around the tank. This will often be near the bottom of the tank. This means you will need to bring fresh, oxygenated water down form the surface to the eels level. This is easily done with a low placed power head facing upwards. As it pushes water to the surface new water must move downwards to replace it.

Unlike many other eels, the Tessalata Eel will frequently leave its body exposed and swim around the tank. Being in light does not seem to bother them as much as other eels, however they dos till prefer a dark home.

Huge note:Eels will almost never eat in an isolation tank. Furthermore the Tessalata Eel is simply too big for most owners isolation tanks and should be placed directly into the display tank. As the tank is almost doomed to be a tess only tank the display can be treated as an isolation tank. If the tank is hooked up to other tanks you can stop the connections to create a large isolation tank while keeping your other tanks separate.

Diet & Feeding

Feeding the Tessalata eel when it first arrives can be a bit challenging, however once they start eating caring for them is relatively easy. These are my go to steps for getting an eel to start feeding

  • Hold frozen foods in front of the eel, allowing him to smell the food
  • Start a feeding frenzy to entice the eel
  • Release live foods into the tank

The second option is less common for this eel, as many will not have tank mates. If you are keeping other fish with the tess you can with hold food for a day and feed heavily the next. This will almost guarantee a frenzy which will excite the eel into eating.

While feeding the Tessalata Eel may accidentally bite other fish. They will not typically eat other tank mates while feeding, and instead hunt them during the night.

These eel eat large foods and make a big mess doing so. Likewise they produce a lot of waste. Powerful filtration will be required.

Common choices for food are calamari, shrimp, live/frozen fish and mussels. Remember to feed your eel a fair amount of whole foods, as their diet includes bones and organs rather than just meat. Additionally a varied diet will make the eel stay healthier.


These eels are ironically not that aggressive, however their size makes it so they can eat just about any fish. That being said owners should keep the eel well fed and avoid putting their hands in the tank without knowing where the eel is. Their teeth are quite long and can create deep cuts that require medical attention ASAP.

Yellow Watchman Goby Care Guide

Cryptocentrus cinctus

Minimum Tank Size30 Gallon
Water Parameters72-78 F, pH 8-8.4, Salinity 1.020-1.025

The Yellow Watchman Goby, also known as the Yellow Prawn Goby brings a guardian like attitude to the tank. These guys love to sit near their homes, which can be either burrows in the sand or caves formed by live rock.

When placed in tanks with the Pistol Shrimp they will form a symbiotic relationship, which is the main trait they are known for. Simply put they work together to build and defend their home while also ensuring they have enough food to eat.

Overall the Yellow Watchman Goby is easy to care for and is completely reef safe, making them an ideal choice for any non aggressive tank over 30 gallons in size. Like most gobies, the Yellow Watchman Goby will fight with its own kind unless they are a mated pair.

Note: The Yellow Watchman Goby will often change colors throughout its lifetime, going from a bright yellow to a much more grey color. This is linked to their gender, however the fish change almost at random times.

Special Tank Needs

If you are getting this fish it’s almost for certain that you will be getting a Pistol Shrimp/Snapping Shrimp. The relationship is simply too special to pass on. This means the tank must be suitable for both the goby and the shrimp. Thankfully the shrimps only big needs are copper free tanks with low nitrate levels.

This video, created Omar Badr shows the goby shrimp pair in the wild.

Remember this shrimp will be constantly digging. You will want ALL of your rock to be well seated directly on the glass of the tank. Leaving the rock on top of the sand will eventually lead to a rock slide.

A final note is the pistol shrimps ability to shoot water. While deep beneath the sea this can be a deadly and extremely loud attack. This is thanks to the pressure of the water. In the home aquarium there is not nearly enough pressure, making the shrimps weapon far less effective and more of just a click sound.

Diet & Feeding

Back to the Yellow Watchman Goby. These guys are relatively easy to feed, however they may miss a day or two of feeding when first introduced to the tank. They will however still sift sand occasionally. This makes them much easier to add to well established tanks.

New tanks looking to add the Yellow Watchman Goby may need to dirty their water, feeding small pieces of food in hopes that the goby picks some of it from the sand. You can reduce the mess by watching their feeding habits and placing the food in their most frequented feeding spots.

The Yellow Watchman Gobies Diet should consist of mysis shrimp, with the occasional offering of brine shrimp. Additionally they can be offered other prepared foods, however they may not accept these right away.

If you feed your tank large pieces of food you may need to cut it. The Yellow Watchman Goby has a habit of taking large chunks of food into the burrow, keeping it from the rest of the tank.


This goby is not aggressive and will flee almost any fight it encounters. The exception here is similar gobies or those spending too much time around their homes.

While the Goby and shrimp combo will have a home to hide in, they should not be kept with predatory fish. As the home aquarium is an enclosed space the goby will never be free from any threats placed into the tank. This will often prevent them from feeding or stress them until they become sick.


Getting a mated pair is none too difficult, as the standard one large fish and one small fish will almost always result in a mated pair. This works best when their are many hiding spots, as the more dominant goby will harass the newer, smaller goby for a few days.

With a pair of gobies in stock you simply must make their home stress free with consistent lighting and feeding. After a while they will begin spawning.

Raising these fry is immensely difficult/somewhat dependent on luck. For an extremely in depth guide on breeding Yellow
Watchman Goby
this site is a must.