Just Keep Swimming

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This February 15th marked the 198th anniversary of the birth of a figure whose impact is unparalleled in American history. With a laundry list of achievements, this person has an intro that would rival Daenerys Targaryen. In an effort to remain brief, she is known as a social warrior against slavery, the face of the women’s suffrage movement, and the first female to be featured on US currency. Today, we pay homage to the great Susan B. Anthony. But, how do fish have anything to do with feminism you ask? Let’s ‘dive’ in and see what kind of girl power the following freshwater fish exemplify: Metynnis fasciatus, Pseudomystus siamensis, and Betta albimaginata.

Representing the 1979 dollar coin Susan B. Anthony’s face graces, M. fasciatus glimmers through the Amazon River basin and drainages of South America. Taking it even farther, these fish make a statement with their ‘attire’, and while it is not as controversial as the bloomer dress Anthony rocked, these “Tiger Stripe Silver Dollars” definitely stand out. Reaching about 3 inches in length, these characins are laterally flattened with silver bodies and dark vertical striping. With patchy distribution throughout South America, Striped Silver Dollars have a preference for densely vegetative riparian habitats. In captivity, they do best in tanks with plenty of open swimming space, dim lighting, and some dark refuges. While plants are the best providers of their habitat needs, these fish are avid plant-eaters, and even the hardiest of plants will need to be replaced regularly. In this case, fakes are acceptable stand-ins. Mostly herbivorous, they should be fed a large amount of vegetal matter like cucumbers, peas, and spring greens, though they will also accept commercial foods like algae wafers, spirulina, and vegetable flake. Every now and then, they also appreciate a meaty delicacy like bloodworm or brine. Mostly peaceful by nature, Silver Dollars are great for community tanks with similarly-sized, peaceful species–much smaller fish may get eaten! Schooling and group-spawning by nature, they do best in groups of 6 or more.

Named for their physical resemblance to some of the most female-biased animals in the world, P. siamensis is more commonly known as the “Shovelnose B. (Bee) Catfish”. These bagrid catfish reach about 6 inches in length and exhibit black bodies with yellow striping. Native to the Mekong River of Southeastern Asia, they prefer sluggish streams and tributaries where they hide among submerged tree roots through the day, emerging only at night to hunt. Shy and nocturnal, they do best in dimly lit tanks with lots of hiding places. Some furnishing options include overturned flower pots, lengths of PVC pipe, driftwood logs, rocks, caves, and plants to filter harsh light. Territorial and aggressive, they should only be kept with similar species in large tanks with well-defined territories made from the furnishings. Options for tank mates include medium to large cyprinids, characins, and peaceful cichlids. Anything small enough to fit in its mouth is liable to become prey. These catfish can be trained to accept non-living foods over time, and should be fed prawns, mussels, cockel, lancefish, and earthworms. They may also accept high-quality sinking foods. It is also important to keep in mind they may only eat after lights-out at first, though they may begin to emerge during daylight hours for feeding time..”

Feminists incarnate, Betta albimarginata flip the typical gendered-role of brood care. Paternal mouthbrooders by nature, the males must prove themselves to their potential mate with a protracted courtship ritual where eggs are released after several embraces, before they take them in their mouths to incubate for anywhere between 10 and 21 days. These “Strawberry Bettas” are endemic to the Sebuku River drainage of Timur, Indonesia, and Borneo where they prefer shallow streams with moderate flow, marginal plant life, and leaf litter. Tanks should be equipped with soft substrate, driftwood roots and branches, leaf litter, and plenty of hiding places formed from furnishings of the aquarists choice. There should also be a humid air space region above the water in the tank, and a tight fitting lid to prevent them from jumping overboard. With a need for acidic, soft waters, reverse osmosis units are also recommended. Not ideal for community tank setups, these bettas are best kept as single pairs, conspecific groups, or with small peaceful species like cyprinids or loaches. Most likely feeding on insects, small aquatic invertebrates, and zooplankton in the wild, they do best in captivity being fed mostly live or frozen foods, though they learn to accept dried foods in time. 

In light of current social politics regarding gender-based discrimination, it’s important to remember and learn from the fight that amazing women like Susan B. Anthony started. Here at The Wet Spot, these fish are a symbol of the inspiration she continues to be for women fighting for equality. Just keep swimming ladies!

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