Southeast Asia Rocks!

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On a map of the world, Southeast Asia looks somewhat unassuming. Making up only 3% of the world’s total landmass, non-tropical-fish-enthusiasts may even pass it over, but boy, does this tiny region pack quite the ecological punch! Broken up into mainland and maritime regions, Southeast Asia is largely characterized by its geology; lying on the intersection of geological plates, it is a hotbed of seismic and volcanic activity. On top of this, its proximity to the equator gives the region a tropical climate with year-round hot and humid weather and heavy rainfall. Yep, fish paradise–and a variety of paradises at that. A few of our current Southeast Asian favorites include Garra sp. “Redtail”, Dario sp. “Myanmar”, and Vaillantella maassi.

Found traversing the borders between Myanmar and Thailand in the Salween River, G. sp. ‘Redtail’ is a beautiful little bottom-dweller of rocky, fast-flowing headwaters. Reaching a little over 3 inches in length, these “Burmese Redtail Garras” have flattened bodies with downturned mouths, grey upper halves, and red bottom halves. As rheophilic Cyprinids, these Garras do best in aquaria designed to resemble flowing streams. Tanks should be equipped with variable-sized, water-worn rocks, driftwood branches, and hardy plants like Anubias spp, Bolbitis spp, and Cryptocoryne spp. Powerheads and airstones should be employed to create flow, and waters should be incredibly well oxygenated. It is also important to note these Redtail Garras are incredibly athletic climbers, and tanks should be fit with tight lids to keep them from climbing out! Generally peaceful by nature, they are ideal for stream biotope community aquaria, and can be kept alongside stream-dwelling Rasboras and Danios. A great grazer of algae and biofilm, they should only be added to mature aquaria, and often enjoy an exposed sponge filter for feeding. They should not be expected to get all their nutrition via this method, however, and enjoy regular supplementation of meaty foods like live and frozen invertebrates, fresh fruit, and vegetables. Tank waters are best maintained with temperatures between 70 to 78°F, pH between 6.0 and 7.5, and hardness around 18 to 215 ppm.

Endemic to Northern Myanmar just like their mammalian namesake, D. sp. “Myanmar” prowls in the tall, submerged grasses of their turbid pool habitats. Known more commonly as “Black Tiger Darios”, these perciformes reach almost 1.5 inches in length, and males exhibit gorgeous red tiger striping along their bodies, with black banding and spots on their faces. Females are a bit more subdued in coloration with shimmering silver bodies and faint pink banding. These Darios do best in well-structured tanks with sandy substrate, lots of aquatic vegetation, and plenty of hiding places like caves, upturned pots, PVC pipe, wood, and rocks. Generally peaceful, they may be kept alongside small, peaceful Cyprinids and Loaches. We do, however, recommend they be bred due to their rarity in the hobby, in which case we recommend keeping them alone as a single, bonded pair, or in female-biased cohorts with a single male unless the tank is quite large. Feeding predominantly on small invertebrates in the wild, they are happiest when fed regular live and frozen meals. Tank waters should be kept with temperatures of 68 to 75, pH around 7.0 to 9.0, and hardness under 90 ppm.

Described from several regions including Indonesia, Sumatra, and peninsular Malaysia, V. maassi has an ancient grace, rivaling that of its peat forest habitats. Known more commonly as “Forktail Loaches”, they reach about 5 inches in length and exhibit reddish bodies with a bright stripe down their backs, feather-like patterning down their sides, and of course, forked caudal fins. These loaches prefer shallow, marginal sections of forest streams shaded by riparian vegetation and the tall tree canopy. In captivity, they do best in dimly-lit tanks with sandy substrate, lots of cover from smooth-edged furnishings like rocks, wood, clay pots, and aquatic plants. Somewhat territorial with conspecifics, the should either be kept as a single specimen or in larger tanks with well-defined territories demarcated by different furnishings. Peaceful toward other species, they can be kept in community aquaria alongside Gouramis, Rasboras, Danios, and many other small Cyprinids. Wild specimens are thought to be chiefly micro-predators, feasting on small invertebrates and zooplankton, though captive individuals hold no reservations toward consuming high-quality sinking pellets. These loaches do best in tanks with water temperatures between 75 and 82°F, pH of 3.5 to 7.0, and hardness under 215 ppm.
Thanks to geology, the habitats of this region, and in turn the species they support are incredibly diverse. Southeast Asia, after all, rocks.