The Far Out Far East

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Friday fun quiz!: What region of the world is home to 5 major river systems and the oldest rainforest (70 million years!)? If the subject line hasn’t already given it away, your first guess may be South America- the Amazon…right? WRONG! It’s Southeast Asia. Ancient, beautiful, and unbelievably biodiverse, freshwater habitats in this region range from fast-flowing main river channels to sluggish forest streams and blackwater pools. You know what that means, so many possible directions for amazing Southeast Asian aquascapes! Representative of  3 different freshwater habitats of Southeast Asia, this week we’ll take a closer look at Homaloptera parclitellaRasbora rubrodorsalis, and Danio feegradei

Obligate dwellers of clear, well-oxygenated, fast-flowing headwaters, H. parclitella is endemic to peninsular Malaysia. Known more commonly as “Red Lizard Hillstream Loaches”, these Asian cyprinids reach just over 3 inches in length and exhibit flattened bodies with strong pectoral fins for grabbing onto surfaces, and long pointed noses tipped with sensitive bristles. Mottled brown, tan, and red in coloration, they blend in with the substrate of their natural environment. Biotope tank setups would include sandy or fine gravel substrate, water-worn rocks, driftwood roots and branches, and plants like CrinumAnubias spp, Hygrophila, and Microsorum. Since these loaches need a high level of oxygenation, their tanks should be fitted with oversize filters, air stones, and powerheads. Sensitive to accumulation of waste, weekly 30% water changes should be performed. A peaceful fish, they can be kept with any other who are do well in similar environments. Possible tank mates include DevarioGarra, some Rasbora, and Stiphodon gobies. Opportunistic, omnivorous grazers, these loaches scrape biofilm and algae, and consume small invertebrates. In captivity, they should be fed regular live and frozen meals, high-quality sinking foods, and some vegetal content. Tank waters are best kept with temperatures between 68 and 76°F, pH of 6.0 to 7.5, and hardness around 18 to 179 ppm.

Collected primarily from shallow, slow-moving or still waters like swamps, marshes, and floodplains, R. rubrodorsalis prefers clear waters with dense aquatic vegetation. Native to the lower Mekong in Northeastern Thailand, this rasbora is great for adding shimmer and splash of color to Southeast Asian nano tanks. “Cherry Spot Rasboras” reach 1 inch in length and have silver bodies with a dark lateral stripe, and red spots at the base of their caudal and dorsal fins. Best when maintained in a well-planted setup; suitable plants would include Cryptocoryne, Java Fern, and Dwarf Hairgrass, planted in gravel substrate and fed through wooden branchwork. Light should be dim or dappled through floating plants and driftwood. Incredibly peaceful and shoaling, this species is great for community tanks absent of aggressive or nippy species, and should be kept in conspecific groups of 7 or more. A micropredator by nature, these rasboras eat small invertebrates and zooplankton in the wild. In captivity they will learn to accept high-quality flake and dried foods supplementally, but will have best coloration and disposition when fed daily meals of small, live and frozen fare. Tanks waters should be maintained with temperatures around 75 to 82°F, pH between 6.5 and 7.5, and hardness of 35 to 178 ppm.

Endemic to Western Myanmar, D. feegradei is a minnow-like cyprinid found in small forest streams with slow flow. Their natural habitats are mostly free of aquatic plants, but are surrounded by banks with overhanging riparian vegetation. A fast-moving fish, these “Yoma Danios” reach just over 2 inches in length and truly shimmer with silver bodies dotted in golden scales with bright golden fins and a dark caudal spot. In captivity they require a lot of open swimming space, and look best against dark substrate and background. Low-powered powerheads may be used to create some flow, and decor may include driftwood roots and branches, water-worn rocks, and hardy plants. Generally peaceful, they may be kept with robust similarly-sized cyprinids, loaches, catfish, and garras. Feeding predominantly on small insects and insect larvae in the wild, they do best with regular feedings of small, live or frozen fare, and high-quality dried product. Tank waters should be kept with temperatures of 66 to 76°F, pH around 6.5 to 7.5, and hardness between 36 and 215 ppm.

One of the greatest pleasures of fishkeeping is learning about their natural environments, and taking the time and care to plan out and aquascape that matches it. Your fish will thank you, and if you’re anything like us, the satisfaction of the process is a reward in and of itself.