The Whitelist

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James Spader fans around the world are familiar with the concept of a blacklist. In the aquarium trade, blacklists are “pools” of species that may not be exported from various countries. Experience tells us that blacklists breed seedy behavior and black markets that never benefit locals, let alone the organisms themselves. Could there be a better, and more positive way to control exportation that benefits everyone? Brazilian authorities are giving it a try, with their “whitelist” of freshwater fish that can be exported. Some avid aquarists may be concerned that with a whitelist, they’re missing out on species that haven’t been added, and that adding them would be a difficult process, but as of now, the Brazilian Whitelist has 725 approved species, while only about 265 of those are actually being exported. The goal is to encourage locals to take part in the ornamental fish trade; to sustainably catch and export fish from the Amazon for their own socio-economic benefit, and in turn to protect the Amazonian habitats to keep the wellspring flowing. Supporters of these collection practices, we at The Wet Spot do our part to keep these Brazilian wild-type ornamentals in circulation by captive breeding. A few of our favorite captive-bred wild-type species include Apistogramma bitaeniata “Tefe”, Apistogramma agassizii “Alenquer”, and Taeniacara candidii.

Collected from Tefe, Amazonas State, Brazil, this A. bitaeniata variant is a coveted aquarium breeder off the Brazilian Whitelist. Reaching about 3 inches, “Tefe” males are particularly dark with elongated bodies, yellow striped caudal fins, black horizontal striping down their sides, and periwinkle-hued pectoral and anal fins. Females are smaller and exhibit the characteristic yellow coloration of female Apistos. Showing preference slow-moving tributaries, backwaters, and creeks with fallen leaf litter, these Apistos should be kept in tanks with ample cover. Furnishings should include sandy substrate with a layer of leaf litter, scattered rocks and caves, driftwood, and low-light tolerant plants like Crypts and Anubias. A substrate spawner, females lay eggs in concealed areas among decor and are solely responsible for care of fry. Post-spawning females become defensive and territorial, and males may need to be removed for their own safety. Females must be incredibly well fed to promote spawning, and should be provided a mostly carnivorous diet of small live and frozen invertebrates. Not recommended for general community aquaria, pairs can be kept with small South American dither fish like pencilfish, hatchetfish, and small tetras. For optimal health and chances of spawning, waters should be maintained with temperatures between 74 and 82°F, with pH on the acidic end of 4.0 to 7.0, and water hardness under 90 ppm.

Found in the municipality of Alenquer, Para State, of northern Brazil, A. agassizii “Alenquer”, is another example of captive bred wild stock from the approved Brazilian Whitelist. Males reach 3 inches and are opalescent pink with shining yellow faces and throats speckled in bright blue scales, and exhibit a dark lateral stripe, and patterned yellow, black, and white caudal fins. Another substrate spawner from slow-moving, leaf-littered waters, they should be kept under the same conditions as their Brazilian Apistogramma cousins with filtered lighting and plenty of cover. If breeding is the goal, and in our opinion, it should be, watch out for female aggression, separate males post-spawning, and keep them alongside small, dither tankmates. With high-quality live and frozen diets, and soft, warm, acidic waters like the bitaeniata, they should spawn readily.

Another gorgeous Brazilian dwarf cichlid, for those who are up for a real challenge, is T. candidii. Once a member of the Apistogramma genus, they were reclassified as the only known species of a new genus, though their status is up for debate. Males reach 2.5 inches and exhibit light colored bodies, golden heads, a dark lateral stripe, and purple, yellow, and blue patterned fins. Females are slightly smaller with yellow coloration. Endemic to Brazil, they have been collected from the lower Rio Negro in dark, densely vegetative regions. In captivity, their tanks should be densely planted with lots of furnishings including upturned clay pots, rocks, driftwood, and caves. Notoriously difficult to breed in captivity, they need very soft, very acidic waters and high quality live and frozen diets. This species may not accept dried foods at all. One of the more aggressive dwarf cichlids out there, 2 males should never be housed together unless the tank is quite large, and tank mates should include small, schooling species that occupy higher space in the water column. Tank waters should be maintained with temperatures of 81 to 86°F, pH between 4.0 and 5.0, and hardness under 90 ppm.

The way humans use resources has come a long way from the days of seal pelts, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be better. Here, at The Wet Spot, we hope to inspire passion for freshwater fish among aquarists indefinitely, and unless certain things change, our days are numbered. The Brazilian Whitelist in combination with captive breeding programs is a shining light at the end of the tunnel, and proof that the trade can be more sustainable for all involved.