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Characteristics of a few tropical fish

Updated on June 9, 2009

am new to the aquarium fever: here are a few personality traits I see in my fish!

The first aquarium I purchased was a ten gallon, Wal-Mart starter kit. It was wonderful for a first aquarium (and everything I had researched about the smaller aquarium the more maintenance turned out to be bogus!) except that the top is not an easy snap together plastic never really seated correctly and left a tiny gap on the left side. That is easily lived with and to be honest, it could be due to the installer, eh?

But this is about my fish, not the aquarium so let's get started!

Betta: Siamese Fighting Fish (of the species Betta splendens)

The first fish I purchased was a Crowntail Betta. What a beautiful fish! How did it ever get such a reputation as aggressive? Well, come to find out, as with many other animals, humans found it amusing or exhilarating or profitable (take your pick) to put a couple of males together to see what would happen.

Par for the course, they are ultra mellow, beautiful to watch, extremely intelligent and hardy. On top of all that, they are the perfect community tropical fish! Of all the things I had seen and read the latter was the most surprising. Betta's first tank mates were a few neon's, small, quick, and not aggressive. Now, wouldn't that classify as "Lunch"?

No way, Other than the spreading of their gorgeous fins that all Betta's exhibit and it only lasted a few moments, that was it, they were a family!

The one characteristic that, as a nurse, most concerns me is their fragilbility (which I do not think is a word but it describes what happens perfectly so what say we add it to the dictionary, eh?) Betta's are extremely "soft" and damage easily! Add to that their first instinct is to hide between or under toys or equipment in the tank and you have a recipe for disaster. A fact heartbreakingly learned with the first Betta.

 Now, my nearly three year old "Best granddaughter in the universe" will look in the tank, call "Betta! Then look at me (Ahmee) and say "Betta died."

Land sakes alive as I live and breathe how am I going to account for that twenty years hence when she is claiming mental anguish to all her friends? As for now, I tell her it was Ahmee's fault and tell her I am so so very sorry. She says "It's OK, Ahmee" and pats me. Oh, bless it.

Enough, I digress... Bettas are top of my list for community fish

But, and this is a BIG but, I do not keep Betta in the forty-five gallon tank. He seems happiest in the ten gallon with the elusive upside down catfish and plants. No stress no displaying of aggression and just watches the humans as they enter and do their thing in the room.

As to intelligence, Betta not only comes to the top when I feed them, he knows when I have his pellets versus the platys flakes! He will follow my cupped hand until it is away from the Fuval submersible filter (creates a wave) and watch, as I drop his four to five pellets just for him! I give them one at a time, the platys love them too and Betta will let them swarm all over him to eat his food! Of course I have not found a fish that does not absolutely go ga-ga over bloodworms! Even Betta loses his table manners when that tin comes out!

Neon's: Paracheirodon innesi

These bottom dwelling, schooling fish are shiny, small and as I mentioned, they are quick. However, their bursts of quick schooling come in spurts, such as when the tank is being cleaned. The rest of the time they do not always hang out together, they seem to "meet and greet" most of the time by swimming together a bit then going and doing their own thing for a little while more.

I have read that neon's are not hardy, die quickly, and are a target for food from other fish and so on. I have ten now, I started with twelve and the two I lost were due to my being very new to this hobby! The first one I damaged trying to net it out of the plastic bag and the second I sucked up while learning to use my Eheim submersible vacuum!

One of the most fascinating things I have noticed is these small fish are the watchdogs of the aquarium. I know, sounds laughable...the Betta would be an obvious choice, eh? But when I was frantically searching for the seven dollar upside down catfish I was sure I had inadvertently "lost" I noticed six neon's, all together, intently studying the inside of one of the artificial shells.

Sure enough, that was where the catfish had decided to take up residence! So now, whenever I have a question, I put the question first to the neon's!

As to how I got the upside down catfish to be at least half-way visible? Well, the silly thing went way inside the artificial conch shell and would not come out! So, I picked up the shell, transferred it to the ten gallon, which really freaked him out, then when he left I moved the shell back to the forty-five gallon. Cool, eh? But what does he do? I swear you guys, this rock looking fish never moves! His favorite place now is between the glass and the Fluval...the Fluval attaches to the glass with suction cups and that little space is where he is...alive...I THINK!

Upside Down Catfish: Synodontis nigriventris

The seven dollar mistake, actually fourteen dollars as I took the young ladies at (petsmarts advice and for crying out loud ended up buying two! Ave! Never mind. There is one...don't ask...I do not know, honestly...cannot and never have, found the (expletive) second one I bought)

But, oh my golly gee and grey whiskers (if I had any) these fish are rockingly cool to look at (when you can find them) They look like a rock, they are made upside down...oops, should say they have evolved into a catfish that adapted to its surroundings to hang on rocks upside down...forget it, stay with me people :) They are bumpy and spotted in coloration. Also and this is very important...they are Extremely FAST!

I honestly do not know what this catfish eats! I have only seen him a few, very short, times.

If this were an advice on which bottom dwelling, algae eating tank cleaner to get? Upside down catfish would not be on the list.

Well...this needs to be added...if you do NOT take salespeople’s advice and give them hiding places, and have plants in the aquarium guess what? The upside down catfish can be seen at any time! That is what happened after I got the catfish into the ten gallon aquarium...he had no place to hide other than the Fluval filter and once I got up nerve to add plants the upside down catfish came out of hiding!

So, OK, I will revise former and say try one but add live plants and NO HIDEY HOLES ALLOWED!

Green Emerald and Albino Catfish: Brochis splendens and Corydoras paleatus

Also bottom dwelling, tank cleaning fish, these are highly entertaining to watch, not very bright, not much personality either. With the other fish I can see they are, at the least, aware of my presence especially when it is mealtime. With these two catfish, they just keep going, cleaning, scavenging, and keeping things neat and in order.

Well, nothing wrong with that, eh?

Algae Eaters: Otocinclus affinis

As I mentioned in another hub do not get the one that grows between eighteen to twenty-four inches....duh. That’s half of the allowed fish size just for one fish!

There are algae eaters that are called just that; algae eaters. The young lady at Petsmarts asks me every time I go in (which is often, obviously) "Don't you think you should add another algae eater? They are schooling fish"

But I just smile and say "Not today" The algae eater is slow and steady, not as easily seen as the catfish but very efficient and hardy.

I would add an algae eater not for its ability to keep the tank clean but rather for one really cool fact: This fish blinks its eyes! Yes! It has eyelids and it is totally cool to watch!

I Platys: Xiphophorus maculatus

Everything I read says these are placid, females larger than the males do well for beginners (me) and hardy community tank fish. The things I have noticed are the following: the red wagtail platys are loners, the Mickey Mouse platy are NOT hardy and all died quickly, and the Sunset and Tequila Sunrise platys tend to harass each other. They leave the red wagtail alone, but go after the ones who most favor themselves as far as color and size.

On the other hand, I am a "newbie"; perhaps I have too many males and not enough females? I will wait and see...

Red Swordtail Platy (Xiphophorus Helleri)

This turned out to be my favorite and yet, all I read and heard (though as mentioned before the pet store is NOT the best research tool) made me dubious. I was afraid the swordtail was going to need a ten gallon all to itself (HMMM...can one have TOO MANY aquariums? A hub for another day) but as it turned out this is the prettiest and the most peaceful of all so far! I watched it go up and down the sides of the aquarium and at first I thought it was rather narcissistic like my beloved Betta :) but I read the swordtails also help clean the algae from the walls of the tank! Cool!

So that’s just a few characteristics that I have found from observation, assessment and outside research. It is not in any way touted as the end all of all characteristics but this was a good practice article and after all who doesn't mind spending a day or so just watching and cataloging behavior of tropical fish?




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    • RNMSN profile image

      Barbara Bethard 6 years ago from Tucson, Az

      wow I never heard that!! I have lots of fish in my 45 gallon tank again and of course two albno catfish!!

      and an emerald and a juli and none of them bother any of the rest of the fish/I have barbs,shine under black light tetras,gourami,australian gouramis and little lamplight tetras even a clown fish and of course the huge algae eater the plesito/probably too many for my tank but they are thriving after over a year now!!

      your poor momma!! I will definitely be more careful with my cleaning...the albinos will be the first to jump to the top of the tank when Im leaning over it! it has just made me laugh before but dude now I will keep my face way back!!!

      thank you for the tip!! I will do further research!!

    • profile image

      vashisht 6 years ago

      hi are albino catfish dangerous cause all my fish are eaten up n it also stung my moms hand due to which her hand was swollen

    • RNMSN profile image

      Barbara Bethard 8 years ago from Tucson, Az

      omg!! men/what can we do?..sharks well, no worse than my baby sister I suppose, she had a pirana, named 'jaws' what else!

      mine is still empty/just moved back to our beloved desert and I start new job this week so hopefully before too long I can fill it up again.

    • Deborah-Lynn profile image

      Deborah-Lynn 8 years ago from Los Angeles, California

      Hi Barbara, yes I have always had fish tanks where ever I have lived, but this one, my present one, started out as a tropical fish tank, fresh water with a few pinches of sea salt for the "puffer fish", but for Mothers' Day, my husband decided to surprise me with three new fish, when I got out of bed with my empty tea cup in hand, I found my way to the tank to feed my fish, ...only, my tank had only three unfamiliar fish swimmig around all alone...three fresh water sharks...we now have a shark tank...oh my....

    • profile image

      rnmsn 8 years ago

      oh yes I remember those days/more month than money...that's what my baby girl (26 yr old dtr) has now...good thing she loved ramen noodles two decades ago and today :) an funny too that I have wanted an aquarium for so very long but the budget, the budget, the dreaded budget!!! haha

    • maggs224 profile image

      maggs224 8 years ago from Sunny Spain

      One fish did not an aquarium make. It was a time when we had more month than money, two kids, Guinea pigs hamsters gerbils and a dog called Henry.

      I had to borrow the small tank from my friend who I gave the fish to when I had finished.  So really the poor looking tank with its solitary occupant didn’t seem that appealing to a worn out mum trying to get a degree.

      I managed to kill one or two before I got my friend to set the tank up properly it seems I don’t have a blue thumb where fish are concerned it’s the same with flowers I nearly killed my lovely orange tree that my husband bought me for our wedding anniversary by over watering it. Turned out I was killing it with what I thought was kindness. Still not to worry I might not have thumbs of the blue or green variety but I am good at some other things. lol

    • profile image

      rnmsn 8 years ago

      oh my stars and wishes maggs!!!!! i am so going to do that same experiment!! well, that's the point eh?Any scientific endeavor must stand up to scrutiny and replication? that's so cool...but you didn't particularly enjoy the fish/aquarium scene?

    • maggs224 profile image

      maggs224 8 years ago from Sunny Spain

      Hi I only once had a fish it was a Siamese fighting fish it was when I was doing my Psychology degree and I had to train this fish to swim through hoops.

      I think the experiment was to find out if they could tell one colour from another. I had one blue hoop and one red one and I rewarded it every time it went through the red one but not the blue one.

      If I remember rightly it learned very fast to go through the red hoop. After I had finished the experiment I gave the fish to a friend who had a huge aquarium and he had a lot of fun making the fish swim through hoops. lol