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Choosing Fish For Your Home Aquarium

[Having Fish As A Pet]  [Choosing Fish For Your Home Aquarium]  [Caring For An Aquarium]  [Feeding Your Fish]  [Doctoring Sick Fish]  [Breeding Fish In Your Aquarium] 

( Originally Published 1938 )

There has never been a list made of all the types of fish you could raise in a home aquarium, and it's probably rather a boon that no statistician-aquarist has developed such a list as a means of interesting the general public in pet fish. It's like picking out neckties-the average man has a lot more luck in making a good choice from a stock of a dozen ties than he has when confronted by umteen gross. As a beginner, you will have more success if you start out with the commoner varieties of fish, for two sound reasons:

1. You will generally find that the variety with the greatest population is hardiest.

2. The care and treatment of several inexpensive fish provides the training you will need to handle the rarer varieties successfully. If you make mistakes and your first inexpensive fish die, the financial loss is not discouraging.

Outside of the big aquariums, decorative fish fall into two classes-goldfish and tropicals-although there is considerable interest now in native fish. The goldfish is a member of the carp family, while the tropicals include a multitude of fish tribes that were originally brought from tropical waters. The owners of goldfish have been active hobbyists for a much longer time than the tropical owners, but during recent years the vogue for tropicals has gone forward expansively.

The common goldfish is a simple, streamlined fish. It comes in a reddish-gold color, and it has nothing whatever to do with fancy trimmings. The Oriental goldfish or the fancy goldfish, on the other hand, isn't considered worthy of its owner's keep unless it is decked out with frilled pants, and the color of the fish may range all the way from black to rainbow combinations of blues, reds and yellows, with a generous pepper-and-salt admixture.

In order, with somewhat of an eye to price (ranging from low to high), here are some of the goldfish varieties that will be satisfactory in any aquarium:

l. COMMON GOLDFISH: Simplest member of the tribe, this fish is hardy; can stand a lot of temperature change; long body, a flat-sided oval in vertical position, with a short scaleless head; easy to feed and easy to raise.

2. COMET GOLDFISH: Another hardy fish, can be kept in an outdoors pool the year around if desired; long fins and a single, long tail; body is less chunky than that of the common goldfish; somewhat more variety in color.

3. FANTAIL: This is the fanciest fish in the lower price brackets. Fish has double sets of fins on tail and stomach; body is egg-shaped; a hardy fish under most conditions; colors may be solid golds or silvers, or mottled combinations; fins may not develop to their full length until the fish is one or two years old.

4. FRINGETAIL: This fish in ideal form has a stocky body with exceedingly long and graceful double tail and fins; in a good specimen, the draping tail may be longer than the body of the fish; dorsal fin (back) is tall and erect; may be either a "scaled" (metallic) or "scaleless" (transparent scales) variety; price is fairly high.

5. OTHER GOLDFISH VARIETIES: Less often seen, more expensive, and highly interesting for various reasons are the Lionheads and Telescopes. Going in reverse order, the Telescope is so named because of its large, protruding eyes; the Lionhead is the strangest looking goldfish of all with its bulbous head. The two appear in a variety of colors, but the Telescope seems to have been produced in every other goldfish color and a few of its own besides. Calico Telescopes represent the breeder's idea of what the best fish look like. The Celestials are another astounding variety, and are about the only fish that can look straight up at you when you look straight down at them.

GENERAL NOTES ON GOLDFISH: Strange fact-the bigger the tank, the bigger the fish will grow. Don't be surprised if young fish from the same hatch vary in size; generally the larger ones are hardier and have a better chance of living. "Dip" the fish-don't "pour." You never can be quite sure about the final color of a very young fish-or about the final formation of its fins.

If we were to start out here and give you a description of all the available types of tropical fish, the other pets in this book would have to be forgotten in order to make room. Listing the principal types of goldfish is fairly simple because of the fact that they all relate to the carp family, but tropicals are different-very much so. On the grand scale, aquarium owners around the country are experimenting with ten or eleven orders of fish classified in about sixty families and subfamilies. How many kinds of tropical fish does that make? About 400 or so.

However, since it is the purpose of this section to give you a gentle push off the springboard, leaving the swimming up to your own talents, the fish that will be considered here were chosen for these reasons:

1. They are all reasonably hardy.

2. They are all fairly plentiful on the market. 3. They are priced within reason.

4. They are attractive.

5. They are interesting for a number of reasons and should provide you with enough stimulus to raise the less common varieties.

Any list of tropicals generally leads off with the Guppy, since there are probably more people who own Guppies than any other tropical variety. So just for the sake of conforming with popular opinion, this list of tropicals starts with the Guppy, too.

GUPPY: Male is about an inch long; body is round; coloring is quite lavish; females are larger and fatter and are generally an olive-grey color. Guppies breed often, and the females will produce anywhere from a half dozen to a hundred young at a time, depending on the age. This fish is viviparous, which means that the young fish are born living instead of being hatched from eggs.

PLATY: Wider and broader than the Guppy, this fish is about two inches long at full growth, the females somewhat larger. Colors have a remarkably good range-there are red Platies, blue Platies, black Platies, gold Platies and variable Platies. It is not quite so hardy as the Guppy; and is also a live-bearer. Platies eat almost any kind of fish food.

SWORDTAIL: Closely related to the Platy, this fish can stand the same kind of treatment that will be good for Platies. Adult males are upwards of three inches long plus a long, pointed tail (which gives it its odd name) ; the tail varies in color, and may be yellow, green, orange, etc., but is always edged with black; the female has no sword. This is also a live-bearer.

MOLLIES: Larger than the other tropicals already mentioned, Mollies may be half a foot long in maturity, so they require larger tanks to live in. The Molly is like Kipling's "Yellow Dog Dingo"-always hungry. There are Shortfins, Sailfins, Blacks (about the only good black in all fishdom), and a dozen other varieties in the Molly clan.

Hardy, viviparous, regular breeders, the Mollies ought to be in anybody's tropical collection.

BARBS: This fish is so named for its chin whiskers, or barbs; it is an egg layer. The Rosy Barb (probably the most common) has a wide body, upwards of three inches long at full growth; its coppery upper parts turn a vivid rose color at mating time. Also available are striped barbs, dwarfs, banded barbs, spotted barbs, etc. Some specimens will grow to six inches long. Hardy; easy to feed.

TETRAS: For the most part, these are admirable little fish, peaceable and easy to raise; interesting sizes for an aquarium are adults about 1V2 to 2 inches long. Most Tetras have vertical shoulder spots; red, yellow, rose, silver and bronze Tetras are available among others; body is small and graceful, and coloring in some species (the red especially) is very vivid. This is another egg-laying fish; easy to keep, active, and not apt to fight.

OTHER TROrICnLS: Among the very decorative tropicals with which you could experiment is the Pterophyllum, a gorgeous banded fish with showy fins and a body as round as a silver dollar. Hemmigrammus ocellifer is called the "head and tail light fish" because of brilliant, red-gold spots fore and aft. A fairly easy and attractive fish for the beginner is Panchax, a fish with a gentlemanly reputation and a good appetite for various kinds of food.

GENERAL NOTES ON TROFICALS: These fish are in genuine danger the moment the temperature of the aquarium gets below 70 degrees.

The Gambusias, first of the live-bearers to reach popularity, are now on the decline because of the fact that they are scrappers, and may chew the fins off other fish in the aquarium.

When buying any aquarium fish it is better to choose varieties that are not too pugnacious. A quarrelsome fish variety may be interesting enough if kept by itself, but if you plan to have several types of fish in the same aquarium it is better to avoid trouble by getting only the more peaceful varieties.

When describing the fins of a fish you will have frequent recourse to the anatomical names. Here are the names and locations: Caudal fin-the tail; Dorsal fin-located on the back; Anal fin-on the bottom near the tail; Ventral finon the fish's stomach; Pectoral fin-usually located behind the gills. In male live-bearers, the anal fin is modified to serve a reproductive purpose, and is called the Gonopodium. Some fish have two dorsal fins, and in some varieties (the Characins, for instance) there is a small, fat fin just between the dorsal and caudal fins. This is called an Adipose fin. Note that not all fish have all these fins, because some breeds are cherished chiefly because one fin or another is missing or modified.

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