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  1. [F] killifish
    by oleg-at-Veritas.COM (Oleg Kiselev) (26 Jan 93)
  2. [FRESH] A few words about Cynopoecilus (Cynolebias) melanotaenia
    by (Oleg Kiselev) (Fri, 29 Apr 1994)
  3. killifish advice sought
    by (Oleg Kiselev) (Tue, 31 May 1994)
  4. Killies for beginners
    by (Richard Sexton) (Mon, 13 Jun 1994)
  5. Charles Manson is a killiefish
    by (Oleg Kiselev) (Wed, 5 Apr 1995)
  6. Charles Manson is a killiefish
    by (Oleg Kiselev) (Thu, 6 Apr 1995)
  7. KILLIES list defunct? NO!
    by (Paul S Gardner) (30 May 1995)

[F] killifish

by oleg-at-Veritas.COM (Oleg Kiselev)
Date: 26 Jan 93

lucas-at-spot.Colorado.EDU (Michael A. Lucas) writes:
>I have this very old (10 years) book on killifish.  

You can get a few newer books, but the 10 year old book is probably
still a good reference.  What book is it (the author's name will be

>1.  Any good mail order places to get the fi or their eggs?

Yes, the monthly Business Newsletter of the American Killifish Association 
carries a few pages of the Fish & Eggs ads from the AKA members.

>2.  Why are they so rare in the pet stores?

Here are some reasons I can think of:  A very large percentage of the
fish you buy in the pet shops are caught in the wild or spawned on the
aqua-farms in Florida, California and most often in Malaysia, Hong Kong
and other Pacific/Asian countries.  A much smaller, almost miniscule
percentage of fish comes from hobbyists.

Killies are not very easy to collect because of the nature of their
habitat.  They live in the shallows, among grass stands, roots and leaf
litter, or in seasonal pools.  The parts of the world where most of the
aquarium-suitable species live are not the places where you'd want to
set up a large scale export operation.  Some are simply remote and
difficult to access.  Some are in political and military turmoil (just
off the top of my head: Somalia, Angola, Malawi, Zair, Liberia, Sudan,
Chile, Peru, Brazil, Columbia and Kurdistan).  Only a few killifish
school in large numbers that make commercial collecting possible, but
even these species tend to inhabit places like shallow seasonal lakes
densely overgrown with reeds.

To "farm" them is also not easy, since they place particular demands on
the breeder.  Unlike danios, rasboras and tetras, killies do not
produce hundreds of eggs in one group spawning, requiring far more work
-- picking eggs out of the spawning mops, incubation of the eggs, etc.
Other killies are "annual" fish and their eggs require months of

Most killies' spawns come in small batches which have to be all kept
size-separated to prevent opportunistic cannibalism and the fry *MUST*
be fed live foods. This makes raising non-annual killie spawns more
expensive than raising many other fish.

The annual species are, well, not exactly long lived, so many stores do
not want to sell them to their customers (hell, most of those people
will kill within 3 months any fish they buy in any case, so what's the
big deal?)

The supply of killies is limited, so stores are charged relatively high
prices for them and that price tag is passed on to the consumer,
usually tripled.  I had seen sad looking albino Fundulopanchax gardneri
for $18/pair at a store known for its exceptionally low prices -- how
can an average aquarist be persuaded to shell out that kind of money on
something that does not look very nice at all, when a school of 9-18
neons (depending on the size) can be had for the same price?

Killies are predominantly carnivorous (except for the pupfish, which
are not) and a large number of species do not eat flake food or will
not spawn well if not fed a diet consisting of live, frozen and
"prepared" foods, so they are more expensive to maintain for both the
distributors and the dealers.

Many killies have a deserved reputation for being pugnatious and in
some cases equalling Bettas and Mbuna in their assertions of dominance
over their rivals, sometimes even with fatal results.  Some species'
males will terrorize certain other fish (I had a large male Notho live
peacefully with danios, but nearly killed a group of dwarf gouramis
twice his size, another male Notho murdered my entire spawning group of
lemon tetras).  Stores simply can't afford to devote an individual tank
to each species and a personal little domain for every male.  Many
stores crowd the fish, which works to mellow out cichlids, but only
helps killies rip each others fins off.

A number of killies are excellent jumpers, so they require more careful
handling, which many stores are unwilling to provide.  The feeding
requirements, easily met by better shops, become insurmountable
obstacles in keeping killies looking well enough to be sellable by less
dedicated shops.

Some killies simply aren't all that good looking unless kept in optimal
conditions.  Some killies, like some native American species of
Fundulus and Cyprinodon are not at all pretty, and many are on the list
of endangered species, so they are not available to aquarium trade.

Killies are, for the most part, small fish.  People seem to larger fish
or at least fish that will get big.

Even when a large quantity of spectacular-looking fish are sold to a
shop they may not sell well.  I had seen my fish languish in the tanks
of petshops for months in some cases, because people simply do not
think much of fish that do not do the "fishy things" -- swim back and
forth and look like fish.  Killies often just hang there, looking great
if they are given the conditions they like, or looking drab and dull
under the glaring lights and against the bright-pink gravel.

On the other hand, some killifish that can be group-spawned and raised,
and can be caught in large numbers in West African rain forest streams,
so-called Lampeyes, simply don't look like much of anything unless the
light strikes them just right, and then they light up like living
jewels.  But in a store tank they look like colourless, gray, drab
minnows.  Nobody buys them, so the stores will not stock them.

About a year ago I bought a spectacular group of Aplocheilus panchax at
a local petshop.  They were 2 for $.99, so I caught all fish that
looked like they could be females (all 3 of them) and got enough males
to round the bill up to $5 (when you ask the store employee to catch
"THAT one!  Yes, that!  No, you missed her...  There she is!" in a tank
of 200 scared, identical-looking fish, most will just hand you the net
and tell you to go for it :-).  These fish were just plain, gray
minnows in the dealer's tank.  Within weeks they turned into a
spectacular purplish-red fish with the bright orange&black tail (a few
with the silver and black tail and bluish cast to the body).  I am sure
that the price was this low because the store did not expect to be able
to interest the customers in the fish otherwise.

>3.  Do they ever really get to look as good as they did in these pictures
>    or was that just some freak mutated fish that the snapped a photo of?

Most killies look much better than the photos can show.  Metalic green, blue
and red of the Aphyosemions does not photograph well, the fluorescent glow
of the lampeyes does not get captured on the film at all (much like the
pearl sheen of the pearl danios).  Some people are very good at taking fish 
photos and the slides they make are available from the AKA.

>4.  The book talked about some killifish association or something like that,
>    is it still around?  Address?

AKA's membership contact address is:
        Ronald Coleman,
        903 Merrifield Place,
        Mishiwaka, IN 46544

Annual dues were $19.50 US, $21.50 Canada&Mexico, $32.00 surface and 
$44 air mail for other foreign countries. 

They are going up this year to cover the increase in postal rates over the
last 5 years, but it's still worth every penny.

You can also join KILLIES e-mailing list (
by sending a message to
Don't blame me, I voted Libertarian.

Oleg Kiselev                                   
VERITAS Software                           ...!{apple|uunet}!veritas!oleg

[FRESH] A few words about Cynopoecilus (Cynolebias) melanotaenia

by (Oleg Kiselev)
Date: Fri, 29 Apr 1994
Newsgroup: rec.aquaria

C. melanotaenia, aka "the fighting gaucho", are a South American annual 
killifish.  Someone asked about them a few weeks ago (a fellow named Alex 
from a site in Brazil), inquiring into their breding.  I said I will posa
something if I get a successfull hatch.  Well, here it is.

The spawning pair were kept in a 2 gal (8l) tank with no filtration or 
heating, gardenning peat substrate, Java moss. 

Water: soft (50-100ppm TDS, including dechloramitaros), neutral to 
acid (usually under 7pH).  50-75% water changes every 1-3 weeks.

Temperature: 60-75F.  They will tolerate temperatures in high 80's.  In
their native habitat (Southern Brazil, Uruguay) they are said to live in
what's described as a "temperate" climate.  Spawning temperatures are
suggested at 68-72F (20-23C).

Diet: live foods only.  THey may eat flake or frozen, but I never tried
feeding them aything other than daphnia, mosquito larvae, blood worms, 
worms (white, grindal, Tubificids) and baby and adult brine shrimp.

Temperament: There was no aggression between the male and the female.  Males
are said to be completely intolerant of each other, much like Bettas.

Spawning technique: these fish are not substrate divers, they are
"plowers".  The first few rays of the male's anal fin are modified into a
sperm-delivery organ.  Nothing as fancy as guppies or Phallichtys, but the
male fertilizes the egg *inside* the female.  This qualifies C. mel. as 
livebearer iunder a broad application of the term.  

THe eggs were laid into the peat substrate (1/4-1/2" thick layer).  THe eggs
are small (1.5mm), dark, non-adhesive hard to see.  THe incubation period was
3 months at 68F/20C (+/- a bit).  At 70-75F (21-24C) the incubation is
shorter -- 6 weeks.  Over 75F is not recommended.

Fry hatch relatively small, so I fed them vinerar eels and paramecium.
Within a few days they were eating baby brine shrimp.
Oleg Kiselev at home			...use the header to find the path

killifish advice sought

by (Oleg Kiselev)
Date: Tue, 31 May 1994
Newsgroup: rec.aquaria

In article <>,
>I figure the only thing I can keep in it is a pair of killifish, and

No, that's not all you can keep in such a tank.  However, a pair of killies
need less maintenance than any other fish.  And they are among the most
colourful f/w fish... at least when you see them.  THey like to hide.

>would like to solicit suggestions as to species.  I plan to fill the
>thing with water,

That's a good start! :-)

>gravel, plants 

Coarse sand would be better for both the fish and the plants.

>and an airstone, 

THis is not absolutely necessary.  I have a number of tanks without any
circulation and the fish don't mind it at all.

>but really have no
>room for a heater in it, so the ability to tolerate/appreciate temps
>ranging from 68-80 F is a must in any occupants.  The only other

Most killies don't need a heated tank.  Most species can tolerate a wide
range of temperatures -- aslong as the changes are not too sudden.

>issue is availability; something common enough that it'll be in the
>AKA trader or whatever the thing's called would be best.

There are a lot of species sold via the AKA's "Fish and Eggs" listings that
would fit your needs.  You will probably do best with the fish from genera
Aphyosemion, small Roloffia, small Fundulopanchax (F. gardneri and may be 
F. walkeri) most likely to fit your needs.  

Just looking through the May issue and picking out the easiest, least
expensive and best looking fish that I have had experience with:
	A. celiae (I kept and bred these fish in an unfiltered .5 gal container)
	A. schioetzi (1 gal, pretty undemanding),
	A. sp. primigenium affinis (kept them in 1.5 gal tank, got lots of fry)
	A. bualanum (1 gal, showy, lots of variability between populations,
		which results in some populations selling for a lot more
		than others)
	A. bitaeniatum Lagos (these fish are likely to hide if kept in a
		small tank)
	A. australe Gold/Red/Oragne (very showy, look better than most 
		salt-water fish, do fine in small tanks)
	A. striatum (easy, attractive fish that will live and breed in an
		unheated, unfiltered 1/2 gal tank and be happy)
	A. gabunense boehmi (like A. striatum, but I kept them in a 2 gal tank)
and so on...

As you can see, a lot is available for you to choose from.  
Oleg Kiselev at home			...use the header to find the path

Killies for beginners

by (Richard Sexton)
Date: Mon, 13 Jun 1994
Newsgroup: sci.aquaria,rec.aquaria,alt.aquaria

>In article <2snjog$>,
>Simon Eldridge <> wrote:
>> only get hold of A.Gardenri and suggest I send away for them but
>> where? 
>[Olegs pointers to the AKA deleted]
>>Also I know they like  acidic conditions are there any which
>This is true about many killies, but by far not all.  There are some killies
>that live in brackish waters, some that live in salt water, and even some
>that live in the water that's several times more saline than the ocean.
>There are also many species that simply prefer alkaline water.
I'll go a step further at state that species that require acidic water
are so rare and uncommon that I wouldn't bother worrying about it.
While Olegs comments above give you the impression there are a large
numbers of killies that live in brackish or supermarine water, there's
really only a coulple of genera and a few dozen species like that.
The remainder of the several thousand species live in slightly
acidic water in the wild, but do perfectly fine in tap water in most
cases. If you really get into it and aquire some rare or delicate
species you will probably want to get a reverse osmosis filter and
mix your local tap water half and half with it - assuming your tap
water is > 200-300 ppm. If it's in that range, it's fine. LA tap
was 800 ppm, which is why I had it.
The reason for the softer water requirement is the calcium on 
the outer membrane of the egg prevents the sperm from penetrating
the egg, so for some species, soft water is required for spawning.
Scheel also determined that in the lack of tannins (from decomposing
leaves in the wild, or peat moss in captivity) some species never
fully develop their reproductive systems. Again, these would be
very rare species. Anything you buy in this country is tank raised.
Wild killies come in either as weeds with commercial imports (damn
few) or AS commercial imports (damn few) or by private collectors
who seldom bring in more than a half dozen pairs and try to breed
them to make them available. The latter will have collection data
associated with them; this information is retained and used to identify
subsequest generations; this designation is important because
populations of a single species from a fairly close proximity
might look alike yet turn up to be different species.
>> might be suitable for tank with south american fishes ie discus
>> dwarf cichlids? 
>Some may be suitable.  Some may rip the cichlids' fins off.
In the african killies, most any of the smaller Aphyosemions
will be ok. Larger ones, which we're calling Fundulopanchax this
week, can be quite agressive. Usually this agression is directed
at each other though. The agression in larger killies is so highly
variable that it defines qualifying.
I've had F. deltensae that may as well have been bettas.
I've had a 40 gal tank with 2 dozen pair of Blue Gulars (F. sjoestedti)
with nary a shredded fin.
>>Even if I can't keep them with other fish I am still 
>> interested in keeping them - what would be a good speices to start
>> with
>Aphyosemion gardneri is a very attractive, hardy, easy to breed fish. They
>are a good beginner killifish.
Maybe. There are almost 30 different varieties of gardneri; they're
mostly all easy to breed, relativly unkillable. Blue fish, red
spots, yellow stripes in the fins. I like them, but have fish I prefer.
Aphyosemion australe is still proably my all time favorite. It comes
in two varieties - the chocolate brown wild form, and the orange
form that came from a mutation in the species in the 50's in Finland.
Both have lots of red spots and lyre shaped tail fins with white
streamers. The orange or brown forms have that color as a solid
body colour.
They're a bit smaller than gerdneri (who get about 2.5") and they
are seldom larger than 2". They are sexually mature at .75".
They are of a more delicate body shape that gardneri, and have the
additional advantage that they (the orange form) are the only
commercially viable killie for selling to wholesalers or pet shops.
You could'nt breed enough to keep up with demand. Contrast this
with other killies. You generally could'nt give other killies
to stores.
Other really good beginner killies:
Aphyseomion bivitattum
A. filamentosum
A. celia
A. gabunense
A. shoitzi
A. congicum
Fundulpanchax gardneri
F. sjoestedti
F. walkeri
Epiplatys dageti monroviae
E. lamottei

South America:			(not really community fish)

Cynolebias whitei
C. nigripinnis

Aplocheilus panchax
A. lineatus
A. dayi
Another point to note wen mixing killies with dwarf cichlids, or
any different fish species for that matter is to take into
consideration what part of the aquarium the fish inhabit. Dwarf
cichlids occupy the lower 1/3 rd of the tank, tending to hug
the substrate. Aplocheilus species occupy the top strata; they
are surface dwellers, so although lineatus is a vicious little
bugger sometimes, they'll never bother Apistogrammas. Dayi is
sometimes commonly available in pet stores.


Richard J. Sexton                Masonic order of the MANGO/Gryphon Gang North                  

Charles Manson is a killiefish

by (Oleg Kiselev)
Date: Wed, 5 Apr 1995
Newsgroup: rec.aquaria

In article <>,
W. Keith Brummett <> wrote:
>    OK, I'm pissed.  Why didn't any of you killie people warn me about
>    the little psycho killers from hell?  I figured I'd try to find out
>    about all the excitement over killies, so I got me a trio (1m, 2f)
>    of fundu-something-or-other gardneri.  Pretty fish.  I needed a
>    holding tank for them.  No problem, I thought, since I've a nice
>    little ten-gallon set up with live plants and only a dozen neons as
>    residents.  I acclimated the killies and in they went.  Bad move.
>    The killies were shy the first day, staying under plants or in dark
>    corners.  I figured they'd get over their shyness. ...  Yeah, right.
>    This morning, the four neons who were still alive were missing eyes,
>    tail fins, and other parts usually considered non-optional.  My
>    killie book did *not* mention this aspect of their behavior.  I can't
>    decide whether to keep the killies or just drop them into a blender.
>    Did I mention that I'm pissed?

Keith, you have been on the Net for a while now.  YOu have seen my postings
about killies (about the only subject, other than the reorg, that I have
spent any keystrokes on in the last 2 years).  You should have read them.
You should have looked at the aquaria archives on the Web and ftp.

Here are a few comments.

1) Most killifish books suggest keeping killies in "species" tanks -- one
species per tank.

2) Your experienc is neither unique (Fundulopanchax species are relatively
nasty, though not nearly as bad some other genera), nor typical (I have kept
F. gardneri in tanks with guppies, catfishes, and tetras).  Perhaps the 
killies were hungry and neons looked just about the right size for a snack...
More likely they were simply establishing the "pecking order" and the
neons were too docile to know to run away when "pecked" on.

3) Neons are cheap. :-)

If you do decide to keep the killies, look up my old postings about F.
gardneri.  In paticular pay attention to the points about 24+ hour fights
between larger males with fins and scales flying all over.  Or about their
repeated attempts to recapitulate evolution and become land dwellers.

I have bred the same strain of F. gardneri for over 6 years.  They were my
first killifish and when I get rid of everything else, I will probably keep
Oleg Kiselev at home			...use the header to find the path

Charles Manson is a killiefish

by (Oleg Kiselev)
Date: Thu, 6 Apr 1995
Newsgroup: rec.aquaria

In article <>,
W. Keith Brummett <> wrote:
>    > 1) Most killifish books suggest keeping killies in "species" tanks
>    I had thought that was for convenience (no unintentional gene mixing)
>    rather than of necessity.  Now I know better.

The problem with mixing species (of any kind) is not just to prevent
hybridization, but to keep the fish from killing each other in a tiny,
confined space.  Different species had evolved different behavioural
responces to the same stimuli.  To a tetra an immobile fish or slow moving
fish is a sign of "everything is OK".  To a Nothobranchius male, which has
evolved bright and garish colours to be seen by females in the muddy
waterholes and flooded clay depressions of its habitat, it's like
waving a flag in front of a bull -- a challenge to be met with force.
A Fundulopanchax will challenge the intruders -- and get royally pissed
when the challenge is not acknowledged by a properly self-abasing
acknowledgement of the challenger's dominance (which is usually
displayed by hasty retreat out of sight).

And more importantly, anything that is slow and small is food to the
Aphyosemion/Roloffia/Fundulopanchax fishes.

>    Stupid TFH book said killies were "small, peaceful aquarium fish".

That *IS* rather stupid and incredibly misleading.  Let me give you a few

Lampeyes, like for example Procatopus or Aplocheilichtys species will
school and behave almost like tetras.  They are small (except for the
Lamprichtys tanganyicanus) and relatively peaceful (they do nip each
others' fins a tad).

Some Fundulopanchax species get as big as 5-6" (and some blue gularis
get considerably larger) and are a moderately violent bunch at least
until they settle the dominance hierarchy. 

Diapterons (Aphyosemion georgie, A. cyanostictum, etc.) are tiny,
gorgeous fish with a murderous personality.  In their habitat (cold,
clear, deeply shaded, slow moving small streams in the rainforest)
there is never less than several feet of water between any two males.

Cynolebias prognatos gets to be a foot long and eats nothing but live fish
from early childhood.  It's also hideously ugly.  

And so on.  "Small and peaceful" is not a very good description of a
groupping of fish that are found on 5 continents (not in Australia, though)
and in the climates that range from the temperate continental climate of the
Central Planes to East African deserts and the Death Valley to the

That's what makes killies so much fun -- they are so varied.
Oleg Kiselev at home			...use the header to find the path

KILLIES list defunct? NO!

by (Paul S Gardner)
Date: 30 May 1995
Newsgroup: rec.aquaria,alt.aquaria,sci.aquaria

  In article <3qb2ka$>,
  Dustin Laurence <> wrote:

      > (Paul S Gardner) writes:

  >When I was going around to the various lists I tried this address and
  >was neither subscribed nor sent a reply or error message of any kind.

The proper address may be
  >I would still like approximate membership and traffic figures for the
  >RFD, if convenient.

The last list I saw indicated about 140 members.  I get about 10 to 20
messages per day at my site.

Hope this helps.  Sorry about the red herring.

Up to Fish/Animals <- The Krib This page was last updated 29 October 1998