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NFC: A Blast from the PAST From this months FAMA

A Blast From The Past
The melanistic Fundulus Chrysotus reappears in the hobby
Robert Rice
robertrice at juno_com
They have been in and out of the hobby since the 1930ís; its sliver of
fame comes and goes from decade to decade. They have not had much
publicity or respect. However over the decades they have had a few
advocates. Some of the greats in the Aquarium field like Innes and
Axelrod have written about them although rather briefly in their works.
Who is it, you ask? Who is this antique of the fish hobby? It is the
melanistic Fundulus Chrysotus or golden topminnow. He is the classic
native killie fish. A tough, durable and colorful killie fish not that
the melanistic version bears much resemblance to its more common cousin.
The melanistic version is a fish so colorful that you would swear he was
not real. You would faint if you saw this stained glass denizen alive in
your tank. His combination of golden speckles, dark spots and intense
orange fins makes him one of he most attractive killies out there bar
none. This fish is that beautiful. This fish is supermodel Cindy Crawford
beautiful. The type of fish that makes even the disinterested say, hey
what was that I just saw in your tank?  It is truly a rare find, a find
worthy of any aquarist. 
Unfortunately until recently it has been but a wisp of smoke. Like a tale
told around a campfire, it remained a Loch Ness monster of sorts of the
aquarium hobby. Observed, rumored, talked about but never kept. We who
follow temperate fishes have heard the rumors, the stories and seen the
old grainy black and white pictures. Sadly we had never seen the fish. No
one that I have heard of was keeping this jewel. Sure, I got the odd
story of someone seeing one in a collecting net in south Florida, or the
odd story from an old timer who had kept them in the 60ís but a live
specimen was not to be had. We in the Native Fish Conservancy wondered
was it out there? Not that it mattered in an ecological sense but heck we
like a pretty fish as much as the next guy and we wanted to see if the
stories were up to snuff. So we kept asking our members, dropping an odd
email here and there, and waiting and waiting and waiting.
Snooping around eventually paid off. Like a classic painting that
suddenly reappears at a garage sale. The melanistic Chrysotus were
rediscovered in 1999. Former NFC exotic removal guy Daryl Roche located a
population of melanistic Chrysotus in its traditional south Florida
haunts. Daryl selflessly asked me if NFC members would be interested in
donated brood stock and just like that we had our first hobbyist strain
of fish. Daryl diligently spread pairs out to members who had breeding
skills and now 2 years later we have hundreds of melanistic Chrysotus in
tanks all across the world. Daryl dropped out of things soon after his
donation, life being how it is I certainly understand, but I just wanted
to go on record as saying Darylís efforts brought this fish back to
breeders and thus back to the greater hobby and I wanted to thank you
publicly. Daryl if youíre out there THANKS!
Now back to the fish. It is all ways a Golden Topminnow. It breeds in
spawning mops or vegetation, needs 80 plus degree temps and high quality
food to be conditioned for breeding but is generally a easy killie to
keep. Here is the kicker. This version is absolutely stunning with a
capitol STUN! His orange fins and body inter spaced with black dots has
motivated my kids to call him the leopard killie. A deserved name for a
deserved fish. He rivals all the tropicals in durability, color and
coolness. It is hands down my favorite killie. Here is the second kick
they all vary, each killie has his own unique pattern, some more spots
some less, more orange, less orange. Itís amazing my first male lived 2
years in captivity (he was a wild caught adult) and produced dozens of
prodigy. My children named him Pike because of his aggressive nature.
Pikeís body was a black as the ace of spades with dots of orange. He grew
to almost 6 inches and would consume frozen, flake and live foods with
relish. The females it seems need a richer diet to produce eggs. I
suspect it has more to do with body fat  % than anything else. Whether a
female was conditioned or not Pike always remained ready to chase the
ladies and any other male foolish enough to get in his way. Thus making
him a favorite amongst our home kept fishes. He had a personality as
brash as his colors and we miss him.
To keep Fundulus Chrysotus of any type you will need a heavily planted
small tank with soft slightly acidic water. Food and temperature seem to
be the determining factors in success. A typical 70 F setup will lead to
failure. The Chrysotus are a southern killie that lives in shallow water
and they LOVE it hot. Temps in the mid 80ís are common in their habitat.
So put em on the porch or turn up the heater. I keep my tanks at 82
degrees year around. The other most common failure is inadequate food.
Flake food may be taken by the Leopard killies but they will not thrive
on it. They need a richer diet that more closely mimics their natural
feed. They absolutely love mosquito larvae and brine shrimp. I also feed
mine regular old table shrimp, frozen bloodworms and an odd earthworm now
and again. If you have proper setup breeding should be no problemo as
they say. 
Much to my surprise I found that most of the Fundulus Chrysotus spawning
occurs in the night or just at dawn. Perhaps this late night schedule
reduces the risk of predation in the wild or perhaps the moonlight adds
to the watery romance. Either way the leopard killies seem to like the
dark hours, the male will dance, romance and wiggle to his prospective
mate until she joins him in a clump of vegetation or a spawning mop. She
will then lay a few (less than 10) large amber colored eggs. The beauty
of this is that if she is happy, well fed and unbothered they will
continue to spawn daily. I had a female and Pike spawn for over 50
consecutive days documented in my notebook. Yes itís strange that I spent
50 nights in a row watching fish spawn and was willing to write about it.
Such odd behavior is a different topic for sure. A topic I suspect more
than one of my readers can appreciate. Anyhow Pike fathered over 60 young
in the summer of 1999, in my primitive setup. A feat I have yet to
replicate personally and have thus stopped at three. So obviously the
Chrysotus is an easy species to keep. Humans I can attest are a bit more
The young will quickly take baby brine shrimp, bloodworms, black worms
and about anything they can fit in their mouths. They are very durable
and to be honest with you I raised most of mine in the parentís tank with
no supplemental feedings. I just let them pick up scraps and hide from
their folks. Iím not one of those high tech aquarist. I just do not have
the space or time to have separate baby grow out setups. Others in the
NFC like Bill Duzen who is a killie breeding fool have had much better
success with removed mops and raising of the eggs in a separate setup. I
with a small house three young kids and a wife in residency settled on a
20-gallon tank with no filter or gravel and a huge mass of cabomba and
java moss. My primitive setup laced with live foods collected from my
ponds or local ditches was a killie honeymoon hotel. I produced enough
young to give starter colonies to scores of other hobbyist. So donít let
you lack of equipment be an issue to setting up a killie tank. They lend
them selves very well to low tech setups. 
Leopard killies are a fun species to keep. They are also an easy species
to keep. They are also just about impossible to get in the hobby. That is
until now. You see our loosely knit NFC network aided by the Internet has
produced several sources for this fascinating killie. Availability and
prices will vary but they are available. I donít recommend one source
over the other nor do the NFC or I profit in anyway from their
activities. I just offer them as options and let the buyer beware. So for
the first time ever you can save a trip to Florida and get some leopard
killies from a breeder. I suspect that like almost all of the killies
temperate and tropical they will never make it to the pet store as their
life history habits make them difficult to collect in large numbers or to
breed in a hatchery setting. Thus they will be on the B List of fishes.
You know the fishes that are cool but not easy enough for commercial mass
production. Thatís Ok though and that should not stop you from getting
into the killies or your local fishes for that matter. Itís an exciting
and fun addition to your hobby. Just think you could be the first to
bring the leopard killie to your local society auction. Shock em and tell
em itís from Katmandu or some other exotic location like Florida. So for
the first time there are sources for this fascinating killie fish. The
Leopard Killie, like most of our local species is under studied and under
loved and worthy of your passion and interest. Interested? Do something
about it!
Until next time good luck and good fishing.
Jonah's Aquarium
PO Box 1231
Worthington OH 43085-1231
jonah at mail_jonahsaquarium.com 
Toll Free 1-877-417-4871
Phone 1-614-431-9862
Bill Duzen
Angoloa,  Ny
theduuz at aol_com 
Want to learn more?
Join the The Native Fish Conservancy
Membership is a low $10
Get their newsletter, support conservation and hook up with folks with a
similar interest.
Join online or by Personal check mailed to
NFC:  3635 NW 68th Lane 
Gainesville Fl 32653

Robert Rice
NFC president

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