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                 The North  American Killies
                         Robert Rice
                    2213 Prytania Circle
                       Navarre Florida
Battered  and  abused, unknown and unloved.  Sounds  like  a
movie of the week doesn't it ? Well in fact it describes our
North  American Killies. North American Killies ?  I  didn't
know  we had any you may say . You are not alone in thinking
that, and nothing could be farther from the truth ! We  have
an excellent variety of Killies on this continent , brackish
and  freshwater, they possess a multitude of dramatic sizes,
shapes  and  colors and are a hit oversees. Here sadly  they
are a flop relegated to use as an occasional bait minnow !

C'mon  folks  we can do SO much better than that!  While  we
talk  about the rain forest and other ecological  crisis  we
let  our  ignorance of local flora and fauna  and  thus  our
local  Killies go unchallenged. These poor guys lie  waiting
for  SOMEONE,  anyone  to notice them.  Why  not  you  !  If
tomorrow  your local newspaper ran a story saying XYZ  Killi
was  now  extinct. Would you be surprised ? Would  you  know
what  they were talking about ? Would you be ashamed ? Maybe
we all should be at least a little !

For those of you unfamiliar with our native Killies they are
a  broad  family  of  small (under six inches)  minnow  like
fishes.   With  a  large  degree  of  color  variation   and
temperaments with in the species. Almost all of them however
are   suitable   aquarium  specimens.  They   have   several
characteristics  that  make  them  something  your   average
Aquarist should look into. First and foremost they are tough
as   nails.  Their  tolerances  to  heat  cold,  poor  water
conditions and jumping on the floor are legendary. I've  had
individuals who jumped from the tank and have been unnoticed
for  hours  when  I  finally find the  dry,  dusty,  pitiful
looking victim he flip just a bit in my hand. So back in the
tank he went and by the end of the day was back to normal  !
Second  they  are  colorful, no not a  neon  tetra  type  of
colorful, but they are colorful, as colorful as a great many
tropical's out there and a heck of a lot easier and  cheaper
to  keep.  Finally  they  are very interesting  behaviorally
speaking.  Your average Aquarist has an excellent chance  at
successfully spawning most Killies. Sadly so little is known
about the triggers to spawning that well documented breeding
data  is not generally available. On the positive side  when
you  discover how to breed these gems the data  would  be  a
real  bonus  to  the  University or  Department  of  Natural
Resources folks out there. Who by the way are finding it  is
the  Killies  not  the Gambusia family  that  are  the  real
mosquito  fish. A Killi will eat 5-10 times more  mosquitoes
than a Gambusia. They are truly mosquito munching machines !
With  all that going for them they still have been virtually
ignored by Sportsmen, Naturalist, and most Aquarist. Only  a
few of us nuts out here keeping the faith and the Killies!

That's been the hurdle our native fishes have had to conquer
! They don't lack in durability , they don't lack in looks ,
they  certainly  don't lack in interesting  behaviors.  What
they  lack  in  is advocates ! Very few people  care  enough
about  them  to  speak up for them. That is their  downfall.
Book  after  book contains no relevant breeding  or  rearing
information.   They  all  say  the  dreaded,   see   species
description. Why is that ? Is it possible that all  Killies,
Sunfish  , Darters and Shiners are alike ? Needing the  same
water  , conditions, food, and temperature requirements?  Is
it possible that the entire continent is inhabited by only a
single species of Killi, Darter Sunfish etc.? Of course  not
. It's just there is not enough information available.

There  is  great  diversity out there and for  the  Aquarist
there  is  great opportunity to work with species  of  which
little  or nothing is known. Imagine you could be first  one
to  document breeding conditions of a  seldom studied  Killi
and  you  would  not even have to fly to Africa.  You  could
begin  to  document  the range of a species  that  has  been
passed  over in the past as only a unnamed Killi ! It's  not
SCI  FI  it's reality! All it takes is for folks all  across
the continent to get busy investing their time and resources
into  studying the world around them. You could make a great
difference, without significantly changing your hobby.  Keep
doing  what  your  doing just change  subjects  a  bit.   It
matters it really does !

OK,  OK, you say, you've convinced me I'll try a few Killies
now  where  do I start? First  check out your local  library
and see if you can Find Peterson's Field Guide to Freshwater
Fishes by Brooks M. Burr and Larry Page. This resource  book
will give you a real good idea of what Killies are available
locally. You should also check out and see if any people  in
your area are involved in keeping native Killies. Check with
your'  local  Fish  club or find out if  there  is  a  local
Chapter of NANFA (North American Native Fish Association) or
the  AKA  (American Killifish Association)  both  clubs  are
active  across  the  country in keeping and  rearing  Native
Killies and are great places to start (see side bar).

So  what Killies do I recommend you ask  . I recommend a ton
of  them  but for brevity's sake and to help the cause  I'll
cut  my  list  down  to  five  . Based  on  overall  beauty,
durability  , availability and authors bias. Here's  my  top
five in NO particular order.

The  Plains  Killifish  (Fundulus Zebrinus)-  This  charming
fellow looks like an escaped convict with his vertical  bars
and golden backdrop. In the tank he is very hardy and I have
had  them  spawn in both the pond and the tank. He takes  to
food  like he takes to life ,with hardy abandon. One of  the
finer  specimens of a fish you can keep. It  occurs  in  the
midwest. Sporadically from Colorado to Texas

Lined Topminnow (Fundulus Linnelatus)- Hard to find but easy
to  love  this  guy  is  cool. The male  takes  on  vertical
striping  on a light gray background while the female  takes
on  the horizontal stripes. Which makes them a striking pair
to  say the least. They are as hardy as you can get and make
an excellent species for study or home enjoyment.

Golden  Topminnow  (Fundulus Chrysotus)  The  Classic  North
American  Killi . Large, Colorful, exceedingly  tolerant  of
poor  conditions  and  a  bit  on  the  mean  side.  Readily
available in the pet trade or through fish clubs.

Bluefin Killie (Lucania Goodei) Probably the most well known
of  the  American Killies this small Killi is  an  excellent
pond  or  aquarium species . The male is strikingly colorful
with  fins  of  blue and red. It's small size and  excellent
temperament  make  it  suitable for small  tanks  and  jars.
Occurs in southern regions but is available commonly in  the
pet trade or through fish clubs

Blackstripe  Topminnow  (Fundulus  Euryzonus)  An  excellent
addition  to  any community tank. This small colorful  Killi
has  a shy temperament and an unusual habit of living almost
exclusively  in the top three inches of a tank. Very  common
across  the midwest and south. Very easy to collect my  five
year old daughter has caught them on many occasions.

Here's a non comprehensive list of places to start good luck
and good fishing.

NANFA (North American Native Fish Association)

Membership 15$ USA 17$ All other countries
TO: Konrad Schmidt
1663 Iowa Ave. E.
St. Paul, MN 55106

Membership Includes a Quarterly Magazine American Currents
a  BI  Monthly  Newsletter The Darter. Regional  groups  and
an active on line email group and a trading post.

AKA (American Killifish Association)

Basic US Membership 24$ other rates apply .

Membership Inf. Contact:
Ronald Coleman
903 Merrifield Place
Mishawaka IN

Membership  includes twelve monthly issues of  the  Business
News  Letter.  Six BI-Monthly issues of the Journal  of  the
American Killifish Association

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