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Flagfin shiner

    The Flagfin Shiner (Pteronotropis signippinnis) as an
                      Aquarium Species

                         Robert Rice
         2213 Prytania Circle Navarre Florida 32566
                  email robertrice at juno_com

Lying  quietly back in the small tannic coastal  springs  of
Florida  and  Alabama,  Mississippi  and  Louisiana  is  the
Flagfin shiner . He lives as a virtual unknown to those  who
live around him. He is one of the most colorful and tolerant
aquarium species around. He also is one of the most obscure.
This common Southeastern shiner should be a shining star  of
the  aquarium.  He  rivals all the well known  tropicals  in
looks and he surpasses almost all of them in toughness.   He
takes  flake  ,  frozen and every other kind  of  food  with
relish.  Once  established in the tank he is gentle,  almost
disease  free, and showy. He is an excellent community  tank
member. Unfortunately he has remained an unknown species  to
the  Aquarist,  and to a greater degree the general  public.
Only  a  few  odd  collectors, NANFA members  and  fisheries
personnel even know he's  there.

In  this  country  there has developed a  shyness  of  sorts
against  keeping common native species.  Why  ?  Who  knows?
Fortunately  this  species is one of literally  hundreds  of
North  American  Native Species that are  suitable  aquarium
species.  They  pass the Aquarist test they are  colorful  ,
durable   and   breedable.  All  the  priorities  a  serious
Aquarist  should  have .  The only missing factor  for  most
Aquarist  is  information . Is there public  information  on
breeding  habits, food requirements etc. ? In this case  the
answer  is  no.  There  are  little  or  no  public  records
available on most North American Native Species in general ,
and  the  Flagfin Shiner in specific. With the exception  of
the  odd  article  in small native fish clubs  like  NANFA's
publication  American  Currents this  species  has  remained
anonymous. While this lack of species documentation presents
a challenge , it is not an insurmountable one .

Aquarist  unique  skills  in breeding  and  rearing  unusual
species   would change the published life history  for  this
species  and so many others in a heartbeat. Imagine the  day
when  all  the  State agencies have full and  complete  life
histories on this and other species without spending a  dime
.  This input from Aquarist could help preserve the species.
The  agencies would know the how, when and why of  breeding,
they  would know the intricacies of raising and rearing.  In
short  they  would  know the Flagfin  Shiner  or  any  other
species  Aquarists set there sights on. How could the  state
agencies  get all that information for free ? The answer  is
simple  and  can  be summed up in one word ,  Communicate  .
Aquarist  can  do  that !  If we can  breed  and  raise  and
document  habits of rare Discus and Cichlids , then  unusual
temperate  water species should be a snap. We  should  share
our  results with the local fisheries personnel and Colleges
then the whole country and the Flagfin shiner could benefit!
Fisheries  personnel  would  then  take  our  requests   for
expanded  legislated access to Native Fishes more  seriously
if  we shared breeding, rearing and collecting data with the
greater fisheries community.

You  decide the Flagfin sounds like an interesting fish  and
you'd  like  to try this native species for your next  tank.
You have a few questions first. You want to know is it worth
the  time and effort to do a serious attempt at breeding and
rearing ? Will it be colorful ? Will I be proud of my Native
Species  tank ? Basically , is this fish one I should  spend
my  time,  money  and efforts on ? The  answer  to  all  the
questions  is yes. For a unbiased opinion here is  what  the
benchmark of native fish guides  Peterson's Field  Guide  to
Freshwater Fishes  by Larry M. Page and Brooks M. Burr  says
about  the Flagfin Shiner (keep in mind this excellent  book
is  written for the Scholar/Biologist in the field  not  the
Aquarist ( page 118 ) " Identification :  Olive Gold  above;
upper side yellow front red at rear: broad blue black stripe
along  side  with  vertical orange dashes; pale  gold  lower
side;  gold snout. Red orange edge on yellow dorsal, caudal,
anal, and pelvic fins ; yellow pectoral fins deep compressed
body,  strongly  tapering  to caudical  peduncle..........".
Beautiful, common, unloved  and unknown , a prime  candidate
for the efforts of the serious Aquarist .

Certainly  the  Flagfin Shiner is a colorful fish  and  when
compared  with the various tetra's and danios out there,  it
is defiantly worthy of a serious look . Let's say you are  a
Naturalist at heart . You have decided you want to take  the
challenge and rear and breed the Flagfin Shiner . Well first
off,  I congratulate you , and second off , I warn you. Most
likely  you will fail several times before you succeed.  You
are   venturing  into  uncharted  waters.  There  is   scant
documentation out there. Do not be discouraged that is  part
of  the  learning process. Here is my experience  with  this
"Rose of the South". When I have collected this shiner it is
always  in  coastal seepage springs. Seepage springs  ,  are
springs  with no particular head to them. All along the  bed
of  the  spring  are very small little seeps that  bubble  a
small  amount of spring water. What this does is equilibrate
the  temperature all along the small creek  beds  that  this
species  occurs. You see , with no central concentration  of
spring  water there is no hot or cold end to the spring.  It
bubbles  along with a bit here , and a bit there  ,  and  in
general  maintains  a  very constant temperature  ,  pH  and
salinity   all  the  while  remaining  pretty  insignificant
(usually  less  than 6 feet across). During  a  creeks  long
ramblings it picks up large amounts of leaf  litter and pine
needles   thus  it  maintains  a  tannic  ,  acidic  quality
throughout  it's  stretch. This leaf  litter gives  it  it's
tannic  nature. Typically these "springs" vary only slightly
in temperature  ( 65-71 degrees F) and pH (6.0.- 6.5) during
a year. This constancy is the key to rearing this species .

The  Flagfin is often the most common fish in the places  it
inhabits. It is easy to collect and a lot of fun  .  If  you
are  able  to collect the species yourself  with  a  day  or
weekend  trip,  by  all  means do so.  It  is  the  type  of
collecting many people pay thousands  of dollars  for.  It's
tannic home and the variety of flora and fauna you encounter
during your collecting trip will make you believe you are in
a  deep , dark foreign land. Luckily for you may be able  to
collect  the Flagfin Shiner for the cost of gasoline,  time,
lunch  and a fishing license. The streams in which it occurs
are  cool  , comfortable and a pleasure to seine or  dipnet.
These  tannic  creeks  usually carry few  if  any  predatory
species  and a nice variety of Darters, Shiners and  plants.
Check  your  Peterson's  Guide,  your  local  Department  of
Natural  Resources  folks  or a NANFA  member  for  suitable
locations to collect and local regulations. With  a  bit  of
research you will find them an ease to find and collect.

   Suddenly  you realize you have caught the dreaded  Native
Fish  fever  . What now ? You sadly realize collecting  this
species  is just not a possibility ? Perhaps  your  physical
limitations preclude you from collecting this fish? What  if
you  live in Alberta Canada or Des Moines Iowa ? Inspite  of
all  this  you are still burning with the fever to rear  and
breed  this  fish  ! Relax, there are regular  trading  post
sections  in  NANFA's publications which can  help  you  get
suitable  specimens with little sweat ! If  you  are  not  a
NANFA  member and would like a trading post anyway try their
WEBSITE at WWW.NANFA.ORG or the NANFE echo on the fido net ,
or email me or  send me a self addressed stamp envelope. I'd
be  happy to send you a trading post (see end of article for
details).   Trading  posts  are  fast  becoming   the   most
economical way to acquire native species ! Make a trade , it
is  easy . Perhaps you are uncertain what you have to  offer
as  a trade (many people love to trade tropicals for natives
and vice versa) ! In many cases if you just have nothing  to
trade  some people are happy to send you fish at no  charge,
of  course  you  must be willing to pay the postage  .I  use
priority mail with a very high success rate.

With  a bit of elbow grease and bit of communication  and  a
collecting  trip  or  trade anyone can posses  some  Flagfin
Shiners. If you are a wise soul you will adjust the water  a
bit  before  they arrive and take the liberty  of  taking  a
water  sample  from  their home waters  with  you  when  you
collected, Or asked your trading partner to send one along .
Anyhow you have all it takes to make a go of this . You know
a  bit about the former home of these fish  so you can match
things in a reasonable manner. Unfortunately , you and I and
most  of the world are still are ignorant of the intricacies
of  their  lifestyle, reproduction and rearing.  Welcome  to
the club and by all means let me share with you what I know.
This  species  is an egg  scatterer , they spawn  in  gravel
depressions  in  the stream bed. Contrary to published  myth
they  will spawn all year around if conditions are right.  I
suspect temperature around 70 F will get them going but only
in combination with other factors. What are those factors  ?
I  don't know ! Aquarist could learn those factors . I  have
collect  gravid females in the spring , fall and winter.  So
temperature must be a factor. Their diet consist  mainly  of
small insects and crustaceans in the stream. The closer that
you  can  mimic that the better off you will be. In my  tank
they  thrive on bloodworms, earthworms and mosquito  larvae.
When  I  have  collected gravid females  they  have  quickly
spawned  . They  young are durable and become free  swimming
in  6  days and feed mainly of "green water " and daphnia  ,
then baby brine shrimp and finally bloodworms.

I  know there is much to learn about this species and  there
are  better  Aquarist who should take up  the  torch.  Their
input  will make the difference. Biologist just do not  have
the  time  and  resources to further this species  research.
Their  efforts are just spread too thin. Fisheries personnel
have  to  many  hats  to wear. Aquarist are  needed  in  the
environmental  fray more than ever . The breeding  of  these
more common species with documented data is a very practical
way  to help our fishes and the knowledge about them. A last
note  of  warning  , Flagfin Shiners are very  sensitive  to
temperature   changes  and  chlorine  so  plan   your   tank
maintenance accordingly and please by all means let us  know
of any success you may have . The states of Florida, Alabama
,  Louisiana  , Mississippi  and many of us out  here  await
your results.

The  writer  is the President of NANFA and writes  regularly
about  Native species and environmental issues. If you  have
questions  or comments  I  can be reached with  via  a  self
addressed  stamped envelope at 2213 Prytania Circle  Navarre
Florida  32566  or  email robertrice at juno_com.   If you are interested in
 receiving  more information about Joe Tommellerri's Native Fish   prints
 or in  purchasing one of his prints. He has hundreds of species
available. Please send a request to  Tommelerri Prints  2219
Washington  Blvd. Kansas City Ks. 66101, phone #  1-800-240-

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