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            The North  American Killies<BR>
                         Robert Rice<BR>
Battered  and  abused, unknown and unloved.  Sounds  like  a<BR>
movie of the week doesn't it ? Well in fact it describes our<BR>
North  American Killies. North American Killies ?  I  didn't<BR>
know  we had any you may say . You are not alone in thinking<BR>
that, and nothing could be farther from the truth ! We  have<BR>
an excellent variety of Killies on this continent , brackish<BR>
and  freshwater, they possess a multitude of dramatic sizes,<BR>
shapes  and  colors and are a hit oversees. Here sadly  they<BR>
are a flop relegated to use as an occasional bait minnow !<BR>
C'mon  folks  we can do SO much better than that!  While  we<BR>
talk  about the rain forest and other ecological  crisis  we<BR>
let  our  ignorance of local flora and fauna  and  thus  our<BR>
local  Killies go unchallenged. These poor guys lie  waiting<BR>
for  SOMEONE,  anyone  to notice them.  Why  not  you  !  If<BR>
tomorrow  your local newspaper ran a story saying XYZ  Killi<BR>
was  now  extinct. Would you be surprised ? Would  you  know<BR>
what  they were talking about ? Would you be ashamed ? Maybe<BR>
we all should be at least a little !<BR>
For those of you unfamiliar with our native Killies they are<BR>
a  broad  family  of  small (under six inches)  minnow  like<BR>
fishes.   With  a  large  degree  of  color  variation   and<BR>
temperaments with in the species. Almost all of them however<BR>
are   suitable   aquarium  specimens.  They   have   several<BR>
characteristics  that  make  them  something  your   average<BR>
Aquarist should look into. First and foremost they are tough<BR>
as   nails.  Their  tolerances  to  heat  cold,  poor  water<BR>
conditions and jumping on the floor are legendary. I've  had<BR>
individuals who jumped from the tank and have been unnoticed<BR>
for  hours  when  I  finally find the  dry,  dusty,  pitiful<BR>
looking victim he flip just a bit in my hand. So back in the<BR>
tank he went and by the end of the day was back to normal  !<BR>
Second  they  are  colorful, no not a  neon  tetra  type  of<BR>
colorful, but they are colorful, as colorful as a great many<BR>
tropical's out there and a heck of a lot easier and  cheaper<BR>
to  keep.  Finally  they  are very interesting  behaviorally<BR>
speaking.  Your average Aquarist has an excellent chance  at<BR>
successfully spawning most Killies. Sadly so little is known<BR>
about the triggers to spawning that well documented breeding<BR>
data  is not generally available. On the positive side  when<BR>
you  discover how to breed these gems the data  would  be  a<BR>
real  bonus  to  the  University or  Department  of  Natural<BR>
Resources folks out there. Who by the way are finding it  is<BR>
the  Killies  not  the Gambusia family  that  are  the  real<BR>
mosquito  fish. A Killi will eat 5-10 times more  mosquitoes<BR>
than a Gambusia. They are truly mosquito munching machines !<BR>
With  all that going for them they still have been virtually<BR>
ignored by Sportsmen, Naturalist, and most Aquarist. Only  a<BR>
few of us nuts out here keeping the faith and the Killies!<BR>
That's been the hurdle our native fishes have had to conquer<BR>
! They don't lack in durability , they don't lack in looks ,<BR>
they  certainly  don't lack in interesting  behaviors.  What<BR>
they  lack  in  is advocates ! Very few people  care  enough<BR>
about  them  to  speak up for them. That is their  downfall.<BR>
Book  after  book contains no relevant breeding  or  rearing<BR>
information.   They  all  say  the  dreaded,   see   species<BR>
description. Why is that ? Is it possible that all  Killies,<BR>
Sunfish  , Darters and Shiners are alike ? Needing the  same<BR>
water  , conditions, food, and temperature requirements?  Is<BR>
it possible that the entire continent is inhabited by only a<BR>
single species of Killi, Darter Sunfish etc.? Of course  not<BR>
. It's just there is not enough information available.<BR>
There  is  great  diversity out there and for  the  Aquarist<BR>
there  is  great opportunity to work with species  of  which<BR>
little  or nothing is known. Imagine you could be first  one<BR>
to  document breeding conditions of a  seldom studied  Killi<BR>
and  you  would  not even have to fly to Africa.  You  could<BR>
begin  to  document  the range of a species  that  has  been<BR>
passed  over in the past as only a unnamed Killi ! It's  not<BR>
SCI  FI  it's reality! All it takes is for folks all  across<BR>
the continent to get busy investing their time and resources<BR>
into  studying the world around them. You could make a great<BR>
difference, without significantly changing your hobby.  Keep<BR>
doing  what  your  doing just change  subjects  a  bit.   It<BR>
matters it really does !<BR>
OK,  OK, you say, you've convinced me I'll try a few Killies<BR>
now  where  do I start? First  check out your local  library<BR>
and see if you can Find Peterson's Field Guide to Freshwater<BR>
Fishes by Brooks M. Burr and Larry Page. This resource  book<BR>
will give you a real good idea of what Killies are available<BR>
locally. You should also check out and see if any people  in<BR>
your area are involved in keeping native Killies. Check with<BR>
your'  local  Fish  club or find out if  there  is  a  local<BR>
Chapter of NANFA (North American Native Fish Association) or<BR>
the  AKA  (American Killifish Association)  both  clubs  are<BR>
active  across  the  country in keeping and  rearing  Native<BR>
Killies and are great places to start (see side bar).<BR>
So  what Killies do I recommend you ask  . I recommend a ton<BR>
of  them  but for brevity's sake and to help the cause  I'll<BR>
cut  my  list  down  to  five  . Based  on  overall  beauty,<BR>
durability  , availability and authors bias. Here's  my  top<BR>
five in NO particular order.<BR>
The  Plains  Killifish  (Fundulus Zebrinus)-  This  charming<BR>
fellow looks like an escaped convict with his vertical  bars<BR>
and golden backdrop. In the tank he is very hardy and I have<BR>
had  them  spawn in both the pond and the tank. He takes  to<BR>
food  like he takes to life ,with hardy abandon. One of  the<BR>
finer  specimens of a fish you can keep. It  occurs  in  the<BR>
midwest. Sporadically from Colorado to Texas<BR>
Lined Topminnow (Fundulus Linnelatus)- Hard to find but easy<BR>
to  love  this  guy  is  cool. The male  takes  on  vertical<BR>
striping  on a light gray background while the female  takes<BR>
on  the horizontal stripes. Which makes them a striking pair<BR>
to  say the least. They are as hardy as you can get and make<BR>
an excellent species for study or home enjoyment.<BR>
Golden  Topminnow  (Fundulus Chrysotus)  The  Classic  North<BR>
American  Killi . Large, Colorful, exceedingly  tolerant  of<BR>
poor  conditions  and  a  bit  on  the  mean  side.  Readily<BR>
available in the pet trade or through fish clubs.<BR>
Bluefin Killie (Lucania Goodei) Probably the most well known<BR>
of  the  American Killies this small Killi is  an  excellent<BR>
pond  or  aquarium species . The male is strikingly colorful<BR>
with  fins  of  blue and red. It's small size and  excellent<BR>
temperament  make  it  suitable for small  tanks  and  jars.<BR>
Occurs in southern regions but is available commonly in  the<BR>
pet trade or through fish clubs<BR>
Blackstripe  Topminnow  (Fundulus  Euryzonus)  An  excellent<BR>
addition  to  any community tank. This small colorful  Killi<BR>
has  a shy temperament and an unusual habit of living almost<BR>
exclusively  in the top three inches of a tank. Very  common<BR>
across  the midwest and south. Very easy to collect my  five<BR>
year old daughter has caught them on many occasions.<BR>
You might also want to check out the native fish conservancy at  <A
HREF="http://nativefish.interspeed.net/">Native Fish Conservancy
Homepage</A> <BR>

Robert Rice
Help Preserve our Aquatic Heritage join the NFC
email us at NFC at actwin_com
website  http://nativefish.interspeed.net/

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