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NFC: weee fish

Wee fishes for those tiny places !
Robert Rice

Just this last month I moved into a new home in Gainesville Florida. My
huge flower beds and ponds were left behind and I started yet again with
a blank yard. No flowers, no trees just grass , dirt and inspiration. My
spouse, my better half , many would say finished up her military tour and
joined a residency program here in Gainesville. So for what we hoped was
the last time I moved my tanks,  computer, and brought with me cuttings,
seeds, dreams, shovels and hopes.

As I dug out bed after Bed in the Florida sun I had a vision. Why not
tuck small ponds into the nooks and crannies of my Perennial beds ? So I
reached into my bag of tricks and found  4 small 40 gallon or so ponds at
a local Hardware  store getting out of the pond business. The price was
cheap and in a flash I was an owner of 1 peanut shaped and 3 Rio shaped
(as described on the label) ponds. These small ponds are the typical
black preformed variety some with ledges for pots some without. All of
them however have the same problem. They are too small to support any
fish bigger than a few inches . So if I followed my typical no filters
lotsa plants model , I would be presented with some problems. You see if
I just planted plants and no fish I would be running an excellent
mosquito preschool. Having met adult mosquitoes  I thought better of it
all and realized I needed fish !

As is usually the case nature provides where thoughtfulness resides. So
after digging my ponds , hitting the water table and re digging them I
was ready for fish.  My main priority , as it should be for any tiny pond
owner is mosquito control.  If it eats mosquitoes , is durable, and will
reproduce on its own it's a winner. Unfortunately for the past 40 years
or so Gambusia species have been spread all over the Earth in an effort
to control mosquitoes. As a part of their marketing they have even been
called mosquito fish. Well , sir , let me tell you I know Gambusia and he
sir is no mosquito fish. A egg snatcher yes, a young stealer for sure but
as a mosquito fish he is second rate. So my advice to you the readers is
forget Gambusia if you have any other options. Ask the Australians about
how much habitat destruction a Gambusia can do. They have destroyed many
of their local species. So my advice is stay local. If Gambusia are your
local species try them if you like if not forget them. If you are not
sure what is a local species purchase a Peterson's Field Guide to
Freshwater  Fishes at the NFC website at www.nativefish.org  the site
also has photos and articles about most of the wee species and a cool
kids program , plus a page just for ponders so check them out.

Anyway back to my ponds. I chose a monoclture approach. One of the ways I
support my Aquarium/Pond hobby is through sales of common native fish. So
each small pond had a particular fish species only. I chose Heterandria
formosa a tiny live bearer , Bluefin Killie a colorful local fish, and
Ellasoma Okeefenokee one of the pygmy sunfishes. A monoculture leads to
greater reproduction rates and simpler setups. Just a half a dozen or so
of the wee fish in any pond or aquarium leads to success. It's a system I
recommend for many of you Ponders out there. Find a common local species
that works well in ponds establish it and pass it around. You will also
want to plant some potted plants in each Pond. I prefer Caboma sp. Or
even Amazon swords from the local pet store . All my plants in terra
cotta pots seem  love the summer pond life.

Its been but a few weeks but All seems to be well. My Heterandria formosa
have been multiplying, my bluefin Killies seem to be doing the same and
my ellasoma have dissapeared into the vegetation. I can tell the Ellasoma
took because their little 40 gallon peanut shaped pond is mosquito free.
Which means my yard will be almost mosquito free too. I supplemental feed
my little ponds 1-2 X a month. I typically feed them frozen bloodworms or
live blackworms. A quick swish with a fine mesh net through the potted
plants  will typically bring in an adult or two and some fry. If the
adults are plump they are happy. So take a look once in a while to see
how your wee fish are fareing. If you are using a local species and your
pond does not freeze solid you can over winter them outside. If you live
a bit to far North you might want to over winter some wee fish brood
stock  in a small tank. They all make cool aquarium subjects. Well worth
the effort to keep indoors.

So next time you set up a small pond look around your local waters for a
wee fish and put him to work on the mosquito patrol. Until next issue
good luck and good ponding. I can be reached as 3635 NW 68th Lane
Gainesville Fl. 32606 via  S.A.S.E or email robertrice at juno_com


Here's my Favorite wee fish for a Pond , they all remain small, breed
well in a pond and love to eat mosquito larvae . 

Brook Stickleback ( Culaea inconstans) : This common Great Lakes/
Atlantic Coast area fish inhabits Small Creeks and Ponds all through the
Northeast. He is durable adapts easily to the smallest Ponds and
fascinating to watch from above. If you don't have the Brook stickleback
try the ninespined. They are often sold in Bait shops, coming in with the
bait fish as stowaways .

Central Mudminnow (Umbra limi) : This Eastern star  is durable , common,
pretty and loves Mosquito's. He occurs as Far south as Tennessee and way
up into Canada. He is tolerant of poor water conditions and is commonly
found in small creeks and ponds.

Bluefin Killies (Lucania goodei ) : This common Southern killie is about
1 1/2 inches colorful , adapt well to pond life and will produce scores
of fry in a summer.

The Pygmy Livebearer ( Heterandria formosa ) : One of the smallest
livebeareres in the world. Extremely prolific and with their small size
they are perfect mosquito patrol for small ponds.

The Pygmy sunfishes (Ellasoma sp.) All of the pygmy sunfishes are
colorful shy and live almost exclusively on mosquito larvae. They can be
collected in roadside ditches and swamps. They make fascinating aquarium
fish also.

This list is by no means a complete one it is just my favorites. You will
probably find a local  species that works great in tiny spaces. I'd love
to hear about your experiences so drop me a note.

Robert Rice
Help Preserve our Aquatic Heritage join the Native Fish Conservancy
 at our website  www.nativefish.org