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The North American Killies
Robert Rice

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 ! 

Our Local species deserve 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 Killie was now
extinct. Would you be surprised ? Would you know what they were talking
about ? Would you be ashamed ? I would be ! 

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 Killie 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 Killie, Darter , Sunfish etc.? Of course not .
It's just there is not enough information available. No one has bothered
to keep and rear most NA Natives. So there are no recorded life histories

Foutunatly in the NA killi family 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 Killie 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 Killie ! 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 The Native Fish
Conservancy 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). You should also check out the
Native Fish Conservancy website at http://www.nativefish.org it is loaded
with articles and pictures of NA Natives.

So what Killies do I recommend to begginner to NA species  . 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 female takes on horizontal striping on a light gray
background while the male takes on the vertical stripes. Which makes them
a striking pair to say the least. They are as hardy as you can believe
and make an excellent species for study or home enjoyment.

Golden Topminnow (Fundulus Chrysotus) The Classic North American Killie .
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 Killie 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 Killie 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

NFC (Native Fish Conservancy)

Membership 10$ USA 19$ All other countries
TO: Konrad Schmidt 
1663 Iowa Ave. E. 
St. Paul, MN 55106

While a non profit conservation organization they are very Aquarist
friendly.Membership Includes a BI Monthly Newsletter The flier. Regional
groups and meetings
an active on line email group (NFC at actwin_com ) and a trading post. They
fund  grassroots conservation projects all across the continent 

AKA (American Killifish Association)

Basic US Membership 24$ other rates apply .

Membership Inf. Contact:

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

Darrell Ullisch
3084 East Empire Ave.
Benton Harbor, MI 49022

Robert Rice
All Men are equal until the point of exertion