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Re: NFC: Florida Flagfish....

Fantastic article.  Thank you, Wright (and Robert).

The five flagfish (2 males, 3 females) I bought a week or two ago have
been very interesting to watch.  Also, In a very short period of time,
they completely cleared a 20g tank of all traces of filamentous algae. 
This is MUCH more than I would ever expect from five siamensis.  This is
sufficient reason alone for consideration by hobbiests.  I wonder if
they would eat hornwort?  There is no shortage of that in my tanks :-)

robert a rice wrote:
> Copyright Wright Huntley Commercial use without Authors permission is
> strictly forbidden
> The American-Flag Fish
> Goode and Bean, 1879
> June 1995
> Wright Huntley
> Santa Clara, CA
> Described by Tutaj9  as "An American Beauty," this strikingly lovely and
> peaceful algae eater deserves a better break.
> Of the hundreds of species of killies kept and propagated by dedicated
> specialists, very few qualify as a suitable fish for the more casual
> aquarist. The American-Flag fish, Jordanella floridae is a notable
> exception. Misunderstood, improperly identified, and frequently described
> inaccurately in the general aquarium literature, this pupfish deserves a
> place in many community tanks that it has been denied by an undeserved
> reputation. While consuming algae like the best Siamese Algae Eater, it
> is beautiful, rugged and extremely tolerant of varied water conditions.
> Highly prized in Europe, maybe it's too close to home, here, for proper
> appreciation. Recently priced at less than $3.00 in local stores, it is a
> colorful bargain when it matures.
> Originally thought to be a cichlid, this native of the gulf coast, but
> primarily Florida, also was identified with the sunfish. Now known as a
> unique, single-species genus of native American pupfish, it has uncanny
> behavioral resemblance to both the sunfish and cichlid groups. The spiny
> dorsal ray is unique among cyprinidontidae. The only time the Jordanella
> floridae shows belligerence, above that of a molly, is during courtship
> and when guarding eggs. At that time, the female, or any territorial
> invader, is at real risk from an irate male, who can do serious damage.
> This is no different than almost any nesting cichlid or gourami.
> The generic name is for David Starr Jordan, the first president of
> Stanford University. The species name is for the state where it is most
> prevalent. The habit of shipping wild specimens from selected gathering
> grounds in Florida has left the species free of the dominance of ugly
> mutations that have ruined many other good aquarium fish. Typical J.
> floridae of today probably look identical to the specimens so eagerly
> greeted in Europe over 70 years ago. Unfortunately, that appearance gets
> masked in the living conditions of many fish shops, and poor
> understanding of the needs of this fish often has turned a real swan into
> an ugly duckling.
> As in most killifish, the male and female are different in appearance,
> but their coloring is as variable as any chameleon. Each has a different
> kind of attractiveness, but both may be quite dull and drab in the wrong
> conditions. Their behavior is as interesting as their appearance. In this
> paper, the author proposes a hypothesis to answer the question of why
> there are so many conflicting descriptions of this species. The breeding
> behavior under two different environments, and their general behavior is
> described, following the description of the fish and proper living
> conditions. A concluding section puts forth the hypothesis. A proposal
> for defining correct conditions for keeping and breeding Jordanella
> floridae is advanced.
> The body is much shorter and more laterally compressed than most other
> cyprynodonts. The unique spiny fin rays and unusual body qualify it for a
> separate genus. The body of both sexes is similar, with the male size
> about 25-30% larger than the female (3 vs. 2 ). The flattened
> sunfish-like shape, with dorsal and anal fins displaced to the rear,
> gives it an unmistakable silhouette. It is easily the most colorful of
> our native aquarium fishes, rivaling the dwarf gourami in overall
> attractiveness. The origin, unique shape, and bright colors should
> qualify the Jordanella floridae as the signature fish in the AKA logo,
> rather than some non-native that is rarely kept by most modern killifish
> aquarists. The particular color pattern of the male is even more reason
> we should proudly display this fish as our logo.
> In a well lit, heavily planted tank, the male takes on the appearance
> that leads to the common name. "American-Flag Fish" requires the hyphen
> of a compound adjective, for the male looks as if he dressed in the
> national pennant. [Almost all other authors and editors seem to miss this
> simple grammatical point] With red stripes on the sides, and an upper
> fore-quadrant of deep blue, the resemblance is uncanny. The iridescent
> green-white spot on each scale makes the stars in the blue field, as well
> as the "white" rows between the red stripes (if you don't mind a
> grass-stained look to the white). The upper and lower edges of the scales
> are bright red, forming solid, horizontal, brilliant red stripes. The
> transparent unpaired fins are a pale sky blue, but dorsal and anal are so
> covered with red markings that red is the dominant hue.
> The female sports a false eyespot in the center of her side, directly
> below the start of her dorsal fin, and another in the rear base of her
> dorsal fin. Her basic color is tan to gray, and only the central portion
> of two or three scale rows may carry the iridescent green shine. She has
> a chameleon-like ability to shift colors and patterns in all kinds of
> interesting ways. Sometimes a checkerboard, then vertically barred, her
> most happy appearance is to echo the central eye spot several times back
> toward the caudal fin, each spot with less contrast as the tail is
> approached. At the height of breeding passion, she can become a buttery
> bright yellow, with almost no dark body markings.
> The eyespot on the side of the male is still present, exactly at the
> right angled corner of the blue star field. It is not so hard-edged and
> well defined as in the female. While the male loses his dorsal spot as he
> matures, the female's jet-black dorsal spot has a brilliant white "iris,"
> making it more obvious than her normal eye. It should confuse many
> predators.
> The male flashes his bright red unpaired fins, to attract the female's
> attention, and uses them in the actual mating as described below. The
> upward facing mouth has somewhat wide fat "lips." His sharp teeth are
> capable of taking neat bites out of swordplant leaves, if enough algae,
> riccia and duck-weed aren't present to satisfy the craving for vegetable
> matter. Their face has an expression that some have described as
> "froggy."
> Like many partially vegetarian fish, the routine behavior is a slow and
> dignified search for algae, and a calm resting position among top weeds.
> In shallower tanks, the resting position may be nearer the bases of
> plants. A mated pair will spend most of their non-breeding time in close
> proximity, with lots of affectionate brushing and touching. Rarely will
> they allow the other out of visual range. While seldom molesting others,
> more aggressive species can cause the floridae to become timid and to
> hide. Like many killies, the young do become frantic when frightened, but
> this tends to go away with age. Small babies are often very hard to see.
> They instantly dive for cover at any approach to the tank.
> The most striking behavior is during mating, described in detail below.
> The spawning behavior is radically different in different conditions,
> which has led to a lot of confusion in the literature. 1,3-8,10
> Hopefully, this report will start to clarify this point, and future
> efforts can proceed with better direction. Most of the cited references
> contain some material factual errors, and only the JAKA/Killie Notes
> references should be trusted. 2,9 In particular, the males are larger
> than the females, they are very brightly colored, they don't "dash
> around" the tank, and they don't molest other fish, despite the claims of
> some famous encyclopedists.
> The literature is, again, somewhat divided on desirable conditions. The
> J. floridae so readily adapts to very different situations that most
> stated conditions are probably correct. This author has obtained viable
> eggs from the same pair, both in soft, too-warm, deep, acid water, and
> shallower, hard, cooler water. The only requirement seems to be
> reasonable acclimation, and adequate mix of animal and vegetable matter
> in the diet.
> They first spawned in the top plants of a 55 gallon "Amazon" plant tank.
> Since the temperature was 81 F. and the hardness was down around 2 dGH,
> with pH about 6.2, the spawning was a complete surprise. These parameters
> were well outside the range of almost every reference, yet the floridae
> happily deposited eggs on hygrophila leaves, duck-weed roots, floating
> water sprite and anything else near the surface. Introduction of a power
> head caused enough surface turbulence that they tried spawning on lower
> plants and an algae-covered log. They went back to surface spawning when
> the current was directed slightly downward, leaving some still corners at
> the surface. They never attempted to spawn on the bottom.
> Some days after completion of the spawning round, they were generally
> peaceful. However, an Apistogramma macmasteri pair started defending a
> new brood, and the female J. floridae simultaneously showed some tattered
> fins. Moving the pair quickly to an old 10 gallon tank, they received
> only hastily drip-acclimation to the 74 F., hard-water tank. dGH was
> estimated at about 20, but was not measured, at the time, and pH was well
> above 7 (above 7.4 without CO2 injection). The depth of the 10 (8.5 from
> gravel to surface) was much less than the tall 55G show tank (16). Some
> salt had been added earlier, but intervening partial water changes made
> the residual concentration uncertain.
> Heavy rear-corner planting in the 10G filled all the swimming space but a
> central clearing by the front glass. This turned out to be an
> observational jackpot, for the area chosen for next spawn was within
> range of a strong hand-held magnifying glass, in the center of the
> clearing.
> Even with the abrupt change in conditions, the male harassed the female,
> and, within a day, spawning resumed. Fussy about conditions, they are
> not!
> The initial spawning in the 55G tank was at odds with the sunfish-like
> descriptions in many books. The tendency was to just say those authors
> were busy quoting each other and had not bothered to observe that the
> Jordanella floridae was a typical killifish that should spawn in mops
> near the surface. After all, everyone "knows" killies don't guard their
> young.
> In the shallower tank, the difference in behavior was almost
> unbelievable. The mating dance changed completely, and the egg-laying
> looked almost as if it really was in the gravel. The male fanned the
> eggs, and in all ways fit the cichlid-sunfish-like pattern, described so
> often, before.
> In the tall tank, earlier, eggs were rescued from the floating roots of
> duck weed and placed in a small fishbowl to gestate and hatch. One egg
> even floated in the meniscus at the top of the water. They weren't very
> sticky, and the one egg led to the belief that the eggs were buoyant.
> Later, the author observed that bottom-laid eggs were not buoyant. They
> pulled on attached fine strands of algae to hang down when undisturbed.
> The difference in spawning was so great it leads to speculation that the
> salinity or fat content of the eggs might be different for deep-water
> spawning and for shallow-water bottom spawning, to minimize egg loss.
> The original mating behavior, in the deep tank, started with a male dance
> to attract the female. When she was receptive, she would swim up to him,
> and then lead him to some, often distant, part of the tank she had chosen
> to deposit her eggs. Snuggling together, head-to-head, she was always on
> top, with the male cupping her from below as they semi-inverted to push
> her vent up against the plants chosen. His unpaired fins all curled to
> clasp her in a cup as they lay on their sides, nearly parallel to the
> surface, and vibrated along the plants. Repeated several times each
> evening, there were long rest periods while they recovered. When resting,
> they tended to stay close and keep within easy eye-contact range.
> In the smaller tank, the male so severely chased and bit the female that
> physical separation became necessary. He, not the Apisto, had been the
> fin shredder. Despite the fighting, both tried to find a way through the
> installed barrier. By the next morning, they were getting so frantic that
> it was removed. Spawning was resumed, right away.
> This time, the female clearly led the dance. It takes quite a bit of
> room, and smaller tanks could be a problem here. She grabbed the exact
> center of the clearing, and pointed herself directly away from the male.
> Flicking little puffs of water at him with her tail, as he circled the
> clearing (always in a clockwise direction), he displayed his fins to her.
> She rotated with him to keep him visible in both eyes, and her tail
> pointed directly at him. Gradually, his circles tightened and/or she
> backed up until her tail was actually stroking his side with each flick.
> When he became sufficiently aroused, they moved to a side-by-side
> position and started a vibrating spawning pass over the gravel. Cupping
> his anal fin near her vent, she deposited the eggs on plant strands in
> rows as they slowly wriggled along.
> Watching with a magnifying glass, it was possible to observe in detail.
> The spawning "in the gravel" was no such thing. Every single egg was
> getting deposited on a strand of hair algae, a root, or strand of Java
> moss. No eggs were seen attached to, or free, in the gravel.
> Driving the female away, the male groomed and fanned the egg site. He
> thrust forward with his caudal fin and backward with his pectorals to
> create a strong current over the eggs, while tilted, head down, at about
> 30 from the horizontal over the "nest." Several spawnings were
> completed, over the next few days, before he drove the battered female
> away for the last time. He diligently fanned and watched the eggs,
> driving the female into hiding whenever he could see her, and threatening
> the author whenever he approached the glass for a closer look.
> Some eggs were lost to ramshorn snails (which the father ignored), but
> most hatched successfully, after about a week. No infertile or fungused
> eggs were observed. A portion of the spawned-on plants was removed, early
> in the process, to a small floating container, but most were left with
> the parents to see what happened. When all the eggs were hatched, the
> male still fanned and watched over them. The parents were finally
> returned to the big tank as the babies started to scatter on the second
> day after hatching started. The separated fry were returned from the
> floating container to the tank and the babies were started on infusoria,
> to supplement the already-active fauna of the aged water in the tank.
> Yield of viable, free-swimming fry was very poor in the 10G tank. The
> earlier eggs, collected in the deep tank, hatched in a much shallower
> container, with much better results. Many killies do not develop proper
> swim-bladder function if trapped in too-deep water, and it is easy to
> speculate that this is true here, too. The fry struggle very hard to
> reach the surface as soon as they can swim. The few who do, seem to grow
> better and swim better than the ones left belly-sliding on the bottom.
> The ability to stay at the surface seems related to the first attempts to
> get there. Filling the swim bladder with air, early, may be critical.
> Combining the need for shallow water in the babies, and the two radically
> different spawning behaviors leads to an interesting hypothesis. The
> spawning of the Jordanella floridae is simply adjustable to the early
> needs of the young.
> In deep water, surface spawning on free-floating plants allows the eggs
> to be blown ashore, where the hatching can occur in shallow water. In
> shallower water, the protection of the parent is more safe, so the eggs
> are laid in a nest and protected. In nature, 8.5-inch-deep water is
> rarely more than a few feet from shore, so shallow water easily could be
> reached by belly-sliding fry. Unfortunately, the 10G tank did not provide
> that protection, and most of those fry did not get to the free-swimming
> stage. While algae growth was prolific in the old water of this tank, the
> hydra came out in droves to further deplete the fry population. The fry
> do not swim well for the first couple of days, so were easy prey. Only
> five or six, that probably started in the floating container, survived.
> The next variation on a theme will be to collect eggs and test the growth
> of fry hatched at several different depths, to see if an optimum can be
> defined. The results may take a while, so they will have to be reported
> later.
> It may be better to keep only males for quantity display in the community
> aquarium, like dwarf gouramis. While mildly territorial, they do well
> together if given a little room, and will even school in groups.
> Parboiled spinach, algae or veggie flakes should supplement live foods
> and regular flake food, if the softer plants are to be protected. After
> all, these are pupfish, with long intestines, and they like and need some
> vegetable food. Their grazing will, however, tend to keep unsightly hair
> or beard algae under control. They are less expensive and much more
> ornamental than almost all other really effective algae eaters.
> The breeding roughness and fierce male guarding of the young might
> suggest that females should be kept only for breeding, and
> raised/maintained separately from the males, once breeding age is
> reached. This author so enjoys their normal affectionate behaviour that
> it seems a shame to keep them apart. If kept with a male, in a small
> tank, just provide plenty of hiding places for the female. Otherwise, the
> spawning-frenzied male might cause severe injury to her fins.
> This is an easy-to-breed species, and would be an excellent and
> entertaining first breeding project for someone just starting out in
> killifish culture. Who knows, we might eventually get enough out at our
> own shows to rival the large numbers usually entered in the DKG show.
> 1.      Axelrod, H. R. & Schultz, L. P. 1955, "Handbook of Tropical Aquarium
> Fishes," McGraw-Hill
> 2.      Brill, John S., Jr., Jordanella Floridae, Nov./Dec. 1978, JAKA Vol. I
> No. 6
> 3.      Frey, H., 1970, "Illustrated Dictionary of Tropical Fishes," T.F.H.
> Publications
> 4.      Hoedeman, J.J., 1974, "Naturalist's Guide to Fresh Water Aquarium
> Fishes," Sterling Publ. Co.
> 5.      Innes, W.T., 1966, "Exotic Aquarium Fishes," 19th Ed. Revised,
> Metaframe Corp.
> 6.      O'Connell, R.F., 1971, "The Freshwater Aquarium," The Great Outdoors
> Publ. Co.
> 7.      Petrovicky', I., 1989, Aquarium Fish of the World," Arch Cape Press
> 8 .     Rataj, K. & Zukal, R., 1972, "Aquarium Fishes and Plants," Spring
> Books
> 9.      Tutaj, Duane, Aug. 1972, Jordanella floridae, An American Beauty
> Killie Notes Vol. 5 No. 8
> 10.     vanRamshorst, J. D., (Ed.) 1978, "Aquarium Encyclopedia," H.P. Books
> huntley at ix_netcom.com
> Robert Rice
> Help Preserve our Aquatic Heritage join the Native Fish Conservancy
> online
>  at our website  http://nativefish.interspeed.net/


Christian C. Burke
mailto:cburke.fish-head at worldnet_att.net