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October '07

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710_Peruvian_Angelfish_Tank_1.jpg (39kb)

October '07 - Remy Willems's 1680 L Peruvian Angelfish Aquarium. (The Netherlands)

This month's featured tank is attractive not just for its awesome size (3 meters across!) and beautiful aquascape, but also because it allows me to bring up the subject of a very interesting species - the Peruvian angelfish. Native to the Nanay River in Peru, this relatively new, rare and expensive angelfish in the hobby also brings with it a bit of a mystery. As most dedicated hobbyists know, all freshwater angelfish are classified into the Pterophyllum genus, although telling them apart can be a little challenging to the untrained eye, and the actual number of species is still an open question to science. But two of them are well known:

First is the silver angelfish (Pterophyllum scalare) which is extremely widespread not only in its native habitat - the Amazon basin - but also in home aquariums throughout the world, being one of the top species in popularity. This is the one you'll find for sale in just about any fish shop, for an affordable price. A wide range of captive bred strains have been developed, but even the wild populations show significant variation depending on where they're collected, and they may well end up divided into new species after more detailed studies.

The second is the altum angelfish (Pterophyllum altum), much more restricted in distribution, both in the hobby and in the wild (upper Rio Negro and Orinoco basins) but still showing some discernable regional variations. This one is only found for sale in more specialized fish shops, with a price tag that clearly sets it apart from the silver and its variants.

The "mystery" about the Peruvian angelfish is that it looks like a perfect mixture of both these species: it has the body shape of the P. altum, but the body patterns of the P. scalare! No big deal, you might initially think, maybe they're just a natural cross-breed. However, not only is such cross-breeding unknown to happen between these two species, but in addition, Peru only has P. scalare in its natural waters, the P. altum habitat is thousands of miles away to the northeast! So right now the Peruvian is being classified as P. scalare, but this may well be changed in the may end up moved into P. altum (one hypothesis is that these may actually be descendents of true altum specimens that got accidentally released into the wild by aquarium fish distributors) or it may end up getting a species name of its own.

But regardless of classification, this is a very prized fish for angel enthusiasts in the hobby, worthy of majestic setups such as the one Dutch hobbyist Remy Willems has provided for his. Check out his aquarium blog (below) for many more photos and updates.

Owner:Remy Willems, 30+, from The Hague, The Netherlands, 2 years of fishkeeping. - Aquascape in Progress
Setup:December 2006.
Dimensions:300x70x80 cm.
Volume: 1680 L (nominal), 1500 L (effective).
Filtration:Eheim pumps.
Lighting:6x58 W T8 Philips Master Series 830/840/850 (348 Watts total) 12 hours a day full, 1.5 hour sunrise to full, ending with "sunset" - the blueish 850 tube remains at a low percentage for several hours during evening/night, dimmed by flora-mate dimmer.
Heating:350 Watts, on lowest settings.
Substrate:Filter sand.
Decoration:Some wood trunks, plants.
Others:Low tech, except timer/dimmer for lights, no CO2 injection, no pH control, all natural ;)
Water:Temp 27C, pH 7, KH 6, GH 6.
Maintenance:Weekly or biweekly water change of about 25%.
Fauna:Some changes have been made in the past few months (see below). Until recently 18 Peruvian Angelfish (Pterophyllum sp.), 100 Gold Tetras (Hemigrammus rodwayi), 40 Oto's (Otocinclus sp.).
Flora:Lots of undemanding Java fern (normal, Windelov and 'narrow'), Java moss, Christmas moss, Rotala rotundifolia, Valisneria gigantea and V. spiralis, red lotus, sagittarias and others.

Difficult part for me because of the language. Basically I wanted a low tech setup. No CO2 injection, since it is a waste product of fish already, for me it feels like adding poison. I know opinions are divided over this, but still, I prefer not to use it.

The tank is 80 cm high, impossible to light with normal TL tubes, according to some. They say you would need at least a lot of T5 or better, even HQ. I can now say it isn't really a necessity. Not with my choice of plants anyway. An abundancy of light would also mean the plants need additives and such, and I really didn't want to go there. I (still) strongly believe it can all be done naturally without any additives. Some wood help make the water a little softer. I've now removed most of my breeding couples Peruvian angels, but kept one couple in the tank, hoping to see a huge shoal of parent-raised angels swimming in there soon.

If you'd like to submit an aquarium for Tank of the Month, just contact me.

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The elegant Peruvian angelfish - scalare, altum or neither?

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Plant growth and evolution of the tank's aquascape

Photos taken by Remy Willems and displayed here with his permission.

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