We added to the menagerie over the holiday. Henry got an aquarium with three fish in it. He’s named them Billy, Billy Bob, and Billy Bob Junior, and he got it right. They’re African cichlids from Malawi (we told Henry they were African fighting fish to get his interest) and highly territorial. Billy is definitely top dog; BBJ is low man on the fishing pole.
An unexpected side effect, however, is that I’ve become fascinated by the whole thing. We got him a 10 gallon tank (which I’ve since learned on the small side for a beginner – 20 is more forgiving). He and Abby got to pick the fish and decorations.
We chose the cichlids because they’re hardy and fun to watch. They can’t share the tank with any other species, because they’re very territorial and can be piscivorous. But they sure are pretty. These three are juveniles. We’ll let them cycle the tank for a couple of months then add a few more around Valentine’s Day. Wendy at the store said we should have seven total to keep them from getting too attached to any one area of the tank. The rule of thumb is one inch of (thin bodied) fish per gallon, so seven is the absolute max.
Meanwhile, I can’t stop watching these guys. They’re surprisingly friendly – they swim up immediately when they see you. (I’m sure they just want food, but it’s still neat.) And the pecking order thing is endlessly intriguing.
Here’s a picture of Billy in front of his castle. He likes to swim in and out of the windows. He won’t let the others near it.
And here are his minions. That’s Billy Bob on the left with his sunken ship, Junior on the right. Junior tends to hang out wherever the other two let him. We have a cave out of sight on the left side of the tank that he likes.
Thanks to my fish experts, Laura Burstein, and Wendy at the Pet Arcade for getting me started. I also did a lot of research on the web, including the excellent Usenet rec.aquaria.* FAQ archived at The Krib. I can sure see how people can get devoted to this hobby! Now I want one for the set.