Clown Killifish (Pseudepiplatys annulatus)

Family: Aplocheilidae

Distribution: Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia. It is found in coastal swamps.

Maximum standard length: 1.5″ (3.75cm)

Minimum tank size: 45 x 25 x 25 cm – 28 litres, although it can be spawned in smaller aquaria.

Tank setup: A dark substrate should be used, ideally peat moss or the like (though the use of peat is not essential) and the tank should have dense areas of planting and pieces of wood to serve as cover. The use of floating plants is also recommended, as the fish love to hover beneath these. This species is an accomplished jumper, so the cover must be very tight fitting. The aquarium should be exposed to several hours of bright light daily as this seems to intensify the colour of the fish.

Temperature: 24-26°C

Ph range: 5.0-7.0

Hardness: 2-12 dH

Diet: Small live or frozen foods such as daphnia or bloodworm should form the basis of the diet. Dried foods may be accepted.

Compatibility: Pseudepiplatys annulatus can be kept in a community setup, provided tankmates are chosen with care. This is a very peaceful, shy species and will easily be outcompeted by more vigorous fish. Ideal choices include small characins, rasboras and dwarf cichlids, Corydoras, small Loricariids and possibly other small, peaceful killis.

Sexual dimorphism: The male is the larger, more brightly coloured fish with longer caudal, dorsal and anal fins.

Breeding: Not easy. Egg hanger. A spawning tank should be set up containing soft, acidic water of around pH 5.5 and a temperature of 79-82°F. Slight deviation from these parameters is acceptable.

The spawning aquarium should be dimly lit, with floating plants for cover. Large amounts of spawning medium in the form of fine-leaved plants such as java moss or nylon spawning mops should be provided. Peat filtration is beneficial. No substrate is necessary and gentle filtration via a small air-driven sponge filter is sufficient.

The fish should be conditioned in a separate aquarium with lots of live food before a trio comprising 1 male and 2 females is selected and placed in the spawning tank. The group will spawn daily, depositing eggs every 24 hours for around 2 weeks and these should be removed gently as they are noticed. In our opinion each trio should only be allowed to spawn for a week or so before being returned to the conditioning tanks. The spawning process is hard on the fish (particularly the females) and they can become fatigued and weak if left for too long.

The eggs should be transferred daily to a small aquarium or dish containing water from the spawning tank, to a depth of 1-2 inches. 1-3 drops of methylene blue should be added to this, depending on volume. This container should be checked daily for fungussed eggs, which should be removed with a pipette. The eggs will hatch in around 10-14 days, depending on temperature.

The fry are tiny and initial food should be infusoria. After a few days, they can be fed brine shrimp nauplii or microworm, with the introduction of larger and frozen varieties after two weeks or so. The water must initially be kept very shallow but the level can be raised as the fry grow. The fry are very delicate and tricky to raise and grow slowly.

The other method of breeding is to use a simple approach more often adopted with livebearing fish, but which works equally well for Pseudepiplatys annulatus. Simply plant a fairly large (say 80 litre) tank as heavily as possible, add a group of adult fish and let nature take its course! Obviously, the yield will not be as high as with the method outlined above, but some fry will survive and a viable population can be built up this way. Adult fish rarely consume fry.

NOTES: A truly stunning aquarium inhabitant, Pseudepiplatys annulatus is rare both in nature and the hobby and we urge anyone who obtains this fish to give breeding a go. It is often erroneously referred to by its former name of Epiplatys annulatus and is sometimes referred to by the common name of Rocket Panchax.

Unlike many other killifish species, it is usually found in bodies of permanent water and is not an annual species. Many different colour morphs exist, including yellow, red and blue forms.

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