Category Archives: Uncategorized

Driftwood Can Cause Weird Fish Problems

Driftwood Can Cause Weird Fish Problems
by Joe Graffagnino

Did you ever have fish problems that didn’t fall into the routine of fish sickness that was easily diagnosed?  For quite a while I had strange symptoms in one large aquarium that I could not guess the cause of what was happening to my fish. Eventually it was diagnosed correctly, but the loss of fish and the work involved to correct the problems will make me, and hopefully, you, take common sense and prudent actions prior to adding anything to an established aquarium. Let me tell my “tale of woe” from the beginning and learn from my laziness and not using common sense.

I went to a major fish convention a couple of years ago and while visiting the vendor booths I noticed a large piece of driftwood. It was all branches, strategically placed together with disguised stainless steel screws. The piece was approximately 16 inches wide, 15 inches high and 2 ½ – 3 feet long. I thought to myself ”… that this would be a perfect addition to my 180 gallon (2’W X 20”H X 7’L) tank”. After settling on a price I asked the vendor about the wood, where it came from, how was it assembled and what did I need to do prior to placing it into my aquarium. The wood came from the banks of rivers in Maine, the screws were all stainless steel and covered by going deep into the wood or with the use of a wood patch that goes over the screw top, to provide that natural look. The piece was already bleached and cured so that I could put it into my tank immediately. I was grateful for that because how was I going to find a container large enough to hold a wood piece that large, for bleaching and curing with cold water, for a week?

I returned home, rearranged the tank and placed the piece in the center. It was a beautiful addition to the tank and the African cichlids enjoyed it immensely. For 3 months all was fine, then strange fish problems started appearing:
• Theraps nicuaraguense started having gill infections. The bottom of the gills would be bright red and extend out of the gill covers. The nicuaraguense also developed bacterial fin and tail rot.
• Tropheus moorii “ilangi” developed “bloat” in three (3) fish, others started darting and scratching continuously.
• Aulonocara “peacocks” developed cataracts over their eyes.
• Haplochromis nubulis developed dark or black markings on their bodies and fins, along with cataracts over their eyes. These dark markings seemed to be moving. Two fish developed “popeye” and died within two days.
• Sciaenochromis ahli “Electric blue” developed dark or black markings on their bodies and fins, but without cataracts over their eyes. These dark markings also seemed to be moving.
• Labidochromis caeruleus (“yellow labs”) developed burns on their skin and on a couple of fish the disease ate threw the outer skin and exposed the internal organs, but the exposed skin and organs never fungused.

At first, I didn’t know what to blame for these multiple problems. Different species had different problems and not every fish of that same species was effected. It appeared to be a “hit or miss” on certain fish, in certain species. It also seemed that fish from different areas were affected differently. Central American T. nicuaraguense had gill infections and bacterial fin and tail rot, but only in the mature fish; the younger fish of the same species had no signs of problems. The Lake Malawi A. peacocks, Yellow labs and Electric blues exhibited different symptoms, while the Lake Tanganyikcan T. ilangi developed “bloat” and darting symptoms and from Lake Victoria the Haplochromis nubulis showed the markings and eye cataract symptoms.

I performed multiple water changes starting at 50%, waiting a week then I started on antibiotics, I continued water changes but 25- 30%, while medicating the tank. I started with Aquarium Products “Aquari-Sol” and then Aquarium Pharmaceuticals “MelaFix”. “MelaFix” helped the T. nicuaraguense with their gill problems and the T. moorii with their bloat (those that had the “bloat” died and others did not catch it) and darting/scratching problems, but did nothing for the body markings and eye cataract problems. I then separated and isolated those fish with the same or similar problems and treated them with different medications. In all, I tried Mardel Laboratories “MarOxy”, for bacterial diseases, and Mardel Laboratories “Maracide” for body flukes, flashing and external parasites. I also tried Aquatronics “Super Ick Plus” for scratching and darting and protozoan parasites and I finally used Aquarium Products “Clout”. Needless to say, I was losing weak fish and not curing anything. I went so far as to give direct treatment baths, tried to scrape off, what I believed to be, the eye and body flukes. After discussing these problems and remedies with several members of our fish club, the prominent suggestion was an infestation of body flukes.

It was recommended that I read an article in Tropical Fish Hobbyist (TFH) magazine, August 2001, titled “Flashing and Flukes” by Terry Fairfield. The article had some inferences that were similar to my fish problems but not exact. I emailed Dr. Fairfield and we discussed some possible remedies, but none of the diseases fitted into a “correct cure” area. Dr. Fairfield was against the use of all these medications; he valued the use of water changes, proper diet, uncrowded tank and the use of a diatom filter. As an example, the fish that had the body and eye flukes did not scratch or rub to remove the parasite; that was strange. I also could not remove these eye or body flukes by hand or cyst bath; another oddity. The only recourse left to me was to use Furan, a very powerful medication, but the remaining fish were weak from treatments and constant water changes, with Kosher salt treatments. I could not subject them to this radical treatment, for I was certain that I would lose them all. I felt that I was a drug store for fish, yet almost nothing worked. I was adding vitamins to the tank, specifically B1 and B12 to help the repair of fins.

Meanwhile, I was reading everything I could get my hands on to have another possibility to stop this crazy problem in my largest tank. The other tanks (10 –12 of them) did not exhibit any symptoms. I noticed that the November meeting of the North Jersey Aquarium Society had as guest speaker Doctor Alistair Dove, of the New York Aquarium. Dr. Dove’s topic was “Parasites and Fishes”. Dr. Dove works practically in my neighborhood. I must give him a call. Before I could place that call I read an article that stated the symptoms my fish were having could have been caused by birds that eat parasitic fish. The bird droppings are then eaten by snails or are dropped onto the wood, and that it how it could be introduced into the aquarium. Now it started to make sense; this problem started after I introduced the large wood piece into the aquarium. I still didn’t understand why there were so many different problems, but at least I had the cause of all of them. I then did what I should have done from the beginning – I got a large plastic garbage pail and I performed the bleach and water treatment to that wood piece. After 3 days of soaking in bleach and water, I removed it and washed out the plastic pail, letting it sundry. I then filled it up again with fresh water and placed the wood into it again for another week. It didn’t quite last a week because on the 5th day the pail broke, possibly from the bleach or the pushing of the wood piece. I then let the wood piece sundry for several days, making sure no snails or birds could get to it. I then re-introduced it to the same tank. I have not had a problem since then.

I finally called Dr. Dove at the New York Aquarium and he stated that he knew exactly what the problem was. He agreed with me that the wood piece was the cause of all the problems. He said that the black fluke markings and eye flukes were not body or eye flukes at all, but were a form of melanoma (skin cancer). Whatever was in the wood caused different problems with your fish. The good news was that it was not contagious to people or other fish, the bad news was that there was no cure for it. The fish are still living, eating and breeding. Their offspring show no signs of any problem.

I hope that after you read this article you will take the extra step and bleach any object you seek to place into your aquarium. Don’t be lazy. Use common sense when buying objects for your aquarium in order to protect yourself and your fish. When this craziness happens to you the only person you have to blame is yourself.

JRoe GoUrmet Fish Food

February 21, 2004 – updated December 15, 2015
J/Roe Gourmet Fish Food
By Joe Graffagnino

This receipt was borrowed from other receipts and advice from reputable Aquarists, hobbyists and retailers. It has, what we believe to be, the best for coloration, growth, and leaves no protein/oil residue on surface of water. We are feeding the fish 2 X’s per week.

3 – 4 oz. jars of creamed spinach (Gerber #2)
3 – 4 oz. jars of peas (Beechnut #1)
3 – 4 oz. jars of green beans (Beechnut #1)
3 – 4 oz. jars of sweet potatoes (Beechnut #1)
3 – 4 oz. jars of carrots (Beechnut #1)
1 – 4 oz. jars of peaches (Beechnut #1)
6 oz. of freeze-dried Krill (crushed) or more if needed to have a firm consistency
1/2 lb. scallops (raw)
1/2 lb. Scrod fish (raw)
1/2 lb. shrimp (boil 2 minutes & shelled)
Grate the scallops, Scrod & shrimp in osterizer with 1/2 cup water
4 tablespoons of Tetra Bits
2 teaspoons of Paprika powder
1 1/2 tablespoons of Spirulina powder
2 tablespoons of wheat germ
12 oz. Romaine lettuce
1 head of garlic
1/2 teaspoon of grated Anise seeds
2 tablespoons Brewers Yeast powder
6 tablespoons of single grain oatmeal Baby cereal by Gerber
3 hard boiled egg yolks (grated)
2 cups of large food pellets(color enhancer) by Green Thumb Aquatics (grated) [can substitute with High Pro dog food]
* Mix together until a thick paste develops; if too moist add more freeze dried Krill.
Fill quart size (7” X 8”) plastic zip lock bags until 1/8” thick, for ease of breaking off, throughout the bag and freeze. Date the bags.
Should make 13 bags of food, make no more than can be used in a few months.

Ingredients and Cost

Spirulina powder from Algae Feast Spirillina, Earthrise company, 424 Payran St., Petalama, CA. 94952 (707) 778-9078, fax (707) 778-9028.
A 1 pound jar costs $20.

Freeze-dried Krill is a color enhancer and coagulator. Its ingredients are 60% protein, 19% fiber, 6% moisture and 200 IU Vitamin E (soybean).
Krill is the bonding agent, if using krill you don’t need gelatin.

Paprika is a color enhancer, it has 2% Vitamin A.

Brewers Yeast Powder (1 lb.4 oz. container). 60 calories, 1% fat, 3% sodium, 6 grams sugar carbohydrate, 6 grams protein, 35% Riboflavin, 30%Niacin, 30% Vitamin B-6, 15% Folate, 6% Biotin,15% Pantothenic acid, 20% phosphorus and 140% Thiamin.

Tetra Bits (2.65 oz.) is a color enhancer. 46% protein, 5% fat, 2% fiber and 6% moisture.

Single Grain Oatmeal cereal for baby (Gerger). 60 calories, 1 gram fat, 50 mg. potassium, 10 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 2 gram (10%)protein, 2% vitamin A, 25% vitamin C, 15% calcium, 60% iron, 15% vitamin E, 45% thiamin, 45% riboflavin, 25% niacin,15% phosporus, 8% zinc.

Green Beans #1 (4 oz. jar) (Beechnut). 35 calories, 3 grams sugar, 2 grams fiber, 7 grams total carbohydrates, 10 mg. sodium, 180 mg. potassium, 1 gram (6%) protein, 35% vitamin A, 6% calcium, 6% iron.

Peas #1 (4 oz. jar) (Beechnut). 60 calories, 4 grams sugar, 3 grams fiber, 10 grams total carbohydrates, 10 mg. sodium, 130 mg. potassium, 4 gram (15%) protein, 30% vitamin A, 8% vitamin C, 2% calcium, 4% iron.

Peaches #1 (4 oz. jar) (Beechnut). 60 calories, 10 grams sugar, 2 grams fiber, 14 grams total carbohydrates, 10 mg. sodium, 200 mg. potassium, 40% vitamin A, 45% vitamin C.

Sweet Potatoes #1 (4 oz. jar) (Beechnut). 80 calories, 9 grams sugar, 1 grams fiber, 17 grams carbohydrates, 10 mg. sodium, 260 mg. potassium, 2% protein, 380% vitamin A, 2% calcium, 2% iron.

Carrots #1 (4 oz. jar) (Beechnut). 40 calories, 5 grams sugar, 2 grams fiber, 8 grams carbohydrates, 30 mg. sodium, 160 mg. potassium, 2% protein, 440% vitamin A, 2% calcium.
Spinach creamed #2 (4 oz. jar) (Gerber). 50 calories, 3 grams sugar, 1 gram fat, 2 grams fiber, 8 grams carbohydrates, 40 mg. sodium, 210 mg. potassium, 3 grams (16%) protein, 210% vitamin A, 2 % vitamin C, 15% calcium, 40% iron, 10% zinc .

$ COST $
$13.02 Krill (.87 oz. container) & Tetra Bits
$ 1.77 Gerber spinach
$10.99 Brewers Yeast
$17.94 Oatmeal, paprika, anise & remainder of baby foods
$ .33 for 3 eggs
$ 6.50 fresh fish, shrimp & scallops and freezer bags (20 bags quart size)
$28.45 freeze-dried krill (1 lb.4oz.)
$20.00 spirulina powder

President’s Message – May 2018

Dear Aquarist,

May felt more like April with the cool and wet weather, but we always have sunny skies at our Giant Spring auction. We got new style hats in a light blue color with our logo in gold. We ordered more of our BAS shirts and they should arrive by our next meeting. Our discounted shirts, hats and patches kept the crowds looking for more. The aquatic supplies, books and equipment tables held our hobbyists’ interest. The auction had over 200+ bags of livestock, not counting aquariums, lights and aquatic stands. It was a late night, but our members enjoyed it.

In June, we will have James Perrenod, President of Discus R Us; his topic for the evening will be “Discus Keeping Q & A Session.” As always, there will be free parking and refreshments. Doors open at 7:30 pm. Entry is free to all active members. Non-members are asked to donate $5.00 at the door to help offset expenses; however, their $5.00 that night is good towards the cost of annual membership. Members receive discounts in most of our sponsoring stores and free entry to all our giant auctions.

Anyone wishing to donate any healthy livestock (fish, plants or live corals) or dry goods can bring them to any general meeting. Donations are always welcome and appreciated – it’s what keeps our club healthy!

I must ask for our members’ help – our Treasurer Al Turrisi must leave his position due to personal reasons. Please, if you have experience in accounting, we need your help.

Also, we are looking for a garage to hold our BAS equipment and supplies. If you have something reasonable, please let us know.

June is our annual election night – if anyone is looking to be on the Board or run for an officer’s position, please let me know. We need for you to step up and have your voice heard. Please try to help us to help you make and build a better BAS.

If you want to see different speakers and learn about different aquatic systems, fish, plants and marine life, please let me know. The elected officials of the Brooklyn Aquarium Society are here to serve YOU! So please let us know what you want and why, because it would be helpful to everyone. It is important that you visit and patronize our sponsors. It goes full circle: by helping them, they are also helping you as hobbyists and everyone is helping the Brooklyn Aquarium Society, so help us, help you!

On a more personal note – any member who wants to attend a Board meeting, which are held at Education Hall of the New York Aquarium on the 1st Friday of the month, September through June, please notify me at (347) 277-4793 by the Tuesday before the meeting.


Steven Matassa

President’s Message – April 2018

Dear Aquarist,

April has brought in Joe Ferdenzi as our guest speaker. Joe’s topic for the evening was “Basic Marine Aquariums.” Joe discussed the basics on setting up and running a small marine aquarium for fish or corals. His information was on low cost and easy to run aquariums. This is what beginners need to determine if they want to get more deeply involved in the marine ecosystem. It was a great talk and newbie’s learned a lot.

Our next event is our giant May Auction. There will not be a speaker just livestock, lighting, equipment, filters, aquariums and all types of marine items, freshwater products and plant supplements and fertilizers. We expect to have several hundred items available for our members to choose from. Our members and sponsors donate heavily to show the best quality items they have. Get there early to view the items of livestock and dry goods. You will not be disappointed! Make no mistake, be there or lose out on unbelievable and rare species that you may never see again.
As always free parking and refreshments. Hope to see you there.

We would like to thank our members and our sponsors for their constant generous donations that keep us going. Anyone who has any aquatic items, supplies or equipment, and that would include healthy livestock of fish, corals or plants, we always welcome the donation.

If anyone has any topics they want to hear an expert speak on, or any specific speaker, please tell us. We shall do our best to bring in those guest lecturers that you have been looking for.


Steven Matassa

Inky the octopus escapes New Zealand aquarium.

The great escape: Inky the octopus legs it to freedom from New Zealand aquarium


An octopus has made a brazen escape from the national aquarium in New Zealand by breaking out of its tank, slithering down a 50m drain pipe and disappearing into the sea.

In scenes reminiscent of Finding Nemo, Inky – a common New Zealand octopus – made his dash to freedom after the lid of his tank was accidentally left slightly ajar.

Staff believe that in the middle of the night, while the aquarium was deserted, Inky clambered to the top of his cage, down the side of the tank and traveled across the floor of the aquarium…

read full story here….

Tilipia Mariae


This beautiful yellow and green cichlid from Africa would be a great addition to any aquarium. The Tilipia Mariae, also known as Tiger Tilipia and Tilipia Marie, is not your average African cichlid. It is not well known or a publicized aquarium fish and that is why it’s not easy to acquire, but more about this later.

Allow me to describe this strikingly beautiful fish:
The male is larger than the female by approximately one to two inches (Male 5 1/2 to 6 inches, female 4 -4 1/2 inches) both genders have a yellow body with light green top and back. Along the lateral line are 5 black dots, the female has a red blotch behind the fins and above the stomach area (similar to a Salvini cichlid), the pectoral fins are yellow, trimmed in black, the eyes have a red blotch with a black, diagonal line running through them. The bottom rear fin has red streaks in it and the most beautiful part is the tail and upper fin, which has this light florescent green dot pattern with a red, white and blue edging.

They are extremely protective of their fry and will attack any fish or human hand if it ventures close enough. It was interesting to note that while I had large green severums and Trout cichlids (Champsochromis caeruleus) in the tank they showed no inclination to spawn. When these larger fish were removed, they seized the opportunity and laid approximately 80 eggs on a vertical side of a wooden piece. I placed a tank divider between the Tilipia and the other fish in the 180 gallon tank (4 Turquoise severums, pair of Aulonocara baenschi, pair of Haplochromis Rhoadesii, large clown loach and a large Synodontis angelicus).

Tilipia Mariae are very tolerant of ph, water hardness, and will eat anything (except snails), like the temperature in the high 70’s F. and for breeding in the low 80’s F. They make an excellent aquarium fish for mild or medium tempered, African or Central/South American cichlids. The spawn they had is the most indestructible fry you will ever see. They will voraciously eat anything, but really love floating plants. The fry will put on a show for you when you feed them the “Sera nips” (8 per pack tablets that stick on the glass), they go berserk as 80 of them hit this tablet at the same time and wont stop until it’s all gone. I believe that plant or vegetable matter would be an important part of their diet.

The babies have a beige body with 8 black bands around it from the eye to base of the tail, resembling Tilipia buttekoferi. I am noticing that after 2 months, there is a red streak in the dorsal fin. After 10 days with the parents I separated the majority of the fry and placed them in a 15 gallon tank. I left 9 fry with the parents. I feed the same menu to all the siblings and the babies that stayed with the parents, more than doubled in size. The larger ones are 2 – 2 1/2 inches in length, whereas the ones moved to a 15-gallon tank were only 1 – 1 1/2 inches. Even though I did water changes to the smaller tank more than the larger tank (3 -1 ratio) the fry keep with their parents grew much faster. Conclusion is the larger volume of water in the original tank increased growth more than just water changes. I moved the 9 original fry into another 180-gallon tank shared with African and South/Central American cichlids and they are doing fine. I placed their brothers and sisters back into the same tank with the parents and surprise to me, the parents took them back without a problem. Several weeks later they are still with the parents and are doing great. The parents have not shown any inclination to spawn again, perhaps because the babies remain with them, however they still continue to protect their fry.

I have been feeding them flake food, live black worms, frozen bloodworms, home made vegetable food and pellets – they eat everything! When I place duckweed, riccia or other floating plants, they devour them in minutes. I keep the ph at slightly alkaline (7.6) and a temperature of 80 degrees F, never check hardness.

I believe that it is interesting to note that I had obtained this pair of fish from Basil Holubis, President of the Norwalk, CT. Aquarium Society by trading with him a small colony of Aulonocara baenschi (Sunshine Peacocks). One of the many benefits in joining an aquarium club is that you have an opportunity to meet members of other clubs. These members have aquarium fish that, in many instances, your club members don’t have. By exploring the possibilities of either trading or attending another clubs auctions or shows you can open an avenue to obtain new and different fish for your club and yourself.

In addition to swapping or buying fish you can open a resource of knowledge for any and all information regarding tropical fish. When I visit aquarium clubs like North Jersey, South Jersey, Norwalk, Greater City, Nassau County, Long Island and many others, I meet and interact with hobbyists and professionals in the aquarium business. These people can, and do, provide all kids of information for tanks, equipment, transporting, food, insulation tips, etc. I have meet and have had in-depth discussions with Ginny Eckstein, Dr. Paul Loiselle, Chuck Davis, Ad Konings, Joe Ferdenzi, Lee Finley, Rosario LaCorte, Frank Policastro and Tom Miglio to name a few of the experts in this hobby. These people are REAL, they are friendly and easily accessible and by getting active in aquarium clubs you can have access to a wealth of knowledge you’ll never find in any set of books.


Photo of Tilipia Mariae is from “The Most Complete Colored Lexicon of Cichlids” by Dr. Herbert R. Axelrod, page 542, published by TFH Publications, Inc. 1993

Other sources for the article were:
“Enjoying Cichlids” by Ad Konings, pages 170 – 171, Cichlid Press, 1993
“Cichlid Aquarium” by Dr. Paul V. Loiselle, pages 212-216, Tetra Press, 1994

President’s Message – September 2012

Dear Aquarist,

Welcome to the start of our new season. Our guest speaker was most probably the best fish breeder in the United States, if not the world. Mike Hellweg came in from St. Louis, Missouri to discuss his fish breeding contest with Ted Judy. Mike bred 169 species of fish in one year. The contest was sponsored by Tropical Fish Hobbyist magazine. The first question on everyone’s mind was “Would you do it again?” Mike’s answer was “Definitely not!” It was a grueling 12 months of non-stop water changes, feeding fish and changing fish into various tanks. The discussion and presentation was educational and very enlightening, especially to people who enjoy breeding fish. Mike was very generous with his ideas and success stories and even spoke on some not so successful spawns. The Q & A went on for a long time. It was interesting to note that several members procured a couple of Mike’s books via our website link to Mike was happy to autograph each book during the meeting.

October brings our Fall Giant auction featuring marine fish and corals, freshwater plants, fish and invertebrates. As always, we will have many bags of your favorite species. Great bargains will be available, so make sure you come to the greatest auction in New York on October 12. Our unique sales tables will be open for shirts, hats, books, magazines and other aquarium equipment and supplies. Doors open at 7:30 and the giant auction will start at 8:30 PM sharp!

As always, there is free parking and free refreshments.

People still ask me why haven’t they received the Bulletin and Aquatica in the mail. The reason is that they are now on our web site in vibrant color! So please visit our new website where you can read the Bulletin and enjoy a full color Aquatica. The interactive forums and sponsor sections are truly enjoyable. Provided you have given us your email address, you will be getting notifications of club events via email.

Speaking of our interactive Forum – we are having a contest every month for the most posts on our Forum. Please post aquarium-related questions and help provide answers to other hobbyists. You can also post items for sale and ask for items you need. There will be a $25 BAS BUCKS first prize and a $10 BAS BUCKS second prize for the most posts! It is a great place to web connect with other members and a fun location to interact and share information. Several of our wonderful sponsors have “rooms” within our Forum, such as Air, Water & Ice, Zoo Med and Reefs2Go.

I am asking for your help and support. If you want to see different speakers or try different things, please let me know. The elected officials of the Brooklyn Aquarium Society are here to serve YOU! Please let us know what you want and why. It would be helpful to everyone. It is important that you visit and patronize our sponsors. It goes full circle: by helping them, they are also helping you as hobbyists and everyone is helping the Brooklyn Aquarium Society, so help us, help you!

For more info, please call our BAS Hotline at (718) 837-4455

On a more personal note – Any member who desires to attend a Board meeting, which are held at the Education Center of the New York Aquarium on the 1st Friday of the month, please notify me at (718) 238-1792 by the Tuesday previous to the meeting.

Joe Graffagnino

Get 1-year of BAS membership for 3 bucks!!!

This month will initiate our celebration of 100th Anniversary. We will have a birthday cake at our February 11th event to celebrate this one of a kind event. We will be having a birthday present for you in the form of a new or renewal membership for the same price as it cost in 1911 (nevermind the inflation!!!). Sign up of renew for one year at the regular price of $20 (or $25 for family membership), and for $3.00 dollars more you get another year. This is also good for multi year membership. Pay for 1 year,  add 3 bucks = 2 years. Is this great or what? You don’t want to miss it.