I've been waiting for so
long to finally get these tiny loaches into their new home, but dreadingcatching them. The ability of loaches to switch directions mid-swim and zoom off in the blink of an eye, paired with their small size, and the fact that they can squeeze into the tiniest of hiding spots - or even burrow beneath the substrate - has given the eel-like loaches the reputation of being the most difficult fish in a tank to capture - and that's the 'normal sized' Kuhli! The P. cuneovirgata are dwarfs - only one inch long at their largest - and they make the Kuhli seem fat and slow in comparison. . .
A couple of weeks ago, I accidentally siphoned TWO
of these babies into my bucket during a water-change, in spite of all I was doing to prevent that from happening. They're so slender, that they fit easily through my 1/2" siphon with plenty of wiggle room, and they didn't seem to have been stressed out by it at all. . . which got me thinking that it *might* be less stressful for all involved if I just siphoned them out of the tank when I went to move them. . .
I have a larger, 3/4 inch diameter siphon that I decided to use - just to be on the safer side. I first filled my 5 gallon bucket halfway with tank water, and cushioned the bottom of the bucket with the Indian almond leaves that had been in the tank. I got the siphon going with a nicely controlled slow flow, making sure to keep the bucket end under the water and turned sideways (so they wouldn't bump the bottom of the bucket if they came out too fast) and waited. . .
Sure enough, it didn't take the curious little guys long to start poking their noses into what I was doing, and one by one they peeked into the siphon and *WHOOOOOOSH* into the bucket they went! It's a kind of nerve-wracking way to catch a fish, but to be honest. . . WAY
easier (and seemingly less stressful) than trying to chase these tiny guys down with a pair of nets. They really didn't seem to mind much, either. They didn't hide under the leaves when they got there, just started swimming around in the bucket, seemingly trying to figure out what was going on. . .
Only one gave me a hard time - the last little guy was too smart to put his nose in a siphon, and as his buddies vanished one by one, and the water level dropped, he started getting a bit stressed out and took to the rock caves in hiding.
But. . . they've been living in a QT tank that was set up just for them, and since they weren't going to be living there anymore, I had no reservations about taking it apart rock by rock, and even had an extra bucket on stand-by to put the rocks and attached plants into. . . I had expected, based on previous loach-wrangling experiences, to have to dismantle the tank to get them out, anyway. Surprisingly, if it weren't for that one sneaky lil' dude, I wouldn't have had to! In the end I got him, bringing me to a total of nine little loaches.
Nine. . . and no sign of the lonely little Java loach. I originally had 10 Pangio cuneovirgata - it was supposed to have been twelve, but one was squashed when the Evil Fish Shop Lady
stabbed it with a net, and one was a Java/black loach (P. oblonga) that had gotten mixed into the first batch. I've only been able to count 9 fish for a while, and have seen no signs of the lone Java for at least a month now, so I'm not surprised to find myself two fish short. . . he and one of the dwarfs must have died in the tank, though I never saw any signs of their bodies, or had a spike to indicate their passing. With them being so small, it isn't a big surprise, but still sad. . . One of the babies has a little bit of a kink in his spine, toward the end of his body just before his tail - he's been like this since I brought him home, and I blame that awful woman for this, too. But it seems not to bother him, and otherwise, they all look perfect, are vibrant and bright, and seemingly the picture of health. They've matured over the last few months in my care, and they now do have distinctions that mark them as individuals. Some are more lightly colored, some darker, and some have a pronounced strawberry color on their 'chest' (these are males from what I've been told). Although I can tell my five P.Kuhli apart, and they each have names and distinct personalities, I doubt I'll ever be able to identify these dwarfs one from the other, and now that they've gone into the big tank, I doubt I'll really be sure of how many I actually have ever again!
Back to the update. . .once I got my last little loachbutt out of the QT tank, I took the leaves out of the bucket and snapped a quick picture for you guys before heading downstairs for the next step!
I've been very
careful to keep the water parameters in both tanks identical - especially nitrAte and temperature, and I've been doing extra water changes in the QT tank for the last weeks using old water from Becoming. I also have been adding the Indian Almond leaves to the 10g over the last few days as in the 55, to keep things the same between tanks, so I wasn't worried about the acclimatisation process at all. I've even been careful to keep them on the same lighting routine, and have been keeping the baby monitors by the tank to get them used to the noise level in the rest of the house (if not the 'pitter patter' of stomping feet, lol!) I siphoned out as much 'extra' water as I could from the bucket, and carefully dumped them into their new home. . . where they promptly vanished. . .
But not for long! These fish are WAY
too curious to stay in hiding, and they couldn't resist peeking out to see what was going on. After about 20 minutes or so, I started seeing little noses peeking out from beneath rocks and leaves all over the tank. . . by the time they had been in there for an hour, they were starting to come out - though still being twitchy and quick to retreat.
By the time the tank lights were du to turn on, they had been in there for three hours, and were very obviously settling in fast. They were already behaving exactly like I've come to expect from watching them in their QT tank - rooting around for snacks, swimming in their loop-de-loops, and exploring their new home! They seemed so comfortable that I put the lights on at the usual time - they didn't seem like they needed the extra calm time in the darkness - the babies were home, and they seemed to sense that they were in a safe place!
I'm glad that I gave them the extra time in QT to settle in fully and lose their shyness. It's been a lesson learned. . . I think waiting until the fish's behavior showed that they were totally comfortable, rather than giving them an arbitrary amount of time (like 1 month) simply to prove themselves disease-free, really helped them to handle the move with ease!
After all of these months of waiting, I'm so excited to FINALLY
get to see my little P.cuneovirgata shoaling side-by-side with the bigger P.Kuhli! It's funny how the little ones make their bigger cousins seem so BIG and fat and slow, and it's really difficult NOT
to think of them as 'parents' to the smaller species. . . In the shots both above and below, you see Nod pictured with one of the dwarfs - Nod is actually my SMALLEST
Kuhli, lol! He's HUGE
the big ones keep shooting me looks that seem to be saying 'Why are you doing this to me?!' Look at the faces on Winkin' and Blinkin' below . . . am I imagining things? That's a look I associate with those times when I'm surrounded by toddlers who all need something at the same moment!
All joking aside, the introduction went better than I could have hoped for, and by feeding time last night, the dwarf loaches were behaving as if they had already forgotten that they had undergone a dramatic capture and transplantation into a whole new world only hours before. . . ALL of the loaches, big and small, look to be having the time of their lives. They seem very, very happy together. I hope I'm right about that :)
And? It turns out that I was right - these tiny guys are WAY easier to capture images of against the dark sand in the bigger tank, yayl! This last shot I took especially for Plummy - see how many loaches your little one can spot in this picture, lol, - it isn't as if they're hiding *giggle*!
I'll try to get some video of the squirmy cuteness later when the tank lights go on - it's so funny to see them when they get all piled up together - the tank floor was literally writhing in some spots at feeding time last night! They're so stinkin' CUTE!
I couldn't be happier to finally have them home