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June 2012 Aquarium Fish International Editor's Note

Enter the Oddballs

By Clay Jackson |

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In most situations involving humans, the term “oddball” is an unfaltering barb. I’m sure I’ve been called one at least a few times in my 50 years, and while I’ve never crumpled onto the floor in a heap, these little zingers have never left me with the warm fuzzies either.

Well, in this “oddball” issue, the term is meant as a positive and to evoke curiosity in the reader. Many so-called oddball fish are monochromatic and are often overlooked because they aren’t “cichlid blue” or “tang yellow.” It is a real shame that many fish that are very different behaviorally are passed by because they start the day out (no fault of their own) in earth tones. But their lack of color is more than compensated for by unusual behaviors (e.g., they burrow and spend much of their time in the substrate), as well as unusual body and fin shapes. This is sometimes true in Homo sapiens, too, as there can be little in the way of substance propping up the false front of beauty.

The goal of most is to have a successful tank, be it a reef or a planted tank or something a bit simpler. But there are some who are not content with the status quo. There are the restless few who are always looking for the next “big thing” to capture their imaginations and propel their aquariumkeeping to the next level.

With this in mind, why not try and keep some marine sand-dwellers in a unique sand-flat or sand-slope biotope aquarium, as Scott Michael suggests in his article “Marine Sand-Dwellers”? Or how about keeping blind riverine or cave fish in a dimly lit tank all their own? Oliver Lucanus provides the blueprint in his “Troglodytic Fish” article. Ever have a pesky marine hitchhiker show up in your display aquarium? Ever thought about setting up a display for it rather than taking the hitchhiker out? Scott Caufield lets us see these animals in a new light, not as “pests” but rather as “pets”  in his article “Aquatic Pests Turned Pets."

If the aquariumkeeping doldrums are blowing through your fish room, give an oddball a try. Some of the oddballs discussed in this month’s issue include marine fish like sandperches, garden eels, sand divers, soles; freshwater oddballs like ropefish, scarlet gem badis, striped spiny eels, ornate birchirs, African butterflyfish; catfish like shovelnoses, ornate pimelodus, whiptail and twig cats and the blue-eyed panaque; blind fish like Mexican blind cave tetras and blind river eels from Africa’s Congo River (which in spots is more than 700 feet deep and is the world’s deepest river). And if that weren’t enough, Stephen G. Noble takes a fascinating look at some carnivorous aquatic plant “oddballs” in this month’s installment of his column “The Aquabotanist.” Does your tank have a lot of color but not much else? Give an oddball a home.      

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