Recommended Cool Water Fishes
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Adult male Lepomis humilis. Our native red-spotted sunfish makes a great keeper.
What’s a “Cool Water Fish?” Naturally, our native fishes (sunfishes, catfishes, suckers, and minnows) can handle cool water quite easily. But since so few people keep these usually larger tank residents, we’ll just cover the “imports.”
Import Note. Although carps (koi) and goldfishes are cold water fishes, they are fairly recent immigrants to our country.
No Heater Necessary. Most cool water fishes live just fine in unheated aquaria. They don’t need heaters to live happily or to breed.
Temperature. Fishes from warm countries (tropical fishes) never see falling leaves much less falling snow. Cool water fishes have adapted to varying weather conditions – even ice on top their water. This doesn’t mean they like ice in their water, just that they can survive it.
Fish Bowls. Since fishbowls and those “executive aquariums” (with the emphasis on execute) have no heaters, the cool water fishes work better in them than tropical fishes.
Your Choices. Some potential candidates to consider include:
Paradise Fish. Think of these guys as cool water bettas. Just slightly less colorful than bettas, these tough little scrappers can thrive in conditions that would kill most tropical fishes. We saw one pair kept outside in a bucket (in the shade) spawn and hatch eggs. Like bettas, they fare best when kept separate. (Males like to argue.) Mature males make excellent display fishes in those one-gallon crystal bowls you can occasionally find. We cannot recommend paradise fish highly enough. They will sometimes beat up on tank mates when crowded into smaller quarters -- especially other anabantids.
all school together when in the same tank. Some people consider them “too active” because they want all the other fish to chase along with them.
Long-Finned Danios. We prefer our danio species in the long-finned varieties. Danios are excellent cool water fishes. They will pester slow moving fishes.
Black Skirt Tetras. Black skirt tetras develop their darkest colors when kept in the cooler ranges. This group includes a long-finned variety as well as the white skirt tetra (which develops no black colors). This group also contains the injected fruit-colored tetras. All these originally black tetras will school together quite happily.
White Clouds. Look at these guys when the sunlight hits them. Their white and yellow stripes and red-tipped fins flash very attractively in good light. A school of these minnows really makes a tank look great. Temperament-wise you couldn’t ask for a better fish. They will not hurt or chase their tank mates. These guys will even survive in those nasty mini-tanks.
Weather Loaches. Good scavengers and exotic looking. They work great in larger tanks.
Killifish. Even though many killifishes came from Africa and South America, many prefer unheated aquaria.
Feeding. Cool water fishes eat any food you offer them. They are always at the front of the chow line. Several small meals per day work best. Most respond very well to color foods. Color foods bring out their reds, oranges, and blacks.
Decor. Most cool water
fishes enjoy swimming in well-planted tanks.
Goldfishes and koi are well known plant munchers, but the others
will leave your plants undisturbed. Anacharis
and hornwort (
Kevin Abercrombie, Rochester, NY, August 10, 2010
A: I guess I did not include tank cooling info in my cold water fish page. First, I would not worry about any sunfish getting too hot. They rarely die from the heat. Obviously the "chillers" made for lobster and trout tanks are too expensive and really too cold (usually 45 to 55 F) for a 10 gallon tank. The fan method you're using is good. Forget the ice cubes. Ice cubes bounce your temperature up and down like a yo-yo and encourage ich infestations. In bait shops, they will trickle in continuous cold tap water or more likely use spargers for their minnow and crayfish tanks -- not really practical for civilians. Numerous airstones would function similar to a sparger. Or you could position your tank above your central air conditioner outlet. But the most practical solution for most people is to just move your tank into the basement. LA
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