Have you ever bought fish on the
Well, this weekend just gone, I
saw an interesting item on the eBay auction site. It read
“8 to 10 inch Platydoras costatus”
and the seller even posted a photograph.
Being a total Dorad nutter, I was
intrigued because the fish that we have all known as Platydoras
costatus for decades, was renamed a couple of years
ago and now goes by the name of Platydoras armatulus,
and the true P. costatus is a very rare species
in captivity. I looked closely at the slightly blurred
image in the photograph and realised that it wasn’t
either of those fish. It was, in fact, an Orinocodoras
eigenmanni and at 8” to 10” it was quite
a fish, probably well over maximum size.
I contacted the seller for more
information. I was in luck as he only lived 40 miles away
and would be happy for me to collect it at the weekend.
So I went through eBay’s
“Buy It Now” process and the fish was mine.
Because I wanted to have a quarantine tank ready, I phoned
the seller again and asked what the water parameters were
in the tank containing the fish, and he said that the
pH was slightly below neutral, the water was fairly soft,
and all the other readings were within acceptable tolerances.
I was pleasantly surprised because I know that the tap
water in his area is so hard that it can easily grow stalagmites.
I assumed that he must have an RO unit, or at the very
least, that he used rainwater...........
I set off early round the M25 to
miss the morning rush-hour and eventually arrived at a
beautiful Victorian house in a tree-lined avenue in up-market
commuter land. The aquarium in the living room was absolutely
stunning – 5 foot x 2 foot with a solid oak stand
complete with central wine rack and matching lid, obviously
very expensive – the exact one that I’ll buy
if I ever win the lottery!
The tank was extremely brightly
lit and the substrate was glaringly brilliant pure white
sand, barely three-quarters of an inch deep. There was
an internal filter in each back corner, an air stone and
a small rock, nothing else - absolutely bare.
The inhabitants were as follows:
(please note – this list is a perfect example of
what not to mix together in a community tank!) 1 x Motoro
Stingray, 1 x Black Ghost Knife fish, 3 x hybrid Parrot
Cichlids, 1 x Red-tailed Black Shark, 1 x very large (12”
plus) plec, (Pterygoplichthys multiradiatus),
4 x Figure of Eight Puffer Fish (2”), 1 x small
Corydoras, 6 x Black Neon Tetras, 1 x Siamese Fighter,
8 x red Discus (5” diameter), 1 x tiny L. No. (Acanthicus
adonis), 1 x large Cyphotilapia frontosa
cichlid, and (soon to be) my Orinocodoras.
The seller (we’ll call him
James to save any embarrassment) said that three of his
best fish had died the previous night and he wondered
what could possibly be wrong. The dead fish were: another
red Discus, another Motoro Stingray and .............you
won’t believe this ..........a large Arowana !!!!!
The Cyphotilapia frontosa was
hovering above the substrate in the centre of the tank,
eyeing up the shoal of Black Neons (the numbers of which
had surprisingly??? been dwindling!).
The Knife fish, the RTB Shark and
the tiny L. No. were trying frantically to squeeze behind
one of the filters.
The eight Discus were covered in
mucus, (some more than others).
One of the Puffers was covered
in blobs of a white, jelly-like substance and was obviously
The Siamese Fighter’s fins
were ripped to shreds and the remaining Stingray was trying
desperately to bury itself in three-quarters of an inch
of sand, as was my Orinocodoras, whose body was
covered in mucus, to which a lot of sand was stuck, making
the whole fish look completely white!
I did a quick water test with some
dip-strips. The pH was nearly 9, and the nitrite, nitrate,
hardness and ammonia readings were so high that they were
virtually off the scale! I’d never ever seen colours
like them on a dip-strip before. I offered all the advice
I could. I explained about RO units, over-feeding and
everything else I could think of. An instant emergency
water change was needed and we took James to his local
fish shop and came back with all the RO water they had
– good job we have a large estate car.
AND THEN, and yes you’re
not going to believe this either - James said that he’d
ordered another EIGHT stingrays and they were coming next
When Will They Ever Learn?
My Orinocodoras is huge
and was once probably a magnificent specimen. It is in
solitary quarantine, and will be for some time!
It seems grateful for a dark, quiet
tank, a drainpipe to hide in and, of course, some water
that’s fit to live in!
Post Script: 8 days later
– this catfish is now dead
This gorgeous fish died 8 days
after I got it, despite my best efforts to save it. It
battled heroically but its fate was sealed before I even
got it home and into my quarantine tank. The stress levels
it was subjected to in its previous aquarium, both from
the other inhabitants, the lack of shelter and, primarily,
the toxic water conditions, must have been too much for
its immune system to handle.
The photographs were taken the
day after I got it, 2 days before its skin started to
erupt and it became plastered all over in the most disgusting
thick, blood-streaked white matter. I did everything within
my power to save it, but I failed. Its previous owner
needs to learn the basics of fish keeping before he acquires
any more fish.
Apart from all the other uncomfortable
aspects of this story, I feel very sad to think that this
fish, which was obviously wild-caught, had survived all
the rigors and trauma of capture, transport, plane journeys,
wholesalers, etc., only to be killed by the ignorance
of a novice and the lack of appropriate and timely advice
from the retail trade.
R I P
All photographs © D. Layley