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What can a trip to Brazil teach us about discus care?

Turkysy Aquarium

During Mit recent trip to Brazil, I spentthe majority of one morning with Asher Benzaken of Turkys Aquarium. BenzakS^Mis married to Adele SchWartz, thedaughter of the pioneer ^Ikpicai^lsh exporter from Brazil, Hans Wiliyfcchwartz. Hans Schwartz ' ved in Brazil from his native istria to start an animal export business. In 1963, when Brazil banned the export of wildlife, except for tropical fish, Schwartz switched to the exportation of tropical fish at the suggestion of BR Herbert R. Axelrod. Whe^ Schwartz died, Benzaken stepped up and built an empire based on quality tropical fish.

Export Pioneers

I had the privilege of knowing the late Willy Schwartz and saw his installations. I have also seen the facilities of other exporters in Brazil, including Renato Takasa in Belém do Para at the mouth of the Amazon River. The holding facilities operated

Left: Wild discus live in water that is always warm. Be sure you can accommodate this need before considering discus as pets. Insets: Here we see various shots of discus habitat taken by the author.

by Benzaken are the absolute best, and his secret lies in providing the fish with what they need. If the fish are not stressed, are kept in conditions similar to their habitat and are quarantined, Benzaken believes their condition will not deteriorate and a very high-quality product will be exported.

As I walked around Turkys aquarium, Benzaken showed me the discus-holding tanks — tiled cement vats that were filled with water from a creek flowing from the Rio Negro and providing the tannin-rich, low pH water which most discus inhabit. This, however, was not the key to keeping discus alive according to Benzaken. That special trait was the heated water, with each tank having a heater that kept the water a balmy 87.8 degrees Fahrenheit.

Native Habitat

The Amazon region sits on the equator. Nights can cool the air, but the water in the discus habitat remains warm. I had forgotten this until my return to Manaus late at night, after spending time with caboclos (descendants of Indians and Europeans) looking for discus. As the canoe with an outboard motor sped through Igarapés and finally the Río Negro,

In 1963, when Brazil banned the export of wildlife, except for tropical fish, Schwartz switched to the exportation of tropical fish.

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The Fishy Quiz Answers

1) Green sea turtles are rarely longer then 4 feet, yet they weigh close to 1,000 pounds. Maybe a weight loss plan is in order. The weight doesn't come from fat but from the heavy armor shell that protects these ancient animals from predators. The shell must be doing its job, because sea turtles are one of only a handful of prehistoric creatures that have survived through the ages.

2) False. There are 26 species of clownfish (about half of those are available to aquarists), and they are all from the South Seas (any area south of the equator). The common, inexpensive Condylactis anemone is from the Caribbean and therefore is usually avoided by any clownfish.

3) I should have given you a hint like "Limnivores eat the same thing your big brother tried to get you to eat when you were just a little kid." Limnivores are mud eaters. They actually feed on the algae and detritus while they dig through the mud.

4) D. All of these. The rainy season fills ponds and streams and gives more territory while warmer temperatures do help activity levels. After all, fish are cold-blooded animals. But most important is the increase of food especially live food. Rain brings mosquitoes as well as other insects with eggs and hatchings of larvae. This provides more food to eat, thus encouraging healthy parents and fry.

5) Nitrate can be removed by plants, tridacnid clams, the process of den-itrification in the live rock pores and the process of denitrification in the oxygen-poor layers of gravel. But the cheafgUHId most effective removal method is a water change.

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