Skiffia bilineata, male; goodeids of the genus Skiffia do not
tolerate poor water quality and need to be kept in tanks with
cooler temperatures than most other tropical fish prefer.
resemble the other species, and given my initial poor luck in
keeping S. bilineata alive, I consider it the most fragile of the
genus. I failed to maintain my specimens past a year in my first
attempt, though I did get them to spawn. S. bilineata is not on
the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, but it is considered an
endangered species by Dr. Lyons, et al.
These fish challenged me for months after I acquired two wild-caught pairs from a friend, Christian Santandrea, an officer in a
French livebearer club. The sparkling little S. bilineata came right
out of the heart of goodeid country. Most hail from Central Mexico,
and I know that he has been to Morelia, home of the International
Symposium on Viviparous Fishes, held once every three years. I was
fortunate to have been there in 2006 with my friend and goodeid
guru, Ivan Dibble of England.
I am fascinated by the increase in coloration they get from
consuming baby brine shrimp. Even the females take on a blue sheen
after a good feeding. As with the others, the spawns are small, and
detailed maintenance is a real must.
S. francesae is the only member of the genus Skiffia known to be
extinct in the wild, and it is listed as such in the IUCN Red List of
Threatened Species. None have been found in their natural habitat
for many years. I was first introduced to the fish by Jim Langhammer
during a business trip to the Detroit area in the fall of 1998. Once Jim
filled me in on the necessary maintenance of S. francesae, I actually
balked at it. I was traveling regularly at the time, so I used the age-old
excuse that I did not have tank space. I did not tell him I was actually
concerned that I might not be able to provide sufficient care!
When I later had a chance to read more about the fish, I could have
kicked myself for turning them down. But then the bomb hit: Not too
long afterwards, Jim had to take a break from fishkeeping for medical
reasons. He made his plans and gave away many of his fish. After
Skiffia francesae, female; S. francesae is the only member
of the genus Skiffia considered extinct in the wild.
recuperation, he tried to reacquire S. francesae. He even called me, but
it seemed everyone he had given the fish to lost them, for one reason or
another. Luckily one colony survived, and Doug Sweet, former curator
of the now-closed Belle Isle Aquarium (of Detroit) had a thriving
colony. Jim and I both made a point of setting up the best of captive
environments for it. Incidentally, Jim told me just recently that he has
rediscovered his knack with S. francesae, and they are doing quite well
for him. Mine are not as prolific, but the colony still grows.
SKIFFIA “BLACK BEAU T Y”
When Jim Langhammer thought that francesae was just about
extinct, he took his last remaining fish and intentionally crossed
it with S. multipunctata. His reasoning was to protect the genes
it carried. Well, what resulted was an almost all-black Skiffia. It
carries the sawfin dorsal of multipunctata and most of its traits, and
to my mind, it acts a lot like one too. But its rather musical motion
is certainly more akin to francesae. Given their history, I have
continued to maintain a tank full of them to this day.
Skiffia “black beauty” (two sibling males are shown), a cross between S.
francesae and S. multipunctata.
Prepare for the Challenge!
A lot of folks out there, good hobbyists in their own right, tend to
shun livebearers. I cannot tell you how many times I have been told that
they are little better than live food for cichlids. Well, guess what—I feed
baby cichlids to my bigger livebearers! And I will challenge any of you
to try your hand at just keeping some of these, let alone getting them to
spawn for you. Cute though they may be, I grant you that many of these
fish are not really colorful. I am reminded of Mr. Bill Allen’s famous
livebearer song, “Little Brown Ditch Fish.”
But if your interest has been kindled, or you are up for the challenge,
try one of these oddballs. You can do yourself a favor and start with
something unique but more tolerant of water quality and food. I suggest
Ameca splendens, or the redtail goodeid Xenotoca eiseni. X. eiseni tends to
have a nasty temperament, a lot like your cichlids, and it does well with
fish twice its size! Several other goodeids are less daunting than those
of the genus Skiffia, and some are tougher yet.
Have I piqued your curiosity? Have I gotten Mother Nature to
whisper in your ear? Remember that over half of the 40-odd species
in the goodeid family are endangered, or worse. Try keeping a
couple—or you can try to keep them all!