Frequently Asked Questions regarding Killifish Keeping & the AKA
Edited June 24th, 2017
Here you will find the answers to frequently asked questions, providing help with various aspects of the killifish hobby and the AKA Web Site.
FAQ… General Killifish Questions
Questions about killifish
What are killifish and why are they called that?
Scientists have defined Cyprinodonts as carp-like fish with teeth. Those are further split between livebearers, like the common guppy, and those who lay eggs. The egg-layers were called Panchax and Killifish by various folks, but the founders of the AKA decided to use killifish as the general name for the egg-laying toothed carps. It seems to have stuck.
“Kill” is an old Dutch word for stream or brook that appears in many geographical names, like Catskills, Peekskill, etc. Since most of these fish are tiny and often live in smaller waters, the “fish of the stream” seemed like a good name for them.
Where do killifish live?
Killifish are opportunists and very tough, so they have populated small waters all over the earth, except in Antarctica (too cold for fresh-water fishes) and Australia (where other species already filled those environments).
A great many species ended up on coastal shelf areas. They may live in brackish waters and even in the open sea. Those range from excellent aquarium fish, like Jordanella floridae, the American-Flagfish, to many you will never see in an aquarium store. Generally, the coastal species are the only killifish that have a widespread geographical distribution. Most are restricted to very tiny habitats, which tends to make them vulnerable to changes in habitat brought about by development.
The Cottonball-Marsh Pupfish, Cyprinodon milleri, lives below sea level, in Death Valley, California, in water that can be 104 degrees F, and salinity nearly 5 times higher than sea water. Other killifish, known as annuals, live in temporary waters that may dry up every year. Their eggs are placed in the mud, and hatch when the new rainy season starts. These “instant fish” are a fun part of the hobby. Killifish seem to invade any water that provides some food and some protection from predators.
Are there any good books on killifish?
The AKA provides an excellent Beginners Guide when you join the AKA. This book can also be purchased from the Online Store.
The late Ed Warner’s book, Success With Killifish, a 48 page paperback with a few color pictures, is an excellent complement to the Beginner’s Guide. Copies may available from Ruth Warner and often show up on auction sites.
Another excellent paperback that is inexpensive is by a real killifish fanatic, Steffen Hellner, the Barron’s Books Killifish: A Complete Pet Owner’s Manual. Both of these paperbacks are a bit dated, as far as fish names go, but the basic information there is very good indeed. Pictures are outstanding. Both are out of print, but often still available for $10 or less. Check your pet shop shelf or online auctions for this one.
When Steffen Hellner joined the folks that produce the Baensch and Riehl Aquarium Atlas series, he greatly expanded the killifish descriptions and coverage, particularly in Volume 3. Volumes 1 and 3 are worth owning for the killifish descriptions and pictures, alone. With 118 pages of killies, Vol. 2 actually is pretty decent, too.
The AKA Online store carries several other books on killifish. These often focus on specific groups and may appeal more to the specialist.
The World of Killifish series also available from the online store is also called the “Wildekamp” series by hobbyists. They contain no color photos, but do have accurate line drawings and much useful information on each species covered. Published by the AKA as a service to the hobby, it is a work in progress. Four of five planned volumes have been published.
How many kinds of killifish are there?
Scientists have described over 800 species, and new ones are being discovered all the time. It is even possible that there are over 1000 killifish species on earth, right now. Names can change as scientists study the fish, which can be confusing for us all.
The AKA has published a list of officially-approved species names, known as the Killifish Master Index (KMI), by Dr. Ken Lazara. The KMI 4th edition as well as other excellent references are available in the online store. Killidata is a useful online reference work, maintained by Prof. Jean Huber.
By standardizing on KMI4 for fish names, we reduce confusion at local club sales and in the Fish and Egg listings in the AKA Business Newsletter.
With so many scientifically-named species, and so little distribution through normal commercial fish shops, it is not surprising that most killifish don’t have common names. Folks new to killifish are often intimidated by the Latin names and the collection codes or location names used to prevent accidental hybridization. It takes a bit of getting used to, but works best for the hobby in the long run.
What is needed to keep killifish?
They are mostly tropical fish, that may need a bit cooler water than other tropicals, but usually warmer than goldfish. Lots more information is available in the on-line extracts from the Beginners Manual in this section of the site.
What kind should I start with, and where can I get them?
The Beginners Guide gives more detail, but your local tap water is an excellent guide. If it is hard water, you may do better with Fundulopanchax and Nothobranchius species, but Chromaphyosemions and many other Aphyosemions may be happier if your water is quite soft.
Killifish are most easily acquired at AKA events or at AKA Affiliate Club Meetings. Local Aquarium Society meetings and auctions are also often good places to find killies. Although many killies are available from online auctions, you are more likely to have success with killies if you can find a local killifish keeper who is willing to help you learn what is involved to successfully keep and breed killies.
Choose a species that is relatively straightforward to breed. It is useful to ask at local affiliate club meetings or look in the AKA Forums about choices.
Why can’t I get them at my Local Fish Store?
You will not find many killies in shops, as they have never been easy for the commercial suppliers to mass produce. Most killies are either bred by small breeders at home or wild caught. Because the males of most species fight, shipping wild-caught killies is expensive. Expect to pay $25 to $50 per pair IF a fish store carries them. Additionally, most killies are excellent jumpers so if a store employee does not keep the tank tightly covered, lots of expensive stock ends up on the floor.
Many hobbyists breed killies which are distributed within the killifish world. Although many killies are easy to breed, they are difficult to produce in large numbers. Killies are generally not good community aquarium residents. Although not difficult to keep, they do require special considerations and many killie breeders find it offensive when newbies toss them in a community tank and they end up dead on the floor the next day.
Contact your closest local affiliate club and attend a meeting to get good starting stock or purchase from the AKA Fish and Egg listing, which is updated monthly.
Many store owners think killifish are short-lived, because they have heard of the “annuals” that can grow, reproduce and die in a single rainy season. The fish actually live about as long as Rasboras and many Tetras, and even some annuals can live for two or more years.
Many killies are so easy to breed and raise in small containers that hobbyists tend to freely share them and inadvertently interfere with the normal commercial trade in tropical fish. We should bend over backwards to support our local shops by buying foods, hardware and other such supplies there when possible.
I heard they need live foods. Is this true, and where can I get such food.
Being “toothed” carps is a clue. They tend to be eaters of live stuff, so some live food in their diet is a good idea. Many fish stores sell live brine shrimp and California black worms (sometimes called “tubifex” or blood worms which are actually different worms). True Tubifex worms are illegal in some states, but available in others, and excellent food if properly stored and purged of wastes.
Some killifish also require a lot of vegetables in their diet. These include pupfish and springfish as well as many of their livebearer cousins. Blanched zucchini ends are often devoured eagerly.
Most serious killifish keepers learn to hatch baby brine shrimp. These serve as great conditioning food for getting breeders to make healthy eggs, and are nearly essential for raising baby killifish.
Hobbyists also exchange other live-food cultures that can be kept in the fish room or refrigerator. See the Beginner’s Manual for details.
The presence of West-Nile Virus, Eastern Equine Encephalitis and other mosquito-borne diseases has brought into question the old habit of raising mosquito larvae for our killifish. They are among the finest foods known, but our neighbors and officials may not approve. Likewise midge-fly larvae (bloodworms) and glass worms are good foods for adult fish. Available as freeze-dried, most killifish will eat the dried products when rehydrated. Frozen foods are also a good substitute for live foods for many species.
Some killifish also will eat high quality flake food, but make sure you buy a brand that is high quality. If you use a cheap brand the fish may not eat it and it will end up fouling their water.
Where do I go for help?
The place to go to ask questions is the forums on this site. There is a Beginners Corner, if you feel you fit into that category, a General Killie Discussion forum, and several other more specialized ones. Killifish hobbyists are among the most generous at sharing their expertise. To avoid repetition, try searching the site for an answer before posting your question. One motive for doing this FAQ was to avoid the same questions being asked and answered there, time and again.
If your question reveals that you have searched those places, it is more likely to get a good, thoughtful answer by a member.
FAQ… American Killifish Association, Purpose, Goals & Mission
What is the mission of the American Killifish Association?
The aims of the AKA are to advance the enjoyment, propagation, study and conservation of killifish (oviparous Cyprinodontiform fish) and to promote fellowship amongst its members. The AKA maintains a number of programs to further these aims. These include the bimonthly publication of the Journal of the American Killifish Association and the monthly publication of a Business Newsletter. The latter includes a Fish and Egg Listing in which members can list fish and eggs for sale or wanted. The AKA holds an annual convention and killifish show once each year.
A number of regional clubs throughout North America are affiliated with the AKA and share its objectives. These clubs meet regularly and hold annual shows. Through these meetings and shows, affiliate clubs provide one of the best ways to acquire killifish and to obtain advice on keeping them.
The AKA also provides this web site and its forums, which allow all interested parties to exchange information and opinions on killifish, the hobby, and related topics.
Membership in the AKA is open to everyone within the guidelines of the Constitution and Bylaws, and the association has members from all over the world. You can join online using the links on this web site.
How can I join the AKA?
You can join the AKA using the online forms available on this web site. Online payment is via Paypal. You can opt to pay each year by returning to this site to do so.
If you would like to avoid the need to remember when your payment is due each year, you can use the subscription option. If you do so, Paypal will automatically charge you each year.
New members receive a free copy of the Beginners Manual. All members receive the bimonthly JAKA in the mail and the monthly Business Newsletter by e-mail.
How can I notify the AKA of address changes, etc?
You can update your e-mail address and mailing address by going to your profile and editing the information.
How can I contact the Board of Trustees or other officers of the AKA?
If you are a member, you can contact the Board of Trustees through the links on the Board of Trustees Page. Email addresses for the Board of Trustees members are also listed in the BNL.
There is a general contact form on the web site which sends an e-mail to the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the AKA. He or she may answer your question directly or forward it to the appropriate person. We try to answer all serious inquiries as quickly as possible. Please remember that we are all volunteers and that work or family obligations may interfere with same-day responses. Please be sure to read all the FAQs before e-mailing a question.
If you are an AKA member you can also use the Members Only forums to raise issues related to AKA business. The BOT will monitor those forum topics. Posts must be civil. Inappropriate posts will be edited or deleted.
FAQ… about AKA Website
Why does the web site keep changing?
Although we try to provide a stable internet experience for members, the internet and web site technology is constantly “advancing”. Also, our web masters are volunteers and there is the occasional turnover of web masters. We strive to provide the best web site possible while automating as many of the day-to-day tasks as possible. All this means that there will be the occasional changes in the appearance of the web site and the way things work.
I would like to thank the previous two web masters: Barry Cooper and Tom Grady. They have laid the foundation upon which we continue to build. R.W. Pierce
What is the difference between the Visitor Resources and the Member Resources areas?
The AKA welcomes anyone interested in killifish to our web site and events, but as a member-oriented organization we must keep some parts of the site and some services for our members only. Visitor resources are designed to give all guests to the web site some of the basic information about the killifish hobby and how to get started keeping killifish. The AKA leadership sees this as an obligation to the fish keeping community in general. We truly want everyone to be able to enjoy and keep killifish, even if you decide that AKA Membership is not for you. We also believe that success will generate further interest in killifish and we will be here when you are ready to advance your killie-keeping interests.
You used to allow web site memberships. Where have those gone?
Web site only memberships allowed users to post to the forums but did not give access to other membership benefits. The AKA leadership and web master removed this membership level to simplify membership management and provide better service to our members. Visitors can still read the forums but cannot post to the forums.
How do I join the AKA?
Through the join or renew link on the top menu or through the join and renew link under visitor resources in the left menu. If you do not wish to pay with PayPal you may send a check or money order made out to “American Killifish Association” to Bob Meyer, 733 County Road 600 East, Tolono, IL 61880. Please allow 1 – 2 weeks for processing. You will receive an e-mail with your username & password when payment has cleared.
How do I log in for the Member’s Resources area?
If you are not logged in as a member you do not have access to Member’s Only areas including the Business Newsletter. If you do not see Member’s Resources in the left menu bar, you are not logged in
To log in, use the Login link on the right side under Members. You need to enter your Username and Password. If you have forgotten your password you may click the link “Forgot Password” and an e-mail will be sent to your e-mail address on record allowing you to change your password.
What is my username?
Your username is your email address of which you receive the AKA monthly eBNL.
Can I change my user name and password?
Whenever you update your email address in your profile your username changes to it.
You may change your password as often as you like in our profile editor.
What if I have problems registering or joining the AKA?
In the unlikely event that you cannot successfully join or renew your membership, please contact email@example.com. Please note that registration will not be complete until membership dues have been received and cleared. Membership is subject to approval by the Board of Trustees and the AKA has the right to reject prospective members without explanation.
How can I find other AKA members?
Under Member’s Menu after logging in you will find a hot button, to our on line Membership Roster. This Roster is dynamic and searchable in many ways. Our members find it a fast and an easy way to contact either, BOT Members, Committee Members, and at large members.
FAQ… AKA FORUMs What, Where, & Why
What are the forums?
The forums are a bulletin board system on which users can pose questions about any aspect of the killifish hobby or about the AKA. A number of forums (topic areas) have already been established. If you have suggestions for additional forums, please contact the webmaster, firstname.lastname@example.org
What are the forum topics?
Currently there are a number of forum topics set up. We are still in the process of determining what number of topics is ideal, and what the subject areas should be.
The General Killie Discussion forum can be used for general questions about killies, their keeping, breeding etc. If you want to start a discussion that focuses rather specifically on a particular fish or group of killies you can choose one of the more specific areas.
There are other forums for topics not directly about the fish but related to the hobby, such as Fish Health & Disease, Foods & Feeding, Fish Room Techniques, etc.
Finally, members can read and discuss AKA related issues in the Members Only forums.
Who can use the forums?
Any visitor to the AKA web site can read the forums in the Public Forums category. However, to post you must be an AKA member and log on. If you are using a private computer (e.g. at home) you can use the Remember Me option at login, which means you won’t have to log in repeatedly when you visit the site.
The Members Only forums are visible only to AKA members and you must be logged in with your AKA user name and password. Again you can use the Remember Me option.
How do I post a message, or reply to a post? Can I edit my posts?
You must be logged on to be able to post or reply to a message. As you view a forum you will see a button for New Topic. Use that to start a discussion on a new subject. On established threads you will see a button to Reply. Obviously enough, you click that to reply to the post. There are actually two reply buttons, one above the message and one below. Once you have finished typing, click on the Submit button further down. You can also Preview your message, if you wish.
You can edit your own posts. So, if you notice a mistake, click on the Edit button below your message. That will bring up the message in an edit screen. You can make your changes, then click the Submit button.
Can I be notified of new posts?
You can ask to receive an email notification whenever a message is posted to any of the forums, to a particular forum, or in a particular thread. To do so you use the Notifications block at the bottom of the forums pages.
If you are on the forums home page, you can request Global Notification. You can choose to be notified on creation of any new forum or of any new posts. Being global that means you would be notified on any new posts to any forum. Note that you can request to receive the notification as a full text message, if you wish.
If you are on a particular forum, you can request notification of any new topics, or any new posts in the forum. Again, you can request full text notifications.
Finally, if you are in a particular discussion thread, you can request notification of any new posts in that thread. In that case, only notification without full text is available.
Make sure that your notification method is set to email. Otherwise your notification will be by Personal Message, which requires a visit to the web site to view. There is a link to change this in the Notification block, if necessary.
Finally, be careful with checking notifications. If you check global notification for all posts, then check notification for a particular forum, you will get two notices. If this happens you can easily go in and uncheck the appropriate choice.
What is the bookmark, PDF, etc. link at the bottom of each post?
This link brings up a menu allowing you to bookmark a post to certain social networking (bookmarking) sites, such as del.icio.us; to make a PDF of the post; to email it to someone else; or to print the post. This offers a way to build a personal archive of posts you find particularly useful.
What privileges do I have when using the forums?
Anyone can read the public forums. You must be logged on to post. Which forums you can use depends on whether you are an AKA member or a visitor.
In a forum, at the bottom of the list of discussion topics, you will see a list of your privileges, telling you what you can and cannot do. In addition AKA members can use the member only forums.
How can I embed images in my posts?
You can embed an image in a message, such that it will appear in your post when others read it.
To embed an image, use the Browse button to navigate to the image on your computer. Allowed file extensions (formats) are jpg, jpeg, png and gif.
There will be a notice regarding the maximum file size allowed. We recommend that you resize images to about 500 to 600 pixels wide. This is a size that won’t over-power readers’ monitors.
After browsing to the image file, click Upload. You will then see a notice of the attached file, with an option to unattach it if you change your mind. Complete the text of your message, then click Submit.
What are the Forum and Topic Options menus for?
When you are on the forums home page you will see a drop down menu for Main Options. On specific forums there is a similar menu for Forum Options.
These menus allow you to choose various options, the most useful of which might be View New Posts and View Unread Topics. The meaning of these choices is pretty much self evident.
At the level of particular thread, there is a second drop down that allows you to choose the View Mode, in other words, the formatting of the posts. Feel free to experiment with these to see which you prefer.
How do I quote a previous message in my reply?
After you click on the icon to Reply, you will see, below the reply box, an icon for quote. Click on that and the content of the previous message will be enter within Quote: delimiters. You can delete parts of the quoted message if you only want to quote part of it. Then, type your response below the quoted section and post in the usual way.
FAQ… Can you sell me Killifish?
The short answer is no.
The American Killifish Association exists for the primary purpose of disseminating killifish information and promoting fellowship among its members. It is an all volunteer organization. As an organization, we do not exist for the purpose of importing, breeding and distributing killifish. That requires an infrastructure that we, as an organization, do not have.
That being said, membership in the AKA opens up access to the world of killifish keepers, breeders, and affiliate clubs, many of who do import, breed and distribute killifish. The AKA also offers members the chance to list fish they have for sale in the Fish & Egg Listings in the monthly Business Newsletter.
The AKA does not maintain a “Breeder’s Registry” of who has which fish. The primary reason is to respect member’s privacy. In the past, members with certain, highly sought-after fish have been harassed by others who want access to that fish. Such behavior is antithetical to the spirit of the AKA. AKA members are among the most generous people you will encounter in regards to sharing fish with other members.
If you join the AKA, go to conventions, breed and show fish, and demonstrate you are able to successfully keep and breed killifish, the world of killifish will open up to you and you will have access to fish you never dreamed of. Many killifish keepers acquire new killies with the goal of getting them established in the hobby. This means that the first offspring of those fish are often given to established breeders as “insurance” against a fish room disaster or loss and to further propagate the species. Once the fish are secure, excess stock often ends up in shows and auctions.
Many have accused the AKA of being an “Old Boys (and Girls) Club” and to some extent it is. However all are welcome to join the AKA. By networking with existing members you can easily learn how to be successful with killies. Most AKA members feel that there are not enough people breeding killies and new people are encouraged to enter the hobby. There are few, if any “Trade Secrets” among killie keepers. Many current AKA members learned how to keep killies from an established killie keeper and were given their first pair of killies for free with the understanding that they would do the same when their time came.
Even if you do not join the AKA, our annual convention is open to all and is an excellent place to purchase killifish. Many affiliate clubs are also open to all, although most expect you will eventually join and support the AKA. If you cannot make it to an annual convention or an affiliate club, you will often find killifish and killie keepers at a general aquarium club.
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