This Summer was the first that I’d ever tried Summer Tubbing. I started rather late in the season so I didn’t have a lot to show for it in the end. That, and the dragonfly nymphs feasted heavily on much of the young I did end up with.
But one of my tubs offered an unexpected sense of joy. And it happened to be the smallest tub.
It started with one of those small, plastic “half-barrel” looking planters they sell at the big home improvement centers. They have drain plugs molded in that most folks pop out. But if you don’t pop them out, the barrels hold water quite well.
So I filled the little tub up with water, added a jar of pond water, some aquarium driftwood, and some floating plants. After a few weeks, the water turned pea soup green and then cleared up again. This let me know that there was adequate microscopic fauna eating the phytoplankton to offer a variety of tiny foods to any baby fish that might end up hatching in this tub.
I went to the pet shop thinking I’d just get a handful of cheap guppies and go for the easy win. But instead I went to the nano fish department in the back and found what was described as “Paskai rainbowfish”, a member of the Pseudomugil genus of tiny rainbowfish. They were $13 a pop! But I asked for six, took my chances, and my first loss was finding out that they had only put five in the bag. This was a good reminder why I don’t buy fish from that shop anymore.
So I put my five rainbowfish in the tub and they immediately started feasting on the live mosquito larvae that had established themselves in the tub.
This was going to be fine.
I didn’t dote on them much. Once a week or so, I’d drop a cube of frozen Daphnia in the tub. Or maybe a pinch of flake food. Just something to supplement in case they were finding it hard to hunt. It wasn’t long before I started seeing fry hunting around the shallows.
But I also saw dragonfly nymphs hunting fish.
At the end of the Summer, when the nighttime temperatures got uncomfortably low, I drained out my tubs and harvested fish from all of them. And in each tub I probably saw a dozen or more dragonfly nymphs.
My group of five Paskai rainbowfish had grown in size to eleven. Hardly a bumper crop, but it was a nice haul considering the short season and the scourge of dragonfly nymphs.
So some things that I learned:
- Start the Summer tubs earlier in the year!
- Protect the tubs from dragonflies.
- It was worthwhile to pre-condition the tubs with microfauna to sustain fish fry.
- At least one species from the Pseudomugil genus was worth tubbing in North Carolina. I’ll try branching out in 2023’s growing season.
This article isn’t meant to be a comprehensive care guide or anything. Truly, I am mostly exploring ways to keep fish that thrive on naturalistic setups and a bit of neglect in the care department. This is really just meant to be an account from one fish keeper about a species not commonly seen by casual hobbyists.
I’m finding the Paskai rainbowfish to be a great little nano aquarium species. The group of 11 has far too much room in the 20 gallon “high” aquarium that I moved them to for the colder months. I suspect they would thrive in a 5 gallon aquarium with no heater (they are fine at room temperature for me), a mattenfilter, and enough light to enjoy their gorgeous colors and perhaps sustain some plants for them.
If you’re more serious about spawning them in a sustainable way, I have to imagine they would be very happy to use spawning mops. In my case, they prefer the dangling roots of floating plants. Water lettuce or water hyacinth if you can swing it, else they don’t seem picky. I had them spawning in a couple of massive floating water sprites outside.
When they were outside they had no filter, no air pump, no water circulation of any kind. The days here in Raleigh get hot, and the nights could either stay hot or dip down into the 60’s. This species took all of that in stride. I think the lack of circulation may have actually helped them as the stratification of the water would allow them to pick cooler or warmer layers as they saw fit.
In my home during the cooler months, they don’t seem to miss a beat. If I do a water change, they’ll be spawning by the time the lights start dimming at dusk (as seen here in the attached YouTube video, filmed today at dusk).
These fish are tiny. I wouldn’t advise putting them in a typical community aquarium. Either enjoy them in a small species-only tank, or constrain your tankmates to peaceful nano fish.
I found them to be outstanding summer tub fish with a complete absence of gear, save for the tub itself. So I’m not going to suggest overthinking the amount of investment it will take to keep this species happy and healthy.