Poropanchax normani (hereinafter referred to as "NOR" because Poropanchax normani is just too long to type more than once!) is a most unkilli-like killifish; that is very easy to find - in a petshop - and to keep, and has a place in almost anybody's tank where this small fish will not be eaten. It is a small fish.
People who keep only, or mainly killifish are comparativley rare, yet within killi keepers themselves are people that specialize in "lampeyes" (an informal name given to these minnow-like killifishes) they are even rarer. But, there have been enough poeple throughout the life of the killi hobby that this complex of fishes are fairly well understood and (while non-commercial) supplies of almost all species are not bad, this particular lampeye often finds its way into the some daring petshops through commercial shipments. From what I've seen in tropical fish stores in the past few years the only killies one can find there on a routine basis are this fish and the "golden wonder panchax", the latter being, while not perhaps too agressive, certainly fairly predacous, large and not the kind of thing that goes well with, say neon tetras.
Oddly, because of it's unusual (for a killi) commercial/petshop availability it's sometimes passed over as not being "rare enough" by more serious killifans. But, take heart, this species has a new champion - the planted tank enthusiast! In this capacity, it's ideal.
What makes the ideal planted tank fish? Well, what you're going to notice about the better planted tanks from photos of the various aquascaping contests is there are not many fish in these tanks. They are almost always very understocked, on the order of one inch per five gallons (roughly .5 cm per litre)
Why? Easy. The less fish the easier to maintain. One inch of fish in a hundred gallon tank would probably never need a water change. 10 large goldfish in a 50 gallon tank and you're probably always going to be aksing on various internet fora "why do I have algae?".
So, you want not many fish. And the smaller the better frankly, the less bioload the better.
Now, planted tanks usually always have snails and shrimp and the bioload of these invertibrates is not to be underestimated. You can easily demonstrate this to yourself by setting up a plant and snail or plant and shrimp only tank. You're going to see more, um, I believe the polite technical term is "crap" from these things than you would from the equivalent amount of fish. And in a functional biological sense the snails and shrimp are more important than the fish in a planted tank. The fish are just "useless decorations" that I swear we as aquatic gardners add only to appease the never ending number of kids, wives, and friends that ask "uh, where are the fish?".
It's all about the balance. A fish only tank with no plants, in one sense the mainstay of the killfan world is sometimes boring and requires water changes to keep wastes down and typically a nylon yarn spawning mop is used to provide the fish with a place to lay their eggs. Light in this situation is usually held to a minimum. Now, ABOUT that... where is the aesthetic in a small dim tank with yarn? Bleh. At the other end of the scale, no matter how ardent the plant enthusiast does a fishtank really look right without fish? No.
So, we add fish. Other attributes we desire in a choice of denizen for a showcase planted tank is a small size and not something that overhwlmingly detracts from the focus of the aesthetic of the plants. Neons, cardinals, emperor tetras, congo testras and rasboras are often used, and I've used them as well, but, I do prefer NOR. Why? Neons look like fish. They stand out with their streak of red and blue iridescent stripe, but, NOT, essentially a grey fish with a screaming blue iridescent eye (hence the name "lampeye") is a bit more subtle and in standing a foot or two back from a tank you can scarcely make the fish out, all you see is a bunch of very bright blue dots hovering about in a group until you get closer and it's only then you see the blue metallic sides and yellow in the fins, and in some populations - some red in the fins - considered unusual, but that is indeed what showed up in the last batch I found in a petshop. you want here is a medium sized number - not too large not too small, of a small fish that has a splash of color but do not draw away from the beauty of the aquascape. Also, you want fish that are outgiong, and schooling is better then not schooling and active helps a lot too.
Now, puffers cold fit this category except for one very important distinction and that's "treading lightly on the tank". Some fish have massive biolods - puffers for example, while other have very very light ones. Such is the case with NOR and this is exactly what you want in a heavily planted tank - something biologically innoculous. Towards this end NOR is ideal and the fish could probably be quite happy to nibble on naturally occuring - whether in nature or fishtank - plankton occasionally and call it a day. This is an ideal fish for a species-only tank, planted tank, killi hobbyist or just anybody that wants something different and a little unusual. Unusual in the aquarium hobby because it's a killifish, unusual in the killi hobby because it's "too common". But it's a really nice little fish that is a perennial favorite after the shallow virtue of newness has long worn off other less, in reality, desirable species.
And for this purpose it's the ideal fish. It has a flash of bright color - the strongly iridescent large blue eye - but is not so coloroful or exotic that it takes away from the aquascape. It is utterly undemanding to the point that in a large tank with relatively few fish they can survice just fine on the protozoans living on the plants. In this way they are somewhat akin to reef fish living off animals which grow there. But, not a fussy feeder at all, and surprisingly bold and outgoing for a killifish, they will eat anthing that moves of floats or gets in their way.
The lampeyes differ from other killifish in many ways. For the most part killies have a stout cylindricial body and, solitary, they are not the most active of fish. The usually feed from the bottom on worms and insects that have fallen in. On the other hand, lampeyes are open water fish that school and swim madly about at all times, like a pack of puppy dogs. They're always eating! I have no idea what - cells of algae, one celled organisms? No idea, but they'll always gulp something every now and again pretty much continuously. I feed them white worms as well.
NOR does fine as a community tank fish given a bit of common sense. These are not big fish! at almost maybe an inch (2.5cm) long, they will be harassed and eaten by any fish that is capable of making a meal out of it. Even killifish a bit larger - say, Aplocheilus panchax are SORT of alright - for a while, but don't expect anything but a very well fed panchax to allow any young NOR to magically appear out of the weeds, they will eat all but adults given half a chance. No, NOR does better with other small tetras, barbs and rasboras in the context of the planted community tank. Now, NOR is a rather fast swimming fish, and not shy at all; it can withstand the negative attention of fish that are really too large for it to be housed with, say full grown Emperor tetras. Fast enough to stay out of trouble and out of harms way, the important factor in selecting prospective tankmakes is mouth size. If it cant be eaten then it'll probably be ok.
These are hardy fish. If you went away for months and didn't even see your tank, then chances are high that as long as there was light for some sort of plant growth then you'd probably find a bunch of NOR if nothing else merrily swimming about eating who knows what.
They do not seem to care one whit about temperature. Anything above freezing and below boiling seems to be ok with them. Strong light does not bother them. Sunlight, I swear, makes them giddy.
To be sure, they probably are at their best when housed by themselves and they are, while not perhaps spectacular, but interesting enough of a species to dedicate even a large tank to, preferably a long low one. Stocked full of plants, with snails and shrimp added it makes for an unusual and fairly attractive display. Plus there's the bragging rights if gives you; anybody can have cardinals or Rasboras, you have a tankfull of killifish and can start fielding the "but don't they only live a year" questions? (No, 90% live as long as neons).
Anything. Seriously, they eat everything that remotely resembles fishfood. And a few things that don't. In the wild they eat aquatic and terrestrial crustaceans and insects. Small flies, lots of ants, the occasional worm. So of course a diet of thin flat factory made soy flakes make an ideal substitute - expect better results with better foods. Not only the fish but the plants and tank would thank you for switching to live foods, and growing fruit flies and or white (cooler climates) or grindal (warmer climates) is really very lttle trouble, cost much much less than commercial food, fouls the tank less and is about as high a quality food as you could possibly feed your fish.
But, they do not strictly require live food, nor fresh, nor frozen nor even high qualidy flake food. They'd probably survice on powdered dry dogfood. In fact if you put rotting vegetables or fruit in the tank - not so much as to make it foul but enough to keep a strong infusoria culture going - the fish would be fine and have by far away enough to eat. Feeding these fish is not a problem.
Like most killifish they lay a few eggs every day. Like most killifish that can also be persueded to be a bit more enthusiastic if you separate the sexes for a few days and feed well. Introduce them into a heavily planted tank, with the emphasis being on floating plants and they'll go nuts for an hour or two upon which time you remove the parents and wait. You can use one male and one female but any number of fish will work, excesses of males or females don't really seem to matter. They're not particularly avid egge eaters, but the more well they're fed before being introduced the better. Typically you'd introduce the female(s) into the breeding tank the night before and the males at first light. A couple of hours later remove all the fish.
The other way is just to leave them alone and feed well. If kept by themselves, and by that I really mean no other fish - shrimp and snails seem to be alright and I'm not aware if there's a definitive answer as to whether or not snails eat killi eggs - I've heard they don't and that seems to be backed up by what I've seen - I have tanks with lots of both snails and killi fry, but nobody would blame you if you eliminated snails from the breeding tank or at least kept their numbers low during the time you're trying to hatch as many eggs as possible. It would of course be a good idea to have some snails in the tank once they have hatched, to eat up any food that is fed in excess. But, it does seem much easier to just fill a heavily planted tank with a good number of these fish, and then just wait for the fry to appear. That's what I do and in my experience they are quite prolific if the number of fry I see at the surface are any indicator.
Like most killifish the name has changed over the years. In recent years this fish had its name changed (back) to Poropanchax normani. Nearly all literature will use Micropanchax or Aplocheilichthys normani instead. The reader is referred to Jean Huber's killi-data.org for up to date and correct taxonomical information.