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Sturgeons are ancient fish with cartilaginous rather than bony skeletons, five rows of bony plates running along their bodies, and asymmetrical tails similar to those of sharks. Although they don't make particularly good aquarium or pond fish, they are quite widely traded.
The Starry Sturgeon (Acipenser stellatus)
specimens photographed above were at a Wildwoods, a British aquarium
and pond fish retailer noted for carrying oddball species, and priced
at about Â£100 (approximately $150). This species has a very
long but robust snout rather like an alligator's snout. The most
distinctive features of the species are the rows of smaller scutes in
between the main rows of bony plates along the flanks. Maximum reported
length in the wild is 7 feet (2.2 m), though they normally only reach a
bit over half that length. Starry Sturgeons are found in freshwater,
brackish water and saltwater habitats.
Pond size and
The main problem is size; even the Sterlet
(Acipenser ruthenus) gets to about 2 feet (60 cm) long under
pond conditions and most get to about twice that size. The pond will
need to be at least 1000 gallons (3800 litres) in capacity. Sturgeons
also need a filtration system that ensures perfect water quality and a
strong water current.
Most plants will be uprooted, but plants in pots
can be used sparing, provided the sturgeons can easily swim around
them. Gravel can damage them, so provide a soft, sandy substrate
instead. Remove anything that might inhibit water circulation or trap
swimming sturgeons, such as blanketweed.
Water chemistry and
Sturgeons need hard, basic water conditions,
similar to those enjoyed by koi. However, sturgeons are much more
sensitive to warm, oxygen-poor water. Water temperature should be
between 54-64Ë°F (12-18Ë°C). When heat-stressed they
will swim at the surface, poking their noses out of the water. To keep
the pond cool use water features to increase evaporation and build a
pergola to provide shade. On the other hand, sturgeons don't
hibernate under ice, and a pond heater may be required to keep an
ice-free patch that allows oxygen to get into the pond during very cold
Sturgeons are predators. Healthy fish have huge
appetites, and it's easy for them to starve to death if
inadequately fed. They feed all year around, albeit less in winter than
summer, which means the filter will need to be running even during very
cold weather. There are foods produced just for sturgeons such as
Hikari Sturgeon, but otherwise carnivorous catfish pellets are good,
alongside lancefish, earthworms, etc. Settled specimens will
'beg' for food, and if water temperature isn't a problem,
then sturgeons sticking their noses out of the water may be hungry.
Formalin, copper and potassium permanganate are highly toxic to sturgeons and should not be used. Non-ioidised salt is safe though, as you'd expect for a group of fish that commonly inhabit brackish waters.