Full Book Preview: The Complete Guide to Egg Laying Fish:
THE POPULAR EGG LAYERS
Fads in fishes come and go. In the early days everybody had Paradise fish, and then everybody had Guppies. When Neon Tetras were first introduced they sold for thirty dollars and more apiece in the 1940’s; then they were bred in captivity, and no aquarium was considered complete without one or more of these lovely fish, which may now be bought occasionally for as little as twenty-five or fifty cents apiece. When veil tail Bettas came within the price range of the average aquarist, the rage for Bettas spread like wildfire. The fish fan that follows the prevailing fashion must have a new enthusiasm every year.
Something of the same fickle spirit is now being expressed in regard to the “community tank.” There was a time when a fish would not fit into a large tank, crowded with an infinite number of different species, was openly snubbed by aquarists. But I have heard an ardent fan remark that in his town nobody was interested in community tanks any longer; people preferred keeping a number of small aquarium tanks, each one stocked with a different species.
So it goes, year after year, fad after fad, there is a great deal to be said on both sides. Nothing, probably, gives as much pleasure and year round entertainment as a large aquarium, 29 gallons of water or more, artistically planted, well-lighted, and filled with fish that display all the colors of the rainbow. Most of the egg-layers, the Tetras, Barbs, Danios, and Labyrinth fishes, will dewll in harmony with many of the live-bearer species. One major difference is the numbers that the average community tank egg-layer species are most happy and content with.
THE SHOAL FISH EGG-LAYERS
Nearly all common aquarium small egg-layers are shoal fish. A single pair of such species will not be fully happy, unless you recreate their natural shoal conditions. In addition to rock ledges and live plants, real shoal fish in nature stay in groups of ten or twenty together and are extremely beautiful and interesting to watch. Buying ten or twenty of the more beautiful little egg-layer shoal fish can be quite expensive, but as a result of your breeding efforts, the pleasure and feeling of accomplishment you can derive from your large show tank increases ten fold!
Even the simplest varieties continue to reveal unknown characteristics after years and years of care! To gain real pleasure from fish, you should stick to a few varieties at a time, kept in greater numbers. Beginners find this difficult: but much deeper pleasure comes from detailed study of one or two species at a time, truly becoming an expert and the breeding, rearing and finally the life span behavior, than the spectacle of conglomerations of many species. As you meet other aquarists with similar interests, you can concentrate on one species, while they concentrate on another, then trade 10 or so of the healthiest offspring for your respective show tanks, discussing for hours the interesting facts you have learned breeding and rearing your species!
Communication with other aquarists is vital to growing your knowledge in the hobby; aquarium associations are a great place to find friends with similar interests, and experts with just the detailed advice you are looking for about breeding a particular spice, of what to do when certain problems arise. You will be surprised at how your interest and dedication to learning as much about the hobby is peeked when faced with the friendly computation of networking with people of similar interests. I have made many lifelong friendships and learned far more than any book or internet site could possibly teach me at the local tropical fish association.
Most shoal fish withdraw infrequently into the plant growth, and prefer uncluttered water. Some area in every community tank should be left free, either planted sparsely or only with short or small plants. If the fish are disturbed they still have the opportunity of disappearing among the plants. Most species can be kept in well aged tap water; even those whose breeding water needs are complicated. Most exceptions are imported fish, which must be more carefully handled anyway, and are not recommended as a breeding project anyway. Do not expect your fish to breed within the show tank environment, they will in many cases, but the eggs and young will be quickly devoured in most cases, and this is not the tank for breeding. We will discuss the specialized conditions to be provided for each species you will want to breed and rear the young. Breeding within your display tank serves only to disturb the delicate balance you have set up for your viewing pleasure.
A number of fish belonging to the same species show off their individual beauty better when they are kept together and swim in leisurely schools. There is much to be said for an aquarium that contains large groups of Neon Tetras or Zebra Danios and a group of Harlequin Rasboras darting in and out of the rocks and plants. There is a unity of color and patterns of movement that is indescribably lovely. Some fanciers insist that such an arrangement is far more artistic than a jumble of fishes thrown together from all over the world. It also enables you to go into the water chemistry of the aquarium and adjust the acidity or alkalinity to adapt it to the group’s o fish you chose to house in it.
Probably both types of aquariums will always be popular. Those fortunate aquarists, who have room for one large “show” aquarium and several breeding and holding tanks, will find the most enjoyment out of this hobby!
TETRAS, BARBS AND DANIOS
The majority of popular egg laying fish is members of the carp group, the two main families of which are the characins or Tetras and the barbs. Tetras as a rule are quite content in temperatures around 70F or above. Most Tetras come from South America, some from Africa. In their native regions the live in almost any type of water, but those kept in home aquariums usually come from streams. Comparatively few tank-dwellers come from the main rivers, for instance the Amazon, where they inhabit the deeper parts of the river bed.
Shoal dwellers must have the ability of finding each other again after being scattered, say by the attack of a predatory fish. They have various ‘signals’ at their disposal to make this easier. Many species are marked in striking colors, usually black, on their dorsal fins; this makes the moving dorsal look like a flag. The other fins are similarly marked. The body coloring may be luminous, preferably red or touched with black dots and stripes. Many varieties have ‘light’ signals which flash when the light catches them (unlike those of deep-sea fish, which glow louminessently of their own accord), demonstrating their position to other members of the shoal. This is also a clear message to others of their own species that they are ready to breed or in fear or ready to hibernate. You will experience different shades and patterns on your fish when they are well or breeding or sick, right in your aquarium.
In Savanna areas, pastel body shades are more frequent. There are also fish whose sides shimmer like silver or gold when caught by the light. All these shoal fish are easily recognized, so that the problem of choosing fish suitable as future aquarium inhabitants is greatly simplified.
Most Characins (Tetras) are peaceful fish, even when large, however, the infamous Piranha is part of this family, so, as with any new fish, and you must do your research before adding them to your aquarium community. The Characins can be recognized by the small adipose fin, between the larger dorsal and the tail fins. Many species do not possess an adipose fin, for instance the silver-tips (Hasemania), but their whole appearance indicates that they are unmistakably Characins. There are other families that display an adipose fin, but their members – Herring, Salmon to name a few – are not suitable for ordinary indoor aquariums.
Characins with pale pastel colors without noticeable light signals like well light large aquariums. These originate in Savanna regions, where the light simply cannot be compared with that of the practically dark jungle. As a rule temperatures around 70F- 75F will be sufficient. Only a few Characins need really high temperatures and this is a good reason not to commingle live-bearers in a shoal tank. If your community aquarium is to be small, under 20 gallons, you must limit yourself to but a few species in large
Most Characins have lived in captivity for many generations and have become acclimatized to aquarium conditions. They will eat dried food, but also need live or frozen food to display optimum color. As a rule they can be kept in any well aged tap- water, only certain varieties need soft and slightly acid water for spawning, more on that later. These varieties include, in particular, the Neon tetra, cardinal tetra, Belgian flag Tetra, Glowlight Tetra, and others that usually have a glowing stripe or striking light
All barb fish (of the genus Puntius, or Barbus) are shoal fish. Many species grow to a considerable size, but this is their only troublesome feature and their care – even that of the notorious Tiger Barb – is extremely simple. Most varieties are suitable for beginners in the care and breeding of egg-laying fish. Some species of Barb equal even the most beautiful Characins in coloration. Barbs, even those fewer than two inches long, are robust fish whose behavior in the tank can be quite violent. They swim vigorously and chase around and play in the shoal, even driving other fish from their favorite spots. Breeding is simple and often extremely productive. They are well-suited to community tanks, but should not be kept with fish of a delicate nature. They have no complicated
The Rasboras form a peculiar branch to the Barb family. The best-known representatives stem from the genera Danio and Rasbora. The Danio species were introduced many years ago and have become so under demanding as to be described as household pets. Their care offers no problems, not even to the greenest beginner, and the same can be said of their breeding. These fish like a shallow aquarium with a lot of sun, but again, will take just about anything!
One fish of the genus Rasbora is known to most aquarists as a sort of ideal in care and breeding – the Harlequin (Rasbora Heteromorphy). Care must be taken when keeping the fish, especially during the first few days. The beautiful little fish are prone to a milky opacity of the skin which can lead to death; but, this opacity overcome, the fish will thrive. The remedy for the opacity is a weak solution of cooking salt: one level teaspoon to three pints of water. Place the ailing fish, whose fins are usually stuck together, in this solution, and remove them after fifteen minutes. If necessary, repeat the treatment ten to fourteen days later. After this “bath” the Harlequins glow with magnificent colors; it may even heighten their willingness to spawn. They swim in a peculiar manner, for the female swims on her back under a leaf, where she deposits an egg which is then fertilized by the male. Soft acid water is necessary for breeding. Rearing of the young is not difficult. All types of water are suitable for care of the young, provided that hardness is not too great. As the harlequins are drawn from acid waters they must, at first, be watched carefully for any signs of illness.
The razor species should always be kept in considerable numbers; only then are they really effective. It is impossible to forget the picture of a shoal of harlequins drifting across the aquarium. Rasbora like densely planted aquariums with large swimming areas and rock ledges, so they are very suited for a shoal community tank.
OTHER INTERESTING EGG-LAYERS Even the catfish, known as bottom-dwellers, provide some attractive species which swim in the upper regions of the water and are shoal fish. This group includes, in particular, the glass catfish. Their care is not complicated, but they do not like rough or violent tank-mates. They should be provided with tall, long-leaved plants and free space in the water, where they will remain and play for hours. Their movements are usually measured, even sedate, but they can swim excellently when forced either by supposed danger or in the hunt for food. There are other catfish species which swim freely in a shoal, but they should be kept separately, as they can be killers. Otherwise they, too, are quite under demanding fellows.
Rainbow fish come from Australia and Madascar. They are among the most beautiful of all species of freshwater fish. They will thrive in a bright shoal aquarium. However, care should be taken not to put them into water fresh from the tap immediately after their transfer; they should be introduced into a well established aquarium, with well established plant growth. They look far more delicate than they are, and can be kept in an open air pond during the summer, for a change of pace from the usual Koi in your backyard fountain! .
The Rainbow fishes method of reproduction is quite unique for a subfamily of the Characin family, it is in fact remarkable. In care and feeding they are just as under demanding as other shoal fish. The males differ from the females in their striking body shape, markings and color as compared to the dull bland gray-brown female. It often seems impossible in some species of Rainbow Fish that the two should belong to the same species. In breeding the females spawn without the males. They fasten the eggs on to plants or other objects in the aquarium and then take no further interest in them. The males have already fertilized the eggs on the previous day, but this act is rarely obvious. During the courtship when the males circle their partners with widespread fins, the fish will suddenly remain motionless, close together. The male then inclines his often greatly enlarged anal fin towards the female and inserts the spermatozoa plug into the female’s vent. Fertilization takes place internally. The female does not spawn until a few days
Another large family of tropical fish suited for the home aquarium is that of the cichlids. The distinguishing characteristic of the family is that the rays n the front of the dorsal fin is spiny, like those of a sunfish. They are found in fresh water throughout Central and South America, and Africa, and a few are known from Asia Minor and India. They are usually savage little creatures, fond of destroying the vegetation in carefully planted tanks, and of quarreling with other fish. A few of them are of a peaceful nature; and others are so interesting in their habits, or so attractive in color, that they are kept in spite of their bad disposition.
One of the best-known and most loved of the Cichlids is Pterophyllum scalare, the “Angel Fish” or as it is sometimes referred to as “the half moon fish” of the Amazon. The name scalare is commonly used not only for this species, but for Pterophyllum eimekei, a smaller species that closely resembles it. They look outstanding in groups of six or more, swimming about the rock ledges of a well planted large show tank or even a single of these remarkable fish add a splendor that no other fish can approach this gem. To say that a fish is “silvery” is not very descriptive but the “common” angel or scalare gleams with a pure and burnished silver set off by the narrow horizontal bars of black that extend across the body and into the silvery fins. The dorsal and ventral fins are greatly developed, as are the long, thread-like rays of the ventral fins. The fish itself is disc-like, and so flat as to be almost invisible when seen head-on. The Angel “scalare is peaceable in nature, living well with other fish; it will eat dried food, but prefers small crustaceans and worms, and must have these at least at intervals to remain in good condition. The Angel is easy to breed in captivity and has been breed for many decades, giving us many variations from the common variety described to long fined veil tail to a variety called “Koi” which is black silver yellow and orange! The eggs are laid on leaves of the Amazon sword or flat long pieces of slate. They may be removed and hatched in a separate tank, or with a good pair hatched and raised by the parents, a real sight to behold! More on this later.
Other peaceful Chicleds are the Symphysodon discus, first referred to as the “Blue Scalare”, later the “pompadour fish” and now generally referred to as Discus. At one time this fish sold for hundreds of dollars and had to be collected by hand in the Amazon. Today, breeders produce all we need within the United States, and provide the uniquely round fish in dozens of colors. However, they must have very pure water and are still extremely expensive. One of the most unusual fish to breed for the hobbyist with a lot of patients. The young actually feed off of mucus secreted by the parents from under their scales, a real treat to observe.
The beautiful little German Blue Rams and Golden Rams are a peaceful addition to any community tank, although they are Chicileds, they rarely if ever disturb other fish, and can even be kept with families of Guppies without major loss of baby guppies. They breed in a quiet corner or inside a clay pot, raise and defend their young until they can fend for themselves, then breed again. A successful colony may contain 3 or 4 noticeable generations all living in their quiet corner of the community aquarium.
Haplochromis Multicolor, the Egyptian Mouthbreeder, is one of the most fascinating fish of all for the amateur to watch. It is a brightly colored little fish, the male showing metallic blue, gold and green in its scales and similar gay colors in its fins. But its method of caring for the eggs and for the young is what has won it its popularity among keepers of tropicals. It does not need a large tank, or artificial aeration of the water, or even very high temperatures to induce spawning. The eggs are laid in a depression in the sand, and after being fertilized they are taken by the female into her mouth where they are held during the period of incubation, which is usually about two weeks. Even after the eggs hatch the young remain in her mouth for a few dyes longer, and during all this time she takes no food. After two or three weeks, the babies are allowed to escape and swim about the tank, but if the proud owner of the fish appears, with the neighbors who have been summoned to witness this miracle of the nursery, Mrs. Haplochromis opens her motherly jaws; the family, numbering anywhere form ten to fifty, comes swimming back; and all the squirming little ones are tucked safely away again.
There are many other mouthbreeders, most belonging to the African Cichlids variety, which are so brilliantly colored; you may think they are salt water fish. They are not; they are from the great Rift Lakes of Africa. They can not be put with any other fish, not even other Cichlids, as they will spear no time killing everything except other Africans, and even then you must be careful to combine only compatible species. Once established, an African Cichlid tank is among the easiest and most maintenance free environments you can keep. The breeding activities are almost ceaseless, and if you provide a large reef with many holes and crevices, many of the young will see the growing young dart around the reef, grabbing bits of food and escaping the every hungry parents with skill and ease! More on these fascinating families of fishes later.
The old standard Cichlids from Central and South America, again can not be kept with other fish, but can be kept successfully with each other. Most of these Cichlids grow quite large, up to 18 inches, many smaller, and will kill anything they can overpower and eat! They do fine together, if you start out with all young fish and grow them up together in a large tank. These include the Oscar, Jack Dempsy, Jewel Fish, Convict Cichlid, Green Terror, Red Devil, The Parrot Fish, The Sevrem and many others. These fish begin working endlessly, cleaning an area, usually a terracotta pot or smooth rock or even the tank side. Soon afterward, they lay and fertilize a group of eggs that in the larger species such as the Oscar can run into the thousands. The parents watch over the eggs, violently chasing off anything that approaches, even the hand if the aquarist. The parents work hard fanning the eggs to keep fresh oxygenated water passing over the eggs. Once the eggs hatch, the real fun begins, the proud parents parade the fry around the tank, so the young can graze for food, artemia that grows on the rocks and plants. If anything approaches the eggs or threaten the young, they are violently chassed off. Most of these fish raise the young until they are fairly large and ready to fight and fend for themselves.
EVEN STRANGER EGG-LAYERS
Here are a few egg-layers that are even stranger. The Spraying Characin, a member of a family that includes the feared Piranha-probably the most rapacious of all fresh-water fishes-but is otherwise made up of mostly small and peaceful species as mentioned earlier, many of which are familiar Aquarium fish. The Spraying Characin is likewise peaceable as well as attractive, and its mating behavior makes it an unusually interesting aquarium inhabitant. During the mating ritual, the female jumps out of the water and onto leaves or stems of water plants that extend above the surface. There she deposits her eggs, a few at a time, and is followed by the male, who also jumps out f the water to fertilize the eggs. In this unique but rather exhausting manner, the several hundreds eggs a pair of this species commonly produces in a single spawning are laid and fertilized. The female’s job is then done; the male, however, is far from having completed his part of the task. He remains near the eggs and guards them, even though they are above the water surface. To prevent their being dried out by the air; he sprays water over them from tome to time with flips of his caudal fin. When the eggs finally hatch, the male directs a final, especially heavy spray at them, and so washes them down into the water. Only then is his task complete, and he hoes about his own business without paying further attention to his offspring.
This strange behavior, which has given the species its common name, is unique even among the spraying Characin’s own immediate group; as far as I know, no other member of the family behaves in this manor. A closely related fish of the same genus, for instance, deposits its eggs in a pit dug in sand or gravel, others breed normally in amongst the fine leaved plants. I still have not found a really convincing reason why the Spraying Characin turns its spawning activities into such a difficult chore.
Another fish with interesting habits as well as beautiful coloring is the Bitterling of Europe and Eastern North America. This tiny relative of the carps is usually a rather undistinguished-looking greenish-yellow fish, but during the breeding season the male turns into a glittering golden creature whose metallic hues would make the traditional Goldfish appear dull in comparison. The female during the breeding season develops a special tube-like ovipositor with which she injects her eggs into certain kinds of fresh- water mussels, where the male fertilizes them. The eggs do not seem to neither bother the mussel at all, nor do the young that hatch in the mantle of the mollusk and continue to live there, well protected from enemies. For several days. Finally, the mussel seems to get tired of its uninvited tenants and expels them with the waste water. By that time, the young are large enough to fend for themselves. Without the mussel, the Bitterling could not breed. Again, no one so far has advanced a good explanation why this fish alone of all its relatives has evolved the peculiar habit of selecting an involuntary baby-sitter for its young during the critical first few days of their lives.
Then there are the wrasses, some of which go through the first part of their lives as sexually mature females, and later undergo a sex change that turns them into functional males. We know that in at least two species of Wrasse, one female becomes a male upon the death of the last surviving male of any particular school. In that way, there is never any danger of the eggs not getting fertilized because any female can turn into a male whenever it becomes necessary.
It is interesting to note that almost all fish, with intricate and complex courtship habits also engage in some type of brood care, in which either one or both parents take part. There is a clear relationship between territorial fights, courtship rituals, and brood care in the majority of instances, and extreme territorial possessiveness usually indicates some advanced form of care for the young. By and large, the serious business of preparing a nest site for their future offspring is the first concern of the prospective parent or parents after the territorial problem has been settled. In some species, such as the Angel Fish, a mated pair will form a true partnership, and share in everything from preparing the nest site to guarding and protecting the young until they can fend for themselves. Often such a pair remains together in a lasting attachment long after the breeding season. It is interesting to note that in their breeding behavior and especially in their brood care, such fish are reminiscent of birds much more than of their much closer evolutionary kin, the reptile. No reptile, for example, practices any type of brood care even remotely resembling that of some of the fish we have given as examples. The great majority, in fact, pay no attention at all to their offspring once the eggs have been laid. The few exceptions among reptiles that fashion a nest of sorts lose all interest in their young once the eggs have hatched; there is no a single known case where a reptile guards and protects its young against enemies. The fierce protectiveness of their nest and offspring displayed by many fish, on the other hand, is strikingly like the parental devotion that is a familiar feature of bird or avian behavior.
Out of the bewildering array of fish that I have most unscientifically classified under the heading of “egg layers” are many old favorites and a few new importations of interest. The amateur’s choice is limited only by their pocketbook, his accessibility to pet shops, and their susceptibility to the advertisements of fish dealers. If you read the magazines devoted to the subject, you will find yourself each month wanting to pick up a new kind of fish for your aquarium. If you are like me, your enthusiasm, once aroused, will be difficult to hold in check. But to maintain the ideal “show tank” it is important that you exercise restraint.
EGG-LAYERS: THE BREEDING PROCESSES
THE CLASSIFICATION OF DIFFERENT EGG-LAYERS
The classification of egg layers according to their method of breeding must necessarily be arbitrary and not scientific. Scientific classification of fishes concentrates on structural similarities and rarely takes breeding methods into account. The fact that fishes of the same genus often have similar breeding habits is not the reason why they are considered to be related. Moreover, many very closely related fishes have entirely dissimilar methods of propagation. For instance, there is one Betta that builds a bubble nest to house the young, and another Betta that shelters the eggs and the young in its mouth.
For clarity of presentation we will classify the different egg layers in groups that represent their method of breeding. We will describe that method in detail, conditioning, creation of the breeding space, degree of parental care, if any and finally suggestions for rearing the young. Then we will look at specific fish that you can easily breed that fit into that breeding style, and specifics for that particular type of fish, tricks if you will, to make you’re breeding project a success.
We will look at several breeding groups including: 1) NON-ADHESIVE EGG SCATTERERS 2) ADHESIVE EGG SCATTERERS 3) BUBBLE NEST BUILDERS 4) FISH THAT EXERCISE PARENTAL CARE 5) MOUTH BREEDERS 6) ODDITIES While there are individual differences, the members of each group tend to follow a certain set pattern. It is with this over-all pattern rather than with the individual that we will be concerned, in the description of the breeding behavior. Then we will cover the individual fish in that category that we feel presents the least challenge and most rewards for the budding breeder. It is no more difficult to breed many egg layers than it is to breed live-bearers, and to my mind a good deal more interesting in many cases. However, it does require more attention to detail and a little more knowledge. Lets get started shall we?
BREEDING EGG SCATTERERS
The eggs Scatterers include most aquarium fishes – the Danios, Barbs, Rasboras and Tetras. Even the Goldfish is among the group of fish which scatter their eggs and offer no parental care what-so-ever! Most, like the Goldfish, lay adhesive eggs, which stick to plants, but some like the Zebra Danio, lay non-adhesive eggs, which fall to the bottom. Nearly all eat their eggs if given the chance. The typical spawning movement is a chase of the female by the male, accompanied by spasms of egg-laying and simultaneous sperm ejection and fertilization. Activity may continue for an hour of for several days, but a few hours is generally the rule and is specific for each type of fish. Once livebearer young have been produced and saved from parental cannibalism, the battle is practically over; fry raised to maturity in the community tank with no assistance from the “breeder” is common. The challenge is hybridization of the frequent anomalies which come from the non-uniform broods. The challenge is in constantly inbreeding and keeping only the strongest and best colored fry to create a better and better line, ultimately, with a little luck and a lot of skill in breeding generations of the same fish, a totally unique version of the livebearer you started with.
With egg-layers, the challenge is in the breeding itself and the rearing of the young. Most of the egg Scatterers, who have been tank and farm breed for many generations, are true lines. They are the way nature breeds them to look over millions of years, the challenge of breeding only the largest, most colorful and healthiest still exists, though production of identical copies of the largest healthiest adults is usually the goal. Once the eggs of an egg-laying fish have been deposited, and this may be no easy task to accomplish in an aquarium environment, and then again, some much easier than you may imagine the battle has just begun. The eggs must be preserved form predators, parents and disease, they must hatch, and the young must then be protected, fed and raised. Feeding may be the worst problem for the uninitiated, with predators running a close second. Therefore, unlike livebearers, where it is likely that you ended up with surviving Guppy babies in the first month of your first community tank, even before you learned how to clean the filter, a successful spawning and raising of an egg-laying species may occur in an unprepared tank, but it usually does not. It is all a question of percentage of successes. Many methods for the spawning and rising of different species of egg-layers are available, the most that can be said for many of them is that so and so did it this way and it worked for him. Every area has different natural water conditions, weather conditions, available food sources, and available native breed fish and so on.
It is therefore necessary, especially with the egg Scatterers, to list a number of general principles which are pretty clearly established, to indicate how improvements may be made in the methods of breeding, water quality and feeding of both breeders and fry to increase your percentages of success. Perhaps the best general advice is that few species are actually as particular about conditions for successful spawning as most people think, and that cleanliness, healthy fish, and proper feeding are usually more important than fussing about with PH, temperature, light, shade and so forth. Let’s add an emphasis on the term “usually”, obviously some fishes we will discuss do have specific requirements, but most are pretty forgiving in their demands if the basics are followed.
DETERMINING SEX IN EGG SCATTERERS
The majority of egg Scatterers have distinguishable sexes, even out of the breeding time, and nearly all can be told apart quite easily when the female fills with roe (eggs). The standard books on fish varieties (Dr, Axel rod’s Atlas of Freshwater Fishes” and Dr. Innes’ “Exotic Aquarium Fishes” to name a few) should be consulted for more details on how different species can be sexed. But a good rule to remember and follow is that the male is often slimmer and rather smaller fish and more brightly colored. In the Characidae he usually has minute hooks on the lower part of the anal fin. These may sometimes be seen as a marking on the fin, or they may actually catch in a fine net and be quite a nuisance. Most Barbs show color differences between the sexes, and they are very easy to sex that reason. In the Danios, both color and size are factors in sexing, which facilitate matters greatly when choosing trios for breeding, more on this later.
Determining sex early and out of the breeding time or before maturity is, of course, important when selecting fishes for future spawning. With practice, it is surprising how easy it is to sex a species which would baffle an amateur, even when he knows what to look for, as with most things in life, processes become easier with time and practice.
CLEANING AND PREPARING TANKS FOR BREEDING
Tanks for spawning egg Scatterers must be spotlessly clean, cleared of all muck, snails, hydra as well as algae, leaving nothing but glass and water to build your breeding grounds in. It is impossible o do this without a thorough cleaning. It is therefore impossible to clean a planted tank without first removing and then cleaning the plants as well. It is simplest to use an unplanted aquarium for breeding purposes. We will discover how to add back plants or reasonable subistutes later. It is best to use an unplanted spawning vessel; the fish really don’t seem to mind! Fish do not appreciate the beauty of a well set-up tank with rocks and sand and plants, they are just as ready to spawn in a bare tank, with a little weed anchored in an appropriate spot to receive the eggs. In fact, many will spawn in a completely bare tank, but they are much too likely to eat their eggs under these conditions.
As remarked above, many spawings are brought through in planted, relatively dirty aquariums, for many enthusiasts actually advocate, as I will for Bubble nest breeders later on, the presents of dirty algae covered plants and rocks and pots and well used gravel because of its infusoria-producing material. What really matters are the chances of success and the proportion of eggs hatched and of young likely to be raised out of the brood. One method may work once in three times and produce an average of 30 fish per successful brood. Our methods are ones used by professional breeders and hatcheries the world over and will probably work at least 2 out of 3 times (no method is perfect, fish are not machines, many variables factor in) and will usually produce 200 fish a brood an average, hence we would like to think the methods we are presenting are ten times as good, you will have to decide for yourself and let us know, if the clean method with washed tank and weeds is good and works for you.
The tank may be washed with warm water at about 120F, make sure never to use any detergents of any kind what so ever. Cleaners such as ammonia or Top Job, Formula 401 or Fantastic will kill fish, even a minute residual amount left in a crevasse of the sealant, will kill an entire tank of tropical fish. Do not use CLR, though it will work well to remove calcium deposits, it will kill your fish, and continue to cause harm to anything put into that aquarium for many months! You should wash well up under the rim of the tank with the warm water, as an abrasive you can use salt on a detergent free cloth. Rocks and ceramics can be freed of large deposits of algae and stains with a soak in a 10% chlorine bleach solution. The 120f water with salt will kill any remaining snails, snail eggs, Hydra and any other pests as well as algae deposits. The chlorine bleach solution will free the rocks of the same pests. Remember that even though a few snails in the baby raising tanks will aid greatly in keeping the tank clean, a snails favorite food is fish eggs!
The tank must then be thoroughly rinsed out; best to do this with a hose with a spray nosily, this makes the job quick and thorough! Alternatively, you can use 70% alcohol for a cleaning that is equally effective and safe in a tank that is out of use or a new tank that does not yet have organic residue. Remember, a new tank, may have been exposed to all sorts of foreign agents which may have fallen into the tank as it sat on the pet store floor, or in your corner or garage, it is equally as important to clean these previously unused tanks as it is to clean a dirty used one. Simply drying out a tank and letting it set for a few days will not kill snail eggs, you must use the salt scrub or 70% alcohol solution to make sure. This may seem like a lot of extra work, but a successful breeding procedure, deserves the attention to detail to increase your percentage of success!
For the same reasons, plants rocks and other artifacts may be cleaned by a thorough washing under a brisk cold tap, followed by a 1/4 –minute dunk in sea water or 3% salt solution and then a further brisk wash in cold water. Instead of plants we recommend using artificial spawning media (we will describe some different types that work well later) because after use it can be sterilized by simply bowling it. Cotton, wool, wood and wool, cork and wool, old rags and even certain types of dried sea-weed work, in many cases, just as a lushly planted live plant tank, fish really do not care, as long as it is clean and detergent free.
SETTING UP THE TANK FOR EGG SCATTERERS BREEDING
Suitable tank sizes for the egg Scatterers are 3 to 15 gallons for tropicals, according to the size and nature of the fishes, with larger tanks for goldfish. Small light tanks are more easily cleaned and set up than heavy ones, and since we are not concerned with cultivating infusoria and beautiful live plant displays in our breeding tanks, their size matters little at the spawning stage, as long as there is room for the parent fishes to follow their particular routine. Later, the fry can be moved to a larger tank if necessary. We recommend that you purchase several new 10 gallon tanks to be used exclusively for your breeding and fry raising activities. 10 gallon is the most commonly available aquarium size and is usually available on sale from time to time at ridiculously inexpensive prices. Buying a used 10 gallon and risking the containments that may be present or possible leaks does not make sense when they are available new for so little money. One final note about used tanks, if the used tank was ever used as a home for reptiles, they should be avoided no matter how cheep the price. The by products produced by reptiles and left as residue will cause problems in a community aquarium for years, the problems they cause in the breeding environment is not worth the risk!
For the usual Scatterers of adhesive eggs, a bunch of fine-leaved plants such as Colombia or algae, or both intermingled, is placed in about the center of the tank and weighed down with a small stone or led weight wrap. There should be plenty of room for the fish to swim, with suitable plants being Myriophyllum, Ambulia, Nitella and thread-like green algae. Anacharis is particularly unsuitable since it dies readily after most of our disinfectant methods and vigorous washing causes it to fall apart.
Even the larger barbs and tetras (up to 3 inches) can be easily breed in the trusty standard 10 gallon tank, it is sort of the can do member of your breeding team!
A tank divider (available on-line or at most pet retailers) can make the separation of male and female much easier and less space consuming with many species. It should be the type designed for the size tank you are working with and go from flush with the bottom of the tank to flush with the hood or top of the tank. Adequate illumination must be provided, since many fishes like a well-lit spawning area. It is now the custom of some European aquarists to use a spotlight, illuminating only an area of the tank over the weeds or plants they wish the eggs to be deposited in. The breeding tank should have a means for controlling temperature individually as it will sometimes be necessary to raise or lower it to produce the required results.
Tanks prepared for fishes which lay their eggs on floating weeds are similar to those above, but the weed or plant is not anchored down. It is preferable to use well-washed Riccia, Salvina, or other naturally floating plants, or they may sink to the bottom even if not weighted down.
GENERAL SPAWNING INSTRUCTIONS FOR ADHESIVE EGG-LAYERS
If the fishes are kept at an average temperature of 75F, the majority will spawn without a rise in temperature. All that is necessary is to place a ripe pair into the spawning tank with as little disturbance as possible. The tank should be filled nearly to the top with fairly new, but conditioned and de-chlorinated water. There are exceptions to this rule are few, and will be covered under the individual fish requirements. Many of these fishes will spawn at lower temperatures in open pools.
The pair of fish placed in the breeding tank must be ready to spawn. For this, they are best conditioned for a week or so before with live or frozen food, although many species do not always require this procedure, but it always increases the yield of eggs and the readiness to breed! The female should be full of spawn, bulging, but not left in this condition too long, if left too long swollen with eggs, the eggs may not be fertile, and in the end she may become egg-bound and die. Remember this is only a possible threat to her life is left without a male for too long, in a community tank, these fish breed constantly, you just don’t look for it! The female should resemble a U not a V when looked at head on, this is the signal that she is full of eggs. A thin female will sometimes spawn, but usually she gives few eggs; if she has a normal load of eggs, she will not be thin; this is the law of nature in most cases. The male should look pert and well-colored. He may become pale when he is moved to the breeding tank at first, but he should rapidly regain his form and color, even within a few minutes, the urge to breed between these types of fish nature is paramount and any opportunity in prime conditions will usually not be passed up no matter what the outside interference. Young males may not fertilize all the eggs and young females will not give a very large number of eggs, but there is no other reason why they should not be spawned. Keeping fishes for 2 years before spawning, when they are ready at 6 months, is pure waste and may create many difficulties when trying to breed older inexperienced fish, nature has a reason for making fish able to breed at a younger age. Fish should spawn early and spawn regularly for the best results. Often, a male will be ready every 10 to 14 days and a male twice as frequently. Do not chase the prospective breeding pair all over your community tank to catch them and then expect them to spawn immediately. They will be too scared in most cases. This is one of the reasons we recommend placing the male and female in sepreat conditioning tank areas, it makes them fare easer to catch when breeding time comes.
In most cases, the fish may spawn immediately, or they may wait several days. But somebody must be ready at frequent intervals to inspect the tank and remove the fishes if they have spawned. It is best to watch the whole process and take them out as soon as spawning is over, since they must be removed immediately or there may be few eggs uneaten. After all, the spawning process is extremely interesting and educational, after a time, you will develop your own pattern to know when the breeders are finished their task, but watching the process is beneficial the first few times. Even flooding the tank with live food does not curb the fishes natural urge to eat their eggs, although it may somewhat curb their hunger, an abundance of live food may sometimes eat the eggs themselves and fowl nursery. Food should not be given during the spawning process, for it may terminate the process.
If fish do not spawn quickly, they may do so early the next morning; therefore be up and watching within 2 hours of dawn to see the process. Another way to catch the act for those of you that enjoy your late sleeping is to cover the tank so that it will stay dark and daylight may be admitted at your convenience. Still another way to induce breeding when it is convenient for you to watch is to place a glass divider in position with one fish on each side of it and let them contemplate each other for a spell. This often helps, so much in fact that some breeders use the device regularly for a few hours of even days before allowing a pair to come together. It is unnecessary in most instances, however.
If fish have not spawned within 2 days, gradually raise the temperature by 4F or 5F. This often stimulates spawning quite promptly, but wait for another day or so, if nothing happens. If spawning has still not occurred after 3 or 4 days, it is usually best to remove the pair, separate them, or place them in a large community tank, and try again a few days later, this sometimes shocks them into a more willing mood when they return to the breeding tank. If it has become necessary to keep the breeders in the breeding tank for more than two days, they should be given small amounts of live food.
Some other methods that can be used successfully include the routine placing of breeders in the tank after dark to induce spawning the next morning, placing the female in about half a day ahead of the male, and placing 2 males with one female in the case of many Characins and Danios. This is thought to increase the percentage of fertilized eggs, but it is a rather hazardous procedure in many cases, as the males seem to spend more time chasing each other than chasing the female!
The spawning action varies with the species. Most of them indulge in the typical chase of the female by the male, but some start with the reverse procedure, and the female chases the male. Finally, however, it is the male who chases; he takes up a position beside the female and in or over the plant mass, with a quivering motion, the eggs and milt are released. Some species have spectacular habits at the moment of spawning. The Glowlite Tetra pair does a complete barrel-roll, the Giant Danios female whirls around several times in a horizontal plane; the female Harlequin Rasbora loops the loop vertically, depositing eggs on the underside of plants as she does so. In this species, as in many others, the male clasps the female in a crecentric embrace. He curls his body around hers and releases the milt as she lays the eggs. Whatever the fancy procedure, the results are fertile eggs deposited on leaves with a new life in each precious egg.
ANOTHER METHOD OF BREEDING ADHESIVE EGG-LAYERS
Commercial breeders and advanced amateurs maintain separate aquariums for the two sexes of a variety of non-adhesive egg layers. This way a large number of each sex of a variety of species may be kept and still have the sexes separated to condition them for breeding. From these the most suitable specimens ate selected for spawning. It is obviously too risky to depend on a single pair of breeders if you are trying for a production line of growing fish.
The recommended procedure from the pros is to place the female or females, if more than one is to be used, into the breeding tank in the morning. The males are added the evening of the same day. If all is well, spawning should take place the following morning. If they have failed to spawn by that evening, siphon off one fourth of the water in the tank and replace it with water which is five degrees cooler than the water in the breeding tank. The water should be aged only 24 to 48 hours. Repeat this partial change the following evening if the fish still have not breed. If the following morning the fish has still failed to spawn, it would be best to brake down the breeding set up, something has gone wrong. Remove the breeders, then clean and disinfect the breeding tank and all plants within. If you have other breeders, you can re-set the tank and try again, but wait at least two weeks before trying with the breeders which have failed. Use this interval to recondition them.
Individual pairs, or a group of three males and two females, may be spawned. When more than one pair is used it is called community spawning. The male pursues the female vigorously. As she darts rapidly through the thicket of plants the eggs are scattered wildly, adhering to the plants they touch. Spawning is not a continuous pursuit. Periods of active egg laying are alternated with resting periods. The procedure finally ends when the female, too exhausted or too depleted to continue, persistently seeks refuge in the plants or corners and refuses to respond to the male’s urging. When all the eggs have been laid, the parents should both be removed, for once the spawning urge is over they will seek out and eat the eggs. They should be separated from each other for conditioning again.
A word of caution: cover your breeding tanks carefully. During the violence of the mating process, it is not unusual for the fishes to leap entirely out of the water.
The Characins (Tetras) are usually much more gentle in their behavior than the Barbs. After persistent driving by the male Characin, the pair hovers side by side for a few moments in the thicket while a few eggs are extruded and fertilized.
After spawning, both parents turn their efforts to finding and eating the eggs. They must be removed or the plants with the eggs attached should be removed and placed in a separate aquarium with water of the same temperature. This is done, when several different species of adhesive egg layers are breed at the same time in separate breeding setups and you width to raise the fry in one tank. The young at first appear to be a head and tail growing out of a “humpty-dumpty” ball. Gradually the size of the ends increases, the middle decreases, and a normal looking fish emerges. During this process the young fish does not eat anything, living entirely on the nourishment it absorbs from the egg yolk. Once it becomes free-swimming, however, fine Infusoria or a suitable substitute must be provided.
As the young mature they are gradually transferred to larger tanks for grow out. They should also be graded into sizes for, strange to say, they do not all grow at the same rate, no matter how you feed them, no matter how large the tank. At the age of three months the largest may be as much as twice the size of the smallest, but if the smallest are not eaten, they are likely to grow, eventually to be the same size as the larger sibling.
Snails and Catfishes will ea eggs and should be excluded during spawning. Once the young are free-swimming, however, it is good practice to add one or more small Corydoras (Catfish) and one or two large mystery snails the rearing tank, witch will serve to eat the excess food. If you are feeding the fry small amounts often (up to 6 times a day) there will be excess and pollution will occur if the excess and waist are not removed.
It is also recommended to use a biological sponge filter in the fry tank once they are free swimming. This serves two proposes, one the biological sponge filter is a way to keep the tank clear and clean and two “biological” sponge filters are made of sponge material which is very dense and has very tiny pours inlets which babies will not be sucked into. A regular sponge filter has large less dense sponge, which can suck up babies and kill them. Do not use a regular filter of any kind until the young fish are at least 1 month old and have reached a size of at least ½ inch, or they will not yet be strong enough to avoid being sucked into the filter along with the debris.
A number of years ago I attended a meeting at a tropical fish association in the Northeastern United States. One of the door prizes was a pair of, what are thought to be relatively difficult to breed, Sumatra Barbs. They were placed on the chairman’s desk in a 2- quart jar, the type commonly used to hold Goldfish. At the end of the meeting, when the winner of the prize came to claim them, he gasped in astonishment. The pair, confined in that small space with all the distractions of hundreds of people and load- speaker noise around them, had spawned and the bottom bare glass bottom was covered with literally hundreds of eggs! It is not difficult to breed fish if they are ready. The methods we show you simply increase your percentage of success of breeding the fish you want to breed when you want to breed them. Later, to keep as many of the fry as possible alive and thriving, ready to grow to maturity!
INCUBATION AND HATCHING OF THE EGGS
The great majority of non-adhesive egg layer eggs hatch in on day or even less at 75F to 80F. It is best to keep the temperature at the same level as when spawning occurred; however, fish eggs can stand fluctuations quite well, but in this case downward better than upward. The same is true of young fry. There are many reports of Characin eggs taking 2 or 3 days to hatch, and, although some are undoubtedly correct, it still remains true that the majority of young are hatched within the first day. They are often difficult to see, and it may be 2 or 3 days before they hang on the glass, or on plants, and become easier to find; thus, it is easy to get the impression that they have not hatched out for longer than is the case. Most Barbs are out by 24 to 36 hours, taking perhaps a little longer than the typical Characin. At lower temperatures, most eggs certainly take longer to hatch, and, since they will survive better than the fish would, it is possible to ship fish eggs or move then to another room easily without elaborate precautions. Little use has been made of this procedure so far, and numerous snags will no doubt emerge when it is attempted on any scale, but the fascinating possibility remains that in the not very distant future the large scale shipping of thousands of fish around the world might be replaced by a small vial of fertile eggs!
After spawning is complete, you should look for some of the eggs in the tank. They may be attacked to plants or appear like very small glass beads on the bottom. They should remain clear at first, and then the development of the embryo should be watched to check that all is well. Infertile eggs quickly become whitish and fungused, looking like little powder-puffs, with white filaments of fungus sprouting in all directions. Fertile eggs lying next to a mass of fungus-covered eggs may be attacked by the fungus, but they usually remain unaffected. Unless the eggs with fungus are right next to a fertile egg, it will be unaffected. There is not really much you can do at this point, so just observe, you will do more harm then good trying to remove the fungused eggs.
If you can not see the eggs, don’t worry about it, they are hard to spot until you’ve done it a few times, and sometimes, even then, its near to impossible it the parents have hidden the eggs well inside the thicket of plant fronds. Once you have observed those of a particular species, it will be much easier to see them the next time.
THE HATCHING PROCESS AND THE FIRST FEW DAYS OF LIFE
When the eggs hatch, the young fry still have a yolk sac, containing the remains of the nourishment of the egg. This helps they to live for a short time, sometimes only 1 or 2 days, sometimes as long as 5 days depending on the species, before taking other food. For the first half-day or day they often remain quietly at the bottom of the tank, or in the weeds. In some species they take flea-like hops up into the water, sinking back again afterwards, for no particular reason. In practically all species they then attach themselves to the glass or to weeds or both, hanging motionless for an additional 1 or 2 days, still not feeding. They may also hang under the surface film of the water, and they frequently start hanging on the glass ant then move to the surface film. They are very vulnerable at this point and even baby live-bearers would make a feast of them at this point of development, they should be totally alone in the tank. They may seem too vulnerable to ever survive in nature, but remember, these fish breed about every 14 days in season (usually3-5 months per year in nature) and have 150 to 400 eggs per spawning, the odds are pretty good that one fry will survive at some point of that fishes life to replace him don’t you think? The rest are part of the food chain, nature is cruel, and we breeders try to rethink the process for a much higher survival rate! Finally the yolk sac is absorbed and they swim freely in the water, hugging the bottom or weed clumps, in daylight and spreading all over the tank at night, or in the dark.
At the stage when the fry cling to the glass, it is easy to see them in the right light, which is preferably from behind or the side. They cling head-upward and each is visible as a little glass splinter with a fat tummy (the yolk sac) and two very large eyes. Watch the yolk sac go down, for when it does, the time to feed is near. In the later, free-swimming stage, they are less easily seen, and the best time is at night. Use a flashlight of some kind and send a beam across the tank from one side in the dark; the fry will be seen swimming in mid-water. They may be counted with fair accuracy at this stage and at the cling stage before they are free swimming. One of the best ways to count the little guys is to choose a typical section of the tank and count it carefully, then multiply by the figure representing the relative size of the section to the tank as a whole. It is a good idea to make this count, so you can check latter on to see how many of the fry are surviving to maturity. If less than half survive, you should review your procedure of raising fry. It is also important to estimate the number of young to measure your food requirements. Trust me, in the daylight you will think there are 10 or 15 surviving babies, then you look at night with the flashlight, and there are hundreds of little wigglers darting around. With practice, a good look at the tank of fry will enable you to guess with sufficient accuracy, to within 25 or 30 % and that’s close enough.
DETAILS OF SPECIFIC SPECIES OF ADHESIVE EGG-SCATTERERS, THEIR SPECIFIC NEEDS AND PROCEDURES. THE BARBS – FAMILY CYPRINIDAE
The genus of fishes called Barbs is a group of the family with the imposing scientific name of Cyprinidae. About 250 species are found in the fresh-water streams and lakes of the United States. There are probably at least a thousand more belonging to the Barbus genera on the other side of the world. The common aquarium Goldfish is one of the Cyprinidae. Well-known native members of the family which you will recognize are the Carp, Dace and Shiner.
As a whole, the Barbs are not very attractive. Although there is a vast number of small species in the group which are suitable for a domestic aquarium, only about twenty of the clan is usually handled by fish keepers. Not more than a dozen of these receive much attention from aquarists.
The specimens which fall into the hands of the average aquarist all spawn adhesive eggs among close-leaved plants where the eggs adhere until they hatch twenty-four to forty- eight hours later. With proper care and feeding as many as 500 to 1000 eggs are produced at one spawning by one large female. It is not unusual for cannibalism to settle the fate of a large part of the eggs before they hatch, but with a little care a large number of fish may be raised by even the novice who wishes to raise Barbs!
The oxygen requirements of most of the Barbs is greater than that of other species, and for that reason an aquarium larger than you would think to use for such a small fish should be used (10 gallon or larger) is necessary, not only for the strenuous breeding process but for the initial rearing of the fry, which will hatch out to at least 200 living breathing barbs, with a little luck! The tank should be well-planted with Sagittaria, Myriophylum, Cabomba or Utricularia which has its root system planted into a sand bottom. The Sagittaria adds cover for the female and helps to oxygenate the water. An air stone should also be used the day before the breeders are to be introduced in order to super-airate the water. The other plants are provided to furnish a spawning field. If the plants do not have a large root system, it is good practice to weight down the plant bunches with lead plant weights, available at your pet store. This is because the Barbs spawn, quite violently, near the bottom of the tank, near the base of the plants, it is believed this is to test that the plants are sturdy enough for the egg-laying procedure, and in nature, to make sure the plants won’t float away after spawning. So make sure your plants are secure, either by rotting in the sand, in a pot or by weighing then down and anchoring securely in the sand. Segregation of the sexes for 8 to 10 days with heavy protein conditioning from frozen or live brine shrimp and frozen blood worms (red mosquito larva) is necessary. No more than 8 to 10 inches of water should be used in the breeding tank when the breeders are introduced, which is the depth they look for in nature, near the banks of streams in their native homeland. The spawning temperature should be between 75F and 80F. The parents should be removed from the tank as soon as spawning is over.
No parental care upon the part of the adult fish is necessary, nor offered for by the breeders, either the eggs or the young fry and so the parents must be removed form the spawning tank after the eggs have been deposited and spawning activities have concluded. The eggs, which are much like tiny particles of tapioca in appearance, are large enough to be plainly seen and a few hours after spawning the growing embryo also becomes visible. Use a magnifying glass and you will see the development, soon you can see the eyes and in the final stages you will actually see the little curled up fish struggle and turn around in the egg. When the young emerge form the egg, after a short incubation period of a day or two, depending on the temperature of the water, the tiny living little creatures hang almost motionless from the plants and glass sides of the aquarium. As soon as they have consumed the yolk-sacs which are attached to their stomachs when first hatched, they assume a horizontal position and dart about searching for nourishment in the form of infusoria. This can be grown by bowling a potato for 10 min slicing it in 4 pieces, and putting one slice in a quart jar filled with the dirtiest aquarium water you can find. The infusoria is present in all well established aquariums; it is a type of bacteria. Place the jar in a sunny window, after 2 days or so the water will become milky, this is the colonies of Infusoria, use a baister and put small amounts of the milky substance in with the fry 3 or 4 times a day. You should start a second culture 3 days later and another 3 days after that. A plentiful supply of food will bring about rapid growth, and the fry will double or triple in size within 2 weeks. When 2 weeks old they will accept baby brine shrimp and fine dried food, sold as fry food.
THE ROSY BARB – BARBUS CONCHONIUS
The Rosy Barbs is well known to aquarists. It is one of the hardiest and best of the egg- layers for beginners. The adult fish can survive in a temperature as low as 60 degrees Fahrenheit although 75F is probably the best for both adults and the youngsters. Both sexes are ornamented with a large black spot faintly outlined in brown near the base of the tail. The male, as in the case of many fish, wears the brightest colors. His back is a greenish-gray blending into silver at the sides. The female is olive-brown all over. The popular name was derived from the fact that at spawning time, a rosy color covers the lower part of the sides of the male. Many derivations of the wild Rosy Barb have been developed over the years through selective breeding. In many strains of farm raised Rosy Barbs, the males are rosy almost all the time, another variety has beautiful long flowing fins and tail, and the male of that strain is almost completely rosy red!
First indications of sex in young fish are that the males develop a black area in the dorsal fin. Strange as it may seem, males show their best colors when kept together. Now and then they perform a circular dance. Head to tail, they gyrate round and round until the viewer is treated to something that compares to a fireworks show in colors. During this spin the fins are fully extended, and their coloring is superb. When placed in a breeding tank spawning will take place; but the male rarely adorns himself in the colors produced when two males perform their strange dance. Rosy Barbs mature in about six to nine months and grow sometimes to a length of five inches in the wild, although two to two and one half inches is a good size for aquarium- bred species. The scales are somewhat larger than those of most aquarium fish of the same size. The Rosy Barbs will live in peace with most other fish and are proper candidates for a community tank.
Breeding is relatively easy, at an age of about 12 months. The water should be soft to medium-hard at about 77F and a pH 6.5-7.2. The tank need not be larger than a 10 gallon, provided it has filtration, a substrate of sand, an area of open water and a clump or two if live plants as prescribed for barbs or a hanging clump of nylon wool. The ripe female should be introduced first, and then a few days later the male can be put in. Very often spawning takes place the following morning, the fish coming together flank to flank, and the male then wrapping his body and fins round the female. Spawning lasts for about two hours and both fish should then be removed to prevent them from eating their eggs. The eggs hatch in about 2 days feeding should start when tiny fry are free swimming, start with infusoria for 2 weeks then baby brine shrimp and fine dry fry food.
TIGER BARB – BARBUS TETRAZONA
This fish belongs to the family Cyprinidae and it comes from Thailand, Sumatra and Borneo, form where it was imported in 1935. The body is deep, plump, and yellow- white, with a brownish to olive black, the flanks have a red-brown sheen and are accented with four black bands. The dorsal and anal fins are blood-red, and the ventral fin of the male is sometimes black.
Tiger Barbs are also sometimes called Sumatra Barbs, although as we have said, their native environment extends well beyond Sumatra and throughout South-east Asia as well. Before 1950 the common name “Tiger Barb” was used for the Bardus Oligolepis species, now obscure and almost forgotten due to its similarities to the Barbus Sumatranus, then referred to commonly as “Red Fin Barbs” and the fact that thy were hard to keep and harder to breed, unlike the easy to keep and very easily bred Barbus Sumatranus” now known as the “Tiger Barb” you know today. Not a vital fact, but nice trivia to use at an aquarium society meeting!
The Tiger Barb is probably the most widely kept barb in the beginners aquarium. They are also so easily bred, that they should a consideration as a first egg-layer to breed! The Tiger Barb can be instantly recognized by the four black stripes crossing their bodies vertically. Males are again more colorful than females, with reddish tips to their fins and a redder tone than the female, with reddish tips to their fins and a redder tone to their faces, or as some observe, the males look like they have a red nose. This can be confusing to the unitiated, for when these fish are out of condition, or not in breeding season, the males and females look virtually the same, as the males distinctive red fins and nose fade almost completely away. However, sexes can still be told apart by paying attention to the size and shape of the belly, the female is always fuller and rounder, even when not carrying row.
Probably the most striking and colorful of all the Barbs, but it has one serious drawback: some of the males become aggressive. In bad cases these bullies will not only make life intolerable for other barbs but, having killed them off, the bully will go after ling finned Angles, Bettas and other long finned varieties much larger than the rough male. By constantly pecking the fins and body of the larger fish and quickly darting away to the cover of rocks of plants, they will turn the larger slower fish into a ragged, unhappy, listless specimen which, unless protected, will give up and die. Luckily, not all Tiger Barbs are this way. In fact, only about 1 in 10 males become rouges, and usually when not kept in groups of at least 3 or more of their kind. The bully should and must be eliminated, getting more Tiger Barbs at this point will not stop his bullying, once this trait is observed, the fish will not be changed, get rid of it at once! Above all do not breed a bully, the trait can be passed on to its male offspring. Careful breeding by US fish farms has greatly reduced this trait in the Tiger Barb in recent years, but chances are that you will run across one of these bullies in your years of the hobby. Breeding should be confined to the more docile males, so that the vicious trait is less likely to be perpetuated. The fish has a lively disposition and always keeps its fins erect and well spread. When resting the body is often inclined nose downward. They are fun to watch, and other than the occasional bully, make a great community tank fish.
Well-oxygenated water is essential for tiger barbs; if the oxygen level is poor, the fish will cluster at the surface adopting an almost vertical posture. This makes them a good barometer for general condition of the water in the community tank. Other fish will show little or no change in behavior when the water fowls, the Tiger barbs will be your first indication that your filter is not functioning correctly, or it is time for a major cleaning or water change. This also points out a very important step in breeding these fish. The breeding tank must be Airated thoroughly before the breeders are introduced, and fresh live plants that help oxygenate the water are helpful. The temperature should be raised to 78F-80F and maintained with a good quality heater, and water should be fresh and slightly acid. If substrate is to be used it should be new and well washed, either sand or fine gravel, bare bottom is just as accepted and sometimes better for rearing the fry. The breeding tank must be thoroughly sterilized, as we have discussed earlier, since contamination and bacteria rob the water of the precious oxygen.
Females of this species must be conditioned before breeding, placed apart from other fish and fed plenty of live food and left alone for at least a week. The fuller out line of the female will grow heavy and girth will increase greatly and they will show a much fuller outline as breeding time nears. A strong, healthy, well adjusted non-bully male should be used; the harder it is to catch him the better! After fully preparing the breeding tank with small leaved plants or nylon yarn device, and fully aerating the water, by pumping heavy amounts of fine bubbles into the water for at least 24 hours before introducing the breeders, introduce the female first and about an hour later introduce the male. A long courtship that continues until the female is exhausted and hovers over a thicket of plants. Quivering it expels the eggs, several at a time, among the plants. This continues for about 2 hours, until hundreds of eggs have been laid. Large female Tiger Barbs may produce as many as 700 yellowish eggs at a single spawning. When this process is complete, the male and female will lose interest in each other. Remove both the male and female immediately, for their attentions will turn to eating the eggs as soon as they recover from the exhaustion and remember they are hungry! The young will hatch after about 36 hours in 78F-80F water. The fry appear as small glass slivers, they are very hard to see at first, but look closely as they cling to the sides of the glass tank.
Rearing presents few problems, provided that the water quality is maintained. The fry are free-swimming about 5 days after hatching and can be fed satisfactorily on proprietary fry foods commercially available, though infusoria for the first week in small amounts for the first week is recommended. Use a sponge filter form the first day of feeding, the day the fry become free swimming, because the fry will not tolerate fowled water of any kind. The fry should be fed small amounts of food at least 5 times a day for best results. When two weeks old, they will eat anything they can fit in their little mouths. They are veracious eaters, and if you keep the stomachs visibly full they will be well along at about 3 months, selling size in about 5 months. A fun fish to breed, fast results and a nice tank full of happy active Tiger Barbs as the reward for your hard work!
CHERRY BARB – BARBUS TITTEYA
This is an attractive Barb with a very dejected look. The body appears sunken, but this is a peculiarity of the species and not due to ill health. Naturally slow swimmers, they are gentle and live well with other fish. These attractive little barbs were first kept by aquarists during the 1930’s and, since then, they have become very popular. They can be sexed easily, as females are brownish with red fins while males display the characteristic cherry-red appearance. Their coloration becomes especially intense at the onset of the spawning period. Originally imported from Ceylon, this two-inch (max size) Barb breeds so freely in captivity that all the specimens which you see today are probably tank raised. This Asian Barb spawns in much the same way as nearly all other Asian Barbs, like the Rosy and Tiger species. Condition the adults separately and after a week to 10 days of abundant live food place a well conditioned very plump female with a brightly colored male into the breeding tank. If you do this late in the evening, most pairs will begin spawning the following morning. The species is not difficult to breed in rain-water. But the parents, as is usual with the Barbs, are avid egg-eaters. As they cease spawning and start to search for eggs they should be removed. Courtship is initiated by the male early in the morning. It usually starts with the male lazily chasing his mate around the aquarium, but gradually speeds up as he starts flaring his fins and performing a courtship dance in front of her. Eventually, he entices her to a particular area of plant cover where the pair mate. This involves the pair turning over on their sides or their back, turning completely upside down, with the males fins wrapped over the female’s body. Each time they embrace, about 5 eggs are released unfertilized, which then hang from a leaf by a sticky thread attached to a plant leaf or branch. Spawning may take several hours, when they are finished they no longer chase each other, but turn their attention immediately to eating the eggs. They should be removed immediately!
Although the little Cherry Barbs can usually be persuaded to spawn without too much difficulty, rearing their correspondingly small fry can be a little harder to rise than Tiger Barbs. It is very important to have a ready supply of good infusoria cultures, and to feed 3 or more times a day with fresh small amounts for at least 2 weeks. To accomplish this, you should create 3 sepret cultures 4 days apart so when one is emptied the other is ready. After 2 weeks begin feeding half infusoria and half baby brine shrimp. In about 3 weeks the young are passed the danger size and can eat commercially available fry food and baby brine shrimp. By one month, they can eat anything they can fit in their little mouths. They reach a decent size in about 6 months.
One last note about the Cherry Barb, they are naturally found in shaded waterways in their native Sri Lanka, these Barbs require subdued aquarium illumination, with floating plants helping to diffuse the light. Although they are content in a community set-up Cherry Barbs are a solitary fish by nature and rock ledges, caves and planted thickets are recommended if the fish is to be secure and at its most colorful. Also in breeding, indirect light and an additional floating plant or piece of wood is recommended for maximum success.
NOW FOR A MORE CHALLENGING PROJECT HARLEQUIN RASBORA – RASBORA HETEROMORPA
This fascinating little fish belongs to the family Cyprinidae and comes from the Malay Peninsula, Thailand and Sumatra. It was first imported into Europe in 1906, and made its way to the rest of the world’s aquariums very soon after. The water in the fish’s natural setting is extremely soft and its temperature often rises quite high during the day. Now-a- days, most of these colorful little fish have been raised on farms and in aquariums so their natural need for very soft water has been some what abided.
The appearance of these Rasbora, with a dark triangular patch extending back from the base of the caudal fin, is very distinctive. The silvery tone of the rest of the body may be broken with yellow or reddish markings, which has resulted in this species also becoming known as the red razor. Males tend to be brighter in color than females and have slimmer bodies. The female has a rounder lower profile and at breeding time become quite plump. Another way of sexing is even simpler. Male and female are the same size, but the sexes are easily distinguished. Males are much redder in the dorsal and tail fins, also in the caudal peduncle region. The female is more golden, and when full of row her belly is deeper than that of her mate. It is surprising that so many aquarists and so many information sources are under the impression that the fish are unsexable. Bottom line, the males are always redder, at breeding time the females are always broader and fatter, and it becomes quite obvious when you get the hang of it!
In nature, the Harlequin Rasbora does not usually tolerate contact with fish of other species, so if they are to be kept in a community tank, they should be kept in odd numbers of 5-7 or more, and given rocks and privacy places, with this in place they will be happy community members, and never bother or interfere, in any way, with other fish in the tank.
Set up the breeding tank in the usual way for the Cyprinidae, but for plants, Cryptocoryne should be used, since this species likes to lay its eggs on the underside of broad leafed plants, and the Cryptocoryne is their plant of choice in their natural environment, increased percentages remember?
Since the advent of air travel Harlequin Rasbora’s have been imported by the 10s of thousands from their native land of Malaya. They are shipped 500 to a 1 foot by 1 foot by 1 foot boxed plastic bag filled with pure origin and 1 ½ gallon of their natural water. Few die and so they are always in demand. Inspire of the constant demand, the source of supply in their natural home is never depleted. They literally swarm in great numbers in pools in Malaya, then all are caught in a net, the pool fills again in what seems like weeks! The trick is to make the tank like a pool in Malaya!
First, place a well-conditioned adult male with a younger heavy with roe female in the breeding tank late in the day. Courtship should probably begin early the next morning and is instigated by the male and includes the usual fin-flaring and dancing in front ho his mate. The pair starts swimming around the tank together and eventually moves under a suitable broad leaf of a plant. Here they turn upside down and deposit a few eggs. Then they move off and court some more before coming back to spawn again, which will probably take place on the same plant, or even the same leaf. Occasionally they deposit eggs on a fine leaf plant, but this is rare, they look for a wide leaf. When healthy pair is finished they will have deposited 25-100 eggs and go placid. The Harlequin Rasbora is not an avid egg eater, but they will eat the eggs occasionally, since they are relatively few compared to others we have discussed, every egg is precocious, so remove the parents as soon as breeding is concluded. The fry hatch in about 24 hours, and the fry are free swimming on the third day. At this point they should be fed infusoria or liquid fry food or an egg yolk squeezed through a cheese cloth for the first week. Then wean them slowly onto baby brine shrimp and commercial dry ground fry food. They grow extremely fast and are a pretty good size within three months if fed well and often. Add a sponge filter after the first week, and change 10% of the water every week after the first month.
THE TETRAS – THE CHARACINS (CHARACIDAE)
The Characins constitute one of the large families of freshwater fishes, distributed throughout Africa, South America and Central America. No single species is found in both the Old and the New World. Most of them are rather hardy, tolerating a comparatively wide range of temperatures. They are usually distinguished by having an adipose fin, that is, a small fin without rays, situated between the dorsal fin and the tail. The Characins are among the most graceful and beautiful of fish suitable for aquariums are some of the species of Characins, by which is meant species of that very numerous family, the Characidae. Another distinguishing attribute of the Characins are their possession of teeth or of the fin we mentioned earlier, many of the species of this family possess both. Of course, we Ichthyologists have other distinguishing features for the family, but they do not concern the amateur aquarist.
The Characins are, for the most part, omnivorous in their diets. They eat the dried foods and cereals contained in commercial flake foods, but they prefer meats and live foods. Most of them are not aggressive and male peaceable neighbors, although there are some among the family given to chasing and fin-tearing, which is seldom serious. However, every family has its exceptions, and the Characin’s is a dozy! This family includes the deadly and carnivorous Piranha, so vicious as to make bathing hazardous in the streams and rivers of South America where the species is found! It is, of course, not fitted for keeping in an amateur’s aquarium, and of late, is illegal in many places to keep. Interestingly enough is possible to breed this fish, and the Piranha is quite popular in certain aquarium circles, actually becoming the center of attention with Piranha groups, societies and associations. There are many types of Piranha, from the extremely aggressive to the somewhat tame, some even suitable for a mixed species tank when fed properly. Its closest relative and look alike is the Pacu, readily available in many Pet retailers. The most popular of these is the Red Belly Pacu, in the store it is a cute little fish of 2”or 3”. But once in your aquarium it will eat and eat and eat and grow so fast you won’t believe it. Within 6 months in a large enough tank it can reach a size of 18” long and 12” wide! Trouble is, they grow almost as fast in a ten gallon tank and will literally out grow what ever tank you put it in. Unlike its brother, the Piranha, they are vegetarians and will make quick work of all your live plants! This fish is a food fish in South and Central America and should not be kept in the average aquarium. They are cute and small, very silver with a bright red belly, look just like a Piranha, but be warned, do not put either of these fish in a community tank!
That said, the Characins are also home to the cute little Neon, the Cardinal, Rummy Nose and countless colorful little fish known in stores as Tetras. Here is another interesting bit of trivia for that networking at the local tropical fish association! The word “Tet” or “Tetra” are included in the common names for many of the Characin species. These words are abbreviations for “Tetragonopterus,” the generic name under which many of the species of characins were formerly classified. Tetragonopterus has long been abandoned as the name of a Characin genus, but “Tetra” has been retained as a nickname for species that formerly belonged to it, and for some reason it even applies in some cases to members of the Characin family that were never classified as Tetragonopterus, example; Cardinal Tetra, first imported years after the genus Tetragonopterus was dropped completely from scientific verbiage! Today, the name has lost any scientific significance it may ever have had, but the word “Tetra” survives and is in general common usage to denote many of the Characin species, and probably always will be!
Many of the species of Characins are difficult to breed or fail to breed at all in captivity. This is perhaps because the aquarists have not yet mastered the procedure or technique of breeding the individual respective species. Of course, these non-breeding species are comparatively rare and expensive. We will concentrate on the easy ones. One note on imposable to breed; for years the Neon Tetra was considered impossible to breed and demanded very high prices, if they could even be found. Today, many have breed it and it is commercially bred in such large numbers that it can often be found cheep enough to be used as feeder fish!
Many of the most common “Tetras” are among the easiest and most prolific egg-layers you can breed in the home aquarium! There are many equally excellent species of Characins that bay be breed freely and easily mainly because commercial breeders have breed them in captivity for so long, that the peculiarities of that species breeding behaviors in nature have been virtually bred out of them.
The Characins are more or less uniform in their reproductive processes and requirements, that is to say, the ones we will discuss are very similar. The breeding habits of more exotic varieties like the Piranha that actually exhibits some parental care, but you won’t be breeding then in a 10 gallon tank! Most if the Characins are typical egg Scatterers with no parental care being assumed. For the most part they prefer living in groups, rather than in pairs, and tend to be carnivorous. The regular feeding of fried food should be supplemented by the addition of live and frozen foods such as Tubiflex worms, Brine shrimp or Daphnia to the diet at least one or twice a week. A few species exercise elaborate incubation procedures, notably the Spraying Vharacin or Copeina Arnoldi. Other exceptions are Mimagoniates and Corynopoma. These two genera, although egg layers as are all Characins, are fertilized internally like the livebearers. The difference is that these unique Characins do not hold the eggs within their body until the young have
As with most egg-Scatterers, with very few exceptions, the Characins will begin eating their eggs soon after the breeding process is completed. The species vary in their tendencies toward eating their eggs and young, and the temperament of the individual fish and how well it has been fed also plays a part in its cannibalistic tendencies. It is therefore recommended to remove all Characins, both male and female from the breeding tank soon after the breeding process. Despite the fact that Characins are all the natural product of tropical waters, they accommodate themselves very well in temperatures as low as 70F and some as low as 65F. However, for best results when trying to breed
Characins, the water must be warmer, around a constant temperature of 80F. It is usually impossible to prevent the parents from devouring a portion of their eggs, but most can be saved to hatch a little attentive action. The eggs will hatch in the course of from two days to a week, the length of incubation depending upon the temperature of the water, which should be kept at a constant 80F with the use of a reliable heater. As soon as the fry are free swimming, they will immediately begin searching for food. They should be fed frequently with small amounts of infusoria and green water. Within a week they can be weekend slowly onto baby brine shrimp, very fine commercial fry food (the kind that looks like dust) as well as bowled egg yolk of a common chicken egg, pressed through a piece of cheese cloth and in some cases, meat ground to a liquid in the blender and fed with an eye dropper in very small amounts.
There are hundreds, actually well over a thousand varieties of Characins, both large and small around the world. However there are relatively few found in community aquariums, some are rare, some are too delicate, many are much too large, some are just not suited to life in the confines of an aquarium. The vast majority are simply not very attractive fish, plain silver minnows with no distinctive markings and nasty personalities. Among the thousands of fishes found throughout the world, relatively few have all the desirable characteristics which enable them to find their way into the tanks and hearts of fish keepers around the world. Many of the fishes that do achieve popularity with aquarists have all the right characteristics, bright color, small size, lives well in captivity, ] not quarrelsome and long lived to m=name a few criteria. Many of these Characins, which measure up, are difficult or impossible to breed in captivity. Non-the-less, they are imported each year by the hundreds of thousands or even millions to fill the demands of this very large hobbies need for constant supply of fresh little fish. Some breed well in captivity, and it is these that we will concentrate on. There are few things in the wonderful world of tropical fish as fascinating as seeing a large school of Characins, all exactly the same size swimming through the shoal, made even more exciting if you bred and raised them yourself! Let’s get started.
GYMNOCORYMBUS TERETZI – BLACK TETRA (AKA – BLACK SKIRT TETRA, BLACK WIDOW TETRA, BLACKAMOOR, BUTTERFLY TETRA AND PETTICOAT TETRA)
This fish comes from South America – Paraguay, Brazil and Bolivia – the drainage basins of the Amazon, Rio Paraguay, Rio Pilcomayo, Rio Guapore, Rio Mamore, Rio Beni, Rio Madeira, Rio Tapajos, Rio Negro and Lake Rogoa, in shaded, mostly shallow waters and flood regions.
You must see this fish to realize its remarkable beauty. There are many very good reasons why this fish has been so popular since its introduction to the aquarium would in the 1930’s, so popular in fact as to have garnered, not one, but at least 6 popular common names over the years. Not only is this a fish of striking colors, it has a unique shape and is one of the least demanding fish to keep in the home aquarium. Can stand ranges of temperatures from 60F to 90F, eats anything, is non-aggressive and breeds very easily!
The physical description of this fish does not do it justice. First, the rear half of the body, the large dorsal fin, and the exceedingly large anal fin are jet black. The forward part of the body is silver with clearly visible vertical black bars. The caudal fin is clear, that is to say transparent. The anal fin is so large that the fish appears to wear a ballet skirt and it certainly seems to dance, as it hovers around the darker areas of the aquarium! It has silver-rimmed jet black eyes.
In its native habitat in Paraguay and the Matto Grosso area of Brazil, the Black Tetra grows to a length of three inches, although in captivity it seldom grows to more than two inches. An interesting feature of this characin is that with fright its colors turn pale. From its habitat we could expect the Black Tetra to endure a wide range of variations in temperature; however it thrives at anything from 70F to 85F. It is best to breed this fish at about 75F. The Black Tetra is a very active fish and indulges in much harmless chasing of other fish, though it never seems to injure them.
This species was first introduced to fish keepers in 1935; for many years, all the Black Tetras being kept in aquariums were descendants of this original trio! As their domestication proceeded, they developed into one of the easiest egg-layers to breed in the aquarium world. One reason is that this is a very widely bred fish in farms, and its collection in the wild proved to be far more expensive than breeding this extremely prolific fish in Florida. One pair of Gymnocorymbus Ternetzi in prime breeding condition can produce 500 offspring every 2 to 3 weeks! More over, they can do this through the temperature fluctuations in the Florida environment. Finally, inbreeding is not a problem with this species, and after nearly 70 years of inbreeding, this species natural reproduction is in captivity. Another strain of this species has been developed over the years, the long-finned variety. There are many strains of this variety, look for a pair that has very long free flowing fins, with no kinks or small bumps, for best resulting fry. The long-fin variety breeds true for the most part.
Like many Characins, Black Tetras require a large aquarium of at least 10 gallons, clear water, and a thick growth of plants along the walls, leaving plenty of swimming space in the middle. The darker the background and bottom of the tank, the more at ease the fish feels, the brighter the colors and the more eggs they will be comfortable laying!
Many aquarists find it difficult to sex half-grown specimens. But if the eye is trained to observe only the body of the fish, and to disregard completely the fins, it will be easy to see that the males are more elongated and the females are deeper in comparison with their length. When in prime breeding condition, the female will look as if she is latterly about to explode, and the sex difference is more than obvious at this point, as she can be filled with up to 1,000 eggs, which are large by Characin standards! Males are somewhat smaller than the females, with small white tips on the tail fin. In transmitted light, like a strong flashlight from behind the fish, you can see that the translucent body cavity of the male run into a point towards the rear, but the female is rounded in the rear. The fins also provide a means of separating the sexes; the male’s dorsal fin is more pointed than that of the female and the males anal fin is broader at the front.
Black Tetras can be breed with great success by the novice, and are considered ideal for a home breeding project. Successful breeders are usually 9 months to a year old, and from 1 ½ to 2 inches long. Weather breeding the long-fined variety, or the standard (usually the best bet for the beginner), the female should be conditioned separately from the male for 7-10 days on a steady diet of 3 live or frozen brine shrimp, blood worm and misquote larva diet meals per day. Tank should be filled with at least 4 or 5 fine leaved bunches of plants, leaving large open areas, these fish like to swim and chaise fast! Introduce the female in the late afternoon, followed by the male one hour later, just before dark. They will breed the next morning, the male chasseing the female through the plants and occasionally quivering, laying up to 500 or even 1000 eggs over 2 or 3 hours. When the chase stops, they will rest a few minutes and then start searching for and eating eggs. Both parents should be removed at once. There are so many eggs, that as long as you stop the egg hunt within an hour or so you will have many eggs left.
You should use aged but virgin water, making sure all plants are washed in a salt bath to kill any snails and other pests that will eat the eggs. PH and hardness are not critical, but ideally 6.8-7.0 and a hardness of 100-150 ppm. The temperature should be raised to about 75F-78F. The water should be heavily aerated before introduction of the pair, and then left totally still until the fry are free swimming.
The eggs hatch after about 24-36 hours. They hop on the bottom, or cling to the glass like little slivers for another 2 to 3 days, when they become free swimming and immediately begin swimming and darting about in constant surch for food. Unlike most Characins, they are immediately able to swallow good sized pieces of food, this result in very rapid growth if fed frequently. A sponge filter should be added at this point. Because of their great number, enough usually survive, even for the novice, that they may have be divided to several tanks for maximum growth. First week of free swimming, they should be fed infusoria and first bit powered food, the second week start baby brine in the mix and the third week graduate to growth food and baby brine shrimp. The critical period is the first 2 weeks from the time they are free swimming. During this time temperature should be a constant 75F to 78F and water should not be touched. After two weeks 10% water changes, siphoning off the uneaten food from the bottom is recommended by weekly. At this point the fry are well on their way and will eat almost anything. The Black Tetra are really most beautiful in their first 3 months when they are almost completely black, they begin to look like adults in about three months and mature at about 6 months.
HYPHESSOBRYCON FLAMMEUS – FLAME FISH, FLAME TETRA, RED TETRA, TETRA FROM RIO, OR VON RIO TETRA.
The tiny Tetra from Rio, as we choose to call this Characin of many names; is one of the most entrancingly beautiful of all aquarium fish, especially when in full breeding colors! This fish belongs to the family Characidae and comes from the environs of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. It was first imported into Europe in 1920 and the US soon afterward. The body is elongated, slightly compressed, about 1 ½ inches long and shiny grey in color. Its sides are bronze to red, and its back is brilliant red as are the majority of its fins. The anal fin has a black leading edge and tip. The male is smaller and its anal fin is distinctly edged with black. Its body is somewhat pudgy, tapering to the tail, which expands into a considerable caudal fin. The colors, in prime conditions, are pearly lilac on the forward belly with yellow glints in an indistinct horizontal line to the tail. The lower abdomen and the anal, dorsal and caudal fins, rather than being exactly flame-colored, are suffused with flame, On each side of the forward part of the body are two dark spots, one behind the other, that look like smudges.
The two sexes are much alike, both in color and shape. The male has a tint hook on his anal fin, which can catch on a fine mesh net. If this happens, great care must be taken not to break the hook off in the net, for he uses this hook in breeding to hold the female close to inseminate the eggs as the female deposits them on a fine leafed plant. Without this hook, the fertility rate of the eggs will probably be quite low. Many observe a point in the anal fin of the female, but this in not definitive or consistent from fish to fish. Further, there is a broad, black border to the anal fin of the male, this border either completely absent in the female or simply narrower and lighter in tone. The region of the belly is thicker and rounder in the female, which makes them deeper in the body than the slimmer males. At breeding time the females will be very plump with eggs and the contrast between male and female even clearer when the male turns almost totally bright flame red!
At one time the popularity of this sturdy little Characin reached stellar proportions. Almost no community aquarium was complete without this fish. In the 1940’s and 1950’s it was among the number one sellers of all Characins. One reason for this overwhelming popularity was its ability to survive in temperatures of as low as 64F and as high as 85F, preferring temperatures of around 72F. Before the days of affordable heating for the home aquarium, this went a long way towards making it a first choice as a first fish. Additional attributes are this fishes ability to eat almost anything and survive its extremely peaceful nature and its acceptance of very low light situations. Another prime reason for its popularity was the ease in which it breeds. It breeds in a small tank, no particular need for fresh water; spawns up to 500 eggs and the young are quite hardy! For some reason, this seemingly eternal community aquarium favorite, wained in popularity over the last 3 decades, and was almost rare at the turn of the millennium. Its popularity today is again growing, and the “Von Rio Tetra” can now be found in most tropical fish retailers from time to time. For breeding proposed great care must be taken to find specimens which are the most red in appearance, and ones with good body shape along with the attributes described above. Due to its recent resurgence in popularity, there are many of these fish making it market that are dull and mis-shappened, as time goes on, the lines will become more stable, and the “flame” will return!
So simple is this fish to breed that it is recommended to beginners who are spawning egg- layers for the first time! The basic requirements for this species are a 10 gallon tank planted with thickets of small leaved plants and, if possible, Java Moss. Temperature should be brought up to around 80F before introducing the well conditioned female which has been kept in isolation from the male and fed live food for a week. Female should be introduced in the afternoon, followed by the male about 1 hour before dark. Breeding will probably take place soon after dawn of the next dawn. After laying anywhere between 150 and 500 eggs, the parents will rest briefly and then begin the egg hunt, they must be removed at once! Eggs hatch in 24 – 48 hours, fry hand on plants and the glass of the tank for about 2 days and are free swimming on the third day. They should be fed infusoria the first week later alternating with baby brine shrimp and commercial baby powered food. They are very hardy in the third week, though they tend to stay towards the bottom of the tank and will devour almost anything. At the age of about 4 months they begin to look like their parents and are fully half grown!
ANOPTICHTHYS JORDANI – BLIND CAVE FISH
Here we have a most interesting Characin, which is naturally blind. Thousands of years ago these fish were carried by currents into underground caves where little or no light existed; and because sight was of no use in the dark environment of the caves, nature, over the course of time, ceased to provide these useless organs. A. Jordani swims at all depths; even in thickly planted aquariums and rarely bumps into the foliage. The fish are equipped with extremely sensitive organs which warn them of obstacles in their path. It is amazing to see how they change direction to avoid plants, rocks, other fish and the sides of the tank!
This species comes from Mexico – from San Luis Potosi, the southwest part of the drainage basin that receives its water from the Rio Tampaon, at the inlet to the Rio Coy. Since its initial discovery in 1936, numerous other cave locations have been discovered, indicating a quite extensive range of caves this unique species calls home. It was first imported by C. Basil Jordan, a dealer in Aquarium fish in Dallas Texas, in 1936. When this new species was displayed, it became the newest sensation of the tropical fish world. When people saw that it was obviously blind, due to the fact that it had no eyes of any kind, and then saw it swim freely about an aquarium filled with plants, rocks and other fish yet never colliding with a thing, it became a must have fish. Further, this little gem required virtually no special conditions; it could live at 64F or be equally happy at 88F, seemed happy in almost any water conditions and would gladly accept almost any food as well as out scavenged all but the most efficient scavenger! The actual collector of the first A. Jordani is unknown; however in a letter received by C. Basil Jordan (who was credited with its discovery) the collector described the natural environment of the Blind Cave Fish. “It is very difficult to realize how impressive are the caves that have been formed in the habitat of this fish in Mexico. After walking about a mile through narrow caverns, blocked here and there by fallen boulders, we came to a space, so far from light that with out our electric lanterns it was truly pitch black, we came into a space large enough to contain a cathedral, entirely covered with stalactites and stalagmites. Finally, we came to the first pool where it was clear, by the great number of bones, that not only animals but men as well had become lost here over the ages. It is still a place dreaded by the Indians for its sheer size and total darkness. After many difficulties, and slipping and sliding, we squeezed, with trouble, through narrow openings, past several pools of great depth, and in these pools 100 specimens of Anoptichthys Jordani were caught.”
Of the 100 specimens, 75 were sent to Jordan in Texas, and all of them arrived alive in Texas. They proved not difficult to keep at all. They accepted all kinds of food as soon as it was offered, and very shortly after arrival, he was successful at breeding them. Almost all Blind Cave Fish found in stores today, can be traced to the original 75 delivered to Dallas Texas in 1936. As Jordan continued to experiment, he found, quite unexpectedly, that the new species was unusually suitable for the aquarium. It reproduced spontaneously without difficulty and adapted itself with the greatest of ease to practically every thinkable aquarium condition. The fish is brilliant shining silver, the fins being creamy. In large females the first rays of the anal and ventral fins are pink. The fish are equipped with extremely sensitive organs which warn them of obstacles in their path. The blindness is no handicap, for the instant the aquarium cover is raised these docile fish become active and acute; they are first on the food, weather live, frozen or dried. Should anything edible be given during the hours of darkness ‘Blind Caves’ have distinct advantages over all fishes with sight? As scavengers they are equally as good as the generally recommended catfishes, but where the catfish eat their fill and disappear behind rocks or plants, while living exclusively on the bottom of the aquarium, ‘Blind Caves are always in full view front and center dodging and bobbing fish and plants!
Reproduction has been adapted to its blindness, but scarcely differs from that of other Characin species. The two sexes seek contact with each other, find each other and mate in the “open field”, at which time the eggs fall to the bottom after they have been fertilized by the male, who at the start, presses himself for some time against the female. Then direct contact lessens, although the female keeps laying eggs for some time. The sperm of the male is apparently very active and extremely tenacious, for even the eggs laid in this manor, by the female without direct and continuous contact with the male, are fertilized!
There is little difference between male and female out of season. However, sexing in breeding season is easy, as female ‘Blind Caves’ are very much rounder and deeper- bellied than the males, who are sleeker at this time. Large specimens breed easily. The tank should be filled with 4/5 aged tap water and 1/5 distilled water for quickest results, though water conditions are not really that much of a factor. The bottom should be covered with short plants, or two clumps of Myriophyllum should be provided above the short plants. Alternatively, the bottom can be covered with marbles or a mesh, one inch off the bottom, yet the two clumps of fine leaved plants above the bottom covering should still be provided. A good healthy male and a very plump female should be placed in the tank after 7-10 days of separation and conditioning, just after dusk; they will spawn the next morning. The pair swims about in the clear water just above the plants. Periodically they approach each other head on and, with bodies touching, rapidly revolve round each other. Then, with a slap of their tails, they brake apart, and scores of tiny eggs may be seen falling through the water. The process is repeated for about two hours. Occasionally, though not generally, a pair will swim side by side, pressing their bodies in close contact, and again with a slap of their tails they will brake apart, showering fertilized eggs into the water. When the pair is finished spawning, the female will be so thin that she again looks like the male, while the male now looks so thin as to be emaciated. Also, sometimes, the males anal and ventral fins may become streaked with blood, as though the strain has caused internal bleeding. Both parents should now be removed and placed, again in separate quarters, where they can be left alone and be fed very well on high protein and live food to help them recuperate. In a few days the blood-streaks fade and the fish return to a normal healthy weight, they may be returned to the community tank if you wish or re-conditioned for another spawn in about 4 weeks if you wish. Most of the tiny eggs fall to safety in the special substrate you have provided, however some get caught up in the plant clumps and are easily visible to the naked eye.
The next day the tiny fry can be seen hanging from the plants and attached to the glass sides of the tank. After 2 days the fry will begin to be free swimming and immediately set out in such of food, they should be given infusoria for about a week, small amounts 4- 6 times per day, followed the second week with baby brine shrimp and commercial powered dry food. Like their parents, at this point they will be on a constant food hunt, and will eat as often as you chose to feed them, they grow very fast if fed frequently. Remember, lighting the tank is strictly for your enjoyment, they do not need to see to eat. You will notice the fry have eyes at birth, however, they are apparently non-functioning eyes, and sudden movements, by you in front of the tank, go un-noticed. After several weeks, scales grow over the eyes, which appear to disintegrate, leaving hollow sockets underneath. Providing light at any stage will not stop this strange quirk of nature from occurring. Their uncanny guidance system develops quickly, and the hundreds of blind youngsters swim about seemingly unaffected, never running into other fry, it is truly a delight to observe, one of natures most fascinating breeding projects!
HEMIGRAMMUS CAUDOVITTAIUS – BUENOS AIRES TETRA, DIMOND SPOT CHARACIN, BELGIAN FAG CHARACIN
This species comes from Southern South America – Northeast Argentina; Rio Parana and tributaries, to Buenos Aires. It was first imported into Europe in 1922 and soon afterward, into the United States and North America. This fish gained early and lasting popularity due to its very hardy nature and bright attractive coloration. Its natural temperature range is from 50F – 86F, but is happiest if kept at from 64F to 75F. Water conditions are relatively unimportant and they actually respond favorably to fluctuations in temperature, in short they are very hardy as popular Characins go. It is a fish with a greenish-pearl body and coral-red fins with a short, dark line on the rear of the body. A three-toned tail root—black, yellow and red—was the reason for this fishes less popular nick-name. Depending on the circumstances, the total coloration of Hemigrammus Caudovittatus and the normally black parts become brownish green to purplish brown. When frightened or disturbed, the fins sometimes appear less red, and from time to time a so-called shoulder spot appears behind the gill covers. The Buenos Aires Tetra can reach a length of 4 inches in the wild, but rarely attains a length of more than 3 inches in the home aquarium. Feeding is very simple, since the fish will apparently eat almost anything, though, supplementing their diet with a little vegetable food, and occasional frozen or live food will help bring out the brightest colors.
There are drawbacks however, since this fish is the largest of the Hemigrammus family, there are times when it has been caught nipping smaller fish. This propensity can be avoided by keeping only medium and larger fish in any community in which it is kept. This fish is also best kept away from all but the sturdiest live plants. They are avid plant eaters and if put in nicely planted aquarium, they can wreak havoc, shredding the more tender plants in no time. This can be avoided by feeding ample amounts of edible plant matter, but it is best not to include the Buenos Aires Tetra in a live plant aquarium
The natural mating season for the Buenos Aires Tetra is October to January and is seemingly not effected by temperature. The fish you acquire in stores today are probably farm raised, and will breed at any time of the year. One of the easiest Characins to breed, a large pair placed in a well-planted tank at dusk rarely fails to spawn the next morning. They will just as cheerfully lay their eggs and hatch them out at 64F as they will at 75F.
Both sexes are similarly colored, but the males are slightly brighter, females are larger, when fully grown and at breeding time the belly is very deep and wide with eggs. The male and female should be conditioned separately for 7-10 days and fed heavily on live and frozen food. About an hour is required for the female to spawn her eggs which will number from 200 to 600 depending on the size of the female. The female is very rough in the breeding process and has been known to kill the male in the process. Though we do not recommend leaving the parents in the tank after breeding, the male is sometimes known to guard the eggs and even the fry for a period after hatching in nature. It is best to remove the parents as soon as possible after the breeding activities have ceased and eggs are observed in the plants of the breeding tank. They should be placed back in isolation from each other and fed a variety of live and frozen food foe several days before being placed back in a community tank, or they can be ready to breed again in about 3 weeks if separate conditioning continues.
The eggs will mostly stick within the plants; some scattered on the bottom and will hatch in about 24 hours. The young are very hardy; they hang in the sides for about a day and are free-swimming on the third day. At this point they should be fed infusoria for about a week, then add baby brine shrimp on about day 7 later adding in powered commercial dry food. The young grow very quickly, and begin to show color and some size in about 3 months, but should not be breed until at least a year old. You should be successful in raising large numbers of young to maturity in relatively close spaces, and the fry are not susceptible to many of the ailments that effect many Characin fry, they can stand some variation of temperature, are not susceptible to fungus and after the first 10 days or so, will greedily eat anything they are given. This is a good first egg-layer for the beginning breeder, and proves to forgive many common beginner mistakes!
HEMIGRAMMUS ERYTHROZONUD (HYPHESSOBRYCON GRACILIS) (HEMIGRAMMUS ERYTHROZONUS DURBIN) – GLOWLIGHT TETRA, FIRE NEON
This hardy little fish has a long and confusing history, and today it is not conclusive if the fish in your tank is correctly identified as Hemigrammus Erythrozond, the accepted classification. This South American species comes from the Guianas, the Amazon Basin, Rio Sao Francisco and Rio Paraguay. It was first discovered and identified by Dr. Durbin in 1909, though it was not initially imported widely for aquarium use. In 1939, Hemigrammus Erythrozonus Durbin was identified as belonging to the Characidae family and its place of origin identified as Guyana, and it begin to be widely imported to Europe and the United States. Later Fraser-Brunner raised a question in regards to this fish, also known by the name Hyphessonbrycon Gracilis since its importation into North America, which has never been entirely answered. Perhaps there several varieties possessing the typical stripe of the Fire Neon/Glowlight Tetra, which cross bread during initial attempts at domestic breeding. The investigation of aquarium breed specimens in the 1970’s brought to light that the characteristic for the genus Hemigrammus (that is scales on the caudal fin) does not hold true for this species. It is also difficult to determine to which of the two genera this species might belong. Some of the investigated tank raised specimens, which without doubt all represented the same species, had a caudal fin without scales (genus Hyphessobrycon), a large number (17 of the 42 used in the study) stood just on the edge between the two species and genera—that is, with two rows of scales just past the roots of the tail—while 16 specimens showed a normally scaled caudal fin (genus Hemigrammus). Does this mean anything at all with regards to breeding this fish? Not at all, just another bit of trivia for those Aquarium Society networking events, a bit of trivia not many know or probably even care to know!
It is sometimes unbelievable how different fish can appear when seen in ideal surroundings, as against being huddled together in a corner of a bare tank, frightened and unhappy. Here we have a case in point. The Glowlight can be a drab, colorless fish, or a fiery, startling beauty that glows brilliantly. Seen in soft peaty water in a beautifully planted aquarium, having a dark background and lit from above, a shoal of these little gems is a sight not easily forgotten. This fish is at its best when on its own or with other small fishes. The latest versions of this fish from commercial breeders is far more stable than wild caught specimens however, and can be a welcomed addition to a calm community tank, with full color effects.
The body is translucent; a vivid red stripe runs across the flanks from the eye to the base of the tail. The dorsal fin has red in the forward part. The other fins are clear, except for white tips. The body is fragile, thin and almost transparent. The back is an olive-yellow- green color. Any deviation in the shape of the body from the Neon Tetra is not worth mentioning, and most of what is said about the Neon applies to the Glowlight, except that the Glowlight Tetra is much easier to breed, same methods apply, but they are far more forgiving. The length of the body is almost 2 inches. The male is slimmer than the
When young, males may sometimes be identified, as on the anal fin they have the Characin hook; this often gets caught up in a fine net. In adult specimens sex is obvious, the females being both larger and much deeper and fatter in the bellies. They are not particular as to the size of the tank, the composition of the water or even to environment and food. They can be happy in temperatures from 68F to 79F and will survive a much wider range.
Once considered to be a difficult species to breed, it now presents no problem whatsoever to produce a large brood of healthy fry. Procreation is successful in a small tank at a temperature of anywhere from 72F to 80F, with 75F being ideal. They prefer normal not too hard, slightly acidic water. One method is to use a bare tank which should be thoroughly cleaned, and contain soft brown peaty water. In the bare tank place two or three nylon mops which have been sterilized by boiling. This method will get you in practice to breed Neon Tetras later on. The easier way to breed the more forgiving Glowlight Tetra is to used well aged, natural chlorine-free water (for example, rain water, or reverse osmosis water that has been left standing in the thoroughly clean tank with 3 or 4 bunches of fine leafed plants for about a week at a temperature of anywhere from 68F to 79F. Fully airate the water for 4-6 hours before introducing the breeders, which should be conditioned separately for 7-10 days on live and frozen foods. One final note on water condition, using ½ existing aquarium water from the pairs home tank ad ½ well aged fresh water, with 3 bunches of fine-leaved plants works just as well as long as you are using a commercially bred pair.
A large pair should be selected and conditioned until the female is literally bulging with row. They should be placed in the breeding tank in the late afternoon. The next day, after some love play which takes the form of short darts at each other, the male and female come side by side, and lock fins. Then, trembling in close contact, they roll over in or against the plants or nylon mops. Eggs are laid and fertilized, many falling to the bottom of the tank. Fine-leaved plants are preferred, although the eggs are only slightly adhesive, so that a large part of the up to 300 eggs which can be laid fall to the bottom. Don’t worry, this should not cause the eggs to mildew, and the parents are not as quick to eat the eggs as many other Characin species. The fine-leaved plants are important, but it is more important to place the plant clumps well apart from each other to allow the fish to swim among them. Fertility may otherwise be low, because of the way in which these fish mate. They roll over and touch fins on each occasion, until up to 300 eggs are laid in batches of about 8-16 at a time. The plants or nylon mops allow them to brace themselves for the fertilization process and they chase through the tank. Even though most of these eggs will fall to the bottom they will be fertile. They should be bred in a dim room, neither the breeding process not the fry during the first 10 days of life, should be exposed to sunlight or bright light of any kind. (Again, you can probably get away with some bright light, but you are practicing to breed the more difficult Neon.)
Naturally, remove the parents as soon as possible after noticing they have finished breeding activities, however the Glowlight Tetra is not the avid egg eaters that many other Characin species prove to be. The fry hatch in about 24 hours, they hang on plants and the glass sides of the tank for another day or so. They become free swimming on the third day and should be fed infusoria and egg yolk the first 5-7 days followed by commercial powered growth food and baby brine shrimp. After two weeks, the young are easy to raise, and grow quickly!
NOW FOR A MORE CHALLENGING PROJECT PHENACOGRAMMUS INTERRUPTUS – CONGO TETRA
The colorful tetras of South America have relatives just as colorful in the region of the Congo River in Africa. One of these species is the Congo Tetra, which shines in all the colors of the rainbow. It was not discovered until 1949, and was not imported as a common aquarium fish until the 1960’s. For years, aquarists tried to breed this species successfully, and had mixed results, as the beauty of the fish diminished with each successive breeding out of their native Congo River, with the extended central tail area all but disappearing in successive generations. Then in the 1970’s, Florida fish farms perfected a breeding line, and most examples of this species found in stores today descend from this strain, and will breed true, with all the color and trailing tail of the native African fish. The fish in nature approaches 4 ½ inches, however farm raised varieties, though full finned and rich with color, will generally not grow beyond 3 or 3 ½
These African Characins are found in the upper reaches of the River Congo in Zaire. Their coloration is unusual – depending on the angle of the lighting, nearly all the colors of the rainbow seem to become evident – ranging from yellow through shades of red to green, blue and even violet tones. Males are much more colorful than females; they are considerably larger and have more elaborate fin structure. The females are mostly golden with shades of silver and greenish, and have no exotic finnage.
Breeding is really quite easy now-a-days, if you make a few adjustments from the procedures we have discussed for breeding Characins. First you will need a larger tank, because of the size f the breeders, and because they will produce 300 or more eggs of fry who will grow rapidly to a size larger than full grown Neons in a month or so! Use a 15 or 20 gallon long tank for this project, though a 10 gallon will work in a pinch, but it is not recommended. Boil enough pet moss to cover the bottom of the tank with 1 inch of loosely packed moss substrate (about ½ cubic foot for a 20 gallon long tank) Put it in a tank filled with reverse osmosive, distilled or rain water, and let it sit for 5 days till the peat moss has completely settled evenly on the bottom of the tank. Place several thickets of Java Moss on top of the peat moss substrate in several strategic locations. Also provide several nylon breeding mops or several clumps of fine leaved plants. The water temperature should be a steady 77F. There should be no aeration or filtration since this would disturb the peat moss and cloud the water.
Place a well conditioned pair, which have been kept in sepreat quarters into the breeding tank shortly before turning out the lights, or shortly before sun-set. Most pairs will spawn the following morning, or when the lights are turned back on at least 8 hours later. The male instigates courtship by chasing the female up and down the aquarium and flaring his fins at her. At this time his colors are absolutely stunning. Once the female is fully aroused they begin diving into the Java Moss or spawning nylon mop and they start to shudder side by side, at this time they release eggs and milt. Some of the eggs remain in the plant or mop, but most fall into the peat moss substrate. As the breeding activities continue, the peat moss will be stirred up, and the water may become quite cloudy, don’t worry, it does not hamper the breeding. When they are finished, you may take your time, but remove the breeders to sepreat re-conditioning quarters. The eggs will not be eaten, since most are well hidden under the peat moss substrate.
Usually 300-500 or more eggs are laid and hatching occurs from 5 days onward, it may take a week for some of the eggs, be patient. This differs sharply from their American relatives, whose eggs hatch much quicker, but whose fry hang on the sides or on plants for several days and are smaller and helpless at first. When the fry appear from the substrate, they are fully free swimming and hungry! They can be fed infusoria for a day or two before they will take baby brine shrimp. They will grow quickly and take powered dry food within 2 weeks, soon reaching .8 inches long. Within 3 months of frequent feedings of live and commercial growth foods, they will 2 inches and showing signs of color and are sexable, but are 6 months old and nearer to 3 inches before thy are sexually mature. With growth this quick, the need for a larger tank is obvious!
It is very important not to remove the peat from the fry rearing tank, they need it for water quality, and if you put them in fresh water, they are liable to succumb to fungus. The adult fish also prefer peat moss in the filter or substrate, but it is not necessary, and tends to brown the water so it is not really recommended.
NOW FOR A REALLY CHALLENGING PROJECT PARACHEIRODN INNESI – NEON TETRA
This species comes from South America – the Amazon Basin, the westernmost part of Brazil, a part of northern Peru, Equador and Bolivia. It is found in the upper reaches of the rivers, in water with little or no plant growth, in the flood regions of the jungle, with thick bank growth. It was first brought to Europe and North America in 1936.
The Neon Tetra was discovered by a French entomologist in 1936 in small streams devoid of vegetation which flow through the dense jungles of the Upper Amazon basin. This begins to give us an important insight into the possible breeding we may want to set up. Its specific name, “Innesi”, honors the well-known authority upon the subject of exotic fish, Mr. William Innes. Naming this gem of the tropical fish world after William T. Innes, the celebrated author and well-known publisher of many aquarium books and periodicals is fitting, for such a universally sought-after fish to bear the name of a man who has done so much to advance the hobby all over the world. Neons are small, peaceful, extremely perky, and a really beautiful fish. Once settled down they are not shy, and although not aggressive, have the courage to stand up for themselves if the occasion arises. Once established these Tetras can prove long-lived, with a life expectation of a decade or more! When this little gem first became available to aquarists in 1936, one of these fish would fetch a price equivalent to the average monthly salary at that time. Since then, they have been bred commercially in huge numbers and no longer command a premium price. The commercial breeding of this species has also eased the legendary “near to impossible to breed” moniker.
A book published in 1953 stated it this way “Hyphessobrycon Innesi or Neon tetra: here we come to one of the most beautiful, desirable and hard to keep fish in the world, and cirtanly one of the most difficult to breed in captivity. If the reader can successfully breed the Neon Tetra, he need have no fear of finding difficulty with any other species. Indeed, the Neon Tetra is included here only because of its spectacular beauty and not because the amateur is encouraged to undertake the breeding of it”
This myth is still strongly believed today, and you will be a hero in many hobbyist circles to achieve the lofty goal of successfully breeding this celebrated species. The reality is, Neons have the reputation of being difficult to breed, when in fact, since the introduction of farm bred varieties; they spawn very regularly in most community tanks right under your nose! The real challenge is hatching and rearing the fry that is trickier! Before continuing with this project, review the Glowlight Tetra breeding project, it is a more forgiving version of what is essentially the same fish. The Glowlight project will give you the insight to successfully complete the Neon Tetra project. The following step is recommended, though successful breeding of Neons has been accomplished without strict adherence to this method, the eggs and newly hatched fry are particularly susceptible to fungus; the following will all but eliminate this threat! The secret of breeding the Neon Tetra is to have the breeding tank sterile, as nearly sterile as it is possible to be, everything sterile – the tank sides and bottom, the plants, the water, the nets used to transfer the breeders, the glass tube of the heater which will be in the water, the aerator stone to be used in the breeding tank and yes even the fish themselves! This may be accomplished by using a new tank and washing it with a wet sponge an salt as the cleaner, same for the heater, a salt water bath for the plants and a new net, which has been boiled along with the air stone, use the sterile net to briefly dip the breeder fish in the salt bath on the way to the breeding tank.
Healthy Neon Tetras will breed every ten days from the age of 12 weeks upward, provided that the correct conditions are created. These are;
1) Perfectly healthy, medium-sized adult fish, free from Plistophera (neon disease) Plistophera (Neon Disease), which may be a form of tuberculosis, appears as a white patch on the flanks of the fish. It seems to be more prevalent in imported specimens than on home-bred fish. Although various cures have occasionally been reported, it is best to destroy the infected fish immediately, since the disease will soon spread to affect other fish, and you must minimize further contamination. Plistophera (white spot on the flank of the fish) always results in the death of the fish and will spread, do not delay, destroy any Neon Tetra if the white spot appears!
2) A clean bare tank (see above). 3) Very soft brown peaty water with hardness not exceeding 10 p.p.m., which Is practically bacteria-free. The peaty water is prepared in advance; in fact, the wise aquarist, who is interested in breeding many types of Tetras, will always keep a 10 gallon container full on hand. It is best to start with reverse osmosis water or rain water and add several hands full of pre- boiled peat moss (available at local garden supply stores). When all this peat has sunk to the bottom of the 10 gallon container, the water will be sufficiently “brown” and virtually bacteria free (a side benefit of peat!), and the hardness will be between 10 p.p.m. (another automatic side benefit of sterile pear moss!). The pH should be adjusted to come within the range of 5.0 to 6.8 if necessary (will probably be there automatically, again the peat!), though this need not be exact.
The important thing with Noens is that the hardness not exceeds 10 p.p.m.! The peat-water is now poured in to a depth of just 4”, and a couple of nylon mops, which have been sterilized in boiling water, should be put in as the spawn receivers. Take care not to pour the peat itself into the breeding tank, or it will be cloudy for days. The temperature should be adjusted to 76F or 78F and kept steady with a reliable heater. The tank must then be placed in a location where it will receive only subdued daylight. This is very important, since bright light will actually dissolve the eggs and is a prime factor in the growth of fungus!
In sexually mature adult Neon Tetras in prime breeding condition, the difference between sexes is obvious. The male is sleek and small bellied; the female should be gravid, fat with spawn. (She should appear fat when viewed from the top and U shaped when viewed from the top) A female latterly bulging with row and a good male are put in the breeding tank before dusk. They will probably spawn during the middle of the next morning, a process which will last about two hours. Many fish may take until the second or even the third day however. Males start driving the females around the aquarium, and spawning takes place in open water above the clump of fine leaved plants or the clump of fresh green java moss, with both fish pointing directly upwards as the eggs are expelled. The female will eventually expel 50 to 100 eggs and can do so every 10 days. When the female has finished discharging her eggs, the male drives her from the eggs to prevent her from eating them, which he will not do himself. After this activity is noticed, the parents should be removed with a net which has been sterilized with boiling water. It is then important to cover the tank with dark paper to exclude any strong light, which as we mentioned, bright light and sun light will dissolve the eggs and encourage fungus.
Neon eggs are not easy to see among the nylon mops, but if a glass-bottomed tank is used, the many eggs that will be lying on the bottom will be clearly visible, if you briefly shine a flashlight through the bottom from above. Quite a few will turn opaque white in a few hours – these are infertile, don’t worry, this is normal. Many others remain clear and hatch, which will prove that you can breed the legendary Neon Tetra, but now comes the hard part! Provided the conditions are correct, and instructions have been followed, the eggs will hatch in 24 hours, and a few minute fry may be seen hanging from the breeding mops and on the glass walls of the breeding tank. If none are visible do not be disappointed, as they are so small and transparent that they are easily overlooked. In a further 36-48 hours a few fry may be seen lying on the glass bottom of the tank or hanging on the side walls. Probably only the eyes (appearing as two black specks) will be noticed. When the paper covering is lifted to observe the fry, one or two may be seen to dart to the sides, scorners and base of the tank, where they remain motionless. If you keep a close watch on the bottom one inch of the water a few fry may be observed swimming short distances at this point. They should now be fed with the cooled yolk of a hard boiled egg squeezed through cheese cloth in very small amounts and/or infusoria. They will take baby brine shrimp in just a few days, at which time they begin very rapid growth! The fry show no color until they are 3 or 4 weeks old, but the fragile period ends at about 10 days, at which time they become very hardy fry. At about 4 weeks the blue line appears on the sides and the top of the eyes. The young can be sexed by judging the height of the body and length of the red stripe at just 10 weeks and are fully mature and even able to reproduce at a mear 12 weeks!
Make no mistake about it, successfully breeding and raising a brood of Neon Tetras is an accomplishment, one to be proud of, and one that has bragging rites attached. But remember, if you are unsuccessful with a first try, it is well worth several trials till you get it right. Once you have breed the Neon Tetra, there are no limits to what you can accomplish, maybe you will be the one to figure out a way to easily breed the Clown Loach or another “impossible to breed fish”!
Here’s another fun fact for those Aquarium Society networking trivia sessions: The first specimens of this as of that time un-named fish (THE SOON TO BE NAMED INNESI – NEON TETRA) were brought to Paris by Auguste Rabaut, A French naturalist, where they were delivered directly to a large breeder and then on to the hobbyists at unbelievably high prices. Several specimens were sent to Hamburg Germany, where they were soon re-bred. Now none of that is the trivia part, here it comes! A shipment of exotic fish from that Hamburg breeder went via the Zeppelin “Hindenburg” in 1936 where the entire batch was placed in the wrong storage room on board and were exposed to freezing temperatures, which brought the water temperature to probably under 40F, all these species should, of course, have been dead at this point. We all know what happened to the Hindenburg, and out of the wreckage, the shipment cases of the exotic fish on there way to W. T. Innes were found, it gets better, all of the 30 some odd species of rare exotic new species of tropical fish were killed except one, every single one of the little “Neon Tetra” fish had survived and apparently suffered no harm! Further, all 20 specimens arrived safely to the Innes tanks, soon afterward officially named “Hyphessoberycon Innesi”, later the common name Neon tetra was re classified as “Paracheirdon”, but the “Innesi”, honoring William T. Innes remains to this day!
DETAILS OF SPECIFIC SPECIES OF NON-ADHESIVE EGG-SCATTERERS, THEIR SPECIFIC NEEDS AND PROCEDURES. THE BRACHYDANIO, DANIO – FAMILY CYPRINIDAE
This is a relatively small family of fishes whose eggs are scattered or simply fall through plants and obstacles to the bottom of the tank. This occurs because the eggs do not have an adhesive coating, and because they are heavier than water, they simply drop to the bottom of the tank immediately after they are expelled by the female.
Representatives of the Danionini tribe can be found in South and Southeast Asia – India, Burma, Ceylon, Sumatra – and part of China. The Danios which we are familiar with in aquariums are mainly restricted to the waters of India and Ceylon, northwards to the Himalayas and eastwards to the north of Burma. The Brachydanio species occur from the east coast of India to Thailand, Malaysia and Sumatra.
Danionini are generally small, slim fish, living in shoals in stagnant, slow and moderately running waters. The body is somewhat vertically flattened, though the belly is always rounded and never sharply pointed. Fish belonging to this group are exceptionally well suited to the home aquarium, not only because they are small, but because they are lively and playful and love to swim. Moreover, their striking coloration and markings make them visually attractive.
One negative quality, which manifests itself only during breeding, is their greediness for its own eggs, and given the chance, a female will eat her own eggs while she lays them by swimming around very quickly and catching the eggs before they hit the bottom. Breeding itself generally causes little or no difficulty. If the breeding tank is set up properly, as listed below, little trouble will be experienced from this fish’s desire to gobble up its eggs.
This brings up 3 interesting differences between adhesive egg scatterers and non- adhesive egg scatterers. First, the non-adhesive egg Scatterers need no plants or spawning mops to encourage spawning, since they are open water spawners. Second they need a specially set up tank that protects the eggs from the multiple patents always hungry for eggs disposition. Third, these fish prefer gang spawning, with larger numbers of males to female in combination. For instance 2 males to 1 male or 3 males to 2 females, as many as 10 males to 7 females can be spawned in one 10 gallon tank, though this would produce as many as 2800 eggs in one spawning, which could potentially be repeated every 2 weeks or so! Unless you are starting a fish farm, let’s look to quality, not so much quantity.
When spawning the Non-adhesive Egg layer it is very important that the proper receptacle is used. This group of fish is extremely easy to breed, in fact if you have Zebra Danios in your community aquarium they probably breed every two weeks or so, you may even see occasional live fry in the filter if you have a heavily planted tank. For breeding purposes you want to set up a long very shallow tank which can be made deeper later, with the bottom covered with marbles, the kind kids play with, or those available in florist shops. You will need hundreds of marbles, enough to cover the bottom of the tank two marbles deep. A ten gallon tank is sufficient; it should be satirized by washing thoroughly with a hose stream, then rubbing down with salt and a sponge, then rinsing again with clear water. You must boil the marbles for about 5 minutes, about 500-600 should be sufficient for best results. (You should be able to acquire them at a dollar store for about 1.00 per hundred, not an expensive purchase in the tropical fish hobby to be sure! Like the tank and other items used in breeding projects, the marbles can be used over and over again by simply boiling them to sterilize them between projects.
Place the marbles on the bottom of the tank spread evenly across, and fill to only about 4 inches above the marbles with fresh aged water, letting the set up sit for as long as it takes for all air bubbles disappear.
Males and females should be conditioned separately; the females will become extremely plump when in prime breeding condition. When an, as described earlier, 2 males and one well conditioned female or 3 males and 2 well conditioned females are placed in the set up at dusk, it would be quite rare if breeding did not commence at dawn almost without fail! It is not necessary to remove the breeders as soon as breeding is finished, not that they wont eat their own eggs, they most certainly would if given the chance. However, the marbles give you the luxury of taking your time, since the marbles make it impossible for the breeders to reach the eggs! When the females appear slimmer, remove all the breeders, you now have eggs. It will take at least 65 hours for the eggs to hatch, and another 2 days or so till the fry are free swimming. You will see the young, which look like very small slivers of glass clinging to the sides of the tank. When they become free swimming they should be fed infusoria for a few days, followed by powered commercial dry food and baby brine shrimp. If you feed the fry 4-6 times a day in small amounts, they will grow so quickly you may be amazed!
The most common of this group of fish are the Zebra Danio, Pearl Danio, Leopard Danio, Bengal Danio, Giant Danio and of late, the long finned variety of the Zebra, Pearl and Leopard Danios and the newest challenge to breeders, the glow fish variety, created by gene splicing at commercial breeders which come in yellow, orange and many other colors, these are said to be sterile, but there are many reports of home breeding projects resulting in yellow and orange offspring, since these newly developed varieties are true colors not died as many think. Another newer variety, which is quite beautiful and easy to breed, is the Long fin Blue Danio.
BRACHYDANIO RERIO – THE ZEBRA FISH, ZEBRA DANIO
This fish belongs to the family Cyprinidae and originates in the eastern region of India, from where it was imported in 1905, it has been kept and bred by aquarists ever since.
One of the heartiest and best-known of all aquarium fish, the Zebra Fish or Zebra Danio is an active, rapid swimmer who generally remains near the top of the aquarium. The Zebra schools very easily, and groups of five or more are quite an attractive sight. Actually, the term “Zebra” is a misnomer, since the fish has horizontal rather than vertical stripes and blue and gold stripes down the body, not white and black, and the name Danio is also incorrect, since it is a member of the Brachydanio family. But it is such a great aquarium fish we over look the popular name as just another little piece of tropical fish trivia! The Zebra is so hardy and prolific, endures so wide a temperature range is at once so peaceable and vigorously quick and active, and so showy that it is a particularly desirable fish for the home aquarium, and is especially recommended for the inexperienced aquarist wishing an entry level breeding project. Almost nobody can fail to succeed with it!
Less than 2 inches long, this fish is a native of the northeastern section of India and of Ceylon. A portion of dry food is satisfactory for the Zebra, but for best color and health, an occasional portion or live or frozen food is recommended. You can feed this fish once a day or 4 times a day, although only feed it what it can eat in a very short time, because if the food falls to the bottom, Zebras will not retrieve it, they do not eat off the bottom as a rule. This species feeds almost exclusively on the surface, so floating foods are
There is a single difficulty in breeding the Zebra, a difficulty common to most of the carps. That is the disposition to eat their own spawn. The female darts madly across the tank, scattering eggs to right and left, and stooping to swallow them, if she can, before they can sink to the bottom. The breeder must find means to circumvent this habit. As we described earlier, 2 layers of marbles and no more than 4-6 inches of water over the marbles solves this problem! This means that the eggs have a shorter distance to sink in order to reach the bottom of the tank, where they slip between the marbles and are safe from hungry mouths.
The adults should of course be removed from the breeding tank as soon as they have spawned. They swim so rapidly that they are hard to net, and may actually jump right out of the tank while you are trying to net them, but it is necessary to separate them from the eggs and fry. The adults do not attend to the eggs and young fry in any way; they pay no attention to them except to eat them!
It requires only about 48-72 hours for the eggs to hatch at a temperature of 75F-80F, which is the most satisfactory breeding temperature as well. It will be about 5 days from the breeding process when you see the minute fry (they resemble a whisker or sliver of black dust) will be seen darting about and gathering in the corners of the breeding tank. Aeration is necessary at this point. Start feeding the fry infusoria and in a few days supplement that with commercial powered growth food. As soon as the fry will accept it, in about a week to 10 days, start them on baby brine shrimp. The fry grow very quickly and will be up to an inch long in about 6 weeks, if you feed them small amounts 4-6 times a day. After 2 weeks, 10% water changes should be made while slowly raising the level up to the capacity of the tank. Remember to cover the tank with a screen or aquarium hood, as these little fish are jumpers, even as Halflings! A school of young Zebras swimming in fast formation is a glorious sight; enjoy the results of this fascinating breeding project!
BRACHYDANIO ALBOLINEATUS – PEARL DANIO
The easiest way to describe the Pearl Danio is to say that it is a particularly vivid live pearl, darting and scintillating in the water. This may sound uninteresting, but the fish is not, its constant darting about makes it a very attractive addition to any community aquarium. It is approximately 2 ½ inches at maturity in nature, but rarely reaches 2 inches in captive breed specimens. It comes from Siam, Malaya and Burma, where it is very numerous in streams. This is a peaceful and very typical Danio which is very easy to breed. It is pearl-colored with an orange line surmounting a blue line running from the middle of the body back to the tail fin. The female is larger and more rotund than the male and is less highly colored. A golden color variety also occurs in nature, and is marketed as the Golden Pearl. It is a typical member of the Carp family and is much like the Zebra Danio in its habits and breeding activities, since it is so closely related it is sometimes considered a variation rather than a sepreat species.
BRACHYDANIO FRANKEI – GOLDEN DANIO, LEOPARD DANIO
This fish belongs to the family Cyprinidae and its origins are not exactly known. According to some sources it originates in India, according to others it is an artificial hybrid developed by crossbreeding some time in the 1920’s. There will probably never be a clear answer, and today there is a well established blue long fin version which is extremely beautiful and breeds true. It has also been suggested that it could actually be a naturally occurring hybrid rather than a distinct species, the Zebra Danio (B. Rerio) and the Pearl Danio (B. Albolineatus). Certainly, the Leopard Danio will hybridize readily with both these species in aquarium surroundings. It can be a very interesting and satisfying project to cross several different Danio and see what you come up with, not quite as infinite variety of choices as, for instance, the Guppy, but a challenging project non-the-less. With practice and time, you may actually develop a unique line, which you can introduce as your private breed!
First marketed and imported from India as the Leopard Danio in 1963, it is blue-gray in color, covered in dark irregular spots. The female is larger and plumper when mature, with a silvery-colored belly. Its breeds the same way as the Zebra Danio, not a difficult spawner at all…
DANIO BALABARICUS – GIANT DANIO
This fish belongs to the family Cyprinidae and was first imported in 1909. As its name suggests, this is the largest of the Danios; it used to be known under the scientific name of Danio Malabaricus. The Giant Danios originates from southwestern parts of India and Sri Lanka. It is pale blue in color with three or four pale yellow stripes or blotches running down the sides of its body. The dominant individuals in a group of these fish will be the dominate male, and this fish should be selected for breeding.
Further, the body is slim, elongated, strongly compressed at the sides, and up to 4 inches long. The back is steel-blue, the flanks greenish, behind the gills there are two to three transverse golden bars, and the sides are decorated with blue and goldfish longitudinal stripes. The male is usually smaller and has more distinctive coloring. In the spawning season he has orange pectoral fin.
In its natural surroundings in India, it is quite common and lives in clear, stagnant and running waters along the Malabar Coast, and grows up to 8 inches in length, but that would be an exceptional specimen even in a large stream. Tank raised specimens will rarely grow larger than 4 inches. The mouth has two sets of barbells, although captive specimens are usually missing the barbells on the upper jaw.
In spite of its large measurements, this fish can be kept with other, smaller species. An extremely peaceful fellow, it is very tolerant of other fishes in its environment. It very much appreciates a little morning sunlight in its tank!
The sexes are easy to tell apart by the slimmer, more attractive appearance of the male, and the “stuffed” belly of the female. This Danio is known for its incredible speed, noticeably faster than that of other species. It is practically impossible to remove this fish from a well planted community tank without creating a great deal of disorder, unless you take its flight direction into account and capture it between the net and the receiving jar or second net.
The breeders, 1 female and 2 females should be conditioned on live food and kept separately for 7 to 10 days. Set up the breeding tank (at least 10 gallons, though 15 or 20 long is ideal) the same as with Zebra Danios, with the marble bottom, however, the water depth needs to be 8 inches, and you must add several nice clumps of fine leaved plants. The manner of fertilizing the eggs is characteristic of other Danios, and a steady temperature of 75F t0 79F is great. However, during mating, the male pushes himself against the female and brings his anal fin, which he has rolled up into a kink of a bag, under the female’s anus. The eggs are caught in this “bag” and are fertilized at once. The male then scatters the fertilized eggs among the plants. The number of eggs per meeting is small – only 5 to 20, but this process is repeated many times over about a 2 hour period and a total of 200 to as many as 400 eggs are produced fertilized and laid.
The eggs are clear as glass, not adhesive, so most will fall through the plants into the marble base and be fully protected from the breeders. The eggs measure about 1mm in diameter, much larger than the Zebra and its other close relatives. Once the breeders activities have stopped remove the breeders at once.
After two days after the eggs have been laid, the first young fish appear. Depending on various factors, however, it can take as long as a week before the last egg has hatched out. Temperature is not the least of these factors.
JUST HOW HARDY ARE THE DANIO AND BRACHYDANIO FRY?
I once had an interesting experience with a group of Danio’s I was breeding (a trio of Long fin Blue Leopard Danios). I set up the breeding tank in the usual way, and after a day or so, I was convinced the fish had not bred. I thought, since they were a very fancy strain, something had gone wrong and that they had failed to breed. I returned the breeders to the conditioning tanks, and dumped the water in the tank, setting outside in the cold, about 41F at night for a day, then brought the tank back in to prepare it for breeding again, this time Fire Neons. I decieded not to sterilize the marbles on the bottom and to just fill the tank with fresh aged water. On the evening of the second day, the tank was filled with the aged water, and readied for breeding. The temperature was raised to 75F for breeding the Fire Neons and the breeders introduced the evening of the fourth day. The next morning, when I was observing the behavior of the pair of Fire Neons, I observed hundreds of slivers hanging from the glass sides of the tank. Not knowing what was actually going on I removed the Fire Neons. I did not know if the fry were fast hatching Neons or what? I decided to raise the fry and as the days passed other fry appeared.
I raised the young and both the Blue Longfined Leopard Danios and Fire Neons grew up happy and healthy together! This shows that the fry of the Bracydanio and Danios species are much heartier than anyone could have expected, left with nothing but the slightest amount of moisture for over 24 hours and exposed to temperatures as low as 41F, the eggs survived and hatched with no ill effects. Further, that the fry learn to survive in adversity, even when combined at birth with other species!
ONE LAST NON-ADHESIVE EGG SCATTERER PROJECT – TANICHTHYS ALBONUBES – WHITE CLOUD MOUNTAIN MINNOW
The White Cloud Mountain minnow is the answer to the beginning breeders dreams. It is a fish that has everything: great color with distinct and unique markings and accents, hardy disposition – able to wistand a large range of temperatures and water conditions, graceful swimmer, no aggressive tendencies but stands up for itself, breeds easily yet does not usually eat either its eggs or its young, happily eats almost anything, it seems to have utterly no fault for the beginning breeder!
Somewhat like the Neon Tetra, this fish has a fascinating history. It was discovered in 1932 by a Chinese boy scout named Tan, in the White Cloud Mountains near Canton, China. It is from this Scout that the species takes its generic name of Tanichthys. Similar to the spotted Danio in size and shape, it was originally classified as a Brachydanio species. Lin Shu-Yen, head of the Fisheries Experiment Station, at Canton, named the fish Tanichthys aalbonubes. Lin, gave it a name that was self-explanatory; Tan, discoverer; ichthys, Tan’s fish; Albonubes, meaning White Cloud.
The Chinese aquarists were so enthustic about the beauty of the fish that they fished out the streams where it had been found to the extent that the species was in danger of extinction. Happily it bred in captivity like flies, and interested persons were enabled to restock the White Cloud Mountain streams with domestically bred fish! Dr. William T. Innes was justified in writing that this fish is “the Guppy among the egg-layers.” The White Cloud Mountain minnows were once known as the “poor mans Neon” because the young specimens are so brightly colored, though this Neon-like color fades with age and maturity. The fish got this nickname at a time when Neons were not yet commercially bred and when the price of a Neon could approach the price of the tank itself. The easy to breed White Cloud was a mere fraction of the price, and much less demanding to keep, since it needed no heater, and was so forgiving with water conditions. This unique fish can even be kept, and will sometimes reproduce, in a goldfish bowl!
The genus of this fish includes no other species. The White Cloud is about one and one quarter inches in length, though it can grow to 2 inches in nature or a large backyard pond, has a near-silver body with bright horizontal stripes of blue and gold from eye to tail, at the set-on of which is a distinct dark spot. The dorsal fin of the male is vivid red, margined first with gold and above that with blue. The female is somewhat less colorful. In recent years a gold version with much fins of a very rich red and a body that glistens completely gold has been made available, breeds true and is similarly easy to keep and breed. Bare in mind that this fish is a jumper, you should always, especially when breeding this fish, keep the tank covered at all times. In its natural habitat, this little fish traverses waterfalls, rapids and jumps from pool to pool as a natural course, it is not unusual at all to introduce 10 fine specimens into an uncovered tank, observe how happy and healthy they are, only to come in the room the next morning to find 7 or 8 of them have jumped out to the floor! It is probably not your fault, they prone to jump out of a pool; to them the new tank is a pool. Cover their quarters or you will lose these highly active little fish!
It has never been conclusively determined just how wide a range of temperature the White Cloud Mountain carp (for it is a carp, not a minnow) can endure. It flourishes equally well at 40F and 90F, and breeds freely from 70F to 80F. It has vast numbers of young which hatch about 24 hours after the spawn is dropped. Stranger still for carp, neither parent eats eggs or fry! Young and old complacently eat anything fine enough for them to get in their small mouths and swallow. It seems to thrive equally well in a bare tank or a planted one. The young develop the bright colors of the mature fish when they are only a month old and reach a breeding age at six months or less. The fish is lively, never shy, and never attacks or injures members of its own kind or other species, is even an ideal tank mate for guppies and their fry! If there are other virtues not mentioned here, the White Cloud probably displays them. Quite simply, this is an ideal species of fish!
As if this were not enough, the White Cloud is a prolific breeder in the Danio fashion, yet they do even better with a well planted tank. To determine sex, mature fish must be used. The males have larger more colorful fins, while the female is paler and full round around the body. Myriophyllum is suggested as the ideal plant, and you should place 2 or 3 clumps in the breeding tank. A 5 or 10 gallon tank may be used with newly aged water which is slightly alkaline, and heated to about 78F-80F. Marbles are un-necessary but ok as a substrate; as is sand, gravel, pebbles or a completely bare bottom, as the White Cloud does not actively eat their eggs or fry. It is best to use 2 males and 1 female or 3 males and 2 females. The breeders should be condition separately on live and frozen foods for 7 to 10 days, and here is the difference from other species, in water about 68F-72F. When the female or females are fully plump, introduce them into the warmer breeding tank about 1 hour before the males in the evening. Breeding will take place starting the next morning, and continue for 3 to 5 days!
The courtship is not nearly as active as most species. The males do not chase after the females, but appear calm about the whole affair. After trembling heavily, the female distributes a few extremely tiny eggs at a time and these remain hanging on the fine leaved plants. The male swims close to the female, but there is no embrace or hook attachment, he just fertilizes the eggs as they come out of the female, and then moves on. This will continue off and on for days. If you chose to have the breeding in a fully set up tank, you can leave the breeders in the tank, and the whole process will repeat in about 2 weeks, by this time fry from the first batch will be free swimming and well along, soon you will have 2 or 3 distinct sizes of thriving fry, and the breeders just keep on breeding! If all are well fed, the tank may well soon become over crowded. Commercial breeders often favor spawning these fish communally. This is best done using a thickly planted large tank or an old tub or sink, the surface of the water being covered with a 1 inch thick layer of Riccia. Then with an enamel soup-ladle the Riccia is pressed down each morning, and the tiny fry scooped up by the hundreds and transferred to small tanks to growing out.
ANOTHER SUMMER POND BREEDING PROJECT
One last note on a fun project, like the several of the Live-bearers, the White Cloud can be bred successfully in an out door pond over the summer months. However, they should be introduced in small numbers earlier in the spring, remember 50F water temperature is no hardship for this fish. As the temperature rises and summer approaches, you will see many different sizes of fry around the surface plants and the edges of the pond. You may even have fun with a hose, White clouds are crazy about running water, and you may notice the White Clouds trying to swim up the stream of cold tap water filling the pond, especially if you let the hose stream poor down the sloped side of the pond! It is suggested that White Clouds be the only species other than catfish and snails, since, though they will not eat their eggs and fry, others will be most happy too! The resulting offspring of the original breeders at the end of the summer will be larger than usual, more colorful than tank raised fish and in numbers too large to manage! In most cases it is not necessary to feed the fish or fry in an outdoor pond situation, since infusoria is abundant for the fry and water flees, etc. are the natural staple of the adult White Clouds! Talk about a maintenance free summer fun breeding project!