This is the main tenet of what I call Environmental Enrichment. I like to aquascape with rocks that provide structure and encourage / stimulate natural behavior. Fry will feel more secure and begin to claim and defend favorite locations which all leads to healthy development and reduced stress.
Structure in grow-out tanks may stimulate
natural behaviors in growing fry
For filtration, I use one AquaClear 50 in my 10-gallon nursery tanks and two AC70's in my 55-gallon tanks. One of the reasons for choosing AquaClear filters is that their round intake tube is easily retrofitted with a pre-filter sponge kit. These pre-filter sponges keep mechanical waste from reaching and collecting in the bio media residing inside the filter. Clean the pre-filters during each water change by rinsing them with tank water (or treated tap water) and clean the filter media inside the filter during every other water change (again, rinsing with tank water).
Diet is another key factor for success. For the first few days, I use Hikari First Bites, ideally because it's small enough for the young fry to easily consume. I do not, however, continue to use this food for more than two or three days. After the first few days, I introduce two staple foods: Baby Brine Shrimp (BBS) and my own concoction, Razzo's Staple Flake (RSF). Newly hatched BBS is, in my opinion, the best possible food for new Altolamp fry in captivity. Detailed instructions on how to setup and maintain a BBS hatchery are beyond the scope of this article; however, they are readily available online. When using BBS, it is important to feed your Altolamp fry freshly hatched BBS that still have a visible egg sac; this means feeding them to your Altolamp fry within the first few hours after hatching (BBS hatching that is) for the highest possible nutritional value. A power-feeding regimen seems to work best: feeding modest quantities of BBS (what they can consume within five minutes) at least three times per day is optimal. This is the reason why I set up two BBS hatcheries - so that a new batch of freshly hatched BBS is available at least two different times per day.
For people who do not want to go through the hassle of setting up and maintaining a BBS hatchery, I have fed my fry RSF with good success too (however, it is worth repeating that BBS is best for the early stages). Using a pestle & mortar, grind the following ingredients (in equal proportions) into a powder which is similar in size to the Hikari First Bites: a meat lover's flake high in protein, NLS Grow pellets (0.5mm), freeze dried Mysis, and freeze dried plankton. Again, you will want to power-feed modest quantities of your chosen food at least three to four times each day.
I feed BBS for the first month and in the second month I begin to transition to feeding RSF. By the end of the second month, they are eating RSF exclusively. The first two months of life is the most critical time period. Generally, once you have eclipsed two months, you are "through the woods" and fry survival rates greatly increase. After two months, I begin introducing NLS Grow sinking pellets.
Water changes: For the first two months perform water changes every second or third day. For the first two weeks, use 100% water from the main tank (the tank the parents inhabit). This is why I keep the main tank at very low nitrate levels and these low nitrate levels are achieved, primarily, through frequent large (50%) water changes (BTW: the adult Altolamps will love this water change regimen). Make sure the water temperature in main tank is the same as the water in the nursery tank 78-80 °F.
After the first two weeks, I begin to mix in treated (dechlorinated & buffered) and tempered (78-80 °F) tap water with water from the main tank for my water changes. Initially, the mixture will be 80% main tank water & 20% tempered & treated new water. I temper and treat new water, from the tap, in a separate reservoir tank for at least a day before use (air stones in the reservoir tank will help circulate and mix the new water). Increase the percentage of new water vs. main tank water gradually so that by the end of the first two months your "new" water is mostly "new" water (i.e. 80% new water to 20% main tank water).
The volume of water for these water changes is: 25% the first two weeks, increasing to 40% by eight weeks. After the eight weeks, water change frequency can be reduced to twice per week.
Vacuum after each feeding with a small diameter syphon tube, removing any visible waste or uneaten food. Inevitably, no matter how hard you try, you will vacuum up a few fry. It is for this reason that I syphon into a white bucket so you can easily net and return any stowaways back to the nursery tank.
During the first two months of life, Altolamp fry are exceptionally hard to keep alive - even for the so-called "experts." Don't allow yourself to become discouraged! Learning to successfully raise Altolamp fry is a process and you have begun that process by doing your research and reading articles like this one. As you master the techniques outlined in this article, you will, in time, greatly increase the survival rates of your Altolamp fry.