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Living With The Angels
by Bill "Pegasus NZ" of New Zealand

It was the twelfth of January when I saw yet another clutch of eggs neatly laid upon the uplift tube on my U/G filter, and having previously set up a two foot cascade tank next to my big tank with my breeding pairs of Angels in, I quickly removed the tube along with the parents, and placed them in the cascade tank. I was hoping they would care for the eggs, which they did for two days, but then the eggs were gone without warning. As I mentioned elsewhere, the cascade tank did have a large crack in it, which I repaired with a piece of glass and lots of silicone. I placed several objects in the cascade (cum breeding) tank, as I knew they would spawn again shortly. A flat rock was added at an angle, plus a selection of broad leaved plants.

By the 22nd they had spawned again, and had decided to use the layer of silicone I had spread over the tank repair. By the 24th, there were around a dozen eggs fungused, but I left them to tend to them and didn't interfere. There looked to be several hundred good eggs still attached, and the adults were constanly changing places to do their duty as they flapped their fins in front of the cluster.

By the 25th I could see the mass of wriggling fry still attached to the silicone patch, but by the 26th there was not a fry to be seen. I searched the tank in vain, but could not see any life apart from the adults. There was a plant with five broad leaves (unknown) and several new smaller leaves coming out of the centre, and that night as I was about to turn the lights out I spotted the fry on one of the drooping leaves of this plant. I switched on the low voltage light that I leave on during the night if the fish have eggs to care for, and turned the main lights out. By the morning of the 27th the fry had gone once more, with no sign of them anywhere, and I presumed they had been eaten, but later that day they appeared once more on the next leaf on the plant. Later that day the fry were moved once more. I watched as the parents picked several up in their mouths and tranferred them to the next leaf on the plant. They did this until every last one was in its new location. By this time the fry had almost consumed their egg sacs and were doing little hops up and down the leaf, with some dropping to the bottom of the bare bottomed tank only to be smartly picked up by the angry parent and blown back into the cluster of fry that seemed to be straining to stay on the leaf.

At this point I fed some newly hatched brine shrimp, and the parents along with the fry gorged themselves, although I would think that the shrimp would be of little value to the adults. I feed the parents only flake food at this time, as any wriggling live food (mozzie larve) would be swallowed quickly without thought, and possibly some fry that were mistaken for mozzies. By the evening of the 28th, the fry are spilling off the leaf with many hanging in bunches about the size of a pea below the leaf, and the parents are constantly rushing around picking up any strays that may have wandered off.

Meanwhile, in the main big tank, another pair has decided to spawn. No surprise, as I have had three spawnings going all at the same time, but up to now have had nowhere to put them. This is a strange pair, as the female is around seven inches tip to tip, and the male is around three inch tip to tip. This pair also lays like clockwork, every ten days, but as yet have not had the opportunity to raise a spawn.

There are no secrets to spawning these fish (provided you have a pair that is), and the best way to get your pairs is by buying several young, preferably in two batches so they are from seperate breeders. Feed them the right foods and they will soon pair off once they get to breeding age. If you notice either one or both of your fish starting to clean a certain area of the tank, then this is a sure sign that they are due to spawn. My water is slightly acid and around 6.8pH, but an odd point either side of pH7 will do if the fish are healthy. I feed several times a week with mozzie larvae, white worms and a good selection of flake foods.

As mentioned above, I leave a small low wattage light on while the parents are looking after the eggs or young. This light is just a simple car tail-light bulb running from a plug-in type power pack. Mine has variable voltages (DSE), so that I can make the light either bright or really low, but any small light will do. Many breeders don't even use a light, and still manage to raise the fry. Start your brine shrimp going after the fifth day of the eggs being laid. This gives time for the little guys to dispose of the egg sac.

I've been lucky and managed to finish up with several pairs, but if you spawn these fish, but then find that they eat the eggs, give them another chance or two. In good condition, they will spawn every ten days, and inexperienced pairs need a few tries before they get it right. Move the parents on after around four or five days, or sooner if fry numbers start to diminish. Feed them at the opposite end of the tank to the fry if possible and make sure they are never hungry enough to start eating the fry. Feed them well on good foods once they are moved and they will be ready to spawn again shortly. Avoid disturbing the tank if possible, and likewise avoid sudden noises and disturbances that may stress the parents into eating their eggs or fry.

Like all the Cichlids, watching the parents swimming with hundreds of young is a sight worth waiting for, and one you never get tired of seeing.

Day seven, the 29th. By now all the fry are fully free swimming and have vacated the once lush green broad leaved plant for other locations. A restricted area for the nursery has been picked by the adults at the rear of the tank, and the adult pair seem to be constantly pushing and arranging the group into some form of order. The parents work endlessly as the group of fry scatter and go their seperate ways, but the vigilant parents soon have them herded back together once more... at least for a few moments. Another few seem to have escaped the pack, and in a mad series of jerky dashes the parent rushes at each one and promptly swallows them into the confines and safety of its mouth. She then reverses slowly back to the group, picking the odd straggler up on her way, and with a slight chewing motion she spits the captured fry back into the fold where they then seem to be chastised for leaving the group.

Dinner arrives, and millions of tiny shrimp flood the tank sending the fry scattering in all directions and into a feeding frenzy. The adult pair try frantically to bring the group back to order, but the young are gorging themselves on the newly arrived feast. With bellies now full, the fry wander aimlessly around the tank until they are snapped up once more to be returned to the furthest corner of the tank. Here some semblance of order is restored, and the corner nursery once again quivers with the huge heads and bulging bellies of hundreds of tiny occupants. The group is now quiet, and as one parent moves off the group seems to split into two packs, but then the parent swims backward toward the others and the pack regroups. The parents relax slightly as the huge group of several hundreds settle down once more, but suddenly some remnnants of dinner are spotted and a few adventurous fry break from the pack, followed by the angry parent. This small action creates a mini explosion within the group as they once again begin to split in all directions. The parents seem to be quivering with anger. "Here we go again..." they seem to be saying as the group once more begins to scatter.

The Following Days.

The fry are now becoming unruly and quite large, and the parents are exhausted from their constant vigil. "I'm pretty worn out" says one. "Me too," says the other. "I'm feeling a little peckish," says the first. "My thoughts exactly," says the female as she promptly swallows a few fry, but a large net suddenly breaks the surface and scoops up the astonished pair. "Mmmm.... Looks like we may have to start again," says the male as he is dropped into the new tank with the startled other. "Let's give it a few days can we... I've got a headache" says the female. "Excuses, excuses.... that's all I ever hear.... excuses," says the male as they settle into the breeding tank once more.

 

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