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.