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Pterophyllum scalare
by Kaycy Ruffer at

In 1988 I tried spawning Angelfish. A good friend of mine in Red Bluff, he owned the local pet shop at the time, told me the best thing to do was to hatch and raise the fry myself.

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He eventually sold his pet store to one of his employees so he could spend all his time breeding Angelfish for the area wholesalers. I tried my hand at breeding the beautiful Angelfish again. I had put the slate in a 10-gallon tank. Placed an air stone by the slate with the side containing the eggs facing down. The air flow was slow with a sponge filter at the opposite end of the tank for filtration. In Corning my pH was 8.0 and my hardness was more than 400 ppms. It still had not turned blue with 40 drops so I quit putting in the drops! I kept the temperature at 78° F.

The eggs were definitely fertile and began hatching. This is when I would begin having problems. Part of the fry would die soon after hatching while others had no/or deformed ventral fins as they got older. I tried several different ways suggested to me to alleviate this problem but to no avail. I thought to myself that I just did not have the knack for breeding and raising Angelfish.

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So here I am again, in 1993.

I was given a breeding pair of gold veil-tail Angels from a friend of mine that I met at an aquarium club meeting. I set them up in a 30-gallon bare bottom tank with a piece of slate positioned at an angle to the back of the tank. I also put a plastic plant in the tank for the parents to transfer the fry.

Two hours later the pair started cleaning the slate. Two and a half hours after this the pair began spawning! My friend said they were ready to spawn and she was not kidding! They spawned for almost one and a half.

The next day I noticed the female picking at what seemed off-white eggs and then noticed that she was also consuming the good eggs! Immediately I removed the pair to another tank. Then I placed the slate into a small mesh net to hang near the air flow.

Half the eggs that remained also turned white. When I tested the water, I discovered an ammonia buildup. I "talked" to the pair and told them I realized they knew what they were doing and I did not. I did a 50% water change while cleaning the gravel. I refilled the tank with 80° F. water and added a heater to maintain the temperature. I removed the breeder pair and found 25 fry. I left the survivors to grow out and fed them newly hatched brine shrimp once they were free swimming.

Two weeks later, after I removed the fry, I checked the ammonia level and it was at zero. I then added the breeders and their spawning slate.

Now all I had to do was just sit back and wait for nature to take its course again. Two more days and I noticed the parents were cleaning the broad leaves of a plastic Amazon plant. The pair continually cared for the eggs. It was a sight to behold! Picking the white (non fertilized) eggs off the cone and fanning the good eggs with their pectoral fins. At times when the female cared for the eggs she became agitated when the male came near. Other times she let him care for the eggs. When the adults remove the white eggs, it was interesting to watch how gentle they were at removing ONLY the white ones (most of the time) while they are encircled by fertile eggs. I was hoping to be able to watch the fry hatch and the parents transfer them to the plastic plant leaves they have been cleaning.

Two and a half days later I noticed the parents taking eggs into their mouths! Not again I thought to myself. It was ok. The eggs were hatching and the parents were placing their babies on the plastic plant leaves. I could not help laughing watching the male. He would take a mouthful of fry and spray them onto the slate but the parents were hard pressed to keep up as the fry continually kept falling to the bottom of the tank. As I continued to watch the parents, I couldn't stop laughing. The female was taking the fry from the slate and placing them on the leaf while the male was taking the fry FROM the leaf to put them onto the slate!

After about an hour the pair appeared to be in a heated "argument." A real tug-of-war. I finally separated the pair. I removed the female and then called the woman I got the pair from and told her what was happening. She said it was normal. The pair was just arguing over whose turn it was to take care of the fry. She said it was perfectly normal but that if I did want to separate the pair, each adult would make a great parent by themselves. I removed the female.

The newly hatched fry were cared for by the male. He moved the fry several more times before the fry were free swimming. This took another six days.

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As he would move them, it appeared he was "bathing" them before putting them elsewhere. Once the fry became free swimming I began feeding them newly hatched brine shrimp. I removed the male. I kept the temperature at 80° F. The pH was 7.2 with a hardness of 75 ppms. At two to three weeks of age the fry started taking on the beginning shape of the parents. At four weeks the fry were miniatures of the adults.

The parents were fed live tubifex worms. I found the best way to set up the parents was with a bare bottom tank and a sponge filter. The tank was bare bottom for two reasons: One because I would feed them live tubifex worms and the fish would be unable to get to the worms because the worms would dig into the gravel. The second reason being that when the eggs began to hatch part of the fry would fall to the gravel and the parents were unable to find the fallen fry. After three weeks I began adding finely ground flakes to the babies diet.

The above story is from 1992 - 1993. Since I have moved and had loaned them to another friend in the club for them to try their hand at spawning them, I no longer have this pair. I moved around for a few months and was never able to set my fish room up again during this time. In February of 1994, I moved into a one bedroom duplex and set the bedroom up as the fish room. I didnt get back into breeding Angelfish at this time though. Since then I moved in with a friend in July of 1996 who was also keeping fish but not on the scale I was. He had only two tanks. He already had a pair of Silver Angels spawning for him. The pair even took care of the fry after free swimming but only for a short period. When I moved into his apartment, it had to be rearranged to house my 70 + tanks (1100 gallons plus). This meant that his breeders had to be removed from the living room and I placed them in the fish room in a 20-gallon tank.

The first batch was eaten by the parents. The second batch of eggs we removed but had no luck in hatching them. I thought we were going back to the very beginning many years ago where I was unable to successfully hatch/raise any Angel fry. I set up a 10-gallon tank with fresh water that had been sitting for two days with air and a fairly new sponge filter. (I left bacteria in the sponge filter.) I placed the spawning cone in the tank toward the front where I could get pictures of the eggs and fry. It was also easier to keep an eye on them. After three days there were almost 300 fry stuck to the cone, each other, in groups on the bottom of the cone and on the bare bottom of the tank. (We later lost this pair to a disease that nearly wiped out all our Angel stock. We had a total of two angels survive the ordeal. A male and female!)

One of the photos I got back was of the tube of a suspected male Angelfish that was constantly spawning with a known female without any viable eggs being produced.

After I received my photos back and began looking closely at them, I realized that the pair was actually two females! There is an egg in the tip of the ovipositor about to be laid. I put this female with a known male and he is shown in Fig. 2. Now, I will not always trust looking at the vents to tell which one is a male or female. If I have viable eggs then I know I have a pair. Then it is easy to tell the sexes apart from one another. (We lost these two females to the disease that wiped out most of our angels.)

We were lucky enough to find another great breeding pair of Angels. This pair was by accident. In February and March of 1997 we were having some type of disease going through our fish room and we had lost at least 10 pairs of breeder angels! (It was only attacking our Angelfish.) In a 20-gallon tank a female Angelfish had recently lost her mate. In the tank next to her was a male that lost his mate. This female was one of our fry from a year ago and was actually one of the fry from the batch of eggs and is a regular finned marble. The male is a gold long finned double veil tail. I was so disgusted about all the fish we had recently lost that I just threw the female into the tank next to her with this male.

I had not given any thought how well these two fish would get along. I did not even know if they would take care of their eggs or fry? - They not only took fantastic care of their new family but continued to spawn a week after the first batch of fry were free swimming and took care of this next batch of young as well.

Ok, how long can they keep this up? I only went as far as three spawns. I took a lot of photos because I didnt think anyone would believe me. The pair didnt harm the eggs or fry but the fry from the first spawn were so much larger than the newest group that they began eating their tiny siblings. We would laugh and joke about the pair of Angels having learned this technique from a pair of breeding Neolamprologus sp. "Daffodil" that was house in a tank next to them.

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This pair to this day is still trying to have more kids than they know what to do with. I have started taking the fry of the first batch after they have been free swimming a week. I would place them into tanks on either side of their parents so the parents can see them. The parents stayed to the side of the tank where the fry were and the fry would stay near the glass where their parents were. It was very interesting to watch. They never ceased to amaze me.

One of my photos shows the beating heart of one of the newly hatched fry on the spawning cone.

In a close - up photo of a day old fry there is not be much of a body compared to the yolk sac. I noticed a lot of black speckled markings on the yolk sac. I have found these markings to be identifiable to specific species of cichlid. No two markings or spot patterns are the same in any two species as with human fingerprints.

The wrigglers are connected to the spawning cone by invisible threads that are attached to the top of their little heads. At the age of five days old, the invisible thread is gone and the fry begin to fall from the spawning cone. At the age of two weeks the fry begin to lose the torpedo shape they have and begin changing to the oval shape of the adults. They may look deformed at this stage but are not.
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