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A Rheophilic Suprise, Steatocranus bleheri
by Dave Hansen

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I wish I could truthfully report that tranquility continued in the tank, but at about six months of age, the carnage began. It seemed in one week that each time I turned the tank lights on, I found a dead fish. Death and destruction would occur in quick fashion. A fish would look great one moment, with finnage intact and swimming around normally only to be dead an hour later. My group of eight was now down to three. Two of them were about the same size and one was the runt of the group. The two larger ones did not exhibit any physical differences and I had no idea if they were either males, either females, or one of each. I kept a close eye on them in case I needed to separate the two, but peace settled back in and they continued to grow. While the rate of growth was equivalent, one of the cichlids began developing a small hump on his head. It was shortly after this that they began to gravitate together towards one side of the tank and kept the runt at bay on the other side.

Fin Underwater Fish Marine biology Tail

At the one year mark (almost exactly), the female disappeared into a breeding log for an extended period of time. The fact that they might be breeding had not occurred to me. They had not developed what I would consider a tight pair bond. The male was content to hover above a rock on his end of the aquarium, keeping his eye on everything in the breeding site. About a week later, I was shocked to see fry swimming around the entrance of the log. I immediately began feeding crushed flake and frozen cyclops. The fry were very shy and would not venture out to get the food. They eagerly ate when the small particles floated into their abode. I still had no idea how large the spawn was at this time. I would see about ten fry at any one time in the opening of the breeding log. After about a week of this passive behavior, they began to venture out a bit. The total brood numbered 40 fry. The male was content to hover above his brood and occasionally would scoot off to grab a fry that had ventured too far away. He would grab the baby in his mouth and deposit it back to the spawning site. The runt of the original group exhibited some aggressive posturing on his side of the tank and killed a few fry. The male had enough of this and kept him pinned in the corner for a number of days. Lesson learned! Once the juveniles gained some size, the runt lost his taste for the dominance war and swam around with the young ones. The fry from that first spawn have now outgrown the runt.

Head Eye Terrestrial animal Marine biology Fish

My first goal was to get these beautiful fish into the hands of some of my fellow hobbyist. I donated six fry to our local clubs Breeder Award Program and gave out all but. a small number to some others who had expressed interest. In the words of Dr. Paul V. Loiselle, "one should never keep all the eggs in one basket".

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