Select Aquatics of Erie, CO.                                                                                                                                                    
                 Fishkeeping Tips 11- Breeding These Fish

     Breeding is the ultimate proof of your success as a fishkeeper of any fish, and it also guarantees
     that you will have a community of the fish that will interact in a more natural and comfortable
     environment. To most easily breed any of the fish found at this site, you will need to provide:

     - A basically clean environment with quality food and consistent water changes of at least 20%
     weekly. Live foods (Brine shrimp, Earthworms, Daphnia etc.) are not essential to get these fish
     to spawn, but feeding any of these foods will greatly increase overall health, healthy young and 
     larger in number, more frequent broods. Your total control over the breeding environment through
     keeping the tank clean and well maintained works best, and assures the greatest yields.

     -The population density of the tank should be carefully considered for consistent water quality,
     low stress and healthiest conditions, as well as holding down on predation of fry.

     -The fish need to feel secure, so the tank should have some plants to hide in, as well as provide
     hiding places for fry. If you want your fish to spawn regularly, the aquarium should be away from
     constant traffic and activity- the fish offered at this website will all mostly breed anyway, but likely
     not as often.

     -Be aware the pH and hardness of the water you will be using. The fish here are raised in standard
     city water with a pH of 7.4 and a hardness of about 100 ppm. I keep a thin layer of calcium
     carbonate (crushed coral works as well) with livebearers new to the room or that seem to benefit
     from added hardness, though it is not truly necessary. I occasionally use it because I want them to
     breed as normally and often as possible, and most livebearers generally prefer harder water.

     - Make sure you have a pair, and make sure they are old enough to breed. Those may sound
     obvious, but those are the two main reasons when breeding fails.

     Fry of all species cannot compete with the adults in a tank for food, nor do they wish to, as
     instinct and experience causes them to stay hidden away from the common areas. Even for
     fish that generally do not eat their fry, the fry do not do well when left to grow up in the
     adult's tank. For this reason, if females have not already been removed to a heavily planted
     safe tank to drop their fry (and removed shortly after having done so), then young need to
     be caught and raised separately to ensure appropriate growth. If you wish to increase your
     numbers, and raise only the healthiest fish, raising the fry separately where they can benefit
     from easy to access to better foods is essential.

     Lastly, keep in mind that most fish breed consistently when they are healthy, of breeding age,
     well fed, and in appropriate, consistent water. Egg layer females must be carrying eggs, obvious
     from a fuller, rounder size, possibly following a period of increased feeding. Livebearers can
     breed at any time, but some species will breed seasonally, ceasing to breed from about 
     September until April. Generally, especially with livebearers, the actual breeding happens 
     easily, the challenge comes in raising the young fry. Livebearer fry are generally
     considered the easiest to raise, and the routine for both livebearer and egg layer fry is 
     covered in Breeding Livebearers and Breeding Puntius padamya.

     Click on each pic at left to enlarge.


     -Many of the livebearers will hybridize with other members of the same genus. Pet store red
     swordtails are the product of careful hybridization between the X. helleri (wild swordtail)
     and Poecilia maculata (a wild platy), done many years ago in the early years of the hobby.
     Most swordtails found commercially in pet stores today are hybrids. As well, X. montezumae,
     for example, will cross with the X. helleri and X. alvarezi also found at this site. The
     goodeids will also hybridize, though the offspring produced are often infertile,
     as is the case with many crosses.

     When you wish to create a hybrid between fish of different species, there are obstacles
     to be overcome that make the process more difficult than might be expected. A female platy
     released into a tank of helleri swords, for example, is no guarantee of platy/ swordtail fry.
     Beginning with the work of Glen Takeshita in the 1960's and most recently, Roy Levine at
     Cornell University, artificial insemination of livebearer tropical fish has been perfected
     and used, but other means can be used first to encourage hybridization.

     A male will prefer a female of their own species over a female of another, even closely
     related species. The gonopodium structure in males of even closely related species can
     differ substantially from males of other species, and this structure is used as a means
     to identify species- the structures are consistent, and may make insemination between
     separate species difficult or impossible. If you are determined to cross two species
     that are not known to cross, this may be the reason. Some who have created hybrids from
     a number of species, and who may be looking for specific traits, may prefer the male to be
     of one species and the female to be the other. This can only be determined through practice,
     depending on the trait you are breeding for and the results that you receive. Generally
     breed the fish you wish to cross in trios (One male, 2 female), and possibly have two sets
     (male of one, females of the other) going at the same time to compare results. And be
     patient- establishing a trait can easily take years..

     Lastly, the traits you are hoping for may only appear in a few of the fry produced, so
     all young should be raised with extra care so that each fry produced can be raised up
     and evaluated. Then choose the healthiest individuals as breeders for each generation.
     Be aware that hybridizing for the sake of doing so is generally frowned upon, as you
     don't want the hybrids getting out into the hobby as pure species, so breed and release
     them carefully!


     Mutations occur far more frequently than people assume. The secret to mutations doesn't
     involve increasing the liklihood that a mutation will occur, but instead, developing mutations
     comes down to carefully collecting and raising as many fry of every spawn as possible, so
     when a mutation appears you don't miss it. Occasional albinos and leucistics, because they
     are obvious in a group, don't survive long in the wild and rarely escape being picked
     on in the aquarium. In fact, albinism, when it first appears, may also affect the animal
     in other ways. Albino mutations generally need to be isolated immediately, not only for their
     safety but because they are often smaller and may have other problems, such as air bladder
     development issues that they will need to recover from. The most common mutations are various
     degrees of leucistic appearance (where they may be almost transparent, white, cream colored,
     yellow, gold, or grey colored with various degrees of absence of normal markings, all with
     black, normal eyes) These fish are often hardier and more consistently fertile than albinos.
     (The alfaro cultratus, for example, produces an amber leucistic fish with strange, nearly
     all silver eyes that are generally all males. However, these amber colored males and females
     produced so far have been infertile.) The next would be number of stripes differences, 
     edgings or bars appearing or that are missing, intensity of color variations, and lastly, fin
     extension mutations. Especially large or small sizes are not considered mutations but
     expressions that are normal within the genetic makeup of the fish. In the few rare times
     when large or small size was well beyond the normal genetic expression, and truly a
     mutation, the fish that resulted were infertile.

     Not all mutations occur in all fish at a set rate. Certain species produce albinos fairly
     routinely, some very rarely, and some may never. For example, the wild line of X. alvarezi
     throws albinos regularly and has for over 20 years. Though the albino line is kept separate,
     the wild line still continues to produce them. The X. helleri has produced albino mutations
     that are well represented in the hobby, and an albino X. mayae occurred here about a year ago.
     I had bred and raised up about 1000 of them to get that first albino, which is not very many
     when each drop numbers about 30 to 40 fish. In contrast, the X. montezumae has yet to produce
     an albino, though each of these species are within the same genus. I am also waiting for an
     albino Odessa barb, or better yet, a gold (leucistic) fish that will continue to possess
     the black markings in the fins with the intense red stripe. But of the many thousands
     produced here in the last 5 years there have never been any albinos, or any degree of
     leucistic coloration in any of the Odessas.

     The process to increase your liklihood of getting mutations is simply to raise large numbers
     of a species that are kept as healthy as possible, where females are removed when gravid into
     comfortable, smaller breeding tanks with lots of fine leaved plants for the fry to hide in.
     (Java moss is perfect). With livebearers, the females are removed from the breeding tank as
     soon as you notice she has slimmed down, or fry can be seen swimming in the tank. Most
     livebearers will drop their fry between sunup and noon. It takes about 45 minutes for a female
     to have her fry, so generally, if you see one, you can assume she has already dropped the
     entire batch. If you are not sure, place her in another small container to finish having her
     fry, or check back on her in about a half hour. Carefully remove a majority of the plants,
     and start feeding prepared newly hatched baby brine shrimp, later followed by 50% daily water
     changes if a 5 gallon or less size tank is used. After 1-2 days, move any albinos, odd colored
     fish or alive, but less healthy fish to their own breeders at this time to raise separately.
     For more information on raising mutations, such as how to breed to develop a trait, click here.

     Most fish will breed, but it is the raising of the fry that matters. Fortunately, livebearer young,
     particularly the goodeids, are the easiest of fry to raise.

     Of the fish offered at this site, some may spawn only 5 to a dozen at a time, (Many of the goodeids
     such as Z. tequila). The Odessa barbs spawn hundreds, but the process is far more involved and
     labor intensive to get more than a small percentage of the fry to survive to adulthood.

     With the swords, the trick is to get as many of the young as possible into their own small tanks where
     they can be monitored and fed properly. With all of the fish, water quality for the fry and proper
     food, when they need it, are the biggest issues to deal with. 
     Your experience will begin with what's written here, but what makes it challenging and interesting is
     that your conditions- water parameters, filtration, water changes, type and amount of food fed,
     temperature, light, and of course the species you choose to work with will dictate your experience.
     At first young may die, particularly with the barbs. All that a pair needs to do is produce 2 adults
     over the course of their entire life. Life is both tenuous and fragile when you are a new fry. As a
     breeder you must learn how to keep them going in spite of the tremendous odds going against
     them. To pass on the information I have accumulated, I have broken down the specifics to two


      Breeding the Livebearers Found at This Site


      Check out the Section on Breeding the Puntius padamya "Odessa"


                    Back to Previous Tip                                                              To Next Tip



                        A 4 day old Puntius padamya "Odessa" barb. Notice its
                       heart just ahead of the left lower portion of the air bladder.




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  Top pic- This is what you work for.
  Odessa fry at about 3 weeks.

  2nd pic- These tanks contain only
  gravid females and new
  livebearer fry.

  3rd pic- Home made breeders such
  as this are invaluable.

  4th pic- Odessas don't begin to sex
  out until this size (6 mos).
  Click here for an enlarged
  version to see how males
  begin to color up.



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