Breeding Anabantoids with emphasis on Bettas
Anabantoids are extremely interesting fish. Most anabantoids go through great lengths to prepare a nest site, attract a suitable mate and then place the fertilized eggs into the nest. After the fry hatch generally it is the father that cares for the fry and he chases mom away. As the children start to leave the nest, to explore their surrounding area, dad is kept very busy in protecting the fry, even to attack the hobbyist hand if it gets too close to the nest. You can feel the frustration on the harried father as the little fry start darting away from home. He must try to eat to sustain his strength and health, protect and recapture his fry and spit them back into the nest continuously. It is no wonder that after several days of this hectic activity that he starts to cannibalize his offspring. I’m sure that many of us have thought the same with human offspring – remember the terrible two’s?
I deviate from the story. Anabantoids can be separated into three distinct classes:
- Bubble nest builders – Examples of these are the majority of gouramies and betta splendens (Siamese Fighting fish).
- Submerged plant nest builders – Examples are betta brownorum, betta coccina, betta tussyae and betta livida. From Africa there is the centopoma species.
- Mouth brooders – They include betta channoides, betta albimargineta, betta unamaculatum and betta macrostoma,
The bubble nest builders I have found to be the easiest to spawn. Bubble nest builders build their nest to impress and attract a female to spawn with them. I generally have a Styrofoam cup cut vertically so the long side is now in half. I let that sit in a shallow tank, such as a 10 gallon with 6 – 9 inches of water at neutral pH (7.0) and a temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Water in Brooklyn comes from the tap soft (3-4GH) and neutral pH. Add floating plants such as duck weed and fairy moss so the fish can use the plant to anchor his bubble nest together.
At this point the male becomes very aggressive. He would even attack your hand or finger should it enter his territory. I keep the female in a small, clear glass container with the top of the container a few inches above the water line, in the same tank as the male, at the opposite side of his bubble nest. When the nest is complete and the females’ abdomen has become full with eggs, it is time to release her into the tank. Within a couple of hours the breeding should begin. One method to know if the female has eggs in her is after feeding them a diet of live or frozen food such as black or blood worms for 5 continuous days, don’t feed her for a couple of days. If she still has a round stomach area then its eggs. After spawning the female should be removed from the aquarium to protect her from the male and to help her recuperate from her strenuous ordeal. Within a few days the male will start chasing the fry that are hatching from the nest. He wants to keep them in his nest. At this point I would remove the male and place him into a separate tank from the female.
Allow the fry to grow in their original aquarium. It is important to have the same water parameters for the male and female as was in the spawning tank. Also the surface air temperature cannot deviate more than 3 degrees Fahrenheit from the water temperature, for when the fry come up for their first gulp of air they could catch pneumonia. The fry will grow very quickly on baby brine shrimp (live or frozen). Depending on how many fry you want to keep it would pay to start moving the fry to grow out tanks after their first month or for many of them their growth would become stunted.
Species that are submerged plant nest builders are more difficult mainly because you normally can’t see the nest and if there are fry in it. The usual method of noticing a successful breed is when you start seeing fry moving around the tank. Problem with this is that the parents may eat them and if there are other fish in the tank they will definitely eat them. Fish of this type generally like slow moving water and that the water is more acidic (4.5-6.5 pH). African centopomas fall into this category. I accidentally found a betta brownorum nest inside a submerged 35mm film canister.
Mouth brooders such as betta macrostoma utilize this type of spawning behavior. Breeding takes place between one pair of fish. When the female is gravid she initiates the mating process. The male wraps himself around her and squeezes the eggs from her while simultaneously fertilizes them with his milt. I have seen the female recover the eggs and at times the male will also recover eggs and while both fish face each other she will spit the egg into his mouth. Both betta channoides and albimargineta the female gathers the eggs in her mouth and spits them up over her head where the male is positioned to catch them. The male then holds the eggs until they hatch and he will release them from 14 to 28 days, depending on the species.
Anabantoids are beautiful and amazing fish. If the hobbyist wants to experience a different type of spawning behavior I highly recommend them getting a group of anabantoids.
Breeding Blue Angelfish
At a Greater City Aquarium Society meeting last year, fellow member Jerry O’Farrell came up to me and asked, “Have you breed angelfish?” I said that I had, but it was over 25 years ago. He said. “Good, then it’s time you did them again,” and he thrust a bag of 8 beautiful quarter size blue angels in my hand. Before I could respond, he walked away. I looked at the plastic bag full of fish and marveled at how beautiful and majestic these little cichlids appeared. The blue on their heads stood out in dramatic contrast to their silver bodies.
I brought them home and placed them into a 20 gallon aquarium. The pH was 7.2, the temperature was 80 degrees Fahrenheit and the General Hardness (GH) was 4. The angels grew quickly, especially the dominant male who soon eclipsed his tank mates. The group fared well with bi-weekly water changes of 30 – 40 %, and feedings of flake food followed by live black worms or frozen blood worms. Occasionally they were fed live brine shrimp and/or frozen cyclopeeze. After 8 – 10 months, the group started to pair off. I moved the non-pairs of angel fish into a 10 gallon, when in less than a month another couple had paired up. This new pair was moved into another 20 gallon tank.
The second pair of angelfish was sharing a habitat with Glo-Lite tetras, but that didn’t stop them from laying eggs on a tall piece of driftwood. Both parents kept the Glo-Lite tetras to the farthest end of the aquarium. They also took turns cleaning and fanning the eggs. I noticed from both breeding pairs of fish that the eggs that were fungused were left alone and not removed. I thought this was a poor cleaning job on the parents’ part.
I had a 25 watt heater that had the heating coil wrapped with airline tubing. I did this to prevent the fry from killing themselves on the heating coil. I placed the air tube with air-stone under the slate piece so the air bubbles would travel in front of the eggs. . I also added a dose of Acriflavin to reduce the infertile eggs from becoming fungused. As the eggs hatched, 5 days later, I moved the air-stone into an existing sponge filter several inches away from the hatching eggs and performed a water change to remove most of the Acriflavin. I replaced the water with parent tank water. The unfertilized eggs that did fungus remained on the slate until I removed them with a pipette. Several days later, the newborn fry were attaching themselves via their egg sack to everything in the tank – plant leaves, the slate piece, pieces of wood and rock. The fry can’t eat until they are free swimming so I do not feed them because the food will only pollute the aquarium.
An interesting experiment was tried, accidently, when I neglected to replace the slate board they lay their eggs on. There was a large wood piece that wasn’t solid, having holes throughout it. I saw them evaluating the wood piece, but I guess they weren’t satisfied with it. The only other object in the tank, except for the large sponge filter or the heater, was a small flat rock that I used to keep the slate board from slipping.
What’s In A Name? Much Confusion! by Joseph Graffagnino
As Chairperson of the Breeders Award Program, I must research fish species to determine that the hobbyist who has bred that particular species, registers all of the particulars of that species onto the breeder form, accurately and truthfully. On rare occasions I must question the breeder regarding the spawning behavior or the environment or the aquarium parameters of that species if what the person has written is beyond the normal parameters of that particular species’ requirements. In almost all cases the hobbyist has rendered the information truthfully and accurately because many species can and do spawn outside of the range the “experts” list for them.
I use a multitude of methods to determine the accuracy of what the person applies to the breeder form. During the fish fry witnessing, I need to verify that the species is indeed the one supported by photographs or drawings. I use several research books such as Baensch Atlases on tropical fish, Tropical Fish Hobbyist research books on various species and also aquarium related books on particular geographic areas and their endemic species. I also make generous use of the World Wide Web, searching aquatic fish sites, international club sites, such as Planet Catfish, American Cichlid Association, American Livebearer Association, American Killifish Association, International Betta Congress; the list goes on and on.
I believe that I have all of this finally under control when the powers that be decide to change the names of fish species. Some of the experts say that the reason for the name changes is to better align groups into families based on the species’ fins, teeth and jaw bones and/or skeletal body bones. Others say the reason was to sell books with the updated species names. Any way you look at it, when one researches the fish presented, it is a nightmare to verify it wasn’t presented before.
As an example; I found a very nice Central American cichlid that goes under the name Cryptoheros myrnae. The fish were in a plastic bag and obviously stressed, so the coloration and close inspection would have to wait until they were home and acclimated to an aquarium prepared for cichlids. Through trial and error, I had tried to breed these fish. My error was trying to breed them in a gravel-free tank. After I moved several members that weren’t breeding into another tank, I noticed the relocated fish were digging in the gravel and moving it to clear an area near the cave they wanted to spawn in. Aha! So that was a little secret they shared with me.
No problem. I added gravel and kept a pair, or what I believed was a pair, in a separate 10 gallon tank that contained caves. A couple of months went by and viola! a batch of little babies came out of the cave and were guarded and paraded around by mom and dad. Great! Now I wait the required two months before I can register them as being successfully spawned and reared. I look up the species and discover the common name is Topaz cichlid. That name stirs my memory a bit. I check through the voluminous records of the Breeders Program and discover that I had already bred Topaz cichlids five years previous. In those days, they were called Archocentrus myrnae. No credit is given for breeding the same species twice, even though it went through a name change. I was aggravated and wanted to give the fish away at my earliest opportunity so I can clear my aquarium to breed another species.
The next species I want to breed is called Melanochromis Joanjohnsonae Exasperatus, a beautiful African cichlid that goes by the common name of “Pearl of Likoma.” Oh wait, this species also had a name change. It was formally called Labidochromis exasperates. All right, how about Cichlosoma sajica, the “T Bar Cichlid”? Wait! it also changed its name to Cryptoheros sajica- darn it, foiled again!
“Black Eggs” By Joe Graffagnino
I have bred many species of fish, but I have never seen black eggs. I was amazed when I saw them and from a West African cichlid no less. I obtained a breeding pair of Tilipia snyderea from fellow fish breeder Vinny Babino. Vinny informed me that these are very beautiful fish,with striking color markings. They are aggressive fish when spawning and protecting their young, and they are the gift that continues to give – once they start spawning you can’t get them to stop.
Tilipia snyderea are the smallest of all Tilipia and they hail from Lake Bermin in Cameroon, West Africa. This species’ common name is “Snyder’s dwarf tilapia.” There are three colors that these species can display, based on their mood and especially during breeding. They can go from a pale bland color to a green, to a red. In breeding dress, both the male and female are absolutely stunning with a green top that goes to the middle of their body (lateral line) which extends from the head through the anal fin. The lower portion of the body is an orange red. But that’s not all — the face changes color as the mouth becomes a dark black, while the lips become pure white — truly amazing coloration on a fish that gets no larger than 4 – 5 inches.
When I received this beautiful pair of fish, I realized they were too large for a 20 gallon aquarium, so I quickly did some rearranging and moved them to a 30 gallon wide aquarium. I believe in species tanks so I kept them by themselves. After less than one month in their new home, they started moving large amounts of gravel in the tank. They really like to landscape. Four days after the landscaping began, the female took up residence in a small clay breeding cave that had an opening the size of a thumb. It was obvious that the male could not enter. I assumed that they would lay their eggs on the glass bottom since they made it bare by moving all the gravel away. A day or two later I used a flashlight to see into the cave and lo and behold! I saw around 20 or so black eggs.
A few days later, they must have hatched because the parents moved the fry one foot away from the cave and under a piece of coral. I was worried for the fry because this tank was overrun with Malaysian burrowing snails, who I thought may go for the babies. However, within a few days my snail problem was a problem no more. After their yolk sacs disappeared and the fry started free swimming, I fed them microworms, vinegar eels and frozen baby brine shrimp. The fry grew quickly and they tended to clone each other, for although I initially counted around 20 eggs, I now counted about 80 swimming fry.
I would highly recommend this beautiful, but aggressive West African cichlid as a welcome addition to a species only tank. Also, this fish is on the endangered list of fish species, so maintaining this fish will help it from becoming extinct in the wild. Please share this wonderful fish with other members of local fish clubs and let everyone enjoy them.
Mekong Rice Killies By Joe Graffagnino
I was recently at the latest meeting of the Northeast Council of Aquarium Societies in Connecticut and had no intention of purchasing any new fish, since my aquariums were already very well stocked. As I wandered around, I came to Frank Greco’s sales table. Frank has the most interesting and rare fish that you will ever see. I strolled around the table and my eye caught something small flash by. It was a really small fish with a silver body; the male has an orange red coloration on its anal fin. I had to ask, and that, of course, was my undoing.
Frank told me that particular fish was commonly called the Mekong Red Lampeye Rice Killifish. The fish are found in the Mekong River delta in Northern Thailand. The adult of this species doesn’t get over ½ inch in size. There are approximately 2 dozen varieties of rice killifish. The nice thing about these fish is they can live and spawn in aquariums as small as 2 gallons. All that is needed is a sponge filter and java moss. Since these fish are really small, frozen baby brine shrimp works well (regular brine shrimp and Daphnia are too large for them). They also thrive on live microworms, vinegar eels and crushed flake food.
When the female is carrying eggs, she carries them on her body. The eggs are slightly adhesive so when the female swims through java moss the egg rubs off the mother and attaches to the java moss. The male fish follows closely behind and fertilizes the egg. At times I have seen one female carrying several eggs. The eggs are quite large for such a small fish and they resemble clear to opaque killie eggs. As the embryo matures, the egg darkens. Within a week the fry are free swimming. The parents ignore the fry so you don’t need another tank to rear the fry to adulthood. You can’t ask for better than that in a fish!
The water parameters are basic with the pH 7.0, GH of 3, and the temperature 78 – 80 degrees Fahrenheit. This is a great and unique little fish and quite prolific once they get started. Because of their small size, I would maintain them in a species only tank. Enjoy them and share them with other hobbyists.
Threadfin Rainbows By Joe Graffagnino
The Latin name for these beautiful fish from New Guinea and northern Australia is Iriatherina werneri. These nervous and sensitive fish thrive in slow moving streams with heavy vegetation. According to the Master Index of Freshwater Fishes, they enjoy a pH of 6.0 – 8.0, with a designated hardness from 5 -12 and a water temperature of 79 – 86 degrees Fahrenheit.
I keep two males and 4 females in a 10 gallon tank, with a corner filter containing charcoal and ammonia chips and one or two artificial yarn spawning mops. They prefer a dark green mop that hangs from a cork or 35mm film canister to almost an inch from the bottom of the tank. I keep no gravel or plants in the tank, only the mop. I have tried either light blue or black yarn mops with little success. With the dark green mop I have been averaging 40 eggs per week. They prefer to lay their eggs between the middle of the mop to the bottom. I pluck the eggs from the mop on a weekly basis moving them to a plastic shoebox where I allow the eggs to hatch with a slight amount of Acriflavine to prevent fungus. In a few days you can see the tiny babies swimming across the top of the plastic box. I then move the fry to a larger plastic box to grow out. These are slow growing fish that need rotifers, artemia or Small Fry Food. After a few weeks, with 3 times a week water changes (only with aged water), they are large enough to take baby brine shrimp.
Water changes are extremely important for this fish to maintain good health. I change the water in a 35 gallon tank next to the Threadfin rainbow fish tank. After the freshwater has been filled in the larger tank, I wait several hours or the next day to take water from that tank to replace water removed during a water change. Using this mixture of new and aged water, there is no stress on the parents or fry. I feed the adults live or frozen brine shrimp and cyclopeeze, because their mouths are small, twice daily and perform weekly water changes of 20%, as outlined above, in the adults’ aquarium.
Threadfin rainbows are one of the most beautiful freshwater fish I have ever seen. The females are a silvery color, but the males have long flowing fins of black, red and yellow. The males use a flickering of their fins to attract the females to spawn. If you want to keep an interestingly beautiful fish that will give you hours of enjoyment, then I highly recommend these graceful beauties.
Whiptail Catfish By Joe Graffagnino
There are several species of Whiptail catfish which are very difficult to distinguish apart. This catfish species comes from cool, fast moving streams in South America. The species Latin name is Rineloricara. This type of catfish gets its common name from its slim, armored, flat, and stiff body that has color variations from gray to brown. They are a slow moving, peaceful fish that has a tail fin that extends to a delicate “whip-like” extension. Whiptail cats get about 6 inches in length. The only way I can sex them is the female’s belly is larger than the male’s, as is with most types of catfish. When the female is pregnant, her stomach is huge; she will sit outside the PVC tube and wait for the male to allow her entrance. As she lays her eggs, he is directly behind her fertilizing them. When completed, the male then chases the female from the tube and he cares for the eggs.
I received my group of a dozen small fish from one of Brooklyn Aquarium Society’s expert fish breeders – Lisa Quilty. Lisa bred the parents in a small PVC tube and brought the fry in for “Breeder Award Points” and she is one of our club’s leading spawners of difficult fish. I brought them home and set the group up in a 10 gallon tank with riverbed gravel, a corner box filter that contained charcoal and ammonia chips and I placed a couple of wood pieces in the tank to make them comfortable. After a few months, I added some small and narrow clay and PVC tubes. The small fish grew quickly with weekly water changes and high protein flake food. To improve their diet, I gave them frozen foods such as blood worms, cyclopeeze and daphnia a couple of times a week. I would, on occasion, provide them with a piece of frozen zucchini that they would ignore until it started getting a fungus on it and then the next day the zucchini would be gone. I guess they will only eat it if it’s soft.
Early one evening, my friend and fellow fish breeder Vinny Babino came over and, as I was showing him the various fish I had in the aquariums, he looked into the whiptail catfish tank which I kept at the end of a long row of tanks that I rarely paid any attention to, and remarked that there appeared to be a lump inside the PVC tube. I looked and then with a flashlight discovered the male was sitting on a batch of green eggs. With this species, the female lays the eggs and the male cares for the eggs, actually gently scraping the eggs to help the fry escape after about 7 days..
An interesting note: Vinny had obtained the parents of the fry and had them in his home aquarium. When he went home that evening, his fish had also laid eggs in a PVC tube. Several times afterward, both of our groups laid eggs the same day.
I must have had my fish for approximately 2 years before they spawned.
When the fry became free swimming, I fed them crushed egg flakes, which help fry grow faster, and some frozen zucchini that they allow to soften before eating it. The fry grow quickly with frequent water changes and heavy aeration. The spawning tubes were 6 – 8 inches long and 1” wide, open on both ends. The GH was 2, pH was 6.3 and the temperature was 76 degrees Fahrenheit. After the first pair spawned a second time, 3 weeks after the first spawn, other pairs started breeding. I guess the pheromones in the water activated the others’ spawn cycle. I found 36 babies from the first spawn; in some spawns the eggs were eaten and in others, when the babies were released, the adult whiptails ate them. The spawns became larger and after several months I counted 84 fry in a single spawn. The fry are small so if I didn’t see them on the glass so I could siphon them up, the adults would go for them. I found that these fish need natural wood in the tank, which I believe helps them digest food.
Never use glass gravel for this species of fish.
I highly recommend this delicate in beauty, yet hardy in nature fish for your aquarium. They are a joy to behold and will not bother other fish or plants in your tank. After you have bred them, don’t forget to bring the fry to your local fish club and share the fun with other hobbyists.
Correct Water Chemistry is the single most important subject for the successful keeping and breeding of Tropical Fish. Water is to fish as air is to human’s; it is the environment that they live in, breed in and get old in. The health and well being of our fish is directly related to their physical water environment. As advanced Hobbyists the more we know about Water Chemistry, the more successful we will be as Fish Keepers and Breeders.
Breeding The Banded Acara (Bujurquina Vittata) by Joe Graffagnino
The Bujurquina vittata is an interesting biparental mouth brooding South American (basically from Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay) cichlid. This little beauty, as it doesn’t grow larger than 4.5 inches, is unique because both parents take the fry in their mouth when they move from foraging locations. If predators are about, the fry zoom into the parents’ mouths and the pair makes a quick escape. The parents were fed a diet of African Attack pellets, various types of flakes and live black worms. There were originally 3 females and a male when I got them from friends at the North Jersey Aquarium Society, hence the need to join several fish clubs. It took several months, but eventually I found the male and one of the females prodding the other two females away. Not wanting to have the single females hurt, I moved them to another aquarium. The new pair quickly set up house in the center of the tank.
They are excellent parents, although they are very nervous, zooming across the aquarium at full speed. Fearing for their safety, I taped newspaper on the front glass. To observe them I had to carefully and quietly move to the side panes. I had to limit water changes for fear of upsetting them with a possibility of them eating their fry. They managed to lay their eggs in the inside of a half of a coconut shell, along the top ridge. However, after a few weeks of semi isolation, I was rewarded when I witnessed a cloud of babies rising off the bottom, in the center of their parents. For the first few days of free swimming, the babies rarely left their parents, but as days wore on, they started venturing further away. The parents were trying to corral them into one spot, but the fry didn’t want to hear it. After the babies were swimming for two weeks, I removed the parents to a separate tank. I kept the parents’ tank unlit so as not to spook them. They were able to see from the lights of other aquariums nearby. The babies didn’t seem to mind the absence of their parents and continued to graze off the algae and bits of food around the tank. I started them on frozen baby brine shrimp and crushed flakes. Regular biweekly water changes of 15% declorinated tap water produced larger fry. The environment the fry lived in was 80 degrees Fahrenheit, neutral pH, soft water as are NYC standards. In a couple of weeks, they moved to frozen cyclopeeze and minced blood worms.
The males have blue lips, with yellow flush cheeks with a gold streak moving horizontal above their lateral line. The males also have a red trim along the top edge of their dorsal fin. Males have lyre tail strings that extend from their dorsal, anal and tail fins. They have turquoise blue lines in their pectoral finnage and are repeated with aquamarine dots in their anal and in the rear of their dorsal fin. The males develop a slight hump on their forehead. The females are slightly smaller and are blander color wise, but still maintain the aqua blue in their anal and at the end of their dorsal fin. They don’t have the extended fins of the male and are a gray in color with slight yellow in their face and cheeks.
I highly recommend this interesting and pretty fish. Their temperament is mild, they don’t bother tank mates and they eat anything in flake, pellet or frozen form. They do especially love live black worms. I feed them a few pellets or flake and then the live food because it will stay in their stomach longer. This will, in turn, give them greater amounts of protein which produces larger quantities and more fertile eggs. Set them up in a tank of their own, such as a 30 gallon (36”L x 12”w x 20” H) and let them pair off and enjoy their antics.
“Breeding American Flag Fish” by Joe Graffagnino
The Flag fish is a unique specimen for several reasons. First, it is a North American killifish from the state of Florida. Second, the male of the species looks like an American flag. The body has black and blue lines alternating with red lines. When looking at the fish on its side, it appears to have black, blue, red and white dots on its body. Last, there are two types of Flag fish that are identical to each other. The difference is that one type prefers an almost marine environment, with a pH of 8.0, hard water with salt in it. The other type is just the opposite and requires soft water, no salt and acidic pH.
I managed to obtain two pairs of these beautiful fish from a pet shop hop that members of Brooklyn Aquarium Society took in the summer of 2010 to visit our sponsor retail establishments. I brought them home and placed them in quarantine consisting of a bare 10 gallon tank with a corner filter containing charcoal and ammonia chips. I also placed a few artificial hanging mops in the tank. The pH was 7.6 and the temperature was 80 degrees Fahrenheit. One male chased his tank mates around for a month. They ate sporadically and showed no signs of breeding. When the quarantine time was up, I moved a pair each into 5 gallon tanks, side by side. To prevent aggression between the males, I placed newspaper between the tanks so they couldn’t see each other. A few months went by with no spawning hints, so I decide it’s time to change the environment.
One tank I set up with hard water, alkaline pH and dropped the temperature to 77 degrees Fahrenheit and I left 1 floating mop and 1 mop container filled with gravel so it would remain on the bottom. I softened the water gradually over several weeks and lowered the pH in the other tank, while maintaining the temperature at 80 degrees Fahrenheit. I also added Amazon Black water extract and almond leaves. This time both mops were weighted and remained on the bottom. Both pairs of fish were goven the exact diet of flakes and frozen food (blood worms and daphnia) with feedings every third day of live black worms cut into small pieces.
After several weeks, both pairs started laying eggs. The pair in the hard water had laid approximately a dozen eggs on the mop that stayed on the bottom. All were soft and fungused even with acriflavin added to the tank. A few days later, the pair in the acidic water laid approximately 20 eggs. I removed the eggs into a plastic container and added acriflavin again, but after a couple of days all the eggs fungused. Six days later, the pair in a water environment of 6.0 – 6.2 pH, temperature of 80 degrees Fahrenheit and a GH of 3, laid 13 eggs on a black mop and 132 eggs on a green mop. Out of the 145 eggs that were laid, 115 eggs hatched. These fry were moved to a 5 gallon tank and fed live vinegar eels and frozen rotifers. After a week, they were fed frozen baby brine shrimp and crushed flakes. The pair in the hard water environment stopped laying eggs.
The American Flag fish is a great killifish that will intrigue you. They are great alone in a tank or with other fish in a well planted, dark gravel aquarium. Whether you want to breed them or not, it is the patriotic fish to keep in every American home. Enjoy them!
How long will my fish live?
This a question often asked in the postbag of Practical Fishkeeping magazine. Having seen lots of aged fish on my travels, I wanted to find out the length of time some our aquarium veterans are surviving, and my findings are amazing!
Unfortunately, although some fish die every year through disease, or mistakes, the ones that are being cared for properly are going on to reach a truly ripe old age, and that doesn’t always seem to be related to species size.
I think that as well as researching fish size and water requirements, we should also consider the length of time for which they will live. Life is short when you are an avid fishkeeper, as there are so many species to keep and so little time to keep them.
To find out how long a broad selection of aquarium species are living I posted a blog asking readers, to share their experiences.
What I found
My investigations led me to discover that many community species of fish are capable of outliving a cat or a dog, so making themselves a long-term commitment for the fishkeeper.
Take the Clown loach for example. I found ages up to 24 years reported, and, considering that in that time they can and will reach 30cm/12” in length and are a social species requiring the company of their own kind, the number of enthusiasts who can truly offer them what they need, compared with the number of people who purchase them, is very low indeed.
Twenty five years is a large chunk of anyone’s life and who can predict what they will be doing and where they will be living for the next quarter of a century?
It seems it’s not always the small species that have the shortest life spans.
Most tetras, rasboras and small barbs can hit five years old, as you might expect, but my investigations showed that some were swimming through to seven, eight and even 10 ten years of age. An Emperor tetra was listed at nine years old and a Neon tetra at 10!
I’ve listed two fish in the table at the end of this feature with big questions marks around them — a nine-year-old guppy and a 12-year-old White Cloud Mountain minnow. If those two cases are true then these small ‘‘short lived’’ fish species are outliving species like rainbowfish and some cichlids, both of which are normally noted for their longevity. The average life span for a guppy, apart from that one, was a much more average 18 months.
Whether this is good or a bad I have yet to decide, but some families, genus and species stood out as being long lived. I’ve already mentioned the 24-year-old Clown loach, but even smaller loach species seem particularly aged. A 15-year- old Dwarf chain loach has been recorded along with a 17-year-old Kuhli loach.
Then there are the catfish. I would go so far as to say that some catfish are known for being long lived, Synodontis in particular, and a Synodontis schall, a large syno, is listed at 38 years old. But even smaller synos are hitting the 20 years of age mark and beyond. I found a S.nigrita at 19, a S. flavitaeniatus at 20 and the small, true upside down catfish, S. nigriventris, at 21 years of age.
Other small catfish species continued to surprise me, with Corydoras really opening my eyes. The list includes a Bronze corydoras at 11 years old, no surprise there perhaps, but what about a Corydoras zygatus at 21?
Lots of ‘common plecs’ and ‘gibbiceps’ plecs were registering at the 27, 28 year mark, so that is another good reason why you should think long and hard about introducing one as a solution to controlling a short-term algae problem.
Marines were featuring too, even common community species. Mr A B Hussey said: “I have been a fishkeeper for 35 years. Started keeping marines in 1992 and have a Regal tang, pair of Clowns and a Humbug, which were my among my first fish purchased.” Well done Mr Hussey, I say.
The fact that some specimens are living so long must be a combination of genetics and extra care taken by the fishkeeper. No fish will last very long in poor water conditions, if fed a diet that is poor in nutrients, or if kept in a stressful situation. You, the fishkeeper, are responsible for all three of the above and should always put the welfare of the fish first.
I dropped fish health expert, Dr Peter Burgess, a line to ask if he knew of any age-related illnesses in fish and anything to look out for.
It seems that old fish are at greater risk of certain diseases and are also less able to withstand unsuitable water conditions or bullying. Spinal deformities can occur in old fish just as they do in humans. And fungus and eye infections increase in older specimens due to less efficient immune systems. Cell mutation is more likely in old fish, resulting in melanomas, as will organ failure, particularly kidney failure.
A tall story?
Koi are well known for being long-lived. However, there is one age reference about which I am more than a little sceptical. If it is true and can be scientifically proven then great, but even if it cannot be validated it still makes a great story.
It involves a Japanese Koi carp called Hanako that reportedly lived 226 years. Hanako was owned by Dr, Komei Koshihara and lived in a pond in Gifu, Japan, with five other geriatric Koi. In 1966, Dr. Koshihara made a radio broadcast about his favourite fish and the following is taken from the English transcript, which I found on www.vcnet.com
“This Hanako is still in perfect condition and swimming about majestically in a quiet ravine descending Mount Ontake in a short distance. She weighs 7.5 kilograms and is 70 centimetres in length. She and I are dearest friends. When I call her saying “Hanako! Hanako!” from the brink of the pond, she unhesitatingly comes swimming to my feet. If I lightly pat her on the head, she looks quite delighted.
“Sometimes I go so far as to take her out of the water and embrace her. At one time a person watching asked me whether I was performing a trick with the carp. Although a fish, she seems to feel that she is dearly loved and it appears that there is some communication of feeling between us. At present my greatest pleasure is to go to my native place two or three times a month and keep company with Hanako.
“I am often asked how it is that I can tell the age of a fish. As a tree trunk has its annual rings, so a fish has its annual rings on its scales, and we only have to count them to know the age of a fish. As a matter of course, we ourselves cannot do it. It requires the aid of a specialist and the use of a light microscope.
“Now, what was it that made me think of ascertaining the carp’s age? My grandmother on maternal side, who left this world at the advanced age of 93 some eight years ago, is said to have been told by her mother-in-law: “When I was married into this family, my mother in-law said to me, ‘that carp has been handed down to us from olden times; you must take good care of it’.
“When I was told this story, I became very curious to know how long the carp had lived. I found out Hanako’s age by the beforementioned method, but you may easily imagine how greatly I was grieved when I was forced to take a scale off her beautiful body. I caught her in a net very cautiously and repeatedly said: ‘Excuse me!’
“I took off two scales from different parts of her body by using a strong tweezers. The scales were examined by Professor Masayoshi Hiro, D.Sc., Laboratory of Domestic Science, Nagoya Women’s College.
“It took two months for him to acquire a satisfactory result. Using the light microscope, he photographed every part of the scales. It seems he took a great deal of trouble. When it was certain beyond doubt that the carp was 215 years old, the two of us exchanged a look of delightful surprise.
Then I had the professor examine the remaining five carp in the same pond, three white and two black ones. The examination took one year, and it was found out that three were respectively 168, 153 and 149 years old, and the remaining two were both 139 years old.
“Those results led us to be convinced that not only are the carp rare ones but they are a very precious existence from the scientific point of view as well. We must consider, then, in what surroundings and under what conditions these long-lived carp are placed. The pond is located far deep among the mountains of Mino Province. The locality is called Oppara, Higashi-Shirakawa Village, Kamo County, and is about the same distance from Gero Hot Springs on the Takayama Line as from Nakatsugawa City on the Central Line, both lines belonging to the National Railways.
“Nearby there are rustic hot springs called Oppara-onsen. Facing south toward the Pacific on the top of Mount Ontake, you will look down upon the locality at the foot of the mountain. Through the locality runs the Shirakawa, a tributary of the River Hida, which again is the upper reaches of the River Kiso.
“A stream of limpid water never ceases to flow all the year round. It is this water that flows into the pond which Hanako lives and which was carefully constructed with stones in former days. Besides that, pure water trickled from the foot of the mountain streams close by into the pond, making the favourable conditions still more favourable. The pond cannot be called large, only being about five metres square.”
Hanako died in 1977 at the age of 226.
The world’s oldest animal
The current record holder for longevity is a 400-year-old clam found in waters off Iceland’s north coast. The species, Arctica islandica, can be aged by measuring the growth rings around its shell.
Longevity rules OK!
Below is a list of fish and their age as claimed by their owners.
Three lined pencilfish, Nannostomus trifasciatus
Red eye tetra, Moenkhausia sanctaefilomenae
Buenos Aires tetra, Hyphessobrycon anisitsi
Black phantom tetra, Hyphessobrycon megalopterus
Cherry barb, Puntius titteya
Swordtail, Xiphophorus hellerii
Sailfin molly, Poecilia velifera/latipinna
African red eye tetra, Arnoldichthys spilopterus
X ray tetra, Pristella maxillaris
Festive cichlid, Mesonauta festivus
Uaru, Uaru amphiacanthoides
Gold sucking loach, Gyrinocheilus aymonieri
Tiger barb, Puntius tetrazona
Cardinal tetra, Paracheirodon axelrodi
Harlequin, Trigonostigma heteromorpha
Angelfish, Pterophyllum scalare
Golden barb, Puntius sachsi
Silver shark, Balantiocheilus melanopterus
Pearl gourami, Trichopterus leeri
Scissortail, Rasbora trilineana
Snakeskin gourami, Trichogaster pectoralis
Angelicus catfish, Synodontis angelicus
Guppy, Poecilia reticulata ?
Giant danio, Devario aequipinnatus
Emperor tetra, Nematobrycon palmeri
Neon tetra, Paracheirodon innesi
Wild discus, Symphysodon spp.
Black widow, Gymnocorymbus ternetzi
Silver dollar, Metynnis argenteus
Armatus eel, Mystus armatus
Hoplo cat, Megalechis thoracata
Congo tetra, Micralestes interruptus
Blue dolphin cichlid, Cyrtocara moorii
Julie cichlid, Julidochromis marlieri
Boesemani rainbow, Melanotaenia boesemani
Clown plec, Panaque maccus
Bronze corydoras, Corydoras aeneus
White Cloud, Tanichthys albonubes ?
Firemouth, Thorichthys meeki
Kissing gourami, Helostoma temminckii
Red finned shark, Epalzeorhynchus frenatus
Jack Dempsey, Rocio octofasciata
Tank bred Discus, Symphysodon spp.
Clown barb, Puntius everetti
Regal tang, Paracanthurus hepatus
Humbug damsel, Dascyllus melanurus
L46, Hypancistrus zebra
Yellow tail blue damsel, Chrysiptera parasema
Pygmy chain loach, Yasuhikotakia sidthimunki
Striped dora, Platydoras costatus
Spotted dora, Agamyxis pectinifrons
Black ghost knifefish, Apteronotus albifrons
Kuhli loach, Pangio kuhlii
Corydoras, Corydoras metae
Red tailed black shark, Epalzeorhynchos bicolor
Frontosa, Cyphotilapia frontosa
Archerfish, Toxotes jaculatrix
Featherfin, Synodontis eupterus
Brochis, Brochis splendens
Rosy barb, Puntius conchonius
Upside down catfish, Synodontis nigriventris
Clown loach, Chromobotia macracanthus
Bristlenose catfish, Ancistrus spp.
Red tailed catfish, Phractocephalus hemioliopterus
Common plec, Liposarcus pardalis
Ornatipinnis, Polypterus ornatipinnis
Pacu, Colossoma macropomum
African lungfish, Protopterus annectens
Goldfish, Carassius auratus
Australian lungfish, Neoceratodus forsteri
80 years (226 years)
Koi, Cyprinus carpio
Reprinted with permission from