by Steve Matassa
I have been keeping fish for a long time, actually as long as I can remember. I have kept many different species from reef, to salt, to fresh. I have bred many types of livebearers over the years, but never egg layers, at least not until recently. My Koi angels recently spawned (given to me by a friend and B.A.S. member Bob Strazzulla). Bob had given me some angelfish from his personal supply. I really wasn’t even trying to breed them, but it happened anyway.
About two months ago my wife woke me up to tell me the angels were laying eggs, and I had to come down and look. I‘m glad she did, because it is a pretty cool thing to watch. I have seen a lot of livebearers have babies, and that also is a great thing to watch, but this is about a male and female working together. The female laying the eggs and the male following up to fertilize them, working together as one. They picked a leaf on an Anubias plant in the tank to deposit the eggs. The first thing I did was to put up a divider to keep the other fish away. The other fish were trying to get to the eggs, and the parents were defending them. It shows you how the parenting instinct takes over. I used some egg crate material covered with an air conditioner filter to keep them separated.
The next day I called another friend, and B.A.S member Joe Cingari. Joe has tanks all over his house filled with his own spawn of angels, so I figured he has to know a little something about rearing the fry. I would pick his brain a little. After all that’s one of the great things about being part of an aquarium society – sharing ideas, and experiences with each other.
I have also picked Joe Graffagnino’s brain on many occasions, and I don’t want to leave him out. Take information from different breeders, and then use what you want, to come up with what works best for you.
I have tried a few different ways of rearing the fry. First thing was to set up a five gal tank with 100% of the water from the parent’s tank. Only fill it half way at first because it’s easier for the fry to find food. Use an air stone, box filter, or sponge filter, set the aeration low, but enough for movement around the eggs.
Take the eggs out as soon as the parents are finished. This worked well, as long as you keep removing the eggs that turn white (which is fungus) because they are not fertilized, and will in turn fungus the fertile eggs. The best thing to do to remove fungused eggs is to knock them off with a thin rigid tube, and siphon out. I did this method with the first batch. The problem I found is when the eggs are removed, the parents started fighting. It appears that they were blaming each other for the loss of the eggs, so I had to separate them immediately. It’s a good thing fish have short memories. After three or four days I put them back, and they seemed to forget all about it.
Like clock work two weeks later they started spawning again. This time I wanted to try a different approach. I would leave them in to see how their parenting was. I watched them as often as possible, and they appeared fine. They were taking turns blowing on the eggs, and guarding them even though they were the only fish on that side of the divider. In a couple of days you could see the fry trying to get out of the egg sacs. The parents were still watching over them like hawks. I kept a close eye on them, and a few days later they were hopping on the plant leaf, but still not able to swim. In a few more days I saw they were all swimming, and surrounding the parent. A hundred or so like a swarm of bees around the parents, another very cool thing to witness. If the fry would swim too far away, the parents would take them in their mouths and bring them back to safety.
I figured I had great parents, and I would leave them to see what happened. Unfortunately what happened was two days later they ate all but four of the fry. I wasn’t very happy with this method. I would try something different next time.
Two weeks later, you guessed it, they spawned again. I wanted to try leaving the eggs in again, but this time I would remove the fry as soon as they were free swimming, but I was afraid they would fight again. I removed about half the fry the first night and the rest the next day. The parents seem to be fine when I removed only half they were not fighting. With this method I was able to get about fifty fry out, the parents probably ate some.
Two weeks later they spawned again. This time as soon as they were free swimming I removed all of the fry. The parents started fighting again, as soon as I removed the fry, so I separated them for about four days to prevent the fighting, and also give them a break to recuperate before putting them together again. It’s a good idea to separate them just so they could get a rest from spawning. If you don’t they will just keeping spawning until you burn them out. The male I have is relentless (like most males), so I have to separate them, or he will torture the female.
Raising the fry was another issue. I did not want to start raising brine shrimp, so Joe had given me some vinegar eels. He also told me to try frozen baby brine shrimp. They both work well, so I would switch off to give them a little variety. As the fry get a little bit bigger you can crush flake food very fine, or buy fry food. As long as the fry are eating, it‘s ok. Either way it is very important to remove uneaten food, or dead fry, as it will pollute the water. No matter what you do you will lose some fry so don’t be discouraged.
Keeping the water as clean as possible is crucial in raising the fry. This means lots of water changes. I change about 10% almost every day. Keep in mind the fry are very sensitive to change. The water temperature and pH must be the same. I find the best way to do this is use the water from the parent’s tank for water changes. You kill two birds with one stone. You are doing water changes in the parent tank as well as the fry tank at the same time. As the fry get bigger you can mix in fresh water in with the water from the parent’s tank. Just don’t forget to adjust the pH and temperature, and of course remove chlorine or chloramines with a good water conditioner. I keep my pH at 7.0, and my temperature about 78-80 degrees Fahrenheit.
When the fry are first hatched they do not look at all like angels, but after a few weeks as they get larger they will take the angelfish shape. As they start to get bigger, this means larger grow out tanks, or more tanks. If the spawns get too much to handle, you can always separate the parents until you are ready again. If you have too many babies you can always donate some to the society. That’s what keeps aquarium societies going. It’s also nice to talk to other members who have obtained your spawns to see how they are doing, and maybe even breeding them.
Egg layers are an experience you will not forget if you are lucky enough to catch them in the act, so give it a shot, and enjoy. I have to go, they are at it again. Good luck.