“Breeding Blue Angelfish”

Breeding Blue Angelfish

by Joe Graffagnino

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 angelfish 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 first pair decided to lay eggs on a thick piece of slate that was originally used to hold down a large wood decoration. Both parents cleaned the slate till it was immaculate, at least in their eyes. The gray eggs were laid in orderly rows of vertical succession. Both fish took turns in cleaning the area and fanning the eggs. It was definitely a model for teamwork. Within a couple of days, the eggs turned a dark brown/amber color and the parents proceeded to move the eggs to a new location. All cichlids prefer this birthing method. Normally in 5 days, the hatched fry would start swimming, with the parents escorting their children around the aquarium. There was no free-swimming fry! It appears that the parents ate the fry either during the move or shortly afterward.

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.

Since it was their first spawn, I believed that I should give them time to learn and educate themselves into proper birthing methods. I allowed them to have a couple of additional spawns hoping that they would improve. Both pairs of angelfish spawned every 15 – 19 days and a day apart. Both sets of parents never improved. I gave the second breeding pair to my friend Vinny Babino and kept the original pair. The next time the pair laid eggs, I removed the slate piece and placed it into a 5-gallon tank that was set up for hatching the eggs. I took the water from the parents’ tank and filled the 5-gallon aquarium.

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 was 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.

When the fry starts to free swim, I start them off with live vinegar eels, along with 50 microns Golden Pearls. As they grow, I switch to micro-worms and baby brine shrimp (live or frozen); in about 3 weeks I start on finely crushed flake food or micro-pellets and provide live food 3 times per week. They grow quickly and in another week or so they start to resemble their parents.

An interesting experiment was tried, accidentally, 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.

Yes, they used a flat rock to spawn on. Again they fanned the eggs and never removed the fungused eggs, but this time when the fry hatched they didn’t relocate them. They also never assisted the fry that became stuck to the fungus. After 8 days when the fry started to free swim, they escorted them around the tank. I believed that I had found the cure to angelfish cannibalism. Within 4 days after the fry were free swimming, the parents ate them anyway. I guess when the parents are bad they will remain bad.

One thought on ““Breeding Blue Angelfish””

  1. Hi Joe,
    Let them keep breeding. They might figure it out. My sweetheart’s discus bred many times, eating the eggs or wigglers, or even free swimming fry. Then finally they raised a good batch of about three dozen. Since then the parents have bred several times more, but seem to have forgotten what they did right that one time. But we’ve got a good amount of young ones from that one batch growing up. There have been some die-offs, but she’s still got about a dozen, and I’ve got sixteen left. Same thing happened with my wild caught Geophagus Steindachneri. They’ve had hundreds of fry, and now are together and don’t breed. Go figure.

Comments are closed.