Tag Archives: breeding

Breeding Red Cherry Shrimp

Breeding Freshwater Red Cherry Shrimp:


 With the growing popularity of planted aquaria, freshwater invertebrates are enjoying an increased demand as well.  It’s understandable since many of them are ideal for these setups.  One of the most popular is the Red Cherry shrimp.  They belong to the genera Caridina.  There are over 120 different species of Caridina shrimp.  It is almost impossible to identify these shrimp to the species level.  The freshwater shrimp hobby is going through much the same identity crisis as South American catfish, many of which are being identified by a number.  Caridina shrimp are usually referred to by their common name or simply as a Caridina species or something else equally inaccurate. Continue reading Breeding Red Cherry Shrimp

Breeding Back Stripe Shrimp

Breeding Freshwater Back Stripe Shrimp:

 With the ever-growing popularity of planted aquaria, freshwater invertebrates are enjoying an increase in popularity as well.  It’s no surprise since many of these inverts are perfect residents for these setups.  One of the more popular freshwater invertebrates is the Back stripe shrimp.  These shrimp belong to the genera Caridina.  There are over 120 different species of Caridina shrimp.  It is almost impossible to identify these shrimp to the species level.  The freshwater shrimp hobby is going thru much the same identity crisis as South American catfish, many of which are being identified by a number.  Caridina shrimp are usually referred to by their common name or simply as a Caridina species or something else equally inaccurate.  What makes all of the shrimp in this Genus so desirable is that they will spend 24 hours a day (that’s right they don’t sleep) cleaning your tank of leftover food scraps and algae without bothering your plants in any way. Continue reading Breeding Back Stripe Shrimp

Breeding Dwarf Red Tail Shrimp

Breeding Dwarf Red Tail Shrimp:

 With the growing popularity of planted aquaria, the freshwater invertebrates are enjoying an increased demand as well.

It’s understandable since many of them are ideal for these setups.  A few months back I ran across some of these shrimp in Animals and Things.  This is a pet shop over in Woodbridge NJ, one of the few local places I can think of which carry freshwater shrimp with any regularity.  I purchased all they had and put them in my 25-gallon guppy tank.  They are very happy in there and have been breeding.  These shrimp belong to the genera Caridina.  There are over 120 different species of Caridina shrimp.  It is almost impossible to identify these shrimp to the species level.  The freshwater shrimp hobby is going thru much the same identity crisis as South American catfish, many of which are being identified by a number.  Caridina shrimp are (for now) being identified by their common names or simply as a Caridina species or something else equally inaccurate. Continue reading Breeding Dwarf Red Tail Shrimp

Spawning Angels

Spawning Angels
by Steve Matassa


Spawning Angels

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.

Continue reading Spawning Angels

“Breeding Anabantoids” by Joe Graffagnino

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”

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.

Continue reading “Breeding Blue Angelfish”

Black Eggs

“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

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

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

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.

Breeding The Banded Acara (Bujurquina Vittata)

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 (Jordanella Floridae)

Jordanella Floridae
“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!