Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Cichlids -What Equipment Do I Need To Become A Fish Breeder?

Cichlids -What Equipment Do I Need To Become A Fish Breeder?
Breeding fish is a very complex, very tricky thing to try. If you've decided to try and breed fish on your own, you are going to need to buy a few essential pieces of kit. The basic set up of a fish breeder comprises of the same as with any other aspect of fish keeping.

You'll need a tank plus filters, lights and all the usual. However, if you're going to breed fish successfully, you'll require much more than just the basics. For example, you will need to have either an additional tank to breed the fish in, or a special fry tank for the safety of the young fish. It is important that they be separated from the adult fish until they're big enough to fend for themselves. But this second tank is just one of the necessary considerations.
Many people start off keeping fresh water cichlids in their aquarium because of their beauty. With the variety of colors and shapes, it's about as close to a saltwater fish tank that you can get, without the salt or the upkeep of salt water tank!
But before long, most people become interested in breeding cichlids, rather than just having them. Quite often this is due to the cichlids breeding without any intervention on the aquarist's part, who thereafter becomes interested in keeping the next batch of fry.

By and large, the majority of African cichlids are mouthbrooders. This means that the eggs are actually brooded in one of the parents' mouth - typically the female cichlid's mouth. Other types of cichlids (shelldwellers for example) will be written and considered in other articles. But how do you get your cichlids to breed? How can you protect the female, and ensure that the eggs hatch successfully? And then how do you protect the young from hungry predators?

The first step in breeding cichlids is to obtain fish that will breed. While this may seem obvious, it's not as simple as obtaining a male and female of the same species of tropical fish. With African cichlids, it's much better to obtain a harem, quite often referred to as a breeding colony. If you only have a pair, the male may be too aggressive towards the one available female, resulting in stress and potential death.

When you have your breeding colony, you'll want to give them a good environment. Have plenty of caves, rocks, shelves and crevices that the cichlids can choose as their territory and breeding ground. Don't bother with aquarium plants; they'll only be removed by the cichlids!
To get your African cichlids in breeding condition, you need to feed them well. I've always found spirulina flakes to be excellent quality food, as well as the live earthworm, white worm or crickets and shrimp.

When the fish are ready to breed, you'll notice the male chase the female and do a mating dance, which consists of shimmying in front of the female. The female will drop eggs, and then proceed to pick them up in her mouth. The male will fertilize them. It is theorized that this is where the 'egg spots' come into play. The egg spots are the small round yellowish spots on the male's anal fin. Many feel that when the male shimmies, these look like eggs that the female hasn't yet collected. She attempts to, and the eggs that are in her mouth are able to be fertilized by the male.

The process will be repeated a number of times, until the female loses interest (just like people!). If the eggs weren't properly fertilized, they will be disposed of. If they're fertilized, they will be kept until the eggs are hatched and the yolk sacks have disappeared. This can take from three to five weeks.

If you want to keep the baby cichlids, I strongly suggest that you remove the female to a comfortable tank for the female cichlid a place of her own. This can be a smaller tank, with some rockwork for her to hide in. You don't need to feed her, although when the eggs hatch (you'll see the wigglers in her mouth) you may want to toss in a very small amount of flake food. She may pick at it for the sake of the fry. There will be a follow-up article explaining how to strip the female cichlid, a process necessary if she won't release the eggs or if she eats them.

To feed the babies, you can crush up some flake food into a fine powder. Take a little, mix it with water. Then suck it into a straw of piece of aquarium tubing. Then insert it into the water near the swimming cichlid fry, and release it for them to eat.

Allow the female cichlid to feed back to health before putting her back in the tank. Also, try to keep the babies with cichlids of the same size, lest they become live cichlid food!
Firstly, the smaller baby fry tank will require a good filter unit. Generally, it is thought best to stick to using air powered filters with a basic sponge filter so that the small fry can't get sucked into it. Bigger mechanical filter systems occasionally suck in the fry and cause them to get stuck inside the filter. You obviously wouldn't want that to happen.

If you are serious about breeding fish, you will have to read up on the specialist fish foods that have been developed especially for small fry. This special fish food is made from different ingredients from standard fish food and is especially formulated to nourish developing fish. It is specially formulated to be easily eaten and digested by the fry and to provide them with all the nutrients they need to grow and develop at a healthy rate. Once again, it's essential to keep them apart from bigger fish for quite some time, just in case the bigger fish start to see the babies as food.

Breeding fish can be a painstaking and complicated hobby. However, with the right equipment, a good level of knowledge and a little determination, it can also be a rewarding and thoroughly enjoyable experience.

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