Category Archives: Fish

Videos of Ted’s fish in his fish room.

Breeding Project – Dawkinsia rohani – Part 2

The first attempt to raise the fry of the Rohani barb was unsuccessful, so I collected a LOT more eggs and tried again.  I tried a few different ways to incubate the eggs, but the end result was that the best method was to use a filtered incubator aquarium with subdued light.  Just like I tried the first time.  I think that the original batch of eggs were infertile.  That is not uncommon with larger egg scatterers that have not laid eggs in a long time.  Takes a while to work the old eggs out.  I have had this happen with Congo tetras too.


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Breeding Project – Dawkinsia rohani


I have had a small group of four Rohani barbs for about 5 years.  They have been living in my 150-gallon display tank in my living room for quite a while.  I have always intended to try to induce them to spawn and raise some fry, and now that time has come.  There were two challenges to overcome.

  • Space requirements – These are not small barbs!  The males are over 4″, and they use the entire 150-gallon tank chasing each other and displaying for the females.  I think that they could get by spawning in a 75-gallon, but I do not have an open tank that big to move them to.  So I had to figure out a way to collect eggs from them in the 150 they are in.
  • No information – Everyone I asked about spawning this species told me that it has not been done.  I do not believe that to be true, but there is certainly no information about raising the fry.  The process to hatch the eggs and rear the fry will be trial and error until the requirements are figured out.

The first video will show the spawning, egg collection and first attempt at hatching.  Enjoy…


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Feeding Flies to Betta sp. ‘Antuta’

Before I tell this story I want to make the point that I keep a VERY clean fish room.  All my fish foods are kept in tight containers, and most of it is kept in a fridge or freezer to preserve its freshness.  I take out the garbage at least three times each week, especially if there is something stinky in the trash can.  The rare dead fish are not tossed into the garbage, they are flushed.  I sweep the floor once a week.  I flush out the drain gutters once a week by putting a hose into each of the open ends, just in case something that can rot gets into the gutters.  I take the cleanliness of the fish room very seriously!

So I was very surprised, and somewhat concerned, this week when dozens of green bottle flies showed up in the fish room.  You have probably seen these flies before.  They are a medium size fly with an iridescent emerald green color.  Pretty for a fly, but not something that I want infesting the fish room.  The green bottle fly is a carrion fly, which means that it lays its eggs in rotting organic matter.  My immediate reaction was to find the dead carcass where the flies were breeding.  I ransacked the fish room.  Nothing.  Nothing stinks like dead flesh either.  I have no idea where the flies are coming from, but I have to assume that they are getting into the basement from within a wall where there is something dead.  I am confident that my room itself is not producing the flies.  So what to do with the flies?

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.  I have been given flies, so I will use them for fish food.  They are pretty easy to catch with a dry fish net.  Just leave one light on in the fish room and all the flies go to that place.  So far there have been a out a dozen flies at a time in the fish room, so I spend a few minutes catching all I can for a few minutes and feeding them to the fish.  The life cycle of the fly is long enough that if I catch them a couple times every day I should be preventing them from laying more eggs.  Eventually the flies will disappear.  Until that thankful day the fish will get some great live food!

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Apistogramma sp. ‘Abacaxi’

Here is a short video showing my colony of A. sp. ‘Abacaxi’, an undescribed dwarf cichlid from Brazil. Enjoy….


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Corydoras sp. CW049

Here is a short video showing my school of Corydoras sp. CW049 .  These catfish were imported from Peru, but they come from the region around Letecia, where Colombia, Peru and Brazil intersect.  They are similar to CW051, but the 49’s have proven to be easier to spawn.  This is one of my favorite cory cats, but they are pricey.  They swam around in the warehouse fish room for months and nobody bought them, so I decided to keep them for myself.  You will also see a larger cory in the video, which is CW117 from Brazil.  Also in the tank are a group of Apistogramma cacatuoides ‘triple red’, which are already spawning.  I thought that the cories would go into the caves at night and steal the eggs, but so far they have left the cichlids alone.


The aquarium is a 30-breeder aquarium that is top drilled in the back.  Water changes of about 15% are done 2x each week by topping the tank off with water and letting the excess drain out.  The filter is a Poret foam 5″ cube filter with a jet lifter that has an elbow and spout on the top.  That smooth 90-degree turn makes all the difference in the world when it comes to current in the tank.  I get the filters from .  The wood and caves provide structure and cover, but the catfish pretty much stay out in the open over the sand.

The tangled mass of plant-like matter in the back is Spanish moss, which you can get at most nurseries that sell supplies for planted hanging baskets.  I soak the moss in hot water, changing daily, for a few days to get rid of a lot of the tannin, but there is still plenty in there.  I do not mind the tannin, and the moss is a great place for the cories to deposit eggs (though it will be hard to see them in there).  The yarn mops are also for depositing eggs.  One mop is located directly in the current of the filter, and the other is on the calm side of the tank against the glass.  Hopefully I will see some signs of spawning soon.

The cories are fed at least twice each day.  Baby brine shrimp is given daily (along with all the other tanks in the room).  Other feedings may be flake (Brine Shrimp Direct deli, plankton and earthworm flake), sinking pellet (Sera plankton pellets), Repashy gel food (Bottom Scratcher or Spawn & Grow) or live black worm.  I generally feed each of those foods a few times each week, but not a lot of any of them.

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A Tank for Apistos

The new fish room is functional and I am in the process of getting my aquariums set up for keeping the fish that I have on hand; and for some fish that have come my way that I simply cannot pass up, regardless of whether I am ready for them or not!  All 21 of the 30-breeder aquariums in the fish room will be aqua-scaped long-term homes for different species, many of which are from soft, black-water biotopes.  I was experimenting with using planted tank ‘soils’ over int he old fish room, and I like the affect that they have on the pH in a soft water tank, so I am going to incorporate these soils into the aquariums where I want the water to be very soft and acidic.  This video will show you how I am setting up a tank as one of these soft, black-water biotopes for a group of Apistogramma sp. ‘Miua’ and cardinal tetras.


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Breeding Project: Endler’s Livebearers and Small Guppies

I have been looking for an opportunity to start working with some small livebearer species for a while, but I have not pulled the trigger on buying small groups of fish that would take a long time to build up into a good size colony.  I want some livebearers types that are desirable as aquarium subjects, but will also produce enough culls to feed my growing collection of small predatory fish like dwarf pike cichlids and small wolf fish.  A member of our local club (Madison Area Aquatic Hobbyists), Jeff Zwicker, recently posted an ad to sell his colonies of Endler’s livebearers and other guppy types, so I took a trip out to see them… and made a purchase.  Six different colonies!  Enjoy the video….


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One of my favorites…

Pelvicachromis kribensis ‘Moliwe’ is one of my all-time favorite fish.  I am rarely without a pair.  I still have a few fish that are descendants of fish that I brought back from Cameroon in 2009, but the pair in this video is a wild pair imported about 6 months ago.  This is the second spawn.  You may wonder why I have these larger tetras in the tank, because they can be a risk to the fry.  Watch the parents work together to protect their brood.  I want to see that behavior, and I believe that the need to work together to protect the fry makes the pair better parents.  Enjoy…


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Breeding Project: Apistogramma

Merry Christmas!

Here is the next installment in the Breeding Project video series, but this time I will not be introducing just a single species.  Instead, this video is going to describe what I do when I am working with any species in the genus Apistogramma.  Enjoy…

Breeding Apistogramma – full transcript

Time for another Breeding Project, but this time I am not going to describe a single species. This video will describe the strategies I use to breed Apistogramma, dwarf cichlids from South America.

There are differences between species of apistos, but for the most part the tanks are set up the same. I will describe the basic layout of the tank, filtration, water changes and feeding, and then address the methods I use to get the water parameters right. I will end with a little tour of the different Apistogramma species I am currently hoping to spawn.

I use relatively small aquariums for breeding Apistos, usually a 10-gallon tank for most species, and maybe a 15-gallon or 20-gallon long aquarium for larger, more boisterous species, or for species that breed in trios or harems.

Let’s start with a bare tank and set it up for housing a pair of apistos. This is a 10-gallon aquarium faced end-out on the aquarium. Orientation does not matter, but going end-out makes it easier to create some visually-isolated hiding places in the tank.

Substrate is a secondary concern to me. Apistogramma are not big diggers, so having a layer of sand or gravel on the bottom is not required. I like to use a light dusting of sand, maybe ¼” at the deepest, for aesthetics, but I think that an apisto will be perfectly happy in a bare tank. Especially if there is some leaf litter (which we will get to).

I use small, air-driven sponge filters to keep the water clean. And I want the air flow to the filter to be adjustable. I turn the air down and raise the lift tube up to the surface so that the water flow does not disturb the overall calmness of the water in the tank. Most apistos are not found in fast moving water. Most are found in bottom-land swampy areas with no current at all.

Something that I do that most people do not, is place a yarn spawning mop in the back of the tank next to the filter. The purpose of the mop is to provide a dense hiding place in the tank. Fish that are being chased can escape under, behind or even into the yarn of the mop. The mop will also collect some detritus as it ages, and will become a source of microscopic food particles for small fry. The yarn will also be more surface area for beneficial bacteria in the aquarium, which helps the water stay clean.

I use a spawning cave of some type in the tank. The caves can be just about anything that provides a protected place for the female to lay her eggs in. Apistogramma prefer to lay their eggs on vertical surfaces, or the roof of the cave. Small openings are also helpful. The male does not need to fit in the hole, because be can flood the cave with his milt… but the fertilization rate will be higher if he can get into the spawning site with the female.

A piece of driftwood provides more structure, and will also release tannin into the water. Tannin helps to lower the pH in soft water, and has some chemical properties that benefit the fish in ways that are not completely understood. The natural habitats for these dwarf cichlids are usually black-water habitats with a lot of tannin.

Leaf litter is a natural cover, which also provides hiding places, adds tannin and reduces the pH. I like to use oak, elm, beech and magnolia leaves, which much be dry before using them. I soak the leaves in hot water, and let them sit in the water overnight, before using them. Soaking removes most of the tannin and helps the leaves to sink. There will still be plenty of tannin in the leaves to benefit the fish. I do not use any type of chestnut, hickory or walnut leaves, which contain some alkali chemicals that can kill the fish.

I maintain my fish room temperature at 75F, and the top row of tanks on my racks stay about that temperature all the time, so I do not use heaters in apisto tanks. A few species like water temperature to be a bit warmer, so I may use a heater for them, or a may use a heater to increase temperature to get a reluctant pair to spawn.

When I start an aquarium for a new breeding pair, I use my tap water in the aquarium because the fish have been quarantined in my tap water. I let the aquarium run for a couple days before adding the fish.

I have the advantage of being able to see many individuals to choose from. I pick females based upon color. A female that is showing breeding colors in the quarantine tank is probably a dominant female. I like to start breeding pairs as trios, with the second female being slightly smaller than the first that I choose.   Sometimes the two females live in harmony, and sometimes one is chased a lot. A female that is being chased too much will be removed once it is apparent that the male and dominant female are going to get along.

The fish I choose are young and vibrant. I do not want a big, old male. Large dwarf cichlid males may be a bit past their prime. Males are also going to be aggressive towards the female at first, so a smaller male is less likely to kill her.

I start to soften the water a day after I introduce the breeders to the aquarium. The automated water changer is not turned on over these tanks. Once each week I remove 50% of the water and replace it with reverse osmosis water. Each week the water will become a little softer, and a little more acidic.

The staple, everyday food for the breeding Apistogramma is live baby brine shrimp. Also feed my Ted’s Most Excellent gel food every other day, and live black worms once or twice each week.

My method to lowering the pH is to let it happen naturally in the aquarium. In my experience, this takes some time, and old, well-established tanks will maintain a more consistently lower pH. So I rarely start over on tanks for breeding apistos. I just let the humus in the tank build up. I do remove some of the mulm and clean the filters, but I never give the tanks a really thorough scrubbing.

The pH is not going to be significantly reduced in your aquariums unless the buffering capacity of the water, which is measured as KH or carbonate hardness, is very low. This is why, if you have hard alkaline water, a reverse osmosis filter or other source of very soft water is necessary to really get serious about breeding lots of soft water cichlids. Not all species need the low pH, but many of them do.

I do a 50% water change on my breeding tanks once each week. Between water changes the tannins in the tank can build up to make the water look like dark iced tea. When the leaves stop staining the water this dark, I know that it is time to add new leaves.

The last thing to mention is the interactions between dwarf cichlids and other fish. Dither fish are important to help cichlids feel more comfortable and to give them some targets to attract their attention. I like to use small tetras or pencil fish as dithers. Here is a tank with Nannostomus mortenthaleri, the coral red pencil type 1 as a dither. This tank has candelita tetras, a nano species from Peru. Here is the other coral red pencil, Nannostomus rubrocaudatus. This is Nannostomus beckfordi, which is probably my favorite dither, because it is hardy and inexpensive.

Interactions with other cichlids are also important, but when keeping the pairs in small tanks, the results of those interactions can be lethal. Having a row of aquariums side by side can help. I try to keep cichlids of the same species, or at least in the same species group, in adjacent tanks where they can see each other through the glass. The fish will display and spar with each other through the glass without being able to actually fight.

Using a mirror every now and then can also substitute for interaction between cichlids, but the trick can grow old if it is used to often. I use ‘mirror therapy’ infrequently, no more than once or twice each week, and only with pairs that I am trying to trigger to spawn because they have been reluctant to get down to business. I leave the mirror in for about 20 minutes, or until the fish stop flaring at their reflection. Mirror therapy sessions are great opportunities for taking photographs or videos.

In my experience, consistency is the key to success for breeding apistos, except when whatever you are doing in the tank is not working. Healthy dwarf cichlids that are in good condition should spawn readily, so when a good-looking pair does not spawn after a few weeks, I start to change things up. The only sure fire way to NOT be successful spawning fish is to do the same thing that is not working over and over again.

That is how I set up a tank to breed soft water dwarf cichlids. Now let’s take a look at a few of the species that I currently working with.

Apistogramma allpahuayo – the Peru black-chin

Apistogramma allpahuayo is a cacatuoides-group apisto that can be found in bottomland swamps in northern Peru. These black chins are exported as the ‘yellow’ variety, but I collected these myself during my trip to Peru last August. There are other varieties available, and I am working with three of them. This is the variety from the Rio Tigre. They are still quite young, but the females are already sparring for dominance. This was imported as Apistogramma allpahuayo ‘blue’, and it is a very pretty type. I think that it looks a lot like the Rio Tigre form, however, and I am not sure exactly where it comes from in Peru.

Apistogramma sp. ‘schwarzkehl’

The black-throat dwarf cichlid is an undescribed species from Colombia, that was exported to me as another species. I think this is a very pretty apisto, but I only held back one trio to work with. Of the two females in the tank, one is clearly dominant, and the other is serving as a target, but the pair has not tried to kill her. I have gotten fry from this pair once, but they were eaten. Hopefully they will spawn again soon.

Apistogramma sp. Kelleri

This cichlid is one of the two mouth brooding species that we know of. Kelleri is still undescribed. It is a larger species, and I have seen males that are pushing 5”. I have had this pair for a year, and have seen the female guarding eggs several times, but I have never seen her hold the larvae in her mouth. I recently moved them to a larger aquarium, and have not seen a spawn yet, though today the female is showing spawning colors and trying to get the male to enter the cave. Maybe they will spawn soon.

Apistogramma cf. leulingi

This pair of apistos are not wild caught fish. I received fry from a friend who brought the original pair back from southern Peru a couple years ago. The experts say that this is not the true A. leulingi, but it is certainly very similar. This is a very pretty member of the cacatuoides group. This is the shyest apisto in my collection, and getting a glimpse of the pair usually requires the use a this mirror.

Apistogramma aggasizii ‘Rio Tapiche’

The aggie from the Rio Tapiche in Peru is my favorite variety from that country. The males are a spectacular green and blue in the body, with a yellow chin and breast and red dorsal. I just got these about a month ago, and just got them set up. I have a pair with a large male, and a group of younger fish that I hope to get two pairs out of. This is one of the smaller males. The largest male would not cooperate for the camera.

Apistogramma baenschi – the Inka apisto

Inka is a popular species in the nijsseni-group. The males are large, robust fish with red-blue bodies and bright orange-yellow dorsal fins that are tall and highly serrated. The females are bright yellow with black bumblebee stripes. This very showy cichlid is relatively easy to spawn.

Those are a few of the Apistogramma that I am working with. There are others, and I will share more of them with you when I make the update on this breeding project.

There are a lot of good resources for information about Apistogramma and other dwarf cichlids. Two of my favorites are the Mergus Atlas books by Dr. Uwe Romer. These books describe many species of dwarf cichlids from all over South America, and cover information about their habitat and husbandry.

Let’s try something a little different with this video… If you have a video posted on YouTube featuring an Apistogramma, paste a link to it in the comment section. I would like to see the fish that you are keeping. If you do not have a video to post, but still want to share your experiences with keeping or breeding Apistos, please feel free to comment here or on my blog site, where you will find the complete transcript from this video.

Please subscribe to my Youtube channel… Thank you for watching… TedsFishroom.


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Breeding Project: Benitochromis nigrodorsalis

The next species I will present in the Breeding Project series is a chromidotilapine cichlid from Cameroon, Benitochromis nigrodorsalis… the black-dorsal Benitochromis, from the Moliwe region.  Enjoy….

Transcript from the video:

This will be a video about another species that I am currently working with. The first species in this series is the loricariid catfish Panaqolus albivermis, which are doing very well. They have settled in and are very active. They eat a ton and make a pretty big mess. I do not like to let the detritus build up in the aquarium, so I use a siphon every few days to remove what I can see. This is a lot a dirt! I also knock out the filter once a week… even more dirt!

Right below them on the rack is a group of cichlids from Cameroon, Benitochromis nigrodorsalis from the Moliwe region. I am fortunate to have collected this species during my trip to Cameroon in 2009, but I did not bring any back with me, because it is a species that is commonly available from specialty fish suppliers.

The genus Benitochromis used to be a part of the genus Chromidotilapia, and the species in both genera are similar. Benitochromis are generally medium-size cichlids found in the small rivers and streams of western Cameroon. Their reproduction is interesting in that they are pair-bonding bi-parental mouth brooders, which means that both parents will share in the task of incubating the eggs. Hopefully we will have a chance to see this in action.

Here are some pictures of the habitat in Moliwe, Cameroon, where we found Benitochromis nigrodorsalis. This is probably the most collected region of Cameroon, and there are several species in the hobby that come from there. One of the most commonly bred West African cichlids in the hobby, Pelvicachromis kribensis from Moliwe, is found in the same streams as the black-dorsal Benitochromis. We found them both in the same section of the stream we were collecting in.

The Moliwe region of Cameroon is under heavy palm oil cultivation. 20 years ago this area was heavily forested, but now all you can see are row upon row of palm oil trees. This has changed the stream significantly. More sun hits the water, so plants and algae are thicker. Water is probably warmer too. The palm oil plantations also mean more people, and their livestock, are using the stream.

I do not know what the actual impact on the fish fauna in the Moliwe region is, but palm oil in general usually has a negative impact. Right now there are still fish to be collected, but who knows what the future will hold.

The aquarium for this project is a 30-gallon breeder that is filtered with a Poret foam matten wall filter. The dual lift tubes supply a steady gentle current in the water, which the cichlids like. I have set the décor up to mimic the natural habitat with a sand substrate, wood for cover, some Anubias sp. plants and leaf litter.

The water parameters in the wild are very soft, but with a neutral pH. Every breeding account I have found on this species describes them as being perfectly happy in harder water conditions, up to pH 8.0 and 600 ppm TDS. My tap water falls under that at pH 7.4 and 300 ppm TDS, so I am not planning to use any special water conditions. If the fish do not try to spawn, or have a hard time hatching eggs, I may soften the tank with some reverse osmosis water. Without dropping the hardness in the tank the leaves and wood are not going to lower the pH very much at all.

Water temperatures in Cameroon are cool, rarely above 75F, and without a heater this aquarium will stay in the low 70’s .

The dither fish for this aquarium will be a school of yellow-tail Congo tetras, Hemigrammopetersius caudalis. This is not a biotope species from the same rivers as this Benitochromis, but I like the look of this tetra.   Having tetras in the tank helps the cichlids to feel more comfortable. I put the tetras in the tank a few days before I added the cichlids.

Mature male black-dorsal cichlids are easy to identify. They are larger than females, have more elongated fins and a more completely black dorsal fin. Females are smaller and less colorful, with more rounded fins.

Four B. nigrodorsalis are going into the aquarium: two males and two females.

These fish have been in quarantine for 8 weeks, with no problems. This species is very hardy, and any problems that do occur are usually a result of aggression. So I will watch these four carefully until I know which two are the dominant pair, and then move the other two out for their own safety.

Feeding these cichlids is easy. They are omnivorous that like to chew on detritus in the substrate looking for small invertebrates, eggs and even decaying plant matter. I feed my gel food formula, Ted’s Most Excellent, as a staple diet, and give them additional food items a few times each week. Any flake, small pellet or gel food will be readily accepted.

Since I am using my tap water, the automated water changer will be turned on, which will give the aquarium a small 20-30% water change three times each week. Once every couple weeks or so I will use a gravel vacuum to stir up the substrate, remove accumulated detritus and give the fish a larger water change.

When the cichlids do breed I will be back with an update on this Benitochromis nigrodorsalis breeding project. A great resource for more information about this or any other Benitochromis sp. cichlids is Dr. Anton Lamboj’s book, The Cichlid Fishes of West Africa. This book was published in 2004, but they are still available by searching on line.

If you are keeping, or have kept, Benitochromis nigrodorsalis, and want to share your experiences with it, please let us know in the comment section below this video, or in a comment on my blog. The entire transcript from this video is available on my blog site:   Reading the details may be easier than trying to find a moment in the video.

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