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Cichlid Breeding: Learning the Basics
Cichlid breeding is easy with some cichlids and
difficult with others, but this is made easier if you as a cichlid owner
take good care of your cichlids. Keeping the aquarium clean and maintaining
the conditions required by that particular cichlid will keep your cichlids
healthy. This will induce them to mate more readily.
Perhaps the most essential element in cichlid breeding is keeping your cichlids in top shape. How can you do this? By investing in a good filter to keep the water free of pollutants, by purchasing a heater to maintain the temperature, by carrying out regular water changes, by maintaining a good water chemistry (water should be free of ammonia and nitrites), and, by providing your cichlids with a well-balanced diet.
Why do you need to keep your fish healthy? Only healthy fish will want to mate. Moreover, many female cichlids do not eat during the incubation, which may in some cases last up to 4 weeks. Only a fish that is in good health will be able to endure such abstinence from food.
For cichlid breeding, it is helpful to get several females for each male, as this way they male's bullying does not get restricted to just one female. Aggressiveness of tankmates can cause stress among the weaker fish. For cichlid breeding to be accomplished readily, it is essential that your cichlids are not stressed.
The speed at which cichlid breeding is accomplished depends also on the diet. A varied diet should be provided. At the time of cichlid breeding it would be advisable to provide food that is rich in proteins.
Cichlids breed in different ways. Open Brooders (e.g. angelfish, discus) spawn on open surfaces like rocks, or on the substrate. Shelter Brooders are of two types – Cavity Brooders (e.g. Apistogramma) who lay their eggs in caves and in depressions, and Mouth Brooders (e.g. Aulonocara) who carry the eggs and the fry in their mouths. Open Brooders tend to lay more eggs (sometimes as much as 10,000) than the Shelter Brooders (about 300).
Cichlid breeding becomes easier if these territorial creatures are provided with sheltered areas where they can spawn. Rocks and plants can be used to provide them with hiding places. Mouth brooders will benefit the most from these hideouts because they will need more than usual protection when they are egg-laden.
The female releases the fry depending on a number of factors such as her species, her age, and the state of her health. Water quality may also determine when the fry get released.
Remember that young inexperienced females are not too likely to carry the eggs for the full term the first time round. After that first time however, they learn to breed successfully.
Sometimes fish do not mate because they are overfed – the hungrier they are, the more their aggressive tendencies are likely to show up, and the more likely they will be to mate. However some species like Auloncara naturally take time to become sexually mature. Be patient with them.
Water temperatures of about 76oC and 78oC and alkaline, hard water will aid in cichlid breeding. The maintenance of a steady temperature will aid in the hatching of the eggs.
Raising and harvesting of cichlids can be done in several ways. The best method is allowing the mother to spit out the fry naturally in a separate tank. Here she does not have to worry about other adults who may eat the fry. The survival of the fry is almost certain in this case unless the mother herself consumes the fry. in such a case it would be good to transfer the mother to another tank once she has released the fry. Most fry start eating flakes and brine shrimp once they have absorbed their egg sacs. The fry will grow rapidly with good water conditions, frequent feeding, and good diets.
Cichlid breeding is almost an art form, and you and your cichlids will keep getting better at it with time. Keep trying.
[Permission for using the picture used in this article has been given by Mike Guerin of The Jump.]
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