This beautiful fish was first announced to our hobby by the German magazine, DATZ, in July 1989. It is found in the Rio Guamá, near Ourém in Brazil. Its maximum size is 12cm, which makes it a good candidate for an average size tank. It is supposed to belong to the genus Hypancistrus because of the typical mouth and teeth of the genus (Seidel 00), but it is yet to be scientifically described. It is also supposed that the fish labeled in the Datz as L04, L05 and L73 are the same fish as our L28. This would make the repartition of this fish in the Rio Tocantins, Rio Pará and naturally the Rio Guamá. There is perhaps a doubt concerning the L73 as its ventral coloration differs a bit from the others.
I purchased my L28 from a shop here in Switzerland, in June 2001. I originally received a group of five; three males and two females. All of them were placed in quarantine to prevent any disease. I sadly lost one of the males shortly after their arrival and a few months later the smaller female, both for unknown reasons. The remaining fish were placed in a 250-litre tank, where they settled in well. Each male chose a little territory at either end of the tank, one under a piece of driftwood and the other inside a bamboo cave. The female navigates between the two territories, choosing a place close to the territory of one of the males. The two males really avoid each other and I have never witnessed any fights between the two. Neither have I seen marks on any of the males indicative of fighting, even though one is very dominant. As they are the biggest Loricariidae in the tank, they usually don’t have any problem with the other fish. Of all the Loricariidae of the genus Hypancistrus, this is one of the most territorially aggressive, but still no where near as bad as the Pseudacanthicus species and similar.
The tank is filtered with a 700L/H external pump in one side and two internal pumps in the other side, one 700L/H and one 1400L/H. The tank is lighted with two “Gro-Lux®” tubes during 7-9 hours a day. The parameters of the tank are a ph: 7.4, dGH: 4-5°, dKH: 2°, conductivity: 140 microsiemens. Every week 50% water changes are made and replaced with 60% water from a R/O unit and 40% tap water. The temperature is set at 27° Celsius.
I usually feed them bloodworms, freshwater shrimp and dry food from the hobby, usually tablets for Loricariidae and other bottom feeders. I have tried to feed them vegetables but they don’t seem to touch them. Spirulina tabs are taken but not as avidly as the bloodworms. Still they don’t seem to be picky on what is offered to them.
After reading an article of Ingo Seidel’s about keeping and breeding Hypancistrus sp L66 in an issue of the Datz, the idea of trying to breed my fish started to grow in my mind. I began to to search around for any information, but could only come with a little info from Erwin Schraml, who told me about two spawning accounts, sadly not much was written about it. Since these fish also come from a big river, I thought that I would apply what has worked for breeding Hypancistrus zebra and L66, so I started to do 50% water change every two days. I would make the temperature sink form 27°c to 20°C. I would also leave the heater unplugged over night and plug it back the next morning. I continued to feed the fish with bloodworms and spirulina tabs. Still no sign of response after a week of that treatment, well except from the Corydoras present in the tank!
After three weeks I had to stop because of a sign of disease on one of my L66s. I had to treat the whole tank as prevention and so I left the tank untouched except for feeding during 8 days. The fifth day of the treatment I did find that the male and the female were trapped in the same cave. Sadly 3 days later the female was out and had not spawned. This was going to be a long wait I first thought, but two days later I found her trapped again in the same cave but this time with the dominant male. They did stay there together during 4 days. During this time I could see the male fanning and sometimes stopping and reacting like he was being hit by some electrical shock, this alternatively lasted for about every 10 seconds with sometimes a little break. I suppose that this is a way to stimulate the female to spawn and show her that he is strong enough to take care of the young. On the evening of the fourth day I found a strange activity near the cave, the male was fanning even faster and longer than usual, he was also doing some back and forth movements in front of the cave but without getting out completely, when near the entry he would again be taken by some sort of spasms for around 20 seconds. They behaved like this for about 20 minutes and during this time they did it about 7-8 times. The male finally went out completely and so did the female and the male went back in. The female stayed there for a while and did try to get back in the cave. At this time I was able to see her pink oviduct, which was well out, and left me without any possible doubt. She did not stay there for long. After checking in I was able to see about 30 eggs and I estimated their size to be around 5-6mm. Sadly after two weeks all the eggs were gone. I don’t know the reason, the eggs seemed to be fertile. After all the excitement I sort of gave up on them.
I did notice one thing about the Loricariidae during this time, breeding male develop elongated odontodes on the lateral plates, which is not the case with submissive males. The interopercular odontodes are also different on dominant and submissive male. In submissive males, the interopercular odontodes are barely bigger than those on the female which can leave a doubt about the sex, but by looking on the pectoral odontodes this doubt should be gone as on male’s they are about twice as big as than on the female. The interopercular odontodes on dominant males are rather big achieving easily one inch long, compared to ¼ to 1/3 an inch on females and submissive males.
About two months after that unfinished attempt, I retried and started again with my water changes, this time after just a week I found the male and female trapped again in the same cave as previously used. The only difference was that it was not with the same male. The pair stayed in that cave for the incredible time of thirteen days after the female decided to lay her eggs. The male was fanning the eggs very well and after eight days the young finally hatched. I left the young with the male but after a few days decided to take them out. I usually don’t like doing so but as I was looking inside to see if the young were doing well, I was only able to see 5-6 of them.
I was scared that again I was going to lose the youngsters so I took them out. I put the bamboo cave with male and babies in a little plastic tank and started to collect the young, 2-3 went out, then the male, and suddenly around 15 of them. One more look inside the cave and I could see that there were some more inside. Obviously I was wrong, the male was a good dad, who was taking good care of the young, so I put the cave back, and just to avoid any problems I put the young in a nursery with water flow coming directly in, so I was sure that the young would have good oxygenation. I measured one of the young at what I presume to be 1 day post hatching and it had a size of 13mm total length.
These babies impressed me; all of them had a huge yellow yolk sac and did not have any coloration. The second day they were already getting some colour on the top of their head. After 16 days they had completely absorbed their yolk sac and were almost looking like replicas of the adults. At this stage their size had risen to 20mm, which impressed me even more.
I had at this point started to feed them with mostly spirulina tablets, which I like to use on them, as their stomach turns dark when they have eaten them. I have also tried little bloodworms but that only manages to scare them, so they haven’t eaten any yet. So far I have only lost one fry to an unknown reason, the other are doing fine and they receive about 3-4 meals a day.
While I was occupied with the little ones I did not notice that the female and the male had been at it for a second time. Obviously the egg laying took much less time than was allotted to parental care. Despite my checking inside every cave every day or two, just to see if everything was all right, I did not notice that the eggs had been laid, neither did I see that the male was fanning them, he does this all the time – with or without eggs. Not long after I did see a yellow thing just under the male’s anal fin, I first thought that it was a lone egg but by looking deeper inside I could see again about 30 eggs. What I did not expect was that it was not an egg but rather fry that had just hatched. It seems that the others were about to hatch as well. I could clearly see the male sort of chewing the eggs, probably to help the fry out. This time I left the young with them to see how things would work out. They did well and absorbed their yolk sac in the same time as the others, the male never tried to kick them out once, even after the yolk sac had been absorbed, but rather let them decide whenever they wanted to get out. Some of them even went back in the male’s cave for the night.
At that time I was going to travel to Brazil for five weeks, to visit the region of Manaus. So I asked a friend to take care of my fishes. As he is not very experienced with this, when I went back all the young had die probably due to not enough dissolved oxygen in the water and not enough water change. The male and the female did spawn a fourth time but it ended up with the eggs being eaten by the male after 2 days despite being fertile, probably he was scared and not feeling secured in that other cave. I was also able to find three young in the main tank, I have no idea if it is young from the third spawn or if another one occurred when I was away. But by looking at the size they had when I captured them it could well be from a spawn while I was away. The young are eating well and growing fast, they are currently an inch long, and are really miniature replica of the adult.
To conclude this long article, I would say that if you are searching for a nice species of Loricariidae that does not get too big and is quite easy too spawn, well this is the fish for you. They prove that if good conditions are given and if a tank set-up based on their specific needs, spawning is not impossible. The main problem with these L-numbers is their prices, which sort of inhibit people to buy more than one. The other reason why not more species are spawned by aquarists is that often people only have an individual of several species, prizing collection over reproduction. Hopefully, the future will bring more and more reports of successful spawning, and eventually their price of these beauties will drop making them more affordable for others.
Finally I would like to thanks Erwin Schraml for the information he gave me concerning the literature existing on this fish, especially about the breeding report and for having made a short summary of the main information. I also wish to thank J. W. Armbruster for all the information shared, and his encouragement on breeding this species. Finally thanks to Allan James, webmaster of wonderful web site Scotcat, for asking me to write something down, as I would probably never have done it!
Seidel, Ingo, 2000. Zebra & Co.-die Gattung Hypancistrus . Datz, 12/2000 53 Jahrgang, pages 12-18
Seidel, Ingo, 2001. Der „Königstiger-Harnischwels“ (L66). Datz, 02/2001 54 Jahrgang, pages 34-40
There is further information on this species on the Cat-eLog page.
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