After quite a bit of research, I have been unable to locate any really detailed Rineloricaria spawning reports. Even the Burgess Atlas (TFH: 1989), which is so full of great information, is lacking in this area. Burgess makes some generalizations but there is little specific information. Undoubtedly, as Burgess points out, the problem is partially due to the fact that it is impossible to know what species is being discussed in each spawning report. At least with this spawning report I have photographs.
I obtained this trio at Aquarium Center in Baltimore in January 1999. The shipment contained at least two distinct species. Some were similar to the fish in the Burgess Atlas (page 759 bottom right) labeled Rineloricaria lanceolata (which are now classified as Hemiloricaria lanceolata) and some were similar to the fish on the same page (left row third photo down) labeled Rineloricaria sp. The males of both species were showing lots of bristles and this was why I bought a group. I could easily tell the boys from the girls! The male H. lanceolata-type was especially dimorphic with thick odontodes on the cheeks, nape (top of the back of the head), and sticking straight up from not only the pectoral-fin spines, but also the pectoral-fin rays. I purchased a male and two females of the lanceolata-type and a pair of the less attractive other Hemiloricaria.
All five fish were maintained in a twenty gallon long. The tank has a thin, fine sand substrate (total depth 1 cm) and is filtered by a sponge filter rated at 40 gallons. There is a rock in the center of the tank with a piece of Bolbitis (African water fern) growing on it and a single angled piece of forked driftwood that comes from a back corner out to the middle. The only other decoration consists of three pieces of bamboo split in half and one piece of bamboo that is complete and open at both ends. This piece was chosen for the spawning. The diameter is about 1.5 inches (3.5 cm) and is about six inches long (15 cm). The fish were fed cucumber and zucchini daily. For two weeks prior to spawning they were fed frozen bloodworms or brineshrimp every two to three days.
Water changes of forty percent are carried out every week. The water has the following parameters: pH 7.4, 130ppm DH, and temperature 80F. The three fish involved in the spawning are all around six inches SL. For three months prior to the spawning the fish were, well, pretty boring. Rineloricaria do not move that often, much less interact. The fish would sometimes move into or under the bamboo pieces, but I never saw any type of territories established.
A month ago we had a pretty good snow storm here in the Washington DC area. I took an old slate bottom tank and filled it with snow. As the snow melted, I would add more snow and so on until after a couple days I had 15 gallons of poor man's Reverse Osmosis (RO) water. I added some black water tonic to the melted snow and added four airstones turned up very high. My initial plan was to use the water to attempt to spawn some Mystus mysticetus, but work kept me busy and I never got around to it. About a month later I looked at the tank full of water and decided to use it on the Hemiloricaria since I did not have a lot of time to devote to a Mystus project. To be honest, I was not consciously trying to spawn the Hemiloricaria. I just thought they might enjoy the fresh water. I replaced 15 of the 20 gallons in the Hemiloricaria tank with the melted snow.
Within hours, the male H. lanceolata-type moved into the round bamboo piece. That night I noticed the male and a female in the bamboo together. They appeared to be wrestling. All I could see were two tails sticking out of the bamboo jostling each other like crazy. The next night I watched more closely and was able to see exactly what happened. Both females were trying to get into the pipe. One female was at one end and the other female was at the other end. One female would enter and lay a few eggs, then the other female would push her out and lay some of her own eggs. About the time this female laid a few eggs the other female would fight her way back in. This went back and forth for two nights. Eventually, the females were finished and they have not gone near the bamboo piece since.
With a mirror, a flashlight, and some minor acrobatics I was able to angle the mirror so I could see into the bamboo spawning cave. The male is sitting there surrounded by what seem to be hundreds of eggs. The eggs are a light yellow (compared to Ancistrus eggs they are lighter in color and smaller in diameter) and are mainly on the bottom half of the pipe. That said, there are also many eggs on the inside walls of the bamboo. Some are so far up the sides they are basically hanging upside down. The eggs are not in a single sheet, but rather in masses three to four eggs deep. This would lead me to believe that each female laid three to four eggs each time she entered the pipe.
The first eggs were produced on 2 April. On the evening of 6 April, I noticed the male seemed rather restless and was moving around in the tube a lot. Sure enough, when I checked the tube, about half the eggs were gone. I was tempted to remove the bamboo with the remaining eggs and hatch them artificially, but instead decided to leave the male and the eggs alone. This turned out to be a serious mistake since by the next evening all the eggs were gone.
It is very common for many species of fishes to eat their first few eggs and / or fry. I do not believe he ate the eggs for any other reason than inexperience at parenthood. I plan to move the trio to a ten gallon breeding tank and prime them to spawn again. I have no doubt that the male will eventually get his fatherly duties down pat.
A final test of the water chemistry revealed pH 7.0 and a hardness of 80ppm. In conclusion, the factors that brought on the spawning were: a varied diet with about 30 percent "meaty" foods, a pH drop of .4, a hardness drop of 50ppm, and a very slight (4-6 °F) temperature drop that lasted about 8 hours.
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