Article © Reet Thomas, uploaded January 01, 2002.
I have had a number of these fish for several years, they are spread out thru my aquariums. I really can't say why I like them, they are not that attractive, plain gray with a black pattern. The shape is elongated with a flat head.
I just enjoy watching these fish, if they are not chasing each other they are sticking their noses into all the cracks and crannies of their home. Another reason is that these guys don't seem to care what their water conditions are. They do fine in my discus tank which is acid and with africans where the water is alkaline. They seem to be very hardy, I seldom lose one unless it gets trapped someplace or jumps out. Although they don't seem to be to bad of jumpers since many of my tanks do not have covers. The only bad thing about these fish is if you get young ones (under 2 " or so) you won't see them much, they tend to hide a lot until they get larger. The good thing about this is if you are buying your fish at shops you very seldom see small fish.
They are also very good scavengers, keeping the bottom clean of all uneaten food. I can say this for a fact because many of these fish are in bare bottom tanks. Don't treat them as scavengers though because they need a lot of food, as you will notice when you see them attack the food. They have tremendous appetites.
Most of them are in community aquariums, some are in tanks by themselves. These are my breeders. I always have several to a tank because they seem to enjoy each others company. Note, these fish will spawn in the community tank, thus another good reason to use the lid.
They never seem to bother their tank-mates, they have been with fish much smaller than themselves with no damage. I can't swear to this but it seems they don't eat livebearer fry. I can't say this for sure because there were always young in the tank. So I can't be sure that they didn't occasionally snare a baby.
I was lucky enough to watch these fish spawn. I use a yellow peanut jar lid (that floats). Don't ask, except for all of the things I tried to get them to spawn this was the only thing they liked. The male lures the female under the lid and he swims around her lightly nudging her. She expels several eggs which stick to her body. The male then removes the eggs and places them in the lid. He does this until all the eggs are expelled. At other times the female went up to the lid and seemed to place the eggs herself. The eggs are adhesive. He only lets the female stay under the nest for a short time and then he chases her away, at times very roughly. The female does tend to get beat up at times but I have never seen her torn up very much, just marks on her body and nipped fins. Sometimes he blew bubbles and other times he just placed the eggs. I couldn't tell when he fertilized the eggs but I had the feeling that the bubbles had something to do with it. I thought maybe the sperm was in the water and the bubbles helped to keep it around the eggs. The male floats under the eggs and protects them. He continues to blow bubbles even after the eggs hatch. Since I have a school of them in a fifteen gallon I remove the fry a couple of days after they hatch. They are still sticking to the lid so it is very easy to move them to another small tank. Make sure you remove a couple of gallons of water with the fry. You don't want to shock them. I found (the hard way) that for the first several weeks they didn't like big water changes. So I just removed a small amount everyday and replaced with aged water. Keep them well fed, live baby brine is great, and they will grow very fast.
The one strange thing about these fish is there is no rhyme or reason as why they spawn. They might spawn 5 or 6 weeks in a row and them stop for months. I still can't be sure what triggers the spawning, I have tried water changes, temp. changes and just ignoring them but they do their thing when they are ready. I have had them spawn in water from 70 degrees to 80. I try and keep the water around neutral but this doesn't seem to be a big deal.
Sexing the fish, turn the adult fish over. The breast plate is split down the center. On the male the plate will have a (V) shape on the edge next to the stomach. The female just has a small notch at this point. After looking at a number of fish you will have no problem sexing these fish.
These are just my observations and I have learned over the years that what works for one person doesn't always work for the next. That said I can highly recommend these fish for your tank.
There is further information on this species on the Cat-eLog page.
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