A new Hobbyist joins the club - part V
(breeding the Apistogramma cacatuoides)
by John and George Reclos
We are not prophets but we must remind you of what we forecasted about Margarita's future in this hobby 2,5 years ago. Back then we said that "she seems the kind of person who would take it very seriously". Well, she did. She has kept her small tank in prime shape, followed each and every instruction and advice religiously and she has set her own maintenance schedule which she follows every week. During the last two years she has kept her discus which spawn regularly but they eat their eggs shortly after (having some specimens from the same batch in our tanks we can confirm that they do show this nasty habit) so she wanted to start with one more small cichlid which could possibly manage to raise its fry. Six months ago, she removed the Hemigrammus bleheri and the Crossocheilous siamensis (which were transferred in our 240 L discus tank) and replaced them with the very peaceful Paracheirodon axelrodi and a trio of Apistogramma cacatuoides. The A. cacatuoides trio, the Discus pair, the six P. axelrodi and one small algae eating plecostomus are the only inhabitants of her tank. She performs a 50% water change every week, cleans the media of the canister filter with aquarium water every month and adds peat every 3 months. I must confess that she could definitely set an example for us, too. She observes her fish closely and whenever she feels there is something wrong with them she will immediately give us a call - and 9 times out of 10 she is right ! The water parameters are as follows: pH=7.2, KH=3, GH=8, NH3=0, NO2-=0 and NO3-=0. The pH and GH were a bit high when we got the measurement since 2.5 months had already passed since the last peat change.
She looks happy and she has every right to be! She has only lost a trio of Mikrogeophagus ramirezi during those 2.5 years and even this was not her fault - at least not entirely. Fish of this particular batch were extremely susceptible to microbial infections and there were reports from many hobbyists who acquired them that they died shortly after their introduction in their final tanks for no apparent reason. Yet, she didn't give up - she went on with larger water changes and a more powerful external filter. In the end, who dares wins.
The tank as it looked one month ago (October 2004). You can take a look at the initial setup done almost 18 months ago. Keep in mind that this photo is taken from the other side of the tank. This tank is open from three sides so we had to put a towel as a background in order to hide the furniture behind it, which is not the best way to show it. In reality it is much more beautiful than what you see in this picture. However, as you can see, the Anubia plants have grown remarkably well, there are flowers everywhere and the fish seem happier than ever (you can click on any of the pictures in this article to see the high resolution pictures).
Her female discus.. in style !
And the pair, performing the "Eclipse of the male" maneuver! Step I
and finally Step III. They feel so comfortable in this environment that they didn't even run to hide while we were taking those photos. However, the big star of this photo session was not them. It was the little guy you see below...
What you see under this Anubia leaf is a male Apistogramma cacatuoides "double red". After 3 months in the tank, he decided that since the Discus can do it, why shouldn't he give it a try? Unlike them, the A. cacatuoides pair decided not to eat the eggs and see what happens. The defended their nest very efficiently (not a hard task if you take into account the kind of tankmates they have) and they were rewarded with 15 fry which survived and have grown to 2.5 cm since then.
The proud father with some of his 15 juveniles. The juveniles are almost 3 month old and they have been growing really fast. They can always retreat among the leaves and dense roots of the Anubia plants if they need to. They were fed with commercial baby food twice daily during the first two months of their life and now eat normally, once a day, with the rest of the tankmates.
When you see the juvenile Apistogramma cacatuoides swimming among the Anubia plants or next to the Paracheirodon axelrodi you surely understand why Margarita is so happy with her accomplishment. To speak the truth, we are really proud of her. Her dedication to her tank and the strict maintenance schedule she follows should be an example for many hobbyists who keep wondering why they can't make it. It should be taken into account that her tank has no expensive or exotic equipment, she doesn't feed the fish any "specialized" foods and (the most important achievement in our opinion) her fish losses have been kept to an absolute minimum. We know that breeding Apistogramma cacatuoides is surely not the most difficult thing in fish keeping. However, the fact that she bred them, while her Discus are also spawning regularly and her fish losses are kept to a minimum allows us to conclude that she must be doing the right thing. She has read some books, asked many questions and followed a strict maintenance schedule. More important, she does so simply because she feels like doing it. There is no "magic recipe" here - she just loves her fish and takes good care of them. In the end, that's what our fish expect us to do !
Update <February 2005> We met her again at the beginning of 2005 and we had the opportunity of taking some more photos (this time a tripod was used so the photos look much more natural).
Photos were reduced in size - click on them to see the original pictures. All photos and text by G.J.Reclos / John Reclos MCH