Spawning Ptychochromis mangarahara
by George and John Reclos
Sometimes things just happen. I wish I could tell you that we did our best or tried various ideas to induce this species to spawn, but it would be a lie. These little cichlids (barely 6 cm for the male and 4 cm for the female) arrived here exactly 40 days ago. They were donated to us by Sonia Guinane and Dave Tourle in Vichy, travelled from France to Athens via Milan, went in their tanks (5 specimens in a 100 liter tank) and then simply vanished. We could rarely see 1-2 of them and that was all. Being really small they could hide very easily in their heavily decorated tank (lots of rocks and bogwood). In every tank you can see one of them close to the front window and sometimes a second one close to it. The rest are only visible during feeding time.
One day, while working on the Paretroplus maculatus tank trying to save a clutch of eggs from being eaten by the parents, we noticed that the little Ptycho in one of the tanks had moved a huge quantity of sand to the right revealing the glass bottom on the left. I never thought that fish that small could spawn so I e-mailed (guess who?) Sonia asking her what else could they be up to. Twenty hours later my question was answered. The little pair had laid their eggs in the rock they revealed and they were fanning them. The eggs are much smaller than those of Paretroplines and are semi-transparent, light grey in color. Although I guess that normally both parents take care of the eggs, we have only seen the female doing that for the time being. Looking more carefully, we found the male in the middle of the tank keeping the other three fish out of range.
The pair is too young and obviously inexperienced but it is our policy to allow our fish to raise their fry on their own if they can and only act if they can't do that after 2-3 spawning attempts. After all, these particular fishes are too young so they have all the time in the world to make it. We have already started adding Protogen (as described here) and we hope for the best.
In case you were wondering, our Ptychos are fed four times daily with Dr. Bassleer small sized pellets and we change about 75% of the water on a weekly basis. The tank (104 l gross capacity) is equipped with an external filter (600 l/h) a strong air pump (350 l/h) and a heater. It is decorated with rocks and bogwood while it is covered by our beloved algae. It is a very old tank perfectly matured and will serve its task if the eggs finally hatch. The male is the largest fish in the tank so it will be able to protect the fry till they are old enough to be transferred in their own tank.
The Ptychochromis pair has done a remarkable job. The eggs hatched today and she placed them.. somewhere (they are so small which makes it impossible to see them). However, the fact that she hovers over the same spot but near the substrate (and the male is.. ferocious) means that they are probably still there. We will wait till they become free swimming and then transfer them to another tank. In my opinion, it should be about 30 of them..
Eggs laid on the rock by a very young pair
The male (left) and female protecting their eggs. You can see the red hue on the dorsal and anal fins of the male as well as on the tail.
The female with its genitals still protruding.
In this photo you can see the size difference between the two sexes.