A home made "Egg- Tumbler".
Text and pics by Roberto Barbuti (AIC)
Translation by Francesco Zezza (MCH)
THE BEGINNING:I have a Cyphotilapia frontosa pair for four years now. At the beginning there were five juveniles but one of them died from dropsy (as a matter of fact it showed some swim bladder problems which only worsened as the fish grew), another one other jumped out of tank and – finally – the fifth didn’t survive the awful heat wave that swept Italy last year (2002). Survivors (luckily it turned out to be a pair) began spawning in January 2003 but – to my regret – the female was lo longer carrying two days later. Same story took place two months later. During the third time (May 2003) my attempt – to hatch eggs - was by means of using a small square "cage" (5x5 cm) made of mosquito net. I stripped the female and placed the eggs in this "compartment", close to the filter outlet … It just didn't work: five days later all eggs were gone (covered with fungi)! Browsing the internet I realized that many cichlid lovers (mostly in U.S.A.) were used to hatch eggs (of mouthbrooders, of course!) using a tool commonly known as "egg-tumbler" in order to replicate – as closely as possible - the "chewing" that takes place in the mother’s mouth. I then decided to build my own egg tubler, so the next step was to determine the correct set-up. My very first attempt (not pictured here; it was a HORRIBLE thing to look at …) allowed me to grow seven fry from about fifty eggs … but then they were all sucked by a (damned) internal filter!
GETTING STARTED:I kept on thinking a lot about my previous version of "egg tumbler" when a new idea started to form in my mind. This new concept allowed me to raise 20 fry (out of –almost – fifty eggs). Things could – of course – be better but still this was a working device. I will now explain how my egg-tumbler actually works. To start with, you need three "water dispensers" of the kind commonly used in bird’s cages. These come really cheap: about ½ Euro each. See PIC 1, below.
Only the clear plastic part is used; two of them are transformed into "pipes" (removing the top end - and as less of the clear plastic as possible…) while the third one has to be shaped to fit "into" the other ones (PIC 2, below - left side).
Technical tip: I cut my "water dispensers" using a small saw and then I smooth their edges by sandpapering them - gently.
Before inserting part one into the other(s) I positioned a small piece of mosquito net over the opening so it sticks in place (PIC 2, above - right side) and then inserted it into the second part. I then did the same thing for the third dispenser and stuck it on top of the two pices. A third piece of mosquito net is positioned at the bottom and kept in place by a rubber band. (PIC 3, below).
From left to right (see photo 3 above) the water flow finds three "layers" of mosquito net (eggs will be placed on the second level by removing right most part). Two layers of net are needed at the bottom and only one at top to protect the eggs. As a matter of fact eggs tend to stay at the bottom and could be damaged or eaten by other animals … During my first trials (using a single net at the bottom) my young Ampullaria sp. (Apple snails) picked on eggs and many of my eggs were "damaged to death". I have never experienced this kind of problem with my double layer "tool".
Putting the egg-tumbler "on duty"… The egg tumbler was mounted on a "plastic pipe" (the kind used to hang frames on walls) and finally (see PIC 3, above) an air stone was placed under the (whole) egg-tumbler. Now the tumbler is ready for use.
By raising or lowering the air-stone you can change the flow of air (and water) inside the Egg-Tumbler. Eggs have to move, but not that much. To pick (and remove) dead eggs the whole tumbler is slightly raised (WARNING: the eggs have to remain BELOW the water level at all times), the upper part of the pipe is removed and the fungused eggs are picked by a small pair of pliers or tonsils.
EGGS DEVELOPMENT RATE:after six days (of egg-tumbling) two tiny black dots are visible on the side of each egg. This is the eyes and – a few hours later – a small tail will come out of each egg. Finally, after a month or so the fry is clearly visible. In the following pictures (4 & 5) you can see fry aged 20 and 35 days respectively
20 days old Frontosa’s fry.
35 days old Forntosa’s fry.
PLANS FOR FUTURE IMPROVEMENTS:Frontosa’s fry are just… LARGE! The actual pipe used in this project had a footprint with a 3 cm diameter while the eggs are each 5 mm in diameter, meaning that the eggs will have to stay in layers. Thus a higher water flow is required to mimic the "chewing" action of the mother but this has an "unwanted" side effect: eggs are vigorously moving and some will finally break. My plans are to switch to larger "water dispensers" (I have already found some with a 5 cm diameter) and I am going to use those ones, at least for my C. frontosa eggs.