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Breeding Angelfish-Part 7- Infertility

We have previously gone over the problem of Angelfish eating their eggs while spawning, or shortly thereafter. We will now go over fertility. Next we will go over what happens once the eggs hatch, but before the fry are free swimming. Fertility is an issue with Angelfish and will vary drastically between different pairs. Some pairs will be totally infertile; other pairs will be infertile at first and then will become fertile. On pairs that are fertile, the percentage of fertile eggs will range from just a few to, best case scenario, about 90% fertility. The amount of fry produced can vary from just a few to a couple of thousand. There are three main causes of infertility in Angelfish. The first one is mechanical and is caused by the male not doing his job and fertilizing the eggs. The second and third are biological and are due to either the eggs or sperm being genetically or chemically infertile. When Angelfish lay eggs, the male should follow the female on a fertilizing run as soon as she does an egg laying run. Some males only make the run after every two or three egg laying runs. It is my experience that these males tend to have a lower fertility rate. Some males will not fertilize at all. These tend to be the males that also are most aggressive on eating the eggs. There is very little you can do to change these males. Some Angelfish are infertile due to water chemistry. To optimize fertility, water temps should be kept constant between 84 and 88 degrees. Ph should be kept constant at 6.5. Heavy filtration, if possible, is a big plus. I try and avoid doing water changes at this time. The hatch rate is the best when the water is soft. Fluctuation in any of the water conditions while the eggs are developing will result in infertility. So once you put them in the hatch tank, DO NOT change any water conditions. Angelfish that are genetically infertile will never be fertile. Please note that keeping water temperatures above 96 degrees for over a week will usually result in the permanent infertility of Angelfish. Some Breeders have been known to purposefully sterilize the Angelfish they sell to keep others from being able to breed the strains they have developed. We would never do this.

Breeding Angelfish – Part 5 – The Spawning Process

In the last article we went over how to get your Angelfish to spawn. In this article we will go over the actual spawning process. The spawning process is everyone’s favorite part. This is what hooked me on Tropical Fish as a young boy and I still, 45 years after my first spawn, find it fascinating.. The first sign that your Angelfish are getting ready to spawn will be their obsession with cleaning the slate or breeding cone you provided. It will always be on a surface that is mostly vertical and if you do not provide a surface that meets that condition on which you want them to use for spawning, they will spawn on other surfaces that are much more difficult such as the side of the tank or filter tubing. Once you see both of them cleaning the spawning site, spawning will usually follow within a day or two. You will also see them start doing the mating dance. They will swim towards each other at a slightly upward angle. Once they get next to each other, they will shimmer and then swim away from each other at a slightly lowered angle. The mating dance is not always performed. I have found that Wild Caught Angelfish almost always do it, but later generations of tank raised strains often do not. The most spectacular aspect of the spawning will be the colors of your Angelfish. Whatever their color, it will become MUCH more intense and vibrant during spawning. This will be the prettiest you will ever see your Angelfish. They will also become aggressive toward other fish, including other Angelfish, at this time. They will aggressively defend the breeding site from all intruders, including you. If you put your hand in near the spawning site when they are preparing to spawn or have already spawned, they, usually the male, will bite your hand. While it really does not hurt much, they will do it very aggressively, it will startle you and it will be something you want to avoid. At some point after your Angelfish start doing all of the above, they will actually lay the eggs. It will start with the female rubbing her belly, and her breeding tube, against the surface that they have cleaned. She will always lay in an upwards motion. The total length of the spawning run will be between ½ and five inches. She will lay between 1 and 12 eggs per spawning run. They can lay over a thousand eggs at one spawning, but it it usually 3 to 5 hundred. The more mature the pair, the larger the spawn will be. The male Angelfish will usually then follow directly behind her in the same basic motion fertilizing the eggs. The entire process can take between one and five hours. The eggs will usually be beige This is when the fun is over and the frustration can start. The first two issues that you will be confronted with are eating of the eggs, especially by the male, and infertility. In the next article in this series, we will go over Angelfish eating the eggs.

Breeding Angelfish-Part 6- Eating of Eggs and Fry

We will now go over what to expect after the eggs have been laid. This is where the frustration starts. The first two issues that you will be confronted with are eating of the eggs and fry, especially by the male, and infertility. We will go over the eating of the eggs first. We will go over infertility in the next part of the series. One problem, and the one you must get past, with breeding Angelfish is the eating of the eggs, or fry once the eggs hatch out, by the parents. The good news is that only about 30% of the spawning Angelfish pairs will eat the eggs and another 20% will eat the fry as soon as they hatch out. This is a much lower percentage than with some other Cichlids such as Discus. While both parents will eat the eggs, the male does it more often. This is sometimes done as they spawn and there is very little you can do if this occurs while spawning. The female will make her egg-laying run and then the male, instead of following her with a fertilizing run, will follow her and eat the row of eggs. This behavior is most common in new pairs. Many new pairs will eat their eggs in the first couple of spawns and then eventually stop eating the eggs, so do not give up on them. If you get lucky and they do not eat their eggs when spawning, there is still a chance that they will eat them before they hatch. Fortunately, if you get this far, there is something you can do. You can, at this point, take the eggs out and artificially raise them or you can take a mesh screen (house soffit screen works very well) and fit it directly over the eggs. This will allow the Angelfish to still blow on the eggs and bond with them, but will keep them from eating the eggs. Obviously, you will need to have planned for the spawning and will need to have created the screen prior to the actual spawn. If the eggs do not get eaten and are fertile, they should hatch out in two days and become free swimming in about six days. In the next article, we will go over infertility.

Breeding Angelfish – Part 4 – Spawning

Last article we went over Spawning Tank set up. This week we will go over how to get your Angelfish to spawn. The first thing you need to understand is that you are not in total control. If Angelfish do not want to pair off, there is nothing you can do about it. The only thing you can do is provide the right conditions so that it is more likely that they will pair off. If you have a sexed pair and they are the only Angelfish in the tank, it is likely with about a 80% chance that they will eventually pair off if left together for a long period of time. To hurry our potential young lovers along, we provide conditions that are conducive for romance. We put 12 newly mature Angelfish in a 55 gallon tank and let them acclimate to it for two weeks. We then start doing some sudden changes in the tank conditions to stimulate courtship. Some of the changes we make are • Change the water temperature to 72 degrees for a few days and then bring it up to 86 degrees over about 12 hours and then leave it at 86 degrees for the remainder of a week. • Let the tank get somewhat dirty, not doing the daily water changes for a few days and then doing a 80% water change. • Feed them heavily for a few days and then stop feeding them for four days, followed by feeding them live food for three days. • Do two 60% water changes four hours apart where the Ph goes from 6.5 to 7.0 at the first change and then from 7.0 to 7.5 at the second change. • Leave the tank dark for two full days and then turn the lights on for two full days. If we have tried all of the above and after two months they still have not paired off, we switch out six of those Angelfish and start the process over again with six new Angelfish along with six remaining. In the next article we will go over the spawning process.

Breeding Angelfish – Part 3 – Spawning Tank Set Up

Last week we went over how to get the Breeding Pairs. This week we will go over the tank that we move the pairs into for spawning. We keep our breeder pairs in 30 Gallon tanks. Some breeders use 20 gallon tanks. We think the larger tanks are more beneficial to the breeders as they will pretty much stay in that tank for the rest of their lives. We use both an outside filtration and a sponge filter in the breeder tanks. Having extremely clean water is very important. The angelfish will breed in tanks that are a little dirty, but the chance the eggs will develop fungus after spawning is increased dramatically if the water is slightly dirty. We recommend a base temperature of 84 degrees for breeding angelfish. It is very important that the water not be hard. Hard water will significantly increase the chances that eggs will be infertile or the fry will die when they start becoming free swimming. Hard water will also increase the chance of deformities in fry. We recommend a Ph of 6.5 and a TDS under 100. Lighting is important for spawning. We recommend that you set your lights on timers with 14 hours of light and 10 hours of dark. You should do two 40% water changes each week. We will go over how to get your breeding pairs of Angelfish to spawn in our next article.

Breeding Angelfish – Part 2 – Breeding Pairs

As we went over in the last article, we do not sex out Angelfish to get our breeding pairs. Instead, we have found the best way is to put 12 slightly under breeding size Angelfish (body size without fins of around 1.5 to two inches) in a 55 gallon tank and let nature take its course. The only purpose of this tank is to obtain pairs and will not be the tank that is used once they have paired off. Make sure you many spawning cones spread out all over the tank. Many breeders use slate, but we use 2 inch PCV pipes at 10 inches long attached to a base of 2 inch to 4 inch converter PCV connection. We use these for two main reasons. One, the eggs will be much more easily seen on them than when they are on slate. Secondly, the PCV is much more easily cleaned between spawnings and will not hold bacteria in it like the slate. The tank should be kept at 86 degrees. The TDS should be under 100 and the Ph should be 6.5. The pairing tank should be kept immaculately clean with outside canister filtration and At least two sponge filters on the inside. You should do two 40% water changes each week. You then just need to be patient. You will find that over the next year you will likely get 3 5 Angelfish breeding pairs out of the tank. When they spawn they will become VERY territorial and will keep all other fish away from where they spawn. We then separate them into their 30 gallon spawning tank and remove the eggs for artificial rearing. We will go over artificial rearing of Angelfish in future articles in this series.

Breeding Angelfish – Part 1 – Sexing Angelfish

Sexing Angelfish is difficult at any size, but can be done with less difficulty and more accuracy than with some other Cichlids such as Discus. In Angelfish the male is often larger than the female, but this is not always the case as with some strains such as Silver and Black Angelfish I have many pairs in which both sexes are huge and exactly the same size. Also, if you do not know the history of the fish, it could end up being one of the fish is just more mature that another and you could have two males or two females at different ages and different sizes. You can sex mature breeding size Angelfish by looking at their breeding tubes which can be found under the belly of the Angelfish between the Pelvic Fins and the Anal Fin. In the males it is smaller, more pointed and slightly angled more forward. In the females the breeding tube is called Ovipositor (more generally known in both sexes as the Genital Papilla) and it is wider, larger, more blunt at the end and goes lightly backward. This takes some experience to sex accurately and is only useful in fully mature Angelfish. Some males will have a bulge or hump on the crown of the head whereas females will have a straighter forehead. This is a very inaccurate way to sex Angelfish and cannot be used reliably as there are many exceptions. Some males will have thicker lips than females. This is especially true in wild Angelfish and old strains such as silvers. The difference is very slight, is only present with mature breeder size Angelfish and cannot be used reliably. All of the sexing methods we have gone over only work well with mature Angelfish and it is not possible to accurately and consistently sex juvenile Angelfish. With all of that said, we do not sex our Angelfish to get breeding pairs. We will go over how to get breeding pairs in our next article.

What you should know about caring for Angelfish

1) Angelfish are pretty hardy and can survive a wide range of water conditions. For those of you used to keeping Discus, Angelfish will be much easier.
2) The ideal Ph around 6.5, but they will be fine in any Ph from 5.8 to 8.0.
3) The ideal temperature is around 84 but they will do well in any temperature for 78 degrees to 90 degrees. Breeding Angelfish should be kept at 88 degrees.
4) Soft water is recommended. We recommend Blackwater Extract.
5) Plants, swords especially, do nicely with Angelfish. Just remember to clean the gravel frequently. Plants act as a natural filter.
6) We recommend high filtration, but Angelfish are not nearly as sensitive to slightly dirty water conditions as are other South American Cichlids such as Discus and Rams. We also highly recommend a UV sterilizer. Ideally, we recommend 1-micron filtration.
7) Gouramis, Plecos, Rams, Corydoras catfish and Discus do well with Angelfish.
8) Their large fins make than very attractive to aggressive fish and fin nippers. Do not put them in with aggressive fish (most Cichlids other than Rams and Discus) or fin nippers (such as Barbs).
9) Angelfish are grazers, so feed them several times a day. We recommend that Angelfish be fed three times a day. If that is impossible, feed them a minimum of two times a day with as much as they can eat in 10 minutes. We feed our Angelfish primarily Beef Heart Flake, but supplement it with other Flake Foods and Freeze Dried Foods such as Blood Worms and Brine Shrimp.
10) Most Angelfish start showing their coloration even as juveniles, but do not show their full colors until they are mature adults.
11) Angelfish can grow to 9 inches; top to bottom, but most in Aquariums will only attain 6-7 inches. Altum Angelfish will grow larger; around 9 inches in aquarium, but some have reached 16 inches. Altums have been known to reach 19 inches in the wild.
12) They can live up to 11 years.
13) Different colors and patterns can be kept together and will freely breed together.
14) While Angelfish do not technically school and will do fine by themselves, we recommend that they be kept in groups of at least three.
15) Do not create excessive current in your tank. Your Angelfish will need an area of slow moving water.

Feng Shui

**Luck and Feng Shui**
According to an Asian belief system called Feng Shui, good luck and harmony can be created by the keeping of Tropical Fish, particularly Discus, Flowerhorn and Arowana. Feng Shui is also known as Chinese Geomancy and it believes that energy forces will harmonize with people and their environment. Translated into English, Feng Shui means wind-water. It is believed that Yin and Yang, opposites in nature, flow in a natural cycle and are always replacing each other. In Feng Shui good Chi energy can bring good luck, wealth and opportunity to an individual. It is believed that keeping of tropical fish can bring good Chi to a person.

Siam Yellow Master Discus

The Siam Yellow Master is a recently developed Pigeon Blood derived strains. It was developed around 2004 in Thailand. It started with a Golden Sunrise Discus, which is actually a hybrid of a Pigeon Blood Discus that was a mostly yellow variant and a wild caught Golden Discus. Through Selective Breeding, it was developed to have a much deeper Yellow coloration. They have little to no red in the fins. The ones we sell today have very little to no peppering and when they do it is mostly temporary/transient peppering that will go away when the fish are not stressed. As juveniles, Siam Yellow Masters usually do not show their full coloration and are a pale yellow. As they mature, the yellow coloration will slowly deepen until they are a very deep yellow as mature adults. Siam Yellow Master will usually have a perfect round body even as juveniles.

Pigeon Blood Discus were originally developed from a mutation found in a Red Turquoise Discus in 1989. Kitti Phanaithi, a breeder of Discus since 1970 in Thailand, saw a Discus in a friends tank that had a very yellow and golden sheen in the coloration. It also had considerable black coloration in the fins and a little on the body. It had extremely bright yellow eyes. Kitti recognized that this was probably a naturally occurring mutation and purchased the Discus for 3000.00 USD. He then selectively crossbred it with other Red Turquoise Discus to develop the Pigeon Blood strain. Kitti first showed the Discus to the world at the 1991 Aquarama in Singapore.

Most of the brightly colored yellow, gold, orange and light red Discus are Pigeon Blood derived strains. As mentioned previously, some of these are the Red Melon, Fire Dragon, Siam Yellow Master, Golden Sunrise. Recently, more strains of different coloration such as light blues and white (Snow White Discus are not derived from Pigeon Blood) have been developed. About 10 years ago, Pigeon Blood Discus with bright red eyes were developed. At first, most of the Pigeon Blood derived Discus still had the black “peppering” on most of the fins and some of the body. Over the last 20 years, since the Pigeon Blood was first developed, highly selective breeding has been successful in getting rid of most of the black peppering. With that said, many of the pigeon blood strains will show a little black peppering. The black peppering will increase dramatically when these Discus are stressed. The black peppering will come on very fast once the fish is under stress. Once the stress is gone, the peppering will slowly decrease, but this can take months. Pigeon Blood derived Discus do not develop Stress Bars when under stress like most other Discus. Instead, the peppering is the main sign of stress.

Other than coloration, Pigeon Blood derived Discus are exactly like any other Discus and require the same conditions.