Previously we went over how to artificially raise the fry. Now we will go over raising the fry naturally. Next we will go over growing out the baby Angelfish.
Naturally raising the fry requires very little work on your part. The parents do all of the work for you. Unfortunately, it is very common for the parents to eat the babies, so most breeders artificially raise the fry. There are advantages to naturally raising the fry over and above that it is much easier. Angelfish fry will eat some slime off the parent’s side for the first few days. Unlike Discus, they can survive without the slime and will immediately start eating other food. This slime is very high in protein and contains antibodies that help the babies fight off disease. Naturally raised fry will grow much faster at first and will have more resistance to disease throughout their lives.
There is also the enjoyment of watching your Angelfish raise the fry. They will stay mostly around the parents for the first month and the parents will zealously guard them. When a baby strays to far, the parents will mouth it back to the main school. This is done by both the males and females. There is nothing more rewarding than watching your large Angelfish parents and the fry swimming around the tank as a loose school. I find this fascinating and it has always been my favorite part or the hobby.
Things you should remember. These babies will be very small and weak, so you will need to turn off all filtration, except for a sponge filter. You can also take the sponge from a sponge filter and put it around the intake tube of an over the side filter. Canister filters are two powerful to put the sponge on their intake tube. The biggest mistake that you can make is to do a water change in this aquarium with water that is not EXACTLY the same temperature. Angelfish fry are extremely sensitive to temperature shock and will die if you do a water change with water that is more than a few degrees different in temperature. With that said, Angelfish fry are also very sensitive to ammonia burn, so you will need to do daily partial water changes.
Start adding a small amount of live baby brine shrimp to the tank within 24 hours of them becoming free swimming. Drip it directly over where the fry are located. Be careful how much you add as if most is uneaten, it can foul the water and lead to ammonia burn. After two weeks, slowly reduce the amount of baby brine shrimp you add and slowly start adding crumbled beef heart flake. After a month, they should be eating exclusively beef heart flake. By the end of one month, they will be about ½ inch. At this point they are much hardier and you are pretty much out of the woods. They will reach the size of a dime in about three months.
Previously we went over Angelfish infertility. We will now go over the fry prior to them becoming free swimming. Next we will go over fry after they become free swimming.
This is the easiest part of spawning and is also one of the most fascinating.
After 48 hours the eggs will begin to hatch. Only the dark ones will hatch. They are dark because after about 36 hours, the eye starts to develop and will show through the egg sack. Most of the fry will stay attached to the surface where the eggs were laid via a small membrane on their head. A few will become detached and will fall to the bottom. At this point the fry will look like a small comma to the naked eye. Under magnification, they are quite ugly and will look like something straight out of a monster movie.
They will remain attached to the substrate for another four days. There is not much to do at this point. They will have an egg sack and will live off of it during this entire time. There are only two real concerns. The first is the parents eating them. If you are going to artificially raise the fry, you will want to take the parents out. If you are not going to artificially raise the fry, you should cover them with a screen. The second concern is fungus. Adding Methylene Blue to the water will mostly solve this. If you are going to artificially raise them, and have taken the parents out of the tank, you should add aeration about one inch from the fry to keep the water moving around them. They will start to become free swimming 4 days after hatching.
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.
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.
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.