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Pterophyllum altum - Altum Angelfish

A Recipe For Angels

Take one adult male and one adult female angelfish, place in a medium sized tank filled with aged tap water, add a pinch of salt, a handful of plants, one strip of slate and a variety of frozen and flake foods, bubble gently at 24C for two to three weeks; and Voilá -Angels for everyone!

If your first experiences in spawning angels (Pterophyllum scalare) were anything like mine, the above information was about all you could squeeze out of any breeder or fish book As a result, you spent months and countless spawns trying to master the art of fry survival, only to see your little wigglers dying before reaching that all elusive stage – ‘free swimming’!

For three years now, I’ve been using a successful technique for spawning and raising angels, which was developed by experimentation and exchanging ideas with other breeders, that I would like to share in order to make your experience with spawning angels more enjoyable. It’s strange, in that once you have succeeded in raising angels, the silence is lifted and others are willing to discuss techniques. You are accepted as one of the elite – the successful angel spawner!

Environmental conditions

The most important factor in raising angels is environmental conditions. Although angelfish will spawn in a wide variety of conditions, it is important to stabilize them. Unlike what many sources suggest, angels do not need soft acidic water in order to spawn. Therefore, peat water and R.O. units are not essential. I use aged tap water with no additives or alterations (my city water is alkaline and hard). I tried softening the water and lowering the pH, but found that the water chemistry was not remaining constant, thus stressing the fish. Whatever your water conditions are, less extremes, usually the angels will adjust. Temperatures between 21C and 26C are fine, just keep it constant.

Angel breeding pairs

There are two ways of obtaining brood stock: buy a breeding pair, or buy juveniles and raising them to maturity. If you choose the former method, buy your pair from a reputable breeder. Contact the breeder and make arrangements to see the pair in their spawning environment. While there, look for desirable qualities: even finnage; uniform body shape; strong appetites; pronounced, even body pattern and coloration (if buying exotics or specific color strains); and good heath and vigor. Ask to see some offspring and make the same observations. If you are satisfied, purchase the pair. Although the pair may be expensive and there are no guarantees that they will spawn for you (if environmental conditions are not met), you are getting a fertile, proven pair that should spawn quickly, replacing your investment cost sooner. The latter method involves buying six to eight juveniles with the same desirable qualities as mentioned above, either from a breeder or a reputable fish store, and raising them to maturity, allowing them to form their own pair bonds. Initially, this method is cheaper and you may end up with more than one pair, but there are no guarantees that you will get a stable, fertile pair and you will have to wait six to nine months for sexual maturity to be reached.

Pterophyllum scalare - Maanvissen

Pterophyllum scalare – Angelfish

Angelfish breeding tank

Once you have a pair, prepare a 60 or 100 liter tank (smaller tanks are too crowding and larger tanks are a waste of a good fry rearing tank) for them using a combination of aged tap water and seasoned water. Tall tanks are suggested for veil tail varieties. Do not introduce the pair to the tank until the set-up is complete, as changing and adding items may create added stress, possibly resulting in a breakdown of the pair bond. Use sponge filtration (pre-seasoned) for ease of maintenance. Place a 2″ x 10″ strip of ¼” slate lengthwise at a steep angle in one corner and another piece of slate at the base to keep the slate from sliding down. Place a potted plant (not essential, but it does provide a hiding place) four or five inches in front of the slate. The tank should be located in a quiet area where there is minimal traffic or disturbances. Once the tank is set up, introduce the pair. Do not add any other fish.

Condition Angel pair for spawning

Now that you have a pair settled into their spawning environment, it is time to condition the pair for spawning. A good variety of flake, frozen & live (where available) foods are recommended. Foods high in protein will increase the size, quantity and quality of eggs, but feeding straight protein is not healthy for the fish as they need fiber to prevent stomach rot and aid in proper digestion. A combination of flake in the morning, blood worms in the afternoon and flake in the evening works well. A couple of evenings a week, about 1 hour after feeding flake, breeders should receive a healthy portion of white worms or blood worms. Since the fiber in the flake slows the digestive rate, this extra protein in the white and blood worms is more completely digested and absorbed. Keep in mind that with breeders most excess protein is converted into reproduction; thus bigger and stronger fry! This only works to a certain point. Don’t overdo it.

Soon the pair should begin to show interest in the slate strip and the female’s spawning tube (ovipositor) will begin to descend. This is the signal for you to prepare for the most important part: artificial hatching and rearing of the fry. Although there are some pairs that will successfully rear their offspring unassisted, it is very common for domesticated angels (angels generations-removed from the wild) to devour their eggs and fry! You will need the following items: one large glass jar; submersible heater (75 Watt); plastic distilled water jug; 40-liter tank; airline tubing; air stone and weight (an air curtain weight works very well), and Methylene Blue and MarOxy. It’s most advantageous to have these items ahead of time!

First, set up the 40-liter tank in a easily accessible location as follows: fill with tap water approximately half way and add heater (now you can see where the submersible heater comes in handy). Set temperature to exactly match with the parent’s tank temperature. Next, connect airline tubing to the air stone and weight ensuring enough tube length to reach the air supply. Fill the plastic jug full of cold tap water and stand inside tank. Do not put the lid on the jug as the chlorine gases need to escape from the water inside (using cold water and heating it up eliminates the need to add chlorine remover; the chorine will dissipate in 24 hours). Finally, WAIT FOR EGGS!

The spawn

When spawning occurs, fill the glass jar with the water from the plastic jug and place the jar inside the 40-liter tank. Do not use water from the jug that is more than a couple of days old, as it will be stale. Timing is important and after a couple of spawns you will be familiar with your pair’s spawning ritual and will have no problems coordinating hatching set-up with spawning. After being sure that spawning is complete (male is no longer fertilizing eggs), remove the eggs from the tank by simply lifting the slate out of the tank and placing it upside down (eggs to the bottom) into the glass jar. Do not worry about keeping the eggs submersed while transferring them from the tank to the jar, they will not dry out in five or ten seconds. Next, add the air stone into the glass jar at the base of the slate so that the air stream flows upward in front of the eggs (beside the eggs will work if the eggs are too close to the end of the slate). Turn the air on until a moderately consistent current is achieved. Add seven drops of Methylene Blue. Don’t forget to fill the plastic jug back up full of cold tap water and place it back into the 40-liter tank, as this will be needed for the next day’s water changes.

Pterophyllum scalare - Maanvis

Pterophyllum scalare – Angelfish

Water changes!

Water changes you say! On eggs? That’s right, water changes and lots of them. Although they are not up and swimming about, your precious little eggs are still growing and producing wastes and toxins into their unfiltered jar. Changing from 60% to 75% of water once a day will prevent toxin levels from building up. Do not try to use filtered water or incorporating a filter into the egg jar as the bacteria and fungus in the water will have a heyday (been there, done that!). Use a piece of airline tubing with a stiff piece of plastic tubing (for ease of control) attached together as a siphoning hose. While siphoning, try to remove as many of the dead (white) eggs as possible. Gently nudging the eggs usually loosens them from the slate and other eggs. It’s a good idea to siphon into an ice-cream pail in case you accidentally suck up some good eggs. After removing 60% to 75% of the water (be sure not to drain below egg level), gently pour water from the plastic container into the jar being careful not to disrupt or knock off the eggs (using a coffee filter holder from an automatic coffee machine as a filling funnel works well, just remember to put it back before your wife finds out!). Refill the plastic jug for tomorrow.

Hatching the eggs

The evening of the day the eggs hatch (usually two days after laying) remove the slate before doing the water change. This is done by lifting the slate straight up off the bottom by a few inches and wiggling it vigorously (to knock off the wriggling fry). Once all the fry are off, remove the slate, wash and place it back into the parent’s tank for another spawn. This time, after completing the water change, add five drops of MarOxy. Repeat water changes adding MarOxy each time until the fry free swim (5-6 days after hatching).

Hatch brine shrimp eggs

The day before the fry become free swimming, begin hatching a batch of brine shrimp eggs. Although fry can be reared on crushed flake, the advantages of baby brine shrimp are well worth the efforts. The fry will eat quicker (stimulated by the movement and smell), thus becoming stronger and healthier fish. Since brine shrimp takes approximately 24 hours to hatch, starting the batch the day before free-swimming will ensure that the shrimp are at their smallest size and are most easily consumed by the fry. Feed the fry once in the jar before moving them into a rearing tank. Be sure to do a water change after feeding to minimize waste and ammonia build-up.

Artemia salina Foto: © Hans Hillewaert CC-BY-SA-3.0

Artemia salina – Brine shrimp
Image: © Hans Hillewaert CC-BY-SA-3.0

Transferring Angel fry

Transferring the fry is simple. Just lift the jar out of the 40-liter tank and float it into a 40 to 60-liter rearing tank. This tank should be equipped with a heater and an adequate sponge filter only, as cleanliness and ease of maintenance is of the essence. After floating the jar to adjust temperature, immerse the jar into the tank allowing water to exchange from the jar to the tank. Wait five minutes. Repeat the process three more times. On the last immersion, turn the jar upside down and pour the fry into the tank.

Feeding Angel fry

Continue feeding the fry live baby brine shrimp three times a day with 30% to 50% water changes daily. Remember, you literally have hundreds of fry in the tank although it doesn’t appear so for the first week or two. The water changes not only remove toxin build-ups, but they also dilute a growth inhibiting hormone that is produced by the fish. Frequent, high volume water changes fool the fish into believing they are in a much larger tank, as they cannot detect as much hormone, thus greatly increasing growth rates. Eventually there will come a time when splitting or relocating the fry will be required. This should be done when the fry have spread out throughout the tank, occupying all levels. If given enough food, space and water changes, the fry will be ready for sale in eight to twelve weeks.

Whether you are just getting into breeding angels or are a breeder looking for a new method, give this recipe a try. Although this method is not the only way to spawn angels, following it will make breeding angels as simple as placing one adult male and one adult female into a medium

First publication: The Calquarium, Vol.39, Number 8. Calgaryaquariumsociety
Source: aquarticles.com (no longer available)

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