Farlowella vittata with 6 day old eggs

Breeding Farlowella vittata by trail and error

After I had been out of the hobby for several years, I decided to pick it up again in 2016. Actually, I started in the same way that I had started more than 20 years ago, with a 60 centimeter aquarium, with the intention to expand to a modest 4 to 5 aquariums. My goal is to breed a couple of species on a small scale.

In the past I mainly bred dwarf cichlids, especially the more rare species. I was also part of the Dutch dwarf cichlid forum as administrator. It goes without saying that they will always be part of my favorite species. However, since I have kept and bred most of these species that I wanted to. So I was looking for a really new challenge.

Buying Farlowella vittata

Now there was one species that I had once in the beginning of my fish keeping career and they even spawned at that time. However, at that point I wasn’t successful in breeding them. This species was Farlowella vittata, since then this species has always fascinated me. I just never came around to buying them.

Now that I had started breeding again, and was looking for a Nannostomus species. I came across a very beautiful female specimen of the Farlowella vittata at a garden center nearby, where someone  works, who actually has real knowledge about fish, and now I also had the space to keep them. But since breeding with just a female is quite difficult, I talked with the employee for a while, it turned out that he could order Farlowella vittata from the same supplier. A week later I was back to check the quality of the delivered animals. They were animals of a comparable quality, so I picked one of the males and took him home.

Conditioning Farlowella vittata

Farlowella vittata with one day old eggs

Farlowella vittata with one day old eggs

Now I assumed that I would still have some time. Because the breeding pair still had to be brought into a breeding condition. The  breeding pair thought otherwise!

Just two months after I bought them, I rescaped my tank to replace the aquarium sand with filter sand. When a few days later I was surprised by the first batch of 40 freshly laid eggs.

Meanwhile, I had been reading a lot about this species, which by the way is not easy with the small amount of breeding reports that can be found on the internet. But from the information I could find, it appeared that the eggs were cared fore and protected by the male and would hatch in around 10 days, depending on the temperature.

At day 7 however, my eggs looked just like the images of 9 day old eggs I found on the internet. So at that moment I removed the eggs with a Stanley blade and put them in a Superfish breeder box. The big advantage of these breeder boxes is that they are constantly supplied with ‘fresh’ water from the breeding tank via a riser pipe and an air hose. Indeed by the 8th day the first fry appeared out of the eggs. To my surprise not all eggs hatched the same day, but hatched over three days! The fry are pretty large after hatching, measuring about 1 centimeter.

Raising Farlowella vittata fry

According to the internet, the first two weeks would be the most difficult, because the fry have almost no reserves and they hardly build up any reserves in the first couple of weeks. Because of this they should have an abundance of herbivorous food. I was lucky to have a 30 liter tank that was full of green algae due to some degree of neglect. So when the eggs were laid I prepared it immediately to accommodate the fry, so that their first food requirements would be met.

Farlowella vittata fry - 1 month after hatching

Farlowella vittata fry – 1 month after hatching

But what more to feed? There were reports of freshly hatched brine shrimp as a first food, so I tried, they had always been a success with my Dwarf Cichlids in the past, but my suspicions where confirmed, the fry just ignored the brine shrimp. So back to square one on what to feed them next, because those algae would not last forever. Now I had read about Repashy on the internet. This is a gel based food which is available in various versions, including two on algae basis. This became my first alternative and indeed some of the fry started eating it. I also saw that sometimes green beans were fed to L-numbers, so I tried that too, and that worked even better. So now I had two different foods to feed the fry.

That’s how I kept feeding them for the first month and I had lost only 4 fry. Now I wanted to bring a little extra variation into the diet. In the beginning I gave the breeding pair some lettuce leaves of which I still had a couple of them in the freezer, so why not give that a try.

Nitrite spike

I put one of the lettuce leaves in the tank. The next morning I woke up and saw that one of the fry was partly above water on the glass. But sleepy as I was, this didn’t ring a bell. Until I got closer to the tank and turned on the light. Almost all the fry were swimming high up in the tank, or at least the ones that were still alive, because the bottom of the tank was covered with dead fry. In total I lost 19 fry overnight. Immediately I tested the water: I had a nitrite spike! Because I did a 50% water change every other day, both nitrite and nitrate, were not measurable in my tank. So this could only have one cause…the lettuce leaf! That was also the only thing that had been done differently than before. So I did two 30% of water changes that day and the next couple of days a 50% change once a day…..after four days the fry where back to normal.

Obviously I am no longer very keen on lettuce any more. Two months after hatching the eggs I still have 14 fry and they are growing well. The biggest ones are around 4 centimeters and the smallest around 3 centimeters. There seems to be quite a bit of difference in growth pace.

The second nest

The second batch of eggs was laid just a month after the first. I removed them just before hatching, just one day earlier than the first nest and without anti-fungal medicine. This proved to be the wrong strategy. Out of 38 eggs, just 3 hatched, the rest were all moldy and the fry that did hatch died soon after.

The third nest was treated with the anti-fungal medicine and removed at day 7. The 20 eggs hatched just fine. I continued to treat the following nests in the same way with similar results, except for the sixth which I treated differently after a “tip” on the internet with a 100% loss within a week as a result.

Farlowella vittata juveniles - 8 months

Farlowella vittata juveniles – 8 months

Breeding and raising Farlowella vittata in short

The parent animals are kept on 90% osmosis water, with the following values, pH 5.5, GH and KH 3, NO3 15 (nitrate), NO2 (nitrite) not measurable, and a temperature of 26 ° C. With these values they spawned every 4 weeks. In the winter I lower my temperature slightly and they stop spawning. This way they can regain some strength before the breeding season starts again.

The male takes care of and protects the eggs, unfertilised eggs are removed by him. After spawning the female does not look after the eggs and is chased by the male when she comes close. In the case of a harem, other females are accepted to come close to the eggs, provided they are ready to spawn another batch of eggs.

At this temperature the eggs develop in 8 days. After this, it takes 5 more days for the fry to swim freely and eat.


Farlowella vittata fry - 1 month

Farlowella vittata fry – 1 month

Whether the first two weeks are really that difficult? I believe so because even though the fry always had food available, and they also ate, I never saw them with a round belly. In my opinion their food should be entirely herbivorous. Although Repashy for aufwuchs eaters that I feed does contain an animal component in the form of microorganisms such as rotifer, insect larvae etc.

Breeding and raising Farlowella vittata did not go smoothly so far, but I think that in the future I will be able to let the majority of the fry survive, because of what I have learned from my mistakes.

After 6 nests I can say that this is certainly not one of the easiest species I have ever bred. Spawning and hatching of the eggs do not cause any problems. Raising the fry is where it gets challenging. They have to be able to get to food constantly. Even if they are already grown to a couple of centimeters they still need to be fed all the time, if not a massive dropout occurs. As a result, you also need to do frequent water changes and use a large filter.

A good option is probably an aquarium with lots of algae. For example a tank catching some sunlight. However, I do not have the opportunity to realize this, so I can not provide certainty in this. Of the foods that I have tried, string beans were best accepted. Repashy Soilent Green was also eaten well but is pricey in comparison to the string beans. An experiment with “green water” by means of spirulina powder, as I found on the internet, was far from a success as it killed my 6th batch of eggs. My advice is therefore to use string beans or Repashy Soilent Green.

Farlowella vittata juveniles- 8 months

Farlowella vittata juveniles- 8 months

This is certainly a species that I will keep and breed for a while. Because I keep finding these sticks fascinating animals.

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