David Goodman

About a year ago, after a break of a few years from fish keeping, the purchase of an old angle-iron 36x12x15" tank, set me once more on the road to breeding anabantoids. This tank was allowed to mature before introducing the plants and finally the fish. An interpet IPF1 internal filter was also installed. The first fish to be introduced were a pair of neon Colisa lalia, 2 pearl gouramis, Trichogaster leeri and a pair of reputedly wild Trichopsis vittatus, the croaking gourami. Within a short time the male had succumbed to 'hole in the head' disease, so it was back to the dealers to acquire another pair. However it was not long before the same thing occurred but this time the female died. During this period, the fish were fed 3x a day, morning with flake, mid-day with frozen bloodworm and evening with flake again. Whilst it was possible to obtain both live Tubifex and Daphnia, only the latter was used.

Wen first purchased, the 2 T.vittatus were about 1.25" long, excluding the tail. On the above diet, they soon grew to over 2". They were both to be seen regularly playing in the current just below the filter outlet. One thing I noticed, was that my male was continuously croaking away and circling around the female, displaying.

I took pity on the 4 remaining 'wild-stock' T.vittatus at the dealer's and placed them in a newly-acquired 18x12x12" tank. One of these new acquisitions turned out to be badly infected with 'dropsy' and died the following day. This proves that you should always check your stock before purchase!

On Saturday 3.9.93, the feeding pattern was slightly altered so that flake was given in the morning and frozen bloodworm both at mid-day and in the evening. During the afternoon, the pair of T.vittatus had been disturbed and upon my appearance, shot swiftly to the bottom of the tank, which was unusual for them. About half an hour after they had been fed in the evening, a very small cluster of bubbles was noticed under a single Salvinia natans leaf in the front right-hand corner of the tank. The pair of T.vittatus were about 4 inches away, seemingly in a very excited state. Over the next half hour, it became clear that the female was in the mood to spawn, by the manner in

which she positioned herself in front of the male. It was 8 o'clock before the first embrace was seen.

After a further hour, the male was seen to dart downward when breaking off from the embrace and then rise to spit into the nest. The female was also seen, nosing the nest alongside the male, as though arranging the nest or eggs. The male made no attempt to drive her away. After each embrace, she initially stood guard some 4 " away from the nest and violently chased away the other occupants of the tank, including the much larger T.leeri, should they come too close.

Feeling that spawning was now really taking place, I decided to withdraw and did not return until after 11. Carefully approaching the nest site, it was found that the milky white eggs could clearly be seen amongst the bubbles. Eventually about 1.00 a.m., on 4.9.93, I decided to remove the nest with as many eggs as possible. This was achieved by first collecting the whole structure a in a 1 lb. jam-jar and then transferring it to an 8" diameter Pyrex casserole dish which was floated in the tank overnight. The male immediately took up a position close to the nest.

At about 9 a.m. on 4.9.93, a cursory count showed that there were at least 100 eggs, of which about 20 had fallen from the nest. By 9.30 a.m. on 5.9.93, the embryos could be clearly seen wriggling inside the eggs. The first fry hatched out at about 10 a.m. and I decided to watch a small group of eggs to witness that magic moment when the fry hatched out. My patience was eventually rewarded. One minute, there was the embryo, violently wriggling inside the egg, a split second later, there was the fry sinking through the water. Eventually a count of hatched fry and infertile eggs showed that the spawning had produced in the region of 250 eggs. Only about 75 hatched into fry that reached the free-swimming stage. By the morning of 6.9.93, the fry had virtually exhausted their yolk-sacs but it was not until the following morning that 2 fry were seen to have moved away from the nest into open water.

I now had to decide where to put the fry, not too difficult with only 2 tanks available. I decided that the 3 T.vittaus in the 18x12x12" tank would be rehoused in the larger tank. Attention was then turned to the casserole dish. This was first floated in the 18" tank until temperatures had equalised, then by means of a length of airline, covered with the leg cut from a pair of tights, 25% of the water in the casserole dish was siphoned off and replaced with tank water. This was repeated twice at intervals throughout the day. Just after 7 p.m., the free swimming fry were carefully transferred into the tank itself. (It was only at this point that I remembered that the water had been treated with 'Sterazin', 24h before I had removed the previous occupants!).

Initially the fry were fed Liquifry No. 1, followed about a week later, by freshly-hatched brine shrimp, before I proceeded to a mixture of dried food and freshly-

chopped bloodworm. After a rather haphazard start, a total of 12 fry were transferred to a newly acquired 36x12x15" tank where they continued to grow, only one being lost, due to its choking on a whole bloodworm, soon after they were transferred to their parent's diet.

I kept 5 of these fry, 2 males and 3 females and when they were about 6 months, transferred them to their original 18" tank, where they stayed for about 3 months, producing in that time a further 5 spawnings. From my somewhat limited experience with this species, it would seem that adult T.vittatus make very good parents. I have noticed that both male and female tend to guard the nest site long after the fry have gone and the intrusion of another female does not seem to break up this partnership. I have also noticed that, when eggs have been removed during the first day after spawning, the male gather up any remaining, moves the nesting site slightly and replaces the eggs in a new nest. Who says that anabantoids are not equally good parents as the overpraised cichlids ? (They can't even build a proper nest!)

Reprinted with kind permission from AAGB 'Labyrinth'