Oh the ups and downs of fishkeeping...
Although the female laid eggs, it was a pretty unsuccessful spawn for multiple reasons. For one...at about the 36 hr mark it was pretty apparent that the vast majority of the eggs weren't fertilized. There were a couple "maybes" in the group, but it wasn't promising at all.
By Day 2 of the spawn, the male's aggressive temperament toward the female escalated quite a bit. He went from guarding and fanning the eggs to simply sitting over the nest and "eyeballing" the other side of the tank, just waiting for the female to come out of her (unused) breeding hut. I was able to feed her in that corner of the tank, but she didn't want to come out much. Reason? The male was intent on not having her around anymore. He went from flaring and chasing a little to outright attacking her. She was still pretty bold and would try to come out and explore ever 20 minutes or so, but it wasn't looking good.
I had a QT tank setup, but it was full of some recovering cardinals...which meant removing her wasn't the best option at the time. I decided that the next day (Day 3 of the spawn) I'd at least get a breeding net and float it in the tank for her. I figured if any fry hatched and the male's habits kept up, it'd be too much for the female. When I got home from work to check on things, it was obvious that the spawn was unsuccessful...the male abandoned the eggs by that point and fungus had spread through the nest. There were also some snails grazing on the eggs at that point. I figured that it was for the better though, since the female was now out of hiding and seemed to be getting along with the male.
Only one problem...she was injured. Either the male got a hold of her, or she ran into some driftwood trying to escape him at some point. She didn't look too bad, her color was still good and she was active and eating. Sadly though, her conditioned worsened through the day and she became lethargic.
By the time I pulled the cardinals from QT and started to drop acclimate them to the riparium (they'd been in QT for 2 weeks and were going to be moved this weekend anyway), the female was gray and sitting on the bottom of the tank
I bagged her, floated the bag in the QT tank while I transferred the cardinals, and when I went to the QT tank...she was dead.
So...I think I've pretty much given up on breeding these guys for the time being. Either my male is just has a serious case of intra-species aggression, or I should expect this every time. Having bred bettas in the past, I'm sort of used to this pattern, but was hoping to have some more "peaceful" spawns with a pair of rams.
I'll get pics of the tank up a little later today, most likely. The cardinals are in there now (9 altogether), and I put some new plants in the tank to alleviate the PTSD I acquired trying to save the female, haha.
I guess a couple more things worth mentioning:
I checked my hardness and my GH is now 2 degrees higher than the tap water after topping off the tank for the past month. I know that at one point I used warm tap water (treated of course)...and figure that the mineral buildup in my hot water heater may have helped contribute to the increase in the tank's hardness...compounded with the fact that my tank evaporates about 2 gallons of water per week. I've been good about using a heater in the bucket to heat up the cold water, but I'm sure it's still contributing.
So, I decided to perform the weekly top-offs with a mix of tap and RO water (~3:1) to keep the hardness down. Being that I'm topping off once a week, it's not too much of a hassle to get a 5-gallon bucket of R/O from the lfs once a month. I also ordered a TDS meter so I can do some quick checks on a regular basis...now that I dropped the goal of breeding these guys, I think I'll just focus on keeping the fish and plants as happy as possible.