crshadow's Tetra Breeding Project *56K Warning!*
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Old 05-23-2006, 04:49 AM   #1
crshadow
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crshadow's Tetra Breeding Project *56K Warning!*


Hello, and welcome to my "Tetra Breeding Project."

Few things bring as much life to a tank as a vibrant school of tetras. Despite their beauty, they have a reputation of being difficult to breed, some being more difficult than others. As a result, many such as the Cardinal Tetra are still brought in from the wild rather than being farm raised. It is common to hear stories of hobbyists purchasing Cardinals only to have the majority of them die for no apparent reason. Yet once successfully acclimated, they are very hardy fish. This scenario has happened to me on more than one occasion. All this inspired me to attempt to breed these critters, and it has been a goal of mine for some time, with the ultimate goal of all being to breed the elusive Cardinal itself. Searching online and reading books has provided me with some general guidelines for breeding tetras, however finding an in depth and detailed guide has been difficult. So, I'd like to share my tetra breeding journey with everyone, whether it be a success or a failure. I'll try and document each step as best as I can, and plan to experiment with variations on technique as well. I'm also open to all input, thoughts, and suggestions.


The first step was to purchase some breeding stock. Even if you already have some of these fish, its best to start with young breeding stock as they are much more likely to be within their breeding prime. Normally with other fish, you'd look for a breeder who specializes in the fish you are looking to breed. However, considering the circumstances of these fish, its easier to just purchase some from a reputable local fish store. My LFS normally doesn't stock Cardinals because of the aforementioned problems of them dying off easily. Fortunately they were willing to special order some for me. I ordered about 30 to 40 to add to the existing school in my display tank. While I was there I also picked up a few glowlight tetras. The reason for this is that they are reported to be an easier species of tetra to breed and I wanted to use them as a sort of practice before attempting the Cardinals.

I put the glowlights in 5 gallon, and seperated about 7-9 of the cardinals and put them in a 10 gallon tank to hold them until I was ready to breed them. Unfortunately the project took a long hiatus at this point, as things became quite busy for me and I was unable to devote enough time to the fish. This was almost a year ago now. (So much for my young breeding stock!!!) During that time period I lost a lot of my fish in a fire I had back in November. The glowlights were reduced to 3 individuals, but I didn't lose any of the cardinals. Also during that time, I had been slowly working on my fishroom... Anyway... Fast forward to a few weeks ago, the fishroom is mostly complete and operational and all my tanks have been moved to it. At long last I can continue the project....


-Jeremiah

Last edited by crshadow; 05-23-2006 at 09:26 PM..
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Old 05-23-2006, 04:53 AM   #2
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.... Continued...

As mentioned earlier, detailed tetra breeding guides are hard to come by, but most of what you do find utilizes the following technique for maximum yields:

Step 1: Obtain a group of fish.
Step 2: Condition the fish by feeding frequently with rich foods, and with live foods if possible.
Step 3: Seperate the males and females into two seperate tanks. (The females being plumper after the conditioning.)
Step 4: Adjust water parameters to match their natural habitat.
Step 5: Setup a third tank with all sides blacked out to avoid light getting in as the fry are light sensitive.
Step 5: Add a male and a female together to the third tank at night.
Step 6: Check for eggs on the following day, and remove the parents if they spawned.
Step 7: Keep the tank dark at first, and try to raise the fry.

This seems like the best technique for yielding the greatest amount of fry, but I've seen other methods involving providing lots of cover in a tank with a small number of adults and letting them free breed. Many will get eaten, but some survive. I will probably try a mish-mash of the two methods at first, and depending on the initial results (if any), experiment further and see which is the most practical. I'm a little worried about the age of my breeders now though...

Last edited by crshadow; 05-23-2006 at 09:28 PM..
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Old 05-23-2006, 05:25 AM   #3
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I started about three weeks ago by providing ample food to get the fish into breeding condition. At this point they are kept in my normal local tap water. GH over 25dGH, KH about 8, pH about 7.5. Temperature in the fishroom is maintained at about 78 to 80F. I was hoping it would not be too difficult to discern males from females after the conditioning period. With the glowlights, it was fairly easy to tell which was which. It looked like I lucked out and that my 3 survivors were a male and 2 females.

Male:


Females and Male (Females are not super plump in this pic)



As for the Cardinals, it seems a little more difficult. There are some that are definitely plump and must be females, but there are some that seem borderline and could go either way... Arg... Being that it's a bit wishy-washy, I'm not going to attempt to seperate males and females at first, because I'd hate to have a failure because I accidently put two males or two females together. Rather, I'm going to see what happens if I simulate their natural habitat, to see if I even get any spawning activity at all. I'll worry about large spawns later, first I just want to see if they spawn at all.

After about two weeks of conditioning, I added a layer of about 1" deep of peat moss to both the glowlight and cardinal tanks. (Both were barebottom before the peat) If you have dry peat, it's best to boil it first, otherwise it won't sink. I feel this is probably one of the more important additions to the tanks as it serves several purposes. It of course provides surface area for beneficial bacteria and all, but more importantly it serves to:

- Soften the KH of the water
- Reduce the pH to a more acidic level
- Provides a tea colored blackwater effect
- Provides a place for the eggs to fall into to be protected from hungry parents.
- Eggs that fall into the peat will be protected from light.
- Hopefully provides a habitat for infusoria which will be the fry's first food source.

On top of the peat I spread a large clump of java moss as spawning medium. This will also serve to protect the eggs from the parents. This was about a week ago.

Within a day, the water hard turned a tea color, and the KH was reduced to 0. pH was also quite low of course, at least 5 or less. (As low as my test kit goes) The fish seemed a little stressed at first from the sudden drop, but were fine after a day or so. I continued feeding well during this time.

Here's the Cardinal tank after the addition of the Peat Moss substrate and Java Moss. Notice that the sides and back of the tank are blacked out with black background material.


PS: Sorry for the width of the images, but I wanted to show as much detail as possible.
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Old 05-23-2006, 05:52 AM   #4
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My next step was to replace a portion of the tank water with RO/DI water in order to lower the GH. This is also another way of simulating their natural habitat. Reportedly, high levels of calcium may prevent eggs from hatching. I had planned to do this step using RO/DI water that was cooler than the 78-80F degrees of the tank in hopes of simulating rainy season with the cooler, softer water. However, I did not get a chance to do this at all! On Friday (5/19/2006) I noticed about 4 or 5 crystal clear spheres approximately 1mm in diameter in the glowlight tank among the java moss. Eggs!!! I attempted to gather these eggs with an eyedropper to place in a seperate container, but only managed to get 2. The others fell down into the peat as I was trying to get them. I have no idea how many more eggs there were that fell into the peat. I presume there must be quite a bit more, but I have no way of knowing unless fry start showing up in the tank. As for the 2 I rescued, I placed them into a vial for observation. Since I hadn't added the RO water yet, I took this opportunity to add some to the vial, in case the water was too hard for them to hatch. It was about 1 part tank water and 1 part RO/DI water. I added a sprig of java moss and a sprinkle of peat to the vial, and covered the vial with a cup to prevent light from harming the reportedly light sensitive eggs.

Pic of me covering the vial with a dixie cup.



I checked on them later that night and they had hatched already! I don't know how long the eggs had been in the tank, but I don't think it was more than a day before I found them. That night I also diluted the water in the main tanks with RO water as well, in case the water was too hard for hatching. I hope I wasn't too late...

Here are a couple pics of the fry.




Close-up
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Old 05-23-2006, 06:09 AM   #5
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Here's another pic for size reference.


By superimposing this shot and scaling it to match the previous shot we can estimate the size of the fry as being approximately 1/8"



-Jeremiah
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Old 05-23-2006, 01:32 PM   #6
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Nice journal and a cool project. Good luck.
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Old 05-23-2006, 03:46 PM   #7
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Good luck. As one of the many people who love how Cardinals look, but have trouble acclimating them to my local water supply, I look forward to your results.
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Old 05-23-2006, 06:12 PM   #8
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Cant wait to see the out come with the cardinal.....you have a awesome journal starting...
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Old 05-23-2006, 09:00 PM   #9
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Thanks everyone! I'm very glad to have had a minor success so early on, I hope it's a good indication of things to come! The two fry are still alive and kicking, after the last 3 days. I'll post some day by day pictures later on tonight.

-Jeremiah
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Old 05-24-2006, 03:47 AM   #10
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This is on 5/20/2006, 24 hours after hatching. I guess we can call this Day 2. You can see the yolk sack has shrunk a tad already, and the eyes have started to form.

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Old 05-24-2006, 03:57 AM   #11
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what do they eat?
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Old 05-24-2006, 04:07 AM   #12
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wow, very nice. I've been planning on trying to breed cardinals for a while, but still have to wait til I get my fishroom set up. You're a few steps ahead of me
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Old 05-24-2006, 04:10 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by trckrunrmike
what do they eat?
That's a good question. While they still have their yolk sack, they will feed off of that. Once that's expended it'll have to be some very small food. Most of what I've read has said that they are too small to eat anything but infusoria for the first couple of days. However, the fry are actually bigger than I expected after what I read. Personally, I think they are large enough to take mini microworms right away once they are free swimming. In fact I did just that an hour or so ago for the first time. (Day 5) I couldn't tell if they ate any though...

-Jeremiah
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Old 05-24-2006, 04:13 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hooha
wow, very nice. I've been planning on trying to breed cardinals for a while, but still have to wait til I get my fishroom set up. You're a few steps ahead of me
Thanks, we'll see how it goes for me. Hopefully I can save you some trial and error. Wish me luck!
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Old 05-24-2006, 04:17 AM   #15
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Here's a shot from 5/21/2006 (Day 3). They're developing fast!





As of day 3 they are now capable of darting around a bit, but they still spend most of their time laying on the bottom.

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