The income tax cheque came back, and the boss of the house gave me permission to set up my second 10 gallon aquarium…

The zebra danios

The zebra danios appeared to be ready to spawn and I decided to start making our fortune:

  • Bought three pounds of marbles so the eggs would fall through out of the parents’ reach, and put in a pair. At first nothing much happened, but soon I was very disappointed to see a very high speed chase which had all the appearances of a pursuit with very dire consequences if the female was ever caught. This went on for what seemed like hours. Finally I couldn’t stand it any more, so I caught the fish and put in another male and female, but again the same disappointing chase.
  • Changed the male for a fresh one, and after a while changed the female and then the male, until I was flat out of fish and gave up for the time being.
  • Took the fish out, switched off everything and just let the aquarium sit there. No fortune to be made with those fish…
  • Came home from work three weeks later and my wife walked me over to the tank. Lo and behold, there were about fifty little fish swimming around! (I still wonder how they ever survived – no food, no heat, no light). Shows you how wrong you can be making assumptions about anything.

So, before trying to spawn the bettas you would think that I would have read everything available. Anyway, I set up a tank and put in the male. He started building his bubble nest almost immediately so I added a female, and boy did he ever attack her!

  • Took her out and a couple of days later introduced another female. After a day or so, with a series of very tender embraces, the eggs were laid, gathered and put in the nest by the male, but then almost immediately Romeo turned into a vicious bully again, chasing and seriously hurting his Juliet.
  • Learned from this to give the female a lot of cover to hide in, and subsequent spawnings were generally successful. But I never understood what caused the attacks.

The eight golden severums grew up together in my community tank for about a year and a half. If ever there were fish who got along together these were them – apart from the occasional nudge, complete harmony. So much so that you were never sure who was a boy and who was a girl.

  • So I put what I thought to be a pair together, but when I looked next the bigger one had killed the other one in almost no time at all.
  • Next try, again put in a pair, this time adding three or four clay drain pipes. The diameter was just right, so that the female could swim through easily but the male had to fold all his fins to be able to fit through. Again vicious chases until complete exhaustion, and even then no mercy – always attacking the most vulnerable point, the eyes.
  • Put this fierce killer in a bag and traded him in for a more docile although much plainer looking stranger.
  • Added a small “pile” of clay pipes with sweeping 90 degree bends, allowing the chased fish to change direction both horizontally and vertically. A marked improvement, but no eggs. The male fish ultimately learned the maze and anticipated where the other would come out, and we were back to square one.
  • There is no end to the ingenuity of the human race, so for the next try I cut a hole in the bottom of clay flower pots tailor made for the smaller female, so there was definitely no way the bigger one could pass through . The hurting and maiming stopped. Did it ever make my wife mad though, to see this bigger fish keep the other absolute prisoner for days and days on end, until as far as I could tell, at his whim invite her out. No eggs: back to prison, and so on.
  • Put all this paraphernalia together in a bigger 100 gallon aquarium with all six fish together. Result: one warden in charge of 90 percent of the aquarium and the other five fish doing their stuff behind the warden’s back when he was busy keeping tabs on the other prisoners.
  • Split the aquarium in two, using the clay pipes as a somewhat porous barrier, and put in four fish. -Now had two wardens and two semi-prisoners, in that they could at least use the “fighting and posturing” time of the wardens to have some freedom. Finally one pair went all the way, cleaned and cleaned a slate, and there were the eggs. But two weeks later the pair lost parental control over their “teenagers” – some wandered over into the other side, and a general cannibalistic feast followed .
  • Added a screen in the centre and tried again. – Lo and behold two pairs each with eggs, followed by youngsters! The amazing thing was that the youngsters were never eaten or attacked even though they were free to wander from side to side (my mistake while putting in the screen). There were sometimes three hundred on one side and one hundred on the other, and vice versa. What an idyllic set up. It made everybody proud as peacocks until one day I was interrupted at feeding time and all the youngsters wound up on one side. The couple on the other side must have figured they had lost all their own young, so when the youngsters returned home the welcoming committee had their mouths wide open! That was it for that try, but by now I had enough of an idea about what made these fish tick, and subsequent spawnings were successful for the next few years.

Isn’t it nice that there are always more fish to be observed and tried? Usually the harder it is to get a fish to spawn, the greater the value and the chance of breaking even gets better and better.

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