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Unusual Breeding Behavior in Wild Caught Archocentrus Sajica


I would like to write a few words about my experiences breeding wild caught Archocentrus sajica and a surprise that these fish gave me - a surprise that shows the fascinating and diverse behavior of these animals.

I got a pair of wild-caught sajicas from a friend who had collected them on a trip. Since I had kept this species before (in fact it was the third cichlid I ever bred), I didn't expect any surprises. Well, I was wrong.

For want of better accommodations I put the 6 cm/ 2½ inches long cichlids into a 540 litre/145 gallon aquarium that was already overly crowded. In the aquarium already swam four 20 cm/8 inch Texas cichlids, a pair of N. festae (25 and 20 cm/ 10 and 8 inches), a pair of N. managuense (about the same size as the N. festae) and four Natal cichlids, Mossanbicus mossanbicus, (20 cm/ 8 inches). The tank was also inhabited by two convict cichlids (about 4 cm/ 1½ inches) that had originally been put there as feeders, and finally loads of Ancistrus that just wouldn't stop breeding. All of the species were breeding regularly in the aquarium. As I said, the aquarium was already very crowded. I knew I was taking a chance putting the small sajicas in with these predators, but I didn't have any choice.

To my great relief the sajicas found themselves loving their company and were left alone by their larger predatory cousins. The aquarium was decorated with two very large roots that reached all the way to the surface of the aquarium and which created three natural territories for the fish in the aquarium. There were small gaps under the roots that the ancistrus utilised for breeding. The larger cichlids couldn't get into these spaces. These large roots made the water in the tank very dark and made it look like a black-water river aquarium. However the water was harder and the pH level higher than what you might expect to find in a black-water river.

When the sajicas had been in this aquarium for a week, on a diet consisting mainly of Hikari pellets and shrimps, they spawned for the first time. Anyone that has kept A. sajica wouldn't be surprised about this, the surprise would be if they didn't breed during the first month. However the surprise was how they bred. My experience is that sajicas are dedicated parents that watch furiously over eggs and fry. But under these conditions this pair chose a different approach. The female laid her eggs on a root halfway to the surface. Her eggs had a much darker tone then A. sajica eggs usually have, and matched the color of the root almost perfectly. This was something the parents seemed to be aware of, since they didn't care about protecting their young. They both swam all over the aquarium just as before the egg laying, and it wasn't unusual that the two fishes furthest from the eggs in the entire aquarium were the sajicas. Occasionally they did chase away some ancistrus. You would think that this strange parental behavior would mean the end of the eggs in an aquarium where several fishes could eat all eggs in one gulp. But this was not the case and almost all the eggs survived and hatched, at which time the parents moved them (spat them) under a root where not even they could get in. They then continued acting as if nothing had happened. When the fry were free-swimming the parents took their young out for expeditions about 1-2 hours each day. The rest of the time they left them under the root, where they apparently found food because they grew nicely.

The parents continued to take them on these little expeditions for about a month, after which the fry had grown to approximately 1.5 cm / ¾ inch. The impressive thing is that almost all of the fry had survived to this age. After the parents had stopped caring for their fry, the young quickly became bolder and started swimming around, which led to all but two of the fry being eaten one week later. (There had been 50-60 fry before that). These two however did manage to grow up in this aquarium.

The wild caught A. sajica couple spawned many times in this aquarium, once every 2-3 months, and they always had great success using this method. At one point I moved them to another aquarium about half as big as the other and with clear water. They shared this tank with a number of other cichlids, mostly fry from the larger aquarium. In this aquarium they spawned in the way one is used to seeing A. sajica spawn, i.e. standing guard over their eggs and fry. A little later the couple was moved back to the 540 L /145 gallon aquarium and they then started to "hide" their eggs and fry again.

Out of curiosity I also tried keeping them in an aquarium with clear water and a large pair of N. managuense as company, and the sajica couple spawned standing guard over their eggs and fry. It seemed like they simply chose another strategy in darker waters. I have kept other pairs of breeding A. sajica in the 540 litre/ 145 gallon aquarium since then, but none of them have shown this behavior. I'm hoping that others get to experience this unique behavior that just goes to show that cichlids never stop being surprising.

About The Author

Article by William Berg writer for Aquatic Community with more then 20 years of aquarium experience. Find more of Williams articles about other Breeding freshwater fish or maybe a completely different pet like Dogs

Article may be reproduce as long as it is not edited and this resource box is included "as is with live links" on the bottom of the page. (Java links and PHP links are not allowed, I.e. SE friendly links only)


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