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How to mimic deep leaf litter?

tjudy

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I am trying to crack the Parananochromis breeding mystery. Other than P. caudofasciatus, very few of the species have been successfully spawned in the aquarium... at least not consistantly.

We observed in Gabon that the Parananochromis are strongly associated with muddy bottoms and leaf litter... deep leaf litter is some cases. One of the reasons they are not so easy to collect is that they may infact be 'litter divers' and bury themselves deep into the substrate to escape predation (aka... the nets). In one case, P. ornatus, to even catch a few we had to scoop up mud and leaves from slow sections of the stream and pick through it.

I am trying to come up with a way to mimic this biotope. I suspect that the fish actually spawn in pocket in the litter under pieces of wood or rocks that are covered in the pile. I think they like to burrow into plant matter to make caves. I had several caves in the tanks thet were getting no interest, until I stuffed all the caves with long fiber sphagnum moss. Now the females and males both dig into the caves... but after a few weeks there has not been a spawn that I know of.

I am going to try litterally filling a tank 1/2 deep with oak and catappa leaves over these caves and driftwood. The two species I am keeping are P. gabonicus and P. brevirostris. I will keep you updated.
 

briztoon

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G'day Ted,

I am very much a noob still, so please excuse me if my observation seems stupid. If you fill the tank with so much leaf litter, won't you have massive amounts of tannins being released? In the wild, there is a constant flow of water to "dilute" the amount of tannins in the water. Will you be doing daily water changes to controll the amount of tannins in the water?
 

Ekona

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First Ted, it's great that you were able to go to Gabon and successfully collect and bring back the Parananochromis species. I found your videos and commentary to be wonderful for seeing and learning about the environments where you found the fishes.

I have thought that P. brevirostris was a cool looking fish (from the few photos of it that are available) particularly the form pictured on Aquarium Mimbon's site some time ago.

There is a photo in Lamboj's book depicting the habitat of P. brevirostris that is a small creek flowing thorough leaf litter on the rainforest floor - no plants, rocks or other structure that can be easily seen. I have thought that was an interesting, somewhat unique habitat. So I agree with you that providing lots of leaves in the aquarium and plants would seem a good idea, especially for wild fish.

For keeping and breeding Westies, I use a thin layer of sand as a substrate (I no longer us gravel as I generally don't use plants that need to be rooted in gravel or other courser substrates. Also, as Dr. Paul Loiselle mentioned in one of his books on cichlid keeping, the use of gravel can possibly allow for the accumulation of organic compounds in the interstitial spaces between the gravel grains that can be detrimental to developing fry, and finally, I find that sand provides the proper substrate for Pelvicachromis to sift through in search of food items, as they are primarily substrate feeders). I then place small cocount caves, bamboo sections and bog root on the bottom with dried, brown magnolia leaves strewn over top of these structures to provide many little tunnels and pockets. Placing the leaves over the other structures prevents the leaves from becoming layered on top of each other without providing any spaces between them. I then place java moss over the caves and leaves. I add the java moss to help with the uptake of organic byproducts of the leaf decay as well as for cover. The use of leaves should also provide for the production of protozoa, a nice benefit for newly hatch fry.

I have not tried completely filling the entire bottom of the aquarium with all of the mentioned structures. I usually leave an open space in front of the tank where any frozen foods may be added as well as for viewing the fish. The open space allows for an area to do water changes without the danger of sucking up leaves and other debris that would clog the siphon. I have also used sphagnum moss but found it got messy over time. I have tried using spawning mops to provide cover too, but they can collect detritus over time.

So what has worked best for me is the above combination of structure and java moss (of course Java moss is not native to West Africa so not really habitat correct). Right now I have about 50 two week old P. taeniatus 'Wouri' fry growing out in a tank set up with this method. They are doing well with newly hatched freshwater shrimp, APR and frozen rotifers. I'll soon add live grindel worms to their diet. I suspect that they are also feeding on smaller live organisms in or on the java moss and leaves.

Good luck with your breeding project. Thanks for the interesting observations and for bringing further updates. Also would welcome any photos of the brevirostris.
 

ed seeley

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How about splitting the tank and having holding the leaf litter back with some bamboo canes so that half is leaf litter and half is more open? It will give a bit more swimming space for the fish as well as the deep leaf litter to try and get them breeding.
 

Ekona

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How about splitting the tank and having holding the leaf litter back with some bamboo canes so that half is leaf litter and half is more open? It will give a bit more swimming space for the fish as well as the deep leaf litter to try and get them breeding.

That is a good idea. Would accomplish the same thing with perhaps better results.

It will be interesting to see what factor(s) are needed to get the P. brevirostris to breed beyond what works for Pelvicachromis and other Westies.
 

tjudy

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If you fill the tank with so much leaf litter, won't you have massive amounts of tannins being released? In the wild, there is a constant flow of water to "dilute" the amount of tannins in the water. Will you be doing daily water changes to controll the amount of tannins in the water?

The tannins and a lowered pH would be a bonus. The collecting locations were black water habitats with pH in the 5.0 - 6.0 range.

I use matten filters in my tanks (foam walls) so there is a gentle current pulling water to the back of the tank (where the wall is). What I plan to do is use a piece of driftwood as a block in the middle of the tank, and then pile the leaves between it and the filter wall. They should stay roughly in place.
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
I think dividing the tank is a good idea. I think you may be able to get some persistent leaf litter that won't break down too quickly. I've used fallen Loquat leaves (Eriobotrya japonica) in some of the tanks, and the leaves are big and stiff, creating lots of interstitial spaces, they also stay intact for up to 6 months.

I'm no sure what other leaves would be available to you and last as long, American Red Oak (Quercus coccinea) is another good one if you can get it?

cheers Darrel
 

tjudy

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The collecting location for the P. brevirostris was interesting. Some fish were found in edge areas of the stream with sticks and leaf litter, but easy access to undercut banks. Just as many were found mid stream in mats of leaves in relatively shallow water. They were netted using a large seine and the 'surrounding' technique that basically scoops the net along the bottom in a constricting circle. I think that the fish sit suspended above the leaves and dive into them for cover when threatened from above. If I ever get a change to go back, I want to go in the dry season (clear water) and try to get video of the fish before netting.

This translates to having the tank solid leaf litter front to back, but only 4" deep. If there are pieces of wood and caves in the leaves there are places for the fish to burrow in to spawn.
 

ste12000

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I am trying to crack the Parananochromis breeding mystery. Other than P. caudofasciatus, very few of the species have been successfully spawned in the aquarium... at least not consistantly.

Hi all, only just caught up with this very interesting thread.. Ted, is the above a result of the fishes difficulty or a lack of fish in captivity? i would imagine it would be the latter surely? if there were larger numbers supplied to interested breeders im sure we would see more spawnings.

Here in the UK i dont think we have seen any of these species, certainly not within the last 5 years that ive been involved with the BCA. Im waiting patiently :)
 

tjudy

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Both.... One of the biggest problems is an apparent pH/temperature sex ratio problem. Even the most commonly available species in the hobby (P. caudifaciatus) produces spawns that are primarily female. Every person I know who has bred them reported almost 100% females.

Turns out that I have not needed to mimic leaf litter. I have spawns of both P. gabonicus and P. brevirostris. It will be a few months before I will know sex ratios.
 

tjudy

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@halmiris... I have had several spawns of both species, and have had good sex ratios. I did try to spawn the P. brevirostris as a colony without any success, but I have since separate a mature pair to get more fry.
 

duane stuermer

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I use maple leaves in some of my tanks, and have found no ill effects, usually boiling them a few moments before adding them, because I net them from my pond in fall.
002-1.jpg

The cichlids chew up and break the leaves down after a while and are then easily vacuumed out, then replaced.
042-1.jpg

11-06-07_2054.jpg
 

gerald

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If anybody needs Southern Magnolia shed leaves (M. grandiflora) I can gather heaps of them now in NC. Soak well for several days in a bucket before using, as they contain some fast-decaying (stinky) compounds that you want to leach out before putting in fish tanks. They are fairly rigid and longer-lasting than most other tree leaves, and many are curled so they make good caves.
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
Southern Magnolia shed leaves (M. grandiflora) I can gather heaps of them now
I've got some of these as well, PM me if you want some (in the UK). I think Microman is having a trial run with them (and Loquat leaves) to see if they last longer than Oak leaves.

cheers Darrel
 

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