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Male parental care in Borellii


Howdy all,

My pair of borellii continues to impress me by spawning at just about every new moon since their arrival several months ago. (They skipped January, likely because of lower temps as my tanks are ambient.)

In a few of the spawns, the male appeared interested in helping the female with the fry and I once saw him return a wayward fry to the nest. The female has typically kept him several inches from the nest and fry. She isn't super aggressive in doing this and I've never been worried the male was in harm's way but she is insistent. She is more aggressive in keeping the handful of juveniles in the tank (about 0.5" to 1.5") away from the little guys.

This month's spawn began free-swimming a few days ago and this morning I noticed that the male and female have split the fry between them. Male has a cloud of ~15 at one end of the tank and female has the other ~25 in her usual spot amongst the Rotala and Sagittaria. At first I thought these were again wayward fry he was protecting from the pencilfish (and he is making quite a show of guarding them!) but he's had them now for hours and is actively keeping fry in a tight formation and parading them around his usual spot.

Any bets on how long this domestic arrangement lasts?

There are no other mature females in this tank so perhaps he's just got nothing else to do? ;)



Still has his share and female still has her own. He's scooping fry and moving them from in front of leaf to behind here. Will try for a video.

Parents aren't exactly cooperating as they are totally separate fry groups. Not showing any aggression to each other at least. I hope it lasts, it's pretty darn cute.


Interesting! Thank you for sharing, I hadn't come across other reports of the males doing this in this species.

This is spawn 6 for this pair and first time they've split the clutch.

Male still has fry in his thicket of plants and female is in her usual zone. However, there are definitely more fry in female's group and less in male's today. Not sure when this exchange happened or how.. would not be surprised if female snuck in and stole them back.

Hopefully this doesn't become a custody battle.. ;)


Active Member
I would keep a close eye on them, with apisto's I have had them turn [the female] into hell on wheels overnight. I got three hoping to get a male for my 2 1/2 yr. old female, two did not make it and the one that did I thought was a female I'm starting to second guess as now it may be showing male traits. I have three more coming next week, hopefully if I get one or more males and they make it past the first two weeks I will be happy. I have had mixed results with putting a smaller male with the female, I try to use larger males than the female but have had results with using a smaller male, I have a hongs female that has no problem mating with a smaller male.


Well, I've now seen the female come near edge of male's favorite thicket and sneak off with a fry! The male didn't really react; certainly didn't chase after her or try to stop her. Slightly flared fins as he always does when she is near.

He's got about 8 remaining. Will be interesting to see if female commandeers them all.


Spitting a stray back to the group:


New Member
My borelli fry have went back and forth between mom and dad. Started with her then about half went to dad, then some went back to mom. Now he has about 45 and she 5. I never know what I’m going to see when I go down to look at them! They both stay in their separate corners.


That's exactly what my pair is doing! They've continued to exchange fry. No real aggression between them, hopefully that continues. Pretty amazing to see the change in behavior after months of it being an all female effort.


Update: The shared custody arrangement finally stopped a few days ago. The winner of all 20+ fry? THE MALE!

As y'all know it is super hard to get photos of fry groups at this age because they are so active:



He is guarding them from all including the female now, which is pretty interesting, since they are much larger and scooting all over the tank. The female will sometimes find a stray fry in the tank, guard it, and hours later I find that she's 'lost' it. She's alternately showing her intense yellow/black and more subdued non-brooding colors.

Thankfully the pair haven't been sparring and there is an extra tank for the female should the male actually push her out of the 40gal.

Since the new moon was a few days ago, this will be the first time this pair hasn't pushed out month-old fry and spawned again when tank conditions were optimal (ie. warmer water temp over last few weeks). So I do wonder if the female is ready for another round and hasn't really 'lost' but rather doing her usual routine of letting them leave the nest while the male is still in parenting mode.

Crossing my fingers that they go back to the domestic structure they had previously; it was so much fun to watch. Perhaps this is part of the jostling created by having an effective colony, even though the juveniles are all their progeny and haven't shown interest in breeding yet.