Spawning Your Texas Cichlids

And caring for their fry

 

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Spawning Texas Cichlid Factoids

Basic Diet

O.S.I. goldfish pellets

Conditioning Diet

Cichlid pellets, krill, glassworms, nightcrawlers

Breeding Quarters

20H with under gravel filter and cave
Dither Fish None (not enough room)
Female 11 inches
Male 12 inches
Temperature 78 F

Water 

Did not check.  Just aged water.
Behavior Female passive at first

Spawning Clues

Tail-slapping and lip-locking.

Prologue:
  Most of you will want to read Texas Cichlids before trying to spawn them.  These particular Texans were not actually mine.  Chuck Z had a fire at his house, so I wound up baby-sitting several of his fish.  His pair of Texas cichlids had spawned before, so I decided what the Hay, why not spawn the rascals again?

LA
The potential Texas cichlid parents.  Male on the left.

Day One.  I came to work and found numerous cichlids literally crammed into several 20Hs.  One pair of Texas cichlids caught my eye.  They were jammed into an obviously too small 20H but were not beating the crap out of each other -- unlike the Buttikoferi creaming two good-sized brichardis crammed into a 10.  So I fed them O.S.I. goldfish pellets.

Diet:  Since Texas cichlids are omnivorous, goldfish pellets hit the spot with them.  We fed them small quantities three times per day.  Every other day, they got Aqualand cichlid pellets, which they liked even better.

Conditioning Diet:  We started with the basic diet above, then we ramped it up a bit.  We added Tetra freeze-dried krill to increase the essential oils, bump up the calories, enhance their colors, and get them “in the mood.”  We also added a nightcrawler (because worms nearly always create that “urge to merge”), however they each ate only one and turned up their noses at all subsequent nightcrawlers.  We also gave them live glassworms because we have a huge batch.  Total time to condition the Texas cichlid pair was two weeks.

LA
You can see her cave on the left.

Breeding Quarters:  As mentioned, the pair is in a 20H.  Their tank has an under gravel filter, a cave barely big enough for her to squeeze into, and mostly black gravel.  No lid.  No live or plastic plants.  No dither fish (not enough room).  No heater.  Since they were on the top row (10 feet in the air), their temperature was 78 F.

LA
The female Texas cichlid also came to the front to protect her territory.

The Female:  She was one inch smaller than the 12-inch male but much less bulky.  She spent her first week inside of or behind her cave.  He’d occasionally scrunch down and wiggle his way inside her cave.  After a week or so, she came out front and center.

LA
The Texas cichlid male was out front and protecting his territory from day one.

The Male:  He chased her around a lot the first week.  He did not hog the food.  She usually out-ate him.  At the beginning of the second week, both came to the front when I approached their tank (with or without food).

LA
Rather than let the Texas cichlids spawn on the filter plate, we added this piece of slate.

 

Diggers:  During the second week, they started digging down to the filter plate.  At this time we added a piece of slate as the potential spawning site.  If they laid eggs on the filter plate, the babies would get sucked under the plates.  Thus, the piece of slate.  We smushed it down into the gravel and covered 90% of it with gravel.  We want them to dig a nice pit that won’t “eat” their babies.  During this process, they kept pushing to the front to protect their spawning site.

LA
Texas cichlids go thru the typical American cichlid lip-locking.

Pre-Spawning Behavior:  You’ll see the male and female tail-slapping, kissing, and lip-locking.  This wrassling match is a fitness test to see who will continue the species.  Sometimes you see this same behavior during and after spawning.

LA
The pair laid eggs on the slate and on the back of the tank.

Results:  They laid eggs on the slate we provided and on the aquarium wall.  This makes the decision easy as to whether to hatch the eggs artificially or leave them with their parents.  We’ll do both.

LA
Texas cichlids lay eggs in un-neat little rows.

Lots of Eggs:  Here’s the eggs on the slate -- over 500.  Count them if you so desire.  Including the eggs on the aquarium wall, they laid probably over 1,200 all together.  They’ll need aeration.  We’ll also also add methylene blue to discourage fungus on the eggs.

LA
Some Texas cichlid breeders use an airstone for aeration.  We used a UG filter.

Aerating the Eggs:  Angelfish breeders typically put their slate of eggs in a gallon jar with a slow airstone.  This slate with the Texas cichlid eggs was too big for a gallon jar.  We put them in a handmade three-gallon tank.  The bubbling UG filter stem behind them provides the aeration.  Too much aeration on the eggs can create the oddly shaped gill covers often seen on angels.  We assume the same deformity would occur on Texas cichlids if the aeration were too vigorous.

 LA
Methylene blue added to retard fungus.

Artificial Parent:  Texas cichlid parents normally fan their incubating eggs constantly to provide aeration.  They also pick off the dead eggs -- the ones that turn white.  The water came from their spawning tank.  We’ll see which batch of eggs fares best.  Sometimes even the best parents will eat their eggs.  (March 26, 2006)

LA
Eggs left with the parents March 28, 2006.

LA
About half of the removed eggs hatched March 30, 2006.  Still 200 or so.  The parents ate theirs.

 

Texas Cichlid Egg/Fry Factoids

 Eggs Spawned  March 25 @ 78 F
 Incubation Temperature  76 F
 Eggs Hatched  March 30
 Carbon Added  March 30 to remove methylene blue
 Eggs Disappear  April 2 no live eggs or fry visible
 Fry Free-Swimming  April 7 fry swarming up
 Fry First Food  April 7 served microworms in am
 Fry Second food  April 9 served ground flake food

LA
Free-swimming fry about 1/4-inch long show up April 9 am.  Note the typical black stripe.

Another (smaller) Pair

LA
Four-inch male, three-inch female in 10-gallon tank.

LA
Tank carefully aquascaped with fluorescent plants, a flower pot, and a flat black rock to spawn on.

LA
Female in four-inch pot.  We added a power filter to remove the floating debris (dried duckweed).

LA
Spawning rock and nightcrawler -- both ignored so far.

James Phillips, August 24, 2010
I was just reading your Texas Cichlid page and I noticed in your breeding section that you said that at least a 55 gallon would be needed for a spawn. I managed to coax my Texas Cichlids to reproduce in an overcrowded 29g (fixing the crowding soon). Just thought I would inform you to help make your excellent site even more complete.

A: Obviously your Texas cichlids did not read my website.  If they did, they totally ignored it -- at their own peril..  Cichlids are bull-headed that way.  LA

 

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