Caring for Your New Plant Spawning Killifish
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Plant Spawning Killifish Factoids

Origin

Mostly Africa and parts of America

Size

2 to 5 inches

Sexual Differences

Males larger and more colorful

Temperature

Room temp okay.

Attitude

Jumpers.  Good eaters.

Substrate

Most breeders use bare tanks

Security

Likes a planted tank – females especially

Foods

Flake, frozen, live

Longevity

About 2 years


LA
Gold australe male about two inches.  Female top left looking like most other female killies.

Origins:  Most of the plant spawning killies came from small streams (or “kills” in Dutch) in Africa.  To get more familiar with the "kill" term, think of the Schuylkill (which means "hidden creek" in Dutch) River in Pennsylvania.  After you jog up those steps Rocky ran up in the movie, the hidden creek's just behind that building.   Most killies now come from individual breeders.  They rarely show up on commercial distributor lists.  We can get a few species from Indonesian fish farms.  But not many killies find their way into fish stores.  You may want to look into the AKA (American Killifish Association), if you want killies.  Or you can go to your local bait house and ask for “top minnows.”  Some U.S. killies look great.  And they get big.

LA
Chocolate australe in a fish show.  Tarzan say, "New water not good for killie."

 

Housing:  Most killifish fare well in standard community aquariums.  Breeders usually house them in smaller aquaria.  Back when I used to keep lots of killies, I built dozens of three gallon tanks.  You need lots of tanks to keep the females separate.  They all look alike -- like female peacock cichlids.

LA
When you hang out with killie keepers you can get killie fever.

Temperature:  Many serious killie keepers keep their breeders in unheated tanks.  Killifish live much longer (but mature more slowly) when kept cool. Room temperature works fine.

Temperament:  Males like to spar with each other.  They might nibble at long-finned male guppies.  However, on average they get along fine with other fishes of equal size.

LA Pic
Sold to us as blue gularis.  Wrong.

 
Young gardneri                           Another color gardneri                    
LA
Bivittatum (better than average)   Scheeli?

LA
Female gardneri.  Many female Killies look like this.  Keep varieties separated.

LA
Most common killifish sold in fish stores -- the golden wonder (about 3 inches).

Maximum Size.  Most of these species average under three inches.  The Fallax species exceed three inches a lot.

Foods:  Not real picky.  Many old reference books used to prescribe live foods only.  Most killies eat flake foods but naturally prefer live or frozen foods.  If you plan to breed them and want large spawns, feed them several types of foods.  If you just want a pretty community fish, feel free to feed them a good flake or pelleted food.  Frozen foods work even better.

Lighting:  Most pro killie keepers keep them in low light tanks -- not so much to prevent velvet, but just to save on the electric bill.

Water:  Dirty water makes killies susceptible to velvet.  Any uneaten food in their tank pollutes it and weakens their resistance to velvet.  Make regular water changes and slap a good canister filter on their tank weekly.  The canister filter -- especially one with diatomaceous earth and carbon -- will usually trigger spawning.

LA Pix
Male rivulus                                 Obvious female rivulus

 

Spawning.  Killies use a variety of spawning surfaces.  Even though we call them plant spawners, most readily lay eggs on the gravel.  Some (Rivulus) will even lay eggs on tops of corks above the surface of the water.  However, few will lay their eggs on a bare glass bottom.  If you give them an artificial mop (strands of nylon or orlon yarn), most readily accept this artificial spawning site.

Build Your Own Mop.  Artificial yarns work better than natural (rottable) fibers.  Green strands look more “planty,” but no one knows whether the fish care one way or the other.  Artificial mops are also easier to “sterilize.”  Actually, even if you did really sterilize them, they become unsterile when you put them in your aquarium.  Just rinse them out well.  Forget the autoclave.  Corks or floats are also optional.  Most killies readily spawn on mops lying on the bottom.

LA
Day-old killifish eggs can be handled easily.  Easy pickin's.

Harvest the Eggs.  Most fish eggs squish if you handle them.  Killie eggs are hard (after the first day or so).  You can pull the mop strands thru your fingers and harvest the eggs easily.  Or you can just move the mops to a hatching tank.

LA

Incubate the Eggs.  You can incubate the eggs in water or store them in very damp peat moss.  The latter method enables you to hatch nearly all the eggs at the same time.  They won’t hatch until you put them in water three to four weeks later – at your convenience.

LA
Unlike normal fry, killie fry have very little yolk sac left by the time they hatch.  Have food ready.

Live Egg Hatchers.  Oddly enough, adding microworms to their hatching tray will often trigger your eggs to all hatch at the same time.  Warning:  Encouraging early hatching can cause problems -- often fry that hatch early have defective air bladders.  These snakes will breed successfully but will never swim correctly.  The snake trait is not inherited.

LA
Flag fish.  Jordanella floridae, one of our U.S. killies.  They guard their eggs like cichlids.

LA
Another U.S. killie sometimes used as bait -- six to seven inches long 

Last Word:  If you can find them, killifishes make beautiful additions to most community aquaria.  LA.

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