NANFA-L-- Welaka fry. Welaka fry? WELAKA FRY!!!

Subject: NANFA-L-- Welaka fry. Welaka fry? WELAKA FRY!!!
From: Mysteryman (
Date: Tue Nov 30 2004 - 08:48:57 CST


Pteronotropis "enigma" no more! I figured it out, baby!!

Hey, you guys down in Florida trying to breed this fish for your species
restoration project might want to pay attention to this, for it might
help a bit. ( I would like to commend you on your efforts so far, by the
way )

I'm not telling you guys anything you don't already know when I mention
the confoundment that this fish has caused over the past 3 decades among
those who tried to breed it. Lots of folks have tried and failed, and a
very small few have even had some meager results, so I'm certainly not
the first guy to have puled this off by any means. However, I might well
be the first guy to have pulled it off on his very first attempt, which
I have to admit makes this victory all the sweeter.

Several months ago I had a flash of inspiration when I started to
consider setting up a spawning tank for Rainbow Shiners. Bob Muller had
just had some Rainbows spawn for him, so I was encouraged to give them a
try. In conducting my research on the Rainbows, I came across a vital
piece of information regarding their spawning habits. It was a very
obvious bit of trivia indeed, and suddenly it occurred to me that it was
one so obvious that it was easy to ignore.

I wondered if it could apply to other fishes as well, and I figured that
it almost certainly HAD to. Then I thought about welakas, and WHAM! I
knew what I had to do.

I went out and tried to get some Rainbows and welakas. No luck on the
rainbows after 3 tries, but I did manage to score some Bluenoses. To my
surprise, I lucked up and got some that were obviously male and some
others obviously female. I wasn't sure if that was a good thing or a bad
thing, considering the Bluenoses' irksome habit of dying soon after
spawning and not looking especially sexually dimorphic until breeding
time. I was sure that the few fish I had finally managed to find had
already spawned and were soon to die, but they lived.

By that time the people on the list had become strongly anti-welaka for
some reason, with talk of moratoriums and getting the government
involved and such, so I didn't think that telling everybody what I was
up to would have been a very good idea. Besides, I didn't want to jinx
it. I have to say that it feels good to finally be able to tell you guys
about it after all this time, and I hope that since it worked you'll cut
me some slack.

Before I go into the details, I will have to say that my results, while
good, are still far from spectacular. The truth is, I spawned these fish
via remote control, as it were, by having my neighbor do certain things
at certain times. You see, I am currently working as a truckdriver, and
am rarely home. I had to set everything up and do the prep work when I
was home, and have my neighbor, who comes over to feed my fish, keep me
advised of all developments. Based on her observations, I had her
undertake various steps for me via telephone, which was a royal pain
since she's not an experienced fishkeeper, and as such I had to make
everything as foolproof and user-friendly as possible. One downside is
that things didn't go exactly according to plan. Hurricane Ivan nearly
ruined everything, and pretty much trashed my whole operation. In fact,
I had no intention of trying to spawn this fish until next spring, but
the weeklong power outage and wonky weather forced my hand. The worst
part is that I don't have a good supply of greenwater-in-the moment, and
most of the fry have already starved to death. I just got home a few
hours ago after being stuck on the road for a week longer than
anticipated, and that in itself has had the most negative impact on the
whole affair. I don't know how many times the fish spawned, or how many
fry were ultimately produced. "A bunch" is how many mom says, but so far
I can find only 4 survivors. The tank itself went bad with fungus, and
some of my adult fish have died as well. I suspect that infertile eggs
are what led to the fungus.
The fungus really annoys me, too, considering how much trouble I went to
in order to prevent it.
On the other hand, if the remaining adults survive, I'll be able to
overwinter them normally and possibly spawn them again next spring as
originally planned. All in all, I guess things could have been a lot
worse, and from here on they'll probably only get better. Thanks,
Hurricane Ivan!

Okay, enough prefacing... here's how I did it:

It took me nine tries to get the Flagin Shiner to spawn, which I'm sure
a few of you probably think is pretty funny. However, I learned a lot
about spawning Pteronotropines in the effort, most notably what I had
been doing wrong. When I decided to try spawning the Bluenose, I vowed
to not go about it all willy-nilly. I knew that better men than I had
failed with this fish, and while I really didn't think I had a chance, I
knew that my chances would be greatly limited in number, so they had to

The first thing I did was select pondlocked breeders instead of
riverdwellers. I figured that fish living in a pond would be more
willing to spawn in an aquarium than those used to strong currents. I
also knew just how sensitive the Pterontropises are to water currents,
so I wanted to minimize that factor as much as I could.

The tank I used was a 30 long, in fact the the very one I used
previously to breed Flagfins. ( my lucky tank now, for sure! ) I washed
it out with muriatic acid to eliminate any leftover fungus spores and to
try to get the hardwater deposits off of the glass. It didn't work, by
the way, and now that tank is forever etched and ruined as a display
--- I got rid of the undergravel filter, since I knew the tank would
have a muddy bottom. The substrate is pea gravel, with a little laterite
mixed in it. ( I'm sure the laterite is not needed-in-all, but my
original plan was to use real plants. ) On top of the gravel is a 1/2
inch layer of plain potting soil, the kind with nothing added to it. I
pounded it down into the tank and added the water very carefully. After
the mud settled, I added a little bit more gravel on top, but just a
little to help keep the mud under control.
--- The filter is a simple aquaclear 200 mounted on the back near one
end. There is also a slow canister filter (100gph) mounted with the
return nozzle on the opposite end of the tank from the aquaclear. With
the Flagins, I had this mounted to flow across the back wall of the tank
about halfway down. This time I set it up to flow toward the opposite
corner, and it's only an inch from the top.
--- Decor is an array of fake plants of various shapes and sizes
arranged along the back wall and ends of the tank, with the main area in
the middle left bare.
--- Lighting is once again the double strip from an old 10-gal eclipse
hood, mounted on one end of the tank to keep one end dark. It worked so
well for the Flagfins that I figured it might again.
--- Chemistry:
When I last left the tank, the water had a pH of 6.8, a hardness of 6,
and a temperature of 66F. A little amazon extract was also used, but
only a little. As usual, I mixed the water up by using about half
distilled water and half "natural" water taken from the same pond as the
fish. During the course of the experiment, the tank underwent several
partial waterchanges with distilled water, and is currntly sitting on a
pH of 6.9, a hardness of 5, and the temperature is 75. The most annoying
thing about it all is that I wasn't able to keep exact track of these
parameters over the course of the experiment, so I don't know exactly
what they were when the fish finally spawned. I also don't know is
post-spawning water changes will set off more spawning like they do with
( Oh, by the way, the summertime temp of 66F was reached by the use of a
chiller. I was able to get one for cheap when my local Food World
remodeled. I can't recommend these things enough to NANFAns who don't
want to wait until winter to overwinter their fish. I don't know how I
got along without one for all these years. I originally planned to use
it on a reef tank, but now I'm glad I never got around to setting up
that reef! ))

Bluenoses live in deep water, hugging the mucky fetid mire bottoms they
prefer. They like to hang out near heavy vegetation, but not in it. I
wasn't sure exactly how to model these conditions in a tank, but
apparently the way I described it above worked well enough to suit them.
Luckily, they move to shallow water to spawn. I tried to give them the
best variety of lighting and water current that I could so that they
could pick their favorite. They tended to swim around the whole tank a
lot more than the Flagfins did, which surprised me a bit, but still they
seemed to prefer the darker side away from the strong current.

For almost two months the fish were kept cool and under only 8 hours of
lights per day. I had planned on 3 months, but Hurricane Ivan didn't
agree. The fish were fed very well with daphnia, mosquito larvae, flake
and frozen foods, and some spirulina stuff in case they wanted it. I'm
not able to tell you what foods they preferred or disliked since my mom
fed them most of the time. They are much daintier feeders than Flagfins,
by the way, and weren't as easy to please. Oddly, they won't eat

Was it hard to keep these fish?
Not really. I will have to say that they are certainly more demanding
than most other species, though. I couldn't possibly recommend them to
beginners, and the ones I caught were in definite need of quarantine by
the time I got them home. I guess that was the hardest part, since I
wanted to be super-gentle with them due to breeding plans.
Was it hard to make them spawn?
You know, it really wasn't, once I figured out what to do. It DID
involve a lot of planning and prep work, though. That prep work was the
hard part since I had to set everything up for my mom to use later in my
absence, but otherwise it wasn't much harder than breeding any other
tricky species. The really hard part was preparing the "magic
ingredient" needed to trigger the spawning. You guys are gonna kick
yourselves when I tell you what it is. It really is so obvious that it's
easy to ignore. However, getting it was easily the hardest part of the
whole project.

After the hurricane, I went home. Things were a mess, and frankly still
are. The water in the tank had been 59F, but had already risen to 66F
and was steadily but slowly climbing. I decided to go ahead and try to
spawn the fish instead of trying to chill them down again. The main
reason for this is that the terminal finnage of the three males had
grown quite a bit since I had last been home, and the colors and
liveliness of all the fish ( 3 males, 5 females ) had likewise improved.
I figured it was too late to go backward again.

I took a little trip to a nearby fishfarm run by a buddy of mine. The
hurricane had trashed him pretty badly as well, but he still had some of
what I needed. After that I did my usual hometime stuff. On my last day
home, I worked up a lighting and waterchange schedule for my fishsitter,
and got a whole bunch of distilled water for her to use. Then I set up a
20H tank next to the bluenose tank, into which I put a longear sunfish.
Then I did a big waterchange in the Bluenose tank, making sure to erode
a spot of mud over the gravel. The result was a four inch pit of exposed
gravel in the otherwise muddy bottom, somewhat resembling a longear
nest, sort of.
Then I left.

A few days later I got a status report which said the water was again
clear and that the shiners were avoiding the end of the tank near the
Longear's tank. Excellent!!! I had her do a water change when the water
got a bit warmer and the photoperiod was up to 9 hours/day.

"Now, waitaminute," some of you are probably thinking, "this has all
been done before. Why did it finally work this time?" Well, read on...

A few days later the photoperiod was up to 10.5 hours a day and temp had
hit 70. That led to another water change. The next day the males started
flaring up-in-each other, Betta style, which indicated spawning was a

A few days later I got bad news. The fishsitter somehow managed to break
the thermometer. However, since a warm spell had hit, we guessed that
the temp was still in good range. The fish seemed to like it, so I had
her do another water change, and a few hours after that, I told her to
go to the fridge and get the little vial of white stuff she'd find in
it. My fridge was set for 28 degrees, by the way, so the stuff was
nearly frozen. I told her to thaw it out and add it to the tank the next
morning, and to put up the partition between the two aquariums a couple
of hours afterward so the welakas wouldn't be scared of the longear

By now a lot of you have probably figured out everything, yes?

Well, sure enough, a few days later she told me that the tank was full
of little baby fish, swimming-in-the surface along the sides of the
tank. My jubilation didn't last very long, though, because it occurred
to me that while I could get her to do water changes, getting her to
feed the fry their greenwater, complete with aufwuch scrapings, was
simply out of the question. A few days later the fungus had started to
make a real mess of things, and now that I'm finally home I have one big
mess to clean up indeed. I don't care, though; it was worth it!

Okay, so for those of you who haven't yet figured it out, here it is,
the big secret, the magical key, the mystery unraveled:

When the Bluehead Nocomis spawns, the milt runs downstream, alerting the
Rainbow Shiners downstream that it is finally time to spawn. This makes
them rush upstream to parasitize the Nocomis nests in a frenzy. It
occurred to me that this might likewise be the same thing the Bluenosed
welakas have been waiting for in our tanks. Well, I guess you know the
stories of past attempts and failures by now, so I won't bore you, but
the hardest part has always been getting both the longears and welakas
to coexist in the same tank and get them both in spawning condition at
the same time without the longears killing the welakas in their spawning
territory assertion phase. Fake longears have been used along with fake
nests, and side-by-side arrangements like mine have as well. However, as
you know, these methods just didn't work. My method, though did, and you
can bet I'm going to have to gloat about it a bit for awhile. LOL!!
The longear milt I got from the fishfarm was the missing ingredient
which finally made it all possible.
Of course, welakas have spawned, on rare occasion, in tanks without any
milt or longears or nests-in-all, so someday someone will undoubtedly
figure out an even easier way. For now though, my way seems to work very
well, what with it's so-far 100% success rate! Okay, I'll be the very
first to admit that getting lucky on a first try is only technically
100% success. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, so we'll just
have to see how well it works in later attempts.
The truth be told, I don't really know how well it worked this time. I
don't know how many fry were produced before they died, or whether the
fake nest was even used. I do know that welakas are avid egg-eaters, and
any eggs sitting on the plain mud bottom would have probably been eaten.
eggs which fell through the cracks in the gravel, however, would have
survived to hatch, so I'm going to have to guess that the nest was
indeed used.

Well, that's about it, I guess.

My next project--> Pteronotropis merlini!!!
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: Fri Dec 31 2004 - 12:42:56 CST