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Apisto double red fry dying HELP


20 Apr 2021
My partner and I are having problems breeding our apistogramas, more specifically keeping the fry alive. For the sake of getting as much help as possible I will try to be as accurate as possible with what we've done.

We have 3 tanks in total all of them between 27/28c (1 for both mum and dad, a second little breeding trap that attaches to mum and dad's tank, and a third one to grow the fry on their own.

Once the female laid her eggs we put her little cave with the eggs and herself in it in the breeding trap. The eggs hatched, about 35, and the female started doing her job (only her second spawn, the first time she didn't know what to do and ate all the eggs !). With the dad in a separate tank we thought the job would be easy now !

We started feeding them tiny crunched up flakes and Daphnes but with hindsight maybe something smaller like micro worms would be better for the fry ? After about 5/6 days we noticed the female was eating one or two of the fry (not just moving them places like she also does) so we took her out and put her back with the male.

As there was still about 25 fry in that tiny little breeding trap we transferred them to the growing out tank and since (4 days later) we've only got about a handful left as the rest of the fry is dead. They are now about 2.5 weeks old and with only about 5 or 6 fry left not sure what has gone wrong.

Water parameters are the same for all 3 tanks (bacteria the same for all) temperature the same too.

If anyone has experience breeding successfuly double reds it would be highly appreciated if you could give us some tips or how you did it so we can have little baby apistos swimming around.

Quite sad and disheartening seeing them go one by one especially with the time and effort we have put into it.
As you suspect, smaller food would be a good idea. Microworms are good, so are newly-hatched brine shrimps. You could use both, perhaps on alternate feeds. Several feeds a day is deal, if possible.
You could also put some leaf litter in the tank (eg catappa leaves), that will encourage micro-organisms to grow which the babies can browse on.
Crumbled flake may not be recognised as food, and even small Daphnia are too big for newly-hatched Apistos. When they are about a centimetre long they should start on crumbled flake, especially if they see their mum eating it.
I would not move the female when she has eggs or babies, it can be stressful for her and there's usually no need. If the male is bothering her, you could remove him, leaving her in her familiar home. That's not usually necessary, but each pair is different.
I think for the next batch we will definitely think about smaller food, we just thought powdered flakes and daphneas would be ok but it doesn't look that way. Also we see a lot of people have success with moving the female and babies to a breeding trap without any problems. That's why I asked if anyone with experience growing specifically double red apistos would share their experience.
Cacatuoides I'll attach a pic of the pair


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Beautiful parents!! 😍

I haven't kept Cacatoides, but I have kept and bred Macmasteri, and I think the process is very very similar. When I bred mine, I didn't seem to lose any fry at all.

It would be great to see photographs of your tanks, particularly the tank that you're raising the fry in to see if it's a good environment for raising fry, and make suggestions on how to improve it. Are you raising the fry in a breeding trap, or a separate breeding/raising tank? I think that you need a dedicated breeding tank, which is at least 45l, if not 60l or more. Since you have a 'grow out' tank ready, you might as well use this! I would try to breed the apistos in this tank, so you just move the male out rather than moving the mother and babies. Keep the mother in the tank until they stop swarming around her (usually at least 6 weeks though it varies), it's very beautiful behaviour and tbh she'll do a better job than you will. It's much easier to feed them when they all follow mum around - when you add food to the tank she will lead them to it. Also, she might not be eating them - I saw my female 'eating' the fry, but she was later on spitting them out in another part of the tank to move ones that didn't take her orders immediately.

Water quality is really really important to raise fry. Ideally you should be changing 10% of the water daily, or a good % weekly or biweekly. The better quality the water, the better the growth of the fry will be. How hard is your water? Ideally the water is relatively soft. I used rainwater and that worked well. Professional breeders change lots of water daily, as they feed a lot too. This daily waterchange is partly to compensate for the added food.

Te next thing is food, which comes in stages, for the babies to survive the first few days they need tiny microscopic food. The easiest way to get this, is to fill your breeding tank with a layer of fine sand, and then a good few handfuls of dried leaves and botanicals. This sound be done BEFORE the fish are bred, ideally a few weeks, to give some time for biofilm and microscopic animals to grow on the leaves, so set this up asap. You can also add some moss too, which also often has lots of tiny life in it Then when your babies come out for the first time, you can take a bit of brown muck from your filter and pippette it into the leaves to add extra microscopic life.

So once your babies are 2 - 3 days old, you can start to feed them hatched baby brine shrimp. These take a day, or a day and a half to hatch, so I would start them as soon as I saw the babies come out for the first time. To ensure your fry survive, you ideally need 2 cultures of bbs on the go, and be pippetting them down to the babies 3 - 6 times a day, the mroe youo feed the better. I think you can also culture microworms. Then continue this for about 6 weeks, and then you can start to mix dried food (I used the smallest version of bug bites) in, and start to feed some frozen foods, but you have to judge when their mouths are big enough to eat it!
Hi all,
I'm pretty sure you will be successful with them. They look nice fish.
Once the female laid her eggs we put her little cave with the eggs and herself in it in the breeding trap......
Also we see a lot of people have success with moving the female and babies to a breeding trap without any problems.
I definitely wouldn't put them in a breeding trap. <"I've raised a lot of Apistogramma cacatuoides">, just in the tank with both parents and then moved into a "growing on" tank as @shangman mentions. I'm a great fan of @sparkyweasel 's leaf litter as well and plenty of plants.
We started feeding them tiny crunched up flakes and Daphnes but with hindsight maybe something smaller like micro worms would be better for the fry ?
Micro-worms work well, you need the <"wriggle response"> to get the fry feeding and once they are feeding you can add in Grindal worms and powdered food. "Fluval Bugbites" looks to be the dry fry food of choice for them.

cheers Darrel
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The only reason we moved them to a breeding trap (raised above the main tank where the male and female used to be in) is because we heard that very often males eat the fry but also when he is ready to spawn with the female, she will start pushing them away / eat them. Since we've seen many people on YouTube removing the female straight after the eggs have hatched and they put the fry in empty grow out tanks so we thought we'd also do that but it doesn't seem to be the best course of action.
For the next "batch" we will definitely move the mother and the fry to a breeding trap, feed them either BBS and/or micro worms as well as a bit of almond leaf out of the main tank. After about 3/4 weeks we'll move them to the grow out tank also filled with almond leaves, caves and plants. We learn from our mistakes I suppose but I was really sad to see them go one by one ! Funny how you get attached to tiny little creatures that you seen hatching from day one ! Definitely different from just buying a fish from a shop !
I think you are right to remove the male, my male died 2 days before my female brought her babies out, and I suspect that she may have killed him. Males can be more trouble than they're worth after the female's laid the eggs I guess!

I have also read that the male will push the female to breed again quickly, but if you don't keep the male with them, then the female will keep them for as long as needed. In my case it was about 6 weeks, then they started to ignore her signals and swim away, and she spent a day furiously trying to catch them all again but they kept running away. After that they annoyed her and she chased them all the time, and after a month or so of that I got a bigger tank for them to get bigger in so she could chill out. Now she's gone a beige colour and just relaxes all day.

I totally feel your pain, it is a very different experience breeding a fish like apistos!! They are so cute and interesting, and it's very easy to put a lot of love and care into them and get attached with such charming fish. You could try to culture some bbs to help the remaining ones you have, but I don't have enough experience to say how to help this first group quickly! :(( I'm sure your female fish learnt from it just as you have, apparently they become better mothers with each brood. Good luck!!!
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Thank you for your help and we have some micro worms on the way, hopefuly in time so the last few can survive. Again we're learning from this too and we'll definitely be much better prepared the next time around. Listening to the local fish plavce advice was our downfall, feeding tiny little fry daphnia was the wrong advice ! Those things were 3 times the size of the fry lol sorry to hear about your male, they're so funny to watch and are definitely unlike other fish in terms of character and cleverness ! When we had them in our main big tank we spent a whole day trying to catch them and put them separate in their own tank ! They're so clever !
Hi all,
For the next "batch" we will definitely move the mother and the fry to a breeding trap,
Honestly forget the breeding trap, you can move the male to another tank if you want, but just let the female herd the fry around the tank. Also if you don't have any moss, I'd get some it is really useful for Apistogramma fry and ideally you want big wodges of it, rather than neat tied on stuff.

cheers Darrel
The breeding trap seems to work for a lot of people and since it shares the water with their tank anyway that will be ok and this time around I will include some almonds leaves and tank litter in there to help for the first few days. The reason I have to do this is because of the male. I can't put the male with all my other fish as it's a heavily planted tank and once he's in there there's pretty much no way to take him out as we found out before and took us a whole day and destroying half of the scape just to take him out !
For moving the male about, have you tried <a bottle trap>? I've found it really easy to catch apistos in them, as they are both greedy and curious of new things. It makes life much easier than using a net. I can catch fish extremely quickly, in only a few minutes using this method, I think because I put some live food in the trap which the fish really love, the most effective I've found was blackworms, but daphnia and other swimming about thigns worked good too.

I 100% agree with @dw1305 , moving the male and giving the babies and female more space is a much better idea for raising them effectively than in a small breeding box. Even though they're tiny, they need to eat a lot of microscopic stuff so the mother will move them around the whole tank to feed every day, so lots of leaves in the tank with them and no male would be be ideal way to breed them.
We tried all sorts and our main aquascape 900 tank is just too big for succes at catching the male, we ended up taking half of the scape away, stressing all the other fish in the process (about 50 odd fish in there), and the substrate was all over the place. The males are just way too clever for their own good. That's why decided to have a smaller tank just for the 2 apistos. I will take onboard everything else but the breeding trap seems to be the only viable option for us besides many people have had a lot of success in doing the same, I think our issue has been the feeding part and the environment they were in as well as removing the female too quick.
Hi all,
I will take onboard everything else but the breeding trap seems to be the only viable option for us besides many people have had a lot of success in doing the same,
I'm not saying it is impossible to successfully use a breeding trap, but I've honestly never heard of any-one doing it for Apistogramma. I know some people <"use them for loricariids"> like Panaqolus etc., but I can't see any way they could be advantageous for Dwarf Cichlids.

I actually became a <"member of UKAPS"> via <"Apistogramma forums">. There are specialist Facebook groups, like the <"British Cichlid Association"> and <"UK Apistogramma Keepers/Breeders"> who could advise you of a way forward.

cheers Darrel
Thank you Darrel, I see how the breeding trap can be a problem, for the next spawn we'll try to just get the male out then and leave her be with the fry.
Have you got plenty of hardscape in the tank? So that the male and female have plenty of choices of places to go, and not competing for the one good spot.
Also, given the option, females will often choose a cave with an entrance too small for the male to enter.
That would reduce the risk of the male harassing the female.
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The breeding part is definitely not the problem, they've spawned twice now, the issue is keeping the fry alive but we think now that we've got it sorted for the next batch, fingers crossed