by Gene Moy
I’ve always been fond of Severums, especially the gold variety. Some of the ones I currently keep have been in my tanks for four years. About a year ago, I became interested in breeding these South American Cichlids. I had managed to raise three Gold Severums to six inches total length from one inch total length. I discovered that in all probability I had three males. I set out on a difficult task to locate mature female Gold Severums, visiting different aquarium pet shops in the process. I also decided to join PVAS and started attending the monthly meetings in seeking out fish and information.
At me Fall ’95 auction, I picked up several more Gold Severums, including a "pair". The "pair" consisted of a five and half inch maleand a four inch female. The female looked too small to be mature. I set up the "pair" in a 20 gallon high aquarium as I was somewhat limited in tank space. The "pair" got along splendidly. Within days, the male started moving massive amounts of gravel. Within two weeks the "pair" had laid some 200 eggs on top of a clay flower pot that I had provided. To my disappointment, the eggs proved to be infertile and died off over a period of three days. After reading several recent magazine articles and speaking to others at the PVAS monthly meeting, I allowed that male Gold Severums generally have fertility problems. Unfortunately this particular male was probably infertile, or he may be too young.
Fortunately, I had several more males, and I felt I had little to lose in trying to match the female with another male. I tried matching her with a four and a half inch male, closer to the female’s size. Using a piece of Plexiglas to initially separate them in the 20H, the Severums were conditioned on a variety of foods including meal worms and live black worms. Within ten days, some 300 eggs were laid on the flower pot. Within three days, all the eggs turned white. Again I was disappointed.
I next decided to try to matched the female with one of my older males, who was now eight inches long. They were introduced with a loose fitting Plexiglas partition. Two days later I removed the partition. There was no fighting, or bullying on the part of the much larger male. I felt a sense of relief. I started to condition the two fish with cut up night crawlers, pieces of boiled chicken, pieces of ham, live black worms, and some Cichlid pellets. The male’s breeding tube had been visible long before being introduced to the female. The two did not demonstrate much interest in each other. There were displays by the male, and shaking by the female, but the displays were few and far between. During this time I did partial water changes of 30 percent weekly, and increased me temperature to 85F. Around Jan 9th, the female started moving small amounts of gravel. Her breeding tube was now visible. The male still did not seem too interested and did not move any gravel.
On the morning of January 11th, some 400 amber eggs were laid on a piece of shale, resting flat on top of the gravel. I noticed that two eggs were white, and possibly not fertilized. Both the male and female showed signs of parental protection of the eggs, and this behavior strengthened over the next couple of days. On day 2, I noticed ten percent of the eggs turned white. I was ready to be disappointed. That evening some 30% of the eggs were white. On day 3, I noticed several pieces of gravel on top of the shale. Upon closer inspection, I noticed movement within the gravel. Wrigglers! Some of the eggs had hatched. I cannot tell how many there are at this time. I’ve got to start planning. The box filters will have to be replaced with sponge filters, and the power filter will have to be screened or turned off. I will have to go get some baby food. Maybe hatch some brine shrimp? That afternoon, upon my return from visiting several shops looking for fry food, the wrigglers were gone.
Well, the bright side is I’m making progress. I started conditioning the pair again with more chopped night crawlers, meal worms, black worms, some table scraps, and partial water changes. The female started moving gravel again. The male did not like my maintenance activities and attacked anything inserted into the tank. After a while, the male started moving some gravel to help uncover pieces of shale I had partially buried in the gravel.
On the morning of February 2nd, I heard more gravel being moved in the tank. I discovered more than 500 eggs covering an area three by four inches on a flat piece of shale. I’m excited again. The pH, checked the night before was 6.5. The water temperature was S6F.
On day two, the female hovers close to the eggs, fanning water over them with her fins. Some 60 eggs have turned while. I’ve come to expect this. Later in the day, the female has piled several small pieces of gravel on top of the eggs. I blow off some of the gravel with water through a piece of rigid tubing, blowing a few eggs in the process. The parents are extremely agitated and attack the tubing, but do not notice the scattered eggs. Later in the day, I noticed a few more white eggs, but the number of viable eggs are halved. I may have lost some to the power filter, before I put a sponge over the intake.
On day three, the eggs have hatched. The fry are white except for the black eyes. The parents have moved the wriggling fry on top of the flower pot. The female is constantly picking up loose fry that seem only loosely anchored to the pot. I find it hard to estimate the number of fry as some are piled on top of each other and pieces of gravel. The male is more concerned with defending the territory.
The 200 or so translucent fry are about 4 mm long, and are free swimming on day five. During the morning, the parents had bedded down the fry on the gravel. I am feeding them boiled egg yolk suspended in water, after discovering one of the commercial liquid mixtures clumped when squirted into the tank.
It’s been a full week since the eggs were first laid. I performed a 15% partial water change today. The fry seem to be healthy, and their numbers remain approximately the same. Their bellies seem to be full as well and the young have grown to 5 mm. The parents are performing their duties of protection and herding the fry. A somewhat large tail fin is visible. Some fry are getting trapped in the gravel when they are bedded down for the night. The 5M gravel leaves cracks between the pieces that the fry squirm in to and have difficulty funding their way out. Although the number of fry lost is probably small, smaller gravel would have been more suitable for the breeding and rearing tank.
A full week after the fry have been free–swimming, and they seem to be healthy and growing. The parents still protect and herd the young. There is a disparity between the largest at 6 mm and the smallest at 4 mm. The parents are being fed small pieces of ham and peas, as they seem to prefer table scraps over dry pellets.
The fry has been free–swimming for two weeks now, and the largest have grown to 10 mm. All fins are translucent and so are difficult to see. The fry are healthy and are eating liquid food and infusoria found in the gravel. Their pectoral fins are noticeable, but I cannot see their pelvic fins yet. The fry are transitioning to ground up flake food. The fry are moving about more on their own, although the parents still are trying to herd the young. The parents vigorously attack the stick that I use for stirring up the gravel.
Approaching week four, the largest fry are 12 mm in length and beginning to grow in height as well as in length. The fry are beginning to look more like their parents in shape and color. The largest are taking Hikari Micro Pellets, while the smaller ones are taking ground up flakes. I estimate that I still have 150 fry. The majority show very full bellies.
At week five, I still have 75 young. I’ve removed the sponge pre–filter to the power filter, as the young are big enough now. The fry are on average 12 mm (0.5 in), with the largest being 14 mm. This will be a critical week as I will be out of town of business and could not find a fish sitter. I’ve remove the parents to another tank, so there will be no temptations on their part.
The fry have survived five days of my absence with a small vacation food block containing freeze dried tubifex worms. I do not know whether the food block helped or not, but it did not seem to have hurt anything. The largest fry are now approaching I8 mm, while the smallest are only 10 mm.
During my trip, the parents have laid another batch of eggs in their new tank. The patents ended up eating their second batch of eggs prior to hatching. Ten days later, the pair lay another 500 – 600 eggs on another piece of shale, and these eggs hatch in 48 hours at 85C. The pair’s behavior is the same as before. The total percentage of eggs turning white is less than 10%. Good thing that I’ve recently thinned out my tanks. Now, if I could only get my other two (Severums) to pair up.