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Is it important to let Cichlids raise their young?

Discussion in 'General Fish Talk' started by ChrisX, Jan 12, 2018.

  1. ChrisX

    ChrisX CCA Members

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    #1 ChrisX, Jan 12, 2018
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2018
    I have been raising a batch of Keyhole Cichlid fry for the past four months. I decided to let the parents raise the fry in their species 50g planted tank. The only things I did were tank maintenance and feeding them prodigious amounts of BBS!

    Every single baby fish is in excellent health. There are no genetic defects. Every fry that made it to free swimming has survived. However, the parents did an early cull of the eggs and then another cull of early wigglers. IDK if there was anything wrong with these eggs/wigglers or if the parents got hungry or decided they just didn't need so many.

    This causes me to ask about the role of allowing the parents to cull their eggs/wigglers. Either the parents know what they are doing, or I got very lucky.

    When raising cichlids, is it important to allow the parents to raise them as opposed to separating the eggs/fry? Does separating the eggs/wigglers from the parents introduce defects to the spawn in order to get the highest yield? I'm asking because I've not read anything about this. Some people separate, some allow the parents to raise.

    I have read that if a species is always raised by separating the eggs, then they may lose the parenting instincts and over time require intervention in order to breed successfully.
     
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  2. mchambers

    mchambers Occasional Corydoras Breeder / Board of Directors
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    Chris,

    Congrats on the keyhole babies! I've never had keyholes be successful parents, so I'm jealous.

    In my experience, you can't generalize about letting the parents raise the fry. It depends on the tank, the species, and the individual parents. I've had a few cichlid couples that did a great job of raising fry, including Bolivian rams, Rainbow cichlids, and Pelvicachromis taeniatus. I've had other cichlids that weren't very good, including angels.

    I prefer to give the parents a few tries to get it right, unless I think that other tank inhabitants are too likely to pick off the try.
     
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  3. ChrisX

    ChrisX CCA Members

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    Thanks!

    I had been trying to breed them for 4+ months. There were quite a few failed spawns where the parents ate the eggs between day 3 and 4. Then I started playing with the water parameters and the parents got it right (and ended up being model parents).

    I decided to keep the new fry in with the parents and they didn't eat a single one! Early on, I saw them herding free swimmers by sucking them up and spitting them back into the pit they had dug. They would escort the fry swarm around the tank, to help them find food. They also would often fan the substrate to stir up debris in the direction of their swarm to help feed the babies. I also saw some of the tiny free swimmers feeding off the parents slime coat, and there was evidence that the parents let the babies gnaw their pectoral fins as the ends were ragged in that first few weeks.

    It wasn't until about week 4-5 did I finally realize the parents were not going to freak out and eat any, mostly because at that point they were too large to be eaten.

    My thought is that parents eat the eggs (abort) when they "sense" that something is wrong. It could be aggression in the tank, bad water, distractions outside the tank, etc. Its possible that good parenting is a result of a good environment, and possibly also the stock.

    I know angels have been bred traditionally for profit and eggs are separated to get the highest yield. I wouldn't be surprised if many angels have lost parenting instincts and now need to be separated.
     
  4. zendog

    zendog Active Member

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    Sounds like that worked out great for you. Like Matt said, it definitely varies from fish to fish. I've found with some I could do fine pulling young wigglers, but with other fish the fry would die without the parents. Even if pulled fry don't die, whenever I pull some and leave (or just miss) some, the fry that stay with the parents wind up growing faster. I expect the parents are better at leading them to food and finding things for them in the tank than what they get from a few feedings a day in a bare fry tank. But as you say, when there is too much stress they might just eat their eggs or young.

    In general, for most cave or substrate spawning cichlids, I think it is wise to give them a chance to raise the fry. At least as long as they're in a species tank or you think they'll do fine defending against whatever else you might have in the tank.
     
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  5. CSnyder00

    CSnyder00 Bearded Wonder
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    I’m in agreement with all of the above. I’ve had good and bad parents, and even good parents will occasionally eat eggs/fry if they are stressed. I have seen that raising egg layers with their parents helps with initial growth, as the parents spend all day tending and feeding the fry. Mouth brooders aren’t great parents once they spit the fry. I tend to strip Mom of the fry before she or others have the chance to eat them.

    To address your question about whether this affects subsequent generations, it would take several generations of testing with each species in perfectly controlled environments to determine what difference it makes. Considering this, I would assume that there is no measurable difference between generations. I would say that individual differences/pair differences are more likely to determine the parenting success than pulling the fry. However, if you pulled every fry from every spawn and crossed them with their siblings over and over, epigenetics now tells us that it is possible the fry could eventually inherit undeveloped parenting skills.
     

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