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Breeding (or eating) difficulties

I tried posting the other day, and don't know if this never went, or I just
didn't receive messages. Although I was subscribed, I've just now started
receiving postings. If posted, were there any responses? Excuse me if this
is a repeat post, but I have been searching archives and not really finding
answers to these questions. As of today, I notice the female is still ready
to breed, has her pot picked, and she's been working on the male. They seem
to have differences of opinion on which pot they like, unfortunately.

<<I wrote a message a while back (as biplane10@aol.com) re: some
difficulties I had with breeding a. viejita. Initially the female was eating
the eggs, and it was suggested she did so under stress (territory or other)
or that the eggs were fungusing. After pulling them, I found they did
fungus, water parameters were difficult to control, so I opted to move the
couple out.

They went into a 20 gallon long tank, which is moderately planted, and threw
in a couple of clay pots for them. They are accompanied by only 2 male
guppies. Between a combination of filtered tap water and deionized water I
reached approx. 20-30 ppm hardness. KH ranges between 0-1 and GH about 1
deg. I have difficulty understanding why in these ranges, pH is closer to 7
than to 6, where I would expect them to be. I don't know if the pH makes a
difference under softwater conditions, except that I've read that eggs will
fungus much more readily in a higher pH (regardless of water hardness), and
sex ratios will be skewed. So, this is my first question: should I tamper
with pH? I will admit to already adding some acidifying stuff (pH down),
though not since the last water change, today.

They've spawned approx 3 or 4 times in the past month. Each went easily and
neither fish was under attack. The female would stick close to wherever she
had her nest and was obviously well colored. The male would stay a
comfortable distance away, and a few days later all would be back to normal.
I assumed she was eating the eggs again, although I thought there still
might be a problem with fungusing or otherwise.

I've been keeping a watch on parameters. I kept the pH around 6.4 or so,
with water hardness not going over 30 ppm. Temperature is around 82 deg. No
ammonia, nitrites. Nitrates did not go over 5 ppm. Feeding is 2-3 times per
day, live whiteworms or daphnia, & frozen bloodworm.

Today, I did a large, large water change (this will usually set them off),
greater than 90%. It was my intention to lower the nitrate levels before
spawning and to get them going. To my surprise, after removing most of the
water, I found one (apparently) lone survivor hiding in a corner of the
tank, approx. 1/8" in length. (I don't even want to think that there were
other smaller survivors from a more recent spawn that got tossed with the
water). This leads me to think that the water is not the problem, eggs are
hatching, this was the one that got away, and the rest turned into lunch? In
any case, true to form, she claimed a pot for her nest within a few hours of
the water change.

Second question--I'm thinking she's never going to get this right, and I
should pull the eggs. I already have the lone survivor in the net breeder,
with java moss and frogbit. It's large enough at this point for microworms.
I am wondering whether I should move the eggs in with it, once they've done
the deed. Any ideas?

(These are tank bred and raised rather than wild.)

So, is the pH an issue? Secondly, are there just some fish that never quite
get the parenting thing? or wait it out? I would approximate that they have
been breeding for perhaps 3 months or so all told, and for about a month in
this tank.

Any advice would be much appreciated.



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