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Re: spawning?

Instead of assuming that fry, in the wild, get dispersed and thereby avoid
parental predation, let's try a different paradigm.  (I'm sounding like
Richard Covey here:  The Seven Habits of Highly Successful Fish Breeders. ;)
(tongue in cheek folks))

Fact:  The habitat of apistos consists of shallow water with plenty of leaf
litter.  Various people who have participated in fish collecting expeditions
unanimously express the difficulties involved in actually netting these fish
for obvious reasons.  For these same reasons field studies of these fish are
virtually impossible.  It is neither feasable nor possible for anyone to don
a facemask and snorkel or goggles in order to watch the action, so to speak,
in such shallow waters. (This is very different from African Rift Lakes.)

Fact:  In the aquarium it is generally the rule that the female of the
species indicates to the male with various body movements that she wants him
away from the eggs and/or fry.  We interpret this in various ways, all of
which are just that, our interpretations.  Does she want him gone?  Does she
want him to keep his distance and do his job guarding the perimeter?

Fact:  When the male is removed from a tank, females, generally, will guard
their young for a much longer period of time than if the male is present.
When we leave the male with the female,  our interpretation of the situation
is that he is  putting pressure on her to spawn again, and/or she also wants
to do so. In order to facilitate the subsequent spawn,  they both view the
present brood as a threat to the viability of the next brood.  Hence fry

Now let's go back to the environment from which these fish originate.  There
is lots of leaf litter, plenty of places to hide, other potential mates, and
a large substrate surface area.  If we go along a new paradigm, let's see
where it gets us.

After the spawning and once the wrigglers are begining to swim, the female
indicates through her body movements that she doesn't want the male around
her anymore.  He has lots and lots of space and chooses to search for a more
receptive mate.  The female then guides her young under leaves and ensures
that there is sufficient distance between herself, members of her own
species and others.  Given that the male can leave and choose another female
with which to spawn, a female with a brood may in all likelihood be left
alone when she gives the 'get lost' signal to any male approaching her and
her brood.  Apisto fry are extremely tiny, grow relatively slowly and do
best when cared for by a parent who defends them and provides them with
signals in order to avoid predation.  Is it not then quite conceivable that
in the wild, females spend much more time guarding and rearing their fry
than in the artificial environment of an aquarium where a male is present
and has no place else to go?  Is it not conceivable, given the fact that
many fishkeepers have on occasion found the dead and mutilated corpses of
male fish, that in their natural environment these males would have made
themselves scarce in order to avoid the violence?

I think that looking at the situation from a different perspective may be
what is needed in order to breed these fish successfully.  Yes, there are
some parent fish who do raise broods together and do not eat their fry.
However, this appears to be the exception and not the rule.  In most cases,
it appears that people keeping these fish do so in relatively small aquaria.
Whether it's 10, 15, 30 or even 60 gallons, the footprint of the tanks
provide the fish with nowhere near the substrate area available to them in
the wild.  Hence, normal behaviour cannot possibly be observed in our
aquaria.  Recreating a natural biotope may require a tank that is 6 feet by
6 feet and only 6 inches deep filled with leaf litter and several apistos -
and ideally minus their usual predators including birds.  Not feasable in
most homes.

So ladies and gentlemen, let's please stop kidding ourselves that we are
doing anything more than what we are, which is providing grossly artificial
environments for these fish and observing variously abnormal behaviours
whether they result in viable fry which grow to adulthood or not.  Whether
for better or worse, we are all just 'playing house' with live fish instead
of dolls.  As long as we realize this and don't try to promote what we are
doing as maintenance of potentially extinct species, or scientific studies,
then fine.  If we have the audacity and arrogance to believe that we are
doing something noble, then we are all fooling ourselves.  Human beings
universally enjoy keeping pets.  The bottom line is that this is all we are
really doing.  Some of us, whether succeeding at having fish spawn,  having
fry survive or keeping generations of fish alive, are better at it than
others.  But it all boils down to the same thing.

Whether fry or egg predation and fry rearing are genetically programmed in
whole or in part, or learned or not, is a moot point.  No one has spent
months and months with snorkel and mask peering into 4 inch deep puddles in
the Amazon.  And if they would, I'm sure we'd know far more about the number
of mosquito and spider bites that fit on the rear end of a human than much

I've read the postings so far and have given the topic a great deal of
thought.  I haven't participated in this thread so far and have no intention
of adding or subtracting from what I've written.  However, I do believe that
some of the exchange going on has veered off course.

Dr. G. Kadar

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