Plant Spawning Killifish

(1997 by Kaycy Ruffer)

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This article is a general overview of all the plant spawning species I have spawned.

All Aphyosemions are cared for in basically the same manner.  Any differences in the caring for eggs and fry will be noted.  There are several books out on the market on Killifish by Barrons (of course).  It is a complete pet owners manual. (Since it has been quite awhile since I spawned Killies, I am sure there are other good books now on the market.)

I have spawned: Aphyosemion ahli, A. gardneri, A. bivittatum, A. riggenbachi, A. scheeli, A. splendopluere, A. striatum, Rivulus cylindraceus, Roloffia etzeli, Eppiplaty annulatus, Aplocheilus panchax, Eppiplaty dageti (Monrovia). (1998) Aplocheilus pumilus, Rivulus agilae,

When I attended the BAKA (Bay Area Killifish Association) convention in the summer of 1997, I realized I did not recognize most of the species names.  I have really been out of touch.  It is a shame since this is what happens to many species in the hobby besides the Killies and how many species disappear from the hobby because people lose interest or do not keep up with the new names and species.

I used to place one pair of Killies in a half gallon plastic container with a mop made out of 100% acrylic yarn.  I would leave the parents in the container and feed them newly hatched brine shrimp and live tubifex worms.  Once a week I would collect their eggs and place these eggs in an 8 oz. yogurt cup until they hatched.

Once the fry are swimming at the surface I siphon the fry from the yogurt cups and place them into half gallon plastic containers until the fry are approximately a quarter on an inch in length. At this size I would transfer them to other aquaria to grow out.  If it is a small batch (less than twenty fry) I would transfer them to a 10-gallon tank with a sponge filter.  If the batch was more than twenty fry, I would transfer them to a 2' x 2' x 1'' rearing flat containing a sponge filter.

My pH was 7.2.  I would keep the temperature between 74 - 76° F. I have found one very important rule to remember when dealing with Killies, they become very stressed and could possibly die of temperatures higher than this.  So, please do not place your Killies in tanks with temperatures above 76° F.

Let me share a little tidbit with you that most people do not know about keeping Killifish.  They can be kept in a community tank with other Killies of the same size and temperament.  I have housed several Killies in tanks that were community tanks with other species of fish besides Killies (Cichlids, Gouramis, Apistos, etc).  In this instance keeping only a couple pairs is best.

Once the fry are free swimming I fed them TETRA-MIN baby fish food "E" for egg layers until they were large enough to consume newly hatched brine shrimp.  Once they are between a quarter and a half inch, I would start adding finely ground flakes to their diet.

Killies grow quickly and in six months are sexually mature.  If you have a species tank with several Killies and you want to spawn them, hang several mops on the insides of the tank. Once a day collect the eggs or mops and transfer the mops to a 10 gallon tank and the eggs to whatever container you use to hatch your eggs.

I would do 100% water changes on the adult containers once a week, these were only half gallon containers.  I net the parents and place them in another container with new aged water that has been allowed to sit over night and add two drops of Amquel.  I net  what tubifex worms are left and place them with the breeders.  I then remove their mop and transfer their eggs to the 8 oz. yogurt cup.

I would do fifty percent water changes on the cups every three days until the eggs hatched.  Usually I would use two yogurt cups per each breeding pair.

Through the last several months I have changed my basic spawning and rearing ideas.  I guess this is what they call progress, a lot of trial and error. The only difference I made with the breeders was instead of using the half gallon plastic containers I would use 10 gallon tanks that are divided in half. The containers are still good for temporary spawning but not for permanent breeder set-up.

I placed a sponge mop on each side with a layer of sand.  In these two sections I will permanently house two pairs of Killies.

I made these changes because I was having a high mortality rate with my breeders trying to house them permanently in the small containers.  Please try the small containers for short term breeding because they are great for just spawning the pairs a couple days at a time.

Rivulus cylindraceous fry posed a problem different from hatching and rearing the fry of the Aphyosemions.  The eggs and fry were larger than other Killie eggs and fry.  One would think this would be an advantage.  It was not.  Although I would put the newly hatched fry in a ½ gallon plastic container with a small filter, they still would not survive longer than a week.

I decided to put the latest batch of fry into a 20 gallon tank containing a two inch layer of gravel. Several live plants, and a 4' x 4' x 4'" square sponge filters. This tank also contained fry of Dwarf Gouramis (Colisa lalia), Pearl Gouramis (Trichogaster leeri) and one of the smallest live bearers - Heterandria formosa.  These other occupants were very small so I thought I would not have much trouble with the fry of the cylindraceous.  It was almost the last choice and I was running out of ideas.

I was lucky.  The fry started thriving!  No more losses.  I would suggest using a 10 gallon tank setup for these Killies to really have much success.

Eppiplaty annulatus is another Killie I had to set up differently as I did with the Rivulus, with still another difference.  These are very small eggs and fry.  I started putting the fry into a 10 gallon tank set up with live plants but with no other occupants except baby Corydoras.  Not what I call "swimmers", because the fry of the annulatus are quite small and the fry of other species would find the annulatus a pleasing meal.

Through the several years that I kept the following species I found these results:

Roloffia etzeliare quite productive producing more than 70 fry per week!

Aphyosemion splendopluere were laying about 50 fry per week.

Aphyosemion ahli, gardneri, and scheeli gave me about a 30-40 fry per week.

Rivulus cylindraceous laid approximately 20 large eggs per week.

Eppiplaty annulatus produced about 20 fry per week.

Aphyosemion bivittatum produced 42 fry in two days! (Two females and one male).  Eggs hatched in about 12 days.

Aplocheilus panchax is a surface swimmer and prefer to spawn near the top of a hanging mop. They lay large eggs but only less then 20 per month (at least for me, other breeders stated they were quite prolific).

Eppiplaty dageti (Monrovia)spawned about 50 per month.

Normal incubation for all the above Killies was seven to fourteen days and another three to five days to absorb their yolk sacs.  Males started showing color at one month of age.  All the young were ready to spawn in approximately three months.


Killifish : A Complete Pet Owner's Manual
, by Steffen Hellner, 1990, Barrons Educational Series

Other Recommended Books:

Killifish, by Kathleen Pohl

Killifish (Nature Close-Ups), by Kathleen Pohl

Success with killifish, by Edward Warner