Livebearers Log

Discussion in 'Member's Blogs' started by Sean S, Apr 18, 2017.

  1. Sean S

    Sean S Executive Board

    I really dig livebearing fishes. I have ever since I was a kid. I thought I would share my thoughts and experiences with livebearers with you. I currently have 8 different species of livebearers in my fish room and one of those (domestic swordtails) I have 4 different varieties. Livebearers encompass much more than the "big four" (guppies, mollies, platies, and swordtails) ranging from the common toothcarps to the odd gooeids to sygnathids (seahorses and pipefish) and even stingrays! My focus has been primarily on the toothcarps, thats where the commonly know livebearers hail from so much of this blog, for now, will be focused on them. I have recently been digging the gooeids so I will sprinkle those in as well.

    So, the reason I have been enamored with livebearers goes back to my first fish tank and one of, if not the, first purchases of livestock for that tank. I got a 10 gallon tank circa 1988 for Christmas or my birthday, I still have the tank although it is currently leaking and since it was successfully repaired once prior to its current leaky status it may be relegated to nonaquatic purposes. I have had a number of fish and other creatures in that tank but what got me started with livebearers was a pair of red swordtails I brought home from the local pet store (along with way to many fish for my ten gallon tank). My mom took me to the pet store and at this early age I was interested in breeding fishes and always asked for pairs or at least both sexes. For several of the fish I purchased I was told that they could not be sexed, at least at the size for sale, but the swordtails could and the clerk showed me how to tell, the males had the long sword, whether that clerk showed me the gonopodium I cannot be certain. Nevertheless we brought home a beautiful pair of swordtails, a couple marble angelfish, and a trio of zebra danios. There were other fish in the tank too and I think we got the danios first to cycle the tank but it was a long time ago and all tank records have been lost (I think those records only consisted of the fishes names but at least I kept some). The pair was carefully introduced to the new tank and the next morning my female swordtail was dead :(, I was very sad until I noticed many baby fish in the tank!:D We were afraid the other fish would eat the tiny baby swordtails so my mother and I had to make an emergency trip back to the pet store where we were sold a net breeder to put the fry in that would hang in the tank and some powdered food for the fry to eat, oh, and a fine mesh net to catch the little guys. We hurried back home and I went to work feverishly catching swordtail fry to rescue them from the other fish. If I recall correctly I caught somewhere between 50 and 60 fish and I knew there was at least one I couldn't catch. Well, to make a long story shorter, the ones in the net breeder all died, likely a combination of too much food and not enough water movement, but that one I couldn't catch? Yep, he survived and was probably one of the longest lived fish I had in that aquarium, he turned out to be a beautiful cherry red male swordtail, I have never been able to find swords that color since.

    That's my introduction to this new blog- not sure what I will write about next time...
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  2. Chuck

    Chuck Well-Known Member

    Great start to a great aquatic experience!
  3. Sean S

    Sean S Executive Board

    Until I restarted the fish room about a year and a half ago livebearers only made the occasional appearance in my tank as I discovered the stupendous diversity of freshwater fishes. That initial experience always stuck with me though and swordtails have always been my favorite livebearer.

    When I began in earnest to set up the new fish room one of the earliest additions were swordtails. I have kept several tank strain varieties and have 4 currently in the fish room (red wag, marble, blue pineapple, and twin bar solar flare). Once I discovered MAAH and MAS however I quickly added some wild swordtail species to my collection. I have 3 wild types in the fish room, Xiphophorus nezahualcoyotl (Nezzie swords or Northern Mountain swordtails), Xiphophorus kallmani 'Catemaco" (from Rusty Wessel), and Xiphophorus pygmaeus (pygmy swordtails, which barely have a sword). These are much more challenging to breed when compared to their domestic congeners. The care of these wild swords is not much different although the temperature ranges may be on the cooler side.

    So far I have managed to raise just 2 X. kallmani fry (I never saw more than 3 fry) and have lost the male, I think the fry will turn out to be a pair however. The kallmanis are the second largest known swordtail and take a long time to mature, my juveniles are already larger that your average domestic sword and still are not fully mature. One of the two is starting to exhibit a gravid spot that would lead me to believe that it will be a female and the other one does not. The other one is a bit slimmer than the one with the gravid spot lending further creedence to my theory that I will get a pair from my two fry.

    I have had more success with the nezzie swords although that is fairly recent. I have had two females drop fry in the last week or so. I have somewhere between 15 and 25 fry between the two drops. This was the first drop for both females and they are a smaller sword so I expect lower numbers of fry. One interesting thing about these fish that I have not witnessed in other livebearers is that both females dropped fry that still had noticeable yolk sacs and were not quite free swimming. The fry could swim and move around but the remaining yolk sac weighed them down and they would typically eventually end up on the bottom of the breeder box. After a day or so the yolk sac was mostly absorbed and they swam normally. I would be curious to hear if anyone else has had a similar experience with this or another Xiphophorus species. Maturing nezzie swords have another quirk, subdominant males will sometimes develop a gravid spot and take on a female appearance before finishing development. I was completely fooled by one of these males last year, it looked like a female that was close to dropping fry. I pulled the fish out and placed it in a breeder trap. After about a week and no fry I pulled the fish out (my homemade breeder boxes can't be easily seen into) to check on it and it had a sword and gonopodium. It was after this incident that I read that Nezzie swords will sometimes do this. Tricky little fellas!

    Thats all I have time for now, more to come
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2017
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  4. Mike F

    Mike F Active Member

    I'll cross my fingers you get the kallmanis going! All three of those wild type swords are cool fish, they aren't gaudy but have a very striking appearance.
  5. Chuck

    Chuck Well-Known Member

    I can tell you from experience that Nezzie swords are extremely cannabilistic . Definitely use a breeder trap. Plants are not enough. In fact my experience with wild swords makes me look at it as a nessicity.
  6. Sean S

    Sean S Executive Board

    I'll continue on with wild livebearers- Least Killifish (Heterandria formosa) this time

    These are interesting little fish, and I do mean little, they are the smallest known fish and vertebrates in the U.S. The males top out at less than an inch with the females getting just over an inch. That small difference may not seem like much but when you take into account that the females are also wider and taller I would guess that the have twice the mass of the males while still being a bit smaller that an adult male guppy.

    Also, they are not killifish as their name implies. I still haven't been able to find a reason for the common name, I would be interested if anyone knows. They are Poecilids like your guppies and mollies so we haven't left the realm of the toothcarps yet.

    I have a small group of these right now, my colony did experience some major dieback not to long ago but they seem to be rebounding now, unfortunately I have 6 males harrassing 2 females but they also take type to hang out in bachelor groups and pal around with some light hearted sparring and showing off for the ladies.

    Reproduction is a little different than most of your other livebearers in that the females only drop one or rarely 2 fry at a time. They still reproduce rapidly because they practice super fetation, that means that even though it takes an egg about 4 weeks to develop into fry the next one is already developing when one fry is born. The females will have several developing embryos at any given time in different stages of development. So if you have one or two females you might see new fry every week or so but only in ones and twos. The males also have extremely long gonopodiums (the gonopodium is the modified anal fin that the male uses to deliver sperm to the female) compared to their size, it is close to half their total length, insert your own comment here.

    There is a gold color form of the least killifish that can occasionally be found but they do cost a bit more.

    Least killifish are relatively easy to keep, they tolerate a wide range of temperatures and pH and will eat just about anything small enough for their small mouths. If you want an easy to keep U.S. native that doesn't take up much space take a look at the least killifish.
  7. Scott Wiersema

    Scott Wiersema Executive Board

    I find they do not produce at cool temperatures. More fry survive if feed baby brine shrimp regularly. The newborn are very small. I will bring to the next meeting
  8. Sean S

    Sean S Executive Board

    Wild type livebearers continued-

    I have some updates on the Kallmani swords, one of my juveniles disappeared but I picked up 7 younger ones at the last GCCA swap so I should be able to keep this species going once those grow up. They take a long time to mature so I don't expect any fry any time soon but at least I found some more.

    I have some pygmy swords that have proved extremely difficult. I haven't lost any so keeping them is not difficult but getting them to breed has proven most challenging. I have seen females plumped out many times and even squared off several times. Squared off is a term often associated with livebearing females about to give birth, right before they drop (typically only a day or two before) the females abdomen will go from round to more cube like in appearance, hence the two dimensional reference of squared off. I have tried putting the females in different sized traps to no avail. They typically just chill out there for awhile until they look like they are no longer ready to drop and I place them back in the main tank. Another note on this small livebearer, the males don't get along well. They will spar and fight with one another whenever they are not chasing the females around. 1 male per tank is probably a good idea although I haven't seen any damage yet just really tired looking males.

    I have one more wild type toothcarp in my fish room- Limia nigrofasciata, the Humpbacked limia
    These fish are easy to care for and have been fairly prolific. I got my breeders from Steve S. as loaners for BAP. I have since passed those adults on to blergatron who should be getting some fry pretty soon. I have some young adults who are just starting to drop fry and a bunch of juveniles. The male I got from Steve had a beautiful red dorsal fin, I have not seen any pictures in my research with that red color, usually the dorsal fin is yellow to light orange. I hope this red dorsal is expressed in the offspring and I am able to maintain it in the line. These fish are closer to mollies than swords and platies and like the tank a little warmer (mid to high 70s F). They also prefer harder water and will not do well at lower pH. The dominant male in the tank looks odd the older and larger he gets as he takes on the hump back appearance alluded to in the fish's common name. As with the nezzie swords subdominant males may delay development and look like a female well past full size. In fact when Steve gave me the original group he thought that there were three adults, 1 male and 2 females with a number of subadult fish. When I got them home I noticed that two had gonopodiums and only one was a female. Fortunately that female was a great breeder and gave me a couple of good sized drops with the second one being 55 fry! These fish have been very popular at swaps and are currently much sought after. They are one of the more attractive wild live bearers with barring on the side and the colorful dorsal fin. They are rapidly becoming one of my favorite livebearers and I hope to add more Limia species in the future.

    Next time I will talk about the unusual gooeids...
    Last edited: May 31, 2017
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  9. Sean S

    Sean S Executive Board

    Gooeids- the odd livebearers

    The gooeids are fascinating fish, the more I learn about them the more fascinated I am. First, not all gooeids are livebearers but most are. I have not done much reading on the egg laying gooeids and don't have any so I will not discuss those. The gooeids are a rare group, I believe all the fish are either endangered or extinct in the wild. This means that keeping gooeids has more purpose than merely experiencing the entertainment of the fish. Keeping gooeids is truly maintaining the species for future generations and possibly reintroduction efforts. At least one species, Zoogeneticus tequilla, is extinct in the wild but fairly obtainably for aquarists. There were some attempts to reintroduce this fish as well but I have not been able to track down the status of the efforts so it may not be extinct in the wild but I haven't seen evidence that reintroduction was successful. There has been significant habitat degradation in the known habitats for Z. tequilla. Gooeids also have extremely large fry, they basically come out BAP size ranging from 3/4 to 1 inch SL. As a result fewer fry are produce with drops usually being 10-15, maybe up to 25 or 30 for larger females. They also form a placenta like structure to feed developing embryos, in some species the remnants of this structure can still be see the first day after birth. This structure is called a trophotaenia. The males also have a modified anal fin for sperm delivery but it is different than the gonopodium in the live bearing toothcarps. Gooeids have an andropodium which leads to the common name for the group- split fins. The anal fin has a notched appearance in males making sexing them similar to toothcarps in that sexing individuals is relatively straightforward once the fish are old enough.

    Next time I will talk about the species that I have in the fish room.
  10. Sean S

    Sean S Executive Board

    Gooeids- the species I currently have

    I have three species of gooeids currently but will be adding more in the future. Currently I have Goodea gracilis, Zoogeneticus tequila, and Characodon lateralis " Los Berros".

    Goodea gracilis, also known as the dusky splitfin, was the first gooeid I got. Mine came from the GBAS auction from Ken King. Ken is a member of the Milwaukee club and keeps a lot of gooeids. These are not the most colorful fish but the adults do get yellow fins especially when breeding and get irridescent scales on the lower half of their sides. Otherwise they are a gray fish with black speckles when young. These fish can get fairly large for a livebearer, my adult breeders are between 3 and 4 inches. Another note about Gooeid care in general, they like cool temps so don't put them in a heated tank. Most come from mountain streams or springs so the water temperature is always cool.
    I have found Goodea gracilis to be a very easy livebearer to keep and have reproduced readily for me. Gooeids typically have a longer gestation time, around two months, but my females were dropping a little more frequently, probably around 45-50 days. I have been keeping them in a planted tank and they have been doing well, the adults do not predate on the fry so there is no need to remove the females or use breeder traps. Given the large size of the fry they would be ok with smaller fish as well, I have mine in with Nezzie swords and gold laser cories right now and have had no issues. I recently lost my only full size female but I have about 15 smaller fish that are just sexing out so my population should rebound in a month or two when the young females start producing fry.

    That's all I have time for now, stay tuned for my next post- more gooeids!
  11. Sean S

    Sean S Executive Board

    I will continue discussing my gooeid species but since my last post my livebearer populations have changed dramatically. I have decided to get rid of my domestic swords and focus on wild type livebearers for now. I have one batch of mixed domestic swords to grow out and sell and two adult pairs. Once those are gone it will be strictly wild type livebearers for now. I have added a number of wild type livebearers recently. I gave my least killifish group away to Johnathon who also loaned me his group of Limia melanogaster. Ted gave me two pairs of Publa platies (Xiphophorus evelynae) that weren't dropping fry for him so I am giving them a shot to see if my fortunes are any better, as with other wild type livebearers the females seem quite gravid but refuse to drop any fry. I also got a group of Xenotoca eisensi, a gooeid, from Steve as well as a new pair of Characodon lateralis as my pair died. I picked up a young group of Girardinus metallicus, the metallic livebearer in Milwaukee last Friday, they were Eric's BAP fish. I also got a breeding group and batch of fry of Ameca splendens, another gooeid, from Craig this week.

    So the current species list of my wild type livebearers is as follows-
    Xiphophorus nezahualcoyotl (lost my adult male so have to wait for the fry to growout to start breeding again, I may have gravid females though)
    Xiphophorus kallmani "Catemaco" (down to 4 fish though)
    Xiphophorus pygmaeus (considering getting rid of these though, they are not producing any fry and are looking older, maybe one more shot)
    Xiphophorus evelynae
    Limia nigrofasciata (restarting from fry though, only one adult female left)
    Limia melanogaster
    Girardinus metallicus
    Goodea gracilis
    Characodon lateralis "Los Berros"
    Zoogeneticus tequilla
    Xenotoca eisensi
    Ameca splendens
  12. Sean S

    Sean S Executive Board

    Well, I have had some setbacks with the wild type livebearers. The X. evelynae I got from Ted died shortly after separating the males and females since the females looked ready to drop. I also fed the female X. pygmaeus to the pike gouramis because they were about to die. So two less species of livebearers in the fishroom but a little more tank space as that freed up a couple of 10 gallons.

    I think my female Characodon lateralis is getting close to dropping fry and both the Ameca splendens and Zoogeneticus tequilla look like the females are gravid. The Girardinus metallicus are growing quickly but I haven't seen any males sex out yet. The Limia melanogaster colony seems to be doing well and the females there also seem to be close to dropping fry.
  13. Sean S

    Sean S Executive Board

    Since the last post I have a few changes to note in my livebearers to note.

    First my Ameca splendens female dropped! I moved the males when she looked ready to drop so they wouldn't predate on the fry as the group's previous owner indicated that this was likely. The following day she dropped the fry, I moved her back in with the males after that so the fry could get a bit bigger before adding the parents back in. The tank has a lot of Naja grass in it so I haven't gotten a full count on the fry yet but it is over 10.

    I have a Zoogeneticus female that is about ready to drop, I moved the males and the other female (who is probably 2-3 weeks behind in gestation) to another tank and added some extra cover as this tank has not grown lots of cover vegetation yet. I am hoping she will drop soon.

    Not sure whats going on with the Characodon lateralis, I may try moving them to a smaller tank with more vegetation that might be easier to monitor.

    I am fairly certain that all my Girardinus metallicus are females so I will have to get myself a male or two.

    The Xiphophorus kallmani continue to slowly decline and I think I only saw 1 left yesterday. I am not sure what is happening with this species, perhaps they need an even larger tank. I will not be attempting to keep and breed this species again for awhile but after doing some additional research may try again in the future.

    I also believe that my remaining Limia nigrofasciata have died, I haven't done a thorough search yet, its possible some fry still survive but I am doubtful. This is a species I will be looking for again soon as they are a neat livebearer that I had success with and would like to keep around.

    My Nezzie sword population has dwindled but I still have a few left so am hopeful I can get this population to rebound.

    After losing my adult female Goodea gracilis awhile ago I noticed a gravid female from the next generation the other day so am feeling even more confident about that population. I have a number of fish this same age so once they start breeding regularly I will have many of these and will need to thin out that generation. I am being cautious with the number that I sell until I get this generation breeding consistently though. I have experienced set backs and population crashes in many of my livebearers by selling off too many offspring too quickly and not retaining some for broodstock.

    I do have some extra space for livebearers so I will be looking to add a new species or two but will definitely be quite selective and won't be grabbing whatever I can find. I have a short list in my head but may adjust it based on what I can find. I am definitely interested in adding Gooeids and Limias but there are a few other species out there that I am thinking about as well like Picta guppies or Priapichthys nigroventralis.
  14. Sean S

    Sean S Executive Board

    Some updates after a weekend of fish club meetings-

    In preparation for obtaining new fish at the Milwaukee and Madison meetings I did confirm that my remaining Limia nigrofasciata have died, they were a really neat fish and I am bummed to have lost this strain as the breeding male had a fantastic red dorsal fin. But that freed up the tank for another livebearer- I replaced them with Limia perugiae, the Limias are rapidly becoming one of my favorite genera to work with. I plan to keep adding Limias when I have room and opportunity. There are 21 recognized species according to wikipedia. I don't know how many are commonly or even uncommonly available but I will be on the look out for more.

    I also picked up another gooeid, it was listed as Skiffia bilineata (a CARES species) but according to the Goodeid Working Group (GWG)(and CARES) citing Hubbs and Turner (1937) it should be in its own genus, Neotoca. Further evidence (Webb, Dominguez) cited by the GWG places the DNA of this species closer to Girardinichthys than Skiffia. the CAS catalog of fishes lists Skiffia as the current valid genus. Sounds like I need to dig up Hubbs and Turner's paper from 1937 and find out why Neotoca isn't the valid genus since it is more recent than the placement in Skiffia by Meek in 1902. Originally the fish was assigned to Characodon in 1887 by Bean. So, per BAP guidelines for MAAH it would be listed as Skiffia for BAP purposes at the moment eventhough there seems to be evidence to the contrary. The debate goes on...

    I also got a bag of albino green tiger endler guppy hybrids, so much for no domestic strains. I've always been a sucker for albinos, not sure why but I've always liked them. Its probably the genetics and predictability of crosses (in most cases anyway- one of the captive bred snakes, I think ball pythons, have two different albino mutations).

    I hope to get back to some more detailed descriptions of some of my livebearers in the next post.
  15. Sean S

    Sean S Executive Board

    Zoogeneticus tequila

    This goodeid is often one of the poster species for captive maintenance of endangered animals. It was considered extinct in the type locality according to the IUCN in 1992, although the GWG has reports of a mature male being collected in 1999. A small population was rediscovered in 2001 in a small pool only 13 meters across. In 2013 this population was reported to be gone so it is likely that this fish no longer exists in the wild but can be found in the tanks of many dedicated hobbyists. This is likely one of the rarer fish in the world and keeping this species in your tank should be undertaken with thought regarding the animal's status. Attempts have been made to reintroduce this fish into the wild but I have not heard any success reports regarding these efforts.

    I have five adults in my fish room, 2 females and 3 males. After a couple of unsuccessful gestation cycles one of my females finally dropped viable fry this week. I was able to count at least 7 yesterday but there may be more in there, once they get a little older I will get an accurate count but now i am just happy to have viable fry. More later on my efforts.

    Z. tequila is one of the more striking gooeids, males and females will get a dark charcoal appearance, especially during courtship and breeding. The males also have a bright orange crescent shaped stripe near the edge of their caudal fin. As with other goodeids the males and females can be further distinguished by the presence of the andropodium on the anal fin of the male. The andropodium assists the male in fertilizing the female by holding her in place while he delivers the sperm. Like other goodeids, gestation time is typically around two months and the females do not store sperm like the toothcarps do so they must mate again before a new batch of fry can develop. Z. tequila can tolerate a little bit warmer temperatures than most goodeids likely due to their natural habitats being very shallow, all collections seem to occur in water less than 1 meter deep. This shallow water would heat more quickly and as a result likely allows this species to thrive in warmer temperatures, I would still recommend keeping them in unheated tanks but if the fish room gets too warm they would be less affected than many other goodeids.

    The group I am working with came from Scott and were young when I obtained them. I had a couple of instances of the females looking gravid. I had tried placing them in breeder boxes of various sizes. usually no fry were produced, One time I found a few stillborn fry but none were alive. Since they were young I decided to just wait and observe them more closely. This last time I waited much longer and noticed one female got very plump and started squaring off. I removed the other fish from the tank and watched for fry or a slimmer female. I also added several spawning mops, both floating and sinking for the fry to hide in. After nearly a week after squaring off (typically females give birth a day or two after) I noticed the female looking a little slimmer. Further investigation noted some fry in the tank. I removed the female at this time and placed her into the holding tank with the other adults. Yesterday after fedding some microworms I sat and watched the tank for awhile to get some idea of how many fry I might have. It took awhile but I got a positive count on 7 but I think there is at least one more. In a few days I will probably remove the spawning mops, at least temporarily, to get a better count on the fry. So, barring major losses I should be able to BAP these soon, they are almost BAP size already. The fry are not quite as big as some other goodeid fry I have raised but they are close to 3/4 inch. Expect a BAP bag at the January meeting.

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