Banggai cardinalfish.

Photo is from the Reef2Reef archives, courtesy of @MarvinsReef, ©2019, All Rights Reserved.

Banggai cardinalfish, Pterapogon kauderni, are native to a small area around Indonesia. They are very popular in the marine aquarium trade and considered endangered in the wild. A few years ago, there was a lot of discussion and debate regarding whether these fish should be included in CITES II. It was finally decided to make some recommendations to the Indonesian government and wait and see if the government could enact some laws to protect these fish and then follow through with enforcement of the laws. It appears that Indonesia is making some headway to protect the Banggai cardinals.

The following is an interview with @Almondkc, one of our forum members who has recently started to breed the Banggai cardinalfish.

How long have you been doing SW aquariums, and when did you first start to think about breeding?

I have been into saltwater aquariums since May of 2007 (over 11 years) and started with a 70-gallon, used acrylic tank, went to a 6-foot/125-gallon tank, then an ELOS Concept 80, and now settled on a Waterbox Platinum Frag 45.2. I got interested in breeding early on when one of my Banggai Cardinals in the 125 had fry, and I found one growing in the sump (a 45-gallon sump which I had mostly as a refugium). I didn’t get serious until I set up this tank--the 45.2--and knew that now I had more time in retirement to dedicate to good husbandry if I was going to breed fish.

So, how far along are you? Have you successfully raised juveniles yet?

My first official batch of fry were released from the dad on November 8th, 2018, and I continue to raise/feed them.

So, when was it that you had it your mind that breeding was what you wanted to concentrate on?

Once I retired and got my new tank. I have always loved Banggai Cardinals and it didn’t hurt that they are the easiest of the fish to breed. I also think the fact that they are mouth brooders and that the father carries the eggs to maturity and then releases them very interesting.

Did you start with cardinals thinking you’ll start with the easiest? (get that down to a science then move to harder ones?) or did you just love this one fish?

I did start with them because they were the easiest, but also because they are my favorite fish. I really want to get this right and learn all the steps from pairing to raising fry and also culturing food sources for the fry.

Or was it just that that’s what you had, so you figured that’s what you’ll work with?

No, I actually went to my local fish store and watched their BC’s for some time and then brought the two home that I paired at the store. It wasn’t long thereafter that they had their first brood. I did feel like a bit of a saltwater geek observing the BC’s at the LFS until I was sure that I had a pair figured out. I am not a fan of the “buy 3 or 5 and let them pair”, the others end up perishing in the ‘pair up’ process.

Were they in their own tank all along for breeding purposes or were they in a mixed reef and then you moved them to their own tank?

They are in the DT (mixed reef) and the only other inhabitants of the fin kind are a Starry Blenny and Two Dragonface pipefish.

How many gallons is the DT?

The DT is a Waterbox Platinum Frag 45.2. Total water volume is 44.4 Gallons (168L) comprised of 27.1 Gallons in the DT (103L) and 17.3 Gallons in the sump (10.7L).

Does the DT have a sump?

Yes, it does have a sump that is part of the Platinum series by Waterbox, dimensions noted above. It does have two filter socks (I use RedSea Media Cubs in their place).

At what point did you put a pair in their own tank?

I didn’t/don’t plan to put them in their own tank since I only have one breeding pair and a small population of fish in a relatively small DT. Easy to work with them in the DT.

When did you separate them from the fry?

Counting the days and watching the growth in the males mouth I put him in a brood chamber which I keep in the DT. I was fortunate to have caught him in time and the fry were released over the next two evenings. The males release at night and typically over a couple of evenings.

When you say "brood chamber" what exactly is that? A plastic box that hangs in the DT? How big is it?

Exactly, it is a plastic two-piece box that hangs on the glass of the DT by three suction cups. The dimensions are 3 ¼ deep by 7 wide and 6 tall (all in inches).

Brood pen and DT.
r2rbr1Brood Pen and DT.png

Photo is courtesy of @Almondkc, ©2019, All Rights Reserved.

What did you feed the fry?

Before the Banggai Cardinal breeding I started a tigger pod culture using Reef Nutrition live Tigger Pods and Phyto feast as a food source. I have a simple configuration of a container (old saltwater storage jug, 5 gallons) a small heater and an air stone. I was culturing the Tigger Pods so that I could ensure success with my Dragon Face Pipefish and added them to the DT in the rock to allow them to hunt successfully for live food.

Tigger culture system.
r2rbr1Tigger Culture System.png

Photo is courtesy of @Almondkc, ©2019, All Rights Reserved.

For the first two weeks I hatched my own baby brine shrimp in two Brine Shrimp Hatchery Dishes (from Brine Shrimp Direct) about $26 and you get the dish and a large bottle of brine shrimp cysts to hatch and little measuring scoop to add the cysts to the dish. I ended up getting a second one so that I could keep the production going.

Brine dishes.
r2rbr1Brine Dishes.png

Photo is courtesy of @Almondkc, ©2019, All Rights Reserved.
I just add my mixed saltwater I use for the tank and wait 24 hours for the hatching to begin. I feed the live BBS for the first two weeks and then started to introduce Tigger Pods from the culture I started At week three I wanted to vary and enrich their diet so I purchased Reef Nutrition Roe and Tigger Pod Feast from Reef Nutrition online.


Photo is courtesy of @Almondkc, ©2019, All Rights Reserved.


Photo is courtesy of @Almondkc, ©2019, All Rights Reserved.
How soon were the fry in their own tank?

Right now I don’t have plans to move them from the DT. The only loss I have experienced is from the ‘instant fright syndrome’ that seems to plague BC’s and that occurred when I moved the fry from one brood pen to another so I could clean it. If there was any part of the process I need to work on I will focus on a system for water quality and easy to clean. Might think about another 10 gallon AIO.

One-day-old fry.
r2rbr1BC 1 day.png

Photo is courtesy of @Almondkc, ©2019, All Rights Reserved.

Four-day-old fry.
r2rbr1BC 4 DAYS.png

Photo is courtesy of @Almondkc, ©2019, All Rights Reserved.

Eleven-day-old fry.
r2rbr1BC 11 days.png

Photo is courtesy of @Almondkc, ©2019, All Rights Reserved.

What kind of filtration did you have, and how much water did you change (for the fry)?

I purposely keep the in a brood pen in the DT so that the water quality is high and also if any of the BBS or Tigger Pods are uneaten they go into the DT for the corals/pipefish to eat. I use live rock/live sand filtration. I change water about every three weeks and usually about 10 gallons at a given time.

How many baby fish did you raise? How many groups of fry?

This is my first official group of fry where I was intentionally breeding them. When I started reefing, the BCs would breed in the tank, and the other fish must have gotten to the fry before I could notice them. One did grow out in a 45-gallon sump--in the refugium portion. There were originally 15 in the brood and now only 14. From what I have read that is pretty good to only lose one and at least I understand the contributing cause.

Did you keep the male and female with the spawn? For how long? When did you remove the parents (or the spawn)?

Once the female gives the eggs to the male, she seems to be done with the whole thing. I isolated the male into the brood pen when I started to see fully formed fry and his jaw extended into the typical “boxer” jaw. Then I kept him there for two days to make sure the fry were all out and then removed him back to the DT.

How did you care for the fry? Do you use any meds?

I have not introduced any meds to the fry – just lots of varied live and high-quality prepared food and kept the water quality at a high level. Tested every other day.

Did you find it easy? Nerve-racking?

The nerve-racking part was the unknown. Even though I did my homework, it is completely different when you experience it all. Everything from the first time trying to culture Tigger Pods and BBS to keeping their brood pen clean. I will definitely continue to breed the pair (I got a new male to replace the one that passed while trying to strip the eggs). That was absolutely the worst part for me--trying to strip the eggs and not being successful and then a day later losing the male. I don’t think I will be doing that for some time.

What are your longer term goals? Do you want to sell to LFS? or are you doing it more like why people climb Everest?

I plan to sell the brood to the LFS--but not just any LFS--one that I go to that I consider subject-matter experts and really care for their coral and fish. The store even has a separate area to quarantine new fish that they get before they go into their tanks. This is something I am not into for the money, just the great experience of another facet of the reefing hobby. One thing to aquaculture coral--it is another to breed fish--both equally rewarding, but for me to see the full, life cycle is the best part.

My next big project is going to be Dragonface pipefish breeding. Another favorite fish of mine and from all my research it can be done, but my two are females so nothing is going to happen until I get a male. But I am in no hurry. A lot of what I do (BBS-Tigger Pods) will work for the pipefish but I will need a separate special system as the fry are so small.


Special Thanks:

Special thanks are due today to @Almondkc for sharing with us at length his experiences with breeding.



About the Breeder: @Almondkc (on the forum).

@Almondkc has over 11 years of experience with saltwater aquariums. He has recently started successfully breeding--the now endangered--Banggai cardinalfish and is happy to share his experiences with the rest of us.


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