My benggai cardinalfish breeding journey

mnreefster

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So this is a story of my journey with three cardinalfish that we got from the lfs about 4 months ago. Thought I would share my experience with this whole “thing” to provide insight, inform, and perhaps entertain those who want to see what has gone down recently. I have a lot to document so I thought I would take it slow and make a sort of daily blog and see where it takes us! Let me start off by stating I had no intentions of anything except getting some cool, interesting fish, of which, as it turns out, I knew very little about. My kids came up with names, of course, which are Bubba, Sky, and George. When I first got them, I noticed within a few days one of them was legit separating and fighting with the two. I didn’t think much of it other than a little concern for one of them. A week or so goes by and I see two of them together on one side and the other one on the other side. This is the beginning of the madness that I found myself in. Sooo, a couple months go by and, lo and behold, one day, I see one that’s not eating and has this huge jaw. I thought he was dying and had some cancerous growth (cause it’s always cancer) on his mouth. That is when I started researching and realized he was not dying, but he was mouth brooding (are you freaking kidding me?!). I was not interested in any of this due to the fact that you have to somehow separate the fry in a separate tank and raise them on live baby brine shrimp (nope, nope, and double nope). My plan was to let “nature take its course” in my dt. But when you have three kids under 9, your plans are actually your kids’ plans and they were not having any of my plans. Soooo, we proceed with this “adventure” upon us....

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Nick Steele

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Should be a fun journey!!!! Not a difficult species if you can get the babies. They are literally just little banggai cardinals when you will get them the parent will raise the fry in his mouth. You’ll need a separate tank for the fry just because of the flow but if you have a sump that actually might make due.
 
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mnreefster

mnreefster

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So here we are, planning this cardinalfish nursery. I have my 10gallon hospital tank converted into a birthing center. The male is a champ and carrying the fry in his mouth for the next 2 weeks. I, meanwhile, have picked up a jar of baby brine shrimp eggs from my lfs and slowly embrace the idea. I found a great article on an easy way to hatch baby brine shrimp eggs (). I can even keep the rest I don’t use that day in the fridge! That helps because then I really only have to make a new batch every 5 days or so. This may be possible after all. So we’re going on vacation around the 20th day the male has been brooding and I thought for sure he was going to expel them while we were gone. Well, we get back and sure enough, he still has them in his mouth, looking like he has the world largest chaw in (think Redman). But I still don’t have the birthing center ready and I still don’t have any baby brine shrimp yet so I figure I’m going to have to get the shrimp made (takes about a day). So I prepare the egg hatchery on a Monday. Tuesday is our water change day and my wife and I do it after the kids go to bed. Earlier in the day, however, I thought I would try to catch Bubba and see if I can get him out of the dt and into the birthing center. Yeah, that didn’t happen. Him and his mouthful of babies were too elusive so I gave up after about 20 minutes. The anxiety starts to creep in because, at this point, I’m thinking they are coming out any night and, poof, fish food for everyone! Well, we proceed with the tank cleaning and Bubba has now gone to the opposite end of the tank. It’s about 10:30 at night now and with wife heading to bed (after completing her only commitment to this tank now checked off for the week), I get a bright idea of feeding our fish with some of the brine shrimp I just hatched (pretty sure had no less than 1 billion in that 1 liter bottle). So, I throw some (a lot) in there and all the fish go bat s*#%t crazy for these little delectables. “Well that’s cool!”, I thought to myself, as I’m watching the fish. My eyes then turn to Bubba in the corner, then his eyes turn to me, then my mouth opens, and then his mouth opens....
 
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So, let's take a moment to recap on some important notes I have learned up until this point.

It is not hard to get benggai cardinalfish to become 'cozy'
If you have kids, don't tell them about any of this unless you are prepared for the consequences
Making baby brine shrimp is incredibly cheap and easy thanks to the youtube video above explaining how to do it
When it gets close to the 20 day mark, you better be ready (think 40 weeks pregnant) - have your S*$T in order (more on that below)
Putting hatched baby brine shrimp in the DT really seems to trigger the male that it is OK to expel them out of his mouth (hell, there's food, right?!)
If you wait to get the male out of the DT until he starts expelling the fry, you are at the mercy of the fish and the timing of everything, however, leaving him in there did allow him to manage the eggs on his terms without any external interruptions and risks for him abandoning his post

This part of the story is when things really start to get a bit fuzzy for me; it all kind of happened so fast. I see Bubba has a lot of benggai fry in his mouth as it is agape and he sees all of this baby brine shrimp floating in front of him. Keep in mind, he is now on the other side of the tank than where he was earlier in the day when I tried, unsuccessfully, to catch him. Over here, there is much less rock and he is really just sitting in the corner. I seized the moment grabbed by fish net. There is just no way in my mind having the BBS in the DT wasn't a big contributor to him being ready to be done with it all. It was within 2-3 minutes that he was cocked and ready to load and probably would have been seconds before he was letting them go. However, this is where the human intervention starts. I have my net in the water now and go for him, expecting him to do his best 'Barry Sanders' impression and make me look foolish again, but he literally just sat there as the net goes around him. And then it starts....

In the greatest impression ever of "The Excorcist", Bubba projectile vomits every one of the 30 or so benggai fry right into the net. It looked like diarrhea of the mouth with little BC and meanwhile I nearly had diarrhea of the anus watching this whole mess of a situation unfold before my eyes. The good thing, at least, is that they are all in my net and this is probably a best case scenario at this point. However, it starts to unravel at this point.

I am very happy with this current situation, but I have a few things going against me. For one, it is now around 11PM at night and I was not planning for this right now. Secondly, I am basically on my own and I need to get these little things downstairs into the birthing center. It is at this point when I have my first regret. I have saltwater and I have a birthing center, but I do not have saltwater in the birthing center. On top of that, the saltwater I have is about 69F and I have to figure out what to do. So what do I do? Well, I panicked....

Having to get the saltwater from the third floor to the basement and get a heater in it, I need to do something with these fry and Bubba currently just sitting in a 9" net while all the other fish in the tank start ignoring the BBS appetizer and start looking very closely at the main course. There are a lot of "should have" moments that I now realize but at this point, I am dealing with, in my mind, how to get the fry in a safe place in the DT. I come up with a great idea to get a gallon ziplock bag and then I can keep the fry in there for a few hours! I put the net on the side of the tank so the fry are still in the DT and run to the kitchen to get the ziplock bag. I run back and am ready to go!

Two things, first - this is a 9" net and is bigger than most. Second - the ziplock bag is a freezer bag and the seal at the top is very rigid and does not want to stay open in the water. It is also only about 10" long. I am really struggling with getting the net into the bag because it is not staying open and it is actually not big enough to factor in both the depth of the netting and the width of the net. After about 4 minutes of this, I finally get the net in the bag but now I cannot get the fry out of the netting to get the net out of the bag. This is the point at which the gravity of my decisions leading up to this moment are coming to a point. I get the net in the bag and the bag is floating so I can go get the water in the birthing center, but the fry who have just been tossed about like a salad are not moving.

I get the water and heater in the birthing center and run upstairs to check on the fry and start to give them some BBS but the realities become evident; there is a total of ONE fry swimming #***. Bubba is now in the bag with 29 dead fry and one living fry for the next two hours until the water is warm enough for the transfer.

Well, I try to rub the bag and tap and stimulate the bag and a few start waking up! After the two hours in the bag, a total of 4 were awake and swimming. I bring them down to the birthing center and dispense them into the tank and I have no more than 4 actually swimming (and not just being carried around by the slow current). It is now about 3AM, and I just threw some BBS into the tank and resigned myself to the results of my lack of preparation and went to bed.

The next morning, there were only two left now and so I do my best with what I have and I move forward! So the two that made it (Bingo and Bluey) are doing great, eating a lot (had a few extra BBS since they are the only two that made it), growing great, just really doing well. After about day 10, they are getting big enough that I start feeding frozen rotifers and starting to come to the point that they are ready for the next steps. I did a test run with them and put them in a penalty box in the birthing center to see if they can escape (the slits are slightly bigger than they are). Well, after 3 days, Bingo and Bluey are still in the penalty box and so I made the decision that they are ready for the DT in the penalty box, where they would stay for the next few months until they have a new home.

After two days Bingo and Bluey are still in the penalty box, however, one morning I rechecked on them and one was gone out of the tank, ugh...

Two more days go by and I check on it one morning and now the penalty box is empty, double ugh...

So, there is a possibility Bingo and Bluey are in the rocks somewhere (not likely) or they were a good lunch for one of the other fish (likely)

So that is the end of my run with the first batch of benggai fry ever... Not a good ending but good lessons, a good story, and a great experience that I will take and use and build upon.

Oh and one final thing, Bubba accepted more eggs last week....
 
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mnreefster

mnreefster

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Hey all, just wanted to touch base and give a quick update. Last time I left off, he had eggs in his mouth again. Well, that lasted a whole 5 days or so and I then he got hungry. Can you imagine keeping a steak or two in your mouth for 3 weeks until it grows into 2 dozen mini versions of you? I’d be gulping those things down too! Recently, however, those frisky kids were back at it and he’s been brooding for about 10 days now. It’s hard to tell but it seems like a few are going down the hatch every few days, his jaw seems to be getting a bit smaller. But, he is still not eating (besides his children) so we will see if his “having his cake and eating it too” approach pays off. I can tell you that I am definitely more prepared this time! I’ll keep you up on the progress next week
 
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Stripping the eggs or fry is best for fry and parent. Little egg sacks only last so long. If there is other fish they will hold in mouth and fry starve. Sometimes mouth brooders will hold fry in mouth till they rot away maybe not eating them like you think. Same for the parent not eating they don't do well.
 
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mnreefster

mnreefster

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you know, those are good points. I have kind of a timer on when he first started brooding so I will see if I can get him in the tank. 14 days today. I will get them in my birthing center if I can catch him.
Is he in a tank that you still feed? If so maybe try moving the pair into a separate tank where you don’t need to feed once he’s holding to try and get a little more luck.
Would I need to move the pair? I would think just the male would be sufficient.
 

Nick Steele

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I’m not entirely sure how sensitive bangaii cardinals are but you might be able to catch the male once he has eggs but if they are anything like pj cardinals he will most likely spit the eggs.

hey also release the fry at night so maybe just stay vigilant on day 20+ since that’s around when they will release them.
 
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mnreefster

mnreefster

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I’m not entirely sure how sensitive bangaii cardinals are but you might be able to catch the male once he has eggs but if they are anything like pj cardinals he will most likely spit the eggs.

hey also release the fry at night so maybe just stay vigilant on day 20+ since that’s around when they will release them.
Yeah, I agree. That's exactly what happened last time. He spit them all out as soon as the net went around him. I tried to catch him at day 18 or so before and even though he was too fast for me he kept them in his mouth. It's a bit of a tightrope walk. I might try the same thing at day 20 as before; put the BBS in the DT and let him know it's OK to release them and then just go after the fry. Should be interesting!!!!
 
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