Breeding Mop Spawners

  In this article I will present my method of breeding most of the Aphyosemion species I currently keep.  This group, the so-called mop spawners, typically prefer laying their eggs in floating plants or when provided instead of plants, mops of nylon yarn. 

First, I will explain what a mop is and how to make one. 

Buy a skein of synthetic yarn, preferably a dark color like dark green or black.  The color is primarily for your benefit not for the fishís preference.  Eggs against the dark background are more readily seen.  The yarn must be synthetic, not wool or cotton, as they do not retain dye. Personally I never do anything with the yarn prior touse. If you wish, boil a little to be sure the dye is well fixed and does not leach from the mop.

Wind about a hundred turns of the yarn around an object that will give you a loop of yarn with a circumference of 10 to 12 inches.  (note, if you do not know if your new fish prefer top or bottom mops, make the loops big enough to reach the bottom of the tank.) A compact disk box or book is good for winding the yarn .I prefer 100 + turns to make a full mop. After winding all the turns, tie a strand of yarn around the turns of yarn at a convenient point. At the opposite end of the loop bundle, cut the yarn.  This will give approximately equal length strands about 4 or 5 inches long on each side of the tie.  Next, lift the yarn by the tie strand so it falls to each side hanging down about 4 or 5 inches.  Then grasp the bundle near the top and tie another strand around the bundle or use a small gum band to secure the bundle.  It will now resemble an old rag mop.   If you wish to float the mop (for this group it is the preferred method) then tie the string securing the bundle around either a cork or a small piece of Styrofoam.

Some prefer to boil the yarn before use, but I have not found that to be necessary.  If you want to be a little more sterile than me, or are not convinced that the dye is not leachable, boil the skein, not the mop or you will never get out all the tangles.

Now the function of the mop is it is an undying plant mockup that needs no light to thrive and allows visibility of the eggs that hopefully will come.

Many killie breeders prefer mops exclusively to allow picking of eggs.  The eggs are strong and not easily crushed with any but the strongest fingers.  The eggs may be individually removed from the mop and placed in a petri dish or small container with some clean water. You can use some antifungal agent (like Jungle brand egg guard or acriflavin), however with the fish I have bred, this does not seem to have any effect.  Many may be infertile (especially with younger fish) and will turn white and develop a cottony growth.  These are to be removed from the container as soon as noticed, hopefully within a day.  If not, the fungus may spread to healthy eggs, although this is not common. 

To check for eggs, remove the mop from the water (make sure the pair is not in the mop first, donít laugh, they may be!) then squeeze the mop to remove excess water and look for small, clear eggs using some side lighting.  This can be done every few days until eggs are found.

Except when breeding a new species or one that has very low egg production, I prefer not to pick eggs.  In addition, I like plants and use riccia, hornwort and java fern.  Being an older bat, the eggs are hard for me to see and it is easier to just move the whole mop and plants to a hatching container, or move the breeding pair to a new tank.  Additionally, the eggs having been laid one at a time are not usually touching one another and fungus is not as likely to spread from egg to egg.  Also being an unclean creature, I canít contaminate the eggs with my fingers this way.  I do this about 2 or 3 weeks after I first notice eggs. This is my preferred timing since most of the plant spawners incubate for 2 to 3 weeks.  Longer and they will hatch in the tank or worse yet, the newly hatched fry will be food for the first to hatch.

Depending upon the species and size of the fry, they may well be capable of eating newly hatched brine shrimp immediately.  If they are on the small side, the water and mop (and my plants) will provide some infusoria upon hatching (not too much good food in a petri dish now is there?) and you can add some food like liquifry(careful with this stuff though, it sometimes spoils and can be fatal to fry) or microworms. The fry of many of the mop spawners prefer to stay near the surface so some floating food like a pinch hard-boiled egg yolk may be good.

Now all you have to do is feed them good food for 3 to 6 months and you will have fish to trade for a new species of killies or hook someone else on this addiction for killies.