This article is about how to breed two different types of Suckermouth catfish: Rineloricaria hasemani and Rineloricaria microlepidogaster. We have chosen to include them in the same article, since they are close relatives that have very similar care requirements and exhibit almost identical breeding behaviors. Rineloricaria hasemani and Rineloricaria microlepidogaster are both commonly referred to as Whiptail catfish.
Whiptail plecos 101
Before attempting to breed Whiptails, one must naturally learn how to provide them with ideal conditions in the aquarium. By trying to mimic their natural habitat, you will greatly increase the chances of successful spawning.
Rineloricaria hasemani is found in the Lower Amazon and Tocantins River basin. Rineloricaria microlepidogaster inhabits Brazil Rio Grande Do Sul in Southeastern Brazil. Even though they are found in slightly different parts of South America, both species live in fast flowing water with a high level of oxygen. They will therefore do best in an aquarium with vigorous circulation and well oxygenated water. Wild Rineloricaria hasemani normally stay below 15 cm, while wild Rineloricaria microlepidogaster are even smaller and seldom exceed 10 cm in length. In captivity, both species can however grow considerably larger.
The recommended water temperature for both species is 24 to 26° C. They will tolerate acidic as well as alkaline waters, from pH 5.8 to pH 7.8. If you want to breed them, you should however aim to keep the water just a tad acidic, around pH 6.8. Condition your fish by providing them with meaty foods, such as bloodworms and live worms. They must also receive some vegetable matter in their diet, ideally from natural algae and a high-quality flake food. Since they are nocturnal species, you should feed them at night when the aquarium is not well lit.
Breeding Whiptails: sexing
Male Whiptails have whiskers on the side of the head (commonly referred to as beard), and the head is not as pointy as the head of the female. Whiptails normally reach sexual maturity when they are round 9 cm long, and young mature Whiptails can be sexually mature even if they lack whiskers. If kept in a suitable environment, Whiptails will form their own pairs without any coaxing from the aquarist.
Breeding Whiptails: aquarium set up
A 50 liter aquarium is large enough to serve as breeding aquarium for Whiptails. It should be well decorated with gravel substrate, plants and driftwood. There must be many suitable hiding spots. A box filter is necessary to keep the water quality up and since these species hail from well oxygenated waters, you should definitely include an airstone.
In addition to this, you should provide your Whiptails with some type of tube. Breeding Whiptails are for instance known to appreciate bamboo tubes as breeding sites. The tube should be 15-18 cm long and open at both ends. The diameter should be roughly 5 cm, depending on how large your fishes are. The ideal diameter is 1.5 times as wide as the male fish when measured across the pectoral fins. Placed the tube in a sheltered area of the aquarium and wait for the male to notice it.
Breeding Whiptails: spawning
When the female is ready to spawn, she will release her eggs and they will be promptly fertilized by the male. Whiptails normally spawn during late afternoon. The female can produce up to 300 eggs, which are green and no longer than 3 mm. The male will care for the eggs and protect them during approximately one week, and he should therefore not be removed from the breeding Whiptails. Successfully breeding whiptails without the assistance of the male during the incubation period is quite difficult. The female on the other hand should be removed directly after spawning since she may otherwise eat the eggs, or get into a fight with male when she tries to eat the eggs. The eggs will normally hatch after one week, and the male should be left with the fry until they are free swimming. You can then remove the male, since it is best for the fry not having to compete with him for food.
Breeding Whiptails: fry raising
Immediately after hatching, the fry will not need any food since they still feed on their yolk sac. During the second day, it is time to start giving them infusoria and green water leaves. Small and frequent water changes are imperative when raising fry. After tree days, you can supplement their diet with newly hatched brine shrimp. When the fry are around 2.5 cm, start giving daphnia and chopped bloodworm. If provided with nutritious food, Whiptail fry can reach a length of 3 cm in no more than five weeks. After 3 cm, the growth rate normally slows down.
Breeding Whiptails: how to make green water leaves
When breeding Whiptails, it is always a good idea to make your own green water since green water is a great source of nutrition for really small Whiptail fry. Take some green lettuce leaves and place them in some water. Add a pinch or urea to promote algae growth. If you start the culture one day after the eggs have been fertilized it will be ready just in time. Take a piece of lettuce leaf from the green water and anchor it upright in your breeding aquarium. The fry can then feast on this for at least a few days before you need to add a new lettuce leaf.
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