Breeding Plecs 101

Pure

Elite Fish
Nov 1, 2005
3,216
7
0
Jacksonville, FL
#1
Another posters question has prompted me to put something down that can easily be searched.

The trouble with spawning them is patience as it takes a LOT of it. Unless you know of a breeder who will sell you adult stock, it normally takes a yr or longer before the ones you get will be of age. Wild caught plecs are normally not adults when they export them. This is to save $ on shipping and smaller fish do better during shipping compared to larger fish. I actually consider myself lucky by 1 in a million to have found my wild caught Royal just in from the exporters at her size. Then 10 inches.

For spawning most of the smaller species you want a tank of 20 or 30 gallons. In some cases you can actually have a tank that is too large. The basic rule of thumb for spawning most plecs outside of BNs and commons is to run their tank through the dry then into the wet season. During this wet season is when spawning takes place in the wild. So duplicating these conditions is the best way to trigger a spawn. Below you will find basic instructions for the 2 seasons.

Dry season: Increase tank temp very slowly to 88-89 degrees. Decrease water changes from your usual 20% weekly to every other week or even every 3rd week. Do not replace the evaporated water. If your PH was low with soft water you will want to increase the hardness and the PH. We bring it up to what our normal tap water is. TDS of about 350-400 with a PH of 7.8. Increase feedings of meaty foods. I use a home made frozen raw shrimp mix we make. With the meaty foods, you do have to be careful. For some species that are not normally meat eaters if you feed them too much meat you can cause bloat and kill your fish.

Now the food part isn't technically part of the dry season. Actually in the wild food becomes scarce during this time of the yr. However your intentions here are to provide the females with more protein to increase and speed up egg production.

Once you see your females mid section go round with eggs you start the rainy season. I like to wait a week after I see they are good and fat.

Rainy season: Ok they dry time is over. Now comes the rains. When the rains fall in the wild they lower the temps of the water. They also lower the PH and make the water softer.

To induce a spawn these conditions must also be met in your tank. Your tank was almost 90 when you started this. So every other day you need to do a large water change of about 50% with water that is a few degrees cooler. When filling the tank you need to do it slowly or else you can send your fish into shock. Turn down the temp of the heater a couple of degrees and leave it unplugged overnight. You obviously want to stop turning down the heat once the tank reaches 76-78 degrees. But keep up with the cool water changes leaving the heater unplugged over night.

Wile doing these water changes use pure RO water to slowly start dropping your TDS. I take mine down to about 50 ppm. Once you get to that TDS you will need to premix your RO water with tap water to match those parameters prior to the water change. Keep up with the meaty foods during this period.

One more important thing. FLOW FLOW FLOW! The plecs have to have current once the rainy season begins. Just to give you an idea how much, I use 2 350 gph power heads sitting one on top of the other both pointed right at the entrance of the plecos caves in a 30gal tank. This current is a very important part of inducing the spawn. Without it you are just waisting your time.

Now what you have just read is a simple guideline. The real challenge comes in figuring out what the particular L your working with needs, and what factor is the most important trigger. Some need softer water, some need more foods. Some even need long or shorter periods of the seasons in the tank.

Fry: Fry rearing is an issue in of itself as they babies are EXTREMELY delicate to parameter changes in their water. I find that (and this even goes for BNs) if you remove the fry from the main tank too soon you have a very high mortality rate. It can even be as high as 100%.

To help ensure they fry make it I find it best to have some sort of in-tank refuge to house the fry in. You have to make sure it has good circulation as they are very sensitive to low O2 levels as well. This way you have a place to house them and feed them in the main tank until they are large (1/2 inch) enough to be removed into a separate grow out tank.

Now when you do remove them water parameter changes still have to be monitored. It's best to do a large water change on the main tank filling a 10 or 5 gal tank with the main tanks' water. Move the fry into this tank before the temp can change.

A small grow out tank is also critical for new fry. If they have to search around (ie they are in a large tank) for food, they will use up more food stores than they can return. This results in they fry slowly waisting away and dieing off one by one.

Water changes on this tank should be done in small quantities every day to every other day with little to no changes in the TDS or PH. Once the fry get close to an inch they are quit hardy and can be treated like any other fish.
 

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Zman16

Large Fish
Aug 1, 2005
865
1
0
29
Pennsylvannia
#2
Excellent thread Pure! I have two questions for you:

1. Do pleco's lay eggs or give birth to live fry?
2. How can you tell the difference between male and female BN's?
 

Pure

Elite Fish
Nov 1, 2005
3,216
7
0
Jacksonville, FL
#3
They lay eggs that the male will guard and tend to. It normally works best if you leave him be. Messing with him in some cases can result in him eating the eggs. Without a special cave where you can remove the back from you will have a very difficult time striping the male of the fry after they hatch.

Male BNs have more predominant and longer bristles on their nose that run up in a a line between the eyes. Females only have very short bristles on the rim of the top lip. When viewing them from above, the males body will be noticeably slender in comparison to the females rounded mid section.
 

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Pure

Elite Fish
Nov 1, 2005
3,216
7
0
Jacksonville, FL
#11
SkwidsLair said:
You've done extremely well, then, I'd say. :)
I don't know that I would go that far. We have certainly had our ups and downs. Like the time the VERY expensive 399 females ate the equally expensive male. :eek: Talk about tough love.

Heater malfunctions, disease, lack of availability. Yeah it's been a rough road. But in the end we have managed to breed several species of hypancistrus and of course BNs out the wazoo. And have learned a great deal from it all.

Currently I'm almost mass producing L260, albino BNs, and am working on 134s and 110s. With several species waiting to get large enough to be worked with.
 

Pure

Elite Fish
Nov 1, 2005
3,216
7
0
Jacksonville, FL
#16
BNs as in the common 3 color morphs are much easier to breed. All you have to do is have a male a female or 2 and a proper cave. They take care of the rest. Commons and Common Ancistrus sp (common BN) have been bred in captivity long enough that water parameters make little to no difference as long as extremes in either direction are avoided.

That's not to say the more fancy BNs such as 183s, 110s and 59s are as easy as their common cousins. But even with them the seasonal change needed in the tank gives more wiggle room. Reports of 183s breeding with little more than 10% daily water changes.
 

wayne

Elite Fish
Oct 22, 2002
4,077
3
0
#18
BN's are pretty easy to breed as long as you get a male and female from the same species (not always the case). Some of the fancies, or semi fancies like Farlowella re pretty straightforward, and I'd likely stick Hypancistrus in that category too. I know someone local to me who has bred Gold Nugget 018 , and that is a notch up the difficulty tree again, and I'd rate panaques, common and gibbiceps as being even harder unless you have access to a heated pond.
I too have used an intank refugium (or rather a livebearer net) for the first week of fry care, after that I liked to use a five gallon on which I guess I changed a 1/2 gallon of watertwice a day.

One thing I have found is that like a tight fit in the breeding caves.

The amount of flow required to get the baryancistrus to spawn is pretty mighty. One of the few times I'd use a Tunze in FW.