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Spawning of Polypterus ornatipinnis in the home fish tank

published in January 2011

на русском 

CizziB (Sweden) succeeded in carrying out spawning of Polypterus ornatipinnis in the home fish tank. The events were taking place since April 2010 to the present day (January 2011). Here is her description of these events.

I am also interested in other kinds of Polypterus. I got my first ornatipinnis in summer in 2007, it was male.
There are two similar fish tanks of 720 liters (200 х 60 х 60 cm.) in our house.  In each of them we initially formed one spawning group of Polypterus ornatipinnis.

Fish tank №1.  There were 8 spawners in the group at the beginning: one large male (40 cm), the second male was middle-sized and the third male was small; five females of 25 cm to 45 cm size. There were no other fishes in the fish tank.
In the middle of January 2011 two females of Polypterus ornatipinnis were added into the group. 

Ornate bichir Polypterus ornatipinnis. The biggest female of the spawning group

Ornate bichirs Polypterus ornatipinnis. Males: middle-sized and the biggest one

 small ornatipinnis

Ornate bichir
Polypterus ornatipinnis
Female among plants

Soil is so called English marine stone; Giant Vallisneria heavy bed; a lot of roots dressed with Anubias. We have no any artificial shelters. Combination of flora and roots creates naturally enough places, where ornates can hide.
I don't know how Ornate bichirs feel themselves in the fish tanks with artificial plants, but I myself don't like artificial filling of the fish tank: plants, ships, toys and other things. 
Toys are for children and not for fish. If you want your fishes to spawn, try to create an environment as close to habitat as it possible.

Natural environment → Natural behavior→ Spawning!

Fish tank is equipped with filter Fluval FX5.

We fed them basically with pelleted feed for cichlids called Hikari Cichlid Gold, but sometimes our Polypterus got salmon pellets, prawns and live fish.
When I succeed in getting the grasshoppers, I gave them grasshoppers; I tried to vary the diet if possible.

For the spawning stimulation we changed 50% of water in the fish tank. At the same time the water temperature reduced from 27-28 ºC to about 26 ºC.

As for the water parameters, we didn't measure them, but we have enough hard water because of the great amount of calcium.

Just after the changing of the water, we fed the fish lavishly.

 Spawning started the next day. The male started to chase about the female always following her. Sometimes the male was chasing about more than one female. We succeeded in observing how one male was chasing about three females! The male repeated all the female moving, always chafing of it, while the female wouldn't decide where to lay eggs in the fish tank.
Sometimes female chose roots, plants and sometimes sand as the spawning substrate.

 When the female stopped moving, the male appears near and puts "the cup" of its anal fin under the female anal orifice, male gatherers black eggs in its fin, inseminates them with its sperm, and after that sprays the eggs on the substrate.
Then the couple moves to the new place of egg laying and the process repeats again and again. All the spawning process is prolonged to the period from 2 to 7 days.
My ornates had inhabited this fish tank for one year and a half, and during this time the group was spawning all the seasons with short breaks.
We did the change of 50% of water approximately one time in two months.

During this period we were observing how one spawning couple among the biggest spawners was formed at the beginning. After some successful spawning attempts the large male switched over to the small female and one day male spawned with two females at the same time!
But this was not enough: at least two times we were observing simultaneous spawning of two males with three or four females!!!
In the January 2011 Ornate bichirs began to spawn spontaneously, three males and three or four females took part in spawning simultaneously. That time we didn't try to stimulate the spawning anyhow, it is possible that moderate increasing of the diet was the reason upon this. I measured the water parameters. Here they are:

Temperature 25,2ºС  (It seems that the heater is out of order, because usually we maintain temperature 27-28ºC in this fish tank. Maybe this falling of the temperature caused the stimulus to spawning).

PO4: 5,0 mg/lt
pH: 5,5
KH: 2
NO2: 0,5 mg/lt
NO3: > 100 mg/lt 

Ornate bichirs Polypterus ornatipinnis. Spawning group

In the spawning period our fish got small amounts of feed every day, and upon completion the process were put on short ration with feeding one time per week.
The female of Polypterus ornatipinnis spawns several hundreds of black and very sticky eggs at one time. Eggs are small, and sometimes it was very difficult to make out in what place of fish tank they were laid. 

sticky eggs of Polypterus ornatipinnis laid on the Anubias leaves

fertilized eggs of Polypterus ornatipinnis in zooming in

Straight after the eggs were laid, there were problems of their saving. Firstly the parents and other bichirs ate up the eggs. Secondly fungi ate the eggs. I had to gather the eggs from the spawning fish tank for the experiments with anti-fungal processing and the further incubation. It was very meticulous work, which took a lot of time, but my heart was torn asunder when I was looking on the fish eggs, which were dying because of the fungi. It was possible to gather only a small part of the eggs. 

Polypterus ornatipinnis. Small sticky fish eggs are gathered from the fish tank with great difficulty


Polypterus ornatipinnis. Some more 53 eggs are gathered for anti-fungal processing

It was very difficult to carry the process to the successful hatching. I counted nothing but 20 larvae, which were able to hatch after the life-saving operations.  All the eggs which were left in the spawning fish tank died. 
The hatchling of Ornate bichir

  ...the same in zooming in

After the yolk sac had resolved, there appeared a problem with feeding of juvenile fish. My attempts of feeding them with artemia nauplia was finished with almost all the larvae died from starvation. During the growth the juveniles transferred to the feeding with bloodworms; starting from 5 cm. size fries of ornates began to feed with pellets.  Only two of my fries stayed alive and reached the size of 5 cm. Here are photos of them. 

Polypterus ornatipinnis. Fries of Ornate bichir of 2 cm size

One of them reached 10 cm in seven months, gained strength and jumped out of the fish tank. I found it dead behind the fish tank side. 

young ornatipinnis, dead as a result of his jump out of the fish tank

The second fry was continuing to grow and had reached 10cm to January 2011.

Fish tank №2.  At first we tried to put on a spawn only one couple of Ornate bichirs into this fish tank, but nothing came of it. The male was attacking the female permanently, and we had to form a group of the great amount of Ornate bichirs in this fish tank.

The group of six mature specimens  was formed:  one big male (more than 40 cm) and one small male; four females from 20 cm to 45 cm.
There was also one wild Polypterus Lapradei (more than 30 cm size) in the tank.

Ornate bichirs of this group had already spawned before the putting into our fish tank, although they didn't start to spawn here.

To the middle of the January in 2011 there were only two ornate males and the group of 10 Polypterus lapradei was formed (8 of them were wild caught).

Ground in the fish tank was formed from fine-grained reddish stone. There was 3D background on the back side of the fish tank. Bottom filter was set up. Some green plants and few roots were put in the fish tank. 

Ornate bichir Polypterus ornatipinnis. The female in the fish tank № 2

Ask your questions and share your experiences in keeping and breeding of ornate bichir at our forum http://forum.aquaprom.su/viewtopic.php?f=45&t=34

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Spawning of Polypterus ornatipinnis in the home fish tank
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