Monday, February 16, 2009

My new baby!

I used to have a 55-gallon saltwater fish tank. I got into saltwater because I love the bright blue colour of the blue damselfish. Unfortunately, I didn't realize at the start how aggressive they can be, and eventually I had only one blue damselfish (two inches long) in a 48-inch-long aquarium.

A few weeks ago, I converted the tank to fresh water and bought some swordtails and platies. They aren't as exciting as the blue damselfish, but they also don't kill everything that swims anywhere near them.

On Feb 13th, Mr. W and I went to the fish store to get some additional fish, since the tank was doing well. We got more swordtails and more platies. When we added them to the tank, one of the platies did not look good. We fished it out and put it into a plastic bowl in the tank, so that it could either recover or die in peace.

When I got up the next morning, the fish hadn't died... it had had babies! There were two tiny (TINY. Not even a centimeter long) fish in the bowl with her. I put them into a plastic breeding trap, which (in theory) keeps the mother fish separated from the babies.

See, these livebearer fish aren't exactly "mother of the year" candidates. In the wild, the babies immediately swim into shallow water or into the roots of plants, so any baby the mother (or other fish) see is a free meal. I know it's nature and all that, but I am the queen of this aquarium and I'm not letting the babies all get eaten!

One of the babies swam down into the safe base area of the breeding trap, but the other kept popping up into the main area. I tried to shoo it down a few times, but eventually... only one baby. =(

But then she had another one! But only for a few seconds: this baby swam up and down in the trap, clearly freaking out, and while I tried to figure out what to do, the mother launched herself at it, and solved the problem. NOT the way I'd have solved it, of course.

It's one thing to know that these fish eat their babies. It's another to have it happen right in front of me. So I did what now seems kind of weird... I tipped the mother fish out into the tank. This means that the one surviving baby is safe, but it also means that any other babies she has are free range snacks for the tank. But I couldn't bear to see her eat the last baby. I had to keep it safe.

This picture (which was the best of the many I took) shows the tiny baby in the breeding trap. The baby's in the red box I drew on the picture, and beneath it are two of the new platies, which for size reference are about two inches long. (One COULD be the mother, but I'm not positive... it's not like they wear name tags or anything like that.)

Since I first saw the baby on Feb 14th, I've named him/her Val. Valentino if it turns out to be a boy, and Valentina if it's a girl. I won't know for a few months, from what I read online.

I have high hopes that I'll be able to keep Val alive. Once he (interesting note about me: nearly everything for which I don't know a gender, including my car, computer, and Palm, is male) is close to an inch long, I can set him free in the tank. Until then, he's staying in the breeding trap.

I will post occasional updates on my little aquatic friend. I do NOT intend to try to keep all tank-born babies alive, especially since I now have ten female livebearers, each of which can have 30-100 babies every 4-6 weeks. I will let nature take its course overall.

Just not for Val. :)



Anonymous said...

Wow, that is so cool!!! Val is so tiny!!!! I would have bawled my eyes out, if the mom fish had eaten the babu right in front of me.

Heather Wardell said...

I was stunned to see it happen. Just 'whoop, gone'. No time to do anything!

And yeah, Val is basically just eyeballs and a fin. :)

Kit Courteney said...

What a lovely post!

I hope Val does well!

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