By Kathy England

Most of you have catfish in your various tanks, but have you ever raised any of those catfish from eggs? The busy little corydoras species are among some of the easiest catfish to spawn and raise. Recently we were surprised with such a spawn at our house.

We have a group of approximately 15 corydoras sterbai, which are beautifully black and white speckled with orange/gold pectoral fins, a striking fish in any South American habitat. Our “herd” is maintained in a community tank with a pH of approximately 6.3 that is populated by various Apistogramma species and three Crenacichla compressiceps (dwarf pike cichlids), and has several nice pieces of java fern attached to wood and rocks.

One morning, about 45 minutes after the lights came on in the fish room, I noticed that the sterbai were acting rather excited. Upon closer inspection, I observed a large female clutching eggs in her ventral fins. Naturally this was about 30 minutes before I had to leave for work.

I managed to harvest about 20 eggs before absolutely having to go (“My fish were spawning” is no legitimate excuse at my office for being late for work.) I put the eggs in a container with anti-fungal medication and an airstone and crossed my fingers. Unfortunately that was the weekend of TCA’s fall workshop, so I couldn’t hang out in the fish room and monitor the eggs’ progress.

Upon making it home Sunday night after the auction, four days after the spawning activity, I noticed about a dozen catfish wigglers in the bottom of the container. I immediately began changing out the water – clean for blue-over the next couple of days. Luckily the parents’ tank was at such an angle that I could siphon water directly from it into the
baby container.

After three days or so, I slowly began introducing a small drop of baby brine shrimp into the container, and that’s where the problems began. I could not get the majority of the fry to eat. They would swim around, but would not eat anything.

Over the next few days, they gradually became weaker and weaker, and eventually began to die, despite regular feedings and 90% water changes twice a day. After 8 days, I moved the remainder of the fry into the clear top of a chip-and-dip container (yes, I am a fish person – I improvise!!!) with an airstone, and continued the feedings and water changes. Eventually I was down to only three catfish, but those three soon began to prosper. When baby brine shrimp were added to their “tank”, they scurried around and found them without hesitation, turning their tummies orange.

After about 10 days in their chip-and-dip container, they were moved to a 10-gallon tank about 1/4 full of water with a sponge filter. Laetacara curviceps babies were their new tankmates, and everyone got along splendidly. It was amazing to see how quickly those three baby catfish began growing once they were moved into a “real” tank with
excellent filtration.

Our sterbai spawned again last week, and once again I harvested about 20 eggs. I have learned from my experience that perhaps green water will entice the little ones to eat. At least I will try that this time for their first meal or two. Wish me luck in this endeavor – and hope that you see a few “raised in Texas” corydoras sterbai soon at an auction
near you!

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