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Wild-caught Hemichromis fasciatus bonding

Will Lujan writes in our Facebook group:

"I'm an addict of the Hemichromis 5 Spot species which consists of Hemichromis Elongatus, Hemichromis Frempongi and Hemichromis Fasciatus. I've been into these species since the early 90's and my quest for 5 Spot mayhem is almost complete. Currently have a pair of wild caught Hemichromis Fasciatus (Lake Volta) wild caught Hemichromis Elongatus (Nigeria) and will hopefully have some Hemichromis Frempongi fry within the next month.

"[I] decided to try and force bond this pair after attempting to pair with a divider. Male and female were divided for about 2 weeks with no spawning behaviors present. By this point I removed the divider at least twice and had to redivide the tank around 5min after each attempt. Both ended with the male beating the female.Adding a bigger fish helped take the males aggression away from the female and intimidated him just enough to bond with this female."

Will shared with us his advice on breeding this beautiful but challenging species:

"Pairing these guys is quite a challenge. I've been lucky enough to be breeding these guys since 2011-2012 and have learned quite a bit about them.

First and most important step is tank preparation. This is the most crucial part to breeding and pairing any of the 5 Spots species. Messing around with the tank and or moving the fish will cause these species to become very timid and afraid of you.

Tank prep A tank 4ft long can be used to pair juveniles around the 4" mark. With Hemichromis fasciatus I'd recommend choosing a tank that's 6ft in length (my pair is homed in a 180g). Tank should be decorated with sand, driftwood and rocks to spawn on. You can use plants. I've been unsuccessful with keeping plants in place with Hemichromis fasciatus. I have had them spawn on driftwood at smaller sizes but this changed when they've become bigger.

Driftwood and rock placement I've noticed spawning occurs where there is the least amount of current in the tank. I've been successful with angling the exhaust from my canisters upwards to cause surface agitation. I place my spawn on the exhaust side of the tank. After the spawn rock is placed I place a huge piece of driftwood cutting off the line of sight from the rest of the tank. Driftwood placement is very important as the female becomes hyper aggressive after the eggs have been fertilized.

In my experiences, the female will actually kick the male out once egg fertilization is complete.

During the fanning of the eggs (48-72hrs), if the female sees the male, she'll attack him as if he's an intruder.

It's my theory the the female attacks the male during this stage due to him being to close to the spawning site. In the wild, I believe Hemichromis fasciatus has been seen defending a up to 20 yard radius around their spawn site.

This is the reason I believe the female attack the males in a "tank" environment. The male should be patrolling the outskirts of the spawn site keeping intruders away. When the female sees the male "to close" she attacks him.

I've witnessed this behavior in all 3 5 Spot species multiple times. If not caught in time, typically ends with the male beating the female up and the eggs being eaten.

Cutting off the line of sight off the rest of the tank from the spawn rock is crucial. I haven't been successful without doing this and have lost multiple spawns (in the beginning) due to not knowing.

If you watch any of my videos, you'll notice my tank layouts are the same across all my tanks. Spawn rock on the exhaust side of the tank in the back left corner, followed by a huge piece of driftwood.

Pairing Pairing Hemichromis fasciatus is quite a challenge as this species is the most aggressive of the 3. They're extremely aggressive towards each other. They seem ready to spawn around the 4" mark.

I've used 3-4 different methods to pair.

1. Dividing tank If able to get a male and female I've been very successful pairing by dividing the tank. Tank setup stays with an addition of spawning rocks on both sides of the divider. If spawning behaviors occur (moving sand, coloring up, head shaking) ill typically wait 4-5 days after behaviors start to remove divider. You'll want to take the spawn rocks by the divider out of the tank to ensure female lays her eggs on the rock in the corner back corner of the tank.

2. Pairing with dithers Finding dithers for Hemichromis fasciatus has been very expensive with the little knowledge about these fish. I've been most successful with equally aggressive fish with being at least 1.5-2" bigger. I've been successful with using Red Devils, Butti's, and oscars that are 5" bigger. I've used 12" Oscar to pair 4" Hemichromis fasciatus. All fish I've used less than 1.5" bigger have been killed by Hemichromis fasciatus.

Once pairing happens and dithers should be removed once pinned in the corner of the tank. Removing dithers too early can result in the pairs bond to be broken.

When removing dithers, you'll want to do this with out disturbing any of the tank decorations. Moving the tank decorations can also result in the bond being broken and will result in a battered female.

3. Overloading your tank If a few dithers doesn't work, your next option will be be overloading your tank. By "overloading" I mean adding 20 fish to the tank. Ensure your filtration can handle the increased bio load. If your filtration can't handle the increased bio load, do NOT use this method.

By overloading the tank, it causes the territories of the dominant Hemichromis fasciatus to wither away. Basically to many fish for them to chase away. Once territory's are gone, aggression dies down and pairing will usually happen within a week.

Please keep in mind that the dithers I've used are geared towards Hemichromis fasciatus. Red devil and Butti's should not be used to pair Hemichromis elongatus or Hemichromis frempongi. There are fish like Hemichromis guttatus which are highly recommended tank mates but, getting these in the US can be challenging.

If I were to rate all 3 five spot species in terms of aggression on a scale of 1 - 10

Hemichromis Elongatus: 6-7 Hemichromis Frempongi: 6-7 Hemichromis Fasciatus: 15

Hopefully this information helps. If anyone has any questions on pairing or needs help with pairing any 5 spot species, send me a message, we'll get it done!

If it has 5 spots, I can breed it!"

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