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Anyone For Chocolates? - Sphaerichthys Osphromenoides That Is.

gourami breeding chocolate

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#1 Albert

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Posted 29 September 2020 - 08:48 PM

'day everyone.

 

I just became a member and I like the old style forums over social media. So I thought I would share some home grown knowledge of one of my favourite fish - The chocolate gourami.

 

I say "home grown" because I had to throw out the books to see some success with chocolates.

 

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and as they say on the television; "here's one I prepared earlier."

 

Attached File  PCSF_choco_fry-1.jpg   276.19KB   3 downloads

 

Chocolates are not really all that difficult to keep, and if you get things right; they will breed successfully. At least they have for me as the pictures show.

 

Attached File  PCSF_choco_fry-0.jpg   207.6KB   2 downloads

 

However, the best form of success is when others are successful too.

 

So, this initial post is simply to wet the appetite of the PCSF resident choco-holics.

 

Part one will follow over the next few days - I think the best place to start is with water parameters and the aquarium itself. A home for chocolates.

 

Feel free to jump in and post, afterall; this is discussion forum.



#2 ice

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Posted 30 September 2020 - 07:15 AM

Ill probably never keep them but I'm still very interested, cool little fish for sure and great photos too. Looking forward to your next post mate, cheers for sharing.



#3 Albert

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Posted 02 October 2020 - 08:49 PM

Ill probably never keep them but I'm still very interested, cool little fish for sure and great photos too. Looking forward to your next post mate, cheers for sharing.

Thanks ice, cool little fish for sure with a few surprising secrets. Perhaps I should say; unsurprising secrets.


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#4 Albert

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Posted 02 October 2020 - 11:24 PM

Part one; Keeping chocolate gourami alive.

 

Chocolate gourami have a reputation for being difficult fish to keep alive. Often they do well for a few weeks and then go into decline and die not long after. I have watched this myself on more than one occasion and wondered why.

 

When one reads the available literature on Sphaerichthys osphromenoides, the consensus for keeping chocolates is soft acidic water with low carbonate hardness. I have found this to be generally so, yet not really enough to keep them alive long term.

 

I also keep licorice gourami; the Parosphromenus. Licorice gourami are blackwater fish. They are found in peat swamps where the water is stained brown with tannins. Blackwaters are also very soft and acidic, sometimes with a pH as low as 3.

 

Then one day while doing some research into the native waters of the licorice, I came across one simple piece of information; chocolate gourami can be found in the same native waters as licorice gourami.

 

That made perfect sense; chocolate gourami are blackwater fish.

Since I keep and breed the Parosphromenus, it was simply a matter of treating chocolate gourami as I do the licorice gourami and it worked.

This is the aquarium where I keep my adult chocolates, the photo taken last night. They also spawn in there. The chocolate gourami sitting on the bottom is brooding, maybe for the eighth or ninth day now.

 

Attached File  choco_aquarium.jpg   293.91KB   3 downloads
 

This 90 litre aquarium is a research project rather than a show tank. The layout design is rather simple too.

 

* The substrate is one or two centimetres of creek sand simply for aesthetic reasons.

* A few pieces of old hardwood branches with some Anubias growing on it provides cover for the adult gourami. Indian water sprite covers about two thirds of the surface.

* Filtration is a simple air lift sponge filter with a low flow rate.

* Heater and thermometer.

* A few Indian almond leaves

* The lights are LEDs.

* Food is live grindle worms and brine shrimp, with occasional daphnia and mosquito larvae. Frozen food is blood worms and adult brine shrimp.

 

The water statistics:

 

* pH: Normally between 4.5 and 5.5. With a target pH of about 5. The two spawnings where I remembered to measure the acidity occurred at a pH of 4.8 and 4.9.
* GH: is as low as possible.
* KH: is as low as possible.

* Temperature is set to 26/27 degrees Celsius.

* A 20% water change per week.
 

The strategy:

 

Blackwaters are typically very soft, very acid, with very few nutrients and high in tannins, humic acids and fulmic acids which stain the water brown.

 

To achieve the very soft water I use reverse osmosis water.

 

To achieve the acidity I use a product by the Seachem company called "acid buffer". Acid buffer also changes carbonates (KH) into carbon dioxide. The water is prepared a week in advance to age it. Stored in fifteen litre containers, treated with a de-chlorinator, the pH dropped to between 4 and 4.5 and aerated until required. In the containers the pH is stable.

 

 

In the living aquarium, the pH naturally rises over the course of time. Within a week or two the pH can rise from 5 to 6. This is probably due to the micro-organisms.  Biological activity using some sulphur in the water (sulphuric acid in the acid buffer) to combine with phosphorus, nitrogen  and so on from fish pee and poop. I am not a chemist but can understand some basics.

 

The question of removing nitrates, phosphates and so on that build up in the aquarium is achieved partly by the 20% weekly water change, and partly by the use of the floating layer of Indian water sprite which is quick growing and acts as a nutrient sink. Regular cleaning of the aquarium floor is also necessary. A low stocking rate helps here.

 

When you have a pH below 6, the idea of nitrogen fixing bacteria and conventional biological filtration doesn't really work all that well. The nitrogen fixing bacteria like a pH above 6 according to the research I have read.

 

So one cannot conventionally "cycle" a blackwater aquarium due to the acidity and softness of the water. My strategy is to put the aquarium together, inoculate it with a glass of water from an old aquarium and then let it age. After a few weeks one starts to see cyclops and other tiny water creatures on the glass, algae begins to grow.  The "empty" aquarium is alive in its own right.

 

The tannins and humic acids are achieved as the wood and the Indian almond leaves break down. I don't use peat at all, mainly because I don't know where it was mined and what it contains.

 

An important point to remember is that in very soft and acidic water, many pathogens and other bacteria don't grow well at all. Firstly because the pH is outside their liking and secondly; in nutrient poor water the building blocks of life are in short supply. Bacteria need nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and so on to create the building blocks of life. I think this is one of the important keys to keeping chocolates; biologically clean water. Chocolates probably don't have a strong immune system to begin with.  Perhaps simply because they didn't need to evolve one in their very clean native waters.

 

Next is spawning, brooding and caring for the fry.


Edited by Albert, 03 October 2020 - 08:29 AM.


#5 Jules

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Posted 05 October 2020 - 08:22 AM

That is an awesome aquarium, I look at it like its a display.

Nice biotope type aquarium with specific fish and plants! love it



#6 Albert

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Posted 05 October 2020 - 09:38 AM

Spawning.

 

Chocolates do best in a shoal; say six or more so you have both males and females.

 

When you see two fish pair off and begin slow circling on the floor of the aquarium, bellies dragging on the substrate, you may be lucky enough to have a spawning in a few days or less.

 

These two photos are from video footage I have taken and hosted on Vimeo. Here is the URL; https://vimeo.com/454995348.

 

Attached File  courtship.png   585.65KB   2 downloads

 

When you see the two fish circle very closely and pause in an embrace, courtship has moved to a new level, and they should spawn within a day or two.

 

Attached File  spawning.png   627.19KB   2 downloads

 

The spawnings I have watched happen in the evening, between 8pm and 10pm.

 

Chocolates are not easy fish to video. Every time I moved the camera and tripod to focus on the spawning, they stopped circling, glared at me, and moved to a new location. Chocolates do like their privacy at such times.

 

Next is brooding.


That is an awesome aquarium, I look at it like its a display.

Nice biotope type aquarium with specific fish and plants! love it

Thanks Jules.



#7 Albert

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Posted 05 October 2020 - 11:14 AM

Brooding.

 

It is easy to tell when a fish is brooding.

 

* The fish becomes reclusive.

* The fish does not eat even though it swims up to the food.

* The throat is extended.

 

Attached File  brooding.jpg   273.35KB   2 downloads

 

With the first few spawnings, the fish would not eat for the first few days and then resumed eating after the fourth day.

 

To me this indicates that the eggs have died.

 

As the fish continued to spawn every four weeks with the same result, I paid more attention to the water quality and also lowered the pH to below 5. Then brooding extended past the fourth day mark.

 

Two possible reasons for the failures come to mind.

 

Firstly, The presence of carbonate hardness. With some Parosphromenus species it has been found that eggs do not hatch in the presence of carbonate hardness. (Source: The Parosphromenus Project website.) This could be the same with chocolates.

 

Secondly, the bacterial count in the water was perhaps too high. Possibly because the pH was allowed to rise towards 6.

 

So water was changed more often to keep pH below 5, and the cleaning of debris from the aquarium floor was done more often. Then the chocolates began to brood past the fourth day.

 

My presumption is that the first four days while the eggs are developing is the critical period when you have to pay attention to water quality.

 

Next: What to do when the fourteen day brooding period draws towards  a close and fry are expected.


Edited by Albert, 05 October 2020 - 11:17 AM.


#8 Albert

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Posted 06 October 2020 - 06:12 PM

What to do when the fourteen-day brooding period draws towards a close and fry are expected.

 

Most of the literature talks about isolating the brooding fish from the other chocolates.

 

My suggestion is to do nothing at all; simply because chocolates don't eat their fry.

 

Attached File  fry_with_adults.jpg   350.33KB   1 downloads

 

On the day before the first brood was due, I became nervous and separated out the brooding fish as per the advice in the books and online. The fish had spat out a few fry and was still holding some.

 

Attached File  separation.jpg   289.57KB   1 downloads

 

A simple net enclosure sufficed and after the fish had spat out the last of the fry I returned it to the community.

 

For the next week I watched the unenclosed fry. At first the adult chocolates rushed up to the fry and stopped. Only one look and the adults lost interest in the fry completely. So I simply upended the enclosure and released the fry.

 

One can see exactly the same behaviour in the mouth brooding Bettas such as albimarginata. There is an instinct not to eat the fry.

 

For the first two weeks the fry stay in the floating plants close to the surface. The photo below was taken when I first noticed the fry on the surface. The Riccia is 1mm wide by the way.

 

Attached File  first_day_fry.jpg   296.34KB   1 downloads

 

Newly hatched brine shrimp were fed for the first few days. Brine shrimp swim towards light so at least some are at the surface where the fry are. The adult chocolates below happily ate the shrimp that fell into deeper water.

 

Micro-worms were fed a few times but these fall quickly away from the surface and out of reach of the fry.

 

After two weeks the fry began to venture into deeper water and would follow the shrimp as it fell; the adult chocolates ignore them. So brine shrimp is now alternated with micro-worms.

 

So unless there is a reason, I wouldn't recommend stressing everyone out by trying to separate the brooder. One can perhaps use a ladle to transfer fry for separate upbringing if one wishes.

 

Like the mouth brooding Bettas, the brooding chocolate needs some time away from the other fish to recover from the two-week fast otherwise they will mate again in about a week. To carry a second batch of eggs for two weeks  in so short a time takes a toll and there is a visible weight loss. This is not really what we would expect to be female behaviour,

 

However, if the brooder is male then it makes sense because the female would have had three weeks to recover after laying 50 or more quite large eggs.

 

From observation of a number of spawnings as they happen, I am well aware of who lays the eggs and who broods the fry.

 

In time, I hope to take video footage that clearly shows the complete spawning, and settle the question of maternal vs paternal mouth-brooding.



#9 Albert

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Posted 08 October 2020 - 06:16 PM

Simply to show that it can be done.

 

Three fish are visible in the photo below.

 

The fish on the left is one of today's batch. The two fish, centre and right; are 21 days older.

 

Attached File  PCSF_choco_fry-2.jpg   293.65KB   1 downloads



#10 Jules

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Posted 09 October 2020 - 10:22 AM

This is awesome! well done.

Really gorgeous and interesting fish.



#11 Albert

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Posted 09 October 2020 - 05:08 PM

This is awesome! well done.

Really gorgeous and interesting fish.

Thanks Jules.

 

They're one of those fish with character and you don't see them often. The difficulty just makes them even more interesting. There is still a lot to study with chocos.

 

So two batches now; more than I can keep. So I'll put them in the classifieds when they're big enough. If you want some Jules . . . . .  : )


Edited by Albert, 09 October 2020 - 10:03 PM.


#12 Jules

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Posted 20 October 2020 - 12:45 PM

Would love too, but unfortunately theyd make a light meal for my bichirs :(



#13 Albert

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Posted 20 October 2020 - 05:05 PM

Would love too, but unfortunately theyd make a light meal for my bichirs :(

They would indeed.

 

Birchirs . . . .

 

Do you breed them Jules?



#14 Jules

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Posted 22 October 2020 - 08:50 AM

Not specifically, they have spawned before.

I only have standard senagels, but still, one of my favourite fish!



#15 Albert

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Posted 22 October 2020 - 06:46 PM

Not specifically, they have spawned before.

I only have standard senagels, but still, one of my favourite fish!

Awesome fish - all those dorsals are really distinctive.

 

I hadn't heard of them before forum member ilikefish's post on the tiger birchir. I had to google that one.

 

Nice to know they are being preserved within the hobby : )



#16 Bombshocked

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Posted Yesterday, 10:52 AM

Wow, Amazing pictures and write up thanks, i love choc gouramis, im keeping 2 at the moment with some cardinal tetras in a planted tank, running rain water at about 100 tds, PH is around 6 from the aqua soil and they seem to do nicely, but do enjoy it when i lower the ph on water change day, as a breeder im guessing you must have a solid way of reducing your ph safely would you use peat moss in the filter to lower it or just a commercially available PH down solution ive tried to use almond leaves, Loquat leaves,and guava leaves but it didn't have a strong enough buffering effect to lower the PH to an acceptable level against the aqua soil

 

your tanks look very clean and well laid out, i like the floating plants a lot, and the health of your fish speaks for it self, posts like these are what make forums my favorite type of media so thank you for posting it and giving me a good read, detailed information like this is excellent 

 

one day i would love to setup a species only tank for them and get a few more but at the moment thats not on the cards, there a super niche fish and im really glad someone else finds them as special of a fish as i do

 

chocs.png

 

Thanks

 

 






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