Aphyosemion australe by Skip Waskowiak
This is a lovely little fish from West Africa. Aphyosemion australe is very popular egg-laying toothcarp also known as killies or killifishes. This fish comes to us from the Cape Lopez area in West Africa. In the wild this fish lives in very shallow brook tributaries and ponds, and in marshy type areas. Australe's are very peaceful and quite undemanding, being able to adjust to a variety of conditions. It is a excellent fish for the community tank. In terms of the life span of this killiefish, these fish will live for a long time in an aquarium, up to three years. A well planted tank is required if you plan on keeping this fish as community fish. It will take wide range of pH from 5.0 to 7.5. The water should be soft to medium hard and a temperature of 64 to 80 degrees F. They prefer live foods such as white worms, daphnia, black worms and baby/adult brine shrimp.
This fish comes to us in many color forms, from the wild type green/blue fish to an almost red form. Two of the most popular types are the chocolate and the orange. Males of this species attains a length of 70 mm or 2.75 inches, with females just slightly smaller. The female is less distinctly colored and patterned than the males. Her body color is a fawn to light orange with maybe a couple of red dot on her side. Also her fins are round as compared to the long pointed and flowing fins of the males.
The males are extremely sharp looking fish, with a lyre-type tail, numerous red dots and dashes down it's sides. His body is a dark brown to orange/red in color and lots of flowing fins edged in white.
My experience with this fish is that they are very willing breeders if you follow my do and don'ts of this article. I have had much greater success with this fish when breeding it in soft R.O. water rather than tap water. With tap water will get you lots of eggs but very few eggs will hatch. Also don't use any type of lighting on the killie tank. These fish don't like it and most killie eggs are very sensitive to strong light. Strong light will kill the killie eggs. You can keep a lighted hood on the tank but keep the light off unless you want to see the fish. A short period of light will do no harm. One of the things I never do is to let the water temperature get over 77 degrees F. All of my killie tanks are on the lower shelf of the tank racks. The tanks stay at a temperature between 72 to 76 degrees. This is the ideal temperature for breeding most killifish. If the temperature goes higher, the fish will stop spawning, the eggs will not hatch or fry will not be very strong and most will die.
This fish is a mop spawner. I keep two medium size mops in the tank with a small sponge filter and nothing else in the tank. The sides, back and bottom are painted with a dark brown color. This makes the fish at easy with the it's world. Always keep a cover on the tank as these fish are great jumpers. Fill the breeding tank only about 2/3 full with very soft water and a pH of 5.4 to 6.0 and about one tablespoon of blackwater tonic. This will give the tank a slight brownish tinge, cut down on the amount of light and also retard the growth of fungus.
If keeping this fish as a community fish then medium hard water with a pH of 7 is just fine. But we are talking about breeding this fish, so lets move on to the next step. Most books says you can breed them in one gallon jars, but try a ten or fifteen gallon tank minimum. Since the males are such an active driver, a bigger tank is all the better. I use a ratio of three females to two males and have found this to be best ratio of fish to get good egg production. The fish are condition in separate tanks, all males in one tank and all females in another tank. This is one of the key things to do. The conditioning tanks are also kept at lower temperature range than the spawning tanks. A temperature range of 64 to 68 degrees F. is ideal. Feeding lots of live food will allow the female to fill with roe very quickly. Place the largest females and the most colorful males together in the breeding tank you have just prepared for them. Spawning takes place close to the surface of the water where the eggs are laid singly and remain attached to the mops. Spawning usually continues over a number of days with about ten to fifty eggs per female being laid a day.
These fish usually don't eat their own eggs. I let the fish spawn about seven to ten days before removing them to their own conditioning tanks. If you breed your killies longer than this they will become very weak and spindly and have a very good chance at dying. Also they are very hard to bring them back into good condition when they get this far down. REMEMBER! Rest them or loose them. The next step is to remove the mops from the tank and gently squeeze out the excess water from the mops. Then place the moms on some paper towels, to remove what water is left. The mops will now be just damp and will make it easier to find the eggs in the mops. You can pick the eggs out of the mops with your fingers. The eggs are very tough and will take some abuse. Next I get a clean plastic container that holds about 16 oz. and fill it up with water that matches the pH and hardness of the tank in witch the fish were spawned. To this water I add eight drops of acriflavin, then stir up the water till it's mixed good. Now pick out all of the eggs from the mops and place them in the container with the water and acriflavin. I keep the egg container upstairs out of the fish room where it is cooler, about 66 to 70 degrees F.
The eggs take about 15 to 20 days to hatch at this temperature, that's longer than most books state but the fry will be more healthy for it. When the fry hatch, remove them to another container that contains the same type of water less the acriflavin. You can use an eye dropper for this purpose, it's the easiest way to place the fry into their new home. Change water every day in the fry container and do not place fry in a tank for two weeks. I am talking about changing 100% of their water and scrub clean the container they are in. I use two containers for this job. The first one is cleaned and filled with the new water. The water should be the same pH and the same soft water they were hatched in. Then dump the container with the fry in, into a very fine mesh net. Place the fry into the container with new water. The fry will get better care by changing water every day than they will ever get by placing them in a tank. Keep the fry at a higher temperature than the hatching temperature, about 74 to 76 degrees F. is ideal. Now is the time to feed your new little fry. You can use baby brine shrimp, microworms, A.P.R. food, liquid fry food and green water. Key number two. DON'T OVER FEED!!! Feed your fry often but don't pollute by over feeding. If the container starts to look cloudy change the water. It will not hurt the fry to change their water but it will kill them if you don't. The fry seem to grow very slowly at first, but once you see some growth in them they look like they double their size every other day. After six days start changing their water with half tap and half soft water. At the end of two weeks they will be ready for a ten to twenty gallon tank. When placing them in their new tank only fill the tank half full. This will help the fry to locate their food better and grow much faster. As the fry grow larger you can fill their tank up higher and higher. Don't forget to cover the tank. These fish like to jump and so you will have fry all over the floor if don't cover the tank. At about two months the fry should be about 1 1/4 to 2 inches and you should be able to tell sexes now. This description of how to breed this fish can be used with a lot of killifish. A good number of killifish breed in the same style. If you use this method with your Australe's I know you will have lots of success. Spawning this fish in this manner I can get about 200 to 400 fry for the two week spawning.
WATER: Soft - 50 to 100 ppm
pH: 5.4 to 6.0
TEMPERATURE: 64 to 80 F.
BREEDING TEMP: 72 to 76 F.
TANK SIZE: 10 gallon
FOOD: All types of live food, doesn't do good on flake food
WATER CHANGE: Adults - 60% every week
Fry - 40% every four days
FILTER: Sponge type
DECOR: Adults - Bare tank
Fry - java moss?
FEEDING: Two to three times a day
LIGHTING: None - These fish don't like it also the eggs are light sensitive