Spawning of the "RED LIZARD CAT"
Rineloricaria sp. "L10a"
by Eric Bodrock

These attractive, smaller sized, "whiptail" suckermouth catfish are relatively new in the hobby, first seen here in the United States maybe four years ago.  At that time, they demanded a good price and availability was limited.  The first time that a good friend of mine, Leo "Skip" Waskowiak, saw them, he splurged and purchased a handful of younger fish with hopes of someday spawning them.  If I recall, it took him about a year to raise them to their adult size.  Once they reached adulthood, Skip seemed to have no problem in spawning them at will.  Anytime you would walked into his fishroom, you could take a flashlight and look into some of the spawning pipes and find eggs, often finding more than one spawn at a time.

     Skip kept them spawning for a couple of years and placed hundreds into the hands (or should I say tanks) of hobbyist through out the states.  About a year and a half ago, Skip began downsizing his fishroom due to some health problems, in the process he ended up losing most of his adult Red Lizards.  At that point, I decided to hang on to the handful of young I had received from him, with hopes of raising them up as future breeders for myself.  Skip did manage to save a couple of his adults, which he gave to me to add to my group.

     As the months passed, mine continued to grow well and put on some nice size.  They will eat just about anything.  My group's diet consisted of frozen bloodworms, frozen chopped krill, frozen or canned green beans, a little bit of live baby brine shrimp every now and then and live blackworms, which they seemed to favor! 

     After six months, with them now at a sexable adult size, I began my attempts to spawn them.  The males have a brown body with dark markings; also, the shape of the head is different with them, showing a slightly more pointed "nose".  In addition, when in spawning condition the males will show a lot of "hair" on the sides and tops of their heads.  The females have a more impressive body color of a dusty rusty-red.  Both sexes reach the same adult size of four inches (10cm), with the females showing a bit of a thicker body, especially when filled with eggs.

     For my first attempt to spawn them, I separated out two pair and placed them each in their own bare tank.  I used a fifteen-gallon aquarium, filtered with a single smaller sized Hydro-sponge filter.  Temperatures maintained in the upper seventy degree Fahrenheit range.  The pH ranged 6.8 - 7.2 between the weekly water changes.  Several six inch long pieces of one inch and one and a half inch diameter black PVC type pipe, which were glued to small plates of glass, were added for them to use as spawning caves.  The pipes are glued to glass so they have a sort of a base, not allowing them to roll, keeping them in the position you place them in, preventing foods from getting trapped under them and making them easy to remove if need be.  Well, after several months, even with both females heavy with eggs, nothing happened.  I tried water changes, more airflow and varied pH.  My best guess as to why they would not spawn was that they were simply too young and not sexually mature.

    Thinking that it was going to be easy to spawn them and then being totally stumped, I decided to call Skip and discuss what he did to spawn his group.  There were a few things we talked about that I think I needed to do to get them to spawn.  First and probably the most important need is for very heavy circulation with saturated aeration.  Second is a higher temperature.  Third was cleaner water.  

     After formulating a game plan, I was ready to try again.  This time I used a thirty-gallon aquarium that was on a higher shelf so I could keep a better eye open for what was happening in the tank.  In the tank, I added a large Hydro-sponge "V" filter along with a large airstone.  Both devices were driven by a strong and vigorous airflow, resulting in a strong current and saturation of the water with air.  Along with the PVC pipes mentioned above, I added a couple of pieces of cured bamboo for additional spawning sites.  I positioned them on the tank bottom so that the current would run thru them. The bottom of the tank was bare with the underside (outside) of the tank painted black to prevent light from entering from below, for their comfort and security. Also for their security and comfort, I placed solid "privacy flaps" on the outside of the tank to prevent light from reaching the spawning pipes.  These "privacy flaps" are made of a solid colored, rigid paper stock and hinged to the glass with tape across the top so they can be lifted to view inside the pipes to check for eggs.  Diet remained the same as mentioned earlier.  Water changes continued weekly but with larger amounts changed each time and their temperature increased to eighty-two degrees Fahrenheit. 

     I figure I had eight males and four females at this point in the group and they seemed to be happy in this set up.    I was anticipating a spawn within a short time, especially since the females were filled with eggs.  They were active and eating well.  Everything looked like it should have to recreate Skip's spawning set up. However, the days turned to weeks and the weeks turned to months with no results.  I was beginning to give up hope on them.  Then one morning, while doing my routine check for spawns, I spotted a male in one of the pipes sitting on a cluster of about sixty blue-green eggs!  You cannot miss the eggs when you see them; they are about 2.5mm in diameter and brightly colored.  

     I immediately set up a two-gallon tank with water from the spawning tank to use as a hatching tank.  I removed the pipe, without the male, and placed it on an angle against the side.  I placed an airstone just under the pipe so that a gentle stream of tiny bubbles passed thru the pipe.  I intended for this to replace the males job of cleaning them, plus I removed any chance of them being eaten.  The hatch tank was placed in a dark area of my fishroom where no bright lights could reach it.  I also placed a dark cover over the top to block out light, just for insurance. 

     As the days passed, more and more eggs appeared to go bad.  On the morning of the eleventh day, the eggs began to hatch.  The fry have a large egg sac and scatter about the tank, clinging to anything.  They are light in color with faint bands and approximately 8-9 mm in total length.  It takes a good two full days for them to absorb their egg sac and become free-swimming.  I started them immediately on microworms and live baby brine shrimp.  They eagerly accept both of the foods and eat so much that it appears they have an egg sac again! 

   Within a few days of feeding, I moved the fry into a bare ten-gallon tank, filtered with a smaller sized sponge filter.  Almost all the fry take to the sides of the filter to feed off the material that the filter traps.  After several more days, green beans and assorted pellet foods were added to their diet and accepted by them.  Rate of growth is rapid, reaching up to one and a half inch (TL) in just seven weeks. 

     I have had four spawns up to this time with mixed results.  Twelve survived from the first spawn, about forty from the second, only two from the third and none from the forth.  I am sure that the low hatch rate is due to contamination of the spawn by a few bad eggs.  I am now starting to think that it might be better to leave the male with the eggs, hoping that he will do the job of cleaning the eggs and prevent the decaying eggs from destroying the good eggs.  Next time they spawn, I will try to move him, along with the eggs in the pipe, into the hatching tank.

     My thoughts on what took me so long to spawn them is one of two things; either they simply were too young or they are a seasonal spawner.  Whatever the reason, I am glad they are finally producing young for me.  To see a group of the fry together in a tank puts a smile on my face every time!  

  Eric Bodrock, August 2004


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