Parental care in the fish world

Parental care in the fish world

Parental care in the fish world

13 April, 2022, 10:35 am

Last modified: 13 April, 2022, 01:05 pm

For example, the pair I am keeping – convict cichlid, a meso-american species – took over the entire 35-gallon tank. Introducing any other fish during breeding, regardless of size and temperament, becomes a big no-no.

Large pelagic hunters, who do not make any nests too, are well-known for guarding. Snakeheads, as you may call them shoal and gojar, can put up a spectacular show during monsoon. While parents swim at slow pace, hundreds of fries trail rhythmically as if clouds are swirling in a breeze.

Momma’s mouth – a refugium

For the fish world, scientists have coined a term – mouth brooding. This means there are some fishes, which are known to carry their young in their mouth. 

When the fries sense any danger approaching, they see one safe house – mouth of the brood. Many species do this as a last resort. Many others are used to keeping the eggs just after being laid. Arowana and the African lake cichlids are the best at doing this. 

Cockatoo cichlid parent guarding territories. Photo collected

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Cockatoo cichlid parent guarding territories. Photo collected

Cockatoo cichlid parent guarding territories. Photo collected

Fries in this sort of breeding strategy are generally small in number, leaving the mouth-refugium only when they attain a certain size. You may begin wondering – do the parents eat anything in these times? Your guess is right. The obligate mouth-breeders do not take anything.

The underwater kangaroo

We know that kangaroos carry their newborns in their pouch. Well, the gill-breathers can have a similar tactic up their sleeve (or, should I say in pouch?). 

Male sea-horses, sea-dragons and pipe-fishes gestate eggs in their belly pouches and carry them until they hatch. There is one catfish from Brazil, the Brazilian catfish, whose females during pregnancy develop a spongy and sticky belly. 

The eggs, after being laid, stick to the cup-like belly-depressions on the mother. Thus, they always stay under watch.

Babies develop in the pouch of the male Leafy Sea-dragon. Photo Australian Museum

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Babies develop in the pouch of the male Leafy Sea-dragon. Photo Australian Museum

Babies develop in the pouch of the male Leafy Sea-dragon. Photo Australian Museum

Here comes the aquatic cuckoo

No different to what a cuckoo does, the cuckoo catfish lays eggs in other fish’s nests. Native to Africa, they target nesting and mouth-brooding cichlids. 

As soon as the male creates a diversion, the female lays eggs while the cichlid parents are busy warding off the interlopers. The catfish fries (only one or two) get into the mouth-shelter after hatching. 

There they sustain on cichlid fries. And one day, after devouring all fries, when the poor cichlid host can no longer hold them in mouth, they emerge.

Story of the yearlings

Many killifishes have a lifespan of one year or so. They do the act of breeding very differently – unique than anyone can imagine. These fishes live in seasonal pools, meaning when they will be gone, their temporary pool will follow likewise. 

But, that alone cannot stop life. The killis find a way and they bury their eggs under substrate. The eggs themselves can subsist on the least amount of moisture. 

The extent is so extreme that these eggs are traded as plant seeds. Order one pack on Amazon, get them into your tank and be sure to have stunning killifishes!

The more the merrier

Maybe while reading this article, you are multitasking and having a platter of delicious hilsa eggs and thinking of the strategy fishes might take in breeding. 

Hilsa is built for speed. There is no room for care or anything sluggish and soft. Yet, they do thrive. Shads, tunas and many other open-water fast swimmers lay millions of eggs. 

Out of millions, merely 1{aa306df364483ed8c06b6842f2b7c3ab56b70d0f5156cbd2df60de6b4288a84f} reach adulthood; a pretty handsome figure in a breeding attempt and a victory for the species. So, the strength herein lies with the numbers.

Fishes are not simple and primitive as they are seen – vulnerable out of water and smelly to many. Fishes have their own ways of wonder. Try petting a cichlid pair or order a pack of killifish eggs. Maybe try watching a snakehead couple with a swerving shoal of fingerlings. You will get the essence.