Assassin Breeding Methode

Assassin Breeding


Comment on Assassin Methode Breeding
By Chaiyuth Damrongrashasakdi
Translated by Kenneth Damrongrashasakdi

Although usually called "foster parenting" in many circles, it has taken on the name of "assassin" method here in the Kingdom of Thailand.

The technique is not nearly as menacing as the name suggests, although the translation of the word used for "assassin," from Thai is "hand gun." Either way, the word used by the majority of Thai discus breeders, from the naturally skilled illiterate aqua-farmers to those discus-breeding doctoral students of science, has stuck and is most likely here to stay. To understand the nature of one's hired gun, we must first define what his/her job is. The assassin, of any type, does the "dirty work" for an employer. An employer in this sense is of course the discus breeder but also the pair of discus who were the actual parents of a discus brood.

The dirty work is defined to be the tedious and crucial feeding and/or care of discus from the time that they are fertilized embryos attached to a submersed mutant potted plant, known as the discus cone, to the time that they can consume artemia. That is not to say foster parenting must begin at the egg stage or at any specific point, as it is typically in the best interest of the breeder to adjust the method to each and every particular brood and situation.

For myself and many others, I feel the critical time period of three to four days, when discus are first free swimming, and the methods employed by the breeder, is often what defines a successful discus breeding program. The Thais have employed assassins, like in any Chinese based culture, for several hundreds of years, but have only employed discus assassins for the past thirty years or so.

The original brown assassins were usually of the same breed as their cichlid employers. Specifically, they would take care of eggs from other browns. The breeder would typically identify which browns were the more diligent egg layers and which were the most proficient parents. Eggs, as soon as they were laid and fertilized would be transferred to the assassins. Ideally, they would be transferred to an assassin tank that had just laid eggs; but not so many, being inefficient egg producers.

This allowed for a kind of mass production that filled the coffers of many early discus breeders in Thailand. There were those that said, "when the eggs are laid, the money can be counted." Thus at this time, the kind of foster parenting that most often took place, was one of egg care. From this, it evolved into fry care.

This was in part to deal with the "egg buffet" that is so common and well known to all those who attempt to breed discus. To combat the "fry buffet," which would sometimes take place by one set of parents, assassins soon found themselves foster parenting discus hatchlings as opposed to mostly eggs in the initial method.

Young, swim-sticky discus were gently siphoned from their hatching tank, some perhaps still barely stuck to their cone, into the now famous "all-purpose white basin." From there, they would again be siphoned to another tank, the assassin tank, where the assassins would ideally be in a similar stage of raising their own, or perhaps another "employer's" discus fry. Sometimes the lights were dimmed so that the assassin wouldn't sense anything psychologically disturbing, such as discus fry "suddenly materializing" in the tank or "dropping down from the sky."

From these methods and others, such as employing mesh screen egg shields, high volume "lay down" water changes (the water was drained to the point that the discus appeared to lie down in the tank, as appearing to take a nap before being filled again), and even employing divers to trawl the bottom of Bangkok's many klongs (canals) for the meatiest tubeflex blood worms, the Thais came to discover not just the joys of discus as a hobby, but mass production and economies of scale that would have impressed Henry Ford himself. Thailand and much of Southeast Asia, duly represented by Penang, Singapore, Hong Kong, and later on Jakarta and many parts of the Philippines came into the aquarium fish breeding business for economic profit. Things became quite cut throat, and have scarcely become friendlier, since those times.

Fortunately, through times of fierce competition, and more than a few fool hardy ventures by those unfamiliar with the rigors of discus breeding, assassins were readily available to ply their trade. These huge volumes of discus continually inbred and soon to be cross-bred with more wild strains, naturally, or rather unnaturally, began to produce more than a few different kinds of beautiful, odd, and ugly discus hybrids.

The market demanded more and more of these specimens and demand quickly shifted away from the once loved brown. To this day, some might view the true brown as the hard to find piece on the market. As the new hybrids became lighter and more colorful, their brood sizes were at the same time shrinking. Nature had naturally worked against the propagation of mutated breeds, while human kind (at least the discus loving segment), worked in the opposite direction. For better or worse (for better, surely?), the discus lovers won, and turquoise discus both of the darker blues and reds, became the assassins of choice in the Kingdom of Thailand.

In the most unscientific proclamation, many breeders declared young discus fry to be color blind, in that they could not find and attach themselves to their light skinned parents. Others made the hypothesis that perhaps these new mutated breeds were lacking in mucous nourishment for the young fry. Either way, assassins found themselves raising the offspring of some of the rare and more valuable breeds entering the market.

Avid discus hobbyists anxiously awaiting a climax to this article, hoping that the secret of the assassin will be revealed herein may be somewhat disappointed. In truth, the foster parent discus, like the breeder who raised it, is merely a naturally skilled guardian. It is a rare thing to find an honest breeder, exporter, or aquarium fish merchant who will part with a mated pair of discus. Those who know discus probably understand this. Mated pairs are hard to come by, and if raised from the cone, who could possibly part with them after such a long relationship together?

The assassin discus can only be even more rare. The foster parent discus, left to nature, will probably produce few full broods of offspring. However, given the opportunity, they will raise 2-3 consecutive broods of other's offspring, before being in need of "maternity" leave. By the way, this is important too, or you will find that your assassins will expire. Be sure to give them time to recuperate so that they may regenerate their mucous coats.

They are typically larger discus, in the 5.5" plus inch range. The most common foster parents work in pairs, although occasionally, one will chance upon a solitary male assassin, who because of his size and predisposition is willing and able to take care of large broods of fry single-handedly.

But finally, I must stress again, that there is no set formula or interview process that will find you a good foster parent. And you shouldn't buy one from anyone who says that they have some, as only a fool would give them up. Like everything else in this hobby of discus raising or breeding, there is an element of luck, coupled with patience, skill and passion for the pastime.

Chaiyuth Damrongrashasakdi

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