Breeding Heckels

Wild Heckels and me


"This way works for my Wild Heckels and me"
How to break all the 'Discus' rules and still succeed.
By: Teddy J.

I suppose I'd better start off with the basics because I want everyone to understand what I do with my fish and why.

Knowing that a fish tank can look spotlessly clean and harbour all sorts of nasties, (A bit like a hospital ward) I like to see a tank with Algae on the back and sides because I believe that it can be healthier and more stable than one with no Algae. Algae have been nature's way of purifying water since the beginning of time. (A bit like a natural waterway).

I like to see a few Planaria worms on the glass of my tanks too because I know Planaria cannot live in poor water. If Planaria are there, they will be removing the bits of food that I can't see, or have missed when siphoning the bottom while doing my daily 10% water changes. Lets face it, Planaria can find bits of left over food that I would need a microscope to find. (Again, in my opinion this is nature's way of keeping things clean).

Discus must have good, clean water in order to thrive. I know this, and so my tanks may not LOOK CLEAN to the uninitiated, but I can assure you that they ARE CLEAN and the water in my tanks is better to drink than the tap water my family and I drink. (I know this because I taste it daily).

Getting Discus to spawn is quite simple. Of course they need to be adult and in good condition. (Which is a different story entirely) I keep their normal living conditions steady and keep them well fed. My breeding stock Discus' are fed at least 4 times a day. 7am. Tetra Bits. 11am. Beefheart mix. 3pm. Live food depending on availability (Earthworms/White-worms/Adult Brine Shrimp/Mosquito Larvae/Baby Live-bearers etc. 6pm. Beefheart mix. This now gives me time to syphon out the day's-uneaten food scraps before the lights go out at 7.30pm.

The lights in my hatchery are on a timer so the fish get 12.5hrs light (day) and 11.5-hrs semi dark (night-light). Temp 30C. and a pH of between 6 and 7 with a total hardness GH +KH of around 150-200ppm.

To sex my Discus I let them pair off and spawn naturally in a group situation so that I can be sure of their sexes. I will assume they are a fertile pair if some eggs are not white after about 30hrs. (I have found that infertile eggs go white within 24 hrs.) The pair will undoubtedly lose this spawn (and the fry, if some develop). When I know that the spawn has definitely disappeared I select the fish I want to breed with.

The selected Pair are then placed into an established breeding tank 36"x 18" x 15" complete with a cycled sponge filter or two, Algae and Planaria. I make sure that the water parameters are the same as the tank(s) they are leaving. I place the spawning site at the opposite end of the tank from the filter(s). This Spawning Site is usually covered in Algae too. The pair will clean it to suit their needs.

My Heckels seem to like a pH of about 4.8 to 5.8, and a dGH + dKH. combined, to be about 1 (or less than 20ppm) to avoid calcification of the spawn.

I use an R/O + tap water mix for all my breeders. I add R/O 75% and tap water 25% to my 50-gal water preparation tanks and adjust with Hydrochloric Acid (HCl.) to bring the topping up water to about pH 4.5 to 5. This also removes a heap of the carbonate hardness brought in with the tap water. Two bags of Peat moss about the size of a 'baseball' in the top up tank give the water a light brown tinge and I think may make the water 'nicer' for them.

As I replace the water (about 10%) daily in the breeding tank the parameters come around very gently over about 10-15 days. The fish should be showing an interest in the spawning site by about this time.

I continue this water change routine until, during and after spawning. Once the fry are wrigglers I try to keep water parameters even steadier until day 14 from the spawning date. I do this by reducing water changes to 5% daily.

On day 15 from spawning I recommence 10% water changes and start to bring the water parameters back to normal 'home parameters' as I described earlier. At this time I start adding small amounts of micro-worms and artemia to the tank directly above the fry every 2hrs. if I can. (Some fry seem to prefer the micro-worms to artemia, though I've only just started using micro-worms). It sometimes takes them a while to start feeding on the food supplied but perseverance has its rewards. They will take it eventually.

20 days after they start free swimming the fry should be very close to 1/2" long and taking the food with relish. Around this time I start adding finely ground beef-heart mix to their diet. They will still be feeding off their parents at this time.

This can go on now for as long as the fry require their parental food or until the parents look like they are getting fed up and want to spawn again. Once the fry seem to be feeding well off the cultured/supplied foods, I empty and then 3/4 fill up an 18"x10"x10" established fry rearing tank with water from the breeding tank and place the fry in for growing on. They will only be in this tank for a couple of weeks at most before they need to be sorted out.

I hope this will help someone to successfully breed his or her Heckel Discus. If only one person succeeds then there will be two breeders of Heckels who "do it my way".

All the best,
teddy, J.

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