Although it is possible to breed this ﬁsh in a ‘community’ tank, tomaximize reproductive activity, pairs should be kept in isolatedquarters. A young pair can successfully be kept in as small asan 18-gallon tank with moderate to high ﬂow. They often tend toprefer to have some macro algae to hide under, so ﬂoating a ballof chaetomorpha may be helpful. Put the tank in a low trafﬁc areaif at all possible.It may also be possible to isolate the pair within an existing reef set up. Sumps and refugiums are often underutilized as areas tokeep ﬁsh, and they may be perfect areas to house a breeding pairof Banggai Cardinalﬁsh. These areas often have an abundance of live foods and may be hidden away in stands, giving the happycouple the privacy that can help them get in the ‘mood’. Banggaisare generally easy to feed, eating a wide variety of prepared foodsincluding frozen mysis, brine shrimp and just about any choppedmeaty food or small crustacean.Banggai Cardinalﬁsh, once established as a pair, prove to bewilling and reliable spawners. They may spawn as frequently asevery 30 days if given the opportunity, although there is evidencethat females are capable of producing eggs as rapidly as every 2weeks, faster than a single male can handle. After a year or two,this reproductive behavior can slow down dramatically – a ﬁsh atthis age is likely past its natural life span and could be considered“old”, though Banggais can live up to 6 years in captivity.Courtship starts in the afternoon and is initiated when the femaleswims parallel to the male, and begins to quiver rapidly. She willthen drop behind the male and quiver rapidly along his other side. This back and forth vibrating dance may occur on the day of,or the days preceeding spawning. The courtship dance in itself does not mean the ﬁsh will mate on that day, only that the ﬁshare getting ready to mate. Interestingly, the courtship dance mayeven continue in the hours immediately after spawning.Banggai Cardinalﬁsh are paternal mouth brooders, meaning themale keeps and incubates the eggs in his mouth as they develop.During spawning, the transfer of eggs from the female into themale’s mouth takes only seconds, so it may not actually be seen.Conﬁrming a spawn, however, is very easy because its effects arequite obvious. The male’s mouth and the area behind and belowthe gill plate become distended (giving him the appearance of afat mouth), and he will also refuse to eat any food. The femalemay “guard” the male following spawning typically for at least acouple days.Make sure to note the date of the spawn, so you will have a goodidea of when to expect the baby ﬁsh to leave the safety of themale’s mouth. This is especially important because the male canactually eat the babies once they hatch.Incubation will typically last between 21 and 25 days, duringwhich time the male will continue to refuse to eat. Many breederswill isolate the male completely during incubation. Some isolatehim after the ﬁrst few days after spawning, some starting aroundday 15 and some don’t isolate the male at all, preferring to strip(more on this below) the babies just before he would normallyspit them out.Extreme care must be taken when moving a brooding male asthe stress of moving him may cause him to spit out the eggs orbabies before they are mature. A clear plastic bag, deli containeror plastic cup rather than a net should be used to catch andmove the male to the ‘nursery’. A refugium makes a particularlygood nursery as it is ﬁlled with good potential ﬁrst foods for newlyhatched Banggai Cardinalﬁsh. As fry release becomes imminent you will begin to see the fry’seyes or ﬁns popping up above the lip of the father’s open mouth –a very exciting and satisfying experience. Some breeders will putthe male into a freshwater livebearer breeding box for the release. These breeder boxes can be obtained from your local aquariumstore. Once the fry emerge, they will swim down through the slatsin the box into the nursery tank while the father remains trappedin the box, unable to eat the newborns. Some breeders will allowthe release of fry to occur naturally, while providing cover, often inthe form of a fake or real sea urchin, where the babies can hidefrom predators. Other breeders ‘strip’ the babies from the mouthof the males as soon as they are observed peeking out in orderto remove any possibility of the father eating the fry.Stripping sounds scarier than it really is. Usually, all it takes toget the male to spit the fry is netting, or touching him with yourﬁnger. If netting or touching is unsuccessful, gently hold the malein wet hands; gently pry his mouth open with your ﬁngernail, orthe round end of a paperclip like a tongue depressor. Dunk themale head ﬁrst into a container of tank water, and then pull himbackwards, up and out of the water. The water should back-ﬂushthrough his gills and out his mouth, causing the fry to spill right out.Make sure to open the mouth and look inside for any stragglers. Afterward, make sure to return the male to the water face up, andopen the mouth one last time to allow any air trapped inside hismouth to escape. After he calms down from this activity, makesure to feed him so he can begin to recover from all the time hedidn’t eat while brooding.
Banggai eggs in a homemade ‘egg tumbler’ at14 days of develop-ment. A simple eggtumbler can be madefrom a glass and anaqua lifter pump tokeep the eggs tum-bling. Image by MattPederson.