One of my earliest fish memories was a 30-gallon display tank that my dad had in our living room, which showed off some of his fancy Blue Delta Tail guppies...He was a serious guppy breeder, and growing up around that was just so cool. I got to help hatch brine shrimp at age four, clean filters at age five...well, you get it. I had my first non-livebearing-fish spawning- Rasbora- when I was like 7 or 8 years old.
Yet, I can't forget the aesthetic of seeing crystal clear water and tons of my favorite all-time plant, Water Sprite (Ceratopteris thalictroides). And there was something about seeing that thick covering of plants in that tank which was compelling, yet serene. Occasionally, you'd see a few babies poking in and out of the 'sprite, and that was always so exciting! And I thought about all of the guppy breeding books that I poured over as a kid, reading about small tanks with dense growth of Water Sprite for giving birth to, and later rearing fry. I loved the idea of rearing fry in nicely planted tanks...tanks which looked good, as well as provided some utility for spawning. To this day, Water Sprite is my favorite aquatic plant, hands down.
Yet, plastic breeding traps were becoming more and more prevalent with livebearer enthusiasts...and I could see what was attractive about them from a functionality standpoint: I mean, you could easily isolate and collect the fry, and you didn't have to keep them in the "birthing tank" for growout...It was about efficiency and function. Very important if you're a serious breeder producing for show or commercial purposes and avoiding losses by hungry mothers, I suppose...but again- just sort of a utilitarian vibe that seemed to me to be so clinical...so...sterile.
Fast forward a few years, and I was playing with killifish, and I was keeping fishes like Epiplatys (my fave genus of killies), and some Fp. gardneri, and some assorted "top spawning" Aphysemion species...And I was really into breeding them...and yeah, I tried the spawning mop thing in bare aquairum, which DID work well at getting a maximum egg count and facilitating easy removal...highly efficient-but it seemed to lack- I dunno- soul, maybe?
There was something oddly compelling- romantic, even- about looking into a densely platned 2.5 gallon tank and caching a glimpse of a few fry poking about. Occasionally, one would pop out that was already a nicely-sized juvenile- a very pleasant byproduct of having a safe area to hunker down in as he/she grew. I fell back in love with this concept when I spent some time admiring my friend Dave's densely planted livebearer tank, replete with tons of different fry of different types flitting in and out of the plants!
When I bred Kribs, I just had no desire to use a clay flower pot or coconut shell for a "cave". Nope- better to supply lots of cool rocks and let the fish do what they had done for eons...find a good spot in the rocks and occupy it as they saw fit.
Again, much respect to the super breeders of fishes like Discus and Angels who use spawning cones and such in a sterile tank and enjoy tremendous success. I know that these are touchy spawners, and that efficiency and all that jazz is so important. But again, I guess I'd rather forgo some efficiency for a little bit of soul. I mean, your talking to a guy who hand selects every botanical item he ships...inefficient by any business standard, but entirely satisfying by other standards.
I guess it boils down to how we look at it as fish breeders. I mean, I have nothing but admiration for those who breed. You inspire and motivate everyone. I suppose the efficiencies and utilitarian practices and...breeding traps- go with the territory to soem extent. Yet, I have a lot of trouble wrapping my head around the idea of a bare tank and a rock or whatever to spawn fishes. I guess I look at the spontaneous clutches of Apisto fry, or whatever, that appear in our customers' botanical-style aquariums, and I think to myself, "THEY'RE not in a sterile breeding tank...look what happened!"
Sure, some "control" might be ceded by just keeping fishes you intend to spawn in an attractively arranged, more natural setting...but is that always a bad thing? I mean, I suppose if your hobby is the actual spawning and rearing of fishes, you want to do everything in your power to control the situation and create the best possible outcome. I just can't get my head around that "breeding trap" sort of concept, for some reason...Which, of course, is why I'll never be a great fish breeder!
On the other hand, as a "incidental" breeder of fishes, I can appreciate the hard work that the serious guys and gals do, and their technique- as much as I do the spontaneity and joy of finding your Rams guarding a clutch of eggs in your biotope tank, or discovering that you wild Bettas are spawning in the pods you laid out...
In the end, we all have our specialties. We all enjoy this amazing hobby how we want to... And it's great to breed fishes- whether it's sort of "accidental", because you created a great habitat that encouraged it, or because you employed all sorts of procedure, technique, and gear..like a breeding trap, for example.
What's your take on this stuff? Are you an "opportunistic fish breeder", who relies on nature to do a lot of the work, or are you a hardcore, dyed-in-the-wool fish breeder, who uses skill, technique, and specialized equipment to conduct controlled breeding? Have you "crossed over" and tried the other way?
Until next time...keep doing what you do.
Stay bold. Stay engaged. Stay dedicated.
And Stay Wet.