Old Codger's Tip's Page......

This is a condensed range of tip's & advice mainly taken from my articles
(Fish House Diaries & Fish House.net cowritten with the help of Alan Green) in the BKA Newsletters & Website.

Tim Addis

Alan Green

Fish Have Stopped Laying

If your fish have been laying but suddenly stopped you might like to check these things out:-

1. Check both fish are still in the tank. One may have died or jumped out. The male may have driven the female too hard & killed her.
2. When did you last do a water change? Sometimes all it takes is regular water changing to keep them laying especially in small tanks.
3. Have your fish outgrown the size of tank? Many Fundulopanchax start laying at a small size but grow considerably. That cute little pair may not be so little anymore.
4. Check pH & nitrates. Again this is a water change related problem. Nitrates can be controlled with plants such as Indian Fern (Ceratopteris).
5. Has your water level dropped through evaporation? If you added salt to the original level it will become more saline the lower the level.
6. Sometimes fish will go through a natural resting stage or be a seasonal breeder. If your fish are wild you can expect this on many fish especially semi annual sp.
7. Has the water temperature changed? It's a good idea to make a note of the water parameters when the fish are laying well.
8. Have your mops gone over? If they start to smell take them out & sterilise by disinfectant or boiling water - give them a good clean & replace.

What's the cure?

1. Try a water change with soft water with a pH of around 6.
2. Move the fish to a larger tank with a peat base. I have found this to work well.
3. Diet. Feed live foods especially mosquito larvae or bloodworm.

Egg Problems

It's a common occurance with Killifish breeders to find eggs turning bad in the egg container. I have listed some reasons you can explore -

1. Are your fish too old? Fundulopanchax for example should be bred young for maximum fertility. Old fish commonly lay infertile eggs. It should be noted here that I have observed eggs of Fp.fallax turning milky white but this was a normal part of their incubation. Some breeders threw these away thinking they were infertile but in fact they do start to darken & eventually hatch.
2. Do you collect daily? Some fish lay eggs which may take some hours to 'harden off'. Handling eggs too soon after laying can cause problems. I find eggs from
Aplocheilus lineatus allways go bad if handled. For this you can take out the mop & hang a few strands up with a plastic clothes peg to drain excess water & store the whole mop in a plastic bag or just put the whole mop in a seperate tank.
3. Light. Storing in over bright conditions is not good. For longer incubation forms the embryo will start to use up energy as the metabolic rate increases causing either death inside the egg as the embryo has insufficient energy to break out or very weak emerging fry exhausted to the point of death.
Try very dark or even light proof containers.
4. Water. Is your water too hard? Sperm required to fertilise the egg has to travel through the water. Soft water keeps the sperm alive longer to carry out its job.
5. Are you storing eggs in water or on peat? Top spawners which keep fungussing can do a lot better on a damp layer of peat. By peat I mean old well soaked peat. Fresh peat can be so acidic as to burn the eggs up & cause them to disintegrate. I've used peat free compost with good results.
6. Try sterilising your fingers before picking. Numerous anti bacterial washes are available.
7. Products like 'Kick Start' are used in commercial fish farms to wash the eggs on collection killing off any potential disease problems. If the egg is infertile it will obviously still go bad.

Fish Breeding

Aphyosemion elberti we found, layed best in water of pH5.5

Silver sand is an excellent media for annuals. We use it for Nothobranchius & South American ploughers. To harvest eggs from it first take out fish, plants etc. Stir up the sand & allow to settle. Pass a fine mesh net in a figure '8' movement through the water & put the eggs into a small tub such as a soap powder measure. Repeat 3-4 times. Hold this over a weak light to inspect for eggs & store in either water or straight into peat/coconut fibre.
Another advantage of this collection method is that you can do a 90% water change & stir the sand up to break the hard crust which forms within a couple of weeks of a new tank setup.
Fish will find it difficult to break through this crust to lay eggs.
It is recommended to collect eggs at least every 2 weeks using this method.

Fred Wright in BKA newsletter No.101, January 1974 reported observing a faster growth rate of A.ahli fry when placed with an adult female of the same sp.

Delicate eggs from top spawning sp. which are known to repeatedly go bad when handled can be handled by hanging up the mops (without squeezing or making contact with eggs) with clothes pegs by a single strand on a 'clothes line' set up in the fish house. These then 'drip dry' until semi-dry or very moist & stored in a plastic bag with sufficient air for the usual 10-14 days (or longer depending on the sp.). This method as used by Mr.J.Trigg esquire.

Force Hatching

Stubborn eggs which are eyed up & refuse to hatch can be forced in a number of ways. These methods are not always successful but worth a try.

1. Add a small amount of microworm to the egg container.
2. Put the eggs in a vial & carry them around in your pocket.
3. The AKA have used pressure by dropping the vial into a deep tank.
4. Rivulus eggs can be enticed to hatch by putting an airline into the egg tank & turning it up quite high.

Live Food

Vinegar Eel's seem to do best in red wine vinegar mixed 50/50 with water. To feed them, put some in a small container with the vinegar/water mix & add a small amount of Bicarbonate of Soda to neutralise the acid & put it into the fry tubs.
These things require no feeding as they feed from airborne bacteria - hence you find them at the surface of the jar.

To clean Tubifex worms put them in a cat litter tray & trickle water through it. Place a few pices of raw potato in the middle of the worms. The starch is ingested which cleans the worms out.

A children's paint brush is most useful for controlling the amount of newly hatched brine shrimp & micro worm to fish/fry.

Infusoria - forget crushed baked lettuce leaves & grasses I have never had any success with them. I use beef heart leftovers which have been fed to the fish. Some is always left to turn fungussed which is dip tubed out & put into a jar. Within days a culture will become established.

Infusoria can be cultured with dried cubes of Turnip. Try a few cubes in some old aquarium water. After a couple of days infusoria can be observed. This is considered a good way of growing Paramecium which can be observed in 7-14 days.

Another good suggestion from a BKA member is to use Gram flour which is obtained from Asian food stores. Mix into a slurry & add a few drops to a culture jar containing water.

A BKA member advised using yellow dog biscuits to feed to White worms. He also uses a sprig of stinging nettle to keep flies off the cultures. To add multi vitamin supplements to be bio encapsulated to white worm use SA 37 (a dog/cat multi vitamin) added to Ready Brek.

Hydra is a common nuisance which can be eradicated before feeding by putting 2 crushed Campden tablets into a 5 gallon bucket of Daphnia/pond food & aerating. Another method is to use ammonium chloride available from chemists.

To find a good Daphnia pond look for cattle/pigs etc which drop there faeces into the water or in a field that drains into a pond. Daphnia feed on Zooplankton which feeds off decaying material.

Mosquito larvae is undoubtedly one of the best live foods around. I made a useful discovery/observation recently in the absolute best way of getting a bumper crop. Gardeners know the benefits of collecting sheep manure to feed tomato plants etc. I set up a 10 gallon vat with about 4 gallons (volume) of sheep manure & filled the vat with water. This was set up in April & by July had settled down so you can imagine it's brewing nicely to a dark liquid. The top is completely covered in mozzie egg rafts with a thick population in the mixture living quite happily.
On a similar vein the plant Comfrey is also used as a liquid feed. Take leaves from this plant & put in a tub of water to mature. When the water turns black it will also give a bumper crop of mozzies around June/July. It is interesting that this plant fixes nitrogen from the atmosphere so in theory nettles should also work well.

Decapsulating brine shrimp eggs & many other tips can be found here http://www.cincikillies.org/fishroomfoods.htm


Beware those bottles of treatment lying unused for a long time. They can become very strong & concentrated through evaporation. A normal dose could end up being ten times as strong.

Shimmies or 'swinging sickness' can be cured with a 50% water change.

Velvet. This parasite thrives in acid water. The answer is to control the pH of the water. Peat is a medium all Killie keepers have used as a standard thing - Dump it. West African fish don't know what peat is in the wild. They use laterite mud, leaf litter, hanging bankside vegetation etc.
If you must use it soak it well & keep changing the water in the soak bucket. The water from fresh peat can go down to 3·5.
White Spot & Velvet don't just occur they have to be introduced. Quarantine new fish properly.
I have not seen either disease for at least 10 years in my fish houses.

General Maintenance

Oak Leaves in the tank give a natural look to the set-up, release tannin & colour the water like weak tea which helps to show colour in the fish. They also provide good hiding places for females.

If you are short of space in your fish house & there is nowhere to age/store warm water for water changes try filling strong plastic bags with water & hanging a couple from the roof supports.

Acid water can be made by setting up a deep tank & three quarters filling it with peat topped up with rainwater. After a while the water will drop to around pH 3 which can be diluted up to the required level.

To prevent egg fungus dilute this water to pH4 to pH6. This water should be brought up to at least pH6 as soon as development can be seen in the egg. If fry hatch at pH4 they will burn their gills out.

Hydochloric acid can be used to make the water acid & can be bought at around 35% strength. This is ideal for newly imported fish where the acid level is high. Hydrochloric acid evaporates, returning the water to its original level.
Phosphoric acid is a better source for permanently keeping water acid. This is a dangerous acid to handle though.

Trout pellets crushed to a coarse powder with a rolling pin (the pellets need to be softened first by moistening) is a very good food where no live food is available. It provides some bulk to the fish. Fry can be fed a finer grade powder.


The plastic measures inside soap powder boxes after being thoroughly washed are very useful for feeding & egg inspection containers. Another use is for a daily feed quantity of beef heart which can be frozen in the containers & covered with a plastic film to prevent evaporation. Float the container in hot water prior to feeding to de-thaw.They also come in handy to inspect eggs over a weak light.

Ice cube trays can be used for sensitive eggs which fungus easily. Put one egg in each cube & if you get a bad one it will not infect another. These are also useful for storing beef heart in the freezer.

Another egg container which is useful is the black coffee sample jars which are small & virtually light proof.

Fish Room Maintenance A dehumidifier is a useful tool in any fish house & takes out all the moisture in the air which can form on colder surfaces. My fish house can quickly form water which drops from the polycarbonate roof when the dehumidifier is full.
To check your fish house to see if you need a dehumidifier leave a tray of salt out. If it collects moisture (does not remain free flowing) & sticks to the spoon you might consider using one.
I collect about 1-2 gallons daily which is used in killie tanks with a little tapwater to 'roughen' it up.

Ceratopteris or Floating Fern is a great plant to provide surface cover which makes the fish feel more secure. It can also be planted in the medium & new plants will grow on the parent leaves. It is an excellant indicator of water pH. If the water starts to become alkaline the plant dies back. It thrives at pH 6 which is a good pH for most Killies.
This sp. is not salt tolerant & no more than 1 teaspoonful should be put in water containing them.

Java Moss - Vesicularia is a tough little plant & a vigorous grower. A good tip is to put a piece outside in an old tank or plastic tub & leave it to grow. It thrives in all temperatures, I've even seen it cased in ice in my tubs. I put one piece in a 40 gallon rain butt all winter & had a great harvest in the spring.
This growth is very dark green & seems to look healthier than that kept in tropical tanks.
Be very careful in moving the plant from tank to tank as mop spawners will lay their eggs in it as sure as God made little green apples & you risk cross breeding if fry grow on in the new set up. One remedy is to put the moss outside for a month (particularly in the winter months). Another is to transfer the plant from a tank containing Aphyosemion to a new tank containing Epiplatys (& vice versa), this way you cannot mistakenly produce a hybrid. It's a good idea to keep notes on where the plant was transferred from as you may need a male/female of that sp. in the future.

Riccia is a great floating plant but can prove difficult to keep with killies. The great secret of maintaining this sp. is to do so in HARD water. Soft water will not see it grow at the same pace & can kill it completely.
I set up a shallow tank with 3" of hard tapwater as a growing set up & transfer a small amount to a killie set up where I use soft acid water. The plant will eventually fade away but can be replaced from the stock tank.
Their are different forms or cultures of this plant. Some flourish whilst others fail. I found that by keeping small amounts of the plant in different set ups including outside tubs proved a good way of keeping the plant going.
The best way I found was to push a piece of plant into a bottom layer of dead moss in a partly shaded tank. Water was half rain/half tap. This grew faster than when left floating.

Salvinia. Good floating plant forming chains. I use it.

Duckweed. A real bain to any fishkeeper especially with floating plants. A most aggressive plant which is a real pain to get rid of. It can be useful though to suck out nitrates & help prevent killies jumping. Personally I try to eliminate it from my fish house & feed it to my compost heap. It does make good fertiliser.

Tropical Hornwort was brought to my attention as a small strand in a bag of fish. I let it float & it quickly established itself. A very useful plant in killie tanks which rapidly fills a tank. Don't bother planting it as it does best floating in good light. Harder water is best for this plant. A 50/50 rain/tap water mix is just about OK. Pure rainwater (or soft water) will kill it.
Regarded as an essential plant in my fish house.

Java Fern. I let this plant sort itself out by just throwing it into a tank without planting it. Dick Cox gave me a few pieces which rapidly grew with young plants being distributed through the fish house. Grows well in light or shade in harder water but a 50/50 rain/tap water mix is OK.