ODESSA BARB (PUNTIUS PADAYAMA)
OR TICTO BARB.
As someone who had been away from the hobby for 20 years or so due to working away from home, I was looking forward to my first breeding project in a long time. Don`t get me wrong, I wasn`t a prolific ‘breeder’ before, sticking to the easy stuff like cherry barbs, which was my first ever breeding. As far as I`m concerned, the Odessa barb and male in particular is one of the most beautiful fish in the world of fish keeping.
Odessa barbs prefer a cooler temperature and the UK has good ambient, Summer temp`s to breed these fish without using a heater. I installed a heater just in case though but never used it until mid-September and set it at 21c. I set them up in a 15″x12″x12″ bare tank, except for lots and lots of spawning medium, and approximately 2/3rds full of water. I used java moss, artificial spawning mops and feathery man-made materials. There were very little open swimming areas. I also used a sponge filter with just enough air and positioned to provide a gently broken surface. I used an Interpet AP4 pump, pushing out 2×300 ltrs per hour of air at full capacity. We have naturally soft water where I live and the Ph was 7.2.
The water temperature was 20c during the day and as this was July, the overnight temp`s would barely drop. Ideal I thought.
I used water from my community tank so the parents wouldn`t get a shock when introducing them to the ‘matrimonial home’. My fish are always very well fed with flake, frozen and as it was the right time of year, an abundance of live food. Daphnia, mosquito larvae and glassworm I caught myself. There was no need to bring the parents into breeding condition separately (as is often the case) as the female was plump and obviously carrying eggs. The males (especially in the morning, at first light) were showing an intense red bar along the side, more than usual, so that told me they were ready ‘to go’.
I selected my most promising looking pair from the 4 males and 4 females I had in my community tank and put them into their new home on the evening of Tuesday, the 27th July 2010. I waited until the weather forecast said a nice sunny day was due as Odessa barbs usually spawn in the morning, and as the breeding tank was below a window, I wanted them to have a good sunny morning. This is not imperative but felt it would help. I was also going to video record the event for posterity, so this was another reason for wanting good light.
So……. the next morning, the pair were observed doing their courtship ritual of chasing each other in and out of the spawning medium, shimmying together and coupling up side-by-side while swimming frantically around the tank. It was typical courting behaviour. Being the gentleman that I am, I left them to it.
By the afternoon, the female was a lot slimmer and was kinda hiding. Not the same behaviour I`d seen in the morning so assumed they had finished spawning. Odessa’s will eat their eggs so removed the parents and returned them to the community tank. Bad mistake. I lost the female the next day, possibly due to stress. In hindsight, she should have gone into a tank on her own to recuperate. I`m guessing that`s what killed her anyway.
Of course I began looking for eggs and couldn`t see any. In my mind though, I knew they`d spawned. Next day (Thursday) I got up to see around 50-60 eggs and they were forming embryos. I also removed the man-made spawning medium at this stage but left the java moss. Quite a few eggs were in it but most on the tank floor. I retained the medium in a bucket of tank water for observation in case there were eggs amongst it. There were not.
Success for the first part.
Hatching and rearing
The eggs began hatching on the Friday afternoon and into Saturday and the only reason I knew was because I thought the eggs had fungussed and I tried to siphon them out with a pipette. I saw a little wiggle so left the tank alone. Maybe they weren`t fungussed after all. It transpired that some had though. The newborn were VERY difficult to see. I went out and bought a magnifying glass. A tremendous help if you`re breeding fish. By the Sunday, they`d all hatched and most were hanging on the tank sides. Some were on the floor.
By Tuesday the 3rd August all of the fry were free swimming. I also introduced an apple snail at this point to start an infusoria colony in the tank. 1st food for the fry was on its way.
On the 4th I started to feed the fry on Paramecium, a microscopic food. A starter culture was very kindly given to me by a fellow club member. After only 3-4 days, you can already start to see the fish`s organs and fins form and take on a ‘barb’ shape.
By the 7th I was feeding microworm 3 times a day. You could actually see their stomach turn white and bloated through feeding. When feeding Nauplii it would turn their stomachs pink
I also increased the air flow (to ¾ of the pumps capacity) and water turbulence here to make the fry swim harder to get their food. This makes for a stronger, healthier fish. In the next few days they were also introduced to newly hatched brine shrimp (Nauplii) and finely ground flake. Also, by this time I was doing a 10-20% water change every day and shock, horror, I used straight tap water. No de-chlorinator, nothing. I just filled the bucket up the day before to allow the water to get to room temp` and de-gas itself. A few cherry shrimps were introduced here as a ‘clean-up crew’.
After 2-3 weeks, as they were now growing quickly, and I could check if there were any runts. Only one was deformed and I think that was because I accidently jammed it in the siphon tube when doing a water change when younger. Total success as far as I was concerned. I didn`t think I would lose them now. They were coming along ‘swimmingly’. You could see the markings start to form now too. First to appear were black marks running down the tail, beside the peduncle. After that, the black spot on the peduncle appeared along with the front of the dorsal being black. After 5-6 weeks, both black spots on the peduncle and behind the gill plate were evident and getting bigger. Without a doubt, these were Odessa barbs. At 4 weeks, they were getting live grindal worm and it was funny at first, watching them suss them out then eat something that was 2-3 times the length of themselves. Some of the bigger ones were also taking frozen AND live bloodworm along with crushed flake. Flake size gradually getting bigger as the fish grow. Below, you can see them feeding on frozen bloodworms.
After a month, the water changes were now up to 40% and a 2nd sponge filter activated. Both running full power and good turbulence. Sometimes I`d change the water twice a day, depending on what I`d been feeding.
At this time, they were moved up to a growing on tank of 24″x12″x15″ At 7-8 weeks, they really begin to colour up and get the dark appearance they have, though these barbs won`t really show their full colours until maybe 4-6 months. Also, they won`t show much in a bare tank. Stick them in a mature, well planted tank and see the difference, even at that age. I was selling them on at the club at 9-10 weeks old. They`ll soon be getting shown as a ‘breeders team’ at any upcoming open shows.
Up until around 2 months, the fish were still a bit shy and would try to hide in the java moss or behind the filters when you approached the tank. Then, all of a sudden, they realised what was happening and now even when you enter the room, they`ll come to the front looking for food. They knew when they were on to a good thing. Now, they are fed 4-5 times a day, mostly flake and live worms.
All in all, this was a very easy fish to breed. Just get the parents into condition first and plan ahead. Assume they will breed so after a week from setting up you will need micro foods. Get your microworm culture going so it`s ready to harvest when you need it. Brine shrimp Nauplii hatches in 24 hours but make sure you have a hatchery. Be prepared to do water changes EVERY day. I mean, one bucket out, one bucket in every day. How difficult is that. These fish need no special requirements in either, their breeding, growing on or general keeping. They`re always active and a wonderful addition to any community tank. Keep them in a group of 6 or more and generally, will not bother your other fish. Just don`t keep them with Betta Splendens (Siamese fighter) or similar. They`re too boisterous to keep with such like fish.
I`d like to say thanks to my wife Mary for her help and support and for putting up with the clutter as I set this tank up in the living room. To a fellow club member and friend, John Reid, for his advice on all aspects of the hobby and for providing me with the starter cultures of all the live foods I needed during this project.
Kirkcaldy Aquarist Society.