Anyone who has ever kept African cichlids, particularly those of Lake Malawi will testify that they are amongst the easiest to breed. They'll get down and dirty quicker than Paris Hilton. And a lot better to look at.

That was how this novice came to be the some 200 Malawi fry in the past year. The recipe was simply, add pair of Malawi's in this case a previously unmatched pair of Yellow Labs, water, food and wait. Courtship? No time for that messing about. Dinner and the movies? My arse! They don't even need Barry White on the stereo.

The holding period for my Labs seems to be about 2 weeks, or just under.

After that and you are running the risk of her spitting out the fry in the community, where they become tasty treats for the others.

The solution is to segregate her after a week or so (to let her acclimatise to a new tank) and wait for her to spit out the fry as nature intended or to strip (forcibly remove) the fully formed living fry from her mouth.

There are several tried and trusted ways to accomplish this. Here are a few:

1.       Catch the mother and place into a breeding net. With your hand well soaked in tank water capture her in your hand gently, but not too loosely as she will frantically try to escape and in doing so potentially damage her fins or worse. Hold her with her head at your thumb. You then need to pry open her mouth. Now, don't be too afraid to hurt her, it is perfectly safe to force open her mouth as long as you do not over extend it. I use my (clean) finger nail but a clean toothpick or other such non sharp implement will do. With this accomplished and her mouth held open you can hold her back under the water and let the fry swim out on their own. This may take some time and the quicker the better for everyone. If you look down her throat you will see when she is empty. With the fry safe in the breeding net you may release the mother back into the community or to another holding tank if you want to let her recover.


2.       As above only instead of releasing the fry into a breeding net I have a spare 60l tank. I let the fry drop straight into this and return the mother to the community.


3.       There are ways to expedite the expulsion of the fry. A small turkey baster or better yet a pipette can be used for this. There is also a device sold specifically for this, the name of which escapes me. Holding the mouth open you insert the tip of your chosen device and squirt water into her mouth. This literally flushes out the fry. Although it looks violent the process is super quick and a lot less stressful overall on the poor mother. 


4.        Internal filter jet. I have a small Fluval internal in my fry tank. There is a considerable water jet produced by this machine and I utilise it to perform the flushing instead of a pipette or other device. I find it to be less invasive and stressful on the mother. Simply hold her mouth open and lower her face first into the stream of the filter. The fry are blown out quickly and the fish doesn't have the extra worry of a big plastic tube shoved into its gob.




Sometimes I let the mother recuperate in a small tank, other times I put her straight back into the community, but I only keep her segregated if she has had a really stressful time or is very thin looking. Don't forget she hasn't eaten in up to 2 weeks. A couple of days of rest and feeding and she is ready to rejoin. A few days later and they'll be at it again like two teens at a disco.  

These are the methods that work for me. I have not lost a single fry or mother during any of these seemingly barbaric procedures, however have had a few disasters after....but that’s another story.  


Darah Doyle – March 2008