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Albino Herichthys pantostictus — A rare discovery in the fish room

By , 2016. printer
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Classification: Captive maintenance, Central and North America.

" First report of albinism on Herichthys pantostictus captive bred in the United States of America "

albino pantostictus Juvenile Herichthys pantostictus at 120 days of age. Photo by Dan Sharifi.

Background

This is the story of the Albino Pantostictus, a first time offering to the cichlid community that has a very unlikely path to our hobby. Some time ago, I managed to get my hands on roughly thirty, 5 centimeters (2-inch) Hericthys patostictus. This beautiful fish is endemic to Mexico. The fish attain a size anywhere between 20-25 cm (8-10 inches) in captivity and display bilateral coloration during breeding very similar to their close relatives, Yellow Labridens and White Labridens.

The Blue Labridens (Herichthys pantostictus), as with all Herichthys, tend to display tremendous conspecific aggression once they start nearing sexual maturity at 10 cm (4 inches). My idea for maintaining these fish was to do what I had always done with fish that are particularly aggressive toward each other; crowd them in their environment so they could not pick on or concentrate on one specific fish.

For the better part of one year, this strategy worked nearly perfectly. The fish appeared to have an established pecking order in their 1,100 liters (300-gallon) vat that provided for broken lines of sight and ample hiding places. Aggression was limited to my bimonthly breakdown and cleaning of the vat. Since cichlids have topographical memory of their terrain and environment, I always take great care in setting everything back in the exact placement prior to breaking down the vat and cleaning it. Changing up the placement things almost always leads to additional aggression in my opinion.

The beginning of the end

At about the one-year mark, one morning led to the discovery of a dead male in the colony. At first I did not think much of this, as the remaining fish in the colony seemed to be behaving normally. It appeared to me that the dynamics of their socialization had not changed at all. However, I would soon discover that I had misdiagnosed the situation completely.

What started off seemingly with one dead fish due to aggression led to a series of deaths over the next several days. I panicked and because I was anxious to save the remaining colony, I broke down the vat and reestablished the fish in new environments.

During the process of breaking down the colony, I realized there were two very dominant males that were fighting for territory and killing everything in hopes of courting a female. These males were near 25 cm (10 inches) in size, and considerably more aggressive than any other fish in the colony. I quickly pulled the two males, along with two females, and set the pairs up in their own tanks that included dividers.

Not thinking much of it at the time, the two pairs of Blue Labridens remained in those tanks until I could come to a decision on how to proceed with these fish. At smaller sizes, these same fish had spawned for me in the past; therefore, I had ample offspring to reestablish a new colony in the future, but I decided to wait and see if the two pairs of fish would spawn in a divided tank.

Herichthys pantostictus Herichthys pantostictus female with her spawn in an aquarium with the incomplete divider method of breeding them. Photo by Dan Sharifi.

A rare breed

Anyone who has spent time in central Florida in the summer time knows that you can only get work done very early in the morning or late in the evening due to the heat. On one of these hot mornings, I noticed the unmistakable breeding colors on one pair of Blue Labridens I had set up in the tanks. As I got closer to the tank, I confirmed my suspicions, seeing a batch of easily 400 eggs.

While I was happy the pair had spawned, I had raised many juveniles from the previous spawns of the original colony so I wasn't in dire need of additional fry of this species. I decided to let the eggs hatch and grow out with their parents.

In my opinion, the bilateral coloration of the fish during spawning is one of the species more attractive features. I suspect this is what probably drew my wife’s attention.

Some three days later, the eggs hatched and three days after that, the fry were free swimming. My wife decided to take over the feeding responsibility of this fish. As the days went on, she started to notice something peculiar in the tank. There appeared to be differences in the development, size and color of the fry. There were the regular fry in the tank, but also some fry that displayed crème and red coloration at half the size of their siblings. She kept an eye on their progress, and at about 20 days the difference was unmistakable.

Upon confirming the discovery of different variations in the fry, she went through the painstaking task of separating the two groups of fry. In all, there was nearly a twenty percent ratio of albino fry to regular fry.

Herichthys pantostictus Herichthys pantostictus pair with fry in an aquarium with the incomplete divider method of breeding them. Photo by Dan Sharifi.

Care and growth

As anyone who has bred Electric Blue Jack Dempsey will tell you, once the Electric Blues are separated from the gene carriers in the batch, the growth rate on the Electric Blue Jack Dempsey is exponential compared to what it was before. The same is true with the Albino Pantostictus. This is due to the young fry not being able to compete for food with their siblings that do not carry the genetically recessive trait. Once the separation of the fry occurs; however, the fry’s tendencies are no different than any other cichlid. At about 60 days old, the fish were nearly at 3.8 cm (1.5 inches) and clearly displayed all the characteristics of albinism.

Development

Herichthys pantostictus Difference in size and color of the fry at 18 days. Photo by Dan Sharifi.

When nearly 90 days old, most of the albino fry are 5 cm (2 inches) in length. They readily consume prepared aquarium foods, as well as live black worms and blood worms on occasion.

The top of the dorsal fin appear to be developing an orange delineation. As with many cichlids, they have also started to fight and stake out territory. However, due to their genetic composition, they cannot swim as fast as their non albino counterparts. They struggle to swim actively at a small size, and typically tend to settle on the bottom. My belief is that similar to many albino species, everything tends to develop later than it would on a regular cichlid. For instance, internal organs like swim bladder, mouths and eyes take longer to develop than on the regular morph specimens.

The largest Albino Pantostictus we currently have are now nearly 10 cm (4 inches) in length. While they are not a particularly active fish, they do swim much more capably than their smaller albino siblings.

Next Steps

The male & female Blue Labridens pair have now spawned 3 times. In each of their spawns we have observed the standard color morph as well as the albino fry.

Our next steps as it relates to this new color morph is to breed the albinos back into a different population of Blue Labridens. This will be done so that the next generation of Albino Pantostictus possess stronger genetics. As for the albino fry I currently have on hand, I will be holding some back to pursue further breeding and conservation of the fish. The remainder, and majority, will be offered to other hobbyists for their enjoyment.

Herichthys pantostictus Herichthys pantostictus albino fry at sixty days of age. Photo by Dan Sharifi.

About

Dan & Martha Sharifi own Cichlidsoftheamericas.com, an internet based fish provider. At their breeding facility, they currently house over 80 different Central and South American cichlids. For information on Albino Pantostictus and other species, please visit their website at www.cichlidsoftheamericas.com.

Citation

Sharifi, Dan. (October 16, 2016). "Albino Herichthys pantostictus — A rare discovery in the fish room". Cichlid Room Companion. Retrieved on December 16, 2018, from: https://www.cichlidae.com/article.php?id=445.