Feeding and Breeding Labyrinths
by Ruby Bayan
How to Feed Labyrinth Fish
Most anabantids are omnivorous – they will each anything, from live food to frozen food, from flakes to pellets to tiny scraps. Because they are air-breathers, they tend to be surface and middle-tank feeders. Pellets and flakes are ideal but so are mosquito larvae and aquatic invertebrates.
Kissing gouramis, who "kiss" not to show affection but to test the strength of another male, are often busy kissing plants, too. They pick algae from plant leaves, but often end up eating the foliage if tender enough to nibble on. All in all, omnivorous anabantids will appreciate, and benefit from, vegetable matter whether natural or supplemented in prepared foods.
As for newly hatched fry, they should first be fed with infusoria or commercially available liquid fry food. After a week, brine shrimp nauplii, sifted daphnia, or fine-powdered fry food can be introduced. Small live foods should be included in the juvenile diet for best nutrition.
How to Breed Labyrinth Fish
Anabantids are bubble-nest builders. The ideal set-up for breeding bubble-nesters is an average-sized aquarium that is lightly aerated (minimal water surface movement) and heavily planted with foliage that reaches up to the surface. The fish need the surface-hugging leaves to hold the bubble nest in place. Close the aquarium with a good-fitting cover that will ensure that humidity just above the surface is high – this will prevent the bubble nest and the eggs from drying up.
At breeding time, the male will choose a small area among the plants at the water surface, to build a nest. He will gulp air through his mouth and expel them in the water through his gills. The expelled bubbles will be covered with sticky mucus, float upwards (but won’t pop), and remain held together, afloat, by plant leaves at the water surface.
The male will then court a female and lure her under the bubble nest. When the female is ready, the pair will engage in a tumbling embrace where eggs and milt are released into the water. Gourami eggs are lighter than water, so they float to the surface; Betta eggs are heavy so they sink to the bottom.
In both cases, as soon as the male recovers from the embrace, he goes about catching the eggs with his mouth and depositing them into the bubble nest. The female then joins the male in collecting the eggs, after which, they resume spawning. The activity lasts for several hours, the couple nesting an average of 250 eggs.
After spawning, the male will assume its paternal role diligently – watching over the nest and picking a fight with whomever comes near, including the female. Therefore, it is best to remove the female soon after all the eggs are laid.
The male will continue to reinforce the bubble nest, making sure that eggs that fall off or float away are safely returned to the cluster. In two to four days, the fry will emerge. At this time, the male must be removed because he will tend to consider the little struggling ones as food.
The bubble-nesting activity is common in most anabantid families but to be on the safe side, be sure to research on the specific needs of the fish you choose to breed. Knowing the habits and exact requirements of your fish will help you achieve a higher level of success.
See also: Introducing: Labyrinth Fishes