January 28, 2010
How and What To Feed Jack Dempsey Fry
Baby Jack Dempsey cichlids hatching from eggs to 8 days old.
How and What To Feed Jack Dempsey Fry
Congratulations, you’re the proud aunt/uncle of tiny, baby Jack Dempsey cichlids. They are tiny and yet they will soon eat crushed up flake foods and even pulverized cichlid pellets. During the first 3 days of life, these little critters won’t be eating such foods but just absorbing their protein sack. But even then, they will be nibbling around at things and possibly getting some micro, micro organisms to munch on.
It has always been my thinking that the best nursery tank for newborns of any egg laying fish is an established aquarium. The reason being is that a good food source for these tiny fry are the micro organisms and bacteria that are covering the gravel or even bare glass bottom. Many types of bacteria that you find in an established aquarium are full of beneficial vitamins and minerals (like kids vitamins). In a newly set up nursery tank, you won’t have these beneficial bacteria and certainly not any micro organisms such as those tiny white worms you see on the glass. Those make good food for young fry.
Despite the age of your nursery tank, you still have to provide some normal food after a few days. Now if the parents are still with the babies then they will take care of most of the feeding for a few weeks. They will, very unselfishly, accept your cichlid foods and chomp it up in their mouth, spilling tiny crumbs out their gills and mouth just over their young. It’s such an amazing thing to watch and both the male and female participate. Who ever taught them to do this? The parents try to keep the young fry in a group so that at feeding time they will all get their share. Watch the parents as they rush around the tank, sucking up in their mouth the little runts that are roaming out beyond the safety of the group.
If you had to remove the eggs to a nursery without the parents, then your job is a bit more difficult. You must be sure to crush the food up to a powdery state to feed them. The first 10 days are critical and many of the young will probably die during this period. After a week or so, the young should be large enough to feed them newly hatched artemiabrine shrimp. Micro worms are also an excellent food source for these apprentice Jack Dempsey fish. Always take care NOT TO OVERFEED. If you find food debris on the bottom of the nursery, remove it ASAP. Feed your babies 5 times a day if possible for the first 3 weeks. Any less then that and their growth will be stunted and some will weaken and perish. As a norm, a brood of 500 fry will be shrunk down to maybe 200 after 4 weeks, even with good care and feeding… it’s the natural course of nature.
A 5 or 10 gallon aquarium is best for your nursery for the first month. This is so that when you feed your fry, they won’t have to wonder very far to find the food. Water conditions are not critical but stability of those established conditions are important. Temperature 72 – 82 F — PH 6.5 to 7.2 is good for fry. But whatever parameters you initially establish, try to maintain that constant.
Filtering is not all that important for the initial fry tank. If you’re doing it right, you’re changing about 10% of the water every day (that’s only 1 gallon of water a day in a 10 gallon tank), and keeping the bottom of the tank clean. It’s best not to have gravel on the bottom of your nursery so that uneaten food and debris can be easily seen and siponed off. Sponge filters are an excellent choice for your nursery tanks. This will give some filtration while creating a mild current for the young. Remember, keep the temperature stable and make sure the water you add every day is chlorine free and temperature adjusted.
As they mature, larger food chunks may be fed, some small pieces of frozen foods and a meal of live artemia brine shrimp hatchlings every day is a great way to increase their growth rates. Raising artemia shrimp to adult stage is quite easy and will give you a great food source for older juveniles as wel as the fry grow and continue on through their intense growth period those first few months.
Moving the fry to a larger tank (20 gallon) is advisable after 5 or 6 weeks. They will be good swimmers by then and the larger tank will give them the space they need for the coming weeks to grow out. Keep in mind that 150 to 200 Jack Dempsey cichlids in a 20 gallon aquarium is not a pretty sight after a few short months of growth. The parents should probably be removed from the fry at this time and placed back in their own aquarium. You must give thought to how you are going to house these creatures as they mature. Pet stores may take some but most will not take them under 3 months of age or 2 ½ inches in length. You will have to provide more space or more aquariums to grow that many cichlids to that size and age and have them in good health. This is the time to call on your local shops and find out who’s interested. I trade my JDs for credit towards purchasing aquarium products… no exchange of cash.
If you’ve kept the fry in the same aquarium with their parents, I would suggest that after 4 to 5 weeks it’s best to move them to their own nursery tank. A 20 gallon aquarium is the minimum size I would suggest, depending on the number of fry you have left at this point. Parent fish often want to spawn again after about 6 weeks and they may begin to kill off some of their young if in a crowded space. When the parent JDs do spawn again, you can kiss your juveniles goodbye. The adults will see their own offspring as a danger to their new brood and attempt to clear the aquarium of them. The NEW EGGS are all important and they will do whatever to protect them. That’s how it is in “The World of Jack Dempsey Cichlids” be it in the wild or in your home aquarium. If you have questions about this, email me and I’ll respond within 24 hrs. email@example.com. Have fun.
— Jack Lamountain “The World of Jack Dempsey Cichlids”
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