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Fish/German Blue Ram spawning

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Question
I am still new to this beautiful little fish, and continue to feel confused over gender. In many ways my two look the same (pink bellies, blue spots overlapping the big black spot) and I start to wonder if they are both females, though one has a more dramatic 'mohawk' and is more dominant.

I have not seen the two courting, but recently my guppies began to die, and then I saw the eggs and the bigger-mohawk ram defending them with gusto against any fish who came too close. My ghost shrimp ate the eggs overnight, and I am disappointed but expect that they will try again eventually. (I have moved the shrimps to another tank, despite their wonderful cleaning abilities.) I captured on video the defensive ram meticulously caring for the eggs, and also what I believed to be fertilizing them.

My question is: would a ram spawn even if the opposite gender was not present in the tank? For example, might I still have two females, and what I witnessed was not fertilization but rather 1) laying more eggs or 2) simply fanning them very very closely? Or does the spawning behavior only take place when there is an established pair?

I have done some reading, but have not yet seen this question answered. Hopefully you have some insight. :)

Answer
Hi Teneisha,
 For better or worse, spawning can occur if there are only two females present.  So, at this point you know that you have at least one female. As you say, it is likely that they will try again in the not too distant future.  If the eggs develop at all, i.e., they start to go a little darker (because of the formation of the eye and body inside), then you know that they
were fertilized and that you do indeed have a male.

-- Ron Coleman
  rcoleman@cichlidresearch.com
  Cichlid Research Home Page <http://cichlidresearch.com.>

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Ron Coleman

Expertise

I am an expert on cichlid fishes, particularly New World cichlids. My broader expertise includes the behavior, ecology and reproduction of fishes in general. (I am NOT an expert on Goldfish). Please do not use abbreviations, such as "my GT has a swollen eye" because I don't know what a "GT" is. The more clearly you can explain your question, the better chance I have of understanding what it is that you seek. I keep fishes both as a scientist and as a hobbyist and I currently maintain about 140 aquariums.

Experience

I am an Associate Professor at the California State University, Sacramento in the Department of Biological Sciences, and I run a website, called the Cichlid Research Home Page . I also write for many popular aquarist magazines, and I was editor of Cichlid News magazine for several years. I am a scientist and I spend my time teaching fish biology, ecology, behavior and evolution and doing research on the reproductive biology of fishes, particularly cichlids. I do research in the laboratory and in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Mexico. My main interest is understanding the evolution of parental care in fishes. I am interested in encouraging greater public awareness, understanding and participation in science.

Publications
Cichlid News, Tropical Fish Hobbyist, Freshwater and Marine Aquarium, Science, Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology, Copeia, Canadian Journal of Zoology, Trends in Ecology and Evolution, AUK, Environmental Biology of Fishes

Education/Credentials
PhD (Toronto, 1993) MSc (Simon Fraser, 1986) BSc (British Columbia, 1983)

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