I

jmt thousands of eggs-

Egg Tactics

It is all about survival of the species. The cichlid protects its fry so a few hundred will provide for the survival of the species. Tuna scatter up to 100,000 eggs and chance enters Bhe equation. But a small group |of live-bearing fish produces only 30 to 50 fish on average. These fry are free swimming and only about a quarter-inch long. They immediately dart to some plant or crevice upon expulsion.

Survival rates are much higher for .ivebearer fry. Mouth-brooding fish ay the same odds. They go with strategy of producing fewer eggs. But short-term protection in the buccal cavity of the mouth as the eggs grow result in babies better able to find cover during release.

Almost every one of you has kept livebearing fish. The*gxlHy ofWolor and finnage seems endless. You buy a few fish with the promise of many more to arrive. And they are ideal community fish because of a lack of aggression toward tankmates.

It should be noted, however, that male livebearers constantly pursue females. Do not buy a pair; get a male and two or three females and provide some top level plants to provide some he gonopodium of this male sailfin molly (Poecilia velifera) is distinct and makes sexing this species easy, even though sailfins already advertise their gender with the namesake sailfin of the males.

cover for the females as well as the fry. Remember, fish eat fish! In a bare aquarium the fry will get eaten.

Livebearer Characteristics

I call livebearers "American fish." They are found in the southern United States, Central and South America and in all the island countries o4 the Caribbean. Having evolved in the feeder streams of the above areas as well as the Gulf of Mexico, many of these fish, especially those of the deltas and estuaries, are euryhaline — capable of living in waters of widely different salt content. In fact, many of the mollies and gup-pies are found in mangrove swamps — in the ocean.

In 1955, I set up my first saltwater aquarium. For those of you of my vintage, it was a gold-tone Metaframe flared 26, wider at the top than at the bottom. The technique du jour was to paint the inside of the frame with black asphaltum to prevent interaction between the saltwater and the metal frame. The saltwater was made with a mix of tap water and a thick slurry called Eden Brine. The choice of fish then was very limited.

My sparse collection included black mollies. Black mollies can be found today in the freshwater section of every fish store. Marble, sphenop, balloon and sailfin are other common names of mollies.

The swordtail, platy, moon, and variatus varieties have numerous names descriptive of an incredible array of colors and fin types. The same is true of the guppy, the "millions fish." There will be many more "fancy" guppies than plain ones. You may find mosquitofish, top minnow and the least killifish (Heterandria sp.). The livebearer "collection" is referred to as livebearing toothed cyprinodonts to differentiate them from the egg-laying ones, the true killifish.

What Makes a Livebearer?

The signature of the livebearer is the gonopodium. This structure is in essence a deformed fin where the third, fourth and fifth rays (spines) of

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