Some boxes with peat on my shelves have been there for years. It is always difficult to know how many eggs are actually in one, and I would like it if all that peat could take up a little less space. So I’ve decided to attack the problem at the root, and “concentrate” a peat before it gets stored. When I collect it from a tank with breeders, it is poured into a round container from which you can pour off the water and particles at the surface easily. That mix goes into a shallow tray, so that any eggs spilled out can be recovered. The mix from the tray is poured over a net, the water added to the bowl again and the procedure repeated. The peat in the net is supposed to be relatively egg-free and can be discarded or dried and re-used. If the peat contains any eggs, they make up an increasing fraction of the peat remaining in the bowl.
On the first of October, a Brazilian newspaper article probably made the hearts of many killifish breeders miss a few beats. The Brazilian federal police, with the support of several institutions, did searches in several places after some 37 parcels with killifish eggs had been seized at five locations where they were sent from. The Federal Police claims to launch 12 police inquiries in the countries of destination of the mail orders (US, Germany, Bulgaria, Malaysia, Hungary, Russia, Ecuador, Czech Republic, China, Great Britain, Argentina and Scotland) to investigate the alleged smuggling and environmental crime. In the searches, several aquariums were found in the homes of some involved, containing hundreds of fish (the system looked really good by the way) and eggs.
These are the facts. Then there are the accusations. An aquarium staff member is accused of “biopirataria” and the recipients of the mail orders are claimed to be researchers and collectors. What that means is unclear. Whether these researchers research anything to do with killifish is unclear. I read this as an incrimination, without evidence that it has anything to add next to the fact that export legislation has not been followed and maintenance permits were not present. It seems destined to reinforce the claim of biopiracy, which is outrageous. I am certain the recipients have no other intentions than to breed and share their killifish further and that there is no transfer of public knowledge into private hands. If the involved researchers produce new knowledge based on their (illegal) material, the benefits will be open to all. That’s how it works. I don’t know of any industry interested in patenting or commercializing killifish species.
What I really dislike is that a killifish breeder and apparently “trader” is almost depicted as a drug producer and trafficker. I don’t want to dispute the relevance of nature protection laws at all but see little benefit in this whole operation next to pointing out that some phenomena are illegal. Illegal does not mean unethical. Disturbing is that there is no mention of what happened to the living material confiscated. Are the fish allowed to complete their life cycles, will the eggs develop and contribute to a next generation? Does their natural environment still exist, since the time when the ancestors of the eggs were captured? How many generations have been bred already by the enthusiast outlaws before these eggs were shared?
In replies and a poll circulating, the discourse is present that killifish have been regularly saved from a single or a few ponds where they occurred before these were destroyed. I propose that when natural habitat is destroyed in a country or destined to be destroyed soon, that from then on anyone can keep and trade the animals specific to that habitat freely. This is a principle, and I am not going to work out the legal consequences. The idea is just that when a state does not take it’s responsibility for a natural population or a species, that we still can if we want to.
After some years without them, I’ve started breeding Austrolebias gymnoventris “Salamanca” again. The pairs I have now have been very prolific. What I like about this species are the dark body colour they can get and the beautiful contrasting spots on their anal fin in particular. They can deal with high temperatures, but the water needs to be clean and with little nitrates.
An article in a gardening magazine showed a semi-underground greenhouse. I’ve been thinking of keeping killifish without heating year-round often and tried many things, but this might be really something, especially for large numbers of big tanks:
An article with lots of examples is available here: https://insteading.com/blog/underground-greenhouse/
I just got notified of this one on the forum of the Uruguayan Aquarium Society AUDA, which I find a really nice example of a useful DIY filter system. The three stages are easy to separate and modify. Too bad I haven’t got any tanks with filtration myself.
Tonight I hatched two bags that had arrived from Argentina four months ago. At arrival, the eggs were in sealed bags completely filled with peat and sphagnum and with visibly many eggs. If the sealing would hold tight during incubation, there might be a risk that oxygen might lack at some point, while low oxygen is no problem for fresh eggs and can help to store them for longer. I cut off a small corner of each bag and placed them separately within a larger ziploc bag. This seemed the best way to avoid desiccation, while allowing oxygen in. Here’s the result. Two very successful hatches, one of Austrolebias bellotti, the other of Austrolebias elongatus. Both from Ezeiza. PS: They were hatched in 1cm of water and there was one bellyslider. I am planning to cut corners like this more systematically.
While cleaning tanks with fry, I discovered this egg raft, probably from a Chaoborus phantom midge. The mother has emerged in the fish tank, and laid her eggs on the surface.
I don’t know if it is very easy to spot, but on this photograph an egg with a developed embryo. You can see its right eye and it’s an Austrolebias charrua (“Canal Andreoni”) from peat collected in June 2018. Particular about this embryo is that it overwintered without heating, in a box with peat standing next to the cold tanks. It has been at temperatures as low as 4C, maybe even 2C. I will try to convince it to hatch in April, when night temperatures in the garden house rise above 10C.
Time to get going again. The first juveniles are in the garden already, and other batches are getting ready to go as well. I’m hatching some five to ten lines per month now. Not that all tanks are empty. On the contrary, species that made it through winter this year without heating are A. melanoorus (“R5km399”), nigripinnis (“Franquia”), charrua (“Canal Andreoni”), paucisquama (“Sao Sepe”), vazferreirai (R44km44), Cynopoecilus melanotaenia (“Paso del Dragon”), bellottii (“Maschwitz”), duraznensis (“Paso San Borja”) and the man on the photograph. He’s a luteoflammulatus (“R9km205”). Unfortunately the female in the same tank didn’t make it, but they were laying eggs until December. Christmas eggs.
Things break down. Fortunately, this type of small incubator usually does so in the same way: its Peltier element that cools and heats dies. The repair costs a few euros and takes less than an hour. So by now, the incubator is filled again with eggs of several killifish species and fry in their first week after hatching. As it is springtime, I am germinating chillies in it too.