What a nice way to start off the New Year!
A few months ago I was visiting Big Al’s Scarborough location and came across a tank containing 3 fish labelled “Green Spotted Pike”. They were shaped like a sharpie, light brown in colour with a dark band full of iridescent green/blue spots running the length of their bodies.
Initially I thought they were a South American fish, and since I had never seen ‘em before, it was very difficult to leave the store without them. My fellow fishaholics will understand…
Upon arriving home, google told me they were Luciocephalus aura – an Asian anabantoid (air breather) and gourami relative. Common name is Peppermint Pikehead. Max size is supposed to be 4-8″ depending on who is doing the telling, so I put them into a 20 gallon tank with some mango plecos and an adonis pleco.
They settled in nicely, and within the first week, one of them was already taking dried shrimp (They had been eating rosy red minnows at the store, but I never feed live fish because it’s no fun fighting the diseases that feeder fish carry). The other 2 were a bit more stubborn, but eventually hunger got the best of them and they started eating the dried shrimp too. From there, I slowly transitioned them onto Reptomin turtle sticks which has been there sole diet for the past 2 months.
I found one account online of someone breeding Luciocephalus aura in Germany, but details were few and far between. And as far as differences between the sexes, I couldn’t see much. No differences in fins, body shape, or behaviour. A friend of mine thought there were differences in head-shape, but I couldn’t see it (my eyes just aren’t what they used to be). What I could see was a slight difference in the colour of the iridescent spots on the sides. One had greenish-yellow spots and two had blueish spots.
A few days ago, the largest green spotted aura started hanging out exclusively with one of the smaller blue spotted ones. The larger one (which turned out to be female) was doing some posing and slight tail-wagging which reminded me of cichlid pre-spawning behaviour. The smaller one really didn’t react much.
The larger one also had developed a bit of a belly on her, so I was pretty sure they were getting ready to spawn. The third aura received some aggression from the larger aura, but nothing really serious.. some gill puffing, threat displays and small bites were the extent of it, but that was enough to keep the third guy/girl away.
This morning (January 1st) I noticed the pair of aura had now claimed a small piece of bark. The smaller male was sitting on the bark and the large female was nudging, circling, posing and puffing her gills trying to get his attention. It’s strange that the female did all the initiation. Plus she kept the third aura away. The male did nothing but sit on the bark. But his colours really intensified – his back got very light, his body very dark and the stripes on his throat also got thicker and darker.
The male sat on the bark ignoring for the most part the female’s advances for about an hour. Occasionally he would circle with the female and both would embrace by curling their tails around each other. The female really had to work hard to get the male to participate, and eventually it paid off. They circled together, curled their tails around each other and quivered as the female released her eggs (I assume the male also released sperm at that time).
The eggs were pretty large (25-30 of them?). They formed a nice white pile on the bark and the male circled around and slowly gulped them into his mouth while the female watched. She tried a few more times to get him to hug her, but he was having none of it and just kept ignoring her – his throat distended with the eggs.
An hour later they’re just hanging out on the bark together. From time to time she swims over to the other aura to do some mildly aggressive tail-wagging and gill puffing, but always comes back to the piece of bark to be with her male.
Check back in a few weeks to see how the story ends. More vids of the event on my youtube channel: