This fish originates from Columbia but is only imported on rare occasions. It is generally accepted as being an easy fish to breed although this has not always been the case. Gunter Sterba in his Aquarist's Encyclopedia of 1977, states 'Not entirely easy to breed and not very productive'. The picture is somewhat different today. Nematobrycon palmeri is considered to be one of the easier characins to breed and raise successfully in quite large numbers. This of course may be due to the fact that most stock is captive bred and it is generally accepted that these fish are easier to breed. On many occasions, in the 'lounge tank' that is well planted, one or two fry will survive and grow to maturity. This Fact sheet is for those aquarists who have not attempted to breed the Emperor Tetra.
As with many species of fish, it is desirable to condition males and females separately. Plenty of live foods such as Daphnia, Midge larvae and Bloodworm are superb foods for getting the fish into condition. It is simplicity itself, to sex these fish. The male Emperor has extensions to the caudal fin, top, bottom and in the middle. The net result is that the caudal looks like a trident. The eye colour of male and female is also different. The breeding tank I use, is just a small show tank 10 x 8 x 8inches (250 x 200 x 200 mm.) It is filled with fresh rainwater with two degrees hardness and pH of 6.5. A small sponge filter is added together with a small portion of Java moss (Vesicularia dubyana). The temperature of the water is around 22°C. This can go higher as my fish house is space heated. The male and female are placed in the tank immediately prior to the lights being turned off for the night. Generally, the fish spawn at first light. Around 200 eggs are quite common. If the fish do not spawn within two days, return them to the holding tanks and recondition. After spawning, the parents are returned to the holding tanks. They are not noted as being avid egg eaters but will do so if given the chance. The eggs are in the Java moss and all over the base of the aquarium. They hatch within forty- eight hours and the young fry hang onto the moss and the sides of the tank. Within twenty – four hours, they have absorbed the contents of their yolk sac and are free swimming and looking for food. I use a homemade liquid fry food for the first week or so and then feed them newly hatched brine shrimp. As soon as I start to feed the fry, I add a few red ramshorn snails to mop up the excess food. At three to four weeks, the young fish are capable of eating chopped tubifex worms. Water changes are done every day from week one. Each water change of about ten percent is replaced with normal tap water. After three weeks, the young fish are moved to a larger tank. As the young fish grow, they are introduced to bloodworm, daphnia and proprietary dried foods. The fish in the first picture were just over six weeks of age and were about 3/8 of an inch long (10mm). As the fish grow, they need moving to larger quarters and water changes increased in volume. At seven weeks, (second picture) this batch of fish gets a fifty percent water change daily. This picture shows them anxiously awaiting their first food of the day. Yes, that is a lot of water to change daily and requires a lot of commitment. That's what it takes to raise good fish!
© Pete Cottle, 2003. This fact sheet may not be reproduced in any form without the permission of the author.