Cichlid fry shelter

PVC tube and PEX pyramid. Photo by the author.

PVC tube, end view. Photo by the author.

This post is about catching specific-sized juvenile cichlids in a tank containing multiple broods. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I semi-regularly take the offspring of the cichlids I breed to my LFS for store or fish credit. In most of my tanks, I don’t separate my breeding pairs once they’ve spawned. The result is that I tend to have multiple broods in the same tank. So what problem am I trying to solve?

By the time most of my cichlids have reached the size where they’re ready to take to the LFS, I have at least four or five additional broods in the same tank that are half that size or smaller. The problem occurs when I try to catch the larger juveniles without harming or also catching some of the smaller fish. Another problem is that smaller fish are generally more fragile, meaning they require greater care when netting. Fish nets pose a problem because, regardless of how large the net is itself, the devices aren’t designed for really small fry. It can be difficult sometimes to catch the juveniles without pinning some smaller ones between the firm frame of the net and the tank.

So how do you solve that problem? There are a couple of ways. Perhaps the easiest is giving the smaller fish somewhere to hide that the larger fish can’t access. This is where you sometimes need to get creative. I have tried several solutions with varying degrees of success.

In the photo at the top, you can see a pyramid made out of blue PEX. These are simply made from cutting several pieces of tubing to the same length and gluing them together. I use PVC glue for the adhesive. I have some similar pyramids made from regular PVC pipe that work, but they weren’t designed for fry. They were just designed to provide regular shelter to any size fish that could fit in them. I believe those regular pyramids were made from 1/2-3/4″ PVC, much too large to offer exclusive protection to fry. The PEX has a smaller diameter, which I selected specifically to accommodate the smaller fish but not the juveniles I’m targeting. 

The black PVC tube in the photo is just a cut piece of PVC pipe containing holes that I drilled for fish ingress and egress. I capped the ends with mesh. I cut up a black mesh media bag and just glued the mesh to the end of the PVC tube. I haven’t trimmed the mesh around the edges yet, but will before I use it. I drilled the holes such that the fry and juveniles that are still too small to take to my LFS can escape to the tube, while the larger juveniles I’m targeting won’t fit. 

I’ll give these a try soon and update the results. Stay tuned!

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