Feeding shellie cichlid fry

‘Lamprologus’ caudopunctatus Kapamba “red fin” mother and fry (between the two bottom shells). Photo by author.

Feeding fry in any kind of tank can be a challenge. Whether a community tank, species only, or even a small segregation tank, getting food directly to the fry can take some effort. Such foods as baby brine shrimp, crushed flakes, and infusoria are great options. However, since these foods can be so tiny for fry intake, any little bit of water movement can quickly carry them away from the fry. As a result and like regular fish food, they can easily foul a tank if  enough is not eaten.  Unless you’re using a breeder box in which the fry are confined to a really small space and tank current is reduced, you need to get creative. Either that, or you need to simply power off the filtration.

Photo of syringes and water line tubing. Photo by author.

One method I use to get food to shellie fry without turning off my filters is combining a short piece of water line tubing and a syringe. Simply cut a short piece of the tubing that will reach the fry and that sticks out above the water line. Shellie fry tend to cluster together and hug the substrate, especially when they’re very young.

Depending on the the length of your feeding tube, you’ll need to adjust the size of syringe. The key is to make sure that the volume capacity of the syringe is equal too or greater than the volume of your tube. If your syringe is too small, the contents won’t make it all the way down the tube with a full plunge, even if the syringe is completely full. The tube in the photo above is just over 12″ in length. The small syringe (bottom) is 1ml and holds less than the capacity of the tube. Thus, it’s difficult to use. On the other hand, the larger syringe is 12 cc, which exceeds the volume of the tube, so it works beautifully.

Mix your fry food in a cup with water, then draw the food into the syringe until the syringe is full of water. With the tubing in the water and the submerged end near the fry, insert the tip of the syringe into the top of the tubing and gently depress the plunger. Don’t press too quickly or you will blow the food out the other end, which will only succeed in blowing the food everywhere and the fry too. You want to go slow so that the food barely comes out the bottom of the tube and sinks right to the fry.

I’ve found two advantages of using the water line tubing. One is that the inner diameter (ID) of the tubing is just large enough to insert the tip of the syringe, making a perfect fit. The tips of both syringes above are about the same size. Secondly, the tubing is small and less invasive than my hand, which may frighten the fry and either scatter them or send them scuttling into their shell.

The water line tubing can be picked up at about any hardware store or most big box stores (e.g., Walmart, Lowes, Home Depot, Menards). You can also find it online. The syringes can also be purchased online or at just about any drug store.

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