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Freshwater Fish and Resources

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Ameca splendens
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The first time I saw this fish and was told it was a livebearer I was in disbelief. I suppose that I was a little naive thinking that the males of all live bearing fishes would have gonopodiums. I was wrong. I new I was wrong but still was little humbled by my ignorance. I knew I had to be wrong because the shop owner, a good friend of mine, is rarely wrong and when he told me the source of the fish...I knew I had to be wrong.

It's just that I had never seen a goodeid before. I had no idea what the fish were all about. I just knew that I had to have them. But alas, they were not for sale. Rare fish and hard to find, and now that I saw them I had to have them.

What do you know, the next auction I went to the fish were on the table from another source and much to my surprise, nobody wanted to make a significant challenge to my bid. Home they went and into a tank right away.

The group of Corydoras haroldschulzti were looking like the fungus on the fins was going to be a rather significant problem. We have a habit of checking the fish with every feeding and with the tank that the splendens and the haroldschulzti were in, that would mean checking the tank twice a day. ameca_1.jpg (11789 bytes)The tank was fed twice a day, blackworms on one feeding and newly hatched baby brine on the second feeding. The Corys were not interested in the brine shrimp but then, the shrimp were not intended for Corys. There were other fish in the tank. The tank was a 20H, lots of plants and a deep substrate of kitty litter, sand and gravel. Filtration was a sponge filter with plenty of air pushing a pretty impressive current. Temperature is a constant 75 degrees F. The tank was set up for a typical live bearer not knowing that Ameca splendens was not too typical. Ameca splendens is a beautiful fish. Unlike so many of the live bearers which are an “acquired taste,” A. splendens has color and spangles. The males are the more colorful of the pair but the female is nearly as beautiful. The fish get more impressive with age acquiring more intense spotting and color definition through time. I have seen specimens of this fish that were in the neighborhood of 3 1/2 inches (+) long. While our own specimens are more on the order of 2 1/2 inches, I suspect that they will grow larger with time.Splendens provide a few challenges for the keeper. They are first of all, rather hard to find. When you can find them, they may be a little more expensive than one is used to investing in a fish. I say investing because when one decides to purchase, keep and (please) propagate a fish as special at the splendens, one is making an investment as opposed to just spending money on a pretty object. The challenges presented by the fish are not insurmountable. But if you are not aware of them, you may become frustrated and in a worst case scenario, you may loose fish. It would not be an uncommon event to loose all the fish in a particular tank before you can figure out what is happening. You might read into this that the fish are overly sensitive. I don’t think that you would need to call them overly sensitive, but they are a little more susceptible to changes in their environment that most fish. If you are experienced with the more “wild” livebearers, you should remember the tricks you have used on other species and apply the same principles to the Ameca splendens. Don’t change too much water for each water change. A regular schedule of 10-15% changes is much more beneficial than larger percentages less frequently. In our own fishroom, we like to change the water at least once per week and, for the amencas and a few selected other species, we limit the amount to 15%. The water is of course the same temperature (more or less) and the quality/chemical properties of the water are the same as in the tank. We have found that a lot of problems can be mitigated by the practice of regularly changing water. These particular fish seem to benefit from a consistent environment rather than the inconsistency arising from sporadic water changes. We have found that nearly all of the live bearing fishes benefit from a substantial current in the water. Not only do the fish need lots of O2 in the water, but the actual movement seems to benefit the fish. I have no reason for this other than some of the live bearing fishes come from moving water environments, many of them from headwater and spring water environment. We use either box filters or sponge filters to provide the biological and the physical filtration, and we use over sized filters to do the job. Ameca splendens grow to a pretty significant size and because of that size will require some pretty significant filtration. We use a blower and have plenty of air which we use liberally. We rely on the ambient temperature of the air in the room so that we don’t have to have heaters in all of our tanks. ameca_2.jpg (15444 bytes)The tanks for the splendens are covered. We’re not sure if the fish is known to be a jumper, but we don’t take chances. We would recommend you consider the tank lids also. There is a lamp over the tank which supplies about 40 watts of lighting. The CO2 generators were added to provide for fertilization for the plants. We’re pretty sure that the Amecas benefit from the pH drop initiated by the CO2. We feed the baby brine shrimp to the Ameca splendens because we have noticed that they are rather small mouths. They dart in amongst the BBS in a feeding frenzy, picking up all that they can consume. While they do like blackworms also, the BBS feeding is specifically for the splendens. We sure that the Corydoras in the tank all benefit from shrimp falling to the floor of the tank. So why did the C. haroldshultzi come to be in this article? The cause of the damage on the finnage of the Corys was hard to determine. As it turns out, it seems that the goodeid group of fish do not appreciate Corys. They pester them and nip at their fins, damaging the fins and allowing for fungus to set in. When the cause of the problem was observed, the Amecas were moved. The Corys recovered over time. Ameca spendens are interesting in a couple of way. From a biological point of view, these are placental fish in that they have a placenta-like organ to allow them to give birth to absolutely huge fry. The first time that the fish dropped fry for us was an amazing sight. The baby fish were observed to be hiding in the upper levels of the plants. About 20 young fish were born on the first drop. Ameca don’t give birth to many fish per event but the number of fish is more than compensated for by the size of the fry. The first thing I did when I saw the fry was wonder what they were. They were too big to be fry. I then went into the house and asked by wife to come out and see something “cool.” She asked how old the fry were and when I told her they were hours old, the look on her face was hilarious. One could have driven a car into her mouth as her jaw nearly dropped to the floor. I decided to share the fry with my daughter and while on the way to the fishroom, I told that the fry were just a few hours old. Her first word upon seeing the fish was, “Ouch.” The fry are something on the order of 5/8” or ” long upon birth. They are impressive. From the very first day the fry ate baby brine shrimp and Grindal worms. Any of the Grindal worm which fell to the bottom were consumed by the Corydoras. The adults did not seem to bother the fry and it is common for the fry and the adults to dart in and out amongst the shrimp and worms together.ameca_4.jpg (47005 bytes)
I want to impress a point on you as a reader and a potential breeder of this magnificent fish. They are rather hard to get. They may be extinct in the wild. One might be able to make a case for them being rare in the hobby, let alone hard to come by. The fish is pretty, perhaps beautiful, and is definitely interesting enough for any person interested in live bearing fishes. But the action that I would ask that you consider is one of benevolence. This is not a fish that one should breed once or perhaps more correctly, let breed once. This is a fish that deserves your committed long term care. Try to think about the fish in terms of several generations of care. Think of people would can make the same commitment. Perhaps you might consider spending a few minutes offering the technical support and the fish to a local institution that can keep this fish from going the way of it’s wild brethren. Whatever avenue you might chose to take, this fish is worthy of your attention. Have fun and share the experience.