fish in the tank, with the exception of
a pleco. She is about 6 to 7 inches long
and kept in a 30-gallon tank. She has
routinely laid eggs before, but none have
ever hatched. I now have about 15 babies
that just appeared yesterday. How could
I must confess that I, too, was at a
loss for how to explain the sudden
appearance of Jack Dempsey fry
in a tank containing only a female
specimen. I get a lot of similar questions from
beginner livebearer keepers who discover fry in
a tank containing only females. In those cases,
though, the explanation is quite simple: Livebearer
females have the ability to store a male’s sperm in
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their bodies and use it to fertilize many consecutive
broods. But that is not the case with cichlids.
The only explanation I could come up with
for your Jack Dempsey’s “virgin birth” was,
admittedly, not entirely scientific (suffice it to
say, it involved certain aquatic elves and the
sprinkling of magic pixie dust). But then TFH
Editor-in-Chief David Boruchowitz came to my
rescue by pointing out that this is actually
a documented phenomenon. As he explains,
sex in cichlids is somewhat plastic and that
lone females and female-female pairs have been
known to produce just enough sperm to fertilize
a few eggs. If you’d like to read more about this
subject, check out George W. Barlow’s book
titled The Cichlid Fishes: Nature’s Grand
Experiment in Evolution (Basic Books, 2002).
I should also point out that actual virgin
birth—more accurately “parthenogenesis”—has
been documented in other fishes as well. For
example, a female blacktip reef shark at the
Virginia Aquarium was found to be carrying a
12-inch pup. The discovery was made during
a necropsy conducted on the deceased female.
What’s exceptional about this situation is the
fact that the female was collected and brought
to the Virginia Aquarium while very young and
sexually immature, and no male had ever shared
her tank in the eight years she spent there.
I guess such phenomena just go to prove that
Mother Nature has a lot of tricks up her sleeve when
it comes to ensuring the continuity of a species.
I wonder if you can share your
opinion on which material—
fishing line, thread, or rubber bands—would
be best for attaching Java moss to driftwood
or other objects in an aquarium. Is there an
advantage to one over the others?
All three materials will work just
fine for starting Java moss on
objects in an aquarium, so it really
comes down to your personal
preference. Many hobbyists prefer using black or
brown cotton thread, however; it blends nicely
with wood or rock and tends to disintegrate right
around the time the Java moss has attached itself
to the object. Fishing line and rubber bands, on
the other hand, must either be removed or left in
place once the moss has attached itself. But then,
leaving these materials in the tank usually isn’t
a problem, since they won’t do any harm to fish
and the Java moss will eventually grow right
over them and cover them up anyway. D