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NFC: Banded Topminnow breeders club report

THE BANDED TOPMINNOW, Fundulus cingulatus
David M. Schleser
310 Appian Way
Dallas, TX 75216
e-mail: natimg at flash_net

In mid April 1998 I was fortunate to obtain two males and three females 
of the pink form
of Fundulus cingulatus, the banded topminnow from Robert Rice. After 
them indoors for three weeks, they were all moved into a 250 gallon 
outside fiberglass
pond  that was heavily planted with both floating and submerged plants, 
Ceratophyllum (hornwort), Ergeria densa (anachris), Cabomba sp., and 
Azolla sp.
From my experiences with the related golden-ear killie, F. chrysotus, 
and various species
in the starhead killie complex, I expected that within virtually no time 
that this small
pond would be crammed with young banded killifish.  It should be 
mentioned that this
species is much less of a “topminnow” than many others in its genus, and 
like the
golden-ear killie, spends considerable time in mid water or near the 
bottom searching for
food items. 

By mid May the females were obviously filling with eggs and the males 
were exhibiting
behaviors of both dominance and courtship. I fed them daily and 
waited....and waited some more, but no fry made an appearance. Meanwhile 
an adjacent
and identically set up pond that had been stocked with a trio of the 
black-speckled form of  F. chrysotus was producing large quantities of 
young fish. I was
totally at a loss to explain the difference. Since I always spend a 
considerable time in late
spring and summer participating in rare plant surveys in Utah, and 
leading tropical fish
study and collecting trip to the Amazon River, I did not have time to 
analyze the

By September the adult cingulatus were still actively courting, but 
there were still no fry
to be seen. I reasoned that even if this species was an efficient egg or 
fry eater that a few
young would survive. The vegetation was certainly thick enough to 
provide adequate
hiding places. I then contacted Ray Wolff, a very talented breeder of 
native fishes, who
had also received some of these fish from Robert.. He had also placed 
them in an outside
pond, and had experienced the same frustrating lack of fry.

With this species’ natural breeding season coming to an end, I emptied 
the pond and
brought all the fish inside. My luck did not improve. One male quickly 
killed the other,
and then committed suicide by somehow jamming himself headfirst into a 
sponge filter’s
lift tube!  Ray wasn’t doing any better and was down to only one female 
and three males.
When I told him about my situation he immediately sent two of his males 
to me. It was
now about Oct 1, and only one of my females seemed to still be heavy 
with eggs. I placed
her in a 20 gallon “long” aquarium with the more robust of Ray’s males. 
The only
furnishings were a sponge filter and two large bottom spawning mops and 
two equally
large floating mops. As an experiment, one of the floating and bottom 
mops were made
of dark brown Dacron yarn, the others of white. the water was medium 
hard (150ppm)
and with a pH of 6.8.

The breeders were fed in the morning with flake food and in the evening 
with live
mosquito larvae. At first the male was a bit overly zealous in his 
courtship, keeping the
female hidden much of the time among the strands of the mops. This 
subsided after less than a week and eggs could be seen in the bottom 
mops. This
answered one of my questions: this species does not seek out its eggs 
for food. Every four
or five days the mops were removed from the aquarium and checked for 
Apparently, unlike the golden ear and starhead killies, this species is 
a confirmed bottom
spawner (like F. zebrinus). Eggs were only found in the bottom mops, and 
virtually all
were laid in the dark brown mops. After being picked from the mops, the 
rather large
eggs (almost 2mm) were removed to a separate container for incubation. 
This container
was a clear plastic shirt box with about one inch of water  taken from 
the breeding
aquarium.. No aeration was used, but as a precaution against the eggs 
fungusing a bit of
methyline blue was added to the water. At 74 F the eggs began to hatch 
after 10 - 12 days
incubation. The newly hatched fry are very large, and have no trouble 
consuming newly
hatched brine shrimp nauplii. This was their sole food for about 10 
days, It was then
alternated with powder-fine dry food. I now have over 50 healthy 
cingulatus fry. They are
growing very rapidly, and at the time of writing (Dec. 19) the oldest 
are now a little over
1/2 inch long. 

By the end of November the female’s egg production had ceased but the 
male still was
still courting. In order to prevent any damage to the female the pair 
was removed from
the breeding tank and placed in a 110 gallon, heavily planed native fish 
community tank
that also housed the other trio. In these larger quarters it was easier 
for the females to
keep away from the male. Except for the larger male occasionally chasing 
the smaller
one, all has been peaceful, with no other infra- or interspecific 
aggression shown by this
species. Among the many other fish in this aquarium are two pairs of 
golden-ear killies. I
find it interesting that these two related and somewhat similar 
killifish have been
mutually compatible.

In summary, I still do not know why F. cingulatus proved non-productive 
in an outdoor
pond, but it is a beautiful and easily accommodated species that appears 
to be quite easily
spawned and raised in an aquarium. A word of advise: courting males can 
be a bit rough
on the female (in my experience not as bad as F. trysts). I therefore 
recommend using at
least a 10 gallon tank for breeding them and provide plenty of mops to 
provide hiding
places as well as safe retreats for the female. My experiences also 
indicate that only one
male should be used. If you are lucky enough to have more than one pair 
of this fish I
recommend switching out males and females periodically as a means of 
assuring as much
genetic diversity in the fry as possible. By the way, in speaking with 
Ray Wolff I have
learned that after he brought his adult fish inside, he also started 
collecting eggs from

I would be interested in hearing from other members who have had 
experience with the
banded topminnow.