"Oooh, I need that one too!"
I was pointing at a picture of a rather different-looking cory in my
Baensch Atlas. Once again I was paging though the book with a co-worker
at the lfs I work for, pointing at all the fish I wanted, and there
were more than a few. The name under the picture read Corydoras barbatus,
and it had definitely caught my eye. I have always liked cories. They
are peaceful, friendly, and interesting to watch, aside from their diligent
scavenging behavior. Unfortunately, they clashed with my other interest,
dwarf cichlids. For all their peaceful behavior and other good attributes,
they are notoriously fond of caviar and fish fry. Because of this one
bad habit, I have opted not to keep them for some time.
That picture and name stuck with me though, and I made
an effort to do some studying up on them later on. I quickly found that
there wasn't going to be a wealth of info on C. barbatus, and after
talking to some other hobbyists I found that they were a fairly rare
species and finding breedable adults would be a challenge. This just
meant to me that they would be all the more worthwhile to track down.
As fate would have it, a couple weeks later I ran into another hobbyist
over the Internet who was interested in buying some fish from me. He
said he was getting some wild-caught adult Corydoras barbatus in and
he wanted to know if I would be interested in some. Well, I jumped at
the opportunity and I decided to take two pairs.
I couple weeks later I received two beautiful, healthy pairs of Corydoras barbatus through the mail. One of the great things about barbatus is that they are very easy to sex when mature. Unlike most other cories which look the same in both sexes aside from some build and ventral fin differences, Corydoras barbatus exhibits clear sexual dichromatism (they're colored differently). The males have a much more attractive pattern with contrasting black, white, almost bronze blotches, with a beautiful latticework of gold over the black on the front half of the body. Males also have bristles on the side of their face, looking a lot like Velcro on their cheeks. The females, in contrast, are much plainer, with a general tan color over the body with varying blotches of darker brown or black. They also lack the facial bristles. One thing to note is that C. barbatus does get a good a good deal larger than most other cories, with males commonly reaching 4-5".
Going by one of the few sources of information I found
on the web, I set them up in a 15 gallon tank with a fine-sand bottom,
good circulation, and no heater. Corydoras barbatus inhabits the rivers
flowing through Rio de Janeiro, which generally stay a good deal cooler.
The temperature in their breeding/maintenance tanks generally hovers
around 66F, with temperatures sometimes going down to 62. They are perfectly
happy with this, and breed non-stop.
The biggest key to success that I've found is feeding
a lot. Meaty, high-protein foods are good, and my cories will gorge
themselves on live blackworms. On an alternating diet of live blackworms,
frozen bloodworms, sinking pellets, and occasional flake, fed a couple
times a day, the females were plump and itching to breed after about
a week. I ultimately decided to keep just one male and put him with
both females. He was a slightly younger male(only 3.5"), but his
coloration and finnage was perfect. The male became more and more excited,
and spent almost all his time chasing and displaying to the females.
I knew they would be spawning soon. Then one day, a little over a week
after I received them, I came home from work that night and found eggs
plastered in a small group on the front glass. There were about 30 of
them, fairly large and clear. It wasn't as large as I was expecting,
but it was something! I quickly transferred the eggs into a 10 gallon
tank I had set up above the breeding tank for just this purpose. I simply
rolled the eggs off the glass and onto my finger, then carefully rolled
them off and onto the glass in the hatching tank. The parents won't
touch the eggs, but I prefer not to wait for them to hatch and then
have to try to find and catch little wigglers in the tank. The hatching
tank had only a sponge filter driven by a small powerhead, with no substrate
or other décor. I kept the temperature at about 68F in this tank,
and I made sure to keep the pH acidic (about 6.0). According to other
people who have bred these guys, the acidic pH helps to break down the
egg membrane, making it easier for the fry to hatch. After about 4 days,
the eggs began to hatch out, and by day 5 all that were going to hatch
had. About 20 fry total made it from this first spawning. After another
3-4 days, they had used up their yolk sacs and were actually starting
to look like fish. I began offering them freshly hatched baby brine
shrimp three times daily. They quickly accepted this food and their
bellies turned pinkish-orange when they were full with bbs. With all
this feeding, I made sure to keep up on maintenance. They got 10% daily
water changes for the first few weeks, and then I began to step it up
to 25-30%. They grew quickly, and by about 4 weeks of age they were
nearing 1" long and accepting sinking tablet foods along with bbs.
By this time they also were starting to resemble their parents, and
you could tell they were Corydoras, rather than some generic fish like
creature. Let me tell you, looking a school of little barbatus, with
their little cat-like whiskers and blinking eyes is a great site.
The parents are continuing to spawn, with as many as 300 eggs coming every 4-6 days. I would say that Corydoras barbatus is a very interesting fish, and highly recommendable to anyone who likes cories and is looking for something a little more out of the ordinary. On that note, I've got kittens looking for a home so anyone who is interested let me know. I'm not that hard to reach.
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