Peering back down through the mists of time to when I started to look seriously at fish reproduction some 25 years ago (the year West Ham won the FA Cup!)
I became rather obsessed with the idea of breeding Corydoras catfish. I was always fiddling about, trying this and that, with no result at all.
You see, in the late 60s we did not have the information, or 'Know How' - all we had was the complete lack of experience - and I had plenty of that. These fishes were rather regarded as being almost impossible to breed, even sexing them was a hit or miss experiment. How it has changed in the last few years!
It seems that almost every enthusiast is turning to his or her talent and knowledge to breeding them.

Of course, fish have always been bred and have had many very fine strains of all types maintained and developed but certain fish are problematical and, in those days, only the rare 'accidental spawning' was recorded of the more advanced fishes such as Corydoras. Nowadays we are fortunate to have 'amateur' experts in all fishy fields and thanks to people who are only too willing to pass on their hard -earned knowledge to others, we can now undertake projects with a head start. I learned to breed Corys out of sheer frustration of not being able to breed them and giving up; if this sounds double-Dutch, then read on.

We were at a Show, having one of our 'mini-seminars' over several cups of tea, discussing who was breeding what and how (I never came across anyone who wasn't!) and it transpired that I had overlooked a basic breeding fact 'Fishes bred for the Trade' are easier to breed than wild-caught specimens: this fact opened a door because, on reflection, all my Corydoras breeding failures had been with the schwartzi, nanus, melanistius etc types that were being imported directly from South America. Perhaps I would have better luck with the rather less attractive (to me) Singapore-bred varieties?
To be honest, the selection was not vast, two species with an albino of dubious origin, but they were Corydoras and we hoped it would turn out to be the start of something big (well, it couldn't get any worse!).

So it was then that we trooped into our local shop and bought five each of Bronze, Peppered and Pink Cats or, to use their more correct descriptions, Corydoras aeneus, C.paleatus and an albino form.
They were a good size, been well looked after and reasonably-priced. Sexing these three species is quite easy and is best done looking down upon them from above the tank; the females are much rounder and bigger-bodied, noticeably so.
I settled for three females and two males of each type. Upon getting them home we set up three 18"x12"x12" tanks half-filled with water, an airstone and heater. All the males went in one tank, the females in another and the third was left to act as an eventual spawning tank for any conditioned, selected pair of fishes. We spent the next two weeks pumping Bloodworm, Tubifex, Earthworms and Ox-heart into the fish until the females were very swollen (and rather sluggish), the males coloured up and looking very active.

Now came the big moment - into the breeding tank went the three aeneus females and a little while later in went the males. We put on the cover glass and waited. One day, two days, three days - nothing!

Never mind; out came the aeneus and in went the paleatus - same result, NOTHING.

Desperation set in - in went the albinos. Devastation! Nothing, a real BIG NOTHING.

I could not believe it, the lack of positive reaction was absolute.
'This' I said, 'was the end. I'm giving it all up and resurrect my Essex Cricket Club career; where's Trevor Bailey's telephone number?'
What do you mean, the second team's got a new opener called Gooch?
How can anyone be any good with a name like that? It's a joke.

I chucked all those Corys in that old tank on the floor and never wanted to look at them again.

A couple of weeks later still suffering from the humiliating experience, a good friend of mine, Ronnie, gave me a super Pumpkinseed, Lepomis gibbosus.
As this is a coldwater fish I had nowhere to put him so I went to dump him in the coldest tank I had - the one on the floor.

First, I decided to take those horrid Corys out before they got eaten and choked the Sun Bass. I swept the net up and down their tank and looked into it: there were two male aeneus, three female paleatus, one albino and about twenty assorted coloured babies!

You see, we had done everything right; split them up, fed them well but did not provide the 'trigger', a sudden drop in temperature, that occurs in nature.
Hence in future, all spawnings of Corydoras end up after all the preparation with a dowsing of cold water from a bucket! So, out of frustration, despair and final abandonment, came success and the answer.

I never did go back to Essex County Cricket Club but that Gooch guy didn't do too bad after all!!

Last updated March 2005

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