By Luke Roebuck
Maintaining a color strain involves several basic procedures which need to be undertaken to achieve desired results. These include the following: proper breeder selection, purchasing and acquiring supplies, basic care and maintenance, feeding techniques, culling and selecting, basic knowledge of genetics, record keeping and breeding methods.
Each of these topics can and will be discussed in more detail separately in subsequent articles. I will, for lack of space, only briefly touch on them here.
Before you acquire your breeding stock, decide on what color or colors you wish to keep (or have space for). You need to choose a good reliable breeder who maintains only quality strains of the colors that you like. The cost may be high but the investment will be well worth the effort. The strain should be stable, breed true and contain stable (homozygous) genetics; i.e.. most of the siblings grow up to look like the parents.
Breeders can be placed in a clean 5 or 2 1/2 gallon tank equipped with a box or sponge filter and some form of refuge for the fry to escape the hungry parents. Most breeders maintain their strains by line breeding. This consists of two or more sets of related parent stock, such as one or two males with two or more females. The progeny from each parent is kept separate as a line in order to maintain the pedigree, keep track of the siblings and control unwanted crossbreeding with undesirable parents.
Occasional to frequent crossbreeding of the lines is necessary to maintain the overall quality of the strain. When purchasing a trio request the females be from different lines. I prefer the male to be from the show line or the line which throws the most desired male characteristics. This way I can observe and record what the best features of the strain should look like.
Record keeping should begin immediately with the name of the strain, source, age, mated date and other pertinent information being recorded in a notebook solely for this purpose. Identify each female as either the "A" or "B" line. Label all fry tanks. Expect to use 6 - 10 tanks per color strain. Note the quality from each batch and only keeping 2 drops from each female or you will run out of space. Label the groups of fry with filial generation such as F1, F2, etc., date of birth and batch number, I, II, III and so on.
Feeding techniques such as daily live baby brine shrimp feedings along with a variety of high quality flake foods is also a necessary factor. Growing fry need to be fed as often as possible in order to realize their fullest potential.
Basic care and maintenance involves weekly water changes and culling of undesirable individuals and moving the growing fish to larger tanks. Most of the females should be separated from the rest of the crop in order to give the males room to grow. I keep several females with the males so as to have hit females at all times just in case of a disaster.
New breeding stock is separated at about 4 months of age (depending upon the strain). Older breeders can be disposed of at this time, or can be used for backcrossing as necessary. A good line breeding program involves various combinations of inbreeding, semi-cross line breeding and occasional outcrossing.