re: Altum Magazine (Ed Ruiz and Mike Troxell)

***My Article***

On July 30, 2009 I received a dozen wild caught juvenile Inirida altum. I would estimate their age at the time of their arrival at approximately 2 months. The fish were placed in a 60"X18"X20"(90gallon) acrylic aquarium with a black background where they spent their first 6 months. The tank was filtered by 2 fluval 404 canisters with spraybars so that the water was extremely well oxygenated. I placed the spray bars about half an inch above the water level pointed straight down to reduce the amount of current and to create a strong flow of bubbles to promote gas exchange and oxygenation. No decorations were placed in the aquarium and it remained bare bottomed except for a few pieces of Malaysian driftwood. I experimented with gravel as a substrate but found that the bare bottom tank was much easier to keep clean. All 12 altum arrived healthy and the only medication I ever subjected them to was a wormer flake containing fenbendazole at 4-5 months of age. This aquarium had a pH of just above 7 and a TDS of between 50-75. Temperature was maintained between 80-84F. The altum were fed several different flake foods as well as frozen bloodworms and frozen brine shrimp with Boyd vitachem vitamin supplement added. Food was offered several times daily and in small enough quantities to keep the fish hungry. Water changes were performed daily of 25% at first and gradually increased until I was changing out over 50% daily.

In February of 2010 the altum were moved to a 48"X18"X32" aquarium where they were maintained in the manner described above. Eventually water changes were reduced to 75% weekly or biweekly. I added Caribsea torpedo beach sand and several mazanita branches to this aquarium in an effort to simulate pterophyllum altums natural environment. The pH was lowered to 4.5-5.1 and monitored by a digital pH meter. A 36w UV sterilizer was added to this setup. I maintained the sterilizer on a 12hr on/off cycle because I liked to occasionally add 12-15 cattapa leaves to the tank in between water changes. All of the altum grew extremely well and in the summer of 2011 I sold 6 of them to a good friend. Unfortunately I lost one of the 6 remaining altum. This left me with 5 fish of which I hoped for 2 pairs.

Over the course of the next year I watched 2 pairs form on opposites sides of the aquarium. In April of 2012 I began a bio simulation to simulate the rainy season in an attempt to entice the altum to spawn. Sixteen inch ceramic cones were placed on each side of the aquarium and the sand was removed to help keep the aquarium clean during this period. I raised the temperature to 88-90F and began feeding the fish all they would eat. I began feeding live blackworms, bristlenose pleco fry with the yolk still attached, guppy fry, celestial danios , pterophyllum scalare spawns, pterophyllum scalare fry and cherry shrimp. Frozen foods included bloodworms and glassworms. The altum developed the greatest affinity for the live cherry shrimp and the frozen glassworms. No water was changed for almost 3 weeks. The pH was increased from 4.5 to just above 6 using crushed coral placed in mesh bags inside the canister filters. The Filters flow rate was cut in half during this time and the water was stained heavily with cattapa leaf. The altums colors and displays were magnificent at this time.
The time had come for me to simulate a large rainfall and hope for a spawn. I began with a water change of over 75% with cooler reverse osmosis water while simultaneously lowering the pH in the aquarium back to the 4.8-5.1 range. The fish did not show much interest in the cones at this time. I began 33% daily water changes and sometimes more. Each time lowering the pH to the 4.8 range and letting it climb back to 5.1. After adjusting the pH value many times in an effort to stimulate spawning I found this range excited the pair the most. Over the course of the next couple weeks I determined that I did indeed have one pair of altum but that the other 3 fish were all male indentified by their genital tubes. The females tube began to drop with cleaning and displaying intensifying each night after the water change only to recede despite all my efforts. Leading me to believe that there was a requirement of my female that was not being met. The most glaring that the pair needed space of their own. All of the other fish in the aquarium were removed and the back and sides were covered in cardboard. Soon after with the females tube dropping once more I decided to give the pair space and left them alone with minimal disturbances to offer food or perform a water change. Encouraged by how far the females tube had dropped I decided to leave the pair alone all together. Three days later on June 15,2012 the pair decided to spawn. At the time of spawning the aquarium had a TDS of 75 a temperature of 81F and a pH of 5.16.

re: Altum Magazine (Ed Ruiz and Mike Troxell)

***Ed's Article***

My major experience with Pterophyllum altum has to do with having collected them in Venezuela for many years and studying them in the field. I participated in a research project in which we were able to breed them, along with some other hard to breed species of the Orinoco Blackwater Habitat. This project focused on Habitat Biosimulation in the Aquarium and results would be measured by the accomplishment of the reproduction of the species involved, such as P.altum. This took place between 1981 and 1983 and the project coordinator was Biologist Edgar W. Cabezas (AKA Wil), my mentor in Tropical Fish Collection. My personal focus back then was on the Genus Symphysodon, as I was trying to confirm the reports of several authors (Wattley, Degen, Schmidt-Focke, Roman, among others) as to their existence in Venezuelan waters, but I had no success finding them. But in turn, I encountered many other beautiful species, and among them, was the Orinoco Angelfish (P.altum). Having worked with Wil, supplying P.altum, P. axelrodi and other Orinoco species to Venezuelan Ornamental Fish Exporters, and through them, to the world market, brought me many satisfactions. Today, living in Salt Lake City, Utah, and being that the Venezuelan OTF trade is non existent, I help Colombian exporters make commercial contacts worldwide and help them troubleshoot health conditions and husbandry issues in an effort to bring healthier and better quality P.altum to the international market and hobbyists everywhere.
As to actually breeding P. altum nowadays… I am only beginning to grow a batch of nice Atabapo specimens for our joint project (with Mike Troxell, who lives in Las Vegas, Nevada) and it is on Mr. Troxell that we need to focus our attention. Mike has just accomplished breeding a pair of P.altum (from the Rio Inirida) based on the information I have provided him from our project of years back (I am referring to E.W. Cabezas’ Biosimulation Study). It is Mr. Troxell’s discipline, passion and total commitment to this project that has allowed us to achieve our goals and is making this venture a success. The only credit I have, is providing him with the details of the project I was involved in, my observations of the habitat and how to replicate a full annual and seasonal (climatic) cycle in the aquarium. It took exactly one year (plus or minus a few weeks) from Mr. Troxell’s start up of the project, to succeed in spawning his pair.
Taking this into consideration, I will be glad to answer any questions and try to condense a few pages containing the information used by Mr. Troxell to breed his P.altum and producing one of the best documented events of this nature in the U.S.

My regards
Ed Ruiz