Brochis splendens

by Don Kinyon

Brochis are catfish from South America closely related to the Corydoras. The Brochis splendens is one of the most commonly available of the species and was first described in 1855 by Castelnau. They come from the Amazon, Rio Ucayali, Rio Ambiyacu and tributaries. Most of their habitat consists of soft, acidic, slower-moving waters that contain a good amount of vegetation.

Brochis splendens, as all the Brochis, generally attain a larger size than their Corydoras cousins. This species can grow to 3 1/2". One of the other differences is that Brochis species have more rays in the dorsal fin than the Corydoras. The basic body shape is higher and more laterally compressed.
This particular species can be from an attractive emerald green to almost solid black, depending on its mood and surroundings. The snout is long, bringing to mind the long-nosed Corys, such as barbatus or seussi. The belly of the fish is white to pale orange and fins clear to mud-brown.

I rescued five of these fish from a not-to-be-named pet store because it didn’t look like they would last more than a few days in the conditions they were being kept under. Within a few weeks, two of the fish had died anyway, but the others seemed to respond to clean water and a variety of foods, even though their barbels were eroded and their pectoral fins were a little shorter than they should have been.

The three that remained looked to be two males and a female, so I planned on setting them up for breeding at some time in the future. For the time being, they were housed in a 30-gallon community tank along with some Corydoras species, Bunocephalus catfish, some Rasbora species, and Endler’s livebearers. Foods consisted of live, frozen and dry prepared, given twice a day. Water changes were once weekly, usually about 35 percent, with tap water: pH of 7.4 and a total hardness of 140 parts per million.

One evening while feeding the fish, I noticed some small eggs along the top third of the glass, most of which were near the surface of the water. After observing the tank for a while, it was clear that I had missed the spawning and the fish weren’t going to let me in on whose eggs were on the glass. I scraped all the eggs that I could find from the tank with a razor blade and put them into a small plastic tub for hatching. About one inch of water, a little acriflavin, some java moss and an air stone seem to work very well with Corydoras, and that’s what I had assumed the eggs were from, so it’s the set-up I used.

The eggs were tiny, at least as small as eggs of the diminutive Corydoras pygmeaus, and numbered about forty. I kept watch on them and removed any that went bad, and in four days they started to hatch. About thirty fry were present when all the eggs had hatched. The youngsters were about an eighth of an inch long, and looked pretty much like an egg with a tail. They didn’t start to eat until they were three days hatched.
The young catfish stayed in the plastic tub until they were about three weeks old and about three eighths of an inch in length. They grew steadily on a diet mostly of micro worms, with an occasional feeding of baby brine shrimp.

Feedings were twice daily, as were ninety-percent water changes. I found it best to be careful not to change the water level, and therefore the pressure, too suddenly: it seems to have an ill effect on the baby cats, sending them into a shock-like state, and even killing some of the young.

By this time they had outgrown their container and needed a more permanent home. I had just moved some larger Corydoras fry from a 15-gallon tank, so it was available to be used. I emptied the tank and cleaned it, adding just enough new water to equal the one-inch level of the plastic tub. When the tub was dumped into the tank it raised the level a little, but not enough to hurt the fish. An air stone kept the water circulating and oxygenated. Instead of water changes, the fish got new water added once daily at about three quarters of a gallon each time until the level was sufficient to add a sponge filter to the set-up.

I had suspected that the eggs had been left there by some of the Corydoras similis in the tank that I had hoped would spawn, and by the time the fry were four weeks old I was sure that this was the case. They developed an oversized dorsal fin, which was a dark orange color with white edging. The other fins and the eyes matched its color. The body was silver with black markings, and the belly gold. Not exactly a perfect match for the adult similis, but so dissimilar to any other fish in the tank that it had to be related just by the process of elimination.

A week or two later, the juvenile fish were eating some of the same foods as adult catfish: live, frozen, and freeze-dried or flake, chopped into smaller pieces. The young fish were growing well now and looking more bizarre by the day. The oversized dorsal fin just continued to grow faster than the rest of the fish, and the colors were starting to change again. The dark orange in the fins got brighter, the upper body was mottled silver and black, and the lower body iridescent green. At this point I had no idea what these fish were.

At ten weeks, the snouts of the fry started to develop a definite pointed shape and I started to suspect the fish were Brochis. Some of the odd coloration faded to a shiny green and the growth of the fish started to catch up with that of the dorsal fin. The youngsters ate all the same foods as the adults by now and always seemed to be ravenous. They grew very quickly at this age and were over an inch long.

I finally confirmed that the eggs were those of Brochis splendens by twelve weeks of age. They were smaller versions of the adults, though still not quite the same coloration. A little of the speckling was still evident, and the dorsal, anal, and ventral fins were still orange-brown, but fading quickly.

I can recommend this fish to anyone for a community tank, species tank, or breeding scheme, as it offers no real problems in maintenance or breeding, and is an interesting addition to any hobbyist’s tanks. The fry are an education in themselves to watch as they change color and shape, almost by the day.

This article first appeared in PVAS’s Delta Tale, Vol 33, # 1


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