Breeding and Development of Brochis splendens (Castelnau, 1855)

Brian Walsh


t all started some 5 years ago when I acquired 7 wild caught Brochis splendens, varying in size from 4cm to 6.5cm. After being quarantined, these fish were placed in a 6 foot long by 14 inch wide by 12 inch deep tank. Sand was used as a substrate and it was filtered by an outside power filter. The tank also contained many small characins and Corydoras plus a few pairs of dwarf cichlids. The whole tank was fed a very varied diet which included Tubifex, Daphnia, bloodworm, flake food and catfood, all of which were readily taken by the Brochis. All the Brochis continued to thrive but showed no signs of any spawning activity. A new discovery?




Brochis splendens

Brochis splendens



Six months later a supposedly new high-fin Cory appeared in the dealers. They had green and black speckled bodies with orange, white and black blotched dorsals. All were very small, about 2cm. On examination of the dorsal rays they were found to be a Brochis species. 1 bought 10 of these very young Brochis and placed them in quarantine. Three weeks later they were placed in the 6 foot tank alongside the other Brochis. By this time their colours had changed quite dramatically. They had lost all the orange, white and black and had become metallic green, just like my original stock of Brochis. All the fish continued to grow well and lived together with no problems. None of the Brochis showed any signs of spawning activity even though many of the Corydoras species 1 had in that tank spawned frequently. Over the next few years the fish continued to grow. I had lost 5 of the original 7 wild caught fish. The remaining 2 had been the smallest of the batch but had now grown on to just under 7cm and were obviously mature fish. Of the hi-fin types, 1 had lost 5 and the remaining 5 fish had grown to about 5cm and then stopped growing.

New tanks for old.
At about this time we had decided to build an extension onto the back of our existing house. This meant that the fishhouse had to be pulled down. Many of my fish were rehoused in tanks in a tiered system in our kitchen, whilst the building work, which took 8 months to complete, was in progress. During this time 1 lost a further 4 fish due, mainly, to too many fish being held in close confines. 1 was left with 3 fish - one of the original wild caught batch which 1 was convinced was a female and 2 of the hi-fin types whose sex was indeterminate. 1 had a feeling that they may be males mainly due to the fact that they had not grown on as well as the female and they were a lot slimmer. The fish were duly installed in the new fishroom with all the rest of my Corydoras and small characins in a 4 foot by 2 foot by 2 foot tank which had been set up and running for a week. Two days later I noticed the 3 Brochis chasing around the tank in very close formation, with the smaller fish continually nudging the larger.  I decided to move them just in case they did spawn as the characins would soon have eaten the eggs. The only tank available at this time was a 5 foot by 15 inch by 15 inch which I had set up as a furnished tank and housed a pair of unidentified Rainbow Fish. And now 1 wait.

After the next 5 days the tank was checked morning and night for any spawning activity. On the morning of December 17th the smaller fish were again seen chasing and nudging the larger fish. When I returned home from work that night and looked in the tank, the female was noticeably thinner. On looking carefully through the tank, eggs could be seen stuck to the back glass, all were within 3 inches of the surface and very few had been placed on the plants. The temperature was 74'F and the pH 6.5. The eggs were carefully removed using a Stanley Knife blade and transferred to a smaller tank, 18 inches by 6 inches by 6 inches, to hatch. The eggs were light yellow in colour but changed to orange, then light brown and finally became darkly mottled just before hatching. At 74'F the eggs took 4 days to hatch. On hatching the fry measured approximately 7mm in length including the tail and had a very small yolk sac. Of the 150 eggs collected from the tank only just over 100 hatched. The fry were darkly mottled and accepted Brine Shrimp on the second day after hatching.

They grew well and on the, 5th day 1introduced microworms to their diet. By the 12th day they were eating chopped up Tubifex worms and had grown to 17mm. By now their fins had fully developed, the dorsals becoming very large and strikingly coloured with an intense white edge. The fish grew on well and at 30 days old were 23mm long and looked just like the hi-fin Corys 1 had bought several years earlier. Late to bed...

Fourteen days after the first spawning the Brochis spawned again. This time they spawned at night. I managed to witness and photograph much of the preliminary spawning activity. The colours on the males and female became more intense and black reticulated markings became visible on all the fish. At this time the colour pattern closely resembled that of Corydoras sodalis. Unfortunately, they still had not started to spawn at 1.30a.m. and, as 1 had to go to work the next day, 1 retired to bed....early to rise.

First thing that morning, at approximately 6.00a.m., 1 went into the fishroom just in time to take a slide of their last spawning run. All the eggs had been placed on the undersides of floating plants and none on the tank sides. Again, the eggs were removed to hatch in a tank on their own. Of approximately 120 eggs collected only 42 hatched. Four nights after the fry had emerged from the eggs we had quite a severe frost in our area and the temperature dropped quite suddenly by approximately 5 degrees in the fishroom and the following morning 26 of the 42 fry had died. In subsequent spawnings I placed a small heater and outside stat on the tank to alleviate this problem. To date, the trio of fish have spawned 12 times and every spawning since the first has taken place at night in total darkness. The number of eggs hatched has never been greater than 50 and more often than not has been around the 30 mark. Placing low wattage bulbs over the tank and leaving them on when the fish showed some spawning activity only resulted in the fish losing interest completely.

The fish spawned regularly from the 17th December until the end of May and have not spawned since. This, I believe, could be be the end of their spawning cycle. Many of the catfish that we keep have this in built spawning calendar that, out in their natural environment, allows them to produce large amounts of offspring when there is an abundance of food available for the young to grow on. It also gives the adults a rest period and a time to recuperate ready for the next cycle.


2nd day
2nd day: approximately 8mm; mottled body pattern; dorsal fin blotched, all other fins clear.

4th day

4th day: approximately 11mm; dorsal beginning to extend and get a white tip: adipose, caudal and anal fins beginning to be formed; body markings reduced.

6th day

6th day: approximately 14mm; dorsal still growing, getting a white edge; body markings reduced.

8th day

8th day: approximately 15mm; dorsal still growing, black and white stripes very prominent; fins fully formed; body beginning
to deepen.

12th day

12th day: approximately 16mm; dorsal still growing, black stripe beginning to break up, white edge showing an orange cast to it; body still deepening.

16th day
16th day: approximately 17mm; dorsal still growing, black stripe becoming mottled with orange, white beginning to diminish with orange spreading into it; body starting to show a green sheen.


25th day

25th day: approximately 23mm; dorsal at full height, orange and black mottled with a few white patches remaining; body deep, metalic green with black speckles.

30th day

30th day: approximately 27mm; dorsal losing colour; body colour deepening and losing black speckles.

43rd day: approximately 32mm; dorsal almost clear; body colour metalic green with no black present.

Brochis splenden=eggs  

Plants, rocks and wood allow Brochis to choose its preferred spawning site.

Brochis splenden=juvenile  

The transformation between juvenile and adult B.splendens is dramatic.





This article was originally in the Catfish Association of Great Britain's magazine no.66, 1990.

Photo Credits:
Top image = Danny Blundell
Drawings    = Brian Walsh
Eggs          = Brian Walsh



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