By Paul Parks
The Zoogoneticus tequila, commonly called Tequila splitfin or Tequila fish, is an inquisitive, livebearer from west-central Mexico the that deserves a chance to win your praise. They are a relaxed, inquisitive species that can be placed in a community tank, although, I kept mine in a tank with a few juvenile bristlenose catfish and nothing else. Generally, the fish is drab with bronze and olive tones. But when they get excited, both the male and female will turn a dark charcoal gray. During breeding their color turns to black. The male’s anal and dorsal fins are tipped with white and the caudal fin has a vivid orange stripe along the edge. The females do not have the tipped fins or the orange stripe. Mature females grow approximately two inches, which is half an inch larger than males.
The breeding setup was a heavily planted 10-gallon aquarium with plenty of line-of-sight breaks. I would have preferred a 20 long but they were occupied with other breeding projects. Guppy grass covered the tank from top-to-bottom and left-to-right. A medium portion of anubias provided a nice hide in the corner and three medium terracotta pots laid on their sides provided some caves and line-of-sight breaks. The last hide was a rock garden at one end of the aquarium approximately three inches wide by two inches tall. It was made of small and medium river rocks stacked on top of each other and allowed an adult free zone for fry to hide. The entire rock garden was positioned at the base of the Hamburg Matten filter. This naturally allowed the circulating water to gently move the fry to the rocks until they were mature enough to find cover on their own. The remainder of the tank was covered with a thin layer of Safe T Sorb and aragonite sand. The result was a stable environment that maintained constant parameters of pH 7.2, GH 3, KH 3, and nitrates less than 30 parts per million.
I used Raleigh tap water for all stages of breeding and rearing the fry. The water was treated with Seachem Prime mixed directly in the aquarium with adults and fry present. I routinely performed 50% water changes weekly until the fry were born. Once born, I switched to 25% water changes. After six weeks I continued with 50% water changes. The cold water out of the tap was 80-84 degrees because of the summer heat. Tequilas are a cool water fish preferring water in the 68-74 degrees range so refilling the tank took a few minutes longer than usual to ensure the much warmer tap water was a gradual change. The fish were not stressed with the gradual increase from 74 degrees to 76-77 degrees. Without a heater in the tank, the temperature slowly fell back to 74 degrees and naturally fluctuated one degree from day to night.
I left the fry in the tank with the parents because the plants and rock garden provided enough cover. Additionally, the parents did not show interest in eating the fry. I think this was in part to the parents being fed a balanced diet, and the fry are considerably larger at birth than most livebearers. The fry ate the same food as the adults providing it was crushed into small pieces. A combination of various flake foods, Fluval Bug Bites, and baby brine shrimp were fed 2-3 times per day. They are not picky eaters. It’s important to note that leaving the fry with the parents for the first few weeks was risky since many livebearers will opportunistically eat their fry. Also, the tequila’s gestation period is approximately 60 days so if the parents eat a spawn it’s a long wait for more. The fry double in size from approximately 10 mm to 20 mm in the first two months of life and will be sexually mature at approximately three months old.
Locating Z. tequila locally can be challenging. I purchased my pair from a member of the Raleigh Aquarium Society, Neil Frank, that no longer breeds the species. I highly recommend searching for a reputable breeder in your local club or online from a skilled breeder. I grew the colony and transferred it to a private aquarist. I hope they enjoy and continue to grow the colony.
Paul Parks is a fish enthusiast and active member of the Raleigh Aquarium Society Breeder Award Program. He can be contacted by going to www.FishManiac.com or following him on Instagram @FishManiac_com.