Two year old male of V. letourneuxi from Lake Butrint population
Valencia letourneuxi is know from several places in northern Greece and from one place in Albania. Most common in the hobby are fishes from the Greek island of Corfu. In summer 2013, I received two males and three females of V. letourneuxi from a Belgium broodstock. These fishes originally came from an unknown place, most likely a tributary, of Lake Butrint in southern Albania. They immediately started to spawn and I soon had about 100 juveniles. In the winter facility, I placed them together with some Phoxinellus, which ate many of the smaller juveniles. Also in this species, the juveniles mature with one year and I could fast expand the broodstock. They are treated in the same way as my V. robertae and this species seem to be less sensitive to skin parasites than V. robertae. I had never any problems with them in the winter and never needed to give them salt and extra light. Meanwhile this species has well established at FSJF and I have a very good broodstock.
A one year old male Aphanius saourensis from my broodstock
My broodstock of this Algerian species is based on fishes originally collected from Oued Saoura basin near Mazzer, the last known population of the species. They have been collected already in the 1990th and the stock is kept by several killifish enthusiasts since. Meanwhile, the species seems to be extinct in the wild. In 2013, the German Killifish Association in collaboration with me as the IUCN FFSG chair the European Region funded a small project to support Mahmoud Bacha from Bejaia Universityin Algeria to search again for the species at its type locality and other waterbodies in the Oued Saoura. Mahmoud and his team checked the type locality and several other water bodies but with depressing results only. Beside Gambusia holbrooki, only alien tilapia (Oreochromis aureus) could be found. There was no trace of the Aphanius. Naturally, a negative record is difficult to make and there might be still the chance to re-discover the species in the wild. But based on the actual results, we should treat the captive stock, which exist in some European countries, in a way as if the wild population would be gone. From the captive stock, I received three pairs which spawned without problems. But the species is not very fecund and the juveniles are very small and grow only slowly. Only very early hatched juveniles become mature in their second, others in their third year. In the first three years I had this species, I did not make it to breed a larger number of fishes due to several accidents and problems. Since 2015, I have a good broodstock of about 50 fishes and enough eggs and juveniles. This is the most sensitive Aphanius I keep and needs always a double check if all is fine.
Ex-Situ conservation is seen as a dead end by many colleagues. If habitats are destoyed or when alien species are the major driver of extinctions - how to return the Ex-Situ species into nature? Surprisingly it is often more fancy and more easy to raise money for reintrodcutions then for ground based conservation. While many species can be kept in captivity with little efforts, it is not so very easy to breed them without creating genetic bottlenecks and easily captive stocks become the victim of accidents. Furthermore, only nicely looking, small species are attractive for non-professional breeders. Therefore, Ex-Situ conservation correctly is only the very last action. But Ex-Situ might be the last chance to keep many species, maybe only for scientific reasons. There are actually only few Ex-Situ conservation programs in fishes but Ex-Situ will be a big thing in the near future. Therefore, it is time to learn more about the reproductive biology and how to keep endangered species in captivity. Fishes are kept at FSJF not to save the last individuals of their kind, but mostly for fun and to learn about their reproductive biology.
One year old male of Aphanius villwocki from my broodstock
The original six juveniles of this species came from its type locality, the spring at Pınarbaşı close to Emirdağ in Central Anatolia. This long living and large growing Aphanius is already at FSJF since seven generations. One male had lived for five years! At FSJF, they spawn in their second summer when kept cold over winter. I have best experience with them in larger tanks as the 100x100 cm tanks and, in contrast to other Aphanius, they much prefer to spawn in the algae on the wall of the tank and not in the free floating algae. Also, larvae seem to be very vulnerable to predatory water beetles, which are common at FSJF. For some years, I had problems to get good numbers of eggs despite my broodstock of 20 pairs. This species preys strongly on its eggs, even when enough mosquito larva are in the tank. I use netted algae mops as spawning substrate successfully. Before, I pick eggs out of the algae in May and June almost every day. Juveniles have been given to several enthusiasts.
A pair of wild caught Aphanius fasciatus from Touggourt oasis
The broodstock of this species originates from the famous Algerian Touggourt oasis, where the species was collected in a small brackish lake together with Coptodon zillii and Hemichromis saharae. With about 2-3 ‰, I keep them at higher salinities then the other Aphanius. Initially, it seems to be difficult to keep this population under the conditions at FSJF and I was able to establish a good stock at the Zoo in Vienna. A part of the wild caught fishes and some juveniles have been given also to several other enthusiasts. While I had lost the species in 2013, I got some back in the same year and was able to breed many in 2015. This was the breakthrough and in 2016 I have a very good and productive broodstock. This species preys strongly on its eggs, even when enough mosquito larva are in the tank. I use netted algae mops as spawning substrate successfully.
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