Photo is of a Dragon Blood Peacock Cichlid male, one of our breeders.
A while back, we processed two breeding vats of dragon blood peacocks. This is a strain we got from www.livefishdirect.com in November 2012. The photo shows a typical male of this strain. We grew the fish to maturity and set them up for breeding. Interestingly enough, when we processed them we found about half the fish were grey bodied instead of gold. Among the gold bodied fish we found two types of males. The purplish-pink (red) ones like the photo and some that were powder blue instead of purplish-pink. I was puzzled at the time about the genetics of this color strain as I’ll discuss below. After adding mature females from the offspring, I split the breeding colony into two, one with red males and one with blue males. Creatively enough, I called them red dragon bloods and blue dragon bloods respectively. The breeders were placed into 300 gallon cichlid breeding vats. The juveniles were split into dragon blood and non-gold dragon blood as I called the grey bodied fish.
Now to the genetics of the strain. The first thing to occur to me is that the gold body has to be dominant over the normal grey. Why is this? Well, if it were recessive, then there would have only been gold bodied fish. The appearance of grey fish from gold parents meant gold was dominant to grey and that at least some of the original fish carried the recessive grey. The next thing that occurred to me is that an almost 1:1 ration of gold to grey was unusual. Even if all the original fish carried the grey recessive, you’d expect a 3:1 ratio of gold to grey. A couple of things could have happened to explain this anomaly. First, it’s possible the gold fry aren’t as good at avoiding predation and got eaten more frequently. Another reason could be that the gold dominant is lethal when homozygous, meaning when a fish inherits two copies of gold it dies. I was skeptical about this because that would lead to a 2:1 ratio of gold to grey and we’d gotten closer to 1:1. Even if gold was a homozygous lethal, then something else had to be going on.
Okay, back to the events. When we processed the two breeding colonies we got a 6.5:1 ratio of gold to grey. That is more like what you’d expect if gold was not a homozygous dominant. The relatively low numbers of grey fish indicates that most of our breeders were homozygous and all of their offspring would be gold. I also could tell from the numbers that at least one male in each breeding carried the recessive grey. So, why so many greys the first time around? I think my predation theory holds up. The original breeding colony was small and for some reason it seems small breeding colonies tend to be more cannibalistic. I speculate that has to do with fewer fry being produced. If there are large numbers of fry, the adults seem to become inured with them and cease to think of them as food. This phenomenon happens with not only cichlids, but also livebearers, rainbowfishes, barbs, and tetras.
While I’m certain (relatively) I’m correct about the dragon blood genetics, I’m going to set up some test crosses to prove it. I’ll mate greys together to see if I get only greys. By the way, they are very attractive fish in their own right. I’ll also mate dragon blood males to OB peacock females. This is a dual purpose. If I get 100% gold offspring from a mating, then I know that male is homozygous. If I get 1:1, then he is heterozygous. Knowing this can help me build dragon blood breeding colony with only homozygous gold males that would produce 100% dragon bloods. Also, I wonder what the dragon blood pattern would look like on an OB color pattern.
I’ll let you know what happens…