Today we processed our single vat of Dragon Blood Peacocks. The photo is one of our three breeding males.
We got our starting breeders of this fish from Live Fish Direct the end of November last year. After growing up the juveniles, we found the fish to be more than advertised. They are spectacular fish. In March of this year we set up 4 males and 3 females in a 300 gallon vat for breeding. Only a couple of months late (we try to process a breeding vat in 3-4 months), we finally got around to them. Our system can be hard on fish since they aren’t coddled at all. Five of the original fish, 3 males and 2 females survived. From those breeders we got 138 juveniles and young adults. We probably lost some reproduction since the cages we place in the vats as refuge for fry were occupied by fish big enough to eat them. We should have dumped the cages about 2 months ago to provide hiding for new fry. But, as is most of the time, there are too few hours to do everything needing done.
We set up the breeding colony with the 5 mature breeders and added 52 young females. We’re going grow up the balance of the fish for sale.
When I had inspected the vat last week to see how is was doing, I noticed some gray bodied fish mixed in with the gold bodies of the Dragon Bloods. When we harvested the fish, we found 47 of the 138 (~34%) fish were not gold. Some of the young males were showing a little color. It looks like they’ll be blue with red shoulders. We separated these fish to grow them up. I’ve found that there are some surprising colors that are dominant genes in African cichlids and Dragon Blood must be one. All the parents had gold background colors with no hint of black except for the eyes. It’s clear that the gold coloration is dominant to the normal gray background color. The 2:1 Dragon Blood to gray isn’t exactly the expected ratio (3:1) when mating heterozygous fish together, but it is close enough for me to posit Dragon Blood as a dominant gene and that all of our breeders were heterozygous.
I could set up the test crosses to prove this when some of the youngsters get large enough to breed. What tests would I make? First of all, these tests are a pain in our system. Peacocks in general don’t do well in small groups and pair breeding is worst of all. Males are hard on the females in 55 gallon vats since they expect any female in the area to be wanting to breed. When they don’t breed the males can get very hostile. That’s why our breeding colonies are in 300 gallon vats with lots of cover. But, back to the tests.
First, I’d pick several Dragon Blood males and give each 3 Dragon Blood and 3 gray females. I’d also set up several gray males with Dragon Blood females. These would be set up in 55 gallon vats with lots of cover. Our 300 gallon vats represent expensive real estate that can’t be used for testing. Then about 2 weeks later I’d pull the fish and transfer any carrying females to individual 55 gallon vats. Every 2 weeks I’d do the same until all the females had mated. By inspecting the fry, which are either gold or gray at hatching, I can draw conclusions. If the result of a cross of a Dragon Blood to a gray yielded all Dragon Bloods, then I’d know the Dragon Blood parent was homozygous for Dragon Blood. If about half were each color, then I’d know the Dragon Blood parent was heterozygous. Any other outcomes would mean things were genetically more complex, maybe 2 or more genes being necessary for the Dragon Blood coloration. If I’m right, I can use the Dragon Bloods producing 100% Dragon Bloods as breeders and quickly produce a true breeding population.
Or, another slower and less precise path to a true breeding population, assuming Dragon Blood is a dominant gene, is to select new breeders each generation and purge any grays. After a few generations the recessive gray genes would be lost and the population would be true breeding. Considering the number of vats necessary to do test crossing, I’ll probably take this path.