Updated: Sep 5, 2019
So you're thinking about breeding albino angelfish? Awesome! They're a gorgeous strain with many variants of their own. Albino angels can be pearlscale, wide fin, Dantum, and new strains are bringing in red color back into the patterns of the fish. I've bred a large number of different strains of angelfish, but none have been more difficult to rear than albinos. Here's what I've learned to get great batch sizes.
What is an albino (albinism)?
In humans, this is condition that causes a substantial lower rate of melanin production. Melanin is the pigment that gives us our skin color. You've seen people afflicted by this condition, and they have very fair skin, bleach blond hair, and blue eyes.
In fish, albinism creates a golden pink body colour and the characteristic red eyes (pupils). Platinum angelfish are often mistaken as albnio, which is incorrect. Platinum angelfish are solid silver, with black eyes.
The gene that causes albinism is recessive, but when both parents carry copies of the mutations, surprise! You get albino babies. Because of this, it is likely that only a portion of the fry will be affected. When breeding an albino father with a silver mother, 50% of the fry turned out to be albino.
The Fry - What You'll Notice
Immediately on hatching, you'll see that something is different. Albino angelfish fry are easy to spot from the very first day as you can compare them against their siblings. The albino wigglers will be lighter in color. In the video below, you'll see albino fry and regular silver fry. The silvers very obviously have pigmentation, while the albino fry appear almost ghost-like.
Our fry kept dying
We raised 17 batches of albino fry before we got this right. That's one batch about every 10 days, for 170 days or so. That's roughly 6 months of failure. Every single batch of albino fry died within a week of free swimming. We tried various foods, medications, separating the fry in different ways, regular water changes, massive water changes, sterile tanks, dirty tanks, mixing fry, everything! Nothing worked. What we noticed with every batch was that the albino fry were not eating. When angelfish fry eat baby brine shrimp, their bellies expand and become a pink/orange colour. Our albinos never ate.
Finally, we got frustrated. The albinos laid and we stuck the eggs into our corner tank. You know that tank you have that you probably should pay more attention to, but you don't? That tank where you put things that you have no idea where else to put them? We put the eggs into that tank and all but forgot about them. We fed them, but didn't pay much attention to them (our tanks are on a drip system so they are automatically water changed). About 10 days later, when a different pair laid eggs, we looked into the albino tank expecting to see a bunch of dead fry and...holy carp! We had live fry. A lot of them. This broke the 7 day rule and we realized that we were onto something, but we had no idea what that was.
Our corner tank of abandonment suddenly became our most important aquarium. What was different? The water? No...drip system, all tanks have the same water. The food? No...if anything, this tank could have gotten more food, but they were eating what all of our fry were eating. The temperature? No...same as all of the other tanks. Same filter, same water, same glass, same silicone,i same airline tubing. We checked everything, and then noticed one thing. Different lighting.
Albino fry are blind. Sort of.
For all intents and purposes, albino fry are blind. We didn't notice it, and figured their irregular swimming habits were because they were deformed in a way we couldn't see with the naked eye. Being blind, they can't find their food.
What was different about the corner tank vs. every other aquarium was that the light didn't reach over the top of the tank. It ended a few inches shy of the aquarium and cast a side light into the tank, rather than lighting from the top (now you know why it was our tank of abandonment). The albino fry seemed to congregate on the lighted side, meaning that although they were mostly blind, they were somewhat phototactic and drawn to light.
Coincidentally, baby brine shrimp are as well. They'll form large clouds are they congregate at the closest point to a light source. What this meant was that the baby brine shrimp were grouping together fairly tightly, and the albino angelfish fry were swimming through clouds of their food. If I drop you in a pool filled with pudding, odds are you're going to eat some of the pudding. That's what was happening here.
Replicating the results
If something works once, there's a chance that it's a fluke. We were able to replicate this for over 6 months and raised lot of albino angelfish fry in that time. All of the other aspects of hatching the eggs and raising the albino angels are the same, but the first 7-10 days are where this variant differs from all other strains. Make sure your aquarium is side-lit, and feed an extra 50% more baby brine shrimp so the fish have a better chance of running into them, and you'll be getting great yields. We had a 80-85% success rate with our albinos, compared to a 95%+ rate with our other strains. We were pleased with it and think you may be too!
Leave a comment, a question, or even a contradiction down below and we can learn together.
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Andrei Vexler is an aquarist with over 20 years in the fish hobby. Having run a fish room with over 700 freshwater and saltwater aquariums, Andrei found his passion in South American cichlids, particularly altum angelfish. Growing and wholesaling angels to the GTA and surrounding area, he shares his years of experience in his blog for advanced aquarists.