Steps in Breeding GBR's and Bolivians
First, you need a pair of GBR's who have begun to mate. The easiest way to get these is by getting a minimum of 3 GBR's, the more the better, and have at least 1 female. Once you have a pair, and the tank is small, I'd remove the other males. If a larger tank, like my 75G, I just left the other males in. No problems what-so-ever. And the single female isn't stressed out either, she is always brightly colored, and very affectionate to people. But if you can get more females, it will greatly increase your chances of a successful pair.
Once you have a successful pair, then you need a tank with some strict requirements to have the best chance of success. You don't need to meet all the criteria, but if you don't, your success rate will generally be lower. First is tank size. The more room the better. They will do fine in a 20G or larger, but in my experience, the bigger, the better. That's why I chose a 75G for my main tank.
Now you say planted or non-planted? Definitely for the absolute best success rate, heavily planted with both small and large leafed plants. Mine chose a small grove of anacharis as their breeding area. The anacharis seems to stop the intruders, mainly the plecos. And it makes it easier to defend their spot. But not all will use anacharis as their area, it all depends on where in the tank it makes the GBR's feel most secure.
Now we have water conditions to discuss. What do GBR's, and Bolivians, need for a high success rate? Definitely soft water for one thing. This will give the greatest chances of success. But it does not mean that they won't spawn if the water is not soft. As long as you have stable water parameters, you will probably be successful even if the water is a little hard. So what are my parameters? Here's my tank's parameters and setup:
For my GBR's, I'm using crushed coral to bump up my kh a little, so I don't have to drive my ph down so far.
Here's my 75G stats....
ph 6.5-6.7 driven down by CO2 controller, 34-53ppm CO2
kh 100, 5.6 degrees
gh 70, 3.9 degrees
temp 81-82 degrees
I also run 1 airstone 24/7, 1 inch airstone.
Filtration: Rena Filstar XP3 with Spraybar. Media used is sponges, lava granules, ceramic cylinders, filter floss, and 2 Rena fine filter pads.
Heating: Hydor ETH 300 Inline Heater
Substrate: Eco Complete, nothing else. 3 inches up front, 4 inches in the back.
My 10G outgrow tank - tap water only, no CO2 or crushed coral
With the water parameters above, my GBR's are spawning regularly every 2-3 weeks, and 4 at the most, but very rare. And my sole purpose for the crushed coral is to raise my kh up a little so I don't have to drive my ph down to 6.2 or lower just to keep my CO2 levels where I want them. And I just have 1 small handful in my Rena Filstar XP3 filter.
Next, when do you know your GBR's are getting ready to spawn? Well, the interaction between the female and the males is quite fascinating, and extremely colorful. You will definitely know when they are ready. They will also display a ritual, in full color, to see which male will get the female. And once the male is selected, they will be near inseparable. My female will not spawn with any of the other males, none at all. Just the one she selected from the ritual that was performed before spawning.
Their next step, after the ritual, is to prepare the spawning grounds. Some will use a flat rock or other surface to spawn on. Others will dig a pit and lay the eggs in the pit. Mine dug a pit in the Eco Complete in the middle of the anacharis. Currently, as part of my tank maintenance and adjustments, I placed a partially burried piece of granite. Will see of they will spawn on it the next go around, which will make egg collecting much easier.
Once everything is set, and their spawning ground meets the satisfaction of both the male and the female, the female will begin to lay her eggs, and the male will follow her, fertalizing the eggs she has layed. This is a very cool event to watch. My GBR's are so used to seeing me, that I just watch and take pictures, and they are not disturbed or stressed at all, or get spooked away. They continue laying the eggs until all 200-400 eggs are layed.
Once the eggs are layed, I generally leave the eggs with the parents for 6-8 hours, to ensure proper fertalizing. Then it comes time to collect the eggs, unless you decide to let the GBR's try and raise the young. But if you have other fish in the vicinity, more than likely, the eggs will get eaten by both the male and the female. One thing I learned is to not use a turkey baster in collecting the eggs if you are using Eco Complete. The eggs stick to the gravel, and when you suck up the eggs with Eco, by the time you get the turkey baster to the submerged container, you will have lost over half the eggs, as the Eco is heavy, and will quickly drop out of the end of the baster. My next idea, which will be tested in the next spawning, is using a spoon to remove small thin sections of the Eco at a time, until all eggs have been removed. Will be a little more tedious, but it will increase the number of hatchings, and a bigger success.
Now comes time for prepping the eggs for transfer. I'll start by putting 1/4 gallon of tank water from the egg tank into a bucket. Then I will put in just over 1/4 gallon of tank water from the main tank. Then I'll add another 1/3 gallon of water from the main tank with the eggs. Just remember not to expose the eggs to the air, could cause some problems. Let the eggs sit for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, add another 1/3 gallon water from the egg tank. Let the eggs sit for 10 minutes. And finally, add one more 1/3 gallon water from the egg tank again, and let sit 10 minutes.
Next is transferring the eggs to the 10G tank. Place half the water from the bucket into the tank, transfer the eggs and keep submerged, then pour the remaining water into the tank. Once this is complete, keep adding 1/3 gallon water to the tank and letting sit 5 minutes, and repeat, til the water level is where you want it.
Another option is to use just the main tank water, so no acclimation is necessary. Just fill the tank 3/4 full, transfer the eggs, keeping them submerged, then fill the tank to where you want.
Once you filled the tank and transfered the eggs, I dose the tank with 5ml Hydrogen Peroxide 3%. This will help in the removal of fungus. Dose every 8-10 hours until all eggs have been hatched. Usually once in the morning and once in the evening is fine as well. Once all eggs are hatched, I then dose the tank (10G) with 5ml Pimafix for fungus prevention for the wigglers. I dose 5ml every 2-3 days, til the wigglers are free-swimming. Another reasoning for me doing all this is to keep my tanks from turning blue. Plus, the HP 3% is much, much more effective.
Your next step after the transferring the eggs is to have good water flow. Some use an airstone near the eggs. I used a small powerhead, circulating the tank water around the tank. Don't worry, as long as it's a small powerhead, the eggs won't get sucked into the powerhead. Keep using the powerhead until you see that almost all of your eggs have hatched, and you have wigglers. Then remove the powerhead. From this point on, the current provided by your HOB filter with a sponge on the intake should be plenty circulation. You can also add an airstone if you want a little extra.
Now how do you tell if your eggs are good or bad? well, white is bad. Remove any eggs that turn white. Also, remove any eggs with fungus that made it through treatment. The eggs should be semi-transparent, and will possibly be able to see the spine and eyes by the end of day 1.
Now that your eggs are in good shape, and things are progressing, they start hatching, and you then have wigglers. There will be a lot of wiggling going on. But what you would like to do is give them a little more exercise, which will better their chances of success. The way I managed this is with my turkey baster. I would suck them in, and gently blow them out in another part of the tank. I would also blow water out of the baster gently over the wigglers, giving them a challenge which will help in the development of their muscles. It doesn't take much, maybe 3-5 minutes. You can do longer if you wish, I did, because I was enjoying it and lost track of time, lol. Do this 3 or 4 times a day to keep their tails wagging, strengthening their muscles, and increasing their chances of survival.
Now that the eggs have hatched and you have wigglers, you have about 5-7 days to figure out what you are going to feed them. I noticed that the fry food you purchase in the store is too big for some of them to eat. So what do you feed them? Egg yolk for one thing. Egg yolk is rich in protain and minerals, which will help their immune systems. It contain all of the egg's fat and cholesterol, and almost half of the protein. Take a hard boiled egg, and take a pinch of egg yolk out of it, and add it to a bowel of water and squish it til it's all dissolved. Then take an egg dropper and put in a few drops, and can even spot feed them by squirting a tiny amound near them. Don't worry, even if you can't see the egg yolk when it disperses, they can. You will see them go crazy for it, eating the small particles. Just don't overfeed, as it will cause your water parameters to go sour.
Another food is baby brine shrmp. But this may still be too big for the first few days of feeding. So egg yolk is the best thing to feed for the first few days til they get a tiny bit bigger. Another food can also include walter worms and infusoria.
One last thing, cleaning the bottom of the tank is very important. You don't want your water parameters to go sour on you.