You do not need a large set-up in order to keep and breed killies

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by Paul Carter (BKA 307-03)

The reason for this article is to show people that you do not need a large set-up (i.e. fish house) in order to keep and breed killies.

For a number of years after I returned from living overseas, where I had a lovely fish house in the garden holding over 40 tanks, I was limited to a 5ft community tank and only a couple of small tanks for my killies. I was able to maintain a location of C. nigripinnis for a number of years, but my options were very limited. I encountered a number of problems, when I looked at increasing the number of killie tanks.

I have a shed in the garden, but there is no power and it is full of various items that would be difficult to store elsewhere, so that option was out. I only have a carport, therefore no chance of a garage conversion. A number of years ago there was an article in Killinews where someone had put their tanks into the cupboard under the stairs, but again my available space was already being used and that was when I thought of building a purposely designed cupboard for my killies.

Looking around the house, I came to the decision that the best place for the cupboard would be in the Conservatory. There was an area occupied by an old chest freezer, that needed throwing away, which would be ideal. The area was 5ft wide and some 18 inches deep. After a few rough drawings I produced my initial design, which basically was nothing at floor level, then 2 large tanks on first shelf (at knee height), then 5 medium sized tanks on second shelf (at chest height), then 9 small tanks on third shelf which was immediately above the medium tanks. A small fourth shelf was added later which was immediately above the small tanks, for holding containers of eggs, microworms etc.

The shell for the cupboard was made from 2" x 2" timber and covered with external quality plywood. After a couple coats of varnish, I then added 2" thick polystyrene insulation between the framework to reduce temperature fluctuations. Originally, I was worried that it might be too cold in winter, and then too hot in summer, but this has not been the case over the last eighteen months. Though I did have to add filtration (aeration) to the small tanks (others had filtration from the beginning) in order to cope with hot summer days, without stressing the fish. I then added the doors to keep everything enclosed.

They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, so I will try to include a couple of images to show what the finished article looks like.

Small Tanks on back shelf

Medium sized tanks

Bottles of water for topping up small tanks, egg containers etc.

2 Large Tanks

Area underneath used for everyday storage (children's shoes)

The cupboard now holds 22 tanks, split as below,

6 off - 6" x 3.5" x 4" plastic tanks as sold for keeping spiders etc. (no filtration, no heating)

  • To be placed on top of the 18" and 30" tanks (or wherever I can find room).
  • Ideal containers to hatch eggs of annual killies, and raise fry for first few weeks.
  • Breeding pairs of small species of mop spawning killies. For annuals the peat must be put in loose, as there is no room for a container; be careful when feeding.
  • To be used for 1 breeding pair, 20 young to 4mm, 10 young to 9mm or 5 young to 17mm.

9 off – 12" x 6" x 6" glass tanks (with small home made foam filters, no heating)

  • All tanks to be on back shelf
  • Optional 3 extra tanks could be placed on top of first 30" tank (Not at present)
  • To be used for maximum of 3 breeding pairs, 50 young to 6mm, 20 young to 15mm or 10 young to 30mm.

5 off – 18" x 10" x 10" glass tanks (with sponge filters, and 100W heaters)

  • To be used for maximum of 6 breeding pairs, 100 young to 7mm, 50 young to 15mm or 20 young to 38mm.
  • Can be used for breeding the larger killies (e.g. A. sjoestedti Blue), or groups of killies.

2 off – 30" x 12" glass tanks (with home made gravel filters, and 100/150W heaters)

  • To be used mainly as holding tanks or for large breeding groups.
  • To be used for maximum of 12 breeding pairs, 200 young to 7mm, 100 young to 15mm or 40 young to 38mm

Lighting by 2 x 40W low energy bulbs (one in each section), but these were originally 2 x 40W ordinary bulbs but were changed due to the heat generation of the ordinary bulbs.

Also required some room for the following,

  • 2 air pumps. This was increased to 3 small air pumps, once I fitted filters to the 12" tanks.
  • hatching brine shrimp eggs.
  • grindal worm culture.
  • microworm culture (keep away from grindals), on small shelf above 12" tanks.
  • plastic bottles of water for water changes (same temperature), to be stored in rack on top of second 30" tank.
  • storage for bags of peat of annual killies (maybe I should look at alternatives -could be put in a "hot box" under community tank).
  • small containers of water with incubating killie eggs (old Aquarian flake food containers) on small shelf above 12" tanks.

 At the present, I am keeping the following species,

  • Aust. nigripinnis de Carmelo (adults, young and eggs)
  • Aplo. lineatus Red (pair and young)
  • N. spec TAN 97/23 (trio and eggs)
  • N. orthonotus Mkuze River Reserve KZN 99/1 (adults and eggs)
  • N. rachovii Beira '98 (young, mainly males (?))
  • Sim. zonatus (pair and eggs)
  • Fp. nigeranus (adults, young and eggs)
  • Fp. gardneri Gold (adults, young and eggs)
  • Fp. scheeli (pair)
  • Fp. marmoratus (pair, young and eggs)
  • A. poliaki (pair and eggs)
  • A. striatum (2 pairs, young and eggs)
  • A. australe Chocolate (a lovely colour strain that I have had for a long time) (adults, young and eggs)
  • A. australe Cape Esterias BSWG 97/24 (pair and young)
  • Ps. annulatus (2 pairs, in species tank but no young as yet)

Maybe a few too many species, but I acquired a number from the online auctions throughout the year and they have settled down without any problems.

If you have any comments or queries, you can contact the author at




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