Banggai Cardinalfish Breeding/Spawning Overview - Pterapogon

Banggai Cardinalfish Breeding/Spawning Overview - Pterapogon

Postby mpedersen » Wed Jan 16, 2008 3:48 am

Apogonidae - Cardinalfish - Pterapogon - Breeding, Mating, Spawning and Rearing Overview

1 - Species covered in this forum:

The Family Apogonidae - Genus Pterapogon - This genus includes 2 species:
Pterapogon kauderni - the "Banggai Cardinalfish" or "Borneo Cardinalfish", "Kauderni" or "Kaudern's Cardinalfish", also often referred to in slang as "Bangaii(s)s" or "Banger(s)s".
Pterapogon mirifica - no common name

For an overview of the Apogonidae, see ... &areacode=

2 – Common characteristics:
Bangaii Cardinalfish (Pterapogon kauderni) are unique in the cardinalfish family, being one of only a handful of species which features direct development of their offspring. The other species in this genus, Pterapogon mirifica, also features direct development. Due to the relative easy of larval culture, Bangaii Cardinalfish have been dubbed by some as the "Guppy" of the Saltwater Aquarium.

Bangaii Cardinalfish, in the home aquarium, are best kept as pairs. Unlike the majority of Cardinalfish species, Bangaiis are not well suited to being kept in schools, especially in smaller aquariums. While juveniles will school, once they start to mature sexually, individuals will become aggressive to the point of murdering conspecifs.

It is of special note that in 2007, the Bangaii Cardinalfish was listed on the IUCN Red List as an endangered species. In this particular instance, this is the direct result of collecting for the aquarium hobby. Due to this situation, it is strongly recommended that for any hobbyist purchasing Bangaii Cardinalfish NOT destined for breeding, Captive Bred Bangaiis are the only responsible choice to make. Wild Caught Bangaiis are better reserved for the appropriate use as foundation broodstock for breeding efforts.

The rarely seen Pterapogon mirifica is relatively unknown, limited work has been done by Alex Vagelli who has described this fish as extremely MEAN!!! Dr. Vagelli was successful in captively breeding and rearing this species. All reproduction notes below refer to experiences with Pterapogon kauderni unless otherwise noted.

For more basic information, visit -

3 – Reproduction:

3.1 – Sex determination:
Separate sexes

3.2 – Sexual organization:
Non-monogamous Pairs - females are promiscuous, willing to mate with multiple males. During and following spawning, the female will often defend the male.

3.3 – Sexing:
There is no proven sexual dimorphism or dichromatism and sexes are usually told apart by behaviour in a group. The most effective manner to sex Bangaii Cardinalfish is to "test" them against known fish. By placing unknown fish with a known male or female, there is typically a relatively quick reaction (i.e. if fighting breaks out, it's highly likely the fish are the same sex).

With experience, you may be able to make an educated guess as to the sex of fish. These subtle differences aren't noticeable in juvenile fish, and only become pronounced when the fish are mature. Basically, the male's head and buccal cavity will be larger in proportion to his body. The jawline will be more "Flat" or "Squared off" in Females, whereas the male's "throat" or "chin" will have a convex, curved profile - this due again to the fact that it is the male who fills his mouth with eggs for 3 weeks at a time!

Finnage so far has proven very unreliable. Do not assume that a longer dorsal fin is indicitive of a male.

There has been some success in determing the sex of Banggai Cardinalfish by the 'venting' method as outlined by Steve Kennedy in the following post

3.4 - Pairing / Setting Up Broodstock:

Banggai Cardinalfish may be reproductively viable as early as 4 months of age for males, with most becoming mature somewhere between 6 months to 1 year or longer (if in the precense of mature specimens). Banggai Cardinalfish will generally coexist as juveniles, becoming aggressive towards conspecifs once sexual maturity is reached.

Many people will make the mistake of purchasing several adult Bangaii Cardinalfish and throwing them into a single tank all together. This is typically a recipe for disaster, as a pair forms and in short order eliminates all the others! Only in extremely large aquariums (i.e. 100 gallons or more) may the keeping of multiple pairs be possible. To maximize reproductive activity, pairs should be kept in isolated quarters.

For people with limited space, the ideal method for obtaining a pair is to simply purchase a pair from a reputable source. They ARE available if you know where to look.

The typical situation that may help - in many larger aquarium stores Bangaii Cardinalfish will be available in groups. If the fish are mature and healthy, it is possible to observe the group. The "ringleader" of the group is your female. Watch which fish the ringleader chases, and pay special attention to those that she doesn't chase. There is a good chance that any fish being allowed to routinely remain in the aggressor's (female's) vicinity is likely a male.

Of course, as mentioned above in "sexing", the best way to obtain a pair is to determine what sex each fish is. Bangaiis do not appear to be "picky" with their mates, the female will likely accept any given male.

3.5 – Courtship:
Courtship is rather obvious. For those who can watch a Youtube Video, this is probably all you'll need (the larger fish with the bigger head is the male)

For the rest of you - courtship starts in the afternoon and is initiated by the female. She swims up along side the male, parallel, and begins to quiver rapidly. She will then drop behind and do the same along the other side of the male. This back and forth vibrating dance may occur on the day of, or the days proceding spawning - seeing the courtship dance does not mean the fish will mate on that day, only that the fish are getting ready. You will also see the female continue to stimulate the male through this courtship dance in the hours immediately after spawning.

3.6 – Spawning:
Like the other cardinalfishes, Pterapogon are paternal mouthbrooders (the male keep the eggs). The actual spawning occurs typically in mid-afternoon - the transfer of eggs takes only seconds. Noticing a spawn is beyond obvious, all you have to do is look. The male will be refusing food and will have a very distended buccal cavitiy. The female will "guard" the male following spawning, typically for at least a few days. Make sure to note the date of the spawn.

Pairs will spawn as frequently as every 30 days if given the opportunity to, although there is evidence that females are capable of producing eggs as frequently as every 2 weeks.

4 – Eggs:

4.1 – Size:
2.5-3 mm

4.2 – Quantity:
Hatch sizes average around 20, but clutches as large as 45 or more have been reported.

4.3 – Characteristics
There is no oil globule present.

4.4 – Incubation period/Hatching temp:
Typically 21 days from spawning to release, but can range from 18 to 26.

5 – Larvae:

5.1 – Size at hatching: approximately 5-6 mm (1/4")
5.2 – Yolk sac present at hatch: Typically no, unless premature hatching.
5.3 – Mouth present at hatch: Yes
5.4 – Eyes developed at hatch: Yes

6 - Rearing:

6.1 - Breeding & Rearing Techniques
Bangaiis, once established as a pair, prove to be willing and reliable spawners during their first year or two. Pairs reproductive behavior can slow after this time period.

The rearing of Bangaii Cardinalfish is arguably easy. Most pitfalls in the breeding process have to do with males refusing to hold eggs through to term. Stripping of the clutch, followed by artificial incubation, may be necessary for poor fathers.

There is a lot of speculation around WHY males will consume or spit their clutches prematurely. Commonly suggested causes include excess stimulus (in the form of a crowded or small tank, or external movement by the breeder), or insufficient nutrition / nourishment, especially in pairs that spawn repeatedly (remedied by provided the male some rest and relaxation following the breeding cycle before reintroducing him to the female).

6.2 – Day at first feeding:
Newly Hatched Bangaii Cardinalfish are immediately ready to eat.

6.3 - Starvation Time:
If known, include the time post-hatch that larval will live without feeding. This can often be found in larval studies where scientists do not feed the larvae, as well a accounts of failed larval rearing attempts.

6.4 – Feeding scheme:
Baby Brine Shrimp (Artemnia nauplii) are the standard first food for newly hatched Bangaii Cardinalfish. Offspring fed solely newly hatched brine shrimp are prone to Sudden Fright Syndrome, so enriching HUFAs is key in the rearing process. Vitamin Enrichment is also beneficial. Newly released juveniles should be fed a minimum of 3 times daily, with 5 feeding per day being suggested by Dr. Marini. Copepods certainly wouldn't hurt as an alternate or supplement, but they are entirely unnecessary. Branching out to additional prepared / frozen foods early on will again increase success and decrease losses to SFS.

Dr. Frank Marini suggests that fry can be weaned onto other frozen foods of the appropriate size within 30 days, at which point growth rates will increase dramatically. 2nd foods include Cyclopeeze, Cyclops, Frozen Brine Shrimp and Mysis Shrimp, as well as other potential offerings.

6.5 – Age at meta:
0. There is no meta in this species- one of the great features of direct development!

7 – Species been reared successfully
Pterapogon kaudernii - currently routinely raised by countless individuals.
Pterapogon mirifica - (first?) successful rearing by Dr. Alex Vagelli

8 – References

8.1 - Articles

"The Banggai Cardinalfish: A 10 Year Update" by Dr. Frank Marini and Dr. Alejandro Vagelli, C The Journal, Volume 2, Issue 1, pages 41 to 54 - (editorial note - this is a must have current article for the Bangaii Breeder)

"The Complete Illustrated Breeder's Guide to Marine Aquarium Fishes", Matthew L. Wittenrich, pages 221-223.

"Significant increase in survival of captive-bred juvenile Banggai cardinalfish Pterapogon kauderni with an essential fatty acid-enriched diet." - Vagelli, A. A. - ... 0043093352

"Breeding the Banggai Cardinalfish" by Ross, Richard & Pedersen, Matt - Reef Hobbyist Magazine, 4th Quarter, 2008. ... ue_8-6.htm

8.2 - Web Content

2007 IUCN Redlist -

My notes and observations on Raising and Breeding the Banggai Cardinalfish, by Frank Marini - ... marini.htm

"Manual for the Production of the Banggai Cardinalfish, Pterapogon kauderni, in Hawai‘i" - Steve Hopkins, Harry Ako and Clyde S. Tamaru @ Rain Garden Ornamentals - ... -Final.pdf

Captive care and Breeding of the Banggai cardinal fish Pteragon kauderni - Talk Log with Frank Marini - ... 20799.html

Breeding Pterapogon mirifica on Reef Central by Alex Vagelli - ... t=mirifica

Bangaii Cardinals by Andrea Bishop - ... dinal.html

Reefers Realm Bangaii Breeding Pictures - ... hotos.html

Breeding Banggai Cardinals (Pterapogon kauderrni)
by Rennie Bowe - ... dinals.php

The Joys of Tank Raised Banggai Cardinalfish by Keith Clark - ... 02499.html

Bangaii Cardinalfish Breeding by Nagel - ... &Itemid=41

Bangaii FAQs on WetWebMedia -

Bangaii Reproduction FAQs on WetWebMedia -

Sexing Bangaii with the venting method - viewtopic.php?f=166&t=2064&start=0


Bangaii Courtship -

Bangaii Eggs Hatching -

In addition to the above links, there are probably countless forum posts around the internet on people's experiences, often unplanned for, with Bangaii Cardinals breeding.

8.3 - Books
List any books that contain "Breeding-Relevant" information to this group.

9 - Compiled By
Matt Pedersen - mpedersen - matt (at)
Last Update: 10/10/2008
Last edited by PaulG on Sat May 22, 2010 8:14 am, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: added direct link on sexing via anal venting
Posts: 9215
Joined: Sun Sep 09, 2012 10:53 am

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