Aphyosemion (Roloffia) schmitti
by Jim Gasior

An Extensive Article on My Not so Extensive Success
with Aphyosemion (Roloffia) schmitti

Although I’ve worked with Roloffia (now re-classified as Callopanchax) schmitti for over twenty years, this is a species that I have not had any remarkable success with. Generally I raise only a handful of pairs and those extra pairs are soon given to friends who appear able to breed them with much less difficulty then I experience. You may rightfully ask yourself, why aren’t they writing for KK instead of me?’ Good question and I hope in the future they will. The simple answer is that we are now the KK editors so I’m now the author of this article. For better or for worse, I’ll review some of my research and experiences so that if you have an opportunity to work with "schmitti". you may at least avoid some of the mistakes I made.
Aphysomion schmitti was first collected in Eastern Liberia by Romand and Schmitt. It’s considered a member of the A. liberiense group, although it’s separated from other similar members, in part, by the karyotype count (n=20 versus n=21). It is considered a valid species.

If one is to look at the distribution of the A. liberiense group as a whole, we would see a fairly wide geographic distribution pattern. Species of this group extend throughout Liberia and Sierra Leone with individual species noted in Guinea and the Ivory Coast. Since the liberiense group overlaps many diverse species, I have little doubt that there will be continued classification changes in the future. This may affect Roloffia schmitti status pertaining to it’s membership in the liberiense group.

When Roloffia schmitti was originally collected in 1977, it was from two locations, Juarzon and Greenville, both in the same part of Liberia. The only location that is presently available in the hobby appears to be the Juarzon. Therefore, if you have this fish and are unsure of the location, it is safe to conclude that it is indeed A. (Rol.) schmitti loc Juarzon.

The biotopes of both collecting sites are similar. Roloffia schmitti originates in cool (23-24 degree C), forest covered, shallow streams that have a pH of 6.0 to 6.5 and a hardness of about 20 ppm.

The males of this species are about 1 and a half inches long with elongated, slender bodies. A typical healthy male looks like it might be slightly underfed. The basic coloration is a metallic blue-green with red flecks that extend from the head through the caudal. The caudal, which appears oversized for the body, has slight extensions with its upper and lower parts bordered by an intense yellow band. The dorsal and anal fins also have bands, but these are a dark blue/maroon color with the remainder of the finnage being a much lighter blue.

The female is fairly typical of most Aphyosemion. Her size is similar to that of the male but she’s much more well-rounded. Basic body coloration is a dull brown with black spots appearing in no particular pattern around the caudal area.

There is a color plate on page 395 of Scheel’s "Atlas of Killifish of the Old World" and also a good slide available from the AKA Slide Committee. The slide does a better job of showing the intense body coloration of the male. This species is one of the most attractive of the Roloffia.

As indicated in the initial part of this article, this has not been the easiest Killie for me to propagate. The fish requires that you adjust your water conditions that you normally maintain. There are two methods that I would suggest you use to breed this fish. Both methods require that the water temperature be maintained around 70 degrees F with a hardness not to exceed 100 ppm. The pH should be slightly acidic, perhaps 6.6 to 6.8.

The first method is the easier and the one commonly referred to in the literature as the "natural method". Place one pair in either a five or ten gallon tank that is heavily planted with Java Moss and floating water spite. Aerate lightly, using a box filter that contains a good carbon that doesn’t increase the pH too much above neutral. Feed the breeders with live foods such as adult brine shrimp, Daphnia, and white or black worms every day. After the first three months you should begin to notice the first fry. The parents are not especially cannibalistic, although I suspect that they will indulge occasionally. When the fry do begin to appear, you should begin to add newly hatched brine shrimp to your daily feedings. You can raise the fry in the tank with the parents or remove them to their own five gallon tank for safety’s sake. I’ll review the method I use to raise the fry later in this article. By simply allowing the pair to naturally breed in a tank you’ll have enough fry to maintain this fish and even distribute an occasional pair or two.

The second method of propagation is the one that most hobbyists use for most non-annuals.
A breeding pair is placed in either a two an a half to five gallon tank. The water and temperature are the same as for the previous method. A floating mop is placed with the threads extending to the bottom of the tank. Use indirect lighting to make the fish comfortable. Filtration is not necessary. However, if filtration is not used, water changes must be religiously scheduled and adhered to in order to prevent the buildup of nitrates, I would suggest changing a third of the water weekly. Productivity is enhanced by feeding the breeders with live foods as previously described.

When the pair does begin to breed, you will find the eggs distributed throughout the length of the mop. The eggs are quite small, less than 1 mm in diameter. Do not expect to reap many eggs at one time. A prolific pair will lay only twenty eggs per week.

There are two ways to incubate the eggs. The first is to water incubate as you would with most other non-annuals. The eggs are picked every couple days and are placed in water within a small covered container using a good fungicide to minimize fungusing. The eggs that do fungus are removed daily. When the eggs are maintained at 70 degrees, it takes about three to four weeks for them to hatch into the tiny fry. The problem with water incubation is that there appears to be a very high percentage of either fungused eggs or fry that hatch prematurely.

The other method of egg incubation requires that you boil a small amount of peat moss, which is then rinsed and squeezed to remove excess moisture. The peat is then packed tightly into a small container and the eggs placed on top of the peat. Cover the container to minimize evaporation. Check the eggs daily for the first week, and remove any that have turned white. It will take three to four weeks before the eggs can be hatched by adding water. The advantages of this method are that (1) fewer eggs fungus, (2) eggs that do fungus will not infect nearby eggs as readily, (3) when all the eggs are ready to hatch, all the fry will be of similar size. This last point, about the size of the fry, can make the difference between raising meager and good batches.

Regardless of the method, you use to incubate the eggs, the fry are raised the same way. After hatching, place the fry into a five gallon tank. The water chemistry and temperature should be similar to that of the parents. The tank should be filtered using a sponge filter. A bare bottom (no gravel) seems to work best for me. Use indirect light and add a clump of Java Moss along with a half dozen small snails. The Java Moss and snails create an infusoria culture while the sponge filter houses rotifers. Both are necessary first foods for the fry, because they are too small for either brine shrimp nauplii or microworms. After the first three to four days, however, these would be suitable foods. From this point on the fry can be raised much like any other small Aphosemion fry.

Some literature that I have reviewed indicates that sexing begins in a month. It is generally closer to three months before I can begin to tell males from females.

Let me add a few final notes. When one raises any fry, including Roloffia schmitti, in soft, acid water, the fry are extremely prone to velvet. To prevent this, I make a 100% monthly water changes. You can also use harder (about 120 to 150 ppm), more alkaline water. Slowly adjust the fish to softer, acid water once they are to become breeders. Keep in mind that water changes are essential to success in raising all Killie fry.

The other observation is that the dominant males should be separated from the others for all males to achieve maximum growth. I make it a practice to destroy all runts.

As is obvious from this article, this fish requires a great deal of extra effort to raise healthy, full-grown specimens. It is not a fish for the lazy hobbyist or one not willing to vary his or her way of raising killies. If it wasn’t for the fact that it is such an attractive fish, I would find it difficult to recommend for hobbyists. Roloffia schmitti is, as I have previously stated, one of the most attractive of all the Roloffia and if you’re willing to do the work, it is a fish well worth keeping.