What are you using for caves???

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What kind of failure ?

Curious...
I soaked the twine well in rubbing alcohol, tied it tightly to the terra cotta pot,set it on fire for 30 sec then immersed in ice water & absolutely nothing happened! I tried it 2X. I think possibly it needs to burn longer or hotter or possibly a strip of rag opposed to twine. I’ll let you know if I try again as it is a nice idea to clean cut a pot if you do not have the proper 🛠️ tools.
 
I've used mugs, not the most natural but not ugly like pvc. But everyone has too many mugs anyways so might as well put them to a use
 
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There are 41 in the above pics. I have another 7 dry that are larger, I also still have at least another 30 in tanks. The ones above are all being sold as I have shut those tanks down and sold the fish.
 
PVC gives me an uneasy feeling . Isn’t it a low grade plastic ? Can it leach anything toxic into the water ? I know they use it for city water lines but they use lots of things and say it’s safe only to find out different years later . I’m with @Colin_T on the clay flower pots . I like them best .
I use Schedule 40 PVC where no one will see it. It’s supposed to not leach.
 
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There are 41 in the above pics. I have another 7 dry that are larger, I also still have at least another 30 in tanks. The ones above are all being sold as I have shut those tanks down and sold the fish.

I haven't managed to breed any plecos since my two L183s juveniles I bought happened to be two females, and also not L183 Starlight plecos as I was told, but actually L181 Peppermint plecs. Still love them and I've got attached and didn't want to swap one for a male, but considering buying more young ones, or an adult male and attempting to breed them... but I've heard they're fussy about their caves for breeding, and will want a specific size cave they can fit snugly inside, that's enclosed? Plus they're so slow to mature! Urgh. But don't want to rush or force their growth of course! :)
ziggy and stardust.JPG



I've bought a few ceramic caves like the ones in the first picture, I also have lots of slate pieces from when dad had lots of slate in his tank... it's sitting in the garden now, and makes great caves for some fish, but not for pleco breeding, I think? Any advice for a newbie who'd like to try breeding plecos, especially L181s or similar? I can't afford to spend money on lots of caves and things at the moment though, so I hope one of the ones I already have will work!

Also, which species of plec used the flattened looking ceramic caves? They're very cool and natural looking! At the moment I have some coconut huts I bought which have moss and algae growing on them, or plants growing over them, and my Ziggy and Stardust, my L181 girls have driftwood hideouts I bought specifically with them in mind. One is a pretty big chunk of driftwood shaped like a cave underneath which is Ziggy's hideout:
driftwood cave.JPG


Got it for a tenner when my LFS sadly closed down, and I got a lot of bargains, and knew my plecos would love this! It was already used bogwood, so a little risky, but cleaned and gently scrubbed it with hot water and salt, then let it dry out before setting it up. I had to design the tank around it really, and I'm not a natural at scaping so it was a challenge, but I wanted the tank to be designed with the plecos and cories in mind.

ziggy and stardusts hideouts.JPG


This one above was a rough first attempt, since I really wanted the large cave-like wood piece I knew the plecos and cories would love, but I really needed a bigger tank I think. But the long wood piece sticking up from the left is Stardust's favourite hideout, and I bought it from a LFS because it's sort of hollow, and twists around, creating little hidey holes in the hollow. Sure enough, as soon as I added the plecs, Ziggy made the large cave wood piece her home territory and I see her if she's grazing at night, or if I disturb her cave while cleaning. Same with Stardust and her twisty wood.
placo set up once planted.JPG


Attached some plants to the wood pieces with superglue. The tall one has the twisty type of java fern, the cave piece has buces and had a couple other hardscape plants I can't remember attached. So @Magnum Man whatever material you use, you can always use plants and decor to hide it!

I picked up this random PVC pipe that had slate scraps siliconed to it when I saw it in the LFS, and the pygmy cories love it - one of my best random purchases
slate covered PVC pipe.JPG


If you look carefully, you can see there are smooth river stones propping up the cave slightly at the front and side - that's because the young pygmy cories loved to hide underneath it, and between the slate pieces. Have photos of big schools of them sitting on top of it too, and when I moved it to clean underneath, pygmy babies of various sizes would scatter. They sometimes sit inside the PVC pipe, but being able to tuck themselves around and underneath it, plus any microcritters that wind up living in it seem to be a food source for them. (Before anyone shouts at me about cories and sand - I know - this tank is half gravel and half sand, the sand is to the right and just about in shot!)

aged slate cave.JPG


As the slate cave aged, it got that impossible to remove algae, but I like the natural aged look it gives it. When my moss balls fell apart, I ended up gluing the pieces of them to the cave, covering the more obvious blobs of silicone and trying to make it look natural.

training hydrocotyle over coconut cave.JPG


Coconut huts have been popular with cories and sometimes other fish, and I eventually started training that hydrocotyle "Japan" to grow over and around the outside of the coconut while leaving the entrance open, hoping for a little fairy home type look. I loved it, until the cories dug up the plants too often...! Grrr....
botanical hidey holes and natural decor.JPG


And don't forget botanicals can be used as hiding spots and to disguise fake decor! The thing in front of the coconut hut in centre frame is an almond leaf, and I'd bend them and stick each side in the substrate to create a leaf tunnel. Fish seemed to enjoy it! Leaf litter and live plants can be used to hide or complement fake decor, to give a more natural look.

The above examples were my tanks, sadly, the one below isn't mine! I wish it was... but it's one I've kept bookmarked from the Tropica Inspiration section of their website, and I think it's a good example of building the hardscape structure(s) you want, or turn out to be possible depending on what you find of course, then you can plant up to your hearts desire and have something like this!

The inspiration section of the Tropica site is brilliant. If you see a scape you really like, like the one below, and click on it, it usually tells you some about how it was constructed, materials and plants used etc, and can modify and adapt however you like!

tropica cave inspo.jpeg
 
I got my first plecos pawns without even knowing it from LF bristlenose. the breeder from whom I got them convinced me to put the cave with a dad on eggs or wigglers as they were in a community tank where pleco fry were on the lunch menu until I finally spotted one of the. Over the next years I was overrun with bn fry.

But the pleco which was the fish on top of my wish list were zebras. And int Apr. of 2006 I finanlly acquired a proven spawning group of 13 zebras plus 5 of their offspring. Since then I have worked with H. Contradens, L450, L173b, L173, L236 regular and superwhite and P. compta.

Here, in a nutshell is what I have learned about plecos and caves. Yes they do like tight spaces and they prefer caves close at one end. As you can see from my picture caves come in all sizes and shapes and a variety of materials. To ne happy they need to have caves for two reasons. The males claim them as part of their territory and females will use them mostly on a temporary basis as a place to hide or spend a night. But they are more often found hiding in other places.

I learned very early on that I was not smarter than my plecos when it came to choice of caves and spawning mates. They knew what was the best spot and most desirable cave shape. I am also a believer that nature is also way smarter than I am in this respect. Part of the reproductive process is that it is designed to do two things. The first it to insure the species in general survives, The second is that the potential offspring produced be the healthiest and strongest.

As a result I have used the same method for all the plecos I have kept and which had been kind enough to reproduce in my tanks. I use an assortment of caves which I array across the front of the tank so that I can see into them. After that it is up to the fish to work out the pecking order as to who will get to spawn with whom. Nature dictates that given the options the result will normally be that the "best" male and females will usually end up spawning with each other.

I have always worked with plecos in groups, never in pairs. Also for many the female is able to produce eggs about every 2 weeks but it takes the male about a month from spawning to when he boots the free swimming fry out of the cave if they have not left on their own already. So this fact argue for the idea the a reverse trio (2m/1fm) is the best ratio. But, when one select either a pair or a reverse trio, one is taking the choice away from the fish who know better than we do who should be spawning. So I work with groups.

One of the biggest reasons I do this was because of a research paper I read about who gets to spawn in a group of 100 tetras. The paper was about the actual genetic diversity that could be expected from such a large group. I figured that the more individuals, the more diverse the gene pool would be. But, to my surprise, it was a fairly limited number of individuals. The genetic diversity was much less than one might expect from a group of that size.

My reaction to learning the above was to determine to work with pleco groups and not with pairs or even reverse trios. My thinking was, while that would limit the number of potnetial offspring but it should also insure that the offspring would be of the best potential quality which is how nature designed it to be.

One last quick observation which for sure applies to zebra plecos. The alpha male in a group was rarely the biggest male. It is often the 2nd biggest. Apparently, if the slightly smaller fish is aggressive enough, it can be the Alpha. It turned out I was not the only person to have discovered this.

As always, the above is my experience with this and others may have a different opinion.
 
One of the biggest reasons I do this was because of a research paper I read about who gets to spawn in a group of 100 tetras. The paper was about the actual genetic diversity that could be expected from such a large group. I figured that the more individuals, the more diverse the gene pool would be. But, to my surprise, it was a fairly limited number of individuals. The genetic diversity was much less than one might expect from a group of that size.

That makes so much sense as you explain it! Also how giving them a more natural option of selecting from a group rather than being stuck with Dave over there, who stinks and is really annoying, but he's the only male around, so guess we'll have to repopulate the earth to keep our species alive" zero other options of a pair or adding a single male to my girls tank. We know the female choosing the best males to pass on the best genes is vital in so many mammal species, birds, fish - makes perfect sense it would apply to plecos too!

Same with giving them a selection of caves to choose from. I have a few options, but will keep an eye out to collect more for future plans... I'm not ready to pleco breed yet, and won't be spending cash on plecos just yet, but I've found a couple of local breeders who have L181's, and the price isn't too bad for young babies
My reaction to learning the above was to determine to work with pleco groups and not with pairs or even reverse trios. My thinking was, while that would limit the number of potnetial offspring but it should also insure that the offspring would be of the best potential quality which is how nature designed it to be.
Sorry, last question (at least in this thread on this topic, I'll definitely pick your brain more in other threads and pm, about plecos and other stuff!) :D ;) but since it relates so strongly to this;

You mentioned about the genetic diversity by having a group, so while I know it's ideal if you can mix fresh blood in by getting youngsters from different sources, the chances are that I'd only be able to get a group of babies from the same spawn, so they'd be siblings. I know that there would still be variances in their genes and stronger or weaker males and females within that group, so they could still select the best mates from that group, but that would mean the first generation I'd produce would be inbred to siblings... is that setting myself up to fail? I just doubt that I could find enough young from different breeders of the same species that are unrelated and close enough in age that they're all be mature to breed at the same time.

Is it okay to get say, a batch of 6-8 L181 plec babies from the same source? While I have two females that may be unrelated, they also might have come from the same breeder. I'd also have to check the spines in the dorsal to make sure they're definitely L181's too, since I only found out mine weren't L183's when they matured and lost the white edges to their dorsal and tail fins. The juvenile markings are so similar between the two! But I know there's a difference in the number of dorsal spines. I'd like to have another type of plec at some point too though... if I got a group of another pleco species, would they be okay sharing a tank with the two L181 females? Or should it really be a tank just for the breeding group of plecs, and no other fish even at the upper levels? Since I'm not looking to turn into a serious breeder, just would be something I'd like to try at least once, I'd ideally still like other fish in there, but would definitely heed your advice if that's a bad idea!
 

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