Reproductive Biology

The reproductive biology of this species has been studied in detail. Females from 2 to 2.8 in (5-7 cm) in standard length have between 116 and 838 eggs, measuring about 0.06 in (1.5 mm) in diameter; egg number increases with body weight. Before spawning, males establish a territory, building a nest on the substrate (which is accomplished by "gluing" together bits of vegetation with mucus and kidney secretions). The nest is complete when the male carves out a tunnel, at which time courtship begins. A dance is performed for a gravid female that has entered the territory, which consists of the male jumping toward and away from the female in a zigzag fashion, with spines erect and mouth open. Once a female is impressed, the male exhibits gluing behavior and fans the nest with his pectoral fins. He then zigzags back to the female, leads her to the nest, and points to it with his open mouth. The female enters the nest with her caudal peduncle protruding, allowing the male to begin quivering movements against her flank. After she has deposited her eggs, the male moves through the nest, fertilizing the eggs and expelling the female. He then pushes the eggs deeper into the nest, flattening the egg mass and repairing the nest at the same time, before fanning the eggs. The male attempts to induce other females to spawn in the same nest; the number of female partners may vary, but studies conducted in Quebec indicated that males having two or three female partners is the norm in that region. Incubation lasts roughly 14-20 days. After the eggs hatch, the male destroys the nest and guards the young (collecting any that may have fallen away). After his progeny become free-swimming, the male starts another courtship cycle.

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