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MOVING MULTIES: Shell-Dweller Relocation Project


Bill Smith
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Hi all:

I'm drowning in multies! Some months ago I purchased 7 neolamprologus multifasciatus from my LFS, hoping they would breed. Boy did they ever! Now, I want to redistribute some and sell some back to my LFS (who wants them). Since catching shell dwellers is very difficult when using the more natural-looking escargot shells, I thought I should document the process I will attempt after having consulted Mister Internet: I will temporarily migrate the fish to PVC caves that are easier to empty.
 
I originally gave my multies a 20-gallon long on my Home Depot rack all to themselves:
 
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They started breeding almost immediately. I fed the fry freshly-hatched BBS and Aquarium Co-Op Easy Fry Food, and they grew fast. After giving away 7 to a friend and moving 7 more to an office tank, they exploded again (over 20 juveniles just in the pic below)!
 
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There were over 30 in the last batch...maybe it was two simultaneous batches?
 
Now that they've grown a little, it's time to find them homes.
 
Extracting them from the shells, one at a time as I was instructed by my LFS (holding the shell out of the water on its side until the fish lets itself slide out), takes hours and can really stress out the fish. Instead, I plan to move the shells higher in the water and entice the fish over a few days to move into some PVC-based caves, from which it will be much easier to get the fish out.
 
So I started by making my caves. Each one is simply a 1-1/2" length of 3/4" PVC pipe glued into an elbow, with a PVC cap that remains removable. I made fourteen:
 
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Next, I cut a couple pieces of "eggcrate"-style lighting diffuser, at roughly 4-1/2" x 12" each:
 
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My understanding is that shell dwellers prefer to live on the ground, not above it, and generally won't want to swim "upward" to get to their home. So tonight, I will suspend these two eggcrate sheets in the tank as "shelves", and move the shells up there, with the new PVC caves available below. 
 
More to come!
 
Bill
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2 minutes ago, Streetwise said:

Would it be easier to just make an extra set, and bring them to the store in the PVC? And then on your next visit, you get your old set back and leave them with the new set, and repeat?

My LFS has to see them and won't take any under 1". Don't think that I could drop off a dozen pipes and tell them how many fish were in there and still get paid. 

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8 minutes ago, Streetwise said:

Would it be easier to just make an extra set, and bring them to the store in the PVC? And then on your next visit, you get your old set back and leave them with the new set, and repeat?

I could, but I still have to get them out of their initial shells one way or another. That's where the real work comes in. They all bolt for the shells as soon as a net enters the tank. Deciding whether to take them in or out of PVC caves at that point is the easy part, and I want to make sure the LFS guy can count what I'm bringing him. This approach should allow me to choose to evict  them completely with minimal stress. 

And I'd otherwise prefer PVC not to be a permanent look for the tank. 🙂

That said, he may indeed want the PVC, so that he can more easily sell the fish. But I think he wants to do more breeding himself.

Edited by Bill Smith
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8 minutes ago, Mr. Ed's Aquatics said:

Might have been just mine, but I moved their shells way up on the ledges I have on the back of their tank and replaced them with PVC caves....

They just moved up onto the ledge where their shells were and ignored the PVC.

Yeah, everything I've read suggests either way is a possibility; they might move, they might not. I will try to be patient and give them some days to relocate. I'm not in a rush while they grow more; it's just the extra hours catching them on the day-of that I'm most concerned about.

Edited by Bill Smith
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I actually swapped to selling them myself since I get way more that way. I just offer multi starter packages that have at least 1 adult male, 1 adult female, and at least 3 juveniles plus a few shells.

I decided it was easier to catch them in shells. When it's crowded I order a new bag of shells and offer 4-5 starters for $50. So far everyone has been pleased that they end up with more than 5 (not shorted anyone yet) and happy to start a colony for what stores charge for just 3 fish.

I do wish you luck, the shells is the only thing I don't enjoy about keeping these great little guys.

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1 hour ago, Bill Smith said:

Nice! Where were you selling? Aquabid?

I've thought about using that or Ebay if I couldn't sell them locally, but each time I cross post Offerup, Craigslist and my fish group page on Facebook I sell out within a couple days. Last time I didn't even post, I just contacted the people who didn't get some previously and asked for a heads up next time.

Eventually I will flood the market locally, I think I will try Aquabid then.

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Tonight I attached some short bungee cords to one of the shelves, adjusting to the height I wanted by hooking onto the right sections:

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I then hanged the shelf on the bars of the rack above the tank, suspending it in the water just a couple inches down:

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Turned out I only needed a single shelf. I moved all the shells onto it with planting tweezers, taking care not to let air bubbles get into them. Suprisingly, not as many of the fish fled into shells as I expected when I started moving them.

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Next, I dropped in all of my alternate PVC caves. New digs, guys!

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The fish immediately started checking them out:

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So far so good!

Tomorrow I will start removing the shells, just a few at a time, after ensuring they're empty by checking them for occupancy with a flashlight. I have two external breeder boxes that will serve to hold the fish as I catch them, so that I won't have to move them to a different tank with different water parameters.

More updates coming soon!

Bill

Edited by Bill Smith
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Most of the multies have moved out of the shells. I'm removing a couple empty shells at a time.

There are exceptions; just 2-3 of the larger juveniles seem really tied to their shells. But I bet they'll start to miss the social interaction as more empty shells keep disappearing. 🙂

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The multies don't seem interested in moving into the new PVC pipes; they'd much rather hide between them or below them. I've managed to catch two inside the pipes by surprising them first thing in the morning before any light comes on.

I'm fairly certain this is due to the fact that they haven't matured enough to want to pick out a dwelling of their own.

But at least they are out of the shells, so next weekend I'll remove all the decor during a water change and net them out. 🙂

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