How to Keep Your New Wrestling Half-Beaks
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Comments: For a long time we couldn’t get wrestling half-beaks. All we could find were the larger, more expensive, Celebes half-beaks. Then we found a list with “small albino Celebes half-beaks,” and said, “Why not try these?” They were darn cheap, so why not? They came in sort of as advertised: small (about an inch); albino (turned out to be white turning to silvery grey in one week), and not the Celebes (now called Sulawasi, Indonesia's 7th largest island) half-beaks, but instead the wrestling half-beaks. A most pleasant surprise. Not a rare fish, but one we haven’t seen for a while.
Origin: Wrestling half-beaks probably do come from Sulawesi and many other of the 13,000 Indonesian islands as well as other Southeast Asian countries. They were likely spread by local fans/hobbyists who enjoy betting on their “wrestling” prowess -- but not as much as bettas and fighting cocks. Wrestling half-beaks come from fresh and brackish waters. Ours get a teaspoon of salt per gallon -- like most livebearers. You could probably double that. Think of them as mollies that nearly always stay at the top. Keep them a little warmer than average, just like your mollies.
Size: Think small. Wrestling half-beaks never quite reach three inches. Although, we were pleased to see how fast they grow. You can mix them with other livebearers, but you’d probably never save any of their fry. Ditto in a community tank. But, even though they’re small, the males are scrappy. Even at a little over an inch, they like to fight/wrestle. So don’t cram them into a mini-tank. Give them room to roam and run.
Water: As mentioned earlier, wrestling half-beaks like brackish water. Treat them as you would your mollies. And give them frequent water changes. Brackish water fish cannot handle the build up of organics. Your beakers pretty much eat off the top. They’ll dive after some foods but (like Las Vegas) whatever hits the bottom stays on the bottom. Uneaten food on the bottom will cause lots of problems. In the tank we’re housing them in, there’s a school of glass cats which help nab food before it hits the bottom. About 20 corys patrol the bottom. Supposedly corys and other catfishes do not like salt. We have 600 of them scattered around in various tanks. Most seem to put up with one teaspoon of salt per gallon just fine. Of course, these are Iowa corys.
Foods: Think FLAKES and maybe freeze-dried. Of course wrestling half-beaks like live foods. They’d probably go nuts for mosquito larvae and whacked house flies. Serious breeders should consider mealworm paté and earthworm flakes if you can find them. Ditto fruit flies if available. But most live foods will not stay on the surface. A worm feeder ring might help. The guy above (and others) grabbed crunched up pieces of Tetra’s cichlid sticks. They try nearly any food that floats. That’s why flakes work so well.
Attitude: We’ve seen reports that say wrestling half-beaks are nervous. Perhaps the ones coming in now are captive bred and thus less in awe of humans. At least ours seem to put up with humans very well during the feeding process. All top dwellers can be thought of as jumpers. Keep yours covered if you want to keep them long. Part of their so-called nervousness could come from the fact that they bump into potential contenders every three inches they swim. The bigger guys (0.25-inches longer) rule. The likely losers would appreciate some clumps of crystalwort or strands of hornwort on the surface.
More on Plants: Wrestling half-beaks not only make occasional leaps from the surface, they also make occasional dashes that smack into the walls of their glass houses. Floating plants slow down the freeway traffic on the surface. Otherwise, you may see some bonked beaks on your males. Their re-arranged beaks, or even calloused beaks, are not fatal, but they are disfiguring.
Breeding: You’ll probably need a male and a female. We’re not being facetious (for a change). Most female livebearers are pregnant most of the time. If you get “smalls,” your female(s) and your male are probably not old enough to complete the required processes. You need at least one male. He’ll have the red trim on his fins. She’ll be a basic silver with no trim. She has a litter approximately every two months. If you keep yours in a community tank, you’ll never see her kids. She needs her own tank with plenty of floating cover for the fry to hide in. Hornwort ought to be perfect.
Last Words: Tired of your regular livebearers? You like livebearers but want something a little different? Or you have some extra room in your molly tank? Or you just want to try an unusual fish? Sounds like it’s time to take a closer look at wrestling half-beaks. LA
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