Do fish care for their young?

In this article we will discuss parental care behavior in fish. We will also discuss the types of parental care behavior and fish who actually display parental care.

Overview

In this blog

  • Do fish care for their young?
  • What is parental care?
  • Types of parental care
  • What are the different types of parental care behavior seen in fishes?
  • What are the types of nest building in fish?
  • What are the types of parental care along with examples in fish?
  • List of fish species who display parental care
  • List of fish which shows viviparity
  • Benefits of parental care in fish
  • Summary
  • Frequently asked question

Do fish care for their young?

Parental care is not the rule of the fish.Most fish species are quite content to abandon their young ones.However, many fish care for their offsprings, and they do so in different ways.

Few fish are renowned for their parenting skills.Most species leave their newly hatched young to fend for themselves, but not discus fish.

What is parental care?

  • Post spawning care of the offspring or young ones until they become independent enough to protect themselves from predators. 
  • Parental care increases the chance of survival.
  • Role of female and male fish in parental care was first studied in five species of clownfish in captive settings.  
  • Parent fish transfers their knowledge to their offsprings
  • Parental care is observed more in male fish and few female fish 
  • Enormous production of sperms and eggs to compensate for the little parental care.

Types of parental care

There are four types of parental care observed in fish and other organisms:

  • Maternal parental care- A type of parental care in which the mother is involved in taking care of their offsprings.
  • Paternal parental care-A type of parental care in which the father is involved in taking care of their offsprings.
  • Biparental care-A type of parental care in which both mother and father is involved in taking care of their offsprings.
  • Alloparental care-A type of parental care provided by anyone,not necessarily biological father or mother.It is provided by an individual to a non-descendant young.

What are the different types of parental care behavior seen in fishes?

  • Egg concealing behavior
  • Keeping away the predators
  • Attacking the predators
  • Oxygenate their eggs
  • Egg deposition in a protective area or space,self-made nest

What are the types of nest building in fish?

Nest building is done with the help of aquatic plants,stones and body secretions.Types of nest building in fish are:

  • Bubble nest
  • Pit nests 
  • Weed nests
  • Basin-like nest
  • Circular nest
  • Hole like nest
  • burrow nest
  • Barrel shaped to nest
  • Cup-shaped nest
  • Floating nest
  • Foamy nest

What are the types of parental care along with examples in fish?

  • Nest building behavior is seen in some and they make those nests with dead aquatic plants.Example- Male stickleback fish make hollow barrel shaped nest, male bowfin fish make circular nest, basin like nest in darter fish/Etheostoma congregate
  • The male stickleback fish build their nest with the help of dead aquatic weed and kidney secretions.
  • Shelter in mouth or mouth cavity protection or mouth brooders- The oral incubation is seen in male catfishes/Arius and female cichlids/Tilapia.They guard their eggs until fully hatched.Male catfish carry their eggs for six long months without eating anything,showing self sacrificing behavior.This is so rare among fish.
  • Coiling around eggs:Pholis fish also known as  butterfish roll around their egg balls to protect them from their enemies.The male pholis usually protect their eggs by coiling around them.
  • Apeltes quadracus make a cup-shaped nest attached to the roots for protecting their young ones.
  • Attachment to the body-In male kurtis indicus and male new guinea fish,by means of dorsal spine a hook-like structure i.e cephalic hooks is formed on the forehead of fish on which the bunch of eggs get attached and remain attached until they are hatched.
  • Integumentary cups formation-The lower portion of the female body becomes soft and spongy to lodge eggs in them in the form of integumentary cups.The best examples for integumentary cup formation  are Platystacus and Asperedo fish.
  • Oviposition- It is seen in lamp suckers.They deposit their eggs under the carapace of a crab. 
  • Brood pouches -Brood pouches are sac like structures which are made for depositing eggs for their development until they hatch. Seahorses (male), Pipefish,where the cluster of eggs are present inside the brood pouch.
  • Mermaid’s purses-Horny egg capsules known as mermaid purse example scyllium (Oviparous elasmobranchs shark-cat shark, port jackson shark,skate,chimera)
  • Viviparity-The most advanced type of parental care, in which the fish give birth to their young directly and protects and nourishes them after their birth.Example includes dogfish (scoliodon) and surf fish.

List of fish species who display parental care

  • Parental behavior modes in cichlids:Substrate spawners or substrate breeding,lay their eggs on a suitable surface on the substratum and guard them.
  • Labroidei cichlid are mouth-brooder, mother protects her young ones by allowing them to take refuge inside their mouth to protect them from predators,then spitting them out when it’s safe again.Being a mouth brooder is not easy,as the mother cannot  eat anything during this process.
  • Gouramis-They protect their young ones by making bubble nest & mouth breeders.Parental care is displayed by males, females eat their young ones.
  • Siamese fighting fish- Parental care is seen only in male bettas.Male bettas protects their foamy nest from the enemies.Male bettas use either live or silk plants to prepare their large nests on the surface of water.
  • Cyprinids and pikes scatter their eggs on aquatic plants.The aquatic plants provide nutrients to the young ones after hatching. Some cyprinids build their nests with the help of lots of stone.
  • Many freshwater fish like lepidosiren and protopterus (African lungfish)prepare a crude nest to protect their eggs from enemies.
  • Heterotis,a freshwater species, prepare their nest by clearing the aquatic plants. 
  • Some of the catfishes of North America display parental care by preparing crude nests to protect their young ones from their enemies.Both male and females show parental care in catfish.
  • North American male catfish particularly carry eggs in their mouth for almost six weeks to protect them from enemies.
  • Even jawfish carry their eggs in their mouth to protect them.
  • Cardinal fish too carry their eggs in their mouth.
  • Male Brazilian catfish form a pouch in their lower lips to incubate their eggs.

List of fish which deposit their eggs in the sticky coverings

  • Carps and pikes 
  • Yellow perch
  • Flying fishes with the help of sticky threads they deposit their eggs
  • Garfishes with the help of sticky threads they deposit their eggs
  • Skippers with the help of sticky threads they deposit their eggs 
  • Anadromous fishes like Acipenser and Onchorynchus dig gravel substrates for laying their eggs,once the eggs are laid,they cover their eggs with those substrates.
  • Female European bitterling also known as Rhodeus amarus deposit their eggs on the dead shells of water Mussels.
  • Female cyprinids also deposit their eggs on the dead shells of water Mussels.

List of fish which shows viviparity

Viviparity is also called true internal incubation or internal fertilization, where the fish give birth to young ones directly.Most elasmobranch and bony fish are known to deliver young ones directly.

  • Scoliodon (Ovoviviparous)
  • Mustelus
  • Gambusia
  • Poecilia

Benefits of parental care in fish

There are lots of benefits of parental care:

  • Chance of survival.
  • Protection of offspring.
  • Very important for overall reproductive fitness or evolutionary fitness.
  • Important for the development of offspring.
  • Growth rate and quality of life increase due to parental care.

Summary

  • Parental care is nothing but a form of altruism i.e caring for young ones without any selfish motives.
  • Parental care is directly proportional to the number of offspring produced.
  • Fish don’t  display a high level of parental care only some fish especially males display parental care.
  • 77 percent of fish don’t show parietal care.
  • 17 percent of fish only protect the eggs after spawning from enemies.
  • Only some 6 percent of fish actually care for their young ones.
  • Some fish eat the larvae and young ones of other fish.
  • Some fish don’t display parental care at all.
  • Most freshwater fish are involved in nest building behavior.
  • Highest degree of parental care is shown by viviparous fishes

Frequently asked question

Why is parental care important?

Parental care is a behavior performed by parents to improve the chance of survival  for their young ones.Parental care is important for perpetuation of race.

What are the types of fish involved in bubble nest building behavior to protect their eggs?

Angelfish,dwarf,pearl,kissing gouramis,chinese paradise and siamese fighting fish are bubble nest builders among fish species. Gouramis are very famous for their bubble nest building behavior.

What are bubble nests or foam nests made up of?

Bubble nests or foam nests are made up of bubble saliva and sometimes with the help of aquatic plants for keeping fish eggs to protect them from enemies.

Which fish is very popular for their parental care behavior?

Seahorse also known as hippocampus fish is very popular for their parental care among fish.The male seahorse particularly carries the eggs inside their brood pouches until they hatch into the young ones.

References

https://content.patnawomenscollege.in/zoology/Zoo%20CC305%20Parental%20Care%20in%20Fishes.pdf

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