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Brackish Water Fish
Breeding Mono Sebae
Monodactylus sebae or Mono sebae picture.   Here's a picture of a Monodactylus sebae. Brian Nelson took this photo of his Sebae and gave us permission to use it. This page has a story about visiting Mr. Wey and discussing his method of breeding Mono Sebae.
Sometime after 1970 but before 1976 we heard there was a man named Wesley Wey, living in Los Angeles, who was breeding Monodactylus sebae, which was then called the Finger Fish. I think all of L.A. had the same area code, 213, at that time. I called information for area code 213 and got Mr. Wey's phone number, telephoned him, and asked if we could visit him. He said OK and gave me directions to his house.
This was very exciting, because we were thinking about fish and how to spawn them all the time. How to spawn livebearers like Mollies and Swordtails, Killifish like Aphyosemion gardneri, Cynolebias nigripinnis, and Nothobranchius guentheri, Cichlids like Angelfish and Convicts, and many other types of fish interested us. But brackish water fish, such as Monos, really fascinated us. They were kind of like the ultimate to us, and practically no one anywhere in the world had spawned them.
Mr. Wey's house was in a residential neighborhood that was very much like the neighborhood where we lived in our parent's home. He opened the front door, and in a few seconds we were looking at a very large aquarium by the back of his living room near the door to the kitchen. In this large aquarium were 4 or 5 huge Mono. sebaes. They measured at least 14" tall, which was much bigger than any brackish water fish that we'd ever seen.
Mr. Wey explained to us about how he conditioned his Sebaes to breed. First he increased the salinity of the water until the water had as high a concentration of salt as seawater. He measured the salinity with a hydrometer, and he showed us his hydrometer, then he dipped the hydrometer into the aquarium water to show us how he measured the salinity of the water.
He kept the Sebaes in sea water and fed them very well for a few weeks, and the females would fill with eggs. Then each day he would remove 4 or 5 inches of water and replace it with fresh water. So the salinity would decrease each day, and after a few days his huge Sebaes would spawn. He said they would swim in a tight circle, and he held his hands about 18" apart to show us the diameter of the circle. Around and around they would go. The females releasing eggs and the males presumably fertilizing the newly released eggs.
He said the eggs were very very small. Almost too small to be seen. Mr. Wey said one of the tricks that he'd learned about spawning Sebaes was to be there, when they spawned, and follow the Sebae females with a net to catch a bunch of her eggs. It had to be a fine net, because the eggs were so small.
"How many eggs do you get from a spawn, Mr. Wey?", I asked, and he replied, "I don't know exactly, but I've estimated that I get at least 50,000 from two or three females during each spawning. The eggs don't all hatch, and the ones that hatch, don't all survive. Lets go out to my garage, and I'll show you some of the Sebaes that I'm raising now."
We went through his kitchen and out the back door toward his garage. On the way I noticed that he had a round swimming pool filled with very dark green water like the water in a pond, which seemed strange, but there was no time to ask about that now, because we were going inside his huge garage that was filled with aquariums.
Right inside the door to the garage were two large aquariums that were side by side and full of more huge Sebaes. I watched the Sebaes swim back and forth for a while, and realized that they could swim from one aquarium into the other aquarium. How could that be?
I asked Mr. Wey, and he said that he'd done it like thus and so, but I couldn't follow the details. Maybe it wasn't too complicated, but it seemed complicated, and Mr. Wey seemed more and more like a wizard.
I caught up with him and my brother. They were looking at an aquarium and talking about some fry. It took a while to realize the tiny specks that looked like finely ground pepper were some Sebae fry that were just a few days old. There were many hundreds of them in that aquarium, and there were lots and lots of similar aquariums full of Sebae fry.
I can't remember what he fed them, but I remember that he said he had to divide each aquarium of fry into two aquariums every three days or so, or the aquariums would become too crowded. So the baby Sebaes were growing very fast.
He also said he had to increase the salinity a little bit every few days by adding Aquarium Salt to the water, or the Sebae fry would not do well. My brother asked Mr. Wey how he'd discovered that, and Mr. Wey said that he'd been in the U.S. Navy and stationed overseas in Asia near a large river. For a couple of years he'd seen adult brackish water fish, such as Monos and Scats, swim upstream, and then weeks later small Monos and Scats going back downstream and out into the ocean.
He theorized that the the adults had gone upstream to spawn, then the eggs floated down stream, hatched into fry, and grew to be about 1" by the time he saw them. As the adults swam upstream the salinity decreased, and so he tried decreasing the salinity in his aquariums to trigger the Sebaes to spawn. He said he was very happy, when this theory worked.
But then the fry were difficult or impossible to raise. So he visualized the fry hatching upstream, then floating or swimming back down the river with the salinity of the water steadily increasing. So he tried emulating that process in the aquariums with the fry by adding some Aquarium Salt every few days, and it also worked. After hearing that explanation, I was convinced that Mr. Wey was for sure a Wizard.
We went back outside his garage. It was dark by then, and I saw his swimming pool with the dark green water. He went into his kitchen and came back with a big head of cabbage, that he tossed into his swimming pool. Immediately the head of cabbage began to bob up and down in the water, and we could see that big pieces had been bitten out of the cabbage.
Before long the head of cabbage was gone. Eaten by whatever was in the pool. I bent down by one of the pool lights and saw a huge Scat swim past the light. It was at least 18" long and about 6" to 8" thick from one side to the other side.
Mr. Wey explained that he had quite a few big Scats in the pond, and he was trying to spawn them too, but all the tricks he'd learned about spawning the Sebaes hadn't work on the Scats. He needed to think of something new, and had kind of run out of good ideas, but he was hopeful that one day he'd think of something or just get lucky and spawn them.
We thanked Mr. Wey. We told him that we'd really enjoyed visiting him and seeing his fish, and that he was for certain a Fish Wizard. He just smiled and said, "Thanks for visiting and good luck with your fish."
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This page was updated on April 20, 2015.