First of all a little history first. Ecuador used to have a mass breeding set up in a mining/land clearing town that ran off the local river. It was originally set up for experimentation purposes for a similar reason to the German's using Peter's Elephant Noses with it's electrical impulses as an indicator for water quality. The experiment failed which led to exportation and smuggling.
The set up consisted of 3 sheds about 500m square. It had double rows of tanks going from one end of the shed to the other and up to 5 rows high. The tanks themselves were 2ft high and seperated by dividers giving about 3ftx2ft per tank. The dividers were about 1 1/2in below the waterline so that if the fish weren't compatible they could find their way into a tank with another that was. Some tanks had a single pair, some had 1 female and several males and vice versa. The shed was kept at a low light level. The bottoms of the tanks were completely covered in marbles to allow the eggs to drop through to the bottom as the adults will eat the eggs. They are egg scatterer's. Once the eggs were laid it was about 4-7 days to hatching. The water used was pumped straight from the river into a pipe set up that ran over the top of each of the tanks. The pipes were slotted so that the water coming out was similar to that of a water fall as they supposedly like fast flowing water. Their breeding season is also supposed to be the wet season however the set up they had negated this to year round breeding. No heaters were used in the tanks and the water was fairly cool however outside of the water it was quite humid. The water as I said was river water so it was always murky and stirred up particularly during the wet season. Once the fry had hatched they were kept in the same tank as the adults. Supposedly the fry are slow growing until around the 2-3in mark. I am unaware of what they fed them. As for being temperamental I don't know as they didn't seem to have too many difficulties other than incompatibility and the occasional half a fish left floating. However it is their natural environment.
How does this relate to breeding over here. Well many different ways have been set up to breed them from what I have been told. The principle though is the same as with any fish and that is to find a compatible pair. The best way that a male has been described to me is that his head is shaped more like that of a horse's head and it's eyes are more towards the top of it's head. Whilst the female has a slender head and it's eyes are lower and more towards the front of it's head close to it's mouth. There is also another way that I have not been able to fully verify yet and that is the male have larger eyes and they are fully black whilst the female has smaller eyes which are moreof an opaque colour. However as I said I have not been able to verify this completely. Tanks have been set up with bare bottoms that have the bottom of a pot plant in it filled with large pebbles, the bottom fully covered with marbles or anything that will allow the eggs to drop through without the parents getting to them. From all the info so far it seems that smooth rocks/pebbles regardless of how they are set out is what they prefer. Chinese container's with dark marbles in them have been used to great effect. Water quality has been hardest to get accurate info on as it seems that most people that I have spoken to had tanks that were riddled with algae, almost to the point of having putrid water as it seems that this is what they prefer however 1 person that I spoke to was pedantic about water quality and did regular water changes. Whatever filter people used it was also unanimous in the fact that the water flowed down onto the top of the tanks water level. Anything can be used for this as 1 person even used a powerhead hooked up to some hose that ran into a shower rose so that the resulting flow was similar to that of a tropical down pour. There was also varying success with lighting. Most people had completely darkened tanks in very quiet areas while 1 person had a brightly lit tank with regular loud music. I suppose it all depends on what sort of environment the fish is comfortable in. The average water temp. that was observed for breeding was 27 degrees celcius.
When both are ready to mate both the male and the female will have a red flashing on their tail. However the males is fairly predominant with the females only being slight. When the female lays the eggs it looks as if she is feeding from the rocks as the eggs come out from just under her head. As the female takes a break the male fertilises the eggs. Afterwards it may look as if the male is dead as he may lay motionless for a while but he's only shagged from a marathon session. When the female comes back to lay more eggs the male will take off and there continue's the laying cycle. The eggs when laid are clear and will go white if they go bad. This is where the chinese containers with dark marbles are effective due to the contrast in colours. If you do miss the laying process you will be able to tell anyway due to the amount of eggs laid. As the eggs mature they will slowly grow a tail and form their natural shape, at this stage being brown in colour and turning black as they mature. If you do remove the fry, do so around the 2-3 week mark as this is when they will start to venture out and will be mistaken for food by the parents. The fry love protein pellets and blood worms. Grind the pellets up in a salt or pepper grinder over a net so that once it is crushed you can feed it to the fry. The blood worms are good for conditioning and they should thrive on protein pellets. The one over riding factor out of all of this is the ability to keep the fry alive. For some reason there is a high mortality rate with 10 out of a 100 being a very good survivability rate from all accounts.
This info is the result of my own research which included a lot of info passed on by private breeders. The thing that seemed most evident was a lot of the info was similar with individual differences and preferences throughout. As the saying goes, what works for one doesn't necessarily work for another. I will also strongly conclude that I myself have not at this stage attempted to breed this wonderful fish. However in the not to distant future I am hoping to get a male to go with the female that I have in order to give it a go. So for everyone else, if you give it a go I wish you all the best of luck. However could you please keep myself posted with your success's and the not so success's as I will continue to update my research. I hope this has been informative for all and an incentive to give it a go.