Q:I do water changes in my fry tanks but I can't help but to suck up fry, which kills them. I attached a sponge on tube, but fry get sucked into the sponge and die because they are so fragile. Please help!

Question submitted by Clay, Fort Worth - Texas

A: Ah yes, this has always been the predicament: how to suck up junk but not fry. I have never used a sponge at the end of hose because it would prevent from really sucking up solid matters. Sponge is OK for removing some water for a partial water change, and in this case, you can keep the hose close to surface or anywhere the fry are not. Fry usually prefer hanging out at the bottom, where the food is. Junk also likes hanging out at the bottom where gravity is ;). So it is in deed a challenge sucking up one but not the other. Now every breeder will give you their own 2 cents about this, so my way of going about it may not be way others do it. I can only speak from my experience and this is what works for me: I do not use an air hose. I use a mini gravel cleaner. I start where there is less fry, and hold the vacuum so that it is at a perfect 90 degree angle with tank bottom and so mouth of it is touching bottom of tank all around (sorta in a "closed" position).  I then travel very slowly, lifting up a hair when I come in contact with junk, just enough to allow junk in for a second, then immediately closing back to my 90 degree "closed" position. To keep water flow very slow, I place my thumb at other end of tube and if fry are close, I shut off water flow with my thumb to stop vacuum. Then I tap the tank bottom a couple time with the vacuum, enough to make some noise that makes the fry dart away. This is a trick I learned from Bonnie McKinley :). Once fry have cleared the vicinity of vacuum mouth, I start siphoning again. I rarely suck up fry this way but do get all the junk. Also, mouth of vacuum can be used to "scrub" bottom of tank, if held at perfect 90 degree angle. Last but not least, I use a clear 1 gal pitcher to collect dirty water in. After I am done, I let it sit for 30 min, then when particles in suspension have settled I look for any fry that might have been sucked in. I fish them out gently and back to the tank. I rarely suck up fry but when I do, I find them alive and well, and usually they are OK. Expect to lose a couple over the weeks, but no more.

Remember, practice makes perfect! I have been doing this for a long time so you'll get better at it with time! Be patient, gentle and smooth with your fry handling. I hope this helps you all and good luck.