SAEs territorial towards each other in small QT

attheworld

Heyy FishLore, the wonderful community I ought to visit more often. I tend to I fall in and out of fishkeeping, hence my inconsistent presence on here, but I am back again ! With my thoughts on some unusual behaviour between my SAEs.

For context, I am aware SAEs should not be in a tank less than 20 gallons. I am quarantining 2 SAEs and 6 albino corydoras in a 10 gallon bare-bottom tank for 3 weeks, and then if all is good they will be added to my main 35g tank. This setup is temporary. I am conducting 2 30% water changes a week to keep parameters stable.
Also, I am certain these are true SAEs. They have no golden stripes, a jagged black tripe from nose to base of tail where it narrows to a point and one pair of barbels.
Some extra info - the 2 I have are just over 2 inches long. SAEs and the cories have been in the QT for 6 days. It is cycled. Nellie is slightly larger than Briscuit, but I'm not certain on their genders.

Onto their behaviour...

Today, I checked up on my QT as usual and observed some territorial behaviour between my 2 SAEs. I have a fake log in my QT, which the SAEs flocked to as soon as they were added and have made home there since. I saw one of my SAEs (Nellie) guarding a dark space in the log - when the other (Briscuit) came close, Nellie would shoot out of the darkness and poke at Briscuit, chasing it away. I watched for a while before taking a video. Luckily, I was able to capture their little fight pretty well. Before the video, Briscuit had wandered too close and was knocked into the light. During the shot, Nellie swims out again and begins nudging at Briscuit, trying to push it out of the log, and does not relent until Briscuit swims out the other end of the log.

That first scene worried me a little. The tank is small, and I fear if Nellie continues this behaviour, Briscuit will become stressed without enough space away from Nellie. Then I continued to watch for the next 30 minutes. I saw no signs of stress; instead Briscuit took a break and swam around the tank, then wandered back to Nellie's little hidey hole. I had to leave the fish for a moment and when I returned, Nellie was out of the log and Briscuit was facing it, Briscuit's stripe faded to silver. They stared at each other for a few seconds before Briscuit's stripe rapidly faded back to black and it swam towards Nellie. It almost looked like they were dancing; they swam near each other, nudging each other's sides for a moment, then Nellie nipped at Briscuit again and chased it off. I was recording the whole time, but my phone camera is pretty bad and was unable to pick up enough light or focus to see the fish at all.

So, I am left feeling confused. All of this drama was happening only between my SAEs; the cories didn't interact with them at all, and I never saw any aggression from the SAEs towards my cories.

It almost looks like Briscuit is trying to get Nellie to play, because Nellie chases Briscuit away every time, but Briscuit keeps coming back, and seems unphased. Like an annoying sibling. I haven't spotted any damage done to Briscuit either, emotionally or physically. Its fins and scales are fine.

Is Nellie's territorial behaviour going to be an issue? Will it stress out Briscuit eventually? Is Nellie hurting Briscuit, are they playing? Should I move Briscuit to my established 10 gallon?* These are the questions I am hoping FishLore can help to answer.

Nellie vs Briscuit
I could be completely misinterpreting this behaviour, as I have no experience with territorial fish or SAEs, which is why I am asking for Fishlorians' opinions. :)

*My 10g - It would be a much smaller space due to the amount of plants and hardscape I have in there, and the shape of the tank. But Briscuit would be alone, aside from Obsidian, my nerite.

TIA,
- Att
 

Flyfisha

Ok 10 gallons is to small and two is not a group. Having said that this species actually fades to silver in spawning dress. Most fish show more colours to spawn not so the sae. It’s possible you are seeing juveniles practicing the dance? It’s very unlikely any fry or eggs will come from this behaviour if that is what you are seeing?

Have you got some old established plant material off cuts. Old ornaments , rocks etc they can pick algae/ biofilm from?
 

attheworld

Ok 10 gallons is to small and two is not a group. Having said that this species actually fades to silver in spawning dress. Most fish show more colours to spawn not so the sae. It’s possible you are seeing juveniles practicing the dance? It’s very unlikely any fry or eggs will come from this behaviour if that is what you are seeing?

Have you got some old established plant material off cuts. Old ornaments , rocks etc they can pick algae/ biofilm from?
It is small, which is why I'm wondering if I separate them, though I only have a 10g QT, established 10g planted and established 35g planted. My research tells me they will always do better in a group, but are fine alone, in pairs, trios, etc. I have placed in some established algae-infested plant cuttings, I can see I'll have to add in some more soon since the algae seems to be depleting overnight.

That'd be a nice turn of events. Looking back at the video and recounting what I've seen, you could definitely be right. I'll look through some videos of SAE spawning. I kept returning to watch them, but they haven't interacted since. I noticed Nellie is content hiding in the darker areas of my QT and more territorial over its space and food. Briscuit is always wandering or resting, gentle in nature, and shares its food with the cories. The personality contrast makes them enjoyable to watch. :D
 

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