Angels in the aquarium

Hayden woman learning to breed angel fish

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Cindi Armington, of Hayden, talks about her interest in breeding and raising angelfish.

No angel fish were injured or killed during the writing of this article.

But plenty called it quits before.

Batches, in fact. Some eaten by other fish, wiped out by improper food, one committing suicide.

It's all just part of the saga of learning to breed angel fish, Cindi Armington said.

"It's all trial and error, until you really get into it," she said.

Armington's Hayden home on Monday looked like the setting of one determined to keep finned company. Three fish tanks were situated in her living room, three more in her bedroom.

It's just a hobby, she said, though it has taken a while to manage it only three hours a day.

"For a senior citizen, this keeps me busy," the 64-year-old said. "And I just love doing it."

She pointed to one tank holding "mom and dad," two full-sized angel fish.

Another in her bedroom contained more than 100 glittering finger-nail sized fish, recent hatchlings. A tank in the living room held about 76 larger fish, waiting to grow so they can be sold.

"To whoever will buy them," Armington said, adding that she has set up a Craigslist ad.

Armington just loves angel fish, she said. Their transparent, wispy frames, their lively personalities that perk up when a human approaches.

She adored fish that she owned decades ago, she said, and now that she's retired from owning a trucking business, she figured it was worth a shot to raise and sell angel fish.

"It takes a lot of time. People don't realize," Armington said.

Daily she cleans tanks, monitors water temperatures and prepares food. She ensures the female's eggs are fertilized by the male, then raises the hatched fish herself in separate tanks.

The angel fish are just good company, Armington said, making the chores easy.

"I love their shape and their different colors and I love watching them go up to the glass. They know you're there," she said. "If I go up to the female and wiggle my head, she wiggles her body."

Her goal is to breed them by color, she added, eventually producing the rare orange angel fish that can sell for hundreds of dollars each.

"I think angel fish are really popular," she said.

Her daughter, Kelly Weller of Post Falls, admitted her mother's sudden hobby took her by surprise.

"I wasn't quite sure what she was getting herself into," Weller said.

But she sees that her mother enjoys doting on them, she said.

And it's not a bad idea, Weller acknowledged, noting that angel fish can be hard to come by.

"At pet stores, they come in, but they go very fast," she said.

And her mother can probably get the hang of anything, Weller said.

"She really dives in head first," Weller said. "She loves getting into new things and learning new things and the challenges that come with that."

And there have been some challenges.

The original eight angel fish Armington started with are now down to two, because, well, fish tend to die. One male jumped out when she left the tank lid open.

"When I found him on the floor, it was heart wrenching," Armington said.

More were lost because the mother angel fish often eats its own eggs. Once Armington put a batch of newborns in with two cory fish, she said, which promptly gobbled up the babies.

"I woke up the next morning, and the corys were like this," she said, balling up her hand.

Other batches died after eating shrimp that still contained shells, which the fish can't handle.

"It takes a lot of patience," Armington said. "To gather patience was something I learned when I started truck driving."

It's all down to a science now, she said. She switches eggs and freshly hatched fish into different tanks, and orders special food online for $45 a bottle. Tank lids stay closed.

Armington said she'll keep up the fish breeding as long as she can.

Keeping her home filled with tanks of sparkling, dancing angels.

"They're beautiful and I love 'em," she said. "That's all I can say."

Dozens of angel fish swim in one of a handful of aquariums in the home of Cindi Armington.

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