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LAKE ALBERT’S HAPLOCHROMIS “YELLOW BELLY”

by Michael Helford

GCCA’S CICHLID CHATTER — JANUARY 1999    

Yellow Belly Haps are a somewhat newly available species in our area. Coming from Lake Albert, a less well known Lake in East Africa, there is no written literature about this species that I can find. Recent correspondence with Ad Konings corroborates this lack of available literature. Thus, I thought it might be of some interest to relate my limited experience with this new species over the last year or so.

The males develop a rather bright but light yellow belly and a copper or darker reddish back. The females remain a silver-gray, with a few vertical markings that show only occasionally, apparently depending on their state of arousal. I find the males attractive, and as is usually the case with sexually dimorphic African cichlids, the females look nice but are not colorful. Individuals are quite variable in their individual appearance from moment to moment. The dominant males can be very striking when they display their stronger colors and melanin pattern (thin vertical stripes on face and on fins, especially the dorsal). At these times and when displaying, the male is rather brightly colored. Individuals tend to hang motionless for periods of time near the bottom, near a plant or object, or in the water column, and then make darting movements. I find that they stay closer to the bottom of the tank most often but will feed avidly from flake food on the surface when presented. Most of their movement has that staccato quality, although occasionally (dominant males especially) will make longer movement across a section of the tank with a turn or two, but then they always end the movement quickly and stop. They appear to me as both timid and bold. Timid in the sense that they will shy away quickly when I approach to watch them, but they are bold in that they do not appear very intimidated by larger fishes nearby. They also seem rather aggressive intraspecifically. I have not observed any aggression against other species, save for an occasional warn- ing nip to a very close and smaller individual of another species. But, with other Yellow Belly individuals they occasionally dart at one another, with the dominant males chasing just about everyone pretty frequently for short jaunts.

Northwest of Lake Victoria, the Nile, the longest river in the world, runs into and out of Lake Albert. Thus, the Nile connects Lake Victoria and Lake Albert. The Victoria Nile, as it is called, runs from Lake Victoria and into the Northern part of Lake Albert, and the Albert Nile runs out also from Northern Lake Albert and up into Sudan. Lake Albert is situated between the Western side of Uganda and the Northeastern side of Congo (formerly Zaire). The water in Lake Albert is very hard (700 uS or microSiemens and probably around 13 dH) and is very alkaline with pH ranging from 8.9 to 9.5.

I first purchased four individuals of this species at the GCCA auction on January 31, 1998. They were each quite small, maybe approaching one inch. As luck would have it, one jumped out of the ten gallon that they were placed in (with a brood of sunshine peacock babies, Aulonocara baenschi) and another died of unknown causes. The remaining two individuals were moved to a 55 gallon tank, shared with the following species: Aulonocara hansbaenschi, Protomelas sp. “spilonotus Tanzania”, Fossorochromis rostratus, and Labidochromis caeruleus. These two stayed rather shy, usually hiding among the plastic plants and rocks. They would occasionally venture out into the open and did not appear fearful, but seemed more comfortable hanging back in the cover of such objects. They were all aggressive feeders, and when flake food was presented, they scurried out and grabbed it quickly and had big appetites. These two individuals grew to almost two inches and seemed to thrive until about four months later when they appeared distressed. More frequent water changes and treatment with Clout did not help and both individuals died soon after with gills wide open, suggesting perhaps gill parasites or infection.

In any case, I purchased another three babies of the species at the next auction, the May 31, 1998 Cichlid Classic. This time, one of the three died in the bag before I got it home. The remaining two, fortunately, turned out to be a male and a female. These two were placed in a 10 gallon tank shared with a brood of Copadichromis quadramaculatus. As was the case with the sunshine peacocks, the co-inhabitants got along fine. To my great surprise, these two, at about one inch, spawned. I found the female with her throat bulg- ing, showing the outline of one of the eggs. I was amazed to see such a small fish with a mouthful of eggs. She held the mouthful with commitment however, and I placed her in a small breeding net. About two or three weeks later, she released about four fry— one short of BAP requirements! The fry accepted crushed flake food and powdered Sera Marin tablets without any problem during the first few weeks.

All seemed well until I woke one day to find that one of the Quads had jumped into the breeding trap and all but one of the babies were missing. So, the remaining baby had escaped providing nourishment to the accidental intruder. Although disheartened, I ra- tionalized that the pair would spawn again and this would become just a first failed attempt. But, as if that weren’t enough, the next day I found the female dead, eyes gone, and apparently a victim of the male’s aggression. I moved the remaining baby to another 10 gallon shared with smaller quad and sunshine peacock fry. Although this individual was the smallest of the fry in this tank, she did fine and as of today is ap- proaching an inch in length.

The next chapter of my keeping of this species is currently unfolding. Although I still have the male and his daughter is growing well, I purchased two lots of Haplochromis sp. “Yellow Belly” at the recent November 14 auction. Eight individuals, all around two inches in length, were placed in a bare bottomed 30 gallon along with five one- inch Ngara Peacocks, a sponge filter, and several plastic plants, and rocks. One of the three males died within the first few days, possibly as a result of the dominant male’s aggression. The largest and most active male is showing his colors more strongly, especially vertical lines in his face and forebody. He continues to harass the remain- ing male and to almost continually display for the females. It looks as if one or two of the females may already be holding a mouthful of eggs, but I am reluctant to disturb them, so I will ascertain the certainty of their ovigerous status later. I am excited to work on breeding this species, as it appears to be relatively easy, and hope to observe and raise a full brood of fry soon. 

BREEDING LABIDOCHROMIS SP. “PERLMUTT”

by Rick Borstein 

GCCA’S CICHLID CHATTER — JANUARY 1999    


After seven years, I finally set up a 150-gallon tank. It was my hope to keep and breed Frontosa and in August of 1997, I visited Elite Cichlids to buy some.

My six-year-old Sam accompanied me and while there I saw a cichlid that was new to me—Labidochromis sp. “perlmutt”. Perlmutt, I learned, means Mother of Pearl in German. The dominant male on display was truly spectacular and sported a gorgeous pearlescent sheen with yellow highlights on the fins. Females, as is often the case with Malawian mouthbrooders, were indescript— a light tan with dark brown vertical stripes. The fish is very similar in form and behavior to Labidochromis caeruleus, another attractive Malawian that I had bred several years prior.

My son loved the perlmutts and we trooped home with the Frontosa, the perlmutts and several Leptostoma cyprichromis “tri-color”. Fortunately, Elite Cichlids accepts credit cards!

Once home, I placed the juvenile fish in a 55-gallon tank that also housed several Melanochromis johanni and Paratilapia nkala. I did weekly 40% water changes and fed a variety of dry foods. The tank is maintained at 78°F and is filtered by a large Supreme Aquamaster filter and a dual Tetra Phas sponge filter driven by a powerhead. My water, like most of the Chicago area, is very hard and great for most African cichlids.

The fish grew quickly and a within four months a dominant male developed the char- acteristic pearlescent coloring that had so intrigued me during my visit to Elite Cichlids. My son named the dominant male “Captain” and indeed he did his best to strut his stuff and “run” the tank himself.

About a month after the male colored up, I discovered a small female holding eggs. I let her stay in the fifty-five for two weeks, then netted her out and placed her in a ten gallon tank with a seasoned Tetra Billi sponge filter. At 22 days, the female released 7 rather large fry which were immediately able to eat baby brine shrimp. I left the female with the fry for a few more days to recover, then returned her to her original tank.

The fry were not prodigious growers for me. This may be because I was not able to feed them twice a day or easily transition them to dry foods. Eventually, I discovered, that they readily accepted finely crushed Tetra Bits and started growing rapidly. After keeping them for three months, I submit- ted them to the club’s Breeders Award Program.

A couple months later, I was able to witness the Perlmutts spawning. As you know, we cichlid buffs live for this— spawning behavior is very interest- ing to watch! After a wa- ter change, I noticed thedominant male and the largest female select and clean a smooth piece of rock in the aquarium. The female seemed to do most of the work while the male kept busy driving away the other inhabitants of the tank. The fish chose an inclined, flat river rock on which to spawn. In typical mouthbrooder fashion, the pair danced around each other a bit, then the female laid an egg and turned (while the egg slowly tumbled down the incline) and picked it up in her mouth. The male fish vibrated while the female bit at his egg spots fertilizing the eggs. Most books describe this at the “T”position.

By this time, the females had gotten much larger and subsequent spawns, as you’d guess, were larger. The largest spawn I obtained was 22 fry. Later fry were also a little more robust and easier to grow out. In fact, I got lazy and didn’t even bother with baby brine shrimp and simply fed finely crushed TetraBits— works great!

If you like mouthbrooding Africans, I think you would enjoy keeping and breeding Labidochromis sp. “perlmutt”. The fish are attractive, not demanding, and fairly


Artificially Raising Substrate Spawning Fish

Great for angels and Central American Fish 

Hobbyists have been artificially raising substrate-spawning fish for many years. This technique is popular for angelfish, Central American Cichlids and other substrate-spawning fish with small eggs.

Some hobbyists feel that artificially raising fry (i.e. pulling the spawn) weakens the pair bond of the fish. This notion has not been explored scientifically. It should be pointed out the the majority of angelfish breeders raise fry artificially.

There are as many ways to raise fry as there are aquarium hobbyists. Review the technique below and adapt it to your specific needs.

Before you get started…

  • Purchase the necessary supplies.
  • Decide where you want to place the hatch tank.
  • Observe when your fish spawn. One day post-spawning, you can pull the eggs (see instructions)

What you'll need…

Step Pictures

Step 1

Fill a clean, small tank or container with six quarts of water from the spawning tank.

We have had good luck with 8 quart clear, Rubbermaid Commercial containers. They are available from Sam's club and restaurant supply houses.

Rubbermaid 8qt clear container  Rubbermaid logo

Step 2

Remove the hatch from the spawning tank the day after spawning.

Avoid exposing the eggs to air. Invert the spawning surface (rock, etc.) inside a cup or container.

Removing the hatch from the tank

Step 3

Place the spawning surface (rock, etc.) inside the hatching tank.

Placing the hatch in the hatching tank.Placing the hatch in the hatching tank.

Step 4

Attach an 18" piece of airline to the air pump and plug it in.

We've had good luck with a Second Nature Challenger I and a Penn-Plax Silent-Air XL1. Any similarly sized pump should do.

Setting up the air pump

Step 5

Attach the airline to a gang valve.

This will allow you to:

  • Control the flow of air
  • Anchor the airline

We've had good luck with Penn-Plax Lok-Tite Gang Valves available here. These allow for precise control of the air flow. Each piece of tubing locks into the plastic hanger to prevent floating and kinking.

Connecting the gang valve

Step 6

Cut a one foot length of airline and attach it to one of the out ports on the gang valve.

Insert the airstone.

Thread the airline over the top of the gang valve.

 

Connecting the airline and airstoneDetailed view of locking in the airline over the gang valve.

Step 7

Place the gang valve over the side of the tank.

Make sure that the airline is not flopping around. It could damage the eggs.

The airstone should be to the side and slightly above the eggs.

Adjust the airflow using the gang valve. It should be a gentle stream of air.

Adjusting the air flow

Step 8

If your room temperature is below 78F, place a 7.5 watt aquarium heater in the tank.

Maintain the temperature at 78–81F. A lid may help in cold rooms.

We've had very good luck with 7.5 watt heaters from Jr. Aquatics. They are available at Walmart for about $7.

Jr. Aquatics Heater  Placing the heater

Step 9

Add 2 drops of Methylene Blue per each quart of water.

NOTE: Methylene Blue stains clothes permanently!

Kordon Methylene Blue   Add 2 drops per quart of water

Step 10

Methylene blue helps prevent fungus. Methylene Blue stains the water a deep blue.

Eggs are light sensitive— do not put a light over the tank.

Your water should be darker than the picture at right.

Methylene Blue in the tank

Step 11

Use a strong flashlight and check the hatch daily.

Most eggs hatch within 48-72 hours.

At 6 to 9 days post-spawn, the fry should be free of the spawning surface at the "belly whomper" stage— not quite able to swim, but hopping on the bottom.

Remove the spawning surface (rock, etc.).

Use a flashlight to check on hatching.Removing the spawning site

Step 12

As soon as the fry are belly whompers, start small, daily water changes.

Remove a quart of water from the tank. Replace it with fresh, dechlorinated water.

As you do more water changes, the water will get lighter and lighter.

Water changePutting in fresh water

Step 13

You may notice some debris such as unhatched eggs in the tank.

Carefully remove the debris using a turkey baster.

Removing debrisRemoving debris

Step 14

When the fry are free-swimming, add a small, seasoned sponge filter to replace the airstone.

We like the ATI Hydrosponge #0. You can get them from Jehmco.

At this point, start feeding freshly hatched baby brine shrimp. Feed until the tummies are nice and round!

Add a sponge filter

Step 15

Prepare a ten-gallon, grow-out tank. Use a sand or bare bottom, heater and sponge filter.

 

Step 16

About two weeks after the free-swimming stage, the fry should be about one-quarter inch long.

Remove the heater and sponge filter and carefully pour the fry into a seasoned ten-gallon tank.

Note: Make sure the temperature is the same as in the hatching tank!

Pouring the fry from the hatch tank to the rearing tank

Step 17

Continue feeding baby brine shrimp.

At three weeks, begin adding finely crushed flake food to the mix. By one month, you should be able to wean the fry off of the brine shrimp.

Weekly, 50% water changes are critical for fry growth.

Lots of fry