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Breeding Labidochromis sp. “Perlmutt”

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


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