GCCA’S CICHLID CHATTER — MAY 1999
by Rick Borstein
These days, technology has invaded the fish room. Electronic heaters, exotic filtra- tion systems and a wide array of foods and medications are available to the aquarist. However, it is often the more mundane tools that help us the most.
Take for example, the bucket. Could you keep fish without one? I have my own favorite. It’s a Rubbermaid bucket that has wide pouring spout, comfortable handle, and holds about 2-1/2 gallons. It’s tan, so it looks clean even if it isn’t. I have several 5-gallon white buckets, too. They’re useful, but they don’t fit under the faucet of my utility sink very well and they are just too big to be used as often.
A recent find of mine is new kind lid for 5-gallon buckets called a Gamma Seal. You snap a lid ring on the bucket, then use the included screw-in top with rubber seal. It’s great for transporting fish because it is water tight, but easy to unscrew and net fish out. The screw lids are about six bucks and would be a great way to take fish to a show. I ordered mine from the Sportsman’s Guide catalog at 800.888.3006.
Another mundane tool that I use daily is a turkey baster. I use it for feeding brine shrimp, removing eggs and fry from filters and cleaning up fry tanks. It’s also fun to use as a “squirt gun” to drive away an over-protective cichlid when you’re trying to snatch a slate full of eggs.
I keep a flashlight in my fish room. Most of my tanks are planted, so it can be pretty difficult to see if a spawn has taken place. Recently, I noticed that my Neolamprologus gracilus were behaving a bit differently. I couldn’t see any activity, but had a hunch that they were getting ready to spawn. The next day I looked again and couldn’t detect a thing. Time to grab the flashlight! With the help of the light, I was able to look through the thick forest of Cryptocryne to see a thick plaque of eggs deposited at the base of some driftwood. A couple of days later I used the flashlight again to find the wrigglers. Boring tool, but without it I wouldn’t have those fry.
I have a 150-gallon tank with a wet/dry system. Wet/dry filters are great, but I was having a hard time keeping the pre-filter clean. Uneaten food (Doromin sticks and floating pellets), quickly clogged the foam pre-filter. My solution was a $3.85 floating feeding ring. The foam keeps the ring afloat and my Frontosa haven’t been able to dislodge it yet.
I like planted tanks and that means having adequate lighting. I use standard fluores- cent shop lights stocked with Gro-Lite bulbs over each tank. The light is great for the plants, but is also very good at growing algae! I’ve tried a variety of algae scrapers, algae magnets, algae pads, but I haven’t yet found anything as effective as a good old single-edged razor blades. I buy them in a 100-pack from a nearby True Value hard- ware store for about five bucks. I use a new blade each week when I do my tank maintenance. A minor concession to convenience is that I do keep around a couple of blade holders. These come in fluorescent colors which makes them much easier to find when you drop them in your tank. I always scrape the tank walls before I do my water changes. Once you drop the water level, it seems that the green stuff gets a lot harder to remove.
Old toothbrushes often find their way down to my fishroom. They still perform better than any expensive filter brush I’ve used, and you can’t beat the price. For really small items, try a kid-size toothbrush we have a lot of these around, too you can clean some really tight places.
Sometimes little things can save you from having to think a lot. I usually do my water changes on Saturday mornings while trying to take care of a one year old, so I get easily distracted. I usually change about 30–50% water change on every tank. Each tank needs a different amount of dechlorinator and it’s hard to remember how much to put in. For under a dollar, I purchased a Garden Measure at a local nursery. This small graduated plastic measure is marked off in both teaspoons and milliliters. You will also find free graduated measures with kid’s cough syrup and products like Nyquil. I used a permanent marker to write the gallon equivalents next to the teaspoons on the Garden Measure. Now that I measure everything exactly, I find that I use less and save money. A gallon of Novaqua is about $30, so it pays to measure exactly.
I was talking to my wife Sharon the other day, and I remarked to her that I thought I had found every way there was to flood our basement floor when I do my water changes! I had spilled buckets of water, forgot to turn off the Python, left the plug in the sink and had it overflow and a variety of other idiotic methods. To Sharon, the glass is always half full and she was sure that there were lots more ways to turn my fishroom floor into a swimming pool.
Of course, she was right! I came home from a long business trip and looked into my 6-month-old, black-sealed 25 gallon aquarium and noticed that it was only halfway full of water. I was really tired and pulled out the Shopvac, broke down the tank, moved the fish, etc.
Spurred to action, I purchased a water alarm for a bout fifteen bucks. The tiny box is powered by a 9-volt battery and when it detects water, it emits a piercing alarm. You will find them in the home improvement centers located near the sump pumps. If your home has a sump pump, believe me, you’ll want more than one!
I like to feed my dwarf plecos (Ancistrus sp.) some vegetable matter every week or so. I tried a variety of veggie clips without much luck. I guess a dozen plecos and several cichlids attacking a half zucchini was too much to ask these products to withstand. I gave up on the store bought solution. Now, I rubber band the zucchini to a heavy piece of slate and put it that the tank. The fish like it and I now I don’t have zuchinni islands floating around my tanks.
Recently, I had the unenviable task of trying to remove a large Geophagus that was bullying my Frontosas in my 150. In my heavily landscaped tank, this was no easy task. After twenty fruitless minutes trying to coax the fish out of the rock work, I got an idea. I grabbed a 36” piece of rigid one-eight inch plastic tubing, and blew into cave where the fish was hiding. Success! Scared by the bubbles, he moved right out and I was able to catch him easily. Cost for the tubing? Under a dollar.
Sometimes the simplest solutions are both cheaper and better. So, look around your fish room and try to discover the mundane, but effective solution.
GCCA’S CICHLID CHATTER — MAY 1999
by Bill Vannerson with contributions from David Kawahigashi and Eric Lund
There was a discussion on several Internet Killifish email lists regarding supple menting newly hatched baby brine shrimp (BBS), Artemia, with vitamins or cal- cium. The results of that discussion brought two important points to light for fish keepers of any species. One, hobbyists can supplement their BBS to add valuable nutrients to their fish, both fry and adults. Two, the power of the internet as a resource.
Supplementing live food is nothing new. Many hobbyists have been adding vitamins to their worm cultures before feeding to fish and, to a lesser extent, adult brine shrimp as well. The strategy is to have the supplement ingested by the food and then by the fish when they consume the food. The debate on the mailing lists started when some- one questioned the effectiveness of applying this technique to BBS. Would supple- ments added to the hatching water be ingested by brine shrimp nauplii and then consumed by the fish? Or would the supplement simply stay suspended in the hatch- ing water without providing and additional value to our fish?
The answer comes down to whether or not newly hatched Artemia will consume the supplement. The answer is yes, but not right away. Artemia are filter feeders but don’t start feeding until after their second molt, referred to as the instar 2 stage.
According to David Kawahigashi at San Francisco Bay Brand, the commercial fisheries have been practicing this for quite a while. “Supplementing nutritional components, such as vitamins or calcium, into live brine shrimp has been practiced by aquaculture hatcheries for around 10 years. This bio-enrichment or bioencapsulation of brine shrimp nauplii (instar 2 or adults) began using emulsified fish oils containing high HUFA’s or highly unsaturated fatty acids for marine finfish and crustacean larvae. This ‘break- through’ enabled the culture of many other new marine species to be developed (flounder, sea bass, tuna, ornamental marine sp.).”
Eric Lund, researcher from University of Wisconsin, Madison, explains, “Briefly, salt- water fish all require a fatty acid that is common in marine fish oils called DHA (docosahexanoic acid) in their diet. They cannot make it from precursors, so it must be present in their food. Freshwater fish have a limited ability to make DHA from a particular precursor fatty acid of the omega-3 variety (linolenic acid), but they too can grow and reproduce well on a diet that includes DHA.”
“Brine shrimp are a great food for all small carnivorous fish, but they contain virtually no DHA. Marine fish larvae fed only Artemia exhibit mass mortality a few days after they start feeding. Aquaculture operations get around this problem by adding an emulsion of phospholipids rich in DHA to newly hatched Artemia. The Artemia eat the emulsion (more of it also sticks to the outside of their bodies). The Artemia are then fed to the fish or can then be kept refrigerated for up to three days.”
Enriching or bioencapsulation Artemia is essential for marine fish, but not for freshwater fish. Then why bother at all? Eric further explains, “I do believe, however, that for some delicate killies [and other freshwater fish] that experience high moralities before sexing out, that enriching Artemia may be of some benefit. Another tactic worth trying is to feed enriched Artemia to the adults for several weeks prior to breeding them. In other species, fish eggs with low levels of DHA generally have poorer survivorship to first feeding than eggs that are rich in DHA. Giving females a diet high in DHA allows them to put more DHA into their eggs. As you all know, weak and feeble killie fry can be the result of several factors including inbreeding, bad water conditions and improper incu- bation conditions, but poor parental nutrition may play a role as well.”
Symptoms of Essential Fatty Acid Deficiency
The essential fatty acid end product, DHA, is an important component of cell mem- branes in retinal tissue (eyes), neural tissue and cardiac tissue. Deficiency symptoms may include:
Sudden fright syndrome— Fish, usually juveniles, go into shock or twitch convulsively when frightened.
Poor visual acuity— reduced ability to locate prey
Poor growth rates
Poor egg viability
High mortality rates under stressful conditions such as shipping
Note that factors other than essential fatty acid deficiency can cause all of these symptoms. Essential fatty acid deficiency is not a problem with most freshwater fish fed a varied diet. It is possible, however, that supplementation with a lipid emulsion may increase growth rates, fecundity and fry survivorship. So, if you are having problems raising a particular species, it may be worth a try.
How to Supplement
There are three ways you can feed your fish bioenriched shrimp; buy enriched frozen shrimp, enrich live adult shrimp or enrich newly hatched nauplii.
Bioenriched frozen shrimp
Bioenriched frozen shrimp are available but may be difficult to find. David Kawahigashi explains, “Although we do not market any enrichment formula, we do enrich and freeze live adult Artemia with a HUFA formula and Spirulina algae for the aquaculture and aquarium markets. However, almost all of the sales for these two enriched products go to the aquaculture market due to the “unawareness” of the benefits of bioenrichment in the aquarium trade.”
Enrich live adults
Enriching live adults is not difficult. Just add the supplement to brine shrimp 12-16 before feeding fish.
Adding supplements to newly hatch brine shrimp is a little more complicated. Baby brine shrimp will not ingest the supplements until after the instar 2 stage begins, about 12 hours after the nauplii hatch. However, most fish breeders prefer to feed newly hatched Artemia as close to hatching as possible in order to maximize the nutritional value.
Once the cyst hatches, the nauplii begin to consume stored protein reserves, just as newborn fry live off of their egg sac. The longer you wait to feed them, the less nutritional value that’s passed on to the fish. The only way to counter act this is to feed the Artemia. This is not usually done because of difficulties in raising nauplii to adulthood. It’s just not worth the effort when one can readily purchase adult brine shrimp.
A compromise solution is to maintain two separate sources of baby brine shrimp, one that is bioenriched and one that is not but has higher protein reserves. Follow your normal routine for collecting and feeding from hatcheries that are not enriched. Re- duce the amount you would normally feed and replace with a portion from the en- riched hatcheries. Since enriching requires extra time, you may want to set up multiple hatcheries to alternate. You also may store enriched Artemia in the refrigerator for up to three days.
Here’s a quick checklist of the steps required to produce bioenriched Artemia:
Prepare and hatch baby brine shrimp as normal, 24 hours for standard cysts or 16
hours for decapsulated cysts.
Add bioenrichment 6 hours after hatching This will be after the instar 2 or second molt.
Feed within 12-16 hours or the shrimp will have digested the enhancement for- mula and you need to start over
Store any unused nauplii in the refrigerator for up to three days.
David mentions, “I am now working on bioenriching Haematococcus algae [super high astaxanthin for color enhancement] and some anti-bacterials into our live Artemia for product development. Because Artemia are non-selective and continuous filter- feeders, pretty much anything can be taken into the gut of a live Artemia, as long as the particle size is between 5 to 50 microns. Vitamin supplements must be in a non- soluble form as Artemia cannot ‘drink’ soluble components.”
Eric Lund is also working on some new research at UWM that he’s not at liberty to discuss in detail
Selcon is a popular liquid supplement for enriching artemia nauplii.
This convenient product includes an eyedropper top for easy dosing and complete directions.
This article was originally published by the author in another journal and is presented here at the request of the author.
The Internet as an Aquarium Resource
The whole issue of enriching Artemia began as a relatively benign question posted to an Internet email lists. In a few days, input from hobbyists and experts, who are also hobbyists, poured in, adding to the collective knowledge of the group. The dynamics of this information exchange and the speed at which it was dissemi- nated is a prime example on how the power of the internet can benefit the hobby. For those of you not familiar with email or the Internet, I’ll explain.
An author of a message sends it to the list server via standard email services from his or her local Internet service provider (ISP). An ISP is company that provides Internet connection, including companies such as America Online, CompuServe and a whole host of others both large and small. The list server replicates the message and sends it out to all of the subscribers. So if there are 500 people subscribing to a particular list, then 500 people will receive a copy of the email message.
Anyone on the list can respond to the original message either privately to the origina- tor or back to the list server, where everyone can see the response. It’s best to respond back to the list if the topic of the email is of public interest, that way everyone can benefit from the shared knowledge of all of the responses. The collection of messages and the responses is referred to as a thread, as in a string of correspondence.
Subscribers to a list can be from anywhere in the world. I have seen contributions from Alaska to Australia, Hungary to Hong Kong, South America to Singapore. The only place I haven’t seen a message from is Antarctica, but I’m sure it could happen.
There are several lists that I subscribe to including Killies, KillieTalk, Live food, Apistos and Cichlids.
There are a bunch of others, including one focusing on brine shrimp alone. Visit FishLinkCentral for a more comprehensive source of lists.
Access to Experts & Speed of Information Exchange
Because threads are open conversations between fish folks from around the world, subscribers can benefit from the knowledge and opinions of some of the best experts available. David and Eric happen to be two extremely knowledge- able experts on supplementing Artemia that participate on several email lists. When the original question was posted, they both decided to freely join in and share their knowledge and expertise. Most hobbyists probably would not have known them or the expertise using traditional means of communication, such as letters —referred to as “snail mail” by Internet users. And if someone did know them, the response most likely would have been addressed to single individual, not to hundreds around the world. And the exchange was quick! Within days, literally hundreds of hobbyists learned about the benefits of supplementing BBS. There has been a lot of fanfare regarding the information age and the Internet.
By Willie Heard
I purchased a BAP bag of eight Chalinochromis trifasciatus which was brought in by Bill Constantelus. He said they spawned on January 3, 1997. I purchased them in March of 1997 and paced them in a ten gallon tank. In July of 1997 I moved them to a twenty gallon tank.
One day while making a regular water change, I noticed some of the trifasciatus hanging near the top of the tank. I grabbed a flashlight and found the reason, free swimming fry around a clay flowerpot. I guess they spawned sometime around April 19, 1998.
The parents resemble Chalinochromis popelini in color and striping. They are gold- fish-like in body sheen with long striped running from the head to the tail. The parents were fed the same diet as all of my fish. Alternately, frozen brine shrimp, Tetra Cichlid Flake, Tetra Green Conditioning Flakes, and Hikari pellets.
Water was changed every four days— one-fourth of the tank volume. No additions of any kind were added. Lake Michigan water is all I use.
The spawning tank consisted of two large pieces of desert coral rock with plenty of different size holes. I left all the fish, both parents and fry, together because I didn’t have any open tanks. Besides, I couldn’t tell which fish were the parents.
Surprisingly, everything worked out well. They are all doing fine. ■
Interview by Rick Borstein
GCCA’S CICHLID CHATTER — MARCH 1999
Tell us about yourself... how did you get started with Cichlids?
When I was born in 1956, I didn’t have gills, yet— unfortunately as, at an age of 2, I al- most drowned in the goldfish pond of my grandma. It was not until I was twelve that I got my first aquarium. Not long after that I got more, stocked with the first Tanganyikan cichlids that were available in the Netherlands. I made all the mistakes that novice aquarists make today, but experience was built up. During my biology study, I helped out on Saturdays at Verduijn Cichlids, at that time, Europe’s best assorted cichlid shop. My first trip to Africa was to Malawi in 1980 and from then on I was hooked on “cichlids in the wild”.
In the last ten years, I have visited Lake Malawi and Tanganyika more than once a year and I am slowly developing “the cichlid picture” in my mind. Coupled with yearly trips to Mexico, I’m getting an idea how cichlids do in the natural environment. After 42 tanks in Germany, my wife allows me only two in El Paso; the first is almost 500 gallons...
You’ve been diving and observing cichlids in Africa for many years. Can you share with our members an interesting story of finding new cichlids?
For many years, I have been publishing books and articles on Malawi cichlids in German and in Germany. Some other authors in Germany don’t like that and try to outdo me. One of them, let’s call him Andreas, even tried to copy every single step I took in getting photos of Malawi cichlids. When I went for the first time to the Tanzanian part of the lake, that same person managed to go a few weeks earlier and got a boat from the same fish collector as I did. I was with Martin Geerts and Laif DeMason, who owned the boats all of us were using, was with us as well. At Manda, halfway through our trip, we chanced to meet Andreas and since our visit was a surprise for him, he couldn’t conceal a new fish he collected in the area we were supposed to go to next. In a little baby swimming pool, he had little a blue-black barred mbuna which resembled Pseudotropheus saulosi males. He refused to tell us where he found them even though the diver, who caught the fish, was on Laif’s payroll. Laif’s partner in Tanzania, Erling, agreed with Andreas, who was leaving the country in a few days, that he would take these new fish home! Laif was very angry because Andreas was using his boats and his divers and now that a new and exciting new mbuna was found, he wasn’t even able to get it. Worse, someone else was going to breed the fish and make money on the European market. Andreas and Erling left with the lake steamer to Itungi port, where Laif’s fish house was. Since Andreas wanted to visit a crater lake north of Itungi port, the two of them left for a couple of days. In the meantime, Laif took the next lake steamer —in those days there were two services a week— and steamed up north, to Itungi. In the fishhouse, he found the little mbuna and added a few big predators to the tank after he made sure that there were no females among them. Andreas, was upset —we later heard— but still took the remaining fish with him in a box to Germany. He desperately wanted someone to name this fish after him and also had preserved material. Since his voyage would take him through Malawi (shorter than flying out of Tanzania), he was faced with a very cold check-in agent at Lilongwe airport. Nobody is allowed to take live fish out of Malawi, no exceptions! Whatever he did, there was no way he could take the fish with him. Therefore he asked the driver and manager of Laif’s operation in Tanzania, Freddy, if he would take the fish back and ship them the next week with the proper documentation. Freddy agreed. Unfortunately on his way back to Tanzania, Freddy’s had car trouble and he had to stay overnight in Malawi, in the highlands (cold nights). You guessed it— the fish were dead the next morning. So, Andreas only had preserved specimens left. In the meantime, Laif, Martin, and I continued our trip and also found the fish, collected it and preserved some specimens. I thought it a good idea to quickly name this species after Laif — he had done so much for me and other hobbyists by making available Tanzanian cichlids— before someone else could publish a description naming the fish in honor of Andreas. So I did and that is the story of Pseudotropheus demasoni.
Are there any current or forthcoming environmental issues that concern you as an observer and writer about African cichlids? What are they and what is the risk?
The environmental issue in Lake Malawi is the overfishing done by the local population. There is exponential [population] growth in Malawi and food is scarce. More and more Africans revert to fishing on the lake, just for their own families. There is nothing we can or should do about it. The situation is better in the Mozambique and Tanzanian part of the lake. Fishing on Lake Tanganyika is very extensive in the southern section, which belongs to Zambia, and many species have been lost from that area. Other parts of the lake are in relatively good shape. Fortunately, the infrastructure of the surrounding countries is very poor so that big industry is not likely going to settle on the shores of these lakes and pollute the water.
You often speak of interesting fish behaviors that you observe while diving. What can we do as aquarists to promote natural behavior in our tanks? What cichlids might respond best to changes? What fish will be a continuing problem in regards to eliciting natural behaviors?
The best way to promote natural behavior is to provide the fish with a natural environment. Therefore, I write books. I tell you how the fish lives and what it needs and the aquarist has to use his or her imagination in trying to copy that. I under- stand that a complete natural environment cannot be created in your living room, but you can go a long way. In principle, the fishes that can be accommodated with relatively little space do best in an aquarium. Fishes that are large and territorially aggressive, such as Petrochromis species, are not good aquarium fishes— they want to show their natural behavior!
You’ve traveled extensively and met cichlid hobbyists in clubs around the world. What differences have you noticed between hobbyists and clubs in the US and around the world? Similarities? Recommendations for our members and club?
Granted that an aquarium is always unnatural, there are many possibilities to create a very natural looking environment for your fishes. And my idea of a modern aquarium is a “slice from the wild”, a most naturally looking habitat for fishes. Unfortunately, a great number of US hobbyists, even though they love their fish, do not know or do not want to spend the effort and money to create such an environ- ment. We must not forget that we don’t really know whether or not a fish is dis- tressed because the shelter given to him consists of a gray plastic pipe instead of a rocky cave. The issue here is that such a fish is given a shelter or is given the amount of room and compatible room mates. And in this area, regrettably, many aquarists fall short. If a hobbyist is interested in e.g. Tanganyika cichlids, he or she is not going to try to keep all 200 different species. The big boom for cichlids happened about ten years ago when a lot of people could make money with breeding some, at that time, rare species, but now these species are not rare any longer and we are back to those hobbyists that enjoy keeping a good-looking aquarium. And, I might add, those numbers are growing. There is nothing more pleasing than a beautifully decorated aquarium with healthy fishes in it. Even for non-aquarists such a setup is a joy to watch! A friend of mine in Sweden deals in those very natural looking rocky backgrounds and he says that the sale of those very expensive —but also very natural— backgrounds in Scandinavia is skyrocketing. The reason seems simple— people want to have a “slice of the wild” and now, it seems, they can get it! As I see it, the cichlid enthusiast of the next century has a single, large tank of more than 100 gallons with a decoration which equals that of the natural environment of the fishes he/she is keeping. The fish in this tank of the future are compatible with the artificial environment and with the other tank mates. The peripheral systems, such as pumps, filtration, heating, are state of the art and keep the quality of the water at its best. Everything is automated so that the aquarists and his/her family can fully enjoy the tank without the weekly water changing and cleaning chores.
You’re an author, speaker and publisher and acknowledged cichlid expert in our hobby What’s next for Ad Konings? What is your next challenge?
I don’t see writing and speaking about the cichlids as a challenge. I’m a hobbyist like anyone who reads this and I love to observe and to think cichlids. So my next challenge is— more cichlids! ■
Editor’s Note: I recommend that you visit http://www.cichlidpress.com which is the web site for Ad’s publishing company. On the site, you can learn more about collect- ing cichlids in Africa and even get a look at the accommodations available for your own cichlid safari!
by Keith Knapp for BAP
GCCA’S CICHLID CHATTER — MARCH 1999
When I first started to keep Cichlids, I had a Metaframe twenty gallon high tank. I started with Angelfish and Festivums. Later, I started to keep expensive fish with names that even the fish “experts” could not say because they didn’t have a trade name. Growing up I did not have any room to setup more than two tanks, so when I started to keep other fish I bought a ten gallon tank to fit under the twenty.
One day, I noticed seven of these small little, about one-centimeter long brown fish huddled in the corner of a dealer tank. The tank was labeled L. multi. and not knowing any infor- mation about the fish like most impulse buyers, I had to have them. I later found out after doing a lot of research that this fish was Neolamprologus multifasciatus. I took all of them home and added to them to the tank and they did very well from the beginning.
The tank was filtered by a Whisper 1 filter with the intake wrapped with a pad. I deco- rated the bare bottom tank with empty gold apple snail shells and plastic plants. I thought that all the fish had died, since I had not seen any in a few days. I went back to the store to see if they had any more and, to my luck, they had twelve. This time they were a little larger— about 1.25 cm. Once again, I bought them all. I thought that a larger group would have a better chance of surviving. When I added them to the tank, I could still find most of them. I later found out that they were hiding in the shells. So I took out the plants and added more shells, enough to cover the bottom the whole tank four centi- meters deep. When I did this, all of a sudden there were eighteen fish I could count. What had I done? Were there now too many fish in the tank?
I left the fish alone and assumed some were going to die. Well I was wrong! Within four months, there were about thirty fish. What was I going to do with them? Well, I did absolutely nothing, figuring if this works why screw it up. However, I knew some- thing was going to have to be done sooner or later. I waited until there were more than sixty fish before I pulled any of the fry out. I had to buy yet another tank to hold all of the babies. I set it up and used a sponge filter for filtration. This species is the fish that got me addicted to keeping all species of Cichlids from all over the world.
This fish is from Lake Tanganyika in eastern Africa. The lake has a high pH around 9.0, hardness around 13 dGH, and a temperature 79° F. I tried to copy this, by adding crushed coral under the snail shells. The fish stays very small— only 2.5–3.5 cm. They are a light brown in color with fifteen dark brown stripes. The fins usually will have a light yellow hue to them, and the eyes are blue colored.
Both tanks used florescent lights for seven hours a day. The fish were feed a variety of flake foods made by different manufacturers. The males are larger than the females at sexual maturity. When it is getting close to breeding time, the male starts to become more aggressive and chases the female into a shell whenever he can. My fish paired up on their own and bred monogamously in the same shell time after time. On average, they lay about twenty yellowish eggs per spawn. They are both extremely good parents and de- fend the shell and the fry. In about two weeks, you will start to see the free swimming fry in the opening of the shell. I let the parents take care of the eggs by themselves with no help from me. The fry started to eat finely crushed flake food, the same food as the adults, about four days after free swimming. Growth of the fry is slow. I recommend this fish because of its ability to live in a small tank and ease of breeding—with no interference or help from humans. Another thing to recommend this fish is the parent’s tolerance of having multiple spawns in the same tank. If I were to keep this fish again, I would do everything the same, except use a different filtering system on the breeding tank. ■
Editor’s Note: Keith found that these fish bred for him in a large group setting. His observations are consistent with the latest research being done on this fish by Uwe Kohler who is studying this fish for his PhD thesis in Germany:
“Observations and experiments at the Southern end of the lake showed that this fish lives in groups with several adult males and females, which jointly defend their territory of about 40 cm in diameter. Molecular genetic (microsatelite) analysis of relatedness between group members revealed that often more than one male and more than one female of the group reproduce and that reproductive males beside the alpha male are usually his offspring. The structure of this social system is most probably the conse- quences of a high predation pressure and very small chances of successful emigration.“
by Del Calhoun
GCCA’S CICHLID CHATTER — MARCH 1999
At our Fall auction I saw a pair of Red Bay snook come up for sale and as I started to bid for the fish, I told myself “Stop! This is not the color morph you want. You want that ugly silver morph.” So, I let the pair go to someone else. You see, as you might have already guessed, this fish comes in two basic colors. The variety common to the hobby is a beautiful red-orange color with the male having many silver-white spangles on the scales, hence the name “Red Bay Snook”. The fish that I have always wanted to keep has a much plainer silver-brown background and black pattern markings on the body.
Petenia splendida gets it’s name from Lake Peten in Guatemala where it was first dis- covered, but it can be found in Mexico and Belize as well. The fish is a pure predator in nature, but it will accept most prepared foods. I have always found Tetra’s Doramin to be a great staple food. Actually, the phrase, “suck and gape predator” is more com- monly used to describe Petenia’s feeding habits. In Don Conkel’s book Cichlids of North & Central America, he states that the fish is closely related to C. managuense and C. dovii, but the mouth is larger and the maxillary more exposed. However, I tend to think, at least from a hobbyist point of view, that this fish is much more closely related to the South American cichlids from the family Caquetaia, which has three members; krausii, myersi, and spectable. In fact, in our own Cichlid Classic show, Petenia is placed in Class 4 while dovii and managuense are in Class 7. To add to the confusion, in Aqualog Volume 3, Petenia is placed right after the family Nandopsis, which managuense and dovii belong to, and right before the family Caquetaia. By the way, if your are just getting interested in keeping Central American species, both of the previously men- tioned books are excellent. Having said all that, if you have ever gone fishing and caught a crappie, you now know what the mouth structure of this fish is like.
There are only two real problems to keeping this fish. A large aquarium is needed to house Petenia which are said to grow to almost 20 inches. The other problem with keeping this fish is finding suitable tank mates for it. Even though they grow quite large, they are not too terribly aggressive. They are usually quite happy to swim around the top portion of your tank and wait for food. If you were to put them in a tank with C. managuense, I’m afraid they would get shredded. On the other hand, if you put them in a tank with any fish that are too small, they will just swallow them up. So I would suggest some of the mellower fish from the Theraps family like synspilum or melenurum, or some of the larger non-aggressive species from the Amphilophus family like rostratum or robertsoni. I always thought that a large tank filled with about four synspilum, six robertsoni, and five snook would be pretty cool. The snook would occupy the top portion of the water column, while the robertsoni would spend most of their time sifting through the substrate, and the synspilum would happily take up the middle portion of the water column or stay near any structures provided.
Years ago, members of this club used to take annual trips down to St. Louis to a place called Beldts Aquarium. I was always happy to go on this trip because Beldts used to have a large tank set up with a group of Red Bay Snooks in it. As I recall, the tank had about ten snooks ranging in size from 10–16". On our last trip, when I went to the tank that housed the snooks, they were no longer there. Oh well, I guess time finally caught up with them. As I walked through the isles, I noticed a 30 gallon tank that had a snook in it that could barely turn around. The fish had to be almost 18" long and 8" high and from what I could see it looked great. I thought to myself “even though it would be cheat- ing, this would make a great show fish, and how often do you see a snook in a show anyhow?” How- ever, when we went to catch the fish and it did fi- nally turn around in it’s little tank, it had a huge hole in it’s gill plate that you cold stick your finger through. The fish seemed healthy enough, but it was obvi- ously worthless as a show fish.
Rusty Wessel has been to Guatemala, collecting cichlids many times. During his collecting trips he has reported that he always found Red Bay Snooks in the same water with a particular type of water lily with red leaves. The leaves of a water lily plant start out folded and only uncurl as they reach the surface. Rusty noticed that the snooks would hang out under the plant mimicing the lily leaves and wait for their prey to swim by before lunging after them. Rusty also told me that while collecting cichlids at other locations, he would catch several petenias of the other color morph, but seeing as these were the ugly silver type he would just throw them back. That hurt!
Breeding this cichlid was fairly easy for me. Although it has been a while since I kept them, I remember that I started out with five young ones and raised them up in a community tank. As the fish got larger, about 8"–10", I noticed a pair bond beginning. If you are new to Central American cichlids, noticing a pair bond is really easy. Two fish will patrol three-fourths of the tank and the remaining fish will have to hover in the top corner at the other end of the tank. Because this is not such a great thing for the other fish in the tank, I pulled the pair out and set them up in a 30 gallon tank. Throw in a bunch of food, crank up the temperature a bit, watch them clean off a spot to lay the eggs, and before you know it, eggs are every where. OK, it wasn’t quite that simple, there were a few times when the female had to hide in a tube or more often, at the top of the tank, in between some floating plants. My pair did an excellent job of raising the fry and it was truly a pleasure to watch.
In fact, Red bay snooks are generally just an enjoyable fish to keep. They love to eat so they’re always at the top of the tank when you come in. They’re big enough that you can see them from across the room. Their temperament is such that you don’t have to worry about coming home from work and discovering that your one large male has killed every other fish in the tank.However, they will occasionally eat one of the fish that you thought were big enough for them not to bother. They will really try to eat any fish that is less than half their size. All in all, I would say that the only thing wrong with these fish was that they were red and not those ugly silver things that I want.
So, please do me two favors. If you ever go on a collecting trip and see a lot of silver-green snooks, don’t tell me how many of them you threw back. It’s just something I shouldn’t know. If you’re at a pet store and you see some 3 or 4 inch silver fish don’t call me. If they’re marked Red Bay Snooks on the tank, they will eventually turn red. I’ve tried this before hoping they would stay silver. The temptation might be too strong and I’ll try it again. ■
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
by Del Calhoun
GCCA’S CICHLID CHATTER — JANUARY 1999
For years now, I have been trying to convince people that I’m not a lazy hobbyist and mulm is a good thing to have in your tank. Every one must know me too well, because I haven’t fooled anyone yet. Sometimes mulm can be beneficial. Especially when you have a pair of cichlids with fry. I have watched many pairs of cichlids stir up the pile of mulm so the fry can dig right in for a good meal. I don’t think I ever really want to know what is in that pile of stuff in the corner of the tank, but there must be something good in there for the fry. Other times, mulm is pretty useless. It just lays there until someone does something about it. Here’s a couple of things I have heard about that could be good for the club or at least fun. Of course, if no one does anything about them, they will just lay there.
The cichlid association in Detroit has this thing they call the Green Carp Award. This is annual award given to a club member who has committed a major fish blunder. They use a large stuffed fish and each winning member signs this fish. The winner holds the stuffed fish for one year and then gives it to a new winner at one of their awards ceremonies. Now, I have always wondered why we couldn’t have something like that? There is no doubt in my mind that many of our members have made some major blunders, including myself. The rules would be very simple.
The first requirement would be a sense of humor. I think this is extremely important for whomever may win this award. If we were to give this award to a member whose sense of humor left a lot to the desired, we would probably lose a member... no, make that for sure we would lose a member.
The second requirement would be to make a major blunder and then be dumb enough to let another member know about it and then to have that member tell the committee. So remember in the future, should you do something really stupid (and if you keep fish long enough it will happen), be careful who you tell. Because you never know, our club could come up with an award very similar to the Green Carp Award and when you least expect it, we’ve got you. The third requirement would be for some one or some group of mem- bers to decide they also like this idea and then come up with an award that is similar. This is where you come in. Remember, the best way not to receive this wonderful award is to be the one who gives it out.
Want to know the easiest way to spawn Aulonocara jacobfreibergi? It’s not nearly as hard is some of you might think. First, let it be known that you only like Central American cichlids and that you think mouth brooders are boring. Next, set up a garden pond in your back yard. Before you know it, some smart ass member, in this case it was my brother, will throw a trio of Aulonocara in your pond, claiming he didn’t have anywhere else to put them. Once you have gotten this far all you have to do is wait until the end of the summer and you should have it least 30–40 nice new Aulonocara babies. See I told you it was easy.
Speaking of raising cichlid fry, the boys from Elite Cichlids have turned me onto this new product called Cyclop-Eeze. It claims to be an Artemia Nauplii replacement. In other words, no more hatching baby brine shrimp. To date, I have used it to feed five separate spawns and I think it’s a great first food . I feed it to the fry for about the first three weeks until I can get them on flake food. It doesn’t cloud the water. The fry love it and have you ever forgotten to turn the air back on a container of baby brine shrimp after feeding? Oh, that smell the next day can be terrible. I will never have to smell a thousand dead baby crabs again. I think some of our other members should try it out and let the club know what they think about it. I have heard one member complain that too much of the food stays at the top of the tank. I just stir it up a bit and that seems to work for me.
Do you remember back when you first started coming to GCCA meetings? All those Latin names being thrown about sure could make it confusing when all you wanted was to find that pretty blue fish you saw in a book. I remember my first auction. I was shocked to see all those fish in bags for up to sixteen hours. The pet store always told me to rush right home with my new fish. I bring this up because we all need a little help in the beginning. Sandi Ellison has been pushing the idea of some kind of mentor program at board meet- ings lately and it makes a lot of sense to me. She has told us how she probably wouldn’t have lasted as a member for more than three months if it wasn’t for Ed Schmidt. She had some problems with her discus and fortunately called Ed. Ed helped her with her problem and went a step further. During the next couple of meetings, whenever Ed saw Sandi he would sit down with her and talk to her for a while. Before long she felt right at home. So, now that you have been a member for a while and those Latin names don’t even phase you, find a new member who looks like a deer in headlights and sit down with them for a while. Talk to them and try to help them with their questions or introduce them to some- one who can. Basically, just treat them the way you wish you were treated when you first joined. Who knows, you might get lucky and make a new friend. Rick Borstein just at- tended his first Board meeting (which any member is welcome to attend) and when the meeting was almost over, he asked Don and Jan if they were going to show him their fish. He was surprised to learn they didn’t have any. When he asked them why they were still in the club, Don pointed around the room and said “It’s because of the friends we have made over the years”. OK if you know Don, you know he didn’t say anything nearly that nice about us, but we can’t print the names Don calls his friends.
Well, there you have it. A whole pile of mulm. Now let’s see if it’s the beneficial kind or if it just lays there. ■
by Bob Blaho
GCCA’S CICHLID CHATTER — JANUARY 1999
The first thought that pops into many readers’ minds may be, “why bother?” The intent of this article is to show you why. We hope to establish for you, whether you have or might have a need for use of such an instrument. We’ll show what choices of microscopes you have, how they function, and what purpose you, as an aquarist, may have for this tool. Some of this material is a compilation from various sources and some is based on personal experience. Some specific sources, for more information, are listed at the end of this article.
First, what is available out there? The answer to that question is also a question. What do you need to accomplish? If you’re looking to gather more information about your aquarium environment, this is one way to do it. Visual information can provide us with facts that we can respond to. The first thing most of us do when we walk into a room, which has one or more aquariums, is to take a closer look at them. We look at what types of fish are in them, what types of plants are planted, and the condition of the fish, plants, or water. In other words, what we can see! The limit, to what we can see, is our eye. We frequently aid (especially as we get older) our eyes with prescription glasses or magnifying glasses. Those of us that do extremely fine detail work use a loupe or binocular magnifier. These are instruments that are simple, inexpensive, and usually easy to use. They let us take that closer look to get the information that we’re after. The lenses we use to see and identify what we’re looking at, come in a variety of choices. Selection of your lens type is usually determined by the level of magnification and detail needed to accomplish your job. As the magnification and quality level rise, so does the cost. Each level of capability has its purpose. The microscope, the com- pound light optical version, is only a multiple lens design to help us see items closer up. Its capability for magnification covers the range of 20-1000X. The electron micro- scope versions which go beyond 1000X will not be discussed. The compound light microscope then is what we’re concentrating on. It answers the question, “why bother?” If you have the desire to take a closer look at your aquatic environment, a need to identify what might not be normally visible, then you probably would benefit from using a microscope.
Selection of your microscope is again based on your needs. The toy versions for children are probably the reason that many people don’t proceed further. Any optical instrument is only as good as the precision and quality of the glass it uses. A microscope should be bought as a lifetime investment, much as a high quality camera system. Buy the best you can afford, to do the job you want, or may want to do. Look for the magnification range you need in selecting your eyepieces and objectives. Buy those models that conform to one of the best recognized standard configurations. These are the Deutsche Industrie Norm (DIN), most common, or Japanese Standard (JIS). Stick with DIN standard compo- nents and you’ll have the best of all worlds. This will enable you to select a greater variety of components for your microscope that will be inter- changeable and expand your capa- bilities (and also its resale value). A typical compound microscope consists of these basic components: an eyepiece lens (ocular), tube, objective lens, stage, stand, condenser, and light source. Look at a drawing or photo of a typical compound microscope and you will have no problem in identifying these parts.
There also is a choice in variety for each of these items. Eyepieces can be monocular, binocular, or trinocular. The monocular variety is the least expensive, since it uses only one eyepiece. Typical types of eyepieces can be Huygenian, Ramsden, Kellner, and Periplan. Each succeeding class of optics increases in quality and cost. Objectives also are available in the degree of optical correction desired. These are achromatic, semi-plan, and planar. Achromatic objectives provide a flat field of view in about 65% of the center of the image. Ramsden eyepieces, often called Wide-Field, are usually used with the achromatic objectives at higher power. A look at a catalog listing selection will quickly establish what you wish or need to afford. The best way to go, is to buy a microscope that comes as a system, so you can expand your choices later. An eyepiece in 10X Wide- Field and turret arrangement with your selection of objectives in 4X, 10X, 40X, and 100X will get you started for most purposes. This gives you the capability of 40X, 100X, 400X, and 1000X. Most of your aquarium work will be done between 40X and 400X. 1000X (oil immersion) is used for more advanced cellular and bacterial work. The stage of your microscope can be plain with spring clips to hold your glass slide or have a mechanical stage that adjusts for the short distances a slide is normally moved. For bright field illumination, the light source can be external, using a mirror to direct the light to the slide, or be built into the base to provide illumination. With either light arrange- ment, alternate types of lighting may be desired. This could be the basis of another article in itself. The question is, at this point, what should one consider as the basic minimum setup? Consider these items:
Make sure that the microscope has a solid stand, with fine and coarse focusing and a monocular tube.
The eyepiece should be 10X to start, with a selection of 5X, 15X, and 20X oculars added as needed.
A turret holding at least three objectives, achromatic in 4X, 10X, and 40X will be sufficient to start.
The stage can be equipped with only removable spring clips or have the mechanical stage to allow more precise placement of the slide. Removable mechanical stages can be added later if desired. This option starts at about $70.00 and goes up in price, based on capabilities.
A light source, such as a microscope lamp or even a simple high intensity desk lamp, unless the illumination is built in.
Beneath the stage should be a condenser lense that can be focused to properly illuminate the slide. A diaphragm to control light intensity and a filter holder should be part of this package.
The Swift M3200 (see Figure 1, next page), is an example of a good starting package. A basic package for the above, new from a catalog or outlet, will start at about $200.00 and can go higher based on quality, choice of lenses, and other options. A good used microscope can be found around college campuses and in papers like the “Trading Times.” This would enable you to buy a better quality instrument at the same or lower cost than a new one. Going up in price range will obtain a binocular, four objective turret, a mechanical stage with built-in illumina- tion, microscope starting at about $500.00 used. A Bausch & Lomb binocular mi- croscope (see Figure 2, next page) is an example with these features.
A good quality microscope of this variety, new, will start at about $800.00 and rapidly escalate based on optics and brand name (Leica-$1500, Zeiss-$2000). Figure 3, an American Optical dual binocular head microscope, is an example of some of the specialized features available. You can expect these additional capabilities to add to the microscope cost.
So now that you’ve selected what you think is the best microscope for you, what do you do with it? You will have to use it and acquire some experience in develop- ing your techniques. Books and manuals are available in most libraries covering just about all aspects of microscopy you may want to learn. Concentrate on devel- oping your basic skills. Use your microscope for checking the quality of water, identify the microscopic plants and creatures that inhabit your aquarium along with your fish. If you have baby fish, which require live food, check for paramecia, rotifers, daphnia, and other micro food cultures in your aquaria. Keep tabs on how the cultures are doing. See what other helpful or detrimental organisms are present. Do you keep egg layers? Pluck an egg and put it under your lens to see if it is fertile. If you see no life (movement) in the egg, it is not fertile. Then just continue with your process of elimination to establish what caused the infertility. Do you have health problems with your fish, plants, or snails? Check to see what’s differ- ent with the healthy versus the unhealthy. Identify your problem hosts so you can take a targeted approach to correcting the situation. The books below can give you more ideas for use of your microscope.
Several books you may want to look at are as follows:
Using the Microscope - A Guide for Naturalists by Eric V. Grave, Dover Publications, 1984
Exploring with the Microscope by Werner Nachtigall, Sterling Publishing, 1996
Hunting with the Microscope by Gaylord Johnson and Maurice Bleifeld, Arco Pub- lishing, 1980 3rd Edition
Diseases of Aquarium Fish by Robert Goldstein, T.F.H. Publications, 1971 Handbook of Fish Diseases by Dieter Untergasser, T.F.H. Publications, 1989 Discus Health by Dieter Untergasser, T.F.H. Publications, 1991
1998 Optics and Optical Instruments Catalog, Edmund Scientific Co., 609-573-6250
These sources will help you develop your techniques and aid in identifying what you’re looking at. The Edmund Catalog will be an aid in establishing beginning choices and prices. As you gain experience, you’ll add to your library those periodicals that cover your areas of interest. The knowledge you gain can be useful not only in your hobby as an aquarist, but also in any other areas where you want to take a closer look at your environment. ■
If this article was of interest to you and you would like more on lighting techniques, slide staining and preparation, photomicrography, or other areas of interest related to microscopy, let me or your editor know. We may start an ongoing series of articles if there is sufficient interest.
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.
The Greater Chicago Cichlid Association — GCCA — is a not-for-profit, educational organization, chartered in the state of Illinois, dedicated to the advancement and dissemination of information relating to the biology of the fishes in the family Cichlidae, with particular emphasis on maintenance and breeding in captivity. We are simply cichlid hobbyists who love cichlids.