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Opthalmotilapia ventralis "Longola"

Opthalmotilapia ventralis  

Above Opthalmotilapia ventralis "Longola" Male. Photo by Rick Borstein. Video below.


Opthalmotilapia ventralis "Longola" is mouthbrooding cichlid from Lake Tanganyika first typed by Boulenger in 1898.

The genus Opthalmotilapia is one the genuses (the others are Cyathopharynx and Cunningtonia and sometimes Aulonocranus) which are commonly referred to as featherfins for their elongated pelvic fins. The pelvic fins act as egg dummies during the mating ceremony.

Opthalmotilapia ventralis is widely distributed in Lake Tanganyika and there is a considerable variation in markings and color between fish collected from various locations. Ad Koning's book Tanganyikan Cichlids in their Natural Habitat includes color photos of twenty-one different locations! Some males, particularly the southern variants are bright blue in coloration. Others are black, or nearly so, and the remainder have various blotches. Note that in the aquarium, the appearance of the fish will vary depending on the mood. When you catch these fish spawning, though, be prepared to be dazzled.

The "Longola" variant of Opthalmotilapia ventralis is readily available in the cichlid hobby at the present time. Longola males have an overall silvery blue base color with a nearly black swath across the chest of the fish. Coloration can be difficult to describe, but the fish is iridescent and can flash blue, gold or yellow depending on the light. Because of the yellow flash this location is sometimes referred to as Opthalmotilapia ventralis "Longola Sunflower". Females are drab by comparison. Males get up to about seven inches or so while females might get to an inch or two smaller.


Opthalmotilapia ventralis "Longola" is found in the shallow, surge habitat of Lake Tanganyika, a rocky area that is generally less than three meters in depth.


Opthalmotilapia ventralis "Longola" is probably not the best fish for a beginning cichlid keeper, but they are not difficult per se. This fish requires excellent quality water, so large, partial water changes are critical. Tanganyikans do best at consistent temperatures, too, so make sure you have a reliable heater. Finally, you will need a big tank to help avoid aggression.


Opthalmotilapia ventralis "Longola" is an herbivorous fish, but in the aquarium they accept a wide variety of flake and pellet foods. Make sure that your food includes some vegetable and fiber content. I fed Dainichi Veggie Deluxe, NLS Spectrum and Extreme Cichlid pellets with the occasional treat of Repashy Spawn and Grow gel food.


I obtained a group of five adult fish from fellow GCCA member Jason Libasci. I placed the group into a six foot, 125-gallon aquarium with a sand substrate. This tank was filtered by a large wet/dry filter and maintained at 78F.

Companions for my fish were a group of six, Sarotherodon carolinae and three Etroplus suratensis. These wildly different species pretty much ignored each other. Despite the fact that the Opthalmotilapia ventralis were quite a bit smaller, they seemed to be the most aggressive fish in the tank. Unfortunately, I lost two of the individuals for unknown reasons, but the remaining trio settled in quite nicely.

Although I witnessed courting behavior, I never saw a female holding. I made two changes in what would ultimately be a successful attempt to spawn this fish. First, I created a pile of stones and some plastic plants on one end of tank and added small stack of quarry tiles adjacent to it. Secondly, I began feeding Repashy Spawn and Grow (a gel food) which is great at conditioning fish. After a week of feeding Repashy food every other day, I did a large partial water change and the fish spawned immediately after.

Female Opthalmotilapia ventralis are not very reliable holders. If you see a female holding, do not feed the tank for a couple of days to get her accustomed to carrying the eggs. Afterwards, only feed the tank crushed flake food. The females will continue to eat while holding and will brood successfully while doing so provided you do not feed anything large like a pellet food. 

Brood sizes are small, but the eggs are very large, among the largest of any mouthbrooding cichlid species. In the spawns I observed, there were between nine and twelve eggs. I stripped the females at two weeks at which point they still had a very large egg sack. I moved the fry to 1-gallon holding tank with a sponge filter and about 10 days later most of the egg sack was gone. At this point, I began feeding a small amount of baby brine shrimp.

Curiously, the fry are not only large, they grow at an astonishing pace. At six weeks, it is not unusual to have fry which are 1.25 inches long! This is one of the few cichlid babies that will eat flake food at only 3 or 4 days old.

Retail Price

Opthalmotilapia ventralis "Longola" is not a fish you are likely to find at a pet shop unless the specialize in cichlids or have connections with local breeders. However, you can usually find  1.5 inch fish for $15 to $20 each on the internet. One source is Dave's Rare Fish.

Opthalmotilapia ventralis



Report January 2015 by Rick Borstein

Laetacara araguaiae

Laetacara araguaiae Male

Above Laetacara araguaiae Male. Photo by Rick Borstein. Video below.


Laetacara araguaiae is a rather recently introduced biparental substrate-spawning cichlid typed by Ottoni & Costa in 2009. Prior to the official species designation, this fish was known by its popular German name of L. sp. ‘Buckelkopf’ which can be translated as humphead. I've never seen a male of the species with a humphead but perhaps very old specimens might have them.

The derivation of the species name makes sense to me, however. The genus name Laetecara roughly means "smiling cichlid" for the distinctive mouth markings. The species designation is for Rio Araguaie in Brazil which is the type locality of the fish. 

At any rate, Laetacara araguaiae is nice little fish that is not too difficult to breed. In breeding color, both male and female show a blue-purple sheen with gold metallic highlights. There appear to be multiple strains in the hobby with some exhibiting more gold color, so the fish you obtain may not look exactly like mine.

Laetacara araguaiae Female


Laetacara araguaiae is a found in the Brazilian rivers of Tapajós, Xingu and Tocantins, but my guess is that this fish would be found in shallower water near cover.


Laetacara araguaiae is easy to care for and house. They do fine in varying water conditions and being a dwarf cichlid, you don't need a very big tank. A ten gallon or larger tank is recommended at water temperatures of 76 to 82F.


Laetacara araguaiae is easy to feed. I feed a variety of flake and pellet foods with the occasional treat of frozen black worms.


I obtained six one-inch juvenile fish from fellow GCCA Member Mario Toromanovic. He was among the first people in the US to breed and distribute the fish. Early demand for this little cichlid resulted in initial high prices. Fortunately, Mario is a "cichlid buddy" so they arrived to me gratis!

I placed the young fish fifteen gallon long tank filtered by a five-inch Swiss Tropical Sponge Filter. This tank had a sand substrate, rocks and caves and was maintained at 78F. I performed weekly water changes of approximately one-third of the tank volume and the fish grew steadily.

When the female approached just under two inches, I saw the first signs of breeding activity. A pair formed and aggressively excluded the other fish from their territory. In fact, the sub-dominant individuals weren't just hiding, they were being exterminated. I'll note here that the behavior of my fish may be an aberration since other GCCA members bred siblings of my fish without any losses in smaller tanks.

Soon, I noticed that the female changed color (purple form shown in the pictures accompanying this article) and stayed close to a terracotta cave while the male patrolled nearby indicating that the fish had spawned. Within a couple of days, I saw the wrigglers and a couple of days after that the free-swimming fry. I fed the babies newly hatched baby brine shrimp and after two weeks weaned them to finely crushed flake food. I left the babies in with the parents until they were one-quarter inch long. Unfortunately, upon my return from a two day business trip, all the babies were gone.

I was relieved when the pair spawned again two weeks later. This time, when the fry were almost a quarter of an inch long, I removed the parents who I gave to another GCCA member.

The fry grow rather slowly and get to about one-half inch after eight weeks.

Retail Price

Laetacara araguaiae is not a fish you are likely to find at a pet shop unless the specialize in cichlids or have connections with local breeders. Currently, you can find it available from breeders on the internet. 1.5 inch fish to go for $10-12.


Report October 2014 by Rick Borstein

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