Endemic to the south-western end of Lake Tanganyika.
It inhabits sandy parts of the shoreline in areas where the substrate is littered with empty snail shells.
Maximum Standard Length
Male to 2.6″ (6.5cm), female to 1.6″ (4cm).
Aquarium SizeTop ↑
The aquarium should have large open areas of sandy substrate, to which should be added a good number of empty snail shells (see breeding section below). More shells should be provided than there are individual fish. The substrate should be at least 2″ deep as this species likes to dig. The water must be hard and alkaline.
Temperature: 73-81°F (23-27°C)
Live and frozen varieties should form the bulk of the diet, although dried foods are usually accepted.
Behaviour and CompatibilityTop ↑
A territorial species that will defend its shell and the small territory around it vigorously. It can be combined with other species that inhabit other areas of the aquarium. Good tankmate choices include small rockdwellers such as Neolamprologus brichardi or smaller species of Julidochromis and open water species such as Cyprichromis. If a number of fish are kept, it will form a colony. If keeping it in a colony situation, make sure there are enough shells and try to keep more females than there are males.
Males are much larger than females.
Quite easy. Shell brooder. It may breed in the community aquarium but if you want to raise a full brood of these fish a separate aquarium should be used. Set up the aquarium as suggested above. Provide a good number of snail shells in which the females will lay their eggs. Escargot shells are a good choice and can be obtained from most decent delicatessens. Water should be hard and alkaline, with a pH of around 8.0-8.5 and a temperature of 77-80°F. We recommend keeping several females per male and spacing the shells out, as this helps to reduce aggression between males. Males may also spawn with several females if they are available. Condition the fish well on a good diet of live and frozen foods.
Females will attempt to catch the attention of males by displaying at the entrance of their chosen shells, which they bury until only the entrance is visible. When a male is sufficiently interested, the female swims into the shell where she deposits her eggs. When she has finished, she begins to back out of the shell at which point the male releases his sperm which is ‘sucked’ into the shell by the action of the exiting female, thus fertilising the eggs. Alternatively, if the shell is large enough, the male may enter it before releasing his sperm. After fertilisation, the male plays no further part in brood care and is no longer welcome in the female’s territory. The female sits on the shell, covering the entrance, and fanning the eggs with her fins. These hatch in around 3 days, becoming free swimming at around the 10 day stage. The fry now start to make forays away from the shell, venturing further and further as they grow until eventually they are evicted by the female.
The fry are large enough to accept brine shrimp nauplii or microworm once they become free swimming. It is probably better to remove the fry to a separate rearing tank at this stage to ensure the best survival rate. The parents do not usually harm the fry, although other fish in the colony may eat them.