Cichlidae. Subfamily: Pseudocrenilabrinae
Endemic to Lake Tanganyika. It is found on the Congo side of the lake between Moliro and Kalemie.
It inhabits sandy parts of the shoreline in areas where the substrate is littered with empty snail shells.
Maximum Standard Length
Aquarium SizeTop ↑
The setup should have open areas of sandy substrate to which is 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. Dried foods are sometimes refused.
Behaviour and CompatibilityTop ↑
A territorial species that will defend its shell and the small territory around it vigorously. It can be combined with species that inhabit other areas of the aquarium. Good choices include rockdwellers such as Neolamprologus brichardi or smaller species of Julidochromis and open water species such as Cyprichromis sp. If a number of fish are kept it will form a colony. If keeping it in this kind of situation, make sure there are enough shells so that each fish has the choice of several and try to keep more females than there are males.
Males are larger with a longer, less steep facial profile than females.
Possible. Shell brooder. It may breed in a community situation but if you want to raise a full brood of these fish a species tank should be used. Set it up as suggested above. Provide plenty of snail shells as the females will lay their eggs in these. 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.
The fish can be bred in a colony within which spawning pairs will form weak bonds until their broods are large enough to fend for themselves. The bond is not monogamous and both fish may go on to spawn with other individuals. It’s best to keep several females per male as this helps to reduce aggression between males. Condition the fish on a varied diet of live and frozen foods.
Females will attempt to catch the attention of males by displaying at the entrance of their chosen shells. 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. The fry can be seen around the entrance of the shell after 7-10 days and both parents care for the brood. They will dig a small pit close to the shell entrance and place the fry in it, guarding them against all-comers.
The slow-growing fry are large enough to accept brine shrimp nauplii or microworm once they become free swimming. It is probably better to remove them to a separate rearing tank at this stage to ensure the best survival rate, although the parents do not usually harm them. Also if the tank becomes overstocked with young fish spawning females may eat their eggs. The fry are quite interesting in that they have a striped patterning.
This fish was originally thought to be a morph of L. ocellatus but has now been described as a distinct species. It is still occasionally offered for sale as “pearly ocellatus” and may also be seen under the invalid name L. meleagris.