Species Article: Lake Victoria & Area

Haplochromis sp. 44 'thick skin'

by Greg Steeves

These fish will begin spawning at an early age. My fish spawn at under two inches, about ten months post release. It is common for the females to abort the first couple of spawns before becoming excellent mothers. First spawns number between ten and fifteen eggs, the female holding them in her buccal cavity. They, as with most Victorians, are mouth brooders. A good sign that spawning is in the works occurs with males squaring off with each other, becoming very colorful. The female will sport an ovipositor, a small nipple on her belly, that will become larger as the actual spawning draws closer. These fish choose a flat stone, usually in a cave as the spawning location. The two breeders will circle each other making dry runs before the first egg appears. The female will drop one egg at a time, circle around and pick it up. The male will lay on his side as the female nips his genitalia, causing the release of sperm. When the female is done the male will still harass her, wanting more spawning. Do not feed the tank for a day as I fed the fish in an attempt to curb the male away from the female that was finished spawning. The female looked at the food, then spit out the eggs. It was the last time I made that mistake!

I separate the female to a tank of her own to brood the eggs, then strip the fry at 14 days post spawning. The fry will still have their yolk sacs which will be absorbed in a week. I drop them in a tank with a sponge filter and bare bottom. The bare bottom eases in cleaning. Once free swimming I begin feeding. Baby brine shrimp is probably the best "first food" but I also feed spirulina powder. In two weeks they can begin feeding on crushed flake. They are hardy fish and grow quite slowly.

Thick skins are very aggressive and care should be taken when housing them with other fish. They can bully fish that are twice their size. I keep mine in a twenty two gallon with plenty of rock work formed into caves. The color they exhibit makes them a welcome addition to any cichlid collection.

 



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