General Article: Lake Tanganyika

Mistaken Neolamprologus

by Larry Rogers

Neolamprologus brevis * Neolamprologus calliurus

My first attempt to breed Neolamprologus brevis came along in the fall of 1998. I had acquired a set of fish about one inch long from a reputable dealer in Knoxville, Tennessee. The fish were the picture of beauty: sleek and fast, colorful without gaudiness, and mildly tempered as Neolamps go. Their temperament changed a little as they neared maturity but they still kept well together and were doing fine in a thirty gallon long aquarium with a sand substrate and rocks piled as a cliff in the back of the tank. Here I should tell you that I had only heard of this fish and had neither studied it, nor asked to find out about its behavior. I had a long history with Neolamprologus elongatus and just assumed that the con specifics would act as they did. This is an error that I knew better than to make but made anyway.

I had purchased twenty-four fish originally and three had died in the first two weeks. When the remainder of them reached two inches there were twelve that seemed small and colorful and quit growing and the other nine were robust but plain and started eating the lion?s share of foods offered and becoming more aggressive. The nine started mock fighting and staked out individual sections in the rocks as they reached three inches in length and at three and one half inches the alpha fish got in color and dug a tunnel in the sand beneath a large rock in the bottom. He completely cleared the glass and I was able to observe with a mirror and soft light. Next he choose a mate and herded her in to his sanctuary. There was about an hour of bickering back and forth between them: dancing, displaying, and running off other fish and then the female went in and laid a batch of eggs which she attached to the bottom surface of the rock. She exited and the male entered and sprayed the cave and fanned the milt about, then exited. This procedure repeated itself many times over the next few hours and at the end of the day there were about a hundred and a quarter eggs. From that time until the fry were free-swimming they never left the clutch unguarded and the female seldom ate. The male was not allowed to return to the nursery but would hover at the entrance if the female came out. If he stuck his head in the opening he was viciously chastised by his mate.

When the fry were free-swimming I started introducing newly hatched brine shrimp in with the brine shrimp the adults were fed. They ate greedily and grew fast and a week after exiting the nest the adults loosened their guard and the others seemed to ignore them. The next week three other pairs established themselves and I had a nice little colony started. The fry grew nicely and the day came to sell them to a guy I knew with a shop in Asheville, North Carolina. He came by to pick up his fish and laughed at me good. My Neolamprologus brevis were actually calliurus. He educated me on my fish and the fish I thought I had and bought them anyway. The calliurus is harder to come by and sells at a higher price.

In the wild males keep harems and are too large to enter their shell nests. The female lays the eggs and the male sprays the entrance to the shell and fans it in. Circulating in and out the female also helps to distribute the milt While the female guards the nest the male guards his turf. When the fry are free-swimming they are kept to the father?s domain until they are adept swimmers and then the colony watches all young.

To avoid the kind of confrontations I had it is better to keep one male for every four females. A particularly dominant male may still go for more than his share of the ladies present and cause tension in the lower ranks. The male that cannot hold his females should be removed before things become a crisis.

Neolamprologus calliurus
Length- sexual dimorphism females to six cm males to eleven cm
Diet- crustaceans and insects, zooplankton
Breeding- shell-dweller, will use small caves; sand substrate, rock faces and cavities: harems with the male providing protection and the female tending brood
Habitat- Lake Tanganyika five to twenty meters rocky shorelines with sand bottoms females reside full time in shells and males guard territories from invasion

After this embarrassment I acquired a group of Neolamprologus brevis from a shop in Lexinton, Kentucky. This time I knew what I was getting and the fish were a little larger. The store owner told me that though they were mixed from four different sources. There were a total of eighteen fish and they went into a thirty long with a few scattered stones and assorted shells in my apartment in Evansville, Indiana. They were approximately an inch and a half long and in really good condition. The specimens I had were from Zaire and have absolutely gorgeous lemon and gold markings with the lemon a base color and the gold for highlights. Many of the neolamps are similarly beautiful fish and they are active movers making a wonderful display.

At an inch and a half the females are as big as they get and the males grow to two inches. A couple weeks after they had settled in one of the males started displaying and burying a shell. The shell he had chosen was a medium sized escargot shell. I buy the escargot kits at the grocery store on occasion and eat the snails but use the shells for fish. He undermined the back of the shell, away from the opening, until it sank some and was oriented to suit him. Then he started carrying pebbles and sand and covering the shell until only the opening was visible. This created a small mound in the substrate where he displayed endlessly, chasing away rivals, until a female took notice. The fish were being fed brine shrimp and flake food and by this time a couple of them appeared as if they had swallowed marbles. One of the females sidled up to the male, danced a bit and went into the shell. He followed her in and then they would come out and dance a turn and repeat the process. A week later fry could occasionally be seen at the entrance to the shell but the mother recovered them diligently. After another week she started letting them out but the parents watched them closely for the first four weeks. After four weeks the colony seemed to take no notice of the young but they still stayed close to their parents until they spawned again nine weeks after the first spawn. Like other neolamps slight crowding and good feeding makes the young nearly invisible to the adults. When I went to sell my fish this time I was not embarrassed by the buyer.

Neolamprologus brevis
Length- sexual dimorphism females to four cm males to six cm
Diet- small crustaceans and zooplankton
Habitat- Lake Tanganyika rocky shores with sand substrate and shells from ten to thirty meters along the northern Zaire and Burundi coastline
Breeding- pair bond breeder breeding in shells on the bottom, shells are often buried by fish with only the opening visible, may establish colonies in good habitat

Article copyright ©2001 by Larry Rogers , all rights reserved.


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