Species Article: Lake Malawi

Pseudotropheus sp. "elongatus ornatus"

by Duc Nguyen

I acquired my first pair of Pseudotropheus sp. "Elongatus Ornatus" at a pet store in October 1996. I remember thinking that they were very pretty and of course, they had a wonderful shade of cobalt blue.

At the time, I housed them in a 10 gallon tank with a number of rock structures for them to hide in. I started noticing that the bigger one was constantly harassing the smaller one and forced it in a corner almost every time that I checked in on them. After doing some reading on them, I discoverd that this was pretty normal behaviour and I bought a bigger tank for them - a 20 gallon.

Within a month or so, I started seeing a gradual color change in the two. The larger sized one gradually turned a darker shade of blue and was significantly more aggressive; whereas the other one turned yellow. Both were about the same size and both retained the vertical stripes indicative of Pseudotropheus. The dark blue one was definitely the dominant male. The yellow colored one actually turned out to be another male but was adopting the submissive yellow coloration. All females and lesser males will have this type of coloration. The only way you can tell is by the time they reach adult size, the males will be bigger in size then females. Males are about 4 inches and females reach about 3 - 3.5 inches in length.

Upon discovering that I had two males, I went out to the same shop and bought another one. This time, one that looked smaller in size. There were still countless numbers of quarrels and aggressive behaviour as much as last time. Being my first African cichlids I've ever kept, I was concerned for their safety, but everyone seemed to handle their own ok.

I noticed that there was definitely a pecking order being established. These fish were by far one of the more aggressive fish I've kept. Within a 4- 6 month period, I observed numerous display behaviours (e.g. body slantings and body quivering) from the dominant male. He would display in front of both the other fish.

In about that 6th month, I noticed that the new fish I bought had a huge extension under her jaw. I thought, 'could this actually be??'. I noticed lots of 'chewing' motion from her which was her way of moving the eggs in her mouth to promote oxygen exchange and also to prevent the egg yolks from being stuck on one side. I moved her out into a separate nursery tank (10 gallon) about 1.5 weeks later. The nursery tank is very bare; the only furnishing is a cave for her to hide in. The fry hatched in about 21 days. Typical clutches ranged between 10 - 20. She has carried up to 20 clutches that I know of.

Raising the fry is very easy. I crushed some regular cichlid flake food and fed them twice a day. I tried varying it with spirulina flakes as well. They grow pretty quickly.

In conclusion, these fish are very interesting to keep. If I were to do anything differently, I'd like to have them in a bigger tank to avoid the high aggression they have.

Copyright ©2000 by Duc Nguyen , all rights reserved.


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