Monterey Bay Aquarium – Open Sea Gallery

I am in San Jose, CA, this weekend visiting friends and giving a talk to the Pacific Coast Cichlid Association.  I made the pilgrimage to Monterey for lunch and a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  I only shot video of one gallery this time.  I have several videos of this wonderful aquarium already posted, but I cannot go to any aquarium without making at least one video.  The Open Sea gallery is unique.  There are lots of places with kelp forests, tide pools, coral reefs and rocky shores.  Monterey Bay Aquarium is the only place I have been to with big tuna!  Enjoy…

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Breeding Project: Endler’s Livebearers and Small Guppies

I have been looking for an opportunity to start working with some small livebearer species for a while, but I have not pulled the trigger on buying small groups of fish that would take a long time to build up into a good size colony.  I want some livebearers types that are desirable as aquarium subjects, but will also produce enough culls to feed my growing collection of small predatory fish like dwarf pike cichlids and small wolf fish.  A member of our local club (Madison Area Aquatic Hobbyists), Jeff Zwicker, recently posted an ad to sell his colonies of Endler’s livebearers and other guppy types, so I took a trip out to see them… and made a purchase.  Six different colonies!  Enjoy the video….


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February Newsletter: Tank Raised Dwarf Cichlids

If you have yet to sign up for the Newsletter, please consider doing so.  I send out a newsletter at the beginning of each month featuring something that is happening in the fish room, news about up-coming orders, or anything else that I am thinking about at the time.  The newsletter will also have a voucher code in it for the Stock Shop.  This month the focus of the newsletter is Tank Raised Dwarf Cichlids, and there is a voucher code for 20% off your entire order when $50 worth of cichlids are purchased.  Here is the text of the newsletter:

Dwarf Cichlids…

edit_apisto_allpahuayo_Rio_Tigre_20150313_1334 edit_apisto_eremnopyge_20150313_1332 edit_apisto_agassizii_blue_Peru_20141229_0815 edit_apisto_nijsseni_20150112_0932 edit_apisto_baenschi_20150118_0973

This has been an interesting Winter.  Lot’s of ups an downs.  On the negative side, imports have been challenging, and I have not been able to bring in nearly the number of fish as last year.  The issue has been supply-side.  I am not sure where the fish have been going, but they have not been coming here.  Looking around at what is happening all over the USA, it is apparent that I am not the only importer having a hard time getting livestock.

On the positive side, all the empty tank space has inspired me to set up more fish for breeding.  Dwarf cichlids have been my main focus.  I counted 36 pairs today, 23 of which are Apistogramma sp. and the rest West African.

When I go to clubs to talk about fish, I usually end each talk encouraging everyone to breed the fish they have, because ‘we never know if the last box to come in will be the last box ever’.  So I looked around the empty fish room and started to follow my own advice.  Ready access to wild fish has been tough… so time to start breeding what I have on hand!

That got me to thinking about wild livestock vs tank raised.  I sometimes think that by providing a lot of wild caught fish that I am sending the message that they are somehow better than tank raised, when what I truly believe is the opposite.  Quality tank-raised livestock have a lot of advantages over wild fish… with the operative word being ‘quality’.

Good tank-raised fish are:

  • parasite-free
  • acclimated to life in an aquarium
  • less stressed by shipment
  • acclimated to non-live foods
  • usually younger
  • usually cheaper (unless they are imported)

One of the ‘issues’ with tank-raised fish stems from the source of most of them sold through on-line retailers (including TedsFishroom)… the Czech Republic.  These fish, overall, are not bad livestock.  But the breeders over there are not known for their quality control.  So tank-raised fish have gotten a bad reputation, when the problem is really the origin.

I have not ordered Czech fish for quite a while.  I am sure that I will again, but right now I am fortunate to have access to some pretty good tank-raised dwarf cichlids from here in the upper midwest, USA.  I have been working with a few breeders over the past two years.  Getting them some good livestock.  Encouraging them to produce a lot of fish, and being happy to buy everything they produce.  Those efforts are starting to pay off.

I have been carrying the local fish for the past six months, but now the breeders are starting to provide a much wider variety.  There are several new fish in the Stock Shop this month.  Apistogramma – baenschi, panduro, nijsenni, bitaeniata‘Rio Tigre’, sp. ‘Rio Mamore’, eremnopyge, cacatuoides ‘triple red’, and iniridae.  I also have Laetacra curviceps and L. dorsigerafor the first time from local breeders, and some F1 Pelvicachromis pulcher ‘yellow’.

And there are fry born here in my fish room that are growing out… A. baenschi, A. allpahuayo, A. huascar, P. kribensis‘Moliwe’, P. drachenfesli and Nanochromis transvestitus.  Most of those should be available in the Stock Shop by May.

The imports are starting to loosen up a bit, and there are some shipments from Peru, Colombia and Asia in the works.  So wild fish will also be available.  But I have committed some space (and money) to ensure that more tank-raised fish are coming through the fish room.

So… to encourage the purchase of these newly acquired tank-raised fish, this months special is a voucher code for orders with cichlids.  Any cichlids… not just the tank-raised fish… though I hope that you will jump on the tank-raised bandwagon.

Order $50 worth of cichlids, get 20% Off your entire order.

voucher code:



Use the code in the voucher box in the checkout cart.

Normal whole-invoice discounts still apply.  Whole invoice calculated after the 20% has been subtracted.  Offer valid on orders placed through February 29, 2016.  Discounts on in-stock items only, and on orders placed through the website.

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Breeding Project: Ancistrus claro

I have a new species to work with:  Ancistrus claro.  The ‘gold marble’ bristlenose catfish is a neat little species.  They stay small (less than 3″), are relatively social and active during the day.  I have a group of 14 young, wild-caught fish that I am setting up in a 30-breeder.  Here is the video, followed by a transcript:

Video Transcript:

Breeding Project – Ancistrus claro

Welcome back to TedsFishroom… Let’s take a look at what is happening in the breeding projects, and introduce a new species to the program. Another loricariid catfish… Ancistrus claro.

So far I have introduced three breeding projects. Here is a look into what is happening in each of them.

The Panaqolus albivermis are growing. They have become much more active, less shy and come out readily for food. Occasionally I will see one of them exploring a spawning cave, but so far none of the males have taken up more permanent residence. The only change that I am contemplating is to change the type and size of spawning caves.

The Benitochromis nigrodorsalis have settled in and a weak pair has formed. The largest male has started to exert his dominance over the other fish in the tank, and even killed a few tetras. He tolerates one female in his space, but the other two fish are constantly avoiding him. I removed the female, as she was very stressed by the negative attention. The extra male is still holding his own, but I will remove him soon. I want to give the new pair a but more time to cement their bond. I am concerned that removing the extra male too early may result in the dominant male turning on the female he seems to tolerate.

The only changes to the tank have been the addition of some pebbles for more structure and spawning sites, and a power head to provide more current and aeration in the tank. I added the pump because the cichlids were not being very active, but now that the water is really flowing they are coming out into the open more frequently.

The Apistogramma pairs stalled a bit when my reverse osmosis machine started having some problems. You can watch the video on the overhaul of the unit, resulting in water that is much softer and lower in pH. Since fixing that problem the dwarf cichlids are faring much better and showing more signs of spawning. Especially the Apistogramma baenschi pairs. This female appears to be guarding a clutch of eggs.

The Apistogramma sp. ‘Kelleri have also responded well to the softer water. They spawn regularly, but I did see the female holding larvae in her mouth for first time (but I missed getting some video).

A new species to the program are two pairs of wild Apistogramma sp. ‘Abacaxi’. This species needs very low pH, and I am currently working to getting the acidity down to under 5.0. These are young fish, and are just now reaching maturity.

Ancistrus claro is probably one of the best oddball loricariid catfish to come into the hobby in the past 20 years. The common name most frequently given to the fish is the gold marble bristlenose pleco, which accurately describes the coloration of an exceptional male. The base color is green with a network of golden yellow markings. My fish are still young, however, and have not developed their best color.

Ancistrus claro comes from the Rio Claro in the state of Matto Grosso in far southwest Brazil, and is a part of the Rio Parguay system. This distant location from the major fish export cities makes the gold marble pleco an uncommon export, but this year several shipments made it out.

As an aquarium fish, Ancistrus claro has a lot going for it. It is a small species, topping out at under 3 inches, and they are not particularly nasty to each other, colonies of many fish are possible. The water they come from is moderately soft, and successful spawning has been reported in a wide range of pH levels. They are omnivrous leaning to vegetarian, so are not hard to feed. They spawn in caves in typical ancistrus style. If there is one knock against claro, it is that the spawns are relatively small and infrequent, compared to other types of ancistrus.

My colony will be set up in a 30 breeder aquarium on the top row of my racks. The temperature here will stay in the mid-70’s, so I am using a heater to keep the water in the upper 70’s.

The tank is filtered with a Poret cube filter, and current is being provided by a small internal power filter. The natural habitat of the species is described as fast flowing with rocks, pebbles and sand. I am including some wood in the tank for the plecos to chew on. But the primary structure will be rocks and spawning caves.

My tap water is too hard for this species, especially the carbonate hardness, so I will be using reverse osmosis water, and reconstituting it with some general hardness and a little carbonate to buffer the pH. My target is a GH of 4 and KH of 2. I will let the pH be where it will be, but with thee hardness levels the pH will be close to neutral.

I have 14 A. claro in this colony. They are young and not so easy to sex. Males will have the tell-tale tentacles on their face, but females can have a few as well (though most females do not). I think that this groups is about 50-50 males and females. I have had these fish in quarantine for three months with no issues or losses.

The tank is ready for the fish, so in they go and this breeding project is officially started. The available literature describes claro as slow to grow and mature, so I am not expecting much from this group for several months. But you never know…. Fish cannot read.

Please subscribe to my YouTube Channel. You can also read about this breeding project and my other aquarium adventures on my video blog at If you have some experiences with Ancistrus claro that you would like to share, we would love to read about them in the comment section here on YouTube or on the blog site.

Thanks for watching TedsFishroom.



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One of my favorites…

Pelvicachromis kribensis ‘Moliwe’ is one of my all-time favorite fish.  I am rarely without a pair.  I still have a few fish that are descendants of fish that I brought back from Cameroon in 2009, but the pair in this video is a wild pair imported about 6 months ago.  This is the second spawn.  You may wonder why I have these larger tetras in the tank, because they can be a risk to the fry.  Watch the parents work together to protect their brood.  I want to see that behavior, and I believe that the need to work together to protect the fry makes the pair better parents.  Enjoy…


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Unpacking a Shrimp Order – 3 Part video

I am presenting a video about importing, acclimating and quarantine of freshwater shrimp in a three-video series.  Part One describes the unpacking, initial inspection and acclimation of the shrimp.  Part two shows the first feeding.  Part three will cover additional inspection.

Shrimp are more delicate than most fish species, so the process for acclimating them is different than for fish.  Unfortunately, if the shrimp arrive in poor condition and the water fouled, the ‘cut and dump’ method used for fish would result in a ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ situation.  Leaving the shrimp in the crappy bag water will kill them, but so will dumping them into new water without acclimating them.  Having a good supplier who knows how to ship shrimp is, therefore, very important.  I stopped buying shrimp in 2014 because of problems at arrival, as well as a rampant parasite issue.

Part One will describe the steps I use for acclimating shrimp, and how I inspect them for parasite problems.

Part Two describes the first feeding of the shrimp.  I use a gel food combination of my own diet, Ted’s Most Excellent and Repashy’s Super Green (equal amounts of each), and present the food in small ceramic feeding discs.  I like the discs because it keeps the food in one place and allows me to see how well the shrimp are getting to it and the amount that they are eating.


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Overhauling My Reverse Osmosis Filter

I use pure water created by a reverse osmosis machine to soften my rock-hard tap water so I can breed soft-water fish species.  I also use it when I import fish from places where the water is very soft, so it is easier to acclimate them to life in hard water over a week or so.  On a daily or weekly basis, I use relatively little RO water, about 30-40 gallons.  When I need to use soft water for acclimating an importation of fish, however, I will use about 400 gallons!  So my RO machine will produce 180 gallons per day, and I store the water in two 220-gallon containers until I need it.

A month ago I decided to work harder to spawn some of my Apistogramma and other soft water species.  They all looked good, but none of them were breeding.  My test kits and meters were long-gone, so I bought some new testers, which indicated that I had a problem with hard water.  Specifically, by reverse osmosis membranes had given up the ghost and needed to be replaced.  That is the topic of this video… the overhauling of an old RO machine.  Enjoy….

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Breeding Project: Apistogramma

Merry Christmas!

Here is the next installment in the Breeding Project video series, but this time I will not be introducing just a single species.  Instead, this video is going to describe what I do when I am working with any species in the genus Apistogramma.  Enjoy…

Breeding Apistogramma – full transcript

Time for another Breeding Project, but this time I am not going to describe a single species. This video will describe the strategies I use to breed Apistogramma, dwarf cichlids from South America.

There are differences between species of apistos, but for the most part the tanks are set up the same. I will describe the basic layout of the tank, filtration, water changes and feeding, and then address the methods I use to get the water parameters right. I will end with a little tour of the different Apistogramma species I am currently hoping to spawn.

I use relatively small aquariums for breeding Apistos, usually a 10-gallon tank for most species, and maybe a 15-gallon or 20-gallon long aquarium for larger, more boisterous species, or for species that breed in trios or harems.

Let’s start with a bare tank and set it up for housing a pair of apistos. This is a 10-gallon aquarium faced end-out on the aquarium. Orientation does not matter, but going end-out makes it easier to create some visually-isolated hiding places in the tank.

Substrate is a secondary concern to me. Apistogramma are not big diggers, so having a layer of sand or gravel on the bottom is not required. I like to use a light dusting of sand, maybe ¼” at the deepest, for aesthetics, but I think that an apisto will be perfectly happy in a bare tank. Especially if there is some leaf litter (which we will get to).

I use small, air-driven sponge filters to keep the water clean. And I want the air flow to the filter to be adjustable. I turn the air down and raise the lift tube up to the surface so that the water flow does not disturb the overall calmness of the water in the tank. Most apistos are not found in fast moving water. Most are found in bottom-land swampy areas with no current at all.

Something that I do that most people do not, is place a yarn spawning mop in the back of the tank next to the filter. The purpose of the mop is to provide a dense hiding place in the tank. Fish that are being chased can escape under, behind or even into the yarn of the mop. The mop will also collect some detritus as it ages, and will become a source of microscopic food particles for small fry. The yarn will also be more surface area for beneficial bacteria in the aquarium, which helps the water stay clean.

I use a spawning cave of some type in the tank. The caves can be just about anything that provides a protected place for the female to lay her eggs in. Apistogramma prefer to lay their eggs on vertical surfaces, or the roof of the cave. Small openings are also helpful. The male does not need to fit in the hole, because be can flood the cave with his milt… but the fertilization rate will be higher if he can get into the spawning site with the female.

A piece of driftwood provides more structure, and will also release tannin into the water. Tannin helps to lower the pH in soft water, and has some chemical properties that benefit the fish in ways that are not completely understood. The natural habitats for these dwarf cichlids are usually black-water habitats with a lot of tannin.

Leaf litter is a natural cover, which also provides hiding places, adds tannin and reduces the pH. I like to use oak, elm, beech and magnolia leaves, which much be dry before using them. I soak the leaves in hot water, and let them sit in the water overnight, before using them. Soaking removes most of the tannin and helps the leaves to sink. There will still be plenty of tannin in the leaves to benefit the fish. I do not use any type of chestnut, hickory or walnut leaves, which contain some alkali chemicals that can kill the fish.

I maintain my fish room temperature at 75F, and the top row of tanks on my racks stay about that temperature all the time, so I do not use heaters in apisto tanks. A few species like water temperature to be a bit warmer, so I may use a heater for them, or a may use a heater to increase temperature to get a reluctant pair to spawn.

When I start an aquarium for a new breeding pair, I use my tap water in the aquarium because the fish have been quarantined in my tap water. I let the aquarium run for a couple days before adding the fish.

I have the advantage of being able to see many individuals to choose from. I pick females based upon color. A female that is showing breeding colors in the quarantine tank is probably a dominant female. I like to start breeding pairs as trios, with the second female being slightly smaller than the first that I choose.   Sometimes the two females live in harmony, and sometimes one is chased a lot. A female that is being chased too much will be removed once it is apparent that the male and dominant female are going to get along.

The fish I choose are young and vibrant. I do not want a big, old male. Large dwarf cichlid males may be a bit past their prime. Males are also going to be aggressive towards the female at first, so a smaller male is less likely to kill her.

I start to soften the water a day after I introduce the breeders to the aquarium. The automated water changer is not turned on over these tanks. Once each week I remove 50% of the water and replace it with reverse osmosis water. Each week the water will become a little softer, and a little more acidic.

The staple, everyday food for the breeding Apistogramma is live baby brine shrimp. Also feed my Ted’s Most Excellent gel food every other day, and live black worms once or twice each week.

My method to lowering the pH is to let it happen naturally in the aquarium. In my experience, this takes some time, and old, well-established tanks will maintain a more consistently lower pH. So I rarely start over on tanks for breeding apistos. I just let the humus in the tank build up. I do remove some of the mulm and clean the filters, but I never give the tanks a really thorough scrubbing.

The pH is not going to be significantly reduced in your aquariums unless the buffering capacity of the water, which is measured as KH or carbonate hardness, is very low. This is why, if you have hard alkaline water, a reverse osmosis filter or other source of very soft water is necessary to really get serious about breeding lots of soft water cichlids. Not all species need the low pH, but many of them do.

I do a 50% water change on my breeding tanks once each week. Between water changes the tannins in the tank can build up to make the water look like dark iced tea. When the leaves stop staining the water this dark, I know that it is time to add new leaves.

The last thing to mention is the interactions between dwarf cichlids and other fish. Dither fish are important to help cichlids feel more comfortable and to give them some targets to attract their attention. I like to use small tetras or pencil fish as dithers. Here is a tank with Nannostomus mortenthaleri, the coral red pencil type 1 as a dither. This tank has candelita tetras, a nano species from Peru. Here is the other coral red pencil, Nannostomus rubrocaudatus. This is Nannostomus beckfordi, which is probably my favorite dither, because it is hardy and inexpensive.

Interactions with other cichlids are also important, but when keeping the pairs in small tanks, the results of those interactions can be lethal. Having a row of aquariums side by side can help. I try to keep cichlids of the same species, or at least in the same species group, in adjacent tanks where they can see each other through the glass. The fish will display and spar with each other through the glass without being able to actually fight.

Using a mirror every now and then can also substitute for interaction between cichlids, but the trick can grow old if it is used to often. I use ‘mirror therapy’ infrequently, no more than once or twice each week, and only with pairs that I am trying to trigger to spawn because they have been reluctant to get down to business. I leave the mirror in for about 20 minutes, or until the fish stop flaring at their reflection. Mirror therapy sessions are great opportunities for taking photographs or videos.

In my experience, consistency is the key to success for breeding apistos, except when whatever you are doing in the tank is not working. Healthy dwarf cichlids that are in good condition should spawn readily, so when a good-looking pair does not spawn after a few weeks, I start to change things up. The only sure fire way to NOT be successful spawning fish is to do the same thing that is not working over and over again.

That is how I set up a tank to breed soft water dwarf cichlids. Now let’s take a look at a few of the species that I currently working with.

Apistogramma allpahuayo – the Peru black-chin

Apistogramma allpahuayo is a cacatuoides-group apisto that can be found in bottomland swamps in northern Peru. These black chins are exported as the ‘yellow’ variety, but I collected these myself during my trip to Peru last August. There are other varieties available, and I am working with three of them. This is the variety from the Rio Tigre. They are still quite young, but the females are already sparring for dominance. This was imported as Apistogramma allpahuayo ‘blue’, and it is a very pretty type. I think that it looks a lot like the Rio Tigre form, however, and I am not sure exactly where it comes from in Peru.

Apistogramma sp. ‘schwarzkehl’

The black-throat dwarf cichlid is an undescribed species from Colombia, that was exported to me as another species. I think this is a very pretty apisto, but I only held back one trio to work with. Of the two females in the tank, one is clearly dominant, and the other is serving as a target, but the pair has not tried to kill her. I have gotten fry from this pair once, but they were eaten. Hopefully they will spawn again soon.

Apistogramma sp. Kelleri

This cichlid is one of the two mouth brooding species that we know of. Kelleri is still undescribed. It is a larger species, and I have seen males that are pushing 5”. I have had this pair for a year, and have seen the female guarding eggs several times, but I have never seen her hold the larvae in her mouth. I recently moved them to a larger aquarium, and have not seen a spawn yet, though today the female is showing spawning colors and trying to get the male to enter the cave. Maybe they will spawn soon.

Apistogramma cf. leulingi

This pair of apistos are not wild caught fish. I received fry from a friend who brought the original pair back from southern Peru a couple years ago. The experts say that this is not the true A. leulingi, but it is certainly very similar. This is a very pretty member of the cacatuoides group. This is the shyest apisto in my collection, and getting a glimpse of the pair usually requires the use a this mirror.

Apistogramma aggasizii ‘Rio Tapiche’

The aggie from the Rio Tapiche in Peru is my favorite variety from that country. The males are a spectacular green and blue in the body, with a yellow chin and breast and red dorsal. I just got these about a month ago, and just got them set up. I have a pair with a large male, and a group of younger fish that I hope to get two pairs out of. This is one of the smaller males. The largest male would not cooperate for the camera.

Apistogramma baenschi – the Inka apisto

Inka is a popular species in the nijsseni-group. The males are large, robust fish with red-blue bodies and bright orange-yellow dorsal fins that are tall and highly serrated. The females are bright yellow with black bumblebee stripes. This very showy cichlid is relatively easy to spawn.

Those are a few of the Apistogramma that I am working with. There are others, and I will share more of them with you when I make the update on this breeding project.

There are a lot of good resources for information about Apistogramma and other dwarf cichlids. Two of my favorites are the Mergus Atlas books by Dr. Uwe Romer. These books describe many species of dwarf cichlids from all over South America, and cover information about their habitat and husbandry.

Let’s try something a little different with this video… If you have a video posted on YouTube featuring an Apistogramma, paste a link to it in the comment section. I would like to see the fish that you are keeping. If you do not have a video to post, but still want to share your experiences with keeping or breeding Apistos, please feel free to comment here or on my blog site, where you will find the complete transcript from this video.

Please subscribe to my Youtube channel… Thank you for watching… TedsFishroom.


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Silane Shrimp Pre-order is on!

I am excited to announce that Dilwyn Tng of Silane Shrimp and I have agreed to bring his shrimp into the USA.  Silane Shrimp sells livestock to some of the best shrimp dealers in Asia and Europe.  My intention is to add Silane shrimp to my regular livestock inventory, but for this first order I have a pre-order opportunity going.  The number of different varieties is too big, and I need some help figuring out what to buy (and what not to buy).  The pre-order prices are 20-40% lower than what I think the retail prices will be, so this is a good opportunity to load up on a lot of different shrimp.  I played fish-tetris all day in the fish room today, and emptied 50 tanks to get ready for this order!

Here are the links to the order forms.  Two different Excel spreadsheet order forms that are interactive… hopefully one of them will work for you.  If you cannot use the Excel files, there is also a PDF, but it is read-only.  If you cannot use the Excel sheets, submit the order from the PDF list.  Please include item number and item name with your order.

Excel 1 (.xlsx file)

Excel 2 (.xls file)


The details are on each of the files, but here are the basics:

  • Orders are due to me by Sunday, December 27
  • Shrimp will arrive to me the week of January 4
  • Shrimp will be acclimated, quarantined and treated (if necessary) the week of their arrival
  • Shipment to you will be the week of January 11 (weather permitting) by FedEx Priority Overnight
  • There are minimums per shrimp (10 in most cases) and a $30 overall minimum order
  • You will not be invoiced for the shrimp until we know what will be shipped to you. Payment due before shipping.


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Breeding Project: Benitochromis nigrodorsalis

The next species I will present in the Breeding Project series is a chromidotilapine cichlid from Cameroon, Benitochromis nigrodorsalis… the black-dorsal Benitochromis, from the Moliwe region.  Enjoy….

Transcript from the video:

This will be a video about another species that I am currently working with. The first species in this series is the loricariid catfish Panaqolus albivermis, which are doing very well. They have settled in and are very active. They eat a ton and make a pretty big mess. I do not like to let the detritus build up in the aquarium, so I use a siphon every few days to remove what I can see. This is a lot a dirt! I also knock out the filter once a week… even more dirt!

Right below them on the rack is a group of cichlids from Cameroon, Benitochromis nigrodorsalis from the Moliwe region. I am fortunate to have collected this species during my trip to Cameroon in 2009, but I did not bring any back with me, because it is a species that is commonly available from specialty fish suppliers.

The genus Benitochromis used to be a part of the genus Chromidotilapia, and the species in both genera are similar. Benitochromis are generally medium-size cichlids found in the small rivers and streams of western Cameroon. Their reproduction is interesting in that they are pair-bonding bi-parental mouth brooders, which means that both parents will share in the task of incubating the eggs. Hopefully we will have a chance to see this in action.

Here are some pictures of the habitat in Moliwe, Cameroon, where we found Benitochromis nigrodorsalis. This is probably the most collected region of Cameroon, and there are several species in the hobby that come from there. One of the most commonly bred West African cichlids in the hobby, Pelvicachromis kribensis from Moliwe, is found in the same streams as the black-dorsal Benitochromis. We found them both in the same section of the stream we were collecting in.

The Moliwe region of Cameroon is under heavy palm oil cultivation. 20 years ago this area was heavily forested, but now all you can see are row upon row of palm oil trees. This has changed the stream significantly. More sun hits the water, so plants and algae are thicker. Water is probably warmer too. The palm oil plantations also mean more people, and their livestock, are using the stream.

I do not know what the actual impact on the fish fauna in the Moliwe region is, but palm oil in general usually has a negative impact. Right now there are still fish to be collected, but who knows what the future will hold.

The aquarium for this project is a 30-gallon breeder that is filtered with a Poret foam matten wall filter. The dual lift tubes supply a steady gentle current in the water, which the cichlids like. I have set the décor up to mimic the natural habitat with a sand substrate, wood for cover, some Anubias sp. plants and leaf litter.

The water parameters in the wild are very soft, but with a neutral pH. Every breeding account I have found on this species describes them as being perfectly happy in harder water conditions, up to pH 8.0 and 600 ppm TDS. My tap water falls under that at pH 7.4 and 300 ppm TDS, so I am not planning to use any special water conditions. If the fish do not try to spawn, or have a hard time hatching eggs, I may soften the tank with some reverse osmosis water. Without dropping the hardness in the tank the leaves and wood are not going to lower the pH very much at all.

Water temperatures in Cameroon are cool, rarely above 75F, and without a heater this aquarium will stay in the low 70’s .

The dither fish for this aquarium will be a school of yellow-tail Congo tetras, Hemigrammopetersius caudalis. This is not a biotope species from the same rivers as this Benitochromis, but I like the look of this tetra.   Having tetras in the tank helps the cichlids to feel more comfortable. I put the tetras in the tank a few days before I added the cichlids.

Mature male black-dorsal cichlids are easy to identify. They are larger than females, have more elongated fins and a more completely black dorsal fin. Females are smaller and less colorful, with more rounded fins.

Four B. nigrodorsalis are going into the aquarium: two males and two females.

These fish have been in quarantine for 8 weeks, with no problems. This species is very hardy, and any problems that do occur are usually a result of aggression. So I will watch these four carefully until I know which two are the dominant pair, and then move the other two out for their own safety.

Feeding these cichlids is easy. They are omnivorous that like to chew on detritus in the substrate looking for small invertebrates, eggs and even decaying plant matter. I feed my gel food formula, Ted’s Most Excellent, as a staple diet, and give them additional food items a few times each week. Any flake, small pellet or gel food will be readily accepted.

Since I am using my tap water, the automated water changer will be turned on, which will give the aquarium a small 20-30% water change three times each week. Once every couple weeks or so I will use a gravel vacuum to stir up the substrate, remove accumulated detritus and give the fish a larger water change.

When the cichlids do breed I will be back with an update on this Benitochromis nigrodorsalis breeding project. A great resource for more information about this or any other Benitochromis sp. cichlids is Dr. Anton Lamboj’s book, The Cichlid Fishes of West Africa. This book was published in 2004, but they are still available by searching on line.

If you are keeping, or have kept, Benitochromis nigrodorsalis, and want to share your experiences with it, please let us know in the comment section below this video, or in a comment on my blog. The entire transcript from this video is available on my blog site:   Reading the details may be easier than trying to find a moment in the video.

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