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.

Breeding Fish Series: Panaqolus albivermis – Part 1

I am starting a new video series on breeding fish.  This will be a very ambitious project.  Over the next few weeks I will start video series on several species.  I am also going to start publishing a written transcript for each video here in the blog.  A few people have commented that it is hard to search through a video for the information.  I cannot promise that the video voice over and the script I publish will be exactly the same, but it will be close…. and the pertinent information will be the same.

The first species in the series will be a loricariid catfish:  Panaqolus albivermis – L204 – the flash pleco.  I have been getting some nice specimens of these this year, so I thought I should give spawning them a try.  I have never spawned any pleco other than tank-strain Ancistrus sp.  Enjoy….

Video Transcript:

I have made an early New Year’s resolution to step up with the video posts in 2016. I am going to try very hard to post at least once each week. The biggest challenge is coming up with video ideas. I know… I still have a lot to finish on the fish room itself, and I will be getting to those sooner rather than later.

But I also want to start posting a lot more videos about the fish that I keep. After all, that is what my blog is all about… keeping fish. I have gotten away from breeding fish in the past two years, but my other early New Years resolution is to actually work with some of these really cool species I have been importing.

This video is the first in a series showcasing the fish I am actually working with. The plan is to introduce each species in an initial video that describes setting up an aquarium for a that species, and outlining the plan of action for successfully spawning them. Followed a few weeks later by a video of the fish settled in and, hopefully, spawning. The series for each species would end with a video showing the rearing of the fry. This is an ambitious project, but I should be able to keep up if I build some momentum.

First up… a pleco… Panaqolus albivermis, which is also known by it’s L-number designation: L204, and by the common name Flash Pleco. I am told that the common name refers to the bright white to orange thin stripes that resemble lighting on a jet black fish. Gotta love common names.

Panaqolus is a genus of loricariid catfish from South America. Panaqolus albivermis comes from Peru. Specifically the San Alajandro river, which is a relatively small flowage in the upper Ucayali River system. Most notable about that stream… it is not a soft water habitat. The relatively short San Alejandro drains water from the Andes into the Ucayali, and the pH alkaline… some measurements as high as 8.4! That is one reason I chose to work with this catfish. The water that comes into my aquariums through my automated water changing system is within the correct parameters for the species. No need for reverse osmosis for this pretty pleco!

Panaqolus belong to the group of sucker mouth catfish that like to dine on soft wood. In fact, just about everything they plecos like is associated with wood. So the aquarium will need to include a lot of driftwood for them to chew on and hide in.

The aquarium itself is a 30-gallon breeder aquarium located on the top shelf of my racks. The temperature will stay warmer up there, but I will also use a 200 watt heater in the tank to keep the water at a toasty 82F.

The tank is going to be filtered by a Poret foam 5” cube filter that is powered by a cube lifter lift tube that moves a lot of water. This will be plenty of mechanical and biological filtration for the amount of biomass I will keep in this tank.

The filter will not provide enough current, which the plecos need, so I am also including an Aqueon circulation pump at the end of the tank opposite the filter. The position of the pump is very important. Loricariid breeders have told me that the flow needs to run perpendicular to the openings of the spawning caves. So that is what I have done. The caves are all lines up with the opening facing the front of the aquarium (so I can see into them easily), and the circulation pump pushes water past the openings. You can see that flow when I drop some sand into the current.

The tank will receive a minimum of three small water changes each week through the auto-drip system. Once each week I will also use a siphon to remove detritus from the bottom of the tank. Wood-eating catfish are notoriously messy. The cube filter will also clog with wood dust very quickly, and I will need to pull it regularly to knock it out. That is one reason the filter is not deeply buried in the pile of wood.

The tank is set up. Wood… check. Caves… check. Current…. Check. Heater and filter…. Check. Ready for fish.

One of the negatives to keeping plecos is that they hide a lot, so if you want to have some action in the tank you should include a school of tetras or other fish that will stay out in the open. I have a lot of these Hyphessobrycon sp. ‘junior’ tetras that are also from Peru, so I added a school to the tank. This is another species I have not spawned, so maybe I will be able to use this tank to collect some eggs from them as well.

The catfish will come from this group of young adult wild fish that were imported a few months ago and are well quarantined. I have pulled them out of the tank they are in and put them into this tray so I can get a better look at them.

Panaqolus males that are in their full breeding glory are easy to see. They grow odontodes…. Hair-like filaments… all over their body. These fish are not in breeding condition, however, so I cannot use odontodes to sex them.

Body shape is not much of a help either with the flash pleco. Females may be a little rounder or a little wider, but that is not a sure thing. Most pleco males have broader heads and narrower bodies, but that turns out to be not so sure a thing in this species either.

When in doubt, look for differences. I am going to choose six fish. When I look at the group, I see some that are broader in the head and brighter in color, compared to some that have smaller heads, round sides and are not as bright in color…. And I think these are the females.

Male loricariids can be evil bastards, so I am only going to choose two of the ones I think are males. I will also pick four that I think are females. Six fish may eventually be too many in a 30-gallon once they are full grown and spawning, but I like to start a group a little larger than what I think it will eventually become. Adding new fish to an established group may not be a good idea.

Here are the six fish I chose going into the aquarium, and now this breeding project has officially begun!

The flash plecos will eat the driftwood in the aquarium, but it cannot be the only thing in their diet. Animal protein is not a great idea for these fish, although a little can help to bring females into breeding condition. I feed the tank something every day. Loricariids that live in warm water have a high metabolism, and need a lot of food.

Vegetables are excellent… here I am feeding the tank some zucchini, which they like a lot. Other vegetables they like include fresh green beans, any squash, cucumber and even watermelon. The trick to feeding fresh vegetables and fruits is moderation. Feed small amounts so that the water is not fouled, and do not leave the food in the tank until it rots.

I also feed Repashy Morning Wood, a gel food diet designed for wood-eating catfish. The gel contains a lot of cellulose, so it is like wood, but it also contains more nutrients, vitamins and minerals. I feed Morning Wood at least three days a week, and I like to feed it on these ceramic disc feeders, which are heavy and stay in one place in the tank.

The last thing that I like to feed the flash plecos is hard wood stems with the bark. I like oak, ash, maple or fruit trees the best. I stay away from any conifer, hickory or walnut, all of which contain a lot of alkali chemicals I am not sure are safe for fish. I leave the stems in the tank until the plecos have stripped them of the bark and underlying tissues they are after.

Now my small colony of Panaqolus albivermis are in their new home, but it will take a few weeks until they are truly settled and comfortable. I will be back with an update about them just as soon as I see some breeding behavior.

If you would like more information about the flash pleco, or any catfish, I encourage you to visit . This website contains a huge amount of information about all types of catfish. If you are looking to breed catfish, spend some time in the Catfish of the Month articles, which are mostly breeding accounts, and there is one in there on the flash pleco.

For more information about sponge filters, take a look at the video linked right here. If you want to buy some Poret foam filters, you can go directly to the source at .

Repashy gel foods, including Morning Wood, and the disc feeders that I use, are available in my Stock Shop. The address for that website is   I may also have some flash plecos for sale, but not all of the time.

If you are keeping this species and want to share your experiences with it, please let us know in the comment section for 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.

Thanks for watching TedsFishroom…

Pac-man catfish – Lophiosilurus alexandri

I recently purchased two pac-man catfish, Lophiosilurus alexandri, which is a very cool ambush predator from Brazil.  They look like an Asian chaca catfish, but grow quite a bit larger.  And they will eat anything that will fit in their mouth.  When I got them they were quite thin, so I have been really trying to push the food into them.  Unfortunately, all they are eating right now are live fish.  I have tried Repashy gel food and dead fish, but they will not take them.  They also seem unable/willing to catch the feeder fish I have in the tank with them.  They will eventually figure it out.  Once they are in better condition, I will feel more comfortable fasting them long enough to get them on to a non-live food.  I do not like feeding live fish, but sometimes it is the solution that is needed.  So I apologize to anyone who is squeamish… the video shows the pac-man catfish eating.

New Fish from Peru Video

Here is a video showing most of the fish that I received on this last Peru order.  Everything looks great, and there are some species I have never had before (or even seen before!).

Laimosemion (Rivulus) rectocaudatus

The fish that we collected on the trip to Peru arrived yesterday.  We got a couple dozen killifish, Laimosemion (Ruvulus) rectocaudatus, that we found in the ditch along side the road.  The little run is water was lousy with these killies.  We could have collected hundreds of them.  The fish is pretty and mean, and also good jumpers.  I put them into a 20-gallon tank with only a few inches of water to acclimate them.  They were spread out a day after this video was shot, but I noticed that they were doing their best to jump out of the tank, and grabbed the video camera…  Enjoy.


U.S. Virgin Islands

This has been a Summer for checking items off of my bucket list.  We took a family vacation in June to the U.S. Virgin Islands, and I finally had the chance to see Caribbean reefs in person.  I shot a lot of video, and will post several from the trip.  These first two are from St. Thomas.  The first is from a boat trip we took out to a sanctuary, and the second is from the cave at the hotel.  The third is a snorkling tour in Trunk Bay, one of the highlights in the Virgin Islands National Park on and around St. Johns.  The shorelines of the US Virgin Islands are covered in reef animals.  You can hardly go wrong putting on a mask and jumping in the water…



Crenicara punctulatum… The Hermaphrodite Cichlid

Once upon a time, all of the checkerboard cichlids were in the genus Crenicara.  When the genus was split, two fish were left in the genus and all the others went into Dicrossus.  The type species is C. punctulatum (the other is C. latruncularium).  This original checkerboard cichlid is a fun fish to keep.  They are not overly demanding, though they do not do well in dirty water.  This fish is a sequential hermaphrodite.  All of them start off looking phenotypically female.  As a group of young fish mature, the most dominant fish will grow faster and become the breeding male.  He will pair with a female that will also grow, though not as larger, and take on brighter colors and redder fins.  The rest will stay comparatively small… as though they are suspended in growth.  If the male is removed, a new male will arise (usually the previous dominant female).  The sex change is not reversible.  So that means that the easiest way to get a breeding pair is to pick up a group of 6-8 juveniles and let them grow up.  Once a pair forms, move the rest to another tank and another pair will arise. Fun fish!

Bolt (Volt) Catfish – Aguarunichthys torosus

Here is a ‘monster’ fish that is not so much a monster.  The bolt catfish is predatory cat that grows up to be about 13″, so not outrageously large.  They are active catfish with voracious appetites, and are really really good and chasing down and killing small fish.  The fish in this video have only been here a few days, and they are settling in nicely.  When they got here they were in pretty bad shape, as evidences by the few that are really thin and some bent and eroded barbels, but they are coming around.  I am feeding them guppies, Repashy Meat Pie gel food, black worms and chopped earthworm.

Tatia sp. Wood Catfish

I have been getting more and more interested in wood catfish over the past few months, and one of the species that I have brought in is a large Tatia sp. from Peru.  And I do mean large…  The first four I got back in late February were all about 10″ long, and I really liked them.  But they were sold pretty quickly.  So I got some more.  10 more to be exact.  They are almost through quarantine, and six of them will soon move into a 180-gallon aquarium that is being prepared for them.  I am really hoping to get them to spawn!  Here is a video of them in their quarantine tank, feeding on chopped earthworms.

Today in the Fish Room

Here is a short video of a few of the dwarf cichlids that are set up in spawning tanks.  The Apistogramma cacatuoides ‘Pucallpa’ have 10-day old fry.  A first look at the wild Pelvicachromis subocellatus ‘Moanda’ pair I got from Oliver a couple weeks ago.  An update on the Nanochromis splendens that are starting to mature.  And a look the the A. bitaeniata ‘Rio Tigre’ that are, hopefully, close to spawning.