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: www.tedsfishroom.com Reading the details may be easier than trying to find a moment in the video.