Last weekend we had the pleasure of hosting Paul V. Loiselle in our home while he was in town to give presentations to our local aquarium clubs (Madison Area Aquatic Hobbyists and the Milwaukee Aquarium Society). Paul and I share an interest in west African fish (that’s a bit of an understatement), so I made sure to clean up all the class and do some big water changes before he arrived.
Everyone with a lot of aquariums will admit that there are usually one or two ‘catch all’ aquariums where fish that may not be current projects are kept. Tanks where young fish are placed to mature, single fish are kept until a mate can be found or any fish where there is simply not a place for at the moment.
The tank that serves that purpose in my house is the 110-gallon aquarium in the video below. Several months ago I happened upon some fish that I had always wanted and could not pass up buying, even though I did not have a breeding tank ready for them: Pelmatochromis buettikoferi and Bryconaethiops boulengeri. They were too young to breed anyway, so into the catch-all tank they went. I also keep my group of rather old Chromidotilapia melaniae in there, but they have not spawned in well over two years. There are also some Hemichromis cf. lifilili ‘Moanda’ that are extra breeders in case my productive pair has a problem. Rounding out the westie theme is an eel… Mastacembelus nigromarginatus, and a few miscellaneous Synodontis sp. catfish. The net result is a pretty cool large-species westie tank.
I turned on the light to show them to Paul, and surprise!!!… the Pelmatochromis buettikoferi were defending fry. I left them in with the parents with the intention of shooting this video, but when I got around to shooting the footage the fry were gone. They will spawn again though! Enjoy….
Next month marks a year since the trip to Gabon to collect fish. Here is a video of one of the cichlid species I brought back, Parananochromis gabonicus. I had been keeping pairs in 20 gallon aquariums up until about two months ago. The pairs were spawning, but in between spawns the males were very rough on the females. Plus, the males were going to outgrow the tanks. I moved all of the fish (two males and three females) into this 40-gallon breeder aquarium, added a big pile of wood for cover, a school of hardy tetras (Moenkhausia agnesae) and four or five well hidden breeding caves. A few weeks ago the most dominant male and one of the females spawned, and chose the most observable cave to breed in. Good fish!!!
When the pairs were spawning in the smaller tanks there were no target or dither fish in with them. The female would turn her defensive attention on the only other fish in the tank… the male. This led me to believe that the male of this species does not take an active role in caring for the fry… not true! As this video documents….
In my possession anyway. I got them in August 2011 as 2″ juveniles, so I suspect that they were hatched (in the wild) sometime around April 2011. The video was shot last April (yes… I am very behind on video production). These fish are wild caught Astronotus ocellaris from the Rio Orinoco.
This video does not do the fish justice, so I will try to shoot another clip this week. I had six of them when the video was made, but they were very shy. I decided to make some room in the tank by letting a friend have a couple of them. The remaining four come out all the time. I must have given away the bullies!
This aquarium is currently my longest-established display. It is a semi-aggressive community of cichlids and tetras from the Congo region of West Africa. The bright red cichlids that are currently dominating the tank are Hemichromis cf. lifilili ‘Moanda’. That name is a relatively new concept for a fish that has been in the hobby for about 6 years under the designation H. sp. ‘Moanda’. Dr. Anton Lamboj is in the process of ding a revision of the genus, and he is now calling this fish a color form of the species H. lifilili, and he tells me that it is ok to do so. I guess that means that when the paper is published he will identify it such. That rumor has been around for a couple years, and there are some other notable scientists who question that this fish H. lifilili. But Anton is a friend, a good ichthyologist and is currently the guy working on the genus… so I will give him the benefit of the doubt (and fan the flames a bit!). The fish that has been distributed around the hobby as H. lifilili for the past couple decades is not a pure H. lifilili. This is something that the scientists who are actually interested in tank strains agree on. The consensus is that they are the long-standing tank strains of fish that have been crossed in and out of H. gutattus varieties, may include some H. lifilili blood from a few decades ago and could have picked up some DNA from unintentional crosses to any of several red-jewel species that are all hard to tell apart (H. bimaculatus, H. letourneuxi & H. cristatus are the most likely contributors). Cichlid taxonomy is FUN FUN FUN!!!!!
Other fish in the community include the Brycinus longipinnis and Phenacogrammus interuptus tetras (long-fin alestes and congo tetras, respectively), and the reophilic cichlid Steatocranus glaber (one of the buffalo-head cichlids). The big male cichlid does a good job of defending the tube cave on the left end of the tank, and the two small females (not in the video) hang around with him all the time, but they have not spawned yet (that I know of). I have bred the alestes tetras several times and the congo tetras twice. The plants include Anubias sp., a Crinum sp. and some Cryptocoryne sp. The crypts are not West African, but everything else is.
This current community has been going as is for about 18 months. There have been a few additions and subtractions along the way. The tank has held primarily West African fish for five years. Former denizens have included breeder pairs of Teleogramma brichardi,Steatocranus irvinei, Pelvicachromis humilis, P. rubrolabiatus, Chromidotilapia guentheri guentheri, Arnoldichthys spilopterus (I really miss those tetras) and various singleton eels, catfish and mormyrids. There is just something about a West African community aquarium that keeps my interest over the long term. This tank is due for a change, and when I get back from Gabon in a month I hope to be able to convert it over to an all-Gabon community.
My H. frempongi pair are breeding again. This is their second spawn. The first time around it was interesting to see how long they doggedly protected their fry. All of the other jewel cichlids I have kept tended to lose interest after 4-6 weeks, eat whatever fry were still around and then spawn again. This pair were still caring for their offspring twelve weeks after spawning, and the fry were starting to lose their juvenile color pattern. At the end there were only 10 juveniles left (because I had been removing them steadily over a couple months), but the parents would still come charging out to defend them when anyone would appear in front of their tank.
H. frempongi is a very aggressive 5-spot jewel cichlid that is endemic to Lake Bosumtwe in Ghana. Of the three 5-spot species (the other two are H. fasciatus and H. elongatus), this one is medium in size (the largest male I have ever seen was about 9″), the most ‘cleanly’ colorful and (in my opinion) the meanest. Establishing a pair requires a lot of fry to grow out and more than a little luck. I started with 24 one-inch fish, and six months later I was fortunate to have two left that were male and female… and not trying to kill each other. It still took another 4 months before they spawned for the first time.
When the pair does not have fry they are shy and hide a lot. When they have babies they are the polar opposite, as this video will show you. These have become my favorite cichlids in my fish room. They are entertaining, to say the least. Enjoy.
Here is the new video of the same tank with H. tamasopoensis and X. montezumae. The current is generated by a 2400 gph circulation pump (Aqueon) embedded in the Poret foam filter (it is in the hole you can see in the middle of the wall). That pump really churns up the water! The movement of the grass plants indicates the current, but when the food appears in the video you can get a really good idea of how fast that water is flowing. The tank looks very natural to me, and the fish are thriving.
There is a pair starting to develop amongst the cichlids. The dominant male has taken up residence under the larger rock in the center of the pile. His female is smaller and is starting to get the black markings that will show that she is spawning. Right now the black in on her ventral fins and her breast, but the color should expand on her body a lot. The other cichlids are not being harmed by the pair, but they are also spread out to the far corners of the tank!
Most of the swords were much smaller when I got them last September. The old male is starting to look really old, but the younger male is starting to come into his prime condition. Some of the females look gravid, and I will be removing them before they drop their fry so that the cichlids will not get them. Eventually I would like to see at least 2x this number of swordtails in the tank.
This is a video of a 75-gallon river tank that I set up in August, 2010, to house a group of Herichthys tamasopoensis and Xiphophorus montezumae. The video was shot two months after setting up the tank and shortly after getting the swords. I am posting it today because I just filmed about 10 minutes of great footage of the same tank. I have made some changes to the filtration and water flow, and the fish have grown considerably. This video is for comparison to the one I will upload soon.
This video sows my pair of H. frempongi guarding their newly free-swimming fry. The babies in this video have all been distributed, and I am patiently waiting for the parents to spawn again. I was surprised by how long the adults protected their offspring. Other 5-spot jewel species I have bred were looking to spawn again after about 4-6 weeks, and any fry left in the tank were eaten. These H. frempongi were still protecting fry after 12 weeks; and the fry were starting to change into adult color patterns. This is a very mean species. If you get a chance to work with them, and have to get fry, I suggest starting with a couple dozen in a large tank with a lot of places for the fish to hide. As they grow they will kill each other off until you are left, hopefully, with a pair. My current pair was formed this way, and they are very stable… knock on wood.
This is a video that I shot a while ago with my old camcorder (hence the not-so-good quality). There are four male rainbow cichlids in this tank, and two of them used to stay colored up most of the time and spar with each other for dominance. The oscars in with them have since grown up, and now the rainbows are not so confident. The display that these fish put on is a good example of territorial competition without actually fighting. The fish on the left ‘owns’ most of the space, while the fish on the right tries to hold onto just about one quarter of the area in the tank. I like how they both look surprised whenever they run into each other.
A friend of mine, Rick, recently sold his house and will not be able to set up his new fish room until after his new home is built. I do not look forward to the day when I have to tear down my fish room. Lots of work… and a depressing chore to boot! I offered to keep a few of Rick’s fish for him until he can get set back up, and one of the species he has deposited with me is the Lake Tanganyika cichlid Julidochromis regani. Rick brought a colony of six fish over, and I pulled out these two fish to keep separately as, I hope, a breeding pair. Rick has had the fish for a couple years, but had never seen a spawn. The larger of these two fish is pretty robust, and based upon some research I think that it is a female. Apparently, the females of this species that get larger and thicker. I chose the largest of the more slender specimens, that was also very colorful, in hopes that it is a male. The last clue that they may be a pair is that they get along. The larger ‘female’ tolerates the smaller ‘male’, and they often forage together in the front area of the tank (where I can actually see them). All of the other Julidochromis species I have fight all the time, so I have to assume that if they are not breeding they would be fighting. Please take look and let me know if you think that these two fish at least have the potential to form a pair. Are they at least male and female?