Who C.A.R.E.S.? Hemichromis cristatus

Here is a little jewel cichlid that is listed on the C.A.R.E.S. Preservation Program priority list as being vulnerable.  They come from Nigeria, where their natural habitat is under siege by deforestation and oil drilling.  We are not entirely sure what the future hold for these fish, but he do know that they are infrequently exported (usually by accident as a different species).  They are the smallest of the red jewel cichlids, and have a unique red over yellow over red color pattern when spawning.  The fish in this video are not in their brightest coloration, but you can see the yellow stripe down the lateral line.  Enjoy…

Livestock Shipping Season!

I am shipping fish again for the next few months.  Unfortunately, I do not have a ton of fish to ship.  One big change is that I now have a REAL job, and I can only pack and ship fish on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which are the only days I can get to the post office on time (or have time in the morning to pack fish).  That schedule may change at the end of October, but for now that is the best I can do.  There is a new list of fish posted on the livestock page.

I like surprises!

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….

West African Community Aquarium

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.

Hemichromis frempongi

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.