A few observations of a community Tanganyikan tank

If you follow the blog, you know I have a 75g Tanganyikan tank. Here are the current cichlid inhabitants:

  • Altolamprologus calvus (black) x 3
  • Callochromis macrops x 1
  • Eretmodus cyanostictus x 1
  • Julidochromis marlieri x 3
  • Neolamprologus tretocephalus x 2
  • Neolamprologus leleupi x 2
  • Telmatochromis sp.  “temporalis shell”x 3
  • Telmatocrhomis vittatus x 1

​Based on sizes, I would say they’re all sub-adults. None of them are quite full-grown. There are also a couple of bottom feeders and 8 or 9 dithers. You can see a photo of the tank below.


75g Tanganyikan tank. Photo courtesy of the author.

As you can see, it’s heavily decorated with substantial rock work. This provides an enormous amount of hiding places. As I discussed in a previous post, a pair of Telmatochromis sp. “temporalis shell” have commandeered the lower left front corner of the tank, where they’re currently tending to some fry. Most of the cichlids give that part of the tank a wide berth, for obvious reasons. Both parents are pretty intolerant of trespassers.

I spend a considerable amount of time observing this tank, both with the tank light on and off. Below are some of my observations.

As I’ve also discussed in a previous post, one of the male A. calvus is pretty clearly the tank boss. He’s not super aggressive but he makes his presence loud and clear when he wants, and he doesn’t get displaced by anyone. However, he doesn’t push the issue with the temporalis pair. He and the male have been nose to nose a couple of times, but he goes on about his business after a few seconds. One of the leleupis is what I would call the associate tank boss with respect to overall aggression, which again runs counter to conventional knowledge of typical N. leleupi species behavior with tankmates other than its own kind.

Cichlid keepers with a fair amount of experience know that individual cichlids possess unique personalities. Sure, there are species specific behaviors that are typical, but not every cichlid in a given species behaves the same. So when you’re doing research about a cichlid that you’re interested in keeping, don’t expect what you buy to be a carbon copy of what you read. They will clearly exhibit some of the behaviors that you read about but ultimately how they behave depends on multiple factors – tank size, tank mates, number of tank mates, tank decorations, gender mix, etc.

I am constantly amused at folks who say things like “Don’t expect to keep <<insert species A>> with <<insert species B>> and expect species A to survive.” Case in point, pretty much everything you read advises against keeping multiple N. tretocephalus together unless you keep many or have a really large tank because they are quite belligerent and aggressive. As you can see from the inhabitant list above, there are two in this tank and, frankly, neither one of them are aggressive. In fact, the larger of the two is scared of his own shadow. He doesn’t come out a great deal and, when he does, he often gets run off if he ventures too close to one of the leleupis or even the non-paired T. “temporalis shell”, the latter of which is about 1/4 his size.

The two most non-aggressive cichlids in the tank are the goby (E. cyanostictus) and the C. macrops. In fact, the macrops is really pretty shy and just doesn’t like to get in the mix with the other cichlids. The goby roams all over and, though it gets chased every once in a while, it never seems to get rattled. It just comes right back and resumes whatever it was doing.

The three Julies aren’t very aggressive either unless someone gets too near their “overhang” or cave. They spend more time chasing each other than paying much attention to their tankmates. They and the T. vittatus don’t always see eye to eye, but I believe that’s more because they’re similarly colored and shaped. Overall, none of the four are bothersome.

Overall, this is a pretty placid community tank, containing species that are both typically viewed as aggressive and rather docile. Other than general discord between the two leleupis, which is well known for conspecific behavior of the species, everyone is tolerant of each other.


Leave a Comment