More pebble mischief by the Telmatochromis sp. “temporalis shell”!

40g breeder tank with pebbles moved.

If you recall the post from April in which I revisited a previous post on cichlids and play, you’ll remember I pointed out that one of the two cichlids in my 40g breeder was moving pebbles. This is a weekly thing. Each week when I do maintenance on the tank, I put all of the pebbles that appear in the sand back in the pebble section behind the rock wall. And each week, there are inevitably five or six pebbles that end up back in the sand.

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Who are the parents?

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If you keep Julidochromis species (Julies), you probably have a considerable amount of rock work in your tank. Here’s the scenario. You started off with a small group of sub-adults or juveniles, maybe five or so. You haven’t vented them and they’re all the same size, so you have no idea what sex ratio you have. You end up with some fry, you can’t tell who the parents are, and you want to know. What do you do?

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My little community tank irritant

Adult female Telmatochromis temporalis. Photo by the author.
Adult female Telmatochromis temporalis. Photo by the author.

If you follow the blog, you’ve inevitably read about my experience with Telmatochromis temporalis. I still have my breeding pair. Though the female no longer produces any eggs, her and her mate are still mostly inseparable. At only about 2.75″, she’s much smaller than the male.  She’s very shy, and it’s really hard to catch her in a spot that I can get a good photo of her. I was partially successful in the top photo because I had just fed the tank, and she was looking for a morsel. The bottom photo actually provides a better view. Yes, she is jet black. Note her small nuchal hump. 

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Breeding Julidochromis dickfeldi

One of my breeding pairs of Julidochromis dickfeldi. Photo by the author.

I have worked with this species for several years. In fact, I have three breeding pairs right now in three different tanks that spawn regularly. Because I have experience with almost all the Julidochromis species, I can also accurately state that dickfeldi are quite easy to breed, comparatively. So what do you need to successfully breed these wonderful fish?

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Another Julidochromis regani spawn

Breeding pair of Julidochromis regani guarding spawning cave. Photo by the author.

My breeding pair of Julidochromis regani spawned again. Generally this wouldn’t be noteworthy. However, I had to take down their previous spawning cave because I had to catch the juveniles from their first spawn and remove them from the tank.

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Keeping mbuna and shell dwellers together

Adult male ‘Lamprologus’ caudopunctatus (foreground) and adult Labidochromis sp. ‘Red top Hongi’ (larger blue-colored fish hiding under the slate rock) together in a 75g tank. Photo by the author.

I very often hear of cichlid keepers with mixed tanks. Some keep New World and Old World cichlids together. Some keep Tangs with Malawis and some even keep West Africans with East Africans. Does it really matter? Sure….sometimes. It depends on several factors. 

What about keeping mbuna with Tanganyikan shell dwellers? “Blasphemous!” some might say. I would say, “Not so fast.” Different lake origins and water parameter requirements aside, it can be done. I know because I do it. But should you?

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Shell beds and shellie fry survivability

Neothauma tanganyicence shell bed in Kungwe Bay, Lake Tanganyika. Reused image from article published in the journal Palaios. See full article citation at the end of the blog post.
If you’re a fan of Tanganyikan shell dwellers and you want to maximize fry survivability, consider the density of your shell bed and other factors. Actual shell beds in Lake Tanganyika are typically very dense. In fact, they’re so dense that they’re often feet thick. Also, water in the lake is highly alkaline and the shells are comprised of calcium carbonate. As a result, the shells break down in the water over time. Combine this with the shell bed density and the shells fuse together, creating giant, solid mounds of shells. The advantage of such a biotope is the cover created for shell dwelling species, their offspring, and even other dwarf species.

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Caudopunctatus WILL jump!

Top view of the open gap in the glass top of my 30g ‘Lamprologus’ caudopunctatus tank. The back of the tank is on the far right. The large grey mass at the bottom is the curved filter outflow tube coming into the tank. The outflow diffuser is just under the water about 1.5″

If you keep ‘Lamprologus’ caudopunctatus in a shallow tank, it’s a good idea to make sure the tank is covered….and covered well. I have mentioned my species only caudo tank in past posts. It’s a pretty shallow, rimless tank at only 12″ deep with a glass top that covers the tank pretty well, or so I thought.

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Shelter for multiple Julidochromis broods

20g long Julidochromis dickfeldi breeding tank with travertine tiles. Photo by the author.

If you follow the blog, you know I’m partial to lamprologines, specifically Julidochromis species (julies) and ‘Lamprologus’ shell dwellers (shellies). I have bred many species of these fish, and one of my favorites is Julidochromis dickfeldi. Though brood sizes aren’t enormous (in my set-ups), they spawn frequently. I usually have 20-30 offspring per pair. 

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