Friggin’ fry on the move!

33g long tank containing Julidochromis dickfeldi and ‘Lamprologus’ occelatus. Photo by the author.

In my last post, I talked about the J. dickfeldi fry that I accidentally vacuumed up during a water change. It didn’t register with me at the time, but one of the dickfeldi pair seemed to be spending an inordinate amount of time toward the center and even right end of the tank. I couldn’t understand that because the rocks are on the left end of the tank (see photo above). So it seemed natural that is where the fry should be. 

Again a couple of nights ago, I noticed the larger of the dickfeldi pair directing traffic on the right end of the tank. Every time one of the occies came out and started cruising around, the large dickfeldi would dart in to chase it back to its shell. I keep referring to the larger dickfeldi, without calling it the male or female. I’m not certain the sex of each. I’m not going to vent one of them, so unless I actually see one of them in the act of laying eggs, I don’t know which is which. The smaller dickfeldi stays in the rocks. 

If you know anything about Julies, the popular wisdom is they are sexually dimorphic by size, with the female being larger, at least with marlieri, regani, and marksmithi species. Ad Konings’ observations in Lake Tanganyika have proven that is not accurate for all Julidochromis species. 

I have kept and spawned numerous species of Julies, but have never witnessed one in the act of laying eggs. I currently have two breeding pairs of dickfeldi that have fry. One pair is in a 20g long by themselves (well, plus about 40 fry and juveniles from multiple broods). The other pair is in the 33g long that I’ve been talking about. In both instances, the larger of the pair handles most of the traffic. The larger one in the 20g long is out and about, chasing away any juveniles that approach the spawning cave there. The smaller one in that tank stays hidden most of the time, inside the cave. It is exactly the same in the 33g long. 

Going back to Konings’ observations, he has stated that, depending on the spawning scenario, either the male or female could be the primary guardian. However, it seems that the male more often serves that role. 

So back to the start of this post. I watched the larger of the dickfeldi in the 33g long last night. I couldn’t understand why it was so belligerent to the occies that were at the opposite end of a 4′ tank. Then I spotted them. About the very center of the tank was a small herd of fry. Now I understood why the large dickfeldi was behaving in such a way. However, the next oddity is why the fry are in the middle of the tank. They are VERY small, probably still less than a month old. Though I did see a couple of fry near the rocks on the left end of the tank in the rocks, most appeared at least a foot away toward the middle of the tank. In my experience, Julie fry ALWAYS hug the rocks until they’re at least longer than 1/4″. These fry are about half that length. 

I guess it is possible that there is another clutch of eggs and thus the dickfeldi have spawned again. I won’t say that is out of the question, but my experience says that is pretty unusual. However, in the wild dickfeldi are known to spawns four to five weeks apart. This might explain why some of the current fry aren’t remaining in the rocks. However, not sure that one of the parents would continue to defend fry if another clutch of eggs exists. If this is true, then claiming that the smaller dickfeldi is the male would make sense. It is probably guarding eggs that I can’t see. 

Because of the scenario outlined above and because one of the male occies has now been ostracized, I removed the subordinate male. The dominant male had pushed the subdominant to a corner, leaving the subdominant male with nowhere to go but toward the surface. If it tried to get away from the right end of the tank and the dominant male, it moved into the dickfeldi end and received the same wrath. You can see the lone male occie on the right in the photo above. The female is in one of the shells about 4-5″ below him. 

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