If at first you don’t succeed…

In a previous post, I mentioned that I had three Telmatochromis sp. “temporalis shell” (2 males and 1 female) in a 75g community Tanganyikan tank. Also in that post, I mentioned that a pair had formed and had spawned. Since that time, they’ve spawned numerous times without any fry reaching more than 1/4″. Besides being fearless, these shell dwellers are persistent, at least my pair is. The brood size seems to get increasingly large with each successive spawn, which mirrors much of what Brett Harrington wrote about in his nice article about these great little fish.

I can corroborate almost all of Brett’s information, except that my adult males are quite a bit larger than the maximum size he mentions. Mine are at 3″ +. His only reached 2.5″. Also, as opposed to being dark slate gray at spawning time, my paired male is jet black. The other male will often turn a slate gray color and even sometimes black, but the spawning male is always black (as is the female).


Two broods of Telmatochromis sp. “temporalis shell”. The older fry is toward the right and the younger fry is on the left between the two shells just above the sand. Photo courtesy of the author.

I currently have fry from two broods, or maybe three, in the tank. The oldest fry is probably close to 3/4″ now, while fry from a later brood are a bit less than 1/2″ (see image below). I have noticed the brood male go after the fry on occasion, but the corner of the tank in which they reside is quite densely packed with rock and shells, which provide significant cover. In fact, I have egg crate under the sand substrate and some of the crate is exposed under the rocks, which creates great little pockets for the fry to dive into.

This is an easy swell dweller to raise and breed. They can be prolific breeders, so if you choose to house a single pair in a tank alone, be prepared for lots of offspring. Also, as Brett mentions, they are intolerant of con-specifics when breeding and even less tolerant of interlopers who wonder too close to the spawning site. Tank length chasing is not common, i.e., the breeding pair will not go too far from the spawn site. However, both male and female are equal opportunity aggressors, though the male will carry the fight farther beyond the spawn site than the female.


Telmatochromis sp. “temporalis shell” fry, approximately four weeks old. Photo courtesy of the author.


Older Telmatochromis sp. “temporalis shell” fry ~ 3/4″, probably close to 12 weeks old. Note the exposed egg crate just under the rock to the left of the fry. This makes a perfect hiding spot to avoid the parents and other tank inhabitants. Photo courtesy of the author.

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