Julidochromis transcriptus are an attractive little fish from Lake Tanganyika that are very inquisitive by nature. Known as the masked Julie because of the stripe around the eyes, these torpedo-shaped cichlids are sexually dimorphic (adult females are larger than adult males) and are considered dwarves within the hobby, with adult females reaching a TL of ~4″. Transcriptus Julies are bottom dwellers, preferring rocks and crevices over open spaces in their natural habitat. Sadly, I don’t have any photos of the transcriptus I used to have, but the photo at left strongly resembles mine.
Several years ago, I kept two or three females and a couple of males in a 40g breeder. Residing with them was a breeding pair of shell dwelling Neolamprologus ocellatus. I had a black sand substrate with lots of rocks, slate, some apple snail shells, and a few artificial plants. The Julies naturally kept to the rocks and basically claimed territory on one end of the tank.
After a few months, I noticed a tiny black speck moving between a couple of rocks. The Julies had spawned! Pretty soon, I noticed a few more fry. Eventually, I counted more than a dozen. Since I didn’t plan to breed them, I had no specific plan in place if they spawned. In other words, I had not planned to separate the fry from the parents, so I just left them alone. I figured they would get eaten and I would just net and sell those that didn’t get eaten to my LFS for store credit. I went on to breed them several times.
Interestingly enough, it wasn’t long after the Julies spawned that I noticed some movement around one of the shells. Wrigglers! The pair of shellies had spawned also. I now had two genera with fry in the same tank, which is typically an extremely dangerous situation for all tank occupants. However, everything was reasonably harmonious. It didn’t hurt that the ocellatus home shell was a couple of inches from the opposite end of the tank from where the transcriptus had set up shop. Sure, there were occasions when one of the transcriptus would venture too near the ocellatus shell, but a quick rebuke by the female would send all trespassers scurrying back to the rocks in the other direction. Neither of the adult shellies explored far from the end of the tank, at least when I was watching, so squabbles with the julies were infrequent. In fact, I never noticed much conspecific aggression among the Julies either.
J. transcriptus are beautiful, sneaky (I call them slinky) cichlids that will cling closely to rocks and outcrops. They will disappear within crevices and reappear somewhere else while you’re watching. They appear to move effortlessly as they are very fluid gliding around and investigating their surroundings. As far as cichlids go, they’re easy to keep, aren’t overly aggressive, and are readily available in most LFSs. Many websites describe them as highly aggressive. My experience differed. Personally, I think they are a great species for cichlid beginners but are also equally enjoyable for more seasoned keepers.
For more information about J. transcriptus (water parameters, diet, etc.), this site seems to be the most comprehensive. I won’t vouch for the accuracy of all the information, but a quick scan of the content seems it’s pretty spot on.