If you’re like me, you rely on myriad resources to get your cichlid information. I subscribe to multiple serials devoted to cichlids, I search the Web regularly, and I have some of Ad Koning’s books. I’m also a member of multiple cichlid groups on Facebook. In aggregate, these resources have provided a plethora of species profiles and information about both popular species and lesser known fish.
There is no way a cichlid keeper can ever keep every species. Some species are just impossible to get or very difficult. I have no idea how many species that I’ve kept in my lifetime. I don’t keep track of that. What I do keep track of are the fish that I want to keep but haven’t for whatever reason. To that end, I have a short list of hard to find cichlids that I have not had the privilege of keeping but want to. In no specific order, I discuss them below.
For some unexplainable reason, I am a big fan of the Telmatochromis genus. I honestly don’t know why, other than they are endemic to Lake Tanganyika (one of my favorites) and they are dwarf species. I have kept T. vittatus and T. temporalis, the latter which I’ve bred numerous times. T. dhonti, from what I understand, are the nasty species within the genus. I think temporalis can be quite brutal, but that’s mostly when they’ve spawned. Male temporalis are pretty territorial and don’t like intruders in their “space”.
First and foremost, dhonti is a “Least Concern” fish by the IUCN. Secondly, according to Konings, there are several varieties of dhonti, including sp. “dhonti yellow” and a dwarf dhonti. Like many other species, dhonti can often be distinguished by their type locality, with certain locations bearing distinct color markings. Dhonti can be found both in shell beds and sand beds, though Konings describes them as being substrate spawners. The yellow variety is exactly as it sounds, a regular looking dhonti other than the yellow variety is sexually dimorphic in color. Females are yellow and males are black. They may also be distinguished by a typical color spot on the pectoral fin. According to Konings and depending on type locality, the color spot may be orange on regular dhonti, but white on “dhonti yellow” males and yellow on “dhonti yellow” females. It seems that in all varieties, adult males are significantly larger (max at ~12 cm) than adult females. There used to also be a dhonti “orange scribble” available in the hobby, but I suspect it was just a locality variation of the “dhonti yellow.”
Like dhonti above, macrolepis is a dwarf, substrate brooding cichlid from Lake Tanganyika. Unlike dhonti, males of this species appear to develop a more pronounced forehead, a bit of a nuchal hump, if you will. This is more like male temporalis, which develop quite a pronounced nuchal hump. Macroplepis males reach a max size a bit larger than dhonti at 18 cm, according to Konings.
Since I have never seen either dhonti or macrolepis in person, I only have the same images to go on that you have – photos from Konings and various others scattered about the Web. My initial observation is that both macroplepis genders may be a bit more colorful than dhonti. It’s unclear what kind of disposition macrolepis have, but assuming it’s more like temporalis and dhonti than their more torpedo-shaped genus mates like vittatus, bifrenatus, and brichardi, it’s rather aggressive and unfriendly during spawning and brood care. The IUCN Red List has no entry for macrolepis, so not sure of its status.
I first discovered this little jewel several years ago, so it’s been on my wish list for a while. Like T. dhonti, it’s a “Least Concern” fish from Lake Tanganyika. This little mud tunneler is described as having a max length of 10 cm (~4″). Sexual dimorphism is expressed in the dorsal fin with the membrane between the first and second dorsal spine in females being described as black. If that’s accurate, the photo above would be a male.
Like the T. dhonti, this species is hard to find in the marketplace but supposedly quite abundant in Lake T. As I mentioned above, T. otostigma inhabits muddy bottom portions of the lake and builds tunnels where it lays its eggs. Both parents tend to the fry, and fry may hang around in the parents “tunnel” for as long as four weeks.
If you’re keeping or have ever kept any of these species, send me note and let me know. I would love to hear how you acquired them, your experience with them, etc.
Reference (limited): Ad Konings, “Tanganyikan cichlids in their natural environment,” 4th Edition.