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. 

At present, I have three breeding pairs of dickfeldi, all in separate tanks. All three pairs have rewarded my efforts with multiple broods.

A breeding pair of dickfeldi will tolerate fry and even juveniles around the spawning site, up to about 1/2″. At roughly that size and above, all bets are off. To maximize juvenile survivability, they need a space they can occupy where the adult pair can not reach them, especially in smaller tanks. 

Raising multiple broods of any species is often a challenge. Because two of the dickfeldi breeding tanks are smaller (20g longs), keeping multiple broods alive to sub-adult stage requires plenty of shelter. But not all shelter is equal. Using rocks and other items to make caves and such will work, but the most efficient way is to provide size specific shelter. 

I have experimented with multiple solutions. I have found two that work really well. I use stacked floor and wall tiles and/or custom made, kiln-fired structured clay. For the tile, I use travertine, a natural stone. I buy these in three sizes – 3″ x 6″, 4″ x 6″ and 6″ x 6″ (see photo below). Because they’re made of natural stone, the colors are typically earthly in nature (e.g., tans, light browns). You can get them at most home improvement stores and big box stores like Home Depot, Lowes, Menards, etc. Do not get presealed or pretreated tiles. 

Two sizes of travertine tile – 6″ x 6″ (l) and 3″ x 6″ (r). Note the porous nature of the tiles. Photo by the author.

I stack the tiles on top of each other using some type of spacers, depending on the size of gap I want. You can use just about anything to stack the tiles, but I prefer flat glass marbles (see photo below). You can buy these at craft stores or online (Amazon), and they come in many different colors.


Flat glass marbles. Photo by the author.
6″ x 6″ travertine tile with marbles at the corners for stacking. Photo by the author.
Two 6″ x 6″ and one 3″ x 6″ travertine tiles stacked using glass marbles. Photo by the author.

Another favorite is clay “bricks.” I get mine from They produce some standard bricks, which you can see in the photo below (they’re the dark colored structures underneath the travertine tiles).

33g long Julidochromis dickfeldi breeding tank with ceramic bricks and travertine tiles.

I also have some custom made bricks from Plecocaves with smaller openings to accommodate smaller juveniles.

Both the bricks and tiles have worked well for me. In fact, I use both in a tank containing a breeding pair of Julidochromis regani, which have produced numerous broods for me as well. They might be even more effective in the regani tank because it is a Tanganyikan community tank with some larger tang predator species. Thus the bricks and tiles protect the regani from not only the breeding adults but also from predation. 

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