Dr. Scott Juntti interview

Dr. Scott Juntti.
Just before COVID-19 reared its ugly head here in the states, I came across a university lab doing some fascinating cichlid research on breeding behavior. Using Astatotilapia burtoni, a maternal mouthbrooder from Lake Tanganyika in Africa, as the model fish for the research, Dr. Scott Juntti’s lab is attempting to unlock some of the mysteries surrounding A. burtoni breeding behavior.

Dr. Juntti became interested in neuroscience as an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin, where he fell in love with life in the lab. After completing his undergraduate work, including stops at labs in Germany and San Diego, he began his graduate work at the University of California, San Francisco. There he began working in Dr. Nirao Shah’s lab, where he studied social behavior using molecular genetic approaches in mice.

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New ‘Lamprologus’ caudopunctatus tank

30g Mr. Aqua rimless shellie tank. Photo by author.

A little over a year ago I picked up a 30g rimless tank (called Symbolic) by Mr. Aqua. At that time, I had intended to make it a species-only shellie tank of ‘Lamprologus’ ocellatus “gold”. I got the tank set up, cycled it with some existing media, and was off to the races. But as the saying goes, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry,” which is exactly what happened. My plan didn’t pan out for a variety of reasons.

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What shell characteristics do Neolamprologus multifasciatus prefer?

Photo of Neolamprologus multifasciatus in Lake Tanganyika. Jordan, Lyndon & Maguire, Sean & Hofmann, Hans & Kohda, Masanori. (2016). 

In the wild, creatures of all sorts have a plethora of options for shelter, breeding, nesting, etc. Some build their own, and others simply take advantage of what’s around them. Fish are no different.

However, your tank is not “the wild.” What is available to your cichlids is what you provide. They can’t move off to another area in search of something different or better. You force them to choose from what you give them. So if provided multiple options, what would your cichlids choose and/or use?

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Cichlid naming conventions

 

Word cloud image from https://www.wordclouds.com/.

So what does the word mean that often follows a cichlid’s scientific name? For example, you see Julidochromis transcriptus Bemba. What is Bemba? That’s the location from which that particular strain of fish originates or was collected from. So in the Julidochromis example I gave above, Bemba would be a specific town, island, bay, or cape on Lake Tanganyika. Sometimes the word will be in quotation marks, like Julidochromis transcriptus “Bemba”.

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My cichlid species “wants”

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.

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Hey, find your own spot!

75g Tanganyikan community tank. Photo by author.

Territory disputes? With both species only and community tanks, this can be a potential problem. It can be mitigated by overcrowding, i.e., having so many fish that no single fish can claim a territory. Even if your tank isn’t overcrowded, you can still sometimes ease such disputes if you move things around in the tank frequently (e.g., rocks, caves, decorations).

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Chris Carpenter interview

Chris Carpenter

Several years ago at one of the annual American Cichlid Association (ACA) conventions, I overheard a conversation about some shell dwelling cichlids. Being a dwarf cichlid enthusiast myself, my interest was piqued upon hearing the word “shellies.” I wasn’t eavesdropping but I clearly heard something equivalent to “You should check with Chris Carpenter. He keeps all kinds of shellies.” Like any hobbyist who constantly builds their knowledge base, I filed that name away.

In the years since that convention, I have heard Chris’ name mentioned numerous times. In an effort to ensure that my interviews on the blog cover all corners of cichlid keeping, I needed to get someone to talk about shell dwelling species. Because he is widely regarded as an expert on these fish, I looked him up and sent him a note about doing an interview. He promptly replied and happily agreed.

 

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Hey, who’s watching the kids, pt. 2

Juvenile Neolamprologus savoryi. Photo from http://aquarium-webzine.com/.

In 2017, I posted about alloparental care in cooperative breeding cichlids. In that post, I pointed to an article about such behavior in Perissodus microlepis, a small, rather non-descript cichlid species found in Lake Tanganyika. That particular study didn’t use a ‘direct observation’ method, but rather relied solely on a genetic parenting analysis. Studying cichlids in their natural habitat using observation, rather than observing them inside a controlled environment like an aquarium, allows researchers to partially eliminate effects of confinement on their observation results.

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