Paratilapia sp. East Coast small spot (Bleeker 1868) - II

An article by Francesco Zezza and George J. Reclos

Starting date in Athens : September 23rd, 2002

Number of individuals : 18 (small spot variety). Aged about 3 months at time of receipt.

Size (initial) : 9-11 mm

Tank size: 40 liters, back and one side covered, 1 cm sand on bottom, 3 stones and a couple of plants.

Feeding: Live mosquito larvae, bloodworms, egg-layer baby food (Tetra and Sera), finely chopped shrimps. They are fed 5-6 times daily – small quantities. Type of food varies each day.

Temperature: Initially 24oC, then raised to 28oC following the recommendation of Patrick.

Water changes: 65% per week with aged tap water – no dechlorinator added.

Filtration: One external EHEIM Ecco 2233 with pre-filter sponge attached on its inlet. Filter is mildly washed every month to remove undissolved particles and avoid clogging.

Lighting: One 15W fluorescent tube (full spectrum, 6500 K), 9 hours daily plus ambient (indirect) daylight for 7 more hours.

Comments, observations:

1st week (30/9/02): Fish are doing well and – although very difficult to be accurate – it seems they are gaining some size. No signs of aggression (as with Victorian cichlids) up to now. Fish need extremely small food particles since they have difficulty in eating even large mosquito larvae. The fish seem to belong in two size “classes” which are clearly distinguished. They are overly silver with a large black tilapia spot on the dorsal fin and vertical bars at the sides. This spot vanishes as the fish reach adulthood.

2nd week (6/10/02): Still no losses. They have very healthy appetites and they wouldn’t object if they were fed all day long. During this week the growth is noticeable – after close examination of the photos I got the previous week. On top of that, the bigger fish (size class A) show a darkening on their sides. Two of them (most probably males) show some spots on the anal and dorsal fins. They have already learned how to beg for food.. The largest fish measure about 14-16 mm already.

3rd week (13/10/02): No losses yet… The fish have reached the 18 mm mark although the females are considerably smaller, I would say something like 13 mm. All the males – which seem to be the majority of the fish I keep - have developed a series of black blotches while the first spots have appeared on the tail, the dorsal and the anal fins. Still fed 5-6 times daily while the water changes have been increased to 80% weekly. I should note that under the same conditions, most Malawi cichlids would have gained at least 25% more in size.

Photo of one of the biggest fishes in my tank. Compare this photo to the one above. It is evident that the fish has gained in height while the belly seems full.

4th week (20/10/02): Almost one month here and no losses yet… The fish have reached the 22 mm mark (including tail of course) although the females are still considerably smaller, I would say something like 13 mm. Measuring their length is not very easy as they move all the time. All the males – which seem to be the majority of the fish I keep - have developed a series of black blotches while the first spots have appeared on the tail, the dorsal and the anal fins. Still fed 5-6 times daily while the water changes have been further increased to 2 x 80% per week and the temperature has been lowered to 26C. The reason for this is the first sign of aggression between the (supposedly) males. I am already thinking about separating them in two tanks. I will give them one week before doing so while keeping a close eye on them. However, I must point out that an almost 100% growth in almost a month is not that slow.

5th week (27/10/02): To start with the basics - everybody is still alive and kicking (and eating like pigs). The fry now play with their colors which range from their black dress below (which resembles their final color) to the beige / dark bars one (above). Their length has increased less (28 mm the big ones) but the difference in body mass is impressive. Just compare the height of their body now to the one in the first picture. The aggression is a bit more evident although still not very serious. However, a second tank is ready.. While writing these lines we (I and Francesco) read a message by Manuel Zapater (Spain) about his P.polleni fry which killed each other when they reached a size of 5-8 cm. Needless to say that this really terrified us. Hours later came two responses by Louis Rovner " My experience in growing out young Polleni is that become very aggressive during feedings. Sometimes when there is not enough food during this time they would continue this aggression to the point of killing some of the smaller fish " and Dave Tourle "Sonia [Guinane] and I had no such problems with the P.polleni ' small spot ' we spawned a few years back,  they were crowded in a fairly small tank to start with and then moved to a larger growing on tank when they reached about 2 to 3 cm.  I agree with Lou Rovner's observation that they become far more agitated and aggressive when fed (and this seems true of Madagascans at any age or size!)". Now we feel somewhat more optimistic.

6th week (3/11/02): Again, I start with the essential part: no losses. The fish look more and more like adult Paratilapia polleni. Despite what I thought, their growth rate remains the same, if not somewhat increased. The largest fish are very close to the 35 mm mark while they have much deeper bodies now. The quantity of the food per feeding has been also increased while two meals consist of frozen shrimps and mussels - the rest are mostly commercial baby food. The number of feedings has been kept constant at 5-6 feedings / day and will remain the same for quite a long time, especially after learning what other hobbyists have experienced. I can see that they can now eat larger pieces of food so I may avoid the "cutting to small pieces" step. Unfortunately, my stock of mosquito larvae is all consumed. When the fish grow bigger I will introduce small live earthworms to their diet. Water changes have been also increased to 2 x 80% plus 1 x 50% per week. Once they reach the 50 mm mark 2/3 of them will be transferred in an 100 liter tank unless aggression makes it compulsory sooner.

The book entitled "The Endemic Cichlids of Madagascar" by Patrick de Rham and Jean - Claude Nourissat is now available in English. Click here to find out how to order and here to read the back cover page of the English edition.

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