This species comes from Lake Tanganyika although it is not endemic in the strict sense of the word (also found in Tanzania and Eastern Africa). However, since its water needs are the same to those of cichlids from Lake Tanganyika it is regarded as part of this group. First described by Boulenger 1898. The characteristic (strange) shape of this fish makes it a valuable addition to all Tanganyican cichlid tanks.
Quite aggressive for its size (see bottom photo with a juvenile Nimbochromis linni) it thrives in the correct water chemistry (alkaline pH preferably in the 7,8 - 8.5 range, high GH preferably over 10). As with all Tnaganyikan cichlids, large water changes should be avoided as the fish doesn't tolerate changes in the water temperature. It is suggested to perform regular small changes and, if the water temperature can't be matched during the change, use warmer rather than colder water. An egglayer (not a mouthbrooder), the female finds an opening too small for the male to enter and chooses it as its spawning site. A way to help this process is by providing empty (washed thoroughly with hot water) shells of various sizes so the female will choose the one that fits it best. Another advantage of using shells is that they help GH to remain high. May spawn very frequently (once every 45 days) if conditioned correctly. During spawning the fish is very shy and the process may be easily overlooked by the aquarist. The female may lay as many as 300 eggs and then she guards the eggs and the fry while the male guards the territory.
Males may reach 11 cm in length although fully grown males may be as small as 5 cm. Females are somewhat smaller. Males can be recognized by their longer finnage and higher bodies. Despite its relatively small size there are two factors which call for a spacious tank: the species' aggression and the fact that it is a cichlid. It is ideal for Tanganyika community tanks and can be housed with Malawi or Victoria cichlids of comparable size and temperament. Since this fish is not very aggressive compared to Tropheus sp. Or Melanochromis sp. a careful selection is a must taking into account its relatively small size. Will accept any kind of commercial food in an aquarium. Although a predator in nature this behavior is very rarely seen in aquariums (which doesn't mean that it shouldn't be taken into account). The fish can't tolerate high temperatures and it is not rare to have high rate of losses at temperatures near (or slightly over) the 30C mark. In comparison, Malawi cichlids are more tolerant in this aspect (at least for a limited period of time).
Photos: April 2000.