I must confess that, when Francesco told me he was to send me some fry collected by him during his recent trip to Lake Malawi (Oct.99) I was really thrilled. When I saw these beauties it was just "Love at first sight". There were eight of them and, after putting them in their own tank (despite a two month quarantine, Francesco suggested that they should be kept isolated a bit longer), I decided that this 135 liter tank should be dedicated to them. It is decorated with plain sand (see above), some Vallinseria and Ceratophyllum species collected by Francesco during the same trip (see also Plants).
This species is a schooling one and you can observe this behavior even at the stage of fry. Five or more of them will form a team and swim around the tank in close formation. The fish in his native habitat continuously searches the sand for food (snails and invertebrates) and, when threatened, borrows in it. If someone is to respect this species' needs he should provide them with a thick layer of plain sand and very few rocks or other decoration. Its unique melanin pattern (three rows of dots without any stripes) identifies this species easily. The only drawback is its adult size which may reach 35 cm for the males.
The upper photo was taken in February 2000 and we estimate the fish to be about 7 months old. The photo in the middle was shot a month later (March 2000).
Fed sparingly 6-7 times per day at regular (2,5 hour) intervals, the fish seem to grow relatively fast (faster than C.moorii, under the same conditions) but have a voracious appetite. You may feed them every 30 minutes and still they will attack the food as if they starved to death. It is very difficult to avoid overfeeding them. I use to feed them very small portions of food many times a day. Very few things are known about this species kept in captivity (aggression etc.) but its large final size restricts it to hobbyists with really big tanks. If we also take the consideration that this is mainly a schooling fish then a species tank with 6-8 individuals should be no less than 2.000 liters. New photos will be added as the fish grows. The lower photo shows one Fossorochromis rostratus aged 4 months old (shot in November 1999). Finally, one of the Fossorochromis passed away in March 2000 (aged 7 months) for no apparent reason. It stopped feeding, started gasping and died within a couple of days. So there are now 7 of them fighting their battle against time.
Further notes (July 2000). I have one pair of them in the 500 liter mbuna tank and 5 more (1 male / 4 females) with a male Nimbochromis polystigma in their own 140 liter tank. Well, the data are as follows : The ones which share their own tank are growing considerably faster than the ones which live in the crowded mbuna tank. However they seem more lazy and usually stay close to the bottom. In contrast, the ones in the mbuna tank have grown less, but are always active, diving like rockets in the gravel, and yes, the male has developed blue patches in the face and some red in the anal fin. A further observation is that females appear to be of equal size (if not larger) at this age (roughly 1 year old). Perhaps the crowded, colorful environment have "awaken" the color mechanisms faster - something to be monitored.
The hobbyist should know that males of this species - as with many other Malawi Haps - take a very long time to reach sexual maturity, final size and develop its magnificent coloration. In view of that, the hobbyist should either wait patiently until this happens or buy already adult fish, which do not come cheap.
A recent (May 2002) personal observation by Andreas Iliopoulos on Fossorochromis rostratus. I would never house a single specimen of this species alone in a tank. I say that as I had to isolate an adult - full colored - male F. rostratus due to conflicts with another adult - but a bit smaller - male of the same species, both kept in the same tank. From the time it was left alone it lost all its color, sat down on the substratum, refused to accept any food and was trying to hide itself behind a rock or in the sand. Today I introduced in the tank some final sized Aulonocaras as it was in great misery and I couldn't stand to see it like that any more. The fish regained its colors in some minutes, started patrolling the tank and ate normally. The schooling behavior of the species was more than obvious to me after that. I thought that it was something worth sharing with all of you guys.
See next page for more pictures