Biotope: Lake Malawi. Can be found everywhere, mostly in sandy areas, sifting the bottom while looking for food (also my personal observation in the wild); often followed by Cyrtocara moori. This later habit can, losely, be observed ALSO in tanks. No local morph are, up to now, known.
Tank: Only concern is its actual (adult) size: up to 35 cm. Tank size has to be chosen accordingly. Aquascape the tank in the usual Malawi fashion, provide both large sandy areas and wide swimming space. I feel 500 liters (125 US gals) is the bare minimum for a trio/quartet. Although it is actually a schooling fish, F. rostratus does better in larger quarters/groups. I keep my six specimens in 750 liters (200 US gals). Blue lamps, beside the white ones, (or subdued lighting) helps these mighty fellows to feel better.
NOTE: this fish is shy: even the dominant male (about 20 cm right now) when stressed turns himself into a “female” (shows the typical “checkboard” melanin pattern of females of this genus). In wild when they feel in danger they – quickly - bury themselves in the sand …
Water chemistry: Alkaline water, period. If you plan to add crushed oysters/corals mixed in bottom gravel to buffer the water, choose ABSOLUTELY tiny, and rounded, grains (I actually did so, with good results). Since this fish is a sifter sharp edges may result in mouth wounds.. You can also see the water parameters I measured during my last visit in Lake Malawi.
Spawning: This fish takes (as it has been reported) two years to reach to adulthood. Since my fishes were caught near Monkey Bay, in October1999 (1 cm in size; 0,5 inch) they are supposed reach adulthood in the second half of this (2001) year. Up to now only the dominant male is showing colors and no real courting activities have been observed. I expect them to act as most Utaka.
Food: Everything: flakes, pellets, tablets, frozen shrimps, picks zucchini (offered to plecos hosted in the same tank), frozen blooworms, artemia. Food is taken at surface, floating in the water and at the bottom. The habit of picking up sand/gravel looking for food helps to keep the bottom layer clean.
Tank Mates: My group is kept with lots of Utakas (Haps) such as Copadichromis borleyi, Aulonocara stuargranti “Cobuè”, Lethrinops intermedius, Cyrtocara moorii and a pair of M’buna (because of “wrong sex ratio” in another tank) and two big plecos. … It is reported to be a schooling fish hence more than one males can be kept in the same tank; as a matter of fact a second specimen is, now, gaining colour … so far so good! However, I expect to face problems when a “real” breeding behavior starts. Note: Those fishes were part of a large group caught at the lake and shared with Marco (a friend of mine, who shared with us – Stefania and me – our 2nd trip to Lake Malawi) and George (co-author of MCH): all the fish, as far as I know, are growing at a similar rate and behaving in the same way.