One of the most specialized predators in nature this fish pretends to be a carcass by lying side down and not breathing for a minute till the victim closes in. Then with a sudden side move it captures and eats it. This behavior can be watched in the aquarium environment and I have now witnessed it many times. The fish intensifies the white color and darkens the brown spot (becomes almost like a line art object). I have some copadichromis fry in the tank (didn't have any tanks left to carry the mother into). During the non-feeding day, the female N. livingstonii will try many times to eat some of the fry by lying down, in front of the cave the fry lives in (see photo of lying N.livingstoni).
The male changes colors many times a day from blue face with dark brown dots (see upper photo, bottom fish) to an overly bluish coloration with very faint spots. A good digger will dig huge amounts of sand when spawning. It grows to 23 cm or more and needs a very big tank (bigger than 750 liters). If housed with other Nimbochromis species some aggression may be observed between males and females of either species. The female livingstoni will readily breed with a male Nimbochromis polystigma if there is no male of her species and this should be noted. In a relatively big tank each male will find its own territory and aggression will be kept under control. During the spawning time, the fish will chase and attack whatever moves within one meter of its spawning site. Will eat anything offered though it favors frozen food and pieces of shrimp or fish fillet. Since it eats a lot it is advisable to feed it only once daily (recommended : once every other day) or small portions of food twice daily. Likes to swim a lot. In its natural habitat it is found in sandy regions densely planted with Vallisneria a scenery easily recreated in the tank providing a hiding place for the female. The water values are the ones suggested in the Malawi information section.
Recently my male had lost all appetite and was hanging motionless for a couple of days. I removed it into my hospital tank and when I released it the fish went down like a rock. I was really terrified and I thought that the shock had killed it. After 10 seconds (which seemed like a century) the fish started moving around. I concluded that it was a severe case and started the usual procedures for critical cases which include a metronidazole overdose for four days, complete water change followed by an oxytetracycline water bath for an additional four days. When the treatment was over the fish seemed better (it would even eat a small shrimp every day) and was swimming around the tank. After removing 70% of the water I started refilling the tank and then I saw the fish lying at its side motionless on a rock. I thought it was the stress again. Well after 10 seconds, when I was about to take him out it started moving again as if nothing had happened. I do not know if this reaction is really due to a shock or it is a defense reaction of livingstoni. It may well be that this fish uses the same reaction to capture its pray and when threatened.
Minimum tank size : 200 cm / 750 liters. If more than one male is to be kept than 250 cm / 1000 liters is the minimum recommended size.
See next page for close up of male, photo of fry and female in ambush.