Altolamprologus calvus "White Chaitika" III - Raising the fry

Text & photos by Frank Panis

Day 1

After observing the Altolamprologus calvus parents for a few days I knew that they spawned again. I looked carefully into the shell every day and at a sudden moment I saw several tiny dots moving. This was clearly the sign for me to start the "NO RISK"  procedure. I was very determined to raise as much calvus fry as possible, and I knew from previous experiences that leaving them in the large tank would mean the same as losing all of them. After all, a juvenile that leaves the shell and that doesn't find the way back home is a welcome snack for all other cichlids in the tank. In a later stage when the parents will have their very own tank I'll leave the shell in there to observe the care that the parents will take in raising their own fry when they are not disturbed by other cichlids. Anyway, this is where I could only dream of at that very moment, so I unpacked a new 40L tank that I bought during the previous spawn and put it in the living room where I am most of the time. I started with adding 20L water, 0.5L sand and a rock from the mother tank. Then I cut a bit of filtration sponge out of the existing tank to be put in the small motor filter and did a short "test drive". All seemed OK so I decided to fill it up with another 15L water of the mother tank. Then I took a transparent 1L measuring beaker and went downstairs to get the shell with the fry. The parents moved back when my hand entered the water (With lamprologus occelatus these hands would probably have been attacked fiercely for a few times already!) and I gently put the shell into the beaker and lifted it from the bottom. I carefully poured out the excess of water and went upstairs to the 40L tank. Once there the beaker was submersed and the shell was put on the bottom with the greatest care. Then I filled up the tank with the remaining water in the bucket and left the shell in peace. Less than an hour later the first juvenile came out of the shell and moved a bit over the sand. By night almost all of them were out of the shell and they rested on the rock or the sand. I fed them for the first time with a tiny bit of JBL novo Tom artemia. There was not much response though.

The first little calvus out of the shell.


Now all of them were out of the shell resting on the bottom. When I switched on the light some of the fry reacted a bit skittish, but they didn't freak out though. Again I fed them with the JBL powder food and I saw some of them jumping from the bottom to grab a particle. They seemed to get the taste of it. The water became a bit hazy, most probably of the mechanical filtration that was not quite perfect yet. This worried me a bit though ,and I thought that a water change would not be a bad idea. This is known to be the most difficult part in raising these Tanganyika cichlids though, as they don't tolerate changing water parameters very good. I talked about this issue with my friend Staf, and he admitted that he lost some of his Synodontis petricola juveniles with every water change. Yes, getting these calvus to adulthood with no losses at all was my main target and would be very satisfying. After work I fed them again and I decided to do the water change the next day.

Day 3

The sloooooow water change. I decided that 30% would be enough to start with. A 20L bucket was filled with fresh tap water with the right temperature. After aerating it very well for 30 minutes I've put this bucket on a higher shelf near the tank and I used an air hose to siphon the fresh water into the tank. It took me more than 30 minutes to add 15L water, but it was worth it in my opinion. "Better safe than sorry" is the main MCH motto, and it was certainly of use here! I also attached an air hose to the power filter for better aeration. This also cleared the surface from floating dirt. I fed the fry 4 times that day, and I saw them going after the food more eagerly every time!

Day 4

The haze was completely gone now. Food was eagerly taken and given in the morning, at 10am, at noon and at 11pm when I arrived back home from work. Do they grow? I think YES! Do they die? Not a chance!

Day 5 and beyond

5 feedings and again the sloooooow water change. After feeding them they even came to the upper half of the tank to eat food particles there! I continued this schedule during the next days.

5 days after the move: A juvenile resting on the heater.

16 days after the move. If you compare it's size with that of the heater you see that it has grown quite a bit. They don't look like their parents yet, but I hope that this will change soon!

 After a month the calvus fry were moved to a larger grow-out tank and they also tolerated water changes like any other African cichlid would allow. They didn't grow much though. I talked with a Tanganyika connoisseur about my experiences with these calvus, and he told to me that a slow growth rate in the first months is quite normal for them. Now I knew what to expect, so raising them would not become too frustrating in the end.

End of August 2005: not much changes in the body yet.

September 2005: the shape of the mouth seems to change a little bit.

October 2005: The 3 month fry already resemble their parents much more. Click for a larger image.

Photo of the Month - November 2005

After 3 months I can finally notice some progress in the growth of the Altolamprologus calvus. Their body shape resembles that of the parents much more than in the very first beginning and you can clearly distinguish the males from the females as they are definitely much larger. Also their behaviour get more pronounced by the day. I keep on feeding them very regularly and they get frequent and massive water changes that don't seem to have nasty effects on them. After all most people say that Tanganyika cichlids only tolerate water changes at a volume of 25% maximum each time...


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