Friday, November 14, 2008

Success with Telmatochromis sp. 'Red Cheek'

Telmatochromis sp. ‘Red Cheek’ is an intriguing cichlid native to Lake Tanganyika. This species, although on the aggressive side, can add some great character to a tank. Although their coloring isn’t as spectacular as some of the other cichlid species from Lake Tanganyika, they make a great addition to any mid sized tank with similarly aggressive species. They also provide for a great breeding experience.

I first acquired a pair from a local shop where they had spawned in the tank, keeping close to 10 other aggressive fish at a distance. Showing their die-hard parenting skills. The pair was young, with the male only 2 inches, with the female close to 1½ inches. The female laid around 15 eggs on the roof of a cave that had been dug out under a rock. While the female guarded the eggs, the male guarded the area, occasionally digging to keep the cave in proper order. At this point, I witnessed increased aggression from both the male and the female. I also noticed the eggs were a white coloring, giving me the implication that either due to inexperience or the male’s infertility (still too young) the eggs were infertile. At this point, I took the pair, and the rock they had spawned on home. The eggs were lost a few hours later.

Once in my aquarium, they settled in and remained sub-dominant fish for close to 3 months before they gained dominance in the tank. At this point the male was close to 4 inches, while the female is around 2 inches. When dominance was gained, spawning began. They were fed a varied diet, with an abundance of protein. Their preferred spawning site has been large shells, such as conch shells. Profuse digging by the male was observed before/during spawning. The pair were provided with a large rock pile, and three shells large enough for the female, but too small for the male. Spawning took place on and off over the period of a day. The male would begin by dancing and enticing the female towards a shell. Once she was ready, she entered and laid her eggs, while the male waited at the entrance releasing his milt.

Little aggression was witnessed between the pair, but I found the male to be very defensive and aggressive towards other fish in the tank. Once spawning was complete, the female tended to the eggs while the male guarded the territory similar to the activity I witnessed before.

This activity proceeded for around 10-12 days, at which point the free-swimming fry emerged from the shell. The fry were a little less than ¼ of an inch long, and had already absorbed their yolk sacks and were ready for food. The parents did not show any fry care after this point. They began the spawning process again typically 3-5 days later. The parents seemed to ignore the previous brood, which may represent colonial abilities, although I have witnessed cannibalism between fry of different broods and sizes. Brood sizes from my pair started around 20, and were close to 45 by the 3rd spawn. Fry that are left with the parents won’t stand much chance surviving, although a few may. I have found it is best to remove them to a separate, bare bottom aquarium equipped with a soiled sponge filter. Daily water changes, and once daily feedings of Baby Brine Shrimp kept the fry healthy and growing well. At one month of age, they are a little over ½ inch and can be slowly weaned off live foods onto prepared foods such as crushed flake and pellets. The fry grow at a slow-moderate rate. Fry from my pair were raised in a standard 10 gallon aquarium, with a bare bottom. I chose to use a bare bottom for ease of cleaning and to save money. The Ph and hardness were kept similar to that of the parents’ tank, temperature was kept at around 73 degrees. Water changes consisted of a 40% change daily. As mentioned growth was at a slow to moderate rate, although growth rates could be increased if reared at a higher temperature and fed smaller more frequent feedings throughout the day versus one large feeding daily. For the first two weeks, the fry appeared to remain rather inactive, remaining near the bottom for a great majority of the time, including during feeding time. After these two weeks, the fry began to develop more coloring and began being more active and venturing higher away from the substrate during feedings and occasionally during daily activities.

The water in which breeding began was medium hard, with a Ph of around 7.8. Weekly 30% water changes were performed on the 40 gallon tank the pair were housed in. The water was maintained at a steady 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

I have found this species to be quite enjoyable, and the colors not often seen at first glance are quite beautiful. This species is a wonderful, and recommend addition to any aquarium with similar sized species that sport a similar temperament. Their breeding patterns and habits are an intriguing and spectacular sight to witness.

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