Neolamprologus pulcher pair at Kantalamba, southern Tanzania, Lake Tanganyika. Photo by Rusty Wessel.
In the early spring of 2001 I went on my first collecting trip and had the time of my life. I wanted to go somewhere again with my cichlid die-hard friends. I didn't have a specific site in mind, I just knew that I wanted to experience the fish in the wild and have that camaraderie with my friends again.
When summer rolled around Caroline Estes, Pam Marsh and I heavily hinted to our collective male cichlid friends for an invitation to go check out cichlids anywhere. And the results…. let see… how can I put this nicely? They said they liked us, they had a good time with us, we are fun to be with, we held our own…but we were girls… That isn't exactly how they put it… but that was basically the gist. It wasn't a no, not ever again, but the bottom line was probably not anytime soon.
On hot August day in Sacramento, Caroline and I were on our way to pick up Ad Konings at the airport. We were trying to accept the verdict of our cichlid amigos, in our hearts we understood where they were coming from, but we are not your typical girls, we are cichlid girls, and we know it is all about the fishes. On the way back to the hotel we were crying on Ad's shoulder, and he gave us a big eye roll and said, "Girls, if you want to go on a fish trip, come with me to Lake Tanganyika, in the fall of 2002." I didn't even have to think about it, "Count me in!" I said. Caroline was hesitant at first, but before the weekend was over she was already making plans.
It didn't take long for the word to get out that we were planning an "Ad" adventure, and the very boys we were begging to go with the day before were now begging Ad to go with us. Isn't that ironic! And so the BITCH Tour, Tanganyika 2002, was set.
When you plan a fish trip you develop a list of target of fish that you hope to see in their natural habitat, and on my list towards the top was Neolamprologus pulcher "daffodil." I have been interested in the "brichardi-complex" for quite some time, and of course the "daffodil" has been one of my favorites. Many may think that they are common and even a fish for just beginners, but I will always have "daffodil" in my fish room. They are so elegant in my eyes, with their long flowing fins, beautiful yellow hues, blue eyes and the distinctive markings on their cheeks. Their reproductive habits are classic, and while many hobbyists move on to more complex species, to me the spawning behavior of the "brichardi-complex" is the epitome of the family Cichlidae. The parental care and family structure is so interesting to watch, I still find them rewarding after many years. And to me it is what fish keeping is all about, working with the fish that you enjoy, not necessarily what the current rage is.
The members of the "brichardi complex" are found throughout the rocky shores of Lake Tanganyika, however Neolamprologus pulcher "daffodil" is found near the Kalambo River that is the border for Tanzania and Zambia. I was elated when Ad told us we were going there… then he told me they are usually found at depths around of 6 - 9 meters (20 - 30 feet). Since I could barely swim, which is another story, I would be depending on the boys to tell me all about them.
Direct from my diary..
Today we visited the town of Muzi in Tanzania where we "bought" our visa's which allowed us to dive and swim in the waters of Tanzania, and we couldn't wait. Louis kept the boat headed south and soon we turned into a small cove and set anchor. This was Kambwimba home of the "daffodil" and the "red rainbow" Tropheus and it was quite beautiful!
The boulders on the edge of this inlet were huge; they were as big as cars. There was a small sandy beach, but we could see brown monkey's hanging out, and we decided that we better not go too close. Caroline jumped into the water first and headed for the rocks, where she found some shade and watched us get ready to dive and snorkel. The boys surfaced after jumping in and told Pam and I it was probably 6 meter (20 feet) deep right off the boat, I was quite surprised since I could clearly see the rocks below the water line. I was the last to jump in, it was deep, and the rocks were enormous. The water was incredibly clear, and I could see that the boulders continued right down into the water and even deeper than I would ever go.
I saw tons of Tropheus, Petrochromis and even N. cylindricus, there were many fish that looked familiar but the names would escape me. Cyprichromis were everywhere and a couple of male O. ventralis that were so bright I was amazed. Even though I was snorkeling I thought I saw Cyphotilapia frontosa, and couldn't believe it but Ad told me later they were actually Plecodus straeleni the fish that mimics C. frontosa. they were doing a good job of it!
I snorkeled up towards the beach first, and saw N. caudopunctatus darting in an out of the rocks. Like everywhere else I had been on the lake, the fish would dive for the rocks when they first saw you, but if I would just float and stay still they would come out from everywhere and continue whatever they were doing, mostly either guarding or eating.
Then I turned around and headed towards the point of the cove along the rocky shoreline. There was a huge rock with an overhang, and I watched the fish there for quite some time. Right in front of this was a large boulder, I saw a pair of Lamprichthys tanganicanus (Killifish) spawning, and it was wonderful. I watched this pair laying their eggs, hoping they would fall in to the crack on this boulder, it was hard for me to tell if any eggs where actually making it in there, as it was a feeding frenzy for all the cichlids in the immediate area. I could clearly see the Tropheus and Petrochromis as well as others were having a hay day eating the eggs as fast as this female could lay them. I finally had to move on, even though this was fascinating, I have my cichlid reputation to uphold!!! I didn't want to miss anything else because I was mesmerized by a couple of Killifish.
As I continued towards the point, I could see the boys below me hovering over a pile of rocks, and I slowly moved up on them wondering what would keep them in one place for so long. It was Tropheus moorii "red rainbow" and this male was so colorful that I too just floated and watched. He had his rock, and was guarding and courting all at that the same time. I must have this Tropheus, as it is spectacular.
The boys stayed pretty shallow today as there was so much to see in the first 6 meter (20 feet) or so and they were down at least 2 hours. I was first back in the boat, after about an hour and a half of snorkeling, as I was getting cold. I tried like hell to use my fins to power up in to the boat, but it was a lost cause. Louis grabbed my arm and pulled me in, I can't imagine what he thinks of my swimming skills! We all had problems getting in and out of the boat; Hanneman can't make it in even when everyone else is in it. We all stand on one side of the boat lowering the edge until water is almost coming in, and then we would all yell "Crocodile!"
A month after I got home, I had the chance to pick a few species to be shipped in, and Neolamprologus pulcher "daffodil" was on my list. I am thrilled with my new "daffodil" from Kambwimba, they are totally different then the "daffs" I have in my fish house now. They are quite yellow, but the blue sheen is wonderful and it is even more intense in their cheeks and eyes. Their body is much slimmer and not as tall, as the domestic "daffs." After a 30-day quarantine, I placed them in a 50-gallon tank with many spawning caves, since they were 2-1/2 - 3" long; I was hoping that they would pair up quickly. Their fins were a bit frayed from the long trip, but they still looked very healthy.
This tank was right across from where my computer is set up in the people house, and I was able to keep a close eye on them. After about 30 days, two fish had pushed the rest to one side of the tank, and I hoped that this possible pair would spawn soon. Gary moved them to the fish house, in a smaller tank, and in a few weeks, he reported they had a clutch of fry. I was thrilled to say the least.
When I look at these beautiful "daffodils," I think about how I was able to swim in the very waters they came from, and how they are truly the ultimate souvenirs. If it has been a while since you have had the opportunity to work with any cichlids from the "brichardi-complex" I urge you to give them a try again, as you won't be disappointed! I have a cichlid friend that says, "if N. brichardi is the "Princess of Burundi", then "daffodil" must be the "Queen of Lake Tanganyika" and I couldn't agree more!
Sunset at lake Tanganyika. Photo by Pam Marsh.