Haplochromis sp. "thick skin" males. Photo by Frederic Potvin.
Here is the breeding tank of a Victorian cichlid, Haplochromis sp. "ThickSkin". I obtained these fishes from a local petstore which most likely got them from a Florida fish farm. At the time, I noticed 4 uncolored and stressed small fishes (two inches total length) in the corner of a small tank labeled "Haplochromis obliquidens". As a matter of fact, these fishes are often confused with the zebra obliquidens (Astatotilapia latifasciata), and I even seen those misidentifications in reputable fish magazines. I got the proper identification of these fishes from Paul V. Loiselle, at the New York aquarium, where they were in display with the real obliquidens at the time. To make a long story short, I traded these four individuals for some adults Haplochromis sp. "Flameback" and placed them in a 25 gallons tank furnished with plenty of rocks on a gravel substrate, and with some plants, notably Anubia nana, Aponogeton crispus and Vallisneria gigantea. The tank is aerated, well filtered with a Fluval 203TM and heated with a VisithermTM 150W. Illumination was provided by a PowerGlowTM (Hagen) 30W for 16 hours a day.
Haplochromis sp. "thick skin" female. Photo by Frederic Potvin.
When placed in that set up, the fishes immediately colored up, and I turned out to have two males and two females. The males are very colorful, on a greenish background, they show a dark barring pattern, yellow sides and red anal and caudal fins. The dorsal fin shows a brilliant blue coloration. This fish in one of the most colorful fishes I ever kept. The female and juveniles have only the greenish ground color. I conditioned them with good quality flake food (Wardley's total tropicalTM) and spirulina flakes. The water conditions were a pH of 8, a hardness around 8 German degrees, and a temperature of 78°F. Weekly water changes of 50% of the tank volume were performed to manage the nitrogen cycle. I had to wait only a week or so before these beauties begun spawning. I even witness one of these spawnings, and it happens in the typical fashion of a maternal mouthbrooder. Their favorite spawning site consisted of a flat and smooth rock, with a 30° inclination. The female circles tilted on her flank on the spawning site, releasing eggs, while the male nudges her flank. She then turn around quickly while the male lays on his flank shaking, she picks the eggs in her mouth and then mouth the anal fin of the male while he releases his milt. They change places again and repeat this process for about 20 runs. The whole spawning takes about 30 minutes, beginning by 5 or 6 dry runs, while the male intermittently chases any intruder from the breeding territory. The brood size averages 30 fry, which are incubated for 20 to 25 days if the fish is left alone, depending on the temperature. The average under my conditions was around 22 days. Personally, I prefer to strip the brooding females after 15 days, which procedure avoid the female from getting too weak after a long starvation, and she get back into breeding condition more rapidly. I then place the fry which is almost free swimming at that time in a bare bottom small tank with a corner filter and plenty of aeration. I feed them crushed flake food as soon as they are free-swimming.
The males of this species are quite aggressive, and they turned out to be the dominant fish in a community aquarium with Flamebacks twice their size. The females must be provided plenty of hiding place to withdraw themselves from the insistent courtship of the males.
I really enjoyed keeping this swimming beauty in my tanks, and I advise you to not miss any opportunity to acquire this fish if you have a chance to do so.
Special rights for exclusive electronic distribution are given to Juan Miguel Artigas Azas, in The Cichlid Room Companion.