A male Lamprologus occelatus male in the aquarium. Photo by Dmitry Waniushkin.
One of the shell dweller cichlids in my 350 l tank is Lamprologus ocellatus "Nkamba bay". I obtained this interesting Tanganyikyan in March, 2001. At that time I thought about getting some "shelldwellers" and finally these bright small cichlids were selected.
I didn't want to start a new separate tank for this fish, and so the new settlers were placed in the 350 l together with an adult Ophthalmotilapia ventralis. The water chemistry was GH 25, pH 8 with a temperature of 26-27 C. I didn't change the menu of my old inhabitants in this tank and the newbies started to eat the standard food for this aquarium: white mosquito larvae, cyclops, brine shrimps and also flake food from Tetra, Sera and Wardley. I don't trust Polish and Russian dry foods, but that it's my own opinion.
The "German babies" were 3-4 months old and were rather dully colored. And I thought, that fish dealer mixed up color variations, because my "Nkamba bay" didn't look like "gold ocellatus". But some time later, with good feeding, color began to come back. In the nature Lamprologus ocellatus live in empty snails (Neothauma tanganyikae). And far enough from "natural habitats" I used an empty Ampularia and Rapan shells. But my little guests did not pay attention to new dwelling-places.
Three months later, with regular water changes it was possible to enjoy the really magnificent coloring of these interesting shell dwellers. Males started spawning games and shined with yellow-orange colors, looking like holding ear-rings with black blotches on their gill covers, edged with a striking neon margin.
But as it appeared, males are colored rather modestly in relation to females, whose body is brighter, the blotch on the stomach shines and the fringing caudal and anal fins shine with bright yellow color. But all this iridescent roundabout and demonstration of force, consisting in erecting fins came to an end in 1-2 hours after a change of water. I have made a conclusion, that fishes were still too young.
The spawning area of Lamprologus occelatus in the aquarium. Photo by Dmitry Waniushkin.
Spawning came unexpectedly after a change of water when one of the females began noticeably more active than the others and rushed from shell to shell, males (as it seemed to me) bewildered looked at this turmoil. Eventually, the female choose one of the shells in the territory of one (not the larger) of the males and began to clean it up. She got her head into the shell cleaning out everything that was inside. She used her mouth for carrying away all the accumulated dust. This entire time the male did not participate in the work. The male remained close and his behavior didn't look like that of protection. When the female's work had finished, he came near to the selected shell. The female spent her time inside the empty shell and rarely appeared on the outside. Then came the male's turn. He lay down on the shell aperture, and placed himself in the powerful filter stream with his ventral fins. Spawning then apparently took place. The female lay on the sand near the spawning shell and snatched on everybody who swam nearby. The male left from the breeding place and did not swim back any more.
The female cleared out an area around the shell and as some authors consider, this is done to get the biggest crop of plankton. Observing her work under the strong flow of the filter, it was not clear to me how the female managed the. Suddenly one day the fry appeared outside of the shell.
The second day after the fry was out and when they had attained a length of approximately 7 mm. I used a small hose with a glass tube inserted in one end to siphon some of them out. The fry were placed in a 4 liters breeding box which was let hanging inside a 350-l tank. Two weeks passed, and the fry had slightly grown up on Artemia and crushed flake food. At the present, they have not attained the bright colors of their parents. They show an ordinary-looking grayish coloration.
As I already said, L. ocellatus like in because of the size (up to 5 cm), are suitable for small aquariums that will allow even beginners to get themselves these nice "bulldogs."
Lamprologus occelatus defending territory in the aquarium. Photo by Dmitry Waniushkin.