Neolamprologus brichardi adult male. Photo by Juan Miguel Artigas Azas.
You get close to this 60 lt. (15 gal) tank attracted by the rockwork inside it. You see that at least half the 30 cm. (12 inches) height of the aquarium is occupied with rocks that go from side to side of it's 65 cm.(26 in.) length. Among the rocks you can see a beautiful pair of cichlids with fins produced into long white bluish filaments, the male you approximate 8 cm (3 1/4 in.), the female perhaps 6 cm. (2 3/8 in.). Looking at the label of the tank you notice they are Neolamprologus brichardi. You remember then they are known as the 'Princess of Burundi', coming from below 5 meters deep in lake Tanganyika. Yes, you sure have seen pictures taken in the rocky shores of the lake where thousands of those little gregarious fish are swimming dazzling among the boulders near to the shore, feeding on plankton. Observing the fish with more attention you see the pair close together and below them, among the rock crevices, many small about 5 mm. (1/5 inch) replicas of the adults are swimming around. When you observe those little fish you suddenly notice you can actually group them in two sizes, you decide the fry should come from two consecutive spawns.
You then open the log book beside the aquarium and start reading the carefully notes. Water chemistry has kept constant for the three years the tank has been kept, it is 7.6 pH and general hardness 9 German degrees, you think that perhaps the water has a lower pH and hardness values than lake Tanganyika water, but you notice it does all right. Temperature has been kept at 26 Celsius, you remember that higher than 28 Celsius temperatures would be deadly for most Tanganyika cichlids.
You keep reading and find out the tank receives weekly water changes of 25 percent of it's water volume, considering the stable conditions in which the fish live in the lake, you agree that a larger percentage leading to a possible change in water conditions could damage the cichlids. As you noticed, you read that a sponge filter has been used for all the lifetime of the tank and that the 2 cm. (3/4 in.) dark sand layer found in the bottom is vacuum cleaned with a wide open siphon hose every month or so. Other than that, no more maintenance is given to the tank but manually cleaning the glass of algae.
In the log you also learn that for food the pair has been offered a daily portion of a wide range of dry and live foods proper for their size, that they have always eaten ravenously.
You are surprised that this pair of cichlids have gone together in such a small tank, so well for so long, but remember that lamprologine cichlids form strong pair bonds and they can only be broken by sudden changes in the tank conditions, which in this tank have never happened. You think if this were the case the male will have no trouble killing the smaller female. Actually, you remember in lake Tanganyika this fish form pairs that may last for life, defending always the same territory. You think this behavior suites their well being in the tank that you have in front of you.
Juan Miguel comes close now and tells you that the pair spawn about every month, the female would disappear in a cave and normally lay and raise about thirty fry, which he feeds with artemia nauplii and some other prepared foods pulverized to their size. He mentions you than in the lake big colonies of this fish are found in the rocky areas, where the adults and the larger fry help in defending the smaller ones, and that they wander from site to site without being disturbed by the adults. A sight that you surely keep in your mind.
Neolamprologus brichardi fry. Photo by Juan Miguel Artigas Azas.