Nimbochromis venustus pair. Photo by Anthony D. Davis.
My first successful breeding occurred quite by accident. I had a twenty gallon show tank where I kept a pair of Protomelas similis. By no means did I expect babies, until one day I noticed the small additions (eighteen of them) swimming around their mother. Since that time I have successfully bred a number of African Cichlids. Most of my knowledge has been gleaned via Internet sources such as this contest. Currently, I have four tanks. My show tank is a 130 gallon, I have a 55 gallon and two 20's. In the 20 Long I have a breeding trio of Melanochromis auratus. I do not want to imply that they have bred, but we'll keep hoping. The twenty long matches the shape of these fishes bodies well. I hope to have my first batch of babies from them within the next few months. In my other 20 gallon I have a young male Aulonocara "Red Shoulder Peacock." I have provided him with three young females which I obtained from my LFS (local fish store). I have a lot of success with peacocks so as soon as they are all ready I look forward to many more Red Shoulders. Currently, I have a very active pair of Nimbochromis venustus. I have included a picture of this pair. They stay mostly in my large tank with a few other small to large Malawi cichlids. (except for my one blue Cyphotilapia frontosa - So far no problems) This pair I will discuss in this breeding contest. I originally obtained this pair from my LFS. The male was approximately three inches and just beginning to fully show his color. The female was about half an inch smaller. Currently, the male is gorgeous and loves to push all the other tankmates around. This seems to add to his coloring. He measures approximately 6 inches total length, the female is about four inches total length.
Nimbochromis venustus male. Photo by Anthony D. Davis.
TANK DECOR:The tank is as rocky as space allows. This is an attempt to make them as happy as can be. From the smiles on their faces and the fact that they breed like clockwork, I think I will assume that they are in fish heaven. I first place a five inch flower pot in a corner of the tank which faces away from the busy side of the tank. (so far they have been in two of the four corners and seem to not have a preference) I then lay slate around the flower pot. This step is strictly for aesthetics. I would much rather look at neatly scattered slate than to look at a flower pot. The substrate is medium sized sandblasting sand. This resembles natural sediment and they love to dig it, move it and spit it at each other. I have two large plastic plants, but my female venustus has recently taken to carrying them around the tank. I am considering removing them.
WATER CHEMISTRY: My tank has a wet-dry filter approximately two times larger than it needs to be. My pump is also too powerful (it was on sale) so it has a redundant cycle, fancy word for a tee before returning to the tank which allows half of the water to be diverted back to the wet dry filter, thus providing just the right amount of return to the tank without occluding the outflow of the pump. The local pH of tap water = 8.0. To this I add Seachem Tanganyika Buffer (1 teaspoon/20 gallons) until the pH runs about 8.5. The hardness of my local tap water runs a bit high and I have never tested it.
TANK MAINTENANCE: My fish seem to love water changes. On the first week of every month I do a completely cleaning. Then on the second week of each month I perform a 20% water change. The complete cleaning includes a 40% water change, removal of the smaller decorations and cleaning off of the algae with a scrubbing pad. Then I place the rocks back in the tank making as many caves and hiding places as I can. The last step before replacing the water is to clean off the inside glass surfaces. My seem to enjoy the large flakes of algae that might be floating in the water after a quick cleaning of the glass. For the most part this tank stays at about the same balance. Very few changes in chemistry occur due to the great filtration system and the size of the tank.
TANK ILLUMINATION: I built a top for my aquarium that measures the full six feet length and has a width of half of the width of the tank. This holds two, two bulb four foot shop lights. Giving me four bulbs. For the first few months I ran all four bulbs eight hours a day with aquaglo bulbs. The amount of light seemed excessive. Now I have each light strip powered separately and each is on its own timer. One of the light strips runs for eight hours and the other turns on at 10 AM and shuts off at 3 PM. This was my attempt to simulate natural daylight with an artificial dusk and dawn. (My wife tells me it is just obsessive!) The real beauty of having extra light is that if I want to show off my fish I can turn all the lights on, but for everyday functioning I can have less intensity.
Nimbochromis venustus breeding tank. Photo by Anthony D. Davis.
TEMPERATURE(S) USED: I have a submersible 250 Watt heater that is mounted in my wet-dry filter just before the pump. This provides a stable 82-84 degrees Fahrenheit.
BREEDERS CONDITIONING: I only do what I have mentioned thus far in this description. During my time surfing I have read many different tricks and tips for breeding. For all the species that I have bred (all mouthbreeders) this works.
SPECIAL TRIGGER TRICKS: One trick I have found for my Venustus to get in the mood is to skip a water change. If I do not do the middle of the month 20% change and perform only the first week change with moving of the rocks the fish are performing their rituals within a couple days.
PAIR COURTING BEHAVIOR: The male begins following the female around nudging her from the side. At first this seems aggressive and she runs from him. Then he calms down a little and she allows him to swim close to her. As far as witnessing the actual event, my fish must be a bit shy. A day or two later she will have a mouthful of eggs and will have stopped eating. The most important part of feeding is to make sure everybody eats. Specifically watch to make sure every fish in the tank is eating. This will allow you to catch any potential pregnancies or health problems.
FRY CARE and COMMENTS: After a week or two (Or sooner if she is becoming too aggressive or being picked on by the other fish) I gently net her. This can be quite difficult to do! I remove as much of the rocks as possible and catch her between two large nets without chasing her too much. Watch closely to make sure she does not lose her mouthful. Then I remove her and place her in my 55 gallon tank. I keep this tank with numerous small tropical fish and my wives aquatic frog. To place her in I use a tank divider. She gets approximately 3/4's of the tank and they get the remaining. She stays in this tank (with water from the large tank) for the rest of the gestation. When the fry are able to survive on their own (approximately .5 cm - 1 cm) I catch them in a small net and place them in a breeding net hanging in this 55 gallon tank. Then I feed her for about two weeks until she regains her strength and place her in the large tank. When I place her in the large tank I also put in three or four feeder fish. These feeders give all the fish in the large tank something to chase therefore ignoring the newly added female. It is also very exciting to watch these large cichlids chase their prey. I am by no means an expert on breeding cichlids. I just enjoy my fish and what I do works for me and this type of fish. I want to thank everybody who posts info on the web about cichlids. Any cichlidiots who care to talk or have any suggestions for me I would love to hear from you. My e-mail is included.