Pelvicachromis pulcher breeding pair in the heavily planted aquarium. Photo by Shane Linder.
A friend tells you that he is going over to Shane's place to check out his fish room. Your friend asks if you want to come along. Sure, why not, you think. On the way over, your friend tells you that Shane is one of those strange catfish people. However, your friend goes on, Shane also is known to keep a cichlid or two. Well, you think, at least there will be a couple of cichlids, so the trip will not be entirely in vain. You soon arrive and are welcomed into Shane's house. There is fresh coffee and cold beer and soda. Drinks are poured and chit-chat is made. After a couple of minutes you ask about the fish room. "Oh sure", Shane says, "come on in and take a look around". The fish room is actually a second bedroom that has been converted to a hobbyist's dream. Your attention is immediately attracted to a 55 gallon tank along the west wall, The tank is piled high with gray rock and flashes of orange and yellow dart amongst the rocks. Shane explains that this is his "Tanganyika In Yellow" tank. The tank is populated solely with yellow lamprologines. You see caudopunctatus, leleupi, and pulcher "daffodil". Nice display, you think.
The breeding tank of Pelvicachromis pulcher. Photo by Shane Linder.
Your attention shifts to the various ten, twenty, and thirty gallon tanks that line the north and west walls. You have to look hard to see the catfishes in many of the tanks. They just are not as rambunctious as the cichlids that you are used to. "Do not say it", Shane says. "Say what", you reply. "Do not ask me why there are no fish in my tanks. Every non-catfish person has to make a joke that catfish people seem to keep only empty tanks!" Shane gripes. A chuckle escapes your lips and you think", "How did he knows that was what I was thinking?" However, there are some catfishes that impress you. You admit that even the most jaded cichlidophile has to admire the color and style of some of the catfishes you see. One species in particular catches your eye. Shane explains that they are Scobinancistrus aureatus from the Rio Xingu in Brazil. "Come check this out," your friend says.
The tank is a very heavily planted 20 gallon high. Your eyes strain trying to see through the foliage, but you can not see anything. Then you catch a flash of white. An albino male krib navigates through the plants. He fearlessly swims right up to the glass and you wonder just who is watching who! His mate appears out of nowhere and also checks you out. Convinced that you are not a threat, she swims back into the plants. The male stands his ground. You realize that, by the fish's color and behavior, they must be guarding fry. It is difficult to see into the tank, and so you look carefully. Then, sprinkled like tiny diamonds among the Java moss, you see several small krib fry. They are happily picking at invisible foods in the moss.
You can see that the tank is heated to 78°F. In the back of the tank you see a small airstone that gives off a few bubbles every two to three seconds. Shane explains that this is a do-it-yourself CO2 system using sugar and yeast in a two liter pop bottle. The small external filter on the tank is on a timer that is opposite of the timer that controls the two 20 watt fluorescent bulbs. For 12 hours a day the lights are on and there is no filtration. When the lights go out, and the plants stop giving off oxygen, the filter comes on and provides additional aeration for the fish.
You are amazed at the beauty of the tank and the fantastic health of the kribs. Shane explains that the pH fluctuates between 6.0 and 6.5. The water is very soft at 2 DH. Twenty five percent of the water is changed weekly. The substrate is fine sand collected from a 1ocal creek. The plants consist of various species of Hydrophilia, Java moss, Java fern, and Indian fern (Ceratopteris thalictroides). "What about those gorgeous kribs?", you ask. "The kribs were purchased at a local pet store," Shane replies. He goes on to say that he does not know who developed this particular albino strain, but he is doing his best to spread the fry to other hobbyists. The fish were purchased February 15, 1996. They spawned on March 11, 1996, but in typical cichlid fashion, ate their first brood. The next spawning was on April 13, 1996 and they managed to raise 20 fry. Since then they have spawned regularly every two months. The fish have become much better parents over time and an average of 180 fry are now raised to sale size (about one inch) out of each spawn. Shane goes on to say that if the fry are removed immediately, the parents will spawn at 27-30 day intervals. The parents are fed Tetra Bits, frozen bloodworms and frozen brine shrimp. The routine is normally two days of dry food with a treat of frozen food every third day.
You are amazed at how bright the female's red belly appears against her pale body. When the female is ready to spawn, her belly gets so red that it looks like a siren. There is no doubt in anyone's mind about when she is ready to mate. When gravid, the female swims in front of the male and arches her body away from the male. This shows off her bright belly and lets the male know she is ready. If the male is ready, he will nudge the exposed side of the female with his mouth. The female then shakes her entire body so frantically that she appears to be having convulsions. After a day or two of this, the female will follow the male to a spawning location. The fish prefer to spawn in a cave-like structure and eggs are normally attached to the cave's roof. However, Shane also says that he has seen kribs spawn on flat rocks, pieces of driftwood, in small depressions that the parents have excavated in the sand, and even on the sides of the tank itself! The fry are left with the parents for the first six weeks and are then transferred to rearing tanks. The rearing tanks, which you can see against the wall, are bare ten gallon tanks with a sponge filter and heater only. You notice a small piece of cucumber in each rearing tank. Shane tells you that the cucumber provides fresh greens to the fry 24 hours a day and does not pollute the fry tanks. You notice that many fry surround each chunk of cucumber and are tearing off small pieces to eat. Shane says that he has had great growth rates with this method and recommends it for most fish fry. The fry are fed on a diet of live brine shrimp nauplii for the first two weeks. After this they are fed a combination of Tetra "E" fry food for egg layers and ground up Tetra Bits.
Your friend asks why, with all the new and beautiful cichlids available, does Shane still devote tanks to the common krib? Shane thinks for a second before replying. "I have kept a lot of cichlids through the years, but the krib has never worn out its welcome or its novelty. If there is a perfect cichlid, this is it. They are colorful, have lots of personality, are easy to spawn, make great parents, do not dig up plants, and they are not so delicate, or aggressive, that they can not live with just about any other fish. What more could you ask for? In fact, I would have to honestly say that if I had only one tank with cichlids in my fish room, that tank would have a pair of kribs." You think it over and realize that it has been a while since you kept any kribs. They were fun fish to keep. You leave Shane's fish room with a smile on your face, and a bag of six krib fry in your hand.