An adult Pelvicachromis taeniatus female in the aquarium with her fry. Fish and Photo by Torben Larsen.
The Pelvicachromis taeniatus 'Nigerian red' is a small and peaceful west african dwarf cichlid (see Figure 1). The total length of the male can be up to 9cm and the female up to 6cm. Sexing them is not difficult with the female being substantially smaller than the male. The colour of the male is mainly light brown, and the dorsal fin of the male is longer and more pointed than for the female. The female is bright yellow in the lower part of the head, and she has a black lateral line across the body from head to the caudal fin. The female also has a black marking at the end of the dorsal fin where the male has black marking on the caudal fin. As is the case with many fish, the colouring intensifies at courting and spawning time. At spawning time the belly of the female is bright red and the dorsal fin is metallic gold coloured. The male shows bright purple on the edges of the dorsal fin and on the entire anal fin. They are particularly beautiful at this time. Zadnik  gives excellent descriptions of the many colour variations of the Pelvicachromis taeniatus and of the geographical locations and water composition where it can be found in nature.
One Pelvicachromis pair was placed in a 180L tank (100cm wide, 45cm high and 40cm deep), which also contained one female Pterophyllum scalare 'black'. The scalare was there as I didn't have anywhere else to put it - afterall it wasn't the plan to have fry from the taeniatus pair anyway. The tank had roughly 4-9cm fine (1mm) light (but off-white) gravel. Illumination via 2 fluorecent lights each of 30W running for 12 hours a day. One hour before and after this illumination, a low burning lamp prevented a rapid change in light intensity. Some pieces of wood were placed in the right hand side of the tank as well as rock caves in the left hand side. The tank thus provided several hiding places and it was pretty well covered with plants - in particular fast growing plants such as Egeria densa and Cabomba. A green/black painted plate of styrofoam cut to the correct size was taped to the outside rear of the tank to provide a nice background.
I used tap water with a ph of 8 and general hardness of 8dGH. Three big handfuls of Sera biopeat granulate were placed in three nylon nets at the filter intake for lowering ph and hardness a tad and to improve water quality. Ph in the tank was 7.5 (which is on the high side and may result in skewed male/female ratio), and general hardness was 5dGH. Filtration was made by continuously running a Project PJF1001 canister filter - at the filter intake in the tank a 10x10x15cm large sponge was placed to serve as prefilter. Weekly water changes of 10-15% with tap water combined with siphoning out debris was made. Temperature was stable at 26 degrees C maintained via a 200W thermostat heater.
A series of photos of Pelvicachromis taeniatus breeding in the aquarium. Fish and Photo by Torben Larsen.
The breeding pair was purchased at the local fish store - not as an "official" pair but as two individual fish. This may be a bad solution as they were not allowed to pair up themselves but I had no other choice. They were placed as the only pair in a 180L "community tank" with the aforementioned one female Pterophyllum scalare 'black'. The Pelvicachromis pair hit it of off right from the start - they were always swimming in each others company and there was never any aggression between them. The scalare was chased on occations but the chase stopped almost before it started, and the scalare was never harmed in any way. Three weeks after being moved to the 180L tank they started courting - identified by intensified colours and the pair rapidly twisting the head and body when swimming in parallel. It was obvoius that 'something' was going to happen. The flowerpot shown in Figure 2 was now placed in the tank, and within hours of placement, it was taken into possession by the Pelvicachromis pair. A rectangular hole was made at the top of the flowerpot and the pot was covered with a rock slate (see Figure 2). The opening was big enough for both the female and male to enter. They quickly started to remove some of the sand in the flowerpot which is clearly seen from Figure 1. The Pelvicachromis taeniatus is a secretive spawner and thus it is difficult to give an exact time of spawning. However, it was a little less than one month after they were introduced into the tank. After the eggs were laid on the vertical level of the flowerpot (see Figure 3), the female cared for the eggs and the male guarded the flowerpot as seen in Figure 4.
The fish are fed a varied diet of; High quality flake food including spirulina and other vegetable matter, frozen red mosquito larvae (a favourite), frozen adult artemia (brine shrimp), frozen and freeze dried daphnia, frozen and occationally live clear mosquito larvae and newly hatched brine shrimp.
The eggs hatched after approximately 5 days, and resulted in approximately 50-60 wrigglers. After hatching, the wrigglers were at the bottom of the flowerpot. They fed on the yolk sack for about 4 days after which they were observed free swimming. In the wriggling state the mother several times moved them to other locations during the day. At evening she moved all the fry back into the flowerpot for shelter which took less than a minute. After they were free swimming, they immediately started to look for food. The fry were very well protected by both parents. At this time the flow rate of the external filter was reduced to avoid the fry from being thrown around by the current in the water and to avoid that they would be sucked into the filter. The flower pot, where the fry spend most of their time in the beginning, had intentionally been placed at the opposite end of the filter intake. Once the fry were free swimming I started feeding them small amounts of newly hatched brine shrimp twice a day. These were siphoned directly towards the fry by use of syringe connected to a piece of airline. It was very difficult to feed these very small baby brine shrimp to a small group of fry in a 180L tank. But the fry also looked for food at plants, rocks and wood. In addition to this they seemed to be grazing at the mothers skin for food for the first few days - this happened for about a 4-5 days. Seeing mom and dad with their offspring searching for food is quite a sight as seen from Figure 5-7!
Only 2 days after the fry were free swimming there had apparently been a dispute between the proud parents. As far as I could see there were not missing any fry - at least not enough to notice. So that was probably not the reason. But it seemed as if the male tried to induce the female to spawn yet again. This was clearly turned down by the female and the male was attacked because of this. The problems between the parents continued at increased strength on day 3 after the fry being free swimming. This, and the always hungry Pterophyllum scalare, made me siphon out about 70% of the fry and transferred these to a small 20L tank and the remaining fry were left in the 180L main tank with the parents.
Raising fry with the parents
|The receptacle where the eggs where placed. Fish and Photo by Torben Larsen.|
|Baby Pelvicachromis taeniatus a few days after free swimming. Fish and Photo by Torben Larsen.|
Approximately 16-18 fry remained with the parents in the 180L main tank. The fry were given two daily feedings of newly hatched brine shrimp. The brine shrimp were still siphoned directly towards the fry using a syringe connected to a piece of airline tubing. Besides this the fry would have to look for food elswhere in the tank, which was happening all the time. Feeding small fry with newly hatched brine shrimp like this in an 180L tank is difficult and the fry will only find a small fraction of the brine shrimp. However, the bellies of the fry were constantly filled or at least close to. Some fry were lost to the lone Pterophyllum scalare. After a few days of disagreements between the parents, they apparently came to some sort of agreement. After this the parents both participated in the caring of the fry and no more disputes were observed. After approximately four weeks after the fry were first free swimming the now 12 surviving fry were getting more and more independent - the parents are still looking after them but they also go for unguided tours around the tank. After a little less than one month they began to nibble at the same food offered to the adult fish in the tank (in particular frozen adult brine shrimp). In addition to the food offered to the adult fish the fry were also offered frozen bosmides, frozen red plankton, and some crushed flake food. Live newly hatched brine shrimp was only offered about twice a week. At this same time some indications are appearing saying the parent fish are approaching spawning time yet again. This fits nicely with the more and more independent behaviour of the fry - they are now ready to be moved to a growout tank.
The Pelvicachromis taeniatus 'Nigerian red' is a beautiful and peaceful fish - although of course no other fish is allowed to near the fry. They stay mainly at the bottom and thrive in a planted tank with fine gravel and lots of hiding places. Digging is no problem although the taeniatus may move a bit of substrate here and there. The taeniatus are excellent parents that really care for their fry. The next time I try to spawn these fish I will use an approximately 50-60L well planted tank with several hiding places and a flowerpot for spawning. This will make it easier for the fry to find the newly hatched brine shrimp.
Although feeding efficiency is much better for the fry raised in the small bare bottom tank, the growth rate is at least the same for the fry in the 180L main tank. After only one month 2-3 fry from the 180L main tank were beginning to develop red markings along the top of the dorsal fin. This was not the case for the fry raised seperately in the bare bottomed 20L tank. Compared to other fish I have bred all the fry are surprisingly close to having the same size which is 12-15mm total length after 4 weeks. I can only recommend the Pelvacachromis taeniatus; They are beautiful, has an interesting spawning ritual, are excellent parents, and they don't dig and bother other fish. What more can you possibly want?