Pseudotropheus saulosi are delightful little mbuna that are a joy to keep and breed. Not only do they have sweet temperaments and are very interactive with their keepers, they are also compact in size and therefore can be kept in a smaller aquarium than many of their larger counterparts require. My saulosi presently live in a 200 liters tank (55 gallon) tank along with a group of similar sized Labidochromis caeruleus and a few small synodontis. Though males are fairly tolerant of each other if given adequate space for territorial disputes, I find that having one male with a group of females provides a very happy environment. In the lake, female Pseudotropheus saulosi will school together to feed in groups as large as 50 individuals, and likewise, they get along exceptionally in the aquarium.
I purchased my group from a local distributor when they were juveniles. They grow very quickly when given clean water and good quality food. I feed crushed OSI Spirulina Flake, romaine lettuce, frozen daphnia, frozen cyclops, and crushed snails, which they absolutely love! If you really want to see your young males start to show some color, the snails will do it. Female Pseudotropheus saulosi are bright orange in color showing only very slight darker bands when stressed or excited. They will also get a bit of black lining the front half of their dorsal fin. Males will turn bright blue with wide black vertical bands and black lined fins, though if they are feeling subdominant or are not in the spawning mood they can show a uniform blue. As juveniles they all show female coloration with young males starting to show blue color at about four centimeters (inch and a half), where they will turn a orangy purple for a few months before finally turning their full beautiful blue.
Spawning starts at about 7 months or five centimeters (two inches) and they will usually carry their first brood to term. The fry are very small and already have their bright orange coloration when released from their mother's mouth, usually after brooding for 24-34 days. I have found them to be quite variable in brooding time depending on the particular female. I have one that holds to around 34 days every time and just when I threaten to finally strip her, a light tempting of brine shrimp seems to convince her that it is time for the fry to be on their own. Which by the way, is exactly as they need to be. Females will eat their young if left with them for very long. It is very helpful to clip a bushy plant to the side of the tank for the fry to hide in. In addition, the nursery tank should be filled with small rocks and caves for the fry to hide in until the female is removed. I remove her as soon as I am sure all fry have left her mouth and she has eaten a meal. She is easily re-integrated back into the main tank at night after the lights have been turned off. Take care that the tank temperatures are the same and that the pH is within a reasonable range so that you do not shock her as she is still weakened from holding fry. Also, having a good number of rocks piled up to form caves gives her somewhere to hide and feel secure. Females recover lost weight quickly and are ready to spawn again in a month or so. I find that my male will pretty much leave the females alone until they are ready for spawning, at which time he can be as persistent as any full sized mbuna!
Pseudotropheus saulosi are very forgiving fish in the aquarium, and will tolerate any of the acceptable Rift Lake cichlid water parameters. I keep mine at a pH of 8.0 maintained by Seachem'sTM Malawi/Victoria Buffer at a rate of 1/4 teaspoon per 15 liters (four gallon) bucket. Temperature is kept at 26.5-27.5°C (80-82°F), and hardness is 220ppm, which is moderately hard. Like many of the Pseudotropheus types, they can be sensitive to varying water temperatures resulting in pop-eye so be sure to have a good quality heater in your tank. I use an Ebo Jäger 150 watt. To see their most brilliant color and ensure consistent spawning, good filtration is essential as is a good quality bulb. I use a CoralLifeTM 50/50 Daylight/Actinic bulb and try to change the bulb once a year. I do weekly water changes of 25% and filter the tank with a UGF run by two AquaClearTM 500 powerheads and a PenguinTM 160 backfilter.
Fry are raised in the same water conditions in a 40 to 80 liters (about 10 or 20 gallon) tank filtered by an AquaClearTM 200 with a sponge prefilter to prevent the tiny fry from being sucked up the filter intake. Once I have removed the female, I usually take out all the rocks and plants except for one rock for the fry to pick at. This seems to make the fry less skittish and also it is nice to be able to watch them. The fry grow very quickly gaining 6 mm (1/4") in a few weeks. I feed them baby brine shrimp, frozen cyclops, and crushed OSI Spirulina Flake. They also get a few crushed snails to pick at which seems to give them the determination to pick at live ones with more gusto as they mature. Like the Labidochromis, they will suck the snails right out of their shells once they put on some size. After keeping Pseudotropheus saulosi you start to look at snails no longer as pests, but as free fish food!
Contraction of Malawi Bloat is often a concern when keeping any of the primarily vegetarian Pseudotropheus. However, I have not had any problems with this in my group of Pseudotropheus saulosi. They seem quite able to tolerate a wider range of foods than some of the other dwarf Pseudotropheus such as demasoni. This is not to suggest that you go wild and feed them on krill or bloodworms, as their primary food should still be a good quality green flake accompanied by small particles of acceptable higher protein foods such as the ones I mentioned above (cyclops, daphnia, crushed snails, and baby brine shrimp).
Pseudotropheus saulosi are certainly one of my favorites and continue to entertain me from fry to adulthood. The little ones will eat directly from your hand from a few days old, and always appear happy to see you whenever you walk into the room. Of course they are just anticipating the satisfaction of their healthy appetites, but it still makes you feel good to be greeted so happily.