July - Hill Country Cichlid Club


July - Hill Country Cichlid Club


Editorial 2

BAP report 3

Snorkel 101 4

Xystichromis sp. “blue fire fin 9

Listing of restricted Fish species 12

Upcoming Events 14

Benitochromis nigrodorsalis 16

CARES report 19

Cover Benitochromis nigrodorsalis by

Diane Tennison.

I once burnt a pile of brush I had sitting

on the side lawn. Just when the flames

started to spread, a little gecko came

running from under an old branch. I

think it escaped unscathed. Living

through this summer, I know what that

gecko must have felt like! Scorching

heat, no rain, I have no idea how the fish

in my ponds have survived. I guess I

have a new appreciation for the

toughness of cichlids. I really hope we

get a break very soon.

One way we have found to beat the heat

is to don on the snorkel and flippers, and

hit the local waterways. JB entertains us

with a synopsis of our aquatic


The ACA is just around the corner. Our

own Evan Bowers will be speaking on

Apistogramma. Knock ‘em dead Evan!

There is an HCCC Auction in August so

keep your calendar clear. September is

FOTAS in Houston where Dave and I

are honored to both be speaking. The

week after FOTAS is the HCCC

quarterly meeting at Ryan’s Steak House

in New Braunfels. Our special guest

speaker will be HCCC member Anton

Lamboj! Anton is one of the most

entertaining speakers out there and we

are very fortunate to have had him visit

for the last three years. In October the

TCA will be hosting a fall show and

workshop. That brings us to the end of

the year HCCC Christmas Party.

Special speaker will be well known West

African cichlid enthusiast Ted Judy who

will talk on his recent trip to Cameroon.

All in all, there’s going to be a lot going

on in the Texas cichlid scene.

For those of you who are ACA

members, our own Barbara Wooton had

a nice bit written about her and her work

with CARES and the AquaHavens

School project in the Buntbarsche

Bulletin. Way to go Barbara! You

make us all proud.

Just a reminder that I can always use

content for the Lateral Line. Get up off

your butts, go sit in front of your

computer and get those fingers talking.

We are very fortunate to have a great

working relationship with many local

retailers. Show your support by giving

them your business. It’s a win-win for

us all.

See you all next issue.

- Greg

What’s this cichlid?

Post your best guess in the

Website/Newsletter section of the forum.

a proud supporter of the HCCC

15% off total purchase

excluding specials, package deals, and sale items

12315 Wetmore Rd.

San Antonio, TX 78247



BAP Report

- Dan Schacht

Over the last month, the BAP program

has seen the addition of some new

species and significant participation

from new members. A special

congratulation goes out to Takeru Garcia

and Jim (Pet Frontier) for the first time

participations in the BAP program! As

the BAP year progresses, the point

contest gets more heated. There are now

four members with more than 200 points

this year and the competition is just

getting better and better.

As a reminder, extra points are given for

fry and article donations when submitted

in conjunction. Of the 106 donations

this year, there are only 23 articles that

have been written. Articles can be the

deciding factor on whether or not you

win the Breeder of the Year award!

Thanks everyone for your participation

and keep up the great work!

Dan Schacht


To increase the amount of points for

your BAP submissions, you can

complete multiple of the following


1 - Present a written account to be

published in the HCCC newsletter.

2 - Donate at least six fry (three fry in

small brooding species) to the HCCC for


3 - Donate the breeders to the HCCC for


This is a must have for all native fish

enthusiasts. “Fresh Water Fishes of

Texas” by Chad Thomas.

Snorkel 101

- JB Edmundson

In early February 2009, our very own

Greg Steeves posted some pictures he

took while snorkeling in Landa Park. I

knew right away I wanted to go on a

snorkeling trip with him. I had done

some snorkeling in Lake Ontario while

stationed in the Army at Ft. Drum

(upstate NY). So I contacted Greg and

asked when he’d be going again and if I

could tag along. You guys know Greg,

within a week we were getting our gear

on at Landa Park about to take a dip. I’d

guess the first time we went, the outside

temperature was probably mid- 70’s

which is pretty constant with a south

Texas winter. I put my foot in the water

and that almost ended the trip for me.

Greg was already face down in the water

taking photos. I couldn’t chicken out; if

he could do it so could I. So I sat down

on a rock ledge and slid in, why lie, it

was freezing!!

Large expanses of Jungle val

(Vallisneria Americana) is home to

uncountable livebearers, shrimp and

other creatures.

and very clean. You have to manage

over some tall plants and grasses but the

majority of the lake is open and rather

deep. On the first trip we snorkeled

about 45 minutes and only covered about

1/100 th of the lake. We saw crayfish,

turtles, sailfin mollies, Shiners, Texas

Cichlids, BIG Monster Bass and an

occasional Pleco.

Some of the beautiful aquatic scenery

beneath the surface in Landa Lake.

However just like Greg said in a matter

of seconds you’d get use to it and that

part was true. My first observation of

the water was from the banks

overlooking the lake, it looked very dirty

but once you get into it, it is crystal clear

A large pleco Hypostomus plecostomus

at the mouth of a cave in Landa Lake.

When we were finished snorkeling we

walked back to our cars. We passed a

small “man-made” wading pool and

Greg and I noticed some very nice Texas

Cichlids in full breeding dress. Unable to

resist we hopped into the small pool and

did a quick snorkel there in water 1-2

feet deep at the most.(For those that

haven’t been to Landa Park they have

made a channel in the spring that feeds

the lake and in a flat area they dammed

it and it’s made a small wading pool.) In

the middle of February the cichlids were

guarding nests, full of free swimming

fry! That was the highlight of my first

trip! Once we were changed into dry

clothes we planned our next trip!!

pool and after finishing snorkeling in the

lake we went to investigate the cichlid

population there. Like last time there

were plenty of Texas Cichlids guarding

nests. As we walked we planned to do

another trip as soon as I got back from

Disney World.

Herichthys cyanoguttatus guarding a pit

full of fry.

Herichthys cyanoguttatus in Landa Park,

New Braunfels, TX.

My family had a Disney World trip the

first week in March so we had to plan

around that for the second snorkel trip.

Rather than wait till I got back from

Disney we decided to hit the lake a few

days before we left for Florida. This trip

was probably the longest snorkel we’ve

ever done. I am guessing we were in the

water over 2 hours. We saw pretty much

the same fish as before with the addition

of a massive school of some kind of

Tilapia. The highlight of this trip was

Greg and I found a rock cave in the

bottom of the lake with a 2-3 foot Pleco

partially inside the cave. Greg dove

down to get a good look at it and it

startled the fish and it took off. The cool

thing was there were hundreds if not a

thousand tiny Pleco fry swarming

around in the entrance of the cave and it

looked like a small cloud in the water.

We couldn’t resist a visit to the wading

The third snorkel trip was in mid-to late

March and it was a shorter dive in the

“main” lake. Shortly after getting in the

water I was attacked by a giant anaconda

sized snake. (The size of the snake has

actually grown from about 1-2 feet to at

least 20 feet in just 4 months through the

various telling of the story). Believe me

when I saw the snake I managed to make

it to the bank in Olympic record time!!

When Greg came over and I told him

“WE” decided to go over to the wading

pool, instead of the main lake. We

weren’t scared, just so you know, but we

didn’t want to cause the snake any more

stress. In the wading pool we were able

to borrow a few “wild caught” Texas

Cichlid fry with small hand held fish

nets for scientific reasons. Due to

Greg’s travels and my work schedule we

didn’t get to snorkel for the next month.

The fourth snorkel trip was at the yearly

HCCC picnic. Luckily, to offer some

proof of the snake story in the last

snorkel trip, while everyone was

socializing a nice snake was seen by

several members and photos were taken.

This was the same type of snake I saw

before and it was determined to be a

“water snake” and totally harmless… but

I must add when swimming in the water

with them they are “VERY

DANGEROUS” snakes!! After a nice

meal the guys (JB, DanJay, Dave

Hansen, Greg Steeves and Nick A.)

decided to hit the water and take a dip in

the main lake. Not even 5 minutes into

the swim the park rangers made us exit

the lake and told us we couldn’t swim in

the lake for environmental reasons.

Rather than cause a big scene we drove

over to the Comel River and took a little

snorkel there. It turned out to be a really

good spot with some interesting fish but

the view wasn’t crystal clear due to the

current and tubers everywhere. We

decided to make a “Snork Club” and do

more snorkeling in the future.

A non venomous diamond back water

snake can be startling when encountered

in the water!

The 5 th snorkel trip in San Marcos I was

unable to attend. However I hear it was

a real blast. The guys went high tech on

this trip and even “Chummed” for fish!

Thanks in part to Rare Dave!

The 6 th trip was Greg and I again. This

was a really good trip down the Comel

River again. We found lots and lots of

cool fish and Greg was able to get

several photos to include the famous one

of me that is somewhat out of focus but

no one was looking at me anyway!!

This was a good 2 hour trip and we had a

blast. We were able to get a few more

Texas Cichlid fry on this dive as well as

some nice plants.

I really hope the club embraces the

snorkeling opportunities in our local

area. Don’t go to a lake or river and say

it looks nice or look at the ducks and

minnows. Get in the water and see that

there is a whole “nother” world under

the surface. The best part about all the

snorkeling trips we have been on is that

the total cost when combined is $0!!

Once you have the basic equipment of a

mask, snorkel and flippers (total cost

$20-30) the rest is free and the aquatic

life is priceless. Greg and I meet for

lunch and then we’re off to the water.

Keep an eye out in the “Snork Club

section for an upcoming trip and think

about joining us!!

Fish Wars, the Hybrid Menace!

Welcome to Cincinnati

and the 2009 American Cichlid Association Convention

July 30 - August 2

The Greater Cincinnati Aquarium

Society (GCAS) is very proud and

extremely excited to once again host the

convention. The American Cichlid

Association conventions over the last

few years have undeniably set the bar

high; but, GCAS has a great group of

people who will be working tirelessly to

make the 2009 ACA convention one of

the most informative, educational,

entertaining, and just plain fun

conventions you’ve ever attended!

The 4 days of the convention will be

packed with exciting guest speakers

including Ad Konings, Spencer Jack,

and Michi Tobler; and workshops on

“Catfish” hosted by Stephan Tanner and

“Photography” by Gary Lange.

We will have day trips to the Cincinnati

Zoo and Newport Aquarium/Krohn

Conservatory; or explore on your own to

area fish stores, shopping malls (we now

have IKEA here!), Kings Island

amusement park, local restaurants,

sightseeing downtown Cincinnati, or

spend the day at CoCo Key indoor water

park on the hotel grounds!

Don’t forget about the ACA juried Fish

Show for all fish members of the family

Cichlidae and the colossal fish auction

on Sunday!!

Oh, and the Fabulous Babes will be here

with their wonderful silent auction of all

things “fish” and their, ahem, oral


Whew… and that’s just part of what we

have in store for you! Come to

Cincinnati, bring the family, and enjoy a

wonderful 2009 ACA convention!!

- The 2009 ACA Convention Committee

The HCCC would like to announce the grand opening new location

of Amazonia Aquariums. Caroline Estes, owner, has been a long

time supporter of the HCCC. As one of the founding members of

Babes in the Cichlid Hobby (B.I.T.C.H), Caroline’s commitment

to cichlid conservation has been an inspiration to our club,

influencing direction. On this occasion we extend to Caroline and

her staff the very best of wishes and look forward to a wonderful

continued relationship for many years to come!


Amazonia Aquariums is a full service aquarium specialty store located at 4701 IH 35N in

Austin, TX. From fish bowls to exotic custom-built showpieces, we have the perfect

aquarium to fit your style and budget. Our store has over 6,000 gallons of aqua.

4701 IH 35N Austin, TX

Phone 512.451.0958


Mon - Thurs: 11:00 am - 7:00 pm

Fri: 11:00 am - 10:00 pm

Sat: 10:00 am - 7:00 pm

Sun: 12:00 pm - 6:00 pm

Amazonia International

a proud supporter of the HCCC

Member discounts:

20% off Fish & Live Plants

10% off Tanks, Stands, Eheims & Eclipses

25% off Filters & Powerheads

Xystichromis sp. “blue fire fin”

- Greg Steeves

In 1999 I was fortunate to be invited to

the New England Aquarium to tour the

brand new ‘Nyanja!’ exhibit. This was

the first public display depicting the

aquatic life of Lake Victoria and

announcement of the perils taking place

there. This was part of the vision Dr.

Les Kaufman had rendered. A

wonderful friend from Rhode Island,

Ron Anderson, had organized this

adventure for our small network of

cichlid enthusiasts. It was during this

trip that I first came into contact with a

fish generically called Haplochromis sp.

“blue fire fin”. Brad Harrison, a Lake

Victoria cichlid friend, had brought me a

number of furu that included a colony of


introduction into the hobby on or before

1996. At this time there were many

beautiful cichlid coming from the Lake

Victoria region of Africa. Most all the

importation came through Laif

Demason’s Old World Exotic Fish Inc.

This was a very exciting time for the

haplochromine hobbyist as every

shipment brought never before seen

cichlids into the hobby. Looking back at

the number of different fish exploding

on the scene, we really weren’t aware of

just how rare these creatures were. I

myself lost a colony of Haplochromis

sp. 'purple yellow” that, to this day, I

have been unable to replace. I only wish

that I had the knowledge and attitude

towards species preservation that I do


A male Xystichromis sp. “blue fire fin”

in the aquarium.

Once settles in my tank days later, the

males transformed from silver fish with

horizontal barring to a much darker fish

with crimson red fins. It was easy to see

where the fish got it descriptive field

name. Despite my best efforts, I was

never able to ascertain where these fish

had originated. I do recall hearing about

these cichlid years before I had the

opportunity to see it live so I would put

A young male Xystichromis sp. “blue

fire fin” beginning to display adult


Fish Hobby Supply

a proud supporter of the HCCC

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Foods, Plants,

Invertebrates & Supplies


Back in 1999, I was very impressed with

the beautiful coloration of my colony of

Haplochromis sp. “blue fire fin”. This is

a small cichlid with both sexes reaching

a maxium length of 11cm. The males

sported a blue-grey head. A horizontal

thick bar ran midlaterally along the

flank. The top portion of the body,

above the lateral bar, a dark red, almost

black color dominated. Below this line

the belly section was a mustard-yellow.

The cranial slope is straight. In regards

of coloration distribution, body shape

and markings, Haplochrmis sp. “blue

fire fin” closely resembles Xystichromis

sp. “flameback” from the Kisumu,

Kenya area of Lake Victoria. From

hence forth because of the generalized

cues of Xystichromis, I will include the

undescribed species “blue fire fin” in

this grouping. Last year I was able to

once again obtain a small group of

Xystichromis sp. “blue fire fin” at the

2008 ACA convention in Atlanta.

An adult female Xystichromis sp. “blue

fire fin”.

As far as aquatic husbandry is

concerned, one would be hard pressed to

find a less demanding fish. I have a

group of nine fish housed in a 210 liter

tank with an equally sized colony of

Pundamilia nyererei from Igombe

Island. Aquarium décor consist of a

sand bottom, large ‘texas holey rock’

piled against the rear portion of the tank

and numerous Anubias species scattered

among the rockwork. The aquarium is

filtered with a large power filter. There

is no heater on this tank and these furu

have prospered in temperatures ranging

from 18C to 33C. I try to be diligent

with my large water changes when the

temperature is high.

For the most part, both P. nyererei and X

sp. “blue fire fin” coexist without

aggression problems. Both species

prefer to keep any aggression confine to

their own. The only time territory is

claimed with vigor is with the onset of

spawning. The male defends the area at

the base of a rock using this as a center

in which to entice a ripe female to

spawn. Eventually she will succumb to

his advances and spawning occurs in the

typical haplochromine manner. Spawns

so far have been very small. The first

brood was seven fry however in

subsequent attempts; the number of eggs

has climbed to 15. I don’t know if the

small spawn size is normal or if the

frequent interruption the male perceives

is the cause of small brood sizes.

As with most of the fish in my

collection, the staple food source is a

blend of my own flakes consisting of

brine shrimp, earthworm, spirulina and

basic tropical flake. The fry have done

well on a diet of this same flake mixture

crushed into a fine powder.

There is a good chance we will never

know exactly the collection locale of

Xystichromis sp. “blue fire fin” but this

lack of pedigree should not hinder one

from keeping this beautiful little fish.

Although it has never had the popularity

of other species from Lake Victoria, this

is a beauty in its own right that deserves

a prominent place in out cichlid


Presented by


September 11 th -13 th

The Omni Hotel

13210 Katy Freeway

Houston, Texas 77079


All Species Show, Awards Banquet, Giant all-day fish auction.

Speaker Lineup

Spencer Jack-Charles Hawks-Greg Steeves-Dave Hansen

For more information visit http://www.houstonaquariumsociety.org/

Leslie’s Pool Supply

a proud supporter of the HCCC

20% off Pool Supplies

5-20% off selected items

All Locations

Test kits and Pond Supplies

AquaTek Tropical Fish

a proud supporter of the HCCC

10% off Fish

8023 Burnet Rd. # 1

Austin, TX 78132

(512) 450-0182

Listing of restricted Fish species in


Lampreys, Family Petromyzontidae

All species except Ichthyomyzon

castaneus and I. gagei

Freshwater Stingrays, Family


All species

Arapaima, Family Osteoglossidae

Arapaima gigas

South American Pike Characoids,

Family Characidae

All species of genus


African Tiger Fishes, Family, Subfamily

Alestiidae: Hydrocyninae

All species of genus Hydrocynus

Piranhas and Pirambebas, Family

Serrasalmideae, Subfamily


All species except pacus of the

genus Piaractus

Payara and other wolf or vampire tetras,

Family Characidae, Subfamily


All species of genera Hydrolycus

and Rhaphiodon, including


Dourados, Family Characidae,

Subfamily Bryconinae

All species of genus Salminus

South American Tiger Fishes, Family


All species

South American Pike Characoids,

Family Ctenolucidae

All species of genera Ctenolucius

and Boulengerella, including

Luciocharax and Hydrocinus

African Pike Characoids, Families

Hepsetidae and Ichthyboridae

All species

Electric Eels, Family Electrophoridae

Electrophorus electricus

Carps and Minnows, Family Cyprinidae

All species and hybrids of

species of genera:

Aspius, Pseudoaspius,

Aspiolucius (Asps);

Abramis, Blicca, Megalobrama,

Parabramis (Old World


Hypophthalmichthys or

Aristichthys (Bighead Carp);

Mylopharyngodon (Black Carp);

Ctenopharyngodon (Grass Carp);

Cirrhinus (Mud Carp);

Thynnichthys (Sandkhol Carp);

Hypophthalmichthys (Silver


Catla (Catla);

Leuciscus (Old World Chubs,

Ide, Orfe, Daces);

Tor, including the species Barbus

hexiglonolepsis (Giant Barbs and


Rutilus (Roaches);

Scardinius (Rudds);

Elopichthys (Yellowcheek);

Catlocarpio (Giant Siamese


All species of the genus Labeo

(Labeos) except Labeo

chrysophekadion (Black


Walking Catfishes, Family Clariidae

All species

Electric Catfishes, Family


All species

South American Parasitic Candiru

Catfishes, Subfamilies Stegophilinae and


All species

Pike Killifish, Family Poeciliidae

Belonesox belizanus

Marine Stonefishes, Family


All species

Tilapia, Family Cichlidae

All species of genera Tilapia,

Oreochromis and Saratherodon

Asian Pikeheads, Family


All species

Snakeheads, Family Channidae

All species

Old World Pike-Perches, Family


All species of the genus Sander

except Sander vitreum

Nile Perch, Family Centropomidae (also

called Latidae)

All species of genera Lates and


Seatrouts and Corvinas, Family


All species of genus Cynoscion

except Cynoscion nebulosus, C.

nothus, and C. arenarius

Whale Catfishes, Family Cetopsidae

All species

Ruffe, Family Percidae

All species of genus


Air sac Catfishes, Family


All species

Swamp Eels, Rice Eels or One-Gilled

Eel, Family Synbranchidae

All species

Freshwater Eels, Family Anguilliidae

All species except Anguilla


Round Gobies, Family Gobiidae

All species of genus Neogobius,

including N. melanostoma

Temperate Basses, Family Moronidae

All species except for Morone

saxatilis, M. chrysops and M.

mississippiensis and hybrids

between these three species

Temperate Perches, Family


All species, including species of

the genus Siniperca (Chinese


Texas Parks and Wildlife Department,

4200 Smith School Road, Austin, TX



The Hobby Palace

a proud supporter of the HCCC

10% off selected items

5305 Bolm Road #3

Austin, TX

(512) 389-3833

Upcoming Events

Hill Country Cichlid Club Bowling


Hill Country Cichlid Club Bowling Day

26 July 2009 12:00pm to 3:00pm

Brunswick at 4330 Thousand Oaks Blvd.

3 Hours of bowling for 11.99 includes

shoe rental.

Family and friends welcome!!

Please RSVP DanJay33 via PM

ACA 2009 Annual Convention July

30th-Aug 2, 2009.

Cincinnati, Ohio


Hill Country Cichlid Club Box

Exchange Meeting and Auction. Aug

9th, 2009.

PCCA box exchange auction.

Dave’s Rare Aquarium Fish.

San Antonio, Texas.

Texas Cichlid Association Annual End

Of Summer Pool Party. Aug 15th 2009.

Hosted by Mike and Diane Stewart,


Granite Lane, DeSoto, Texas, beginning

at around 3:00. Call (972) 223-3735 for


Hill Country Cichlid Club Auction

Springhill Suites

3636 Northwest Loop 410

San Antonio, TX 78201

August 23rd

Doors open at 10:00am

Auction begins promptly at noon.

F.O.T.A.S 2009 September 11th-13th

The Federation of Texas Aquarium

Society’s annual show will be hosted by

The Houston Aquarium Society.

The Omni Hotel

13210 Katy Freeway

Houston, Texas 77079


Hill Country Cichlid Club Quarterly

Meeting Sept 19, 2009.

Ryan’s Steakhouse New Braunfels TX.


Special guest speaker, HCCC member

Anton Lamboj

Texas Cichlid Association Fall

Workshop, Show and Auction.

October 2009.

Details to follow.

Gabe's Fish and Exotic Pets

a proud supporter of the HCCC

15% off Livestock

and most supplies

5418 Glen Ridge

San Antonio, TX 78229

(210) 290-9376

939 3rd St, Rosenberg, TX. 77471-2605 Phone (832) 595-2777


HCCC Leadership Group

Jim Beck

Dave Hansen

JB Edmundson

Diane Tennison

Dan Irwin

Evan Bowers

Greg Steeves

HCCC Webmaster

Robert DeLeon

HCCC Database guru

Evan Bowers

HCCC Treasurer

Dave Hansen

HCCC Membership

Diane Tennison

HCCC Meeting Coordinator

Dan Irwin

HCCC Librarian

Takeru Garcia

HCCC Lateral Line Editor

Greg Steeves

HCCC BAP Chairman

Dan Schacht


Troy Veltorp

HCCC CARES Coordinator

Barbara Wooton

HCCC CARES/International

CARES Committee

Claudia Dickinson

Dave Hansen

Barbara Wooton

Troy Veltrop

Greg Steeves

Box Exchange Committee

Dave Schumacher

Greg Steeves

HCCC Honorary Life Members

Spencer Jack 2004

Robert DeLeon 2006

Anton Lamboj 2007

Dave Hansen 2007

Evan Bowers speaks on Apistogramma

HCCC meeting June 2009.

A new HCCC CARES species, Psammochromis riponianus.




Limited A.C.A. Stock

Bleher’s Discus $125.00

Heiko Bleher Aqua Geographia #16 $19.00

Heiko Bleher Aqua $33.00

Heiko Bleher Limited Edition Tshirt $33.00

A Selection of Freshwater Fish Biotopes in

Mexico $85.00

Pewter Pins $10.00

Seahorses and Their Relatives $75.00

Indian Ocean Tropical Fish Guide $35.00

Marine Tropical Aquarium Guide $10.00

The Modern Reef Aquarium $15.00

C… Magazine $10.00

Poison Frogs: Jewels of the Rainforest $75.00

If you would like to pick up any other titles from my stock-on-hand from

any section of my store (not just fish), email me and we will work out a

reduced price for a pickup in Cincinnati!

Benitochromis nigrodorsalis

- Diane Tennison

Benitochromis nigrodorsalis male.

The first time I saw this incredibly

beautiful fish, it was a photograph taken

by HCCC’s own Dave Hansen. I had

not kept any West African species but

this fish started my desire to do so. I did

some research and quickly found that I

was not prepared to keep this fish – so

began my not so patient wait... After

some furniture re-arranging (who needs

a couch anyway...), I made room and

purchased a 40 breeder. I aquascaped

with a large piece of driftwood, 2 rocks

(1 on each end) and HEAVY planting.

Since I am a little skeptical about my

thumb color... I used plastic plants. This

was the first tank that I had set up like

this as all of my other tanks (up to 16

now!) house Malawi or Tanganyikan

fish – so there are few to no plants in

them. The tank is filtered with an

Emperor 400 HOB filter. I actually

placed the filter to one side for best

results. Originally I had it in the middle

and I think that the first spawn was

sucked up when the parents released in

the back of the tank for privacy... I was

pretty proud of my handy work and

hoped the fish would like it. I picked up

six individuals from Dave’s Rare

Aquarium Fish and my adventure began.

A pair quickly presented itself and

seemed to be in the process of bonding.

Of the remaining fish, two began to

color (appear to be females) and the

other two remain, to this day, in juvenile

coloration. This dwarf riverine cichlid

from Cameroon, West Africa is very

difficult to sex. In my experience, the

differences are very subtle. The female

actually has more coloration than the

male. The gill plates are a blue-green

iridescent color, the tail has some yellow

in it, the pectoral fins have red in them

and the dorsal fin has a very black line

along the base with a silvery iridescent

outer edge. When the female is

becoming gravid, her pelvic area

becomes very pink. The male does not

have the silvery iridescent outer edge to

the dorsal fin and his dorsal fin is a little

longer and more pointed. He also has

some small silvery spots in his anal fin.

Benitochromis nigrodorsalis pair with

the male holding eggs.

I have not been able to observe an actual

spawning process with this pair, but the

warning signs are obvious. The

Benitochromis nigrodorsalis, as a pair

bonding species, is very aggressive to

others in the tank. The bonded pair

swims in all areas of the tank on a

regular basis. The other members of the

group spend their lives down on one end

in an area (from top to bottom) that is no

larger than a few inches. I was advised

to keep the entire group together until

the pair had gone through several

spawns. Having the “competition” in

the tank helps to strengthen the pair

bond. For the most part there is no

nipping – just aggressive chasing, so I

have left the entire group in tact. When

the pair is getting ready to spawn, the

female will begin to turn pink in the

belly. When this happens, the remainder

of the group is pretty much pinned into

the corners by both of the pair. The

group is NOT allowed to leave their

positions, unless it is feeding time. I

have observed that the pair show little

interest in the group when I drop some

flakes in. Typically within a few days of

this type of behavior I will notice the

female holding eggs. From what I have

read in Anton Lamboj’s publication

“The Cichlid Fishes of Western Africa”,

spawning occurs on a flat, hard surface.

The female will drop the eggs and the

male will fertilize them. Once this is

done, the female picks up the eggs and

holds them in typical mouthbrooder

fashion. That’s where the “typical”

stops. This fish is a bi-parental

mouthbrooder. This means that the male

and female will share in the incubation

process. In my pair, the female alone

will hold the eggs for the first 4-5 days.

Once the fry have developed a bit, she

will begin exchanging them with the

male. I was in awe the first time I

realized that the male was holding the

fry! More so when I actually saw the

pair, allowing the small fry to explore

the sand bed as they kept a watchful eye.

When they became uncomfortable with

my observation, the male began to pick

the fry up. It was really funny because,

as is typical with children, they didn’t

want to come in! The male had to

forcibly pick up several fry and then the

others got the idea and swam into his

mouth on their own. Unfortunately, I

did not have my camera ready and didn’t

want to disturb them, so I have not

photographed this process yet. The pair

has spawned 3 times since I have had

them. The first spawn only lasted for a

few days and then the fry were gone.

The second spawn was successful. The

parents traded the fry back and forth for

about 2 weeks. Once the fry were being

let out on a regular basis – I noticed that

they were growing smaller in numbers. I

think they were being poached off by the

rest of the group as the Benitochromis

nigrodorsalis is normally known to be a

very good parent. The third spawn was

also successful. I allowed the parents to

exchange the fry for almost 2 weeks to

the day. I was going on vacation so I

didn’t want to leave this spawn to fate. I

netted the female and was going to strip

her. I gently caressed her in the net and

she willingly spit her fry. I caught her in

my hand and returned her to the tank. I

was left with a net of fry! I didn’t even

try to count – but would guess that there

were at least 20 fry.

release the fry at the back of the tank for

the first few days. Once the fry became

more bold -–the pair began releasing

right at the front glass! The pair will

calmly “tread water” as the fry swim all

around – bouncing along the bottom,

picking at the sand, picking at the plants,

picking at the rocks. The pair watches

VERY closely. If a fry gets too far from

the group – one of the pair will actually

pick the fry up in the mouth and bring it

back to the group – gently spitting it

back with its siblings. They will let me

watch for a long time. However, I guess

they are like famous people because

when I start behaving like the paparazzi

– they will only let me snap a few

pictures before they pick the fry up and

move on.

Benitochromis nigrodorsalis male.

This beautiful fish has been a wonderful

addition to my Fish House. I have truly

enjoyed watching the behavior and look

forward to new spawns – hopefully I

will be able to photograph the fry

exchange or get some better shots of the

fry “play sessions” soon.

Benitochromis nigrodorsalis female.

Upon returning from my vacation, I

noticed that the pair had spawned again.

After some patient waiting, I have

finally been able to witness some of the

parenting behavior. The pair would only

Authors Benitochromis nigrodorsalis



- Barbara Wooton

I know this is something you all hear a

lot from CARES, but I think it's

imperative to remember how important

what you are all doing really is. Setting

aside a tank for an “at risk” species is

critical, and being able to breed these

fish and pass them around is the ultimate

in caretaking. It is the goal we all strive

for, to be able to set up new colonies of

our babies.

part, and hopefully learned something

from it.

Thoracochromis brauschi is on the

CARES priority list.

For those of you that have set aside a

tank for an at risk species, I thank you,

and so should all hobbyists. The fish I

so enjoy wouldn't be here if it wasn't for

people like you, who dedicate so much

time and energy into this endeavor. So

let me say it now, "Thank you."

CARES species Paretroplus menarambo

pair fanning eggs. Photo by Dave


I think we've all had our successes and

failures with endangered species. To

lose a fish can be difficult; to lose one

that is irreplaceable is devastating. The

"what happened? What should I have

done differently?" questions kick in, and

at least for me, the guilt and sadness. I

think these failures make the successes

sweeter; but sometimes it's difficult to

look to the future with such a blow.

There have been a few times that I've

considered giving up after just such an

event, but with support from members of

this club, I've managed to get past that

Yssichromis sp. “blue tipped”, a CARES

species from Lake Victoria.

For those that are considering doing this,

I can only say that I've found such a

sense of accomplishment from this

hobby, and being able to gift fry to other

hobbyist. I'm not an old hand at this,

being a part of this club for less than a

year, but I've found something I truly

believe in. And one thing I believe is:

Together, we can make a difference!

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