THE LIP­STICK CI­CH­LID

The red-blood­ied Red-lipped kriben­sis can be some­thing of an al­pha male, but one fish­keeper has had some sur­pris­ing suc­cess in breed­ing them.

Practical Fishkeeping (UK) - - Contents -

PRAC­TI­CAL FISH­KEEP­ING Read how one ded­i­cated fish­keeper has had some sur­pris­ing suc­cess in breed­ing the red-blooded Red-lipped kriben­sis.

RED-LIPPED AND red-blooded is a phrase that can be ap­plied very well to the male Wal­laceochromis rubro­labi­a­tus, the Red-lipped kriben­sis. Rubro­labi­a­tus means red-lipped, and as for red-blooded, the male pa­trols his ter­ri­tory with such brutish, fas­tid­i­ous be­hav­iour that it’s akin to that of some of the largest, nas­ti­est Cen­tral Amer­i­can cich­lids. He’s ever vig­i­lant for a ripe fe­male (though whether she will be up to his stan­dards is an­other mat­ter…). This is in stark con­trast to the fairer sex, with her hum­ble colour­ings and shy de­meanour.

But a Red-lipped krib male lives for the lush things in life, like well-hid­den caves and thick leaf lit­ter beds. Well, as far as acid-lov­ing, cave-spawn­ing cich­lids go, that counts as lush!

Di­a­mond in the rough

A fate­ful trip to one of my favourite aquat­ics shops some months ago yielded some washed-out grey cich­lids un­der the pseu­do­nym

Pelvi­cachromis rubro­lin­ea­tus, which ap­peared to be an im­prove­ment on the name they were im­ported as – Pelvi­cachromis sp. boffa hu­milis. Both of th­ese names were in­cor­rect, but it was ob­vi­ous to me what they were. Wal­laceochromis rubro­labi­a­tus – a di­a­mond in the rough!

This scar­let-adorned species often ap­pears a lit­tle ropey when first im­ported due to its spe­cialised feed­ing tech­niques that can pre­vent the fish from look­ing its best.

Watch one closely un­der nat­u­ral con­di­tions and you’ll wit­ness a sand-sift­ing ac­tion that’s typ­i­cal of West African dwarf cich­lids.

What’s hap­pen­ing dur­ing this be­hav­iour is re­mark­able – the sand is passed over the gills and any di­gestible morsels are re­moved. It’s cur­rently un­clear, but the sub­strate may even play a part in di­ges­tion, the way grit is used in a bird’s giz­zard to grind down food. For this rea­son, the Red-lipped krib should only be kept in a bi­o­log­i­cally ma­ture aquar­ium with a very fine sub­strate.

Af­ter read­ing all I could find on the cap­tive care of this species (re­ports were few and far be­tween), it seemed

it would be best to give them larger quar­ters due to ap­par­ent ag­gres­sion be­tween con­specifics.

Now, let me tell you – those re­ports were 100% cor­rect. Within two days of set­tling into their mea­gre 60cm­long, 70-litre tank, the male had tried to drive the fe­male away, but in such a small aquar­ium, she was un­able to es­cape. I swiftly re­moved her, and kept her in a sep­a­rate tank, but on the same sys­tem. This proved to be an in­valu­able move, as you’ll see…

Over the fol­low­ing weeks, us­ing tried-and-tested meth­ods to re­duce the ph and hard­ness, I increased the acid­ity to a stag­ger­ingly low 4.2 ph. The hard­ness was neg­li­gi­ble, the tem­per­a­ture 23°C and the TDS (to­tal dis­solved solids) around 46. I used RO wa­ter; if you have hard tap­wa­ter, this will be in­valu­able.

Nat­u­ral biotope

Al­though per­haps dif­fi­cult to be­lieve, all species of ci­ch­lid en­demic to main­land Africa (bar one) be­long to the sub-fam­ily Pseu­docre­ni­labri­nae, which con­tains 150 dif­fer­ent gen­era.

Wal­laceochromis rubro­labi­a­tus finds it­self within this group along­side the diminu­tive Nanochromis and the ever-pop­u­lar Pelvi­cachromis spp., the best-known Kriben­sis. Un­til re­cently, the Red-lipped krib was clas­si­fied as

Pelvi­cachromis too, though this is no longer the case, and it’s now placed in the genus Wal­laceochromis.

Hail­ing only from Guinea, West Africa, this lar­gish dwarf ci­ch­lid – males can grow up to 12cm, but are usu­ally around 10cm – is found lurk­ing in a biotope of fairly shal­low, acidic black­wa­ter strewn with branches, roots and leaf lit­ter.

To em­u­late this in the home aquaria, oak branches and leaves would be a good place to start, while alder cones will re­duce the ph and also turn the wa­ter a lovely, rich tea colour. Al­ter­na­tively, splash out on some botan­i­cals from an aquat­ics store.

The sub­strate would typ­i­cally be a fine sandy/silty medium, rich in the rot­ting or­gan­ics that pro­vide a food source for both adults and fry alike.

Spe­cial diet

Now, you might be won­der­ing why I made such a deal of keep­ing the fe­male sep­a­rately, but on the same sys­tem?

Well, as I said, the male isn’t keen on a fe­male tres­pass­ing on his pre­cious ter­ri­tory when she’s not in prime spawn­ing con­di­tion. How dare she! So I de­cided to con­di­tion the fe­male, but that turned out to be trick­ier than it sounds. She’s a nat­u­rally shy, re­tir­ing fish who is out­com­peted for food by her tank­mates, so she’s best kept soli­tary.

Feed­ing con­sisted of tubifex, white­worm, a small amount of blood­worm and a lot of Artemia. The white­worm and tubifex were live, the oth­ers frozen. She was also given a gen­er­ous help­ing of oak and

The male isn’t keen on a fe­male tres­pass­ing on his pre­cious ter­ri­tory when she’s not in prime spawn­ing con­di­tion. How dare she!

beech leaves, on which ben­e­fi­cial or­gan­isms thrive, and th­ese pro­vided a great ad­di­tion to her diet.

Once I was con­fi­dent that spawn­ing con­di­tion had been achieved – as with many other west African cich­lids, a con­di­tioned fe­male will show a nice, round, pink belly – I de­cided it was time to rein­tro­duce her. Due to both tanks be­ing on the same sys­tem, this was sim­ple and stress-free – just catch and re­lease.

So in she gen­tly plopped, and out ven­tured the male to in­ves­ti­gate. You might be think­ing, “Aw, what a fairy­tale end­ing”. Err, NO! Out he shot, and the ha­rass­ment be­gan again, just as re­lent­lessly as be­fore. Out of the tank she came. This re­peated it­self like clock­work for the next five weeks: ev­ery sec­ond or third day she was in­tro­duced, swiftly at­tacked, put back into her own tank and re­con­di­tioned. Then one day, the fe­male went in, usual stuff. Wait. What’s go­ing on here? Some­thing very dif­fer­ent hap­pened this time – the fe­male turned per­pen­dic­u­lar to the male, be­gan to shake vig­or­ously, and the male started to ex­am­ine her. I thought things looked promis­ing, so I left them to­gether that evening.

Suc­cess at last

The fol­low­ing morn­ing, I rushed ea­gerly to the fish room to be greeted by 42 per­fectly round, bright white eggs on the floor of a cave. Within three days, the eggs hatched and a shim­mer­ing patch of fry could be seen blend­ing in with the sub­strate.

Things were look­ing good un­til on the eighth day, a hia­tus of fry vis­i­bil­ity oc­curred. The only thing I could put this down to, sadly, was parental pre­da­tion, but next day, some per­fectly formed mini kribs ap­peared from a tan­gle of root. The amount of de­vel­op­ment that had taken place dur­ing this pe­riod was phe­nom­e­nal, and I can only at­tribute this to the nu­tri­tion in the sub­strate, as no fry foods had been given.

From this point on, the fry grew rapidly on a plethora of fine foods, in­clud­ing my ever-trusty mi­croworm cul­tures, baby brineshrimp and pow­dered fry foods. At the time of writ­ing, they’ve been weaned onto frozen Daph­nia and small tubifex.

In­ter­est­ingly, since the two adults be­gan to get along, I haven’t wit­nessed any signs of ag­gres­sion be­tween them!

Rare, chal­leng­ing and very re­ward­ing.

Colours can be highly vari­able.

Alder cones.

Fe­male

Male

Ju­ve­nile

When not in breed­ing con­di­tion, the fe­male is quite drab.

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