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I LOVE MULM

by Del Calhoun

GCCA’S CICHLID CHATTER — JANUARY 1999

For years now, I have been trying to convince people that I’m not a lazy hobbyist and mulm is a good thing to have in your tank. Every one must know me too well, because I haven’t fooled anyone yet. Sometimes mulm can be beneficial. Especially when you have a pair of cichlids with fry. I have watched many pairs of cichlids stir up the pile of mulm so the fry can dig right in for a good meal. I don’t think I ever really want to know what is in that pile of stuff in the corner of the tank, but there must be something good in there for the fry. Other times, mulm is pretty useless. It just lays there until someone does something about it. Here’s a couple of things I have heard about that could be good for the club or at least fun. Of course, if no one does anything about them, they will just lay there.

The cichlid association in Detroit has this thing they call the Green Carp Award. This is annual award given to a club member who has committed a major fish blunder. They use a large stuffed fish and each winning member signs this fish. The winner holds the stuffed fish for one year and then gives it to a new winner at one of their awards ceremonies. Now, I have always wondered why we couldn’t have something like that? There is no doubt in my mind that many of our members have made some major blunders, including myself. The rules would be very simple.

The first requirement would be a sense of humor. I think this is extremely important for whomever may win this award. If we were to give this award to a member whose sense of humor left a lot to the desired, we would probably lose a member... no, make that for sure we would lose a member.

The second requirement would be to make a major blunder and then be dumb enough to let another member know about it and then to have that member tell the committee. So remember in the future, should you do something really stupid (and if you keep fish long enough it will happen), be careful who you tell. Because you never know, our club could come up with an award very similar to the Green Carp Award and when you least expect it, we’ve got you. The third requirement would be for some one or some group of mem- bers to decide they also like this idea and then come up with an award that is similar. This is where you come in. Remember, the best way not to receive this wonderful award is to be the one who gives it out.

Want to know the easiest way to spawn Aulonocara jacobfreibergi? It’s not nearly as hard is some of you might think. First, let it be known that you only like Central American cichlids and that you think mouth brooders are boring. Next, set up a garden pond in your back yard. Before you know it, some smart ass member, in this case it was my brother, will throw a trio of Aulonocara in your pond, claiming he didn’t have anywhere else to put them. Once you have gotten this far all you have to do is wait until the end of the summer and you should have it least 30–40 nice new Aulonocara babies. See I told you it was easy.

Speaking of raising cichlid fry, the boys from Elite Cichlids have turned me onto this new product called Cyclop-Eeze. It claims to be an Artemia Nauplii replacement. In other words, no more hatching baby brine shrimp. To date, I have used it to feed five separate spawns and I think it’s a great first food . I feed it to the fry for about the first three weeks until I can get them on flake food. It doesn’t cloud the water. The fry love it and have you ever forgotten to turn the air back on a container of baby brine shrimp after feeding? Oh, that smell the next day can be terrible. I will never have to smell a thousand dead baby crabs again. I think some of our other members should try it out and let the club know what they think about it. I have heard one member complain that too much of the food stays at the top of the tank. I just stir it up a bit and that seems to work for me.

Do you remember back when you first started coming to GCCA meetings? All those Latin names being thrown about sure could make it confusing when all you wanted was to find that pretty blue fish you saw in a book. I remember my first auction. I was shocked to see all those fish in bags for up to sixteen hours. The pet store always told me to rush right home with my new fish. I bring this up because we all need a little help in the beginning. Sandi Ellison has been pushing the idea of some kind of mentor program at board meet- ings lately and it makes a lot of sense to me. She has told us how she probably wouldn’t have lasted as a member for more than three months if it wasn’t for Ed Schmidt. She had some problems with her discus and fortunately called Ed. Ed helped her with her problem and went a step further. During the next couple of meetings, whenever Ed saw Sandi he would sit down with her and talk to her for a while. Before long she felt right at home. So, now that you have been a member for a while and those Latin names don’t even phase you, find a new member who looks like a deer in headlights and sit down with them for a while. Talk to them and try to help them with their questions or introduce them to some- one who can. Basically, just treat them the way you wish you were treated when you first joined. Who knows, you might get lucky and make a new friend. Rick Borstein just at- tended his first Board meeting (which any member is welcome to attend) and when the meeting was almost over, he asked Don and Jan if they were going to show him their fish. He was surprised to learn they didn’t have any. When he asked them why they were still in the club, Don pointed around the room and said “It’s because of the friends we have made over the years”. OK if you know Don, you know he didn’t say anything nearly that nice about us, but we can’t print the names Don calls his friends.

Well, there you have it. A whole pile of mulm. Now let’s see if it’s the beneficial kind or if it just lays there.

 

LAKE ALBERT’S HAPLOCHROMIS “YELLOW BELLY”

by Michael Helford

GCCA’S CICHLID CHATTER — JANUARY 1999    

Yellow Belly Haps are a somewhat newly available species in our area. Coming from Lake Albert, a less well known Lake in East Africa, there is no written literature about this species that I can find. Recent correspondence with Ad Konings corroborates this lack of available literature. Thus, I thought it might be of some interest to relate my limited experience with this new species over the last year or so.

The males develop a rather bright but light yellow belly and a copper or darker reddish back. The females remain a silver-gray, with a few vertical markings that show only occasionally, apparently depending on their state of arousal. I find the males attractive, and as is usually the case with sexually dimorphic African cichlids, the females look nice but are not colorful. Individuals are quite variable in their individual appearance from moment to moment. The dominant males can be very striking when they display their stronger colors and melanin pattern (thin vertical stripes on face and on fins, especially the dorsal). At these times and when displaying, the male is rather brightly colored. Individuals tend to hang motionless for periods of time near the bottom, near a plant or object, or in the water column, and then make darting movements. I find that they stay closer to the bottom of the tank most often but will feed avidly from flake food on the surface when presented. Most of their movement has that staccato quality, although occasionally (dominant males especially) will make longer movement across a section of the tank with a turn or two, but then they always end the movement quickly and stop. They appear to me as both timid and bold. Timid in the sense that they will shy away quickly when I approach to watch them, but they are bold in that they do not appear very intimidated by larger fishes nearby. They also seem rather aggressive intraspecifically. I have not observed any aggression against other species, save for an occasional warn- ing nip to a very close and smaller individual of another species. But, with other Yellow Belly individuals they occasionally dart at one another, with the dominant males chasing just about everyone pretty frequently for short jaunts.

Northwest of Lake Victoria, the Nile, the longest river in the world, runs into and out of Lake Albert. Thus, the Nile connects Lake Victoria and Lake Albert. The Victoria Nile, as it is called, runs from Lake Victoria and into the Northern part of Lake Albert, and the Albert Nile runs out also from Northern Lake Albert and up into Sudan. Lake Albert is situated between the Western side of Uganda and the Northeastern side of Congo (formerly Zaire). The water in Lake Albert is very hard (700 uS or microSiemens and probably around 13 dH) and is very alkaline with pH ranging from 8.9 to 9.5.

I first purchased four individuals of this species at the GCCA auction on January 31, 1998. They were each quite small, maybe approaching one inch. As luck would have it, one jumped out of the ten gallon that they were placed in (with a brood of sunshine peacock babies, Aulonocara baenschi) and another died of unknown causes. The remaining two individuals were moved to a 55 gallon tank, shared with the following species: Aulonocara hansbaenschi, Protomelas sp. “spilonotus Tanzania”, Fossorochromis rostratus, and Labidochromis caeruleus. These two stayed rather shy, usually hiding among the plastic plants and rocks. They would occasionally venture out into the open and did not appear fearful, but seemed more comfortable hanging back in the cover of such objects. They were all aggressive feeders, and when flake food was presented, they scurried out and grabbed it quickly and had big appetites. These two individuals grew to almost two inches and seemed to thrive until about four months later when they appeared distressed. More frequent water changes and treatment with Clout did not help and both individuals died soon after with gills wide open, suggesting perhaps gill parasites or infection.

In any case, I purchased another three babies of the species at the next auction, the May 31, 1998 Cichlid Classic. This time, one of the three died in the bag before I got it home. The remaining two, fortunately, turned out to be a male and a female. These two were placed in a 10 gallon tank shared with a brood of Copadichromis quadramaculatus. As was the case with the sunshine peacocks, the co-inhabitants got along fine. To my great surprise, these two, at about one inch, spawned. I found the female with her throat bulg- ing, showing the outline of one of the eggs. I was amazed to see such a small fish with a mouthful of eggs. She held the mouthful with commitment however, and I placed her in a small breeding net. About two or three weeks later, she released about four fry— one short of BAP requirements! The fry accepted crushed flake food and powdered Sera Marin tablets without any problem during the first few weeks.

All seemed well until I woke one day to find that one of the Quads had jumped into the breeding trap and all but one of the babies were missing. So, the remaining baby had escaped providing nourishment to the accidental intruder. Although disheartened, I ra- tionalized that the pair would spawn again and this would become just a first failed attempt. But, as if that weren’t enough, the next day I found the female dead, eyes gone, and apparently a victim of the male’s aggression. I moved the remaining baby to another 10 gallon shared with smaller quad and sunshine peacock fry. Although this individual was the smallest of the fry in this tank, she did fine and as of today is ap- proaching an inch in length.

The next chapter of my keeping of this species is currently unfolding. Although I still have the male and his daughter is growing well, I purchased two lots of Haplochromis sp. “Yellow Belly” at the recent November 14 auction. Eight individuals, all around two inches in length, were placed in a bare bottomed 30 gallon along with five one- inch Ngara Peacocks, a sponge filter, and several plastic plants, and rocks. One of the three males died within the first few days, possibly as a result of the dominant male’s aggression. The largest and most active male is showing his colors more strongly, especially vertical lines in his face and forebody. He continues to harass the remain- ing male and to almost continually display for the females. It looks as if one or two of the females may already be holding a mouthful of eggs, but I am reluctant to disturb them, so I will ascertain the certainty of their ovigerous status later. I am excited to work on breeding this species, as it appears to be relatively easy, and hope to observe and raise a full brood of fry soon. 

BREEDING LABIDOCHROMIS SP. “PERLMUTT”

by Rick Borstein 

GCCA’S CICHLID CHATTER — JANUARY 1999    


After seven years, I finally set up a 150-gallon tank. It was my hope to keep and breed Frontosa and in August of 1997, I visited Elite Cichlids to buy some.

My six-year-old Sam accompanied me and while there I saw a cichlid that was new to me—Labidochromis sp. “perlmutt”. Perlmutt, I learned, means Mother of Pearl in German. The dominant male on display was truly spectacular and sported a gorgeous pearlescent sheen with yellow highlights on the fins. Females, as is often the case with Malawian mouthbrooders, were indescript— a light tan with dark brown vertical stripes. The fish is very similar in form and behavior to Labidochromis caeruleus, another attractive Malawian that I had bred several years prior.

My son loved the perlmutts and we trooped home with the Frontosa, the perlmutts and several Leptostoma cyprichromis “tri-color”. Fortunately, Elite Cichlids accepts credit cards!

Once home, I placed the juvenile fish in a 55-gallon tank that also housed several Melanochromis johanni and Paratilapia nkala. I did weekly 40% water changes and fed a variety of dry foods. The tank is maintained at 78°F and is filtered by a large Supreme Aquamaster filter and a dual Tetra Phas sponge filter driven by a powerhead. My water, like most of the Chicago area, is very hard and great for most African cichlids.

The fish grew quickly and a within four months a dominant male developed the char- acteristic pearlescent coloring that had so intrigued me during my visit to Elite Cichlids. My son named the dominant male “Captain” and indeed he did his best to strut his stuff and “run” the tank himself.

About a month after the male colored up, I discovered a small female holding eggs. I let her stay in the fifty-five for two weeks, then netted her out and placed her in a ten gallon tank with a seasoned Tetra Billi sponge filter. At 22 days, the female released 7 rather large fry which were immediately able to eat baby brine shrimp. I left the female with the fry for a few more days to recover, then returned her to her original tank.

The fry were not prodigious growers for me. This may be because I was not able to feed them twice a day or easily transition them to dry foods. Eventually, I discovered, that they readily accepted finely crushed Tetra Bits and started growing rapidly. After keeping them for three months, I submit- ted them to the club’s Breeders Award Program.

A couple months later, I was able to witness the Perlmutts spawning. As you know, we cichlid buffs live for this— spawning behavior is very interest- ing to watch! After a wa- ter change, I noticed thedominant male and the largest female select and clean a smooth piece of rock in the aquarium. The female seemed to do most of the work while the male kept busy driving away the other inhabitants of the tank. The fish chose an inclined, flat river rock on which to spawn. In typical mouthbrooder fashion, the pair danced around each other a bit, then the female laid an egg and turned (while the egg slowly tumbled down the incline) and picked it up in her mouth. The male fish vibrated while the female bit at his egg spots fertilizing the eggs. Most books describe this at the “T”position.

By this time, the females had gotten much larger and subsequent spawns, as you’d guess, were larger. The largest spawn I obtained was 22 fry. Later fry were also a little more robust and easier to grow out. In fact, I got lazy and didn’t even bother with baby brine shrimp and simply fed finely crushed TetraBits— works great!

If you like mouthbrooding Africans, I think you would enjoy keeping and breeding Labidochromis sp. “perlmutt”. The fish are attractive, not demanding, and fairly


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