I had heard the horror stories of trying to maintain this species in the aquarium. They have a reputation for slaughtering each other. After setting up my tank as mentioned before, I placed four individuals into the tank. Three of the four were roughly the same size, while the last one was a little larger. I had a group of five Anomalochromis thomasi already established in the tank. My first notable observation was that the largest one staked out a rock on one side and was rarely ever seen, except for feeding. The remaining three interacted with other for awhile, but before too long a hierarchy was established. The dominant individual of the three spent most of its time on the substrate in the open. The other two tended to perch themselves on the plants in the upper portion of the tank. Nobody was overly aggressive and all were eating fine. I am thinking at this point that their unruly and rough nature had been overblown. One day during a feeding they all emerged to eat. Within a minute the largest, a male, totally annihilated one of the smaller ones. I have seen some fish beatings before but nothing like this. It was over before I could even react to grab a net. Fins were shredded or missing all together. A portion of the lip had been removed and some smaller chunks of body were gone. The unfortunate fish died within minutes. The odd observation was that the other two never left the scene. Both remained close by and watched the entire incident with no fear at all.
Of course now I am on constant tank watch for more of this activity, but a couple of months elapsed with no further displays of aggression. I turned on the lights one afternoon and there is another body in the tank. It should be noted the thomasi were never bothered during any of this and looked fine. I am convinced I will be down to one wonderi before too long and might have to re-think my strategy for keeping this cichlid. It wasn't too long before the remaining two were hanging out together constantly. Though I understood they were very weak pair bonders, these two looked very bonded and constantly moved throughout the tank together. After awhile the male stopped coming out to feed and I started to get nervous. I started making sure that some food found its way to him in the corner and he would eat anything that floated by. He had himself a little cave in the rocks and didn't seem to want to leave. I was hopeful that he may be preparing to entice the female into breeding. A few weeks went by and nothing was happening. Of course, when you stop paying attention, something occurs. I went to turn on the tank lights one afternoon and I saw something scoot into the rocks real quick. The male had positioned himself in front of the rocks. I threw some food into the aquarium and sure enough three little fry scooted out to eat. They had a different pattern then the adults. They have vertical stripes and were not extremely elongated. I crushed up some algae flakes and they ate eagerly. I observed the tank closely and never saw more than the three young. I have no idea how big the broods usually are, but I was thrilled none the less. The parents guarded the little ones for about five weeks, and the female was much more involved in parental care than the male. Once they gained some size, I removed them from the tank and placed them in a 20 long. The fry are doing great and are growing slowly. The adult pair still hangs around constantly and I have not witnessed any signs that their status has or will change.
In conclusion, this is a great fish to consider if you are interested in West African cichlids. They spend most of their time out in the tank and are moving constantly form one perching spot to another. Their unique appearance always makes them a favorite when people come over to visit. I really enjoy keeping "Westies" and have a number of species, but these are among my favorites and really hope to see them make their way into more hobbyists' tanks!!