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Neolamprologus brichardi
by Brett Harrington (aka Fogelhund)

The Neolamprologus brichardi is a unique and beautiful fish. The beauty is not necessarily from stunning colour, but rather their long and graceful filaments that adorn the unpaired fins of the adults. A fine specimen of N. brichardi will also have a beautiful blue pattern on its cheeks. The brichardi was named after Pierre Brichard, a Belgian who set up a collection station, for the export of Tanganyikan cichlids in 1971, named "Fishes of Burundi." We owe much gratitude for the early exports, and discoveries of Pierre Brichard.

School of N. brichardiThe N. brichardi is unique in a number of ways. First, this fish is a substrate spawner (lays eggs on substrate), utilizing the rocky rubble to do so. While this is not unique on its own, it is the only known substrate-spawning cichlid that also schools. It is not unheard of to find a school numbering near 100,000 individuals within a 50 meter square area. A second unique characteristic of its spawning habits in the wild, are in the rearing of the fry. It is the only known fish in Africa that utilizes a collective nursery. This means that adults, subadults, and even half-grown fry all participate in a multi-generational rearing of the fry. N. brichardi individuals not only care for their own fry but the fry of those who spawn around them as well as keep vigil over other adults when actively spawning.

The N. brichardi specializes on feeding from the rocky biocover, picking at small crustaceans and invertebrates. It will also feed on swarms of plankton when available.

The following is the description as provide by M. Pierre Brichard of this fish.

"32-36 scales in longitudinal line; 20 scales in upper lateral line, 5-8 in lower; 6 canines in upper jaw, 4-6 in lower; 7-14 gill rakers; body depth 3.2-3.7 in standard length; pharyngeal teeth conical and thin; body pale beige, eventually with orange spots at the rear; all unpaired fins with long white filaments; black stripe from eye to opercular bone; size 90 mm (usually much less)" [Fishes of Lake Tanganyika, Pierre Brichard, TFH Publishing 1978, p251]

Shoal of brichardi at Fulwe Rocks

In the aquarium, exceptional specimens of brichardi have been known to grow to 150mm (6"), including the filaments on the tail. This is one of the easiest Tanganyikanís to keep, and indeed to breed, and a true beginner's fish. The fish will begin to breed in the aquarium as early as 5cm (2"). They arenít particularly choosy in selecting spawning mediums, and are known to spawn in rockwork, conch and welch shells, and inverted flower pots. As in the wild, the parents will allow many generations of fry to stay within the territory, and indeed these fry will assist the parents in guarding the younger fry.

A very important item to consider in selecting brichardi for an aquarium is being mindful of how protective this fish is in defending their fry. They have been known to have spawns numbering more than 100 fry at a time. It is not at all unheard of, for a single pair of brichardi to take over a mixed tank of Tanganyikans, even as large as a 120 cm (4 ft), 75-gallon aquarium. As they tend to pair off earlier than most other Tanganyikans, this becomes quite a common occurrence, with all of the other fish either huddled in the top corner, with some degree of damage, and often dead.

N. brichardiIt is my opinion that the best method for keeping Neolam-prologus brichardi is in a species only tank. A tank as small as 15 gallons can be utilized, though between 20 and 35 gallons would be more appropriate. By keeping this fish on its own, not only do you limit the chance they will eliminate their tankmates, but their graceful finnage will likely grow much better.

That is not to say that it is impossible to keep this fish with other Tanganyikans, but one must be careful in selecting tank mates, and the aquarium best be at least 90cm long (36"), with a 120cm (48") tank being preferable. Some commonly available fish that should be compatible would include; Neolamprologus leleupi, cylindricus; Altolamprologus calvus, compressiceps; Julidochromis marlieri or regani.

There is, however, a bit of a secret to making this work. Any other tankmates must be much larger then the brichardi to begin with, and they must establish their territory in the aquarium first. Purchasing an adult pair of calvus and juvenile brichardi would be an example of a situation that would normally work out. There is one important caveat: in a tank of less then 120cm (48") you would be limited to two pairs of fish when including brichardi in the mix.

I would not recommend keeping N. brichardi with Malawian, or Victorian cichlids no matter the circumstances, and Tanganyikan shell dwellers in most cases.

If your aquarium is 180cm (6ft), it is possible to house N. brichardi with many fish that you would not otherwise be able to do. I will categorically state, that it is not very easy to pull off, and you must know how to build territories that will limit where certain species of fish will go. Even then, the most experienced aquarists will get this wrong.

In the aquarium, this fish will readily accept prepared foods, such as cichlid pellets, and flake food, but it is recommended to supplement this diet with brine shrimp, mysis shrimp or Cyclops.

The Neolamprologus brichardi, when housed properly is a wonderful fish, that every hobbyist should keep at least once. □

 

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