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Paralabidochromis chromogynos
by Greg Steeves

When I was first exposed to the myriad of colors the cichlid species from the Lake Victoria region possessed, I was instantly hook. They became the main focal point of my hobby interests. Unfortunately, living in the wilds of New Brunswick, my selection locally was nil. However there was someone working hard towards my passion on my behalf. My fiancée (now wife) would periodically make the trek up north to visit with me. On each trip she would bring a couple bags of Victorian cichlid fry. Most of the names I had never heard of, but the fish grew quick and I was able to observe and many times reproduce these fantastic animals. One such trip, Lee Ann brought me groups of Haplochromis sp. "purple yellow" and Paralabidochromis chromogynos. The P. chromogynos were very small but looked different from any other small Victorian I had seen. The fry were all blotched. As they grew, the OB pattern remained. Females maintained a black and white pattern while, when the males matured, other colors, predominantly red and blue, highlighted the piebald body markings.

The distinctive coloration of the Zue Island variant of P. chromogynos allow for easy identification. There are many other piebald cichlids from Lake Victoria that are attractive as well, but there is something distinguishing about P. chromogynos. We have won several show awards with the species as well so it would seem that we are not the only ones to recognize their beauty. It would seem its attractiveness is not limited to my bipartisan eyes.

When I moved to Texas, I brought a group of P. chromogynos young with me from the line I had been working with for about four years. They had just begun to breed when I encountered a yet unidentified parasite which went on to wipe out 8 tanks of fish. Of course, one of the species that met a dismal fate was our group of P. chromogynos. We lost all but one resilient male whom we still have to this day.

The search was on to find replenishing stock of what had become my favorite species. On two occasions I thought I had found fry only to have them grow into another very nice species Paralabidochromis sp. "red fin piebald". Then, in the summer of 2005, I exchanged some fish with friends from Winnipeg. One of the species sent to me was some supposed P. chromogynos. I had been duped before so I was cautiously optimistic. To my good fortune, the tiny fry developed into the fish I had been searching so hard for. As they have grown, they have only become more beautiful. Thanks Shaun!

The genus Paralabidochromis (Greenwood, 1956) is designated a small adult size of between 7 and 15cm. The members of this genus have a steeply sloping straight or slightly concave cranial profile and thickened lips. The lower teeth are implanted procumbently (Greenwood, 1980) and the outer rows lining both jaws are cylindrical in diameter, and number fewer than most other genera (16-48). Tooth structure is mainly bicuspid in smaller fish (less than 6.5-7cm) and unicuspid in the outer rows of larger individuals. The two or three rows of inner teeth are separated from the outer by a distinct spacing. Both jaws protrude equally. The premaxillary is prominent.

Most, if not all P. chromogynos females are piebald. The species was found throughout Lake Victoria from Jinja Uganda, south to Mwanza Gulf. The variant we have in the hobby was originally collected at Zue Island as is also distinctive as a high percentage of the males from this location are piebald as well. It is extremely rare here (Seehausen, 1996) and has not been seen in Nyegezi and Butimba Bays since 1982 (Witte, 1992). At Zue Island, this beautiful cichlid is found living along side other Paralabidochromis species including chilotes, sp. "Zue rockpicker", and sp. "rock krib". It is found over a pebble substrate, at a 4m depth on a slightly sloping rock decline.

Paralabidochromis chromogynos grows to a length of 11cm displaying very little size differentiation between the sexes. It is difficult to specifically describe the species due to color pattern variation between individuals. Females are black and white on the entire body as well as the fins. The males are similarly adorned with this pattern with additional blotches of blue and red especially on the fins. The cranial profile is curved and the lips are thickened. The pectoral fins are black with blue markings along the rays. The dorsal is blue and black with a red edging. The caudal and anal fins are black blotched, blue at the base merging to red at the extremities. A small number of egg spots (usually 2-3) line the rear portion of the anal fin. The orange-yellow ocelli cross the fin rays and display a distinctive dark orbit. P. chromogynos feeds primarily on insect larvae.

Our present colony is housed in a 55 gallon tank with similar sized Neochromis sp. "madonna" and a small school of Synodontis petricola "dwarf". The cichlids are around 7-8cm in length so all are showing the brilliant adult coloration. The Neochromis sp. "madonna" was added to the mix in hopes of relaxing the P. chromogynos who were incredibly skittish. This seems to have had some effectiveness. Spawning occurs in the method typical to Lake Victoria haplochromines. I have not witness an actual spawning with this species nor have I noticed any excavating activity. I suspect P. chromogynos is a substrate spawning species. Female gestation period is 18 days at which time the female will release her fry periodically scooping them into her mouth again and the first sign of danger. This behavior subsides after a couple weeks and the fry are permanently released to fend for themselves. Undoubtedly some fry will be taken by the other inhabitants of the tank but some will survive by hiding in the crevices of rockwork in the aquarium. Brood sizes have been small thus far at around a dozen fry.

To raise fry in numbers, I would recommend stripping the female of her larvae at 15 days. At this time, the young still have a yolk sac but are survivable in a small tank with a mature sponge filter. The will "scoot" along the bottom absorbing their yolk sac rapidly and raising from the tank floor. It is at this time that the first food should be presented. I've had fantastic success with a product called Cyclop-eeze©. Newly hatched brine shrimp will work as well. The young P. chromogynos will adapt to crushed flake rather quickly and should be started at about a week after they are swimming on their own. The young grow quickly at nearly a cm/month.

With a little care, Paralabidochromis chromogynos can be housed with other Lake Victoria species. Provide some rockwork as well as some open areas and this beautiful cichlid will become the focal point of your cichlid collection.

References:
Seehausen, Ole; 1996; "Lake Victoria Rock Cichlids"; Verduyn Cichlids; pp. 172-177.

Greenwood, P.H; 1959; "A revision of the Lake Victoria Haplochromis species (Pisces, Cichlidae), Part III. Bulletin of the British Museum of Natural History (Zoological), 5(7): pp. 179-218 (1959: Febuary)

Originally published in The Lateral Line, the official publication of the Hill Country Cichlid Club.

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