Pseudocrenilabrus nicholsi is a wonderful fish that anyone would be lucky to have in his or her collection. They are peaceful, hardy, and beautiful. Hopefully when you are done reading this you will ready to add some to one of your tanks.
The genus Pseudocrenilabrus consist of 3 species and 5 subspecies. It includes multicolor multicolor, multicolor victoriae, philander plhilander, philander disperus, philander luebberti, and nicholsi. Their range is very wide, covering Egypt to South Africa. About the only place they don't occur is West Africa and central Africa north of the Congo. In general they are a small fish with a rather deep body. As with most Haplochromine, the sexes are dramatically different. The males are larger and are uniquely colored compared to the females. In addition, the male possess longer rays in the unpaired and pelvic fins. In the wild they feed predominately on insects and crustaceans. They are also typical in that they are a mouthbrooding, non-pair bonding fish. The water they inhabit in the wild is all over the board, but most species are found in soft water. Now let's discuss our subject, the nicholsi in a greater amount of detail.
Origins and distribution: Originally described as Paratilipia nicholsi in 1928 by Pellegrin. They live in the Congo region, and are found in-between and including the lakes at Upemba to Ankoro.
Description: Wow!! Looking at one of these beauties in full coloration is incredible. It is an explosion of color and contrast. They max at about the 4" mark. They are deep bodied like other members of the species. The head is a beautiful golden bronze. The lower lips and some areas under their mouth are a very metallic blue. The body is a stunning red and blue pattern that runs the entire length up to the beginning of the tail fin. The tail is fan shaped and a light red with blue specks throughout. The dorsal has a lot of red in it and some lines of blue and the front half is black tipped. The pelvic fin is opaque with very black edges. The anal fin has very similar coloring to the dorsal minus the black tips. Often the males will cruise around much like a peacock, fins fully extended looking incredible. Getting the idea that I think these are gorgeous fish? The females are much more subdued. They have many of the patterns of the males, just no color.
Aquarium life: These are very easy to keep and should present no problems to anyone who has kept cichlids. Due to their smallish size they can be kept in tanks as small as 20 longs quite comfortably. I have had them in a wide variety of sizes and they have done fine in all of them. Tanks had sand bottoms and holey rock for cover. An interesting note is that they can be a bit shy when kept alone. In an attempt to bring them out I put a few zebra danios in with them. That didn't work out too good for the danios as they were shredded pretty quickly. I stuck a trio of peacocks in with them and they were out constantly. At one point they were in with some Malawi mbuna and did wonderful with them as well. Multiple males did fine together and never had any violence aimed at sub-dominant males. In addition, they are not very hard on the females at all. The diet was a crapshoot. Not a whole lot is known about their natural diet, so I attempted to cover it all with a wide variety. I fed NLS pellets as the staple food and supplemented with krill flake, spirilnua, frozen plankton, krill, mysis, and some Cyclopeeze. They ate it all eagerly and maintained splendid coloration.
Breeding: I noticed the activity level picking up in the tank and started paying a little bit more attention. The first item I noticed was the dominant male was doing some landscaping of his own. He cleared all the sand out by the edge of a large rock and kept trying to get the females over in the area. He would rush a female, start dancing, and maintain this as he kind of floated over towards his spot. I didn't witness the actual spawning taking place, but a couple of days later I noticed a female with a mouthful of eggs. I left her alone for a while and she wasn't bothered at all. An odd thing I noticed though was she was eating pretty regularly. She was consuming very small amounts of flake. When the other would eat and expel some small morsels, she would give a quick burst and take some in. I have seen other fish snack occasionally like this, but she did it rather frequently. At about 15 days, I was moving some rocks around and figured it would be a good time to grab her and move her into a different tank. While netting the female, she spit out 8 free-swimming fry to my delight. On a diet of Cyclopeeze and crushed flake, they are doing wonderful.
I can't think of one reason not to have some of these guys in your tanks. They are small, beautiful, and easy to breed. They are not rare, but are not common either. So keep your eyes open and snag some next time you get a chance!!