Known affectionately as "Comps," Alto. compricesseps comes in several geographical races. The one pictured here is the "Gold Head" morph from Mutondwe Island. This morph known and admired in the hobby for its unusually bright burst of orange on its head.
Alto. compressiceps is characterized by a laterally compressed body, a sloping forehead with a turned-up snout , bold, tiger-like stripes and white to blue spots that decorate the posterior two-thirds of their flanks. The spots are more intense in adult males of the species. Comps are closely related to Altolamprologus calvus. These two differ morphologically in that Comps have shorter jaws and their snout is turned up, whereas the calvus has a long, sloping face. Comps' bars are more distinct and their spots less so, being just the opposite of the calvus. Adult males can attain maximum lengths of six inches, while females max out at around four inches. Once mature, males are also higher-bodied and possess more elongated fins. Tanks no smaller than 100 gallons are recommended for adults.
Alto. compressiceps is a predator, and specializes in snatching young cichlids and invertebrates from between rock crevices and rock piles. Their laterally compressed body not only helps them in avoiding detection, but permits them to go into narrow crevices, turning their bodies at odd angles if needed. Small fishes, such as juveniles and shell-dwellers, should not be kept in the same tank with this fish as Comps may dine on them. Fish over an inch are usually safe; however, caution should still be exercised.
When hunting, Alto. compressiceps will cruise along the substrate looking for prey. Once a target has been identified, it will keep its eye locked on the prey, but raises its body upwards and then strikes. The first time I saw my compressiceps do this, I thought it was dead. It was kind of floating lifelessly and its body was slowly rolling over ... until it snatched up a victim. It really caught me by surprise, even though I had read about this behavior.
In the aquarium, they can be given any type of live or frozen food (except beef heart or any other food containing mammalian products). Live food is always greedily consumed. Flake food is accepted, but is usually insufficient alone to bring a female into breeding condition.
Altolamps in general make a great addition to most any Tanganyikan community setup, barring a setup with shell dwellers. They can also be kept with many of the fishes from Lakes Malawi and Victoria, provided the latter also require a high protein diet. Mbuna are not ideal tankmates for this reason.
They make a great addition to many setups because they tend to mind their own business, but can certainly hold their own. The thick scales of Altolamps give them an efficient protection against attacks by fry-guarding cichlids. I have read that when attacked, they will bend their bodies so as to expose their scales to an enemy, which will easily fray the lips of an enemy when bitten.
Comps are not territorial nor are they aggressive towards other cichlids of similar size. When introducing an "Altolamp" to your aquarium, don't be alarmed if it hides for several weeks before it becomes comfortable with its surroundings. Just be patient and ensure good water quality. Don't overfeed in your anxiety that it eat; this will only degrade water conditions and cause other cichlids in the tank to become more susceptible to Bloat.
Altolamprologus species are substrate spawners. It is not uncommon to miss this fish spawning, as it is a very secretive spawner. Spawning takes place in a cave, shell, or flowerpot too small for the male to enter. The male will release his milt at the entrance. Both the male and female will then fan their fins to direct it to the eggs, which have been dropped on the substrate. Typical spawns may number as many as 200. Females can spawn every 25-35 days when kept in condition. The eggs take more than a week before they hatch and are mature enough to move out on their own. The fry are quite large, but require a very long time to grow to maturity.
For example, it may take six months or more for an "Altolamp" to reach 1.5 inches. They are best kept and bred as pairs, but can also be kept as a colony. Notwithstanding, all Altolamprologus species operate alone.