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Altolamprologus and Their Fry
by Russ Fairburn (aka: Razzo)
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The nursery tanks

If you have chosen to keep the spawning shell in the main tank, you will know it's time to take action once you see the fry at the mouth of the shell. The fry will soon leave after they begin to explore the mouth area of the shell. If you miss this key event, all the fry will leave the shell and will be consumed by the other tank residents by the next morning. Normally, the mother will not eat her fry; however, any other Altolamps in the tank will quickly consume them once they have ventured out of the immediate vicinity of their mother (which always happens). To have ANY success, the fry must be removed from the main tank.


A female calvus protecting her fry

A 2.5, 5, or 10-gallon tank will make an excellent nursery for recently hatched Altolamp fry, if you keep water quality parameters very steady. (It is easier to control temperature and maintain clean water in larger tanks.) Remove the spawning shell from the main tank (often with mom in it) to the nursery tank. Ensure that the nursery tank has been recently filled with water from the main tank and all water conditions are the same. Keeping the main tank at low nitrate levels (10ppm or less) is vital (more about this later). If you can lure mom away from the shell, you can leave the shell in the nursery tank. Once the majority of the fry have left the shell you will want to remove it because there is waste from the hatching process that will be detrimental to the water quality in the nursery tank.

I recommend that you dunk & drain the shell, upside down, into the nursery tank to remove any remaining fry from the shell. Repeat this procedure many times to ensure that all the fry have been removed and do not keep the shell out of the water for longer than a moment. In addition to any fry, the dunk & drain procedure will also drain waste into the nursery tank. Immediately remove any waste by using a small diameter syphon tube to carefully vacuum out the unwanted debris.

I prefer to house new fry in a 10-gallon tank for the first two months of life and then relocate them to a tank with a 48" footprint (either a 40-gallon long or 55-gallon tank). While the following statement has not been empirically verified, it is my opinion, that fry survival and growth rates dramatically improve in larger tanks.

Tank Décor Setup, Equipment & Environmental Enrichment


Altolamprologus nursery

I am not a proponent of bare glass tanks (per se). When fish are stressed, it is commonly accepted that this can weaken their immune systems and eventually lead to death. Altolamp fry have limited defenses from predators except for the ability to camouflage themselves and hide out in any available structure. In my opinion, they are genetically wired to seek out cover and the absence of such cover is a stressor. In a "sterile" environment, like the glass boxes that we house our fish in, a bare bottom tank is essential to easily and effectively removing waste and maintaining the kind of water quality necessary to avoid mass die offs. I believe it is possible to have that "easy to clean" glass bottom and still enrich their environment and provide the cover they require.

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