At my first club auction, I was intrigued by a bag that contained a shell in water. Supposedly, there was a fish in that shell, but at the time, I was unprepared to pay twenty bucks without first seeing the fish. A year later and little more educated, I purchased a bag of five Neolamprologus multifaciatus fry at another club auction.
They went into a bare ten-gallon tank along with a couple shells. Five months later, a pair formed and these had chased the others out of the tank. The male was about one-inch and the female about two-thirds of an inch. Fry appeared on the scene shortly thereafter. The fry sure are small! I probably siphoned off some siblings before I noticed a single fry. I feed them spirulina flake morning and night and they get freshly hatched brine shrimp when I get home from work.
It was the female's behavior that should have tipped me off about the spawn. The
pair always hangs around their shell. They seldom entered the shell. If they did, they
came right back out. The change in behavior was when the female stopped letting
the male get close to the shell. She would position herself between the shell and the
male, usually below the male. Anytime he made a move toward the shell, she would
nip at his underside. I don't think this was to collect sperm because she did not go
into the shell afterward. She did this with authority. I was hooked.
A few months later there were about thirty fry in the tank. Some were starting to get
as large as the female, so I decided to move most of the large ones to a grow-out tank
which was a bare twenty-gallon tank with some shells. In another two months they
were nearing spawning size.
I read that multiple pairs could coexist in a colony, so to find likely females, I removed the shells and placed them on the top glass. Two fish came out of the shells, so I put them in with the pair. I also selected the two largest of the remaining fish. So far, only one of the new females is permitted to inhabit a shell. The other fish are kept at the top of the tank by the male. It's possible that the male is spawning with both females because there's quite a swarm of fry.
The tank is located at eye level next to where I hatch shrimp and keep the other supplies. I find myself spending a lot of time watching these little fish. Neolamprologus multifasciatus is a great fish for a novice because they don't require a large tank. Ten gallons can fit in just about anybody's budget. □