This long and slender lamprologine has been a mainstay in the hobby for decades and promises to keep its place among the all-time favorites. This is due to several factors, primarily its bright color and intriguing parental behavior.
N. leleupi come to us from Lake Tanganyika and consequently need rather hard and alkaline water. Lake Tanganyika has a pH between 7.8 and 9.0, depending upon the location and time of year. They are collected from several locations along both the east and west coasts of the lake, and particularly from Bulu Point, Tanzania and Bemba, Zaire. Not all N. leleupi are orange or yellow. Even though the yellowish orange variant is signifcantly more abundant in the lake, two other color morphs are not infrequently seen occupying the same habitats: silvery-beige and brownish-black.
The dark morph was identified early on; nevertheless, both have been classified together. This is because the dark morph was found to have the same yellow pigment as the yellow morph; however, it is obscured by the black pigment. In other words, the yellow individuals are just lacking the black color. Notwithstanding, in the aquarium, yellow or orange individuals should be kept over light-colored substrata; otherwise they tend to turn dark and appear "dirty."
The geographical race that comes from Bulu Point is known for its dark mustache - a little bit of black markings over its upper lip. This trait has been selectively eliminated from one line bred stock - the Dutch Orange, or Super Bright Orange - which is pictured here on this page. Bright specimens lacking any melanistic markings were chosen and subsequently bred to one another until an ultra "clean" variety was secured. In the aquarium, specimens vary widely in their color. This is more diet-dependent and can fluctuate from yellow to orange to red.
In the wild, Neolamprologus leleupi is a predator, feeding on zoobenthic organisms, aquatic insects, and copepods. In the aquarium, however, they readily accept flake and pellet foods. It's important that N. leleupi's diet have Cyclops, Mysis, or other carotene-containing foods if they are to show their bright, yellowish-orange color. Other recommended food include white and black mosquito larvae, plankton, and the European Shrimp Mix.
It's not uncommon for leleupi to develop goiter, which can easily be remedied and prevented by adding iodized table salt to the water. Believe it or not, Tanganyikan cichlids need iodine. In fact, Tetra Cichlid Vital - the water conditioner - is loaded with iodine. Iodine is required for proper thyroid function, which regulates growth and development in fish.
N. leleupi is a solitary species. When breeding occurs, a sexually active male and a ripe female will pair off; however, the bond rarely lasts longer than a month. In the wild, spawning occurs in the female's cave. Spawning will also occur in the female's cave in the aquarium if one is provided, otherwise they will pick a dark spot among the rocks to lay the eggs. If you use a flower pot or ceramic cave, make sure both the male and female have their own and that they are placed at opposite ends of the tank. When the female is ripe, she'll be fuller around the abdomen. Spawning will begin by the female leading the male to her cave. She will then attach her eggs on the sides of the cave and the male will swim over them, depositing his sperm.
Broods number between 50 and 250, although expect a value closer to 100. Note, Neolamprologus leleupi is a secretive cave spawner. You may keep and breed this fish for years and never see the eggs. If you do happen to see the eggs, expect them to be pure white, not yellow or orange. White eggs are perfectly healthy and not necessarily fungused. They will hatch after about four days. If your female disappears for several days, she may be guarding a spawn. After they hatch, the male and female will trade off guarding the young until they are large enough to go out and face the world. N. leleupi are fantastic parents. You can keep the fry with the parents until they get quite large. In fact, it is almost necessary to keep fry in the tank with the parents to garuantee continued harmony between the parents! Multiple spawns will peacefully coexist in the tank. Once the fry hatch, it is important to have fry-suitable food available for them. In addition, a bright light to promote algal growth can be beneficial.
In the wild, they are usually spotted (alone) searching for prey among the rocks of their environment, and appear to cover a large terrain. N. leleupi has been observed along the rocky shoreline and the intermediate habitats of the lake at a depth of 15 meters. For a proper aquarium setup, they should be provided with lots of rocks, caves, and crannies - males and females alike can be rather belicose towards conspecifics. A light-colored sand is also recommended. A tank no smaller than 50 gallons is recommended. They are best kept with mild-mannered tankmates.
Males and females are equally colored, with males reaching maximum lengths of 5 inches, and females a bit smaller. These appearances will only become apparent after about a year and a half. Ideally, pair formation should be facilitated by growing up 8-10 juveniles. Pairs will form after about eighteen months, at which time they should be moved to other tanks. This is because they don't tolerate conspecifics and it's difficult to introduce a pair into a tank after they're adults.