Lake Tanganyika Species • Cooperative breeding in Julidochromis sp.?

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Cooperative breeding in Julidochromis sp.?

Postby ererer » Thu Mar 11, 2021 10:55 am

Hi all.

I did some searching to see if this had been discussed previously on the forum, but didn't find any significant threads on the topic.

I've found several peer reviewed papers and a handful of articles from hobbyists discussing documented cooperative breeding by Julidochromis, specifically J. transcriptus and J. ornatus, often involving subdominate males or helpers that are smaller than the breeding pair, that provide a majority of parental care, and that can take over a role in the breeding pair if it becomes available. See here, here, here, here, here, and here. *Note* I have access to full articles through my University library, so if you would like to read them please let me know and I can share them.

Has anyone personally observed such behavior in their home aquaria? From what I've read, it seems to be more common to get a group of juvenile julies, wait for a pair to form, and then remove the other fish before they are harassed to death.
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Re: Cooperative breeding in Julidochromis sp.?

Postby Fogelhund » Thu Mar 11, 2021 1:48 pm

I've bred ornatus (three times), transcriptus (twice), sp. Kombe (six-eight times), regani(2), marlieri(3), marksmithi, and dickfeldi. Not once have I observed this in the aquarium. I've observed it with Neolamprologus princess types... pulcher/brichardi etc...
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Re: Cooperative breeding in Julidochromis sp.?

Postby sir_keith » Thu Mar 11, 2021 2:30 pm

ererer wrote: ...I've found several peer reviewed papers and a handful of articles from hobbyists discussing documented cooperative breeding by Julidochromis, specifically J. transcriptus and J. ornatus, often involving subdominate males or helpers that are smaller than the breeding pair, that provide a majority of parental care, and that can take over a role in the breeding pair if it becomes available...

Has anyone personally observed such behavior in their home aquaria?...


Yes, all the time, especially for J. ornatus and J. marlieri; you just need the right setup in order for the fishes to display their natural behaviours. For example, if you have a species tank with enough room so that the breeding pairs are not constantly preoccupied with defending their territories, subdominant fishes- often their own progeny from previous spawns- will participate in the cooperative raising of fry in each individual 'colony.' This makes good sense evolutionarily, as long as there is also some gene flow between colonies, which you can also observe if you pay careful attention to the behaviour of individual fish. I have kept Julidochromis continuously for over forty years, longer than any other genus, primarily because of these fascinating behaviours.

ererer wrote: ...From what I've read, it seems to be more common to get a group of juvenile julies, wait for a pair to form, and then remove the other fish before they are harassed to death.


Yes, that's the cookie-cutter recipe that works when the fishes don't have enough space to get out of each others' way, and unfortunately, it largely precludes being able to observe the fascinating cooperative breeding behaviours.
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