DJRansome wrote:This is assuming you watched the entire spawn which can take more than a day.
You must be referring to, or including pre-spawning/courting behavior
The actual spawning act of a mouthbrooder takes less then 1/2 an hour, tops. Usually no more then 5-10 minutes. Seen it hundreds of times. Even mozambiques with much larger broods then mbuna, did the act in a matter of minutes. I've seen demasoni on two ocasions breed with 2 males. On the wall of the left side of the tank, then with a male on the right wall of the tank, then back again with the male on the left wall of the tank. Even with 2 males and coming back to breed with the 1st male a second time, the entire spawning act couldn't have taken more then 5 minutes!
Substrate spawners can take a little longer, but then some of the bigger cichlids can lay over 1000 eggs. Most are done in well under an hour. 2-3 hours at the most for very large batches of eggs.
Now with mouthbrooders, I agree you can't always be certain on which male(s) fertilized the eggs unless you actually witness the act (see the eggs coming out of the female, the male positioning by the female's mouth to fertilize and then the female picking the eggs up).