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Thank you both! I think I understand better now.

Will all females develop the nice colouration in the fins eventually?
I'm not sure how much color variation exists amongst Cyathopharynx females, but in Ophthalmotilapia female coloration varies substantially. For example, some O. nasuta Kipili 'Gold' females are just silver fishes with hints of gold highlights, whereas others have lots of gold pigment, at least as much as young males.
 

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Discussion Starter · #123 ·
OK thanks, I'll wait and see!

In the meantime I think I spoke too soon, the 2nd male has dug his nest on the far left. The nests of the 2 males are really close, only separated by a rock. The entire right half of the tank is unclaimed by any of the Cyathopharynx.
 

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OK thanks, I'll wait and see!

In the meantime I think I spoke too soon, the 2nd male has dug his nest on the far left. The nests of the 2 males are really close, only separated by a rock. The entire right half of the tank is unclaimed by any of the Cyathopharynx.
In the wild, Cyathopharynx males build nests whose edges are juxtaposed, so that the entire bottom is confluent with nests. As females generally visit multiple nests whilst spawning, and carry multipaternal broods, evolutionary pressure favors males with nests close to one another so as to maximize access to receptive females. Males who are 'loners' have less reproductive success, and are subject to negative selection over evolutionary time. Thus the behaviours you are seeing.
 

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Sir Keith, how do you know this stuff?? I tend to learn as much as I can about my hobbies and interests, and maybe I'm just impatient with this learning curve, but it feels like I'm either finding blog-quality garbage, books that do a superficial survey of too many species at once, or else way TOO specific journal studies comparing two quantities of garlic in catfish feed for effect on weight gain, lol.
Can you suggest some resources that go deeper about behavior and environment but are still accessible to someone who doesn't yet have a ton of context to hang it on? I'm trying to set up some "beginner" Malawi cichlids.
 

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Sir Keith, how do you know this stuff?? I tend to learn as much as I can about my hobbies and interests, and maybe I'm just impatient with this learning curve, but it feels like I'm either finding blog-quality garbage, books that do a superficial survey of too many species at once, or else way TOO specific journal studies comparing two quantities of garlic in catfish feed for effect on weight gain, lol.
Can you suggest some resources that go deeper about behavior and environment but are still accessible to someone who doesn't yet have a ton of context to hang it on? I'm trying to set up some "beginner" Malawi cichlids.
Well, I've been keeping cichlids for more than 50 years, and have picked up a few things along the way! :) Also, I am a biologist, with a background in molecular genetics, so I am keenly interested in the lessons that the cichlid fishes of Africa's Great Rift Lakes can teach us about evolutionary biology.

I understand your frustration in trying to learn about these fishes, but I would suggest that an excellent way to learn is to start out with books by well-known authorities in the field. One excellent source is Ad Konings, who has written many informative books on both Tanganyika and Malawi cichlids. Once you get into it a bit, you will discover for yourself that there are many other sources of information. A local fish club can also be an important resource, and a way to meet other serious, well-informed hobbyists.

Most of the things you will find online are just individuals' opinions, not established facts. Take these with a grain of salt. And most of all, be patient and have fun! Good luck. (y)
 

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I agree with OP...I have many of Ad Konings books and will likely buy any future ones. But his writings are more about the fish in the wild. IMO there is a derth of information on African Rift Lake cichlid behavior in the aquarium.
 

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Discussion Starter · #129 ·
I agree that it's hard to find information online about this area of the hobby. Coming from the South American Cichlid side of the hobby, there's tons of information online and many specialist forums dedicated to even specific types of such fish (e.g. Angelfish forum finarama, several discus forums like simply discus, etc.). It was easy to research on the types of fish that I used to keep. For African cichlids, I'm really relying on the expert advice of sir_keith, DJRansome and others on this forum and I'm really thankful for their guidance or I'd definitely be much more lost in keeping these fish!
 

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Discussion Starter · #130 ·
In the wild, Cyathopharynx males build nests whose edges are juxtaposed, so that the entire bottom is confluent with nests. As females generally visit multiple nests whilst spawning, and carry multipaternal broods, evolutionary pressure favors males with nests close to one another so as to maximize access to receptive females. Males who are 'loners' have less reproductive success, and are subject to negative selection over evolutionary time. Thus the behaviours you are seeing.
This definitely corresponds with what I'm observing in my tank! I'm still waiting for male #3 to show himself as I ordered 3 males and so far only 2 confirmed males have appeared.
 

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Discussion Starter · #134 ·
It's been over three months since I first posted here asking for advice. Now sitting here in my recliner in front of my tank typing this, I'm so glad that I did. For the first time since I set up this large tank 2 years ago, the tank looks and feels alive. I thought that with a large tank I needed large fish only, and I've always been a sucker for bright colours, but the amount of movement and energy in the tank more than makes up for it. The colours are not Malawi, marine or even South American bright, but they are there for sure.

The tricolor cyps are amazing especially with their bright yellow heads, lavender bodies and neon blue edge to their fins.

The advice to go with featherfins as my main feature fish was just pure genius. I love how the makes are developing, and it's great fun to watch them. The fat guy is still the alpha and he's the deepest coloured most of the time. The second guy always has his blues and yellows, but he's not as deeply coloured and the markings on his dorsal are not as stark. I think I have a 3rd male developing but he's the least coloured up of the lot. I think he's male because of how his ventral and anal fins are developing and he's defending a territory like the other 2 (no nest yet though), but his colour at times is more muted than even the pretty female that I posted before (who by the way still looks the same as before). Is this how they are supposed to be - colour based on hierarchy? Or will all males eventually colour up the same? I really can't wait for them to grow to their 8" max size.... they'll be absolutely majestic!

Nothing much more to say about the Kilesa that I haven't already said. I love the sand dunes, and I love the sparring that goes on all day long.

My only complaints would really be that I still feel the tank looks too empty. The supplier ran out of the microlepidotus Bulu Point, and I've only added 11 more tricolors (total 35 tricolor, 24 bulu point) and the tank just looks like it needs more at the top. The bottom is really well filled. It doesn't help that all the cyps love to hang out at the top left side of the tank, so the top right just looks consistently empty. I really hope to be able to top up more cyps over time, but I want to keep the numbers of both types fairly balanced. My gut feel is 50 of each for a total of 100 would be perfect. I also hope to see more of the Red Princess. They are definitely more shy, and they don't seem to school together as much as they used to so they are pretty much scattered around the harder to see areas. They like to hang out in a cave on the sand formed by the 3d background as well as on the ledges of the 3d background. The latter surprised me as I thought they were sandsifters, but they seem equally happy hanging out on the rock ledges.

I can't imagine that I almost went with a frontosa tank. I think I would have been bored pretty quickly.
 

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I am happy to hear that you are enjoying your big tank now that it is stocked with Tanganyikans. I thought this setup would be awesome with the current stock list, but then, I'm already a huge fan of these fishes. There is just so much interesting biology that happens in an appropriately set up Tanganyikan tank; it is almost endlessly fascinating. I really liked the way you described it when you said that 'the tank looks and feels alive.' Just so.

With featherfins, male colouration often reflects their position in the social hierarchy, so it is possible that some males may be more colorful than others. That said, it is not unusual to have multiple co-dominant males in a single large tank, and I expect you will have several fully coloured males eventually. That's how the lek mating system works in the wild, after all. It will be interesting to see how this plays out as your fishes grow and mature.

As you've discovered, Enantiopus are just wonderful fishes, and endlessly entertaining. I've had E. kilesa for a while, but recently acquired a group of young E. melanogenys, and am looking forward to watching the colony develop. I will be keeping them with Cyprichromis leptosoma mpimbwe, so they will have the entire tank bottom to themselves.

Speaking of Cyprichromis, that's going to be one amazing colony of Cyps you are contemplating! It is a bit odd that they are not utilizing all the space in your tank; my only guess might be that they prefer the (gentler?) water flow on the left side of the tank.

I can't offer any advice on the Xenotilapia nigrolabiata Red Princess, as I have never kept them. What I can say is that I find Xenotilapia as a group to be endlessly mystifying, because this very diverse group of fishes often behaves in unexpected ways. So don't believe everything you read.

Again, glad this is working out, and yes, if you wanted a tank with lots of 'movement and energy,' C. frontosa would have been exactly the wrong way to go! :cool:
 

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Discussion Starter · #136 ·
How's everyone? It's been awhile!

I've added to the Cyprichromis numbers to get 55 of each species, and with some random deaths here and there from shipping I'm close to 100. With the increased numbers they are no longer congregating only at the left side of the tank and finally my tank looks decently full enough not to have to add anymore Cyprichromis in the near future. Based on my preferences I would actually like 30-50 more of them, but they're not full sized yet so I'll let them grow some more and see how I feel about it mid next year. Oh, I also saw one of the Cyprichromis holding eggs (bulging jaw), but it was back to normal after a few days so I guess it swallowed the eggs?

Here's the featherfin nest that's in my tank:

Marine biology Terrestrial plant Wood Amphibian Soil


You may not be able to tell from the picture, but it's about 30 inches across and 6-8 inches tall. Rather than dig downwards to the bottom glass, the alpha male is building it upwards like a hill.

The male featherfins are showing some rather interesting behaviour. So that nest location was identified by the first male to colour up (the fat one) and he was the dominant male in the tank for quite awhile. However over time, the second male to colour up started to challenge him and occasionally won and took over the nest that the first male built. The second male started to win more and more often and he's now the undisputed alpha male of the tank and he has now taken over the nest entirely and he's the one that has built it up into a hill. Every now and then he may get chased out by the fat one who then guards the nest for awhile, but he never lasts more than a couple of hours.

In the meantime while the top 2 males were disputing, the 3rd male was biding his time alone at the other side of the tank and now he has grown and coloured up and claimed the right side of the tank as his domain. So now the fat one has gone from being the dominant guy to being the lowest in pecking order amongst the 3 males. When he's chased out of the big nest, he hangs out midwater away from the substrate where the other 2 males are. The new #2 hasn't really started building a nest yet though. I see a slight depression in the sand today, and he has a split dorsal similar to the type of damage I see when the other 2 fight, so I think he may be just starting to build his nest (and probably got harassed by the fat one when doing so). The split fins heal fast though. All 3 males are now spectacular in colour and fin patterns, though the new #2 still has some ways to go in terms of fin patterns.

The yellowish one I posted previously is, I think, a male as it has developed a pointed anal fin, and its ventral fins are very long with the bright egg spots at the tips. Do females get that? However what is really strange is its colour. It is just really yellow all over, without any of the blue and dark colour that the other males (and all pictures/videos I have seen of jy furcifer variant). All my other males are blue/black with yellow markings but this guy is just yellow. I'll try to get an updated picture, but I'm wondering if I got a wrong species or variant for the colour to be so different.

Finally, I'm getting some inexplicable losses to my Enantiopus kilesa. I've had 2 corpses just appear for no reason. I'm suspecting aggression from the featherfins as I've also noticed that the Xenotilapia nigrolabiata Red Princess have moved into the crevices in the 3d background rather than stay on the sand. With male #2 starting to build his nest also, maybe the kilesa are getting crowded out and killed by the featherfins when they try to encroach in their territories?

To date, I still haven't added any julidochromis into the tank. Do you think I can add a group in over Christmas? I have my eye on Julidochromis marlieri Magara. How many can I add here?
 
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