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Altolamprologus calvus

by Mike McCartney
First published in Fincinnati, the official newsletter of the Greater Cincinnati Aquarium Society

Altolamprologus calvus, pronounced (al-tow-lamp-row-lo-gus), are found in several different areas of Africa’s Lake Tanganyika. The name calvus comes from Latin meaning "bald". A. calvus were given this name because they have no scales on their head (no wonder that I like them, huh?). There are several different color morphs of A. calvus: black, white, yellow and more. I was able to purchase a wild trio of Black Calvus from Zambia in East Africa off a local importer. This article details my experience with them.

Altolamprologus calvus has a compressed (thin) body and a sloping forehead. The markings on a calvus consists mainly of stripes on the head, gill and pectoral areas. Brilliant spots cover the body with faint bars under the spots. Adult male calvus can reach a maximum length of 6 inches while adult females reach only 4 inches.

Altolamprologus calvus is often mistaken for Altolampropogus compressiceps. They look almost identical to each other. Their heads have a slightly different shape, however, and this is the best way to tell them apart. A. calvus has a more lateral slope to its mouth, while A. compressiceps has a more vertical slope to its mouth.

Calvus are substrate spawning (egg-laying) cichlids. the female will choose a spawning site too small for the male to enter. Usually it's a shell, crevice or a small cave in some rocks. After she lays her eggs, the male will release his milt (sperm) at the opening, and both fish participate in fanning it in with their fins. This in turn fertilizes the eggs.

The eggs of the A. calvus will take a week to ten days to hatch. Spawns can range from a few eggs to a hundred or more. When hatched, the fry are small but seem to be able to fend for themselves. The fry are VERY slow growers. It may take six months or more for the fry to reach one to one and one half inch in length. I've read that it's not recommended that you leave the fry in the tank with the parents after they hatch due to parental predation. So far, the ones that I have seem to be good parents. Their fry are allowed to swim freely around the tank.

Altolamprologus calvus in the wild is a predatory fish, feeding on invertebrates and the fry of other species of fish that they find hiding in rock piles. Their thin body allows them to access even the smallest of crevices. In the aquarium, calvus will accept a majority of foods. Flake foods, pellets, mysis shrimp and plankton are some examples of the foods that I feed. If you insist on feeding live foods, I recommend you raise your own. This will reduce the possibility of getting disease and parasites from store bought feeders. The small fry of calvus can be fed an A.P.R. or baby brine shrimp. Personally, I've used finely crushed flake food until recently when I purchased "fry food" from an on-line supplier.

When I purchased my calvus, I took them home and set them up in a twenty gallon aquarium, and performed weekly 30 % water changes. I added rift lake trace elements, bicarbonate, a dechlorinator and a minimal amount of synthetic salts to each change. I keep the temperature in my aquariums at 80 degrees F, and the pH in the 8 to 8.2 range. I feed twice daily (mornings and evenings). The lights are on from 5am. to 9pm. daily.

My black calvus spawned almost immediately after I got them home and set them up. I obtained my B.A.P. (Breeder Award Points) for them in June 2002. I felt that a twenty gallon tank was too small for wild caught fish so I moved them to a larger aquarium with other Tanganyikans. Months passed, and there were no more calvus fry after the first bunch. I tried a few other evironmental combinations, but still more months passed, and still no more calvus fry.

In September of 2003 I moved them back into the twenty gallon aquarium. The original trio of wild caught and one F-1 fry from their first spawn were housed together, and VOILA! In October 2003, I noticed fry darting in and out of a pit that had been dug in the gravel near the front glass. There appears to be 30 to 50 fry. They are the same color as their parents but they don't have the "thin" body shape yet.

I've grown to appreciate my calvus. At first I thought that they looked kind of mean and ugly with their large mouths and high fins. But, as time has passed, my take on them has changed. Now I think that they are so ugly that they are actually good looking. I'm leaving them alone in the twenty gallon aquarium for now. Hopefully they'll keep raising their fry as the good parents they were with the last group.
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