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Benitochromis nigrodorsalis
by Diane Tennison

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Typically within a few days of this type of behavior I will notice the female holding eggs. From what I have read in Anton Lamboj's publication "The Cichlid Fishes of Western Africa", spawning occurs on a flat, hard surface. The female will drop the eggs and the male will fertilize them. Once this is done, the female picks up the eggs and holds them in typical mouthbrooder fashion. That's where the "typical" stops. This fish is a bi-parental mouthbrooder. This means that the male and female will share in the incubation process. In my pair, the female alone will hold the eggs for the first 4-5 days. Once the fry have developed a bit, she will begin exchanging them with the male. I was in awe the first time I realized that the male was holding the fry! More so when I actually saw the pair, allowing the small fry to explore the sand bed as they kept a watchful eye. When they became uncomfortable with my observation, the male began to pick the fry up. It was really funny because, as is typical with children, they didn't want to come in! The male had to forcibly pick up several fry and then the others got the idea and swam into his mouth on their own. Unfortunately, I did not have my camera ready and didn't want to disturb them, so I have not photographed this process yet.

Water Underwater Fin Organism Fish

The pair have spawned 3 times since I have had them. The first spawn only lasted for a few days and then the fry were gone. The second spawn was successful. The parents traded the fry back and forth for about 2 weeks. Once the fry were being let out on a regular basis - I noticed that they were growing smaller in numbers. I think they were being poached off by the rest of the group as the Benitochromis is normally known to be a very good parent. The third spawn was also successful. I allowed the parents to exchange the fry for almost 2 weeks to the day. I was going on vacation so I didn't want to leave this spawn to fate. I netted the female and was going to strip her. I gently caressed her in the net and she willingly spit her fry. I caught her in my hand and returned her to the tank. I was left with a net of fry! I didn't even try to count - but would guess that there were at least 20 fry.

Fin Fish Underwater Marine biology Tail

Upon returning from my vacation, I noticed that the pair had spawned again. After some patient waiting, I have finally been able to witness some of the parenting behavior. The pair would only release the fry at the back of the tank for the first few days. Once the fry became more bold --the pair began releasing right at the front glass! The pair will calmly "tread water" as the fry swim all around - bouncing along the bottom, picking at the sand, picking at the plants, picking at the rocks. The pair watch VERY closely. If a fry gets too far from the group - one of the pair will actually pick the fry up in the mouth and bring it back to the group - gently spitting it back with its siblings. They will let me watch for a long time. However, I guess they are like famous people because when I start behaving like the paparazzi - they will only let me snap a few pictures before they pick the fry up and move on.

This beautiful fish has been a wonderful addition to my Fish House. I have truly enjoyed watching the behavior and look forward to new spawns - hopefully I will be able to photograph the fry exchange or get some better shots of the fry "play sessions" soon.
Eye Plant Petal Tints and shades Font

Originally published in The Lateral Line, the official publication of the Hill Country Cichlid Club.
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