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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
by Eric Glab

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Many times we find ourselves in the old predicament of where we are going to put these fish!? I have never had that problem with Frontosa (unless it was their fry). I can't see myself not keeping these regal fish. Since I have never been to the lake, and I am not a ichthyologist, I will speak as a hobbyist from first hand information and from the experiences of other seasoned hobbyists.

Cyphotilapia Frontosa, in my experience, is not picky of water conditions. If the water is above neutral in pH, about 76 degrees, slightly hard, and has a bit of Epsom salt and regular table salt, they grow and breed well. They are not fussy eaters. I prefer flake for the small ones and pellets for the larger ones. I like to supplement them with brine shrimp and live feeders. They like worms, shrimp, native fish fillets (Northern Pike was really appreciated), heck, anything that lives in the water is game. Enough said about water and food. If you don't know about water changes, filtration, etc., pick up a copy of Tropical Fish Hobbyist from you local aquarium store.

The males can grow to be over a foot. The females don't grow quite that big, 10" is a huge female. They are unusual for a cichlid that is a predator, in that they are gregarious. So, unlike the most of the large New World cichlids, a group of adults (a colony) can be kept. In fact, that's what they seem to prefer.

Patience is a virtue if you want to grow these fish from fry to adults. A one-inch fish will take three to four years to start spawning. Some people think Frontosa are hard to spawn, WRONG! But if you have the fish for three years and it still hasn't spawned, that's normal. If you choose to get rid of them at that time, you're a fool. The aquaristwho picks them up will have breeders for the next ten years easy! If you do decide to grow them up, think down the road.

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Will you have a tank of 75 gallons or larger? Are you interested in them breeding? If the answer is yes, here is a suggestion. Have in mind a 125 gallon tank, they are a nice size for Fronts. Purchase (beg for, steal, blackmail) 12 fish. Look for fish that you can verify that their parents are wild or of different breeding stock. Look for fry that have no bad stripes, large white dots on the top of the stripes are undesirable in the hobby. However, small white dots on the top of the stripe in Mpimbwe's and Zaire's are possible and grow out as they get larger. This defect does not grow out of the Burundi and some of the other varieties. Fish with bad stripes do pop up from wild stock, however.

Of these fry you have a good chance of having 5-7 females. As time goes by, the largest one in the group will be a male, get rid of him. Do this about every six months to about four fish. This will probably rid you of all or most of your males. At three to four years the fish will start reaching sexual maturity and you may be able to sex the last few big ones by checking their tubes or by just by watching their behavior. Even if they have already begun spawning, chances are the eggs are not fertile as the male takes longer to mature. (ladies fill in your rip on men here).

Why do this? By getting rid of the males you can introduce a male from different stock and have fine looking robust fry with few deformities. Most new hobbyists learn F1 and you can't get it out of their thick skulls. It's an easy thing to learn but people don't use it to their advantage. If you buy F1's that's fine, but if you breed brother to sister, then you will want to introduce new blood when they grow up. If you don't, chances are the fry will not be too desirable. F3 works great if you mix the blood! Big males are out there for sale, even wild ones, make them the stud of your colony. You only need one male, and this allows you to have about six females. You will be churning out Fronts.

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When your females start to spawn (they are mouthbrooders), DON'T STRIP THEIR EGGS!! I understand you have been waiting all this time and you are excited about having fry, relax. This will pay off, trust me. The females need to learn to hold. The first time you take the eggs of young Fronts should be four weeks. They normally hold for about five weeks. Try not to tempt the female with brine shrimp, and feed at the opposite side of the tank that she is on. The fry can be put in their own tank or be put in a breeder basket (Lustar is the best).

Anyone who has kept Fronts over a couple inches will tell you that they are very mellow fish. That is, mellow until they freak out. They move at a snail's pace until they are scared and then they have a burst of speed. Works great in the lake, not in the aquarium. They bash their heads and scrape their sides on any sharp object they can find. Hiding places work great in a Front tanks, make sure they are not sharp.

Now that you are breeding your Fronts and they are holding without spitting, it's time to make a decision. Remove the female and put her into her own brooding tank or strip the fry. In Europe, removing the female is the standard, and can be a very rewarding experience. If you are short on tank space (everyone raise their hand), strip the eggs near the end of term. For Fronts the end of term is around five weeks! Don't strip at a point where you need a egg tumbler. Have patience, you will be rewarded. Three to four weeks allows you to remove the fry and not need anything but a breeder basket. If you believe in imprinting in fish (it is proven in other animals), you have to suspect that the fry will grow up to be better holders themselves. Have you ever owned, or have known someone with fish that won't hold? Ever wonder why?

Begin feeding the fry BEFORE the yolk sac disappears. The fry will eat and they will grow larger faster. Baby brine shrimp is the best, crushed flake will do. The eggs are huge and so are the fry. I have heard of up to seventy fry being held. I have seen up to fifty. They look like miniature adults but cuter. I hate to say they look cute, but they do.

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Forty gallon breeders work great for grow up tanks. A powerhead in the tank seems to make then exercise more and they grow faster. Feed frozen or live foods when they are big enough and you will not be disappointed. Selling size usually starts at 1 ¼". If you like to have a fish that pays for your habit, breed Frontosas. They will pay for your other tanks of rare brown and silver fish. However, don't do Frontosa because they can make money. If you think you of the time spent, you would be much better off serving fries part time. You will also be bored and probably quit the hobby. Breed fish you enjoy and the little money you MIGHT earn will seem like icing on the cake!

As most hobbyists get more experienced, they start to kick around the idea of getting wild fish. They hear the horror stories, fish dead on arrival, fish that aren't sexed correctly, etc. This can happen, if you don't know the importer it's more likely to happen. There are a few ways to lessen the chance of this happening. First, know the seller. Is he someone new on the scene or has he been around the block? Talk to people who have bought fish from him. Take advice from people who have not bought fish from that seller with a grain of salt. Ask for references if you can't find any information on the seller. Too often newcomers are concerned about price. Guys, Frontosa are not an investment, buy stocks if this is your thing. What is the chance that you can have a conversation with him in person if there is a problem. Usually these guys don't show up at fish shows either.

Why bring this up? I love wild fish. They look good after they have had some time to settle down, and breed almost immediately. You also have an endless supply of new hobbyists who know nothing but that they want F1's. Now you have F1 fry for sale. It might sound like I contradicted myself from the previous article; I may have.

I will now discuss the various locations Fronts are found and their differences.

In the beginning, all the outside world knew of was the Burundi six-stripe Frontosa. From the African Cichlid explosion of the early 1970's to the present, this fish has been a staple of the Cichlid hobby. Many hobbyists, exporters, importers, and experts have come and gone; the Frontosa remains. I fully expect Frontosas to be around longer then any of us (including Ad Konnings). The Burundi Front was mostly exported due to the works of the Brichards. In their compound they are breeding them to this very day. I'm sorry to say that I have seen only Burundi pond raised fish and never wild ones. The pond raised, on the most part, have been of excellent quality. They have very high bodies, nice stripes, and good amounts of blue on the fish makes them highly desirable. I can imagine that the wild specimens are even better! Unfortunately inbreeding has made these fish not quite as good as their wild brethren. They do not have the high bodies that seem to make the fish that more regal. The Burundi may not be the bluest of the Fronts but they have some of the biggest heads. The frontal gibbosity on the big, old, dominant males are enormous. Anyone who has seen a foot long Burundi can attest to their grandeur. What a fish! The Tanzanian six stripe looks identical, but don't cross breed them with the Burundi. You will be disappointed with the slanted stripes of the juveniles. Luckily for some breeders, not too many of these fish are exported to the U.S.

At Kigoma, Tanzania is a unique Front.

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Nicknamed the seven-stripe, this fish is highly prized by breeders in the know. Their seventh stripe is only a patch on the face, not really a stripe; making them easily recognizable without the need for counting. The hump is as big as the two previous species but they have more blue and nice gold accents in the dorsal fin. They may be a little harder to breed but the spawns are generally larger. The trend now is the Blue types, but the Kigoma is one of the tops in my book.

Also along Tanzania is the Kipili Frontosa. If anyone has seen it alive, please let me know. I have heard of none in the U.S. at this time. Aquarist Samuel Li of Hong Kong, has told me that it is a nice fish with a bit of blue but nothing like the blue of some of the other variants.

The next Frontosa is the Zambian blue, or blue face. This fish is nice in that it doesn't get real dark like the previous ones can. It has nice contrast between the black and white stripes. It has some nice blue in the face and the stripe on the head seems to fade above the eye. Only drawback seems that it doesn't breed as easily. They are much more popular in Europe then the U.S.

Samazi is a variety that has been out for the hobbyist for only a few years. The males have a very nice blue and are high bodied fish. The females on the other hand don't have much blue at all. This fish is difficult to breed, as I understand from several sources. I have also heard that the fry grow up slowly in size. I have not seen fry in person however, to confirm this.

When the Congo was Zaire, a fervor broke out when the Zaire Blue Frontosa was discovered. The Zaire blue is the bluest of the blues, some would even say purple. The stripe on the head runs between the eyes and down the gill plate. There seems to be two of the blue types. One has blue dots on the inteorbital stripe and the other does not. Then it seems that there are degrees of one to the other. Some don't seem blue as others (This can be influenced by a dark or black substrate and a dark background). Some in a group can be solid blue, while others are not.

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There may be a range where these fish are found and there is some color variation along the range. We have seen this in some Tropheus variants. Or there are some actual locations. No one can be really sure because these locations seem to be shrouded in some secrecy. One thing that all Zaire blue's have in common, they won't hold their eggs well. If someone is telling you that they are breeding Zaire blues with much regularity, buyer beware! I can rattle off a dozen breeders who have or have had the fish and it is always the same story; the females lose the eggs. These are wild fish, too. No one is really sure why it happens. Maybe it's because they are the best looking and the Frontosa god has played a joke on us. Some have guessed that it is the infertility of the males as these fish are found in very deep water. Could they have been decompressed too fast and the males have damaged reproductive organs? Aquarist Lee McLeod, told me he was having problems with his wild colony holding eggs. He decided to try a little informal experiment. He took a good breeding six stripe female and put her into the Zaire colony. The result: she held the first time with a healthy spawn. It was not the male's fault at all. Is it something about the wild females? Is it something we are not supplying that the fish needs? I have been raising a small group of tank raised fish for almost four years. I can't wait to see if this problem resolves itself with the tank-raised fry. Oh, by the way, there is supposed to be a regular Burundi looking type Frontosa that comes out of Zaire, too.

The Kavalla is a rare fish in the hobby. It has six regular stripes but also has a yellow dorsal fin. That dorsal fin also contains rainbow sheen when viewed at certain angles. I didn't believe it until I saw it for myself. This fish was just imported too few of times to have really made an impact here.

Lastly, the Mpimbwe has graced us. This fish is unique. It has nice blue with the dominant male looking the best. It can be dark at times with mood changes. The color is not what really makes it unique though. This fish is crazy. People who have kept multiple types of Fronts will tell you that it must be part Tropheus. I can grab them with my hand, take them out of the water, accidentally drop them, put them back into the tank, and they still come up to my hand to feed. They are just much more active then the other Fronts. Not only this but, they are good holders too. They are highly recommended.

Well, there you have it. Get yourself another tank, fill it with some Cyphotilapia Frontosa, and join the CYPHOMANIACS!!
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