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Cyprichromis leptosoma "Utinta"
by Marc Elieson

Cyprichromis leptosoma hails from Lake Tanganyika and is found between Kigoma in Tanzania and Mpulungu in Zambia. There are five different geographical variants, each occuring in both blue and yellow-tailed morphs. The "Neonback" from Utinta, Tanzania differs from the other variants in that males have an additional yellow egg spot at the posterior tip of their dorsal fin, in the soft rayed part. Some of mine even have a black spot, and some have both!

Water Fin Organism Fish Adaptation

Cyprichromis leptosoma is certainly among the quintessential community Tanganyikan cichlids. Their presence has an uncanny relaxing effect on the other inhabitants of your community tank. Cyps are a bit skittish by nature (perhaps the others realize this) and so when the Cyps are out in the open, "it must be safe," the others seem to surmise. I've noticed that when Cyps are present, the other cichlids spend a considerably greater amount of time out in the open instead of tucked in the rocks or their shells.

Their peaceful temperament, vibrant colors, and schooling behavior make them irresistible. Females are usually pretty dull and drab, but males coloration more than compensate. Leptosoma come in a wonderful assortment of colors -- their body shape and neon colors are reminiscent of a fruity popsicle. This fish is not very aggressive and makes a great dither for your other cichlids. Furthermore, their mouths are very small and pose little threat to the tank's other inhabitants. Another reason why this slender-built cichlid is a favorite among hobbyists is because it occupies the top half of the aquarium. They "complete" a Tanganyikan community setup because most cichlids occupy only the bottom half of the tank or the rocky niches. Cyps on the other hand are always out in the open, usually in full display.

Nature Water Terrestrial plant Organism Marine biology

In the wild, "Cyps" live in schools that number in the thousands. For the aquarium, they do best in groups of at least twelve or more. In groups of this size, more than one male will almost always be colored-up. There is no other cichlid quite like a Cyprichromis! Let me explain why. I currently have 27 wild adults in my 75 gallon tank. At any given moment, there are always 3-4 males doing the shake, with their fins in full display and the tips of their dorsal fin flapping. I can think of no other fish that attempts to spawn all day long, from sun up to sun down!

Cyps are no ordinary polygamous maternal mouthbrooder. Before breeding ever begins, males will claim and stake out three-dimensional territories in the open water. Notwithstanding, they will allow females and other species to enter at any time.

Water Fin Underwater Organism Fish

When an interested female enters a sexually active male's territory, the male will quiver and lead her to his "nest." There he does a motionless headstand, at which point the female nuzzles his vent with her mouth. I have to admit, however, that it appears more like she is attracted to the rounded, yellow tips of his ventral fins, which look a lot like egg dummies. They then trade places and the female performs a headstand while the male nuzzles her. He then moves away some distance (sometimes a foot) while the female drops a single egg. This is followed by the female backing upward to catch the falling egg in her mouth. She spawns two to four eggs in this manner before the male returns. The female nuzzles him again, and her mouth can be seen opening and closing, most likely inhaling sperm. The male's milt can actually be seen.

Spawns number anywhere from four to twenty, depending upon the size and condition of the female. Broods are usually modest in size because of the their uncharacteristically large eggs.

Water Fin Organism Fish supply Fish

After four weeks, the female will spit her fry into small crevices between rocks (if provided). In the wild, mouthbrooding females will release their fry at reefs where maternal Lepidiolamprologus profundicola are busy guarding their young from predators. The young Cyp. leptosoma rely on the presence of this surrogate mother. Even though she does not actively protect them, her presence is sufficient to prevent appreiciable losses. For instance, it has been documented that when a maternal L. profundicola is present, fry of Cyp. leptosoma are attacked by predators at a rate of two per hour. When she leaves, this figure jumps to about ten per hour. And those without a baby sitter are attacked about twenty times per hour!

In many ways, Cyp. leptosoma is similar to the Utaka of Lake Malawi. Not only are they found in large shoals in the open water, but they also feed on the plankton. Since they generally eat small snacks throughout the day in the wild, frequent, small feedings are recommended. Suitable foods include black worms, glass worms, red worms, brine shrimp, plankton, and premium flake foods. A protein-rich diet will bring this cichlid into spawning condition very quickly. It is important to keep in mind that they prefer smaller-sized food particles; consequently, they thrive best in a setup with sloppy eaters. Their large eyes are suited for picking out even the smallest morsels of food. In fact, my adults will enthusiastically dine on baby brine shrimp, which are nearly microscopic.

Nature Water Organism Fin Rectangle

I feed my Cyps 3 times a day with OSI Brine Shrimp flakes and Hikari Cichlid Complete. Cyps are ravenous eaters and watching them eat is almost as much fun as watching them school, display, or spawn. I have yet to see a pellet hit the sand! Their mouth has a single hinge, which allows for their mouth to form a small, projected tube. This tube creates a small vacuum, permitting the food to be sucked straight into their buccal cavity. Cyps can be sensitive to water quality, but as far as contracting Bloat, I have never seen it. I don't want to say they're bullet-proof, but they're darn close.

I cannot imagine creating a Tanganyikan community tank without Cyps. They fill the tank with color, movement, and harmony. Their temperment makes them a delight, and their constant desire to spawn keep the tank full of excitement. There are dozens of different Cyps; you wouldn't go wrong with any of these, but I reccomend trying the "Neonback" from Utinta.
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