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A West African sleeper: Gobiocichla wonderi
by Dave Hansen

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If you haven't had a chance to keep a West African cichlid, then let me introduce a perfect candidate for your first species. Gobiocichla wonderi may appear to be a very subtle looking fish, but they have tons of personality and are quite attractive in their own right.

Reptile Fin Scaled reptile Fish Tail

To begin, let's take a top level look at the genus Gobiocichla. Currently there are two members of the genus, ethelwynnae and the type species wonderi. They are a rheophilic (preferring a rapid current) fish that inhabit the fast moving waters of the upper and middle Niger River Delta, and also occur in the Cross River system in western Cameroon. This is very obvious upon first glance; they are very elongated with a compressed body. These bottom dwellers have a reduced swim bladder which is apparent as soon as they stop moving their fins, they sink like a rock. Their mouth is situated very low on the head and is not very large at all. Literature also indicates they have a very long intestine, which is common in many fish whose diet consist of primarily algae. They also dine on microorganisms. Their is very limited information that is easily available on this genus. I would highly recommend Anton Lamboj's book, "The Cichlid Fishes of Western Africa", for more information on this and many other cichlids.

Fin Fish Scaled reptile Tail Terrestrial plant

Feeding has been simplistic. I acquired four small wild caught specimens and I have had no trouble enticing them to eat. They greedily consume algae flakes. I also supplement their feeding with New Life Spectrum® pellets as well as frozen mysis and brine shrimp. They have been slow growing but I really don't feed very heavily. I have also observed them scraping algae from the surface of rocks as well.

I would like to discuss the tank setup next. I have them housed in a 30 gallon long tank. The substrate is fine sand, which I use for all my tanks. I have quite a bit of rock work in the tank and lots of artificial plants. I have heard from others that they are highly aggressive with each other. With this in mind I arranged the tank with as many limited sight lines as possible. The tank is filtered with a medium size Aquaclear® filter. This species requires highly oxyenegenated water. I find that for many riverine type cichlids, one should attempt to recreate the fish's natural environment. My tank resembles a whirlpool with filters and powerhead going full blast. An important consideration to realize is that their bodies are designed to stay OUT of all the fast moving water. I ensure the water is well oxygenated and keep water movement to a minimum. I will usually place a rock under the flow of the filter and allow a small amount of water movement from the flow bouncing off the rock. I have used this method for all my riverine types and it works fine. I prefer that the tank lighting be subdued. In this arrangement Gobiocichla wonderi seems much more at ease and will reward its keeper with enhanced coloration. I use a glass top on the tank and use a light strip placed right over the plastic that joins to the 2 pieces of the glass top together. This mutes a good portion of the luminosity. I am very particular on water changes and they get 20-25% water change weekly. Our water in South Texas has a pH of 8.2 and is very hard, and the G. wonderi are thriving.

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