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Iranocichla hormuzensis
by Dave Hansen

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After a year, one of the individuals began transforming from silver to a light gray. Over a few months the coloration became a darker and darker gray until eventually the body was light black. The speckling became a bit more prominent during this time frame as well. There were still no signs of real aggression but this developing male had one side of the tank to himself and the other two tended to keep to the other side. All three would move freely without any aggression issues, but the tendency of the group was to stay on their own sides. The male was really coming into his own in regards to his coloration and was now in full bloom. This did not translate into any courting behavior though. Several months went by and the other two fish were starting to spar somewhat. As time drew on, a full out battle between the two females ensued. The two females spent several weeks rushing at each other and jaw locking. I was observing this closely as I could not afford to lose any of the fish. Despite the battle royal no visible damage was being done to either fish. Eventually this activity subsided and one of the females was now hanging out with the male in his rock pile. By no means were they exhibiting pairing behavior, but were definitely getting along enough to allow each other in the same area. The other fish stayed in her half of the tank. I have not seen any fighting between those two since that one frenzied period. The male was now in breeding coloration at all times and could be seen displaying to the female often. He would sashay across the tank and court the other female as well. This went on for several weeks before I actually witnessed a female with buccal cavity full of eggs. Over several months I had a female holding three times and never more than a week. The next time it happened I decided I would strip the eggs and tumble them. Unfortunately there has not been a next time. While the male has maintained his vibrant hues and occasionally shimmies up to a female, there has been almost zero courting behavior.

Water Fish Fin Underwater Tail

More time passes I determine it is time to start tinkering with some water parameters to see if I can trigger a spawning. The nervousness I exhibited a couple of years ago is now gone and I am not too concerned about playing mad scientist. Many fish will spawn during a rainy season because they have learned that along with the rain come enhanced food sources. The first thing I do is to slowly lower the salt content in the tank. Once lowered, I would maintain it for at least a month. By the time I have tweaked it down as far as I felt comfortable with; the salt levels were about 25% of the original quantity. This wasn't working. Next I varied the diet and begin feeding mosquito larvae I was collecting in a bucket outside. I also increased the frequency of the protein flake. With little effect, I tried a different brand of food, again, with no luck. The next factor to alter was temperature. I began by lowering the temperature of the heater and eventually turned it off. The lowest temperature the water reached was about 18C. I also proceeded to alter the salt content again as I was experimenting with the temperature. Once this failed to trigger any responses I began to crank the temperature up and had the heater up to 31C before deciding not to go any higher. I will admit while I was frustrated it was an enjoyable challenge as well. These fish were making me work to entice a spawning and I was having fun trying to outsmart them. After many months of this I still had nothing as far as spawns, but still had 3 healthy fish that appeared no worse for wear.

I reached out to a friend who wasn't having any luck and he was able to pass along 4 females from his group all in the name of getting this species to breed. While there has been increased courting behavior only one spawn has been witnessed and it was aborted several days later. The shifting of parameters has resumed and different variations are being attempted. I have a friend who has proven he can spawn almost anything. He lives close by and we have moved the fish over to his house so he is working with them as well. It is more important to me to achieve a spawn and be able to share these fish than it is to keep them in my fishroom just for the sake of having them.

Water Organism Fin Fish Ray-finned fish

The slightly alarming sequel to my story is that most of the other known groups in captivity have stopped spawning and no one is producing any fry.

Iranocichla hormuzensis has been the most challenging fish I have kept to date and I am as enthusiastic today about them as I was when I was lucky enough to obtain them. It is an absolutely stunning fish that would be the highlight of any collection. I hope the attempts to spawn this fish are successful and more people will get the opportunity to enjoy them. This will only lead to more awareness of a beautiful cichlid and assist in expanding our knowledge base.
Eye Plant Petal Tints and shades Font

Editor's note:

I am the friend that received the fish in an attempt to spawn them. I was never able to spawn them either.

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