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Julidochromis dickfeldi "midnight blue"
by Robert De Leon

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The pair never displayed any type of courtship ritual or unusual behavior, they just always stayed together. One day, I spotted some free-swimming fry along the opening of the cave. Although I never saw their eggs, I was told J. dickfeldi stick their eggs to the top side of caves. I am uncertain if J. dickfeldi lay all their eggs at one time or if they are step-breeders; laying a few eggs at a time over an extended time. From what I noticed, the fry from each brood were of different sizes. Over a couple weeks, new fry would emerge from the cave every few days. The "oldest" fry noticeably larger than the "youngest".

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Little by little the fry would venture further from the cave. They kept close to the substrate and other rocks. The parents were fairly relaxed letting their young explore. My guess is had there been other fish in the tank, their behavior would have been more frantic and the fry would have stayed closer to home until they became larger. Despite the relative safety of their tank, the fry and even the adults were reclusive and would scare easily. The fry would only stray away from rocks or the substrate to quickly feed and dive back down for cover.

The older offspring were tolerated in the tank even as the parents continued to spawn regularly. When the young juveniles would reach about an inch in size, I removed them for fear that the adult pair would become aggressive toward the largest ones.

The offspring found their way into local auctions, friends and local fish stores. For a while, it seemed many people in my fish club had some J. dickfeldi "midnight blue". I even saw other people's juveniles at auctions. Eventually I gave the pair to a friend and despite my concerns, the bond survived the move. Stressful situations can sometimes break the bond between a pair. If that happens, the larger female will usually kill the smaller male if he can't get away.

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I'd always planned on picking up another group and starting over. However, the "midnight blues" seem to have disappeared. At least locally there is no one breeding them. It's a real shame that their appeal was so short lived. Hopefully some hobbyists still have them and we'll start seeing Julidochromis dickfeldi "midnight blue" on stock lists and auctions again.
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