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Spawning Labeotropheus fuelleborni "Super Orange"
by Craig Morfitt

Labeotropheus fuelleborni is a mouthbrooding cichlid that hails from Lake Malawi, one of Africa's Rift Valley lakes. As is the case with Labeotropheus trewavasae, the fuelleborni has an underslung mouth and an overhanging, fleshy 'nose'. Whereas trewavasae is long and slender, the fuelleborni is much more robust and more solidly built. Its maximum size is about 6 inches. The fuelleborni is widely distributed amongst rocky areas of the lake where numerous colour morphs can be found. Among some of those colour variations can be found Orange (O) or Orange Blotch (OB) females. It has been supposed that the OB's blotched black pattern on an orange background may have evolved as a camouflage pattern. Much rarer are males that exhibit the OB pattern and they are referred to as 'Marmalade Cats'.

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Labeotropheus fuelleborni male

My fuelleborni were purchased directly from the renowned Mr. Stuart Grant in November, 1999, whilst I was staying with him on a visit to the lake. This particular morph is known as OB Super Orange and is found at Eccles Reef, which is located on the eastern shore of the lake, at the southern end, in Malawi. The normal coloration of this variant is a standard blue and is known as Blue fuelleborni (reef). However, in addition to obtaining the OB females, I was also able to purchase one of only two Marmalade Cats that were in the facility. This OB male has a bluish tint to the base colour, as opposed to the deep orange of the females. I have the single Marmalade Cat male and three OB females.

Upon getting the fish home to Bermuda (on 2nd November 99), I housed them in a 20 gallon tank equipped with a sponge filter and some PVC pipe and plant pots for refuge. The male soon took to harassing the females constantly. I added a couple of sinking spawning mops which served as excellent hide-outs for the tired females.

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Labeotropheus fuelleborni male - "Marmelade Cat"

As is the case with all of my tanks, water changes of about 50% were conducted every two weeks. Baking soda and Sea-Chem Cichlid Lake Salt were added to the replacement water (1 teaspoon of each per 5 gallons). Water conditions, as per Mardel test-strips, included pH of 8.4, Total Alkalinity of 180 ppm, Total Hardness of 90 ppm. Water temperature was about 78 F. Feeding primarily consisted of flake food.

On 23rd November, 1999, three weeks after arriving back from Africa with the fish, I discovered that the largest of the females was holding eggs. Her throat was bulging significantly. I moved the female to a vacant 10 gallon tank with identical water quality. The male was still harassing the remaining two females so I installed a divider made of plastic 'egg-crate', thereby separating the male from the two females.

On 14th December, 1999, after just over 3 weeks of holding the eggs/fry in her buccal cavity, the female released the fry. There were approximately 20 fry that readily took to crushed flake food. The female guarded the youngsters and would attempt to take them back into her mouth when she thought I was getting too close. She didn't have room for all of these fast growing fry, but she tried.

By 22nd January, 2000, the fry were noticeably avoiding the female. Not wanting to risk losing the fry, I moved the female to another tank. I wanted to ensure that she had enough peaceful time to fatten up and recuperate after 3 weeks of not eating whilst she carried her young in her mouth. I didn't want to throw her back in with the male and the other two females just yet. The young remained in their own 10 gallon tank to grow out. That same day, I adjusted the divider in the 20 gallon tank so that the male could get to the other two females.

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Labeotropheus fuelleborni female - ''OB Super Orange'' holding eggs/fry

On 28th January, 2000, the second female was found to be holding and she was moved into another tank. The male was kept divided from the third female. On 19th February I moved the first female back into the original 20 gallon tank, to join the 3rd female, with the male divided on the other side. On 23rd February, the second female released approximately 30 fry.

Both batches of fry are doing extremely well and are gobbling up crushed flake food. The fry from the first batch are approaching ¾ inches in length and are starting to show some coloration. Some are much darker than the others and when a flashlight is shone on them, the OB colouration can be seen. The lighter ones have vertical barring on their bodies and their dorsals are beginning to turn blue. It is fair to assume, therefore, that there will be a mix of colours amongst the fry, including OB's and blues. I am not in a position to say whether all of the blues will be males and all of the OB's females. I guess only time will tell. It will add a bit more interest to the growing out phase.
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