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Maintaining Cichlids from the Victorian Basin
by Kevin Bauman (StructureGuy)

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Most experienced hobbyists want to have a definite identification of the species in their tanks, and they also want to know that the species they maintain are "pure". Unfortunately, there are no such guarantees possible with most of the Victorians available today. The vast majority of Victorians have not been scientifically classified and likely never will be, since wild stock from the lake is far from abundant. Again, since the lake is not that old, the differences between many similar species are very subtle. It is virtually impossible to tell the difference between many females and it is also nearly impossible to identify many of the males unless they are in full breeding dress. Unless you are lucky enough to buy some of the few wild exports, the only reliable source for "pure" Victorians is from stock released from one of the LVSSP institutions or from one of the extremely rare hobbyists who has maintained a colony for many, many years. This lack of certainty is often frustrating to both those new to the world of Victorians as well as experienced hobbyists.

Fin Organism Fish Adaptation Underwater

Victorian cichlids are some of the most prolific cichlids you could possibly maintain. I've had both Haplochromis sp. "finebar scrapper" and Astatotilapia aeneocolor (pictured above) breed at less than 1" long and less than six months old. The brood size is often less than a dozen, but they breed easily and often. I've noticed that many of my Victorians breed until they reach the age of around three years old. After that age breeding is either nonexistent or sporadic. Being a breeder of Victorian cichlids is easy, but finding another responsible hobbyist interested in maintaining and distributing an endangered species, can often be challenging. Not every hobbyist wants to dedicate an aquarium to a single species for a long period of time especially if that species is not one of the more colorful ones. The demand for most Victorians is very low, because the average hobbyist may never have heard of the species you have available. Information is sparse, so even with proper research; you may never know what species you have in your tank. Among the reasonably small community of avid Victorian breeders, it is common to give them away to a good home rather than sell them to some one you don't know. (With the exception of a few of the more popular and extremely colorful species like Pundamilia nyererei) If the goal is to preserve the species, then finding your brood a good home with another breeder is far more important than maximizing your income.

I've told many people that to maintain Victorians one needs to have a little different attitude. At least half of all the Victorians I've purchased at any club auction or even from reliable breeders has been incorrectly identified by the breeder and more than a handful have been obvious hybrids. Unfortunately, that's life as a vic-lover. You just have to shrug your shoulders and move on. If you keep one of the less popular Victorian species, you may never know if it is indeed a pure specimen and chances are pretty good that someone will tell you that you have a hybrid. Most of us like to research as much as we can about our aquarium residents, and the lack of adequate information about Victorians can be frustrating. But seeing the unusually long extended fins of a bright red male enticing his female is an incredible sight. And preserving a fish so close to possible extinction in the wild has its rewards as well.
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