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Pyxichromis orthostoma
by Greg Steeves

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Pyxichromis orthostoma is peaceful with fish of its own size or larger. This ambush predator has a huge mouth and is able to snatch any unwary fish smaller than itself. Reports state that Pyxichromis orthostoma can reach 18 cm in length. My colony contains individuals between 12 and 15 cm. I have kept my group with Lake Victoria cichlids and mbuna, but they seem to do much better when kept by themselves. It took our group about two years to begin breeding. First spawns were small, about one dozen eggs. This was likely due to the females picking up gravel and tumbling it with their larvae. I believe the gravel likely damaged most of the eggs of a much larger spawn. On a hunch (and after reading Loiselle's article on Yssichromis) I set up a tank with a fine sand substrate and plastic reed-like plants (Vallisneria) for decor. The fish seem much more at ease and spawns since have been in the 70+ range. Frequency of spawning seems to have also increased. This may be due to the absence of tank mates or the new substrate, gain size, or perhaps these fish have just become sexually mature. My breeding group of seven Lake Nawampassa Pyxichromis orthostoma is housed in a 65 gallon tank filtered with an Aquaclear® 300. Two African catfish, Synodontis eupterus and Hemisynodontis membranaceus share the tank as well. Pyxichromis orthostoma is not at all fussy as to feeding requirement but a high protein base diet should be administered to satisfy their carnivorous appetite.

Eye Fin Underwater Fish Marine biology

Akin to the Dimidochromis compressiceps of Lake Malawi and the genus Altolamprologus from Tanganyika, Pyxichromis orthostoma is a laterally compressed carnivore whose unique appearance and seemingly peaceful demeanor make it a welcome addition to the specialist aquarist looking for something a little different. P. orthostoma spends the majority of its time slowly drifting just above the substrate. It is at feeding time that the true speed of this predator becomes apparent. With a lightening quick charge, this species rises from the lower strata to the waters surface engulfing whatever food is presented with a sudden premaxillary lunge. The mandible can be extended to easily handle food half its own size. From time to time I will feed live Gambusia. Prey is taken head on and easily handled. Prepared food such as basic flake and pellet is readily taken as well so feeding does not propose much of a problem.

Water Underwater Fin Organism Fish

At a size of 6cm the peaceful demeanor is broken by the struggle for dominance. When males begin to color, squabbles begin. One male will display his flank with fins fully extended to a co spec that will use his gaping mouth to push the others body. It is common for a rival male to actually expire due to exhaustion during these consistent conflicts. Unless one is maintaining this species in a huge tank with areas that block the line of sight, I would not recommend more than a single male per colony. Females develop a hierarchy amongst themselves. Physical conflicts do not occur but an interesting series of shimmies seems to be enough to settle dominance issues. Two females will meet near the bottom with their bodies at a 45º angel. They will then swing their downwards pointing heads at each other. Both fish swim off as if nothing had occurred but there is obviously some sort of understanding that transpired. This interesting behavioral pattern begins when very young and continues into adulthood. P. orthostoma is best kept in a harem situation.

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