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Pyxichromis orthostoma
by Greg Steeves

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Spawning P. orthostoma can be difficult. The key to success is providing the necessary components enabling the fish to act as naturally as possible. The fist concern to be met is tank size. The possibility of success increases with volume. I would suggest that a 40 gallon breeder is the minimum capacity in which reproduction should be attempted. A "species only" arrangement should be employed to prevent the rather docile P. orthostoma from being over run by a more aggressive species. The mid portion of the aquarium should consist of an open area with a substrate of small grain sand. Either end of the tank can hold some rockwork (flat stones) or even a planted area. It is best to acquire a young group of fish and let them mature together without unnecessarily moving them to another environment. If a colony is raised in this manner, a lone male will survive to harem the females. Extra males, if caught early, can be removed to serve as a backup to the alpha male. All that one can do at this point is provide pristine conditions in the form of diligent tank maintenance and wait. Eventually the male will darken and begin displaying to his females. With fins fully extended, he will shake back and forth in front of a prospective mate. With some good fortune, his diligence will eventually pay off. The spawning site can vary but will commonly be at the base of a rock (on the substrate), or slightly elevated from the bottom on a flat stone. After a number of "dry" runs, the female will nip at the male's ocelli which he displays before her. They slowly circle each other in a tight radius. The female drops two or three eggs each rotation. The actual spawning process can last half an hour until the female is fully spent. When spawning has ended the female simply swims from the spawning site and is not harassed further. She will incubate her clutch for 18 days and then allow the fry to forage briefly along the substrate. She quickly draws her large spawn back into her mouth only to release them once again a few moments later. Over the next couple weeks the incubating female allows her fry to venture out with increasing frequency until eventually they are left to fend for themselves.

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Raising the fry can be done in bare tanks with sponge filtration. The young grow rapidly on a diet of flake and brine shrimp. P. orthostoma fry grow at differing rates and care must be taken to house similar sized adolescents together. This species is prone to cannibalism with the larger fish happily devouring their smaller siblings.

For those aquarists looking for a cichlid not often encountered in the hobby and severely threatened in the wild Pyxichromis orthostoma should be given consideration. One must be willing to devote some time to this species but will be rewarded with interesting behavior and, with a little luck, fry so that others might be able to enjoy this species as well.
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References:

Greenwood, P.H. 1967. "A revision of the Lake Victoria Haplochromis species (Pisces, Cichlidae), Part IV". Bulletin of the British Museum of Natural History (Zoological), 15 (2); 29-119.

Greenwood, P.H. 1980. "Towards a phyletic classification of the 'genus' Haplochromis (pisces, Cichlidae) and related taxa. Part II: the species of Lake Victoria, Nabugabo, Edward, George and Kivu". Bulletin of the British Museum of Natural History (Zoological), 39 (1): 1-101.

Lippitsch, E. and L. Kaufman, 2003. Pyxichromis paradoxus (Perciformes: Cichlidae), a new haplochromine species from Lake Edward, East Africa, and reassessment of the genus Pyxichromis Greenwood, 1980.. Z. Fischkd. 6(1-2):87-98
 
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