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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi everyone,

I recently moved into a new place and took my things out of storage, including an old 40B gallon that I was planning on using for a saltwater setup years ago. My first impulse was to sell the setup sump and stand that I built for it, but I have also been staring at it thinking of possibilities, and fell into a research hole this week (just like old times :D ). I want to start a tanganyikan aquarium again, its decided. My first impulse was to explore requirements for Lepidiolamprologus attenuatus or kendalli, but it seems as though they need 5'+ tanks and I don't want to go that large. My other genus-fascination back when I was keeping tangs was xenotilapia. I was especially drawn to the larger kilesa and like cichlids since their shape,color, and nesting/courting behavior is one of the most dramatic i've ever seen. Now that I am looking to make this 40 gallon breeder work I have been looking into the smaller xenos like papilio, flavipinnis, spilopterus. Any of the smaller elongated sand sifters that could live happily in a smaller setup. My questions I want to pose are if a 40 breeder is indeed a tank large enough to host several pairs of any of these smaller xenos. I dont plan to keep much else with them, perhaps some calvus or something even mellower. For the sand area which would be a majority of the tank I will keep just for the xenos. If the tank is scaped properly, with some visual breaks in the middle of the tank and copious hiding places around the margins, can a group of xenotilapia work in this tank? Does anyone have an idea of who is breeding/selling right now. I have reached out to a few people i could find online with sold-out listings.

Other concerns are regarding water quality, since these species are claimed across the board to be fragile. Are there any of the smaller xenotilapia species that seem to be hardier than others? or less intraspecific aggression? I have never kept them before so I may want something a bit more forgiving, although I can stick to a good w/c schedule.I plan on using a large filter, probably ditch the sump and just run something really powerful to keep nitrates down, that and limit the depth of the sandbed. Price is another thing, and if papilio are way more expensive than others that would sway me too.

Have you all been increasing your collections or decreasing during these strange times?. The thought of a shoal of these small sand-sifters gliding around a tank seems like a good antidote for the dejection of being inside so much. It has gotten me motivated. I look forward to hearing your thoughts, in the mean time heres a vid of the mantis shrimp I have at home, my only tank as of now.

Thanks,
Harrison
IMG_0759 by Harrison White, on Flickr
Let me know if this link isnt working.
 

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My two cents after keeping Xeno Papilio Kanoni and Isanga. A 40b is far too small for these fish. I kept them in 210g tanks and still had major aggression issues.
They are pairing fish and are best suited in a tank where the dominant pair can take out their aggression on a sub dominant pair. In my experience, the dominant pair killed off the sub dominant air and then the remaining male killed off his female partner. That was in a 210g tank (72 x 24 x 30"). Very sensitive to water quality also.
Beautiful fish but at over $100.00 ea, a huge gamble. I also tried moving them around to 5', 120g tanks and 40g long (4') tanks with no luck.
Also they are the only Tang that I have never been able to get fry from. One or two females holding for a day or two but that's about it.
Note. This is only my experience and I'm only talking about Xeno Papilio (I do believe that spilopterus are very similar).
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thank you @noddy and DJ,

Thats unfortunate that they can remain so aggressive even in such a large tank. I've read people trying these in smaller setups but its likely that if we were to follow up with them once these fish grew into their full adult size and behaviors that a 40 or anything close would be untenable. Do you think the same would go for the flavipinnis? Although less colorful they are much cheaper on the various sites that I am looking, and supposed to be less aggressive. If a 210 gallon presented issues for papilio, its seems like any similar species in a 40 is a pipe dream, are there other sand sifting cichlids that could work?

noddy, how long did you have them in your setup? how many did you start with? did you mix sandsifters/xenos?
 

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Xeno's are awesome. I've been keeping cichlids since I was a boy, and Tanganyikans exclusively for 20+ years, and the sand floor biotope Tanganyikans are amongst my favourites.

Xenotilapia are a diverse group of fishes, so except for their rather exacting maintenance requirements, it is difficult to make generalizations about them. The genus contains maternal mouthbrooders, biparental mouthbrooders, sand floor inhabitants, open water fishes, sexually dimorphic species, monomorphic species, schooling fishes that employ a lek mating system, and species that form stable pair bonds. Can this possibly be one genus? Probably not, in my opinion, but we'll have to wait for the taxonomy to catch up with the biology.

As for general maintenance, these fishes require careful attention to three main areas- (1) water chemistry, (2) diet, and (3) tank setup, as follows.

(1) Water chemistry. All Tanganyikans require hard, alkaline water, but Xeno's are particularly demanding in that they are very sensitive to any changes in water chemistry. It goes without saying that appropriate nitrogen cycle management is a must, but they are also very sensitive to changes in both pH and temperature. Frequent water changes, and a substrate with ample buffering capacity are essential.

(2) Diet. Xeno's are omnivores, but they have long digestive tracts, and do poorly on a high-protein diet. They are also very sensitive to intestinal overloading, so are best fed in multiple small aliquots each day. My Xeno's get spirulina flakes for 60-70% of their diet, supplemented with plankton flakes and frozen foods.

(3) Tank Setup. Xeno's are delicate, and they are skittish. If their tank is located in a high-traffic area, they may damage themselves as they thrash about whenever disturbed. They also panic when the lights are turned on and off suddenly, so lights with timer/dimmer programming are very useful, and obviously, their tanks need to be tightly covered. A sandy substrate, numerous hiding places, and broken sight lines are useful, as you mentioned previously. And very carefully chosen tankmates.

Will they be content in a 40B? The short answer is- I don't know. I am currently keeping Xenotilapia singularis, X. bathyphilus, X. flavipinnis, X. papilio, X. spilopterus, and Enantiopus kilesa, but I've never kept any of my colonies in tanks smaller than 60" x 18", and most of them are larger than that. That said, I don't think a 40B would be large enough for the sand floor lek breeders (X. singularis, E. kilesa). However, it might work for the deep-water, X. bathyphilus, a maternal mouthbrooder that is quite peaceful. It might also work for a small colony of the biparental mouthbrooder X. flavipinnis once they pair off. I wouldn't even consider trying this with X. spilopterus (an open-water fish that needs more space), or X. papilio (too delicate and expensive for an experiment).

Two points to finish. First, you mentioned that you didn't want to go to a 60" tank, but even a 48" x 18" x 20" tank will give you more options than a 40B. Second, don't let this post discourage you: keeping and breeding Xeno's is not rocket science, but you must be prepared to consistently attend to their needs, and for this you will be amply rewarded. Good luck! :thumb:

A few favourites; Enantiopus kilesa-

IMGP6566R1.jpg


Xenotilapia singularis-
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Keith this is amazing!

I had to look up lekking. I'm sure its wildly cool to witness in person. I will be looking for a larger tank. I'll have a heavy 70's wood filing cabinet soon that's about 6 feet long and 18" wide. I may try to use this as a stand and set up space for a double canister filter on the side not occupied by the tank. If anyone's interested I'll turn this into a build/design thread. The whole setup may fit well across from my bed, where I could sit on the end and watch them, could be cool. Probably better than the living room for the skittish factor. So a 60 or 75g could work better, 18" wide and 48" long. with 2 feet on the end for a little mechanical enclosure.

So its probably best to go with flavsipinnis, or bathyphilus. Bathyphilus have nicer colors imo. In your experience is either one of these species more charismatic than the other? The biparental mouthbrooding flavs must be amazing to see. Are the deeper water bathyphilus more skittish?

For filtration would you say towards 10x volume an hour? so two 300gph filters or so? What ppm nitrate would you say to keep as a ceiling to not exceed?

For a good buffering sand that is also soft/wont scratch the mouths/gills, what do you use in your tanks?

For feeding I could get a little automatic feeder so I can give them flake three times a day or so. What do you do when you leave town? Can you leave your systems for a week or more without issues?

Once I get the tank before I start cycling I may head to the beach and pick out some rounded stones. I have a beach where lots of the same grey stone is piled up in different shapes/sizes. Back when I had tangs 6 years ago I did my scape there in the sand until I liked what I had. That could be cool to share with y'all. I love these tanks with massive rockscapes, I may try to find some larger pieces for the corners to make the flatness of the sand more dramatic. Some of you tang enthusiasts make the most unbelievable 3d backgrounds that match the real rocks in the tank. This could be fun to try my hand at. Ill look for other threads on it.

Thank you,
H
 

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Well, if you're willing to go to a tank with a 48" x 18" footprint, like a 70 or 75, that opens up more possibilities. Again, I have to point out that I've never kept any of my adult Xeno colonies in tanks less than 60" x 18", but based on my observations I feel pretty comfortable making the following suggestions.

X. bathyphilus are quite mellow, and not very skittish; I think they would be fine in a 48" x 18" tank. X. flavipinnis, which is a biparental mouthbrooder, might also work if you had 2 or possibly 3 established pairs, although I'm less sure about this. But the really good news if you're going to a 48" x 18" tank is that I think you might consider keeping Enantiopus.

I have two colonies of E. kilesa. The main breeding colony is shown below; it contains young adults that are about 2 years old. As you can see, there are a few rocks to provide shelter, but my personal preference is to use plants to define territories and break up sight lines.

IMGP7194.jpg


This is a 125 (72" x 18") that contains 4 E. kilesa males as permanent residents, and I cycle females through the tank from my other large colony so there are usually 6-7 E. kilesa females in this tank at any given time. The tank also contains my breeding colony of wild-caught Ophthalmotilapia nasuta 'Kipili' Gold.

If you were to try Enantiopus in a 48" x 18" tank, I would suggest that you start out with 8-9 young fishes, and hope to get 3-4 males. These are schooling fishes, and you definitely need multiple males. The males will busy themselves with nest building and elaborate ritual displays, and will not really fuss with the females except when spawning. But the really great thing about Enantiopus is that intraspecific aggression is highly ritualized, and I have never seen one of these fishes damage a conspecific. It's amazing, really, and one of the reasons I think such a group would work in a smaller tank. Something for you to consider.

E. kilesa and its sibling species E. melanogenys are amongst the more commonly available 'Xeno's' (they were formerly assigned to that genus). E. kilesa has become the more popular of the two species owing to its bright yellow face, but both species are beautiful, and E. melanogenys tends to be less expensive.

So you do have choices. And just correct your impression that X. flavipinnis is not very colorful, I offer the following-

Xeno_flavipinnis_red_royal_01.jpg


As for you setup questions-

8-9x overfiltration is plenty, as Xeno's are not very big fishes, and keeping nitrates around 20ppm should be no problem.

I use Aragonite as substrate in all my tanks.

It's no big deal to skip a day or two of feeding (in fact, I always schedule 3-4 'fasting' days per month for my Xeno's). I can't leave my fishroom unattended for longer than that, so have a house-sitter.

It's really important not to shock the fishes during water changes.

It's really important not to overfeed Xenotilapia.

Good luck, and have fun! These are challenging fishes, but worth the effort. =D>
 

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noddy said:
Are those Kekese red dorsal in the pic? Great looking Xeno. I've always wanted to try those.
Yes, they are 'Kekese', which are generally called 'Red Royal.' There are several X. flavipinnis populations from other collection points (i. e. Kabogo) that have red or orange dorsal fins; I wouldn't be surprised if some of those are also called 'Red Dorsal,' but I'm not sure about that.

A Xeno on my 'to do' list would be X. nigrolabiata; absolutely stunning fish-

xenotilapia-nigrolabiata-red-princess.jpg
 

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sir_keith said:
noddy said:
Are those Kekese red dorsal in the pic? Great looking Xeno. I've always wanted to try those.
Yes, they are 'Kekese', which are generally called 'Red Royal.' There are several X. flavipinnis populations from other collection points (i. e. Kabogo) that have red or orange dorsal fins; I wouldn't be surprised if some of those are also called 'Red Dorsal,' but I'm not sure about that.

A Xeno on my 'to do' list would be X. nigrolabiata; absolutely stunning fish-

Thanks mate. Agreed on the cherry princess. I hope to get a group one day but I will want to dedicate my big tank to them and probably change the lighting and try to find group of Paracyp Brieni to go with them. In the meantime I will probably try to find some of the Kekese when I decide to move my Foai on.
So far I have kept Melanogenys, Kilesa and two types of Papilio.
 

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noddy said:
...Agreed on the cherry princess. I hope to get a group one day...
Same here. I've never seen them for sale except in Germany. If you ever get a line on these please let me know! :thumb:
 

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sir_keith said:
Well, if you're willing to go to a tank with a 48" x 18" footprint, like a 70 or 75, that opens up more possibilities. Again, I have to point out that I've never kept any of my adult Xeno colonies in tanks less than 60" x 18", but based on my observations I feel pretty comfortable making the following suggestions.

X. bathyphilus are quite mellow, and not very skittish; I think they would be fine in a 48" x 18" tank. X. flavipinnis, which is a biparental mouthbrooder, might also work if you had 2 or possibly 3 established pairs, although I'm less sure about this. But the really good news if you're going to a 48" x 18" tank is that I think you might consider keeping Enantiopus.

I have two colonies of E. kilesa. The main breeding colony is shown below; it contains young adults that are about 2 years old. As you can see, there are a few rocks to provide shelter, but my personal preference is to use plants to define territories and break up sight lines.



This is a 125 (72" x 18") that contains 4 E. kilesa males as permanent residents, and I cycle females through the tank from my other large colony so there are usually 6-7 E. kilesa females in this tank at any given time. The tank also contains my breeding colony of wild-caught Ophthalmotilapia nasuta 'Kipili' Gold.

If you were to try Enantiopus in a 48" x 18" tank, I would suggest that you start out with 8-9 young fishes, and hope to get 3-4 males. These are schooling fishes, and you definitely need multiple males. The males will busy themselves with nest building and elaborate ritual displays, and will not really fuss with the females except when spawning. But the really great thing about Enantiopus is that intraspecific aggression is highly ritualized, and I have never seen one of these fishes damage a conspecific. It's amazing, really, and one of the reasons I think such a group would work in a smaller tank. Something for you to consider.

E. kilesa and its sibling species E. melanogenys are amongst the more commonly available 'Xeno's' (they were formerly assigned to that genus). E. kilesa has become the more popular of the two species owing to its bright yellow face, but both species are beautiful, and E. melanogenys tends to be less expensive.

So you do have choices. And just correct your impression that X. flavipinnis is not very colorful, I offer the following-

View attachment 1

As for you setup questions-

8-9x overfiltration is plenty, as Xeno's are not very big fishes, and keeping nitrates around 20ppm should be no problem.

I use Aragonite as substrate in all my tanks.

It's no big deal to skip a day or two of feeding (in fact, I always schedule 3-4 'fasting' days per month for my Xeno's). I can't leave my fishroom unattended for longer than that, so have a house-sitter.

It's really important not to shock the fishes during water changes.

It's really important not to overfeed Xenotilapia.

Good luck, and have fun! These are challenging fishes, but worth the effort. =D>
Some great looking fish, and tanks there. Congrats.

I've got a group of flavipinnis, and they frankly hate each other. :lol: I've tried them in a 4ft 75 gallon, and now in a flat 6ft 125 gallon... neither is working out very well, and I doubt most types would do well in a 40G breeder. They are healthy, but man, do they like to fight.
 

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Fogelhund said:
...I've got a group of flavipinnis, and they frankly hate each other. :lol: I've tried them in a 4ft 75 gallon, and now in a flat 6ft 125 gallon... neither is working out very well, and I doubt most types would do well in a 40G breeder. They are healthy, but man, do they like to fight...
That's really interesting. How many of the X. flavipinnis are you keeping together? Are they adults?. Are any of them paired off? And are they just being aggressive, or actually damaging each other? It seems that people have very different experiences with this species, and I am at a loss to understand why, but it seems that the critical issue is whether pair bond formation has occurred.

The only other biparental Xeno adults that I have at present are X. spilopterus, and they behave very differently. Granted, they are more of an open water fish than a bottom dweller, but my X. spilopterus colony is very happy in a 125, and they get along just fine, even though spawning takes place regularly. Go figure. :eek:
 

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sir_keith said:
Fogelhund said:
...I've got a group of flavipinnis, and they frankly hate each other. :lol: I've tried them in a 4ft 75 gallon, and now in a flat 6ft 125 gallon... neither is working out very well, and I doubt most types would do well in a 40G breeder. They are healthy, but man, do they like to fight...
That's really interesting. How many of the X. flavipinnis are you keeping together? Are they adults?. Are any of them paired off? And are they just being aggressive, or actually damaging each other? It seems that people have very different experiences with this species, and I am at a loss to understand why, but it seems that the critical issue is whether pair bond formation has occurred.

The only other biparental Xeno adults that I have at present are X. spilopterus, and they behave very differently. Granted, they are more of an open water fish than a bottom dweller, but my X. spilopterus colony is very happy in a 125, and they get along just fine, even though spawning takes place regularly. Go figure. :eek:
No pairs, seven adults. And yes, there are often spiit fits, usually dorsal from the fighting.
 

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So, I moved them again.... This time to a tank, mostly setup with them in mind. It's a 4ft x 18" tall, x 24" deep tank, so plenty of floorspace. It's just them and a pair of Julidochromis ornatus for now... probably no more cichilds in the tank. Maybe some Black Ruby Barbs, and Rainbows, just to fill the tank.... Some Cryptocorne aponogetifolia, another Crypt, some Anubias as well soon. I've blocked off sight lines very well, split the tank up, and suddenly, three pairs and an extra male. Not sure if I'm going to take the extra male out yet, or not. I'd post pictures, but, it's so much easier on Facebook to do so...
 

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Fogelhund said:
So, I moved them again.... This time to a tank, mostly setup with them in mind. It's a 4ft x 18" tall, x 24" deep tank, so plenty of floorspace. It's just them and a pair of Julidochromis ornatus for now... probably no more cichilds in the tank. Maybe some Black Ruby Barbs, and Rainbows, just to fill the tank.... Some Cryptocorne aponogetifolia, another Crypt, some Anubias as well soon. I've blocked off sight lines very well, split the tank up, and suddenly, three pairs and an extra male. Not sure if I'm going to take the extra male out yet, or not. I'd post pictures, but, it's so much easier on Facebook to do so...
That's great news. My original thought when I saw your post was that the setup wasn't right, and now you've fixed that. The biparentals really need a visually distinct territory for pair bond formation, which I first discovered with X. spilopterus. I'd keep the extra male around as a dither; he shouldn't get picked on too much with three pairs in the tank.

Some of us despise Facebook, so I wish you'd post pics here. Just hit the 'Upload attachment' button below your reply, then follow the prompts.

Good Luck! :thumb:
 

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Fogelhund said:
...and they spawned... :lol:
Awesome! If ever there was a clear demonstration of how important tank setup is to the social behavior of these fishes, this has got to be it! Congratulations! :thumb:
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
HAHA thats awesome Fogeuhung, I second the posting photos thing^.

@sir_keith, Thank you for your long response. I just now logged on for the first time in a while, finally all moved into my new place, with a bare wall just asking for a 4ft tank. I think I may try for the bathyphilus.

All of your notes are super helpful. And Fogelhund I'll be following your example and dividing things up. I'd love to see pictures of how you achieved this. Or a link to your FB.

Will follow up when I get things moving.

H
 
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