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Telmatochromis sp. "Temporalis Shell"
by Brett Harrington

Photograph Water Organism Fish Adaptation

Ad Konings considers the Telmatochromis sp. "Temporalis Shell" to be a dwarf morph of the normal Telmatochromis temporalis. I first obtained a small group of these from a wild shipment in 2004. I have been interested in shell dwellers for many years, and thought trying a new one would be an interesting experience, and I was not mistaken.

These fish weren't very large when I first received them, and they were quite light in appearance. They were housed in a 75-gallon aquarium, along with some wild caught Altolamprologus calvus black pectorals, and Julidochromis regani. The aquarium had a sand substrate, and plenty of plants, primarily Cryptocorne wendtii, and Anubias nana. The sp. "Temporalis Shell" was provided with a number of spawning options, from rocks, to Neothauma shells, to escargot shells and some mid-sized conch shells. It didn't take too long for them to pair up, and they chose the conch shells as their preferred spawn site. At first the spawns were in the 15-25 range, but as they matured and grew, the spawns were as large as 40 fry at a time. The maximum size of the males is about 2.5" with the females being about an inch smaller. Once they began spawning, they also took on a much darker colouration, becoming a dark slate grey.

Nature Organism Sleeve Adaptation Rectangle

While this is a small fish, make no mistake that this fish is well equipped to take care of itself. One of my pairs was housed in a tank with my spawning Lepidiolamprologus attenuatus, and more than held their own. The other pair was in with the regani and calvus. The sp. "Temporalis shell" raised their fry out in the open, with the regani and calvus knowing better than to come out of their caves for a free lunch. When they would come out, the male "Temporalis shell" would quickly attack the potential predators, chasing them back into their caves. Fry seem to be tolerated up until about ½" when they started getting chased out of the territory. The fry of prior spawns didn't seem to disturb or predate on previous spawns, so "generations" of spawns can be observed in the same aquarium.

I found them to be an entertaining fish, darting about the aquarium in an unconventional swimming method. Males will support multiple females, but it seems more common for them to pair up. Both males and females are quite intolerant of same sex conspecifics, with females showing obvious distaste to their males who have harems.

Telmatochromis temporalis is known to feed on the aufwuchs {Link to article on Aufwuchs}, which it bites from the rocks. Stomach contents reveal insect larvae, tiny worms, and crustaceans, in addition to filamentous algae. They are also know to feed on the eggs of Lamprichthys tanganicanus, the Tanganyikan killifish. While the dwarf morph, the sp. "Temporalis shell" hasn't been the subject of the same scientific studies; it is likely to have similar feeding habits. In the aquarium, I fed mine New Life Spectrum 1mm pellets, Mysis shrimp, Diced Krill and human consumption shrimps, as well as flake food. The fry grew well in the parent's aquarium, on a diet of crushed flake food.

This is a shell dweller that is a good candidate to be kept in aquariums that contain fish that are not normally "Shellie friendly". Fish such as Neolamprologus brichardi, Neolamprologus leleupi, Neolamprologus cylindricus and the larger Julidochromis all have poor reputations when kept with shell dwellers. Believe me, they won't be getting the better hand with this fish. If you decide to keep a pair of these fish on their own, I would recommend that a 24", 15-gallon aquarium be the absolute smallest aquarium that I would attempt it with.

If you get a chance to add some Telmatochromis sp. "Temporalis shell" to your collection do so. You will be entertained by their behavior, and their bulldog attitude.
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