I have been keeping Lake Tanganyikan cichlids as long as I have been a hobbyist, which I guess is over 20 years now. But for whatever reason I have not kept any species from the genus Chalinochromis until recently. I am now working with wild pairs of Chalinochromis brichardi ‘Masked’ and Chalinochromis sp. ‘Streaked Masked Mabilibili’. I have recently been able to successfully spawn both species. In this article I am going to focus on the events dealing with the spawning of Chalinochromis brichardi ‘Masked’.
I originally obtained two wild pairs of this species and placed them in a 55-gallon tank that was maintained with a temperature of 78 – 82 degrees, a pH of 8.2, and relatively hard water. The tank was set up with one inch of normal sized gravel and a medium sized clay spawning pot at each end of the tank. In between, the middle of the tank was filled with a random pile of flowerpots. The pile contained a mixture of 6″ and 8″ flowerpots and created an artificial barrier between the ends of the 55-gallon tank. It also provided dozens of nooks and crannies for the fish to take refuge in if need be. My thinking, or more accurately my hope, was that two pairs would form up and live in peace in the same tank. At the time I really did not have the available tank space to set up two separate tanks for these two pairs. Also I wanted to try to let a natural selection of a mate to take place, well at least as best you can with four fish.
Other variables related to how I maintained these fish include filtration by three medium size sponge filters and a outside Aqua-Clear 300 box filter, weekly 30% water changes, and a diet of flake food (Cichlid and Spirulina), frozen adult brine shrimp, and frozen blood worms. Set up under these conditions, it actually did not take long for two pairs to form up and spawning to occur. The dominant male selected the left side of the tank and chose his mate. The sub-dominant male did not seem to mind the right side of the tank nor the remaining female. With the tank set-up that I described above, it was interesting to see that the males pretty much stayed on their side of the tank and avoided the pile of flowerpots. They only really approached the flowerpot pile when interacting with their female or to chase away the male or female from the other side of the tank. The females on the other hand darted in an out of the flowerpot pile regularly. In fact, it was so abnormal to not see them in the pile, that when they were out of the pile and near one of the clay spawning caves, I was assured that I was going to see some fry emerge form the pots shortly.
Both pairs spawned a couple times in this tank. After the second or third spawn of the dominant male pair however, things changed. After this spawn the dominant male went a little ballistic and forced me to remove the second pair. In fact, the sub-dominant male had about 5 fins in the grave if you ask me. I moved the second pair to a 90-gallon aquarium that also housed a breeding group of Aulonocranus dewindti. Over the next few weeks the male recovered sufficiently and started to interact with the female and spawning started to occur with this pair a few weeks later. Back in the 55-gallon tank the male was getting more and more aggressive. The female outside of spawning times was harassed endlessly. The male seemed to relent long enough for the female to spawn and then went right back to the harassment. It should be noted however, that the male did not harm the young in any way up to this point. Following another spawn, I actually had to remove the female from the 55-gallon tank.
At this point I was in for a couple weeks of aggravation. I did not have a real good place to put this female. My first step was to put her in a 10-gallon tank, which she would have to herself. After giving her a few days to recover, I decided to add her to the 90-gallon tank with the other pair of fish. That was a mistake. The newly introduced female quickly asserted dominance over the incumbent female and began to beat her senseless. Then the male got into the game and took out his frustration on the new female. At this point I had to do some shuffling to free up some tank space. I freed up a 60-gallon tank by combing some Lake Victorian cichlids into another tank. From the 90-gallon tank now containing three Chalinochromis brichardi I removed the female that I just recently introduced, leaving the pair that had been in the tank prior to the introduction. I placed this lone female into the 60-gallon tank that I just made available and left things be for a while. This female did fine solo, but I was now running into issues in the other two tanks containing this species of fish. The dominant male back in the 55-gallon tank was no starting to chase the larger young that were also in the tank. The young were safe for the most part, because of the flowerpot pile, but it was clear that the young or the male was eventually going to need to be removed. The dynamic between the pair back in the 90-gallon tank was obviously wrecked by the addition of the second female shortly before. The male would not have anything to do with the remaining female. Physically she was in no danger if she stayed in the upper corners of the tank.
I decided to move the dominant male from 55-gallon tank and leave the young to grow out. I added the male to the 60-tank with his original mate. After getting over the shock of the move, he took over the tank and the same situation developed as I was seeing in the 90-gallon tank. Male dominating the female but leaving her be if she stayed in the upper regions of the tank. At this point I just decided to just leave things be. Whatever was going to happen; was going to happen. I was not going to do any more tank juggling with this fish. That was about 4 weeks ago from the time of this writing. Over those four weeks things settled back down and the females began to interact more with the males and were allowed to roam the tanks freely. And actually, just this morning, I was surprised with a cloud of free-swimming fry in the 60-gallon tank. Hopefully things will remain this way but I doubt it.