Down in Western Africa in the country of Cameroon there are many volcanoes that are now occupied by crater lakes. One of these lakes is Barombi Mbo. Barombi Mbo is home to over a dozen cichlid species, including 11 endemic species, which evolved from a single species over the last 10,000 years. The cichlid species in Barombi Mbo include Stomatepia pindu, Stomatepia mariae, Myaka myaka, Sarotherodon lohbergeri, Konia eisentrauti, and Pungu maclerani. I mention these species as they are the ones that are starting to appear on more and more breeder lists and such. The endemic species of Barombi Mbo cichlids fall into one of four genera (Myaka, Pungu, Stomatepia, and Konia).
I am currently working with a group of wild Stomatepia pindu, as well as a group of young F1 Konia eisentrauti. I acquired a group of 12 wild Stomatepia pindu recently after losing a group that I had for a couple years. My first group was obtained as F1 fry. As I stated I had this group for about two years. I lost this initial group during a period of time when I was working 70 – 80 hours a week and had little if no time at all for my fish room. The long hours at work lasted for a few months and my initial group of Stomatepia pindu suffered. Ironically it was shortly after my work schedule had abated and I was able to get back into the fish room that my pindu tanked ‘crashed’. I did a decent sized water change when I noticed that the fish were hanging around the bottom of the tank. Shortly after they developed a case of Ick like I had never seen before. I treated the Ick and the visible signs of the condition disappeared but the fish never recovered. Over a week’s time I lost all the pindu in my initial group.
I placed my new group of Stomatepia pindu in a 40-gallon breeder aquarium that was maintained with a temperature of 78 – 82 degrees, a pH of 8.2, and relatively hard water. The tank contained one tall and relatively thin piece of driftwood that was placed in the middle of the aquarium and reached nearly to the top of the aquarium. The tank also has a couple 6-inch lengths of PVC pipe, which is shelter for one Synodontis polli that shares the tank with the pindu. There is shallow amount of coarse gravel covering the bottom of the tank and four large sponge filters in the tank as well. This group of fish schools together around the driftwood typically only venturing out to feed or to spawn. I have been lucky enough to witness quite a few spawns over the last few months. The pair ventures away from the driftwood to various parts of the tank to spawn. There does not seem to be any real thought put into selecting the spawning site. There is no nest building or digging. The pair just seems to stop when they feel comfortable and go about their business, the female dropping eggs on the gravel followed by the male circling in to fertilize. As this species of fish is mouthbrooder, the female then picks up the eggs for incubation. One spawning characteristic of the fish that has stood out for me is the ‘calmness’ of all the fish in the group when a pair is spawning. With other species of cichlids, I am used to the pair chasing away other members of the group, subdominant males trying to interrupt or get involved in the spawning, or just a general sense of anxiety in the tank. Not with these fish. The pair calmly and casually completes the spawning ritual without paying any attention to the other fish in the tank. And the other fish in the tank just go about their business as if nothing is going on.
I had very little luck with the initial spawns. I am estimating that I have at least 7 – 8 females out of the group of 12. So spawning was a relatively common occurrence. In the first month or so, the females would carry for a day or two and then the eggs disappeared. At this point, I am not sure if they were spit out or eaten. After this first month I started to strip the eggs from a few of the spawns. This was a day or two after spawning because I wanted to try to get some eggs before they disappeared again. I transferred the eggs to an egg tumbler for incubation. I tried this 4 times I believe, each time ending up with one free developed young. With the lack of any real success, I decided to give up on this practice and leave it to the females, hoping that they would develop better rearing skills with subsequent spawns. A few more unsuccessful spawns came and went, but recently a few of the females have started to carry the eggs for longer periods of time. Actually I have now had three spawns were I have been able to strip 5 – 10 fully developed and free swimming young from the females about 3 weeks post spawning. So I know have about 2-dozen young growing out. They grow quickly on a steady diet of baby brine shrimp, white worms, and finely crushed flake food.
Stomatepia pindu was the species of cichlid from Barombi Mbo that first caught my attention. It was an article by Dr. Paul Loiselle in Cichlids News a few years back that did the trick. I could not believe the black coloration of this fish. The entire body of the fish, at times, is completely black. dark, dark black. There is a spangling of fluorescent purple spots in the males as well, which also adds to the appearance of the fish. During periods of stress their coloration will soften up to a grayish brown with black spotting, but under normal conditions and especially during spawning. wow!! After reading the article it was actually through Dr. Loiselle that I was able to obtain my first group of pindu. It took quite a bit of time and effort to actually locate someone with the fish. I had tracked down leads through the Boston Aquarium Society as well as with hobbyists up in Canada with no luck. They are a bit more common today, listed on a few species lists on the Internet and ACA Trading Post. If you get the chance I definitely recommend this fish to everyone.