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Lethrinops furcifer

by Frank Panis

Scientific name: Lethrinops furcifer.
Trade name: Lethrinops "green face".
Natural habitat: Sandy environments near beaches in Lake Malawi.
Food in the lake: insect larva and crustaceans that are sifted from the sand.
Food in the aquarium: A mix of quality pellets, flakes, krill, artemia, etc fed sparingly. No mammal meat!
Behaviour in the aquarium:  The only aggression they show is displaying against other fish. No chasing or whatsoever occurs. I expected them to build sand nests for spawning, but the small sand heaps that they produce are nothing compared to the huge craters that some Tanganyika cichlids build. They clearly are bottom dwellers, what can be observed during feeding time. While all the Malawi cichlids attack the food that's thrown into the tank they are the first to dig in the bottom for food particles while the Copadichromis cruise through the tank to get the remaining particles there.
Tankmates: Lethrinops are among the most peaceful cichlids from Lake Malawi and tankmates should be chosen very carefully. Only a limited amount of other "peaceful" Malawi cichlids can be kept with them, as they could be intimidated by other more robust and dominant species. Mbuna are totally out of the question.
Maximal size: Can vary quite a bit depending on water quality and food amount. Grows to about 15 cm in captivity.
Aquarium: A tank of  >750L with a sufficient amount of sand and some rocks is always recommended, pH between 7.5 - 8.5, temperature about 25°C.

 
Lethrinops furcifer displaying in the quarantine tank.


Notes:

These marvellous wildcaugh cichlids were at my favourite shop back in November 2004 while I was rearranging the 1500L kitchen tank. I seriously doubted buying them as I've had a really nasty experience with wildcaught Malawi cichlids in 2000 which resulted in the death of all inhabitants in my 1000L tank. My cichlid friend Staf finally persuaded me to go for them though, as he would donate 5 gorgeous F1 Copadichromis jacksoni juveniles to combine a nice Malawi cichlid community. Together with 5 wild Aulonocara cobue I bought 10 Lethrinops "green face". I went through all possible causes of diseases with Staf, and we both concluded that stress would have to be avoided as strictly as possible. This meant that all fish should be introduced in their new tank TOGETHER AT ONCE and this would be it!! This also meant that there would be NO MORE future fishy additions to be absulutely sure nothing could cause the death of one or more cichlids . On top of that we would treat them with FMC and an antibiotic so we would be sure that most parasites were banned. The cichlids were all put in a 140L quarantine tank in the basement and they all looked fine, responded well and showed a healthy appetite. Their treatment lasted 3 weeks and after that they were ready to be released in the 1500L kitchen tank. This transfer went very good, although the fish needed at least a month to open up. Now (April 2005) they are very vivid and they also spawned for the first time. I hope to be able to keep them and enjoy their splendour for a very long time!


Right after their release in the 1500L kitchen tank: all bug free and hungry!


A successful spawn obviously results in a mouthbrooding female! April 2005.


Sand dwelling cichlids at their best; digging in the sand!

As you see in the photo above, these wildcaught cichlids only deserve the best: a large tank with a sand bottom. These Lethrinops simply thrive in it and I can't imagine taking their pleasure away by using gravel or crushed coral. Cichlid keepers who insist on using these substrates with such precious creatures should be spanked in my opinion!!!


Two males displaying. Click on the image to see the high resolution picture.


Give them what they need and then you'll be rewarded with this.

This photo can be a bit too dark for some PC monitors, but on mine this one looks stunning! Click on the image to see the high resolution picture.

Photos and Text by Frank Panis /MCH

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