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Altolamprologus calvus "White Chaitika" II - The spawning

Text & photos by Frank Panis

The 4 calvus have been quiet for almost a year. There have been some mild territorial fights, but nothing really serious happened. Meanwhile I kept on feeding them (obviously) and also photographing them.


Look at the dentition. Click on the thumbnail to see the high resolution picture.

In April 2005 two of them finally formed a breeding pair! This male and female were getting really serious about it! One shell was defended fiercely by both the male and the female. The female went inside on a very regular basis, most probably in order to clean the shell walls. Needless to say that the male was never far away!


The smallest Altolamprologus calvus in a shell? This must be a female!!!


Stretching is always welcome to compensate for the contorted posture inside the shell.


Both male and female close to the shell.


Then the female goes in...



...while the male has to wait outside.

The first breeding attempt was not very successful, as the shell was abandoned very soon after I took all these photo's. Probably it can be seen as practising, as it didn't take long for the Altolamprologus calvus to spawn again. This time they looked far more determined as the dominant male looked much more impressive with his dark coloured head. His opponents were chased from the female and the shell with even more power of persuasion. Luckily no damages or casualties were observed to the other calvus though.


This time the male looks more bold and frightening for it's opponents! Click on the thumbnail to see the high resolution picture.


It's very difficult to see them, but there were some fry in the shell!

The much bigger effort of the parents finally resulted in a successful spawn with fertilized eggs in the shell. When I fed the fish the female rushed to a food particle, and headed back to the shell as soon as possible while the male guarded the shell. Then the male went to pick up a few pieces of food and this continued until all food was eaten. No other Tanganyika cichlid in the tank was allowed to come in the neighbourhood of the shell. Then after a few days I suddenly saw some fry moving in the shell. I was very excited to see these tiny calvus, but my luck was very short-lived. The day after they were all gone though. Most probably they starved from a lack of appropriate food or due to predation. I think that I can exclude cannibalisation by the parents, as they have a very reliable reputation as being good parents. Francesco advised me to put the shell with the fry in a separate tank as soon as they show up (always better be safe than sorry!), but I had no separate tank at that moment to put them there. I'm going take the whole other route though that George already applies for his rare Madagascan cichlids: building a single species tank for breeding them. I'm indeed planning to give this Altolamprologus calvus breeding pair a separate and intimate 200-300L tank  with enough shells so they can devote all their time to spawning and also raising their fry! In this separate tank I can also purposely feed the fry and do small partial water changes as this is known to be the weakest link in spawning raising these wonderful cichlids. In such a smaller tank I can also take much better photo's. After all the thick glass of the actual tank causes diffraction effects and unsharpness to the photo's that I take.

Continued in next page

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