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Chalinochromis brichardi by Carli Flenniken


   I received my first quartet of Chalinochromis brichardi in September of 1999 entirely on a whim.  I was placing an order for another fish and wanted to make the shipping costs worth it, so I began browsing the picture gallery to see what else might appeal to me.  At this point, I had seen Neolamprologus brichardi, but I had never even heard of the “other” brichardi.  One look at this white fish with its black “mask” and purple/blue fins, and I knew I had to have them in my tank.

   When the juveniles arrived they looked like entirely different fish.  Under an inch long, they were incredibly white with black horizontal pinstripes over their entire bodies.  Watching them grow and lose their juvenile coloring was amazing.  The stripes simply got lighter and lighter and they retained charcoal colored outlines for a very long time before they completely disappeared, leaving only the black mask and a single black dot on the dorsal fin behind.  Their white bodies evolved to a more pink white color much like the inside of a conch shell.  As they have gotten older they have acquired a golden cast that is only periodically visible.  The blue/purple color of the pectoral fins and the matching line running along the edges of the remaining fins becomes breathtaking when the fish is entirely in color.  I have yet to see a photograph that does it justice.

   Chalinochromis brichardi is a modestly sized Tanganyikan  cichlid.  I have seen profiles granting the males up to 5.5 inches, but after much research, discussion, and from personal experience, I have come to the conclusion that one of that size would be a veritable giant!  My own adult male, at almost 2 years old, is about 3.5 inches (which seems to be the norm), while my adult female is roughly an inch smaller.  These Tanganyikans are extremely slow growers. My own took over a year after receiving them to grow to their present size.

   Sexing Chalinochromis brichardi is practically impossible in any way other than guessing by size or venting.  And size is problematic, as you can have smaller males and/or larger females making them basically the same in size.  I had no idea what I had until my first pair formed.  Incidentally, at that time, both were almost exactly the same size, until the male continued to grow while the female remained her previous size.  There is no sexual dimorphism, though my own female tends to show her full color less often than my male.  The males do tend to have slightly more elongated pectoral fins, so this can be used as a clue to sexing if you have a member of the opposite sex to compare.

   Breeding these beauties has been one of the many high points in my fish keeping experience.  This is not to say it was not troublesome until they “taught” me what they needed.  As stated before, there were originally four juveniles, and they were kept with a pair of Lamprologus meleagris in a 20 gallon aquarium.  When my current pair formed, this set up became impossible, as the meleagris chose to spawn in unison with the C. brichardi.  Between the two pairs, there was far too much aggression for such a small tank to hold.  The meleagris were removed and housed in their own tank, and the C. brichardi were left.

Unfortunately, it soon became quite apparent that the tank was insufficient for the four adults and fry.  One of the unpaired fish was harassed to the point it jumped the tank through a very small opening in the back, becoming my first, and thankfully, only, “crispy carpet critter”.  I feared for the life of the remaining C. brichardi, and it was given to a friend along with a dozen of the fry from the first spawn.  Once there were only the pair and the fry from their second spawn, peace was restored.  In light of this, I wouldn’t even attempt to keep more than one pair in anything smaller than a 50 gallon.  The remaining pair uses the whole of the 20 gallon as their territory, with the male stationed at one end, and the female at the other.

   Aside from these initial problems, everything has run smoothly in the breeding process.  My pair is kept at a pH of 8.8, a GH and KH of 300+, and at a temperature of 76 F.  The substrate, originally fine gravel, was changed to sand.  Water changes are 20% once every two weeks.  On one side of my tank, I had created caves made entirely of rock, and on the other I used small clay flowerpots. I broke a chip from the mouth of the pots and set them upside down.  The female chose the pots to lay her eggs, and has used the same pot ever since the first spawn.  It was something of a disappointment, as I thought them ugly after I put them in the tank and was going to remove them.  Apparently she likes them, though, so they will just have to keep being ugly in the tank.

   These fish are secretive spawners, and I have yet to catch them in the act.  Several times I didn’t even know that there were eggs until the first fry roamed from the clay pot.  The only indications of eggs and newly hatched fry without seeing them, is that the female stays inside the pot rather then sitting outside the opening and the male begins to make rounds.  It took me quite some time to figure out this aspect of the males’ behavior.  When there are eggs and fry he doesn’t stand guard outside the pot, but stays in his own cave.  He has chosen a position where he faces the laying site and can keep an eye on things from across the tank.  Periodically he comes out and simply glides past the pot taking a look inside to ensure everything is going well, then returns to his watch from across the tank

 

   They are fiercely devoted to their new fry, even keeping fry and juveniles from previous spawns at bay.  At around 4 weeks old, the fry are allowed to leave the immediate vicinity of the pot, but never stray very far.  At this time, the fry from previous spawns are again allowed to roam the tank as they please without being chased off by either of their parents. When they are about 6-8 weeks old they move out from the pot, and new eggs are almost immediately laid.  It has been a continuous cycle since the first spawn.   There were many times I thought (even hoped) they would cease spawning because the tank had become crowded with older fry, but they continued to spawn, though I suspect some were eaten, or simply didn’t survive.

   Feeding is a simple task as well.  They have yet to refuse any food item, except for vegetables, that I have offered.  The adults have a diet of flakes, small cichlid pellets, brine shrimp, mosquito larvae, and they particularly enjoy live bloodworms, though they receive frozen much more often.  The newly hatched fry are fed baby brine, Aquarian powdered fry food, and crushed flakes.  They have a ravenous appetite, and would eat as often, and as much, as I chose to feed them, but I normally feed once a day, periodically skipping a day.

   All in all, C. brichardi is a beautiful, graceful, and interesting fish.  Their tank is probably my favorite to watch, the swimming patterns and colors are very soothing.  They glide and hover in one spot rather than swim, and every move they make is deliberate and graceful.  Even the fry move in this way, and sometimes they will all stop swimming at the same time, and it becomes the tank “that time forgot”.  I would suggest this lovely fish to any fish keeper, beginners and experts alike.

Carli Flenniken (Tn, USA) has been a close friend of MCH for some years now. Being a hobbyist herself she has helped editing many MCH articles (our official Editor-in -Chief). 
See next page for more pictures. 

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 Page last modified on 09/03/2002  

 

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