The Shell-Dwelling Cichlid Lamprologus Calliurus

The interesting and underrated cichlid, Lamprologus calliurus.

Q. I bought two tropical fish called calliurus from my local fish store. They said the fish were shell-dwelling cichlid fish from Lake Tanganyika but didn’t know much beyond that. Both fish are about 2 inches long and look a bit like a brichardi.
Samantha Scott

A. You’ve picked one of the truly interesting and much underrated species of lamprologines from Lake Tanganyika. This is a cute little tropical fish that will produce tons of fry in a 10-gallon freshwater aquarium. Lamprologus calliurus is found throughout the lake. Like Lamprologus callipterus, this cichlid species also forms all-male schools, but these males are not nearly as large or aggressive as those of Lamprologus callipterus.

Knowing that Lamprologus calliurus are from Lake Tanganyika, you’re probably aware that they prefer hard water (250 to 300 ppm) and a pH above 8.0. Like all cichlid species from Lake Tanganyika, they also need very clean water, so regular bi-monthly water changes are a must for optimal conditions. You want the aquarium to be well-established, so there are no ammonia or nitrites.

As you noticed, Lamprologus calliurus males look much like Neolamprologus brichardi, complete with the nice extensions on the tail fin. What’s very interesting about these fish is that the females are much smaller and have a rounded tail; they look more like N. brevis and would be considered huge if they reach 1½ inches total length. You have two males and won’t get to see the breeding behavior of these interesting little tropical fish. Both sexes can show a nice orange patch above and slightly behind the eyes.

Female Lamprologus calliurus live and spawn in shells. They spend so much time in them you’ll wonder if they jumped out of the aquarium. The males prefer a small cave or flowerpot to hide in, being too big for any of the shells a female would find comfortable. Lamprologus calliurus eat flakes, thawed frozen mysid shrimp or bloodworms and live brown worms from your tropical fish store.

Lamprologus calliurus spawns can bear up to 30 or more fry, quite a few offspring considering the size of the females. The fry are quite small but able to take baby brine shrimp once they’re free-swimming. They grow fairly fast, and pretty soon you’ll have a lot of N. calliurus. The fry act like N. brichardi fry, too. They hang around the spawning shell in a school and won’t bother the next batch.

See if you can come up with a female or two to go with your male Lamprologus calliurus. Look for the really small ones in the aquarium, and hope you aren’t selecting a young male. If you know a local breeder, they should be willing to help you select females from their available fry. Unless your freshwater aquarium is 2 feet or longer, be prepared to remove your subdominant Lamprologus calliurus male once you add a female. I’ve not had any problems with the males being over zealous or aggressive with the females.

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