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Cyphotilapia frontosa "Mpimbwe Blue"
by ERIC BODROCK

C.front.jpg (25354 bytes)These jumbo Lake Tanganyikan mouthbrooding cichlids proved to be a true test of my patience.  My adult "Fronts", as the commonly referred to as, were originally acquired by a friend of mine as small, first generation (F1) fry, about five years earlier.  As they grew for a couple of years, their owner decided that they needed to be housed in a larger aquarium.  Space restrictions didn't allow for any additional aquariums to be set up, so they were offered to me with hopes of providing them with an ideal home for their continuing growth and possible spawning.  Needless to say, I eagerly accepted them into my home fishroom with hopes of someday spawning them.

At sizes ranging from five to seven inches, the eleven fish were place in a one hundred and fifty gallon aquarium all of their own.  The tank was filtered with an under gravel filter using four lift tubes with vigorous airflow.  A substrate of an even mix of natural gravel and crushed coral maintained the pH in the 8.0 - 8.4 range.  A few pieces of large rock along with several jumbo Anubius plants made up the tank decor.  Temperature was maintained around 75 degrees Fahrenheit.  Water changes of twenty-five to fifty percent were done every week to week and a half.  Diet consisted of assorted (large) flakes, live black worms, freeze-dried krill and chopped silversides. 

Six months passed, the fish continued to grow nicely, a peaceful pecking order was established and the fish all seemed happy: not happy enough to spawn, but happy!  Being a bit frustrated with this, I decided to add a group of eight adult Aulonocara into the aquarium with them.  My thoughts were that this might act as a trigger to get the Fronts to spawn.  Well, another six months past with no signs of spawning activity.  At this point the Aulonocara were removed and the group of Fronts were thinned out by removing a couple of the larger males.  After several months it finally happened; so I thought, a female carrying a mouthful of eggs.  She stopped eating, became inactive, stayed hidden and showed a bulge in her lower jaw, all signs of a spawn; so I thought!   I anxiously watched each day to make sure she was still carrying, thinking I'd let her carry them for about ten days before I striped the fry from her.  She made it, ten days and still carrying.  Now the big moment, I removed the glass lid, filled a shallow bucket with aquarium water and grabbed a couple of large nets.  I was able to catch her without much trouble.  While I cradled her in my hand, I dipped her into the bucket and with my finger I pulled her lower jaw down to release the fry.  I was amazed at what I seen next, out from her mouth comes a huge mouthful of ALGAE! YES, ALGAE! You know the algae that grows as a sheet on the underside of a glass lid under the aquarium light - that algae! In a flash, my mind thought that she was eating algae to feed the fry in her mouth, WOW, I never heard of that before.  The fry must have been older than I thought, already absorbed their eggs sacs and the mom was feeding them IN HER MOUTH! (Now remember, I thought of this in a flash).  As I pulled her mouth open for the second time, out comes more algae, then more algae and even more algae; I could go on, but you get the picture, she never did spit out any fry!  At that moment I was very unhappy, down right mad about it even.  I waited two years to have them spawn and another ten days I watched her carry yet another mouthful of Algae!  I talked to some hard-core cichlid people and they told me that a female mouthbrooder will sometimes "fake" a spawn to get the males to leave her alone.  A female "faking it", I never heard of such a thing, anyway, after that disappoint I said the heck with them and didn't pay much attention to them anymore.

After a year passed the remaining seven Fronts were moved into my new fishroom.  I placed the largest male, now about twelve inches long, along with two females, at about seven inches long, into a seventy-five gallon aquarium by themselves.  The others were mixed in a similar aquarium but with other fish.  Same conditions were kept as in their previous home.  About a year passed and one day a fellow fish club member was visiting when we noticed a half-inch fry swimming in the tank with the trio.  Several days earlier I thought that a female was carrying but I didn't bother to get my hopes up again. (Not going to fool me twice or was that three times now!).  I removed that female and striped out ten other fry from her mouth, no algae either!  I also found another fry swimming in the aquarium.  That's how I finally spawned my Fronts! 

I swore that as soon as I got fry from them for BAP, I was going to get rid of them all, but I must admit, the large male from the breeding tank has become my fishroom pet and I think I'll end up keeping all his kids too!

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