frontosa "Mpimbwe Blue"
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!