Here is a beautiful, interesting, not often seen shell-dweller form Lake Tanganyika, Africa. Its appearance resembles that of Neolamprologus boulengeri however I would say the N. hecqui are much, much better looking! N. hecqui have darker markings, nicer marked fins and a more colorful appearance, namely in the pearly spots that run throughout the body and stripes in the fins. I should mention that these fish change colors very quickly. Modes, color of substrate, lighting, backgrounds and diet will all play a part in their color at any given time. Simply walking up to the tank to view them could easily cause them to show a different color or pattern. Trying to give someone a description of them is difficult. There is an excellent photo of them on page 653 in the Baensch Aquarium Atlas, Photo Index 1-5.
I would recommend providing them with a spacious aquarium with a lot of rockwork and hiding places. I received seven juveniles around an inch in size and placed them in a fifteen-gallon aquarium to grow out a bit. By the time they reached a little over two inches, pairing began and they started to fight quite a bit. I left a single pair in that tank and scattered the others around my fishroom. Even now with a couple of adult pair in a seventy-five gallon tank they are aggressive towards one another while breeding and when protecting a batch of fry will keep ALL tank mates on the run. Seashells make the perfect addition for use as "homes" in which they will spawn. It is amazing to see them move a shell around or cover it with sand to their liking. A bottom of aragonite sand will provide the buffers needed to keep the pH high, in the low 80's and provide the fish with a natural textured substrate. I keep the sand at about two inches deep, which allows them enough to dig and play around in.
They aren't picky about food at all. Mine accept anything offered to them as long as they can fit it in their mouths! Assorted flakes, freeze-dried and frozen foods are given 2 or 3 times per day. A feeding of live foods such as Black Worms, Red Worms or Daphnia is added to their diet a couple times a week.
Water changes are done weekly with the replacement of 30-50%. I use straight tap water with the addition of a commercial de-chlorinator. Temperature is maintained around 76F. A pH above 7.8 is recommended and should be kept stable. Fluctuations of pH can be avoided if a good buffer is used in the tank, such as seashells, smooth surfaced pieces of coral, aragonite sand, crushed coral or Tufa Rock, as opposed to chemical buffers that aren't as stable for long periods of time.
Males grow larger than the females getting to nearly 4"; the females stay a bit smaller at 3 1/4". Males also show more color than females, most noticeably in the fins, which also are just a tad larger then that of the females. The female guards the spawn site with the eggs or fry while the male defends the area from intruders. My spawns have always taken place inside a seashell. The only way I suspect that eggs have been laid is that the female stays pretty much in the shell all the time. If I don't see her out at feeding time, she is probably fanning eggs in the shell. Even with those observations in mind, I have already looked into an aquarium and seen a cloud of fry swimming around their seashell with mom close by. When just free-swimming, at 1/4" in size, the youngsters are silver and black in color. At the slightest sign of threat, they will drop to the bottom of the tank and blend into the substrate. Even if you know they are there, many times you won't be able to find them. Microworms and newly hatched baby brine shrimp are perfect first foods. The fry are quick grows, reaching a length of an inch in twelve weeks.
Fry, with a total body length of 1/2", have very striking markings. Their body is a cream color with a dark spot at the base of the tail, as they grow out just a bit you will start to see a little bit of patchy brown markings thru mid body.
The dorsal fins are gorgeous. You can see 3-4 dark black spots spaced across the fin. The top trim of the dorsal is bright orange and around the spots you can see an iridescent blue color. At the size of an inch the blue turns to a yellowish/orange band, the spots are then positioned as in the adults; with a large spot at the center, base and another, mixed in sort of a marbled pattern, near the lower back end of the dorsal fin.
At 1/2" body size, the tail, other than the spot at the base, is pretty much clear with the exception of the faint beginnings of some vertical stripes forming closer to the body. At the inch size these stripes become very noticeable forming 3 or 4 whitish/blue bands with a black edge to the tail and body markings have now developed in to a row of four spots running thru mid body. If you were to shine a flashlight on the fish at this time, the body will show a purplish sheen with some small pearly spotting starting to form mostly in the stomach area to the back end. Again, I want to make a point that these fish can change colors very quickly. Modes, color of substrate, lighting, backgrounds and diet will all play a part in their color at any given time.
As with just about any fish I breed, as soon as fry can be separated into their very own aquarium for grow out, it should be done. Whether the adults are moved and the fry left in the spawning tank or the fry are netted or siphoned and moved; youngsters won't have competition from others for food and a smaller tank will reduce their efforts to search for food, in addition the appropriate foods can feed exclusively to them.