Species Article: Lake Tanganyika

Cyprichromis leptosoma

by Greg Steeves

My first experience with Cyprichromis occured several years ago, when I happened upon some by accident. I had seen them in books but had never seen any live. A few summers ago I was in Halifax had had an opportunity to visit a most excellent store called Aqua Creations. If you are ever in this city take time to stop by, they always have high quality fish in great variety. Anyway, while checking out the tanks I spied these strange looking fish, at the time I had no idea what I was looking at. I continued on but kept thinking about those colorless little guys that seemed more like a minnow than anything else. Of course I came back and gawked at them some more. I knew I should know what they were. After a while, a fellow that worked there asked me if I was interested in Tanganyikan cichlids. We started chatting and he informed me that he thought they were Cyprichromis leptosoma. He had never had them before and couldn't positively identify them. Things started coming together in my head, all the fishroom talk about these critters were coming to me in flashbacks, jumbled, scattered information. I looked closer, they looked like no cichlid I had ever seen, I had to have them!

He bagged them up and off I trotted. I proudly displayed them to my wife. She promptly informed me that they were the ugliest fish she had ever seen. Talk about bubble bursting. They were kind of ugly, a colorless beige, big eyes, not much to look at.

I put them in a vacant 22 gallon tank. They hovered together in the top 1/3 of the tank with their heads pointed downward. They were very healthy and ate flake and daphnia greedily. After a month I moved them to a 100 gallon Tanganyikan community tank. The leptosoma were housed with a dozen N. leleupi, twenty N. brichardi, and eight J. regani. They were growing quickly and all were about three inches long. In their new home they still swam together in the top third of the tank. This was good as most of the other fish rarely ventured this high up. One of the fish began to color up. This male was beautiful. He displayed to the other four fish shaking wildly in front of them. He had developed a bright yellow tail, a dark blue (almost black) dorsal, and a metallic blue head. This continued for a couple months until I moved them back into the 22 gallon. I was turning the 100 into a brichardi "species only" tank.

The leptosoma didn't seem to mind the move at all. The male was still displaying constantly to the females, and herding them together in a corner. A week after the move, I was ecstatic to see a female with a large swollen throat, she was carrying, they had spawned! My excitement was short lived. The next day the clutch was gone, she had aborted. I was disappointed, but realized that it is common for other mouth brooders to abort the first spawn or two. Usually they settle down and eventually become productive.

Later, a friend in New England gave me some Cyprichromis leptosoma "Blue Flash", which you see pictured here. These fish are stunning. Just a note, though... Cyprichromis should always be kept in tightly-lidded tanks. They think they can fly.


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