Cichlid Room Companion
Breeding tanks

Neolamprologus occelatus

By , 1996. image

Classification: Captive maintenance, Lake Tanganyika.

Neolamprologus occelatus breeding tank

You peer into the tiny little 10 gallon (37.85 l) tank which measures only 20" across and 10" deep and you wonder to yourself "how could anything breed in such small confines?" But miraculously, you find upon closer inspection a bold, large Neolamprologus occelatus displaying his gorgeous purple and gold colors and outstretched fins and think to yourself this must be the male. He hovers protectively above a small pile of rock in the middle of the tank, creating an effective barrier between the two sides. You look to the left and find a cluster of snail shells in a pile buried in the crushed coral sand and find a much smaller occelatus watching over the opening of the smallest shell in the group (Dev tells you that interestingly enough, the females search out the smallest shell they can possibly fit into and skip over larger accommodations). You try to peek into the shell opening and see a few tiny heads poking out and realize this is the female's latest spawn. As you approach the tank even close for a better look, the female ushers the fry back into the shell and lodges herself into the opening as well to protect her fry. Beyond the pile of shells you see a home-made sponge filter in the back corner. Dev tells you the sponge provides food for the fry until they can actively search out food with the adults.

Your glance moves over to the right of the tank and you see a cloud of fry confined to the front of the tank. These fry are already near 1/2" in size and Dev informs you these fry are the oldest and were born nearly 2 months ago. Dev tells you he will be moving these fry to another tank soon as their mother has actively begun guarding her shell against them and thus they are losing space quickly as the tank is too small for growing out fry as well as the adults' breeding activity.

You notice another fish behind this cloud in the right rear of the tank and take a close look at the back. You see only one shell but notice another female adult, again much smaller than the male, hovering above this shell. Yes, Neolamprologus occelatus normally form strong pairs and breeding activity did initiate with the pairing off of this male and the female on the right, but Dev tells you he had 2 males and 2 females in the tank and that this male nearly killed the other smaller male after pairing off, but left the other female alone. After leaving this second "mistress" in the tank for lack of space to move her, she began to breed and since she is not under attack, Dev has left the trio alone. The two females actually don't get along very well, but so long as they remain out of sight (thanks to the rock pile) they are content. The male is free to roam the entire tank but has his permanent address on the left side where he has claimed a shell. You see that the second female's fry have already left the shell but stay very close to mom.

You check the log book for the tank and find that the temperature is kept stable at 78 deg. F by an Ebo Jager 100w heater. The only filtration is a sponge filter driven by a Whisper 600 air pump. A 2ft. double bulb shop light keeps the tank lit. Some java moss floats around the tank to give the tank some green color. pH is ~8.0 and hardness around 7dH. These might be low for typical Tanganyikans but these are all tank-raised fish that have been acclimated to the lower pH-GH/KH. Dev notes that remarkably the fry have never seen nauplii, or any other food besides Tetra TabiMin tablets for that matter, and seem none-the-worse for it. The tablets are easily ground into powder which the fry eat piggishly. The male also has a useful habit of taking in entire tablets and swimming around the tank blowing excess food out of his gills, effectively feeding all the fry in the tank. The adults' diets are supplemented with TetraBits and occasional frozen brine. Dev notes in the log book that the adults have started to refuse flake food in hopes of getting "the better stuff."


Sung, Devin. (May 27, 1996). "Neolamprologus occelatus". Cichlid Room Companion. Retrieved on Dec 10, 2023, from: