Francesco Zezza, 1998
Cichlid Room Companion
Breeding tanks

Ophtalmotilapia ventralis

By , 1998. image

Classification: Captive maintenance, Lake Tanganyika.

Ophtalmotilapia ventralis male

Ophtalmotilapia ventralis male in the aquarium. Fish and Photo by Francesco Zezza.

The tank where this story has begun is 120 x 50 x 50 cm in size ( 47 x 19,5 x 19,7 inches). That means 300 liters (80 gallons). On the ground tiny, grayish, gravel and lot of rock toward the rear corners, arranged to create a lot of hiding spaces (for brooding females). On the other hand, I provide as much as possible room for swimming (Ophtalmotilapia are fast open water swimmer). Filtration is performed by a three sections internal filter filled to the top with "bio-balls" and synthetic wool. Water flow is assured by a 1200 Lt./hour (>300 gals/hour) water pump. Water temperature is kept around 26°C (79° F), sometimes a little lower, by a 300 watts capacity thermal heater. A strong air flow is used in hot climate periods to keep oxygen level as high as possible. Lightning is provided by two (Aquastar) 30 Watt lamp. No plants at all are present. A water change (one third of volume) is made, to manage the nitrogen cycle, (generally) every two weeks.

I got the fishes at the AIC (Associazione Italiana Ciclidofili) annual meeting (note: fishes suffered losses -; a lot! - during the trip back home which took about four hours, regardless of a lot of care I put on the fish). Finally five specimens (two males, three female) were introduced in their new tank, already inhabited by a school of Neolamprologus Multifasciatus. No dither fishes were used (It's said that Ophtalmotilapia are shy fishes, and I partially agree with this!) adding, instead, five Cyprichromis Leptosoma Utinta (another "open space" swimmer. I got four males out of five fishes; very bad luck!). Things started to go on happily and I kept myself waiting. With fishes feed once a day with pelleted food, flakes and a frozen food prepared by myself, which includes shrimp, octopus, spinach, red pumpkin and zucchini. I add, as final touch, a full spoon of Parmigiano cheese and plenty of Spirulina. All that stuff is "glued" with some gelatin. The wait for the first hatch was long (fish had, before, to become adults!) and small in results (4 fry) but after that breeding became almost "normal" with the dominant male nicknamed "Grande Capo" (Big Chief) mating on a regular basis with two out of the three females. He was voiding to meet always the same female (don't know why). In the end of the story I got 55 new (grown up, see below) Ophtalmotilapia (in about one year and a half) sometimes manually stripping the females, sometimes not (that's meant, probably, some fry lost during "natural" releases!). Maximum number of newborn has been nine; averaging 3 to 5. When "naturally" released, (immediately after) the offspring tends to climb to surface and group under the lamps, such a behavior allows you to collect them easily, of course with no picivorous mates in the tank!!!

Ophtalmotilapia ventralis female

Ophtalmotilapia ventralis female carrying eggs inside her mouth in the aquarium. Fish and Photo by Francesco Zezza.

I used to grow my fry in two tanks. One 35 liters (9 gals) with an undergravel filter and one 13 Lt. (3.5 gals) filtered by an internal corner filter. i fed the young Ophtalmotilapia ventralis the same food as adult fishes, adding every now and then some live brine shrimp (when extremely young I managed to succeed, whenever possible, for feed them twice a day despite some problems with my job). In the end the procedure has worked well and that's the main point. The rate of growth was not so fast (maybe because of food regimen offered to the fry) and some losses every now and then were experimented, it happened once, that I lost 11 fry at the same time when they were about a month and a half old. while other fry of the same species, but from different hatchings, had no problems at all! I wondered why for a long period but got to no answer!

Regarding other fishes hosted in the tank, I had a lot of spawnings of Neolamprologus multifasciatus but none at all of Cyprichromis leptosoma Utinta, even if some courting behavior was observed (but this is all of a different matter). The story ended (two and a half years later) when on a sad evening, coming back from work, I found the "Grande Capo" dead on the bottom of the tank. Because of that, fully disappointed, I managed to give away the fishes to another "cichlidiot" fellow. That meant the four remaining adult fishes and all the existing fry. I was told, at the beginning of this story, that Ophtalmotilapia ventralis are difficult fishes to spawn, from my personal experience all I can say is they need enough room (their thank, after all, isn't SO big, any way), "fresh" water, plenty of food and quiet tank companions, since they're not such temperamental fishes but these requests are common to a lot of fishes, aren't they?

Ophtalmotilapia ventralis fry

Ophtalmotilapia ventralis fry in the aquarium. Fish and Photo by Francesco Zezza.


Zezza, Francesco. (Oct 21, 1998). "Ophtalmotilapia ventralis". Cichlid Room Companion. Retrieved on Dec 03, 2022, from: