Cichlid Room Companion

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Dither Fish

By , 1995. printer

Classification: Captive maintenance.

" Fishroom talk taking place on 1995-Dec-20 "

Dev says: ok, someone pick a type of cichlid and we'll discuss appropriate target/dither fish.

Kenkearney says: Keyhole.

Dev looks around at his ATTENTATIVE audience...

Dev says: ok keyhole....Aequidens maronii.

Melissa says: Umm.... brichardi? :).

Dev says: hang on, we'll do brichardi next.

Dev says: A. maronii is shy by nature, a SA cichlid which likes soft water, lotsa plants, dark tank, etc..

Dev says: so....naturally we're looking for a dither fish, not a target fish, and most likely a schooling fish, small, since most people don't keep keyholes in 180g tanks, and peaceful- I know people who keep groups of pencilfish.

Dev says: small characins, harlequin rasbora is a favorite of mine, although they can be a bit more active than you'd think.

Dev says: neons and cardinals are perennial favorites.

Doc gets everyone to hum the tune from jepordy!.

Dev says: really, any of the smaller tetras are perfect.

Kenkearney says: I use Melanotaenia boesmani.

Horus asks: won't be mistaken for food?.

Kenkearney says: they have made my keyhole much more active.

Dev says: main purpose of a dither fish is to be a sociable, calm, not overly shy companion to lure out shyer dwarf cichlids from the plants, rainbows are overly active and get large (unless you find the dwarf sp.) also- they usually prefer harder and more alkaline water than one would keep keyholes in.

Markus says: Rainbows are unreal fish.

Dev says: ok, Brichardi.

Dev heaves a sigh of relief.

Dev says: Lake Tanganyika fish, cave spawner.

Dev smiles.

Dev says: I don't know how shy brichardi are but I've never heard anyone not say they aren't nasty in a crowded tank.

Dev says: best for most Lake Tanganyika communities are some larger, fast swimmers to keep to the top like Aussie rainbows.

Melissa says: They are aggressive. Have my CAE cowering in a corner :).

Dev says: giant danios and zebra danios (and most danios) have also been used by many, although the smaller ones tend to start disappearing one by one...

Debk nods her head in understanding.

Dev says: another possibility would be Paracyprichromis , not sure how well they do as target fish, since they are Cichlids too :).

Kesla says: snack :).

Dev says: but Paracyprichromis keep to the top and move enough to keep the guys below busy.

Horus says: they are a cave spawner also.

Dev nods his head in understanding.

Dev says: which might make some hectic times when fighting for sites...

Dev asks: any other cichlids?.

Debk says: malawis.

Melissa says: Hmm... kribs.

Debk says: Pseudotropheus.

Melissa says: Riverine not Malawi, sorry.

Kesla says: yes Kribs.

Dev says: danios would be good in a Malawi since they tend to be kept in lower pH/hardness than Tanganyikans- although I've personally seen Pseudotropheus wipe out a tank of any other fish, so they might not survive too well.

Dev says: personally, I don't think Malawis NEED target fish :).

Debk says: Dev, I have 6 Congo tetras in my Malawi tank right now :).

Horus says: some peacocks do.

Dev says: god bless their courageous souls :) Horus says: they tend to hide a lot.

Dev says: ah...I forgot about peacocks.

Debk says: you'd be surprised how shy they can be without some dithers.

Dev says: actually, my electric yellows are very skittish, but after adding ONE N. occelatus, everyone comes out and hides behind the fearless little shell dweller.

Debk says: neat.

Dev says: Pseudotropheus are very active fish, so it's tough to find a more active target fish for them :).

Horus says: btw, another good Tanganyikan dither is those goby cichlids (Eretmodus and Spothodus species).

Dev says: really Horus? the ones I've seen just sit there doing nothing.

Horus says: you need 20 of 'em though. :).

Dev laughs.

Melissa grins.

Kesla laughs.

Debk says: good one, horus.

Dev says: oh yeah, I've heard people keeping livebearers in African tanks mainly because they also like the harder/saltier water.

Horus asks: any non-Cichlid species endemic to lake Malawi that can be used for dither?.

Dev says: although I doubt a molly (especially those really genetically messed up ones with the long veils) would be able to outrun even the slowest African...

Debk laughs.

Dev says: um, there might be some killifish endemic to Malawi.

Dev says: side bonus- your Cichlids will get extra protein once in a while from the livebearer's offspring.

Debk laughs.

Horus says: good point...

Dev asks: did someone say kribs?.

Kesla says: yes Kribs.

Melissa says: Yes, I said kribs Dev.

Dev says: my kribs are somewhat shy but they come out during feeding (and push everyone else away).

Dev giggles.

Dev says: I use rasboras in my krib tank, although it doesn't seem to help much,

Dev says: a good cover of plants can help in place/addition to dither fish,

Dev says: my kribs aren't really hiding, just doing stuff behind the leaves :).

Kesla says: mine never come out of their holes.

Dev says: if you put lots of plants around their holes, they will feel more comfortable to wander out from the holes.

Dev says: it's like extending their cave.

Horus asks: how about some big killie, i.e. blue gularis?.

Dev asks: for what kind of fish Horus?.

Horus says: as dither.

Dev says: oh, a brave fish you can keep singly or in pairs would be a blue gourami, Trichopteros trichopterus or something like that.

Dev says: I've heard some killis can be nasty, and also killis I've seen like midwater to even bottom more than top which might not help as dither fish.

Dev says: of course, killis are so variable- it's not hard to notice L. tanganicus doesn't look like your common A. gardeneri.

Dev says: tanganicus looks like a sardine and swims just as fast. the softwater ones seem to be very sluggish and slow moving (endemic to puddles in mud).

Dev says: I think it was on the Cichlid list that someone just mentioned Tropheus as a fish to liven up a tank :).

Dev looks around and sees everyone cuddled up with their comforters and pillows, yawning.

Debk says: I read that one too, dev.

Melissa gives a pillow and blanket to everyone :).

Dev dumps ice-cold gatorade on everyone to wake them up...


Sung, Devin. (May 27, 1996). "Dither Fish". Cichlid Room Companion. Retrieved on October 15, 2019, from: