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Tanganyika’s Hidden Jewel: Lamprologus Ornatipinnis

Written by Russell McAndrews

Lamprologus ornatipinnis is a shy and lovely little cichlid which prefers to dwell in empty snail shells.  The males may be expected to reach 2”TL, while the females remain half that size.  Spawns average 20-30 fry, and a male may breed with more than one female at a time.  Each adult fish has its own domicile.  Aside from brief encounters the male pays no attention to the females or his fry.  These are harem spawners and ideally should be kept in quarters with sufficient bottom area for the co-habitation of all females.

The overall color of a female is light gray with a splash of lavender scales behind the pectorals.  While she is caring for a brood, the first couple of pelvic rays become black and she becomes somewhat braver and therefore easier to see.  The females are so awfully timid and their color so light that they can be difficult to enjoy fully.  As the males grow past the one inch mark their noses become a bit sloped.  The colors on the male are more easily visible, and consist of two unbroken horizontal rows of colored scales, the lower being lavender and the upper green.  With size, the delicate stripes adorning the fins also become visible.

I have no information on the eggs of this species since they were never visible to me.  The female only brings her brood out of the shell after they are free-swimming.  The new hatched fry are small but equipped with a large mouth and will take freshly hatched brine shrimp with great relish.  The female stands guard over her brood for about a week and then they’re on their own.  The juveniles and fry are not shy but, because of poorly developed swim bladders, they hop about in a gobi-like fashion.  Perhaps this is nature’s way of dealing with a strong surf.

My collection of L. ornatipinnis at one point consisted of approximately 50 young fry, 3 older fry, 3 adult females, and one adult male.  The aquarium they were in is 36” long, 18” wide and 12” tall with a bare glass bottom.  A small overturned clay pot, some snail shells, a coral head, and a sponge filter were all the accoutrements.  The purpose of the coral was to prevent the females from being able to see each other.  The male seemed to prefer the spacious clay pot and opening of which was 3” off the bottom thereby, giving him and overseeing, overbearing position.  Without my noticing it something ate all the young fry.  Cannibalism by the older fry is suspected since the adults could have very easily eaten the three leftover older fry, too.

All in all this is a very pretty little fish which doesn’t seem to show well.  For those of you unfamiliar with Tanganyikan Lamps.  I have found them to be; slow to mature, sensitive to fluctuating temperatures, and especially shocky when moving.