Neolamprologus brevis

 Common Name: Brevis Shelldweller

Synonyms: Lamprologus taeniurus, Lamprologus brevis.

Family: Cichlidae

Meaning of Name: brevis- refers to the body shape. (Short and stout)

Originally described: 1899 by Boulenger.

Type Location: western shore of Lake Tanganyika near Kalemie, Zaire

Distribution: found all over the lake.

Habitat: N. brevis inhabit the transition zone between sand and rocks at a depth of around 32 feet or 10 metres.

Size: Males get 2" (5 cm) and females get 1½" (3 cm)

Description: These fish are a brown coloured fish that may have several white vertical stripes present on their body.  Males get larger and possess an orange fringe in the upper dorsal.  There are 3 known varieties of this fish-one from Kigoma, Tanzania, one from Rutunga, Burundi, and one from Kapampa, Zaire.  The one from Zaire appears to be the sunspot variety.  The Zairean variety has more of a vertical striped appearance.

This fish should be kept at a temperature of 73-80 F.  A pH of 7.5-8.5 with a dH up to 20  is recommended.

This little fish is what is generally called a shelldweller.  It lives and reproduces in a shell, usually Neothuama sp.  As far as I know it will only reproduce in a shell.  It will accept snail shells of other snails as well.  Both small marine and freshwater shells are accepted as a substitute.  In most shelldwellers though, males and females live in separate shells.  In N. brevis that is not the case.  Both sexes occupy the same shell.  Usually the male is the last one in the shell.  This caused problems at first when they were first being collected.  The collectors did not realize the females were still in the shell and left them behind and collected only the males.  The fish try to hide as much of the shell as possible and therefore bury the shell into sand with only the opening showing.

In nature Neolamprologus brevis have a diet of small crustaceans, insect larvae and plankton.  They are a carnivorous fish.  In the aquarium they will accept most foods, but seem to prefer live foods such as baby brine shrimp.

They breed every 4 weeks or so.  The female will lay around 15-40 eggs per spawn.  At 79 F they will hatch in 2 days and become freeswimming 5-6 days later.  Several batches can be left together in the tank as they will not eat each other.

In an aquarium these fish can be kept in fairly small quarters.  Ideally having approximately 20 inches square (½ M2) per breeding pair is recommended.  They can be kept in a 10 gallon tank.  The tank should have a sand bottom or very small gravel to allow the fish to dig it's home in and feel comfortable in it's surroundings.  It seems to stop breeding if it's disturbed too often.  This tank can even be planted as the fish will not damage the plants.  A good fish to put in with brevis is Cyprichromis leptosoma.  Obviously if you do that a larger tank will be needed for the Cyprichromis.

I received my brevis from a fellow club member.  I was given their shell as well.  They were placed into a 30 gallon tank with a gravel bottom.  The tank is kept at 78 F and has a pH of around 8.  There is hood lighting on this tank.  There is only one plant in there and it is kept in a pot.  There is an Aquaclear filter running in the far corner away from the shells.
 Not realizing at the time they share a shell I found another shell and placed that in there too.  At first I rarely saw the pair.  I would walk near them and they would dart into the shell and not come out.  One day I realized they each had their own shell in the tank.  After a few weeks I started seeing the female.  She had stopped hiding unless I got too close or stuck my hand in.
One day just before I was going to do a water change on this tank.  (I do 30% weekly changes on this tank) I noticed a little object darting across the tank.  I looked closer and found that it was a fry.  I got very excited.  I looked harder and found 10 or so fry.  The next day however when I fed them finely crushed flake I saw a small cloud of fry coming up for the food.  I counted at least 40 fry.  I believe there was more than that.  I was told the last spawn these guys had was maybe 15.  I thought I'd gotten very lucky.  One day I was visited by a friend and he noticed a completely new batch just hanging around the mouth of the shell.  I had never noticed them.  I counted them and there appeared to be another 40 or so fry.  The fry match the gravel's colour exactly.  N. brevis do not seem to be very fast growing.  My fry have only ever gotten crushed flake and rarely have gotten baby brine shrimp.  As of 3 days before writing this article I had noticed the male hanging out in the female's shell (but for only a few hours).  I believe there is a new batch again on its way.  The male still has not gotten over the hiding behaviour for me and is a darker colour than the female I have.  He will, however, not hide now until I am 4 feet away from the tank instead of hiding the instant I come into my fishroom.  I really enjoy these little guys.  I just have a feeling I could get overrun with them if they keep being as prolific as they seem to be for me.

© Copyright 1999-2003 Lisa Boorman
All Rights Reserved

Suggested Viewing:

Lake Tanganyika:Jewel of the Rift (National Geographic1997)

Suggested Reading:

Pierre Brichard's Book of Cichlids and All the Other Fishes of Lake Tanganyika by Pierre Brichard

Tanganyika Cichlids in their natural habitat by Ad Konings

Guide to Tanganyika Cichlids  (Back to Nature) by Ad Konings

Lake Tanganyikan Cichlids: Everything About Purchasing, Care, Nutrition, Behaviour, and Aquarium Maintenance (Barron's Complete Pet Owner's Manuals) by Mark Smith

The Cichlid Aquarium by Dr. Paul Loiselle

Baensch Aquarium Atlas by Dr. Rüdiger Riehl & Hans A. Baensch

Success with Cichlids from Lake Malawi & Tanganyika by Sabine Melke, U. Erich Friese

Fishkeepers Guide to African Cichlids by Paul Loiselle

To see more references on cichlids:

Cichlid Book List

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