Neolamprologus multifasciatus

Etymology: Neolamprologus comes from the following Greek words: neos = new  & lampros = light (or bright) & logos which refers to the white of the eye. Multifasciatus comes from the Latin word multi which means many and fascia which means banded or striped. This refers to the stripes on the body.

Common Names: Multies, Multi.

Described: Boulenger 1906

Synonyms: Lamprologus multifasciatus

Family: Cichlidae             Subfamily: Pseudocrenilabrinae

Max Size: 4 cm (1.5") for males and 3 cm (1.2") for females. This is one of the smallest cichlids in the world.

Distribution: Africa: Endemic to Lake Tanganyika.  (Mbita Island NW Point Mpulungu, Niamkolo, Kapembwa, Ndole Bay, Musende Bay, Mbita Island – Zambia) (Luvu, Lumbu Bay, Ubwari, MYUNGA – Congo Democratic Republic) Tanzania, Burundi.

Habitat:. They are found in rock crevices and shell beds in the lake. They utilize the empty Neothauma shells for protection and breeding. They will congregate in large groups in the wild but tend to stay in pairs. They will also be harem spawners if the opportunity arises.

Natural Diet: N. multifasciatus feeds upon zooplankton that drift by their colonies.

Aquarium Diet: Will accept most foods, even flake. Frozen and live food are preferred such as baby brine shrimp.

Aquarium Care: 24-27oC (75-81oF), Hard and alkaline: pH 7.8-9.0

Description: Light biege to brown fish (I suspect the slight colour difference has to do with the different locales) with many thin stripes running vertically down the body. These bands also appear on the unpaired fins. A fine yellow stripe can be on the end of the caudal and anal fin.

Tank setup: A small tank (10g) can do for a few of these fish. A sand substrate with appropriately sized shells should also be included in the tank. I would recommend that you have more shells than actual adult fish in your colony. You can use empty Mystery snail shells. Multies will dig their shells down to the glass but do not tend to bury their shells like a lot of other shelldwellers. Generally, a species setup is preferred. However, you can add them to a tank with other fish as long as the other fish cannot eat the multies.

Breeding: More females than males are preferred. As these cichlids are shelldwellers, they lay their eggs inside their shells. 
Several batches of fry can peacefully co-exist in the tank. Brood size is generally small (approx 5-15, with 15 being a very high number). Fry hatch in about 6-10 days.

I received the first of these fish who sent them up to me from Texas in early 2005. He had sent me a ‘goody box’ of fish and these were sent along to fill up the box. They were extremely small yet. He sent me 5 but the stress of the trip had wiped out all but 2.  I placed them into a 10 gallon tank by themselves and hoped for the best.  I fed these littles guys on flake food and live baby brine shrimp. The tank has a sponge filter but no heater as the tank stays around 72-74 depending on what time of year it is. The tank is at the top level of one of my tank stands. The duo survived and thrived but neither of them appeared any different in size to the other. After many months I figured I ended up with 2 females.

This led to a trip to Wet Thumb in early 2006.  I bought another 2 fish to add to my little colony of Neolamprologus multifasciatus. They tried to sex them for me. I supposedly bought 1 male and 1 female.  They were promptly added in with my other multies. Again, several months go by and no one fish was larger than any others and no sign of any fry at all. I was getting a little discouraged by this.

This, in turn, led to an offer from a friend.  He needed to move out some fish from his tanks. Some of these were multies. He gave me what he was sure was his breeding pair and the shell they had claimed as theirs. I added these to my colony.

I found it interesting to note that for each of these multies I had, that I could pick out which 2 multies came together by their colour. It was only a matter of ‘shading’ but I could pick them out.

The last pair I added did not stay together it appeared. I hoped that the male would go back to his female or at least pair with another one in the tank.  Within a couple weeks of adding the last pair to the tank, I noticed a couple of fry scooting around a shell at the back of the tank. I was excited! Finally!! After all this time, it was finally a breeding colony of multies.  The next week I looked and realized after adding in some live baby brine that I had several batches of fry in with their parents.  Soon, all 5 females had babies around their shells.  I do not know how many fry I have right now, except that it’s a lot.

One interesting thing happened with one female. She seems to be the lowest fish in ranking in the tank among the adults. This female had a single shell slightly away from everyone else in the tank. Her shell was somewhat near the tank wall.  Instead of laying her eggs in the shell like all the other females, she laid hers on th
e tank wall! I got to watch the development of the eggs. At one point after hatching she moved them close to the shell. This was before they were freeswimming. It took 9 days from when I first saw them as wrigglers until I saw the fry actually freeswimming.

I absolutely adore the attitude of these tiny fish. They seem to think that they’re big fish. They try to show you that. However, if you show them that you’re not intimidated (by not moving a siphon, etc.), they hide in their shells. There’s no way you can miss with these wonderful little cichlids. I think everyone should at least try them.

© Copyright 1999-2006 Lisa Boorman
All Rights Reserved

Suggested Viewing:

Lake Tanganyika:Jewel of the Rift (National Geographic1997)

Suggested Reading:

The Cichlids Yearbook - Volume 5 by Ad Konings (editor)

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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