Pseudocrenilabrus nicholsi

This cichlid was originally described as Paratilapia nicholsi. It is sometimes known as Nichol’s mouthbrooder. There have been a few other synonyms for this fish; Paratilapia ventralis and Haplochromis ventralis

This fish is found in Africa. More specifically, it’s found in the East central Congo basin (at Ankoro and Upemba Lakes). The type locality for the fish is Ankoro (at the junction of the Lualaba and Luvua Rivers in Katanga Province in the southeast portion of the Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire). This small mouthbrooding cichlid is not well known in the general hobby at large. Most people associate African cichlids with kribs, jewels and the Rift Lake cichlids.

The male of the species is a spectularly coloured fish that reaches lengths of about 3½” (8.5 cm). Females are generally about an inch smaller. Males have a multitude of colours. Generally, the males front half is a bright yellow that starts changing towards blue towards the back half of the body. The lips are bright blue. The unpaired fins are patterned with red and blue. Pelvic fins are black edged with white. The pectoral fins are yellow. From behind the gill cover towards the back of the fish, there are red spots on the edges of scales increasing in number as you go further back on the fish. Females are basically a plain coloured fish ranging from grey to brown to a light yellow.

These cichlids are quite aggressive for their small size. They need to be kept in small groups with more females than males. The best situation is a small tank (20g and up) with 1 male and 2 females. They spawn quite readily in the aquarium. Some people claim that they have problems getting eggs to hatch and then to get the young to adulthood. They say females tend to eat their eggs. My female has been an exemplary parent. So far in my experience the fry are pretty small and need some pretty small foods at the beginning of their life to make it. The eggs are brooded for approximately 3 weeks before they are released. 

Several caves in the aquarium will help with the spawning as they seem to like to spawn in them.  You can keep them at 72-75°F  (22-25°C).  They seem fairly adaptable to most water conditions, though it’s recommended to have a pH of 6-8.

Nicholsi will happily eat pretty much anything you put in front of them, but take care to add some vegetable matter to their diet.

I first received a pair of these wonderful fish from a friend and local club member. We had both seen the pair for sale at Wet Thumb Aquatics, but since I didn’t have a tank for them at the time I didn’t try too hard for them. The female was holding fry when I brought them home. When I got the pair home, I placed the male into a tank containing some white clouds and 2 female Pelvicachromis taeniatus.

The female was placed into a small tank with plants to release the fry. She released within a few days. She had originally spit 9 fry into the bag she was transported in but had again picked up these fry. I ended up with a lot more than 9 fry from this. This is when I learned that the fry need small food.  They were fed microworms originally with some powdered spirulina. They were then fed bbs.  The female was moved into the males tank after a few days as I didn’t know how long I could keep her with the fry. (Originally she would take the fry back into her mouth for protection. When she no longer took the fry in, I decided to move her.) 

This tank is heavily planted.  The male immediately decided to try and impress her. She didn’t want much to do with him at first. The male nicholsi and the female taeniatus would actually display to each other; not with romance in mind but territory. The white clouds were totally ignored. They were fed a mix of foods. They would get several types of flakes, pellets and occasionally some frozen foods. I never saw them reject any particular food. After a while it became obvious to me that the female was holding again.  During the time she was holding, the male kept pestering her. The female held the eggs and fry to term. I again put her in the small container to release the tiny fry (in comparison to most other mouthbrooders people are used to e.g. Malawians).  The male had destroyed about half of the females tail. I think if there was a second female, that the problem of the male harassing the one female would not have been so severe. 

The fry grow slowly at first (or at least they seem to!). After saving the 2nd batch of fry I decided to not save too many babies in my fishroom as we were moving shortly and moving babies is pretty tough on them.  So, when we moved the parents, the female spit out fully formed fry into the bag. At that point I decided to save them. Right now they are in the little container on their own.  I could have let her pick them up again, and release in the main tank, but once I see the fry, I have to save them.

I highly recommend trying out these colourful little mouthbrooders. They give you the same sort of behaviour as larger Malawians, but don’t require as much space.

© Copyright 2007 Lisa Boorman
All Rights Reserved

Suggested Reading:

The Cichlid Aquarium by Dr. Paul Loiselle

Baensch Aquarium Atlas: Photo Index 1-5 by Hans A. Baensch, Gero W. Fischer

Lake Victoria Rock Cichlids - taxonomy, ecology, and distribution by Ole Seehausen

African Cichlids II : Cichlids from Eastern Africa : A Handbook for Their Identification, Care and Breeding by Wolfgang, Dr. Staeck, Horst Linke

Darwin's Dreampond : Drama in Lake Victoria by Tijs Goldschmidt

To see more references on cichlids:

Cichlid Book List

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