Neolamprologus brevis is one of the more commonly seen Tanganyikan shell dwelling cichlids in the hobby. Unlike most other shell dwellers, they often live in areas with low shell densities, Neolamprologus brevis ''Katabe''so they have come up with a living arrangement that is unique in the shell dwelling world – both the male and the female share the same shell. This ability to thrive in areas with low shell densities is the reason that they are found throughout the lake. While most books will have you believe they always share a shell, my pair has a different opinion on this issue. Sometimes they share the same shell, but other times they each have their own shell. I’m not sure why they only live together on a part-time basis, but since they have spawned three times it is obvious the relationship works for them!
As with other Tanganyikan cichlids, they prefer a pH of 7.8 to 9 with hard water. Temperature of around 78 degrees is perfect. Males grow to a maximum of about 6 cm whereas females reach about 4 cm in length. This size differential is one of the keys to differentiating the sexes. The male also simply looks more robust and has, in my opinion, more of an Altolamprologus facial profile than the female does. Except for these minor differences, the two sexes are morphologically identical.
There are two commonly seen varieties in the trade – the sunspot and the "standard" brevis:
The sunspot brevis is a brownish-mauve colored fish with a bright golden spot on each side of the fish right behind the pectoral fins. During periods of stress, the fish develops light tan stripes down its sides.
The "standard" brevis is actually from Kigoma, Tanzania. It has a brownish body with 9 tan stripes down its side.
Both variants also have florescent blue lines beneath the eyes when they are seen in the right light.
Due to their small size, this shelldweller will do well as a pair in a 10-gallon tank. Actually, you might be able to keep two pairs in a 10 gallon tank. They have very small territory requirements and certainly the smallest territorial requirements of any cichlid I’ve ever kept. My brevis have never actively defended an area larger than about 6" to 10" around their main shell. Granted, in their area, they will attack my hand or the gravel vacuum, but they are rather peaceful with other tank mates.
The Brevis Shelldweller is an omnivore that feeds on plankton in the wild. In the aquarium they can be fed frozen blood worms, brine shrimp, and small protein cichlid pellets. They need some vegetable matter, so include some spirulina based foods along with a pea or piece of spinach. Live daphnia and live brine shrimp can be offered as a treat.
You can feed 2 to 5 small pinches of food a day in smaller amounts instead of a large quantity once a day. A one-day-a-week 'fast' can also be beneficial. All fish benefit from vitamins and supplements added to their foods.
The Brevis Shelldwellers are egg layers and they are easy to breed in captivity. They are sheltered substrate spawner that prefers spawning in shells. They are monogamous and pairs will guard a small territory of about 4 - 8" and seldom over 10". You can buy several juveniles and wait for a pair to form. Remove the others unless you have a large tank that can accommodate more than one pair.
Keep the tank in a calm area to encourage breeding. Some state that If they are stressed, they will not breed and the stress could kill the fry. Sometimes the male and female will share the same shell during spawning, but there are different personalities so this may not be the case with all pairs. In the wild the male has been known to physically remove snails that get too close to the eggs, continuing until the snail has had enough and gives up.
The breeding tank should have slightly to moderately alkaline, medium hard water with to a pH of around 7.5 - 8.5, about 15° dGH, and a temperature between 75 - 80.5° F (24 - 27 C).The female deposits about 30 - 100
When they are ready to spawn the female will approach the male, then bend and quiver in a position that exposes her belly to the male. This gesture will be followed by the female approaching her shell, quivering again before entering, then entering and depositing her eggs. The male follows the female to the shell, and then positions himself above the opening and in quivering gestures ejects his milt to fertilize the eggs inside the shell.
The female deposits only about 15 - 30 eggs which develop in about 24 hours. They young are free swimming after about 6 days. The couple may not guard the fry, but in some cases the female may provide some care for the fry for up to about two weeks, with the male doing some guard duty. The fry will hide in the shell or in crevices. After the fry are older and the parents are ready to spawn again, the previous sibling set will have to be removed or the parents will attack them to make room for their next brood.
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