The Lemon CichlidNeolamprologus leleupi is a beautiful African cichlid from Lake Tanganyika with a fairly peaceful demeanor. It is a relatively small cichlid, with males reaching just shy of 4 inches (10 cm) and females being slightly smaller at just 3 1/2 inches (9 cm). With its personality and brilliant coloring it makes a beautiful addition to a mixed species aquarium.
Yellow colored fish are more of a rarity in freshwater aquariums, making this handsome cichlid highly sought after. This is perhaps the best known cichlid to have ever been exported from the lake. The first specimens were exported back in 1958, but it was quite rare and expensive until the 1970's, when it began being bred in large numbers. Other common names it is known by are the Leleupi, Orange Leleupi Cichlid, Gold Cichlid, Gold Leleupi Cichlid, and Tanganyikan Lemon Cichlid.
This cichlid can vary wildly in its coloration, ranging from a bright yellow to a deep brown, depending on its place of origination within the lake. Consequently early on this species was thought to consist of 3 subspecies. The first, which is the nominate species, is N. leleupi leleupi, and it is the typical bright yellow fish. The second was darker in color and described as N. leleupi melas. The third was also a bright yellow but with a more elongated body, and was described as N. leleupi longior. This third fish is now recognized as its own species, Neolamprologus longior, and is commonly known as the Elongated Lemon Cichlid.
The dark morph is now recognized as just that, a dark color variety. The dark morph was found to have the same yellow pigment as the yellow morph, but it was obscured by black pigment. These cichlids have been carefully bred in captivity to selectively eliminated the dark pigmentation. There can still be a wide variation in color in the aquarium specimens, fluctuating from yellow to orange to red, but that is usually related more to diet and habitat. These captive bred specimens are often called descriptive names like Firecracker, Dutch Orange, and Super Bright Orange.
This is a great fish for both the intermediate and experienced cichlid keeper. It is hardy and not difficult to keep as long as it is fed live foods and as long as mandatory water changes are done (and difficult if they are neglected). Providing a diet of mysis shrimp and other live foods high in carotene will help promote the luminous yellow/orange coloring. A bottom of light colored fine sand will help keep their vibrant color. Yellow or orange fish should be kept over a light colored substrate or they will tend to turn dark. This can make them appear muddy or "dirty". They also need plenty of hiding places and spawning sights with rocks, wood, flowerpots and ceramic caves. Plants are not essential but can be included. They will not harm the plants nor will they burrow.
In the wild the Lemon Cichlid is usually found alone and a pair will only come together for reproductive purposes. Though relatively peaceful, they can get aggressive with others of their own kind. They do best when kept singly or as a pair. A minimum sized aquarium of 20 gallons is suggested for a single fish or a pair. They are cave spawners, and a pair will readily breed. Young siblings from a spawning pair will usually get along okay, but others will not be tolerated.
These cichlids are inoffensive fish with other species, so can be kept in a community aquarium with other durable fishes as long as they have their own territory. To keep several, or to keep this fish in a community environment, the aquarium should be good sized with 40 gallons being a minimum but 75 gallons or more being preferable.
The Lemon Cichlid has an elongated body with a continuous dorsal fin, a fan shaped caudal fin, and large lips. Males typically reach up to about 4 inches (10 cm) in length, though they can grow close to 5 inches (12 cm) in the aquarium. Typically females are slightly smaller, reaching about 3 1/2 inches (9 cm). They can live 8 - 10 years with proper care.
Specimens can vary widely in their color. The most commonly seen color is a bright yellow or an orange to reddish color, though they can be a deep brown depending on where they originate from. They have a fine blue or greenish line above the lips that runs to just below the eye, and the eyes are light blue. There are natural variations of intensity and hue, but in the aquarium their color is largely dependent on their diet and the light or dark nature of their environment. Fish kept on darker substrates will be darker and muddy colored.
- Size of fish - inches: 3.9 inches (9.91 cm) - In nature males will get up to almost 4" (10 cm), though in the aquarium they can reach up to around 5" (12 cm), with females slightly smaller, typically up to 3.5" (9 cm).
- Lifespan: 8 years - They have a lifespan of 8 - 10 years with proper care.
they are carnivores, the Lemon Cichlid needs protein foods. In the wild they eat zoobenthic organisms, aquatic insects, and copepods. To keep a good balance give them a high quality flake food or pellet everyday. Regularly supplement these foods with brine shrimp (either live or frozen), cyclops, or daphnia. Live protein foods high in carotene, such as mysis, help promote its beautiful coloring.
Feed 2 to 5 small portions of food a day in smaller amounts instead of a large quantity once a day. This will keep the water quality higher over a longer time. A one-day-a-week 'fast' can also be beneficial. Of course, all fish benefit from added vitamins and supplements to their foods.
The Lemon Cichlid is active and will swim in all areas of the aquarium. A minimum 20 gallons for a pair is suggested, while 40 gallons or more would be required if mixing with other species. They need good water movement along with very strong and efficient filtration. Lake Tanganyika is a very oxygen rich lake so bubblers need to be going day and night, even if there are plants. Regularly check nitrates and ph, nitrates should be no more than 25 ppm and a pH less than 7 is not tolerated. In addition keep an eye on total hardness and carbonate hardness. Avoid overfeeding and overstocking.
Lake Tanganyika is the second to largest lake in the world, thus contributing to a low fluctuation in temperature and pH. All Tanganyika cichlids need stable temperatures kept within acceptable limits and lots of oxygen to survive. Temperatures under 72° F and over 86° F for too long is not tolerated by many of these fish. When treating for ich, a few days at 86° F is acceptable. The lake is also consistently alkaline with a pH of around 9, and very hard at about 12 - 14° dGH. In the aquarium most Tanganyika cichlids are fairly adaptable as long as conditions are close to these ideal ranges. Most important is that their water chemistry doesn't change much over time. The water needs to be well buffered and maintained with small, regular water changes.
Salt is sometimes used as a buffering agent to increase the water's carbonate hardness. An alternative buffering approach is to use a chemical filtration method, where they water passes through layers of crushed coral or coral sand. Interestingly, Tanganyikan cichlids also need iodine for the thyroid to function properly to regulate growth and development, and which can be achieved by adding iodized table salt to the water. Although rift lake cichlids need hard alkaline water they are not found in brackish waters. This cichlid has some salt tolerance so can be kept in slightly brackish water conditions. However it not suited to a full brackish water tank. It can tolerate a salinity that is about 10% of a normal saltwater tank, a specific gravity of less than 1.0002.
Provide a sandy to very small sized gravel substrate. Along with a good diet, a light colored substrate will help them keep in their brilliant coloration. In a dark environment they will tend to turn dark and begin to look muddy. Sand used for salt water tanks can help keep the pH up as well as the addition of crushed coral. Crushed coral and aragonite sands do tend to dissolve easier than salts. They need a lot of rocks and cave formations. Plants are not essential though they do not harm them, nor do they burrow.
They are fairly non-aggressive community fish. They can be kept in a smaller species only tank or in a larger aquarium with other durable fish, as long as they have their own territory. They are best kept with mild-mannered tankmates such as other Tanganyikan cichlids of the genus Julidochromis such as the Dickfeld's Julie and theConvict Julie, the genus Altolamprologus,such as the Compressed Cichlid and the White Pearly Calvus, as well asSynodontis catfish. It is best to avoid housing them with African cichlids from Lake Malawi or Lake Victoria.
Though relatively peaceful, they can get aggressive with others of their own kind. In the wild the Lemon Cichlid is usually found alone and a pair will only come together for reproductive purposes. Young siblings from a spawning pair will usually get along okay, but others will not be tolerated. To keep several, or to keep this fish in a community environment, the aquarium should be good sized.
The Lemon Cichlid or Gold Cichlid are egg layers. The female is a sheltered substrate spawner and prefers spawning in caves. When breeding they will form monogamous pairs and a nuclear family, but only while tending the fry. The female guards the clutch while the male defends the territory. One source states that L. leleupi will change to polygyny in captivity.
This fish has been bred in captivity and will readily spawn. Start with 6 or more juveniles and allow them to pair up. After a pair has formed, transfer the pair to a 20 - 30 gallon aquarium with rocks or other decor that create several caves for spawning sites. The breeding tank should have slightly alkaline, medium hard to hard water with to a pH of around 7.5 - 8.0, 10 - 15° dGH, and a temperature between 77 - 86° F (25 - 30 C).
It's best if the caves have small opening just big enough for the female to enter. If not enough shelter is provided the male may kill the female if she's not ready to spawn. Digging in the substrate around the decor indicates the fish are starting to breed. A 50% water change may help stimulate spawning.
Females typically deposit 50 - 150 eggs on the roof of the cave and the male will then fertilize them. The female will hide within the spawn site and guard the eggs while the male defends the spawn site. The eggs hatch in 4 days and both parents will defend them, but will not harm them. The free swimming fry can be fed newly hatch brine shrimp and crushed flakes.