Photo: Rolf Lind
If you are looking for a little fish with a big attitude Neolamprologus ocellatus has plenty to spare. These tiny cichlids will fight with much larger opponents and even bite the hand that feeds them if you get to close to their territory. Both males and females of this species have a beautiful golden brown body and an “eye” spot on their gill cover. Females will usually have a white trimmed dorsal fin and reach a size of 1.5 inches while the males will grow up to 2.5 inches.
In their native Lake Tanganyika, Neolamprologus ocellatus are shell dwellers who feed on crustaceans and other animals. Likewise, in the home aquarium they will require shells to live in and call their own. Being extremely territorial, the more shells that you can provide the better off everyone will be. A fine gravel or sandy bottom should also be provided for these fish because they love to dig and they will bury their shells so that the size of the opening is reduced to their liking. Although it is possible to keep a pair in a tank as small as 10 gallons, it is best to stick to a minimum size of at least 20 gallons for these active fishes.
As with all Tanganyika cichlids high water quality needs to be insured by having a good filtration system and performing regular water changes. The temperature in the aquarium should be kept between 78-82 F with a pH of 8.0-8.6. These little guys enjoy feeding time and readily accept all types of fresh and prepared foods such as brine shrimp, daphnia, bloodworms, specially formulated cichlid pellets, etc. Although these fishes are tough for their size they should not be kept with large or aggressive fish.
Breeding the Neolamprologus ocellatus can be accomplished without too much difficulty. It is best to have a ratio of one male per 3-4 females. When a female is ready to spawn she will allow a male to enter a shell that she has prepared. Inside she will lay her eggs and the male will fertilize them. After this occurs the female will vigorously defend her brood, attacking even the male! The eggs should hatch in about three day’s time and the fry will continue to enjoy protection from their mother until they are 2 weeks old. The fry can be fed newly hatched brine shrimp as well as finely ground flake foods.
Compatible: Lake Tanganykan similar size, and African Catfish.