Southern Mouthbrooder (Pseudocrenilabrus philander)

jjohnwm

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Hoping that perhaps someone here has some experience with these fish. I have a chance to get a few specimens, really like them...but I have no suitable tanks if they require typical "tropical" temperatures. Virtually everything I can find about them in captivity indicates that they should be kept at around 25C; these are not just the common "care guides" written by people who have had fish tanks for 2 years and have kept this species for a few weeks, or not at all. Plenty of scholarly articles by well-respected and highly experiences aquarists are quoting those temps as well.

But...the species is found throughout a lot of the southern portion of the African continent, which implies cooler temperatures similar to South American fish from Uruguay and Argentina, which could best be described as temperate rather than tropical. One particular article I found was examining the successful colonization of a small river in South Africa; temperatures in the region were described as being typically between 15C and 22C. The fish have done very well in this location, implying that they are very adaptable to lower temperatures, not only for simply surviving but also for successful breeding. The tank I would be using for them...if I get them...matches this temperature range almost exactly, cool in winter, warmer but not hot in summer.

Since they have a wide range in Africa, some of which is further north and therefore warmer, I realize that exact origin information would be very helpful, but the fish available to me are captive bred for a number of generations and collection data for the original stock is not known. If I get them, I would bring them home to whatever temperature they are currently kept in, likely 25C, and then slowly acclimate them to the cooler tank.

The old Egyptian mouthbrooder, P.multicolor, was one of the first cichlids I kept and bred many years ago, and so this hopefully more cold-tolerant relative has a lot of appeal for me. Any thoughts/comments/suggestions/ideas about these critters would be appreciated. :)
 

duanes

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One thing to consider when subjecting the species to cooler conditions, is that populations from the southern areas of Africa, have had generations of breeding success under seasonable temps.
When first migrating, transplanted, or arriving in the south, there may have only been a couple from each spawn that survived a cold winter, and so those survivors passed on genes by breeding together that allowed their progeny to handle the temps, those that didn't died.
So acquiring some from say, central Africa may not have the stamina to handle cold.
There has been some talk of splitting some of these varliants into separate species.

So if you want cold tolerant individuals you may want to source them carefully, as opposed to just buying what's at the LFS.

This is similar to Gymnogeophagus balzani.
The variants from areas in Brazil more north, are not as adaptable to seasonal variations as the variants that have adapted to Bella Union, or other more temperate areas in Uruguay.

Or the similar to the Herichthys complex of northern Mexico, compared to those in the south where its warmer
 
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jjohnwm

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Mar 29, 2019
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One thing to consider when subjecting the species to cooler conditions, is that populations from the southern areas of Africa, have had generations of breeding success under seasonable temps.
When first migrating, transplanted, or arriving in the south, there may have only been a couple from each spawn that survived a cold winter, and so those survivors passed on genes by breeding together that allowed their progeny to handle the temps, those that didn't died.
So acquiring some from say, central Africa may not have the stamina to handle cold.
There has been some talk of splitting some of these varliants into separate species.

So if you want cold tolerant individuals you may want to source them carefully, as opposed to just buying what's at the LFS.

This is similar to Gymnogeophagus balzani.
The variants from areas in Brazil more north, are not as adaptable to seasonal variations as the variants that have adapted to Bella Union, or other more temperate areas in Uruguay.

Or the similar to the Herichthys complex of northern Mexico, compared to those in the south where its warmer
Thanks, that is indeed my worry; I am less concerned with the survivability of a given species of fish in the conditions I can provide, than I am with the health of the individual fish in the bag brought home from the store. My G.balzani were listed as bred from Bella Union fish, and are completely comfortable in my seasonally-cool tanks. My C.dimerus are of unknown origin, but they seem equally well suited to my water, as are the three G.rhabdotus I have, but I believe those two species do not range as far north as the balzani (?) so the actual origin point is less important as there are no northern fish with less cold tolerance available in those species.

But I have a number of bristlenose Ancistrus that were supposedly also from Uruguayan stock originally...many generations earlier...and yet these fish seem to become somewhat listless once temps drop to even 18 or 20C. I wouldn't feel comfortable exposing them to much less than that; but they have come from many generations of captive-bred ancestors who were all likely maintained at "tropical" temperatures, so perhaps they have lost some of their cold tolerance? Is that a thing? Can a relatively few generations of differing conditions generate a change in the fish that quickly?

Since the source of the original stock from which these P.philander are descended is not known...and since they are at least several generations removed from that wild stock...It seems to be a bit of a crap shoot determining if they can take the cold. I don't like buying fish to experiment on; but I also don't want to individually heat this tank especially for these fish. Not sure what I will be doing.

As far as buying from the local store...well, the fish available to me up here in Canuckistan are largely limited to in-person purchases. I am lucky to have one outstanding local dealer/importer to source my fish from; I would never gamble with getting live fish delivered to me from U.S. retailers. Hopefully the local aquarium club will soon be available to resume meetings, as that was one of my favourite sources for special fish.
 
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jjohnwm

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Just an update on these fish. I ended up purchasing 6 specimens, all roughly 2 inches in length. They were installed in a basement tank, a 40gallon breeder that I set up specifically for them using a mature sponge filter from another tank. A few pieces of concrete drainpipe and a couple handfuls of Java Moss, and, yes, I even dropped in a heater! My best guess in the store was that I had 2 males and 4 females. The next day I had one male and four females. Not sure if the dominant male actually killed his rival in only one night in their new digs, but the carcass was pretty beat up and there was nothing else in there to suspect. Another fish, a female, perished a week later from unknown causes; the body was unmarked and undamaged.

Temperature is set at 75F. One female, much to my surprise, came with a mouthful of eggs and never released them during the entire 3-hour transfer to my home from the LFS. Between her brood and two more that have been produced by her colleagues, I have about 60-70 fry in a second tank and another group of small ones still in with the adults.

Currently, my plans call for placing the majority of these fry into a stock tank in the yard for the summer to see how they do. I expect them to be subjected to temps of 80F for short periods, but in general our summers are cooler than those experienced by most MFK members and temps will likely fall into the high 60's/low 70's for most of the time they will be outdoors, which will likely last between 5 and 6 months.

Interesting little fish, not particularly colourful but active, alert and inquisitive. The four remaining adults are roughly 3 inches in length now and seem to be doing well; I will likely keep them where they are as a "control" group.
 
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TwoTankAmin

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I have only ever kept one African cichlid. Pseudocrenilabrus nicholsi which is only found in the Democratic Republic of Congo. I was given a pair as a gift at the OCA convention in 2003. I had mentioned in a fish chat back then I wanted to see mouth brooding and that started it in motion.

These fish worked for me because I have soft neutral pH water. I got spawns. But I can these fish are inch for inch one of the nastier ciclids I have been told and my experience with confirmed they were pretty nasty.

According to Seriouslyfish.com and an article by Neale Monks, there are only 3 Pseudocrenilabrus, mulricolor, philander and nicholsi. Neale's article is pretty intersting and you can find it here Pseudocrenilabrus: Miniature Mouthbrooders With Attitude!
 
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jjohnwm

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Thank you, sir, for that link! I somehow failed to find that...or much of anything else...when searching for info on this fish. :)

I'm growing fond of these little fish; they are really quite attractive and colourful, but in a subdued way. I had to add more structure to their tank to give the females a chance to avoid over-enthusiastic attention from the one remaining male.

I still have the fry at 75F, in an effort to grow them up as much as possible before they go outside. Our weather is finally warming up; it'll still be at least a couple months before they can go into a stock tank outdoors, but it's going to happen.
 
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