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For this weeks Fish of the Week we are heading to Africa. More specifically, the largest of the Rift Valley Lakes, Lake Tanganyika, where we can find one of the smallest cichlids currently known to our hobby, Neolamprologus multifasciatus sometimes referred to as ‘multies’ for short.

These fascinating little fish are part of a group of cichlids that are commonly referred to as ‘shell dwellers’. This name comes about due to the importance of shells in their lives; not only do they make homes in shells, but also fight over and bred in them. In fact, they spend the vast majority of their time either in or very close to shells.

These fish are difficult to sex when young. Male fish develop a slight red tinge to the upper dorsal fin, but apart from that it’s a case of waiting for them to grow with females reaching just 2.5 cm, while the males will top out at a massive 5 cm!

The ideal set-up for these fish is one that matches their natural habitat as closely as possible, they don’t need a particularly large aquarium; a 60-litre aquarium will house a couple of pairs happily.  The most important thing is to ensure that the water conditions replicate those of Lake Tanganyika with a pH of between 7.5 and 8.5 and carbonate hardness of at least 15dKH. This is best achieved by using coral sand as the substrate and ocean rock to decorate the aquarium (both usually found in the marine section of your aquatic retailer) and don’t forget those all-important shells!

These fish will appreciate being kept in a group although you should ensure that enough shells are available to prevent them fighting, a minimum of one shell per fish but ideally more then this should allow your fish to pair off and establish a micro territory around their chosen shell. Before too long (given the right conditions) the female will lay her eggs inside the shell, the male will then fertilise them, around 24 hours later the eggs will hatch, and the fry are free swimming in around 7 days.

Neolamprologus multifasciatus will readily accept a powder food when young before moving on to nano or small pellets as they grow while the occasional treat of frozen daphnia or brine shrimp will also be appreciated.

In short, these small but fascinating cichlids offer hours of entertainment observing their unique behaviour, earning them the title of this week’s Fish of the Week!

Image credit: Practical Fishkeeping

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