Name: Cyprichromis leptosoma
Origin: Lake Tanganyika (Africa)
The genus Cyprichromis (and its related genus Paracyprichromis) contains the only schooling cichlids in the world, and C. leptosoma is, for good reason, the most common. Slim and more like cyprinids than cichlids in shape (hence the two main common names: Slender and Sardine Cichlid), these gentle fish are the ideal dithers for almost any Tanganyikan community.
There's a basic breakup of this species into jumbo and non-jumbo types. The jumbos get much larger, often 18 cm for males, and generally sport pastel colors, softer purples, yellows, blues, and some black. Non-jumbos include the endlessly popular Blue Flash variety and are smaller with brighter shades of blue and yellow. In both groups, only males color up; females stay drab and sardine-like. This means that color variances between males of the same type, most often differing tail colors (usually yellow and blue) are passed on even from a group of identical males. The females lack the phenotype for either variation and may carry genes for either trait. Selecting for females could be possible, if indeed the gene is a simple one, but would be time-consuming; something along the lines of guppy breeders' work with virgin females, carefully selected males, and notebooks full of bloodlines, so one should expect both types among fry in the foreseeable future.
As with any schooling fish, numbers are important. While they can be bred in trios, for long-term success a school of at least six and ideally twelve or more members in necessary. With the more docile non-jumbos one can approach a 1:1 gender ratio but with jumbos and in smaller tanks, larger numbers of females are necessary.
Cyprichromis are true open-water cichlids and stake out territories in three-dimensional water, with no necessary relationship to rocks, tank walls, or other boundaries and markers. In a tall enough tank (say, 75 cm) they may take territories above each other as well as to the sides. Females, juveniles, and males without territories will school through the various territories, although subdominant jumbo males may not be allowed to do so.
There are a number of locational varieties of the jumbo and non-jumbo cyps; it's best not to mix these, to avoid ugly hybrids and the loss of beautiful strains of fish. Jumbo/non-jumbo crosses in particular can be quite hideous.
Speaking of breeding, cyps have a fascinating spawning system. In the wild, thousands of cyps father to "lek" - the males release milt, the females eggs, and hopefully most of it gets scooped into some female's mouth to incubate. In the tank this is replicated on a smaller scale; without use of any surface, the females release eggs, allow them to be fertilized, and grab them right out of the water. Obviously, tank height should be enough to allow for all of this mid-water action; 30 cm may not be enough, especially for young, unexperienced breeders. Cyp eggs are quite large for the size of the fish, and the fry are also large, which makes raising them easier than many other Tanganyikans. The fry will hide at the surface in groups, so provide floating plants, whether real or fake.
Feeding for adults and fry can be quite similar: the ideal is a staple, supplemented heavily by live brine shrimp. If live is too much of a hassle, frozen and freeze-dried foods will work fine - daphnia, brine shrimp, or cyclops are great choices.
Provide plenty of swimming room; a 120 cm tank is a smart minimum for non-jumbos and 200 cm for jumbo varieties.
Cyps can be sensitive to shipping and difficult to find, but their beauty, fascinating breeding behavior, and use of the open water make them ideal choices for nearly any Tanganyikan tank.
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