Name: Neolamprologus tretocephalus
Origin: Lake Tanganyika (Africa)
Neolamprologus tretocephalus, or as it's often called, the "Five Barred Cichlid," is not a commonly seen cichlid, but does come every now and then. This species, a member of the Neolamprologus genus, is closely related to its relatives. The genus is split between "shelldwellers" and "rockdwellers"; some like the popular N. brevis are shelldwellers, but N. tretocephalus is definitely a rockdweller. This colorful little cichlid comes from Lake Tanganyika, a rift lake in East Africa. It spends most of its life living in rocky reefs of the lake and therefore excellent rockwork is essential in the aquarium. Due to its small size, it was regarded as a dwarf cichlid, but they can reach sizes up to 15 cm.
As its common name implies, the species has five black bars. They are wider at the top and narrow as they cross to the belly. The black bars seem to be somewhat more intense on males, and they noticeably resemble Cyphotilapia frontosa. It is their nature, so they may have more chances of survival and consume large enough food.
N. tretocephalus is a very pretty little fish with neon and purplish blue outlines in its fins and in the rest of the body. Although they are beautiful, they tend to be extremely aggressive creatures, claiming large areas of substrate and caves. If the owner plans to keep them for the long term, then they are best kept in a species tank with a minimum capacity of 300 L and a length of 120 cm. As noted before, this species is extremely aggressive and might fool customers when they are sold as juveniles, then grow to maturity and kill anything that crosses its path. Even in a species tank it is difficult to maintain these fish.
Diet is very important in their well-being, and in maintaining them for the long-term basis, Trets are vicious carnivores. Their diet is based on a good supply of live foods, since in their natural habitat, they spend time hunting snails and hunting for fish when specimens grow large. But they also accept commercial foods like flakes, pellets and, because they are bottom dwellers, sinking foods are needed. Also, if large fish are kept, they should be fed with live foods, good meaty foods and feeder snails are recommended.
As with any African rockdweller, N. tretocephalus needs very well-filtered, clear, clean, high-quality water, and it must be hard and alkaline. Small partial water changes done weekly are appreciated, as this species is very sensitive to poor water quality and to toxic substances. Ammonia, nitrites and nitrates should be watched regularly.
In my experience, they are very attractive fish that tend to be shy when companions are scared away. They may be kept in a Tanganyikan community with shelldwellers and Synodontis species, but only as juveniles; before adulthood they must be transferred to a separate tank. I have even kept one in a mbuna community with aggressive fish. Again, this is not an African that should be considered for a Tanganyikan community. If they really appeal to you, then buy fish to pair off and keep them in a species tank.
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