My goal as hobbyist is to breed every fish that I keep. This often leads to many “species only” aquariums in my fish room, meaning I keep only one species of fish in an aquarium to maximize spawning success, and fry survival. There are some fish that can be kept together in a community style setup and both/all species will spawn. Finding the right combination and balance is key. The fish of Lake Tanganyika can pose a challenge when it comes to setting up a successful community aquarium. There’s an abundance of fish from the lake that claim territory at the bottom of the tank in small caves, empty shells, or right out in the open where they create a pit in the substrate. There are very few fish from Tanganyika that like swimming in the upper portion of the water column. This can lead to a community tank that appears somewhat empty. One fish that does prefer the top of the tank is Cyprichromis leptosoma, often called the “sardine cichlid”. Males of this species will vary in color and size based on collection point. There’s the standard size at approximately 3”, and Jumbo’s that reach around 4.5”. Yellow and blue tail males can be found at the same collection point. Females of all varieties are rather drab. In the wild these fish form massive schools that can number over 10,000. In the aquarium its best to keep them in schools as well. Starting with a group of 10 or more is best, preferably with more females than males. Males can be quite territorial with rival males. Females are left to swim about freely. Males stake out a three-dimensional territory in open water. Its almost as if there’s an imaginary line in the water that competing males are not allowed to cross. Opposing males will often meet at this line and flare at one another.
Cyprichromis leptosoma is a maternal mouthbrooder, meaning the female will hold the eggs in her mouth as a way of protecting the eggs until they are fully developed. Males are constantly flashing and vibrating trying to attract females to breed with. Watching C. leptosoma breed is a unique experience. The spawning all takes place in open water. Once a male entices a female to spawn, she will release an egg, scoot backward, then quickly swim forward, and scoop the egg into her mouth. Brood sizes are typically around 8-15 and fry are quite large when released.
I’ve kept C. leptosoma numerous times, but my most successful and rewarding experience is a setup I’ve been running for several years now. It’s a 6ft 100 gallon, these fish do need some room to roam, and I’ve seen Cyprichromis waste away when not given enough space. A large group of exLamrologus similis a Tanganyika shell dweller resides at the bottom of this aquarium, and a growing school of Cyprichromis leptosoma ‘Mpulungu’ add a ton of activity up top. Both fishes breed regularly, and neither fish predates on their own, or others fry. In this setup holding Cyprichromis females can release their fry naturally, which is ideal because they are a somewhat delicate and sensitive fish, and stripping them adds a great deal of stress.
If you’re setting up a Tanganyika community tank, C. leptosoma are the ideal fish to take up that empty space up top, add a splash of color and a lot of movement. As an added bonus they’re always in demand by Tanganyika cichlid fans, so fry should sell quickly. Cyprichromis leptosoma is one of many fish from Lake Tanganyika that I absolutely love, and I’m sure you will as well.