Lamprologus werneri is a cylindrical shaped African cichlid that is found in the Zaire River rapids in Africa. They are heavier than water and are constantly hopping from place to place to get around. This appears comical, but it is essential for their survival in fast-flowing rivers. They reach a size of 4 inches but will spawn at about 1 ½ inches. Being cave spawners, they are territorial and fiercely protective of their fry, forming strong pair bonds. They seem to get along with other African cichlids that can’t swallow them, as they can fend for themselves quite well. Rocks, caves, and shells give them the territory that they need. They are attractive in both color and form. Their color varies from plain light grey to very dark fins and body with vertical bands and scattered golden speckled scales. They can change color quickly, with good conditions and breeding behavior favoring the darker colors. The nearly full-length anal and dorsal fins on the long cylindrical body give this fish a very unusual and attractive form.
Lamprologus werneri will eat just about anything, including dry foods, frozen meats, brine shrimp, and worms. The male has quite a large mouth for such a narrow fish, and he develops a nuchal hump as he gets older. The female is generally smaller in size and does not have the pointed dorsal and anal fins like the male. For a tank setup I used a 20 gallon long aquarium, a dolomite undergravel filter, and temple plant and java moss cover. Also, a few shells and small pots were placed around the tank. 5 young fish were placed in the tank and fed well on frozen brine shrimp, dry food, and white worms. The largest fish (a male) soon took up residence in front of the best shell. Later I noticed attention being given to one of the smaller fish about 1 ¼ inches long. Within a few days the smaller fish (a female) was in the shell and only occasionally poked her nose out. This indicated that they had spawned. The male became extremely protective and drove the other 3 fish into the farthest corner with cover. Make sure there are some floating plants for cover also, as this is where they will probably be driven. If the tank had been less than 20 gallons, the male would probably killed the other 3 or made them jump out! In fact, he was such a “good?” father that he kept the female in the shell even during feeding time!
After about 10 days I saw the fry appear at the mouth of the shell. I began feeding baby brine shrimp a few days later. As they grew, they ventured onto the gravel in front of the shell in an ever widening circle. Both parents kept very busy making sure the other 3 fish did not get near their fry. At about 1 month of age I noticed that the female had disappeared into the shell again. I decided to not remove this spawn and see how the parents handled it. As the new fry became ready to venture out of the shell, I saw the male make lunges at the older fry, but they hid well in the gravel and were very quick. Probably in nature these fry would have been driven out of range of the shell. After a few days, the fry in the shell disappeared and were probably eaten. Apparently a younger male is not that efficient catching and eating older fry, and when the smaller fry were gone, they settled down and took good care of the older fry. I now have 35 fry about ¾ inch long living with the 5 adults. To get further spawns to survive, I will probably have to remove the female and shell to another tank. Lamprologus werneri is not considered a “shell dweller”, and will use a pot, shell, or any cave available.
These fish prefer to catch food as it is falling, but adults will go to the surface to eat dry food if necessary. Even the fry will eat falling particles of dry food at only 3 weeks old. It is fun to watch these fish hop and jump to nab pieces of food, and they are very accurate in their aim! Lamprologus werneri is a very interesting and attractive fish to keep, especially to observe pair bonding and extremely strong parental care. They are easy to breed, feed, and raise.