Benitochromis nigrodorsalis

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Matt Clarke recently spotted these Benitochromis nigrodorsalis on sale labelled Chromidotilapia finleyi Moliwe.

Scientific name: Benitochromis nigrodorsalis

Origin: These fish were imported directly from Cameroon. They are found in the west of the country in coastal areas and at the bottom of Mount Cameroon. Sonnenberg (2002) also claims the species is found in Equatorial Guinea and on Bioko Island, 20 miles off the Cameroon coast.

Size: Around 10-12cm/4-5".

Diet: Probably insect larvae and crustaceans. Takes flakes, pellets and frozen foods in the aquarium.

Water: Ideally, slightly soft and acidic pH 6.0-7.0. Should adapt to harder water.

Aquarium: Although not that aggressive towards other fishes, except during spawning, these can sometimes be quite nasty to members of their own species. A tank of 90 x 30 x 45cm/36" x 12" x 18" is really the minimum for an adult pair. Furnish the tank with a sandy substrate and add plenty of bogwood to provide shelter and spawning sites. Plants such as Anubias and Bolbitis would be a good choice biotopically and should remain untouched.

Identification: These were on sale as Chromidotilapia finleyi "Moliwe", which was the old trade name for this species. It was identified for me by Dr Anton Lamboj, who should know, as he described it in 2001!

Similar species: Benitochromis was erected by Dr Lamboj in 2001 and currently contains six species: finleyi, batesii, conjunctus, nigrodorsalis, ufermanni and riomuniensis. There are possibly also a number of other Benitochromis species waiting to be described. Many of these are imported as either Chromidotilapia finleyi or batesii.

Breeding: This species is a pair-bonding bi-parental ovophilic mouthbrooder, so it's got to be among the most amazing cichlids to breed! According to Lamboj (2004), the parents take it in turns to brood the eggs and larvae and transfer the brood from mouth to mouth several times each day. Apparently, the fish face each other head-on, jerks the head, wiggles the pectorals and propels the clutch into the mouth of the other parent. He says that new parents can take hours to pass the clutch across but do it in seconds when more experienced. Juveniles are free-swimming in just under a fortnight and are guarded by both parents for a couple of months, often taking the fry back into the mouth at night. In B. ufermanni, only the female broods the clutch, and B. batesii spawns in caves and is a larvophilic mouthbrooder.

Availability: These fish were on sale at North Lakes Aquatics in Cumbria as Chromidotilapia finleyi "Meloue" and were imported directly from Cameroon.

Price: Cheap at just 11.95 each!