Lepidiolamprologus nkambae

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Jeremy Gay looks at one of the latest Tanganyikan cichlids to hit the UK shops.

Scientific name: Lepidiolamprologus nkambae

Common name: None

Origin: Nkamba Bay, southern tip of Lake Tanganyika.

Size: 14cm/5.5”

Diet: These are exclusively predators of small fish and probably many cichlid fry. In captivity they accept dry, frozen and live food, with krill and Mysis useful alternatives to fish.

Water: Hard and alkaline, ideally very hard, with plenty of dissolved oxygen. Temperature 24-26°C/75-79°F, pH 7.5-9.

Notes: This fish has become more widespread in UK shops as breeders in the Czech Republic have created greater availability.

It’s a pair forming, substrate spawning lamprologine with adult markings and body shape similar to that of Julidochromis. However, the head is shaped differently for a life snacking on fish.

That cylindrical body enables it to take fish hiding among gaps in the rocks and in the aquarium should not be mixed with smaller fish as it will eat them.

L. nkambae could prove advantageous to many an African cichlid breeder as introducing one to a Tanganyikan community tank will serve as natural fry control — and the species is a better fry eater than Altolamprologus calvus or compressiceps, which are more adapted to preying on shrimp.

Long thought to be the same species as L. kendalli, which looks virtually identical to L. nkambae and also comes from Nkamba Bay, DNA analysis has revealed tiny differences between the two species.

There are currently seven valid species in Lepidiolamprologus: attenuatus, cunningtoni, elongatus, kendalli, mimicus, nkambae and profundicola. All share the same elongate shape and predatory mouth, and range from 15-30cm/6-12” in length, so large as Lamprologine cichlids go.

They become impressive as they grow and mature, with highly visible teeth, and a 30cm L.elongatus must be a terrifying sight for any small fish unlucky enough to share the same habitat.

L. nkambae and kendalli are the only species to enter the hobby with any frequency while the others are rarely available or completely absent.

Aquarium: A tank of 150cm/5’ plus is best for an adult or pair, as they do best as solitary predators and need space to avoid other fish. Excellent water quality and filtration goes without saying with any Tanganyikan cichlid and these will benefit from lots of rocky décor, among which they can hide, feed and breed.

Sexing: Males are larger, though pairs are best achieved through keeping a group in a very large tank then rehoming the spares — which few people do.

Availability: These photographed were on sale at Wharf Aquatics in Nottinghamshire, though should be available from anywhere with a half decent selection of Tanganyikan cichlids.

Price: £8.95