Telmatochromis temporalis

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Matt Ford takes a look at a shell-brooding Tanganyikan cichlid.

Scientific name: Telmatochromis temporalis, Boulenger 1898

Origin: Endemic to Lake Tanganyika in East Africa. Specific localities include M’toto, Mbita and Kachese — all being in the southern half of the lake.

Size: Males reach 4.4cm/1.7”, females being smaller.

Water: No demands are out of the ordinary for a Tanganyikan cichlid, so pH 8.5-9.0, GH/KH >15° and temperature 77-79°F/25 -26.1°C are acceptable.

Aquarium: Something around 24 x 12 x 12” is needed for just a single pair as they are quite aggressive towards conspecifics.

Add a sand substrate, some rocks for cover, more or less depending on which other fishes are going in the tank, and a patch of empty Neothauma tanganyicense or other suitable shells, such as those from escargot snails.

In bigger tanks it can be kept with rock dwellers such as Neolamprologus, Altolamprologus and Julidochromis spp.

Diet: Likely to feed on aufwuchs in nature and does well on a mixed diet of fine-grade dried products with added algae content, plus live and frozen foods.  

Breeding: Unlike the larger form of temporalis, a substrate spawner associated with rocks, this one is a facultative shell brooder. While some males take harems of females most select a single partner, the pair occupying separate residences within their territory. They’re excellent parents and vigourously defend their young against predators when small. Expect an average brood to number 20-30.

Notes: At the moment this fish is regarded as a dwarf form of T. temporalis by the scientific community, but is usually found on sale as T. burgeoni, currently a synonym of temporalis, or T. sp. temporalis 'shell'.

In 1988 Dr Ad Konings originally thought it to be the fish described as burgeoni, but by 1998 agreed the name should remain in synonymy with temporalis on an interim basis. However, the type locality of burgeoni is in the north-east of the lake at Nyanza-Lac  and that is outside the known range of T. t. 'shell'.

This species lends its name to the T.  temporalis 'complex', one of two distinct lineages in the genus which also includes T. dhonti and T. brachygnathus. All possess relatively deep bodies and only faint/no lateral body stripes.

The other group includes T. vittatus, T. bifrenatus and T. brichardi, characterised by their elongate bodies and dark lateral stripes.

Availability: Bred by suppliers in the Czech Republic, these were on sale at Chilton Aquatics and Maidenhead Aquatics.

Price: £13.00