How should I keep goby cichlids?

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I want to keep Tanganyikan goby cichlids. What can you tell me about them?

I love goby cichlids and always used to stock them when I worked in a shop. The two most common species are Spathodus erythrodon and Eretmodus cyanostictus. A third genus and species, Tanganicodus irsacae, is occasionally available too.

Their natural habitat are the rocky, stony shoreline zones of Lake Tanganyika. The water there is hard, alkaline and well oxygenated, but in shoreline areas it will also be a degree or two warmer from the sun and be wave swept.

These cute small cichlids are adapted to blend into the stony terrain and hang on in the moving water, having a reduced swimbladder. Their teeth are adapted for picking food from rounded rocks.

However, these fish are not easy to keep. They shouldn’t be mixed with rock-dwelling Lamprologines as they inhabit a different habitat in nature and are quite specialised.

They are also aggressive towards each other and other goby cichlids, so keep them in low numbers, on their own, with plenty of space to form territories. A 90cm/35” tank or above would be ideal.

They must have strong aeration as they demand it, and, in my experience, continued use of dry flake food with little variation always resulted in bloat.

I also wondered if the specimens I  had kept were either carrying gill parasites or had slight ammonia damage from being transported, as their breathing and gill rate always looked laboured.

To set up a tank get the aeration and biological filtration spot on as they will not tolerate less than perfection. Decorate with rounded stones about 15cm/6”in diameter and quarantine all fish first, treating with an anti parasite remedy at the same time. Add four to five to a 91cm/36”tank.

To top it off and give an accurate replication of their natural habitat, fit a wave box, as used for marines, as the action will suit them perfectly and look terrific.

This item was first published in the August 2009 issue of Practical Fishkeeping magazine. It may not be reproduced without written permission.