Neolamprologus prochilus is one of the rarely bred and worst described representatives of the tribe Lamprologini. The information you can find about it in books, magazines and on the Internet are rather rudimentary. Now it is time to change it…
For the first time this species was described in 1977 by Reeve Bailey and Donald Stewart as Lamprologus prochilus. Then, in 1985, Robert and Jean Colombe Allgayer included “prochilus” to the newly created genus Neolamprologus.
These fish owe their name to unparalleled shape of their mouth. Prochilus – comes from the Greek words πγό = front and χειλος = mouth.
According to Bailey and Stewart (1977), their closest relative is Lamprologus niger (now Neolamprologus niger), as they have many common features.
Neolamprologus prochilus is an endemic representative of Lake Tanganyika. It residents the area of about two kilometers in length around the village Mpulungu in Zambia (southern part of the lake). Geographical variations of this species are not known.
Prochilus inhibit mainly deep (below 15 meters) and rocky places. Their living environment are high rock caves and slots, in which the fish hunt, reproduce and shelter from danger.
They eat mainly crustaceans, but they can also feed with young fish and larvae of insects. They are predators specialized in pulling out their victims from narrow slits of a rocky ground. Laterally flattened body helps them penetrate such areas. These fish prefer to ambush because they are not able to catch a fast swimming prey.
Neolamprologus prochilus is one of the biggest representatives of the tribe Lamprologini. Adult males (according to different sources) are 14-17 cm long, with females reaching 9-10 cm in length. Their body is high, laterally flattened and relatively massive. At first sight they look like altolamprologus. Depending on the conditions and the mood, the fish takes on different colours, ranging from creamy-pink to dark grey (on the Internet you can also find pictures of a female with orange body, however there is no available information about the place of harvest, age, living conditions, etc.). There is a number of dark brown vertical stripes on the body which begin on the head and end at the tail. Those stripes are clearly visible in case of young individuals but they get pale and blurred when the fish start growing up. As far as the adult fish are concerned (particularly males) you can see only small fragments, which are usually arranged in two long, not uniformed stripes, running along the entire length of the body,. At the base of the tail fin there is a dark spot. The fins: dorsal, caudal and anal have pale yellow or light orange fringe.
“Prochilus” has a huge, upward directed mouth filled with coned teeth. On the front part of the body, at the eye level there is characteristic concavity.
There is no sexual dimorphism . The only differences between males and females are that: the males grow bigger and during the spawning period they gain blue, fluorescent, sickle-shaped hallmark, located under their eyes.
Breeding Neolamprologus prochilus
Neolamprologus prochilus reproduces in a similar way to other fish from the tribe Lamprologini. A fish chooses a partner and together they occupy a rocky cave (it could be also a big shell in an aquarium) adjusting it as well as its surroundings to their needs. The couple spends time nearby their hiding place, setting for longer trips from time to time. When the female is ready for spawning, it begins to court the male. The fish swim together, thoroughly cleaning up the occupied cave. Finally, the female spawns about 50 eggs inside the cave, which are instantly fertilised by the male . The female guards the eggs and the fry. The male guards the entrance to the cave frightening away other fish and making sure that the female does not leave the hideout. Larvae hatch after about 3 days after fertilisation and the fry begin to swim freely after 5-6 days. The young individuals have a fair body with seven dark vertical stripes.
Aquarium for Neolamprologus prochilus
When setting up an aquarium for “prochilus” it is necessary to recreate typical for cave brooders environment. In case the fish did not find a suitable place, a few large shells can be placed in the tank to serve as a refuge for females as well as their place for spawning. The minimum length of the tank for a couple is 120 cm with water conditions and temperature likewise for the other inhabitants of Lake Tanganyika. Prochilus are very sensitive to unsuitable water parameters, especially high level of nitrite and nitrate. If their concentration exceeds 25 mg/l, the fish become dejected, and in extreme conditions they position themselves with head towards the surface of the water and breathe heavily.
Neolamprologus prochilus is a typical carnivorous . Thanks to the enormous mouth they can swallow a large prey. “Prochilus” eats all kinds of live and frozen meat and shrimps are his delicacies. Flaked food is consumed less willingly. Young “prochilus” eats the Artemia larvae and fragmented food for adult fish.
The experience of breeding
“Prochilus” arrived in the Tropheus Tanganika Company in July 2007. They were placed in 400 liter aquarium tank together with Bathybates ferox, Lepidiolamprologus profundicola and Altolamprologus calvus Black. No outside-species aggression was noticed, however, the cast was dominated by lepidiolamprologus. After they were removed, the aquarium remained left in harmony.
The fish arrived in our house 9 months ago and were placed in a tank with a capacity of 1,287 liters. Currently there are 12 individuals of Altolamprologus calvus Black, 4 individuals of Altolamprologus compressiceps Gold, 8 individuals of Cyphotilapia frontosa Bulumbora, 18 individuals of Cyprichromis sp. “Leptosoma Jumbo” Mpimbwe Yellow Head, 3 individuals of Gnathochromis pfefferi, 3 individuals (a male and two females) of Neolamprologus prochilus , N. fasciatus, N. brevis, 2 individuals of Lepidiolamprologus attenuatus Yellow and Mastacembaeus moori. “Prochilus” live in harmony with all fellow residents. The male and one female occupy one large but not very high cave in the central part of the tank. The sand from the cave and its nearest area was removed and transferred so as to form a rampart at the entrance to the cave. The second female resides outside the territory of the couple, behind the stones, in order to avoid eye contact. The male does not show any interest in it.
Neolamprologus prochilus are respected in the aquarium, the majority of co-residents keep their distance. The couple persistently guards their hideout especially during the incubation of eggs (Mastacembelus moori is perceived as the greatest enemy which is fiercely attackes as soon as he appears in their filed of vision). “Prochilus” have had a few spawnings in our tank , but it seems that there is no chance for their young to survive with such companions. In order to make it happen, it would be necessary to move the stone with eggs glued to it into a separate container (however, it is not possible, because the stone weighs more than one hundred kilograms;)
Nowadays, after several unsuccessful attempts of breeding young fish (the eggs were eaten by other inhabitants of the aquarium), the couple was moved to a clay cave for the time of spawning. The male was determined to guard the small entry. Unfortunately, even it was impossible to breed the fry.
Companionship for Neolamprologus prochilus
Neolamprologus prochilus should be kept in pairs. Good co-inhabitants for them are the fish from genus Cyphotilapia, Julidochromis, Lepidiolamprologus and other fish from the tribe Lamprologini. There could be also cyprichromis, pracyprichromis or bentochromis. In the literature you can find the suggestionto breed “prochilus” with xenotilapia or Gnathochomis permaxilaris, but knowing their nature and requirements it does not seem to be a good idea.
Although Ad Konings did not recommend connecting prochilus with altolamprologus in our tank the crew co-exist without any problem. This is an interesting combination in terms of similarities in body structure as well as and behavior.
Neolamprologus prochilus is a unique fish, which is extremely rare in aquariums. We hope that this article will help to expand the circle of its fans all over the world.
We would like to thank Krzysztof Mrzygłod for help in obtaining the literature resources.
Magdalena i Przemyslaw Mirek
Magdalena i Przemyslaw Mirek – Suephoto.com
Suephoto.com (No longer available)
This article has been published in the journal
“Nasze Akwarium (Our Aquarium)” 101 / 2008 (96)
1. Bailey R. M., Stewart D. J., 1977, Cichlid fishes Lake Tangayika: additions to the Zambian fauna including two new species, Occasional papers of the Museum of Zoology University of Michigan, number 679: 18-22.
2. Colombe J., Allgayer R., 1985, Description de Variabilichromis, Neolamprologus et Paleolamprologus, genres nouveaux du lac Tanganyika, avec rédescription des genres Lamprologus Schilthuis, 1891 et de Lepidiolamprologus Pellegrin, 1904 (Pisces, Teleostei, Cichlidae)., Rev. Fr. Cichlidophiles, 49 (5): 9-16, 21-28.
3. Konings A., 2002, Pielegnice – moja pasja, Cichlid Press – Tigra System Polska, Piaseczno.
4. Konings A., 2005, Back to Nature. Przewodnik po swiecie pielegnic z Tanganiki, Fohrman Aquaristic AB – Tigra System Polska, Piaseczno.