Hemichromis cristatus "Dwarf Jewel Cichlid"

by Dov Goldstein

Well, in order to breed this fish I needed to start with a pair. I begged John Shaw for a bag of 4 at a fall ‘99 auction after I missed them when they came up. He agreed, as long as I give him some when I breed them. So now I had 4 fish; well, within a week I had three, as I guess someone in the tank did not like that fish. I found out that these fish are much more timid than their other Jewel cousins are. The tank I acclimated them into had a small colony of Lamp. congoensis, a riverine species. In addition there is a small colony of Schwetzochromis stormi, another riverine species. Both species are quite tough, and the Schwetzos can be downright nasty! To duplicate a West African River setup, I have a Fluval 403 with a spray bar on the 40 breeder aquarium. This makes for a nice current in the tank. Eddies are created by placing different sized stones and clumps of Java fern all over the bottom. The fish spend all day darting and diving in and out of the rocks and rootwood.

Once the male and female pair-bonded, they drove the other Jewel, a male I assume, to the opposite end of the tank. They then staked out a flat piece of rootwood, suprisingly out in the open, and laid about 40-50 eggs. I did not see the egg-laying process the first time; I just looked into the tank and where there were two subdued pink fish, there were now two flame red fish, with two black spots on their sides. The real pretty blue spots on their cheeks and fins really stood out in contrast to the red body. The fish did not seem to mind the water being moderately hard and with a pH of 7.4, both of which are quite a bit higher than that found in their natural habitat. The water was relatively warm, about 78-80°, which they appreciated.

The eggs, which were round and opaque, hatched in 48-72 hours, at which time the parents moved them. They placed them one by one inside a small Java fern that was growing on the underside of the log. About four days later, the fry became free swimming. During that time the parents moved the fry into a pit the male dug for this purpose. They moved them periodically to other pits, also prepared by the male. Once they became free swimming I proceeded to siphon the fry out, because I observed just how these little fish love to explore. With the other cichlids in the tank waiting for a little jewel snack I decided the fry had a better shot in their own tank. Plus I would be able to deliver food directly to the fry, a problem in a large tank filled with hungry fish.

The tank they were moved to was a 10-gallon bare-bottomed tank, with a Tetra Brilliant sponge filter, being driven by a pretty fast airflow. I am feeding the fry once a day with freshly hatched brine shrimp and once with Artemia Replacement Diet. They do grow faster on just brine, but we all know what has happened to the cost of that lately. I siphon the bottom once a day, and I threw in a couple of common snails to eat the excess food I miss. By five weeks they have reached a size of about 3/4". Don’t know yet when they will be sexually mature, as none of mine are that old yet.

This is a fun fish I can recommend to everyone, due to their interesting behavior. They also would do real well in a community tank setting as they are too small to eat tetras or killies, and they ignore plants. So if you get a chance to acquire this fish, this is one purchase you will not regret.

This article first appeared in PVAS’s Delta Tale, Vol 31, # 2