Common name: ”multifasciatus big eye” Scientific name: Lamprologus similis Family: Cichlidae Origin: Lake Tanganyika (Africa) Maximum size: One of the world’s smallest cichlids males about 4.5 cm (1.8 in.) females 3 cm (1.2 in.). The aquarium: Being one of the smallest cichlids in the world similis can be kept in a relatively small tank. I wouldn’t recommend anything under 10 gallon though. However do not attempt to keep more than one male in such a small tank. Like any tanganyikan cichlid the tank setup is rocks & sand. Always cushion the rocks on polystyrene or risk breaking your tank. Do several foundations like this for your big rocks to put smaller rocks on. When you are finished with your rocks THEN add sand. This way your fish won’t knock over the piles of rocks when they dig. I’ve seen internet sites advocating not using sand to prevent the cichlids from digging. Personally I think it’s a bit un-ethical, besides why keep a cichlid that loves to dig if you can’t stand it? However you decide to decorate your tank it is a good idea to put some single rocks scattered across the tank, this will help to divide up territories. The last things to add are the shells, and plenty of them. Similis is a shelldweller, they use their shells for protection and to lay their eggs in. You will need 2-3 shells per shelldweller but you can never have too many. Plants: Keeping plants in a Tanganyikan tank is a challenge since the water is (supposed to be at least) hard. Then we have that (in)famous digging, after a few days a lot of the plants would most likely bee floating around. There are a few that can work though. For me it is the anubias species and java fern. Since they can be attached to rocks the fish will leave them alone. I’ve also heard the vallisneria species will do fine, if you put them in between the rock piles they might stay in place. Care & Company: Since they require a special tank you might be put of thinking this fish is very hard to keep. But in my opionion its quite easy to keep as long as you provide the correct environment. Feed them spirulinaflakes and brine shrimps (frozen food). As with all aquarium fish regular water changes are required. These fish are territorial but these territories are quite small and the fish is best kept in small groups (6-8 fish or more). Water should be hard. 7.8 or higher if possible (up to 9). Temp: 23 – 26 Celsius. Even if it is a very small cichlid they can be kept with a lot of other species of tanganyikan fish as long as the tank is big enough and the other fish aren’t so big they think of the small shelldwellers as food. Otherwise this fish really proves that size doesn’t matter and will chase away fish several times their size if they come to close to its shell. Interesting behaviors: This is (in my opinion) best thing about these little fish. People who love aquascaping might be disappointed since these fish will do this for them! I tried to make a nice smooth layer of sand about 3 inches thick and after a week the fish had moved the sand into huge piles in some places and deeper pits in others. As said before these fish will dig a LOT, attempting to “correct” the way they build their sand piles is useless since they will move the sand back again over night. The shells play a very important part in this fish’s lives since they practically spend their whole life in and around their shells. They usually dig a small pit so that the shell is below the sand surface (less obvious to predators). Breeding: They are quite easy to breed. If they are kept in hard water with plenty of shells they will most likely breed. The couple will dig a “nest” (big pit with a shell in), even if they live in separate shells the breeding take place in the female's shell were she lays her eggs. The fry will eat the same food as grown fish. Usually they have between 5-20 fry, they can have new fry every third week if you are lucky (or unlucky depending on if you want them or not). If you want to make sure as many as possible of the fry survive keep the couple in a separate tank. If they are kept in a larger community tank it might be hard to make sure the fry get their share of the food. These fish are very good parents and the fry will stay in or very close to their mothers shell and will be guarded by their parents. Final note: Lamprologus similis are often mixed up with Lamprologus multifasciatus (the common name suggests they are the same species). I’ve only kept the similis but they are supposed to be very similar as far as care and breeding are concerned. Since I don’t have a digital camera I can’t post a picture but the similis have a few extra stripes on their head. Some shops sell these fish simply as “shelldwellers”. Of course this is almost as dumb as selling them as “some kind of African fish”. There are several kinds of shelldwellers make sure you get the kind you wanted!