Best in the West

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Sometimes, tumultuous environments are those that give rise to the most unique species. The fish of West African backwaters and Congo River tributaries illustrate this sentiment perfectly. With extended rainy season, habitats swell, and species, most unbeknownst of humans as of yet, overflow. The following dry seasons evaporate these streams and habitats, and surviving species bide their time for their next window of reproduction, only the most ornate and uniquely adapted thrive. Here at The Wet Spot, these are our specialty, and we love sharing the ‘fruits’ of our connections and breeding programs with our beloved customers. Some real standouts from this region include Nanochromis consortus, Wallaceochromis signatus, Pelvicachromis sacrimontis, and Alestopetersius caudalis.    

Rare, and knocking on the door of extinction in their native habitats of the lower Congo River rapids is Nanochromis consortus. Dams in this area are a major threat, which divert water flow and fragment populations, this species has earned the status of ‘vulnerable’ on the IUCN Red List. Experienced aquarists are encouraged to keep and breed these dwarf cichlids, so the world may never be absent of their beauty. Reaching a maximum of 2 inches in length, they have long bodies, square heads, and big eyes, these cichlids are surprisingly beautiful with their black and white dotted fins, and golden sheen. Living and feed on bottom substrate, they require sandy substrate with plentiful hiding places from various implements including, but not limited to clay pots, PVC pipe, rock caves, and driftwood. For a true biotope setup, they also require good current, and peat filtration. Plants are not required, though the extra cover provided by their presence is appreciated. Not known as picky eaters, they will accept high quality cichlid pellets, though regular live and frozen meals should be offered, particularly if you are breeding them. Quite peaceful with heterospecific species, these dwarf cichlids can be kept alongside other small, peaceful fish that can tolerate soft, acidic water conditions. Aggressive toward conspecifics, they should be kept in single pairs. Tanks waters should be maintained with temperatures between 72 and 77°F, pH of 6.0 to 7.0, and hardness of 7 to 57 ppm.

Discovered in 2004, Wallaceochromis signatus was originally classified in the genus Pelvicachromis, and can still be found in the aquarium trade under the guise of ‘Pelvicachromis sp.’. The easiest way to distinguish them is by a large black spot at the base of female’s caudal fin. Endemic to West Africa, there are only 3 species in this genus. Reaching up to 5 inches in length, these dwarf cichlids are pale flesh toned in color with dark vertical banding, shiny blue-green cheeks, and black and white spotted fins tipped with red. Well known as digging fish, they require sandy or fine gravel substrate, and lots of various hiding places. The addition of aquatic plants to filter sunlight is also encouraged. For optimal health, coloration, and personality, Wallaceochromis cichlids should have diets largely comprised of live and frozen foods, though they will accept high quality dried foods. Regular incorporation of vegetal foods in their diets is also encouraged in the form of blanched spinach or spirulina flakes. A very robust species, these dwarf cichlids can be kept alongside many African fishes including larger tetras, loricariids, and butterfly fish. Optimal water conditions include temperatures between 75 and 81°F, pH of 5.0 to 7.0, and hardness between 35 and 86 ppm.

A real jewel of the aquarium trade, P. sacrimontis is extremely rare. Also known as ‘Giant Kribensis’, these cichlids reach about 4 inches in length, and exhibit iridescent blue bodies with golden heads, a horizontal golden stripe down the center of their bodies, and pink bellies. Endemic to a small area of southeastern Nigeria, not much is known about their native habitat. Often exported alongside P. pulcher, most aquarists assume similar tank setups are appropriate. Under these assumptions, tanks should be heavily planted, with lots of cover formed by furnishings of the aquarists preference, and sandy or gravel substrate, where pits will be excavated for breeding. Accepting most foods, they should be provided with high quality cichlid pellets, with regular supplementation of live and frozen fare. Great for the general community tank, these peaceful cichlids do best alongside barbs, danios, rasboras, small characins, and gouramis. They are not to be kept with territorial or overly boisterous species. Aggressive and territorial with conspecifics, single pairs should be kept unless ample space is provided for additional pairs. Waters should be maintained with temperatures between 75 and 81°F, pH of 5.0 to 7.5, and hardness of 0 to 86 ppm.

Particularly prolific throughout the lower Congo River, A. caudalis, is popular in the hobby for their hardiness, lively personalities, and peaceful temperaments. Also known as ‘Yellow-tailed Congo Tetras’ they reach just over 2 inches in length, have silver arrow-shaped bodies, and yellow caudal fins with a black stripe down its center. Tank setup should resemble river habitat, with substrate of variable-sized rocks and boulders, sand, and gravel, driftwood roots and branches, current, and lots of open swimming space. A schooling fish by nature, they should be kept in groups of 8-10 conspecifics, and can be kept alongside many other species inhabiting similar environmental conditions. Good tank-mate candidates include similarly-sized cyprinids, dwarf cichlids, loaches, and catfishes. In the wild, these tetras mostly consume small invertebrates and fallen fruit. In captivity, they happily feed on high quality flakes and granules, with regular supplementation of live and frozen offerings like bloodworm and daphnia. Tank waters should be maintained with temperatures of 71 to 79°F, pH between 5.0 and 7.5, and hardness of 36 to 268 ppm.

Looking for new unique and diverse species for your tanks? Let us show you the best of the west, with our favorite West African species.