Breeding Lamprologus ocellatus "Golden"
By Kevin Cyr
"A Golden Oldie" from Wet Pet Gazette, Norwalk Aquarium Society, April 1991
Lamprologus ocellatus "Golden" is an interesting and colorful
variation of the "standard" Ocellatus. The lower body is a metallic
blue and the rest of the body and face are a metallic gold. The fins are translucent
yellow with a solid yellow/orange border.
Three of these fish were acquired by a U.S. breeder that tried to spawn them. After
several months, the breeder determined that he had three males. He then acquired several
"Gold Capped" Ocellatus that were from the same area of the lake as the
"Golden" variety. The "Gold Capped" Ocellatus has the same
coloration as a "standard" Ocellatus, except that there is some yellow
above the eyes. A "Gold Capped" female was crossed with the "Golden"
male. The offspring were all "Golden". I acquired seven of the
"Golden" offspring from this cross. These "Golden" fish spawned
yielding predominantly "Golden" offspring. However, there were several from each
spawn that appeared more like the "standard" Ocellatus. I understand
that the Germans have recently included the "Golden" Ocellatus on their
price lists but I have not heard of anyone in the U.S. bringing them into the country from
Feeding & Water Conditions
My water supply comes from a well that is chlorine and chloramine free. The PH is 7.0
and the hardness is 6 DH. To this I add 1 tblsp./5 gal. of Instant Ocean, 1 tsp/10 gal. of
Aquacichlid (an Aquatronics product) and 1 tsp./20 gal. of baking soda. This brings the
water to a pH of 8.4 and water hardness of 18 DH. All of my tanks are on a central system
(maybe a topic for a future article) and most of the tanks have reverse undergravel
filters with 1/2" to 1" of dolomite covering the filter. I do a 20% water change
My Ocellatus were fed a homemade mixture in the morning and a conglomeration
of flake food in the evening. My homemade mixture is very similar to Ocean Nutrition's
Formula Two and the flake food is 1 part Tetra Conditioning Flakes, 1 part Shrimp Flakes
and 1 part Color Enhancer Plus Flakes (available from Wet Thumb Aquatics) all mixed
I housed my seven Ocellatus in a 45 gallon breeder tank that had a reverse
undergravel filter and was covered with 1" of grade 1 silica sand. Other occupants of
the tank included 12 baby Lamprologus "Walteri", seven baby Opthalmotilapia
Ventralis and about 10 small bushy nose catfish. The two back corners of the tank had
barnacle clusters with pieces of slate leaned against them. The barnacles were for the
catfish to hide in and to spawn in also. I then added eight snail shells of different
varieties and each had approximately a 1" x 3/4" opening at the base of the
shell. The shells were added specifically for the Ocellatus and were spread out
across the front and the middle of the tank.
After the Ocellatus were added to the tank, they would constantly pick at each
other but eventually each claimed its own shell. Watching these fish was very
entertaining. They would dig a hole under a shell and it would fall into the hole. It was
amazing to see these little fish move these shells around to position them just right.
To move a shell, they would grasp an edge in their mouth and then flap their tail
vigorously to get enough momentum to move the shell to the desired position. Once the
shell was "dug in" and pushed into position, they would then cover the shell
with sand. At times these fish were like army soldiers, they would fill the shell with
sand and then dig it out again for no apparent reason. One day when I walked into the fish
room, I saw a depression in the sand, it looked like a fish nest. I thought this might
have been a sign that they were getting ready to spawn, even though I thought they spawned
only in shells. Upon closer inspection, I saw a piece of tail sticking out of the sand.
You can probably guess what my immediate thought was! I thought I was seeing loss number
one. Especially since these fish constantly picked at each other. But Wait!! The tail
moved and out of the sand popped a very healthy living fish. Just to make sure the fish
was alright, I tapped on the glass and guess what? The fish made a quick dash head first,
right into the sand. It was really neat to watch this. After a couple of days this little
fish reclaimed its shell and I had never seen them do this again.
When I acquired the seven fish they were all just under 1" TL. After about two to
three months they grew to breeding size (1 1/2" to 1 3/4") and it was relatively
easy to distinguish between the sexes since the males were noticeably larger than the
females. I had what appeared to be three males and four females. Another couple of months
passed and the Ocellatus had not spawned or even appeared to be paired off. The
males seemed to be occupied by constantly fighting with each other. None of them got hurt
or bruised but they would constantly pick at each other. In order to alleviate this
situation, I setup a 10 gallon tank with an undergravel filter and 1" of sand. I then
put one male and three females in this tank along with five snail shells. The male pinned
one female in a corner of the tank and pinned one in a shell. He seemed to be getting
along with the other female and I would periodically see the male go into the same shell
as the female, sometimes they would both go into the shell together. A short time after I
had seen the two fish together, I saw the female guarding the outside of the shell. The
male was not bothering that particular female any longer. According to Konings (Tanganyika
Cichlids, pp. 213), the way Ocellatus eggs are fertilized is that the male
releases sperm as soon as the female starts backing out of the shell. The water
displacement, caused by the leaving female, sucks the sperm inside the shell and
consequently they are fertilized. I had not witnessed this event but apparently it had
taken place because about three weeks after setting up the 10 gallon tank, I was a happy
camper. I saw a couple of baby fish outside one of the shells. The eggs took about three
days to hatch and about seven more days before they were free swimming. I was told this by
the breeder that had the original pair.
The male eventually mated with one of the other females and the third female had
vanished. I assumed she jumped ship and I just never found her. The three remaining Ocellatus
in the 10 gallon tank are now settled in very well. Each of the three has staked out it's
own shell and each is quite docile. They basically sit outside their shell protecting the
progeny inside. The male will periodically go bother the females and then spawn with them.
I leave all of the babies in the 10 gallon tank with the parents until they are about
1/2". At this size, they are out of the shell more often than not and it is very easy
to net them out and put them in a separate tank. The babies are fed baby brine shrimp in
the morning and powderized flake food in the evening.
If you decide to try your hand at spawning the Lamprologus ocellatus I think
you will find it very entertaining and rewarding.