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November 16, 2012

 In the last few weeks, I’ve covered a few of the inhabitants of Lake Malawi. Looking back over the last two years, it seems I have managed to avoid the other Rift Lake, Lake Tanganyika. Well, that changes right here and now.

Lake Tanganyika is the world’s longest freshwater lake, and is the second largest in volume - next to Lake Baikal in Siberia. There are over 250 species of cichlids and 150 non-cichlids most of which are found within the first 600 feet. What is most interesting about the great Lake is how close its creatures resemble those you would only find in saltwater. You can find various freshwater species of crabs, shrimps, jellyfish, and even sponges. This is most likely due to how close the water parameters are to saltwater. Unfortunately, none of these animals are exported from the lake. I’m unsure as to why, but I would imagine it has to do with the fact that no one has figured out how to keep these unusual freshwater fish alive outside of the Lake for long periods of time. The pH ranges from 8.6-9.2 throughout the Lake. Because of this, it is essential that in the aquarium the pH must not fall below 8.0. I have personally seen Tanganyikan cichlids start to die at a pH of 7.5!

Now that we have covered some basics of a Tanganyika aquarium, I’d like to talk to you about some of my mustached friends endemic to the lake. For those of you whom I have had the privilege to meet know that a mustache is held highly in my opinion. One of my favorite species of catfish is a perfect example of an animal with a great mustache - Phyllonemus typus “Mustache Cat”. These 4” catfish can be found hidden among rocks in depths of less than 4”, but can also live all the way down to 65 feet below the water’s surface. It’s most likely they are feeding on invertebrates and small fish. In the aquarium, the Mustache Cat is not picky and will consume just about anything you feed them. They are also social animals and because of this it is best to keep them in groups of three or more in larger aquaria. If you have a smaller tank, I would probably only recommend one so there is no aggression. With its “spatula”-like barbels it is easy to see why the fish is commonly known as the Mustache Cat. While the cat certainly has a great ‘stache, it is not what makes this fish stand out; it is its breeding behavior. Unlike most other catfish, the Mustache Cat is a mouth brooding animal in which both the males and females divide, carry, and guard their fry. When the young are large enough to defend themselves (about ¼”) they are released.

Phyllonemus typus

The mustache of Lophiobagrus cyclurus “Tanganyika Black Cat” may be short in stature, but it’s perfect for a “dwarf” catfish. These 4” fish are also found in the shallower regions of Lake Tanganyika. During the day, these fish are hidden under rocks but as dusk approaches these animals come out of hiding in search of foods such as crustaceans, beetle larvae, and smaller fish. Like most catfish, they will not cause a fuss about their next meal. There has been a long running rumor that the Tanganyika Black Cat can resituate mucus on their body, which can kill the other inhabitants inside an aquarium. This has not been proven or disproven, and is something I have never witnessed. Like the Mustache Cat, the Tanganyika Black Cat prefers to be in small groups. I would recommend three or more individuals in a tank no less than 40 gallons.

Lophiobagrus cyclurus

With all this being said, I would advise that a Lake Tanganyika might not be the best aquarium for the beginning hobbyist. However, if you want to step up on your skills, than I would suggest starting a tank with the “Princess of Burundi”, Neolamprologus brichardi. These beautiful cichlids are found on almost every shoreline in the Lake. Some of these locations are now species of their own, but are part of one large family known as the “brichardi” complex. I found them to be a relatively easy species to keep, breed, and maintain while I learned the basics of keeping Tanganyika cichlids.

Once again we have come to an end of the week, and the close of this week’s newsletter. If you have any questions, concerns, or my personal favorite, special requests, please feel free to call or email me. You can find the price list under the products link, or by visiting the best website around for freshwater tropical fish, www.wetspottropicalfish.com!

Thanks for reading!

Anthony Perry
Sales Manager