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The Princess Cichlid, scientifically known as Neolamprologus pulcher, is native to and widely distributed throughout Lake Tanganyika, with its primary location being the town of Kasanga in southwestern Tanzania.
Habitat: In its natural habitat, the Princess Cichlid is typically found in areas along the shoreline with rocky substrates.
Size and Aquarium Requirements: These cichlids can grow to a maximum standard length of 70 to 90 mm. While single fish or pairs can be kept in relatively small aquariums, creating a setup with base dimensions of at least 120 x 30 cm or equivalent is recommended if you want to observe their natural cooperative breeding behavior. A Lake Tanganyika biotope with rocky caves forming much of the aquarium, and a sandy substrate, is preferable. Adequate filtration, with a water flow between 4-5 times the aquarium volume, is advised.
Water Conditions: Maintain a temperature range of 23 to 27 °C, pH levels between 8 and 9, and hardness ranging from 161 to 447 ppm.
Diet: The Princess Cichlid prefers live and frozen foods as a significant part of its diet, with occasional offerings of dried foods. Including some vegetable matter like spirulina or blanched spinach is also recommended.
Behavior and Compatibility: While not ideal for community aquariums due to territorial behavior, the Princess Cichlid can be successfully kept in larger setups with other small to medium-sized Tanganyikan cichlids, such as Cyprichromis or shell-dwelling species. Compatibility with other rock-dwelling cichlids depends on the tank's size and provision of adequate territories.
Reproduction: The Princess Cichlid is a substrate spawner, depositing its eggs on the roof of rocky caves. Breeding in captivity is achievable, and a bonded adult pair will often spawn secretly in a cave. The female lays eggs on the cave's wall or roof, and after hatching, the fry become free-swimming at around the 7-day stage. The brood care is extensive, with the entire group assisting in guarding the fry.
Notes: Also known as Fairy Cichlid, Lyretail Cichlid, and Princess of Burundi, Neolamprologus pulcher is one of the most popular Tanganyikan cichlid species in the aquarium hobby. It's appreciated for its beauty, ease of care, and breeding suitability. Different color morphs exist, and it's advised not to mix species in the "Brichardi complex" to avoid hybridization. In nature, they form large shoals exhibiting altruistic behavior towards spawning pairs and young fish.
Personal Experience: One hobbyist shared their experience of keeping the Princess Cichlid for 40 years, highlighting their adaptability to a varied diet, including dry flakes. The fish have successfully bred in water with a pH of 7.0. The elder children of the species often stay with their parents for an extended period, contributing to caring for younger siblings. The note also mentions the territorial nature of the Princess Cichlid towards other tank inhabitants, indicating a preference for a tank of their own.