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Ocellated Shell-dweller - Lamprologus ocellatus

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Though a few species grow too large, many fish from the Lamprologus, Neolamprologus, Lepidiolamprologus and Telmatochromis genera are often referred to as the "Shell-dwellers". These small, fairly peaceful cichlids live and spawn in empty snail shells or occassionally in small caves and crevices. They are ideal for smaller aquariums and plenty of empty shells should be provided; freshwater snail shells like those from Apple Snails are generally best as saltwater snail shells are typically too heavy for the fish to move. They situate their particular shell in the sandy bottom of the lake, and guard it quite fiercely, as it is used for shelter and spawning.

Lamprologus ocellatus has several different color variations. Both the males and females of the natural Ocellatus are yellow-tan in color with a streak of shiny blue scales along the flanks. Males are significantly larger than females.

Cichlids from Lake Tanganyika can be divided into several main varieties. Some of the most popular are the shell-dwellers and torpedo-like bottom-dwellers from the genera Lamprologus, Neolamprologus, Altolamprologus and Julidochromis. These fish are very similar and the sceintific classification of some, especially the Neo/Alto/Lamprologus cichlids, have been reclassified often in recent years. Cichlids from the Cyprichromis and Paracyprichromis genera are open-water sardine-like fish usually found in schools in their native lake. Tropheus cichlids and the “Frontosa's” from genus Cyphotilapia are popular large cichlids that seem beastly in comparison to the tiny “Lamps” and “Julies”. Other types of Tanganyikan cichlids include goby-like bottom-dwellers and fish known to sift through mouthfuls of substrate. Many regional variants exist in these groups.

The water chemistry in the African rift lakes is notoriously unique. Lake Tanganyika is particularly hard with a very high pH, although many fish that have been captive-bred may be acclimated to more moderate conditions similar to those in Lake Victoria or Lake Malawi. As many Tanganyikan cichlids are sensitive to water quality and changes in water quality, make sure conditions are stable.

Décor for a Tanganyikan aquarium should provide rockwork for the cichlids to hide in and around and can be created using tufa rock or lava rock. As most species sift through the substrate, open areas should also be provided. Tanks housing open-water or larger species should be more sparsely decorated. The substrate for these aquariums should be fine and smooth-edged; whitish coral sand or black buffered substrate is popular. Wood tends to lower pH and is not usually recommended for African cichlid aquariums.

Visit That Fish Blog for more information from our marine biologists and aquarium staff on African cichlids and many other topics!

**Note about scientific naming: As African cichlids are continually being discovered and redescribed, many scientific names have been changed over time. One of the most affected groups are the shell-dwellers from the genera Lamprologus, Neolamprologus, Altolamprologus, and Telmatochromis. Classification guidelines have changed and the true "correctness" of the classifications is still highly debated. These genera are still used interchangeably to refer to the same fish in some references.**
Common NameOcellated Shell-dweller
Scientific NameLamprologus ocellatus
OriginLake Tanganyika (Africa)
Max Size (in inches)2
Community SafeYes, with caution (African cichlids only)
pH Range8.2-9.2
Min Tank Size (in gallons)20
Temperature Range76-80

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