A good number of shell dwelling cichlids – this means that the fish use empty shells of freshwater snails for hiding and breeding – is known from Lake Tanganyka. Here mosty species related to Lamprologus have chosen that way oft life. This is not astonishing, for all these cichlids are cave-brooders. So empty shells of freshwater snails are a highly appreciated addition of breeding sites, which are always rare and fiercly contested in the wild.
However, things are completely different in Lake Malawi. The cichlids living there belong to the Haplochromis relationship and are agamous (this means that they never form stable pairs) maternal mouthbrooders. Consequently there is no species of cichlid known from Lake Malawi that uses empty shell for breeding purposes.
Nevertheless shell dwelling cichlids are known from Lake Malawi. They belong to a small complex of closely related species that are not easy to distinguish from each other. We have one of them, Maylandia cf. elegans LIKOMA, currently in stock. Another name for that species in the hobby is Maylandia s. „Livingstonii Likoma“. This is a clear hint to the close relationship between these two species. And of course all species of Maylandia are occassionally placed in Metriaclima; both generic names are synonymous to each other.
The shell dwelling cichlids from Lake Malawi use the empty shells exclusively as hiding places. In the natural habitat of the fish – mostly sandy areas – hiding places are scarce. If Maylandia cf. elegans LIKOMA is kept like „normal“ Mbuna cichlids in an aquarium with stones and other hoding places, they will not use empty snail shells. But in the wild they do not have an opportunity. So the adaption to a new resource enables Maylandia cf. elegans LIKOMA and its close relatives the improvement of a habitat that would offer no chance to survive for Mbuna cichlids otherwise. We can observe here a case of the process called „evolution“ by scientists happening right before our eyes. Isn´t that fascinating?
For our customers: the fish have code 568352 on our stocklist. Please note that we exclusively supply the wholesale trade.
Text & photos: Frank Schäfer