“Black Eggs” By Joe Graffagnino
I have bred many species of fish, but I have never seen black eggs. I was amazed when I saw them and from a West African cichlid no less. I obtained a breeding pair of Tilipia snyderea from fellow fish breeder Vinny Babino. Vinny informed me that these are very beautiful fish,with striking color markings. They are aggressive fish when spawning and protecting their young, and they are the gift that continues to give – once they start spawning you can’t get them to stop.
Tilipia snyderea are the smallest of all Tilipia and they hail from Lake Bermin in Cameroon, West Africa. This species’ common name is “Snyder’s dwarf tilapia.” There are three colors that these species can display, based on their mood and especially during breeding. They can go from a pale bland color to a green, to a red. In breeding dress, both the male and female are absolutely stunning with a green top that goes to the middle of their body (lateral line) which extends from the head through the anal fin. The lower portion of the body is an orange red. But that’s not all — the face changes color as the mouth becomes a dark black, while the lips become pure white — truly amazing coloration on a fish that gets no larger than 4 – 5 inches.
When I received this beautiful pair of fish, I realized they were too large for a 20 gallon aquarium, so I quickly did some rearranging and moved them to a 30 gallon wide aquarium. I believe in species tanks so I kept them by themselves. After less than one month in their new home, they started moving large amounts of gravel in the tank. They really like to landscape. Four days after the landscaping began, the female took up residence in a small clay breeding cave that had an opening the size of a thumb. It was obvious that the male could not enter. I assumed that they would lay their eggs on the glass bottom since they made it bare by moving all the gravel away. A day or two later I used a flashlight to see into the cave and lo and behold! I saw around 20 or so black eggs.
A few days later, they must have hatched because the parents moved the fry one foot away from the cave and under a piece of coral. I was worried for the fry because this tank was overrun with Malaysian burrowing snails, who I thought may go for the babies. However, within a few days my snail problem was a problem no more. After their yolk sacs disappeared and the fry started free swimming, I fed them microworms, vinegar eels and frozen baby brine shrimp. The fry grew quickly and they tended to clone each other, for although I initially counted around 20 eggs, I now counted about 80 swimming fry.
I would highly recommend this beautiful, but aggressive West African cichlid as a welcome addition to a species only tank. Also, this fish is on the endangered list of fish species, so maintaining this fish will help it from becoming extinct in the wild. Please share this wonderful fish with other members of local fish clubs and let everyone enjoy them.