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The Brevis Shelldweller Neolamprologus brevis is a dwarf cichlid from Lake Tanganyika, Africa. Its a very small fish with males growing just short of 2 1/2 inches (6 cm) in length. The females are even smaller, only reaching about 1 1/2 inches (4 cm). There are several different geographic variants, but they are all pretty much light brown in color with a florescent blue lines under the eyes. True to its name, this little cichlid is a shell dweller that hides and spawns inside a shell. Other common names it is known by include Brevis Shellie and Lamprologus Brevis, and some of the varieties include the Standard Brevis and the Sunspot Brevis.
Shell dwelling cichlids, or Shellies, are some of the most unique fish in the cichlidae family. They are quite particular about how their home is buried as well as how it is positioned. Some like their home to be completely submerged in the substrate and be able to enter the shell horizontally. The Brevis Shellies are found in areas where they are not an over abundance of shells. But unique among the other shell dwelling cichlids of Lake Tanganyika, they have adapted to this in quite a cordial manner. Often times both the male and the female will simply share the same shell.
The shell burying activity of the Brevis Shelldweller, as described by Staeck and Linke (1982), employs three different methods. They will grip the edge of the shell with their mandibles and swim against it, pushing it into position. Then they will remove sand from underneath it to shift it. Lastly they will lie on the bottom strongly beating with their tail, blowing the sand away and allowing the shell to sink. unlike other shell dwellers this fish may not be as much of a digger. However the amount of digging and burying is dependent on the individual fish.
In the aquarium they require a very small territory, only claiming about 4 to 8 inches of space. A bonded pair can be housed in a five gallon aquarium making this fish almost an office desk fish. A ten gallon aquarium is possible for two pairs if they have a plenty of shells and places to hide. For a fascinating display have two or three males with a small harem of females in a 20 gallon long aquarium with lots of shells. The males will tussle harmlessly to see who can get the most shells, and then of course the most females.
These cichlids are very peaceful and cannot handle robust tank mates. They are community cichlids that can be kept with other Tanganyika cichlids that are of similar size. They must be kept with other peaceful cichlids or other friendly species for their own benefit. They are easy to breed as well, giving their owner the cichlid personality along with the family raising skills of a monogamous cichlid all in a small package. Because this fish doesn’t always do as much digging as other Shellies, they are very plant friendly.
These fish are a good choice for the beginning cichlid keeper. They are easy to moderate to care for as long as regular water changes are done to keep the water quality optimal. Provide a sandy or very fine gravel substrate and include some rocks. They also need at least two to three shells per pair to choose from for their home. Water changes, not overfeeding or overcrowding, observation, and feeding your fish the proper foods will keep them in optimum health.
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Video of Brevis Shelldweller Cichlid (Neolamprologus brevis)
Infographic of Brevis Shelldweller Cichlid (Neolamprologus brevis)
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