Article by Jessica Drake
Species: Paracyprichromis nigripinnis
Common name: Blue neon or neon cichlid
Origin: Lake Tanganyika
Localities/Morphs: Found throughout the lake; there is an albino variety of this fish available
Maximum size: 10cm
Natural habitat: Tend to hang around rocky areas and caves in the lake unlike the similar shaped Cyprichromis species which swim out in mid water
Natural foods/prey: zooplankton
Water chemistry in the wild: ph 8.6-9.5, total hardness 11-17dH, carbonate hardness 16-19dKH
Predators: larger predatory fish e.g. frontosa
Brood size: tends to be small, average of 5-10 fry but can have 20 or more occasionally
Breeding method: maternal mouthbrooder
Minimum tank size: standard 4ft tank
Sex ratio: 1-2males to several females is best
Tolerance of conspecifics: a very peaceful species, very little agression though males will occasionally fight
Tolerance of heterospecifics: very good
Water chemistry in aquaria: pH8.0-8.5 (can tolerate higher ph), carbonate hardness above 7dKH
Temperature range: 25-27 degrees Celsius
Foods accepted: flake, brine shrimp, dahnia, various live foods, all so long as the particle size is smallish as they have small mouths.
Special requirements: very good water quality and correct water chemistry, also see notes below
a very beautiful species that needs the right lighting to show them off to their best. The blue neon stripes down their bodies (brightest on males) are best shown off in shadowy half-light. In my 5ftx2ftx2ft tank I only have a small 2ft fluorescent light over the middle of the tank. The nigripinnis hang around the sides of the tank where the light is not at its brightest and swim sideways to catch the light to best effect.
They like to have rockwork in the tank - particularly vertical walls with caves and will spend much of their time hanging vertically next to the rockwork and will use it as a spawning area. I have heard of them spawning in bare tanks, too, but any time I have put more rockwork in their tank they instantly gravitate towards it and seem most comfortable around it.
Females have a reputation for not holding well on their first attempts of breeding but should get better as they get older. If kept in a species tank they can be allowed to release their fry into the tank and usually do not prey on them.
They are most comfortable when kept in large groups of at least 8-10, these large colonies look more spectacular than a small group of 3 or 4.
They can be kept with Cyprichromis species (which stay out in mid tank and don't bother the nigripinnis hanging around their rocks) and smaller sand-sifters. Larger Tanganyikans such as frontosa or feather-fins are not recommended as tank-mates because of the potential for them to be predatory or agressive towards the nigripinnis.
It has often been said that this species does not tolerate water changes very well particularly when greater than 20% a week but I have not found this to be true of our own fish and I have also read reports of people finding that 20-25% weekly water changes have been tolerated well with no breeding problems.