Xenotilapia ornatipinnis was first described in 1901 by Boulenger. The family name Xenotilapia can be broken into two words. Xenos comes from ancient Greek xenos and means strange. Thiapa comes from the local African language and means fish. In summary, this family consists of strange fish. The species name ornatipinnis can also be broken into two words. Ornatus comes from Latin and means beautiful or handsome, pinnis is also Latin and means fin. This is a reference to the beautifully coloured male dorsal fin.
Synonym: Xenotilapia ornatipinus.
Males of this species can reach a total length of around 13 centimetres. The females usually stay a bit smaller and grow to 10 centimetres. The big eyes are immediately noticeable in the Xenotilapia ornatipinnis. This tells us that this species mainly resides in deeper water. The colour is silver/gray/beige on the flanks. Males have a yellow and sometimes a black stripe in their dorsal, anal and caudal fins. The dorsal fin is reflective like a pearl. You see different colours depending on the direction of the light.
The distribution area of Xenotilapia ornatipinnis covers the northern half of Lake Tanganyika. They prefer to live above the sandy areas of the lake. You can usually find them above the sand at depths of 10 to 60 meters, but the record is at a depth of 160 meters. They will probably seek out deeper water during the day and come up a bit more at night.
In the wild, Xenotilapia ornatipinnis feeds on copepods and mosquito larvae. In the aquarium, you can provide a diet of frozen and live foods like brine shrimp, black and white mosquito larvae. You can vary their diet with flakes and granules.
Xenotilapia ornatipinnis is a peaceful bottom dwelling cichlid that should be kept in a small group of around 6 to 8 specimens. Use an aquarium with a minimum length of 130 centimetres. The aquarium can be decorated with a sandy substrate and some rocks to provide natural territory boundaries. We advise keeping more than a single male, with multiple males they show their best colours. A single male will not show its best colours. They scare easily, avoid sudden unexpected movement in front of the tank.
Breeding Xenotilapia ornatipinnis
Breeding Xenotilapia ornatipinnis is not difficult. The females lay eggs that are fertilised by the male. The female turns around and takes the eggs in her mouth. A nest can contain up to 50 eggs.
The female breeds on the eggs and fry for around 18 days after which she spits them out. From now on the fry have to take care of their own. You can feed the fry with newly hatched brine shrimp and crushed flakes. With plenty of water changes and good quality food, the fry will grow to eight centimetres in a year. At this length, they can reproduce again.
Jan Bukkems – Aquavisie
John de Lange
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