Keeping and Spawning Telmatochromis bifrenatus

Telmatochromis bifrenatus is a dwarf cichlid from Lake Tanganyika in East Africa. male with PVC tube cave It is commonly listed in assorted species guide books as having a standard length of from 2 to 4 inches (5-10cm); mine seem to top out at about 3 inches. The males and females are indistinguishable, being an off white or cream color with a zig-zaggy black stripe running from the mouth to the base of the tail; not very flashy coloration but still very pleasing in appearance and graceful in movement.

I obtained my original group of 6 young adults and placed them in a previously set up 10 gallon tank. The hardness was about 15 dh, ph about 7.5, but the water is probably further hardened by an assortment of seashells which the “biffs” use as hideouts and spawning sites.

The tank was originally set up with a outside power filter, but I’ve since replaced it with a sponge filter due to the excess turbulence which seemed to bother the fish.

The “biffs” are fed once a day with live baby brine shrimp and flake food and occasionally with frozen adult brine shrimp and grindal worms. Although live foods are not a requirement for success with African Cichlids, they certainly don’t hurt.

Within a month of their arrival I noticed the first fry hopping about at the entrance to one of the shells. The fry did fine for about a week and then dissapeared, presumed eaten by the adults. The next batch of fry were siphoned out and transferred to a 5 gallon tank. Growth is slow but steady; the fry reach an inch in about 10 to 12 weeks. The fry are very peaceful among themselves, no fighting or aggressivness.

While I was busy with the fry in the 5 gallon tank, the adults were busy producing more batches of fry. And since I already had enough to satisfy myself, I left the new fry in with the adults to fend for themselves. Naturally, they all lived with no further canabalism and now I have several batches of fry from about 1/4 to 3/4 inches doing wonderfully well.

There seems to be 2 dominant females in opposing corners of the tank who are producing the bulk of fry.When a female has eggs or newly hatched fry she can be observed at the mouth of her shell vigouriously fanning water into her little home, apparently to circulate some fresh water or possibly food into the shell where the fry are hiding.

The biffs have been quite an easy species to spawn, interesting to watch and extremely hardy. I would highly recommend this species as a begginers fish or as an easy introduction into spawning cichlids.

This article was originally written in 1994, the same original Bifs were still with me up until 1999, these are the most hardy fish I have ever seen! I’ve put them outside in a wading pool pond 2 different summers, a friend kept them once for over a year, with the very minimum of care, and though all of this they have repeatedly spawned over and over, I’ve probably sold over a thousand fry. This has to be the best begginers fish of all time. I have to give them my ultimate admiration for toughness. If you can’t keep anything else alive, give these little “Super Fish” a try.