Keeping & Breeding of the Egyptian Mouthbreeder
By Simon Hawkins (Simon1929)

Photo © Wiljo Jonsson

This cichlid is one of few, which truly fascinate me. I have longed for ages to keep this species, but unfortunately they appears to be fading out of the hobby. They has some of the most amazing breeding habits I have ever seen.

The Egyptian Mouthbreeder can be quite unpredictable at times. One moment they can be fine and very peaceful, then suddenly they can wreak havoc. They are commonly found in the River Nile, where they are found in there hundreds.

Feeding & Diet
Luckily for you they feed exceptionally well on a wide range of frozen, freeze-dried foods. I have noticed that they need quite a bit of bloodworm in their diet to keep them healthy. They also adapt very well to newly introduced foods. It is very rare that they will refuse to eat, which only happens when a female is brooding.

Preparation for Breeding
The only preparation spawning that is required is a very good diet before hand. You can tell when a female is ready to spawn because her abdomen will swell tremendously. The male really won’t need any conditioning, as they are very easy to induce.

When you have completed the beginning stages place both male and female into an 18” x 10” x 10” tank. It is best not to have any gravel as the eggs can easily get lost, meaning you have very few resulting fry. Simple filtration such as a sponge filter will be adequate. A heater placed at a temperature of 28 degrees will bring them up to breeding temperature.

Continue to feed them on black mosquito larvae, and roughly a week to ten days spawning should begin. The male will deepen a lot in colour. Reds and blues will become extremely vivid. You will soon notice him ‘shimmying’. This is a common characteristic practiced by most male cichlids to attract a mate. This can go on for several hours, even days before the female feels comfortable with the male. When she has accepted him. they will both join in a mating ritual, which involves circling each other.

They soon begin what is known as ‘dummy runs’. This is when they practice laying and fertilisation of eggs. This can often occur a number of times; eventually you will see approximately 5-6 eggs laid on the tank floor. The male will hover above them, fertilise them and move away. The female will then pick these eggs up in her mouth and so the process continues. After spawning is complete you will have a very tired female, so it is advisable to remove the male from the tank. Try to do this in the dark, as this is less disturbing for the female.
Incubation time of the eggs depending on temperature is roughly 10 days. During this time the female will move her mouth in a ‘chewing’ action. This is to try and make sure that the eggs receive plenty of oxygen and circulation. After 5-6 days you will see her mouth jerking a bit - this is the developing fry ‘jumping’ around in her mouth. You will actually see the fry eyes through the buccal cavity. After 10 to 14 days the female will gradually begin releasing fry. At first they may not swim properly, after all there are about 100 of them crammed in there. After a couple of hours they will begin exploring. During this time the female will keep an eye on them and any sudden movements she will signal the fry to return to her mouth. You can safely leave the fry with the mother for 4 days, as she can be very unpredictable.

Feeding of Fry
These fry are very delicate for the first few weeks of there life. To start with I feed them BBS (Baby Brine Shrimp). Their bellies will swell and go red when they have eaten. Clean up any uneaten food, as they can die fairly easy during this stage. When refilling the tank use mature water from parent’s tanks, as fresh water is harmful to these little guys. On average I try to do at least a water change per day taking 20% of the water out.

Continuing this fry should grow rapidly. It will not belong before you can introduce daphnia, and begin to wean them onto freeze-dried foods such as brine shrimp. One word of warning the fry reaches a period roughly 7-8 weeks where they are extremely susceptible to disease. Just be extra cautious and everything will be great.

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