It can be difficult for any species to find distinction with so many available from a single source. However, one endemic cichlid species stands out due to its attractive appearance and unique parental behavior. Variously referred to as the brichardi cichlid, the lyretail cichlid, and the Princess of Burundi, it is most commonly known as the fairy cichlid (Neolamprologus brichardi).
This species has a laterally compressed body and a long caudal fin in the form of a lyre, which together convey an impression of slenderness. It’s a beautiful fish with a uniform beige coloration and distinct eye markings; it has two black spots behind and below the eyes, along with a third spot of yellow-orange. There are also highlights of metallic blue around the eyes and at the edge of the fins. The fairy cichlid can grow up to 4 inches (10 cm), but generally, more developed adult males do not exceed 3 inches (8 cm) and females are slightly smaller.
Keeping fairy cichlids is simple enough, though certain conditions have to be met. The aquarium water should reflect the physicochemical parameters of their lake of origin, which may vary depending on the sampling point. According to various references consulted, the average temperature of shallow waters in Lake Tanganyika is around 77° to 79°F (25° to 26°C). The pH in the majority of sample points had a value of 8.4, but there were areas with measurements of 9.2.
Similar water conditions can be achieved by using commercially available cichlid salts formulated for this purpose. However, you can also prepare your own using sodium bicarbonate NaHCO3 (505 mg/l), magnesium sulfate heptahydrate MgSO4.7H2O (425 mg/l), potassium chloride KCl (58 mg/l), calcium chloride CaCl2 (34 mg/l), and sodium carbonate Na2CO3 (21 mg/l). In an attempt to match Lake Tanganyika’s water profile, a schedule of biweekly 20-percent water changes should be adhered to using the formula just described. Before the water is added to the tank, 72 hours of aeration will be necessary.
Recreating the Biotope
The aquarium should reflect the main features of the fairy cichlid’s original biotope, which is usually in waters close to the coast. A simulation of its natural environment should recreate a rocky maze mixed with sandy areas and some vegetation. Vallisneria spp., Ceratopteris spp., Nymphaea spp., Myriophyllum spp., and Potamogeton spp. are recommended, as these plants closely match the flora found in its natural habitat.
Fairy cichlids can be kept in spacious aquariums with other medium-sized species, such as the ornate julie (Julidochromis ornatus), in a tank no less than 75 gallons (284 liters). However, it is preferable to keep them in a single-species group in a dedicated aquarium of at least 40 gallons (151 liters) so they feel secure enough to spawn and raise their fry.