Habitat: Lake Tanganyika, Africa
Status: Least Concern
Endemic to a single lake in Africa are the Lake Tanganyika Dwarf Cichlids (Neolamprologus multifasciatus). Males only reach a length of five centimeters in length, and females around 2.5″ making them one of the smallest species of cichlid in the world. Not only are they one of the smallest but they’re also one of the coolest due to their unique affinity for snail shells.
Lake Tanganyika is home to thousands of Neothauma snails… and therefore hundreds of snail shells, when all is said and done. The dwarf cichlids form colonies that number in the thousands, and each individual takes advantage of the plethora of abandoned shells that can be found in the lake. They burrow sand to move shells, take refuge in shells and also breed in them (see the video below for some fishy cuteness).
The cichlids are pale white with black vertical bars running the length of their bodies. It’s almost impossible to tell the difference between a male and a female since both sexes look exactly the same.
The fish are quite popular in the aquarium industry due to their interesting personalities and fascinating behavior. They’re dubbed “multies” or “shellies” based on their preference for all things snail shell. Anyone looking to own some of these cichlids should provide them with a large tank and about 2 shells per fish. Even those fish that are captive bred are naturally skittish and will feel insecure if there are no shells present to retreat into.
Check out the video below for some amazing Lake Tanganyika Dwarf Cichlids in action!