Xenotilapia Ochrogenys "Ndole Bay"

By Randy Longrie


Xenotilapia ochrogenys "Ndole Bay" is a maternal mouth brooder native to Tanganyika sand beds close to rock structures in Ndole Bay in the country of Zambia, Africa. The native water has temperatures in the mid 70's to 80 and a pH of 7.5 or higher. I obtained six 3/4 inch long fish from a store in Michigan. Males achieve a size of 4 inches and have a row of five blotches through the body with yellow and black marbling in all of the fins. Females achieve a size of 3 inches and are silver and like the males, have a rounded-off head like they swam full speed into a rock.


The fish spawned in a 40- gallon long tank that uses sand as a substrate. The tank was filtered by a Hydro IV sponge filter and had a pH of 8.2 and temp of 78 degrees. I performed weekly 40% water changes. The tank is lit by fluorescent lighting for 10 hours each day. I fed flake, live baby brine shrimp, and micro worms to condition these fish.


When spawning, the male constructs a sandpit surrounded by piles of sand. He tries to entice a ripe female to enter his nest by being extremely colorful and erecting all of his fins. Next, the pair swims in small circles in the nest like they were trying to catch the otherís tail. The female lays an egg and picks it up in her mouth on the next pass. The male fertilizes the egg as he circles before the female takes it into her mouth.


The female laid approximately 8 eggs. After spawning, the female retreated to a hiding place to avoid harassment by the male, who continued to try and spawn with her and another female. After 7 days I stripped the eggs and tumbled them in an egg tumbler. I thought that by the constant harassment of the male, the female would abort the eggs. All 8 eggs were viable and the fry were free swimming after 18 days. The fry were white and about 1/4 of an inch long, and looked very similar to their parents.


No special care for the fry once they were free swimming in their own 10-gallon tank. The tank is connected to a wet dry filter that filters a bank of 14 ten-gallon tanks.  I started the fry off on live baby brine shrimp and micro worms. After seven days I started feeding crushed flake food. The fry grew moderately fast.


When breeding this fish, I would advise a good size school of about 10 fish and mostly females. These guys grow relatively fast. The females may abort the first couple of spawns due to aggression or inexperience. The spawns also are not very large in quantity. I was amazed by the aggression of the dominant male. He caused a small group of adult Cyprichromis to go blind and die (actually, it was probably my fault for not providing them with a large enough tank). And the way the Xenos would take in large mouthful of sand and sift it out of their gills is cool to watch. This is one of those fish I saw in a book and just had to have! Xenotilapia ochrogenys is a cool little sand dwelling fish that can be challenging to keep. They cannot be housed with overly aggressive fish and should be kept in a minimum four-foot long tank.


Be prepared to deal with very aggressive males and offer lots of cover at the bottom of the tank. Despite these challenges, you should give this fish a try.