Fish, Tanks and Ponds

Fish, Tanks and Ponds
A comprehensive guide to fish

Lamprologus ocellatus

Lamprologus ocellatusLamprologus ocellatus
Photos by Andy Rapson


Lamprologus: Greek, lampros = light + Greek, lagos = hare

General Notes:

A tiny fish with a large personality. Lamprologus ocellatus is known as a shell dweller, they live in the empty shells of a particular snail which inhabits Lake Tanganyika. They rarely move far from their shell and they even use it to protect their eggs and small fry. Each fish has to have its own shell, even mating pairs have a shell each. It is important to have more shells than fish.
Lamprologus ocellatus is only found in Lake Tanganyika the waters of which are very rich in minerals, this has to be reflected in how the fish are kept in captivity. Their water has to be hard and alkaline or they will not thrive.
The best way to create the right conditions is to use a commercial salt mix which is intended to replicate the water chemistry found in Lake Tanganyika. Using Epsom salt to make the water hard as is often suggested is not the right thing to do, Epsom salts have a strong laxative effect on fish!!!
Lamprologus ocellatus are generally quite peaceful and can be kept in a species tank or a Tanganyikan community with other peaceful fish but be aware, Lamprologus ocellatus is a small fish even when adult and could be regarded as food by larger species. Although Lamprologus ocellatus is a widespread species there are no known distinct geographical races but there is a 'gold' aquarium bred morph. Ideal tank mates for Lamprologus ocellatus are Julidochromis. sp, Paracyprichromis, Cyprichromis. sp. None of which will compete with them since they live in different niches. Don't mix fish from Lake Tanganyika with fish from Lake Malawi, their needs and conditions are quite different despite the common assumption that they both need hard alkaline water. More information.


Wild Lamprologus ocellatus eat small invertebrates but in captivity they will accept all types of food but their diet should include some suitably sized live or frozen food such as daphnia, bloodworms, cyclops and brine shrimps.


Males are larger and have a more "bullish" appearance than females.


Breeding takes place inside the empty snail shell. If kept as a pair, both parents will guard the shell entrance fearlessly and will occasionally enter the shell to fan fresh water over the eggs. From spawning it takes around 10 days before the free swimming fry will be seen emerging from the shell, although at the slightest hint of danger they will disappear back in to its depths. They will also breed as a group with a number of females having a small territory within the bounds of a males larger territory. Each female will protect its own patch and the male will keep all intruders out.
The fry can be fed with newly hatched brine shrimps or crushed flake food. They will gradually spread out from their mothers territory and become more independant. At three to five weeks old they may be chased away as the parents prepare for a new brood.

Wild satatus

Lamprologus ocellatus is widespread throughout Lake Tanganyika and doesn't face any known threats. Wild populations are considered to be quite rare but are listed as "Least Concern".

Information at a glance

pH: 7.5 - 9
dGH: 9 - 19
Temperature: 23 - 25°C (74 - 77°F)
Diet: Carnivore
Size: 5cm (2in)
Min tank size: 60 litres
Difficulty level: Intermediate
Aquarium type: Species / Tanganyikan Community
Swimming level: Bottom

Distribution and habitat

distribution map for Lamprologus ocellatus

Origin: East Africa, Burundi; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Tanzania, United Republic of; Zambia. Lake Tanganyika. (endemic).

Habitat: Shallow lake edges in the abandoned shells of Neothauma snails.


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Cichlidae
Genus: Lamprologus
Species: L. ocellatus, (Steindachner, 1909)

Common name:

Synonyms: Julidochromis ocellatus, Lamprologus lestradei, Neolamprolagus ocellatus.