Care Level: Easy
Live Plant Safe: With Caution
General Description: Multifasciatus Shell Dwellers, also referred to as Multis for short, are endemic to the deep and open sandy coastal waters of Lake Tanganyika in Africa. A popular fish for beginner and seasoned cichlid hobbyists alike, Multifasciatus shell dwellers are not overly aggressive and are relatively easy to keep. Additionally, this species exhibits some really cool behavior! As their name suggests, Multifasciatus shell dwellers are shell brooders, meaning that they utilize empty snail shells as spawning and rearing sites. Territories for this species are extremely small, as it usually only includes a specific shell in which they have claimed. Females will bury a shell, except for the opening, and try to catch the attention of a male. Once she has, she will enter the shell to deposit her eggs and he will either join inside the shell if its large enough, or as she exits the shell, the male will release his sperm at the opening of the shell which will get pulled up into the shell by the act of the female exiting. After this, the male is no longer welcome near the shell and the female will sit on the shell’s opening fanning the eggs with her fins for the next 24 hours until the eggs hatch. These larvae do not become free-swimming fry until about 7 days post hatch. A substrate-dwelling species, Multifasciatus shell dwellers thrive best in an active community aquarium or a cichlid aquarium with like-species that exploit other areas of the aquarium; avoid large or aggressive species. Multifasciatus shell dwellers have tan bodies with many thin brown vertical stripes that stop behind the gill plate. Males can develop an orange-yellow tinge to their dorsal fin as they mature. Otherwise, sexing small or juvenile Multifasciatus shell dwellers can be difficult. Multifasciatus shell dwellers are best kept in a group of several females with a single male, called a colony, or a single male-female pair. The number of shells provided in a Multifasciatus shell dweller aquarium should well exceed the number of individuals. An adult male Multifasciatus shell dweller will grow to approximately 2″, while females will grow to 1-1/2″. Note: Many of our Multifasciatus shell dwellers are raised locally by hobbyists here in Wisconsin!
Diet Requirements: A diet made up of various high quality protein based foods are ideal. Such options include frozen brine shrimp, calanus, daphnia and blood worms, and foods containing Spirulina algae are a plus. Multifasciatus shell dwellers will accept sinking pellet foods and flake foods as a staple, but these should not make up the majority of their diet. Variety is the spice of life in order to maintain color, immune function and longevity of your fish.
Care Requirements: An established minimum 20 gallon aquarium is ideal for a small group of Multifasciatus shell dwellers. Realistically with other tank mates, the minimum size tank would be that of 40 gallons or larger. Biweekly water changes are encouraged to keep water parameters ideal (Nitrates < 30 ppm). The aquarium should have a finer substrate that is at least 2″ deep and empty shells are absolutely needed for this species because shells are used as home refuges, not only as spawning sites. African cichlid specific substrates, or even a fine marine Aragonite substrate, are great choices because they will buffer the pH and alkalinity to levels characteristic of Lake Tanganyika that is needed for this species to thrive and spawn, if desired. Common tank mates for Multifasciatus include Altolamprologus, Julidochromis, Neolamprologus, and other dwarf African cichlids from Malawi [note potential different water chemistry preferences, however; namely pH]. Compatability with other shell dweller species is variable but usually discouraged. Stacks of rocks may be required for some tank mates to set-up their own territories away from Multifasciatus shell dwellers. While Multis will not bother live plants, there are few that will thrive in the water parameters desired by this fish. Recommended water conditions, 72-82° F, KH 8-25, pH 7.5-9.0.
Purchase Size: Small: 3/4” or less; Medium: 1” to 1-1/4”
Note: Your item may not look identical to the image provided due to variation within species. Purchase sizes are approximate.