Julidochromis transcriptus are an attractive little fish from Lake Tanganyika that are very inquisitive by nature. Known as the masked Julie because of the stripe around the eyes, these torpedo-shaped cichlids are sexually dimorphic (adult females are larger than adult males) and are considered dwarves within the hobby, with adult females reaching a TL of ~4". Transcriptus Julies are bottom dwellers, preferring rocks and crevices over open spaces in their natural habitat. Sadly, I don't have any photos of the transcriptus I used to have, but the photo at left strongly resembles mine.
Several years ago, I kept two or three females and a couple of males in a 40g breeder. Residing with them was a breeding pair of shell dwelling Neolamprologus ocellatus. I had a black sand substrate with lots of rocks, slate, some apple snail shells, and a few artificial plants. The Julies naturally kept to the rocks and basically claimed territory on one end of the tank.
After a few months, I noticed a tiny black speck moving between a couple of rocks. The Julies had spawned! Pretty soon, I noticed a few more fry. Eventually, I counted more than a dozen. Since I didn't plan to breed them, I had no specific plan in place if they spawned. In other words, I had not planned to separate the fry from the parents, so I just left them alone. I figured they would get eaten and I would just net and sell those that didn't to my LFS for store credit. I went on to breed them several times.
Interestingly enough, it wasn't long after the Julies spawned that I noticed some movement around one of the shells. Wrigglers! The pair of shellies had spawned also. I now had two genus with fry in the same tank, generally an extremely dangerous situation for all tank occupants. However, everything was reasonably harmonious. It didn't hurt that the ocellatus home shell was a couple of inches from the opposite end of the tank from where the transcriptus had set up shop. Sure, there were occasions when one of the transcriptus would venture too near the ocellatus shell, but a quick rebuke by the female would send all trespassers scurrying back to the rocks in the other direction. Neither of the adult shellies explored far from the end of the tank, at least when I was watching, so squabbles with the julies were infrequent. In fact, I never noticed much conspecific aggression among the Julies either.
J. transcriptus are beautiful, sneaky (I call them slinky) cichlids that will cling closely to rocks and outcrops. They will disappear within crevices and reappear somewhere else while you're watching. They appear to move effortlessly as they are very fluid gliding around and investigating their surroundings. As far as cichlids go, they're easy to keep, aren't overly aggressive, and are readily available in most LFSs. Many websites describe them as highly aggressive. My experience differed. Personally, I think they are a great species for cichlid beginners but are also equally enjoyable for more seasoned keepers.
For more information about J. transcriptus (water parameters, diet, etc.), this site seems to be the most comprehensive. I won't vouch for the accuracy of all the information, but a quick scan of the content seems it's pretty spot on.
How would you characterize your philosophy on fish keeping supplies? If you're familiar with supply chain management, you're familiar with the two philosophies - Just in Case (JIC) and Just in Time (JIT). If you're not sure, just check your inventory of fish supplies. How much media do you have - mechanical, bio, and chemical? What about hoses, clamps, suction cups, connectors? Have a spare filter lying around? How about heaters? What's your PVC plumbing supply look like?
If you answered each of these while nodding your head "yes," then you're either in the JIC camp, or you've scaled back your operation and all those things listed are what you have remaining from the tanks you've taken down. If you don't have many or any of those things in your supply closet or storage bins, you've either just begun in the hobby, you maintain only one or two tanks, or you're a JIT person.
Neither is right or wrong because your philosophy depends on your budget, your proximity to a pet store/fish store, your aversion to risk, and other factors.
I am a JIC guy, no question. In fact, I keep a spare of everything, including tanks. Actually, this philosophy applies to more than just my involvement in the hobby. I keep lots of other things just in case I need them, which I will characterize as "extras." It could also be that I'm a bit OCD about having what I need when I need it.
If you're like me, you're always thinking of new, novel, and efficient ways to accomplish something related to your tank maintenance. A few months ago, I redid one of my tanks to house dwarf Tanganyikans. I wanted to change the substrate but not all of it. I subsequently replaced 1/3 of the gravel with sand. I thus emptied about 20 pounds of the gravel and replaced it with fine white sand. Once complete, I liked the look, but the more I thought about what I was wanting to do with the tank over the long term, the more I realized this mixed substrate was a bit impractical.
Typically, when you make any kind of substrate change, you will stir up a lot particulate. This is okay except that you really only have two options with respect to clearing that particulate (unless you do a HUGE water change) - you wait for it to settle or you let your filter(s) do the work. The problem with the former is the time it can take. The problem with the latter is that you probably should replace the filter media you're currently using with floss and/or other mechanical filtration. Choosing the filter option is fine, unless you're running a canister and you don't want to break it down to replace what you have in it. This was the case for me. I didn't want to replace what was already in my canister just to clear the water. Replacing media in a HOB or sump is a little less problematic because both are more easily accessible.
In a previous post, I showed a small internal filter that I built to add some water polishing or additional filtering capability to my canister. As I continued to think about replacing all my gravel with sand, I realized this small internal would take a while to completely eliminate the particulate and return the water to the sparkling clear condition it was in. This made me think about a way to build on that small filter and construct something that would clear the water really quickly.
Thus, several criteria were required for this new filter.
Mission accomplished! I call it the Versafilter. A good, high flow rate pump will maximize its capabilities. I'm using a Sicce Syncra 3.5 with a listed 660 gph flow rate. Contact me for dimensions and/or questions about its construction.
The Cichlid Room Companion
Tropical Fish Hobbyist
American Cichlid Assoc.
African Cichlid Hub