The Christmas Fulu
With the arrival of the holidays, Christmas has been everywhere! We have Christmas trees, Christmas carols, Christmas paper, Christmas lights, Christmas gifts, Christmas boxes, Christmas shoes, Christmas decorations, the Christmas star and the Christmas miracle! So it's a miracle that we don't have a Christmas fish! Or do we?! Would you believe there is a Christmas fish?! It's no Christmas miracle! It's a brightly colored cichlid called the Christmas Fulu!
For years I have been well aware of a few so-called Christmas fish. However, these Christmas fish were all of the marine variety, and usually named so because they were natives of Christmas Island. Imagine my surprise to discover there was actually a freshwater Christmas fish! I was even more surprised to discover that this fish was a cichlid!
The Christmas Fulu's name is derived from two sources. The "Christmas" part of the name is a reference to this fish's coloration during breeding. When breeding, the Christmas Fulu will have a bright red and green coloration, colors often associated with Christmas.
The second part of the Christmas Fulu's name comes from the family of cichlids that this fish belongs to. Fulu is another word for "haplochromine", or hap. Some hobbyists even call this beautiful fish the "Christmas Hap" or the festive name, the "Happy Christmas Fish."
The Christmas Fulu is a native of Lake Victoria in Africa. However, it is now believed that the Christmas Fulu is extinct in Lake Victoria. This extinction could be due to any number of reasons, but the most popular belief is that the Nile perch is to blame. Years ago, the Nile perch was added by man to Lake Victoria. Needless to say, this addition to Lake Victoria is widely considered to be one of the biggest worldwide manmade environmental blunders of all time!
Although the Christmas Fulu is considered to be extinct in Lake Victoria, this fish is far from complete extinction. The Christmas Fulu is a commonly found fish in a satellite lake to Lake Victoria, Lake Kanyaboli located in the Yala Swamp of northern Kenya.
The natural habit of this rift lake cichlid is quite easy to reproduce in the home aquarium, as the Christmas Fulu is one very hardy cichlid. The Christmas Fulu prefers plenty of sand or gravel for its substrate, since like most cichlids, it loves to dig. The Christmas Fulu also prefers plenty of cave-like hiding places to establish as territories or spawning areas.
In the wild, the Christmas Fulu likes hard alkaline water and a temperature around 80 degrees. Although the Christmas Fulu can withstand many extreme aquarium conditions, this fish prefers its home aquarium environment to have a pH between 7.5 and 8.2, with a water temperature between 76 and 90 degrees. Usually, the higher temperatures are reserved for inducing spawning in the Christmas Fulu. And this fish's spawning ability in the home aquarium is one of the main reasons why this fish is so popular with freshwater fish hobbyists!
Because the Christmas Fulu breeds so easily in the home aquarium, this fish is often considered to be the convict cichlid of Africa! If you are wanting a whole bunch of little Christmas "gifts" in your aquarium, your most difficult chore will be to select different sexes of this fish. It is often hard to distinguish between the sexes of the Christmas Fulu, however, the males tend to be slightly larger and more vibrantly colored, especially at breeding time.
Since the male Christmas Fulu is often aggressive toward other males, especially at breeding time, it is suggested that you only keep one male per tank. However, you will be able to keep as many as 6 to 8 female Christmas Fulus at one time! With so many females, the male Christmas Fulu's aggression will be divided and diminished. Just make sure there are plenty of cave-like hiding places for all of the Christmas Fulus.
When it is spawning time, the male Christmas Fulu will dig a pit in the aquarium's substrate. The male Christmas Fulu will then lure the ripe female into the pit, where he will then coax her to lay her eggs. At first, the female Christmas Fulu will lay one or two eggs, which she will then pick up with her mouth. As the female does this, the male Christmas Fulu will wave frantically in front of her, prompting the female to try to "catch" the male's eyespots on its tail. At this time, the male will fertilize the female's eggs. This process will continue until the female has produced anywhere from 30 to 70 eggs.
The entire breeding process of the Christmas Fulu usually takes around an hour to an hour and a half. However, a majority of that time is wasted by the male Christmas Fulu chasing away any intruders. Once the spawning is completed, the female Christmas Fulu will find a hiding place to incubate her eggs, which usually takes between 14 to 16 days. If the female is not provided with adequate hiding places, she will likely be harassed by other fish. Since the female Christmas Fulu doesn't eat during this incubation period, she will be in a somewhat weakened state. As for the male Christmas Fulu, he is just a gigolo! He just moves on to the next female!
The Christmas Fulu is not a large cichlid. The male Christmas Fulu usually reaches an adult length of around 4 to 4 ½ inches long, while the female is slightly smaller. Due to the male Christmas Fulu's aggression toward other males, only one male should be kept per tank. If you decide to keep one male Christmas Fulu with 6 to 8 females, you will need at least a 30 to 40 gallon aquarium with hiding places for each fish. If you would like to keep more than one male Christmas Fulu per tank, you will need to house the fish in a larger aquarium such as a 55 to 100 gallon tank.
The Christmas Fulu is not an extremely aggressive fish, especially when compared to many other cichlids. Usually this fish's aggression is limited to the male Christmas Fulu during times of breeding. Due to this limited aggression, the Christmas Fulu is able to share its tank space with fish such as other Victorian haps, dwarf mouthbrooders, most Lake Malawi mbunas, smaller Lake Malawi cichlids and most catfish. Larger predatory fish should be avoided.
Feeding the Christmas Fulu is as simple as feeding any other cichlid. This fish will eat nearly anything! In the wild, the Christmas Fulu's diet consists of decomposing papyrus and sedge leaves found in the Yala Swamp. Since this plant matter passes through the fish intact, it is believed that the Christmas Fulu's actual meal consists of the microscopic community of animals found on the plant debris. In the home aquarium, the Christmas Fulu isn't an big plant eater, except for soft-leaved plants and new growth of other plants. As far as food goes in the home aquarium, the Christmas Fulu will readily accept flake foods, pellets, bloodworms, earthworms and shrimp.
Like many cichlids, the Christmas Fulu is a greedy and messy eater. As such, the Christmas Fulu produces a great deal of waste. While the Christmas Fulu is an extremely hardy fish, it is sensitive to nitrates in its water, something that accumulates quickly with a buildup of waste. This buildup of nitrates can be taken care of with generous plant growth in the Christmas Fulu's tank. Another solution is to perform a weekly 25% water change on the Christmas Fulu's tank.
While many experts claim that the Christmas Fulu isn't a rare fish, it is not a cichlid that is often found in most pet stores. However, many pet stores are able to order this fish at often affordable prices. Most Christmas Fulus can retail anywhere from $10.00 all the way up to $20.00. And while the Christmas Fulu would make a great, colorful and active Christmas gift, this is one fish that would make an ideal gift for any freshwater fish hobbyist any time of the year!