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The Masked Julie Julidochromis transcriptus is an attractive little cichlid from the northwest shores of Lake Tanganyika, Africa. It is the smallest of its genus with the female growing only to only about 2 3/4 Inches (7 cm) and the male is a little smaller. This is barely half the size of many of its cousins. A small, dimly lit aquarium works great for this fish.
This cichlid has a cylindrical shaped body with a slightly larger upper lip used to search for food. Its coloring is a silver/white with irregular horizontal and vertical brown bars. There are several slightly different color pattern variations of the Masked Julie, and all are very attractive. These patterns vary depending upon the location in Lake Tanganyika where each specimen is collected. There are differences in color or bars and sometimes they can be almost blotches. The dark colors always extend into the dorsal fin but the belly is always white. Another common name it is know by is the Black and White Julie.
Some varieties of the Masked Julie can have a very similar color patterning to their close relative the Marlier's Julie. They are similar in their care requirements too, but they can be distinguished in a couple of ways. A Masked Julie with a checkered patterning will have only two rows of white spots, while the Marlier's Julie has three or more. A couple other differences are the Marlier's Julie is almost twice as large and the male has a lump-like swelling on the neck, which is absent from males of this species.
This cichlid is somewhat shy. It will stay in the rocks more towards the back of the aquarium, darting out to retrieve food. They do well in a community cichlid tank and can be kept singly, in a pair, or in a group of several pairs if the aquarium is large enough. They can also be kept with other Tanganyika cichlids that are similar in size. A 20 gallon tank with lots of rockwork is perfect for keeping a pair. In a community it is important to keep conspecific varieties and similar species separate to help prevent hybrid strains.
They are moderatelyeasy to care for as long as small weekly water changes are done to keep the water at optimal levels. With their small size and hardy nature, they make a great fish for the beginning cichlid keeper. Provide them with a sandy or fine gravel substrate along with lots of rock formations. They stay very close to rock structures, so the more rocks there are, the more comfortable they will be. Plants can also be included as they will not bother them. This fish will breed in captivity and the plants will provide cover for the newly hatch fry.