Julidochromis dickfeldi, commonly called the Brown Julie, is one of the most popular aquarium fish in the hobby today. Their striking colors and unique traits make them fascinating additions to any tank or community tank setup. But, just because they are easy to care for doesn’t mean they don’t require a specific care routine that must be followed in order to ensure their health and well-being.
Julidochromis dickfeldi is one of the most popular species of fish in the aquarium hobby. Despite its popularity and ease of care, there are tricky information available about how to keep this species, especially with regard to tank size, lighting, and diet requirements.
Julidochromis dickfeldi is an African cichlid endemic to Lake Malawi and has been introduced to the Lake Rukwa basin in Tanzania as well as the Olifants River basin in South Africa. It can reach 9 cm (3 in) in length and weighs up to 2 grams, making it a rather small cichlid by comparison with its cousins Julidochromis ornatus, Julidochromis regani, and Julidochromis marlieri which can reach up to 20 cm (8 in) in length.
This guide will help you learn how to care for your brown Julie.
An Overview of Brown Julie
Since its introduction in 1986, Julidochromis dickfeldi, or Brown Julie, has been an incredibly popular fish among aquarium hobbyists. This is mostly due to its lifelike appearance, peaceful demeanor, and beautiful coloration.
Originally named after German ichthyologist Dr. Lothar Dikfield, Brown Julie is often referred to as brown bar or brown julie. Its scientific name translates into English literally as Dickson’s little Julie. What many do not know is that it can be distinguished from its close relative, Julidochromis ornatus, by looking at body shape; Brown Julie usually has a slimmer, more elongated body than that of Ornate Julie.
Aside from these two species, there are no other true julies found in freshwater aquariums. For example, there are those who call several dwarf cichlids Pseudotropheus sp.julie because they have three vertical bars on their body.
Origin and descriptions
Julidochromis dickfeldi is a species of freshwater cichlid endemic to Lake Tanganyika in East Africa. Its name honors ichthyologist Dietrich M. Dickfeld, who described Julidochromis dickfeldi as well as Julidochromis ornatus, both of which have been reclassified as Oreochromis ornatus or Osphronemus lucius in recent times.
Ndole is native to rocky regions on sandy substrates at depths of up to 30m, where it feeds on zooplankton and other small invertebrates. It has a pink-colored stripe running from its snout through its eye, resembling an eyelash or teardrop; hence its common name of Brown Julie. The fish exhibit protogynous hermaphroditism, meaning that female fish are initially smaller than males and change sex if they fail to be fertilized by male conspecifics during their lifespan.
Julidochromis dickfeldi, more commonly known as Julies or Brown Julie are a semi-aggressive, medium-sized, midwater fish found in Lake Tanganyika. Julies have been around for years and they are one of my favorites; they grow to an average size of 4 – 6 inches but some specimens have been known to reach 8 inches in length.
They can live up to 10 years or more if provided with optimal conditions. They are omnivorous feeders that require several small feedings per day to maintain good health. Mature males show intense coloring and develop horns on their foreheads during the breeding season. Females will also show slight color change but not as dramatic as males.
The brown Julie is very territorial during breeding season so it’s best to keep only one male per tank unless you want your other fish to become his snack!
The common name for Julidochromis dickfeldi, formerly Pseudotropheus dickfeldi is Brown Julie, Brown Julies or Brown Julie Cichlid, Julidochromis dickfeldi, Tanzanian Cichlids, Ndole.
Habitat and distributions
These Julies prefer a heavily planted tank with thickly grown live rock piles and plenty of caves. As they are open water swimmers, they require fairly large tanks with good circulation to keep them healthy. They are one of a few species that do best in brackish water and will thrive at salinities between 1.010 to 1.015 but can tolerate up to full saltwater if acclimated correctly.
This is a tropical fish and should not be kept below 75 degrees Fahrenheit. However, these fish like it warm, and will enjoy temperatures as high as 85 degrees without any problems. This species does well when mixed with fish from similar temperature ranges such as most Tanganyikan cichlids or even some of their Lake Malawi cousins.
Any aggressive or fin nipping fishes should not be mixed into a tank containing Julie’s due to their long-flowing fins. Fishes prone to jumping also may result in some losses in young or small individuals, so heavy cover must be used when housing them together with overly active or fast swimming fishes.
Julidochromis dickfeldi size
Larger than other Julies, but about half a centimeter smaller than a full-grown Neolamprologus brichardi. Julidochromis dickfeldi can grow to about four inches in length, though most average 3 to 3.5 when purchased from stores at two months of age. Males tend to be larger and longer than females.
Julidochromis dickfeldi tank size
Tanks of 65 to 70 L or more are recommended with plenty of open space on all sides. Julidochromis dickfeldi prefer relatively shallow water. The shallower a tank is, and wider it is, will be more suitable for them. Water depth should be no deeper than 10 cm and tanks must have plenty of rocks and caves to provide refuge from other fish as well as blockage of larger predators such as cichlids or catfish.
Tank set up
The Julidochromis Dickfeldi Ndole species of fish require a specific habitat in order to thrive. The tank should be set up with approximately two feet of depth and a minimum temperature between 68 and 76 degrees Fahrenheit. These fish are native to Lake Malawi, which contains many predators like cichlids and barbs, therefore it is important that aquariums containing these fish have enough water space for them to run away from danger if necessary.
A non-metallic substrate should be used as well as moderate lighting around 2 watts per gallon. There should also be some floating plants to simulate their natural habitat. They will eat flake food in addition to freeze-dried bloodworms and brine shrimp occasionally.
They can live up to 5 years if provided with proper care although most do not survive past 3 years due to poor care by keepers or incorrect dieting.
Julidochromis dickfeldi tank mates
Although Julidochromis dickfeldi is a large benthic piscivore, it does not pose any threat to tank mates. Ndole will eat small fish fry that can fit in its mouth and anything else that enters its territory. If you wish to keep it with other docile fish species, choose ones that are too large for them to fit into their mouth. Cichlids are a good choice as they are generally territorial.
As with all African cichlids, it is very important to avoid keeping them with fish small enough to fit in their mouths. They are notoriously aggressive and territorial, so tank mates must be large and fast enough to avoid being eaten. Mbuna from Lake Malawi works well with large Julies.
These are a great option for those looking for a tank mate; they’re colorful and large, which makes for a beautiful display but also provides ample room for these two species of fish to coexist without aggression.
Tanganyikan shell-dwelling catfish like synodontis work as well; provide them with plenty of caves and crevices so they feel safe from unwanted intruders.
The first requirement for breeding Julie is to have a male and female of equal size. It is also important that you provide a large aquarium with plenty of open swimming space so that your pair doesn’t become stressed, and make sure you have both soft and hard substrate in it, as well as rocks or other hiding spots.
In addition, ensure they are well fed; while they won’t overeat themselves into oblivion, they will feed more freely when hungry, so take care not to underfeed them. If a mated pair don’t lay eggs after six weeks, remove them from each other and try again at a later date. Once they have spawned (typically after three weeks), move their eggs and fry to another tank for rearing.
In terms of feeding, give newly-hatched fry infusoria until big enough to accept Artemia nauplii—or if you prefer frozen foods—brine shrimp larvae can be used instead. Feeding newly-hatched fry must be carried out at least once every two days during daylight hours over several months until big enough to accept full-size foods such as microworms or Daphnia, magna nauplii, at which point you can wean them onto larger foods gradually over time like flake food.
Are Julie cichlids aggressive or peaceful?
They are peaceful. While a Julidochromis dickfeldi will defend its territory, it is more inclined to be submissive towards other brown julies and other tank mates of similar size. If they are being harassed, they may pin their tail at a 90-degree angle with their body, which is a sign of submission. As with all cichlids, it’s important to watch for these signs and avoid mixing aggressive tank mates like convicts or tiger barbs with Julies.
Julidochromis dickfeldi care
As freshwater, the recommended temperature is 78 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit, pH Range: 7.0 to 8.0, Specific Gravity: 1.020 to 1.025, Diet: Carnivore/Omnivore – will eat most aquarium foods including flakes and freeze-dried but should also be fed live worms and small insects. One of a few dwarf cichlids that can be kept in smaller tanks, recommended tank size is 10 gallons or larger when fully grown.
Julidochromis dickfeldi diet and feeding
Brown Julies are omnivores, but they prefer to eat invertebrates. In fact, they will readily eat other fish. They will also consume algae and some plant matter. Stick with a high-quality cichlid flake food or pellet as a staple diet, with some freeze-dried or frozen foods added in for variety. Supplement these foods with live or freshly-killed brine shrimp or bloodworms as treats.
They can live between 12 and 15 years. Julies have a lifespan roughly half that of most cichlids, but they’re generally longer-lived than most of their congeners. They are expected to live 12 to 15 years under optimal conditions, but it isn’t unheard of for them to reach 20 years in captivity. The oldest on record lived 22 years and 5 months. Most Julies will die between 4 and 7 years old due to water quality issues or simply old age.
The ideal water condition is pH of 7.5 to 8.5, Temp 23 to 28 degrees C, hardness 2 to 10dkh, or specific gravity of 1.005 to 1.020 is perfect for most brown julies. The addition of 5 drops per gallon of aquarium salt can also be beneficial in mimicking their natural habitat and preventing stress from shipping and acclimation. Your brown julie should get a weekly water change of 25% to keep its environment clean and healthy for them to thrive in.
Parasites and diseases
Though Julidochromis dickfeldi are resistant to many disease organisms, they are prone to general protozoan and flagellate infections that may manifest in a variety of ways, including redness of fin tips and loss of coloration. Like other African cichlids, Julidochromis dickfeldi are susceptible to ich, so it’s best not to mix them with more sensitive species until an infection has cleared up.
Very few fish in an aquarium are big enough to eat Julidochromis dickfeldi; they may become food for butterflyfish, tangs, puffers, and lionfish. Larger wrasses may also prey on them. They can be kept with other medium-sized tankmates such as shrimps and gobies, but only if there is plenty of open space.
Do they make good pets?
Julidochromis dickfeldi are quite large and colorful, making them excellent additions to any fish tank. Unfortunately, they are also rather aggressive toward smaller fish; in fact, if you plan on keeping them with other fish, it’s best to avoid putting smaller or passive species in your tank altogether.
In general, they’re not really ideal for community tanks—at least, not with a lot of other fish. But in a larger aquarium with lots of space and plenty of hiding places for all species involved.