Artificial Shelter

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Introduction: Artificial Shelter

My new Biotope Aquarium is about Africa and specifically, Lake Tanganyika with a species of fish called Multifasciatus Shell Dweller (Neolamprologus multifasciatus). Here is some information from Wikipedia on this species of fish:

Neolamprologus multifasciatus is one of the small shell-dwelling cichlids endemic to Lake Tanganyika. The male reaches 5 cm (2 in) in length, and the female only 2.5 cm (1 in) in the aquarium. In the wild, they reach only 3 centimeters (1.2 in) in standard length of male and female reaches less than 2.2 centimeters (0.87 in) in standard length. This makes them one of the smallest cichlid species in the world. Its natural habitat is the Neothauma shell beds of Lake Tanganyika, where it forms huge colonies with thousands of individuals. Their unique behavior is associated with their affinity to shells. They burrow sand to move shells, take refuge in shells and also breed in them.

Step 1: Shell Dwellers

In order to live up to the name of ‘shell dweller’ a fish needs to be pretty small, and their dinky size is advantageous when it comes to seeking out real estate. Curling up inside the curves of a snail shell is a great way to make yourself trickier to swallow. So the decoration of the aquarium should consist of fine sand, these fish dig like crazy. And a good number of empty snail shells is an absolute must!

Step 2: The Design of the Shell

It was quite difficult for me to find empty snail shells in large numbers and at reasonable prices locally. Since my initial problem was not solved and the fish were already on the way home, I thought of using my 3D printer as a temporary solution and making artificial shells. I started to design the shells as close as I could to the shape of the escargot shells as they are the ones that are widely used in such biotope aquariums and are also close to the shape of the natural shells of the Lake Tanganyika. The design started with AutodeskTinkerkad and was completed with Autodesk Meshmixer.

Step 3: They Loved Them

After I printed some shells and put them in the aquarium, my little friends arrived too. I really liked the result and the fish accepted them as their new home, some were already hiding and some felt comfortable coming out of the shells and exploring the aquarium.

Step 4: After a Long Time...

Αfter a while the aquarium has changed a lot, the fish moved the shells and changed the morphology of the sand, creating hiding places and algae naturally appeared. The fish grew and reproduced and I enjoy seeing the incredible behavior of these little fish every day. I added more artificial shells and some natural snail shells that I found in nature.

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    4 Comments

    0
    Tweetysvoice
    Tweetysvoice

    1 year ago

    I don't have a 3D printer and already bought about 100 shells, but I had to take a peek. I absolutely love the shell dweller's shells you created! I've had many of these fish over the years and they are very far the most interesting fish I've ever owned. Awesome to see an instructable for them!

    0
    illustrisWorkshop
    illustrisWorkshop

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thank you for your kind words, I am very glad that you liked the alternative for the shells. And for me they are by far the most interesting fish I have ever had.

    0
    randofo
    randofo

    1 year ago

    Nice project! That's a very complex shape. How did you model it in Tinkercad?

    0
    illustrisWorkshop
    illustrisWorkshop

    Reply 1 year ago

    Thank you very much, If I were to redesign it, I would most likely do it at Fusion360. In the tinkercad I basically made rough layers of the shape of a shell one on top of the other. I spent most of my time at meshmixer, trying to carve it into something uniform and hollow.