Demasoni Cichlid (Pseudotropheus demasoni) Care Guide & Species Profile

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The Demasoni Cichlid is a beautiful and vibrant freshwater fish you can find. This fish boasts a curious nature and is popular among fishkeepers for its bright colors and sharp patterns. This African Cichlid comes with lots of personality and spunk, making it a desirable pet for all. 

It is dwarf yet extremely aggressive Mbuna; hence, ideal only for intermediate and advanced cichlid keepers. It is not a community tank specimen, and choosing suitable tankmates for them is a bit tricky. 

Thinking of adding this beauty to your collection? Here’s a comprehensive guide that will walk you through all care guidelines, including tank parameters, ideal tank mates, food, etc. 

Species Summary

The Demasoni Cichlid (Pseudotropheus demasoni), also known as Demaonson’s Cichlid and Midnight Demasoni, originally hailed from Lake Malawi in Africa, where they primarily inhabit the Pombo Rock and Ndumbi Reef region in Tanzanian waters.

This fish belongs to the genus Pseudotropheus that currently has 24 described species. P. demasoni was described in 1994 by Ad Konings, an ichthyologist who is best known for his work with African cichlids. He named this fish after his friend Laif Demason, the owner of the Old World Exotic Fish in Malawi, which is one of the leading suppliers of African cichlids in the world.

Despite their small adult size, these fish are known to be one of the most aggressive Mbuna species. Their temperament is so intense that they are not recommended for beginner aquarists or those who keep community tanks.

Scientific Name:Pseudotropheus demasoni
Common Name:Demaonson’s Cichlid, Midnight Demasoni
Origin:Lake Malawi
Care Level:Advanced
Lifespan:10 years
Size:3.0 inches (7.67 cm) 
pH:7.6 to 8.8
Temperature:75 – 82°F (24 – 28°C)
KH: 10 – 25 dGH
Minimum tank size:55-gallon


Demasoni Cichlid

The Demasoni Cichlid is widely appreciated for their quirky nature and beautiful and sharp appearance. They have a typical elongated torpedo body. Since it is small in size, fishkeepers categorize them in the dwarf category. 

These species feature vertical bars, five light-colored and six dark-colored behind the gill cover, ending with a dark stripe at the base part of their tail fin. The color of both males and females is dark blue; however, males have egg spots on their anal fin while females don’t.

Their tail fin features sleek horizontal lines of light blue and dark color. These stripes are angled back with the lighter ones and become thinner on Dorsal Fins. 

The P. demasoni is often confused with P. Minutus, owing to its similar color and size. Two differences between these two species are the vertical bars on the P. minutus tend to be a bit drab and typically blocked before the tail fin, in addition to the absence of egg spots on males’ anal fins.

Sexing young Demasoni Cichlid is impossible because both males and females are the same size and shape and have identical coloration and patterning. However, mature males develop an egg spot while females don’t. Also, males are slightly larger than females and develop longer ventral fins as they mature.

The best way to sex them is by venting them. Check out this video to learn more about venting:

Pseudotropheus demasoni (Demasoni Cichlid) Size

The average size of the Demasoni Cichlid is about 3.0 inches (7.67 cm) in length in the wild. Some specimens can grow up to a maximum length of 3.9 in (10 cm) in captivity due to a better diet. Since they are smaller in size, these species are known as Dwarf Mbunas. 

They reach full maturity that can breed at under 2 inches (5cm) in length.

Males tend to be larger than female cichlids. However, don’t get fooled by their small size, as they still have to be kept in large aquariums with ample space to swim around.  


Demasoni Cichlid can live up to 10 years with optimal care in captivity, making them an ideal pet option for those looking for longtime ownership. 

However, do not take them for granted, thinking about their longer lifespan as these are susceptible to health concerns like other species; hence, they require good care. 

Demasoni Cichlid Care

Pseudotropheus demasoni (Demasoni Cichlid) Size

If you are a novice thinking of keeping this fish in your aquarium, then it’s recommended to drop out a thought for a while. Although they are categorized into a dwarf category, they are not easy to care for. 

Here’s why:

It’s one of the most aggressive and territorial Mbuna.

This fish is suitable for intermediate and advanced fishkeepers and requires moderate care. Like any other cichlids endemic to Lake Malawi, Demasoni Cichlid is susceptible to Malawi bloat.

Tank Size

The ideal tank size depends on the number of fish you want to keep. Due to its aggressive nature, Demasoni Cichlid has to be housed in numbers of 12 or more in any tank size to help disperse aggression.

The minimum tank size that can house 12 Demasoni Cichlids is 55 gallons (48″ x 13″ x 21″), But as with all Mbuna, it’s recommended to have a larger aquarium.

If you want to keep them in a mixed Malawi Mbuna tank, you’ll need to increase the tank size by 10 -15 gallons for each additional fish.

Water Parameters

In their natural habitat, Lake Malawi, the water is highly mineralized and very much alkaline. These fish can tolerate a salinity of 10% of a normal saltwater tank, but you should not put them in full brackish water conditions.

Additionally, their natural habitat is famous for its stability and crystal clear waters; therefore, you have to replicate these conditions to keep this mbuna happy and healthy in your home aquarium. 

Partial and frequent water changes are recommended to keep the water chemistry intact. Do not make any sudden water changes as these species are highly sensitive to this factor. 

Follow the exact parameters mentioned below to avoid any hassle. 

  • pH: 7.6 to 8.8
  • Water Temperature: 75 to 82F
  • Hardness: 10 – 25 H
  • Ammonia: 0 ppm
  • Nitrite: 0 ppm
  • Nitrate: <20 ppm

Decor (Plants & Substrates)

The most preferred substrate for an aquarium accommodating Demasoni Cichlid is soft sand and crushed corals. These are mainly used to maintain the water pH and hardness. 

Unlike Utaka cichlids and other “haps” that are considered open water swimmers, most Mbunas don’t require a lot of open swimming space; they only prefer to hug rock surfaces.

Therefore, do add stacked large rocks anywhere in the tank to create plenty of caves and passageways. As they are quite territorial, these will help to reduce aggression among tank mates and provide each fish with its own space.

Don’t worry about the decor, as they are very curious little fish love moving rocks around so often.


Pseudotropheus demasoni (Demasoni Cichlid)

Demasoni Cichlids are omnivores but need mainly herbivorous foods.

In the wild, these fish feed on aufwuchs that are attached to the rocks. Aufwuchs are basically hard stringy algae, small crustaceans, and other microorganisms.

In the aquarium, to maintain a healthy diet and coloration, it’s essential to provide them with a vegetarian diet that should be rich in Spirulina, nori sheets, and blanched spinach.

They can easily accept most aquarium foods. You can offer them a high-quality cichlid formula as the foundation of their diet. I highly recommend the NLS Cichlid Formula 1mm Sinking Pellets. These pellets are very small and made from quality natural ingredients, perfect for most African cichlids, ranging from 1 inch to 5 inches.

New Life Spectrum Cichlid Formula 1mm Sinking...
  • New Life Spectrum is made from quality natural ingredients
  • Extreme Color enhancement and vitality in your fish
  • Made in the USA

For a treat, you can give them live foods like brine shrimp, daphnia, and blackworms. But don’t overfeed them as it will lead to intestinal tract disease.

Pseudotropheus demasoni (Demasoni Cichlid) Tank Mates

In Lake Malawi, these fish inhabit rocky areas in large groups. Being one of the most aggressive and territorial Cichlids, it is best to keep them in a group of 12 or more in an overcrowded tank with plenty of hiding places.

In a large group, the male to female ratio is not important and can vary. Depending on the temperament of the dominant male, you can add more than males to the group.

A small group of 5 or 6 will not work; the dominant male will focus his aggression on just a few fish and systematically kill the others until only he remains.

For the most part, you can only keep Mbunas with Mbunas. Relatively peaceful species such as Peacocks or Utaka should not be added to the tank as they will constantly be harassed and even killed.

In Mbuna-specific tanks, avoid large species from the Melanochromis, Labeotropheus, and Metriaclima groups. Instead, species from Labidochromis and Iodotropheus are potential tank mates. Also, fish that has similar coloration and patterning, such as Maylandia lombardoi (Kenyi Cichlid) and Cynotilapia afra (Dogtooth Cichlid), will never work.

They are incredibly aggressive towards others of the same species, and even the females are also intolerant of each other.

If you really want catfish in the tank, then species from the genus Synodontis, the largest group of mochokid catfishes endemic to Lake Tanganyika, like Lace catfish (Synodontis nigrita), will be a good choice.


Breeding Demasoni Cichlid can be tricky. But it’s still possible.

These cichlids are maternal mouthbrooders. The challenge in breeding P. demasoni is to find a bonded pair since adult fish are quite expensive.

It’s best to buy around 12 juveniles and let them grow up together. As they reach sexual maturity, the dominant male becomes severely aggressive and starts fighting with any other subdominant males in a small tank. At the same time, he will occupy a territory either on a flat rock surface or a pit on the substrate.

Like most other Mbunas, the coloration of the male will become much more intense, and he will start to display to the female. If you see a male shaking and circling the female around in his territory, then it’s a good sign that the breeding begins.

The female can lay up to 5 – 15 eggs at a time and then immediately takes them into her mouth and carries them around for about 3 weeks until they hatch. She will not eat during this time and may even stop taking care of the fry once they are free-swimming. If she is stressed, she may spit out the eggs and eat them.

To increase the chances of success, it’s best to remove the female once she broods the fry and put her in a separate tank. The fry is very small and can be fed with live foods such as baby brine shrimp.

As you can see, the process is quite difficult, and this method is only for the expert.

Final Thoughts

That’s all about Demasoni Cichlid care. We hope our research will help you make the rightmost choice regarding these cichlids. Do not get tempted by their small size, as these Mbunas are extremely territorial and aggressive. 

Remember that caring for this lively Cichlid is moderate to hard; Thus, you should think about keeping them only if you are experienced in handling aggressive cichlids. 

However, adding this Cichlid to your tank is always rewarding. This species is known for its unique swimming style at odd angles. All and all, they are fun to observe and rewarding to own.

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Jeff Colt

Jeff Colt

Hello, I'm Jeff- an aquarium enthusiast with over 25 years of experience caring for a wide array of tropical fish, including koi, goldfish bettas, cichlids and more! For me: Aquariums are like jello - there's always room for more!

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