30 Different Types of African Cichlids (Pictures & Cares)

Types of African Cichlids

The continent of Africa has many wonders, not least of which is its fantastic wildlife. One type of fish that is particularly popular among aquarium enthusiasts is the African cichlid. These colorful and often aggressive fish are native to Africa’s many freshwater lakes, rivers, and streams.

There are over 1300 scientifically-described types of African cichlids today, and new ones are being discovered all the time. Some popular species have been introduced to the aquarium trade for years, while others are still relatively new to the hobby.

With so many kinds of African Cichlids available, it can be overwhelming for hobbyists to decide which ones they want to keep in their tanks. In this article, we’ll look at some of the most popular African cichlid species and offer some tips on choosing the right ones for your aquarium!

Lake Malawi Cichlid

Lake Malawi is one of the major Rift Valley lakes in Africa. The streams and rivers that flow into this lake have high mineral content. The less rainfall and increased evaporation result in highly mineralized alkaline and hard water as the climate changes.

The clarity and stability of water in Lake Malawi make it an excellent biologically diverse natural habitat for a vast number of Cichlids. These Lake Malawi Cichlids are divided into three ecological groups: Haplochromis(Haps), Aulonocara Cichlids (Peacock), and the Mbunas.

Mbuna Groups: Top 10 Species

The Mbuna are a group of rock-dwelling cichlids that live among the rocky areas along the shores of Lake Malawi. The word “Mbuna” means “rockfish” in the local Tonga language, and these fish are well-adapted to life among the rocks.

Mbuna cichlids are some of the most popular freshwater fish in the aquarium trade due to their bright colors and active personalities. But beware – these fish are also highly territorial. Get things wrong, and you could end up with a bloodbath on your hands.

Here are the most thought-after in the aquarium community.

Yellow Lab Cichlid (Labidochromis caeruleus)

Electric Yellow Cichlid

This species is known for its vibrant electric yellow coloration. The notable black stripe can be found on its dorsal fins and anal fins when reaching full maturity. Several color variations are available, and the strikingly yellow is just one variety.

Most Mbunas are known for their aggression, but the Yellow Lab Cichlid is among the most peaceful Mbuna, making them the best fish for Mbuna beginners.

Scientific Name:Labidochromis caeruleus
Common Name:Electric Yellow Lab, Yellow Labido, Lemon Yellow Lab, and Lemon drop Cichlid
Size:3.2 inches (8.10 cm)
Minimum Tank Size:30 Gallons

Bumblebee cichlid (Pseudotropheus crabro)


There’s no denying that the Bumblebee cichlid is a pretty fish. Its common name tells you everything you need to know about its appearance, with its yellow and black stripes resembling that of a bumblebee. Additionally, it can change color to almost black very rapidly depending on mood and stress levels.

Scientific Name:Pseudotropheus crabro
Common Name:Bumblebee Cichlid, Hornet cichlid
Size:6.3 inches (16 cm)
Minimum Tank Size:75 Gallons

Saulosi Cichlid (Pseudotropheus saulosi)

Saulosi Cichlid

Saulosi cichlids are a delightful addition to mbuna aquariums. These little fish are a joy to keep and breed, and their vibrant colors and personalities make them a favorite among many aquarists.

It’s referred to as a dwarf Cichlid, reaching a maximum size of only 3.4 inches (8.6 cm). The dominant male is typically more colorful, with several vertical black stripes running down their body. Females are also beautiful, covered with deep yellow. Interestingly, fry is born with a yellow body.

Despite their small size, Saulosi cichlids are very aggressive and territorial and need a lot of swimming space.

Scientific Name:Pseudotropheus saulosi
Common Name:Saulosi Cichlid
Size:3.4 inches (8.6 cm)
Minimum Tank Size:55 Gallons

Demasoni Cichlid (Pseudotropheus demasoni)

Demasoni Cichlid

With its curious nature and bright colors, and attractive patterning, Demasoni Cichlid is becoming a very popular aquarium fish. Like most Mbunas, it has an elongated ‘torpedo’ body shape, with vertical bars all over. There is also a dark stripe running across the forehead.

It’s smaller than Saulosi Cichlid, classified as a ‘dwarf’ category due to its size. But, they have the same level of aggression. Only recommended for the intermediate and experienced cichlid keeper.

Scientific Name:Pseudotropheus demasoni
Common Name:Demasoni Cichlid
Size:3 inches (7.5 cm)
Minimum Tank Size:55 Gallons

Electric Blue Mbuna (Pseudotropheus johannii)

Pseudotropheus johannii

The Electric Blue Mbuna (Pseudotropheus johannii) has many common names, including Johanni Cichlid, Blue Johanni, Bluegray Mbuna, and the Electric Blue Johanni. 

This species is sexually dimorphic, males are primarily brilliant blue with a black horizontal band, but it will likely bleed onto light blue, forming a checkerboard patterning on the body. Juvenile resembles the females in mostly bright yellow-orange.

Because of its common name, “Electric Blue,” this species is always confused with the Electric Blue Hap (Sciaenochromis fryeri), which is a totally different species that belongs to the Haplochromis (Haps) Group.

These fish are also small fish that only reach a maximum length of about 3″ (7.5 cm) in length, but like their close relatives, they are known to be very aggressive.

Scientific Name:Pseudotropheus johannii
Common Name:Electric Blue Mbuna, Johanni Cichlid, Blue Johanni, Bluegray Mbuna, Blue Mbuna
Size:3.0 inches (7.49 cm)
Minimum Tank Size:55 Gallons

Acei Cichlid (Pseudotropheus Acei)


Another beauty from the genus Pseudotropheus. Acei Cichlids sometimes referred to as yellow-tail acei, are a long-time favorite of African Cichlids enthusiasts, thanks to their bright blue and yellow coloration and interesting banded markings on their fins and bodies. 

Two varieties are available, including the most common yellow-tailed Pseudotropheus sp. “acei” (Msuli) and the white-tail variant, Pseudotropheus sp. “acei” (Ngara).

Although this fish has been introduced to the aquarium trade for many years, it has not been formally described.

Scientific Name:Pseudotropheus Acei
Common Name:Acei Cichlid
Size:6 inches (15.2 cm)
Minimum Tank Size:55 Gallons

Red Zebra Cichlid (Maylandia estherae)

Red Zebra Cichlid

The Red Zebra (Maylandia estherae) is one of the most commonly kept of the Mbuna! They have a very appealing coloration and outgoing personalities.

This fish does not have these prominent stripes like many other close relatives in this genus. But, like other Mbuna, there are many different color morphs available. In the wild, males are bright blue, while females can range from brown to brilliant red, almost looking like two separate species.

Scientific Name:Maylandia estherae
Common Name:Red Zebra Cichlid
Size:5.0 inches (12.7 cm)
Minimum Tank Size:55 Gallons

Dogtooth Cichlid (Cynotilapia afra)

Cynotilapia Afra (Dogtooth Cichlid)

For years, dogtooth cichlids have been a favorite among many aquarists because of their beautiful color patterns. The name “Dogtooth” comes from the fact that they have sharp, conical unicuspid teeth rather than the bicuspid teeth found in most other cichlids of similar size.

Several different color varieties are available, mixing with lavender, blue, and yellow in between. Generally, the males are bright blue with 7 dark black vertical bands on their bodies. Females are mostly blue-gray to slate gray.

Scientific Name:Cynotilapia afra
Common Name:Dogtooth Cichlid
Size:4 inches (10 cm)
Minimum Tank Size:55 Gallons

Kenyi Cichlid (Maylandia lombardoi)

Kenyi Cichlid

Kenyi Cichlids (Maylandia lombardoi) sport a unique zebra-barred look, making them a very popular Mbuna out there. The species is highly sexually dimorphic, with the males having a bright orange/yellow body with faint brown bars crossing the body. On the other hand, females are pale white-blue with some horizontal blue-black bars extending onto the dorsal fin.

Scientific Name:Maylandia lombardoi
Common Name:Lombardoi Cichlid, Kennyi Cichlid, Blue Kenyi Cichlid
Size:5.0 inches (12.70 cm)
Minimum Tank Size:55 Gallons

Fairy Cichlid (Aulonocara jacobfreibergi)

Fairy Cichlid

While Mbunas are known for their beautiful coloration and patterning, the Fairy Cichlid (Aulonocara jacobfreibergi) shines in its own right with its striking body coloration and elegant fins. 

Often referred to as African Butterfly Cichlids, they do deserve this name in any aquarium because of their peaceful demeanor and beautiful colors.

Several color morphs are available, with blues, reds, and yellows. Adult males are easily distinguished from females by their bright body coloration with broad, iridescent, white dorsal and caudal fins, while females are drab white to grayish-brown color, with faded colored vertical bands.

Scientific Name:Aulonocara jacobfreibergi
Common Name:Fairy Cichlid
Size:8 inches (20 cm)
Minimum Tank Size:55 Gallons

Aulonocara Cichlids (Peacock)

Aulonocara is a genus of haplochromine cichlids, currently containing 22 recognized species. These species are some of the most beautiful African cichlids in the world. Their stunning colors brilliantly cast in blues, reds, and yellows, are simply breathtaking. It’s no wonder these stunning cichlids are known as peacock cichlids among aquarium enthusiasts.

These vibrant fish come in a wide range of colors and patterns and can be divided into two groups: the Hybrid Peacocks and the Species Peacocks.

Hybrid Peacocks Cichlids

Here are some sought-after hybrid peacocks in the aquarium trade:

  • OB Peacock
  • Dragon Blood Peacock Cichlid
  • Flametail Peacock
  • Strawberry Peacock Cichlid

Species Peacocks Cichlids

Compared with Hybrid Peacocks, species peacocks are less showy in colors, but they are more peaceful. Nevertheless, many hobbyists still love to keep them because of their unique pattern and coloration.

Some popular peacock cichlids include:

  • Aulonocara nyassae (Emperor Cichlid)
  • Aulonocara jacobfreibergi (Freiberg’s peacock)
  • Aulonocara stuartgranti (Flavescent peacock)
  • Aulonocara kandeense (Blue orchid aulonacara)

Haplochromis(Haps) Groups

Scientifically speaking, there are no true Haplochromis species in the group of Malawi cichlids “Haplochromis.” In fact, they are found in Lake Victoria, not lake Malawi. Today, as more research was made by the scientists, all Malawi cichlids once counted as part of this group have been classified into other genera. However, their original genus name has remained among aquarium enthusiasts.

As the largest group in the Cichlidae family, this genus currently has 229 recognized species. The haps cichlids are ray-finned fish, a model for evolutionary processes.

Most haps members are generally larger than the Mbuna cichlids. They prefer sandy and open water habitats.

There are three subgroups of Haplochromis species found in Lake Malawi:

Utaka Cichlids

The Utaka Cichlids (called by the fishermen in Malawi on their boats) are found in schools in the open water regions but prefer to stay close by on cliffs. Utaka Cichlids can be found in two genera, including

  • Copadichromis
  • Mchenga

Not all Utaka Cichlids can be found in the hobby, especially the Mchenga species. Some of these fish are quite large and only suitable for professional aquariums or researchers with tanks that can hold them comfortably. Unlike Mauna, Utaka tends to be very neutral in color until they reach adulthood.

When it comes to keeping Utaka cichlids in an aquarium, you’ll want some peace-loving Mbuna. Be careful when mixing different Utaka species together, resulting in crossbreeding.

Utaka species are mouth breeders, but there is a diverse group with many different behaviors when it comes to breeding. Some are seasonal breeders, while others can produce offspring year-round, and yet another group prefers cliffs as their spawning sites.

There are 31 described species in this group, but only three Copadichromis are commonly found in the aquarium hobby today.

Copadichromis borleyi (Redfin Hap)
Copadichromis borleyi

Redfin hap is a gorgeous hap that sports a unique look. This beautiful fish earned its common name from the fact that females and juveniles will mostly sport red/orange fins with grayish bodies. Males are brightly colored with a royal orange body and shiny blue faces.

This fish is one of the largest and fast-growing Utaka species. You can keep multiple males and females in school together when they are not spawning.

Scientific Name:Copadichromis borleyi
Common Name:Redfin Hap
Size:5.5 inches (14 cm)
Minimum Tank Size:75 Gallons
Copadichromis azureus (Azureus Cichlid)
azureus cichlid

Looking for a relatively peaceful Hap? Then the Azureus Hap is perfect for you! These gorgeous fish are known to be one of the more peaceful members of the Copadichromis genus and make a great addition to any Haps tank.

Males of this species will develop an azure blue body with white spots as they mature, while females usually stay gray with three black dots typical of Copadichromis species.

Scientific Name:Copadichromis azureus
Common Name:Azureus Cichlid
Size:7 inches (17.8 cm)
Minimum Tank Size:75 Gallons
Copadichromis chrysonotus (White Blaze)

The White Blaze is the only known species to spawn in open water in this genus, while others are sand burrowers. Another difference is this species inhabits with other utaka in quite deep, open water.

As its name suggests, the C. chrysonotus have a white blaze. Males develop sooty black lower fins and whitish dorsal fins. The primary color of males is faded from black to light blue. Females remain gray with three black spots on the body, and the caudal fin is yellow.

Scientific Name:Copadichromis chrysonotus
Common Name:White Blaze
Size:6.2 inches (16 cm)
Minimum Tank Size:55 Gallons

The Predatory “Haps”

The second group is called predatory “Haps.” These large and colored cichlids prey on other Malawi cichlids. 

Like the Utaka species, they are not limited to any particular biotope. They don’t usually stake out territories and stay put; instead of holding on to their homes by finding cracks or crevices, they’re more transient when it comes to food.

Most Predatory Haplochromis cichlids from Lake Malawi need a large aquarium to live. It’s best to have several females together, while two or several males will fight each other to the death. 

Never keep smaller fish with Predatory Haplochromis cichlids, as they will be eaten sooner or later. I would recommend keeping only one “hap” in a community tank.

Sometimes, though, the predatory haps can get along with Mbuna cichlids in an aquarium with plenty of hiding places and natural borders so that each fish can stay away from each other’s sight.

They are also mouthbrooders; the number of eggs per clutch depends on the species and female size. For those who want to own a predatory hap, check out the species from the following genera.

  • Aristochromis
  • Buccochromis
  • Champsochromis
  • Dimidiochromis
  • Exochochromis
  • Hemitaeniochromis
  • Lichnochromis
  • Naevochromis
  • Nimbochromis
  • Tyrannochromis
  • Taenochromis
  • Stigmatochromis

While there are lots of predatory “Haps,” several definitely stand out with their bright colors and hunting skills. Here’s a list of some of the most popular:

Aristochromis christyi (Malawi Hawk Cichlid)
Aristochromis christyi

Aristochromis christyi, also known as Malawi Hawk, is the only known species of its genus. This unique predator gets its common name from the beak-like mouth used to snatch up its unsuspecting prey.

Like most predatory “Haps,” it has an elongated body with a bulbous head. Females and juveniles have a silvery base with a prominent horizontal black bar that runs along the back.

As males get older, those black bands will slowly disappear and be replaced by an electric blue color. When they are ready to spawn, the male’s ventral fins change to orange, becoming one of the most stunning African cichlids and an actual centerpiece fish for your aquarium.

Scientific Name:Aristochromis christyi
Common Name:Malawi Hawk Cichlid
Size:10 inches (25 cm)
Minimum Tank Size:125 Gallons
Buccochromis nototaenia (Stripeback Hap)
Buccochromis nototaenia (Stripeback Hap)

The appearance and activity levels have made Stripeback Haps very appealing among aquarists in recent years. In Lake Malawi, these fish are exclusively endemic to waters off the shorelines. Females are not as colorful as males, but they still have a primarily silver base with a diagonal stripe. You also see a yellow hue on the snout, ventral, anal, and tail fins.

Scientific Name:Buccochromis nototaenia
Common Name:Stripeback Hap, Bucco Noto
Size:9 inches (22.5 cm)
Minimum Tank Size:125 Gallons
Nimbochromis livingstonii (Livingstoni Cichlid)

The Livingstoni Cichlid (Nimbochromis livingstonii) is a large handsome hap. These fish have prominent dark sports sit on a yellow, silver, or blue base, creating intense contrast. You might also see a “star” pattern around the eyes, formed by four dark lines. What’s more, this interesting camouflaged “giraffe spot” pattern can rapidly change to solid dark blue all over when they prey on smaller fishes.

Scientific Name:Nimbochromis livingstonii
Common Name:Livingstoni Cichlid
Size:10 inches (25 cm)
Minimum Tank Size:125 Gallons
Tyrannochromis macrostoma (Big-Mouth Hap)
Tyrannochromis Macrostoma

T. macrostoma is one of the well-known Haps belonging to the small genus Tyrannochromis with only four described species. Thanks to their distinct looks and fierce behavior, these predators are popular in the aquarium trade. Of course, the most prominent feature of this hap is its large mouth.

Scientific Name:Tyrannochromis macrostoma
Common Name:Big Mouth Hap Cichlid
Size:14 inches (35 cm)
Minimum Tank Size:180 Gallons

Other Malawi “Haps”

When it comes to the Malawi Haps, a third group is often overlooked. This group, known as the Other Haps, is quite diverse since it includes all the Malawi Haps that don’t fit into the other two groups (Utaka and Predatory Haps). 

These fish are a diverse bunch, including herbivores and insect eaters. They’re generally happy eaters in aquariums, although you should supplement their diet with similar food types to what they would eat in the wild.

  • Cheilochromis
  • Chilotilapia
  • Cyrtocara
  • Ctenopharynx
  • Fossorochromis
  • Hemitaeniochromis
  • Hemitilapia
  • Mylochromis
  • Otopharynx
  • Placidochromis
  • Protomelas
  • Sciaenochromis
  • Taeniochromis
  • Tramitichromis

These Haps come with a wide variety of feeding behaviors, so you’ll need to research each one before adding it to your aquarium.

Cyrtocara moorii (Blue Dolphin Cichlid)
Cyrtocara moorii (Blue Dolphin Cichlid)

An exotic and relatively peaceful species, the Blue Dolphin Cichlid (Cyrtocara moorii) is named for its nuchal hump and bottle-nose mouth that cause it to resemble a dolphin. It’s one of the most popular cichlids in the aquarium trade due to its vibrant coloration and relatively docile nature.

Scientific Name:Cyrtocara moorii
Common Name:Blue Dolphin Cichlid, Malawi Blue Dolphin Cichlid, Hump-head
Size:9.8 inches (24.99 cm)
Minimum Tank Size:75 Gallons
Fossorochromis rostratus (Tampa Bay Cichlid)
ossorochromis rostratus (Tampa Bay Cichlid)

Sometimes referred to as Tampa Bay Cichlids, the Fossorochromis rostratus is also the only member in its genus. In the wild, they are found in groups of at least 50 individuals, with only one male showing dominant coloration. The dominant males will have a blue body with black vertical stripes, while the females and subdominant males are drabber in coloration.

A soft sandy substrate is ideal for this fish since it spends a lot of time digging and sifting through the sand in search of microorganisms.

Scientific Name:Fossorochromis rostratus
Common Name:Tampa Bay Cichlid
Size:10″ (25 cm)
Minimum Tank Size:125 Gallons
Otopharynx lithobates (z rock cichlid)
Otopharynx lithobates (z rock cichlid)

Z-rock cichlids (Otopharynx lithobates) are a stunning Haplochromis that can add a splash of color to your tank. They inhabit among the rocks and large caves, so you’ll want to provide plenty of hiding spots in your aquarium.

Males have a distinct appearance. They have a bright blue body with a signature “blaze” along their back, while females exhibit silver shades supported by black dots.

Scientific Name:Otopharynx lithobates
Common Name:Z-rock Cichlid, Sulphur-headed Hap, Zimbawe Rock
Size:6.4″ (16 cm)
Minimum Tank Size:75 Gallons
Placidochromis sp. “Phenochilus Tanzania” (star sapphire cichlid)
star sapphire cichlid

Because of their appearance, the Star sapphire cichlid (Placidochromis sp. “Phenochilus Tanzania”) has gotten a lot of attention from the Malawi cichlids hobbyists. The unique name matches its appearance perfectly with a gorgeous metallic blue body covered with sparkles, exhibiting an elegant constellation engraved in a sapphire.

You need patience as they start their true colors at around 3 inches.

Scientific Name:Placidochromis sp. “Phenochilus Tanzania”
Common Name:Star Sapphire Cichlid
Size:10 inches (25.4 cm)
Minimum Tank Size:125 Gallons
Protomelas taeniolatus (Red Empress Cichlid)

The Red Empress (Protomelas taeniolatus) is a truly breathtaking species. For years, this fish has been one of the most popular cichlids in the aquarium trade.

Like many other Haps, the red empress can come in a wide variety of color morphs that vary based on location. The males have a reddish-orange body with distinct electric yellow, red, and brown markings. On the other hand, females typically do not exhibit bright coloration, taking on a light gray body with two horizontal lines.

Not only that but these fish are also known to be easy to take care of and have a relatively peaceful temperament.

Scientific Name:Protomelas taeniolatus
Common Name:Red Empress Cichlid
Size:8 inches (20 cm)
Minimum Tank Size:125 Gallons
Sciaenochromis fryeri (Electric Blue Hap)
Sciaenochromis fryeri (Electric Blue Hap)

We have mentioned this species earlier. Sciaenochromis fryeri is commonly called “Electric Blue Hap” or “Electric Blue,” an old favorite with Malawi cichlid enthusiasts.

This fish is sexual dimorphism. Males boast a strikingly intense metallic blue base and have red and orange accents on their fins. Sometimes, you may notice a white band that extends to its head. The females, however, are brownish-grey to silver and vary from different collection locations.

Scientific Name:Sciaenochromis fryeri
Common Name:Electric Blue Hap
Size:8 inches (20 cm)
Minimum Tank Size:125 Gallons

Lake Tanganyika Cichlids

Lake Tanganyika is the longest lake in the world. It’s home to two record-breaking inhabitants; the world’s largest cichlid fish, which can reach 31 inches in length, as well as the smallest one at only 1 inch long! 

Over 250 species of cichlid fish are endemic to the lake, and undescribed ones remain. Tanganyika lake has many attractive cichlid fish.

Most Tanganyika Cichlids are slow-growing, and species from the Tropheus groups are extremely sensitive to water parameter changes and do not appreciate large water changes. A good rule is to change 10 to 15 percent of the water weekly.

Here is an alphabetical checklist of all scientifically described Lake Tanganyika Cichlids genera and species.

Lake Victoria Cichlids

Lake Victoria is the world’s second-largest freshwater lake by surface area. It is also Africa’s largest lake and is home to over 500 species of cichlid fish, most of which are endemic.

Unlike Lake Malawi and Lake Tanganyika, Lake Victoria is not a rift lake, and most of these lakes are relatively shallow. The vast majority of these species are found in the shallowest parts of the lake (less than 20 meters deep), where there is abundant food and shelter.

The majority of Victoria’s cichlids are herbivores, feeding on algae, plants, and invertebrates. However, there are a few exceptions.

Lake Victoria Cichlids kept by hobbyists include species from these genera:

  • Astatotilapia
  • Haplochromis
  • Mbipia
  • Neochromis
  • Paralabidochromis
  • Ptyochromis
  • Platytaeniodus
  • Pundamilia
  • Pseudocrenilabrus

Although the number of species sounds daunting, only one percent of fish caught in Lake Victoria comes from cichlids. More than half of the cichlid species have been listed by IUCN as threatened or extinct due to overfishing and habitat loss.

Only a handful are popular among aquarists. The most popular species include:

Pundamilia nyererei (Pundamilia nyererei Cichlid)

Pundamilia nyererei (Pundamilia nyererei Cichlid)

The Pundamilia nyererei Cichlid (Pundamilia nyererei) is a popular Lake Victoria species that lives up to the hype.

The base color of males is usually red in the upper body and yellow-green in the lower part of the body, covered with black stripes throughout. Typically females are mostly gray with a yellow hue in the fins.

Scientific Name:Pundamilia nyererei
Common Name:Pundamilia nyererei Cichlid
Max Size:5 inches (12.7 cm)
Minimum Tank Size:75 Gallons

East African Cichlids

Besides the well-known Lake Malawi, Lake Tanganyika, and Lake Victoria cichlids, you will run through many fascinating African cichlids.

These East African Cichlids include those from lakes surrounding Lake Victoria. Some tend to be found in the African rivers and streams, where they adapted to the different habits.

Additionally, many species are from remote inhabited islands located off the eastern coast of Africa, like dominant Madagascar and several smaller islands.

These cichlids include species from the following genera:

  • Astatoreochromis
  • Astatotilapia
  • Lithochromis

West African Cichlids

West African cichlids come in a wide variety of shapes, colors, and sizes and come from the African rivers and streams along the coastal zones where they occupy a diversity of habitats.

With so many vibrant species out there, African dwarf cichlids are not to be missed for anyone who wants to set up an exciting and unique freshwater aquarium at home.

Unfortunately, these little gems are highly aggressive and very sensitive to water chemistry and temperatures, so they are only recommended for experienced Cichlids keepers.

Some of the most popular West African cichlids kept by hobbyists include species from these genera:

  • Benitochromis
  • Chromidotilapia
  • Hemichromis
  • Nanochromis
  • Pelvicachromis
  • Pelmatochromis
  • Steatocranus
  • Thysochromis
  • Tilapia

Many West African Cichlid species are popular among hobbyists for their bright colors and playful personalities. The most popular species include:

Pelvicachromis pulcher (Kribs)


Kribs were the first West African cichlid to be popularized in the aquarium trade, and they are still one of the most popular today. They are small, only growing to about 4 inches (10 cm), and are very peaceful, making them great for community tanks.

They are considered the most beautiful belly fish, with females developing the characteristic cherry-red coloration. Additionally, they come in a wide range of colors, and the most sought after in the hobby are these red and yellow variants.

Scientific Name:Pelvicachromis pulcher
Common Name:krib, Common krib, Red Krib, Super-red Krib, Rainbow Krib, Purple Cichlid
Max Size:4.9 inches (12.5 cm)
Minimum Tank Size:20 Gallons

Pseudocrenilabrus nicholsi (Nichols’ Dwarf Mouthbrooder)

Pseudocrenilabrus nicholsi (Nichols' Dwarf Mouthbrooder)

Pseudocrenilabrus nicholsi (Nichols’ Mouthbrooder) is a wonderful ray-finned fish that anyone would be lucky to have in their collection. 

Although they are referred to as dwarf cichlid due to their small size, technically speaking, they are not.

Males of this species take on blueish-purple coloration with red lines. Beyond their base color, they have light yellow faces and metallic blue lips. Females are much subdued even though they have similar patterns.

Scientific Name:Pseudocrenilabrus nicholsi
Common Name:Nichols’ Mouthbrooder
Max Size:Males: 4 inches, Females: 2.5 inches
Minimum Tank Size:40 Gallons Long

Hemichromis bimaculatus (Jewel Cichlid)

Hemichromis bimaculatus (Jewel Cichlid)

The Jewel cichlid is a colorful fish that we recommend to any West African cichlid lover all the time due to its beautiful colors.

These fish are aptly named after the red body that is covered with “jewel-like” blue spots and three distinct black dots. Males exhibit this blue patterning in reticular.

Unfortunately, these fish are unsuitable for community aquariums due to their high aggressive territorial levels, especially when breeding.

Scientific Name:Hemichromis bimaculatus
Common Name:Jewel Cichlid
Max Size:6 inches (15cm)
Minimum Tank Size:30 Gallons

Hemichromis exsul (Turkana Jewel Cichlid)

Hemichromis exsul (Turkana Jewel Cichlid)

The Turkana Jewel Cichlid (Hemichromis exsul) is a beautiful, uncommon species that belongs to the small genus Hemichromis. It currently has 13 species; H. exsul is one of the smaller and less aggressive members, making them more commonly available in the trade.

This species falls somewhere at the top of the spectrum when it comes to coloration and pattern. The base color is vivid blood red, with dark, blackish rims that adorn their fins.

Turkana Jewel Cichlids can be hard to find in the trade because it’s forbidden to export them from Kenya. So good luck!

Scientific Name:Hemichromis exsul
Common Name:Turkana Jewel Cichlid
Max Size:4 inches (11.4 cm)
Minimum Tank Size:30 Gallons

Nanochromis transvestitus (West African Dwarf Cichlid)

Nanochromis transvestitus (West African Dwarf Cichlid)

N. transvestitus is a rare, stunning dwarf cichlid from West Africa. Interestingly, unlike most other African Cichlids – the males are the more colorful sex. This fish is an exception, with the females being much more colorful.

Both males and females take on an oval-like shaped brown body with brighter brown vertical stripes that extend into the dorsal fin.

Males grow slightly larger, and their bodies are more elongated. However, the females have a bright reddish-pink belly and spot an alternating black and white tail fin. You may also find these exciting patterning on the edges of its dorsal and anal fin.

It’s worth noting that the extreme aggression levels of the dominant males make it challenging to keep in the home aquarium and are best suited for advanced hobbyists.

Scientific Name:Nanochromis transvestitus
Common Name:West African Dwarf Cichlid
Max Size:1.3 inches (3.30 cm)
Minimum Tank Size:30 Gallons

Steatocranus casuarius (Buffalo Head Cichlid)

Steatocranus casuarius (Buffalo Head Cichlid)

Looking for the unique Cichlid from West Africa? Look no further than the Buffalo Head cichlid (Steatocranus casuarius). This species is one of the most interesting-looking freshwater fish in the world and is a real head-turner in any aquarium.

The body shape of this species is what sets them apart from other cichlids. They have an elongated and laterally compressed body. The most definitive feature is a prominent forehead nuchal hump in males, even though both males and females have it to some extent.

Scientific Name:Steatocranus casuarius
Common Name:Buffalo Head Cichlid
Max Size:Males: 4.8 inches (12 cm), Females: 3 inches (8 cm)
Minimum Tank Size:30 Gallons


African cichlids are some of the most beautiful and unique fish in the world. Their bright colors and patterns are truly breathtaking, and they come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. However, they are simply very aggressive, especially these Mbunas and Predatory “Haps.” 

If you do not like aggression or are not ready for it, you should get a South American cichlid aquarium with some peaceful and adaptable SA & CA community fish. These New World Cichlids are extremely intelligent and have fascinating personalities.

But if you are looking for a challenge and want to keep an African cichlid aquarium, we hope this guide has given you some ideas and inspiration. Remember to do your research before adding any fish to your tank!

We hope this guide was helpful. If we miss some of your favorite African cichlids, please let us know in the comment section below. Until next time, happy fish keeping!

Top 10 African Cichlids in a 29 Gallon Aquarium (#3 is My Favorite)

African Cichlids in a 29 Gallon Aquarium

So, you’ve just set up your brand new 29-gallon tank. Congratulations! The next decision you’ll need to make is what kind of fish you want to keep. If you’re looking for something flashy and exotic, consider adding some African Cichlids to your tank. 

Since African cichlids are known for being aggressive and territorial, most of them require a minimum of 55 gallons of aquarium or larger.

However, several species are small enough to thrive in a 29-gallon tank. We’ve compiled a list of 10 of our favorite species that would be perfect for 29-gallon tanks. From these diminutive shell dwellers to brightly-colored Kribs, there’s sure to be a pair (or group) of African Cichlids that will fit both your tank and your personality. 

Fairy Cichlid (Neolamprologus brichardi)

Fairy Cichlid (Neolamprologus brichardi)

The Fairy Cichlid (Neolamprologus brichardi) was the first African cichlid introduced to the hobby. This fish is well known by cichlid lovers, as well as other fishkeepers, for its stunning appearance and relatively peaceful nature.

This fish is endemic to Lake Tanganyika and widely distributed in the northern part of the lake. It was previously described as Lamprologus brichardi but was moved to the genus Neolamprologus in 1991.

The Fairy Cichlid is a small fish, reaching a maximum size of 5.1 inches (13.00 cm). Because of their small size, they are perfect for a 29-gallon tank. This species is relatively easy to care for and makes a great choice for beginner and advanced aquarists.

Lemon Cichlid (Neolamprologus leleupi)

Lemon Cichlid

The Lemon Cichlid is a beautiful little fish that is endemic to Lake Tanganyika, renowned for its brilliant yellow coloration, but the color can vary depending on social status and the location where it is found.

This species can grow to a maximum size of 3.9 inches (9.91 cm), with males can reach up to 5 inches (12 cm) and females being slightly smaller at around 3.5″ (9 cm).

Not only do they look great and stay smaller, but they are also relatively peaceful for an African cichlid. They make a great addition to a mixed species aquarium with other small Tanganyikan cichlids.

Though Lemon Cichlids are peaceful fish, they can be aggressive and territorial with their own kind. They do best in pairs or kept singly.

Kribensis Cichlid (Pelvicachromis pulcher)


Like the fairy cichlids, Kribs are one of the first West African cichlids to be introduced into the aquarium trade – and for good reasons. They are colorful, peaceful, fairly easy to breed and make great candidates for a new hobbyist interested in keeping cichlids.

Just look at these beautiful fish, and you can see why they are so popular. Unlike most other types of African Cichlids, female Kribs are more colorful than males. They will develop a purple or brilliant cherry red belly when spawning.

Male Kribs grow larger than females and can reach 4 inches (10 cm) in length, while females grow to only 2.5 inches (6 cm). These fish can be kept in almost any tank size, ranging from 5 to 200 gallons. 

Moreover, this fish is peaceful and can go into community aquariums with the most delicate fish. I have heard of people keeping Kribensis with danios, Barbs, Cory Cats, and Plecos. They are that peaceful. Of course, they will be no problem with other cichlids, including Angelfish and shell dwellers.

Shell Dwellers

Speaking of small African Cichlids, we can’t miss out on these colorful, exciting shell dwellers or shelldwellers. They use the empty shells of other mollusks as their shelters and lay their eggs in these same shells.

Most shell-dwelling species are found in Lake Tanganyika, and their popularity is due in part to their vibrant colors and interesting behaviors. Most of them are semi-aggressive since they live in a permanent hostile state with other shell-dwelling cichlids in their habitat.

Here are some of the most popular shell-dwelling cichlids for a 29-gallon tank:

Ocellated Shell Dweller (Lamprologus ocellatus)

The Ocellated Shell Dweller (Lamprologus ocellatus) has several color varieties, but the gold variety is the most popular. These fish are small, only reaching a maximum size of 2.3 inches (5.8 cm).

These fish are considered semi-aggressive fish species. However, they are known to be territorial and will defend the shells they live in. Some owners report that these fish even attack the hands of their owners when they reach into the aquarium.

This cichlid likes to dig, so make sure you have a deep sandy substrate that allows them to display natural behavior. They also need plenty of shells in the tank to hide in.

Brevis Shell Dweller (Neolamprologus brevis)

Neolamprologus brevis

Brevis have a similar elongated body shape to Ocellatus, as well as a bulldog-like face. They are also small in size, males reaching a maximum size of 2.5 inches (6 cm), with females even slightly smaller at around 1.5″ (4 cm).

They are not known to be as aggressive as some of the other shell-dwelling cichlids, but when protecting their home shells. Unlike other species, a paired Brevis will often share the same shell. 

In the wild, they spawn in abandoned shells of Neothauma tanganyicense snails; in fact, they don’t have other shell choices. In the aquarium, they will do the same if you provide them with plenty of shells. Of course, you do not have to provide them with the same shells of the Neothauma tanganyicense. 

You can keep Brevis singly or in pairs. Two pairs can be kept in a large tank, but you need to provide them with plenty of shells and hiding places.

Zebra Shelldweller (Neolamprologus similis)

Neolamprologus similis

As the name would suggest, the Zebra Shelldweller take on distinctive brown stripes running down the length of their body. They are one of the smaller shell-dwelling cichlids, only reaching a maximum size of 2 inches (5 cm).

It’s hard to tell female Zebras from males since they both have similar stripes. It’s not a common cichlid due to its slow growth rate and small mature size.

They will form small harems. The male will do its best to protect his territory, especially during spawning.  

Multi Cichlid (Neolamprologus multifasciatus)

Multi Cichlid (Neolamprologus multifasciatus)

Multis look almost exactly like similis, except these stripes only start behind the gill plate. They are more common in the aquarium trade. If similis are not available, then Multis make a good substitute.

This fish is the smallest of all Lake Tanganyika cichlids or even the smallest of all cichlids, only growing to a maximum size of 1.2 inches (3 cm).

Compared with others, Multis have a deep affinity with shells – they don’t abandon their home shells instead of burrowing sand to move them.

Hecqui Cichlid (Lepidiolamprologus hecqui)

The Hecqui Cichlid (Lepidiolamprologus hecqui) was described as Neolamprologus hecqui, one of the less known species in the aquarium trade.

These fish are slightly larger than most shell-dwelling cichlids, reaching a maximum size of 3.1 inches (8 cm).

The Hecqui is shy by nature and will spend most of its time hiding behind shells or rocks. They are not aggressive cichlid and can be kept with species in Altolamprologus, Julidochromis, and other Neolamprologus if plenty of space is provided.

Golden Julie (Julidochromis ornatus)

Golden Julie (Julidochromis ornatus)

Golden Julie or Ornate Julie is a beautiful Tanganyikan cichlid species that sport a mix of interesting colors and patterns. The shape of their bodies is somewhat torpedoed with three horizontal black lines that run from the gill cover to the base of their tail. A notable large black spot can be found on the caudal fin in comparison to other Julies.

These fish are rock-dwelling species. They are found in rocky areas of the lake, where they feed on microorganisms. Sometimes, they hover upside-down below a rocky outcrop.

One of the smaller “Julies.” They max out at 3.1 inches (8 cm).

In a home aquarium, rock-dwelling fish should be kept in a Lake Tanganyika biotope set up – a sandy substrate with plenty of rocks and caves filling much of the space.

Masked Julie (Julidochromis transcriptus)

Julidochromis transcriptus

Last but definitely not least African Cichlid on our list is the Masked Julie. These are the smallest Julidochromis species, with the adults only reaching a maximum size of 2.8 inches (7 cm). This is barely half the size of its close relatives.

The body shape of the Masked Julie is similar to that of other Julies, but the black markings on their bodies are more distinct. Several color pattern variations of the Masked Julie exist in the wild, depending on their geographic location.

This fish is a great choice for both the intermediate and advanced cichlid keepers. It is moderately easy to care for and is not as aggressive as some of the other Julies.

Time To Hit The Store

We hope you enjoyed this article on African Cichlids for a 29-gallon tank. As you can see, there is a lot of variety in both appearance and behavior among these fish.

No matter how experienced you are as an aquarist, there is sure to be an African cichlid species that is perfect for your 29-gallon tank. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start shopping!

If there are any unique fish you think we missed, let us know in the comments below. And don’t forget to share this article with your fellow fish-keeping friends!

7 Best Red African Cichlids (#5 is My Favorite)

Red African Cichlids

As anyone who has ever been to aquarists can attest, fish come in a remarkable variety of colors and patterns. However, few fish are as dazzling as the African cichlid. 

These vibrant fish are mainly native to the African Great Lakes, where they come in a wide range of hues, from electric blue to stunning red. 

If you’re interested in looking for the most popular red African cichlids, then you’ve come to the right place. No matter what your setup is, there is at least one of these fish that will be a perfect fit. 

Here are our top red African cichlid picks.

#1 Eureka Red Peacock (Aulonocara jacobfreibergi “Eureka”)

The Eureka Red Peacock, also known as Eureka Peacock or Eureka Red, is certainly a unique fish for appearance.

These graceful fish have an elongated body with a continuous dorsal fin. Their caudal fin is forked and asymmetrical, where it develops long flowing filaments. The dorsal, anal, and pelvic fins are also ornamented with long filaments.

The most distinguishing feature of Eureka red peacocks is their vivid coloration. Males tend to have metallic blue faces contrasted with the bright red color upper back. The red coloration is more intense on the lower edge of their dorsal, anal, and pelvic fins, as well as the half of their tail fin.

However, this is a man-made Strain of Aulonocara jacobfreibergi “Otter Point.” It was originally created by a local fish farmer in Florida. However, it quickly became popular among fishkeepers around the world for its beauty.

This cichlid is moderately easy to care for. Although it’s not endemic to Lake Malawi, it still requires similar water parameters. Unfortunately, these fish are only available online from time to time at a moderately high price.

Scientific Name:Aulonocara jacobfreibergi “Eureka”
Common Name:Eureka Red Peacock
Care Level:Advanced
Origin:Lake Malawi
Max Size:6.0″
Water hardness:Hard
Minimum Tank Size:75 gallons (48″ x 18″ x 21″)

#2 Ruby Red Peacock (Aulonocara sp. Maleri)

 Aulonocara sp. Ruby Red

Another line-bred Peacock, the Ruby red peacock, is the result of selective breeding of the golden Aulonocara sp. stuartgranti “Maleri” (Yellow Peacock Cichlid). As a result, these fish have an overall more uniform red coloration than the Eureka Red Peacock, but blue scales are scattered across the body.

Author notes: There is another popular man-made variety of Aulonocara sp. stuartgranti “Maleri,” called German Red Peacock, which develops a lighter red color.

Just like the Sunshine Peacock, it has shimmering metallic blue coloration on most of its face. Sometimes, you can find faint vertical bars covering their entire bodies but absent on the dominant male fish.

If you want to boost the red coloration of your fish, you should consider a color-enhancing diet or other protein-rich food to help bring out their colors, such as brine shrimp and worms.

Ruby Red Peacock care is something that beginners or experts can easily manage. They are relatively peaceful cichlids and make an excellent addition to Peacock Aquariums.

Scientific Name:Aulonocara sp. Maleri
Common Name:Ruby Red Peacock
Care Level:Advanced
Origin:Lake Malawi
Max Size:6.0″
Water hardness:Hard
Minimum Tank Size:55 gallons

#3 Cherry Red Zebra (Metriaclima estherae “Red”)

Like many other African Cichlids, the male Red Zebra(Metriaclima estherae) comes with several color morphs, including the popular “red-red” strain. The main body of these fish is orange or red without vertical bars. The males develop a light blue shade over their bodies and fins when they mature.

While the Cherry Red Zebra is a line-bred variant of the “red-red” strain, it has a cherry red coloration, as its name would suggest. A high-quality diet can help to bring out more red coloration as well.

The Cherry red zebra cichlid is absolutely stunning. But it’s not a beginner-friendly Mbuna because of its aggressive nature – only recommended for intermediate and experienced cichlid keepers.

African Cichlids will quickly deteriorate the water quality, and most are susceptible to “bloat.” 

Scientific Name:Metriaclima estherae “Red”
Common Name:Cherry Red Zebra
Care Level:Advanced
Origin:Lake Malawi
Max Size:5.0″
Water hardness:Hard
Minimum Tank Size:55 gallons

#4 Red Empress Cichlid (Protomelas taeniolatus “Namalenje”)

The Red Empress Cichlid (Protomelas taeniolatus “Namalenje”) is an eye-catching type of Hap that’s highly sought-after among Cichlid hobbyists for years. Not only are they beautiful, but they are relatively peaceful. 

Fiver main color morphs of the Red Empress are available depending on their geographical location. However, only the Namalenje strain, in particular, has the base color of a red body with a blue head. You might also notice some red or blue spots on their dorsal and anal fins.

The tips of the dorsal fin are trimmed with a white-yellow edge which gives this fish an even more spectacular look. The red pelvic and anal fins have delicate rays, but the anal fin takes on blue and yellow spattering.

Red Empress Cichlid’s care is relatively easy. They are not as aggressive as most of the Haps and can coexist with other peaceful tank mates. However, they might become territorial when spawning, so it’s best to provide them with plenty of hiding places.

Scientific Name:Protomelas taeniolatus “Namalenje”
Common Name:Red Empress Cichlid
Care Level:Easy
Origin:Lake Malawi
Max Size:6.0″
Water hardness:Hard
Minimum Tank Size:75 gallons

#5 Red Jewel Cichlid (Hemichromis bimaculatus )

The Red Jewel cichlid or African jewelfish, scientifically known as Hemichromis bimaculatus, hails from West Africa. It gets its name from the fine “jewel-like” bluish spots that are present on the red body.

It has a streamlined body with three dark spots on the sides, located on the opercle, middle body, and tail, respectively. The dorsal fish starts about a third of the way down the body and extends to the base of the tail.

Red Jewel cichlids are relatively peaceful fish but can be quite territorial and aggressive when spawning. They are also known to be nippy, so it’s not a good idea to keep them with long-finned fish.

Scientific Name:Hemichromis bimaculatus
Common Name:Red Jewel Cichlid
Care Level:Advanced
Origin:West Africa
Max Size:6.0″
Water hardness:4-18 dH
Minimum Tank Size:40 gallons

#6 Blunthead cichlid (Tropheus moorii “Chimba”)

Photo: Ad Konings

Tropheus Moorii, also known as the Blunthead cichlid, is a species of fish native to Lake Tanganyika. T. Moorii is notable for its wide range of coloration and patterns. In fact, T. Moorii has over 50 different color morphs (over 120 known varieties), even though there are only six described species.

Tropheus moorii “Chimba” is often referred to as Black red Moorii, Ambian Red, and Cameron Moorii is one the most popular color morphs in the hobby. This variety is named for its bright red coloration that is pronounced with dark pelvic, anal, caudal, and dorsal fins.

Like other varieties, Black red Moorii has a stocky body with a larger head and underslung mouth.

These fish are known to be quite aggressive with conspecifics but are otherwise peaceful with other fish. The dominant male will fight with other subdominant males, and you will lose them in most cases.

T. Moorii is mostly herbivores and needs to be kept in a large group of at least 15-25 fish. This species is also susceptible to African bloat, making it one of the “expert-only” cichlids.

Scientific Name:Tropheus moorii
Common Name:Blunthead Cichlid, Blunt-Headed Cichlid, Brabant Cichlid, Moorii, and Dwarf Tanganyikan Cichlid
Care Level:Advanced
Origin:Lake Tanganyika
Lifespan:5– 8 years
Max Size:5 inches (12 cm)
Temperature:73 – 81°F (23 – 27°C)
PH:8.0 to 9.5
Water hardness:8 to 22
Minimum Tank Size: 75 gallons (48″ x 18″ x 21″)

#7 Firecracker Tropheus (Tropheus sp. Red ‘Moliro’)

Tropheus sp. Red Moliro

Move on. This is another Tropheus from lake Tanganyika. Like the Black red Moorii, Firecracker Tropheus has a similar appearance.

The body coloration of Firecracker Tropheus is red with some maroon or brown spots. The red coloration is more prominent on the lower portion of its body and dorsal fins. You may notice a vibrant red line that runs from the base of the tail fin and extends to the middle of its body.

As for the head, it’s often covered in maroon. But some specimens spot a bright red coloration near the lower jaw, which stands out against the black base, creating an undeniably unique look.

Firecracker Tropheus is also highly aggressive with conspecific – especially when spawning. Plus, the tendency to develop “bloat” makes it a real challenge to care for.

Scientific Name:Tropheus sp. Red ‘Moliro’
Common Name:Firecracker Tropheus
Care Level:Advanced
Origin:Lake Tanganyika
Lifespan:5– 8 years
Max Size:6 inches
Temperature:73 – 81°F (23 – 27°C)
PH:8.0 to 9.5
Water hardness:8 to 22
Minimum Tank Size:75 gallons (48″ x 18″ x 21″)

Which Do You Like?

So there you have it, red African cichlids. As you can see, there is a great variety to choose from regarding these fish. Whether you want something relatively easy to care for or to look for a real challenge, there is definitely a red African cichlid out there for you.

Do you have a favorite red African cichlid? Let us know in the comments below!

Yellow Lab Cichlid (Labidochromis caeruleus): Care, Size, Tank Mates, Breeding


Whether you’re standing in the local fish store thinking about a first Malawi cichlid or purchasing the next addition to an established Mbuna aquarium, the electric Yellow Lab cichlid is undoubtedly a go-to option for any African Cichlid Lovers.

Owing to its beautiful and eye-catching yellow coloration, the species is much desired by modern-day aquarists and always being in demand. Not only are they beautiful, but these fish are one of the most peaceful Mbunas in the hobby.

While Yellow Labs are beginner-friendly species, there are still a few things you need to be aware of before making the purchase. In this article, we’ll go over some essential facts about the species and what it takes to properly care for them so that they thrive in the home aquarium.

Keep reading to find out more about yellow lab cichlid!

Species Profiles

Labidochromis caeruleus

Scientifically known by the name Labidochromis caeruleus, the bright Yellow Lab Cichlid is one of the regional color variations. There are actually several naturally occurring mutations (color variations or morphs) available of L. caeruleus.

Its bold, dazzling electric yellow coloration does a great job of helping the fish earn its common names, including Yellow Lab Cichlid, Electric Yellow Lab, Lemon Yellow Lab, Yellow Labido, and Lemon drop Cichlid.

Labidochromis caeruleus is a member of the Mbuna Group and hails from the shallow rocky shores of the central western coast of Lake Malawi shoreline. As a group, it’s known as the blue streak hap, Labidochromis Yellow, Labidochromis White, yellow lab cichlid, Pearl Labidochromis, Blue-White Labido, and Labido Cichlid, depending on the color varieties.

Although L. caeruleus has various colors, the yellow morph is the most popular and widely traded in the world. Blue and white varieties are occasionally available among the aquarist community.

Yet it is worth noting that 99% of electric yellow Labs in the trade are actually bred commercially on fish farms in Singapore and the Czech Republic. In the wild, they have a much more restricted location, only found in Charo and Lion’s Cove in the lake. That is why this fish is currently listed on the IUCN Red List as Least Concern (LC).

The genus Labidochromis currently contains 18 recognized species, and most of them will hybridize with any other readily, so you’d avoid mixing them to prevent any potential hybridization.

Scientific Name:Labidochromis caeruleus
Common Name:Yellow Lab Cichlid, Electric Yellow Lab, Lemon Yellow Lab, Yellow Labido, and Lemon drop Cichlid
Care Level:Beginner
IUCN Red List:Least Concern (LC)
Origin:Lake Malawi, African
Lifespan:6 to 10 years
Max Size:5 inches (12 cm)
Temperature:73.0 to 82.0° F (22.8 to 27.8° C)
Water hardness:10 to 25 KH
Minimum Tank Size:55 gallons (48″ x 13″ x 21″)


The average Yellow Lab Cichlid lifespan is around 6 to 10 years in captivity. If looked after well, the little yellow fish can stay around for over a decade. This means maintaining a high-quality diet, providing the proper environment, and performing regular tank maintenance.

Another factor contributing to Yellow Lab Cichlids’ overall lifespan is their genetics. The quality of the captive strains varies from one fish farm to another. Purchasing from reputable retailers or breeders is the best way to ensure you get a yellow Lab with good genes.

Appearance & Popular Colors

Although the species is called Electric Yellow Cichlid, it is still found in over a dozen color variants based on their place of origin. Typically, the males have an electric yellow body with black bars on their dorsal and anal fins. However, don’t go looking for the bars as it doesn’t become visible until the fish completely matures. It appears only when the fish is full-grown. 

Other than that, the typical coloration of the body is white, again embellished with the signature vivid black stripe on the fins. Some different varieties can be observed in yellow with a white belly or blue dorsal fin. 

It’s normal to see some faint vertical bars over the body of white and blue variations, but the yellow morph usually doesn’t have any. If you find a yellow Lab with faint vertical bars covering the body, it’s likely a hybrid created by the mass-produced farms in Singapore. Those bred in the Czech Republic are often small but have better quality.

Male Vs. Female Yellow Lab Cichlid: How To Sex?

The primary difference between the males and females of Yellow Lab cichlid is that the male is bigger than its female counterpart. Even though both are vibrantly colored, the dominant males have a more prominent coloration to the point that they appear almost golden yellow when spawning.

Many owners think the black pigmentation on the dorsal fin is a male trait, but that’s not the case. Some females have it, too, even though it is more pronounced in males. The only way to be sure of the sex of your Yellow Labs is by looking at their genital papilla, which is located right behind the anal fin.

The males will have a longer and pointier genital papilla, whereas the females are shorter and rounder. Be aware that this is an expert-only method, and you must wait until they are 2-3 inches.

Yellow Lab Cichlid Size & Growth Rate

Adult Yellow Lab Cichlids will reach an average size of 4-5 inches (10-12 cm) in captivity, and some specimens can grow larger. They are typically smaller in the wild, under 4 inches (10 cm).

Like most Mbunas, Yellow Labs have a fast growth rate in the first 5- 8 months of their lives. You can expect them to grow up to 3 inches in 2-3 months. When sold in stores, they are typically juveniles that are only 1″-1.5″ long.

Author notes: It's highly recommended to purchase any Mbuna less than 2 inches (5cm). They are less aggressive and give you a better chance to establish a pecking order in your aquarium.

Care & Tank Setup

Labidochromis caeruleus is considered to be one of the most peaceful and shy Mbuna. It is not a community tank candidate that can be kept with other freshwater fish than peaceful African Rift Lake cichlids, so you should set up your tank accordingly.

Like any Mbunas, most of the difficulty with yellow lab cichlid comes from their natural aggression and ideal tank maintenance. That’s something we’ll dive into shortly, but first, let’s look at the recommended yellow Lab tank size and ideal water parameters.

Yellow Lab Cichlid Tank Size

Since these fish don’t grow large and should be kept in large groups, the recommended tank size for Yellow Lab Cichlids is 55 gallons (48″ x 13″ x 21″). 

Some aquarists say you can keep them singly or a pair in a 10 gallons tank, but we disagree.

Unlike a Betta or other large Hap, it’s rare to see people keep a single Mbuna in a small tank because they are very social creatures that establish a visible social hierarchy. Of course, you should not house one yellow lab in any Lake Malawi biotope aquarium, or else it will be bullied mercilessly.

Whether you plan to keep Electric Yellow Labs in a “peaceful” Mbuna aquarium or a species-only tank, heavy stocking is the best way to keep aggression down.

In a 55 gallons tank, you can start with quality 25-30 juvenile yellow labs or mix them with other 2-3 compatible Mbuna species. The ratio of males and females matters, but you don’t need to worry much about it as you are still younger. You should be able to add multiple females or remove males later on.

Water Conditions

Moving on, it is crucial to maintain top-notch water quality as it directly influences the lifespan of any African Cichlids.

Yellow Lab Cichlid is a hardy fish that can withstand a relatively wide range of water parameters. However, that doesn’t mean you should just aim for the middle of the road and call it a day. The closer you get to their natural habitat, the better off they’ll be in the long run.

Malawi is a Rift Valley lake where the water is alkaline with a high pH and a high hardness. Malawi Cichlids can tolerate a salinity with a specific gravity of less than 1.0002, but they can’t live in an entirely brackish water environment for an extended period.

Here are the recommended water parameters you should aim for:

  • pH level: 7.7–8.6
  • Temperature: 73.0 to 82.0° F (22.8 to 27.8° C)
  • Water hardness: 6 – 10 dGH
  • Ammonia: 0ppm
  • Nitrite: 0ppm
  • Nitrate: <10ppm

Moreover, the species will deteriorate if tank conditions are poor for long; that’s why do change 20 to 40 percent of the water every week. You can go beyond this, depending on the severity of your bioload. Regular water changes can also help with fish’s growth rate.


To give your yellow labs the best home, make a huge stony structure with abundant hiding holes and caves with a few stones to break the line of sight. Make sure the structure is well-secured, as yellow labs love to dig.

Use a crushed coral substrate because it will help maintain the pH, but Mbunas feel safe and show better coloration over the darker substrate. Therefore, the best option is a sandy substrate with caves created with honeycomb dragon stones.

Diet & Food

Although the species is an opportunistic omnivore in the wild, it primarily feeds on large invertebrates. So, they are less likely to suffer from Malawi bloat through being fed the protein-rich diet in captivity.

In the aquarium, they are not fussy fish and accept a wide variety of foods. You can feed them both meaty foods and vegetable matters.

A quality Spirulina flake or Cichlid pellets should be a staple of their diet. To maintain their yellow coloration, you can supplement their diet with live or frozen foods, such as brine shrimp, black worms, earthworms, Tubifex worms, daphnia, and bloodworms.

OSI Spirulina Flake Fish Food 7.06oz
  • Crude Protein minimum 41% Crude Fat minimum 4% Crude Fiber maximum 6% Moisture maximum 8% Vitamin A (min)...

Stick with a feeding schedule of 2 times a day, but give them only what they can consume in 2 minutes. If you overfeed them, it will lead to water pollution and make them susceptible to Malawi bloat.

Speaking of overfeeding, consider introducing a practice called fasting once a week. It will not only give your fish a chance to cleanse their digestive system but also enhance their cold resistance.

Yellow Lab Cichlid Tankmates

The Labidochromis caeruleus is the most adaptable and versatile Malawi cichlid that can get along with many peaceful Mbuna species. They are also compatible with other peaceful non-Mbuna fishes such as Peacocks (Aulonocara sp), Haps (Haplochromis sp), as well as catfish from lake Tanganyika.

Single-Species Aquariums

Like any other Mbunas, it’s best to keep them in large groups in a species-only aquarium.

The number of fish depends on your tank size and types of filter. Generally, try to provide at least two gallons per fish. The best number to shoot for a show tank is at least 15-20 individuals in a 55 gallons tank. While you can keep one male with five females in a 30-gallon breeder (36″ x 18″ x 12″) tank if you intend to breed.

The ratio of males and females is important; a harem of one male with at least three females is the ideal setup.

Mixed Mbuna & Lake Malawi Tank

Many Malawi Cichlid enthusiasts prefer the idea of mixing different Mbunas, Peacocks, and Haps species in one aquarium for the sake of variety. 

IMHO, you should give the single-species aquarium a second thought, as the visual display of the Electric Yellow Labs has changed a lot of minds.

No mention that a yellow lab-only aquarium is easier to maintain regarding aggression and water conditions.

If you want to create a multi-species Mbuna or Lake Malawi Tank, here are many species you should try:

Labidochromis caeruleus Breeding

Like convict cichlids, breeding yellow lab cichlids is a breeze. They might be one of the easiest Mbunas to reproduce in a home aquarium.

This species forms matriarchal communities and is an oviparous mouthbrooder. You’ll be best off obtaining one male with five females and letting them grow out together until they reach sexual maturity at 1.5-2 inches in length.

When they’re ready to spawn, the male will construct a pit on a flat surface and start to court the females. After successful mating, the female will lay 10 to 30 eggs and then immediately take them into her mouth.

At the same time, the male displays his egg spots on the anal fin, and the female mistakes them for her eggs and tries to take them into her mouth as well. This is a way to stimulate the male to release sperm into her mouth, fertilizing the eggs.

The female yellow Lab cichlid will take mouthbrooding duties and incubate the eggs for about 21 days until they hatch. Once the fry are free-swimming, she will release them and start to care for them. The fry are large enough to take brine shrimp nauplii.

Final Thoughts 

This attractive little species is beautiful to look at and easy to maintain. Majorly peaceful with a semi-aggressive nature, yellow cichlids may prove to be a delightful addition to your fish tank. 

This fish is readily available online and in fish stores. But be careful with the price. A cheap one might be a hybrid.

If you’re still on the fence about it, we advise you to go for it and see for yourself. We’re sure you won’t regret it!

Happy yellow lab cichlid-ing!

Yellow Tail Acei Cichlid 101: Care, Size, Tank Mates, Breeding


While smaller fish are common in the fish-keeping community, don’t let the size fool you. As a member of Mbuna cichlids, this fish can be pretty aggressive and territorial when fully grown, whether with their own species or other tank mates. However, they are generally docile as young fish and will not disrupt your tank.

If you are thinking about bringing Acei Cichlid to your home, there are a few things to know about them first. So, sit back and enjoy our guide.

Species Profile

The Acei Cichlid (Pseudotropheus sp. “acei”) has a quite taxonomic history. Although this species has been known for many years, scientists or collectors have not formally described it. However, it’s actually the same as its close relative Pseudotropheus elegans and is sold as such in the aquarium trade.

Acei Cichlids are endemic to the rocky shoreline of the Northwestern coast of Lake Malawi, where they live in rocks and submerged logs.

Depending on the tail coloration, the Pseudotropheus sp. “acei” is divided into two different varieties: 

  • Yellow-tailed Pseudotropheus sp. “acei” (Msuli) 
  • White-tailed Pseudotropheus sp. “acei” (Ngara)

The former is the most common type, and the latter is becoming more and more popular in the aquarist community recently.

Personally, Acei Cichlids are one of my favorite Mbunas. Unlike most Pseudotropheus, they are relatively peaceful and easy to breed. If you’re looking for fish for your first Mbuna aquarium, the Acei Cichlid and the Electric Yellow Cichlid (Labidochromis caeruleus) are your best bet.

Scientific Name:Pseudotropheus sp. “acei”
Common Name:Acei Cichlid, Yellow-tail Acei, White-tail Acei
Care Level:Beginner
IUCN Red List:Least Concern
Origin:Lake Malawi, African
Lifespan:8 – 10 years
Max Size:5 inches (12.7 cm)
Temperature:73.0 to 82.0° F (22.8 to 27.8° C)
Water hardness:10 to 25 KH
Minimum Tank Size:55 gallons (48″ x 13″ x 21″)
Temperament:Relatively Peaceful


Yellow Tail Acei Cichlid Care
Photo: Rick Nettles

The Acei Cichlid is by far one of the gorgeous, yellow-colored fish you can introduce to your tank. Its natural blue shade and vivid yellow fins form a stunning contrast against each other. Since you can generally see them swimming over the darker substrate and among submerged rocks in the tank, their gorgeous color looks even more vivid and beautiful. 

Furthermore, upon looking closely, you will also find hues of purple on their bodies. This is more prominent when light directly falls on the surface of their bodies at certain angles. They also have black eyes and soft white lines on their fins.

The Pseudotropheus sp. “acei” was once classified into the genus Gephyrochromid. Like the typical Gephyrochromid species, they develop similar cuspid-like teeth in their mouths to feed on algae from submerged logs and rocks. 

Male vs. Female Yellow Tail Acei Cichlid

The Pseudotropheus sp. “acei” is strongly monomorphic. It’s hard to distinguish between the sexes. However, there are some very subtle differences if you look closely enough.

Males are generally larger than females, and they have more vivid colors. They will be more aggressive and territorial with other Mbuna males and may chase their female counterparts and other species in the tank.

The best way to tell female Acei Cichlid from the male is by venting. The female has two different holes, the large one is the egg tube, and the other is her anus. On the other hand, the male has two holes of the same size – his genitalia and anus.

Acei Cichlid Size & Growth Rate

The average size of a full-grown Acei Cichlid is around 5 inches. Males are generally larger than females and can grow up to 5.9 inches (15 cm) long, while females are around 3.5 inches. There have been plenty of specimens that have exceeded this range in the wild.

Despite their small size, yellow tail aceis have a fairly fast growth rate. They grow fast until they reach maturity (1.5 – 2 inches), then their growth rate will slow down. You can expect them to get the full grown size in a little over a year.

Like any other Mbunas, their growth rate and potential size will depend upon their dominant position, diet, water quality, and sometimes genetics.

So, if you want your yellow or white tail acei to grow to their full potential size, make sure to provide them with the best possible conditions.


The average lifespan of an Acei Cichlid is around 8 – 10 years. However, many tank owners observe that these fishes can live for a few more years if they are taken care of and maintained optimally.

Acei Cichlid Care & Tank Setup

yong pseudotropheus acei
Photo: akwarium

Acei cichlids are endemic to Lake Malawi, where they swim in schools of 30-50 individuals surrounding a large submerged root and rock. However, they tend to occur in smaller schools of 5-10 individuals in the rocky and sandy areas.

As we mentioned earlier, the Acei cichlids are one of the most peaceful of the Mbuna species, making the care is something that any beginning or experienced cichlid lover should have no trouble with.

The following sections will cover the basics of setting up a suitable environment for your Yellow Tail Acei so they’ll be healthy and thrive in your aquarium.

Yellow Tail Acei Tank Size

Our recommended minimum tank size for schools of 3-5 Yellow Acei Cichlids is 55 gallons (48″ x 13″ x 21″). Only keep one male with several females in small groups. Two males might fight to the death.

You can definitely overcrowd a Mbuna Cichlid aquarium with more fish, but try to provide at least 2 gallons per fish.

Water Conditions

When introducing this fish species to your tank, you should try to recreate the environment of their natural habitat as much as possible for them to be comfortable. 

Lake Malawi is a Rift Valley lake, so the water is generally alkaline with high mineral content. The lake is also known for its stable water chemistry and clarity, with a visibility of up to 20 feet.

Unlike Central and South American Cichlids, Lake Malawi fish care is pretty tricky when it comes to water parameters. The following are the recommended levels:

  • pH level: 7.7–8.6
  • Temperature: 73.0 to 82.0° F (22.8 to 27.8° C)
  • Water hardness: 10-15 dGH
  • Ammonia: 0ppm
  • Nitrite: 0ppm
  • Nitrate: <20ppm

Since stress is the major cause of Malawi bloat, poor water conditions are sometimes fatal for these fish. To help you maintain stable water conditions, we recommend investing in a solid aquarium test kit to make sure you get accurate readings. 

  • Contains one (1) API FRESHWATER MASTER TEST KIT 800-Test Freshwater Aquarium Water Master Test Kit,...
  • Helps monitor water quality and prevent invisible water problems that can be harmful to fish and cause...
  • Accurately monitors 5 most vital water parameters levels in freshwater aquariums: pH, high range pH,...
  • Designed for use in freshwater aquariums only
  • Use for weekly monitoring and when water or fish problems appear
Author notes: You may need a surface skimmer to help remove the waste that builds up on the surface of your aquarium.

There are many ways to attain and maintain a high pH. The easiest way is to use the high pH tap water. Well, it depends on your area. Tap water that tests high in pH is pretty common in many communities as higher pH water can help reduce copper corrosion in water pipes.

You can also add inert rocks like limestone to help maintain a high pH. What’s more, they can be used to create caves and hiding places for your fish to feel secure in their new home.

Once again, it’s essential to watch the nitrate level in your aquarium as the ammonia increases quickly as the pH rises. A higher concentration of ammonia is lethal for any fish.

Perform water changes by 20 to 50% weekly, depending on your bio load. For large water changes, it’s best to precondition to avoid fluctuation in the pH of the aquarium.


Mbuna means “rockfish” or “rock-dwelling” in Malawi, aptly describing their preferred habitat. As such, these fish are accustomed to living in an environment full of hiding places and caves.

The tank is mainly filled with rock to recreate their natural habitat in the home aquarium. Fill the tank with submerged rocks piled high up (almost to the surface of the water) to provide lots of passageways. Caves can be created by using dragon stones and African Driftwood.

Be careful, most Malawi cichlids are diggers. Make sure the structures are secure and can’t collapse and injure your yellow tail acei. It’s good to attach the rocks to the aquarium glass with silicone sealant or epoxy resin glue instead of putting them on the substrate.

We recommend using a darker substrate to help Mbunas feel safe and show their best coloration. An excellent way to achieve this is to use black diamond blasting sand.

Diet & Food

Remember that Yellow tail acei is an herbivore and principally feeds on algae in the wild.

In the aquarium, a good quality spirulina-based flake should be the primary source of their diet. The OSI Spirulina flake is an excellent choice.

OSI Spirulina Flake Fish Food 7.06oz
  • Crude Protein minimum 41% Crude Fat minimum 4% Crude Fiber maximum 6% Moisture maximum 8% Vitamin A (min)...

You can also supplement their diet with blanched vegetables like frozen peas, romaine lettuce, broccoli, and cucumber.

An occasional treat of “meaty” foods such as Mysis shrimp, Daphnia, and bloodworms can be offered, but avoid these more than about once a week.

As with all Malawi cichlids, it’s recommended to fast them once a week to maintain their health.

Yellow Tail Acei Tank Mates

Like any other Mbunas, the Yellow Tail Acei is not considered to be a community fish.

In terms of compatibility, yellow tail acei is a moderately aggressive Mbuna. They are best to be housed in schools of at least 3-5 fish in a “peaceful” Mbuna aquarium in order to be happy.

You can only have one male with several females to form a harem situation in small groups. If you have more than one male in a small tank, they will likely fight and even kill each other.

In all Mbuna aquariums, large-sized species like P. crabro (Bumblebee cichlid) should be avoided. Mbunas with similar coloration and patterning, as well as other hugely belligerent species from Maylandia, Labeotropheus, and Tropheops should also not be kept with yellow tail acei.

Some possible tank mates for yellow tail acei include:


This fish species is an ovophile mouth brooder, which means that the female yellow tail acei will protect the eggs in her mouth until they hatch and are free swimming.

Mouth brooders are considered to be one of the easiest African cichlids species to breed in captivity.

The female will spawn on flat surfaces like rocks. Moreover, the females will incubate and hatch eggs in her buccal pouch, carrying them for about 25 days. 

Final Thoughts

If you plan on breeding Acei Cichlid, ensure that you feed them well and keep them in a proper environment. This fish species have long intestines and do not eat much, but you need to keep a keen eye on their appetites to ensure they do not have Malawi Bloat.

The Acei Cichlids are sometimes found online with a moderate price tag, but prices may vary depending on the retailer. If you’re lucky, you can also pre-order these fish at your LFS during the season.

We hope you enjoyed reading this article, and please feel free to leave us a comment below if you have any questions or would like to share your experiences with yellow tail acei cichlids.

Best of luck! 

Starry Night Cichlid (Paratilapia polleni) Species Profile: Care, Tank Size, Food & Tank Mates

Paratilapia polleni

Keeping Stary Night Cichlid as a pet is one of the most enthralling adventures an aquarist can embark on. These fish look striking and gorgeous, making them great additions to any aquarium. 

Unfortunately, like most Madagascar’s cichlids, the Stary Night Cichlid is now considered to be nearly endangered due to habitat loss and overfishing. As a result, Stary Night cichlids are becoming increasingly rare in the wild. 

Today, the Stary Night cichlid can sometimes be found in pet stores, and a few captive breeding programs are working to preserve this species. 

If you’re lucky enough to find a Stary Night cichlid for sale, there are a few things you’ll need to know before you bring one home. This guide will bring you everything about their care. It covers all essential aspects, like tank size, lifespan, appearance, ideal food, etc. 

Species summary

The Starry night cichlid (Paratilapia polleni), sometimes referred to as polleni cichlid and black diamond cichlid, is a medium-sized species native to Madagascar and it has a widespread distribution on the island.

This fish can be found in many rivers and associated streams in northern Madagascar, including the environs of the Andapa town, where most individuals are captured for the aquarium trade.

This cichlid belongs to the Paratilapia genus, which currently has two recognized species – P. polleni and P. toddi.

But now, P. polleni is probably the only known member of this genus because its congener, P. toddi, endemic to the African mainland, is unlikely to belong to this genus. 

It is named after a Dutch naturalist and merchant Francois Pollen, who collected this species when he visited Madagascar with his fellow Dutch naturalist and explorer, Douwe Casparus Van Dam.  

Paratilapia was previously fallen into two species — P. bleekeri and P. polleni. There is some debate among scientists as to whether these two fish are actually two separate species. The primary difference between the two is the size and frequency of spots on their body.

P. bleekeri typically has larger and more frequent spots, while P. polleni has smaller and less frequent spots. Furthermore, Bleekeri is larger, making them different from polleni. However, there is still much research to be done in order to definitively determine whether or not these two fish are actually two separate species.

Scientific Name:Paratilapia polleni
Common Name:Starry night cichlid, black diamond cichlid, polleni cichlid
Origin:Madagascar, Africa
Size:11 inches (28 cm)
pH:6.2 – 7.6
Temperature:62 – 82 °F (17-28°C) (the sweet spot is around 72-80°F)
KH: 8 – 25°H
Minimum tank size:75 gallons


Starry night cichlid (Paratilapia polleni)
Photo: Nathan Burgess

The Starry night cichlid looks incredibly beautiful, making it a favored fish among freshwater aquarists. It is a laterally compressed, full-bodied fish, resembling a perch-type species in shape. Adult and subadult dominant Paratilapia polleni have dark coloration, covered with beautiful speckles. 

These iridescent spots shift from golden to blue based on their movement and angle of light. Their eyes are bright yellow. In captivity, males P.Polleni develop a nuchal hump, a layer of fat above the eyes. 

Also, males have a more rounded head shape, more extended and sharper pelvic fins, and straight edges of anal and dorsal fins. On the other hand, the female starry night cichlid is said to be more beautiful in its coloration patterns and has round edges of anal and dorsal fins. 

Starry Night Cichlid Max Size

The maximum size of male Starry Night Cichlid (P. Polleni) is almost 11 inches (28 cm), with females typically maxing out at 5 inches (13 cm). It’s a fast-growing fish, so it is easy to reach its maximum size in a short period. Starry Night Cichlids typically reach sexual maturity at 3 -5 inches (8 – 12 cm).

Their size can be influenced by various factors, such as diet and water quality. Like any other species, starry night cichlids that are well-fed and live in high-quality water conditions can grow slightly fast than those that don’t.


The average Starry Night Cichlid lifespan is roughly 5 – 8 years when given proper care.

Like their full-grown size, many factors will influence their lifespan. These include water quality, diet, and tank mates. In addition, like any other captive-bred species, their genetics also play a significant role in how long they will live and how big they will get. 

Starry Night Cichlid Care

In their natural habit, P. polleni is a very adaptable cichlid. It can be found in a wide variety of habitats with different water parameters. It has been recorded at altitudes of up to 1500m, where the water temperature can drop as low as 12°C, and in hot springs, the water temperature can reach 40°C, and the water chemistry is also very alkaline.

However, the black diamond cichlid also occurs in acidic blackwater streams, some specimens even being found in slightly brackish waters. These creatures are primarily hardy and unfussy. 

While they don’t have many requirements, fishkeepers still have to provide the essentials to create a suitable habitat. Here’re a few starry night cichlid care guidelines that you should be mindful of. 

Tank Size

Since P.Polleni has modest adult size, a minimum of a 75-gallon (48″ x 18″ x 21″) tank is enough to keep a compatible pair of Starry Night Cichlid, and it is recommended to opt for a larger tank as these species are territorial. 

A group of youngsters can be placed in a smaller tank but eventually require rehoming into larger quarters as they grow. 

Water Parameters

These species are found in different environmental conditions, ranging from freshwater to lightly salty, making them adaptable to different aquarium conditions. Partial and regular water changes should be carried out to maintain water quality.

Stick to the below-mentioned water parameters to replicate the natural habitat of P. Polleni.

  • pH: 6.5 to 8.0
  • Water Temperature: 62 – 82 °F (17-28°C) (the sweet spot is around 72-80°F)
  • Hardness: 8-25°H
  • Ammonia: 0 ppm
  • Nitrite: 0 ppm
  • Nitrate: <30 ppm

Plants and Substrate

The aquarium space should be filled with a substrate of small rounded gravel or sand to make it look natural. 

Creating sheltered areas with bogwood and rocks in the tank where starry night cichlid can hide is necessary. Make sure these should be secured as these species can move decor around.

Live plants can be used to provide hiding places and reduce stress levels. Starry night cichlids are not known to eat plants, but they might uproot them during their excavating activities.

You may add blue moonlight to the aquarium to observe their twilight antics. 


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Starry night cichlids are mainly omnivorous species, sometimes feeding on small fish in the wild. In captivity, they readily accept a variety of foods, and there’s no need to feed live fish. 

A quality cichlid pellet is a great staple that we highly recommend. However, you’ll definitely want to diversify the diet with a variety of foods. 

Adding in some protein-rich snacks like brine shrimp, bloodworms prawns, Mysis shrimp, krill, and lancefish is a great way to provide some additional enrichment if you want to boost your fish’s color. But don’t overdo it.

Don’t forget to also give them vegetables like blanched spinach, zucchini, and cucumber. Cichlids love foraging through things, so adding in some vegetables will definitely be appreciated.

These species are crepuscular by nature, so it is recommended to feed at least once after the main lights are switched off. 

Starry Night Cichlid Tank Mates

Starry Night Cichlid Tank Mates

They are relatively peaceful towards other robust cichlid but are intolerant of their kind, especially in an aquarium that is smaller than 75 gallons. It is best to keep this fish single or as an established bonded pair.

However, unlike Central American cichlids, these fish tend to be difficult to pair up. Males frequently kill females.

If you have a large tank, you can place them with various other Madagascar species. Since they are territorial, they should be kept with only large and similarly aggressive species. 

Depending on your tank size and temperament of the fish, here are some possible Starry Night Cichlid tank mates:


As biparental substrate spawners, Starry Night Cichlids have been bred in captivity for years.

To improve the chance of breeding, it’s best to keep a group of juveniles and allow them to pair off naturally. Of course, this is the most challenging part as males tend to be quite aggressive towards each other and females.

The male is ready to breed at 3 -5 inches. A bonded pair should be kept in a separate breeding tank as they will become highly aggressive and will most likely not tolerate other tank mates during the breeding time.

You will notice an elaborate courtship ritual between the pair, which might even last for days. The male will show intense dark coloration and display unique behavior toward the female. 

After successful mating, they will dig a pit in the substrate where the female may lay up to 1000 eggs. The eggs will be attached by fine filaments, which will form long strings of spawn. These strings make it easier for the female to guard them while the male guards the perimeter of the territory. The strings may coil into a tangled mass when the female fans the eggs.

Depending on temperature and pH, these eggs will hatch in around 48 hours. The fry will be free swimming a week later, and they are easy to raise on newly hatched brine shrimp or commercial foods designed for fry.

Final Thoughts

That’s all about Starry Night Cichlid care. We hope our guide will help you to successfully keep these stunning fish in your aquarium. Starry night cichlids are absolutely breathtaking, but they do require some work to maintain. With the right setup and care, they can be a beautiful addition to any aquarium. 

They are not fussy; However, what you should keep in mind is their territorial nature. Starry Night Cichlids will defend their tank with their life, so it’s important to provide them with plenty of space and appropriate tank mates. 

Thanks for reading, and good luck!

Utaka Cichlids Care 101: Types, Food, Tank Size & More

Utaka Cichlids

With over 1,000 species of cichlid fish living in Lake Malawi, it’s no wonder it is one of the most diverse lakes on earth. Lake Malawi Cichlids are probably the most popular type of fish in an aquarium; They’re known for their vibrant coloration and patterning, variety in body shapes, and a vast range of sizes. 

Utaka cichlids, as one of the residents of Lake Malawi, are not as popular as their neighbors, like the haps and the mbuna, due to their very neutral gray colors. However, many species are relatively more peaceful and spectacularly colorful as compared to the Mbuna in the home aquarium.

Although Utaka cichlids are not the most aggressive African cichlids, they make up for it in terms of free-swimming nature, and it is never an easy task to keep them happy and healthy.

That’s why we put this guide together with all the information and knowledge needed on caring for Utaka cichlids, including their species, food, tank mates, and more!

Species Summary

Copadichromis borleyi - most popular Utaka Cichlids
Most popular Utaka: Copadichromis borleyi

First of all, let’s talk about the name “Utaka”. The name Utaka is taken from one of the local languages spoken around Lake Malawi, referred to as ‘semipelagic’, which means fish that spend part of their life on the bottom and part in the water column above.

There has been some controversy surrounding the Utaka cichlid caused by the historical explanation – they were classified as a species of Haplochromis. You can also find that they are described as “open-water haps endemic to Lake Malawi’ or “non-mbuna species from the Lake Malawi”. 

Well, all of the descriptions are true to an extent, they’re not completely accurate. Scientifically speaking, Utaka is any member of the genera Copadichromis and Mchenga in Lake Malawi. 

Full List of Recognized Utaka Species

Below is the full list of recognized species in those two Lake Malawi cichlid genera.

CopadichromisCopadichromis atripinnis
Copadichromis azureus
Copadichromis borleyi
Copadichromis chizumuluensis
Copadichromis chrysonotus
Copadichromis cyaneus
Copadichromis cyanocephalus
Copadichromis diplostigma
Copadichromis geertsi
Copadichromis ilesi
Copadichromis insularis
Copadichromis jacksoni
Copadichromis likomae
Copadichromis mbenjii
Copadichromis mela
Copadichromis mloto
Copadichromis nkatae
Copadichromis parvus
Copadichromis pleurostigma
Copadichromis pleurostigmoides
Copadichromis quadrimaculatus
Copadichromis trewavasae
Copadichromis trimaculatus
Copadichromis verduyni
Copadichromis virginalis
MchengaMchenga conophoros
Mchenga cyclicos
Mchenga eucinostomus
Mchenga flavimanus
Mchenga inornata
Mchenga thinos

Appearance and Size

Unlike mbuna, the most beautiful, active cichlids from birth in Lake Malawi, the Utaka Cichlids are naturally born plain and grey until they reach adulthood. This evolutionary appearance helps them blend into the surroundings to make them less visible as prey.

You will have to wait for them to mature to see their brilliant colorations. However, there is a big difference between adult females and males — males are usually brighter and more vivid while females remain bland.

Some Utaka Cichlids can get quite large, require a large area of open water, and are not really suitable for aquariums. But a few smaller types have been bred in captivity thanks to their stunning appearance that makes them popular with hobbyists.

Behavior & Temperament

As opposed to the most common Mbuna that dwells among rocks along the lake’s fringes and bottom, the Utaka inhabits open water areas; some species live above sandy shores, like Mchenga conophoros. Most tend to stay within a short distance from the cliffs.

In the open water, they form large schools that can be composed of multiple species and contain thousands or even millions of individual fish.

As mentioned earlier, Utaka cichlids are one of the more peaceful fish, making them an excellent choice for those who do not like aggression issues.

Aquarium Setup

The Utaka is a unique group that has been collected from Lake Malawi since the early 1990s. These fish can live more than 15 years in captivity.

With the water parameters being so flexible, it is easy to mimic the living conditions of other Malawi cichlids.

Water Conditions

The streams and rivers that flow into Lake Malawi are very high in minerals, along with a high rate of evaporation, which has resulted in a high pH, KH, and GH chemistry in the water.

Providing an optimal level of care is always essential. Here are the water parameters to aim for:

  • pH level: 7.7–8.6
  • Temperature: 72 – 82 °F
  • Water hardness: 6 – 10 dGH
  • Ammonia: 0ppm
  • Nitrite: 0ppm
  • Nitrate: <10ppm

Tank Size

When creating a home for Utaka, the size of your aquarium really does matter. A minimum of 100 gallons is suggested, though bigger and is preferred. In addition, the tank should be deep and wide – just like the lake environment, so there is a large area of open water for the fish to swim around.


Generally speaking, aquarium plants do not mix well with Malawi Cichlids due to the high PH level. The Malawi lake has very few plants, a few species found near rivers and swamps. Most Malawi Cichlids are diggers and will occasionally taste plants.

While plants can be used as decoration in Utaka species-only tanks, just make sure they are not in the way of open swimming areas.

Food & Diet

Utaka differs from other cichlids species in Lake Malawi and requires different feeding requirements.

These fish live on a diet of plankton-type food that floats through their watery habitats in the wild. They form a small current and wait for zooplankton to come toward them, and then they can feed without having to work too hard.

In captivity, the base of their diet can be commercial dry food. The key to keeping Utaka cichlids healthy, boosting the growth rate, and making colorations pop is to provide a varied diet with enough nutrients and minerals is necessary. Small crustaceans like Cyclops, or natural foods such as daphnia, brine shrimp, and bloodworms are greatly appreciated.

Utaka Cichlids Tank Mates

Your best bet is to keep the Utaka in a large group of at least six (one male with several females) in a species-specific tank. Many females will form beautiful schools and create quite a sparkle of color in your tank.

See more Types of African Cichlids

In a large species tank, due to their peaceful nature, you can keep them with Mbuna cichlids as long as you choose some of the more docile species.

To avoid crossbreeding, make sure you only mix different Utaka species that look very much alike, or else there’s a high chance you’ll get a bunch of hybrid fish.

You might be


While the fascination with this fish doesn’t stop there, it gets even better when you learn how they breed. All the Utaka are polygamous, maternally mouth breeders.

When the male Utaka is ready to spawn, he will guard or share a breeding territory in the open water while attracting females, depending on the specific species. 

The female will lay 30 to 80 eggs and then pick the eggs up in their mouth, where they are fertilized and hatched. The eggs can take over three weeks to hatch. Meanwhile, the male will stop defending the area and swim around in open water.

The fry has a dark gray body and stays in school to avoid being eaten by all predators, whether large fish or birds.


Utaka cichlids look really amazing and striking when they color up fully while being very peaceful and suited for the Mbuna aquarium.

They are fairly easy-to-care fish and a lot of fun to observe.

We want to make sure that any care guide you find on our site is the best information out there. We’re always open to suggestions, so please let us know if there’s something we can improve!

What Do African Cichlids Eat? (+How Often Should You Feed African Cichlids)


Cichlids are perfect for aquarists because they are hardy and add color to an aquarium. However, just because they are resilient does not mean you can give them just about anything. Like all aquarium fishes, cichlids require a diet specific to their species. 

If you have African cichlids, you might have issues on your hands when you renege on their nutrition. I learned that the hard way the first time I had African cichlids in my tank. I deem it appropriate to share my experiences so you can safely care for your African cichlids. So, what do African cichlids eat?

The information in this article may be the most important you will ever read about these fantastic animals. Let’s get started!

What Do African Cichlids Eat in the Wild?

Photo: Brent M

African cichlids live in Africa’s Great Rift lakes, including Lake Tanganyika, Lake Malawi, and Lake Victoria. Hence, their food comes from whatever these lakes can give.

Depending on the species, African cichlids can eat small shrimp, other invertebrates, insect larvae, tiny snails, small fish, algae, and other plant materials in the wild. African cichlids cannot tolerate fatty foods because their digestive anatomies are not suitable for such macronutrients.  

These have very specialized feeding habits, which is why these creatures can be so different in terms of what they eat.

What Do African Cichlids Eat in Aquariums?

It would be best to feed African cichlids the same food they get in their natural habitat to ensure optimum health. Unfortunately, it is often inconvenient to prepare an African cichlid-specific diet. Hence, most people use commercially available African cichlid foods.

Here is some advice on choosing the right food for your African cichlids.

Consider the Types of Cichlids

Choosing the right food for African cichlids requires determining whether the cichlid is a carnivore, omnivore, or herbivore. 


These African cichlids subsist on animal food sources, such as shrimp pellets and other animal-based cichlid food products. They have been known to attack and prey on other small species, especially their fry.  

Most predatory African cichlids get between 8 and 12 inches (some even can grow over 18 inches), so they need a much larger aquarium of at least 250 gallons. If you wish to make an aggressive and carnivorous African Cichlid tank, cichlids from the Haplochromis group (Hap cichlids) are recommended.

  • Dimidiochromis species
  • Champsochromis species
  • Buccochromis species
  • Stigmatochromis species
  • Tyrannochromis species
  • Mylochromis species
  • Nimbochromis species
  • Cyrtocara moorii
  • Exochromis anagenys


Mbuna species are normally herbivores, thriving on algae and plantsThese herbivorous cichlids are highly specialised scrapers. 

Grazers comb algae using their slender tricuspid teeth, while browsers nibble and nip at filamentous algae with their bicuspid teeth. On the other hand, scrapers rub their chisel-like teeth across rock surfaces to feed on epiphyton. Some herbivorous African cichlids also bite and scoop algae.

High amounts of protein for herbivorous cichlids, such as frozen or live food, or even flake, can be pretty harmful and cause bloating, eventually leading to death. 


The majority of African cichlids eat plant matter, small fish, insect larvae, and small invertebrates, such as brine shrimp and other small crustaceans. 

Your cichlids will be happy with any of these three things. Give them a high-quality flake food or pellet every day, feed live brine shrimp (or frozen) as treats once per week – this is what keeps their immune system strong. 

On the other hand, live guppies would be a good source when they get bigger. To greatly increase their color, foods rich in beta carotene can be helped. 

Pellets or Flakes

Pellets are the go-to of many African cichlid owners. These fish species love to gobble pellets floating on the water’s surface. However, these food items sink to the bottom after some time. That is why some fish keepers prefer tropical flakes because they stay afloat. I also observed that African cichlids are more enthusiastic about eating flakes than pellets.

I recommend Spirulina flakes because they have excellent levels of protein, antioxidants, iron, chromium, and vitamin B12. African cichlids will benefit immensely from these nutrients.

Zoo Med Spirulina 20 Flake Fish Food, 4-Ounce
  • Spirulina is rich in raw protein
  • For fresh or saltwater fish
  • Enhances breeding

Frozen Food

If you have omnivorous, carnivorous, or piscivorous African cichlids, you might want to add frozen foods to their diets as treats. Excellent choices include black and white mosquito larvae, krill, and brine shrimp. However, I do not recommend giving red mosquito larvae and beef heart or products from other warm-blooded animals to Lake Malawi African cichlids.

Green Veggies and Fruits

People often ask me if they can give their African cichlids green veggies, fruits, and other homemade foods. I always tell them to feed their fish nori, cucumber, peas, broccoli, and lettuce. All of these green veggies are great for mbuna and their health. They can blend or chop these food items finely before freezing them into small pellet-sized cubes.

You can de-shell the peas or boil them for softer ones. I found cucumbers are a great way to keep your cichlids busy and entertained. They are also easy to prepare and store. Cut the cucumber in an inch-long chunk, attached to a flat rock or something heavy to weigh it down. Rember to take any uneaten cucumber out within 1-2 days.

Foods to Avoid Feeding Your African Cichlids

African cichlids are not picky eaters. However, it does not mean you can give them the same food you give to other aquarium fishes. Some food is a big no-no for African cichlids because of their unique digestive tracts.

Compared to South American and Asian cichlids, African cichlids have longer digestive tracts. The extended alimentary tubes can present some health problems to these fish species if we are not cautious about the food we give.

Seasoned aquarists do not recommend giving African cichlids bloodworms. While this meal might seem fine for other cichlid families and fish species, it can be disastrous to African cichlids. As mentioned, African cichlids have extended digestive tracts. Feeding them protein-rich foods can clog their intestines and lead to Malawi bloatThe extra-long intestines are inefficient in breaking down protein.

I once had a blue Nimbochromis polystigma, which my kid inadvertently fed protein-rich bloodworms. Its belly grew larger than usual. Unfortunately, it was too late for me to recognize the signs of bloating. The fish died after 3 days. 

It would also be best to avoid giving African cichlids meat, beef heart, and other food items from warm-blooded animals. These food items have high-fat content with high melting points. Fishes have difficulty mobilizing fat stored in the liver for energy, leading to cirrhosis over time.

However, giving meat to African cichlids as rare snacks should be fine. I always caution beginner African cichlid keepers to observe moderation when giving treats to their aquatic pets. Feeding African cichlids with these food items as treats not more than once a week and in modest amounts should not cause problems for the fish.

How Often Should I Feed My African Cichlids?

how often should you feed african cichlids

I feed my adult African cichlids two to three times every day. Many African cichlid keepers also observe a similar feeding regimen. Newly born African cichlids (or fry) require five to seven feedings daily. It is essential to recognize that young African cichlids need smaller portions than adult species. 

I find feeding my African cichlids helps reduce their aggressive tendencies. They are less territorial and will not likely attack other fish in the tank.

If you have herbivorous African cichlids, it would be best to feed them small portions two to three times a day. I always give my fish sufficient food they can consume in thirty seconds. These fishes have a voracious appetite. They can finish a meal within seconds. I remove any leftover afterward to avoid overfeeding.

Beginner African cichlid owners should know that these fish species love to rest at night. It would take about half an hour for African cichlids to transition from sleepy to active. Hence, I recommend turning on the aquarium tank at least 30 minutes before feeding. Likewise, it would be best to wait half an hour after feeding before turning off the light. 

If you must travel like I sometimes do, you might want to invest in a high-quality automatic fish feeder. This machine dispenses the correct amounts of food to your African cichlids at pre-designated time intervals.

Final Thoughts

African cichlids have unique feeding preferences, habits, and patterns that some beginner aquatics hobbyists find confusing. These fishes eat almost anything in the wild. Keeping them in fish tanks requires a more systematic approach to ensuring their optimum nutrition. 

High-quality African cichlid pellets and flakes are the best food for African cichlids kept in aquariums. Frozen foods, vegetables, and fruits can be healthy treats. It would also be best to avoid fatty animal food products to prevent health problems in African cichlids.

Top 10 Lake Tanganyika Cichlids (With Pictures & Full List)

Lake Tanganyika Cichlid LemonCichlid

Lake Tanganyika is the second deepest lake on Earth and is located in central Africa. Not only is it the backdrop for many stories, but a home to an incredible variety of cichlids that come from a large range of species, sizes, and colors. From the deep green shades to the golden sunset, from the very small (2″) to the very large (15″), there are more than 150 different species of Tanganyika cichlid that have been discovered, and we’re probably still uncovering new ones!

If you’re looking for fascinating, beautiful freshwater African Cichlids and comes in an impressive range of colors, then the Lake Tanganyika cichlids are your best option. 

The list below is a great way to see what options are out there for you.

The 10 Most Popular Lake Tanganyika Cichlids

Lemon Cichlid(Neolamprologus leleupi) 

The Lemon Cichlid (Neolamprologus leleupi) is perhaps the best-known cichlid to have ever come from Lake Tanganyika, which owes its popularity because of its most sought-after brilliant yellow/orange coloring. It’s not only a very interesting species due to its peaceful behaviors and characteristics, but it also comes in an impressive range of colors from bright yellow to orange or even dark color variety!

It is a relatively small Tanganyika cichlid in the aquarium trade. Males can grow up to 4 inches (10 cm), while females are slightly smaller at 3 1/2 inches(9 cm) in size! Depending on the location, colorations vary wildly, ranging from bright yellow to deep brown.

This fish is best left in an aquarium with experienced hands. Though it can be cared for by intermediate cichlid lovers, you must provide a properly set up tank and make sure your water parameters stay high quality at all times.

Common Name:Lemon Cichlid, Leleupi, Orange Leleupi Cichlid, Gold Leleupi Cichlid
Scientific Name:Neolamprologus leleupi
Care Level:Intermediate
Lifespan:8 years
Size:3.9 inches 
Minimum Tank Size:20 gal (76 L)
Temperature:74.0 to 79.0° F

Fairy Cichlid (Neolamprologus brichardi)

The Fairy Cichlid is a fascinating fish that was one of the first African Tanganyika cichlids imported for our aquariums. It was originally known as Princess of Burundi, but today you can find many other common names for this fish: Fairy Cichlid or Brichardi Cichlid.

The Fairy Cichlid has an elongated body and continuous dorsal fin. They also have lyre-shaped tail fins, long flowing filaments on all unpaired fins that can grow up to 6 inches(15 cm) in length.

These fish are known for their elegant appearance and enjoy living in groups. They make an ideal addition to any aquarium, even if you’re just starting out!

Common Name:Fairy Cichlid, Brichardi Cichlid, Lyretail Cichlid, Princess of Burundi
Scientific Name:Neolamprologus brichardi
Care Level:Beginner
Lifespan:8 to 10 years
Size:5.1 inches
Minimum Tank Size:15 gal (57 L)
Temperature:72.0 to 77.0° F

Daffodil Cichlid(Neolamprologus pulcher)

The Daffodil Cichlid is a fun Tanganyika fish species to own. It is one of the most vibrantly colored cichlids in the African rift, has a light-colored tan body coloration with hints of yellow and bluish spots. The bright and icy blue eye is surrounded by a yellowish ring, while its fins are tipped with an icy blue.

Like the Fairy Cichlids, they can grow up to 6 inches (15 cm) in length with proper care. They are schooling fish that pairs off to breed, so they’re best kept in groups. They generally stay peaceful and non-aggressive with their own kind.

In captivity, they prefer similar living conditions. They have a wide range of environmental preferences, can tolerate some fluctuations without any issues. Easy to care for, a good choice for both beginners and advanced fishkeepers.

Common Name:Daffodil Cichlid, Daffodil Princess Cichlid, Daffodil II, Princess of Zambia
Scientific Name:Neolamprologus pulcher
Care Level:Beginner
Lifespan:8 to 10 years
Size:5.1 inches
Minimum Tank Size:15 gal (57 L)
Temperature:72.0 to 77.0° F

Calvus Cichlid (Altolamprologus calvus)

Photo: northfish_biotope

As known as White Pearly Calvus, with its pear-shaped body and compressed body coloration, the Calvus Cichlid is a unique cichlid. It belongs to the Altolamprologus genus, which has three identified species and a number of variants. These fish are cave spawners, but sometimes they’ll spawn in shells.

Calvus Cichlids have a steep forehead and high back. They’re able to root out prey from rocks or crevices with their laterally compressed body, making them one of the most efficient fish for hunting food in hard-toed environments.

They are relatively peaceful fish that can be kept with other Tanganyika cichlids of similar size. However, they’re best kept in a species tank if you want to breed them. They can live with peaceful cichlids of a different genus. Be aware that some breeds can’t stand the peace. Do not keep them with Mbuna Cichlids or species from the Tropheus and Petrochromis genera, as these types usually get territorial.

Common Name:White Pearly Calvus, Calvus Cichlid, Black Calvus, White Calvus, White Chaitika
Scientific Name:Altolamprologus calvus
Care Level:Intermediate
Lifespan:8 to 10 years
Size:5.9 inches
Minimum Tank Size:40 gal (151 L)
Temperature:73.0 to 77.0° F

Frontosa Cichlid(Cyphotilapia frontosa)

Photo: niclasaquariumworld

Next up, we have the Frontosa Cichlid. Also known as Humphead cichlid, this fish is a majestic presence in any aquarium. A mature Frontosa Cichlid can reach up to 14 inches (35 cm) or more. With its large size, rich, bold patterns, and compressed body shape, it was immediately considered one of the top picks of Tanganyika cichlids breeders.

Both males and females have the same attractive coloration, but only adults develop a cranial hump on its head. Juveniles do not display this trait because it takes time for them to grow up enough.

Make no mistake, Frontosa Cichlids are stealthy predators that will snatch up any small fish they can find. They are not very aggressive, but the males can be territorial. Gregarious and not keen on being alone, groups of one male with three or more females can live together in a group.

Common Name:Frontosa Cichlid, Humphead Cichlid
Scientific Name:Cyphotilapia frontosa
Care Level:Intermediate
Lifespan:8 to 10 years
Size:13.8 inches
Minimum Tank Size:70 gal (265 L)
Temperature:74.0 to 79.0° F

Duboisi Cichlid (Tropheus duboisi)

Photo: Niclas Klaesson

The Duboisi Cichlid (Tropheus duboisi)  is a fascinating fish to watch grow up because of its amazing color transformation. It starts its life as a drab gray fish but slowly acquires more and more colorful markings as it matures.

The sex of the White Spotted Cichlid is a challenge to determine. Growth rate and body shape can be slightly different between males and females, but they don’t tell the whole story. The most reliable way is by examining its genital papillae. The males have pointy genital, while females are rounded out in shape!

The Tropheus duboisi is one of the most aggressive Tanganyika cichlids. It’s best to keep them in a species-specific in a group of at least 12 or more, with a single male in the group. You need a larger tank if you want to put two males in a group of 15 to 20.

Common Name:White Spotted Cichlid, Duboisi Cichlid, Blue-Faced Duboisi Cichlid
Scientific Name:Tropheus duboisi
Care Level:Advanced
Lifespan:5 – 8 years
Size:4.8 inches
Minimum Tank Size:75 gal (284 L)
Temperature:73.0 to 81.0° F

Sardine Cichlid(Cyprichromis leptosoma)

The Sardine Cichlid (Cyprichromis leptosoma) is a great addition to any Lake Tanganyika tank. Unlike most other cichlids that have an appearance of being deep-bodied and robust looking – this fish in the Cyprichromis genus has the opposite; its long slender body makes them look like they’re riding on top water.

The body coloration of a male Sardine Cichlid ranges from lavender to blue; females come with a beige body with some yellow in their fins. The colors of these creatures vary depending on where they are found.

Sardine Cichlid is easy to care for and also fairly peaceful. They can be kept with other Tanganyika cichlids of similar size but should not be housed with aggressive fish. If you’re looking for a relatively undemanding Lake Tanganyika Cichlid that adds a lot of colors, we recommend giving these fish a shot.

Common Name:Slender Cichlid, Blue Flash, Slender Cyp, Neonback, Lepto Cichlid
Scientific Name:Cyprichromis leptosoma
Care Level:Beginner
Lifespan:8 years
Size:4.3 inches
Minimum Tank Size:55 gal (208 L)
Temperature:73.0 to 77.0° F

Blue Neon Cichlid (Paracyprichromis nigripinnis)

Photo: David Nørholm

With a gentle nature and vibrant color, the Blue Neon Cichlids are absolute stunners! These eye-catching fish is covered in several bright colors neon striping that look great against on a creamy body.

The Blue Neon Cichlids have a very similar body shape to their close relatives Sardine Cichlid, but they belong to the Paracyprichromis genus, which has a totally different nature, including a milder temperament and smaller body size. The male Blue Neon Cichlids can grow to about 4 inches in length, while females are a bit smaller at just over 3 inches.

Although it is a more peaceful Lake Tanganyika cichlid, this species can be a big challenge to care for by beginners as they tend to be stressed out and fade in color when kept with other boisterous fish.

Common Name:Blue Neon Cichlid, Neon Cichlid, Neon Blue, Herring Cichlid
Scientific Name:Paracyprichromis nigripinnis
Care Level:Intermediate
Lifespan:5 – 8 years 
Size:4.3 inches
Minimum Tank Size:65 gal (246 L)
Temperature:77.0 to 81.0° F

Blue Goby Cichlid(Spathodus erythrodon)

The Blue Goby Cichlid is a beautiful species with bright coloration. With brownish gray scales and rows of spots decked out to help it blend in with the surroundings. It’s also known as Blue Lips Goby Cichlid. As its name would imply, the blue lips make quite a splash in your cichlid aquarium.

But that’s not what makes the fish special. They’re colorful with personalities to match! These cichlid’s favorite pastimes is jumping around and playing hide-and-seek game in the aquarium.

When it comes to caring, the Blue Goby Cichlids are easy to moderate to care for because they are sensitive and picky about their environment. This species prefers to stay at the top of the water column, and they can get along with other goby cichlids.

Common Name:Blue Goby Cichlid, Blue-Spotted Goby Cichlid, Blue Lips Goby Cichlid
Scientific Name:Spathodus erythrodon
Care Level:Intermediate
Lifespan:3 – 5 years
Size:3.0 inches
Minimum Tank Size:30 gal (114 L)
Temperature:75.0 to 81.0° F

Blunthead Cichlid (Tropheus moorii)

Tanganyika Tropheus moorii

Here’s another unique type of Tanganyika Tropheus Cichlids. It has been reported that the Blunthead Cichlid contains around 50 different color morphs, it is a true champion of variety. Revered for their bright color varieties, the Blunthead Cichlid can’t be missed.

These stocky fish have a larger head, under-slung mouth, fan-shaped caudal fin, and the body narrows towards the caudal peduncle. The back parts of the dorsal, fins and other important places are covered in spiny rays to keep predators at bay.

The Blunthead Cichlids can reach up to 6 inches in length. Like many other Cichlid species, Blunthead Cichlids are quite aggressive fish. They are generally kept in groups, females will help dilute the male’s aggressiveness. Their highly aggressive nature and are susceptibility to “bloat” make them a bit difficult to keep.

Common Name:Blunthead Cichlid, Blunt-Headed Cichlid, Moorii, Brabant Cichlid
Scientific Name:Tropheus moorii
Care Level:Advanced
Lifespan:5 – 8 years
Size:5.8 inches
Minimum Tank Size:75 gal (284 L)
Temperature:76.0 to 82.0° F

Complete List of Lake Tanganyika Cichlid Species

AltolamprologusAltolamprologus calvus
Altolamprologus compressiceps
Altolamprologus sp. “Compressiceps Shell”
Altolamprologus fasciatus
AulonocranusAulonocranus dewindti
BaileychromisBaileychromis centropomoides
BathybatesBathybates fasciatus
Bathybates ferox
Bathybates graueri
Bathybates horni
Bathybates leo
Bathybates minor
Bathybates vittatus
BenthochromisBenthochromis melanoides
Benthochromis tricoti
BoulengerochromisBoulengerochromis microlepis
CallochromisCallochromis macrops
Callochromis melanogostigma
Callochromis pleurospilus
Callochromis stappersii
CariapharynxCariapharynx schoutedeni
ChalinochromisChalinochromis brichardi
Chalinochromis popelini
Chalinochromis sp. “Bifrenatus”
Chalinochromis sp. “Ndobhoi”
CtenochromisCtenochromis benthicola
Ctenochromis horii
CunningtoniaCunningtonia longiventralis
CyathopharynxCyathopharynx foai
Cyathopharynx furcifer
Cyathopharynx cf. furcifer
CyphotilapiaCyphotilapia frontosa
Cyphotilapia gibberosa
Cyphotilapia sp. “North”
CyprichromisCyprichromis leptosoma
Cyprichromis leptosoma sp. “Leptasoma Goldfin”
Cyprichromis leptosoma sp. “Leptasoma Jumbo”
Cyprichromis leptosoma sp. “Leptasoma Kibige”
Cyprichromis microlepidotus
Cyprichromis pavo
Cyprichromis zonatus
EctodusEctodus descampsi
Ectodus descampsi sp. “Descampsi North”
EnantiopusEnantiopus melanogenys
Enantiopus sp. “Kilesa”
EretmodusEretmodus cyanostictus
Eretmodus sp. “Cyanostictus North”
GnathochromisGnathochromis permaxillaris
Gnathochromis pfefferi
GrammatotriaGrammatotria lemairii
GreenwoodochromisGreenwoodochromis bellcrossi
Greenwoodochromis christyi
HaplotaxodonHaplotaxodon microlepsis
Haplotaxodon trifasciatus
HemibatesHemibates stenosoma
InterchromisInterchromis loocki
JulidochromisJulidochromis dickfeldi
Julidochromis marlieri
Julidochromis ornatus
Julidochromis regani
Julidochromis sp. “Chisanza Marmelade”
Julidochromis sp. “Congo”
Julidochromis sp. “Kissi”
Julidochromis sp. aff. “Ornatus Kasenga”
Julidochromis transcriptus
‘Lamprologus’‘Lamprologus’ brevis
‘Lamprologus’ callipterus
‘Lamprologus’ calliurus
‘Lamprologus’ caudopuntatus
‘Lamprologus’ sp. “Caudopuntatus Kipili”
‘Lamprologus’ finalimus
‘Lamprologus’ multifasciatus
‘Lamprologus’ ocellatus
‘Lamprologus’ ornatipinnis
‘Lamprologus’ sp. aff. “Ornatipinnis Tembwe II”
‘Lamprologus’ sp. “Ornatipinnis Zambia”
‘Lamprologus’ sp. “Shell Zambia”
‘Lamprologus’ similis
‘Lamprologus’ speciosus
‘Lamprologus’ stappersi
‘Lamprologus’ wauthioni
LepidiolamprologusLepidiolamprologus attenuatus
Lepidiolamprologus boulengeri
Lepidiolamprologus sp. aff. “Boulengeri”
Lepidiolamprologus elongatus
Lepidiolamprologus hecqui
Lepidiolamprologus sp. “Hecqui Boulengeri Complex”
Lepidiolamprologus kendalli
Lepidiolamprologus lemairii
Lepidiolamprologus meeli
Lepidiolamprologus sp. “Meeli”
Lepidiolamprologus pleuromaculatus
Lepidiolamprologus profundicola
Lepidiolamprologus sp. “Profundicola”
LestradeaLestradea perspicax
LimnochromisLimnochromis abeelei
Limnochromis auritus
Limnochromis staneri
LimnotilpiaLimnotilapia dardenni
LobochilotesLobochilotes labiatus
MicrodontochromisMicrodontochromis rotundiventralis
Microdontochromis tenuidentatus
NeolamprologusNeolamprologus bifasciatus
Neolamprologus brichardi
Neolamprologus cf. brichardi
Neolamprologus buescheri
Neolamprologus christyi
Neolamprologus crassus
Neolamprologus cunningtonia
Neolamprologus cylindricus
Neolamprologus sp. “Eseki”
Neolamprologus falcicula
Neolamprologus furcifer
Neolamprologus gracilis
Neolamprologus kungweensis
Neolamprologus laparogramma
Neolamprologus leleupi
Neolamprologus cf. leleupi
Neolamprologus longicaudatus
Neolamprologus marunguensis
Neolamprologus modestus
Neolamprologus mondabu
Neolamprologus mustax
Neolamprologus niger
Neolamprologus nigriventris
Neolamprologus obscurus
Neolamprologus pectoralis
Neolamprologus petricola
Neolamprologus prochilus
Neolamprologus pulcher
Neolamprologus savoryi
Neolamprologus schreyeni
Neolamprologus sexfasciatus
Neolamprologus signatus
Neolamprologus splendens
Neolamprologus cf. splendens
Neolamprologus tetracanthus
Neolamprologus toae
Neolamprologus tretocephalus
Neolamprologus variostigma
Neolamprologus sp. aff. “Variostigma”
Neolamprologus ventralis
OphtalmotilapiaOphthalmotilapia boops
Ophthalmotilapia heterodonta
Ophthalmotilapia nasuta
Ophthalmotilapia ventralis
OreochromisOreochromis tanganicae
ParacyprichromisParacyprichromis brieni
Paracyprichromis nigripinnis
Paracyprichromis sp. aff. “Nigripinnis”
PerissodusPerissodus eccentricus
Perissodus microlepis
PetrochromisPetrochromis ephippium
Petrochromis sp. “Ephippium”
Petrochromis famula
Petrochromis fasciolatus
Petrochromis sp. “Kipili Brown”
Petrochromis macrognathus
Petrochromis sp. “Macrognathus”
Petrochromis orthognathus
Petrochromis sp. “Orthognathus”
Petrochromis polyodon
Petrochromis sp. “Polyodon”
Petrochromis sp. “Red”
Petrochromis trewavasae
Petrochromis sp. “Yellow”
PlecodusPlecodus elaviae
Plecodus multidentatus
Plecodus paradoxus
Plecodus straeleni
PseudosimochromisPseudosimochromis curvifrons
ReganochromisReganochromis calliurus
SimochromisSimochromis babaulti
Simochromis diagramma
Simochromis loocki
Simochromis margaretae
Simochromis marginatus
SpathodusSpathodus erythrodon
Spathodus marlieri
TangachromisTangachromis dhanisi
TanganicodusTanganicodus irsacae
TelmatochromisTelmatochromis bifrenatus
Telmatochromis sp. aff. “Bifrenatus”
Telmatochromis brachygnathus
Telmatochromis brichardi
Telmatochromis burgeoni
Telmatochromis dhonti
Telmatochromis sp. “Schachbrett”
Telmatochromis temporalis
Telmatochromis sp. “Temporalis Shell”
Telmatochromis vittatus
Telmatochromis sp. aff. “Vittatus”
TrematocaraTrematocara caparti
Trematocara kufferathi
Trematocara macrostoma
Trematocara marginatum
Trematocara nigrifrons
Trematocara stigmaticum
Trematocara unimaculatum
Trematocara variabile
Trematocara zebra
TrematochromisTrematochromis schreyeni
TriglachromisTriglachromis otostigma
TropheusTropheus annectens
Tropheus sp. “Black”
Tropheus brichardi
Tropheus duboisi
Tropheus sp. “Ikola”
Tropheus moorii
Tropheus sp. “Mpimbwe”
Tropheus sp. “Red”
TylochromisTylochromis polylepis
VariabilichromisVariabilichromis moori
XenochromisXenochromis hecqui
XenotilapiaXenotilapia bathyphila
Xenotilapia boulengeri
Xenotilapia burtoni
Xenotilapia caudifasciata
Xenotilapia flavipinnis
Xenotilapia sp. “Fluorescent Green”
Xenotilapia leptura
Xenotilapia longispinis
Xenotilapia nasus
Xenotilapia nigrolabiata
Xenotilapia ochrogenys
Xenotilapia sp. “Ochrogenys Ndole”
Xenotilapia ornatipinnis
Xenotilapia papilio
Xenotilapia sp. aff. “Papilio Katete”
Xenotilapia sp. aff. “Papilio Sunflower”
Xenotilapia sp. “Red Princess”
Xenotilapia rotundiventralis
Xenotilapia sima
Xenotilapia spiloptera
Xenotilapia tenuidentatus


From Tanganyika Tropheus Cichlids to Tanganyika Goby Cichlids, there’s a wide variety of cichlids to choose from when stocking your Tanganyika aquarium. With such beautiful and unique fish, it’s easy to see why aquarists are drawn to the Lake Tanganyika ecosystem.

We hope this list helps you find the perfect Lake Tanganyika Cichlid for your aquarium. If you have any questions about the guide or anything related to it, feel free to message us directly. We’re always eager for feedback from our readers!

Bumblebee Cichlid 101: Care, Size, Tank Mates, Breeding

bumblebee cichlid

The Bumblebee Cichlid (Pseudotropheus crabro) is one of the most attractive freshwater fish species, aptly named after its beautiful black and yellow striped appearance.  

For cichlid keepers, keeping these fish can be quite a challenging task. They can often act aggressively towards other fish and even members of the same species. That is why you need to learn all about their behavior before getting one home. 

On that note, this guide will provide you with plenty of information about taking care of a bumblebee cichlid. So, read on to learn more. 

Species Summary

hornet cichlid Care
Photo: Gayan De Silva

The Bumblebee cichlid, also known as the Hornet cichlid or the Bumblebee Mouthbrooder, is a freshwater fish species native to South Africa and commonly found around Lake Malawi. Its scientific name, Pseudotropheus Crabo, is derived from the European Hornet’s name, Vespa Crabo, as both fish species have large-sized bodies and similar patterns. 

This fish species is a member of a group of cichlids known as Mbuna, which consists of several species of cave-dwelling fish with very aggressive personalities. Another name for this species is the Pseudotropheus Chameleon since it can change its color depending upon its mood. 

Origin:South Africa
Common name:Bumblebee Cichlid, Hornet Cichlid
Scientific Name:Pseudotropheus crabro
Size:5.9 inches
Minimum Tank Size:50 gal
Temperature:78.0 to 82.0° F
Diseases: Malawi bloat
Care level:Intermediate

Social Behaviors

The Bumblebee Cichlid has a symbiotic relationship with the Kampango (Bagrus meridionalis), a large cave-dwelling catfish. Its brightly-colored appearance helps the cichlid get close to the catfish and pick the parasites from the latter’s body. However, during the spawning period of the Kampago’s eggs, these cichlids adopt a darker color, becoming almost black so that they can feed on the eggs.

Bumblebee cichlids can be housed in a species tank in a group of one male to six or more females for breeding purposes. It is best not to include more than one male in a fish tank as the males are overly aggressive. Having more than a single male will often lead to confrontation, and the dominant male will always kill his rivals. 

Are Bumblebee Cichlids Aggressive? 

In terms of compatibility with other species, the Bumblebee cichlid should not be placed in an aquarium that houses other fish species due to its aggressive nature. That is why community fish tanks are not suitable for this fish species.

That said, these cichlids will inevitably gain dominance over other species. However, it does well with other cichlids, even with those that have a similar temperament. Females also require protective hiding spots as the males can often harass them to death. 

Appearance (Popular Colors)

Photo: Brent M

The Bumblebee cichlid is an attractive fish species that intermediate and experienced cichlid-keepers can bring home. It has a robust body shape, and the adults have a yellow to orange-yellow color with black or blue stripes.

The females are gold with dark brown vertical stripes, while adult males have an almost black body with vertical blue bars or stripes. Interestingly, both the males and females can change color as required. The fry is brightly colored, and the color-changing ability comes with maturity.

Bumblebee African Cichlid Male vs. Female

The males of this species have more significant markings than the females and can also adopt the colors of the females. They also have two to four egg spots, while females have a rounded anal fin with one or two egg spots.

Distinguishing the male from the female, especially when the male mimics females, is not easy. On that note, only those with experience can spot which one in the group is a male.

How Big Do Bumblebee Catfish Get?

full grown Bumblebee cichlid has an average size of about four inches, but males can also reach up to six inches. The females are a bit smaller, maxing out at around five inches. 

How Long Do Bumblebee Cichlids Live?

Bumblebee Cichlids have a lifespan of about ten years, which makes them a good option for cichlid-keepers. However, this also depends upon several factors, such as the environment, food quality, and so on. 

Bumblebee Cichlid Care And Tank Setup

Like any other fish species, the Bumblebee cichlid requires proper care to thrive. Some key factors to keep in mind include:

Water Conditions

The Bumblebee cichlid does fine in freshwater and brackish water but requires good water movement and efficient filtration as they tend to get messy.

If you want to keep several males, try to create open spaces and territorial borders with decorations.

Though it is often recommended that you use a substrate of Aragonite or sand to help keep the water hard and alkaline, Cynotilapia afra feels safer and shows better over dark-colored bottoms.

  • pH level: 7.7–8.6
  • Temperature: 73.0 to 82.0° F (22.8 to 27.8° C)
  • Water hardness: 6 – 10 dGH
  • Ammonia: 0ppm
  • Nitrite: 0ppm
  • Nitrate: <10ppm

Tank Size

The size of the tank depends upon the number of fish you intend to keep. For a single fish, a 50-gallon tank is adequate. However, if you want to keep more, get a tank that can hold at least 100 gallons of water.


The most prevalent disease among Bumblebee Cichlids is the Malawi Bloat, which occurs if they do not get good-quality food. Poor quality and stale water without proper oxygenation can also lead to common diseases. Ich is one such problem that can result in albino fish, but it can be cured with copper-based medications. 

Tank Mates

Being an aggressive species, the Bumblebee Cichlid should not be kept with other fish species. That said, you can keep them with other aggressive cichlids or mixed Mbuna fishes. 

What Do Bumblebee Cichlids Eat?

Bumblebee Cichlids are omnivores that can survive on almost anything that is available. However, they prefer fish eggs, larvae, and parasites. In the home aquarium, they can be fed flakes, pellets, spirulina, and prepared cichlid food.

Bumblebee Cichlid Breeding

The Bumblebee Cichlid is a mouthbrooder that can be bred in captivity and requires a “harem.” In other words, there should be only one male for every five to six females in a tank. Also, after hatching, it is essential to remove sub-dominant males as the dominant male tends to kill them. 

Final Thoughts

Bumblebee Cichlids are not very difficult to care for; all you need to do is ensure good quality nutrition and a clean environment. Additionally, don’t forget that this fish species is aggressive, so picking suitable tank mates is of utmost importance. 

With these things in mind, you can take care of your bumblebee cichlids with ease. And if in doubt, don’t hesitate to go through our care guide once more.