Pundamilia nyererei Cichlid 101 (Care, Diet, Tank Mates & Breeding)

The Pundamilia nyererei cichlid is a favorite with its great colors, with adult males tend to have a vibrant rush of red, orange, and green colors.

Because of their beauty, this striking Hap Cichlid has quite the fan base in the aquarium community. I personally know at least six owners myself in the last PCCA meeting.

While there are definitely some things potential owners should be aware of to add them to a mixed aquarium with Malawi haps and peacocks. We believe a more informed owner is a better owner. 

In this guide, you’ll learn everything you need to know about Pundamilia nyererei, from their species profile to their aggression levels. 

Species Profile

The Pundamilia nyererei Cichlid, scientifically known as Pundamilia nyererei (formerly Haplochromis nyererei), has been making quite a splash among African cichlids enthusiasts over the years.

An interesting note is its specific name, nyererei, was given to honor the president of Tanzania, Julius Nyerere. The common name of this fish specie includes Nyerere’s Victoria Cichlid, Crimson Tide Flameback, and Flameback.

This species is native to the part of the Mwanza Gulf region in the south-eastern corner of Lake Victoria, where it consists of many islands. Unsurprisingly, like many African cichlid species, each island has its very own geographic color morph of this cichlid.

Despite these color variations being generally isolated from one another, it’s actually a misnomer to name a variant of nyererei with its locality or color because the island might have multiple nyererei populations, each displaying unique color coloration.

For example, the Pundamilia nyererei “Ruti island” is one of the readily available natural variants that have been collected and bred in the aquarium trade as one distinct variant, whereas, in the wild, Ruti Island actually has several wild populations with their own color morph.

Due to their widespread distribution and popularity in the hobby, this species is currently listed on the IUCN Red List as Least Concern (LC).

The genus Pundamilia is a small group of East African cichlids- only five described species – all of them take on a striped appearance.

Scientific Name:Pundamilia nyererei
Common Name:Pundamilia nyererei Cichlid
Care Level:Intermediate
IUCN Red List:Least Concern (LC)
Origin:Lake Victoria
Lifespan:4 to 10 years
Max Size:3 inches (7.7 cm)
Temperature:73.4° – 80.6 (23° – 27° C)
PH:7.5 – 8.5
Water hardness:5 to 18 KH
Minimum Tank Size:75-gallon tank (48″ x 18″ x 21″)


Pundamilia nyererei Cichlid

The common name is representative of adult male nyerereis’ flaming red-orange coloration that can be seen on the upper half, dorsal fin, anal fin, and tail. Their lower half is yellow-green with electric-blue scales. The body is elongated and compressed (flattened, side-to-side) with black bars throughout.

Mature males of the Pundamilia nyererei Cichlid are the most brightly colored fish in the world. Females are much less colorful, with a drab greenish-gray coloration with some faint vertical stripes and a yellowish belly. The notable yellow hue can be found on the edges of their fins and contrasts nicely with their gray body. Juveniles have a similar appearance to females but with more muted colors.

As P. nyererei reaches maturity, both males and females will develop egg spots on the anal fin. However, males will have many more than females.

As we mentioned before, Pundamilia nyererei displays a wide variety of color morphs that are often associated with their locality. Here are some of the more common color variations:

  • P. nyererei “Nansio Island”
  • P. nyererei “Ruti Island”
  • P. nyererei “Zue Island”
  • P. nyererei “Makobe Island”
  • P. nyererei “Igombe Island”
  • P. nyererei “Anchor Island”
  • P. nyererei “Python island”
  • P. nyererei “Luanso Island”
  • P. nyererei “Juma Island”

Pundamilia nyererei Size & Growth Rate

Pundamilia nyererei is a relatively small cichlid, only growing up to around 3 inches (7.7 cm) in length. Females tend to be a little bit smaller than males. However, P. nyererei “Makobe Island” is an exception, with males can grow up to 5 inches (12.7 cm).

It’s also worthing note that nyererei grow larger in the home aquarium than in their natural habitat due to the higher quality of food and water conditions.

Regarding growth rate, P. nyererei is a relatively slow-growing cichlid. Females will reach maturity at 1.5 inches, while males will be a little bit larger at 2 inches. Generally, males begin to show color around 1.5 inches. 


The average lifespan of a Pundamilia nyererei is 4-10 years when given proper care. This means suitable water parameters, a good diet, and a stress-free environment. Of course, this goes for any freshwater species, no matter how “hardy” they may be.

Care & Tank Setup

In the wild, P. nyererei can be found in the hard alkaline waters around the rocky coastal shores and rocky islands of Lake Victoria, especially preferring shelf-like rock formations.

As such, the most important thing to look out for when setting up a P. nyererei tank is to make sure the water parameters are within the correct range and that the tank has plenty of rockwork for hiding and spawning.

Due to their aggressive behavior, Pundamilia nyererei is typically recommended for the intermediate and experienced cichlid keeper. They can be a bit much for the beginner aquarist to handle.

Pundamilia nyererei Tank Size

Since Pundamilia nyererei stays relatively small and they don’t require a lot of open swimming space. A 75-gallon tank (48″ x 18″ x 21″) is sufficient for a single pair or a small group. Of course, if you plan on keeping more fish or adding other species to the tank, you’ll need a larger tank.

Water Parameters

Although these fish are not considered very hardy, you’ll want to set up an aquarium to mimic their natural habitat as closely as possible to allow these fish to display their best colors.

  • Water temperature: 73.4° – 80.6 (23° – 27° C)
  • pH levels: 7.5-8.5
  • Water hardness: 5 – 18 KH

Lake Victoria is one of the African Great Lakes and the world’s largest tropical lake. This means nice warm water. Many Cichlids keepers suggest adding additives like Cichlid Lake Salt and Victoria Buffer to help maintain these water parameters.

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A strict regime of monitoring and maintaining these water parameters is necessary to keep your fish healthy and happy. To prevent poor water quality, perform regular water changes of 10% to 20% weekly, or more depending on your bioload and readings of nitrite/ammonia levels.

Substrate & Decor

These fish are rock-dwelling cichlids that prefer a substrate of sand or small gravel with plenty of rocks and caves for the fish to claim territories and create broken lines of sight. A crushed coral substrate will assist in keeping the pH levels high.

If you want to emulate a rocky reef effect, ensure the structures are firmly planted in the substrate or weighted down, so they don’t topple over and hurt your fish.

You might be interested in these: DIY Aquarium Background Ideas

Food & Diet

In the wild, Pundamilia nyererei cichlids are omnivorous and primarily feed on aquatic invertebrates and zooplankton, such as insect larvae, small fish, and mosses.

In captivity, their diet will obviously be a bit different. You’ll want to give them a high-quality cichlid pellet or flake food as their base diet. These fish pretty much accept any type of food, but I feed my fish NLS and a spirulina flake.

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Try adding some food variety to their meals; you can supplement with some live or frozen food, like brine shrimp, daphnia, and bloodworms. They’re not fussy, so feel free to get creative with all kinds of protein-rich foods.

To ensure a well-rounded diet, supplement feedings with various forms of vegetables as well.

Such foods will help bring out their best colors and maintain their health. Pundamilia nyererei are known to be heavy eaters, so don’t overfeed them!

Pundamilia nyererei Tank Mates

The Pundamilia nyererei Cichlid is one of the most aggressive Lake Victoria cichlids. Males are particularly aggressive towards and fully capable of killing other males and females during breeding or any fish they deem to be a threat to their territory.

This fish is not for the faint of heart!

With that being said, Pundamilia nyererei is not an ideal candidate for the community tank. If you must keep them with other fish, choose only males with other male cichlids.

Make sure there are at least three males; two of them will become subdominant fish, and they will still display their bright red coloration.

Personally, I would stick with moderately aggressive and aggressive male Mbunas for small tanks. Avoid these “most peaceful” Mbunas, including “Electric Yellow,” Rusty Cichlid, Red Top Hongi Cichlid, and Acei Cichlid.

You want to avoid females because they look very similar no matter what color variations you have. So, crossbreeding happens, and you’ll have a bunch of hybrids running around in your tank. Furthermore, the addition of females might increase the aggression level in your tank.

Author note: In a mixed tank, the key to peace is to provide lots of cover in the form of rocks, caves, and hiding places. This way, each fish can have its own little space to call home. Ceramic pots are also good options to act as sanctuaries.

Sexual Dimorphism & Breeding

Pundamilia nyererei male

P. nyererei are sexually dimorphic; it’s easy to visually sex these fish. The males are typically larger than the females and have much brighter colors.

Breeding Pundamilia nyererei Cichlids is not too difficult and has been bred in captivity. This fish is a maternal mouthbrooder, with the female laying the eggs (10 to 50, depending on the age and size of the female) and then picking them up into her mouth.

The male develops egg spots on his anal fin that look similar to the eggs, and the female will be mistaken and try to pick them up, which stimulates the male to release milt and fertilize the “real” eggs in her mouth.

The female will then mouthbrooding the eggs for about 3-4 weeks before releasing them into the tank. The fry are free-swimming after about a week and can be fed newly hatched brine shrimp or microworms.

If you are trying to breed them, you can keep them in a harem setup with several females. The male Pundamilia nyerereis are highly aggressive towards females during breeding. I would recommend keeping an F: M =4: 1 ratio in your tank to spread out any aggression displayed by the male.

What Do You Think?

The Pundamilia nyererei Cichlid is not a common fish in the aquarium trade, but this species is compatible with most Mbuna, making them a popular addition to any Malawi aquariums.

Unfortunately, this fish is not readily available in LFS but is occasionally found in cichlid forums, specialized breeders, and online auction sites.

Do you have experience with Pundamilia nyererei? What tips do you have for keeping and breeding this fish? Let me know in the comments below!

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