Socolofi Cichlid (Chindongo Socolofi) Care 101: Size, Tank Mates, Food & More

The Socolofi Cichlid is an excellent fish amongst beginner aquarists all over the world. Their size, behavior, and bright blue coloring make them a great choice for anyone looking for an interesting fish to add to their tank.

However, if you’re going to keep this rocky shore cichlid in your home aquarium, there are definitely some things you need to know. After all, they are considered to be a potential aggressor.

That’s why we’ve put together this socolofi cichlid guide – to provide you with all the information you need before making your decision.

So, let’s take a closer look at these fish and see how to keep them thriving in your tank.

Species Summary

The Socolofi Cichlid (Chindongo socolofi) is a mbuna species that come from the Thumbi West Island and Otter Point in lake Malawi. Sometimes referred to as the Powder Blue Cichlid, Blue Pindani Cichlid, Pseudotropheus Socolofi, or Pseudotropheus “pindani” (Not a valid scientific name) in the aquarium trade.

According to FishBase, this species was formally described in 1974 by D.S. Johnson and previously classified as Pseudotropheus socolofi until 2016, when it was reassigned to the new genus Chindongo.

Available in several variations, these fish add tons of fun and color to a Malawi Cichlid tank setup.


If you have some experience raising species in the genus Melanochromis, such as Golden Cichlid (M. auratus) or Maingano Cichlid (M. cyaneorhabdos), these fish may have some familiar features.

They have the same torpedo-shaped body with a continuous dorsal fin and a rounded snout. However, the dorsal fin of Socolofi cichlids features 8 to 10 vertical black bands. Horizontal lines can be seen on many specimens.

The back, chest, and anal fins have some small black stripes on the front. Their caudal fin is partially transparent and symmetrical. Like other fins, black stripes make their way onto this fin. Most of the time, the dominant male doesn’t have any markings on their flanks. 

Albino Socolof’s Cichlid

The Albino Socolof’s Cichlidalso known as Snow White Socolofi, is one of the most popular color morphs in the aquarium trade. As you can see in the picture, unlike the regular socolofi cichlid, they have pale white bodies with red eyes. The fins have a slight reddish hue and are also transparent.

Many aquarists think that this species is the most beautiful Mbuna cichlid available on the market.

How to Tell if your Socolofi Cichlid is Male or Female

It’s hard to tell males from females when they’re small because there is almost no color difference. Mature males tend to have a brighter blue coloration with more “dark” horizontal bands.

The difference between male and female Socolofi Cichlid is their “egg spots.” Males will develop pointed, big and bright “egg spots” on the anal fin and have longer pelvic fins than females. Unfortunately, some females can also show these same egg spots.

The most accurate way to tell a male from a female is by venting them. Here’s a great video showing how to vent your fish properly.


The average Socolofi Cichlid lifespan is around six to eight years in captivity when given proper care. Of course, it’s just a rough average.

Like any other Malawi Cichlid, many factors contribute to the lifespan of socolofi cichlids, including water parameters, diet, aggression, and tank mates.

We’ll talk more about this in the “Care” section below.

Socolofi Cichlid Size

The average Socolofi Cichlid size is around 4.6 inches (11.5 cm) in length for adult males and 4 inches (10 cm) in length for females. These fish have a rather slow growth rate, so don’t expect they can reach their max size in a short time.

If you want to make sure they can reach their full potential, it’s essential to take care of them properly from the very beginning.

Care and Tank Setup

These appealing blue banded Cichlids are one of the easier mbuna species that beginner aquarists should have no trouble with. 

This species is relatively peaceful compared to other well-known Mbunas, which can be an excellent introduction to African Cichlids’ aggressive behavior, but still allow room for forgiveness.

Here are some basic care tips to help you get started:

Tank Size

The recommended Socolofi Cichlid species tank size is at least 55 gallons. If you plan to keep the fish with others groups of Mbunas, we recommend 125 gallons or more.

The extra space will go a long way to reduce aggression and stress in the Socolofi Cichlids. As a result, they will be more likely to display their natural behaviors and colors.

Water Parameters

Like any other Malawi mbuna, Socolofi Cichlids require stable water parameters in their tank.

Since they hail from Lake Malawi, try to replicate their natural habitat as much as you can. The ideal water parameters for them are:

  • pH level: 7.8 to 8.4
  • Temperature: 75°F – 79°F (24°C – 26°C)
  • Water hardness: 10-14 dGH
  • Ammonia: 0ppm
  • Nitrite: 0ppm
  • Nitrate: <10ppm

Even though Socolofi Cichlids are pretty hardy, we recommend performing regular water changes (20-30%) to keep the water quality high. This will help reduce the risk of disease and also give them a clean environment to live in.

To keep your beautiful fish healthy, you should get a good water test kit. It will help keep the right water parameters consistent and ensure that they thrive well with minimal stress. After all, stress appears to be a major cause of Malawi bloat.


Setting up a tank for Socolofi Cichlids is pretty simple. All you need to do is recreate their natural habitat.

As a member of “rock-dwelling” fish, Socolofi Cichlids should be kept in a tank with plenty of rocks and caves, which can provide hiding places to minimize territorial problems. Be sure to leave some open spaces in the tank for swimming.

This fish inhabits shallow areas of the lake, so a layer of sandy substrates on the bottom of the tank is recommended.

Like most Mbuna species, Socolofi Cichlids do not need live plants. You should also not use roots or driftwood in the tank because they will release tannins into the water, which can lower the pH level.

Food & Diet

Socolofi Cichlids are primarily herbivores, so their diet should consist of vegetables. In the wild, they mainly pick their food from algae strands or other plant matter attached to the rocks.

In captivity, these fish do fine with high-quality spirulina based flake foods as their main diet. You can give them blanched vegetables like zucchini, broccoli, and cabbage. Feeding in protein-rich snacks like brine shrimp, Mysis shrimp, or bloodworms is a great way to supplement their diet.

Don’t overfeed

Never overfeed any Mbunas as they are prone to Malawi bloat, especially if their diet consists mainly of protein-rich foods. I know there has been a lot of information circulating about both diet and internal parasites as the cause of Malawi bloat. Both of these factors can certainly contribute to the condition.

However, in my humble opinion, I believe there is another underlying cause that is often overlooked: stress. 

In my experience, Mbunas that are kept in high-stress environments are much more likely to develop African bloat or Malawi bloat. This is because their immune systems are constantly working overtime to fight off the stressors, leaving them less able to fend off infection or disease. 

So, if you’re looking to prevent bloat in your Malawi cichlids, I would recommend keeping them in a clean and relaxed environment. This may mean making some changes to your tank setup or maintenance routine, but it will be worth it in the long run.

Socolofi Cichlids Behaviour and Tank Mates

Photo: umenieprirody

Although Chindongo species are territorial, they’re among the most peaceful genus of haplochromine cichlids. 

Socolofi Cichlids do fine on their own. They do best in a group (one male with 3-5 females) in a species-specific tank, which makes them ideal for first time cichlid keepers who don’t want to deal with the drama of a cichlid tank. So if you’re looking for a low-maintenance cichlid, look no further than the Socolofis.

Of course, that doesn’t mean they can’t be kept with other fish. In fact, they make great tank mates for most non-aggressive Mbunas and Haplochromines. If you’re the intermediate and experienced cichlid keeper looking for an addition to your current Mbuna tank, then socolofi cichlids might be the fish for you.

Here are some of the possible tank mates for Socolofi Cichlids:

  • Aulonocara (peacock cichlids)
  • Copadichromis
  • Labidochromis caeruleus (Lemon yellow lab)
  • Synodontis Catfish


Socolofi Cichlids are mouthbrooders, which means that the female will pick up the eggs in her mouth after they are fertilized and hold them (around 3-4 weeks) there until they hatch. The fry will be released a few weeks later, at which point they should be large enough to fend for themselves.

Most Cichlids become aggressive when spawning; the socolofi cichlid is no exception. The male can be quite aggressive and territorial in his pursuits, so providing the females with plenty of hiding places is crucial.

It’s best to isolate the brooding females to increase the chance of fry survival because they may eat eggs and fry when they are feeling stressed.

Try to make the isolation as short as possible because the females could lose the group’s social status, which leads to fights breaking out among the members.

Once the fry are released, they should be fed small live foods like brine shrimp or daphnia to help them grow.

What Do You Think?

If you’re looking for your first Mbuna species, the Socolofi Cichlid is a perfect choice. They’re relatively peaceful fish that do well on their own or in groups, and they make great tank mates for most quieter Mbunas and Haplochromines.

If you have any questions about Socolofi Cichlids that you’d like us to add to the guide, let us know! We’re always looking for new and interesting stories about these amazing fish, and we’d love to hear from you.

Happy fishkeeping!

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