Freshwater Fish Profiles

Rift Lake Cichlids, East Africa

EAST AFRICAN CICHLIDS (Lake Malawi & Tanganyika);

*Frontosa, *Venustus, *Cyrtocara Moorii, *Taiwan Reef, *Yellow Lab Cichlid

Search AAP Supplies or Information 

AAP MeWe Page
AAP MeWe Page

Updated 6/1/15


7 bar Frontosa, cyphotilapia frontosa*Other common names: Front, Frontosa Cichlid, Hump head cichlid

*Size: up to 12 inch

*Scientific Name: cyphotilapia frontosa Family- Cichlidae

*Natural Habitat: Lake Tanganyika

*Description: they will have 6 or 7 bars on them. On the 6 bar one, 5 on the body and one across the eye, on the 7 bar one 6 on the body and 1 across the eye.

*Recommended Tank Size and Temperament: They are very docile fish normally. As any cichlid though, they can show their evil side, but it doesn’t very often. They will work well with near any docile species that isn’t slow enough and small enough to fit in its mouth.
No smaller then a 75 gallon tank is recommended for them

*Water Parameters: Frontosa like a high pH -up to 9.2 but will adapt to ranges in the 7`s. 12-14 dKH , 10-20.0 dh , temps from 76°-82°F

*Typical food: They do well with Good Quality Flake food and pellets, as well as Freeze/Dried Brine shrimp and Blood worms or live food.

*Breeding: mouth brooders

*Contributors Notes: by Bikeguy (from Everything Aquatic)

The frontosa come from deep water (around 50 meters) in Lake Tanganyika. Actually the water is so deep that when they are wild caught they have to depressurize a lot like a human does, otherwise it swells the swim bladder to the point where intestines are expelled from the body. They are one of the largest cichlids from the rift lakes. Males will grow to 15” where females max at 10”.they are mouth brooders with normally small clutches of fry. Frontosa are sedentary, and will often live to over 25 years old. Since they get so large, a bare minimum and I mean bare min is 75 gallons.
Back To Top


Venustus, Lake Malawi Rift Lake African Cichlid *Size: 8-10 inches (22 cm.)

*Description: The male Venustus is the colorful which typically has a yellow and black spotted coloration as well as blue on the head and fins (The blue is absent on the females as seen in the picture displaying a male and female)

*Scientific Name: Nimbochromis venustus

*Natural Habitat: The deeper more open areas where rock meets sand of Lake Malawi in East Africa

*Water Parameters: A non demanding Cichlid that prefers water conditions typical of most Lake Malawi cichlids. This includes a STABLE pH of 7.5- 8.2, a KH above 200 ppm (12 dKH), and very importantly (and often an important aspect of fish health) a GH of 200 ppm (12 dGH) or higher.
A temperature between 76 -82 F (25-28 C) is best.

*Temperament and Recommended Tank Size; A generally aggressive Rift Lake Cichlid that I have seen aggression vary among individual specimens. Other factors may also affect variability in temperament including stocking levels, aquarium size, tank mates of similar size/appearance, and order of introduction of fish specimens.

*Feeding; A more carnivorous African Cichlid, in the its natural habitat the Venustus will often wait motionless while hiding slightly in the sandy lake bottom after spotting groups of small fishes. It stays in this position for a long time, waiting for prey to come within reach.
In the aquarium, meaty foods such as Brine Shrimp, Bloodworms, even “clean gut loaded” feeder guppies can be offered. A more carnivorous Flake Food as well as FD Shrimp and Plankton are excellent additions to their diet.

*Contributor Notes: By Jon V.
I got my group of Venustus in July of 07, three of them. At the time I'd gotten them all fish were displaying spots on the body. They preferred to stick to their own group, and were around 2 inches each in size. This leads me to believe that this is one species that doesn't distinctly show faster growth in males vs. females. Will comment further later on that.

Initially, the three were put in my 75 gallon tank, and kept there about 8 months. Clearly at the size I've got them, these fish were at least 6 months of age judging how fast my fry are growing currently. No signs of aggression were typically displayed, even in the 75 during all this time, however, the 75 was located at a different location then I was at, and thus, were not under my direct observations, but rather reported to me. All, including the female, were rather happy to eat live fish, but the staple diet these fish, along with all the 75 gallon occupants were on a flake food diet.

I moved the Venustus to the 180 gallon tank in March of 08. Still at this time the color pattern of the males and females weren't immediately apparent, however, the size difference was easy to spot, as the 2 males were significantly larger then the smaller female. At times, the males did seem to display a very deeper yellow, to the point where it would block out the view of its spots, and the female wouldn't show at all. Plus the deeper blue of the head became more apparent.

What should be noted is this is compared by keeping a group. If keeping a solo, or trying to keep a male female pair, clearly some things are going to be different. Males will tend to display their dress color when around a female. Expect to see a heightened Yellow in the body and a deeper blue on the face. Clearly, an expansion in the body yellow or blue in the face should indicate a male almost right away. Generally though, males will not put on such a show unless attempting to attract a female.

Having now a fry group and a couple successful spawns with my group, I isolated the smaller of the two males to the 75 again, to prevent the dominant male from injuring or killing the other. It appears even in a 180, the male will NOT tolerate another male in that same tank. The fry also appear to grow rather slowly. After one month, all fry appear to have roughly the same sizes, though there are a few that are smaller. The fry tend to stick in its own group, and females will spawn a VERY LARGE group too if you breed these fish. I estimated she had around 45-60 in her first brood. Due to the sheer size of adults, this isn't unusual. It should be noted to the fish keeper, if you are going to breed these, you will get a large group, so be prepared to keep large and many tanks if you don't move these out.

I feel that when looking at the development of the younger ones, size isn't going to be something to key on to find potential males and Females, HOWEVER I do see a few that appear to be smaller, and the coloration and spots are not nearly as distinct in some of the others. I feel looking at how developed the spots and colors are, is the way to sex this species early on. Another issue as I stated before, I think she had about 45-60 in her brood. (You try to count that many fry, they don't sit still) I can pretty much only account for about 30 now. (30 is much easier to count) I have a strong feeling the Jardini may very well have eaten a few and why I can't count as many. Or there just may have been a few weaker ones in the group that didn't make it.
Back To Top


Cyrtocara moorii, Haplochromis, Blue Dolphin, Lake Malawi Rift Lake African Cichlid
*Other common names: Dolphin Cichlid, Hap moorii

*Scientific Name: Cyrtocara moorii, Formally Haplochromis moorii Family- Cichlidae

*Size: Maximum of 8 inches (20 cm.)

*Natural Habitat: Widely distributed in Lake Malawi (although not common). The C. moorii were first imported in 1968. Classified as a micro-predator; in the wild, C. moorii has a unique feeding adaptation, it follows close behind substrate-digging cichlids such as Taeniolethrinops praeorbitalis, Fossorochromis rostratus, and Mylochromis lateristriga looking for clouds of sand and detritus then feeding on the small edible organisms and particles that get stirred up behind them as they feed.

*Description: Often known in the hobby as the Malawi Blue Dolphin. The nickname Blue Dolphin originates from the shape of its head; which includes a back head hump and bill like mouth that resembles that one of a dolphin.

*Recommended Tank Size and Temperament: in general peaceful but very territorial. They should be kept in no less then a 55 gallon tank.

*Water Parameters: Temperature: 75°F - 81°F, pH: 7.2 - 8.6

*Typical food: Primarily a carnivore, although either gut loaded meaty foods (such as worms fed with a vegetable or Spirulina Flake and/or Frozen Brine Shrimp or similar that is "enhanced" with Spirulina such as Ocean Nutrition's version are recommended.
In the wild Moorii follow fish that dig in the substrate often stirring up foods such as crustaceans that the Moorii then feed upon.

*Breeding: not easy but can be done, maternal mouth brooder.

*Contributors Notes:
Back To Top


 Taiwan Reef Cichlid, Albino male female, regular

*Other common names: Taiwan Reef

Generally up to 6 inches (15 cm.)

*Scientific Name: Protomelas Steveni

Family- Cichlidae

*Natural Habitat: A Haplochromis found in rocky habitats free of sediment in generally only three locations of Lake Malawi; Taiwan Reef and in Tanzania at Higga Reef and Mbamba Bay Island

Map of Taiwan Reef Cichlid Habitat
Please click on the map above for better view of Taiwan Reef Habitat

*Description : A very colorful fish once grown out, but won’t show it’s dominant colors unless a female is around. If there is no female, the male will keep its sub adult colors.

*Recommended Tank Size and Temperament: Don’t put them in anything less then a 75 gallon tank with lot’s of rockwork. Make sure the rocks have no sharp edges so that they can’t hurt themselves. Mildly Aggressive

*Water Parameters: Typical Lake Malawi Cichlid water parameters; Temperature: 78 - 82°F (26- 28 °C.), a pH over 7.8 and definitely a high mineral content which includes a GH over 200 ppm (or more)

*Typical food: The Taiwan Reef Cichlid primarily feeds on the algae cover on rocks, however it is an omnivore and will accept a varied diet. I strongly recommend Spirulina 20 Fish Food Flake, Paradigm Ultra Premium Herbivore Diet or Paradigm Ultra Premium Omnivore Diet, Hikari Algae Wafers, or similar high content Spirulina and vegetable foods.
Ocean Nutrition's Spirulina enhanced frozen Brine Shrimp is an excellent supplement to their diet as well

*Breeding: Maternal Mouth brooder

*Contributors Notes: by Jon V (at Everything Aquatic)

I acquired this species in July 2007, from an auction off eBay. Seller was lilduce21. I received from him 2 male, and 6 female regular gene Taiwan Reefs. In the shipping process, 2 of the females died and I took shots of them, and he sent a replacement shipment of more then I lost, which I was really pleased with. I ended up with the rest of his Albino colony which was 1 male and 4 females. So my total count ended up being 3 males (2 regular, 1 Albino) and 8 females (4 Regular 4 Albino).

By late October of 2007, this species had begun spawning in my 180 gallon tank. What I found unusual and am not positive why, but it seemed only the Albino females were ending up with broods. I suspect that the females of the regular look were either already bred too much, infertile or just too old. There was one dominant regular male TR and for a dominant male, this is the one big thing I want to say about this species. He really didn’t get into many fights or chase off the other 2 males. They seemed to co-exist very well. This might be due to being a 180 gallon footprint. I do however feel the aggression level of this species is relatively low. This species is closely related and has a very similar look to the Red Empress.

I am basing the father of the fry I started getting by December 07 being the regular gene male, because half the fry from the albino females were coming out with the regular look and half were albinos. I personally do not consider an albino and a regular gene fish of the same species that spawn to be a cross breed, though some “purists” in the hobby might shun this. Fry counts were about 40-50.

By March of 08 it was getting clear with this number of females and males, it would not be too much longer before I’d be overrun with Taiwan Reefs. I picked 15 of the best fry from the last spawn I had that come out in Feb of 08, posted an ad in Cichlid-Forum to sell off the rest of the colony. I kept 1 regular male, and 1 Albino male, sold the rest. I talked the buyer into taking the third male and all the other females. The buyer was looking strictly for females for the known male he had, but having a second male could have advantages. I sold the adult group off for $100.00.

Those 15 fry, starting in March of 08 went to live and grow out in my 75 gallon tank. Out of that group, I ended up keeping only a male and female pair. The rest I sold off. The male regular look Taiwan reef I kept died on me in the late Spring, sometime in April, so all I was left with for adults were 1 albino male. By October 08, I went back to the pair I kept and they were sub adult size by then. I moved them back to the 180 where the adult male was and within 2 weeks, the female of the pair had spawned with the older male. That brood, all albinos yielded 63 fry by November 08. She had attempted to spawn 2 other times since, once in November, once in December, but for some reason or another, when isolating her to the holding tank, she aborted the brood. She has not tried to spawn since.

My read on this species, very mild Hap to keep. I’d opt more for the regular look then albino, however, it’s worth mentioning that the albino version in the hobby is not very common and may be worth your time to obtain if possible. Males in my tanks did not display any territorial issues among themselves. They were housed in tanks of 75 gallons and 180 gallons. Breeding them is not very difficult to do if anything might be difficult to stop them from breeding short of keeping them in separate tanks. You could probably hit a great deal of offspring and line breed this species easy, keeping known males that show higher red colorations and re-breeding them back. The males near breeding time will take on a very neon blue look in the face show a deep red along the body. One way to sex this species also, early on, is to try to look at the anal fin. Males at about 2-3 months of age will start to show the red tinting there. I highly recommend this species for a peaceful community setting or even in an aggressive Mbuna setting since they do not spend lengthy times in the substrate.
Back To Top

YELLOW LAB (Labidochromis Caeruleus)

Labidochromis Caeruleus, Yellow Lab Cichlid
*Other common names: Electric yellow lab, Lemon Yellow, Yellow

*Size: up to 5 inches (13 cm.) females are usually much smaller then the males

*Scientific Name: Labidochromis Caeruleus Family- Cichlidae (Pseudocrenilabrinae)

*Natural Habitat: Rock dwelling Cichlid found in Lake Malawi (Africa)

*Description: Bright yellow in color, males have a black markings on their dorsal, pelvic and abdominal fins. Females have them only on the dorsal fins; however, some do have charcoal markings on the pelvic and abdominal fins. Also the males do have 1 or more egg spots on their anal fins, which the females completely lack.

*Recommended Tank Size and Temperament: 55 gallons is the recommended minimum size of any mbuna fish. (Because of their calm demeanor, they can be kept in a 30 gallon already, 1 male to 3-4 females ratio). They are rather calm for a Cichlid, and can be housed with a variety of species because of this.
Also lots of rocks are enjoyed by them for hiding as well as crashed coral substrate, which will help to keep the pH in the higher range without using any chemicals. They can also be kept with dither fish, like giant danios, short finned serpae tetras… and with bristle nose plecos for bottom feeders.

*Water Parameters: pH 7.2-8.4, typically 8.0 is good. Temperature: 76-82°F. Harder water is preferred, so a GH of over 200 ppm is advised.

*Typical food: This fish is an omnivore.
A quality flake such as Spirulina 20 or Sanyu Cichlid pellets. For a super premium food for omnivore cichlids this would be my recommendation: Paradigm Omnivore Fish Foods).
Frozen foods can be supplemented as a treat.

*Breeding: Maternal mouth brooder, substrate spawner. Typical incubation time is 28 days.

*Contributors Notes: By Barbara (of Everything Aquatic)
Yellow labs may be the most common cichlid in the hobby. Their mild temperament with their bold yellow colors makes for a great mix with a variety of cichlids. They are often housed with Mbuna, haps, and peacocks. My own set of yellow labs is a delight to my tank. I have enjoyed breeding them and watching their behavior. They are not an aggressive fish, and tend not to hide, so the vibrant color is always on show.

Recommended Reading for any aquarium keeper looking to maintain an aquarium to the highest standards:

Back To Top

Article Research Sponsor
Remember, it is your purchases here (both small & large) that keeps these world class information articles free.
Purchasing elsewhere such as Amazon will only result in this free information going away someday!!

For the Internet's premier source for Aquarium Light Information:

Aquarium Lighting; Reef and Planted Freshwater Aquarium Light Information


ATI Hydro Sponge Filters
ATI Hydro Sponge Aquarium Filters for bio and mechanical aquarium filtration. New Hydrosponge Pro filter for high bio load tanks. Also replacement sponges and parts for Hydro Sponge

TMC UV Sterilizers
The TMC Vecton and Advantage are unsurpassed in dwell time resulting in higher level UV Sterilization per given flow rate

For ZooMed Spirulina 20 please follow this link:

Spirulina 20 Fish Food Flake

The premium Spirulina based fish diet for most fish.

Rena XP Canister Filters
The BEST Canister Filter at ANY price; Rena XP1, XP2, XP3, XP4

AquaMaster Super Premium Cichlid Diet

High concentrate of color enriching ingredients leads to more brilliant and healthy Cichlids

RIO PUMPS; 90, 180, 200, 1000, 1100, 1700

Models 90, 200, 600, 1000, 1100, & 1700; Proven and Versatile Rio Aquarium, Fountain Water Pumps, Powerheads

Wonder Shells

The premier product for a constant supply of positive mineral ions, as well as a medicated version

UV Bulbs for recommended 6 month replacement in your Aquarium UV Sterilizer

SeaChem Cichlid Salt
SeaChem Cichlid Salt is a chemically sound blend of salts designed to replicate the natural environment of cichlids and livebearers.

Aquarium Power Head Pumps
Superior to Hagen or Marineland, yet more economical.

Aquarium Silicone
Professional Grade Aquarium Silicone

Volcanic Rock Bio Filter Media

An economical aquarium or pond filter media that is still very effective for both aerobic AND anaerobic bio filtration; ONLY $2.99


| American-Cichlids | East-African-Cichlids | SA-Cichlids | Victorian-Cichlids |
| Livebearers | Cichlids | Bettas | Goldfish | Loaches-Botias | Catfish | Rasboras-Danio | Tetras | Characins |
| Freshwater-Profiles | Aquarium-Set-Up |
| Basic_Aquarium_Principles | Basic_Saltwater | Aquarium_Disease | Aquarium_Lighting | Goldfish_disease | Aquarium_cleaning | Nitrogen_Cycle | Redox_Potential | Clear-Pond | Aquarium_Filtration | Aquarium_Medication | Aquarium UV Sterilization | Vibrio_Aeromonas | Aquarium_Ich | Columnaris | Aquarium-KH | sponge_filtration | Aquarium-Plants | Quality_Fish_Food | Oodinium |
| Return Home | Aquarium_Information | Aquarium Products | Downloads | FAQ | Contact Us | View Cart | Other |

Copyright © 2022, American Aquarium Products. All rights reserved.