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FAQs on African Cichlid Identification 1

Related Articles: African Cichlids, Malawian Cichlids: The Mbuna and their Allies By Neale Monks, The Blue Followers: the Placidochromis of Lake Malawi by Daniella Rizzo,

Related FAQs: African Cichlid ID 2, African Cichlids, African Cichlid Selection, African Cichlid Behavior, African Cichlid Compatibility, African Cichlid Systems, African Cichlid Feeding, African Cichlid Reproduction, African Cichlid Disease, Cichlids of the WorldCichlid Systems, Cichlid Identification, Cichlid Behavior, Cichlid Compatibility, Cichlid Selection, Cichlid Feeding, Cichlid DiseaseCichlid Reproduction, & Malawi Cichlid Systems, Tanganyikan Systems

"Am I blurry?" Nimbochromis venustus.

Possible <Haplochromine ID> Correction   8/17/06 Hello.  I am contacting you in reference to some of the identifications for African Cichlids on your African Cichlid FAQ.  There is a somewhat spotted and blurry photo of a cichlid that you identify tentatively as Haplochromis Polystigma.  I have a cichlid that looks nearly identical to that photo and I am fairly certain that it is a Nimbochromis venustus ("Venustus Cichlid") from Lake Malawi.  That particular photo looks to possibly be a female as they typically are less colorful and have a more silver background.  Below are some internet references to the Venustus.   Thanks, and I hope this helps. <It does... Thank you. Will post your correction, note and send along to our resident Cichlidophile Chuck Rambo for input. Bob Fenner> http://www.cichlid-forum.com/articles/n_venustus.php http://www.gcca.net/fom/Nimbochromis_venustus.htm http://www.aquahobby.com/gallery/e_venust.php http://www.malawicichlidhomepage.com/haps/malawi_venustus.html K. -- Kelly S. Smelser University of Indianapolis

Cichlids With Different Markings   8/6/06 Hi, I require some professional advice, Is it possible that wild caught Cichlids of the same species can different colours and markings? If so why? Thank you. <Many cichlids have geographic variants. These are groups of cichlids that are isolated from one another and develop slightly different patterns. Sometimes collection areas overlap and many different variants are collected at the same time to fill existing fish orders.-Chuck>  

ID For Lake Malawi cichlids  7/15/06 I have recently purchased a few Malawian cichlids and was unsure about the identification of one or two of them  I have attached a picture of the fish and did not know for sure what the yellow one was.  it looks like a female Melanochromis johanni but also a yellow lab.  Please let me know what you guys think.  Thank you for your time. Fred < The first photo is of a Metraclima estherae, or more commonly called the red zebra. The second photo has two fish in it. The fish on the left could be some zebra color variety. The fish on the right is Nimbochromis livingstonii. It gets up to a foot long and eats smaller fish.-Chuck>


Identifying Lake Malawi Cichlids  7/14/06 I've had my cichlids for 2 months now, but am not sure what I have. I got them at a small pet shop that said they might be African but no real names where given to me. I have a solid white cichlid and a solid orange one, I have a yellow one with black horizontal strips and 2 purple/blue ones that have dark vertical strips that almost look like triangles. Is it possible to breed any of these types together? Also how do I tell what is male and female? Thank you Cheryl Hippern <Unfortunately many African cichlids from Lake Malawi are produced in Florida and around the world and are dumped on the pet trade as African cichlids. The white and orange ones are probably color forms of Pseudotropheus zebra. The yellow one with the horizontal strips is in the genus Melanochromis and is probably an auratus or chipokae. the last two sound like Pseudotropheus demasoni. Generally the males get larger with longer fins. The Melanochromis will turn very dark if it is a male. The two zebras may breed with one another. The demasoni may breed with each other. With these fish any cross is a possibility.-Chuck>

Unknown Lake Malawi Cichlid   6/11/06 Hello, Thank you for building such an informative site! I enjoy reading it. I just have one question, I bought this cichlid today at the LFS. The guy called it a "zebra pulu", but I can't find anything online about "Zebra pulu"'s. He was in a tank with an assortment of Peacock cichlids [and others, but I can't remember their names] So I'm guessing it's an African cichlid. here is a picture: http://i34.photobucket.com/albums/d123/theunknownvegetable/iggy.jpg It's tiny right now, only about an inch long. I have a few caves and logs in the tank but it seems to prefer zipping about in open water [and it won't STOP zipping! It took me half an hour to snap a decent picture!] The closest thing i can compare it to physically is Maylandia lombardoi except it has more/thinner stripes than any I've seen. Can you please help me identify it, so i can take better care of it? Thank you for your help. Jessen < Your little Lake Malawi cichlid is in the Mbuna group of rock dwelling cichlids. With probably close to 1500 species and a fuzzy photo it would be difficult to give you and exact ID. Many times these assorted African cichlids are crosses coming out of Florida fish farms so and exact ID is not possible. Generally your fish likes hard alkaline water in the upper to mid 70's F. The tank should be well filtered with lots of rocks. Their diet is most algae 9in the wild , so a fish food that is vegetarian based is the best choice.-Chuck>

Cichlid ID ... Chuck must be psychic... or have those decoder glasses from cereal boxes of yore!  6/3/06 You photos are of a Melanochromis chipokee from Lake Malawi. Females and fry stay yellow with black stripes while the males turn black with blue stripes.-Chuck>

Pink Jewelfish Cichlid  - 03/09/2006 Good Morning! I hate to send another email (I do not want to clog the inbox) but I am attempting to identify/confirm a fish that I recently purchased. I went to my local fish store the other day to see about getting some rainbow cichlids but alas, they had none.  They showed me some fish that they called "Pink Cichlids" which I liked and so decided to purchase the only two they had. I currently have 4 convicts and 3 jewels (I had 4 but one mysteriously died) in a 75 gallon tank.  I am working towards populating the tank but do not want overcrowding.  Sorry... I digress. The pink cichlids, although small for now, are doing well in the tank (no fights or turf wars going on) but I am now wondering if they really are pink cichlids as the store told me.  They look an awful lot like my jewels, just a brighter pinkish color.  I did a search on the internet and every single picture I came across of either a 'pink cichlid' or 'pink convict' did not look anything like my fish. I also came across some articles while searching the internet that talked about how many fish are dyed, painted, injected or dipped. (Horrible thing to do in my opinion).  Anyway, now I am all concerned that perhaps these two new fish I have are jewels that have been dyed and to be honest, I would be too embarrassed to ask the store owner to his face. Since I do not know much about fish I would hate to make any assumptions. I have attached a photo of one of my pink fish (next to one of my jewels on convicts) in hopes that you can help confirm its identity and put my mind at ease about whether or not this is its natural color.  I would love to get a few more, but if they are dyed, etc., I would rather not. I will apologize in advance for the picture not being of the best quality...my camera is a bit 'out-dated'. (like me)! Once again, thank you so much for any insight and information you can provide.  Your assistance is sincerely appreciated (as well as your wonderful website. thanks for all the hard work) Very Respectfully, Kathi < You have a form or jewelfish in the genus Hemichromis. They are an Asian bred import and may even be a cross between  a couple different species. There color ranges from a light pink to a very vivid red when they are happy and getting ready to breed. This is their real color and they are not painted or dyed.-Chuck>

Af. cichlid IDs  - 03/05/06 Dear Fearless Leader, The first cichlid is an Aulonocara baenschi male from Nkhomo Reef, Lake Malawi. The second photo is a Cyphotilapia frontosa male from Lake Tanganyika. He is an old male well past his prime so I can't tell the exact collecting location. Chuck <Nor their Zodiac Signs? You're slipping! Thanks Chuck, BobF>

Fish ID   2/14/06 Dear Fearless Leader, From the south side of Lake Tanganyika , off the coast from Mpulungu, Zambia. In about 60ft of water off a little island called Mbete you will find this" Lamprologus" multifasciatus hiding in shells from predators. Very easy to collect, just pick up the shells.-Chuck <Thanks much Chuck. BobF>

What is This Cichlid  9/24/05 Dear Crew. Hey, three or so days ago I bought a 2 and a half inch cichlid from my local pet shop.  Unfortunately neither I nor they know what this fish is.  So far all I know is its a Mbuna and could possible be a Labidochromis or Labeotropheus.  The fish itself is a karke colour and has what I think are egg spots on its anal fin.  See what you think off the photos I've attached - also if you can (which I doubt you can from these photos) could you tell whether this is a male or female fish. Thanks - Andrew < You fish looks like a Tropheops tropheops from Zimbaawe Rock in Malawi. If it gets darker then it is probably a male. Females stay pretty yellow and could easily be confused with a yellow Labidochromis but the head shapes are very different.-Chuck>

Fish ID Needed 07/01/05 My apologies.  I took some better pictures and am attaching 2 of the male (one from each side) and one of the female.  She is harder to photograph, as she hides in her rocks a lot, except at night when they hang out together.  Thanks. < Your Placidochromis sp. "phenochilus Tanzania", is a recent import from Lake Malawi. The adults were pretty expensive at first and only hard core cichlid keepers were keeping them. Now recent spawnings have brought the prices down and they are becoming more available in the hobby. The interesting thing about this fish is the light blue mottling becomes more intense as the fish gets older.-Chuck>

Finding Info on African Cichlids Hello, I have been searching the web all day and  I stumbled upon  your website. I bought African cichlids and I am wondering how to tell what kind they are. And once I find what breed they are what gender they are. Thank you if you can point me in the right direction. Julie < Go to Fishbase.org or cichlidae.com. You most likely have fish from Lake Malawi so start there first. Most of these fish are sexually dimorphic so sexing them is usually not a problem.-Chuck>

Identifying Cichlids What I meant in my last email was pics with the name of the different types of cichlids so I can figure out which ones are which. thank you Julie < With thousands of species and numerous geographic variations you may want to check out some books by Ad Konings. He has lots of photos on his web site at CichlidPress.com.-Chuck>

Identifying Mixed African Cichlids Hey, I recently purchased a number of fish from a nearby pet store in NJ and the label on the tank said only "Tiny Mixed Africans". I have searched many websites, read tons of forums, but I cannot find any pictures of fish that resemble these. This is my last resort at properly identifying these fish. All fish have identical body shapes and fins, but the colors are all different. I know that they are all cichlids but that's it.  The first 4 are a yellow gold with an off-color yellow spot on their lower fin and a bunch of blue metallic spots on the back fin (picture on left). The second pair are blue with vertical black stripes starting at the head and running the entire length of the fish (picture on left, far back) there is also another set that are similar to them but their colors faded to a blue green after a week but also had stripes The last pair have 3 horizontal stripes on the top half with a whitish background and a yellow belly (picture on right, far right fish). I also purchased 2 fish labeled "yellow labido" that have a black stripe running on their top fin and are electric yellow Any information you can provide me on behavior, breeding, sexing, and their scientific names would be greatly appreciated. Dan  P.S.  I know the pictures are blurry but they were taken with a camera phone < All of your fish come from Lake Malawi in Africa. Go to fishbase.org and check out Pseudotropheus, Labeotropheus, Labidochromis and Melanochromis. I think you will find all of them on this website.-Chuck>  

What is This Cichlid? I bought this African cichlid out of an assortment tank and would like to know what type he is. his over all shape is the regular cichlid shape, his underlining color is a greenish grey color, and he has big black spots that don't over lap. Hope you could help, thanks. Amber < Unfortunately many Lake Malawi cichlids have fallen into this category of assorted African cichlid tank. This is really a shame because they are individual species that could be set up and readily spawned. Your cichlid falls into the category of "haps" from Lake Malawi. These are usually open water or sand dwelling cichlids. The females and fry show some of the same markings you describe and only the males get any color on them. Go to fishbase.org and check out the cichlid genera of Copadichromis and Protomelas. These are some of the more common cichlids thrown into the assorted tank.-Chuck> 

What is an Mbuna? How do you tell the difference between a Mbuna and any other African cichlids? thanks miles < In Lake Malawi there are a group of cichlids that eat algae off the rocks. These cichlids are called "Mbuna" by the natives. When I was at the lake a couple of years ago I wore a fish club shirt with numerous illustrations on them and even small native children pointed out the Mbuna on my shirt. These cichlids all have teeth to scrape algae and are very territorial. They are all maternal mouthbrooders. They are a very popular aquarium fish with the members of the American Cichlid Association.-Chuck>

Protomelas spilonotus

WHAT KIND OF CICHLID IS IT? A friend of mine recently moved and had to give me her fish. She said the generic name was "Blue Sand Dweller". I can't find the scientific name nor can I find the generic name on the internet. Do you know what type of fish this is? < Protomelas spilonotus.> Once I find that out, I should be able to determine where they hail from and how I need to take care of them. I have a male and a female. They are currently in a 29 gallon tank. Also, I have tried to make a hiding space for her by arranging the rocks, but it seems no matter how small I make the openings, he always seems to get in. She can escape out the back with no problem, but can this be a problem should she have babies? < It appears that you have a pair of Protomelas spilonotus cichlids from Lake Malawi. The males usually have a yellow blaze to the forehead but it may be lacking in some populations. They like hard alkaline water and are usually found over rocks feeding on invertebrates. The best way to spawn then is in a harem with one male to a group of females. When you have only a pair then the female is usually chased around so much that she will not have any additional resources to develop any eggs. It will be difficult in a small tank to get these fish to spawn. If they do spawn they the female will be holding eggs in her mouth for three days and then they will hatch. The fry will become free swimming in another three days. In about week the babies can be stripped from the female and raised on baby brine and crushed flake food. They do get up to about 10 inches in the aquarium.-Chuck> 

What lake(s) do my African cichlids come from???? notice both of them have spots on their anal fins. the black one usually shows less color than in the picture, and the yellow one has a pear colored belly. thanks for your time, its greatly appreciated......Joe < Your fish come from the east African lake called Lake Malawi. Its old name was Lake Nyassa.-Chuck>


Matagawa cichlid Hello I was at an aquarium shop, and I saw this vertically stripped blue and black cichlid with a yellow tail. He said its called "Yellow tail Matagawa cichlid". I have not been able to find any information about it. Am I spelling it right? Does it a scientific name? Where can I read about them? Any links or ideas where I can find information about it? Thanks! < Look for Pseudotropheus elongatus from Mbengi Island in Lake Malawi. Many times shop owners don't have time to look up all the names of fish. Especially trade-ins like the one you are describing. It is basically and Mbuna that feeds on algae it scrapes off the rock. They are usually aggressive and have teeth to back it up. This is probably why it was traded in.-Chuck>

African cichlid system, ID I have read numerous articles on your site and it's a wealth of information. I am currently running a FO 55 gallon brackish tank. The filter is a Fluval 404, heater set at 79 - 80 degrees, 2 air stones and some hiding faux logs with some faux plants. I used Delaware river stone on the bottom of the tank. I bought a big bag from Lowe's Home Improvement Store and cleaned it up pretty good. I had it in the tank for months before the fish were introduced. All the fish are doing extremely well. I have a nice piece of a drift I found on the beach sitting in a 20 gallon tank. It's being filtered by a Fluval 204 with 50% water changes daily. I figure it will take quite some time to leach and re-waterlog the, uh, log. I am having a difficult time sexing the fish. I believe I have the following - 2 Pseudotropheus socolofi - sometimes dark blue/sometimes light blue; 1 has 2 spots on tail fin and the other has 4 spots on tail fin; 1 seems to have some black in the top fin < Ps. socolofi is a blue fish with black fine edging. It is a little more elongated than the orange zebra. The spots are not a reliable sex indicator.> 2 Pseudotropheus estherae - Orange all the time; 1 has 2 spots and the other has 4 or 5 spots < Sometimes males turn blue as the get older.> 1 male Labidochromis caeruleus 2 Nimbochromis livinstonii - their faces get blue/black; bodies seem to change from orange to green to yellow tinges; bottom fin edges turn a beautiful orangey rainbow < Only the males turn blue and have an orange tinge on the anal fin. In the wild the males turn blue when breeding. When not in breeding dress they stay a brown white mottled color like the females and fry. In the lake they lie on their side and pretend to be dead so they can attract a smaller fish over. When a fish comes by they pop up and eat it!> 2 Aulonocara baenschi - 2 blue faces, yellow bodies with black stripes; < Both males , females have no color at all.> 2 others with red bodies that look the same 2 Paralabidochromis 2 leopard spotted cats (silver with black spots) All are around 2.5 to 3 inches. I wonder if the socolofi are male estherae as I read the males of this species are blue but the bodies do show very light black lines going top to bottom that only show when they turn pale blue. I'd love to get these fish to breed. I've got the PH around 8.0 and add Seachem Cichlid Lake Salt at the rate of 1 teaspoon per 5 gallons at water change. I change roughly 20 gallons every 2 to 3 weeks. The river stone actually keeps the PH up pretty well but sometimes I'll add some baking soda to help a bit. I've also got a 75 gallon FW with about a dozen Neon Tetra, 4 Cardinal Tetra, 4 Black Tetra, 5 Rainbows and a tremendous Pleco. I'll venture into salt in a bout a year or so when we finally move into the new house. I've got an in wall tank planned of at least 200 gallons! So, comments/suggestions? < Check out CichlidPress.com for photos of lake Malawi cichlids and see if you can identify your fish and maybe the sex. If you really want to get into cichlids then check out a book by AD Konings "Enjoying Cichlids." In there you will find lots of good reliable info.-Chuck> Thanks in advance, Jamie in New York

I.D. Please Chuck's go   I hope this picture is sufficient. I bought this fish at a local fish store and it was labeled African cichlid. Could you please tell me what it is < Looks mostly like Nimbochromis Venustus from Lake Malawi. It is an ambush predator and feeds on smaller fishes. Your particular fish looks like it has a different head and may possibly be a cross between a Venustus and another haplochromine. The store probably took it in as a trade. -Chuck>
What's the Haps? Bob's turn   I hope this picture is sufficient. I bought this fish at a local fish store and it was labeled African cichlid. Could you please tell me what it is <Think this is a Haplochromis polystigma: http://www.fishbase.org/Photos/ThumbnailsSummary.cfm?ID=2277 Bob Fenner>

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