Cyathopharynx furcifer

by Caner Gunduz

Most cichlid hobbyists call them the king of the featherfins, but I think they are the most beautiful freshwater fish.

Featherfin: Cyathopharynx, Ophtalmotilapia, Benthochromis, Cunningtola species

The males can reach up to 22cm and the females can grow up to 13-14cm. The males have amazing blue, green, purple and sometimes red coloration (some red can be found on Sibwesa and Helembe), but females are silver. Also, males have very long ventral fins with yellow tips.

  • When they are young (4-5 cm), they can look like Ophtalmotilapia Ventralis. But when they are 7-8 cm, especially males, can be identified as Cyathopharynx.
  • They should be feed a semi-vegetarian diet, such as a Green Pea and Shrimp mixture with some vitamins. (a.k.a Shrimp Mix)
  • They require a minimum of 400 liters (100-110 US gallon) tank. This tank can hold two males and 8-10 females.
  • The sand must be fine (like beach sand), because the males make bowers in the sand for a mating area and may eat some of the sand for easier digestion.
  • The filtration must be very efficient and the filters should be able to cycle the tank 3-4 times an hour.
  • PH should be between 8 or 8,5 for tank bred types, or  9 or  little higher ( 9,3 ) for wild caught fish.
  • You should make big water changes  because they are very dirty fish...

they have very long intestines so they produce more waste than some others.

Never ever feed them with Tubifex,Blood worm or any high protein based food.They can die because of Bloat disease.


The Cyathopharynx kind has two types and these two types have their color morphs.

1-) Cyathopharynx Furcifer

Photo by Stephen Boulet

C.Furcifer “kigoma?”

2-) Cyathopharynx Foae (Foai)

Photo by Ad Konnings

C.Foae “Moliro”

The first difference between them is their colors. Foae has a darker body and they have some marblings on their body, unlike Furcifer.

The second difference is that Foae lives in a deeper and rockier habitat than Furcifer. That’s why Foae has darker color. He lives in deep water with some rocks, so the dark color is better for hiding.

Furcifer prefers open sandy areas with some rocks.

But there are some species of the Cyathopharynx which can be classified as in between the two types. For example: Furcifer “kigoma” has a dark body but they don’t have any Foae marblings on his body. He also has a yellow coloration above the head and behind the eyes when courting the female...


The two types have the same breeding behaviour. Males build bowers in the sand which can be 60cm in diameter...And they don’t give permission to other males to enter their areas..

Photo by Chris Juvinall

Tank bred male fish can color up (some blue tones)  when they are 7-8 cm but wild fish can show their first colors at 10 cm.

Dominant males build their bowers and display their best colors to the females. They drag their ventral fins through the middle of the bower because they have yelow “bulbs” at the end of their Ventral fins. These are  look like the eggs, and females try to pick them up.

When he finds his female which has full of eggs, he tries to attract her into the bower. When  the female comes middle of the bower, they start the circular motion.

After a few turns the  female deposits a few eggs and the male deposits some sperm. At this point the yellow “bulbs” do their job. When the  female think that they are the eggs and move towards them and tries to pick them up the male releases some more sperm which can guarantee the perfect fertilization in her mouth.

Females can produce 10-40 eggs depending on the size of the female. They hold them  18-23 days, but 21 days in general. The eggs can be seen from her mouth, especially after 12-14 days. Some black coloration can be seen from her mouth that shows the eggs are fertilizied.

  • At this moment, you can seperate the female into another tank. You should wait for 2 weeks before seperating because trying to seperate her during the first days of holding can be stressful and she may spit the eggs while still fully yellow. It’s a difficult job to incubate the eggs when they are not mature. After a 2 week period, though,  the eggs have eyes and tails, so they can move and rarely get fungus. If the female spits the eggs you won’t have so many problems if they can move.

When she releases the eggs at the normal time,  you should move her into another tank or main tank if you have other females. Males are agressive spawners, and they can disturb the females which are not ready to spawn.


The decoration is very important for Cyathopharynx. There are some rules that you must obey...

  • The sand should be fine.
  • You should give open areas for the bowers of the males and some rocky areas for the females.
  • They don’t like many plants in the tank; they just need some swimming area

So don’t put so many plants in the tank. A few Cyrpto,Anubias and Valinessera Spilaris will be fine.

Here’s my young male which is 8 cm long  C.Furcifer “kigoma”

Here’s my Furcifer tank. 140 x 50 x 60 cm = 420 liter. It has a rocky area at the middle and two open sand area right and left side for males... I have 2 male and 7 female so they do well in this tank.If there were 3 male I could have some problems...

I don’t recommend any tank mates except some Cyprichromis. Also keep your tank’s width 60 cm for better bowers.

A last minute observation: I just witnessed my dominant male acting like a female and stealing sand from the area of other males to enlarge its own bower !!

A short introduction by the author:

Actually I don't call myself a hobbyist. I am an aquarium addict. I found some pictures in which I'm 3 years old and one arm is in an aquarium.  I live in Istanbul/Turkiye (Turkey), where it was hard to find good fish 5-6 years ago. Now we can find nearly everything by special offer because we have an Aquarium Club. It helps us to bring in some fish from Germany and Cz. Rep. It was also hard at first to organize people to do something about it.

Here's my Story

When I was at high school, I started to participate again in the hobby. I purchased 3 M’buna and put them our 60-liter tank. They fought so much that I found two of them dead. Then my dad (he's responsible from my situation, He always helped me to be an addict.) and I made a big tank, which was 420 liter. Then, I had some oscars and bred them,  Firemouth (T.meeki) that spawned as well, and Frontosa that also spawned. After 5 years I started learning many more things and it was time for Discus (still is)...With Discus, I was able to breed some Angelfish and South America Dwarfs (apistogramma). By the way I saw a fish in a magazine called Cyathopharunx Furcifer and it was the love at first sight. After I was able to breed Discus, I started keeping Furcifer and now I have some fry.
Some of my friends and I came together and we organized an aquarium-club. Today we have 200 members. We are still trying to give some info, fish and talks to beginners.

Visit next page for more photos of this fish

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