(including C. Leptosoma, , C.Pavo , C.Microlepidatus, P.Nigripinnis and P.brieni )

By Caner Gunduz

C.leptosoma sp. jumbo “Kitumba”

Here are some of the most wanted fish for Tanganyika cichlid tanks. Because of their good temper and  very low intraspecific aggression. Also, they show a very large color variation ranging from  yellow, blue, black, purple, greenish-blue, red and their combinations.   


There are 4 Cyprichromis and  3 Paracyprichromis species most commonly found in the market these days as well as P. nigripinnis “albino” and C. zonatus.

C. leptosoma sp. "Jumbo" can grow up to 13-14cm in the wild. The "true" Leptosoma (C. leptosoma) are smaller than jumbos, they rarely grow more than 10cm. C. pavo, C. microlepidatus, P. nigripinnis and P. brieni can grow up to 10-12cm. Cyprichromis Leptosoma are “real” schooling fish, which means they love to swim together as a group. In the wild you can see schools which consist of as many as 10.000 individuals, therefore you should keep at least 6-8 individuals in aquarium.  

Paracyprichromis species swim slower than C. leptosoma, and they don’t show the schooling behavior of the first.


They eat planktons in the wild ( you should give crushed food because their mouth isn’t suitable for big food pieces), therefore they  really love artemia in captivity. You should also give them some spurilina flake crushed by you in advance”. Their fry can eat the same food with their parents, it must be crushed till the food particles are really tiny. Artemia (Brine Shrimp) is the best food for adults and fry.

Water Chemistry :

Try to keep your pH high and stable at 8 to 8.5 (they will thrive in any pH in the 8.0-8.9 range and the higher the better) and your GH should be over 15  (hard water). Only some nitrates are allowed in the water and I definitely recommend not more than 15-20 mg/lt.


They dislike “Ammonia, Nitrites and/or Nitrates”  in the water like all Tanganyika cichlids. Try to change the water every week (minimum 20% and not more than 35%). Sump filtration is the best for Tanganyika tanks because of the larger surface for biological filtration and - most important thing - high O2 levels.


They are quite different from other cichlids. Especially because of their body shape most fish keepers call them “sardine cichlids”. Their main difference is their preferred swimming area and their spawning behavior. They mostly swim at the upper part of the water column and they breed in mid - water, so they don’t need any substrate at the bottom, caves etc. They need just a few things.  Lots of swimming space and one or two vertical rocks located at the sides of the tank - you don’t have to put rocks, it’s not a “must”, but they feel better.

You can see their preferred swimming level, above.

They require taller tanks. If you have a chance to have a tank with an appropriate height you should also prefer a good length rather than width. If you prefer some figures than I would say that the minimum tank dimensions should be 100cm x 60 cm height x 45-50 cm width. That will hold 2-3 males with 10 females. Of course, bigger is better.

You should have a good ratio between males/females. This ratio should be minimum 1m/3f. In the wild a male can hold 30-40 females maybe more…

A vertical Rock is a good solution.

 C. leptosoma school (photo by EricGenevelle)

Let’s start with the most popular one C. leptosoma,

They are middle sized fishes reaching a total length of 9-10 cm. But C. leptosoma has a larger variety called “jumbo” which can reach 12-13 cm total length. You shouldn’t mix "jumbos" with true C. leptosoma. They can produce ugly hybrids.

My C.Leptosoma “Utinta” 

“Blue Flash”( photo by Dmitri Wanushkin)

There are lots of C. leptosoma variations available in the hobby. The main color is blue but the fish which have blue body can have either a yellow or a blue tail. C. leptosoma “mpulungu” and  C. leptosoma “utinta” are two of the blue types which have yellow tail but also have blue tailed variations. A yellow tailed C. leptosoma can produce some blue tailed male fry and vice versa.

We can explain this situation if we take into account the appearance of the females. The female’s coloration is the same for the blue tail and the yellow tail - they don’t show any sign which can tell us which is the tail color of their father. Whenever a female fry of a blue-tailed father spawns with a yellow-tailed male; this female will produce blue & yellow-tailed fry. It is impossible to tell if a female is from a blue-tailed or a yellow tailed generation. Coloration of the "jumbo" and the "true" C. leptosoma differs only in the "reflection" of the colors. The "true" C. leptosoma shows metallic colors like blue or purple. In contrast, the "jumbo" variety shows very beautiful pastel colors such as yellow, purple, navy blue, green etc.

C. leptosoma sp. Jumbo “kigoma”

C.leptosoma sp. Jumbo “Moliro” (photo from Airfish.de)

The sexual maturation of the "Jumbo" variety takes longer than the "true" C. leptosoma. The coloration can change considerably, this is especially true for the “Kitumba” variety which usually changes its color during its lifetime. There are also a lot of color variations of Jumbo “kitumba” as you can see in the photos below. Bear in mind that those are just a few examples.

C.Leptosoma sp. Jumbo “ black bee”. Note that the Black Bee has whitish-blue margins at its dorsal and anal fins. Black bee is a variation of the Tricolor. There are some other tricolors like “black fin” or “gold head”. 


Cyprichromis spawn in the middle of the water column. The male’s sperm can be seen if you look carefully. The behavior of the male can also be seen in those photos. He elongates his lips while the female shows him her ventral fins and vice versa. Then, the female releases the egg at the upper layer of the tank and quickly picks it up.  The female holds the eggs in its mouth like the other mouthbrooders for 21 days (sometimes even more - it depends on the temperature of the water). Here are some pictures taken during spawning.

You can see the egg in front of the female.


The male "dances" in front of the female and releases his sperm in this position.

C. pavo and C. microlepidatus

These 2 types of Cyprichromis are different from the C. leptosoma. They also have geographical variants and different colors and they are rarely found at local fish shops and market. They behave and breed like C. leptosoma but the C. microlepidatus is a little closer to P. nigripinnis as far as behaviour is concerned.



Blue Neon ( P. nigripinnis)

P. brieni - Photo used with permission by Philippe Burnel (http://perso.club-internet.fr/burnel/Tanga/Pbrieni.JPG)

Here’s another different cichlid called Paracyprichromis. They are different from Cyprichromis but they need the same decoration, diet and water parameters. The main difference is that you should add more rocks in the tank. Some people ask me if they will cross breed with C. leptosoma. The answer is definitely “no” so you can keep them together without any problem.

They breed very close to the vertical rocks in an upside down position - unlike C. leptosoma. Sometimes, males can hide in the dark caves and show their “neon” colors to passing females.

There aren't many local varieties of this fish (C. nigripinnis) therefore you don’t have to care about mixing different "strains". They are slow growers like A. calvus and they are harder than C. leptosoma to spawn. They also gives very few fry like 5-10. They also have an albino variety. A normal colored P. nigripinnis can also produce Albino fry.

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