One of the nicer Tanganyikan cichlids in both temperament and
color comes from the genus Cyprichromis. This fish comes
from all over the lake and is found in more variants then places.
The reason being is that there may be different species living
side by side in the same habitat. "Cyps" are generally very peaceful
fish. They typically live in schools that number in the thousands
but they can wander about in smaller groups. Females are usually
very boring in color but this is made up for in the males. They
come in a cornucopia of colors that can dazzle the eye. Since
these fish are polygamous, maternal mouth brooders, and are schooling
fish, you can expect multiple males colored up at the same time.
This is one of the main advantages of the Cyprichromis. Of course,
you will need to set up your group correctly in order to achieve
harmony. I can't stress enough to purchase these fish in at least
quantities of 12 to look their best.
Cyps come in two basic sizes, regular and jumbo. The regular sizes
average about 3.5" while the jumbos can go all the way up to 7". They are
plankton eaters picking anything off that might float or swim by. Since
they generally eat small snacks throughout the day in the wild, frequent
feeding are very beneficial in the aquarium. A diet rich in protein gets
your fish in spawning condition quickly. Black worms, red worms, glass
worms, brine shrimp, and quality flake food work best. Since they like
small particles of food, they work well in a tank with sloppy eaters.
Since Cyps are midwater dwellers they make a welcome addition to the
Tanganyikan community tank. Most cichlids occupy the bottom half of the
tank where cyps will occupy the top half where your other fish rarely go.
Males stake out three-dimensional territories but are willing to let other
species or females enter at any time. Since they are not very aggressive
(with some exceptions) they make great dithers for your other cichlids.
Their mouths are very small and they pose little risk to the other tanks
inhabitants. The males tend to do more "flaring" then actual fighting.
Their flaring is actually quite entertaining and keeps the males looking
Breeding cyps is not much of a challenge. I like to keep equal amounts
of males to females in order to reduce pressure on the females. The fish
will spawn in midwater with their heads pointed down. It's amazing to see
the female catch her eggs before they hit the gravel. Females will hold
the eggs normally to almost four weeks before releasing the fry. Here's
the great part about this fish: they don't really go after their fry! If
you give the female some tight spots where only her fry can hide, you can
expect most of them to live. No stripping of eggs are necessary! Spawn
sizes are small, expect between 4-25, depending on the size of the female.
The eggs are about as large as any cichlid. One variant's eggs have been
measured at slightly larger then frontosas!
Some of the best-colored cyps are:
- "Kavala", which is one of the jumbo cyps. They can grow to almost
7", have a blue blaze on the head, yellow on the cheek and underside,
and triangular tiger stripes.
- "Kitumba", also a jumbo. Males come in yellow, light blue, dark
blue, and combinations of these colors! Probably the best looking one
but also the meanest. Males can be aggressive enough to make them very
"un-cyp-like" in behavior, sometimes taking over a large tank. However
it is fascinating to see males with a color pattern on one side and
another color pattern on the other. The so called "speckle back rainbow"
is also very similar to this fish in temperament and behavior.
- "Tricolor", which is another jumbo. The males come is three
different flavors: blue body with yellow fins, brown body with black
fins, and my favorite, black dorsal and anal fins with a bright yellow
head and tail. The males tend to have fry of their color variety but
will have fry of the other color types as well.
- "Neonback" or "Utinta" which is not a jumbo. The males of this fish
have a metallic blue dorsum that stretches from the tip of the nose to
the tail with either blue or yellow tails. They grow to a maximum of
four inches. This fish is basically a better looking "blue flash".
All in all Cyprichromis are a colorful, peaceful, easy to keep
genus. If you haven't kept a cyp since the 'blue flash' was first
on the scene, I encourage you to give one of the other variants
a try. You will not be disappointed.