fryeri is commonly called "the
Electric Blue Hap" and sometimes
just "Electric Blue." Often it is
traded, or has been traded in the
hobby using old scientific names
applied to it, which were proven
to be incorrect; Haplochromis jacksoni,
Haplochromis cf. ahli, Haplochromis
ahli, and Cyrtocara ahli.
S. fryeri is best known for its stunning, electric blue color in
the males. The females however are
a generic brownish-grey to silver
depending on their collection point.
This blue color changes in intensity
depending upon the male's mood (i.e.,
if another male or female is nearby).
During spawning, or displaying to
other fish, they will display dark
vertical barring (see photo above).
There are many morphs of S.
fryeri throughout Lake Malawi,
but all have the same electric blue
color. Typically, males of the southern
populations display a white blaze
that northern populations lack.
Differences also arise in the coloring
of their dorsal, anal, and caudal
fins, and there is some body depth
variation as well. The most common
collection points for these white
blaze specimens is Maleri Island.
The Likoma Island variants lack
the full white blaze, but extra
large specimens can display the
blaze. The Likoma Island variants
also tend to have a very reddish
Also interesting to note is that
there tends to be a size difference
in S. fryeri specimens. Most
wildcaughts reach modest sizes of
12-14 cm, as is typical of the Maleri
Island and Cape Maclear locations.
The largest wildcaught on record
comes from Likoma Island, and had
a total length of just over 20 cm.
In the aquarium, all variants can
grow to 20 cm in length. The females
of this species, like most African
Cichlid species, tend to be slightly
smaller than the males.
S. fryeri is rare within
Lake Malawi, although it does has
a lake-wide distribution. It inhabits
mostly the rocky areas of the lake
and in the intermediate zone at
depths between 10 and 40 m. When
first collected for exportation,
only about 5 females per year could
be found. Eventually it was found
that most of the females could be
found hunting the Utaka juveniles.
Haplochromine is relatively easy
to breed and usually produces broods
of up to 60 or 70 fry! It is a polygamous
mouthbrooder. In the wild, males
construct large, conical or volcano-like
structures out of the sediment and
then tries to entice a female to
enter into this structure to spawn
with him. Although this behavior
is rarely demonstrated in captivity,
a rock-laden setup works best so
as to keep these fish from becoming
Males first build up an area of
sediment around a rock and then
try to encourage a female to enter
this area to mate with him. When
a female has been induced, she will
drop her eggs on the rock. The current
in the water causes the egg to roll
toward the male, who catches the
egg with his anal fin, at which
point it is fertilized. The female
now picks up the egg(s) and the
cycle is repeated 60 to 70 more
times, which usually lasts 20 to
30 minutes if they are uninterrupted.
Incubation lasts anywhere from 21
to 28 days.
In nature, S. fryeri are
piscovores, often specializing in
hunting Utaka or mbuna juveniles.
In the aquarium, where we tend to
feed our fish more frequently than
they would feed in the wild, it
is important not to over do it with
their protein consumption. The European
Shrimp Mix is one choice for food,
though certainly they will readily
eat mysis shrimp, brine shrimp,
krill, High Quality Flake, High
many fish, we have found that there
is a great deal of variance in the
level of aggression found in Male Scieanochromis fryeri. This
fish looks best when it is in a
dominant position in the tanks chain
of command. When dominant, it's
behaviour can range from fairly
aggressive, to downright nasty.
We have found that even with the
most aggressive of specimens, that
their aggression starts to reduce
as the fish gets older, once they
reach over 15cm (6") in length.
Keeping these fish in a 4ft aquarium
can be accomplished, but this would
be an absolute minimum, and with
some males would not be a successful
venture. We tend to keep them in
6ft aquariums, and have had greater
success with this.
Another byproduct of the male's aggression is reduced spawn life of females
in certain circumstances. In smaller
tanks, and with few females (1-3),
the male's attention can be so constant
and harassing that we've often found
that females spawning life is reduced
to 12-18 months. Once changing to
larger tanks, and an increased number
of females, the problem has gone
Not only can a male fryeri be harassing
to their females, but many just
can't seem to stop there. Certainly
they are a playboy of Lake Malawi,
and they seem to take a liking to
other species females, with a particular
fondness to Aulonocara's.
It isn't an unusual story to hear
that a male fryeri has eliminated
his "rival" in an Aulonocara male,
in order to spawn with the Aulonocara
females. Take care with what you
mix this fish with, and do be careful
with other species fry in this tank,
as we do like to discourage hybridization
of this type.