This cichlid was originally described as Paratilapia nicholsi. It is
sometimes known as Nichol’s mouthbrooder. There have been a few other
synonyms for this fish; Paratilapia ventralis and Haplochromis ventralis
This fish is found in Africa. More specifically, it’s found in the East
central Congo basin (at Ankoro and Upemba Lakes). The type locality for
the fish is Ankoro (at the junction of the Lualaba and Luvua Rivers in
Katanga Province in the southeast portion of the Republic of Congo
(formerly Zaire). This small mouthbrooding cichlid is not well known in
the general hobby at large. Most people associate African cichlids with
kribs, jewels and the Rift Lake cichlids.
The male of the species is a spectularly coloured fish that reaches
lengths of about 3½” (8.5 cm). Females are generally about an
inch smaller. Males have a multitude of colours. Generally, the males
front half is a bright yellow that starts changing towards blue towards
the back half of the body. The lips are bright blue. The unpaired fins
are patterned with red and blue. Pelvic fins are black edged with
white. The pectoral fins are yellow. From behind the gill cover towards
the back of the fish, there are red spots on the edges of scales
increasing in number as you go further back on the fish. Females are
basically a plain coloured fish ranging from grey to brown to a light
These cichlids are quite aggressive for their small size. They need to
be kept in small groups with more females than males. The best
situation is a small tank (20g and up) with 1 male and 2 females. They
spawn quite readily in the aquarium. Some people claim that they have
problems getting eggs to hatch and then to get the young to adulthood.
They say females tend to eat their eggs. My female has been an
exemplary parent. So far in my experience the fry are pretty small and
need some pretty small foods at the beginning of their life to make it.
The eggs are brooded for approximately 3 weeks before they are
Several caves in the aquarium will help with the spawning as they seem
to like to spawn in them. You can keep them at 72-75°F
(22-25°C). They seem fairly adaptable to most water
conditions, though it’s recommended to have a pH of 6-8.
Nicholsi will happily eat pretty much anything you put in front of
them, but take care to add some vegetable matter to their diet.
I first received a pair of these wonderful fish from a friend and local
club member. We had both seen the pair for sale at Wet Thumb Aquatics,
but since I didn’t have a tank for them at the time I didn’t try too
hard for them. The female was holding fry when I brought them home.
When I got the pair home, I placed the male into a tank containing some
white clouds and 2 female Pelvicachromis taeniatus.
The female was placed into a small
tank with plants to release the fry. She released within a few days.
She had originally spit 9 fry into the bag she was transported in but
had again picked up these fry. I ended up with a lot more than 9 fry
from this. This is when I learned that the fry need small food.
They were fed microworms originally with some powdered spirulina. They
were then fed bbs. The female was moved into the males tank after
a few days as I didn’t know how long I could keep her with the fry.
(Originally she would take the fry back into her mouth for protection.
When she no longer took the fry in, I decided to move her.)
This tank is heavily planted. The male immediately decided to try
and impress her. She didn’t want much to do with him at first. The male
nicholsi and the female taeniatus would actually display to each other;
not with romance in mind but territory. The white clouds were totally
ignored. They were fed a mix of foods. They would get several types of
flakes, pellets and occasionally some frozen foods. I never saw them
reject any particular food. After a while it became obvious to me that
the female was holding again. During the time she was holding,
the male kept pestering her. The female held the eggs and fry to term.
I again put her in the small container to release the tiny fry (in
comparison to most other mouthbrooders people are used to e.g.
Malawians). The male had destroyed about half of the females
tail. I think if there was a second female, that the problem of the
male harassing the one female would not have been so severe.
The fry grow slowly at first (or at least they seem to!). After saving
the 2nd batch of fry I decided to not save too many babies in my
fishroom as we were moving shortly and moving babies is pretty tough on
them. So, when we moved the parents, the female spit out fully
formed fry into the bag. At that point I decided to save them. Right
now they are in the little container on their own. I could have
let her pick them up again, and release in the main tank, but once I
see the fry, I have to save them.
I highly recommend trying out these colourful little mouthbrooders.
They give you the same sort of behaviour as larger Malawians, but don’t
require as much space.
© Copyright 2007 Lisa Boorman
Cichlid Aquarium by Dr. Paul Loiselle
Aquarium Atlas: Photo Index 1-5 by Hans A. Baensch, Gero W. Fischer
Victoria Rock Cichlids - taxonomy, ecology, and distribution by Ole
Cichlids II : Cichlids from Eastern Africa : A Handbook for Their
Identification, Care and Breeding by Wolfgang, Dr. Staeck, Horst
Dreampond : Drama in Lake Victoria by Tijs Goldschmidt
To see more references on
Cichlid Book List
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