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10 Most Colorful African Cichlids

There are over 1,000 types of cichlids in the world, but approximately 700 live in Africa. You may often see them for sale in pet stores labeled as “African Cichlids” even though they come from other countries such as Central America, South America and Asia.

African cichlids are tropical fish, so the temperature in your aquarium should be kept around 80 °, and it should be decorated with rocks, driftwood and plants. You must also purchase a good filter and change the water regularly to keep your fish healthy and happy.

Some African cichlid species are very aggressive and territorial and they don’t make good tank mates, while others are peaceful and can be kept with other fish.

African Cichlids are very colorful, that is why many aquarists love these fish. If you are looking to set up an African cichlids tank, and looking for the most colorful species, here is a list from which you can choose.

1. Peacock Cichlids (Aulonocara sp.)

Peacock Cichlids (Aulonocara sp.) are very popular and interesting African cichlid. This species is a very active one and needs a lot of space, they are territorial and aggressive. On the other hand, they can be kept with other Peacock Cichlids without any problems.

In addition, they are nice parents to their offspring. In general, this species will be a wonderful addition to your community tank or biotope tank.

These cichlids are distributed in the Lake Malawi watershed in East Africa (Malawi, Namiwawa). They are found at depths of 10-30 feet (3-9 m). Their natural habitat is on rocky bottoms or sand bottoms in various types of lakes or swamps where they eat mainly insects for food.

Peacock Cichlid (Aulonocara sp.) has several different species, but one of the most popular and colorful are the OB Peacocks. The name Peacock Cichlid is given because of its beautiful and long dorsal and anal fin (also known as caudal fin or tail).

These fish grow quite large and can reach up to 7 inches (18 cm) in length. If you want to keep them in a community tank, you should not mix them with other species that are smaller than them such as tetras, barbs, danios, or similar types of fish.

The coloration of Peacock Cichlids varies depending on the species. The general body color is brownish on the back and silvery-white on the belly. Most of the species have a black lateral line and a black spot at the base of their caudal fin (tail).

Some species also have some black spots on their dorsal fin as well as on anal fins. The eyes of these fish are yellowish-orange colored. Their body has several vertical bars which are mainly dark-colored along with many orange spots all over their body.

2. Brichardi Cichlid (Lyretail Cichlid)

A Neolamprologus brichardi is a small-sized cichlid that grows in size to a maximum of approximately 3 inches (7.5 cm) in length. This fish is native to Lake Tanganyika and has been known to live up to 12 years in captivity.

In the wild, these fish usually live around rocks and other structures in large schools numbering in the hundreds. Like many other cichlids, this cichlid is a mouthbrooder and will use an open mouth to carry its eggs until they hatch.

It is not uncommon for all of the female Neolamprologus brichardi to lay their eggs into a single male’s mouth at one time during breeding time. The Neolamprologus brichardi is an omnivore that will eat almost any type of food put in front of them.

In the wild, they will eat plankton, algae and insect larvae from rocks and other structures. In captivity, they can be fed all sorts of prepared foods including cichlid pellets, flakes, frozen foods and live foods.

This fish is very active and will do best in a tank that has plenty of room to swim around. It is important to provide plenty of hiding places for this fish to use while it rests.

This fish prefers a pH level between 7.0 and 8.0, but if you have a pH of above 8.0 in your aquarium, you should add some peat or another acidic substance to the water so that the water does not get too alkaline.

The environment of this fish must also be kept relatively warm due to its living in such a warm climate in the wild. The temperature of the water should be kept between 76°F and 82 °F (24°C and 28°C).

The water should also be kept clean at all times, so make sure it is changed regularly and cleaned with de-chlorinator if needed.

3. Yellow Labs Cichlid (Labidochromis Caeruleus)

Yellow Labs Cichlid is a beautiful fish that originates from Lake Malawi.  The name Labidochromis caeruleus is a scientific name for this fish and can be translated as “blue lips”.

It has a light yellow-colored body with a black stripe running along its large dorsal fin. On its anal fin, there is a yellow spot, while the pelvic fins are black or yellow in color.

Both sexes look similar but females are slightly larger than males. The size of this fish varies depending upon the food availability and water conditions but generally, it can grow up to 5 inches (12 cm) in length.

Yellow Labs Cichlid is a popular African Cichlid, not only because it is beautiful, but it is also easy to care for, it is a good choice for beginners.

4. Yellow Tail Acei Cichlid (Pseudotropheus elegans)

The yellow tail acei is a type of cichlid native to Lake Malawi in East Africa. The fish has a body shape similar to the acei, with a broadish head and a high dorsal fin. The yellow tail acei originates from the island of Likoma and is found in large groups on shallow rocks. They grow to an adult size of about 7 inches (18 cm).

Yellow tail aceis are not recommended for new aquarium owners, as they require very specific care requirements. They need to be kept in water that is soft and slightly acidic. The pH level should be above 7.5, with a hardness of less than 10 degrees KH.

They require a deep sandy substrate that is clean, and they also need a lot of rocks and caves for hiding. Yellow tail acei cichlids are territorial, so the aquarium should be large, especially if you want to keep more than one male per tank.

The yellow tail acei cichlids are herbivores and they will accept algae wafers, veggie flakes, even blanched vegetables such as zucchini or cucumber.

5. Yellow Belly Hap Cichlid (Astatotilapia aeneocolor)

The Yellow Belly Hap Cichlid has a bright yellow belly with three white spots on the anal fin. The head of the fish is a grayish blue color and has dark vertical stripes over its body. It is a very aggressive hap cichlid and can be kept in groups of 6 to 10.

They do not get very large reaching about 6 inches in full-grown length. The Yellow Belly Hap Cichlid lives for about 5 to 6 years, but they live longer when cared for properly.

Their diet should consist of flakes, live food or bloodworms once or twice a week depending on the size of the fish.

6. Redfin Hap Cichlid (Copadichromis borleyi)

The Redfin Hap Cichlid is a mouthbrooding cichlid from Lake Malawi. They are a great way to start out an African cichlids tank but have a tendency to be very aggressive towards other tank mates.

Males will build their nests in caves or under large rocks in the aquarium. While they are mouthbrooders, they will still attack other fish in the tank to protect their territory.

As with most cichlids, the Redfin Hap Cichlids are omnivores. They are meat-eaters, but will also eat live plants, algae, and other organic waste. Basically, they will eat any food that is in the tank. Their favorite foods are bloodworms, brine shrimp, pellets, and flakes.

7. Jewel Cichlid (Hemichromis bimaculatus)

These fish have a medium size, reaching around 6 inches in length. They need a tank of at least 55 gallons, so Jewel Cichlids are only suitable for larger aquariums.

The tank will need to be decorated with rocks and driftwood for hiding places, as well as open spaces for swimming. You will also need to include some live or fake plants. These fish are not very demanding with regards to water quality, but the water should be kept clean by regularly doing partial water changes of around 30%.

They will also appreciate some floating plants around the tank that they can rest on top of if they want to be out of the water for a while. The tank will need to be well aerated and have an efficient filtration system.

These fish are very active and will need some large tank mates to keep them company. Ideally, you will want to add some other cichlids that match their size, as they can become aggressive towards each other and fighting will break out.

Jewel cichlids are omnivorous and do well on both meat and plant-based foods. You can feed them good quality flake food at least twice a day, along with some live foods if you want to provide your fish with an enriched diet. They will also appreciate algae wafers and frozen bloodworms as treats every now and again.

8. Frontosa Cichlid (Cyphotilapia frontosa)

It is one of the most popular African cichlids, thanks to its unique look and colors. Also it is one of the species of cichlids that are popular among hobbyists. This cichlid is native to Lake Tanganyika and usually grows to 10-12 inches in size.

Frontosa Cichlids can live for at least 15 years in captivity, but they are often much longer-lived than this. There are reports of these fish living for more than 30 years in captivity!

The care of the Frontosa Cichlids is relatively easy, just provide them with a large aquarium and stable water parameters. They are a very hardy species and overall a great fish for beginners. They are also a good option for the more experienced aquarists as well.

9. Zebra Mbuna Cichlid (Maylandia Zebra)

Zebra Mbuna Cichlid is a beautiful cichlid species from Lake Malawi. This fish is a member of the Labeotropheus fuelleborni species, which includes the Yellow Zebra, The Blue Zebra and the Green Zebra.

The name Mbuna is an abbreviation of Mpimbwe- meaning rock in Chichewa, one of the main languages used in Malawi. Mbunas are found on rocky bottoms and feed on algae and plant material that grows on the rocks.

The Zebra Mbuna Cichlid is a hardy species that can be kept in a community tank as long as you keep the tank crowded.

The Zebra Mbuna has a light coloration with dark vertical stripes. The black coloration comes from the aquarium environment, where it will tend to darken up its coloration to match its surroundings better.

10. Auratus Cichlid (Golden Mbuna)

The Auratus Cichlid, also known as the Golden Mbuna is known for its brilliant golden coloring with horizontal black stripes on its body. They are very aggressive cichlids, so you will find it difficult to keep the Golden Mbuna in a community cichlid tank.

This cichlid can be found in Lake Malawi and usually grows to about 4-6 inches in size and have a lifespan of about 5 years. You should keep one male with a group of 4-6 females in a 75-gallon tank. If you want to keep two males, you should get at least a 125 gallons tank to avoid severe aggression.

Conclusion

African cichlids are very colorful fish, however, this coloration is not permanent. African Cichlids are sensitive to water chemistry. If you want your fish to remain colorful, you need to ensure that the water they live in is always clean and of the right pH level. They require a stable water temperature at around 75-80 °F.

The water conditions need to be kept stable because African cichlids are heavy feeders and can easily succumb to diseases if you do not give them enough food. So remember that it is important to keep their environment clean and stable for them to thrive.

avatar I’m Julia, and I used to work in a fish store for over 5 years. On this blog I help beginners care for their cichlids and share my experience and research on various fishkeeping related topics.

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