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Cyathopharynx furcifer

Featherfin Cichlid


Cichlidae. Subfamily: Pseudocrenilabrinae


Endemic to Lake Tanganyika.


Occurs in intermediate zones with scattered rocks and sandy bottoms. It is widespread throughout the lake.

Maximum Standard Length

8″ (20cm).

Aquarium SizeTop ↑

72″ x 18″ x 18″ (180cm x 45cm x 45cm) – 365 litres.


The aquarium should contain some scattered piles of rocks arranged to form caves, with large areas devoted to open water. A sandy substrate and good biological filtration are essential. This species does not damage vegetation so plants can be used if you wish. Choose hard water-tolerant species such as Anubias or Vallisneria.

Water Conditions

Temperature: 75-81°F (24-27°C)

pH: 8.0-9.0

Hardness: 8-25°H


It will accept most foods but high protein, meaty varieties should be avoided. Vegetable matter is required as the basis of the diet. Offer a mix of blanched spinach, nori (make sure this is the natural product and has no artificial additives) and a good quality spirulina flake or pellet.

Behaviour and CompatibilityTop ↑

A relatively boisterous species that needs a lot of space for its size. However, it should be the dominant species in the tank or it can become withdrawn, with male fish losing colour. House it with peaceful species that can look after themselves. Certainly do not keep it with Mbuna or the like. Larger Cyprichromis sp. and Altolamprologus sp. can make good tankmates.

Sexual Dimorphism

Males are the larger and more colourful sex. They have noticeably longer fins than females, especially the ventral fins.


It’s a maternal mouthbrooder. A large tank furnished as suggested above is ideal, with large areas of sandy substrate being particularly essential. The fish should be kept in a group with several females to each male. Condition them with plenty of high quality vegetable-based foods.
When ready, the male will excavate a spawning site in the substrate. This crater-like structure can be up to 60cm in diameter. In nature, males hold these adjacent to each other in large colonies. They may also carry sand to higher sites on flat rock surfaces and build their nests there, if these are made available.

The male fish will display around his chosen spawning site, showing intense colour, and attempt to entice females to mate with him. He can be quite aggressive in his pursuits and it is in order to dissipate this aggression that the species is best spawned in a harem. When a female is willing, she will approach the spawning site and lay her eggs there, after which she immediately picks them up in her mouth. The male fish has egg-shaped structures at the end of his long ventral fins and the female is attracted to these. When she tries to add them to the brood in her mouth she actually receives sperm from the male, thus fertilising the eggs.

The female may carry the brood of 10-40 eggs for up to 3 weeks before releasing the free swimming fry. She will not eat during this period and can be easily spotted by her distended mouth. If a female is overly stressed she may spit out the brood prematurely or eat them, so care must be taken if you decide to move the fish in order to avoid fry predation. It is also worth noting that if a female is away from the colony for too long she may lose her position in the pecking order of the group. It’s best to wait at least 2 weeks before moving a female unless she is being harassed. The fry are large enough to take brine shrimp nauplii and crushed spirulina flake from the day they are released.

NotesTop ↑

There are only two described species of Cyathopharynx, each with several colour forms. These should not be kept together in aquaria, as they can hybridise. They are among the most beautiful of all freshwater fish and are highly sought after in the hobby, although they are fairly delicate. The highest water quality is required for males to fully develop their stunning adult colouration, which happens when they are around 4″ in length. This may take a good few months if you are buying young fish (likely as adults are very expensive). However, if you exercise a bit of patience and provide the right conditions you will witness some stunning displays of colour and behaviour.

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