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Hemichromis elongatus

Five Star General


Cichlidae. Subfamily: Pseudocrenilabrinae


Officially recorded from Guinea, Cameroon, Angola, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. Given the patchy nature of this distribution, it would seem that the species has either been misidentified at some of these locations, or is likely to be present in several additional countries.


Inhabits a range of biotopes, incuding rivers, tributaries, lakes and ponds. In some coastal areas it’s known to enter brackish waters.

Maximum Standard Length

6″ (15cm).

Aquarium SizeTop ↑

A 48″ x 12″ x 12″ (120x30x30cm) – 110 litre tank is just about suitable for a single fish or pair.


Decorate the tank with plenty of twisted roots and branches to provide hiding places and cover. Rocks or clay flowerpots can also be used. The species tends to dig a lot so plants rooted in the substrate will probably not do well. Instead, use species such as Anubias, Bolbitis or Java fern attached to the decor. A layer of floating vegetation to dim the lights a touch is also a good idea, but is not essential.

Water Conditions

Temperature: 73-77°F (22-25°C)

pH: 6.5-7.5

Hardness: 5-15°H


Piscivorous by nature but it can easily be trained to accept dead alternatives. Offer meaty foods such as earthworms, prawn, mussel, cockle and lancefish. Dried varieties are usually accepted as well but should not form the basis of the diet.

Behaviour and CompatibilityTop ↑

Highly aggressive and piscivorous. It will eat any fish it can fit into its mouth, and usually batter any it can’t. It’s best kept in a species tank unless the tank is enormous. Conspecifics aren’t tolerated either, although once a pair forms, they usually remain together for life. The best option is probably to buy a group of 6 or so juveniles and allow a pair to form naturally. Keep a very close eye on proceedings and be ready to remove the additional fish once a pair is apparent, as they will usually eliminate the others quite quickly.

Sexual Dimorphism

Males tend to be slightly larger and more colourful than females. They also develop extended dorsal and anal fins as they mature.


It’s a substrate spawning species that forms monogamous pair bonds. The best way to obtain a pair is described above. The fish should be kept in a species setup as suggested above, with the addition of some large rocks to act as spawning sites. Condition them on a good varied diet of primarily meaty foods. Water should be slightly soft and acidic with a pH of 6.5-7.0 and a temperature of 75-77°F.

When the pair is ready, they will intensify in colour to stunning effect. If there are any other fish in the tank, remove them now or they will probably be killed. At this point, the male will even attack your hand! They will choose a spawning site on a flat rock (usually an area which is angled slightly), the side of a flowerpot or even the aquarium glass. Both fish participate in cleaning this thoroughly. The male is very vigorous in his pursuit of the female and they should be watched closely as she may be harassed to death if she is not ready to spawn.

Spawning occurs in a similar fashion to many other cichlids, with the female laying a line of eggs before moving away, allowing the male to take her place and fertilise them. Up to 800 eggs may be fertilised in this manner. The eggs hatch in around 48 hours, and during this period, the male will defend the spawning site while the female tends to the eggs. Some role swapping may occur here. Also during this period, the pair dig a number of shallow depressions in the substrate around the spawning site.

Once the eggs have hatched (around 48 hours), the entire brood is moved into one of these pits by the female. They will usually be moved several times before they become free swimming, which generally occurs after another 6 days or so. At this point, start feeding them with microworm and/or Artemia nauplii. Brood care by the parents usually continues for about a month, after which the fry should be removed as the parents may try to spawn again.

NotesTop ↑

A real bruiser of a cichlid, H. elongatus is not seen for sale very often, and with good reason. Pound for pound it must rank as one of the most aggressive cichlids available in the hobby. It is such an efficient predator that, in some of its native countries, it is used to control populations of Tilapia. As a result it’s definitely not recommended for the inexperienced aquarist.

The common name is derived from the row of 5 dark markings that run laterally along the flanks of the fish. It is sometimes seen for sale with other names, including ‘banded jewel cichlid’ and ‘elongate Hemichromis‘.

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