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Sciaenochromis fryeri

Electric Blue Hap




Endemic to Lake Malawi. It has a widespread distribution in the lake but is not a particularly common species.


It inhabits rocky parts of the shoreline and the intermediate sandy zones beyond them.

Maximum Standard Length

8″ (20cm).

Aquarium SizeTop ↑

60″ x 18″ x 18″ (150cm x 45cm x 45cm) – 300 litres.


Form networks of caves using piles of rockwork in much of the aquarium, leaving some open areas for swimming. A sandy substrate is recommended.

Water Conditions

Temperature: 75-82°F (24-28°C)

pH: 7.6-8.8

Hardness: 10-25°H


A predatory species in nature, S. fryeri will accept most foods offered in the aquarium. Feed a varied diet of live, frozen and dried foods. Vegetable matter is not required by this species. Do not feed animal meat of any kind.

Behaviour and CompatibilityTop ↑

Not especially aggressive although it is quite robust. It should not be kept with mbuna but does well with species such as Nimbochromis venustus, Cyrtocara moorii, Protomelas and Copadichromis. It can also be kept with Aulonocara, but with some reservations (see below). Avoid keeping it with any similarly coloured fish. Several females should be kept per male in order to reduce harassment by the male, and only one male should be kept unless the tank is very large.

Sexual Dimorphism

Clear sexual dichromatism. Mature male fish are a stunning “electric blue” colour, though this can vary in intensity depending on mood. Females are much plainer. Juvenile fish are much more difficult to sex as they are all the same colour.


Not particularly difficult. Maternal mouthbrooder. Ideally, it should be spawned in a species tank in a harem of one male and at least 3 females. However, it will often spawn in the community aquarium. A 60″ aquarium is a good size (although larger is preferable) and this should be furnished as suggested above, along with some flat, sloping rocks and areas of open substrate to act as potential spawning sites. The pH should be around 8.2-8.5 and the temperature 77-80°F. Condition the fish with a high quality diet composed mainly of vegetable matter.

Spawning in the aquarium tends to follow a slightly different pattern than in nature. In the wild male fish construct large conical structures around rocks, spawning occuring in the “crater” formed at the summit of these. However in aquaria, this behaviour is rarely reported. Instead, males tend to select territories based on the presence of sloping rocks, the face of which face into the flow of water. He may or may not build layers of substrate up around this. The male will then dance around this area, showing his best colours, and attempting to entice a female to spawn with him. He can be fairly vigorous in his pursuit of females, hence the reason it is better to spawn this species in a harem.

When a female is willing she approaches the rock and proceeds to lay eggs one at a time at the top of it. The egg will then roll down the rock surface to the male, who is waiting at the base. He uses his anal fin to catch the egg and releases his milt, thus fertilising it, after which the female takes it into her mouth. This process is repeated until the female is holding 50-70 eggs, and is interspersed with bursts of dancing and displaying by the male.

The female will carry the eggs for around 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 or harassment by the males. 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. However, if the fish are breeding in a community situation and you wish to raise the fry, you may be left with little choice. Some breeders artificially strip the fry from the mother’s mouth at the 2 week stage and raise them from that point as this usually results in a larger number of fry, but this is for the expert only.

The fry are large enough to take brine shrimp nauplii, sieved daphnia, microworm and powdered dried foods from birth.

NotesTop ↑

This popular species was previously imported and classified as Sciaenochromis ahli, and is still named as such in much of the available literature. Many morphs exist, although males of all these exhibit the characteristic blue colouration, differing only in fin colouration and patterning. These should not be mixed in aquaria as they will hybridise.

Extra care must be taken regarding tankmates, too, as male S. fryeri have been known to spawn with females of other genera, particularly Aulonocara. In nature it is highly piscivorous, feeding particularly on the young of other species such as Copadichromis.
Provided you have a spacious aquarium and are selective with your choice of tankmates, S. fryeri ranks among the best looking of all Rift Lake cichlids and makes a worthy addition to the non-mbuna Malawian community.

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