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African Butterfly Cichlid

Anomalochromis thomasi
SynonymsHaplochromis thomasi, Hemichromis thomasi, Paratilapia thomasi, Pelmatochromis thomasi
DistributionGuinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
Sexual DimorphismMature males larger. Females in spawning condition with rounder bellies.
Maximum Size6.5cm (2.6")
Temperature23-27 deg C (73-81 deg F)
Water ParameterspH: 6.0-7.2, dH: up to 12 degrees.
CompatibilitySoftwater community
LightingNo special requirements


The African Butterfly Cichlid is known from shallow forest streams and savannah wetlands with muddy substrates. This is a small species that is often overlooked when juvenile, but when settled in to a planted softwater aquarium, it matures into a beautiful fish that is easy to breed. The aquarium should be spacious with a soft sand or fine rounded gravel substrate. There should be plenty of shady hiding places provided amongst areas of dense planting, driftwood, and caves (including a few smooth flat rocks to provide potential spawning sites). Filtration should be efficient, but water movement not too strong, and small partial water changes should be carried out on a regular basis to keep nitrate at a minimum. African Butterfly Cichlids are generally shy, peaceful (except when breeding), and are gregarious, so should be maintained in groups of 8 or more wherever possible. Tankmates should be peaceful and could include small barbs, Corydoras catfish, dwarf gouramis, small Loricariids (suckermouth catfish), rainbowfish, rasboras, and tetras. If kept in cramped quarters, breeding pairs will become quite aggressive towards their tankmates, so adequate space must be provided. Wild caught specimens tend to be more colourful than the tank bred fish, and there are several geographical colour variants, including 'Guinea' and 'Kilissi River'.


Flake, micropellets, frozen foods such as daphnia, bloodworm, white mosquito larvae, vitamin-enriched brineshrimp etc.


African Butterfly Cichlids are substrate spawners. The water should be neutral to slightly soft and acidic with the temperature set towards the higher end of the preferred range, and there should be plenty of flat rocks such as slate for the female to deposit her eggs on to. The best way to obtain a compatible pair is to purchase a group of young fish and allow them to pair off naturally. Once a pair has formed, the remaining fish may need to be moved to another tank for their own safety. A large, cool water change often triggers the fish into spawning. The pair will select a suitable site and clean it thoroughly. Spawning occurs in much the same manner as many other cichlid species, with the female depositing a line of eggs on the cleaned spawning site, then moving away to be replaced by the male who fertilises them. Up to 500 eggs may be laid, and these will hatch within 48-72 hours. During this time, the female takes care of the eggs, whilst the male fiercely guards the perimeter. Once the eggs hatch, the entire brood will be moved into a pre-dug pit near to the spawning site, and may be moved again to other pits before they become free-swimming (usually a further 3-4 days). At this point, they can be offered baby brineshrimp (Artemia nauplii) or microworm. The parent fish will continue to care for the young for 4 weeks or so, after which point the fry should be moved to another aquarium as the parents are quite likely to spawn again.

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