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Home Lifestyle Frontosa Cichlid: Facts, Caring, Breeding & More

Frontosa Cichlid: Facts, Caring, Breeding & More

A Frontosa cichlid is a fish species that is indigenous to the Lake Tanganyika region in Africa. They are steadily gaining popularity as aquarium fish due to their aesthetic appeal and unique features.

But how does one go about caring for these majestic aquatic creatures at home? Read on as we delve into the world of cichlids to learn how to care properly for your Frontosa cichlid.

When I was a kid, I remember pestering my parents for an aquarium. While my brothers were rooting for a dog, I was busy pleading for an aquatic creature – specifically a Frontosa cichlid. I had learned about this stunning fish from a documentary I ran into while researching aquariums.

As soon as I saw its young ones come from the mouth, I was enticed (and still am). Luckily, I got my wish.

A few years later, and I still can’t have enough cichlids. This mouthbrooding fish is spectacular in more ways than one. They are sure to captivate the attention of anyone who sees them swimming in your home aquarium.

Whether you are thinking of keeping a Frontosa cichlid or you already have a harem of them and are wondering how to take proper care of them, you are in the right place.

I am certainly no guru on Frontosa cichlids, but I thought it would be interesting to provide a bit of useful insight to any curious minds.

Here’s what you should know about the humped Tanganyika beauty.

Quick Facts

Scientific name Frontosa cichlid
AKA Cyphotilapia frontosa, Pelmatochromis frontosus, Paratilapia frontosa, Humphead cichlid
Origin Lake Tanganyika, Africa
Color Black stripes on a white background
Maximum size 12 – 14 inches
Diet Smaller fish and macroinvertebrates;
Temperament Semi-aggressive
Sexual dimorphism Males develop extended finnage and a larger nuchal hump.
Care level Intermediate
Optimum tank size 70 gallons and above
Water parameters pH 8 – 9 (hard alkaline); moderately hardy (kH 10 – 20)
Temperature range 72 – 79℉ (77 – 82℉ during breeding season)
Lighting Dim


Natural Habitat

Endemic to the northern half of Lake Tanganyika, the Frontosa cichlid is a mouthbrooding fish. Their habitat comprises deep rugged terrain found at depths ranging 35 – 170 feet and can be found at depths of 350 feet.

As one of the African Great Lakes, Tanganyika is home to a broad diversity of dazzling fish. Species range from brightly colored docile varieties to schools of huge predators. And cichlids feel right at home amidst the majestic coral reefs.

At present, they have no recognizable threats.

Characteristics of Frontosa Cichlid

Physical Appearance

The first thing you will notice on a Frontosa cichlid is a sort of hump on its head. They have massive rounded heads on huge bodies. Both males and females have a wide underslung mouth.

Typically, females are a bit smaller in size compared to their male counterparts who grow to lengths of up to 13 inches. Female species measure about 10 inches. There have been claims stating that Frontosa can grow as big as 16 inches.

Habitat plays a significant role in the growth of Frontosa. The biggest species are found in the deepest regions. In controlled environments, and with the right conditions they can grow quite big.

The cranial hump on the forehead is noticeable in both males and females. The male hump, however, will be more prominent. On juveniles, the nuchal hump is nonexistent – it is only present on mature fish.

Tetsumi Takahashi, professor and author,  asserts that the hump plays a vital role in sexual selection.

Frontosa Cichlids are very beautiful fish. They have six or seven dark blue/ black bands plastered on a white background.

Their fins are either light blue or white, which gives them a dazzling allure. Most varieties have six stripes rather than seven.


Frontosas are a peaceful, semi-aggressive kind of communal fish. They thrive better in groups and abhor being alone. Thus, opt for a communal tank and introduce mates of the same species. A large capacity aquarium can hold up to 12 individuals.

The ratio between males and females you keep should be considerable. Experts advise that a group of four should consist of one male and three females.

Although their temperament disposition is said to be mild, consider the size of the tank mates you wish to introduce. If you currently have mature fish, refrain from bringing in tiny fish. They may end up getting tormented by the slightly aggressive larger cichlids.


Frontosa Cichlids are maternal mouth breeders, meaning they breed their young in the mouth. They form families that are largely matriarchal. Polygamy is the order of the day— males can spawn with multiple females.

So, how do you know when your cichlids are ready to breed?

To identify mature specimens, evaluate their size. Females will be about 5 inches long and males 7 inches.

If you began with really young juveniles, you might have to wait about 3 years before they attain sexual maturity. Keep in mind that males mature at a slower rate and may require an additional year to reach a ripe sexual age.

The Breeding Process

A female lays several eggs in a burrow between the rocks. A male fertilizes them externally. After the fertilization process, the male stands guard as the female puts the eggs in her mouth where they stay for 28 days or so.

During holding, the female does not eat. An extended chin enables you to identify any holding female fish.

When the fry hatch and development is complete, the female spits miniature versions out on the substrate. And the young ones are left to fend for themselves. A favorite dish for the fry is live baby brine shrimp.

Various Types of Frontosa Cichlid

There are a few regional variants of Frontosa cichlids. They are classified depending on the area they are found and their color. They include:

  • Zaire Blue Frontosa
  • Kavalla Frontosa
  • Kigoma Frontosa
  • Samazi Frontosa
  • Kipili Frontosa
  • Zambian/ Blue Face Frontosa
  • Tanzanian Seven-Stripe Frontosa
  • Tanzanian Six-Stripe Frontosa
  • Burundi Six-Stripe Frontosa

How To Care For Frontosa Cichlids

Level of Care

Nothing beats the frustration of trying to rear fish only to realize you don’t have enough time to squeeze their care into your busy schedule. This fish is suitable for an advanced or intermediate aquarist. You must have ample time to perform maintenance.

The tank water needs regular changing and it would be great if you could source suitable neighbors. Frontosas are mild-mannered creatures and will coexist peacefully with other fish of the same species.

Tank Conditions


When they reach adult size, Frontosa varieties grow quite big. They are among the largest cichlids in Lake Tanganyika. Therefore, invest in an adequately sized tank.

For one fish, you will need an aquarium with a minimum capacity of 70 gallons. If you are keeping them for breeding purposes, a 150-gallon tank will hold up to 6 fish. A tank lesser than 70 gallons is too narrow. It will get overcrowded pretty quickly, which may hinder growth.


Lake Tanganyika is highly alkaline, which makes its water hard. Of all the African Great Lakes, it has the highest concentration of dissolved minerals and salts such as calcium carbonate.

Cichlids reared in aquariums can thrive under different conditions. But species caught in the wild are susceptible to shock, which is often fatal.

If you are wondering how to create a microclimate within your home tank to emulate Lake Tanganyika, there is an excellent solution. You can purchase pH buffers from aquatic shops. They will help you replicate and maintain conditions of the lake in the home tank.

However, sometimes fish will adapt to tank environments even if you use tap water. Once you bring your Frontosa cichlid home, give them a bit of time to adjust. But if the quality of your tap water is low or has unstable pH, make sure you invest in a pH buffer.

You can also raise pH in aquariums using natural methods, such as:

  • Reverse osmosis
  • Decorating with coral rock or limestone
  • Using dolomite gravel or crushed coral as a substrate
  • Placing a bit of the substrate in your filter

Always conduct frequent checks to assess pH levels in the aquarium. Then depending on stocking numbers and the amount of ammonia (nitrite), change 10 – 20% of the tank capacity every week.

Switching all the water at the same time exposes the Frontosa to shock and subsequent death.

Temperature, Lighting and Aeration

Dimly-lit aquariums offer the best habitat conditions. Additionally, you can use tank decorations to simulate a low level of light. An optimum temperature range of 72 – 790 F is suitable.

Do you need a filtration system for Frontosas? These massive species produce a substantial amount of organic waste. If left unchecked, the pH stability in the tank is threatened.

Thus, the need for a  filtration system. Invest in a sturdy canister filter to help rid the water of toxic compounds.

Frontosas are very active creatures who like to swim around in the tank. So, install a bubbler or air stone to enhance aeration, preventing the occurrence of dead zones in the aquarium.

Diet and Nutrition

Frontosa Cichlids are largely carnivorous. Their diet predominantly consists of other smaller fish.

In their natural habitat, you can spot them at dusk and dawn near the surface of the water. This is when they emerge to hunt fish found on the upper and mid-levels of the lake. Other than smaller fish, Frontosa also feeds on macroinvertebrates such as mollusks and snails.

They feed slowly in the tank. You can provide live foods like krill, shrimp, and Mysis. Brine shrimp (a type of frozen dish)  is an excellent source of protein.

You may also purchase store-bought feed for fish. It is usually in the form of pellets. Flake feed is not an ideal choice.

All in all, ensure you provide the right nutrition to boost the chances of survival in the tank. Try to feed the fish in portions rather than giving one huge serving. Divide this into 4 or 5 amounts and give throughout the day. This also helps maintain the quality of water longer.

However, you must observe all caution when giving live feed. This is because pathogens and diseases can transfer to the fish leading to a fatal outcome. Also, invest in vitamins and supplements for fish to enhance the nutrition of your tank fish.

Tank Mates

Frontosa Cichlids are mostly kept in a tank as solo show fish. You may also keep a harem of them or rear different species of cichlids in one tank. Frontosa Cichlids are a gregarious kind. They thrive when kept in a community. Thus, a group of about 4 individuals would be ideal.

This type of aquatic animal is said to be semi-aggressive. And if placed in the tank with a smaller surface-dwelling type, it increases the risk of predation. Frontosa may hunt and feed on any weaker tank mates.

Where Can I Buy Frontosa Cichlid?

You can buy a Frontosa cichlid in the United States from both local and online aquatic shops. If your neighborhood aquarium store doesn’t have them readily available, inquire if they can import on your behalf.

Nevertheless, go online and find a reliable seller. There are numerous internet-based fish stores you can contact to purchase various species of cichlids. Ensure you transact with a legitimate business to avoid losing money to unscrupulous people purporting to sell exotic fishes.

Ask for referrals from fellow aquarists or consult an expert for advice. Read reviews and testimonials to ascertain credibility before you buy from an online aquatic shop.

You can purchase juveniles as well as mature fish. It would be best to know the various names used to refer to these rainbow-colored invertebrates because they are often sold under different names.

Aquarium-reared specimens are cheaper compared to wild-caught ones. Therefore, inquire from the seller to know what you are paying for.

Final Take

Your aquarium will never be the same again after you bring home a Frontosas cichlid. Introduce color variety to your tank with different species.

These African beauties might just be what your home aquarium needs. A little TLC is all they need.



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