The Electric Blue Cichlid (scientific name: Sciaenochromis fryeri) is a freshwater species endemic to the lake of Malawi, drug medical Africa. It is mostly known among aquarists because of its stunning blue colour, remedy however this characteristic is limited to males, physician while female individuals usually have a silver colour. Both sexes display dark vertical bars on their body which is elongated, as in most cichlids. Individuals possess a pair of short pectoral and pelvic fins, a dorsal fin with 15-16 spines, and a yellow, red or white anal fin with 3 hard spines and several soft ones. The species size ranges from 12-14 cm in nature but can generally reach higher sizes when kept in aquariums (maximum: 20cm). Females usually reach lower sizes, which is a common phenomenon among all cichlid species.
It is a rare species which however has a broad distribution along the coasts of Lake Malawi and can be found in a depth range between 10-40 m. The Electric Blue usually inhabits rocky substrates, which provide essential cracks and holes used as hideouts during prey capture. It feeds on smaller fish and fish fries and is a moderately territorial fish, which however can be aggressive during the reproductive season, especially against males of the same species.
Keeping the Electric Blue Cichlid in an aquarium is an easy to moderate task. The species requires sandy substrate and the formation of rock piles which will provide the essential refugee for the individuals. As the species is a capable swimmer, it needs an adequate amount of space, thus big 70 gallon tanks with a minimum length of 4-6 inches are suggested. Aquatic plants can be added, however robust and strong plant species are essential, as the blue cichlid males tend to uproot them while digging in the substrate in order to prepare their reproductive territory. In their natural habitat the water is alkaline but stable regarding pH and temperature, thus it is essential that water conditions are monitored and kept in a temperature of 72 – 82 °F, a pH range of 7.8-8.5 and a hardness level around 10 – 15 °dH. The fish should be fed small portions regularly throughout the day. Adequate food sources include quality cichlid pellets supplemented with frozen earthworms, brine shrimp, frozen krill and live dietary supplements.
The optimal case for male Electric Blues are when they are the dominant fish within the aquarium, accompanied by a minimum of four females, a ratio which allows the maintenance of a balance between male aggression and female breeding stress. It is not advisable to place more than one electric blue cichlid male within an aquarium, unless the latter is spacious with several smaller habitats, as this will cause extreme aggression to all male individuals. However, the Electric Blue Cichlid can share a tank with a range of other species, provided that they are not very aggressive or small sized: extremely aggressive species might bully the blue cichlid and very small ones are likely to become prey. Potential choices include other Cichlids of the Lake Malawi such as fish species of the genus Haplochromis, however species of the genus Aulonocara should be avoided as the electric blue cichlid is likely to kill the dominant male and hybridize with the females. Other possible options are species who belong to the genus Synodontis or the family Loricariidae.
The reproduction of the Electric Blue Cichlid is a fascinating procedure for the aquarist to observe. The male fish engage into a kind of display in order to attract females to their territory. This “dance” can last several minutes, until the female release up to 100 oocytes on the ground. The oocytes are caught by the male which usually use their anal fin to fertilize each oocyte individually, while the female take each fertilized oocyte into their mouth. A number of 30-70 eggs will be kept into the female’s mouth for roughly 3 weeks, and during this period the female will not eat. After spawning, the female do not provide any further parental care to the fries. Witnessing this wonderful activity is not hard, provided that the water and nutrition quality are kept at optimal level. For more information on breeding successfully electric blue cichlids in the aquarium, visit our post on tips for cichlid breeding.
Konings, A., 1993. Malawian cichlids: a revision of the genus Sciaenochromis Eccles & Trewavas, 1989 (Pisces, Cichlidae). The Cichlids Yearbook 3:28-36.
Snoeks, J. (ed.), 2004. The cichlid diversity of Lake Malawi/Nyasa/Niassa: identification, distribution and taxonomy. Cichlid Press, El Paso, USA, 360p.
Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2015). ” Sciaenochromis fryeri, (Konings, 1993)” in FishBase. February 2015 version
Richard F. Stratton, The Guide to Owning Cichlids, T.F.H. Publications, Inc., 2002