Fish, Tanks and Ponds

Fish, Tanks and Ponds
A comprehensive guide to fish

Cyphotilapia frontosa

Humphead cichlid

Humphead cichlid, Cyphotilapia frontosaHumphead cichlid, Cyphotilapia frontosa
Photos by Andy Rapson


Cyphotilapia: Greek, kyphos = curved, humpback + Bechuana, African native thiape = fish

General Notes:

Each location in Lake Tanganyika where this species is found has a different colour morph. The "Zaïre blue" being the most desired by fish keepers making it the most expensive too. These fish live in groups in the wild which consist of a dominant male and several females and this is how they should be kept in captivity. Obviously due to their size this requires a large aquarium. C frontosa is a slow growing species and it could take over two years for one to reach its full size. C. frontosa are only found around rocky reefs and not in open water there tank should include a few rocky areas preferably with caves and lots of nooks and crannies where they can lay up. Although C. frontosa is relatively peaceful they will eat smaller fish usually after lights out so you may never actually witness it. They will only thrive in water which reflects the chemistry of Lake Tanganyika which is hard, alkaline and very mineral rich.


Wild C. frontosa feed on a variety of things including molluscs, crustaceans, smaller fish and some plant material. In captivity their diet should include a lot of fresh meaty food such as prawns, krill, lancefish, shellfish and suitably sized pelleted food. Surprisingly they are not particularly bold at feeding time and most of their hunting is done at dawn and dusk even smaller fish seem to be ignored during the hours of daylight.


When adult male C. frontosa are larger and have a bigger nuchal hump than the females.


C. frontosa are mouth brooders it is the female which does all the brooding although unlike the majority of mouth brooding fish from E Africa female C. frontosa will continue to eat a little while brooding eggs and fry. It is thought that the fry take their first food whilst still in the brood pouch of their mother. Broods are relatively small with around 12 eggs being average. The eggs can be removed from the female and raised artificially but what is the point? They have been caring for their own eggs for tens of thousands of years and they are much better at it than we are!!!

Wild status

Wild populations are listed as 'least concern' by the ICUN redlist of threatened species. Sedimentation, pollution and over exploitation from the aquarium trade are the only major threats to this species especially around Burundi. C. frontosa has no legal protection in place.

Information at a glance

pH: 7.8 - 9
dGH: 8 - 12
Temperature: 24 - 26°C (75 - 79°F)
Diet: Omnivore
Size: 33cm (13.5in)
Min tank size: 675 litres
Difficulty level: Intermediate
Aquarium type: Community
Swimming level: Middle

Distribution and habitat

distribution map for Humphead cichlid, Cyphotilapia frontosa

Origin: Africa: Endemic to Lake Tanganyika

Habitat: Lake Tanganyika around rocks in deep water.


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Cichlidae
Genus: Cyphotilapia
Species: C. frontosa (Boulenger, 1906)

Common name:
Humphead cichlid

Synonyms: Paratilapia frontosa, Cyphotilapia frontosus, Pelmatochromis frontosus