Fish, Tanks and Ponds

Fish, Tanks and Ponds
A comprehensive guide to fish

Nanochromis transvestitus

Nanochromis transvestitusNanochromis transvestitus
Photos by Andy Rapson


Nanochromis: Latin, nannus = small + Greek, chromis = a fish, perhaps a perch

General Notes:

Nanochromis transvestitus are small challenging but peaceful cichlids which can be kept in a species aquarium or in a specialised community aquarium with other fish which will tolerate the very soft acidic water required by Nanochromis transvestitus. They should be kept in compatible pairs with a minimum of 2ft² per pair in order to avoid territorial disputes. They should be kept in a well decorated aquarium with lots of stone or pot caves, bog wood branches and plant thickets because Nanochromis transvestitus can be quite shy and if kept in a tank without hiding places they will be very nervous and you won't see them behaving naturally. Ironically have access to lots of hiding places makes them more confident and less likely to hide.


Wild Nanochromis transvestitus feed on feeds on small crustaceans, midge larvae, mites and detritus. In captivity their diet should reflect this and their staple diet should be made up of suitably sized live or frozen food: Daphnia, cyclops, adult brine shrimps, blood worms, glass worms along with a good quality flake food to ensure a balanced diet.


Nanochromis transvestitus will squabble with its own species but is otherwise considered to be quite peaceful. Compatible pairs could be housed in a species tank of about 60 litres or in a larger community tank with other species which require the same soft acidic water.


Females are more brightly coloured than the males are when adult.


Being cichlids Nanochromis transvestitus doesn't need anything more than good care in order to encourage spawning. But unless the water is very acidic at pH 5 and with almost no hardness it is unlikely that the eggs will hatch. They will use a cave for a spawning site and both parents will care for the brood. The initial courtship of a new pair can be quite aggressive and it may be necessary to intervene and separate the fish for a while or the female may be injured or even killed.
All being well the eggs will hatch after three to five days depending on the temperature and a week later the fry will be free swimming and looking for food. The fry are well developed at this stage and are big enough to accept live newly hatched brine shrimps and micro worms. The fry will normally be protected until the pair spawn again at which point the fry should be removed. The fry are quite fragile when it comes to their environment and it is important that the water conditions remain stable for the first few weeks or there will be losses.

Wild status

Nanochromis transvestitus is endangered in the wild due to the use of very fine (catch all) fishing nets. There are large pockets of methane under their endemic Lake bed which are expected to be exploited at some point in the future.

Additional information

Normally it is the male fish which is the more colourful of the sexes but with Nanochromis transvestitus it is the female. It is in recognition of this reversed coloration which is the authors reason for their species name.

Transvestite refers to a person who cross-dresses.

Information at a glance

pH: 5 - 6.5
dGH: 0 - 7
Temperature: 24 - 26°C (76 - 78°F)
Diet: Omnivore
Size: 3.4cm (1.5in)
Min tank size: 60 litres
Difficulty level: Difficult
Aquarium type: Species/Community
Swimming level: Lower

Distribution and habitat

distribution map for Nanochromis transvestitus

Origin: Africa: Lake Mai Ndombe

Habitat: Black water in stony areas with a sand substrate.


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Cichlidae
Genus: Nanochromis
Species: N. transvestitus Stewart & Roberts, 1984

Other common names:

Synonyms: None