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Spotlight On Humphead Cichlids

Blake B

Posted on November 01 2019

Each species of cichlid has its own unique charm, quirks, and of course beautiful coloration. As America’s premier cichlid purveyors and enthusiasts, we’re taking some time to speak in detail about some of the cichlid species we specialize in. Continuing our series of spotlight posts, this month I’m covering cyphotilapia frontosa, commonly known as the humphead cichlid. 


Found in the wild in Lake Tanganyika, humpheads stand out among other cichlid species for, surprise surprise, the giant hump on their heads, also known as a cranial hump. This gives them a unique appearance, and they are also generally quite colorful as well, such as the gorgeous 6-striped humphead, which comes with ~6 vertical black stripes. As a particularly large, deep-water cichlid, they are slow growing, relatively gentle giants (by cichlid standards). 

Appearance and Behavior

The most notable element of cyphotilapia frontosa is of course the giant knob on their heads, which generally doesn’t develop until they reach adulthood, which can take as long as 4 years. Their fins also grow longer as they get older, and males will typically have larger humps and longer fins, though both sexes have them. Coloration can vary, but most often they are found in blue to blue-grey range, always with around six vertical strips along the body. This blue striped variety is the most readily available, due to it’s being widely bred in captivity. 

As deep lake dwellers, these are gentle giants, and are a good non-aggressive choice for a tank with other cichlids, or other kinds of fish. However, being a cichlid, they are not completely passive, and will defend their territory, and will also gobble up very small fish, so some caution is still required. 

Care and Requirements

Compared to other cichlid species, humpheads are relatively low-maintenance, and highly compatible with other fish. Their tank preferences are to have many rocks and caves, and a sandy bottom. Being a larger fish, they also prefer a larger aquarium, with plenty of swimming space; that being said, if you are keeping them as the only fish in the tank, they can do with a smaller size. Despite being placid, they will still fight over females, so the critical 3-to-1 female-to-male ratio should still be applied. 

Tank water needs are similar to other African cichlids, with 8+ PH and high mineral content being ideal in their 75-80 °F simulated tropical, rocky water. They are also omnivorous, so you can feed them both plant and fish based feeds. 

Tank Community Needs

As mentioned already, humpheads are gentle giants who play well with others, generally speaking, although some precautions still need to be used. If their tanks are too small, they can become distressed, and if there aren’t enough females to males, problems will arise. The ideal tank community for humpheads is recommended at around 8-12 fish in a generously sized tank of 125+ gallons, with 200 gallons being ideal. 

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