Astatotilapia nubila

Astatotilapia nubila

Haplochromis nubilus is an aggressive species and should only be kept by aquarists who are willing to devote some time and effort to learn about the behavior of aggressive African cichlids and how the amount of stress and violence can be kept under control in the aquarium. Haplochromis nubilus has been known under several different names, including Tilapia nubila and Astatotilapia nubila. It common name in English is Blue Victoria mouthbrooder.     

Haplochromis nubilus is a Lake Victoria cichlid, but unlike most Lake Victoria cichlids this species is actually not endemic to Lake Victoria. You can find wild Astatotilapia nubila in the rivers and streams of the Victoria basin and in Lake Edward, George, Kachira, Navakali, Kijanebalola, Kyoga and Nabugabo. It is considered to be less specialized than most other African cichlids and is for instance without specialized teeth, jaws and finnage. It is highly adaptive, exists in many different habitats, and is renowned for being exceptionally sturdy and resilient.


If you succeed in keeping and breeding Haplochromis nubilus, you will be rewarded by the sight of extremely beautiful male fish in your aquarium. During the breeding season, the male Haplochromis nubilus sports of velvety jet black body with vivid crimson red anal and caudal fins. No other fish from this region feature this colour pattern. The female have a drabber colouration consisting of various shades of green and gray. Another different between the two sexes is that the male can exceed 12 cm in length while the female usually stays shorter than 9 cm. 

Breeding Haplochromis nubilus

If you are unable to keep your Haplochromis nubilus together without them tearing each other apart, there is actually a method that you can use to achieve spawning without getting the fish badly injured in the process. You will need to separate aquariums, since male Haplochromis nubilus fishes are extremely determined when they have decided to do something. If you only use an aquarium divider, the male will constantly try to jump over the divider, dig his way under it, or simply tear it apart. Using two separate aquariums with secure lids is therefore a safer method. Two 10 gallon aquariums are big enough to serve as breeding aquariums.

Place the two aquariums next to each other and put the female in one aquarium and the male in the other. The fish must be able to see each other. When the male notices the female, he will start displaying his beautiful breeding colors and carry out courting behaviors. (This is also a great method if you want to take brilliant pictures without risking the well being of your female Haplochromis nubilus.)

Wait until the female starts to fill up with eggs and seem genuinely interested in getting to the male. Be patient, since letting them meet to early will result in fighting and injuries. When the time is right, give both aquariums a 50% water change using cooler water. Carefully net the female and place transfer her to the other aquarium. If done at the appropriate time, spawning will commence within short and the amount of aggression will be limited. Move the female back to her own aquarium right after spawning to let her care for the eggs without being harassed by the male. Haplochromis nubilus is a maternal mouthbrooder and the female will keep the offspring in her mouth for several weeks.

Fry rearing

Newly released Haplochromis nubilus are small compared to the fry of most other African mouthbrooders when released, less than 5 mm. They will however grow fast if you provide them with a nutritious diet. You can for instance combine powdered flakes with newly hatched brine shrimp. Haplochromis nubilus is renowned for having a high fry survival rate and the mother is a truly devoted parent.

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