Breeding the African Butterfly Cichlid, Anomalochromis thomasi

Breeding the African Butterfly Cichlid, Anomalochromis thomasi

The African Butterfly cichlid is pair-forming cichlid that can be bred even in community aquariums. Unlike a majority of the famous African cichlids, this species does not hail from any of the Great Rift Valley lakes; it is instead found in the rivers of Sierra Leone, western Liberia and southeast Guinea in the western parts of the continent. The African Butterfly cichlid is peaceful enough to be housed with other fairly non-aggressive species, is not very fond of digging, and can be kept in a planted aquarium. The largest males attain a size of no more than 4 inches and a big aquarium will therefore not be necessary.   

Description and sexing

Sexing African Butterfly cichlids outside the breeding period is tricky, because the two sexes look very similar. They are both of an amber color with blue spangling decorating the lateral scales between the eyes and the caudal peduncle. The dorsal fins have red and white edging, and both sexes sport a black opercular blotch and a dark cheek stripe that points forward. There is really no major difference between the sexes when it comes to finnage, a fact which makes sexing even more difficult.    

There are however a few tells that can give you a clue regarding the sex of your African Butterfly cichlids. The male will for instance normally grow bigger than the female and can reach a length of 4 inches, while the female normally stays smaller than 3 inches. Mood changes can cause black blotches to show over the body in both sexes, but it is only the female that will display really intense blotches throughout the entire spawning period. The female will also show a rounded belly full of eggs just prior to spawning.  

Housing and care

Since sexing African Butterfly cichlids outside the breeding period is hard, the easiest way of obtaining a pair is to purchase a group of juvenile cichlids and let them grow up together. When they reach sexual maturity, they will form their own pairs.

The aquarium should be well planted and include a lot of hiding spots. If you want to try breeding African Butterfly cichlids, you should also include a few flat stones that can be used as breeding sites. Try to mimic their natural river habitat when it comes to water chemistry and keep the temperature around 78 degrees F. Changing about 50% of the water once a week is a good rule of thumb.

The African Butterfly cichlid needs a varied diet to stay happy and healthy. You can for instance combine high-quality cichlid pellets with live and frozen foods. When kept on a nutritious diet, small juveniles can grow into adults within 6 months.

When the fish becomes sexually mature, each male will claim his own territory in the aquarium. If the aquarium is big enough and cleverly decorated, it will be possible for them to stake out territories without much fighting.   

Breeding African Butterfly Cichlid

If you keep your African Butterfly cichlids in good condition, spawning can occur without much coaxing from you. If you want to give them a little extra push, try a large water change. You know that spawning is about to happen when a female starts paying attention to the flat stones and spends most of her time cleaning them. She will normally select one male and clean the stones within his territory.  Eventually, the male will join her and one stone will be picked as breeding site. The female will deposit a line of eggs on top of the stone and the male will promptly fertilize them. The female will then deposit a new line of eggs next to the first one, and the male will fertilize them as well. This behavior can go on for quite a long time and even a female that has never spawned before can produce over 200 eggs.

Don’t lose heart if the first few spawns get eaten; African Butterfly cichlids are sometimes a bit confused during the initial spawns.  They will be ready to spawn again at ten day intervals and the best course of action is therefore to simply wait and let them figure it out on their own. Once they get the hang of it, they are both devoted parents that will care for eggs and fry and keep all the other fish at bay. They can even manage to raise fry in community aquariums with a lot of hungry fish around.

When the fry has hatched, the parents will move them to shallow pits in the substrate. Until they become free-swimming, the fry will be moved back and forth between these pits. Free-swimming African Butterfly fry will feed on tiny microorganisms that live among the plants. After a few days, you can start giving them small servings of microworms. Eventually, they will be big enough to accept newly hatched brine shrimp.

African butterfly fish - anomalochromis thomasi
African butterfly fish - Anomalochromis thomasi
Picture added to article by Ac tropical fish. Copyright

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