Breeding Cyphotilapia frontosa

Breeding Cyphotilapia frontosa

The Humphead cichlid (Cyphotilapia frontosa) is not considered easy to breed, but it has been successfully bred in aquariums many times. Due to its scientific name, it is often referred to as Frontosa cichlid. It is endemic to Lake Tanganyika and is one of the few pelagic Tanganyika cichlids. It will also swim deeper down than most other cichlids and is commonly found at 30-50 meters dept throughout the lake. The Humphead cichlid feeds on shoaling fish near the surface during early morning before diving back down into the depths of the lake.

If you want to breed Cyphotilapia Frontosa you should be prepared to get a big aquarium because this species can reach a length of 35 cm even when kept in aquariums. Frontosa cichlids are however comparatively peaceful and tolerant of both conspecifics and heterospecifics, and housing one male with 3-4 females in a 200-400 liter (50-100 gallon) aquarium is usually not a problem. The aquarium should be well decorated with rocks, caves and/or pipes to provide hiding spots, since it is impossible for the fish to simply swim away from each other in the confined space that is an aquarium. If you want to breed Cyphotilapia Frontosa you should ideally create a small “spawning area” in the aquarium that a couple can claim and feel safe to breed in. You can for instance use stones to confine a part of the aquarium for this purpose.

The water in Lake Tanganyika is hard and alkaline and Frontosa cichlids will therefore appreciate such conditions in the aquarium. A water temperature of 25 degrees C and a pH-value of 7.8 have proven successful in the past. 

Feed your Frontosa cichlids are varied diet to ensure optimal health and promote breeding. You can for instance use high quality cichlid pellets as a base and supplement with live food. In the wild, Frontosa cichlids will feed on small fish, but feeder fish can bring disease to the aquarium. Cultivating your own meaty live food is therefore recommended.

When you notice that a female Humphead cichlid starts to develop a more rounded belly and gain the attention of the male, it is time to perform a major water change to induce spawning. Hopefully, the female will soon start to show her breeding tube and it will then only be a matter of time before spawning takes place. Cyphotilapia Frontosa is a mouth brooding cichlid and the female will therefore pick up the eggs and guard them inside her mouth.

Sometimes the female never understands that she is supposed to guard the eggs and will instead devour them. If this happens several times, you must strip the eggs from her and incubate them in a separate aquarium. Use water from the spawning aquarium when you set up the rearing aquarium and make sure that the temperature is identical in both aquariums. You need to use powerful airstones to rotate the eggs; otherwise they will succumb to fungi without the care of the mother.

When it is time to get the eggs from the female, turn of the lights off in the spawning aquarium and in the rest of the room and give the fish 30-60 minutes to calm down. Fill a small container with water from the aquarium and use a net to catch the resting female. Gently open her mouth using your fingers and force her to spit out the eggs into the container, before promptly returning her to the aquarium.

Place the eggs in the rearing aquarium and make sure that the airstones are powerful enough to rotate them. Infertile eggs must be removed as soon as you spot them to prevent them from turning into breeding grounds for fungi and bacteria. With a little luck and a lot of care, the eggs will hatch and you will have fully developed fry within a month. If well cared for, Humphead cichlids can go on to live for 25 years.

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