Sergey Anikstein, 2002
Cichlid Room Companion
Breeding tanks

Cyphotilapia frontosa (Boulenger, 1906)

By , 2003. image

Classification: Captive maintenance, Lake Tanganyika.

Cyphotilapia frontosa male

Cyphotilapia frontosa has struck me with its grace and regal power since I first saw it at the exhibition of MUCA&T (Moscow Urban Club Aquarists and Terrariums) in 1984. Since then I constantly dreamed of obtaining this "Imperial fish." I thought it isn't without a reason that it is called "The Queen of Tanganyika".

My dream finally came true in June, 1997. Having bought in Moscow 7. ranging in size between 3-4 inches. I became the happy owner of this jewel from lake Tanganyika.

The juveniles were placed in a 320 liters tank together with the some adult Sturiosoma aureum. They grew well on 3 daily feedings consisting of seafood, high-quality dry food and glassworms, complemented with live daphnia and cyclops in the spring-autumn.

After a year and half the male started to show interest in females, but females did not reciprocate him. But at the end of June 1999, the first spawn happened. I felt it was necessary for me to document this milestone, since the only references Russian hobbyists could find was material that was outdated (1980). It mentioned the breeding fish circling one another, which I did observe only 2 - 3 times. The female stayed very close to the bottom of the aquarium moving back and forth quickly and returning to collect the eggs in her mouth. The male swam back and forth above her, occasionally shaking his body too. Then he would take off across the tank and disappear among the remaining females, only to return and continue the dance. Then he went down to where the female was and began swimming beside her "shivering," with their heads and tails at opposite ends of each other and she seemed to mouth his anal fin, taking in the sperm that would fertilize the eggs. This continued for 2 hours until the spawning was complete.

I removed the eggs from the holding female and placed them in an incubator. The result was sparse, only six fry, and they closely resembled the parents. As they developed, and when they were large enough, even though they still had egg sacs present, I began to feed them freshly hatched baby brine shrimp. I housed them in a 10-liter container inside a 250-liter aquarium to maintain a stable temperature.

After a long wait they finally spawned again on 1/1/2000 (Was this a symbolic?). As I did the first time I put the precious eggs in the incubator, added methylene blue. In 24 days I removed only 3 fry, which I believe was because my adults were still so young.

Feeding the fry is not complicated once they reached the size of 1". They eagerly forage for baby brine shrimp, Cyclops and small glassworms. I also feed dry foods from the West, which included brand names like Wardley, Tetra and Sera. The fry grow rather quickly, approximately 1" per month.

Undoubtedly Cyphotilapia frontosa is one of the most attractive cichlids in Lake Tanganyika. Reaching impressive sizes in the aquarium, it is able to attract the attention of many cichlid fans, new and old.

I have an "aquarium farm" along with a friend and we are currently breeding many cichlids from Lake Tanganyika and Malawi. We have added another family of "fronts," which are wild "blue mpimbwe." We obtained this stock from MalTaVi in Europe and they have an amazingly bright blue color.

I have just put them in an 800-liter aquarium with an Eheim 2260. I am using a crushed coral for the substrate and (2) 30 watt Aqua Glo (Hagen) for lighting. I do 20 - 30 percent water changes every 3 - 4 days.

For feeding the adult Cyphotilapia frontosa I am making my own food, which includes; red fish (low-fat), calamari, shrimp and mussels or clams. I mix this and form it in to cubes, which I then freeze. I thaw it slightly before feeding and add vitamins like Fishtamin made by Sera.

These fish do not have inadequate diets! They also eat Granugreen by Sera®, Spirulina pellets by Wardley®, adult brine shrimp, and Cyclops, in addition to vegetable components with well-balanced ingredients. It is well known that spirulina is recognized for bringing out the blue coloring in many fish. Sometimes the adult's menu will include live guppies and danios, but I have noticed how that is bad for the water conditions and the fish seem to have a harder time digesting it.

The water parameters in my Cyphotilapia frontosa tank are as follows:

GH 25, KH 15, pH 8.0-8.3, O2 - 7mg/l, NH3/NH4-0, NO2-0, NO3- < 2mg/l I do not recommend the addition of salts like MgS04. Sulfates in this salt have a negative influence on the function of the biofilters.

My frontosa have quickly adapted to the above conditions in their aquarium, and they eagerly come out and to the top of the tank allowing me to "feed them by hand," which is very unusual for wild fish.

My "old" Cyphotilapia frontosa have continued to spawn approximately every 6 to 8 weeks, producing around (30 - -40 fry. I have one female that has produced 79 fry since the beginning of January 2000.

The adult male frontosa's reach around 30 - 35 cm, while the females are a bit smaller around 20 - 28 cm.

Based on an appropriate sized tank the male frontosa's should reach around 30 - 35 cm, while the females will be a bit smaller, around 20 - 28 cm.

To summarize it is important to note that such a "Royal" fish requires an aquarium of at least 300 liters or more for a breeding group of 1 male with 2 - 3 females.

Cyphotilapia frontosa fry

Cyphotilapia frontosa fry in the home aquarium. Fish and Photo by Sergey Anikstein.


Anikstein, Sergey. (Jan 15, 2003). "Cyphotilapia frontosa (Boulenger, 1906)". Cichlid Room Companion. Retrieved on Dec 10, 2023, from: