Robert Marcel, 2004
Cichlid Room Companion
Breeding tanks

Otopharynx tetraspilus (Trewavas, 1935)

By , 2004. image

Classification: Captive maintenance, Lake Malawi.

" A sucessful breeding account on Otopharynx tetraspilus (Trewavas, 1935) "

Otopharynx tetraspilus

Otopharynx tetraspilus male in the aquarium of Robert Marcel; Toulouse, France Photo by Robert Marcel.

Haplochromis tetraspilus (Trewavas, 1935)
Common name: Yellow Fin Mloto

Systematic hierarchy:

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Sub-phylum: Vertebrates - Group: Fish
Class: Osteichthyes (Bony Fish)
Sub-class: Actinopterygii (Ray-finned Fish)
Order: Perciformes (Perch-like)
Family: Cichlidae(Cichlids)
Pseudocrenilabrinae: Pseudocrenilabrinae
Genus: Otopharynx
Species: tetraspilus

Give this Hap a try you will not regret it!

Otopharynx tetraspilus is a maternal mouthbrooding cichlid native to Lake Malawi, Africa and widely distributed in the southern part of the lake and in the Shive river. It inhabits the swallow water and sheltered bays where vegetation is present. This habitat usually has a sandy bottom. There are not geographical variants.

This fish was first described by Ethelwyn Trewavas way back in 1935 as Haplochromis tetraspilus. Male Otopharynx tetraspilus have blue heads, blue-gray bodies and depending on mood, a nice yellow underbelly. There is nice white-blue blaze on the dorsal fin. The anal fin has prominent egg spots. The head and eye are quite large and the snout is pointed. Female Otopharynx tetraspilus and juveniles are golden brown with three large dark blotches along the side and four smaller marks along the base of the dorsal fin.

Males get up to 16 centimeters in length. Females are smaller (13 centimeters). This fish is not very aggressive. We have kept this fish with several quite placid mbuna as Labidochromis caeruleus. It will hang out in the mid to top of the tank and avoid conflict.


Otopharynx tetraspilus are found in shallow water where vegetation is present. This habitat usually has a sandy bottom. Water in Lake Malawi is hard: pH range of 7.4-8.4.


Otopharynx tetraspilus are easy to feed. In the wild, Otopharynx tetraspilus feeds on algae and small crustaceans. Provide a variety of foods. We fed a variety of foods including mussels, cichlid flake, Tropical Flakes, Shrimps


Otopharynx tetraspilus are easy to keep. We kept them in a 600 liters tank. Since this fish gets pretty big, choose a tank at least 150 cm. in length.


Otopharynx tetraspilus is a polygamous maternal mouthbrooder. My experience breeding Otopharynx species is that these fish spawn every three months. The males are quite placid and leave the females alone until they females are ready to breed. Before breeding, males darken and although I have a lot of magnificent cichlids in my fishroom I notice they become very nice. It is amazing how nice the O. tetraspilus can look at it's best!

They excavate a small depression in the sand where the female releases her eggs. She then picks them up in her mouth. The male presents his egg dummies which the female bites as he releases sperm.

Females are good holders. While incubating the eggs, the female doesn't eat, and constantly rolls the eggs inside her mouth in order to get them more oxygen. The female may lay around 40 eggs. Fry are generally released after 3 weeks of holding.

The fry are large and ready to eat crushed flake food immediately after released but baby brine shrimp are perfect for growing healthy fish. Four small meals a day seems ideal. Raising the fry is not very difficult. The fry grow fairly quickly, but you should be patient because they do not exhibit color until they are nearly adults.

Otopharynx tetraspilus make a good addition to almost any Malawi Cichlid tank because it is a peaceful Hap. Otopharynx tetraspilus should be kept in a 150 centimeters tank as a minimum, these fish need a large open swimming area. Use rock structures with large passages and caves. Plants that tolerate hard water conditions, such as Java Fern (Microsorum pteropus) or Anubias sp. can be used in the Otopharynx tetraspilus aquarium. The substrate should be sand.

To illuminate the tank we use 36 watts fluorescent lights, that work 12 hours a day. Frequent partial water changes are necessary to keep Otopharynx tetraspilus in good health and to increase the male's beautiful colors.

They mind their own business in the tank. Because they are fairly placid by cichlid standards they can be mixed with other Hap of similar temperament. Suitable tankmates are Sciaenochromis fryeri, Cyrtocara moorii, Aulonocara stuartgranti, Placidochromis phenochilus.

Currently Otopharynx tetraspilus are kept with a large variety of Malawi cichlid in our aquarist local club near Toulouse (France) in a 600 liters tank. Otopharynx tetraspilus are not shy at all in these conditions. I hope that many of you give this fish a try!


  • Konings, Ad; 1998; "Malawi cichlids in their natural habitat, third Edition"; Cichlid Press.


Marcel, Robert. (Nov 20, 2004). "Otopharynx tetraspilus (Trewavas, 1935)". Cichlid Room Companion. Retrieved on Dec 01, 2023, from: