Pam Chin, 2002
Cichlid Room Companion

Paracyprichromis nigripinnis

By , 2008. image

Classification: Captive maintenance, Lake Tanganyika.

" Care and breeding of this interesting cichlid from Lake Tanganyika "

Cryptoheros nanoluteus

Paracyprichromis nigripinnis group in the aquarium. Photo by Radek Bednarczuk.

Cyprichromis are really popular right now, it seems like everyone is keeping them. It has been quite a while since I have kept any. I love to tease my Cyprichromis keeping friends by calling them silver cichlid keepers, or sardine lovers; got any Ritz crackers? Then I thought, well perhaps I am the one who is missing it maybe I should try some again. I was about to commit, when Anthony called and wanted some Aulonocara. I asked if he had anything to trade and he said, "How about some Paracyprichromis nigripinnis?" Paracyprichromis? Wow, I haven’t kept them in years, I had totally forgotten all about this cool little Tanganyikan! They are much neater than Cyps, and they are brown instead of silver!

Holding females will school above the males territory with the other females

They appear to be just a smaller version of Cyprichromis, but there are substantial differences. In fact about the only thing they have in common is they are both zooplankton feeders. One aspect that I like about Paracyprichromis is they prefer to be next to a rocky substrate, rather than the open water. It is the vertical sides of the rocks where they like to claim a territory, preferably in a cave or over hang. While the Cyps claim a virtual territory in the water column. The most interesting difference is how the eggs are fertilized, Paracyprichromis eggs are fertilized outside the females mouth, while Cyprichromis eggs are fertilized inside the females mouth. However, they are both are able to accomplish this amazing feat in open water.

I put my (12) 2.5 cm. (1") Paracyprichromis in a 76 liters (20-gallon) tall tank, with a large lanky castle. Watching them eat was quite entertaining; they would have a feeding frenzy over freshly hatched baby brine shrimp. Gary got such a kick out of watching them eat, that I accused him of power feeding. True to their form, they stayed in the mid water but not far from the face of the castle that simulated a vertical rock or barrier. I thought about putting a Lamprologus type about the same size with them, but I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to risk loosing any, and I think growing up your group together in a species only tank bonds them somewhat.

About 6 months later my young group was looking good, and they had grown substantially. I had lost a couple, but it appeared I had two males and 8 females, I was more than pleased with that ratio. I wanted to move them to larger quarters and put them in a tank with some sand. I found a slot for them in this large divided tank I have. Each section is about 132 liters (35 gallons), and the dividers are black Plexiglas from top to bottom, which will be perfect for replicating the cliff/cave they would have in the wild. I added a large pottery type decoration and the required subdued lighting. I hoped it would simulate the perfect rocky cave.

Paracyprichromis nigripinnis (Boulenger 1901)
Throughout Lake Tanganyika


Maternal mouthbrooder, Harem groups work best.
Sexually Mature
14 - 18 months

My Spawning Conditions
8.5 pH, hard water
23 - 24 degrees C (74 - 76 F).

Males 9 cm (3.5")
Females 6.35 cm (2.5")

The male Paracyprichromis nigripinnis have a blue/beige base color with two horizontal blue neon stripes the length of the body, and the fins are edged in light blue, including their beautiful swallow type tail. It is easy to tell why they have the nickname "blue neon". The females also sport these stripes but they are not nearly as evident. Their eyes are small and beady and they look like little torpedoes with swallow tails, the males usually max out about 9- 10 cm. (3-1/2 - 4"), while the females are typically 1/3 smaller. They aren’t your typical rock dwellers like julies and lamps. As they swim over the substrate in a 45 degree angle they seem to trace the shape of the rocks, always staying back a bit and often swim upside down around the overhangs and in the crevices, it is fascinating to watch. Meanwhile, Gary is still pouring the freshly hatched baby brine shrimp to them, along with a staple cichlid pellet.

A few months later they had settled in nicely, and I had a couple of females holding. The eggs are extremely large and it is easy to see when a female is holding. I began heading to that tank each day to make sure the females were still holding and then later waiting for the release. It was a welcome site to see the small school of fry 0.6 cm. (1/4") hanging together along the side of the tank. There is no parental care, however they don’t seem to bother the fry when first released, females will hold in their mouths for around 21 - 28 days.

The male finds a female who is ready to spawn and separates her from the group, driving her directly into his territory. Once up against the vertical rock, the male stays above the female, releasing his milt at his designated area, while she holds the 45-degree downward tilt and releases her eggs in his cloud of milt along the vertical rise of the rocks, then she swims backwards to pick up the egg(s). It all happens very quickly, the egg is literally free-falling from the time she lays it, until she picks it back up. This breeding ritual continues for several rounds until the female swims a way with a mouthful of eggs.

The holding females will school above the males territory with the other females. They basically stay out of the male’s way, while they brood. Occasionally you will see some chasing, but usually the male is more likely to concentrate on females that are ready to spawn, rather then the females that are holding. You could strip the females at any time after you are sure the eggs have been properly fertilized. However, these cichlids have very delicate mouths, and unless you are desperate for viable fry I would suggest just letting them hold and release on their own. Amazingly I averaged about 8 - 10 fry per spawn, which is a lot when you consider the size of this cichlid and the size of their eggs; which are huge.

This smaller shy cichlid does well when provided with a natural setting, and trying to use your tank as a cave is a good start. They are harem spawners so they do better in larger groups, try to start with at least a dozen. Supplement their diet with live foods, like freshly hatched baby brine or daphnia. Provide plenty of water changes and it will only be a matter of time before nature takes its course. I recommend removing your fry when you can, as I have had some predation when fry are left in the tank too long. It could be the size of my tank and your fry could have a better chance in a larger aquarium.

This is one of those neat Tanganyikan cichlids that you don’t run across everyday. I highly recommend giving them a try, they are fun to keep, whether you are watching them feed or just co-habitat as a group together. The ultimate joy of course is being able to observe their unique spawning behavior. Create a Tanganyikan cave in your tank and you will see what I mean!

References (2):


Chin, Pam. (Jul 30, 2008). "Paracyprichromis nigripinnis". Cichlid Room Companion. Retrieved on Oct 04, 2023, from: