Don Danko,
Cichlid Room Companion
Breeding tanks

Keeping and breeding the Malawi Trout cichlid: Champsochromis caeruleus

By , 2016. image

Classification: Captive maintenance, Lake Malawi.

Champsochromis caeruleus Champsochromis caeruleus male in the aquarium of Don Danko (USA).

Champsochromis caeruleus, the Malawi Trout Cichlid, is a strikingly beautiful fish from Lake Malawi. It is a large but peaceful fish that can be maintained with other fishes larger than they can swallow. Males develop rich metallic blue body coloration with a red anal fin and also grow attractive extensions to the dorsal and anal fins as they mature. These traits make them quite attractive in display and breeding aquariums alike.

In the wild, Champsochromis caeruleus is said to have a lake wide distribution and is noted to feed primarily on Usipa, the Malawi sardine, Engraulicypris sardella (Konings, 2015:71). It inhabits open waters where its streamlined, torpedo shape is well suited to skillfully navigate this environment. It is sometimes seen over rocky habitats, but is most often seen over sand in shallow water (Konings, 2015:71).

I was fortunate enough to buy a young adult group consisting of one male and three females in early 2015 from a breeder in the Cincinnati area. The male was about 20-22 cm (~8-9”) in length and the females were about 18 cm (~7”). They were initially housed in a 480 l (~125 gallon), but later moved to a 380 l (~100 gallon) with an unusual selection of tank-mates, six young adult Uaru amphiacanthoides! While that combination may strike you as odd, it has worked out quite successfully for maintaining and breeding the species. The group was quite skittish in the 480 l (~125 gallon) and moving them in with the Uaru settled them down nicely. In this arrangement there is virtually no aggression and the Trouts routinely spawn. They’ve grown a bit and are now about 28 cm (~11”) for the male and 20 cm (~8”) for the females and they are still very compatible with the Uaru. While I chose to pair them up with Uaru for my purposes, more typical tank-mates might be other Malawians like other good sized haplochromines, such as Cyrtocara moorii. Just be sure that the tank-mates are large enough not to be swallowed and also not too aggressive for the Trouts. Additionally, while they can be maintained in an aquarium of 1.2 m (~4 foot) in length, a longer tank of 1.5-1.8 m (~5-6 feet) is suggested to provide ample space to swim freely.

The 380 l (~100 gallon) tank in which they are housed is set up for maintaining and breeding the Trout Cichlids and not for aesthetics. It is a bare bottomed tank with a 7.5 cm (~3”) thick Poret style sponge filter at one end of the tank that covers the entire cross section of the aquarium, from front to back and top to bottom. It also has two sponge filters at the opposite end. Clay flower pots are used for territories for the Uaru. This tank is connected to an automatic water change system that adds carbon filtered water twice daily. The temperature is maintained at about 28 C (~82 Fahrenheit) degrees.

Champsochromis caeruleus Champsochromis caeruleus females in the aquarium of Don Danko (USA).

Champsochromis caeruleus are very aggressive feeders accepting a variety of foods. I frequently feed them freeze dried krill and periodically feed them floating food sticks, spirulina flakes and freeze dried mysis. They are not at all picky and take all foods with equal enthusiasm. With their strong appetites, it is easy to condition them for spawning.

I was able to observe one spawning event in which the male and female staked out the right half of the bared bottomed 380 l (~100 gallon) tank as their territory. The pair swam along the bottom in a circular pattern following each other while the female deposited large eggs and then subsequently picked them up into her mouth. In the lake, C. caeruleus spawn in a large sand bower of more than 150 cm in diameter, constructed by the male (Konings, 2015:72). C. caeruleus is a maternal mouth-brooder so only the female carries the eggs.

initially, the females did not hold the eggs well, but that changed after the first couple of spawns, as the group became more comfortable in the 380 l (100 gallon) aquarium. Now they hold the eggs and fry quite reliably. Spawn sizes have increased as the females have matured, from about 25 initially to more than 50 currently. The females hold the eggs and fry for 3 weeks or more and I have chosen to harvest the fry so that they will not be immediately consumed by the tank inhabitants when the female releases them. The fry are good sized when taken, between 6 mm (¼”) and 1 cm (~3/8”) in total length. They grow steadily on feedings of decapsulated brine shrimp, crushed flake food and freeze dried cyclops. The fry reach 2.5 cm (1”) in length in about a month.

The Malawi Trouts have brought me much pleasure to watch their gracefulness as well as their breeding behavior. I would highly recommend them provided you have a good sized tank available. The beauty of the male and the unique shape warrant devoting the tank space to them. Additionally, the fish can be commercially attractive and selling some fry should help offset costs in the fishroom.

Champsochromis caeruleus one month fry in the aquarium of Don Danko (USA)

References (1):


Danko, Don. (Jan 08, 2016). "Keeping and breeding the Malawi Trout cichlid: Champsochromis caeruleus". Cichlid Room Companion. Retrieved on Feb 24, 2024, from: