Frontosa Cichlid

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Cyphotilapia frontosa - (Boulenger, 1906)
Frontosa Cichlid

Male Humphead in full breeding coloration.


A Rift Valley African fish with intelligence, a likable disposition (it will eat out of your hand and is not particularly aggressive toward tankmates), the "Front" can also mature into a majestic-looking fish with brilliant colors and flowing fins.

The most-prized, bright blue specimens are collected at depth (15 to more than 40 meters, 50-130 feet) in Lake Tanganyika and sometimes fetch high prices as they must be decompressed slowly after capture.

They live in colonies in nature, and in the aquarium can be housed in groups of 10 or more adults in a large aquarium for a spectacular display. At minimum, one male and three females should be housed together. Both sexes exhibit a distinctive nucal hump, which is a deposit of fat that develops with sexual maturity. The male's hump is generally larger.

For a breeding group, an aquarium of 125 gal. (473 L) is considered adequate, but larger is better.

Cyphotilapia frontosa juvenile.

Different color morphs are available, reflecting different wild populations, with the "Zaire Blue" and "Zaire Purple" being highly sought-after.

Family: Cichlidae

Other common name(s):

  • 7-Stripe Frontosa
  • Frontosa
  • Tanganyikan Humphead
  • Humphead Cichlid
  • Front

Native range:

Habitat: Dwells in deep rocky areas in its native Lake Tanganyika and should be provided with similar aquascaping in the aquarium. Larger rocks without sharp edges are recommended, as these fish will dart into caves and crevices and can injure themselves on slate edges or rough surfaces.

Maximum length: 33 cm (13 in)

Minimum aquarium size: 209 L (55 gal)

Water: Freshwater 24 °C (75 °F) - 26 °C (79 °F)

General swimming level: Near substrate.


Omnivore but largely carnivorous. Eats smaller fishes, snails, and mussels in the wild. Will greedily accept most aquarium rations, including high-protein pellets.

Resist the temptation to feed live feeder goldfish or guppies, as these may carry disease and are often of poor nutritional quality, underfed and raised in poor conditions. Silversides, krill, enriched adult brine shrimp, and earthworms can all add variety to the diet.

Aquarium Compatibility

Can be housed with other African cichlids large enough to avoid being targeted as prey.

Special Care

They require hard water, with pH in the 8.6 range.


Moouthbrooders, with females carrying the eggs and young for about five weeks. One male will mate with a harem of three or more females.

Juvenile specimens may take several (3 or more) years to reach sexual maturity with a clearly developed hump. They are not known as easy to breed, and live foods may be required for conditioning and triggering spawning behaviors.

Frontosa juveniles are always in demand.


Frontosa Cichlids are reported to live up to 25 years in captivity, reaching up 35 cm ( in.) in length.

Image credit: JJ