The Blue Dolphin Cichlid hails from the Lake Malawi rift lake and near by waterways of eastern Africa. They received their common name due to the nuchal hump on their forehead and the bill-like shape of their mouth, that combined give them a look resembling that of a dolphin. Blue Dolphins are widely distributed throughout Lake Malawi and nearby streams and water ways. They are popular with African Cichlid enthusiasts due to their attractive shape and coloration, thus they have been widely imported since the late 1960s.
Blue Dolphin (Cyrtocara moorii) grow fairly large and thus requires a good sized aquarium of 125 gallons or more to properly house adult specimens. In the wild they are found living near muddy and sandy coastal areas, their aquarium environment should closely resemble their natural habitat. Provide them a sandy substrate with plenty of open swimming area and plenty of rocky caves and rock piles. A mix of sand and aragonite works well for this species as it gives the substrate a good texture and also helps to buffer the water parameters. As the Blue Dolphin generally feeds on bits of food that it picks up from the sandy substrate, it is important to have plenty of open areas in the aquarium that are unobstructed by rocks or plants.
Cyrtocara moorii take about 2 years to reach sexual maturity and begin spawning. Breeding pairs will typically spawn every two months, producing clutches ranging from 30 to 90 young. As spawning nears, the male will tend to develop more vivid coloration and begin to display more often to the female. The male will also begin digging a nest in the substrate in which the female can lay her eggs. The male will fertilize the eggs once laid, then the female will pick the eggs up into her mouth for protection. Approximately 20 days later the eggs will begin to hatch and the young fry will be release from their mothers mouth in about a weeks time. As is typical with other mouth brooders, the Cyrtocara moorii Cichlid does best with a single large male and multiple females in the same aquarium.
In the wild Blue Dolphins exhibit a rather unique feeding adaptation, in that they follow behind substrate feeding fish species looking for small organisms to consume. By following closely behind substrate feeding fish that stir up the sandy substrate, the Blue Dolphin is provided with a host of small organisms and meaty particles on which to feed. In the aquarium environment the Blue Dolphin can be weened to more traditional meaty foodstuffs like pellets and freeze-dried commercial foods.