The Fairy Cichlid is an elegant fish through appearance and motions alike; endemic to Lake Tanganyika, this graceful species is sure to be a center of attention in any Tanganyika aquarium. Also called the Princess Cichlid as well as the Princess of Burundi, this beautiful fish has long filaments extending from all but its pectoral fins (resembling streamers), giving it a graceful appearance which is how it earned its nickname. The Fairy Cichlid also has a striking, metallic-blue pattern, one black blotch and one smaller, yellow-orange blotch (above the black one) at the edge of its operculum in addition to dark bar angled from the eye to the black blotch previously mentioned. The Fairy Cichlid is quite popular and is usually available through online vendors; that can be special ordered if they aren’t immediately available locally.
The Fairy Cichlid requires an aquarium of 55 gallons or more and should be housed in a Tanganyika biotope system: A sand/crushed coral substrate with rock rubble, plenty of rocks around the tank creating multiple caves and crevices used as hiding places and areas to explore (it’s a good idea to gently “twist” the base rocks into the substrate until they bottom out on the aquarium, preventing disaster when various fish decide that they want to dig around them). Plenty of open swimming space is required and should be considered when setting up the rocks in a Tanganyika system; decent water movement is also recommended as it will benefit both the fish any live plants that are utilized. Plants are appreciated as long as they are species’ that can be attached to and will grow on rock surfaces (i.e., African Water Ferns and Anubias species’ are perfect for the task) as Fairy Cichlids are notorious diggers. They can be housed with other species, but it’s recommended that they are only other Tanganyika cichlids and that the other tank mates be larger then they are as they can become fiercely aggressive towards other species when they are breeding and protecting their young. Ideally they should be raised on their own.
The Fairy Cichlid is a carnivore and feeds on invertebrates, small crustaceans and plankton from among rocky cover in their natural environment. In the aquarium their diet should consist of a variety of live, frozen, and freeze-dried bloodworms, daphnia, plankton, brine shrimp, and mysis shrimp, as well as vitamin-enriched flake foods and pellets. Feed what will be consumed in a few minutes, one to two times daily.
Fairy Cichlids are substrate-spawners and the only known African species to use a collective nursery where the “whole family” will always participate in the rearing of new offspring (adults, sub-adults, and juveniles alike). They are also the only known species that schools in addition to substrate-spawning. The female will lay her eggs in a cave and the male with fertilize them soon afterwards; the females will care for the eggs while the males and the entire extended family defends the territory and helps out where they can. The fry can be fed and raised on Artemia nauplii, baby brine shrimp, and crushed flake food.