The Giraffe Cichlid is a member of the Haplochromine tribe of African Cichlids and are a highly intelligent and wonderfully attractive species. They are native to Lake Malawi, but can also be found in other locations within East Africa. Giraffe Cichlids get their name from the fact that their pattern looks almost identical to the markings of a giraffe. They are piscovores that feign “death” by lying on their sides and will then gobble up any smaller fish that stops to investigate. The Giraffe Cichlid is usually very peaceful (aside from it eating small fish for food) and will usually only become aggressive to other males of its kind (especially during breeding). Giraffe Cichlids are a hardy, easy to care for, and grow to be fairly large for an African Cichlid; they are a perfect choice for beginners as well as the more advanced hobbyists and being popular and common, they are readily available from local and online retailers.
Giraffe Cichlid should be kept in an aquarium of 75 gallons or larger prefer a fine sand substrate as well as plenty of rocks to use as natural caves and shelter. Like most African Cichlids, they appreciate open swimming space within the water column. Live plants would be safe but should probably be attached to rocks or driftwood as they will be hard to keep planted in a sandy substrate. Due to their eating preferences and larger size, quality biological, mechanical, and chemical filtration is recommended to keep up with the bio-load they will have on their aquarium. Although considered to be peaceful, Giraffe Cichlids can become very aggressive to other males of their kind while breeding or under cramped conditions; a tank of 150 gallons or larger is recommended for more than one male of the species. They can coexist peacefully with other likeminded species, including other piscovores.
Giraffe Cichlids are piscovores and mainly feed on smaller cichlids and other small fish in the wild. In the aquarium they should be fed a variety of live bloodworms, brine shrimp, earthworms, mysis shrimp, ghost shrimp, and minnows and can learn to accept frozen versions; some may be conditioned to accept high quality, vitamin-enriched, African cichlid pellets and other prepared meaty foods. Feed what will be consumed in a few minutes, once or twice a day.
The Giraffe Cichlid can be bred as easily as all other African Cichlids (one male per 3-4 females is a good ratio for breeding conditions) and are maternal mouthbrooders. Males of the species will develop a bright, metallic-blue coloration on their head and operculum. The female cichlid lays her eggs in a cave or rock crevice and then gathers up the eggs in her mouth. The male has egg-like spots on his anal fin and the female will be attracted to them thinking that they are more eggs to gather up in her mouth; when she tries to gather them she receives sperm from the male, which fertilizes the eggs. The female will carry the eggs (usually a clutch of 25-50) for up to around 28 days before she releases free-swimming fry. If yolk-sacs still remain, the fry can finish them off; if not, immediately start to feed them Artemia nauplii.