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Pelmatochromis nigrofasciatus Female

Above Female Pelmatochromis nigrofasciatus over her eggs. Photo by Rick Borstein.


Pelmatochromis nigrofasciatus is a West African, substrate-spawning cichlid. According to, it is found " . . . throughout the central Congo basin from Yangambi to Kinshasa, including the Ruki River, Tshuapa River, Ja River and the Kasaï." This fish was first typed by Pellegrin in 1900 as Paratilapia nigrofasiciata. Synonyms for this fish are Paratilapia dorsalis and Paratilapia longispinnis.

Male Pelmatochromis nigrofasciatus approach 6" in size with females a bit smaller. Overall coloration is a nice mottled brown/tan/bronze coloration. Males have longer and more pointed dorsal and anal fins. Females are less slender than males and, when breeding, the belly area reddens.

For a bigger cichlid, this fish is not normally very aggressive. Females with fry, however, will actively defend their brood.


In the wild, Pelmatochromis nigrofasciatus occurs in rivers in the Upper Congo. I could not find details regarding substrate, water temperature/conditions or depth.


Pelmatochromis nigrofasciatus does not present many difficulties. Provide a large tank (40B or larger), clean water and temperatures of 76 to 78F. Conduct regular partial water changes every two weeks or so.


I fed a variety of foods such as fish Dainichi Veggie Deluxe, Tetra Cichlid Sticks, and New Life Spectrum.


I obtained a reverse trio of Pelmatochromis nigrofasciatus from fellow GCCA member Scott Moreen. The fish were already at adult size. I placed the fish in a 58G tank with a sand substrate. Filtration was provided by two sponge filters.

Tankmates for the Pelmatochromis nigrofasciatus were some smaller Cynotilapia sp., but no breeding activity took place until these fish were removed.

Anton Lamboj's seminal book "The Cichlid Fishes of Western Africa" notes that Pelmatochromis nigrofasciatus requires soft water for spawning. That wasn't our experience. Our fish spawned in regular Chicago water— pH 7.4 and 300ppm hardness.

Because Pelmatochromis nigrofasciatus can be a shy fish, I recommend a species tank for breeding. This fish is a substrate spawner, so make sure there are clean rocks or slate for the fish to use as a site to deposit their eggs.

The breeding display is nothing fancy. The male holds his fins up and "dances" over the spawning area, but that is about it. Breeding is typical of most substrate spawners— the female lays an egg or two and the male goes over them and fertilizes them. Up to 500 eggs can be laid in a spawn. The eggs hatch in about four days, and are free swimming three to four days after.

Pelmatochromis nigrofasciatus are good parents when raising the fry with limited pressure. My fish raised the fry to about an inch in length, which was about a month and a half. I don't recommend that you keep them in with the parents this long as it stresses the fish.

Fry grow quickly, and are voracious eaters. As they get older, you gradually see them color up, first with a tilapia spot, then with a stripe, and then they get the golden hue.

Retail Price

It is unlikely that you would find Pelmatochromis nigrofasciatus at your local pet store. Wild-caught individuals would be in the $35 to $40 range. Pelmatochromis nigrofasciatus is now found on several wholesaler and hobbyists lists on the web.

Report November 2007 by Sam Borstein.