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Tilapia snyderae Male

Above Tilapia snyderae. Photo of green morph male in breeding color by Sam Borstein.


Tilapia snyderae (Stiassny 1992) is a small substrate spawning cichlid that is native to Lake Bermin in the country of Cameroon in Western Africa. Lake Bermin is a deep crater lake that contains a nine endemic tilapiane species which are believed to have evolved from a single common ancestor. Tilapia snyderae is the smallest of the group. Males only get up to about 2.5" inches. Females stay slightly smaller.

Claudia Dickinson in an article in Greater City Aquarium Society's November 2005 issue of Modern Aquarium, noted the following about the color morphs of Tilapia snyderae

Three color morphs have been observed in the field, a 'green,' a 'red,' and a 'pale.' However, it has been noted by Lamboj and other hobbyists that the changeable colors of one individual fish within an aquarium setting may cover the full range ofdescribed color morphs. The striking 'red color morph,' with black dorsal, snout, frontal, and fin regions, is exhibited exclusively by the most active and aggressive individuals, and during breeding.

My fish showed a lot of green, so I'm pretty sure I had the green morph.

Tilapia snyderae is a great looking fish, but especially so when breeding, when both fish get very red and exhibit black throats and white lips.


Lake Bermin is a small lake— 144 acre surface area— that is surrounded by thick jungle. The bottom is mixture of sand and silt with few rocks. Logs, branches and so on from the surrounding jungle are also found in the water. The pH is 7.5.


Tilapia snyderae is easy to keep. They do great in hard Chicago water. I kept mine at 78F. While breeding or defending fry, Tilapia snyderae can be aggressive. I kept two pairs in a 90G tank, although others have reported success with single pairs in 20G tanks.


Tilapia snyderae is omnivorous and will readily accept a variety of food. I fed mine Dainichi Veggie Deluxe, HBH Graze, Adult brine shrimp, and various other flakes and pellets.


Tilapia snyderae is not particularly difficult to breed provided that you provide three things:

  1. Appropriate spawning site
  2. Dither fish to promote the pair bond
  3. Adequate territory (24")

I purchased seven fish at GCCA's February 2007 swap meet. The fish were juveniles, approaching 1.5" in length. I placed them into a 90G tank with a sand bottom and numerous clay pots, etc. Six giant danios were used as dither fish.

By late April, it was evident that two pairs had developed. Both colored up beautifully! Each pair took half the tank bottom as territory forcing the other tank residents into the upper corners of the tank. The danios were able to elude the Tilapia, but the other sub-dominant individuals did not fair so well. I lost them all one after another.

Although I had placed terracotta caves in the tank, they were inspected but not selected by the fish. The entry hole was about twice the size of the female.

I've seen this behavior before from other substrate spawners. It usually indicates that the spawning site does not provide adquate privacy. Tighter quarters were needed.

I added a small hollow plastic log to the tank which contained a hole just big enough to admit the male. Even though I placed this log only a couple inches from the tank glass, one pair immediately selected it.

The female disappeared into the log at this point, only coming out to quickly snatch some food. About six days later, I could see some small fry swirling about the log. I immediately began feeding live baby brine shrimp which was immediately accepted by the babies.

I've seen some reports that indicate that spawn sizes are in the 10-40 range, but I believe I had close to 100 fry from the pair.

The babies grow fast and reach 1/2" in just four weeks.

Tilapia snyderae are terrific parents, too. My second pair spawned and cared for the babies for five weeks. I gave both my pairs to Dr. Ron Coleman as a thank you gift for speaking at GCCA's 2007 Cichlid Classic convention. Now the west coast folks will be able to enjoy this wonderful little cichlid!

Retail Price

Although I haven't seen Tilapia snyderae in a store, I would expect juveniles to go for $10 to $15. Tilapia snyderae is available in the hobby. Ask your pet shop to order some for you or place a free Wanted ad on GCCA's Cichlid Classifieds.

Report June 2007 by Rick Borstein.