Cyphotilapia frontosa

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Cyphotilapia frontosa
Cichlidae - Cyphotilapia frontosa.JPG
Adult of Cyphotilapia frontosa
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Perciformes
Family: Cichlidae
Subfamily: Pseudocrenilabrinae
Genus: Cyphotilapia
Species: C. frontosa
Binomial name
Cyphotilapia frontosa
(Boulenger, 1906)

Cyphotilapia frontosa, the frontosa, is a species of fish from the cichlid family, endemic to Lake Tanganyika in East Africa.[1]


The genus name Cyphotilapia is composed by Cypho (from a Greek term meaning hunchback) and Tilapia (translated from a local dialect word meaning fish). The specific Latin name frontosa means with a big forehead.[2]


C. frontosa can grow to 33 cm (1.1 ft) in length.[1] Even captive specimens potentially grow to this size. It has distinct markings with 5-7 black vertical bars adorning a white or blue body and head and trailing fins with a distinct blue hue. The species also develops a nuchal hump that is more pronounced in older specimens. C. frontosa is a sexually monomorphic species, although the hump is occasionally more pronounced in males. These fishes can live for over 25 years.

As is the case with many of the cichlid species found in Lake Tanganyika, isolation of distinct breeding colonies has resulted in several different colour variants evolving.[3]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

This species is endemic to Lake Tanganyika in East Africa and is widespread in the northern half of the lake,[1] whereas the closely related C. gibberosa inhabits the southern half of the lake. The species generally resides at greater depths (30–50 metres sub-surface)[2] than most other cichlids and rises to shallow waters in the early morning to feed on shoaling fish such as Cyprichromis species.

In the aquarium[edit]

C. frontosa is popular aquarium fish and several naturally occurring colour morphs are frequently available for sale to hobbyists. Due to its size C. frontosa needs a relatively large aquarium, however, it behaves relatively sedately and is tolerant of both con- and heterospecifics. Frontosa need a cave or similar rocky structure to live in; this is to ensure the frontosa feels secure. If these are not present to satisfy the frontosa's need for security it will begin to attack the other fish in the tank. This is especially true with male frontosa. Female frontosa are more likely to be satisfied with ground territory. They are best kept with other cichlids or semi-aggressive fish. They do not like being alone and should be kept in groups of 3 or more. Keeping more than one adult male requires a large tank though.[1] Frontosa are best kept in at least 150 gallon tanks (550 L). A 150-gallon tank can house 6-8 frontosa. Water chemistry and temperature should mirror those found naturally in Lake Tanganyika. The PH should be between 7.8 and 9.0 and the temperature of the water should be between 79-82 F (26-27 C). The addition of rocks, or other ornaments such as pipes, allow the fish to hide and reduce stress. When spooked, frontosa have been known to break thermometers, filters, and even crack tanks. Frontosa do not grow to the size of the tank, they will grow to about 10-14 inches(25–35 cm).[2][4][5]

C. frontosa is an opportunistic feeder in the wild and its diet in aquaria should consist of good quality prepared foods, frozen foods like krill and earthworms occasionally. Since they originate from deeper water, care should be taken to avoid feeding them at the surface of the tank. Doing so could cause them to ingest air along with their meal leading to a condition known as 'float'. For this reason sinking pellets are a common staple food.


  1. ^ a b c d Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2017). "Cyphotilapia frontosa" in FishBase. April 2017 version.
  2. ^ a b c Welcome Lake Tanganyika queen cichlid (Cyphotilapia frontosa)
  3. ^ Tropical Fish Site
  4. ^ L'encyclopédie de l'aquarium d'eau douce, Hachette collection, 2008, (ISBN 9782013303903)
  5. ^ Aquarium Domain
  • IUCN
  • Maréchal, C. and M. Poll, 1991. Boulengerochromis.. p. 27-28. In: J. Daget, J.-P. Gosse, G.G. Teugels and D.F.E. Thys van den Audenaerde (eds.) Check-list of the freshwater fishes of Africa (CLOFFA). ISNB, Brussels; MRAC, Tervuren; and ORSTOM, Paris. Vol. 4.