Blue Dolphin Cichlids are currently a popular pick for cichlid enthusiasts and aquarists. With its bright blue color, bump in the forehead, and unusual shape, what is not to love? With these appealing features, it is no wonder this unusual fish is gaining interest!
If you want to take care of these blue beauties, here is a comprehensive guide to help prepare you!
What Are Blue Dolphin Cichlids?
Blue Dolphin Cichlids are African cichlids that originated in Lake Malawi. They were first described in 1902 by Boulenger as Haplochromis mooriis.
In 1989, Trewavas and Eccles gave them their family name, Cyrtocara, which translates to bent bead in Ancient Greek. It serves as a direct reference to their lump.
These cichlids use several aliases, such as Hump Head, Moorii, and Malawi Blue Dolphin. The term ‘dolphin’ in its name is due to the nuchal hump on its head and its bill-like mouth, making it resemble a dolphin. These fishes are the closest you can get to have a pet dolphin.
These Cichlids sport various shades of blue, from turquoise to dark silvery blue. Aside from the beautiful blue hue, they also have black markings all around their body. Their body is compact with an elongated snout, and with age, they develop a bump on their forehead.
The front parts of their fins are soft, allowing them to move fluidly in water as opposed to fast swimming. Another interesting thing about them is that they have a pharyngeal set of teeth in their throat.
Their eye-catching color and interesting shape are what catches most aquarists’ attention. They would be great additions to the cichlid aquarium you are currently or planning to build!
A blue dolphin cichlid can grow rather large. It has the potential to reach almost 10 inches in length in its natural habitat. It could grow even bigger in an aquarium.
These cichlids inhabit sandy soils in Lake Malawi. Although, you can find them in transitional biotopes as well, between rock and sand. You can find Blue Mooriis in shallow waters with a depth of about 3 meters. They are difficult to breed, which is why they are usually wild-caught.
These fishes prefer solitary. They are not the type to join large fish groups of various species. Aside from Lake Malawi, you can also find blue dolphin cichlids in Lake Malombe.
It is easy to differentiate between male and female blue dolphin cichlids. While they both have humps on their foreheads, males tend to have bigger and brighter ones. Males are also brighter in color.
Males have indicative stripes, which vary from 4-7 in number. Females have many black marks on their bodies as opposed to stripes.
With age, the forehead of males becomes a bit yellowish.
Temperament and Behavior
As for temperament, blue dolphin cichlids are semi-aggressive creatures. If placed in a small aquarium or tank, they tend to develop territorial instincts. In the presence of danger, they would bury themselves in the sand to hide or escape it. It makes sand an appropriate substrate for them.
With their behavior of burying themselves, they tend to uproot plants. The good part is that they do not eat these plants as it is not part of their diet.
Blue dolphin cichlids can be scrappy, so it is best to keep them amongst its species. There is a chance that they will chase around or fight smaller species.
Food and Feeding
In their natural habitat, they are carnivorous creatures that feed on small invertebrates. So, you must replace their food with something that resembles their standard diet.
Feed them with a high protein diet that consists of bloodworms, prawns, or earthworms. You can also pair them up with good-quality flakes or pellets. The flakes and pellets can help balance out their meaty diet. They also serve as a good vitamin supplement for your fish.
Meats from warm-blooded animals used to be in large cichlids’ diets. Yet, it was recently discovered that the protein and fat types in them do not occur on a wild cichlid’s diet. These could damage their organs and cause severe intestinal blockage. If your cichlids enjoy these types of foods, be sure to only feed them to them and not as the main course.
Breeding and Reproduction
For breeding, Blue dolphin cichlids are polygamous. During mating seasons and periods, males would display brighter coloration compared to females. These fishes sexually mature at 3 years old, breeding almost immediately.
These blue fishes mate when there are no other species around. Although, they would be able to do so in a community tank if it is large enough to provide several hiding spots for them.
The female blue cichlids can lay around 20-50 eggs at a time. The male will fertilize them as soon as the female fish lays them on a flat surface or stone. The female will then scoop the eggs into her mouth and incubate them for 3-4 weeks.
It is advisable to keep the female in a separate tank since they are too weak yet to fend off predators. Do not try moving them since it could make them drop the eggs. There is a good chance they will pick them up again, but it is uncertain.
The Lifespan of Blue Dolphin Cichlid
A blue dolphin cichlid, with proper care and attention, can live up to 10 years. As long as you can give these fishes the care, food, and appropriate living conditions they need, they can keep you company for a decade.
With this species being vulnerable to diseases, they are hard to care for. They are sensitive to their living conditions and food. You will have to be extra vigilant in caring for them.
Blue Dolphin Cichlid Diseases
Like most fishes, blue cichlids are also susceptible to common fish diseases. It is especially likely if they live in poor-quality water. Sudden changes in water temperature and poor filtration can weaken their immune system.
Ich is a typical fish ailment for blue hump-head. It usually appears when the fish is more vulnerable or weak. Treatment involves elevating the water temperature to 86 degrees Fahrenheit for 3 days.
If it does not help, you can try treating them with copper. For this, you must ensure that any water conditioner is gone. There are several copper-based medications available to help treat Ich. Keep the copper within proper levels and follow the manufacturer’s suggestions.
Other fish ailments that could affect them are skin flakes and bacterial infections. It is best to quarantine any new fish before you introduce them to your aquarium. It is to ensure that they are pathogen-free.
The Aquarium of Blue Dolphin Cichlids
Blue dolphin cichlids need a generous size tank. These fishes would not develop fully in a small aquarium. There should be enough space for them to swim.
The most primary need of a blue hump head’s tank is capacity. It should have a volume of about 200-250 liters to make sure that your fishes are as comfortable as they could be. They need a large tank that can accommodate at least 75-125 gallons of water.
They are fine with freshwater, as long as there is good water movement and strong filtration.
For the setup and design, blue cichlids are shy fishes which means they need hiding spots. As with most African Cichlid tanks, it needs rock caves, sturdy plants, or wood for hiding places. Also, a sand substrate can help them feel more at home. This kind of substrate can serve as their hiding spot as well.
Keep in mind that this fish has a flighty nature. They can injure themselves in an overcrowded environment.
For aquarium care, the tank must have an excellent filtration system. Blue mooriis feel at ease with alkaline water, ranging from 7.2-8.8 pH levels. The temperature of the water should always be around 72-84 degrees Fahrenheit. They also need higher water temperatures during the mating period.
You will need to change the water frequently. If you are planning to give them tank mates, ensure that you carefully choose. While blue cichlids are peaceful, they do have the capabilities to be aggressive.
Compatibility with Other Fishes
Blue cichlids are peaceful creatures but tend to be scrappy around non-species. These fishes are best housed in an aquarium with their species only. You can place one male and three or more females in a single tank.
Some aquarists choose to place them in a tank with other non-aggressive cichlids. While it is unlikely that they will attack the other fishes, they can be a bit unpredictable. It is also best they avoid mbuna as they are aggressive and territorial beings.
They can be good tank mates for fishes of the same size. Although, do not put them together with smaller fishes. Blue cichlids have predatory instincts, which could make them eat the smaller ones. During breeding periods, blue dolphin cichlids become more territorial and aggressive towards others.
Blue dolphin cichlids are beautiful fishes to keep around, as long as you have space. They make lovely additions to your office or home!
However, keep in mind that they are not the easiest to keep. Blue Cichlids are not the most demanding fish to care for, but they still need proper effort and time to keep them thriving in your tank for years!