Aquarium Cichlids from Lake Tanganyika:


Ophthalmotilapia nasuta gold photographed in the aquarium for

The ectodines have only recently come into their own as aquarium fish. Although aquarists have been aware of the existence of these elegant cichlids for decades, through photographs taken in the wild, only within the last few years has it been possible to import them from the lake in any significant numbers. While they adapt to the aquarium nicely once they arrive, the ectodines were considered prohibitively fragile in shipping due to the large losses en route from Lake Tanganyika to the United States or Europe. Recent advances in shipping methods, as well as better access to airports in Africa, have apparently made it more possible to import these attractive fish for the aquarium trade.

Two groups within the ectodini are important to aquarists - the featherfins of the genera Cyathopharynx and Ophthalmotilapia, and the elongate sand-dwelling species of Enantiopus and Xenotilapia. We will look at typical representatives of each.

The featherfins are relatively large, active cichlids, with full-grown males reaching 9 inches in the aquarium. The name "featherfin" is based on the long pelvic fins the fish possess, which are usually tipped by bright yellow or white lappets that may or may not serve as egg dummies during spawning. The featherfins are used to open water, and do not require a great deal of rockwork in the aquarium. Featherfins prefer sandy bottoms for spawning; males construct huge conical nests in the lake, and will attempt to do so in the aquarium as well. One of the most interesting of the featherfin species, Ophthalmotilapia nasuta gold, is shown above. Its specific name, "nasuta," describes the prominent nose that sets this species apart from its congener, Ophthalmotilapia ventralis.

Enantiopus and Xenotilapia have occasionally been called "dream cichlids," but the name hasn't seemed to stick within the hobby. Both genera are elongated, silvery cichlids adapted to feeding by sifting sandy subtrates for invertebrates. They take mouthfuls of sand, chew it in their mouths, and blow the sand out their gill plates to strain out the edible bits. They are active and attractive cichlids which do not require much in their tank beyond a bottom covered with small-grain sand, such as that used in pool filters. Enantiopus species tend to grow about 6 inches long, and have a more pointed snout than do Xenotilapia. Xenotilapia species are smaller - about 4 inches long - and have a blunter snout. In both genera, though, the mouth is turned down to facilitate their sand-sifting feeding strategy.

Photo of Ophthalmotilapia nasuta gold for


This website was created by Jeff George as a student project for
IDT 510 Technology-Based Instruction: Applications and Methods, University of North Dakota, Dr. Woei Hung, instructor.
All text is Copyright 2013 by Jeff George. Photographs are copyright by the photographer or publisher credited.

The views and opinions expressed in this page are strictly those of the page author. The contents of this page have not been reviewed or approved by the University of North Dakota.