Frontosa (Cyphotilapia frontosa)

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Frontosa 07.jpg

Cyphotilapia frontosa

473 Litres (125 US G.)

25.4-30.5cm (10-12 ")




7.8 - 9.0

22.2-28.3°C (72 -83 °F)

10-20 °d

1:1-3 M:F

Pellet Foods
Live Foods
Other (See article)

10-25 years



This animal is available captive bred

Additional names

Frontosa Cichlid

Additional scientific names

Paratilapia frontosa, Pelmatochromis frontosus


Endemic to the Northern half of Lake Tanganyika, where they live in groups deep in the lake. They are quite sedentary animals who stay awake longer than most of the cichlids in the lake, allowing them to scoop up Cyprichromis - their primary food item and another genus of cichlid - while they sleep. In the southern half this species is replaced by the very similar Cyphtilapia gibberosa.


Only venting can be relied upon to sex frontosa, as the species is quite monomorphic. Males tend to be larger at 12 inches or more and tend to have a larger nuchal hump atop their foreheads, but this is not reliable enough to use, especially considering how slowly Frontosa grow.

Tank compatibility[edit]

Very docile by African cichlid standards, and aggressive fish such as most mbuna or Brichardi complex fish will likely shred the Frontosa if they are too large to be eaten! Suitable tank mates should be peaceful fish that are too large (I.E more than 3 inches long, and NOT a cyprichromis) to be eaten, such as the larger julidichromis species, non-dwarf Altolamprologus, and many of the Malawian haps. Tropheus and Petrochromis are not advised due to their dietary preferences, although keeping these with frontosa has been pulled off successfully. Obviously they should not be kept with cyprichromis or paracyprichromis!
These fish need company and should be kept in groups of at least 1 male and 3 females, with colonies of 10 or more fish being preferred. However, the exact gender ratio is not nearly as important as it is in most African cichlids, and high-male ratio groups have been successfully kept.


A strict carnivore/piscivore in the wild, so larger frozen and perhaps live foods should be fed. Pellets designed for larger cichlids should be an important dietary suppliment, but flakes should not be fed because they will create quite a mess with such large fish!

Feeding regime[edit]

Feed once or twice a day, and avoid giving food at the water surface since frontosa may accidentally swallow air bubbles which will then remove their ability to control their buoyancy, resulting in the problematic 'float'.

Environment specifics[edit]

Spacious tank with some rocks and caves: do not put in too many, as frontosa are very fast and clumsy if startled and may ram into the rocks! In addition, rocks should be solidly rested on the base of the aquarium and not on the sand, as fronts are diggers and will collapse insufficiently protected stone piles! For this same reason, any plants in the tank must be potted, although the fronts will not directly harm them. Like other Tanganyikan cichlids, they do not appreciate nitrates in the water column, and the tank should receive 2 25% water changes weekly.


Relatively peaceful, mouthbrooding cichlids. Despite their large size and normally subdued nature, these fish are known for greeting their owners with great enthusiasm, similar to mbuna! Ironically, the alpha male fish in the group is also said to be the most shy around people.
The fish take some 3 to 4 years to reach sexual maturity, but once they do they are relatively straightforward to breed. The male will claim an open, somewhat secluded area, gain more intensified blue colors, and try to attract a female to it. After a surprisingly inconspicuous display, the fish mate and the female performs a back-and-forth 'rocking' action to pick up her eggs for incubation. The eggs will be incubated for up to 5 weeks before the female spits out about 20 to 50 large fry, which can take bbs and flake immediately. The fry should be raised in a separate tank since adults will not hesitate to eat them!


Large fish with pale base colour and bold blue/black vertical stripes along the flanks. They also develop long fins and a distinctive 'nuchal hump' on their foreheads, which tends to be larger in males. A second species, Cyphotilapia gibberosa, is most easily distinguished by its generally more bluish coloring, its location in the southern half of lake Tanganyika instead of the northern as is the case with C. frontosa, and its six vertical stripes instead of C. frontosa's seven. Unfortunately, some northern populations also have only 6 stripes: the classification of these populations is not currently clear, and they are referred to as 'Cyphtilapia sp, North'. All of these fish have the same care requirements.



Cyphotilapia Frontosa "Maswa Yellow":

External links[edit]