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Rusty Cichlid - Iodotropheus sprengerae - Juvenile

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These beautiful mbuna, or rock-dwelling cichlids were one of the first species exported from Lake Malawi. The Rusty Cichlid has a rounder head and the basic shape of a Pseudotropheus cichlid. Males usually have intense rust-coloration around their head and violet-blue on the flanks.

Malawian and Victorian cichlids are similar in care and temperament, leading to fish from these two lakes being grouped together in the hobby. Several hundreds species of cichlid are found in Lake Malawi, along with many regional variations, but Lake Victoria has far fewer due to the introduction of invasive predators. Most cichlids in both lakes are rock-dwellers. They seldom stray far from the rocky bottoms and sides of the lake and will quickly dart into the rocks to hide. As with all cichlids, they are very territorial and will not tolerate other cichlids around "their" crevice.

Two of the most popular groups of these cichlids are the "Peacocks" (mostly the Aulonocara genus) and "Mbuna's" (native term for "rock fish" and including the genera Pseudotropheus, Labidochromis, Maylandia, Melanochromis and others). While aggression and compatibility can vary from species to species, mixing Mbuna and Peacock cichlids is not usually recommended. Mbuna cichlids tend to be more aggressive and may bully the usually more passive Peacocks but some Mbuna cichlids are far more aggressive than others. Several other groups of cichlids can also be found from these lakes, some of which can be large and aggressive predators; research all choices carefully.

Decor for a Malawi/Victoria aquarium should be very rocky. Rock "piles" and shelf-like backgrounds are common designs and can be made from tufa rock, lava rock or slate. Substrates can range from the whitish coral sand used in saltwater aquariums to black freshwater sand or even regular decorative gravels. Wood tends to lower pH and is not usually recommended for African cichlid aquariums.

Visit That Fish Blog for more information from our marine biologists and aquarium staff on African cichlids and many other topics!


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That Fish Place
Common NameRusty Cichlid - Juvenile
Scientific NameIodotropheus sprengerae
OriginLake Malawi (Africa)
Max Size (in inches)4
Community SafeYes, with caution (African cichlids only)
pH Range7.8-8.6
Min Tank Size (in gallons)55
Temperature Range76-80
Internal Id

State Restrictions
Armed Forces Americas
Armed Forces Europe
Armed Forces Pacific
Puerto Rico


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Great fish


I ordered 6 of these along with several other fish from thatpetplace. These fish have developed into nicely colored fish with bright lavander and orange/rust colors. They took to the aquarium right away. It has been a a couple of months now and these things are breeding all over the place. Fun to watch the males court the females with their comical shimmering.