Aquarium Livestock Pet Care Guides

African Cichlids - Lake Tanganyika


Lake Tanganyika (southeastern Africa)

Tank Temperature:



pH 8.0-9.0

Tank Requirements:

Hard water (12-15 dKH); provide plenty of rockwork for territory; avoid using substrate with sharp edges; live plants may be uprooted or eaten.


Highly variable with species; Includes carnivores, herbivores, and omnivores, but all need variety. Research individual choices carefully.


Territorial. Most passive but may not tolerate others of the same or a similar species. Will dart into rockwork to hide. Some species prolific diggers and will dig in substrate, uproot plants and can topple unsteady rockwork. "Shell-dweller" species need empty shells for breeding.


Generally not community safe. Choose tankmates carefully as some species will not tolerate some others. Avoid species that look alike and research all individual choices carefully.

African cichlids are popular among aquarists for their bold temperaments and bright colors and have spawned their own following of hobbyists. They come from lakes in the Great Rift Valley system in southeastern Africa. Lake Tanganyika is the smallest of these three by surface area but is the deepest. It is home to over 200 species of cichlids as well as many other fish, crabs, snails and invertebrates.

Cichlids from Lake Tanganyika can be divided into several main varieties. Some of the most popular are the shell-dwellers and torpedo-like bottom-dwellers from the genera Lamprologus, Neolamprologus, Altolamprologus and Julidochromis. Cichlids from the Cyprichromis and Paracyprichromis genera are open-water sardine-like fish usually found in schools in their native lake. Tropheus cichlids and the "Frontosas" from genus Cyphotilapia are popular large cichlids that seem beastly in comparison to the tiny "Lamps" and "Julies". Other types of Tanganyikan cichlids include goby-like bottom-dwellers and fish known to sift through mouthfuls of substrate. Many regional variants exist in these groups.

The water chemistry in the African rift lakes is notoriously unique. Lake Tanganyika is particularly hard with a very high pH, although many fish that have been captive-bred may be acclimated to more moderate conditions similar to those in Lake Victoria or Lake Malawi. As many Tanganyikan cichlids are sensitive to water quality and changes in water quality, make sure conditions are stable.

Decor for a Tanganyikan aquarium should provide rockwork for the cichlids to hide in and around and can be created using tufa rock or lava rock. As most species sift through the substrate, open areas should also be provided. Tanks housing open-water or larger species should be more sparsely decorated. The substrate for these aquariums should be fine and smooth-edged; pale coral sand or black buffered substrate is popular. Wood tends to lower pH and is not usually recommended for African cichlid aquariums.

We always suggest that you do further research before adding a new pet to your tank. What we have provided for you are guidelines and suggestions. If you have any further questions or concerns, please contact our fish room at 717-299-5691 ext. 1213 or

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Cichlid Food
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