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Blue Dolphin Cichlid (Cyrtocara moorii)

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on the Blue Dolphin Cichlid, a unique and captivating species in the aquarium world. Known for their distinct shape and serene temperament, these cichlids are a favorite among aquarists. In this article, we cover various aspects of their care and maintenance.

Blue Dolphin Cichlid Facts

Scientific Name Cyrtocara moorii
Common Names Blue Dolphin Cichlid, Hump-head cichlid, Malawi Dolphin, Moorii, Malawi blue dolphin
Natural Habitat Lake Malawi, Africa
Adult Size 8-10 inches (20-25 cm)
Lifespan Up to 10 years
Coloration Varying shades of blue
Minimum Tank Size 55 gallons
Water Temperature 74°F – 82°F
pH Level 7.5 – 8.5
Diet Cichlid pellets, spirulina, brine shrimp, occasional bloodworms
Behavior Peaceful but can be territorial
Breeding Mouthbrooders
Compatibility Best with similar size and temperament Malawi cichlids

Blue Dolphin Cichlid Profile

The Blue Dolphin Cichlid, scientifically known as Cyrtocara moorii, is a freshwater fish native to the sandy shores of Lake Malawi in Africa. They are known for their bulbous forehead, which is more pronounced in males, and their peaceful demeanor. Typically, they grow to be about 8-10 inches in length. They are a long-lived species, with a lifespan of up to 10 years when cared for properly in captivity.

Cichlid Dolphin Coloring

These cichlids boast a stunning blue color that varies from light sky blue to deep royal blue, depending on the fish’s mood, age, and tank conditions. Juveniles are usually paler and gain more vibrant colors as they mature. The males tend to be more brightly colored than the females, especially during breeding times.

Blue Dolphin Cichlid Habitat

The C Moorii Cichlid naturally inhabits the sandy shores of Lake Malawi in Africa. This freshwater environment is characterized by clear, alkaline waters with plenty of open swimming spaces and rocky outcrops.

Blue Dolphin Cichlid Aquarium Setup

Proper aquarium setup is crucial for the health and well-being of hump head cichlids. These fish require a specific environment that mimics their natural habitat in Lake Malawi. Below are the key aspects of setting up an ideal aquarium for Blue Moorii Cichlid.

  • Tank Size and Dimensions

The minimum recommended tank size for Cichlid Dolphin is 55 gallons. However, larger tanks are preferable, especially for keeping multiple cichlids. A spacious tank not only accommodates their size but also provides ample swimming space and helps in maintaining stable water conditions. Rectangular tanks are ideal as they provide more swimming area.

  • Water Parameters

Malawi Dolphin thrive in water that closely replicates the conditions of Lake Malawi. The ideal water temperature should be between 74°F and 82°F. The pH level should be maintained between 7.5 and 8.5, and the water hardness should be in the range of 10-20 dGH. Regular water testing and changes are essential to maintain these parameters.

  • Substrate and Decoration

A sandy substrate is recommended to mimic the natural lakebed of Lake Malawi. Avoid sharp-edged substrates that can harm the fish. Decorations like rocks, caves, and driftwood not only add aesthetic value but also provide hiding spaces and territories for the cichlids. Ensure that the decorations are securely placed to prevent accidental toppling.

  • Filtration and Water Movement

Efficient filtration is critical in a Cichlid Blue Dolphin tank to keep the water clean and free from harmful substances. Canister filters or external filters are excellent choices. Moderate water movement is also important, replicating the lake’s currents. This can be achieved through powerheads or the filter’s outlet.

  • Lighting

Blue Dolphin Cichlids do not have specific lighting requirements, but a well-lit tank will enhance their stunning blue coloration. Standard aquarium lighting is sufficient, and it’s important to maintain a consistent light-dark cycle, mimicking natural day-night rhythms.

  • Plants and Algae

While Lake Malawi is not known for dense vegetation, incorporating some hardy plants can be beneficial. Plants like Anubias or Java Fern, which can be attached to rocks or driftwood, are good choices. They provide additional hiding places and contribute to the tank’s ecological balance. Algae growth, in moderation, can also be beneficial, as it is a natural part of their diet.

Blue Dolphin Cichlid Breeding

Breeding Blue Dolphin Cichlids can be a fascinating and rewarding experience for aquarists. These cichlids have unique breeding behaviors, and understanding the nuances of their spawning process is crucial for successful breeding. Below are the details on creating an ideal breeding environment and an overview of the spawning process.

Breeding Environment

To encourage breeding, it is essential to set up an appropriate breeding environment. This involves creating a tank setup that closely mimics their natural habitat. A separate breeding tank is recommended, with a capacity of at least 40-50 gallons to provide sufficient space. The water parameters should match those of the main aquarium, with temperatures between 74°F and 82°F, and a pH level of 7.5-8.5. Decorate the tank with rocks and caves to provide potential spawning sites and hiding places for the female after spawning. A sandy substrate is ideal for egg-laying.

Select healthy and mature fish for breeding. Typically, Blue Dolphin Cichlids are ready to breed at about 3-4 inches in size. It’s advisable to have a group with more females than males, as this helps reduce male aggression. Prior to breeding, condition the breeding pairs with high-quality, protein-rich foods to encourage spawning.

Spawning Process

The male Malawi blue dolphin plays a significant role in the spawning process. He will start by cleaning a flat surface, usually a rock, where the female will lay her eggs. The male then displays an elaborate courtship dance to attract the female to this spawning site. Once the female lays her eggs, she immediately scoops them into her mouth for protection. The male has specialized spots on his anal fin, known as egg spots, which resemble eggs. The female, trying to gather these faux eggs, receives sperm from the male, which fertilizes the eggs in her mouth.

After fertilization, the female blue dolphin moorii becomes a mouthbrooder, carrying the eggs and later the fry in her mouth for about 3 weeks. During this period, she does not eat and must be kept stress-free. Once the fry are released, they can be fed with specially formulated fry food or finely crushed flakes. Initial care should be taken to protect the fry from other tank inhabitants.

Blue Dolphin Cichlid Diet & Feeding

C Moorii cichlid’s diet in the wild consists mainly of small invertebrates and algae. In captivity, they thrive on a varied diet that includes cichlid pellets, spirulina, brine shrimp, and occasional treats like bloodworms. Overfeeding should be avoided, and a feeding schedule of once or twice daily is ideal.

Blue Dolphin Cichlid Compatibility

Blue Dolphin Cichlids are generally peaceful but can be territorial, especially during breeding. They do well with other Malawi cichlids of similar size and temperament. Ideal tank mates include Electric Blue Hap, Peacock Cichlid, Synodontis catfish, Clown Loaches, Giant Danios, and Frontosa. It’s best to avoid housing them with aggressive species or much smaller fish that could be bullied or eaten.

Blue Dolphin Cichlid Common Diseases

Malawi blue dolphin, like many aquarium fish, are susceptible to common diseases such as Ichthyophthirius (Ich), bacterial infections, and bloat. Ich presents as white spots on the skin, while bacterial infections can cause fin rot and ulcers. Bloat, a digestive issue, is often due to dietary problems. Regular tank maintenance and a balanced diet are key to prevention.


In conclusion, the Blue Dolphin Cichlid is a fascinating addition to any freshwater aquarium. With proper care, the right environment, and compatible tank mates, they can be a joyful and serene presence. Their unique appearance and interesting behaviors make them a rewarding species for both novice and experienced aquarists alike.