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Johanni Cichlid (Pseudotropheus johannii)

The Johanni Cichlid, scientifically known as Pseudotropheus johannii or Melanochromis johannii, is a captivating and vibrant fish that has gained popularity among aquarists around the world. In this article, we take a look into various aspects of Johanni Cichlids, providing valuable insights for both novice and experienced fish enthusiasts.

Johanni Cichlid Facts

Fact Detail
Scientific Name Pseudotropheus johannii
Common Names Johanni Cichlid, Electric Blue Johanni, Blue Johanni, bluegray mbuna
Origin Lake Malawi, East Africa
Size Up to 4 inches (10 cm)
Lifespan 8 to 10 years
Diet Omnivorous (algae, small invertebrates, pellets)
Behavior Aggressive and territorial
Aquarium Size Minimum 30 gallons
Water Temperature 73°F to 82°F (22.8°C to 27.8°C)
pH Level 7.8 to 8.6
Breeding Mouthbrooders
Coloration Males: Blue/Black with yellow stripes; Females: Lighter with faint stripes
Compatibility Best with similar-sized Mbuna cichlids

Johanni Cichlid Profile

Native to the rocky shores of Lake Malawi in East Africa, Johanni Cichlids belong to the Mbuna group. They are known for their striking coloration and dynamic behavior. Typically, these fish grow up to 4 inches in length. They exhibit a strong territorial instinct, which is a common trait in many Mbuna species. Their lifespan ranges from 8 to 10 years in well-maintained aquarium conditions.

Johanni Cichlid Coloring

One of the most distinctive features of the Electric Blue Johanni Cichlid is its coloring. Males display a deep blue or black body with striking yellow stripes along their dorsal and anal fins. Females and juveniles tend to have a more subdued color palette, featuring a yellowish or light brown hue with faint stripes. This sexual dimorphism in coloration becomes more pronounced as the fish mature.

Johanni Cichlid Habitat

The Johanni Cichlid, originating from Lake Malawi in East Africa, thrives in a rocky, freshwater habitat. These fish prefer environments with abundant hiding spots formed by rocks and caves, reflecting their natural ecosystem. The lake’s clear, alkaline waters, with temperatures ranging from 75°F to 82°F, provide the ideal conditions for these vibrant and active cichlids.

Johanni Cichlid Aquarium Setup

Setting up an ideal aquarium for Electric Blue Johanni is crucial for their health and well-being. A carefully planned habitat not only supports their physical needs but also encourages natural behaviors. Here are key aspects to consider:

  • Tank Size and Layout

A minimum of 30 gallons is recommended for a single Johanni Cichlid, with larger tanks needed for groups. The layout should include numerous rocks and caves to mimic their natural rocky habitat in Lake Malawi, providing ample hiding and breeding spots.

  • Water Conditions

Temperature: Maintain a range of 73°F to 82°F.
pH Levels: Aim for a slightly alkaline pH of 7.8 to 8.6.
Regular water changes are essential to keep ammonia and nitrite levels low and maintain water quality.

  • Lighting and Filtration

Moderate lighting is preferred to replicate their natural environment. Strong filtration is necessary to handle the bioload and keep the water clean, but avoid excessive water flow that could stress the fish.

  • Substrate and Decoration

Sand or fine gravel works well as a substrate, reflecting their natural lakebed. Decorations should include rock formations and driftwood to provide hiding spots and reduce aggression among fish.

  • Plants and Algae

While Electric Blue Johanni Cichlid may nibble on plants, hardy varieties like Anubias or Java Fern can be included. Algae growth on rocks can provide a natural food source and enhance the tank’s ecosystem.

Electric Blue Johanni Breeding

Breeding Environment

Breeding Johanni Cichlids involves a unique maternal mouthbrooding process. A conducive breeding environment is key, requiring a spacious tank (minimum 40 gallons), with water temperatures of 78°F to 82°F and a pH level of 7.8 to 8.6. The aquarium should mimic their natural Lake Malawi habitat, featuring rocks and caves for hiding and potential spawning sites.

Spawning Process

The breeding ritual begins with the male displaying vibrant colors to attract a female. He performs a mating dance near a selected spot, like a flat rock or a cleared substrate area. After the female lays eggs, they are immediately fertilized by the male. The female then collects and carries the eggs in her mouth for about three weeks, often forgoing food during this period to ensure the safety of her brood.

Post-hatching, the fry are released into the tank and should be fed with specialized fry food. It’s important to provide a stress-free environment and consider separating the fry from larger fish to enhance survival. This process showcases the Blue Johanni Cichlid’s fascinating breeding behavior and maternal care.

Johanni Cichlid Diet & Feeding

Blue Johanni are omnivorous and require a balanced diet. In the wild, their diet consists of algae, small invertebrates, and plankton. In captivity, they should be fed a variety of foods including high-quality cichlid pellets, frozen or live foods, and vegetable matter. Do not feed them live worms and live brine shrimp. Overfeeding should be avoided as it can lead to health issues and water quality problems.

Johanni Cichlid Compatibility

When it comes to tank mates, Electric Johanni Cichlids do best with other Mbuna species of similar size and temperament such as Pindani, Lemon Yellow, Red Empress, Cobalt Blue, African Butterfly, and Kenyi. It’s important to avoid keeping them with overly aggressive or much larger fish. Providing ample space and hiding spots can reduce territorial disputes. Observing the fish’s behavior and making adjustments as needed is key to maintaining a harmonious aquarium.

Blue Johanni Common Diseases

Johanni Cichlids are susceptible to common freshwater fish diseases. Malawi Bloat, a type of gastrointestinal disease, is particularly prevalent, often due to dietary issues. Ich or White Spot Disease, caused by a parasitic infection, is another common ailment, recognizable by white spots on the skin and gills. Regular tank maintenance, proper diet, and monitoring for stress and aggression can help prevent these diseases.


Blue Johanni are a vibrant addition to any freshwater aquarium. Their care requires a commitment to understanding their unique needs and behaviors. With the right setup, diet, and companions, these fish can thrive and bring endless fascination and beauty to your aquatic world. Remember, a well-maintained tank is the cornerstone of successful Johanni Cichlid keeping.