Sign up for email reminders for Swaps, Rare Fish Auctions, Fish Room Hops, Auctions, and Other Events (spam-free).


  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

Iodotropheus sprengerae

Iodotropheus sprengerae The Rusty Cichlid

Above Iodotropheus sprengerae, 4" Male by Sam Borstein.


Iodotropheus sprengerae was first described in 1972 by Oliver and Loiselle. It is considered one of the classic fish in the hobby. Out of the enire Iodotropheus genus, the Rusty Cichlid (common name) is the only one that is generally available in the hobby.

Although the word "Rusty" does not seem like it would depict a colorful fish, adult males have a beautiful purple and rust sheen. Sexing Rusty Cichlids can be difficult. Males are larger than females, have more pronounced eggspots than females, and more of a purple hue. A male Rusty will top out at about 4 inches. Female get up to about 3-3.5 inches.


Iodotropheus sprengerae is associated with rocks and is found at Boadzulu and Chinyankwazi Islands in Lake Malawi, Africa.


Rusty Cichlids are very hardy and easy to keep. Like all Malawian cichlids, it likes hard water. A temperature of 76 to 80F is optimal.

Iodotropheus sprengerae is very peaceful for an mbuna. A group of 6 to 8 adults could easily be kept in a 40 gallon breeder, with very few issues. This fish can also be kept with some of the more peaceful Malawians with no problem. The only time I observed aggression in this fish was during spawning, but even then, it was very minimal.


Iodotropheus sprengerae is an herbivore, but will do okay if fed some food higher in protein. Keep the fish on a fiber-rich diet. I fed mine HBH graze, Dianichi Veggie deluxe, Spectrum, and baby brine shrimp.


Rusty Cichlids are supposedly easy to breed. I know many people who had no problem breeding these fish. I, sadly, am not one of those people.

My story with Rusty Cichlids goes back to the November 2005 Ohio Cichlid Association (OCA) Extravaganza.

When I saw Iodotropheus sprengerae available at the OCA convention, I knew I had to buy them. There were not any in stores near me that were for sale— this once popular fish seemed to disappear. I bought eight Rusty juvies so that I would get at least one of each sex. . . a good habit to practice if you want to breed fish.

The fish were small, but within four months started breeding. The first spawns were not fertile, but I was not surprised because the fish were young. After about eight spawns, I was getting angry.

I watched these fish spawn. They would hold for three days, and then drop. I eventually tried stripping the fish and the eggs would go bad within 24 hours.

One day while viewing the "Rusty Tank", I noticed that none were eating. All eight of my Rusty cichlids were holding, which is not right. This fish is not a bi-parental mouth brooder! Unable to obtain a male Rusty, I had to sell the group.

Chapter Two began in September, 2006 at a GCCA Cichlid Classic convention. I purchased a bag of six full grown Iodotropheus sprengerae. It took me a while to get the fish a permanent home, as they bounced from tank to tank. I finally settled the group in my 58 with some West Africans. Everything in the tank was fine except the Rusty Cichlids would not breed.

Four months went by and still nothing, and by that point they should have spawned. This time I had all males! At this point, I was extremely ticked off and, due to my low patience level, these fish were about to get the boot.

Luckily this story has a happy ending. On the eve of the night the fish were to be shipped out to a friend Texas, they spawned. Only one of the six fish was a female.

Rusty Cichlids are good holders. Mine held for eighteen days before I stripped her of free-swimming fry.

Be careful when raising these fish as feeding too much baby brine tends to give these fry digestive issues.

Retail Price

For juvie Rusty cichlids, you are looking at about 3 to 4 dollars each. Adults will probably run you 8-10 dollars each at a pet shop.


In the mid-late 1990's this fish was very popular, but now are kind of difficult to find. Occasionally they will pop up in a pet shop or an auction or swap meet.

Report September 2007 by Sam Borstein.

Hemitilapia oxyrhyncha

Hemitilapia oxyrhyncha The Giant Hap

Above Hemitilapia oxyrhyncha Male. Photo by Rick Borstein.


Hemitilapia oxyrhyncha FemaleHemitilapia oxyrhyncha is mouthbrooding cichlid found throughout Lake Malawi. This fish was first typed by Boulenger in 1902. Synonyms for this fish are Hemitilapia oxyrhynchus and Tilapia oxyrhynchus. Although this fish is rarely exported from the lake, lately (latter half of 2009) it has appeared on a few wholesalers lists.

Hemitilapia oxyrhyncha gets large and the common name "Giant Hap" is an apt one. Males get up to about 9 inches. Females stay quite a bit smaller, probably topping out at six inches.

Males can be very colorful with an overall blue sheen, and and red scale edges and anal fin. Green, yellow and orange speckles are found in the caudal fin. Males have feathery edges to the caudal and dorsal fins. The dorsal fin extends almost to the end of the tail.

Females (Right) have an tan-grey background with some large spots high up on the back.

Hemitilapia oxyrhyncha is an aggressive hap. As expected, males will fight with males, but it is not unusual to see females jaw locking, too.

I do not recommend keeping Hemitilapia oxyrhyncha with Malawi Peacocks (Aulonocara species). My experience is that they will harass conspecifics.


Hemitilapia oxyrhyncha is found throughout the lake, often closely associated with sandy-bottomed locations.


Hemitilapia oxyrhyncha are easy to care for, but a large tank at least six feet in length is recommended. They are fast swimmers which do not like to be crowded. Water conditions are identical for other Malawi cichlids . . . hard and 76 to 80F..


According to Fishbase, Hemitilapia oxyrhyncha "Inhabits sandy bottoms with swards of Vallisneria. Feeds by scraping epiphytic algae from the leaves, grasping a leaf in its mouth and working along it." Stomach content analysis included a lot of plant material. I suggest a balanced diet which includes lots of vegetable matter.

I fed a variety of foods such as Dainichi Veggie Deluxe, HBH Graze, HBH Soft and Moist Veggie and the occasional treat of frozen Bloodworms.


I obtained a group of two male and three female F0 (wild) Hemitilapia oxyrhyncha from fellow GCCA member Mike Helford. Mike is often the first one in our club to get oddball Malawians. Fortunately, I had a trio of another oddball Malawian to trade to him (Mylochromis laterstriga) and soon the deal was done.

At the time, the dominant male was about six inches long. The males grew well, but it was a struggle to fatten up the females. To get the females in condition, I fed frozen bloodworms and a high-quality flake. I noticed the wild females rejected larger foods presented to them.

I held the fish for about six months before they bred for me. As an aside, I find the larger Malawian Haps do not reproduce nearly as often or as readily as Peacocks and Mbuna, and therefore are more challenging.

On December 20, 2009 I noticed a female holding before leaving for vacation.

Fortunately, when I returned a week later she was still holding like champ. On January 3, 2010, I netted out the female and stripped her of 28 large, 3/8 inch, golden-colored babies which still had a bit of an egg sack. By January 6, most of the egg sack had disappeared and the fry immediately were able to take baby brine shrimp.

Retail Price

Hemitilapia oxyrhyncha is not a fish you will find at the average pet shop. Colorful large males would be $50 to $75 US. Hemitilapia oxyrhyncha is available in the hobby at the time of this writing. I found wild fish in the $30 to $40 range.

Report January 2010 by Rick Borstein.

Gephyrochromis lawsi

Gephyrochromis lawsi Male

Above Gephyrochromis lawsi, Male. Photo by Sam Borstein.


Gephyrochromis lawsi FemaleGephyrochromis lawsi is Lake Malawi mouthbrooder that was described by Fryer in 1957. Alough this fish looks and acts like any member of the Pseudotropheus genus, scientists moved it into a new genus because its thinner tooth structure.

Males Gephyrochromis lawsi are a vibrant purple with an orange blaze across their back. Females are relatively drab brown-gray, sometimes with a slight purple sheen.

Male Gephyrochromis lawsi get up to about four inches. Females top out at a bit over three inches.

Good looks and a mild disposition make Gephyrochromis lawsi is an ideal fish for beginners in the cichlid hobby.


Gephyrochromis lawsi is found in the northern part of Lake Malawi. According to Fishbase

Occurs usually at deep levels where the steep, rocky coast ends on the sand. Found over sandy patches in the intermediate habitat. The average depth is about 20 m.


Gephyrochromis lawsi is easy to care for. Rocks should be added to the tank as hiding places and to give the fish a breeding surface. This fish is a peaceful mbuna. I never saw any form of aggression in these fish. You can keep this fish with some non-aggressive haps, or very peaceful mbuna.

Water conditions acceptable for this fish are pH of 7.0 to 8.5 and temperatures from 76F to 82F.


This fish is an carnivorous in wild, but will eat anything in the aquarium.


Gephyrochromis lawsi breed like rats. This fish will spawn at anytime, anywhere, in any condition. I couldn't stop mine from spawning.

Breeding behavior is about the same as Pseudotropheus, and not anything special. The females hold to term well— about 3 weeks. The fish can be difficult to strip the fry from since they are determined holders. I recommend that you separate fry from the female at about 18 days. At this point the fry should close to free swimming, and can start eating baby brine shrimp.

Retail Price

Expect to pay $15 to $20 for adults. Gephyrochromis lawsi are occasionally available at pet shops but are often available from cichlid hobbyists lists on the web.

Report February 2008 by Sam Borstein.

Share this page