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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.

Pseudotropheus elegans

Pseudotropheus elegans

Photo above by Sam Borstein.


Pseudotropheus elegans are one of my favorite cichlids. Synonyms for this fish are Pseudotropheus acei, Pseudotropheus sp. "acei" and Gephyrochromis acei.

I found no reference to this fish at the Fishbase website. At any rate, like all Mbuna from Lake Malawi, they are maternal mouthbrooders. They get up to about 4-1/2 inches in length.

I first picked up these fish about ten years ago from a breeder in Racine, Wisconsin. The gentleman owned a Scandinavian furniture store, and sold a variety of cichlids from the back of the store. At this time, this fish was called Gephyrochromis acei and it immediately caught my eye. This is strikingly colored bluish-purple cichlid with yellow fins. While I was there, I picked up some Lemon Yellows, Labidochromis caeruleus and immediately took them to my home in Chicago.

My new prizes went into a planted fifty-five gallon tank built into the wall of my recreation room. It was one of my all-time favorite tank set-ups. The Yellow Labs and the elegans's really looked great together. My wife, a graphic designer, tells me that this is because yellow and purple are substractive complementary colors. It hurts even to write that, but they really did look nice together!

Ten years later, I picked up some juvenile Pseudotropheus elegans(labeled Haplochromis acei) at a GCCA auction and I was back in business. I eventually put them into a 100-gallon tank containing Lamprologus leleupi, Pseudotropheus gombi, Protomelas insignus and a bunch of dwarf plecos.

There are at least two fin varieties available: "Yellow Fin" and "White Fin". I prefer the yellow variety.


I haven't been able to find much about the native habitat for these fish. My guess is that it is similar to many Mbuna, less than 20M in depth and includes rock and rubble.


Pseudotropheus acei are easy to care for. I kept mine at 78F, pH 7.2, 300 PPM hardness water with no problems. I did regular partial water changes of 40-50% weekly because I heavily stocked the tank.


Pseudotropheus elegans accept a wide variety of prepared foods. I fed Tetra Cichlid Sticks (Doromin), Tetra Cichlid Flake, Aquadine Dura Flakes, spirulina flakes and occasionally frozen brine shrimp.


Pseudotropheus elegans are difficult to sex, primarily because both the males and females display egg spots. If you've bred mbuna before, though, it is fairly easy to sex them based on behavior. The male will pursue the females when getting ready to breed. My fish bred at at just ten months, but young females are not very good holders. The first successful spawn I had occurred when the fish were about 13 months old.

The fish breed in the typical mbuna fashion. Provide a flat rock or slate for the breeding site. The male colors up and singles out a willing female, shaking and dancing to maintain her attention. She will lay and egg or two, pick it up in her mounth, and bite at the male's egg spots fertilizing the eggs that are now tucked away in her buccal cavity.

My fish bred on 10-26-01 and I stripped the female of 36 fully formed fry on 11-11-01. The fry are a mottled grey in color and smaller than most mbuna fry. They began feeding immediately on Cyclops-eeze. I transitioned to crushed flake food and five days and they are growing steadily, if slowly.

Retail Price

You can expect to pay $5-7 for juveniles and $9-12 for adults.

I've seen Pseudotropheus elegans occasionally in stores, but it has been a while. I've also seen it on various price lists on the net, but always under P. sp. "acei" and Pseudotropheus acei "white fin." Recently, it has been available at GCCA auctions, so it's best to ask around.

Report December 2001 by Rick Borstein. Updated 2009 and 2011.

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