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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.

Fossorochromis rostratus

Fossorochromis rostratus Male

Above A 9-inch Fossorochromis rostratus male. Photo by Rick Borstein


Fossorochromis rostratus FemaleFossorochromis rostratus was first typed by Boulenger in 1898, yet you don't find many accounts of hobbyist spawnings until the last ten years.

Fossorochromis rostratus is a large, mouthbrooding Malawian cichlid that reaches lengths of up to ten inches. It's a large, fast swimming piscivore and you'll need a big tank to keep it. It's also a beautiful fish, but I have seen quite a bit of difference in individual coloration. As you'd expect, they are most dramatic when in breeding colors.

This is a fish for the intermediate to advanced aquarist who is patient. Males do not reach sexual maturity until they are at least eight inches long. Plan on allowing at least two years for a fish to get this big.

One curiousity about this fish is that when frightened, it will quickly dive into the substrate and bury itself. Fossorochromis rostratus can do this with remarkable speed.


Fossorochromis rostratus is found over sand and gravel areas in the lake and may co-habit these areas with Cyrtocara moorii. Fish found over the sandy areas tend be very fast swimmers and Fossochromis rostratus is no exception. In the lake, the fish spends a lot of time sifting through the sand.

Although this fish does not have a common name, you'll hear a lot of cichlid hobbyists simply refer to them as Fossos


Fossorochromis rostratus has similar requirements to most Malawian cichlids; hard water and temperatures from 75 to 80F. Provide a soft substrate such as fine gravel or sand as this fish can be damaged by it's tendency to dive into the substrate when scared.

Because this is a large fish, I recommend a 100 gallon tank for a group of six to eight individuals. Large fast-swimming fish like these do not do well in small tanks.


Fossorochromis rostratus will quickly consume a variety of prepared foods. When young, I fed Tetra Cichlid flakes and Spirulina flakes. As the fish got older, I fed Tetra Cichlid Sticks. I have not observed this fish eat live food.


Fossorochromis rostratus is very difficult to sex until it obtains very large sizes. Subdominant males look exactly like females! For this reason alone, this can be a challenging fish to breed.

I had obtained two five-inch individuals from a fellow GCCA member and placed them in a 65 gallon tank for about ten months where they grew to 7 and 8 inches respectively. At one of the GCCA auctions, I noticed a pair of Fossos on the auction table. These big fish were bagged separately and taped together, but the male didn’t look too good. Sure enough, he had kicked the bucket by the time the item came up for bid. I picked up the female for four bucks . . . a steal for a big fish.

I brought her home in the hopes of giving my other female some competition. Can you guess what happened next? As it turned out, I didn’t have a pair of Fossos, but simply a male and a sub-dominant male. The sub-dominant male quickly colored up in the presence of the newly added female. The dominant male was not about to brook any competition, and he killed the sub-dominant male in short order. It was not pretty, but it was quick. In the morning, all the fish were fine. By evening, the sub-dominant male was a shredded floater.

Fossos aren’t really that aggressive, at least not to con-specifics in my experience, so this was kind of a surprise. A short while later, I moved the pair to a 100 gallon tank and they spawned about three weeks later.

Provide ample hiding places for the female and a large, flat rock for the pair to use as a spawning site.

I allowed the female to hold the eggs for eleven days and then stripped her of about 35 very large fry with prominent yolk sacs.

I began feeding the young fry at 20 days with Cyclops-eeze and they are fast growers. The young look exactly like the females.

Retail Price

At retail, expect to pay $9 to $12 each for 2 inch long fish. An adult pair, especially a proven pair, would be $75 to $125.


Fossorochromis rostratus isn't often found at pet shops. When young, they just are not that interesting in appearance. In addition, most shops don't have a ready clientele for fish that gets big and need large tanks.

Fossorochromis rostratus is readily available from wholesalers, however, so ask your shop to order for some if you desire this fish. This fish is occasionally available at GCCA Swap Meets and Auctions.

Report November 2002 by Rick Borstein

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