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Aristochromis christyi

Aristochromis christyi

Above Aristochromis christyi, 11" Male. Photo by Rick Borstein.


Aristochromis christyi (Trewavas, 1935) is a large, predatory mouthbrooding cichlid from Lake Malawi, Africa and the only member of its genus. Males get up to about a foot in length. Females stay a couple of inches smaller.

Common names for this fist are the Aristocratic Hap or Malawi Hawk

Dominant males exhibit an overal light blue coloration with orange-red anal fins. The lower part of the caudal fin also is red. Females are humble in appearance and have an overall tan-grey body color with two large black lines on the upper flank. Sub-dominant males will usually exhibit a blue head and more subtle coloration. It can be very difficult to tell the least dominant males from the females, especially in juvenile fish.

When viewed from the front, Aristochromis christyi is laterally compressed.

This large Malawian is impressive in the right sized tank. Aristochromis christyi are not particularly aggressive to each other, but it will readily eat any other fish that it can fit in its mouth.

Aristochromis christyi Female
Aristochromis christyi
Aristochromis christyi Male
Aristochromis christy, Female. Not too exciting. Aristochromis christy, front view. This is a laterally compressed fish. Aristochromis christy, sub-dominant Male. The humped nose led to the name of the genus of this fish. Supposedly, this is an "aristocratic" nose.


In Lake Malawi, Aristochromis christyi is most often found cruising the area between the sandy and rocky portions of the shoreline at depths from 6 to 33 feet. This fish is found throughout the lake, but is uncommon.


Aristochromis christyi is not difficult to keep, but large tanks at least six feet in length are required. This fish spooks easily, so keepers should avoid sudden movement about the tank. I kept mine in regular Chicago water (pH 7.4) at 78F with no problems. Because these are large fish and somewhat messy eaters, pay special attention to water quality. They do best with a 50% water change at least every two weeks.

This fish does well in groups six to eight. If possible, get one or two males and several females.


Aristochromis christyi isn't difficult to feed. I fed Tetra Cichlid Sticks, Dainichi Veggie Deluxe pellets, New Life Thera, HBH Soft & Moist Veggie and the occasional live fry culled from another spawn.


GCCA member Mike Helford had a group of eight, adult Aristochromis christyi and I was lucky enough to obtain four. Unfortunately, my group was comprised of three males and one small female. I placed the fish in a 110 gallon tank filtered by two large sponge filters and a couple of internal power filters. The tank had a sand substrate and a few flowerpots.

The male to female ratio was not ideal, and the small female was looking worse for it. Fortunately, the other recipient of the Aristochromis christyi was running out of tank space and I obtained the rest of the group. The newcomers— one male and three females, was just what I needed.

Getting females into condition can be a challenge with this fish. I found twice-daily feedings did the trick. The occasional treat of feeder fish also seemed to help the females "get in the mood".

A dominant male developed, but I never saw him chase or molest the other males in the tank. The dominant Aristochromis christyi excavated a large pit in the sand and displayed to the females. I was not able to observe a spawning, but presume it took place in the pit area.

One day, after a feeding of some spare Gambusia affinis fry the previous day, I observed a female holding. I allowed her to hold for about ten days and then made a mistake. I offered the fish some more live feeders. The tempation was too great for the female. She swallowed her eggs and then gorged on the feeders.

Shortly after, I found two other females holding. I continued to feed the fish dry foods and I noticed that occasionally females would ingest some of the small food particles in the tank.

It can be difficult to tell exactly when the females are holding, so I'm not sure precisely how long the females held. I stripped one female of 28 very large, one-half inch long free-swimming fry. I stripped the other holding female of about twenty eggs at the heads and tails stage. Curiously, there were also ten or so infertile eggs.

Stripping a fish of this size can be challenge, which is why I had my son Sam do it. He was spined and also bit by the female who managed to embed a small tooth in his thumb!

Retail Price

Aristochromis christyi is occasionally found in pet shops that specialize in cichlids. Expect to pay upwards of $50 for adult fish. 1.5" juveniles are occasionally available in the $10 to $20 range.

Astatotilapia calliptera

AboveAstatotilapia calliptera Male., breeding color with fry. Photo by Rick Borstein.


Astatotilapia calliptera is a strange fish in a way. You don't expect to see a Victorian-like cichlid in the middle of Lake Malawi, but, that is the place this fish calls home. Astatotilapia calliptera occurs throughout rivers and creeks around Lake Malawi, so many color varieties are available. This is one of the first heavily-bred Haplochromines to be bred in the hobby as it was first typed by Günther, all the way back in 1893.

Let's revisit the location varieties issue. According to the ICUN, " . . the species has been reported as restricted to Lake Malawi and associated rivers. However, it is currently very common in upper and middle Akagera River and associated lakes, where it may have been introduced." In fact, this fish is farily widely distributed now. Perusing the internet, you'll see fish that look like the one above (let's call this the gold variety) and others that are grayer. At any rate, the variety above is widely available and sold in the hobby as Astatotilapia calliptera. Superficially, it looks similar to Astotilapia calliptera from Lake Malawi. I kept both fish both burton and calliptera in adjoining tanks and they looked different to me. Hopefully, scientists will step and resolve these issues in the future.

This fish has been the subject of scientific study. Check out this article from Stanford University about how Astatotilapia calliptera can use reasoning to solve problems.

At maturity, males get up to about four inches. Females stay a bit smaller at three inches. Sexual maturity is reached at a tad over one inch.

Males are larger than females and are much more colorful. Females are smaller and remain a brown-silver color.

Derivation of the name
Genus Astato= cunning (Latin), tilapia= fish (Native African)


Astatotilapia calliptera is found in Lake Tanganyika ad its surrounding creeks and rivers. .


I found Astatotilapia calliptera males to be very aggressive. I started with eight fish— three males and five females— all about an inch long. Within the first two weeks, the dominant male knocked off the other two males and two females. I recommend a tank piled high with rocks, territorial boundaries and hiding spots for the fish. Keep this fish with other aggressive fish, like Pseudotropheus types.

My fish did fine in Chicago (e.g. hard) water. Good water quality is always important so I recommend a 30-50% water change every two weeks.


This fish is an omnivore, so feed a balanced diet. I fed a variety of foods such as Spectrum, HBH Graze, etc.


If you can keep the male from terrorizing the rest of the clan, this fish is easy to breed. Females get fat, produce eggs, and spawning occurs like that of Victorian cichlids.

Females are great holders, and hold for about sixteen days. The broods tend to be small, and so are the fry. Fry grow fast though, and are an inch in about five weeks. Feed they fry on baby brine shrimp first, and them crushed flake.

Retail Price

Astatotilapia calliptera is occasionally available in pet shops. They are generally inexpensive, in the $5-10 range.


Generally, there is good availability of this species in the hobby since it is colorful and easy to breed. Your best bet it to place an ad on GCCA's Cichlid Classifieds.

Astatotilapia calliptera is not a fish you will regularly see, but if you like Victorians, give this Tanganyikan a try! It’s just as a pretty as the popular Victorians in the hobby.

Report March 2009 by Sam Borstein

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