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Amphilophus amarillo Female

Above Amphilophus amarillo Female, breeding color with fry. Below. Male in Breeding color. Photo by Rick Borstein.


Amphilophus amarillo Male in breeding colorAmphilophus amarillo is a relatively new species of the genus first described by Stauffer in 2002. The type locality for this large, substrate-spawning cichlid is Agua Caliente (Meaning hot water in Spanish), Lago Xiloa in Nicaragua, where this fish is endemic.

Before description, the fish went by Amphilophus sp. "Amarillo". Although it does not appear in large numbers in the hobby, they are gaining popularity in America, and some breeders keep them in Europe.

This fish is closely related to the Midas cichlid Amphilophus citrinellus. The fish sports a very nice striping pattern of yellow and black bars. The chest and opercula on the fish is a very orange-yellow color.

Derivation of the Latin Name

  • Genus
    • Amphi= on both sides (Greek)
    • lophus= crest (Greek). Means crested on both sides
  • Species
    • amarillo= yellow (Spanish), in reference to overall body color

This fish gets big and will need a big tank. Males get up to about 14 inches. Females stay a couple of inches smaller. However, this fish may be bred at sexual maturity which is reached at 5-6 inches. Males are a little bit larger than females, and have longer fin extensions. Females are show more yellow than the males, which tend to be darker, especially when breeding.


Amphilophus amarillo is endemic to Lake Xiloa in Nicaragua.


Amphilophus amarillo can be aggressive. It is almost certain that if you start with a large group, you will wind up with a pair. Males are very rough on each other, and can give females a tough time. A large tank is needed, although a mid-size, compatible breeding pair can be kept in a tank as small as a 40 breeder, although this is not recommended.

The fish are large, and produce a good amount of waste, so make sure you have adequate filtration and keep up on water changes.


Amphilophus amarillo is omnivorous, and in aquaria is not difficult to feed. Mine gladly accepted Tetra Cichlid Sticks and Spectrum foods. These kept the fish in good condition.


Amphilophus amarillo is a substrate spawning cichlid. They form relatively good pairs. I like to furnish the tank with flower pots and pieces of slate as breeding areas. The fish can be tricky to get into breeding condition.

Before spawning, the color of the male and female intensifies. The male loses a lot of yellow and gains a lot of black color, while the female gets a more intense yellow color, and the black barring gets even more prominent.

The fish lay anywhere from 300–2000 eggs, which are fiercely guarded. The eggs hatch in about five days and in nine are free swimming. The fry are small, but large enough to eat newly hatched baby brine shrimp. They grow rapidly, and the parental care is amazing. Be cautious keeping the fry with the parents for a long time as the fry contact feed of the parents slime coats, and will literally eat holes in them. Make sure the fry are well fed.

Retail Price

Because hobbyists have begun breeding this fish, we've started to see a juvenile Amphilophus amarillo in pet shops. They are generally inexpensive, in the $5-7 range.


Currently, there is good availability of this species in the hobby. Your best bet it to place an ad on GCCA's Cichlid Classifieds.

Report January 2009 by Sam Borstein .