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Herotilapia multispinosa

Herotilapia multispinosa Male. Photo by Sam Borstein


Herotilapia multispinosa, the Rainbow Cichlid, has been a popular fish in the hobby for many years. This hardy Central American cichlid deserves more attention in the hobby! It is colorful, doesn't grow very large, and is rather peaceful.


Herotilapia multispinosa is found in small lakes, ponds and drainage areas throughout Central America. It is often found among stumps and leaf litter.


Herotilapia multispinosa does not require any special care. Water temperatures between 75 and 82F suit it just fine. Regular, partial water changes are appreciated. Since Rainbow Cichlids are not very aggressive, it would not be a good idea to keep it with aggressive, New World tankmates.


In the wild, Herotilapia multispinosa is often found eating small insect larvae. In the fishroom, however, they will take just about any prepared food. Larger specimens appreciate floating food sticks such as Tetra Doromin (Food Sticks).


It isn't particularly easy to tell the male from the female, however the male will tend to have more pointed dorsal and anal fins and might be slightly more colorful. Once comfortable, Herotilapia multispinosa is not difficult to breed. It is helpful to condition the fish on frozen food (brine shrimp, blood worms). Provide a couple of flower pots for the pair to select or a flat piece of slate. You many notice a color change— both male and female may turn almost totally black.

Before breeding, the fish will clean a spot to spawn on and then lay approximately 300 pinkish-tan eggs. Incubation is approximately three days after which the pair will move the wrigglers to another area. Once free-swimming, you can feed the fry in the tank with freshly hatched baby brine shrimp or Cyclop-eze. After about a week, transition the fry to finely crushed flake food. I usually siphon out as many free-swimming fry as possible after they are free-swimming and raise them in a rearing tank.

Retail Price

$5 to $15 U.S.

Rainbow Cichlid aren't generally expensive and can be found at many pet shops. You may need to ask your shop to special order these, as not all shops specialize in Central American fish.

Report September 2000 by Rick Borstein