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Copadichromis borleyi Male

Copadichromis borleyi Male. This nine-inch specimen won the Haplochromis class at the 2001 GCCA Cichlid Classic.
Photo and retouching by Rick Borstein


Copadichromis borleyi FemaleCopadichromis borleyi is large, beautiful cichlid from Lake Malawi. It was first discovered by Iles in 1960 and was originally known as Haplochromis borleyi. A number of varieties are available, including the yellow-fin variety (see female at right).

I prefer the yellow fin variety. Even the females have very nicely colored yellow fins. Even better, fry only three-weeks old have the yellow fins making them easily saleable.

They are quite peaceful fish and have a hard time living in the confines of an aquarium with more aggressive haps and mbuna. I have seen them dopminated by A. jacobfreibergi, but you may have good success with other Aulonocara species.


These fish are found in shallow to mid-depths of the Lake. For your tank, provide rockwork and caves. If you have a large tank that is over four feet long, provide two to three rockwork piles so that each male can stake out a territory.


Copadichromis borleyi presents no problems to the aquarist. Provide clean, neutral to alkaline water between 76 and 82F. Six adults do nicely in a 40 gallon or larger tank. Regular partial water changes and good tank maintenance will help you to raise better quality and faster growing fish.


These fish belong to the 'Utaka' group, which feed on vegetable matter, mainly algae. There are other reports, however, that Copadichromis borleyi is a plankton feeder. In any case, in the aquarium, they will eat just about anything. I fed mine Doromin, various flake foods including Spirulina, Aquadyne and Spectrum.


I have raised Copadichromis borleyi fry to breeding size in ten months. They need to be at least three inches long to breed.

This fish breeds like other mouthbrooding fish from Lake Malawi. Provide a couple of pieces of flat slate fore the spawning site. The dominant male will color up and "dance" to attract females. If a female is amenable, spawning will ensue. Brood sizes are in the 20 to 30 range. Larger females may have very large spawns.

I let the females hold 20 to 22 days and then strip out the free-swimming or nearly free-swimming fry. The fry are pretty large. I initially fed my fry Cyclops-Eeze for three days then transitioned them to flake foods. They are easily saleable at two months of age when you can expect them to be 1.25" long with nice yellow fins.

Retail Price

Expect to pay about $10 to $15 dollars for this fish at your local pet shop. Fry are frequently available at GCCA meetings and auctions. A bag of five fry would probably run you about $10..


Copadichromis borleyi isn't hard to find. If your pet shop doesn't stock them, they should find the fish easy to purchase from a variety of distributors. Make sure you know what variety you are getting. Some varieties have very little red on the body and ordinary, plain finage.

Report May 2001 by Rick Borstein