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Cynotilapia afra

Cynotilpia afra "Cobwe ". Photo by Rick Borstein.


Cynotilapia afra is a species that consists of many color variations. Each locality in Lake Malawi is differen tfrom the next. Cynotilapia afra was extremely popular during the 80’s but because of overpopulation it has lost some popularity. Today some color varieties are common and others are rare. Cynotilapia afra "Cobwe", pictured here, is one of the more desirable because of it’s incredible color and it’s ability to turn it on and off as if on a switch. Cynotilapia. afra is sometimes confused with the many varieties and colors of Pseudotropheus. Anatomically, they are very similar except that Pseudotropheus generally reach a larger size than Cynotilapia afra and Pseudotropheus have bicuspids and Cynotilapia afra have a unicuspid. A newer import, P. demasoni, one of the smaller Pseudotropheus is a good size match for Cynotilapia afra.


Cynotilapia afra is fairly well represented throughout Lake Malawi with pockets of color varieties scattered about. They are cave dwellers and dart about the rocky bottom searching for food and mates. They are incessant diggers and will turn a tank upside down in a short time.


Setting up an aquarium with a sandy bottom and lots of caves will make Cynotilapia afra feel right at home. Although males and females attain a size of only 4 inches, they are rather aggressive and should be treated as such. They are extremely hardy fish and again, like the P. demasoni, they can hold their own with larger fish. Of course, being a Lake Malawi cichlid, they like hard, alkaline water and a temperature range of 74-84 degrees.


Truthfully, they eat anything fed them such as earthworms, bloodworms and brine shrimp. Cynotilapia afra are mbuna and therefore a diet consisting mainly of vegetable matter is best. A good spirulina flake is all they need, but I give mine a weekly feeding of earthworms which they attack with fervor.


Cynotilapia afra are polygamous mouthbrooders and one male with about 6 or 8 females works great in a 50 breeder. More than one male is fine but be sure that you have adequate protection in the form of caves, flowerpots, PVC, etCynotilapia I presently have one male and three females in a 75 gallon tank along with a wild pair of Aulonocara hansbaenschi "Mozambique Cobue" and one male and three females of Aulonocara sp. "Albino Eureka". Although the Cynotilapia afra male is greatly outsized, he is the "King" of the tank. Cynotilapia afra breed about every thirty days and carry anywhere from 15-30 eggs, but the longer you let the female brood, the longer the interval will be between spawns.

Retail Price

Fry Up to $20
Adults $20-$40

These are general prices and they can vary immensely by color variety. Some varieties which are bred in Florida will be cheaper than others that aren’t.

Report April 2000 by Jim Stigliano