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Pseudotropheus elegans

Photo above by Sam Borstein.


Pseudotropheus elegans are one of my favorite cichlids. Synonyms for this fish are Pseudotropheus acei, Pseudotropheus sp. "acei" and Gephyrochromis acei.

I found no reference to this fish at the Fishbase website. At any rate, like all Mbuna from Lake Malawi, they are maternal mouthbrooders. They get up to about 4-1/2 inches in length.

I first picked up these fish about ten years ago from a breeder in Racine, Wisconsin. The gentleman owned a Scandinavian furniture store, and sold a variety of cichlids from the back of the store. At this time, this fish was called Gephyrochromis acei and it immediately caught my eye. This is strikingly colored bluish-purple cichlid with yellow fins. While I was there, I picked up some Lemon Yellows, Labidochromis caeruleus and immediately took them to my home in Chicago.

My new prizes went into a planted fifty-five gallon tank built into the wall of my recreation room. It was one of my all-time favorite tank set-ups. The Yellow Labs and the elegans's really looked great together. My wife, a graphic designer, tells me that this is because yellow and purple are substractive complementary colors. It hurts even to write that, but they really did look nice together!

Ten years later, I picked up some juvenile Pseudotropheus elegans(labeled Haplochromis acei) at a GCCA auction and I was back in business. I eventually put them into a 100-gallon tank containing Lamprologus leleupi, Pseudotropheus gombi, Protomelas insignus and a bunch of dwarf plecos.

There are at least two fin varieties available: "Yellow Fin" and "White Fin". I prefer the yellow variety.


I haven't been able to find much about the native habitat for these fish. My guess is that it is similar to many Mbuna, less than 20M in depth and includes rock and rubble.


Pseudotropheus acei are easy to care for. I kept mine at 78F, pH 7.2, 300 PPM hardness water with no problems. I did regular partial water changes of 40-50% weekly because I heavily stocked the tank.


Pseudotropheus elegans accept a wide variety of prepared foods. I fed Tetra Cichlid Sticks (Doromin), Tetra Cichlid Flake, Aquadine Dura Flakes, spirulina flakes and occasionally frozen brine shrimp.


Pseudotropheus elegans are difficult to sex, primarily because both the males and females display egg spots. If you've bred mbuna before, though, it is fairly easy to sex them based on behavior. The male will pursue the females when getting ready to breed. My fish bred at at just ten months, but young females are not very good holders. The first successful spawn I had occurred when the fish were about 13 months old.

The fish breed in the typical mbuna fashion. Provide a flat rock or slate for the breeding site. The male colors up and singles out a willing female, shaking and dancing to maintain her attention. She will lay and egg or two, pick it up in her mounth, and bite at the male's egg spots fertilizing the eggs that are now tucked away in her buccal cavity.

My fish bred on 10-26-01 and I stripped the female of 36 fully formed fry on 11-11-01. The fry are a mottled grey in color and smaller than most mbuna fry. They began feeding immediately on Cyclops-eeze. I transitioned to crushed flake food and five days and they are growing steadily, if slowly.

Retail Price

You can expect to pay $5-7 for juveniles and $9-12 for adults.

I've seen Pseudotropheus elegans occasionally in stores, but it has been a while. I've also seen it on various price lists on the net, but always under P. sp. "acei" and Pseudotropheus acei "white fin." Recently, it has been available at GCCA auctions, so it's best to ask around.

Report December 2001 by Rick Borstein. Updated 2009 and 2011.