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Naevochromis chrysogaster Male

Naevochromis chrysogaster, Male. Photos by Rick Borstein.


Naevochromis chrysogaster FemaleNaevochromis chrysogaster is a mouthbrooding cichlid from Lake Malawi first typed by Trewavas in 1935. The genus Naevochromis is monotypic, meaning that this fish is the only member of its genus.

Adult males can be spectacular large fish growing to about eight to nine inches maximum. Males have a showy blue face, with green, red and yellow metallic speckles on the flanks. The dorsal fin is also speckled with color, but is edged in white and red. Males have a number of egg spots on the anal fin.

Female Naevochromis chrysogaster stay smaller at about 5-6 inches and have a tan/grey base with a distinctive stripe from about midpoint of the flank to the base of the caudal fin.

Appearance of both females and juveniles is highly variable and interesting to watch. The flank stripe may quickly change to two to three blotches depending on the mood of the fish. In juveniles, it is not unusual to see different blotching or striping on individual fish.

Konings, in his book Malawi Cichlids in their Natural Environment, places Naevochromis chrysogaster in the "Thick-chinned Predators" group hence the common name of Haplochromis Jack Dempsey.

The jaw structure of this fish is unusual in that the teeth are embedded in the gum. Konings suspect that Naevochromis chrysogaster is a paedophage, meaning that it bumps other mouthbrooding fish and eats the fry which fall from the victims mouth.


Naevochromis chrysogaster has a lake-wide distribution, but is most commonly found in the intermediate habitat which consists of both rocks and sand.


Naevochromis chrysogaster presents few problems. Like all Malawians, it appreciates neutral to moderately hard water in the 75-80F range. Regular partial water changes are necessary as expected. Since this fish grows large, a tank that is minimally four feet in length is recommended. A six foot tank for a large group of adults would be preferred.


Naevochromis chrysogaster will accept a variety of prepared foods. Juveniles and young fish can be fed on flakes or pellets. I fed a variety of foods such as Tetra Cichlid Sticks, Dainichi Veggie Deluxe, HBH Soft and Moist Spirulina and occasional treat of bloodworms or brine shrimp.


I obtained eight, one-inch F1 fry from fellow GCCA member Mike Helford. Mike always seems to keep interesting and rare Malawians and it was a treat to be able to get these fish which are rarely exported from the lake.

I placed the fish in a succession of tanks from 15-gallons, to 40 gallons, to 75 gallons to 125 gallons. The 125-gallon tank had a sand substrate and few Cryptocoryne and Anubias plants.

At two years old, my largest male was about seven inches long and quite dramatic in appearance. Despite the moniker Jack Dempsey Haplochromis, Naevochromis chrysogaster is not very aggressive. Males seldom bothered females and the fish often hid from other tankmates. For about six months, I kept the Naevochromis chrysogaster with a group of Neolamprologus daffodil and the Malawians were easily cowed by their much smaller tankmates.

When I removed the Neolamprologus daffodil, the dominant male colored up and began courting the females. I did not observe any digging or bower building by the male, but he would often display to the females. Within a couple of weeks, I observed the largest female holding.

I stripped the female at eight days of about 25 very large eggs. At this stage, the fry had very prominent yolk sacks. I placed the developing fry in a two gallon plastic growout tank which had a small sponge filter. The eggs developed quite slowly, but after a total of twenty-six days, I had twenty-two free-swimming fry which were able to immediately eat freshly hatched baby brine shrimp. Curiously, I found the fry to be somewhat slow growing. At two months, the fry are just approaching one inch in length. A few of the babies exhibit the characteristic diagonal line and blotching.

Retail Price

Naevochromis chrysogaster is rarely available at pet shops. If found, an adult male would be in the $50-80 range. Naevochromis chrysogaster is rarely exported from Lake Malawi is quite rare in the hobby. I have seen a few F1 fish available in the $25 range for sub-adult specimens.

Report January 2011 by Rick Borstein