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Neolamprologus multifasciatus

Above Neolamprologus multifasciatus. Photo by Sam Borstein.


Neolamprologus multifasciatus is a tiny shell-dwelling cichlid native to Lake Tanganyika. Most authorities say that this fish is the smallest cichlid species. Males get just over 1.5". Females are slightly smaller reaching a maximum length of about 1.25 inches.

Neolamprologus multifasciatus is quite a popular fish with numerous references on the web and in literature.

You'll often hear Neolamprologus multifasciatus referred to as "Multies"


In the lake, Neolamprologus multifasciatus is only found amongst large shell deposits of the Neothauma snail. The fish make their home in the empty shells, quickly darting to safety when a predator approaches. Water in Lake Tanganyika is very hard with a pH of about 8.0 and a dH range of 15.0 - 25.0.


Neolamprologus multifasciatus is easy to maintain and thrives in small tanks. I kept and bred six individuals in a three-gallon Eclipse tank with no problems, but a ten gallon tank would probably have been a better choice.

Provide a sand substrate or very fine gravel and snail shells. You can use snail shells that are packed for serving escargot (gourmet section of the supermarket) or the empty shell of the Gold Mystery Snail. Set your heater to 78-80F and you should have excellent results.

Regular partial water changes are important to the health of all cichlids. Neolamprologus multifasciatus is is sensitive to changes in temperature and chemistry. Take some extra care with your make-up water to avoid problems.

Neolamprologus multifasciatus are prolific diggers and will quickly landscape their tank, partially burying the entrance to their shells. This behavior is completely normal and sometimes signals the onset of breeding.


Neolamprologus multifasciatus is easy to feed, but needs a diet high in protein. I fed plankton flakes and Tetra Cichlid Flakes with good results. Adults also enjoy eating baby brine shrimp and delight in chasing the tiny crustacea.


Neolamprologus multifasciatus is a harem spawner. A male will spawn with several females within his territory. Additionally, Neolamprologus multifasciatus are "step breeders" with multiple generations of fry existing in the same territory.

Shelldweller Removal SetupOne challenge in breeding this fish is removing fish from the tank. Both the adults and fry will quickly dart into shells avoiding capture. For the aquarist trying to breed for BAP or profit, I recommend using 1/2" PVC elbows with caps instead of shells. The fish do just fine in the PVC and harvesting is easy; just remove the PVC elbow from the tank into a small container filled with tank water and remove the cap. The adults and fry will swim right out.

For best success, start out with 1 male and four or five females. If the fish are too small to sex, start with six juveniles. Provide a sandy bottom and 3-4 extra "shells" scattered about the bottom of the tank.

Neolamprologus multifasciatus is a secretive spawner and it is unlikely you will see the deed take place. Generally, your first clue that a spawn has taken place is the appearance of tiny fry that hover near the entrance to the "shells".

As soon as you see fry, you should begin feeding newly hatched baby brine shrimp. You can switch the fry to crushed flake food in about two weeks.

Retail Price

Neolamprologus multifasciatus is rarely found it pet stores. These fish do not do well without shells. Expect to pay about $8-10 at retail. Neolamprologus multifasciatus is commonly available at GCCA's auctions and swap meets. It is also available on many wholesalers lists on the web.

Report April 2003 by Rick Borstein