Blue Dolphin Cichlid (Cyrtocara moorii) Species Guide

The blue dolphin cichlid, also known as Malawi dolphin or hump-head cichlid, is a fascinating fish species native to the waters of Lake Malawi in East Africa. If you’re an aquarium hobbyist or just a fan of unique aquatic life, this captivating fish might just be the perfect addition to your collection. With its striking blue coloration and pronounced hump on its head, the blue dolphin cichlid adds a touch of elegance and allure to any aquarium.

In the wild, you can find these vibrant fish dwelling in rocky environments where they feed primarily on small invertebrates. If you decide to keep blue dolphin cichlids in your home aquarium, it’s essential to mimic their natural habitat by providing plenty of rocks and hiding spots. When it comes to their diet, these fish aren’t picky eaters and will gladly accept a variety of high-quality pellet or flake foods that can easily be found at your local pet store.

As you venture into the world of blue dolphin cichlids, it’s important to remember that these fish are moderately aggressive and territorial. Therefore, you should carefully consider their tank mates and ensure that your aquarium is spacious enough to accommodate their needs. With the right environment and a bit of care, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying these enthralling creatures and all the beauty they bring to your underwater sanctuary.

Image Of A Blue Dolphin Cichlid Swimming In A Large Tank

Blue Dolphin Cichlid Species Guide Summary

  • Average Lifespan: Blue Dolphin Cichlids usually live up to 7 to 8 years when given proper care and a suitable environment.
  • Care Difficulty: Caring for this species is considered moderate. You should have some experience with keeping fish before taking on Blue Dolphin Cichlids.
  • Colors: Their striking coloration includes shades of blue, with some individuals displaying hints of purple or green.
  • Compatibility: These cichlids are moderately aggressive. It’s best to house them with other larger cichlids of similar temperament.
  • Conservation Status: Currently, the conservation status of this fish is not assessed by the IUCN.
  • Diet: Feed your Blue Dolphin Cichlids a well-balanced diet rich in protein, including: High-quality cichlid pellets, Brine shrimp, Mysis shrimp, and Bloodworms.
  • Distribution: This species originates from Lake Malawi in East Africa.
  • Group: Blue Dolphin Cichlids are semi-aggressive and should be kept in groups with other similar fish.
  • Habitat: In the wild, they inhabit areas with rocky substrates and are often found around caves.
  • Hardness: These fish prefer water with a hardness of 4 to 6 dGH.
  • Interesting Fact: The Blue Dolphin Cichlid’s unique hump on its head, known as a nuchal hump, grows larger with age and is more prominent in males.
  • Minimum Tank Size: To house Blue Dolphin Cichlids, you’ll need a tank that is at least 55 gallons in size.
  • pH: Maintain a pH level between 7.8 and 8.6 in your Blue Dolphin Cichlid’s tank.
  • Scientific Name: The scientific name for this fish is Cyrtocara moorii.
  • Size: Adult Blue Dolphin Cichlids grow to be about 8 inches in length.
  • Temperament: These fish have a territorial temperament, so be mindful when selecting tankmates and arranging the tank.
  • Temperature: Keep the water temperature in your Blue Dolphin Cichlid’s tank at 76 to 82°F.
  • Where It Swims: In their natural environment, Blue Dolphin Cichlids tend to swim near the bottom and middle layers of the water column.

Appearance & Varieties

The blue dolphin cichlid is known for its stunning appearance and unique characteristics. Just like its name suggests, the blue dolphin cichlid boasts a striking blue coloration that easily catches your eye.

Sex Differences

When it comes to sex differences, you’ll find that there’s not much variation between males and females. However, there are a few subtle distinctions you can look for if you’re trying to tell them apart. Males typically have a more vibrant blue color while females often appear slightly paler. Additionally, males tend to grow larger than females, reaching a size of around 8 to 10 inches in length, while females generally stay between 6 to 8 inches. Don’t forget about the fins – males usually have longer and more pointed dorsal and anal fins compared to the females.

Now let’s talk about the blue moorii, which is another name for the blue dolphin cichlid. This fish is easily recognizable due to its distinctive cranial bump. The cranial bump, which is more pronounced in males, starts to develop as the fish matures and can add to its unique, dolphin-like appearance.

Here’s a quick recap for you:

  • Size: Males 8-10 inches, Females 6-8 inches
  • Coloration: Vibrant blue (more intense in males)
  • Fins: Males have longer, more pointed dorsal and anal fins
  • Blue Moorii: Another name for the blue dolphin cichlid
  • Cranial Bump: More developed in males, adding to dolphin-like appearance

In the end, the blue dolphin cichlid is a truly captivating species, offering both beauty and personality. As you explore this fascinating fish, you’re sure to be amazed by its stunning colors, unique features, and the subtle differences between the sexes.

Behavior & Temperament

When it comes to your blue dolphin cichlid, you’ll find that these vibrant fish have a unique blend of semi-aggressive and peaceful nature. They enjoy swimming around and exploring their surroundings but can become territorial when they feel threatened or when it’s time to breed.

As a fish keeper, it’s essential to recognize their temperament and provide a suitable environment for them. Your blue dolphin cichlid will appreciate a well-decorated tank with plenty of hiding spots, like caves and rocks, for them to retreat to when they feel the need. This will help to minimize stress and make them feel more secure in their home.

The ideal temperature for your blue dolphin cichlid is around 76-82°F (24-28°C). Keeping the water temperature within this range will ensure that your fish are comfortable and thriving in their environment. It’s also essential to maintain a stable water temperature to avoid causing unnecessary stress for these sensitive creatures.

You’ll likely notice that your blue dolphin cichlid can exhibit territorial behavior, especially when breeding. During this time, the fish might claim an area of the tank and defend it from any perceived threats. To cope with this, be sure to provide ample space for each cichlid, allowing them to establish their own territories.

If you’re considering adding other fish species to the tank, it’s crucial to choose tank mates that can coexist with your blue dolphin cichlid. Look for fish that have a similar temperament and can handle their semi-aggressive nature. This will help to maintain a harmonious aquatic environment for all your fish buddies.

In summary, knowing your blue dolphin cichlid’s behavior and temperament is essential for creating a happy home for them. Provide hiding spots, maintain a stable temperature, and choose compatible tank mates to keep your fish content and stress-free while enjoying their casually beautiful presence in your aquarium.


Breeding Blue Dolphin Cichlids can be an interesting and rewarding experience for you. These beautiful fish are polygamous mouthbrooders, meaning both males and females play an essential role in incubating and protecting their young.

Before you start breeding, it’s important to ensure you have a proper environment for your cichlids. A spacious tank with plenty of hiding spots for both the adults and the emerging fry is essential. You should also maintain clean water conditions and a stable temperature to support their overall health and breeding behaviors.

Now, how can you distinguish between males and females? Typically, male Blue Dolphin Cichlids tend to be larger and have elongated dorsal and anal fins. On the other hand, females tend to be smaller with less dramatic fin shapes. It’s important to have a mix of males and females in your tank to create a better breeding environment.

When your Blue Dolphin Cichlids become sexually active, you’ll notice males displaying courting behaviors like flaring their fins and showing off their vibrant colors. They’ll also start to dig pits in the substrate to create breeding locations. You’ll want to keep an eye on these activities, as these signs indicate that breeding may soon take place.

Once the female lays her eggs and the male fertilizes them, the fascinating process of mouthbrooding begins. As a mouthbrooder fish, the female Blue Dolphin Cichlid will pick up the fertilized eggs in her mouth while the male watches over the breeding area. She’ll incubate the eggs in her mouth for nearly 21 days, and during this time, you may rarely see her eat. It’s essential to provide her with a stress-free environment while she’s incubating the eggs.

Finally, the big moment arrives! After 21 days, the female releases her fry into the tank, and they’ll be free-swimming in no time. You’ll want to provide the fry with nutritious food like brine shrimp to ensure healthy growth. Keep an eye on the young ones, as they grow quickly and will soon start exhibiting their adorable Blue Dolphin Cichlid traits.

Following these steps and understanding their unique breeding behaviors will help you successfully breed your Blue Dolphin Cichlids, so you can enjoy their mesmerizing beauty and fascinating life cycle. Happy breeding!

Care Instructions

Food & Feeding Frequency

When it comes to feeding your blue dolphin cichlids, variety is crucial. A balanced diet should include a mix of high-quality pellets, flakes, frozen and freeze-dried foods, and fresh vegetables. Offer them protein-rich foods like bloodworms and brine shrimp, and supplement with veggies such as zucchini and lettuce. Feed them 2-3 times a day, providing just enough food that can be consumed within a few minutes.

Potential Diseases

Like any other fish, blue dolphin cichlids are susceptible to diseases. One of the common issues is Ich, a parasite that causes white spots on the body. Maintaining a clean and well-maintained tank is vital for preventing diseases. Perform regular water changes, monitor water quality, and keep the tank clean to minimize the risk of diseases.

Tank Setup

For your blue dolphin cichlid, provide a spacious tank— at least 75 gallons for a single fish, with an additional 30 gallons for each extra fish in the tank. Furnish the habitat with rocks, driftwood, and rock caves to create hiding spots and mimic their natural habitat in Lake Malawi. Use sandy substrate (e.g., coral sand) on the aquarium floor, and include some live plants to help maintain water quality.

Water Conditions

A set of proper water conditions is essential for the well-being of your blue dolphin cichlids. As these fish are native to Lake Malawi in Africa, recreating and maintaining certain water parameters is crucial.

  • Temperature: 76-82°F
  • pH: 7.8-8.6
  • Hardness: 12-18 dH

Monitor water parameters regularly to ensure consistency and invest in a reliable filtration system to effectively remove waste and prevent any buildup of toxic substances.

By following these care instructions, you can keep your blue dolphin cichlids happy, healthy, and thriving in their aquarium environment. Remember, a steady approach to feeding, maintaining water conditions, and regular tank care will go a long way in ensuring your fish flourish and display their stunning colors.

In The Wild

If you’re fascinated by the magnificent blue dolphin cichlid, you’re in luck! These beautiful turquoise fish are endemic to Lake Malawi, one of Africa’s Great Lakes, found in the Eastern Rift Valley. Lake Malawi is a massive freshwater lake with a diverse ecosystem, and you’ll spot these amazing creatures thriving in its crystal-clear waters.

Imagine encountering these unique fish during one of your underwater adventures. Their elongated snout and vibrant turquoise hue make them easy to recognize. They’re primarily found in shallow waters, where the water temperature is slightly warmer – it ranges from 23 to 28°C. This warmth allows them to enjoy a comfy and relaxing environment where they can easily forage for food.

Their diet mainly consists of prawns and smaller invertebrates, which they love to hunt using their elongated snout. It’s truly an exciting sight as these aquatic hunters use their exceptional sense of smell and specialized mouth to snatch up their prey!

One of the most distinctive features of these fish is the males’ nuchal hump, located on their heads. It adds a majestic touch to their appearance, making them even more attractive to observers like you. So, next time you find yourself near the shores of Lake Malawi, don’t forget to appreciate the extraordinary blue dolphin cichlid in its natural habitat!

FAQs About Blue Dolphin Cichlids

Are Blue Dolphin Cichlids Good Tank Mates?

Yes, Blue Dolphin Cichlids are generally good tank mates, especially if you’re looking to add them to a community of non-aggressive freshwater fish. As aquarists, it’s important to note that these fish have a peaceful temperament and can coexist with other fish species, so long as they have their own space. Be cautious if you have smaller fish in the tank, as Blue Dolphin Cichlids can be mildly carnivorous.

How Much Do Blue Dolphin Cichlids Cost?

The price of Blue Dolphin Cichlids may vary depending on factors like size, shipping, and availability. On average, you can expect to spend anywhere between $10 and $25 for one. Keep in mind that prices might be slightly higher at specialty fish stores compared to online retailer options. However, visiting a local store can also provide additional insights and assistance from helpful staff!

How Do I Keep My Blue Dolphin Cichlid Healthy?

Keeping your Blue Dolphin Cichlid healthy is achievable by providing clean water and a well-maintained environment. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Water Parameters: Make sure your tank has stable pH levels (around 7.8 to 8.6), as Blue Dolphin Cichlids prefer slightly alkaline conditions. Regularly monitor water temperature, which should ideally be maintained between 74°F and 82°F.
  • Cleanliness: Perform regular water changes and ensure proper filtration to maintain water quality. Clean water is crucial for your fish’s overall health.
  • Diet: Feed your Blue Dolphin Cichlid a balanced diet that includes both carnivorous and herbivorous foods. You can provide high-quality pellets, flakes, and occasional treats like frozen or live foods.
  • Tank Setup: To create a stress-free environment, provide plenty of hiding spots and decor for your Blue Dolphin Cichlid to explore. Remember, these fish can grow relatively large, so they’ll need adequate space to swim and thrive.

Following these guidelines will help keep your Blue Dolphin Cichlid happy and healthy in your home aquarium.


In your journey to learn about the blue dolphin cichlid, you’ve discovered some interesting facts and findings. They are beautiful fish known for their vibrant blue color and unique hump on their forehead. Researchers have conducted studies on various aspects of their care, such as the anesthetic and sedative properties of essential oils and the effect of Spirulina platensis in their diet.

You now know that essential oils like peppermint and lavender can be used safely as anesthetic and sedative agents for these tropical fish. It’s essential to provide an appropriate environment and diet for your blue dolphin cichlids to ensure their health and well-being.

Don’t forget that introducing Spirulina platensis in their diet can enhance their beautiful blue coloration. As an aquarist, you can take pride in maintaining their fascinating appearance while ensuring their overall health.

Finally, keep in mind that blue dolphin cichlids have specific thermal tolerances, and understanding their needs regarding water temperature will contribute to their success in your aquarium. In the end, your efforts will be rewarded with a thriving community of vibrant, healthy cichlids that bring joy and beauty to your aquatic world.

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