Spawning Cyrtocara moorii

By Dave Gauthier


I purchased 6 of the Malawi mouth breeders from a friend of mine last spring at about 3” long.  They were put in a 40 gallon long, with a mixture of gravel and crushed coral and filtered by a 350gph power filter, and a few rock piles to play in.  I had the temp set at 78F and the pH was right around 8.  They were fed a mixture of brine, spirulina and krill flake.  They were also given tri-weekly feedings of frozen brine, bloodworms, mysis shrimp and glass worms. 


A little about the fish, these are the “Malawi Blue Dolphin,” called this because of the nuchal hump that develops on the males.  They are found in sandy areas throughout the lake in roughly 10 to 40 feet of water.  All of the fish I received were difficult to sex; they all looked identical to me.  I did notice, however, that they would all show black spots when they would stress out.  They would do this every time I did a water change.  They would lose the spots literally in minutes after the water change was done.


Between the food and water changes I was able to get these fish to 4” or so by the end of summer.  A couple were a little bigger by maybe a half inch; they are known to be slow growing fish anyway.


I said earlier that the fish all looked the same to me, but I noticed there was one female at least in the bunch because she appeared to have a mouthful of eggs one day when I was feeding the tank.  The next day they were gone.  I know these fish can get quite big.  I have read they can reach almost a foot in length, given an adequate sized tank, and will spawn at roughly 18 months of age.  So I was actually kind of surprised to see the female with a mouthful at a relatively small size.  Doesn’t really matter at this point, she ate them.  After a few weeks, I noticed another female was holding.  This time I did not feed the tank at all (maybe the food was too tempting for her the first time) and she held the eggs until day 3.  They were gone.  I honestly don’t know if it was the same female or not.  A few weeks later, there was another female with a mouthful.  I stopped feeding the tank and stripped the eggs from her on the second day.  There were 19 eggs.  I put them in a tumbler and they took 20 days to become free swimming.  I moved them to a 5 ˝ and started to feed the same mixture of flake as the adults, but crushed very fine.  All 19 survived, and were eating well.


My conclusion is they are a hearty and beautiful fish.  I feel the difficulty in breeding them is not the water conditions, which is still very important, but is in the apprehensiveness of a holding female.


This is my experience with these beautiful fish, if you are considering purchasing these, make sure you give them plenty of tank space and feed them well and you should be very successful.