Copadichromis Mbenjii (Haplochromis Quads)

Copadichromis mbenjii

Last updated on August 24th, 2022 at 04:26 am

Copadichromis mbenjii, or Haplochromis quads, are beautiful and relatively rare fish that are native to the lake region of Africa’s Lake Malawi. These fish get their name from the faint blue color across their bodies. Haplochromis quads are classified as Cichlidae of the tribe Haplochromini and subfamily Pseudocrenilabrinae.

Making their home in Lake Tanganyika, Copadichromis mbenjii (also known as Haplochromis quads) can be difficult to care for, but they make excellent aquarium fish when properly cared for and maintained.

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about Copadichromis mbenjii in this short article!

Origin and descriptions

Copadichromis mbenjii

Copadichromis mbenjii is an East African Cichlid that originates from Lake Malawi. It is also known as Pinkface Haplo or simply as Hap. It is a popular fish for keeping in aquariums due to its bold coloring and active behavior. Some experts believe there are several different types of ‘Pinkface’ based on color variations, but there is no hard evidence at present to support these claims.

Copadichromis mbenjii is sometimes confused with Copadichromis borleyi and Copadichromis sp. ‘Mystery Blue’ because they all have blue lips, but they can be distinguished by location;Copadichromis borleyi lives only in deep parts of Lake Malawi, while Copadichromis mbenjii has been found throughout most regions of Lake Malawi.

Haplochromis quads were not recognized as a valid species until 1998, so older reference material may refer to them as either Hap, Copadichromis sp., or Copadichromis mbenjii. Wild-caught Haps are considered unsuitable for aquarium use due to their highly stressed condition upon capture and difficult adaptation period if kept in captivity.

Species profile

Copadichromis mbenjii, more commonly referred to as Haplochromis quads, is a fish native to Lake Malawi. Haplochromis quads are very popular in Lake Malawi community aquariums due to their vibrant brown and blue coloration and peaceful nature. Like other Copadichromid species, Copadichromis mbenjii is territorial and should be kept with one of its own kind in order to ensure territorial disputes do not arise.

Due to its elongated caudal peduncle, males may often display aggression towards each other during courtship; it is recommended that only two male Haplochromis quads be housed together at any given time if they are both intended for breeding purposes. Copadichromis mbenjii have been known to live up to 10 years provided proper care is administered.

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They are a member of the genus Copadichromis, which was formerly with Copadichromis borleyi. The species is native to Lake Tanganyika in Africa and prefers waters with rocky bottoms and partially covered with vegetation, like other Copadichromis species.

Copadichromis mbenjii size

This fish grows to a maximum size of 5 inches (13 cm) in length.

Copadichromis mbenjii tank size

The minimum recommended tank size is 20 gallons (76 liters)

Tank set up

A 20-gallon tank is recommended for a single fish. Juveniles should be housed in at least a 10-gallon tank, with larger tanks required as they grow. This species is best kept in species tanks, as males can be territorial and display some aggression toward other fish in an aquarium setting.

Because of its relatively small size, filtration and biofiltration are important components of any aquarium housing a Copadichromis mbenjii. Water conditions should mimic their natural habitat; hardness, pH, and temperature levels should be maintained within 5 degrees of 27°C (81°F).

Lighting isn’t essential, but if present, it shouldn’t exceed 1 watt per gallon. Silica sand or fine gravel substrates are best; aquascaping structures such as rocks or wood are also appreciated by haps but aren’t vital to their care.

Copadichromis mbenjii tank mates

Copadichromis mbenjii

Copadichromis Mbenjii are very territorial and should be kept in a large aquarium with other Copadichromis or similar-sized cichlids, preferably of their own species. Some hobbyists have reported success keeping them with larger Haplochromines like Labidochromis caeruleus or Pseudotropheus crabro as they are also territorial and these tanks provide enough space for multiple territories to form.

They also seem to get along well with members of their own species if there is adequate territory for each male to stake out on his own. Each fish will need its own territory, so if you plan on housing more than one male per tank you must provide an ample amount of territory using rock work.

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If housing more than one male per tank, it’s important to plan ahead because males will fight viciously over territorial disputes if given even an inch less than what they need.


Even though Copadichromis mbenjii does well in small aquariums, we recommend 30 gallons or more of water per pair to allow for territorial disputes to be resolved without stress on either fish. Since they are social, they should not be kept alone and will benefit from being in pairs or harems.

If you plan to house multiple males together, then provide them with even more territory by adding additional decorations and hiding spots within their tank.  These fish tend to dig into a soft substrate, so at least 6 inches of sand substrate would be recommended.

Also plan on providing them with densely planted areas and open swimming spaces; think lots of rocks, driftwood branches, and bogwood pieces as well as open swimming area within larger rockwork structures.

The best way to spawn Copadichromis mbenjii is by using a fine, light substrate as well as many flat rocks. They will dig a cave in between these rocks and deposit up to 100 eggs. Once they have spawned, make sure not to disturb them too much or you may end up with smaller offspring due to stress.

If you want to remove them from their breeding area before hatching, add a layer of cover above their tank that they can retreat under if they need to hide. You can also provide floating plants above their tank if needed. All copadichromis are mouthbrooders; after 3-4 days your haplochromis quads should start emerging out of their eggs.

They should be placed into an infusoria-rich fry food at first while they continue to grow. After 2 weeks switch over to newly hatched brine shrimp nauplii feeding until they are free-swimming. Use high-quality foods such as cyclops, blackworms, and daphnia for best results!

Are Copadichromis mbenjii aggressive or peaceful?

They are very peaceful. Copadichromis mbenjii are one of the very few haplochromine cichlids that can be kept in a community aquarium. They will only show aggression to other fish if they feel like their territory is being encroached upon, so it’s best to keep them in groups of at least 4 or 5.

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Copadichromis mbenjii care

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Copadichromis mbenjii is an extremely peaceful fish. They can be kept with other Copadichromis as well as most Tanganyikan tank mates. While they are very peaceful, they should not be placed in a community aquarium with fin nippers such as tiger barbs or angels.

They will not bother any fish that is too large to eat and will keep to themselves most of the time. However, every once in a while, you may see one swimming at your neighbor’s tank hoping for some food. Feeding them will make them much more active than usual but it shouldn’t be necessary to feed them more than once per day.

In fact, if you have other grazing cichlids like Julidochromis and Labidochromis, then these guys might actually become too docile since they won’t need to fight for food anymore!

Copadichromis mbenjii food

Copadichromis mbenjii is an omnivore; they should be fed primarily vegetarian flake foods and algae pellets. While they can adapt to meatier foods, they require more protein than most other cichlids, so it’s best to stick with plant-based items if you want a happy and healthy fish. Avoid any food items that include red dye in their ingredients, as these may irritate your fish’s sensitive digestive tract.

Water parameters

Copadichromis mbenjii

The ideal water should have a pH of 7.5 – 8.0, a temperature of 24 – 28 degrees C, dH of 4 – 20 degrees, and hardiness of at least 10°dH. These fish will not cope with an ammonia reading of > 0.25 mg/l and will become very stressed if there is a strong current in their tank. It has been found that Copadichromis mbenjii will dig pits if they are exposed to high nitrate levels or when under physical stress.

Copadichromis mbenjii lifespan

The fish has has a life span of 8–12 years.

Parasites and diseases

Copadichromis mbenjii can be susceptible to an array of parasites and diseases. One of these is Costia, which is a parasitic disease that’s usually contracted through another fish that already has it. In other words, Costia can be transferred via contact with a carrier fish that already has it.

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It does not appear to spread from one fish to another through water, but rather by direct physical contact between fish. This can be prevented by keeping each fish in its own isolation tank. To treat Copadichromis mbenjii for Costia, you will want to quarantine them first until they clear up all signs of infection and then move them back into their main aquarium once they appear healthy again.


Haplochromis mbenjii’s main predator is Aulonocara jacobfreibergi, a species of Cichlid native to Lake Malawi. Aulonocara is extremely aggressive and will often attack Copadichromis mbenjii if they cross paths. Caution should be taken when adding either species to an aquarium with both presents.

It should also be noted that in nature, they are frequently caught by Labeotropheus fuelleborni, another cichlid found in Lake Malawi. Due to their natural aggression, it is unwise to keep more than one pair of these fish in an aquarium as it increases your chances of conflict; instead, consider getting two tanks and creating parallel universes in each tank.

Do Copadichromis mbenjii make good pets?

Yes, if you keep their specific needs in mind. Copadichromis mbenjii is a very peaceful fish and very small—it grows to only about 5 inches long. Because of its size, Copadichromis mbenjii makes a great addition to smaller aquariums. These fish are also good community fish because they aren’t overly aggressive and get along well with others of their own kind as well as other tank mates.