Cyphotilapia frontosa (Frontosa Cichlid or Humphead Cichlid)

Cyphotilapia frontosa

Last updated on July 29th, 2022 at 05:19 am

The Cyphotilapia frontosa (also known as the Frontosa Cichlid or Humphead Cichlid) is an African fish species of the family Cichlidae that was first described in 1927 by Ad Konings, the type locality being Likasi, Congo (now Democratic Republic of the Congo). It has been suggested that there are two subspecies of Cyphotilapia frontosa – Cyphotilapia frontosa koningsi and Cyphotilapia frontosa frontosa. This suggestion, however, has not been universally accepted

The Cyphotilapia frontosa (or Frontosa Cichlid) is an African freshwater fish belonging to the family Cichlidae, native to the upper Congo River basin in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola. The genus name derives from the Greek words kyphos meaning humped and tilapia meaning tasty, which refers to its hump.

The Cyphotilapia frontosa (Frontosa Cichlid or Humphead Cichlid) is one of the larger cichlids, reaching up to 10 inches in length and weighing up to 2 pounds (1 kg). It’s native to Lake Tanganyika in Africa and is famous among aquarists as the fish that eats glass and rocks! In the wild, Frontosa Cichlids are omnivores and algae eaters, consuming vegetable matter along with smaller fish and insects.

What is a Frontosa?

The cyphotilapia frontosa, also known as a humphead cichlid, is an African fish species of large lakes and river habitats. In males of these fish species, there is a bony protuberance on top of their heads called humps. This species can have various color variations and patterns.

Along with its impressive size and beauty, a humphead cichlid has many other benefits for home aquariums. Here are some reasons why you should consider adding a Frontosa in your tank:

  • They don’t eat plants If you have ever had difficulties keeping plants alive in your home aquarium before, rest assured that you will not encounter any such trouble if you add humphead cichlids.
  • These unique fish feed off smaller animals such as water fleas, crustaceans, and worms rather than plants. This makes them a good choice for people who love having live aquatic plants in their tanks but struggle with getting rid of algae problems after introducing other types of fish.
  • You needn’t be concerned that they might nip at your prized plants while they hunt down food because they don’t rely heavily on plant matter themselves.

Origin and descriptions

Cyphotilapia frontosa

Cyphotilapia is a genus of haplochromine cichlids endemic to Lake Tanganyika in Africa. The genus name is derived from cypho-, referring to their deep-bodied shape, and tilapi, a vernacular name for cichlids in general from Lake Tanganyika; and -taxis, meaning order, here used as a type. It contains 11 species.

Species in Cyphotilapia typically have black and yellowish coloration with clear fins. Their small size makes them good fish for small aquaria. Two large species are popular as aquarium fish: Cyphotilapia frontosa and Cyphotilapia multifasciata. Both reach about 10 inches long when fully grown, but live much longer than many other African cichlids of comparable size due to their relatively placid temperament.

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They feed on planktonic crustaceans such as copepods and amphipods which they suck into their mouth using suction created by gulping air at the surface.

Frontosa fish male or female

What does it matter? A lot! It’s a common misbelief that once you have a male and female fish, they will breed automatically. In truth, even with adult fish, spawning takes place only under specific conditions. The first thing to remember is that Frontosa is not egg-scatterers; rather, they normally deposit eggs in the sand at or near the water’s surface.

This means they need clean water, usually produced by an aquarium filter — which also means your cichlids can’t live alone and must be kept in a community aquarium. These substrate-depositing cichlids are what are called maternal mouthbrooders — meaning once eggs have been deposited on a flat surface such as rocks or wood, oxygenated water must flow gently over them for both parents to fan away waste materials as well as keep them aerated until hatching occurs after about two weeks.

If neither parent stays with the eggs, they die. So if you want viable offsprings from your Frontosa pair, make sure both are present during egg deposition and remain attentive to their needs afterward.

Species profile

Cyphotilapia frontosa

Cyphotilapia frontosa is a carnivorous freshwater fish that is native to Lake Tanganyika in Africa. Despite its ferocious appearance, it’s one of Africa’s most popular aquarium fish species and is also widely kept in private and public aquaria around the world. The male can grow up to 12 inches while females are generally smaller at 8-10 inches long.

They are unique among their kind because they retain their protective bony plates even after they’ve reached sexual maturity and reached 2-3 years old! The bony plates on their heads help reduce the danger from predators by distorting their shape from below, thereby making them seem larger than they really are. They’re renowned for consuming prey several times their own size!


Cyphotilapia frontosa is one of about 150 species of cichlids. They are typically found in small streams and rivers in Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Zambia. Males are larger than females and may reach a length of up to 10 inches (25.4 cm). The fish has powerful jaws that it uses to dig for insects, mollusks, crustaceans, frogs, and other fish.

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Cyphotilapia frontosa size

This cichlid is about 6 inches (15 cm) long, but some specimens can grow up to 10 inches (25.4 cm)

Cyphotilapia frontosa tank size

Typically, you want to keep these fish in aquariums of at least 75 gallons with plenty of places for them to hide and rest. They are not particularly territorial though and a group of 4–6 fish should be able to share a tank successfully.

Tank set up

Cyphotilapia frontosa

A 75 gallon tank should be enough to house a single humphead cichlid. Although it will take some time for your fish to reach its adult size, once it does, that’s when you’ll need a bigger tank. You can expect an adult humphead cichlid to grow anywhere from 10 to 12 inches long.

An ideal temperature of seventy-two degrees and a neutral pH level of eight should keep your fish healthy. To make sure they are getting everything they need, try supplementing their diet with algae wafers as well as live foods like brine shrimp. Algae wafers are readily available at pet stores or online and can even be found in several different varieties depending on what kind of food you would like to feed your fish.

You can also get live foods such as brine shrimp either online or at most pet stores. If your fish is still young, you may find yourself changing between these two types of food depending on their mood and activity level. Brine shrimp are small and easy to digest, so when your fish isn’t feeling up to snuff, live foods might give them just what they need.

Cyphotilapia frontosa tank mates

Frontosa cichlids are aggressive and territorial. The best tank mates include other similarly-sized fish that won’t be intimidated by its size. Some good choices include angelfish, barbs, small catfish, and some tetras. Frontosas can also be kept with larger fish like African cichlids Haplochromis cichlids, Peacock cichlids, Synodontis catfish, Large Plecostomus catfish, and Clown Loaches

Breeding Cyphotilapia frontosa

Cyphotilapia frontosa

The humphead cichlid is an easy fish to breed. It is suggested to put at least three males and three females together in a 75 gallons aquarium. Make sure you have lots of caves and rocks for them to spawn on, or make your own using styrofoam blocks covered with moss.

The female will lay her eggs on top of them, about 200-300 of them, then leave it up to the male to do all of his duties as far as incubation goes. The male will guard them until they hatch which takes anywhere from two days to two weeks depending on how big they are when they were laid. After hatching, feed them newly hatched brine shrimp along with their food once they start eating adult food after 3 months old.

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If you can’t get hold of any brine shrimp, just use crushed flakes instead, it won’t harm them if they don’t eat it right away. Once they begin eating regular food, offer smaller more frequent feedings than larger ones less often. You’ll want to keep them in schools of about 6-8 minimum. They really shouldn’t be kept with any other cichlids.

Are Cyphotilapia frontosa aggressive or peaceful?

Cyphotilapia frontosa are semi-aggressive, sometimes, aggressive depending on which subspecies you are speaking of. C.f. frontosa and other longnose humpheads tend to be more aggressive than their roundnose counterparts, but in general, Frontosas can be a handful for new aquarists if not properly acclimated.

Cyphotilapia frontosa care

Cyphotilapia frontosa

A healthy Cyphotilapia frontosa is hardy and easy to keep in an aquarium. Like most cichlids, they will eat smaller fish when kept together in a community tank. As they are territorial and aggressive towards other cyphotilapiases, they should be kept singly or in pairs with larger peaceful fish that won’t look like a good meal, such as angelfish.

They also may intimidate slower-moving species, especially if not raised with them. Frontosas have a large appetite, so it’s important to supply them with plenty of food. These fish prefer small shrimp, worms, krill, algae wafers, and live foods (such as brine shrimp).

Their omnivorous nature allows for some experimentation; meatier foods, such as ground beef or bloodworms, make for excellent variety in their diet. Frontosas can become very tame when fed regularly by hand.

Cyphotilapia frontosa diet

Cyphotilapias are omnivores, so they eat algae and plants as well as a range of small aquatic invertebrates. They may consume snails, other cichlids, and fry. Smaller fish are less likely to be eaten than larger fish. Cyphotilapia is unique among cichlids in that it can adapt its diet to whatever food is available in its habitat at any given time.

These fish are also called ‘Humphrey’s’ or ‘hump head’ for obvious reasons. The male grows much larger than the female.

It also has a bony lump on top of its head which makes it easy to distinguish from all other members of the genus Cypho which do not have humps on their heads. These humps appear when males display their dominance over each other when establishing pecking order within their group.

Water parameters

Cyphotilapia frontosa

In their natural habitat, they are found in clear and slightly acidic water with a pH of around 7.0–7.8, so it is important to replicate these conditions when keeping them in captivity. Provide good filtration and water flow through either an internal filter or an external canister filter to ensure a high level of oxygenation and strong current to encourage excellent gill function, which aids in removing waste from within their tissue.

Frontosa Cichlid (Cyphotilapia Frontosa)

It’s also necessary to make sure that your Frontosa receives frequent partial water changes due to its messy eating habits and overall waste production. This fish produces a large amount of ammonia daily; without consistent water changes, you run a higher risk of ammonia poisoning! A general rule of thumb for Frontosas is one 25% change per week should be enough as long as your biological filtration is working properly.

Cyphotilapia frontosa lifespan

They live approximately up to 8 years.

Parasites and diseases

Frontosa cichlids are susceptible to roundworms, tapeworms, flukes, and a variety of internal parasites. Although most Frontosas will survive one or two infections without treatment, it is better to keep them clean in order to avoid long-term complications. On top of that, Frontosas can be prone to attacks from ichthyophthirius (white spot disease), which can wipe out an entire tank if not properly treated.


In their natural habitat, Frontosas may fall prey to piranhas, cormorants, characins, and larger catfish. In addition to traditional predators like barracuda and sharks, fishermen catch them and eat them in many parts of Africa. To protect themselves from humans while they’re young, they have to live in rocky caves or deep holes where their parents once lived.

Types of frontosa cichlids

The Frontosa Cichlid can be found in East Africa along both sides of Ethiopia, Kenya, and Lake Victoria. The fish is known to exist in small numbers from Tanzania, as well. There are many types of frontosa cichlids, some of which are:

  • Burundi Six-stripe Frontosa
  • Zaire Blue Frontosa
  • Tanzanian Six-stripe Frontosa
  • Tanzanian Seven-stripe Frontosa or Frontosa “Kigoma”
  • Kipili Frontosa
  • Zambian blue Frontosa, or Blue Face Frontosa
  • Samazi Frontosa
  • Kavalla Frontosa and many more.

Do Cyphotilapia frontosa make good pets?

Not really. Cyphotilapia Frontosa, also known as humphead cichlids, are a beautiful species of fish that are extremely docile and easy to care for. However, they do not make ideal pets as they grow very large and live a long time. These fish require special tanks, large enough to accommodate their massive size.