Cyprichromis Leptosoma (Sardine Cichlid)

Cyprichromis leptosoma - sardine cichlid 2

Last updated on August 13th, 2022 at 09:42 pm

Cyprichromis leptosoma, also called the sardine cichlid, are small, peaceful African cichlids that can be easily kept in groups of 5 or more in tanks as small as 20 gallons. These fish have been bred in captivity for hundreds of years, and the species has actually gone extinct in the wild due to overfishing and habitat destruction.

You might not be familiar with the name, but if you’ve ever gone to an aquarium and seen fish swimming together in groups, you may have seen cyprichromis leptosoma (sardine cichlid). This species is native to African lakes and rivers, especially Lake Tanganyika and Lake Malawi. They’re not only incredibly beautiful and peaceful, but they also do well in the home aquarium.

Cyprichromis leptosoma is not easy to care for, and you should keep that in mind before you choose this fish as a pet. Sardine cichlids aren’t suitable for beginners, so this article will go over some important sardine cichlid care tips to help you make sure your fish lives a long and healthy happy life.

Origin and descriptions

Cyprichromis leptosoma - sardine cichlid 2

The Cyprichromis leptosoma (also known as the sardine cichlid) originates from Lake Tanganyika in Africa, where it lives on the sandy shores and feeds primarily on invertebrates like worms and crustaceans.

While it may not be an ideal fish for beginners, this freshwater fish makes an excellent display specimen, especially in large aquariums with lots of rocks and driftwood to provide shelter and visual interest.

The sardine cichlid was named after an American scientist by a British zoologist. In England, it is called a Lake Tanganyika sardine cichlid, but in its native Africa, it is known as mukene or mutekwe. The scientific name means lake-colored fish and refers to both its coloration and its habitat in Lake Tanganyika.

Species profile

Cyprichromis leptosoma, more commonly known as sardine cichlid, is a small schooling fish found in East Africa. This species is one of the numerous members of its genus and it prefers living among others in a densely planted aquarium with sand as its substrate.

Given their small size and lack of aggression, sardine cichlids are best kept with other peaceful tank mates. A single male should be kept per three females to avoid spawning squabbles among them. Though somewhat rare due to limited distribution and collection by aquarists, Cyprichromis leptosoma can still be easily obtained from local fish stores and online dealers.

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Diet consists mainly of small invertebrates, especially brine shrimp nauplii; commercial flake food supplemented with live food will also suffice but keep in mind that all too much protein can cause liver damage over time.


Cyprichromis leptosoma is found in Lake Malawi, Lake Malombe, and their tributaries. Lake Malawi has a wide range of water temperatures depending on its location. Water at surface level can reach a temperature of 32 degrees Celsius while water closer to shore may be as cold as 15-18 degrees Celsius.

In other words, these fish require aquariums with temperatures between 72-78 degrees Fahrenheit. A heated aquarium should be provided when keeping fish from an area with extreme fluctuations in temperature such as Lake Malawi. The amount of light received also impacts how many plants will grow in your aquarium. Make sure that you provide enough light so plants can adequately grow.

Cyprichromis leptosoma size

This species can grow to a maximum size of around 13 cm (5 inches) in length.

Cyprichromis leptosoma tank size

Due to their size, the minimum recommended tank size is 30 gallons (114 liters) for a single fish, while 55 gallons (208 liters) or more is recommended for more than one fish.

Tank requirements

Cyprichromis leptosoma - sardine cichlid 2

A planted tank is best because they will spend most of their time there, making sure that all areas of their habitat have suitable plants around it.

For those people who are really passionate about Cichlids but have small tanks, then one or two juveniles could be kept in a 30 gallons tank or something similar without any other species present.

The main requirement of your tank is that it is between 20 and 30 gallons, with a pH level of 8.1–8.4, and with a water hardness level between 5-14 dH. You’ll also need a thermometer, an air-driven sponge filter, activated carbon, and gravel or sand as a substrate.

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Next, you’ll need rocks or branches for decoration and hiding places; place them so there are about three inches in between each one for maximum ventilation. Finally, make sure you have an ultraviolet sterilizer to protect against fish disease; these can be bought online or at your local pet store.

Chlorine will kill off the helpful bacteria living in your substrate, which will destroy any biological filtration you may have started already. Always add dechlorinator after changing out water so you do not disturb any beneficial bacteria living in your filter. Once all that is done, just sit back and relax while they get used to their new home!

Cyprichromis leptosoma tank mates

Some species of Cyprichromis are more peaceful than others, and you might think that a couple of them would make great tank mates with your other fish. However, while they’re quite beautiful, they’re also aggressive and territorial in addition to being generally small (which means a bigger fish could easily eat them). Therefore, if you have Cyprichomis in your tank, choose tank mates that are either too big or too small to get eaten.

Some good tank mates are mbuna, Texas cichlids, and tiger barbs. These types of fish have similar needs in terms of water conditions, and they’re also hardy enough to not be bullied by Cyprichomis. As far as other peaceful fish go, you can add them with caution.

Cyprichromis leptosoma breeding

Cyprichromis leptosoma - sardine cichlid 2

Cyprichromis leptosoma are egg layers, so if you want to breed them, you need a community of males and females. They should be kept in a tank with a fine sandy substrate and some rockwork. Ideally, your tank will have two types of rock: aragonite rock and limestone or sandstone.

Both these rocks hold calcium carbonate that is needed by egg-layer fish such as Cyprichromis leptosoma, because they use it to help form their eggs. The pH must be between 7.5 and 8.5, but preferably closer to 8.5. The water temperature must remain above 20 degrees Celsius and never drop below 17 degrees Celsius; at 15 degrees Celsius, breeding stops altogether!

The oxygen level must also stay above 5 ppm although many sources say that levels closer to 8 ppm are better; given how sensitive they are regarding water quality (and we’ll come on to that next!) any chance you can get more oxygen into your tank is likely worth taking!

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Keeping your water crystal clear will make sure your fish don’t develop eye problems, which seems to be a common problem among captive-bred specimens. In addition to all of these factors, it is important to keep up biological filtration: clean sand filters and protein skimmers will help keep nitrates low while aiding fertility rates. Water changes are essential – every few days is good – with twice-weekly changes being even better.

Are Cyprichromis leptosoma aggressive or peaceful?

Sardine cichlids are peaceful fish that work well in community tanks. They are extremely active swimmers and love to school with other fishes, especially when young. In fact, sardines cichlids have been known to harass other tank mates if there is not enough room for them all in one school! Because of their activity level, they do best in larger tanks.

We’ve been keeping these fish with much larger species of African cichlids such as Maylandia callainosa and even some arowanas like Scleropages formosus, and they haven’t shown any aggression at all.

Cyprichromis leptosoma care

Cyprichromis leptosoma - sardine cichlid 2

The sardine cichlid is easy to care for if kept in a community aquarium. It’s moderately aggressive, so keep with equally-sized fish that can hold their own. Keeping more than one pair of sardines will result in frequent fighting, and males are territorial of their small territory.

They’re very susceptible to ich and other protozoan diseases due to their small size. They need regular water changes, but because they’re endemic to Lake Malawi, they prefer hard alkaline water so using dechlorinator is recommended unless you live in an area where tap water has naturally high levels of TDS. Keep them at 20 dGH or above.

The sardine cichlid is active during daylight hours. It is a mid-water feeder but does come to the top of water occasionally. Its habitat should be provided with rocks, wood, and caves along with some open swimming areas.

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Plant vegetation can be included in its habitat, but it prefers its environment clean. This fish can tolerate high temperatures and a pH between 7.0 and 8.5, and low hardness levels between 1 – 15 dGH. An ideal temperature range is 77 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit. Cyprichronis leptosoma can be kept alone or in pairs.

Cyprichromis leptosoma food

Cyprichromis leptosoma are omnivores but prefer a meaty diet. Offer them high-quality flake food and meaty foods like bloodworms and brine shrimp. Feed 2-3 times per day in smaller amounts rather than 1 large portion. Sardine cichlids will eat anything that moves, so do not leave any food left in your tank as it will be eaten by other fish.

Cyprichromis leptosoma lifespan

This species can live up to 8 years with proper care and good water parameters.

Parasites and diseases

These little fish are very hardy, but there are a few things you need to be aware of. They’re not prone to many diseases and parasites, but there is one parasite that can infect them: ichthyophthirius multifiliis. This protozoan disease causes small white spots on your fish, and it’s fairly easy to get rid of.

Diseases in saltwater fish tend to spread quickly, so look out for signs of infection—inflamed or discolored patches of skin—and treat promptly. It’s also important to note that sardines will fight amongst themselves if kept together in a tank.

Do Cyprichromis leptosoma make good pets?

Yes, but may not be for beginner aquarists. Cyprichromis leptosoma are very territorial fish and can be a little aggressive. They may be too much to handle if you’re a beginner. If you are still interested in having these fish as pets.

Also, keep in mind that young sardine cichlids should not be kept with more mature ones as they will most likely die.