Nyassachromis Microcephalus (Cyrtocara microcephalus)

nyassachromis microcephalus

Last updated on July 21st, 2022 at 11:56 pm

The nyassachromis microcephalus (also known as the Haplochromis microcephalus or by its scientific name Cyrtocara microcephalus) is one of the most interesting creatures to grace the aquarium hobby in recent years. These tiny but very active cichlids make a great addition to any freshwater community tank, provided it has the capacity to support them and their requirements are met.

Nyassachromis microcephalus are endemic to Lake Malawi, which comprises the countries of Malawi, Mozambique, and Tanzania in Africa. In Malawi, they can be found in the northern regions of Lake Malawi—located at approximately 6 degrees south of the equator—and in some surrounding rivers and streams. In Mozambique, they are found only in the southern region of Lake Malawi, and farther south in the Ruhuhu River until its confluence with the Ruo River.

Here are some basic facts about these fascinating fish and how they’re adapted to life in the wild.

Origin and descriptions

nyassachromis microcephalus

The species is endemic to Lake Malawi and Lake Malombe. It can be found in Lake Malawi at between 300m and 410m, as well as in shallow waters on mwambi rocks. This fish grows to a length of 7 cm. In Malawi, it is commonly known as nyasa chromis. It lives in rocky areas around both shores, either alone or with a small group of other nyassachromis.

It feeds mainly off smaller fish and invertebrates. Its color changes from grey to reddish-orange when it becomes excited; males also change color before spawning takes place, becoming pale blue-grey with bright orange fins whilst females are a brownish-purple coloration. Males reach maturity at four years old when they have reached about 4cm long, females mature slightly later than males at about five years old when they reach 5cm long.

Species profile

nyassachromis microcephalus

Nyassachromis microcephalus (Cyrtocara microcephalus ) is a species of haplochromine cichlid endemic to Lake Malawi in East Africa. Adult males of Cyrtocara microcephalus generally attain about 5 cm, with females reaching about 9 cm. The common name for Cyrtocara microcephalus comes from its young, which have unusually large heads relative to their bodies and are silvery in coloration.

Pipefish "Syngnathus"

In addition to being commonly known as giant-eyed cichlids, other popular names include blue alien and high fin Jack Dempsey. These fish are herbivores that feed on algae growing on rocks and sandy areas of rock along shallow reefs where they spawn. During the breeding season, they will become very territorial toward other fish in their range.


The nyassachromis microcephalus is mainly found in Lake Malawi, Lake Malombe, and even Lake Nkhotakota. It is also located in rivers such as Mara and Nkhata. The environment for these fish can be described as warm water with medium to hard levels of saltiness and a medium level of oxygen concentrations.

During food shortages, it has been noted that these fish will use their pectoral fins to move sand to search for other organisms that can provide them with nutrition.

Nyassachromis microcephalus size

They usually grow up to 3-4 inches (8-10 cm), with a maximum size of 4.5-5 inches (11-13 cm).

Nyassachromis microcephalus tank size

The minimum recommended tank size is 20 gallons. 30 gallons or larger is preferable.

Tank set up

Breeding for nyassachromis microcephalus can take a lot of time, effort, and patience. A 25-gallon tank is enough room to start and will do for about a year; however, if you want to keep more than one male in your tank, it’s better to purchase an even larger tank. It’s best to set up your aquarium before bringing home any fish so that everything is ready to go when they arrive.

Below are some considerations when selecting a tank To create a successful habitat, you must decide what kind of substrate you would like: sand or fine gravel. For nyassachromis microcephalus, in particular, substrate depth isn’t very important. Nyassachromis microcephalus prefers water temperatures between 74–77 degrees Fahrenheit with slightly acidic conditions (pH 6.0–6.5).

They require a filter to maintain clean water because these fish tend to be messy eaters and produce large amounts of waste products each day. Water circulation should be moderate, but not aggressive, as stronger currents may scare away shy fish. You can choose from small air pumps or power filters.

Cheilinus Undulatus (Humphead Wrasse)

Try to mimic their natural environment by placing rocks and plants in your tank; nyassachromis microcephalus often hides among live or artificial plants.

Nyassachromis microcephalus tank mates

They can be kept with other species of haplochromines and some Victorian cichlids such as yellow head victorian cichlid, and red empress. They can also be kept with other N. nyassae species such as benthic bluehead hap (Nyassachromis nyassae). They are best kept in groups of at least 6 to 8 fish in a 200 liter tank or larger.

Breeding Nyassachromis microcephalus

nyassachromis microcephalus

It is easiest to breed Nyassachromis microcephalus in ponds and it appears that males prefer a pond without other fishes for spawning. The male builds a nest under stones or vegetation and when done, starts to actively search for females. A female may lay between 30 and 150 eggs during several spawns throughout the year, depending on how well-fed she is by her owner.

Eggs hatch after 3–4 days, depending on water temperature. Fry will initially feed on their yolk sacs until they develop an appetite for newly hatched brine shrimp or Artemia nauplii. They can be fed every 2-3 hours if necessary but as they grow bigger they require less feeding.

Are Nyassachromis microcephalus aggressive or peaceful?

While aggression can be a feature of any fish, some species are more likely to become aggressive. For example, male nyassachromis microcephalus has a reputation for becoming aggressive during the breeding season.

Nyassachromis microcephalus care

nyassachromis microcephalus

The Congolese nyassachromis, also known as Cyrtocara microcephalus, is a peaceful and docile species of haplochromine cichlid endemic to Lake Tanganyika in Africa. Its common name refers to its resemblance to another African fish called hap (Chalinochromis sp.) which is in a different genus but has very similar physical characteristics.

What does Nyassachromis microcephalus eat?

They are carnivorous, they will eat insects, worms, and small fish. In nature, they are bottom-dwelling fish. As far as feeder fish goes, they will do fine on a diet of live and frozen foods. They also do well on high-quality pellets such as Hikari Micro Wafers and New Life Spectrum Small Fish Formula for freshwater feeder cichlids. If using pellets make sure to crush them up into smaller bits so that your cichlid can eat them easily.

Scoloplax baileyi

Water parameters

Ideal water condition should be a pH of 6.0-7.2; a temperature of 22-26 degrees C (72-78 degrees F), water hardness of 10-15°dGH , conductivity no more than 1000μS/cm and nitrite concentration of less than 5 mg/l.

Nyassachromis microcephalus lifespan

This species of catfish can typically be expected to live between 5 and 6 years with proper care.

Parasites and diseases

The most common parasites affecting nyassachromis microcephalus include ich, hexamita, and spironucleus. In addition to these parasitic infections, nyassachromis microcephalus is affected by a number of bacterial diseases including vibriosis and streptococcus. Metronidazole has been used with some success in treating vibriosis. Antibiotics such as enrofloxacin or doxycycline may be used to treat bacterial disease.


The nyassachromis is a very small fish that lives in Lake Malawi, Africa. There are many potential predators of these fishes; birds, other fish species, and humans. In order to stay safe from their predators, they have evolved a few physical traits which help them avoid getting eaten. These physical traits include; a flat shape body, dark coloration on their scales, and also dark vertical stripes going down each side of their body.

Do Nyassachromis microcephalus make good pets?

While it’s true that nyassachromis microcephalus is quite hardy and easy to care for, they don’t make good pets. This is because they have very small mouths and sharp teeth, meaning they can easily bite fingers and toes if you aren’t careful. Some people try to keep them in large aquariums; however, these fish prefer fast-moving water with a lot of plants – conditions that are very difficult to replicate.