Haplochromis moorii / Cyrtocara moorii 
by Skip Waskowiak

This fish is a cichlid from Lake Malawi. This fish is best known by the name Haplochromis moorii. Its name has been changed to Cyrtocara moorii. This fish is found in lake Malawi along the coast in sandy areas. Most of the fish in the hobby come from a lake Malombe at the southern end of lake Malawi. This fish is all but extinct from lake Malombe now. As hobbiest we will probably never see another wild Cyrtocara moorii in the hobby, as the only place the fish is found now is protected by Lake Malawi underwater national parks. This fish is one of the bigger fish from the lake. Cyrtocara moorii reaches a size of 12 inches, normally males only get about 8 inches with females ranging from 4 to 6 inches. This fish lives over sandy bottoms associated with other cichlids of the lake. This fish live close to the shore line where many juveniles or single large adult fish may be found. The moorii is a sand sifting cichlid when foraging for food. It is also found with such other fish as Haplochromis rostratus, Protomelas annectens and various Lethrinops species. In the lake it seems to follow Haplochromis rostratus around snatching up bits of food that were uncovered by the Haplochromis rostratus.

The color of this fish is a solid blue, ranging from a light sky blue to the breeding dress color of dark blue with almost black fins. Males of this fish develop a frontal hump, also female may develop a slight hump as they get older (2 to 3 years). Unlike most Malawian cichlids, the Cyrtocara moorii is a rather non-aggressive fish. It doesn't do very well when housed with other tank mates. I keep my fish by them self in a 30 to 50 gallon tank. The tank houses two males and three or more females. You can keep this fish with other fish if you do not wish to breed them. I have found by keeping them with other fish, breeding comes to a halt.

The minimum size tank for this fish should be 30 gallons, with 50 plus gallons being all the better. Fish of the Aulonocara species make the best tank mates for the Cyrtocara moorii. Pairs have difficulty coping with very active fish. Avoid adding any tank mates such as the various mbuna type fish. Unlike most Malawian Haplochromis both sexes share the same coloration. When young they are very hard to tell the sexes apart from one another. But as the fish gets older the males take on the frontal hump at about one year old. The size of the hump on the male fish is determined by the type and amount of food the fish received. Food of high protein and lots of it will grow a much larger nuchal hump. I feed my Cyrtocara moorii a well-rounded diet. It's basic diet starts with flake foods such as, green flake, color flake, brine shrimp flake and a basic flake. Next they get beef heart, frozen brine shrimp and frozen blood worms. To this diet I add lots of water changes, 50 to 80 percent most of the times as this fish seems like they can never get enough water changes. Breeding this fish is not difficult. The Cyrtocara moorii is a mouth brooding cichlid, with spawns that can number up to 150 eggs, but 60 to 80 eggs is about the average size spawn.

It spawns in the typical Haplochromis style, with the male and female exchanging position in the form of a "T". Females do not always show the characteristic distension of the throat area. At times I didn't even know my female Moorii was carring any eggs at all.

Younger females are easier to tell they are carring eggs than the older females. Spawning activity begins at about one year old, when males are about 4 to 5 inches long. Eggs maybe infertile at this period of time. I will let the female carry the eggs for about 5 to 8 day before removing them from her. By this time the eggs have heads and tails attached to the yoke sack and the egg stand a better chance at life at this stage. At this time spawns are usually small and for the first couple of spawns the I believe that taking the eggs from her does her a world of good and she well not be run down by not eating and being chased by other tank mates. I find that after a female has spawned she seldom grows any larger, So for this reason I remove the eggs from her and she has a chance to obtain fuller size. After removing the eggs from the female she will be ready to spawn again in about a month. In this was she doesn't go through twenty to twenty five days with out eating. In this way she doesn't starve herself and remains full bodied without that holobody look. The fry will absorb their yoke sack in about 20 to 30 days depending on temperature. At this time a light feeding of baby brine shrimp two to three times a day can be feed. Do not feed the fry until they are all free swimming. The fry grow very quick with proper feeding and lots of water changes. In 6 to 8 weeks the fry should be about 1 to 1 1/2 inches long and ready for the next auction you will be going to. So if your looking for an African cichlid with a mild temper the Cyrtocara moorii is a fish for you.


WATER: Hard to very hard (300 ppm plus)

pH: 7.6 to 8.5



TANK SIZE: 30 Gal. Plus

FOOD: All types flakes and frozen foods, beef heart and worms

FEEDING: Three times a day

WATER CHANGE: Once a week 50% to 80% - Once Midweek 50%

FILTER: Box air stone type with crushed coral in it.

Large sponge filter home made type (4 x 4 x 10)

DECOR: Three 3 inch by 8 inch black plastic pipes

No gravel or plants, just bare bottom (painted) tank

LIGHTING: Low level of light

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