Acei Cichlid (Yellow Tail Acei) – Care, Feeding, Tank Mates & Details You Need!

Acei Cichlid (Pseudotropheus Acei) also known as Yellow Tail Acei, renowned for its vivid yellow tail and sleek blue body, has earned its place as one of the most captivating freshwater fish in the hobby.

This species, native to Zambia’s Northwestern coast of Lake Malawi, boasts striking beauty that complements its interesting behavior and unique feeding habits.

From Bandawe Point to Ngara, the Northwestern coast of Lake Malawi is home to the vibrant Acei Cichlid. When sunlight hits their bodies at certain angles, their blue bodies reveal an almost magical purple hue, accentuated by delicate white lines on their fins and jet-black eyes.

Regan was the first to discover them in 1922. Initially, they were classified as Pseudotropheus, then re-categorized as Gephyrochromis, before finally returning to the genus Pseudotropheus.

Their cuspid-like teeth, developed for feeding on algae found on submerged logs and rocks, are a unique trait they share with the Gephyrochromid species.

When in their natural habitat, they form large schools of 30 to 50 individuals around a large log, although only a handful would typically venture into rocky areas.

Quick Stats About Acei Cichlid

Common Name(s) Acei Cichlid, Yellow Tail Acei
Scientific Name Pseudotropheus Acei
Origin Zambia
Temperature 73 to 82 degrees Fahrenheit
Size 3.5-5.9 inches
Minimum Tank Size 55 gallons
Food & Diet Mostly spirulina flake
Lifespan 8-10 years
Water pH between 7.7 and 8.6
Tank Mates Electric yellow cichlid. Rusty cichlid, Red Top Hongi, Pearl of Likoma, Cynotilapia zebroids, Aulonocara spp, Copadichromis spp
Breeding Ovophile mouth brooder
Common Disease Malawi Bloat, Swimming Bladder Disease

The Appearance of Acei Cichlids

Pseudotropheus Acei, more commonly known as the Acei Cichlid or Yellow Tail Acei, is an underwater marvel with an exquisite aesthetic profile.

Its striking blue body is accentuated by vibrant yellow fins, making it a prized possession for aquarists worldwide. The slender form of the Acei Cichlid, coupled with its splendid color scheme, is truly a sight to behold.

Interestingly, the radiant hue of these fish can transform under different lighting conditions. When observed closely and in the right light, subtle purple undertones may emerge on their bodies.

This chameleonic attribute adds a layer of mystique to their already captivating appearance.

The fish’s fins are delicately lined with a soft white color, and its black eyes provide a stark contrast to its otherwise colorful physique.

Natural Habitat of Acei Cichlid

Acei Cichlids are freshwater fish native to Lake Malawi, specifically on its northwestern coast from Bandawe Point to Ngara in Zambia. This lake, nestled within the Great Rift Valley, is known for its alkaline waters and mineral-rich environment.

In the wild, these fish prefer the tranquility of shallow waters, although they occasionally venture closer to the surface.

They are known to congregate around large submerged logs in schools of 30 to 50 individuals. Nevertheless, in rocky areas, only about 3-10 individuals are typically observed.

Their natural habitat is abundant with algae-covered rocks and logs, which form a critical part of their diet.

It’s this unique environment that shapes their behaviors and preferences, something critical to consider when setting up an aquarium for them.

Acei Cichlids Origin and Distribution

The Acei Cichlid was first discovered by Regan in 1922. Initially believed to belong to the Pseudotropheus genus, they were later categorized as Gephyrochromis before eventually reverting back to Pseudotropheus.

This classification journey speaks volumes about the complex and fascinating nature of this species.

As for their geographical distribution, Acei Cichlids are endemic to Lake Malawi in Zambia, where they are found along the Northwestern coast.

Despite their somewhat limited natural distribution, their popularity among aquarium enthusiasts has led to their availability worldwide through captive breeding programs.

Growth, Size, and Lifespan: An Overview of Acei Cichlids Life Cycle

When it comes to size, Acei Cichlids display sexual dimorphism. A fully grown male can reach up to 5.9 inches in length, while females are slightly smaller, usually reaching about 3.5 inches.

This divergence in size often becomes more apparent as the fish approach maturity.

In terms of growth rate, Acei Cichlids grow relatively quickly when they’re young, reaching maturity at around 1.5–2 inches.

Post maturity, their growth rate slows down, with most individuals reaching their full size in just over a year.

On the lifespan front, Acei Cichlids have a relatively long life expectancy for aquarium fish. With proper care and ideal living conditions, they can live for an impressive 8-10 years.

Some aquarists have even reported instances of these fish living a few years beyond their average lifespan, further underlining their resilience.

Acei Cichlid Behavior and Temperament

The Acei Cichlids are a sight to behold, not just for their radiant colors, but also for their lively demeanor.

They are active swimmers and tend to occupy the middle and top parts of the tank. Their energetic nature makes them an exciting addition to any aquarium.

In terms of temperament, these cichlids are relatively peaceful for a species of Mbuna, the rock-dwelling fish from Lake Malawi.

However, they can show some aggression, especially during feeding times or when competing for territory. Nevertheless, they typically exhibit schooling behavior, which makes them more sociable than some other cichlid species.

Tank Setup for Acei Cichlid

Creating a comfortable and suitable habitat for your Acei Cichlids is crucial for their health and happiness.

Here’s a detailed guide on setting up a tank that closely mirrors their natural environment.

Tank Size

Acei Cichlids are active swimmers, so they need ample space. A tank size of at least 55 gallons is recommended for these fish.

For every additional Acei Cichlid you wish to add, increase the tank size by 10 gallons to ensure they have enough room to swim freely.


The substrate forms the bed of your aquarium, and for Acei Cichlids, a sandy substrate is ideal. This mimics the sandy lake bottom of their natural habitat in Lake Malawi.

Plus, it also allows them to exhibit their natural behavior of sifting through the sand for food.

Decorations and Hiding Spots

Creating a habitat similar to the rocky areas of Lake Malawi is essential. Decorate the tank with rocks and caves to provide hiding spots for your Acei Cichlids.

These hiding spots will help reduce stress and mimic their natural environment.

Water Parameters

Acei Cichlids thrive in water with a pH between 7.8 and 8.5, a temperature between 78°F and 82°F, and a hardness of 10-20 dGH.

Regular water testing is necessary to ensure these parameters are maintained.

Filtration and Aeration

These fish produce a significant amount of waste. Therefore, a powerful filtration system is essential to keep the water clean and free from toxins.

An air pump can also be used to increase oxygen levels in the water.


While Acei Cichlids are not particularly sensitive to light, a moderate level of lighting helps accentuate their beautiful colors.

LED lights are a popular choice as they offer adjustable brightness levels.

Tank Mates

When choosing tank mates for Acei Cichlids, consider other Mbuna species, as they share similar behaviors and environmental needs.

Avoid housing them with slow-moving or overly aggressive fish.


Acei Cichlids are omnivores, so their diet should include a mix of plant-based food and protein.

High-quality pellets or flakes, along with occasional servings of brine shrimp or bloodworms, will keep them healthy.

Monitoring Health

Regular observation is critical to keep your Acei Cichlids in good health. Look out for signs of stress or disease, such as changes in behavior, color, or eating habits.

Consult a veterinarian if any abnormalities persist.

Remember, a well-planned tank setup along with proper care and feeding will help your Acei Cichlids lead a healthy and happy life in your aquarium.

Tank Maintenance of Acei Cichlids

Maintaining a healthy tank is crucial for the well-being of your Acei Cichlids. A clean and stable environment closely mimics their natural habitat, reduces stress, and helps prevent disease.

Here’s your comprehensive guide to efficient tank maintenance for these vibrant creatures.

Regular Water Changes

Regular water changes are the backbone of tank maintenance. For Acei Cichlids, replacing 25-30% of the tank water every two weeks is recommended.

This helps to dilute toxins and control the nutrient levels in the tank. Always remember to match the temperature and pH of the new water to that of the existing tank water to avoid shocking your fish.

Cleaning the Tank and Decorations

Over time, algae and uneaten food can accumulate on the tank walls and decorations. Use a gentle scrubber to clean the inside of the tank and soak decorations in a vinegar solution to remove stubborn algae.

Rinse thoroughly before returning them to the tank. This cleaning should be done monthly or as needed, depending on the level of buildup.

Filter Maintenance

The filter plays a vital role in keeping the water clean and free from harmful substances. Rinse filter media in a bucket of tank water during your regular water changes.

This preserves the beneficial bacteria while removing debris. Depending on your filter type, you may need to replace the media every 3-6 months.

Always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for the best practices.

Monitor Fish Health

Keeping an eye on your Acei Cichlids’ health is just as important as maintaining their environment. Watch out for any changes in their behavior, color, or eating habits.

Look for common signs of illness like bloating, spots, or discoloration. If you notice anything unusual, consult with a fish health specialist or a vet for advice.

To summarize, effective tank maintenance for Acei Cichlids involves regular water changes, thorough cleaning, diligent filter maintenance, and attentive monitoring of the fish’s health.

By following these guidelines, you can ensure your Acei Cichlids thrive in a clean, healthy, and stress-free environment.

Acclimating Acei Cichlids

Introducing Acei Cichlids to a new environment requires care and patience. It’s essential to gradually acclimate them to their new surroundings to avoid undue stress.

Start by floating the bag with the fish in the tank for about 15-20 minutes. This helps the water in the bag reach the same temperature as the tank. Then, slowly add tank water to the bag over the next hour.

This allows the fish to adjust to the tank’s water parameters. Finally, gently release the fish into the tank, making sure not to add the bag water.

Acei Cichlids Diet and Feeding

Acei Cichlids have a varied diet that contributes to their vibrant colors and overall health.

Here are some key points to remember when feeding your Acei Cichlids:

Varied Diet

Acei Cichlids are primarily herbivores but will appreciate a varied diet. They enjoy algae-based foods, vegetables like peas and spinach, as well as high-quality flake or pellet foods.

Occasionally, you can offer them small portions of live or frozen foods like brine shrimp or bloodworms.

Feeding Frequency

A general rule is to feed your Acei Cichlids twice a day, giving them only what they can consume in 2-3 minutes.

Overfeeding can lead to health issues and can also foul the tank water.

Observing Eating Habits

Monitor your fish during feeding times. Healthy Acei Cichlids are eager eaters.

If you notice a fish not eating or showing less interest in food, it could be a sign of stress or illness.

Quality Over Quantity

Always opt for high-quality fish food. Cheap foods often contain fillers that offer little nutritional value and can muddle the tank water. High-quality foods are more nutritious and are better for your fish’s health.

By acclimating your Acei Cichlids properly and providing them with a balanced diet, you’re setting the stage for a thriving and colorful aquarium.

Remember, every fish is unique and may require slight adjustments in care and feeding. Watch your fish, learn their behaviors, and adjust as needed. Your Acei Cichlids will thank you!

Acei Cichlids Tank Mates: Friends and Foes

Choosing the right tank mates for your Acei Cichlids can greatly enhance their lives, adding to the vibrancy of your aquarium.

They are generally peaceful and get along well with similar-sized and temperament fish.

Here are some suitable tank mates:

  1. Yellow Lab Cichlid (Labidochromis caeruleus): Known for their vibrant yellow color, these cichlids are peaceful and make great tank mates for Acei Cichlids.

  2. Zebra Cichlid (Metriaclima callainos): They are sociable and can handle the active nature of Acei Cichlids.

  3. Rusty Cichlid (Iodotropheus sprengerae): These are easy-going fish that can easily cohabit with Acei Cichlids.

  4. African Red-Eyed Tetra (Arnoldichthys spilopterus): These active swimmers can keep pace with the energetic Acei Cichlids.

  5. Clown Loaches (Chromobotia macracanthus): Their peaceful nature makes them a good fit.

However, not all fish make good companions for Acei Cichlids.

Here are some Tank Mates to avoid:

  1. Jack Dempsey (Rocio octofasciata): These fish are aggressive and may bully the peaceful Acei Cichlids.

  2. Red Devil Cichlid (Amphilophus labiatus): They are known for their territorial nature and can cause stress for Acei Cichlids.

  3. Oscar Fish (Astronotus ocellatus): Oscars are large and aggressive and may see Acei Cichlids as food.

  4. Jewel Cichlid (Hemichromis bimaculatus): Their aggressive and territorial nature doesn’t mesh well with Acei Cichlids.

  5. Tiger Barb (Puntigrus tetrazona): They can be fin-nippers and stress out the Acei Cichlids.

Breeding Acei Cichlids and Fry Care

Breeding Acei Cichlids can be a rewarding experience.

Here are some key points to remember:

Conditions for Breeding

Acei Cichlids prefer warm water around 78-82°F (25-28°C) for breeding. They also require a higher pH, around 7.8-8.5. Provide plenty of hiding spots for females to retreat and for the safety of the fry.

Mating Behavior

Males will court females by displaying their colors and performing a dance. Once the female is interested, she will lay eggs in a flat surface or a cave and the male will fertilize them.

Fry Care

After fertilization, the female will carry the eggs in her mouth for about 21-28 days. During this period, she won’t eat, so it’s essential to feed her well before breeding.

Once the fry are released, they can be fed finely crushed flake food or specially designed fry food. Make sure to keep an eye on the fry as adult fish, even their parents, may eat them.

By carefully selecting the right tank mates and following the right breeding procedures, your Acei Cichlids can live a happy, fulfilling life in their aquatic world.

Recognizing Trouble: Signs of Stress in Acei Cichlids

Just like any living creature, Acei Cichlids can suffer from stress. Recognizing the signs early can help you take immediate action to restore their comfort.

  1. Erratic swimming: If you notice your Acei Cichlids darting around the tank, bumping into objects, or swimming restlessly, they might be stressed.

  2. Loss of color: These vibrant fish lose their color when they’re stressed. If they appear dull or pale, it’s time to investigate.

  3. Loss of appetite: A stressed Acei Cichlid may refuse to eat or eat less than usual.

  4. Hiding: If your normally sociable Acei Cichlids are spending more time hiding, they may be feeling stressed.

Common Health Issues and Treatments for Acei Cichlids

Acei Cichlids, like all fish, can suffer from several health issues.

Here are some common ones:

  1. Ich (White Spot Disease): Symptoms include white spots, loss of appetite, and rubbing against objects. Treat with a commercial ich medication, and raise the tank temperature slightly to speed up the parasite’s life cycle.

  2. Fin Rot: Symptoms include ragged, decaying fins. Treatment includes improving water quality and using a commercial fin rot treatment.

  3. Malawi Bloat: This is a common disease in African cichlids, marked by a swollen abdomen, loss of appetite, and rapid breathing. A diet change and medication can help combat this disease.

Additional Tips for a Healthy Aquarium

Maintaining a healthy aquarium is key to the well-being of your Acei Cichlids.

Here are some additional tips:

  1. Keep it clean: Regular water changes and tank cleanings are crucial.

  2. Monitor water parameters: Regular testing of pH, temperature, and nitrate levels will ensure a healthy environment.

  3. Provide a balanced diet: A varied diet keeps your fish healthy and reduces the risk of disease.

Should You Get Acei Cichlids for Your Aquarium?

Acei Cichlids can be a fantastic addition to your aquarium. They’re active, colorful, and generally peaceful. They’re also quite hardy and adapt well to a variety of conditions, making them ideal for both novice and experienced aquarists.

However, it’s important to remember that they require a certain level of care.

They need a spacious tank, specific water conditions, and suitable tank mates. If you can provide these, then you’ll find much joy in watching these vibrant fish bring life to your aquarium.

Conservation Status of Acei Cichlids

Acei Cichlids, like many fish species, face challenges in their natural habitats. Thankfully, as of my knowledge, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has not listed Acei Cichlids as endangered or threatened.

However, factors such as habitat degradation and overfishing can potentially impact their populations. Conservation efforts, such as sustainable fishing practices and habitat preservation, can help protect these vibrant creatures for future generations.

What’s the Cost? Availability & Pricing of Acei Cichlids

When it comes to adding Acei Cichlids to your aquarium, you’ll be pleased to know that they’re widely available in pet stores and online.

They are popular among aquarists for their bright colors, peaceful nature, and hardiness, making them a common choice for tropical freshwater tanks.

Pricing can vary based on factors like size, coloration, and age. On average, you can expect to pay between $5 to $15 per fish. Remember, these fish prefer to live in groups, so plan your budget accordingly.

Frequently Asked Questions About Acei Cichlids

  1. How many Acei Cichlids should I keep together?

    Ans: A group of at least six is ideal to encourage natural behaviors and keep stress levels down.

  2. Can Acei Cichlids live with other species?

    Ans: Yes, they can. They’re generally peaceful and can cohabit with similar-sized, non-aggressive species.

  3. What do Acei Cichlids eat?

    Ans: They’re omnivorous, with a preference for algae. They will also enjoy a varied diet of both plant-based and protein-rich foods.

  4. How long do Acei Cichlids live?

    Ans: With proper care, these fish can live up to 10 years in captivity.

Final Thoughts: A Bright Addition to Your Aquarium

In conclusion, Acei Cichlids can make a great addition to your freshwater tank. Their vibrant colors, peaceful disposition, and interesting behaviors make them a joy to own.

With the right care, suitable tank mates, and a healthy diet, these beautiful fish can thrive in your aquarium, providing you with years of aquatic enjoyment.

Whether you’re a novice aquarist or a seasoned fish keeper, Acei Cichlids can surely bring a splash of color to your underwater world.