Blue Dolphin Cichlid (Blue Moorii) – Care, Habitat and Details You Need

The Blue Dolphin Cichlid, scientifically termed as Cyrtocara moorii, and also recognized as Blue Moorii, is a unique species of cichlid. This singular species initially held the name Haplochromis moorii.

The Blue Dolphin Cichlid, often referred to as Malawi blue dolphin, stands out with its striking plump, elongated body, and pointed snout, bearing a striking resemblance to a dolphin. This unique trait led to its popular name. The species is indigenous to the sandy substrates of East Africa’s Lake Malawi, a habitat rich in haplochromine cichlid species.

The Blue Dolphin Cichlid is a medium-sized fish that typically grows between 20-25 cms. It also has a considerable lifespan of up to 10 years, which makes it a cherished choice for aquarium enthusiasts.

This omnivorous creature possesses a deep blue color, with varying black markings on its back and fins, which further enhances its aesthetic appeal.

It presents a rare delight for aquarists due to its distinct dolphin-like shape, vibrant color, and engaging behavior.

This comprehensive guide will walk you through every detail you need to know about the care, breeding, tank requirements, and disease prevention for the Blue Dolphin Cichlid.

Quick Stats About Blue Dolphin Cichlids

Name: Blue dolphin cichlid
Scientific name: Cyrtocara Moorii
Care level: Intermediate
Size:10 inches
Lifespan: 10 years
Diet type: Carnivorous
Temperature: 23 to 28 degrees Celsius
Temperament: Semi-aggressive

Appearance of the Blue Dolphin Cichlid

The Blue Dolphin Cichlid, scientifically known as Cyrtocara moorii, is a fish of striking beauty and unique attributes that set it apart within the cichlid family.

This distinctive fish’s overall body color is a rich, deep blue that varies in intensity, often presenting darker or lighter hues depending on the individual fish’s origin and mood.

A standout feature of the Blue Dolphin Cichlid is its pronounced forehead, also known as a nuchal hump, that develops as the fish matures.

This characteristic, which is more pronounced in males, combined with the fish’s elongated snout, contributes to its “dolphin-like” appearance and namesake.

Their bodies are lengthy and sturdy, offering a powerful and captivating silhouette in any aquatic environment.

Their fins are translucent and large, complementing their streamlined bodies, and they often display black markings that add to their aesthetic appeal.

Natural Habitat of Blue Dolphin Cichlid

The Blue Dolphin Cichlid is native to Lake Malawi, the ninth largest lake in the world, located in East Africa.

This lake is known for its high alkalinity and stable water conditions, characteristics that have greatly influenced the Blue Dolphin Cichlid’s adaptation and survival.

In the wild, these cichlids inhabit the sandy, coastal areas of the lake, often seen dwelling in its middle and lower water layers.

They favor these sandy substrates because they allow the fish to burrow and forage for food. It is common to see these fish in the vicinity of rocky outcroppings, which offer them protection and breeding grounds.

This habit of burrowing in sandy substrates and the preference for rocky landscapes should be considered when setting up an aquarium habitat for them.

Origin and Distribution

As mentioned earlier, the Blue Dolphin Cichlid’s natural habitat is Lake Malawi, a lake that stretches across three African countries: Malawi, Mozambique, and Tanzania.

The species is endemic to this lake, meaning it is found nowhere else in the world naturally. Their distribution within Lake Malawi is widespread, and they are a significant part of the lake’s diverse cichlid population.

Lake Malawi is part of the East African Rift system, known for its numerous freshwater lakes, each harboring a myriad of unique fish species.

The cichlids from this region, including the Blue Dolphin Cichlid, are renowned for their diversity in terms of colors, shapes, and behaviors, making them incredibly popular among aquarium hobbyists.

Growth, Size & Lifespan of Blue Dolphin Cichlid

The Blue Dolphin Cichlid is a sizable fish, which is one of the reasons it requires a spacious tank.

On average, males of this species can grow up to 10 inches (25 cm) in length in a well-maintained aquarium environment, whereas females tend to be slightly smaller, reaching lengths of up to 8 inches (20 cm).

However, in their natural habitat, these fish can grow even larger, with some individuals reaching up to 10 inches (25 cm) in length.

The growth rate of Blue Dolphin Cichlids is generally moderate. With a nutritious diet, appropriate tank conditions, and proper care, juvenile Blue Dolphins can reach their full size within a year.

It’s worth noting that the fish’s growth can be hindered if the tank size is inadequate or if the water conditions are not optimal.

When it comes to lifespan, the Blue Dolphin Cichlid is relatively long-lived for a fish. With excellent care and a well-maintained environment, they can live up to 10 years, although some have been known to live longer.

This makes them a long-term commitment for aquarium hobbyists, but one that is incredibly rewarding given their captivating appearance and engaging behaviors.

Blue Dolphin Cichlids Behavior and Temperament

Blue Dolphin Cichlids, although slightly territorial, are generally non-aggressive and social creatures. They enjoy cohabitating with other cichlids of similar temperament and size.

These creatures display a range of intriguing behaviors, like burrowing in the substrate or ‘sand sifting,’ that makes them delightful to watch.

Male cichlids tend to be more colorful and slightly larger, often displaying more assertive behaviors, especially during breeding periods.

Tank Setup for Blue Dolphin Cichlids

Setting up an ideal tank for Blue Dolphin Cichlids involves a few key elements that cater to their natural habitat and behavioral tendencies.

Tank Size

For Blue Dolphin Cichlids, a minimum tank size of 75 gallons is recommended, given their size and active swimming habits. This size allows ample room for these fish to swim and display their natural behaviors.


These cichlids are native to sandy regions of Lake Malawi, so a sandy substrate is ideal for their aquarium. This substrate allows them to carry out their natural digging and burrowing behaviors.

Decorations and Hiding Spots

Create a visually appealing and practical environment with rocks and driftwood that mimic their natural habitat. These features not only offer hiding spots but also create territorial boundaries for these somewhat territorial fish.

Water Parameters

Water parameters should mimic the alkaline conditions of Lake Malawi. Maintain a temperature between 72-82 degrees Fahrenheit, a pH between 7.7-8.6, and a water hardness between 10-20 dH.

Filtration and Aeration

High-quality filtration is crucial to keep the water clean and the fish healthy. An external canister filter is highly recommended. Furthermore, ensure proper aeration to mimic the well-oxygenated waters of Lake Malawi.


Moderate to bright lighting is preferred by Blue Dolphin Cichlids. It helps highlight their stunning coloration and mimic their natural sunlit habitat.

Tank Mates

Blue Dolphin Cichlids do well with other similar-sized, non-aggressive cichlids. Avoid housing them with smaller, more aggressive fish species as it may lead to conflicts.


Blue Dolphin Cichlids are omnivores with a preference for protein-rich foods. Feed them a varied diet of high-quality cichlid pellets, live, frozen, or freeze-dried foods like brine shrimp or bloodworms.

Tank Maintenance of Blue Dolphin Cichlids

Maintaining the tank of your Blue Dolphin Cichlids is crucial to ensure they live in a healthy, clean, and stress-free environment. A well-maintained tank contributes to the long-term health and well-being of these fish.

Here are some key elements to consider:

Regular Water Changes

Regular water changes are essential for maintaining water quality in your cichlid tank. Every two weeks, aim to replace around 10-20% of the tank’s water.

This practice helps to remove any toxins, uneaten food, or waste that may have built up in the tank over time.

Remember, when adding new water, ensure it matches the existing tank’s temperature and pH level to avoid sudden changes that could stress your fish.

Cleaning the Tank and Decorations

In addition to water changes, periodic cleaning of the tank and decorations is vital. Algae can grow on the tank’s glass, substrate, and decorations. A soft-bristle brush or an algae scraper can help remove this buildup.

For cleaning decorations or rocks, remove them from the tank and scrub them gently with a brush in warm water. Avoid using any soap or detergents as these can harm your fish.

Filter Maintenance

Maintaining the tank’s filter is another crucial task. Over time, filters can become clogged with debris, reducing their effectiveness. Check the filter regularly and clean or replace it as needed.

Typically, a monthly check is sufficient, but this could vary depending on your specific filter and tank setup. Remember, never clean the filter with tap water as it can kill beneficial bacteria. Instead, use the water removed during a water change for cleaning.

Monitor Fish Health

Monitoring the health of your Blue Dolphin Cichlids is an essential part of tank maintenance. Pay attention to their behavior, eating habits, and physical appearance.

Changes in these could signal potential health problems. Some signs of distress to watch out for include loss of color, lethargy, refusal to eat, or unusual swimming patterns.

If you notice any such signs, it may be necessary to consult with a fish health expert or a vet.

Remember, the goal of tank maintenance is to recreate the Blue Dolphin Cichlid’s natural habitat as closely as possible.

Regular cleaning, water changes, filter maintenance, and careful monitoring of fish health are all part of this process.

By maintaining a high-quality environment, you are ensuring your Blue Dolphin Cichlids can thrive and live a long, healthy life.

Acclimating Blue Dolphin Cichlids

Acclimating your Blue Dolphin Cichlids to their new tank is a crucial step to ensure their overall health and longevity.

Upon bringing your cichlids home, it is important to gradually introduce them to their new environment, rather than adding them directly to the tank.

One commonly used method is the drip acclimation process. Start by floating the bag with the cichlid in the tank water for about 15-20 minutes to equalize the temperature.

Then, in a separate container, slowly add tank water to the bag water over a period of 1-2 hours. This allows the cichlid to adjust to the new water parameters gradually.

Once acclimated, gently net the cichlid and place it into the tank. Remember, never add the bag water to your tank to avoid introducing any potential contaminants.

Blue Dolphin Cichlids Diet and Feeding

Blue Dolphin Cichlids are omnivorous by nature, meaning they eat both plant-based and meat-based foods.

A balanced diet for these cichlids should include high-quality cichlid pellets or flakes as the base, supplemented with a variety of fresh, frozen, or freeze-dried foods.

Live or frozen foods like brine shrimp, bloodworms, or daphnia can provide necessary proteins. On the plant side, they can be fed spirulina, peas, or blanched vegetables like spinach and zucchini.

Feeding should be done once or twice a day, offering only what they can consume in a few minutes to avoid overfeeding and potential water quality issues.

Blue Dolphin Cichlid Tank Mates and Tank Mates to Avoid

Blue Dolphin Cichlids are usually peaceful and can cohabit with a variety of other fish species, provided they are of similar size and temperament.

Potential tank mates for Blue Dolphin Cichlids could include:

  1. Frontosa Cichlid (Cyphotilapia frontosa): These fish are non-aggressive and live in similar water conditions, making them suitable companions.

  2. Yellow Lab Cichlid (Labidochromis caeruleus): Known for their peaceful nature, these fish are great tank mates for Blue Dolphins.

  3. Bristlenose Pleco (Ancistrus sp.): These bottom dwellers are compatible due to their peaceful nature and different feeding habits.

  4. Peacock Cichlid (Aulonocara sp.): They share a similar temperament with Blue Dolphins and are known for their beautiful colors.

  5. Electric Blue Hap (Sciaenochromis fryeri): They are not overly aggressive and can coexist peacefully with Blue Dolphins.

On the other hand, certain species might not be suitable due to their aggressiveness, size, or differing water parameter needs.

Fish to avoid as tank mates for Blue Dolphin Cichlids include:

  1. Jewel Cichlid (Hemichromis bimaculatus): Known for their high levels of aggression, they could harm the more peaceful Blue Dolphins.

  2. Oscar Fish (Astronotus ocellatus): Oscars can grow much larger than Blue Dolphins and can be territorial and aggressive.

  3. Red Devil Cichlid (Amphilophus labiatus): They are highly aggressive and territorial, making them unsuitable tank mates.

  4. Jack Dempsey Fish (Rocio octofasciata): Known for their aggression and territorial nature, they could harm the Blue Dolphins.

  5. Tiger Barb (Puntigrus tetrazona): These fish are known fin nippers and could stress Blue Dolphins.

Breeding Blue Dolphin Cichlid And Fry Care

Breeding Blue Dolphin Cichlids in a home aquarium can be an intriguing venture. These cichlids are mouthbrooders, which means the female carries the fertilized eggs and the young fry in her mouth for protection. To encourage breeding, it’s crucial to provide the right conditions and environment.

Start by ensuring a ratio of one male to several females in the tank. Male cichlids can be quite aggressive when trying to woo a mate, so having multiple females can help diffuse this aggression.

The tank should have plenty of hiding spots and flat surfaces, where the female can lay her eggs. Often, they choose a flat rock on the bottom of the tank. After the eggs are laid and then fertilized by the male, the female picks them up in her mouth.

Here are the steps in detail:

  1. Creating a Suitable Environment: To encourage breeding, replicate their natural habitat. This includes providing plenty of hiding spots using rocks or caves, maintaining optimal water parameters, and ensuring a balanced diet.

  2. Mating Behavior: During courtship, the male will display increased coloration and will perform a mating dance to attract the female.

  3. Spawning: After a successful courtship, the female will lay her eggs on a flat surface. She will then pick them up in her mouth, where fertilization will occur as the male releases his sperm.

  4. Brooding: The female carries the eggs and later the fry in her mouth for up to three weeks, refusing to eat during this period.

Fry Care

  1. Caring for Fry: Once released, the fry can be fed with finely crushed flake food or specially formulated fry food. It’s important to keep the tank clean and maintain optimal water conditions.

  2. Protection: The female Blue Dolphin Cichlid may continue to protect the fry for a while, taking them back into her mouth if danger is perceived.

The female will carry the eggs and the fry in her mouth for about three weeks. During this time, she will not eat, so it’s important she is healthy and well-fed before the breeding process begins. Once the fry are released, they can be fed finely crushed flake food or specially designed fry food.

In all these steps, it’s crucial to maintain a stress-free environment for the cichlids to increase the chances of successful breeding.

Monitor the tank closely, and if any aggression is noticed, consider separating the fish to different tanks.

Signs of Stress in Blue Dolphin Cichlids

Stress in Blue Dolphin Cichlids can manifest in several ways, and it’s crucial to keep a watchful eye on your fish for any signs of discomfort or unease.

One common sign of stress is a change in color. Stressed Blue Dolphin Cichlids may lose some of their vibrant blue hue, appearing more pale or even grayish.

They may also display unusual behavior like hiding more than usual, staying at the bottom of the tank, or showing a lack of interest in food.

Other signs of stress can include rapid or heavy breathing, erratic swimming, or visible injuries from fights with other fish.

Frequent disease outbreaks in your tank, such as ich or fin rot, can also be a sign of chronic stress.

If you observe any of these signs, it’s important to identify and address the underlying issue, whether it’s poor water quality, improper diet, aggressive tank mates, or inadequate tank setup.

Reducing stress in your Blue Dolphin Cichlids will not only make them happier but will also contribute to their overall health and lifespan.

Common Health Issues and Treatments for Blue Dolphin Cichlids

Blue Dolphin Cichlids are relatively hardy fish, but like all aquarium inhabitants, they can be susceptible to various health issues.

Ich: also known as white spot disease, is a common issue. It’s an infectious disease caused by a parasite, leading to white spots on the fish’s skin and gills.

If your fish is showing signs of ich, such as rubbing against surfaces or showing a decreased appetite, you can treat it with a specialized ich treatment available at most pet stores.

Malawi bloat: Another health issue particularly common in African Cichlids, including the Blue Dolphin. This disease causes the fish’s abdomen to swell due to problems with the digestive system, often linked to a high-protein diet.

To prevent this condition, it’s crucial to provide a balanced diet and promptly remove any uneaten food. If your fish does contract Malawi bloat, a vet can provide medication.

Fin Rot: Another common issue is fin rot, characterized by fraying or discolored fins. It’s often caused by poor water quality, so maintaining clean water is the best prevention.

If fin rot does occur, it can be treated with commercially available antibiotics.

Additional Tips for a Healthy Aquarium

Keeping a healthy aquarium involves a balance of proper feeding, regular cleaning, and monitoring of water parameters.

Make sure to test the water regularly for pH, temperature, nitrate, nitrite, and ammonia levels. Overfeeding can lead to poor water quality, so ensure that your fish eat all their food within a few minutes.

Live plants can help improve water quality by absorbing nitrates.

Some cichlids, Blue Dolphin Cichlids included, have a reputation for uprooting plants. Thus, it’s wise to opt for sturdy plant varieties or even consider using artificial plants.

Lastly, remember that observation is key.

Regularly watching your fish can help you notice any changes in behavior or appearance that might indicate a problem.

Should You Get a Blue Dolphin Cichlid for Your Aquarium?

Blue Dolphin Cichlids can make a fantastic addition to your aquarium if you’re prepared for their needs.

They’re beautiful, interesting fish with unique behaviors, and caring for them can be a rewarding experience.

However, these fish require a large tank, stable water conditions, and a carefully chosen mix of tank mates.

They also need a specific diet and plenty of hiding spots. If you’re a beginner aquarist, these requirements might be challenging. But for intermediate or experienced fish keepers, Blue Dolphin Cichlids can be a great choice.

Conservation Status

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, a comprehensive resource for global conservation statuses of animal, fungi, and plant species, does not list the Blue Dolphin Cichlid.

Availability & Pricing

Blue Dolphin Cichlids are quite popular among aquarium enthusiasts due to their unique appearance and intriguing behavior.

As such, they are generally available at most pet stores that sell tropical fish. They can also be found online, where they may be sold by both commercial retailers and private breeders.

In terms of pricing, Blue Dolphin Cichlids can vary depending on factors such as size, age, coloration, and the particular retailer.

You can buy these beautiful fishes anywhere from $10 to $30 per fish, although prices can vary. It’s always wise to do some comparison shopping and make sure you’re getting a healthy fish for a fair price.

Frequently Asked Questions About Blue Dolphin Cichlids

1. How big do Blue Dolphin Cichlids get?

They can grow up to 8-10 inches in length in aquarium conditions, although in their natural habitat, they may grow even larger.

2. What do Blue Dolphin Cichlids eat?

These fish are omnivores and can eat a variety of foods. They do well on a diet of high-quality cichlid pellets, supplemented with occasional treats of live or frozen foods such as brine shrimp or bloodworms.

3. Are Blue Dolphin Cichlids aggressive?

Blue Dolphin Cichlids are generally peaceful but can show territorial behaviors, especially during breeding. It’s important to provide plenty of hiding spots to minimize potential aggression.

4. Can Blue Dolphin Cichlids live with other fish?

Yes, they can cohabit with other similarly sized, non-aggressive fish. However, small or overly aggressive tank mates are not recommended.

5. How long do Blue Dolphin Cichlids live?

With proper care, Blue Dolphin Cichlids can live up to 10 years or more in an aquarium setting.


Blue Dolphin Cichlids, with their captivating blue hue and fascinating behaviors, can be an excellent choice for intermediate and experienced aquarium keepers.

They demand a spacious tank, stable water conditions, and a balanced diet, but the reward is a vibrant and active fish that can bring life and beauty to your aquarium.

While they have specific requirements and can show territorial tendencies, their overall hardiness and unique features make them worth the effort.

Whether you’re an African Cichlid enthusiast or just someone looking for a remarkable and engaging addition to your aquatic family, the Blue Dolphin Cichlid could be an ideal choice.