Frontosa Cichlid – Care, Habitat, Size, Tank Mates & Details!

Frontosa Cichlid (Cyphotilapia frontosa) also known as humphead cichlid is a typical member of the Cichlidae family. A distinct feature of the fish is the hump on its head, which is present in both sexes and grows bigger as the fish matures.

They captivate aquarists with their vibrant colors and are known for their relative ease of care.

It can attain a length of about 14 inches. These fish are originally found in the deep waters of an African lake called Tanganyika. Wild frontosa is not frequently seen and is thought to be a delicacy in Africa.

In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the world of frontosa cichlids, exploring their appearance, behavior, tank requirements, diet, and more. By following these guidelines, you’ll ensure that your frontosa cichlids thrive in your aquarium.

Table of Contents

Quick Stats About Frontosa Cichlid

Name: Frontosa
Family: Cichlidae
Size:1 foot
Care level: Moderately easy
Minimum tank size: 70 gallons
Temperature: 72-82 degrees Fahrenheit
Water conditions: Soft, alkaline conditions (9 pH)
Diet: Carnivorous
Tank size: 125 gallons
Temperament: Semi-aggressive

Frontosa Cichlid Appearance

Frontosa cichlids are known for their captivating appearance, characterized by vibrant shades of blue, gray, or white, with several vertical black stripes adorning their bodies.

Males and females look similar, but upon reaching sexual maturity, males develop a prominent nuchal hump on their foreheads and exhibit longer fins than females.

The stunning color variations and markings of frontosa cichlids make them a popular choice among aquarists.

Natural Habitat of Frontosa Cichlid

Frontosa cichlids are native to the deep, rocky waters of East Africa’s Lake Tanganyika.

This massive lake is the world’s second-longest freshwater lake and boasts one of the richest freshwater ecosystems.

The natural habitat of frontosa cichlids consists of dark, deep, rocky areas with minimal vegetation. They share this unique environment with around 2,000 other species of fish.

Origin and Distribution

The frontosa cichlid originates from East Africa, predominantly residing in Lake Tanganyika.

Due to their widespread distribution in the lake, several color variants have emerged, such as Burundi six-stripe, Kavala, Tanzanian six-stripe, Tanzanian seven-stripe, Samazi, Kipili, Zaire blue, Zambian blue, and the rare black widow frontosa.

The diversity in color patterns adds to their appeal among fish enthusiasts.

Growth, Size & Lifespan of Frontosa Cichlid

Frontosa cichlids are relatively large fish, with adults reaching up to 14 inches in length both in the wild and in captivity.

Males tend to be around 2 inches longer than their female counterparts. These impressive fish have a considerable lifespan, averaging around 15 years.

However, with optimal care and a well-maintained environment, frontosa cichlids in captivity have been known to live up to 25 years.

In summary, frontosa cichlids are striking fish, renowned for their beautiful colors and distinctive markings.

They inhabit the deep, rocky waters of Lake Tanganyika in East Africa and come in a variety of color variants.

As large fish with a long lifespan, they require dedicated care and attention from aquarists to ensure their well-being and longevity.

Frontosa Cichlid Behavior and Temperament

Frontosa cichlids are semi-aggressive fish with a bold and outgoing demeanor. They can be territorial, especially when competing for food or establishing their space.

Despite this behavior, frontosa cichlids are considered less aggressive than many other cichlid species.

They often learn to eat from their caretakers’ hands and are slow, deliberate swimmers. Frontosa cichlids are primarily active in dimly lit environments and can exhibit more activity when aquarium lights are turned off.

Tank Setup For Frontosa Cichlids

Setting up an ideal tank environment for frontosa cichlids involves replicating their natural habitat to ensure their health and comfort.

Here is a detailed guide to help you create the perfect environment for your frontosa cichlids.

Tank Size

Given their large size, frontosa cichlids require spacious tanks to thrive.

A minimum of 75 gallons is recommended for one adult, while a group of three or more adult fish will need at least 125 gallons.


Choose a substrate that mimics the sandy bed of Lake Tanganyika.

Aragonite sand or crushed coral work well to maintain the alkaline pH levels required for frontosa cichlids.

Decorations and Hiding Spots

Replicate the rocky environment of frontosa cichlids by adding rocks and caves to the tank. These provide hiding spots and help the fish feel secure.

Ensure that all decorations are securely anchored, as frontosa cichlids are known to redecorate their surroundings.

Water Parameters

Frontosa cichlids need stable water conditions to thrive.

The ideal water parameters are:

  • Temperature: 72-82°F

  • pH: 8.0-9.0

  • Hardness: 12-14 dGH

Maintain these parameters to keep your frontosa cichlids healthy and comfortable.

Filtration and Aeration

Install a high-quality filter to keep the water clean and free from harmful substances.

Additionally, use a bubbler or air stone to ensure the water is well-oxygenated, as frontosa cichlids are accustomed to highly oxygenated water in the wild.


Frontosa cichlids prefer dimly lit environments, so opt for low-intensity aquarium lighting.

A timer can help regulate the lighting and create a consistent day-night cycle for your fish.

Tank Mates

The best tank mates for frontosa cichlids are large, hardy, and confident fish species from Lake Tanganyika that can tolerate similar water conditions.

Suitable tank mates include other frontosa cichlids, plecos, bichirs, cuckoo catfish, and rainbowfish. Avoid housing frontosa cichlids with invertebrates or small, fast-moving fish.


Frontosa cichlids are carnivorous and need a diet consisting of high-quality, protein-rich food.

Feed them a mix of frozen or live foods such as brine shrimp, bloodworms, and krill, alongside quality pellet or flake food specifically designed for cichlids.


Regular tank maintenance is essential to keep your frontosa cichlids healthy. Perform weekly water tests to ensure stable water parameters, and conduct partial water changes of around 25% every two weeks.

Clean the filter regularly and remove any uneaten food or debris from the tank to maintain a clean environment.

Tank Maintenance of Frontosa Cichlids

Proper tank maintenance is essential for ensuring the health and well-being of your frontosa cichlids.

By taking care of the tank environment, you create a suitable living space that mimics their natural habitat.

Here are some crucial aspects of tank maintenance to consider for your frontosa cichlids.

Regular Water Changes

Regular water changes help maintain the water quality in your frontosa cichlid tank.

Perform a partial water change of around 20-25% every two weeks to remove built-up waste and replenish essential minerals.

Use a gravel vacuum to clean the substrate and remove any uneaten food, debris, or waste.

Always ensure the new water is treated, dechlorinated, and has a similar temperature to the tank water to avoid stressing your fish.

Cleaning the Tank and Decorations

Cleaning the tank and decorations is essential for maintaining a healthy environment for your frontosa cichlids.

Remove any algae buildup on the tank walls and decorations using an algae scraper or sponge. Be cautious while cleaning near the fish to avoid disturbing them.

If necessary, remove and clean decorations with a brush and water (avoid using soap or chemicals).

Rinse thoroughly before placing them back in the tank to prevent introducing harmful substances to the water.

Filter Maintenance

A well-functioning filter is crucial for keeping the water clean and maintaining suitable water parameters for frontosa cichlids.

Regularly check the filter for any clogs or debris and clean it as needed, typically every 2-4 weeks.

When cleaning the filter, use water from the tank to preserve the beneficial bacteria living in the filter media.

Replace filter media according to the manufacturer’s instructions, but avoid changing all media at once to prevent disrupting the bacterial balance in the tank.

Monitor Fish Health

Regularly observe your frontosa cichlids for signs of illness or stress. Look for abnormal behavior, changes in appearance, or loss of appetite.

If you notice any issues, take immediate action to diagnose and treat the problem. Consult an aquatic veterinarian or fish expert if necessary.

By monitoring your fish’s health, you can quickly address any issues and ensure your frontosa cichlids remain healthy and happy in their tank environment.

Acclimating Frontosa Cichlids

Acclimating frontosa cichlids to a new tank environment is an essential step to ensure their well-being and minimize stress. Follow these steps to properly acclimate your frontosa cichlids:

1. Prepare the Tank

Before introducing your frontosa cichlids, ensure the tank is properly set up with appropriate decorations, hiding spots, and water parameters. Ensure the tank has cycled and that the water parameters closely match those of the fish’s previous environment.

2. Slowly Float the Bag

When you bring your frontosa cichlids home, float the sealed bag containing the fish in the tank for 15-20 minutes. This helps equalize the temperature between the bag water and the tank water, reducing the risk of temperature shock.

3. Drip Acclimation

After the temperatures have equalized, use a drip acclimation method to slowly introduce your frontosa cichlids to the tank water. Set up a drip line or use an air tube to create a siphon, allowing water from the tank to drip into the bag at a rate of 2-4 drips per second. Continue this process for about an hour, gradually increasing the water volume in the bag.

4. Transfer the Fish

Once the drip acclimation is complete, use a soft mesh net to gently transfer the frontosa cichlids from the bag to the tank. Avoid pouring the bag water into the tank, as it may contain waste or contaminants.

Frontosa Cichlids Diet and Feeding

Frontosa cichlids are primarily carnivorous fish, requiring a high-protein diet for optimal health.

Feed them a combination of high-quality pellets or flakes, frozen or live foods, and occasional vegetable supplements.

Some options include:

  • High-quality cichlid pellets or flakes

  • Frozen or live brine shrimp, mysis shrimp, or bloodworms

  • Chopped earthworms or krill

  • Spirulina flakes or blanched vegetables (e.g., zucchini or spinach)

Feed adult frontosa cichlids once or twice a day, providing enough food that they can consume within 2-3 minutes.

Juveniles may require more frequent feedings to support their growth.

Frontosa Cichlids Tank Mates

Frontosa cichlids are relatively peaceful fish but can be territorial, especially when establishing dominance.

When choosing tank mates, consider the following factors:

  1. Size: Avoid small fish that could be mistaken for food. Select tank mates of a similar size or slightly smaller than the frontosa cichlids.

  2. Temperament: Choose tank mates with a similar or more peaceful temperament to avoid conflicts.

  3. Habitat Preferences: Opt for species that prefer similar water parameters and have compatible habitat needs.

Some suitable tank mates for frontosa cichlids include:

Monitor the tank regularly to ensure that all fish are coexisting peacefully and intervene if necessary to prevent aggressive behavior.

Breeding Frontosa Cichlids

Breeding frontosa cichlids can be a rewarding experience, but it requires patience and the right conditions.

Follow these guidelines to encourage successful breeding:

1. Establish a Proper Environment

Create a breeding tank with the appropriate water parameters, decorations, and hiding spots. A large tank (at least 75 gallons) is essential, as frontosa cichlids are sizeable fish.

2. Choose a Breeding Group

Select a group of 6-8 healthy adult frontosa cichlids, with a ratio of one male to multiple females. This will increase the chances of successful breeding.

3. Condition the Fish

Feed the breeding group a high-quality, protein-rich diet to encourage spawning behavior. Frequent feedings with live or frozen foods can help stimulate breeding.

4. Observe Courtship Behavior

Watch for signs of courtship, such as the male displaying his fins, circling the female, or engaging in head-shaking behaviors. The female may also show signs of interest by following the male.

5. Monitor for Egg Laying

Frontosa cichlids are maternal mouthbrooders, meaning the female will hold the fertilized eggs in her mouth for protection. The female will lay the eggs on a flat surface, and the male will fertilize them. After fertilization, the female picks up the eggs in her mouth and incubates them for approximately 3-4 weeks.

6. Separate the Fry

Once the fry is released from the female’s mouth, it is essential to separate them from the adult fish, as they may be at risk of being eaten. Transfer the fry to a separate, well-maintained tank with appropriate water parameters and hiding spots.

7. Feed the Fry

Feed the fry a diet of finely crushed flakes, baby brine shrimp, or microworms. As they grow, gradually transition to larger food items.

Signs of Stress in Frontosa Cichlids

Stress can significantly impact the health of frontosa cichlids.

Watch for these signs of stress:

  • Loss of color or faded appearance

  • Rapid breathing or gasping at the surface

  • Loss of appetite or refusal to eat

  • Erratic swimming or hiding for prolonged periods

  • Clamped fins or other unusual body language

Address any stressors by checking the water parameters, assessing the compatibility of tank mates, and ensuring the tank environment is suitable for frontosa cichlids.

Common Health Issues and Treatments for Frontosa Cichlids

Frontosa cichlids can be prone to several common health issues, including:

1. Ich (White Spot Disease)

Symptoms: Small white spots on the body, fins, or gills; lethargy; loss of appetite; rubbing against surfaces

Treatment: Raise the water temperature to 86°F (30°C) for 3-5 days and use over-the-counter ich treatments.

2. Bacterial Infections

Symptoms: Red or discolored patches on the body; open sores; ulcers; frayed fins

Treatment: Treat the tank with a broad-spectrum antibiotic, following the manufacturer’s instructions.

3. Swim Bladder Disease

Symptoms: Difficulty swimming, floating upside-down or sideways, or sinking to the bottom of the tank

Treatment: Adjust the fish’s diet to include more fiber-rich foods like peas, and consider a short-term fast to help clear the digestive system.

4. Parasites

Symptoms: Weight loss, loss of appetite, visible parasites on the body, or excessive mucus production

Treatment: Identify the specific parasite and use targeted medications

Additional Tips for a Healthy Aquarium

Maintaining a healthy aquarium is crucial for the well-being of your fish, including frontosa cichlids.

Here are some additional tips to ensure optimal conditions:

1. Regular Monitoring

Check your aquarium’s water parameters, temperature, and equipment regularly. Consistent monitoring helps you detect and address any issues before they become significant problems.

2. Don’t Overstock

Avoid overcrowding your tank, as this can lead to increased stress and a decline in water quality. Consider the adult size of your fish and follow the general rule of one inch of fish per gallon of water.

3. Quarantine New Fish

Before introducing new fish to your aquarium, quarantine them for at least two weeks. This helps prevent the spread of diseases and parasites to your established tank inhabitants.

4. Avoid Overfeeding

Feed your fish a balanced diet and follow recommended feeding guidelines. Overfeeding can cause water quality issues and contribute to health problems in your fish.

5. Provide Enrichment

Incorporate decorations, hiding spots, and plants to create a stimulating environment that encourages natural behaviors and reduces stress.

Should You Get a Frontosa Cichlid for Your Aquarium?

Frontosa cichlids are beautiful and unique fish that can make a great addition to a home aquarium.

However, consider the following factors before deciding to keep them:

  • Tank Size: Frontosa cichlids need a large tank (75 gallons or more) due to their size and territorial nature.

  • Water Parameters: These fish require specific water conditions, including a higher pH and stable temperatures.

  • Compatibility: Frontosa cichlids are generally peaceful but can be aggressive towards smaller fish. Ensure that you have appropriate tank mates.

  • Commitment: These fish have a long lifespan and can live up to 25 years. Be prepared for a long-term commitment.

If you can meet these requirements, frontosa cichlids can be a rewarding and fascinating addition to your aquarium.

Conservation Status

Frontosa cichlids are native to Lake Tanganyika in Africa, which faces various environmental challenges, including overfishing, habitat degradation, and pollution.

However, the frontosa cichlid is currently listed as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. This means that, at present, they are not considered to be at significant risk of extinction.

However, continued efforts to conserve their habitat and maintain sustainable fishing practices are essential for the long-term survival of the species.

Availability & Pricing

Frontosa cichlids are relatively common in the aquarium trade and can be found at specialized fish stores and online retailers.

Wild-caught specimens are available, but captive-bred fish are generally recommended due to their hardier nature and lower impact on wild populations.

Pricing for frontosa cichlids can vary based on factors such as size, coloration, and rarity of the specific variant.

Juvenile frontosas typically cost between $25 and $50, while larger or rarer specimens may range from $100 to $200 or more. Always purchase from reputable dealers and ensure the fish are healthy and well-cared for before buying.

Frequently Asked Questions About Frontosa Cichlids

Q: How big do frontosa cichlids get?

A: Frontosa cichlids can grow up to 12-16 inches in length, with males generally being larger than females.

Q: Are frontosa cichlids aggressive?

A: Frontosa cichlids are typically peaceful and get along well with similarly sized tank mates. However, they can be territorial and may show aggression towards smaller fish.

Q: Can frontosa cichlids be kept with other African cichlids?

A: Frontosa cichlids can be kept with other Lake Tanganyika cichlids, provided they are of a similar size and temperament. Avoid housing them with aggressive or much smaller species.

Q: What is the ideal water temperature for frontosa cichlids?

A: The ideal water temperature for frontosa cichlids is between 74°F and 79°F (23°C and 26°C).


Frontosa cichlids are unique and fascinating fish that can make an excellent addition to a home aquarium.

While they require specific care and a large tank, their beauty and interesting behavior make them well worth the effort.

By following the tips and information provided in this guide, you can create a thriving environment for your frontosa cichlids and enjoy watching them grow and flourish.