Blue Dolphin Cichlid: Species Profile & Care Guide

Blue Dolphin Cichlid with visible scales

Did you know that there’s a fish that has “dolphin” in its name? Meet the Blue Dolphin Cichlid, a freshwater fish that gets its name from its distinctive forehead hump reminiscent of a dolphin’s melon.

Native to the warm waters of Lake Malawi in Africa, these species are a favorite among aquarium keepers. Given their vibrant blue color and pronounced hump, it’s no surprise Blue Dolphin Cichlids are very popular.

In this guide, we’ll explore the captivating world of the Blue Dolphin Cichlid. Here, you’ll find essential tips for caring for these fish and insights into their unique behavior. Read along to learn more about this hump-head cichlid.

Blue Dolphin Cichlid Quick Facts

Scientific Name:Cyrtocara moorii
Common Name:Blue Dolphin Cichlid
Origin:Lake Malawi, Africa
Habitat:Sandy and rocky areas of the lake
Lifespan:8–10 years
Adult Size:6–10 inches (20–20 cm)
Temperament:Generally peaceful but can be territorial
Diet:Omnivorous, with a preference for protein-rich foods
Tank Size:Minimum of 55 gallons for a single Blue Dolphin Cichlid; at least 75 gallons for a community setup
Temperature:70–81°F (21–27°C)
pH Level:7.0–8.0
Hardness:10–25 dGH
Price Range:Approximately $10 to $30
Recommended Tankmates:Suitable tank mates include Frontosa Cichlid and Sailfin Pleco, as well as peaceful bottom-dwelling species like certain catfish.

What Is a Blue Dolphin Cichlid?

Vibrant Blue Dolphin Cichlid

The Blue Dolphin Cichlid is a bright blue freshwater fish native to Lake Malawi, East Africa. They are known for their unique forehead hump, which resembles a dolphin’s melon. Growing up to 10 inches, these semi-aggressive fish require a large, alkaline-water aquarium to thrive.

Aquarium enthusiasts first took notice of the Blue Dolphin Cichlid around the late 20th century, when they started gaining popularity. 

These fish, scientifically known as Cyrtocara moorii, are easy to spot with their bright blue color and unique forehead hump that looks like a dolphin’s

What’s interesting about them is how the males show off. They put on colorful shows and build special spots for laying eggs to attract female fish. 

Their stunning looks and intriguing behaviors have made them a favorite in home aquariums and a subject in many studies.

Blue Dolphin Cichlid Origin and Habitat

The Blue Dolphin Cichlid, or Cyrtocara moorii, gets its name from Greek words. “Cyrtocara” combines “kyrtos” for “curved” and “cara” for “head,” describing the fish’s notable head shape. 

Meanwhile, the species name “moorii” honors John Edmund Sharrock Moore, the first person to collect this species.

In terms of habitat, Blue Dolphin Cichlids originate from the diverse ecosystem of Lake Malawi in Africa, a place known for its wide variety of unique fish species.

In the lake, these fish prefer areas with both sand and rocks. The sandy parts provide a soft ground, and the rocks give them places to hide and set up their own space. 

Fun Fact: Did you know that the Blue Dolphin Cichlid is just one among roughly 850 cichlid species in Lake Malawi? That number of cichlid species is more than all freshwater fish in Europe combined!

Blue Dolphin Cichlid Physical Characteristics

Blue Dolphin Cichlid in aquarium

The Blue Dolphin Cichlid is an enchanting fish known for its unique look. Their most noticeable feature is their bright blue color. This can range from a light sky blue to a deeper, richer blue.

They sometimes have small black spots or patterns, but it’s their blue color that makes them stand out in any fish tank.

Another key feature is the large bump on their forehead, a trait more prominent in males. This bump grows bigger as they get older and adds to their melon-like shape, which is a trait also found in some types of dolphins.

Their bodies are long and somewhat slender. They have a long dorsal fin that starts in the middle of their back and stretches towards the tail. 

Meanwhile, their tail fin is shaped like a fan, which helps them swim smoothly. The other fins, like the anal and pelvic fins, are smaller but also add to their sleek look.

Size-wise, adults usually grow to about 6 to 10 inches in length, and males are often larger than females.

Here’s a video showing some Blue Dolphin Cichlids in a fish tank:

The Blue Dolphin Cichlid - Big, Blue, and Brilliant

Fun Fact: A 2019 study found that feeding Blue Dolphin Cichlids with Spirulina, a type of algae, helps them grow better and makes their blue color brighter. The best color was seen when their food was composed of 15% Spirulina.

Blue Dolphin Cichlid Temperament and Behavior

Blue Dolphin Cichlids are mostly peaceful fish, both in the wild and in aquariums. 

In their natural environment, they prefer swimming together in groups, but they also like having their own areas. This mix of being social and territorial is part of their charm.

In a home aquarium, they act much the same way. These cichlids love to explore and swim around, but they also pick certain spots for themselves, often near rocks or decorations, where they feel at home.

While they’re generally easygoing around other fish, Blue Dolphin Cichlids can become protective of their space. It’s important to give them enough room so they feel comfortable and don’t get too defensive.

One way I distinguish between a male and a female Blue Dolphin Cichlid is by observing their behavior. Males are often more aggressive, show off their colors, and act bossy, especially when they want to breed or be in charge. 

Females are calmer and focus on protecting and caring for their eggs and babies. This way of seeing who’s who by their actions works pretty well for these fish.

Blue Dolphin Cichlid Lifespan and Health

Blue Dolphin Cichlid near aquarium decorations

The Blue Dolphin Cichlid has a lifespan of 8 to 10 years. The key to their longevity is proper care, which relies on their living conditions and diet.

Here are some of the common causes of death in Blue Dolphin Cichlids:

  • Stress: Like other animals, these fish get stressed out. It happens if their tank is too crowded, they’re stuck with fish they don’t get along with, or if the water is dirty or not the right type.
  • Malnutrition: They need the right food to stay healthy. A balanced diet with enough protein is key.
  • Ich (White Spot Disease): This is when tiny white spots pop up on their skin and fins. It’s caused by a parasite. 
  • Bacterial Infections: If you see sores on their bodies, that could be a bacterial infection, often due to poor water quality. 
  • Swim Bladder Disease: This is usually caused by the wrong diet or bad water conditions. Watch what you feed them and keep their water in tip-top shape.

To maximize the lifespan of your Blue Dolphin Cichlids, you must learn how to build the right kind of environment for them. Likewise, nailing their diet and nutrition is also a top priority.

Blue Dolphin Cichlid Care Guide

Caring for Blue Dolphin Cichlids can be a rewarding experience. However, these fish require specific conditions and care to thrive. 

Let’s dive into what you need to know regarding the diet, tank setup, and water requirements for these fish.

Diet and Nutrition

Blue Dolphin Cichlids are omnivorous with a preference for protein-rich foods. For a balanced diet, combine high-quality cichlid pellets or flakes with occasional treats like brine shrimp, krill, or bloodworms. 

Remember, overfeeding can lead to health issues, so feed them small amounts twice a day. Variety in their diet not only keeps them healthy but also enhances their vibrant blue coloration. 

Avoid giving them too much meaty food, though, as it can cause digestive problems.

A fascinating study involving 300 Dolphin Cichlid fish (Cyrtocara moorii) revealed the importance of consistent feeding for optimal growth. 

These fish were divided into different groups, with some experiencing periods of no food while others were fed regularly. 

Surprisingly, the group that was fed twice a day without interruption showed the best growth, highlighting how steady and regular feeding is best for these aquarium dwellers.

Tank Setup

As with other fish, getting the tank set up right is key to the well-being of Blue Dolphin Cichlids. Here are the things you need to consider:

  • Tank Size: For a single Blue Dolphin Cichlid, choose a tank that holds at least 55 gallons of water. If you plan to have a community of fish, opt for a larger tank, at least 75 gallons.
  • Substrate: Use a combination of sand and fine gravel for the bottom of the tank. Aim for a layer of substrate that is about 2 to 3 inches deep.
  • Rocks and Caves: Place rocks of various sizes in the tank to create a natural-looking landscape. Make sure to stack rocks against each other in a stable manner to ensure they won’t collapse.
  • Plants: Choose robust plants such as Anubias or Java Fern. These can be either planted in the substrate or attached to rocks. Ensure the plants are firmly anchored.
  • Swimming Space: Arrange rocks and plants in a way that leaves ample open space for swimming in the middle and front parts of the tank.
  • Filtration System: Install a high-quality filter that can handle the tank’s volume effectively. For a 55-gallon tank, a filter rated for at least 60 to 70 gallons is recommended. The filter should provide both mechanical and biological filtration.
  • Lighting: Use standard aquarium lighting. A light that mimics daylight is a good choice. Keep the lights on for about 10 to 12 hours a day to maintain a regular day-night cycle.

By following these guidelines, you can create a well-structured and safe environment for your Blue Dolphin Cichlids. 

If it’s your first time setting up an aquarium, seeking the help of an experienced friend or expert will definitely help with the process.

Water Conditions

Water quality is super important for Blue Dolphin Cichlids. Below are some of the things you need to pay attention to:

  • Temperature: Keep the water between 70 and 81°F (21–27°C). Use a heater and a thermometer to make sure it stays within the range.
  • pH Level: Aim for a pH between 7.0 and 8.0. Check it every few days with a pH test kit. To adjust the pH, you can use products from a pet store or natural items like driftwood.
  • Hardness: The water should be 10–25 dGH. Use a test kit to check this. If you need to change the hardness, add things like crushed coral for more hardness or distilled water to make it softer.
  • Water Changes: Change around 20 to 30% of the water every two weeks. This keeps the tank clean and the water safe for the fish. Make sure the new water is at the same temperature as the tank.
  • Filtration: A good filter is important. It keeps the water clean and full of oxygen. Pick a filter that suits your tank size and clean it properly, as described by the user manual.

Remember, these fish can be picky about their water, so keep an eye on these things to keep them happy and healthy.

Breeding Blue Dolphin Cichlids

Small Blue Dolphin Cichlid among green aquatic plants

If you’re thinking about breeding Blue Dolphin Cichlids, there are a few things you need to know first. Let’s break down how you can breed Blue Dolphin Cichlids:

  1. Set up the breeding tank: First things first, you need a big tank, around 75 gallons. Fill it with the usual stuff at the bottom, some hiding holes, and flat rocks. This setup should look a lot like their ideal aquarium.
  2. Create optimal water conditions: Get the water just right. Keep the temperature between 77 and 81°F (25-27°C). As for the pH, aim for 8.0 to 8.5. And for water hardness, set it to around 10 to 25 dgH. These parameters are best for breeding.
  3. Identify and group the fish: Have a mature breeding group with one male and 3 to 6 females. Remember, males are larger with pronounced fins and forehead humps, while females are smaller.
  4. Observe mating behaviors: Look for males displaying vibrant colors and performing mating dances to attract females.
  5. Spawning: The male will choose a spot, like a flat rock, and dig a pit for spawning. Here, the female will lay eggs, and the male will fertilize them.
  6. Mouthbrooding: In this stage, the female gathers the fertilized eggs into its mouth for incubation. This process lasts up to three weeks. During this time, the fish might stop eating to protect the eggs.
  7. Release of fry: After the incubation period, the fry are released, fully formed, and ready to swim. It’s important to feed these tiny new swimmers with nourishing food like brine shrimp nauplii or finely ground flake food.
  8. Post-breeding care: After the fry are born, it’s important to keep an eye on how they grow. At the same time, make sure the adult fish have a calm and quiet home, especially because they’ve just gone through the tough job of mouthbrooding.

For the most part, when breeding Blue Dolphin Cichlids, you won’t be meddling a lot with the process. 

These cichlids are naturally capable of managing their mating and egg-care. Your role is primarily to provide the optimal conditions for them to do so. 

How Much Does a Blue Dolphin Cichlid Cost?

The cost of a Blue Dolphin Cichlid typically ranges from $10 to $30. This price can vary depending on the size and age of the fish, as well as the seller’s location. 

Here are some reputable places to find Blue Dolphin Cichlids for sale:

  • Local Aquarium Shops: These often have a range of cichlids, including Blue Dolphin Cichlids. Visit your local aquarium shops and see if they have any available.
  • Online Fish Stores: Websites specializing in aquarium fish often have a good selection of cichlids. Some of the sites you can visit are Live Fish Direct, Tampa Bay Cichlids, Imperial Tropicals, and iFish Store.
  • Aquarium Hobbyist Groups: Joining online forums or local clubs can connect you with breeders or fellow hobbyists who have Blue Dolphin Cichlids for sale.
  • Fish Expos and Conventions: These events can be great places to find rare or high-quality specimens from reputable breeders. Try to attend these events when you can.

When you buy a Blue Dolphin Cichlid, make sure you get it from a trusted seller. This is important to make sure the fish is healthy and that it was raised the right way. A good, healthy start for your fish means it will do well in your tank.

Recommended Tankmates for a Blue Dolphin Cichlid

Blue Dolphin Cichlids swimming with tank mates

Choosing the right tankmates for Blue Dolphin Cichlids is key to a happy and peaceful aquarium. These cichlids are usually calm, but they can get a bit territorial, especially when it’s time to breed. 

The best tankmates are those that can live in the same kind of water without causing trouble. Here are some good choices for tankmates for Blue Dolphin Cichlids:

  • Frontosa Cichlid
  • Hummingbird Cichlid
  • Sailfin Pleco
  • African Catfish
  • Peacock Cichlids
  • Yellow Lab Cichlid
  • Electric Yellow Cichlid
  • Malawi Mbuna
  • Giant Danios
  • Bristlenose Plecos

When I set up a tank for Blue Dolphin Cichlids, I often choose Peacock Cichlids and Bristlenose Plecos as their tankmates.

Peacock Cichlids are a great choice because they are calm, just like Blue Dolphin Cichlids. They also thrive in the same type of water, which is crucial. Plus, they’re really colorful, which makes the aquarium look more lively.

Bristlenose Plecos are helpful too. They eat algae, which keeps the tank cleaner. And they do it without bothering the Blue Dolphin Cichlids.

Frequently Asked Questions

Blue Dolphin Cichlid swimming in dark blue water

Is Blue Dolphin Cichlid African Cichlid?

Yes, the Blue Dolphin Cichlid, also known as Cyrtocara moorii, is an African Cichlid. It comes from Lake Malawi in East Africa. This fish is part of the large family of cichlids that live in Africa’s Great Lakes.

Are Blue Dolphin Cichlids Aggressive?

Blue Dolphin Cichlids are mostly peaceful, especially when you compare them to other African cichlids. 

But they can become territorial, especially when it’s time to breed. To keep their aggression low, it’s important to have a big enough tank, set it up properly, and choose the right tank mates.

Can Blue Dolphin Cichlid Live With Oscars?

It’s usually not a good idea to put Blue Dolphin Cichlids in the same tank as Oscars. Oscars are from South America, and they require different things from their environment. 

They also behave differently. Oscars can be more aggressive and often grow much bigger than Blue Dolphin Cichlids. This can cause problems and stress for both types of fish. 

What do you think about Blue Dolphin Cichlids? Do you think you will be adding this vibrant fish to your fish tank soon? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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