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Featherfin Cichlid (Cyathopharynx Furcifer) | 13 Rare Facts |

Featherfin cichlid is an attractive fish with a distinctive shape and color morph. Endemic to Lake Tanganyika, these fish are among the most beautiful cichlid species available in the aquarium trade.

Although beautiful, they are not beginner-friendly fish like most other aquarium fish, such as tetras, guppies, and gouramis.

Featherfin cichlids are demanding fish that need special care. By reading this article, you can learn how to care for Featherfin Cichlids (Cyathopharynx furcifer).

Featherfin cichlid

What is Featherfin Cichlid?

This fish is a freshwater fish, endemic to Lake Tanganyika in East Africa.  It’s a member of the Cichlidae family and genus Cyathopharynx.

These fish are a specialized species to Lake Tanganyika due to their ability to adapt to the lake’s extreme environment.

It inhabits mostly rocky shores, where it hides during the day and comes out at night to feed. They are also found in shallow intermediate habitats in the lake Tanganyika.

Featherfin cichlids can reach about 8 inches in length.

The male is brighter than the female and has two rows of elongated scales that resemble feathers along the dorsal fin, hence the name.

There are several colour forms and the most common color form is green with blue tones and yellowfins, but many other color options include red, brown, yellow, and orange.

It is one of the most sought-after cichlid species in the aquarium hobby, and it’s highly prized due to its beautiful coloration and exciting behavior.

How big do Featherfin Cichlid get?

These fish can grow up to 8 inches in length.

Is Featherfin Cichlid aggressive?

Yes. Featherfin Cichlid is an extremely aggressive fish.

This fish is very territorial and will defend his territory against any intruders, which means they are not compatible in a community aquarium with many fish species.

Featherfin Cichlid behavior

They are gregarious fish, and they like to establish a hierarchy. The aggression is highest when the fish are introduced and during pair bonding.

Once established, Featherfin Cichlids are not as aggressive.

The male fish is the one that defends the territory and is very territorial, but the female is the dominant one in the family. And this happens even if there are more males than females.

If you want to enjoy this fish, you should only keep one Featherfin cichlid in your aquarium, as it is very aggressive and territorial.

They are very active fish species, so they need ample space to explore despite their size.

How long do Featherfin Cichlids live?

They can live up to 5 years in captivity.

One look care guide

Scientific nameCyathopharynx furcifer
Common nameFeatherfin Cichlid
Care levelModerate
Native toLake Tanganyika in East Africa
Type African cichlid
Color Green, blue, red, brown, yellow, and orange
Tank size75 gallons
Preferred temperatureTemperature 75 – 81 °F (24 – 27 °C)
Other water parameters pH 8.0-9.0
Hardness 8-25 dGH
Preferred salinityNo salinity
Size8 inches
Life spanFive years
Temperament Aggressive
Recommended tank matesFeatherfin cichlids
Larger peaceful fish
Preferred foodOmnivore
Fish pellets
Meat-based food
Feeding frequencyTwo times per day
Breeding Egg-laying mouthbrooders, easy

Featherfin Cichlid care

They are endemic to Lake Tanganyika, which is the 2nd largest lake in Africa.

No matter where you live, Featherfin cichlids will be happy in your tank if you set up the water parameters correctly.

The difficulty level to care for them is medium to high, which means you need some extra care for this fish.

However, they are very rewarding species if you provide them with the appropriate care.

Featherfin Cichlid size

They are medium-sized fish, and they reach about 8 inches in length.

Featherfin Cichlid tank size

It is a large and active fish that needs a very spacious tank to feel comfortable. The aquarium should have a capacity of at least 75 gallons.

How many Featherfin Cichlid should be kept together?

Since they are schooling fish, you should keep them in groups of 6 or more individuals. As males are aggressive toward other males, keeping only one or two male fish in the group is better.

Tank setup

Featherfin cichlids inhabit rocky shores and caves. So, you should mimic these environmental conditions in your tank for them to thrive.


Add a layer of sand as a substrate. Then place various rocks and stones of different sizes for your fish to hide in. You can also use coral sand or aragonite as a substrate.


Featherfin cichlids will appreciate substrate comprised of small pebbles and rocks, with some driftwood and large rocks to create hiding places.

You should also provide them with caves to establish their territory.


Filtration is crucial for your tank, but Featherfin Cichlids are not very demanding in this regard.

You can use any kind of filtration system you like, as long as it’s capable of effectively removing waste from the aquarium.

Along with mechanical filtration, biological filtration is also essential for a healthy aquarium.

Aquarium lighting

Featherfin cichlids thrive in a sunny environment, so you should provide them with enough light.


You can add hardy plants if you prefer because these fish do not damage plants. However, be sure to keep them at a low level as these fish require ample space to explore around.

Water quality condition

As Featherfin cichlids naturally live in tropical water conditions, they prefer a warmer temperature of about 75 – 81 °F.

You should provide them alkaline water with a pH of 8-9 and a hardness of 8-25 dGH.

To keep the tank clean, you should perform weekly water changes of 30%. While changing water, use a water siphon to remove the debris and uneaten food at the bottom of the tank.

The optimal water conditions for your Featherfin cichlids are:

  • Temperature 75 – 81 °F (24 – 27 °C)
  • pH 8.0-9.0
  • Hardness 8-25 dGH

Featherfin Cichlid breeding 

Featherfin Cichlid male or female identification

They show sexual dimorphism. Males are larger in size, and they will have longer fins, especially ventral fins.

Male fish are also colorful than females. Females are smaller in size and darker in color. Male fish display beautiful coloration during their mating seasons to attract female fish.

Featherfin Cichlid breeding

Featherfin cichlids are egg-laying mouthbrooders. So, when you want to breed these fish, you should remove the females to a separate tank.

Condition both male and female fish by feeding them high-quality vegetable-based food. Then put the breeding pair in the breeding tank.

You should provide the breeding pair with caves and good hiding places to establish their territory and feel comfortable.

A larger area of the bottom should be a sandy substrate for them to build the nest and lay their eggs.

You can get better results when introducing more than one male for one female fish.

The male fish create a crater-like structure of about 60cm in diameter and entice the female to spawn in the nest.

He will show intense colors and can be aggressive to claim his territory. When a willing female comes into the territory, he will fertilize the eggs.

The female immediately takes the eggs into her mouth to brood. She will carry about 10- 40 eggs in her mouth and protect them until they hatch.

It will take around three weeks for the female to release the free-swimming fry. Until then, she will not eat anything. 

During this period, you should ensure that she lives in a stress-free environment. Otherwise, if the mouthbrooding female gets stressed, she will spit the eggs out or eat them.

You can remove the male fish to the main tank and provide good water conditions inside the breeding tank.

How many babies do Featherfin Cichlid have?

Featherfin cichlids lay about 10 to 40 eggs in one spawning season. So, we can expect around 10 to 40 fish fry in one breeding session.

Featherfin Cichlid fry care

Featherfin cichlid fries are large enough to take care of themselves when they are released from the female’s mouth.

You can feed them brine shrimp nauplii and crushed spirulina flake until they grow up. Then they will be more comfortable with larger-sized food.

You can put the free-swimming fish in a separate tank with good water quality to decrease their risk of getting attacked by more aggressive fish.

How to feed Featherfin Cichlid?

Since Featherfin cichlids are omnivorous fish, you can feed them with a wide variety of food. in the wild these gregarious fish gather to consume plankton.

However, it’s essential to provide them with both animal and plant matter to keep them healthy.

You can give them high-quality cichlid pellets, shrimps, bloodworms, vegetable matter and appropriately sized granular foods and standard quality flake food to ensure they get the required amount of nutrients.

The primary diet should be vegetables such as lettuce, peas, or zucchini. You should also always keep some food near the aquarium so your fish can feed whenever they want to.

You should also occasionally feed your Featherfin Cichlid live food, which makes them more active.

However, don’t overfeed your fish because this may result in water pollution and diseases.

When feeding your cichlids, remember to remove any uneaten food in the tank.

What fish can live with Featherfin Cichlid?

You should only add peaceful fish to your tank because Featherfin cichlids are aggressive towards other species, especially towards other cichlids.

They are usually safe with non-aggressive fish, but you should check which fish can be compatible with Featherfin Cichlid before adding one to your tank.

Some compatible Featherfin cichlid tankmates are,

  • Cyprichromis sp.
  • Altolamprologus sp.

Since these are gregarious fish, you can keep a school of fish in one tank. The school must have one to 2 males and 4 to 6 females at least.

Always keep the male population low with a huge female population because Featherfin cichlids are aggressive towards each other.

When you add new tank mates, you should do it gradually to avoid aggressive behavior.

Featherfin cichlids are usually peaceful, but they have their own territory, so you should never introduce them to other cichlid species.

Featherfin Cichlid diseases and treatment

Like all fish, Featherfin Cichlid is also vulnerable to different diseases and infections that may affect their health and cause death.

Featherfin Cichlid common diseases:

Flavobacterium columnaris (commonly known as “Columnaris”) is a bacteria that can infect freshwater fish.

Columnaris is usually transferred from one fish to another through equipment, food, or water. You should check your fish for symptoms such as off-color patches, scales loss, skin loss, lethargic behavior, and loss of appetite.

If you notice any symptoms of Columnaris on your fish, seek medical treatment immediately to prevent the infection from spreading.

Fish parasites are another common problem for cichlid fish, especially with those not being purchased from a reliable source.

Cichlids usually get ick when they are stressed, which makes them more vulnerable to parasites.

Symptoms of Ichthyophthirius multifiliis (Ick) in cichlids are white spots on the skin, Head, and fins, fin erosion, body scraping against objects in the tank, Lethargic behavior, and unusual hiding behavior.

You should immediately treat your Featherfin Cichlid for Ick if you notice any of the mentioned symptoms.

You should buy an ick medication from your local pet store and follow the instructions to apply it.

When your fish is sick, it is vital to remove the sick fish immediately to a quarantine tank to stop spreading the disease. At the same time, change the water in the main tank to save other fish.

Related Questions 

Are Featherfin Cichlids rare?

Featherfin cichlids are rare and uncommon in the aquarium hobby. But, they are not an endangered species.

They are usually found and widespread in Africa, specifically in Lake Tanganyika.

How long does a Featherfin Cichlid live?

The average Featherfin Cichlid life span is 8-10 years.

Credit to: Fuxi
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About Dr.Chamika

Hello, I'm Dr. Chamika. I am a Researcher in Water quality, Aquatic organisms, and Environmental chemistry. I am a passionate fish keeper, with10 years of experience. My mission is to help other aquarists experience the joy of fish keeping.