Blue Dolphin Cichlid (Cyrtocara moorii): Complete Care Guides, Tank Mates, FAQs

blue dolphin cichlid
<a href="">Brian Gratwicke</a>, <a href="">CC BY 2.0</a>, via Wikimedia Commons

The Blue Dolphin Cichlid, scientifically known as Cyrtocara moorii, is a fascinating addition to any freshwater aquarium. This mid-dwelling fish belongs to the Cichlidae family and shares its home with other African cichlids like the Malawi Mbuna and the African Peacock Cichlid. With its striking blue hues, it’s a visual delight that’s sure to capture your attention.

If you’re wondering about the rarity of the Blue Dolphin Cichlid, you’ll be pleased to know it’s not particularly rare but is considered a specialty among cichlid enthusiasts. This makes it a great choice for both novice and experienced aquarists. Its vibrant blue coloration can vary in intensity, depending on factors like diet and water conditions, although there are no officially recognized variants.

Native to Lake Malawi in Africa, the Blue Dolphin Cichlid thrives in specific water conditions. The optimal water parameters for this fish are a pH level of 7.7-8.6 and a temperature range of 75-81°F. As for its diet, it’s omnivorous but leans more towards a carnivorous diet, enjoying a mix of live food, pellets, and some plant matter. Generally, it has a peaceful temperament but can become territorial, especially during breeding seasons.

When it comes to statistics, adult Blue Dolphin Cichlids can grow up to 8-10 inches and have a lifespan of 8-10 years. They are sensitive to water conditions and require a well-filtered tank to thrive. Fun fact: despite their name, they’re not related to dolphins at all! They can even recognize their owners and may “dance” when they see them, adding a unique charm to your aquarium.

The history of the Blue Dolphin Cichlid dates back to its first scientific description in 1902. It gained popularity as an aquarium fish in the late 20th century and has been a favorite among cichlid enthusiasts ever since. Another interesting tidbit is that they are mouthbrooders. The female carries the fertilized eggs in her mouth until they hatch, showcasing a unique aspect of their behavior.

In summary, the Blue Dolphin Cichlid is a captivating fish that offers both aesthetic appeal and interesting behavior. Its moderate level of care requirement and compatibility with other African cichlids make it a rewarding choice for any aquarist.

blue dolphin cichlid
Brian Gratwicke, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Key Information

The coloration of the Blue Dolphin Cichlid is truly captivating and stands out as one of its most remarkable features. While there are no officially recognized variants, the intensity of its blue hues can differ based on factors like diet and water conditions. This adds an extra layer of intrigue to an already fascinating species. Now, let’s delve into the various aspects of this remarkable fish in the table below.

Price$20-$40 depending on size and coloration
Common NamesBlue Dolphin Cichlid, Malawi Blue Dolphin, Humphead Cichlid
VariantsNo officially recognized variants, but color intensity can differ
Ideal Tank SizeMinimum 55 gallons
Water ParameterspH 7.7-8.6, temperature 75-81°F
Lifespan8-10 years
Full Size8-10 inches
Natural EnvironmentLake Malawi, Africa
BehaviorGenerally peaceful but can be territorial, especially during breeding
Habitat PreferenceMid-water dweller
Aquarium DecorationRocks, caves, and some plants for hiding
Ideal Tank MatesOther African cichlids, catfish, larger tetras
Fish to AvoidSmall, aggressive fish and those that can fit in its mouth
Best Foods/DietOmnivorous; prefers live food, pellets, and some plant matter
DiseaseSusceptible to common freshwater diseases like Ich if water conditions are poor
Sex-SwitchNo known sex-switching behavior
Gender DifferencesMales are generally more colorful and have a more pronounced hump on their head
Care LevelModerate
Breeding LevelModerate; mouthbrooders

Ideal Tank Mates

Choosing the perfect companions for your Blue Dolphin Cichlid is a decision that demands careful consideration of various factors. These include the temperament, size, and natural habitat of the potential tank mates. The Blue Dolphin Cichlid is generally peaceful but can be territorial, especially during breeding seasons. Therefore, it’s best to choose tank mates that can coexist harmoniously without triggering aggressive behaviors. Additionally, the Blue Dolphin Cichlid is a mid-water dweller, so selecting fish that occupy different water layers can help maintain a balanced environment.

Here are 15 ideal tank mates for the Blue Dolphin Cichlid, each with its unique characteristics that make them compatible:

African Peacock Cichlid

This colorful cichlid is native to Lake Malawi, just like the Blue Dolphin Cichlid. They are generally peaceful and can coexist well in a community tank.

Malawi Mbuna

Another native of Lake Malawi, the Mbuna is a rock-dwelling fish that usually stays near the bottom, making it a good companion for the mid-dwelling Blue Dolphin Cichlid.


This is a larger cichlid species from Lake Tanganyika. They are generally peaceful and can coexist with the Blue Dolphin Cichlid without much issue.

Bristlenose Pleco

This bottom-dwelling fish is excellent for algae control and generally keeps to itself, making it a good tank mate.

Synodontis Catfish

A bottom-dweller that is native to African lakes, it’s a good scavenger and generally peaceful.

Yellow Lab Cichlid

Another Lake Malawi native, the Yellow Lab is peaceful and can add a splash of color to your tank.

Clown Loach

Though not an African native, the Clown Loach is peaceful and spends most of its time at the bottom of the tank.


This is a West African cichlid that is relatively peaceful and can coexist with the Blue Dolphin Cichlid.

Zebra Danio

A fast-moving, top-dwelling fish that can add activity to the upper layers of your aquarium.


These are peaceful, schooling fish that occupy the middle to top layers of the water, making them good companions for the Blue Dolphin Cichlid.

Giant Danio

Another top-dwelling fish, the Giant Danio is fast and generally stays out of the way of other fish.

Congo Tetra

A peaceful, schooling fish that is native to African rivers. They are mid-dwellers and can coexist well with the Blue Dolphin Cichlid.

Emperor Tetra

A peaceful, small-sized fish that generally keeps to itself and can live harmoniously with the Blue Dolphin Cichlid.


Though they are not African natives, Gouramis are generally peaceful and can coexist well with the Blue Dolphin Cichlid.

Cherry Barb

A small, peaceful fish that can add a splash of color to your tank. They are schooling fish and generally keep to themselves.

Choosing the right tank mates for your Blue Dolphin Cichlid can make a significant difference in the health and happiness of your aquarium community. The above options offer a variety of compatible species that can enrich your tank environment.


Aquarists frequently encounter numerous inquiries when it comes to the maintenance of Blue Dolphin Cichlids. These queries delve beyond the fundamental aspects of care and tank prerequisites. These questions can delve into the nuances of keeping this particular species healthy, happy, and thriving. To help you better understand the intricacies of caring for Blue Dolphin Cichlids, here are some frequently asked questions that haven’t been covered in previous discussions.

How Do Blue Dolphin Cichlids Interact with Plants in the Aquarium?

Blue Dolphin Cichlids are generally not plant destroyers, but they do like to dig. Therefore, it’s advisable to secure plants well or opt for hardy varieties that can withstand some disturbance.

Can Blue Dolphin Cichlids Be Kept in a Planted Tank?

Yes, they can be kept in a planted tank, but choose hardy plants that can tolerate the cichlid’s tendency to dig and rearrange the substrate.

What Are the Signs of Stress in Blue Dolphin Cichlids?

Signs of stress can include faded coloration, reduced activity, and a lack of interest in food. Stress can be caused by various factors such as poor water quality, incompatible tank mates, or illness.

Do Blue Dolphin Cichlids Need a Lot of Swimming Space?

Yes, these fish are active swimmers and enjoy having plenty of room to move around. A cramped tank can lead to stress and health issues.

How Do You Differentiate Between a Juvenile and Adult Blue Dolphin Cichlid?

Juveniles generally have less pronounced humps on their heads and less vibrant coloration. As they mature, the hump becomes more prominent, and their colors intensify.

Can Blue Dolphin Cichlids Live with Invertebrates?

It’s generally not recommended to keep them with invertebrates like shrimp or snails, as they may see them as food.

Do Blue Dolphin Cichlids Make Sounds?

While it’s not common knowledge, some aquarists have reported hearing clicking sounds from their cichlids, especially during feeding or territorial disputes.

How Often Should You Change the Water for Blue Dolphin Cichlids?

A bi-weekly water change of about 20-30% is generally recommended to maintain optimal water quality.

Can Blue Dolphin Cichlids Be Kept with Saltwater Fish?

No, Blue Dolphin Cichlids are freshwater fish and should not be kept in a saltwater environment.

What Type of Lighting is Best for Blue Dolphin Cichlids?

Moderate lighting is ideal, as too much light can cause stress, and too little can affect their natural behavior and coloration.

Is It Necessary to Use Air Stones or Oxygenators for Blue Dolphin Cichlids?

While Blue Dolphin Cichlids are not overly sensitive to oxygen levels, using an air stone or oxygenator can help improve water circulation and oxygenation, which is beneficial for the overall health of the tank.

How Do Blue Dolphin Cichlids React to Seasonal Changes?

In their natural habitat, these cichlids experience seasonal changes that can affect their behavior. In a home aquarium, maintaining a consistent environment is generally best, but some aquarists simulate seasonal changes to encourage natural behaviors like breeding.

Can Blue Dolphin Cichlids Be Trained?

While they’re not known for their trainability, Blue Dolphin Cichlids are intelligent and can recognize their owners. Some aquarists have had success with simple training exercises like hand-feeding.

What Type of Substrate is Best for Blue Dolphin Cichlids?

A sandy substrate is often recommended as it allows the fish to engage in their natural digging behaviors without harming themselves, as could happen with a gravel substrate.

Are Blue Dolphin Cichlids Sensitive to Medication?

Like many cichlids, they can be sensitive to certain medications, especially those containing copper. Always consult with a veterinarian or experienced aquarist before administering any medication.

How Do Blue Dolphin Cichlids Handle Transportation?

They are relatively hardy but can be stressed by poor transportation conditions. It’s crucial to ensure that they are transported carefully, ideally over short distances.

Is It Possible for Blue Dolphin Cichlids to Jump Out of the Tank?

While not known for jumping, it’s always a good idea to have a secure lid on your aquarium to prevent any accidental escapes, especially when the fish are startled or stressed.

Can You Keep Multiple Males in the Same Tank?

It’s possible but not recommended unless the tank is large enough to establish separate territories. Multiple males in a confined space can lead to aggressive behaviors and stress.

Do Blue Dolphin Cichlids Change Color?

Yes, their color can change depending on their mood, health, and during breeding seasons. A sudden change in color, however, could be a sign of stress or illness.

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A long-time freshwater fish enthusiast with a passion for sharing knowledge about this fascinating hobby. Over the years, Michelle has dedicated countless hours to studying, learning, and experiencing firsthand the joys and challenges of fish-keeping.

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