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Starry Night Cichlid (Paratilapia polleni): Complete Care Guides, Tank Mates, FAQs

Starry Night Cichlid
<a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Paratilapia_polleni_Bleeker.jpg">Michael K. Oliver, Ph.D.</a>, <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0">CC BY-SA 4.0</a>, via Wikimedia Commons

If you’ve ever been fascinated by the celestial beauty of the night sky, the Starry Night Cichlid will captivate your heart. Known by its scientific name, Paratilapia polleni, this unique fish belongs to the Cichlidae family and the Etroplinae subfamily. With its dark base and white or bluish-white spots, the Starry Night Cichlid brings a piece of the cosmos into your aquarium.

Let’s delve into some fun facts before we get into the nitty-gritty of care. Did you know that this cichlid is intelligent enough to recognize its owners? The star-like pattern on its body isn’t just for show—it serves as natural camouflage against predators. Now, isn’t that something worth talking about at your next dinner party?

As enchanting as this fish is, it’s essential to note that it’s relatively rare in the fish-keeping world. The Starry Night Cichlid is native to Madagascar and mostly found in freshwater lakes and rivers. Because of its limited range and habitat degradation, it’s considered vulnerable in the wild. So if you’re planning to add this fish to your collection, it’s crucial to provide a suitable environment for them to thrive.

Speaking of suitable environments, let’s talk about their natural habitat and tank preferences. These fish are primarily bottom to mid-dwellers and prefer tanks that mimic their natural surroundings. A minimum of 55 gallons is needed for a single Starry Night Cichlid, and they are happiest at a water temperature between 72 and 82°F with a pH range of 6.5 to 8.0. When it comes to their diet, they are omnivorous, enjoying a balanced mix of protein-based foods and plant matter.

You might be wondering about their behavior and temperament. Well, the Starry Night Cichlid is generally aggressive, particularly during breeding seasons. So, it’s not the best fit for a community tank, especially one with smaller or less aggressive species. But don’t let that deter you. With the right care, these fascinating creatures can live up to 10 years, reaching an adult size of 8 to 12 inches.

A bit of history to wrap things up: The species was first described in 1868 by Alfred Grandidier. Given its vulnerable status and the ongoing degradation of its native habitats in Madagascar, the Starry Night Cichlid has been the subject of various conservation efforts. So keeping one is not just about having an attractive fish; it’s about being part of a larger conservation story.

Starry Night Cichlid
Michael K. Oliver, Ph.D., CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Key Information

While the Starry Night Cichlid doesn’t have recognized variants in the traditional sense, the individual fish can show variations in the brightness and pattern of their star-like spots. These unique features can make each Starry Night Cichlid a special addition to your aquarium, offering a celestial display that’s truly one-of-a-kind.

PriceGenerally expensive due to its rarity
Common NamesPolleni Cichlid, Black Diamond Cichlid
VariantsNo recognized variants
Ideal Tank SizeMinimum of 55 gallons
Water ParameterspH: 6.5 – 8.0, Temperature: 72 – 82°F
LifespanUp to 10 years in captivity
Full Size8-12 inches
Natural EnvironmentFreshwater lakes and rivers in Madagascar
BehaviorGenerally aggressive
Habitat PreferenceBottom to mid-dwelling
Aquarium DecorationRocks, driftwood, and live plants
Ideal Tank MatesLarger, equally aggressive fish
Fish to AvoidSmaller or less aggressive species
Best Foods/DietOmnivorous: protein-based foods and plant matter
DiseaseSusceptible to common freshwater fish diseases
Sex-SwitchNo known sex-switching behavior
Gender DifferencesMinimal; males may be slightly larger
Care LevelModerate to High
Breeding LevelModerate to Difficult

Ideal Tank Mates

The Starry Night Cichlid is known for its aggressive temperament, particularly during breeding seasons. Therefore, choosing the right tank mates is crucial for maintaining a peaceful and balanced aquarium environment. Ideal tank mates for the Starry Night Cichlid should be larger, equally aggressive, or fast enough to evade any potential hostility. Let’s delve into the details of 15 fish species that make good companions for this captivating cichlid.

1. Jack Dempsey

The Jack Dempsey is a robust and resilient fish that can hold its own against the Starry Night Cichlid. Their similar size and equally aggressive nature make them good tank mates. Keeping them together can bring balance to your aquarium while offering a dynamic display of colors and behaviors.

2. Oscar Fish

Oscar Fish are known for their size and personality. They are compatible with Starry Night Cichlids due to their similar care requirements and water parameters. Their larger size also ensures they can handle themselves well in the tank.

3. Convict Cichlid

Convict Cichlids are smaller but aggressive enough to live with a Starry Night Cichlid. Their hardy nature and compatibility in terms of water parameters make them a suitable tank mate.

4. Texas Cichlid

Another large and aggressive cichlid, the Texas Cichlid, can be a good match for the Starry Night Cichlid. They both require similar water conditions, and their aggressive temperaments are a good match.

5. Green Terror

Green Terrors are aggressive fish that can match the Starry Night Cichlid’s temperament. They require similar water conditions and are hardy enough to adapt to various environments.

6. African Cichlids

Certain species of African Cichlids can live well with the Starry Night Cichlid. However, it’s essential to choose larger and more aggressive African Cichlids to ensure compatibility.

7. Firemouth Cichlid

Though not as large as the Starry Night Cichlid, Firemouth Cichlids are aggressive and can defend themselves. Their striking colors can also make for an eye-catching display in your tank.

8. Jaguar Cichlid

Jaguar Cichlids are large, aggressive, and require similar water conditions as the Starry Night Cichlid. Their similar temperaments make them well-suited as tank mates.

9. Bichir

Bichirs are bottom-dwellers like the Starry Night Cichlid and can cohabit well in a large enough tank. Their unique appearance adds variety to the aquarium.

10. Plecostomus

While not a cichlid, the Plecostomus is a hardy bottom-dweller that can clean your tank by consuming algae. Its size and temperament make it compatible with the Starry Night Cichlid.

11. Arowana

The Arowana is a top-dwelling fish that can coexist peacefully with a Starry Night Cichlid since they occupy different levels in the tank. Arowanas are large, fast, and can handle themselves well.

12. Clown Loach

Clown Loaches are fast swimmers and can evade any aggression from the Starry Night Cichlid. Their colorful appearance can add a different dimension to your aquarium.

13. Blood Parrot Cichlid

Blood Parrot Cichlids are hybrids that have a similar size and aggressive temperament like the Starry Night Cichlid. They can hold their own and make for an interesting mix in the tank.

14. Flowerhorn Cichlid

The Flowerhorn is another hybrid cichlid known for its aggressiveness and size. They can be a good match for the Starry Night Cichlid, provided you have a large enough tank to house them both.

15. Giant Gourami

The Giant Gourami is a peaceful but large fish that can tolerate the aggressiveness of a Starry Night Cichlid. Their different temperaments can balance each other out, making them good tank mates.

Choosing the right tank mates for your Starry Night Cichlid can make your aquarium a more vibrant and harmonious environment. Be sure to consider the size, temperament, and care requirements of each potential tank mate to ensure a successful cohabitation.


How do Starry Night Cichlids fare in planted tanks?

While they can adapt to a variety of environments, Starry Night Cichlids are generally not the best choice for planted tanks. Their digging behavior can uproot plants and disrupt the overall setup.

Can Starry Night Cichlids change their color?

Yes, Starry Night Cichlids can exhibit color changes based on their mood, health, or during breeding seasons. However, the star-like spots generally remain constant.

Are Starry Night Cichlids good for beginners?

While they are hardy and adaptable, their aggressive nature and specific care requirements make them more suitable for intermediate to advanced fish keepers.

Do Starry Night Cichlids need a lot of hiding spaces?

Given their aggressive nature, providing hiding spaces like caves or dense plant areas can help reduce stress and territorial disputes in the tank.

Is it advisable to keep multiple Starry Night Cichlids together?

Keeping multiple Starry Night Cichlids together is possible but challenging. A larger tank is essential, and it’s crucial to monitor for signs of excessive aggression, especially during breeding seasons.

What are the signs of a healthy Starry Night Cichlid?

A healthy Starry Night Cichlid will have clear eyes, vibrant coloration, and an active disposition. They should also have a good appetite and show no signs of distress or illness.

Do Starry Night Cichlids have any particular sensitivity to light?

Starry Night Cichlids don’t have specific light sensitivities, but like most fish, they do benefit from a consistent light-dark cycle that mimics their natural environment.

Can Starry Night Cichlids be kept in brackish water?

While they are primarily freshwater fish, Starry Night Cichlids are not well-suited for brackish water and should be kept in environments that match their natural freshwater habitats.

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Total posts created: 116
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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