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Tanganyika Cichlids

Tropheus Cichlids, Frontosa, Goby Cichlids and more

Family: Cichlidae Picture of an adult Frontosa Cichlid from Lake TanganyikaFrontosa CichlidCyphotilapia frontosaPhoto © Animal-World: Courtesy David Brough

   Lake Tanganyika cichlids are some of the most unique types of cichlids, and include some of the most expensive freshwater fish in the world!

   The popular Lake Tanganyika cichlids include Tropheus Cichlids, Frontosa, Goby Cichlids, Sardine Cichlids, shell-dwellers, sand-sifters and more. These are some of the most unique types of cichlids found around the globe. Tanganyika cichlids are also quite active, display complex behaviors, and with the right environment many can be bred in captivity. They are enjoyed not only for their beauty, but for incredible body form and demeanor, offering aquarists a most unique and delightful experience.

   While Lake Malawi is renown for having some of the most colorful cichlids in the world, Lake Tanganyika has a much greater diversity of cichlid species. African cichlids from Lake Tanganyika sport a high variance in body shape and fascinating behaviors, making them some of the most popular fish for enthusiasts seeking uniqueness in the cichlid world.

   The favored Tropheus genus itself is an interesting example of this diversity. They are widely distributed throughout the lake, and yet even with in this group there are many sub groups due to microgeographic specialization.
Tropheus Cichlids are rock-dwelling fish like the Mbuna of Lake Malawi, but a single group won't swim much more than about 3 feet away from the particular rock island they have designated as their home. There are many Tropheus varieties throughout the lake, with each individual group isolated from the others. Each group is diverse with its own unique color form. A number of these have diverged to the point of being regarded their own species.

   The Goby Cichlids from Lake Tanganyika are also an intriguing and attractive group of fish. They are unique both the natural environment in which they are found and in body shape. Small fish, give or take around 3" in length, they live close to the shore in shallow waters. Currently there are five recognized species in three genera.

   Another very popular cichlid species from Lake Tanganyika is the Frontosa C. frontosa. Then there are those with unique body forms and unique behaviors. These run the gamut from the Sardine Cichlids, featherfins and shell-dwellers to the so-called sand cichlids.

To learn more about all types of African Cichlids, see:
African Cichlids - Fish Information and Cichlid Care for African Cichlids

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Tanganyika Cichlid Habitats

   Lake Tanganyika is one of the two great rift lakes in Eastern Africa, with the other being Lake Malawi. These two great rift lakes formed millions of years ago. A result of tectonic plates shifting, creating a long tear in the earth's crust, which then filled with water. Along with these two great rift lakes a number of smaller lakes and ponds also formed.

   Lake Tanganyika is the second deepest lake in the world, reaching depths of 4823 feet (1470m). Its depth contributes to its very stable and oxygen rich water. It is referred to as an "island sea" due to its abundant life and its size.

   There is estimated to be about. 250 different species of cichlids from Lake Tanganyika, and over 150 species of other fish. The regions that cichlids inhabit include rocky areas, sandy areas, midwater areas, or they can be a combination of two or all three of these types. Tanganyika cichlids adapted, evolving with different feeding specializations to take advantage of each region, giving rise to so very much diversity with the family.

   Yet the cichlids were not alone in adapting to local conditions to feed. A great number of other fish also adapted. A great example is the upside down catfish Cuckoo Synodontis Synodontis multipunctatus, which takes the eggs of spawning cichlids into its own mouth, mingle them with its eggs. The eggs of the catfish hatch much sooner, and the new fry then feed on the young cichlids in the host's mouth.

Types of Cichlids

   The extreme diversity of the cichlids from Lake Tanganyika exceeds the limits ordinarily found in a family of fishes. The environment of the lake is relatively stable which is conducive to speciation. As they adapted to numerous habitats within the great lake, they evolved toward different feeding specializations that modified their physical structures.

   Notable modifications can be seen in the mouths and teeth of different species used for the collection of particular types of foods, and also the pelvic fins on bottom-dwelling fish used for support to ‘sit' on the sand. Types of specialized feeding include crushing molluscs, sand-sifting to collect crustaceans and larvae, scraping algae from rocks or cropping aquatic plant matter, extracting gastropods from shells, snatching scales from other fishes, and extracting eggs, embryos and fry from the mouths of other cichlids.

   Within this great diversity there are also a couple record breakers, the largest cichlid Boulengerochromis microlepis at 36" (90 cm) and the smallest cichlid, the Ocellated Shell-dweller Lamprologus kungweensis at 1.4" (3.5 cm).

   There are lots of Tanganyika cichlid species readily available for the average hobbyist, like those in the Tropheous genus. But many other unique Lake Tanganyika cichlids are quite expensive. Also many of the more unusual cichlids have special requirements to successfully keep them, so are not suitable for beginners.

   Included here are various types of cichlids from Lake Tanganyika, groups of Tropheus Cichlids, and Goby Cichlids.