The Convict Julie is very pretty fish and quite tolerant, with the nicest temperament of its genus!
The Convict Julie Julidochromis regani is an attractive cichlid found in Lake Tanganyika, Africa. It is slender and elongated with a pleasing color pattern. Most varieties have a nice contrast of three to four brown horizontal stripes over a background of varying shades of yellow. Some have a beautiful yellows on the belly and in the pectoral fins.
They are reported to grow up to lengths of 12 inches (30 cm) in the wild but rarely get that large in the aquarium. Females are always the larger fish, commonly reaching about 6 inches (15 cm) in length, with males reaching only about 4 inches (10 cm). Other common names it is known by include the Striped Julie, Giant Julie, Yellow Julie, and Regani. The name ‘Yellow Julie’ is also commonly used for its close relative the Ornate Julie Julidochromis ornatus, which has a very similar appearance.
There are several slightly different color pattern variations of the Convict Julie, and all are very attractive. Color morphs vary depending upon the location in Lake Tanganyika where each specimen is collected. It is said that those from shallower waters will be more yellow while those from deeper water are darker. They are sometimes named for the area which it comes from, some examples include Julidochromis regani “kipili”, Julidochromis regani “gold sambia” and Julidochromis regani “mboka”.
These cichlids make a great choice for the beginning cichlid keeper, and are appealling to advanced aquarists as well. They are the most tolerant of the Julidochromis genus. You can keep just one specimen, a pair, or even a group of these fish if the aquarium is very large. When kept in a group that includes males, they will form pairs generally for life. They also do well in a community cichlid tank. Keep them with other Tanganyika cichlids that are similar in size. However it is important to keep conspecific varieties and similar species separate to prevent hybrids.
They are moderately easy to care for as long as regular water changes are done to keep water at optimal levels. A minimum 20 gallon tank for a single fish is suggested, and 40 gallons or more for a community type tank. They are ready eaters and hardy. Provide them with a sandy or fine gravel substrate along with lots of rockwork with caves and crevices for them to retreat and spawn. Hardy plants like Sagittaria and Vallisneria can make a nice addition. They will not harm plants though they may burrow when spawning. These fish will breed in captivity, and the plants will provide cover for the newly hatch fry.
For Information on keeping freshwater fish, see:
Freshwater Aquarium Guide: Aquarium Setup and Care
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Actinopterygii
- Order: Perciformes
- Family: Cichlidae
- Genus: Julidochromis
- Species: regani
- Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner
- Size of fish – inches: 11.8 inches (30.00 cm)
- Minimum Tank Size: 20 gal (76 L)
- Temperament: Semi-aggressive
- Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy
- Temperature: 75.0 to 84.0° F (23.9 to 28.9° C)
- My Aquarium – Enter your aquarium to see if this fish is compatible!
Habitat: Distribution / Background
The Convict Julie was described by Poll in 1942. It was named after Mr. Charles Tate Regan, a british ichthyologist and director of the British Museum of Natural History. These fish are endemic to Lake Tanganyika, Africa. This species is listed on the IUCN Red List as Lease Concern (LC). Although it is endemic to Lake Malawi, it is widespread and has no recognized threats at present.
Other common names this fish is known by include Striped Julie, Giant Julie, Yellow Julie, and Regani. Color morphs are sometimes commonly named for the area where they come from including Julidochromis regani “kipili”, Julidochromis regani “gold sambia” and Julidochromis regani “mboka”, Julidochromis regani “Kachese”, Julidochromis regani “Gombi”, Julidochromis regani “Kigoma”, and Julidochromis regani “Burundi”.
The Julidochromis genus is a small group of cichlids in Lake Tanganyika with about 5 described species and a number of variants or possible subspecies. They are commonly known as “Julies” in the aquarium hobby. They are small to mid-sized cichlids with elongated torpedo shaped bodies. Their coloration is a yellow or whitish background with either black horizontal stripes or a checkerboard pattern. They inhabit rocky areas and mostly form monogamous pairs, though pairs can be broken with the smaller fish being driven off or even killed. These fish are secretive bi-parental substrate spawners, mostly spawning in caves or crevices in the rocks. They are very territorial, but as parents, after a week or two they generally will neither protect nor attack their young, but small fry still gain protection by residing within their parents territory.
This genus is one of the smallest groups in the tribe Lamprologini. The Lamprologini tribe contains seven genera and nearly 100 species of African Cichlids, most of which are found in Lake Tanganyika. The Lamprologini cichlids are highly variable and are found in all kinds of habitats. They are found both at the surface and in very deep waters, but all species are substrate spawners. Like other genus in the tribe, the julidochromis will mate with females of other Lamprologini.
These cichlids are found in open waters and shallow rocky areas with a sandy substrate. Monogamous pairs are most common in waters no deeper than 35 feet (11 m). They feed on algae and invertebrates that they pick from the rock and sand.
- Scientific Name: Julidochromis regani
- Social Grouping: Pairs
- IUCN Red List: LC – Least Concern
The Convict Julie is a slender and elongated, cylindrically shaped fish with a continuous dorsal fin and a fan shaped caudal fin. In the wild these fish can reach up to a whopping 12 inches (30 cm), thus the name Giant Julie, but they are commonly much smaller in the aquarium. The females are the largest, typically reach up to about 6 inches (15 cm) in length, with males being smaller at about 4 inches (10 cm). They can live up to 10 years with proper care, and some have reportedly lived for much longer, up to 19 years.
They have a nice contrast of brownish horizontal lines, three to four depending on variety, or a striped marbling over varying shades of yellow on the background. Some have a beautiful yellow on the belly and in the pectoral fins. The dorsal and caudal fins are edged in blue. They are very similar to their close relative the Ornate Julie Julidochromis ornatus, but in general their body is more elongated.
There are slight differences in the Convict Julie depending on the region where they are found, below are just a few of them:
- Julidochromis regani “Kachese”
This variety has four or five bold black horizontal lines alternating with light yellow lines and a marbled tail. The dark lines run all the way through the body and into the face.
- Julidochromis regani “Kipili”;
This variety has fewer horizontal lines on the body. There are three thin black lines on the upper portion set on a cream or yellow background. The mid body line extends from the eye to the beginning of the caudal fin. Below that line is yellow. The anal and pelvic fins are a pale yellow near the body, then fading into blue, and finally a tiny pin striping in black. The face has lines from top to bottom.
- Julidochromis regani “Gombi”
This variety looks very different. It has a dark brown to black body marked with irregular grayish/tan patches or irregular bands though out the body. The fins are outlined in a light blue with black ‘tipping’ at the very edge. There are grayish/tan spots on the head and a grayish/tan horizontal line by the gill running though the eyes, over the nose, and back around to the other side of the head.
- Julidochromis regani “Kigoma”
This variety has four or five very thick black horizontal lines on a cream background.
- Julidochromis regani “Zambia Gold”
Julidochromis regani “Sumbu Gold”
This variety has four broad black horizontal lines on a yellow background.
- Julidochromis regani “Burundi”
This variety has four black horizontal lines that are very broad, on a cream background.
All cichlids share a common feature that some saltwater fish such as wrasses and parrotfish have and that is a well-developed pharyngeal set of teeth that are in the throat, along with their regular teeth. Cichlids have spiny rays in the back parts of the anal, dorsal, pectoral, and pelvic fins to help discourage predators. The front part of these fins are soft and perfect for precise positions and effortless movements in the water as opposed to fast swimming.
Cichlids have one nostril on each side while other fish have 2 sets. To sense “smells” in the water, they suck water in and expel the water right back out after being “sampled” for a short or longer time, depending on how much the cichlid needs to “smell” the water. This feature is shared by saltwater damselfish and cichlids are thought to be closely related.
- Size of fish – inches: 11.8 inches (30.00 cm) – They can grow to a length of almost 12″ (30 cm) in the wild, but are commonly much smaller in captivity with females reaching about 6″ (15 cm) and males reaching 4″ (10 cm).
- Lifespan: 10 years – They have a lifespan of 10 years or longer with proper care, some have reportedly lived for up to 19 years.
Fish Keeping Difficulty
This is a good fish for both the beginner and experienced cichlid keeper. It is moderately easy to care for as long it has the proper sized aquarium and the right tank mates. They are fairly peaceful, making good inhabitants for the community cichlid tank. They it will adapt to a wide range of water conditions, eat a wide variety of aquarium foods. and will readily breed. The aquarium does need regular water changes.
- Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy
- Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner
Foods and Feeding
The Convict Julie is an omnivore. In the wild they search for algae and invertebrates that they pick from the rock and sand. In the aquarium they will generally eat all kinds of live, fresh, and flake foods. To keep a good balance give them a high quality flake food or pellet everyday. Regularly supplement these with Cyclops, water fleas, brine and mysis shrimps, or other special foods for Lake Tanganyika cichlids.
Feed 2 to 5 small pinches of food a day in smaller amounts instead of a large quantity once a day. This will help to keep the best water quality. All fish also benefit from vitamins and supplements added to their foods.
- Diet Type: Omnivore
- Flake Food: Yes
- Tablet / Pellet: Yes
- Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet
- Vegetable Food: Some of Diet
- Meaty Food: Some of Diet
- Feeding Frequency: Daily – Offer several small feedings a day rather than a single large feeding for better water quality over time.
Do normal water changes of 10% to 15% a week, or more frequent changes depending on the nitrite/ammonia levels and stocking numbers. The Lake Tanganyika cichlids cannot handle large water changes very well unless the new water water chemistry closely matches the water they are in. If a large water change is needed, changing 15% every couple of days should bring water back to normal. This inability to tolerate large water changes is due to Lake Tanganyika being very deep and the water tends to stay stable.
- Water Changes: Weekly – Water changes of 10-15% weekly are suggested, only do more if the water parameters are off. Be cautious of doing more frequent changes as these fish are very sensitive to new water.
The Convict Julie is active and will swim in the middle and bottom areas of the aquarium. A minimum 20 gallon tank for a single fish is suggested. Provide 40 gallons or more for a community type tank. They do fine in either freshwater or brackish freshwater but need good water movement along with very strong and efficient filtration. Lake Tanganyika is a very oxygen rich lake so bubblers need to be going day and night, even if there are plants. Regularly check nitrates and ph, nitrates should be no more than 25 ppm and a pH less than 7 is not tolerated. In addition keep an eye on total hardness and carbonate hardness. Avoid overfeeding and overstocking.
Lake Tanganyika is the second to largest lake in the world, thus contributing to a low fluctuation in temperature and pH. All Tanganyika cichlids need stable temperatures kept within acceptable limits and lots of oxygen to survive. Temperatures under 72° F and over 86° F for too long is not tolerated by many of these fish. When treating for ich, a few days at 86° F is acceptable. The lake is also consistently alkaline with a pH of around 9, and very hard at about 12 – 14° dGH. In the aquarium most Tanganyika cichlids are fairly adaptable as long as conditions are close to these ideal ranges. Most important is that their water chemistry doesn’t change much over time. The water needs to be well buffered and maintained with small, regular water changes.
Salt is sometimes used as a buffering agent to increase the water’s carbonate hardness. An alternative buffering approach is to use a chemical filtration method, where the water passes through layers of crushed coral or coral sand. Interestingly, Tanganyikan cichlids also need iodine for the thyroid to function properly to regulate growth and development, and which can be achieved by adding iodized table salt to the water. Although rift lake cichlids need hard alkaline water they are not found in brackish waters. This cichlid has some salt tolerance so can be kept in slightly brackish water conditions. However it not suited to a full brackish water tank. It can tolerate a salinity that is about 10% of a normal saltwater tank, a specific gravity of less than 1.0002.
A sandy or small gravel substrate will make them feel comfortable. Rocks or other decor arranged in a manner that creates caves are needed to encourage breed. Plants are also appreciated and may help the fry to survive, and they can be arranged in a very pleasing manner. Hardy plants that do well in hard, alkaline water and don’t need a lot of light, like Sagittaria and Vallisneria and Anubias, can make a nice addition. For a different or varied look you can plant on the porous rock with such species as Water Fern and Java Fern.
- Minimum Tank Size: 20 gal (76 L) – A minimum of 20 gallons is suggested for a single fish, with 40 gallons or more if keeping more than one or for a community tank.
- Suitable for Nano Tank: Sometimes – A 20 gallon Nano tank can house a single specimen.
- Substrate Type: Sand/Gravel Mix
- Temperature: 75.0 to 84.0° F (23.9 to 28.9° C)
- Breeding Temperature: 77.0° F – Breeding temperatures range between 77 – 80.6° F (25 – 27 C).
- Range ph: 7.8-9.2
- Hardness Range: 7 – 13 dGH
- Brackish: Sometimes – Salt is not found in their natural environment, but they do have a slight tolerance, keep levels below 10% – a specific gravity of less than 1.0002.
- Water Movement: Moderate
- Water Region: Middle – These fish will swim in the middle and bottom areas of the aquarium.
The Convict Julie can be kept singly, as a pair, or in a group in a large enough tank. This fish is a community cichlid that can be kept with other Tanganyika cichlids that are similar size. They do well with species of Altolamprologus like the Compressed CichlidAltolamprologus compressiceps and species of Cyprichromis like the Slender (Sardine) CichlidCyprichromis leptosoma.
They are generally peaceful toward those of the same species if raised together from juveniles. They will tolerate those of a different genus. If you want to breed them they do best in a species specific tank. Provide them with a 20 gallon tank and do not house with plecostomos, as these fish will eat the fry at night. Do not house with other color variations of Convict Julies to avoid cross breeding and losing pure strains.
- Temperament: Semi-aggressive
- Compatible with:
- Same species – conspecifics: Yes – They can be kept singly, as a pair, or in a group if the tank is large enough.
- Peaceful fish (): Threat
- Semi-Aggressive (): Safe
- Aggressive (): Threat
- Large Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
- Large Aggressive, Predatory (): Threat
- Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: May be aggressive
- Plants: Safe
Sex: Sexual differences
The Convict Julie can be hard to sex visually, but generally the male will guard a territory. You will see them pair off and that will give you an indication as well. The genital openings of females are larger for the eggs to pass through.
Breeding / Reproduction
The Convict Julies are egg layers that will form monogamous pairs and a nuclear family. They are sheltered substrate spawner and prefer spawning in caves. This fish has been bred in captivity but young couples need practice to become successful parents. Do not be surprised if they eat their first clutch or two.
They are easy to breed, but are best kept in their own breeding tank with another fish that takes the “punishment” of aggression from the parents. The reason is that part of the parent’s bond is associated with protecting the eggs and fry together. If there is not another fish in the tank for them to “protect” their young from, the male will generally turn on the female and damage her. Do not use plecostomos as they will eat the young during the night.
Provide them with caves made from rocks and/or clay planting pots and/or pieces of slate, as they adhere their eggs to the “roof” of their cave. Once the tank has been set up do not move any decorations around since this more than likely will break the bond a male and female have made. This is another part of their bond that is connected to the “territory” more than to each other. The male and female will hang around each other during spawning and drive the others away from their turf, which in turn strengthens their bond. If the tank is a community cichlid tank and you notice the fry not surviving due to other cichlids eating them all, on the next hatch carefully siphon the fry out of the tank. Don’t chase or rearrange the tank, and do not take all of the fry or the parents will become confused and will start to eat the next spawns.
The breeding tank should have moderately alkaline, medium hard water with to a pH of around 8.5 – 9.2, 8 – 14° dGH, and a temperature between 77 – 80.6° F (25 – 27 C). Females deposit about 35 to 100 eggs in the cave and males fertilizes them. The eggs hatch in about 3 days. They both share the duty of guarding the eggs and fry. The parents allow the older fry to stay in the area even when new batches are hatched, but will kick them out when they are fully matured. The fry can be fed live baby brine shrimp. The adults will get at it too, but as the brine falls in the rocks the babies do get their share. It takes almost 5 months to get them to a 1″ size and they are mature at 14 to 18 months. See the description of breeding monogamous cichlids in: Breeding Freshwater Fish: Cichlids.
- Ease of Breeding: Easy
The Convict Julie is susceptible to typical fish ailments, especially if water is stale and of poor quality and oxygenation. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Water changes, not overfeeding or overcrowding, and observation along with feeding your fish the proper foods (thawing frozen food and adding vitamins) will keep them in optimum health. For freshwater an optional practice is to add 1 heaping teaspoon of salt per 11 gallons of water. This is considered to be a simple and natural remedy for wounds, minor fungal infections and film over the eyes of fish in transit. Using a marine salt (used for salt water fish) will add some trace elements.
One common problem is Ich. It can be treated with the elevation of the tank temperature to 86° F (30° C) for 3 days. If that does not cure the Ich, then the fish needs to be treated with copper (remove any water conditioners). Several copper based fish medications are available for Ich. Copper use must be kept within the proper levels, so be sure to follow the manufacturers suggestions. A copper test also can be used to keep the proper levels. You can also combine increasing the temperature with an Ich medication treatment.
As with most fish they are susceptible to skin flukes and other parasitic infestations (protozoa, worms, etc.), fungal infections, and bacterial infections. It is recommended to read up on the common tank diseases. Knowing the signs and catching and treating them early makes a huge difference. For information about freshwater fish diseases and illnesses, see Aquarium Fish Diseases and Treatments.
The Convict Julie is available both online and in fish stores and are moderately priced for juveniles. Purchase from a reputable dealer, due to hybridization it takes a trained eye to choose the correct color strain that has not been crossed.
- Animal-World References: Freshwater Fish and Plants
- Dr. R?diger Riehl and Hans A. Baensch, Aquarium Atlas Vol. 1, Publisher Hans A. Baensch, 1991
- Mark Phillip Smith, Lake Tanganyika Cichlids, A Complete Pet Owners Manual, 2nd Edition, Barron’s Educational Series, Inc. 2007
- George Zurlo, David Schleser, Cichlids (Complete Pet Owner’s Manual), Barron’s Education Series, 2005
- Glen S. Axelrod, Brian M. Scott, Neal Pronek, Encyclopedia Of Exotic Tropical Fishes For Freshwater Aquariums, TFH Publications, 2005
- Peter Bredell, Frank Schneidewind, Lake Tanganyika Cichlids, How to keep successfully and enjoy these exceptional fish, Interpet Publishing , 2002
- Julidochromis regani (Poll, 1942) Convict julie, Fishbase.org
- Julidochromis regani, The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
- Paul V. Loiselle (1982), “African Dwarf Cichlids, the Lake Tanganyikan Species: Part One”, The Cichlid Room Companion, Ohio Cichlid Association
- Rhett Butler, “Cichlids – Lake Tanganyika”, Mongabay.com, Referenced online, 2007
- Rick Borstein, Julidochromis regani “kipili”,Greater Chicago Cichlid Association. Referenced online, 2007
- Juan Miguel Artigas Azas, “Julidochromis regani Poll, 1942”, The Cichlid Room Companion, Ohio Cichlid Association, Referenced online, 2007
- Glen S. Axelrod, Rift Lake Cichlids, T.F.H. Publications, Inc., 1979