The Daffodil Cichlid is one of the most beautiful and hardy of the Tanganyika Cichlids!
The Daffodil Cichlid Neolamprologus pulcher (previously Lamprologus pulcher) is an ideal cichlid or for any aquarist to keep. It is a hardy African cichlid with an elegant, graceful appearance. The light tan body is is adorned with a lyre shaped tail and blue tipped fins extending into with long flowing filaments. it is washed with hints of yellow and bluish spots and has two crescents just behind bright icy blue eyes. It is also known as Daffodil II, Daffodil Princess, and Princess of Zambia.
The Daffodil Cichlid is almost identical in appearance to its popular relative the Fairy CichlidNeolamprologus brichardi. However the Fairy Cichlid has bluish gray fins and can be identified by the black stripe running from the eye to the gill cover and a yellow spot just above it. These markings are absent in the Daffodil Cichlid though it has the two crescent shaped markings behind the eye, and its fins are yellowish.
A school of these beautiful fish makes an elegant display. With its color, form and adaptability, it is a great choice for both the beginner and advance aquarist. It is moderately easy to care for as long it has the proper sized aquarium and the right tank mates. They it will adapt to a wide range of water conditions and eat a wide variety of aquarium foods.
This pretty cichlid is not shy about swimming out in the open. But they do like an aquarium with lots of rock formations creating caves for retreating. A sandy substrate is best because though they are not avid diggers, they may dig out spawning territories around decor. Plants are not essential but if you should include them they won’t harm them.
These are a schooling fish that pair off only to breed, so are actually best kept in a group. They are generally peaceful and non aggressive with their own kind. They are not inclined to quarrel with others except when spawning, and then are very territorial. They are best kept in a species tank, or a group of these fish can be kept in a good sized aquarium with other similar types of Lamprologine Shell-dwellers. Other good tankmates are a large school of Herring cichlids of the Cyprichromis genus like the Sardine CichlidCyprichromis leptosoma, as well as the Goby Cichlids, Julidochromis species, and Tropheus species.
Though the Daffodil Cichlids spend a good deal of their time spawning, they are a secretive shelter spawner. You may not even know they have spawned until you see small fry darting about. A pair of Daffodil Cichlids will spawn again and again. The older fry will help protect the younger ones, thus various ages of fry will be present in the same tank. This is an example of “stepped breeding”.
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: Neolamprologus
- Species: pulcher
- Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner
- Size of fish – inches: 5.1 inches (13.00 cm)
- Minimum Tank Size: 15 gal (57 L)
- Temperament: Semi-aggressive
- Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy
- Temperature: 72.0 to 77.0° F (22.2 to 25.0° C)
- My Aquarium – Enter your aquarium to see if this fish is compatible!
Habitat: Distribution / Background
The Daffodil Cichlid Neolamprologus pulcher (previously Lamprologus pulcher) was described by Trewavas and Poll in 1952. These fish are endemic to Lake Tanganyika, Africa and are widespread in the southern part of the lake. They are found along the rocky coastlines of the countries of Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, and Zambia. There are number of different geographical varieties. The variety known as the “Daffodil” is very popular and is found along the steep rocky slopes of Kantalamba and Kambwinba.
This species is listed on the IUCN Red List as Lease Concern (LC). Although it is endemic to Lake Malawi, it is widespread throughout the southern part of the lake and has no recognized threats at present. Other common names this fish is known by include Daffodil II, Daffodil Princess, and Princess of Zambia.
The Neolamprologus genus is the largest genus of cichlids in Lake Tanganyika, containing 50 or so species. The fish in this genus are all closely related but they are split between “shelldwellers” and “rockdwellers”, yet all are substrate spawners. This genus is also the largest group 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, though a few species are found in the the Congo River Basin and one species in the the Malagarasi River in Tanzania.
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. They have a body that cam be somewhat elongated to very elongated. Their colors tend to be brown, yellow, blue, black or a combination or all four. Black is usually a striping, either vertical or horizontal. Like other genus in the tribe, the Neolamprologus will readily mate with females of other Lamprologini.
This species was first considered to be a subspecies of its relative the Striped Brichardi Neolamprologus savoryi until Poll identified it as its own species. Then a study published in 2007 in the journal Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution suggested that the Daffodil Cichlid and its very similar relative, the Fairy Cichlid Neolamprologus brichardi, are a single species.
This study, “Parallel evolution of facial stripe patterns in the Neolamprologus brichardi/pulcher species complex endemic to Lake Tanganyika”, authored by Nina Duftner, K. M. Sefc, S. K. ller, W. Salzburgerf, M. Taborsky, C. Sturmbauer would have both species included as Neolamprologus pulcher, as that is the older of the two scientific names. However it has not been confirmed that they are the same species. These two fish are never found occurring together in the wild, but rather in close vicinity to each other. Also the abundant hybridization between members of the Lamprologini tribe has seriously confounded molecular studies and DNA sequencing.
The Daffodil Cichlids inhabit rocky coastlines and swim in large schools that often consist of hundreds of fish. When breeding however, they will form monogamous pairs and spawn in caves. They are found in waters at depths of 32 feet (10 m) or deeper. They feed on swarms of plankton drifting in the lake water along with microorganisms such as small crustaceans and invertebrates.
- Scientific Name: Neolamprologus pulcher
- Social Grouping: Groups – They occur in schools, often consisting of hundreds of fish.
- IUCN Red List: LC – Least Concern
The Daffodil Cichlid is a graceful fish with a body that is elongated with a continuous dorsal fin. The tail fin is lyre shaped and they develop long flowing filaments on all unpaired fins. They reach up to about 4 – 5 inches (10 -13 cm) in length, but can sometimes get a bit bigger in the aquarium reaching up to 6 inches (15 cm). They can live 8 – 10 years with proper care.
They have a very pleasing coloration with a light colored tan body washed with hints of yellow and bluish purple spots. The yellow is stronger along the upper portion of the body and onto the dorsal fin, and around the base of the pectoral fin. There are two vertical crescent shaped bars just behind the eye highlighted with a bit of blue. The dorsal fin is lyre shaped and they develop long flowing filaments on all unpaired fins. The fins are tipped with an icy blue. They have brilliant blue eyes.
- Size of fish – inches: 5.1 inches (13.00 cm) – In the wild they grows to a length of 4 – 5″ (10-13 cm), and are generally larger specimens in home aquaria.
- Lifespan: 8 years – They have a lifespan of 8 to 10 years with proper care.
Fish Keeping Difficulty
This fish is a great choice for both the beginner and advance aquarist. 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
They Daffodil Cichlids are omnivorous and feed on swarms of plankton in the water column as well as small crustaceans and invertebrates. 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 foods with brine shrimp (either live or frozen) or daphnia.
Feed 2 to 5 small pinches of food a day in smaller amounts instead of a large quantity once a day. This will keep the water quality higher over a longer time. A one-day-a-week ‘fast’ can also be beneficial. Of course, all fish benefit from added vitamins and supplements 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: Several feedings per day – Offer several small feedings a day, what they can eat in about 3 minutes or less, rather than a single large feeding.
The Lake Tanganyika cichlids cannot handle large water changes very well unless the new water chemistry closely matches the water they are in. This inability to tolerate large water changes is due to Lake Tanganyika being very deep and the water tends to stay stable. Do normal water changes of only 10% to 20% a week, or more frequent small changes depending on the nitrite/ammonia levels and stocking numbers.
- Water Changes: Weekly – Water changes of 10-20% weekly are suggested. Be cautious of doing more frequent changes as these fish are very sensitive to new water, only do more if the water parameters are off.
The Daffodil Cichlid is active and will swim in all areas of the aquarium. For a species only tank, a minimum of 15 gallons is suggested, though 20 or 35 gallons is better. A larger tank of 50 gallons or more would be required if mixing with other species. They 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 they 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.
Provide a sandy or very small sized gravel substrate. Sand used for salt water tanks can help keep the pH up as well as the addition of crushed coral. Crushed coral and aragonite sands do tend to dissolve easier than salts. They need a lot of rocks piled up to create cave formations. Plants are not essential though they do not harm them. They don’t tend to burrow unless they are digging out a spawning sight around the decor. Subdued lighting is also preferred.
- Minimum Tank Size: 15 gal (57 L) – A minimum of 15 gallons is the suggested for a species tank, with 20 or 35 gallons being better, and 50 gallons or more is needed for mixing species.
- Suitable for Nano Tank: Sometimes – A larger nano tank of 15 gallons or more, can be used for a species only aquarium.
- Substrate Type: Sand/Gravel Mix
- Lighting Needs: Low – subdued lighting
- Temperature: 72.0 to 77.0° F (22.2 to 25.0° C)
- Breeding Temperature: 77.0° F – Best breeding temperature is 77° F (25 C) or slightly higher
- Range ph: 8.0-8.5 – Wild caught specimens prefer the higher Ph.
- Hardness Range: 10 – 20 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: All – These fish will swim in all areas of the aquarium.
The Daffodil Cichlid is a fairly non-aggressive community fish. They can be kept in pairs or singly, or in harems that form a group of 6 or more. They can be kept in a smaller species only tank or in a larger aquarium with other durable fish. However they are avid spawners and breeding pairs will establish a territory and defended it together. This fish is also very protective in defending their fry.
If kept in a community type environment it is best to introduce the this cichlid last. The tank mates need to be larger with their own established territories. Avoid housing them with the African cichlids from Lake Malawi or Lake Victoria. They may tolerate their own genus, but this is not suggested since hybrids can be formed. They can be housed with robust Lamprologines or a large school of Cyprichromis, like the Sardine CichlidCyprichromis leptosoma. Other good tankmate are some of the Altolamprologus genera such as the White Pearly Calvus and the Compressed Cichlid, and the Julidochromis genera such as Dickfeld’s Julie and the Convict Julie.
- Temperament: Semi-aggressive
- Compatible with:
- Same species – conspecifics: Yes – They can be kept singly, in pairs, or in small groups of 6 or more.
- Peaceful fish (): Threat
- Semi-Aggressive (): Safe
- Aggressive (): Threat
- Large Semi-Aggressive (): Monitor
- Large Aggressive, Predatory (): Threat
- Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Threat – is aggressive
- Plants: Safe
Sex: Sexual differences
These fish are difficult to sex. Males are heavier bodied than the females, slightly bigger, and have a slightly larger forehead. Though it is hard to tell, the male also has longer and more pointed dorsal fin and anal fins.
Breeding / Reproduction
The Daffodil Cichlids have been bred in captivity and are easy to breed. They are egg layers and form nuclear families. Considered a monogamous cichlid, they will pair up only during spawning and will school otherwise. They will often breed in a community tank. It is suggested to start with a group let them pair up. Condition them with a good varied diet.
The breeding tank should be at least 36 inches (91 cm) long, or bigger if you have a larger group to provide sufficient territories among rocks or inverted flowerpots. The breeding tank should have neutral, medium hard to hard water with to a pH of around 7.5 – 8.5, 10 – 20° dGH, and a temperature at about 77° F (25 C) or slightly higher.
The female prefers spawning in caves or sometimes in areas with rocky rubble where they will dig a spawning site next to the decor. The female will lay up to 100 eggs. These cichlids will fiercely defend the eggs and spawn site. The fry will emerge after about 6 – 7 days, and are then essentially on their own. The free swimming fry can be fed newly hatch brine shrimp and crushed flakes, and they will grow pretty quickly. See the description of breeding monogamous cichlids in: Breeding Freshwater Fish: Cichlids.
- Ease of Breeding: Easy
Daffodil Cichlids are fairly hardy in a properly maintained aquarium. These cichlids are susceptible to typical fish ailments, especially if water is stale and of poor quality and oxygenation. 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. All Tanganyikan cichlids need iodine for the thyroid to function properly to regulate growth and development, if levels are low it can be remedied by adding iodized table salt to the water (approximately 1 teaspoon per gallon of water).
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 Daffodil Cichlid is available from time to time and can be moderate to moderately expensive. They are found both online and in fish stores and range in price depending on whether they are juveniles or adults.
- Animal-World References: Freshwater Fish and Plants
- Dr. R?diger Riehl and Hans A. Baensch, Aquarium Atlas Vol. 3 , Voyageur Press, 1996
- 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 Edu 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
- Neolamprologus pulcher (Trewavas & Poll, 1952), Fishbase.org
- Neolamprologus pulcher, The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
- Rhett Butler, “Cichlids – Lake Tanganyika”, Mongabay.com, Referenced online, 2007
- Glen S. Axelrod, Rift Lake Cichlids, T.F.H. Publications, Inc., 1979