The Dickfeld’s Julie is an attractive dwarf cichlid, but differs from other Julies in color and shape!

The Dickfeld’s Julie Julidochromis dickfeldi is the most recently discovered of the three dwarf Julies, described by Staeck in 1975. This dwarf Julie only grows to a length of 4 1/3 inches (11 cm). However it is not quite the smallest, its relative the Masked JulieJulidochromis transcriptus is the dwarf cichlid with that distinction at about 3 inches (7.62 cm) in length. The Golden Julie Julidochromis ornatus is also smaller, reaching just over 3 inches (8 cm), and has the distinction of being the first of the Julies to be bred in captivity. Like these others, the small size of this cichlid does make it easy to house in tight quarters and a 20 gallon tank is perfect for keeping a pair.

This dwarf Julie was first introduced in America in 1974 under the enticing designation of “Blue Julie”. It differs in its coloring from the other Julies with a body that can be silver, light brownish gold, or have a blue sheen. Thus Brown Julie is another common name for it as well. The markings on its head are another distinction. The three dark horizontal stripes on each side extend onto to the head with the lowest one literally wrapping completely around its face. Besides differing in color, its body shape is also a bit different. It has a larger dorsal fin towards the front end and a more pointed snout. These fish are also commonly named for color or locality such as Julidochromis dickfeldi “Ndole”, Julidochromis dickfeldi “Moliro”, Julidochromis dickfeldi “Midnight”, Julidochromis dickfeldi “Midnight Blue”, and Julidochromis dickfeldi “White top”, to name a few.

They are moderate to easy to care for as long as small weekly water changes are done to keep the water at optimal levels. With their small size and hardy nature, they make a great fish for the beginning cichlid keeper. Provide them with a sandy or fine gravel substrate along with lots of rock formations. It is somewhat shy. It will stay in the rocks more towards the back of the aquarium, darting out to retrieve food. Plants can also be included as they will not bother them. This fish will breed in captivity and the plants will provide cover for the newly hatch fry.

In a community cichlid tank the Dickfeld’s Julie can be kept singly or in pairs, but will not tolerate other Julies. They can be kept with other Tanganyika cichlids that are similar size. They will a define a territory by selecting a crack or rock fissure as its center, and then will stay very close to the rock structures of their defined territory. This fish will breed in captivity, and it is important to keep the different strains separate to help prevent hybrids.

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: dickfeldi
Dickfeld’s Julie – Quick Aquarium Care
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner
  • Size of fish – inches: 4.3 inches (11.00 cm)
  • Minimum Tank Size: 20 gal (76 L)
  • Temperament: Aggressive
  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy
  • Temperature: 73.0 to 80.0° F (22.8 to 26.7&deg C)
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Habitat: Distribution / Background

The Dickfeld’s Julie Julidochromis dickfeldi was described by Staeck in 1975. They are found on the southwestern side of Lake Tanganyika in Africa, on the Zambian shoreline north of Sumbu national park. This species is listed on the IUCN Red List as Lease Concern (LC). Although it is endemic to Lake Malawi, it is widespread in the south western part of the lake and has no recognized threats at present.

Other common names it is known by include Brown Julie and Blue Julie. It is also commonly named for locality such as Julidochromis dickfeldi “Ndole”, Julidochromis dickfeldi “Kachese”, Julidochromis dickfeldi “Katete”, Julidochromis dickfeldi “Moliro”, and Julidochromis dickfeldi “Livua”. And other common names are derived to reflect color such as Julidochromis dickfeldi “Midnight”, Julidochromis dickfeldi “Midnight Blue”, and Julidochromis dickfeldi “White top”.

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.

This species is found in the transitional areas where sand meets rocks down to depths of 115 feet (35 m), maybe more. They inhabit areas of rubble and rocks, often on sandstone slabs, usually alone though in pairs when spawning. They use a crack or fissure in a rock for the center of their territory. They will eat drifting matter in the water, but mostly feed on crustaceans they pick from the rocks.

  • Scientific Name: Julidochromis dickfeldi
  • Social Grouping: Solitary – Usually solitary except when spawning.
  • IUCN Red List: LC – Least Concern


The Dickfeld’s Julie has a slender elongated body that is slightly different from most of the Julies. They have a larger dorsal fin towards the front portion, and a more pointed snout. The female grows to 4 1/3 inches (11 cm), with the male being a little smaller. This species can have a lifespan of 5 – 7 years with proper care.

The body coloring can be a silver, a light brown/gold, or a blue sheen. There are three dark horizontal stripes on each side. The first stripe starts at the forehead, runs along the top next to the dorsal fin, and ends in the area just about where the anal fin begins. The second one starts just above and behind the eye, runs parallel to the top stripe, and ends about where the dorsal fin ends, with just hints extending into the top of the caudal area. The third stripe literally wraps around the fish, starting at the tip of the nose and ending at the caudal area.

The forehead has 3 small horizontal stripes with the first sort of connecting to the top stripe, the second one right between the eyes, and the third one being a little dash right above where the 3rd body stripes meet. The fins are clearish with blue margins, or can be a clear blue color with more intense blue margins.

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: 4.3 inches (11.00 cm) – Can reach a length of 4 1/3″ (11 cm), with the males probably a little smaller.
  • Lifespan: 5 years – This have a lifespan of 5 – 7 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. It is an aggressive cichlid with others of its own genus as well as other Julies, though it is only moderately aggressive towards other Tanganyika cichlids. The aquarists must be willing to provide a properly set up aquarium with appropriate tank mates, and be willing to do frequent water changes.

  • Aquarium Hardiness: Moderately hardy
  • Aquarist Experience Level: Beginner

Foods and Feeding

The Dickfeld’s Julie is an omnivore. In the wild they will eat drifting matter in the water, but mostly feed on crustaceans they pick from the rocks. In the aquarium 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: Occasionally
  • Live foods (fishes, shrimps, worms): Some of Diet
  • Vegetable Food: Some of Diet
  • Meaty Food: Most of Diet
  • Feeding Frequency: Daily – Offer several small feedings a day rather than a single large feeding for better water quality over time.

Aquarium Care

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 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.

Aquarium Setup

The Dickfeld’s Julie is active cichlid and will swim in the bottom areas of the aquarium. A minimum 20 gallon tank for a pair is suggested. Provide 75 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.

They need plenty of cover and places of retreat. Provide lots of porous rocks and/or clay pots and clay pot pieces forming caves and crevices. They will a define a territory with a crack or rock fissure as the center of their territory, and will stay very close to the rock structures of their defined territory. Provide them with a sandy or fine gravel substrate. Plants can also be included as they will not bother them.

  • Minimum Tank Size: 20 gal (76 L) – A minimum of 20 gallons is suggested for a pair, with 75 gallons or more for a community type tank.
  • Suitable for Nano Tank: Yes – A 20 gallon Nano tank can house a single specimen or a pair.
  • Substrate Type: Sand/Gravel Mix
  • Lighting Needs: Moderate – normal lighting
  • Temperature: 73.0 to 80.0° F (22.8 to 26.7&deg C)
  • Breeding Temperature: 77.0° F – Breeding temperatures range between 77 – 80.6° F (25 – 27 C).
  • Range ph: 8.5-9.2
  • Hardness Range: 8 – 12 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: Bottom – These fish will swim in the bottom areas of the aquarium.

Social Behaviors

The Dickfeld’s Julie does well in a community cichlid tank and can be kept alone or as pairs. Do not house with other Julies though, as they are intolerant of them. They are also aggressive toward those of the same species. This fish is a community cichlid that can be kept with other Tanganyika cichlids that are similar size.

If breeding them do not house with plecostomus as these fish will eat the fry at night. Once the parents are ready to spawn again, they will allow the older fry to help with raising their siblings if the tank is large enough. At this point, if the tank is not large or does not have many crevices in which to hide, you may want to remove the fry.

  • Temperament: Aggressive
  • Compatible with:
    • Same species – conspecifics: Sometimes – Though it is aggressive with others of its own genus it can be kept singly or as a pair.
    • Peaceful fish (): Threat
    • Semi-Aggressive (): Safe – It is intolerant of other Julie cichlids, but relatively peaceful with other Tanganyika Cichlids
    • Aggressive (): Monitor
    • Large Semi-Aggressive (): Threat
    • Large Aggressive, Predatory (): Threat
    • Threat
    • Shrimps, Crabs, Snails: Threat – is aggressive
    • Plants: Safe

Sex: Sexual differences

The Dickfeld’s Julie are hard to sex as juveniles but once they pair off, a male and female pair becomes clear. Males are said to be smaller than the females.

Breeding / Reproduction

The Dickfeld’s 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 they are not ready to breed until they are a year old. Young couples need practice to become successful parents.

Buy 6 to 10 juveniles and put all of them in the tank you plan to use for breeding. Do it this way because if you move a newly established pair to a breeding tank, you may meet with failure. Once you have a pair the male will start to mark off territories. Remove the extras after a pair splits off unless you have a large tank and lots of rockwork. It is best not to rearrange the rocks or move any decorations around in the aquarium once they form territories. This can stress them out and will very likely break the bond a male and female have made. The reason for this is that part of their bond is connected to the “territory” more than to each other.

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). They are cave spawners so 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. The male will entice the female into a cave and their spawn will be from 35 to 50 eggs. Make sure there are a lot of crevices for the young to hide in and do not use plecostomus in the tank, as they will eat the young during the night. For a higher success rate, siphon out most of the fry when they are older and put them in a separate 10 gallon tank, leaving just a few in the tank with the parents. Feed the fry baby brine shrimp.

Once the parents are ready to spawn again, they will allow the older fry to help with raising their siblings if the tank is large enough. At this point, if the tank is not large or does not have many places and crevices in which to hide, you may want to remove the fry. The fry are slow growers. It takes almost 4 months to get them to 1″ in size. Raise the fry in a community tank of 60 gallons or more with other Tanganyikan cichlids of similar size. The fry can be damaged by nets, so be careful when removing them. See the description of breeding monogamous cichlids in: Breeding Freshwater Fish: Cichlids.

  • Ease of Breeding: Easy

Fish Diseases

The Dickfeld’s 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 Dickfeld’s Julie or Brown Julie is available online and often available in fish stores and is moderately priced, though prices vary depending on size. Purchase from a reputable dealer, due to hybridization it takes a trained eye to choose the correct color strain that has not been crossed.