Saulosi Cichlid


Common Name: Saulosi Cichlid
Scientific Name: Pseudotropheus saulosi
Adult Size: 3-4 inches
Life Expectancy: 5-6 years
Tank Size: 55 gallons minimum

The Saulosi Cichlid is a colorful and active species from Lake Malawi, known for its striking sexual dimorphism: males are blue with black bars, while females and juveniles are yellow-orange. These cichlids are a dwarf mbuna species, which means they are relatively small and less aggressive than some of their larger relatives.

A 55-gallon tank is recommended to house a group of Saulosi Cichlids, as they do best when kept in groups with more females than males to prevent aggression. The aquarium should contain plenty of rocks and caves to provide hiding spots and territories for these territorial fish.

Their diet should include foods high in vegetable content, such as spirulina flakes and algae, to mimic their natural consumption of biofilm in the wild. While Saulosi Cichlids are generally peaceful, they should be kept with other mbuna species that have similar size and temperament to avoid potential conflicts.

Origins and Natural Habitat

The Saulosi Cichlid, scientifically known as Chindongo saulosi and formerly classified as Pseudotropheus Saulosi, is indigenous to the temperate, rocky waters of Lake Malawi in Southeast Africa. You’ll find them in a particular zone of the lake known as Taiwan Reef. This area is characterized by an abundance of algae-covered rocks, where the Saulosi Cichlid thrives.

Your Saulosi Cichlids would be found in the wild at depths ranging from 7 to 15 meters. These fish prefer environments with steady water temperatures where they can navigate through intricately formed rocky structures, utilizing the crevices and caves for shelter and spawning.

The environment of Lake Malawi is essential for the vibrant and distinctive colors of these fish. It’s a biologically diverse ecosystem that supports this dwarf Mbuna species, allowing them to form substantial schools in their search for food and their interactive social behavior. These cichlids, discovered in 1989, have adapted well to their niche, contributing to the species’ success within this competitive habitat.

Aquarium Setup

Creating the ideal environment for your Saulosi Cichlid is crucial to their health and well-being. Tank size and specific water conditions play a significant role in simulating their natural habitat.

Tank Size and Environment

Your Saulosi Cichlid requires sufficient space to thrive. A minimum 30-gallon tank is advisable for a small group, but if you’re planning to keep a larger group, aim for at least a 75-gallon tank. It’s important that the tank is long, to provide ample swimming space. Decorate the tank with plenty of rocks and caves to mimic the rocky landscapes of Lake Malawi where Saulosi Cichlids naturally reside. This setup not only provides hiding spaces but also territories for the males.

Water Conditions and Parameters

The water in your Saulosi Cichlid’s tank should closely resemble the conditions of their natural habitat in Lake Malawi. Ensure the following parameters for optimal health:

  • Temperature: Maintain a temperature range between 74-82°F (23-28°C).
  • pH Levels: Aim for a pH level between 7.8 and 8.6.
  • Hardness: Water hardness should be between 10-25 dGH.

Regular water testing is crucial—you must monitor these parameters consistently to maintain a stable environment. Appropriate filtration is also necessary to handle the bioload and to maintain clean and oxygen-rich water.

Behavior and Social Dynamics

In observing the Saulosi Cichlid, you’ll discover a species exhibiting a clear and structured social hierarchy. The dominant male typically displays vivid blue coloring, while subdominant males and females showcase yellow hues, providing visual cues regarding their status. Your Saulosi Cichlid aquarium should reflect their need for territory; males claim distinct areas, which they defend vigorously, especially during breeding periods.

Their behavior underscores the intricate balance of competition and cooperation. As you maintain a group, you’ll witness that while males may spar for dominance, they generally establish a pecking order without serious harm. Females form social bonds, sometimes seen as groups that forage together, which enhances their communal stability.

Breeding behavior reveals heightened social interaction, with males performing elaborate courtship displays to attract females. When you provide an environment with adequate rocks and hiding places, you encourage natural behaviors conducive to breeding. It’s important to monitor interactions during this time, as the dynamics can intensify, leading to stress or aggression if your tank’s structure doesn’t offer sufficient refuge.

Diet and feeding behavior in the wild revolve around scraping algae from rocks, a trait you can cater to in captivity with proper food choices and tank setup. By mimicking these natural conditions, you foster a more authentic expression of their social and feeding behaviors, promoting harmony within your underwater community.

Compatibility and Community

When selecting tank mates for your Saulosi Cichlid, prioritize compatibility to ensure a harmonious environment. The Saulosi Cichlid thrives in the company of other mild-tempered mbuna and certain other Malawi cichlids, yet avoid overly aggressive species that may provoke stress or conflict.

Suitable Tank Mates for Saulosi Cichlids:

  • Other Mbuna cichlids (of similar size and temperament)
  • Non-predatory Tanganyika cichlids


  • Predatory fish
  • Overly aggressive cichlids
  • Very small or timid species

Your tank setup plays a crucial role in community success. Provide ample hiding spaces with rocks and caves, mimicking the natural habitat of Lake Malawi, to discourage territorial disputes among cichlids. Maintain a water temperature of 22°C – 25°C, a pH range of 8.5 – 9.2, and a water hardness of 8 – 14 dH to support the health and compatibility of your aquatic community.

Health and Maintenance

Ensuring the well-being of your Saulosi Cichlid involves regular tank maintenance and stringent disease management. By establishing routines and responding swiftly to health issues, you can maintain a healthy environment for your fish.

Cleaning and Maintenance Routines

To safeguard your Saulosi Cichlid’s health, establish a consistent cleaning schedule. This should include:

  • Weekly water changes: Replace 20-25% of the tank water to reduce nitrate levels and remove debris.
  • Filter checks: Inspect and clean the filter monthly to ensure it’s functioning properly, as this is crucial for removing waste and maintaining oxygen levels.

Substrate and decorations should be cleaned regularly to prevent algae buildup. Testing water parameters such as pH, ammonia, nitrate, and nitrite levels weekly will help you catch imbalances early.

Disease Prevention and Management

For disease prevention, quarantine new fish for at least two weeks before introducing them to your main tank to prevent the spread of diseases. Proper diet—a mix of high-quality pellets or flakes and occasional live or frozen foods—will keep your Saulosi Cichlids robust and better able to ward off illness.

In case of disease, identify symptoms quickly and isolate affected fish to a hospital tank to administer treatment. Common ailments include Ich, also known as white spot disease, which requires immediate attention. Effective management involves a combination of medication and maintaining optimal water conditions to prevent recurrence.

Diet and Feeding

The Saulosi Cichlid is an omnivorous species, requiring a well-rounded diet to maintain good health. In the wild, your Saulosi Cichlid feeds primarily on algae and small invertebrates found on the rocky substrates of Lake Malawi. For them to thrive in captivity, they’ll need a diet that replicates this as closely as possible, combining both plant and animal matter.

Balanced Diet Guideline

  • Plant-based Food: Includes spirulina, algae wafers, and blanched vegetables (like zucchini)
  • Protein Sources: Brine shrimp, daphnia, and quality cichlid pellets that contain a mix of both plant and animal ingredients
  • Feeding Frequency: Feed your Saulosi Cichlid 2-3 times daily with the amount they can consume within a few minutes to avoid overfeeding

Overfeeding is a common issue that you should be vigilant about, as it can lead to health problems and water quality issues. Ensure any uneaten food is removed from the tank to prevent decay and maintain water clarity. Regularly monitor your fish’s response to their diet to make necessary adjustments for their well-being.

Breeding and Reproduction

The Saulosi Cichlid exhibits unique breeding behaviors that are crucial to understand for successful reproduction. You can identify the genders and assist in breeding by creating an environment that mimics their natural habitat.

Gender Identification and Breeding Behavior

Male Saulosi Cichlids become territorial and display aggressive behavior during breeding, often digging pits in the sand that serve as nesting grounds. To differentiate the males from females, look for their vibrant blue and black barred coloration. In contrast, females are primarily orange with less pronounced barring and are mouthbrooders, carrying the fertilized eggs and fry in their mouths for up to 18 days post-fertilization.

Creating Optimal Breeding Conditions

To encourage reproduction, you should set up a spawning tank of at least 30 gallons to provide adequate space for breeding behaviors. The substrate should be sandy to allow for male digging activity. Ensure that water parameters are stable: a pH level between 7.8 and 8.6, water hardness of 8-12 dGH, and a temperature maintained between 76-82 degrees Fahrenheit. Additionally, provide hiding spaces with rocks and caves to offer shelter and mimic their natural environment.

Growth, Development, and Lifespan

When you’re raising Saulosi Cichlids, their growth and development are quite fascinating to observe. Initially, all Saulosi Cichlid fry display a yellow coloration, which later differentiates into distinct male and female colors as they approach maturity. Males transform into a striking blue with black bars, while females generally retain their yellow color.

The rate at which your Saulosi Cichlids grow can be influenced by factors like tank conditions and diet. In optimal conditions, they display a moderate growth rate. Adequate space, proper water quality, and nutrition will support their development.

A healthy Saulosi Cichlid can have a lifespan of up to 5 years or more, assuming they are provided with an environment that mimics their natural habitat, including parameters like water temperature and pH levels. Regular water changes and monitoring are key to extending their lifespan.

Your Saulosi Cichlid will thrive in a tank that reflects their natural rocky and cave-rich habitats in Lake Malawi. They prefer depths ranging from 7-15 meters, replicating this in a home aquarium encourages natural behavior and healthy growth.

Remember, the dominance hierarchy in Saulosi Cichlids can also impact their color intensity and overall health. The dominant male typically exhibits the most vivid colors, signifying his top position within the group. Regular observation of your fish will help identify any issues early on, maintaining their wellbeing throughout their growth phases and into adulthood.


Where Do Saulosi Cichlids From?

The Saulosi Cichlid (Pseudotropheus saulosi) is a freshwater fish species that is native to Lake Malawi, which is located in southeast Africa. Specifically, they are found in an area of the lake called Taiwan Reef, and nowhere else. This species is also popular in the aquarium trade and can be found in many parts of the world.


What Is the Natural Habitat of a Saulosi Cichlid?

In their natural habitat, the Saulosi Cichlid prefers rocky, temperate waters with plenty of algae-covered rocky structures. They are found in depths of 7-15 meters and prefer water temperatures between 75-80 degrees Fahrenheit. This species is known to be relatively hardy and easy to care for, making it an ideal choice for beginners and advanced hobbyists alike. Males can become territorial and aggressive with other males, and they dig pits in the sand for breeding purposes. Females will mouth-brood (hold the fry in her mouth) for 12 to 18 days.


What Do Saulosi Cichlid Eat?

Saulosi Cichlid is an omnivorous species that feeds on a variety of foods in the wild. In their natural habitat, they primarily feed on algae and small invertebrates. In captivity, they require a balanced diet that includes both plant and animal matter.

To meet their dietary needs, you can feed them a combination of high-quality flake or pellet food, frozen or live foods such as brine shrimp, bloodworms, and daphnia. It is important to provide them with a varied diet to ensure they receive all the necessary nutrients.

You can also supplement their diet with fresh vegetables such as spinach, zucchini, and cucumber. Providing them with a vegetable-based diet can help prevent bloating and constipation.

It is recommended to feed them small amounts of food multiple times a day instead of a large amount once a day. This feeding schedule mimics their natural feeding behavior and helps prevent overeating and digestive issues.


Are Saulosi Cichlids Aggressive?

Tank Size

How Big of a Tank Does a Saulosi Cichlid Need?

Saulosi Cichlid is an active swimmer and needs ample space to move around. A minimum tank size of 30 gallons is recommended for a small group of Saulosi Cichlid. However, for a larger group, a tank size of at least 75 gallons is recommended. It is important to ensure that the tank is long enough to provide enough swimming space for the fish.

It is important to provide ample hiding places for Saulosi Cichlid. You can use rocks, caves, and driftwood to create hiding places for the fish. This will help reduce stress and aggression among the fish.


What Are the Best Tank Mates For Saulosi Cichlids?

When it comes to tank mates, it’s important to choose species that can tolerate the aggressive behavior of Saulosi Cichlids. Mixing them with peaceful fish is not recommended, as they may become targets of aggression. Good tank mates for Saulosi Cichlids include other African Cichlids, such as Peacock Cichlids and Hap Cichlids. It’s important to avoid mixing them with fish that look similar to them, as they may mistake them for rivals and become aggressive towards them.

It’s recommended to keep Saulosi Cichlids in a species-only tank or with other Lake Malawi Cichlids. It’s not recommended to mix them with fish from other regions, as they may have different water requirements and may not be able to tolerate the same conditions as Saulosi Cichlids.


How Big Do Saulosi Cichlids Get?

Saulosi Cichlid is a dwarf Mbuna species that belongs to the Pseudotropheus genus. They are small in size, but they cannot be kept in a small aquarium. The males are slightly bigger than their female counterparts, and they grow up to 3-4 inches in length.

In the wild, Saulosi Cichlid can grow up to 4 inches, but in captivity, they usually grow up to 3 inches. However, if you provide them with proper care and a suitable environment, they can grow up to 4 inches.