Cyphotilapia frontosaHumphead cichlid

Geographic Range

Lake Tanganyika, Africa. Cyphotilapia frontosa are found between 5-50 meters in depth. Older individuals inhabit deeper water. Large schools are found 30-50 meters deep with isolated individuals being found shallower, however it is very uncommon to find individuals in shallow waters (Brichard 1989; Axelrod 1993).


Cyphotilapia frontosa is found in coastal waters. They are most commonly found along rocks in water 30-50 meters deep (Brichard 1989; Axelrod 1993).

  • Aquatic Biomes
  • lakes and ponds

Physical Description

Cyphotilapia frontosa can grow up to 35cm long. Their body shape is deep and rather compressed with a hump on the head which increases with age. The body has broad deep blue and white alternating bands and two lateral lines with an overall light blue flourescent glow. Cyphotilapia frontosa also have two large pectoral fins, long white filamentous ventral fins, and round caudal fins. The mouth is protrusive and large but not especially powerful. The teeth are all very fine and compressed (Brichard 1989; Axelrod 1993)


Cyphotilapia frontosa is a mouthbrooding fish. It continues to stay in deep waters while releasing its fry, which is unusual for most mouthbrooding fish. Most mouthbrooding fish rise to shallow waters for incubation or to release their fry in order for the fish to receive better oxygenation. However, C. frontosa release their fry about twenty meters deep. This leads to the belief that fry and adults require less oxygen than other mouthbrooders. This is an advantage for the fish, because water twenty meters deep is much less populated than is shallow water. Thus, there are fewer predators to prey upon the fry. Females lay 22 to 25 eggs and incubate their fry until they are close to 25mm long. After release, the fry mix in with the adult schools and breed when they are 20-22 cm long (Brichard 1989; Axelrod 1993).


Cyphotilapia frontosa is primarily a schooling species. They tend to stick to deeper waters. However, lost or isolated members have been found in shallow waters. Adult individuals line up side-by-side and move around slowly in the deep waters. Cyphotilapia frontosa is very difficult to catch alive due to decompression problems. One must take several hours to bring them up to allow for decompression (Brichard 1989; Axelrod 1993).

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

The diet of Cyphotilapia frontosa is mainly composed of shellfish and smaller fish. However, when kept in an aquarium they will eat almost anything, from vegetable flakes to other fish and insects (Brichard 1989; Axelrod 1993).

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Cyphotilapia frontosa is positive for human economy. These fish are caught very frequently and in large amounts to supply local markets. They are eaten regularly by local populations. If caught alive and kept alive, they may be sold to fish enthusiasts (Brichard 1989; Axelrod 1993).

Conservation Status

Other Comments

This is an excellent fish to keep in a household aquarium. It is very popular amongst fish enthusiasts and very beautiful. If well fed, the fish is very easy to take care of and can become a great pet.


Kristopher Takahama (author), University of California, Irvine, Rudi Berkelhamer (editor), University of California, Irvine.



living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


specialized for swimming

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


uses touch to communicate


Axelrod, H. 1993. The Most Complete Colored Lexicon of Cichlids. Neptune City, NJ: T.F.H. Publications, Inc..

Brichard, P. 1989. Cichlids and All the Other Fishes of Lake Tanganyika. Neptune City, NJ: T.F.H. Publications, Inc..