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Rusty Cichlid

Scientific Name: Iodotropheus sprengerae
Family: Cichlidae

About the Rusty Cichlid

Species Type: Freshwater Fish
Category: Cichlids

Care Level: Easy. Does well in a slightly more narrow range of water parameters and shouldn't be used to cycle an aquarium. Will eat most prepared foods. May have some specific care requirements in terms of particular water parameters, social behaviors, food items etc.

Origin: Boadzulu and Chinyankwazi Islands in Lake Malawi, Africa.

Compatibility/Temperament: Generally a peaceful cichlid compared to some of Lake Malawi, but can show aggression towards other fish of the same genus. Best kept in a Lake Malawi setup with other "mbuna" (rock dwellers). This is not a pairing fish, Males require a harem of females to keep aggression off one particular female at spawning time. Should not be kept with Lake Malawi "peacocks" as it will stress them to the point of not allowing males to color up and is too active for the more mild mannered peacocks.


While not territorial and relatively peaceful cichlid, some care needs to be taken. Male to male and male to female aggression is the primary concern. Best to keep a single male with a harem of 3 to 4 females, this will allow the male to spread aggression when he reaches spawning age. This fish sexually matures at 14 weeks or near 1.5"(4cm) in length and as such is easy to breed in the home aquarium.

Recommendation to not keep this dwarf mbuna with larger more aggressive species unless a large amount of rocks and hiding places are provided.

Lake Malawi being a naturally sandy and rock lake, one in the home aquarium should aim to mimic this setup. Rocks, Rocks and more rocks is the theme for tank decoration with pieces of driftwood to provide something to munch on between feedings.

These fish will eat some plants, so when wanting to keep plants, look at Jave Fern, Anbuias and Java Moss, many others will end up being picked at and eaten.

Like any fish from Lake Malawi, these fish are prone to "Malawi Bloat", they always appear hungry when in fact they are not, limit feedings to 1-2 a day and only enough for the fish to eat within 30 seconds to a minute. These are hardy fish and as such can be given "starve" days, ie not feeding for a full day or 2 will have no adverse effects on the fish.

Iodotropheus sprengerae was first described in 1972 by Oliver and Loiselle and has achieved a status as being a true classic in the cichlid keeping world. There are other species in the Iodotropheus genus but Iodotropheus sprengerae is the only one likely to sold in the hobby.

Rusty Cichlid Diet

This fish is a herbivore and will do well on a diet of Cichlid flakes, pellets and the occasional treat of zucchini, lettuce, peas and carrots (make sure they are not frozen and thoroughly thawed out.


Males generally achieve 4"(10cm) maximum and females remain slightly smaller. Males are distinguished by additional egg spots on the anal fin and grow quicker than the females. This is a diamorphic fish meaning males and females look almost identical.

Minimum Tank Suggestion


Ideal water parameters for Rusty Cichlid

Hard water with a pH range from 7.8 - 8.6, Temperature of 76-82°F

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Rusty Cichlid 1

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