Max Size: 8cm

African Butterfly Cichlid (Anomalochromis thomasi)

The African Butterfly Cichlid is peaceful, unlike other Cichlid species. These Cichlids are somewhat sociable and best maintained in small groups, preferably comprising of equal quantities of each sex. Like most Dwarf Cichlids, they are rather retiring in captivity. An abundant cover of floating plants and the use of appropriate dither fish will effectively eliminate any undesirable shyness. Large, fast-swimming species such as Congo Tetras, Giant Danios or larger Barbs are best avoided when selecting dither fish for the African Butterfly Cichlid. They can often out-compete these fish at feeding time as well as having a rather boisterous nature.

Ideal tankmates for the African Butterfly Cichlid should be relatively small and peaceful such as Dwarf Gouramis, small Rainbowfish, small Barbs,

Corydoras Catfish, small Loricariids, Tetras and Rasboras, as well as other Dwarf Cichlids. However, you must make sure that their tank is of adequate size; otherwise, they will become cramped, causing breeding pairs to become aggressive towards their tankmates.

Unlike some of the larger Cichlid species, the African Butterfly Cichlid will not uproot plants. Even during periods of sexual activity, this species will coincide successfully with rooted vegetation.

African Butterfly Cichlids are among the best choices for beginner aquarists who would like to keep Dwarf Cichlids. These Cichlids are peaceful, relatively undemanding, easily bred and quite attractive once settled into your aquarium.

The African Butterfly Cichlid has a relatively slim body when viewed from above or from the front. Their bodies have a pale bronze colour with iridescent blueish-silver highlights on the scales and under the eye. The head is silvery-grey colour, but there is usually a silver "flash" under the eyes. The gill plates are iridescent silver with hints of gold and reddish-brown, depending on the lighting.

There are eight different rows of tiny pearl-like dots running horizontally along the fish's body, beginning at the gill plates running along to the end of the caudal peduncle. Both males and female African Butterfly Cichlids have two false eyespots; one is in the middle of the body, and the other is at the rear of the caudal peduncle, which is always located on the spine's line.

You may also notice a reddish-brown coloured tip on the rays on these fins. The rays tend to have a silver tint to them, and between the rays, the fins are hyaline. The pectoral and ventral fins are generally transparent. The caudal fin has silvery rays and is clear between the rays.

Quick Facts
Scientific NameAnomalochromis thomasi
Other NamesNone
OriginsGuinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone
Aquarium LevelBottom - Middle
DifficultyBeginner - Intermediate
Best kept asPairs
Lifespanup to 5 years
Water Parameters
Water TypeFreshwater
PH5.5 - 7.5
GH3 - 12
TDS18 - 268
73 - 80℉
22.8 - 26.7℃


African Butterfly Cichlid

Natural Habitat

African Butterfly Cichlids are endemic to Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone on the west coast of Africa. They inhabit warm, slightly acidic, oxygen-rich water in small forest streams and savannah wetlands. These habitats have muddy substrates, are shaded by dense vegetation, and the water is heavily stained with tannins from decaying natural matter.


African Butterfly Cichlids are not fussy and will accept most foods. High-quality dried food such as flakes or Cichlid pellets is ideal for feeding them as their diet staple. However, make sure you vary the diet with regular feedings of live and frozen foods such as bloodworm, daphnia, mosquito larvae and vitamin-enriched brine shrimp.

Sexual Dimorphism

It is very challenging to distinguish males from female African Butterfly Cichlids as juveniles. However, as adults, the difference is noticeable. The female is smaller, rounder bodied and far more defined in colour than that of a male. In contrast, males are larger; their dorsal and anal fins are more extended and pointier at the rear tip, while the females are more rounded and the black markings on the males tend to be less distinct than females.


Unlike many West African Dwarf Cichlids, the African Butterfly Cichlid is unfussy regarding water chemistry and will happily breed in slightly acidic as well as somewhat alkaline conditions. Gentle filtration by an air-driven sponge filter is sufficient. Make sure you provide plenty of broad-leaved plants and flat stones to act as possible spawning sites.

The best way to gain a pair is to buy a group of 6 or more young individuals and grow them out together. They will then form pairs naturally. Condition the group on high-quality frozen and live foods. Couple formation is pretty apparent when it happens, as these fish are monogamous, and you will see them defending their territory from intruders.

When these Cichlids are ready to spawn, you will see the female cleaning several potential sites on broad-leaved plants or flat rocks around the male's territory. The male will then join her in cleaning a single selected area.

Spawning occurs similarly to many other Cichlids, with the female laying a row of eggs before swimming aside, allowing the male to take her place and fertilise them. Anything up to 500 eggs may be laid and fertilised in this way.

The eggs will usually hatch around 48 hours later, and during this time, the male will guard the spawning site while the female tends to her eggs. The fish may swap roles occasionally. During this period, the couple will also dig several shallow holes in the substrate around the spawning site.

Once all eggs have hatched, the parents will move the entire brood into one of these pits. They will continue to move the babies into different holes several times before they become free swimming, which generally occurs around 72 hours after that.

Once the fry becomes free swimming, it will usually take another 12 hours or so for the fry to completely consume its yolk sacs. At this point, you can feed them on brine shrimp nauplii and microworm

The parents will continue to care for their brood for around another month, after which they may produce again. The babies usually are pretty slow at developing.

Other Cichlids of interest

Banded Apistogramma(Apistogramma bitaeniata)
Blue Panda Apistogramma(Apistogramma panduro, Apistogramma pandurini)
Bolivian Ram Cichlid(Mikrogeophagus altispinosus)
Checkerboard Cichlid(Dicrossus filamentosus)
Cockatoo Dwarf Cichlid(Apistogramma cacatuoides)
Convict Cichlid(Amatitlania nigrofasciata)
View all Cichlids
Date Added: 29/03/2021 - Updated: 07/12/2021 13:15:45