Maximum size : 7 cm

Transvestite Dwarf Cichlid - Nanochromis transvestitus : Complete Fish Profile & Care Guide

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The captivating Transvestite Dwarf Cichlid (Nanochromis transvestitus) is a species that commands attention from experienced and patient aquarists due to their demanding nature. Their beauty and intriguing behaviour make them a rewarding addition to any advanced aquarium.

Transvestite Dwarf Cichlids are generally peaceful with other species as long as they share similar water parameters. They coexist well with smaller Tetras, South American Tetras, and other Dwarf Cichlids. However, it is crucial to note that they can be highly aggressive towards their own kind. Dominant males may attack non-receptive females and other males. Bonded pairs only last temporarily, and aggression can suddenly arise. Thus, if you plan to keep more than one pair, a large tank with numerous hiding places will be necessary. 

A pair of these exquisite fish would be well-suited for inclusion within most mature, softwater community aquariums. Nevertheless, it is imperative that the aquarium measures at least 3 feet in length due to the dwarf cichlid's territorial tendencies during the spawning phase. The substrate should consist of a soft sand bed, complemented by an abundance of shaded areas meticulously furnished with lush plantings, strategically placed driftwood, and discreetly positioned caves.

Particularly favoured hideaways include coconut shells adorned with Java moss or pristine new flowerpots. It is highly probable that a breeding pair will select such a location as their preferred spawning site. To ensure optimal aquatic conditions, filtration must be robust, coupled with effective oxygenation and areas of controlled water movement, while providing tranquil resting zones away from the prevailing currents. To maintain water quality and mitigate nitrate accumulation, a routine schedule of frequent partial water changes is essential.

The Transvestite Dwarf Cichlid's body colour is a mesmerizing greyish-green with seven distinct, broken, dark, vertical stripes that are more prominent in males. Females boast stunning violet abdomens and unpaired black fins with an intense white stripe. Additionally, males are more slender, and the edge of their caudal fin ends at a point.  

Transvestite Dwarf Cichlid Photos

Sexual Dimorphism

Discerning between male and female Transvestite Dwarf Cichlids is a straightforward task. Males exhibit a slimmer body frame and are comparatively less vibrant in colouration than their female counterparts. Moreover, males possess elongated caudal and anal fins that terminate in a pointed end. Conversely, females showcase more strikingly hued bodies, featuring vivid patterns and a redder abdomen compared to the males.

Quick Facts

Scientific NameNanochromis transvestitus
Year Described1984
Other NamesWest African Dwarf Cichlid
OriginsDemocratic Republic of the Congo
Max Size7 cm
Aquarium LevelMiddle
DifficultyIntermediate - Advanced
Best kept asPairs
Diet & FeedingOmnivore
ReproductionEgg Depositor
LifespanUp to 5 Years

Water Parameters

Water TypeFreshwater
pH 4.0 - 7.0
GH 8 - 15
Ideal Temperature
75 - 80
23 - 26

Natural Habitat

The Transvestite Dwarf Cichlid is a fascinating fish species indigenous to Lake Mai-ndombe, situated in the heart of the rainforest in the Democratic Republic of Congo, West Africa. These fish thrive in the swift-moving waters of the lake, which are rich in tannins derived from the decay of organic matter, contributing to the lake's signature stained water. In their natural habitat, these cichlids prefer to inhabit rocky areas with a sandy substrate and fallen vegetation. Their choice of location serves as both a natural source of shelter and a feeding ground, where they can prey on a diverse array of insects and crustaceans that reside within the aquatic vegetation.


Breeding Transvestite Dwarf Cichlids is a nuanced process that requires a keen understanding of their environmental and behavioural needs. You may breed a solitary pair in a separate breeding tank or produce multiple pairs in a considerably larger tank. In either case, the water conditions must be incredibly soft and acidic, with a slightly elevated temperature. The breeding tank should have gentle filtration from an air-powered sponge filter and be furnished with driftwood and rocks. These materials serve as potential spawning sites and offer hiding places for the female if she is not yet prepared to breed.

Males can exhibit aggressive behaviour during the pairing process, while females typically initiate pairing. Therefore, a delicate balance must be achieved to allow the female to enter the breeding condition while avoiding the male's constant attention. Therefore, including as many hiding places as possible in the tank is crucial. Conditioning the pair on a diverse diet of live and frozen foods is recommended to promote spawning. 

When ready, the couple will exhibit more intense colouration, and the female will display her bright red belly while contorting her body into an 's' shape, followed by gill flaring and mouthing. The pair will then dig a cave underneath a piece of driftwood or rock, where spawning occurs. The male will guard the spawning site, while the female tends to their eggs. Role swapping may occur during this period.

The eggs typically hatch within 2 to 3 days, with the fry becoming free-swimming about seven days later. The fry is relatively large and can be fed brine shrimp nauplii and microworms from the moment they become free-swimming. However, it's crucial to maintain very soft and acidic water during the early stages of development, as fluctuations in GH and pH can lead to significant losses. You can gradually acclimate the fry to more typical conditions as the fry grows. The parents will typically care for their brood for approximately a month, after which they may reproduce again. Predation of the young by the parents is rare.

Diet & feeding

To ensure optimal health and vitality, the Transvestite Dwarf Cichlid requires a diverse diet consisting of both live and frozen foods, such as daphnia, white worms, bloodworm, cyclopentene, and tubifex worms, in the home aquarium. While some individuals may initially only accept live food, with careful training, these cichlids can also learn to take freeze-dried and flaked food. It is crucial to offer a varied diet to meet their nutritional requirements fully. When feeding your cichlids, it is advisable to provide small, frequent meals throughout the day, ranging from two to five small portions. This feeding schedule ensures that the water quality remains stable for a longer duration, promoting a healthier and more vibrant aquarium environment.

Other Cichlids of interest