The Blue Dolphin cichlid, also known as Hump Head or Moori, is an African cichlid originating from Lake Malawi. The “dolphin” term in its name comes from the nuchal hump on its head, present on both males and females, which is more prominent with age.
Although native populations are scarce and are not the easiest fish to breed, Blue Dolphins are pretty popular in the aquarium trade.
They can grow up to 8 inches or more and have a lifespan of 7-10 years, becoming sexually mature at about 3 years old.
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Due to their large size, Blue Dolphins need a large tank of 125 gallons minimum. Being a shy and timid fish, hiding places must be provided. You can place rocks, wood, plants, or large decorations where they can hide and have some privacy. But don’t fill up the tank with plants or decorations, as they also need many open spaces for swimming.
They feel most at ease in alkaline water, with pH ranging from 7.2 to 8.8, and hardness between 10-18 dGH.
Temperatures should be kept between 73-82° Fahrenheit with a slightly higher temperature preferred during mating. Lighting and water movement should be moderate.
Feeding your Blue Dolphin Cichlid
In the wild, the carnivorous Blue Dolphin feeds on small invertebrates, thus in the aquarium, this diet should be reproduced as closely as possible. Feed your cichlids a high protein diet consisting of brine shrimp, bloodworms, earthworms, or prawns, together with good-quality pellets or flakes.
Flakes and pellets can make good vitamin supplements, which should always be present in their diet.
It was once believed that warm-blooded animal meat would be good nourishment for these carnivores, but lately it has been discovered that fats and proteins contained in poultry, beef, etc. do more harm than good to their organs.
This is no wonder considering they don’t naturally occur in the natural diet. If you notice your cichlids love this kind of food, make sure to only feed this as an occasional treat.
Like any other fish, the Hump Heads are susceptible to stress and disease, especially in poor quality water. Lack of proper filtration and sudden changes in temperature or water chemistry will all contribute to their stress level and thus weaken their immune system.
Ich is the most common disease and usually the first to appear when fish are more vulnerable. If discovered early, it can be treated by elevating the water temperature to 86 degrees Fahrenheit (increase one degree per hour) for 3 days.
This elevation must be done gradually to allow the fish to accommodate to it and reduce stress. If this doesn’t help and Ich is not gone in 3 days, you can treat it with copper, but make sure any water conditioner is gone.
Other common infections affecting the Blue Dolphins are skin flukes and parasitic, fungal, or bacterial infections.
Quarantine any new fish, plants, or decorations you plan to introduce in your tank to make sure they are free of any pathogens.
This is a semi-aggressive predator that can become quite territorial if kept in a small tank with few hiding places. When sensing danger, the Blue Dolphin would bury itself in sand to avoid it, so it’s better to place some sand as substrate.
The good part is although it may uproot plants while burying itself, it won’t eat them, as plants are not part of its natural diet. This is why you should place plants with solid roots in the tank.
Usually, this fish is best kept in a species-only tank with a single male together with three or more females. Though some aquarists manage to house them with other non-aggressive cichlids like Malawi cichlids or cichlids from the Aulonancara genus, as well as Frontosa or Synodontis catfish.
Be careful during breeding periods though, as the Hump Heads may become very territorial and display aggressive behavior towards the other species.
Avoid putting this species together with smaller fish, as they regard the little ones as food and try to hunt them down, given their predatory instincts.
Breeding your Blue Dolphins
During mating periods, males display brighter coloration than females. Blue Dolphins are usually sexually mature at about three years old and breed regularly after reaching this age.
They usually mate when no other species is around, but would be able to do this in a community tank if it is large enough and provide plenty of hiding places.
The male fertilizes the eggs after the female lays them on a flat stone or in a nest. After that, the female scoops them into her mouth and carries them for about three weeks.
It’s better to leave the female in the same tank, as moving her during this time may cause her to drop the eggs. She might pick them up again, but it’s not certain.
Younger females usually hatch between 15-25 young, while older ones may hatch up to 80 fry. The fry are free swimming after hatching and should be fed brine shrimp.
Blue Dolphin cichlids are beautiful fish to keep if you can afford the space to house them and will make a lovely addition to your home or office.
They are not the easiest fish to keep, but not the most demanding either, so with a bit of effort, they will thrive in your tank for many years.