Common Name/Origin: Phenochilus Tanzania: Star Sapphire cichlid from Lake Malawi, Africa.
Size: Averages 8-10 inches in the home aquarium. Females average 6 inches.
Sexing: As the Placidochromis Phenochilus Tanzania matures, the males will turn from a grayish color to a glitter-like blue, silver, and white color. Females will be smaller and remain a gray, blue, or violet base with black stripes on their body.
Tank: Due to the Star Sapphire’s large size and their open water swimming patterns a single specimen should not be kept in anything smaller than a 55-gallon aquarium. A 70-gallon or larger tank would be much better. I keep mine in 110-gallon and 240-gallon aquariums.
Their should be rocks for the females to find shelter in, but the Star Sapphire is a Malawi Hap and prefers the open water for swimming.
Water: pH: 7.5-8.5
Temperature: 76-82 °F
Feeding: The Phenochilus Tanzania is a natural carnivore. A high quality pellet (or flake for younger fish) should be provided for their staple diet. Mix in any frozen or freeze dried food to provide a well-rounded diet. Mysis, brine shrimp, and krill are eagerly accepted by the Tanzania cichlid. I mix in spirulina on a regular basis to help bring out the blue coloration in my Phenochilus.
Behavior: The Star Sapphire cichlid is a relatively peaceful fish. I have kept this cichlid with Frontosa, Yellow Labs, Cyrtocari moorii (Malawi Blue Dolphins, Peacocks, and Clown Loaches with no problems.
When female Phenochilus Tanzanias are kept with multiple males, there will be the occasional fighting over the females. During breeding, the male may harass the female so please provide a place of shelter for her during this time.
I would not house with an extremely “easy going” non-cichlid fish species. Even though this is one of the most peaceful cichlids I have kept, they are still cichlids and can hold their own when push comes to shove.
Tank mates: I have kept this cichlid with Frontosa, Yellow Labs, Cyrtocari moorii (Malawi Blue Dolphins), Peacocks, and Clown Loaches with no problems. The combination of colors of the Phenochilus Tanzania with a tank full of Labidochromis caeruleus (Electric Yellow Labs) is simply amazing. The blue and yellow hues are beautiful.
Do not keep this species with any really over aggressive cichlids.
Key features: The coloration of the mature males is nothing less than breathtaking. It may take 1 year before you see the “change”-taking place. My males truly began to show excellent colors around 1-½ years. The males will turn to a blue, silver, and white glitter-like color. There is not another freshwater tropical fish that shows this beauty in my opinion.
The time it takes for the males to change over is reflected in the price when you search for adult specimens. It is sometimes difficult and pricey to land a mature Phenochilus Tanzania.
The Star Sapphire cichlid is an open water swimmer. This species will swim back and forth and provide plenty of movement in your freshwater tropical fish tank.
Breeding: the Star Sapphire cichlid will breed rather easily in the home aquarium. I have had the best results by having a “species only tank”. The Trio I have spawn regularly with temperatures at 78°F. and the pH is steady at 7.9.
The female will clear out a pit in the substrate and then she will drop her eggs. The male will then pass over and fertilize the eggs. The female scoops the eggs in her mouth along with the male’s sperm. The fertilized eggs will stay in her mouth anywhere from 24-29 days (give or take a few).
The female will then spit her fry and they will be free-swimming and on their own. Males will eat their fry. If you want to successfully raise the fry, you have two options. You may want to strip your female and put the eggs or fry in an tumbler. Another choice is to remove the holding female and put her in her own tank. When she releases her fry, you can move her to another tank to regain her strength or put her back in the main tank if you do not have another free tank.
Overall this is an excellent cichlid to keep in your home aquarium tank. This is one of my favorite cichlids and I am sure you will enjoy them as much as I do.