African Butterfly Cichlid [Some Interesting Facts]

African Butterfly Cichlid Featured Image

African Butterfly Cichlid, scientifically known as Anomalochromis thomasi, is a small fish from the Cichlidae family.

It’s named after W. Thomas (born 1965), an English aquatic technician who collected its type specimen.

This fish lives in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea. It lives in small streams with slightly acidic, oxygen-rich water alongside other West African cichlids like Hemichromis and Pelvicachromis.

African Butterfly Cichlids are found in forest streams that have lots of shade from overhanging plants.

The water they live in has a tea-like color due to tannins from decaying organic matter. Water temperatures can reach up to 86°F during the dry season.

They are also found near the edges of forests. When stressed or disturbed, African Butterfly Cichlids bury themselves in mud up to 12 inches deep.

You can check out what this fish looks like over here.

African Butterfly Cichlid Interesting Facts

  • African Butterfly Cichlids live in slightly acidic, oxygen-rich water in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea.
  • They can bury themselves in mud up to 12 inches deep when stressed or disturbed.
  • These fish form pairs to spawn and lay eggs on leaves or flat rocks after cleaning the area together.
  • Named after W. Thomas, an English aquatic technician who collected its type specimen.

African Butterfly Cichlid Habitat

African Butterfly Cichlid is found in coastal rivers from the Konkouré River in Guinea to the St. John River in Liberia.

It prefers shallow muddy waters similar to savannahs and areas where water temperature reaches around 86°F during dry seasons. This fish is also found near forested regions’ edges.

African Butterfly Cichlid lives near the bottom and prefers a pH range of 6.0 to 8.0 and water hardness (dH) between 5 to 12.

It thrives in temperatures of 73.4°F to 80.6°F (23°C to 27°C) and is typically found in tropical regions between latitudes of 13°N to 4°N.

Water Temperature:73.4°F to 80.6°F (23°C to 27°C)
Water pH:6.0 to 8.0 pH
Water Hardness:5 to 12 dH

African Butterfly Cichlid Physical Characteristics

Size: 1.97 inches (5.0 centimeters)

African Butterfly Cichlid is a tiny fish, growing up to 1.97 inches (5.0 centimeters) long. This fish has 14 to 15 dorsal spines, 8 to 10 dorsal soft rays, 3 anal spines, and 7 to 9 anal soft rays.

African Butterfly Cichlid has a small mouth and a rounded to pointed snout.

Its teeth are mixed with one or two points on the outer jaw, single-pointed on the inner jaw, and two-pointed on the pharyngeal jaw.

It also has micro-gill rakers and ctenoid scales (scales with tiny teeth).


Typically yellowish with six black crossbars along its body and a large black spot on the gill cover.

There is no “tilapian” mark at the beginning of the soft part of its dorsal fin which distinguishes it from young Tilapia.

Fins are generally clear to pale blue with small dots or lines; pelvic fins are blue-violet with a darker front edge.

Behavior-Related Color Changes

  • When courting or aggressive, colors become brighter.
  • During spawning, five to six dark vertical bars appear on its body which intensify as brood care progresses; overall appearance becomes dusky.

Other Morphs

  • Guinea variant – More oval-shaped black spot, more pale yellow base coloration, more visible black bars that broaden during breeding.
  • Second Guinea variant (single specimen) – Light brown body with iridescent yellow highlights; very small black lateral spot; bluish scale centers; thin longitudinal stripe sometimes visible.

Note: It’s unclear if these other morphs represent separate species or just variations within Anomalochromis thomasi species.

African Butterfly Cichlid Reproduction

African Butterfly Cichlid forms pairs to spawn and lay eggs on leaves or flat rocks after cleaning the area together.

The female mainly cares for the eggs, but sometimes the male helps her out.

Once hatched, baby fish (fry) are moved by their parents into small pits made within their habitat’s substrate (bottom material).

Over a period of 72 hours after hatching, the fry will move between these pits before becoming free-swimming.

African Butterfly Cichlid Scientific Classification

Scientific Name:Anomalochromis thomasi
Also Known As:African Butterfly Cichlid
Conservation Status:Least Concern

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