0.jpg Cyphotilapia frontosa 'Kabimba (North)'.jpg Tropheus sp. 'lukuga' Kabimba.jpg
Previous pageNext pageCyphotilapia frontosa 'Kabimba (North)'<br><font color=gray>6-bar frontosa</font>
Photo: © by Ad Konings

Tribe/Genus: Cyphotilapiini/Cyphotilapia
Habitat: Cyphotilapia frontosa live in deep rocky habitat, usually at a depth of 20 meters or more. Juveniles can be found at somewhat shallower levels. The actual depth depends also on the population and habitat. They lives in groups. Large male who is in charge of group usually live together with several females and few smaller males.
Size: Males can attain a maximum size of 35 cm and more. In aquarium they can grow even a lot larger.
Sex dimorphism: Males are larger than females and usually have a larger nuchal hump, this difference becomes more pronounced with age.
Recommended aquarium size: 1000 L or more
Aquarium setup and keeping: Best to keep in groups in species only tank or together with other larger cichlids. For example with species from genus Lepidiolamprologus, Gnathochromis, larger Neolamprologus and others. It is not recommended to keep them with smaller cichlids, for example with species from genus Julidochromis and Cyprichromis, because these cichlids can easily become food for Cyphotilapia. Try to setup aquarium in a way to replicate their natural habitat as much as possible (dimmed light, add rocks and stones,...).
Feeding: Cyphotilapia frontosa is quite lethargic and never seems to be in a hurry. Younger species feed on soft-bodied crustaceans but adults are mainly piscivorous. The teeth on the pharyngeal bone are sharp and slender in shape, in strong contrast to the molariform dentition found in macroinvertebrate feeders. Stomach contents of wild specimens have revealed mostly remains of fish as well as mussels (Poll 1956), plus insect larvae, shrimps, and snails (Büscher 2011). Observations in captivity add credibility to the idea that Cyphotilapia frontosa is a piscivore: it can—and does—devour tank-mates that are almost half its own size. (Ad Konings, Cichlid News 2019)
Breeding: Cyphotilapia frontosa breeds in a peculiar manner not known to any other maternal mouthbrooder apart from Trematochromis benthicola. Before spawning takes place the blue color of the male intensifies, in particular on the snout. Males do not dig spawning sites or defend territories. When a male and female are getting ready to spawn they do not separate from the group but look for a suitable site which is then weakly defended by the male. Without shaking or undulating his body the male slowly moves over the site, with fins folded, showing the female where to go. After the male has staged this demonstration run, the female moves in a similar fashion over the site and lays an egg. However, she does not turn around like other cichlids to pick up the egg(s) just laid, but instead moves backwards to collect them. Having done so, she does not make way for the male but continues to deposit eggs. If undisturbed she can “swing” five or six times in a row, depositing a total of up to 20 eggs, before she moves away and the male enters the site again. In all probability the male’s milt has enough “staying power” to fertilize the eggs even though it is discharged several minutes before it actually contacts them. The female has never been seen to nuzzle the male’s anal fin to ingest sperm, a common practice in other mouthbrooders. When the female has left the site the male leads her back again, and the whole process is repeated until all the eggs have been laid. The male seems never to chase the female. The eggs are brooded for about five weeks before the fry are released. (Ad Konings, Cichlid News 2019)
Comment: How many species are in the Cyphotilapia genus? Answers on this question will vary depending on which author (Tanganyika expert) you ask. For Ad Konings there is only one, Cyphotilapia frontosa. For some other authors there are two, C. frontosa and C. gibberosa (C. gibberosa is valid also from scientific view) and some authors think that there is also a third species which is called C. sp. 'North' or also C. sp. '6-bar frontosa'.
Cyphotilapia frontosa was described by Boulenger in 1906 from type material that was collected at Kigoma. This population is characterized mainly by having six bars on the body and one on the head and further by the dark blue color on the cheeks and the variable yellow coloration in the dorsal fin. In the hobby it is also known as the 7-bar frontosa. Then in 2003 Takahashi & Nakaya described a second species in the genus and called it Cyphotilapia gibberosa. The type material of that species was collected in the southernmost part of the lake, at Kasenga Point near Mpulungu in Zambia. That population is characterized by five bars on the body and one on the head. One would think that five vs. six bars on the body would be an adequate and simple distinction between the two species, but strangely enough Takahashi & Nakaya did not use that obvious difference at all and instead claimed that the difference between the two was based on the number of scale rows between the upper and lower lateral line: C. frontosa has two scale rows while C. gibberosa has three. They also compared their new species with the northernmost population in Burundi and declared that even though that form has five bars on the body and one on the head (like C. gibberosa) it was conspecific with the Kigoma form, the 7-bar frontosa. So, bars were out and scale rows were in. Genevelle (2004) did not agree with this approach and declared that the Burundi population represented a third species, which he provisionally named Cyphotilapia sp. ‘6-bar frontosa’. In 2007, Takahashi (the principle author of the C. gibberosa description), together with Ngatunga and Snoeks, re-examined the taxonomic status of the six-barred Cyphotilapia from the north. They examined 32 specimens from eight different localities and compared them with the holotype of C. frontosa and 21 freshly-collected specimens from the type locality, Kigoma. The conclusion they drew from this large scale examination was that there were “... significant differences in morphometric and meristic characters; however, because all characters largely overlapped between these morphs [C. frontosa & 6-bar], they are regarded as conspecific”. So we are back to two species, C. frontosa and C. gibberosa, as the 6-bar frontosa is included in C. frontosa (which has seven bars). (Ad Konings, Cichlid News 2019)
So according to all this there is C. frontosa on the north and C. gibberosa on the south, but there is a problem with classification of Cyphotilapia populations in the center part of the lake. Populations in Tanzania in Mahale Mountains NP area and in DR Congo between Cape Tembwe and Kavala Islands show characteristic of both species, C. frontosa and C. gibberosa. Because of this Ad Konings concluded that characteristics that differ C. gibberosa from C. frontosa are insignificant and he regard C. gibberosa as a junior synonym of C. frontosa. But not all authors agree with this. African Diving opinion is that those populations in the center of lake could be of hybrid origin:
It is very likely that C. frontosa and C. gibberosa evolved as distinct species during a period of low lake level, when Lake Tanganyika was divided in two (or three) smaller lakes, and that the two species started to hybridise at the centre of the lake as soon as the water level rose and the smaller lakes merged, bringing the two species into contact. Therefore, the populations in the middle of the lake, including Lyamembe and Cape Tembwe, may exhibit a mixture of characteristics belonging to both species, thus being difficult to classify, but the general appearance (colour and shape of body) may be better to rely on than only the number of scale rows. (African Diving Ltd, Personal communication July 2021)
According to Takahashi and Nakaya (2003), C. gibberosa is found at Miyako (Mahale Mountain NP area) and C. frontosa at Cape Tembwe (DR Congo). In making such a statement, it seems that they rely only on the number of scale rows, but as they write in the description, the two species differ in more characters, including more longitudinal line scales, higher body, longer predorsal, longer pectoral fin, and more. But based on easily observable characters, including shape and colours of body, we would say that the population at Kavala Island is C. frontosa and the one at Cape Tembwe is C. gibberosa, while the border between these species may be Kalemie and Lukuga River. In Tanzania, all populations south to Sibwesa appear to be C. frontosa, while those along the Isonga-Ikola coast southwards are C. gibberosa. Obviously, the sandy shores between Sibwesa and Isonga seem to be the Tanzanian border between the two. (African Diving Ltd, Personal communication July 2021)

According to all this information I decided to call all Cyphotilapia population from the northern part of the lake (in DR Congo north of Kavala Islands and in Tanzania north of Sibwesa) as C. frontosa and all Cyphotilapia population from the southern part of the lake (in DR Congo south of Kalemie and in Tanzania south of Isonga) as C. gibberosa. Cyphotilapia population found in Mahale Mountains NP area and at Kavala Islands I call C. cf. frontosa and population in DR Congo between Kalemie and Cape Tembwe I call C. cf. gibberosa. Unfortunately I don't have any photo from area of C. cf. gibberosa. As said before, these populations from the center part of the lake show characteristics of both species so I classify them more based on coloration and shape of body.
The 6-barred C. frontosa may indeed represent a different species, distinct from the true 7-barred C. frontosa from Kigoma, but I follow on my webpage Takahashi et al., 2007, which found that many morphometric and meristic characters overlapped, concluding the two forms to be conspecific. The southern boundary of the Kigoma (7-barred) variant’s distribution is the Malagarasi River delta while the northern boundary it seems it is at Mwamgongo, a village about 30 km north of Kigoma, where Ad Konings found mixed population of both 7 and 6 barred frontosa. According to Konings there were also individuals that have 6 bars on one side of the body and 7 bars on the other side of the body.
C. gibberosa from the southern part of the lake also show some variation, but they all have 6-bars. In hobby is probably the most known "Blue Zaire" variant which is most often collected at Mtoto, Kitumba, Kapampa, Tembwe (Deux), Zongwe, Lupota, Mikula and Moliro. Btw. Moba, which is very common in hobby, is actually collected at Mtoto (north of Moba). At Moba is a pure sand habitat and Cyphotilapia is not found there. "Blue Zaire" variant has probably the most intense blue coloration and there is practically no difference between different populations of "Blue Zaire" variant. Differences in photos are more related to age, mood, lighting, etc... Very similar to "Blue Zaire" is also the Kansombo and Cape Mpimbwe variant found across the Lake in Tanzania. Males of Kansombo and Cape Mpimbwe variant are also of solid blue color (when in domination), but the blue colour on the "Blue Zaire" is darker and deeper and tends to approach violet. Normal coloration of Tanzanian variant is more whitish, while Zambian variant it seems are somehow in between Tanzanian and Congo variant. Please look at photos on our webpage to see differences between locations.

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