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6 Types of Lake Tanganyika Cichlids & The Best One

Lake Tanganyika cichlids are usually known to be the best cichlids species with their vibrant and beautiful varieties and colorations.

Lemon cichlid is one of them, which has a very pretty rich color and lovely temperament.

Best Lake Tanganyika Cichlids for Aquarium

There are a few vibrant and beautiful Lake Tanganyika cichlids, which are great for keeping in your tank. Here are some of them.

1. Lemon Cichlids (Neolamprologus Leleupi)

2 lemon cichlids

Lemon cichlids are one of the most beautiful Lake Tanganyika cichlids, which are vibrantly yellow, orange, or reddish. They are semi-aggressive towards their types and easy to care for in a 20–40-gallon tank. They are best kept with semi-aggressive fish in a community tank.

2. Blue Neon Cichlids (Paracyprichromis Nigripinnis)

Blue neon cichlid

The blue neon cichlids are one of the most famous Lake Tanganyika cichlids, which are vibrant in color and gorgeous with their yellow or lighter neon blue bodies. They are usually 4⅓-inches in length and live up to 5-8 years.

3. Brevis Shell Dweller (Neolamprologus Brevis)

Shell dwelling cichlid

Brevis Shell dwellers are usually smaller fish with elongated bodies. With their light brown fins and fluorescent blue-bordered eyes, they are pretty mysterious and best visible under lights.

4. Compressed Cichlids (Altolamprologus Compressiceps)

Compressed cichlid

Compressed cichlids are one of the most popular Lake Tanganyika cichlids having a laterally compressed shape. With their white and bluish spots, they are unique in color and can grow up to 6-7 inches in length.

5. Daffodil Cichlids (Neolamprologus Pulcher)

Daffodil cichlid

Daffodil cichlids are elegant in their look and nature. Their lyre-shaped tail fin and pleasant coloration make them an excellent choice for any tank. Their light green and icy blue appearance are great to add more beauty to your tank.

6. Fairy Cichlids (Neolamprologus Brichardi)

Fairy cichlid

Fairy cichlids are truly fairies in the species of Lake Tanganyika cichlids. They have a very pleasing color with a yellow and sky-blue color combination and are 4-5 inches in length.

In this post, we will cover lemon cichlid in detail.

Lemon Cichlid Species Overview

Level of CareModerately easy
AppearanceBright yellow, orange, or reddish, with fine blue lips and blue eyes
Life Expectancy8-10 years
Size3.9-4 inches
Tank Size20-40 gallon
Tank EnvironmentHard alkaline water with sand and gravel substrate and lots of cave formation with rocks
Tank MatesSemi-aggressive

Lemon Cichlids or Neolamprologus Leleupi is one of the most exotic Lake Tanganyika cichlid varieties. These beautiful fish are the inhabitants of Lake Tanganyika in Africa and are usually found in the lake’s southern part.

Neolamprologus is one of the largest genera of cichlids in the Lake Tanganyika group, containing more than 50 fish species. They are easy to find on the rocky coastlines of both the eastern and western sides of the lake within 16-131 ft. depth.



The stunning Lemon cichlids usually come with an elongated body and a continued dorsal fin. Their distinct beauty lies in their caudal fin, which comes in the shape of a fan. Their lips are usually larger.


They are quite a smaller species but serve as very exotic tank mates.  Their refreshing color is the secret to their gorgeous beauty.

The specimens of the lemon cichlid group usually vary in wide colors. They are most commonly seen in a bright yellow, orange, or reddish hue. Also, they can appear in deep brown color, based on their origin.

Their fine blue or green line on the lips is quite distinctive and gives them a unique look. Moreover, their light blue eyes are one of their very notable traits.

These Lake Tanganyika cichlids are not that tricky to care for. But in the aquarium, their vibrancy of color highly depends on the type of care and diet they are receiving.


Well, lemon cichlids usually grow up to 3.9-4 inches or 9.91 cm long. In the wild, the males grow up to almost 4-inches.

But in the aquarium with the best care, they can also grow up to 5-inches. The females on the other hand, are slightly smaller. They typically extend up to a maximum of 3.5-inches in length.

Behavior & Temperament

Lemon cichlids are one of those particular types that are not at all aggressive. They have a very peaceful and calm temperament.

Thus, it is pretty easy to keep them in a small same-species tank or a large community aquarium with other fish. They are best kept with mild or relatively calm tank mates. You can easily keep them with other less aggressive species of Lake Tanganyika cichlids.

They are well-behaved and quickly become friends with other fish. But just because they are too peaceful, it doesn’t mean that they will never get aggressive. They are aggressive towards other fish of their kind.

In the wild habitat, they are usually found alone or in a pair. These cichlids come together only during the reproduction phase.

They go well with their newly born young siblings. But they will not at all tolerate other species’ babies at any cost. So, if you are thinking of keeping them in your tank, start with keeping only one.  But if you want to pet more than one, then consider keeping them in a larger tank.


Lemon cichlids are are very easy to care for and live for long years.

If you offer them the best care, they can easily live up to 8-10 years of age.

Tank Requirements

This species of Lake Tanganyika cichlids are usually active swimmers. Hence, they swim around in the aquarium all day long. So, it is better to offer them sufficient space in the tank.

Also, the water movement in the aquarium needs to be strong enough. Besides, do you know, Lemon Cichlids are pretty messy? And that is why you need to ensure that the filtration rate of the water is adequate.

In their natural habitat, the water is enriched with oxygen. Thus, the tank requires a proper oxygen level to offer adequate care to them.

They usually prefer a bit of hard water. Thus, the pH range needs to be a bit high. Also, make sure you are regularly checking the nitrogen level in the water. The presence of too much nitrate in the water will be very harmful to them.

Also, the water temperature needs to be moderate enough. Too cool water or too hot water will not be suitable for these fish.

Usually, the water chemistry of Lake Tanganyika does not change much over time. Hence, you need to ensure that you are offering well-buffered water with proper maintenance and regular water changes.

You can keep your lemon cichlids in slightly brackish water conditions. But make sure the water is not entirely salty. The water chemistry must properly mimic their natural habitat to let them show their best color.

Tank Setup

Lemon cichlids are easy and fun to care for. But make sure the tank setup is top-notch for them.

So, here is how you can ensure the best tank setup.

For keeping lemon cichlids, a minimum of a 20-gallon water tank will be much more suitable. If you are thinking of keeping them in pairs, you can opt for a 40-gallon tank to offer them the best care.

Ensure a proper filtration rate for the tank water to keep the movement appropriate.

You can add bubbles for maintaining a proper oxygen level in the aquarium water.

Keep checking the presence of nitrate regularly. The nitrate level in the tank water should not be more than 25 ppm.

The water of Lake Tanganyika is not soft. Instead, it is hard enough. Usually, the water pH remains near 9, which is consistently alkaline. Thus, make sure the water in your aquarium is sufficiently alkaline. Keep the pH level higher than 7.

The hardness of the water should be near about 12-14 dGH.

The tank water temperature should be between 72-86 ℉.

Add salt as a buffering agent to increase the carbonate hardness of the aquarium water.

You can also use chemical filtration to enhance buffering of the water.

For the substrate, you can use a very small-sized gravel substrate. Also, a light-colored substrate will be excellent.

You can add some crushed corals to the substrate to keep the water’s pH level up.

A moderate to normal lighting intensity in the tank will be fine for caring.

In the case of decoration of the tank, consider placing a lot of rocks and cave formations.

Lemon cichlid top view

Tank Mates

Lemon cichlids are very peaceful and gel well with other tank mates. They are aggressive towards fish of their kind but go well in a community tank.

You can easily keep them in an aquarium with other durable fish. While picking the tank mates, make sure you are not keeping them with aggressive fish. They can also be kept with the same species of fish.

So, it’s always better to keep them with other peaceful fish. Make very sure that you are not keeping them with large semi-aggressive or predatory fish. Even slow swimmers and eaters can be a threat to them. Moreover, do not keep them with shrimps, crabs, or snails.

Here are the tank mates that you can house with them:

  • Convict Julie
  • Julidochromis
  • Dickfield’s Julie
  • Compressed cichlid
  • White Pearly Calvus
  • Synodontis catfish

Food & Diet

Are you thinking of keeping lemon cichlids in your tank? Well, then you must be concerned about their feeding behavior. Feeding them is not at all that challenging.

They are usually carnivorous by nature. So, they highly prefer protein-rich foods for their diet. In the wild, they easily eat zoobenthic organisms, copepods, or aquatic insects.

For maintaining a good balance, you can give them high-quality flake food or pellet regularly. You can also supplement this food with good-quality brine shrimps, daphnia, or cyclops.

To let them achieve a brighter color, you can offer them protein-rich carotenoid foods. Feed them in 2-5 smaller parts of the food in a day. Do not provide a large quantity of food to them at once in a day.

Giving them a food-free break for one day a week will also be very beneficial for their growth. In general, they prefer a meaty diet. Thus, frequently offer them meaty foods for their enhanced growth.


Caring for lemon cichlids is pretty easy. To offer them the best care, you must perform regular water changes up to 10-20% in a week. Also, you may need to do it more frequently as per the waste generated.

Lake Tanganyika cichlids usually cannot handle substantial water changes until the new water chemistry goes well with the tank water they are currently living in.

Besides, Lake Tanganyika cichlids are very prone to thyroid malfunctioning. Thus, to let their thyroid function properly, you must offer an adequate amount of iodine in the water through salt. It is also beneficial for their healthy growth.

They can tolerate a salinity of about 10% of ordinary saltwater. So, to provide these cichlids with the best care, the specific gravity should be less than 1.0002.

Keep them in a light-colored substrate. It will help these cichlids show their best colors.  Make sure the ambiance is not too dark. In such an environment, they tend to look muddy.

Nevertheless, there are a few difficulties associated with keeping them. So, these fish are best kept by experienced cichlid keepers.

The care is moderately easy as long as you feed them with live foods. But during the water change, you need to be very careful to match the new water chemistry with the previous one to keep your fish healthy.

Breeding Guidelines

Lemon cichlids are typically egg layers. The female fish are usually sheltered substrate spawners that prefer to spawn in caves. During breeding, they will form monogamous pairs and a nuclear family.

The female cichlids begin by depositing 50-150 eggs on the roof of the cave. Then the male fish traverse to the rooftop to fertilize them. And soon after fertilization, the female fish hide within the spawning site to guard the eggs. The males, on the other hand, protect their territory. These breed in captivity and quickly spawn.

For better and more successful breeding, you can start with 6 or more juveniles and let them pair up. To ensure proper breeding, you need to transfer them to a breeding tank with a 20–30-gallon capacity.

Decorate the said aquarium with rocks and other decorations to create caves and offer them perfect spawning sites. It will be ideal if the caves possess a small opening that is big enough for the female fish to enter.

Do you know when the shelter is not enough, the male fish can even kill the female counterparts if she is unwilling to spawn? Dangerous, isn’t it?

However, make sure that the breeding tank has slightly alkaline water. The pH of the water should be medium to hard with a range of 7.5-8. Maintain 10-15 dGH for the hardness of the water. For the breeding tank, maintaining a water temperature of about 77-86 ℉ is too obligatory.

Also, with 50% of water changes, you can easily stimulate proper spawning.


The eggs will hatch within 4 days. During this time, both the parents are going to defend their fry.

As the fry becomes able to swim, you can feed them with newly hatched brine shrimps and crushed flakes.

Where to Buy?

Lemon cichlids are also popularly known as Leleupi or Gold cichlid. Thus, you can ask any of your nearby aquarists about them. You can also get them in fish stores.

Moreover, you can look for them in the shops of a hobbyist. These Lake Tanganyika cichlids are also readily available in online stores.

Final Thoughts

So, are you thinking of adding some fresh vibrance to your tank with one of the famous Lake Tanganyika cichlids? Then lemon cichlids are the most suitable buddies for you. They are vibrant in color, peaceful in nature, and a perfect companion to live with for a long time, subject to proper care.

Hence, bring these playful fish to your home; trust us, they will be a great mate for your tank.