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Star Sapphire Cichlid Care, Diet, Breeding & More

Are you thinking of giving your aquarium a very vibrant enlivening attribute? Well, then the blue star sapphire cichlids would be an ideal choice!

These bright-colored cichlids are quite peaceful as tank mates. So, for those who are thinking of adding more fun to their fish tank, star sapphire cichlids are simply great.

Species Overview

Level of careVery easy
TemperamentMild aggressive
AppearanceVibrant, glossy sapphire blue
Life expectancy8 years
Size8-10 inches
DietA protein-rich carnivorous diet like pellets
Tank size125 gallons
Tank environmentHard alkaline water with rocks and caves
Tank MatesPeaceful fish

Star Sapphire cichlids or Phenochilus Tanzania is quite popular among the family of cichlids, which look spectacular with their sapphire blue appearance. They are originally the Malawi Lake residents of Africa.



Aquarists highly prefer males due to their stunning appearance. These are very easy to identify with their metallic blue color paired with glittery white and blue spots.

However, females do not have glittering sports; instead, they have vertical bars or blue contours throughout their entire bodies.


The male star sapphire cichlids grow to a maximum length of 10-inches, whereas the females are near about 6-inches, which makes them easily identifiable.

Behavior & Temperament

Blue star sapphire cichlids are relatively peaceful as compared to other cichlids. They usually love to hover around the aquarium without disturbing other tank mates much.

However, you can see a little bit of aggressiveness during the time of spawning. Well, that aggression is also too mild.

Like the other Lake Malawi cichlids, these are also easy survivors in hard and alkaline water. They search for food actively near the sand substrate, which makes them ground feeders.


Blue star sapphire cichlids can usually live up to 8 years in an aquarium. However, the life span depends on their health and the diet you are providing them.

Tank Requirements

Are you thinking of keeping blue star sapphire cichlids in your home?

Well, that’s a great idea! But make sure to meet the tank requirements for these fish. To take care of blue sapphire cichlids in your fish tank, it is better to mimic their natural habitat.

These are native to the hard and alkaline water of Lake Malawi. Thus, maintaining proper water conditions similar to their natural habitat is crucial to ensure their better health.

The tank water needs to be moderate with a temperature of 76-82 °F, and the pH balance should lie between 7.8-8.6 levels. Prefer sand substrate more than any other substrates.

Moreover, blue star sapphire cichlids love a more open swimming area. So, it is better to arrange the tank with numerous rocks to create various passageways so that these cute fish can freely move about in the tank.

Tank Setup

Blue star sapphire cichlids want a minimal yet rightly decorated aquarium. And trust us, it’s relatively easy to set up the tank; you can simply do it using a few assortments. Here is how you can opt for the tank setup of a star sapphire cichlid.

  • The minimum tank size for blue star sapphire cichlids should be 125-gallons. These cichlids grow pretty fast and love adequate space in their tank. Hence, make sure that the tank is not overcrowded as space is needed to keep them healthy.
  • Control the water temperature between 78-82 °F to ensure that your aqua pet is not living in too hot or cold-water conditions. However, if you reside in a cold area, you can use a water heater to maintain proper water temperature.
  • Ensure hard and alkaline tank water condition. You can use additives to make the water suitable for these star sapphire African cichlids.
  • A 125-gallon tank will be suitable enough for a group of 4-5 10-inches cichlids. As they are mildly aggressive, adding more than 5 cichlids in an aquarium can lead to much aggression.
  • Change 20-40% of water weekly if your blue star sapphire cichlids are pooping too much. Unhealthy water can ruin their health. Hence, you can also consider equipping a filtration system to the tank to maintain clean water.
  • Maintain 12-18 DH hardness range to maintain healthy water conditions.
  • You can sprinkle some salt in the water to make it work as a buffering agent to increase the water’s carbonate hardness.

Tank Mates

Though star sapphire cichlids are peaceful enough, aggression can take place if their tank mates are hostile.

However, the right temperament of tank mates can keep them away from continuous WWE sessions in your tank.

Thus, select the fish, which are much compatible with them. Peaceful and harmonious fish are much recommended.

Are you thinking of adding too many small fish? Wait! Don’t do that! As star sapphires grow up to 10-inches, they can attack or gulp those tiny little tank mates.

Remember to avoid aggressive fish like Oscars strictly. Also, do not add too large fish like catfish.

Here are a few suitable tank mates that you should add:

  • Lake Malawi cichlids
  • Mild-mannered mbuna
  • Malawi peacock
  • Docile Malawi haplochromines
  • Deep Water Haps
2 star sapphire cichlids

Food & Diet

In the wild habitat, star sapphire African cichlids are usually carnivores. Thus, their diets need to be foods with high protein content.

They love to eat live or frozen brine shrimps or krills, which act as an excellent protein source.

In case you are thinking about how to retain their vibrant blue appearance, you can easily feed them with commercially-prepared cichlid pellets. Also, you can give them plankton-based flakes.

The best combination of food for this species of cichlids is flake and pellet. However, before feeding them with flakes, you need to soak them properly. As they reach about 3-inches in height, it’s better not to offer them flakes anymore.

Feed them daily. You can offer them several small meals every day. They are simply going to eat the small feedings within a few minutes.

Also, offering food in small platters is undoubtedly a great option instead of feeding them with a single large meal, as the latter can lead to a complete mess. Feed them near the ground as they tend to search for their food while hovering over the sand.

Star Sapphire Cichlid Care

Are you thinking of extending your aquarium family? Well, then blue star sapphire cichlids are the best ones!

But it would help if you were a bit more careful while taking care of them. Are you thinking of keeping a small group of 5-7 fish? If yes, then go for 75–125-gallon tanks.

As these grow large, a 6 ft. tank is undoubtedly the best option to keep them. In a large tank, you can keep them with other peaceful fish and gentle Malawi Haps.

Make sure you are not adding any tank substrate other than sand, along with a few rocks.

Also, these are much sensitive to gas turbidity during water change in winter. At times the aquarium water can get filled with tiny microbubbles.

These small bubbles can enter the body of your fish and cause damage to their internal organs. If you notice that they are spiraling or whacking out during water change, you need to take the necessary action.

Opt for a large shallow aquarium rather than deeper tanks to prevent turbidity. For better care, ensure that you are not overfeeding the sapphire cichlids. Also, ensure proper changing of water to keep them healthy.

Breeding & Reproduction

Do you know that the breeding process of these star sapphire African cichlids is quite interesting? But you need to take proper care of them while they opt for breeding.

Blue star sapphire cichlids are usually sexually dimorphic, which means that the male and female counterparts display different colors as they grow.

And do you know a fun fact about these cichlids? Similar to most other Malawi Cichlids, star sapphire ones are also maternal mouthbrooders.

During spawning, females are going to circle around. Then they will pick up the eggs and hold them in their mouth for better protection.

Usually, females continue to carry eggs and cichlid fry in their mouths for two weeks or more. To take proper care of them while breeding, you can put them in a separate tank to make them feel safe and comfortable.

It is a great idea to keep several females with one male star sapphire cichlid. Also, it is better to keep aggressive males apart during the breeding season to prevent fights.


Did your blue star sapphire cichlids spawn already? Well, then this is the time to take sufficient care of the fry. But are you wondering how to facilitate proper care to tiny newborns?

Well, the mouthbrooding females usually take care of their fry for the first few days in their mouth before spawning. After 5-7 days, as they hatch, they will easily survive on the yolk sac. So, it’s better not to feed them during this time.

Soon as the fry starts maturing, you need to move the cichlid fry from their parents to a nursery breeding tank. As fry requires more space than adults, putting them in another tank is a good choice for their development and growth.

You can keep them in a small aquarium with a 5–10-gallon capacity. Make sure the decoration is not too extravagant so that you can easily change the tank water.

Also, equip the nursery tank with an aquarium heater and sponge filter. Filtration is vital to achieving proper water circulation in the tank. But since the fry is too small, make sure the filtration is not much powerful.

After one week, you can opt for changing the aquarium water. Simply change 10-20% of water and add some fresh dechlorinated water.

For better growth of the fry, you can feed them with newly hatched brine shrimps, which are rich in protein. As fry starts growing mature, you can move them to the original tank to grow freely with adult cichlids.

Where to Buy?

You can easily buy them from any aqua pet store. They are a little bit pricey.

Also, as these are quite rare, you may not find them easily. For this, you can even get them from any hobbyists or online stores.

Final Thoughts

While most people keep regular cichlids in their fish tank, you can go a bit off-beat by adding these to your aquarium. Their vibrant blue color undoubtedly adds an aura to the tank.

Also, you are simply going to fall in love with their playful hovering in the tank. So, what are you thinking about? Just get these beautiful star sapphire African cichlids from your favorite store today!