The Venustus Cichlid comes from Lake Malombe and the upper Shire River of Lake Malawi, Africa. Adults are mostly found over sandy areas at depths depth between 15 – 20m. Juveniles are found in shallow waters near rocks and swimming in schools. They feed on small fish and invertebrates. They use an ambush technique of partially burying themselves it the sand to catch unaware small fish prey as they swim near.
The Venustus is a good sized cichlid with a stocky elongated body and a large mouth. They reach up to about 25cm in length and sometimes grow a bit bigger in the aquarium. This fish has a life span of up to 10 years. The male can range from a solid gold with a blue face or be all blue. But all will have the “giraffe” patterning faded in the background and a yellow to tan stripe starting at the nose and running along the top of the dorsal.
Females and juveniles are a lighter beige colouring with the brownish “giraffe” spotting being more pronounced. The female has a hint of gold on the head area, an anal fin that is yellow on the bottom half and a tail fin that is clear on top and yellow on the bottom half. Her dorsal fin is tipped in a lighter colour too. The juvenile looks the same as the female but their background is a little lighter, almost a silver white colour.
It is an fairly aggressive cichlid and cannot be kept with fish other than cichlids. Like most african cichlids you will need to do frequent water changes and provide appropriate tank mates. It is susceptible to Malawi bloat as well as the typical diseases that effect all freshwater fish if the tank is not maintained. In the proper setup it will easily adapt to prepared foods, breed readily, and the juveniles are easy to raise as well.
The Venustus are omnivorous, but in the wild they habitually feed on fish so can be considered a piscivore. In the aquarium they do best with a high protein diet. They can be fed live or frozen food, freeze dried krill, pellets, and other high quality foods for piscivores. Occasionally feed mysis and feeder fish. They need herbivorous foods as well to balance out their diet. Young up to 3 to 4″ can be fed flake, but after that flake is too messy and will foul the water. Adults do best when fed frozen foods twice a week. They will eat to the point of their stomach being distended, so be very careful to not overfeed.
The Venustus is polygamous in nature with a male attending several females and they form a matriarchal family. It is suggested to get a group of eight to ten juveniles and let them grow up together. They like a flat stone or slate to lay their eggs. Make sure this breeding site is not near a strong water flow since the eggs are externally fertilised.
Being a mouth brooder the female will pick up the eggs into her mouth for incubation. She will carry 60 to 120 eggs for over a month, and will allow the hatched fry to hide in her mouth for up to 10 days, after which they are on their own. If the tank is very “busy” she may let the eggs go too soon, so you may have to strip her of all eggs a few days after spawning and incubate them for around 13 days. On her own, she will hold them in her mouth for about 2 weeks.
This would be a good time to take them out of the tank as the male has no qualms about eating his children! The fry can eat finely crushed flake. They will colour up like the female in a short time and grow quickly. In a species specific tank, adding a young male is asking for trouble, though in a mixed tank, you can sometimes get away with more than one subordinate male.
- Species – Venestus Cichlid (Nimbochromis venustus)
- Common Name – Venustus
- Origin – Lake Malawi
- Diet – Piscivore/Omnivore
- PH Range – Alkaline 7.5 – 8.5
- Water Type – Hard
- Temperature – Tropical 24°c
- Breed Type – Mouth brooder
- Current Size – approximately 5cm (Grows to approximately 25cm)
- Sex – Un-sexed