Cyrtocara moorii is commonly referred to as the Malawi Blue Dolphin Cichlid, or by it's old name, Haplochromis moorii. This gentle giant is a fun fish that is easy to maintain but frustratingly slow growing. It was nearly 16 months before my 1" dolphin fry matured enough to start showing an interest in spawning. They are late to mature and spawning takes place once they have reached sexual maturity, or at about 4-5".
The waiting time seemed an eternity with no signs of breeding at all, but then one day they spawned and suddenly I had a female with a mouth full of eggs. I leave the females in the breeding tank until they are about a week or so from releasing the fry as they tend to be a little prone to stress and swallow the eggs. One time I waited far too long to remove her from the tank and though she held onto her fry with a vengance throughout the rock removal, as soon as the net appeared in her vicinity, she spit the little ones all over the substrate of the 100 gallon tank she was living in! This was a mess, but I saved most of them. The lesson here is though C. moorii are excellent mothers, they do not handle stress well when their fry are concerned. I have always moved them from the breeding tank to their own place at about three weeks along, and usually have no problem with transport. I'am just careful to move very slowly and use two big differently colored nets to trick her into being caught. Be sure that pH and temperature of both tanks are the same. I cover three sides of the tank so that she feels secure, and will usually cover the entire tank for the first day after transport.
Cytocara moorii female with her fry. Photos by Jessica Miller.
I keep my C. moorii with Labidochromis caeruleus. These fish have similar temperments and though the dolphins get considerably larger, they are extremely tolerant of other fish - even juvenile L. caeruleus are safe in their presence for the most part. They do not tend to do well with more aggressive types such as Pseudotropheus, Melanochromis, etc. as they are fairly peaceful fish that are easily dominated. I have noticed that when put in that type of situation these fish tend to easily show hyperdominate traits. In either case, this is not an ideal solution if you want to breed these beautiful fish. Their tank is a 100 gallon with fine natural sand as a substrate (remember they are sifters!), and rocks piled up on either end of the tank leaving the center 'V' for swimming room. Remember when designing your tank that these fish need a fairly large area to move around in. While they are not overly active, they tend to start easily and can injure themselves in tight spaces.
Cyrtocara moorii are quite tolerant of water conditions and while I kept mine at a pH of 8.2, temperature of 78-80°F, and a moderate hardness, they will still prosper and breed in wide range of water chemistry. Weekly 35% water changes are done with the addition of Malawi/Victoria Buffer and dechlorinator. Their tank is filtered by two back filters and heated with an 250 watt heater. Lighting is sufficient with one CoralLife 50/50 daylight bulb.
They are not picky eaters, so it is up to you to feed them correctly to get them into breeding condition. I feed mine twice daily on Spirulina Flake and soaked (for 15-20 minutes) Spirulina Pellets. They do not require a high protein diet, but do well with some live or frozen brine and white mosquito larvae added to their diet a few times a week.
Once they have spawned for the first time, they are virtually unstoppable. I have had a continuous stream of C. moorii fry for the last two years. They breed reliably and have large clutches of fry, usually in excess of 60 or more. I have had better luck with only one big male in with the females. I grow up a group of young together till they reach sexual maturity and then remove the most aggressive and less brilliantly colored males. With only one male they are typically very low-key fish who get along exceptionally.