Fun African Butterfly Cichlid Facts For Kids | Kidadl


Fun African Butterfly Cichlid Facts For Kids

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The African butterfly cichlid (Anomalochromis thomasi) is a fish belonging to the family of Cichlidae under the genus Anomalochromis. It is a small fish living in southern African regions, mainly in the smaller water bodies. They are usually found in slightly acidic, oxygen-rich water with other species of fish. They love forested streams filled with vegetation and also are available in forest edges. They like burying themselves up in mud and are in pairs during the breeding season. They are territorial in nature but parents are broody.

The fish's name is an honorary name given for the English aquatic technician, W.Thomas who was born in 1965 and was an ardent collector of this type. The breed is frequently adopted as a pet and needs a typical range of water with abundant hiding places and ideal aquarium tank size. They are very peaceful in nature and must be given proper tankmates.

If you like reading about fishes then do check out our cichlid facts and convict cichlid facts!  

Fun African Butterfly Cichlid Facts For Kids

What do they prey on?

Bloodworm, white mosquito larvae, daphnia, brine shrimp, tubifex worms, marine invertebrates

What do they eat?


Average litter size?

500 eggs

How much do they weigh?

10 lb (4.53 kg)

How long are they?

2.4-3.1 in (6-8 cm)

How tall are they?


What do they look like?

Distinct black marks, round belly

Skin Type


What were their main threats?

Humans, Habitat Loss, Overfishing, Pet Trade

What is their conservation status?

Least Concern

Where you'll find them?

Forest Streams


Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia









African Butterfly Cichlid Interesting Facts

What type of animal is an African butterfly cichlid?

The African butterfly cichlid (Anomalochromis thomasi) is a type of fish from the family of Cichlidae. 

What class of animal does an African butterfly cichlid belong to?

The African butterfly cichlid (Anomalochromis thomasi) belongs to the Actinopterygii class of animals. 

How many African butterfly cichlids are there in the world?

The estimated population count of the African butterfly cichlid (Anomalochromis thomasi) falls in the range of 2000-120,000 taking its ancestral breeds into account. 

Where does an African butterfly cichlid live?

The African butterfly cichlid (Anomalochromis thomasi) is found on the west coast of Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia. They are mostly found in smaller streams where the oxygen content is rich, acidic, and the water is tainted.

What is an African butterfly cichlid's habitat?

The fish species is endemic to Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia on the west coast of Africa. They usually inhabit slightly acidic, warm, oxygen-rich water in small water bodies like streams and Savannah wetlands. These habitats must be broad muddy substrates filled with dense vegetation and heavily stained with decaying organic matter and tannins.  

Who do African butterfly cichlid live with?

This fish does not mind other species and can be kept with other aquarium tank mates but does become territorial during the breeding season. They form strong monogamous bonds with their pairs. 

How long does an African butterfly cichlid live?

The expected lifespan of an African butterfly cichlid (Anomalochromis thomasi) is estimated to be about three to five years in length. 

How do they reproduce?

The fish forms monogamous pairs laying about 500 eggs. Unlike dwarf cichlids, this free-swimming species is very easy to breed in any community environment consisting of a slightly acidic to alkaline condition with a good amount of flat stones and broad-leaved plants to act as preferred spawning sites. They are territorial during the breeding season where the female usually cleans a number of sites between flat stones to spawn while the male showcases territorial behavior. 

The female lays eggs before moving away to allow the male to take her place and fertilize the eggs. They hatch after 48 hours during which the pair digs a number of shallow depressions for the fries to be kept. Hatchlings swim after 72 hours and usually take another 12 hours for them to completely consume their yolk sac. The young offspring exhibit slow growth. Both the male and female parents are broody and look after the babies.

What is their conservation status?

According to the IUCN Red List, the conservation status of the butterfly cichlid is of Least Concern. 

African Butterfly Cichlid Fun Facts

What do African butterfly cichlids look like?

The free-swimming cichlid has shiny silvery scales and a reddish hue in the caudal fin.

African butterfly cichlids are small fish with slim bodies. They have a pale bronze color mixed with bluish-silver highlights under the eyes and in the scales. Their body's silver-gray while the area under the eyes has a flashy silver color. The gill plates are silver with slight reddish-brown and gold lightings. The fish has a total of eight different rows of pearl-like tiny dots running horizontally over the body starting from their gills to the end of their caudal peduncle. Both the male and female fish have two false eyespots, one in the middle and the other at the rear part in the caudal peduncle along the spine line. The caudal fin is stained with slight reddish-brown tips while their rays have a silver tint. The ventral and pectoral fins are transparent. The male is bigger than the female.

How cute are they?

They are some of the best aquarium tank pets along with being shy, community-loving, and sociable that overall, makes it a cute breed of fish. 

How do they communicate?

The community fish is very peaceful in nature but can turn territorial during the spawning period. They do not do well with aggressive fishes. They are best kept in small groups and communicate through their body and fins, showcasing their colors during mating. Good tankmates include small characins and African dwarf cichlids. 

How big is an African butterfly cichlid?

They can grow up to an average length of 2.4-3.1 in (6-8 cm).

How fast can an African butterfly cichlid swim?

The average swimming speed of a cichlid is unknown, but they are said to be fast swimmers, usually swimming against the current and facing no trouble in moving water. 

How much does an African butterfly cichlid weigh?

The average weight of this fish is about 2 oz (56 g).

What are the male and female names of the species?

There is no particular name given to the species depending on their sex. However, the male fishes are much larger in size than the females and have more colorful displays and a rounder belly. 

What would you call a baby African butterfly cichlid?

The young of the cichlid are referred to as fry. 

What do they eat?

The fish is not at all a choosy eater and eats anything easily. They are good with pellet foods, white mosquito larvae, daphnia, bloodworm, brine shrimp, tubifex worms, and other marine invertebrates. 

Are they dangerous?

No, they are not dangerous. Being a social bird with no anger issues, cichlids are one of the most docile fishes. 

Would they make a good pet?

The African cichlid is one of the best choices for an aquarium tank pet as they are not only a good addition for the tank but also a great community spawning fish that do not exhibit any aggressive behavior except during the spawning season and get along with other fishes quite well. It is to be noted that they must not be kept in the same tank with aggressive breeds like Pelmatochromis thomasi, paratilapia thomasi, haplochromis thomasi, and hemichromis thomasi in a small aquarium tank. They are mostly compatible with danios, guppies, catfish, dwarf cichlids, and loaches

Did you know...

Cichlids can become very stressed if not kept properly and even die if not taken care of. You can notice if your cichlid is stressed by looking at its color. Usually a colorful species, they become pale when they are stressed whereas a dark fish is usually an early indication of aggressive behavior. If you ever find your pet becoming paler day by day then make sure that they are treated and given extra care. Also, try to find out the cause of their stress as it can be a tank mate or the tank environment. They can also show abnormal swimming, breeding patterns and even reject food.

How do you take care of African butterflyfish?

If you take care of the small young fish then make sure that they are never kept with larger fish who may treat it as food in a small aquarium tank. Since the fish loves to hide around shaded regions, make sure to add leaves, rocks, flat stones, and other accessories for them to be able to make good breeding sites along with having plenty of space to hide. They must be kept in a small school and given a clear wide area of a substrate, similar to their natural habitat. They must be fed twice a day with a variety of things including dry, frozen, and other natural food diets. 

Do African butterflyfish eat other fish?

Yes, being omnivorous in nature, the fish can eat other fishes of smaller sizes, like guppies. They typically eat all types of protein food including light insects, mosquito larvae, brine shrimp, flies, cricket, prawn, flakes, live and frozen foods but will also eat any small fish that comes swimming around their mouth. 

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other fish including yellowfin tuna fun facts and barracuda interesting facts for kids.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable African butterfly cichlid coloring pages.

Nena Singha
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