Melanochromis dialeptos (Dialeptos Cichlid)

Melanochromis dialeptos

Melanochromis dialeptos, commonly referred to as the Dialeptos cichlid or the Dwarf Auratus, has a unique appearance that sets it apart from other African cichlids of its type. They are one of several species of freshwater fish in the family of Cichlids native to Lake Malawi.

It is found at depths of 10 to 50 m in areas with sandy substrates and rocky outcrops; its preferred water temperature ranges from 22 to 27 °C (72 to 81 °F).

Dialeptos Cichlid is a member of the Melanochromis genus. The Melanochromis genus contains many species of fish within it and they are native to Lake Tanganyika which lies between Burundi, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Tanzania, and Zambia.

They are normally found in areas where the water has a ph of 7 to 8 as well as being deep and flowing with steep drop-offs.

Melanochromis dialeptos (Dialeptos Cichlid), or the Lake Malawi cichlid, are relatively small cichlids native to the Lake Malawi region of Africa in the genus of Melanochromis and family of Cichlidae.

Origin and description

Melanochromis dialeptos

The Dialeptos cichlid is a small, territorial fish that lives in the clear waters of Lake Malawi. In their natural habitat, they are found near rocky outcroppings. These fish feed primarily on insects and crustaceans. They also eat planktonic algae and nymphs from other invertebrates.

They are fairly aggressive with other species, especially during the mating season. When threatened, these fish will erect the spines along their back as a defense mechanism. It can reach up to two inches long when fully grown.

Species profile

The Melanochromis dialeptos, also called the Dialeptos cichlid, is a freshwater fish that can be found in Malawi and the other lakes of the Great Rift Valley. It prefers to live in shallow waters on the African coast, where it feeds on small insects and larvae.

This species of fish is known for its interesting coloration as well as its natural ability to change colors from one pattern to another depending on what it eats.

Labidochromis caeruleus (Electric Yellow Cichlid)

Common name

The common name for Melanochromis dialeptos is Dialeptos cichlid

Melanochromis dialeptos habitat

This cichlid is found in Malawi, Mozambique, and Tanzania. It can be found at depths between 2 to 8 meters. This fish prefers water that has a pH of 7 to 7.5, hardness of 10 to 25 dH, and temperature of 18 to 22 degrees Celsius.

The Dialeptos cichlids are usually found in the sand or gravel substrate with rocks scattered about the bottom of the tank. They prefer plants like Cryptocoryne sp., Java moss, Vallisneria sp., and Anubias sp. They also enjoy having some caves to hide out in.

Melanochromis dialeptos size and weight

The size of the Dialeptos cichlid can range from 1.5 inches to around 3.1 inches (3.81 to 7.9) in length, with a weight of one pound or less.

Melanochromis dialeptos tank size

Dialeptos cichlids are small fish that are suitable for tanks from 20 to 30 gallons. They are popular with beginners because of their size and ease of care.

Melanochromis dialeptos tank mates

The Dialeptos cichlid is a territorial species. They will not work well with other territorial fish. They do well with other non-territorial cichlids and can be housed in groups of six or more.

Some good tank mates are the Julidochromis transcriptus, Julidochromis marlieri, Melanochromis auratus, Melanochromis robustus, and the Bolivian ram. However it is important to note that some members of these species may see the Dailepots as potential food, so care should be taken when choosing tank mates.


Melanochromis dialeptos

Males begin courting females by chasing away competing fish, and then bringing them to the breeding location where they will breed. During mouthbrooding, both fish’s colors intensify, it’s a sight to behold!

It is common for males and females to both clean their breeding sites prior to spawning, which is a typical Malawian practice. Eggs are laid by the female and she then picks them up in her mouth. To fertilize her eggs, the female fish bites at the male’s egg spots while assuming the “T” position.

Nimbochromis Livingstonii (Livingston's Cichlid)

Approximately 15 fries make up the largest brood I’ve seen.
In general, females can hold quite well, and they will retire to a hiding place in the aquarium when they feel threatened. Incubating the eggs in a different tank is always a good idea, however.

About 20 to 22 days after hatching, the fry will be able to swim freely.
Baby brine shrimp or Cyclops-eeze can be immediately fed to newborn fry. They resemble miniature females with stripes and all.

Finely crushed spirulina flakes can be added within five days. It is safe to say that juvenile fish are fairly fast-growing and have the same aggressive behavior as adults as soon as they are about three weeks of age.

Are they aggressive or peaceful?

The Dialeptos cichlid is an aggressive fish, although not as aggressive as Auratus, that does not do well with other tank mates. The fish will attack any other species in the same tank, even if they are a similar size. They are also territorial and will not tolerate any intruders of their territory, be it another fish or anything else.

Melanochromis dialeptos care information

Melanochromis dialeptos

The Dialeptos Cichlid is a relatively easy fish to care for. They prefer to be kept in pairs with a female and male, or as the only cichlid. They are omnivores and will eat both live and dead foods. They prefer a ph of 8 to 9 but can adapt to lower or higher ranges as long as they are gradually acclimated.

Keep their water clean by performing 25% water changes weekly or more often if needed. Ensure there is plenty of space for swimming and hiding among rocks, plants, and decorations.

Melanochromis dialeptos diet

Melanochromis dialeptos are omnivores and will eat a wide variety of foods including both plant and animal matter. When feeding them, try to provide a variety of meaty foods like small fish and pellets. They will also enjoy live food like brine shrimp.

Elongate Mbuna (Pseudotropheus elongatus)

Melanochromis dialeptos tank requirement

The Dialeptos cichlid is a fish that prefers water temperatures of 74-82 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s important to provide a tank with plenty of live plants and lots of rocks for the fish to swim in and out of.

This species needs an aquarium with at least 30 gallons of water, so make sure you have enough room before you get this fish! They also do best when they are kept in groups; three or more are recommended.


The average lifespan of a melanochromis dialeptos is about two to four years. In captivity, they live up to six years.

Parasites and diseases

Melanochromis dialeptos are susceptible to a variety of diseases, most notably the Ichthyophthirius multifiliis, or white spot disease. This is caused by the ichthyophthirius multifiliis parasite and can be contracted in a variety of ways. For example, it may be passed on when the eggs are laid by an infected female fish, when two different species of cichlids come into contact with one another, or through the introduction of new fish species.

Predators (What animals prey on them)

A predator for the Dialeptos cichlid can be birds, mammals, or other big fish species.

Do they make good pets?

Yes, the Dialeptos is a popular and hardy aquarium fish. They are compatible with many other types of cichlids, so they are often kept in community tanks. The most common complaint about them is that they will eat any smaller fish in the tank, but this can be prevented by making sure to provide hiding spots for the other fish.