Herotilapia multispinosa (Günther 1867)

Herotilapia multispinosa is a beautiful Central American cichlid, the only species of the genus Herotilapia (monotypic). It is quite peaceful if not in the breeding mood, very robust, and feeds mainly on algae. With a proper care, it is also suitable for aquarists newbies.

Submitted by
Natasha Khardina
11.8903790, -85.9021683
Geographical region
Central America
Drainage Basin
Caribbean Sea via Rio San Juan
River catchment
Water body type
Tectonic Lake
Water body name
Lake Nicaragua
Water body part
Water body course
Water body: tributary of
Tributary name
Type locality
Lake Managua, Nicaragua
Conservation status/IUCN Red List
Not Evaluated (NE)

Water Chemistry

Water information

Water type
Fresh water
Water color
Clear water
Water transparency
Concentration of sediments
Water temperature
23-30 °C
Water flow/curent

Chemical parameters

8-20 mg/l
Dissolved Oxygen


Standard length
12 cm
Water volume (min. aquarium)
180 l
Social behaviour
Group fish
Behaviour description

Comparing to other Central American cichlids, Herotilapia multispinosa a peaceful species, which goes along well with tankmates of a similar disposition, like tetras.

However a certain territoriality remains present between sexually mature males if in the presence of females. It can live in mixed groups until sexual maturity is reached, subsequently it is recommended to breed this cichlid in pairs.

Generally, if well fed, it does not damage the plants. However, it can happen – especially in case of the wild-captured specimens – that they dig at the base of large rosette plants, even causing their total uprooting.

Furthermore, when they enter the reproductive phase, they dig various holes in the sandy bottom, holes that will be used to move and protect the offspring during their larval phase.

Aggression grade
Day active
Sexual dimorphism

The males of Herotilapia multispinosa have more developed anal and dorsal fins, than the females. Furthermore, the adults males are slightly larger and show, especially in the reproductive phase, more intense colors.

Nutrition in Nature

Rainbow cichlid is an omnivorous species who’s particular characteristic makes it almost unique within the Cichlidae family, namely the presence of tricuspid teeth, which is typical for vegetarian fish. Thanks to this peculiarity Herotilapia multispinosa is able to effectively feed on algae – especially on the filamentous ones and the “green spots” that form on the bottom and stones – which in fact in nature represent its main food source.


Breeding tank set-up

To offer Herotilapia multispinosa a suitable environment it is necessary to create shaded areas and hiding places by skilfully placing woods and rocks. However, leave the center front area open in order to offer sufficient space for swimming.

Nutrition parents

In the aquarium Herotilapia multispinosa accepts any ornamental fish food, however it is necessary to offer a varied and complete diet, with a good vegetable component (algae, peas, zucchini, cucumbers, spirulina, spinach), but at the same time with the presence of proteins (dry, cichlid pellets, live/frozen/freeze-dried). It is also a fairly good consumer of insect larvae, small crustaceans and fry.

Mating type
Spawning behaviour

During the spawning period Herotilapia multispinosa becomes suddenly very territorial and aggressive – it will not allow any fish to get close to the place chosen for laying eggs.

To be able to fully enjoy it, even in the reproductive stages, it is recommended to move it in a monospecies tank.

The eggs are usually laid on a pebble placed horizontally, or on a sufficiently wide leaf. The place is previously cleaned and protected from intruders. 

The female remains in the immediate vicinity until hatching, providing, if necessary, for aeration using its pectoral fins. In the meanwhile the male watches the surrounding area preventing intruders from getting too close and digging one or more holes in the sandy bottom. The holes will be used later for the protection of the fry.

The hatching occurs in ca. 3 days.

Breeding habits
Hatching period
48-72 hours
Number of eggs in average
Parental care
Fry number
Nutrition fry

The young appear as larvae with the yolk sac. Then the parents move them in a hole previously dug out by the male. The completion of the resorption of the yolk sac coincides with the beginning of the free swimming phase, the fry begins to become unmanageable for the parents and makes its first excursions outside the hole.

From that moment it is necessary to start feeding the Artemia salina alternated with a specific dry food.

Notes on reproduction

Generally the parents of Herotilapia multispinosa do not prey on their offspring, However, it may happen they decide otherwise (getting excessively nervous by our constant presence in front of the aquarium).

Therefore it is better to separate the free swimming fry from the parents.