I am an Affilate!

I sincerely hope you love any product or service that I recommend. :) Just to clarify, I may take a share of any sales or other compensation from the links on this page. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. If you use my links, great, I appreciate your support.

Compressiceps Cichlid Profile Guide

The Compressiceps Cichlid is a beautiful metallic blue predatory fish from the Malawi region in Africa that can grow up to an impressive 10 inches. This gorgeous creature can swim at great speeds owing to its strange flat shape.

This speed combined with a protruding lower tooth jaw make it quite a deadly predator.

In their natural habitat, this fish prefers to live in the shallow waters of Lake Malawi with ample vegetation. Their preferred food comprises of young Utaka cichlids but have also been known to consume small Mbunas.

This particular cichlid is the only known predator that first eats the tail of its prey. While an excellent addition to any tank, this fish is recommended for those that have intermediate or experienced knowledge and experience of keeping cichlids.

What Are They Also Known As (Other Names)?

The scientific name for this cichlid is Dimidiochromiscompressiceps though they were earlier known as Haplochromiscompressiceps. The most common name for this particular cichlid is the Malawi Eye biter.

This is due to its unfortunate habit of biting the eyes of other fish. This is not common behaviour for these cichlids in captivity, since they are fed frequently. Fishermen native to Malawi noted this habit among the fish in their natural habitat.

There have been some reports of the compressiceps biting eyes of small Mbunas if the two fish are kept in the same tank, but this is not a common behaviour of this fish.

This fish should be kept in a large tank with a lot of vegetation and rock structures. They like to hide in caves and behind vegetation and get stressed and ill in a tank without either.

As these are predatory fish you should be careful about what other kinds of fish you introduce into the tank. Smaller species are likely to end up as prey.

They will also attack any other male of their own kind. You should be sure you have only one male with other female compressisecps.

Are they Cichlid?

These fishes are often referred to as cichlid by the common people. They belong to the Animalia kingdom and the phylum Chordata. These are a species of fish which belong to the Cichlidae family. 

Some local variants do exist, while the others more often prove to be more like distinct subspecies. Provided with extraordinary eyesight which helps them to a great extent in finding prey.

Combining the genetic and the species name, the binomial name of these fishes is Dimidiochromis compressiceps. The genus name of the Malawi eye-biter is Dimidiochromis and belongs to the class of Actinopterygii.

Currently, in the world, there are four well-recognized species in the genus Dimidiochromis, of which the Dimidiochromis compressiceps is the most famous one.

This fish species falls under the Family of Cichlidae Cichlids. Their Order is Perciformes and the subfamily of Pesudocrenilabrinae. The exact number of species is not known, but can approximately be around 1000. The additional scientific name is Haplochromis Compressiceps.

Where Do They Originate From?

These species are found in plenty in the region of Malawi, Tanzania and Mozambique. They are very much endemic to the Lake Malawi place. It is also commonly known as the African CIchlid since it is found in huge numbers in the African countries.

East Africa being a place well known for its unique types of species serves as the best habitat for these fishes. There are many shallow lakes surrounded by some grasses which make it apt for this fish species. 

Lake Malawi in East Africa became the breeding place for these species owing to the temperature range of 23-28 degree Celsius which makes it convenient for the species to survive.

Additionally, the lakes, ponds in the Lake Malawi has water of pH content of 7.6-8.6 making the best aquatic environment for the species t to live in. The water present in the lakes contains very soft water when compared with the other lakes in the African countries.

The water also contains around one-third of minerals needed for the healthy growth of this breed. Over the years the species has also spread through the regions like the Upper Shire-River and the Lake Malombe as well.

What Do Compressiceps Cichlids Look Like?

Compressiceps Cichlids are formally known as Altolamprologuscompressiceps. These are called 'Compressiceps’ because of their narrow shaped body. This narrow body ensures minimum visibility at the time of preying.

These fishes usually have a large mouth and long jaw compared to most other types of fishes. Their jaws are almost one-third of their body. The compressed body and long jaw have made it easy to recognize this species.

What Are Their Best Tankmates?

These fishes are a bit aggressive in nature. So, don’t mix them with smaller fish. Because of the aggressive nature, these Cichlids will attack the smaller fishes.

But, at the same time, they don’t show their aggressiveness to fishes of similar or large sizes. So, if you are thinking of keeping Lake Tanganyika Cichlids for example, then that is fine.

However, I have said that they won't attack larger fish. This doesn’t mean that they won’t defend themselves if the larger fish attack. 

How Big Do They Grow To?

With the narrow shaped body, Compressiceps Cichlids can grow up to 10 inches long. With this length,this species is one of the largest species in the Cichlids family.

A 10-inch long fish of this species is not normally seen in an aquarium. This size is typically seen when they are free in the wild.

However, the jaw of this fish is almost one-third of it's length. That means these fishes come with a jaw of approximately 3 inches. The remaining part is the body.

If you consider the height, it is also one-third of the length. So, a mature fish of this species can be 3-3.5 inches tall without the fins.

Are They Difficult To Look After?

Looking after these pets is not very difficult. If you can provide the correct environment and nutritional food everyday.

When you are preparing an aquarium for these fish, you need a minimum tank size of 70 gallons. In fact, it would be better if you can buy a larger aquarium. 

The temperature should be kept within the range between 73.0 and 86.0 F (22.8 and 30.0 C). The pH rating should be 7.7 to 8.6. 

There should be some caves as well as rocks, trees etc. inside the aquarium as this species likes to live in a place with chances of hiding. If you can ensure that environment, more than half is done.

What do they eat?

Now it is time to feed. They don’t like dead food. So, you have to ensure a contant supply of live food, everyday to satisfy them. The food may contain shrimps, krill, pellets, or mussels. The babies prefer to eat mosquito larvae.

According to some pet breeders, Compressiceps Cichlids also eat some vegetables too, but, that should not be a regular option. So, you can’t replace live food with vegetables. 

Should You Change Their Water Regularly?

This species of cichlid requires a little more maintenance than your average aquarium fish. In order for them to survive in your aquarium, it needs high quality water. 

This means you have to change the water regularly to maintain water quality. Fish experts recommend changing around 10% to 15% once every week.

Changing it more often can be done if there are issues with water quality. However, exercise caution in changing the water more than once a week because they are very sensitive to new water and it might increase their level of stress.

Also, the water needs to be low in nitrogenous waste. So aside from changing the water, owners have to remove any dirt as well as food particles or fish waste in the water. 

Not doing so will increase the nitrogen levels in the water. Another way to ensure the water is clear of waste is to install a filter that will do the job for you.

The filter also provides a current of water which will contribute to the high quality of water.

Another way of ensuring high water quality is the removal of any dirt or waste in the water that can contribute to its toxicity. 

Any wastes from food and fecal waste must be removed. Leaving this in the water will cause them to rot and release toxins that can be harmful to the fish. This can be done manually or through filtration.

Adding an oxygen bubbler is even better as it also creates movement or a current, and makes the water oxygen rich, just like their natural habitat.

What Is The Best Tank Size?

As stated earlier, you need at least a 70 gallon tank. However, for a juvenile in a tank exclusive for their species, a tank size of at least 20 gallons will be enough. But for adults, 70+ gallons. 

Now for pet owners looking to mix them up with other species, the size of your tank should be at least 100 gallons. Remember that these fish are used to a large space and adding other species will cramp up the tank if the space isn’t big enough. 

Also account for the decorations that will be needed. Some species will require a lot of decoration, so make sure there’s enough space even with the decoration needed for its different inhabitants.

Should You Decorate The Tank?

The tank must be decorated according to their natural habitat. Remember, this kind of fish is found in Lake Tanganyika which is the second-largest lake in the world. 

Rocky coasts abound the lake with a bottom that’s composed of sand. As such, the tank where the Cichlids will be kept should have similar water conditions as the lake.

Pet owners looking to have a Compressiceps Cichlid should have numerous rocks and a cave like formation. Ideally, a deep sandy bottom with some pebbles. 

Cichlids usually utilize these caves as hiding places and even for breeding. As an alternative to sand, a small sized gravel substrate can be used.

Plants, meanwhile, are not necessary. It’s more important to have more swimming space for them rather than vegetation.

Male vs. Female, How Can You Tell the Difference?

In general, these fish have a large head, large eyes with thick lips and an upturned mouth. As their name implies, their bodies are laterally compressed which allows them to take advantage of small crevices in their rocky environment, which they use to hide or as a breeding ground. 

As for the color, they vary depending on their geographic origins. Colors range from brown, red, yellow, and orange.

But to determine the differences between a male and a female, fish enthusiasts must look at the size of the fish. Male Compressiceps are bigger in size and can grow up to 5 inches as a fully grown adult.

Females on the other hand only grow up to 4 inches. Howvever, as discussed earlier, in the wild, it’s possible for the Cichlids to grow up to 9 inches.

Another gender differentiator is the size of the fin. Males have longer fins compared to females. In terms of color, males are usually more colourful and brighter than females.

During breeding season, you’ll also notice that the males can become more aggressive as they’re very territorial, sometimes even towards the female. This can happen when a female chooses a cave or crevice to lay her eggs in that’s already been owned by the male.

This aggressive behavior continues in the father Cichlid as he swims around the area where the eggs are, ready to defend them against and predators that might feed on them.

Do the Compressiceps Cichlid Lay Eggs?

Like many fish of their kind, they are egg layers. For interested pet owners, breeding them entails moderate difficulty. It will require caves and crevices made up of rocks that the fish call home. 

Other decorations in the tank that can help in their breeding are flowerpots and even used shells.

The caves are important to the Cichlid because they are sheltered spawners. When it’s time to breed, females will look for a very small crevice, too small for a male to enter.

The reason for this is that the males can sometimes get aggressive or territorial, and might harass the female over her choice of crevice. Once inside the crevice, she will lay 300 eggs or more, and after this, the male will fertilize them by lying over the opening of the crevice and release its sperm.

Cichlids are very territorial, especially when it’s breeding season. So once the eggs have been fertilized, males will defend the area against any predators or any fish just snooping around, while the female watches over the eggs.

In order to make sure the environment of the eggs are optimal for breeding, the pH level should be only moderately alkali and the temperature kept steady at 77 – 86F only.

The eggs will hatch after 10-14 days on the average, and when they do, they should be moved to a separate tank for them to grow in peace because it takes around 6 months for a fry to grow to an inch.

How Do They Breed?

As discussed, they have a habit of living inside crevices of rocks in lakes. Like all other species of fish, they also breed externally. 

The female has to be careful while laying eggs otherwise predators or other males could feed on those eggs.

So the female selects special locations like small gaps or fissures in rocks where the male fish cannot reach. At a time, a female fish lays 300 eggs or even more.

For the fertilization to occur, the male fish lies over the gap and releases the sperms which reach the eggs and zygote is formed. There is a high demand of nutrition for the female as she stays with the eggs until they are hatched.

Since the fish are predators, they can feed on highly nutritious prawns. The female fish guards the eggs. The male fish has to guard the territory to prevent other males and predators from infiltration.

It takes about a month for the incubation. Once the eggs hatch and fish fry come out, they can feed on small baby shrimps. Their growth speed is relatively slow and takes up to six months to reach the length of one inch.

What Kind Of Diseases May They Get?

They are prone to any of the common fish ailments including viral infections as well as bacterial infections, parasitic diseases, fungal infections, and other diseases due to polluted water. So it is necessary to keep the water of the aquarium clean. 

One of the most common disease is Ich. It is a parasitic fungal disease caused by a fungi, 'Ichthyophthirius multifiliis'. In this disease, which spots start appearing on body, fins and gills of fish. It can cause damage to skin and gills if left untreated.

It causes ulceration and even death. In order to treat Ich, keep the temperature of the water at 30C/86F for three days. The disease will likely go away but if persist, you have to treat it with some copper medicines that are available in large variety in the market. 

Make sure to remove any water conditioner and add the medicine to water in a measure quantity. Both increase in temperature and copper medicine can be used together to treat Ich effectively.

Another common disease is skin flukes that is caused by fungi and has to be treated by anti fungal medicines available in the market. But it is necessary to diagnose the problem before it's too late.

Are they expensive to buy?

While the fish themselves are rare and are a little more expensive than other species, their caring costs can sum up to a large amount. While buying an aquarium for the fish your spending may go up, because the tank will need to be larger. 

You will also have to buy the 'starter kit' that includes the necessary tools for your aquarium set up. Maintaining the aquarium also costs a fairly large amount of money.

Since the fish are carnivores, you will have to spend a large portion on their food as well. Their staple food includes shrimps which you will have to feed them regularly especially when they are breeding.

The electricity bill for the aquarium is also not negligible. When all of these amounts sum up, the total cost of owning these fish is high. So yes they are expensive to keep but remember, every pet requires a lot of care and expenses so they are not going to cost you more than any other pet.


If you have experience with keeping cichlids then the compressiceps cichlid, or Malawi eye biter as we learned it is known as, is a great new fish to get for your aquarium.

However, as this fish can be prone to diseases and aggression it is better that you start with other fresh water fish before progressing to this one. Whenever you’re ready this is a beautiful fish for any home.

Please do share this post. If you have any thoughts ideas or questions about this post please feel free to comment. 


Hey, thanks for passing by, welcome to the blog for Pet Fish fans. This is me, Wayne, and my son Theo. I started this journey after we bought him hist first Fish Tank of fish. Follow my site for my research and info on Pet Fish.