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The Electric Blue Hap Sciaenochromis fryeri has long been a favorite among African cichlid keepers because of its intense electric blue coloring. It comes from Lake Malawi, Africa, and is found in many color morphs through the lake, but all have the intense blue coloring. However it has an amazing history of repeated ms-identification. it was first imported for the aquarium hobby as Haplochromis jacksoni. This was quite confusing since these are two totally different species. Then it was attributed a couple other names, until finally it was officially described by AD Konings in 1993.
This fish is a Haplochromine cichlid endemic to Lake Malawi. It is one of four species in the genus Sciaenochromi, but it is the best known of the group. Other common names it is known by are the Electric Blue and Hap Ahli. The Hap cichlids are different from the Mbuna or rock-dwelling cichlids, as they are open water dwellers occurring in areas where the rocks meet the sand. Though not as aggressive or territorial as a Mbuna, this cichlid still prefers being around rocky areas where it can hide in caves or cracks looking for small fish to eat.
This is an ideal fish for the beginning cichlid keeper. The silver colored female may not seem like this is the best fish for a pet, but the brilliant blues of the male more than make up for the lack of color of the females. The females are handsome fish in their own right as well, in fact some females can eventually develop a faded light blue coloring when mature. In the aquarium this fish is moderately aggressive and predatory. It will eat any fish small enough to consume, but is easy to care for as long as it’s not overfed. It does need good water conditions and a tank set up that is to its liking.
Provide a minimum 55 gallon aquarium that is at least 4 feet long (though 6 feet long is best). Keep one male with several females, 4 or more to prevent spawning stress. They can be housed with other Haplochromis and with peaceful Mbunas. They cannot be kept with Peacock Cichlids (Aulonocara species) because they are too similar in color and shape. The male will kill all Peacock males and hybridize with the females.
Confusion can arise because of the term “Electric Blue” used in its common name. There is another favorite African cichlid that has this term in its common name. It is the Electric Blue Johanni Melanochromis johannii which is a much different type of cichlid. It is a Mbuna and so one of the more aggressive rock dwelling cichlids. Also be careful not to mix up this fish with its very close relative, Sciaenochromis ahli. The S. ahli is also commonly called ‘Electric Blue Hap’ as well as Ahli and Haplochromis Electric Blue. The male coloring of these two species is very similar in appearance but the S. ahli gets much larger. While the species described here reaches about 6″ in length, the S. ahli reaches almost 8″ (20 cm) and will require a bigger aquarium.
When obtaining any of these fish, it is best to know the scientific name as well as the common name to make sure you get the species you want. The Electric Blue Haps are ready breeders and the fry are easy to raise. Consequently there are many varieties that have been developed in captivity and they are not often found in their pure form. There may be no way to tell exactly what you are getting unless it is from a reputable dealer. Try and keep the different species blood lines pure.
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