Venustus Cichlid (Nimbochromis venustus)

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The Venustus Nimbochromis venustus (previously Haplochromis venustus) is a popular aquarium cichlid. This is a big fish that can grow close to 10 inches in the aquarium. The impressive size along with its interesting behavior and handsome color pattern make it a favorite among cichlid lovers. This cichlid makes a fabulous display specimen for a large show tank.

Wild caught specimens are quite rare, but captive bred specimens are commonly available due to commercial breeding. This fish has a yellow body covered with blotches of brown and males develop an attractive blue face and head as they mature. it is also known as the Venustus Cichlid, Venustus Hap, and Kalingo. But its blotches, resembling the coat pattern of a giraffe, have led to the descriptive common names of Giraffe Cichlid, Giraffe Haplochromis, or simply Giraffe Hap.

This is a very clever cichlid, a trait found in all the cichlids in the Nimbochromis genus. These cichlids are different from the Mbuna cichlids, (Mbuna meaning “rock-dwelling”) in the way that they prefer open swimming areas where the rocks meet the sand. The members of this genus are all very smart, stealthy predatory fish, but each has its own distinctive technique.

The Venustus Cichlid is an ambush predator that will partially bury itself in the sand. It will then hold very still, for up to several minutes, waiting for an unsuspecting small fish to swim by. When an unwary smaller fish comes to “taste” the “dead” fish, the Venustus jumps to life. Once its prey is within reach, it will quickly dart out of the sand to snatch it. It will even lay in wait near a cave where there are young juvenile fish.

A slightly different ambushing technique is employed by its close relative, the Livingstoni Cichlid N. livingstonii. This cichlid will actually lie flat on its side on the sand in areas next to rocks where small fish travel. When the prey swims over its head, it will instantly grab it using a sideways motion of its head and mouth. Still another example is the Elephant Nosed Cichlid N. linni which will rest with its chin on the rocks just above a hideout of small fish, remaining motionless waiting for the small prey to venture out. Then he quickly extends his highly protusable mouth and sucks the prey up.

The Venustus is a great fish for both the intermediate and experienced cichlid keeper. It is generally easy to care for as long as the aquarist realizes their predatory nature and need for a lot of space. They are not as demanding as far as water quality compared to most cichlids. But they do need to be fed properly to avoid Malawi bloat. A sand substrate will make them feel most at home. Provide some hiding places with rock structures and wood, but its best to place them towards the back of the aquarium, leaving plenty of open space for swimming. Plants can be added as well because even though these fish will burrow, they don’t disturb them.

These are moderately aggressive cichlids. They will do best in a species specific tank or with other cichlids. Try and keep the different species blood lines pure. Do not mix with these fish with the overactive and aggressive Mbunas. A minimum of 125 gallons is need for one male and several females since spawning males are aggressive. During spawning their color display rivals saltwater fish in its intensity and beauty. If another male from the Nimbochromis genus is also kept in the aquarium, the Venustus will still keep its bright spawning colors.

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Video of Venustus Cichlid (Nimbochromis venustus)

Infographic of Venustus Cichlid (Nimbochromis venustus)

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