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The Blue Neon Cichlid Paracyprichromis nigripinnis made quite a splash in the late 1980’s as a new cichlid introduction to hobbyists. This is one of the most unusual looking cichlids. While most cichlids have a robust look with many being very deep bodied, this cichlid has a long slender streamlined form. Both the male and female of this very peaceful cichlid are gorgeous, with the female being just a bit duller in color.
This is a small elongated fish from Lake Tanganyika, Africa that only grows to about 4 inches at most. Its attractive appearance with bright blue or purple neon striping on a creamy orange body quickly led to its common names. It became popularly known as the Blue Neon, Neon Cichlid, and Neon Blue Cichlid. They can also be referred to based on their place of origin such as the “Kapembwa” and “Chituta Bay” varieties, and there is a captive bred albino form called the Paracyprichromis nigripinnis “Albino”.
There are only two species in the Paracyprichromis genus and the two have been repeatedly confused with the other. The other, Paracyprichromis brieni, is however confined to the extreme northern part of the lake. The Blue Neon also has larger eyes and a slightly rounder, stockier body.
The Paracyprichromis species are very similar in shape to their close relatives in the Cyprichromis genus. All these cichlids look more like sardines so are dubbed Herring Cichlids or Sardine Cichlids in general. At one time the Paracyprichromis were classified as Cyprichromis as well. However they have a very different nature, a milder temperament, and there are physical differences These are much smaller fish and have a different arrangement and number of vertebrae. So with these unique features they were moved into their own genus, Paracyprichromis. The Neon Cichlid is similarly shaped to the Sardine Cichlid or Slender Cichlid Cyprichromis leptosoma. Differences with the Blue Neon are that it lacks the uniformity of its body color as found on the Sardine and it’s also much smaller.
In the wild the Blue Neons inhabit deeper waters but will tend to stay close to towers of jumbled rocks. The males will hang underneath rock shelves while the females will swim in large schools above. Years ago it was thought that these fish were hard to keep, but following simple procedures will result in an easy fish to keep.
Their pleasant nature makes them a joy to keep in a community aquarium. They move slower than some of their fast swimming cousins, and prefer to be close to rocks. They must be kept with other peaceful cichlids or other friendly species for their own benefit. The best way to keep them is by themselves, which will allow them to breed easily with the offspring being safe from consumption. Several males can have harems within a 65 gallon tank. Watching them live openly with their fry is quite a sight.
These are good fish for the intermediate and experienced cichlid keeper. In generaly they are easy to moderate to care for as long as regular water changes are done to keep water at optimal levels. However they prefer dim lighting and need rocks for security. These fish will swim upside down or vertically to be close to the rock surface. Males will stress out and fade in color if kept with companions that are too vigorous and without rocks structures and cave formations. Plants also help provide security for them.
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