African Powerhouse

The Buttikoferi is among the most belligerent of African Cichlids

by Mike McEwan

Tilapia buttikoferi is a large and popular Cichlid. It comes from West Africa and is one of the largest of all African Cichlids.

Although the fish generally lacks stunning coloration, the Buttikoferi has a very interesting color pattern, and this makes it a welcome addition to any large aquarium containing other hardy species. The colors of a small juvenile are particularly vivid and distinct. However, as they grow, the colors fade and become rather washed out.

Tank Setup

This is one of the most belligerent African Cichlids. In its natural state it holds a large territory, and if you wish to house one in an aquarium with other fish, you must provide a suitably large tank. Provide large rocks as territories for the fish.


In nature, it spends its time among rocks, pecking over the bottom in search of food. In the aquarium it is a less specialized feeder, greedily accepting worms, beef heart, raw fish, pellets, and peas.

Water Chemistry

This fish thrives in most waters and does not require the same hard, alkaline conditions that most other africans do. They are not shy fish, so bright lighting isn't a problem either.


T. buttikoferi is an open-breeding substrate-spawner. Once a pair is formed, both of them excavate a large pit with the intention of spawning on the solid base below. Spawning takes place with the pair alternating egg laying and fertilization. In the wild, the fry are preyed upon relentlessly and so spawns are big. The fish is highly aggressive at spawning time and pairs often fight in the confines of an aquarium.

Unfortunately, there is no way of distinguishing males from females, either by color, body shape, or fin development.


Sci Name:
Tilapia buttikoferi
West Africa
Max Size:
73-80 F.
Tank Size:
75 Gallons