The Polystigma Cichlid comes from all reaches of of Lake Malawi, Africa. They are found in all kinds of habitats from shallow lakeshores down to depths of 114 m. The Polystigma can most commonly be found in and around areas of medium to dense aquatic vegetation. The reason being that they are a piscivore, meaning that its primary diet consists of other fish and in particular small, unwary fry. It will use this vegetation from which to launch its ambushes.
In the Lake the Polystigma can often be found hunting in packs, although single fish at times can be seen hunting on their own. Despite the latter, it seems that these fish display an organised habit in relation to acquisition of food. Like the Livingstoni, Polystigma can be seen at times lying quite still on its side, looking very dead. This is not a pleasant sight and can be quite disconcerting for the keeper of this quirky fish. The Polystigma uses this behaviour as a hunting tactic, to attract smaller, witless fish. As the prey nears the “dead fish”, the Polystigma will quickly dart towards its prey and swallow it whole.
Aside from its hunting habits, this fish is usually not considered to be an aggressive fish. In fact it acts for the most part as a benevolent neighbour to those that are not edible. It will grow (in the wild) to lengths of 23cm. In an aquarium it has been known to reach nearly 30cm. It is for this reason that this fish should not be left in a tank with inhabitants that are “mouth size” as it will more than likely devour all these fish within days if not hours.
Both juvenile males and females are adorned in a brown, leopard-like pattern that only changes in the case of males as they reach adulthood. Males will then display in what can be described as a magnificent mating dress. The drab spots are replaced by an intense green-blue throughout the body and the head is adorned with a wondrous green-gold, topped with iridescent golden lips. The dorsal and anal fins are resplendent with golden yellow flashes or in some specimens red. Males will commence adult colouration anywhere between nine and twelve months of age. Colouration should be complete within one year. This will depend upon whether there as other males present and which one is dominant. Females will maintain the basic colouration for the duration of their lives.
They are good diggers and will dig huge amounts of sand when spawning. A sand substrate will make them feel most at home. Make sure there are lots of hiding places in rocks and wood. They need some open areas in which to swim so its best to place the decor towards the back of the aquarium. They also like lots of plants, such as Vallisneria, which creates a more natural environment for them. Even though these fish will burrow, they usually don’t disturb them.
They usually grow up to around 25cm and need a very big tank (larger than 600 litres if possible). If housed with other Nimbochromis species some aggression may be observed between males and females of either species. The female Polystigma will readily breed with a male Nimbochromis livingstoni if there is no male of her species and therefore it is not recommended to keep these two different species together in the same aquarium). In a relatively large tank each male will find its own territory and aggression will be kept under control. During the spawning time, the fish will chase and attack whatever moves within one metre of its spawning site.
Polystigma just about eat anything offered though they usually favour frozen foods. Since they eats a lot it is advisable to feed them only once daily or small portions of food twice daily. They like to swim a lot. In its natural habitat it is found in sandy regions densely planted with Vallisneria a scenery easily recreated in the tank providing a hiding place for the female.
The Polystigma Cichlids are egg layers and form matriarchal families. They are polygamous in nature with a male attending several females. It is best to place one male with at least three or four females. Unlike others in this genus, they do not dig a spawning pit. They like a flat stone or slate to lay the eggs on. The female will lay up to 100 eggs. Being a mouth brooder she will then pick up the eggs into her mouth for incubation. She will care for the larvae and eggs and when they become fry, she will take them into her mouth at night or anytime she percieves danger. The fry can eat finely crushed flake.