Dwarf Egyptian Mouthbrooder Fish Species Profile

Characteristics, Origin, and Helpful Information for Hobbyists

Dwarf Egyptian Mouthbrooder, Pseudocrenilabrus multicolor

The Spruce Pets 

The dwarf Egyptian mouthbrooder is a hardy little African cichlid that is very suitable for a beginner's freshwater aquarium. It is easy to keep and breed, and the mating practices of this fish make for an interesting story for those studying unique animal rituals.

Species Overview

Common Name: Dwarf Victoria mouthbrooder

Scientific Name: Pseudocrenilabrus multicolor

Adult Size: 3.5 inches

Life Expectancy: 4 years


Family Cichlidae
Origin Egypt, Rwanda, Uganda, Sudan, Tanzania, and Kenya
Social Aggressive
Tank Level Bottom-dweller
Minimum Tank Size 20 gallon
Diet Omnivore
Breeding Egglayer, female carries young in mouth
Care Easy; good for beginners
pH 6.5 to 7.5
Hardness 5 to 15 dGH
Temperature 68 to 79 F (20 to 26 C)

Origin and Distribution

The Egyptian mouthbrooder is native to north and east Africa and is widespread in that area. The vast majority of the species originate from the great lakes of the African Rift Valley, namely Lake Tanganyika, Lake Malawi, and Lake Victoria. It was first imported to Europe in 1902. 

Colors and Markings

These fish have an elongated oval body with scales that have a metallic blue-green sheen. Fins have a pattern of orange, although the tank-bred fish you find online often lack the beautiful colors of the wild species. Though they are rather plain in appearance, males have red on the end of the anal fin and females are noticeably smaller and paler.


Dwarf Egyptian mouthbrooders can be aggressive toward other species inhabiting the lower level of the habitat. If you wish to keep this fish with other dwarf cichlids, catfish, or loaches, you will need a large aquarium. In a smaller tank, good tankmates include the African tetras and small surface-dwelling species such as hatchet fish.


Male Dwarf Egyptian mouthbrooders are very aggressive toward one another and only one should be kept in a harem situation with several females. Do not keep Egyptian mouthbrooders with timid fish.

Dwarf Egyptian Mouthbrooder Habitat and Care

Dwarf Egyptian mouthbrooders can be kept in a relatively small aquarium like a 20-gallon tank. The aquarium should be decorated with densely planted areas as well as open areas, and the fish should be provided with plenty of suitably sized caves. At least one cave per fish is required.

It is a good idea to create natural territorial borders since some fish can be quite aggressive and these natural barriers can help defuse this aggressiveness. Egyptian mouthbrooders are suitable for community tanks with similarly sized fish that are tough enough to tolerate the temperament of the Egyptian mouthbrooder.

These fish are quite adaptable to many water chemistries, as they are found in a variety of environments. Change the water regularly to keep ambient levels of nitrate as low as possible. Nitrate levels are more important than pH and hardness, though the ideal is perhaps neutral to slightly alkaline water with a moderate level of hardness. Regarding temperature and filtration, these fish are not fussy.

Dwarf Egyptian Mouthbrooder Diet and Feeding

The Egyptian mouthbrooder will accept almost all food, like cichlid pellets, and can be fed flake food. Strive to give them a varied diet; they do well on a base diet of flake food but complement their diet with frozen food and live food every now and then.

Gender Differences

It is very easy to tell the difference between the sexes in this species. Males are larger and more colorful; they have red spots on the caudal fin which are not present in females. Females are smaller, gray, and dull-looking.

Breeding the Dwarf Egyptian Mouthbrooder

With good feeding, it is not difficult to get these fish to spawn in the aquarium. At spawning time, the male Egyptian mouthbrooder digs a depression in the sand by fanning his tail. The male coaxes the female into his “nest.” The male can be quite forceful in his seduction attempts and this is why it is preferable to spawn this species in a harem situation as the male’s attention will be divided. When a female is willing, she will follow the male to his pit, where spawning occurs.

The act itself is preceded by a display of circling by both fish. The male will nuzzle the vent of the female, and it may be this "dance" that triggers her to release the eggs. As the eggs are laid the female immediately picks them up with her mouth and then mouths the vent of the male, who then fertilizes the eggs in her mouth. Sometimes fertilization occurs before the female picks up the eggs as the fish circle quite quickly. This courtship sequence is repeated until the female is holding 5 to 100 eggs in her mouth.

For two weeks, there is no sign of the eggs or young. Throughout the incubation period, the mother can be seen pumping water over the fry, through her mouth and gill covers, and she occasionally rearranges them within her mouth. Then one day the whole brood is released from the mother's mouth to try out their fins. At first, they venture forth for only short periods.

For three weeks or more, the young hover around the mother’s mouth. At the first sign of danger, they dart back into her mouth for protection. At last, the young brood becomes so large that the mother’s mouth no longer can hold them. From then on they must manage on their own. The mother becomes a danger to them, for once the young are too large for her mouth, she may decide to eat them.

During this parenting time (for about five weeks) the mother refrains from eating anything. Her body shrivels, and in some cases, the female even starves to death in the process of protecting her young. Usually, a week or two of good feeding restores her to normal proportions.

More Pet Fish Species and Further Research

The Egyptian mouthbrooder is an easy fish to maintain but can sometimes be difficult to find. If you are interested in similar fish for your aquarium or fish that are compatible with Egyptian mouthbrooders, check out:

Check out additional fish breed profiles for more information on other freshwater fish.